Disclaimer: I own nothing. Legalese, etc.

A/N: This is the start of a new, stand-alone story that begins during those last moments of the musical. Readers of my previous story, "Within," will find that this one shares certain thematic elements. I thank you in advance for your thoughts and reviews!

Where do we go from here?

Seriously. They all would instead like a return ticket to where they had been, please. That discordant "heaven" still hung in the air. Together. Alone.

And Willow knew she was the one who got them into this mess to begin with.

A whole lot of mess and where do we go from here and goddess she looks pale! Buffy's eyes stared straight ahead as she sang. Wouldn't it be better just to start over...wipe the slate clean again? That's what Buffy needed, really...after all, how could you ever get over something like that otherwise?

Feeling eyes on her, Willow turned. Beautiful, blonde Tara, who had sung to her like a fairytale in the park earlier, was looking back at Willow, looking like she knew what Willow had been thinking. Or maybe the redhead imagined it. Disappointment. Anger. Sadness. How was she ever going to fix any of those things?

And all they could do, all of them, was sing this stupid song with its stupid choreographed moves. Singing their hearts out. Or lack thereof, till Spike cut and ran. Then it really was their hearts and Willow hated singing and here she was doing it with all the rest of them.

Until Buffy, too, was gone.

Willow made for the door, almost crying out at the sight of the blonde's retreating back, the hand she held, fluttering, before her face. But Giles cut her off, holding her in line, holding her to the song, his face telling Willow it wasn't about trying to fix things now. So she stayed put and let her go.

The curtains close on a kiss.

Except it doesn't. Not really. Only movies end with a kiss and then, blissfully, the credits to cover up any residual messiness. Buffy's life, crazy as it was, was no movie. And so, when she walked out on the whole song and dance, she just walked away from it all. From the raw wound of the secret she'd just revealed in song, from the faces of friends and family, horrified, who might be spurred into some sort of "Save Our Depressed Slayer" campaign with buttons and guilt.

Or they might do nothing.

She wasn't sure which would be worse.

Best to do instead something she knew she could do. Save them the trouble. Go away. Be just the slayer that maybe she was always supposed to be. No one to hurt, no one to hurt her. Just keep fighting till you die. Like Kendra and her Mr. Pointy and her one shirt.

Okay, maybe more than one shirt. The blonde slayer stopped by the house, quickly packing a bag. And then, following in those tried and true footsteps of others who wanted to get away, following her own footsteps from several years earlier, she found the Greyhound station, bought a ticket, and didn't look back.

Except in her mind and her heart. But, hey, not with her eyes. She guessed that was something.

When it was over, they all milled around, aimlessly, because, really, what do you do after you sing your song? Nevermind why they were even singing it, now that Sweet had gone off into whatever hellish costumed ether he'd come from.

"Ow! What was that—?" Xander rubbed the back of his head where Anya had smacked him. She just glared in response and, chastened, he dropped his eyes. "Oh...nevermind."

Xander? Of all people, Xander? Giles was looking back and forth between Xander and Dawn in her ridiculous dress, thinking that even the younger Summers would have been a more likely candidate for such a foolhardy spell. Less likely than some others, though. He looked over at Willow, feeling the guilt come off her. He sighed. A reason to stay.

As they stumbled outside, walking home with so much less pomp and circumstance than they had come with, they were startled by a vampire coming out of the bushes. He looked just as startled to see such a large group.

"We aren't going to sing or anything, are we?" Seeing Tara's timid "no," he vamped, new and stupid enough to try to take on so many at once. And apparently on firmer ground now that he would not have to sing for his supper.

"Oh, for crying out loud! Go away!" Anya promptly whipped out a wooden cross and hit him on the forehead with it. He sizzled and backed away, surprised, tripping right over the foot Dawn put out for him as she daintily held up the hem of her dress. He fell, sprawling, looking up now to see Giles holding a cross in his face, finally snapping that this wasn't the group to go for. He took off into the night.

They all watched him go, no one really making a move to chase. Buffy would get him.

"I'm not doing this...it's stupid."

The circle of women looked from her to their instructor and back again, trying to gauge whether they, too, could get out of this.

The older woman in cheap clothes sighed. "And why do you think it's stupid, Ms. Wilkins?" It was a question she'd asked before. The roomful of eyes swiveled back to the brunette rocking back in her chair, arms folded across her chest.

"'Cause no one's gonna read the goddamn thing. If I'm just writin' it for me, I'll save the paper and just go talk to myself."

"Ya already do enougha that at night, Wilkins." A snickering voice from somewhere to her left. The brunette glared down the table, but hadn't been quick enough to catch the speaker.

"Quiet." The instructor held up her hand, then turned back to the sullen girl across the table from her. "As much as I applaud your concern for the environment, Ms. Wilkins, things become more real when we write them down. Conversations—even with ourselves—are easy to misremember or twist into what we want them to be. The written word stares us in the face, tells us the truth of what we think right now."

"Unless I lie."

Another sigh. "No, Faith. Your lies probably tell us more truth."

The dark slayer rolled her eyes, but dropped the front two chair legs with a bang and snatched a little half pencil from the old shoebox in the middle of the table. Placing the non-pointy end between her lips, she made a show of studying hard on what to write.

Having dealt with that issue, the instructor turned to the rest of the room. "Okay, ladies. You know the drill. Write the letters to those people you need to apologize to, then we'll go around and talk about what it was like writing them. How it made us feel." Seeing that there would be no more excitement, the rest of the women slowly reached for their pencils and started in. Some wrote quickly, confident in who they needed to forgive them, in the words that needed to be said. Faith chewed on the end of the pencil, wondering if she should ask for more sheets of paper.

Impulsively, she started the first line with a "B." Then filled in the rest of the name. Then erased it back to "B" again. No sense getting too crazy here—some things just shouldn't change.

That one letter held a shitload of history, images in her mind. Buffy's face through the window of the classroom, dancing with Buffy at the Bronze, the blonde slayer's hand taking hers. That first rule: don't die. Killing Finch. Every goddamn Doris Day outfit Buffy wore. Buffy's chained, struggling form in front of her. Those eyes when she had held the knife to Willow's throat. Buffy in Faith's leather, pressing the knife in. Swan dive. Buffy's body, being in it. That hard face on the rooftop when she told Faith to turn herself in.

"Alright, people, let's talk about what you've written."

Faith snapped out of her reverie, looking around as the other women put their pencils down, pages filled with scrawled words. Looking down at her own. "B. My fault. Sorry. But you didn't make it any fuckin' easier. F."

Well, points for brevity, anyway.