In The Darkness: Part 14 – Dark Places

Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic.

– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Author’s Notes: AU/Futurefic.

Jet is a gemstone that is dense, black, highly polished coal.Both Herkales and Aesklepios were on Roman (I believe) coins, approx 378 CE (aka AD 378).

Cruciamentum is Latin for torment. And yes, the cruciamentum drugs were used on the Slayers in Bjoutan to make them easy to manage and control, not to mention subdue.

Rating: Adult

Disclaimer: Own nothing whatsoever regarding Buffy or Angel. Joss & co. owns all. Elise is my creation.

Pairing: B/A, A/Other


Distribution: My site, EverySixSeconds; sites currently with permission to host my fics; all others please ask.

Originally posted: Oct 10, 2005

Revised and reposted: August 9, 2015

The drive to Eastwood Park was tense and silent.  Oz drove with determination, his foot heavy on the accelerator, while Giles offered murmured directions from the passenger seat at various intervals.  Angel and Spike sat in the back of the borrowed van, well away from the windows and the coming light of dawn.

Moire and Agatha, the two witches from the coven who agreed to accompany them and help with the spell to open the portal, sat to the left of Spike. They would glance at Angel now and then, their gazes inscrutable, but spent most of the time on the journey studying the document from the files describing the magic needed to open the portal to Bjoutan and talking quietly with each other.

Sighing heavily, Spike toyed absently with the hardwood tonfa Oz had found along with a few other marital arts weapons in a spare room at Quentin’s house. As it didn’t appear Quentin used the equipment, they all could only guess where most of it had come from. Given the initials carved on the well-used staff, Spike would’ve bet money the former owner of the weapon would be found in Bjoutan.

Nothing of Buffy’s had been found, and for that Quentin Travers could consider himself lucky. Angel’s restraint had already been tenuous at best; he might have come completely unhinged had there been any solid evidence of her presence in the Watcher’s house. He had already been closer to the edge of madness and more like his demon than the others had ever seen him before. Even Spike had a few moments of surprise, though he had certainly seen Angelus be far more maliciously brutal and sadistic – while taking great pleasure in every second of it – than his souled half had even considered.

The elder vampire sat unmoving, his eyes closed, and his brow creased in concentration. He had said only a few words since they left Quentin Traver’s house in Mayfair with the man himself in tow; but then no one seemed particularly inclined to make conversation after the events of the last several hours.

It had taken quite a bit more persuasion than any of them expected before Quentin grudgingly disclosed the location of the portal to Bjoutan that he, and his select few, trusted confidants used on several occasions. Twice only, to be exact, was the number of times that Travers himself even bothered to visit the prison he had established, and endorsed whole-heartedly. He had made that confession with a nasty smile, adding that it wasn’t a particularly ‘pleasant place’ to visit. He regretted the comment when Spike ground out a lit cigarette on the center of his chest.

Quite some time later, battered and bleeding, he admitted that his people had worked with an intermediary at Wolfram & Hart to arrange Buffy’s abduction. The man’s name, he choked out as the dark vampire broke each of the small bones in his fingers slowly and painfully, was Serge something or other; it was Russian he thought. He then claimed the Senior Partners at Wolfram & Hart had given their blessings for the creation of such an important detention center, and had been instrumental, in fact, to its establishment, hence their cooperation and their employee’s involvement. His last words, snarled out in desperation just before he lapsed into unconsciousness, were that Angel would regret this; the Senior Partners would not let him get away with such a transgression against one of their own.

But by then Angel cared very little about any threats. He had everything he needed. The portal to Bjoutan, and to Buffy, was at the Eastwood Park women’s prison; he would have her back in a matter of days, if not hours, of that he was confident.

With its leader missing, the Council would be temporarily thwarted; a decision about the future of the organization could wait for a few weeks or until Buffy was well enough to decide what she wanted to do with them and with Quentin.

The Senior Partners… their involvement in Buffy’s disappearance didn’t surprise him, especially since he had been engaged in an implicit war with them for years; but until now, he had only suspicions, not proof. Now he had a name; someone who could tell him what and when and why. Irregardless of his cooperation or the value of his information, however, the man had committed a transgression beyond forgiveness. There would be no absolution for the man named Serge; he would not be permitted to live out the year.

And then, he would deal with the Senior Partners, and each and every person who had contributed in any way to this insufferable act.

But first things first… Bjoutan and Buffy.

Impatient and edgy, Angel lit a second borrowed cigarette and paced back and forth in the small chamber like a caged animal. The frustration of waiting while the two witches went about the complex business of preparing everything for the spell to open the portal was painfully slow to him.

