Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
– Rolling Stones, Gimme Shelter
Angel spent the next several hours in preparation, allowing everyone to rest and attempting to sleep himself for a few hours.
He called Harmony at the Wolfram & Hart office in LA and told her only that he would be staying in London and to cancel his appointments for the rest of the week. Under the circumstances, he would have preferred that no one know his whereabouts, but he knew that was already impossible. Besides the fact that Harmony and Gunn knew his destination before he left the office, the pilot would have filed the required flight plan with the destination listed. He, as well as the rest of the team here in London, would simply have to be as discreet as possible about the rest of their activities. No information would be shared outside the immediate team. And he even intended to watch certain members of their small group carefully until he knew who he could – or could not – trust.
After almost an hour of intense discussion with Wesley, he carefully read through all of the files on Bjoutan himself. Specifically, he was searching for bits of information that would help him find where Buffy was being held once he reached the other dimension. Or, if Buffy somehow managed to escape from the prison but not Bjoutan, he would need to be able to find those places that she would be likely to hide. Unfortunately, there was no map to speak of in any of the files; he would have to go by what information they could derive from the text.
While Angel and Wes sketched out a rough map of Bjoutan, Oz searched the Internet for information on Quentin Travers. It didn’t take him long to find an address for the current President and CEO of Amaranthine Enterprises; he printed off a detailed map of the Mayfair neighborhood, along with pictures of the house and even a floor plan.
Angel studied the area surrounding Quentin Travers home with the intensity of a general planning a battle attack. He fully intended to ensure that there would be no escape for the treacherous Watcher tonight.
Late in the afternoon, Oz and Wesley retrieved the weapons that they had brought along from the jet. Angel never went anywhere unprepared, and given that Elise had mentioned ‘trouble’ in her call, it doubly ensured that Angel’s favored broadsword – as well as a few other choice weapons – made the trip.
Giles and Elise went out as well. They were off to find something other than the Mini-Cooper for transportation. In addition, Angel asked them to pick up an assortment of medical supplies. He didn’t know what to expect, much less plan for, so he simply asked them to do their best in anticipation of Buffy’s return. It was clear that even considering the idea that she might be severely injured pained Angel immensely, so Giles ended the awkward conversation with a simple nod of understanding, his expression equally troubled.
Agitated and impatient, Spike spent most of the day pacing downstairs on the old factory floor, smoking cigarette after cigarette and staying well away from the sunlight that streamed in a few of the high windows. He would stick his head in the doorway of the upstairs apartment occasionally to ask when they were leaving or to get an update on the latest plans. He made a few quips intended to provoke Angel, but when the older vampire didn’t respond, he left off.
In all of Angel’s actions was a slow deliberation, as if he knew that careful planning and patience were required to face the challenges that lay ahead. Foremost in his mind was the idea that retrieving Buffy from Bjoutan – as difficult as that might prove – could, in fact, be only a small matter compared to the potential challenges of her recovery. That she was strong, mentally and physically, did little to soothe his fears. And all the while he cursed himself for not doing more to find her, for leaving her to suffer such a fate for as long as he had. It was another of the many things he would surely have to atone for.
When the sun finally slipped toward the horizon, Angel picked up his sword and made his way down to the borrowed van. Wesley, Oz, Giles, Spike and Elise met him there. They were all dressed in dark, functional clothing, and with the exception of Elise, all carried a weapon. No words were spoken as they all clambered into the van. They all understood their part in the events of the night and the importance of carrying out the capture of Quentin Travers without a hitch.
Willow closed her eyes as the acrid scent of the burning incense filled her nostrils. Opening them again, she focused on the dark liquid in the scrying bowl in front of her. Gently she rocked the black stone and concentrated on the reflection in the rippling water. A vision of past days in Sunnydale appeared on the surface of the water. It was she, Xander, and Buffy at the Summer’s house on Revello Drive watching old movies, eating snack food, and laughing. Frowning, she rocked the bowl again, shaking away the image. The next few images flitted through the rippling water in rapid succession: she and Buffy shopping, only days after they arrived in Los Angeles after Sunnydale had been destroyed; she, Xander, and Buffy at Rusty’s Surf Ranch on the Santa Monica pier, Xander telling them that he couldn’t stay with them. She and Buffy in her office, Buffy confessing that she and Angel were back together again. She and Buffy in Angel’s penthouse apartment, Buffy admitting that she was pregnant.
