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Spoilers: Through the end of Tabula Rasa (S6)
Disclaimer: Everything in the Buffyverse belongs to Joss, ME, etc, etc. "Goodbye to you" is by Michelle Branch.
Feedback: please, pleased, please... did I mention, yes please?
Notes: as usual: [thoughts] *emphasis*... as a 'by the way', there's not gonna be a sequel... nope... no happy ending here.... putting my foot down... I'm determined not to give them smoochies... argh... maybe... you decide.
Thanks: Ness - for giving this the shove it needed after about a year on the shelf... your suggestions were perfect, sweetie. And to Dword... for the Diana Krall... and for the superb beta. *big hugs* to you both.
Dedication: To Kerrie. If you had never called me 'evil', Ness and I would never compared notes on you and I would never have been brave enough to ask for her help on this. So in a bizarre way, you did me a favor. :P

~ Prologue ~

Buffy sat alone at the bar, staring into space. She couldn’t believe it.

Giles had gone.

The man who was once her everything: her friend, her guide and mentor, her rock and her foundation. The man she had loved more than life itself had flown to the other side of the world because he didn't love her enough to stay.

[No...] She corrected herself, [He said he loved me too much to stay.]

The thought confused her and she shook her head slightly to clear it. As a result, her thoughts returned to the memory of watching him board the plane to England. It was enough to make her want to cry; in fact her soul was aching for some sort of release for her pent up emotions. Instead she simply let out a long breath and wondered where on she had gone wrong.


~ Part 1 ~

"Look Xand, we can't just blame Willow. I know she has a problem... but you're wrong. What she needs is help, not desertion."

Xander looked at Buffy with wide eyes, disbelief evident in his expression. The two along with Anya were in the Magic Box alone, sat at the reading table processing Willow's behaviour... and the evening's events. They could only guess where everyone else was; Willow and Dawn both were (they assumed) at home, trying to persuade Tara not to leave, Giles was on his way to the Airport and Spike... well, nobody cared where Spike was.

Xander again tried to emphasise his point, wondering for the umpteenth time if he should just record it and play it over, considering the number of times he'd tried to bring reason into this conversation and been ignored. "What? Buff... it's not as simple as that. Will's just not the type to admit to that sort of thing. You know... I think Tara's got the right idea. Willow needs to know that what she's done is wrong - and the only way she can learn that is through... you know. But if we get all, "Oh well, we still love you and if you say sorry, we'll forgive you" with her, then she'll just do it again."

Buffy clenched her teeth together and balled her hands into tiny fists under the table, trying to keep her anger in check at the memories that were threatening to invade her already stressed out mind. "Xander! I can't believe you just said that. I think having your lover leave you is enough punishment for anyone, regardless of the circumstances."

Again Xander stared at Buffy as if she had grown another head. Before he could reply however, Anya offered her opinion.

"Look as an ex-vengeance demon, you know I've got plenty of experience with magic and punishment. Like, this time when this young girl's lover had been using magic to hypnotise her into having sex when she didn't want it. He stupidly left instructions for a friend lying around and she found them. Of course, she tried to leave him, but he only continually magicked her back to him so that he could perform his little hypnosis ritual again. Naturally, I responded to her pain and cursed the bastard for her. To start with I shrank his penis to the size of a chipolata, and then I..."

"An, honey, is there a point in there somewhere?" Xander hurriedly intercepted his Fiancée before the tale could get as gruesome as they usually did. She huffed slightly in response, but continued.

"It's just that if I've learned anything over the last thousand or so years, it's that love and loss go hand in hand, just as magic and its' consequences. Even despite all the grotesque and painful diseases I inflicted on this stupid boy, her leaving him was the one thing that he truly suffered and it taught him the lessons he needed to learn better than anything I could have done to him." She shrank back slightly, thinking that Xander would start criticizing her for talking about her former employment again. Instead, he stared at her in shock, his mouth hanging open.

Buffy smiled slightly at his reaction to Anya's insight, not at all surprised herself. "Mouths look better closed, Xand."

