There may be another part later on but this is all for

now.

Title: Going Home

Author: Mel

Rating: FRC-ish/PG-ish

Teaser: Giles' journey comes to its end. Part 4 of 4

Spoilers: none

Pairings: Giles/Jenny at the end

Disclaimer: Not mine, Joss owns them. I'll return them

unharmed when I'm done.

Note: I may yet do a follow up to this chapter, but I don't know yet. And the Ghost Roads concept was from one of the novels, but I don't recall which one. It wasn't used onscreen, but it worked here.

Giles knew that his battle was finally at its end. His body was shutting down, system by system succumbing to the disease that had been ravaging it. He was weak and tired, the strength with which he had fought so long now used up. Strangely, though, he felt only a small amount of fear about dying; most of him would welcome the relief leaving this physical shell would bring.

Besides the taxing effect the cancer was already having on his brain, other systems had begun to deteriorate. His liver began to fail not long after the stroke, as that organ is another place lung cancer frequently invades first as it begins to spread. This left his skin jaundiced and yellowed, as well as further aggravating the swelling his body already had from the prednisone. His heart and lungs labored desperately to supply him with blood and breath, their function impaired by the masses within them. This made his breathing raspy and labored and left him constantly exhausted. His digestive system no longer absorbed a good deal of what he ate through his feeding tube, and his body had begun to cannibalize itself in a desperate bid for survival, leaving him terribly thin and bony. And not long ago, his kidneys had shut down, leaving him dependant on dialysis. And though it was not mentioned by Buffy or any of the others, he could clearly smell the odor, the smell of rot and decay, the death-smell. That smell was the physical acknowledgement of the feeling he had, the knowledge that he was already dead inside.

But Giles knew it couldn't go on. He was weak and mostly paralyzed, fully dependent on machines and other people to care for his needs. It hurt knowing what he had to face each and every day, that even his most basic needs had to be done for him by someone else, and despite the will to live he'd shown in the beginning, there was simply no way he could fight when there wasn't anything left to fight with. He knew that he could not prolong his life just to go on existing in this condition, that it was not really living anymore. So,just a few days ago, he had asked that the life support measures be stopped. Buffy had taken it hard, but ultimately, she had understood his reasons and accepted his decision.

For most of the morning, he'd lay drifting between sleep and wakefulness, between periods of clarity and alertness and confused haze, just as he did every day now. When he was thinking clearly, he sometimes watched whoever was sitting with him at the time. Buffy was there of course, and Dawn, Willow and Xander had taken time from studies and work to come to him when Buffy told them what was happening. His own family-his mother and brother-had been called in, but no one knew if they would make it or not. At the moment, the slayer was there, one hand lightly clasping one of his, her eyes unable to hide the ache she felt watching him. He shifted his head slightly, a thin ghost of a smile crossing his lips as he focused on her.

"Buffy…"

"I'm here." She saw his eyes, knew without any words being spoken what was happening. "I know…it's time. And I want you to know that I'm not upset at you for it. I know you don't want to keep living like this and I don't want to see it either."

"I'm glad…you understand…And there…are some things…I want to say. Knowing you…working with…you…was the…greatest honor…I could have…received" he whispered in a soft, labored rasp. "I'm so…proud of…you."

"I'm honored to have had you as my watcher, and my friend. With all due respect to Merrick and Wes, I wouldn't have wanted to work with anyone else. And…Try not to worry about me too much. It'll be hard at first…I know it will, but I'll manage okay. I think. I'll miss you terribly, though."

"I know…you will. ….I'll be with you…even if you can't…see me…"

"I know" she said. "This world, who knows…Maybe I'll see you again sometime Maybe you'll come back like I did or something."

"Maybe. Hope I wouldn't…go through….this again."

"No, I hope not. And, much as we'd like to try it, I'll make sure there aren't any resurrection spells this time. I just…I know you wouldn't want it that way. And although I'm glad now to have come back,I wouldn't want anyone else going through what I did."

"Very true. Thank you."

He was silent for a long moment, was seized by a barrage of coughs, and then once he was finished, he spoke again. "Let me…see….the others…now."

"Let me get them."

She quickly made her way to the door and motioned her friends into the room, softly saying to them that his time was near and that he wanted to see them now. Once they had gathered around the bed, the old Watcher started to speak again, his tired, almost peaceful looking eyes shifting from one person to the next. A faint ghost of a smile flickered on his lips as he spoke.

"It's been…an honor…working with…all of you." He rasped. "I could not…have chosen…better people…to fight…by my side. " His gaze shifted between the members of the little group. "I thought…being a Watcher…meant not…having a family. But I do. " His eyes focused on them intently. "You are…my family. I'll…miss you…all…"

Tearfully, they took turns saying their individual goodbyes, holding his hand, giving hugs but gently so as not to hurt him or disturb the tubes and monitors he still had attached, replying that they would all miss him very much as well. Buffy hugged him last, and with a noticeable effort, he lifted his arms up and around her, holding her close for a few seconds.

"It's okay…" she whispered to him gently. "Don't be afraid to let go."

His eyes were weakening, the things around him blurring and beginning to fade, but then something bright, radiant began to coalesce and form a shape by the bedside. It was swirling light at first, and then it shifted and changed into a human form with a familiar, recognizable face. A broad smile crossed his face, a tear streaking his cheek.

"Jenny…" he whispered.

"Rupert…Come, it's time to go." She reached to him and he took her hand in his. He sat up, and then stood for the first time in months, surprised at how light and effortless the action was. He felt his strength and the life that had so slowly ebbed away return. Gazing down at himself, he saw his body once again young and healthy and he felt strong and free, no longer encumbered by the ravages of the disease or its side effects. Looking back at the bed, he realized that this was his spirit-form; his physical body still lay on the bed.

As his spirit-form had left it, his mortal form on the bed had convulsed and shuddered, then fell still and silent. Its chest continued to rise and fall in ever shallower waves for a short time, then there was a final, long, slow breath and the shell stilled completely, its gaze

fixed and lifeless. He wondered momentarily whether his young friends could see him, but

The two ghosts embraced, holding each other, and then Giles reached out, laying his now ghostly hand on his slayer's shoulder one last time. She reached up to touch it, though her hand went through onto her own shoulder. She smiled at him, her lips forming words as she spoke softly through her tears. "Good-bye. I love you."

"And I love you, Buffy." He replied. "Keep on fighting, don't give up. Stay the course."

"I will. I promise."

Both she and the others were still crying but now the tears of sadness were mixed with joy and gladness. The bright light swirled, coming together into a single whole and then fading as Jenny led Giles onto the Ghost Roads and he began his journey home. They would all miss their old friend terribly, but their grief was made just a little easier for them to bear knowing he was happy now and that his suffering had ended.