Buffy Summers was falling. At first, it was great. She felt like she was flying. The wind buffetted her body as she soared through the air. She wondered if birds felt the same rush she did for that brief time she was suspended in the air, two hundred feet above the ground. Buffy's euphoria was short-lived, however, soon replaced by pain. She was no longer flying - she was falling. She had leapt from the tower and into the energy portal Dawn's blood had opened and Buffy's blood would close. The pain was excruciating. Magickal electricity ripped through the blond's body, tearing her apart molecule by molecule. She prayed for the end of the pain, prayed to hit the hard earth, prayed for death. And still she was falling. The pain suddenly stopped. Then there was nothing. Then, she hit the ground. Ouch. Buffy laid still, more out of surprise than from the pain of connecting with the ground. She was alive, if her heavy breathing and pounding heart were any indiction. She also didn't feel very hurt. There was a sting radiating from her hands, knees, and cheek where it rested on the gritty ground. There was a different type of sting burning one side of her neck. Keeping her eyes shut, Buffy listened for her sister or her friends, or fighting, or the end of the world. She heard crickets. Confused, she opened her eyes and saw she was indeed laying on the ground outside. An off-yellow light illuminated the area where she was sprawled from overhead. A couple inches from her nose she saw neatly edged grass. Even closer was a pair of gold-framed oval eyeglasses, with one of the stems bent. Cautiously, Buffy moved, pushing herself to her knees. Nothing seemed to be broken. She touched the tender side of her neck as she looked around, squinting because everything more than a few feet away was blurry. "Dawn?" she called tentatively. Blurry vision or not, she did not see her sister or any of her friends. She did not see Glory's brain- sucked pawns or scabby minions. She did not see the tower or construction site. What she did see looked an awful lot like one of the sidewalks on the UC Sunnydale campus. And a black-bearded human in a blinding purple suit. "Everything would be clearer if you put on the glasses," the Purple Pieman addressed Buffy from where he stood in front of her. "Are you talking to me?" Buffy said, on guard. Her voice sounded deeper than usual to her, but she chalked it up to the sting on her neck. "Yes, Miss Summers," he replied. "I am indeed speaking to you." Buffy narrowed her blurred eyes, hands forming fists, her body tensing to strike. "How do you know my name?" "I know everything about you, Buffy Summers," the man walked over to a stone bench and took a seat, "including the fact that you are no longer Buffy Summers." The man reached into his garish suit coat and Buffy rose quickly to her feet... and kept rising... and rising. "Woah," she breathed, teetering on her suddenly much longer legs. She towered over the man on the bench, who removed a hand-mirror from his breast pocket and extended it towards her. "Miss Summers," the main said as Buffy cautiously took the mirror and looked at her reflection. "Welcome to your new 'normal' life." Buffy gaped. Staring back at her in the mirror was not who stared back at her this morning. For one thing, her eyes were blue, not dark, dark brown. She also had longish blond hair - dyed, but blond - not short black George Clooney hair. She usually didn't sport a five o'clock shadow, either. The square jaw, thin nose, and thin white scarline on her tanned cheek, running from the corner of a slightly tilted eye almost to her right nostril, were very unfamiliar features. Most disconcerting was the fact that she was also a he. "I'm a guy. Why am I a guy? What did you do to me?" Buffy growled at the man, clenching the mirror in her fist. "Why, the Powers gave you your reward for exemplary service as the Chosen One." Purple Suit patted the bench beside him. "Sit down and I shall explain." "Who are you?" Buffy asked, irritation and worry coloring her deep male - male! - voice. "You may call me Ryan. I am an emissary for the Powers That Be, and I am here to explain your situation," Ryan said. Now that he was in focus, Buffy noted that he looked like a young Santa Claus, if Santa wore ugly purple suits with matching wingtips. "So explain," Buffy said. "Start with why I'm on campus or wherever we are instead of at the construction site, and go from there." "We are, indeed, on the UC Sunnydale campus," Ryan began. He crossed his legs and folded his hands over his knee. "Buffy Summers, the body and the Slayer parts, have been deceased for over a year-" "Woah, woah, woah, hold your horses," Buffy interrupted. "Are you trying to tell me I'm dead?" "Yes," Ryan replied. "You died jumping off the tower in place..." Buffy turned him out, her eyes losing focus as her mind remembered what she thought had happened