Sunday, Bloody Sunday - 4
~Angel’s Mansion, Wednesday, 2:50 p.m.~
Asher listened for the quiet heartbeat next to him. It was still that gentle adagio that let him know Willow was still asleep. He smiled at the memory of Willow trying to go to sleep last night. She was so cute, carefully ordering him to one side of the bed and placing so many blankets between him and her that he was afraid she would smother herself. Her frettings over appearances probably paid off as Asher had heard both Angel and Giles check in on their favorite redhead during the night. He opened his eyes slowly to look at the beautiful girl enjoying her first full night of rest in probably a week.
Knowing that this peace would not last once the rest of the house rose, Asher decided this would be the perfect time to write his sire. Unfortunately, it would mean getting out of the bed he had been sharing, but all good things must come to an end. He threw off the coversand stood up. Silently he went to the desk where his writing supplies were already out. He glanced down to read how much he had written before Spike had interrupted him last night.
“My dearest Belle” was all that had been inked. He sighed, hating this task before him. Part of him wished the letter would have written itself while he slept, but he knew that was impossible. Picking up his fountain pen he began again.
My Dearest Belle,
Once again I wake before the sun has set. But, as you well know, your beauty is the first thought that comes to my mind, no matter what hour I wake. How long do I wait to be in your presence again, and behold your radiance! The Hellmouth is indeed the peril that the Council has long recognized. I have returned to the center along with your childer Angelus and William. I need their assistance if anything will be accomplished. Already, Angelus has proven his worth by forging a ceasefire with the resident slayer. However, I fear that the greatest danger comes not from the slayer, for her watcher is a reasonable man, but from the army which shows no sense or reason.
Last night I witnessed a skirmish between many of our kind and the military men. While their methods are crude, they swarm in numbers like a cloud of gnats, and managed to capture not only fledglings, but also many demons, including Zoltan. Both sides were fierce, and yet the battle’s just begun. It was an uncanny resemblance to the Day of Cleansing, which I have no desire to repeat so soon. I fear that neither side will relinquish control of the Hellmouth without total obliteration. I will stay with your childer for as long as you require, but I would advise the Council to look elsewhere for territorial expansion, at least until this military threat is subdued.
Patiently, I await your wise advice. Forever, I remain your servant.
“What are you doing?” Came the sleepy voice from the bed.
Asher had heard the heart rate pick up as he was finishing the last paragraph. In fact he would have written more, but found the quiet sighs too distracting. “I am writing a letter.”
“Oh?” He watched Willow try to wipe the sleep from her eyes. “Did you want to turn a light on?”
“It is not necessary. I have finished the letter.” Asher was amused by how the girl was always thinking of others, even when she was barely awake.
“Oh.” She stretched, arching her back like her pet name. “I’m sorry; if I had known you needed the lights on, I would have let you.”
“What a ridiculous thought. You were asleep, ma chaton.” Asher chuckled and watched Willow arch her back once again, this time more a reflex to his voice.
“That tickles.” Willow murmured, still not quite awake.
“Do you like to be tickled?” Asher muttered.
“Maybe?” Willow coyly answered.
“Shall I try to find out?” Asher made his way back to the bed, taking advantage of his vampiric stealth.
“Maybe?” She whispered, suddenly frightened to see the vampire so close to her and with such hunger in his eyes. She could have sworn he was across the room still.
“Or perhaps there is something you would rather do?” He offered quietly, not liking the startled look in her eyes. Sometimes she seemed so comfortable in his presence that he would forget himself. He had acted like Willow was Julianna, who had years to adjust to Asher’s little games, who had never looked upon the scars, who understood that he would never hurt her; but Willow was not Julianna, and this was much too soon.
“What time is it?”
“They are all still asleep.” Asher murmured.
“Silly. That’s not what I asked.”
“Why should the hour matter? When tonight, we can be as one, why should we care what the hour is?”
“Asher.” Willow rolled her eyes.
“Oui?” Asher laid down on the bed next to her, and lightly ran his fingers up her arm. “I am serious, ma rouge, now that you are awake, can we not enjoy each other’s company without thinking of the world outside?”
“I…” Willow wondered if he could sense her furious blushing in the dark. “You can’t mean that.” She finished weakly.
“Ma chaton, what must I do to convince you that last night was not a… how do you say it?”
“Fluke?” Willow cringed. She was well versed in the dangers of fluking.
“Oui, it was a fluke?”
