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The Darkness Within

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This story is No. 1 in the series "The Darkness Series". You may wish to read the series introduction first.

Summary: Willow's spell goes wrong, again, and sends Buffy to the St. Louis of a whole new dimension...along with some crazed vampires.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anita Blake > Buffy-Centered > Pairing: AsherDeesseFR181364,0614022760,47120 Jun 101 Apr 12Yes

NOTE: This chapter is rated FR13

Chapter Thirteen

Disclaimer: I don't own either world, Anita Blake or Buffy. I'm just borrowing them for a bit.

Spoilers: For Buffy the entire series. For Anita Blake, up through Bullet just to be safe.

WARNING: There’s some sexy stuff near the end, it’s not too graphic but I figured I’d warn you anyway, just in case.

A/N: And so the end of this section! Thanks so much for everyone who stuck with it even after my lengthy hiatus! Thanks so much for all the reviews, I have no idea what’s “good” for 13 chapters but I’m beyond thrilled with the amount of reviews I got for this story and with the way you guys were so damn loyal! It’s like I have fans! Makes me all teared up and stuff, for real. So, thanks again. I hope you guys stick around for the rest of the series.



Chapter Thirteen


It was dumb luck, actually. She really did have to pee. She just hadn’t made it that far. Because on her way she’d looked out the window and seen two of the convict vampires, the idiots still wearing their prison garb, dragging some woman down the street and into an alley. Right there, in front of people. People who just glanced and kept on going about their business. She’d growled under her breath, kicked off her shoes, which already been killing her feet anyway, and been out the door before the thought of telling Asher and Rafael what she was up to had even crossed her mind. In fact, she was across the street and in the alley before thoughts of Asher and Rafael themselves had even crossed her mind. Whoops.

The woman was on the ground, hands up in the air in the damn-near universal sign of “Oh, please don’t kill me”. The two vampires were standing above her, staring down at her, backs to Buffy. All she really had to do was sneak up behind them and stake them. Easy peasy. And she seriously considered it, warrants be damned, because, let’s face it, there was no around to see her, the woman sure as hell wasn’t going to tell anyone.

But, she needed one of them alive. So it was easy peasy one of the vamps and hope the other one wasn’t as hard as the werevamps because she really didn’t want another three-day nap. She had things to do.

She came up behind the vamp on the left and shoved the stake through his back, easily hitting the heart. He fell to his knees, making her sigh when he didn’t dust. She was really hating these hybrids. The second vamp turned around and backhanded her, sending her flying into the brick-walled building behind her.

She hit the ground and got to her feet, cataloguing and dismissing any injuries as minor, as he bent over his buddy. “Jake, you okay, man? That bitch hurt you? Jake?”

Jake took that moment to explode all over his pal in a shower of blood and other, thicker things, causing the woman to scream once and then pass out.

The vampire wiped Jake off his face and glared at Buffy. “You’re gonna pay for that, bitch. You’re gonna pay in so many ways. I ain’t just gonna kill you, I’m gonna hurt you. A lot. I’m gonna fuck you up. I’m gonna make you scream. I’m gonna make you beg. I’m gonna…”

“Oh my God. Please tell me you’re gonna shut up!” She came forward and threw a test punch at him, not really expecting it to land. She was surprised when he didn’t get out of the way and it struck him in the face, sending him staggering back a few steps. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, she followed it up with a side kick, which took him in the chest and sent him to the ground.

She took a second to look for her stake, which was in the pile of Jake guts. She’d have to start carrying spares. The other vampire got to his feet. “You’re gonna pay.”

“Yeah, you mentioned that. Where’re your friends?”

“You killed him.”

“You’re other friends, moron.”

“Around. You kill me, they’ll come and get you.”

“Tell you what…why don’t you give me their address, I’ll kill you and go confess and they can just get me then.”

He stopped moving and looked at her, blank look on his already stupid-looking face. She actually thought he was just going to give it up but then he shook his head and swung a roundhouse at her. She ducked and brought her leg up, aiming a back kick at his head, which he dodged. He grabbed her leg and pulled, sending her sprawling in the Jake remains.

“Hey! This was a new dress.”

She got to her feet, now covered in gross-age but armed with her trusty stake once more. He swung wildly and she blocked it with her arm, shoving the heel of her hand into his sternum, sending him sailing, smashing into a dumpster with a loud bang. When he fell to the ground, there was a large vampire-shaped dent in the trash bin. She was on him before he had a chance to get to his feet. She grabbed him by his hair, lifted his head and pounded it into the ground, again and then again for good measure.

“Where are your friends?” She asked.

