Disclaimer: Still don't own anything. If this chapter is a little confusion, good. J It's supposed to be that way. Anyway, hope you enjoy. Oh, and look forward to the Faith-centric chapter coming up next!
Pounding music, flashing lights. A stage set up in the front of the room. A bar in the far corner. Tables, chairs, and couches spread out around the room. A dance floor in the center, waiting for the inevitable teenagers that would soon be on its floor.
She knew this place.
She'd been here hundreds of times. Sometimes laughing with friends or simply hanging out with them. Sometimes dancing with them on the dance floor, sometimes being dragged onto the dance floor smiling ruefully at the person doing the dragging. Sometimes sitting around a table, ranting about the latest love interest. Sometimes slow dancing with a love interest, enjoying the few times she could act like a normal girl.
But the place was different now. She felt out of place. She felt like a stranger in a place that had once been familiar to her.
Suddenly, the world around her seemed to spin. She closed her eyes, trying to stop the world from spinning. When she reopened them, she could only reel back in shock.
Before she had closed her eyes, the place she was at, the Bronze, had been barren, empty. Though music had pounded out of the speakers and colored lights had covered the room, the Bronze had been empty, completely devoid of life. She had been alone.
But now, people filled the room. Laughter and conversation filled the room, threatening to overwhelm her. Her forehead wrinkled as she frowned, trying in vain to figure out what had just occurred.
She glanced around the room. She instantly recognized many of the people, though she made no move to talk to them. People from high school she had barely known now filled the room. Even people from college she had maybe talked to once or twice sat on the couches, laughing about something that had just been said. She glanced over at the stage and her heart skipped a beat as she recognized the band that was playing.
Without any hesitation she hurried forward towards the stage. As she neared the stage, she stood in front of the man she had known in high school. He paid no heed to the woman standing in front of the stage as he continued playing his guitar, almost completely pulled into the music he was creating.
"Oz!" the woman called out. She winced as her voice could barely be heard over the pounding of the speakers. She tried again, this time calling his name louder. "Oz!"
Again, he showed no response to her call. She stood there, puzzled as why he was not responding to her. She waved her arms to catch his attention, her cheeks burning at the ridiculous of the motion. But her waving had no effect. For a moment he looked up from his playing and a sigh of relief expelled from her as he looked at her. She smiled at him, raising an eyebrow as she started to question his lack of response.
Yet something was wrong. While he was looking at the area where she stood, it was almost as if he could not see her. As if he was looking through her.
Confusion once again set in as he looked back down at his guitar. She started to call his name again but was bumped rather harshly but someone near by. She turned around to glare at the person and possibly even to yell at them when suddenly, she was not standing by the stage anymore. She was standing in the back of the room, far away from the stage.
She blinked once, trying once again to figure out what had happened. But her attention was quickly diverted by a familiar flash of red hair.
In a flash, she was moving towards the familiar flash of red, her heart pounding in her chest as feeling of hope filled her. It felt like it had been years since the last time she had seen that familiar color. But that could not be right. They had just hung out the other day, laughing about the latest development between Xander and Anya…
She continued following the flash of red but it seemed that every time she got close to it, the red would drift away farther into the crowd. Victory at meeting up with the person eluded her every time.
Suddenly, she stopped. There in front of her, in the very same seats as usual was the gang. The Scooby Gang. She smiled in relief, taking another step forward.
Yet as she did, something felt wrong. Something whispered past her shoulder, something dark and unknown. She whirled around, senses heightened as she searched for the darkness that hid from her.
Try as she might, she could not find it. She knew it was there but yet she could not place it.
She turned back to her friends. As she stepped towards them, she smiled as she named them all off.
'Willow, Oz, Xander, Cordelia, Giles, Angel…'
She halted suddenly as her eyes swept over them. 'That's not right. Someone's missing. And not all of them are supposed to be like that.'
She closed her eyes and shook her head, as if that would make her see what was in front of her better. But when she opened her eyes again, things were different. Some of the people had changed.
Willow, Giles, and Xander were still there but the others were gone. They had been replaced by familiar people, though for some unknown reason, the group still seemed wrong. She named the new people, her forehead still creased in confusion. 'Tara, Anya, and Riley. Damn it, that still seems wrong!'
Before she could take another step, the scene and players before her changed yet again. The original three were still there, along with Tara and Anya, but Riley was gone. In his place two more people had been added.
The feeling of missing person was gone. The whole group was there. But she just could not shake the feeling of wrongness that threatened to engulf her as she stood on the outside of the group, looking in.
And still the scene changed, faster this time. In fact, it changed a few times as she watched on, watching as people disappeared. Giles was the first to disappear, followed quickly by Tara. Giles reappeared once more as Spike disappeared.
