Angel's heart shriveled inside his chest.
He could try to remind himself that the tragedy unfolding in front of his eyes was nothing but a sadistic manipulation of his tortured mind. That the rape - and what had come after - had taken place two years ago.
That Morghane had forgiven him right away - had even insisted that there was nothing to forgive in the first place.
None of those rationalizations really altered the fact that he would be gouging his own eyes out in shame if he could. But there was no escape, and the one thing worse than having to watch himself gleefully torture and violate one his closest friends was knowing that Buffy was here to witness his darkest hour. He couldn't see her, but her beloved, familiar scent reached his nostrils now and then. A sensual fragrance - sun, warmth and daffodils. He listened attentively to her heart constricting in disgust and sorrow, beating in tandem with Morghane's.
Although Angel had no clear awareness of his own body, he didn't doubt for a minute that tears were flowing steadily down his cheeks. He struggled to keep Angelus' feelings distinct from his own, but it was an exercise in futility. For he had known those feelings once before, and they had the hauntingly familiar, bitter taste of unwanted memories.
He found himself wishing that he could at least keep Morghane's emotions out of his mind, but as soon as the thought took form, he knew abject remorse once again.
This was his penance. Expiation in all its hurtful, realistic details. He deserved this punishment - deserved to accompany Morghane on her journey through degradation and pain, every step of the way.
Amidst the poignant clarity only ever conferred by intense suffering, Angel remembered the Guardian's first and foremost lesson. That controlling the demon was the key to power. The path to fearlessness. But watching Angelus revel in Morghane's torment only comforted Angel in his determination to lock the demon far, far away. To keep it at bay. To deny his most basic nature.
Morghane whimpered as Angelus fucked her, plundering her mouth, pulling and twisting her nipples - and Angel gasped uselessly.
Suddenly, unexpectedly, he _felt_ Angelus' hard, thick length pounding punishingly inside of _him_.
Angel wanted nothing more than to crawl out of his own skin. He was on the verge of throwing up, or passing out. There was pain, and tearing, and overwhelming horror. A primitive, instinctual terror in the face of Angelus' ruthless invasion of her - his - core.
And then a wave of something warm, and luminous, and comforting - it might have been love - broke through the nightmare. Angel trembled as Morghane raised her head off the table, bringing herself closer to Angelus' fully-clad body.
The demon paused in his mindless assault, cocking a questing eyebrow, leering at her. He opened his mouth to taunt her, but the Guardian's earnest, naked gaze stopped him cold.
She looked tenderly up at her aggressor, and the expression of calm on her face was eerie.
Angelus froze - expecting magick.
A small, bright tear coursed down Morghane's temple, before getting lost in the fiery mane of copper locks spread out like an autumnal sun around her face.
"I want you to remember something. I want you to remember that it was my choice and that I forgive you." Angelus frowned, too far gone to comprehend where she was going with this. "None of this is your fault, but I know you need to hear it, so I forgive you. I love you." She gasped as Angelus twitched inside her. "Aingeal."
The vampire's eyes glazed over. Raising his game face to the ceiling, he roared, then thrust madly, ravaging her more savagely than before.
Exhausted by sorrow and despicable shame, Angel couldn't take much more of this.
Watching this perfect reflection of himself torture and humiliate Morghane - and sharing the experience from both sides at once - was driving him, slowly but surely, insane.
Spike had no notion of how long he had been - standing? - here, the unwilling witness of Angelus' folly. It seemed like hours had gone by. Or it might have been days. Angelus' hunger intruded on his perceptions, painting everything with a bright red halo.
Spike was pretty sure he sported his game face right now. Just as he was convinced that the hunger was getting to his Sire too. Angel, not Angelus. The older - souled - vampire was nearby. Spike just couldn't see him.
He had watched Angelus rape Morghane again and again, until the demon had spilled his cold seed between her legs. Sharing that experience had left Spike reeling with disgust. Angelus had proceeded to break Morghane's ribs slowly, methodically, taking his sweet time. Letting her heal a little, letting the bones mend before starting all over again. He had already broken her fingers twice. Angelus seemed to think that torturing an immortal mage was a riot.
Even humans weren't that much fun.
Eventually, he had untied Morghane and dropped her broken, shredded form on the ground - retreating to a far corner of the lair to try and subdue the hunger for a little while longer. He wasn't finished with her yet.
The Guardian's laborious breathing resounded inside the cave. Harsh tremors shook her small frame and she rocked a little, curled into a tight ball. It looked like the Guardian was beyond feeling, beyond pain, but Spike knew better. He shared her awareness, her struggle against the ocean of grief trying to smother her, as she lay on the cold, unforgiving stone, limp and quivering.
