Buffy had had dreams like this one before - dreams of being an observer inside her own head - but something was wrong here. Her internal landscape had never looked like the Master's lair. Well, it didn't anymore. Not since she had dealt with the aftermath of her near-death experience - a long time ago.

She was paralyzed, incapable of even blinking, but she was able to survey all her surroundings at once. As if she had eyes in the back of her head. As if she was everywhere simultaneously.

The experience left her nauseous. Queasy.

She heard something and she didn't have to turn or even concentrate. She was engulfed by the scene unfolding inside the lair - both a part of it, and yet not.

She began to panic but recognized a familiar voice in the dark - and she quieted. She had no notion of time, no sense of what she was doing here, but none of that mattered at the moment.

She knew that voice.

It was Angel's.

She was inside his mind.

She was several minds all at once.

She became aware of other observers around her. Sleepers, Dreamers, like herself. But she couldn't see them.

"Just give up, Angelus. We're not going anywhere until you drink from me."

Buffy frowned - or thought she did, anyway. Morghane? What was Morghane doing here?

She felt a chill snake down her spine when her brain processed the full implications of the Guardian's words.

< Angelus. >

Buffy didn't want to be here anymore.

A tall, dark figure detached itself from the wall and stalked inside the room. A man. His movements were sharp and angry.

That smirk.

Buffy would have recognized that smirk anywhere.

Where was Angel?

"I'll kill you, Guardian."

A dry, contemptuous laugh.

"Can't quite do that now, Angelus, can you?"

"Then I'll make you regret being immortal."

A new silhouette emerged from a deep pocket of shadows and Morghane walked up to Angelus, her eyes glowing faintly.

"Can we dispense with the cheesy lines and get down to business?"

The Guardian's voice was strong and steady, her bearing proud, her expression one of calm and determination. Buffy started slightly. She had never seen the Guardian so self-possessed, so serene. Realization dawned, and the Slayer came to understand the full extent of the damage wrecked by the Sepulcher. How it had stripped Morghane of her defenses, ripping away all that made her the Guardian, cutting off her ties to the ethereal community, the bonds that sustained her - undermining her soul, destroying the humanity inside her. The essence of her.

Buffy looked at Morghane now, and she could see the power, the strength rolling off of her like some overwhelming, suffusing tidal wave. Buffy felt it in every last one of her cell, in her core, in that deep, intricate part of her that was the Slayer. It called out to her - that power - and the warrior in Buffy acknowledged one of her own.

"Finally. You're showing yourself, Guardian. Got a little tired of playing hide-and-seek? Nice glamour you had working there. But I can't bite you if I can't see you, right?"

Now Buffy perceived the fear in Angelus' voice, underneath the anger. He was frantic. She could feel the demon's unadulterated terror like it was her own, his dread of having to relinquish control to Angel's soul once again. She shared his emotions - any and all emotions released in that place - and it was like an annoying scratch deep inside her brain.

"You know what I've got in store for you, Guardian."

Despite the wicked grin, the fear was mounting in Angelus' tone.

Morghane appeared accepting and collected, and her gaze did not waver. All Buffy could sense from her was profound, infinite sadness.

"Yes, Angelus. I know."

The vampire growled around a mouth full of fangs.

"Then let's get this show on the road."

Angelus let go of a straight punch to Morghane's face but the Guardian effortlessly ducked out of the way. He followed with a high kick, and she parried.

The fight went on for the best part of an hour as Angelus grew more vicious and Morghane more tired - both weakened by hunger.

Buffy grew worried, and this time the emotion was her own. Morghane was good but, physically or technically, she was no match for Angelus. Not when the vampire was fighting for his life.

As if to confirm Buffy's forgone conclusion, Angelus managed to grab Morghane's left arm and projected her face-first against a wall. Stunned, the Guardian slumped to the ground. Blood trickled at the corner of her mouth.

Infuriated by the scent of the Guardian's blood, fighting against the impulse to drink, Angelus closed his fist in her hair and dragged her on the uneven, rough stone floor towards the center of the cave.

Buffy could sense the Hellmouth, its proximity calling out to the vampire, driving him slowly insane.

No cold calculations. Nothing but blind fury and mindless fear. He was driven by the torment of starvation - an agony he looked forward to sharing with the woman clinging to consciousness at his feet. He kicked Morghane ferociously in the kidneys and she gave up a small cry.

"Remember the good times, Guardian?"

Morghane laughed softly. It sounded almost like a giggle.

"I believe you've got yourself confused with someone else, Angelus. That was Aingeal... You just happen to share his memories. So stop deluding yourself, asshole."

Angelus leered at her.

"I also happen to share his body."

"And what a body it is, too. It does look better on him, though."

Buffy wanted to laugh out loud at that one - delighted by the look of utter dismay and wounded pride on the demon's face.

"You bitch."

"Insults," Morghane chided. "Ultimate refuge of the brainless."

"I also share his mind," Angelus spat, not amused.

"A shame that you don't have a clue on how to use it, though."

