Don't Give Your Heart | Part One

Buffy opened the door of Giles apartment, still distracted by the aftermath of the battle with the new demons. Riley had almost lost his head, literally, before they'd combined… Well, they had, sorta, she told herself, blithely ignoring the fact that she'd accounted for all but one of them before he'd finally recovered enough to take out the last.

Music was playing quietly and only Giles' funky lamps lit the room with their soft light.

She hadn't visited in ages, but the new demons required identification and Riley had a deal to go to with some of the guys, so…

There was no sign of Giles. She frowned at the open bottle on the coffee table, and the glass alongside, ice still melting in the bottom of it, before looking up at the loft. It was in darkness.

She looked at the bottle again. She didn't like him drinking the last time it happened. God forbid there had been any more visits from past demons to spark more chaos. Or worse, Ethan Rayne…

“Giles?”

When there was no answer she raised her voice and shouted his name again, only to have him come crashing out of the bathroom in his pyjamas, the top not even buttoned.

“Buffy? What are you doing here?” he demanded, none too prettily. “And what the hell is wrong?”

She looked him up and down. “Nothing's wrong…now. I've got some stuff to report, demons to research. What's your drama?”

Giles hauled his pyjama jacket closed and scowled ferociously.

“There is no drama,” he told her. “Just an intruder in my home, not even allowing me the simple luxury of a long bath and…”

“You were reading the newspaper in the John again,” she guessed, though she had noticed the damp hair curling on his collar.

“I was having a bath,” he shot back as he walked toward her.

Only when he was close could Buffy smell the faint scent of the drink and see the dark circles under his eyes.

“Something's wrong,” she said darkly. “If it's something I should know about…”

“It's not,” he retorted harshly. “Tell me about your blasted demons.”

Buffy watched him walk away, realizing only when she had followed his backside across the room that the pyjamas were all he was wearing. It disturbed her to realize that she had actually noticed that, and that the thin, navy blue silk was sticking to his obviously still damp person.

She swallowed. “F-four arms. Tails like scorpions, nasty pointy barb on the tip and a tendency to want to use it a lot. Riley nearly lost his head to one. I think it wanted to pop his skull like a balloon.

“Druul,” Giles growled.

“Are you swearing at me?”

“Druul,” Giles repeated, pointedly not rising to her teasing. “They don't generally like this dimension and they aren't known for leaving their own unless there's a very good reason.”

“Yeah, well, there were four of them, so I guess there must be a good reason,” Buffy shot back, unsettled by his continued distance and ill-temper.

“In that case it's probably worth investigating. Either something is going on in the underworld that we're not privy to, or they were brought here by someone or something we probably should know about…”

“Then why do you sound like you could care less?”

Giles simply stared at her stonily before turning for the stairs.

“Where are you going?”

“To get dressed,” he replied tersely.

“What's going on, Giles?” She might never qualify for the Miss Empathy quest, but she knew something was very wrong.

“Nothing that you'd be in the slightest bit interested in hearing about,” he muttered and disappeared up the stairs before she could reply.

He was back relatively swiftly in jeans and a shirt she hadn't seen before. It looked far nicer than the old, baggy sweaters of which he was so fond. She liked the way the surprisingly casual, blue denim long-sleeved shirt accentuated his wide shoulders and his surprisingly slim hips. She did not like the fact that she noticed those things.

“Okay,” she said, tearing her eyes away from his body. “You have a bug up your butt the size of a Fyarl demon. Mind telling me what's the what before I get too annoyed?”

Giles barely acknowledged the fact that she'd even spoken, his eyes narrowing and flicking away to locate the bottle and glass before heading over there without saying a word.

Buffy watched him pour another Scotch with something approaching real fear. The one constant in her universe was Giles. Even when he was ticked with her, she could predict his responses.

But not this time...

He threw it back and poured another without looking up.

“Giles? Whatever it is, I'm sorry. Really sorry,” she said softly.

“Yes, I'm sure you are,” he said flatly, swirling the golden contents in the tumbler.

“But you aren't going to tell me what I'm apologizing for?”

He shook his head. “Go home, Buffy.”

“Not until you tell me what's going on.”

“For God's sake, don't you ever listen?” The words reverberated with controlled violence. “Just go.”

Buffy didn't move. Stunned, her eyes fixed themselves on the fingers of his right hand, which were moving stiffly, almost clumsily, as they turned something over and over. She didn't recognize the pink stone, or what, if any, relevance it had to his current state, but the almost unnatural motion of the long digits, the periodic tremor in them, kept her entranced.

“Just tell me what I did,” she said quietly, each word pile-driven home.

He turned his head just a little and rolled his normally gentle green eyes up so that Buffy was able to see the dark hollowness of them, the deep, roiling rage that simmered behind the soft jade hue.

“Do I really have to tell you?” It came out as a contemptuous whisper.

Still watching the small piece of quartz, turning faster now in his fingers, her eyes flashed.

“Probably. I never pretended to be perfect. I've done a lot of stupid things and made a lot of mistakes. I just don't know which one you're angry about. I haven't run away lately, or turned any ensouled vampires into psycho-killers. I haven't even tried to kill anybody … and it's not like I've even had a chance to crash your car, or to spoil your fun with Olivia…” Her sarcasm faded, concern pulling her mouth into an unhappy line as it occurred to her that something might have happened to his friend. “Oh…is Olivia…?”

He thumped his fist on the table. “No, Olivia isn't. Olivia hasn't since the Gentlemen were here. She is in Milan, having a life without constant fear and revulsion. She is not the issue here.”

Buffy half raised a hand, dropped it again. “I'm sorry…about Olivia. Really sorry,” she whispered.

For a moment his thunderous expression lifted and his eyes almost warmed as they regarded hers.

“I know,” he said, the warmth already fading, then looked away again. “Why don't you go home and spend some time with Riley? There's nothing for you here.”

It wasn't what she was expecting to hear.

“How can you say that?” she retorted, before she even had time to think, after recoiling from the metaphoric kick in the stomach. The last time he'd said something that hurt that much he'd only just discovered that Angel was back from the dead. And she had deserved every word…

Giles poured another drink and downed it easily. “Why not?” he said hoarsely. “Haven't you been basically saying the same thing since you went prancing off to college?”

