Bryn


AUTHOR: Kiki van Buren

RATING: This is an Adults-ONLY fic.  You must be over 18 in U.S. (i.e. legally "adult" in your country) to read this.

WARNING(s):  Non-con, violence, squick.

SUMMARY: Spins off from Helpless.  When Buffy quits the Watcher’s Council, they take their revenge.

SPOILERS: To be safe, through the end of Seasons 5/2, but mostly through S3 Buffy.

DISTRIBUTION: Twin Flames (http://www.twinflames.co.uk/), List archives.  If you’d like to host it, please ask first.  Please do NOT post anywhere, without asking.  Thanks!

FEEDBACK is always very much appreciated: kikivanburen@gmail.com

DEDICATION and THANK YOU: To Gia for her never-ending encouragement. To Calla for her support and amazing (and multiple) beta-ing.  To Fickledame, just ‘cuz.  Happy 144 Challenge!

DISCLAIMERS:  This is a not-for-profit work of fanfiction.  Any characters recognizable from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel the Series belong to Joss Whedon and his associates.  No infringement is intended through the use of any of the Buffy or Angel characters. Any additional characters and the actual story, for what they’re worth, belong to me.

                                                                                                                       

A/N: Not a huge fan of canon-changing but, in my world, after Kendra dies, Buffy's on her own.

 

 

Bryn

 

Buffy strolled through Sunnyrest drumming a stake against her palm.   It was a quiet night.  Definitely of the good.  She needed one of those, needed to think.  Everything that had happened over the past few days….  It was like her whole foundation had been rocked.

 

As the Slayer, she was in danger every day, but this time had been different.  This time she'd been put in danger on purpose.  By *Giles*.  She didn't trust easily… particularly men.  Her Dad had broken enough promises over the past few years to make her more than wary.  But until Tuesday, she'd trusted Giles with her life - never even questioned it.  And he'd betrayed that trust. 

 

He'd poisoned her, yeah… but what was worse was that he'd pretended not to know what had happened to her, why she was losing her strength.  She and the others had done hours of research, she'd totally wigged… spent two nights in bed, crying, terrified of losing herself, losing Angel… afraid of dying.  Suddenly powerless – and knowing what went bump in the night – she didn't know how Willow and the others dealt with it.  Life was so… dangerous.

 

As sucktastic as the lack of sleep and personal angst-fest had been, *that* she could forgive.  But in the end, her mother had been put in danger.  She knew, in theory, that her mother was in danger all the time just by being … her mother, the "Slayer's mother."  It was one of the reasons she was glad her Mom knew about the slaying.  But theory and reality were two very different things.  In reality, Mom in danger equaled terror.   If she lost her Mom… she didn't know what she'd do.

 

In the end, Giles had come through…proved that his loyalty still lay with her.  His decision had likely gone against everything he'd been raised to believe.  The Council had always been the major force in his life.  His grandmother and his father were both Watchers and she suspected his most recent trip to England was to see a female Watcher, for, um, non-Watcherly reasons.  By warning Buffy, by letting her know the deal with her lack o' Slayerness, he'd broken a *major* Watcher rule… and essentially turned his back on everyone important to him.  She knew it wasn't the first time, either.  The year before, she'd been getting a book from his office at school and had seen a letter berating him for not acting on the "Angelus matter."  She was deeply moved that he'd never so much as mentioned it to her and, even more so because, to this day, he'd never blamed her for Angelus' "arrival" nor her inability to kill him.  He would never know how much his support on that had meant to her.  She would love him forever for it.

 

He was a good man and, even though he'd hurt her, he deserved her trust.  He also deserved to not be alone.  And the Council didn't deserve a Watcher as good as he was.  Quentin Travers had been completely inflexible with the firing so, okay then, she quit.  She and Giles were a team and the Council didn't get to have one without the other.

 

The crisp snap of a breaking branch echoed behind her.  She looked over her shoulder but there was nothing there.  Not surprising, really.  She could sense demonic activity somewhere in the cemetery but it was still a ways off.  And whatever it was was pretty minor which was good.  Her powers were back but she wasn't in top form quite yet.  Angel would kill her if he knew she was on patrol.  He'd made her promise she'd stay in that night and get some rest and then said that tomorrow they'd go on patrol together.  And, well, she'd *tried* to stay home.  Really.  She'd watched TV, paced, gotten a soda, watched more TV, paced some more….  It was no use.  She had the "itch", she needed to get out, do a quick sweep… needed to hit something.  Her balance wasn't great and when training with Giles earlier that evening, she'd gotten dizzy a few times but other than that she felt pretty good.  Not her best, but okay enough.  And, anyway, she *needed* to patrol.  She had no choice.  Who'dda thunk that after years of wishing *not* to be the Slayer, that she'd be dying to slay?   

 

But she was.  It was weird how much she'd missed it…that she'd missed it at all, even.  It seemed that the Slayer was a part of her, for better or worse.  Yet another thing to ponder as she strolled.  Realizing she'd been out walking for over an hour, she stopped and looked around.  It was strange that she hadn't encountered *anything*.  She frowned and took a moment to stretch, leaning over to her side and loosening up her back.  She wished she'd just find the vamp already.  She was getting tired but she wasn't leaving the cemetery until he was dust.  Maybe she'd be lucky and it would be a young, skinny, underfed vamp… maybe a vamp with some sort of health problem?   Sort of get back into things slowly?

 

Another branch snapped behind her.  She frowned and glanced quickly around – being thorough and all – but then shrugged, knowing it wasn't anything to worry about.  Her spidey sense was good that way.  You could always tell when to be ready for a fight.  Any noises at the moment were likely the job of furry rodent friends, not foe.  But… ugh… thinking about it, she wasn't really interested in seeing any furry rodent friends either.  Yeesh.

 

"Well, lookie here, boys.  We got the best meat there is:  Slayer meat."

 

Buffy gripped her stake more tightly and, turned, saying:  "Okay.  That line?  Seriously–"

 

Six vamps, armed with knives and crossbows, stood before her, smirking.  Her eyes widened when it hit her:  She hadn't sensed them at all.  Even knowing they were there… oh, God, they'd been following her the whole time.  She swallowed, her throat tight, as she realized her powers weren't nearly as "back" as she'd thought.  And these guys were big.  At least two of them were old… probably even older than Angel.  She was definitely not up to a fight of this magnitude.  Distract and run – that was her only ticket out of there.  Moving suddenly, she grabbed the closest vamp, gave him a hard right to the jaw and then hurled him into the other two closest to her and turned to run....

 

Only to find that she was surrounded.  There were at least thirteen vamps circling her, all in fighting stance, all, for once, working as a team to take her down.  Oh, shit, this is bad, she thought, taking a deep breath and mentally preparing herself for the fight. 

 

She heard someone clapping… she heard *applause* and whirled in astonishment.  Her mouth dropped open as the reality of the situation hit her. 

 

This was a set up.

 

“You thought you could just *quit* and we’d go away?” Quentin Travers menaced.  “You thought that *you* were in charge of the Watcher’s Council?” 

 

Rubbing his hands together in a washing motion, he continued. “Foolish, *stupid* girl.  You have no idea the greater forces at work here.  You may feel powerful, you may believe that you are autonomous, that *you* are in charge of your own destiny…. I shouldn’t be surprised, really.  How very *American* of you.

 

“Make no mistake, Miss Summers...," he sneered.  "*Buffy*. *We* own *you*.  And we do not brook impertinence, independence.  We need an obedient Slayer and we shall have one.”

 

Buffy swayed slightly, nauseous, realizing that this was it.  Angel, please, now would be a really great time for a surprise, drop in visit.  A really good time!  But, then again, Angel trusted her.  Trusted her to be home like she’d promised.  Trusted her not to be stupid and act invincible.  When clearly she was anything but at the moment.

 

“Boys?” she heard Quentin say.  “Have fun.”  

 

The vamps rushed her at once.

 

***

 

 

Part 1

 

Her head throbbed.  Her skull felt like it had been smashed into pieces and then slopped back together and held fast with twine.  Her back hurt... no, everything hurt.  She tried to move.  She found that her wrists were bound in front of her with duct tape, her ankles held together with a narrow chain.  She pulled hard on both and found them impossibly tight.  Tape was always tricky but still…. She *should* have been able to break free.  What the hell was going on?  And, looking around, where was she?  Lying on a hard, stone floor, her sundress torn from the fight – yes, that’s right, a fight... a dozen vamps had attacked her – why was she still alive?  Was she?  Okay, lying in a pool of sunlight... so, not vamped, which was good, but why couldn’t she break the tape or, even easier, the chain?  It wasn’t that heavy.

 

She could hear men speaking behind her... couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, but they seemed to be unaware of her awakeness, so she took advantage and tried to use her feet to pull on the tape as well as her arm strength.  Or maybe her teeth?  Damn, her mouth was taped shut.  She had to be woozy if she hadn’t even realized that.  How long had she been there?

 

“I should stop trying if I were you, Miss Summers.  After all, I gave you the drugs.”  Her heart fell as she confirmed, upon rolling over, that Quentin was one of the men speaking behind her.  Or, the only man, as it appeared.  The other two were clearly demons, beefy, tall demons with thick leathery skin who reminded her of that big guy on Star Trek - Rolf?  Wolf?  What was his name?

 

Keeping her eyes on them, she continued to pull at her wrists, trying desperately to focus… to figure a way out ….

 

 “But then, of course, the drugs *could* have worn off.  We’ll never know.  After all, you aren’t the Slayer in this dimension….  Here in Bethara your strength is that of a normal human girl.”

 

The taller demon looked pissed.  “You tol' us -”

 

“Fear not,” he said, holding up a hand in dismissal.  “Her strength is human but her accelerated healing remains.  When I make a bargain, gentleman, I keep it.” He reached for a knife which lay on a large wooden table around which they were standing – was this a business meeting? – and ran the blade across his palm, holding his hand above a waiting bowl… standing patiently as his blood drained into it.  After a moment, he took a rag proffered by the shorter demon, saying a polite “thank you,” and sat in one of the chairs reviewing a document.  Seeing it was to his liking, she supposed, he dipped a quill into the blood and signed it, a satisfied smile on his face. 

 

Standing again, Quentin turned to the taller demon and said, “Well, then.  The Key, please.” 

 

Buffy heard the scrape of a thick door opening behind her, and a short, robed demon led a young girl past her.  She guessed the girl wasn’t entirely human despite looking it.  Her hands were held fast with something that looked like burlap and more fabric was stuffed in her mouth.  Her long, light brown hair flowed down her back and her green eyes glittered with tears.  Buffy’s heart broke when she saw how scared she was, saw the tears begin to stream down her face.

 

“Director,” the taller demon addressed Quentin, “it has been long time since we haf a Slayer among our people.  Dey are quite a delicacy here, as you know.”  Buffy’s heart began to race as his eyes raked over her body and he slowly licked his lips.  Why wouldn't the freaking tape budge?  “We already booked through Quav!”  The two demons snickered, exchanging pleased grimaces.

 

“To t'ank you for choosing dis House over other, possibly more esteemed Houses, we like to offer de Slayer to you for an eve or two.  We haf several room, all unique and enhanced.  We be honored if you partake.”

 

Quentin smiled uncomfortably and slowly began to walk toward Buffy.  Her stomach began to churn with nausea; she pulled harder on her wrists.  They didn’t budge. 

 

“Stand please, Miss Summers,” he said, pleasantly. “Or shall I call you Bryn?”

 

Okay, she needed to get out of there.  Stat.  Ignoring Quentin for a moment, she quickly glanced over her shoulder.  It would be hard to run with the chain on her feet but since she couldn't break it….  Wait….  Where was the door?

 

“Pava?”  Quentin sighed, resigned.

 

She quickly looked back at them, eyes widening as the taller demon retrieved a small cat-o'-nine-tails from the table and crossed quickly to her, his anger barely contained in his massive frame.

 

“Slayer, when you are addressed, you will follow order.”  He reconsidered.  “Although, you can choose not to.  It be good to see if you are all de Director claim before he is allowed to leave Bet'ara.”  He lowered the whip into a pail of liquid and swirled it around.

 

“Shall we see if you healing hold true, Slayer?”

 

Buffy struggled to her feet and instinctively retreated back toward the wall, and then, remembering her goal, cheated a small step to her left and glanced quickly over her shoulder.  Where was the door?  Quentin licked his lips and began to walk toward her only to be stopped by the demon, Pava, who placed a hand on his arm.

 

“Allow me,” he said to Quentin.  “Slayer, come here.”

 

Buffy considered blindly running but remembered the chains on her ankles...  and that her strength seemed…  Wait… did he say he'd taken her strength?  She pulled desperately at her wrists… continued to move slowly – hopefully discretely - toward where the door *should* have been.  Her wrists… her ankles….  She couldn’t loosen the restraints even a little.  Wait… maybe her strength was fine.  Unlike the cemetery, she could sense these demons clearly.  Maybe the bonds were just magically enhanced.

 

“Slayer. Come. Here. Now.”

 

They were magically enhanced.  They had to be.  She just had to figure –

 

Buffy screamed through the tape as the razor-sharp whip slashed across her right arm and neck.  She fought not to whimper….  The pain was excruciating… like red-hot needles.  And the burn that remained….

 

“Slayer, come here.”

 

Instead of moving forward, she breathed through the pain as best she could and took another small step to her left, hesitating only when Pava lowered the whip back into the pail.  Pava ignored her and turned to Quentin with a pleased expression on his face.  She chanced another step to her left.

 

“I do love her spirit.  She be perfect... all dat we promise dem.  De disobedience, de craftiness, de lack of strengt'.  She be so hard to break.  And so entertaining while we do.”

 

He turned back to Buffy.  “We try again?” he said pleasantly.  “Slayer, come here.”

 

She glanced behind herself.  The door was nowhere to be seen and now another demon was approaching her from behind.  She looked back at Pava who was swirling the whip slowly in the bucket.  She felt hot breath on the back of her neck… wetness… the demon behind her was licking her neck! She jumped away from him, practically tripping on the chain but managing – barely – to catch herself.  She gasped – his breath, his tongue was on her neck again.  She jerked away, stepped forward, stomach clenching when she realized he was forcing her to walk toward the demon called Pava, to walk toward the whip.  Losing her battle with panic, she looked at Quentin, pled with him with her eyes…please stop this, please….

 

He smirked at her. 

 

The second blow bit into her upper arm and neck again.  She hissed, unable to stop tears from flowing down her face as brine in the water became fire to her previously abraded skin. 

 

“Stop,” Pava instructed her.  Stunned and trying not to sob – in pain - in rapidly growing fear - she managed to halt her steps.

 

“Mistah Travers?”

