Letting Go part 3/6
Notes: Single quotes are thoughts. <> Represent unearthly voices.

"Mr. Pryce, how's the Buffy battle going?" Willow asked as she joined him on the Summers couch, setting down a tray of tea and cookies. She poured herself a cup of tea and motioned toward it. "Help yourself."

"Wesley, please. I feel as if I know you after all our correspondence and phone conversations. No need for formality." He followed her example and poured himself a cup of tea.

"Ok, Wesley. " She smiled. "Giles got us all hooked on this stuff. He use to tease Buffy on how much milk and sugar she used."

"I have a bit of a sweet tooth myself. We should get along swimmingly." He smirked quickly and lowered his glance to the cup. "How long has she been disassociative?"

"Um, well...she kind of just fell into it slowly. She stopped talking to us after the funeral; about three weeks after Giles death." Willow felt her lip quiver at the memory of Buffy standing in the rain at Giles grave. She had refused to leave until the representatives from the Council had left. Rain poured down as the Watcher's waited for her to concede defeat and allow them to remove the crossbow she'd positioned on the freshly laid soil. They finally departed after two hours of stubbornness, only with the assurance from Willow that the weapon would not be left behind permanently.

"Three weeks? Was it a large funeral? I mean, usually these things happen sooner after the...um, passing." Wesley carefully chose his words.

Willow's expression grew harsh as she stared at him. "The Council insisted on an investigation and autopsy. They questioned all of us on Buffy's actions that day."

"They accused her of reckless endangerment, didn't they?" Wesley shook his head. "No wonder Mr. Harris gave me the cold shoulder."

"He'll be ok. We all will. It'll just take time." Willow sipped her tea.

Wesley was astounded at the strength of his new friend.

"You've held this group together, Willow. You would make an excellent Watcher." He glanced at her, looking for some sign that she accepted his statement as a compliment.

"Thank you but I don't much like Watchers right now. Present company excluded, of course." Willow spoke quietly and sipped her tea.

Wesley smiled. "I'm inclined to have the same opinion."

"Has Buffy shown any improvement?" Willow already knew the answer but hoped for some little hint of a change.

"She can function on every level but the one that's most important to the Council." Wesley shook his head. "She knows what she's doing. I sense it!"

"She was a good Slayer," Willow said sadly. "Giles was..." her throat constricted and she couldn't continue.

"Mr. Giles was very fortunate to have such a family." Wesley filled the silence. "I hope that I can do it justice by my presence."

"What do you mean?" Willow's forehead wrinkled with concern.

"Buffy must resume her duties or certain procedures may be taken." Wesley's expression was grim.

"Council needs a dependable Slayer." Willow nodded, understanding the hidden warning in Wesley's words.

"At any costs..." he whispered and sipped his tea, staring at the stake lying beside the cookies on the table.

"Mrs. Summers, might I have a word?" Wesley entered the kitchen with a flustered look.
"Sure. How's it going with Buffy?" She asked, trying more to be courteous than curious.

"It's improving. She's doing quite a bit of watching at the moment." He grinned.

"Isn't that supposed to be your job?" Joyce teased.

"Yes...I suppose. Um, I was wondering if you have seen my notes."

"Can't say I have. Isn't this the second time you've misplaced them?" She poured herself a cup of coffee and held the pot up, silently offering the Watcher some.

"Third time...actually." Wesley refused the coffee and continued. "I'm at a loss for how I manage to keep doing this." He took his glasses off and wiped them with a cloth.

"Well, it's always where you saw it last, right?" Joyce shrugged and walked out into the living room.

"Apparently not!" Wesley rubbed his temple, dumbfounded by his lack of organization. He went back to the guest room to search again for his notes.

"Alright Miss Summers. Enough of this easing back into things." Wesley stepped around the basement, keeping a watchful eye on Buffy who stood still in the center of the room. It had been two weeks since his arrival and he couldn't help but wonder how the Slayer would react to a physical challenge.

<"He's going to attack you from behind."> Giles yawned and leaned on the stack of books in front of him.

‘I know.' Buffy grinned.

The Watcher rushed up behind her and wrapped his forearm around her neck, pulling her weight back into his chest. She kicked at his knee, forcing him to stumble a bit and lessen his hold. Leaning forward with a secure hold on his forearm, she pushed off the ground. Her body knocked him off balance and he fell back full force into the basement wall. Wesley let out a whimper but refused to release his chokehold.

<"Groin!"> Giles barked.

‘No...that's just mean.'

<"Never prevented you from striking me there."> Giles objected.

