We have lingered in the chambers of the sea By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown Till human voices wake us, and we drown. -The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot
Angel watched Buffy cross the gravel path to the main house. Her posture was rigid, her narrow shoulders stiff. Her ponytail bobbed, but not with its characteristic swing; Buffy was angry, clearly.
“So you told her then?” Giles said, appearing suddenly at Angel’s side.
“I told her.”
Angel slanted his gaze sideways.
Giles chuckled. “She’ll get over it.”
“I’m not so sure,” Angel said. He watched as Buffy went into the house. She hadn’t looked back.
“Of course she will,” Giles said. “She loves you.”
Three days ago…
Angel and Buffy had settled into an uneasy routine once they’d returned from Ireland. Work kept them busy and when there wasn’t work, Buffy did her best to keep him occupied, to keep his mind away from berating itself over what he had done, what had been necessary.
Angel wondered if he’d ever be able to forgive himself for what had happened here, the horrible thing he’d had to do.
He didn’t want Buffy to worry and so he did his best to smile when it was appropriate and to maintain some semblance of normalcy, but it wasn’t always easy.
For one thing, he could hardly bear to touch her. He wanted to and when she leaned in for a kiss he obliged, but it didn’t seem right: To have done what he had done and to be rewarded with her affection just seemed blasphemous.
This morning, just before the sky filled with pale light, he’d watched her through slitted eyes preparing for her morning run. Last night she had wanted to make love, but Angel couldn’t, wouldn’t. This morning, although she was acting as though there was nothing wrong, Angel could tell that she was hurt. He didn’t know how to fix it; he didn’t know how to go back to the comfortable (and comforting) relationship that they’d had.
“You should sleep some,” she said, twisting her hair up off her face.
He nodded. Although he tried to sleep at night, when she did, it was hard to break sleep patterns which were over two centuries old. He didn’t need too much sleep, could get by on very little in fact, but every once and a while it caught up with him.
“I’ll see you later,” she said, slipping out of the door.
Angel groaned and rolled over. He was going to have to come to terms with what had happened sooner rather than later, or the tension that was between them was going to spill over into their work lives and somebody was going to get hurt.
Something woke him. The room was gloomy. There was movement at the end of his bed and Angel opened one eye. He felt—odd.
“You’re very pretty,” a voice said. “I like pretty men; otherwise, what’s the point.”
Angel came to full wakefulness. He sat up, the covers pooling in his lap. The room was empty.
“Buffy?” He said. There was no answer. His skin itched, dead nerves jumping with life.
He couldn’t remember if he’d been dreaming. He rubbed his hand across his jaw and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He twisted the alarm clock on the bed side table towards him. 11:32 a.m. Buffy must be at the main house. He should go over; the sun was obviously not going to be a problem today.
Buffy was washing dishes at the sink. The sky threatened rain. She wondered, absently, if Angel was awake. He hadn’t been sleeping well; she knew that. She understood that he’d made adjustments to his sleeping habits to accommodate her and while she appreciated it, she wasn’t sure that it was going to work out. She suspected that the only real reason vampires slept during the day was because they couldn’t be out and she knew that Angel slept less than he probably needed to, although he claimed to need less sleep than she thought he did.
Buffy turned on the hot water tap and rinsed the last glass, placing it carefully on the drainer.
“Ah, there you are,” Giles said from behind her. He was carrying a folder of papers and an empty mug.
Buffy dried her hands on a dish towel and turned to face Giles.
“Just washing up.”
“Where’s Martha?” Giles asked, walking over and placing his mug in the sink.
“She had to go into the village, I think. I don’t mind.”
“Are you alright?”
“What, you think there’s something wrong with me because I did the dishes?”
Giles smiled. “Of course not. You just seem—.”
“I’m okay,” Buffy said quickly. “But Angel--”
As if on cue, Angel walked into the room.
“Morning,” he said.
“Morning,” Giles said. “Sleep well?”
Angel nodded carefully and crossed the room to place a kiss on top of Buffy’s head.
“Well, it’s convenient that you’re here actually,” Giles said, moving to the kitchen table and sitting down, placing the folder neatly in front of him.
“What’s up?” Buffy said joining Giles at the table.