 

Quentin walked forward... a look of distaste clearly evident on his face.  Arriving less than a foot away from her, her breath caught as he smiled … a cold, feral, tight-lipped smile… and reached forward and began to stroke her right breast.  She stumbled back, horrified, only to feel the rock-like body of the other demon behind her.  The demon grabbed her arms and pinned her body still… he pressed his hard phallus into her back.  She fought him … she *tried* but his grip held her tight – paralyzed.  Her eyes flitted desperately to Pava.  He was smiling.  Quentin continued to massage and tug at her nipple, rubbing his thumb across it.  She shook her head in disbelief… she lost her battle against tears.  Quentin chuckled at her anguish.  No, no, NO!  Please STOP, PLEASE she moaned, she prayed behind her taped mouth, her breath catching further as she saw Pava, his whip raised, approaching the forgotten young girl - the "Key" they'd called her - who stood cowering against the wall, clearly terrified.

 

Buffy fought harder … she needed to save the girl….  The demon's grip was like iron … where was her strength?!   She *screamed* through the tape… Quentin crushed her breast… God, it hurts!  She tried to break away but the demon held her fast, his hot breath, his tongue licking all over her neck….  Quentin was reaching under her dress, Oh God no!, he was pulling her underwear aside.  He leered at her… he jammed his fingers inside of her, began to stroke her.  He … It hurts, she sobbed, Please, God, PLEASE MAKE IT STOP!!!

 

Pava laughed uproariously.  “Lovely.  Such a decent creature.  Oh, how we missed having a Slayer in dese parts.  We be much more careful wit' dis one.  Won' let dis one pass…."

 

The demon behind her squeezed, her arms were painfully bruising… he thrust his phallus into her back…he rubbed his teeth on her neck until he drew blood… she was screaming… she was sobbing…. Quentin chuckled… his fingers pushing deeper.  Stop it, Stop it!  ANGEL!

 

Pava was stroking the whip slowly along the sobbing Key's neck.  "So, Slayer, you will do what I ask or de Key takes de whip.  And den, perhaps, me.  I do like a young one, even if solely mortal.”

 

Quentin yanked his fingers out of her… Buffy fell forward - held upright only by the demon's punishing grip.  Quentin casually cleaned his hands on her hair, and dropped both arms to his side… sighing, resigned.  “It’s no use.  I do not mean any disrespect, Pava, it is just that my leanings are more...,” he trailed off, licking his lips as he studied the Key.  “In human years, how old is she?”

 

“In your human years, she is twelve.”

 

“Excellent.  And my specifications?”

 

“Yes.  She not age, not die.  She haf no human intelligence, only human fear and shame.”  The demon looked uncomfortable.  “Director, if de Shoeck found out what we are doing....”

 

“You are getting a Slayer out of it," Quentin snapped.  "It is a fair bargain.” 

 

“True, it is.”  The Key yelped as a demon grabbed her arm and dragged her over to Quentin. 

 

“It was pleasure doing business wit' you, Mistah Travers.  We mus' do it again sometime.”  He snickered.  “Oh, by de way, de Key haf been treated.  She is...” he searched for the word, “pure and will remain so.  Will heal each time.”

 

“Excellent,” Quentin said, smiling, turning to the Key.  “I think I will call you Dawn.  Yes.”  The girl’s eyes widened, filled with fear.  “Dawn, you will... well, maybe not *enjoy* where we’re going but you shall be entertained.  As shall you, Miss Summers,” he continued, sneering back at her.  “Enjoy your stay on Bethara.  Maybe if you’re lucky, the myth that Slayers are immortal here *won’t* be true.  Maybe they *won’t* be able to restore your virginity.  Maybe they *won’t* torture you daily.”

 

Oh, God, he was leaving her there!

 

His tone became acid.  “I warned you, *Buffy*,” he spat, “Not to cross me.  I warned you not to cross the Council.  As head of the Council, it is my right to claim a Slayer who will obey my orders.  It was within my right to have you terminated – it’s what the others on the Board voted for.  And it is what the others will believe has happened.  So be thankful for your life.  Be thankful I needed something of “value” to entice the Pava to sell me the Key.  Your life has value, as it turned out.  And for that, I thank you.”

 

He smirked.  “Come along, Dawn, we have a long night ahead of us."  He chuckled and turned away, heading to a door now in plain view.

 

Buffy's muffled screams followed him out of the room.

 

***

 

Buffy swayed on her feet, trembling, silent… her heart racing.  Quentin had left her.  He'd left her … in some foreign place, in a room full of demons.  Had left her weak and vulnerable.  This wasn't happening, it wasn't.  Please, God, make it stop!

 

Wincing as the demon behind her tightened his grip further, she stiffened as Pava approached her and studied her.  His eyes raked hungrily over her body – he seemed to be enjoying her terror.  He grabbed her elbow and wrenched her away from the other demon, shoving her… forcing her, stumbling, into an adjacent room.  She fell to the floor, landing on her elbows and knees with a hard slap only to be yanked back to her feet by the shorter demon, who'd followed them in.  A creaking door slammed shut behind them.

 

The room was dark and windowless and seemed to contain no one but the three of them.  She shivered as the shorter demon moved in front of her, terrified of what was coming next, but then he knelt at her feet, stunning her when he removed the chain from her ankles.  They were letting her go?

 

“De Director choose not to enjoy you," Pava began, as the other demon stood and began stripping the duct tape from her wrists.  "Pity.  One suppose you are considered old in your dimension….

 

"He is stupid man.  Slayers not immortal, not invulnerable, in our land.  You can be finally killed whenever we wish.… De final killing of a Slayer - a Celebration - is always a delicacy beyond comparison.  Indescribable….

 

"Just because our last Slayer live for hundreds of years, de Director assume some sort of almost-immortality, yet it couldn' be far-der from de trut'.  De reason Slayers live such long lives here is because dey seem to age as dey would haf on Eart'.  Bet'aran time move much more quickly den Eart'… each Eart' day equal close to one of our years… but while years can pass here, for de Slayer's body, it is as if only days haf passed.  You can see why you haf such value to us.  Our last Slayer live for almost 350 years before her Celebration and she seem to age almost nothing at all.  I would regret your loss, for business’ and for pleasure’s sake also, but I sure, as before, it only be but short time before de Watchers need some other service only we can provide."

 

Her wrists free now, she rubbed them absently as tears coursed down her face.  Hundreds of *years*?  They wanted to keep her there for….

 

“As I tol' your Director, we haf many orders.  If you are good girl, your time pass less painfully - for you - den if you are not.  Let’s see den, where we stand on dat.” He barked, ripping the tape off her mouth and pressing his hand hard to her shoulder.

 

“On your knees.”

 

*** 

 

Part 2

 

Buffy awakened on the floor, naked, aching, bloody and alone.  She sensed she'd been unconscious for hours… how long had she been there?  The windowless room was practically pitch dark and she couldn't make out much.  For all she could see, they could have even moved her. 

 

They… those demons, they'd.…

 

She moaned and curled tightly into a ball, sobbing as the reality of what had happened hit her.  She’d been raped.  Dear God, those demons had gang-raped her. 

 

Rolling to her sore knees, she vomited uncontrollably as images flooded her mind…. 

 

Pava forced her down.  Her knees burned when they hit the cool, stone floor... her eyes closed against the sting of it only to fly open again when he grabbed her hair, pulled her head back, forced her to meet his eyes.  He grimaced as he slowly taunted her, pulled his robe aside and rubbed his engorged phallus all over her face.  Terror flooded her and she tried to scurry back but the second demon – 'Bura', Pava had called him - grabbed her shoulders and held her in place.  Pava tightened his grip on her hair as he roughly pried her mouth open with his opposite hand.  She fought to close it again and he growled, snarled, threatened to cut out her tongue should she fight him.  His eyes pierced hers… he was speaking the truth, but she couldn't….  She was sobbing... please don't please.... His hand swung back and he struck her hard across the face, her jaw stinging as he grabbed it harder now, pulled harder.  She couldn't, she couldn't willingly…. He squeezed more and more… it was going to break, oh God, he was breaking her jaw.  He let her go and looked up at Bura in silent request.  Bura reached for his back, pulled something from his belt and handed it to Pava.


An eight-inch vicious, serrated knife.

 

Pava grabbed her jaw again, brandishing the knife, ready to carry out his threat. 

 

Her body wracked with sobs…please God…

 

She slowly opened her mouth. 

 

He snickered and handed the knife back to Bura, passing it over her head, just out of reach.  She lunged for it anyway.  He grabbed both sides of her head, painfully stopping her, held her in a vice like grip and growled as he rammed his penis down her throat.  She was choking, he was choking her….  She feebly slapped at his stomach, tried to pull back…. He was too heavy, he didn't move, her slaps did nothing, she couldn't get away.  A whistle through the air.  She screamed, choking as the whip struck her back, as she was thrown forward, as Pava's cock was thrust deeper, bruising the back of her throat.  Too deep, too deep… Ungh!  The whip moved higher now, struck her upper back, the strips of leather fanning out across it, the edges wrapping around her sides, stinging her breasts.  The force threw her body forward again, Pava's grip tightened, his cock perpetually shoved deeper down her throat now.  Buffy sobbed… Pava laughed in satisfaction.  Ungh! Ungh!  Bura was whipping her whole body with all of his strength… her back, her shoulders, her neck, her thighs.  The flogging stopped abrupty; Pava continued to thrust… hard, so hard, as Bura pulled her sandals off, throwing them across the room where they landed in a loud clatter.  She screamed… the whip now struck her feet… she tried to pull away... they held her still... so much pain… she was choking, sobbing... peals of laughter erupted from them as her dress fell to shreds, as she moaned around Pava's cock, as it thickened and tightened, as the briney water burned her raw, now exposed bleeding back... as Pava’s hands squeezed her head, too hard, too hard, as he throttled her.  Bura beating her, beating her, beating her… Buffy sobbing, fighting for breath, desperately praying ... Please stop please stop please stop PLEASE GOD MAKE THEM STOP!   

 

Bitter semen flooded her mouth, shot down her throat, drowning her.  Pava pulled out of her and forced her jaw closed, held it shut until she swallowed, pinched her nose shut when she resisted.  She swallowed.  He shoved her away and she landed on the floor like discarded trash.  She curled up, hurt, so much pain, gasping, struggling to catch her breath, struggling to catch her breath.

 

A door opened behind her… breathe breathe… two more demons came in, walked past her, glanced over at her, and kept going.  Thank Godbreathe breathe

 

A shadow moved over her.  She chanced a glance up.  The four demons had moved to her, were staring down at her.   She met the eyes of a large grey demon covered in veiny, bark-like flesh.  He licked his lips.  She curled tighter as sobs racked her body once more.

 

It wasn't over. 

 

The demon grabbed her right arm and yanked her roughly to standing, smiling when she screamed when her bleeding feet touched the floor.  They pulled at her clothes, played with her, pushed her at one another, ripped the remaining shreds of her dress off... roughly groped her breasts.   She was now completely naked.  They stopped and stared at her hungrily, their eyes raking her body....  She flew at the largest one, beat at him with her fists – he was stone, didn't even seem to feel it – God, her strength, she had no strength.  He laughed hysterically, taunted her, imitated her sobs, her attack, pretended to fight back until Pava moved in between them and backslapped her so hard she flew several feet through the air, her breath completely knocked out of her when her bleeding back slammed into the stone floor. 

 

He grabbed her shoulder.  She was winded, she couldn't breathe, she needed to fight, she couldn't fight.  He threw her onto her stomach, her ribs aching when he reached around her, pulled her up onto her knees.  Pain knifed through her; he slammed into her dry center from behind.  He was so big, too big.   He pawed at her breasts, twisting them, squeezing hard, too hard... so much pain, she was screaming... he rammed into her, grunting as he pistoned, faster, faster… rough, so rough, each thrust turning the world black… her air… she was leaving… she was passing out….  

 

He pulled out of her, threw her down onto the floor… she lay there, breath heaving, gasping, God please *please* let me pass out let me be done.  They were behind her again, talking, grunting… she pulled herself to her knees, she tried to crawl away… so slow… it hurt so much, it was so hard to move.  She glanced over her shoulder at them.  They were studying her… waiting… waiting… oh, God....

 

Waiting for her.

 

She collapsed sobbing onto the floor.  It wasn't going to stop.  She slowly, painfully curled on her side.  She begged them Why?  Why are you…please.... 

 

She was lifted up and turned, weightless to them.  She was forced back onto her knees, forced to straddle the grey demon… please don't… please don't…. He pushed into her, he impaled her, he thrust deeply, too deep for her tiny body.  She groaned in pain, in fear, as he pulled her ass cheeks apart and held them open, as another demon's fingers dug into her hips, bruising her.  She twisted again, desperate to get away as the second demon spit repeatedly onto her ass, rubbing the liquid against her... as he pressed something hard into her behind.  Black… dizzy… pain… hoarse screams as he then ripped into her dry, virgin back passage.  She was too full, they were too full… she was sobbing please stop please stop please.… Her hair was grabbed, her head pulled up.  Pava stood in front of her, matching her gaze, stroking her jaw… glaring when she stared blankly back and did nothing.

 

She was going to burst.  The two demons inside her… so much pain, so much pressure, she was so full.  They were breaking her.  So much, so much... they were splitting her open. 

 

She watched, numb, as Pava raised his hand to strike her….

 

There was no end.

 

She closed her eyes, her spirit shattering as she dutifully opened her mouth. He thrust harshly into her, rammed his cock against the back of her throat.  Her eyes flew open in shock, in terror.  He was squeezing her head again, too hard.  God, it hurts… when? when God is it over?  He thrust again and again, choking her… too deep… too deep….

 

She was filled.  The demons beneath and behind her came, pushing farther into her as they let themselves release.  Pava continued to pummel her, she felt the others pull out, semen, blood dripping down her thighs, her legs.  She wept with gratitude.  Pava's thrusts came faster, he was going to come.  She was lifted, they were pulling her legs apart, holding them... No!...  Her eyes flew open as Pava came, as she was impaled on another cock... choking sobs as she fell onto her forearms, as he shoved into her center, sucked hard on her breast, as a second demon pulled her ass cheeks apart and pressed himself into her behind again, using her blood, the other's semen to enter her quickly.

 

They traded her for hours, fucked her, over and over.   She was filled with them, her head was spinning, she had no breath, she was filled with their semen, covered with it, dripping with it.  They'd finish, they'd throw her to the floor.  She'd lay gasping for air, praying for oblivion for mere seconds before they grabbed her again, laughing at her, groping her, entering her, holding her upright, kicking her to the floor, whipping her back, her breasts, choking her... over and over… discarding her, starting again.  It was endless, her Slayer body keeping her alive and conscious until finally after hours, maybe days, she finally reached her breaking point and passed out.

