Terror In the Country
By Maura Kelly and Gina Martin

Rating: PG14(Violence)
Spoilers: Takes place in the second season-between The Dark Age and Innocence-Jenny is still alive and Angel hasn’t lost his soul yet
Summary: Giles is teaching Buffy how to drive, the car breaks down and they find themselves in the middle of something almost as chilling as the Hellmouth
Disclaimer: The characters are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar Prod. Kuzui Enterprises, 20th Century Fox, WB Televison Network no copyright infringement intended.


Rupert Giles pulled his head out from under the hood of the old, battered, lime-green Cadillac convertible. He looked over to the driver, sitting behind the wheel. "Try it now Buffy"

Buffy Summers switched on the ignition and listened as the car engine groaned in agony, still refusing to start. "No good, Giles"

"I was afraid of this," he remarked, slamming the hood back into place.

Buffy got out of the car and looked at Giles. "What now?

"We walk." Giles looked down the road. They had turned onto this small dirt road sometime earlier in the afternoon and that was where their car had stalled out. "We probably should head back the way we came."

"It's going to be a long hike back to Sunnydale.

The two looked at each other ruefully and started to trudge down the road, not looking forward to the long walk back to civilization, or what passed for civilization, in a small town like Sunnydale. Buffy, once more, glanced contritely back at the green Cad.

Giles looked over at her sympathetically. "Your first car?"

"Yup, and the last ,when my mother finds out."

*****

 

 

The green Cadillac had appeared in Giles's driveway about a week ago. A tow truck had delivered it. Behind the wheel sat a very happy Buffy Summers. Buffy was a Vampire Slayer, the Chosen One who battled the forces of darkness, and Rupert Giles was her Watcher. It was his job to protect, to train and instruct the Slayer. So a few months ago, Buffy had convinced Giles that that instruction included teaching her how to drive. Buffy's Mom had promised her that for her seventeenth birthday -- if all went well -- she could get her license. Giles had been able to put Buffy off for awhile since the only car available to teach her in was his and she had insisted that she wasn't going to learn in his ancient Citrion. But, then the enterprising slayer had appeared one afternoon with this green monstrosity she called a car.

"Where did you get that?"

Buffy had jumped out of the car with enthusiasm as she waved merrily to the man who had delivered it for her as he drove away. "I bought it, isn't it just?"

"Bought it, from whom?"

"Oh, this guy, he gave it to me real cheap."

"I’ll bet he did?"

"What you don't like it." Buffy pouted playfully.

"It isn't that I don't like it exactly." Giles was trying to be diplomatic. "But are you sure it even runs?"

"Yup, even better then yours, so when do the lessons start?"

*****

They had been walking now for about an hour. The sun was still high enough in the sky for Giles to have loosened his tie and thrown his quite heavy tweed jacket over his shoulder. Buffy kept a rapid pace owing to her slayer abilities and Giles was having a little trouble keeping up with her.

The open farmland they had passed earlier seemed to be giving way to a forest. Another hour and they found themselves at a brick wall that seemed to extend a long way down the road.

"I don't remember seeing this wall coming by here earlier." Buffy commented thoughtfully to Giles

"It was here, we just went by it fairly quickly. I'm not surprised you don't remember it considering the speed at which we passed it."

"I wasn't driving that fast," Buffy intoned defensively.

Giles stopped walking and glared incredulously at his slayer. "Buffy!"

Buffy glanced at Giles' well known glare and looked sheepishly down at the ground. "Okay, okay, I'll admit I was driving too fast, just don't glare at me like that. I hate it when you glare."

Giles chuckled softly. "I know."

Buffy looked back up at Giles and smiled. "Very funny."

"Sorry. Look, we need to keep going before we loose the daylight."

"Agreed, but maybe we should ask the folks behind the wall if we could use their phone."

"Good idea we just need to find the entrance."

*****

Nearly an hour went by and they still hadn't come to the end of the stone wall nor found any type of entrance to the place.

"We’ve been walking around this wall way too long, Giles," Buffy intoned tiredly.

"I agree," Giles acknowledged, exhausted himself. "But do you have any better ideas?"

"Yes, I do." Buffy stated and launched herself to the top of the wall. With her slayer abilities it was easily done.

"Buffy!"

"Come on, Giles." Buffy gestured down to her Watcher. "Grab my hand and I'll haul you up."

"I really don't think this is a good idea, Buffy."

"Giles! We tried it your way and didn't find an opening into this place. There seems to be no easy way around it. So I say ,let's try going over it."

Recognizing the logic of his slayer, Giles reluctantly agreed to her idea. He reached up a hand for Buffy's help to scale the wall and found himself looking down into a lush tropical jungle.

"What in the world?"

"Weird huh?" Buffy agreed as she jumped down to the ground below. Giles followed, landing a little harder than the slayer had.

"Which direction?" Buffy asked.

"Your plan, your choice."

Buffy nodded in assent and pointed out a route and the two set off through the trees.

They hadn't been walking very long when Buffy quickly pulled up. Giles, not paying close attention almost plowed in to her she stopped so quickly.

"What?"

"I dunno. My spider sense is tingling.." Buffy looked around the area suspiciously. "Something's not quite right."

Giles also glanced around also, knowing that if Buffy felt there was anything amiss, there probably was. But it was Giles who spotted it first. "Over there, Buffy?"

"Yes, I see it."

"Careful!"

"I know, I know" Buffy responded as she quickly, but carefully, moved forward a few paces. Picking up a good sized rock, she pitched it at a point in front of her and she watched as the leaves and dirt showered down to reveal a huge pit.

Giles joined Buffy at the edge of the open cavity and both looked down at the multi-row sharpened, steel spikes protruding up from the ground.

"Effective way to discourage intruders wouldn't you say?"

"A little too effective. Doesn't make sense."

Giles looked around at the jungle. "Whole place doesn't make sense."

