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The Sting of Salt

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It's not her normal place to drink. In fact it's about as far away from polished chrome, bleached wood floors, and guys in thousand dollar suits trying to buy her, than finding out to their permanent cost that they can't afford her, as can be imagined. Lilah's already sold herself to Wolfram and Hart; no man can afford to rent her. Sale and leaseback is quite another thing - it's an understood business practice. As is a stressed out executive looking for a little off balance sheet release. But that doesn't entirely cover why she's sitting in such a plebeian bar in a small town, rather than the patrician haunts she prefers. Or why she's on her second frozen Margarita.

They're good ones. The buzz in her temples from the tequila attests to that. The sea-salt on the rims of the glasses burns her lips perfectly. The sting of salt makes her feel alive. She savours both feelings. She brushed too closely to death in that wine cellar too recently not to. She's dealing, she always does, but she could really do without the dreams and the flashbacks she covers so well. She's had to change moisturisers, as each time she used it she heard Drusilla thanking her for being so considerate. She liked that brand, it was the best and the most expensive. Lilah hates being forced to take second best. She is going to deal with this problem if it kills her, or someone else - preferably someone else.

That's what's brought her to a bar catering to the Latino population of Sunnydale. The street cleaners that keep the perfect suburban facade on the mouth of Hell, the nannies and maids that tend the homes and children shown in the Chase girl's file, the shelf-stackers of Super Food World. The people sitting in booths supping Negro Modello, watching soccer matches to the sound of cumbia, but mostly drinking tequila. All the people who're invisible and unwanted in this Anglo paradise, and not exactly welcomed in the nice cocktail bar, the demon bars or the Slayer hangouts. In short, not Lilah Morgan's type of persons at all.

But she has an ulterior motive, like she usually does. And it's the Anglo of Anglos that comes in here each Friday night for three hour's solid communion with Father Jose Cuervo. The reports she's instigated on each member of Angel's surviving 'family' told her where to find him. The need to get that shiver out of her skin at the thought of that family brought her here. She's got to get it out of her system. She deals with vampires as clients, she can't show fear; they can smell it. And no one but no one makes her scared, or a victim, but her.

There is another motive. She just has to know. She needs to know what Lindsey's fascination is for Darla - and Angel - for the dead. What drives it? Why he'd risk so much for it? How it could possibly lead him to leave Wolfram and Hart? Lilah never would. She's been up close and personal with Angel, and there's something there, but Lilah believes strongly in that old maxim 'don't shit where you eat'. There is no way she's giving him any weapon over her. And this most certainly would. She is also not going to take herself anywhere high profile like Madame Dorian's - even if they had male vampire hookers - far too likely to lead to either blackmail or discovery. And there's no way in any dimension that she's putting her neck anywhere near an unchecked vampire's teeth. This might be one of her dumber ideas, but Lilah is very far from stupid.

So, that leads her to Spike, William the Bloody. Chipped, so he can't kill her - which is the main stipulation in the circumstances. Body to die for, which she won't have to - big positive. Over a hundred years of practice, and belongs to the bitch in the wine cellar - even bigger positive. Close by - which is convenient. Surveillance on whom is not constant, and whose reports come to her anyway, enabling her to destroy any evidence or witness - major selling point. Her own height, according to the files, with her in unaccustomed flat pumps that is. A face she wouldn't turn down for an evening's entertainment if it came attached to a Cerrutti suit in one of her type of bars. In short - perfect.

And just walked in the door, right on schedule.

He has a word with the bar owner in fluent Latin American Spanish, just as per the early reports, before she pulled the informer from this assignment. A member of the Order of Aurelius - even if the reports of his presentation to The Master made Lilah laugh her head off imagining that bitch Darla's face at Spike's behaviour - working for wetback trash. The Evil Snob in her can't help regarding that with amused contempt. She finds even more amusement at the thought of the handsome retainer the firm gets from managing the assets the more practical members of The Order of Aurelius stashed with the firm centuries ago. One of the possible heirs to those millions, reduced to acting as a freelance demon bouncer for bottles of Tequila, while the retainer contributes towards her Prada pumps. It's good to be a lawyer.

