Buffy blinked at the darkness as she shuffled cautiously along in her bunny slippers of mint green fake fur. She tugged the faded long-sleeved man's shirt back onto her shoulder and peered into the gloom with searching eyes. "Hel-looo?" she called out hopefully. Carefully sliding a step to the left, she realized an illuminated circle of light was following her every move, rather like she were the star performer on stage. Noticing the beginnings of a small hole in the knee of her ancient jogging pants, she grimaced – hardly the most suitable costume for the apparent headliner of the show. "Hel-looo?" she ventured again, but there was no answer save the response of her own echo.
The Slayer wrinkled her nose thoughtfully. "Will? Are you playing the brain game again? Cuz if you wanna talk you can just, you know, come down the hall." She tilted her head, straining for the welcome sound of a reply but again, the cupboard was eerily bare.
"Okay," she muttered, looking around warily. "Some sort of hint would be nice here. Vacation photos from the void, not really doing much for me."
She glanced down at her feet. Captured in the bright beam, the bunny slippers no longer exuded a fluffy mint-fresh appeal. Instead, the fur had turned black and the teensy button eyes now sported a wicked red glint. As Buffy stared, the little mouths opened wide to reveal a gleaming matched set of miniscule fangs. They snapped spitefully but were really rather cute in their diminutive malevolence. The Slayer audibly tutted and rolled her eyes.
"Great," she sighed, "now I'm wearing Bunnicula."
Cautiously, she looked behind and whispered into the vast empty space. "Okay, I get it. Big dream, creepy stuff, blah blah blah. Can we get this over—"
As if in deference to her request, the area was instantly bathed in a warm soft glow. From countless sconces and candelabras of highly polished onyx – some positioned on the floor, others seeming to float independent of any form of support – flickered hundreds of ruby candles. Slender plumes of smoke coiled in a ribbon formation before mingling into a hazy ceiling overhead. The spotlight engulfing the Slayer began to evaporate, beginning at her toes and spiraling upward. Its movement was slow and deliberate and somehow intrinsically sensuous. It lingered for a moment like a nimbus on the blonde hair before dissipating entirely.
Buffy shivered as a tingle prickled at her spine and her demand was completed in a whisper, "—with?"
The void had now adopted the shape of a room. Upon a low dais of gold-veined black marble, a four-poster bed dominated the center, its canopy and hangings fashioned from the palest of gray voile. The quilted comforter and plumped pillows were of deep scarlet shantung, one corner of the coverlet invitingly turned down to reveal a single American Beauty Rose nestled upon the satin sheets. The walls were draped with dark crimson velvet that swayed rhythmically as they gently brushed the stone floor. Surprise registering on her face, Buffy absorbed the transformation and waited. The wait was not long.
Emerging from between the curtains at the far end of the room, a tall shadow appeared. His features were difficult to discern, but his demeanor radiated charm and animal magnetism. As he casually sauntered closer, Buffy could see that his hair was short and dark – even a little spiky. His shirt of midnight blue georgette, unfastened except for at the cuffs, billowed as he walked, displaying magnificent pectorals and a washboard stomach. The fitted jeans, top button left open, skimmed his narrow hips and followed the long muscular lines of his legs to fine boots of alligator skin.
Buffy's eyes opened wide. "Angel?" she whispered, her tone disbelieving yet expectant.
Heels tapping an unhurried tempo upon the flagstones, the figure failed to respond as he moved closer, his features now more fully illuminated by the candlelight. His lightly tanned skin glistened as though coated with a thin layer of oil. He looked at the Slayer with heavy-lidded eyes. "If you want me to be." The tone of his voice was like fine Napoleon brandy – smooth and intoxicating.
Initially a deer frozen in the headlights, Buffy was unable to move until he was within arm's reach. Then, she involuntarily stepped backward. Undeterred, he followed, a small smile playing about his lips. "No," stammered the Slayer, "No. No, that's okay. Really not wanting to go down— There. Go there."
Closer and closer he came as Buffy stumbled backward, stopping only when the backs of her knees made contact with the edge of the coverlet. Worriedly, she glanced behind and, realizing she could retreat no further without actually getting onto the bed, her neck swiveled first left and then right, seeking an escape, but the filmy hangings had descended, enveloping her in a cocoon with the mysterious stranger. The Slayer tried to move but suddenly found that her personal space had been totally invaded and she was now staring directly into the interloper's imposing chest. Buffy swallowed hard.
"Wh- Who are you?"
His hand reached out to stroke her cheek as the enigmatic smile broadened. The movement was agonizingly slow and Buffy held her breath. Her eyes darted from side to side as though indicating a desire to run but, almost as if mesmerized by his mere presence, she remained rooted to the spot, allowing her lids to slide closed as she waited for the touch of his fingertips. She inhaled deeply and was immediately assaulted by the scent of musk – masculine and overpowering. Suddenly, an insistent beep sounded in her ears and her eyes snapped open to a blinding flurry of red velvet. She blinked.
Upon opening her eyes once more, her vision was met with a room bright and filled with sunlight filtering in through the window. Huddled under the covers of her bed, she tugged the faded long-sleeved man's shirt back onto her shoulder and stared blearily at the nightstand. The image of herself, a smiling Willow and a grinning Xander beamed from the nearby picture frame. Her fist hammered at the snooze button on the alarm clock and she peered angrily at its digital readout – 8:00AM.
"You couldn't have waited another ten minutes?" she groaned.