The tides crashed against sand. Washing away anything that wasn't strong enough to resist it. If she took another step closer she knew she would feel the surf tickling her toes.
Preferring the sands heated grains warming her soles, she took a step backwards without taking her eyes off the constant, rhythmic waves as they steadily encroached on the beach.
She liked it here. At this place where the ocean met the land. Feeling as if she were standing at the precipice between two worlds. In one direction she had the cool, welcoming sea that could carry her weightlessly away to who knew where. In the other she had the unsteady ground which would shift with her every step, forcing her to concentrate just to maintain balance.
In the far distance she could see another shore, perhaps an island that was waiting to be explored by anyone willing to make the trip. Looking back over her shoulder she spied a handful of people sitting under the shade provided by a large tree.
Deciding to investigate. She turned away from the oceans and the distant shore. It had been there a long time. It could wait a little longer.
Paying no mind to the tolling of a far off bell, she instead allowed her breaths to synchronise with the sound of the sweeping waves, feeling as though she were breathing in time with the world. Carefully finding her footing in the unsteady sand, never taking her eyes off her destination for fear of it inexplicably vanishing.
As she approached the people occupying the shade. She realised at once they were familiar and important. But for some reason certain details escaped her.
The nearest to the tree was studious and diligent, always looking, always searching, always trying to piece together the puzzle. And when the puzzle didn't make sense he would step back, wipe his glasses and try again.
Next came the one who was surrounded by stacks of writings, rules and symbols, trying to impose order on the chaos while sparing a reproachful look for the one who was currently leaving wood shavings on the writings.
This one had tools, tools for important work. He would use his skilled hands to make the tools for the important work. His sharp eyes inspecting every detail thoroughly. For some reason she knew this one could find humour and joy in everything else he did. Reserving seriousness only for his important work.
Sitting in the shade with her back against the trunk of the tree was a pale girl with flaming red hair. Watching the one with tools working away with exasperated fondness. A huge book open across her lap shielding her from view. Leaving only her head and legs exposed. Her feet were firmly planted in the ground. Rooted just like the tree she was sat under.
As she moved closer to this curious group of people, she noticed one more figure lurking in the shadier part of the tree. Close enough to observe, but not close enough to participate. This one was intently studying her hands. They were soaked red with blood.
Those blood soaked hands reached behind her for a wicked looking knife. Dark eyes that had studied those red hands now watched warily as she moved closer.
The sound of the bell continued to toll. It seemed to be getting louder.
The light seemed to be getting brighter.
And brighter. In fact it was downright blinding.
White. All she could see was white.
Beeping. All she could hear was constant beeping.
Looking around at the unfamiliar surroundings she realised she was in a hospital bed.
Attempting to sit up fast turned out to be a mistake. Everything ached.
Muscles felt weak and unused. How long have I been here?
Tumbling out of bed. She ignored the cold of the floor and the protests of muscles forced to work as she approached the foot of the bed. The chart. Need to see the chart.
A sharp stinging sensation drew her attention to the I.V. being torn out of her hand as she tried to reach for the chart.
She watched for a few moments as red trailed from the back of her hand, down her fingers and dripped onto the white sheeted bed. Watched as a pattern formed on the blank sheet. Looks like an ink blot.
When the trickle of blood stopped, she reached for the chart.
"Kendra Young." She read out loud. Her voice sounding as dry as a desert.
Grasping for her memories, Kendra Young found . . . a mess.
Everything was jumbled. Nothing was recognisable. Even my own name feels unfamiliar.
The cold floor reminded Kendra that she was wearing nothing but a hospital gown. Clothes, need clothes.
Barely remembered instincts gave her direction. Looking about, she spotted a white lab coat hanging off the door.
Out. Need to get out of here.
The clothes she was now wearing were ill fitting, but the best she could find under the circumstances.
After making a few wrong turns, she had managed to find her current outfit in one of the nurses lockers, she'd had to make do with what she could steal. The t-shirt hung off one shoulder, the jeans were far too big, thankfully the belt that was already looped was capable of holding them up at the moment. Leaving the jacket unzipped prevented anyone from spotting that it could be wrapped around her atrophied frame twice with room to spare. The best she could manage in the way of footwear were a pair of ill fitting trainers.
