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Author: Jade Munro
Bringing Darla back my own slightly altered way
Spoilers: Mostly for Angel, up until ‘Dear Boy’. A few for Buffy S5 might show up as well.
Notes: In my version of things Angel's soul is permanent thanks to Wesley. After what happened in ‘Eternity’ you'd think they would have done something to correct the little clause. Also I suck at writing action scenes, plus I think they're boring to read anyway, so there'll be as little of that as possible.
Warning: This has some graphic torture. I don't think it’s too bad, but if you have a very weak stomach you might want to skip some parts.
Dedication: To everyone who’s written me feedback for my BHS series. Much appreciated, and the next part’s will be done soon. I mean it this time…J
* * *
I know how to please you…
Oh god she knew…she knew better than anyone. I can feel her licking my chest, I can feel her teeth scraping and biting. I feel her taking one of my nipples between her teeth and beginning to nibble. That always drove me wild…she knew…
I almost never want these dreams to end. They feel so good. She feels so good. I love the way she straddles my waist and grinds down on me. I know she loves it too. She always did.
But there was always one thing she loved more than dominating me. Me dominating her.
I flip her over and immediately attack the spot behind her ear with my tongue. She’s giggling and squirming beneath me, and she moans and says my name in that breathy voice that’s all Darla. While I'm doing that I reach up and take her breasts in my hands, and I squeeze them just enough to make her gasp. She’s arching up towards me. She wants more. I'm about to give her what she wants when I start to feel that something’s wrong…that I'm not where I'm supposed to be…
* * *
"He’s been asleep for four whole days! What’s his deal?" Cordelia angrily shut the book she'd been flicking through and stood, pacing around the room. Wesley sat and watched as she paced, suppressing a smirk.
"He’s exhausted. We did have a rather large battle the other night, it must have simply taken it out of him," Wesley reasoned. Cordelia shook her head and continued pacing.
"No! No, he’s been sleeping way too much lately. He’s dead, its not like he needs so much rest anyway." Wesley chose not to respond. Silence filled the room for the next few minutes as Wesley went back to reading his paper and Cordelia continued to pace.
"That’s it, I'm checking on him," she announced. Abruptly she turned and moved towards the hallway.
"Cordelia, do you think its necessary to disturb him? He’s probably just tired."
"Well, ‘probably’ just doesn't cut it. I'm worried, okay? And Angel isn't the type to share when something’s wrong. Who knows what he could be keeping from us?"
"Its probably nothing-"
"Again, probably! I'm just going to check on him, see if he needs anything," she turned and started to walk towards Angel room again.
"Oh, would you just let me check on him? What harm is it going to do? Really Wesley, you would think that after all we've been through together you would care enough to-"
"I just meant to say that the last time I woke him up he was crazed. He began choking me, saying something about making her go away. I've no idea who he was referring to."
"Any bets on Buffy?" She tuned again and walked with purpose to Angel's room. Once getting there she stopped and gently knocked on the door.
"Angel? Angel can we talk?" she called. Not getting a response she slowly opened the door and walked in, careful to keep quiet. It was empty.
"Where would he have gone?" Cordelia asked as she and Wesley moved in to the room. Wesley walked passed the bed then stopped, picking up a card. Quickly scanning over it he turned to Cordelia.
"He didn't go anywhere. He was taken."
* * *
Hey baby, nice of you to join us…
I hear her voice as though it was coming from a million miles away. But I can feel her breath on my face, and I know she’s right beside me. I try to look around, but everything is a blur. I feel her hand on my chest and it’s different. It’s warm. Darla was never warm. Darla was never human. The investigator in me is coming up with hundreds of questions. I start to ask how she’s here. Why she’s alive. It takes me a minute to realize I can't really talk. The investigator in me starts to question why that is as well.
She’s running a nail down my jaw and telling me how much fun we're going to have. Or, she corrects herself, how much fun she’s going to have.
Darla always did love torture.
* * *
"What do we do?" Gunn asked.
"Well that’s just it. We don't know," Wesley said. He began rubbing his temples in a useless effort to ease his rapidly worsening headache. He'd felt it start the instant he'd seen the Wolfram and Hart business card on Angel's pillow, with ‘Darla’ scrawled on the back. Having studied Angel’s history Wesley had known right away that she had been his sire.
"Well, you said this Darla chick is dead right? I'm thinking its just them lawyers trying to mess with Angel's head," Gunn said.
"Or not. It could very well be more than that," Wesley said.
"Yeah. Like, say, bringing back Darla?" Cordelia said. She'd said nothing since Wesley had shown her the card, immersed in thought. Wesley and Gunn threw her questioning looks and she continued.
"The scroll. We never did find out what that ritual was for. I think we just did."
"You're right. We should have thought of this much sooner."
"Shoulda, woulda, coulda. None of that means jack. What matters is finding Angel, regretting not thinking of something ain’t gonna help."
"Gunn’s right. Okay, so where do we start?" Cordelia asked.
"I'm not sure we do. We're not even sure what’s happened, if anything."
"Yeah, and while we aren't sure who knows what’s happening to Angel? I'm not willing to take any chances Wes. Are you?"
* * *
"Angel…you and I have an awful lot of catching up to do," Darla said as she caressed his face. He was chained up the same way Spike had had him just over a year before. Extended from the ceiling, it meant that he was open to abuse from all angles. And if Angel knew anything about Darla it meant she was going to take full advantage of his position.
"Aren't we starting off a little fast? You never wanted to go for the chains right away, what changed?" The haze Angel had been in when he'd first arrived had eventually faded. It had simply been what Darla had been using to make him consistently tired still being in his system. Now Darla had him under a different kind of spell. One that would make him completely alert. Alive to every torture she could devise without any hope of respite.
"Well, you spend a few hundred years in hell, only to be brought back human and you just aren't as patient as you used to be," she said as she moved away. She walked to a nearby table and picked up a small cross.
"But not to worry," she said as she moved back toward him and pressed the cross to his exposed chest, "I plan to make this reunion last a long, long time."
Angel winced as he felt the cross burn his flesh. Darla was merely preparing him for what was to come, he knew. She removed the cross and swept her tongue over the wound, relishing in Angel’s shudder.
"You enjoyed that, didn't you? Oh, you were always such a bad boy Angel. You loved everything I did to you. You still love it," she said, smiling in satisfaction. She pressed the cross onto him again, this time just above his navel. Kneeling in front of him she watched as smoke began to seep out from underneath the cross. Taking it away again, she this time blew over the burned flesh. Angel couldn't suppress a gasp as he felt the cool air sooth his scorched stomach.
"Mmm, I know how much you're enjoying this…I know how good this makes you feel. You always wanted me, you still do. I know what you want…"
"Then you'd know I'd want you to be shutting up. You always did talk too much."
"And you never did appreciate my nicer side," she said angrily, before returning her tone to its usual, sensual breathlessness, "Not to worry. I plan on making you learn." She pressed the cross to his forehead and grabbed onto his jaw, forcing him to face her.
"And you will learn. One agonizingly slow step at a time."
* * *
"I thought you said this contact would know something," Cordelia said as she angrily threw her purse onto the couch. Two days had passed and no one had either seen or heard from Angel.
"I said he may know something. It’s still early going Cordelia, and for all we know Angel could be-"
"Dead! I know!"
"Well, I was going to say on a case. We don't even know what the card meant. I mean, if Wolfram and Hart went through the trouble of kidnapping Angel why would they leave a card for us to find? It all seems a little suspect to me," Wesley reasoned.
"That’s what they want you to think! What better way to throw us off than by leaving an obvious clue that only confuses you more?"
"Not giving us any sort of clue will generally do the job."
"Whatever. I'm gonna call Gunn, see if he’s managed to find anything."
"Cordelia…I don't want you to get your hopes up. We both know how much of a liability Angel's been to the firm. We also know how far they would go to eliminate anyone, or thing, who gets in their way."
"I know, okay? But I'm not ready to declare Angel dust. Not until it’s a certainty. And if it turns out they have…I wont give up Wesley. I owe him so much, and he means too much, for me to ever do that. Goodnight," Cordelia wearily turned and began walking away.
"Cordelia, get some rest; I'll call Gunn. I promise I'll call if he’s found anything."
"Thanks. I'll see you in the…afternoon." The pair exchanged small, tired smiles before going their separate ways.
Wesley made his way back to his apartment, a feeling of exhaustion overcoming him as he set eyes on his bed. Neither he or Cordelia had slept for the last two days, and their relentless search for their missing employer was already taking its toll on both of them. Gunn had also been aiding as best he could, though his resources were limited save his street connections. Wesley tiredly massaged his neck, the tension making it almost impossible to turn his head. He'd become slightly disheartened as they continued to come up at loose ends, and feared the inevitable if they did not find Angel soon. As loathe as he was to admit it, he knew they would need to call Sunnydale for help eventually. Or worse, he knew they would need to call Sunnydale, or possibly visit the small coastal town, to inform everyone - a small blonde Slayer in particular - that Angel was dead.
