The blonde teenager was in a glen. She wasn't entirely sure what a glen was, but this place just seemed like a glen, with lush bushes and a beautiful waterfall. Bright colours, mostly various shades of green, were all around her, and a sense of peace surrounded her.
Every once in a while she'd start to remember what happened before she arrived-
-an axe arcing through the air-
-but whenever that happened, it disappeared as quickly as it arrived. Why dwell on badness? No, really, it was much better to just sit and soak up the atmosphere of the place. She was content to just dangle her feet in the pool of water, watching the butterflies fly through the air with gentle flutters of fragile wings. Why remember-
-her mother's eyes as she struggled to breathe, her mother holding her close-
-things that can only cause pain? It's not like she could fix it. She was stuck here. So why remember those things?
The blonde huffed out a sigh. Right. Because she was bored out of her mind. That's why she wanted to remember these things, no matter how much it hurt.
And it would hurt. She already knew that much.
She pulled her feet out of the water, and sat in a lotus position. Well. Best start remembering, then. Maybe then she could figure out how to get out of here, and then figure out how to get to wherever it was she was supposed to be.
--a shy redhead running offstage--
--a leather jacket, draped over her shoulders--
--a grinning, self-deprecating skateboarder--
--lying to her mother and sneaking out of the house--
--taking a little boy's too cold hand--
--a stammering older Englishman in tweed--
--"Can I have you?"--
--lying to her mother about her "tutor"--
--"-there are some things about being a Vampire Slayer that the older generation-"--
--a sarcastic brunette, helping anyway--
--air being shoved back into her lungs, coughing up water, two pairs of concerned brown eyes--
--lying to her mother about a study group at the library--
--a stake fitting in her hand so easily--
She was Buffy. The Vampire Slayer.
And she wasn't going to stay here any longer.
She started walking, and little things came together. Buffy didn't know a lot of trees, but she knew what pine trees looked like, and these were not pine trees. They were leafy, not needly. She didn't know a whole lot else about trees, but she did know that cony-furry trees had needles. And yet, all she could smell was pine and freshly cut grass. Even though the grass was wild and obviously un-cut. There were a few birds flying around here and there, but she didn't hear any birdcalls. There was a soft breeze against her skin, but the blades of grass didn't move and the branches of the trees didn't sway at all. She climbed a tree and looked at the sky, and while there were clouds, those clouds were stationary. Buffy knew that based off the breeze, those clouds should have been zipping on past. It just wasn't right.
The big thing that tipped her off, though?
There were no bugs. None. Buffy couldn't even step foot in her yard without being attacked by bugs. Yet here she was, in the middle of some kind of wilderness, and there were no bugs to be found.
It was like this place had been built, piece by piece, by someone who had seen a lot of the world, probably more of it than Buffy had, but didn't quite know how it was supposed to all connect. Things just weren't put together correctly.
And that was just plain unsettling as hell. Not to mention weird. Very, very weird.
Buffy wasn't sure how much time had passed. All she knew was that she'd started trekking, and wound up back at this damn waterfall twelve times already, no matter which direction she went or how hard she tried to stay away from it. She felt like she'd been walking for hours and the sunlight hadn't changed, so time was obviously not passing normally. The last time she'd wound up back in the same place, she'd made a discovery:
Three giggling girls shared Buffy's glen-type thing. A cute little blue-eyed blonde, an energetic brown-eyed redhead, and a tomboy-ish green-eyed black-haired girl.
She was sharing space with the Powerpuff Girls. What. The. Hell? She didn't really know the show (it was a cartoon about superpowered little girls, and Buffy really had more important things to deal with than cartoons) but she knew it well enough to know names. Bubbles was the blonde, the redhead was Blossom, and the tomboy-ish one was Buttercup. She knew that part, and that was pretty much the only part she knew.
She was still sharing her little glen thingamabob with three girls that seriously reminded her of the Powerpuff Girls. Buffy wasn't entirely sure how to handle that. She'd gotten used to having this place to herself. She wasn't feeling all that sociable right then. So Buffy set about ignoring them, and they ignored her back.
It was a working system, at least for then. Hopefully, it would continue to keep working.
Okay, Buffy. You spent hours walking, covered a lot of ground, and still wound up here. How?
This... this was new. Give her something to beat up any day. She could handle the hack and slash. Death and destruction? That was her playground. Something to fight, something to defeat, preferably a lot of blood that didn't get on her, that was something she could handle. Give her something she had to think her way out of, and Buffy started looking for Willow or Giles. They were better with the thinky-type things than she was. A lot better. There was a reason they'd protected Willow and run to save Giles during the talent show. Buffy's brain wasn't really in demand.
Buffy glared at a rock, as though it was the thing responsible for her being stuck there.
The rock levitated.
Okay, this was also new. Rock levitation wasn't exactly a Slayer ability. Or at least, not a known one.
Buffy glared at another rock, sending it in the air as well, both rocks holding steady about five feet above the ground.
