Summary: After her confrontation with Angel in "Sanctuary," Buffy realizes that going home, going back to Riley would be wrong. With her feelings for Angel still so deep, she runs. Hanging up her stakes, she tries to live a normal life in the last place anyone would ever think to look for her. An appending apocalypse in the small town she now resides forces her to call the person she was running from the most.
"I have someone in my life now... that I love. It's not what you and I had. It's very new. You know what makes it new? I trust him. I know him."
"That's great. It's nice... you moved on. I can't. You found someone new. I'm not allowed to, remember? I see you again; it cuts me up inside, and the person I share that with is me. You don't know me anymore, so don't come down here with your great new life and expect me to do things your way. Go home."
Buffy looked at him with little shock. She knew she was driving a knife deep into his heart; she'd meant to. Seeing him with Faith's arms wrapped around his neck nearly tore her heart out. So she lied, lead him to believe she didn't trust him, that she'd truly gotten over him, just to hurt him.
As he moved to stand facing the wall, she moved to grab her jacket from where it lay on the banister.
"See? Faith wins again."
Buffy kept her poker face on, head held high as she made her way down the stairs and walked back to where she had left her mother's car outside of Angel's office. Once in the confides of the vehicle, however, her façade quickly fade as the cascade of tears she'd held back came flooding out. She looked over at the passenger seat which held the one item she had brought with her. The leather jacket Angel had given her, his second gift to her, lay there unbothered by the events of the day. Gently, she touched the smooth exterior surface of the garment, smiling at the memories it held.
Knowing that going home would be a mistake, that she could not live in Sunnydale without being reminded of Angel everywhere she went, she took her cell phone out of her jacket pocket and called herself a taxi before calling the dorm room she shared with Willow. Her silent prayers that her best friend would not be in to take the call were answered when their answering machine picked up.
Buffy took a deep breath while the machine played the message she and Willow had recorded for missed calls before, after the beep, diving into the message she knew no one would want to hear.
"Will, I'm not coming back," she began, her voice rough and shaky. "I know it's a bad time to do this with Adam and all. Hell, is there a good time to do something like this? But I know you guys will figure something out. I'm sorry. I tried. I tried to move on, I tried to pretend I wasn't dying on the inside, that I don't see him everywhere I go in Sunnydale, but I can't do it anymore.
"I know you guys have tried to be there for me , tried to understand what I have been going through, but you can't. None of you have had the one person you love so much it hurts leave you. I get Oz left you, Will but you moved on. I can't.
"Tell Riley that I'm sorry. Tell him, oh God, I don't know, that even though I tried, I just couldn't get over my past. I wish him the best, I really do but I know he'll probably hate me after this. God, Will, he left his career for me.
"Tell Mom I love her and that I understand that she was only doing what she thought was best for me by going to Angel and using his love for me to try to get him to leave me, behold her success. Tell her, Giles, and Xander that I'll miss them, but this is what I have to do, for me.
"Faith is trying to redeem herself, give her the chance, she's the Slayer in charge now. I think I'll miss you the most Will. You're the closest thing I have to a sister and I'm so sorry, but this is goodbye."
Buffy hung up just before the machine was about to cut her off. Getting out of the car, she dropped the phone to the ground and crushed it. Grabbing the jacket and leaving the keys on the seat, Buffy used the auto lock to lock and shut the door. She'd only have a few minutes left before the cab arrived so she quickly made her way to Angel's office. Knowing that they had left the door unlocked in their haste to get to the police station, she was surprised that the door was shut upon her arrival and that nothing was missing. Opening the door, she quickly moved to the desk and began the hardest letter she had ever had to write.
No matter how hard it is for me to write this, I know it must be harder for you to read it. What I said to you at the police station, what I lead you to believe, wasn't true. I trust you and I haven't been able to move on. I love you more than anything in this world and I always will. Seeing you with Faith last year, even though it was a lie, nearly killed me. Seeing a more truthful version of it today felt like I was sent back to the day I sent you to hell, I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my still beating chest.
Riley was someone I cared for, someone I tried to move on with, but I couldn't. Everywhere I went in Sunnydale, I saw you. So I'm not going back there. I'm leaving. I'm going to try to find the normal life you said you wanted for me, but know this, I will never have a completely normal life. I can hang up my stakes but vampires and demons will always find me.
Know I will always love you more than I will ever love anyone on this Earth. Don't search for me. If I want to be found, I'll let you know.
Folding the letter into thirds, she moved into the room that held Angel's personal desk. Pressing her goodbye to her lips, she set the letter on top of one of the stacks of ancient books that littered his desk. Moving to the door, she quickly locked it before shutting it behind her and hurrying down the stairs, arriving outside the building just as the taxi arrived.
Clutching the black jacket to her chest, she got into the cab without looking back.
"Where to, Miss?" the driver asked, his Irish accent thick. He didn't notice Buffy's flinch at the sound of his accent, his eyes trained on the road before them.
"The nearest ATM, then the LAX," she responded, her voice still a bit shaky.
"Running away are we?"