Buffy. No matter how hard he fought against it, Wesley couldn't suppress a small feeling of anger the name sparked in him. He'd seen the way she'd treated Angel on her last visit to LA, and it came as a constant wonder to him that Angel had gone back to Sunnydale to apologize to her. Part of his dread in seeing her was that he would not be able to control his urge to slap her, as he'd so often wanted to do while he'd been her Watcher.
Pushing those thoughts aside, he called Gunn fully expecting to hear nothing that could be classed as good news.
"I've got an address," Gunn’s voice came over the speaker. Wesley was suddenly snapped to full alertness, taken completely by surprise.
"An address? Where?"
"Some old church, it was wrecked in an earthquake a couple of years ago. W&H bought the property last week, any guesses on what for."
"Are you sure that’s where they've taken Angel?"
"Wouldn't have told you if I wasn't. I went and checked the place out today; they got some heavy defense of the demon kind. Out in the open I couldn't get near the place. I'm thinking we go check it out tomorrow morning. No sense going when they can have a bunch of vamps blocking us off, you get me?"
"Yes, yes. How did you--?"
"Find this out? I told ya, I know people. And they know people. You're just gonna have to learn to trust me."
"Right. I'll meet you at Angel's tomorrow morning."
"Sure thing, see you then."
* * *
She keeps talking. I can't block her out, that voice…it’s always had a hypnotic effect on me.
But it’s more than that, I know. Everything she’s telling me, about myself, I've been denying for the longest time. Only she knows how close Angelus and I are. She saw it in me, my darker half, all those years ago.
She sees it in me now, as she let’s single drops of holy water roll down my chest.
The torture is making me more alert than I've ever been. That and I can't pass out, cant even let myself get lost in a haze. Darla always knew a thing or two about magic, and with Wolfram and Harts resources available to her its no surprise to me that she figured out a way to make me feel everything she does to me, to make sure I can't rest.
Right now, she’s telling me about all the times I tortured people while she watched. Men, women, children…even babies. She brings up one memory in particular, of a young girl who couldn't have been more than seventeen. She tells me about how I made the girl watch as I brutalized and turned her mother. The look in the child’s eyes when her mother rose, only to murder her.
I welcome the next drop of holy water; I follow the feeling of it burning a line down my chest. It reminds me of the girl’s tears. Makes me feel them.
Darla tells me that no matter how many people I've saved, or will save, I can't give the girl back what I took. I can't change that the last memory she had of her mother was one of horrified betrayal.
I took so much away, she tells me. And that no amount of good I do can ever give it back. That I deserve everything I get.
* * *
"I can't see any guards besides the two at the door," Wesley said as he surveyed the area. He, Gunn and Cordelia were crouched beside a fallen section of what was once a thriving business. An earthquake roughly two years before had decimated the area, leaving only the church and a building next to it standing. Both buildings, still, were extremely damaged, and no one had wanted to buy any of the property. That was until the previous week, when Wolfram and Hart had decided to buy the church.
"We could go near that clearing over there, I think we could see what’s up inside at that window," Gunn said, indicating a partially collapsed section of the church. Wesley nodded in agreement, moving slightly so he was in a better position to move. Sneaking forward slightly, he was stopped when he felt Gunn’s hand on his shoulder.
"I'll go, you stay here and wait for my signal," Gunn said. Holding up a hand to Wesley’s protesting, he began to move forward, easily crossing the clearing. The window, as it turned out, was out of reach, and he immediately began searching for stable footing.
"I don't like this," Cordelia said as they watched Gunn begin to climb the wall.
"I'm sure the building is stable enough to support him."
"No, I mean that we would be able to get close so easily. I think they want us to see."
"They're evil. If none of the guards were out here, then they'd all be in there. Imagine how much fun it would be for them, to have us so close and so far away at the same time?"
"You think they'd go that far?"
"Well, yeah. They're lawyers after all."
Gunn slowly eased himself into a position at the window that would give him a good view of what was going on inside. Keeping to a corner to keep chances of being caught minimal, he saw a pretty blonde woman occupied at a table. The room was, as he'd expected, loaded with guards. At least fifteen were in view, and those coupled with the human and vampire guards he knew were around brought the number to roughly twenty-five. The woman slowly began to move away from the table, caressing what seemed to be a nail gun. Gunn had to crane his neck to see where she was going, but what he did see made his mouth go dry.
Angel was chained to a table; his entire torso covered in dark red streaks that were very obviously burns. As he was only a few meters from the window, a dark burn in the shape of a cross was also clearly visible on the ensouled vampires forehead. The woman was talking but, even though Gunn wasn't very far away, it was in such a breathy whisper that he could only make out every other word.
The woman began caressing Angel's feet, talking all the while. She had a dreamy, faraway look on her face; it was as if she weren't really there. She slowly knelt down in front of his feet, running a finger along the soles. Reaching in to her pocket she pulled out a box of matches, lighting one then watching the flame with a glint in her eyes. She slowly pressed the burning match to Angel’s foot, causing his body to jerk slightly. His feet were clasped firmly in place, unable to move the slightest bit. The match quickly went out and Darla lit another, repeating the action on the other foot.
After finishing her task she stood, moving back up towards Angel’s face. With what looked like a feeling of familiarity she licked his cheek, then moved back toward his feet and resumed her kneeling position. She slowly picked up the discarded nail gun from the floor, then placed it against the place where she burned him only moments before. Gunn watched helplessly as she slowly began to pull back on the trigger, as Angel attempted to prepare himself for what was coming.
Without warning, she suddenly shot a nail up through the base of Angel’s foot. He arched his head back and howled out in pain, frantically trying to release himself to no avail. Gunn attempted to reach into the window, in a vain attempt to do anything to help the vampire he considered his friend. His hand was blocked by an unseen force, unable to get any farther than where the glass used to be. Placing his palm flat against the invisible barrier, Gunn sat and watched as Darla prepared to shoot Angel again.
When Angel had finally calmed, so that he lay there and cringed with the pain, Darla shot him in the same place on his other foot. He bit back the howl that threatened to escape his mouth, instead screwing up his face so that his eyes and mouth were nothing but slits. Darla languidly ran a finger up his calf to his thigh, where she softly began to stroke him. The hand slowly moved closer and closer to his groin, which was only covered by a pair of black silk boxers. It finally reached its destination, Darla slipping the hand underneath the smooth fabric to the place on Angel she'd loved the most.
Gunn didn't want to see any more and looked away, feeling ill. He jumped down from his place on the wall and began walking back towards Cordelia and Wesley who were waiting expectantly.
"Well?" Cordelia asked as soon as he was in earshot. Gunn looked at her, then at Wesley, not really knowing what to say.
"He’s in there," he said simply.
"How is he?" Wesley asked slowly. Gunn didn't answer; he simply looked at his feet and shook his head.
"They have about fifteen guards in there, that I could see," Gunn said, changing the subject. Cordelia and Wesley accepted the change in focus, and both immediately started to think of plans. Both knew that those plans would need to include some residents of a small town two hours north.
"Time to assemble the Scooby Gang," Cordelia said with a total lack of enthusiasm.
"The who?" Gunn asked.
"Long story," Cordelia and Wesley replied in unison.
* * *
Darla continued to stroke him under his boxers, relishing in the feel of him in her hand. Angel shuddered at the touch, desperate not to become aroused. He'd never forgive himself if he let her do that to him. Darla smiled at his defiance, but knew that he would lose the battle he was having with himself. She playfully gripped him, stroking his entire length, making a point of running a nail along the underside. Angel couldn't help but gasp and she felt him going hard in her hand.
"Look at you," Darla said disgustedly, "for all your ‘soul’ crap you're still getting turned on by the person who just shot two nails through your feet. You used to be such a bad boy Angel, now you're nothing. Not even the hero you like to think you are."
She angrily tore away his boxers, leaving him completely bare in front of her. She gave his naked form an appraising once over before engulfing him hungrily, taking him as far as she could until he hit the back of her throat. Angel, despite himself, bucked up toward her, guiltily enjoying the feel of her mouth wrapped around him. She slowly began moving up and down on him, sucking all the way up, her cheeks hollowing with the effort. She soon began following the movement of her mouth with her skilled fingers, causing Angel to quickly lose control. In a couple of short minutes Angel was coming into her mouth, and Darla swallowed down the cold substance eagerly. Moving back up his body she smiled down at his face then kissed him as hard as she could, forcing him to taste himself. Angel’s face scrunched up with revulsion, disgusted with himself.
"Hmm, you know what I can't help but wonder? What your precious Buffy would think of what we just did."
"You leave her out of this," he said angrily.
"What’s the matter precious? I hit a nerve?" She asked as she began to stroke his wounded chest.
"What ever did happen with little Buffy by the way? Oh, I heard all about your ‘happiness clause’, your last little run as Angelus. You have no idea how sorry I am I missed that. But what I don't understand is why you would leave the poor little thing to come here and be all by your lonesome. So tell me Angel, why?"
"Because I love her," Angel rasped. Darla arched an eyebrow in amusement, then laughed.
"Oh of course you do. But you want me."
"No I don't."
"Please. You just proved you do. You proved it in our dreams…" she said as she licked his chest. Angel closed his eyes, trying to block the feeling of her tongue sliding down him. Darla climbed onto him, straddling his waist, and dug her nails into his shoulders. She clawed at him until she felt blood under her fingers then released him, again slowly moving down his body.
