Giles woke to the familiar soundtrack of the eternally leaking faucet and the cool, uneven brick biting at his bare skin. None of it mattered, though, since Buffy was wrapped safely within his arms, slumbering soundly. Her slight form pressed flush to him, accepting whatever warmth his body could offer. He watched as her head rose and fell with his every breath, having chosen his chest as her makeshift pillow. But it wasn’t long before doubt slunk into the equation. He’d been foolish allowing things to progress as they had between them. All too soon their tormentors were sure to punish them for his recklessness. More worrisome was the thought of Vik punishing her. With Buffy being in such a weakened state it was essential for Giles to make his move before they had the chance to act on any vengeful intentions. But at that moment, time seemed to mercifully stop with her in his arms and Giles allowed himself a distraction from his plotting, gently guiding a stray strand of gold from Buffy’s face and curled it behind her ear. She signed contentedly as a hint of smile brightened her face.
Moments later, an escalating rumble of footsteps echoed down the corridor. Giles knew what was coming and woke Buffy with tender urgency. He rushed to slip back into his prison garb, stealing a glimpse of his beautiful companion as she did the same. The rumble stopped just outside as a shadow passed the barred portal. Buffy took a stand beside Giles, instinctively stepping forward as the lock unbolted. Hard habit to break, being the Slayer, Giles thought and positioned himself between her and the door just as it was thrust opened.
The menacing sorcerer guard quickly raised his hand, eagerly powering up for an attack.
“I wouldn’t if I were you,” Giles warned and approached Vik with a disconcerting confidence.
“Well you’re not so just give me an excuse,” Vik snarled as purplish sparks danced along his tensing fist.
“I believe I already have.” Giles gave a wink and flashed his most off-putting smile, the one proven to boil the blood of many an authority figure.
"Giles, what are you doing?" Buffy whispered from behind him.
Vik closed the space between them, stopping only inches from Giles, visibly frustrated in restraining his violent impulses. “I’m going to enjoy disemboweling you, old man.”
“You’d better since in doing so, the Cardinal will discover the problematic history of your indiscretions with the very object of his recent frustrations.”
“What, you plannin’ on tattling? You won’t live to see the dawn.”
“Don’t need to. Evidence of your traitorous relations is prepared to be passed along with word of our untimely demise.”
"You got nothing on me."
"I anticipated you’d think this is a bluff.” Giles crossed the room and retrieved a busted metal cap from beneath the bench and returned to confront the cynical guard. "Recognize this? It and it’s many companion pieces are how I'm guaranteeing you get the proper spanking should you choose to dispose of either or both of us."
“If you think a flask or a toothbrush is going to make any difference, you’re crazy.”
“It doesn’t matter what I think. However, the Cardinal’s opinion of such affectionate gifts could be a matter of concern. As for how crazy I am, consider this an invitation to find out.”
Vik’s eyes narrowed, sizing up Giles and his threat. "What do you want?"
"The same as you." Giles offered a dangerous smile and lowered his voice to a discreet whisper. “A chance for us to settle our differences in a more private atmosphere, one free of disapproving, intrusive voyeurs.”
“You want a piece of me, Gramps? You got it. Better kiss Baby doll goodbye ‘cause once I’m through burning you to dust, me and the boys are goin’ to fuck your little Slayer cunt ‘til she’s six feet under.”
Buffy charged Vik only to be leveled with a hammering blow from the guard. She collapsed to the floor, cupping her bleeding cheek with a trembling hand. Giles stormed forward, intent on tackling Vik, but the attack was cut short by a bolt of energies blasting him backwards to slam flat against the cell wall. He spilled to the ground, paralyzed as every muscle convulsing under the electric sting of magicks.
“Funeral’s at dawn.” Vik chuckled and strutted out of the cell.
Fry’kern watched Vik pace before the security console, teeth gnashing, fists glowing a familiar irritated red as he cast a passing glance at the monitor. The Slayer was tending to the Watcher, tenderly cleaning his face with a damp rag. They were driving Vik mad, making him reckless. He had to prevent his colleague from doing anything impulsive before he took him down with him.
“How are you going to handle this?” Fry’kern asked.
“My business,” Vik growled in warning.
