Prisoners part 1
Warnings: Angst-a-plenty. After all, it's me.
Summary: When Buffy starts to crack under the pressure of imprisonment, Giles takes drastic measures to win her freedom. The results drive the Slayer and Watcher toward an intimate realization.
The leaking faucet was maddening. Drops fell without rhythm or reason, splatting wastefully to the rust stained patch of aged stone below. What began as a puddle soon overflowed its shallow banks to become a miniature stream, tracing the fissures of the ancient floor. Same time everyday, the floods would come and Buffy would try to tighten the spigot to no avail. Just another pitiful reminder of her uselessness in this place.
The lone bulb hanging from an exposed socket above flickered eerily, always partnering with the eternal drip to drive her a little crazier with every passing day. She would agonize over what caused it though it was probably best she never found out.
A huff soon accompanied the other noise, coming from Giles as he began his daily workout regimen. His worn loafers squeaked with every push-up as the rubber soles shifted over the damp stone. After the third set, Buffy couldn't take it any longer.
"Will you stop that?"
Giles paused, glancing awkwardly to her mid pushup. "Hmm?"
"Can you stop that?" Her animated gesture had momentum enough to skid the wooden bench beneath her. She worked unconvincingly to restrain her frustration.
Giles got to his feet and brushed his hands off on his trousers. "I'll do my best if you tell me what it is I'm doing that's bothering you."
"We've been here for what? I don't even know how long anymore and everyday you wake up and do the same stupid routine. Wash, eat, wash, stretch, workout, wash, eat, wash, and sleep. Repeat. It's driving me crazy."
"Would it help if I mix it up a little? I could bathe before eating, if you like."
"It never changes."
"That tends to happen when you're in stasis. To put it rather indelicately, we're imprisoned here, Buffy. What would you have me do?"
"Anything! God, you're just... it's so... ugh!"
"Besides my acute dullness, what's this really about?"
"You. You never change."
"I'd take that as a compliment were it not for your tone."
"How can you do this day after day, week after week, year after year?"
"I haven't been keeping close record but I hardly think it's been a year. Half a year, perhaps."
"You know what I mean."
"I cope much like you do, I suppose. I haven't a choice."
"No, not like me. Nothing like me. You're inhuman, Giles. You have to be to be like this. It never gets to you, does it? Being prisoner here is just another of life's little inconveniences. I've never once heard you complain or seen you cry or depressed or even sigh. Do you ever sigh, Giles?"
"Is it? I'm a certified basket case over here. Like clockwork, I've had a complete mental breakdown every week for the last..." She jumped to her feet, screaming, "Fuck! Would someone tell me how long I've been stuck in this bottomless pit?"
Giles moved to her, grounding her with a tender grip of the arm. "Buffy, it's alright."
She swiped his hand away. "No it's not, Giles. It is so not alright and never will be."
He reached out again only to be dissuaded with another brush off. "Buffy, please..."
"We're not getting out of here."
"Of course we are."
"No, we're not. I'm never going to see sunlight again or hear music or read a book. I miss books, Giles. You know the end is seriously nigh when *I* miss books."
"If it helps, I do too."
"Please, you're such the book junkie."
"Doesn't lessen the fact that I miss them."
"Fine, I'll give you that. What else do you miss? Research, I'll bet."
"I knew it!" She pointed accusingly. "You're a machine, a British automaton programmed to be permanently composed and stuffy."
"I was going to say no, Buffy. I don't miss research." He sank down to the bench and settled back against the cold stone, suddenly looking very tired.
Buffy was caught off guard and more than a little regretful. "Oh."
"When I became a Watcher, my love for books became my job, a duty and a burden. I quickly lost touch with that part of me that enjoyed reading, finding myself searching for prophetic significance that wasn't there."
She took a seat beside him, allowing for as much space as the modest bench offered. "So you don't read for fun anymore?"
"If you hadn't noticed, our captors haven't been so charitable with such amenities."
"Stop that. You know what I mean."
"Yes, I do. And I don't. Not that I haven't tried, mind you, it's simply a matter of forgetting how."
"Don't be. It's not your fault."
"Actually it is in the two degrees of Chosen One sort of way." They exchanged apologetic smiles as the cell fell silent. Too soon, Buffy heard the infamous drip and sighed deeply.
"I miss chocolate," Giles admitted softly, mercifully distracting her back to the previous conversation.
"Oh, God yes," Buffy moaned. "And frosty chocolate mint mochas with fresh whipped cream and those little chocolate shavings."
"Rather fond of the original variety, myself."
Her gaze narrowed. "You would."