“No it was or no it wasn’t?” Willow’s frightened reasoning was cut off when Asher leaned
forward for a kiss. It was soft yet demanding her attention. Well, if this was a fluke, she may as well enjoy it. Willow leaned into the kiss and soon the two of them were locked in an embrace.
“Oh boy.” Willow leaned back to catch her breath.
“Oui. It is three o’clock.” Asher smirked, secretly celebrating that he could cause such disorientation with a single kiss.
“I only got an hour of sleep?”
“It is three in the afternoon.”
“Oh my god! I’m late for class!”
“I’ve got psych with Buffy and I bet she’ll skip, and I’ll need my notes and…” Willow tried to bolt from the bed, but Asher wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her back down.
“You will not be going to psychology class today. In case you have forgotten, is not your professor the same Walsh that has impaired William? Is she not part of the group hunting your friends as we speak? I do not think going to her class is a wise choice.”
“Oh god, you’re right. She’s going to fail me.” Willow’s brain was slowly waking up.
“In that case, would your time not be better spent resting here with me?”
“I should probably try to get back on the computer and try to find a cure for Spike. The longer it takes the more likely something bad is going to happen here.”
“By here, you mean this bed?” Asher couldn’t help but feel offended. Did the girl not want him after all? Was she regretting her actions last night, now that it was daylight?
“Here I mean this house. Between Angel and Riley, and Spike and Buffy, I’m surprised there haven’t been more sounds of fighting yet.”
“And what of here?”
“You mean the bed? Oh goddess, I don’t know. It’s too soon. I can’t help feeling like I’m cheating on Oz.” She confessed. “I like you, and I want to know you better, and I wish you could respect me even after…”
“I just don’t know.”
“Stay with me.” Asher half begged, half ordered. He could see the indecision in Willow’s eyes. “Stay with me until sunset.”
~Weisman Hall, Wednesday, 2:59 p.m.~
Graham watched the second hand slowly tick through the last minute before class would officially start. Part of him really did expect Finn to come strolling in right on time, as dependable as Old Yeller. As Walsh stepped up to the podium, Graham cringed. He had spent four years suffering through classes and had hoped he would never have to again, but here he was.
“Good afternoon class. As some of you might have noticed, my T.A. Riley Finn is not here today. He’s had a personal emergency and won’t be with us for the rest of the semester. One of my other graduate students has been so gracious as to take over Riley’s duties. This is Graham Miller. If you have any questions about this course, please direct them to him.”
Graham stood up on Walsh’s silent command and turned to wave at the class. He could hear the undergrads whispering already. He hoped that comment “nice ass” wasn’t meant to be heard. Blushing, he sat back down.
Walsh launched into her lecture, and Graham found his job pretty easy. Every time she said next, he hit a button, and that was it. Today’s class had something to do with entrained behaviors. Just what Walsh was saying, Graham wasn’t quite sure. It was Riley’s gig to care about class; he was a soldier not a grad student. He flipped to a new slide with a guy swimming in a lake of ducks. Why couldn’t Riley be the guy flipping the slides?
When he had met with Walsh at noon she had ignored the question of Finn entirely, focusing solely on making it through the next class. She must have expected that Riley was gone for good. She had also avoided any mention of the attack last night or the ridiculously slow email system this morning. “Next.” He flipped to some graph that probably came out of the textbook.
Something weird was going on with the wiring system. He’d talk to Iota team that morning about it, since they handled most of the in-house electronic systems, but they seemed to have their own slew of problems. Zeta had brought up some camera problems, and of course that took precedence over the sluggish email. The climate control system was also acting up oddly, and since some of the equipment downstairs was sensitive to that stuff, it came first. The Iotas were all in a crappy mood, complaining about lost pointers in memory space or something like that affecting their new external sensing system. At this rate, he’d be better off sticking to the campus e-mail address.
“Next slide.” Walsh’s voice cut through his thoughts. “For years, the degree of genetic relatedness was believed to influence these behaviors. Studies involving mothers, children, sisters, brothers, torn apart and placed in surrogate families …” Graham zoned out again as Walsh described the experimental evidence of twin studies done by the Nazis. He probably should have paid attention since his undergraduate classes never covered this information. They claimed the Nazi reports were too unethical to use as scientific evidence, as though a Skinner box was any better. Graham wondered what Walsh would think of twin studies done on H.S.T.s. Of course, it could never be published as a matter of national security and probably was about as relevant as studies on rat litters, but it did make him wonder. “Next slide.”
When Riley showed up, Graham was going to give him an earful. This had to be the most boring assignment in the army. It was even worse than guarding the back door of an abandoned school. Of course, that had turned out to be exciting thanks to Summers and friends, but it shouldn’t have been. And to think all Riley had to do was follow some blonde chick he was already attracted to and make sure she didn’t turn into some sort of monster. Some guys got all the luck. “Next.”