only a short time ago. She was falling... "I'm dead?" she repeated with a waver in her unfamiliar voice. "Technically, yes," Ryan Said. "Your body is buried in Restfield Cemetery, next to your mother. However, your soul, if you will, has not died. Because you were a Slayer and forced on a daily basis to put yourself in peril on behalf of humanity and thus taking away your ability to lead a 'normal' life, the Powers have allowed you, as they do every Slayer, the opportunity to have that 'normal' life by placing your soul in a recently deceased individual who meets certain specific criteria. Which is why it has taken over a year to find you a body." "Criteria?" Buffy said faintly. "The Powers are very strict about choosing a suitable body," Ryan told her. "First, as I said, the person has to be recently deceased. Still warm, as the saying goes." Buffy looked down at her new hands and turned a bit green. "Secondly, the chosen body must have very little earthly connections. The person you have become, Brett Anderson, has no living relatives, moved here on full scholarship from Maine, and is what you would term a 'loner,' with no real friends on campus because he spends almost all his free time studying in order to keep his scholarship." "So, I'm a nerd?" Buffy raised the hand-mirror and looked at her reflection, ignoring the way it shook. "I'm pretty cute for a nerd. Didn't, uh, didn't Brett have a girlfriend?" Ryan shook his head. "No time for one, and Brett was on the shy side." "Okay, let me see if I understand," Buffy said. "Buffy is dead. Buffy is now Brett. Brett is a cute nerd who is just an ordinary guy who goes to UCSun on scholarship, with no one in Maine who would know Brett is no longer Brett but Buffy in a Brett suit." "That... adequately covers it," Ryan said with a bit of amusement. "And I have no superpowers?" Buffy continued questioning, looking at her reflection again, the hand holding the mirror less shaky. "I don't have to fight evil, make impossible decisions, or sacrifice myself for the greater good?" "Correct," Ryan said. "You are a normal human being with no responsibility to anyone other than yourself." "Then why do I feel like Brett should be the one still living in his body, and not me?" Ryan patted her leg. "You did not cause Brett's death, my dear, nor did the Powers cause it in order to give you a body. Brett simply died by vampire bite, as people tend to in Sunnydale." "So in a way I did cause Brett's death, because I'm the Vampire Slayer and I wasn't around to stop the vampire from killing him," Buffy said flatly, touching the stinging part of her neck. Vampire bite, she should have recognized the feeling. Ryan was flummoxed. "I suppose... But aren't you happy to be alive?" "At the cost of someone else's life? No," Buffy said unhesitantly. "Besides, I'm no longer Buffy. According to you and the mirror, I'm Brett, which means those that I love and would live for don't even know me. If what you say is true and I've been dead more than a year, Dawn and my friends have undoubtably grieved and moved on with their lives. I won't hurt them by coming back in someone else's body." Buffy stood and handed Ryan the small mirror. "Return me to wherever I've been for the past year, put Brett back into his body, and tell the Powers to stop playing God." "Er..." Ryan arched his black bushy brow at her last statement, then shook his head. "Never mind. As to your wishes, I am afraid I can only partially grant them. You have a choice: if after thirty days you wish to no longer stay living, the Powers shall release your soul. Brett's soul, I am afraid to say, has already been released and cannot return. If you are not inhabiting his body, Brett will truly be deceased." Buffy stared at Ryan a minute, then dropped her chin and looked at her new big feet. He was being straight with her, she could tell. Brett Anderson was dead no matter what. Buffy Summers had the opportunity to live. She shoved her hands in her pockets, took deep breath, and let it out slowly. "Is there anything else I need to know if I'm going to be Brett?" Ryan smiled gently. "Only that it is up to you, Buffy, if you are in contact with your family and friends. You are still Buffy on the inside, with all of Buffy's memories, thoughts, and desires. You simply have another body that comes with a few strings, like a heavy school course load and no viable source of income. Physically, you're fit as a fiddle, have no known allergies or diseases, and your only limitation is that you require glasses." "You forgot to mention the fact that I now have a *penis*," Buffy said dryly. She heard giggling behind her, glanced over her shoulder, and saw two female students crossing the path. Her face heated up and she quickly turned her eyes to the ground in front of her. "There is that, but Brett was the first available body that met the Powers' criteria," Ryan said, rising from