"You want me. You want this," she said in a husky voice. She slowly lowered her pants, leaving herself bare; completely uncaring that fifteen guards were watching the entire display. She began grinding herself down onto Angel, and he mentally cursed himself when he once again became hard. Darla positioned him at her entrance, then moved her head down to be able to whisper in his ear as she lowered herself.
"You like to think you aren't Angelus," she said as she slowly took him in, "but I know better. I've always known better. He is you. Think about it Angel; you're a killer. That’s basically all that you do. It’s all that you've ever been good at. The only difference now is that you kill your own kind."
She began to ride him, starting out slow then speeding up as she went along. Angel could barely contain his urge to scream at her to get off him. He was already humiliated that she'd managed to arouse him in the midst of everything that had happened, and beyond that a feeling of complete shame and guilt was overcoming him. With every stroke Angel felt a pang at his temples and tried to close his eyes against the feeling. He was almost managing to zone out when Darla mentioned the one thing she knew would gain his attention:
"Think about Buffy. How would she feel if she saw this," she whispered heavily into his ear. His eyes snapped opened and she giggled, lightly flicking his mouth with her tongue.
"Buffy has nothing to do with this," he spat, furious that she would mention her at a time like this.
"Oh, but she does. She has everything to do with this," Darla said as she continued to move on him. She began thrusting down with vicious strokes, clenching him in a perfected rhythm. Angel couldn't help but react to what she was doing to him; she'd had, after all, roughly two hundred years to get to know exactly what turned Angel on. She continued to pump and grind on him as they both began to lose control, Darla throwing her head back, allowing her orgasm to completely overcome her. Angel felt her muscles rippling around him and came in spite of himself, a feeling of hate surging within him. And it wasn't directed towards Darla.
She slowly eased herself off him, putting her pants back on. Angel lay on the bench, his body rigid. He'd vamped out during Darla’s activities, and was biting his bottom lip so hard that he'd cut deep into it.
"I'll be back later. Just think about how much fun we'll have," she purred as she slowly walked away. She moved to a small area outside the main room, where Lindsey was waiting for her.
"How'd it go?" he asked as he took a sip of his coffee. Darla merely smiled in response, a wistful look coming into her eyes.
"So it went well. Good. We have some news. Angel's little friends have found us, one of them, I believe his name is Gunn, took in a little show at the unguarded window. You mind telling me why you insisted on that?"
"I'm waiting for a special someone to show herself," she said, running her finger along the wall.
"Who would this special someone be?"
"The love of his life. I want her to see. I want them all to see."
"You mean Buffy? The Slayer?"
"Mmm, that’s when the real fun starts."
"I look forward to it."
"So do I."
* * *
"Concentrate on nothing but keeping yourself balanced," Giles said as Buffy stood on her hands in the center of her new training room behind the magic shop. She kept her eyes closed to keep everything around her at a distance, totally focused. Only Giles’ voice penetrated her consciousness. She kept her breathing slow and even and she felt completely relaxed, despite the fact that she'd been in this position for the last fifteen minutes. She was almost in a trance.
The trance was broken, however, when the phone rang. Her eyes snapped open and she rolled off to the side, settling in a sitting position. Willow, who'd been in the room watching Buffy train with Xander and Riley, raced off to answer the distraction.
"Hello?" she asked. The others in the room watched intently, eager to find out what had spoiled the moment.
"Oh, hey. How are you--?" Willow was cut off mid-sentence as whoever was on the other line continued to speak. Her mouth dropped open and she brought a small, shaking hand to her face.
"Oh my God…" she said as she listened. "Oh…oh…okay. I will, they're here. Okay."
She slowly put the phone down and turned back toward the expecting group. She scanned over all the faces before finally reaching Buffy, then looked away guiltily. Buffy’s attention was immediately sparked; for Willow to look away from her like that could only mean that something was very wrong.
Oh no, mom.
"Will, what is it? Is it my mom? Was that the hospital?" She leaned forward anxiously, fearing for her mother’s health. Willow shook her head and began playing with the buttons of her shirt.
"It’s not your mom. That was…that was Wesley," Willow said. She stopped for a moment, not quite sure how to continue. Everything he'd said seemed so strange. She was snapped out of her thoughts buy Buffy’s urgent plea.
"Will, what is it?" Buffy asked. By now she'd jumped up and was standing in front of her best friend, holding her firmly by the shoulders. The others were also now standing, each wanting to know why the LA crew would be calling Sunnydale.
"Well, um…we've got trouble," she said. She wanted to say more but, under Buffy’s intense stare, was having trouble finding the words. Giles, realizing this, gently pulled Buffy away, wrapping an arm around her in case she needed his support. Willow cleared her throat, ready to go on.
"Angel’s been abducted," she said. Seeing Buffy’s face fall with the news, she quickly went on. "He’s okay…well kinda. They know where he is."
"But…" Xander said. Willow threw him a frustrated glance then went on.
"But, he’s being…well he’s being tortured. And, from what Wesley told me it’s not…Darla’s back."
"What? How?" Xander asked.
"I don't know. Wesley said something about a law firm, Wolfram and Hart, bringing her back with the scroll of Abershe, or something."
"The Scroll of Aberjian? Are you sure that’s what he said?" Giles asked.
"Well, yeah. Why?"
"The scroll is said to contain many prophecies. It was supposed to have been lost."
"Would it have a ritual to bring back a vampire?" Willow asked.
"Its very possible. Though I can't imagine what lawyers would want with it. Or how they would get it. I'm starting to realize an awful lot of this doesn't make any sense whatsoever."
"Um, question," Riley said. "Who’s Darla?"
Everyone in the room turned to look at the former soldier.
"No time to explain," Willow said simply. "They need our help. They've got him in a church, but its protected. Heavily. And they have mystical barriers on the windows."
"Well, then we have work to do. Where do they want to meet us?" Buffy asked, all business and determined. She hadn't been lying all those months ago when she'd told Angel she was worried about him. The problem was he hadn't been wrong when he'd said she'd only come to get revenge on Faith.
"Angel's new place, a hotel."
"I know where it is," Giles said.
"So we go now and get Angel the hell out of there. We worry about the how’s and why’s later," Buffy said. Riley couldn't help but frown at Buffy’s urgency to help her ex. It was silly, he knew, as Buffy had always been determined to help him whenever he was in trouble. But as of late his insecurities were out of control, and watching her worry over someone else – specifically someone else who'd she'd loved, and quite possibly still did love, with all her heart – was doing nothing to ease his fears.
"Someone has to look after Sunnydale," he pointed out as the group began to leave.
"He’s right," Buffy said. "Pay Spike to do it."
With that they all turned and left. Riley stood alone for a moment then followed. He was going to help Buffy any way he could, whether she liked it or not.
* * *
"Hey, Will, what did Wesley tell you?" Buffy asked. She and Willow sat in the back seat of Giles’ convertible, with Tara in the front and Xander, Riley and Anya trailing them. Willow looked over at her friend then looked away.
"I told you," she said.
"No, no you left something out. Come on, you can tell me. What was it?"
"Um, well…you mean what is she doing to him right?"
"Yeah. I just…I need to know."
"Well, they didn't tell me much. They don't know much. A friend of Angel's saw some stuff. It sounds like Darla’s just getting started. But, it looks like they've used holy water…and crosses. And…" Willow stopped, the next part being almost too disturbing for her to say. "She shot nails up his feet."
Buffy flinched and frowned, biting her bottom lip. A part of her wondered why Wesley would tell Willow the details; then she realized it was to make sure they understood the severity of the situation. To make sure she'd come.
He can't think I wouldn't, she thought. Yes, she and Angel were long over, but that didn't mean she stopped caring. She would never stop caring.
Willow watched her friend become lost in thought, the focused her attention to the scenery. The rest of the ride was spent in silence.
* * *
I'm worthless. No matter how much good I do, I'll always have the blood of the people I killed on my hands. It’s wrong for me to ever think I can get redemption. It doesn't matter that my soul is bound, that I can be as happy as I like. I don't deserve to be.
I was always worthless. Darla points that out. She reminds me of my father, of how the man who made me saw it. He always knew I would amount to nothing. But I did become something. A killer. Someone who murdered and tortured for the amusement of it.
She’s reminding me of all the horrors I brought on Drusilla. She speaks my exact words on the night I made poor Dru a demon.
"Death, in the end, is so merciful isn't it?"
I'd said that. I'd gone on to say that if we made her one of us her torment would be eternal.
How can I ever expect to redeem myself when the worst of my crimes will be suffering until someone has mercy and shoves a stake through her now black heart?
I'm chained from the ceiling again, and Darla is caning me. My back feels like it’s on fire. It’s less than what I deserve. I deserve much worse. In the midst of all this I'd actually enjoyed myself. I'm disgusting. Darla pointed out that Buffy would never forgive me if she found out about what we'd done. Making me think of Buffy only made me feel that much worse. It reminded me that, even with a soul, all I ever did was hurt people.
I take every strike of the cane as punishment for every tear Buffy has shed because of me. The problem is that Darla will get tired of this before she strikes me enough. No matter how much she does it will never amount to how many times Buffy has cried because of me.
