Title: Exit Stage Left

Author: Rude's Mom

April 2004, somewhere on the coast of England

A pair of skid marks pointed to what was left of a guardrail, evidence of a recent accident. It would be more than hour before help arrived and still later before the weather cleared enough to mount a rescue. The vehicle at the bottom of cliff had been snagged by the rocks. The vehicle's unfortunate occupant, an American by the name of Buffy Summers, had been most likely swept out to sea according to the local constable.

The investigation was short. Miss Summers had reputation for being a less than responsible driver according to her friend, Willow Rosenberg. Another friend, Robin Wood, informed them that Miss Summers had become upset during a meeting and had raced off. This account was confirmed by Sir Rupert Giles. The case would be quietly closed a few weeks later.

Rome, two days earlier

Buffy watched as the little weasel slid down the kitchen wall of their shared apartment. Unconscious already, she thought. She should have been a bit more gentle so that Andrew would have lasted longer. Then again, he wasn't the primary focus of her rage. No that was reserved for the one, or ones, who gave him his orders. The only question was which ones were involved. Unfortunately, Andrew wouldn't be talking anytime soon.

She made two quick phone calls. One for a taxi and the other to her supposed sweetie. Did her sister and friends really think that she had moved on in just a couple of months? It just went to show how far apart the Scoobies had drifted that they would think she could forget Spike so quickly. While their sexual relationship had been over for more than a year before Spike's death on the hellmouth, she was still mourning her friend, the only friend that had stood by her in those last, horrible days. The Immortal was a friend, not a lover or even a friend with benefits. He was also a lovely source of information. If it happened in Rome, he knew about it. Ditto for Italy and the rest of Europe. His connections rivaled the old Council. After what she had learned from Andrew, she'd need the Immortal's connections and more.

She contemplated who was responsible for this latest betrayal. She immediately discounted most of the mini-slayers as she stalked into her bedroom. She wouldn't trust them not to be involved but Andrew would not have taken orders from them, except for one. She tossed her overnight bag as she considered Kennedy, the slayer that most wanted to be the Chosen One. The Queen of Entitlement still hadn't come to grips with the fact that not only would she never be the Chosen One. Kennedy had to make due with that fact that she was one of the Sunnydale Slayers, senior to most of the mini-slayers but lower on the food chain than Buffy or Faith, at least theoretically. Yes, Kennedy's involvement was almost a given, Buffy thought as she threw some clothes into her bag. The clothes were swiftly followed by a necklace that her father had given her, two stakes, a small dagger, and a vial of holy water as she considered the next in her list of suspects.

Number two would have to Miss I Know What's Best. Buffy had long ago acknowledged that Willow was far smarter than she would ever be but time had proven to the Slayer that the redhead had more book smarts than actual wisdom. Intelligence had warred with the witch's feelings of social inadequacy leaving behind a dangerous mix of magic and arrogance. After Tara's death and her subsequent meltdown, Willow's arrogance had all but evaporated under the shock of what she had done. Unfortunately, it had made a return only a year later after the witch activated all of Potentials. Dear Kennedy made sure of that, carefully stroking Willow's ego. These days, Willow didn't listen unless it was Kennedy that was doing the talking.

Buffy tossed an extra pair of shoes into the bag and closed it. Kennedy and Willow were her prime suspects but she doubted that they were acting alone. Xander would probably approve of what had been done, but he was still out in the most remote parts of Africa so it was unlikely that he was in on it. That left just four others.

Her relationship with Dawn was not the best. After her death and resurrection, Buffy had been unable to be what her sister needed. She had tried though, in that last year, only to be kicked out of her own home by her little sister and her so-called friends. Yeah, still quite a bit a resentment there, she admitted to herself. But still, she didn't think Dawn was involved. Her sister might not like Spike anymore (and had never liked Angel) but she didn't have the power within the new Council to accomplish this final slap in the face. Then again, she was quite capable of turning a blind eye it.

Buffy took a last look at her room. Somehow, she was pretty sure that she wouldn't be coming back. So, down to three she thought.

Faith was a possibility. She was high enough in the new Council to pull it off. The mini-Slayers, sans KenKen, would follow her to hell and back, or at least give her the benefit of the doubt. She was the prodigal slayer, not the vampire layer (thanks for that little tag Kennedy). She wasn't much for politics though and this stunk of politics.

Buffy walked out of her room carrying her overnight bag and purse. She headed down the hall to the kitchen. Stepping over Andrew, she took half of the emergency cash from a drawer and stuffed it in her wallet leaving the rest for Dawn. Andrew wouldn't be needing it anytime soon. Her final stop was the closet near the front door. She grabbed her coat and left.

Robin, she thought as she exited the building, was pretty much a given. His hatred of Spike was palpable. The death of his mother at Spike's hands had seen to that. That it had been soulless Spike who had killed her didn't mean a thing to the man. His need to avenge his mother had led him to try to kill Spike before the battle with the First. It didn't matter that he would be killing one of the strongest fighters the good guys had, he just had to have his revenge. Even though Spike had played the pivotal role in closing the Sunnydale hellmouth once and for all, Robin still couldn't let go. For Robin Woods, soul or no soul, the only good vampire was a dusted one and Buffy's history with not one but two vampires meant that she was a disgrace and a liability.

She watched as a taxi neared her building. Kennedy, Willow, and Robin. The only question left was if Giles knew. If he knew, there would be a new hole in her tattered heart. She didn't give a damn about what Kennedy and Robin thought about her. She didn't even care about Willow's opinion of her. If they were responsible, it would hurt but if Giles knew, if he were responsible, she thought it might just kill her. She wouldn't think about that though.

The taxi pulled to stop. She got in.


A young brunette looked up as a handsome man approached her table.

"Perhaps you would care for some company," the Immortal asked.

She nodded.

He sat down. "The investigation into Miss Summers' untimely death is over."

"And," she prompted.

"A most tragic automobile accident," he added.

"Thanks to you."

"And to your outburst at finding out that your Giles was just as involved as the others. I am sorry for that."

"Don't be. I think I already knew," she said softly. "It just hurts so much to know for certain that he was the one to tell Angel and Spike that I had refused to send help to LA."

"I've arranged for your flight back to America. It leaves tonight for New York. From there, you can catch a flight to LA," he paused as he slid an envelop across the table. "You will need these. If anyone asks, you have been on an extended vacation backpacking through Europe."

"Backpacking," she questioned as she checked the envelops contents. "I was backpacking?"

"True, it's not something that Buffy Summers would do but it is entirely in character with Sasha Curry." He stood up. "Now go and pack. You have some old friends to save."