Important Note: Okay, so here's the deal if you haven't read my profile in a few days. Short version is my main pc flash fried in a power surge. Along with it went all of my stories and updates for pretty much everything but this little jem here. So, while I try and get my main pc fixed, I'll write for this. If Buffy isn't your thing, then that's fine.

Disclaimer: Don't own Buffy or make money from this fiction.


Chapter 1: The More Things Change


Of all the days, of all the towns, and of all the girls, Buffy Summers wondered just why fate had seen fit to shackle this fate to her. She was only a teenager, just a normal person who was content to be a cheerleader with a hobby. But no, fate couldn't leave it at that.

Slaying was, formally, a hobby to the somber blond walking towards Sunnydale's largest bus station. Well, its only bus station really.

Sure, Buffy had died in the line of duty before, saved the world, and actually killed things but it was a hobby that she imagined herself one day getting tired of. It was last night, and the events leading up to last night, that really drove the stake home that this was now her life. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, her official title, was now a broad adjective to describe her station. There was no "Buffy the high school student" or "Buffy the girl that has the hot boyfriend" anymore. The Slayer had taken over.

Angel. There, Buffy could think the name without bursting into tears. He had been himself at the end. How had he regained his humanity? Had Willow somehow gotten through the spell even with all of her ingredients scattered? No, that couldn't have been it; she had met up with Xander and he hadn't mentioned anything like that. In fact, he had even said that Willow wished her luck. No, it would have to be something else.

Still, what was going to happen now? No place to go, kicked out of school, and a dead boyfriend. It was time to just escape, Buffy decided. The bus station would be open now and the school was on the way there. Kill two birds with one stone. A somber goodbye to her happy little life.

Unbenounced to the distraught teen, however, was the figure lurking just outside the Summers home. Well, he was lurking in the sewers, anyway. This person had been ordered to keep a watch on the Slayer and had heard most of the row between the elder Summers and her daughter the night before and now the Slayer was sneaking around? Oh, this was great. No more Slayer in Sunnydale! Question was, what should he do with this little bit of information? Angel was dead and Spike was out of town. All of the problem people were gone with this. That was a good thing for his boss, right? Right...

"...maybe I should check in, just to be sure," the vampire mumbled to himself as he started dialing City Hall's number on his cell. Reception was a little fuzzy thanks to the dirt over his head, but he had a decent roaming plan. He soon was greeted by a pleasant, if not a little annoyed, voice on the other end of the line.

"S-Sir! The Slayer's leaving town! I think she's going to the bus station." There was a slight pause on the other end of the line before new orders were given. The poor Vampire's yellow eyes widened as he sputtered back, "S-she'll kill me!"

Too bad for him the line had already went dead.

When Buffy reached Sunnydale High, she lingered at the edge of the gateway. Seeing Willow up and about brought a tiny smile to her face; she was really worried about the poor wiccan. Willow tended to really take things personally and Buffy didn't want the girl getting all jittery about things. She had Xander and Oz around so it wouldn't be too bad. Things would probably work out. Hey, at least without the Slayer around they wouldn't be in so much danger. That was always a good thing.

'Okay, getting a bit too emotional.' Buffy had to wipe her eyes on the sleeve of her shirt once again. It would probably be best to head on out before she really got into a rut.

"Psst!"

Buffy blinked at the sudden noise. It was coming from...behind her? She turned around but didn't see anything. Was she going all Crazy Buffy now, hearing things whispering in her subconscious?

"Psst, Slayer, over here!"

Okay, now that was definitely not in her head. The blond looked around again and, when hearing more hissing sounds, looked down into a sewer grate only to find two yellow eyes staring back at her. "Come on! I might be skipping town, but can you at least wait until I'm on the bus? I have a reputation!" Crazy Buffy had left the building and handed the keys off to her lesser-known cousin, Huffy Buffy.

