A/N: Hey guys. Sorry about the long wait. Final semester at college got a little hectic and this had to be put aside. Here's a long new chapter to make up for it. Please don't forget to review. I really want your feedback.
August 27, 2006
Buffy slowly regained consciousness. Blinking, she sat up and took in her surroundings. She was in an old abandoned building, if the dust and cobwebs could be believed. Her head was throbbing, still not over that hunt with that werewolf in Austin.
Buffy got slowly to her feet, legs a little unsteady, and made her way to the door. She stepped outside, blinking in the sudden brightness of light. “Who are you and what are you doing here?”
Buffy blinked again, rubbing her eyes. Four people came into view, a redhead, a blonde, and two brunets. “I don’t know, I just woke up. I have no idea where we are or who we got here. The last I remember, I was in Texas.”
The male brunet didn’t look convinced, and neither did the redhead. “We got here somehow,” the redhead insisted.
Buffy shrugged as she walked down two of the steps of the building she had woken up in. “You know as much, if not more, than I do about how we got here. Who are you anyway?”
“Willow Rosenburg,” the redhead said.
“Xander Harris,” the male brunet said.
“Amy Madison,” the female brunette said.
“Michael Adams,” said the blonde.
“Who are you?” Willow demanded.
“My name is Buffy Summers.”
“How did we get here?” Willow said.
“I have no more information than you do,” Buffy repeated, though she knew that wasn’t true.
Ash had mentioned Willow and Xander a few months ago. They were two of Azazel’s special kids who had grown up in a supernaturally active area. If they were vigilant, Willow and Xander would be the only ones, beside her, who would know about the supernatural world. If they knew anything about fighting the supernatural, it increased both the chances of survival and that Buffy would be believed. With any luck, they already knew about Azazel and what his big plans were.
“Do you think it could be a spell?” Xander said, speaking softly to Willow.
“I doubt it,” Willow said. “None of my wards were broken. I would’ve been able to sense it if they were.”
Xander nodded, but Buffy frowned. “Wards? What kind did you use? If what took us was powerful enough, it would know how to take you without setting them off.”
“Protection wards, and what the hell do you mean by that?” Willow said angrily.
“Excuse me, but what are you talking about?” Michael asked. His eyes were blown wide and scared as they bounced between Buffy and Willow.
“I’m a Slayer. I grew up with people who knew how to protect themselves,” Buffy said, ignoring Michael for the moment.
“We could’ve used you in Cleveland,” Xander said coldly.
Buffy shrugged. There was something about the two in front of her that bothered her. “I can’t be everywhere at once. How do you think we got here?”
“Hey!” Michael shouted, getting the attention of Buffy, Willow and Xander. “Will you all explain what you’re talking about?”
“We aren’t here by coincidence,” Buffy said, “and none of us got here on our own. We were brought here.”
“That’s impossible!” Willow said.
Buffy sighed internally. Willow wasn’t as up to snuff with the supernatural as she had hoped. “Say we believe you, how were we brought here?” Amy asked.
“That I can’t answer. But we need to try to get out of here,” Buffy said.
Willow shook her head. “I disagree. The first thing we need to do is figure out where we are. Once we do that, we can make plans on how to leave.”
“I know where we are,” Amy said. Everyone looked at her. “I woke up in an old post office. We’re in Cold Oak, South Dakota.” There was a beat of silence. “It was on the wall.”
The name was familiar to Buffy. Every Hunter knew of Cold Oak, and it wasn’t a good place to be. Cold Oak was the town so haunted that its own residents left, on their own without a fight. Why would Azazel bring his special kids here, Buffy wondered.
She wasn’t the only one. “That piece of information doesn’t help me,” Xander admitted after a minute of silence.
“It helps me. La carta invokem!” Willow said, extending her hand. A piece of paper appeared in her palm.
“Witch,” Buffy said, gripping the knife at the small of her back and taking a few steps back.
“Keep that thing where it is,” Xander said, his voice threatening.
Buffy blinked. Xander and Willow were both standing in front of her. Xander was behind Willow, who was blocking his view of Buffy. Amy and Michael were to Buffy’s right and also in front of her. There was no way Xander could see her knife, and no one who was in a position to tell him she had one. “How could you see it?” she asked, more curious than annoyed.
Xander didn’t answer, returning his attention to Willow. “Whatcha got?”
Buffy let go of her knife and drew closer. She realized what Willow had conjured was a map, the kind someone would get at AAA. Willow, seemingly unfazed by Xander and Buffy’s confrontation, unfolded it and spread it out on the ground in front of the five of them. South Dakota looked back at them “Look, it’s still on the map,” Willow said, pointing to the dot labeled Cold Oak. “The nearest town looks to be twenty miles away. There’s not a lot in South Dakota, is there?”