Willow shook the bowl impatiently, sloshing water over the edge on the table, and willing away the stream of images. She glanced at the fat wax candles burning on the table, then at the window across the room.
She hadn’t thought that they’d stay in Los Angeles. She had assumed they’d spend a few days there at most while they treated their wounds and regrouped, then they’d be on their way somewhere new. Cleveland, maybe, since there was another known hellmouth there. She never imagined that Buffy would consider staying and working at Wolfram & Hart. She certainly never even suspected that the blonde Slayer would reunite with the souled vampire. That had seemed so far beyond the realm of possibility, the curse and their myriad of issues not withstanding, that it had never even crossed Willow’s mind. She had even doubted the rumors that Buffy and Angel were going out for more than demon hunting when the whispers began circulating around the office within weeks after their arrival. If Buffy was seeing Angel again, she would have told her, or so Willow adamantly insisted to anyone and everyone when the subject would come up. When it turned out to be true, Willow had been hurt and humiliated. Buffy was her best friend, yet she hadn’t confided in her.
Another big surprise of that summer had been Kennedy’s announcement that she was leaving, that their relationship was over. Willow hadn’t expected that turn of events at all. She thought that everything was close to perfect, and that they were happy together. She hadn’t even considered the possibility that they would break up, and not after all they had been through together. It had come as a complete shock, and Willow had been devastated.
Kennedy’s abrupt desertion was what prompted her to stay in Los Angeles and take Angel up on the offer to work at Wolfram & Hart, despite her distrust of the organization. She thought it would take her mind off her heartache, but it only seemed to make her loneliness feel more acute. Buffy was always with Angel… working on cases, going out on dates, spending time alone in what was now their home. Xander was still grieving for Anya and preferred being alone in his depressing little apartment. Giles, Dawn, Kennedy, and the other SITs left for England. Fred, Wesley and Gunn were all friendly and welcoming, but they too were preoccupied with work and their own lives.
Then she met Marcus Hamilton, the Senior Partner’s liaison. He seemed to understand her in a way the others didn’t. He respected her intelligence and often sought out her opinion on a wide range of topics. He spent time with her when everyone else was too busy, and while he didn’t exactly give her a reason to trust those at Wolfram & Hart, he convinced her that there was a careful balance that could be struck between good and evil. He even encouraged her interest in magic, prompting her to spend her free time in the magic department. Her natural ability quickly resurfaced, and she found that the small team in the magic department began to turn to her for advice or assistance. She began to feel wanted and, perhaps more importantly, needed. She was the key to success on many cases, with her behind the scenes contributions in both the Information Technology and Magic departments. It was a shame that the others weren’t aware of it… but Marcus assured her that that would change, when the time was right.
And all along she thought that Marcus encouraged her interest in magic with Angel’s knowledge and blessing. That is, until Fiona.
Fiona’s case had come to Wolfram & Hart through a client, Max Frome. Fiona had tapped into the black arts and had cursed her former fiancé, Cameron, for his suspected infidelity. His life had become a living hell, and he was suffering from mysterious, excruciating pains. Without consulting Buffy or Angel, Willow stepped in and broke the spell. Furious, Fiona retaliated. The use and power of the magic spells quickly escalated between the two Wiccan’s, and Willow – being somewhat out of practice, though still quite powerful – managed to harm Fiona permanently. She hadn’t particularly regretted it; the young woman had been spiteful and malicious, and out to hurt her as well. It was her lack of control over her own power, and the fact that a novice demonstrated skills that were almost on par with her own that had disturbed Willow the most. Afterwards, she doubled her practice efforts.
