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The Price

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He crawled up the roof silently with the kind of stealth only a vampire could wield, keeping in mind that Joyce was probably still moving around downstairs. He hated going around her back, but at the same time he could never begin to explain his presence in Buffy’s life, particularly since he only showed up after dark.

When he got to the window, he saw her pacing in front of her desk, phone pressed to her ear, laughing at a joke someone had just told. Jealousy surged awake inside his stomach as it occurred to him it might be Xander making her laugh just now-- or worse, some other nameless, faceless teenager she knew from Sunnydale High. But he took a moment to savor what they couldn’t on this particular night; the way her hair fell around her sweet, beautiful face. Or the way her baggy grey sweatpants and tube socks gently offset the tightness of her camisole that hugged her.

She put the receiver down and he chastised himself for being a voyeur in her life, yet again, something he knew she hated. After swearing to stop stealing these private glances of her, he tapped lightly on the window. She looked up, startled. But she couldn’t hide the nervous joy that lit up her face when she saw his, and she crossed quickly to open the window, glancing back at her bedroom door to be sure it was closed.

“Hi.”

How did she do that? One word and he suddenly had a short circuit between his brain and his mouth.

“.... Hi.” he said finally.

They stood there a little awkwardly for a few moments, both of them silently focusing on the fact that the last time they had seen each other, Angel had finally caved and asked her to grab coffee…. Sometime. A few days had passed with no face-to-face rendezvous and certainly no coffee.

“... Did you need something?” she asked, finally breaking the awkward silence. “Is there some really scary spoon demon in town this time?”

“Oh no… no demons… this time.” he sputtered, then was suddenly distracted by the mess on her bed. There were two massive textbooks open, several crumpled pieces of paper, a spiral notebook, and lots and lots of papers with grid lines all over them, several of which bore spots that had clearly seen the nasty side of an eraser. His brow furrowed in genuine bewilderment.

“Did you come here to help me with my physics homework? Did you know Galileo personally or something?” She let a nervous giggle slip out.

“Oh no I uh… he died before I was born actually.” His mouth did that thing where only the left side lifts into a smile, communicating both genuine humor and slight teasing, and her stomach did a flip. “Plus when I was growing up, a lot of physics was still considered--”

“Boring?” she chimed in, hopefully.

“Heresy.” he finished through a laugh. Another stomach flip. Pull it together, Buffy.

“Oh well… don’t worry. I have no plans to worship Galileo on this particular evening. Heresy free over here.”

“It’s ok… I was pretty much the definition of heresy when I was your age.”

Another awkward silence settled over them as he practically heard Angelus laughing in the back of his mind at his complete lack of suave. I was the definition of heresy? Pull it together, you ass!

“So you still haven’t told me why you’re here,” she said.

“Oh umm. I was worried about you.”

“You were?”

“Yeah. I went by some cemeteries looking for you. Ran into Giles. He said he gave you the night off,” he finished, looking into her eyes expectantly.

Her stomach did a small drop as she realized the first time he’d gone looking for her since he mentioned a date was at the cemetery. What was his hang up about just getting a regular cup of coffee!? And away from dead bodies, preferably!?

“Oh well, even Slayers get the night off every now and then,” she said, a sarcastic edge creeping into her voice and satisfying the ache growing in her chest. He noticed. “I got thrown onto a headstone pretty bad last night. Killed the hideous thing in the end but… he took a piece of my back with him. Nothing a little Slayer healing won’t fix soon, I’m sure.” She crossed the room to sit on the edge of her bed and looked up at him with a cold, emotionless face. “Was that all?”

He finally crawled inside the window and stood to his full, gorgeous height. She could see every muscle that rippled under his white t-shirt, and just the hint of a dark nipple. This did not help her resolve.

“Can I see?” he asked, tentatively pointing towards her back.

She couldn’t resist him. She knew that by now. In that moment she couldn’t remember denying him any request he’d ever made of her. Her lungs seemed to empty of all their oxygen as she nodded, almost imperceptibly, granting him permission to walk over to her. She turned slowly on the edge of the bed and, after just a moment’s hesitation, lifted the hem of her camisole so that he could inspect the lowest part of her back.

He paused. He was seeing a part of Buffy he hadn’t seen before. It was a small space with a giant, painful looking gash running through it. But still, it was the most beautiful lower back he’d ever seen, and seeing such a painful wound so carelessly forced onto something so beautiful made his heart ache and his rage flame.

“What kind of demon?” he demanded, his voice suddenly sharp.