the bench. "Are there any further questions?" Buffy thought for a second, then shook her head. "None that I know of." "Very well, then." Ryan extended his hand. "I will return in thirty days to see if you would like to stay as Brett Anderson. Until then, I wish you well in your new 'normal' life. Your dorm is Hendrix Hall, room 305. I would recommend you go there now. This is Sunnydale. There are all sorts of nasty creatures out at night who'd be happy to eat a 'normal' human such as yourself." With that warning, Ryan released Buffy's hand, turned, and walked away. Buffy didn't move until the blurry purple beacon disappeared from sight. "Very strange," she murmured, retrieving the glasses from the ground. She straightened the earpiece as best she could and put them on. The world snapped into focus and she sighed, "Much better." Picking up the dark blue backpack on the grass, which she assumed was Brett's since there was no one else around, Buffy put it over her shoulder and struck off for Hendrix Hall. She kept an ear out for danger as warned and reminded herself to carry a stake and a few other anti-vampire implements on her. Normal human or not, she still could protect herself from vampires that roamed the campus after dark. The digital watch on her wrist told her it was barely past ten o'clock p.m. as she climbed the stairs to the third floor of the dorm. It was early enough to call and check on Dawn. Buffy really wanted to go and see her sister in person, but distance, lack of car, and lack of superpowers put a kibosh on that desire. She'd have to settle for a phone call until morning. Buffy found room 305, found the key in her pocket, and found that Brett Anderson was most definitely a nerd. The single dorm room was neat as a pin, bed made, shoes lined by the door on a mat. Instead of posters of girls or bands on the walls, there was a poster of a castle from Batavia, Germany, above the desk and a schematic to a space ship on the wall beside the bed. The college- provided bookshelf was full, all book spines facing out. On the desk, the laptop was closed, the pencils in a caddy, and a transparent-sheilded course schedule was taped to the desk. Buffy hooked the backpack on the wooden desk chair and checked Brett's closet. Clothes hung neatly or were folded nicely on the top shelf, which she could easily see, and laundry was in the laundry bag on the closet floor. On the small dresser with a mirror above it sat a shave kit with guy bath things in it. An extra pair of glasses resided in a hard plastic case beside the kit. The drawers below held folded boxers, briefs, and paired white socks. Buffy rolled her eyes, shut the drawer, and caught her reflection in the mirror. Who was once Brett Anderson looked back at her through gold-frame oval glasses. She stared at herself for a very long time as the reality of her situation fully sunk into her brain. She was no longer Buffy Summers, the Chosen One. She was no longer female. She was Brett Anderson's new soul. And she was really cute. For a nerd. Shaking her head, she continued snooping until she found a roll of quarters in one of the drawers, and went into the hall to use the payphone. Dawn picked up on the second ring, laughing at something someone was yelling in the background. "Summers, Rosenberg, and McCray residence. You have Dawn." Buffy closed her eyes, slumped against the phone caddy, and hung up the receiver. Thank goodness. Dawn was okay. Her sister was safe and sounded fine. And it also sounded as if Willow and Tara were taking care of her. Buffy would have to see how well tomorrow.
Buffy knew about boys and their boy parts. She knew how to touch them, what caused a gasp, and what caused a groan. She'd heard the complaints, seen the reactions, and watched in fascination as the boy part spurted come. None of this prepared her to feel it in the first person. Buffy awoke early Friday morning after a night of learning about Brett Anderson from the things in his... *her* dorm room. From his driver's license, she learned he was twenty years old, six-three, 190 pounds, and that his birthday was February 22nd. She learned his schedule - no Friday classes, thank goodness - because it was taped to the desk, learned he took meticulous notes from the binders in his backpack, and learned that he attended the last summer session and received straight- B's from the report card tacked to the bulletin board. She also learned that he was a Junior at UCSunn, majoring in Criminology and Statistics with a minor in Math. Math, eew. In a lockbox in the closet, she found a passport with no travel stamps in it, insurance papers, bank account information, and a single picture of Brett and two people who had to be his parents. There was also an obituary clipping from a Maine newspaper about his parents' deaths in a car accident. It was funny, in a non-ha-ha way, that she learned more about who Brett