Letting Go part 4/6
Notes: Single quotes are thoughts. <> Represent unearthly voices.

Wesley's patience was at its limits. Buffy stared out the window with no sign of comprehension.

"Miss Summers, please. Answer this one question." He moved to block her view. "I know this is hard on you. You've suffered through more than any young woman deserves to." He knelt down beside her and pleaded for a reaction.

<"This is getting tiresome."> Giles paced around the room.

'He's persistent. I'll give him that!' Buffy smiled and watched Giles pace.

"I've heard you talking with someone in your room. Every evening for the last few weeks." Wesley waited for an explanation. Buffy's eyes seemed to follow some imaginary movement in the room.

<"Council just isn't what it used to be. Every dreadful example of a Watcher they've sent would have gotten you killed in a week.">

'I can handle things myself. You didn't patrol with me every night you know.'

Wesley sat down on the couch and watched Buffy's gaze move around the room. Though he saw nothing that could be drawing her attention, he felt there was something there.

<"Buffy, this is the only way I can protect you. The only way you can protect yourself."> Giles pleaded for her to understand.

"Buffy, what you're doing is only hurting your friends." Wesley had to try a new angle. Buffy's eyes flicked toward him for a moment then looked back out the window.

"They need you. Sunnydale needs you." He urged.

'He's right, you know.' She looked at Giles, waiting for his reaction.

<"They can deal with it. They've been dealing with it."> Giles said callously, immediately dreading his tone with her.

Buffy stood up and began to walk toward the stairs. Wesley watched her curiously with hope that her actions were a response to his words. She paused and looked back at Giles. Wesley cocked his head to one side, waiting eagerly for her to say something.

'They shouldn't have to deal with it!' She walked up stairs and disappeared into her room.

Wesley studied the vacant room for a moment. The customary uneasy sensation he felt when Buffy was near still lingered in the room and he smiled.

"I know you're there." He said, his eyes scanning the empty room.

Giles looked around to see who'd entered the room then realized the Watcher was talking to him. <"What? How could you possibly..."> Giles walked over to the young man.

"I don't know why you're here. I suppose your sense of duty compels you to stay at her side. Can't say I blame you." He glanced in the direction Buffy had looked last. "She's very special."

<"What could you possibly know about it? She's so beyond your very comprehension."> Giles suddenly felt defensive. Wesley's smile changed to concern and Giles took a seat beside the Watcher. <"She still needs me.">

"She is in danger, my friend. You must realize that." Wesley lowered his face into his hands. "Procedures have to be enforced. I have till tomorrow until the Council's Special Units Team arrives."

<"The Council wouldn't dare. It's never been done...even in the darkest times."> Giles anger stirred enough to make Wesley sense his presence beside him. The young man looked over at the empty space drawing his attention. Giles wished his words could be heard. <"Will they kill her?">

"The Council needs a dependable Slayer. If the current one is unable to resume her duties, they will have another called."

<"I won't allow them to harm her."> Giles reached out to grab hold of Wesley's arm but his fingers passed through his flesh, a frustrating reminder of his impending uselessness.

"I will do everything in my power to protect her." Wesley sat up and focused on the family photo on the mantel. "I'll take her away if I have to. But I am one man against an army of elite forces." The young Watcher's confidence was gone. Giles could feel his fear and was ashamed at his own behavior. "I need her help. I can't do this alone."

Giles studied the young man's face; he'd aged in his short spell at the Hellmouth. This place could drain your soul if you didn't defend yourself.

Wesley was right; he couldn't handle defending off the Council alone. Buffy had to act and act now.

<"You aren't alone."> Giles said with a determined voice unheard by his companion and evaporated.

<"Buffy...we need to talk."> Giles formed before Buffy. He saw her lying on her bed; face down, crying with her face buried in her pillow. <"What's wrong?">

She lifted her head to peek at him then quickly hid her face once more.

<"Buffy. What is it?"> He knelt down beside her and rested his hand on her back, noticing it took him a few tries to finally gain the strength to contact her.

She slowly sat up and wiped the dampness from her eyes.

