"Ripper, do wake up. You're worrying me."
Giles groaned, at first not sure why he should be slumped on his couch with Ethan Rayne perched beside him. The couch, it came to him, was where the children had left him after driving him home from the hospital, watching him worriedly even as they backed out the door. He hadn't been able to muster any desire to make it up the stairs to his bed, much less the strength to actually do it, so, with the help of the little brown pills, he'd fallen asleep where he sat.
And now, how perfect, Ethan Rayne had come for a visit. Unless Ethan was himself another effect of the fabulous brown pills. "Poor quality lock, " Ethan said, smirking a little, "I'd have that seen to."
Usually, Ethan was masterfully adept at evoking his rage, but tonight Giles didn't even feel he could manage a snarl. "What is it you want?"
"The Slayer's left town, I hear."
Giles shut his eyes and nodded. Buffy.
"Something to do with the Angelus."
So Ethan had been reading Cotheby's Five Studies, supposedly available to Watchers only. Was this surprising? It was not. "Angel, yes."
Giles felt Ethan's fingers trail over his cheek. "And the Angelus did this to you?"
"Yes." There were actually few marks on his face. The most visible of the damage was his ruined hand. Giles opened his eyes.
Ethan's fingers lingered and his thumb, warm and narrow, brushed across Giles' lips. "Brutal little shit," Ethan swore.
"What is it you want, Ethan?" Giles asked again. "I'm tired."
Ethan moved back just a fraction. "I can see that. What puzzles me -- you were rescued, got patched up, limped around that twee library of yours most of yesterday, and then you went to hospital. Why is that, Ripper?"
"Go away, Ethan."
"I heard something interesting, when I visited the hospital. I heard that tall girl -- Cordelia? Lovely. -- she said that you'd just got the call from the Slayer's mum, and that's when you collapsed."
"Mr. Giles . . . Buffy's gone. She left me a note and -- "
Giles felt his face, his whole body, trying to squeeze itself inward.
"Poor Ripper," Ethan whispered, and caressed Giles' face with both hands. "Your lover murdered. Tortured by Angelus. But the brave Watcher could stand it, anything for the Slayer. And she didn't even leave you a note. Did she even care what her precious Angel'd done to you?" Ethan's flair for cruelty had only matured with age.
Giles groaned, let his head drop into Ethan's long, elegant hands.
"She's gone," Ethan said. "You can cry now, Ripper."
Choking on the thickness in his throat, Giles blundered forward. Ethan caught him, hands soothing up and down his back, cheek rubbing against Giles' hair.
"I-I don't know what to do."
Ethan closed his arms a little more firmly around Giles and stood up, began to shift him, pull him, toward the staircase. "Come on. You'll be more comfortable in bed."
"With you?" Giles grunted resentfully against Ethan's neck.
"I've always been an opportunist, Ripper," Ethan whispered, his tone affectionate. He eased Giles up as far as the turn in the stair.
Giles looked up at him. "I despise you." His voice broke. "I hate you.
Ethan offered his cat's smile. "And you love her. Poignant, that."
Giles dropped his head again and Ethan took him the rest of the way upstairs. "I'm so tired."
Ethan hummed to himself and eased the jacket off Giles' unresisting shoulders, reached between them to unbutton his vest, then the shirt under it. Sobbing softly, Giles stood there, slumped and defeated, and allowed Ethan to undress him, waited while Ethan shed his own clothes.
"Did you ever sleep with the Slayer?" Ethan asked, when he was naked. There was warm light coming from downstairs and cold outdoor light from the window, and both struck his body.
"No," Giles said, more in protest of the question than in answer.
"Of course not."
Then Ethan's hands were on his shoulders, kneading and pushing at once, and Giles let himself be guided into his own bed.
Ethan Rayne at nineteen had been all smoothness and intensity, and their bedplay had consisted mostly of incessant rolling, tangling. Ethan's body had changed little, gained only perhaps in elegance, but now, once he had Giles on the mattress, he simply pulled Giles' back against his chest and held him, stroking his chest and arms, kissing his cheek. That used to be Ethan's trademark, that little kiss: I have the power here -- here's my mouth that can touch you.
Abruptly, unavoidably, Giles remembered the dank alley, the burning factory turning the air to filthy steam, and Buffy, clenching him against her while they sobbed into one another, pressed their wounds together. She had left buises on his shoulders.
Ethan's hands soothed him. When Ethan finally eased him to his back and began to kiss his jaw, Giles allowed it, allowed the surge of pleasure when Ethan licked at his nipples, because it felt like an outgrowth of grief, a different vintage from the same vine. Ethan massaged his belly, his thighs, and then began to suck him.
Ethan had always been good at this, and somewhere in the last decade he'd picked up a few new techniques. He didn't need them. All it took was the contact, the wet heat of flesh. Giles came hard, groaning, after barely a minute, and then curled into Ethan's arms again as soon as they opened for him. He hid his face against Ethan's chest, clutching Ethan's bicep, and saw golden Buffy, who he had failed, who somehow he had not loved well enough, and he wept for her.
After a while, Ethan raised himself over Giles and begain to rub his cock in a smooth slow pulse against Giles' hip. His mouth, his teeth, played over Giles' shoulders and neck. He hummed, made his usual shameless sounds of pleasure, and then moved faster, grinding against Giles.
"I'd love to be inside you," Ethan said raggedly. "But after that bastard Angelus, I don't think you're ready for that now, are you?"
Giles shook his head wretchedly, a new flood of tears squeezing out over his hot cheeks. He would have to clear the library of all the books that mentioned Angel's favored sports, lest Willow or the other children guess at the things Angel had done to him. And Buffy, if -- when -- she returned, must never know.
Ethan kissed his mouth, a very wet kiss, and changed his angle, rubbing harder.
There was a rare texture to Ethan in the throes of pleasure, a stunning beauty to the way his skin moved over his muscles. Why should Giles' appreciation for that beauty be heightened rather than dulled by his misery?
Ethan gasped and arched and spilled himself across Giles' belly, and then collapsed onto him. Even sweaty, sticky, spent, Ethan remained Ethan, unmarred and assured. With a tired grunt he shifted himself half off Giles and hugged him close. "Do you know what's terribly sad?" Ethan murmured with his head on Giles' chest. "I like her too. Truly."
"This changes nothing."
Ethan raised his head, smiling, amused and indulgent. "Of course not. Sleep now, Ripper. Sleep."
Giles knew Ethan; by morning he would have evaporated. And then Giles could start his search, find Buffy, put things back together.
He would find her. And then everything would be all right, as if all terrible things had never happened.