“Fuck off.”

She stuck the tip of the stake against his chest, right above his heart and pushed, just a little, barely breaking he skin. “Where are they?”

“Screw you, bitch!”

She shoved it in a little more. “Tell me where they are.”

“You’re going to kill me anyway.”

She shoved it a little further and to her utter amazement, and disgust, he went the same way as Jake. She was covered in it. Her hair, her face. It was all over her dress, it was down her dress. “Oh my God, what the hell!” She hadn’t even hit heart…she didn’t think. “Goddammit…” she muttered.

She stood up and flung what she could off, grimacing as some of it was a whole lot thicker and a whole lot less red than blood. “Stupid hybrid vampires and their stupid not dusting and their stupid closer to the skin hearts. Who has closer to the skin hearts. What the hell is up with that?”

She stomped over, still flinging bits of whatever his name was and checked the woman, found she was still alive and still out like a light. She didn’t feel right about leaving her there unconscious but she also didn’t feel too good about waking her up for a really good look at the vampire killer either. Stupid world and its stupid vampire rules. She wished she’d have said something to Rafael and Asher. She couldn’t go back and get them now. She laughed and looked down at herself. She really couldn’t go back into the restaurant now. She flicked a little more off her, grimacing a bit when some landed on the poor woman. Whoops again.

She paced in front of woman a few times, trying to figure out what to do. She settled for crouching next to her and lightly tapping her face until she stirred. When her eyes flickered Buffy ran to the end of the alley, waited until the woman sat up and then ducked around the side of the building. She mentally patted herself on the back for a job well done. You know, aside from the fact that woman probably looked around and passed right back out again when she saw all the yuckness around her. And kind of on her. Yet another whoops.

One problem solved, she now had to get home. And since when did she start thinking of the vampire clowns as home? People were staring at her and she figured hailing a cab was going to be pretty much impossible. She didn’t really know where the Circus even was. She growled under her breath and pinched the bridge of her nose, ready to just give up and scream when she felt a tingle that read “WOLF” and a voice from behind her hesitantly said, “Buffy, right?”

She turned around and looked up. And up. “Yeah…and you’re Richard, right?”

He nodded and took a hesitant step forward. Jason sang her praises every time he opened his mouth but Richard himself hadn’t spent any time at all with the girl and she looked…well, she looked like shit. She was covered in blood and, he thought, guts. He reached a hand out, slowly, non-threateningly. “Are you okay?”

She frowned, then remembered she was covered in Jake and Jake’s buddy. “Oh, yeah. It’s not mine. Those vampire convict guys.” She waved it off.

“Oh, okay.” He dropped his hand, stood there feeling awkward, not knowing what to say. She also stunk.

“So…I don’t suppose you happen to be going near the Circus?” She scrunched up her face as she finally got a good whiff of herself. “Ewww…or like, a lake?”

He laughed and relaxed. She certainly had a way about her. He jerked his head at the restaurant behind him. “You can take a shower if you want…I’m sure we have something you can put on.”

She read the sign. “The Lunatic Café?”

He nodded. “Lycanthrope place. I can run you back to the Circus after or someone can.” It might not be a good idea if he did it. Anita would go ape shit.

“You’re a life saver. I’d hug you but then you’d have to shower too. Not with me, though. You know, like after me. Or before me. But totally not with me. Not that you’re not shower-with worthy or anything because you totally are all with the tall and good looking and muscly goodness and whole wolfy vibe going on but I’m just…you know what…nevermind. Shower would be great.” She shut up and gestured for him to lead the way.

He opened the door, laughing both at her babble and the cute red blush she was now sporting and led her inside, thankful that the place was nearly dead. He showed her where the shower was and was just closing the door to give her some privacy when she said, “Richard?”

He turned around.

“Could you call Asher or Rafael for me? Let them know where I am? That I’m okay?”

“Of course.” He closed the door, frowning as he headed out to the bar. What was going on that he was missing that Rafael had anything to do with the blonde?

He sat down, ordered a Coke and pulled out his cell, hitting the rat king’s speed number.

“Richard, I’m afraid I can’t really talk now. Can I call you back?”

“Sure. I was just calling to give you a message from Buffy. Call me when you have time.” He was about to hang up when Rafael’s voice stopped him.

“Buffy! Where are you? We’re on our way.”

Frowning again, Richard said, “The Lunatic Café.”

“We’ll be right there.” Rafael didn’t even say goodbye, just hung up. He drank his Coke and wondered who “we” were and what the hell was going on. He needed to pay better attention to what was going on in his city.

