TITLE: Masquerade.

AUTHOR: Kim

E-MAIL: kim.harmel@ntlworld.com.

DISCLAIMER: I don't own them, I don't want them, they make me cry too much. Joss and his people do the owning thing

SPOILERS: Nothing. Completely AU fic.

DISTRIBUTION: Great, just let me know where.

FEEDBACK: Please.

RATING: Mostly PG but later parts will be R-rated

AUTHOR'S NOTES: No Vamps, no slayers and the only monsters in this story are human ;^) I just wanted to write something different, this is it.


Masquerade

Prologue

First there was nothing.

A deep black abyss of nothingness staked its claim on her soul, smothering it slowly in triumph. It was strong, fierce and ruthless. But the spirit was stronger...

Slowly, one by one her five senses started to reconnect, each one breaking down the walls of unconsciousness and grasping the brand new day.

Part one.


It was a small room.

Small, white, with a strong smell of disinfectant and something she couldn't quite put her mind to...

** Flowers**

**That was it**

The fragrance of fresh cut flowers fought its way bravely through the sanitised aura of the room.

A sharp intake of breath confirmed the flowers in question were roses.

**Most likely long stemmed and yellow**

She liked roses.

She liked yellow.

As the perfume filled her senses her mind was flooded with reminders of sunlight. Vibrant, warm and nurturing.

**Peaceful**

Inside her mind it was almost silent.

The only sound that penetrated the quietness was the faint ticking of a distant clock. It's subtle tick, tick; ticking was just enough to be noticed but not enough to be annoying. Not yet anyway.

Turning her head, the first thing her eyes focused on was a cheap painting of the seashore hanging crookedly on the far wall. Angry waves broke over jagged rocks but a small sliver of sunlight seemed to appease the hungry sea. In different surroundings it might have passed as pleasant but, on closer inspection, the work had been ruined by bad brushwork and to add insult to injury, a really tacky frame.

The painting was unfamiliar, but then so was the hard wooden chair in the corner and the small bedside cabinet that looked surprisingly like a hospital locker, right down to the small jug of water and chipped glass tumbler.

On reflection, it didn't just look like a hospital locker; it *was* a hospital locker.

With that startling revelation the smell of disinfectant returned and the white sterile walls that surrounded her hard uncomfortable bed started to close in.

Fighting against a wave of panic and nausea, her head slipped to the other side of the crisp starched pillow. The scenery she faced wasn't very different. The same white washed walls, a slightly different seashore painting but it still had the same tacky frame, and yet another uncomfortable looking chair.

It was definitely part of a hospital.

She sighed, and then she saw him.

At the far end of the room the figure of a man stood at the window with his back to her, seemingly gazing into nothingness. His broad shoulders hunched slightly under a crumpled black silk shirt, and his hands were thrust into the pockets of equally dark trousers, stretching the fabric over his lean hips.

Suddenly, her skin felt hot and her mouth was too dry.

As she cleared her parched throat, the slight noise seemed to cut right through his reverie, causing him to turn and stare hard in the direction of the hospital bed.

"Buffy. It's about time you came back" His voice sounded like crushed velvet, each syllable smooth and soft as it slipped into the quiet room.

"Back?" The patient asked the question with uncertainty as her large hazel eyes studied his expressionless face.

As he moved out of the direct sunlight, she could make out his features more clearly.

At a little over six feet tall, with chiseled good looks and deep-set dark eyes, the expression *Tall dark and strikingly gorgeous* didn't really do him full justice, but it was a start.

"Back. Back to the land of the living, of course. It was touch and go for a while, you gave the doctors a real scare"

As she carefully studied him, she noticed that *Mr.Tall dark and strikingly gorgeous* was giving off an array of confusing signals. His softly spoken voice sounded relieved but at the same time, his body language remained cool, almost distant. When she didn't speak he continued.

"You've been unconscious for a while now, almost forty-eight hours" he stopped and sighed wearily "Do you remember what happened?"

"Unconscious?"