"I find the other confections a bit too… well, muddled. All those flavors colliding, it can be rather overpowering."
"Blasphemer," she teased. "So you're into the classics. I get that. I miss cheesy poofs, the real poofs and not those pumpkin colored, poop-shaped crunchy thingies."
"McVities Milk Chocolate Digestives."
"Okay, now you're just making stuff up. There is no way any self-respecting snack food is called a digestive. It just takes the fun out. You've gotta do better than that."
"Oreo's," he said, blushing mildly.
Buffy smirked, surprised. "You like Oreos?"
"Lord knows why, but yes, it is one of my guilty pleasures."
"But you never had any at your apartment."
"I kept them hidden, a hard lesson learned by Xander's continual misappropriation of anything resembling snack foods."
"I miss popcorn."
"Of which I don't, in abundance," she scolded him with a look.
"I thought as much," he grinned knowingly.
"And your tea. I miss your tea."
"Really?" He stared skeptically. "I was of the impression you didn't particularly care for tea."
"I don't. I just miss yours." That won her a shy smile.
"And I miss that."
"Your smile." It was her turn to blush.
A long moment passed as they sat in diminished silence together. Soon, their hands inched closer, fumbling into an uncertain union between them.
"Can't blame the old man." A voice from beyond the cell door drove their hands apart. "You do have a dead sexy smile, Slayer," the annoyingly familiar guard agreed, peeking through the small barred portal. "And a ass to match, just begging to be…"
"Nobody asked you," Buffy grumbled, crossing her arms before her.
"I was going to say massaged. I have magic fingers you know. Then again, that sort of goes without saying, me being a security sorcerer and all."
"Ah, yes." Giles stood up and stretched his arms. "You're mystical aptitude must be impressive indeed to acquire such a distinguished position in the bowels of this prestigious facility." The guard wasn't amused.
"That's right, keep pushin' it, old man. One of these days you're gonna drop the soap in the showers and I'll just happen to be looking the other way when the boys take to your back side like flies to shit."
"I'll take my chances."
"Go away." Buffy growled and stormed toward the cell door.
"Come on now, don't be like that, Baby Doll. I'm a good friend to have on the inside. In more ways than one." He waggled his brows.
"Has that ever once worked for you?" Giles asked with an exasperated sigh.
"I'll let you know, Pops. Some day she'll come around. You'll see."
"I can guarantee you with all my being that I'm not coming anywhere around you. Ever. Never ever!"
"Never say never, darling," the guard warned.
"Do you want something?" Buffy sighed with his salacious smirk. "Are you here for a reason or just to be creepy and obnoxious as usual?"
"The Cardinal has something special arranged for you two. I'll give you five to pretty up an get your jewelry on." He glanced at Giles. "Better make it ten for you, Gramps."
Buffy listened, waiting for the guards footsteps to fade with distance.
"I rather hate him." Giles reached for the least grimy cloth, rinsed it under the endlessly dripping faucet and dabbed it along his face.
"Ditto. And sadly, he's the peach of the bunch."
"I do believe he fancies you."
"Not my type."
"Human, you mean?" He chanced a smirk.
"Watch it, Watcher. I'm at bitch level Cordelia today. Besides, corrupt sorcerers are your colorful kink, remember?"
Giles' smirk evaporated. "Yes, well… sorry." It was as insincere as was humanly possible for him.
"No you're not." Buffy smiled.
"No, I'm not."
Giles finished his improvised bathing as Buffy took the time to stretch. She never knew what and when opportunities for escape might present themselves. It never hurt to be prepared. That's what Giles always said.
Flames flickered in the distance of the narrow tunnel. There was a dull roar of indistinct voices as Buffy and Giles were led in shackles toward the great hall. As they continued along, others emerged from adjoining veins. Soon, there was an impressive collection of rare demons herded like cattle to a slaughter, pushed along by brutish guards armed with stun wands and all varieties of hurt inducing weapons. Once the flock of beasts passed through the archways spilling out into the arena, chains rattled like thunder as the heavy metal gates lowered, securing all accesses. Beastly faces snarled at one another. Some familiar, some not, all lining up along the blood stained stone of the circular arena walls.
"Well, I must say this doesn't look particularly pleasant." Giles studied the monsters surrounding them, all the while discretely testing the security of his restrained wrists.
"Don't bother. They're solid." Buffy gave her chains a yank. "Not to mention really tacky. So eighteenth century."
The Cardinal appeared dressed for a special occasion, black robe adorn with gems and gold, evidence of his power and prestige in this world. He stepped to the center of the small stadium accompanied by his team of heavily armed guards. There were no stun wands or other nonfatal precautions used in guarding his holiness, only the most lethal of weapons.