He at last found his voice. "Huh? Oh... right."

"And anyway, Xander" Buffy added. "Aren't you forgetting everything Angel did? You never used to forget. In fact your sole purpose in life for a while seemed to be tormenting me with that reminder - especially when he came back."

Xander hung his head and winced slightly at the memory. "Yeah, okay. But that's dealt with... isn't it? And what's that got to do with Willow, anyway?"

"Everything that Angel... Angelus... did to you and to Giles and to everyone was because of me. You're always making it seem like it was all Angel's fault 'cause he was this big, bad vampire. But ultimately, I was the one who slept with him. I shirked my responsibilities..." she paused for a moment, allowing a brief - albeit painful - smile to cross her lips at such a typical 'Giles' word, before continuing, "... for one careless moment and look what happened. So *I* was responsible for the consequences. But *he left me*. God knows the torture I went through after he left... it hurt so much Xand. It *was* my punishment for everything. You guys were the ones who helped: you didn't judge me or blame me. I think Willow deserves the same respect. After all, Angelus went on this big torture and killing spree - which you guys should have hated me for. In comparison, Willow's magic doesn't come anywhere near as bad... after all, she only altered our memories a little."

"Yeah, but she coulda gotten us killed..." Xander's voice trailed off as he realised what Buffy would say to his outburst. Surprisingly, it was Anya who spoke up again, placing a hand gently on one of Xanders in consolation of the fact that he was fighting a losing battle.

"And she might do it again, if we're not careful. I mean, I'm pretty sure that she won't even if it's just to get Tara back, but we can't be sure. Willow is... very powerful, and it's going to be hard to keep a control over all that power. She's really going to need us around to help and support her. Besides, how can you know that we'd have died? I mean from what I've heard, you were pretty cool dusting that vamp before... and after Buffy realised she had the strength and ability to fight and win, I think we could have gone on as before. Well, maybe not exactly as before, but still... I mean you can change someone's name... change their circumstances, but that doesn't change who they are. Fate has decided that for us anyway, and just because our perception of ourselves may change, what's inside doesn't. So, I don't think we were ever in that much danger... well, except from when the store was invaded with bunnies."

Again Xander gaped at his Fianceé, and once more it was up to Buffy to bridge the silence.

"Come on, Xand. You've got to admit she's right."

"Uh, huh." Still unable to form proper words, he just made odd little vowel sounds and nodded his head slightly as if on a string.

Anya, pleased that she had done something right for a change, patted his hand comfortingly, adding as an afterthought, "It's just a shame that the spell ended when it did, if it had lasted just a few hours longer then Giles would... well, he'd still be here and he'd probably miss his plane... I wonder if he's as good as Xander at giving orgasms?"

That comment snapped Xander out of his stupor. "Why would you wonder that? Actually, I don't think I want to know. Um... Food! Yes, food seems a good idea right now. Anyone for Chinese? I think I'll be getting some. Yes, going *now*." He stumbled slightly as he babbled, but managed to make his way to the door. "An, you coming?"

"Almost... " She replied distractedly, still daydreaming about Giles' kiss. Suddenly realising what she had said, she hastily added, "I've got to look after my horny... I mean my money... I mean..." the sentence died as she realised Xander had gone. [Great. Now he's mad at me. Oh well... I guess if I give him plenty of orgasms he'll forgive me.] She looked back at Buffy to see her reaction.

Buffy had been watching the exchange with an expression halfway between shock and amusement. The amusement gave way to shock when Anya spoke again.

"So, Buffy, now that we're alone... tell me, is Giles good at giving orgasms?"


~ Part 2 ~

"Umm... Anya... you mind telling me what the hell I just missed? 'Cause... Giles? Orgasms? I mean... can you please *NOT* use those two words in the same sentence? 'Cause... Ewwww." Buffy's face was flushed at the subject of their conversation and she desperately tried to find something to focus her embarrassed gaze upon in her efforts to avoid the imagery that her thoughts were conjuring.