"I agree. For one thing where did this jungle come from?"

Working there way very slowly through the foliage, it wasn't too long before they found another trap, though this one had been sprung already, on some poor soul. A spear had embedded itself in a tree trunk along with some unsuspecting person. It must have happened sometime ago for only a skeleton was left with some shreds of clothing still sticking to the bones.

The spear victim turned out not to be the only body they found. Progressing through the underbrush, they came upon other traps, some with a casualty, and other traps empty, but set to spring. Using caution and the slayer's sense, Giles and Buffy slowly worked their way through the growth, springing traps as they went, still unable to find a way out of the jungle maze. Both quietly wondered what bizarre refuge they had stumbled into.

The sun had almost set as they reached a new section of the jungle. The twosome found themselves in a partial clearing. Buffy and Giles were careful to check for any possible traps. Not finding anything out of the ordinary, they stopped for a breather. Giles noticed Buffy's obvious shivers. What had started out as a warm day had quickly turned cool as the sun began to set. Having worn only her shorts and a light shirt, Buffy began to shiver from the chill. Giles pulled off his jacket and draped it around Buffy's shoulders.

Buffy was grateful for the gesture. "Thanks Giles."

"You're --" Giles saw a movement out of the corner of his eye and shoved Buffy down. "Watch out!"

Buffy heard the sound of a crossbow firing as she found herself sprawled on the ground. Instantly jumping to her feet, she turned in time to see Giles collapse, an arrow embedded in his left shoulder.

"Giles!" Buffy moved immediately to her fallen partner. "Oh my God, Giles!"

Giles was still conscious, but obviously in great pain. Buffy looked at the arrow implanted in his shoulder with apprehension, not sure what to do.

"Buffy," Giles spoke through gritted teeth.

"What can I do?"

"Help me move over against the tree." Giles instructed, noting her anxious look as she very carefully helped him to his feet, trying to assure her that he was the all right. She was being careful not to jog his injured left side and he could tell she felt guilty about not sensing the hidden trap. "We both missed that trap didn't we?"

Buffy smiled tentatively in agreement as they struggled the few feet to the largest tree in the clearing. Giles slowly slid down with Buffy's help and leaned his back against the tree trunk. Making him as comfortable as she could, Buffy kneeled down in front of her Watcher.

"Now what?"

"The arrow, it needs to come out, otherwise it could get infected."

"How"

"You need to break the shaft off first."

Buffy felt ill for a moment knowing what she would have to do would be immensely painful to Giles. "But…"

Giles reached out with his good right hand and grabbed her two hands. "You can do it, Buffy, I know you can."

"Yes, yes I can." Buffy steadied trembling hands and grabbed the arrow carefully. She quickly broke the shaft off, trying, and failing, to ignore the sharp intake of breath that came from Giles.

"I'm sorry." Buffy murmured apologetically.

"Nothing to be sorry for -- Buffy, behind you!"

Automatically, at her Watcher's warning, Buffy quickly reverted to slayer reactions. Instincts in high gear, she didn't need to see her opponents to know they were there.

She quickly spun kicked around and took two of the men out before they could even reach for her. Facing the enemy, she could see there were at least eight men surrounding her. Men -- humans not vampires. Buffy quirked a quick smile. This shouldn't take long, she thought as she easily took out two more of the men with a right cross and left hook. She then sent another of the enemy flying into a nearby tree and watched in satisfaction as he slid down the trunk, unconscious.

Giles meanwhile had cautiously and painfully maneuvered himself up, using the trunk of the tree. Just in case his slayer needed any help he might be able to give her. Seeing one of the first men Buffy had taken out, regaining his feet, Giles skillfully, using his good arm, backhanded the man, sending him sprawling again. Then Giles went back to appreciatively watching as his slayer easily and expertly took out the rest of their assailants.

Buffy quickly looked around to make sure all her opponents were down and out turned back towards Giles.

"Q.E.D."

"Huh?"

"Quite easily done."

"Yeah, well," Buffy looked around sheepishly at the carnage she had created. "Humans are much easier then vampires."

Buffy walked back over to Giles and began to help him back down against the tree. Before she could even move him, another group of men appeared and she quickly got back into battle stance. Unfortunately, this time they were carrying guns pointed at Buffy and Giles. Even Buffy's supernatural abilities were no match against firearms. So the Watcher and Slayer were forced to surrender to the new group of men that stood before them.

*****

Willow answered the phone eagerly figuring it was Buffy calling to tell her how her first driving lesson with Giles had gone. She looked at her watch quickly, realizing it was later then she had expected for them to get back.

"Hello"

"Willow?"

"Oh, hi, Mrs. Summers."

"Is Buffy there?"

"Well…"

"Could I talk to her please, she said she was staying with you tonight and I have a question for her."

Great, Willow thought, Buffy hadn't mentioned that little ploy to her

when she and Giles left.

"Ah, well, Mrs. Summers, she's not here right now."

"Oh, where is she?"

"Well ah…" Willow was trying to come up with a plausible story fast. "She and Xander went to the library to do some research."

"On Friday night?"

Okay so it wasn't the greatest story you've come up with Rosenberg. "Uh, huh, Buffy knows you're concerned about her grades and so we thought we'd get some extra studying done tonight. You know with the school year just starting and all. Actually, I was just on the way out the door to join them. Do you want me to have her call you?"

"No, that's all right it wasn't really anything important. Tell her I'll talk to her tomorrow."

"Okay, Bye."

"Bye"

Willow put down the phone and looked at it a moment in thought. Obviously Buffy and Giles hadn't gotten back yet. Odd, they shouldn't have been gone this long. Willow quickly picked up the phone again and put in a call to Xander.

