In every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.
I woke with a start, the images of caves and graves and vampires still vivid in my mind. "Last time I stay up late watching…" I began what was intended as a lie to my conscience and was probably all too much of a temptation to fate.
"Buffy?" called a familiar voice.
"Yeah, that," I whispered, taking in the unfamiliar room. Except that it wasn't really unfamiliar, although I'd never seen it from this perspective before. It was very white, and most of the contents were cardboard boxes.
And my voice was not my own, not the soft growl I had spoken with for more than a decade. It was a girl's voice, high and clear.
"Buffy?" came the call again. I knew that voice and when I looked down the body in the silky white pyjamas I was wearing was familiar but not my own.
There were footsteps and then Joyce Summers opened the bedroom door and looked right at me. "Time to get up, honey," she told me. "Don't wanna be late for your first day."
I swallowed and then squared my shoulders. "No," I agreed. "Wouldn't want that."
An hour later, driving (being driven actually) through the Sunnydale suburbs, I was barely less confused.
I was… Buffy Summers? In spring, 1997?
To draw on the immortal 'Troy in 15 Minutes' – OMG WTF!?
Pinching and cold water didn't wake me so I was guessing that this was not a dream. And in the other direction a pretty decent breakfast hadn't nursed me into a nicer dream. Hey I tried on a pair of heels from the wardrobe and clicked my heels three times whispering "there's no place like home". Nada.
Not that I don't enjoy Buffy. Hey, twenty-six year old geek here. Hot teenage babes get a certain amount of attention from me. But being a sixteen year old girl? Fighting vampires myself? (And missing Mr Happy in favour of a rather nice rack? Not a happy me right now. Ramping right up to 'Stop the World I Want to Get Off'.
But that wasn't the option. Welcome to the Hellmouth, MISS Summers, here's your accordion.
So I get to start right from the bottom. It's not too hard to figure out where I am in the series. First day, first episode and there's a human body in someone's locker already.
Dawn's here by the way. Don't know how – time frame is completely wrong, but we stopped at Sunnydale Elementary to drop her off there. She's in Fifth Grade so the age gap is right as far as I can tell – she didn't like it when I guessed her grade wrong but I'm pretty sure she thought I was joking – in a nasty older sister fashion. So naturally I apologised and she concluded that her sister had been replaced with an impostor. I really hope she's joking or I don't have the deception skills to carry this off.
So, situation evaluation time:
Slayer strength (tested on one of the unloaded cardboard boxes)? Check.
No Slayerettes (yet anyway)? Check.
Giles at his most Wesley-like? Probably.
Demons to the left of me, High School to the right of me. I gotta get a new job.
High School to the right? Oh yeah, here we are.
"Okay," Joyce's says perkily as I get out of the Jeep. "Have a good time. I know you're gonna make friends right away, just think positive." She even gave me a thumbs up. I think I like her. Hey, I'm not some moody teenager, I like to think I have some idea what a good parent is worth. And their weight in gold doesn't even begin to cover it. So I smiled back.
"And honey?" I pause and look back. I can't help it, I just know I've got that devilish glint in my eye, that one that is nothing like mopey Buffy (or any Buffy) has in her eyes.
"Try not to get kicked out?" Joyce asks somewhat plaintively.
I can't help it, I climb back into the car and give her a hug. I don't care how uncool it is. "Love ya, Mom," I whisper.
"Oh Buffy…" she whispers back and returns the hug.
"Be seeing you," I tell her, and bound out of the car, heading for the steps. One good deed for the day, yay me.
My good mood lasted almost ten seconds before I ploughed into Xander, who'd been about to get off his skateboard. I guess since I'd been in the Jeep earlier, he'd not been distracted as would otherwise have been the case. Adding my momentum put him into the rails anyway, and I managed to stagger in a half-circle and sit on him.
"Xander!" came a call of concern.
"Did anyone get the number of the Bus that's sitting on me?" asked my impromptu seat, rather breathlessly.
I caught hold of the railing and lifted myself up, sparing him the rather less than crushing weight – Buffy might weigh half what I'm used to weighing, when she's soaking wet. "Not a Bus, a Buffy," I said mildly. "I'm sorry, I really should have been looking where I was going."