was by his parents' obituary than by anything else in the dorm room. When Buffy was finished going through Brett's... *her* things, she rearranged the room more to her liking. She made it look a little more lived in. Then she'd gone to wash up in the communal boy's bathroom, which had made her giggle hysterically for a long time afterwards. Especially the part where she relieved herself while standing at a urinal. Buffy's Adventures in Peeing. She hadn't been brave enough to really look at her new male anatomy, though. She figured she'd had enough excitement for one night. The alarm went off at seven o'clock a.m. in order for Buffy to see Dawn before her sister left for school. Buffy's hand slapped at everything within reach until the annoying beeping stopped. She stretched while trying to get her eyes to open. The sheet shifted. That's when she realized she had grown another limb in the middle of her body. Her eyes were definitely open now. She lifted the sheet covering her and looked under it. The boxers she'd thrown on to sleep in had the standard split in the front, and sticking straight up out of that split was... Buffy squeaked and clutched the covers to her flat chest. She saw the sheet was tented at waist-level, and she squeaked again and squeezed her eyes shut. She had hoped that Ryan and the idea that she was a guy had been a dream, and that she was at home on Revello Drive in her own bed, with her sister down the hall. It wasn't a dream. She was a guy. And she had an erection. Buffy cracked open an eye, lifted the sheet, and peered beneath it again. Looming from between the patterned edges of the boxers was a penis of massive proportions. It was huge. It was hard. It was attached to her. She squeaked again and pulled the covers to her chin. The soft sheet rubbed against her maleness. She sucked in a sharp breath. A hint of pain, a lot of pressure, and unbelievable pleasure skittered down her new anatomy. She tugged lightly on the sheet again and the intense feelings repeated. She whimpered. Buffy recognized the pressure-feeling: it meant she had to use the bathroom. The other two, though... holy cow. Was *this* what it was like to be a guy and be horny? It felt wildly different than being aroused as a girl. She had an almost uncontrollable urge to rub herself against something. If her hands weren't ripping at the sheet, they'd be undoubtably beneath the covers. She wasn't ready for this. She had been a male for less than twelve hours and, up until now, she'd hoped it was all a dream, or a Glory-induced hallucination. She wasn't ready to deal with an erection. She didn't think she could handle it. "Bad choice of words," she whimpered, squeezing her eyes shut again. She tried to will the erection away, but with every minute that passed increased her need to use the bathroom. Eventually, she could wait no more, not if she didn't want to wet the mattress. She jumped out of bed and gasped when her penis bounced freely. She looked down and meeped. She had a penis! A *penis*! A bubble of hysterical laughter exploded from her throat as Monty Python's "Penis Song" floated through her brain. ~'Isn't it awfully nice to have a penis, isn't it frightfully good to have a dong?'~ Buffy didn't want to touch it, but she didn't want to see it anymore. She also couldn't go anywhere with it sticking out like a fleshy bludgeon. And she really had to pee. "Okay, Buffy, you can do this." Her sleep roughened male voice surprised her, and she jumped again. And her dick jumped again. She had a dick. Aack! Taking the bull by the horns - or the penis by the shaft - Buffy choked and sputtered as she yanked the hard member through the split and back into her boxers. If she thought about it rationally, her penis wasn't that big. In fact, it was fairly normal-sized. But how could she think rationally with. Her. *Cock.* In. Her. Hands? And touching it had been a bad thing to do. Very bad. Because now she *really* wanted to rub against something. Really, really, really wanted to. Robe. Pee. Throw self out of window. Buffy ticked off her mental list as she put on the hunter green terrycloth robe that was hanging on the back of the door. After a quick blurry look up and down the hall to see if the coast was clear, she bolted from her dorm room to the bathroom and locked herself in an unoccupied stall. She had to touch the thing in her shorts again in order to relieve herself. Bracing herself, she bit her lower lip as she shoved down her boxers, choking back a squeal as her new part bounced free. Trying not to be a complete wuss, she grabbed, aimed, and peed. Her panic must have dribbled out along with her urine, because she was able to think more clearly as she washed her hands. Looking at herself in the large mirror above the multiple sinks, she made a face and Brett's reflection mimed her. She stuck out her tongue. She crossed her eyes. Brett did the same. She