Buffy bit her lip to stop the outraged retort on the tip of her tongue.

“How many of those have you had?”

Giles raised an eyebrow and picked up the half-empty bottle. “Not enough,” he said, eyeing it. “Hadn't you better get back to your Nancy-boy G.I.?”

“Not until you tell me what's going on.” She wasn't going to tell him that Riley was out with the guys, or that he was leaving again in the morning to visit his parents, less than a week after returning from being debriefed by the Government.

“Please yourself.”

Buffy stepped forward as he lifted the bottle once more and took it from him.

Giles rose swiftly.

“You'll give that back, now,” he rasped.

“Yeah, right,” she drawled and started toward the kitchen.

When he realised what she was going to do, Giles went after her.

“No!”

“Yes,” she said, unscrewing the cap as she approached the sink.

When Giles reached her and snatched at the bottle, it was almost empty.

He threw it with force, so that it smashed against the kitchen wall, the last of the whisky trickling down it and into the broken glass on the floor.

“Get out!”

“Tell me what's going on!” she shouted back.

“Will you never do as you're told?” Giles demanded angrily, flushed and ragged with temper and booze. “What the hell do I have to do before you'll start treating me like a man?”

She stared dumbly for a moment then turned to look at the stain on the wall.

“Act like one,” she said without turning again and started to walk away, not willing to let him see the tears in her eyes.

“Why bother?” he spat. “I've spent more time with Spike than you've spent with me since you started bloody college.”

Buffy stopped, but didn't face him. There really wasn't an answer to that. In fact, the more she thought about the past months, the less she liked herself, but she still didn't know what to say. Her eyes, darting about the room like a nervous deer, lighted on the small table behind the couch, momentarily distracting her from her thoughts. A gift had been opened and left on it, a colourful card standing beside it.

She went to it and picked up the card. It was from Olivia, a 'sorry-I'm-late' one, for his birthday. It was a silly card, with a silly sex joke and a fond message from the other woman, apologising for forgetting his birthday, months earlier, and promising to make it up at Christmas. The gift was a little statue of an extremely well endowed, mythological Greek character.

Buffy dropped the card on the table and closed her eyes for a moment. She had forgotten his birthday too. They all had. Missing his birthday was low, but not enough to drive a guy like Giles to drink…especially not this long after the event. Then again, when had she ever remembered it?

She turned, and jumped violently.

Ethan Rayne's smirking face was the last thing she remembered seeing…


*******

When she stirred, the first thing Buffy was aware of was the pounding in the back of her skull and the second was the smell: like a wet, mouldy burlap bag.

After she finally prised her eyes all the way open it was to find herself staring at a stone wall. She moved stiffly, working herself slowly to a sitting position while her brain tried to thump its way out of her skull.

The light was bad, and the air stale. Buffy looked up. No windows, and only a tiny slot in the door at viewing height…well…viewing height if you were Xander, maybe. She was considering the wisdom of trying to get to her feet when a moan close by made her jump, sending an uncomfortable stab of adrenaline shooting through her.

Heedless of the worsening headache, she twisted around.

“Giles?”

Another groan.

“Present,” a voice croaked.

Buffy crawled over to the figure sprawled on the cobbled floor, trying not to notice her headache or the rising nausea. She was going to be useless if it kept up.

“Giles! Are you okay? Can you move?”

“Probably,” he half muttered, half moaned, “but I think I'd rather stop here, thank you, at…at least until my brain stops dribbling out of my ears.” The last was more of a gasp than a statement.

Buffy rolled him from his side onto his back, trying to ignore his moan of pain. His brain wasn't dribbling out of his ears, but a scalp wound on his temple had produced enough blood for it to run down the side of his face and into his ear.

“God, Giles, they hit you in the head again. I got knocked out too, but I don't have a bump…just an extreme desire to barf and a headache of the hammer concerto variety.”

He frowned rather than bother to open his eyes. “Yes, he did,” he growled. “I'm getting old.” He sniffed. “He used something…ether or something…to knock you out. He must be getting old, too…”

“Or he knew it would take more than a whack on the head to drop the Slayer,” she pointed out dryly.

“There is that,” Giles agreed equally dryly and finally made an effort to get his eyelids to move.

“So it was Ethan I saw?”

Giles started to nod, realised it was a bad idea. “The bastard had you down before I could warn you. Then his henchmen held me while he payed me back for his little visit to Nevada.”

Buffy's thumbs pricked again with adrenaline. *Please, not again…* “He hurt you? Where? Can you move?”

“I can move. It just bloody well hurts, that's all. Ethan is rather good with his fists when one isn't fighting back. With three Druul tails poised over my head, I preferred Ethan's spite to having a new hole drilled in my skull.”

“God, Giles,” Buffy whispered, unbuttoning his bloodied shirt.

“I know I'm old and gross, but it's not that bad,” he said in a strained, but amused voice as she pushed the open shirt away from his chest.

“These bruises are going to hurt like hell.” She was ignoring his joke and trying desperately to ignore her response to both the injuries and the rest of his chest, the soft golden brown hair spread across it and provocatively down to his navel. It was still firm and smooth and almost as hard as Riley's…except, somehow, Giles' chest hair was far sexier than the tender smoothness of the younger man's torso.

Who knew Giles could be…sexy?

She winced mentally. Giles and 'sexy' in the same sentence…but it passed quickly when he groaned again, despite his attempts not to show how much pain he was in.

“Ethan is going to pay for this and so is whoever let him out of prison this time.”

“I r-rather…” Giles grimaced and started again. “I rather think he had a deal of help from, well, dark allies, like the Druul. S-something is afoot. I wish I knew what. Whatever Ethan gets involved in tends to be a great deal of trouble.”

“Well whatever he's up to, I have to thank him for one thing,” Buffy observed and smiled a little at Giles' curious look. “At least you're talking to me again now.”

Giles closed his eyes. “How fortunate for you.”

It wiped away Buffy's smile.

“You're still mad at me.”

“I am…just tired,” he sighed.

Combined with his bruises, and how very vulnerable he looked lying there with his eyes closed, and a divot of pain almost permanently etched above the bridge of his nose, his words cut through her annoyance and grabbed her by the throat.

“Giles, please,” she whispered.

He opened his eyes and turned them toward her. They widened swiftly when they saw the wretchedness in hers.

