Milk By Coffee




At first there was only the sound of old pipes, dripping water and the occasional train going by. There's no way for her to know if it's been minutes or hours since that strangled yelp, since the smell of vomit. Since that man walked in and made a phone call to 9-1-1, his voice rushed and shocked, broken intermittently by sobs and long gasping breaths.

"Jesus, I've never seen ..."

"Yes, a warehouse. I'm the security guard. My name? Robert. Stewart. What?! I have no idea. I haven't been in the last few nights. I didn't ... Jesus."

"God, you poor woman."

"Yes! Yes, she's dead. Jesus Christ, there's no way she can't be not dead! Please, send someone. Please."

There was the slight beep when he ended the call. The soft sound of his flip phone being shut.

"Hail Mary, full of grace ..."

The breathless prayer being said by the man, by Robert Stewart, had made her ears tingle and her head throb.

There was more retching then, and then the heavy sound of a door banging shut and then silence.

Again.

And she wonders, how long have I been here? When she was in high school she used to fear this. Fear this kind of ending, where it's not an ending at all. It's a beginning. It was becoming that pretty, instantly forgettable face of a dead girl, becoming just another statistic that had frightened her even more. Of being a wallflower forever.

How stupid had she been? Up on magics, not caring. Broken and alone, just waiting. Sirens blare. Loud and overwhelming and she wants to clasp her hands over her ears but she doesn't have the strength. That heavy door creaks back open. Then closes shut, then abruptly is opened again.

"Fuck!" she hears. The same voice a moment later, "This one's bad, Ortiz."

She doesn't move or blink when she hears them, even though she's hungry. It's not time yet. She's still so tired and it's going to be difficult moving. It's important, for some reason, not to make a move until the time is right. Until whatever it is, whomever it is, that she's waiting for is there.

The men are walking in a very slow, controlled manner. Their style of clothing tells her that they are detectives and she can hear someone that she can't see interviewing the first cop on the scene, the one who opened the door but didn't come inside. The smell of rubber invades her senses as they pull on plastic gloves, momentarily overriding the overwhelming smell of her own blood, dried and all around her, on her, everywhere. Other less appealing smells have made themselves at home in her nostrils, her keen senses letting her remember and identify them even past the coagulated blood clots in her broken nose. The salt of tears, of semen. Gut wrenching terror has a smell. She never knew that but it lingers in the air. It's the kind of terror that causes poltergeists.

Only she's not really dead and the only thing she's haunting is her body.

I'm waiting for you, she thinks. It has to be a *someone* and not something. She knows that now too. It has to be the thing that has damned her to this. Right now though, it has to be okay to just lie still and pretend to be as dead as she looks, as she is. She can be inanimate and fool them, because she is waiting. Just waiting for the moment when things can be different and she can have a purpose.

"Hey, Ortiz. What do you think happened here?"

"Same story, different day in LA, DeMarco. Girl gets taken. Girl gets raped. Girl gets dead."

"I hate that story, Ortiz. I really fucking hate it. It's about time someone wrote another one." The detective appears to be deep in thought. "How about a story where a couple of detectives use their brains with forensic science and nail this fucker to the wall?"

Ortiz chortles. "Sounds good to me, Boss. He made a mistake. They all make mistakes. We'll nail him," he assures his partner.

They have finally finished their slow crawl walk toward her, little numbered placards placed by anything and everything that might be evidence. They are numbered so they are not overlooked. The men are crouching over her. "The killer left by the front door. Cocky sonofabitch." She can see DeMarco's face, slightly fuzzy since she has yet to blink. DeMarco has thinning hair that he doesn't comb over. He wears his hair loss like a badge and his glove-covered hands are in his pockets. Ortiz is young with a baby face and a goatee. He has intense, beautiful brown eyes that remind her of someone. Of someone she loved once, but now would suck their blood in a microsecond if she were so inclined. Ortiz has a pen in one hand and a notepad in the other. Can't they see that she's waiting to be allowed to rise? That once she's done waiting she will be fine and they won't.

"Christ Ortiz, I feel like she's looking right at me," DeMarco says, backing away from her carefully by one step.

Ortiz smiles grimly. "With that kind of talk I'd think you were the rookie."

"Who would want to kill you?" DeMarco asks her, but she stays silent because she is supposed to be inanimate, dead.

Something is spreading through her limbs that are artfully posed to display viciousness and hate in a haunting way that will never leave the memory or nightmares of the people who have looked upon her. "Who would rip into your throat, who would leave you spread so that you have no secrets?"

"Better yet," Ortiz chimes in, his tone somber, "What did you do to deserve it?"

She knows who she is, but everything before she died is a fuzzy puzzle with missing pieces.

There's a flash in her memory, something that jolts her, makes her blink, and both men stagger back and away with no precaution taken. Blinking is a slow, torturous process that hurts more than it should because her eyelashes stick together with clumped, dried blood. The meticulous nature in which the men made their way to her now is ruined by their fear as they fall over one another.