“I can’t risk losing another credit, Vik. The Cardinal has it in for me as it is.”
“I said it’s my business so shut it.”
“But what are you going to do?”
“I want wet wing for early morning rounds.”
“Alone?” That would certainly raise suspicions.
“Shut it down for repairs or something, closed until I say. One unit patrol should fall under protocol, then.”
“I’ll make it happen. Just be sure to clean up when you’re done.”
“That’s the idea.”
“Where are you taking us?” Buffy asked as she shuffled forward. The chains securing her hands and feet made it difficult for her to take any larger strides.
“It’s a surprise,” Vik offered a distressing smiled.
“The showers,” Giles responded flatly.
“Easy clean up and no cameras,” Vik admitted in a grim tone.
“A murderer’s wet dream.” Buffy glanced to Giles who offered a fleeting smirk.
“Trust me,” he mouthed silently, “No matter what.”
The first part was easy, trusting him. It was the second part that troubled her. But his eyes held such calm determination she couldn’t help but nod in agreement.
Vik herded them through the long, dank corridor. It was a maze of gloom with numerous arches leading to obscurity barricaded by imposing metal gates. Giles walked as casually through the corridor as he would the old library, comfortably almost. The trio stopped before one of the bulky gates and Vik activated the release mechanism, sending the gate retreating up into a crevasse in the ceiling. He manhandled them through the entrance, making sure to give Giles an unprovoked shove, sending him stumbling into the dark. Buffy resisted Vik’s nudges only to be pushed in after Giles with the guard following close behind.
“Here’s where the fun starts,” Vik chuckled and with a swift slap to the lock, sent the gate crashing closed behind them. A moment later, the cold electric blue of the shower lights flickered on, sending long shadows across the decrepit brick floor. “… And ends.”
“As much as I appreciate a good ol’ fashion showdown…”
Buffy was silenced by a blast of mystical energies that sent her sliding along the rough floor, skidding to a halt just over a moldy metal grating. She glanced up in time to see Giles bearing down on Vik who stood at ease with a cocky grin. Giles stopped short of the guard and spun around, swiping his leg swiftly in hopes to unbalance him with a strike to the knees. Vik dodged out of the way and hammered his fist down, catching Giles on the cheek. Buffy pushed herself to her feet and charged toward Vik only to be plowed into the shower stall by another vicious stream of magicks. Giles capitalized on the distraction and landed a blow to Vik’s groin. The stunned guard stumbled back and buckled over. He struggled to charge up for another attack, erratic energies flickering as badly as the lighting above. In a preemptive counterattack, Giles hurried after Vik and took hold of his glowing hand. He quickly twisted around behind and pinned Vik’s hand centered high on his back. If he was going to release the energies, he’d surely suffer self-inflicted damage.
“Buffy?” Giles called out, scanning the room for her. There was no answer but the diversion cost him as Vik slammed his head back, successfully nailing Giles on the nose. The hold on Vik’s wrist weaken for a moment, giving the guard time enough to break free, pivot fast, take aim and fire off a series of short blasts. Giles was struck center mass, his chest rattling with each compression of magicks.
“Killed your little bitch dead,” Vik chuckled. “I’ll miss her, though.” He began to circle Giles, baiting him. “Miss her sweet ass, all tight and begging to be fucked.”
“Buffy?” Giles called out again, ignoring the dribble of blood from his nose. It would stop soon enough with the donated healing from Buffy.
Vik continued his taunts as he powered up for another strike. “Miss the way her tits taste.”
“Buffy, answer if you can.”
Vik released another succession of mystical jabs, forcing Giles back as he defended himself as best he could, arms outstretched before him, blocking only half the blows.
“But what I’ll miss most is her mouth…”
Giles couldn’t take much more than this. Not only was Vik preventing him from checking on Buffy with his endless assaults but assailing him with crude insults at Buffy’s expense was nearly too much to endure.
“And how she’d try not to gag on my cock when I…”
Giles was on Vik in a heartbeat, fists raining blows upon the bewildered guard as he worked clumsily to pose some sort of defense.