sighed, finally, and admitted fully that this was not a dream. "Hello, Brett," she said to her reflection. "I'm Buffy. I guess we're one in the same now, huh? Su body is mi body, su penis is mi penis." Snickering, she shut off the water, dried her hands, and returned to her room. She was still hard beneath her boxers, which was uncomfortable and made it difficult to walk. How did guys manage to do anything with this thing in their shorts? Buffy knew she had a choice to make: ignore Mr. Please-touch-rub-fondle-me Erection and hope it went away, or give in to what it wanted. Her faced heated as anticipation coiled in her at the thought of the second choice. Guess that answered that question. Once in the room, she checked the clock. She had at least 45 minutes before she had to leave. Plenty of time to take a shower and... explore. In her boxers, her stiffy leapt under its own power. Wigged, but determined, Buffy grabbed the shave kit and a towel, slid on her shower shoes, and headed back to the bathroom. ***** Brett Anderson didn't have too bad of taste when it came to clothes, for a nerd. He seemed to favor jeans and t-shirts, both long and short sleeved, with logos blazed on the front or back. Brett looked very good in jeans the slightly tight t-shirts. He looked very good out of the clothing, too. In the shower and afterwards in front of the mirror in the dorm room, Buffy did naughty and not-so-naughty things to her new body. She was a full foot taller she used to be, which gave her a whole different perspective of the world. She was thin still, but not skinny. Lanky would have been her mother's label. Buffy had a lean musculature, a smattering of dark body hair, and naturally tanned skin. White scars peppered her body, ones she identified from experience as old fighting injuries. By the scars on her knuckles, she knew Brett hadn't been just a punching nerd in high school. All in all, Brett Anderson wasn't a bad choice of body for Buffy Summers's soul to occupy. Battered gym shoes on her feet and glasses in place, Buffy left the dorm and started the trek to town. She couldn't wait to see Dawn. For her sister, it had been a year plus since she'd last seen Buffy. But for Buffy, it was last night, and the world had been on the brink of disaster. Buffy needed to reassure herself that the voice on the phone had really been Dawn and that she was okay. Buffy also wondered about her friends. Willow and Tara apparently lived with Dawn, so they must be all right. Giles, Spike, Xander and Anya, though, she had no clue about. She hoped they were okay, too. Buffy's step faltered when she realized she included Spike in her list of friends... and didn't find it strange. Spike had proved himself to her, had earned her trust during those last few weeks while fighting Glory. She wanted to throttle him a majority of the time, but he was always there for her, even if it was to point out flaws. She probably shouldn't tell him, though, so he wouldn't think her friendship was a stepping stone to love. Buffy stopped walking abruptly. She wouldn't be telling Spike anything, or telling any of her other friends anything, either. She was no longer Buffy, she was Brett, with a normal life stretched out before her. A life where she could do anything she wanted without worrying about the rest of the population. A life that didn't include her friends unless she told them she was resurrected from the dead and, hey, check out her penis! Buffy continued schlepping down the street, her shoulders slumped. She hadn't lied to Ryan when she said she didn't want to hurt her sister or her friends. The date on her watch and neatly crossed off calendar informed her it really had been over a year since she took a swan dive from the Glory- constructed tower. It wouldn't be fair to Dawn or the others to return from the dead after the amount of time that had passed. Buffy may have no choice but to cut ties with them once she saw that they were okay. "C'mon, guys, we're going to be late." Willow's familiar voice drifted across the cut lawn of 1630 Revello Drive, and Buffy stopped at the edge of the property and watched as the redhead dug through a knit handbag as she headed for the yellow S.U.V. in the driveway. She looked the same, Buffy noted happily. Bright shoulder-length red hair, bright flowered skirt and non-matching sweater. Willow looked great. Tara came out of the house, still ash-blond and with a shy-person's posture, dressed in black and carrying a backpack over her shoulder. Dawn was right behind her, and pulled the front door shut before they headed for the car. "Dawn," Buffy whispered, tears misting her vision. Her sister had grown since Buffy last saw her. The tall, willowy brunette was a breathtaking almost-17-year-old beauty. Pride and sadness filled Buffy's heart. She'd missed Dawn's blossoming into womanhood. The three spotted Buffy standing there and looked