'It's not fair.' She declared.


"Everything." She slid off the bed and began to pace around the room. "My friends are unhappy, my family is unhappy, you are unhappy...not to mention dead!" She threw her arms up impatiently. "Wesley is unhappy and the Council is unhappy."

Giles felt a lump in his throat as Buffy began to sob. "And I'm miserable." She fell to her knees and Giles leaned forward ready to help her up, "...and so tired."

<"Wha...what are you saying?"> Giles knew exactly what she was talking about, he could feel it in her, he'd experienced it after Jenny's death.

"Let the Council come. I welcome it." She walked to the window and looked out at the sunset, taking the moment to enjoy the complexity of its nature and the simplicity of its beauty.

Giles felt panic surging in him, he reached out to grasp her arm but watched his fingers pass through her, cursing his ineffectiveness. <"You don't mean that."> He leaned forward so she could see him in her peripheral view. <"Buffy...you d-don't want that. Please.">

"It's someone else's turn at the Hellmouth helm, Giles." She turned to him, staring through him with a stony seriousness. "I'm ready to let go. It's the only way to...to make everyone...happy."

<"Death's not the answer.">

She lowered her head, suddenly shy. "I want to be with you." She peeked up at his shocked expression.

<"God...I'm so sorry."> He turned away and stumbled to the middle of the room, moving as if he was stricken blind.

"Sorry...why?" Buffy sat against the windowsill, confused.

<"I should never have come."> Giles shook his head, mortified at what he'd brought on Buffy.

"Giles, I need you. That's why I want to be with you." She stepped forward and tried to console him with a touch. She was stunned as her hand passed through him, sending waves of nothingness rippling through his opaque form.

He looked desperately at her and raised his arms as if displaying himself.

<"Is this what you want? What you really want?">

She stumbled back onto her bed and stared at him, trying to comprehend what she was witnessing.

<"This is what you'll get. What you'll become.">

Buffy began to cry. Giles fell to his knees before her.

<"Buffy...this world needs you in it. You're friends need you.">

"But I need you."

<"You never needed me. You only need yourself."> He lowered his gaze to the rejected journal that still rested on the floor. <"Remember the day in the basement when Wesley acted strangely. He left abruptly with no explanation."> Buffy nodded slightly. <"It bothered me at the time but I understand now. The bond, Buffy. He felt it at that moment. He didn't recognize it...I did.">

"I don't understand," a tear trickled down Buffy's cheek and she moved beside him on the floor.

<"I need to go."> The words he'd been dreading finally fell past his lips and he reluctantly looked into Buffy's dampened eyes.

She gasped and pushed away from him. In a moment of unchecked anger she waved her hand in the air. "Fine...leave. I'll find you soon!"

<"Buffy, no...">

"You can't stop me!" She screamed and covered her mouth, surprised at her sudden outburst.

Giles knew she had him, how could an apparition prevent her from certain suicide?

"I'm damaged goods, Giles. If the Council wants to force me into an early retirement...so be it. It's for the best...for everyone's greater good. Nothing but good here...right?" Buffy's eyes pleaded for Giles to understand and accept her decision.

<"And what of Willow, Xander, Joyce, and the others?"> Giles grasped for anything that might dissuade her from her choice of action.

Buffy looked at him with the callous stared he'd directed at her earlier. "You said it yourself...they'll deal!" With a final prolonged glare, she opened the window and disappeared into the darkness of the night.

Giles tried to think. How could he get through to Buffy? He could empathize with Wesley's battle.

<"Wesley...that's it!">

Wesley lay on his bed, staring at the speckled ceiling of the guest room. He felt absurd, trying to contact a spirit to help Buffy. What ridiculous means he'd sunk to.

<"I need you're help.">

Wesley shot up out of the bed and spun wildly in the room, searching for the source of the unearthly voice.

<"You're right...you can't do it alone. Neither can I.">

Wesley was poised for attack, ready in his best defensive stance, eyes darting from the door to the closet. "M-Mr. G-Giles?"

