Author's Note: This story takes place in the alternate universe created during Season 3's The Wish. It begins slightly later in Buffy's sophomore year than Welcome to the Hellmouth did and continues through to The Wish. Spike/Buffy pairing.

This story is new territory for me Buffy-wise (Somewhat AU, very few appearances of my beloved Scoobies, etc), but I had a serious desire for a backstory for Wishverse!Buffy and to explore what may have been happening with Wishverse!Spike, so the plot bunny (as well as my inner shipper) would not leave me be until I wrote it.

I want to give a shout out to my fantastic beta All4Spike. Thank you so much for your help and attention to detail, I couldn't have done it without you.

If you could, please take the time to review and let me know what you think of the story.

Winner of Best Alternate Universe at the Round 31 SunnyD Awards! Runner up Best Spuffy Angst and Best Unfinished.

Warnings: Rated for Character Death—it is the Wishverse after all—as well as for adult themes and some sexual situations. There is also temporary Spike/Other (the other here being Dru).

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

This chapter contains some dialogue adapted from Welcome to the Hellmouth written by Joss Whedon.

Chapter 1

I wish Buffy Summers had never come to Sunnydale.

Buffy Summers leaned her head against the bus window, breathing softly so that it fogged on contact with the cool glass. She smiled and drew a heart on the patch of condensation before crossing it through, broken.


Her fingers fell to toy with the volume of her Discman, raising it to drown out the wailing of a red-faced toddler in the seat behind her, who was unwilling to eat the Cheerios his mother had packed. A bright and cheery top forty hit burst into her ears, blocking out the unwelcome noise, but her thoughts were still free to wander, unaffected by the music's chipper mood.

What would it be like, living so far from home? When was her mother finally going to move to Cleveland with her? There had to be a job there for Joyce, Buffy was sure she could find one. Until then, she would be stuck in a house with her new Watcher, and who knew what they would be like? Would the schedule just be: find vampire, stake vampire, victory dance, next? And what if there was a new threat, somewhere else in the world? Would the Council just pick her up and fling her to a new city every time local demons got antsy?

Is this my life now? Buffy wondered as they rolled into the city. Her head swam with too many questions, each fighting and clawing its way to the top of her mind and demanding her attention.

Cleveland, Ohio was a far cry from the sunny, cramped streets of Los Angeles. This afternoon it was overcast and the scent of rain was heavy in the air. There were plenty of people about, strolling leisurely and enjoying their Saturday. The sweltering heat of L.A. and its crowds swarming with people from every walk of life had never felt so far away. Not until this moment. Buffy felt she had moved countries rather than cities. Continents even.

Her suitcase was on the rack above her and a small drawstring purse sat in her lap. She fished around its contents for a piece of gum and popped it in her mouth. Mint exploded on her tongue, cold as her unfamiliar surroundings.

Her parents were still in L.A., still divorced. She would be with one of them now if it wasn't for one small detail. My destiny, she thought.

This last year had been the ride of her life. She'd learned the truth of the world and had grown up quickly to accommodate it. Vampires were real, as were most of the other nasty things that lay waiting in closets and beneath your bed. It was up to Buffy to stop them.

Up to me, she thought, into every generation a Slayer is born…

She shifted in her seat, almost reluctant to think about her uncomfortable reality. She was the Slayer, as in the. The one and only Chosen to stop the vampires, the demons—the blah blah blah, Buffy thought. It wasn't a joking matter; she knew what she was capable of. In Los Angeles alone, she had staked and ignited and beheaded many unlucky vamps, even one who'd called himself a King; Lothos. There was a rush that came with that kind of strength, a heady feeling of power. Strange to have so much of it, and absolutely no control over her life.

She'd had no choice in coming to Cleveland. Buffy was summoned, as if to the court of the Queen of freaking England. The Watchers' Council had grown desperate and sent for her. A multitude of demons in the Cleveland area, uprising, potentially chaotic, yada yada yada, Buffy thought.

The woman chosen to be her new Watcher lived in Cleveland, on the mouth of Hell, the letters had said, and Buffy would live there too. Did her parents have to be so pleased when they read the letter stating that Buffy had been accepted into a prestigious private school, complete with housing until a parent could make the move?

I guess anyone with a daughter fresh out of the loony bin would jump at the chance to get her chock full of sanity, Buffy thought.

Now she was on her way to a new life, new school, and a new Watcher. Mom and Dad had been a bit hesitant about letting her leave, to Buffy's hope and relief, but those persistent fake letters sent by the Watchers finally got them on board with the idea. She promised to call nightly, and she would. Mom would be moving soon too and Dad was staying in Los Angeles. Despite everything that had happened—the institution—Buffy missed her mother. Dad too, in a way. After the things he had done, the ways that he had ruined everything with his disappearing in the middle of the night, his cheating, his yelling, Buffy missed him too.

