"Hey...what's with the ice?" Dawn turned to Halfrek with a worried glance.
"Oh...that..." the vengeance demon smiled. "I added my own little touch to your wish."
"You what?" Dawn choked.
"Here comes the kicker. There's always a down side to these things!" Xander tried to peek in the frosty window.
"Well...I thought it might speed things up if I improvised a little...well...you know..."
"Um...no, we don't. What?" Willow urged.
"You've trapped them in there with a Glace demon or an Eis phantom," Anya accused her old friend.
"An ice demon?" Willow asked nervously.
"Or an ice phantom...it's what's making the house turn all frosty and cold." Anya explained.
"I didn't wish for that. I didn't mention any abominable snowmen or Jack Frost!" Dawn ordered. "Undo it!"
"I can't," Halfrek said worriedly. "I thought having a little adversity might encourage the couple to... you know... work together... get closer by means of a common foe."
"Little? A Glace demon is nine feet tall and eight feet wide when fully solidified. The Eis phantom can engulf an entire bus. Little isn't the right word for it. Undo it," Anya warned.
"I said I can't. D'Hoffryn has limited my reversal of wishes to one per century and I've already spent that one. I can't undo it."
"Then I wish the doors to open...I wish Giles and Buffy free already...I wish..."
"It doesn't work that way, darling," Halfrek interrupted Dawn's ramblings. "They are going to have to work out their differences to free themselves."
"Great...so the two most stubborn people I know have to forgive and forget everything, kiss and make up or they'll freeze to death?" Xander asked.
"Yes. That about covers it," Halfrek smiled.
"I'm bettin' we end up with a couple of Watcher and Slayer Popsicles," Willow sighed.
"Come on...we can try to break in," Xander headed toward the window.
"You'll only cause the temperature to fall faster that way. The only way your friends will survive this is if they can put apart their differences and realize what's most important to them. That's what Dawn wished for," Halfrek vanished before anyone else could respond.
"I so did not!" Dawn yelled into the darkness where the demon once stood.
"Don't worry. Buffy and Mr. Giles have had their troubles before right? They'll get through this," Tara offered nervously.
"I hope so," Xander mumbled. "Never thought I'd be rooting for the Slayer/Watcher sex-capades but if they don't get horizontal soon..."
"Sex? What is it with you and sex? Maybe Giles' and Buffy's relationship goes just a little bit deeper than your average bump and grind," Willow said defensively.
"Wil, that's what started this whole thing; Giles' Slayer having sex with not one but two members of the evil undead society. Whatever proper, responsible, sugarcoating you give it...it's always about the sex."
"Should I be hearing this?" Dawn shook her head with embarrassment.
"I agree with Xander. Giles is a man. Men are jealous creatures. Giles won't believe Buffy loves him until she gives him what she gave Spike. It's a sex or death scenario," Anya agreed.
"Then here's hoping they get some," Tara said plainly as everyone's eyes stared in disbelief at her uncharacteristic comment.
The power flickered and the house went completely dark, giving Buffy nervous butterflies in her stomach as she waited impatiently for Giles to return.
"Giles? What's going on? It's getting too cold to be down there," Buffy yelled down the glistening stairway.
"F-furnace refuses to l-light," Giles' stuttering voice resonated along the ice. "S-something is preventing me from getting it going."
"Powers out now, if you didn't notice."
"I figured as much," Giles hollered back. He took one last look around with the flashlight. "This is fascinating."
Buffy noticed the icicles stretching ever closer towards the ground and wondered if Giles would be able to stand upright for much longer with the mysteriously encroaching ice. "I think you better get out of there. It's getting colder by the second." She felt some relief as Giles bluish pale face appeared once again into her line of sight.
"We'll j-just have to s-stay warm until we can figure this out. I m-must say... considering our usual t-track record..." Giles shivered as his breath formed a clouded halo around his face. "This doesn't seem too dangerous." He took a cautious step up the first stair just as a large spike of ice shattered to the spot he'd just left.