* * *
"Well, this is…big," Willow said as she stared at the former hotel. The group walked through the main entrance to find Cordelia, Wesley and who they assumed was Gunn flipping through a stack of books.
"Um, hey," Xander called somewhat nervously. He felt a little strange seeing Cordelia again after so long. The trio looked up from their reading and stood, walking towards them.
"Thank you for coming on such short notice," Wesley said. His eyes were locked on Buffy in a cold stare. She shifted uneasily under his gaze and nearly moved to hide behind Willow.
"Um, yes well we're glad to help. Angel would do the same for any one of us," Giles said. He'd noticed the look Wesley was giving Buffy and couldn't help but wonder what had brought this sudden hostility on.
"You're right, he would. Not that all of you would appreciate it," Cordelia said pointedly. Buffy felt as though she were under attack, and so shrunk away even more. Cordelia stopped and looked around the group, seeing new faces and one not so new.
"What’s she doing here?" she asked, indicating Anya.
"She my…she my girlfriend," Xander said hastily. Cordelia simply shrugged.
"You and demons I guess. What about these two?" she asked, this time looking towards Riley and Tara.
"Oh, um that’s Tara. She’s my girlfriend," Willow said shyly. Cordelia arched an eyebrow and Wesley’s jaw dropped.
"Girlfriend huh? Nice to meet you. Who’s he?"
"Hi, I'm Riley," he said, sticking his hand out. Cordelia’s look suddenly became hard, but she still took his hand and shook it.
"Oh, so you're Riley. Nice to finally meet the guy Buffy trusts, loves and knows," she said. Wesley had told her about what Buffy had told Angel, and ever since she'd had a burning hatred for the Slayer. Angel had given up everything for her and, even if she didn't remember one very significant sacrifice, she had no right to speak to him that way.
Buffy was feeling more and more unwelcome by the second. Finally irritated, she decided to speak up.
"You guys called me up here to help you remember? Now do you want it or not?"
"Not really. But as we have no other choice…" Wesley said.
"Fine, we save Angel then I'll be out of your hair."
"That’s the plan," Cordelia mumbled.
"What is with you guys? Buffy’s here to help," Willow said.
"Alright, enough. I don't know what's going on with you all, looks like I'm missing some serious back story, but I feel the need to remind you that we have a vamp to save," Gunn said.
"He’s right," Cordelia conceded. "Let’s get to work."
* * *
"You know Angel," Darla said as she circled him, "I just realized we missed out on a lot together. The world wars being one thing. The last hundred years have probably been the most eventful in the history of the world. And we didn't get to spend any of it together."
She walked over to where she was preparing a batch of hot pokers.
"I can't help but wonder how different things might have been if you'd never been given a soul. We would have had so much fun. Imagine the destruction." Pulling one of the red-hot pokers out of the fire she slowly moved back towards her childe. Angel tried to brace himself for the oncoming onslaught of pain but, from memory, nothing could prepare you for being run through with the pokers. He closed his eyes and simply waited.
Darla continued to speak as she circled him. For the last few hours she'd been tormenting him with memories. Among other things. But, as bad as she'd been, she was still saving her best for when the Slayer showed herself. Which, she guessed, would be soon. Hefting the poker in her hand, she decided she'd start out low. Licking her lips, eyes growing wide, she thrust the poker in to Angel’s thigh.
Angel let out a short scream of pain but quickly bit it back. He tried to internalize the pain as much as he could, which was becoming less and less the longer he was captured. He knew that Darla’s desire was to break him, to shatter him every way possible. At this point he was willing to let her if it meant ending the pain. He was snapped out of his thoughts by another bolt of searing pain through his other thigh. He kept his eyes closed and mouth shut, trying to use the agony to clear his head of Darla’s speeches from earlier. She had no idea how close she'd come to totally shattering his self worth. As strong as Angel was, even he had his limits. Limits that had been put to the test during his time in hell; limits that were currently undergoing the same endurance testing in the abandoned church.
Darla smiled as she watched him struggle to keep the pain internalized. She wondered why he bothered; everyone in the room knew how much it had to hurt and wouldn't blame him for screaming until his throat was raw. But, as amused as she was by his defiance, she wanted to hear him scream. Wanted to hear him scream in pain as much as she wanted him to scream her name in ecstasy. Both of which would come soon enough.
After she ran yet another poker through his chest, Angel finally wailed. A huge, bellowing scream that caused the surrounding walls to vibrate. Even the most hardened of the guards flinched and looked away. Darla herself averted her eyes.
They all were, after all, only human.
* * *
"This is the place?" Buffy asked as she studied the area. From where she was she could clearly see two men in suits standing outside the main entrance to the ruined church. Another four stood in various other positions around the once beautiful garden.
"Yeah. They have him at the other end of the church, where the altar used to be. Come on, let’s get moving," Gunn said, stealthily heading off to his left. Buffy followed, trailed by Xander, who had insisted that he come just in case. When Buffy had asked in case of what, his reply had been simple.
In case she needed someone to hold on to.
The trio moved quickly towards the south end of the church, careful to go unnoticed. Though they knew they would get to the broken window without any trouble, there was no point in taking unnecessary chances.
As they expected they reached the one unguarded section without incident. Gunn left Buffy and Xander alone at the window, deciding to keep watch at the fallen building where Cordelia and Wesley had hidden the night before.
Buffy and Xander piled pieces of rubble against the barely stable wall so that both of them could view what was going on inside. Xander watched Buffy as they worked, taking in the mixture of concentration, worry and plain fear that was etched across her face. Once they'd constructed a pile stable enough to hold both of them, and would allow them to sit, Xander walked over to her and grabbed her gently by the upper arm.
"Buffy…you heard what Gunn saw. If anything, what Darla’s doing to him would only have gotten worse. Look, you might have managed to convince everyone – even yourself – that you're over him, but I know better. And if what we see is…I need you to keep it together. I don't want to see you do anything that will get you hurt, or killed, because you're so desperate to save him. Angel would rather die than see that happen. Do you hear me? You need to keep it together."
"I know. I will, its just…" she trailed off, not quite sure what to say. Xander simply gave her a small, comforting smile showing he understood. She returned it, then began climbing the pile of rubble. Xander followed, and the two sat at the window, neither taking the first look in.
Until they heard Angel screaming.
* * *
"It’s about time Buffy showed up," Darla muttered as she violently pushed the poker sticking out of Angel chest to the side. Angel began to scream, his entire body jerking with the pain. Darla looked at the monitor that was out of the viewpoint of the window. Buffy was there, with a friend, and she had finally looked through when Angel had started to scream. Darla had been waiting for Buffy to show herself; she'd been holding off the tortures that she'd most been looking forward to until she had her desired audience. Which she now did.
Despite her eagerness, the time still wasn't right. When the time came she would finally crush the last specter of love and hope her Angel still held when it came to the little cheerleader.
But not now. Not until the Slayer was alone.
Darla sighed and decided she would have to settle for a more basic form of torture. One that would hurt the body, but not the soul of the man she had created more than two centuries before. Taking a moment to caress her childe’s exquisite face – now marred by burns and other abrasions – she moved off to what was affectionately known as her "toy chest", and picked up her Desert Eagle .05. She ran her finger along the cool, smooth metal of the gun. It reminded her of a certain part of Angel she planned to make good use of. Smiling at the thought, she turned and pointed the weapon at her prisoner. Allowing herself a quick glance at the window to be sure the Slayer was still watching, she fired.
* * *
Buffy couldn't do anything but blink as she saw the first bullet rip through Angel’s shoulder. Not even his howl of pain registered right away. It all seemed so distant; it was not until Xander placed a comforting arm around her shoulder that she was forced back to face the terrifying reality.
At that time she finally noticed the three pokers sticking out of him: one in his chest, two in his thighs. His eyes were swollen to the point where they were nearly shut; his face was covered in various other cuts and burns that made him barely recognizable. She allowed her gaze to sweep over him and saw that he was – to her slight embarrassment –completely naked.
The embarrassment quickly faded, however, when Darla fired her next shot, this time hitting him just below the poker in his chest. Darla tossed the gun to the side and gripped the poker with both hands. With one swift movement she yanked it out of him, though this time Angel did not make one sound save for a grunt. The poker had cooled while inside him; his flesh had stuck to the metal and, when it was pulled from him at last, it tore much of his insides with it. The pain was unfathomable, so much so that no amount of screaming would ever do it justice.
Both Xander and Buffy looked away after that, Xander covering his mouth to prevent himself from retching, Buffy clutching her stomach as an unidentifiable pain shot through it. By the time the two of them felt game enough to look back in to the once holy place, Angel had been chained to a table and the pokers in his legs had also been removed. Buffy took in the now much worse sight of him; his chest and thighs were now covered with torn flesh from where the pokers had been ripped out. A lump formed in the back of her throat as she watched Angel flinch away at Darla’s touch. Every inch of her ached with the need to simply run in and rescue him. But she could not do that. It was simply unrealistic to think that she could. They would find a way to save him but until then she would have to settle for simply watching him. Simply knowing he was alive was all she, or any of them, could cling to.