He hadn’t even finished his Coke when the door opened and Rafael and Asher strode in, both of them looking worried. The vampire spoke first. “Where is she?”

Richard jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “In the shower. What’s going on?”

Rafael sighed. “The shower? Why is she in the shower? What happened? How did she end up with you?”

The wolf shook his head. “I was on my way to my car when she came out of the alley covered in blood, I recognized her, asked if she was okay. She said she was, it wasn’t hers. She asked if I was going near the Circus, I said she could take a shower, she asked me to call one of you. What’s going on?”

He watched the vampire and the rat share a look and his frown deepened. Since when were they so close that they shared looks that spoke volumes? Since when did they pal around in the first place?

Neither of them had a chance to answer because the door behind the bar opened and Buffy came out, wearing a Lunatic Café T-Shirt that was at least two sizes to big for her and completely covered the shorts he’d found for her to wear. Her wet hair hung down her back and her legs and feet were bare. She carried the bloody dress in her hand. She shot Rafael and Asher a sheepish smile. “Sorry?”

They were at her side in second, first the vampire and then the rat hugging her, both of them kissing her wet head. “You had us worried. Again.” The rat told her.

She nodded and then grinned up them, “Bright side…injury free Buffy! And, oh! I got two of the convict vampires.”

Rafael frowned. “Did anyone see you?” He took the bloody dress out of her hand and grimaced at it.

“No. I was careful. The would be victim didn’t see me for the first one and was totally unconscious when I took the second one out.”

Asher turned and looked at Richard. “We would appreciate your discretion, mon ami.”

Buffy frowned. “What, him? I thought he was on our side?”

Asher kept staring at the wolf. “Oui. Richard is, how do you say, in the closet? It would be a shame if your activities tonight caused his to come out?”

Richard stood up, angry. “Are you threatening me?”

Rafael shook his head. “No one is threatening anyone. Buffy didn’t have a warrant and killed a few vampires that were going to kill someone else. Self defense. No one wants anyone getting in trouble for anything. That’s all anyone is saying.”

“Rafael…what is going on here? I want some answers.”

“I’ll call you tomorrow, Richard.” He took Buffy’s hand. “We need to get Buffy home.”

Asher took her other hand, still staring at the wolf and he and Rafael led Buffy toward the door.

Buffy, still confused, followed them but turned her puzzled gaze to Richard. “Thanks, Richard. For your help.”

He did manage a smile for the girl. It wasn’t her fault, after all, that the vampire was an asshole and his friend was acting strange. And she really was very sweet. “You’re welcome, Buffy.”

******


The were all quiet on the way back to the Circus, and on the way to Buffy’s room. They all stood uncomfortably in the hall outside her door, Buffy shifting from foot to foot, not knowing what to say. Asher leaned against the wall next to the door, arms crossed over his chest, seemingly without a care in the world, face not showing anything at all, scars carefully hidden behind his hair. Rafael stood in the middle of the hall, hands clasped behind his back, working very hard not to show his nerves. His guards were at the far end of the hall and around the corner, giving him at the least the illusion of privacy.

When she couldn’t take it anymore, Buffy finally quietly said, “I’m afraid.”

Glances flew between the three of them, no one really knowing what to say or who to say it to and finally Asher said, “Of what?”

“If we do this…Jason told me that this bonding, if something happens to one, it could kill the others. Is that true?”

“It is, yes. But it is also true that this bonding makes it harder to kill us and Buffy, we are all very, very hard to kill now. None of us are human. You, yourself are nearly immortal here.”

“It’s not that.” For the first time, she reached out and took Rafael’s hand, took Asher’s hand. “If we do this and Willow is able to yank me back anyway…what will happen to you guys?”

Rafael looked down at her bent head. He’d known her, in actuality, such a short time, but it was so like her, he thought. To worry for them. He felt a wave of love for her wash over him. “We don’t know, but we believe the risk is worth it, Buffy.” He looked at Asher, got his nod of agreement.

She looked at Asher, too, saw that same nod. “Okay.”

“Yes?” Rafael asked.

“Truly?” Asher said.

She smiled and nodded. “Yeah…let’s do this.” She blew out a deep breath, tipped her head to the side. “Um…what are we doing?”

Asher pushed open her door, held his arm out so she and Rafael could go inside. He closed it behind them. He smiled at Buffy, biting her bottom lip and carefully not looking at the bed. “Relax, Buffy. You will not feel the first two marks at all. The second two are a sharing of blood.”

“I remember the whole blood sharing thing from Dracula but not so much the first two?” She made it a question. She really, really hoped she didn’t throw up on anyone. She got the feeling this was a whole important, beautiful moment thing and yakking on someone probably wasn’t really of the good.