Kendra felt like she would be less conspicuous in a clown suit. For some reason her instincts screamed that the outfit was too bright. Too loud. That she needed to blend in to the surrounding greens and greys that made up the world she had seen outside her hospital room window. Reason dictated making do with what was available. She had already disposed of the hospital gown and brilliant white lab coat. She decided to find more appropriate attire at the earliest opportunity.
Instinct screamed run! But reason demanded that she didn't as that would look suspicious, she looked around for an exit of some description. Eventually finding a map with the location of several exits marked on it. She elected to walk with the outward appearance of calm to the closest one.
Finally. Kendra stepped outside into the cool night air.
Feeling as though she was being watched. Kendra continued to act calm and nonchalant as she walked along the street. Just one more person walking by, no need to look my way, I'm just like everybody else.
Ducking into a suitable alleyway. Kendra moved as fast as her already tired legs would allow her to the corner and out of sight.
Danger! Instinct screamed, as a moment later it was confirmed by the sight of something emerging from the shadows.
"Slayer. I've come to . . ." Whatever it was going to say was ended abruptly by an arrow that hit it directly in the heart. The thing that looked like a man had barely enough time to look down in surprise before it exploded into a cloud of dust. All that was left was a small box on the ground.
Spinning around, Kendra looked to see who had fired the arrow.
"You're awake." The voice belonged to a pale girl with shoulder length red hair. Wearing a dark coloured jacket. The rest of her was obscured by a wooden crate.
Instinct screamed danger. But reason said that this girl was familiar. Not taking her eyes off the short stubby crossbow until the redhead put it away in her satchel. Kendra kept her guard up and asked.
"Who are you?" A flicker of surprise graced the redhead's features before a look of curiosity replaced them.
"You don't know?"
Willow Rosenberg, as she'd introduced herself, had been a veritable well of information.
Her name was indeed Kendra Young. She'd been in a coma for weeks because she had been badly injured by someone called Faith.
When Kendra had heard the name, the phrase 'five by five' had popped into her head. It was both disconcerting and reassuring to know that the memories were there, but only seemed to come back when they were given a push.
While Kendra was marvelling at the inner workings of her own mind. Willow had gone to investigate the small box left behind by the vampire. An actual vampire! Kendra didn't get the chance to see inside the box herself. But Willow had taken one look and snapped it shut quickly before placing it inside her satchel.
"Time to go." She said. Leading Kendra out of the alley.
"Where are we going?" At Kendra's question. Willow paused.
"After Faith." As answer's went, it was short, to the point and almost completely lacking in detail.
Kendra's instincts still screamed Danger! Run! Fight! But her reason cancelled them out. The redhead had the answers she needed. Even if she couldn't think of all the questions yet.
Seeming to notice her internal struggle. The redhead huffed before turning around and trying to offer a reassuring look.
"Home. I'm taking you home."
On the long walk that left Kendra winded and Willow not even breathing hard. Kendra got some of the gaps filled in. As the redhead talked, words and images came to Kendra unbidden, but helped to fill in even more gaps.
Kendra Young was something called a vampire slayer. Chosen one. Vampire slayers were certain girls who were called upon to fight the forces of darkness in a secret war that had been going on since the dawn of civilisation.
Originally the slayer fought alone. The only support they had came from a secret organisation called the watchers. Tea and books. But this had changed when one slayer, a girl named Buffy Summers, Sister, family, had come to Sunnydale. Hellmouth.
Buffy had died in her first year as the slayer. Luckily, her support group was made up of more than just watchers. Xander Harris, Loyal, skilled hands, twinkies? had taken matters into his own hands and had chased after Buffy Summers and managed to revive her.
Ever since then, the rules had been changed. Originally the next slayer was called after her predecessor had died. Xander Harris had made it so two slayers could exist at the same time.
Kendra paused at this. If there were two slayers, then where was Buffy Summers? When she asked, Willow let out a low growl and explained further.
