A very wet and very cold Buffy and Angel ran into his apartment. He turned on the light and Buffy closed the door behind them. Angel took off his heavy coat and laid it aside. Buffy was soaked through to her skin without a coat or jacket.
Angel looked at her with those caring eyes of his. "You're shaking like a leaf."
"Cold." Buffy said.
"Let me get you something." Angel turned and got some things from his armoire and handed them to her. "Put these on. Get under the covers, just to warm up." Buffy watched him for a long moment before she walked over to his bed and sat down. She looked up at him and he turned away to give her privacy. "Sorry." Buffy took off her top shirt and winced, inhaling in pain. "What?"
"Oh, um…. It's ok. I just have a cut or something."
"Can I…. Let me see." Angel said. He couldn't bear the thought of her in any more pain.
Buffy clutched her shirt to her chest. "Ok."
Angel turned around and sat down on the bed behind her. He gently touched her back and looked at the cut. "It's already closed. You're fine."
Buffy leaned back into him and cuddled her face to his. Angel put his arms around her. They'd sat like this a million times, but this time…. "You almost went away today." Buffy said.
"We both did."
"Angel…. I feel like if I lost you…. You're right, though. We can't be sure of anything."
Buffy turned around to look at him. "You what?"
"I love you. I try not to, but I can't stop."
"Me…. me too. I can't either." Buffy leaned in and kissed Angel. She sighed as memories came flooding to her and she melted into his arms. "Cassius…."
"Liam!" Elizabeth squealed as he picked her up and twirled her around. "Liam, stop! You shall make me sick."
"Darlin, you just made me the happiest man alive!" Liam cried, hugging her tiny corseted body to him.
Elizabeth smiled brightly. "All these lifetimes and we're finally blessed." Liam dropped to his knees and pressed his ear to her abdomen.
"Silly fool." Elizabeth held Liam's face in her hands and he looked up at her. "You'll never hear a heartbeat through all this clothing."
Liam stared up at his beautiful wife with the hunger of a man in his eyes. He stood in one fluid movement and hugged her tightly to him and Elizabeth could feel his desire. "Then we shall have to remedy that."
Elizabeth sighed. "I miss the simple splendor of feeling the sun on my skin through the thin cloth of a toga."
Liam moved behind Elizabeth, kissing her neck. "You were magnificent then."
"Am I not now?"
"You're always magnificent to me. You know that."
Elizabeth smiled. She and Liam were living their 131st lifetime together. When they had first come together she had been known as Aurelia and he had been known as Cassius. She'd been the Roman emperor's youngest daughter and he had been the eldest son of a Senator. Cassius's father had aimed high when he'd set his sights on Aurelia for his son. The emperor hadn't agreed to the match, but it was too late. Cassius and Aurelia had fallen for each other.
Venus had brought them together and nothing would tear them apart. At the goddess's instruction after she'd married them in secret, Cassius had taken Aurelia out into the woods and they'd carved their names into a tree. When the last hunk of bark was carved off, Venus had bound their souls together for all eternity.
Since that moment in the woods, the two soul mates had been reincarnated in every lifetime. In some lifetimes, they only had a few years together. In others, they spent an entire lifetime together, growing old and loving each other. They would reach the age of 13 in every lifetime and the memories of the previous lifetimes would be bestowed upon them. They would find each other and live their lives together and each time, they died together. Sometimes tragically and sometimes as an old couple sleeping in their bed.
But never had they been able to have children until now.
In this lifetime, they'd been matched together since their ninth birthdays by their families. Elizabeth's father was a marquis in northern England and Liam's father was a duke in Galway, Ireland. They'd finally been married on Elizabeth's 17th birthday. Now, Liam was 25 years old and Elizabeth was 20 and after all their lifetimes together, they were finally blessed with a child. She'd waited to tell Liam until she'd arrived in the fourth month and the danger of losing the child had passed.
Elizabeth looked up at her husband propped on his elbow on the bed next to her. He was staring down at her with all the love he'd ever held for her. "Would you be angry with me, my love, if I was to go out and celebrate with my friends?"
Elizabeth smiled. "Very well. Though I should like to tell our parents tomorrow during dinner."
"They'll be most pleased that we've finally gotten them an heir."
"I should like to seek our children out each lifetime, Liam…. My Cassius."
"I would like that too." Liam said. He leaned down and kissed her deeply. "Sleep, my beautiful Aurelia."
Elizabeth was asleep in her bed when a horrible feeling shot through her. She shot awake and looked around the darkened room. Liam had not returned home yet. His parents had thrown a great, impromptu party in the couple's honor to celebrate the coming of an heir. Liam had gone out with his friends after the party was over and Elizabeth decided to stay with Liam's parents.
Elizabeth had a horrible feeling of dread that something was wrong. She slipped out of bed and put on her dressing coat and slippers. The manor was quiet and cold as she silently made her way through it. The servants were all asleep, so Elizabeth had to wake her maid.
"Amelia. Would you please dress and take a groom with you to find Master Liam."
"Is something wrong, ma'am? The baby….""We're fine. I just wish my husband were home now is all. I had a dream that something was wrong."
"A premonition, ma'am?"
"Don't talk silly, Amelia. Just please go wake a groom."
"Yes, ma'am. You go on back to bed. You're in a delicate condition and have no business running about in the cold dead of night."
"Thank you Amelia."
"I'll wake you when Master Liam comes home."
Elizabeth couldn't sleep, but she forced it upon herself. The morning lark outside her window woke her up and she found she was covered in a cold sweat. At first she worried about something being wrong with the child, but those fears were quickly diminished when she felt the life safely inside her womb. New fears sprang to life inside her when she saw that Liam was not in bed beside her. She put on her dressing coat and slippers again and went out into the quiet hallway.