 

Staring at the floor now covered with regurgitated food, semen… blood… still dry heaving… she swiped the back of her hand across her mouth and fought to stop crying, fought to breathe more evenly, fought to calm down, fought to let the Slayer take over and Buffy to be no more.  Being sick, crying, wasn't going to save her… the Slayer would.  She hadn’t had her powers when she’d defeated Kralick, yet she'd persevered.  She would do that here too.  Giles had trained her well, trained her to get out of any situation.  She had to... she had to focus, *not* think about it... find some clothing, devise a plan, and then...

 

Her eyes filled with tears again.  Then what?  Where could she go?  This place… Bet – whatever-it-was, wasn’t France - it wasn’t some distant locale on Earth.  Quentin had said it was another dimension, wasn't that what he'd said?  Maybe if Giles were with her she could get home.  Was there maybe a Watcher there?  A Watcher who’d been kidnapped like her that had been exiled there?  Taking a deep breath, calming herself again, focusing on that, she resolved:  She’d get out of there and hide and, yes, see if she could find a Watcher.  It was a long shot but, well, it was likely her only shot.  She *needed* to get out of there.

 

Groaning in pain, she forced herself to stand, fought her dizziness, and looked through the dim light for a door.  She could see none.  And there was nothing that could have been blocking a door.  The walls were smooth, the room devoid of any furnishings that she could see, devoid of anything at all, save for a tray of fruit and something that looked like cheese resting on the floor near the wall.  Her stomach clenched painfully and she realized that, despite feeling ill, she was desperately hungry.  It had been at least a day since she’d had a fat-free yogurt and an orange for lunch at school and then she'd thrown that up along with… everything else.  Despite her disgust at eating unknown food, she knew she would need all of her available strength to mount her escape.  Limping over to the wall, she tentatively reached for the yellow, hard block of “cheese,” sniffed it and reluctantly took a small bite.  She discovered it did, in fact, taste like some kind of cheese - it reminded her of the Muenster cheese her Mom had used on her sandwiches for elementary school.  Oh God, her Mom.  Mommy, I need you... focus, Buffy, focus on the Slayer….  After several bites, she gave in to weakness and hunger, and sat down again, resting as much on her left hip as possible – it hurt so badly to sit don't think about it don't think about it – and shamelessly devoured the entire block, following it with the pear-like fruit and berries in the bowl beside it. 

 

As she swallowed her last bite, her heart clenched:  She was no longer alone.  A small, black-robed demon stood beside her, reached for her.  She shrank back, rolled to her knees and began to crawl away as quickly as she could, afraid of more... attention.  The demon pulled her to standing as if she were weightless and threw her against the opposite wall.  She hit with a smack and was horrified when shackles magically bound her wrists and ankles tightly to the stone.  Immediately, the ceiling and walls sprayed her body with warm, slightly brackish water.  She cringed at the dirty liquid but after a moment realized it must have had something in it - or maybe it was just the water there… for whatever reason, it was very soothing… drugs?  She hung there, arms aching as long minutes passed, until the demon deemed her clean or better or something.  He caught her when she fell, when the shackles just as suddenly disappeared. 

 

He set her on her feet and slapped her hip with a stick he wore over his shoulder.  He herded her through a doorway that, like the demon and shackles, seemed to appear out of thin air.

 

She blushed furiously, tears again streaming down her face as she was forced - naked – horrified – down a narrow, warm, dark hallway lit solely by a single torch.  The demon matched her slow, limping pace; he seemed unhurried.  The hallway was endless… they walked and walked.  They encountered no one.  Buffy's initial relief at having no one else see her, no one else violate her with their eyes, turned to despair as they continued on, passing no doors, no passages to the outside world.  There was no escape. 

 

She was so tired.  They continued walking, walking, walking.  The demon touched her arm; she stumbled to a stop and raised her eyes.  The hallway had abruptly ended; they now stood at the entrance of a large, shadowed chamber.  She looked up at the demon, afraid to enter, looking for his help, desperate for his help.  The demon prodded her forward and once she was fully inside, he and his torch vanished.  She heard a door slam behind her. 

 

She was plunged into complete darkness.

 

Her heart raced.  What now?   Terror filled her and she forced herself to take deep breaths, forced herself to not cry, tried to focus on her senses, get her bearings, to decide a plan of action.  She remained alone and, well aware that this could change at any moment, began to search the room, moving as quickly as her beaten body would allow, moving to where she remembered a wall, feeling around for anything useful. 

 

The walls were smooth.  She felt her way to where she believed she had heard the door slam.   

 

There was nothing.  No door, nothing to use as a weapon.  Frantic, she began to move faster, fighting through her pain, her breath stopping when she heard a faint rustling noise that seemed to be coming from all around her. 

 

She screamed as a gentle brush of something ... fingers? – a tendril-like thing whispered across her stomach.  She pushed it off her, whirled, and ran blindly across the room.  She had to find a way out.  It was dark, so dark.  Where was the wall?  The thing swept lightly across her nipples.  It had followed her.  She pushed it off, turned... she ran, breath catching:  the rustling noise was growing louder, moving closer.  The thing swept across her stomach, suddenly in front of her.  She turned… it swept across her thighs, her neck.  She pushed at it, pushed it away.  The sound grew louder still, it was coming from all around her… surrounding her.  She turned, a tendril brushed across her back, another across her breasts…there was more than one... touches were coming faster now.  They were everywhere, touching her everywhere.  She pushed at them, she couldn't get them off her, they kept coming, she was trapped.  They lightly brushed her thighs, her neck, her breasts, back, buttocks, calves…rubbed her, lightly, lightly… exciting her… no no no, she didn't want this… they were exciting her… please no! 

 

And then, like a tickling, a tendril moved between her legs and slipped inside her. 

 

Panicking, whirling, she fought harder to get away, slapped furiously at them, but there was no 'away', nowhere to go.  They moved wherever she moved, followed her around the room.  More entered her… they were stroking inside her… they were rubbing the rest of her body.  She began to moan, to cry… in both pleasure and horrified anguish.  She wanted it to stop, she didn't want this, she *didn't*.  How could this feel good?  Why were they doing this to her?  Why?  They moved across her, moved in and out of her, massaging her… pussy.  With every minute, more seemed to come from nowhere, rubbing her, beginning to stroke her sore anus, taking advantage of the wetness that now seemed to pour from inside her and using it to nearly painlessly enter her abused rear passage.  She was sobbing outright now, humiliated, moaning… it felt so good, it shouldn't feel good, so wrong, so wrong.  She struggled fruitlessly to get away from this violation, pushed at them, tried to get them off her.  She was screaming, sobbing, as her body tightened, as she neared orgasm.  Oh, God, why is this happening?  They weren't stopping…  they covered her body now, massaging the sweet spot inside her, rubbing gently at her clit... stroking all the erogenous zones on the outside of her body – her belly, her neck, her ears, her thighs, her nipples.  She weakened… she felt herself break.  It felt so good, so warm... she tried to fight it, she lamely tried to slap them away.  Two tendrils wrapped around her wrists and pulled them taut to the ceiling.  Others stroked her breasts... God, it felt so good. Several more wrapped around her hips, ankles, her thighs, supporting her body weight as she was lifted off the floor.  They kept stroking… so good, so good … she was on fire… screaming, screaming, she... Oh God…so good… screaming in pleasure… she … coming… so GOOD …then coming again… and again… again.  Over and over, too good, too much.  She sobbed, hoarsely screamed.  It was endless.  She couldn't stop.  Oh, God, it hurt.

 

More and more fingers, more tendrils… harder now like leather... Oh God it's the whip from beforethese are what the whip from before was made from... at first gently and then harder, harder, a steady, pounding rhythm... they flogged her body - her buttocks, her back, thighs, stomach… her breasts, the soles of her feet... her face.  It stung… God, it stung.  She was bleeding and she welcomed it … make me bleed make me bleed… anything to stop the endless painful pleasure she was being subjected to by the other tendrils.  

 

The fingers inside filled her, thicker, harder now as well… she was being filled beyond what her body could handle.  She was being whipped full out now… pounded, throttled, by the thickening fingers inside her, bleeding inside now as well as outside, her sensitive membranes breaking and tearing, her body stinging everywhere, her face raw with the constant flow of tears on her abraded flesh.

 

She prayed please God please kill me please but the torture only increased and escalated, her Slayer body betraying her, keeping her alive despite the pain… so much pain… so much pleasure… she continued to sob, to orgasm…over and over… each one more intense… screaming… continually screaming … hoarse, rasping, no sound leaving her body yet still she screamed on….

 

Hard to breathe now, she couldn’t breathe… a tendril was wrapped around her throat, tighter and tighter, squeezing her.  Her heart, it was collapsing… her thoughts swam in her head… she wasn’t losing consciousness, she was dying, they were killing her and thank you God forgive me… there was no way out of this and she was hungry for death… anything to escape the pounding... the… oh God constant pleasure… choking as she came again… the pain… anything to stop….

 

Her head… exploding… spots… spots… in her eyes… she was… losing… fading… Mommy… I'm sorry… Angel… she… dying… oh, God, please.…

 

The world went black.

 

***

 

Acid… acid on her skin... it hurts… you're hurting me… oh, God it burns… rubbing acid on her skin, her insides, oh God they were burning her inside.…

 

She awakened screaming, choking, rasping… wailing as she tried to fight them off.  But they seemed to expect that as the one held her down and the other flipped her over and continued the treatment on her other side.

 

She passed out.

 

***

 

There was sunlight on her face, on her body… all of her felt warm.  Eyes still closed, she took a deep breath, enjoying the warm feeling, stretched her arms above her head….

 

Her eyes flew open when she felt the scratch of straw poking through fabric underneath her naked body. 

 

It wasn't a dream.

 

The stone room she was in was small, with a window set high and deep on the wall above her "bed" of straw.  A heavy wooden door stood opposite the window.  What was she still doing there?  Why wasn't she… she thought she'd died.   What was going on?

 

Trying to avoid panicking, and only half succeeding, she forced herself to assess the situation – to stay in Slayer mode as much as possible.  Safer that way.  She stood up on her toes and tried to see out the window.  She could see the outskirts of a village below, but the window was too high for her to see much of anything else.  Trying for purchase on the window's edge, she used all of her strength to attempt to pull herself up to get a better look when it hit her.

 

She wasn't in pain.  Her arms weren't marked.  Dropping back to the floor, she looked down, utterly stunned that not only were her arms fine, her entire body looked fine.  In fact, she realized that even on the inside, she felt much like she had before she’d been kidnapped – like it had been an eternity since she’d even by touched by Angel, other than holding his hand and accepting his chaste kisses as they patrolled. 

 

She leaned against the door, stunned.  It was then she noticed the sky.  Just outside her window, high above her, the sky was bright with the midday *suns*.  Plural.

 

Panicked, she flew at the door handle and pulled hard.  The door didn't move.  It was either too heavy or locked from the outside.  She was trapped.  She was a prisoner.  She was in prison… stuck in a little room like those, what were they called? – cells! – in that prison at home… Alca….  What was it called again?  She'd visited with her parents over Christmas when she was in... when was it?  Eighth grade?  Yes, it was Eighth. 

 

Alca-something.  Alca-taz? 

 

She shook her head desperate to clear her foggy memories, now afraid.  It was a famous place.  She should remember it.  Why couldn't she remember it?

 

She pulled on the door again.  And again.  It didn't budge.

 

***

 

She lay curled on her "bed", terrified, her arms hugging her knees, rocking herself, praying desperately for a miracle to get her out of there.  A key was inserted into her door; she pulled her legs closer, desperate to hide herself, desperate to disappear.  Please, no more touching…please….   The lock disengaged with a heavy clunk and she heard the scrape of a bar of wood being removed.  The door opened slowly, creaking, the thick wood pushed aside to admit a short, black-robed demon carrying a tray of the cheese-like stuff, more fruit and some kind of meat.  She scurried back and huddled in the corner, pulling her legs even closer in an attempt to fully cover her nakedness; the demon didn’t even seem to notice her predicament, merely placed the tray on the end of her “bed” and silently exited the room.  The door slammed behind him, the lock loudly engaged and she breathed again… she was once again alone.  No one to look at her, to touch her. 

 

She sat up and wiped her tears from her eyes and eyed the tray of food.  She could smell it…. She didn’t want to eat their food but she was ravenous and the thought of *not* eating made her want to vomit.  She grabbed the cheese, quickly devouring it, remembering as she did what Pava had said… that time moved differently there.  Something like a year to each day.  Was her hunger going with the time difference?

 

And if she could remember the time difference why couldn't she remember the name of the stupid prison?  What was wrong with her? 

 

She finished the meat next, hardly even tasting it – God, she was *so* hungry - and then moved onto the fruit, still lost in thought.  Should she fight the next demon that entered… make her escape that way?  She decided against it - they were so strong, so much stronger than her.  For now, she’d observe and plan her escape.  Her meal over too quickly, she was standing to make a second attempt at pulling herself up on the window's edge, when she heard the lock turn again.  She crawled into the corner, hiding herself once more.  The short demon led an extraordinarily human looking demon-woman in.  Buffy was struck by the fact that she knew, without a doubt, that the female was a demon.  Her Slayer senses still seemed to work.  But if they worked, why was she sure Willow stood a better chance at lifting something heavy than she did?   

 

“Parraneu, Bryn.  I trust det you sleep well?”

 

Buffy was so busy attempting to adequately cover her nakedness, it took her a moment to fully grasp just how incredibly beautiful the demon was.  She was tall – regal - almost six feet, thin but curvy, with waist-length ebony hair that shone like glass against her ivory skin.  Her striking dark blue, almost violet eyes were complemented by her full length violet robe-like dress. 

 

The woman cocked her head clearly expecting Buffy to answer.  Realizing she’d been silent for too long, Buffy nodded.

 

The woman smiled pleasantly.  “My name is Qa.  I will be your handler.  I will see det you get adequate food and rest and det you are properly balanced.  I see you finished your meal.... Are you ready?”

 

Buffy blinked.  “Ready?” She whispered.

 

Qa smiled.  “Come wit' me.” She turned and left the room, clearly expecting a naked Buffy to follow.

 

“Qa! Uh, Ms. Qa.  Please....”

 

Qa turned back and looked at Buffy expectantly, maintaining the same pleasant expression. 

 

“Um, I don’t have.... Where are my clothes?”

 

“Clothes?” Qa looked confused and then her face lit up in understanding.  “Ah, your garments.  I was told dey destroyed during your first Taking.”

 

Seeing Buffy’s blank expression, she continued.   “When de Pava and his parn took you, I believe it was den your Eart' garments were destroyed.   I am sorry if dey were of sentimental value.”

 

“No!”  Buffy held up a hand.  “I don’t need those clothes particularly, but I have no others.”

 

Qa smiled.  “I believe I have some of de former Slayer’s clothes in my apartments.  If you would like to wear clothes while in your quarters, I do not see problem.  Now, come wit' me.”