"You are criminals, every last one of you." He addressed the crowd of beasts with a scowl. "The highest order of scum and villainy this realm has ever seen and yet I feed and clothe you. Shelter you without expectation for reparations and all for what? Contempt? Hatred? Not any longer. This good-natured oversight changes now. I've grown bored with you worthless creatures and in doing so, deemed today ripe for sport."
"Oh goody. Maybe it'll be like Survivor with puzzles to solve or Fear Factor with some icky animal parts to eat. Either way, might be a nice change from the usual."
"I highly suspect otherwise." Giles wasn't amused and ever watchful for signs of trouble.
"Today shall be the first of an ongoing test, a challenge rich with tradition for our honorable and generous clientele." He made a sweeping gesture to the darkened sky beyond the walls of the stadium, bowing graciously to an audience masked by shadows. The indistinct rumble grew in response, applauding his sentiments.
"I knew this was coming," Giles complained.
Buffy's pulse raced with the appearance of the weapons cart. That was never good.
"It's bad, isn't it?"
"Don't worry, no matter what, I've got your back."
"From this day forward, on the third day of every week, cell companions will face each other in a match of skill, strength and stamina."
"Oh, guess I don't." Buffy winced.
"To inaugurate these festivities, our first combatants shall be our most prized captives, none other than the Slayer and her Watcher." The invisible audience celebrated. "Needless to say, they are a formidable pair of which many of you have had the pleasure, or should I say displeasure, of facing. But this day the fates shall repay you for their misdeeds. They'll duel for your entertainment, student versus teacher, in a match that will prove most fascinating, I'm sure."
Five guards stormed forward and wrangled Buffy and Giles to the center of the ring, much to the praise of the eager spectators. With a gesture, the Cardinal's personal aid approached, selected two discolored rapiers and handed them each one. All guards immediately raised their weapons, prepared to strike at the first sign of dissention. Buffy shifted the grip of the sword in her hand, glancing over at Giles who backed away a few steps to test the blades balance with a masterful slice. He eyed the guards, sizing up their chances. Even with his expertise and her Slayer strength, they were no match for the numbers.
"As you well know, I am a generous and honorable man as the stakes will reflect. I assure you this match is worth your maximum efforts." The elderly demon smiled broadly, crooked fangs catching the light as he displayed a wax sealed scroll. "The victor wins their freedom, signed, sealed and delivered to the magistrate personally."
"And the loser?" Buffy asked skeptically.
"Slayer, your jest amuses me. Of course, this is to the death." The audience roared their approval. Buffy looked to Giles who wore a sad sort of 'told you so' expression. She shrugged helplessly.
"How very Star Trekkian of you. And what if we refuse to fight?" Buffy heard the nervous mumblings of the demon inmates intensify.
"Then you both shall die."
"Wouldn't you prefer to see a good improv sketch? I saw this at a friend's bachelorette party once and it was a real hoot. All I need is a profession, an object and a location. Anybody? Just call it out, don't be shy," She encouraged the demon prisoners.
"Hows about a Slayer, a Watcher and a death dungeon," one of the beasts heckled as the others joined in for a hearty laugh.
"Ha, ha, very funny. We have a comedian in the ranks. But you forgot the obje…"
"Slayer, watch your back!"
Buffy didn't have time to recognize the voice. Century's worth of instincts commanded reaction. Her armed hand swiped forward, skillfully positioning the blade between her torso and arm, blindly defending her flank. She thrust the blade backwards, connecting with the sickly familiar consistency of flesh. When she glanced back over her shoulder to identify her attacker, she was met with a familiarly pained smile. Her stomach churned sour. Her eyes went wide. It was Giles, impaled clean through the abdomen by her sword. His face washed pale as his breath grew uneven and shallow.
"Well… done." He whimpered and stumbled back, releasing himself from Buffy's blade. She watched in horror as crimson bloomed along his russet shirt, leeching from the mortal wound to his abdomen.
"G-Giles?" She cried out in shock.
His sword descended, clang loudly to the stone stage. His hands braced at the pooling wound but did little more than spread the flow.
"What have you done?" She gasped as her sword joined his to the damp ground.
Giles' legs buckled and he dropped to his knees, collapsing back as Buffy reached him. She knelt beside him, panicked.
"Never trusted that old man," the flirtatious guard noted to another. "Still, never thought he'd have brass ones enough to stab her in the back, literally." The guards shared a laugh.
"I don't know wha… I don't know what to do, Giles."
"It's okay," he whispered between hisses of pain. "It's okay."
