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

Buffy felt her heart race at the thought of going out in a blaze of glory. It would give her that dramatic ending she'd always hoped for, battling against the forces of darkness. Then it hit her...these weren't forces of darkness; these were soldiers, pure and simple. The young faces of the men and women surrounding her friends were faces of blind obedience; they were fighting for what they believed in, just as she did.

<"Think of Willow, Xander, Oz and Wesley. They are stuck in the middle. We need to get them out."> Giles appeared behind Spike, looking more translucent and flickering like a bulb about to burn out.

'Giles...what's wrong?' Buffy stepped farther back into the shadows as Spike looked in on the drama unfolding in the other room.

<"I haven't much time."> He looked worn out. Buffy sensed he was slipping away.

'What should I do, Giles?' Buffy's eyes pleaded for guidance.

<"You have to decide, love...help you're friends or give up. Your choice."> Giles warm smile guided her more than his words. She knew in her heart what she had to do.

Spike tried to make a move toward the room and Buffy stopped him with an arm. He raised a curious eyebrow and she shook her head.

"See...there you go. I don't get women. Bloody batty!" Spike waited for Buffy to react. When she pointed to a drape-covered window behind them, Spike shook his head with disappointment. "We'll continue this discussion another time then." He smiled and leapt up to the opening, sneaking out the back unnoticed.

<"Travers is mine."> Giles had a wicked glint in his eyes. <"You need to prove that the Slayer is back on duty. They don't want to harm innocents, so a little distraction should provide enough time for the gang to get away." >

'I'll do my best,' Buffy grinned.

<"That's all I've ever wanted."> He disappeared.

Travers nodded again and the soldier paused with a questioning glance.

"Now!" Travers ordered and the young man drove the riffle butt into Wesley's midsection. He doubled over in pain and decided that pride wasn't worth the agony of another blow. He stayed down; hoping his show of defenselessness may prevent another pounding.

"This bores me Pryce. You know where she is, why do you insist on making this difficult?" Travers strolled over to Xander and Oz. He cocked his head to the side and studied the anxious pair. "Perhaps one of these boys will be more cooperative." With a motioning finger, he directed a soldier over to them. The council forces exchanged slight glances of doubt at Travers actions. These looked like children, not some demonic cult or supernatural beings.

"Leave them alone. I've told you everything we know." Wesley said, struggling to return upright.

"I grow tired of this. Take them!" Travers waved a hand and the soldiers acted.

"NO!" The voice came from the shadows and everyone paused, looking for its source. Buffy walked out with a confident stride and marched to the middle of the crowd. "I'm here."

"Buffy, you talked!" Willow's face lit up with a smile and she waved happily at her lucid friend. Then she realized that expressing any surprise at a normal acting Slayer might not be the best idea in the presence of current company. "I mean...you can talk again...because that cold was really bad and your laryngitis must be gone and ...I'll just shut up now." She looked concerned at Wesley who let out a little chuckle, quickly halting the laugh after feeling the ramifications of tensing sore muscles.

Wesley gripped Buffy's wrist as she stopped to help him up. "Run...they want to..." he whispered as she knelt down to retrieve the sword he's place on the ground.

Buffy shook her head and returned a little wave to Willow. She winked slyly at Xander and Oz, trying to ease their fears. "I know what he wants. He ain't getting it." She strutted up to Travers and pointed the sword directly between his eyes. "Sheriffs back in town...that's your cue to leave!"

Travers opened his mouth to object but felt an overpowering chill run through his body. He shivered the sensation away and tried to speak again.

<"The chase is over...go home!"> The unearthly voice rang in Travers ears and he hunted for its source. Everyone eagerly watched him to see what he'd do with the threatening Slayer, not showing any notice of the strange goings-on he was reacting to. He decided to act casual.

"I'm afraid it's not as simple as that Ms. Summers. You're reliability is in question." Travers showed a hint of intimidation.

<"It is your sanity that is in question..."> the rumbling voice echoed through Travers mind and he looked around for signs that the others heard it. Only puzzled looks at his behavior decorated the faces of his comrades.

<"Leave on your own accord or be taken....it is your choice.">

Travers swallowed nervously and looked around, wildly searching for the owner of this otherworldly voice.

"Lookin a bit off there...perhaps you need some fresh air." Buffy smiled.

Another shock of cold overpowered his arm and ran up into his shoulder. As the chill crept into his chest, Travers determined it was his time to leave.

"Perhaps I do, I'll just step outside." He motioned to the others who waited for some confirmation of the peculiar man's orders. Travers took one more look at the Slayer and pointed a finger at her grinning face, "I'll be watching your work with great interest, Ms. Summers."

"No need...I've got all the Watcher I need right here," She winked at Wesley and saw Giles coalesce behind Travers. She instinctively wanted to take back the statement but saw Giles smiling proudly at her and she knew he'd accepted the inevitable. Buffy had to move on and he was letting her go.

"Pull back!" The shaken man walked toward the exit with his team cautiously following. "I said pull back!" He barked his order, impatient to escape the supernatural abode.

As he watched the last of his unit leave, he looked back at Buffy and smiled, "This is over...for now!"

Buffy smirked, "Don't let the Hellmouth bite you on the ass on your way outta town!"

Willow, Oz and Xander joined her in the center of the room. Buffy's confident smile melted away as she examined the smiling faces of her friends.

"I'm so sorry I put you all through this," she felt her throat choke up.

"No...Buffy. We understand..." Willow insisted, hugging her with startling vigor.

"Yeah, we're just glad to have our Buffy back." Xander agreed and wrapped his arm around them in a group hug.

