Act One


Buffy slid into the driver's side of the SUV. The car still smelled of Giles' cologne. She clamped her lips into a straight line, working even harder to hold them there when her eyes lighted on the leather jacket thrown on the passenger's seat. She picked it up with a shaking hand and stared at it bleakly for a long moment. Then she hugged it possessively to herself before burying her face in it and letting the frustration out.

She'd searched all over Whispering Pines; every lane, every deserted building, the railhead, anywhere it looked like some badness, demon or human, might be holding Giles. She knew in her gut that he wasn't just lying somewhere with a twisted ankle. She could feel it all the way through her Slayer senses to the pit of her stomach. Not to mention if he was, she'd have found him by now. Heedless of the strange looks she got from passers-by, she'd flown all over the small town at breakneck Slayer speed, starting with the hospital and culminating in a street-by-street search. It was still too early for most vamps to be out, and the Moss Nymph she'd caught at the railhead had quailed and shrugged and chittered away with no sign of understanding a word she'd said.

With a jagged sigh, she finally looked up. It was starting to get really dark. She frowned. Giles' cell phone lay on the passenger seat, the battery dead. She swallowed more tears, her mind wandering, exploring the possibility that Giles might have been taken... again. She paled.

'Last time Giles was taken...'

She didn't want to remember. Last time she'd taken so long to get to him that he could easily have been killed, and from the hints Xander not-so-subtly dropped, Angelus had really done a job on him while he was waiting for her to finally get around to rescuing him. As she turned, her expression hardened, though her eyes were glistening with unshed tears. She froze when her cell phone began to ring.


The voice squeaked with excitement. "Buffy... I did the spell. He's at 122 Brent Street... and I think he's locked in a small room."

She scrambled out of the car and took off at a dead run. She was there within minutes.

It was a large, unassuming family house. The security lights were on, there were no cars in the driveway, the grass was cut and it had a nice garden. Buffy climbed the side gate without hesitation. A bicycle and a soccer ball were lying on the lawn, and there was a vegetable patch along one fence. She dialled Willow as she cautiously prowled the back yard.

"Okay, I'm here. Do I need to break in?"

"I-I don't think so. Near as I can tell he's about oh, maybe thirty feet from the house."

Buffy looked ahead. The only thing in front of her, apart from trees, in the painfully normal suburban backyard, was what looked like a child's playhouse. She crept up to it. The only sign of life was a light flickering inside. It wasn't locked, so she crashed dramatically through the small door.

When the barking and the shrieking subsided, a horizontal Buffy grabbed hold of the huge head dragging its equally huge tongue across her face and turned to the little girl, who was staring, wide-eyed, at her from her sleeping bag, flashlight clutched in her small fingers.

"Sorry," she said, elbowing the huge St Bernard yet again, but not making an ounce of difference to its position as it pinned her to the floor and casually slathered her neck with drool. "I was looking for a man. Have you seen a nice man... a big man with glasses?"

The child shook her head.

Buffy finally used Slayer strength to heave the dog's massive weight off and got to her feet, though stooped. "My friend told me that he was here, and she's always right," she explained, crossing her fingers for the fib. "Are you sure you haven't seen anyone, maybe visiting mommy and Daddy? His name is Giles..."

The dog woofed at astonishing volume, and Buffy stared as the little girl pointed the flashlight straight at the huge, panting pooch.

Giles watched Drusilla re-apply her make-up in the wall-mounted mirror as though she could actually see her absent reflection. He was still trembling from the 'fun' she'd had directing her demon lap dogs to remind him of the 'lovely' time he had playing with 'Daddy'.

After two fingers had snapped with almost no sound from him, she'd grown bored, thankfully. The woman was still absolutely barking, however. Utterly loony, in fact, and therefore with no clue that most of the pleasure to be gained from torture... at least by those of a truly sadistic nature... came from actually administering it rather than simply being a spectator.

As he clenched his teeth against the sickening pain of the fresh breaks, he gave silent thanks that she'd gleefully chosen his right hand to wreak the most damage on, unaware of course, that it meant his more useful left one remained intact... for now. He didn't know how long the lull would last. One henchman had been dispatched to find some poor, unsuspecting soul to provide Drusilla with a late snack, and the other was snoring softly, curled up on the bed like a huge mastiff.

From his own position, tied roughly and painfully by one of the demons to a cheap, uncomfortable plastic chair, he conceded that the situation was currently about as good as he could hope for.

"What do you think?" she asked when she finally turned.

He lifted his head and fixed her gaze with his own, but didn't speak. She didn't look any different to him.