“Ummm Mohra demon I think Giles said? He said it was rare. Have you ever heard of it?”

“No. But you killed it?”

“Oh yeah. He and Marie” -she made a swiping motion across her neck with her index finger punctuating the gesture with a sharp sound- “total Headless Club buddies.”

He didn’t laugh, which made her stiffen again awkwardly. She looked over her shoulder to see him crouched down, his head level with her wound, but staring up at her blankly.

“Antoinette. You know… let them eat cake?” she offered. “Let me guess, she also died before you were born?”

“No actually I was alive for that one. Or… dead… Your scabs are breaking open- do you have some bandages?” he finished, his face determined and serious.

“Ummm yeah… in that top drawer in my desk, next to the lipstick.”

He crossed with vampiric speed and started rummaging through the drawer, singeing himself on the edge of a cross as he did so, but never breaking his concentration. While his back was still turned, Buffy took the time to roll her eyes and silently mouth, “Headless Club, ha ha ha!” with mock amusement, but steadied her face abruptly when he turned back around and started advancing toward her, his eyes laser focused on her back. He held bandages, swabs, and alcohol as he crouched down behind her again.

“You really should be keeping a bandage on this at all times,” he scolded. She appreciated that he was behind her, leaving her free to roll her eyes at him yet again.

“I had it fully dressed all day. But then I took a shower and it’s kind of in a weird spot.”

He shook his head silently, feeling the familiar sensation of being frustrated with her. It always made him want her more.

With a fresh bandage laid out and an alcohol soaked swab in hand, he slowly began inching a few fingers closer to her back to steady the area. But millimeters from her skin, he paused. He knew what was about to happen. It was the same thing that happened every time he touched Buffy. The moment the pads of his fingers would graze her skin, an invisible yet powerful shock would surge throughout his entire body, awakening every last un-dead nerve. It was like a car engine firing up, hungry and restless. It was all-consuming, magnetic, electric. But he was sure there was nothing in either of the physics textbooks lying on Buffy’s bed that could explain what the feel of Buffy did to him.

It scared him. Having lived over 240 years, there was very little that put fear in his heart. But the way her smell, her gaze, or the touch of her sent him to the brink of his self-control, she threatened the very essence of what he’d worked so hard to obtain- his safe distance from the humanity he was committed to saving but could never be a part of.

She turned slightly to look over her shoulder, wondering what was wrong. Her movement brought him back to himself, and he realized there was no way around touching her if he wanted to heal her- and he desperately wanted to heal her. So in a swift motion, he gently placed a few fingers next to the giant gash in her lower back. He couldn’t help but notice the way her flesh broke out into goosebumps the moment he did. Perhaps his fingers were too cold. But he more desperately hoped it was because his touch had the same effect that hers did.

“This might hurt,” he whispered.

“I’ve had worse,” she replied, in the same breathless tone.

He went to work. Cleaning the wound as gently as he could and taking note of every hiss she tried to hide. He applied the bandage with tenderness and caution, worrying obsessively about adding any excessive discomfort to the already sensitive area. When he finished, he allowed himself to place either hand on each of her hips as he surveyed his work, then gently lowered the hem of her camisole.

“There,” he finished. “That should last you until tomorrow night.” His hands had somehow found their way back to her hips.

“Thanks,” she breathed, as she slowly turned on the edge of her bed to face him. He was still kneeling, and there was something novel about looking down on him and seeing his features in a totally new angle that captivated her.

“Well… I’m.. I’m glad you’re ok.” He struggled to get the words out. “It should heal… soon, I’m sure.” She giggled quietly at his obvious statement which made his stomach do flips. He couldn’t remember another woman ever having this affect on him.

“Slayer healage… definitely a perk of the job.”

And with that classic Buffy-ism, the creation of a new and not-at-all real word, his self-control broke. In one swift action, he straightened himself up so that their faces were aligned while simultaneously putting pressure on her hips to pull her in closer, and he crashed his lips onto hers.

It was ecstasy. The entire room seemed to dim and the only air for Buffy to breathe existed between his body and hers. Her arms closed tightly around his neck and her right hand grasped at his soft hair. His hands migrated delicately over the wound he had just tended to, one finding its way to the back of her neck, supporting it firmly, while the other fell down to the curve of her perfect ass. He pulled roughly at it, and she was thrust forward further off the bed, so that she was left just barely perched on its edge, her legs squeezing tightly at his abdomen now placed snugly in between them.

