disclaimer in part 1
Spike stood behind Buffy and settled his hand in her hair. Her head was tipped down and strands of her hair slipped out of the loose ponytail that held it. Her arms were tied behind the chair, her legs were tied in front. The poison from the knives still held her unconscious. Helpless. He stroked her head.
Darla had taken the others out for a feeding frenzy before the serious work started. She'd left one demon behind to guard the door. Not so much to keep anyone from coming in as to keep Spike from letting a certain someone out. Darla had never been much for trust.
Spike circled around to face Buffy. He looked down at her tiny form, at the blood that stained her cheekbone and soaked through her shirt. He wasn't sure whether to be offended that Darla would ever think he'd let the Slayer go, or to laugh at the idea that one demon would be able to stop him if he did decide he wanted to free her. Hell, even half conscious, Buffy could take care of one demon on her own.
All he'd have to do was cut the rope.
And a part of him wanted to. He knelt in front of her, leaning in against her knees. His fingers traced over her lips. It had become a habit. Helping her. Doing what he knew she would want him to. Trying to win her approval. Hoping that one day, if he kept pretending he was one of them, she would stop seeing him as a monster. He'd pretended for her for so long that he'd almost convinced himself it was true. That he was like her. He pushed a strand of hair behind her ear.
If he let her go now, she'd owe him. There was no one else to find her. No one else to save her. Not even Angel. All he had to do was cut the rope, and she'd take care of the rest herself. She'd have to thank him. She'd have to care. If he let her go now...
Nothing would change.
She wouldn't love him. He'd never be like her.
He wasn't made for the light. She was good. At the core, she was light. And he didn't love the light. Not like he loved the dark. He'd reached for her when there was nothing else to reach for. But there was nothing in her to sustain him. Not like blood could. Not like death could.
He leaned close to her and pressed his lips to hers, hard, close-mouthed. He drew back, and hovered over the healing knife slash on her face. His tongue flicked out and swiped the blood from her cheek. Slayer blood. Buffy's blood. Sweet and sticky. Beautiful. Like her.
He could kill her now.
He knew Darla's plans for her. He knew that she would die screaming, that she would wish for death before it was over. He could do it now, while she slept. It would be a kindness. It would be mercy.
Spike pushed against her knees to propel himself to his feet.
There was no mercy in him to offer.
He would watch her bleed. He would watch her scream. And when she was gone, the world would be smaller because she had been so big, so big she'd filled his whole mind for a while. But there would be no remorse. He was what he was. And demons didn't change.
He turned as the door to the warehouse slid open, and Drusilla led the others inside. Her eyes glittered with the feed. Her skin glowed pale. Her dark hair clung and spun around her face. She was cruelty, and sex, and pain, and death. And love. She smiled at him, extended her arms.
He went to her. She was like him.
She was the dark.
Cordelia lay on the floor, letting the cold of the tile floor seep into her skull. It didn't soothe the throbbing. Her whole body ached. She opened her eyes and looked up into Gunn's face. Wes hovered behind him. Her hand flew to her cheekbone, and she traced the smooth surface. No cut. No blood. Buffy's cheek had been bleeding. She took Gunn's offered hand, and heaved herself up. Her fist pressed hard to the side of her head, as if the pressure would stop her head from splitting in half.
"You mentioned Buffy?" Wesley prompted gently.
Cordelia almost nodded, then thought better of moving her head. "Yeah." Her eyes flitted to her left wrist. Not rubbed raw by the ropes. Buffy's wrists had been raw. "She's tied up in a warehouse. I'm pretty sure she was drugged. She was cut." She closed her eyes and concentrated on not throwing up. "Can you get me an aspirin?" Gunn nodded and levered her to the couch before hurrying to the bathroom. He returned with a glass of water and three tabs of aspirin. Cordelia swallowed all three at once.
"So I guess she needed us after all," Gunn said.
"An exceedingly bad time for 'I told you so's'," Wesley said.
"I didn't mean it like that."
"Why would they just take her captive though?" Cordelia asked. "Why not sacrifice her?"
"And who has her?" Wesley asked. "We don't know what kind of demon was underneath the robes you saw. All we have is a ritual that doesn't seem to exist or have any significance whatsoever." He looked over at his books. "She's the Slayer. Her enemies are too many to count. It could be anyone. Anything." He returned his attention to Cordelia. "Are there any more details you can remember from the visions? No matter how small."
Cordelia settled her hand on her stomach. "There may be something else," she said. She looked from Gunn to Wes. "But I don't want you to freak out."
Gunn's eyes narrowed. "See, you had to go say that. Now I'm already freaking."
"The last vision I had. Of the girl being sacrificed." Cordelia took a deep breath. "I saw the girl slit open, and then..." She slowly lifted her shirt away from her stomach and revealed the bottom of the angry, red slash.
"Damn," Gunn whispered.
"You didn't mention this before?" Wesley said, his voice hard.
"I thought it was just an extension of the headaches." Cordelia yanked her shirt back down. "It wasn't that bad. I mean, it sucks. But I thought I could handle it. I *can* handle it."
"Your visions have begun to manifest on your physical body," Wesley said, shaking his head. "This could be catastrophic for you."