"Are you okay, Xander?" asked the red-haired girl – Willow, more or less on schedule – coming closer and smiling down at him. Nice smile, pity about the clothes. Looks like her Mom dresses her – for a five-year-old's tea party. I'm not exactly Mr. – Ms. Fashion-Conscious, unless Buffy's infecting me I suppose, and even I would feel justified in demanding she receive an emergency makeover. And I mean NOW.
"I'm okay, I feel good," Xander says and takes my proffered hand of assistance. "Xander. Is, is me. Hi."
Oh good, an introduction. "Hi, I'm Buffy Summers," I answer brightly and pull him easily to his feet. "Upseydaisy." And that gets an impressed reaction from him – I don't think he expected to be hauled up so readily. "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Um, yeah. I don't know you, do I?"
"No, I'm new. Kind of potentially lost and not looking where I was going." Pause. "You can let go of my hand now?"
"Hand? Oh that hand, sorry," he babbles. Amusing and annoying at the same time. What's gotten to him. I mean, yeah, this is how he reacted to the real Buffy, but she turned up in a mini-skirt and a tight top – I'm dressed a bit more conservatively.
I raise an eyebrow, hopefully indicating amusement, and turn to Willow. "Hi."
Obviously I'm going to be carrying quite a bit of this conversation. "Is he always like this or did he hit his head? 'Cause, you know – nurses station?"
"N-no, Xander's alright." Oh I really don't think that she likes the idea of me taking Xander to the nurse's station.
"Well, okay. I guess I'll see you both around." I shoot a grin at them and head for the school doors, taking a bit more care not to hit anyone on the way. I'm certainly not in a hurry to get to the Principal's office.
Well, I suppose I should be relieved that I'm not dealing with Principal Snyder here.
No, that's not true. I would a thousand times rather be dealing with Snyder than Flutie. I know, I'm a freak.
Snyder would be all vitriol at this point, but he'd be up front about it. Flutie… yeesh. No backbone, no dignity, no sincerity… no wonder the American school system is such a disaster.
"Buffy Summers… sophomore, late of Hemery High is Los Angeles," he says as he walks around his desk to sit facing me. Yeah yeah, tell me something I don't know. "Interesting record… quite a… career…"
I suppose that that should properly intimidate me. Sitting nervously as a supplicant before the desk of the Principal. Not really me. I've done job interviews, I've given people bad news. One lousy high school bureaucrat barely registers on the radar when it comes to anxiety.
"I don't know if I'd use the word career, Mr Flutie," I say politely as he raises the document, preparing I suppose to tear it up as 'dramatically' as he does in the original episode.
"All the kids here are free to call me Bob," he reels off, as he doubtless has done a thousand times before.
I give him a slightly sceptical look.
"But they don't."
"Mr Flutie, a career is something you spend a life on. I really don't want to spend the rest of my life the same way I did at Hemery – I mean, I would like to graduate in a couple of years," I joke to him with a smile. He smiles back and it looks a bit more genuine than his previous nervous fidgeting. Amazing. Maybe I misjudged him. A little.
"I know my record is a long way from exemplary, Mr Flutie. And I know I've got a lot of work ahead of me – all I'm asking is for the chance to show you that I've learned from the mistakes in there" I point at the transcripts "and that I can do better."
"I'm sure you can, Buffy," he tells me. "A clean slate, that's what you get here. What's past is past, we're not interested in what it says on a piece of paper, even if it says…" He glances down at the file. Damn, I'd been hoping to postpone that little revelation. "Whoa."
"As I said, a long way from exemplary," I remind him dryly.
"You burned down the gym."
There's not really anything to say to that. Buffy did burn down the gym, and she either didn't deny it at all or she got caught. I don't remember the movie that well so I can't afford to claim it was an accident or put up a defence – I don't know enough to be credible.
"Why don't you take a few minutes to read through the file, Mr Flutie," I suggest, trying to project an air of patience. "Make sure you know what all the issues are, before you say anything you don't want to.
"Buffy, any other school the might say 'watch your step' or 'we'll be watching you'… but that's just not the way here -"
"It's not?" I ask in feigned surprise. "Isn't that a little… duplicitous?"