Looks like there are no demons causing trouble to those who can't necessarily draw the attention of the police or the I.N.S. this week, as Spike sits down and a bottle of Jose's finest is set down in front of him. That first shot gets slammed down his throat and her trained witness observing eyes sees it hit the tequila receptors. It's not hard, he's radiating tension, so much it's almost dripping off him. But tequila is a wonderful thing. A couple more shots and he's almost melted into his bar-stool.

Perfectly primed for her.

She still needs that fresh frozen Margarita to keep her nerves settled. But it makes a great ice-breaker as he acknowledges her presence for the first time. A tilt of the head, punctuated with an exhalation of smoke worthy of Bogart in those old movies, followed with a, "Frozen Maggie, pet? You want to save time. Go straight to old Jose."

The deep rumble goes straight to her bones, making her feel even looser than the tequila. "I like the sting from the salt." His chuckle is pure sex, blended with tears, and a dash of hysteria all too reminiscent of the bitch in Holland's wine cellar. The associated shudder is nothing that the Margarita can't help numb.

She can see he's done this thousands of times. It's a reflex, a feeding strategy that's as seeped into his bones as money and power is in hers. Flirt, drink, tilt head, offer cigarettes and look deeply into the eyes of lunch, make small talk, flirt some more, get more alcohol into lunch, then isolate the target and strike. It's exactly what she does too. They've both slipped into the familiar pattern. She's 'just passing through town'. He's 'got the evening off', as it's 'bonding time for his "Bit" and her family'.

She must be mistaken, but she'd swear an oath that there's a tear glistening in those deadly baby blue eyes, before he dips his head and takes refuge in his guy-picking-up-a-girl-in-a-bar mode. Lilah can identify an act when she sees it, and she sees it. She doesn't see how it's possible for a soulless vampire, but it's there, and it's fascinating.

He might have a lower lip that's looking ever more biteable with each 'Frozen Maggie' but it's obvious that he's still a vampire. Each sip she takes from her glass makes the salt crystals bite her lips. She's positive there are tiny cuts there now. He keeps looking at them like they're a feast for a starving man. The pain's there, and it's perfect.

As he's emptied his bottle and she's gone through her Margaritas they've got closer and closer. First the little touches, the barely perceptible and utterly deniable touches, then the longer brushes, building to deliberate caresses, with each taking it to the next level. His skin is the perfect advert for sun avoidance, and she wants to taste it. She's heard him whisper to the dregs of the bottle, "Can't hurt, might help."

She can see him debating whether to hit bottle number two. She - or the sixth frozen Margarita - can't help remarking, "Thought a guy like you would go for the worm?"

"Tasted it, pet. Tasted it well and good." If he had a soul, she'd swear he was brooding, but he doesn't, and when she lets her hand wander up his thigh towards his cock, he grabs her hand and pulls them both off the bar-stool. She's out in the alley with her back against the bricks before she can think twice. For once in her life she doesn't want to.

His eyes are strangely shrouded with grief, and his skin tastes of salt. It smarts her lips, but tastes marvellous. In turn, he devours her lips and moans at the hint of copper. She doesn't have time to feel repulsed, not with his hands palming her full breasts. Her own hands grip the leather of his coat and pull him closer. He's on her level, and his cock's pressed right into her where her body wants him so badly she could scream. She doesn't notice that he's unbuttoned her blouse with one hand as the other works its magic on her nipples. It's not until there's a vampire suckling on her tits that she notices that he's ripped her favourite La Perla bra to get at them. The cool night air and same temperature head against her hot skin is incredible. The contrast is to die for. But she doesn't have to; she can have her cake and let him eat her, she's smart.

And he's fast. While he was driving her wild with his well practised mouth, he's got her short skirt hiked up and fingers tantalisingly close to where she really, really needs them. Her pantyhose are shredded and the matching lace of her thong is soon as wrecked as the bra, but she doesn't care. All she does care about is that he doesn't stop with what he's doing with his mouth and fingers. She could stay in this alley forever. She can't feel the bricks tearing at the silk of her blouse. Her fingers are too busy dancing through his loose silk curls and the smooth nape of his neck. There's going to be bruises tomorrow right across her back and chest, and she doesn't care. He's got her right on that fine line between pleasure and pain and she loves it.