 

Again, she turned and left and Buffy stood and, reluctantly, hyperaware of her nakedness but seeing the whip in the short demon’s hand, saw no choice but to follow. 

 

***

 

“Parraneu, Bryn.  Thank you for joining me.  I wishing to speak to you before I leef,” Pava said, gruffly.

 

Buffy stood with her arms crossed over her breasts and, one hand reaching to cover her sex as best she could, looked around the sun-drenched room Qa had led her into, shrinking back toward the door when she spied the three other demons from the day before... the ones who had violated her.  They looked her over for a moment… as if she were... food... but then turned back to wooden bowls from which they were eating something that looked like oatmeal.  She fought hard not to cry.  She would not cry.

 

“I be traveling for several weeks on business for de Schoek.  Normally, I never leef you so soon, but dere is problem in one of de small districts:  A new Juranna has moved in seeking de Tra’a, and I must attend meeting.  As I not here to directly supervise your duties, I haf ask my pran”... at this, the three demons looked up from eating...  “who all speak English, to make sure you carry out your duties.”

 

He waived his hand and two terrified, bound, young and clearly human girls were led in. 

 

“Bryn, dese are Lorat and Tanna.  I’m sure you sense dey human girls, slayers-in-waiting your Director forward to me when he learn of my sit-iation.  Currently, dey untouched and I have no need for human girls... dey lack de... resilience of an already-called Slayer.  I will release dem unharmed back to your Eart' if I return and find dat you have... behaved.

 

“Qa, should de Slayer misbehave, haf de pran take de girls to de Square and let de Clansmen feast.  Allow de girls to survive for seven passings of de moons - balance dem a bit, if you must - and den auction off de kill.”

 

Turning back to Buffy, he smiled.  “De Slayer shall watch it all.  Are we understood?”

 

Buffy swallowed hard, looking over at the clearly *English* speaking girls who were trying hard not to sob.

 

“Uh, yes... understood.”

 

***

 

Buffy stood near the for-once visible door as Pava and Qa spoke rapidly in a rough, guttural language.  The door was directly blocked by two large grey demons who openly stared at her.  She moved against the wall to cover her nakedness better when one of the short, black-robed demons approached her and pulled her hands away from her body easily – how were they so strong and she so weak?   Before she could re-cover herself, he pulled her hands behind her and bound them.  He moved to gag her until Qa stopped the demon with a wave of her hand.

 

“You will be-heff, yes, Bryn?” She smiled, moving toward the door.

 

Buffy.  My name is *Buffy*.  The words died on her lips as she caught a glimpse of the still cowering girls, huddled by the wall, staring at her like she was their executioner... which Buffy realized she was.

 

She swallowed and nodded and was led by Qa into another brilliantly sunny, large room.  It contained seven wooden chairs, all set on daises -- like pedestals.  Six of the chairs were occupied by young girls and demons, all tied, hands behind their backs, their legs open, calves and ankles bound to the chair legs.  She bit back a moan and, terrified, turned to run… to escape….  One of the short demons easily caught her and dragged her, kicking and screaming, to the center chair.  While another held her down, the demon tied her like the other girls, stuffed her mouth with cloth to stifle her screams.  She tried to spit it out, she pulled desperately at her restraints, trying and failing to free herself.  The demon slapped her across the face and grabbed her hair and held her still.  Panicking, tied and held so she was incapable of moving at all, she felt herself "check out", found herself numbly focusing on other things.  The wood of the chair was hard and warm - Buffy was struck by the fact that the temperature of this room, like her own, was neither warm nor cold, but comfortable.  There seemed to be only one exit--

 

Her eyes stung as the demon slapped her again, forcing her back to the present… grabbed her hair and forced her to look at Qa who was beginning to speak. 

 

Qa addressed the group in the other language, periodically interrupting her speech with instructions in English for Buffy.  Buffy’s eyes widened when she realized that her darkest thoughts, her greatest fears were being realized. 

 

They had a list of... “reservations” for Buffy and the others, but mostly for Buffy.  The Slayer was a “delicacy,” Qa reminded her, a delight for the most powerful Betharans.  The head of each Clan and his family had Slayer "privileges" and these privileges were used as currency of a sort.  They could curry favor by trading their "brohts" and had many options and ways to “enjoy” her.  Buffy fought back tears, fought to breathe, as she was told what her role was there:  She was a demon-whore… theirs to punish, to beat, to fuck.  Their toy to use as they liked.  Many demons knew that she was the killer of their Earth "brothers and sisters" and Qa warned that this would... color their punishment of her.  Qa continued in her pleasant voice, reassuring her that she would always be properly balanced and pointing out that Buffy was lucky because the Pava had the best Roffs – healers – in all of Bethara.  Balancing could undo almost all physical damage.  Except for a Celebration, of course. 

 

A Celebration.  Her final death.

 

Fighting to urge the vomit, she wanted desperately to ask how a Celebration occurred.  She realized she still had hope, a tiny hope, that she could return to Earth and to her mother, to Angel... her friends.  She didn’t want to die. 

 

“Good.  I see you ready.  Let’s begin.”

 

Qa turned and exited the room.

 

***

Part 3

 

As Qa left, a group of the black-robed demons - the Roffs, Buffy supposed - entered.  A Roff moved behind her and brushed out her hair with a wide wooden comb and, afterwards, rubbed scented oil behind her ears and between her thighs.  Buffy tried to press her legs together but they were bound… it was no use.   Desperate to distract herself, she chanced a glance at the other “girls”.  They were all being treated similarly except that the demon ones were having some sort of paint applied to their faces.  It made them look ghoulish.

 

She could see that, painted or not, all of the girls appeared to be about her age and all, while not beautiful by American standards, had a certain form of beauty or exoticness.  One demon looked like she was from Hawaii and would have looked human except for the fact that she had a long lizard-like tail and her pupils were like a cat’s.  One was, she sensed, an enhanced human (a witch, maybe) with the darkest black skin and blinding white teeth.  Another looked almost Asian but had orangey-pink skin.  She was busy observing another when the door opened.  Her breath caught as Qa led a group of seven large demons, built similarly to Pava, into the room.

 

Qa spoke to the other girls in their native tongue, while Buffy struggled not to cry, aware that the demons were ignoring Qa and the other girls and eyeing her hungrily.  The largest demon, clearly the leader, stood in the front, and began to stroke himself through the cloth of his robe. She fought to breathe.  Oh God, she didn't think she could do it again.  Not again.  Please, God... please forgive me, whatever I did... please make this stop

 

Finally, Qa finished speaking and the six subordinate demons rushed for the other girls, coming to blows if two wanted the same one, fighting it out.  At the end of one of the fights, one demon lay on the ground motionless, and Buffy felt relieved that at least the black girl would get a reprieve.  Her heart fell when the healers entered and attended to him and, after a moment, he stood and forcefully grabbed the girl out of the chair, knocking her to the floor with his elbow, smashing it into her temple.

 

Buffy’s breath stopped when Qa crossed over to her, the large demon by her side.  He licked his lips showing two rows of grey teeth inside his mouth.  Buffy's stomach churned.

 

“Bryn,” she said pleasantly - oh, how Buffy wanted to slap her - “Dis is Pinor.  He is very pleased to be your first Taking - after de Pava and, of course, de Zhor.”  Buffy assumed the Zhor was the tendril demon that had tortured her.  She shuddered.

 

Pinor seemed to think she had shuddered for him and grinned, if you could call it that.  Qa continued.  “You will stay with Pinor for his entire broht - a total of eight days, six days for his Clan and two as part of a deal he made with de Pava.  Dere will be a Roff at his service should you need to be balanced, or should he wish to have you balanced for his pleasure.”  Buffy had not idea what that meant; her stomach tightened further in fear.

 

“De Pinor speaks only our language, only Bet'aran.  He does not understand what I am saying so I will tell you,” she continued, a pleasant smile on her face, but a warning in her eyes, “Det he will enjoy you trying to fight back.  If he kills you, you will be brought back much like with de Zhor, so don’ worry.  He is your first and if you would like de two Eart' girls to live, your two ‘slayers-in-waiting,’ you will pleasure him. Do you understand?”

 

Buffy’s eyes widened.  She *had* died.  And they had brought her back.  Death was no way out for her here, only death by Celebration, whatever that was.  And those girls.  She had to do well or they would be killed.  Tears began to fall.

 

The Pinor smiled broadly.

 

“Alright den,” she said to Buffy, giving her a small nod.  “Parraneu, Bryn.”

 

Qa turned and walked out as the Pinor hit Buffy so hard that, still tied to the chair, she slammed into the floor.

 

***

 

Weeks blurred into months, blurred into years.  Bryn knew she’d once had a proper name… had another life… she knew that Betharan was not her native tongue, but it was all... foggy.   She did remember certain words though.  She’d asked Qa once about them and Qa had uncharacteristically hit her, hard, and said that that part of her life was done, that she should forget that life.  Now, her life was her Penance.  Her Penance was all she knew and all that she *should* know.

 

But she remembered the other world.  She remembered being out in the sun many years before... the sun, singular.  For a long time she’d thought such ideas were just dreams but Qa had let slip once that she hadn’t been born there, on Bethara, and since then she’d trusted her “dreams” as memories.  She longed to go back there, to go back to the place of one sun and to talking to others and wearing garments.  There was a woman there who’d loved her – her mother; there was a beautiful man there, a ‘vampire’ if she remembered the word correctly, who had also loved her.  There had been other people there who'd talked to her and cared about her as well.  She’d had freedom there, but she’d been bad and was exiled to Bethara to pay for her crimes.  When the Pava felt she’d paid adequately, she would be Celebrated.

 

Over the years, she'd often found herself longing for Celebration.  The final cleansing would be excruciatingly painful and would result in a death period lasting many months with no balancing allowed, but after that period, she'd be free again, deemed to have made her Penance fully and adequately, free to move on to Permanent Darkness.  While she was terrified of experiencing the pain (she’d seen girls who had been Celebrated - Pava had taken her every few passings to watch the Celebrated girls writhe in agony for many months afterwards until the Rapture was finally complete), certain punishments were so incredibly painful, she was shocked to wake up again, fully healed, having been sure at the time that she *was* being Celebrated.  Enduring the continual punishing, enduring the balancing and subsequent loss of more of her memories was devastating.  She often thought she’d just like to get it over with already.

 

She’d found out the hard way, though, that, barring a complete beheading, anything - no matter the blood loss, no matter the unbelievable agony inflicted, no matter the disfigurement - *anything* could be balanced.  The Pava was always angry when it took her more than a day or two to heal and surely she had been punished so brutally that she had some scars that had never fully faded, yet the moment she was able, she was back at the Darna for further punishment.  This was her life.

 

She was still in the early years of her Penance (she’d been told by a smirking Pava it would last a minimum of 400 years) and so she tried not to think about it, tried to hold onto those few happier memories as long as she could, tried to remember her people’s faces even when she could no longer remember their names.  It was the only thing keeping her sane.

 

She didn’t remember what she’d done - *why* she was there - she’d been there as long as she could remember - but it was likely very bad because she was treated far worse than the others.  Each Darna, the day of Choosing, she was led into the Darna chamber and placed on the center dais to await that broht's punishment.  The other girls seemed to rotate in or out.  Just when she was sure a certain girl had been Celebrated - having been missing from the Darna for days or weeks - they’d turn up again. 

 

Bryn was at each Darna, always.

 

Her reality was penetration and being filled to breaking.  Her reality was slavery and torture.  Her reality was belonging to the Pava and pleasuring scores of demons.  She was beaten, fucked, bitten, choked... sometimes killed.  But always balanced and treated with respect and politeness by Qa and the Roffs.

 

Having a rare evening alone, Bryn looked out of her window, out over the land of the Pava.  She could see it snowing in the distance and was struck as always that her cell was always comfortable - neither hot nor cold.  She could see no glass in the window although it was set too far into the stone for her to actually reach a hand through and check, so something could have been there, preventing the cold from entering.  But she’d never know.

 

She’d been staring out for who knew how long when the Roff came to her with her evening meal.  She reached down for the kvor, taking off a large bite and reveling in the taste of the meat, following it with a bite of fruit.  She was hungry.  She had spent the last eight passings of the moons with the Meior and his three sons, all at once, for the entire time.  They’d taken her in the Dungeon and, while they hadn’t locked her in the bnrian coffin this time, what they had done….  It had taken the Roffs hours – four excruciating hours – to heal the burns that covered most of her body.  Despite feeling fine again, she shuddered remembering it and forced her thoughts to her “memories,” as she continued her meal.

 

The beautiful man, the 'vampire' was named Angel, of that she was sure.  She was also sure that while her friends Willa and Sanda were fading from memory, that Angel’s beautiful face would always haunt her.  She couldn’t remember his voice, but she could remember his words for her... “beloved” and “love” - they were her old language and had no translation into Betharan.  Maybe that’s why they had stuck with her... why she hadn’t lost them?

 

Her meal finished, Bryn stood again and continued to remember as she stared up at the moons, enjoying, for once, the solitude of the night.

 

***

 

She awakened, as usual, well rested and in a pool of sunlight, to the sound of the Roff bearing her morning meal.  What was unusual was that the Roff brought enough for two and informed her that Qa would be feeding with her that morning.

 

Bryn stood by the window, leaving her food until Qa arrived, careful not to offend by ignoring the Betharan custom of beginning any given meal with all who would be attending it.  The suns were bright today, but, typically, the temperature of her cell was no different than usual.  From the top of her stool (a gift from Qa), she could see the Clansman shopping in the Square, their mates being pulled by ropes several steps behind them.  All were wearing heavy cloaks.  She looked at the markings on her wall.  If it were truly growing colder, truly the beginning of the Cold Season, that would mean she'd been there for twenty-two years.

 

She climbed down when she heard the key in the latch.  The door opened, admitting Qa.

 

“Parraneu, Bryn.  Forgive me for invading your morning meal, but I thought it would be a good time for us to speak alone about our next guest.”

 

“Parraneu, Qa,” she said, slightly bowing her head in deference.  “Our next guest?  Singular?”

 

“That is why I wished to speak to you.  Our next guest is the Tar.”

 

Bryn's heart tightened.  The Tar and his kin had only had her twice before, but both times, they had reveled in her pain, had done horrific things to terrify her and all six of them had ripped her apart so badly, it had taken the Roff several *days* to balance her.

 

“It seems, Bryn, that there is a new Tar, this one even more brutal then the last.  I have called to the Pinor and they are sending their two best Roffs over to help with the balancing.  And we’ve made sure that after he leaves, you will have adequate time to heal without creating another diplomatic situation.

