Chapter 5 – Confusion (And Building Trust)
“You were blessed by a different kind of inner view; it’s all magnified
The highs would make you fly, and the lows make you want to die.”
- Missy Higgins – Nightminds
Rupert leaned heavily against Ethan as he stared at the bed, grateful for the vampire’s strength even though he’d tried to shrug its help away. The walk back had felt like it had taken hours, when in reality it couldn’t have been much longer than fifteen minutes.
He couldn’t think straight, couldn’t seem to connect his head with the rest of his body, and his leg was still half-numb and felt like it was on fire inside. His hand wasn’t much better off.
He had never been gladder to sit down than he was right then. Patiently, Ethan helped him turn and lowered him towards the edge of the bed. He pulled a face as his leg bent at the knee, sending a scattershot of fire through the rest of his body, and in the moment of distraction it had pulled his shirt off over his head.
Then it dropped down to one knee and to his amusement pulled his boots and socks off, too. Everything seemed funny when his head felt like this, though. It had a distant, kind of unreal quality to it. Well, he amended as it stood again, everything apart from the pain felt unreal. He wished that were a lot more distant.
Without a word he twisted his head following the action as the shirt was cast to the side, the smear of red blood on it from his slowly leaking hand standing out like an accusation, although of what he didn’t know.
“Let me take a look at that hand now,” Ethan’s voice held that note of soft command which he heard more and more often these days.
Scowling he shoved his hand towards it, biting his lip again, as he felt Ethan’s cool fingers uncurling the clenched fist, and it raised it to eye level. From his position he could see that a couple of the half-moon of tooth-marks went close to the bone, and that the skin on the underside of his hand was split less deeply. He had been lucky it hadn’t done worse damage.
Again, his scowl changed to a wince as he felt Ethan’s cool fingers gently feeling along each of the bones, checking it over properly.
“There’s nothing dislocated or broken,” with a single hand it grabbed his hair, making his eyes water and forcing him to stand again, to take some of the pressure off his scalp, “so stop making such a fuss, and go wash it off. I’m not going to risk tainting myself with any venom that might still be present in the wound. Same as with that leg, go and clean it off then come back so that I can take care of it.”
“Aren’t you just a lovely bastard?” Rupert muttered under his breath, not caring that it would hear him, as he stood slowly, making sure that his leg could take his weight. At the stairs he grabbed the handrail and carefully made his way back down, not wanting to add bones broken by further stupidity to the two injuries that he already had.
In the bathroom he filled the sink with warm water and cursed out loud as he plunged his hand into it.
“Fucking hell. Burns like a fucker,” of course the words did sweet jack, but it did make him feel a little better. If he’d thought that it had hurt when Ethan had squeezed his hand… well, actually it had, but this was decidedly worse.
Within seconds the clear water had turned to a bright, almost red shade of pink which grew darker as he worked the soap which he had rubbed his other hand over into the split skin. He hadn’t thought that it could get much worse, but apparently he had been wrong. With that disconnected feeling creeping back in he flexed the hand, opening and closing it under the water and watched with a distant fascination as a little more blood leaked out in tiny trails which streaked through the water with every flex.
More blood lost. Not for the first time he wondered how much he would be able to lose and still stay human, since Ethan’s blood was already in his veins. Oh, he wasn’t stupid; he knew that his own blood replenished itself eventually, but there would always be that underlying taint.
Finally he pulled his hand out and grabbed the towel off the rail, taking the edge in his teeth so that he could tear a strip from it. This, he clumsily fastened around his hand with his other hand and teeth, tying it as tightly as he could, before pulling the plug and running a fresh sink full of water.
With his good hand he loosened his belt and then undid his jeans and dropped them, holding onto the sink as he stepped out of them. He couldn’t see the claw-marks around the back of his leg where the little bugger had held on, but they were nothing compared to the bite, anyway.
Grabbing the rest of the towel he bundled it up and dropped about half of it into the water before rubbing it against the soap. He didn’t squeeze any of the water out before he gingerly began to rub at the blood around the bite, reluctant to let the water get into the wound itself. His jeans had actually done a reasonably good job of keeping pressure on the wound until now.
Finally, though there was nothing left but to do it. Biting his lip again he moved the towel over the tooth-marks and tasted the copper-salt tang of his own blood as he bit down harder at the way that the water and soap burned. He wasn’t going to make a sound, not this time damn it.
