Summary: A story of temptation
Setting : Early in their relationship, but sometime after ‘Angel’
He stands in the shadows in The Bronze, where he is almost invisible. All around him the perfume of hormonal teenagers hangs in the stifling air, but he only has eyes for her. She has been here for some time, with her friends, but this is the first chance that Angelus has had to give her his full and uninterrupted attention. She’s wearing a moss green top with a deeply scooped neckline that sits only on the very edges of her shoulders, exposing incomparable golden flesh.
She’s dancing, laughing, her eyes sparkling. He watches the movement of her ribs, her breastbone, as she breathes. Even the Slayer can get out of breath when she dances. Her neck, slender and graceful, sweeps down bare and unadorned. She isn’t even wearing the cross that Angel gave her. He sees the blood throbbing beneath the skin, in time with her heart, and it’s all he can do to keep his fangs from lengthening. He doesn’t want that, at least not here, in public.
Beneath the tender flesh of her throat sits the v-shaped hollow where her collar bones meet her breastbone. It glistens moistly. A small bead of sweat breaks free and travels down towards her breasts. He longs to follow it, but he turns his attention instead to those enticing collarbones. These are her real neckline, the neckline that’s meaningful to him.
Behind those bones run important blood vessels. They can be tricky to reach, but they are so much sweeter for the trouble. A fang into the nerve that sits alongside, and she would lose the use of that arm. There’s a perfect symmetry, of course, and he could explore both collar bones alike. How sweet would that be, the Slayer unable to beat him away? How long for would depend on the damage of his bite. He could make it temporary or permanent. His choice. He wants to smile, but his face remains impassive.
Putting that thought aside for later, he admires the curve of her neck and the elegant arc it forms with her bare shoulder. His gaze caresses that gentle slope, his palm tingling with the anticipation of smoothing its way down from her ear to that second neckline of green cotton. He can feel the softness of her throat under his thumb, and the strength of her spine beneath his fingertips as he thinks of his hand slipping over her smooth skin.
The dance movement turns her away from him, and then back again. Briefly, she faces his direction, but she doesn’t look up and he remains hidden from her. Her skin glistens, sheened as it is with sweat from her exertions and from the steamy heat of the club.
He’s fascinated by the throbbing pulse point in her neck again. Even from this distance, he can see it clearly. If it weren’t for the infernal racket made by the band, he would be able to hear it, above the beating hearts of every other mortal in this place. Something in her blood calls to him.
He runs the sensitive tip of his tongue across the back of his upper teeth. They are still human for now, but he can feel his very different teeth shimmering beneath the surface. Slowly, unhurriedly, his tongue licks across his slightly parted lips, moistening them, refreshing and sharpening the taste of Slayer that has been carried to him on the pheromone-saturated air.
He wants more. He wants to feel that pulse point beneath his lips, feel the change from the deep, strong beat of a Slayer to the heart-skipping flutter of prey. He wants to savour the tongue-tingling taste of her sweat laced with the musk of desire and the spice of fear.
He’s torn out many throats in his time, but he doesn’t want that for her. He wants the throbbing sensuality of her to linger in his mouth as his fangs part the flesh of that exquisite neck, sliding into a rich artery, releasing a sip at a time. She is the finest of wines, and she is to be relished for as long as possible, not drained in a few hasty gulps.
All humans are different, and the taste of each of them is the sum of all their parts, every drop of blood a cameo of their entire lives. Even Slayers, different as they are from the common run of humanity, are different one from another. Each peerless taste is unique. He wonders what she will taste like when at last he fulfils his lust for her. That will be a day to look forward to, the day when she will truly be his...
Angel blinks, and forces the demon’s desires down into the cage he keeps for such things, a cage forged from an iron will, in the fires of regret. But it’s far too late. He wants what the demon wants. He always does, because he is the demon.
That is why he always watches her for a while, unobserved, before making himself known to her. He needs to control himself, to accustom himself to the overwhelming presence of her. Anywhere in Sunnydale he is aware of her, her scent, her sound, the pull she has on every fibre of his being. Close to her, he is consumed by her, ensnared within the intricate mesh woven from the scent of her blood, the pounding of her heart, her coiling desire, and the irresistible enchantment of her very existence. And by the warmth and trust that radiates from her, born from the light in her eyes and the welcome in her smile when first she greets him.
