All Giles could focus on was Kennedy’s pleading eyes as she raced to catch him, and Willow crumpling in pain behind her. He knew this would be the most painful choice he’d ever made, but it was the only one he had. He wouldn’t chance this fate to any other. It was his to bear, he’d decided that long ago. But that decision had been made by a different man. The man he was before he’d experienced the love of these two wonderful women. Now, his only real fear was that the shear agony of being separated from them would kill him. But they still had each other. They would go on.
The next moment, Kennedy, along with everything he knew, vanished to be replaced by an alien landscape. He was dropped onto his knees and spun to face whatever had captured him. The first thing he saw was the body of the large demon commander lying beside him. It was now minus its head, a development that didn’t bode well for Giles. The Watcher took a deep breath, the strange atmosphere slightly searing his lungs, and looked up at his certain death.
It was tall, maybe eight feet. The wiry, black fur on its body barely covered its sickly green skin. The whip-like rope that had captured him turned out to be the thing’s tongue, the tip of it still hanging from its mouth behind brutal-looking incisors. The small, black eyes stared down at him, nothing but hunger in them, and long, thin hairless ears stuck out at odd angles.
The demon thing lunged forward and opened its guillotine of a mouth. Giles calmly thought that it was probably this demon’s primary attack, taking heads with its long teeth. He closed his eyes and waited for his death.
Whatever it was that splattered his face and chest was wet and warm, and thoroughly unpleasant. He waited for what felt like too long before opening his eyes. And, when he did, all he could see was black. Removing his glasses, covered in what he could now smell was blood, he watched as the creature convulsed once and fell dead before him. His eyes then focused on the figure standing beyond.
Bare legs, thin but strong. A slender body dressed in close fitting, crude clothing and assorted, mismatched armor. Most definitely female, and wielding a long, formidable sword. Short cropped dark blond hair, lovely hazel eyes, and a brilliant smile. She looked around, surveying their surroundings for more danger, but Giles couldn’t take his eyes off the woman before him.
He breathed out, almost afraid she would disappear at the sound of his voice, “Anya?”
Her focused eyes flicked down to him. “Take your shirt off,” she stated in her no nonsense tone.
“I… um, excuse me, what?”
“These creatures have a corrosive component to their blood.” She unhooked a water skin from her belt and tossed it to him along with a scrap of cloth. “It will eat through your clothes and then start on you.”
Having no doubt in her word, Giles pulled the simple shirt he’d been wearing off over his head and began to do his best to scrub his skin clean with the offered water. “Anya. We-we thought you’d died. Andrew said you fell saving his life. H-how did you get here?”
The young woman had moved to the fallen demon commander and was stripping him of his armor. “I did. I think. At least, I remember being in the fight, then not.”
Anya yanked the tunic off the decapitated body and tossed it to Giles. “Here, this should do for now.” She looked at him and sighed, seeing he wasn’t going to let the question go. “I crossed D’Hoffryn. Did you really think he was going to let that one death be the end of my punishment? He may be a gentleman compared with most demons, but I hurt his feelings and he never takes that well.”
Giles wrapped the large tunic around himself and looked up at Anya with a pained expression in his eyes. “I’m so sorry. If we had known… I would have searched for you. But the possibility never occurred to me. You did die a hero.”
“No you wouldn’t have, Giles,” she replied matter-of-factly. “After what we did to Buffy, you know better than to mess with that kind of stuff.”
“Maybe,” he sighed, but couldn’t shake the feeling he’d let her down.
Anya smiled at him and chirped, “You have to admit, D’Hoffryn does have a sense of humor.” She glanced meaningfully to the creature she’d killed.
Giles stared at it for several moments before an understanding smile crossed his face. “He sent you to a dimension full of demon rabbits,” he said with a barely suppressed chuckle.
“He may have thought that would break me. Probably never imagined how much I’d enjoy killing his hoppy, fuzzy bunnies.” There was a hint of bile in her voice as she tightened a rope on the bundle she’d been assembling. Anya had made quick work of striping everything useful from the fallen commander’s body and packing it all onto his huge breastplate as a make-shift sled.
“I have to say, you do appear to have done remarkably well for surviving two years on your own in a demon dimension.”
“Six,” she corrected without hesitation.
“But… We lost you only two years ago.”
