Necessary Alliances

by Anya

Disclaimer: I own Christian, and Joss Whedon owns everything else. No infringement intended.


She walked aimlessly, staring at the white pavement her pink sneakered feet trod on, and lost to her own thoughts. Normally, she would never risk this degree of inattention. Living on the Hellmouth made for a nervous existence, and self-awareness was the key to survival, most times.

However, it was late afternoon, the sun was still high in the sky, and frankly, she just didn't care. "Cordelia! He went for Cordelia! What do I have to do, strip naked and jump him?" She shook her head slightly as the bizarre Lady Godiva like image popped into her head. "Noooo..I don't think even at my most desperate I'd go that extreme."

She half smiled, but it was a sad looking thing, and it never touched the bleak shadows in her eyes. It was just one of those things in life that no matter how you looked at it, the shock of watching was too much to ever forget. She could see Xander's dark head bending down almost hesitantly, and Cordelia's slim arms slip up around his neck as she reached into his kiss.

And it just made Willow want to hurl.

"Everyone else is paired off...gee, isn't it nice to be the loser of our group again." She kicked at an imaginary stone. "Giles has Ms. Calendar..or maybe it's the other way around for THOSE two, Angel and Buffy are an item, and Cordelia has her nails firmly in Xander. Lucky me, no one gives a hoot about what I do for my nights." Willow sighed, absently pushing the heavy curtain of red hair off her face, tossing it back over her shoulder.

The backpack on her shoulder was heavy with her textbooks, notebooks and Slayerette assignments that would be this weekends amusements. It never failed to amaze her just how much work was always heaped on her, and yet, she'd never dream of NOT doing it.

Xander and Buffy blew off homework like it was a piece of lint on their clothing. Cordelia...Cordelia did her homework, perhaps she'd influence Xander to do his. Willow frowned at that thought, no, in retrospect, there wasn't a power in this universe that could coerce Alexander Harris to do is homework during the quality "slack off " time of a weekend.

And with Cordelia on his arm, 'in his arms', corrected that snide voice in her head...he wouldn't be even THINKING of homework. No, he'd be at the Bronze. So would Buffy, with their respective newly found 'other' halves. So self-absorbed in their contentment, that the pathetic little hacker they used was forgotten.

"I could go missing, and they wouldn't notice 'till Monday mornings emergency homework session." She muttered, suddenly looking up and straight ahead.

The trees rustled in the wind, and the suns rays spotted through openings. The park she cut across was beautiful, at this time of day, with winding bike paths, children laughing on the grassy knolls, and young couples walking slowly, hand in hand.

It was, to anyone already depressed, something fit to drive them insane. Willow frowned, again, and picked up her pace. Forcing herself to stare straight ahead, she hustled herself home, and tried to force herself to recite the periodic table.

Perhaps if she wasn't musing over the atomic mass of Cesium, debating whether it was 132.91 or 123.91, she would have noticed the sidewalk just ahead of her flare into a brilliant light, and she wouldn't have stepped on it, disappearing into a portal and landing in darkness.


Part One

The cold cloth on her forehead was a soothing comfort to the painful throb behind her eyes. The low moan that echoed through the room as she opened her arms shocked her, as it came from her throat.

"Slowly." A husky baritone advised, and a strong arm slipped behind her shoulder, helping her sit up. "You had quite a fall, and I'm pretty sure the lump on your head will be causing some difficulty in thinking and seeing."

His words, Willow mused, while modern in vocabulary were spoken with the oddest inflection. Almost as if he were restraining himself from a strict formality of language. "Where?" She managed to whisper, still trying to get her thought processes in order.

He sighed heavily, "My private hell...and I guess it'll become yours too." He positioned something soft behind her shoulders, and helped her lean back against a solid wall. "We are both prisoners to what you would term a 'sorcerer'."

"I've fallen, hit my head, and am now having bizarre AD&D dreams. Okay." Willow muttered. She cracked her eyes open, just

a smidgen, and got a view of her companion. He was significantly male, alright...but his clothes would have been banned from her mother's rag-bin any day.

Dark wavy hair, kept short and cut badly, framed a boyish face. His forehead was smooth of any wrinkles or marks of age, as were the planes of his handsome face. A strong Roman nose, complimented the strong line of his jaw. His mouth was set as if it tended to prefer smiling than frowning. However, despite his apparent youth, the weariness that dulled his grey-black eyes, bespoke of a visual lie.

"AD&D?" He asked, honestly confused. "My apologies to say this, but I'm afraid this is no dream." He rinsed the scrap of fabric that had comforted her aching head in cold water, and gently mopped her face with it.

Willow sighed. Sunnydale was on the Hellmouth, she rationalized. Anything was possible. "Tell me about this sorcerer." She murmured, taking the cloth from him, and pinching the bridge of her nose with it. "How did I get here? And where is here?"

The man smiled, "I can answer those, yes. First, though, my name is Christian, and you are?" He gently picked up her hand, and raised it to his lips for a very genteel kiss.

The contact surprised Willow, his flesh was cool, and his lips dry on her skin. It niggled a distant memory, but for the life of her, she couldn't place it. However, the sheer elegance of such a gesture made her flush. In general, males never acted so...romantically. "Willow, my name is Willow."

Christian smiled, "I remember what willow trees look like...the name suits you."

Her smile was instant, and a bright sunshiny reward for his words. "Thank you." She held out the cloth to him, which he took and rinsed again, using a small ceramic bowl of water, and squeezing out the excess drops with absolute care. 'Almost as if that's the only water we have...', Willow realized. "You were going to tell me about this place." She let her arm swing in a semi-arc, indicating the rough grey stone walls around them.

To her eyes, it seemed like a primitive little stone cottage, but nothing so archaic existed in Sunnydale. She allowed her forehead to crease as she contemplated the walls, and then the dirt floor, before she turned her gaze to the patiently waiting Christian.

He stood, and walked over to the doorway, peering outside at a darkened world. "We are on the demesne of Lord Craith. He a 3rd century sorcerer." Christian sighed. "At some point, during his natural lifetime, he made a deal with the Old Ones. By gathering together diverse peoples, and hunting them down and sacrificing them in an obscene Wild Hunt he is able to dedicate their souls to the Old Ones, and buys himself and extended lifespan."

Willow stared wide-eyed at Christian. "I must have really hit my head...this is way weirder than Buffy's vampires!" She pulled her feet out from under herself, and off the edge of the cot, touching the floor. Standing, a wave of dizziness swept over her, but by closing her eyes, she was able to get control of it. "'Cause if this is real, then some accident was's usually Buffy who's caught up in these things."

