Disclaimer: They aint mine, don’t take me to court.
Author’s Notes: Many many thanks to my wonderful beta, DreamsofSpike, and to my wonderful reviewers. Feedback on the weird things that come out of my head is always good.
Danaia was waiting for them outside the office, arms full of supplies and foot tapping furiously. Her glare was ignored as Xander led a shell-shocked looking Slayer by the hand. He unlocked the door for them, then glanced both ways down the hall to make sure that no one was lingering or following before shutting them securely inside.
Buffy made a beeline for the cage. She let nothing get in her way, and didn’t even acknowledge the other two as Danaia suggested sitting down to discuss the plan.
Kneeling beside the vampire, Buffy was actually relieved to find him asleep. As much as she wanted to make everything right, she was nowhere near ready to face him.
Could she even make it right?
The rest of the world disappeared. The Slayer barely knew it when Danaia and her friend began speaking about the old plan, and trying to make a new one.
She wrapped her arms gently around the vampire lying on the cold, stone ground, lifting him until his upper body rested against her lap. Her eyes wandered over his face, his body. He seemed so familiar, and yet so foreign to her. At the touch of his skin, her body was instantly aching for him, even as her heart just plain ached, and her mind shrank back in horror.
Her thumb brushed against his eyebrow, tracing the familiar scar again. She then moved her fingertips down his cheek, then across the full bottom lip. “Spike…”
The wall encasing her emotions was gone. She felt exhausted by her sorrow, and the overwhelming guilt she felt now, when presented with the evidence of all that had happened to him.
‘And why had it happened to him?” a cruel voice in the back of her mind whispered. ‘Why has he been tortured, torn apart and nearly murdered? Why has he been in hell beyond hell for ten years? Because he dared to call you ‘his girl’?’
Against her will, her mind began replaying the things she’d seen on the video Durrak had brought them as proof. The tortures, the screams, the things they’d made the vampires see and do replayed in her mind again and again. She remembered the male that had been chained up, suspended from the ceiling and brutally beaten and raped because he had dared to fight his training.
Spike would have fought.
Buffy wanted to kick, and fight, and scream, and kill, and throw up, all at the same time, as she realized with startling clarity that Spike would have fought the whole way -- and she knew that they would have made him suffer terribly for it.
Her fingertips stroked his cheek gently, soothingly, before her hand moved down to his shoulder. She examined his injuries, her hand moving gently down his chest and then to his side. His skin still seemed cold to the touch, and he shivered under her hand.
Buffy moved her gaze back up to his face, and noticed his troubled expression. Nightmares seemed to be creeping up on him, and Buffy wondered if he was shivering from something far worse than the cold. Vampires weren’t usually affected that much by the cold…
Still, it was the only way she knew to comfort him. She bent back and reached outside the cage, grabbing hold of the furs laying on the ground and dragging them into the cell. She draped one of the softer ones over Spike, then shifted him to tuck them underneath his body.
“Don’t be afraid…” she whispered as she rocked him gently, holding him close.
He didn’t pull away this time. Spike’s nostrils flared, and Buffy knew that he was taking her scent in, even in his sleep. His shivering continued, and even though he was still asleep, he moved closer to her warmth. His head rested on her shoulder, his nose and lips brushing against her neck as she rocked him.
“Blood…y-you need blood…where’s the blood?” She finally acknowledged the others in the room by shouting in their direction. She didn’t want to leave his side to look for it.
The two sitting at the desk stopped their discussion. It was Danaia that rose, retrieving one of the bottles of blood and a glass. She made her way to the cell and set them both down beside the distressed Slayer before returning to her seat in front of the desk.
They both watched her intently, but Buffy didn’t even spare them a glance.
Before she could even pour him the blood, another fact hit her like a freight train. In all the turmoil, in the agony of finding him there, in the realization of just how much pain and just what horrors he must have experienced, she had forgotten it completely.
He had a soul.
Spike, William the Bloody, Slayer of Slayers, pain in her ass, her shadow, her ally, her friend, her mortal enemy, her secret lover…had a soul.
Why wasn’t it the first thing she’d thought of?
She knew that it should be more important, should be the reason why she was so torn up over him. Buffy knew that she should be happy about it, or feel relieved, or think that it was what he deserved…but the only thought that could really come to mind was…
Was he even the same vampire?