The vampire blinked as the Slayer started to stomp her foot like a child. Was this really the big scary thing that lurked in the night? If the Boss said she was...well, there weren't really any options in the matter.

"Slayer! My Boss wants to see you!" The way the vamp was trying to whisper and shout at the same time was almost comical. The sun was limiting his ways of communication, though.

The unorthodox greeting from the ghoul was enough to get Buffy's attention. They weren't even trying to think up a good bait story for the traps these days? Buffy sighed and wondered where all the banter-y magic had gone from the underworld. "You're going to have to do better than that," the Slayer flatly stated. She was really in no mood for this, but...then again a good slay always made her feel better..."Alright, alright," Buffy finally caved. Not like she had anything to lose; not anymore. The Slayer slumped back against the stone gateway to Sunnydale High and sighed. That was the kind of thinking she didn't want to give herself over to.

'They deserve to be safe,' a little voice whispered. Buffy imagined it was her conscience but that part of her head had burnt-up all its favors when it had told Buffy to jam a sword through her boyfriend's stomach. Her feet were already following the vampire, though. Buffy just gave her conscience a rain check on that beating.

It was awkward following someone traveling underground. The vampire who had garnered Buffy's attention was still in the sewers, though he did pause at every grate to make sure the Slayer was still with him.

And, of course, Buffy was starting to notice how nice the storefronts were getting as they traveled. Could this "Boss" be some rich demon holed up in one of Sunnydale's few office buildings? Maybe it was some evil demon who owned all of the trendy shops in Sunnydale and wanted a new Slayer-themed line of clothes?

Okay, that was just wishful thinking. Thinking of some glitzed-out vamp in a pink suit and a feather hat was pretty funny, though.

"We're here."

The harsh rasp snapped Buffy out of the first stirrings of happiness she'd had in hours. "Here? Are you kidding me?" the Slayer asked, clearly not amused.

Looming above her, the stone face of City Hall looked as chipper and happy as any small-town political center. The trees still had leaves on their branches, there was no dark lighting, and certainly no fabulous vampires. No, there were only a few confused clerks out on a smoking break who were watching a more confused blond girl watch them. Buffy looked towards the nearby sewer grate for her undead guide but found the vamp to be missing.

'Great, my last great hurrah in Sunnydale is a wild goose chase.' That vamp better hope he never shows his pasty face in Los Angeles.

"Do you need some help?" Now one of the clerks had put out his cigarette and was walking over. Wonderful.

Buffy waved him off with a sheepish smile. "Uh, no. I was just passing through and I got lost...this isn't the bus station! Silly me!" Babble Buffy was back now.

The man looked at her quizzically before his eyebrows shot up. "Are you Buffy Summers?" His look mirrored Buffy's own surprise at the moment. "Please, come on in. The Mayor is in a meeting, but he'll be out soon."

"The...Mayor?" Buffy was openly shocked as the clerk ushered her inside the building. The place was fairly laid back with only a few secretaries running around with folders of copied material.

Didn't look like a den of evil so far, although Buffy was too off her game to really scrutinize the place.

Why would a vampire call the Mayor of Sunnydale his boss? More importantly, how did the Mayor even know who Buffy was? Public servants weren't supposed to be dealing with demons! At least, not during an election year. There just had to be some kind of mistake and Buffy was going to get to the bottom of it one way or another.

So, now, Buffy was sitting in a very comfy chair outside of the Mayor's office and twiddling her thumbs. There were a few magazines to read but all of them were Martha Stuart Living. Someone around here must have had a thing for being a housewife. In itself, that was scary enough. That this might be a den of vampires waiting to ambush her it was downright insane.

Buffy sighed and shook her head. She hadn't felt a single vampire since she entered the building. If it was an ambush they were certainly going to a lot of work to kill her. This kind of setup was more elaborate than anything Angel had cooked up...

