Her clear blue eyes snapped open, and all she heard were screams. Her hand reached instinctively to her side, but whatever she was looking for wasn't there. She sat up slowly, nursing aches and bruises she didn't remember as she tried to figure out who and where she was. It came back in a rush - the plane, breaking apart, their section slamming into the beach. The impact must have ejected her from the fuselage, she surmised. She didn't seem to have sustained any major injuries, so she looked around and took stock of the situation.
There was fire everywhere - the fuselage was burning, as was one of the engines. Both of the engines on the beach were still running, however, and people were wandering dangerously close to them. Before she could even react, a man ran in front of one of them and was sucked through it. The engine exploded, debris flying in every direction. She saw a valley-girl type standing still, screaming to no one, oblivious to the sharp metal flying at her. Rising and running the three feet between them, she tackled the valley girl to the ground and held her there while a piece of the engine passed no more than a foot over them.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" the valley girl demanded.
"Saving your ass. Now stay low, and move away from the plane." She ran to the nearest group of people she could see, and helped them to carry the injured down the beach. They'd nearly moved the last of them when something sparked and a massive explosion ripped through the fuselage. She had no time to duck before a piece of debris struck her in the head, and everything went dark again.
"Los Angeles? Why Los Angeles?"
"You go where the work is, babe. And that's where the work is."
"I've told you not to call me that."
"Slipped my mind. So do you want to know about the job or not, Tara?"
"Fine. What's the job?"
"Well, there's a train..."
She snapped awake, grabbing the hand reaching for her head. "Who the hell are you?"
"Sorry," a quiet voice replied. "My name's Willow. I was just cleaning up that cut on your head."
She released the hand and willed her eyes to focus on the woman kneeling next to her. Green eyes, deep red hair...she shook herself. Now was not the time for that kind of thoughts. "Thank you, Willow," she said with a smile. "But if you want to give me that cloth, I'll take care of it."
"Of course," came the reply, with a matching smile. Willow got up and turned to leave.
"Tara," she called out, almost apologetically. "My name's Tara."
Willow smiled again and extended a hand, and they shook. "Nice to meet you, Tara."
She cleaned the blood as best she could while counting the people gathered around her on the beach. "Are we lucky enough to have a doctor with us?" she called. To her great surprise, a hand rose to her left.
"I'm a doctor. Well, almost. I'm still an intern, but I think I'm the closest one to a doctor we have."
"Good. What's your name?"
"A doctor named Angel...fuck, the irony is delicious. Anyway, moving on. How many survivors do we have, doctor? And what kind of condition are they in?"
"Uh...24. No, wait, 23. That Joss guy got sucked through the turbine. As for condition, everyone seems okay. Some cuts and bruises, and I can't wake that guy up," he gestured to a sleeping form at the edge of the group, "but judging by the smell I think he's just drunk."
"23 out of a hundred? Damn. Okay, we need to get to work."
"Doing what?" It was the valley girl again.
"Look - what's your name?"
"Okay, Cordelia, let me lay some things out for you. We're on an island. We're stranded. People are going to be looking for us. We need to gather some wood and start fires so they can find us, and to keep us warm. It's daylight now, but it feels like late afternoon, and it's going to get dark and cold soon. So get off your ass and go and find some wood." She gestured to a knot of people across from her. "You people, go and dig through the suitcases, look for lighters, matches and blankets. We're going to need them. Stay clear of the fuselage though - just get whatever's on the ground."
"What about the black box thing that these planes are supposed to have?"
"Do you see the cockpit anywhere around here, Cordelia?"
"Then it's probably in the goddamn water. And it's not going to help them find us. Now get moving or so help me I'll boot you in the ass."
The group, all of them looking more focused than they had since the crash, rose and went about their jobs without asking any more questions. Tara strode confidently into the woods, gathering branches as she went and keeping an eye out for any luggage or people who may have ended up there rather than the beach.
"T-That was really cool," Willow said from behind her. "How you got everybody to do something. The whole time you were out, they just sat there arguing with each other."
"Sometimes people just need to be told what to do."
"Fuck, Fuck, Fuck!"
"Calm down? It wasn't supposed to go like this, Tara! Nobody was supposed to get hurt! Fuck!"
"I said calm down. You're going to draw attention to us. Now get the envelope under your seat...HEY! Pay attention! Get the envelope under your seat. Take out the two U.S. Passports and the cash. We'll be at the airport in twenty minutes, so you need to remember your story. Your name is?"
"Good. Where are you flying to, Fred?"
"To see my Aunt...uh..."
She slapped him, hard. "Why are you flying there?"
"To see my Aunt Rachel."
"Good. How long are you staying?"
"Good. Now memorize it. And remember the schedule - I'll meet you in Sydney in a week. Fly there with your Canadian passport, and tell them you're staying for three weeks. Got it?"