He pressed hard over the bite, rubbing at it until it began to bleed again so that he knew it had been cleaned properly. It may have hurt but a little pain now was better than something going seriously wrong.
After he was done he pressed down hard over the torn flesh for a few minutes to stem the blood that was leaking out. When he was sure that it was under control again he dumped the towel on the floor by his jeans and pulled the plug again, glancing at the darkening makeshift bandage on his hand as he did.
He kept his teeth buried in his lip as he headed back up the stairs, trying to keep his stiff legged walk from being too obvious. He wasn’t surprised that Ethan had stripped its clothing off while he’d been preoccupied. He shivered slightly as its cool gaze swept over him, and told himself that it was just because he was cold.
“Sit back, and give me the hand.”
He sat down on the bed and moved back until he was sitting up against the headboard. He didn’t look away from it, as it settled itself back on its haunches in front of him and loosened the towel that he’d bound his hand with. Grasping his wrist firmly it tugged his hand towards it and licked tentatively at the bite, letting the taste of the blood settle on its tongue.
“That’s fine,” it said after a moment, then began to lick at it properly, the coolness of its tongue soothing over the ragged flesh, as it cleaned away the fresh blood that had run free.
Only once it was satisfied with its work did it bite at its own wrist and draw a mouthful of blood, before it took his wrist again, and lifted his hand to its mouth to press blood kisses to the damaged flesh.
A large part of him hated how familiar the sting of its blood before the wounds healed had become but he was still grateful that it cared enough to heal something so minor. Thoughts like that were the reason that the sooner he got away from Ethan the better off he would be.
It let his hand go, and although he could see that it was healed, it still hurt as he moved it and flexed it. The fresh bite looked like an old scar.
Then it pressed its lips to his and its cool tongue parted his lips before it trickled the last few drops of blood between his lips. It was wine-sweet and still slightly salty. He swallowed, and its tongue stroked against his, and in that moment he reminded himself how disgusted by this sort of thing he had once been. Change might be inevitable, but there was no excuse for giving in to this sort of thing.
It drew back and on all fours moved so that it could get to the bite on his leg. He gasped against the coolness of its tongue against the heat of his flesh, as it tested the blood, before cleaning up again, and then once more licked its own blood into the wound.
It raised its head and hands grasped his boxers to tug them down off his legs before it cast them to the side by his shirt. That was something he had been expecting. He certainly hadn’t been expecting the cool tongue which ran up the inside of his thigh after that, though, or for it to pause and press a kiss to the tip of his admittedly hard cock. Its tongue darted out and licked along the underside of his cock as he watched, then its lips sealed around the head of his cock and its tongue played over the slit at the head of it.
Okay, so that was definitely gasp-worthy, too. The fact that it had only done this twice over four years didn’t hurt matters, either. Its cool tongue circled him, and its lips moved down further. At around the halfway point it pressed his cock firmly to the roof of its mouth with its tongue, then pulled off, letting a hint of tooth trail over the delicate skin and sending a jolt through him when it hit the underside of his head.
Then, with a growl it took his entire cock down and swallowed around it. All that he could do was cling to the blanket under him and try not to come right then, as it swallowed again and drew back a little so that it could circle him with its tongue once more. Dark brown eyes that glittered with a hint of amusement flicking upwards to meet his again.
What he really wanted to do was grab at its head and hold onto it, force it down and onto him but he had learned the first time that an action like that, something that could be interpreted as dominant was off-limits. Closing his eyes he forced himself to relax as that cool mouth engulfed him completely again, still working at him. If he had been flat on his back then he would have been arching up towards it, probably still with that same incomprehensible babble leaving his mouth. As it was, when it drew back a little he still found himself trying to chase it even as its hands held his hips with a bruising tightness, keeping him in place until its head dipped again, its teeth grazing lightly down his length.
His eyes were starting to glaze over as his head lolled back to rest against the wall. It was that combination of pleasure-pain that brought him to the edge of his limit as quickly as it did. Already he could feel that building wave of pressure and tightness inside the pit of his chest. His breath was coming in ragged pants, and he couldn’t stop that fine shiver from running through him. As it swallowed again and growled deep in its throat, an action that he felt right through his body, he couldn’t hold back any longer.
With a fresh gasp and a moan that he bit off, he arched as much as possible, every muscle contracting, and the world went white behind his eyelids as he came hard. Still, it kept its lips around him, swallowing until he dropped back, spent.