"Buffy?" Christian sounded intensely confused, but very interested in her abstract mumbles.

Willow shrugged carefully, and took measured steps to their nearest window. "Yeah. Buffy's a friend of mine, she's the Slayer in my generation."

She rested her arms on the cool stone of the roughly carved window opening. There was no glass, and the breeze from outside felt good on her throbbing head. The world beyond was dark, a red-black haze in the distance might have been the sun, but the ominous feeling it gave in the depths of her soul convinced Willow otherwise. "What is that?" She found the words being whispered, the note of fear she wanted to control trembling with each breath.

Christian walked over, taking a look out the window. "That, Willow, is Lord Craith's manor house." He was behind her, and very silent. "The red glow is from the countless soul's already sacrificed to him."

In fascination, Willow stared at the ruddy glow. Knowing what caused the glow left a very sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. It was the darkest sight she'd ever seen, to know that a soul could be harvested for such purposes.

"Hunts?" She whispered. "Is that why I'm here? To be hunted?"

Christian placed his hand on her shoulder, ignoring her startled jump. "That would be Lord Craith's purpose. Yes." A shudder ripped through the young girl's body, and Christian gently squeezed her shoulder, comforting her with body language he had not used in a long, long time and seemed so very unfamiliar.

In silence, they stared out into the night world, lost in their own thoughts. A sharp cry rang out, and the sound of hooves slapping the ground hard echoed in the distance. Christian's head snapped

up and back, he brutally pulled Willow away from the window, tucking her body behind him and leaned for a look out the window. He hissed an expletive, and pulled back inside the room.

Looking around quickly, his eyes drifted upwards to the roof of the small building. "Come with me, quickly." His tone was command, and not waiting her agreement, he pulled Willow over to a corner of the room. He jumped high, and pulled a small leather fob jutting out from a wooden panel. It swung a trapdoor open. He pulled Willow in front of them, ancient eyes staring into wide-eyed innocense. "You have to crawl into that space, and stay very quiet. It's your life if you do not.".

The urge to question was suppressed by a survival instinct, and Willow nodded. Christian cupped his hands into a foothold, and boosted her up to the hole in the ceiling. "There's a cord up there, pull it up to shut the door." He called softly.

"What about you?" Willow was horrified at the thought that he'd sacrifice himself for her.

Christian shook his head ruefully, "They won't take me. There's no point to it." The sounds outside grew louder, and he spun his back to the door, and moved towards the center of the room. "Shut it, now!"

Her body responded instinctively, the door shutting and her universe plunged into an absolute darkness.

She listened closely for any sounds, anything that would push this sense of alienation away. Willow didn't usually suffer from claustrophobia, but... The air in this tiny attic was warm, stale, and dusty. Reaching out around her, she discovered that it wasn't even a full attic. The entire space was, perhaps, five feet by five feet. The height was only suitable for sitting, or lying down. It was a hiding spot, nothing more, nothing less.

'At least there are no rats!' she thought optimistically, cringing as she heard a shrill scream from nearby. ' I just hope it's a GOOD hiding spot...I don't think I want to meet whatever is outside!'


Christian lounged indolently on the cot Willow had awoken on. This gamble he was taking was huge; but, he was so sick of this irrational slaughter.

'Slaughter,' he laughed humorlessly. It showed what an affect Craith had made on him, that he, Christian Visconti, would feel so determined to save human lives. From what previous victims of Craith had imparted, the nobility of Italy had long since fallen, not that he fit into that category anymore...but..

His musing was sudden broken off as Craith's guards swept into the room, the Dark Lord a step behind. "Christian," Craith voice was less than a rasp but more than a hiss. It was the sounds of a serpent about to strike.

"M'Lord." Any true genuflection was kept from his voice. A Visconti bowed before no man, demon or beast. And Craith was less than all those.

"A mortal passed into my realm near here. Have you seen anyone?" Craith's yellow eyes bored into Christian's head.

Christian smirked, "Human?" The question was deliberately posed with a subtle hint of predatory interest.

"My human, yes." The Hell Lord calmly said. "I suggest you remember your existence is at my pleasure."

"I always remember that." Christian's voice was flat. "I've seen nothing and no one."

He never looked away from Craith, even has the guards prowled about the tiny cottage, tapping on walls and moving anything large enough for a human to hide in.

Craith absently stroked his elegantly trim black beard, before nodding sharply. "Come," he hissed. "We hunt." He turned, striding out the door, his black silky cape snapping behind him.

"What a cliche." Christian muttered. He moved to the window, watching the guards that lingered behind herding mortals, human and other, towards the castle, torturing those that lagged behind as they went.

One even rode past with an infant, grey and stiff in death, impaled on his banner staff. The grisly image was too much for even Christian, and he moved away with a growl. He waited until long after the unholy parade had passed, and then scouted around the room for any of Craith's little surprises. Finding two, he carefully destroyed them.

The girl would be nearly hysterical, after so long up there, he was certain. He pulled a stool over to the corner the panel was hidden in, and stood on it. Easily tugging town the carefully blended in latch, the door fell open.

Willow blinked as light suddenly filled the hole, and Christian's head was just below. "Is it safe?" Her voice was subdued.

"As safe as it gets, here." Christian promised. He reached out, with both arms, and helped her out and down.

"Your regional monster...Craith...he was here." Willow bit her lip, wondering how she could have landed into such a hellish situation.

"Yes." The reply was weary.

"I heard sounds...people screaming...." Her voice trailed off, a lost

look in her eyes and expressive face. Her tongue ran over dry lips as she slowly walked to the window. "Why weren't you taken?" The confidence she didn't truly feel, but wished to exude sounded firmly in her strong question.

Christian frowned sourly,"I was a...mistake. I only pleasure Craith with my existence in the torture letting me survive provides." The man walked to stand behind her. The crowd was in the distance, but still visible if you had good eyesight.

Willow did, and she paled to see what little she could. "Oh God. I can't stay here." Her hand thumped down onto the windowsill, "I'm not Buffy, I don't have supernatural abilities...I can't stop him, or this..or anything."

"Stop Craith?" Christian suddenly snorted, "I find it ironic I should feel this way, but I would love nothing more to end his unholy existence." The dark haired man shook his head, muttering darkly to himself. He moved away from the window and Willow.

Willow felt a sudden deep chill. She turned slowly, leaning against the windowed wall behind her. "Why is that ironic?' How long have you been here?" So many strange feelings crept up in her heart. The coldness of his touch, and age of his eyes. His calm acceptance of the concept of vampires and Slayers, Craith's allowance of his existence unmolested...