*****

Buffy helped Giles along as carefully as she could, but they were being pushed fast and furiously by the men with the guns. Several times she demanded explanations for why they were being held captive, by whom, and what their intentions were. None of the inquiries were answered. instead, Giles and she were pushed along a path to who knew where. The group Buffy had taken out earlier in the fight, had been roused none to gently by their friends, and been chastised roundly by the men for their inability to take down a "mere girl".

The cruel gunmen seemed to take pleasure in tripping the Watcher and Slayer up as much as possible. The men tried to goad Buffy in to a fight by continuing to make it harder for Giles as they went along the path. At one point, Giles fell after one of the men deliberately kicked his shin. Buffy started to go after him, angrily goaded beyond endurance, but was stopped by Giles

They had been walking for at least a mile, Buffy surmised, before they abruptly came out of the jungle and found themselves standing front of a huge castle. Odd, thought Buffy, to see a castle in the middle of California. She felt a gentle nudge from Giles and as she looked over to him, he indicated the long driveway which led to the gate and the way out of the mad place they had both found themselves. At the moment it might as well have been in the next state for all the good it would do them now.

The silent moment between the two was quickly broken up as they were again pushed forward to the building in front of them. They were taken around the huge edifice and entered the place through a side door. Part of the group of men disengaged themselves from the party surrounding Buffy and Giles, while the group with them herded them further into the castle and led them down a couple deep flights of stairs.

When they reached their destination Buffy was roughly pushed through a heavy wooden door first. The shove was powerful enough for her to find herself skidding on the ground a few feet away from the door. She hastily picked herself up in time to see Giles follow right behind her. Buffy quickly headed over to where Giles had landed, kneeling down near him.

"Giles?"

Turning him over carefully, Buffy realized that Giles was unconscious, whether from his wound or the rough treatment she didn't know. She look worriedly down at her Watcher, trying to decide the best course of action. Leaving him for a minute she went over to the door to see what her chances were of taking it down and possibly getting them out of there. A quick check the door revealed it to be made of solid iron and that she wouldn't be able to take it out even with her immense strength. Pounding on the door, she yelled out demands, then threats, but to no avail, with a final bash of frustration, she slammed her fist against the door, then looked back to where Giles still lay unmoving.

Going back to him she very carefully moved him near a spot on the opposite wall from the entrance. That way she could be sure to be ready when anyone came through that door. Buffy took off Giles jacket, which she still had on, and covered him. She checked his wound, wondering what to do. Maybe now that he was out of it, she should just pull the arrow out, at least he wouldn't feel the pain. Maybe. On the other hand, it had stopped bleeding for the moment and if she pulled the arrow out and it started bleeding again, she might not be able to stop it.

"Come on, Giles, wake and tell me what to do, huh? I mean you're the expert on the first-aid part of this team."

Deciding not to do anything yet, she made him as comfortable as she could before she slid down tiredly next to him. Surveying her surroundings more carefully this time, she noted the prison resembled what Buffy always thought a dungeon should look like -- the brick walls looming dank and gloomy. She could hear the sound of small feet scurrying in the darkened corners where she couldn't see. She could discern no windows, though electricity supplied the subdued lighting. But, the most startling point was that every one of the walls had manacles hanging from them. And some of them held human skeletons which were still locked in place! Buffy felt a shiver of fear slide down her spine and she sighed, dispirited. Really, she had seen worse in her time as the slayer, but that didn't help her feeling of anxiety. Most of the evil she fought was supernatural, but from what she had seen so far, this evil was man-made. She looked over at her Watcher, willing him to wake. Afraid, not for herself, but for him. She knew the arrow needed to come out. But after that, she hadn't a clue. She doubted their "hosts" would help.

"Buffy?" A weak voice hailed her.

"Giles, you're awake." Buffy moved over into his line of sight. "How're you feeling?"

Giles struggled to move, groaning with the effort.

"Careful." Buffy helped him to a seated position against the wall.

"Where...?" he breathed out quickly.

"Oh, delightful place, looks like a dungeon-type prison to me. Course, I've never seen a dungeon, so I could be wrong."

Giles tried to focus. "I've seen dungeons. Your -- assessment would... appear... correct..." Giles caught sight of the skeletons still in the chains. "Previous tenants?"

Buffy slid back down against the wall, close to Giles. "'Fraid so."

"Charming," Giles intoned dryly, suddenly clenching his teeth as pain shot through his arm. He took a deep breath before continuing. "And our hosts?"

"Dumped us and left." Buffy looked at him with concern. "How's your shoulder?"

He moved his arm tentatively. "Going numb, actually."

"I was going to remove the arrow, but I was afraid it might start the bleeding again." Buffy shrugged helplessly.

Giles tried to smile reassuringly at her, but it turned into a grimace of pain. "No, you did the right thing."

"But infection…?"

"Very real possibility, Buffy, but bleeding to death wouldn't be my choice for the quicker option."

The two sat in silence for a few minutes, both trying to figure a way out of the mess they had found themselves in. Buffy looked over at her Watcher.

"Any ideas, who they might be, because their definitely not demons?"

Giles nodded disgustedly at the skeletons. "Demons in human forms."

"I wonder what they want."

"I'm afraid we'll know soon enough." Giles looked at her with concern and affection. "I think we both should try to get some sleep so we'll be ready for whatever might come."

"Okay," Buffy agreed, as Giles used his good arm and wrapped it around her shoulders pulling her closer and urging her to try and rest.

* * *

Buffy awoke slowly, feeling comfortably warm. This puzzled her. The last thing she remembered night was how cold the dungeon where she and Giles were being held captive had been. It had taken a Buffy a long time to fall into a fitful sleep huddled next to Giles, but now Buffy felt very warm. Opening her eyes slowly, she realized the warmth she was feeling was coming from Giles next to her. His body was generating an abnormal amount of heat. Buffy immediately knew what was happening. Some time during the night, Giles' fever had spiked, most likely from the arrow in his shoulder.