“It would appear that we have a new vampire nest in Bath,” Giles said.
“How did you find out?”
“Travis. Ear to the ground, that sort of thing.”
“Not literally, right?” Buffy said pulling the folder over and flipping it open. “Churches and graveyards. What is it with you people?”
Angel shrugged his wide shoulders and said: “I don’t sleep in a church or a graveyard.”
Angel frowned. “Am not,” he said under his breath.
“I can take care of this by myself,” Buffy said.
“Actually, I have to go to Bath on business,” Giles said. “So, I might as well come. Angel, you could stay here.”
“I should come,” he said.
“No,” Buffy said, too quickly. “I’d like to stay a couple days, maybe do some shopping.
“Oh,” Angel said. “Okay. I guess I’ll stay.”
“I think it’d be good for us to have,” she paused, unwilling to say anything too personal in front of Giles. “Some time.”
“Apart,” Angel concluded. “I get it.”
“Well then,” Giles said, pushing himself back from the table. “I’d like to leave mid afternoon, if that’s alright. You could take care of this problem this evening and then have a couple days to wander around.”
“I like Bath,” Buffy said. “It’s so white.”
Giles chuckled. “Indeed.”
The rain that had been threatening all morning finally let loose just after Buffy and Giles headed off to Bath. Angel made tea, habit more than desire, and rummaged around in his book case for something to read. He should be reading something from Giles’s collection, a book about Demonology or local hauntings, but Angel longed to read something that was meant purely for pleasure. There was something comforting about holding a book, turning the pages and losing himself in another time.
He ran his fingers along the spines of the books on his shelf and finally settled on a thin volume of poems by T.S. Eliot.
Let us go then you and I When the evening is spread out against the sky Like a patient etherized upon a table; Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets, The muttering retreats Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels And saw-dust restaurants with oyster-shells: Streets that follow like a tedious argument Of insidious intent To lead you to an overwhelming question… Oh, do not ask, “What is it?” Let us go and make our visit.
Angel had met Eliot once. A serious man with shrewd, intelligent eyes, Angel had come upon him in a pub in 1919. He’d been sitting in a corner, nursing a pint and scribbling madly into a little black notebook. It was perhaps the only advantage of living forever: meeting people who would later be known for their intelligence or craft.
The rain pounded outside and Angel allowed Eliot’s words to carry him away.
Breath against his face.
Warm fingers against his throat and a feeling of immense pleasure wedged low in his belly.
For a long moment, Angel drifted along with the sensation. He was dreaming, of course. It would be okay to let himself have this dream, just for a moment.
Someone was touching him: palms against his ribs, along his thighs, there.
It was almost unbearable. Angel struggled through layers of sleep and sat up. He was unbearably aroused, but had no recollection of the dream he’d been having.
The wind and rain were slanting in through a window he could not remember having opened. Angel padded across the floor and yanked it shut, sidestepping the puddle on the floor. He went to the closet for the mop and set about cleaning up the mess. When he was done, he returned to the couch and tried to calm the pulsing sensations that rippled through his body like ribbons of electricity.
Erotic dreams were not alien to him, but usually the face he saw was Buffy’s. Whatever had woken him up was not her, and the lust he’d felt was stronger than anything he’d experienced in recent memory.
“Well, at least they have good taste,” Buffy said, as she and Giles walked past Bath Abbey for the second time. It was not yet dark, although the overcast skies made the day gloomier than it might have been. “It really is quite a remarkable feat of human ingenuity,” Giles said, looking up at the abbey’s tall spires.
“Can’t you just say, ‘great building,’ or ‘good job’?” Buffy laughed, glancing at her watch.
Giles smiled. “Yes, I suppose I could, but then I’d sound like an inarticulate American and I’d never forgive myself.”
“Who are you calling inarticulate,” Buffy said, punching Giles playfully on the arm.
“Let’s get a drink at the pub just there,” Giles said, pointing across the road. “Then we can look after this little problem in the Abbey and enjoy the rest of our stay.”
“What do you want?”
Night had fallen, properly, and Angel was aware, suddenly, that he was not alone.
“I like you.”
A shape across the room moved closer. Insubstantial, even to Angel’s excellent vision, it gained definition as it drew nearer.