Christian smiled mirthlessly, "Here? I've been here over a century. I've survived simply because I have no soul to take." The feelings shifted within Willow, moving from eeriness to horror as his allowed his face to shift. "I, my dear girl, am a vampire."


Part Two

Xander pulled the cellphone away from his ear, staring at the illuminated buttons as he tried to sort his thoughts out. A low click, and the green glow disappeared from even those buttons.

"What did she say, Xander?" Cordelia didn't look away from the road, she just navigated on the streets and let Xander fuss with the phones.

"Huh? Oh...she said Willow's mom phoned, and needed me to call her as soon as possible." He frowned at the phone, listing possible reasons for needing a call. "Maybe it's for Willow's birthday next week."

Cordelia threw him a quick glance. "Willow's birthday? Her seventeenth, right? Would her mother throw her a party?"

"Not likely," Xander muttered. Willow had always celebrated her birthday without a lot of fuss, ever since grade 3. She had always been a relative loner, too bright to be in with the popular kids, too quiet to get somewhere with the smart kids, and too shy to ever shake those traits. Her friends could always be counted on one hand, and even those had drifted off as they all grew older.

"Why not?" Cordelia didn't see the reasons, she couldn't. Her life was filled with people.

"Who'd come." He sighed, feeling like a traitor for saying words he knew were truth.

The car slowed to a stop at the red lights. "Everyone." Cordelia said simply, "And they'll come with a smile on their face, a song in their heart, and good quality gifts."

Xander snorted, but his girlfriend tossed him a "look". "I can guarantee it..unless they want to be ostracized for the rest of their natural existence."

Xander shook his head. "A pity party?" He rubbed a hand across his face, "Willow would hate that."

Cordelia said nothing, but drove on. They maintained the silence until they pulled into the Bronze's small parking lot. "It wouldn't be a pity party. At all. I've made my feelings on the subject oh so clear. Willow's done a lot for me..."

"Your science project, you mean." Xander teased, a sly grin lighting his face.

"What Ever." Cordelia sniffed, "Anyway, the least I can do is introduce her to the real world." She pursed her lips thoughtfully. "Call her mom, and when her mother says anything, say that some friends would like to hold a surprise party for her...we can hold it the Bronze."

Xander was about to refuse, but the Princess Royale of Sunnydale High smiled winsomely, "It'll be my present to lieu of a proper Sweet Sixteen party!" She tilted her head to the side, slightly and pressed a kiss to her finger, lightly touching that finger to his cheek. "Won't that be nice?"

What could a guy say? Xander picked up the phone again, and dialed. "Hi, Mrs. called earlier?"

Cordelia wandered a few feet off, mentally listing decorations needed, who to invite...and important stuff like what to wear. Her fashion ruminations were broken off by Xander's sharp intake of air. Spinning around, she watched the colour drain out of his face.

"When?" His voice squeaked. "She didn't call or anything? No, I haven't seen her since Friday after school." His body slumped against the hood of Cordelia's car. "I'll check with Buffy, yeah. If you hear anything.... Thanks. Yeah, you too."

He pressed the end button, and then started dialing again fast.

"Xander, what's wrong?" Cordelia touched his arm, seeing bleak despair in his expressive eyes. "Is Willow okay?"

He opened his mouth to answer, but the other end of the line was picked up. "Buffy? Have you seen Willow at all..since Friday?" Cordelia could hear Buffy's high voice, but not the words on the other end of the connection. "She didn't come home on Friday, and her backpack was found in the park, yesterday morning." Xander continued. "When did you last see her?"

"In Biology, Friday afternoon." Buffy replied, signaling urgently to Angel. The vampire set down the calculus book he had been poking at, and watched his girlfriend intently. "Are you sure she's missing?"

"Her mother called me. They thought, maybe, yesterday she was with us..but the cops called last night." Xander felt a warm hand taking his free one.

"Oh God." Buffy whispered. "Why would anyone grab Willow?"

"I can think of a few reasons." The Slayerette replied grimly, staring at Cordelia's sympathetic face. "Can Angel find anything out?"

Buffy frowned, "I don't know..but we'll try. I'll call Giles and Ms. Calendar too, we'll find her."

Xander sighed heavily, hearing the click as Buffy hung up the phone. He pressed end and set the phone down before pulling Cordelia into a hug. "I hope so, Buffy. I really do."


Christian raced through the crowd, shoving and pushing his way through the demons, Guards and peons that faithfully served Craith. After seven weeks of successfully evading his forces, they'd slipt up somehow. Christian still wasn't sure what had gone wrong, he couldn't identify the exact moment control had slipped away from them. All he knew was that if he didn't hurry, Willow would be dead.

Finally, punching clear of the throng, he had an unhindered view of Craith, holding Willow off the ground, his hand and long-talon like black nails wrapped around her throat.

"M'lord! Don't...I have information that will interest you, about this mortal." Christian kept any desperation from his voice, trying to sound as cold and uncaring as he would have a century ago. His gaze never left Willow's limp body.

The demon master flicked his burning gaze on the vampire standing below and to the right of his raised platform. "You lied to me, little demon. You said you knew not where this," Craith shook Willow, "... mortal was." The dark lord smiled, exposing his carefully filed teeth in a predator's expression.

"Yes m'lord, but I think you'll be pleased by my reasons." Christian held the monster's eyes with all the confidence he could find from within. The girl, was not making a sound. Christian wasn't sure if that was bad or good. Willow was a quiet girl, by nature, and reticient...but it was hard to imagine anyone in this situation being so lifeless. She wasn't unconcious as she limply hung from Craith's grip. Her dark eyes stared calmly at Craith's face.

True, Christian reflected, that in the seven weeks struggle to survive, she had adapted well with his help. The initial few days had been...difficult. Her gut reaction after he'd revealed his true self was to get the hell out of that cottage. And she could move, when she put her mind to it, Christian remembered. Even with his vampiric abilities, it had taken twenty minutes to catch up to her.

It was too dangerous to be out-of-doors. Craith had minions all over the place that would be only too willing to surrender this girl up to their Lord. But, Christian could see her perspective..she was between a rock and a hard place. It had taken time, but he'd somehow convinced her that she was safer with him than Craith.

Whether she believed him or not...well. That was something he might never know. Not if he didn't get Craith to let her go. And strangely enough, it was something he wanted to know.

"And what pathetic reasons might those be?" Craith absently ran the index finger of his free hand down Willows cheek, and across her chest to her stomach. The heavy leather top that Christian had fashioned for her to wear didn't give under those black claws, but a trickle of blood formed on her cheek.