 

“Pava is planning on meeting with the Tar before you do.  As you know, Clan Leaders are within their rights to do with you as they wish with no interference, but as you are the *Slayer* and as the former Tar had caused such a problem, the Pava will insist that he or a Roff be present at all times to place a limit if it seems like you are about to be Celebrated.  As indeed you almost were the last time.”

 

Celebrated.  With its promise, Bryn found suddenly that she wanted to live very much.  

 

“Will the Tar agree to this?” Bryn whispered, struggling to keep her voice steady.

 

Qa looked pensive.  “We believe he will.   He is not a native Betharan - he hails from Pylea - and is not familiar with our customs.  The Pava will impress upon him that the price paid by someone other than the Pava enacting the Celebration is death, to both the Tar and his people.  The Pava will also threaten his Pylean kin if the Tar is inflexible.”

 

Bryn sank down on her pallet, staring at her scarred hands, a remnant of her last broht with the Tar.  Even the Roff could not completely heal that.  Qa touched her shoulder.

 

“You are the Pava’s greatest possession, Bryn.  And unlike the other Slayers, he has become somewhat... attached to you.  He will not allow an unsanctioned Celebration to pass unavenged.”

 

That didn’t really make her feel better, but she nodded and smiled as she knew was expected and sat with Qa to dutifully choke down a bit of food.  With a final compassionate glance, Qa exited her cell and Bryn curled up on her pallet to seek oblivion in rest. 

 

***

 

The Tar had indeed arrived alone.  Bryn learned from a Roff that the Pylean was an ugly creature, shorter than the other Betharans, with thin, almost translucent, humanlike skin.  He had come to Bethara only three years earlier and had already claimed the Tar and, unbeknownst to the Pava, had recently fought and won ascendancy to the Schoek.  This was bad for Bryn.  The Roff said she could feel waves of angry death flowing off him when he entered the palace and that he had, in exchange for promising to not Celebrate the Slayer, negotiated fourteen days with her.  He would only agree if he could have that time with her and her alone.  The Pava had fought him on it, but had ultimately relented when the Tar had agreed to a Roff being just outside the room at all times.

 

Bryn was terrified.  She knew that if the Tar wanted to Celebrate her, he could and the Pava, for all his negotiations, could do little to nothing to stop or avenge it.  After all, the Pava served the current Schoek and upon the current Schoek’s death would indeed serve the Tar.  Bryn also knew that if the Tar decided to Celebrate her and the Pava made no move for vengeance, the Pava would curry favor with the Tar and perhaps be granted more privileges.

 

It was a very bad situation.

 

The Roff led her into the empty Darna chamber and placed her on the central chair, preparing her for the Tar.   Bryn knew it was *really* bad when the Roff, finished with her tasks, looked her in the eye and muttered ‘Parraneu’ as if for the last time.  She stared hard at the floor, willing herself not to cry, willing herself to ignore the familiar "demon alert" feeling of the Tar in the next room, willing herself to think of nothing as she sat there awaiting her fate. 

 

After an eternity, she heard the scrape of the heavy door opening.

 

***

 

Part 4

 

He stood several feet from her, fighting to remain impassive, to play his part, to be "the Tar" – the brutal destroyer and torturer of the Slayer.   He forced himself to breathe evenly, to maintain a casual posture, fully aware that his "relaxed stance" was likely belied by the death grip he had on his sheathed sword.  Whatever.  If the demons tried *anything*.…  At the moment, even given the damning odds, he was certain he could easily do a fair bit of damage on the way to his death.

 

But that wouldn't save Buffy. 

 

Anger, horror, happiness, devastation, gratitude and worry all warred for dominance in his brain.  He'd thought he'd mentally prepared himself to see her again, but faced with her – with her "reality" – he realized nothing could have prepared him.  Not for this.  She sat naked, her bound hands tied behind her, knees pulled apart - calves and ankles strapped to the legs of the chair.   Her long, waist-length, dark blonde hair fell in an elaborate braid over her shoulder; her gaze was dutifully, submissively, lowered to the floor.  She looked emotionless, but he could see her trembling, could feel terror coming off of her in waves.  

 

He wanted to grab her, cover her up, protect her, take care of her… *leave*.  Frustration overwhelmed him and he narrowly bit back a growl.  He didn't want her to think he was angry with her or that he was going to hurt her.  Her? Never.  The rest of the Castle would pay dearly as well as every demon that had harmed her.  He looked forward to exacting a bloody, painful revenge on her behalf… a revenge for this horrible wrong done to her.  Anyone who had touched her, *anyone* who had hurt her would fully learn the meaning of pain by his hand. 

 

But no one would hurt as much as Quentin Travers.  He’d spent the last three years in Bethara, fighting to get to her and fantasizing about the pain he would cause Travers as soon as he had Buffy back at his side.  It was one of the few times he’d been grateful for Angelus’ place in his existence; he’d be putting over one hundred years of perfected torture techniques into Travers’ demise.  So many bones, tendons, ligaments… so many ways to cause immeasurable pain while keeping the victim alive and conscious….  But he also knew that no matter what he did, no matter how he destroyed Travers… that no amount of retribution would ever be enough. 

                                                                       

She remained still - waiting - and he realized it would be better to get her out of there before letting her know he was there… to get her alone before seeing if she were alright.  As if that were possible.  It had been so long.  Over three years for him, at least twenty for her.  After all this time, he wondered if she’d have forgotten him, forgiven him.

 

He nodded at the Roffs and they moved to untie her.  Furious at the way they handled her – like a piece of *meat* – and vowing to teach them just how she deserved to be treated – he turned quickly and exited the room, his face cold and damning to any who dared look at him.  He followed the Pava to his requested room - the Dungeon.  Pava had told him, with a smile, that it was the most depraved room in the place and a favorite of the last Tar, who had spent the entirety of each nine day stay in it with her.  His heart had clenched in both horror and fury hearing that.  The last Tar was also a vampire - or parnazya demon as they were known there - who had likely known just what service Slayers performed on Earth.  At the moment, he fought to not dwell on that fact; now, he needed only to get her out of there as quickly as possible.

 

He could feel her following behind him, could hear her breath hitch in terror when she realized where he was leading her.  As he entered the room, he immediately understood why. 

 

The room was large, dark and made completely of stone, with removable torches lining the walls.  A raised dais was the centerpiece with manacles and ropes hanging off the sides to lash a victim down.  Running water was at the ready should he wish to use time consuming, but very effective, water torture methods.  The walls displayed every type of whip, knife, cane and chain imaginable, including many crude and painfully large, sex toys.  There was a fire in the left corner and he could see various pokers resting in the flames.  Upon second glance, he realized they were branding implements, some small, some large.  He’d branded Dru back in the day.  Even for a vampire, it took her days to heal from the pain.

 

Buffy eyes remained downcast but he could see her gaze flit in horror toward the far right corner of the room.  There stood a clear, human-sized reptile case filled with snakes.  Angel bit back his rage, fought to retain his human face, as he imagined her locked within the box, her torturers watching her, laughing as she screamed in terror, as the most-likely poisonous snakes covered her naked body in painful bites.  If she hadn’t turned into Dru, he’d be amazed. 

 

He strode past her, wincing when he heard her gasp at the sound of the door’s bolt slipping into place.  Walking carefully in front of her, he reached out and gently touched her arm.  He saw her fight not to pull away.

 

“Buffy.  Are you okay?” he whispered, in English. 

 

Her head jerked up and she finally looked directly at him.  Her eyes widened in shock.  She looked confused and frightened.  She closed her eyes and shook her head as if to clear it.

 

“Buffy, do you understand me?” he said, his hand tentatively reaching out to push a stray lock of her waist-length hair behind her ear.

 

“N'ka – Uh,” she gasped, her eyes pooling with tears.  “E-- Engel?”

 

He pulled her to him in a strong embrace, practically crushing her as he began to cry.  “Oh, Buffy.  I’m so sorry.  I’m so, so sorry.  I should have stayed with you, I should have protected you so they couldn’t get to you.  I’m so sorry, so sorry....”  He pulled her with him to the ground, held her tighter as she began to sob too, repeating his name over and over, as if it were the only word she knew.  And it very likely was.

 

***

 

He’d held her, gently stroking her back, whispering to her, kissing her forehead, her cheeks, her hair…over and over… until they’d both cried themselves to sleep.  She'd awakened first, her head clearer now, and she'd moved away from him to lean against the wall holding a poker.  Might as well have a weapon.

 

She knew it wasn’t him.  It looked and smelled like him, or at least what she remembered he was like, but this Angel – or whoever he was – this Angel was alive.  Unless she was totally confused, which was possible – she’d forgotten so much – her Angel was a vampire, always.  You didn’t recover from vampirism, she was pretty sure of that.  So, weapon. 

 

He yawned when he woke up, sitting up carefully and studying her defensive posture against the wall.  He ran a hand through his hair.

 

“You don’t get to look like him,” she said quietly, in Betharan.  “You are not him.  Don’t you dare pretend to be him.  You want to fight me, *kill* me, fine.  But don’t you dare do that:  pretend to be him.”

 

“Buffy - is it okay to call you that...? ‘Buffy’?” he said, speaking in Betharan, unsure now if she remembered English at all.  Getting no response, he continued.  “It’s really me.  I swear to you.  I know you have no reason to believe me but....  Do you remember when you found out I was a vampire?  How we fought in the Bronze - the night club - with Darla?”

 

She frowned, and seemed to think hard for a moment, finally replying: “I think so.” 

 

“When we were fighting, you offered me your neck.  You didn’t believe I could kill you, and I couldn’t.”  He began crawling slowly toward her.  “I know the poker is metal, not wood, but I’m mostly human here, part-demon really, and if you shove that through my heart, it *will* kill me.”

 

He knelt in front of her now, his heart directly in front of the poker.  “Buffy, I know you don’t believe it but it’s me.  It’s really me.  I won’t hurt you, Buffy.  I promise you.”

 

Her hands tightened on the poker as she studied him, stared deeply into his eyes.  After a moment, she slightly lowered the poker but still held it in her grasp tightly.  Ready to use it.

 

“What do you want from me?” she whispered.

 

“Right now? Just to talk to you.” He said, leaning back on his heels.  “Just talk, okay?”

 

Her eyes narrowed but, ultimately, she nodded her assent. 

 

***

 

She could tell he was doing his best to keep his face "blank" but there were times his mask would ... fall.  It was those moments – the pain and guilt she saw in his eyes more than anything - that made her finally put the poker down, that allowed her to hope that this was, in fact, the Angel of her memories, that allowed her to reach out her hand and tentatively touch his when his voice would break… when his words would trail off.

 

He really did seem to love her the way she remembered.  It shocked her - she’d just thought that over time she’d embellished her memories, made their ‘love’ much more than possible, but it did in fact seem to be exactly that.  They talked for hours, she sitting in front of the fire in his tunic mmm, so good to wear garments again, as he told her about her Mother and Willow and Xander (it turned out their names were) and also about her Watcher, Giles.  He told her that when he’d left they were keeping up the fight until she could come back, and that he’d come to rescue her, to take her home. 

 

The time passed quickly… too quickly.  Meals would come and she’d realize she was, in fact, hungry and that they had, in fact, been talking for hours.  He insisted on leaving the room to retrieve their food.  She suspected he didn’t want Pava to find out she was "fine" and she dreaded the day Angel’d have to make it so that she wasn’t.   But for now, she was just going to enjoy her little piece of heaven.  She’d never get heaven, not really, but she did have these fourteen days.

 

It scared her how much she wanted it to be him, wanted this to be true.  And if it was true, how could she let him go? 

 

She lay on her side, staring into the fire, worrying her lip, pondering this when she felt him wake behind her, his hand rubbing small circles on her belly under the edge of the shirt.  He’d yet to fuck her.  She remembered, vaguely, that it didn’t have to be all about pain, like it always was, that it could be more... shared.  More equal.  But that could just be wishful thinking, right? 

 

“What is it?” he said.

 

“It’s nothing.  I’m very happy.  You make me very happy.”  She smiled nervously, rolling to face him, hoping she'd given the right answer, that she was pleasing to him, her chest growing tight when she realized he was frowning.  Still, she’d made him frown a lot and he’d yet to harm her in any way. 

 

“Buffy, really.  Tell me the truth.  What is it?” He asked, reaching up to stroke her cheek. 

 

Not knowing what the correct truth was, she instead sat up and removed “her” tunic and began to kiss him, reaching down to stroke his cock through his robe.  She drew a quick breath when he gently removed her hand and pushed her away. 

 

“Angel, please," she breathed, panicked.  "Tell me what to do to please you.  I’m sorry I’m not doing it right, but please, I’d like to.  Just tell me what to do.”

 

She felt him studying her and terrified, she stared at the floor, chewing her lip as she awaited his instructions. 

 

“I want you to lay on your stomach with your arms by your sides.”  He said, his voice tight.  He folded the discarded shirt and fashioned a small pillow for her… placed it under her cheek.   She watched him cross the room and look over the display on the wall.  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him gather a few things and return to her. 

 

Her back muscles were tight as she awaited her punishment.  She only hoped it wasn’t too bad but he was entitled, right?  Even if he seemed nice, he was entitled to do what he wanted. 

 

He knelt back down, straddling her back, and, using the oil he had retrieved, gently began to work it into her skin.  She could tell by the smell that it was Zhor oil.  She remained tense, awaiting the blows of the Zhor.  The last Tar had done this as well... using the oil generously, oil designed to make that particular whip sting very badly.

 

“It’s okay, Buffy.  I’m not going to hurt you.  I promise.  I’m just going to rub your back.  I’m not going to punish you, okay?  You please me just by being here,” he swore, his voice strangled.  She jumped as he pressed a kiss into the back of her neck.  She tried very much to relax but worried that she wasn’t doing it well enough.  He said nothing... just kept rubbing the oil in, using slow, long strokes… coating her entire back and buttocks.  She fought not to think… to just enjoy his touches while they lasted. 

 

His hands felt good… so good… warm, firm yet gentle.  She felt her tension dissolve, felt herself let go until she was suspended between sleep and consciousness.  Warm stones were placed on certain points on her back... his hands now stroking her sides.  She could feel the heat coming off his body as he moved closer to her… as he removed the stones… as he began kissing her back, running his lips – his hands – over the entire surface of her back and legs… massaging her, kissing her.  He rolled her over and released a longing sigh, continued slowly rubbing the oil over her breasts and stomach.  Her eyes were half open….  His hands, his fingers… she had never felt this good.  She was completely soothed and even though she knew the whip was coming, she forced herself to focus on the moment, to enjoy this gift of pleasure.  She felt something warm and wet and her eyes flew open as his mouth closed around one of her small, dusky nipples.  She felt a rush of excitement in her belly, could feel herself growing more and more ready for him as he teased her nipples to hardness, as he nibbled on both of her breasts and lazily brushed his soft fingertips over the surface of her skin.  She lay there placidly, submissively, as she’d learned was expected, using all of her willpower not to follow instinct and return his touches... afraid to make him angry, afraid to displease.  But she longed to pleasure him, not because it was her duty but because he smelled really good and his hair looked so soft and she just wanted to be with him.

