Chapter 1: Once Upon a Midnight Dreary
Buffy hadn’t truly thought it possible for her night to get any more bizarre. From beginning to end, she had been transported into some upside-down play the likes of which only Andrew Lloyd Webber could compose. Not that this particular vampire made a convincing Phantom of the Opera with his playboy looks and rich accent, but her reality was nonetheless shaken.
It didn’t help that when she opened her eyes, he was there.
Until tonight, she hadn’t thought any of the fables ingrained into vampiric folklore had any merit whatsoever. The ability to manifest themselves into bats? Sleeping in coffins? The myth about killing the master vamp if one wanted to be cured? Vampires’ inability to walk on hallowed ground? Lies , lies, and more lies. And if all of that stuff inspired by a hack-writer’s wet dream was false, then definitely the most infamous vampire of all, Count Dracula, was sure to be nothing more than the creation of some loony-toon psychopath.
That was until he poofed right in front of her. Parlor tricks, Giles had said; any vampire could master them if such was their prerogative. Xander had punned on the Count’s accent, Anya had appraised his sexual prowess, and all Buffy could do was slobber over the fact that a famous vampire had heard of her. Her as in Buffy Summers and not the Vampire Slayer. Buffy, the woman.
Buffy who sneaked out of her bedroom every night and worked out her sexual frustration while she was on the hunt.
She was alone in bed tonight. Dracula’s sole focus. The only member of his audience.
“I don’t remember inviting you in,” she said strongly, doing her damndest to suppress how hard she was shivering. There was something overpoweringly potent about the vampire’s eyes. It was unlike anything she had ever known; stronger, even, than the alluring pull of the Master five years earlier.
The Master had pulled her in with power alone. Dracula had charm; had charisma; had more than just thrall working for him.
For a vampire, he was devastatingly sexy, and she found that disturbing.
In Buffy’s mind, there were only two vampires in the world that were allowed to be sexy, and one of them was only a begrudging acknowledgement. She was just getting over the other. Just now allowing her long-suffering hurt to transfer to anger, her love scrapped in the face of the realization of everything this last year had cost her. The mistakes she had made in the wake of getting over her first twisted relationship. Parker. Racing to Los Angeles.twice.
And the replacement of her Angel that loved her unconditionally.
Riley. Her human Angel.
The only other vampire allowed to be sexy was the one she had the displeasure of seeing in every day life. The fact that he was incredibly easy on the eyes only made him more annoying. Still, that hardly stopped him from being so. He definitely had the stereotypical association of the undead to coincide with his namesake. Hauntingly beautiful, devastatingly lethal, and wholly forbidden.
Those were the sort of qualities that usually went unappreciated for the sake of his less-mystic and more annoying traits.
The vampire in front of her was gorgeous in that tall-dark-and-handsome way.and though that seemed to be the type Buffy fell for, she felt her stomach curl in apprehension.
“I required no invitation,” Dracula replied coolly, though a spark in his eyes alerted her to his lie. Her mother, most likely. This tall-dark-and-handsome thing was generic with Summers women. The tendency for the men that fit that description to be selfish assholes seemed to be generic as well. “Merely a desire to bask in the presence of death.” He reached out to brush tendrils of fallen hair from her face. Buffy drew in a deep breath, frowning as small shivers scattered down her skin. “A desire to taste.”
She blinked and jerked back at that, her eyes flaring dangerously. “There will be no tasting of me tonight, pal,” she barked, straightening as the haze around her world dissipated and the veracity of the situation became palpable. “Now get out before I -”
“Stake me, yes. That is what the vampire murderer does.” Dracula’s eyes flickered meaningfully. “She kills without prejudice, because it is all she knows.” He reached out to her again, fingers finding her hair. “But the marks on her throat are telling, no? She has been tasted.”
Angel’s bite seared with a sudden outburst of pain.
“Unworthy,” the vampire said decisively. “He let you go.”
Buffy inhaled again, the fog settling once more. There were certain things every vampire slayer knew, and never to be without a stake was one. Granted, she had never suspected a non-Angel or Spike-shaped vampire to enter her bedroom unannounced, but her lack of an immediate weapon sent a sharp pang of fear down her spine.
“You need to leave,” she said. Her mind was no longer her own. She didn’t know what he was doing, but it was overtaking her little by little. “My mother doesn’t like me to have vampires in my bedroom.”
“I only want a taste,” Dracula countered, a slow smirk drawing across his lips. “My Slayer will allow me a taste, won’t she?”
“I am not your Slayer. I am not your anything.”
“You are the Vampire Slayer. You belong to vampires.” He smiled. “I am a vampire, no? Tonight you belong to me.”
The fear entertaining her insides grew sharper. Fear was foreign to her now, especially where vampires were concerned. Her body wasn’t following her commands. Her arms were heavy and immobile, her heart pounding to the brink of pain within her chest. If he was going to do something, she couldn’t fight him. He had her under something. Had her will trapped beneath something too weighty for even her strength to move.
Belong to him? God, what did that mean?
“I.I think you should leave,” Buffy said.
“Yes,” Dracula agreed, his fingers skimming the length of her arm until his hand was clasped with hers. “We should be leaving.”
“Yes. You will come with me, won’t you?”
No! shrieked her mind. That strong part of her that was kicking and screaming, pounding invisible fists against the walls of her will.No! Don’t even think about touching me, you piece of-
“Yes,” said her treacherous mouth, fingers entwined with his. “Where are we going?”
“Away,” the vampire replied, tugging her from the bed.