I just want things to be the way they used to, Buffy thought.

But they never would.

Maybe it was for the best that she got away. Things had been tense at home. Between the divorce and that brief stint in that mental institution, brought on by her parents' concern, Buffy was ready for change. More than change; she wanted to forget about destiny and power and control. She wanted to go out with her friends, to get back into the swing of things at school. Something hopeful and happy still beat within her chest, something that wanted boys, cheer, and friends. The total high school experience. She was ready to be Buffy Summers again, not Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Maybe I can quit, she thought.

But she knew it was impossible.

She was signed on for life—a very short life—and she hadn't even volunteered.

The bus was slowing, bouncing on a speed bump before pulling up to the curb and halting with a creak before the roadside stop.

"Cleveland here I come," Buffy said, stashing her Discman in her purse and standing to pull her heavy suitcase from the rack above.

She wandered the streets quietly, her eyes always returning to the high rises of the Cleveland skyline. There were well dressed people and poorly dressed people walking around. They seemed friendly enough. Just people really, but in a different sort of way than in Los Angeles. Either way, this was unfamiliar territory.

No demons running around, getting their demon jollies, Buffy thought. All that "mouth of Hell" stuff the Council had sent her in clandestine letters had Buffy expecting something scary and slimy on every corner. She frowned with a pang of apprehension; she could use a good slay right about now.

Buffy wandered closer to the heart of the city. The buildings rose above her and made her feel small. Back home she had liked the feeling of walking beneath skyscrapers. Here it felt as if the city was trying to swallow her whole. Everywhere she turned there was something new and people shopping or driving by. Buffy received a couple of greetings from passersby on the streets. To each she muttered a soft "hello", but kept walking, distrustful, and caught her next bus.

It was a reasonably short walk from the bus stop to the house on Sycamore Lane where her new Watcher lived—where Buffy would live until her mom arrived—very near Lake Erie. The houses were of a different sort than the modern craftsman-style home she had lived in with her family. Here, there was dark wood and garden gates, shutters and stone chimneys. The neighborhood so completely embodied the Watchers' tastes that Buffy stifled a humorless laugh.

"5562 Sycamore," Buffy whispered, her eyes darting along the address numbers. She found the house. It was more wide than tall, two stories high, with a stone wall, iron gate, and leafy trees surrounding it. The windows were dark and grated beneath the slate gray tiling of the roof, more Gothic than Middle America.

"Honey, I'm home," Buffy said aloud.

Her humor was fleeting. Buffy swallowed with a convulsive gulp. Her mouth felt too dry. She knew that once she entered that building, a piece of her would be left behind. She couldn't be a sunny bunny or a valley girl. She would have to be a Slayer.

The gate creaked in protest to her strength as she pushed it open and Buffy's nerve began to leave her as she walked up that stony path. I'm Buffy, I'm Buffy, she thought, but her heart pounded, "Slay-er, Slay-er", with every beat.

At last she reached the door. It was imposing; dark and wooden, with twin intricately carved vases flanking it. And there was a door knocker. An honest to God door knocker in the shape of a little devil's face.

"Could you guys be any more passé?" Buffy muttered, unable to keep from rolling her eyes as she knocked.

She waited a moment, tapping her foot, making sure she looked as displeased and petulant as possible. They should know who they're messing with, Buffy thought. After a moment she heard footsteps lightly clomping against wooden floorboards inside.

The door opened. A severe looking woman stared down at her over a pair of wire-rimmed glasses. "Miss Summers," she said in cool greeting.

"Oh, hey," Buffy said, popping her gum and raising a hand in acknowledgement.

Telling by the small tick in the woman's cheek in response to her casual reply, Buffy knew she'd started on the wrong foot. She swallowed her gum with a gulp and an apologetic smile.

"I'm Madelyn Davies, your new Watcher," the woman stated in that same cold tone.

Greetings from the Ice Queen, Buffy thought.

She was in her fifties at least, her face only beginning to line and mostly by her mouth. How she had gotten those faint creases, Buffy couldn't imagine. From the steely grey of her eyes, to the slight downturn in the corners of her lips, and the tight bun of ash blond hair at the back of her neck, Buffy had never seen anyone less likely to bear the marks of too many smiles. She wore a grey cardigan and matching skirt with sensible shoes, nothing like the casual clothing Buffy was used to seeing on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Sometimes she and her mother had liked to wear their pajamas.

"We are having a lazy day in," Joyce would say as grey clouds swirled outside. Then she and Buffy would curl up on the couch with junk food galore and watch the classics. Stowaway, and that Ice Capades tape that was almost worn to pieces, along with some of the better teen movies of all time, each starring Molly Ringwald. It was the whole Mom and Buffy rainy day video package. They would—

Buffy pushed those thoughts away. They would only make this harder.