“Buffy!” Giles shouted, edging on frantic. The squeak of rusted metal and running water answered his call. Another showerhead came on and then another, sending steam billowing out into the open space. An eruption of unruly magicks propelled Giles and Vik in opposing directions, each colliding against walls and collapsing into a heap of pain.
“Fuck!” Vik quickly hobbled to his feet, shivering with fatigue from such expenditure. “You and your bitch will pay for that.”
“You lack control.” Giles labored to catch his breath as he pushed himself to his feet. “Undisciplined application of random energies will only unbalance you further.”
“Shut it, Pops.”
“After such a poor demonstration, I hardly think you could manage even the most rudimentary glamour let alone a full on assault.” The steam had blanketed the room in a moist curtain of grey, sure to aggravate Vik’s leg and irritate his breathing. Giles caught a glimpse of Buffy peeking out from the steam, eyes full of concern. He offered a subtle smile, silently instructing her to be ready.
“Talkin’ big for a future corpse,” Vik snarled, visibly recovered from his fatigue. “You can’t win.”
“Neither can you.” Giles could feel the healing magicks working their way through his body, mending bruises and revitalizing weakened muscles. He watched Vik power up for another discharge only this time, the congregated essences hummed with menace.
“That’s where you’re wrong.” Vik’s lips curled back with a wicked smile as his hand burned with a furious crimson. “No more games, Watcher. I’m cutting you off.”
Vik thrust his hand forward, casting streams of electricity that screamed across the room. The bolt stuck Giles’ hard in the abdomen, incredibly accurate in its piercing the very same target where the death blow had scarred him before. All air was forced from his lungs as his blood pumped in an irregular beat to compensate as the unearthly healings were reversed.
“Giles!” Buffy shouted. He managed a glance to her as a ghostly hue stretched the space between them.
Vik stormed across the room, intent on dishing out some real pain as he gripped Giles shirt and cocked his fist back. “This time you die!”
A strange metallic wail sounded through the steam followed by loud snap. Giles lifted his head and grinned in defiance of the guard as he whispered, “You first.”
Vik's body arched back as his chest burst open, spraying Giles with blood. The guard’s eyes went wide with disbelief, gazing in shock at the splintered pipe protruding from his sternum.
“Was it good for you?” Buffy growled from behind him and with a heave, sent him spinning like a top to the center of the showers. A quick glance and nod from Giles reassured her to carry on and so she did. First was a punch, a sloppy uppercut sending Vik sailing to the wall. With the collision, the protruding pipe shot through Vik’s chest and clanked to the brick, leaving behind a gaping, gore sodden puncture. The guard crumbled to the ground, clutching uselessly at the bleeding wound. Buffy continued her merciless attack with a spinning kick, connecting hard to Vik’s head, catapulting the guard sideways across the showers and into the far wall. He collapsed to the ground, splashing into a puddle of his own blood and was still. She stalked towards him, watching for any signs of life.
Giles reached out for the wall, slowly leveraging himself upright as he tested the sturdiness of his unstable legs. He kept an eye on Buffy the entire time, always watching. He could have sworn he heard a pitiful gurgle of “please” as she knelt down and with a swift twist, snapped Vik’s neck. The guard’s body slumped lifeless to the floor.
“We should be going,” Giles urged, knowing it was best to pull Buffy away before she had time to reconsider her actions. She turned around, eyes wild with adrenalin and revenge. Upon seeing him, her expression softened as if brought down from her rage by his very presence. He chanced a step forward only to feel his head swim with dizziness.
"Giles?" Buffy called with concern, reaching out for him. His legs buckled and he fell to his knees, immobile. She rushed to his aid.
"I’m fine." He struggled to overcome the paralysis seizing his body.
"You don’t look fine. Let me take a ..."
“We haven’t time. They’ll come soon enough.” With a little help from Buffy, he pushed himself upright once again and began toward the center of the showers. “The main grate there… the drainage system should spill into a chamber that leads out of the prison.” He knelt down to test the grate. It didn’t give. Buffy joined him and gave it a tug, easily breaking the aged metal from its mortar binds.
“After you,” he encouraged her toward the tire sized opening with a gentlemanly gesture. After an exchange of looks implying unspoken concerns, she hopped into the darkness. Giles let out a grunt as he cautiously lowered himself through the breach. His arms suddenly gave out, sending him plunging into the black. The drain curved slightly, slowing his decent just enough to prevent further injury before his feet hit solidly at a bend in the pipe.