Willow never made a sound. She kept her features impassive, and body steadily limp. The weight of his grip on her throat was agony, and her lungs were beginning to burn, but she held on stoically.

"Master," Christian feigned the humblest tone he could, lowering himself to call Craith a term he'd avoided since his dam's destruction. "If you allow her to live, she will serve as a connection to her time and space. In her world, she knows a Slayer." Christian watcher Willow's eyes widen slightly with pure horror. "A living Slayer of such strength would make a sacrifice unparalleled by millions of normal mortals."

Craith studied Christian for a moment, his eerie gaze shifting slightly to glance at the girl. The panic and terror now shining in

her eyes convinced him of the truth of Christian's words as nothing else could have. "Indeed," he hissed, a new smile crossing his saturnine features. "A Slayer!"

In a short curt motion, he threw Willow across the room, her body crashing into a wall, and falling limply to the ground. It was all Christian could do to NOT run to her. Craith turned to two of his robed priests. "I want everything assembled. We shall use this girl to bring a Slayer to US!"

"My Lord!" Christian shouted again, scrambling for more time. This gambit was so dangerous, but if it worked... "The Slayer lives on the Hellmouth."

Lord Craith's head shot up, and he spun around to look at the vampire. At some hidden signal, two guards grabbed Christian's arms and pulled him to the dark lord. "Are you sure?" The Lord anxiously hissed.

"Yes m'lord." Christian kept his face neutral. "The girl was fool enough to say as such."

Craith eyes glanced at the girl's prone body, slumped on the floor, and then flicked back to Christian. The sorcerer was silent for a pause, his strange yellow eyes caught up in thought. "Well, then, we shall not bring the Slayer to us...we shall go to her."

Craith pinned his burning gaze on his people, and they scurried off. Squeals of anticipation for the coming slaughter echoed. The dark lord smiled slightly, his eyes growing distant again. "A Slayer's soul...I would achieve near immortality!"

He jerked his chin to the guards. "Place him in the kennel."

"MY LORD!" Christian protested. "But I..."

"Lied to me." Lord Craith purred. "Yes. However, you also mitigated your crime with this information, so you will not die there...but you'll suffer for a few centuries. Maybe I'll let you out after awhile."

Christian ached to scream his frustration, but couldn't. Now wasn't the time. For the sake of his sanity, and Willow's life, he had to keep it together.

They had a demon sorcerer to overthrow, after all.


Coldness was the first sensation Willow became aware of. That and that it seeped through her entire body. "Am I dead?" She wondered. The sounds moving around her seemed to suggest she wasn't.

She let her eyes open in slits, and felt a wash of terror to see Craith's priests in their black silk robes walking around carrying various implements, including one very large knife. From her vantage point, she could conclude two things. First, she was lying down on a raised platform, and second, the reason she was cold had more to do with her lack of clothing, and the stone beneath her.

"They're going to sacrifice ME!" She thought in horror. "OH no no..I am NOT dying at seventeen. I haven't had my first kiss, or gone to my grad...NO WAY!" She tried to raise her leg, but discovered it was shackled were her arms. "This is not good."

The room fell silent, suddenly, except for a low hum of masculine voices. The great doors at the end of Craith's temple were ritually opened, and a blue robed procession of twelve hooded figures began. Each carried a long knife, the blades tip pointed upwards and reflecting the red flames of the wall-torches.

"I'm in a bad Conan flick." Willow thought irrationally. They neared the dais, and she cringed to see all those knives so close to her unprotected body. As done, they turned to face the congregation..and the black and silver robed Lord Craith as he ceremoniously entered, a score of his most foul guardsmen behind him. Craith was empty handed. He stopped perhaps ten feet from the dais, and nodded once to the blue-robes.

As one, they immolated themselves, swiftly plunging the knives deeply into the flesh below their breastbones, and violently slashing downwards. Their intestines, and other organs contained by the sack their bodies provided spilt out as they collapsed forward. Their blood, a metallic smelling ichor, not like that from humans, stained their blue robes black, and dripped down the rough steps of the dais.

Craith grinned widely, spreading his arms wide: "Hear thy servants petition, oh mine Dread Masters!"

Two of his priests stepped up to stand behind Willow. The altar she lay on between them and their Lord. Willow forced herself to be very still, but her soul shrieked in absolute terror within. This was the stuff that birthed madness.

A gray hand poked out of the robe, a small sickle shaped boleen in his hand. The rounded blade was black, and wickedly sharp. As Craith lowered his arms, the priest reached forward, grabbing a lock of Willow's hair and neatly slicing it off. He dropped the red lock into a small bowl, held by the other priest.

The other priest passed his hand over the bowl's top, and smoke began to rise as the contents of the bowl caught fire. Willow wanted to scream, it felt as if her entire body was on fire...and so caught up was she in her agony, she failed to notice Craith move to

stand beside the altar. He held a hand out over her body, palm up and the priestling placed the knife into his hand.

Craith's fingers curved around the hilt, and his hand whipped out in a short arc, slitting the priest's throat and spilling his warm blood on Willow's body.

A silent scream ripped through Willow's soul, and a piece of her mind separated itself to barricade it's awareness someplace safe, deep within her psyche. The eldritch bonds that held her down vanished as her body became bound by a higher force.

Craith pushed the deceased priest's slumped body of the altar, and turned his attention to the girl strapped to the table.

"Ancient Ones who ruled Before...." He ritually intoned. "Hear thy servant, thy chosen one... I offer to you, the blood of my people I gift to you, the blood of my bride Wed My Darkness to this Light Casting Her World into My own"

He touched the knife to her base of her throat, and lightly drew it down between her breasts. The skin parted from the slight tear, and wept blood, but he did not kill her.

Picking up a cloth, he mopped up the blood carefully, and set it in the bowl that had her incinerated hair. He raised the boleen again, this time slicing deeply into his own palm, and dropping blood into it.

"Thus a bond is made, Great Ones make it bind As I will, So Mote it Be"

The entire bowl caught fire, in a huge blue flame, and Craith quickly carried it to the steps of the dais, and set it in the pool of blood of his fallen acolytes. He stood back away as the flame grew, rising higher and spreading out.

Finally, after a seeming eternity, it became what Craith had most desired...a portal to the mortal earth. He signaled his chosen guards, and they began to move through it. As the last disappeared into the glowing void, Craith turned to the surviving priest. "As soon as the portal closes...kill her." He paused thoughtfully for a moment, studying Willow's unconscious and bleeding body. "And then, kill yourself. We don't want any sloppy power we?" Laughing, Craith tore the robe off his body, and took up the cape his demonic page held out. Settling the flowing cape about his shoulders, he tossed the page through the portal, and quickly followed.