Rafael sat on the edge of the bed. The whole thing might have been his idea but he was curious too. He didn’t really know much. He only wanted his people safe. “Richard mentioned that when he, Anita and Jean Claude did this there was a memory sharing for one of the first two marks?”

“I didn’t have that with Drac.” Buffy added.

Asher sat on the bed and patted the space between himself and the rat king for Buffy. She eyed them both suspiciously for a long moment and then sat down. It felt weird. They sat in a row, all facing the closet, all sitting straight up, feet on the floor. She rolled her eyes, shook her head. She scooched back and sat Indian style, reached out, grabbed the closest knee of each man and yanked them around so they were sitting sideways, facing each other. “Better. Go on.”

“Every bonding is different.” He held out a hand to Rafael, who immediately took it. He didn’t seem scared or nervous at all, Buffy thought. She watched them closely but didn’t see anything happen. It was just two seriously hot guys sitting on her bed holding hands and staring at each other. And why did that make things low in her body tingle like that?

Asher slowly let go of Rafael’s hand and turned to Buffy, holding his other hand out for her to take. She, like Rafael, did not hesitate, just put hers in his. Unlike the rat king, her mind was a fortress. “Buffy, you have to let me in. I cannot mark you without your permission.”

“I’m not doing anything…” She really wasn’t.

“Then you will need to reach out to me with your mind and help me.”

What the hell did that mean? She sighed, closed her eyes and concentrated on Asher. She could feel her hand in his, their fingers threaded together. She could feel his heart beating, now in perfect time with hers. She could feel his breathing, also in perfect time with hers. She could feel him now, inside her head.

She felt Rafael take her other hand, felt the rat king take Asher’s other hand as well. Her brows furrowed a bit in concentration.

She could actually feel, now that she thought about it, the new connection to Rafael inside Asher, inside herself.

She slowly opened her eyes and looked at the vampire who was looking at both of them. “How are you both?”

Rafael smiled. “I can feel you both in my head but only if I think about it.”

Buffy nodded. “Me too. That was kind of…I don’t know...anticlimactic.”

“I was expecting more.” The rat king agreed.

Asher gave his elegant shrug. “As I said, the first two marks are hardly noticeable. For the third mark, I will drink your blood.” Buffy looked at Rafael, biting her lip again, this time trying not to laugh at the way Asher had announced that. She was happy to see Rafael in the same boat.

She stopped trying to laugh when the vampire stood up and took off his jacket, began unbuttoning his shirt.

“Hey! What are you doing?” Buffy got to her knees. “You said a little blood. What’s with the nakedness?”

“It’s white, Buffy.”

She sat back down. “Oh. I guess so.”

He looked at Rafael. “Are you sure? There is no turning back from this point.”

Rafael nodded but then looked at Buffy. “Are you sure?”

She nodded. “Yeah…I want to do this.”

Asher moved closer to Rafael, came around behind him and then looked at Buffy again. “Would you rather wait outside? The third and fourth marks can be…personal?”

She looked at Rafael. “Do you want me to leave?”

He shook his head. “No…you can stay.” He smiled at her and when he held out his hand, his only outward sign of nerves so far, she smiled back and took it.

Asher wrapped one arm around Rafael’s chest and used the other hand to tip his head back, caught his eyes, caught him in his gaze, rolled the rat king’s mind. He sunk his fangs into the other man’s carotid and held him steady.

Buffy felt a faint blush start to spread over her face, deepening as she watched was quite obviously a very intimate moment as Rafael…enjoyed himself. Jason had told her that Asher’s bite was orgasmic but she’d thought he was just being…well, Jason. The rat king’s hand squeezed hers painfully tight as he climaxed and she looked anywhere but at the two men. She couldn’t block out the sounds he made, though.

Asher pulled his mouth from Rafael’s neck, used his fangs to slit his wrist, and held it to Rafael’s mouth. The other man used his free hand to weakly hold the vampire’s arm to his mouth and suckled at the wound while Asher ran his fingers through the king’s hair. When he felt the marks click into place, he gently pulled his arm away and smiled as Rafael, half slumped, half fell into Buffy’s arms. She laid a gentle kiss on his head.

“Is he all right?” She asked, concern in her voice.

“He is drunk on power. High from his release. It was…intense.” He tilted his head to the side. “Would you like him to lie on the bed while we do your marks?”

She looked at the vampire for a long minute and then said, “I think maybe he might be more comfortable sleeping it off in a guest room.”