The small voice of reason that's always there tells her that this is exactly what Lindsey wanted. This is what makes it worth throwing it all away, and much of her body concurs with that judgement. But her inner ruthless pragmatist tells her that she can't have this, it's too much, too dangerous, that whatever happens this can't happen again. The body can have this, this moment, this orgasm, this taste of freedom from herself, this forbidden knowledge of the dead, but only this moment, no others. That voice of self-preservation tells her she should stake the bastard once she's finished. He'll know too much. She'll reveal too much. It's too much, she can't help but reveal herself, and no one but no one gets to see Lilah Morgan that fucking vulnerable. The Vice President of Special Projects reminds herself that the bastard with the magic fingers who's got her half naked in an alley is covered by the 'Do Not Kill' order on members of the Order of Aurelius. Client privilege, even if he doesn't know it, and might never. She can't kill him. She can have him now, and never see him again. Too damned fucking dangerous to do anything else.

But those are fleeting moments of clarity in a mind currently devoted to making her body very, very happy. She can't help grinning at the thought of client privilege at the same time she's worked his belt loose and his zipper down. The hiss of pleasure he makes as she grips his cock just that little bit too hard is even better. The feeling of purely feminine power she gets as his eyes roll when she pumps him hard enough to almost hurt is marvellous. As are his fingers on her G-spot and her clit.

She's nearly there when he uses supernatural strength to lift her and hold her against the wall while he thrusts inside her. The feeling of his cock pounding her into the wall is like nothing she's ever felt before. The strength, the power in that body, drives her out of her mind. It's the ultimate danger, the ultimate power play. She could want that sort of power so very badly. But she's never wanted to be a vampire, and once this is over she can't have this again lest she be tempted to change her mind. Lilah's a pragmatist, though. She's found out what she wanted, is getting something far better than she ever expected, and is fucking well going to make the most of it while she does have it.

She settles her legs around his waist, and with nibbling kisses lures his mouth from where it's been busy giving her what's undoubtedly going to be the biggest hickey she's ever had on the side of her neck. He's cactus spines, tobacco and the sharp tang of salt. He's in her and around her, swallowed up in his coat as they are. She bites his lip and it makes him thrust into her almost impossibly higher and harder. There's the hint of copper in her mouth and she doesn't know if it's hers or his. Not knowing is a thrill she'll not allow herself again, but just this once she rides it. He stops kissing her and rubs his cheek over her lips instead. She tastes the salt again and with that sting, she melts into orgasm, bringing him with her.

She's not sure how long they stay connected before he slips out of her and sets her on her feet with an oddly bashful kiss on her forehead. Then it's the time for: not looking at each other, buttoning up her blouse, stepping out of her trashed pantyhose and equally wrecked thong, then pulling down her skirt, while he zips himself away while saying nothing. She's got what she came for. She's faced her fear and taken it into herself on her own terms. She's turned a need to know into one of the best fucks of her life. She can walk away now.

So she does. With a strangely battered chivalry, he walks her to her car, muttering something about, "Lots of nasties around, pet. Can't let anything happen to you. Best if I see you off." She can't help smirking at the thought of being thought a damsel in need of a vampire bodyguard, but she is nothing if not practical, so she lets him. Her car keys and money clip have stayed intact in the zippered pocket of her skirt during that time in the alley and her car's where she parked it. He waits for her to get in, then gives her a half smile and a, "Take care of yourself, luv."

She smirks, "Always do." As he walks off into the night, she sets off to the Interstate. She stops at the first gas station, where she takes her gym bag into the restroom and replaces her battered clothes and repairs her make-up. Mask in place, she heads back to her life, armoured with answers. And if in the coming year she tends to watch more BBC America, it's only because the quality is good. If she picks up the occasional English actor trying his luck in Hollywood who's ended up tending bar and smelling of tequila, it's entirely a coincidence.

Wesley is entirely another story, all his own. The one she couldn't walk away from. She still hasn't forgiven herself for that one.