Anya smirked at the uncomfortable look on the Slayer's face. "What? Oh, Buffy. Stop pretending. We're all alone, and I promise I won't tell anyone. Just spill it, already. What's the big? Do you get into kinky stuff?"

The blush suddenly disappeared from Buffy's face and she instead paled as an expression of disgust crossed her face. "Anya, what the hell are you talking about?" A light bulb went on in her head as she processed what Anya was hinting at. "Ugh. You... you think me... and Giles... do.... stuff? Oh god, you do, don't you? What on earth gave you that idea?"

"Oh come on, Buffy. Why are you still pretending? It's so obvious what's going on, so there's just no point saying otherwise."

"Oh for god's sake, Anya. What's obvious? What are you talking about? And, why the sudden interest in -" her face flamed again, "- Giles' sex life?"

Anya huffed slightly and folded her arms across her chest in impatience and frustration. "Okay, fine then. We'll play your little game of "Let's pretend", if that's what you want. So... you and Giles... you're having sex, right?" She paid no attention to Buffy's shake of her head. "And you're obviously keeping it a secret, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation right now. Although, heaven knows why you're doing so. I mean anyone can see how in love you two are. My only guess is how long it's been going on. I reckon it was there when I first met you properly... you know, the Mayor thing? You seemed pretty tight, then. I would say that the whole Olivia and Riley thing was just a cover. So, now we're done with this little game, tell me - what's Giles like at giving orgasms?"

Buffy was certain she should be hearing the noise of her jaw hitting the table but it never came, although her mouth was certainly left hanging open in shock. Eventually, she gathered her wits enough to stutter out a response. "Anya... what.... what's made you think this? I, I mean... seriously... there's nothing between Giles and me... *nothing*" she added with a vehement shake of the head.

"You're serious?" Anya questioned in disbelief. "Hah! I don't believe it for a minute. All the longing looks you've given each other the last couple years - like when that Sweet demon came to town... the way you've touched each other so intimately - like that time we lost our voices... the way you got so mad when Giles got turned into a demon... they're dead giveaways, Buffy. You can't tell me there's nothing between you, 'cause I can see it with my own two eyes."

"But... but... but..." Buffy's voice trailed off, and she found herself looking down at her hands in confusion before speaking up in a soft voice. "I used to... I used to have a crush on him... I guess in some small way I still do... after all, he's saved my life so many times... and he's just so, just so... and his eyes... have you noticed his eyes? They're just so sexy... and dreamy... you know, you could get lost for hours just staring into them... and, well... I can't really explain it... but I know he's... well, you know..." her babble again trailed off into awkward silence while Anya gave a triumphant smirk.

"See? See? I knew it! I *knew* there was something going on! I knew you were protesting waaay too much for it to be nothing."

"But there isn't anything going on." Buffy protested quietly, sadly. "Nothing, nada, zip, big fat zilch. He's just not interested in me that way... I guess I'd have to be more like my mom or Olivia for him to see me that way... more... grown up, I guess. Besides... he's on his way to England right now... pretty solid proof of where he really wants to be, eh? Definitely not with me."

"Just how blind are you Buffy? When exactly was it that you got stupid? I... I... I mean..." Anya's voice trailed off rapidly under Buffy's glare. The silence stretched out as Buffy continued to glare at Anya, while mentally reeling from the shock of admitting her love for Giles.

Anya tried a different approach; aware that time was running out. "You know that Giles loves you, don't you?" Just as she suspected, Buffy's glare transformed into a look of surprise. Anya continued. "I mean, okay, if you insist there's nothing going on, fine. But it's obvious that you both *want* something to be going on - you love him and he loves you."

"But how do you...?"