She wondered just how many she could pick up at once, and started testing the limits. Soon, she had fifteen rocks of various sizes floating in the air.
Okay, there had to be more that she could do. Floating rocks was a nifty trick, but it wouldn't do much good if she couldn't do anything with them. She focused on one rock at a time, trying to move it around. The first rock whizzed away, straight into a tree.
Rather, straight through a tree. A thin tree, but still.
Apparently, control was something she had to learn. Well, Buffy had nothing but time on her hands, so she started practicing that control. Wasn't like she'd need to sleep or anything.
Turns out, when a Slayer learns how to levitate things, she can actually cause those things to move with more force than if she'd thrown it. This would oh-so-most-definitely come in handy later.
Like when she got back home and found a certain blonde vampire. She could decapitate him before he even knew what was going on, and that thought just gave Buffy all kinds of warm fuzzy-like feelings. Don't mess with a Slayer. Buffy still wasn't entirely sure where she was or why, but she did know that she'd died, and it was his fault. She fully planned on repaying her debts. Right now, one of the things she owed him was a whole lot of pain.
Best way to make a Slayer happy? Give her a new weapon and tell her to go to town with it.
Also some new shoes.
Buffy wasn't sure how long she'd been at it. She didn't get tired in the same way she used to. Hunger wasn't really there. The only things she needed was air and water, and she had plenty of those around, thanks to the waterfall she couldn't get away from no matter how hard she tried (and she could try pretty damn hard).
Time held no meaning for her. She simply focused on what she needed to learn to do, and then set about learning to do it. Once that was learned, she moved on to the next thing.
At this point, Buffy could levitate roughly thirty rocks. She could move up to ten independant of each other. If they were moving together, she could count on twenty rocks. Depending on the sizes, of course. If she were focusing on the boulders, she could only lift four at a time, move three of them together, and two independantly.
She was ready to get out of here. Now she just needed to figure out how.
The waterfall flickered. Just for a part of a second. But Buffy had been able to see it.
Well. That meant that this place wasn't real. Or something. Which meant that Buffy could figure this out.
Maybe Willow and Giles weren't the only ones who could make with the plans.
The three girls had been harmless. Buffy had practiced her rock-floating bit, and the girls had played in the water, or played with each other's hair, or played in the flowers. They did a lot of playing. Buffy kept the rocks away from them, they kept away from the rocks, it worked out well for all.
But when Buffy started trying to... well, she thought of it as "tearing down the walls", the thre girls got pissed.
And pissed meant their fingernails lengthened to talons. Turns out? These were not happy little teenage girls, sharing space with her. They were harpies, and they took their job guarding her and keeping her there very, very seriously.
She wouldn't have guessed it but the redhead was the brave one. The tomboy, Buttercup, sure. But little Blossom took the lead, and that let Buffy catch the girl -- harpy, Buffy, she's a harpy, not a girl -- off-guard with her new trick. Levitating the rocks and tossing them worked a charm, just like she planned. And Buffy did love it when a plan came together. Three flying fist-sized rocks "tossed" in rapid succession later and... well, it was just like eating a Tootsie Pop. One, two, three, crunch. The harpy hit the ground, a lot of parts that belonged inside her head now distinctly outside. Buffy really could have done without the knowledge of what harpy-brains looked like, but, really, it was just one more species to add to her list. The other two paused in the air, and that was Buffy's cue to run like crazy.
Buffy was on the ground. They were in the air. You'd think that that would give the harpies the advantage, but it really didn't. They were probably as strong as her, but not quite as fast. The wings made them a whole lot less agile and they took up more space darting through the trees than she did. Buffy could understand now why rabbits zig-zagged when they were being stalked by birds; the Harpies nearly crashed several times as they tried to divebomb her. She jeered at one of them as it missed, turning to check the distance and all of a sudden, her foot landed in thin air.
Buffy found herself tumbling head-over-heels down a hill and she scrabbled to try to get footing or a handhold, anything to stop the mad tumbling, and just as suddenly as she'd slipped, she felt a Harpy's claws rake over her back. She yelped and thrashed with every limb, tangling a small hand in some hair and pulled the head towards herself. Long hair - it was Bubbles. Buffy wrapped both arms around the Harpy's head and hung on like a malicious barnacle, jerking every-which-way to try and break the blonde's neck.
Something Buffy had forgotten in her insane dash through the woods: she always came back to the waterfall glen.
Buffy and Bubbles landed in the water with a loud splash! and Buffy wasn't sure how far down they went. All she knew was that she was holding her breath as long as she could (and being underwater not by her own choice wasn't bringing up the best memories) and pushing against Bubbles and scratching, and doing everything she could to gain the upperhand, and Bubbles was doing the same thing to her. Finally, Buffy managed to get her legs between herself and Bubbles, and she managed to plant her feet firmly against Bubble's chest in a solid kick, propelling the harpy away from her.
Buffy's head broke the surface and she gulped in large breaths of air, swimming for the relative safety of dry land. Bubbles tried to follow her, but Buffy focused on the rocks and they came to her aid again.