And then her room was not there. Her body separated from her will, moving toward something in the far reaches of understanding. She didn’t know how he moved them, or to where. She couldn’t see anything but the blur of colors clouding her vision, couldn’t feel anything but the cold touch of the vampire that was holding her hand. She was with him. That was all she knew, all she recognized. Dracula was leading her away from herself.
And he wasn’t letting go.
There were many unusual dwellings in Sunnydale, and at one point or another, Buffy had been to them all. Her job had a tendency of taking her to every corner of the miserable town. Every time a new demon mobster hit the Hellmouth, a new strange residence sprang from the soil as though it had been there for generations. With Spike, it was the factory. With Angelus, it was the mansion. With Adam, it was the Initiative itself.
Granted the Initiative didn’t spring from the ground as much as it buried itself beneath it.
With Dracula, though, it was a castle.
A castle erected in the outer reaches of Sunnydale. Buffy saw it without seeing. The dark premonition curling her stomach grew stronger with every step. Her inner voice kept screaming in protest, begging her senses to succumb control and allow the Slayer to take over. The shadows lurking in her mind were far too potent, the screaming woman inside trembling at the sight of the walls that would seal her fate. She knew that something bad was about to happen. She knew that stepping over that threshold while holding onto Dracula’s hand would be the means to her end.
If she walked into the castle, it would not be Buffy that walked out.
Oh God. I can’t stop him. I can’t.
“There is no reason to fear,” Dracula said over his shoulder, calm and collected. “I would not have harm befall one as lovely as you.”
Strange how those words inspired more fear than comfort.
“I will immortalize you.”
“No,” Buffy broke through, commanding her feet to a halt. Her strength was denied her, but she persistently battled his own to pull her wrist free . “I won’t. You can’t make me. I-”
“Why this resistance?” the Count asked, frowning. “I will give you everything your former vampire could not.”
His voice dripped sexual promise, but the thought of his touch suddenly had her skin crawling. She had to get out. She had to get out, and now.
“No thanks. I have a boyfriend.”
Yeah. My name is Buffy the Lame-O, have we met?
Like Dracula cared if she had a boyfriend. Or, you know, free will and a mind of her own, including wishes that were not of the please-vamp-me nature. Her mind was still misty with blurred lines of defined right and wrong. She knew she needed to escape. He was no longer touching her, and while that was a step in the right direction, it did little to ease her nerves.
His eyes were still on her. And they held the most power.
Dracula was not going to let her do anything he didn’t want her to do.
“He is unworthy of you,” the vampire replied smoothly. “No mortal man could hope to touch the Slayer and feel her greatness. Not like those that she hunts.” His eyes flickered meaningfully. “Those that she kills.”
“Slays,” Buffy said automatically.
I am not a killer. I am the Slayer.
“You are the killer of my kind, yes?”
“I don’t kill. I slay. I have a calling.”
I am Chosen.
“I have a calling as well.” He glanced toward the castle meaningfully. “Now we go inside.”
This he would not take from her. The free-will of Buffy was not for sale.
“You will follow me inside.”
Of course, vampires mostly stole what was not handed to them.
Even if the object of their desire was a human being.
And Buffy had no means of denying it. She heard herself agree to his command and the inner screaming started again, but there was little stopping the compliance of her body. Her feet carried her forward; her hand offered itself to Dracula’s grasp once more.
And then she was inside, and Sunnydale was a lifetime away.
“My home,” Dracula said, turning to her intently. “You approve?”
It was perfectly clear that he didn’t give a damn what she said, but at the same time, something told her that it was likely a good thing to be an accommodating guest to a master, legendary vampire. Even though she wasn’t so much a guest as she was a kidnapped slayer.
Besides, she’d only say no to be contrary. What was there not to like about a castle?
“I think you will like it here.”
Buffy’s eyes went wide. Free-will.now would be a good time to come back from the dead!
This could not be happening. Not now. Not to her.
“For now, you should rest.” Dracula continued, stepping forward. “I will satisfy my hunger for you with a taste. Nothing more.”
Hunger? Me? Taste?
There was just no part of that sentence that Buffy liked.
Oh God. This is real. This isn’t a dream. It’s real.
Dracula’s fangs descended smoothly and his eyes went yellow. But that was all. There were no bumpies. There was no growling. He was the antithesis of every vampire she had encountered. And despite the paralyzing fear rushing through her body, she was alarmingly void of reaction. This was not her. Not really. It was a façade. Something was blocking her. An invisible wall crested between hysterics and serenity.
He had immobilized her. He had robbed her of her night. He had taken her away.
And now his fangs would find her throat.
And she would know nothing else.
The room was unfamiliar but comfortable. She felt miles away.
Her throat was throbbing, and she didn’t know why. A foreign thirst tore through her body, scratching at her skin with cuts of pleasure as well as pain. A bullet of fear pierced her heart, but by the time she had thought to resist anything, to fight anything, the pain had receded and she was back. Comfortable. Waiting in her silent oblivion.
Buffy’s eyes fluttered open. She was bathed in lavender. The night was quiet, and she couldn’t see stars through the windows. But it was dark and she knew it would be for hours. The sun was a world away.
How she had come to this room, she didn’t know. Nor did she have the strength to get up.
Don’t have the strength for anything.
Sleep fell upon her again. Her eyes lost the battle for wakefulness.
The last thing she saw was her reflection in the hang mirror across the room. It was fading quietly; struggling for existence. Not gone but not there, either. Caught somewhere in the middle. Caught in the area in between.
What a strange dream, she mused, her eyes falling shut once more.
Ignoring the screams of her will, the girl locked inside that beat against soundless glass for freedom that would never come.
And she slept.