"Get outta there now!" Buffy yelled and reached frantically down to take his hand. Giles pushed off with his other foot, leaping upward toward the door as razor sharp shards of ice plunged to the stairs around him. He landed near the center of the flight of stairs, just inches from reaching Buffy's outstretched hand. As he shuffled cautiously to get better footing, his shoe slipped and he caught the railing just before loosing ground. A quick glance behind him at the joining ice spears motivated him to his precarious bound toward Buffy's awaiting arm. His hand caught hers and he felt a rush of relief as she worked to help him escape impalement. He collapsed beside her, gasping for breath at the top of the stairs as the ice overtook the corridor after him.
"I'd say our usual track record is still intact," Buffy grinned.
"T-that was too c-close," Giles grinned uneasily and struggled
to get to his feet.
"Giles!" She knelt down, frantically working out the best way to free him from his frigid trap without hurting him worse.
"You...you have to g-get it out," Giles stammered, his face wrought with pain.
"It's still attached to the growing ice. I'll have to break it," Buffy warned. This was going to hurt and probably tear the wound open more but it was the only way she could free him from certain impalement.
"Just d-do it..." he hissed through clenched teeth. Buffy held her breath and cocked her fist back, ready to strike. There was no way to be certain the ice would break but she couldn't just leave him to get filleted. She took his free hand in hers and held it firm as she struck the blow. Ice shattered around them as Giles' scream bellowed throughout the house, his tightening fist squeezing her small hand within his. He was separated from the snare and Buffy dragged him to momentary safety. She slammed the door shut and returned to his side. The pain was too much, he'd passed out. She took note of the ice crystals creeping from under the door jam and she knew they needed to get upstairs, get where the heat was.
"Did you hear that?" Tara asked warily.
"Kansas heard that. It sounded like Giles..." Xander looked to Willow.
"He's in pain," Willow sobbed. "I can feel it. We gotta do something."
"Demon lady said if we try to break in it'll just speed up the ice age," Xander warned.
"Are there any other ways in the house? Anything that doesn't require knobs or latches?" Tara asked Dawn.
"Fireplace?" The young girl squeaked. "I might fit."
"Too dangerous. Buffy and Giles would kill us if we let you try," Xander began to pace. "Um...where's Anya?"
Giles awoke shaking and disoriented under a heap of sheets, towels and comforters. Buffy must have gathered every scrap of material in the house. Even though he was blanketed under several layers, his body couldn't stop shivering. It seemed to Giles that the unnatural ice had seeded some kind of reverse fever in him. The weight of the blankets alone made it hard for him to breath and he was freezing from the inside out. Without the aid of his texts, he felt powerless to solve their dilemma. A slight shift of his leg reminded him of his injury as a jolt of pain ran up his leg.
"Try not to move."
Giles cracked open his eyes to see the shadowy silhouette of Buffy sitting at her bedroom window, staring out into the night sky through a small circle of unfrosted glass.
"I bandaged your leg the best I could. Looked bad," she mumbled. "Whole downstairs looks like the walk-in freezer at the Double Meat Palace," she sighed. "I figured we better get as far away from the creeping icy death thing as we could so I dragged you up here. I don't think we have much time before the ice reaches this room."
He detected the subtle shiver that swept over her as she rubbed her hands along her arms. "You're c-cold," Giles stuttered. She disregarded the comment, ignoring his concern.
"The gang's been working on getting us out," she mumbled glumly. "Seems it's a no go for them too. We're trapped."
"Y-you should be c-covered m-more," Giles whispered. His teeth chattered and he found himself growing increasingly disturbed by the uncontrollable tremors causing his muscles to ache from exhaustion. "You'll freeze."
"I'm fine," Buffy looked dismally over at Giles. "You aren't. You're temperature is dropping fast. I think that injury has something to do with it."
"It's n-nothing," he muttered unconvincingly, trying to gather the blankets around his head. "I'm ok...it's g-going numb."