Was he the cocky, arrogant vampire that had let himself be tortured to keep her sister’s secret? The one that had held her hands so tenderly and spoken so gently to her when she’d first returned from the dead? Was he the same one that had fought so hard, so fiercely by her side? Or was he some stranger that had died in an alley in London long before she had been born?
Or, was he neither? Just some broken, hollow and traumatized shell of what he’d once been?
The image of the girl from the video came to mind, the one that had huddled and screamed and sobbed, newly ensouled, her nails covered in blood from trying to scratch her own eyes out…
Buffy shook the image away as best she could. She poured the blood into the glass and lifted Spike’s head from her shoulder. She gently opened his mouth and placed the glass to his lips. Once he had the taste of blood in his mouth, he began to swallow automatically.
“That’s it…” She couldn’t quite stop herself from dotting small, comforting kisses across his forehead.
Spike’s body shuddered in her arms, though whether from her touches or from the blood he needed so badly, she didn’t know.
She watched him drink down the blood in the glass, then set the glass aside. She suddenly felt that there was something she needed to know, before she continued to feed him. She lifted his head gently, tilting his head back…and saw a very thin, white scar at the center of his throat. Buffy swallowed hard, Durrak’s words echoing heavily in her mind.
‘Their throats are cut open cleanly, so as not to damage the flesh for too long, and then holy water is used to burn away the vocal cords…’
Buffy held him firmly against her, as if she could somehow protect him from the horrors that he’d already endured. She had to take a moment to compose herself before she continued her inspection. She opened his mouth again, dreading what she might see...or not see…but willing herself to look anyway. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw his tongue, still there.
Until she realized that the tip of his tongue *wasn’t* there.
It looked almost as if…as if…it was *almost* done growing back.
Danaia watched the Slayer’s face carefully, noticing every emotion that she showed so vividly. She saw the emotion both when she was studying the vampire’s throat, and peering into his mouth…
“So…” she mused. “…they removed his vocal cords *and* his tongue.”
Xander grimaced. The removal of the tongue was exactly what had made him vomit when they’d been watching the video, back at Buffy’s house. He was sure the sight and the horrific sounds would stay with him for the rest of his days.
“Man…sounds like someone went through a lot of trouble to keep him quiet.”
The female demon turned to face him, pondering his words. “The last owner he killed was a Mistress, from what I heard…a very respected political figure, which would be why his trial was so public…a very entertaining circus that took the brothel by storm.” She smirked. “Meanwhile, he couldn’t speak a word throughout it.”
She should have known.
Buffy was sure that she should have known about his fate far sooner. Part of her was sure that she had. She had shut that part away, silencing it as soon as the truth threatened to be more than she could handle.
What if Durrak had never come to them with the deal? If he hadn’t brought attention to the slave brothel, Buffy would have never known why Spike disappeared. She would have never known, and he would have remained here to be executed…
“I’m sorry…” Buffy knew that it was far too little, far too late. She also knew that it was the first of many apologies that she owed him, that she wasn’t sure he’d ever be able or willing to accept. “Spike, I’m so, so sorry…” She placed tender kisses on his cheeks, tears threatening to spill all over again.
She paid absolutely no attention to the others in the room, to their conversation, until Danaia asked something that brought her back to the mission.
“What exactly did Durrak tell you about the stones?”
“Well,” Xander struggled to think back on the conversation. “He said the fire stones were natural only to this dimension, that they couldn’t exist outside of it…”
“The stones are natural to this dimension,” Danaia said. “But it’s the magic within them that keeps them from existing anywhere else. The stones are natural here, the magic isn’t. The magic is the work of the owners.”
“You mean…we could actually do something about those?” Xander sat forward. “Like, I don’t know…take the magic out of the stones? Then the slaves could leave, right?”
Danaia laughed. “Take the magic out of the stones? Out of all of them? You’d need an extremely powerful witch for that…I’ve been known to more than dabble in spells, but I don’t have the kind of power it would take to remove the power of the Fire Stones.”
“We need Willow.” Buffy finally spoke to them.
Xander shook his head as he shifted his attention to Buffy. “Willow doesn’t do magic anymore.”
Buffy looked over her shoulder at them, eyes hard and voice clipped and as cold as ice as she simply repeated the words, leaving no room for argument.
“We need Willow.”
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