Willow looked up from the latest issue of Cosmo as Buffy walked into the room, wrapped in a fluffy robe and drying her hair with a towel. "Should I be worried that I already know fifteen of the twenty ways to spice up a relationship?"
Buffy gave her friend a small grin and sank down on the end of the bed. She had returned from a productive evening of slaying to find Willow curled on her bed, reading. It was a Friday night in July and it hadn't been difficult to convince the Slayer to head for the Bronze, especially since her mother was out of town until Sunday night.
Willow planned to meet Spike there and whisk him away to his apartment, where she hoped to make good use of the fifty dollars worth of new underwear she was wearing.
"What don't you know?" Buffy asked.
"Hot wax?" Willow asked skeptically.
"What do you do with hot wax?"
"Well, it doesn't go into explicit detail, but apparently you pour it on body parts and peel it off."
"Sounds messy." Buffy tossed the towel aside and reached for the hair dryer sitting on her desk.
Just as she was about to turn it on, an angry growl came from the window. "Out Willow, NOW."
Willow nearly fell off the bed as she scrambled over to the inside wall. Looking up she saw Angel climb into the room, a furious look on his face.
Buffy dropped the hair dryer and stood up, backing up slightly, away from his obvious anger. "I thought you were coming by tomorrow," she said in a neutral voice.
"Plans change," he sneered at her, then swivelled his head towards Willow, saying silkily, "Unless you want to join us, get out."
"It's okay, Willow. I'll see you later."
At Buffy's urging, Willow grabbed her bag and edged her way out of the room. As soon as she made it to the hallway, she started running, and the slamming of the front door was heard before Buffy could think of anything to say.
Angel started to pace, his hands clasped behind his back. "I was having a good night, Buff. I was expecting three new fledglings to arise in three different cemeteries. I went to each one, to each grave, and do you know what I found?" He didn't pause for her to answer. "I found disturbed earth, the signs of a struggle, and a lot of dust." He came to a stop in front of her and Buffy forced herself not to back away.
"It's my job."
"At my sufferance."
"I...don't know what that means."
One hand snaked out and caught her around the waist, pulling her against his hard, tense body, as he hissed, "It means that you only get to do your job because I allow it, and I could very easily stop allowing it."
"And how would I explain that?"
"Maybe it's time the truth came out, lover. I'm tired of hiding and sneaking around. I rule this fucking town, and I own you." His eyes narrowed at the panic that crossed her face. "Maybe we should march over to Rupert's and tell him the truth you've been hiding for six months."
Buffy shook her head wildly. "No. We can't tell him. He wouldn't understand. He'd...he'd be so disappointed. Please don't tell him, Angel, please."
A nasty grin formed on the vampire's face. "And what will you do for me in return for my silence."
Two months before, Buffy would have sank to her knees in resignation and done anything he asked, but ever since that horrible night when Spike had been shot, Angel had been building her confidence in herself, remaking her into the strong-willed young woman the ensouled vampire had loved.
One little hand wrapped into the open neck of his shirt and dragged his head down. "I can pretty much guarantee that, if you do go running to Giles, my house and my bed will be off limits to you." She shoved him away from her, glaring. "So, why don't you take your anger and your nasty attitude and piss off."
Angel smirked and sat down on the end of the bed to pull off his boots. "Why don't you get your ass over here and make me feel all better for the loss of my fledglings."
Buffy rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest, shaking her head. "And, why would I want to do that? You didn't take my feelings into consideration when you turned three members of the high school football team."
Shrugging, Angel picked up one of the recently dropped boots. "Fine. You stay here in your lonely little bed and finger fuck yourself. I'll go find somewhere, someone a bit more receptive."
Buffy's good mood plummeted again, and she scowled at her lover. "Maybe I'll do the same."
The black look that crossed Angel's face sent her a step backwards, and her breath caught in her throat.
"If you ever let another man touch you, he will die a long, horribly painful death, and you will watch every second of his suffering. It will be your last moment of freedom, Buffy, before I fasten an unbreakable iron collar around your throat and chain you to the end of my bed like a dog." Pure truth rang in his quietly voiced threat.
"Bastard," Buffy whispered, her face pale, her hands clenched at her sides. "Why is it fair for you?"
"Because I'm bigger, stronger, and the master here, lover. Accept it."
"When I mention sleeping with another guy, what do you feel, Angel? What makes you so angry?"
His face shuttered. "Nothing. You belong to me and I don't share."
"Drusilla belongs to you and you share her."
"Explain it to me," she demanded coldly.
Angel rose to his feet to tower over her. "I don't have to explain anything to you. Now, either get in bed or I'm leaving."
