disclaimer in part 1

And we scorch the earth
Set fire to the sky
Stoop so low to reach so high
A link is lost
The chain is undone
Now we wait all day
For the night to come
And it comes
And it comes
Like a hunter

Red Hill Mining Town
- U2

Three Doors
by: Rebecca Carefoot

Part Two

Angelus smirked as Buffy met his gaze. She stood unmoving in his arms, her limbs wooden, her mind blank. She struggled to spark some action, some response within herself. She knew the horror and the fear that she should feel, the twisting and clenching of her stomach, the urge to vomit and cough until something ugly was purged from herself. She remembered it all from the last time, the trembling, and the tears, and the mind-numbing, incomprehensible hurt. But all she felt was cold. And though she thought she should have welcomed any emotion or feeling that would free her from this nothingness, she was thankful for the brief respite from the agony that hid so inevitably behind the ice that seemed to have spread out into her heart and mind from the touch of his dead fingers.

"How..." she breathed, unable to finish the sentence, unable to find her voice. Her throat was strained and tight, locked closed with unshed tears. Tears she would not, could not allow to gather and fall. Her eyes were open, unblinking. She felt the pain, a crushing weight behind the walls she built within herself; and she knew it would overwhelm her when it broke through the freezing stillness that grasped her.

He traced his thumb against her cheek, surprisingly gentle, and she half closed her eyes, leaning closer to him without willing herself to, her mind unable to remind her body in time that this was not the man she loved. He bent his head, and tucked his fingers under her chin, forcing her face to tilt upwards.

"Did you miss me?" he whispered. She flinched, and he pulled her roughly against his body as he kissed her with harsh force, his fingers still pushing her lips to meet his. His hands dug into her flesh, and Buffy's mind finally began to whirl, sluggishly overcoming the paralysis that gripped her.

Allowing her instincts to take over, she kicked out to the side, breaking off the kiss by sweeping one of Angelus' legs out from under him and setting him off balance. He growled, his vampiric face emerging. She punched him as hard as she could in the kidneys. His hands drew back defensively, and she pulled away from the last remnants of his grip on her. She edged backwards toward the open door and the circular room at the end of the tunnel, her fists curled and ready. Her chest heaved; each breath tumbling over the next, coming a little too fast as she tried to focus on the fight and maintain her emotional control, a control she felt slipping almost imperceptibly with each second that passed.

"Where can you run, Buff?" he asked with a snort.

He was right, she realized. The doors to the other tunnels were still closed. She was trapped with him, trapped in this nightmare. She studied him silently, unable to muster a response, measuring his steps as he slowly followed her, his movements carelessly graceful. Dangerous and achingly familiar. His every move was a threat; he did not walk, but rather stalked toward her. He took two sudden quick steps, bringing himself dangerously close, and she darted a fist into his face, swinging at him automatically with wild, desperate force. He pulled back, and continued to follow her; silken laughter bubbling from his throat, toying with her mind and body. She set her jaw.

"A little off your game, lover?"

"I killed you once; I can do it again."

Her voice trembled the slightest bit, and he flicked his tongue out as if tasting the fear and doubt that played behind the hard look she tried so desperately to keep on her face.

"Not exactly, Buff," he said with a grin. "You killed lover boy, remember? Or sent him to hell at least. You waited too long to kill me. Just couldn't bring yourself to do it."

Buffy jerked slightly, her defensive posture wavering as guilt sparked in her eyes. Her heart cried out underneath the numbness that enveloped it, screaming for what she had lost, raging at the unfairness of losing her Angel this way a second time. After all their caution, after all they had denied themselves to prevent this, the unthinkable had happened again. Her eyes narrowed, and she exhaled a shaky breath, then pulled herself into a firmer stance. She yearned to glance behind her, to see how far away the end of the tunnel was, to catch a glimpse of the warm torchlight that would be spilling into the darkness. But she could not take her eyes off him for even a second. She took another set of wary steps backward. Surely she was almost there; she hadn't come that far into the tunnel when she ran to meet him. Soon she would step into the light, and when she had room to breathe she would be able to think clearly, to fight and kill him.

"Funny how you could kill this guy you were supposedly in love with, but you never could bring yourself to kill me. What does that say about you, lover?"

"Fuck you."

"I think you should."

Her eyes widened briefly at the taunt, and her fists wavered again. Angelus moved with incredible speed, hurling his body at her, his arms grabbing at her hair and torso. Buffy turned and kicked outward a few seconds too slowly. She grunted as he pulled a handful of her hair with him when his body was driven back by the kick. His hands tore at her, trying to drag her to him; she strained against him, her fists flying, pounding indiscriminately with panicked energy as she fought to free herself from his grasp. He let go, and she stumbled, falling backwards into a pool of torchlight. He crawled forward, advancing on her like a jungle cat, his muscles bunching and flexing as he moved towards her while she scrambled backwards into the small room.