She started to sit up but her whole body seemed to protest against the idea. The tall dark man with enigmatic eyes sighed, pulling his hands from his pockets.

In a few long strides he crossed the room.

"You shouldn't try and get up yet, not until a doctor has spoken to you." His voice stayed remote but those eyes told a different story. Placing a hand on her arm he lowered her back down onto the hard mattress.

She was too weak and disorientated to put up any real resistance, but it was something else that stopped her trying.

The touch of his warm fingers on her bare arm caused her skin to tingle as if a small spark of static electricity had brushed over her body. It was a shock to her system in more ways than one.

For a brief second their eyes met, and he could clearly read the questions that lurked in the confusion, questions she seemed nervous to ask.

In that same second, she found herself needing to breathe, and when she did, his masculine scent flooded her senses. He smelt of ivory soap and stale cigarettes.

The sudden sound of a nurse's soft footsteps interrupted them, causing the man to step back and thrust his hands back into his pockets.

"Good morning, sleepy head. How are you feeling?" The middle aged woman smiled. Picking up the patient's slender wrist, she checked the rate of her pulse against her watch.

"I'm not too sure. It kinda hurts all over"

Still smiling, the nurse removed a thermometer from her top pocket and after shaking it a couple of times, slipped it under the patient's tongue.

"That's perfectly understandable in the circumstances. Just lay still until the doctor gets here, he will explain why you're in pain" Years of practice gave her voice the calming edge it needed to ease the patient's fears.

"My head's beginning to really hurt"

Leaning across, the nurse removed the thermometer and placed her hand to the younger woman's forehead.

"Your temperature's fine, but you did take a bad knock, the swelling has only recently gone down"

"Knock? Did I knock my head?"

The nurse raised her eyes over the young woman's head and looked towards the other occupant in the room, when he shrugged his shoulders she returned to her patient.

"I just want to ask you a few questions, just normal procedure to check for concussion. Okay? "
"Sure"

"Do you know what year it is?"

"2003" The answer was a knee jerk reaction, it slipped over her tongue without any need for thought.

"And your date of birth?"

"January 19th 1981" Still not a hint of hesitancy.

"And who is the President of the United States?"

The patient chewed her bottom lip slightly before answering.

"George Walker Bush, unless they've finally found a way to kick him out" This time the reply was even light hearted as her confidence seemed to grow.

The nurse smiled, putting her more at ease.

"Good girl, no problem there at all. Just one last question and I'll get you something for that headache. Can you tell me your name"

"My name? Of course I can, its..."

The nurse watched and waited, as the younger woman seemed to struggle on the simplest question of them all. After a few moments she admitted defeat and her face crumbled into a large frown. Biting back tears, she slowly shook her head.

" Elizabeth Angelus." The quiet words came from the other side of the room.

The confused patient looked up with large grateful eyes. For a moment real fear had squeezed her heart at the failure of that question, but at least now she had an identity.

She met his gaze, looking slightly puzzled.

"Wait. I remember now, but not Elizabeth, I think my friends call me Buffy"

He nodded, and once again moved closer to the bed.

That's right, it was a childhood nickname but now everyone calls you Buffy." The voice continued softly spoken but remained devoid of all emotion.

In her gratitude she didn't really notice.

"Wow! That's a real relief, I was beginning to get worried there for a moment" Buffy laughed as a tinge of colour returned to her cheeks but was quickly reminded of the throbbing in her temple.

Her slight grimace reminded the others.

"Do you still need something for the pain?"

"Please" Buffy replied trying not to nod her head and increase her discomfort.

While the nurse attended to the pain relief, Buffy turned to the other presence in the room. He bothered her in a way she didn't understand.

He was definitely *tall dark and gorgeous* but there was an also a hint of something uneasy about him, something dangerous.

"I'm sorry, you seem to know me and yet... Are we friends?"

Turning to face her, darkness covered his handsome features.

" No. We're not friends, Buffy" He snorted.

Cold, almost black expressionless eyes flashed in her direction, sending a shiver screaming down her spine.

"You're my wife"

TBC