“Take no notice of me,” he rasped, looking away again. “I'm still drunk, and maudlin and full of self-pity. Don't get old, Buffy. Don't get old and don't give your heart where it isn't wanted.”

Buffy didn't understand, and was about to say so when the door opened. She scrambled to her feet just as a small demon came in with a tray. Behind it was Ethan Rayne and two of his Druul henchmen.

The gnome-like demon put the tray on the floor a few feet from Buffy, who had deliberately placed herself between Giles and the intruders, and backed swiftly out of the room.

“She doesn't bite, Edof,” Ethan called after it, amused. “She fights real demons, not snivelling little toads like you. Isn't that right, Slayer?”

“Go to hell, Ethan. What makes you think you can hold me here?”

Ethan's eyes slid to the figure on the floor. “I think I have the best reason in the world. You won't leave him and if you tried, you know I'd kill him…or at least let Zyf and Zyn, here, play with him.”

“What do you want?” Buffy demanded through clenched teeth.

He smiled slowly. “You misunderstand, my dear. This is not about what I want…except perhaps when it comes to how much I get paid.”

“Then who…?”

“In good time,” he smirked. “How's your old man? Still with us?”

“Screw you, Ethan,” Giles strained voice snarled from behind Buffy.

“He's not my old man,” Buffy retorted.

Ethan raised an eyebrow. “No? I thought you preferred them young and distinctly, well …Norman Rockwell, shall we say…not quite so old and used? Last time I saw our Rupert he was drinking himself into oblivion after being effectively emasculated by someone for the umpteenth time …I'm sure I don't need to tell you who…”

“Shut up, Ethan!” Giles growled, trying to sit up.

Buffy turned and knelt beside him, helping him to a sitting position and meeting his eyes momentarily, her own warning him silently not to rise to the bait, while she digested the sorcerer's taunts.

“What do you want from us, Rayne?” she demanded. “He needs a doctor. I promise you if anything happens to him you'll wish you were never born.”

Ethan stared at them both for a long moment, his expression unreadable. “Too late,” he said almost too softly for Buffy to hear, then let his usual lazy arrogance reappear. “Eat the food,” he told them at normal volume. “You're going to be here for a while, so don't be stupid about it.”

“Who is it this time, Ethan?” Giles demanded. “Who have you sold yourself to, this time?”

“Not my fault this time, old chap. You gave me no choice. Given the option of letting those sadistic little bastards scramble my brains and destroy my mind, or my freedom in exchange for your Slayer, it wasn't difficult to choose.”

“Bastard,” Giles breathed.

“Who?” Buffy demanded. “Who wants me? Walsh was dead. Adam was out of control. I was the only one who had any chance of stopping him. And I did. Why would anyone from the Military want to take me out of the picture, now?”

“Who says they give a damn about your bloody Adam…or any of the bloody Adams out there?” Ethan retorted shortly. “Who says they care about anything but their own petty agendas? They want to know what makes you tick, Slayer. I expect you will be experimented upon, studied, poked, prodded, analysed, tested and eventually vivisected, all supposedly in the name of national security, but in truth it will simply be to find out how they can make more like you. They don't need more Adams if they can make their own little army of Slayers, instead.”

“You'll n-never hold her,” Giles told him, his colour now ash-grey.

Ethan smirked. “You underestimate me, old son. A Slayer might be almost impervious to physical force, but even she is vulnerable to love. If she does anything but co-operate fully, she will have a front row seat at your unfortunate, and I might add, messy, demise.”

Outraged and disbelieving, Buffy lunged at the slim figure only to be confronted by his bodyguards. She launched into her normal attack mode only to find herself knocked easily onto her backside by the powerful, segmented forearm of one of the creatures.

The shock in her eyes was comprehensive. “No, Ethan, you can't do this,” she pleaded. “They'll destroy everything. Somebody has to stop them…even you have to know that…”

Ethan shrugged. “I know that I'm not going back and that's all I care about right now. Your soldier-boy heart-throb and his pals will have to deal with all the things that go bump in the night from now on.”

“I will kill you, Ethan,” Giles managed.

“You haven't been able to do it for the last twenty years, old son,” Rayne drawled and looked left and right at Zyf and Zyn. “I'm not exactly quaking in my boots here.”

“Buffy will not co-operate,” he said through his teeth.

Ethan met and held Buffy's gaze for several moments, then smiled again, smugly, before motioning the insect-like demons to follow him out.

When the door closed Buffy turned to Giles. “I won't let him hurt you.”

“Yes, you bloody well will! I'm telling you now you don't have the luxury of worrying about me. You have an obligation to protect this world and I will not let you compromise that for the sake of one broken down ex-Watcher of no value or usefulness to anyone.”

“I won't let him hurt you,” she repeated, her voice shaking with emotion and her eyes locking with his. “We will get out of here, but I won't let anyone take you away from me.”

Giles stared at her flushed face, her flashing eyes, stunned by the vehemence of her tone.

“You don't need me,” he said softly. “You haven't needed me for a long time.”

“You are so wrong,” she managed tremulously. “I thought you didn't need me any more. I thought I was in the way.”

Giles' colour worsened and pain lanced across his face, but he kept himself upright. “Need you?” he repeated hoarsely. “Need you…?”

Buffy caught him as he toppled sideways, drawing him against her instead of lowering him to the floor.

“Sorry,” he muttered into her bosom.

“How bad?” she asked in a choked voice, trying to focus.

“N-not sure. It was…a good…whack. Concussion…probably. Fracture…uncertain. Bloody hurts, though,” he snorted.

Buffy choked on a laugh. “Sorry,” she said. “I wish there was something I could do. Damn Ethan to hell, anyway.”

“No argument from me,” he agreed whimsically, managing to turn his head enough so that his cheek was resting against her left bicep. “I…think perhaps you should help me to sit up enough to lean against the wall. This…” He stopped to grimace. “This really won't do.”

Buffy bit her lip. He was in such pain, and yet he still thought he had to worry about…she sighed. It brought home to her how much they'd grown apart, how little they knew each other any more. She lowered her brow until it rested against the soft hair on his crown.

Giles' eyes, unseen by Buffy, widened in surprise and then glistened with unspoken pain before closing slowly.