He had checked his email at least a dozen times before class started, but no word from Riley. That boy better email him soon. He didn’t want to be number one of the Alphas anymore. Things were getting too weird even for him. The H.S.T.s were more restless than he had ever seen them. It was like they could sense an imminent earthquake or something. Oh god, would that suck. Would the cells even hold in an earthquake? He hoped he would be above ground if that ever happened. He glanced at the clock- forty-five minutes more of clicking the button. Yup, Riley was a dead man.
~Angel’s Mansion, Wednesday, 3:04 p.m.~
“Good afternoon, honey.” Anya kissed Xander on the cheek and then went back to reading.
“Yup. You slept straight through this morning.” Anya answered cheerfully.
“Damn, I’m late for work.” Xander started rolling out of bed.
“No you’re not.” Anya rolled her eyes. “Remember you traded shifts with whats-his-name?”
“Chuck?” Xander froze, half out of the bed, as the memory of switching shifts returned.
“Yeah, you said you’d rather work late and have Buffy watch your back then risk some idiot getting killed.”
“What the heck was I thinking?”
“Maybe that you’d like to stay in bed with me all day?” Anya answered hopefully.
“That’s a good answer.” Xander crawled back into the bed and wrapped an arm around Anya’s waist. “So um, not to sound like an idiot or anything, but this isn’t my parent’s basement, and last I checked, your room didn’t have heavy drapes.”
“Duh. We’re still at Angel’s.”
“Damn, I was hoping that was all just a dream.” Anya stared at him. “So Willow really did
come back with three vampires and Buffy really is dating a soldier and you really did take a bath in strawberry jello?”
“Um, the last part not so much. But, now that you mention it …. No, jello is much too messy and it stains. That would cost money to clean. It would be better to use whipped cream.” Anya, content with her answer, went back to reading her paper.
“Oh.” Xander thought about it for awhile as his mind slowly turned back on. If the jello thing was a dream, but the other stuff wasn’t, did that mean they were facing an apocalypse, or not? Was he supposed to be getting the donuts for some research party or getting ready for work tonight? “Anya? Whatcha doing?”
“I’m reading the want ads.” Anya replied tilting her head curiously as one ad peaked her fancy. “I’ve decided that I need a human job. You do not make enough money to support me in the lifestyle I have been accustomed to. Does this sound like me? ‘Massage Needed- Attractive PWM looking for person to give a massage to my wife. Must be nice, clean, discreet, and with a good personality.’ I give good massages, don’t I?”
“Whatever you say.” Xander answered, guessing that was somehow a trick question. Asking loaded questions just after a guy’s woken up was one of those feminine wiles that Xander was beginning to learn how to dodge.
“And at least it didn’t ask for a college degree. I mean, why should I have to get a diploma from some stuffy school that’s younger than me?” Anya circled the ad in orange highlighter. “Oh, what about this: ‘Woman’s Feet: Professional looking for a woman who enjoys receiving foot massages. Serious inquiries only.’ I like foot massages, ergo I am qualified. I wonder how much that pays.”
“Um, Anya? Doesn’t that strike you as a bit odd?” Xander knew he was still tired but that didn’t account for just how weird that ad sounded to him.
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s a company that manufactures foot massage gel and they need a product tester.”
“Fine, what about this one? ‘Looking for a Third: Professional couple looking for a sexy female
who would enjoy a threesome.’ I’m sexy, right? That’s all the qualifications listed.”
“What the heck are you reading?” Xander leaned over Anya’s lap to get a better look. “An, these aren’t the want ads, these are the personals.”
“Personals aren’t for jobs. There for personal things.”
“Oh. But what about this one: ‘Daddy’s Home but the house is a wreck; seeking a sexy female who would like to clean and cook and get me out of a rut. Exhibitionist tendencies appreciated.’ Isn’t housekeeper a paid profession in this country?”
“Not like what that ad wants. Besides, you hate to do any chores.” Xander grabbed the paper and flipped it back a few pages to the regular want ads. “Here.”
“But Xander, these jobs are so boring and they all ask for college degrees or prior experience.”
“But they’re real jobs at least.”
“Fine.” Anya grumbled. “But I still think exotic dancing is a profession.”
“And do you have prior experience at that?” Xander said sternly.
“We could make prior experience.”
“Ooh, now there’s an idea.” The newspaper hit the floor, with the highlighter following.