“As you like.” He gently picked up his new animal servant, brushed a light kiss over his lips, and carefully carried him out the door. Buffy took a long, deep breath and then ran to the dresser, frantically whipping through the drawers looking for something halfway decent that wasn’t a stupid T shirt and a pair of shorts two sizes too big.

She found a little black babydoll nightie, a frothy piece of barely there lace with spaghetti straps and a short skirt that would barely cover her ass and took a precious second to wonder who the hell thought to buy it for her and why they would, and another valuable one to thank whoever it was, and then ran to the bathroom, changed and brushed her hair. She was back on the bed a scant millisecond before Asher got back.

His eyebrows shot up into his hair when he saw her as he shut the door behind him. “You changed.”

She shrugged. “Yeah, well…the shirt was white and all.”

His smile made her heart stop and then pound in triple time. “Indeed it was.” He came closer, put a knee on the bed. A finger trailed under the thin strap, skimmed along the top of her breast. “This not white.”

“No…” She ran a finger of her own under the waistband of his pants, loving the way he shivered, her thumb trailing along the green silk of the sash he wore. “This either.”

He slid his knee between her legs, pushed her back so she was laying down. “I have wanted to do this for so long, since that first night.” He whispered against her mouth as his lips met hers in a soft and all too quick kiss. She whined and pouted as he pulled away and he smiled as he laid down beside her, pulling her into his arms.

His hand threaded into her hair, holding her head still as his tongue came out to tease her bottom lip, his teeth nipping at it until she opened her mouth and then he kissed her again, this time properly. This time, it was a kiss that made her groan into his mouth, made her clutch at him, dig her nails into his back and press her entire body against his. She forgot to breathe. She forgot everything but the man holding her.

He couldn’t get close enough. How could she be so small, so delicate and so strong at the same time? How could one woman undo him so much? How could he want her so much? Love her so much? Her nails dug into his back and he nearly took her right then and there. She moaned into his mouth and he nearly lost all control. He yanked her head back, kissed her neck, fought not to bite. She had no such control he thought with wild joy as he felt her teeth sink into his shoulder. She didn’t draw blood but it felt beyond reason all the same.

He heard his name, a whisper on her breath, as she kissed along his jaw, his scarred jaw, as if it were perfect. He forgot to think about that at all as he felt a sharp, piercing, delicious pain as she bit his earlobe.

He slid the strap of the nightgown down her shoulder, following its course with open mouthed kisses that made her squirm and arch against him. He slid the other side down, lost patience with the thing, ripped it off her, delighted in her giggle.

She looked up at him, laughter joining the passion in her eyes. “You’re kind of an animal, huh?”

He kissed her again, the laughter faded, the passion flared. He gazed down at her. “Vous êtes si belle, Buffy. Je t'aime.

She didn’t know what he said but she had the general idea. She reached up, shoved her fingers in his hair and pulled his head down, kissed him, hard. She dragged her nails down his back and around his waist, pulling at the knot in the belt and finally took a page from his book, ripping it apart. She made quick work of the buckle and the zipper and shoved the pants down, using her feet to push them the rest of the way off.

She shoved him, sending him to his back, propped herself up on an arm so she could look at him. She saw the uncertainty in his eyes and she smiled down at him. “You…seriously take my breath away, Asher. It should be against all the laws in every world for anyone to look as good as you.”

He could see she meant it, couldn’t believe she meant it. He sat up, kissed her again. And again. His hand slid up her arm and around her neck to cup her face, his thumb brushing her cheek. “I will not let anyone take you from me, Buffy. Not your witch, not the Council. No one.”

He pulled her into his arms, his mouth meeting hers again as his hands were suddenly everywhere at once. She didn’t know if it was a vampire thing or an Asher thing but it was definitely a good thing. His mouth slid down her neck and she tipped her head back felt his fangs sink into her neck at the same moment she felt him sink other things into her and she screamed as the orgasm hit her.

She sank her own teeth into his shoulder, this time hard enough to make him bleed and she felt it sliding down her throat. The more she swallowed, the more he swallowed, the harder she came and that seemed to feed his own pleasure and it was this seemingly never ending circle.

Just when she thought she would die from it, she felt it. The marks, the completeness, the power of the triumvirate, the power of them. It came and it was like nothing she’d ever felt before. There was so much, too much for her to hold and what was she supposed to do with it all? There was way too much for Asher and Rafael. For her. Even Jean Claude got his fill.