...oh, there was his name again. The emotional turmoil bubbled right back up to the surface and anything else slipped away and it reminded the Slayer of how much she had wanted to run from Sunnydale. Just...run to the nearest bus and flee from this crazy existence. From being the Slayer, from her friends, her family, and any feelings that could haunt her here.

So, what was she doing in City Hall?

The oak door to the Mayor's office creaked open as if to answer the girl. A few men in overpriced suits filed out, talking in hushed voices. Probably discussing a tax hike or something. Maybe she could just slip out behind them...

"Come right on in and make yourself at home!"

...or not.

The sudden cheerful voice caught the macabre Slayer completely by surprise and she turned on her heels. Buffy had only seen Mayor Wilkins a few times on tv, boring public channels, but she was versed enough to know that the man sitting behind that desk in there was none other than the Mayor himself. Buffy swallowed the lump in her throat and meekly pointed to herself.

The smiling man just nodded and enthusiastically motioned for Buffy to join him. There was a snively-looking aide standing by the door who quickly shut the door behind him when he left. The guy looked like he had taken twenty too many pep pills.

"Just have a seat, Miss Summers," Mayor Wilkins called out. He had rose from his chair and was now cleaning his hand with what looked to be one of those germ-killing travel towels. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you," he said as he stretched out his now-clean hand.

Buffy, more befuddled than wary, slowly reached up to shake the man's hand. "Uh, the pleasure is all mine?" That sounded like something to say to a mayor.

Wilkins chuckled a bit before taking his seat and leaned over the table. Buffy squirmed a bit under the placid look directed at her until she couldn't take it any longer. "H-How do you know me?" The Slayer then realized how that sounded and instantly sat up straight as a board, waiting for some kind of secret service to fall on her.

The men in black never showed, however. Mayor Wilkins shook his head, amused, before sliding a manila envelope over his desk. "There's not much that goes on here without me knowing, Miss Summers," he replied, motioning to the envelope.

Now more wary than ever, Buffy slowly pulled the package and gasped. Inside were large, clear photos of her in various poses of slayage. There were a few pictures from the Scoobies at the library, a few of her patrolling, and even one of her and Angel walking leisurely down main street Sunnydale hand in hand.

"Where did you get these?" Buffy quietly asked. "And what do you want?" she added after a moment.

Mayor Wilkins actually looked offended and for the first time his smile slipped from his face. "What do I want? What a defensive attitude you have, young lady. I just wanted to give you a little thanks for looking out for my little corner of California before you left."

"Cut the crap," Buffy was in full Slayer-mode at the moment, government agents be damned. Seeing candid pictures of her an Angel didn't help much either. "You had one of your boys follow me. Is that a new affirmative action program that was on the ballet? Vampires on the payroll? Gives a whole new meaning to the term 'blood money'."

With a sigh, the Mayor leaned back in his leather chair and rested his folded hands on his chin in quiet study of the girl sitting before him. "That would be my other reason for asking you here. You see, this town is a bit..." he looked to Buffy for a suitable word but only got a glare, "...odd. How exactly do you think things like the local high school getting invaded by a group of vampires or a hell demon taking a stroll through the mall don't get more attention?" Unlike Buffy, the Mayor was calm and nonchalant about the topic. "Gangs on PCP, a gas leak that causes hallucinations, the former principle being attacked by rare flesh-eating beetles...you name it, we've probably used it as an excuse."

The picture was starting to get more and more clear to the blond girl. "You're...the guy who runs blocker for me...?" Buffy guessed, "Then why are you working with vampires?! That's counter-productive!"

"I could ask you the same thing," Wilkins stated, pointing to the photo of Buffy with Angel. "It seems that there are many shades of gray in the world, Miss Summers, and you've been trying to walk the line."

Buffy tried to come up with some kind of rebuttal, but only found herself huff and poke out her lip. "Angel was different," she mumbled.

