Title: So Many Little Things
Author: hold_that_thought
Summary: After she gets kicked out of school and her parents get divorced, Buffy and her mom try to start again in New York City. When her new Watcher, Wesley, shows up, Buffy's chance at a normal life is gone, but an unlikely comradeship is forged. (Wishverse)
Pairing: Buffy/Wesley
Rating: R
Spoilers: Up to the season 3 episode, "The Wish."
Feedback: Greatly appreciated (APostModernSleaz@aol.com)
Archive: More than likely okay, but please ask first.
Disclaimer: The characters used within are the property of Mutant Enemy, Twentieth Century Fox, and of course Joss Whedon. It's their sandbox, I'm just playing in it.
Notes: Without the luminous little_bit, this story would have moved into my "Permanently Stalled" folder after 4,500 words. And then again at 10,000 words. And several other places along the way. Bit encouraged, held my hand, nudged the plot into place, and was a great beta and a wonderful friend, as always. My love and gratitude to her.


Chapter One: A New Life

March 1997 - New York City, New York

Ice glazed the narrow stone stairs leading up to Buffy's apartment building. Despite the dangerous sidewalk conditions and snow fluttering to the ground, she had a definite spring in her step as she headed down the stairs towards the street. She was a normal girl going to the mall on a Saturday morning. Same thing she'd done every weekend, before....

"It can be a new start for us, Buffy. For you and me. A new town, a new school, a new job." Her mother had so far made good on the promise she'd given her before they moved from L.A. to New York City. It was like that whole...ordeal...at Hemery High hadn't even happened. They'd only been in the city a week, and adjusting to life without her father wasn't exactly a breeze. But she was a normal girl again, and that was all that mattered.

"Elizabeth Summers?"

She didn't have to turn around to know who the clipped voice belonged to. Well, not who it personally belonged to. But she couldn't think of any other British guy who would be waiting for her outside her apartment. Against her better judgement, she turned around.

"Buffy. Just Buffy."

"Oh, I see. My apologies, it's just that Buffy is usually an abbreviation or derivative of--"

"Well, not this time," she cut him off. "Listen, I know why you're here, and I'm sorry you had to travel all the way from merry old England for nothing, but I'm not interested."

"Not int...I don't understand." He thrust his chin out slightly. "You have a sacred duty," he said gravely.

"Listen, uh...I never caught your name."

She could swear he puffed his chest out slightly as he said, "Wesley Wyndam-Pryce."

"Wesley." Buffy nodded. "Got it. Like I was saying, I'm sorry if you were expecting me to drop to my knees and go, 'Oh, honorable master, you have come at last to guide me!' But it's not gonna happen. I'm through with the Slaying."

Wesley frowned. "Miss Summers, I realize there has been a great deal of...change, in your life recently, but you've been out of training for nearly a month, I don't feel we should waste any more...where are you going?"

Pulling her coat tighter against the wind, Buffy glanced over her shoulder. "I'm Bloomie's-bound. There's a sale on makeup. Come if you want, don't if you don't."

Wesley sighed and traipsed after his Slayer.

***

"What do you think of this shade?" Buffy studied her lips in the small mirror held up by a bored salesgirl.

"I believe it looks identical to the previous three, and you have yet to answer my question," Wesley said, drumming his fingers against the cool glass countertop.

"Yeah, I was hoping you'd forget you asked."

"Miss Summers, please, when will you be willing to re-commence training?"

"Here's the thing." She handed the lipstick back to the clerk and turned to Wesley. "I decided I'm through with Slaying. Nothing personal, you seem nice and all. Wound way too tight...but nice. But I did my part. I got rid of Lothos and a bunch of other nasties in LA. Without so much as a thank you from the Watchers, by the way." She started to walk along the length of the counter, admiring the other cosmetics in display cases. "My friends all stopped talking to me, but I kept going. I lost Merrick, but I kept going. I lost my boyfriend, the only guy I've actually cared about, because of this vamp stuff. But I kept going. Then I got kicked out of school and my parents decided I was crazy. Now I'm back in school, my mom has finally stopped wringing her hands every two seconds, and I can go back to being normal. I'm not gonna give up my life again."

"I'm sorry, but quitting isn't possible," Wesley said, nervously popping another licorice candy into his mouth.