* * *

****

Willow was already in the library when Xander, Jenny Calendar and Cordelia straggled in through the doors.

"So Will, any news?" Xander asked quickly.

"Nothing! As you can see there not here and they were supposed to be back by now."

"Course with that old junker Buffy called a car," Cordelia pointed out. "They probably broke down somewhere."

"Yeah,' Xander agreed, "and had to walk back."

"You could be right," Jenny acknowledged. "So what we have to do is figure out where they went and try to head in that direction and see if we can find them."

"I do know that Buffy thought they might head out to the area south of town." Willow informed the others.

"Willow, let's get a map and look and see which road they may have taken." Jenny suggested to the young computer hacker.

Angel appeared suddenly from behind the stacks. The foursome were so busy studying the map they didn't hear him until he spoke. "I see the slayerettes are present but our main team, seems to be absent from this meeting.

"That's because the Watcher and Slayer have gone missing on us."

"Missing when?" Angel 's nonchalance quickly changed to concern.

"Since this afternoon." Xander told the vampire.

"Buffy persuaded Giles to teach her to drive, they left around two and should have been back by five." Willow explained.

"Do you know which way they went?"

"We think so, Willow thought they were going to head out the south road." Cordelia piped in as she lounged against one of the tables.

"Towards Denton?"

"Yup"

"Oh, that's not good," Angel intoned quietly.

"Obviously you know something we don't, Angel, would you care to enlighten us. "Jenny suggested.

"Come on dead boy, what's the story? Xander prodded.

"I've heard some strange tales lately about people vanishing around that area. A number of mysterious disappearances."

"Oh, joy, sounds like Sunnydale." Xander commented

"What is it with Buffy and Giles, huh?" Cordelia commented peevishly. "Trouble just follows them around."

"Slayer karma?" Xander suggested.

"Well whatever it is we need to get out there and find them." Jenny pointed out to the group. She then turned to Angel. "What do you know?"

"I've heard rumors, rumblings of a place out there where people have gone in and they haven't come out."

"Do you know where exactly?" Willow asked the vampire.

"Only vaguely. I can try and take you there."

*****

They found Buffy's car where it had been left. Everyone scrambled out of Jenny's car, even Angel had come with them this far, since it was still night.

"Well, what a surprise, the junker died." Cordelia pointed out sarcastically.

Angel checked the engine. "Engine's cold."

Jenny slammed the driver’s door shut after peering inside. "Nothing"

Willow straightened up from looking through the back window. "Same here."

*****

The door to their prison opened, waking Buffy instantly. Before she could stand, a woman swept in.

"I'm Augusta Ranier, perhaps you have heard of me?"

Buffy looked over to Giles inquiringly, at his slight shrug Buffy answered back. "No can't say we have."

Obviously her answer was not to their "hostess" liking, but she continued her statement anyway. "I am known as one of the foremost hunters of the day."

"Hunters?" Buffy asked confused. "As in hunting little defenseless animals?"

"Animal hunting is so passť, I've gone into bigger prey now."

Buffy glanced over at Giles, a shiver of apprehension running down her spine. She knew that her Watcher had understood as she had , the meaning of what Ranier had just said. The many traps and the bodies they had seen giving testimony to the fact that Ranier had turned to humans for her quarry. turning back to their captor, Buffy studied the tall, thin woman with short-cropped white-blond hair. Almost military in bearing and tone, the woman commanded attention, if not respect. the gunman flanking her never uttered a word, but held their automatic weapons ready to defend their whipcord mistress.

"We got your meaning," Buffy assured the hunter.

"Good, I do so love working with intelligent people. Because really, when I first saw the two of you enter my domain, I assumed you would be easy prey for my traps. What a surprise to find there wasn't any you were caught by. As a matter of fact, you seemed take great pleasure at springing my traps before they caught you. And then you, young lady, took on eight of my men as if they were dolls.

"Could you get to the point?" Giles said testily. "Since we already know what you have planned for us."

"My aren't we in a hurry." Ranier commented nastily.

"Giles is right, it's bad enough we have to be here, but to have listen to you go on is getting dreary."

"Too bad. I thought you were above average. But like most of the other rabble recently, you aren't into scintillating conversation. Very well. Then we will begin the games anyway. I am a hunter. You are now my prey, my girl."

"Not a chance, lady."

Ranier snarled. "Do I have to use persuasions? They are such a waste of time, because you'll come around in the end anyway."

Buffy, looking to Giles for direction, seeing her resolve reflected in the stubborn thrust of his chin and the hard glare in his eyes. Adamantly, she refused to go along with Ranier's game.

Angry, Ranier grabbed one of the rifles from her guard and pointed it at Buffy. "Then I could kill you."

"Don't think so," Buffy countered confidently. "then you wouldn't have any one to play with. at least alive, we can argue, maybe try some Chinese checkers or something. But dead, we'll be just like these stiffs you've got hanging around now."

The woman stepped closer, putting the rifle to her shoulder and taking only a split-second to aim, she fired. The bullet ricocheted off the stone wall inches above Giles' shoulder. The watcher twisted away, awkwardly landing on his injured shoulder with a cry of pain.

Angry now, Buffy helped Giles to settle more comfortably, then stood between him and his attacker.

"You really don't want to make me angry."

Ranier laughed. "But I do. Then you'll play my games."

"No," Giles gasped. "Don't, Buffy. She'll kill you." he lowered his voice. "even with your abilities, you can't survive this trap. Promise you won't do it, Buffy."

Ranier motioned her men forward. Six bulky, muscled men crowded around her. She took down three before she realized two had maneuvered behind her and captured Giles. One held a pistol to Giles' head.

"He's no good to me anyway. Maybe I should just have him killed."

"No!" Buffy yelled.

