Her eyes were dry.
The others had cried – well, Willow had. Xander put on a big manly front and offered his shoulder for comfort, but Buffy saw him wipe his eyes more than once at the funeral when he thought nobody was looking. Even Cordy had managed to squeeze out a tear, though Buffy suspected it had more to do with the fact that Willow had taken over Ms. Calendar’s classes than anything else.
But Buffy hadn’t cried. She didn’t have that luxury. Not yet.
Because Giles was still missing.
She’d been so sure he’d gone after Angel. It made the most sense. Grief-stricken plus empty weapons chest equaled one pissed off Watcher. But the factory had been stone-cold, no sign of Angel or Spike or Drusilla, no sign of Giles or a fight or even a discarded weapon. The library was next, but that was just as empty, just as frustrating. And when he didn’t show up for work two days straight, Buffy began to suspect the worst.
She was exhausted, but her every spare minute had been dedicated to finding Giles. Willow and Xander were doing what they could during the day, but the night was Buffy’s domain. It was her job to leave no headstone unturned, no witness ignored. Even Willy got shaken down, but the little rat didn’t know anything except about Angel going underground to work on some new project. It made Buffy shudder to consider how he thought he was going to top Ms. Calendar.
Her mother waited for her on the porch when she got home from her latest hunt. “What’s wrong?”
Joyce cast a furtive glance back at the house. “Mr. Giles is inside.”
Relief flooded through Buffy. When she tried to go inside, however, Joyce barred her path.
“What are you doing?” Buffy demanded. “It’s Giles.”
“I know. I know you’ve been worried. You had a right to be.”
She stiffened at her mother’s tone. “Why? What’s wrong?”
Joyce sighed. Taking Buffy by the arm, she led her down the stairs and away from the door. “He showed up here a little while ago, very drunk. I think he’s probably been drinking since he found Ms. Calendar. I’ve been giving him coffee to help him sober up, but he doesn’t look good, Buffy. I don’t think you need to see him like this.”
“And I don’t think you understand how crazy I’ve been, wondering if he was okay.” Tearing away, Buffy raced for the house, shoving open the door only to skid to a halt in the foyer. Her throat constricted at the sight of the figure on the couch. “Giles,” she whispered.
He looked awful. His clothes looked like he’d slept in them for a week, and even from across the room, Buffy smelled the stink of alcohol clinging to him so thickly that she wondered if he’d bathed in the stuff. He sat with his shoulders hunched, his elbows on his knees as he rested his head in his hands. Not even her entry could provoke him into looking up.
“Oh, Giles,” Buffy murmured. Tamping down her initial wave of disgust at the smell, she sank to her knees at his side, trying to look past the mussed hair to see his face. He wasn’t wearing his glasses. She wondered where they were.
“I didn’t know where else to go.” His words were slurred, his voice rough from drinking. “But I couldn’t go…back there.”
Her heart twisted. “Of course not. But where have you been? We’ve been worried sick about you. We thought…we thought you might have tried to go after Angel.”
“I did. I failed.”
When Giles lifted his head, Buffy gasped at the nasty burn that adorned his temple. The sound pushed him away, driving him to his feet to lurch and lean against the mantle.
“I don’t know how I managed to get away,” he said. “And after I left emergency, it becomes a bit of a blur. I just wanted to…not remember.”
Seeing him like this only revitalized her guilt and anger at Angel. This was all her fault. If she’d only killed Angel when she’d had the chance, Ms. Calendar would still be alive and Giles wouldn’t be this empty husk standing in front of her. She was across the room, with her arms around his waist and her cheek pressed to his back, before he could say another word.
“I’m so sorry,” she breathed. “I shouldn’t—”
She realized what was wrong at the same time she heard the soft cry come from the porch.
“Well, bugger,” Giles muttered.
Buffy whirled to get away, but a steel grip clamped around her wrist, dragging her back against his cold body. His other hand circled her throat, squeezing off her airway until spots began to dance in front of her eyes.
“Your mother was so kind to invite me in.” His voice was a silken shiver in her ear, and Buffy tried to ignore the hard press of his hips into her ass. “I do hope Angel appreciates her.”
Mention of her mother and Angel in the same sentence prompted fresh struggles, but Giles only chuckled and tightened his hold on Buffy’s throat until the world dipped precariously around her. Dragging her to the open door, they saw Angel stretching an unconscious Joyce on the porch.
“Don’t you dare hurt her,” she rasped.
Angel grinned. “Wouldn’t dream of it. It’s going to be more fun watching you do it. But not tonight.” He prowled closer until his powerful body was as tightly pressed to her front as Giles was to her back. “Tonight, it’s about you, me, and the old man.”
“I’ll give you old,” Giles muttered. With Buffy trapped between them, he risked letting her wrist go to grab the back of Angel’s head and yank him forward. When their mouths met in a vicious, fang-filled kiss, Buffy squeezed her eyes shut.
The tears stung. Almost as much as realizing she’d failed again.