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Summary: A response to Jinni's five song challenge- Asher is sent by the council to investigate reports of military activity near the Hellmouth

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anita Blake > Willow-Centered > Pairing: AsherdulcineaFR1855165,32913100123,5022 May 043 Sep 06Yes

The First Taste - 1

~ Sunnydale Mansion, Monday, 3:00 p.m. ~

Asher lay on his back, contemplating a letter he was to send to Belle Morte tonight. It was still a few hours before nightfall, so he had plenty of time to write. Finally, he gave up feigning sleep and sat up, glancing around his room. His sire had leased him a large mansion which must have been owned by one of his kind, considering the thick velvet drapes over all the windows. It wasn’t the lavishly decorated palace he was used to, but it would do for a business trip. Gracefully he moved to the ornate writing desk, picking out a pen and some parchment.

My Dearest Belle Morte,

I lie in an early bed, thinking late thoughts, waiting for the black to replace my blue skies. For the third day in a row, the energies from the Hellmouth have woken me early. I fear in another month I will have no need for the rest we seek each day. I have uncovered little of note to date. There is indeed a military group operating in this area, and they managed to capture my host three nights ago. They appeared to use some sort of electric weapon, although I have no idea how it would work. I have yet to hear from any that have escaped, so the weapons must be effective. There is an active slayer in the area that many of our kind seem to fear. However, she is not in any way associated with the military group as far as I can tell, and it is quite easy to avoid her, for she patrols rather noisily. The one time I nearly crossed her path, she was entertaining a young man with stories of her roommate, while waiting beside the grave of a newly arisen. I will continue to monitor the situation until I hear your further command.
Always yours,
Asher

Asher read through the letter twice over, before placing it in an envelope and addressing it to France. He wondered if he was making a mistake by not mentioning the redheaded, delightful, feisty kitten in the tree. He smiled at the memory of her flustered fall. No, it was best to stay silent on that matter. He would not give his sire any more ammunition to doubt his devotion to Her. She still had not recovered from her jealousy of Julianna. Of course, if he were honest, he had not recovered from the memories of Julianna either.

Back and forth, Asher could only pace for the remaining hours before darkness, and then what? He had found no new leads. He had found a single bar that catered to his kind, and it had been a filthy mess. There was no way he would return to that dump unless all his other options were gone. What he needed was a local tour guide to show him the haunts, give him a better sense of the place. He smirked. Perhaps tonight would be a good night to visit the redhead.

~ UC Sunnydale, Monday 8:00 p.m. ~

“Ha! You landed on Park Place! That’s mine! You owe me!” Xander jumped up and did a little dance.

“Fine, but just you wait. Nobody escapes the terror of Tennessee Avenue.” Willow petulantly paid Xander.

“Terror of Tennessee? I laugh at your terror.” Xander playfully teased, then proceeded to roll double sixes. “Egads! Tennessee!”

“That’s Tennessee with two houses, mister.” Willow held out her hand, grateful for some money from her only territories.

“Yeah, well, I’ll get you next time, and your little dog too!” Xander picked up the little Scottie dog piece, waving it around in jest.

“Stop that Xander! That’s my piece. You don’t see me playing with your piece… well, at least not that old shoe.” Anya swatted at Xander’s hand before getting a wicked gleam in her eye. “My turn. Oh yay, Utilities, which I own. Have I ever told you how much I enjoy this little exercise in capitalism?” Both Willow and Xander rolled their eyes at Anya, who was once again organizing the properties in the bank. “Just watch, now Willow is going to roll, and I will get to be her slum lord.” Sure enough, Willow rolled and was stuck on Oriental, where Anya had built up a lavish hotel paradise. “Ha! I have you now.”

“I do not struggle in your web because it was my aim to get caught. It’s all part of my nefarious plot, buahahaha!” Willow cackled.

“Whoa there Willster, that’s getting a bit creepy.” Xander kidded as Willow reluctantly handed over the last of her money to Anya. “Oh, An, it looks like Willow is getting low on funds, can you slip her a few $500s?”

“But that’s cheating.” Anya looked at her boyfriend.

“Only if you play by the written rules, but we always play like this. Monopoly’s no fun if somebody loses.” Xander patter his girlfriend on the shoulder.

Anya slammed her hand on the board, bouncing it on the dorm bed, scattering pieces everywhere. “But, it’s not fair. I want to win. I have all the money. I should win. It works in life, why can’t it work now?!”

“Actually, I think technically, in Life you win if you have six children first.” Willow answered wryly, the joke going completely over Anya’s head.

“Xander?” Anya looked up at her boyfriend expectantly.

“Maybe Monopoly’s a bad idea, should we play another game?”

“Scrabble!” Willow cried at the same time Anya yelled “Pictionary!”

"How about this? We whip out the Ouija board..." Xander tried to placate his girlfriend and best friend.

“Actually, it’s getting late, you two should go on.” Willow sighed, glancing at her alarm clock.

“Are you sure you’re going to be alright?” Xander asked, picking up the Monopoly pieces.

“Yeah, I normally spend my weeknights reading in here, it’s not like having a cast is going to make it more exciting or something. I mean, it is a school night.”