When Buffy found out what had happened, she said very little. She didn’t have to. The look of disapproval and disappointment in her eyes told Willow everything she needed to know. Angel had been surprised, but no less condemning with his gaze and his actions. He told Willow that she was not to be in the magic department without permission and supervision. They both said that they were simply concerned for her well-being, but by then Willow knew better. They were too wrapped up in their own lives, their newly reformed relationship, and by that time, talk of having a baby, to be too concerned with her. No, their only concern was how much her problems interfered with their own plans.
Admittedly, all of Buffy’s talk about babies had reawakened her own longing for a child. She and Tara had talked about it once or twice, not long after they adopted Miss Kitty Fantastico. They both wanted children and had agreed that someday they would have two or three of their own. Of course, they never got their chance. They didn’t get a lot of chances that they should have had. It was so unfair.
It was reckless and irresponsible enough that Buffy and Angel were together without a sure resolution to Angel’s curse, but to even consider bringing a child into the middle of the world they lived in? It was insanity. A vampire and a Slayer living in the midst of demons and darkness hardly spoke of a safe and healthy environment to raise a child. At least she and Tara had planned to move somewhere far away from any hellmouth to raise their children. They had thought through what it meant to have a child beyond just pregnancy.
When Marcus confided that the Senior Partners were gravely concerned about Buffy and Angel’s plans for children, she admitted to sharing their concern. When he suggested that the child might be something other than human, something prophesied as great evil, something that might disrupt that tenuous balance, her unease grew. Marcus seemed sure, and worried. And if the information came from the Senior Partners, who should know such things… perhaps it was true. However, she couldn’t discuss her concerns with Buffy. Their relationship was a bit strained, and the blonde Slayer had already shown that she wasn’t willing to hear Willow’s concerns about her relationship with Angel. She wasn’t likely to be any more receptive to a candid discussion about her baby, particularly if that conversation was about things that she wouldn’t want to hear.
Using a simple magic spell, Willow attempted to ascertain the truth for herself. From what she could tell, the baby was normal and human. Using her scrying bowl, she next looked into the future… she saw only a tiny blonde girl, not a portent of evil. Her fears were allayed somewhat, yet her feelings of loss and loneliness were reinforced.
It was when she attempted to repeat the spell for Marcus, to show him what she had seen and prove to him that he and perhaps the Senior Partners were wrong about the child, that things went horribly wrong… She used coltsfoot instead of angelica root – how she had gotten them confused she still didn’t know – and her spell had caused Buffy to miscarry.
She had been distraught, the guilt almost overwhelming, and had confessed what she had done to Marcus. Instead of condemning her, however, Marcus commended her for her quick thinking. They weren’t positive that her spell had been the trigger, he insisted, and even if it had, she had actually done that right thing. Whether she would admit it or not, she knew that it was best for all that Buffy and Angel not have a child. She was only doing what was right – even if it was in her subconscious. As for the future that she had seen – that was only one possible outcome; what was read in the prophecy by the Senior Partners was much more certain than her vision.
A day later he returned to tell her that the Senior Partners were extraordinarily pleased with her actions, not to mention impressed with her ingenuity and her skill. They offered rewards… additional magic power and a day with Tara. Shocked, Willow initially declined. Why, Marcus asked her? Didn’t she deserve even a day of happiness? The Senior Partners don’t offer such rewards lightly… he was clearly impressed by the magnitude of such a prize. And her guilt began to subside.
The one day with Tara – even though it wasn’t actually Tara, but rather her spirit – was the best day that Willow could remember having in a long while. But, like an addiction, it only made her crave more… she began to seek out ways to do the Senior Partner’s bidding in hopes that they would offer her another such reward. They gave her access to magic that had been previously beyond her grasp and her power grew steadily; they offered trinkets and a talisman or two. But despite the few distasteful things she did for them, no similar offer was forthcoming. That is, not until Buffy announced that she was trying to get pregnant again… then it had been a simple matter then to slip a few selected herbs into Buffy’s drink, preventing the fertilization attempt from taking hold. The accompanying guilt was quickly assuaged by the Senior Partners, though instead of offering her a day with Tara, she was given a glimpse of what their life together would have been. It was wonderful, and yet bittersweet as it was a future that she would never have.