Without a word, Mayor Wilkins reached over his desk to pat the Slayer on her hand. "I heard about what happened. Losing someone that close to you can be a pretty hard thing, but you saved the rest of us." He leaned over so he could catch Buffy's eyes even though her head was bent. His warm smile was enough to make Buffy look back up and at least try to look happy. "I lied to you when I said I called you in here to thank you. I want to do that, but I also want to stop you from making a mistake."

"I want to keep you in Sunnydale." The Mayor had shifted into his own little zone, the Politician Zone, and was now treating the meeting like he was trying to stave off a civil servant strike. "What's it going to take?"

'That's...weird,' Buffy thought. She studied the man's face to any tells of what he was thinking but to no avail. The guy was a rock. "Why do you want me to stay?" Best to be wary when strange men were asking you to stick around, mayor or not.

Obviously Wilkins thought his reasons were obvious as he stared back at Buffy with wide eyes. "Because you're special! You keep Sunnydale safe from anything not on the city's payroll. We'd all be cattle for that Master person or wiped out of the map by the Judge. That, and I don't like the thought of a young lady wandering around by herself. It's not safe."

Buffy had to laugh at that. One minute the Mayor was talking about how she stopped two separate apocalypses, one death, and heavy artillery, the next he was worried about common muggers. To be frank, Buffy was stunned. "I...I...don't really know what to say."

The blond had been planning to get on the first bus out of Sunnydale and never look back. No home, no boyfriend, no schooling, no future. "I really don't think I can stay even if I want to," she admitted. "My mom found out about the Slayer thing and...kicked me out of the house. I also kinda got expelled and the police are looking for me."

"Kicked you out?" the Mayor parroted. "No, no, no, we can't have that!" The man snapped up his phone with a small frown. "Get me Bob Munroe's office...Bob, what's this about wanting Buffy Summers?...No, you can just cancel that APB, Miss Summer's is completely clear of any suspicion. I can -personally- vouch for her...yeah, thanks Bob. I'll see you at the barbecue." With a happy laugh, the cheerful mayor hanged up the phone and turned to his guest.

"And that, as the kids say, is that. I'll talk to Snyder next."

Buffy stared at her host with an open mouth before hopping up out of her chair. "That's it? Just like that?" she gasped. This was...this was...she plopped back into her chair. "You really fixed it that quick?"

Mayor Wilkins smiled happily at the girl. "Just like that. It's the least I can do to repay you for everything you've done." He too retook his seat. "Now, what's this about you getting kicked out?"

"That's a long story," Buffy sighed. She looked up, expecting to find the Mayor not paying attention to her, but was surprised to find him giving her his full attention. "Ah...you see...my mom told me not to come back if I left to go...save the world." She was not going to start crying again, she wasn't!

A box of tissue was pushed over towards her and the Slayer gratefully took a few pieces to dab her eyes. "It's just really hard, you know?" Her breathing hitched and she finally started to sob. The Mayor was already by her side and held her as she got over the worst of it.

In all honesty, Wilkins hadn't expected Buffy Summers to be like this. She was so...human. More human than he was, really, even if she was a Slayer. "How about we make a little deal?" he asked when Buffy had calmed down. He could possibly regret this later, but maybe, just maybe, it would work out. "I hire you as a city employee and find you a place to live on the payroll."

Buffy looked up at him with a little sniffle and wiped her eyes again. "Y-You can do that? I don't have to leave my friends?"

"No, Miss Summers, you don't have to leave," he replied. "We'll just have to keep your employment to ourselves, though. Labor laws and all that. You can keep doing your 'sacred duty', go back to school, and anything else." Everything could come later...much later. He reached out his hand to seal the deal.

'If I do this...I have a feeling everything will change.' There was something tingling at the back of Buffy's mind, just at the edge of her waking mind. It was her Slayer senses, Buffy realized. Her hand hesitated before it grasped the Mayor's and shook it firmly. 'The Slayer is just going to have to deal. Time to take back my life.'

Yes, things were definitely looking like they were going to change in Sunnydale...