A/N : Well, here it is, the fic that most people voted for. I only hope it will turn out to be as good as you think it will be! lol. This chapter really just catches you up with how life is now, five years after 7.22Chosen. I don't know why but I'm always nervous when I start posting a new fic...well, here we go again...

Title : Life's Full Of Surprises
Author : Ultrawoman
Rating : PG-13
Warning : Mentions character deaths.
Setting : 5 Years post BtVS 7.22 Chosen and AtS 4.22 Home. AU from that point although some references will be based on what I have heard about Season 5 AtS (I have yet to see any of it)
Disclaimer : All AtS and BtVS characters belong to Joss Whedon - how lucky is he? He even owns Spike!
Summary : Five years after Sunnydale was destroyed, Buffy is in England, helping to run the new Watchers Council / Slayer Training facility, and life is finally going okay. Then she receives a phone call from LA, and her whole world is turned upside down...

Chapter 1

"Okay guys, that's enough for today" Buffy told the room full of young Slayers, as she grabbed a towel from behind her and dabbed some sweat off her body, "You're all doing really well" she assured the girls who all smiled, grateful of such praise from the Slayer. Several were breathing deeply after their latest training session, whilst others grabbed bottles of water from the chiller at the side of the room.

Buffy moved towards the door and found Giles standing on the other side.

"Lurk much?" she smirked at her father-figure, bringing her bottle of Evian to her lips.

"I was simply observing you, and the class" the man told her, "It still amazes me that you're no longer the only Slayer, or at least one of two...that there are so many now, it's just, well, even after these past few years it's still quite a remarkable concept"

"Didn't just save the world that day" Buffy nodded, looking back into the room at the young Slayers she was training. They chatted animatedly about today's lesson and compared kicks and blows, "We changed it too"

"Indeed we did" Giles said quietly, knowing where Buffy's mind still wandered to, as she thought of that day when the hellmouth swallowed her home town whole. She missed that place, she'd done so much there. Lived, died more than once, done a great deal of growing up, and he'd watched it happen. Not just Buffy, but her friends too, all taking the place of the children of his own that he would never have.

"I still miss it sometimes" the original Slayer sighed as she leaned on the door frame and watched her 'students', "All that I teach them, you taught me it there, in a place that doesn't exist anymore" she practically whispered, turning to look up at the man that had been more of a Dad to her than anyone, including her biological father.

"Be thankful, Buffy" he said, "that we're still here, and all your friends too. I know it's not the same, being here in England, its still foreign to you..."

"Giles" Buffy interrupted the Watcher's ramblings, smiling as he distracedtly polished his glasses, as he always did, "I love it here in England. It's not Sunnydale, and I wouldn't want it to be, but it's home, because you're here and Dawn and all my friends" she told him as she walked past him and made her way up the stairs to take a shower, "most of my friends" she added softly, out of his ear shot.

"Hey B, how's tricks?" Faith smiled as she came out of her room on the first floor, stretching her arms and legs out, either preparing for a workout or cooling down from one.

"It's all good" Buffy told her sister Slayer, half-heartedly. She'd started thinking about Sunnydale again and her mind wasn't with her body right now. Faith knew it too.

"Me and Rob are hitting the movies later, latest Matrix is playing, you wanna come with?" the brunette asked, almost certain she knew the answer would be know 'no thanks', but trying her best to cheer up a girl who'd become like the family she never had and thought perhaps she didn't deserve.

"I'll skip it" the blonde smiled at Faith's attempt to be nice, it was still weird having her be semi-rational and normal, not the same rough and ready girl that had rolled into Sunnydale all those years ago. 'There's just no way to forget that place is there?'

"I know you're trying to help out, but really Faith, third wheel's not a title I love"

"I gotcha, B. No problem" she nodded and smiled in understanding, giving the blonde a sisterly pat on the back and heading down the stairs. Buffy couldn't help thinking, as she watched her descend the stairs, that for all the hell and carnage that came out of it, Sunnydale had done a lot of good too. It had brought Faith and Robin together, probably the most unlikely couple, and yet here they were, five years later, as happy as anyone could be.

Buffy headed for her own room, to take that shower she'd originally been heading for. She could wash away the strains of the day, but the thoughts in her head were less simple to remove. Sunnydale meant the hellmouth, pain and destruction, suffering and death, but it also meant vampires. Two in particular were forever burned into her mind and her heart, the only two vampires to ever have a soul.

Salt water mixed into the warm spray from the shower as Buffy cried, even now as she thought of Angel and of Spike. She saw in her mind's eye, the day she met Angel, their first kiss, their first night together, Angelus and Acathla and the day she'd had to sacrifice him, the day he came back and the day he walked away, and a million other moments she'd spent with him.

Then there was Spike, who's original plan had been to kill the Slayer in cold blood, and inside six years things had changed so drastically, that he'd died saving the world for that very same girl.

The water started to run cold and Buffy cursed as she turned it off and hopped out of the shower, wrapping a towel around herself. She remembered days before the final battle, living with less girls that she did now, but in a regular house where the hot water ran out in half the time and someone was always hungry or complaining they needed the bathroom or whatever.

Now there were dorm rooms, with beds enough for all the girls that stayed at the Slayer Academy, with enough adjoining bathrooms to suffice. One side of the first floor was reserved for staff. Buffy's room was there, right between the one that belonged to Dawn and the one that Giles resided in. Further down the hall Faith and Wood shared space, Andrew had his own little room, and just recently Willow and Xander had moved in together.

