Chapter Two

What are you going to do now?

Buffy thought about the question that someone had just asked her. It was finally over. The First was defeated, the Hellmouth was destroyed, and Sunnydale was nothing more than a large hole in the ground. There were hundreds of Slayers, all over the world. For the first time since she was fifteen, she could do what she wanted to, not what she had to.

"Buffy?" Dawn touched her arm lightly, but drew her hand back when her sister tensed. Things hadn't been the same after that horrible night. Buffy had helped them in the fight, but she had refused to stay another night in the house. Instead, after she had returned to the house, covered in blood and gore and dust and carrying her shiny new weapon, she had packed her bags and moved into a house a few doors down. She had refused to see anyone other than Faith and Spike. That was when she knew that this betrayal would not be so easily forgiven as others were.

She knew why. No matter what they'd done, no matter what their stupid mistakes had brought about, Buffy had always been there. To protect them, to forgive them, to love them anyway. They had always been there for each other, to comfort and console, but no one more than Buffy. She had been the one who had to take care of the monsters their mistakes had risen, even her own. Then she'd bring them home, patch their wounds, and tell them that it would be okay. She made a mistake, one that turned out to not be a mistake at all, and they turned on her completely. First their dad, then mom, Angel, Giles and now her and the very friends that kept her fighting all this time.

"Now, I'm going to get you all to LA." Buffy finally answered. "Everybody on the bus."

Buffy sat in the rear seats, away from everyone else, as she thought over the plans that she had made. With Faith's help, she'd had fake papers made for her death, should she, by some miracle, actually survive. Faith would slip them into the right hands after she disappeared. When the news of her death hit the courts, custody of Dawn will revert back to Willow and Giles like it had the last time she'd died. She had a whole new identity waiting for her in saddlebags on a motorcycle in a garage a few blocks from the Hyperion Hotel. She'd get the girls settled, give her body time to heal, then be gone. Now, she just had to decide whether she was going to tell anyone, or simply disappear.

Willow turned in her seat to look back at her friend. Buffy was sitting alone, staring out of the window, with a thoughtful look on her face. She wanted to go back there and talk to her, but Buffy had kept them all at a distance that they just couldn't seem to get across. Xander had said that she had been withdrawing from them, but now she was completely cut off. Since that night, Buffy had only talked to them about her plans for the fight with The First. She wondered if they would ever get past this. She glanced over at Xander. She knew that he still felt that they were right, but she wasn't so sure anymore.

"You are wondering if you were wrong." Willow jumped slightly as Anya sat down next to her. The ex-vengeance demon was looking seriously battered. She had almost died at a Bringer's sword, but Andrew had finally grown a spine and thrown himself at the Bringer's back, deflecting the worst of the blow at the last moment. The sword had sunk into Anya shoulder, and she'd almost lost her arm, but Willow had found them as she stumbled out and, stilled overflowing with the White Magic of the Guardian, had mostly healed the wound before she nearly passed out.

"Yeah." Willow sat back, tears filling her eyes.

"You were." Anya said bluntly.

Willow looked at her in shock. That was the last thing she expected to hear.

"Buffy had previously defeated some of the worst demons to walk this Earth. She's the most successful Slayer to ever have lived, and that is simply because she managed to live past her teens. She always had you to help, yes, but in the end, it was always her that had to make the BIG sacrifice. She made mistakes, but she was only working with the information, time, and resources that she had."

"But, but, you were right there with us." Willow sputtered, confused. "You were the one who said that she didn't deserve to be leader."

"I did say that." Anya nodded, cradling her still aching arm close to her chest. "That is because I knew that she would be better off fighting without all of you throwing off her concentration. As long as she was listening to everyone's whining, she was not concentrating fully on defeating The First. I watched her fight against Angelus. Her agony is what originally drew me to Sunnydale, but there was no way I was getting between the Slayer and the Scourge. I did learn, however, that once all of her focus is on her opponent, she is very nearly undefeatable. I admit, though, that I did not expect you to kick her out."