The Priest watched as the portal grew smaller and smaller, after his dread lord. Pulling out a knife, he tendered up a quick prayer to the Old Ones, gently setting the blade on it's tip above Willow's heart.


Part Three

Willow's eyes shot open. The priest above her, with his sharp knife lightly touching her naked chest flinched from the violent action, the knife letting up fractionally. She didn't think, she just reacted, wrapping her hand around the priest's wrist, and jerking it upright. Adrenaline, anger and something deeper fueled her arm, and the wrist in her grip made an audible snap as she broke it.

The knife fell from limp fingers, as the hooded priest howled in agony, falling away from the dais, and cradling his broken hand. In an eloquent motion, Willow slid upright, her right hand falling easily to rest on the dropped knife, fingers curling seductively around the handle. She felt so...distant from her emotions, so unaware of herself.

She felt strong.

Licking her dry lips, Willow slid off the stone altar, unashamed of her nakedness, unconcerned by the horrid slash running down her body. Easy, lazily, she smoothly walked towards the screaming priest. "You've failed." She observed, in a voice that seemed strange to her ears. It was uncaring.

"Nooooo!" The priest howled, backing away from her. He seemed...frightened, an analytical part of her mind noted. Of her?

Her brain was having difficulty communicating with her body, the body continued it's advance with the knife still held tightly in her fist. The priest slowly backed into the cold stone of a wall, cowering. And still, Willow walked closer, raising the knife as she went.

It was like...disecting a frog, that corner of her mind whispered, even as she rammed the knife down into the black robed body in front of her. 'Just slide the knife down, parting the epidermal layer...' The instructions from a typical biology disection class lept to mind with a vivid clairity

And Willow Rosenberg put the words to action. The priest fell to the ground, his blood initially hidden by the darkness of his robe, dripped down the wall against which he'd cowered, looking like the inkspot assessment tests Willow had once scene.

It looked like a butterfly, with a knife in it's wing. Her mind suggested absently. Like a knife in it...a knife....knife.

Willow jumped, dropping the knife as shudders ripped through her. "Nooo." She keened, dropping to the ground shivering hard. Her knees drew up to her chest, arms wrapping tightly about herself as she fell into shock. "No, no, noooo...wake up. Wake up. No." Her

had tilted forward, her bloodsoaked hair concealing her face as she cried great wracking sobs.

The entire ritual haunted her again. Craith's horrible grinning face, as he slit her open.... the burning of her body as they did whatever it was in the cup. And the feel of someone's hand wrapping tightly, constrictively around her soul. She felt...strange.

Another shudder tore through her, 'I'm cold.' Willow rubbed bloody hands at her eyes, smearing the blood on her face obscenely. "I need clothes." Looking around, studiously avoiding the corpses surrounding her, her eyes fell on the large dark tapestry hanging on one of the stone walls.

Tottering over on unsteady feet, Willow grunted as she stripped the wall hanging down. It tore after a great deal of effort, falling heavily to the floor with a curtain of dust. She coughed, inhaling the stale air, and fanned the dust away.

Once again, she picked up the dead priest's knife, slicing the fabric. The monotonous action of cutting the tapestry oddly comforted her, and offered an agressive outlet. Shaping it into a more reasonable size, she wrapped it about her body like a toga. "I should've been careful." She muttered. "This wouldn't be necessary if I hadn't dissected his robe, too."

Looking back at the slumped corpse on the wall, Willow snarled silently, allowing rage to replace depression. Rage at the priest for trying to kill her, rage at Craith for whatever it was he had done, and fury at Christian for betraying her.

Willow made a cord out of some scraps from the wall hanging tying it about her waist. She hooked the knife into it, at her side. Moderately satisfied that her attire maintained her modesty, she daintily stepped over the reeking corpses littering the dais, careful to ensure none of their gory remains touched her bare feet.

The huge doors towered above her. They were ceremonial, and likely guarded on the outside. Willow frowned lightly, her brow furrowing as she studied the structure. "Eh." She shrugged. Raising her hand, she knocked hard on the metal panels, and then waited.

Sure enough, the Guards on the other side jerked the door open, not looking to see who had knocked, just standing straight and ceremonious. Their heavy metal helmets with the nosepiece left their eyes barely visible, but Willow recognized them as the deformed trolls Craith employed.

They were dumb creatures, they brutalized and killed for sheer pleasure, but with little intellect. It had been ridiculously easy to avoid them, they lacked the mental capabilities to capture her. No. That had been accomplished by Craith's elite. However, for the barbarous acts these lackey trolls had committed...Willow's fingers idly plucked at the knife.

"Thank you, gentlemen." She said sweetly, sauntering past them. True to form, their intelligence was severely lacking. They both lunged at the same time, rather than use the ornamental pikes they held. Willow danced backwards, between their crashing forms, the knife now in her hand. With a savage joy, she moved towards them, arm moving.

Blood from their slit throats soaked into the barren earth, and carrion eaters descended on the first two victims of the unholy Bride of Craith.


"Here, Chrissy, Chrissy, Chrissy," Willow chanted as she prowled through Craith's fortress. Her progress was strangely unimpeded. None of Craith's remaining servants crossed her; rather, they backed away and ran. It was mildly disappointing, but Willow coped just fine.

The fortress resembled the fanciful castles of horror films. It was dank, dark, musty, and riddled with the most disgusting decorations. As she worked through the structure, she more than once wished for some footwear. However, as yet, she'd found nothing usable. "My own clothes would be nice..." Willow frowned, remembering the ragged garments. "Okay, some clean nice clothes from HOME would be nicer."

The castle was not making her top tourist attractions list; but, the vampire was proving to be most elusive, and the former Slayerette was beginning to feel she was wasting her time. "I suppose I could just ask," She mused, thoughtfully tapping a finger to her lips. "Of course, that means I'd have to find someone."

She sighed, glancing down the deserted stone passage. "Gee, if I were a demon, where would I hang?"


"The Kennels, mistress." The creature gurgled piteously.

"I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with the Kennels... where would they be?" The redhead asked innocently, absently studying the small crescent shaped rod she had found. It had a wonderfully sharp blade, rather reminiscent of the boleen Craith had used to slice her own body. Her hand strayed to run down her throat to abdomen in memory. Even the remembered pain hurt. This little toy in her

hands, however, didn't slice. It produced a blue crackling electricity that could be directed to incinerate.

And Willow was quickly becoming a skilled director. She easily aimed the wand, and it triggered an explosive leap of energy at her merest thought, electrocuting the demon. The creature jerked sporadically, lifted off the ground by the sheer violence of the shocking energy. "I want one of these things at home!" She breathed, coldly pleased.

