Chapter Fifteen

Buffy screamed and dug her fingers into the arm of the couch as the vision hit her. They were beginning to hurt more. It was funny, she'd have thought they would hurt less as more and more of her brain died. "171 Oak , big demon, girl in the house. Don't let her send you away." Buffy choked out.

Angel, Wes, and Gunn grabbed weapons and were out the door in seconds. Xander stayed behind to help Buffy. Angel didn't mess around with the visions anymore. Even more important then saving the people in the vision was putting Buffy out of her pain. The only way to do that was to save the people in the vision as quickly as possible.

Willow sorted out Buffy's pain pills. She filled a glass of water from the cooler and handed them to the tiny blond.

Buffy looked up at her and tears streamed down her cheeks. She gulped the pills down and tried to stand up. Her knees buckled and she would have hit the floor but Willow caught her. Buffy dragged Willow down to the floor with her and sat there sobbing. Giles of all people scooped Buffy up in his arms and carried her to her bedroom. He tucked her into bed and smoothed the hair back from her forehead, damp and sticky with a cold sweat.

"Giles, I'm sorry I forgot your name last week." She whispered.

Giles shook his head and tears filled his eyes. He took his glasses off and begin cleaning them with a handkerchief. "Oh, my dear, dear girl."

"You know it doesn't mean I forgot you. I could never forget you. All these years, you've been so much more then my watcher. You've been my father in every way that ever counted. I know you weren't supposed to love me but thank you." Buffy said.

"Buffy, you are the daughter I never had and I could no more not love you then I could stop breathing. It is I who should thank you for allowing me the privilege and honor of having such a position in your life." Giles said.

"Even if it hurts after I'm gone?" Buffy asked.

"It will hurt. It will hurt more then anything has ever hurt in my life and still I am privileged to have known you." Giles said.

"You'll make sure Dawnie doesn't forget me, right?" Buffy said.

"We could never forget you, not any of us for one moment." Giles assured her.

Buffy nodded. "I don't know if I've ever told you, but I love you, Giles."

Giles squeezed Buffy's hand. "I love you." He struggled with the tears that filled his eyes. He was British and the British didn't cry.

"Will you send Dawnie up here for me, please?" Buffy asked.

Giles nodded and stood up. He left the room silently. There was nothing left to say. Words were terribly inadequate at a time like this.

Buffy sat propped up on pillows. She smoothed her hair down and grabbed the ever present box of Kleenex. She dabbed at her eyes and took a deep breath as Dawn opened the door. Buffy smiled as brightly as she could and patted the bed. Dawn sat down and curled up against her. Buffy put an arm around her shoulders.

"Dawnie, you know I love you, right?" Buffy said.

Dawn nodded.

"Ok, so you're not a little girl anymore and even if you were I don't think we're doing a good job of hiding this. I'm dying and I don't really think I have much longer. The next vision-"Buffy started.

"No, Wes is researching and Giles and Willow-they'll find something, Buffy." Dawn interrupted.

Buffy shook her head. "No, sweetie, they aren't going too. It's okay though. I've gotten to see you grow up into the most beautiful young woman and I really wanted that. Do you remember what I told you on that tower, before I jumped?"

Dawn nodded, tears were streaming down her cheeks.

"I mean it. I want you to live. Do all the things you want to do and cherish every single second of your life. I want you to fall in love and when you do don't be stupid like I was. Don't let anything come between the two of you. I want you to get married and have kids and be in love until you're a little old wrinkled lady. I saved the world for you, Dawnie because I want you to have the whole world." Buffy said.

"Without you-what if I can't?" Dawn sobbed.

"You can. You're not alone. You've got Giles and Willow and Xander and Angel and Wes and Gunn. And I'm always watching over you, Dawnie, your own personal guardian angel. You can do anything you want to do, and I'll know if you don't. I'll come down and rattle some chains at you or something." Buffy said with a slight grin.

Dawn nodded. Buffy held her while she cried and somehow a measure of peace came over her. At some point her head stopped hurting and she knew the vision problem had been taken care of. Dawn pulled away after a little while, sniffling and wiping at her nose with a tissue.

"You okay now?" Buffy asked.

Dawn nodded slightly.