She has made of him a callow youth, and so each time he comes to see her, he has first to ride the surging tides of his lusts. Vampires are creatures of passion, and he more than most, but she seems to multiply his passion tenfold, even his penchant for pain and death. Not long ago, on the night he was forced to stake Darla, he told the Slayer that he wanted to kill her, and it was true. With his appetites inflamed by their battle, he’d wanted to sink his fangs into her, to tear her flesh, to glory in his defeat of her, and to delight in the special essence of Slayer blood.
He wants that now, although with much more finesse and artistry, but now he has been granted a choice. He is the sum of all his parts, and in some ways, the worthless man and the vicious demon seem to balance each other. Just. With his soul, he can cage the demands of the demon – eventually – and listen to the sweeter demands of his heart. He can never act on his heart’s wishes, but he can dream, even if his dreams are woven with nightmares. And so he stays in the shadows of The Bronze, unseen by her, until his appetites are under control. Know thyself. Perhaps one day he won’t need these moments of preparation, this period when he explores the savagery within so that he can cage it, but that day isn’t yet.
Like the demon before him, his tongue traces a line of moisture across his parted lips, her scent fizzing against his senses. Her hair is loose, and she pushes it back from her face. He imagines his fingers where hers are now, the weight of her hair sliding through them, then letting go, to trace a sensuous path down her cheek, along the line of her jaw, to dwell on the delicate flesh of her throat.
His hands are stuffed into his pockets, but he feels the tingle over the pads of his fingers as he watches the movements of her throat, watches her swallow, breathe, laugh, share a smile with her friends. And just to one side is the pulse point where the blood runs so close to the surface...
Tearing his gaze away, he follows the shadowed hollows that mark her collar bones, the line at the base of her neck that marks the lower limit of a vampire’s most erogenous zone, erogenous for the vampire, that is, not always for the human to whom the neck may belong. The flesh over those bones is softly rounded, marking her youth, and this reminder that she is just a girl settles the weight of his years in an invisible mantle around him. It doesn’t last long, though. She always makes him feel like a hopeful adolescent.
He’s glad that Spike hasn’t found Sunnydale, because Spike hasn’t stopped trying to catch up with him in the dead slayer stakes. Spike would want this Slayer dead, to add to his tally, and he would want to drink her. Angel would have no choice but to dust him. He’s still smarting from ramming a crossbow bolt through Darla’s heart and he’s not sure he’s mentally up to slaughtering another member of his family. Not yet.
No. No one is going to drink from Buffy, especially not him. But Angel can’t help wondering what she would taste like. He’s never going to know, of course. The power of her blood would surge through him, as electrifying as a lightning bolt, but would it be as delicious as her kiss? He had never experienced the like before, when he kissed her. Poets since the beginning of time have tried to describe the kiss of their lovers, but they could never have imagined the potent effect that she had had on him. Her kiss was innocence and fire, honey and spice, and every good thing he had ever known, all threaded through with the piquancy of mortal danger.
He will never drink his Slayer, but he’ll never stop wondering.
His Slayer. He loves her, and that isn’t going to change, but that isn’t the same as being his. It’s the opposite, he supposes, although he has had so little experience of love, he isn’t sure. But he knows a lot about his. He understands himself well enough to admit that he has obsessions, that he is possessive and territorial. Not all of that is the vampire. He has come here to help her, to protect her as much as he can while she learns her trade, and now he is thinking of her as his. That’s such a dangerous thought. No good ever comes of his obsessions.
The band has ceased their racket, temporarily, and he can hear the heartbeats of those around him, the rushing sounds of blood, the harsh breathing of over-stimulated teenagers. In a steady counterpoint to the hectic fever of the other dancers, one heartbeat is deep and strong and steady. Hers. The pulse point in her neck beats in slow response. He can feel his fangs sliding into that butter-soft flesh, the heat of that throbbing blood on his tongue, her fires warming him.
He swallows, and continues to watch her until he can control his thoughts, can lock them up in that cage with the demon. Soon...
Buffy is enjoying the freedom of the dance, safe among her friends in The Bronze. But it isn’t just the dance that she’s enjoying. It’s the rapt attention of the figure standing deep in the shadows. It’s Angel. He must think that she doesn’t know he’s there, but how could she miss him? She can feel any vampire who comes close to her, but Angel is different. She felt his approach, in the dizzying fall in the pit of her stomach, and in the clenching of her heart, before he’d even stepped over the threshold of the club.
She knows that he’s watching her. She doesn’t know why he should do that, but she can’t help showing herself off to him. She’s displaying herself, as though she were a normal girl, and he were a normal boy, and she was trying to attract his attention. Careful, Buffy, the attention of this vampire might be a perilous thing.
