Chapter 8: Stronger

Warning: Angsty feelings.

Thanks to my betas: zigpal and especially AshDawnSoulmates. She and I spent hours coming up with the right songs.

Disclaimer: BtVS characters belong to Joss Whedon / Mutant Enemy. I claim no rights to any copyrighted material. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission. Song sung in this chapter by Britney Spears.

Walking away from the Hyperion with a duffel bag, Buffy began replaying the previous night and this morning. Wes and Cordy asked what happened in Sunnydale, starting with if Giles really left her after she returned from hell. Shocked was an understatement when she said she was in heaven, not hell. Apparently they never got the update on her situation.

A couple hours later, she told them the decision she came to: she was going to take some time off to be Buffy Summers. Learn who she was without the pressures of being The Slayer. Surprisingly, they were very supportive of the idea and promised to help however they could – including money and identities for her and Dawn.

But that's not the way it turned out.

When she informed the core Scoobies, Faith and Robin, they blew up. She was running away again. She was being selfish. She was abandoning her duty. She was-- Not listening by that point. These weren't things she hadn't heard before or even considered herself.

Buffy calmly explained that she needed this time that she should have had right after her resurrection to pull herself together. After all, Willow got a vacation when she tried to end the world, why shouldn't she get one for saving it? It wasn't as if she was leaving them Slayer-less. Not only did they have all the minis, but they had the true holder of the Slayer line, Faith. It was Faith's responsibility to be the Slayer. In fact, they all voted her to be the leader, or did they forget?

Ooh hey, yeah yeah

Hush, just stop
There's nothing you can do or say, baby
I've had enough
I'm not your property as from today, baby
You might think that I won't make it on my own
But now I'm

A song came to mind and she started humming it to herself when she thought about them claiming she needed them more than they needed her. If that was true, why were they so freaked about her leaving? Buffy frostily explained that that might have been true before they cast her aside for Faith. But once Spike helped remind her that she was fighter, with or without the Slayer in her, she realized she didn't need anyone to define her anymore.

Stronger than yesterday
Now it's nothing but my way
My loneliness ain't killing me no more
I Am stronger

When that didn't work for them, Dawn said she wouldn't leave with Buffy. Whether she was telling the truth about wanting to stay with the group or not, the idea backfired. Buffy told her that was her choice; Wes would get somebody from Wolfram & Hart's legal department to draw up papers for her to sign over custody to one of the others. She snorted mentally; did they really think that emotional blackmail would work?

Than I ever thought that I could be, baby
I used to go with the flow
Didn't really care 'bout me
You might think that I can't take it, but you're wrong
'Cause now I'm…{Chorus}

Oh Come on, now
Oh, yeah

As Buffy was walking out, she heard Wes and Cordy start in on the Sunnydale people; Cordy just in a general sense, and Wes taking Giles – who, sadly, wasn't possessed or anything like that – to task for failing as a Watcher. She felt a momentary wince of sympathy for her ex-Watcher/father-figure when Wes said that Travers would have done better. Abandoning his Slayer after she was torn from her rest was inexcusable – no matter what the rationale.

Here I go, on my own
I don't need nobody, better off alone
Here I go, on my own now
I don't need nobody, not anybody
Here I go(fade), alright, here I go(fade to loud)…{Chorus and partial repeats}

The song finished playing in her head as she turned a corner, barely avoiding a collision with another blast from the past. "Hey, Oz."

"Caught your act last night. Wondering if you could use a friend," he shyly offered.

She smiled at the quiet werewolf. "Let's grab a coffee."

A/N: And that's the end of this story.