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Summary: A lonely Buffy wakes up in a place that looks like Sunnydale but not quite the way she remembers it. (AU/Parallel Universe/Post 'Chosen'/subtext)

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > Dark > Buffy-Centered(Moderator)acsFR181455,690167032,63122 Jan 0614 Dec 10No

I don't think we're in Kansas anymore.

DISCLAIMER: This is a derivative work. All characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Fox Television, and others. I don't own any of this, just the words gluing my story together.
SUMMARY: Buffy meets a different kind of Willow in an alternate universe. (Fair warning: It is eventually gonna be a B/W folks. But not right away. Nothing but subtext for at least the first half. The rating is mostly for the violence in the 2nd half.)
SPOILERS: All seasons of BtVS. AU after "Chosen". Several characters from LA might show up but pretend Angel Season 5 never happened. And pretend the Season 8 comic book never happened.
[1] Alternate Title: "The World Without CoWs"
[2] Feedback/Comments always welcome/appreciated.
[3] IMPORTANT NOTE: This story takes place more than 5 years AFTER the last episode of Season 7 in a different dimension/alternate reality. Some of the people Buffy meets have familiar names but their histories are often very different. I thought it was clear from the story but based on several reviews it apparently isn't as clear as I thought.
[Revision Posted: 27-Dec-2009]
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She woke up abruptly, not knowing where she was or how she'd gotten there. Looking up, she could just barely see a dim purple glow in the air around her that faded as she watched. Feeling slightly numb, she turned her head. There was just enough moonlight shining in through a curtained window for her to be able to see her surroundings. She didn't have to dig very deeply into her memories to recognize the room. She seemed to be lying on something soft, probably a bed, in her old room in her mother's old house back in Sunnydale.

As slowly and carefully as she could, she pushed herself up into a sitting position. Cautiously running her eyes over her body, Buffy discovered that she was fully clothed in one of her newly favorite slaying outfits. The familiar combination of a green khaki blouse, black leather pants, a light leather jacket, and the soft leather boots on her feet gave her a fleeting sense of security.

Sitting there, the numbness faded and her senses started to scream with a familiar rawness, a faint reminder of her first few days after Willow had resurrected her, mixed in with the sense that everything was about to go out of control that she remembered from when she'd first become a slayer. Breathing slowly while she worked to clamp down on her rampaging senses, Buffy tried to get a feel for her surroundings beyond the shadowed shapes.

There was something slightly off about the room. She had the vague feeling that something was missing from it. It looked like her room but wasn't. Some element that would have made this her room wasn't there. It felt different at some subconscious level she couldn't explain. The room seemed to possess a subtle mental tone or after-taste that indicated to her subconscious mind that even though it looked like her old room, it wasn't. That same something was telling her that she didn't belong here, in this place.

And then, as she sat there, the obvious differences jumped out at her. The room smelled different. No matter how much she'd tried over the years, with different perfumes, oils, and deodorizers, she'd never been quite able to get rid of the faint metallic smell of the knives, swords, and hand axes she'd kept in her weapons chest. But it was noticeably absent from this room.

The bed was also different. It was covered in the kind of soft, fluffy, comforter that her mother had always had. It hinted at a gentle person, not someone hard like she'd become. It wouldn't have lasted long as the bed of a slayer, a warrior, a dealer of death and defeater of prophecy. It hinted at things she thought she'd lost long ago. Parts of her soul she'd hidden away and forgotten.

And if it had been daylight she was confident that she'd see more of the differences she was sure were hiding in the shadows. She was sure there were drawers full of clothes that were meant to make their wearer feel pretty, or even sexy. Not clothes designed to protect against claws, teeth, and other sharp objects.

While sitting there, another very important fact quickly gave her consciousness a sharp jab. This couldn't possibly be her room. It had ceased to exist over five years ago, falling into a large hole in the ground along with the house and the rest of Sunnydale when they'd fought their last battle against the First Evil. As much as she would always miss parts of it, there was no going back to Sunnydale or 1630 Revello Drive. It was now at the bottom of a large lake.