“I don't want your pity,” he whispered.

“I don't do pity,” Buffy said simply and dragged him painfully into a sitting position.

He was trembling and his face was devoid of colour as he settled against the wall.

“Then I can tell you that the room is doing pirouettes and I am in dire peril of revisiting my lunch.”

Buffy scowled as she tried to make him comfortable. “You had a liquid lunch as I recall.”

“Which I very much don't want to revisit,” he repeated gruffly, closing his eyes again.

She stopped scowling and knelt beside him. After a beat to study his face, the bruise just starting to show on his left cheek, the small split in the right hand corner of his mouth and the graze on his chin, she stroked his brow very softly, pushing back his rumpled locks and trying to massage his clammy brow as soothingly as she could.

After several long moments the green eyes opened and looked up at her, watching her silently as she continued.

“Better?” she asked softly when she saw them.

They closed and opened again in an approximation of a yes, but he didn't speak.

Buffy wasn't sure what was happening to her, or why. She knew how much Giles meant to her, but she couldn't begin to understand why she didn't want to stop stroking the tense brow, why she was suddenly aware of the most intimate things about him, his bare, bruised chest…his breath, the vague male body odour of a man who hadn't showered all day, the faint scent of whatever shampoo he used in his ridiculously soft hair and the lingering aroma of his cologne. It had always been subtle, but there, nevertheless. She'd never realised before how strongly she associated that scent with Giles. It was a part of him, like his tea and his books…

She had been avoiding the green eyes watching her so intently, but when she finally withdrew her hands, she allowed hers to meet them.

“Okay?” she ventured tentatively.

“Very,” he managed, softly.

She held his gaze a few moments longer, aware that something was crackling between them, but uncertain what or why.

“I have to get us out of here,” she said eventually, falling back on the one thing she knew. “If the little demon comes alone next time, I'm going to try to take him. Even if there's one or two Druul outside, I can take them too, if I'm careful.”

“Of course,” Giles agreed hoarsely, in a strange tone, and added with effort, “naturally, we must get out of here at the earliest opportunity.”

“You need a doctor.”

His expression grew almost amused, despite the strain. “Of course I need a bloody doctor…and a change of clothes, and I daresay you're missing Riley already.”

“Riley? Well…yeah,” she said awkwardly, suddenly painfully aware that she hadn't thought about him at all. And didn't particularly want to think about him now…

Giles nodded almost imperceptibly, his eyes losing any lustre that was left in them.

“We'll get out of here, and your young man will be waiting, you'll see,” he forced himself to say.

Buffy ignored that, and let her gaze move around the room, studying every inch of it.
There were, however, no opportunities, even for a Slayer, to affect any kind of breakout. Eventually she returned to slide down the wall and sit alongside him.

“How's it going?”

He opened his eyes. “My head? Better. I rather suspect that it's a concussion. Past experience tells me that were we to have gone to the Emergency Room, I would be on my way home by now, albeit with a massive headache, still.”

Buffy smiled. “I guess you'd know. It's not like you haven't been concussed before.”

Giles made a snorting noise and after a beat it was obvious that both of them were amused by the silliness of it all. Buffy giggled first, then Giles started chuckling with her.

“Oh, God,” Buffy managed as they continued to chuckle, “I have to get you out of here and there's no way I can bust that door down. The rest of this place might look like a bad Hollywood movie set, but that door is heavy steel.”

“I'm all right,” he managed as the chuckling died away. “Lord knows what condition my ribs are in and the bruises are bloody sore, but I'll live.”

“Yes you will,” she said softly. She was no longer laughing.


*******

The noise made Buffy jump, and shift against the wall. She lifted her head from the point of Giles's shoulder and blinked. He was still asleep. For a single beat she panicked, but the rise and fall of his chest restored her focus and she turned toward the door.

“What?” she demanded.

The small demon stood inside the door with the tray. “I-It's late. I th-thought you might be…angry…”

Buffy frowned, then squinted at Giles' watch face, trying to work out the time, upside-down as it was.

“We slept for four hours?”

The demon shrugged. “Maybe you were tired…?” he offered.

Buffy got to her feet quickly, hiding her amusement at his immediate retreat as he shuffled away from her.

“Where's Ethan?”

“Talking to…er…I'm not supposed to say. Um…he's just on the phone.”

Buffy looked around the room. “King Arthur's castle has a phone?”

“King…?” The small demon looked puzzled for a moment, then smiled sheepishly. “Oh. Well, maybe more like Mordred, than Arthur. You should eat this. If you don't he's just going to get angry.”

Giles snorted, alerting Buffy to the fact that he was awake, even though his eyes were still closed.

“Fine,” Buffy placated. “We'll eat it, but Giles needs a doctor.”

The demon shrugged as he put the tray on the floor. “Nobody is allowed in or out. There are no doctors. Maybe when they come for you…”

“They?” Buffy growled.

The demon looked abashed again. “Um, you didn't hear that…”

She grabbed him by the scruff. “They?” she demanded.

“I'll tell,” he squeaked, eyeing the door.

Buffy squeezed his neck harder. “Who?”

“M-Military intelligence…a-and some others.”

“What others?”

He looked reluctant, despite the pain. Buffy added her other hand, squeezing his throat, then releasing it enough for him to answer.

“You're supposed to go to the military, but word is out that a Slayer has been captured.”

“Rayne has started a bidding war,” Giles growled and opened his eyes, “between the military and his dark mates.”

The demon looked at him and nodded. “War yes. Bidding no. Neither intends to make any payment. Both intend to take you.”

Giles chuckled. “A lose-lose situation for Ethan…how perfectly ironic. He's selling us out to the military to save his own hide, but…if he does, his henchmen will probably have him for breakfast.”

Buffy turned the demon around and propelled him toward the door. “Call them!” she hissed.

He tensed and wriggled. “This is very bad,” he squawked.

Buffy shook his neck hard. “It'll be even harder if you piss off the Slayer any more than you already have.”

“Ready!” he called through the metal door.

It unlocked and swung open.

Buffy held Edof back and waited until a guard finally poked his head in to find out why the small demon hadn't emerged. She immediately let go of her prisoner, thrusting him to the back of the cell, and caught the guard with a roundhouse kick, sending him sprawling. She tensed, ready for any Druul that might come rushing in, but none arrived. She dragged the guard to where the smaller demon was trying to clear his head.