Buffy watched as Darla reached into her pocket and pulled out a small scalpel. She immediately knelt forward, terrified at what could possibly happen next.
She watched helplessly, as Darla slowly sliced open his abdomen. She watched as two nearby vampire guards came and pulled him open, allowing Darla to place a small cross inside the vampire.
Angel screamed out in agony. It was a guttural bellow, inhumane in its anguish. He writhed around on the table, slamming his head on the hard wood surface in a desperate attempt to knock himself unconscious. Darla stood back and smiled in satisfaction; she would only leave the cross in him until Buffy left, then she would feed him a small amount of blood to allow him to slightly heal. He would, after all, need his energy for what she had planned. Her eyes drifted towards the monitor, and she watched as the young man Buffy was with pulled her away.
"Buffy…Buffy come on," Xander said as he gently tugged on her shoulder. He had seen some horrible things in his time, and knew Buffy had seen worse, but that was simply too much. She did not react to him though, simply stared at Angel with her mouth hanging open, her face totally ashen. Xander gently turned her to face him and said quietly that they should leave. Buffy simply looked blankly at him, then nodded so slightly it could hardly be seen. He helped her down from the scrap heap they had built, keeping her steady as she shook. Part of it, he knew, was shaking with anger and determination to save the man who would do the same for her. But the larger part was the non-Slayer Buffy, the vulnerable and human side, trying to come to terms with what she had just seen. And failing. Not that Xander could blame her; he was having problems of his own dealing with it. And he hadn't even watched the most brutal parts.
The two slowly walked away, each trying to keep the images of a few minutes before from entering their minds, neither having too much success. Gunn, from his viewpoint, saw them walking away and from the looks of them Angel's suffering had gotten much, much worse. He'd guessed as much; he heard the vampires screams from where he was as clearly as if he'd been standing right next to him. He came out from his hiding place and stood in front of the two.
"Guards?" he asked, not wanting to be insensitive, but not really needing the details of what they'd seen.
"Huh?" Buffy asked. She'd been in her own universe, one far away from the ugly reality she'd found herself in during the last day.
"The guards? Any changes?"
"Oh, uh, no. It all looked pretty secure, I guess."
"We didn't really look," Xander admitted for her. Buffy gave him a grateful glance then turned her attention to her hands.
"Well, lets go for tonight. See if the other have come up with a plan. I'll come check on him tomorrow but right now we all need to get a little rest."
"No, no I'll come check on him tomorrow," Buffy said. Xander started to protest, but she silenced him with a simple wave of her hand. "I'm coming back tomorrow. Alone. It’s better that way, there’s less chance of being caught and I need to scope the place out anyway, to see what I'm dealing with."
"Buffy, you saw what-"
"Yeah, I did. We need to get him out of there, soon. Look, I know you think I won't be able to cope with seeing him like that but I can. I have to, otherwise I'm no good to him."
"Alright. Come on, let’s go," Xander said. With that the three left, leaving behind the echoes of Angel’s tortured wailing.
* * *
She’s making me drink from her.
She sliced across her hand and she’s making me drink the blood that’s pooled there. I feel sick, drinking from her like that. It’s just like how I turned Drusilla all those years ago; she didn't want to take my blood but I forced her in a final, humiliating act. There’s no dignity in being forced to feed.
Not that I deserve to have dignity, or have any left. As repulsed as I am by being forced to feed from her, I'm even more repulsed with myself for enjoying it. The blood of a sire was always so sweet in taste and – soul or not, human or not – that doesn't change. It reminds me that I am, like the guards that tore open my insides not more than a half-hour ago, nothing more than an animal. And, as Darla reminds me as she removes the cross, God himself doesn't want me. No matter if I have a soul or not. She tells me the He sees me for what I am: a repulsive beast, which does not deserve to even be able to touch a symbol which represents him.
She begins to tell me why Buffy and I were nothing more than doomed; Buffy was chosen to be part of the fight against darkness, I am darkness who fights it out of a selfish need to be accepted by the light I cant even walk in to. She asks me why I bother to fight so hard for the people who walk out into the sun, who enjoy the beauty of the earth while I cant even view it without having to shy away and stay hidden. She asks me why I fight for the light that I am constantly denied.
I try to tell myself that I should be doing it to make amends, to spare the people of today the same suffering I brought on the people of yesterday. That if I finally do earn my redemption I'll gain the humanity she wants nothing more than to rid herself of. But what good is that when, or if, I do become human I wont be able to have the only person I've loved in two hundred and fifty years?
It’s unclear when I might become a mortal man once again. It’s possible that by that time she will have totally moved on with her life and have a family of her own. Or worse, that she will have died. My family in LA will also move on eventually, or they'll be killed because of me like Doyle was. That brings me to another point:
What kind of savior am I if the people I love die because of their involvement with me?
I'm starting to understand what Darla has been trying to tell me. I'm starting to see that my existence isn't really worth it. I was right Christmas Eve on the hilltop.
The world wants me gone. Fighting is too hard. I'm weak and it’s all I've ever been.
My reason for being is because I'm a convenient ally to the powers whose cross I can't even touch.
Darla promises that she'll end all the pain. That soon she'll make it end.
She’s going to give me to oblivion. It won't be soon enough.
* * *
"Plan?" Gunn asked as he, Buffy and Xander walked in to the lobby of the former hotel. The group had been looking up spells, preparing weapons and going over the layout of the church as they tried to come up with an adequate assault.
"Not quite," Giles said as he removed his glasses and massaged the bridge of his nose.
"What do you mean ‘not quite’?" Buffy asked quietly, but angrily. Willow quickly took notice that Buffy didn't look so good and that Xander, though he was hiding it more effectively, looked much the same.
"What he means is we have roughly five or ten vampires, no big, but then we have human guards and a bunch of other as yet unidentified demons. They could kill Angel the second they see us all ready to attack. And lets not forget the one conveniently unguarded window where you get the best view of what’s going on inside. A little sus, wouldn't you say?" Cordelia finished. She'd been growing increasingly frustrated as the group researched and prepared. It all seemed to be a waste of time; they didn't know what they were supposed to research, or what they were preparing for.
"What we need to know is which kinds of demons are surrounding Angel, how to stop them. It needs to be done exceptionally fast and without much warning. As Cordelia said it would be very easy to kill Angel as soon as they were aware of our presence. Another concern is the barriers that we assume are guarding all the entrances. Breaking them could be extremely difficult, and it’s possible that breaking them would set off any sort of alarm," Giles said.
"Okay. Tomorrow morning I'll go check the place out again. I'll get a description on as many demons as I can, and then we can get some real work done," Buffy said as she tiredly moved off to her room. Riley jumped up and grabbed her by the shoulder.
"Hey, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just tired."
"Okay, lets get you to bed."
"No, that’s okay. I just…I wanna be alone."
Riley looked away, disappointed that she seemed to be pushing him away. Again. He swallowed hard and nodded, as he turned away from her and headed back towards the rest of the group. Willow, however, didn't leave her alone. She followed Buffy down the hallway into her room.
"Buffy, whatever you saw, you need to talk about it."
"No, look I'm fine I just need to-"
"Block it out? You know you cant. Buffy you look terrible."
"I'm pretty sure its nothing compared to how Angel looks," Buffy whispered so quietly that Willow hardly heard her. She frowned in sympathy for her, then reached out and pulled her into a hug. The Slayer slumped against her best friend, burying her face in to her shoulder.
"We need to get him out of there," she murmured.
"We will," Willow vowed, stroking her back. "What did you see in there?" she asked as she led Buffy to sit on the bed. Buffy leant against the headboard and closed her eyes, as though she were going back to the old church. Soon her face was scrunched up in the tell tale sign of someone about to cry, and Willow quickly grabbed on to her hands, urging her to share what she had seen.
"He was…he was chained up. Totally covered with burns and cuts. He had…pokers, sticking out of him. One in his chest, one in each leg. She…she tore them out. She shot him, then she tore them out. We stopped watching for a couple of minutes. When we looked back she had him chained to a table. She-" Buffy stopped as the words hitched in her throat. What had happened next was horrifying to say the least. She felt the tears begin to roll down her cheeks. Willow pulled her into another hug, Buffy resting her head on her shoulder as she finally continued.
"She cut him open. His stomach. Then two guards came over and pulled him open, so that Darla…so that she could put a cross in him. They let him go and…he was screaming so much Will," Buffy said in a broken voice. Willow had tightened her grip on her friend while she had related the events to her. Even she had begun to feel queasy, and she hadn't even seen it. Buffy had started to softly sob against her, and Willow stroked her back and placed a small kiss on the top of her head. She knew there was nothing she could say that would offer much comfort. A promise that they would bring Angel to safety meant nothing; Willow knew that all Buffy would think was that, at that very moment, Angel would be suffering tortures that they wouldn't dare to think of. Instead she sat and held her, letting her sleep in her arms, hoping that her presence might be able to keep the nightmares that awaited her at bay.
* * *
The group sat in stunned silence as Xander finished describing what he and Buffy had seen earlier that night. Cordelia and Wesley sat on the couch together, Wesley with his arm around her. They were Angel’s family, and both looked as though they had been told their favorite brother had died. Which was very close to the truth. The effect the news had was not lost on the rest of the group, those who had known Wesley and Cordelia from Sunnydale especially.