“You can go as soon as the portal is open,” Moire said calmly over her shoulder. She could sense the vampire’s agitation even though she had yet to look in his direction. She carefully examined the contents of the cabinets along the back wall. “The twin amber suns of Bjoutan will have no detrimental effect on you, unlike our sun here.”

“Even so, we should do a protective spell. Just in case,” Agatha offered quietly, lifting the jet skull carefully out of the black velvet bag it was wrapped in.

Barely slowing his stride, Angel nodded.

Getting into the prison had been absurdly simple. Giles merely told the guard on duty that they were there on business for Quentin Travers. The unconcerned young man shrugged his shoulders and opened the gate. He didn’t care much who came into the prison, only who tried to leave that shouldn’t.

They were met within minutes by the warden, Fred Harris, and two of his most discreet officers. He looked at the incongruous group curiously, but only nodded when Giles offered a contrived and highly abbreviated explanation for their visit. Amaranthine Enterprises paid an extraordinary sum in rent for the single basement room that was used infrequently; total discretion and confidentiality had been contractually assured. Harris himself had been witness to the comings and goings of the various men, often with young women often in tow, that Quentin had sent to the prison. Given what he had seen, and what he suspected, he knew better than to ask questions. Ignorance was sometimes the better path.

He escorted them to the door that led to the basement. After Angel opened the door using the keys he had taken from Travers, Harris excused himself leaving only one guard behind to watch the basement door to ensure that they would not be disturbed.

Now they all waited in the sparsely furnished and dimly lit room as Moire and Agatha assembled everything to begin the ritual. Having all of the required items readily available, including the extremely rare jet skull, greatly simplified the task ahead of them. But of course, the Council would have kept everything conveniently at hand since they had used the portal a number of times.

“So, do you have a plan when we get there, or what?” Spike asked, as he too paced restlessly along one side of the room.

“We?” Angel’s dark eyes challenged him.

“You don’t think I came all this way to just twiddle my thumbs and wait in this basement, do you?” The blonde vampire retorted.

“Do you think you’re going to be the one to rescue her?” Angel crossed the room in two strides, grabbing the smaller vampire by the throat.

“No,” Spike ground out. “But I won’t leave her there to rot if you get your sorry ass dusted.”

Gradually Angel’s vicious grip on Spike lessened. The younger vampire had a point. He might need the help, or if something happened to him, there would be someone else that could get Buffy out of there.

Giles cleared his throat. “You, uh, will perhaps need some help. I’m prepared to go along as well.”

Angel glanced at the former Watcher, then back at Spike. He was moved by their loyalty and support. But then, it was was for Buffy. He’d move heaven and hell for her… it shouldn’t surprise him that others would be willing to do the same.

Buffy, caught in a nightmare from which she could not seem to wake, struggled to free herself from the web of sleep. But like the clinging strands of a sticky web, the bad dream held fast, capturing her so completely it was impossible to break free.

She dreamt that she was trapped in a dark, depressing prison, and no matter how many times she tried to wake, to return to her penthouse suite home in Los Angeles, she couldn’t.

Raising one hand to her head, she attempted to clear away the cobwebs cluttering her mind. Everything seemed so off, so distant and fuzzy. She felt so weak. With a trembling hand, she brushed her disheveled hair away from her face and stared around her in horrified disbelief. The last thing she remembered was the limo taking her to Long Beach.  How did I get here?  Where was Angel?

The tiny babe inside her felt like it did a somersault, and suddenly she felt sick. Stumbling, she rose to her feet and made her way to the dirty sink along the wall. Dropping to her knees, she retched violently, clutching her stomach. Gradually the nausea passed, but the sick feeling inside her increased with every breath she took as the reality of her situation sank in.

Hearing a sound behind her, she struggled to her feet.  She thought that it was someone coming to help her. Instead, she looked up into the feral gleam of a complete stranger. He was a large man, his stained grey t-shirt stretched over the bulge of his belly, but not quite far enough to cover the inch or two of girth evident above the waistband of his trousers. His pants were tucked into black, lace-up style military boots.

“My, my. What a filthy little whore you are. They told me that you had a vampire’s bastard in your belly, but I didn’t believe them.” He stepped through the open door, and Buffy noticed for the first time that she was in some sort of cell. There were no windows, and the single door was made of heavy steel bars.

Unconsciously she wrapped her arms over her stomach, as if that would somehow protect her unborn child from the man’s wrath as he continued to advance toward her.