Only then did it let him go and trace a nail over the skin on the inside of his thigh. Opening his eyes he saw that it had gone into that half-shift that it favoured. Grasping his legs it tugged him further down the bed, until he was flat on his back and parted his legs.
After the way he had just come its cool fingertips running up his crack and the fingertips were circling him was almost too much. Raising a hand it slipped a pair of fingers between his lips for a moment, then pushed them into his body roughly, fast enough and hard enough to sting, all that tenderness that it had been showing just before gone in a heartbeat. He could feel its fingers moving inside him, stretching him and touching him, and even that pain wasn’t a bad thing. It pulled them out of him and lined its cock up with him, pushing in without giving him the time to brace himself.
Too much, it was all too much. Yet in the same moment he wanted more. He tightened his muscles around its cool length to make it burn inside. His eyes were watering as it moved inside him, still rough and fast, laying him open.
This did his head in, and he was sure that Ethan knew it, too.
It grasped his hips again, moving faster and sliding deeper and he lifted his hands to grab at its shoulders, raised his body to meet it, not caring about the shot of pain that spreading his fingers sent through his left hand. He wanted the pain.
All that he cared about right now was what it was doing to him, what he had grown to enjoy even as he hated.
Gods, but was it really any wonder that he hated Ethan, for putting him in this position?
He could feel every breath that it drew to lend it strength and he knew that it was getting closer to its own edge as its movements became rougher, and it lost its rhythm, moving for the sake of the friction alone.
Its fingernails bit deeply into him and it froze, looking straight down at him as it came without biting him in the same moment. It shuddered inside him and he gasped as he felt that familiar chill inside him. He watched as the yellow blaze in its eyes dulled back to that regular shade of brown and its teeth shrink back to resemble normal human canines.
Letting out one last slow breath it let go of him and rested its hands on the bed as it pulled out of him and turned off the bedside lamp, throwing its face into shadows. The speed with which it could go from movement to complete, utter inaction almost never failed to surprise him, and this time was no exception as it stretched out beside him and draped a single arm across his chest.
Lazily, catlike, it flicked out its tongue and licked at his shoulder before it closed its eyes. It wasn’t sleep, or its mockery of sleep. It was simply resting.
“Try and get some rest now.”
Its voice still carried that ever-present note of order.
When Willow and Xander came back, Buffy was in the middle of ducking a high kick that had been launched in her direction, and was rallying for a counter. They were both sweating freely, and had been working out since they had started some twenty minutes after the other two had left.
Working out, sniping, and debating had proved to be a good way to pass the time.
“Well, that’s one point to the Slayer,” Xander spoke as she straightened, then watched as, due to her distraction Rupert landed an uppercut to her shoulder, “and three points to the Watcher, since he’s only human.”
“Ouch,” Buffy pointedly rubbed at her shoulder and looked at him, “and that’s completely not fair.”
“Anyway,” Willow pushed her hair back out of her eyes, “we’ve done the whole phone-thing. We’re both staying over at Buffy’s, since her mom’s out of town.”
Rupert looked at them, “Your parents both agreed to this?”
Xander shrugged, “My mom couldn’t really care less, and nor could my dad as long as I don’t get in the way of the T.V or the beer.”
Rupert wanted to offer sympathy, but he knew exactly how it would be received. Hostility would be the most likely outcome, and that wasn’t something that any of them needed tonight. He wondered what side of the family it was that carried the blood of the Old Ones, or whether it was both of them. They did both seem like potential candidates, from everything that he’d heard about them.
Willow shot Xander a glance, but didn’t say anything to him about it either, “My parents are all for me socialising and spending time with my friends, so it wasn’t really a problem. As long as I tell them where I am, then they don’t worry. As soon as I said that Buffy’s mom was out of town, and that Xander was crashing there too then she more or less pushed me out of the door.”
If Rupert had been pretending to be the responsible adult that he was apparently masquerading as, then he would have said something about the lies that the pair of them had just spun. But on the other hand, it was likely that Willow and Xander would wind up at Buffy’s after they had finished tonight anyway, so it wasn’t so much a lie as it was not telling the whole truth.
He pushed away the dark voice which whispered if they both survive the night that is.
He would see to it that they went into this with four people, and came out with four.
“Right, you two; you’re both comfortable with the weapons that you’ve chosen, then?”
Xander grinned, “Yeah, I can hit a target with that crossbow at least half the time that I use it.”
Willow picked up the wooden knife from where he’d left it on the bench, and held it almost reverently.
“This just feels right, too, you know?”