her way with curiosity. After a brief moment, Dawn headed for her. Buffy dropped her chin, shoved her hands in her pockets, and started walking away. "Hey, wait," Dawn called to her. "Can I help you with something?" Buffy stopped and turned to Dawn, who was almost as tall as she was now, as Brett. Buffy wanted to grab her sister and hug her tight. Instead, Buffy clenched her fists in her pockets, and said, "I, um, thought I recognized the other two from the university." "Willow and Tara?" Dawn said, tilting her head slightly in a way that was very familiar to Buffy, but not an action she normally saw... used to see Dawn do. "Yeah, they go to UC Sunnydale. Want me to call them over?" "Er..." "Hey, guys, come here," Dawn called to Willow and Tara without waiting for a reply from Buffy. The witches came over and smiled tentatively at Buffy. "This guy says he recognizes you from school." Dawn must've been taking blunt lessons from Anya, Buffy decided. She looked down at Willow and Tara. Had they always been so short? "Uh, hi." "Hi back," Willow said, squinting up at him. "You do look familiar. Professor Lisenko's Stats class, right? I'm sorry, but I don't remember your name." "Brett," Buffy said, taking the plunge into her new life. She extracted her hand and extended it to Willow. "I'm Brett." "Willow," Willow said, returning the handshake. "This is my girlfriend, Tara. And you already met Dawn." "Yeah." Buffy was unable to help flashing a tender smile at her sister. "We kind of met." Willow frowned a mommy-frown. "That's good. Did you, uh, need a lift back to campus?" "Sure," Buffy said with a shrug. "If you don't mind, that is." "It's no problem," Willow replied. They all climbed into the S.U.V., Buffy in back with Dawn. The car ride was silent for awhile, then Dawn turned to Buffy and began questioning her. "So, what's your major?" "Criminology and Statistics," Buffy replied, reminding herself that she was Brett Anderson, not Buffy Summers. "Sounds neat," Dawn said. "It's... interesting." Which it would be, considering Buffy had been taking her basic classes when she'd dropped out Sophomore year, and Brett was a Junior. She should probably spend the weekend playing catch-up with the class material. It wouldn't be good to flunk out, since the university was apparently her only home. Willow arrived at the high school, and Dawn said goodbye and hopped out of the vehicle. Buffy watched her sister disappeared into the building, then faced front. She caught Willow staring at her in the rearview mirror. "Cute kid," Buffy said, emphasizing the 'kid' so Willow wouldn't think she was macking on her sister. "Yes. She is a cute under-18-year-old kid," Willow agreed with a pointed look. Buffy hid her grin at Willow's response. She was quite happy with the redhead's protectiveness of Dawn, and the three of them seemed to be doing fine. Buffy wanted to ask about Anya, Xander, Giles, and Spike, but she didn't know how to go about it without arousing suspicion. She'd just have to go by the Magic Box later, after it opened. Perhaps stop by the cemetery, as well. They arrived on campus a mere five minutes after dropping off Dawn; it was amazing how small Sunnydale was when one had a car. "Well, thanks for the ride," Buffy said as she climbed out of the vehicle. "I guess I'll see you around." "Bye," Willow said. Tara smiled shyly. Buffy nodded to them both, stuck her hands in her pockets - which was turning into a habit - and ambled off in the direction of the dorms.
It was extremely easy for Buffy to catch up with the material in Brett's Criminology classes. Brett's notes were so organized and easy to understand she was able to comprehend what had been covered thus far in class. After reading thoroughly through the notes, Buffy spent the rest of the morning working on one of the class assignments. Math she ignored. Same with her Stats class material. Why should she work on either today when she could put them off indefinitely? Meals were included in Brett's full scholarship, and Buffy made use of the cafeteria for lunch, sitting alone, before heading into town for the second time that day. She was going to have to get a bicycle or something. Walking everywhere wasn't much fun when it made her tired. The bell over the door jingled as Buffy entered the Magic Box. She inhaled deeply, the spicy incense in the air tickling her nose. Unobtrusive lighting brightened the shop, making it feel welcoming. Making it feel like home. Buffy walked further into the shop, casting a mindful eye over everything. The books, the objects d'arte, the new age junk and true magick supplies was the same, save for a few display trinkets on the register counter. Anya was behind the counter, red-blond hair pulled up in a feisty knot, a generic smile on her familiar face. "Welcome to the Magic Box, how may I meet your magick needs?" Anya greeted, obviously by rote. Buffy approached the counter. "Uh...," think, think, think, "...holy water. I'm in need of some holy water. Do you sell it?" Anya's eyes flicked on the bandage Buffy had taped over the vampire bite wound after showering that morning. She nodded and reached under the counter. "Yes, we sell holy water. We also sell crosses, garlic sachets