“Have you no shame?” he snarled with disgust, bringing his hand up to backhand her hard across the face.

Purely on instinct, Buffy raised her hand to ward off the blow and retaliate, but found that she was nearly powerless. Her punch, landed on his beefy shoulder, seemed of no consequence to him.  Her brow creased in confusion. Where was her Slayer strength?  She swung again, but he easily deflected her blow.

“It’s a disgrace, that’s what it is,” he spat, reaching to take her arm and jerk her forward. “I don’t know how you think you’ll raise the brat in here.”

Refusing to be cowed, Buffy gathered what little strength she had, stood up straight and lifted her chin. “I won’t be raising my child here. I’ll be out of here before the baby is born. Now take your hands off of me before you regret it.”

Arno stared down at the small blonde incredulously, a smile curving his lips. These Slayers, they usually had spunk… this one more so than the others. She’d be quite the challenge to break. He always enjoyed it when they got a new girl; it made the months here in the shit-hole of Bjoutan tolerable. “You think so, do ya?”  

As if time and motion slowed, Buffy saw him raise his arm and slam his fist in her stomach. She felt the hard impact of his cruel blow, and felt herself slam into the wall behind her before falling to the floor. She extended her arms to brace her fall almost the same time she felt the heavy boot land near her hip, kicking her solidly. She rolled, curling up into a ball; her only thought to protect her unborn child, as she felt another kick strike her in the back.

Reaching down, the man grabbed a fistful of hair and jerked her toward him. “Now girlie, I don’t care if they want your brat. I run things here in Bjoutan, and you’d better learn that right quick.”

The intricately carved skull was placed in the center of the room and an imaginary circle drawn around it using the blood red hilted athame.  With deliberate precision Agatha then placed the ancient bronze coins, one with the etchings of Herkales grasping Diomeda’s hair as she tried to kill him, and the other of Aesklepios with a serpent twined around the staff in his hand, over the gaping hollow eyes.

Lighting the first of six black candles, Moire began speaking the phrases in ancient Avesta to complete the rite and open the bidirectional portal.  Once open, it would remain so for thirty-six hours after which it would close. They would then have to way for six days before the ritual could be performed again, or they would risk closing the portal permanently.

In her sleep, Buffy whimpered, the dream continuing apace.

Almost in shock, she lay on her small cot. The pain in her body from the beating was sharp and pervasive, radiating through her. Yet, she clung to the pain, refusing to allow herself to think of anything beyond it, because if she did, she feared that she would give in to the panic she could feel pulling her skin taut and making her heart race.

As part of his standard procedure with the arrival of new girls, Arno subjected them to a humiliating inspection. They were stripped nude, and held in various positions by two of his guards while he poked and prodded and examined every inch of their young, firm, nubile bodies. He admired the bruises from his handiwork, and would add to them with vicious slaps and brutal twists and pinches. He liked a certain pattern to bruises, or so he claimed as he cruelly grabbed her breasts.

Technically, he didn’t have sex with her, nor were the guards permitted to do so even though they had suggested it more than once during their ‘examination’, but the magnitude of such intimate violation might as well have been considered such.

Her greatest concern through all of it had been not for herself, but for her unborn baby. She didn’t know who Arno meant when he said that ‘they’ wanted her baby, but it was clear that he wanted her to lose it.  But she wasn’t ready to give up hope. Her hands stroked her stomach. Angel would find her.

Trembling slightly, Moire continued chanting softly. The lights flickered and dimmed, and the air seemed to swirl around them in steadily increasing gusts. The atmosphere in the room seemed charged with electricity.

Anxiously, Angel strode toward Moire only to be stopped by Agatha putting a hand on his arm.

“Wait,” she murmured quietly. “She mustn’t be interrupted.”

With a sudden flash of light, the center of the room above the skull seemed to part, leaving a strange, dark fissure.

Moire dropped to her knees, drained.

“Stay here and help her,” Angel said to Giles as he strode toward the opening. “If we’re not back within eight hours, then come through.”  Without another word or a backward glance, he plunged through the opening.

“Stupid poof,” Spike grumbled. “Didn’t even wait for the protective spell. Won’t be of much help to the Slayer if he gets dusted on arrival.” Still, with a shrug of his shoulders, he tugged his jacket over his head and followed.

Buffy thrashed on her small cot, struggling unsuccessfully to wake from her nightmare of her past.