Willow and Xander. The two friends Buffy had made on her first day at Sunnydale High, and were still with her now, all three best friends forever. So much had happened, a great deal had changed between them, and yet things had turned out just as it seemed they should have all those years ago.

When Buffy first met Willow, the red-head had admitted to feelings for Xander, and even when he'd started dating Cordelia and she'd fallen for Oz, there was always something special between those two. Of course when Xander had proposed to Anya and Willow was in love with Tara, it seemed all suspicions of something more between the two best friends were wrong, but following the tragic death of both their girlfriends, the pair found comfort together, slowly discovering the love they still harboured for each other.

They took things slowly, after all their past relationships they'd learnt not to rush headlong into something so important, plus they had to be certain it was right before taking the plunge, neither of them could bear to lose their best friend if the romantic side of things fell apart, but they were so happy now and Buffy loved to see them that way. They deserved it after all the heart-aches they had endured.

Buffy was now dressed and laying back on her bed, flicking through her old photo album, thankful once again they she'd retrieved a few special items before the final battle, just in case.

Here it was, her history in picture form, all her friends and loved ones, laughing and smiling at special occasions and just on ordinary days of fun. So engrossed in her reminiscing was Buffy that she didn't realise anyone was knocking on her door, till it opened and Dawn walked in.

"Hey" her sister smiled uncertainly, and Buffy was immediately worried.

"Something wrong?" she asked the brunette as she closed the door and walked over to sit on the edge of her sisters bed, facing Buffy.

"That's what I was gonna ask you" the younger woman admitted, for she was a young woman now, at twenty-three she was far from the child she had been when home had collapsed around them. "Faith said you seemed a little, well, not upset exactly, maybe distracted"

"I told her I'm fine" Buffy assured her sister, "And I really am...I was just thinking is all" she sighed glancing down at the album in her lap. Dawn looked at the page from upside down and smiled at the faces she saw

"That was your birthday" she realised, "Your twenty-first"

"Yeah" Buffy nodded absently, "Seems like a lifetime ago" her voice trailed away as she looked at the photographs, remembering the birthday party that had started out so well, and later ended up with all those present being trapped in the house by a curse! Herself, Willow and Xander were in one photo, another shot had the two couples, Anya and Xander, Willow and Tara. A third was just Buffy, then another of Buffy with Dawn.

"You never knew that I took that, did you?" the brunette half smiled as she pointed to the final photograph on the page. Buffy shook her head lightly, confirming that she didn't.

There she was leaning back against the wall, Spike in front of her, smirking that special smirk that only he was capable of, and Buffy knew all to well what he might have been saying, only he couldn't have been, because in the picture she was smiling, a real genuine smile...

"It wasn't deliberate to get you two in a picture together" Dawn assured her, "It's just, you were smiling and you looked so happy...you weren't exactly brimming over with the joy that year" she trailed off and Buffy nodded again, she knew what her sister meant and it had been true. When she'd come back from heaven, earth just seemed like hell. She hated herself and she took it out on the one person who seemed to truly understand what she was going through.

Her and Spike, they'd both been pretty destructive, but there was one thing she particularly regretted damaging. His belief in himself. The First had played it's part but Buffy had admitted to herself a long time ago that she had a great deal to do with the fact that Spike did not believe in his own worth. She said she loved him in that final moment and he hadn't believed. Buffy had spent so long shattering his hopes and dreams, that when it came to the end he couldn't accept the fact she now saw the truth, that she loved him.

With a quiet thud, Buffy closed the album and placed it back in the drawer by her bed. She turned to her sister with a fake smile painted on, looking genuine enough that Dawn wouldn't suspect.

"Why don't you go out with Faith and Robin, maybe ask Andrew to go with, have some fun" she suggested, lifting her hand and running her fingers down the length of Dawn's hair as she often did "You need to cram in all the good times fast before those exams of yours"

The brunette nodded that she was right.

Although Dawn lived at the Academy in a room in the staff quarters, she spent most of her time at the local college or the hospital, training to be a doctor. It was useful to have a medical student around the place, since in such a physical environment injuries occurred regularly, though it did help that all the girls had super Slayer healing powers too.

Buffy was soon alone in her room again, as her sister went to find her friends. Beyond the door everything was quiet, and the blonde Slayer realised that she was probably the only staff member currently in her room. The only people she hadn't seen for a few hours was Willow and Xander and that was because they were at work.

Xander couldn't get a manual job in the construction sector what with the loss of his eye and everything, so he'd moved into the admin side, designing and such. Willow studied at the local college, having almost finished the courses she'd begun back home, as well as working part time at a book store in town.

Everyone was happy at last. They all had a place in this new institution, and a place in the world as a whole. Even those you weren't exactly Scoobies like Andrew and Robin Wood had a place. The former-evil geek was head chef and general housekeeper, whilst the past-Slayer's son worked with Buffy and Faith as training assistant for the girls, and of course he had the ever tricky job of being Faith's other half.

Still, Buffy was feeling decidedly unsettled. Everything was too perfect, something was bound to go wrong. She knew only too well that when it seemed nothing could go wrong, it always did.

'Maybe I lived on a hellmouth too long' she mused, passing her eyes over the clock right before they closed. It was about an hour before dinner would be ready. Buffy figured shutting her eyes for a few minutes wouldn't do any harm. As much as she loved what she was doing, training Slayers to face the evil that still existed in the world, it was somewhat tiring on occasion, and with the stress of worrying about the fact there was nothing to worry about, she'd quite exhausted herself!

Closing her eyes never helped much, even now, five years since she'd last seen them, two souled vampires still haunted so many of her dreams in one way or another. Today would be no different.

To Be Continued...