Giles sat, brow furrowed, disturbed by the news not only for Angel or his ‘family’, but because Buffy had witnessed the torture. For all their moving on, Buffy and Angel still cared deeply for each other. It was a different form of caring than that of two years before, but the deep feelings were ever present and would always be there.
Everyone else looked equally disturbed. Save Anya whom Giles imagined had been the cause of acts much worse than those described by Xander. Riley, he noted, looked like he was ready to kill something. The boy stood and stalked off, heading towards the kitchen. Giles stood and followed, curious as to what he was thinking.
He walked in just in time to see the former commando pound on the bench.
"Oh, hey Giles," he said, looking embarrassed.
"You'll understand when I ask what’s wrong."
"Guess you haven't got me pegged as someone who'd be too upset over Angel being tortured."
"Well, generally speaking…" Giles said. Riley smiled slightly and looked down at his now bruised hand.
"Buffy loves him. She cares about him. And I hate that she saw him being butchered like that. Angel…she’s told me about him. About all the sacrifices. And I realize that if it weren't for him, I'd never have had a chance with her. Either because she'd be dead, or they'd still be together. And I think about how lucky I am. That Buffy has someone who loves her so much he would give up anything for her. I owe Angel. Maybe his shadow will always be hanging over me, but I owe him. I'm not so ego centric that I cant see what’s right in front of me. And it makes me angry, that the guy who gave up so much, that Buffy will always love, is always getting stuff like this in return," Riley said. Giles stood quietly for a moment then gave a small smile.
"That may very well be the most mature view on Angel I've heard," he said. Riley didn't react, simply continued to look down at his hand. Finally, he looked Giles in the eye.
"I'm going to bed. I'll see you tomorrow."
* * *
The rest of the night had passed slowly and quietly. Buffy got up just after sunrise, leaving Willow to sleep. She was grateful to her friend for staying with her; what she had seen the night before was simply too much to handle on her own. Walking in to the kitchen, she saw Cordelia sitting quietly with a cup of coffee.
"Hey," she said awkwardly. Cordelia drowsily lifted her head, dark circles under her eyes.
"You couldn't sleep either?" she asked.
"Not really, no," Buffy said. She made her way over to the fridge, getting herself some juice. Sitting at the table with the former May Queen, she brought a shaking hand to her face, rubbing her tired eyes.
"I keep thinking about what he must be going through. That, while I'm sleeping, anything could be happening to him," Cordelia confided. Buffy looked at the girl, the same girl who had seemed so shallow and cold back in high school.
"I know. Every time I close my eyes, I see him…the way he was. We're going to get him back," Buffy promised.
"We have to."
"You've gotten really close haven't you," Buffy said. It was a statement, not a question, and Cordelia met her gaze steadily.
"We have. This isn't just a business; it’s a family. Angel’s been there for us when we needed him. I'm a better person just for knowing him. And if he dies now, like this and after all he’s done and what he might gain, I'm just gonna say to hell with the PTB."
"You won't have to. I'm gonna go, check out which demons we'll be up against. Can you tell Giles?"
"Um, yeah. Shouldn't you take someone with you? As backup?"
"Yeah. I'll ask Willow and Tara to keep an eye on things for me. They should be able to stay hidden pretty well. Besides, I don't think they want to catch us."
"I've been wondering about that. There had to be more to this than rubbing out faces in the fact we cant get to him."
"I know. But whatever their plan is, the longer they keep Angel alive the better," Buffy said as she went to get the two Wicca’s. Cordelia watched her go and wondered, despite her feelings for Angel, if Buffy was right.
* * *
"You guys are just gonna stay back here and make sure no demons catch us by chance," Buffy instructed Willow and Tara and she walked towards the church. Wesley had seen her on her way out and declared that he would be coming along, despite Buffy’s protests. The two walked towards to scrap heap that had been left behind, each dreading what they would see.
Inside the church a guard informed Darla that the Slayer had again arrived. With company. She swore under her breath; she didn't want anyone dragging Buffy away from they show she had planned.
Oh well. Looks like Angel has to wait a little longer.
Buffy and Wesley looked in, both relieved to see that Angel was, at least for now, being left alone. The two quickly took notes on all demons they saw, Wesley identifying some at a glance. Buffy was preoccupied though; she had a very clear feeling that something was not right. It very much resembled the calm before the storm, and who knew what the result of that storm would be. She needed to know.
She saw Darla emerge from a room to her left, a sickeningly sweet smile playing across her lips. Something was definitely going to happen, and Buffy decided that she would be there for it, unknowingly acting as the catalyst to what Darla was referring to as "the grand finale".
"Go meet with the others. Research all these demons and figure out a way to beat them. I'm going to stay here and keep an eye on things," she commanded.
"Buffy, your staying here would-"
"Don't argue. I've got a bad feeling, and I'm not gonna leave."
"Don't do anything rash," Wesley said, genuinely concerned. Buffy simply nodded in acknowledgment, then indicated for Wesley to leave. He did so, and Buffy turned her attention back to the former altar.
Darla’s eyes were glued to the monitor at her right. The man had left, and Buffy had leaned forward, clearly settling in. She smiled more fully, then turned towards the guards.
"Leave," she commanded. They looked uncertainly at each other, until Lindsey repeated the order.
"The lady wants you out, you're out," he said as they filed out of the room. He turned to Darla and raised an eyebrow.
"I take it you're going to need some alone time," he said with barely disguised jealousy. Darla’s smile remained in place as she moved towards him, slowly running her hands along his chest.
"That means you too," she told him gently, before shoving him away. He looked at her for a moment then left, an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. He didn't want her to be with Angel. From the moment he'd first laid eyes on her he'd wanted her for himself. As he'd taken care of her over the months he'd been growing more and more attached, something he'd come to realize was fast turning into a weird form of love. But his own feeling on that matter didn't count for anything; the only reason Darla was back was so she could get Angel off the firm’s back. And now that she had her desired audience ready and waiting he knew better than to ruin it with his interference.
Darla watched Lindsey go then turned her attention back to her prisoner. The moment she'd been waiting for had finally arrived. She slowly made her way back to him, undoing his chains. Angel let out and unneeded breath as he prepared to, once again, be extended from the ceiling. That generally was where Darla became her most creative; with full access to his body she could do whatever she wanted and more. He kept his eyes closed tightly and was surprised when the usually rough she shackling didn't come. Instead Darla’s smooth hands caressed his chest and she leant down, coaxing him to sit up. Angel wasn't even sure he could, didn't think that after all he'd been through he would be able to move under his own strength.
Darla watched him struggle to sit up for a moment, then took pity on him. If he couldn't get up, then he wouldn't be able to ‘get up’, as she really needed him to. Sighing she gave him a small injection of what she was told would give him at least some strength. Some sort of stimulant is what the Holland had said. She sat back for a couple of minutes, waiting for it to take effect as she watched Buffy on the monitor. The look of worry etched on her face boosted Darla’s enthusiasm and she eagerly turned back to Angel who was slowly regaining his bearings.
"Hey there precious," she said in a breathy voice. He clutched at himself as he sat up to look at her, the pain slowly fading, the world becoming sharper once again. If he didn't know better he would have attacked and tried to escape. He knew the drug was only temporarily making him feel better. He eyed Darla warily as she walked toward him, not liking the brand new gleam in her eyes.
"You're probably wondering why I told everyone to leave and made you feel all better. Well, thing is Angel, I want us to have some fun. Real fun. And I want the girl you staked me for to see it."
Angel’s eyes widened as he listened to her. He allowed her to lead him around a corner, and he looked down at a monitor that showed the one person he least wanted to see. He angrily turned to Darla, a threat at his lips, but before he could say anything she calmly placed a finger over him mouth.
"There are guards all around her. Do anything and she’s dead…or worse," she said dangerously. Angel knew the meaning behind her words all too well. Who knew what she would do to Buffy? Hanging his head in defeat, he asked simply:
"What do you want?"
"Oh, I think you know. I'm sure you know. You see, your little Buffy’s watching us, maybe she could learn something…"
Angel’s head snapped up at what she was suggesting. He shook his head frantically.
"That’s right, Angelus," she purred seductively. She leaned to his ear, then in the same tone said the words she been desperate to utter.
"You're gonna fuck me like you used to do. Now."
From her place at the window, Buffy had seen but not heard the exchange. She saw all of Angel’s reactions, seen him back away from something that was out of her viewpoint. Seen him angrily turn to Darla and then hang his head as though he had given up. She was alarmed that he had given in so easily, that the burst of fight had disappeared as quickly as it had come.
Her mind was screaming for him to do something, to take his chance now that none of the guards were around. The screaming fast changed from being for him to at him, her despair mounting as she saw him roughly grab the back of Darla’s head and crush her lips to his own.
What is he doing? her mind cried out as she saw his hands begin to roam over Darla’s willing body. He kept savagely kissing her, moving down her throat until he reached her shoulder.