Ranier smiled. "No, you’re right that would be a waste of bartering material, wouldn't it?" "Bring him along," Ranier ordered. The men dragged Giles out the door, while the other four guards retreated, rifles carefully trained on Buffy.

"Remember your promise," Giles croaked. "Don’t play --"

The door slammed shut. Buffy ran to the steel door, pounding her fists on the metal, screaming threats to Ranier. Trembling with rage, anger and anguish for Giles, Buffy slid to the floor, muttering her Watcher's name

*****

Buffy stopped pacing when she heard footsteps outside the dungeon. Even her enhanced hearing could not pick up much beyond the stone prison, still, she could hear visitors approach before the lock on the door unlatched. crouched in a fighting stance, she was prepared to attack when the door opened.

The heavy door eased open and no one entered.

"My guards are armed, Buffy. Come out to the corridor and see for yourself."

"What if I refuse?" she wondered defiantly.

"Then you won't know what happened to your friend."

Irritated, she nonetheless stepped out and observed the armed guards. With their rifles, three gunmen pointed to the right. Obligingly she followed the corridor down several doors. To the right the metal door to a room stood open. Warily she stepped into a corner dungeon, the stone wall curved. Once beyond the edge of the door she saw a dark shadow. Jumping back, examining the shadow, she gasped.

Hands manacled and chained to a pulley, Giles hung from the ceiling. blood soaked his shirt on the left side. Part of the arrow protruded from the front of his shoulder. Gulping down the illness creeping up her throat, she realized Giles had been tortured, the arrow partially removed from his shoulder, in some agonizing manner. Now she could hear his raspy breathing, and his face was flushed.

"Giles?" whispering his name several times to no response, she cleared her throat and called in a louder, firmer voice. "Giles!" as she slowly approached.

Tentatively, she touched his chest, even through the shirt he was hot with fever. Warily, she checked for booby-traps, finally confidant, she tried to reach up his arms to check the manacles, but she was not tall enough to touch them.

"Now, Buffy, are you ready to play the game?"

The voice came from an open window at least ten feet high and on the inner wall of the dungeon. Buffy couldn't see the crazy Ranier, but knew she was there.

"Let him go!" she demanded angrily. "You don't need him!"

"I crave sport, Buffy. You and your friend have provided unusual distractions, so far. Not as good as the hunt, of course, but still, pleasantly distracting."

Buffy kept a hand on Giles' chest. Perhaps it was better he was unconscious, but without his guidance, she was left to keep her original promise to him. In a way, she'd like nothing better than to be out in the manufactured jungle with this crazy woman. It would get her sights off Giles and Buffy could deal with her one on one. She wanted to beat that woman’s face to a pulp but her promise gnawed at her.

"You're a very mismatched pair. I’d delve into the complexities of the strange relationship, but there just isn't time."

"Don't worry, you wouldn't get it," Buffy countered. "but if you come out here we can talk it over face to face. You talk big, but hide behind guns and thugs and stone walls--the word coward mean anything to you?" she taunted.

Ranier laughed. "And you're outmatched, Buffy."

Buffy heard the click of a crossbow, and a split-second later saw a barbed metal dart strike Giles in the back. The Watcher uttered a subdued groan. Another click, this time Buffy caught the dart flying from the upper window. In successive seconds she caught three more, but two others hit Giles, bringing him to painful consciousness. The metal shafts were no more than three inches, but fired from the crossbow they hurt with each blow. Because of the barbs, Buffy could not extract them without inflicting more pain and bleeding.

"Leave him alone!"

Ranier clucked, " I’m impressed Buffy, where did you learn to catch flying missles like that, hmm? But my aim is very poor in this lighting. I need a better target."

The pulley lifted, taking Giles higher. Then the line slackened and Giles dropped, snapped tight a few inches lower. The Watcher gasped from the agony, moaning as the pulley again jerked higher.

"You better make your decision soon." Ranier threatened. "because I don't think your friend can hold out much longer. do you?"

Buffy looked at her Watcher hanging from the pulley.

"Oh, did I mention the darts are coated with a slow-acting poison?" Ranier commented casually.

Buffy checked Giles' most recent wounds. The skin around the darts was puffy and discolored. Not knowing what else to do, she tore out one of the shafts, the barbs ripping the skin. She stopped immediately. The bleeding would only make the poison spread faster.

"So will your friend die of pain, or from the poison?"

Ignoring the woman, Buffy tore off a piece of his shirt and rubbed at his wounds. She had no clue what to do -- this was Giles department! Anything seemed better than nothing.

"I’ll make you a deal," Buffy offered finally.

"What can you offer me?"

"A game like you've never played before. But you've got to make it worth my while. You let Giles go."

"Not a chance, girl."

She looked up at the woman. Determination set in her features. "He gets the antidote, you tend his wounds and then we play. When I win, we both go free." She paused. "It’s this way or not at all. If he dies, I don’t play and then you die."

Again, Ranier's brittle, mirthless laugh. "You really are such an entertaining pair. I should like to keep you around forever. Yes, I agree."

"Get him help now!" She spat out the last word.

The rope tightened, raising Giles, then dropped him once more.

"Let him go!" Buffy demanded.

"I will when I'm good and ready, missy! I’m the one how gives the orders here!" To emphasize her point, she signaled her henchman and the pulley yanked and dropped Giles one more time.

"Giles!" Buffy grabbed around his waist to hold him steady, but a rain of metal shafts flew around them, distracting her. Missing some, several sliced her arms, a few others hit Giles.

Fed up with the one-sided battle, Buffy backed to the far side of the room, flipped and jumped, hitting the inner wall with her feet. The maneuver propelled her up, high enough to grab the rope and yank it free, bringing a guard out the window and onto the dungeon floor. At the same time she grabbed hold of the window ledge with her free hand. With a cry of pain, it also collapsed Giles to the ground.

Buffy released the rope and grabbed the ledge with both hands. As she was swinging her leg up, a rifle butt slammed into her head and she fell back to the dungeon floor.