"I don't think duplicitous is the word, Buffy." Of course not, he'd have to consult a dictionary first, to see what it means.
"Well, faced with my record those would pretty much have to be your sentiments, Mr Flutie. I understand that… it would be irresponsible for you not to keep an eye out for any signs of that sort of behaviour." Another smile, damn this is straining my repertoire. "Doesn't it make more sense to say that outright?"
"Well, I suppose…"
"All I'm hoping for is an open mind. Let me prove that what's in my file is in the past."
Well the interview with the Flutie went fairly well. 'Marginally better than it would have gone originally', was my summation. Not so much in terms of outcome but I think I made a slightly better impression. Might make a difference, might not. Talking to people is such a pain.
Class is ever so slightly better. The topic is 'The Black Death' which I never actually studied at school, so it's no more boring for me than the teacher is making it.
Of course, I might learn a bit more if I had the textbook she's referring to. Knowing that the map is on page sixty-three doesn't exactly help in that case. An awful lot of Europe is north of Rome. Fortunately the brunette sat next to me had the book open and leant it to let be catch a glimpse. Interesting – but not half as much as recognising her was. Cordelia Chase.
Well now, if things unfolded as planned this young lady had a big future ahead of her – glove puppet to some rogue Power – Jasmine? Something like that (I watched more Buffy than Angel, are you going to sue me?) Right now she was a – perhaps THE – big fish in the pond of school society. Smart enough to keep the harpies under firm control, but not inclined to actually change the patterns set down by previous generations of high school students.
So she could be a problem, or an asset. Or, a bit of both. "Thanks," I tell her, with a nod towards the book.
The bell rang then and class began to flee the dread chamber of learning for their brief respite before the next class.
"Hi! I'm Cordelia," my textbook-lender introduces herself, holding out her hand.
"Buffy Summers," I reply, taking her hand and shaking it briefly. "Pleased to meet you."
"If you're looking for a textbook of your very own, there's probably a few in the library," she tells me, tucking the volume in question away in her bag.
I can feel the corner of my lips twitch in my usual sardonic style as I stand up. "A textbook of my very own? I dunno, that's a big responsibility..." Then I grin openly. "Thanks. Can you spare a poor city girl directions though? Don't know where the library is yet."
"I'll show you," Cordelia offers as we leave the classroom. "So you're from Hemery, right? In L.A.?"
"Oh, I would kill to live in L.A. That close to that many shoes."
I can't help but laugh at that as we walk down the hall. L.A. may be a hellhole in my book (and I don't think there are really demons there in my world), but there's no denying that it's a good place to shop.
"Well," 'Queen' Cordelia advises me, "You'll be okay here. If you hang with me and mine, you'll be accepted in no time. Of course, we have to test your coolness factor." Oh boy. This should be tough. I've no idea what's cool in 1997... hell's bells, I've no idea what's cool in 2005! "You're from L.A.," she pronounces, "so you can skip the written."
"Why thank you," I interject with a sly note in my voice that nets me a suspicious look.
"Let's see," Cordelia muses. "Vamp nail polish?"
I give her an incredulous look – I refuse to believe that that was ever 'in' except with Goths. "You're joking, right?"
"So over," my interrogator concurs. "James Spader?"
Never heard of him. "History," I say flatly.
Her eyes narrow. "James Spader – history?" she demands incredulously.
I reply with a cool nod. For all I know he's some eternal teen idol, but I imagine there's a pretty fast turnover of suchlike, so I'll probably be right shortly if I'm not already.
"Frappaccinos?" she inquires.
Well I'd wager at least a little credibility that that's coffee. Which I don't drink. Bluff? Oh, why not? "Those, I will grant you," I answer with a slight note of approval.
Judging by the glare I'd guess that she's beginning to get upset. Amazing, a mediocre performance at best and she's buying it completely. The absolute last thing I need is to have the local queen-cow feeling threatened. So I need a diversion. And right then I see Willow over by the water fountain. Perfect target, except that would be cruel. Unless... yeah, that could work...
Cordelia's next question is cut off as I hold my focus on Willow for a moment and then shoot an amused look at my current companion. The need to see what caught my eye overwhelms her and she turns her head slightly to see Willow straighten up and look straight at us.