“How you doin’?” Buffy asked from somewhere in the darkness.
“Never better,” he sighed, relieved to hear her voice. “This should continue on for about ten yards where we should find a service hatch to the spillway that should lead us out of the facility.”
“That’s a lot of ‘shoulds’, Giles.”
“Yes, well this is my first prison break so apologies for the uncertainty in our escape route.”
“I’d trust your guesses over anyone’s certainties any day.” Giles could hear Buffy shuffling her way through the piping. “How’d you figure all this out anyway?”
“Vik’s spell had unintentional side effects.” He knelt down and shifted his body forward, following after Buffy’s voice. “I pieced together spectral imprints caused by feedback from the implementation of his mystical link.”
“Peachy. You can explain that to me in English once we get outta here.”
“It’s a deal.”
They crawled, shimmied and waded their way through the pitch black of the claustrophobic tunnel until Buffy’s hand caught hold of a bent rod beneath her.
“Got it. I think we’re there.”
“Well done,” Giles praised breathlessly.
“Same to you. You hanging in there?”
“Could use some fresh air, actually. Can you manage the hatch?”
“Gimmie a sec, I have to figure out how this thing…” There was a sudden clatter and Buffy fell silent.
“Buffy, what is it? Are you alright?” Giles crawled forward, reaching through the darkness for her.
“Watch out…” She called just as his hand failed to touchdown on a solid surface. The momentum of his pursuit sent him off balance and he fell through the break in the pipe, landing on a damp, cushioning lump. “…For the hatch,” Buffy moaned. Giles suddenly realized his wet, lumpy cushion had been Buffy breaking his fall and hurried to get off her.
“Sorry.” He splashed down besides her, feeling cool waters wash around his arms and legs. There was a dim light casting just enough down the corridor for him to see her smiling beside him.
“Anytime.” She pushed herself up on her feet and outstretched her hand to help him. He accepted her aid, clutching her hand and bracing her arm as he struggled to his feet in the foot high waters.
“Just ahead, there,” he gestured to follow the current. “It must empty this way.”
They waded their way through the corridor, their eyes adjusting to the slowly increasing light coming from a distant opening. Giles’ sight blurred with every step, his body numbing as he labored to keep pace with Buffy.
“Giles?” She called back from a short distance ahead.
“Keep going. I’m right behind you,” He assured her and tried his best to hasten his strides. He tucked his arm in tighter to his stomach, pawing along the wall of the corridor to make his way as best he could. Something caught his attention, a dull note gaining in strength sounding from above. It was soon joined by more until there was a chorus of sirens. His eyes went wide with realization and he charged through the waters, trying to catch up to Buffy.
“Go… go, Buffy, hurry!” He called out as he stumbled his way with the flow. She glanced back, hesitant to follow his instructions until he was closer. He waved frantically for her to continue as he closed the gap between them. A clamor of mechanical clinks echoed through the corridor, snapping Buffy out of her doubt. She continued her escape through the waters and toward the light.
“Almost there,” she yelled back, her voice barely audible over her determined splashing.
Something caught Giles foot, tripping him up. As if by instinct, Buffy stopped and glanced back in time to see him disappear within the waters.
“Giles!” She shouted, stomping through the current towards him. His head bobbed up out of the black as stones and debris rained down from above between them.
“Go!” He ordered, struggling to regain traction. Just as he managed a solid footing, a thick metal gate fell with a deafening screech before him, its burly teeth biting deep into the stone beneath the filthy waters, separating him from Buffy.
“NO!” Buffy screamed, charging up to the barrier.
“They’re locking down, Buffy. You must go,” he urged with gasping breaths.
“I can get this open.” She gripped the gate and gave it a yank.
A disheartening thunder rose from off in the distance, the familiar charge of the Cardinal’s foot soldiers on the hunt.
“They’re coming,” Giles warned, fatigue clear in his voice and stance. “You must go.”
“Just gimmie a second, I can do this.” Buffy tugged and tugged, readjusting her grip with every failed attempt. ‘An inch, gimmie an inch, damnit!’
