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He sat alone in the darkness, his only companion a bottle of scotch that had been emptied three-quarters. Moonlight battled to stream through the small window, but the heavy presence of sorrow within the room seemed to cloud the atmosphere, making it impenetrable to light.

Everything ached. There was not a single injury that he wasn't still suffering from, despite the painkillers he'd been given, and the large quantities of alcohol he'd consumed. The greatest pain however, was in his heart - the emptiness her absence left within. Not only hers, but Jenny's too. Drusilla's tricks had returned the pain that he fought to repress on a daily basis. How it hurt... the realisation that no pills or drink...words or even sleep could take away his anguish.

He'd stayed here alone, long after the children had left him - they had been so concerned for his injuries but he'd persuaded them that he'd be okay. It had been such a long day, his soul weary just from going through the motions, comforting the children, assuring them that Buffy was okay, when his heart was filled with so much uncertainty. Still, he had to wear the mask of hope - he couldn't let them know his fears.

In the silence he reflected. The world hadn't ended. That was certainly a positive outcome... considering that it could so very easily have been otherwise. However, if it was safe once more, then where was Buffy? Despite his fears, he couldn't help the glimmer of hope that she would call any minute. That she would tell him Willow's spell had worked and that she and Angel were okay... that she hadn't had to make the sacrifice he knew deep down must have happened to prevent Acathla taking the world into hell.

His memories of their last moments together haunted him once more. How they had discussed restoring Angel's soul, and he felt fresh anger rise within him, aggravating his wounds. Suppressing the fresh waves of pain, he cursed the man...demon... that had cost him everything he held dear... the woman he loved, so brutally murdered... Kendra - the one thing giving Buffy hope for a longer life - her life snuffed out as quickly as a small flame... and then there was Buffy herself, the child he couldn't help but adore despite all her flaws, vanished without a trace...


The thought flitted through his mind, but he found no strength to utter it aloud. Damn Angel - damn his curse, and damn his very existence. He had always come between them, always lured Buffy into situations that she wasn't ready for. He knew her weaknesses almost as well as Giles did. That was what had given him the upper hand these last few months...


The thought crossed his mind again, as memories of how Buffy had wept at the loss of the man she'd loved, and of how she had supported him as he wept for the loss of the woman he'd loved.

Giles wearily poured himself another scotch, looking at the now almost-empty contents forlornly. Yes, he'd loved Jenny so very dearly, but Buffy was another kettle of fish entirely. She wasn't just any girl - she was the very reason for his existence... he could survive without Jenny, although with difficulty... but Buffy? No, he didn't think life was worth living without her.

He pondered that for the briefest of seconds - there had always been a part of him that was drawn to her, that felt as if she was more than oxygen to him, and now he felt like he was dying without her.

[You bloody fool - getting all sentimental and emotional about your Slayer... forgotten everything you were taught, have you?]

He tried to remind himself that Slayers were simply tools - weapons - in the battle between good and evil. But somehow that had never stopped him. He'd been drawn to this child from day one... she was no tool to him... just a young girl, afraid for her future.

He barked out a harsh laugh, the sound bitter to his ears as it pricked the silence surrounding him. A smirk appeared for the briefest of seconds as he realised that he was just as much a rebel now as he had been in his teens. For the last few decades he'd been firmly trained not to become emotionally involved with the Slayer. Quentin Travers had instilled his doctrine that 'Slayers were simply weapons' firmly into the hearts and minds of the young Watchers in training. He was a man who was both feared and respected amongst both the young and the old within the Council, and even Giles held a respect for his former tutor.

Yet, Giles mused as the smirk gave way to a grim smile... he'd fallen helplessly into the trap of doing exactly the opposite of what he'd been taught. He'd become more than emotionally involved with his Slayer... he loved her. Throughout every trial, instead of withdrawing from her to make her more independent, he'd drawn her closer to him - even if not physically - and comforted her, mollycoddling her. And now where was she? As a result of his affection for her he was grieving for her, instead of busying himself, preparing for either her return, or...

He downed the contents of his small glass in one go, as again worry creased his brow. Where the hell was she? Was she even alive? He couldn't bear to contemplate where that thought led, but found his brain heading down that beaten path against his will. The only realistic cause for her non-appearance he knew was the possibility that the vampire had taken Buffy with him into hell.

As Angelus, that would be the exact sort of thing he'd do. It was well documented that Angelus loved to torture his victims... and Giles had experienced this firsthand. He let out a slight moan at the memories that suddenly flashed across his eyes. If that was how Angelus had tortured him - Giles - the man he both considered an ally in the war against evil, and yet resented for his position in Buffy's life... how much worse would he torture Buffy - the woman Angel had loved, the woman who was once his atonement?

Giles shifted slightly in the chair, a sigh of exasperation escaping him, as he realised that analysing this still wouldn’t resolve anything. Yet he answered his question out of habit, the intellect within overpowering his sentiments to not consider Angelus' intentions. [You know where she is... what he's done... to her... where he's taken her...] Angelus lived for torture... if Buffy had sent him to hell - which she must have done as the world hadn’t ended - then he would have taken her with him. Force her to suffer aeons of punishment, torment and suffering, instead of simply killing her.

Tears spilled over his cheeks unexpectedly at the realisation that this was highly likely, and a sob escaped him against his will. [You're stronger than this - you've faced far more trying griefs] The truth of the matter was that she was gone - probably to another dimension - and there was no body to bury, no grave to visit, no way he could say goodbye or express the emotions in his heart.

[Buffy... I... No. I refuse to accept this. You can't have gone. You can't have died. I'd know. Surely... I would know. You have captivated my heart in the most indescribable way and I can constantly feel you within. You breathed new life into me the day we met, and you have been... I cannot find a word for what you are to me... not a daughter, yet not a romantic involvement. Still... you are more... you are closer... than a friend. Surely, if you were to leave, I would feel your absence. Yet I do not. You are still here, warming my heart... I can still feel you...]

Confusion contorted Giles' features, as he tried to convince himself that she was still alive, although that familiar feeling of doubt crept over his heart again. Had her sacrifice ultimately become his? Had he, her Watcher - the man who was supposed to stop her getting killed - sent her out to die? He knew she had gone willingly - knew that she had rescued him... and the entire world... but the thought that the cost may have been her life sent a new bolt of pain coursing through his being.

[Buffy... Please come back... come back to me...] Words she had once spoken filled his mind and he whispered them to the air, as if praying to the deity that she would return from wherever she was. "I can't do this... without you."

He at last slumped in the chair exhausted. He was feeling even worse now, the combination of painkillers, alcohol, dread and an aching heart almost a lullaby for a nightmare. He raised a hand to his head and leaned into it, finally allowing himself to break down; letting out the emotions he had hidden all day. The sound of the sobbing of a defeated man echoed off the walls of the empty apartment, lasting into the early hours of the morning.
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