Anya sighed. "Because. Because anyone with eyes can see the way you two look at each other... and how tight you are when there's some big bad coming after us... and when there's not. And then there's the way that Giles smiles at you...and, well..." Again the sentence died, and she sighed, wondering if it wise to mention this [Why not? It's not like Buffy's gonna tell Xander]. "Um... tonight... Giles and me... well, we... umm... we kissed." Buffy's eyes widened even more as she took this in, but Anya wasn't done yet. "It wasn't like... well, you know..." she shifted uncomfortably, beginning to wish she'd never started this. "He thought... we thought we were engaged... so, you know, that's what engaged couples do... anyway, what was I saying? Oh... he... he moaned your name. I guess, even in an 'alternate reality', so to say, he still loves you... after all... work it out: he kissed me, but your name was the one on his... very nice lips." She drew another deep breath before smiling at Buffy's shocked expression. "Oh come on, Buffy... figure it out... he *loves* you."

Buffy slowly started to nod her head in acknowledgement, before changing her mind and shaking it gently, sorrowfully. "I don't understand... if he loves me, why isn’t he here? Why is he halfway to England instead of telling me himself that he loves me?"

"Because you never gave him a chance to love you, I'd wager... and I expect he never realised that you love him back... although if I can figure it out then how the hell didn't he? But if he thought you didn't love him, then knowing Giles, I think he'd probably prefer to be apart from you than be near you while watching you with other guys.... probably too painful."

The shocked expression had resumed its place on Buffy's face and she spoke quietly. "Oh god... I've really screwed everything up, haven't I?"

The former demon shook her head. "No, you haven't. You just didn’t realise how you felt about him, or how he felt about you... besides nothing's completely screwed up yet... you've still got forty-five minutes."

"Until what?"

"Until Giles' 'plane leaves."

"You... you mean he hasn't gone?"

"Not yet... and if you get there in time, and tell him what you told me... but less vague... he might not go at all."

Buffy smiled at last, a beautiful smile of hope and happiness as she stood and moved to hug Anya tightly. "Thank you." The words were softly spoken, but Anya understood their depths as she hugged Buffy back.

"Go to him."

Buffy disentangled herself and reached for her jacket, suddenly desperate to get out of the Magic Box. She raced up the small flight of steps and towards the door, stopping only for a moment to look back at Anya in wonder. "When did you get so smart?"

Anya shrugged as she sat back down. "After being around for eleven hundred years, it kinda comes with the territory."

The girls shared a last smile, before Buffy disappeared out the door, sprinting into the night.


~ Part 3 ~

The Slayer skidded to a halt inside the airport and looked around wildly, her keen eyes searching the queues of people for any sign of her former Watcher. She felt her heart sink into her boots when she realised that he wasn't there. [He can't have gone. He just *can't*. Not if Anya was right about his flight times. Please, oh please let him be here]. Determined, she strode to the front of the queue, heedless of the frowns and comments thrown her way as she pushed in at the front.

"What flight is Rupert Giles on?"

The clerk glared at the petite blonde leaning over the counter. "Perhaps you would take a place at the *back* of the queue, Miss. Then, perhaps when your turn comes, I *may* be able to help you."

Buffy glared back, trying in vain to quell the panic rising inside her. "Rupert. Giles. He's mid to late forties, with short blonde hair, green eyes. He's tall and English. *Where* is he?"

The older woman crossed her arms over her chest, keen to get rid of this disturbance before the crowd started revolting. "I'm sorry, Ma'am. Look around you. There are hundreds of men that could describe. You can't expect..."

"Tell me where he is." The command came out on a low growl.

"I... I'm afraid I can't give you that sort of information, Miss..."

In a heartbeat, the Slayer had leaped over the counter, landing neatly beside the clerk and pushing her out of the way to search their computer system.

"Excuse me? You can't do that. Stop it!" The woman's voice became hysterical, but Buffy ignored it, tapping frantically on the keyboard.

"Look, Miss... I'm going to have to call security... you leave me no choice..."

The Slayer turned to face the other woman, a retort ready on her lips, when a familiar voice stopped her short.

"Stupid, bloody contraption. Typical Americans and their technology. Work, damn it!"

Heart catching in her throat, Buffy could only hesitantly lean to one side so that she could peer around the clerk, afraid that she'd imagined the voice. It was no fantasy... there he stood... barely restraining himself from kicking a vending machine that had apparently eaten his money. Tears sprang to her eyes at the sight, and she didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Pulling herself together, she straightened herself up and shone a smile at the older woman.