"Willow!" she calls, "Nice dress! Good to know you've seen the softer side of Sears."
The redhead looks a little flustered – I wonder if she realises how unflattering the dress is? "Uh, oh, well my mom picked it out."
"Is your friend okay?" I ask Willow, preventing what would probably be another verbal dagger embedded in the oblivious nerd by Cordelia.
"Friend?" she says, looking around as if someone had snuck up on her.
"That guy on the skateboard, Xander, right?" I ask. "He didn't need to go to the nurse or anything?"
"Oh!" Willow gasped in understanding. "No! Uh, he's alright."
"You've met Harris?" demands Cordelia.
I wink at Willow. "Ran into him on my way into the school."
Cordelia looks insulted. "You wanna fit in here, the first rule is: know your losers. I guess you've found your level," she sneers and marches off.
"Why would I want to fit in, Cordelia?" I ask her back, "When I can take over."
The stiffness in her back says that she heard me. And damn but she's got a nice butt.
"So," I ask Willow casually, as if nothing's happened. "Could you point me in the direction of the library? I need to get some books."
The library. If I hadn't seen the show then I'd be quite impressed by the layout. The mezzanine level is particularly impressive although it doesn't look designed for students. What isn't noticeable is the librarian – the room looks quite deserted.
I advance into the room and glance around. The only thing out of place is a newspaper on the counter. Looking closer I notice that someone has circled a picture of three boys – three missing boys from the caption. This being Sunnydale, I doubt they'll be turning up anytime soon. Well, unless the got turned. Now there's a happy thought.
I get the shock of my life when someone taps me on the shoulder and I whirl (with a squeak of surprise) to see a man in tweed stood behind me. Rupert Giles, the timid librarian/watcher. Oh the joy. "Can I help you?" he asks in a ridiculously prissy voice, looking down on me through his glasses. (Did I mention how bizarre it is to be Buffy-sized? I'm used to having another seven or eight inches of height).
"I'm looking for some books," I explain as I get my breathing under control. "I just started here today."
"Miss Summers?" he asks hesitantly.
"You look more like a Mister," I riposte immediately.
He frowns – either in annoyance or bafflement, I'm not sure. "I'm Mr. Giles. The librarian."
"Well I guess that that would make me Miss Summers then," I say. "Glad we've got that straightened out."
"I was told you were coming," Giles says, walking around the counter.
I nod. "I get that a lot. I guess Principal Flutie's been warning everyone about me. Anyway, I'm gonna need a couple of textbooks –"
"I know what you're after!" Giles interrupted me, pulling out a huge leather-bound book with the word 'VAMPYR' written on the front in gold leaf. I look down at it and then up at his grin, fixing a look of mild disbelief on my face and holding it long enough for his grin to slip.
"Well it's good to know you're being so discreet about this," I say blandly, giving the book a little nudge. "However, I really do need some textbooks before my next class. So if you would be so good...?" I make a dismissive gesture at the book and he moves it out of sight with an embarrassed look on his face.
"S-sorry, my mistake."
"Right then," I sigh. "I'm going to need 'Perspectives on the Twentieth Century'..."
Leaving Giles in the library with the vague promise that I would be back to talk later, the great tradition of lunchtime sent me out and looking for the one person rumour said could get me caught up with my classes: Willow Rosenberg. Fortunately I spotted her just unpacking her lunch from a brown paper bag. Looked just like the one that Joyce... Mom... had prepared for me and I made a mental note to prepare my own from now on.
"Hi Willow," I greet her.
She looked up, seeming rather upset at being bothered. "Why? I-I mean, hi! Uh, did you want me to move?"
I shrug and move round to sit next to her. "Not unless you're desperate to avoid me."
"But aren't you hanging out with Cordelia?"
With a chuckle and a shake of my head, I explain, "I more or less blew her off to talk to you earlier, so I'm apparently in her bad books. Her loss, I guess."
Willow smiles back a little nervously. "She's really popular though."
"Feh. At Hemery I was her," I lie. "Except better dressed. Anyway, new school and all, so I was thinking of not flunking all my classes – novelty value and all – and I hear that you are the person to ask for help on that."
"Oh," she brightens "I could totally help you out! Uh, if you have sixth period free we could meet in the library?"