It was then, her mind no longer buried in her memories, that she realized that she wasn't alone. Someone else was sharing this bed with her. And from the unfamiliar sounds and smells, it was an unknown female someone. Turning her head away from her examination of the room, she stole a glance at the small lump on the other side of the large bed.

She'd shared her bed with very few people over the years, both men and women, for a multitude of reasons. Most of them were long gone, some their choice, some hers. While she didn't remember falling asleep the previous evening, the lonelier she became the more she seemed to crave being alone. Even if she weren't in some strange, perverse version of her old room, she was certain that she wouldn't have spent the previous night with a stranger given a choice.

Luckily, she was able to slide off of the bed and onto her feet without waking her unknowing bed mate. Looking closer at the slight, blanket shrouded figure, all she could see in the faint moonlight were a few stray blond hairs poking out from underneath the pillow covered head.

She silently debated the wisdom of staying there until her unwitting roommate woke up and asked for an explanation of her presence, or exploring the house and trying to figure out what was happening on her own. True to her slayer roots, Buffy chose the active option and quietly snuck out of the room, pausing briefly in the door to ensure that she hadn't woken the room's slumbering occupant and to check her clothes for anything she could use as a weapon. She was dismayed to find that the only sharp thing she had in her possession was the slim, razor sharp boot knife that had been a gift from her sister on a previous birthday.

In the years since she'd last seen her mother's house, she'd forgotten what it looked like without dozens of energetic young women occupying every possible nook and cranny. Looking around, it took her a few moments to orient herself and to determine that it was the same with only a few minor cosmetic differences.

The carpet was softer under the thin soles her leather boot and the wallpaper was less dingy. The stairs hadn't seen as much wear as she dimly remembered. If she looked harder, she was sure she could find all of the spots missing where she remembered Xander had repaired some fixture broken in a fight with some demon that managed to get in the house. Yes, on the surface it looked like her mother's house, but it really wasn't.

Wandering down the upstairs hallway, Buffy stopped, curiosity getting the better of her, and looked in what would have been Dawn's room. From the boy band posters plainly visible on the walls and the row of porcelain dolls on a high shelf, it was obviously the room of a teenage girl. In the faint light there were no pictures or other clues that she could see that revealed the identity of the room's occupant.

But standing just inside in the doorway, Buffy could feel herself relax slightly. There was something special about this room. Something within it that she found more welcoming than the room she'd woken up in minutes earlier. If she could, she would stay in it all night, absorbing whatever she was sensing.

The room seemed to speak to her. This is what a slayers' bedroom feels like she found herself thinking. She'd lived with enough other slayers over the years to recognize the signs, to feel the almost tangible presence of a slayer. But she knew it really wasn't a good idea to stick around in the room or the house, no matter how familiar and comforting the slayer's room felt to her still raw senses. Poking around in the dark in a slayer's house was a guaranteed recipe for getting hurt, even for another slayer.

Standing at the top of the stairs, she took a deep, calming breath to center herself. Stretching out with her enhanced senses, she couldn't detect any other signs of life within the house. Just the sleeping woman in the room she'd started out in. But at least two women lived in the house, not just the currently sleeping occupant. And the missing slayer was definitely something to be concerned about.

Like most predators, slayers had a tendency to be very territorial. If the one living in the house was out patrolling her hunting grounds Buffy really didn't want to be found wandering about. Things could get very messy when the potentially wired slayer returned home. Especially if the other person in the house was a member of the slayer's immediate family. She vividly remembered how she'd reacted to Faith when she'd first shown up in Sunnydale and had no desire to provoke this slayer, unintentionally or not.

The only real question was whether she waited for the slayer to come home or if she found somewhere else to go to that would be seen as less threatening and least likely to cause a violent reaction. While going downstairs, away from the house's sleeping occupant, was a good start, staying in the house wouldn't be a good idea. It could be seen as confrontational. Not the message she wanted to get across.

But she wasn't prepared to run away. She'd learned over the years that she functioned much better when she took the direct approach. While it was risky to just wait and see what would happen, Buffy's instincts were telling her to do just that. Once she'd dealt with the local slayer, made her presence known, she could start worrying about where she really was and how to get home.