Out of the dark corner it appeared, a woman as beautiful as any Angel had seen in his long, long life. Her hair cascaded is blonde ringlets, loose and fat, framing an alabaster face. Her mouth was a candy-kiss, her eyes opaque and almond shaped, fringed with feathery black lashes. The smell of her was intoxicating.
“You don’t need to do anything,” she said. She was close enough to touch him and even though she didn’t, Angel felt the warm dry press of her palm against his chest. She tilted her hand and pulled a carefully manicured nail down his chest along the exposed skin glimpsed through the opening in his shirt.
Angel wanted to stop her and he lifted a hand to snatch at her wrist, but suddenly he found himself flat on his back with this decadently beautiful woman straddling him.
“You shouldn’t fight me,” she murmured. “There’s no need.”
Angel swallowed dryly.
She slid forward, rubbing against him sensually and Angel felt his body react. He couldn’t seem to tear his eyes away from her smooth décolletage. His body hummed underneath hers.
“We will be lovers,” she whispered.
“I have a lover, thanks,” he said.
The woman laughed, tossing her head gaily and sending her curls in a hundred different directions. Angel wondered what her hair would feel like pressed between his fingers. He lifted a hand to touch her. She shifted again and Angel found himself teetering on the edge of mindlessness.
“I shall return to you,” she said reaching out for his fingers with her tongue. He moaned when she pulled one long digit into her mouth, nibbling and sucking her way down to the place where his finger met his palm.
And then she was gone.
He couldn’t sleep even if he’d wanted to. He heated up some blood, added a measure of whiskey and sat at the kitchen table, palms flat against the smooth wood, waiting for them to stop shaking.
The phone rang shrilly, but Angel didn’t trust his wobbly legs to make it across the room.
Surely he’d been dreaming: vividly. Although the dream had stopped just short of embarrassing him, he had been millimeters away from the steep precipice.
The phone stopped ringing and then started again almost immediately.
Three long strides and Angel was holding the receiver in his hand.
Buffy sounding concerned. He hated that she was worried about him.
“Hey,” he said trying to keep his voice level.
“Everything okay?” She asked.
“Everything’s great,” he replied. “How about you? Did you find the nest?”
“Yeah, in the Abbey just like Travis said. Giles and I are just having a drink before we go Rambo on them.”
“Oh, sorry, I guess you missed the Sylvester Stallone oeuvre.”
“No, I saw Rocky,” Angel said. “All eighteen of them.”
Buffy laughed. “I don’t think there were eighteen.”
“Maybe not. Be careful, Buffy.”
“Always,” she said. “See you in a couple days.”
Showered and dressed, Angel watched the sun come up across the field, shafts of light filtering through the little copse of trees near the fence. It would be a long day trapped inside and although Angel was, even now, a solitary creature, he missed Buffy. There were times when a case called her away during the day and he was, because of the sun, unable to go…but Angel felt particularly cut off from the world today.
He watched John Fletcher cross the gravel path towards the garage. He met the older man at his door.
“Martha thought you might be needing this,” he said, handing Angel a box. “It’s--”
“Thanks,” Angel said taking the box from Fletcher’s hands. Martha was right; he’d drunk the last of his blood last night.
“Right, I’ll be off,” John said heading back the way he’d come.
Angel opened the box and placed the jars of blood neatly in the refrigerator. He wondered, briefly, if feeding a vampire had been in the job description for Martha and her husband.
Angel took up his book of poems once more and settled on the couch.
How had he missed the wings?
Unfolded behind her, they cast a shadow against the ceiling, held her aloft so that she wasn’t touching him.
“I have returned to consummate our relationship,” she said.
Angel reached up and his fingers connected with her smooth, warm skin. He was filled with unbearable desire even as he realized who she was.
And then she was upon him.
When he woke the sun had left the sky. He felt as weak and used up as he had when Wesley had pulled him from his ocean tomb. He stumbled, naked, to the refrigerator and reached for a bottle of the blood John had thankfully provided. He didn’t even bother to warm it. He needed to clear his head, and quickly.