and other protective objects. Stakes are free, and are in the basket by the door." Buffy blinked behind her specs as Anya thrust a cream-colored pamphlet at her. Tri-folded, the pamphlet's front page proclaimed it full of information on the dangers of Sunnydale. It was complete with illustrations and survival guide. "This is wild," Buffy said, skimming through the information. "Did you come up with this?" "No, my husband of four months, three days, and...," Anya looked at a slim gold watch on her wrist, the gold engagement ring and wedding band Buffy hadn't seen until now glinting in the overhead light, "...two hours thought of it. The proprietor of the shop provided the etchings, without anyone having to have sex with him." "You're married?" Buffy smiled, feeling both happy-squishy and sad inside. Another life-changing event she had missed. Anya beamed. "I most certainly am, which means flirting with me, while appreciated, would be a waste of time." "I wasn't..." Buffy left the sentence unfinished and changed course. "What kind of dress did you wear?" "Alejandro, Modern Classic," Anya stated with pride as she reached under the counter again. "I have many pictures." She plopped a very thick photo album onto the counter. Anya had made a beautiful bride, and Buffy was impressed when she saw Xander in his tuxedo, looking happier than she'd every seen him. Buffy surreptitiously asked pointed questions about her extended family in the photographs. She learned that Giles had returned to England and Cordelia, who had driven up from L.A., was still working with Angel and had been seen in many non- speaking roles in television commercials. In a group shot of a conga-line, Buffy spotted Spike in the background, wearing his familiar black jeans, black tee, and trench, talking to Dawn. As it was the only picture in the entire album with Spike in it, Buffy was unable to ask about him without seeming suspicious. At least she knew that four months, three days, and three hours ago he'd been okay. The last photo in the album was a Scooby Gang group shot, Anya and Xander in the center with Giles and Dawn on one side of them and Willow and Tara on the other. Buffy was barely able to hold back her tears. She had to leave before she embarrassed herself, crying over a photo that Brett shouldn't care about at all. Buffy did the old "look at the time" trick, bought some holy water, said congratulations again to Anya, and hurriedly left the shop. Back on campus, behind the safety of her locked door, Buffy gave
her tears. She had been dead. *Dead.* Deceased. She had kicked the bucket, croaked, perished, ceased to be alive, was a casualty of war, a fatality, one of the dearly departed. She had *died*... and life had gone on without her. Sobs wracked her new masculine form. She curled up as much as she could on the bed, her legs pulled to her too-flat chest. Dawn had grown up without any help from Buffy. Xander and Anya had joined their lives without Buffy having to wear a puke-green bridesmaid dress like Tara and Dawn or a tuxedo like Willow. Buffy hadn't been able to subtly ask Cordelia about Angel. She hadn't gotten to say goodbye to Giles, or tell him thanks or that she loved him more than her own father, before he moved back to England. And those were the big things. She'd also missed all the little stuff, like Dawn's birthday, Christmas, and her own twenty-first birthday. She'd missed having to find a job to pay the bills. She'd missed arguing with Dawn over chores and healthy meals. She'd missed arguing with Spike about everything else. She'd missed an entire television season. Buffy didn't want to be dead anymore. She wanted to take her sister shopping at the mall. She wanted a cute boy to ask her on a date. She wanted a cute boy to ask Dawn on a date and allow Buffy to play mom. She wanted to share a mocha with her friends. She wanted to listen to Giles lecture. She wanted to punch Spike in the nose. She wanted to slay vampires. Buffy couldn't have what she wanted, however, except the not-being-dead part. She was Brett now, with a normal, destiny-free life ahead of her. There would be much weirdness if she told her friends who she was and would cause too much pain if they lost her again. This *was* Sunnydale, population: varying. Buffy didn't plan to becomes vampire chow, but that didn't mean she wouldn't fall victim, especially because she had to walk everywhere. Eventually she ran out of tears and her sniffs were loud in the post-sobbing silence. Sucking in a ragged breath, Buffy came to a decision: When Ryan came back, she'd tell him