“Well, it’s been six here. Time paradoxes. Doesn’t surprise me. D’Hoffryn might have thought there was a chance of you guys doing something stupid and wanted to make sure I didn’t get off easy.”
Giles shook his head as he finished thoroughly cleaning his glasses and slid them back on. “You don’t look like a day has passed since I last saw you.”
Anya laughed. “The one perk of this hell hole, adults don’t seem to age. This is a place that wants everyone to die screaming and in their prime. Ol’ Ponce would have loved it, finding his fountain of youth. Until a slug melted his face off. You, on the other hand, look like you’ve had to deal with Buffy for another ten years.” Giles chuckled in spite of himself. She picked up the huge sword that had been lying on the ground. “Think you can handle this for a while?”
Giles took it from her and tested the balance. “Not as elegant as I prefer, but it is wieldable.”
“It’ll have to do until we can steal you something better.” She moved to the demon rabbit and hacked its leg off with one fluid motion.
“Not the top of the heap here, Big Guy. Now it’s about focusing on survival. Fight and eat.” She tied a rope around the severed leg and handed the other end to the Watcher.
“Rabbit for supper?” he smiled. He took the rope with a shaky hand and quickly hid the tremor from Anya.
“Too acidic,” she answered, seeming not to notice. “But we can eat the things that will show up to eat it. Come on. It’s too dangerous to stay in the open like this.”
Giles looped the rope around his chest and fell into step beside his long lost friend. “Anya,” he spoke after some time as they crested another hill. “You didn’t seem as surprised to see me as I was to see you. Oh, and by the way, thank you for saving my life.”
She took a moment out of her constant scanning of the horizon to smile at him. “Actually, you’ve just won me three months of not having water fetching duty.” The hardened, but still lovely girl, giggled at his confused look. “Ever since Katrina told me what was going on and that you knew, I had an idea that the only one coming through after that would be you. They argued with me that the other slayers wouldn’t let that happen. I take it Willow pulled off the plan against The First.”
Giles stopped walking, stunned. “You found Katrina? Any others?” he whispered hopefully.
“We can’t stop here,” she looked back at him. When it was clear he wasn’t going to move again, she sighed, “Some survived long enough for me to find them wandering around. I’ve kept my eyes peeled for more since I discovered what was happening.”
“Anya. If you knew where the portal led, why didn’t you come through?”
She frowned at him. “Because it never opens in the same place twice on this side. Besides, those slayers wouldn’t have lasted a day here without me.” Anya glanced up at the strangely peach colored sky. “Come on, Old Man. We want to get home before nightfall.”
Giles waited until she turned around before pulling his arm to his chest. The tremors had gotten worse, and now it felt like his heart would never stop racing. Luckily, it was just over the next rise that they came upon the ruins of an ancient fortress.
“Home sweet home,” Anya sighed, scanning the landscape behind them for anything that might have followed. She instructed him to leave the meat at the entrance and proceeded to lead him through the crumbling maze of corridors until they came to a small group of intact and open rooms.
Three sets of eyes turned sharply to see who was intruding. They relaxed at seeing Anya, then went wide when Giles entered behind her.
“Mr. Giles!” Katrina jumped up. “What are you doing here?”
“You didn’t think I could miss an adventure like this,” he smiled at her, trying to be reassuring, but he couldn’t keep the pain now running rampant through his body from his face. He could tell his honor guard wasn’t going to play along and was disappointed that he’d been foolish.
Another girl stepped forward, younger. “Does this mean a rescue party will be sent now? Before it was just a few slayers, but he’s someone important, right?”
Giles recognized her from her picture. “Anna, I’m here because all of you are important. I promise to get you home, even if it’s the last thing I do.”
A dark haired girl peeked out from behind Anna, she was the youngest of all. Rose suddenly rushed forward and threw her arms around Giles’ middle, hugging him without a word. He held the girl’s head to his chest and all doubt he’d had in being there was gone.
Anya could see the anger building in Katrina. She spoke first, cutting off any further protests. “Katrina, we left some bait out front. Do you think you can handle the hunt this evening?” The Russian Slayer took one look into Anya’s formidable eyes and nodded once. She grabbed a crossbow and exited without another word.
Giles smiled sadly at his old friend, still holding the youngest girl. Somehow, the simple contact was easing some of his pain. “I believe you’ve found all but one, Anya. I can never thank you enough.”
“There were four?” she asked and he answered with a nod. “Follow me.”