“Are you sure?” Xander’s eyes met Willow’s, daring her to speak out.

“Yes, she’s sure. Come on Xander, let’s go home and play some fun games with your pieces.” Anya wrapped her arm around Xander and started dragging him to the door.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine. Buffy will be back from film class in an hour or so anyway. Thanks for coming over.” Willow smiled. “I’ll see ya later, okay?”

“Right! Later it is.” Xander patted Willow on the head then quickly joined Anya at the door before Willow could retaliate. “Have fun with the homework gimpy!” He called out as they closed the door behind them.

Willow grabbed her psychology book from her nightstand and began reading the week’s assignment. A few minutes later, there was a knock on her door. Clumsily she got up, stumbling the five feet, to get to the door. “I’m coming, I’m coming!” She called out, frustrated that her leg was such a hindrance.

“Oh hey, it’s you.” Willow commented, seeing the gorgeous vampire from a few days ago, standing at her doorway, as though it was the most natural thing for a romance novel cover model to do.

“Oui, it is me.” Asher smiled, detecting the slight increase in Willow’s heartbeat.

“So, um thanks for carrying me to Giles. Of course, if it weren’t for you, I probably wouldn’t have fallen out of the tree in the first place, but well, yeah. Thanks for not eating me?” Willow nervously brushed her hair behind her ear, glancing up and down the hallway. Why, of all times, was the hallway completely abandoned now? She could do with some general clamor around her; the silence was a bit disarming, and hey, since when was her hallway so dark and shadowy?

“May I talk to you?”

“Talk? Oh sure, with the mouth moving and sound coming out, right, I remember how to do that.” Willow blushed. Damnit, why did this vampire have to be so hot and undead? And hey, wasn’t she supposed to be still hurt about Oz leaving, and not yet checking out other guys? It was no fair.

“Oui, talk.”

“That’s it, just talk?” Willow nervously glanced around yet again.

“Would that disappoint you, to just talk?” He asked, keeping a straight face, although the sparkle in his pale blue eyes made Willow think that he was making fun of her.

“Well okay then.” She opened the door and headed back to her bed, sitting down and propping her leg back up.

“May I come in?” He asked, peeking around the doorway.

“Oh, right, sure. I invite you in Asher.” Willow said, figuring Buffy would get through with class before anything could get out of hand.

“Thank you.” He bowed then entered, sitting down at her desk chair. “How is your leg? Are your doctors taking good care of you?” He asked, not quite sure how to get the conversation started.

“Well, I’m going to be on crutches for awhile, but I get around okay.” Willow shrugged.

“The crutches, do they work okay?” Asher once again blundered. The setting was so different from any he was used to. He could fit in at any palace in Europe, but throw him in a girl’s dorm room, and suddenly his aloof, regal manner felt awkward.

“Well, yeah, I guess I get along okay. The doctor said it was good I had long legs, since it puts less pressure on my arms. My daddy has long legs too, so I guess it runs in the family, and well, you don’t really want to hear about my genetic background, do you?” Willow felt equally ill at ease. “So, um, how about you tell me about yourself? What’s it like being an incubus?”

“How did you hear about that?” Asher looked at her curiously.

“There are very few Ashers in the books, and well, it became pretty obvious that the vampire Asher and the incubus Asher were the same in the histories since they were always in the same place at the same time.” Willow blushed.

“You have researched me? That is hardly fair. I have not researched you.” Asher replied, his voice trying to hide his pleasure. If this girl could find about him in such short time, she could surely find out information about this military group.

“That’s not true. You must have researched me, or you wouldn’t have known where to find me.”

“I simply paid attention while you were checking in at the hospital.” He smiled. “Actually I am surprised your librarian did not try to find me. I had been hoping to speak to the two of you. I thought it likely that I would cross your paths many times while I am in this town, but I was finally growing weary of waiting for you to come to me, and decided to pay you a visit. I am glad to hear that you were trying to find me, even if in the past rather than the present.”

“Oh. I see.” Willow nodded. “Wait, no I don’t. You wanted us to find you?”

“Not exactly. I had merely hoped that you were the inquisitive sort that might be amenable to working with one of my kind.”

“Oh. I don’t think Giles would really be up to that.” Willow frowned.

“And that is but part of the reason I came to see you first.”

“Part?” Willow gulped nervously.

“Oui. I was also quite curious to find out how the beautiful maiden had fared from her fall, and I find that she is as beautiful as before.”

“I can see why they say you’re an incubus.” Willow whispered feeling tingles as Asher’s gentle words caressed her like magic.

“Was.” Asher corrected.

“Pardon?” Willow opened her eyes, surprised by the bitterness in his tone.

“It has been many years since I have been considered one of the incubi of my line.”

“What changed?” Willow observed the vampire carefully, noting how the shadows seemed to wrap around him, even in her bright dorm room.

“This.” Slowly, Asher pulled back the hair from his face, revealing the scarred mess that had haunted him for centuries.

“Ouch. I take it that happened before Neosporin was invented?” Willow winced at the sight of crisscrossing scars that made his face look practically melted.

