Taking Hold of the Future:
The First Steps


Authors Note: *** Indicates dream scene.


On some level Buffy realized that she was dreaming, that she was observing something out of her own past, but the threat still felt real. She yelled at her other self, desperately trying to wake the other Buffy to the danger. 'Maybe if she finds out now, they can move faster. Maybe a little advance warning to the escalating threat would save Jenny.'


*** Buffy tossed and turned in bed, subconsciously aware of the threat that hovered over her. Angelus stilled until she settled back into a more peaceful sleep, and continued to sketch the tiny blond slayer, and plot the next move in his grand campaign...

"This isn't about you. It was never about you." Fear ran through Buffy as she turned and sprinted for the library. Somehow she knew it was already too late, something awful had already happened, but she would never abandon her friends to Angelus's cruel plans. ***


Buffy cried out in pain and frustration, trying to wake herself up. She knew what happened next; she'd relived what happened over and over again all summer long. She was extremely grateful that the dream had only come back once or twice since Angel's return from Hell. Events steam rolled ahead, and she was once again standing above Angel, her sword drawn back to strike the killing blow. But this time, something was different...


*** "Oh, no you don't Lover," he growled angrily as the sword started it's descent. Angelus reached out quickly and pulled on her knee, causing Buffy to collapse forward. As he flipped her over this shoulder and through the portal, she could hear him calling after her, "Enjoy the trip sweetheart!"

Buffy fell endlessly, her scream echoing in the darkness. Updrafts of enormous heat caught her occasionally, and buffeted her about. More than once the swirling vortex or the fierce, heat driven winds pushed her through the rain of fire and lava, searing her to the bone in unbearable agony. Yet, each time Buffy felt the blessed relief of unconsciousness welling before her she was painfully healed, only to repeat the process again. Eventually, she fell onto a burning plain, divided by streams of boiling magma and pools of bubbling tar. Buffy leaped to her feet as soon as possible, sweating profusely, and wishing desperately for some water. She turned to survey her surroundings, well aware she was in hell when she heard someone screaming for help. Unable to resist, and desperate to concentrate on anything other than her predicament, Buffy followed the sounds to their source. What she found surpassed even her worst nightmares.

Angel - and she could tell immediately that it was HER Angel from the look of agony in his eyes, was the victim. He was chained naked to a bed, and being tortured. Darla, Druscilla, Jenny, Kendra and Faith circled him, taking turns with branding irons, whips, and holy water. As they worked they taunted him with his crimes - submitting to Darla, driving Dru insane, killing Jenny, allowing Buffy to be killed so that Kendra was called - an act that had ultimately led to her death and Faith being called. They taunted him with failing to keep Buffy safe and with how his body continued to hurt her as Buffy scrambled forward, only to run up against an invisible wall of some kind. She moved desperately, to get to him as the scene changed, only to discover that the wall had formed a magical circle of some kind to keep her out; she could walk completely around the 'room' but she couldn't get closer than ten feet away.

When Buffy realized what was going on next, she wished she was even farther away, but when she tried to back up, she found another wall had sprung up behind her. She was effectively pinned in place, forced to watch them take turns teasing his battered body to arousal and taking turns raping him and telling him it was only fair since his body had done the same to each of them.

Angel turned his head away in agony, unable to prevent the physical response to their caresses, only to see Buffy standing there. He reached for her, pleading with her to end it, screaming for her to make it stop, but try as she might Buffy couldn't get any closer. "Why!?" he screamed accusingly. "Why won't you make the pain go away?!" he sobbed. Buffy stepped back in horror, her heart bleeding. When she found the wall behind her gone, she turned to run, hoping desperately to find someone in that desolate hell that would help her save him. Angel's screams followed her. "No! Don't leave me! I need you! Only you can make it stop Buffy! I'm so sorry for hurting you.... don't go!" ***


Horrified, Buffy listened to Angel cry out for her as she watched her dream self run away. "Stop!" she screamed. "You can't hurt him anymore; stay with him until you find away to help! Please!" Buffy begged, tears rolling down her face, as she watched pain and despair well in Angel's eyes as the hope started to die. "You've hurt him so much; don't hurt him anymore! PLEASE ..."




"... STOP!" Buffy woke up suddenly, having waken herself with the scream. Tears were streaming down her cheeks, and she was almost choking on the deep, shuddering sobs. She sat up and blindly reached for the light on her bedside table, desperate to get out of the dark. As the Slayer Buffy was usually all to comfortable in the dark, but sometimes, especially after the dark, horrific dreams, it was too much to take. She stumbled out of bed, trying desperately to calm down as she got out of bed and went to her door. A shiver raced down her spine, and she wrapped her arms around herself as she crept down the hall and peaked into her mother's room.

Joyce was sleeping soundly in her bed, a small smile on her face. Buffy stared at her for a long moment, wishing fruitlessly for the days when crawling in next to her mother kept the bad dreams at bay. She sighed and turned away as tears once more welled in her eyes and another shiver ran down her back as she realized those days were long over. Buffy softly closed the door to her mother's room and headed back to her own, her fears barely held at bay. She crawled back into bed, accidentally brushing against the bedside table as she did so, only to nearly jump out of her skin when a book was knocked to the floor.

"God Buffy, calm down," she breathed to herself as she reached for the book, annoyed by the tremble in her hands as she picked it up and absently flipped through the pages. "After all, you kill the things that go bump in the night. Just because you've been having wretched dreams for a week and a half is no reason to come unhinged. I mean it's not like it's never happened before..." Buffy's pep talk trailed off as her eyes locked onto a passage in the book, her old diary. Shivers coursed through her small frame with increasing regularity as she read the description of the dream she'd had just before her seventeenth birthday, the one in which Druscilla killed Angel. Tears welled in her eyes anew as she recalled how she'd gone to his apartment the next day, and how holding him, kissing him had chased the fear away. Something tickled the back of her memory as she flipped a few weeks forward in the diary, pain in hear heart starting to chase the fear away.

*I told Willow last night that it was so hard, because Angel was always the one I ran to when things got to be too much, and now he's the problem. They look so alike, but are so different. She agreed but pointed out that I'm still the only thing he thinks about; aren't I just so lucky...*

Buffy dropped the book from her suddenly nerveless fingers and stood frozen for a long moment. Bits of pieces from her dreams of the past two weeks, particularly the one she'd had that night mixed with the memories of happier times, the images brought back by her old diary entry, and the final discussion between herself and Angel after deceiving Faith. Of the pain she had once vowed never to put in his eyes again, yet had caused once again in a blind, selfish panic. Buffy snapped out of her trance, fear again becoming her focus as she scrambled into her tennis shoes and grabbed her jacket as she went out the window and running into the night. The difference was that this time, the fear wasn't for herself, or the horrors she saw in her dreams. This time she was scared for her Angel, and what she might have done to her dearest love.