And there was the added bonus that hunting for the slayer on her home turf without an understanding of the local demon population could possibly get her into trouble she couldn't easily get out of, even if, as she suspected, it turned out to look a lot like her Sunnydale. It had been a while since she'd intentionally done something that foolish. Especially without any backup. And the results from that fiasco still haunted her, even if Xander had forgiven her years ago.

Given the situation, the best place to wait, she decided as she looked curiously around the dark kitchen, seemed to be the back porch. Sitting on a porch was a friendly thing that enemies rarely did. Well, anyone except for Spike and he'd always been an exception, even before becoming an important part of her life. They'd had their problems but even now she still missed him, more than five years after she'd lost him for good.

Turning thought into action, Buffy went through the kitchen door and out onto the porch in search of the most visible part of it, a place where she didn't feel so vulnerable. She found a porch swing near the door, and perched on it while she waited. Sitting there, quietly meditating, a habit she'd picked up following the destruction of Sunnydale, Buffy ran over the things she'd done and thought since waking up.

It was only then that everything really hit her. Giles and Willow would be so proud of her restraint, she thought. She was thinking and planning before acting. She just hoped that some day she would have a chance to tell them.

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It's been a quiet, uneventful patrol, like so many others since she'd become a slayer. Reaching the row of trees obscuring the fence at the edge of her back yard, Dawn could feel the presence of something with supernatural power ahead of her. It wasn't the same sensation that she would get from the rare occasional vampire or even rarer demon that the closed local hellmouth attracted. That feeling could best be described as rusty flavored, like an shuddery aftertaste caused by a sharp metal object being dragged across a chalkboard.

This feeling was different. Almost as if someone were massaging the back of her neck while tugging on the hair there, causing a faint tingling. Not the most welcome feeling, but not exactly painful. The feeling wasn't panic inducing but she'd detected something large just at the edge of her sense that had been following her since leaving Restfield. A something that was giving off a faint vampire-like vibe. Together the different feelings were beginning to make herself feel nervous as she approached home.

Stepping through a gap in the fence, Dawn squinted in the moonlight while she tried to get a better sense of the direction of the stronger presence. Looking towards her house, she saw a small figure sitting on the back porch, staring back at her, as if waiting for her to return. She hoped it wasn't her sister, though the chances of it being someone else in that exact spot so close to dawn were very slim.

She'd somehow managed to keep her late night excursions a secret for months, but she knew that even her oblivious sister would eventually discover how often she wasn't in her bed, often for large parts of the night. She would rather fight a master vampire in her own back yard than have her sister find out about her secret life before she was ready.

She didn't think she'd done anything to tempt Fate enough were she'd end up fight evil minions of the night in front of her sister. That certainly wouldn't be a highlight of her brief career as a slayer. Even the member of the local coven who served as her Guide wouldn't be too pleased if that happened.

Reaching the middle of the yard, it was clear that the unknown person was a woman. There was enough similarity to her sister that Dawn was startled into blurting out her name - "Beth. . . ?"

The woman cocked her head at her in a manner eerily reminiscent of her older sister. Cautiously stopping several yards from the porch, Dawn examined the woman. Her relief was so great at it not being her sister that the next thing she knew she was once more blurting something out.

"You're not my sister!" she said.

While she could have been mistaken for her sister from a distance, up close this woman appeared several years older. There was also some undefinable hardness to her features. Something in her past had left an indelible mark, stretching her being in ways that Dawn's bubbly, ex-cheerleader sister couldn't match.

Fluidly getting to her feet, the woman flashed her a faintly predatory grin, before replying. "No, I expect I'm not," she told Dawn.

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Keeping herself busy carving several pieces of wood she'd found near the porch into stakes while she waited for the slayer to return home gave Buffy plenty of time to think. She'd come to a tentative conclusion about her situation mostly based on the things she'd seen so far. The house closely resembled, but wasn't quite the same one as, the she'd lived in. The yard had an orderliness that had been missing from her own home since her mother's death. That the house existed at all was a major clue.

