Exit 75 By Jaina Class: PG-13 VA Vague Spoilers: Becoming II Summary: call it what you will. Post-BII Buffy-musings. Campanion piece (not sequel) to Harsh Little Girl. Disclaimer: Joss and the WB do. I don't. Tori Amos owns the Song "Exit 75," which inspired this piece. Thanks to Leanne for the beta and the cheesecake recipe. --------- I zip up my jacket and step out of the hotel. Time to go hunting. Not the highly lethal kind I normally do, but the for a job kind. Hmm, what's wrong with this picture? Pretty blonde teenager in trendy threads scouring the bad streets of Sacramento for work? I suppose that if I wanted to I could take one of the sales positions I see all around me, but I have no experience in selling my body, and despite my would-be patrons' obvious eagerness, I've decided to find another career path. I might have to work hard to convince people of this, though-I was propositioned twice before I even left my temporary residence, the Choirgirl Hotel. Yeah, like I can't figure out just what "choirgirl" is referring to. At least it's not a total dive. The owner's obvious struggle to add some ambience gets him an A for effort; however, the constant strains of what almost passes for choir music pumped in through strategically-placed loudspeakers would be enough to drive me out of here even if I didn't need some cash.

I did my best to look presentable, but that's not easy when your entire wardrobe consists of randomly chosen items of clothing grabbed from your closet while your mother rests uneasily in the next room. My bad. Next time I run away I'll be sure to bring plenty of color-coordinated outfits and accessories.

I think of home, and Mom. I know I'm supposed to be feeling guilt for leaving her high and dry, not to mention Willow, Xander, and everyone else. I should feel very contrite. I abandoned my duties and left a scrap of paper in my place. I should feel horrible.

I don't.

It's better this way. Hellmouth or no, Sunnydale was a bright place, a place for malls and movie theaters and crowded beaches. It had it's fair share of demons and scary things, but most of the time those nightmares came after me-because of me. My fault. My responsibility. Where I am now is a place for fear and darkness and monsters--those of man as well as demonkind. If I attract a few more, who's gonna notice? I don't have to worry about protecting the innocent anymore. No one's innocent here.

After all, look what I did to those I was sworn to protect: Willow's in a Wheelchair; Miss Calendar is dead for God's sake. Everyone else's lives are pretty much screwed up because of me. And as for Angel, my One True Love?

My One True Love is burning in hell right now. Because I sent him there.

Stop it, Buffy. That's over with; what's done is done. Move on.

***

Hours later, I trudge back to the hotel, no better off than when I left. I'm bone-tired and my feet are killing me. Perhaps the Slayer's strength wanes when there's nothing left to slay. Good. The powers that be can have it back and I'll no longer be Chosen. I'll just be anonymous. The job options for a blonde, pretty stranger in this town are surprisingly limited and limitless at the same time. Conventional employment? Nah. Nothing available. Not even the Quickie Mart could use an extra set of hands. The `quickie' mart, however, has plenty of openings, as I predicted it would. Pimps abound here. They assured me that I'd make plenty of cash peddling my ass, even after they took their cut, which would be, of course, very small. I turned them all down, violently when necessary. I feel as if I've lost my soul; I'll keep my body, thank you very much.

As I unlock my barely-on-the-hinges door and step inside, I feel a breeze on my face from across the room and step out onto the open balcony, if a two-foot strip of concrete can be considered a balcony. It's a beautiful night. If all the people in this godforsaken burg are lost, it's certainly not because of a lack of illumination. Not a cloud mars the scene and a million guardians of the sky twinkle down on me. As I lean against the wobbly railing and stare up at the sky, I notice a large bird circling in the air above. A hawk, or maybe an owl. He glides on silent wings, then in the blink of an eye, plummets down to earth to catch his meal. When he returns to the firmament, he flies higher than before, buoyed by his triumph. He shrieks of his success to all below. I feel a wetness on my cheek and realize I am crying. That hawk is me, or alike enough to be. I am a predator as well. I stalk the night and take my prey at my pleasure, afraid of nothing. We are the same. Then why can't I fly? What I would give to be able to spread my wings and launch myself into the air, to soar above all the pain and madness and misery of this earth and never, ever come down.

It's not fair. It's not right.

I close my eyes and spread my arms wide. I let the breeze swirl around me and pretend I'm soaring across the sky. It hurts. God, everything hurts so much. But if I keep flying, keep going, I can get away from it, I can outrun the pain. If only I can keep flying. But...I can't, can I? Not from a rusty balcony in a crumbum hotel. I'm grounded here. But maybe...maybe, if I can let go of it all...if I can open my hands and let all the anguish and grief and loneliness slip through...I can be free. I'll no longer be weighed down.

Maybe then I can fly.

~finis~

Tell me how evil I am- blue_moose@juno.com