However, Bubbles was back underwater again, and that meant that Buffy couldn't keep throwing the rocks at Bubbles -- the water would slow the projectiles down enough to not cause a lot of damage.
Time to try something new.
Buffy reached out to the water with her brain like she'd done with the rocks, wrapping it around Bubbles' thrashing form and lifting the whole foaming mess into the air. Buffy might not get tired in the same way that she used to, but this was pretty draining, and Buffy's legs quivered underneath her as she focused on keeping the water around Bubbles. Eventually, the blonde harpy stopped moving, and Buffy let her drop back into the water with a bit of satisfaction. There was just something about Bubbles being the one that drowned.
Buffy looked around carefully, knowing the black-haired harpy had to be around somewhere.
Hook-like hands lifted her into the air.
Buffy twisted, trying to get a grip on the harpy without struggling loose as the ground spun out of view. Crashing to the ground right then just seemed like all kinds of a bad idea. The harpy hissed and screeched and tried to bite at her, but Buffy managed to dodge just enough to avoid injuries. They both yelped when Buttercup's face cracked against the top of Buffy's head and they dropped a little before the harpy recovered.
Oh, this was going to taste so bad, though...
Buffy sank her teeth into the harpy's chicken leg on her right, causing Buttercup to let go of that shoulder and the two of them banked hard to the left until the harpy adjusted. Buffy twisted, wrapping her legs around Buttercup's waist, and managed to break Buttercup's grip on her left shoulder (mostly by tearing her shoulder out of the grip instead of actually breaking the grip and that really hurt), and Buffy pulled the left wing in flat against Buttercup's body, beginning the downward spiral.
Buttercup hissed and screached, trying to score a blow on Buffy, but Buffy slammed her elbow into the base of Buttercup's skull, stunning the harpy, and Buffy pulled herself around so she was on Buttercup's back, something which Buttercup really didn't seem to like very much.
She held Buttercup's wings flat against her own body as they began to plummet to the hard, unforgiving ground.
Buffy prayed to every deity she could think of that Buttercup would hit the ground first and Buffy could have a soft-ish body to land on top of.
After that, it was just a matter of holding on.
Buffy lamented at the amount of time it would take to get what was left of Buttercup's head out of her hair, but these things couldn't be helped.
She sat in the glen again, and focused on "ripping" everything down.
Who knew that Buffy's brain could be so handy of a weapon?
The lines of reality melted and ran together, and suddenly, Buffy was standing in the middle of the library and there was a huge battle going on and why was her mother in the middle of it? She'd lied to her mom as much as she had to keep her safe, not drag Joyce into it all!
A loud boom echoed in the library, and Buffy briefly wondered whose bright idea it was to give Cordelia a shotgun. Then Cordelia was engulged by a crowd of blue demons, and Buffy dropped that train of thought and moved to the next.
Buffy cried out when she saw Giles get tossed across the room, and she knew, she just knew that she was invisible and non-existant to everyone (and everything, since there were a whole lot of non-people around) in the library. They had no idea she was there, and she just hoped she could still help.
Joyce threw the dagger, and put so much of herself into the throw that she went down, and Buffy could tell by looking at it that it wasn't going to be enough. She couldn't help her mom. She couldn't rush over and promise her that things were going to be okay, because it wasn't, and her mom wouldn't even know she was there.
So she added her focus to Joyce's throw, watched the dagger rise another few inches, focused on sending the dagger exactly where it needed to be, for she'd heard Giles' words, too, and while Joyce was faster on the uptake than Buffy had been, Buffy wasn't too far behind with figuring out what he meant by "power center".
Buffy watched as the dagger struck with the hilt, watched the stone crack and split, and for the second time, watched as the lines of reality melt away.
She just hoped it would be enough.
Buffy frowned as she hung up the phone. She'd had a brief conversation with her mom, who couldn't give a definite reason for calling. It was probably nothing, but... well, Buffy was the Slayer on the Hellmouth. Bad things happened a lot that seemed like "nothing".
Still, this wasn't pinging the Slayer radar, just a feeling that there was more to it than there appeared.
But she had other things she needed to worry about than concerned moms. Like the Lit test tomorrow that she'd put off studying (hey, when Slayer duty called, she had to answer; wasn't her fault she'd been unable to crack the books for this). If she failed this test, she'd be grounded, and while that wouldn't prevent her from doing her job, it would make it harder.
Buffy sat at the table and started with the studying, before she remembered that she'd left her sandwich over by the fridge. Absentmindedly, she tried to levitate it over to her so she wouldn't have to get up and get it.
And then blinked, frowning harder.
Levitate her sandwich? Where did that idea come from?
Ugh. She was way too tired for this crap. Maybe she could convince Giles to let her have a vacation, and she and her mom could go somewhere for Spring Break. Somewhere she wouldn't have to worry about uglies and vampires and things that go bump in the night.
Did such a place exist? Probably not.
She sighed again. Time to focus.