Weeks past and Arno was unsuccessful in his attempts to force her to miscarry.  Though she had little appetite for the unappealing food they served, Buffy forced herself to eat in hopes that it would strengthen her unborn child. She exercised regularly for that reason as well, though her activities were limited since she spent most of the time in her small cell. Still, she remained as weak as a kitten, her Slayer strength completely sapped. She had only herself for company, as she didn’t count her weekly visits with Arno or the twice daily visits from the guards who dropped off her meal trays.

She heard sounds that convinced her that there were others in this hell hole, but she never was allowed to talk to anyone else. Fear of the unknown was terrifying, so she determinedly focused on each day as it came. She couldn’t allow herself to even consider Arno‘s threats that her child would be taken from her; that would snatch away her sanity. Instead, she concentrated on the day she would escape, and she waited for just that opportunity.

Until the day she went into labor… three months early. Nothing had prepared her for the fear, or the pain. The guards brought Arno, who disinterestedly noted her plight though he did have her moved to the small building off the kitchen that doubled as an infirmary.

Mrs. Kerse, the kitchen assistant, came to her aide.  She wiped Buffy’s brow and explained patiently that first babies usually took their time, though she couldn’t quite keep the worried look from her face.

Tearfully, Buffy clarified that it was much too early; she couldn’t be having the baby now. To which Mrs. Kerse agreed but said that there was nothing to be done now but wait.

The waiting stretched into eighteen long hours, during which Buffy prayed, cried, cursed, screamed until she lost consciousness, only to be revived by the pain beginning the cycle all over again.

All the while, Mrs. Kerse stood by, talking with her, attempting to sooth her and reassure her, despite the fact that she herself felt overwhelmed by the events. She had no experience as a midwife, and very little with babies.

When Buffy finally gave birth to a tiny boy, Mrs. Kerse cleaned the baby and swaddled him into blankets made from several of the cleaner kitchen towels. The tiny baby boy had no strength to protest, but he did struggle valiantly for breathe.

Arno, having heard the news from one of the guards that the birth was over, stopped in the doorway. He glanced at the small bundle in Mrs. Kerse’s arms. “Is the brat alive?”

“Yes,” the kitchen assistant replied hesitantly, looking at the exhausted young woman on the nearby cot. She lowered her voice, “But I’m not sure if he will survive. He’s very small.”

“Good. I’ll be by to get the corpse in the morning. They’ll want to see it.”

Mrs. Kerse felt overwhelmed. She was as trapped here as many of the others; to attempt to do anything for the young woman or the child would be risking her own life. She looked back at the young woman, then at the impossibly small babe in her arms.  She prayed that both were sleeping.  After a moment of indecision, she concluded that there was nothing anyone could do; it was all in God’s hands now.  

As luck would have it, the portal opened on a small hillside overlooking a foreboding structure with high, razor wire topped fences that could only be the prison they were seeking.  The walk along the narrow, overgrown path down the hillside took only minutes, but to Angel it felt like hours.

When he stepped up to the high gates, Angel realized that for the first time in a very long time he knew real fear. His stomach churned and he had to clench his jaw to keep his panic at bay just by looking at the dreary, dilapidated stone buildings. A foul stench hung in the air; air which itself seemed almost thick enough to cut under the strange twin amber suns. Of small comfort was the fact that the awareness of her presence, the long-missing pang of connection they shared, had returned in full force the very second he passed through the portal. Buffy was here. And she was paying steeply for the long list of sins that he was accredited. He wanted to curse heaven for the very injustice of it.

Flicking his collar up, he strode up to the small guard vestibule, and banged his clenched fist against the door.  The guard on duty had fallen asleep. The noise startled him, and he jumped up so quickly he knocked over his chair, as well as the cup of coffee at his elbow. A foul oath leaving his lips, he looked up to see not another guard but two unrecognizable strangers. What’s more, they appeared to be angry.

“You can’t get in without a pass,” he said blandly.

Angel curbed the violence the surged just below the surface. “Open the door,” he said quietly. “I’m the new owner of this cursed place now.”

The guard, his eyes boggling at the stranger’s proclamation, staggered back a step but pushed the release button to open the gate allowing the man, as well as the man accompanying him, to enter. He cursed inwardly. He should have remembered that the few strangers that they got at Bjoutan were usually VIPs. “Sorry sir. We didn’t get any notice.”

“Take me to the warden.” The order, given softly, carried a deadly threat.

“Yes, sir. Right this way,” the young guard stammered as he led the way up the two flights of stairs to the main building. He was probably going to be reprimanded for missing some memo, again.