Wesley limped up to the gang and raised a curious eyebrow at Oz who watched the proceedings with a faint grin.

"I'm not with all the emotional outpouring..." he quipped.

"Apparently," Wesley smiled, empathizing with the young man's view. Perhaps his days in Sunnydale will bring about a change for the better in that aspect of his character. With a quick consideration of his fellow introvert, he reconsidered the fine qualities of holding ones emotions at bay.

Buffy looked over Willow's shoulder and saw Giles wander into the back room where he'd suffered so terribly. She pulled away from her affectionate friends and smiled.

"Guys, there's something I have to do. Wait for me back at the house?" She saw the uncertainty in their eyes and took their hands in hers. "Please."

Willow smiled and nodded. "I know...say goodbye for us." She began to walk out and Oz and Xander followed, each glancing back as if to make sure Buffy was still there. Wesley nodded and took a seat near the entrance, determined to keep an eye on the departing Council, friends and on his Slayer.

"I'll be a moment," She headed toward the back room.

"Take your time." Wesley smiled.

As she came around the wall and looked into the room, she saw Giles standing in the spot where he'd fallen months earlier. She watched his fading figure kneel down and touch a translucent finger to the stains he'd left on the stone. With the touch of his fingers gliding over the darkened creases, his face altered, displaying the marks of torture Angelus had inflicted on him.

She stepped into the room and spoke softly, not wanting to interrupt Giles reflection.

"I'm sorry I wasn't there for you." She'd never discussed his death with him. They had always concentrated on happier memories, on masking a past full of pain and sorrow. Buffy understood she could only heal by facing the past and learning from it, growing stronger from it.

<"I know."> Giles stood up and turned to her with a somber face. <"I have to go."> His eyes glistened as his voice cracked with the delivery of the painful news.

"I know." Buffy bit her lip and tried to hold back the tears that threatened to flow. She wanted to be strong, to show him she was ready to be on her own. With a few steps toward him, she felt her tears escaping. "I want you to know...I-I need you to know..." she turned away, trying to collect her emotions. She swallowed to clear her throat and took a deep breath, "I love you, Giles." The declaration lifted a weight from her heart; she needed him to know, both for him and for her.

Giles smiled and his form intensified, his face seemed to glow from the power of her words. He spread his welcoming arms and she embraced her guardian angel. As his arms enclosed around her, Giles concentrated with a passion beyond any he'd ever attempted before. He wanted Buffy to feel as if he was entirely there in her arms. She deserved the goodbye she was deprived of; he needed this tender closure as well. He cherished the bond he had with her, the familiarity he'd only known in death. <"I love you, Buffy.">

Buffy couldn't mask her emotions and began to cry, holding him closer, amazed at almost human feel of him in her arms.

Giles could feel her aching for him to stay and knew she wouldn't let go; it was up to him.

<"Goodbye."> His soul was reluctant to let her go; hesitant to release the connection he strained for so long to keep with her. He could sense Buffy's heart sink as he slowly dematerialized, leaving her standing alone with her arms grasping at shadows.

Buffy waited for a moment, taking in the feeling of his absence. She wrapped her arms around her, trying to comfort herself. As she slowly walked out into the main room, she caught a glimpse of Giles materializing in the night garden, watching her for one last time. She silently thanked him for the final farewell.

<"You'll be fine.">

Buffy nodded uncertainly and heard Wesley come up behind her.

"I'll protect her with my life!" Wesley spoke self-assuredly to the ghost as he stood beside Buffy.

<"You better!"> He smiled. <"Goodbye.">

Buffy waved timidly, knowing the lump in her throat wouldn't allow a sound. She looked at Wesley and whispered, "You see him?"

Wesley grinned and glanced down at her. "Yes...both of them." He directed her attention back to the apparition of Giles who no longer stood alone.

Buffy let out a weeping laugh. Her heart filled with joy as she saw Jenny Calender walk up next to Giles.

<"You did good work Rupert."> Jenny said proudly.

Giles smile faded as he slowly turned toward the voice. His mouth fell open with disbelief as tears filled his eyes. <"J-Jenny?"> He was sure if he still had a heart, she would be able to hear his pounding.

She offered him her hand and he timidly slipped his fingers in hers. He let out a sigh of relief at the contact, savoring the reward of her touch.

<"Time to let go."> Jenny said tenderly and pulled him to her. She lifted her hand to cup his face, feeling every texture of his skin, every wisp of hair. He gazed into her welcoming eyes, thanking the powers that be for her presence. His beautiful Jenny was there, waiting for him to join her. Not able to wait any longer, he leaned down to give her the loving kiss he'd envisioned every night since her death.

Buffy's heart ached at the pure splendor of the lost lovers' reunion. She knew at that moment she'd done the right thing. Wesley felt a tear run down his cheek and quickly wiped away the evidence.

"I believe they can finally rest in peace now." He felt his cheeks flush with embarrassment at the sound of his voice cracking, revealing his emotional state.

Buffy smiled and glanced up at him. "They deserve it." She giggled. "You old softy!" She nudged him with her elbow and he put his arm around her, giving her a slight hug. They watched Giles and Jenny share their passionate kiss as a faint glow intertwined with a supernatural mist surrounding the phantom couple. With a faint sparkle of light, they dissolved into nothingness.

After a quiet reflective moment, Buffy looked up at Wesley with a grin. "Well Wes...Lets go do some good!" She began to walk toward the entrance of the old mansion.

Wesley quickly caught up with her and raised a quizzical eyebrow, "Wes? Yes...I suppose I could get used to that." He smiled and marched steadfast at her side.

The End.