And yet, still Buffy seemed to have everything. Life with her soul mate, then again talk of a child, a bright future… it was all that she was denied.
Thus, the seeds of resentment began to grow…
So when Marcus offered her a way to have everything that she wanted, it hadn’t taken long to rationalize what she was asked to do, with what she would be given in return. It was wrong, unnatural in fact, that Buffy was still around… she should never have been resurrected. This was her opportunity to correct the mistake that she had made years prior… one that violated all of the basic tenets of nature, as well as the ancient laws set forth hundreds of years ago. The Watcher’s Council would set things back as they should have been: one girl, chosen to fight the vampires and creatures of the night, not an army. The activated slayers would have their powers revoked, and they would be given a normal life; the normal life that Buffy always claimed to have wanted. Willow would, in fact, be doing these girls a favor. She could give them back a normal life, a life without demons or darkness. The rogue Slayers, and the ones that couldn’t return to a normal life, would be given a life in another dimension where they would be safe from harm. It was the right thing to do… to restore the natural order, to set things back to how they should have been.
In exchange for helping the Watcher’s Council collect their wayward Slayers, and restore things to how they should be, she would get the life she wanted with Tara.
With the permission of the Senior Partners, she even consulted her lover in the white room, and Tara agreed that restoring the natural order was indeed the right thing to do.
It wasn’t until later… much later, after all was said and done, that she discovered that she had been played. The Senior Partners never intended to give her a life with Tara. She was told that she misunderstood what they offered, that they weren’t promising her a life with Tara. As for restoring things to how they should have been… that takes time, and of course the Council was working on it but it wasn’t strictly Wolfram & Hart’s concern. Marcus slyly insisted that Willow knew the truth all along, that she only used it as an excuse to justify her betrayal of her friend, when the truth was she was so resentful and jealous and full of guilt about what she had done that she wanted Buffy gone. She could always confess what she had done to Angel… all of what she had done, including the spells she had cast that caused harm to so many, to the cases she had taken without their consent, to her part in Buffy’s difficulty getting pregnant, to her miscarriage, and finally, to her disappearance. Surely, if she explained it properly, he would understand and forgive her.
Furious, she tried to prove the strength of her power by resurrecting her lover herself… only to find that Tara’s white magic from beyond the grave was much more powerful than she was, even with all of the skill that she had gained from the Senior Partners and her efforts at Wolfram & Hart. One thing however, had been made clear: Tara’s disappointment and disapproval with her was keenly felt.
For days following, Willow retreated to her apartment and refused to leave. Most thought that she was grieving for Buffy, that she had finally accepted her friend’s death as a consequence of her disappearance. Other than Marcus, no one knew, much less even suspected, the real reasons behind her abrupt withdrawal from the world. When she returned, almost three weeks later, she was a changed person.
A noise startled her out of her reverie, and Willow sighed. No use dwelling on the past. It was the future that concerned her now.
Returning her attention to the dark water in the bowl, she concentrated intently.
The dark of night brought with it a chill breeze that swept through the air. Standing at the edge of the yard, the wind whipping his coat around him, Angel watched the silhouettes moving inside the house. One of them was undoubtedly Quentin Travers, of that Angel was certain. Who the other two were, he didn’t know or care.
A predator on the hunt, he watched his target with unwavering attention. Though he stood perfectly still, his body cried out for action, while his heart and gut wanted only revenge. In that, he shared traits with his demon. But he could not let his anger and impatience get the better of him.
Everything hinged on tonight.
Quentin could not be allowed to escape.
Nodding his head in the direction where he knew the others waited, he finally gave the signal. It was time.
The silk dupioni drapes stirred and Quentin glanced up from his desk. He didn’t remember leaving the window open. He got up to close the window and turned back toward his desk only to find his path blocked by a tall man clad all in black, staring down at him with a gaze that was both fierce and frightening.
“Angelus,” he said after a moment, his tone curt and clipped. “I certainly wasn’t expecting you.” He managed to mask all but the smallest sign of his surprise.