He glanced down at himself, searching for marks, for some sign that what had happened had been nothing more than a very realistic dream. The skin on his chest and stomach was unblemished; maybe it had been nothing more than some weird latent sexual energy made manifest by some suppressed emotion. Guilt. Guilt was always good for conjuring up weird shit. And in Angel’s life guilt was never in short supply.
He finished his blood and headed to the bathroom. He turned the water on and let it get good and hot and then he stepped underneath the spray. He flinched as the water hit his back. He reached around, touching the parts of his back he could reach His back seemed to be a mess of jagged scratches and cuts which crisscrossed their way from his shoulder blades down to the small of his black.
He couldn’t explain those away.
The vampire nest in the Abbey had been ridiculously easy to take care of.
Buffy brushed the dust from her suede jacket and pocketed her stake.
“I dunno,” she said, reaching down to offer Giles her hand, “I think the British vamps are lamer than the American vamps.”
On his feet, Giles straightened his glasses and smiled. “Perhaps these were newly made vampires. Given more time and a good leader they might have been more worthy adversaries.”
Buffy shrugged. “Well, time is one thing they haven’t got.”
Giles surveyed the Abbey’s floor. “True enough,” he said. “Shall we have some dinner?”
Giles’s mobile rang just after he had left Buffy to do some shopping along the narrow streets, known to the locals as the Passages.
“Is everything alright?” It was unusual for Angel to call on Giles’s mobile.
“No. When are you coming back?”
“What is it?” Giles asked. Angel calling was one thing; Angel seeking out Giles for help was something else entirely. They had made their peace, certainly; but it was a wary peace at the best of times.
“A succubus,” Angel said. “I don’t know how--”
“No, we’ll come, of course.”
“No!” Angel said. “I don’t want Buffy to--” Angel voice was adamant.
“Right. Of course,” Giles said. “I’ll make some excuse and come back on my own then, shall I?”
“Yes, that would be better,” Angel said, clearly relieved.
They’d arranged to meet for lunch and Giles explained that his business was taking him out of Bath. He handed Buffy the keys to the flat and asked if she’d be able to take the train back to Westbury when she’d finished her shopping. The thought of having some alone time, Giles knew, would appeal to her.
He sped back to Westbury, anxious to speak to Angel in person.
A succubus. It was the stuff of legend, of course. And even in all the years that Giles had been a Watcher, he’d never actually met someone who had encountered one. Of course, it was a rare occurrence when someone met with a succubus and lived to tell the tale.
The history of the demon was as old as time itself. The demon’s story began with Adam and his first wife, Lilith. Adam, so the Bible says, was created from God, but Lilith was created from the Earth, a free spirit much more in tune with the natural world.
Disinterested in Adam’s sexual advances, she called out the name of the creator and was banished from the Garden of Eden. She moved to the edge of the Red Sea and mated with the demons she found there, thus creating a race of demons known as succubi. The male version of the demon was known as an incubus.
In medieval Europe some people believed that intercourse with an incubus resulted in the birth of witches, demons, and deformed human offspring. Merlin, himself, was said to have been fathered by an incubus.
The fate of humans taken by a succubus was certain death, but in Angel’s case that wasn’t a real possibility. And although a succubus survived by mating, offering her victims untold pleasures, they weren’t benevolent spirits by any stretch of the imagination. They were fiercely strong and capable of great harm.
Giles wondered how a succubus had wandered into Westbury and how she’d come to Angel’s bed. There were some sources who said that succubi are actually known to their victims but in Angel’s case, that certainly wasn’t likely to narrow the field.
If the demon didn’t have the potential to cause great harm, Giles could almost find Angel’s predicament comical.
Angel was waiting in Giles’s study. The desk was littered with volumes from the ex-Watcher’s personal library. He lifted his head from The Pergamum Codex and smiled grimly.
“Well,” Giles said thoughtfully.
Angel shrugged his wide shoulders.
“It’s a damn good thing the curse isn’t an issue,” Angel said, “because despite the fact that this chick’s got the emotional IQ of a gnat,” he paused to meet Giles’s eyes, “the earth moved.”
“Oh dear,” Giles said, moving closer to lift the spine of one of the discarded books. “Do you know this woman?”