"Oh look, there he is. Thanks. Really. You've been a great help." With that, she hopped out of the cubicle, leaving a baffled clerk in her wake.

Silently she walked over to stand behind Giles, excited at first to have found him but by the time she reached him, she'd remembered what she was doing there and fury was coursing through her anew.

"You couldn't be bothered to say "Goodbye"? You're leaving without so much as a "Call me if you need me"?"

The Englishman froze mid-curse. "Buffy?" No, she couldn't be here. He shook his head to clear it of the confusion whirling inside. Buffy would be with Willow... or on patrol... not here.

An angry voice answered him. "The one and only."

Heart pounding in anticipation, he turned slowly to face her, not at all surprised to find her standing in her usual pose of defiance, hands on hips and a glare that could cut steel.

"Buffy?" he questioned again softly, "What are you doing here?"

The glare hardened. "What am *I* doing here? You have some nerve. I think *I* should be asking, "What are *you* doing here?"

"I... I... ah..." He gave a resigned sigh. "I would think that that's obvious, Buffy."

"You're going." The accusatory tone in her voice didn't go unnoticed.

"Buffy... we've been through this... I have no choice." He ran a weary hand over his face as he spoke and leaned back against the machine.

"No choice?" Her voice rose in disbelief at his choice of words. "*No choice*? Giles, *I* have *no choice*... I'm the..." awareness hit her momentarily of their surroundings and she lowered her voice only long enough to whisper, "Slayer," before the hysteria crept back in. "You *do* have a choice. No one's forcing you to go back to England... in fact... we all want you to *stay*. So don't give me all that "I have no choice" crap. 'Cause sorry, it won't work."


"No, Giles. Don't think you can lecture this away. I've had enough of you doing what you think is right for me. Do you remember a certain... *book*?" She carried on, knowing that he knew just which book she was referring to by the emphasis she gave it. "Giles, you would have died if I hadn't found out what you were gonna do. You assumed it was the right thing to do, but it wasn't up to you to make that decision. It was *my* destiny..."

"Buffy!" His reprimand was much sterner this time, breaking into her rant. She looked back at him, flustered, her cheeks burning with anger.


Giles' voice softened. "We have an audience."

Sudden embarrassment replaced the anger as Buffy whirled to see two security guards striding toward them. She turned back to her Watcher with wide eyes, silently requesting that he defend their argument. He let out a loud snort in response.

"Oh no, Buffy. *You* can handle this. I would hate to think I'm assuming what's right for you... in case I was wrong."

She could only frown at him as the guards reached them and flanked the Slayer.

"Come along, Miss. We don't want any trouble. If you'll just leave quietly and let this man get on his flight, we won't have to arrest you." They each took an arm belonging to the petite blonde. She easily pulled out of their grasp and they tried again to grab her. "If that's the way you want it..." the burlier of the two growled.

To Buffy's surprise, Giles interceded at last, unable to see his Slayer manhandled in such a manner.

"I'm sorry for my... friend's... behaviour, gentlemen. Perhaps... perhaps you could let us have a moment somewhere... privately? I'm sure there will be no more disturbances... and I'll be certain to let the management know of your help in this regard."

The two men looked at each other with raised eyebrows. Whatever they had expected, this certainly wasn't it. They shifted their gazes to the clerk who still stood, glowering, in her cubicle. She appeared to think for a moment, before giving a curt nod.

"This way, then." The same man spoke, his voice gruff as he directed them to a private lounge. After checking that it was empty, he let them in and both guards left the Watcher and Slayer to settle their feud in private.


~ Part 4 ~

"Being a superhero pays off at last." Buffy smirked as the door closed behind them and they took in their surroundings. The plush furnishings in the light, airy room confirmed her suspicions that this lounge wasn't for ordinary travellers. She sank into a leather armchair, casually crossing her legs and frowning again as she watched Giles fall into his familiar 3-step pace.

"Giles... please... stop. Talk to me. Tell me why you're doing this."