It turned out that Buffy Summers had never wanted to be a slayer in the first place. Had fought against her calling every step of the way. When it became apparent that there was now two slayers. She fled the town of Sunnydale after having to put down a vampire named Angel, Angelus, leaving the town to the protection of those she'd abandoned.
Kendra felt a sudden impulse to reach for her neck as Willow explained her life to her. When she noticed, Willow remarked that the scar was barely noticeable.
Breathing suddenly becoming difficult, an image of a gaunt, sickly looking woman appeared in her mind. Drusilla! Her tattered memory supplied.
Willow confirmed it. Drusilla had cut her throat in the final battle with Angel, leaving her for dead.
But Xander Harris, the unofficial patron saint of slayers, had struck again. Saving her life by getting Kendra to hospital fast enough for the doctors to repair the damage.
A brand new sister slayer arrived in Sunnydale a few months later.
A sister slayer named Faith.
A sister slayer who wasn't too stable.
A sister slayer who had gone on a rampage and was now holed up in the Summers house.
Faith! No! Past memories were still intruding on the present. Now that Willow had filled in a few gaps her mind seemed to be continuing the process all by itself.
Faith was a girl who revelled in her power and abilities. A girl who had been forced to learn some hard lessons and grow up fast.
Kendra knew that the instincts that screamed in her were exactly the same as the ones that screamed in her sister slayer.
Said sister slayer who was waving a long knife erratically as she talked fast to the blonde lady Willow said was Joyce Summers. Matriarch. The word popped into her mind unbidden. Her memories still held back by a floodgate that only allowed drips and drabs of memory in.
Willow watched from beside her as Kendra tensed at a particularly vicious looking swipe of the blade. Nowhere near Joyce, who was sat on a sofa at the opposite side of the room, but enough to make her want to do something to stop the girl who had put her in a weeks long coma.
"Time to go now." Willow said again as she led Kendra around the back of the house. Over the wooden fence and down to the small window that allowed them entry into the basement.
Kendra entered first, feet landing lightly on the concrete floor, eyes fast becoming accustomed to the dark searching warily for danger.
"See anything?" Willow's whispered voice asked from the small window. She had insisted Kendra go first. Slayers it seemed, saw better in the dark than the average human. So far she had been proven right as Kendra stealthily approached the steps.
"Nothing but boxes." Kendra replied absently, again marvelling at how somebody else could know her better than she knew herself.
"So does that mean it's safe to come in?" Willow whispered. Turning back, Kendra nodded, when Willow didn't move, but continued to look around Kendra realised she couldn't see as well in the dark.
"Sorry, watch how you land when you come in." Somewhat awkwardly, Willow reached through for a handhold before sliding herself through the small gap feet first and lowering herself down until she hung from the gap by her fingertips. Letting go she dropped the remaining two feet to the floor quietly. Straightening her jacket and satchel she turned to Kendra and motioned her to lead the way.
Kendra carefully and quietly made her way to the stairs and the door at the top of them. Willow a few paces behind her.
"Where are the others?" Kendra asked as they slowly made their way up.
"I don't know. I thought they would be here. Faith must have stashed them somewhere else." Willow said nervously.
Kendra felt like she should say something. She just had no idea what. She had very little of her past to rely on because it was still a mess of fragments containing images and feelings. Willow had explained that Faith had finally gone over the edge. A phrase that brought up a sudden dropping sensation in the pit of her stomach. When Kendra had been hospitalised, the others in the group had vanished too.
Leaving Willow alone to face a slayer.
Leaving Joyce alone to face a slayer.
A determined look flashed over Kendra's face. Not anymore.
"You know I've gotta say I'm disappointed. I've got this shiny new blade to try out and there is no action anywhere. And you! I'm a slayer with things to slay . . . although it's a slow night tonight . . . how come you don't have anything going on?" Faith pointed the blade at Joyce Summers accusingly. Joyce just raised an eyebrow.
"It's a weekday. I have work in the morning." Faith frowned in dismay. Joyce took a sip of her drink.
"So that means you can't get any action? Come on Joyce, are you seriously telling me that you don't get the urge to go out and have some fun?" Joyce just stared into Faith's eyes.