Edof looked at the unconscious grey form next to him and grunted. “I knew it was a mistake hiring him. Magleth demons are strong, but dumb as posts.”

“Well you'll have plenty of time to get to know him,” Buffy drawled.

“No!” he replied, startled, and grabbed her arm. “Don't leave me here. I didn't ask to be part of this.”

Buffy made a deft move so that she was holding him by the scruff again and made a sceptical face.

“It's the truth!” he insisted. “I was in a cell with the human. I wanted to escape as much as he did. So I let him think he could tell me what to do…treat me like a servant.”

Buffy shook his scruff a little more. “You let him?”

Suddenly, Buffy's hand was filled with more than just the demon's neck. She let go and reeled back as the huge, serpentine creature swung around, its maw full of needle sharp teeth only marginally less terrifying than its burning orange eyes.

“Jesus!” Giles exclaimed.

“Yes, I let him,” he hissed and shrank back into the small, Frodo-esque form Buffy knew, except that his shirt was ripped where his torso and shoulders had morphed into the big olive coloured reptilian.

“Oh…” Buffy managed. “Okay.” She cleared her throat and waited for the surging adrenaline to subside. “I-is your name really Edof?”

The demon nodded. “I let the feeble human think I was weak so that he would take me, too, when they came for him. It was my only way out of that place.”

“They wanted to study your ability to morph?” Giles asked.

He nodded again. “They would have dissected me. I saw what the Initiative was doing when I was captured. “I know what they were going to do to me.”

“And now you want out of all of it?”

“I want to go home.”

“Then help us get out of here,” Buffy said.

“Why haven't you tried to escape from here?” Giles asked, strain still in his voice.

Edof shook his head. “I've tried. The Druul are the natural enemies of my people. We are from the same…place. My people evolved into 'Morphs' to survive. There are too many of them here. They would kill me before I got out of the grounds.”

“There are grounds?”

Both Edof and Giles gave Buffy a withering look.

“Don't grounds usually have guard-y kinda things roaming around them?” she asked uncomfortably.

All eyes turned to Edof.

“Just a couple of uh…Bergen hellhounds.

Bergen hellhounds?” Buffy asked doubtfully.

Giles dragged a hand over his face. “That was where they were first identified. A variation on the types that you fought before your er…prom.”

“This is going to be a bad variation isn't it?”

“Heightened sense of smell and hearing, larger teeth and claws…more intelligent. Bred to be the perfect guard…er…dogs,” Giles explained.

“Great,” Buffy muttered, then looked at Edof. “So…You and Hellhounds?”

Edof smiled. “Those I can do.”

“Then we should get out of here before Ethan finishes his phone call and his buggy friends finish their coffee break or whatever.”

“Two are guarding the gate and patrolling. Two are guarding Ethan Rayne. The other two are regenerating.”

“Like Borg?”

Giles gave Buffy a filthy look. “Not precisely. They're sleeping. Whilst they sleep, their bodily tissues, including their carapace, regenerate at a pace substantially faster than our own.”

“Um…I'm gonna take a wild guess that's Giles for 'I regenerate, too, in my own way?' Yay me! Call me Seven of Nine.”

“I like her,” the demon grinned.

“You're both hopeless,” Giles observed irritably.

Buffy's eyes narrowed and she studied him for a long moment.

“It hurts?”

Giles stared at her for a split second then almost smiled. “Like buggery,” he said softly.

Buffy turned to the small demon purposefully. “Edof, get us out of…”

The sounds of footsteps echoing down the stone hallway made them all freeze. The faint sound of Ethan Rayne's voice issuing orders made their hearts drop.

“Damn!” Buffy said. “Edof, I have to hit you.”

For a split second the demon looked confused, then he worked it out, and nodded.

Buffy dropped him easily in his innocuous state and had Giles almost to his feet when Ethan and his henchmen arrived.

“My, my, Slayer,” Ethan drawled, stepping over Edof. “You've been busy.” He inclined his head toward Giles and the two insect-like demons clattered forward to rip him from Buffy's resisting arms.

Giles struggled and Buffy tried vainly to bring down the one nearest her.

“I'd quit while you were behind,” Ethan told her as she picked herself up off the floor. “You can't hurt them without putting your all into it, and I don't suppose they could hurt you easily either, however they can do very nasty things to your ailing swain if you continue to misbehave.”

“You wouldn't dare,” she hissed through her teeth, “and what the hell is a 'swain'?”

Giles regarded his feet.

Ethan looked cocky but ignored the question. “Oh, I wouldn't let them kill him…yet. Not while I still need him to keep you in line. But if you think you've seen him suffer, you haven't seen anything until you've seen a man who has been stung by a Druul for the purpose of feeding its larvae.”

Buffy shifted agitatedly, not taking her eyes off the sagging Giles. “That's gross.”

Ethan nodded, amused. “And extremely painful. Tell her, Ripper. Describe to her how the victim lies paralysed while his insides boil, slowly broken down by enzymes designed to make him more palatable to the little buggers. There is an antidote to the venom and I do happen to have some, but considering the speed with which it works, by the time it was retrieved and given to him, the pain would be beyond bearing and permanent internal damage quite likely.”

“You're such a creep,” Buffy told him, frustrated that nothing more insulting had come to mind.

“He is a misbegotten son of a bitch, emasculated by his prostitution to darkness and chaos and his fundamental lack of any discernable backbone,” Giles growled, still pulling at the rough grip of his captors.

Buffy was impressed. “What he said,” she agreed, “only double.”

“Yes, very funny, but we seem to have forgotten what we're here for, don't we?” Ethan drawled and lifted his hand.

In moments they were gone, the grey demon having roused during the conversation, carrying Edof out under his not inconsiderable arm.

Buffy fought an overwhelming attempt by her body to collapse into uncontrollable sobs, leaping forward, instead, and screaming at the top of her lungs.

“Gi-i-les!”

At the sound of Buffy's cry echoing down the corridor, the small smirk that had been on Ethan's face faded into a bleak, haunted visage.

Buffy prowled in agitated, intense circles, growing more and more enraged, the more distressed her helplessness made her. She was trying the door for somewhere between the fourteenth and the four hundredth time when his first scream pierced the stone walls, as though passing through butter, and bore into her very soul.