"Ok, send Xander and Willow up next."

Buffy picked up the stuffed pig, Mr. Gordo that lay beside her in bed. She hugged him tight and drew what strength she could from him. Saying goodbye to her friends was the hardest thing she'd ever had to do and it would only get worse. Eventually she was going to have to say goodbye to Angel.

Xander and Willow walked in the room after a one soft knock on the door. They sat down on the bed, one on each side of her, holding her up.

"So, Buffster, what's up?" Xander joked with tears in his eyes.

Buffy smiled up at him. "Oh, scarecrow I'm going to miss you the most."

Xander took a moment to swallow the sob that caught in his throat. "So it's movie trivia. Alright, I'll bite, Wizard of Oz."

Willow was crying silently beside her.

"I really don't have to tell you guys anything. You know, you're my best friends and I wouldn't have made it this far without you. Just know, where I'm going, I'll always be watching over you and Will, promise me, no matter how bad it hurts. This is it. Even if Angel asks you and he probably will, don't."

Willow nodded. "I promise, no matter what."

Buffy nodded. "Xander, you were always my heart. You're the reason I kept going even when it was broken. And Willow, you're my strength. When I wanted to quit, you wouldn't let me. I wouldn't have made it this far without you two. A slayer isn't supposed to have friends. Instead, I have two of the greatest friends a girl ever had. Thanks for sticking it out. I know it wasn't easy. I'm counting on you both to get Giles through this."

"We will, Buffy. We won't let him quit either." Willow said.

"And if he tries, I'll annoy him to death." Xander promised with a weak smile.

"I knew I could count on you guys. I always have. I need to rest a little bit. When the boys get back, send Wes and Gunn up if you would."

Willow walked calmly out of the room, Xander at her side. When the door shut behind them she ran down the hall, making a strangled sound in her throat. Xander followed her. They locked themselves in Willow's room and cried. Losing Buffy the first time had been hard but it had been sudden. There weren't words for how hard it was to watch her die this time.

Angel wanted to go up to see Buffy as soon as they returned. Willow stopped him with red eyes and a soft voice. "She wants to see Gunn and Wes first. She'll send for you when she's done talking to them."

Angel swallowed hard. "She's saying goodbye isn't she?"

Willow refused to meet his eyes. She nodded so slightly he might have missed it if he hadn't been looking so hard. Angel squeezed his hands into tight fists. He went completely still for a moment and then he turned on his heel and headed for the basement. "I'll be in the training room when she needs me." He said.

Wes' soft knock woke Buffy up from the short nap she was taking. She sat up and rubbed her eyes.

"Come in," She said and managed a smile when she saw Wes and Gunn. Wes dragged a chair close to the bed and sat down. Gunn paced the room.

"I wanted to thank you both for taking care of him all those years when he had the visions. You could have staked him or left him and you didn't. Thank you. After this is over, see if there's any way the council can get Faith out. The world is going to need a slayer and Faith could use friends like you guys. "

"Then you don't think a new slayer will be called?" Wes asked.

Buffy shook her head. "No, there wasn't one called when I jumped into the portal. I messed up the slayer line when I died the first time. Faith is in charge of the slayer line now. When you get her out, tell her I forgave for everything and I'm sorry that I couldn't do it sooner."

Wes nodded. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the arrogant, pompous fool I was when I was in Sunnydale, I'm sorry that I wasn't a better watcher-"

Buffy stopped him with a light hand on his arm. "No, Wes. You more then made up for all of that. It wouldn't have mattered if you were a Giles clone, hell you were a Giles clone until I got a hold of him, I wouldn't have accepted you." She looked up at Gunn and held out her hand. He stood beside the bed and took her hand in his. "Keep up the fight. It's a good one. Angel told me one time that we don't fight because we can win. We fight because there are things worth fighting for. And he was right, this is worth fighting for, all of this. He might forget that after I'm gone but you two don't. Keep up the fight."

Gunn pulled away and turned his back. There were tears in his eyes. He nodded.

"Okay, send the Broody guy up." Buffy said.