"Nothing? Nothing at all?" Faith's answer was the same stare. Very nearly making her stamp her feet in annoyance. "I'd settle for a decent tussle right now!"
As soon as she said it, Faith was tackled by a brightly coloured blur. To Joyce's eyes it looked like Faith was standing there one moment, flying across the room the next. Standing in her place was a badly dressed Kendra Young.
"Hello Mrs Summers." The thin girl said from inside clothes that were blatantly too big for her, standing ready to fight.
Too stunned to process the events, Joyce could only reply. "Hello Kendra."
"Well look who's back in the game." In the time it had taken them to exchange those few words. Faith had shaken off the hit that had sent her crashing into a wall. After taking a good long look at what hit her she couldn't help smiling as she leapt to her feet and charged at her fellow slayer.
For Joyce Summers. Single mother to an absent vampire slayer, adopted mother to two more. What she saw in front of her was nothing short of a frighteningly lethal, beautiful dance. For the first time in her life she beheld just what these girls had been called upon to do.
She remembered that some of the reasons she had originally transplanted herself and her daughter to Sunnydale had been, at the time, very practical, well thought out, but above all safe.
When She and Hank had finally divorced, they'd had a marriage in name only for their final year together. Joyce knew that she couldn't afford to live in an area like Hemery anymore.
So she'd set about finding a nice place for them to live that was both comfortable and affordable.
When she'd seen the housing prices in Sunnydale she had thought they were too good to be true.
It turned out she had been right, but had been blissfully unaware exactly why for nearly two years.
Her daughter had been a part of that.
As if being a single parent wasn't difficult enough, she had been also raising a vampire slayer too.
Things had been so difficult for so long and her head had been full of so many worries that when the alarm bells started going off in her head she hadn't noticed. They'd been drowned out by everything else.
Upon reflection Joyce realised she should have questioned things more.
When she had finally seen a vampire for the first time, she hadn't handled it well. She had yelled at her daughter, she had argued, she had said some words she wished she could take back.
She wished her daughter would come back.
Ever since that night, she had often sat with both of these girls after they had come back from a late night patrol. Too worried to sleep. Too tense to relax until she knew that her daughters friends and sister slayers were safe for another day.
Perfectly willing to sit and watch them eat enough food for someone three times their size. While listening to them complain about ruining their clothes while fighting the forces of darkness.
Listening to them recount the nights events in disbelief at some of the outlandish and frankly impossible feats they described.
Now she was sitting there paralysed by the sight of two girls she thought of as daughters fighting each other with grace of dancers, the agility of gymnasts and the power of world class athletes.
Disbelief had just been thrown out the window.
Neither of them said a word, communicating instead in the language of fists, feet and whatever was to hand. Joyce knew enough self defence to recognise some of the styles these girls changed through like other people changed clothes. Faith was clearly fluent in tai kwon do, just as Kendra proved equally fluent. They spun and twisted and weaved around each other, testing for weaknesses. Checking for gaps in defences. Making sure reflexes were still the same as remembered.
At the sound of the dinner table groaning under the strain of sudden extra weight it was clear that somebody was more fluent in judo than the other. Joyce couldn't help wincing in sympathy. At the sound of breaking glass, Joyce snapped out of her stunned surprise and jumped up to try and yell at the girls to stop.
Expecting to see the two girls struggling on the floor. Joyce froze at the sight of the flaming red hair as Willow appeared behind Faith and grabbed Faith's hand on the backswing.
There was a sudden flash of light from where they were touching. Bringing the fight to a screeching halt. Willow suddenly looked around in panic as though the world had suddenly turned on its head.
Faith, wasting no time, punched Kendra in the head hard enough to knock her out. Then turned her eyes on a frightened Willow. "What the hell did you do to me!" Willow screamed.
Faith swiftly knocked her out as soon as the words were spoken.
"Faith?" Joyce asked uncertainly of the brunette, who was intently studying something in her hand.
Faith looked at her and just cocked her head to the side.
And with that she raced out of the house.
In Smallville, Lindsey Kent shook her head in an attempt to clear it from that high pitched ringing sound. "What the hell was that?"
"One of the stones." Clark Kents panic filled voice answered.