"No, it's not." Finally remembering her training, she reached down and pressed on the wound. A groan scared her to retract. "Sorry. God, I'm sorry."
"It's… it's okay, Buffy." He reached out a bloodied, trembling hand and took hers. "It'll be alright now."
"This displeased me," The Cardinal grumbled. "Quite the deliberately pitiful display. But while this isn't what I'd anticipated, I am a man of my word. Congratulations are in order. You've won your freedom, Slayer. That is, of course, if he dies."
Buffy ignored their jailer, grasping at Giles hand as if holding on for dear life.
"Giles, don't you do this. Don't you fucking do this!"
His only answer was a feeble smile. Then his hand went limp in hers and his eyes slowly shut. All tension and pain melted from his expression as terror flushed Buffy's face.
"I need a doctor!"
"I thought you'd be a little more appreciative, Slayer. After all, I saved your sorry ass today."
"He needs a doctor," Buffy pleaded, her white-knuckled fists wrapped around the bars of the small portal of the cell door.
"What he needs is a coffin."
"Give me something to help him. Anything!" Buffy demanded, rattling the door in frustration. "You can't let him die."
"Why? You want out of here, don't ya? First class ticket to freedom and all you have to do is let the back stabbing bastard bite it. One foot in the grave any how. He's done for and in a world of hurt. Snap his neck. Mercy killing if you ask me."
"He can't die."
"He's about to prove you wrong."
"I won't let him."
"Is that so?" The guard smirked. "You just can't bare to be separated from me, is what I think this is all about. You'd miss me too much. Go ahead and admit it, Baby."
"You're a pig!"
"But a resourceful one. Here." He slipped an old tarnished flask through the grating. "I keep this with me during rounds. It's not much but should be enough to keep him quiet."
"I need more. A first aid kit or…"
"Look princess, we deal in death, here. Not life. If I were you, I'd chug that down to work the nerve enough to suffocate him, put him outta his misery. Be the best thing for the both of you."
"Please," Buffy begged gently. "Vik, please."
His expression turned stern. "Can't help you, Slayer. Got my rounds."
Giles' eyes fluttered open to the sight of Buffy settling beside him. She smiled through her worry, reaching down to take his hand in hers.
"Hey there, handsome. We've got to stop meeting like this." Her voice faltered, breaking her resolve.
"Yes, a bit rough… on the gut." Giles whispered shallowly.
"Well, it wouldn't be an issue if you'd quit this stupid habit of trying to die on me." Her lip quivered, much to her determination otherwise.
"I suppose… we can't all be… as successful as you in such endeavors." He managed a faint smirk but it quickly faded with the pain.
"Good, 'cause it's the one time I'm really rooting for you to fail miserably." A tear streaked down her cheek.
He gave her hand a weak squeeze. "It's for the best, Buffy."
"For who, exactly?"
"We'll both be… be free, albeit diverging paths… freedom just the same." He could see she wanted to say something but didn't have faith enough in her voice to try. "I'm sorry."
"You should be." She waited a heartbeat, lip trembling to fight back a sob, then added with morbid curiosity, "For what?"
"For this. For everything."
"I think that's my line. It's not your fault, Giles. Well, yeah, it is but not really. Not in the ways that count."
"I never should have taken you from Rome. I never should have dragged you away from your new life."
"I wanted to come. I think I needed to. There was too much left all messy between us. You know? I couldn't leave things that way." She echoed his pain, watching him cringe in agony. A moment later, his expression softened. She knew he was fading fast.
He worked up breath enough to speak. "I know we were never close friends."
"No, Giles, we weren't." She leaned in close, her face inches from his. "We were more." She placed a kiss to his cheek as more tears fell. "Thank you for what you did."
He chuckled feebly. "Attempting to kill you?"
"To give me a chance at life. Though at this point, you're abusing the phrase above and beyond the call of duty."
"You're needed, Buffy." He spoke slowly, wheezing every breath. "A Watcher's greatest honor… is to die in the service of their Slayer." His hand slipped limp from hers as his words drifted off into dying breathes. "What's one life in the balance of the many you can spare?"
"Don't do this, Giles, please!"
"Never doubt…" He gasped for air. "Love… you…" He withered before her and she stared in disbelief. It wasn't happening. It couldn't be happening. She tore herself from him and rushed to the cell door, slamming hard against it.
"Vik!" She screamed. He appeared in seconds, never having left his station.
"Thought you might need me, Slayer. What can I do you for?" He smirked.
"I'll do anything," she said through clenched teeth.
"I know you will, Baby Doll. I know you will."