 

He must have sensed her thoughts because he instructed her to follow her desires, whatever they might be, and slowly, hesitantly, she began to run her hands over his back, feeling his warmth, rubbing her face over his beard, reveling in the surprising softness of it.  She gasped as he rolled them over so that he was on his back, placing her in the dominant position... she didn’t really know what to make of it but used the angle to begin mirroring his actions, awaiting his instructions to stop... instructions that never came.  Growing bolder, she leaned down and kissed her way across his neck, around behind his ear, sucking on his earlobe, redoubling her efforts when she heard him laugh at the sensation.  She loved the happy sound and was determined to hear it again.

 

Her hands stroked his sides, his shaft was pressed up against her center as she slowly, hesitantly, pressed herself more firmly against him.  In between kisses she saw his face... he was smiling, he looked so happy and she became even bolder in her touching, rubbing her nipples against his chest, kissing him harder, grinding her center against his thrusting cock, answering his laughter with her own.  It was fun, it was sweet and she wanted him.

 

He seemed to almost ask permission from *her* when he raised her up and slowly pushed inside her.  She looked at him curiously and doubtfully nodded her consent to him, closing her eyes as he entered her, hissing as he thrust through her virgin hymen, fighting back tears as he stammered an apology for hurting her, as he regarded her in wonder and confusion.

 

“You’re... I don’t understand.  Buffy, we’ve been together before.  Why are you....”

 

“I... I am pure….  Always,” she stammered.  “That’s part of the deal.  I’m sorry if that wasn’t what you were expecting,” she whispered, tears pooling in her eyes.

 

“I love you,” he whispered, looking vaguely frightened by his admission.  After wiping away her tears, he gently cupped her cheeks in his hands, forcing her to meet his gaze.  “You are all I want, all I’ve *ever* wanted, Buffy. You needn’t be afraid of me.  I promise you:  Nothing you do will be wrong or anything less than perfect.  I was just surprised.  Okay?”

 

She nodded once, her face still clouded in disbelief.  But he was definitely breaking down her walls... she could feel herself beginning to trust him, beginning to melt into him.  It was dangerous, but she felt like she’d die if she didn’t.  Closing her eyes, she let him lift her up and guide her movements with his hands.  He felt beautiful... the pain of her breached hymen passed quickly and now she could just feel warmth, in her belly, in her center, expanding out.  One of his hands left her side and gently rubbed her clit.  She moaned before she realized it and looked down at him, cringing, but she saw that he was smiling up at her.  He looked anything but displeased and she gave a tentative smile back.

 

She caught the rhythm he’d set, and using his chest for purchase, boldly began to control their thrusts.  He felt so perfect, so different from everything else.

 

She’d forgotten it could be like this.  She’d forgotten what it was like to be the aggressor, to laugh and tease, to explore and tantalize someone else.  She’d forgotten what love was.  He let her be in the power position as much as she wanted, which was almost all the time, smiling up at her as he pulled her toward him, kissing her deeply as she began to scream in orgasm. 

 

melting … warmth spreading out in waves… falling into him… oh God....

 

This was love, this was bliss... true happiness.  I remember this.

 

This was Angel.

 

***

Part 5

 

The next eleven days passed agonizingly quickly.  They made love only twice more... the bulk of their time spent planning their way out of the Pava.   Having pieced together what she knew of Betharan custom with what he'd learned since his arrival, they knew a smooth extrication would be next to impossible.   Giles' associate, Lorne, a Pylean who had helped Angel locate her and had gotten him to Bethara in the first place, had told him that the best chance Angel had to release her from the Pava was to mate with her, to make Buffy his property.  As his property, there would be little that could be done to her without his consent.

 

There were two problems with this scenario: One was that she was already owned by the Pava.  To mate with her without first “winning the right” could be a possible cause for the Pava to Celebrate Buffy.  The second problem was that mating with Buffy meant drinking her almost dry and Angel was afraid that once he’d let the demon out, he’d be unable to stop it.  His demon was quite different in Bethara and had proven unpredictable in the past.  There was also the question of what her blood would do to his strength, strength he knew he'd need when getting them out of the Pava.  On Earth, Slayer blood, in addition to being a powerful aphrodisiac, was known to be an incredible boost of power.  On Bethara, who knew what it would do to him?

 

In the end, she'd quietly asserted that it was worth the risk.  His heart grew tight at her despondence, at her willingness to do anything to get away from the Pava.  She’d said that she felt complete now that she’d been with him again, had gotten to talk to him again and that even if she were Celebrated, it would be the end of a good life.  A positive life.  A life where it seemed like she’d once helped people. 

 

They spent several days testing the limits of her remaining powers.  She was incredibly weak or, rather, had only average human strength.  Not knowing what would happen when the Pava learned of their mating, Angel spent several days training with Buffy, going over basic self-defense techniques and scenarios, shocked that she was a blank slate, that she’d forgotten nearly all of her former training.  Still, by the end of their sessions, she had bested him several times.  They’d learned that her cunning and resourcefulness were Buffy traits, rather than Slayer traits. The fact that she’d retained those instincts would be their surprise to the Pavan Guard should she get a chance to join the fight.

 

They chose to mate two days before the end of the fourteen day period.  Terrified, Angel made love to her for hours the night before, committed to showing her all that she meant to him.  He held her and spoke to her quietly afterwards, explaining that mating would involve blood letting and rough sex, that it would hurt initially, but that the bite itself should bring her much pleasure.  Trembling, she promised repeatedly that she trusted him and that she was not nervous. The lie was completely transparent, her brave front almost his undoing.

 

When morning came, he pledged his love to her one last time, and, taking a deep, calming breath, closed his eyes, rest his forehead against hers and sent a silent, final prayer to any god who would listen to a demon.  He kissed her neck tenderly and, ignoring his panic, forced himself to focus… forced his mind to clear, to open… forced himself to let down his barriers.

 

Forced his soul to call forth Angelus.

 

A blinding rush of pain, rage, passion and lust surged through him, pulsed through his veins.  He grabbed her wrists roughly, pinning them painfully beside her ears… he thrust himself brutally into her center and, reveling in her screams of terror, he roared, he changed….

 

He lunged at her throat.

 

***

 

She awakened... exhausted, blurry... trapped under a warm, heavy object.  Moving slowly, she realized it was Angel.  Releasing her breath, she shivered and felt her neck.  She could feel the wound - she hadn’t dreamt it; she had indeed been mated and had survived.  Looking up at him, she saw a look of peace on his face that reminded her of the statues of Ma’a she could see in the Square below her window.  

 

She lay there, unmoving, and studied his face.  He was so beautiful.  And he’d been kind, so kind.   If he were always like this, she could easily see how she’d fallen in love with him back in their homeland of California.  As the days passed, she had relaxed little by little... had made small suggestions as they planned her... departure... from the Pava.  Before sleeping each day, he’d pull her to lay on his chest and she’d listen to his heartbeat as he told her stories about her past - their past - stories that had a vague ring of familiarity but, other than that, were merely stories.  He'd seemed so dismayed by her lack of pre-Bethara memories she'd worried he would no longer want her, but he’d assured her over and over that it didn’t matter, that maybe it was better that she’d forgotten because her life on "Earth" had been difficult and that one day he would tell her about it.       

                                                                                                           

She figured it was the difficulty on Earth that had led to her Penance in the Pava.  She longed to ask him what she’d done, *why* she was being punished but, despite his assurances that she could ask him anything she wanted, she knew that questions were forbidden by the Pava, and the Tar - Angel - was being so nice, she didn’t want to make him angry by asking the wrong thing.  So she kept those thoughts to herself.

 

Yet, as the broht drew to a close, she worried: What was the Pava going to do when he saw Angel’s mark?  In a flash, she saw herself being beaten and burned, trapped in the bnrian coffin for weeks… torn apart by the Droxnas in the forest.  Celebration was a real possibility; despite her words to Angel, she didn't want to die and the Pava would NOT be pleased by this action.  From a business perspective, she still had 380 years or so left to her Penance and knew from Qa that there were orders placed for her for the next twenty brohts.  From a personal perspective... she wondered if she should have told Angel about the Pava’s attachment to her.  The Pava came to her always when she had several days or a broht free.  Over time, he’d beaten her less and less... some days was almost kind to her.  Not kind the way Angel was kind... but, well, the Pava was - different.

 

She hadn’t told the Tar - Angel - because she didn’t want to seem like she was complaining... and to be truthful, she didn’t want the Tar to be angry with her and change his mind.  He’d promised that the mating would make her his and his alone.  She knew that at some point he’d be mad at her... would likely beat her, but she didn’t care.  He was leaving and she wanted to go with him... needed to.  It was a risk.  When they returned to the Tar, his promises aside, she could be in a much more dire situation than the one she was in.  The former Tar had once been kind to her... but then she'd learned it was a trick.

 

She shuddered.  Angel’s arm tightened in response and he pulled her closer and, still asleep, kissed her neck.  Gentle but strong, always.  She was reminded that during the fourteen days, he’d promised over and over that he would never hurt her.

 

It couldn’t be worse than the Pava.  Could it?

 

***

 

“What is the meaning of this blasphemy?!”

 

Bryn knelt terrified in the center of the room, hands clasped behind her back, eyes lowered submissively to the stone floor, struggling not to run. In the past, she had learned the hard way that any punishment would be far worse should she be anything other than passive.  She cheated a quick glance to her left – Angel was struggling against four members of the Pava’s pran who were holding him tightly in the corner of the Pava’s chamber.  The Pava knelt next to Bryn and yanked her chin to one side.  His eyes widened when he saw that Angel’s tale of mating was the truth.  With a roar, he threw her to his side and began kicking her in her ribs, her legs, her stomach, finishing with a hard kick between her legs. 

 

"Stop it!" Angel yelled.  "Stop–"  Angel's protests were cut off when Bura smashed him in the stomach with a large piece of wood.

 

”What is the meaning of this?!” 

 

Groaning, Buffy fought to regain her breath.  Gasping in pain, she pulled herself back to her knees and crawled to Pava, beginning to kiss his feet, as she knew was expected.

 

Roaring again, he kicked her away and then grabbed her hair and pulled her to standing.  He turned his head to one side and barked at a sixth member of his pran.  “Bring in the Roff. *Heal her* NOW.”

 

Shoving her back to the floor, Bryn forced herself to return to her kneeling position and did not attempt any further contact.

 

“Perhaps you were unaware,” the Pava addressed Angel, menacingly, “but the penalty for a non-consensual mating in Bethara is Celebration of the Slayer.  I intend to make it extremely painful for her.  The Slayer is mine - *my* prize.  You had no right to try this.”

 

Celebration.  Her eyes closed tightly as tears began to stream down her face.  She struggled to remain still and not make any noise.

 

Displaying more swagger than he could really warrant given his current position, Angel shrugged.  “Yeah, well….  It’s the same in Pylea.  I intend to fight you for the right to the Slayer.  What can I say?  I know I’m going to win.  I decided to speed things up a little.”

 

Bryn gasped as a flash of memory overwhelmed her.  That voice, she knew that voice.  Angel.  He'd been cruel.  He’d hurt her.  That’s what had happened to her on Earth. *That’s* why he had apologized.  Oh, God.  Was that why she was on Bethara?

 

Sneaking a glance over at him, she saw Angel looking straight at her, his eyes penetrating… he looked worried for a moment, he looked kind, he was trying to tell her something.

 

Their exchange was interrupted when the roaring Pava kicked her so hard she flew through the air and the world went black.

 

***

 

She awakened the next day, pain free, on her pallet in her cell.  For a moment, she thought the past broht was a dream but, touching her neck, she felt Angel’s mark and was confused by what it meant.  The Roffs had *clearly* healed her, yet the scarring wound remained.  Her thoughts were interrupted when the door opened, admitting a for-once dour Qa. 

 

“We will be leaving in a few moments.  You must put this on,” she said, avoiding any eye contact as she handed Bryn a rough brown tunic. 

 

Bryn stared at her for a moment in disbelief.  Garments?  Leaving?

 

“I don’t--”

 

“Bryn, please ask nothing and put on the Dra,” Qa said quietly. 

 

Bryn looked at Qa warily and slowly pulled the tunic over her bare body. 

 

“I’m sorry I failed you, Bryn.  I’m sorry I didn’t protect you from the Tar.  It has been my pleasure to serve as handler to you.  Turn around now,” Qa said sadly.  Bryn began to tremble when she realized what was happening... she was being taken to be Celebrated.  Qa bound her hands tightly behind her back.  Bryn whimpered, stared imploringly into Qa's eyes… begged her for mercy.  Qa looked sad yet continued preparing her:  stuffing her mouth full of cloth and securing it around the back of her head….  and finally fastening a blindfold across her eyes.

 

Weeping, she was led through the castle by Qa and some others for several moments until, suddenly, she felt a cool breeze on her skin, warmth on her head, and rough dirt under her feet.  She was outside!  For a second, she was distracted by the crisp and clear air.  She inhaled deeply; it was so good to breathe fresh air.  Her delight quickly passed as the horrible reality of things was brought front and center once again.  There was cheering and shouting in the distance.  With each foot-step the din grew louder… closer… until it was deafening.  Terrified, Bryn fought not to urinate.

 

They stopped suddenly and Qa whispered 'Parraneu' into her ear and kissed her cheek.  Bryn was roughly pulled away and forced up several steps onto some kind of platform, her arms bound to a wooden piling behind her.  She stood silently, straining to hear anything helpful from the surrounding voices, praying that Angel would come rescue her.  Despite having told Angel that she could go through Celebration knowing she’d led a good life, she found that now that it was happening she desperately wanted to live. 

 

“Village!  Behold the Slayer of the Pava, brought to you before her time, to be Feast in the ritual of Celebration!”

 

Deafening cheers went up from the crowd.  Bryn's head lolled, lightheaded with fear, tears flowing copiously from her eyes, soaking the tight cloth bound across them.

 

“A Celebration is always beautiful to behold, but none shall be as beautiful as my Bryn,” the Pava continued, circling her and running one of his hands roughly across her breasts, tweaking one of her nipples hard.

 

His hand dropped abruptly and she heard him move away.  “It has been many years since our last Celebration of a Slayer.  Many of you shall not be *alive* when this ritual is performed again.  Feast and feast well.”

 

The Pava tore the tunic from her body.  Bryn began to scream through her gag as she felt him leave her and heard the thundering of many feet as the villagers ran toward the platform.  Her hands were untied and she was roughly pulled away from the piling as the crowd moved to take her.

