TITLE: Culture Shock

AUTHOR: loftyheights

DISCLAIMER: Buffy and Angel and all the other BtVS characters belong to Joss and the rest of his evil minions. Thanks, Mr. Whedon, for breaking all of our collective hearts over and over again! Why I still love you, I'll never know.

DISTRIBUTION: Just email me and you can have it.

SPOILERS: None, really. Some of the dialog in the first few chapters is lifted from the episode "Incan Mummy Girl", but other than that, it's totally AU.

PAIRING: B/A

SUMMARY: The Summers family is hosting a foreign exchange student for Cultural Month and Buffy is none too enthused. But maybe her opinion will change when she finally meets her new guest...

RATING: The big R.

FEEDBACK: Suuuure. Send it to loftyheights@myrealbox.com



You know, I have a pretty good life going. I admit that the move from Los Angeles to Sunnydale was heinous and wrong to a spectacular degree, but things really didn't turn out so bad.

And yeah, it's hard to see myself skirting the social rejection curve the way I have been since I got here, but I made friends. Real friends. Friends who don't sleep with that jerk-bomb Taylor Fauste behind your back when they KNOW that you've been going out with him for WEEKS. Friends who don't look at you like you're diseased when you tearfully announce that your parents are getting a divorce. Friends who don't nod absently and agree with every dumb thing that comes out of your mouth just because you're popular.

Or was popular. Past tense and all.

Yes, it's true. I, Buffy Summers, am pretty much of the loser brigade now. Not that I would ever call Willow and Xander losers, because they're so not. They're the best friends I ever had and are more dear to me than my entire squadron of numb-faced zombie groupies I had back at Hemery. But they're just not going to be winning any popularity contests any time soon. And let's face it-- neither am I.

On the bright side, I'm not flunking all my classes for the first time since grade school! Major bonus points there. In fact, I have B's in almost all of my subjects now, if you can believe it. Except in math, in which the suck continues to rule with an iron fist. Also in history, but only because there's an extreme amount of dates that no one who isn't a ROBOT could possibly memorize. And okay, French? Not so good at that, either. All of those vowels... it gives me major wiggins.

So, yeah, maybe the B's in most of my classes is a tiny exaggeration, but who's counting?

Onward to bigger and better things, I say. Unfortunately, at the moment, bigger and better things means a school trip to the natural history museum and my mother inviting a COMPLETE STRANGER to live in my house.

Cultural exchange, pfft. More like cultural prison. All I know is that this is going to be the worst five weeks of my life. Except for maybe that one time I spent an entire summer of camp being referred to as "The Vomit Girl" because Lisette Morin made me laugh and I ended up puking up four hotdogs into our canoe.

But let's not talk about that.

Instead, I'll just whine some more!

"This is so unfair!"

Willow flashed me a sympathetic smile, but she does't seem to have grasped the absolute horror of the situation. "I don't think it's that bad."

Not that bad? PLEASE! "It's the uber-suck. Mom could have at least warned me." I DO live in the house and all. Shouldn't I get some say in whether weird immigrant people can stay there?

"Well, a lot of parents are doing it this year," Xander remarked. "It's part of this whole cultural exchange magilla. The exhibit, the dance..."

"I have the best costume for the dance!" Willow looked so excited. I guess the dance might be okay, but I'm too focused on the horror that is the cultural exchange program
to really get into it.

"A complete stranger in my house for five weeks. I'm gonna be insane! A danger to myself and others within three days, I swear."

Willow and Xander exchange a look before he cuts in with, "I think the exchange student program's cool." I shot him a whithering glance before he continued. "I do! It's a beautiful melding of two cultures."

Uh huh. I wonder how long it's going to take before he turns this conversation into something about sex. Xander's great and all, but sometimes he's got a major one-track mind. And WHY he doesn't hook up with Willow, who is clearly head over heels for him, is beyond me. Must be a guy thing. "Have you ever done an exchange program?"

Xander paused as if he was actually considering the question. "My dad tried to send me to some Armenians once. Does that count?"

I just shook my head and followed Willow up the steps into the museum. The first thing I noticed was Cordelia and her posse crowded around some book and making 'Ooo-ing' noises. I walked over to see what's the what just in time to hear Cordelia screech, "There's mine! Sven. Isn't he lunchable? Mine's definitely the best."

Sven? What? "What are you looking at?"

"Pictures of the exchange students. That's mine," she said, tapping a perfectly manicured nail on the picture of a strapping blonde guy with a neck the size of my waist. "100% Swedish, 100% gorgeous, 100% staying at my house! So how's yours? Visually, I mean."

They have pictures of the exchange students? "I don't know. Girl-like?"

Cordelia looks appalled. Her nose scrunched up and everything. God, what a drama-queen. "You chose a girl? Are you completely stupid? The purpose of the cultural exchange program is to introduce hot foreign boys to our stupid little town. Then they can fawn over their beautiful, female American hosts. Like me!"

Xander rolled his eyes. "I always thought it was about poor immigrant people coming to feed on our economy while pretending to be interested in our school system."

Cordelia didn't even glance up from her book before retorting with, "And I always thought that monkeys weren't allowed to reproduce with humans, and yet... here you are!"

I tried to ignore the whole exchange and turned to Willow. "I've had enough learning for today. Let's go check out the gift shop!"

"But-- then we'll miss the Incan mummy exhibit! And the mastodons. Don't you want to see the mastodons?"

Hmm. Tough question. "No." I turned to Xander. "What's a mastodon?"

"Some kind of bird?"

Willow is looking at us strangely. "It's a prehistoric mammal. They're distant relatives of--"

"Ooo! Pretzels!" I blurt out.

Mmm. Saved by the snack-cart.



"How was school today, honey?"

Whenever mom picks me up from school, we get to have a few minutes of quality family bonding time. I'm not very good at the whole bonding part of it, though.

"Fine."

Ut-oh. She's giving me the look. That scrunched brow and pursed lips always mean I'm doing my annoying teenage daughter act and she's not impressed.

"I think you can tell me a little more than that, can't you? How was the field trip?"

"It was fun. And also educational. There was even a shriveled up dead girl. I was very moved."

"Buff~y." Sometimes she says my name in two very pronounced syllables. This is never a good thing. "Must you be so sarcastic all the time?"

Yes, I must. "Sorry."

"Mmm-hmm. Well, are you excited about our guest coming tonight?"

You mean the strange freak-girl coming to steal my clothes, eat all my food, and monopolize the bathroom? I can't wait!

Not.

"Oh... uh... sure, Mom."

She's glancing over at me, so I try my best to muster a fake smile. I'm pretty sure I just look constipated.

"You don't sound very enthusiastic, Buffy."

"No, I am. I really am. We'll probably become the best of friends. It'll be like a month-long sleepover!"

Ugh. I'm guessing justifiable homicide within one week.

Tops.

Mom gives me a smile as we pull into the driveway. "I'm sure you two will get along great."

"What's this girl's name, anyway?"

She looks surprised by that question. "Didn't I tell you?"

"No."

"Oh. I'm sorry, Buffy. I've just been a little stressed lately because of next week's opening at the gallery. I was sure I had mentioned it to you. Her name is Angel and she's from Ireland. Isn't that exciting?"

"Very exciting."

Angel from Ireland. Blech.

I hate cultural exchange month.