"You're freezing to death Giles," her distressed eyes glistened through the darkness of the room. "I don't know what to do." Though he desperately wanted to, Giles couldn't console her, he didn't know what to do either and he was quickly loosing his faculties. But he was lucid enough to know she was probably correct; he was dying. His weakened frame was shutting down, going into shock. He didn't have much time and Buffy needed him.
"You n-need to s-stay alive," he whispered.
"I'm not worried about me. I have the fringe benefit of being the Slayer."
"S-slayers can d-die from hypothermia too...you need to stay warm."
Buffy stood up and began to fidget, showing obvious signs of discomfort from the cold. "Maybe I should get in there with you." She asked nervously. "I saw that once in a movie and on the Discovery Channel. The Discovery Channel wouldn't lie right?"
"If my t-temperature is falling as f-fast as you say, it would only make things w-worse for you," Giles slowly withdrew from the blankets and towels, revealing his painfully quaking body.
"What are you doing?" Buffy rushed to him, trying to cover him back up.
He looked up at her fearful eyes as she attempted to wrap the comforter
around his shoulders. He stopped her motion with a gentle tug of the fabric.
"Stop it. Get under there..." Buffy glided a sheet over him and he took her hand in his. The chill of his touch shocked her; his skin was extraordinarily cold. The unmanageable trembling of his hand made her realize the sad reality of the situation.
"Buffy...you s-said it yourself, I'm f-freezing to death. The ice is deadly; wound is intended to be fatal. These s-sheets and things aren't helping me. But they can help you," he guided her to sit on the mattress and began to blanket her shoulders with a thick comforter.
"P-please..." he stammered, pleading for her to follow his directions as he continued to coat her with the selection of coverings, barely able to control his shakes.
Buffy knew she could fight him off but his concerned eyes made her unable to deny his wishes. She watched Giles' shivering hands as he labored to wrap the entire inventory of linens she'd collected around her slight frame. He took great care in covering every inch of her as his own muscles started to give out from the cold. Buffy could see he was fading fast and she felt helpless to do anything.
"I love you," she whispered as he gradually settled down beside her. His pale green eyes seemed to light up with the gentle phrase and then contently shut, savoring the declaration. Buffy looked on, admiring his caring face, hoping he believed her words. He didn't respond, only sat quietly at her side with his eyes closed, as if peacefully meditating. Perhaps he was.
She was awestruck by the determination of his bravery and loyalty. Giles was like no one she'd ever known. Everyone else in the world seemed so wrapped up in their own little lives that they were blind to anyone else's pain, completely self-absorbed. Not Giles. He never gave up on her. Even while arguing and bickering, even after she'd hurt him so and he'd sworn their partnership was through, he would lay down his life without hesitation in order to spare her the usual fate of a Slayer. Buffy understood it was his job but also knew it was much more. Giles loved her, even if he couldn't say the words at the moment; she knew it in her heart. She needed to save him? He would never allow her to risk herself on an off chance for his life. She needed to think and think fast.
After a couple agonizing minutes, Buffy felt warmth starting to return to her and wanted so badly to share it with him. Giles hadn't moved since he'd sat down, his face still displaying the illusion of tranquility. Though it made it somewhat easier for her to accept his orders to stay covered, she felt her stomach churning from the odd expression on his face. Then she watched his kind features wilt before her and with a shuddering release of icy breath; he bowed to the mattress, absolutely still.
"Giles!" Buffy's eyes widened in panic. He no longer shivered and his complexion was deathly blue. She tore out from under the blankets and went to work searching his wrists for a pulse. She couldn't find it. "No! Giles!" She moved her fingers to his neck. The pulse was there but was faint. "Don't you do this!" She shook him, urging him to stay awake, stay with her. "You bastard! Don't you leave me!" She slapped him and got no response, his head sagging and heavy. Again with a brisk slap; nothing. Once, twice... on the third attempt his frozen hand caught hers just before landing the blow.
"Ouch," a weak whisper passed over his bluish lips, smiling subtly as he maneuvered to sit up. "J-just needed a lie down. Can't get rid of me that easy."