She had no time to glance at her surroundings before he sprang at her again, bearing her to the ground underneath him, pinning her arms above her head and straddling her waist. He smiled, and she shivered, pushing against the bonds his hands formed over her wrists. He leaned close and claimed her mouth roughly, his fangs drawing blood. She responded to the kiss by drawing his lower lip into her mouth, tugging on it with her teeth. His hips ground against her, and Buffy bit down as hard as she could on his lip, tearing the flesh and leaving it dripping blood. He roared in pain, and she spat their mingled blood into his face, blinding him. She gathered her strength and rolled them both over, reversing their positions and attempting to trap him as he had her.

He laughed, blood droplets smeared over his handsome face, and pushed his hips upwards to meet hers. He licked at his lower lip, worrying the torn flesh, teasing it with his tongue, drawing more blood from the wound.

"I should have known you'd want to be on top."

Buffy frowned, then rolled her hips back, let go of his hand, and smashed her elbow as hard as she could into his stomach. He gagged, kicking upwards with his legs to throw her off his body. He unsteadily pulled himself onto all fours, then sat back heavily when Buffy caught him under the chin with the toe of her boot. She punched him in the face, pressing her advantage, and he fell backwards. A surge of adrenaline coursed through her as she aimed a kick at the side of his head. She was going to win. He rolled out of the way, then rose into a crouch.

She advanced on him, her muscles taut, ready, almost eager to unleash more punishment on his weakening body. She didn't have a stake, or knife, but she was sure she could think of some way to kill him with her bare hands. She almost liked the idea of taking his life herself, without any help from a weapon. He rose to his feet, his eyes meeting hers. She punched outward toward his face, and he deflected the fist with his hands. She kicked at him, sending her heel into his knee. He staggered, and she grabbed a hank of his hair, pulling his head up forcibly while she prepared to drive her fist down into his face.

"How do you like me now, lover?" she mocked.

His eyes moved from her fist to her determined glare. She blinked once and when she opened her eyes, his human face was back in place, spattered with blood. She hesitated, her fist hovering in confusion and bit by bit the anesthetized parts of her soul began to tremble and wake. She blinked again, feeling as if the air that surrounded her was pushing against her, slowing her, slowing everything. He didn't take advantage of her pause, but waited quietly, his eyes on hers, his neck tilted at an uncomfortable angle. She pulled her gaze away from him, and looked up, seeing the room around her for the first time. Her glance caught on the door in front of her and held. It was open. But was that the door she had chosen? She turned, dragging Angelus with her by her grip on his hair. Everything seemed distant; there were no sounds but the shifting of the dirt beneath her feet. All three of the doors were open. She focused on the vampire in grasp. She pulled her foot back; she tensed her fist. Her eyes filled with tears. She blinked away the blurriness and looked into his brown eyes once more. With a soft cry, she released her grasp and ran down the first tunnel she saw, no idea where she was going, no idea if it was a dead end, only wanting to escape this hell. Only wanting to deny that she was at this point again; that she would have to kill him again. She choked on the pain that burned through her, scalding her from the inside out, and ran.

Angelus watched her flee, his bloody bottom lip stretching as he smiled. He put his hand to the wound and laughed. The games would begin.

* * * * * * * *

Angel woke in a small dark cave, only large enough to allow him to take three or four steps in any direction. He groaned as pain and cold registered through the dissipating haze of unconsciousness. He pressed his hand to his pounding forehead, and his fingers came away bloody. He stared at the red smear, smelling the copper scent of the liquid, and his brow wrinkled in puzzlement. He felt nothing, no hunger.

With a gasp, he sat up straight, nearly bashing his head on an outcrop of rough granite. His hand flew to his chest, and he gasped again, swallowing another lungful of air. Fear and confusion battled with awe, the emotions flitting across his face as he felt his heart thud against his ribcage. The pounding was echoed in the throbbing of his skull. He closed his eyes, rubbing his forehead with the palms of his hands. His grimace of pain became a sudden small smile when he sucked in another breath of oxygen, the dank cave air tasting better than any he had breathed before. The smile disappeared when his headache subsided enough to allow him to look around his small prison. A worried frown creased his face as he realized that his oxygen supply wouldn't last long in a sealed cave this small. Twenty-four hours earlier that wouldn't have been a problem, but now, now he was suddenly dependent on breathing again.

He stood up, his head almost touching the top of the small cave, and pushed against one of the rough walls. He felt along the rocks with his fingertips, his night vision no longer sharp enough to see any detail in the unlighted cave. His fingers discovered a small crack in the rock, and he punched against it with the heel of his hand. He cursed as his hand collided with the rock and a loud crunch echoed in the small space. Cradling the hand, he sat back down to think.

None of this made any sense. It was as if he were human again. But how could he be? And how had he gotten into this place if there were no openings anywhere? And why had the demons brought him here? Buffy. What had happened to her? He curled in on himself, pulling his coat more tightly around himself. The material was looking worse for the wear, but it offered some warmth. He began to shiver, trying to take only shallow breaths. Staring into the dark, at the rock all around him, he listened to his teeth chattering and the thumping of his heart.