She instinctively dropped her shields and threw all that power into everyone she had a connection to. Everyone. She felt them all, every animal in the city, all the rats, the wolves, the hyenas, the snakes, the vampires, she felt them all get a shot of power. Not enough to force them to change, because, thank God, there were enough of them to spread it around, but enough that they were all, every last one of them, feeling pretty damn good. Rafael was even up and coming this way. She looked up at Asher, who was looking down at her.

He gently pushed her hair out of her face. “I love you.” He kissed her softly.

“I love you, too.” She said. She smiled. “So…the fourth mark is pretty awesome, huh?”

He laughed and rolled them over, tucked her close to his side, pulled a blanket over them.

“Do you think Jean Claude will be in here, too?” She asked as she wiggled around, getting comfortable.

He closed his eyes for a moment and then nodded. “He is on his way as well.”

She sighed. “It sucks we have to have company and we’re all with the naked.” She kissed his chest since it was right in front of her. “I just wanted to say…that was…um…really nice.” She finished lamely.

He tipped her head back. “Nice?” He was frowning. Really, really frowning.

“Um…really nice.” She laughed at the look on his face as there was a knock and door opened and Rafael came in.

“Am I interrupting?”

“No.” Buffy said.

“Yes.” Asher said.

“Which is it?” Rafael asked.

Buffy frowned. “What’s with you?”

“I don’t know. I feel like I just missed something big.”

Buffy couldn’t help it. She glanced down at the blanket where it was covering Asher and giggled. She covered her face with her hands and giggled some more while both men looked at each other, the tension diffused.

“Sorry…” She muttered.

Rafael motioned at the bed, eyebrows raised in question and the other two shrugged so he slid in on the other side of Asher, the vampire and Buffy sliding over to make room for the rat king to sit against the headboard.

Jean Claude knocked at the door and came in without being asked, sitting at the foot of the bed, also without being asked. “How are you all feeling?”

Asher gave Buffy a light squeeze and laid his other hand on Rafael’s thigh. “I believe we are quite well. You?”

Jean Claude nodded. “That was a lot of power. I do not believe anyone who does not know what is going on will know where it came from, though.”

Rafael was running his fingers back and forth along Asher’s hand. “Speaking of which, who will we be telling. We ran into Richard tonight.”

“I wish to keep this as quiet as possible for now. Even among your Rodere.”

“Why?” Buffy asked. She wished everyone would go away.

“Rafael’s people are probably trustworthy but Belle has lieutenants who are very strong whose animals to call are rats, and I do not wish the council to know about you, or Asher’s new powers just yet. What of Richard?”

Asher explained what happened with Richard.

Jean Claude frowned. “I do not wish Richard or Anita to know about this yet, though they will have to be told. I will think on what to do about Richard.” He looked at the three of them and smiled at his long time friend. “You look happy, Asher and I am happy for you.” He leaned forward, placing a soft kiss on the other vampire’s lips. “We will discuss all these developments later. For now, rest and enjoy yourselves.” He left them alone.

Buffy looked over Asher at Rafael. “Are you all weird about this?” He was the one that insisted on honesty.

Rafael opened his mouth to say no but then closed it again and thought about it. “No, but remember that you said you’d give me a chance. I do expect that.”

She looked at Asher and he nodded. “You did say you would give him a chance. A fair chance.”

“So, you’re okay with me just dating both of you?”

“Yes, Buffy. I told you, you have to stop thinking of it in human terms and start thinking of it in the terms of the ménage a trois.”

She looked at Rafael. “And you’re okay with me being in love with him?”

He nodded. “I am. The idea is that we will all end up in love with each other and I think we are well on our way.”

“So weird.” She shook her head and then nodded her head. “But a deal is a deal. What did you have in mind, Rafe?”

“Rafe?”

“Sorry…it’s a bad habit. Rafael.”

“No. I like it. I didn’t have anything in mind actually.” He confessed. “I will come up with something…suitable.” He grinned at her.

“Scary.” She yawned.

Rafael got off the bed. “I need to get home anyway, it’s nearly dawn. I’ll be back tonight.” He paused for a moment and then leaned forward, bracing himself on Asher’s chest and pressed his lips to Buffy’s. She tensed for a second and then kissed him back, feeling the power between the three of them flare brightly. He pulled back with a beautiful smile. “Thank you.”

He seemed so grateful for one stupid kiss that Buffy felt like an ass. And Asher was giving her that look. She gave him a look right back and then said to Rafael who was nearly out the door, “Did you actually have stuff to do? You know, at home?”

He turned around. “What?”