 

***

 

Part 6

 

Hands.  Hands everywhere.  They'd tied her to an old wagon and fought one another to beat her, to torture her, to fuck her.  The raping seemed to last for hours and finally, struggling to remain standing, she was, instead, pushed down to her knees, her arms stretched painfully above her.  A woman chuckled in the background.  Bryn's body tensed when she heard the crack of a bullwhip and she struggled not to scream, to not give them satisfaction as the whip struck her body, over and over.  She failed; she screamed.  Rough hands pulled her back to standing and she felt a raw tongue lick her blood off.  Someone huge thrust into her ass.  She groaned as she felt the wood of the wagon press into her breasts and splinters break into her flesh.  With a loud grunting, the demon spilled into her, her anus turning to acid at the feel of his semen.  Uirn demon, she thought, her mind scarily clinical, desperately trying to save her from agony by over-functioning and checking out.  Someone adjusted the rope, flipped her and flung her into the dirt, her arms pulled taut over head, her bloody back now pressed into the road.  The bullwhip slashed her stomach and legs.

 

This was happening.  She was being Celebrated.  Where was Angel?

 

Two demons pulled her legs apart.  Her heart filled with dread as the whip whistled again through the air…. She knew what was next.  

 

The whip sliced into her center and everything went black.

 

***

 

She awakened screaming…. She was on fire.  Her blindfold was long discarded yet her eyes were swollen shut from days of beatings.  Light penetrated… it was day-time again, that made three.   They never tired, they just kept coming.  Beating her, raping her, torturing her. 

 

She screamed as a second hot poker pressed into her breast, a third into her stomach as a woman laughed and poured a stinging liquid onto her.  Groaning in pain, she was roughly pulled from the ground and thrown over a barrel as another villager began to beat her with a wooden beam.

 

The world went black.  Again.

 

***

 

“I challenge the Pava for the right to the Slayer!” A bloody Angel roared, striking thrice the gong in Ma’a Square.  Buffy lay silent, motionless, tied down to a large fallen log, her face grossly swollen from being beaten… her body bruised, bleeding and branded.  A large Kevara demon brutally penetrated her from behind while another throttled her mouth.

 

“I challenge the Pava for the right to mate with the Slayer!” Angel shouted, his voice trembling in fury, fighting himself to remain still – to not pull the fucking Kevaras off of Buffy.  Killing two demons would only spare her momentary pain and he'd likely be killed by the crowd standing beside her, eagerly waiting for the Kevaras to finish with her.  Where was the fucking Pava?! 

 

Two more demons joined the Kevaras, began their assault on her.

 

“Does the Pava accept my challenge?” He snarled, desperate.  His eyes pierced the gaze of several demons who were moving closer to Buffy, ready to join in; those villagers seemed to rethink their actions and began to move out of the Square entirely.  Fighting desperately to ignore a silent Buffy's shallow, shuddering breaths, Angel called again for the Pava, whirling around when he heard the first of the Pavan Guard arriving on horseback.

 

“The Pava accepts this challenge on one condition," said a demon he recognized as Chief of the Pran.  "*When* he prevails, the Slayer’s torture shall increase *tenfold*.  He shall gain the Tar and ascendancy to the Schoek.  Is this… acceptable?”  The demon sneered, clearly expecting Angel to withdraw the challenge. 

 

“Agreed,” Angel bit out, barely able to contain his rage as Buffy hoarsely screamed behind him.  He unsheathed his sword, held it tightly in his grip and focused solely on the object of his hate:  the Pava, who was finally arriving with the rest of his Royal Guard.  He had every intention of making this hurt.  First, he would take down the Pava.  His pran would follow in short order.  Then, everyone else who had harmed her would die.  Painfully. 

 

With a wave of the Pava's hand, her abusers reluctantly pulled away from Buffy, and, as custom was now being improvised, she was dragged back to the platform and placed under heavy guard. No longer able to stand, she was thrown down next to the pole, her hands lashed to the piling beside her.

 

The Pava slowly dismounted his horse, smirking at Buffy's state and looking with scorn at Angel whose rage was visibly increasing as the moments passed.  Sensing the fight would be ugly, the few remaining villagers began to withdraw to watch from a safer distance.  Being near the action increased the likelihood of death and they weren't done with the Slayer yet. 

 

Anger rolled off Angel’s body and he felt a certain satisfaction when the Pava seemed hesitant as he withdrew his sword.  They began to circle each other.    

 

"Did you enjoy the Vrana't?" the Pava snickered.

 

"A distraction, but now I claim the prize.  My *mate*.  You dared ignore the challenge I put forward in your chamber? You dared ignore custom and moved to Celebrate my *mate* – despite the challenge being on the table…,"  Angel menaced, "while you detained me?  I will *cut* you down. And as Schoek, I will see that you are the first male Celebrated in my reign.   If you live that long…."

 

Angel swung his sword toward the Pava's neck, a move that was easily blocked.  There began a fight that would cause the Pava and his entire pran to be struck down in the Square.

 

***

 

An exhausted, bloody and bruised Angel sat leaning against the wall, in full demon face, watching carefully as the Roffs began their fourth day of healing.  Buffy's injuries were extensive… bruised spinal cord, many broken bones and numerous burns and deep lacerations.  The Roffs had nervously informed Angel – their new Master – that it would take at least seven days to balance her and that there might be some residual scarring.

 

At the moment, he didn't care how long it took.  As long as she got better.  She lay on the bed in the Pava's bed chamber, unmoving, silent as the Roffs smeared another mortar-ful of poultice on her back.  Having been in many battles in his attempt to gain the Tar, Angel knew that these remedies were extremely painful and yet she lay there motionless.

 

It was probably for the best but her withdrawal terrified him. 

 

He was overwhelmed with guilt… shaking in fury.  When he'd originally challenged for the Slayer – in the Pava's working chamber – at that moment, she should have been placed under guard, unseen by anyone except her handler, until the battle was completed.  Instead, she was led from the room and a second after the thick wooden door closed, his heart grew tight, the air filling with a heaviness only magic can create.  Gasping for breath, he'd fallen to his knees, his strength draining from him quickly.  He'd slipped into unconsciousness.

 

He'd awakened hours? days? later, furious, in the Vrana't forest, a dense swamp, some 300 miles from the Pava.  Precious time was wasted for each patch of the heavy mud he'd had to slough through.  But struggling through the Vrana't had one benefit:  By the time he'd returned to the Square, his rage had become murderous.

 

"Angel!" Buffy screamed, panicked.  Rising quickly, he rushed to her side, forcing the Roffs out of his way. 

 

"I'm here, I'm here.  Shhh, love.  It's over now.  I'm here," Angel assured her. 

 

"I – I can't move," she said to him, terrified.  She winced when her tears spilled over and hit her raw, partly healed flesh. 

 

"Finish her face.  NOW," Angel growled at the Roffs, who rushed back to her, anxiety flowing off them in waves, clearly afraid for their lives.

 

She hissed in pain as they applied another potion.  In an effort to soothe her, he gently stroked her hair and kissed the crown of her head and, speaking slowly in English, told her stories of his boyhood in Ireland.  He knew she understood little but it had the desired effect.  Her breathing calmed and after several moments, she slipped once again into unconsciousness.    

 

***

 

Her eyes opened, terrified.  She was being held down to the bed of the Pava.  After a panicked moment, she remembered that the body half covering her own was that of Angel.  He held her tightly, the month since the Roffs had healed her almost-Celebrated body and her continuing improvement seeming to do little to relax him or diminish his possessiveness.  He protected her even when deeply asleep.  Smiling, she extricated herself from him with no small amount of difficulty and went to look out the window at the mountain range they were to cross in their trek to the Tar.

 

The mountains were beautiful, majestic, but very steep and broad.  Angel had told her that it would take at least twenty-five days to cross into the Tar with many days on foot as they'd have to abandon their horses at the Taran Plateau.  Despite the fact that Buffy had not fully recovered her strength, they were to leave that day.  As the Cold Season progressed, the trail would become less and less passable.  As it was, the crossing would be difficult.  Angel assured her that there were plenty of caves for shelter, an abundance of plant and animal life to provide food… and that he would protect her. 

 

Of this, she was certain.  He'd rescued her prior to being Celebrated… as he'd promised.  He seemed to feel guilty that he'd taken "so long."  When Buffy tried to reassure him that it was alright, that her experience in the Village, while involving many more demons, was no worse than other times during her service to the Pava, he'd left the castle in a rage, his claymore tightly grasped in his hand.

 

She'd sat up half the night with Qa, terrified for his life, for *her* life.  It was only when he'd returned, covered in blood but much calmer, and told her what he'd done – that he'd killed anyone in the village smelling of Buffy – that she understood he was angry at them and not her.

 

Hearing him stir behind her, she allowed herself a small smile and tiptoed over to the bed.  She bit back a giggle, watching his brow furrow as he felt around for her, not quite awake yet.

 

Reaching out her hand, with a devilish grin, she lightly ran her fingertips up his side, watching him jerk as she tickled his ribs.  Playing with him, she tickled his other side, squealing when he grabbed her and pulled her roughly back into the bed, settled over her and kissed her firmly.

 

"Minx!" he teased, moving to kiss her again.  She giggled and their embraces grew more heated until they heard a tentative knock on the door.

 

Frustrated, he rose and stalked to stand near the door.  "What?"

 

Qa's voice was muffled by the heavy wood.  "My Lord, it is already three hours past first light.  If you wish to make camp at Brahna, I believe you must leave shortly to arrive before nightfall."

 

He turned back to the bed and looked at Buffy.  For the past week or so, she'd seemed better.  He'd hoped she would have been fully recovered before they started out – she still tired too easily – but he knew if they didn't leave soon, it would only be a harder trek across the Pass. 

 

"Are you sure, love?"

 

"I feel very well.  I promise.  I won't slow you down." 

 

He frowned at that.  They'd made huge strides in the prior few weeks with her confidence and independence but she still deferred too easily to him.  Once again, he was forced to remember that she was not the same girl who'd been kidnapped twenty-two years earlier.  After numerous balancings, her memory of her former life was practically gone.  Everything she knew was Betharan, a life where being submissive had likely saved her a lot of pain. 

 

"Very well, love.  We'll leave as soon as you are ready."  With that, he admitted Qa and left for his dressing area. 

 

***

 

Buffy looked down at her garments.  It felt so odd to be wearing so much, much less anything at all, but she supposed it was going to be very cold on their journey and she would need all of the layers Qa put on her.  The strangest sensation was her boots.  Incredibly soft animal hide lined with fleece, they were both comfortable and warm.  She walked around a bit getting used to having her feet covered.  It was the oddest thing. 

 

"Ready to go?" Angel ducked his head in to check on their progress.  Qa rose from completing the elaborate lacing that secured her boots then reached into the basket and walked to Angel with the last item.

 

"Yes, my Lord," Qa said, handing it to Angel and then retreating to stand by the door, her eyes once again downcast. 

 

"We won't be needing this," Angel bit out, throwing the rope leash to the floor, angry. 

 

"It's okay, Angel," Buffy said gently.  "I don't mind." 

 

"Well, *I* mind.  You won't be treated like this, Buffy.  No more!  You are my *mate*.  This… this is non-negotiable.  Let's go," he barked, turning and beginning to leave the room.

 

"My Lord!  Sir, please!"  Qa stammered.  "I- I mean no disrespect, Master, but…. *Please*, my Lord, I fear for her safety if others do not see, first hand, that she is your property.  I- I understand that your home world has different customs but.… Here it is customary to keep one's mate bound and close at hand.… At least until you reach the mountains…."  Qa finished, dropping to her knees submissively. 

 

"Rise, Qa." Angel sighed.  "Explain."

 

"My Lord," she said, rising, the retrieved leash and collar in her hands, "the Mate's Bite…. The former Pava knew of it because once, many years ago, we had another Slayer who was mated to a parnazya, or vampire, as you call yourself.  But that is the *only* reason he recognized your mark for what it was.  Here… well, the mating is very… complicated and should the female survive it, they are known by their brand and distinctive collar and the fact that they are tethered to their Master whenever away from the Master's home.  I understand…  I realize that you will not brand your mate – I would never ask, my Lord – but please, without the collar and tethering, I fear others will not realize she is yours, despite the fact that she travels with you.

 

"Here, when a male chooses a mate, he usually steals her in the night from her owner and then mates with her.  The fact that she is owned has no meaning.  An untethered female, out of doors, is any male's for the taking.

 

"If you do not collar and tether her, I fear what will happen while you sleep.  Please, my Lord…. I mean no disrespect, but it is the safest way."

 

Angel stared at the collar in her trembling hands, drawn from his musings only when he felt Buffy's hand on his arm.  "It's okay, Angel, really.  I understand you find this unacceptable but if it will tell others that I'm not to be touched…. I'm tired of being touched by others, Angel.  I want only you."

 

"I–," he started and then turned to Qa and reached for the collar and leash.  "Leave us, Qa."

 

Bowing, she quickly exited the chamber.  When they were once again alone, Angel reached out and cupped Buffy's cheek.  "Love, I don't *want* you to be okay with this," he sighed, frustrated, his brow furrowed. 

 

"I… I'm going to put this on you," he continued quietly, "but I want you to understand something, Buffy.  We are equals here.  You'll wear this for your safety but we are equals.  Do you understand that, *really* understand that?"

 

Buffy fought the automatic "yes," instead forcing herself to honestly consider his question. 

 

"Yes, Angel.  It's – it's hard to understand but I will try to live that way."  She stepped forward and, making her point, took the collar out of his hand and placed it around her neck.  "I love you, Angel."  She reached up and pulled his head down and kissed him deeply.  "Take me home."

 

***

 

It was slow going, Buffy's weakness making their trip days longer than he'd planned for.  Each night she'd fall into a deep sleep, exhausted from the few hours' travel.  Per Qa's advice, until the mountains, she'd remained tethered to him at all times.  Many demons stared hungrily at her as they went past yet didn't approach, didn't fight him for her, respecting the fact that she was already owned.   He realized quickly that there was a part of him that liked "owning" her, liked that she was tethered to him… liked her submission.  He was disgusted by his thoughts, hated what they said about him. 

 

He was deeply relieved when they moved into the mountains and the collar and tether were removed.

     

***

 

He estimated they were still seven days from the Tar when the skies filled with murky yellow clouds.  He managed to find them a habitable cave and adequate firewood for several days, barely finishing before the deadly green lightning – always the start of a blizzard – began. 

 

Buffy, exhausted but as usual putting her best face on, took on her adopted role of homemaker, forming their "bed" of blankets in the back of the cave as he built a fire and reviewed their food stores.  They had enough food for several days which was probably two or three days less than what they needed to survive.  His initial journey across had involved several of these storms, all of which lasted for at least a week.  And with snow on the ground it would be difficult to continue on or catch any wildlife.  They were well and truly into the Cold Season.  This was bad.