"Please, do come in," Ms. Davies said, ushering her inside the small foyer.

Buffy ventured into the house, well aware of the disapproving look she earned at the sight of her knee-high boots, miniskirt, purse, and the butterfly clip holding back her hair.

Ms. Davies surveyed her with a hawk-like gaze as Buffy took in her new surroundings. Her suitcase lay forgotten beside the front door as she wandered further inside. It's like Watchers R Us, Buffy decided. There were candles mounted on the dark wood of the walls. Exotic potted plants in expensive looking ceramic stood at each side of the door, and a Persian rug lay on the floor before her. It was so different. Buffy found herself aching to be back home with their mismatched furniture and television and modern colored wallpaper.

"Would you like some tea, Miss Summers?" Ms. Davies asked. Buffy followed her down a short hall and through a carved wooden archway into a living area. Bookshelves lined the walls and two comfortable looking couches, like something from the Victorian era, sat before a dormant fireplace.

"I'm not really a tea kind of girl," Buffy said with a shrug, still drinking in the reality of her surroundings. Quickly she added, "Thanks though."

"Coffee then?"

"Coffee's fine," Buffy said, although she didn't like it much better than tea if she was being honest. Maybe with a lot of sugar.

"Please sit," Ms. Davies said. "I'll be back momentarily."

"Okay," Buffy said.

Ms. Davies had left her alone. Buffy wandered into the room and studied the dark curtains covering tall windows and shelves lined with books titled in demon languages. Her heart sunk. This place was the embodiment of everything she was trying to run from. Buffy flopped down on one of the old-fashioned couches. It was stiff and the upholstery was rough against her bare thighs. She shifted, trying to find some comfort.

The kitchen door swung back open. Ms. Davies strode over, the blunt heels of her shoes clicking on the hardwood floors in short sharp taps.

"Coffee, Miss Summers," she announced, a bit uselessly, and set the tea-tray laden with two steaming cups, sugar, and cream.

"Thanks," Buffy said, reaching for hers. She immediately dropped in at least five sugar cubes and took a sip. Still too bitter. Buffy went for the sugar bowl again.

Ms. Davies stared on with that hawk-like gaze, disapproving and quietly observational. It made Buffy uncomfortable. She put one last cube in her cup and sipped it, giving her new Watcher a reassuring smile and a salute with the sugar tongs. She tried to look satisfied, despite the lingering bitterness. Coffee, Miss Summers? Tea, Miss Summers? God, don't these people ever just have soda? Buffy thought.

"Miss Summers," Ms. Davies began, pushing her spectacles up her nose. "I trust that you understand what your responsibilities will be now that you've arrived. I will train you hard and I will train you thoroughly. Your last Watcher was Merrick Jamison-Smythe, is that correct?"

The sugared coffee seemed to stick in Buffy's throat at the mention of that name. She nodded. "Yeah, Merrick…Merrick was my Watcher."

"I'm sorry to hear what became of him. He was a good man, an unconventional Watcher, but talented. It's a shame to have lost him."

Her tone was so businesslike and could almost be called blithe if not for the lack of anything resembling a positive human emotion. It made Buffy feel even further out of place.

"As has been explained to you, Cleveland is on a Hellmouth," Ms. Davies said. She reached for her own cup of coffee and put in a single splash of cream before swirling it beneath her nose and taking a dainty sip. "The Hellmouth draws in a myriad of supernatural creatures, things of darkness, death. And in doing so—"

"The people here need a protector, the Chosen One, one girl in all the world with the strength and skill to hunt the vampires. Yeah, I've covered this already," Buffy finished for her, not bothering to hide the hints of bitterness and sarcasm in her voice.

"Then you understand the seriousness of what you must do," Ms. Davies said. She replaced her coffee cup on its saucer with a clink that sounded like a warning. "Do you understand?"

Buffy swallowed and looked up from her shoes to meet Ms. Davies' eyes. She held her gaze and answered, "Yes."

"Excellent. Now, we have enrolled you in a local private school. Merrick's records indicate that you do well in that environment rather than being instructed here by your Watcher, as is most traditional. However, due to my personal convictions there will be some restrictions to your activities outside slaying. First rule, you will arrive here at 3:30 each and every school day, half an hour after you are released, unless otherwise indicated by myself or in the event of a situation related to your slaying, is that clear?"

"Um, sorry Madel—Ms. Davies. What about cheer?" Buffy asked. She had been hoping to return to it and get her high-flying kicks from more than just slaying vampire pests. When Ms. Davies only gave her a steely gaze in response, Buffy continued, "You know 'cheer', as in 'leading'? That thing that I used to do, back when life was normal?"