Angelus staggered towards Morghane again, his vampiric features distorted by hunger, his yellow eyes burning with the need for blood. A fledgling would have caved in long ago, but Angelus was a master vampire, and that explained his endurance.
Morghane groggily came around at his approach.
"This is the... oh, I've stopped counting the rounds after six. You ready to go?"
The Guardian basically ignored Angelus' lewd smile, and it pissed him off.
Her eyes fluttered closed.
"No, no, no... No retreating inside your own head, love. It's just getting interesting."
Grabbing her shattered hand in a crushing grip, Angelus tugged Morghane up and threw her sideways, face first on the table. She thrashed a little and he pulled her arms apart taut in front of her, imprisoning her wrists inside the manacles. Crushing her breasts to the stone.
He patted her bottom affectionately.
"Now, now. You never minded before." He shrugged when she didn't retort and nudged her legs apart. "Sorry, baby. No lube. I'm sad to report that this is gonna hurt like hell."
Angelus draped himself over Morghane and she moaned when his weight smashed her damaged ribs and battered stomach against the granite. He pushed her forward and Spike distinctly heard a grating, cracking sound.
Morghane coughed up blood.
"It's the end," growled Angelus, raking his claws down her soft sides - not caring anymore. Blood welled up. "And I'm gonna make you regret this until the day you die."
His claws gouged the delicate lips of her sex at the exact moment his cock forced open the tender flesh of her ass.
Her scream of agony was smothered by the crashing of the door Morghane herself had conjured up at the entrance of the lair after trapping Angelus.
Half a dozen vampires rushed in, followed by Drusilla.
Spike suddenly wished himself blind and deaf. Or, even better, dead.
"Bad Daddy. What are you doing up the mean Guardian's ass?"
God, she looked pissed.
Angelus took a minute to recover, then smiled smugly up at the vampiress - immediately seizing up the infinite potential of this new situation.
"Does she look like she's enjoying herself, Dru?"
Saying that, he grabbed the tangle of red tresses in front of him and tugged forcefully to expose Morghane's ravaged face.
The Guardian groaned.
Drusilla smiled happily, clapping her hands in joy.
"She looks in a lot of pain."
"That's the basic idea. Now, Dru, I need to feed."
The vampiress shrugged. "I knew that. You've been gone a long time. But I had a vision, so I came to help you. Spike couldn't make it down to the sewers though."
"I'm sure we can manage without Crazy Wheels, Dru. But I need blood. Now."
Dru frowned, then grabbed a minion at random and threw it at Angelus.
The vampire grabbed the fledgling before it even understood what was happening and buried his teeth in its neck with a sigh of contentment. It resisted unsuccessfully and Angelus kept on drinking, unfazed, still inside Morghane - loving the feel of it.
The fledgling turned to dust in his arms.
Angelus smacked his lips. "A bit stale, but it will do for now." He smiled. "Send the boys home, Drusilla. There's still fun to be had around here."
He slapped the rounded globes sheathing his cock with a delighted grin.
Dru waved the minions away and they retreated obediently, scared out of their wits. She strolled up to her Sire with an excited giggle and without warning slipped three fingers inside Morghane's sex.
The Guardian whimpered.
Drusilla removed her hand and lazily licked her fingers. She clasped the back of Angelus' head and kissed him deeply, sharing the Guardian's taste with him.
Spike tensed, enraged, when Angelus brought his hands up to cup Dru's breasts through the lace of her black dress. It hurt so much - the memory of betrayal. Why did it hurt so much still?
"Oh, Daddy," she sighed. "I'm so glad you're home."
With a happy little laugh, she walked around the table and slid a hand between Morghane and the table, finding and twisting an abraded nipple. She inserted her other hand underneath her dress and produced a small, wicked-looking dagger.
"Can I play too, Angel?"
"Be my guest, Dru." The dark-haired vampire smiled, feral. "Be my guest."
"Wesley. What in God's name are you doing here?"
"The Council learned of Lisandra being turned and..."
Giles' blood ran cold and he walked over to Wesley, towering over the seated Watcher.
"'The Council learned of Lisandra being turned'? What about Morghane being attacked in Sunnydale? I tried to get in touch with the Council then, but they wouldn't take my calls. What's changed?"
Wesley resisted the urge to turn his head away, to evade Giles' condemning stare. He had heard of Ripper. He was almost a legend among the Watchers. Yet not one of them would have ever mentioned it to Giles' face. They valued their existence too bloody much.
"Giles, I wasn't made aware of what was going on until Buffy called me. I looked into it since then and... after what I discovered, I had to come myself."
The older man frowned.
"Discovered? What do you mean?"