Giles concentrated, searching Wesley's' mind. He struggled to draw life into unused synapses; sleeping nerves sprang to action at his coaxing.

Wesley's defenses fell as Giles gradually materialized before him.

"My God..." Wesley gasped in awe.

<"Get over it!"> Giles hurried over to the stunned man and offered him a seat on the bed. <"I need you.">

"Wha...what? How?" Wesley stammered.

<"Two very good questions, but we haven't the time!"> Giles closed his eyes and reached out, taking Wesley's wrist in his hands. <"This may sting a little...">

Wesley froze as a jolt of coldness shocked through him. His mind pulsated with electricity as his senses heightened with supernatural potency. Struggling to take a step forward, he found his limbs ignoring his commands.

<"Give yourself a minute to adapt. I'm not sure what I'm doing here. This is a first for me.">

"You didn't..." Wesley strained to no avail, "You bloody hell did! You possessed me?" Wesley yelled as he tried to move his hands, his fingers, his little toe. Nothing worked.

<"I need your help">

"You couldn't just ask?"

<"Buffy's irrational and is out there wandering the streets. I haven't the time to submit an appropriate form for approval of possession."> Giles first instinct was to reach for Wesley's glasses to wipe them clean as he waited for a response from his host.

"Lets go!" Wesley tried to relax and let the spirit of the former Watcher guide his traumatized frame.

<"This may take a little getting use to."> Giles looked around for a weapon.

"Bottom drawer." Wesley ordered.

Giles hastily opened the drawer, pleased with its hidden contents. He pulled out a black compound crossbow and grinned.

<"You have good taste in weapons.">

"Learned from the best." Wesley felt embarrassed at his impulsive compliment; he'd never really gotten to know Giles. But he couldn't help but think of Giles as his mentor, studying his journals with an eager thirst for knowledge. Everything he'd thought valuable and important to his craft, he'd learned from the elder Watcher's writings. "Where do you think she is?"

<"I know where she went.">

Wesley experienced Giles sudden sadness. It was an odd sensation, emotions battling for dominance within him.

"What's the plan of attack?"

<"First point of order...we need the gang!"> Giles drove Wesley's body precariously toward the door. After successfully opening the door he paused. <"It's like riding a bike!">

"Do you know what this is all about?" Xander asked Oz with his mouth full of cheesey chips.

"Nope. Wesley seemed pretty upset though." Oz looked around for Willow who came in from the kitchen with Joyce and Cordelia in tow.

"Where's Wesley?" Willow took a seat beside Oz and gave him a little peck on the cheek.

"This better be important. I was in the middle of a serious pore treatment and epidermis scrape.' Cordelia impatiently walked around the living room.

"You girls and your hobbies." Xander teased.

Wesley stumbled down the stairs, almost loosing his balance on the last step.

"Walk much?" Cordelia snickered.

"You all convened so quickly..." Wesley said as he joined the others.

"Yep...lots of practice. We're always on call at the Hellmouth." Willow noticed Wesley sweating profusely and went over to him, wanting to feel his forehead but hesitant to invade the Watcher's personal space. "You look like your burning up."

Joyce's motherly instinct kicked in and she immediately followed Willow's lead, having no reservations about feeling his forehead.

"He's freezing...and shivering." She looked at Willow wanting a second opinion.

Willow assumed since he hadn't objected to Joyce's touch, he wouldn't mind hers so she felt his cheek and confirmed Joyce's diagnosis. "How long has this been going on?"

"It's nothing." Wesley felt his stomach roll and he suddenly felt lightheaded. With a deep breath, he shrugged off the discomfort. "We have a problem."

Joyce wrapped an arm around him and tried to direct him to a chair. "Yes we do...you're really sick."

Wesley abruptly brushed her arm away and shook his head. "No, Buffy's gone. She ran away."

"What? When?" Willow's voice squeaked.

'Should we explain the circumstances or just...um, search?' Wesley thought.

<"I'm unsure they'd believe the situation."> Giles said.

'I think you have too much doubt in your friends' intuition' Wesley smiled. "I've discovered why Buffy seems...distracted."