By the third nerve-rending cry of agony, she was clawing and hammering at the steel door, her silence almost as violent as the destruction wrought on her tender hands as she tried mindlessly to get through the immovable door. The fifth was a feeble, pain-filled sound that screwed Buffy's heart into a tiny ball. It was followed by unbearable, throbbing silence.

She threw herself against the wall and slid down it, visions of Ethan's threat making her tremble with grief and dread and helplessness. Her stomach churned and twisted and a sick, desperate feeling crept over her whole body. Never before had she felt such despair, not even when Angel turned.

A few moments later, she was up again, trying the door again, even trying to punch her way through the stone. Her knuckles were soon bloodied and torn, but her Slayer strength did enable her to pulverise several inches of cut stone just on sheer adrenaline and rage.

She was about to start again after a short break when she heard movement in the hallway.

A moment later the door swung open and a body was dumped on the floor. Buffy flew at the two Druul bearers, so blinded by rage that she didn't stop until there were segmented pieces of arms and legs, shards of carapace and yellow innards splattered everywhere.

When there was nothing left to fight, she stopped, a head in one hand and long piece of tail and stinger in the other, her own blood mingling with the sticky yellow mess. For a long moment she was wild-eyed and silent, then she made a small distressed noise and dropped them before throwing herself down to Giles' side.

He was still alive. Buffy reached out to touch his face, very close to sobbing, but resolutely resisting the avalanche of emotion lest it consume her. He was warm. He needed a shave and he was pale and bruised, but he was reassuringly warm.

“Slayer!”

Buffy jumped like a frightened cat and turned, ready to kill again.

It was Edof. “We have to go, now.”

“What did they do to him?” she demanded, staring at the small demon with blurred, unfocused eyes. 'Will he die?”

Edof shook his head. “They…the government people…they're here. They have a Weyre with them,” he added darkly.

“Am I supposed to know what a 'Weyre' is?” she growled.

“We have to go, now,” Edof repeated more agitatedly. “A Weyre reads thoughts…even emotions. It can rip the thoughts from your mind if you resist.” He looked down at the watcher. “He resisted. We must go now, while the rest of the Druul are regenerating. I've taken care of the guard. There are two Druul with Ethan Rayne, but he is busy with his guests. Come!”

He moved to pick up Giles' limp form, but Buffy's arm barred his way.

“We don't have time,” Edof hissed and morphed into his alternate form, pushed her aside and swept the body into his arms, as though it was a toy.

They went by a convoluted route Edof seemed to know well, at first descending even further than what Buffy had assumed was a dungeon, then climbing again, before making their way along an endless dark passage lit only by luminous floor lights every few metres.

“What is this?” Buffy murmured, following closely behind Edof's glistening back.

“This is not a castle,” he growled. “It's a mansion…a great house built from drug money by a very wealthy drug baron, a former military intelligence officer who spent too much time in Cambodia during the war. This passage is just one of many beneath the house. That was not a cell. It was a storeroom from the last century. This house was built over the site of some old ruins. They put that door on it to keep people out, not in. The other door we passed back there, it goes to a laboratory…or what's left of it.”

”What happened to the Drug lord?”

Edof laughed. “I heard Rayne telling one of the military people that he lost a lot of money in the stock market. The IRS audited him. He's doing five to ten in a medium security prison for tax evasion on a truly outstanding scale. The operation here was closed down by his competition. The only reason the house has not been sold is that it is in his son's name.”

“And his son is where?”

“I'm not sure,” Edof said thoughtfully. “But sometimes I think he's the one Rayne talks to all the time on the phone.”

They arrived at a door with a keypad to the side of it.

“Keeping people in again?” Buffy drawled. “You know the code?”

Edof shook his head.

“Well, we can't go back.”

Before the demon could say a word Buffy lashed out with her boot and smashed the keypad, sparks flying and blue smoke curling up from it. She tried the door. It didn't budge.

Edof made a noise of pure scorn before shifting Giles' weight and stooping to focus his currently, fiercely orange, eyes on the contents of the smashed box.

“Find a red wire and a green one,” he hissed. “Detach them from the circuit board and twist the ends together.”

Buffy did it quickly and the door jolted and opened about an inch and a half.

Edof sighed. “Now show me your Slayer strength.”

It was Buffy's turn to make a disparaging noise, but it took her several minutes of shoving, grunting and swearing to open the door enough for them to pass through. It was another empty storeroom with a staircase.

“If we are in the right place, the stairs should lead to the solarium. No one goes there. It used to be a sunroom filled with plants. It's the most exposed room in the house…too much glass. The good part is the Druul hate excessive warmth, which for them isn't much, so they don't go there. It's also the closest part of the house to the perimeter of the grounds.”

They climbed swiftly and came out into the former sunroom, mildew and filth marring the once pristine black and white tiled floor, potting mix, pieces of broken pot, dead plants and a lot of dust and cobwebs combining with the humidity to give the place a truly dank, close feel, despite the emptiness.

Buffy's nose wrinkled as she moved immediately to check Giles in the brighter light. “It reeks in here,” she complained, looking for, and finding, a stronger pulse. His colour was a little better, but there was absolutely no sign of consciousness. She fought down rising misery again.

“What now?”

“Since we closed the cell door to make everything look normal, the alarm has not yet been raised. Rayne will have assumed that the others went to regenerate and he never cares where I am until he needs something. We must hope that they will not want to try to use the Weyre on you today. We must go now. You will stay with him. I will take care of the Hellhounds. One of them should be useful as a distraction when I disable the fence.”

“Electric fence?” Buffy asked, helping the demon lower Giles gently to the floor.

“Cliché, but inevitable,” he sighed. “Wait for me. Care for him. Do not follow. I will be back.”

About twenty minutes later, there were muted sounds of a blood-curdling howl followed by a kafuffle in the grounds, voices, shouting…Buffy, unused to playing such a passive role, prayed that Edof hadn't been caught.

Five minutes later he was back, in his smaller form. “It's all right. I shorted the fence with the body of one of the Hellhounds. It will take them a while to figure it all out. Meanwhile we should be able to go over the fence without being seen, if we're careful.”

The fence turned out to be a high brick wall with formerly electrified wires running along the top of it.