to release her soul. Buffy Summers was dead and she should stay that way. Feeling like crap yet relieved by her choice, Buffy went to the bathroom to splash cold water on her face. Thirty days was all she had to wait. As a memoriam to Brett she'd keep up his schoolwork, since that had seemed important to him. She'd also try and see her sister and friends, storing up memories without hurting them by revealing who she was. She'd keep some distance between them, though, so when she died a second time they wouldn't grieve too hard. Slipping her glasses on, she made a face at herself in the mirror, then blushed when someone entered the bathroom and gave her a funny look. She ducked her head and hurried back to the safety of her dorm room. She had to remember, for the next thirty days, she was a guy, and guys did not do things like make faces in the communal bathroom mirror. Buffy looked at the alarm clock after re-locking the dorm room door behind her. She had a few hours until dinner and a second Criminology class she could prepare for. After dinner, she decided, she'd go to the Bronze. It was a Friday night, so her sister was bound to be there. Satisfied with the plan in her head, Buffy retrieved her textbook and notes. She looked on the bright side as she settled on the bed: she would only have thirty days of homework to do. ***** "Hey, Anderson." Buffy looked up from trying to identify her food and saw a good-looking shaggy- haired brunette with a tray standing beside her table. "Mind if I join you?" he asked. "Be my guest," Buffy replied, trying not to panic in her quest not to be rude and yell, "NO!" It was obvious the guy knew Brett, but she was now Brett and she had no idea who the other student was. Ack. "S'up, man," a skinny goth said, pausing at the head of the table soon after Buffy-Brett's friend sat down. "You coming to Cathy's party?" "I'll be there," replied the brunette. "Cool. Later, Mick." Gothboy wandered away after conveniently informing Buffy of her dinner companion's name. "So, uh, Mick," Buffy began, and was relieved when the cute boy across from her looked her way. She gestured with her fork at their dinner. "Any clue what we're eating? I haven't been able to figure out whether it's meatloaf or tuna." Mick grinned. "According to the serving lady, it's chicken." Buffy blinked slowly behind her glasses, looked down at her plate, and turned slightly green. She dropped her fork and pushed her tray away. "I think I have an orange in my room." "The trick is to eat it with applesauce," Mick informed her, dunking a fork full of chicken into the applesauce on his plate. "It hides the taste of everything." He stuck the fork in his mouth. "I'll try it next time," Buffy lied. She watched as Mick wolfed down the food. Her horror must've shown on her face, because Mick grinned again. "It's not that bad," he said. "Uh-huh." Mick laughed, and Buffy... found herself attracted to him. Her 'cute boy, must flirt' switch had been flipped. It was nice to know she hadn't changed too much. Oh, crap. Things *had* changed. Buffy was a boy, not a girl. Mick was a boy. She shouldn't be flirting with him. She shouldn't be attracted to him... should she? It wasn't that being gay was bad, but she was as straight as a ruler. At least she had been, when she still had boobs. What did that make her now that she had a penis, which was currently dancing the lambada in her jeans? She was still a she, wasn't she, only in the body of a he? And was that a Lorax in the tree?
Aside from the mind-boggling conundrum she'd just discovered, it also wasn't fair that the usual low-down tingle Buffy felt when faced with an attractive male had manifested itself into a visible physical reaction on her male body. Why couldn't she have jumped from the tower and have the Powers reward her by allowing her to land on her feet? Mick did not notice Buffy's discomfort, thankfully. He ate and babbled on about a class they were in together. Math, apparently. Again, eew. "I'm having trouble with the assignment, too," Buffy ventured into the conversation. "Which part?" Mick inquired, sipping his soda. "The part with the numbers," she joked... kind of. What sane person took math when it wasn't required to graduate? Of course, if all the boys in the Math class were as cute as Mick, it might not be so bad. Wait, what was she thinking? The creature in her pants stirred again, and proved that guys truly did think with their dicks. 'Cause, *math*?? "We should get together Sunday and work on it," Mick suggested. "Sure," Buffy's dick agreed before Buffy's brain could stop it. "I'll meet you here at dinner, then, on Sunday, and we'll decide where to study," Mick said, collecting his tray as he stood. "See ya, Anderson." "Yeah. Bye. See you." Buffy waited until Mick's lanky form had vanished from sight before dropping her head in her hands and groaning. What had she gotten herself into?