And happy.

"Completely out of the question," Ms. Davies replied as if it were the most natural thing in the world. "That is the second rule. No extracurricular activities. It will already be difficult enough completing your homework as well as keeping up with your slaying duties, but other commitments will only distract from your calling. No, Miss Summers, I think it best to remain focused on the important things. Frivolous fancies will pass you by, but your calling will always be there."

"They put that one on posters?" Buffy asked sourly.

"No, I don't believe they do," Ms. Davies said, all serious business. Her voice was as cool and as smooth as steel. "I trust that you'll remember it in any case, inspirational wall hangings aside."

Buffy grit her teeth and held back the urge to protest. She crossed her arms and sat back on the couch; all teenage attitude. Good first impressions be damned. "Fine. What are your other rules?"

"The third is that no one outside this home is to know about your calling. I trust you have been keeping the secret."

"Well…" Buffy trailed off. Pike knows, she thought, and maybe some of the kids who saw the gym burn down. "One person knows," she confirmed. "Just one. My ex."

Ms. Davies eyebrows disappeared into her tight hairline. "You told a fleeting high school romance—?"

"Hey, he's all with the side of good and everything. You know, fighting the fight?" Buffy said. "He's in Vegas, or at least he was…Look, we broke up and he kills demons now. Are we good?"

Ms. Davies shuddered as if disgusted. "I suppose," she said coldly.

"Great, that's settled then. Are there any more rules here at Watcher Central or can I please go to sleep?" Buffy asked with growing impatience.

"Just one," Ms. Davies said. "And unfortunately, Miss Summers, it will prevent you from going to sleep just yet."

Buffy stalked through the graveyard, stake in hand, senses alert. Even so, she was having trouble concentrating on the task at hand. Everything in this neighborhood's cemetery was fancy mausoleums and towering gravestones. To top it off, a small Gothic Revival church in dull stone bordered the graveyard. She half expected to see elderly socialite vamps in costume jewelry mulling around, but mostly she had just been staking guys in football jerseys and baseball caps.

"You must go patrolling, Miss Summers. There are vampires about, Miss Summers. It is your destiny, Miss Summers," she mocked in what she knew was a pretty poor excuse for an English accent. Another vamp flew at her, yelling a battle cry and announcing his presence. She staked him, barely glancing up as he crumbled to dust.

Buffy made a noise of frustration and kicked the nearest tree, sending a shower of leaves spiraling to the ground. "Ugh!"

A second soft growl behind her brought a smile to Buffy's lips.

"Little girl, so far from home," a gruff voice said.

Buffy spun to see the vampire behind her. He was big and bulky, a bandana tied around his head, holding back a shaggy mop of eighties horror-hair, and a patched denim jacket tight on his shoulders.

"Great, this is just great. The Hair Metal undead," Buffy grumbled under her breath.

"I'd watch my mouth if I were you," Head-banger growled.

"Oh look, first vamp of the night not in sportswear," Buffy said sweetly to his face. "Although, I can't say that you're much of an improvement."

"Nice skirt," he sneered.

Buffy glanced down at her shimmery miniskirt and back up to his denim ensemble. "You're criticizing my fashion sense?"

He was going down.

The vampire merely laughed and lunged for her, all brute strength and big body. Buffy dodged him easily, exchanging two half-hearted blows before she staked him. His eyes met hers in wide surprise, shifting back into his human face before he exploded.

Another vampire leapt out from the shadows and met the pointy end of the stake. These newbies sure were noisy.

Buffy hummed in satisfaction, twirling the stake between her fingers. Killing things may not be the life she wanted, but damn if it didn't help her deal.

A hiss to the right of her had Buffy smirking.

"Hi there, I'm Buffy," she said, turning and throwing her stake. It struck the vampire through the heart, his eyes bulging before he burst. "You're dust."

Two more soft noises of approaching predators made her eyes roll. They came into view, dusting the freshly turned soil from their shoulders, their hair wet with dew.

"God, do you guys ever consider staying in the ground? Just to mix things up, I mean," Buffy said in mock-suggestion.

They growled in response.

"Slayer!" one of them hissed. "Prepare to die."

Buffy raised her stake and said, "You might as well beat me to it."

The vampires seemed to see something in her eyes that frightened them and hesitated for a fraction of a second. It was a fraction enough. Buffy lurched for them with an eagerness that surprised her. In a moment, she was shaking their dusty remains from her shoulders. Six vamps and it was only midnight.

"Geez, these Cleveland bloodsuckers are neck-happy," Buffy said aloud, rubbing her shoulder where she'd taken a punch.

Something told her that it wasn't even the last of them yet. This was gonna be a very long night.

Author's Note: Please read and review.