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She felt so hollow inside. Empty, like never before. Being ripped out of heaven had been bad. Her peace and calm evaporated before her, as her senses had been deluged in bright harsh colors, deafening sounds, and pain and darkness filled her soul. But even in all that, her heart had held hope and light. Her heart had held him. When he came back to her, and held her, it was the first time she had truly felt alive since Willow’s spell.

Now he was leaving her, and that hope and light had been snuffed out.

She couldn’t understand it. How could he ever leave her? That had never been a part of the deal. That was not in the Slayer’s handbook, she was sure of it. He was not supposed to leave her, not ever, and especially not now that he had learned where she had been.

Buffy didn’t register where she was. She aimlessly wandered in the dark of the night, but she wasn’t hunting prey tonight. She was not on patrol in Sunnydale’s numerous cemeteries. She walked because she didn’t know what else to do. Her eyes did not see the tombstones in her path, or the shadows where evilness hid. Instead, she saw his face flashing before her as he struggled to make her understand that leaving her was for her own good. But she didn’t understand, and she never would. She had begged, and she had pleaded, and then she had run.

The vampire hiding at the bottom of the knoll beneath the giant oak tree recognized her at once. So this was the slayer returned from the dead? He smiled, and licked his dry chapped lips. She was so small, and looked so vulnerable, and she looked unprepared. As soon as she passed his hiding place he pounced on her from behind.

She didn’t even fight. She fell to her knees, the breath knocked out of her. Instinct kicked in, and she brought her arms up to protect her head and neck, then she rolled into a somersault until she faced her attacker, still on her knees.

The vampire’s yellow eyes gleamed down out at her, his gaze issuing a challenge. He clenched his fists as he slowly approached this girl kneeling at his feet. But Buffy had no fight left in her. She was tired beyond exhaustion. Tired of the grief and the pain and the loneliness, and she knew she couldn’t bear any of it without him. What was the point of any of it? She had already lived her life, twice, and paid the price, twice. She had earned her reward of peace, but had been thrust back into this nightmare called living. Her only peace and joy in this world had turned from her, abandoned her like every other man she had loved. If Giles was leaving her, then her heart was torn beyond repair. She hadn’t asked to be returned here, to crawl out of her coffin and back into this sad, dark, lonely world. Enough was enough. She bowed her head and whispered, “Finish it, please.”

He didn’t have to be asked twice. He fell on the girl, sinking his fangs into her naked throat, tearing at the artery that pumped hot, flowing, living blood. He drank deeply, and was lost in the ecstasy of the sweet blood of a slayer, as the stake pierced his heart. The vampire was no more then dust, but the damage had been done.

Spike cried as he saw the dust of the vampire cover the fallen slayer. He felt for a pulse in her neck, and cursed when he couldn’t feel one. Tears came to his eyes as he clutched her to him. He stood, carrying her close, and ran as fast as he could to the hospital, hoping that it was not too late.

* * *

Giles sat in his darkened living room of his now empty apartment. The boxes had been sent to storage just hours ago. Nothing was left to be done except to get to the airport, board his plane to England, and to keep telling himself he was doing the right thing.

He held the airline ticket in his hands, turning it over and over again. The shiny paper felt smooth and cool in his fingers. He kept spinning it around, but the blurring of the words were not because of the pace his fingers kept on the task, but because of the tears that were held just inside his eyelids. The tears would not fall. He wouldn’t let them. He had thought there were no more tears left in him. When Buffy had died, fallen from that tower, and spared them all by closing the door between this dimension and countless others, he had thought his tears would never end. His grief had been a never ending well within him. Finally, however, he had dried up. He had nothing left.

So he had returned to England to try and put as much distance from Sunnydale and him as he could. Everywhere, he saw her. He couldn’t bear to see Dawn, for he had wished so much that it had been her demise he had witnessed, and not his beloved’s. The guilt that brought on is what finally had ended the tears. So he had returned to England to try and start again. He had barely set foot on the ground when Willow’s phone call had brought him back here, back to her.

But his Buffy was still lost. He understood why, but he didn’t know what to do to help her. She needed to find her strength again, and he finally realized she couldn’t do that with him there. He was enabling her, in his love for her, to not stand on her own. So he had decided to leave, for her own good. It tore him up, and broke his heart, but he was at his wits end and didn’t know what else to do.

He was a foolish old man in love with his slayer, and he knew she was falling between his fingers and out of his grasp forever, but he feared that if he kept trying to hold on to her, he would break her. The tighter he wanted to hold on, the further from him she got. It wasn’t his Buffy anymore. That Buffy was replaced by a cold, distant, vacant girl that had no spirit and no heart. His only thought was that by his going, perhaps she could find her heart and spirit again. He needed to start a spark. But was this the right thing to do?

Giles sighed heavily, and with one last look around the darkened flat, he stood and grabbed the bag at his feet. He slowly walked to the door, with one last look at the only remaining piece of furniture left in the place. The sofa. It looked like him, he thought, out of place, and alone in the dark. He turned the knob on the front door, and proceeded to run right into Spike.

“Oof!” They both grimaced at the contact of one body against another, Spike’s elbow accidentally hitting Giles in his side.

“Spike, what are you doing here? Get out of my way.” Giles said all of this without looking up, instead grabbing for his bag that he had accidentally dropped. When the vampire’s body remained in place, Giles did look up, and blanched when he saw Spike’s face. “What is it?”

“It’s Buffy. You need to come with me. Now.” Without another word, Spike turned and strode to Giles’s car. “Now Watcher!” Spike shouted, breaking Giles from his trance.

Giles threw his bag in the trunk of the car, and then unlocked it and climbed in, Spike joining him in the passenger seat. He glanced over at the vampire as he put the keys in the ignition, “Where are we going? Where’s Buffy? I know she’s upset, but..”

“Shut up. This is all your fault.”

Giles didn’t ever remember seeing this look on Spike’s face before. It was pure rage, directed at him. “Sp..Spike, what’s going on? What are you talking about? If it’s about my leaving…”

The vampire growled, and his face twisted for a moment, and then Spike got control of himself. “Just get us to the hospital. Now!”

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