 

He knew that despite his desire and need to eat, he could live without it.  With him fasting, Buffy would have adequate nourishment and that was what was important.  Her health had continued to improve but Angel was still troubled by the fact that she wasn't improving as fast as he'd hoped.  He chalked it up to the fact that the rocky crags were indeed difficult to traverse.  He knew that Buffy wouldn't allow him to abstain; the trick would be making Buffy think he was eating when he wasn't.  She was constantly doting on him, asking him if he needed anything or wanted anything from her.  In the back of his mind, he worried that she was doing it out of some sense of duty.  He hoped in time she would become even more confident that he was with her because he loved her and that all he hoped for was for her to love him back.  Nothing more.

 

It was difficult to get a fire going.  The wind had risen quickly and was at times blowing directly into their shelter.  After many frustrating minutes striking at the flint, the blaze finally caught, and wrapping both of them in the blankets, he fed her bits of dried Nonka as they conversed in halting English.

 

"Engel, you … wahnt home to gaw? When you wahnt home to gaw? To Californ-ee-a."

 

"Yes.  I want to go home," he emphasized as she nodded, frowning, memorizing his syntax.  "But only when you're ready.  Let's just get back to the Tar first."

 

Buffy shivered as she had the prior day when he'd mentioned the Tar.  When he'd asked then, she assured him she was just cold.  Now, he knew she was lying.  He hated it.

 

"Love, what are you afraid of?" he asked gently in Betharan.

 

Buffy looked panicked but did her best to look confused.  "I don't know– "

 

"Tell me.  What are you afraid of, Buffy?" he repeated, frustrated. 

 

"Angel, I'm just cold.  Really." She said, nervously smiling.  "I'm sorry if I worry you.  I don't mean to.  Please, I'm sorry."

 

"Damn it, Buffy.  Don't apologize.  You're afraid.  That's okay.  I wish you weren't but that's okay.  But please, don't lie to me.  I wish you'd–"

 

"Angel, please don't be mad at me.  Please!  I don't mean to anger you.  I don't!"  Pulling away from him, she curled into herself, cringing, as if anticipating a blow from him. 

 

He stood rapidly and raked a hand through his hair.  "I–" he faltered.  "Buffy, have I ever hurt you?  *Ever*?"

 

Mentally cringing at the fact that yes, he'd hurt her *incredibly* back on Earth, he forced himself to stay focused on the instant moment.

 

"Angel.  Please…." She moved to kneel before him, her eyes downcast.

 

Realizing he was only scaring her more, he slowly knelt down next to her.   Reaching out to brush her hair away from her face, his stomach clenched when she flinched at his touch.  But he knew he couldn't back down.  He wouldn't.

 

"Buffy, have I ever hurt you?" he asked softly.

 

He could see her forcing herself to breathe deeply, to calm down.  Looking at her hands, she whispered.  "No.  Angel, I don't know why I can't trust you but I'm… I'm sorry, but I'm afraid."

 

Now they were getting somewhere.  "It's okay, Buffy.  What are you afraid of, love?  Please tell me."

 

She seemed to consider how to be honest and if it were even safe to answer honestly.  After a moment, she quietly continued.  "I'm… What's going to happen to me when we reach the Tar?  I mean, these past few weeks….  You make me feel… different.  Like I'm special and precious and…. I'm so scared."  Taking another breath to steady herself, she considered things and continued, her voice stronger now.  "I know that when we get to the Tar, I will likely be with other men and demons again.  I know that's the deal.  I just….  I'll miss just being with you, that's all.  I don't want this to end."

 

Angel's jaw dropped when he realized that the life she envisioned was the same as her life with the Pava, the only difference being she would spend nights "off" in his bed.

 

"No, Buffy.  No.  Your life… your life is with me now, just me.  I'm not….  In the Tar, you will rule by my side as my Queen, my mate… my equal.  As long as you are with me, you will be only with me.  Do you understand?"

 

She nodded slowly as if she didn’t really believe him.  "But Angel… for my Penance.  What will I be doing for my Penance?  I've still so many years…."

 

"Buffy, why were you with the Pava?  How did you end up there?"

 

Looking nervous, she swallowed and reluctantly parroted:  "I….  Well, I was sentenced to the Pava for 400 years for my crimes on Earth."

 

Angel's eyes widened and he struggled to fight back tears.  400 *years*?  Her *crimes*?

 

"What crimes, Buffy?  What did you do?"

 

"I….  Well, um….  I used to know, I'm sure of it, but I don't remember.  I'm sor-  Um, I mean, I don't remember, Angel." 

 

Reaching out slowly, he began to stroke her arm lightly.  "Buffy, look at me," he said softly, continuing only after she met his gaze.  "Love, there were no crimes.  None.  You did nothing wrong on Earth.  You were kidnapped, Buffy.   Taken against your will by a vindictive man that didn't like you or approve of your methods, methods that were just and protected and saved peoples' lives.  You committed no crimes, Buffy.   The only crime was the one done *to* you by Quentin... the man who took you."

 

"Wha-  You're wrong…. I'm bad.  I was bad and I was…. No!"  Buffy raged.  She pulled away from him and stood quickly, halting her escape only when he grabbed her hand tightly and forced her to look at him, forced her to hold his gaze, silently communicating that what he said was the absolute truth, no ifs, ands or buts. 

 

"No…," she whispered in horror, her left hand covering her mouth.

 

"You were – and are – a good person, Buffy.  A good person who was kidnapped and taken from your people - your friends, your family, your Watcher, Giles – me.  You…. Buffy, you have such a beautiful heart.  You didn't deserve any of this… none of it… and you never would.  You are *innocent*… innocent, Buffy.  You did *nothing* wrong."

 

"No!  You're wrong!" she stammered, her eyes darting around the cave, her breath quickening towards hysteria.  "No!….  No!  You're lying!"

 

She yanked her hand from his and ran out of the cave and into the snowstorm.

 

"Buffy!"

 

***

 

Part 7

 

Angel ran out after her, terrified that she would get too far away from him to track.  An inch of snow already covered the ground.  The wind blew hard, pushing him back toward the rocks.  Visibility was practically non-existent. 

 

"Buffy!"

 

He whirled around squinting hard before returning to the cave and taking the largest burning branch from the fire to use as a torch.  He only hoped the wet, sleety snow wouldn't dampen the flame before he'd found her.

 

Returning outside again, he forced himself to focus on his vampiric ability to sense a Slayer to ascertain where to begin his search.  Closing his eyes, he fought to tamp down his panic.  He concentrated, hard:  Left, she's left of me. 

 

Moving carefully along the outside wall of the cave, knowing he'd need to get her quickly back into shelter once he'd found her, he had gone no more than twenty-five feet when he practically stepped on her. 

 

She lay curled on her side hysterically sobbing, beside a pool of her vomit, her left hand feebly punching the surface of the ground.  She looked up at him, her face anguished.

 

"Why, Angel, why?  Oh, God, why?  How could they…. How could they do this to me?  Why?!"

 

"Buffy, love, I–  I don't know," he said, his voice breaking.  "I don't know.  I'm so sorry, love.  So sorry."   Moving the torch around himself, he took note of the location of the outer wall of the cave, and then dropped the log into the snow, grabbing for her before the fire completely burned out. 

 

Picking her up into his arms, he held her close as he backed up and, feeling the rock against his back, moved as quickly as was safe back to the entrance of the cave.

 

***

 

She'd cried for hours before slipping into a deep, troubled sleep.  He'd held her close to him, wrapping her in his arms, using his body heat to try and keep her warm.  He was terrified she would become ill, having been exposed to the bitter, wet cold for even the short time she'd been outside.  Their clothing lay by the fire until it was finally dry enough to be put back on.  She remained unconscious while he redressed them both.  Restoking the fire, he kissed her forehead and pulling her close once again, wrapped them both within the three, rather thin blankets and remained awake all night, guarding her sleeping form.

 

***

 

The storm lasted four days.  Since their "discussion" of what had happened to her, Buffy had not spoken.  To be fair, she'd hardly moved other than to walk slowly towards the mouth of the cave, to where they were relieving themselves in a deep hole he'd dug.  Angel had tried kindness, understanding… had tried ordering her… anything to get her to eat but each time he came to her with food, she would merely turn her back on him and go back to sleep. 

 

He was relieved she didn't seem chilled or physically ill from her time in the elements.  That said, he knew that once the storm had passed, she'd be too weak for them to continue at the rate they'd been going.  And they needed to get out of the mountains as quickly as possible.  Now that the blizzards had started, he knew successive storms would come up quickly and he didn't want to be in a position where they weren't able to find adequate shelter.  He'd been lucky this time and he knew it.

 

Realizing he would need all of his strength were he to carry her for most of the journey, he bit into a small piece of Nonka and, upon finishing, moved behind her to sleep.

 

***

 

They'd been lucky.  Incredibly lucky.  After six days in the cave, the snow had melted a bit and he'd packed them up and taking her hand, they'd continued on foot.  They'd been farther along the path than he'd originally estimated and he'd pushed himself – carrying her when she could no longer walk.  He was greatly relieved that after two nights of sleeping under the oiled V'horot skin, they were finally at a low enough altitude that snow was no longer an issue.

 

Rather, the main problem was a cold, steady rain. 

 

On their second night out of doors, she'd finally relented and eaten several bites of Nonka.  Seeing her renewed interest in food, he was greatly encouraged that she was returning to him until she completely ignored his attempts to talk with her, instead, facing away from him and curling into herself.

 

He didn't know what to do.

 

***

 

There were signs of people before he could see them.  Animal blood here, a bit of cloth cast there. 

 

They were in the Tar.

 

With a hand on her arm, Angel stopped their trek and turned her to face him.  Her eyes were glassy and distant. 

 

"Buffy, I need you to focus." He used a finger to raise her face to his.  It was as if she didn't see him.

 

"Buffy," he started, desperately trying to mask the frustration and worry in his voice.  "Love, we're in the Tar.  I'm gonna….  I'm gonna put the…," he sighed, "I'm gonna put the collar back on you.  But it doesn't…."

 

She stood there, her eyes blank, and he doubted suddenly that she could even understand him.  He reached into her pack and removed the collar and reattached it to her, tying the rope to his belt.

 

No reaction.  Swallowing hard, he adjusted his pack, took her hand and led her into the village. 

 

***

 

It happened when he was negotiating the price of a brenden.  Despite her collar and Angel's word that she was indeed his mate - lack of brand notwithstanding – the three large demons he was bargaining with had chosen to fight him for her.  They were strong, stronger than Angel for sure. 

 

After severing the rope that connected Buffy to him, they began to fight Angel in earnest.  They parried hard for several minutes and, after a lightning fast combination move he'd never seen before, two demons had Angel pinned as a third moved in for the kill.  Buffy stood passively, seemingly unaware of the battle until a sword was raised above Angel's throat.  Suddenly releasing a wailing scream, she snapped out of her fog and ran to retrieve a large tree branch that lay nearby.  She struggled for a moment but got it lifted, smashing it over the stunned-to-frozen, sword-weeling demon's head.  Realizing she was a worthy opponent, a second demon released Angel and began to advance on her.  Her breath caught in her throat and she was shocked to stillness for a moment.  As he reached for her, though, she began to scream animalistically again, and quickly smashed his head and continued to strike him, over and over, using the full force of her human strength to drive him to the ground. 

 

Using his remaining captor's surprise at Buffy's actions to his advantage, Angel quickly gained the upper hand and felled him with his claymore.  After decapitating the demon, he carefully approached her.

 

"Buffy…. "

 

She was sobbing, she was screaming wildly:  "NO! NO!" over and over in Betharan, crazed, continuing to pummel the demon long after it was dead until brain matter began to leak out onto the ground.

 

"Buffy, it's okay." He said loudly, fighting back his own tears.  "Love, you can stop now.  He's dead.  He can't hurt you.  Buffy…."

 

Coming near her, he saw her become aware of his words… saw her eyes snap to focus on what had just happened.  She stilled; her mouth dropped open and her breathing became rapid.  Looking in horror at the wood in her hands, she threw it away as if it burned her. 

 

He walked quickly to her and, as her breath hitched with sobs, as she began to hyperventilate, he wrapped his arms tightly around her, murmuring that she was okay, that he loved her… kissing her hair.  Mindful of his sword, he gathered her into his arms and led her out of sight around the back of the demons' hut, lowering them both to the ground and gently rocking her, all the while assuring her that she was safe, that he would protect her... that he loved her. 

 

They sat there until she seemed calmer.  Angel realized, though, that they needed to leave quickly lest more of the demons' clan came along.  He didn't know if she would be able to handle yet another threat in so short a span of time. 

 

Gently helping her up, he placed final kisses to her forehead and mouth and moved to retie her to him.  Taking her hand, they retrieved the brenden he had wanted to buy.  On the animal they could travel perhaps three times as quickly as on foot, meaning they'd be at the Fortress of the Tar in a few days' time.

 

"Is that what I was like?" Buffy whispered in Betharan, as he helped her onto the brenden.  "When I was the Slayer… on Earth?" 

 

Angel took a deep breath.  "No, Buffy.  It was… it was different there."  Climbing behind her, he grabbed at the reins tied around its head, using one of his arms to hold her close to him.

 

"Ready to go on?"  He asked, kissing the back of her head.  At her nod, he continued.  "You're going to be okay, Buffy.  I promise you.  You'll be okay."

 

***

 

Six weeks later, Angel wondered if his promise had been in haste.  After the fight with the owners of the brenden, Buffy had once again become completely withdrawn, spending most of each day and night asleep in their bed.  The few times he'd touched her hand or smoothed her hair, she had allowed it but ultimately she seemed completely disinterested in food, affection, talking… disinterested in life. 

 

He didn't know what to do to help her.  After two weeks at the Fortress, she'd seemed to be regressing and he'd sent for a Roff.  That had ended incredibly badly.  Buffy had gone from completely passive to lashing out like a cornered, wild animal, beating the Roff almost to death until Angel had successfully pulled her off of him. 

 

She'd broken away from Angel and run and locked herself in her wardrobe, remaining there that night and the following day.  When he'd finally broken the lock, frightened when she wouldn't respond to his light knocks on the wardrobe door, he'd found her curled like a child, sucking her thumb and staring at nothing. 

 

He'd been terrified.

 

After several more weeks, he'd had to go back to work but begged off anything that took him farther than the working chamber directly outside their private apartments.  The look on her face when he'd left her the first time had been one of abject terror.  It broke his heart.  He knew that he would do anything to make her better but he also knew that it had to come from her.  To push her now….  She needed to know she was in charge of her own life and had the right to her own choices, but what was he supposed to do when weeks passed and she still spent all of her time in their bedroom? 

 

***

 

 Next Part

 

 
| Fiction Index | Home Page | Back |