Rupert nodded to her, before turning his attention to Buffy, who was wiping the sweat off her forehead with the hem of her shirt, “And you, Buffy? You’re fine?”
She grinned, the rush of energy that she’d experienced from her workout obvious in her expression, “I reckon I’m peachy, with a side of keen. What about you, Giles? Didn’t wear you out, did I?”
He looked back at her and rolled his eyes, “I shall endeavour to survive, and perhaps even keep up with you.”
“That’s good,” her grin spread a little wider, “I’d hate for you to collapse in the middle of the fight after all.”
“Rest assured there is little chance of that.”
He turned in a half-circle, looking at the three of them. Buffy was holding herself tensely again as the hour drew closer, something that he knew would pass when they went into the battle itself. Willow and Xander both looked edgy, but sure of themselves and sure that they were in the right place, doing the right thing.
“Right, so we go in hard and fast. You’ll need to keep moving, stay on your toes; they can’t kill you if the can’t get a hold of you. Xander, I want you to focus on the long-range attacks. Clearing a circle or a path would be the most useful thing that you can do. Willow, I’ll get you to stay near him, protect him from anything that gets too close. Buffy and I will be…”
He fell silent, as the door to the library opened and a tall, lanky vampire with dark matted hair, in full game face came in. It was dressed in an old suit that was encrusted with dirt and smelled faintly of mildew which meant that it probably hadn’t changed since it had risen.
“Lovely planning, people,” its voice was rough and hoarse and it grinned at him, showing lethal fangs, “however, let me make a slight amendment for you. You and your Slayer will be more concerned with dying.”
It raised a pair of fingers to it lips and wolf-whistled, a loud piercing sound. And in response the windows shattered inwards as vampires came in through them, and spread out in a circle around them.
“Get them, boys. And remember, the boss needs the Watcher and Slayer alive. If anyone kills them before the ritual, then I’ll take the head off the imbecile myself. The other two can be the prize for whoever brings…”
The bolt flew from the crossbow that Buffy had snatched from Xander’s hands, and straight through its heart. It looked down for half a second.
“He was really beginning to bore me. You’d think by now that they would have learned to avoid the speeches.”
The group fell completely silent, frozen on the knife-edge of violence. Then one of the vampires moved, Buffy tossed the crossbow back to Xander and the fight erupted.
Rupert grabbed up the war-hammer, and met the vampire that was rushing at him with a crushing blow aimed towards its neck which it moved to avoid. As it got inside his guard he loosened his grasp and let the head drop down in his hand, before raising it to use the pointed end of the handle as a stake. It was still moving quickly enough that it impaled itself.
There were still another ten in the room though, which weren’t the best of odds. In the moment that he had he glanced towards the other three. Xander was trying to line up another shot, Willow was staying near him, and Buffy had grabbed the sword, and was grappling with one particular vampire that seemed to be a particularly skilled fighter, which was ducking and lunging and snapping and clawing at her.
She couldn’t fully give herself to the moment, for fear of hitting her friends, but she was slowly working her opponent towards the centre of the room, where she could fight uninhibited.
He hoped that none of them had the intelligence to figure out what Buffy’s weakness was. If even one of them got hold of Willow or Xander and ordered a halt to the fighting, and total co-operation, that was when it would come down to the wire. That was just what they didn’t need.
His moment of distraction got him a painful kick to the small of his back, and he spun, swinging the hammer out wide so that the head of it caught the side of the vampire in the side of the skull hard enough to stun it a few vital seconds that he needed. He then swung the axe-like head of the hammer back the other way and clean through its neck, and it fell to the ground in two separate pieces that exploded into dust.
Xander got off a shot that was on target, sinking into the back of a vampire that was trying to find the ideal position to tackle Buffy from, and Buffy had now disposed of her first opponent and another one as well, bringing the number down to a slightly more reasonable six against four. Of course, that was if their luck held out and this group was all that had been sent to bring them in.
Two of the remaining vampires shared a glance, and changed from their advance on the Slayer, to circle closer to Willow, who was brandishing the ten inch wooden knife in front of her, swiping out with it whenever a hand got too close for comfort. Buffy was busy fending off the other four which had piled into her as one, and the two that had split off were too close to Willow for Xander to feel safe shooting at them.
He would have to trust Buffy to take care of herself for the moment. Swinging the hammer in a circle over his head to build momentum he took careful aim and brought it down into a blow against the left shoulder of the vampire that was closest to Willow. He didn’t want to risk her by aiming for its neck which was a lot closer to her.