*****

Buffy woke slowly her head throbbing mercilessly and not helped at all by the sound of water dripping somewhere near her. She wished the dripping would cease for it was making her very thirsty. Her mouth felt dry like she hadn't had any water in a long time. And her head continued to throb painfully. Slowly, she opened her eyes and the last days events came rushing back to her immediately. The last thing she remembered was…Giles!

Buffy opened her eyes fully and tried to move and found her self manacled to the curved dungeon wall. Looking up, she saw Giles hanging again from the pulley. She was shocked to realize the dripping she had heard had been blood from her Watcher. She spied the arrow that had pierced Giles shoulder on the ground, Ranier had been using the arrow as one of the ways she had tortured Giles. Buffy wondered sickeningly, how long the torture had gone on even after she had been knocked out.

"Giles…Giles?' Buffy called frantically as she forgot the painful throbbing in her own head and concentrated on breaking the manacles that held her to the wall. She continued to call out to Giles as she used all her slayer strength to break free. Finally succeeding at her task, she quickly covered the short distance from where she had been manacled to where Giles was hanging.

Buffy slowly untied the rope holding the hook that Giles had been hoisted on. She very carefully pulled his manacled hands off the hook and gently laid him on the floor. She quickly checked for a pulse and finding one she sighed in relief.

"Thank god, you're still a alive."

Being careful as she laid him down, she checked to see how bad his injuries were. His pulse was very weak and thready and his breathing seemed to be shallow. The arrow wound now bled freely and too a lesser degree his other wounds that had been added by Ranier and her darts. The rips in his skin were small, patched with dried blood, but did not seem to be puffy or discolored anymore. Maybe Ranier lied about the poison -- big surprise. Buff’s own injuries from the darts were just scratches now. So

Ranier was lying.

Giles' wrists were a mess, too, but the shoulder wound was paramount. Buffy, using Giles' jacket, tried to apply pressure to slow the blood loss.

Buffy felt tears come to her eyes as she looked at her Watcher. "Giles, why did they keep hurting you? I agreed to what they wanted?" Holding him close, she let the tears fall. After a moment she felt him shift, turning to face her with bleary eyes.

"Giles! Sorry. Didn't mean to wake you."

"S’okay," he whispered hoarsely ,he tried to move, wincing with the effort. "It…" He stopped to catch his breath. "It’s part…game…more entertaining than…the…the…hunt." He closed his eyes, gritting his teeth.

Buffy sat back on her heels. "Cause we protect each other?"

"Loyalty and…" he coughed, then continued. "and concern…she doesn’t understand."

"Can I do anything for you?"

" Thirsty." he managed.

Buffy scanned the dungeon, spying a bucket in the corner. She carefully left Giles’ side to retrieve it. "They don’t want you or me dead--yet." She helped him as he slowly sipped the welcoming liquid.

"Leverage…" Giles agreed weakly.

"Yup, they won't get me to do anything, if anything happens to you." Buffy agreed as she took a swig of the water after Giles had drunk his fill.

Giles closed his eyes for a second then opened them and reached for Buffy’s hand. "Ignore what I told you before." He squeezed her hand for emphasis. "When Ranier orders to join the hunt, I want you to do it. I have complete faith in your abilities. You can find your way clear of the traps and escape."

"I'm not leaving you , Giles" She cried.

"Buffy you must… get out of here." Giles tried to sit up but needed Buffy’s help.

"Not without you. We go together," she insisted stubbornly.

"I can’t get far. He breathed heavily. "This is your best chance. You get out…and go for help."

"No, don't you remember we're a team, a partnership, and I'm not leaving my partner behind!"

Closing his eyes, he shook his head. "Buffy, you must. I insist." Opening his eyes, he offered his most intense Watcher-glare of purpose. "Remember…your first duty as a Slayer…"

"No. And I don't care what you think, Giles, I'm not going. I'll play her little game, and take all of these creeps out, and get us both out of here!"

Giles smiled at the bravado. "You just might be able to do it , Buffy." a bit sadly, he reminded, "But your first duty is to survive. Even if that means leaving me…"

"No! I won't do --"

"Buffy," he pleaded, sitting up to better confront her. The movement sent waves of agony through his injured body and he cried out in pain, folding over into her arms.

"Giles, don't do that anymore… please." She begged, holding him as tightly as she dared. "I need you in one piece."

"Then you must,… it's the only chance either of us has. You know that."

Buffy hung her head in acquiescence "You could be dead before I could get back,". she whispered fiercely.

" I… I promise to hold on… until your return."

"Only if you promise you won't die," She admitted, tears slowly coursing down her cheeks. already she had lost the battle of wills with her Watcher and it hurt more than any fight she could ever remember.

"I can't promise anything, Buffy." Giles reached a hand up and brushed her face dry with shaky fingers. "You mustn’t worry, now. Chin up… you'll get through this, whatever happens, Buffy. I believe you can get through anything, no matter how horrible."

She shook her head, refuting the faith. He held her chin in a weak grip. "You are going to be the first slayer to die of old age, Buffy."

Despite the dire circumstances and bad joke, she laughed.

"You will," he assured seriously. More water helped his strength return a little. " I have a theory bout how we were brought together?"

Giles’ eyes looked off into the distance, slowly returning to his Slayer. "I think the old dinosaurs of the Watcher council were surprised when Merrick found you. A California girl cheerleader as a slayer!" He laughed, cringing at the agony knifing from his wounds. settling down against Buffy’s arm, he caught his breath. She stroked his hair and face with cool water.

"I bet they didn't think you'd last a month without a Watcher. You know, Merrick was on his own. He was never assigned as your Watcher."

"I didn't know," she admitted. "Were you the one assigned the Watcher when they found me?"