Edof put Giles down to boost Buffy onto it and she took the Watcher by the armpits when Edof lifted him. Then she waited for the demon to scamper up the espaliered flowering plum tree and take him from her again while she jumped off the other side. He peered through the old, established trees, to the solarium. No one had come around to their side of the building. They had to still be concentrating on the gates and the dead hellhounds.

The other side of the wall turned out to be the most exclusive part of the suburb that adjoined the wealthy, northeast corner of Sunnydale. Buffy recognised it. Once or twice she'd even chased unpleasant things into the area from the nearby Brookwood cemetery.

The only problem was that there wasn't a lot of cover and every house in the street had a security wall or fence and gate. And getting anyone to let them in, or help, was pretty much a lost cause. A huge, fierce-looking demon carrying an unconscious human, kind of negated any kind of helpless charm she might have been able to generate on her own.

Not that her own and Giles' blood, and the demon guts all over her clothes would have helped, either…

Edof looked around swiftly as they made their way down the other side of the street.

“There,” he said suddenly.

“What?” Buffy said stupidly, her mind full of Giles and what might happen if they got caught again.

Edof stopped and put Giles down, motioning to Buffy to take care of him while he went to the parked Jeep.

Buffy expected to hear a car alarm any moment, but all that followed was the purr of the engine coming to life. Once they were all in, with Edof in his smaller form, in the driver's seat, Buffy demanded to know how he did it.

He grinned and held up a finger, whose retractable claw promptly morphed into several different keys in a row.

“But the car alarm?”

“Doesn't have one…probably an outsider. Formal visitors and residents usually drive into the grounds in these kinds of places, correct?”

As the car sped out of the area, Buffy opened the glove compartment looking for clues about the owners, unhappy about resorting to theft, despite the necessity of it.

She frowned. The car was pretty new, but all that was in the glove compartment was the manual and maps of the local area. She closed it again and turned to look at Giles on the back seat. He was resting quietly, still without any indication that he might regain consciousness any time soon.

She was about to turn back before getting too carsick, when something on the floor behind the driver's seat caught her eye.

“Edof, what kind of plates did this thing have?” she asked ominously, bringing the object into the front and onto her lap.

He shrugged. “Why would I look at the plates? All I needed to know was that it wasn't alarmed.”

“Yeah, but everyone notices which state, what colour,” she pointed out, staring at the briefcase and the handcuff dangling from it. Weirdly, it wasn't locked. She opened it and found the reason it had been left in the car. It was empty.

He shook his head again and pulled off into a narrow side street to get out and check for her.

When he came back he looked more than a little sheepish. “Military plates,” he reported. “We can't go straight to the hospital now. We should go somewhere and ditch the car.”

“Restfield cemetery,” she said, climbing into the back with Giles and easing his head onto her lap. “Drive through to the pioneer section and park in the little parking lot at the back of it. No one ever goes there any more. I suppose you know why Ethan's military visitors parked outside the walls?”

Edof shook his head. “Some mysteries are not meant to be solved. Perhaps they thought the er…dogs…might scratch the pristine paintwork?” he added dryly.

Only two funerals were in progress when they sped through the cemetery, both close to each other and a long way from the narrow, winding, one-way road to the oldest part of the grounds. Edof tucked the Jeep behind the old mausoleum.

“How is he?”

Buffy brushed Giles' cheek with the back of her hand. “He should be in a hospital. We have to contact my friends so that they can bring another car to…”

“You cannot go to such a public place. These people…the military…they have contacts. They will be watching for you. Besides, what is wrong with him cannot be fixed by doctors.”

Buffy bit her lip. “Then how? We can't just sit here. I have to at least get my friends…”

“Have they magick?”

She frowned. “One, but she's kinda…in training…if you know what I mean. Giles does have a library though…you know, magick books up the wazoo…”

“Walk to the office at the front gates. Call someone who can bring a vehicle,” he said.

Xander and Willow arrived remarkably quickly in the car Xander was semi-permanently borrowing from his uncle to help him in his quest for a permanent job.

They both leaped out as Buffy and Edof eased Giles from the back of the Jeep.

“You said get over here fast. You didn't say Giles was hurt!” Willow cried.

“I needed you to get here in one piece. Freaking about Giles wasn't going to help Xander's driving,” Buffy snapped. “We have to go somewhere safe while we research what happened to him.”

“Shouldn't we get him to the Emergency room?” Xander ventured.

“Not for this,” she flashed.

Willow, watching the impatience and irritation in Buffy's stressed face, cleared her throat before gesturing toward Edof. “Um, Buffy. Introductions?”

“His name is Edof. Say hello and let's go. Xander, put the top up.”

It only took a few minutes to reach the Harris house.

Xander and Edof guided Giles between them to the basement door, so that any possible witness could say no more than that the Watcher seemed to be drunk.

Once inside, Buffy seemed to deflate as she helped get Giles into Xander's hastily straightened bed. She dropped to her knees alongside it and took a large hand in hers.

The others watched as she cradled the hand and rocked slowly, without saying a word.

Xander turned to Edof. “What's the deal?” he demanded. “What happened to them?”

“They were taken by a man named Ethan Rayne.”

“Ethan!” Willow squeaked.

“I was imprisoned with him in a military installation. I chose to go with him when he escaped rather than be experimented upon.”

“You're not from around here, are you?” Willow asked.

Edof half smiled. “I only came to this world two of your years ago. I am not speaking correctly?”

She smiled back. “You're doing great.” Then the smile vanished. “How can we help Giles?”

“What has been done to him may never be undone,” the demon said softly. “I'm sorry. With powerful enough magick, someone might be able to reach him, but many are so damaged that there is nothing to bring back.”

“Yeah, but WHAT did they do?” Xander demanded violently, displaying his frustration with the meandering conversation. “Just tell us what happened.”

Edof turned to Buffy and Giles for a moment and blinked as she continued to rock, before turning back to Xander.

“The military wants information. Their people used a powerful telepath…more than a telepath …one with intensely powerful magick…to enter his mind. They know that the Watcher's Council has many secrets, much information, dating back a thousand years, not only about demons and vampires, but also about the Slayers and the origin of the Slayer. They tried to take it from him and he resisted them.”