"That’s right, you better be damn convincing," Darla said, luxuriating in his arms. All talk stopped as she attacked his own shoulder with her mouth, gently biting him. Angel roughly removed her top, leaving her chest bare to him. He quickly attacked her breasts, while pushing her against the table on which he'd experienced more tortures than he cared to think about. It had all been nothing, however, compared to what was happening now. He had to keep telling himself that Buffy’s life was hanging in the balance. That no matter if she hated him – which he was sure she would – at least she would be alive.
Darla threw her head back as Angel continued to roughly lick and suck at her nipples one at a time, while teasing the other between his fingers. It was at a time like this that she realized how much of a useful trait not needing to breathe was. Her chest heaved as Angel’s hand made its way down to the throbbing center, and she practically jumped when he finally made contact through her underwear. She fumbled to remove her skirt, anything to give him easier access. Angel pulled away and did it for her, almost tearing it off. He resumed his earlier ministrations on her breast as he began to massage her sex in earnest, regrettably becoming hard as he felt the moisture through the fabric. He watched as she writhed under him, so close to orgasm, before he finally slid a finger under her panties and into her core, making her topple over the edge. She bucked under him and cried out his name, riding her orgasm until she though she might faint from the power of it. Yet another drawback to being a human. She pushed his hand away and roughly began kissing him again, removing her last barrier.
"Go down on me," she commanded, and he obliged.
Buffy watched it all with tears streaming down her face. Here they were, trying to save him, while he was having a good time. Her mind couldn't process what she was seeing. It couldn't make the connection from this to the night before. It almost seemed surreal. Watching Angel doing these things and getting…she could see the reaction it was having on him. Darla’s cries of his name cut into her heart like a thousand shards of glass. Seeing them together was almost more than she could take. But she couldn't look away. For some reason that she couldn't fathom she was glued in place. Her stomach lurched as she saw him move his head down between her thighs, watched as it moved and Darla squirmed beneath him. She was ready to be sick any minute.
Angel gripped on to Darla’s hips to hold her in place, keeping her to his mouth. With Buffy’s life at stake he knew he'd better keep her satisfied. From memory if he didn't please her there was hell to pay. Luckily, over their many years together, she had taught him. Judging from the reaction his ministrations were having on her you might think she'd taught him a little too well. As he swept his tongue over her clit she bucked against him and slammed her head to the table, crying out as her pleasure became almost unbearable. He sealed his lips over her bundle of nerves and aggressively sucked on it, ramming two fingers into her and beginning to pump. She came hard into his mouth, screaming out and trying to move herself away from him. With his free arm he held her down, holding her to him as his fingers worked at jackhammer pace. As she began to come again he added a third finger, increasing his speed to the point where his hand was nothing more than a blur of motion. She came painfully this time, trying to push his head away. It was all for nothing, though. Angel kept up his pace, not slowing down, until he had her coming a fourth, then a fifth time. Darla cried out for him to stop, desperately needing a break. He wouldn't let up and just kept going, his hand starting to ache with the effort. By orgasm number six it was nothing more than agony. She reached behind her and tried to pull away but without her vampire strength was simply unable to. She managed to get all of two centimeters away before she was pulled back. Angel was, if possible, even more aggressive after her escape attempt. He took her clit between his teeth and nibbled on it as he sucked, even began humming. He kept going with his hand and, with one final shriek of his name, she passed out. Angel sat back on his heels and looked down at his barely recognizable body. With disgust he looked down at his hardness, then at the wounds which surrounded it. If he even got out of this situation he knew he wouldn't be able to explain to Buffy. He only hoped that she wasn't still watching. Darla had already made him see how worthless he truly was but, if he saw the hatred Buffy would surely have from him in her eyes, he didn't know if he would be able to cope. He was snapped out of his thoughts by Darla’s hand resting on his shoulder, and he looked up into her once again smiling face.
"You know what I want now," she whispered. Tears rolled down his face as he stood and let her lead him to the other end of the table. She bent over the edge of it, then craned her neck and watched as he position himself behind her.
Buffy was in so much pain she didn't know what to do. Part of her wanted to scream, another wanted to bawl, another wanted to vomit, and another wanted to crawl away and forget she ever knew him. She didn't do any. Instead she sat and continued to watch silently, only occasionally making a hitching sound from the back of her throat where a massive lump had formed. Never in a million years had she expected to see this. Not ever. A small part of her hoped that after Darla had passed out that would be it. That they wouldn't go any farther. Naïve as it was, she couldn't help but hold the small hope that they wouldn't do the one thing she'd wanted nothing more than to do since her seventeenth birthday. Her hopes were dashed when Darla led him to the end of the table facing directly to her. She watched as Angel positioned himself and, even through the mess of cuts, bruises and burns his face had become, saw the look of pure lust on his face as he moved into her. She shook her head and clutched at her stomach, denial firmly taking hold.
"No…" she whispered. All the pain of the last few years resurfaced. What she'd desperately wanted from him, but knew she couldn't have, he was now giving to someone else.
Angel shook as he eased inside her wet heat from behind. She'd always loved this position, and he'd have been lying if he said he didn't also. The only problem was the situation. He was praying, in the back of his mind, that Buffy wasn't watching. A prayer he knew would be unanswered; God didn't want him. He deserved to have Buffy hate him. He was a worthless being, no better than the brethren he had shunned for the last century were. A gut-wrenching despair flooded through him, and he viciously began to pound into his sire, pouring out all of his pain and anger into his thrusts. It was gruesome in its violence; years of pain and regret, all for what? Nothing. The Powers that he served wouldn't allow him to touch their symbol, or have the woman he loved. He'd made sacrifices; bled and died for the world that did not want him. A world that despised him so much he wasn't allowed to be seen in its natural light. He had no kind of his own, didn't belong to even the demons he had fought so hard against. No place to belong. Until he thought that, before the curse, this was where he belonged. With Darla. Inside her and making her cry out his name.
He impaled her with a force that came as a shock. She had never had it so rough, even when he was simply Angelus, the Scourge of Europe. She struggled to find the pleasure as he continued to harshly fuck her, moving herself forward to try and lessen the impact. Angel wouldn't have any of it; he gripped her sides and slammed her back to him with one arm, as he snaked the other around her waist to manipulate her clit. She jolted upwards when his hand found its target, almost to the point that they were both standing. She arched her back into him, her panting out of control. She reached behind her and grabbed his head, craning her neck to kiss him fiercely. He returned it with a vampiric growl, morphing to his game face. He sunk his fangs into her neck and finally they both came, Darla with a scream of his name, Angel with a feral roar. He continued to pump into her until he simply couldn't go any longer, when both collapsed. Angel lay on top of her, his exhaustion overcoming him. Part of that, he knew, was from the drugs wearing off. Darla squirmed out from beneath him – completely satisfied – and slowly eased his body back so that she could once again have him chained. Angel was too tired to fight her and let her shackle him once again. Once done she lay down beside him, wrapping herself around his wounded body.
Buffy watched the sickening display with a broken heart. She slowly turned away and sat with her back against the old brick wall. She didn't know what to do. She didn't even know if she wanted to save him. Of course she knew she should and would, but the feeling of betrayal was more than she could stand. Through everything, especially after he'd left her, she at least knew he'd always love her, that he would never betray that love. That in his way of thinking it was her or nothing.
She sat with her head in her hands for the next few minutes. Unable, or unwilling, to move or think. Standing beside the pile of rubble she threw up, violently ridding herself of anything she'd recently eaten. There was no way she could keep it down, not after that. Slowly she got up and walked away, her mind blank. Her heart in pieces.
* * *
"So we have two unidentified species of demons, but otherwise a good grasp of what we're against," Giles said.
"That’s pretty much the gist of it," Willow agreed.
"And Buffy is where?" Xander asked.
"Still at the church, she insisted," Wesley replied. They'd already told the group of Buffy’s whereabouts but none of them, not even Wesley himself, understood.
"So, she stayed. To see Angel get tortured," Anya added. Former demon as she was, the cause of many a twisted revenge, not even she could understand this.
"I don't know, he looked like he was having fun to me," Buffy said from the door. She was leaning against the frame, hugging herself tightly. Willow was once again on best friend alert, standing and walking towards her. Buffy didn't meet her gaze and stared at the floor. Willow gently took her by the arm and led her to her room. Closing the door behind them she finally coaxed Buffy into looking her in the eye. It was all it took. Buffy slumped against the wall and slid down to the floor, huge, heaving sobs crashing through her. Willow quickly sat beside her, cradling the obviously crushed Slayer as she bawled. She'd never witnessed Buffy like this. Not even after Angel had broken up with her.
"Buffy, what happened? What did you see?" Willow asked softly. It only made Buffy cry harder, to the point that she was almost choking. She began to cough violently, until her crying finally eased. She didn't stop but the tears were now silent, pouring down her face in what seemed to be an endless stream. Now lying on her side, head resting in Willows lap, she shakily tried to tell her what had happened.
"He…I saw him…they were together," she said, her voice raspy. Willow frowned, not fully understanding what she meant.
"Well, yeah Buffy, I mean he is her prisoner and all."
"No, I mean together," Buffy said, her voice straining.
"Oh, oh you mean…Buffy are you sure?"