"I don't know for sure, but I think only after they discovered you, they assigned me. The rebel Watcher and the valley-girl slayer. They probably expected both of us to be killed before Christmas that first year. They never liked me much, but my grandmother was the president of the watcher council. By birthright, any progeny became a Watcher."

"Lucky you," was Buffy’s sarcastic response. "Destiny sucks sometimes."

He patted her face with a gentle touch. "Not always. It brought me here."

"To die."

"To you." Sincerity ringing in his voice, affection brimming his eyes, he revealed, "I -- uh -- never understood duty or destiny, or courage until I met you, Buffy. I never had any meaning until now. If I die today, knowing you, helping you in some small way, will have given me all the purpose I needed in life."

Shaking her head, she hugged him close. "I won't let you die. I promise. Now you have to promise to stay alive until I come back for you." On his silence, she urged, "Promise, Giles, or I won't go anywhere without you."

Voice muffled in her shoulder, he replied, "I promise, Buffy."

*****

The metal door opened. Ranier and her armed thugs entered, rifled pointed at them. Buffy reluctantly got up from the dungeon floor. The guard she had silently named "Poker Face" gestured for her to move away from Giles as the leader of this insane asylum walked in with a number of her other men.

"So young lady, have you made your decision?'

"It seems I don't have much choice in the matter. Does it?"

*****

Buffy was escorted outside the mansion. She knew she had a five minute head start and decided to put it to good use. Spying the gate that led out to the main road she looked longingly in that direction for a second. But knew that she would condemn Giles to a quick death if she disobeyed the "rules of this game". Not that she trusted Ranier to follow her own rules, but she still couldn't take the chance. No she would have to work her way through the jungle and past the traps, the hunter and her men.

Using her slayer abilities she took off at a run across the lawn and quickly entered the edge of the jungle. Moving more cautiously she reached out experimentally with her slayers senses, as Giles had taught her and tried to envision in her mind where the first traps might be. She knew she needed to move fast and get beyond the reach of Rainier because Giles didn't have much time and she needed to get herself back to him as soon as she could. She planned to make quick work of the hunter and her men and niceties wasn't an option, there was too much at stake for her to worry about hurting the humans now.

The first trap she hit was another pit and she easily avoided it. She continued on deeper into the jungle. She slowed a bit to listen carefully because something had begun to niggle at her instincts. Now she sensed it, another arrow trap.

*****

Buffy was jubilant it had taken her almost three hours but she had made it to the outside wall. Jumping easily to the top she looked down wondering which area of the estate she had ended up in. She decided her best chance to get back to the house and Giles, was to stay on the wall and follow the perimeter around until she had worked herself back around to the castle area she needed. She would just have to be careful and on the look out for whoever might still be left of Rainier's men. She knew she needed to work fast and get back to her Watcher or it would be too late.

*****

Using the map and Angel's vague directions the foursome found themselves, near the road Angel had marked as near the place they were looking for. It was now early afternoon.. Without hearing any warning of approach, they saw Buffy emerge from a thicket of trees.

"Buffy!" Xander cried, pulling her into a enthusiastic hug.

"Are we glad to see you!" Willow took her turn.

"What happened to you?" Cordelia stated. "You’re a mess."

"Thanks Cordy." Buffy replied. "I had no idea."

Jenny put a friendly hand on Buffy’s shoulder. "Giles?"

He’s in trouble." She began, bringing them up to speed. "Cordy, Will, we need the police and paramedics. I’ve gotta get back to him." She turned to go knowing Ms. Calendar and Xander would join her without question.

*****

Angel had worked his way underground through the area of the sewers near where he hoped the castle was situated. It had taken him much longer then he had anticipated. Finding himself in front of a door he tried to open it. Ignoring the fact it was locked he used his vampire strength and cracked it open. Taking it off it's hinges, he found himself underground in an area of the castle he recognized as the dungeons.

Whoever had constructed this thing had definitely built the place as a total replica of an ancient castle. Even the smell of the place had the redolent odor he associated with the castles he had been in many centuries before. Stopping momentarily he listened with his vampiric senses, carefully he discerned the sound of two heartbeats somewhere in the vicinity of the dungeons. One was quite strong while the other heartbeat seemed very weak to his ears. Hurrying quickly he followed the heartbeats hoping that he might be lucky enough to find Buffy and Giles sooner then later.

Passing a number of the doors, he found himself near where the heartbeats were located. As he drew nearer his olfactory sense also smelled the stench of blood. For a moment the smell was so overwhelming it brought to the vampire a hunger that was almost overpowering. He had to stop his movements for a moment so he could get his demon once more under control.

Hearing a voice, he quickly peered around the open door. He only saw two figures and one of them seemed to be suspended from the ceiling. Angel quickly realized that it was Giles. The Watcher seemed to be in very bad shape and the vampire realized that the weak heartbeat he had heard was coming from him. The Man standing in front of him held a weapon and looked to be ready to shoot the Watcher. Angel quickly and quietly worked his way around the door. He needed to sneak around the edge of the room until he could jump the man holding the weapon on Giles. A bullet wouldn't kill him but it could keep Angel incapacitated long enough for the Man to kill Giles before Angel could prevent that. He was pleasantly surprised when he heard Giles in a very weak voice make a comment to the Man.

" Buffy… got away.’ Giles sighed with relief. "Good."

"Good for her maybe, but bad for you."

Giles actually smiled which seemed to surprise the Man. "She’s safe-- nothing else matters."

The man holding the gun seemed really perplexed by this comment "Don't you get that you're going to die?"

"No, you're going to die!'

At Angel's voice, the guard spun around an instant before the vampire snapped his neck. He was dead before his body hit the floor.

"Giles, I'll have you down in a minute."

"Buffy…?" Giles asked feebly.

"Haven't found her, yet."

"It's a hunt. Save Buffy," he whispered as Angel carefully lowered him to the ground and inspected his shoulder wound.