Buffy grinned and pulled her weight forward, bringing Wesley's arm with her. He felt his feet lift off the ground as Buffy guided him over her and he landed flat on his back, sounding a loud thud. He stared up at her with complete surprise. The Slayer looked down at him and smiled, still grasping his wrist.

"Well...hello there!" Wesley smiled at her responsiveness and quickly counteracted. He pulled her down into his arms, wrapping his legs around her. She lay still for a moment contemplating her next move.

"I knew you'd enjoy a bit of sparring." He said as she struggled to wiggle a hand free.

< "Ju-jitsu. He's has you trapped. You need to maneuver him into your guard."> Giles enjoyed watching Buffy fight. She had a grace that was rarely seen except when in battle, her small frame perfectly disguising her unbelievable power. Giles watched proudly as he saw her mind racing, working out her next move. He wished it could be him training her.

"What's free?" Wesley asked as he felt Buffy's struggling stop.

‘He's very good.' She glanced at Giles who had a pained look in his eyes. Her smile faded when she could see how it bothered him to watch her with Wesley. She took a deep breath and circled her arm free from his grasp clenching his hand in hers and forced his fingers back until he winced in pain and moved his legs out of her way. She rolled over on top of him and sat there, grinning smugly at Giles.

‘But he's not as good as you.' She stood up and walked over to Giles. He smiled, looking warmly into her eyes. It was nice to be appreciated, even if it took his death to bring it about.

<"Thank you.">

‘No. Thank you.' She reached out and glided a finger along his chin, as if to say "That's my little Watcher."

Wesley sat up and watched with bewilderment as Buffy stroked the empty air in front of her.

"Perhaps that's enough for today." He got to his feet and walked over to her. Buffy's glance fell to the floor and Wesley suddenly felt he'd intruded in on something. "I'll leave you to your...um, thoughts." He sighed and walked up the stairs, glancing back with the sound of a giggle. Buffy seemed to be laughing at something in the darkness. He didn't see anything there but felt the hairs on the back of his neck tingling.

It was Tuesday evening and Wesley knew that Buffy's friends would keep her occupied for a few hours. With a hint of guilt jabbing at his gut, he snuck into Buffy's room and closed the door behind him.

The room was cheerfully decorated with colorful band posters and stuffed toy animals. Framed photos were carefully positioned on the dresser at a convenient angle to see from the bed.

< "How dare you come in here!" > Giles stood dauntingly behind the Watcher; growing annoyed at the fact Wesley couldn't see or hear him. <"This is her space, her sanctuary away from her duty. You shouldn't be here.">

Giles followed the young man as he slowly walked around.

Wesley took in the feel of the room, trying to connect with his Slayer by means of her belongings. Once he reached the window he smiled at the marks and scrapes adorning the windowsill and wall; signs that Buffy had snuck out many times to do her duty without rising suspicion in her mom. He wondered if any of the marks were fresh.

<"Isn't easy to have family and friends and be committed to a life of servitude. She needs her private space away from both. You best learn that.">

Giles wanted to forcibly throw the intruder out but recognized the futility in the thought. He'd known for some time his capacity for animation of objects and touch was slowly fading. It took all his concentration and an excruciating amount of strength for him to move the smallest objects.

Wesley continued to examine Buffy's room and he saw some papers lying on her bed. He picked them up and realized the sheets were his missing notes. What frustration. She was hindering the whole situation.

<"It wasn't her."> Giles tried to defend Buffy but knew his words were falling on deaf ears.

With a sigh of disappointment, he replaced the papers on the bed and carefully left the room as he first saw it.

Wesley knew he had to win her trust and win it fast.

One week later...

"Buffy, Mr. Pryce says you're doing great." Joyce ate a spoonful of her soup and smiled across the table at her daughter.

Buffy's eyes were glued to her bowl of soup. She slowly moved the spoon through the broth and watched the noodles spin and swirl.

"Of course. That's our Buffster!" Xander tried to be lighthearted but knew he was failing.

"He's suggested you go for a short patrol tonight." Joyce glanced at Willow who watched Buffy expectantly.

"We could all come along. Make it a Slayage party!" Willow smiled. Xander grinned at the thought, reminiscing about the good old days.

<"Buffy...you need to eat, love."> Giles materialize beside Willow and smiled at the group of friends rallying around her. <"They need to see you eat. Please.">

‘I'm not hungry.' She set the spoon down.

"Buffy, please speak to us. Say anything." Joyce begged.

"Yeah...call us names. Cuss, swear, anything." Xander pleaded.

"I don't think she can." Willow sighed.

"Why?" Joyce asked with a hint of impatience.

<"It's my birthday."> Giles frowned.

"Today is Giles Birthday." Willow explained. "It's too painful for her."