"You don't like it?" She pouted. "But I made myself beautiful just for you. Spike loved it when we played dress-up. He used to bring me such pretty dresses... he was so sweet, my Spike." She dragged a finger through the powder coating on her cheek and held it out to Giles. "Now he's just... dust... All gone... just like Grandmummy." Her cheeks suffused with colour. "And she did it! It's her fault. She took lovely Angelus and she took Spike. It was her fault when Daddy killed Darla. It's all her fault. Everything that's happened... she made it happen... all of it!"

Giles sighed. "Buffy didn't ask Angel to care for her, or to stake Darla, any more than she asked Spike to become obsessed with her," he said in a strained voice. "They were both stalking her long before she ever looked their way."

She smiled bitterly. "It was always her. I could smell her in his voice. I could hear her in his skin. He was never going to kill her... he thought he was, but he wasn't. He thought he loved me... but when he saw her..."

She moved close enough for him to smell the cheap perfume she'd put behind her ears, the same one she was wearing when...

"And you, Watcher. You still love her."

Giles closed his eyes, Jenny's image floating in his mind's eye. "I will always care for her," he whispered.

"Ah," she smiled, wagging a finger as though he'd given a wrong answer to a test. "But the past fades, and tomorrow remembers yesterday. She doesn't have a clue, you know. It's like blind man's buff..." She clapped her hands with glee. "Blind man's Buffy. How clever of me!" Her glee swiftly became another pout. "Spike would tell me how clever I am."

"Brilliant," Giles obliged, preferring to keep her preoccupied. "Bloody brilliant." He just wished he knew what it all meant. Somewhere in there lay the kernels of the visions penetrating the veil of that truly insane mind... but how to separate the grain from the chaff? 'Lord, he needed to go to the bathroom... right after the painkillers and the very large Scotch...'

He sighed. Based on previous experience he was going to be there for quite some time before Buffy got around to finding him... if indeed they even realised he was missing, meaning none of the above was likely to happen any time soon.

Drusilla bubbled again at the 'brilliant' comment and came over to drape her arms around his neck.

"You smell nice," she observed, nuzzling his throat. "Like last time. When you were such fun." She pulled back to touch his lips. "Are they still like velvet... all yummy and hungry?"

He made a distressed noise and pulled back, revolted, not wanting to be reminded any further of what had happened the last time he was in her thrall.

"I'm not that man any more," he growled, painfully aware that 'that man' was hiding deep down inside him right now, trembling with unwelcome déjà vu.

"That's all right," she told him, stroking his hair around the top of his right ear. "I like this one just fine." She put a hand on his head, and after a beat gasped loudly, before struggling to catch her breath. She let go, moisture glittering in her eyes, but only for a moment. Then the predatory smile was back and she took his face in both her hands, not allowing him to look away.

"Be in me..." She commanded.

"The dog's name was 'Giles', Willow. Your spell went kablooey," Buffy pointed out once again, with increasingly less patience.

Willow's bleak face folded into a scowl of consternation. "But... but... I told you: I did everything perfectly... I swear. And the ingredients came from the Coven. Everything was perfect."

"Then what happened?" Buffy demanded harshly. "We have to find him. We don't have time to chase dogs all over Whispering Pines."

"W-we'll find him, Buffy," Xander interceded. "If Will says she didn't make a mistake, maybe she didn't. Maybe something else made it go wrong. It's not like it hasn't happened before..."

Willow winced, even though she knew Xander was only trying to help. Most of her previous kablooies were indeed her own fault, but not this one. She knew it. She just didn't know what could have caused it to go wrong.

"I'm gonna do it again. It can't go wrong twice. It's an easy spell, and I still have plenty of ingredients left. I want to find Giles too."

"Can't you go any faster?"

"We'll find him," Xander said gently, glancing over to see her biting her bottom lip. Buffy quietly linked her fingers through the reassuring hand he offered, but continued to stare resolutely ahead.

After a short but charged silence, she finally spoke.

"Like I found him last time...?"

When they reached the building Willow's spell had indicated, Xander swore at the bumper-to-bumper parked cars, and parked in front of a hydrant. They tore inside and flew up the stairs. Halfway down the hall, Buffy kicked in a door and they found themselves scrambling to a halt in a dentist's office.

A grey-haired woman, sitting at the reception desk, stopped typing and regarded them with surprising equanimity.

"Where's Giles?" Xander demanded as Buffy surged toward the office door.

"We're closed. Doctor Giles is doing inventory," she told them. "Is this an emergency?"

"Doctor Giles?" Xander demanded. The elderly woman pointed to the diploma on the wall. 'Doctor Edison Galloway Giles,' he read. He didn't bother with all the letters after the name or the dates of graduation.

"Ah, Buffy..." he managed in a strangled voice.