Willow stared at her with wide, disbelieving eyes.

"I mean, really, Willow," Anya continued blithely. "I have lived for over a thousand years. I've seen what a Slayer's life is really like. So, do you honestly think that I, of all people, would really consider her lucky to have been Chosen?"

"She's not going to forgive us, is she?" She leaned her head back against the seat, tears trailing down her cheeks.

"I wouldn't." Anya admitted. "But Buffy has never reacted in the way others have, so I do not know."

~~~ BtVS ~~ BtVS ~~~

"Huh, didn't see that coming." Faith commented, dropping in the seat next to the elder Slayer.

"Hmm. I think we've been underestimating Anya. She's nothing if not pragmatic." Buffy mused, then she turned to look at Faith. "Have you been feeling any different, since the spell? I think we were affected by it as well."

"What do ya mean?"

"I got gutted down there." Buffy pulled up her bloody shirt. All that was left of the wound was a deep, but rapidly healing cut. Leaning closer, Faith's breath left in a rush. It was healing before her eyes. "This should have taken a couple of days to heal, not a couple of hours."

"You're thinking that we got juiced when everybody else got jumpstarted?" Faith asked.

Buffy nodded. "That's exactly what I'm thinking. At this rate, I should be all healed by morning. Wanna spar?"

Faith grinned. "You know I love nothing better than to kick your lily white ass."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Says the ass, who's equally lily white, that has been forced to eat those words, twice now."

"Nuh uh, baby, there ain't nothin' lilly white about my ass." Faith smirked. "I'm all golden from head to toe."

Buffy's mouth fell open. "Oh, come on, Faith, I did not need to know that!"

Faith sat back with a smug look. Finally, she let the grin fade as she focused on the heads in front of her. "Seriously, B, what are you going to do now?"

Buffy sighed as she glanced briefly at the young woman that had gone from bitter enemy to one of her best friends. "I'm going to get them all settled, and then I'm leaving. I don't know where I'm going yet, but when I get there and settled, I'll let you know."

"You gonna tell the others?"

"No, I don't think so. I'm thinking of just writing some letters for each of them, and one for Angel. I remember how it was when I came back that summer after I'd killed Angel. At first, everyone was so relieved and happy that I was back, but then they made it seem like I was so selfish and irresponsible for leaving in the first place. Mom understood after a while, after we really sat down and talked about it. I know that if I tell them that I'm leaving, and they do something like that again, I'll never want to speak to them again, even if it is just panic talking."

~~~ BtVS ~~ BtVS ~~~

Two weeks after they arrived in LA, Buffy disappeared.

She had made herself as unavailable as she could, staying out of the planning as much as possible. Then, one day, she announced that she was going out, and simply never came back. With her recent isolationist tendencies, it took the gang a few days to realize that she was gone.

Faith watched them scramble with mild amusement, but when Willow started talking about tracking spells, she called it all to a halt. She opened their eyes to the fact that Buffy had contributed so little to their plans for the future because she was always planning to leave. She shook her head in disappointment as, just like Buffy had predicted, the accusations started flying fast and furious.

"Shut the fuck up!" She shouted. Everyone fell silent in shock at her outburst. "You people are unbelievable. Did you really think that she was gonna stick around after what you did? This is exactly why she didn't tell anyone that she was bailing." She threw the letters as the designated people. "She wrote these because she knew, she knew, that you'd start this shit, and she knew that she'd never forgive you if she had to listen to it again. You wanted her gone, remember? Now, you're getting what you asked for. Deal with it. I'm outta here."

The Scoobies and the Fang Gang all watched in shock as she stormed out of the hotel, muttering angrily to herself.

A/N: This is a prologue-type ficlet. If you have a story where this could fit as a prologue, feel free to use it. Just give me my props, and let me know so I can come read it. :)