"Yes I'm sure! I saw it! I saw him…" she stopped as her voice broke, more sobs threatening to escape. Willow’s eyes widened in shock as she finally took in what Buffy had said.
"Oh, Buffy I'm sure there’s an explanation…" she said. Buffy snorted and gave a humorless bark of laughter.
"What do you want to do?" she asked.
"I'll still help him. He’s…important. But I don't…I cant…"
"I understand. I didn't know how to react when I saw Oz and Veruca. It hurt so much that I couldn't cope. But you'll make it Buffy. I know you will. And if you ever feel like you cant, you know I'll be with you."
Buffy sniffed and nodded, raising her head off Willows lap. She ran a shaking hand over her face, trying to get it together. Willow’s sympathy grew as she took in the sight of her. Her eyes were red a swollen, her cheeks covered with tears. Buffy whimpered and hugged her knees to herself, the pain still too fresh to have even eased. Willow kept holding her, and the two didn't react when the door opened.
"Um, I don't wanna interrupt, but we have a plan," Xander said uneasily. The two girls merely nodded in response and he quietly left, knowing better than to push. After a few minutes Willow spoke up.
"We should go see what the plan is. Then we can go back to Sunnydale and a huge tub of Ben & Jerry’s, okay?"
"Okay," Buffy whispered. Willow stood, helping the Slayer to her feet, and they went to join the others.
* * *
She saw it all. She sat and watched while I had my way with Darla.
It’s all on tape. All of her reactions. All caught on hidden cameras. The look of agony on her face is more than I can stand. Darla tells me that this is all I've ever done to her. That all I've done is break her heart.
Even the person I love, she tells me, does nothing but suffer when I'm near.
She makes me watch from different angles. She rewinds and pauses on the worst expressions. The drugs from before have worn off, and Darla’s been torturing me some more, but I know the pain I'm feeling is nothing compared to Buffy’s.
This is all I've done to her. I take away all the happiness from her beautiful eyes. Even our one special day together ended in nothing but a sea of her tears.
Everyone I met over the course of a century had his or her lives ruined by me. Unlike most monsters, my victims weren't nameless faces. I knew them, often befriended them, only to take everything away. But they were strangers. They meant nothing to me; they were simply a source of amusement, things for me to play with.
Buffy is the love of my life. And I never gave her any happiness that I didn't take away.
* * *
Buffy sat dejected as she listened to the others go over the attack for what seemed to be the fiftieth time. Everyone had more or less left her alone, knowing what had happened, Willow quietly telling them. Riley especially kept his distance, not wanting to crowd her and knowing that he wasn't what she needed anyway.
The plan of attack was simple; during the day so the only vampires present would be the ones inside, Willow and Tara would perform a spell to kill one breed of demon, while Cordelia and Anya performed another. Gunn, Buffy, Giles, Riley, Wesley and Xander would attack once the demons fell, Willow casting another spell to break the mystical barriers on the windows, Tara doing another for protection. As the group collected the weapons or ingredients that would be need, Giles went over to Buffy who still hadn't moved.
"I know what happened," he said softly. Buffy winced and turned her face away from him, not wanting him to see the tears threatening to spill.
"Buffy…I'm not going to sit here and pretend I understand. I couldn't possibly and to be honest I wouldn't want to. I just want you to remember that despite what you're feeling, we're here to help him. Just as he would do for you. And I've no doubt that there is an explanation for his actions." Buffy turned her sad face towards him.
"And if there isn't?"
"Then…after we rescue him, I'll help you give him a good thrashing," he said softly. Buffy gave him a small smile and closed her eyes. Giles reached up and stroked her hair, keeping his own fury in check for the sake of his suffering Slayer.
Angel bloody well better have a good explanation he thought as he watched her chew on her bottom lip. Far too many times had he seen his Buffy in pain because of the vampire with a soul. The difference this time was what had caused the pain.
"Oh, the curse!" Willow suddenly blurted. Everyone, including Buffy, turned to look at her.
"What about it?" Wesley asked.
"The happiness clause. What if, because of…well you know, what if he’s lost his soul?" All of the Sunnydale gang looked alarmed, none of them having thought of that occurrence.
"Oh, that’s not a problem. Wesley fixed that right up," Cordelia said.
"What?" Buffy asked.
"We had this little problem a few months ago, where Angel turned into Angelus cause of drugs or something. So Wesley took that happiness clause right out of there. Just to be on the safe side."
Buffy felt like she'd been punched in the gut. After seeing him with Darla she thought she couldn't have felt any worse. How wrong she was. Now, knowing his soul was permanent, that they could express all the suppressed desires they'd had over the last couple of years and that he didn't want her made her feel much worse. A million thoughts ran through her mind. She wanted to know if he had been with anyone since then. If he had even considered coming to her to tell her. Why he hadn't. Her mind shot back to the day she'd come to LA to help him with Faith, to what she'd seen upon entering his old apartment. Just what had they been doing? How far would they have gone if she hadn't shown up? She looked up to see all eyes on her, waiting for her reaction. Her gaze rested on Wesley.
"Why didn't he tell me?" she asked in a small voice. He seemed to harden, not letting her clear hurt touch him.
"Need I remind you of your last visit to Los Angeles? I'd say its pretty self explanatory."
"So that’s it? I say a few things because I was hurt and I get punished for it?"
"Let me be the one to say ‘now is not the time’. Again I pretty much don't know what you're talking about, from the looks of it no one else knows either, but whatever it is it can wait until after we get him out of there. Then you can have your little drama, but no until," Gunn ordered.
"He’s right," Wesley said as he hefted an axe, "We'll discuss this later."
"Everyone ready?" Cordelia asked. Getting nods of confirmation, she took a deep breath.
"Okay. Lets go."
* * *
By the time the barriers were broken Xander was unconscious with a vicious blow to the back of the skull, while Giles had numerous slashes across his face. The rest of the group also had their fare share of wounds but, with the protection spell Tara has performed, they were relatively minor. They fought there way in to the ruined church, meeting a series of demons they hadn't been prepared to face. One of them had enormous claws that managed to give Wesley a gash across the ribs, another spat fireballs. While the battle was being fought inside, outside Willow had brought Angel’s car to the side of the building, top up, awaiting its owner.
Buffy left the group to battle the last of the vampires on their own, knowing that they would be able to handle it. She ran out to the side of the building where she jumped and climbed through one of the shattered windows, coming face to face with Darla.
"Hello, sweetie," she said in her breathy voice. Buffy stood fully and glared at the woman who she thought was a vampire.
"Where is he?" she asked.
"Right where you saw him last. I have to say I'm surprised you're still here to save him. After the little show we put on for you I would've thought you'd leave him to die."
Buffy’s eyes narrowed and she kicked Darla square in the jaw.
"You thought wrong."
She began a brutal series of kicks and punches that had the other blond sprawling.
"Not so tough when you don't have a person all chained, are you?" she asked as she gave her a solid kick to the stomach.
"You won't kill me," Darla said weakly.
"Don't bet on that," Buffy said as she continued to pound on her. She jumped her, straddling her waist, raining blow after blow. She never heard Angel’s weak cry for her to stop. Or rather she did, but never knew the meaning behind it. She thought he was pleading with her for the sake of his lover, not because she was about to do the unthinkable.
"Go back to Hell," she said. She reached behind her and pulled a stake from her jeans, plunging it in to her heart. Darla let out an odd cry, and she began to spit up blood. Buffy looked down at her, stunned. Where a pile of dust should have been there was instead a human futilely struggling to survive.
"Oh, God…" she whispered as Darla’s hands flew up to her chest. Buffy quickly got off her and helplessly pressed at the wound. She took off the jacket she'd been wearing and placed it under the dying woman’s head, knowing that there was nothing she could do to save her life. Darla placed her hand over Buffy’s and looked her in the eye, saying nothing.
The rest of the group suddenly burst through the doors, ready for combat, none of them expecting the scene that awaited them. They watched as Darla shook, taking in what were at last her final breaths, and quietly died.
Buffy sat and stared at the prone body for what seemed an eternity. The rest of the group stood silently, taking in the scene. Angel, with a knife sticking out of his chest, burns of crosses and other marks covering him to the point where he was unrecognizable, was suspended from the ceiling behind the dead body of his sire, and the woman he loved with a frightening intensity. Cordelia was the first to move, making her way towards Angel. Gunn and Wesley followed, and together the three lowered the vampire from the ceiling. He hung limply in their arms, and slowly they walked out to the waiting car. The others watched them go, except Buffy who couldn't stop staring at the body in front of her. She couldn't have looked at Angel anyway; there was simply too much to deal with.
Willow knelt beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. It had been an excruciating couple of days. Giles came next, and together they walked Buffy away from the grizzly scene. The others were left behind to stare at the ruin that surrounded them.
Just how Buffy or Angel would be able to cope was anyone’s guess. All they had been through would no doubt leave its mark on them, and the people who surrounded them.
Giles knew that what had happened was a part of a greater plan. One that would spell big trouble for them if the trauma inflicted had the desired effect, which he suspected it had. He couldn't help but think that the duties Buffy was meant to perform would suffer as a result.
No doubt a victorious day for vampires, demons and the forces of darkness.