I nod. "That should get us some peace to study," I say glancing around. "It was deserted when I went there earlier."
"I love it, it's a great collection, and the new librarian is really cool."
"Mr. Giles?" I asked rhetorically. "He's new then?"
"Yeah, he just started. He was curator at some British Museum, or, or the British Museum, I'm not sure. But he knows everything, and he brought all these historical volumes and biographies, and am I the single dullest person alive?" Willow babbled. I can see why so many people find the character adorable.
"No, you're not." I reassured her. "It's a bit odd though. Why would he give up being a curator to look after a High School library?"
"Oh, I don't know –" Willow began and then broke off as the Xander hopped up onto the wall behind us and then sat down between us.
Another guy, (even taller!) in an orange-shirt moved round to stand in front of us, dropping his bag. "Hey!"
"You guys busy?" asked Xander. "Are we interrupting? We're interrupting." He threw his own bag to Jesse.
I couldn't help but grin. "And I do indeed feel interrupted. Do you feel interrupted Willow?"
"Uh, oh, yes," she stammered. "Hey guys. Buffy, this is Jesse and that's Xander." Jesse of course is Herr Height.
"Oh me and Buffy go waaay back," Xander proclaimed.
"This morning," I explained to Jesse in a stage whisper.
I turned back to Xander to see him say, "Old friends, very close."
I returned my attention to Jesse and clarified: "I knocked him over and sat on him."
"Then," continued Xander doggedly, apparently quite flustered by the commentary. "Then there's that period of estrangement where I think we were both growing as people."
"Not very much in my case."
"But now here we are, like old times, I'm quite moved."
"Oh me too, absolutely."
Willow giggled and Jesse smirked a little at Xander. "Is it just me or are you turning into a bibbling idiot?"
"No," Xander confessed. "It's, uh, it's not you."
Well, it seems as though the intervening hours haven't erased the impression I've apparently made on him. Although I suppose not many girls have sat on his lap, even by accident. I suppose it would be impolite to ask if he's like this all the time or if he's having a bad day.
"Well, you know," says Jesse, "We wanted to welcome you, make you feel at home – unless you have a scary home…"
Yeah, it's called the Hellmouth.
"So," asked Xander. "What do you do for fun? What do you like? What do you look for in a man? Let's hear it."
"If you have any dark, painful secrets you'd like us to publish?" Jesse offered.
"Hey, hold back on the Spanish Inquisition routine," I laughed, waving Xander back a little. "Don't I get to ask you questions?"
"Well, you're pretty big news," Xander pointed out. "Not much goes on in a one Starbucks town like Sunnydale."
I doubt it's as quiet as all that, but before I could say anything, Cordelia spoted me and crossed the Quad towards us. "Are these guys bothering you?"
Nice of her to ask. Maybe I misjudged her a little. "Just hanging," I reply cheerfully.
"With, uh, us," Willow squeaked before shrinking back under Cordelia's stare.
"Hey, Cordelia," Jesse says as smoothly as he can manage, moving to stand next to her.
"Oh, please!" she brushed him off. "I don't mean to interrupt your downward mobility," the brunette told me, "but I just wanted to tell you that you won't be meeting Coach Foster, the woman with then chest hair," and I've got to say the look at her cleavage when she gestures to illustrate that makes this whole day worthwhile, "because gym was cancelled due to the extreme dead guy in the locker."
Well that answers whether or not there are really vampires around.
"What are you talking about?" asked Willow.
"Some guy was stuffed in Aura's locker!" exclaimed Cordelia.
"A dead guy?" I asked a little numbly. I know Giles had the book about 'vampyrs' but this seems a lot more real somehow.
"Totally dead. Way dead."
"It's not just a little dead, then?" Xander asked.
Cordelia directed a withering look at him. "Don't you have an elsewhere to be?" And I had to support her on that, as jokes go it was in appalling taste. Funny though it was.
I grabbed my things. "I guess if there's no gym I'd better go put in some study time," I told no one in particular. "I'll see you sixth period Willow."
As I headed indoors I heard Jesse trying out another rather pathetic chat up line on Cordelia. And get shot down of course.
Maybe I should coach him a little. At least to be less embarrassing.
I gave myself a little shake. Vampires first.