Undaunted by that realization, she runs her fingers through her hair, holding it away from her neck so that he has a clear view. Although she’s still innocent in some ways, she’s aware that boys – men – have certain predilections. She doesn’t know whether Angel is a boobs, an ass or a legs man, but she’s absolutely certain that he’s a neck man. She lets her hair fall. If he wants to see more, he’s going to have to come for her.
That, she thinks, is why she chose this top, with this neckline. It exposes very clearly what might most tempt a vampire and yet, from the pictures that she’s looked at of the women born around Angel’s time, it’s a neckline that might be familiar to him from when he was human. Unless the books lied. Time will tell.
She dances around, the bass beat pounding through her breastbone, his gaze scorching over her skin. She believes him, that he hasn’t fed from a living human for a hundred years, but that doesn’t make him any less dangerous. He’s a hunter, after all. She ought to be repulsed by him, but she isn’t, not by a long chalk, and any girl, even the Slayer, should be forgiven for going slightly weak at the knees at the thought of having her own savage protector.
Hunter and hunted. She is the hunter, but sometimes, the way he looks at her, the roles might be reversed. Not the hunt of a predator, but his look can be so intense, so possessive, so male... That brings her a new thought. Do hunter and hunted ever become alike? She thinks it might be so.
Angel told her that he wanted to kill her, when she fought him in The Bronze, on the night he staked his maker. All his vampire instincts must be there within him, but kept impotent by his soul, which means that, when he looks at her, he must want to drink from her. What would she taste like to him? Hers is just blood, isn’t it? Or is there more to it? Would it be sweet to him? Salty? Does he have taste sensations known only to the demon? Would the Slayer in her blood simply give her a more’ishness, a kind of vampire monosodium glutamate? Or would it be vampire cocaine?
Mischievously, she flicks her hair aside as she turns towards him. She doesn’t look at him, though, still pretending she doesn’t know that he is there. What would it feel like, to have his fangs in her neck? Just for a sip? Vampires are predators, killers, but don’t half the old stories talk about them being seducers, bringers of ecstasy? She can almost feel the sharp sting, the practiced penetration, the perfect bliss.
There’s worse, though. Even more dangerous. Denied a clear glimpse of him now, she pictures him in her mind’s eye. The solid muscles of his chest, the curving lines of his collarbones, the v-shaped hollow at the base of his throat from where powerful sinews define the strength of his neck. She wonders how it would feel to slide her teeth into that strength, or into the softer flesh of his throat. And she wonders what he would taste like.
His kiss was... unbelievable. Not just the kiss, but the taste of him. Knowing what she knows now, but didn’t know then, she would expect him to taste different, perhaps a little strange. Cold. But it hadn’t been like that at all.
Different it had certainly been. The other boys she had kissed had all tasted of beer or burgers or boyish adrenaline, not unpleasant but very human. Not so, Angel. She should have known then, but she had thought it was something to do with how much she had wanted him to kiss her. His taste had the sharp clarity of a frosty dawn wreathed around the soft velvet of a summer night, and had been indescribable. Even poets wouldn’t have the words. If he had seduced her, the seduction had taken hold there.
She smiles a small, secret smile as the dance comes to an end. If that was his kiss, what might his blood taste like? It isn’t a question she can ever ask anyone, especially not Angel, but she imagines her lips on his throat, her tongue on his skin, her teeth pressing against his flesh and then... and then, a sip of whatever essence makes Angel who and what he is. She never will, of course, it’s far too treacherous a thought. She’s a Vampire Slayer, not a vampire Slayer. But she’s curious to know her enemy, and her enemy is the demon inside him.
The band stops for a rest, and she turns to face her friends, putting her back to where Angel stands. She doesn’t need to be told when, seconds later, he’s standing behind her, appearing as if from nowhere. Her heart is attuned to his presence. But she pretends that she doesn’t know, until Willow rolls her eyes at her.
When she turns to him, he’s smiling.
“Angel.” Despite all experience to the contrary, she can do monosyllabic, too.
He hesitates. “Would you like a drink?” he offers.
She blushes, and he misunderstands, looking embarrassed. At least, she hopes he misunderstands.
“Coffee,” he elaborates. “Or... something similar.”
Politely, he stands back to let her precede him. She feels his presence at her back, and that makes her feel safe. And if he is eyeing up her neck, that makes her feel the power of the hold she has on him.
She loves him. She knows that. But she’s young, still learning what makes her attractive to men. There’s nothing wrong with an empowering neckline.