Buffy tuned the others out as they debated whether to leave now that they knew where they were. She was trying to think. One of them could see though solid objects and another was a witch, who by definition worshipped demons. Then there was her, a Slayer who was given her powers by a demon. Did that mean that Willow had access to witch power without worshipping anyone? Was Xander’s ability to see though solid objects a power given to him by Azazel like her abilities were? Buffy was willing to believe that it was. If she, Willow and Xander had abilities, did that mean that Michael and Amy did too? If they did, what were they?
Buffy checked her watch. “It’s nearing three now. It’s too late to go anywhere. Why don’t we set up base and leave tomorrow morning? This house is as good as any.” She jabbed her thumb behind her at the house she has woken up in.
“Before I go anywhere, I want to know how we got here!” Amy insisted, arms crossed. Her eyes sparked dangerously, giving Buffy the illusion of fire. Pyrokinetic, Buffy thought.
“There is no way to be certain,” Buffy said, “but I believe we were brought here by a demon.” Willow, who had also opened her mouth to answer Amy’s demand, closed it quickly. Whatever she was going to say, it wasn’t demons.
“Demons, seriously? You expect us to believe that?” Amy said, derision evident in her tone.
All four of them were glaring at her now, but Buffy simply shrugged and sat down on the stairs behind her. The glares turned from hostile to disbelieving as the silence went on. “You’re not kidding, are you?” Michael said after a few minutes.
Buffy shook her head. “No, I’m not.”
“That doesn’t explain why we’re here,” Amy pointed out.
“This demon wants someone to lead his army.”
“Some one, as in one person?” Amy said. “If that’s true, then why did he create all of us?”
It was Willow’s turn to answer. “He wants the best, and the best is the last one standing.” She seemed to have grasped on to what was going on. By the concerned look on Xander’s face, so had he.
“What does he look like? How do we identify him?” Michael said.
“He has one distinguishing feature,” Buffy said. “He has yellow eyes.”
Faith blinked and stretched as she slowly woke up. She yawned loudly as she pushed herself into a sitting position. “Buffy?” she said, mid yawn as she glanced toward the other bed.
She was wide awake a moment later. The bed next to hers didn’t look slept in and Buffy was no where to be found. Her things, however, were still scattered around the room. Her pajamas were laid out on the bed and her hairbrush was lying beside them.
Faith quickly put on her jeans and rushed to the bathroom. The sink and surrounding counter was a mess. She looked around the room and noticed a powder along the window sill between the bathtub and the sink and on the edge of the mirror. Faith got closer, picking up some of the yellow powder. It took a minute for the significance of yellow powder to sink in. “Sulfur,” Faith said quietly. Azazel had taken Buffy.
“How does knowing all this help us?” Xander asked after Buffy explained more about what she knew of Azazel’s plans.
“We each have a gift from him. Depending on what it is, we can use it to survive,” Willow said.
Buffy nodded. “He’s also going to try to turn us against each other,” she said, “so keep that in mind. Before we do anything else, we need to pull our resources. What do we have and what do we need? What are your abilities?”
Willow raised her hand, palm up and whispered a few words. There was a small ball of fire there. “Witch,” she said, confirming Buffy’s suspicions. Everyone but Amy looked impressed. She closed her fist and the fire disappeared. “I’ve been learning gradually over the years, but my power doubled a year ago and I was able to do more things. I’m assuming that’s when Azazel gave me power.”
Buffy nodded. She had expected most of that. “I’m a Slayer. That means I have enhanced strength, among other things.”
“You’re not going to tell us more?” Amy said, suspicion in her voice.
“I don’t think anything else will help the group survive,” Buffy said.
Amy glared at her before turning her gaze to a small building at the end of the road, heading away from town. Her face twisted into deep concentration. The building caught fire. “Pyrokinesis.” Turning her back to the burning building, she glared at Willow. “So watch your back.” Willow ignored her.
Everyone turned to Michael. He picked up a nearby branch and it began to grow. Leaves and branches began to grow out of one end and roots out of the other. He walked over to the side of the house and placed the end with the roots close to the ground. The roots dug deep into the ground, anchoring the tree and the leaves and branches continued to grow. In a few minutes, Michael had a live tree beside him, grown from a dead tree branch that had been in the road. He reached up and pulled five ripe apples from the branches above his head and passed them around to everyone. After everyone had one, he bit into his apple. “I can bring dead things back to life. Not people, just things.”
Buffy bit into her apple. It was crisp and firm, just like an apple was supposed to be. “Not bad,” she said, saluting him with the fruit. She turned to Xander. “Your turn.”
He was hesitant, but a silent conversation with Willow persuaded him to answer. “I can see through anything physical, when I want to. That’s how I saw your knife.”
