After another long, strange day of finding out how to deal with her new strength and senses--especially how to keep her parents from giving her funny looks and stop them talking about doctors--it was nice to just go out to the ballfield with a bucket of balls, toss them up into the air, and smack them out past the long center-field fence. Coach was thrilled with her, kept talking about the series championship, about scholarships and sponsorships. Everyone wanted to know about what kind of training she'd been doing, what her inspiration had been to suddenly start hitting homers every time. Half the kids thought it was cool she wasn't making a big deal about it, the other half thought she was being stuck up about not sharing her secrets.

What, she was supposed to say, "Well, I was standing there waiting for the pitch, when all of a sudden I heard this woman's voice chanting in my ear, and I thought I saw all these different girls, and all of a sudden I knew I could hit that pitch out of the park. And I did." People would believe that?

It was getting dark. Dad would yell at her for being out after sunset, maybe ground her again. And she didn't like being out at night so much anymore anyway. She felt like someone was watching her all the time, waiting. But all the Stranger Danger classes and Bad Touch lessons didn't tell her how to deal with the weird feelings the night brought.

She'd come back tomorrow and find all those balls she'd knocked over the fence. Best to get home. No, best to go to the payphone on the corner and call Dad, confess her waywardness, and ask for a ride home. She'd at least get a few points for being sensible and staying in a well-lighted area instead of making her own way home through the dark.

She put the bucket in the dugout, shouldered her bat and started for the phone.

"She doesn't know what she is, the pretty baby bird, no, she doesn't. Poor baby bird."

The voice was a woman's, sing-songy and English, like Mary Poppins had gotten into Mr. Banks' brandy. But this Mary Poppins sounded like a mean drunk.

A shadow came around from the back of the equipment shed.

"They've given her wings, but they've thrown her out of the nest without showing her how to fly. She's flopping on the ground, and the cat sees her. Grrr."

The girl gasped as sudden pain twisted her belly. Dammit, THAT pain wasn't due for another two weeks, unless she was going to start early, which was going to be a real pain in the neck for the pool party this weekend--

She shook her head fiercely, focusing on the figure approaching her. A woman, with long dark hair and a long dark dress. Old-fashioned lace and funny shoes. And her face . . .

She looked away, remembering her mother's admonitions not to stare at people with deformities--but deformities normally didn't come with yellow eyes and sharp, jagged teeth. She took a step back and pulled her bat off her shoulder.

"Stay away from me."

The woman smiled. "But I can't, my darling little bird. You have to sing for mummy. Would you sing? If I fed you and took you home, would you sing for me?" She paused and frowned. "No, you wouldn't. You'd cry for your mummy and your daddy and your horrible little brother who points at you and laughs." She leaned forward. "They all do that, you know," she whispered. "Little brothers. But they don't laugh after they've been eaten. Even if you want them to." She frowned and whimpered, just a little.

"Look, just stay away from me, I mean it." Crazy woman must have been stalking her, to know about her little brother. She got a firmer grip on her bat, then took a step to the side, ready to practice her base-stealing run.

The woman glided forward again. "You're holding your stake all wrong, my sweet. The pointy end should be towards me. Oh, but it doesn't have a pointy end, does it." She raised two fingers and waved them slowly. "Look at me, dearie. Look at Drusilla."

Run home, whispered in her mind. Run home now. Now. The pitcher isn't looking, run home . . . The fingers reached out so slowly, the mad, musical voice crooned on about tea parties and biscuits and spikes. The touch on her jaw--cold and light and impossible to resist. The bat fell from her uncaring hands. Her eyes followed the track of a plane through the night sky as her head tilted back, then the dark head blotted out the night sky, just before it blotted out everything . . .

Drusilla chuckled as she tasted Slayer blood. Just as she remembered, from the taste her Spike had given her in China. But there was so much here, so delicious, so innocent and unwary.

"Mistress?" A small, nervous vampire, who answered to the names of Malcolm and Plum on good days and "naughty puppy" on bad days, came around the backstop. "Is it? Is she?"

"Ye-es, she is." Drusilla held the mostly drained body to her companion. "Here, taste it."

He started to reach out hungrily, then hesitated. "You're going to share a Slayer? With me?"

"Oh, there's more where that came from, my Malcolm." Drusilla handed over the body, then whirled away on tiptoes along the bleachers. "Hundreds more, thousands more. Someone's laid out a gorgeous buffet, then walked away. I see them, they're everywhere." She held out her arms and spun around. "And they don't know what they are! No one is Watching them, no one is teaching them, but they're there, and they're so, so tasty."

She stopped whirling and stared coldly to the west. "That's two. As many as my Spike. Must get more. It's only fair. They gave my Spike to the sun, I'll give their pretties to the dark." She turned to Malcolm. "All done?"