Their kisses grew more desperate as their tongues danced expertly in between lips and teeth. Hands grew more bold, and she deftly removed his jacket before letting her hands fall to explore his chiseled chest and smooth neck, never letting her lips leave his for more than a moment. His thumbs began to flirt with the bottom hem of her camisole just below her belly button, desperate to not only see, but memorize her entire abdomen. Barely keeping himself at bay with only his dwindling grasp of propriety, he shot both hands quickly back up to her shoulder blades and began exploring the valleys and curves of her neck and collar bone with his lips.

“Angel..” she whispered, like a prayer escaping her lips. She held the back of his head tightly, keeping his mouth glued to her skin. Every nerve of her skin was on fire, every hair standing on its end reaching closer to him. She moaned softly, and his desire for her roared more wildly, like an animal clawing out of his chest.

Then suddenly, as yet another soft moan sent him teetering over the edge, he slammed her back down onto the bed, crushing her with his body and lips, his right hand brushing up her left arm before pinning her hand to the bed with his. She broke their kiss instantly and cried out in pain.

He leapt off her so quickly that he had crossed the room and backed hard into her closet door before fully realizing what had happened. There was a great crash as the closet door slammed shut and Buffy screamed simultaneously, clutching at her lower back.

“Buffy?” he heard Joyce call down the hallway, mere seconds after Buffy’s scream subsided. “Honey are you okay?”
He could hear her footsteps start down the hall and he immediately turned, cursing himself, and sped toward the open window.

“I’m fine, Mom!” she replied, having crossed the room and blocked Angel’s way out, still clutching at her back. There was a hint of laughter on her face as she tried to keep her voice steady. “I just tripped, stubbed my toe. You know me! Klutz eternal! I’m going to bed now, okay?”

“Okay… Goodnight, Honey!”

After a moment’s silence to be sure Joyce had retreated while her hand rested on Angel’s chest, willing him to stay put the entire time, she finally let out a quiet laugh.

“Buffy,” he breathed, anguish all over his face, “I’m so sorry. I… I shouldn’t have come. I’m so sorry. Are you okay?”

She laughed even harder.

“I’m great!”

“But your back-”

“It’s fine!” she laughed again. “Totally worth it, I swear.”

“I shouldn’t have kissed you like that. It was wrong. I let myself get carried away-”

“Are you sorry for kissing me?”

Her tone had turned slightly more serious. Angel noticed a hint of insecurity had swept in through the open window.

“Well… no… I just… you’re only 16, Buffy, and I-”

“Oh don’t start with that again.” Insecurity took a swift and embarrassed exit and was immediately replaced with annoyance. “We both know how old we are. You either want to kiss me or you don’t. We’re either going out for coffee, or we aren’t. And I am SO SICK-”

He was kissing her again and she was melting in his arms. The hand clutching her aching back left it happily for the perfect curve at the back of his head.

“I always want to kiss you,” he breathed as they broke apart. “Always.”

“So what’s the problem?” she asked, looking at him with the look he only saw on her face when she was staring into his eyes. The look that made him forget everything that had happened before he first saw her. The look that made him feel like a man, not a worthless demon.

“I never want to hurt you. Ever. That’s the problem,” he answered finally. He was still holding her close to him, their faces just inches apart.

“Angel…” she said, almost pleadingly, “that’s just part of it. You know?”

“Part of what?”

“Of feeling this way. You don’t get to feel this way without risking getting hurt. It’s just the price we pay for…”

“What?” he whispered. His lips moved back closer to hers and the tips of their noses caressed each other.

“For falling in love,” she finished. He kissed her, softly, tenderly, his heart soaring at her words, her stomach leaping at his touch.

“I can’t bear the thought of hurting you… or slamming you onto a bed and actually hurting you.”

“Okay…” she giggled, “so don’t, then.”

And they were kissing again and pulling each other closer, as if trying to melt into each other. He felt lighter than he had ever remembered feeling, and yet a weight was tugging at the back of his mind, in the same spot the pieces of Angelus lived; the knowledge that he had the power to cause her pain. It told him to run. But he wanted to stay in her perfect embrace.

“I should probably finish studying though,” she said finally, breaking apart their kiss. “Those C averages don’t create themselves, you know.”

“Buffy?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you… uh… do you want to get some coffee? Maybe tomorrow?”

She smiled dazzlingly.

“Yeah… maybe.”

“Maybe?”

His genuine confusion and concern had her giggling again.

“Okay, definitely,” she offered finally, delivering his relief.

As he disappeared into the shadows and she slowly closed her window, her heart skipped several beats.

Am I falling in love with a vampire? she thought, smiling in spite of herself. Oh boy.