It spun, howling with rage rather than pain and lunged towards him at the exact same moment as the other leapt for Willow and drove her to the ground. He had just enough time to reverse the hammer again and he staked it in one smooth movement. He was just in time to see Xander driving a stake into the back of the one that was on top of Willow, slamming it down as hard as he could.
In the centre of the room Buffy was a whirling tornado of blade and fury, putting everything that she had into her assault. As one of the vampire stumbled back, dust where its arm used to be, Rupert stepped forward and plunged the handle of the hammer into its back, moving back as quickly as he could to keep out of Buffy’s way.
Seconds later her sword went cleanly through the necks of two more of them, and the last one aborted its attack and began to back away from Buffy, looking around nervously, as though trying to work out what had happened to its allies.
Rupert threw himself after it and just managed to catch a shoulder and curl a single leg around its, bringing it heavily to the ground. Letting go of it he rose then slammed back down, driving his knee into the centre of its back, ignoring the jolt of pain that it sent up through him. Willow pulled a face at the sound that made, and Rupert leaned his full weight against the vampire under him.
“Stake him, Giles,” Buffy’s tone of voice was curt.
Rupert grasped it around the neck, driving his fingers hard into the flesh and muscle.
“We could always have it go in ahead of us, and tell them that there was a brief spot of trouble,” his grasp tightened, “and that the rest of its pack-mate will be bringing us along soon. Defuse the situation, throw them off guard before we strike.”
“And how would you make sure that he said exactly that, and nothing else? Wait; even if you do have a way then I don’t actually want to know about it. It’s too risky, and this isn’t the time to bring your personal feelings into things. You don’t need to prove anything, either. Stake him, Giles.”
Scowling he took his weight off it, swapped the hammer from his right hand to his left, and flipped it over before driving the handle into its chest.
“There, satisfied?” he asked in his snarkiest tone, as he brushed the dust off his pants.
He was surprised to see an expression of genuine gratitude on her face. She caught the confusion in his glance.
“You’re kind of scary when you get like that.”
I am who and what I am, my dear.
He nodded to her and then turned his attention back to Willow and Xander, who had both stood up and were brushing dust off themselves, too.
“The two of you are alright? No bites or anything of the sort?”
Xander shrugged, “I think my heart’s going at about a thousand beats a minute, and on the verge of exploding, but that always happens when we tangle with vampires, so aside from that I’m fine.”
“Willow?” he stepped closer to her.
“Scratches and a few sore spots that might become bruises,” she raised her arm to look at a thin, but reasonably deep scratch down it, and rolled her shoulder where the vampire that had brought her down had grabbed her, wincing slightly, “but I’ll live.”
Rupert sighed, a sound of relief, and leaned back against one of the tables, “Well, if the two of you wanted to stop here after that, and leave the rest of this up to Buffy and I, then I wouldn’t blame you in the slightest.”
Xander looked at him, with an expression of disbelief, “Did you honestly expect to be able to get rid of us that easily? We don’t even have any non-fatal wounds, or broken bones,” he joked to hide his fears, but Rupert could still hear the honesty in it.
“You’ll have to try harder than that,” Willow backed him up.
“The sooner you face it the better off you’ll be,” Xander grinned sheepishly, “you’re stuck with us for the rest of the night, or at least until this thing’s over, anyway. I don’t really want to wake up in a Master-ruled Sunnydale tomorrow and not know about it until the class is invited over for dinner, and it’s not a date.”
Willow nodded, “Better for us to go with, you know?”
“I know to admit when I’m defeated,” Rupert gave in as graciously as he could.
“So, are we on the move, then?” Buffy was showing a little less of a typical Slayer’s restlessness after the scuffle, but she was still obviously eager to get going, and get back into action once more.
Rupert nodded, “We are. Ethan left the car out in the lot just after sunset, so that will make things easier for us. Buffy, bag up the weapons, please, then everyone out.”
“Bag?” she asked.
Rupert headed back into his office and grabbed out a gym-type bag that he tucked his hammer into, before handing it over to her. She sheathed the sword and put that in as well, before holding it out toward Willow and Xander who put in the crossbow, bolts, knife, and several stakes.
“On the bright side, after that, this should be reasonably straight-forward,” Rupert’s voice was just loud enough for the others to hear.
“You had to say it, didn’t you?” Willow asked in a plaintive tone.