"Oh god," Buffy wrapped her arms around him, holding onto him with a selfish relief that she wasn't alone. He was so cold. She pulled back and began to rub her hands vigorously along his arms, hoping to warm his unbearably frosty skin. "Don't ever do that again. I thought I'd lost you."
"S-still here. It's ok," he reassured her, slowly beginning to draw the covers back over her tense shoulders. She pushed them restlessly away and stood up. "B-Buffy, you have to s-stay c-covered." Seemingly ignoring his instruction, Buffy started to quickly undo the buttons of her top. "Buffy?"
"I don't know what else to do," she explained, discarding her blouse to the crystal carpeted floor and stole an anxious peek of Giles' confused expression.
"W-what...?" Giles could barely speak; his jaw shuddered uncontrollably under the chill overtaking him.
"I'll cover up in a moment..." she calmed him with a raised hand as she continued to work herself free from her clothes. Buffy unbuttoned her jeans and slipped them down around her ankles as she worked to remove a shoe. Giles' vision was blurring from the hypothermic sickness but he knew what she was doing and didn't approve.
"Buffy... you must..."
"Giles..." Her stern tone silenced his concern. He tried to clear his sight, blinking and focusing on the distorted motion in front of him. Finally, he managed a good view just as Buffy stepped out of her pants and started to lift up her tank top.
"W-what are you doing?"
"I'm not about to watch you freeze to death as I stay all warm and cozy. I can't do it!" The resolved young lady pulled her shirt up over her head and tossed it aside. She stood defiantly in the center of the icy tomb of her bedroom in nothing but a slinky bra and panties, frosty puffs of breath dancing from her mouth as she gazed warmly at Giles. "If we're doomed to become Popsicles, then we'll do it together,"
"No... don't do this..." Giles shied away, ashamed he couldn't stop her from disrobing in front of him.
"Already done," she smiled and stepped to him. "Now lie down."
He sat motionless, his mind racing with the images of her revealed skin, tempting his eyes to return to the beautiful sight presented to him. Her fingertips tugged at his shirt, pulling it from its tucked position. Helpless, he could only divert his curious eyes away as she undid his belt and began to unclothe him.
"Please, Giles. Let me do this," She unbuttoned his shirt and opened it, taking in the foreign vision of his tensing chest. "I can't loose you." She tossed the clothes aside and finished removing his shoes and socks, returning to his view with a gentle smile. Tenderly drawing her fingers along his bare arms, she guided his shoulders to the mattress as she crawled into the bed with him. He lay unmoving, watching breathlessly as she pulled the blankets over them. Once satisfied with the material coverage, she carefully glided her warm body over his, flinching from the initial contact with his icy skin but settling against him, delicately cloaking his shivering figure.
They lay still at first, gazing apprehensively into each others eyes as the warm tickle of their breathes stirred along their lips. It was odd to say the least, Watcher and Slayer trapped in a bizarre predicament with nothing more than wild notions to steer them. Neither person knowing how to proceed in the improbable attempt at survival, they paused in observation of the close contact. And then it began.
It started innocently enough; Buffy's small fingers caressing along the skin of his arms, then chest; coaxing his blood to return to numbing portions of his anatomy. She searched his extremities, taking mental notes of his chilled parts as she rubbed along his body. He quivered under her touch, generating more determined strokes from her. She continued her quest for warmth by invading the tensing muscles of his abdomen; all the while unaware of the slight motion of her hips as she tried to rouse his frozen nerve endings back to life.
Giles' eyes followed hers as they tried in vain to examine his trembling limbs under the shadows of the covers. He was at a loss for what to do. He wanted to touch her, to join in on the experiment but knew his frigid touch would only disturb her. So he lay stationary and let her work, watching with silent gratefulness as Buffy massaged her body heat into him. She was captivating, with the frosted glass casting an eerie glow that highlighted her beautiful face as she concentrated on saving his life. Even in the grasp of an otherworldly sickness, he could appreciate her radiance. Giles swore he could expire in contented bliss for just a taste of those pouting lips.
All the pain, all the cold, all the discomfort vanished with the first touch of her lips to his.