“Hamlin? What’s the meaning of this?” Arno murmured disdainfully, looking up from his desk as the door burst open. The interruption annoyed him; he didn’t like surprises in any way, shape, or form. He operated with order and control; those who got out of line tasted the lash of his favorite bullwhip.

“Sir, uh, this is the new owner.”

“And that will be all we need from you just now,” Spike said as he pushed young, nervous Hamlin out of the way and closed the door. He leaned against it with a casualness that belied his keen vigilance.

“We’re usually given a few days notice prior to the arrival of guests…” Arno began, his brows lifting in surprise. Bjoutan had a new owner?  Why hadn’t he been told?

“But then we’re not guests,” Angel returned smoothly, his dark gaze shuttered as he looked over the man in front of him. The Bjoutan prison warden was a large man, his bulk unhidden by the desk. His face was shiny with sweat, and he seemed to be laboring for breath in the humid office for all that he was simply sitting at the desk doing paperwork.

“So you’re not guests. You are, if Hamlin is to be believed, the new owner of our most humble establishment,” Arno said, struggling to keep the curiosity out of his voice. “If that is, in fact, the case,” he smiled broadly, extending his arms. “Then what, gentlemen, can I do for you?”

“Assemble your guards – all of them – for our inspection,” Angel tossed over his shoulder. He strode over to the chest against the wall. Lifting the lid, his nostrils flared at the scent of blood and fear coating the various whips and implements jammed in a haphazard pile. A low growl rumbled in his chest, but with effort he controlled his mounting rage. “Then assemble the… prisoners. While we’re waiting, I want to look at your records.”

“Before I do that, I will need a name and some sort of proof that you are the new owner, as you say,” the warden returned, his lips curling in a sneer.  He had a pistol in his desk drawer; he could use that until the guards could be summoned. His gaze flicked over the man at the door then back again to the one now standing in front of his desk. Leaning back in his chair, he added, “I’m sure you understand, of course.”

Angel stared at the beefy warden for a long moment, his mind going through the various and sundry forms of slow torture that the man would endure. It would be an agonizing death, and he would gloatingly relish each anguished groan and scream of pain.

“My name is Angel.”

Arno paled. “Noo…”

Buffy woke with a start, her eyes wet with tears.  The loss of her baby had nearly been her undoing.  After that she had stopped living. She stopped daydreaming, stopping hoping, and stopped thinking. She existed – barely. In her heart she knew she would never again see Angel. She would never go on another moonlit patrol with him, or train with him, or make love with him. He was lost to her forever, just as her son was.

When she had first been imprisoned, she had been angry, outraged, that someone would dare do this. But since then she had lost everything.  She lost her child. She had lost her lover. She had lost her looks, her youth, her health. She lost her will to live. She no longer cared. She was numb now, impervious to any further pain or torment. She had also become a thing unclean, tainted. She would never forget the things that she had suffered.

She was so thin, her wrists and ankles looked delicate enough to break with the smallest pressure. Her clothes and skin were layered with so much dirt she though she would never be clean again. Her hair had grown a few inches since Arno had initially cropped it so very short, but the lank, greasy strands were plastered to her head. Her appearance was so changed, so was practically unrecognizable.

But oddly… today… for the first time in… she wasn’t sure since she had long since lost track of time… she felt…something. That odd sensation, that familiar pang in her heart, and her gut, and her very soul… But no, it was impossible. This was yet some new trick; some new way to torment and break her.

She sat up and wrapped her arms around her knees, rocking slightly and willing the sensation away. She couldn’t afford to have hope.

Spike called for two guards to come to the Warden’s office with mops and buckets. The first to arrive promptly lost his lunch on the floor, giving them another mess to clean up. The second took in the scene of the dismembered corpse of his former boss calmly, murmuring something to the effect that ‘it was about time the bastard got what he deserved’.

Without a word, Angel wiped his hands on a towel Spike had tossed him from a nearby bathroom.  He shrugged back into his shirt and coat, then picked up his bloodied sword and wiped it off on one of the former Warden’s clean shirts.  Angel then walked out the door and down the hall without so much as a backward glance. He sent one man to assemble the guards on duty, and another one to bring all of the women currently incarcerated into the courtyard.

Angel surveyed the rag-tag group of men assembled on the prison lawn. Without preamble, he told them that they were all fired. Several surprised responses were murmured through the crowd, but rumors of Arno’s decapitated head, his eyes wide and mouth opened in silent scream, had already begun to circulate.  Not one protest was uttered as the men disassembled.