<"This may not be the best..."> Giles tried to stop Wesley but was unable to prevent him from continuing.

"It seems a certain deceased Watcher friend of yours has been spiriting around the vicinity of Buffy."

The gang's faces were expressionless, just staring at him impassively and Wesley feared they weren't buying his explanation.

"That would explain a lot." Oz looked at Willow. "She isn't, like...comatose. She responds to things but not to us."

"That's why she zones out? She thinks she's seeing Giles?" Xander didn't like this explanation, it meant that Buffy was ready for a room at the local loony bin and he wasn't going to give up on her that easily.

"She still hasn't verbally responded to me. He's been...interrupting my time with Buffy."

"How polite of you to put it that way." Wesley spoke Giles words without realizing it.

"How would you describe your interference?" Wesley demanded.

"I'm here to help Buffy. Not interfere. The imbeciles the Council have sent aren't fit to clean Buffy's stakes, let alone train and order her around like she's a bloody dog!" Giles anger swelled in Wesley's gut and he took a few calming breaths.

"It's not important! They needn't know what a pain in the..." Wesley paused at the realization that everyone was watching, utterly perplexed at his awkward argument with himself. "Um...there's more you should know."

"Are you ok Wesley? You're not looking well. You're as pale as a ghost." Joyce said concerned.

Wesley and Giles chuckled at her choice of words. "Funny you put it that way..." they noticed Willow step around to face them, looking deeply into Wesley's eyes.

"Giles?" Her eyes filled with tears as she placed a wary hand on Wesley's arm.

Wesley and Giles smiled shyly and nodded.

<'She never ceases to amaze me.'> Giles thought.

'Nor I.' Wesley knew he could count on Willow to figure out the situation.

"Yes, love. It's me." Giles concentrated on lifting Wesley's arm, gently placing his hand on her cheek to wipe away a tear. "Well...it's not all me. I mean...I'm just borrowing..."

"Sharing!" Wesley corrected.

"...Sharing Wesley's body for the moment. Though I would love a chance to enjoy this reunion of sorts, we haven't much time. We must find Buffy before the Council arrives." Giles concern showed through Wesley's expression and Willow nodded her understanding.

"What? I don't get it. What's going on?" Xander looked at Cordelia who shrugged.

"The Watcher's Council is on their way to force the calling of the next Slayer." Willow said sternly, obviously upset with the approaching troubles.

"That would mean they are going to kill..." Xander stopped and stood up. "Not a very good retirement plan."

"And since Buffy didn't come with an extended warranty...they are bent on getting her outta the way so the new Slayer can be...what? Activated?" Oz walked over to Willow and wrapped his arm around her. "I have to say, I'm not liking the Slayer gig right about now."

"I second that!" Cordelia put on her coat and joined the others, waiting for their orders.

"Where would she go?" Joyce grabbed her purse and hurried toward the door.

Wesley stumbled after her and stopped her at the front door with a shaky hand. "We need you here, Joyce. The Council will, in all likelihood, check here first to acquire Buffy. You could provide us some valuable time by keeping them preoccupied here."

"No way I'm going to be stuck here while my baby's out there..."

"Joyce..." Giles calming voice emanating from Wesley's mouth made the frantic mother pause in wonder. "Buffy needs you here. Cordelia will help you distract the Council when they arrive." Giles thoughts reached out for her to understand the necessity of her staying behind. She slowly nodded and set her purse back down by the door.

"I'll need better clothes and fresh make-up." Cordelia walked over to Mrs. Summers and guided her upstairs. "We'll keep 'em Council boys busy."

As Wesley turned back around to the others, he was suddenly aware that they all focused on him with dazed expressions.

"Well...let's go. We haven't much time." He tried to snap them out of their dazed state but only Willow responded by joining him at the door. "I know this is odd, to say the least. But we must get going."

Willow took a step toward the young men and smiled. "Come on, it's just like old times."

With a shared glance between Xander and Oz, they grabbed their coats and the gang headed out in search of Buffy.

Part 5...