"But that's the thing," Cordelia interrupted. "It didn't happen this time. Just the time before." She met Wesley's eyes. "Any ideas, Mr. King of Research?"
Wesley slowly shook his head. "Not yet. But I'll find something."
"Right, but first..." Cordelia said.
"Someone's gotta tell Angel," Gunn finished.
All three exchanged looks of dread and concern, then Cordelia and Gunn both spoke at once. "Not it."
Lindsey stood in his office and waited for Angel, annoyed. And afraid. His escape this afternoon was erased. The relative safety he could have found was gone. He'd risked his life to keep the damn information from Angel, and now that it was time for Angel to get Darla's location, it should have been someone else's turn to get strangled. But no, it was him again. Tag, you're it. Only he was always it.
He knew exactly how this was going to go. Angel would burst in and grab him. Angel would hurt him. He would tell Angel what he wanted to know. But not before Angel hurt him. What every part of him screamed to do was go hide somewhere until this was all over. Or longer. Maybe forever. Hiding forever sounded like a good idea. What the Senior Partners had told him to do was wait here until it all played out the way he knew it would. No one disobeyed the Senior Partners.
He spared a thought for Darla. He was going to tell Angel exactly where she was, and then Angel would kill her. But better her than him.
He finished a shot of whiskey. No one had said he couldn't be drunk when it all went down. He had a feeling it wouldn't help. Nothing sobered a person up faster than torture. And he'd have to take enough of the pain to keep Angel from getting suspicious. That was going to be a lot of pain. Once it started, every little bit of numbness would help. Or maybe he was just fooling himself. He poured himself another glass.
He never tasted it.
The door flew inward, blown off its hinges. He turned, and caught a brief glimpse of Angel before something slammed into his face, too fast for him to react or run. The glass in his hand slipped, and he heard it shatter against the floor. His body followed a second later.
Angel cocked his head and studied Lindsey. The lawyer was tied to a chair in the Hyperion's basement. His eyes were glazed, and he was shaking a little. Blood dripped from his good hand where his fingernails had once been. His face was swollen, bruised purple, red and blue. His lip bled. His shirt was in shreds, blood soaking through where Angel had made a series of efficient cuts. Angel touched the knife on the table next to Lindsey's chair, then moved his hand to the small ax. He was ready to end this.
He lifted the ax. Lindsey didn't seem to notice, his eyes unfocused, eyelids drooping. Angel slapped him, and his head rocked with the blow. He blinked.
"Wake up," Angel said. "Look at me." Lindsey blinked again, and tried to lift his head to look at Angel. "My patience is running out." Angel extended the ax. "Last chance."
"Don't know where," Lindsey muttered.
"Then you lose your other hand." Angel lifted the ax, then swung it down in one swift motion.
"Wait!" Lindsey screamed, his voice horse, abused. Angel stopped the ax before it chopped, the blade resting on the lawyer's wrist, drawing a thin line of blood. Lindsey whimpered.
"There's a warehouse."
Angel took the stairs two at a time. He was ready. He knew where they were. There was nothing, no one, who could stop him now. By morning, Darla, Dru, and Spike would all be dead. His family, his past, his sins, his weakness wiped out. Evil defeated. He hung the ax on his belt, and pushed open the door to the lobby. There was just one more thing he needed. He entered his office, and rummaged through the drawers of his desk. He pocketed the silver lighter and left the office.
He headed back through the lobby, and saw Cordelia, Gunn and Wes pile in through the front door. He didn't have time to deal with them.
"Angel," Wesley said. Angel ignored the Watcher, pushing past the three of them to reach the door. He shoved it open. "Angel, it's Buffy." He hesitated in the doorway, and Wesley continued, speaking as fast as he could. "Cordelia had a vision. She's been captured."
He turned his head, his neck felt stiff, his muscles ached. "I know where Darla is," he said. It hurt to say the words. His whole body hurt.
"Then she'll be there tomorrow," Wesley said. "Buffy could be dead by then."
Angel hesitated a long moment. He turned his head to face the door. He shut his eyes, and his head dropped, bowing. He could see her behind his eyes. In the sunlight. He could see her crying. He could see her dead in a pool of water. His eyes popped open. He looked down at his hands, at the ax on his belt, at the blood that stained it. Buffy was only in his mind, in his heart, in the past. This was real. Blood spilled because of evil he hadn't been able to destroy was real. He knew what he had to do.
He walked through the door and felt it swing shut behind him. He didn't let himself look back. He didn't let himself think about her. He couldn't. He couldn't think it was real. This was a war. He couldn't stop himself from loving her, but he wouldn't let his weakness keep him from finishing it. This was his best chance, maybe his only chance to stop Darla. He had to take it. No matter what the cost.
Cordelia grabbed his arm, and he shook her off. "Where are you going?" She jogged to keep up with him. He walked faster, his strides eating the pavement, his jaw clenched. He reached his car and slid inside.
She gripped the open window. "What are you going to do?"
"Burn the warehouse to the ground." They'd all burn. He started the car.
Buffy. He tried not to hear her name. The decision was already made. "I can't help you," he said as he stepped on the gas. There was nothing else to say.