"Can't you stop being a Watcher for a minute? I think you need to worry about yourself. Willow and Xander are --"

"Must find Buffy." Giles tried to stand but collapsed immediately.

Feeling Giles' forehead, Angel knew the fever and pain combined in delirium. Still, he couldn't argue with the Watcher's single-minded purpose -- helping Buffy. Being this close to the blood drenched Watcher, Angel nearly choked on the instinctive urge to drink what was left of the human's blood. Muttering threats if Angel didn't help, the vampiric urges subsided. Angel held onto Giles, helping him walk as they left the dungeon.

*****

Buffy dashed ahead of the others and worked her way down to the dungeon level of the house. She found the entrance to the dungeons, quickly kicked in the door, and continued further into the lower level. She reached the bottom of the steps and moving faster she found herself in the area where she and Giles had been held. Running into the open doorway she called his name anxiously, then stopped in confusion and fear.

For Giles was no longer there. The only evidence of his being there was his blood-soaked jacket which was still on the ground. Coming closer, she found the guard who had been left quite dead on the ground. This confused and frightened her. What had happened to Giles?

Buffy again left the others trailing behind as she swiftly checked through the house for Ranier who she knew had to still be there. After checking four different rooms, Buffy found a locked set of doors and knew instinctively she had tracked down her quarry. Not even bothering to try the doors she kicked them open quickly and found herself in the what looked to be Ranier's study.

The room was spacious and Buffy found her "prey" at the other end of the room. Ranier raised the crossbow she held in her hand and aimed it directly at Buffy. Letting loose an arrow it flew rapidly toward the Slayer who promptly caught it in her left hand. Twirling it in her hand menacingly, Buffy slowly advanced on the Hunter. Ranier tried another arrow and Buffy easily caught that one too. Coming directly up to Ranier, Buffy grabbed the crossbow and broke it in half. Throwing the remnants down with the arrows ,Buffy grabbed the Hunter around the neck, and started to choke her. "Where is he?"

Jenny and Xander rushed in at that moment and saw Buffy throttling the life out of Ranier.

They hurriedly crossed the room and tried to pull the enraged slayer off the woman she was choking, but the slayer's strength was too strong and they were hard put to even budge the furious girl.

"Buffy! Let her go."

"You're killing her!"

"Buffy." the whispered plea caught her attention over the yells and shouts.

Dropping Ranier, Buffy spun toward the door, overjoyed to see Angel supporting Giles. Her delight was short lived as she rushed to his side. His weakness and pallor frightening her more than facing any demon.

Angel gently shook his head. Buffy refused to believe his dire prediction. Instead, she focused on her Watcher, taking his weight from Angel.

"Help is coming," she promised. Giles, hold on."

His eyes could barely focus on her and his voice was rasping. "Kept my promise, Buffy. Now you must promise -- take care --" With a final gasp he collapsed, a dead weight in her arms.

"Giles!' laying him on the floor she already knew his heart was no longer beating.

"He's dead," Angel pronounced, also attuned to the still heart.

Ignoring the gasps and cries from the others, Buffy immediately called Xander over. "Help me." Buffy started CPR. Breathing into Giles' mouth, gesturing for Xander to administer the compressions to the chest. Forcing her strength and will into every living breath of air, Buffy silently pleaded for her Watcher to come back to her.

Finally, with a shudder and cough, Giles breathed. Buffy could hear Jenny’s cry of hope behind her and then someone pushed Buffy aside. About to fight back, she realized it was a medical tech. Cordy and Willow had arrived with the police and paramedics. With quick efficiency the medics had Giles on a stretcher and out of the room, leaving Buffy to answer the questions for the inquisitive officers.

*****

Buffy sat quietly and contentedly at Giles bedside, just watching him sleep. She had been there since school had let out a few hours ago. The others had peaked into the ICU to check in on their friend, but knowing the rules about only one visitor, left Buffy at his side , promising to be just outside should either need them.

Stirring, Giles opened his eyes, slowly focusing on Buffy. A gentle smile twitched at his mouth. "The first sunrise in the morning and the last sunset at night."

"Poetry. Only you, Giles," she smiled. "How’re you feeling?"

"Alive, thanks to you." He reached out his hand and she grasped it gently, afraid to hurt him.

"You're welcome. Sorry I couldn't be here earlier, but I'm trying to reform and not cut school so much."

"I expect your mother would have grounded you." he replied

"Ooohhh, very much the truth." She rolled her eyes."

"Oh" Giles looked at her questioningly "Did you sneak out?"

Buffy smiled sweetly at him "Actually no, my mother for once, knows what I have been up too. I mean, I was out where I wasn't supposed to be, yes, but since we were fighting humans not demons…"

"And…?"

"Well, she said that since you were instrumental in saving me from those nasty people, that I couldn't not visit you at the hospital, since you saved my life."

He grinned. "I think it was the other way around Buffy. If you hadn't gotten out and brought help for me when you did --"

"Yeah, but the arrow wouldn’t have been in you if you hadn't heroically pushed me out of the way," Buffy reminded.

"Yes, true, but I wouldn't even be here if you hadn't gotten out and brought help and come back for me when you did." He countered.

At the absurdity of their conversation both broke into a fit of laughter, stopped only by Giles' moaning.

Buffy winced at his pain, then frowned. "What do you think caused Ranier to turn like she did?"

"I wondered about that myself." shaking his head, he admitted, "but not very hard."

"Do you think it had any thing to do with the Hellmouth?"

"Possibly it influenced her more then she would have been if she hadn't been in it's proximity. But I don't think you can just blame the Hellmouth for this, Buffy."

"What do you mean?

"Well… Giles seemed to think about it for a bit. "Evil comes in all forms, not just demons, but human form as well."

"Just like good" she added.

"You mean Slayers?"

"And Watchers," she finished with a wink.

END