“Buffy,” he pleaded for her to listen.
“It’s coming loose. I feel it.” Her arms shook with power and for a moment, he nearly believed her. “Just a bit… a bit more.” Her entire body trembled with exertion and yet the hulking obstacle stood firm.
Giles winced with the subtlest note of discomfort, his mind clouding fast with sickness. The storm brewing ever closer sobered him to the reality of the situation. “Buffy, this is our queue to say goodbye.”
“I won’t leave you!” Buffy shook her head, determined to defy all odds to the very end.
“You haven’t a choice. They’re coming. You have to go.”
“Not going to happen.” Her fingers paled with strain, the bars rattling yet disobedient to her demands. “Not leaving you!” Ruby droplets trickled like tears from her hands.
Her determination was madding. Giles reached through the weave of jagged bars to caress her white knuckles ready to split under the stress. “If you stay, they’ll capture us both.”
“Yes you do.”
“No, I don’t!”
“Yes… you do.” Giles’ calm tone and gentle smile warned her this was one battle she couldn’t win. Even so, she stared with wide-eyed uncertainty. “You have to go… to tell the others of this place… to get help.”
“They’ll kill you.”
“They’ll want answers and I’m more than willing to oblige in abundance be it truth or fiction.” He reassured her with a grin. “I’ll buy some time.”
“They’ll torture you.” Her eyes welled with tears that sparkled in the dim light.
“There’s no worse torture than if you remain here to be recaptured. Don’t waste this chance. Not again.” He did his best to forge a brave resolve. “Please Buffy, go.”
The guards poured through the escape hatch, splashing down in a clumsy pile a distance down the corridor.
She reached out and brushed her trembling fingers along his cheek. He nuzzled into her touch, blanketing her hand with his and holding it tightly against him.
“I’m coming back,” she promised. “I’ll get you out.”
“I’ve no doubt.” He squeezed her hand, urging her to believe him. He swallowed down the lump in his throat, his voice breaking under the weight of his words, “I love you.”
“I love you.” She could only manage a whisper but it was enough to stab at Giles’ heart.
The commotion of the impending troops echoed through the cavern, growing ever closer. Giles bit back his sorrow and with apologies creasing his brow, he gently pulled her hand from his face, releasing it as he stepped back to refuse her any chance to return to his comforting touch. He could see Buffy understood the unspoken command. She stiffened, gathering up her strength to do what she must. With one final tearful glance, she turned and escaped at last into the night.
Giles reached out to take hold of the gate, whispering a silent prayer as her form shrank into the mouth of light. He let his head fall forward to rest his brow on the cool mesh of metal. The pain was getting to be too much to ignore. He glanced down to the blossoming stain along his abdomen, more than just a little proud he was able to manage as long as he had. His legs were numbing with shock, bitterly chilled by the cold stream of filth flowing past. He sank carefully into the waters and settled back against the root infested stone wall, awaiting his inevitable fate. Blood spilled feverishly from his wound, mixing with the waters to be carried downstream to freedom. With every beat of his heart, his limbs grew weaker, colder and his mind fell into a dull haze of acceptance. The lingering tingles of magicks seeped from his being to escape with its rightful owner. It wouldn’t be long now, a rather welcoming concept considering the rapture of guards threatening certain death just moments away.
“You’ll never have her,” Giles mumbled with a drunkenly tongue as the guards approached. A contented smile curled his lips, a final statement to his captors that he was finally free of their retched hospitality. His breath grew shallow as his head grew heavy, falling back to rest against the wall but poised to keep an ever watchful eye out. Only the mysterious black could relieve him of his duty. When it came, he welcomed the darkness enveloping him with an odd sense of peace. Buffy was free of this place and he would soon follow. In the end, time would reunite them and that was enough. Giles took in a last deep breath and finally let go.
Buffy ran for hours, traversing the forested terrain with unyielding determination, and never looked back until she reached the nearest peak a mile from the prison. Only then did she chance a glance back at the building that had stolen a chunk of her life, her dignity, her birthright and most importantly, her love. She’d get the gang, gather an army, come back for him and level the place in doing it. She’d buried towns before; she’d do it again for him. Giles would survive. He had to… for her.