He paused momentarily, taking in the distraught expression in her eyes despite her relaxed pose, before resuming his pace. After several long moments of deep thinking, he halted again, capturing her gaze with his and speaking softly.

"I've a better idea. Since I've actually already told you why I'm leaving... why don't you tell me why you're so desperate to keep me here."

"I..." she hesitated for a moment, before Anya's words rushed to her mind. ["If he thought you didn't love him... he'd probably prefer to be apart from you than be near you while watching you with other guys.... probably too painful..."] She had to do this, Buffy realised. Giles had to know how she felt, no mater how scary the thought of telling him was. "I love you."

Giles thought his legs would give way beneath him. "You... what?"

"I love you. And that's why you can't go. I know you love me..." his eyebrows raised at her certain statement but he made no move to deny it. "So, now you know I love you back, you don't need to go. You *can't* go."

He fought to stay strong. "I'm sorry, Buffy, but I *can* go... and I *am* going."

"But... what? Why?" A rush of tears welled up in the Slayer's eyes.

"I can't give anymore of myself to you, Buffy, and I know that this is not what you want to hear, but it would be grossly unfair to let you hope for anything more. I just don’t think I can do it anymore."

Those large tears now fell freely as Buffy looked through blurry vision at Giles. "Can't do what, Giles? You can't love me? You can't protect me, or save me, or fight with me? What do you mean, you can't do it?"

The sight of her tear-stained face tugged at his heart and alone would usually sway him to stick by his Slayer. [But not this time] In a sad voice, he replied, "I can't do any of it Buffy."

"Why?" The word was torn heart-wrenchingly from her lips, and again his soul ached so much so that he could only wish things were different.

"Because... because there is no room for me in your life. If I were to come back with you, it would be for reasons that are entirely different for those which you need me."

Confusion again adorned Buffy's face as she questioned what he meant. He strove to explain himself. "Buffy, you say that you love me, and I believe you. But I have seen you in relationships, and I don't think you are quite ready for the sort of relationship that ours would become. There is too much hurt, too much fear, and there are many ghosts which have to be laid to rest before our relationship could progress. It's something that I can't do for you - it's your responsibility."

"Okay, I can do that. But why do you have to be in England for me to do it? Why can't you stay here and be my support group - you know, like the AA?"

Giles sighed. "Buffy, we've been through all of this already. The temptation for me to step in would be too great. I wouldn’t be able to remain detached if my life depended on it - if your life depended on it. I need to be... unavailable... for lack of a better word. This is something you need to work through alone."

"But why do you think that there's no room for you in my life? That doesn't make sense! Giles, my whole life is yours - it always has been. It would be easier to remove others from my life to make room for you, than to remove you." Buffy interrupted, desperate to keep him here.

"When you look at it logically, it does make sense." He gently chided. "In fact, all you've just said only emphasises my point. Buffy, in all the time I've known you, I've seen how you've depended on people to love you instead of learning to love yourself, be it family, friends or boyfriends. You need to learn how to live with yourself. You need to learn how to stand on your own feet. My presence would only hinder this."

"But why now? Now you know where I've been and how it feels to be back? Giles, I... I need you more now than ever before."

"Especially now, Buffy. I wish you could understand - I wish you would try to see this my way."

"What way?" She was aware that her voice had risen, but she didn't care. Why was Giles doing this to her? "How can you possibly think that your... solution... is going to help anything?"

Giles looked at her silently for long moments, before responding in a voice so quiet Buffy could hardly hear him:

"Because it has to."

"What?" Her voice rose another notch.

"Buffy, I don't have much time. Listen to me." Giles' voice also rose a little, but more with the need for authority than with hysteria, like Buffy's had. He reached out and grasped her hand, desperate to make her understand.

"I love you, Buffy. You are the very centre of my world and I will *always* be here for you... whether I'm by your side or talking to you on the 'phone... but for now, I *have* to leave. We both need space and time so that the healing that is necessary can take place. Most importantly, we need to learn that there is life beyond each other. You need me to be everything you can't: a model to your sister, a counsellor, a mediator, an income and so much more.... but, all I have to offer is myself. I can't live your life for you. For now, you need to work out what you want and where you're going. If ever you need me, all you need to do is call me... any time, night or day. But you *must learn* to survive on your own. This is for your own good, this is to keep you alive."