“No, I’m sure you weren’t,” Angel returned, his face shadowed. Almost before the man could move, the vampire reached out and grasped the older man by the neck. An iron cuff was snapped around one of Quentin’s wrists with swift efficiency. No time tonight would be wasted.
“I say, what are you-”
“Taking you with me,” Angel interrupted, cuffing the man’s other wrist and hauling him forward.
“What? You can’t do this!” Quentin protested futilely, jerking at his shackles.
“I can and I am,” Angel retorted, dragging the man toward the door.
“You have no idea who you’re messing with. I will be missed. People will be looking for me,” Quentin countered, struggling still as they moved along the corridor toward the stairs. “Important people, people that a creature such as yourself would not wish to anger.”
“We’ll leave a note. We’ll tell then that you’ve gone to Bjoutan for a vacation.”
Stunned by the bland pronouncement, Quentin blinked. He stumbled and nearly fell to his knees only to find himself yanked forward forcibly.
“Though you will have to tell me how to get there first,” Angel continued conversationally, though there was no mistaking the underlying rage in his tone. Turning, they started down the stairs, the older man struggling to keep up with the vampire’s rapid pace.
“You’ll regret this, vampire,” Quentin sneered. He pulled furiously at the chains, doubling his efforts to escape. “As I said, people will be looking for me. When they find out that a vampire was responsible for my abduction, they will not rest until they have found me. And you, you will know hell on earth for what you have done. That is, for the brief opportunity that you’ll be permitted to… live, or whatever it is that you call what you do.”
“I’ve known hell in hell so you’ll have to do better than that.”
They passed through the dining room where Quentin’s two companions were now sitting, each bound tightly to a chair. Wesley and Giles had captured the other man in the house, who turned out to be a member of Quentin’s reformed Watcher’s Council, while Spike had grabbed the woman. She admitted to being Quentin’s current lover, though she was quite open to considering a replacement. Or so she claimed with a flirtatious smile.
Without even acknowledging the others, Angel pushed Quentin forcefully through the swinging doors into the kitchen. There he shoved him into an empty chair that sat in the middle of the room. Taking another chain, he secured the man responsible for Buffy’s disappearance firmly to the chair.
The only other occupant in the kitchen, Spike wheeled over a tray with an assortment of knives and other paraphernalia he had selected. Among the items there was an ice pick and even a fireplace poker. “This should give us a start.”
“You won’t get away with this,” Quentin said uneasily, looking between the two vampires. He had yet to spare even so much as a thought for his two companions; his concern wasn’t for them anyway.
“Oh, I think I will,” Angel answered distractedly. He appeared to be studying the selection of items from Spike’s offering with interest.
Quentin swallowed hard trying to hide his increasing nervousness. He might not die, but he could still feel pain… They wouldn’t dare. Would they?
“I hope you don’t tell me how to get to Bjoutan for a long time. Hours at least,” the dark haired vampire said. Picking up an 8 inch carving knife, he eyed the blade with keen consideration. “It’s been years since I’ve tortured anyone. I mean, really tortured them.”
“Well, there was that demon a few weeks back… The broken fingers, nose and jaw qualifies as torture I believe. Though he did actually seem to enjoy it when you broke his spine one vertebra at a time, so I’m not at all sure about that bit,” Spike commented helpfully as he held up a corkscrew for inspection.
“Why do you think I know anything about this Bjoutan place anyway?”
“Because your name is on the deed,” Wesley said matter-of-factly as he entered the room. He held a copy of the document in his hand, along with a stack of other condemning papers that he had retrieved from the safe in Quentin’s office after he had entered the house and invited both Angel and Spike in so that the activities of the evening could begin.
“Ah, yes. I should have known your lackey would be within shouting distance,” Quentin said with a sneer. “Wyndam-Pryce, your father is turning in his grave at what you have become and who you have chosen to consort with,” he added before shifting his attention to the man immediately behind the former Watcher. “And Mr. Giles… I’m quite surprised you’d join in on this farce. Don’t you have a school to run?”