"Nooooo." The pathetic creature moaned, and Willow let up with the wand. "The Kennels be in the dungeons..where the Hell hounds live...he be with the hounds."

Willow tilted her head thoughtfully, "Why?"

"Punished. He be disciplined for hiding the Mistress from the Master." The demon moaned, his split skin weeping grey blood. "He be punished for lying."

Willow thoughtfully gnawed on her lower lip. 'Punished for me? But he betrayed me...' Her eyes narrowed, and she vividly recalled his words...

"...she knows a Slayer"
"...I would love nothing more to end his unholy existence..."

"Which is it, Christian? You can't have it both ways." She hissed, her emotions swung violently, the howling confusion and pain echoing in her head the only constant. The wand was raised, and she shot of a deadly burst of power at the demon, incinerating him, as the rod reflected her volatile emotions. Tucking the wand into her makeshift belt, on the other side of her body from the knife, Willow stepped past the smoking corpse, and descended further into the castles bowels.


Christian wiggled his body back further on the small ledge he'd huddled on for the last two days. The Hell hounds kept jumping from below, their enhanced demonic nature giving them supernatural strength in their leaps. The small ledge was sloped, and if he allowed his awareness to fade for the smallest moment, he'd slip just within their snapping jaws reach.

Eventually, the damn beasts would get their jaws on him. He couldn't stay awake for fifty years straight..much less than a hundred or so. "This is just going to be a dreadful century." He mused, staring down into the dark depths. The dogs only visible trait in the deep shadows were their bright red eyes.

"I wonder how Willow's doing." He straightened his neck, letting his head rest against the slimey stone walls. "Probably very badly." A flicker of regret crossed his face. The plan hadn't fallen out the way he'd expected. Oh, Craith had taken the bait, and released Willow. Christian had bought THAT much time, but he'd never expected Craith to throw him down here.

It was a little hard to save Willow, if he was trapped in a pit with some really hungry, ugly dogs. He seriously liked that girl, too. Willow had demonstrated a wit and intelligence for conversation that Christian had sorely missed in the last hundred years. She had a beautiful smile, expressive eyes, and while appearing fragile, possessed an indomitable will to live.

Her instinctive fear of him had been quickly mastered. Oh, she was always wary, cautious, but never displayed open fear. The first few weeks had been jumpy, for them both. Willow had probably slept with one eye open, those first couple of nights. And Christian hadn't slept much better. The girl knew a Slayer, knew vampire's limitations...staking him while he slept wouldn't have rattled her anymore than being trapped in this hell had.

But..he hadn't bit her, and she hadn't staked him. In their joint struggle to survive, she'd treated him almost as a friend. Not that he needed friends, he reminded himself. But, it was nice to have someone to talk to...

She was probably very dead, by now, he groused self-pityingly. Craith had probably stripped her soul of her body, and then massacred the corporal form that remained. Or fed her to his favorite pets. A particularly grisly image of her tiny body being ripped open by the clawsome, fanged demons, her entrails all over the place..and her dead cold eyes, wide open and frozen forever with the expression of terror. Christian shuddered.

Surprisingly, he grieved for the girl. "It wasn't supposed to work out this way." He snarled, his features shifting. "We were supposed to BOTH get free of this hell. We were going to go home."

Below him, the dogs suddenly started whining. 'Craith?' Christian wondered. The dog's only ever began cowering when the master was nearby. Looking up, Christian tried to see anything or sense anything beyond the rim of his private prison. He didn't call out, he wouldn't give Lord Craith that kind of satisfaction. "Hello, Christian." A sweetly feminine voice purred above his head. She leaned over, just slightly, so she could easily see him, her red hair swinging free. She smiled slightly, to see his eyes go wide, and his features return to human. "I was wondering where you had run off to."

"Willow!" He gaped openly. Blood streaked her face, and the sheet wrapped about her body clearly showed the beginning of a open cut down her pale body. Madness shone in her eyes. "What did he do to you!"

Her smile went wide, and ingenious. "A little this, a little that...a bit of black magic, just to round things out." Her lips pressed together, and she smirked. Speaking conspiratorially, "HE'S not here, right now. He's gone to Sunnydale to kill all my friends." Her tone was cheerful, perky.

She walked slowly around the perimeter of the pit's opening. As she moved, Christian tried to study her. She was acting...oddly. There was a darkness about her, a sinister shadow hanging over her personality.

"What did he do?" He asked again. "What did he do to you?"

She glanced down again, eyes wide. "He strapped me to this dreadfully cold altar, sacrificed a lot of his priests, cut off some of my hair, and then starting slicing my body a bit." She pouted. "I'm sorry. Describing it lacks the...delightful intensity of the experience. You just HAD to be there."

He would have wept, if he had tears to cry. "I'm sorry. I didn't want this to happen." This grief, the sensation of failure was a sign of his weakness. He hadn't fed in so long, he couldn't shove these feelings of guilt away.

Her head cocked in an expression that had been adorable when she was simply Willow Rosenberg. This blood splattered version of herself, though, with the vacant expression in her eyes just made her look insane. "Sorry? For what. I survived just peachy keen."

Christian struggled to his feet, his back pressed hard against the walls of his prison. "You don't even know what he did to get access to your world, do you? You probably don't even realize that you're acting totally like someone else. Someone like Craith."

She blinked, then scowled. "Am not." Her voice petulant.

"Get me out of here, please." He asked in a soft voice, wishing to cater to her emotional whimseys until he could figure a way to right this situation.

Her petulance shifted to a full pout. "You betrayed me. Why should I get you out of here?" She sat down on the ground, dangling her blood-splattered bare legs over the side of the pit.

"I didn't betray you. I did the only thing I could think of to let you keep both your soul and your life." Christian sighed. "And I tried to put us both in a situation so we could go home."

Willow looked past him, down to the cowering dogs. "Hi'ya doggies!" She waved. "I don't understand why they stuck you here. They seem awfully nice dogs."

"They're Hell hounds, Willow." Christian said frankly. "They're quiet and cowering, because they're scared...of you."

She blinked, startled. And for a fraction of a second, Christian saw the real Willow's personality flicker across her face. And he took hope from that flash. "Why?"

"Get me out of here, Willow." He again said, his voice still soft.

Her lips pursed, and chin raised haughtily. "Oh, FINE!" She disappeared from his view, but he could hear her nearby presence. She was lifting something, by the sounds of the grunts and the rasp of something heavy being dragged. It took Willow perhaps ten minutes, but she eventually came back into his line of sight, walking backwards and doing this careful dance. One to pull whatever it was she was dragging at the same time as she kept that toga on. Christian smirked to watch the fabric slip, and Willow grab at it quickly.