Angel shook his head. “No. But let’s face it, I wasn’t exactly celibate for the first, say, hundred and fifty years…give or take.”
“No, I suppose not.”
“I don’t want Buffy to know, Giles. I’ve hurt her enough.”
“You haven’t done this, Angel,” Giles said. “I’d be the first one to blame you if you had.”
Angel smiled, but the gesture did not reach his eyes.
“You shouldn’t keep secrets from her. We’ll sort it out and then you should tell her. She’ll understand.”
Angel laughed mirthlessly. “If the situation was reversed, if Buffy were being visited by an incubus I doubt I’d be so forgiving.”
“Well let’s hope your paramour doesn’t have any horny male friends,” he said, ignoring Angel’s wince. “Let’s get to work shall we.”
It was almost dawn when Angel crossed the gravel driveway to the garage. He climbed the stairs wearily. The research he and Giles had compiled hadn’t provided them with much more information than they’d already had.
Some sources said that a succubus only came to monks, the most pious and seemingly least sexual of men. Other information indicated that the succubus drew its energy from sexual encounters with men, leaving its victims exhausted. Some victims, in fact, were so exhausted from their encounters that they would often die. While there was no chance of Angel dying, he couldn’t argue with the exhausted part. He felt as though he could sleep for a hundred years.
According to Malleus Maleficarum, the book considered to be the quintessential Roman Catholic text on witchcraft, succubi were known to collect the semen of the men they had seduced and to give it to their male counterparts, who would in turn use it to impregnate female victims. The children from these unions were often thought to be susceptible to the influence of demons.
As a young man in Ireland, Angel had come to learn that a carving of a succubus outside of a building was an indication that the inn or tavern was also a brothel. He’d had many fine nights in such establishments before he was turned. But none, he had to admit, so fine as the last few encounters he’d had with his demon visitor.
The most disconcerting information that he and Giles had discovered about the succubus was that they were often thought to be soul stealers. The legend claimed that every time someone had sex with a succubus, the demon would steal a little bit of the person’s soul.
Angel wasn’t willing to part with his soul, no matter how pleasurable the experience might be.
Angel sank onto the couch and closed his eyes. The scratches on his back had healed, but the memories of his night were still fresh in his mind.
Like calls to like, he supposed. As much as he might try to deny it to Buffy (and to himself) Angel was a demon with the appetites of a demon. The succubus called to him on a level which was purely physical and Angel seemed powerless against it.
She was kneeling between his legs, her tongue snaking out to wet her perfect lips. Her hands rested on his thighs. He watched her from beneath the curtain of his own lashes, but he was perfectly aware the she knew she was being watched.
“Your energy is dark,” she whispered, leaning closer to the obvious proof of his arousal.
Angel reached out and slid his hands through the succubus’s generous curls.
“Do you have a name?”
“Lilith,” she replied. “We are all called Lilith, after our mother.”
Lilith leaned closer. When their lips met, Angel felt the rippling waves of sexual desire pass between them. His body jolted to life. He struggled to clear his head, to pull free of her incredible strength.
“Want me,” Lilith said. “I know. All men want me.”
“That’s not actually what I was going to say,” Angel said. He pulled his hands out of Lilith’s hair. She was sitting in his lap now, snug against him, writhing happily. “But okay.”
Angel tipped his head back, closing his eyes.
“We are cousins,” Lilith said, her mouth against his ear. “You are a vampire. You need the lifeblood of others to survive. I am a succubus; I need the sexual fluids of men to survive. We are not that different.”
“I suppose not,” Angel murmured. She was so warm, so incredibly warm and alluring. “Is that why you came here?”
Lilith’s breath tickled Angel’s neck.
“I came because you called.” Her small, hot hands were in his shirt, freeing him from buttons and zippers effortlessly.
I didn’t call you.
Did he say the words aloud? He didn’t think so, but it wouldn’t have made any difference. She had pulled him into her and he was lost in the sensations. His mind kaleidoscoped away from his body; his body careened carelessly down a path of tremendous pleasure.
And, as if she knew him, Angel felt the first lick of pain beneath the bliss and that was all it took. He groaned and bucked beneath her.