"I got it, Tara. I don't know how you can be so cool right now."
"Because I have to be." She pulled the car into a stall and turned off the ignition. "Here we are. Take care of yourself, and don't fuck up the story."
"So what do you think her deal is?" a petite blonde asked the doctor as they rummaged through suitcases.
"Miss 'I'm in charge of everything.'"
"Couldn't tell you on a bet."
"I bet she was military, or something. What a bitch, anyway."
"She knows what she's talking about, that's for sure. Sorry - I don't think I've caught your name."
Wiping her hand on her skirt, the blonde offered it. "I'm Buffy. You're Angel, right?"
"The boy who was sitting with you earlier - is he..."
"My son, Connor. He's over there looking through that suitcase."
"How old is he?
"Thirteen, as of three days ago."
Buffy scanned the doctor's hand. "No ring?"
"No. My girlfriend passed away giving birth to Connor."
"Oh god - I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to-"
"It's okay. It was...a long time ago. My turn to ask a question, though. The girl who sat next to you and held your hand?"
"My sister, Dawn. She's getting firewood."
They shared a rueful grin then, born of dealing with teenagers.
"Oh my god, we're going to die."
"Andrew? Shut up. We'll be rescued by tomorrow at the latest."
"You really think, Warren?"
"Yeah, I do. We'll be home in time for the new ep of Supernatural. Now grab some decent firewood - not that stuff, man, it'll just smoke."
"So what's your story?" the leather clad blond asked in an English accent.
"Pardon me?" replied his older companion with a similar accent.
"Ah, a fellow Englishman. Good to meet you, mate. My name's William Pratt, but you can call me Spike."
"'Cause that's what everyone calls me."
"Rupert Giles. Call me Giles."
"Nice to meet you, Giles. So, what brought you aboard this fine flight?"
Spike grinned. "Pleasure, Mr. Giles."
"So help me, I'm going to sue everyone involved with this craphole flight the minute I get back to L.A. The airline, the pilot, the guy who tightens the bolts, everyone."
"And what's that going to accomplish..."
"Ayna. Anya Jenkins. It's going to make them pay, for what they've put me through. Sorry, how rude of me - what's your name?"
"Winnifred Burkle. Fred. As for making them pay...doesn't it maybe seem like we should sorta be thankful for surviving?"
"Are you kidding? I've got a whole film crew waiting in Sydney, and I'm stuck here on this island? Someone is going to pay."
"Oh god! You're THAT Anya Jenkins? I loved you on One Heart! What were you filming in Australia?"
"Thank you, dear. I was supposed to be starting a new movie, a thriller based on a book by Stephen King. Now production's going to be held up, and I guarantee you the director's on his third bottle of pepto by now. What do you do, Fred?"
"Me? I'm an astrophysicist. I work at NASA."
"Really? Okay, tell me the truth - did the Mars Rover really find aliens? I heard it did and you guys cut the footage before anyone could see it."
"What the hell are you doing here? If we're seen together..."
"Relax, Tara. No-one's going to notice us unless you make a scene. Now, about this little mishap..."
"Not my fault. Your boy screwed up the transfer."
"I know, and he'll be dealt with. But in the meantime, there's something I want you to collect for me in Sydney."
"What? This is a getaway flight, you moron. Not a job-hunting expedition."
"Sorry, but you owe me."
"I owe you? YOUR boy screwed up, not me."
"You still owe me a cut of the job. Fortunately, if you do what I ask you to in Sydney, I'll call it even."
"And if I don't?"
"You shouldn't have to ask, killer. I'll make sure the L.A.P.D. gets a tip. They're very, very anxious to talk to you."
"Maybe, but you'll do what I ask just the same."
She stood silent a long moment before nodding. "Fine. What do you want?"
They gathered around one of the two roaring signal fires; a ragtag group huddled under blankets and spare clothes to fight off the chill of the night and the wind coming off the clear blue water that looked black in the darkness. Few words were spoken, everyone keeping largely to themselves. Until the noise began. They rose nearly in unison, watching the dense forest of the island shake as something - seemingly something huge - crashed through the trees, uprooting them as it went. The only thing more ominous than the sound of the crashing trees was the sound that accompanied whatever was out there - a harsh cry, like a bird but louder and more shrill. A few of the survivors covered their ears to drown it out, the others simply stared. The sound grew closer and closer, and the group closed into a defensive posture, and just when it seemed that whatever was making the noise would crash through the treeline onto the beach...it stopped. There was no sound of it leaving, it was just...gone. Without a trace.
Everyone spoke at once.
Sitting back heavily in her seat, Tara sighed and thought over her options.
"I won't be held hostage by this idiot," she vowed to herself as the fasten seatbelt sign came on. She had time for no more thoughts before everything went to hell.
Coming Soon, on Misplaced:
Willow stares in shock or horror at something off screen.
Fade to Black.