“D-Do you think they got what they wanted?” Willow asked fearfully.

Edof shook his head. “They tried five times. I saw the Weyre, himself, collapse after the fifth attempt. They were very angry and Rayne was very frightened.”

“Tell me how,” Willow said. “I'm a witch. I want to do it.”

“She…The Slayer said you were not strong yet.”

Willow looked rebellious for a moment then slid a mournful glance toward her friends.

“I don't know,” she admitted. “I honestly don't know.”

“You have to know. You will be the guide, the strength to pull them both back.”

Willow shook her head, frightened. “N-no. I can't even levitate stuff without breakage. A-And a couple of days ago I kind of poof-ed my favourite pillow! I can't.”

“Will,” Xander said softly. “We don't have anyone else. Is there any way…?”

“W-well, I have a kind of a...well, a friend. She might be able to help…”

“A friend? I thought…” Xander cleared his throat. “Okay. Willow has a friend we know nothing about, but it's okay. We're mature adults and we can deal with this. Right now all that's important is Giles. Who is this…friend?”

“Of course you know about her,” she said irritably. “It's Tara…we…we've been doing spells together…we…we're stronger together.”

Xander looked at her oddly but his mind moved straight to the next question. “So if you do it together, you have more control?”

Willow nodded. “We did some stuff to help Buffy when Faith took her body. I know we can do this.”

It took a little over an hour for Xander and Willow to find Tara, pick up supplies from Giles' apartment and rush back to the basement.

In the whole time they were gone, Edof watched the Slayer with her Watcher. His own heightened sense of empathy told him a great deal, as did the scents of fear and grief that permeated the room. The part that puzzled him was the crushing, almost suffocating regret that emanated from her slender back.

Giles had not moved since they brought him there.

Buffy stayed closed by his side. She found it almost impossible to contemplate a world without him in it, but he was so still, so lifeless. She found herself watching even for the tiny rise and fall of his chest, listening intently for the soft sound of his indrawn and exhaled breath in the silence of the deserted apartment.

Not since they had found his apartment trashed, his ripped shirt on the floor, had she felt so bereft of hope, so completely shutdown. On that day, a part of her had believed that he was gone, that she had lost him and that mistake had cost her in terms of judgement. It had almost cost Giles his life because she hadn't been able to function, not the way she should have, not the way she would have…if it hadn't felt like half of her had been ripped away…

She finally took one of her hands from her grip on his large one and pushed some stray hairs off his ear. For the first time she wondered what happened to his glasses. She couldn't remember the last time she saw them, on or off his face. She turned.

“Edof, do you know what happened to Giles' glasses?”

The small demon looked bemused. “Glasses? He wears spectacles?”

Buffy nodded, her normally glistening grey-green eyes flat and almost blue with sadness.

Edof shook his head. “Perhaps he has another set?”

The consternation on her face finally eased. “I-in his desk, in his apartment. He hates the frames, though.” As though she'd slipped back into another world, she turned back to Giles without another word.

He watched the jerkiness of her movements, absorbed the waves of confused distress coming off her and blinked again. In all his time here, humans had never ceased to surprise him. In his world, in all reports, humans were considered vermin, rapacious and abundant, infesting this place, but without even the slightest redeeming quality.

Indeed, since his arrival he'd seen and felt plenty to reinforce that impression, but he had also seen many things that had confused, bemused and amazed him, not least the bond between this woman-warrior and the man charged with her protection, her guardianship.

What he had felt from the Watcher had been as intense as what he felt from the girl…and just as perplexing…the same intensity of regret, guilt, and pain, overwhelming the underlying love for each other. He shook his head just as the others returned.

Willow had found a spell. There were few of Giles books she wasn't familiar with, despite his efforts to protect her from the most dangerous of them, and it hadn't taken her long to find one of only three spells she'd ever seen that dealt with mind-walking. The part that worried her was that she would not be the one going in.

If Edof was right, and it had to be Buffy, the task was exponentially harder. It was one thing to anchor herself, but to be responsible for putting Buffy into Giles' mind, and for pulling both of them back when the time came, was huge…terrifying.

Willow and Tara returned to Edof after they'd prepared. “What do we have to do?”

Edof regarded the red-haired girl, but Xander spoke first.

“And how do you know about this stuff?”

The demon turned his head slowly to look at him. “In your years I am thirteen centuries old. One learns many things in such a lifetime,” he said dryly.

“Oh,” Xander said feebly. “In that case there's someone you might know…”

Edof's eyes flicked back to Willow. “You must lead her in, but she will have to find him. Where he is, only the most courageous, the fiercest, of loves will reach.”

For a moment Willow looked puzzled, then she turned swiftly to look at Buffy, still close to Giles' side. It seemed inconceivable, after the year they'd had so far, and Riley, the Initiative and the distance Buffy seemed to have put between herself and those she loved, and yet Willow knew in her bones, in her soul, that Edof was right…had always known it.

She only hoped that Buffy could breech the gap between the passion in her soul and the pain-numbed heart she'd hidden behind since Angel had left…well…really, since a long time before that. The Buffy who'd come back from Los Angeles that fateful summer was never again the bright, loving girl of whom Angelus had made misery a seventeenth birthday gift to remember and death a scar from which neither she, nor the man in her arms now, had ever fully recovered.

She nodded to the demon and went to Buffy.

“It's time,” she said softly.

Buffy looked up at her. “What do I do?”

“You find him and you make him come back. Wherever he is must be pretty awful, but he thinks it's better than here.”

“Wh-what if I can't find him? What if the Weyre really did…I dunno…break him? Can I…can fix I it?” she asked in a tremulous voice, turning to the demon. “Can we…?

He shook his head slowly. “If his mind is ripped…if you find only darkness, your friends must pull you back immediately or you will also be lost.”

Buffy turned swiftly back to Willow. “Don't pull me out. I don't care what happens, you are not to pull me out until I find him.”

Willow's wide eyes moved from Buffy's fierce ones, glowing blue now, to the demon's.

“Be careful, Slayer, or you will follow him into hell and none will be able to bring you back,” he said.

“I will follow him anywhere…and Willow will bring me back,” she said very slowly and very powerfully, her determined gaze boring into the young Wicca's.

The redhead nodded, even more wide-eyed, but determined.


* * *


Part Two