“I mean, couldn’t you just stay? I’m sure Asher has extra pajamas.” She poked the vampire who, in one of those uncontrollable bursts of random happiness that sometimes hit you, found himself on his knees tickling the now screeching and squirming slayer and telling the rat king, “You should hurry and join me before she remembers she is the vampire slayer and she can kick our asses. And that she is naked.”

********

Micah, half asleep, slapped around on the nightstand, because he was the closest, and mostly by luck, managed to hit Anita’s ringing cell phone. He opened one eye, squinted at the display, rolled said eye and handed it over his head.

“Anita! Wake up. It’s Richard.”

She grabbed it out of his hand, checked the screen, flipped it open and growled. “Richard. It’s the ass crack of dawn. What the hell do you want?”

“There’s something going on. We need to talk. Can you meet me for breakfast?”

“No.”

“Goddammit, Anita. I’m serious.”

“When? Where?”

“My place? An hour?”

“An hour? What the fuck, Richard? It’s 5:00 in the morning.”

“Didn’t you feel that…that thing half an hour ago? And I ran into Buffy and Rafael and Asher tonight. There’s something going on. An hour.” He hung up.

She glared at the phone. “Fucker.” She hung up and stared at the ceiling. Buffy. She should have known.

She felt Micah’s arm curl around her, felt Nathanial, still sleeping on her other side. “Problems?” He asked

“Probably. Did you feel anything weird earlier?”

“Weird how?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. Richard said something happened around 4:30, I guess.”

“No…sleeping like a baby. You want me to get up and make coffee?”

She leaned over and kissed him, crawled over him to get out of bed. “No, go back to sleep.” Richard was a dick.

She was showered, and out the door in 20 minutes, through the drive through with a mega-sized coffee in her hand and on her way to Richard’s in 40 and knocking on his door exactly 60 minutes later. She was proud of herself when she didn’t shoot him in the face the minute he opened the door. She shoved by him without being asked and sat herself at his kitchen table.

He slammed the door and followed her.

“What’s so important?” She asked him.

“First, I run into Buffy, covered in blood.” He said bluntly.

Not that she gave a shit but still. “Was she hurt?”

“Not her blood. She killed two of those vamps. Those convict things.”

“Really? Well, that’s good.”

He frowned. Figured Anita would be all for the killing. “Anyway, she asked if I could take her back to the Circus but she was disgusting so I said she could take a shower and I’d find her a ride.” He left out the fact that he didn’t want to get his head chopped off if Anita found out he’d driven the poor girl somewhere.

“She took a shower with you?”

“No! I showed her the shower at the Café and sat at the bar while she did that but before she did, she asked me to call Asher or Rafael.”

Anita frowned. “Rafael? I get Asher if she’s staying at the Circus but why Rafael?”

Richard nodded. “Yeah! That’s what I thought. She said let them know she was okay and where she was. I thought it was odd, but I called Rafael because I had his number. He tells me he’s busy and can’t talk but the minute he hears Buffy’s name he says where is she, is she okay, he’ll be right there. They must have flown to get there so fast. Then, when they get there, they hugher, kiss her head, then Asher threatensme…”

“Wait. What do you mean he threatened you?”

“Buffy said something about how she was sorry but that she saw the vampires and she got them, Rafael asked if anyone saw her. Then Asher turns around and says something about my discretion, right? So then he says how I’m in the closet and it would be a shame of Buffy’s activities came to light and made mine come to light, too. And get this…Rafael backed him up.”

Anita frowned. “You’re kidding?”

He shook his head. “No. And when I asked what was going on, they took her by the hand and led her out the door. Said they had to get her home.”

“Again, I can see Asher doing it on Jean Claude’s orders but Rafael never gets involved in the vampire shit. What the fuck is going on here?”

“You really don’t know?” He looked at her face. She was pissed. She really didn’t know.

“No, but I’m damn sure going to find out. She looked at her watch. She had maybe ten minutes until dawn. She pulled out her cell phone, dialed Jean Claude. She frowned when it went to voice mail.

“What the fuck!” She looked at Richard. “Voicemail. It’s Anita. Call me.”

Richard frowned. “Maybe whatever happened before knocked him out early?”

“Maybe…what happened?”

He shrugged. “It wasn’t bad, in fact it was pretty damn good. Just this huge burst of power. I have to talk to more people, but everyone in the pack I did talk to felt it.”

She shook her head. “How early is too early to call Rafael?”

“Before we went weird he was up by six. I’ll call him in a few minutes.”

“Jean Claude is usually up by three, you want to go over with me after school? Or you me to want to call you and fill you in?”

“I’ll go with you. You want me to meet you there or pick you up?”

