Swords Drawn, Act 4

Viktor dodged Giles' attack, whipping his sword around to cut the other immortal on the upper arm, drawing blood.

"I could claim First Blood and consider this over," he smiled, "but then, neither of us wants that, do we?"

"I'm here for your head, Viktor." Giles turned to face his opponent, ignoring the cut on his arm. "And I'm not leaving 'till I've got it!"

"Then we shall continue!" Viktor feinted at Giles, and as soon as the other man went to defend, twisted his sword low, catching him in the abdomen.

Giles ignored the pain of the long-bladed sword slipping from below his ribs and into his lung, and brought his own weapon down in a strike that sliced at Viktor's upper arm, cutting into the muscle.

Conner flipped over backwards as he tossed Buffy over his head, his feet pushing against her stomach, causing her to slam into a crate. The wood broke, dropping the young Slayer to the ground.

Buffy jumped back to her feet, maintaining her grip on the sword. "You're good, I'll give you that. But me? I'm better!" She aimed a punch at Conner's jaw, with her fist clenched around the sword handle, but it found only thin air.

"You fight well for someone who can only have been training for a few years," Conner said with a smile, "But I've had 500 years to practice; you're good, I'm better." His sword seemed to blur as it moved, the force of the blow knocking the borrowed sword from Buffy's hand. He grabbed it before it hit the deck. "You're right, this sword did belong to someone I knew. A very good friend of mine. I'm the one who introduced Rupert and Sasha in the first place."

"Then why did you take her head?" Buffy asked, looking for an opportunity to grab one of the swords. "Jealousy?"

"I would never have hurt her." Conner tossed Sasha's sword back to Buffy, who caught it gracefully. "I cared for her almost as much as Rupert. Yes, I was a little jealous when she picked him over me." He lowered his sword, "but true love is wanting the other person to be happy, no matter what."

"Nice story," Buffy kept her sword high, "But if you didn't kill her, who did?"

"Another Immortal called Viktor Danilov," Conner explained. "Rupert and I where serving as members of the Russian Imperial Guard at the time. We knew of Viktor, but we had never actually come across him. He joined up with a group of Soviet rebels and took part in the storming of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg. Rupert stopped him from getting to the Tsar, and so he swore revenge. He tracked the three of us down to a farmhouse near Archangel.

"Sasha had me distract Rupert while she went out to face Viktor. She was good, and almost had him." Conner looked at the deck. "Be he killed her, right in from of Rupert and me. Knowing that neither of us could stop Viktor that night, I knocked Rupert out and dragged him to a waiting car. He didn't speak to me again until tonight."

Viktor screamed in pain as the blade severed tendons, his arm falling uselessly to his side, the sword dropping to the deck. He looked up at Giles.

"How? You have not taken a head in almost 100 years. How could you defeat me?" he asked, shocked.

"Because I'm better." Giles' sword cut through the air, passing cleanly thought the other man's neck. "And you don't deserve to live." Viktor's head fell to the floor, his body collapsing like a marionette with the strings cut soon after.

Ribbons of energy played across the deck and walls like renegade electricity, the light bulbs exploding as the charge reached them. Giles stood in the center of the storm, his sword held high. The energy flowed through his body, erupting from the tip of his sword like a lightning bolt in reverse, blowing a hole through the ceiling, up through to the top deck and beyond.

The bow of the ship exploded outwards, a pillar of energy reaching up to the clouds. Buffy shielded her eyes. "What the hell is that?" she yelled at the top of her voice.

"It's a quickening!" Conner explained. "Rupert was fighting Viktor; one of them is dead." He turned to face the doorway leading to the cargo-hold, "And the other one is on their way back up."

"If it's Viktor..." Buffy stood next to him, sword ready.

"Then Rupert is dead, and it'll be up to us to avenge him." Conner raised his own weapon. "I take it from your strength and speed that you're the Slayer. You got a name?"

"Buffy, Buffy Summers," Giles said from the doorway, leaning heavily on the metal for support. "And she needs to learn when to stay out of things that do not concern her." Shakily, he walked over to the side of the ship and dropped Viktor's sword into the water below. "It's done."

"We better get out of here," Conner said, cocking his ear to the sound of approaching police sirens. "Unless you want to explain the dead guy below, and the new hole in the boat?"

Back at the Magic Box, Giles sat patiently while Willow bandaged his wounds.

"I still think you should go to the hospital," Willow reiterated as she packed away the first aid kit. "I think you've got a collapsed lung."

"I do, but Immortals heal almost as quickly as Slayers." Conner handed Giles a drink. "In fact, a friend of mine once told me that the First Slayer was an Immortal."

"How would he know?" Buffy asked, still not believing everything she had been told. "Was he there?"

"No, but he did speak to someone who was," Conner explained. "He is 5,000 years old; he's seen a lot of things and talked to a lot of people in his time."

"So how old are you, Giles?" Xander asked. "If you don't mind me asking?"

"I'll be 384 next year." Giles explained, "I was born in London in the Year of our Lord 1624, and I 'died' my first death in the Grate Fire of London at the age of 42. I was a Watcher, and so the council helped me set up a new identity. They watch Immortals as well as Slayers, vampires and demons."

"Three hundred and eighty four! All the things you must have seen! It must be cool to be immortal." Willow sounded impressed.

"It's not, really." Conner shook his head. "It's very lonely. You see, you can never let yourself get too close to anyone, because you know that they will one day die. In all my years, I have been married only once. It is not something I plan to do ever again."

"I was lucky, finding Sasha. We had a lifetime together, more than we could have dreamed." Giles sounded sadder, but there was less pain in his voice than before. "But the life of an Immortal is violent. We live by the sword, and we die by the sword." He looked round at the Scoobys. "Be glad that none of you are potentially Immortal."

They all looked at each other, the enormity of what they had been told finally sinking in.

"I think I should return this to you." Buffy handed Giles the sword she had taken. "I didn't know what was going on. I would never have taken it, if I had known the truth."

"That's ok," Giles smiled. "Sasha would have wanted someone like you to have it. Keep it."

"Well, as good as it has been to see you again, I must be off." Conner stood, heading for the door. "Let's not leave it other 80-years this time."

Giles waved farewell to his friend. "I'll see you around, Highlander."

End of 'Swords Drawn'

Many thanks to Cutiepie for beta-reading and constructive criticism.