Buffy arrived home to silence. It was just past lunch when the taxi she’d taken from the train station in Westbury deposited her at the main house. She dumped her bag at the front door and called out.
She headed down the hall to the kitchen, which she discovered empty, although a pot of something that smelled slightly oily bubbled on the stove.
Buffy headed out the back door and stopped. There was Giles’s Land Rover parked by the back door. He’d made it home before her. Things must have gone well in the Cotswolds. Perhaps he was with Angel.
She crossed the gravel and slipped into the stairwell. She could hear voices.
“Careful!” That was Angel.
“I’m being careful.” That was Giles. He sounded amused.
“It stings, that’s all,” Angel said.
Buffy headed up the stairs and paused at the door to the flat.
“Well, I should expect that it would.”
Buffy opened the door and found Angel sitting on a kitchen chair, shirtless. Giles was standing over him, tending to several large gashes on his shoulders and chest.
“What in the hell happened?” Buffy said, rushing across the room. “I can’t leave you alone for, like, a minute.”
“It’s nothing. A few scratches,” Angel said.
“Those are not scratches,” Buffy said, moving closer.
“Buffy,” Giles said carefully. “He’s alright. By morning these will all be gone.” He wiped the last of the blood from Angel’s shoulder and rinsed the cloth in a basin of water on the table.
“What did this to you?” Buffy asked.
Giles and Angel exchanged a meaningful look.
“Would you believe a distant cousin?” Angel said, hopefully.
“You’re not funny,” Buffy said. “See. I’m not laughing. Give me that,” she added, taking the tube of balm from Giles. She twisted the cap off and began to rub some of the soothing ointment into Angel’s damaged skin.
“I’ll go then, shall I, and let you two have a talk,” Giles said, pushing his glasses up his nose.
For a moment there was silence. Buffy finished her task and recapped the tube. Then she sat in the chair across from Angel and waited.
“It was a demon.”
“Well, I hope that at least he faired worse than you,” Buffy said.
Buffy’s eyes narrowed. “Oh.”
“It was a succubus,” Angel said quietly.
“They’re demons who come to men at night and…” Angel paused, hoping he wouldn’t have to be any more explicit than that. Buffy remained silent, her hazel eyes pinning him to his chair. “They can be male, too, but not, of course, in this case…”
“You’re babbling, Angel,” she said, crossing her arms in front of her slender chest.
“I know. I’m sorry,” he said. He fixed his eyes on a space just past her left shoulder and began to fill in the details of his encounters with the succubus.
Now he stood, Giles at his side, wondering how to repair this latest damage between them. She hadn’t cried when he’d finished his tale. He’d managed to leave the most sordid details out of his story, but he knew that Buffy had been hurt by what she considered his betrayal. No matter how much he tried to explain that he’d been powerless against Lilith, Buffy took what had happened here while she’d been in Bath as a rejection. How could he tell her otherwise, when things had been so strained between them since his return from Ireland? How could he make her understand that the release he’d found with Lilith hadn’t shaken loose the terrible burden he still felt for killing the Slayers, for everything.
“I’ll show her the research,” Giles said. “Perhaps that will help her to understand that it is nearly impossible to resist such a being.”
“Well, you know what I mean,” Giles said.
Angel nodded grimly.
Lilith’s face was less beautiful when angered. Her eyes shone black; her mouth was a cruel gaping wound.
“You don’t refuse me,” she said, her voice a harsh whisper.
“Look, whatever you’re here for…my soul, my bodily fluids,” Angel paused, “whatever keeps you warm at night—I don’t have any to spare.”
Lilith’s wings folded against her back and she floated towards Angel. Her face relaxed; she was beautiful and irresistible once more.
But Angel was awake now and he was implacable. Giles had been right: it was possible, after all, to refuse a succubus.
The truth of it was, Angel thought later as he watched the lights go out in the big house, he hadn’t resisted Lilith as he might have. He’d spent his whole life since he’d been re-souled denying himself even the simplest pleasures. He didn’t deserve them, he told himself. He didn’t deserve bliss.
But for once, he had welcomed the mindless respite from his guilt and the terrible burden that came from being who he was; who he would always be. And the fact that he had given in to her when he should have refused was one more cross Angel would have to bear.
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