"But, Giles..."

"No 'buts', Buffy." He released her hands as the last call for his flight was announced and moved to the door in silence. Surprised that his Slayer made no move to stop him, he turned to face her, finding her sitting as still as a statue but for the tears of grief and loss spilling down her front. He wanted to go to her, to stay, but he forced himself to stay put, his hand frozen in place above the door handle. He spoke quietly, his tone begging her to understand.

"Buffy, earlier you told me that I have a choice in the matter of whether I leave or stay. I thought I had a choice when I first came to be your Watcher, but Quentin informed me I didn't. Now, I realise just how right he was. Being a Watcher takes away rights to make decisions for ourselves. We have to make decision for our Slayers... to keep them alive at all costs... our feelings... our needs... come second. I *had* to make this decision to leave. One day, I hope you'll understand. I *don't* have a choice in this... as much as I wish I did. I *do* love you... and I *will* come back for you... and I can only hope that we will be together some day... but not until the time is right. I'm sorry I can't offer any more than that. I'll miss you... every part of my soul will cry out for you every day... but this is for the best. Goodbye, Buffy."

His heart feeling like it would erupt from the pain that seared from it if he stayed just a moment longer convinced him to walk out of that lounge, away from her now wracking sobs and out of Sunnydale... out of her life.


~ Epilogue ~

Buffy sat alone at the bar, staring into space. She couldn’t believe it.

Giles had gone.

The man who was once her everything: her friend, her guide and protector, her mentor, rock and foundation. The man she had loved more than life itself had flown to the other side of the world because he didn't love her enough to stay.

*No...* she corrected herself, *he said he loved me too much to stay.*

The thought confused her and she shook her head slightly to clear it. In doing so however, her thoughts instead returned to the memory of watching him board the plane to England. It was enough to make her want to cry; in fact her soul was aching for some sort of release for her pent up emotions. Instead she simply let out a long breath and wondered where on she had gone wrong, as the singer's words ran through her mind:

"I've been searchin' deep down in my soul
Words that I'm hearin' are starting to get old ..."

Tears sprung unbidden to her eyes, and she fought to hold them back as the truth of the words threatened to cause them to spill over. How many times had she heard people who she cared about promise never to leave her, only to have her heart broken? She had always thought that Giles would remain the one constant fixture in her world.

After several long moments of painful reflection, she felt the presence of someone approaching her from behind, her spidey senses confirming that it was a vampire.


She could only sigh in annoyance at the way he continually followed her around and look at him in disbelief that he couldn’t take the hint to stay away, especially at a time when she so clearly wanted to be alone.

He ignored the meaning of the look and moved as if to touch her, to console her, but she shrugged his comfort off, moving away from him. He raised his eyebrows in response, part genuinely concerned and part silently communicating that he knew what she needed and that he could give it to her. Disgusted, she turned her back on him once more.

Shrugging his shoulders in confusion, Spike could only stare at the Slayer in hurt and bewilderment before stalking to the rear of the Bronze.

As the singer continued, Buffy made a decision. If she could just be with someone who would be there for her, despite knowing that she had no feelings for them, then maybe it wouldn't hurt so bad when they left - as she was undoubtedly sure they would. She turned her head slightly in the direction of Spike's exit. He had offered without need for words to give her what she needed. She moved to the edge of the stool, hesitating as snatches of the song flitted through her mind:

"It hurts to want... everything and nothing at the same time... you were the one I loved... the one thing that I tried to hold on to..."

Decision made, Buffy slid off the stool and headed toward Spike, allowing him to take her in his arms and kiss her deeply. She kissed back with equal fervour, desperate to feel something... anything. But nothing changed, she still felt hollow inside; her heart still breaking as the singer continued.

"Goodbye to you... goodbye to everything I thought I knew..."


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