"No!" Willow burst into tears of frustration when Xander and Buffy returned empty handed. They were all beginning to feel the strain of Giles' disappearance. Dawn wouldn't come out of her room, and Willow had been beset by regrets and recollections of every single thing she hadn't said to Giles and wanted to, everything she hadn't done since their big clash and needed to. She'd been prepared to fix all that when he walked in the door with them. "What happened?"

"You sent us to rescue the town dentist," Xander said irritably, then held up a red lollypop.

"Fortunately, he had a sense of humor when we told him we saw the lights and thought he was being robbed," Buffy added, her voice flat despite the strain in her eyes.

"I don't understand," Willow wailed. "I checked everything... all of it... one thing at a time. I called Jo about the ingredients and checked them off with her. She should be here soon."

Buffy's head came up. "Here?" she said sharply.

"Sure," Willow confirmed. "She's scared too. She wants to help."

"Fine." The tone was equally as sharp. "Just keep her out of my way. I have to find him, Willow. If magick's not going to do it, there has to be another way." She dragged a hand through her hair. "Why him? Why did it have to be him? I thought we were safe here. I thought this wasn't going to happen here..."

Drusilla played with her long, red fingernails. She'd worn out the pretty Watcher playing games with him, and he was now 'asleep' in the chair, a new bruise across his temple, his shirt open and his hair askew.

She giggled softly to herself, heedless of the blood on his hands from the rope burns, or the smell of the newish burns on his chest from a cigarette especially chosen because it was Spike's favoured brand. At first it had been fun. He could still kiss... maybe even better than last time. She laughed again. Of course better than last time. It was delicious. Lovely and yummy and so very delicious... but then that was because it belonged to her...

"Nok, wake him!" she demanded. The big, quilled demon standing at her shoulder shuffled over and poked the Watcher. No response.

"Is he broken?" she asked plaintively.

It poked him again. "Warm," it grunted.

"Yes, but I want him to wake up. This isn't much fun."

Even the big demon knew not to get in the way of his Mistress's fun. It batted the side of Giles' head, but apart from almost knocking it off, he didn't elicit a response.

"He is broken!" she exclaimed, stamping her foot. "Fix him! Fix him now! "

The Hakkoth demon was a simple creature. Breaking things... killing things... it was good at those. Fixing things was not a concept it was on speaking terms with. Still, it also knew that an enraged Drusilla was not a good thing.

Nok shuffled across to the bathroom. There was silence for a moment, then rattling; then ripping... then water running. He emerged moments later with a plastic shower curtain clutched like a bag and filled with a couple of gallons of water.

Drusilla roared with childish laughter as her minion upended the whole lot over the limp figure. She laughed even more as Giles sat bolt up right, gasping with shock, cold and pain.

"Clever baby. You fixed him for me," she crooned, clapping her hands again.

Nok looked more relieved than pleased.

Giles glared at her through wet strands of hair and a haze of rage and fear.

"There you are. I thought you were never going to wake up."

His eyes narrowed as memories filtered back. It was difficult, however, to separate reality from the concussion-induced blur. Flashes of excruciating pain, the smell of scorching flesh and the sound of manic laughter seemed to be punctuated by fleeting phantoms with Buffy's face and Buffy's eyes. Memories of Jenny hovered somewhere just beyond his thoughts, and the smell of Drusilla's cheap perfume seemed to permeate all of it, as did the agony of his fingers and chest, the relentless ache of his arms, and the numbness of his motionless legs.

"What do you want from me?" he demanded wearily, his voice rasping and weak. He was trembling from the lingering effects of the fresh burns combined with the nauseating pain of his broken fingers, but his spirit was undiminished.

"Diamonds and pearls and a kiss to make it all better?" She shook her head. "It's not you I want, Watcher." Her tone was harsh, and her eyes flashed with rare clarity. Then she turned to the Hakkoth again. "Where's that naughty Olgen with my dinner?"

Nok shrugged helplessly, hoping he wasn't going to find himself somewhere unpleasant again. Drusilla had a nasty habit of easily enthralling them when she was annoyed and suggesting that they do things that were very painful or unpleasant, which, being enthralled, they duly did. Last time he'd found himself upside-down in a trash compactor just about to be lifted and tipped into a garbage truck, where he would have been squished to the size of a breadbox if he hadn't scrambled out as fast as he did.

"But I'm hungry," she pouted, eyeing Giles' neck covetously. "And I'm bored."

Giles watched her play with her hair and then look up in a manic sort of way, smiling like a naughty three year old.

"We'll just have to find some more games to play while we wait."

The Watcher's heart sank. He whispered a vivid expletive under his breath before resuming his efforts to loosen his bonds, ignoring the feel of the fresh blood, warm and sticky, beneath them.


Credits   Act Two

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