It was the night of St. Valentine’s Day, and the gang was all there, in the Library, trying to persuade Buffy to come to the Bronze. Her demon lover had been gone for a month - had left without a word as to where he was going and when he would be back, if at all. They’d all breathed a sigh of relief at that: at least Buffy hadn’t had to kill him. But Buffy had been moping. She needed to get out more, and that didn’t mean a patrol around the local cemeteries. Persuasion hadn’t been enough, though, and they all sat in silence, wondering what other arguments to muster.
The entry of a vampire took them by surprise. It was a minion that they recognised, a member of Angelus’ retinue. Thomaso. With a courtly bow, he presented to Buffy an elegant casket, an exact match for the one that Angelus had given her at Christmas.
“My Master’s compliments.” His voice was warm, and his eyes amused, but without a further word, he turned and left. Tied with a black ribbon to the top of the casket were two entwined roses, one white, one red. Both exquisite blooms were fully opened, their heady perfume scenting the air.
‘Oh, my,” said Willow.
Buffy looked a question at her.
“White rose for true love, red rose for passion - the language of flowers,” she explained.
Buffy grimaced, and gingerly opened the casket lid. Inside, nestled on a bed of black tissue paper, were two fresh hearts pierced together by a wooden stake.
Anya said nothing, but stood looking at the hearts with interest. Buffy closed the lid and stood up.
“Things to do, vampires to stake. See you later.”
“Don’t you want to take any weapons?” That was Giles.
“Got everything I need.” Indeed she had.
As she walked from the library she heard Anya say to the others, “You know what he’s saying? Don’t you?”
Buffy didn’t need to see them to know that there was mute incomprehension written across the face of everyone else in the room. Anya sighed and started to explain. She got it right.
When Buffy reached the mansion, it was empty. Never go by appearances, she decided, especially not with this demon. She padded across the hall as silently as any other predator, then mounted the stairs leading to his chambers. His rooms lay in darkness. Except… a thin line of light lay beneath one closed door. Quietly, she slipped across the bedroom and opened the bathroom door. The scents of cedar and sandalwood wrapped around her. He was lying in the huge tub, eyes closed, totally relaxed. A vampire with *bubbles*?
She pulled out a stake and silently approached the bath. She was almost there when his hand shot out and grasped her wrist. A practised pull, like *so*, and she found herself in the bath, with him. In a heartbeat, he had turned them over so that she lay beneath him, water up to her chin. She didn’t struggle - she knew that would only waste her energies - but glared defiantly at him. He ran one finger gently down the curve of her cheek. So soft.
“You got my gift, then?” He knew she had.
“You are so *gross*, do you know that? It gave Willow and Cordelia quite a shock.”
He was well satisfied. He had known that she would understand.
“You going to tell them?”
“What? That you’ve done my patrol for me and sent a pair of demon hearts on a stake covered with vampire ash to prove it? No need - Anya was doing that when I left. Have you left me anything to kill?”
“Not tonight. I wanted time with you.”
He reached out to the small table next to the tub, and picked up a black velvet box. He eased his weight on her a little, allowing some freedom to her hands.
“I thought you might prefer this gift, although I went to a great deal of trouble for the other. Those battle demons were tough customers.” His tone was grumbling, but he was smiling as he said the words.
She opened the box to find two pairs of earrings, set with pigeon’s-blood rubies. One pair hung as tear drops, cabochon rubies set in white gold. The other pair were small matching studs with an intaglio design, the rubies carved with tiny, intricate letters, A and B intertwined.
She gasped at their beauty. “I’ve never seen anything like these.”
He shrugged. “It’s a demon thing.”
At her sharp look, he laughed in pleasure. “No! I haven’t killed them. In fact, they’re Plath demons, and one is coming to take his place at my court next week.”
She was mollified - for the moment. Then she realised what he was doing.
“Stop it! Stop it, will you!”
He ignored her, and carried on, refusing to be either deterred or hurried. She wriggled against his weight.
“You’ll get my present wet!”
A hand reached out and plucked the box from her nerveless fingers, placing it safely back on the table. She struggled harder. A small tidal wave slopped over the side of the bath.
“You’ll have water going through the ceiling!”
“I don’t care if I have to have the whole damn ceiling replastered.” His voice was muffled, since he hadn’t yet stopped what he was doing.
“Please - stop!”
He held perfectly still. Still in those muffled tones he asked, “Do you really want me to? Really?” He waited for her. She couldn’t see that he was smiling, but she knew.
She gathered the shreds of her dignity around her.
“Well, you might at least give me a kiss to start with - you’ve been gone for a month! And let me get out of my wet clothes.”
At that moment, the minions, creeping silently back into the mansion so as not to disturb the couple in the rooms above, heard the sound of their master’s delighted laughter echoing through his halls.
THE END 9 February 2004
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