Again, Buffy wasn’t too surprised. She took another bite of her apple and said, “We should think of finding a defendable place before it gets too much darker, and we need to stock up on supplies. If we each do something, we can have a place ready before we go to bed.”
Several hours later, the town looked more lived in than it had in a hundred years. Michael had found dried beans and discarded seeds that he was able to coax into growing for him behind the well. Buffy, Amy, Willow, and Xander, after much debate, had chosen a house across the street from the house Buffy had woken up in to fortify. The floors were more stable and the house was in better condition. It was located behind the abandoned sheriff's office and close to the well where Michael’s food supply was.
After they choose the house, Willow started putting up protection wards and Buffy, Xander, and Amy started on various minor repairs about the house. Buffy found salt blocks in the stables. Placing them in water and getting the salt to dissolve, Buffy, and Amy under her direction, began painting salt lines along the perimeter of the house and in most of the inside doorways and window sills.
By the time the house was deemed safe by all five of them, it was dark. “Most of the plants I found were inedible,” he said as he came into the house. He was carrying a basket. “These are all from plants I managed to coax into growing. It’s not much, but it should last us until tomorrow, when we leave.”
He pulled the basket open and the other four looked at him in gratitude. Inside were ears of corn, several squashes of different sizes and colors and several kinds of beans. Apples were in the basket as well. “Thank you, Mike,” Willow said. “Let’s cook up dinner. What do we have for spices?”
Between Willow and Amy, dinner was both quick and delicious. Amy had spent several years in a restaurant run by a friend of the family and was able to turn the food into something everyone liked. Willow helped by conjuring cooking equipment and keeping the others out of Amy’s way. When the food was all eaten, everyone helped clean up. Then, everyone settled down into their claimed area and slowly drifted off to sleep.
~~~Buffy blinked. Standing in front of her was the same man she had seen before. His black hair was still in his face, but not long enough to hide his pale yellow eyes. Azazel straightened his suit jacket and walked toward Buffy. “Hello, love.”
Buffy held her ground as Azazel circled her. “What do you want?”
“You ruined my fun, you know. Willow really outdid herself with her wards, added some newer, more powerful ones. Now I’ll have to get creative.” He sounded both impressed and a little annoyed. “Which one should I start with, Buffy? Hmm? What about that Mike kid? He doesn’t have much of a backbone.”
“What are you talking about?”
Azazel grinned madly. “Come now, Buffy, I know you’ve figured it out. Only one of you is going to survive it all. I’m only going to keep one. Surely you can figure out what’s going to happen to the rest of you.”
“You’re going to kill us,” Buffy said.
Azazel chucked. “Not quite. You’re going to kill each other. You can’t save everyone. No matter how hard you try, you can’t save everyone.”
Buffy woke up with a start. The first thing she smelled was smoke. She looked quickly around the room. Amy was in the opposite corner, having some kind of nightmare. She was thrashing about. Buffy got up and ran to her. She caught Amy’s shoulder and held her still. “Amy! Amy, wake up!”
Amy’s eyes opened, but she didn’t appear to be awake. The look of concentration that was on her face when she demonstrated her power was back on her face and before Buffy could shake her, Amy had lit the ceiling on fire. Buffy shook her again, more forcefully. “Amy! You need to wake up. The building’s on fire!”
“Buffy!” Willow’s face appeared in the doorway to the next room. Xander was behind her. Both looked terrified.
“Amy’s having a nightmare. That’s why she set the house on fire. We need water, hurry!”
Both nodded and turned to go. A tongue of fire shot out at their retreating backs, landing on Willow. Xander’s scream of Willow’s name was drowned out by Willow’s scream of pain. Xander grabbed his friend and ran for the door.
Buffy returned her attention to Amy. “Amy, wake up!”
“I am awake and I finally see!” Amy’s voice was cruel, dark and frightening. Buffy let go and slowly backed away from Amy. “I will cleanse this world of those who abuse their children. My mother will regret ever laying a hand on me. But first, I must survive this. I will be the ultimate champion!”
Buffy didn’t wait for Amy to gear up her attack. She turned and flung open the window behind her and jumped out. She was just in time. As soon as Buffy hit the ground, fire burst out of the window. Buffy quickly glanced around. She saw no sign of Xander, Willow, or Michael. Making a quick decision, she ran toward the well.
A few minutes later the house exploded.
Buffy watched the fire from the safety of the schoolhouse. Amy was stalking around the house. She saw Amy fighting with someone but couldn’t make out who it was. A creak of floorboards made Buffy jump and she spun around to see who was behind her. “Michael, you scared me.”