She could only assume that she had somehow fallen into some sort of parallel universe or dimension and she needed to make a few decisions. Wherever she was, what she could sense of the town didn't seem to have that oppressive, dark, and musty feeling to it that she had always gotten near an active hellmouth and the other distinctly evil places she'd visited since becoming a slayer.

There was a slightly familiar background hum, but it wasn't clear to her if it was coming from a hellmouth or some other mystical artifact that she was able to sense in her current hyper state. Something she was going to have to investigate as soon as possible. But first came her most immediate need, survival.

A few years ago, following the Vampire Willow incident, she'd spent a little time discussing the idea of parallel universes and dimensions with Giles and her friends. She could no longer remember most of their discussion or even the differences between the two but what had stayed with her was Giles' advice on what any of them should do if they ever ended up in a similar situation.

He'd tried to convince them that a stealthy approach and observation was the better way to survive until they could find a way to get home. He'd also advised extreme caution when dealing with the doubles of people they might know in their own dimension. Forgetting that they weren't the same people, no matter how similar looking, could be fatal. The most important part of surviving in such a situation was staying alive.

Back then she would have thought she knew better and would have completely ignored his advice, but she would like to think she'd grown a lot since then. If his ideas helped her stay alive, anything was possible. But first she needed to do was to gain some breathing room. Once she'd come to some kind of mutual non-interference agreement with the local slayer she could worry about finding a place to stay and some sort of job.

With a mental grimace, she hoped she could find something better than her last entry level job at a Double Meat Palace. And that she didn't have to fight her way back to her home universe. Once was enough.

What little money she had, assuming it was even usable here, would have to last until she was able to get a firm grasp on the way this world worked. She had no desire to end up on the wrong side in some fight because she'd stumbled into something before she even knew what the sides were and what they were fighting for.

As soon as she was settled in she could focus on finding out how she got here and how to get back to where she came from. Hopefully this slayer had access to resources that she could use to help figure it out.

Buffy had just put down a finished stake when she became aware of a tingling sensation. It was almost like someone had brushed invisible fingers through her hair and down her back. It was fainter than what she'd always felt around Faith, and didn't echo in the back of her mind like the neo-slayers, but it had that distinct vibe that came only from an activated slayer.

Unless there was more than one slayer in the neighborhood, Buffy assumed it was the slayer she suspected lived here returning home. Looking towards the trees at the back of the yard, she could see someone cautiously approaching. From that distance, she appeared to be the same size as Dawn that year before Sunnydale became an advertisement for a poorly done urban renewal project. But her sister had just passed that awkward stage of adolescence back then. This girl moved with the almost hypnotic and ferocious grace of a small wildcat.

"Beth. . . ?" she asked, pausing hesitantly in the middle of the yard and giving Buffy a confused look before continuing forward.

She came to a complete stop several yards away and stared, giving Buffy plenty of time to look at her. She could have been Dawn's twin, if that twin had spent the last year training to be a slayer. And if Dawn had started wearing leather hand-me-downs from the local demon bikers club or getting fashion tips from Faith. Their likeness was so close that Buffy had to take a firm grip on her emotions to keep her conflicting feelings from showing.

The girl's next words confirmed Buffy's guess that she was in an alternate universe of some sort.

"You're not my sister!" the girl said, her eyes widened comically.

Buffy's first reaction, quickly quashed before it had become fully formed, was to explain why she happened to be sitting on that porch. In the few minutes since she'd come up with a basic plan, nothing about her situation had changed.
Volunteering too much information about herself was already on the no list.

Buffy decided to answer with as much confidence as she could muster under the circumstances. How she acted now was very important and would set the tone for any interaction she might have with this slayer and her possible allies in the future.

"No, I expect I'm not," She told the girl, with a fierce smile that she hoped was only a little intimidating. Gracefully getting to her feet, Buffy stepped off of the porch.

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Additional Authors Notes:
[1] Inspired by (but not based on) something that was quickly covered in a flashback in a Willow/AU fanfic except with Buffy as the main character.
[2] This is one of the first serious fics I started writing. FWIW I like to think my writing style is much improved now.

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