“It is not something to joke about.” Asher quickly let the hair fall back over his face.

“I didn’t mean it like that, I just meant… well, you know. Sometimes you have to laugh at yourself or you’d cry your eyes out. Please don’t be mad at me.”

“Perhaps I should not have come.” Asher frowned. It was always like this. Women would swoon at the sound of his voice, only to mock him as a hideous beast at the sight of his face. He had hoped this one would be above that, but it appeared she was just like everyone else.

“No, don’t go.” Willow looked pleadingly at him. “I mean, wasn’t there something you wanted to talk about?” He wavered a bit, not quite standing up, but not sitting down either. “Besides, you never told me what it’s like to be an incubus.”

“You want to know what it is like?” Asher stood up and walked over to the bed. “It is not some simple power you can wield with the flick of a wrist; it is not just the ability to have women swoon at a simple smile.” Smiling ferally, he moved onto the bed, straddling Willow, leaning over her to whisper into her ear. “The ardeur, it is the drive inside that draws the sins from us. The incubi, we are merely pawns for the power, waiting to be consumed by it. You find that exciting, no? To know that what you are feeling now, I can feed off of and feed into, it is a heady power.”

“Oh my.” Willow whispered, frightened and yet incredibly aroused. Maybe it was a bad idea to invite this demon into her room after all.

“Is that all you have to say?” Asher gracefully climbed off her, but sat on the edge of her bed, his leg making just the barest of contact with hers.

“I think it’s safe to say the incubus is still present tense.” Willow mumbled, looking at the floor. Asher chuckled deeply, feeding off the energy Willow was caging up. It was so rare to find one so naive and yet not innocent; Asher found it completely intoxicating. “So you can feed off of lust? Like instead of blood?” Willow asked, surprised her mind was still working.

“Oui, I can feed from it, but it is not the same sort of feeding. It is like a dark rich chocolate, but one can not live on chocolate alone.” Willow smiled at his mention of chocolate. Of course, any word sounded sexier coming from Asher, but the way he said chocolate made Willow so horny… um, hungry. Shaking her head, Willow tried to steer the conversation back to neutral territory.

“What did you want to ask me about?” She gulped nervously.

“You and your librarian friend, you know about the military men?”

“Not really? I mean Bu… we’ve seen them a few times at night, but we don’t really know anything about them.” Willow kept her eyes focused on Mr. Gordo across the room, not wanting to embarrass herself any more than necessary by staring at Asher.

“How long have they been in this village?” Asher frowned. He could tell Willow was trying to hide something.

“I’m not exactly sure, but they weren’t around for graduation, back in May. I’m almost sure of that.” Willow frowned. Perhaps they were around before that. But then, why didn’t they intervene? Surely demonic ascension would fall under the jurisdiction of secret militia forces.

“Would you be able to investigate it at all?” Asher asked.

Willow really wanted to say yes. Something about Asher made her want to agree to anything he said, but that was enough to make her want to pause and think about it when she wouldn’t be under the influence of such an intoxicating voice. “Maybe?” She asked sheepishly.

“Is there anything I can do to persuade you?” Asher purred silkily.

“Stop that!” Willow shook her head. “I mean, yes, I find your voice quite dreamy and nice, but it’s hard to think straight.” Asher just smiled. “How about a compromise, I’m not going to go out of my way looking for a bunch of armed commandos, but if I come across anything, I can pass it your way?”

“That is acceptable, for now.”

“How will I find you?”

“Don’t worry, I will find you.” Asher smiled. “You have a visitor approaching, I shall leave.” Asher opened the window, and jumped out. Willow looked on in awe as he flew out of sight. Less then a minute later, there was a knock on her door.

“Come in!” She called out, wondering if Asher was psychic or something.

“Tsk, tsk, Red. You should know better than to offer invitations.”

Willow turned her head, from the window to see the last person she would have imagined at her door.

Asher alighted on a building across the quad from the room he had just visited. So the girl had been researching him? It only seemed fair that he should return the favor. He glanced back at the window just in time to see another silhouette enter. The man’s shadow seemed to lunge for the bed. Asher nearly went back to the dorm to save the girl, but he was stopped by the rustling below him. He looked down to see several of the elusive military men below him, staring up at the same dorm room he had been watching. Glancing at the window he saw the man grab his head and lean back as though to howl at the moon. The military men began speaking in their radios, forming a ring around the dorm. As they moved forward, Asher once again questioned whether he should intervene, but quickly ruled that option out. He was a demon, not a hero; there were no rewards for taking stupid risks. He watched as the lights flickered out in the dorm. There were shrieks as the men seemed to swarm into the building. Perhaps he was about to witness another capture.

Oh, curse his luck! Asher caught sight of the slayer running for the dorm as though her life depended on it. He could risk the military men, but he wasn’t about to try to evade them and the slayer at the same time. He turned and ran back to his shelter; he had seen enough.

Perhaps if he had stayed he would have seen a blonde vampire jump from the third story window and take off running into the night. He also might have seen the slayer single-handedly take down the military unit with a flare gun. But he had learned many years ago that he who learned to run away, lived to fight another day.
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