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17 September 2005 @ 04:04 pm
Buffy sighed as she shut her cultural anthropology book and rested her head on the cover. She stared at the scarred metal kitchen table cum study desk until her eyes nearly crossed. Raising her head and pushing back from the table with another sigh, she winced as the metal chair screeched across the worn linoleum floor that had seen better days before Buffy had even been born. She crossed the narrow, dingy kitchen-it was so small it only took two steps-to open the softly humming refrigerator. Staring at the long carton of close to its expiration date milk, the nearly empty jar of pickles and the hunk of cheese, Buffy inwardly groaned at how 'struggling college student in New York' she really was. She closed the door and leaned her forehead against the door and thought back on how she had arrived at this place.

After Sunnydale had been cratered, Buffy had been at a lost as to what to do. The last seven years, all of her actions had been dictated by forces beyond her control. First, there had been the revelation that she was the Slayer. To say her life had done a 180 from what it had been like at Hemery was an understatement. She hadn't known how much her life would change so suddenly, and looking back, she wondered if she had had the opportunity to do it over again, would she have? Just when she was settling into her dual roles as Slayer and woman, her mother's tumor had been found and once again, Buffy's entire world was changed in the blink of an eye. She became a mother to her sister, caretaker to her mom, and somewhere in there she lost Buffy. Then her mother died and what little part of herself was still there, was buried forever. Her own death and subsequent resurrection had sent her into an emotional tailspin from which, if she was honest with herself, she was still recovering. The last year in Sunnydale she had been so concerned with the First and stopping the latest apocalypse that yet again, she had had to push aside the woman to be the Slayer.

The Slayer everyone wanted me to be but as soon as I was, they didn't like it, she thought bitterly. The betrayal at the hand of her friends was still fresh even more than a year later. For so long, they had looked to Buffy for guidance and to save their asses. Can't forget that but as soon as she willingly took charge and became the the leader they swore they needed, they turned on her and threw her out of her own home. It was a blow to Buffy to discover that their words were merely words. They spoke of trust and love and respect but it was mere smoke and mirrors. To know that she was so thoroughly looked down upon still stung her greatly. She tried not to think about that last year too much. After all, that was the whole point of moving to New York.

It hadn't been a surprise that when the gang had been standing near the edge of the crater that had once been their town, facing their own futures with a wide open gaze, they had turned to Buffy to ask what to do. The fact that they could so easily forget what they had done only days before astounded Buffy and at that moment, she had known that whatever happened next, it would be for her and only for her. She had taken care of and protected her friends for long enough. Now it was her time.

Her spirit still wounded from her friends' betrayal, Buffy had remained with the group only long enough to make sure they were settled. Despite their ability to turn their backs on her at the drop of a dime, she couldn't do that to them. One night she had approached Giles and told him of her desire to get away from everything and leave slaying behind. It was her time to find out who *she* was, she told him, and she had been surprised when he readily agreed. She had counted in getting another lecture about trying to give up her responsibility but she should have known better. Giles had been one of the first to turn on her in the house. Why should he beg her to stay with them?

Buffy had said her goodbyes to everyone and left with their blessings. She told them she didn't know where she was going, but that she would call as soon as she was settled somewhere. Both had been lies. From the moment she decided to leave, she had known where she wanted to go: New York City. One could get lost in New York and never be found. She could disappear and reemerge as Buffy Summers, normal woman, not Buffy Summers, Slayer. More importantly, no one knew her in New York. She also knew she wouldn't call Giles and the others. She had said goodbye to more than just her friends and family that night in London. She had said goodbye to her past.

When Buffy stepped off the plane in New York, for the first time she had a choice about what would happen to her life. No longer would her life be decided by slaying, or the latest apocalypse, or a brain tumor. She was, as corny as it sounded, in charge of her destiny for the first time. It was a strange feeling and one that still woke her up some nights, giddy at the thought of absolute freedom she had.

But freedom hadn't come easily. She had struggled to find an apartment, one that she could afford and still have enough money to eat. She had finally taken a waitressing job with flexible hours that gave her enough money to scrape through every month. After a few weeks' waitressing, she had finally decided to go back to school. Not able to quit work completely, she had remained at her job, working nights and weekends, while attending CCNY. Miracle of miracles, she had been able to take out enough student loans to cover tuition and books, and to her surprise, she found that was quite good in school. Her favorite professor at school, Dr. Cooper, had even spoken with her about graduate school. She was still trying to decide because even though her waitressing job kept her off the streets, it was still a month to month struggle. Giles had started wiring money into an account each month for her, money she never touched. It had been tempting on many occasions but she knew if she had given in, it would have defeated her entire reason for leaving. For all of her struggling, she wouldn't have changed anything. She was making it on her own. She was the one deciding her future.

She hadn't made many friends since being in the city. Mostly she went to school and worked, leaving little time for a social life. She had spoken to Giles and Dawn a few times over the months but whenever the conversation turned more personal matters or those involving slaying, she quickly made an excuse to get off the phone. She avoided any talk of demons, slaying, the supernatural. She had put that life behind her and nothing was worth getting back into it.

She was brought back to the present by the loud buzzing of her doorbell. "Hey, Buffy, you in there?" came the loud, screeching voice of the building manager. "Rent is due, missy. I better have it by Saturday or you're outta here. I ain't cuttin' you any slack again."

Sighing, Buffy reached for her purse and her checkbook to see what corners she would have to cut this month.