"...Then leave." She looked up at him with brave eyes, her stance determined and angry.
Angel's nostrils flared and his eyes turned even darker, then he grabbed her and tossed her onto her stomach on the bed, quickly moving to straddle her struggling body. Buffy reared up, trying to knock him off, but he pinned her down, smashing her face into the bedding. "I like your bitchiness to a point, Buffy, to a fucking point." Her air cut off, Buffy saw stars as she struggled and fought to free her face from the unyielding mattress. After a long moment, just when she was on the edge of unconsciousness, Angel released his hold on her neck, and she jerked her head up, dragging in deep gulps of air.
Weak and exhausted, she collapsed limply beneath him, tears streaming from her eyes. Angel flipped her onto her back and caught her arms, pressing her down hard. "Don't fucking cry," he snarled.
"I hate you. Go away. Why do I let you do this to me?" she wailed, more tears sliding down her pale cheeks, as her body began to shake.
Several long minutes passed before Angel spoke again, this time his voice hoarse with frustration tinged with fear. "Don't cry, baby. You know I hate it when you cry." All that served to do was make her cry harder, and Angel made a frustrated sound, then moved off of her. Sitting on the edge of the bed, he pulled her up with him and onto his lap. She sobbed into his shirt, her trembling arms circling his neck.
"I hate you. I hate you so much..."
"Do you think she's okay?" Cordelia asked Willow as they exited the bathroom at the Bronze, having escaped there to talk under the guise of powdering their noses.
Willow shrugged rather dejectedly. "He scares the shit out of me."
Cordelia arched one perfect eyebrow. "Yet, you still managed to climb into his bed. I'm just saying..." she said, forestalling Willow's angry scowl.
"He's probably beating her up right now and you know we'll have to go pick up the pieces again." Willow let slip a pensive sigh, then plastered a smile on her face. "It would really help if Xander got brought into the whole truth."
"Uh huh." Cordelia's smile echoed her friend's. "I refuse to be the cause of my boyfriend's heart attack. At least not until he's my eighty odd year old husband and I can give it to him in the sack."
They joined Xander at the table where he was listening to the band, his head bobbing to the music. "I thought Buffy was coming?" he asked distractedly.
"She was tired after patrol." Willow sat down next to her best friend, her eyes scanning the crowd.
"Dead boy junior's lurking to the far right of the stage." Just as Xander spoke the lightly mocking words, Spike began to head for the table. Willow rose and edged through the crowd to meet him. Xander turned determinedly to his girlfriend. "Tell me when they're done smooching, so I can watch the band without hurling."
Cordelia rolled her eyes.
Willow and Spike met on the dance floor, and kissed hungrily.
"It's been too fucking long, luv," he growled against her mouth. "Damn prick and his stupid out of town assignments. Any minion could have traipsed across the northwest picking up the pieces of crap he sent me for. He sent me just to keep me away from you for a week."
"You're here now; that's all that matters, and it's the twenty sixth day, so we still have time..."
"And you're not getting away tonight without me biting you." His hands held her possessively against him as he nuzzled her neck. Willow sighed softly, sinking against him as desire flooded her.
"Take me home, now," she pled. "I don't want to dance or sip coffee or make idle chit chat. I just want to make love all night long."
Spike lifted his head and looked down into her cloudy eyes, frowning slightly. "What's wrong?"
She tried to smile, but it came out feebly. "I was over at Buffy's, and Angel stormed in all threatening and...He was mad and when he gets mad..." She shuddered, hugging him tighter.
"She'll survive, Willow. He won't kill her."
"It's not her body I'm worried about. Every time he hurts her, every time he forces himself on her, every time she gives in and enjoys it, she breaks a little more. How long before there's nothing left of my friend?"
"There's nothing any of us can do for her, if she won't take measures to help herself. She can revoke the invitation. She can tell her Watcher. She can bloody well kill the bastard. But, she doesn't seem capable of doing any of that."
"Jenny's been trying to reconstruct the original spell that restored his soul, but Buffy doesn't want it performed."
Spike nodded slowly as they swayed to the music. "I can see that. Ensouled Angel would have all the memories of the things his demon did. As it is, Buffy must have a difficult time enough living with herself and the choices she's made, but to have to see the guilt and regret and even accusation and shame in Angel's eyes..."
"I know. I understand that. But, maybe Angel could just go away and Buffy could get on with her life."
"It's not that easy, luv. It's not just sex between them anymore. It may never have been. A part of her loves him, and a part of him, no matter how hard he denies it, loves her."
End Chapter 1