They heard some fumbling at the front door and saw it swing open. Wesley appeared with an armful of festive paper bags.

"Little help here..." he said, struggling to close the door behind him. Willow hurried over to him and took some of the bags.

"What's all this?" she asked.

"We're celebrating." He walked into the living room and spread out the colorful bags. Cordelia entered with a huge cake and Oz brought in his guitar and portable amp. They closed the door and began to decorate the living room with streamers and crepe paper.

"What are we celebrating?" Xander asked, examining the bags with a childlike curiosity.

"Buffy! We're celebrating Buffy." Wesley smiled and walked over to the quiet Slayer. He took her hand in his and guided her to the other room.

Giles smiled at the young Watcher's enthusiasm. He understood what he was attempting and hoped it would work. Buffy needed to associate this day with something other than bad memories.

"Alright! Party. I can do this." Xander smiled at Cordelia who winked at him in response. She helped Joyce spread out the snack foods while Willow helped Oz get his equipment set up.

Wesley sat Buffy down on the couch and handed her a package. She looked at it with confusion.

"You deserve something special." Wesley grinned. "Please...open it."

She looked up to see Giles smiling at her from the dining room. He nodded slightly, giving his approval for the activities.

Buffy cautiously opened the package and uncovered a beautiful handmade journal with a leather cover intricately decorated with precious stones. Her initials were impressed in the upper right hand corner and she noticed the edge of an oversized bookmark peeking out from under the first few pages. She let her fingers lightly glide along the cover. It was breathtaking.

"Look inside." Wesley slowly bent back the cover to reveal the bookmark that was made up of pictures of the Scooby gang. Everyone was there, Willow, Xander, Oz, Cordelia, her, Giles and Miss Calender. Buffy's eyes filled with tears.

"It's a journal. You should be recording your own adventures." He felt his heart leap from the look of emotion on her face. Any emotion was good; it meant she was there with them.

<"Well done, Pryce."> Giles could see how touched Buffy was by the gift. The Watcher had displayed genuine thoughtfulness and intuition in his choice. He felt a hint of satisfaction as he faded away.

Buffy smiled at Wesley who found it difficult to look into her melancholy eyes.

"Lets have some fun. All of us." He declared and handed everyone their own little bag.

"For me?" Xander eagerly took his bag and smiled at the Watcher. "Yep...you can always buy me off with chocolate!"

Wesley nodded at Xander's disguised apology and handed out the other bags. He watched as the group of friends spent the night enjoying each other's company. Though Buffy never spoke a word, he could tell the whole scene moved her. Her eyes were always following someone and she showed no sign of spacing off. She was slowly coming back to them but Wesley feared it was too late.

Later that night...

Giles sat alone in Buffy's room, investigating her belongings with a renewed interest. Everything had her flavor, her essence; from her posters of various young feminine-looking male rock stars to her oddly humorous stuffed pig. He felt out of place; he was intruding in her world.

The door opened and Buffy entered with a solemn look on her face. She closed the door and spread out on her bed.

<"That was very thoughtful of Mr. Pryce to put on a party for all of you."> Giles sat down on the bed.

"Yep." Buffy stared at her new journal. She pulled out the bookmark and examined the faces decorating it.

<"What's all this brooding about then?"> He gently brushed a hair away from her cheek.

"Do you ever see Ms Calender?" Buffy asked and peeked at him from the corner of her eye.

Giles eyes lowered to the bookmark and he shook his head woefully.

<"It isn't permitted."> He said quietly and gazed out the window, trying to avoid any display of emotion.

"Why?" Buffy asked.

<"It's not important.">

‘Please tell me.' Buffy urged and sat up, waiting for an answer.

Giles let out a strained sigh. <"As long as I have contact with the living, I'm not permitted to be with the dead."> His jaw tensed and he looked down at the bookmark.

"So you're an outcast from both worlds?"

<"In a sense."> He shifted back against the headboard and looked at Buffy. <"You need me. I'm here for you."> Buffy was stunned at how he easily he said it, like it was a simple truth, his obligation.

Buffy looked at the journal and back at Giles. After some internal conflict, he saw her toss the journal aside, watching it land on the floor. Buffy curled up against his chest and tucked her hands around his back.

After a moment of silence, Giles heard Buffy's thoughts break the calm.
‘Giles, you're a ghost and all... so how come I can feel you?' She let her fingers glide along his back, enjoying the electric tingle of cold running through her fingertips.

<"Perhaps you need to."> He whispered and closed his eyes, concentrating as he tenderly stroked her head. Her eyes grew weary with sleep as Giles touch lulled her into soothing rest. He kept her company as she slept, watching her as he'd vowed to do.

Part 4...