She moved again, tipping something over the edge and down. 'A ladder.' He realized, as she pushed enough of it over to make it's shape discernable. It clattered as she let it fall, it's bottom nearly hitting one of the dogs.

"Uh..Willow...could you maybe push that closer to me?" Christian called up, not really wanting to risk jumping within the range of the hounds.

"Men!" The exasperation in her voice spoke volumes, but she did swing the ladder's top so that it clattered to the other side of the pit's enclosure. "I suggest you hurry, before I change my mind."

Christian didn't hesitate. He grabbed the nearest ring, and began moving. The dogs below still lay docile, the near presence of a Master staying their normal ferocity. Close enough to the top to leap, Christian vaulted from the ladder, and pulled the unit from the pit. Hell hounds were intelligent, they could figure out a method to use a ladder to escape.

Easily tossing it across the dungeon, he turned to face Willow. He took a firm hold of her arm, and pulled her closer. "Let's go." He turned, leading her from the dungeon, ignoring her protests and attempts to pull away. "The library should have the answers we need, and I need to find something...nourishing."

"You mean blood." Willow said without much interest. Her attention was focused on keeping her toga on, while practically

running to keep up with Christian's pace. "Why should I even trust that I'm not going to be that meal."

Christen stopped dead, pulling her in front of him. "Listen." He nearly snarled. "I'm not a saint, I have no desire to be a good guy, really, but I didn't go to all the trouble to keep you alive over the past two months for a single gourmet meal." He tilted her chin up so he could make her stare into his eyes. "And're blood wouldn't be nourishing. It's too riddled with Craith's magick to be human."

Willow's eyes went wide, his words piercing the madness. She gasped, paled, and then flushed. Then her arm moved. Her elbow whipped back, and the entire arm swung forward slugging him with a force that was astonishing. He literally fell back and away from her, landing on his backside.

"I'm HUMAN!" She shouted, tears streaming down her face. "I'm nothing like you, or Craith, or..or..anything else in this Godforsaken hole! I'm just a human girl!" Her knees gave out as sobs began to wrack her body. "I just want to be human."

Christian crawled closer, hesitantly reaching out with a hand to touch a shoulder. When she didn't push him away, he pulled her closer, letting her take what comfort he could offer. "I'm sorry." He murmured. "I shouldn't have said it like that. You aren't inhuman, but we have to find out just what his spell did to you." He rocked her, as his mother used to rock him when he was younger, all those centuries ago. It was funny, after five hundred years of being a blood-sucking monster of mythic proportions, a hundred or so years of being Craith's guest had awoken that human part of him again.

Her cries were easing, but her body still shook, as shock overwhelmed her now. Tucking the woven fabric that covered her body tight about her, he lifted her up. He carried her, offering soft sounds of comfort all the way, and silently promising her the safe return of her fully human soul.


The library was perhaps the cleanest room in the entire citadel. It was kept meticulously organized, dust free, and well lit. It also was a room banned to the bulk of Craith's people, his private journals, and texts that could provide clues to his undoing were stored here. If Craith had one good quality, it was that he didn't advocate book burning.

Christian checked on Willow for the umpteenth time, but she was still curled up like a cat in the most comfortable chair he had been able to find, a large tome cradled in her lap. "Any luck?" He called.

Her head bobbed up, dirty locks of hair falling across her face. "Yes." She whispered, her voice a sad sound. "You were right. I am being influenced by Craith."

Christian frowned, he jerked a chair from the nearest table and dragged it over to her. "What did it say?" He held his hands out for the book, and gently took it from her hands. The leather bound volume was handwritten, and flipping to the inside cover, Christian quickly realized that it was one of Craith's journals.

Willow leaned forward, her finger sliding from the top of the page down to near the bottom and pointing at a paragraph. "There." She pulled her finger away, and slumped back in the chair, a sad worried expression in her eyes.

Christian read in silence, his expression darkening with each line read. Occasionally, he stopped, looking up to Willow for further confirmation. The sorrow in her face was all the answer he needed. "Did he...?"

Willow chewed on her lower lip, before shaking her head. "I don't think so...I would have known.....wouldn't I?" She seemed to curl up even tighter, more into herself at the thought.

Christen reached out to tuck a stray lock of soiled hair behind her ear. "You definitely would have known." He took one pale hand, and squeezed gently. "But that just means he didn't bind you to the spell. He planned to kill you, so didn't bother to bind you."

Willow shook her head, missing his point. "So...that means what? That this attitude problem of mine will fade?"

Christian gave a short bark of a laugh. "Not quite. You're attitude earlier is just a form of shock, you'll recover from that. Craith's influence, though...that's not something you can recover from.. But it can be undone. The spell was one sorcerers used to marry a sorcerer to a person they wanted to control. But, by not forcing a consummation of that type of wedding, he left you unchecked."

Willow's expression darkened as Christian compared Craith's sorcery to a wedding. "I want a divorce."

Christian openly laughed. "I think, given the situation, we could do one better and get you an annulment." He paused, closing the book. "He had to use a spell like that, to get access for a permanent portal to your time and space. It made your soul part of his, and vice-versa. You have control over his realm, by not being so

convenient and dying like he wanted; and he has access to yours."

Willow swung her feet off the chair. "Then we need to get to my time and space now. I don't even want to think of what he'll do to my friends."

Christian pushed his chair back, as she stood. Still sitting, he looked up to watch her pace. "We can't leave immediately. He used a blood-ritual to force a portal open. We have to wait for an alignment...unless you want to reenact that ritual."

The horror on her features answered that for him. "How long?" She whispered.

"I'm not the best at this," Christian warned. "I'm a vampire, not a sorcerer, but I figure by the calculations left on his desk, another eight days or so."

Her dark eyes were huge, "They could be all dead by then!" The colour in her lips seemed to suddenly drain away.

Christian lunged forward, taking a hold of her two arms, afraid she was slipping back into shock. "No. They won't, they can't. The spell is keyed to you, it would place you back in a time relative to when you disappeared. At the most, within three days. Perhaps less."

She still didn't look happy, but the panic faded nonetheless. "Okay. do we get this portal open." She moved closer to Craith's desk. "And is there anything here that could help us figure a way to destroy him?"

Christian smiled. "That's my girl." He set the journal down on the table, and tucked the chair back in. "We have time, though. I'd still like to see about getting some dinner? And maybe a bath?"