I locked him up. Caged him. Took away his control.

Twice.

I stuffed all that primal instinct and dark forces into a safe deposit box known as Angel, and hoped that no one was stupid enough to break in to see what's inside.

They are breathing heavily, but aside from her single blink she has not moved.

"Shit, I sometimes forget that happens."

"Rigor mortis?" Ortiz asks hesitantly, seeking reassurance that that's all it was.

"Yeah, kid. Rigor mortis. It happens all the time. Get the photographer in here and try not to fuck up this crime scene anymore than we already have."

DeMarco stares at her a little longer, then past her. "Got the victim's name, Ortiz," he tells his partner when he returns with the technicians, who wait patiently by the door, and the photographer, who is allowed to walk and document the same blood splattered trail the detectives did. A bloody California Drivers License is nailed to the wall above her head. It shows them a sweet, beautiful redhead. An image that she'll never see again. Not as a reflection anyway. "Willow Rosenberg. Date of birth 02-26-80. Sunnydale, California. Wow. Isn't that where that giant crater is now?"

"That's the one."

Willow. That's who she is. Sort of. Willow, afraid of being the statistic, afraid of being what she is now. Angelus, who thought she was cute and helpless until she put him behind magically reinforced bars. That was who she was waiting for. The master artist who had left her like this.

They call in a photographer after griping to one another about the budget, evidence and the importance of having a video camera in their department to document the scene, but instead all they get are stills.

The photographer enters the room. He keeps his face covered but she knows that it's him, that it's Angelus. She can smell him and it elicits both fear and desire. Fear as she remembered everything he had done to Willow, desire because she hoped he'd do the same thing to her. She is infused with energy at the sight of him. Once he ducks his head out from behind the lens and stares at her intensely. Willow never found him particularly attractive. He was okay, but not her type. She always found his eyes to look more dangerous than the "sweet chocolate brownie eyes" Buffy liked to pretend they were. Willow always saw death in those eyes. The difference now is that she likes it.

Everything will fall into place with Angelus there. He will give her the strength, he will give her everything or she'll take it.

The flash of his camera steadily blinds her as he takes one shot after another, taking great care to highlight every violent aspect of what happened to her, catching the death in her eyes in an eight by ten color and black and white. He's sure to capture with great flair just how much blood is splattered around her, the ripped and bloodied panties that are half beneath her, the front half ripped and dried across her upper thigh. Quite a bit of time goes by as he lingers between her legs, smirking behind the lens. Blinding white flashes and the tip of his tongue flickering out to lick at his lips. It's all she can make out. The cops are oblivious to what he is as he takes his pictures, preserving his mastery in the art of death.

"Hey," Ortiz starts, his eyes moving to the clearance tag hanging from Angelus' neck, "Nico, I think you've got enough shots from between the dead girl's legs. Get moving, freak. You're not following procedure and I don't want you fucking up my crime scene any more than it already is."

Angelus shows his true face and the sight of it imbues her with that strength that she needs so desperately. He nods his head at her. Permission granted. As the officers are backing away from the demon, Willow rises up, feeling dried blood actually ripping more skin from her back, her arms, her legs. Chunks of her hair are left on the floor. She blinks, the detectives finally shifting into focus. Their faces are stark white and both have their guns drawn. Without saying a word she brings her hands up to her face and aligns her nose back to its original position.

"Yeah, see, here's the thing, fellas. This isn't her crime scene anymore. It's yours," Angelus says in a friendly tone from behind fangs. Golden eyes meet hers and she shifts immediately into game face. "Glad you're up, Willow."

Angel grabs Ortiz before he can make a run for it, knocks his gun out of his hand, and sinks his teeth into his throat. Willow feels her gut flip flop at the site and that hunger is even more intense than before. It's blinding, and fills her with a single-minded purpose that is more freeing than anything she has ever known.

Without prompting, she grabs DeMarco and sinks her teeth in his throat. The taste of his blood is nearly overwhelming. It's better than anything she's ever tasted. It's better than the magic high stupor she was in when Angelus had caught her in that alley. The sounds of DeMarco gagging make him taste better and she finds that so very strange.

Why don't humans just rip the throats out of chickens and devour them like the predators they are? Is it because it's much easier to have someone else kill them, to cook them through so it's only their flesh that they can taste? Why do they spoil the flavor with flame and seasoning?

A lion doesn't stop to cook the gazelle first.

This, this warm trickle down her throat, this headiness, drug-like haze that's overcome her. This is what it's like to be a predator, to be destruction in a human package and she is exalted. It's a rush that goes far beyond what magic used to give her. This kind of power lies in the body, the physical. She doesn't need to flay someone with a hand gesture when doing it by hand would be so much more gratifying.

Angelus lets Ortiz's body drop, and she does the same with DeMarco, positioning him so he is laying where she got up from. It's going to be hard to get out of this building when it's surrounded by police.