Angel was wasting time. When they'd first come back he couldn't wait to see her again. Now he knew she was saying her goodbyes and he wanted to put it off as long as possible. How was he supposed to say goodbye to his entire world? He took a shower in Wes' room. He grabbed clothes from the dryer downstairs. Finally he couldn't put it off anymore. She was waiting for him and he hated to keep her waiting. He cut flowers from the courtyard and carried them upstairs. He knocked softly on the door and stepped in. Buffy had lit some candles by the bed. She smiled at him.

"Hey," she patted the bed beside her. Angel walked over and handed her the flowers. She buried her nose in them breathing deep and smiled. "Thank you." He sat down beside her and wrapped his arms around her. "How did the vision go?" she asked.

"It wasn't a problem. She accidentally raised a demon, we took care of it." Angel said.

Buffy rested her head on Angel's chest and closed her eyes. "I'm so tired, Angel."

He stroked her hair and placed a kiss on the crown of her head but he couldn't bring himself to tell her that it was okay to sleep.

"Remember our reflection?" Buffy asked.

"You mean yours?" Angel said.

She shook her head. "No, ours, how when we stand in front of a mirror, I can't see you but I know your still there."

He remembered the Christmas Eve that seemed so long ago. It had been a little more then two weeks. He nodded. "I remember. It made you smile."

"We're like that, Angel. I'll always be there, even when you can't see me. Our souls are so intertwined that we can't be separated anymore. As long as you walk this earth, my soul walks with you." Buffy whispered.

He could almost feel her slipping through his arms. "Buffy, please, don't leave me yet." Tears stung the back of his throat. Buffy tilted her head up. Angel leaned down and kissed her lightly. She laid her hand on the back of his neck and threaded her fingers in his hair.

"I love you, I've loved you since the beginning of time and I'll love you when all the time is gone." She whispered.

"Buffy," He started and then he felt it. Her breath shuddered out between her lips and caressed his face. His chest constricted and he gasped for breath. His heart pounded hard in his chest and it was breaking. He shook her slightly but knew it was no use. She had taken her last breath, as he took his first. He gathered her into his arms and wrapped himself around her body. He cried all the tears he'd held back for over two weeks, all the tears he hadn't shed because he was trying to be strong for her. Inside he screamed and cursed the life he'd been given while hers was taken.


One Year Later


I stand on my front porch and look out at the rising sun. It is a bright orangey pink that reminds me of a color Buffy might have painted her nails when I first met her. It's been almost a year since her death and everything still makes me think of her.

After she died I made good on my word, I quit. I stopped slaying vampires, demons or anything else bigger then a high school history class. I called in some favors and got a set of official looking papers. I now have a birth certificate, a driver's license, a social security number and a degree from a tiny college no one has ever heard of that lets me teach high school history in this tiny little town in Colorado. They were thrilled to have me. They say I'm over qualified, if they only knew the truth. I'm Mr. Summers, a favorite teacher, to fifty high school kids and the students are constantly amazed that I can make history interesting. They don't know I didn't study history and read about it in a book. I lived two hundred and fifty years of it.

I take a sip of my coffee and the morning sun glints off the claddagh ring I still wear. Last week one of the teachers at the school asked me out on a date. I smiled politely and thanked her and told her I was married. It's true, for the rest of my life I will be married to Buffy. She took my heart with her when she died. I don't have it to give to anyone else.

I turn to go into the cabin. I've got to finish getting things ready. Its Christmas Eve morning and Giles, Willow, Wes, Gunn, Dawn, Xander and Faith are all due here in a few hours. It's our first Christmas without Buffy and we're going to survive it the only way we know how, together.

I walk in the house and catch a glimpse of my reflection as I walk past an antique mirror. It's still a shock to me that it's there. I stop and look at my reflection. I know she's there, even though I can't see her standing there beside me, smiling, always smiling. It's taken a long time for me to come to terms with my humanity and Buffy's death. I finally figured it out though. I realize now she was my reward, not the shanshu. Shanshu was just an end to an eternal punishment. No matter what without it I would have had to walk an eternity without Buffy. Now I only have to live fifty or sixty years without her. And to someone that's over 250 years old, 60 years goes in the blink of an eye. It's my burden to bear but it's one that I can bear, because eventually I'll get to go home. Just give me a little bit of time Baby, I'm coming home to you.