“Travers.” Giles greeted coldly. His comment confirmed what Giles had feared, that Quentin had known about his school for the Slayers in Training. Perhaps it was only a matter of time before the newly formed Council would have tried to take over. He was glad then, that he had moved the school and hidden the girls away in Tuscany. Depending on the reach of the new Council, he might have to consider more extensive measures, but there would be time to figure that out over the next several weeks. Quentin’s disappearance would no doubt set things back a bit.
From behind Giles Elise eyed the man that she had heard so much about with candid interest. The smallish, grey haired man didn’t look to be nearly the evil villain that she had pictured in her mind. But then again, looks could be deceiving.
“I see. So what if I have title to a piece of property, and so what if I happened to use the services of Wolfram & Hart to purchase that property. It’s all perfectly legal. And well before you were … in charge.” He said the last part with obvious cynicism, the implication that Angel’s position was in title only.
“Oh, come on now. Let’s just do this,” Spike snapped impatiently. He picked up meat cleaver and brandished it menacingly in the air. “We can play little word games all night, but the fact of the matter is that you know that we know that your little vacation spot or whatever you want to call this Bjoutan is where you’ve stashed the Slayer. Or Slayers. I don’t really care if it’s 1 or 100. You’re going to tell us how to get there.”
“Or what? You’ll kill me?” Quentin spat with a forced laugh. “I don’t think so.” Admittedly, he was avidly curious how his prison for Slayers had been found. It was a tightly guarded secret; only a select few knew about it. Those who could not be trusted to maintain their silence had been eliminated, or so he had been led to believe.
“I don’t want to kill you,” Angel said, his voice lethally soft. He tested the weight of the knife in his palm. “I just want to make you wish you were dead.”
Silence hung in the air for a long moment. Giles shivered; the scene was much too close to his memories of his own torture at Angelus’ hands.
A bead of sweat rolled along Quentin’s temple. He licked his lips. “And if I tell you what you want to know?”
“Then your fate is no longer in my hands.”
Quentin’s brow furrowed in confusion. “What do you mean?”
“Buffy will decide your future,” Angel returned plainly.
The Watcher’s Council head considered this for a moment before he asked, “And if you don’t find her?”
“You should hope that I do because I’m certain that she’ll be far more lenient at her worst than I will ever be.”
“You’ll regret this.” Quentin blurted as Angel stalked toward him, the silver glint from the knife edge visible in his palm.
The feelings of rage that he had been holding in check surfaced, and Angel struggled to keep his demonic countenance in check. Now that the man responsible for the greatest loss that he have ever known in his life was in front of him, the desire to maim and kill was strong and growing steadily stronger. At that moment, he couldn’t separate himself from his demon, nor did he care to.
Leaning toward Quentin, the knife poised at the man’s throat, Angel murmured, “I already do.”
“Do you think Quentin was telling the truth? About the portal?” Elise asked Wesley as they walked side by side outside the flat where they were all staying. It would be light soon, the slightest hint of graying dawn in the sky.
“I believe so, yes,” he said thoughtfully. The Council leader had proven harder to break than they initially thought, yet Angel had been merciless and determined. Wesley had never seen that side of his friend, at least not with his soul intact. Admittedly, he had wondered about that several times in the past few hours, if Angel still, in fact, had his soul.
“It’s a bit ironic, isn’t it? I mean, the portal being at Eastwood Park where there also happens to be a women’s prison?”
“Yes, well, Quentin wasn’t particularly known for his cunning. Or perhaps, it’s like the ruse – hidden in plain sight.”
“What… what are they going to do with him?” Elise asked, her unfocused gaze on the few indistinct lights in the distance. She hadn’t stayed in the house while Angel worked Quentin over, she hadn’t been able to stomach the sights or the sounds.
“I imagine precisely what Angel said: hold him until Buffy can decide his fate.” The man in question was currently locked in the cage in Oz’s friends flat. His injuries were many and painful, but not currently life-threatening. Not that they would have been anyway to someone who had sold his soul to the Senior Partners at Wolfram & Hart, and was already technically dead. Now he would only ‘die’ when the partners chose to release his soul.
“Have you… has Angel ever… I mean, is he that way…”
Wesley glanced at Elise. “Are you wondering if the man you saw earlier tonight is the same man you thought you knew?”