Angelus finally goes to her, wraps her in his embrace, and she feels complete, she feels something. "I can't wait to mail these pictures to Italy. Can you picture Buffy's face? All wet eyes and perfect tears, horrified and thinking this is her fault?"

Willow says nothing, because she doesn't care.

There's pinch at her neck as he tastes her, but it's fleeting. When he's finished he adds with a laugh, "Giles in London, thinking he got something special from his little lost witch-cub he's tried so hard to find. It will be your writing on the envelope, of course."

Willow only wraps herself around him tighter.

"Oh, oh!" There's real excitement in his tone, "Xander in Africa." Angelus wipes the corner of his mouth where just the smallest bit of her blood stains it. "I know, I'll add some of your hair," he mused, "It will be a nice touch."

Willow frowns at that. Frowns at the fact that there is still concern for Xander when there should be none. Maybe she should find him and kill him so they can really be friends forever.

"I was waiting for you."

Angelus pinches her cheek. "I know. You were expired milk, curdling. But hey," his tone is cheerful as he gestures at her body, places a fingertip on the point of her left fang, "finally -- cheese!"

She doesn't like the flippant tone. "I was waiting for you," she says again, moving his hand away and losing her game face so that she can kiss him. It's important that she kiss him. Seal their fates. So she can have sex with him and get rid of that itch that's flared in the wake of her dinner. It's an urge that's somewhat disgusting but carries the promise of ecstasy. She feels so much better in his arms, filled with warm blood, with this need for him. He's made her so much more.

Angelus growls low in his throat. "You need to shower," he says and she flinches, remembering when Willow's heart still beat, tired and nearly defeated when he said those same words to her while inside her, reveling in the way her cheeks flushed pink, the way she could still be shamed after the days and nights they had spent together while he slowly went about the task of killing her. Days and nights spent conscious and aware of every *single* moment of revenge.

How Willow felt all those days before she died still lingers within her. With her sire so close to her all memories come back, and she is no longer a mystery to who she was or how she died.

Willow could identify with the need for vengeance. Her world had always gone black and hazy even at the smallest instigation. Hit the deliver key, she remembers telling Cordelia, knowing full well that it would delete all the work the girl had done, but she deserved it. I'll ask Oz, he drives a van, she told Xander, feeling like the entire world had tilted on its axis just by seeing the boy she loved kissing the girl who had made her life a living hell since they were four. I owe you pain, she told a Hell God who *dared* to hurt the woman she loved, and she made good on the IOU. Bored now, she told Warren, and it had been satisfying in its own way, even if that Willow would have never admitted it. Never admitted how good it felt to get payback, how much she needed it in her life.

So yeah, being put on the back burner, forced to be the wallflower with no choice? She could see needing revenge for that. And the thought sat there since the day she cursed Angelus the first time, that maybe, just maybe, he would be waiting to be freed. Waiting for his revenge. In the meantime, she just waited for him to stop waiting.

Even though she pulls her head back and backs away, he grabs her wrist that still has a piece of wire imbedded in it, around it, where he had her hands tied together for days, and pulls her in for a kiss. She wonders when he freed her hands. Probably after she died.

Done kissing her, he pushes her away slightly and takes Detective DeMarco's black trench coat off of him and hands it to her.

Willow puts it on. "I've been waiting for you," she states again, plainly, petulantly.

"I know you have, baby. I bet I've been waiting even longer. I used to think about all the ways I'd kill you once I got out. We'll have to go thank Nina personally. I haven't gotten around to killing her yet. It was more fun to let her think Angel doesn't love her. Trust me, I never saw that coming. Werewolf. Disgusting." His fingertips are in her knotted, blood-dried hair, soothing against her scalp. "Though you know all about that. Maybe we can pay him a visit too. Put them both in a box and mail them to Giles. It'll be funny. Anyway, back to you. I thought maybe I'd cut you into little pieces and send you to all your friends in little Valentine's day hearts, but then I saw you, all black eyed darkness and heard that you tried to end the world, just like me and I just knew ..." He took a deep, unnecessary breath, "To think I went to all that trouble finding that locket to protect me against magic when you were too up on the magic to even notice I was there." He gives a hearty laugh, his brown eyes smiling.

She chooses to cut out the fat and focus on the one thing she wants an answer to. "Knew what?"

"That Willow couldn't stay dead. That you were waiting for me."

"I was," Willow assures him, because she needs him. She needs him to be there, to teach her. To help her evolve into whatever it is she's supposed to be. She needs his help to get out of this building that's surrounded with half of Los Angeles' finest, little ants dressed in blues, badges on display as if that makes them important. Willow will be his now until she crumbles, but he doesn't realize that he's hers, too. "I was waiting ..." she means it, "Willow was always waiting ... for you."

Actually, she was waiting for death, but this is close enough.


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