He was led into a small alcove, the remaining slayers happy to stay as close to him as they could. On a small bed in the corner lay the fourth missing girl.
“By the time I got to her,” Anya explained, “she had been poisoned by one of the more disgusting things out there.”
“Is she…?” Giles knelt at the bed.
“She’s alive. We’ve been treating her with everything I’ve learned since getting dumped here. But the process of drawing the poison from her system has been a slow one.”
“You’re as amazing as I remember you,” he murmured.
“Of course, I am,” Anya answered, earning a chuckle from him. But the laughter was cut short when the big man grabbed his chest and fell the floor, shaking. “Take him to my room and put him in my bed,” Anya ordered the two frightened, but super-powered girls.
“What’s wrong with him?” Anna asked her.
“I don’t know, but I’m going to take care of him. Trust me on that.” The pair of young slayers gently placed the much larger man on the pile of gathered materials that served as Anya’s bed. “Anna, we’re going to need more water soon. Please take Rose with you and replenish our supply.” The slightly older Slayer nodded in understanding and led the youngest of them away.
Anya watched him for a moment. He was shaking and sweating. She could practically hear his heart pounding, even without any enhanced senses.
She put her hands on her hips and asked bluntly. “What have you been using?”
“I know withdraw when I see it, Giles. In my demon days I cursed hundreds of deadbeat addicts. And I’m not surprise you’re little bag of cats Slayer has driven you to something stronger than a few drinks. Just tell me what I’m dealing with so I know how bad this is going to get.”
“Not Buffy’s fault,” Giles ground out.
“You don’t have to defend her to me. It was her plan that got me killed. As far as I’m concerned--”
“Anya please,” he reached out to her from the fetal position. “Just, please, just hold me.”
She looked at him oddly for a few moments, then her eyes widened and she jumped onto the bed, wrapping him in a tight embrace. “You performed some kind of bonding ritual, didn’t you? With who?” He began to breathe easier with the contact, but was far from better. “Tell me. I need to know how many you’re connected to.”
Giles let out a ragged sigh. “Willow and Kennedy,” he whispered. “It was the only way to seal the rift.”
“Huh, little Willow finally got you to notice her. Good for her. Wait… That’s what you did, didn’t you? You guys sealed the other side of the portal.”
“We had to,” a shudder wracked his body. “I don’t know if I can live without them now.”
“Don’t be silly. You’ll live. However, now we’re stuck here because without help from the other side there’s no way to find a way back. That’s what you didn’t want to tell the girls, isn’t it?”
“They’re frightened enough, Anya.”
The ex-demon sighed deeply. “This would be much easier with two of us to substitute for both connections, but I’m guessing you don’t want anyone else to know what’s making you sick either.” He gave her a confused look. “Guess I’ll just have to feel like two.” She pulled him onto his back and tugged his tunic open.
Giles gasped at the electric shock that went through him when her lips met his chest. “Anya, you don’t have too…”
“Oh relax. You’re the first male I’ve seen in six years with compatible genitalia. Plus, you do have a pleasing shape, and I already know you can kiss very well. Frankly, if it wasn’t so dangerous outside, I would have taken you on top of that dead Koropox out there.”
Giles couldn’t deny his shakes were subsiding, and she hadn’t even moved on from his chest. “Anya…”
“Now, I know you think you’re a gentleman,” she instructed. “And that means it would be rude not to focus on your current lover. But, this is something you have to do, at least for now. Close your eyes and think of Willow and Kennedy. Wow, I’m surprised they’re still together, interesting.”
He closed his eyes and felt her untie the simple trousers he was wearing. “Anya… What about…?”
“I’ll handle what’s wrong with you physically,” she responded as she began to handle him. “You have to focus on keeping your connections intact or you’ll lose your mind and be useless to everyone.”
Giles could see them, standing before him in the shining light of the valley. He could feel them as their love surrounded him. He could feel the joy of his companions and the promise of his unborn children. They were there, all he had to do was reach out and touch them.
“Well that’s interesting,” Anya’s voice pulled him from the wonderful vision.
He blinked up at her. She had discarded her armor, but was still covered. “Anya, I hope I didn’t…”
“Look at that.” Her eyes were following a thin stream of golden magick leading out of the room. “We might have a chance of finding the way home after all.”
Will Giles find his way back to those that love him? To be continued next Christmas in ‘Home’.