Buffy picked up a silk scarf off the counter and ran it over her hands. "No offense, but it's not like you guys can force me to slay."

Wesley sighed. "I was hoping to avoid this, but Miss Summers -- Buffy -- if you refuse to acknowledge your duties...the Council will activate a new Slayer." His voice had dropped to a mumble by the last sentence as he intently studied the tiled floor.

"But I thought the only way for a new Slayer to be called is...oh." She dropped the scarf back onto the counter.

"I'm sorry." He awkwardly patted her on the shoulder. "If there was any other way...."

She steeled her shoulders and faced him. "I'll run."

"Others have."

"And?"

"And...the Council has vast resources at their disposal."

"Oh." Buffy leaned against the counter and let her head loll back, fluorescent lights burning her eyes as she stared straight up. Then she sighed and shook her head. "I'm strong, right?"

"I'm not sure I follow. Do you mean emotionally, physically...."

"Physically. I'm strong."

Wesley nodded slowly. "Yes, I'd imagine you are. Though I must admit, you happen to be the first Slayer I've met."

"Right." She turned around to face him, resting her hands on the back of a makeup counter chair. "Well, if it comes down to them or me, I know which I'm choosing. So maybe you should remind your bosses how strong I am before they come looking for me."

Wesley was speechless as Buffy turned around and stalked out of the department store. When he looked at the chair she'd been holding onto, he noticed the metal back was bent in half.

***

Back at home, Buffy couldn't stop shaking. And she couldn't tell whether the cause was the cold, or the encounter with the Watcher. Her Watcher. The shaking didn't stop after running her hands under hot water for a few minutes, so she figured it was the latter. Stupid British guys, why couldn't they leave her alone? God, life was perfect before Merrick came up to her on the school staircase.

Okay, maybe that was an exaggeration, but still. Buffy padded into her bedroom and flopped onto the bed. She was just about to start flipping through an Entertainment Weekly when a box peeking out of the closet caught her eye. It wasn't one of the unpacked ones from the move; it was way too small. Curious, she went over to it and pulled the lid off. The smell hit her before the memories did. Sage, tobacco, tea, and horrible cologne. Merrick's stuff. She'd packed it up after he was killed and never looked at it again. It had hurt too much. It still hurt.

After he'd died, Buffy didn't think she could go on. If Pike hadn't been there for her, she might not have.

Now, Pike was gone, and Buffy just wanted to forget everything. Forget every little way she'd screwed up.

Pulling out an leather-bound notebook, Buffy went back to her bed and opened it up. Merrick's neat cursive was instantly recognizable.

The newest Slayer, Buffy Summers, is quite a disappointment. Untrained, unruly, reluctant. And I find myself at wit's end attempting to converse with her. One would think I was with a foreign Slayer -- to say I only understand half of what she says would be an understatement.

Buffy flipped forward a few pages.

Training proceeds slowly. Miss Summers seems more adept at colour-coordination than the use of a compound bow. But she is trying, bless her heart.

And a few more pages.

Though her technique is erratic at best, the Slayer shows great ingenuity and heart. Buffy may not fit the Council's preferred mold of Slayer, but I've no doubt she'll do a great deal of good in the world.

***

Stupid. Wesley slammed a book onto his desk. He was incredibly stupid. All his years of training, and he hadn't even been able to convince his charge to accept her duty. The girl may fancy herself strong, but the Council was stronger. She would be hunted and put down like an animal, and his father would shake his head and comment on Wesley's failure.

And the girl, Buffy...she'd had such passion, such fire.... It didn't seem right to waste her life so quickly.

Is it really better to instead make her a soldier? Have her die early at the hands of a vampire instead of the hands of a wetworks team?

He shook his head. No, of course it was better. At least then she'd have done some good....

"I hear you're looking for a Slayer."

Wesley spun around, knocking over the large pile of books he'd just finished stacking.

"Miss Summers! How--"

Buffy leaned against the wall. "Your door was unlocked. And you're the only Wyndam-Pryce listed in New York City. Though it took me three tries to get the spelling right." She pulled a stake out of her pocket and tossed it to him. "So, you gonna start with the training, or what? Sacred duty, blah blah blah."

When she smiled at him, Wesley couldn't help but smile back.


Up next: Chapter Two - Just A Little Girl