“Pick me up. I’ll see you then.” She stood up, hesitated, then stood on tiptoe, pecked him on the mouth and headed out the door.

******

The ringing of a phone woke Buffy. She groaned and muttered, “Don’t wanna go to school.”

“Lucky for you there is no school.” Rafael muttered from his position behind her, not wanting to answer the phone, which was definitely his because she didn’t have one and who would be calling the vampire wrapped around her on the other side. He really didn’t want to answer the phone for the simple reason that he was afraid she wouldn’t let him back where he was, though now that she was awake, chances were pretty good she’d freak out and make him move anyway. Even if they were wearing clothes because she’d insisted on pajamas for everyone before they’d gone to sleep.

He sighed and took a mental snapshot. Buffy was lying in the middle on her side, her back pressed against his chest, head pillowed on his shoulder with his arm under and around her and his other arm draped over her waist, your typical spooning position. Asher was pressed tight against her, chest to chest, his arm draped over her waist as well, also draping over Rafael’s waist, his forehead against hers. Their legs were a tangled mess of who knew whose was whose. It was, to use a Buffy word, awesome.

Just as he was about to move, the phone stopped ringing and he sighed in happiness. “Yay.” Buffy muttered and snuggled deeper into her cocoon. He could have sworn he felt the vampire’s arm tighten but that was impossible. He adjusted his chin on Buffy’s head and closed his eyes when the phone rang again.

“Just answer it.” Asher muttered and lifted his arm, giving Rafael’s hip a shove.

“This better be good, calling me before goddamn dawn…” he grumbled as he rolled over and fumbled around for his pants. He finally found them and jerked the phone out as Buffy sat bolt upright in bed.

She crawled across the bed, flipped the lamp on as Rafael was saying “Yeah?” into the phone. She backed into the closet doors, staring at Asher, who’d sat up as well.

Rafael looked at her, turned and looked at Asher, hung up the phone and turned to stand next to Buffy. The phone started ringing again. Buffy took it, crushed it, threw it aside.

Asher got to his knees. “What is it? What’s wrong?”

Buffy pointed, swallowed. Looked at Rafael. “Your face.” Rafael said.

The vampire’s hands went to his face. “What? What is wrong with my face?”

“Nothing…” Buffy said. “It’s perfect.”

His hands felt for the scars that were no longer there. He looked at this chest, which was also clear of scars. He pulled the waist band of pajama bottoms out and found no scars there either. His grin was huge as he jumped off the bed and hugged first Buffy and then Rafael and then both of them. “This is not possible. This is a miracle. This is…mon Dieu, how can this be?”

And Buffy had a sudden flash of Angel, near death, the only cure being the blood of a slayer. Spike’s voice saying “It’s got to the be the blood.”

She smiled and hugged him. “Who cares, it’s a good thing.”

Rafael hugged them both. “She’s right.”

Buffy added, “That’s not even the reason I was freaking out in the first place. It’s not near dawn. It’s past dawn. Shouldn’t you be all…dead?”

“What time is it?” Asher asked.

Rafael frowned at the crushed phone. He went to the door opened it called softly, “Memphis?” Seconds later a tall rat was hurrying down the hall.

“My King?”

“I just need your phone, Memphis.” He smiled as the other rat dug out his phone. “Thanks…you can go back to your post.”

He closed the door to find the other two looking at him with huge smiles. “What?” he asked.

“Nothing.” Buffy answered, stilling grinning.

“My King.” Asher added.

He ignored them but, but couldn’t keep the happy smile off his face as he powered it up. “It’s 6:50.” He looked up again, adding, “In the morning.”

“Well, that’s new, huh?” Buffy asked.

Asher nodded. “I did not die.”

Buffy glanced at Rafael who was looking at her as well. She motioned at Asher and he shook his head, also motioning at the vampire. Buffy shot him a dirty look.

“What do you mean, you didn’t die?” She asked.

“I fell asleep but didn’t die. Usually there is nothing when dawn comes. There is dawn, nothing, then painful awakening. I feel asleep, I dreamt of…” he trailed off with a slight frown and then an odd grin, “I dreamt of dancing monkeys and a man with cheese. I did not die.”

Rafael pushed him to sit on the edge of the bed, sat down next to him. Buffy crawled around, sitting behind them, unable to stop herself from running her hands over their backs. Rafael said, “This is a good thing as well, right?”

Asher nodded. “I believe it is, yes. It’s just so different and I feel as if it is too good to be true.”

Rafael took the other man’s hand. “Perhaps it just that our darkness is finally lifting.”



Vous êtes si belle = You are so beautiful.

Je t'aime = I love you

The End

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