“Well, yes, Sort of. I just never knew that he could be… quite that… cruel?”
“I don’t pretend to understand everything that Angel has seen or done,” Wesley began softly, “but after enduring several centuries in hell and fighting his way back through that… and given that Travers admitted to condemning Buffy to Bjoutan… let’s just say that I imagine that working the man over may be small by comparison to many things that he… wanted to do.” He imagined, in fact, that Angel had been considerably restrained in his actions compared to what he would have preferred to do, or what his demon was, no doubt, demanding he do to the man that had dared risk harm to his mate.
“Do you think the Senior Partners will intervene on his behalf?” She had heard the muffled threats and declarations and later his screams through the door before she had wandered further away and out of the house, away from the sounds.
“Perhaps…” Wes mused, contemplating why the Senior Partners would have struck a deal with Travers in the first place. Travers had obtained Bjoutan, a secure place to imprison the Slayers that he declared as rogue or in violation of the Watcher’s Council’s tenets, but what had Wolfram & Hart gained in return? It had been almost eight years since Quentin’s purchase of Bjoutan, yet Buffy’s abduction was just a little over a year ago. It was hard to imagine that it had all been part of one grand plan… eight years ago no one could have predicted that Buffy and Angel would have reunited. Unless there was a future prophecy of some sort that the Senior Partners might have access to and would fear… something that would drive them to strike a deal with Quentin. But if so, then what was it? Perhaps there was something more in the files, or in the library at Wolfram & Hart that would give him a clue… if only they knew if there was someone else at the law firm that had been involved in Buffy’s kidnapping.
“When do you think they’ll be able to reach the portal?”
Elise repeated her question once more, her voice jarring him out of his speculative thoughts.
“Oh, um, I think about three hours, perhaps slightly more. They were stopping off to pick up some friends of Mr. Giles in case they needed help accessing the portal.”
“Yes, from a coven nearby. They’re quite powerful I understand.”
Elise hugged her arms to her chest. It seemed that things were moving so fast now. What would the future hold for all of them? Suddenly she felt tired and weary and wanted nothing more than to lose herself in sleep. “That’s good then.”
“Yes, it is. It’s better than we could have hoped, really.”
“Do you think they’ll actually find her? Buffy, I mean?” she asked quietly.
“Angel is determined,” he replied with a slight lift of his brows. He wouldn’t want to be in the vampire’s way, that he knew for sure. He doubted if there was anything that would keep Angel from Bjoutan and from Buffy now that he knew that she was there.
“He really loves her,” Elise said, her voice both reverent and sad.
“Yes, he does,” Wes returned kindly.
“I wonder if he’ll forgive me,” she asked, more to herself than her companion.
“There’s nothing to forgive, Elise,” Wes said earnestly. “If you hadn’t been working on your story, it’s possible that none of this would have been uncovered. Angel is… well, he’s obviously concerned about Buffy and filled with guilt for not having found all of this out for himself, but I doubt very much that he blames you.”
“He’s hardly said two words to me since I told him about all this.”
“It’s not your fault. And it’s not as though there’s been time for polite conversations,” Wesley explained.
“I know. I just… I guess I never expected all of this. I never intended to hurt him.”
“No one could have foreseen this,” he replied, stopping and turning her to face him. “Don’t blame yourself. Angel has a lot on his mind right now, but I doubt very much that he’s blaming you.”
“I know, I do. I’m being selfish and silly. I think I’m just overtired,” she said, slightly ashamed that she was thinking of herself and her feelings at a time like this.
“It has been a long day. Perhaps we should head back now and try to get some rest,” Wes murmured sympathetically. He genuinely liked Elise and didn’t want to see her hurt. After a slight hesitation, he pulled her into his arms for a hug.
They stood there for a long moment, Elise resting her head on his shoulder, grateful for the comfort that he offered.
“Wesley?” she asked uncertainly, lifting her head to look at his face.
“Do you think that she… that Buffy will be all right? You know, when they find her?”
Wesley looked away for a long moment before answering. “I don’t know.”