Next the women were brought forward by the two guards Angel had yet to dismiss. With a keen eye, he searched the face of each and every young woman that entered the courtyard. A total of twenty-seven women had been imprisoned in Bjoutan at one time or another. Eight were marked as deceased, leaving a total of nineteen still incarcerated.

As the women trudged into the courtyard, they all seemed to be lethargic and beaten down. They kept their heads down and their eyes averted when the guard holding the records read out their names.

“Drugged with something to take away their powers, yeah?” Spike muttered disgustedly.

“They’d have to be,” Angel replied quietly, disturbed by the little of what Arno had confessed that he had done. The former warden might have been big, but he wasn’t a skilled fighter. A Slayer could have taken him. Without a doubt it would have taken a powerful drug for most, if not all of them, to allow the man to take the liberties that he had brazenly admitted too.

“Faith?” Spike nudged Angel’s arm as the dark-haired slayer was brought forward.

Angel nodded slowly in agreement. He was surprised by how much she had changed. Her eyes widened slightly in recognition of the two vampires, but she didn’t react otherwise.

There were fifteen women standing in the courtyard when Angel felt a momentary panic rise. She was not here! He ran a distraught hand through his hair and tampered back the feeling. He could feel her. She was here.

He took the clipboard from the guard and scanned the names, noting that the guard made a neat tick mark next to each name as the young woman was brought forward. The name Anne jumped off the page at him. He closed his eyes and searched for patience.

When she stepped out of the building, Angel felt the world closing in around him, and he thought for a moment he was going to pass out with the force of his rage at what had been done to her and his relief that he had finally found her.  Without further thought, he strode toward her. The abrupt movement surprised some of the girls and they jumped back in fear. Many of them held their breath, waiting to see what punishment the tall, dark man would mete out.

“Buffy,” he said softly, careful not to startle her when she was obviously expecting some sort of physical blow. “Buffy? Sweetheart…”

Buffy stared at him for a very long time with disbelief. She felt as though she was gradually waking from a nightmare. She reached out her fingers tentatively, as if expecting the apparition in front of her to be yet another cruel torment. Angel held out his hand to meet hers. When her fingers touched his, his cool fingers closed over hers. She was afraid to blink, afraid that he’d disappear, afraid that this wasn’t happening. Everything around them seemed still, silent. Then everything seemed to blur together as he pulled her into his arms and clutched her tightly, completely unmindful of the dirt and grime that covered every inch of her.

It was several minutes before Angel turned back to the others.  Clearing his throat, he attempted to gain some measure of control over his emotions before he spoke. In a moderate tone, he explained to the women that they would be taking them from Bjoutan, that the prison was being closed. As he talked, he saw their heads lift and a flicker of hope rise in their eyes.  He told them that they would all be fed and baths provided after they passed through the portal. Once on the other side, he’d and his companions would help them all find their way back home, or wherever they wanted to go. They would all be making the short trek up the hill in a couple of hours. In the meantime, they were free to roam about the grounds.

Afterwards, Spike came up and brushed Buffy’s cheek with a reverent kiss. He was afraid to hug her for fear he’d crush her, or cry, he wasn’t sure which.

His arm still securely wrapped around her shoulders, Angel escorted Buffy to the front of the building. There was a bench and several chairs, used most often in the past by guards during their break. He encouraged her to sit, his gaze never leaving her face.

Buffy looked up at him. “I can’t believe you’re here.”

“I’m here,” he said simply, his deep brown eyes staring into hers. There were so many things he wanted to say to her, so many apologies he wanted and needed to make… he vowed to do everything possible to make this up to her. As he ran his thumb carefully over her now seemingly fragile cheekbone, he wondered if he’d ever be capable of letting her out of his sight again.

Spike made a trip through the portal to let Giles, Moire and Agatha know to expect the nineteen Slayers, including Buffy. The men that wanted to return through the portal would be allowed to do so, after all of the women were returned.

Then in small groups of three or four, Spike, Angel, and Hamlin led the women up the hill. Despite being malnourished and weak, most of them would have made the trip even if they had to crawl, so glad they were to be leaving.

Before he could leave Bjoutan, something drove Angel to see for himself the place that Buffy had spent the last year and a half.  The smell in the building was putrid, and the cells were filthy beyond belief. When he stepped into the small cell, his heart sank to the pit of his stomach.

He slid down in a corner agains the slimed stones stared at the narrow cot in outrage that his beloved had spent so long in such a horrific place. Again, he swore vengeance on all those responsible even as tears rolled silently down his cheeks.


To be continued…