With a snarl, Angelus bent over Morghane and ripped her shirt open.

She wasn't wearing a bra.

"Don't cum yet. I knew how this would end," the Guardian rasped out - reading Angelus' smug expression. "Why waste perfectly good underwear?" she wondered out loud, not even sarcastic.

Not trying to resist, or flee, or shield herself.

Angelus tore away her light gray flannel skirt, infuriated. No panties.

His eyes glowed an unholy gold and Buffy was instantly swamped over by his rage. She smelled the intimate, intoxicating fragrance of Morghane's skin through the vampire's senses. Angelus wanted to taste that skin. Then open that delicate ribcage with his bare hands. And tear off her beating, warm heart with his fangs. But he couldn't risk being exposed to her blood. It was poison. It was also the driving force of his unlife.

The conflicting drives of those two urges - poison and cure, drink and don't - were tearing him apart at the seams. He grabbed Morghane by the back of the neck and hauled her to her feet - bringing her face up to his. Her feet barely touched the ground.

Spitefully, he crushed his lips to hers with bruising force.

"You want it, Guardian, hm? You play the part of the brave little sacrificial lamb - but the truth is, you missed it. You missed me."

"I miss him, Angelus. Him. I can hardly stand to be near you."

Angelus erupted in fury.

He closed his hand around Morghane's throat, cutting off her air supply. He punched her in the stomach several times, shaking her like she was nothing more than a rag doll. She tried to shout, but the cries died in her throat. The vampire slammed her into the nearest wall, using the full length of his body.

Angelus kept on pounding her back into the rock, until Morghane's eyes rolled back in her head.

"Oh no, love. You're not getting out of this so easily."

He slapped her before throwing her to the ground.

He started undoing his belt, and Buffy shared Morghane's involuntary burst of fear. The Guardian was struggling against her instinctive need to call onto the magick to protect herself. Her determination faltered a little but she clamped down firmly on her temporary weakness.

She closed her eyes.

When Angelus snapped the belt down on Morghane's exposed breasts, Buffy released a strangled moan that never made it past her lips, yet seemed to echo inside the confines of the lair. Angelus was in a frenzy and Morghane barely had time to draw breath between the lashes. The vampire was using the flat of the belt, not drawing blood, but raising painful-looking bruises. He was methodical in his madness, not one inch of her body was spared.

Eventually, the vampire tired of the whipping.

He dragged Morghane to a table of dark granite - where frightened minions had once tied down fresh, helpless, equally frightened meals during the Master's reign. Manacles were screwed at the four corners of the table and Angelus had Morghane chained spread-eagle in a matter of seconds.

The Guardian was silent, saved for a few ragged breaths.

Angelus wasn't in the mood to waste anymore time with idle chit-chat anyway. He was rapidly loosing control over the hunger and he wanted to make the bitch pay for luring him to this hell, before the call of her blood overcame his instinct of self-preservation. Yet he tried to master his anger. He wanted her conscious until the end.

Buffy gasped softly.

Angelus wanted to insure that Angel would be incapable of ever withstanding the Guardian's gaze again.

Buffy didn't think she could bear to watch anymore. Angelus' cold scheming, the feel of his perverted thoughts, brought back too many painful memories. Yet there was nothing she could do to tear herself away from the scene. She wished Morghane would at least know of her presence, feel her, so that she knew she wasn't alone. But in a corner of her mind - the self-aware part of her - the Slayer realized that the Guardian wasn't really chained naked in front of her, being tortured to the brink by the evil twin of her lover. Someone or something was replaying this memory for Buffy's consumption - and maybe for Spike's and Angel's as well - with surround sound, 360° screen and psychic-link-from-hell to boot.

With the tip of his index finger, Angelus traced a lazy path from Morghane's hip to her breast, along her arm to her wrist, lingering on a bruise here and there. When he reached her hand, he caressed her little finger before seizing it firmly in his grip.

He pulled back.

The bone snapped.

Morghane arched off the table, straining against her bonds, biting the inside of her cheek to keep from screaming.

Angelus broke her ring finger in the same fashion.

The Guardian fought against the tears of pain springing to her eyes.

The vampire leaned over her and kissed a pale cheek softly.

"Let me go, Morghane, and we'll call it even," Angelus murmured against her mouth.

She gasped.

"The door is closed from the outside."

"Like that could even stop you."

"Fuck off."

"In a minute, love. I'm not done yet. Still a few fingers to go."

He broke her index and middle fingers at once, before repeating the process with her other hand.

By the end, Morghane was convulsing in pain, panting and shivering. Sweat glistened on her alabaster skin and Angelus bent to taste a salty patch between her breasts.

Buffy watched Angelus reach a hand to his zipper. He fumbled with the top button of his leather pants but his erection eventually sprang free. Buffy wanted to scream, to warn Morghane, to plead. The Guardian's glazed eyes were fixed on the ceiling, unfocused.

The demon jumped on the table lithely, straddling Morghane.

He entered her with one rough, hard stroke, goring her.

Buffy's stomach rose to her lips.