Title: Her Gift 1/1

Author:Night Owl

Rating: PG

Spoilers:Post-"Chosen"

Summary: Picks up a few hours after the final scene of "Chosen."

Feedback: Are you kidding? Who doesn't want feedback?

Disclaimer: The characters don't belong to me, but I love Joss Whedon & Co. for sharing them with us.

Distribution: Don't have a website. If you're interested in archiving, please ask. I'd be more than flattered.

A/N: This was written shortly after "Chosen" aired. Thought I'd pull it out, dust it off, and post it here. It was my first venture into Buffyverse fanfic. It's nothing special and certainly nothing original – just one version of how it might have been. Hope it pleases.

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Her Gift
By Night Owl

She sat alone in the back of the bus. The soft murmur of muted conversation drifted back to her, teasing her with a word here and there, but mostly indistinguishable from the hushed rumble of fast-moving tires on a black-top highway.

It was late. They'd been driving for hours, heading north to San Jose toward rest and a temporary refuge. Not that they needed somewhere to hole up–not anymore. But Giles had friends there, and it gave them a place to regroup, time to fully process everything that had happened and figure out where each of them would go from there.

Willow had suggested Los Angeles, but it was too soon. Buffy couldn't go there right now. Maybe not ever. Giles, true to form, had seemed to understand that, sensing her wordless reluctance. And, so, he had offered an alternate plan.

She stared blindly out the window, gazing past her reflection into the inky blackness beyond, a perfect repository for her thoughts. Most of the others were asleep, exhausted but still breathing. Slayer healing had kicked in, leaving the worst of their wounded with little more than shallow cuts, including Buffy herself. Out of necessity, Robin had been left behind at a hospital, his injuries serious but not life-threatening. Faith had opted to stay with him, but the two would also head for San Jose once Robin grew strong enough to travel.

It had been a hell of a day, literally, and sleep offered a welcome escape for weary warriors torn between triumph and sorrow. Those few who were still awake spoke quietly to one another, or, like her, sat lost in silent contemplation, granting Buffy the emotional space she desperately needed.

No, you don't. But thanks for sayin' it.

It had taken her so long. All those wasted hours, all those lonely nights. Only in the end had they found their way to each other. Two nights of bittersweet closeness followed by a final night of shared intimacy so tender and profound it had moved her to tears, though she'd waited until he was fast asleep before giving in to them. Couldn't let him see her cry. Couldn't let him think…

He'd given her so much—his strength, his loyalty, his courage, his love…and finally his life.

I love you.

No, you don't. But thanks for sayin' it.

He'd gazed deep into her eyes and seen the truth. How could he not? Stubborn vampire—he'd always seemed to know her heart better than she ever had. His voice had been gentle, so achingly kind, completely at odds with the chaos and destruction raining down all around them.

And she had known, in that moment, that he needed to do this—to deny the truth, to sever the ties that forever bound her heart to his. More than her love, more than her belief in him, he needed to set her free. He needed to be sure that she would go on, that she would live and love and embrace a world that he could never be a part of, no matter how desperately he might have wished it.

It was his gift to her.

No, you don't. But thanks for sayin' it.

And, so, she took it and gave her own gift in return—a lie born of silence, a false affirmation of his words. But in her heart she finally knew. She would always know, just as he had…

I love you.

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Finis

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