Buffy cocked her head in confusion. Michael’s tone was full of regret, more than necessary for startling her. She looked at his hands and saw a knife, her knife, in his trembling hand. “He’s making me, that demon you mentioned,” he continued. “He said I could go home if I killed you, so I looked for you. I got out of the house and I looked for you. Amy’s preoccupied, she won’t notice that she’s lost us until she kills Willow and Xander. All I want is to go home.”
“He’s not going to let you go home if you kill me,” Buffy said, raising her hands and turning fully to face the boy. “He’s going to make you kill more people. All of the kids like us are going to be brought here. If you want to win, you’re going to have to kill all of them. I don’t think you have it in you to kill anyone.”
Tears fell down Michael’s face. “I have to. I may not want to, but I have to.”
“You have a choice. You always have a choice.” Buffy tried to take a step closer, but Michael held her off with a twitch of his wrist.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated. He lunged at her, his attack sloppy. Buffy caught his wrist and elbowed him in the stomach. The boy coughed and let go of the knife. Buffy twirled it and pushed Michael away from her as she put the knife back where it belonged. She turned again to look at the fire.
Michael took advantage of her distraction and lunged at her again. Buffy fell, nearly falling down the steps she was standing at the top of. She twisted around so she was on her back with Michael still on top of her. She punched him when he sat on top of her, preparing to punch her himself. She gained leverage and pushed him off her and over her head.
Michael landed on his head and fell down the short flight of stairs. Buffy rolled to her stomach and pushed herself up to her hands and knees, looking down at the boy. His neck was broken. Azazel had made her kill an innocent person. Buffy vowed to herself that he wouldn’t make her kill again after tonight.
Buffy waited several minutes before trying to leave the schoolhouse. She was horrified at what she was forced to do. Michael had been a sweet, kind boy before Azazel had scared him into attacking her. She managed to calm herself down until she could breathe normally when she heard a scream of rage coming from the direction of the house.
Buffy raised her head and looked at the house. The fire had demolished the building, but two people were still battling each other. She got to her feet and walked toward the fight, keeping the combatants in view. When she was close enough, she saw Willow and Amy engaged with each other, and a body behind Willow that could only be Xander’s.
Spells and flames flew through the air, impacting on the grass and other buildings in the area and on the two fighting. “You can’t win, Amy. I’m more powerful than you.” Willow’s voice was barely aduible, but Buffy could hear it more clearly as she came closer.
“You’re weak,” Amy said. “Your pal’s death proved it.” She clapped her hands together, then held her palms out toward Willow, shooting a blast of flame six feet wide at Willow. The witch, in turn called down a blot of lightning, hitting Amy as the flames shot out. Both the flames and the lightning hit their target and both women fell.
Buffy looked from one woman to the other in shock. Everything had happened so fast that it was hard for her to understand how things had gone so badly so quickly. She collapsed in the middle if the field and leaned against the well, exhausted. She had survived, this time.
When Buffy woke up, the sun was shining and birds were chirping. It took a moment for things to come back to her, but when they did, Buffy leaned to the side and dry heaved. Tears fell down her face and she wiped them away with shaking hands.
Slowly, Buffy got to her feet, using the well to help her up. On the other side of the well, was something that Buffy didn’t expect. Camping gear. A tent and a sleeping bag were lying beside a duffle bag. Buffy cocked her head and slowly made her way to the offered supplies, using the well for balance.
The tent was a one person winter tent. The setup instructions were on the tag. Buffy set it aside and looked at the sleeping bag. The tag said it could keep a person warm and alive at as low a temperature as five degrees below zero Fahrenheit and it came with a pillow. The duffle was next. Inside, at the top, was a note.Buffy.
Congratulations on your survival, even if it was more by mistake than by design. Here are some supplies to keep you alive until your next match. If you survive again, you will receive more. Ration them, as there will be no way of knowing when the next match will be.
Buffy put the note aside and closed her eyes, waiting for the shaking to go away. A few minutes later, Buffy had calmed herself down and managed to look into the bag again. There were packets and boxes of preserved food, mostly granola and energy bars, and some fruit gummies. There was a propane heater and two small cans of gas. Hand sanitizer, toilet paper and feminine supplies and a hair brush with hair ties were in there as were five bottles. Two were filled with water. There were fifteen iodine packets, complete with vitamin C tablets and a few single serving drink mixes, near the empty bottles. A thermal blanket, extra socks and shoes, and shampoo rounded out the bag.
“Nice of them to give me a way to purify some water,” Buffy said to herself, taking one of the granola bars and ripping off the wrapper. She bit into it and quickly finished it. After opening one of the bottles and drinking her fill, Buffy recapped the bottle and looked around. She needed to set up her base. Something told her that she would be in Cold Oak a long time.
I hope you all enjoyed it. Please don't forget to review. I look forward to hearing what you have to say. Thank you!