Quiet? That was strange. Usually all the servants were up and getting ready for the day. Connor O'Donnell, Liam's father, made his way up the hall with his head bowed. "Good morning, father." Connor looked up, startled, but it was his blood shot eyes that worried Elizabeth. He'd been crying. A man like Connor O'Donnell did not cry. "What is it?"
"Come, child." Connor led her back to her room. He closed the door behind them.
Elizabeth turned and glared at her father-in-law. "I demand to know what is going on. Where is Liam? Where is my husband?"
"Sit, Elizabeth. Please."
"No. Where is Liam?"
Connor sighed and looked up at his daughter-in-law. "He was found this morn in an alley near the pub."
"Excuse me?""Child, a demon got him."
"No. This is absurd. Where is Liam?""Beth…."
"I cannot accept this. This is not how it happens. We die together. We always die together."
Connor looked at Elizabeth. "What are you going on about, Beth?"
"Where is Liam? I demand to see him." When Connor didn't respond, Elizabeth's anger level rose. "I demand to see my husband! Now! Take me to him. Show me that he's gone. I do not believe it! I will not. I cannot. Take me to him. Take me to Liam."
"Beth, you need to calm yourself. The baby…."
Elizabeth took a breath and closed her eyes. "Please, Connor. I need to see my husband."
"I can't allow you to. It would upset you more than you are now. We cannot risk the life of Liam's unborn child. He wouldn't want it."
Tears sprang to Elizabeth's eyes. "This isn't right. We die together."
Connor folded his arms around Elizabeth and hugged her tightly. "Shh…."
"I shouldn't have let him go! I shouldn't have let him leave me…."
Elizabeth walked around her bedroom with a thoughtful look on her face. Liam had been buried that afternoon. He truly was dead. So why wasn't she? For a hundred plus lifetimes they'd died together. Young or old, they always died together.
Connor had wanted to put up crucifixes and garlic around Elizabeth and Liam's manor, but Elizabeth had refused it. She said the smell of the garlic made her sick. Truthfully, she wanted to see Liam. To see if there was any shred of him in the demon that would rise that night. If there was, then she knew her destiny. She knew that this lifetime would stretch on.
Elizabeth's maid, Amelia, rushed into the room and dipped into a low curtsey. "Ma'am, I do not wish to alarm you, but I've been told a demon has struck at the O'Connell Manor."
Elizabeth turned and looked at Amelia. "Is…. Are they…."
"I'm sorry, ma'am. Everyone was…. They…."
"I understand." Elizabeth turned away and stepped out onto the balcony to stare out at the shadows in the expansive garden below. "He's coming for me now."
"Don't talk like that. Please, come inside, ma'am." Amelia tugged on Elizabeth's arm. "Come inside where it's safe."
Elizabeth yanked her arm away from Amelia. "Safe? The demon entered my family's home without an invitation. He could enter here."
"No, ma'am. I don't believe that. You must come in and the servants here will protect you."
"Go away, Amelia. Leave me be."
"I cannot. I have to do everything I can to make sure you and the baby are safe."
"I do not wish to lose my temper with you, Amelia. Please leave."
"Go! Get away from me! Leave me be! Leave!"
Amelia turned and walked slowly, reluctantly back into the manor, shutting the bedroom door behind her. Elizabeth waited until she was sure she was alone and then walked back into the room and sat down on the bed. The demon had taken Liam's family. He was sure to come after her.
Sleep pulled at her, but Elizabeth fought it. She would not sleep until she saw what had become of Liam. If he was truly gone, if the rumors that a vampire was just a demon and had nothing left of the person they'd taken except their memories were true, then things were horribly wrong. Things for Cassius and Aurelia would be thrown off because his soul would be trapped in a place it could never come back from.
A wind blew outside and caressed the room, lifting Elizabeth's hair slightly. She knew he was out there, waiting for her. Elizabeth stood up and walked to the balcony. He dislodged himself from the shadows and walked towards her. She stayed just inside the threshold where he couldn't touch her.
"Hello stranger." The demon said as he reached out and ran his hand down the invisible barrier. "I'm sorry to have been gone so long, but…."
"Don't. You're not him. You're just a demon wearing his face."
The look in his eyes was so much the look Cassius had given her so many times over so many lifetimes…. "Yes."
"Don't do this to me, Aurelia. We can finally be together for all eternity. No more dying and waiting thirteen long years to remember and find each other."
"You're a demon." Her control was faltering. She had lived many lifetimes and had knowledge from each about the demons that walked the Earth. But she'd never been faced with it. She and Cassius had been too wrapped up in each other to care about anything else.
"I know everything about you."
"They're just memories."
"It's me in here, Aurelia…. My Aurelia. It's me."
"No…." Her voice was quiet. The pain of being alone for the first time in centuries was driving her a bit mad. Him standing in front of her looking, acting…. Being Cassius wasn't helping. Elizabeth felt sick suddenly. She swooned and stumbled forward, landing in his arms. He was warm. That was impossible. Demons were cold. When she looked up, she saw the worry in his eyes and it was too much. "Why did you leave me? You weren't supposed to leave me!" She clung to him and sobbed into his shoulder.
"Invite me in, Aurelia." He whispered in her ear as he swept her up into his arms.
"Take me inside, Cassius."
Liam took the invitation and walked into the bedroom.
When Amelia came to check on Elizabeth the next morning, she found her mistress lying naked in her bed, her face serene in sleep. But it wasn't a sleep she would wake up from. Her skin was cold as ice and she was pale as death itself. There were holes in her neck where the demon who had taken Liam had fed on her. She never rose as a demon.