Xander rose slowly out of his chair - sensing some momentous disclosure coming up. It was standard procedure by now. What was one more earth-shattering revelation? If he was susceptible to massive coronaries, he would know already.
"I... I have the counterspell."
Willow gasped softly then whooped with joy, hugging Oz. Xander seemed to just deflate.
He hadn't expected good news.
For some reason, Giles didn't seem relieved. "Xander was right, then. You had the spell all along."
Wesley's eyebrows drew together. He didn't understand the Xander reference. Giles' accusation, however, was easy enough to grasp.
"Indeed," Wesley answered quietly.
He lifted his head, feeling the hard, unforgiving eyes of every last person in that room throwing daggers at him.
"Look, Giles. I didn't know. I started making inquiries after Buffy's phone call. It seemed unbelievable to me that we didn't have access to the counterspell if such thing existed. I discovered that there was, in fact, a ritual. Then Morghane called and I proposed to send it to her. She refused. She was adamant. I couldn't go over the Guardian, Giles."
Giles appeared somewhat pacified. By now, he knew not to underestimate the Guardian's determination.
"But that isn't all."
Xander groaned. Of course. This was too good to be true. Should always check out that gift horse anyway.
"I realized quickly that I had been left out of the loop for a reason. The Council... the Council never intended for Morghane to be saved."
"What do you mean?" asked Cordelia, gripping the arm of someone Wesley did not recognize.
"The Council never even tried to get in touch with Morghane after she was attacked. They just wanted to be rid of her."
"Because she defied their authority for so long," murmured Giles, aghast.
Wesley nodded slowly. "Yes. A rogue Guardian was bad enough. Add a rogue Slayer to the mix... and the Council felt they were loosing control over the battle field."
Willow was appalled "So they chose to let her die?"
The young Watcher sighed. "There's a hard line, a trium vira of sorts, inside the Watcher Council. They were ready to take the risk of losing Morghane's experience if it meant that the next Guardian would be more... manageable. Lisandra was marked. They believed she would be easy to control." He cast his eyes downwards. "They also counted on Morghane killing herself when the time came."
"How thoughtful," observed Giles, coolly.
"I tried to get through to them. To no avail. And then came the news that Lisandra had been turned... The trium vira was deposited from the Council and I was sent here to help."
Giles indulged in something that sounded suspiciously like a growl.
Oz put a calming hand on his forearm.
"Don't shoot the messenger."
Giles looked at the werewolf oddly for a moment, then shook his head. "You're right. I'm glad you're here, Wesley."
"So we're good, right?" asked Willow. "We... we have the spell. That means we can save Morghane and things will get back to normal."
Xander sat right back down.
"It's not that easy, Will. Sorry to remind you, but we've already lost the first wave."
Wesley looked at Giles, askance. "The first wave?"
"Angel, Buffy and Spike have been captured by Lisandra, along with Morghane."
"It's a long story. Suffice to say, we believe the First is behind all this. We have a pretty good idea of the place where they are detained, but Lisandra enlisted the help of the cadre of Nehemia. Without a Slayer, I don't see how we can get through their defenses."
"FUBAR," Cordelia breathed out softly, still clutching Doyle.
"Well," interjected Wesley, puffing his chest up a little, "I believe I might be able to help with that too. I have two special units awaiting my orders outside of town. About fifty men. That should give us an edge."
"Special units?" echoed Xander, perking up.
Giles took his glasses off, absorbed. "The Council maintain a small group of trained fighters, paramilitary units, to handle matters of internal security. They are very efficient - from what I have been told."
Wesley nodded earnestly and Xander whistled under his breath.
"Watchers' black ops."
"Interesting," commented Oz.
"Then it's settled. We go in guns blazin' and blast the fuckers six ways from Sunday," said Doyle, glad to finally be able to partake in the action.
"And you are?" asked Wesley curiously, standing up.
"Doyle. Friend of Angel's. Details later. Let's get a move on."
"Wait a second," interjected Giles. "We need a plan. Lisandra won't be easy to subdue by any means - and shall I remind you that her presence is quite central to the successful completion of the spell? Oz has been inside the warehouse, so we can draw basic blueprints. Wesley, you should send a few men to reckon the area - make sure they don't get spotted by any sentinels. We need a detailed map of the sewer system in that sector. We also have to gather weapons. We will make our move at dawn. We can't attack at night. We need the advantage of sunlight, to cover our retreat."
Willow raised worried eyes towards both Watchers.
"The sun just set, Giles. Dawn is hours away."
She didn't need to voice her fears any further.
Giles' expression darkened. But his mind was set. "Then we have to trust that they can make it through the night on their own."