Her expression suddenly changed with those last words, shifting to rapturous adoration. "Oh..a bath." Her eyes became dreamy, and distant. "Yeah..let's kill Craith later....I want a bath, now."

Christian laughed "Hey, the Master's're in charge..Craith's got to have a bath in this joint somewhere."


Five days later, they were down to less than seventy-two hours to the optimum alignment. It had taken a few days to narrow down their window to the exact hour, but finally, they had it. And it was a confirmed alignment, the information coming from one of Craith's precious little seers, after they had rather nastily convinced him to read the necessary signs.

Willow had virtually spent the entire week in the library, tearing through each book to get all the information she could. Her constant muttered wishes for a computer aside, she was taking enough notes to write a book on her own.

Her temperament seemed to be consistent, Christian was pleased to note. She didn't sink into Craith's darkness easily, her own bright spirit fighting it at every turn. Once she'd had some food, a bath and clean clothing, she'd cheered up immeasurably. That helped, he reasoned, since when she discovered how she was going to free herself from Craith, she might very well freak.

Wandering lazily into the library, Christian shook his head to see her reading by such scant light. "You're going to ruin your eyes." He came to stand behind her, watching her scratch more notes out.

"Uh huh." She kept right on writing, probably never having actually registered his words. Her restored confidence in his intentions had been a gradual process, but they seemed to be able to work together, again, after successfully re-testing one another's boundaries.

Christian leaned down behind her, hovering right over her exposed neck. The only clothing that they had found to fit her had been some rather exotic black gowns, that still had required altering for her tiny body. They were low-cut, in Willow's terms, and left her arms and neck bare. Christian was of the opinion that they suited her wonderfully. What else did you expect from a vampire, though.

Leaning close, he sucked in air, and blew it on her neck, snickering as she jumped. "You didn't hear me, did you?" He let his fingers tug a lock of hair that strayed down from the casual updo style. She'd nearly caught her hair on fire from the candles during one of her earlier study sessions, and the hastily erected updo was just a preventive measure.

Willow set the pen down, twisting in the chair to look at him. "No." She sighed. "I was a little preoccupied. What do you want?"

Christian mocked being hurt. "Want? Me?"

Her eyes drifted to a lazy narrowed expression. "Yes, you!"

Christian smiled, a sudden expression, and one she still wasn't quite used to. Their first few weeks of acquaintance hadn't exactly been full of smiles. And this past week...had been interesting, to say the least.

"I was just wondering if you'd found anything." He feigned casual interest, wanting to gage her mood before he raised the subject of the "divorce." Her innocense shone through, and she wasn't likely to go for this solution with much enthusiasm.

His own reaction to the entire situation was mildly disturbing. He was a vampire, a demon in his own right. He LIKED being a

vampire, he enjoyed the hunt, delighted in the taking of prey..the heated warmth of blood from the source absolute nectar to him and his kind. So why didn't he want to hurt her? Why would he want to help her like this, so eagerly, so...enthusiastically.

Christian shoved those thoughts far, far away. He didn't want to deal with them. Willow was the first honest companionship he'd known in over a century, and that was why he was so sensitive to her. That was all.

The object of his mental confusion pushed her chair back and away from the table. "Nothing good." She sighed ruefully. Standing, the black silk draping off her body, she stretched and wandered to the stain glass windows at the back of the room. "I did find some material that will interest Buffy's Watcher...but nothing that helps us." She bent slightly, peering outside a clear crackled pane. "Does the sun ever show up in this place?"

Christian frowned, remembering a much earlier thought. He fished a chain out from under his tunic, and over his head. His hand cupped two small rings hanging off that ring with reverence, softly touching the tiny circles. It had taken a lot to protect these two objects, they held some rather cherished memories. "No. It doesn't." He stepped up behind her, unclasping the chain and sliding the rings off. "Here, you might need this when we get back."

Willow turned around, her back to the window and looked at his moving fingers. "Need what? Why?"

Christian reached for one of her hands, which she blindly gave. He slid one of the two rings onto her forefinger. "This. It'll...keep the sun from harming you."

Her face paled, as the implications of those simple words sunk in. "Harm me? Why? I'm..."

Christian sighed, slipping his own ring back on. He hadn't needed that ring in a long time, but he would very, very soon. His master had owned them, the origins of the two rings and their enchanted stones a mystery even to that clever vampire. "No, you're right. You aren't a vampire, and the sun shouldn't hurt you like it would me." He reached for her chin, tilting it up. "BUT," he stressed. "You've been deprived sunlight for over seven weeks. A sudden change back into sunlight, with your heightened senses would be painful."

Willow's mouth formed a silent "Oh". Her gaze dropped to her left hand, and she studied the tiny golden ring with it's large garnet stone. A rune was carved beneath the stone, likely on the mounting. "Where did you get this?"

Christian shrugged, placing the barren chain back around his neck. "The vampire that brought me over gave me mine, and when she was destroyed, I managed to obtain hers."

Willow again formed an "Oh.", but this time had sound behind it. She studied the ring some more, moving back to the table. 'It's kind of like a medieval engagement ring,' She mentally laughed, before her memory reminded her of her situation. "Oh God." She murmured. "I nearly forgot..."

"About Craith's bond to you." Christian guessed. He had watched her study that ring, recognized the flickering emotions of bemusement, and then fear.

"Yeah." Willow whispered, staring at some point in the distance. "There's got to be a way to break it."

If he had air in his lungs to sigh with, Christian would have heaved a long sigh. Setting his jaw, and wondering if his last meal was enough to keep his control steady, he walked closer. "There is."

Willow's body went rigid as he stood so close as to be bodily touching her. Her shoulder's straightened apprehensively. "How?"

Christian drew a finger down her neck, and back up, enjoying the feel of such silky skin. "This way," He murmured, just before his mouth dropped to touch the flesh below her earlobe, and moved downwards.

Willow gasped, surprised. Her common sense said run, but another instinct said stay. Christian's arm slipped around her waist, pulling her tightly against him. His touch became very...sensual, as he let his palm move over the silk in a small easy circle, and he pressed his hips tightly up against her buttocks.

"It doesn't have to be a bad experience," he assured her between kisses. "Just let yourself move with it." His mouth strayed to her bare shoulder.

The slow rocking movements of his body, as he tried to let his touch physically reassure her, pleasure her, excite her reminded Willow intensely of Buffy's dance with Xander. Had Buffy felt this growing tension, the incredible melting of resistence? How had Xander been able to remain standing? A low groan tore from her throat as her common sense surrendered up to Christian's ministrations.

He had lied, it wasn't an annulment he was getting her. This would be grounds for divorce.

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