Anya was the next to go, though Spike reappeared not long after her disappearance. Giles disappeared again, and she knew that he was gone for good this time. Xander was next, followed quickly by Dawn. Now, only Spike and Willow were left.
Both turned suddenly, staring directly at her. Willow stood up, walking towards her as she too began to disappear.
"In the end, you're alone, Buffy," Willow whispered, reaching a hand towards her. "The Slayer is always alone at the end."
Buffy reached forward to grab Willow's outstretched hand but it disappeared before she could touch it. Buffy watched in fascination as Willow disappeared slowly until only her eyes were left. For just a split second, her eyes glowed first black then a bright bright green. But they were gone before Buffy could question it.
"Who are you luv?"
Buffy turned her head so she was facing Spike. He swaggered up to her, his trademark duster billowing around his slim body like a cloak. She frowned at him as she digested the question.
"What do you mean?"
He stopped when he was a foot from her. "Have you ever known who you were? Are you Buffy right now or are you the Slayer?"
She was stumped by his words, not understanding what he was trying to say to her. Before she could answer, though, he continued on.
"Can't be Little Red Riding Hood forever, ducks. Can't be on the path towards grandma's house forever. If you're not carefully, the Big Bad is going to jump out and catch you."
She responded automatically, though the words were foreign to her and not what she meant to say. "If he chases me, I'll just run, run as fast as I can. He can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread man."
Spike chuckled at her, shaking his head. "That's the problem right there. Don't know who you are, do you? Can't be the Gingerbread man if you're already Little Red Riding Hood."
"I can be whoever I need to be," she responded. "I just pick and that's who I am."
"You can't live your life like that, little girl. You have to figure out who you are. Ya can't fight him if you don't know that."
Buffy turned around, following Spike's not outstretched finger. A man – no, a vampire – walked towards them, smirking every step of the way. Following him was a blonde woman, her movements stiff and robotic as if she were not alive yet. Her eyes stared blankly ahead and Buffy shivered as she realized there wasn't a soul in her. In fact, she could swear that there wasn't life in her.
She turned back to look at Spike and jumped when she realized he was gone. She looked around wildly but found no trace of him anywhere. But she could still hear his voice, floating around her head as she turned to watch the pair walking towards her.
"You can't fight him unless you know who you are. Better figure it out soon, luv. Or you might end up as her."
Suddenly, there was pain.
Nothing but pain.
Buffy gasped and slid to the ground, falling to her knees in agony. She looked down at her hands, eyes widening in shock as her palms began to glow. The colors were ever-changing, first green then black then red the green again. She clenched her fists and looked up, tears streaming down her face as she fought against the pain.
"It'll only hurt more if you fight it," the vampire said. "Here I thought you'd be happy – you just saw all your friends, didn't you? Got to see them one last time. Just stop fighting. You'll be happier that way."
She shook her head vigorously and clenched her teeth. "I'll never stop fighting, Frost."
He sighed at her response, shaking his head at her. "Well, you can't say I didn't try."
With those words he grabbed the woman that stood behind him. He jerked her forcefully down, until she and Buffy were face to face with each other. The woman paid no heed to the rough movements. She stared blankly at Buffy, as if could not even digest the world around her. She seemed more like a puppet than a living person.
Suddenly, that all changed. A flash of red overtook the woman and as the light slowly disappeared, her eyes stared maliciously back at Buffy's. Her ruby red lips twisted into an evil smirk.
"Ever wonder what it feels like to be part vampire?" the woman whispered, her voice sending a chill of premonition down Buffy's spine. "Ever wonder what it would feel like to kill someone without feeling any guilt? To do whatever you want without worrying about the consequences?"
Buffy shook her head, her only available response as she continued to fight the waves of pain that swept through her.
The woman's smirk grew at Buffy's reaction. "Too bad, little girl, cause you get to find out."
In a movement that Buffy could barely see, the woman's hand lurched forward and grabbed Buffy's palm. As their palms met, red and black light overtook both of them, completely covered the green light that fought vainly against it.
Buffy screamed at the pain. It felt as though her entire body was being compacted, being taken over. The screamed went on and on as she felt herself losing…
Her eyes popped open, the pain gone. She looked around the room and found the white was not as harsh as it had been earlier. Experimentally she moved her arms, smiling at the lack of pain she felt. She clenched her fist, reveling in the fact that her strength was back – plus some.
A slight noise from behind caused her to turn around. A smirk crossed her lips as she stared at Frost leaning against the wall. She walked forward, her eyes glowing red momentarily before turning back to her typical hazel color.
"You did this to me." She stated, crossing her arms across her chest.
He grinned back at her, his cold blue eyes boring into hers. "Did it work? Feel any fuckin' different?"
His only response was the widening of the smirk and a malicious gleam that shone in her eyes, proving to him that the girl known as Buffy Summers was no longer the same girl.