Bella has been here before, but only during summers. When she arrives in February, something is different.
People don't go out late. It's like they're constrained by the sun, not the hour. In summertime Charlie always insisted that she be home and indoors by sunset. She's always abided by the rule - she was younger then, he seemed so very serious about it, and sunset was a reasonable curfew when it was July.
Now she is here and it's winter and sunset is before dinnertime and the rule is still home and inside by sunset.
She asks. He shows her some statistics about suspicious deaths. She shuts up and she is always home before the sun touches the horizon.
School is mediocre. (Well. It's a high school.) The library is quite good, and there she lurks.
A couple of weeks after she moves to Sunnydale, she goes for one solid week without tripping. Or getting a papercut. Or dropping anything. Or displaying any symptoms of clumsiness at all.
This is weird.
She tests it. She dances. She looks up how to do a cartwheel, and does six, flawlessly, not even dizzy. She gets more and more bold as every trick she tries works - she can do a backflip, a whole sequence of them if she likes, and it just works.
She's pretty sure that even if whatever was wrong with her had spontaneously healed herself she would not have also gained that ability.
When she's been unclumsy for somewhere between a week and two (she's not sure exactly when it started - a few days without accident were never unheard of) she is treated to a visitor. This person is apparently genderless, ageless, not entirely corporeal, and not pleased to be there.
"Haven't you been getting our dreams?" it asks her.
"Slayers are meant to learn of who they are through visions, but you've done nothing to show that you've understood a one of them. If you had a Watcher to explain these things to you, it would be a forgivable ignorance, but they've somehow overlooked you, so just how long do you intend to neglect the signs we've sent?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, hallucinatory person. I haven't had any dreams with you in them. Except this one."
It frowns at her. "You are not asleep. We typically commune through dreams, but your brain does not appear to work."
"My brain works great and I fully approve of it vetoing input from creepy dudes," Bella says. She pats herself on the head. "Good brain, you get a biscuit."
It becomes frownier. "Perhaps I should get to the point," it says.
"Perhaps," agrees Bella.
"You have been called to be the Slayer, she who is granted powers above and beyond those of ordinary humans to hold back the forces of darkness." At her blank look, it goes on: "Vampires. Demons. Dark witches."
Vampires. Well, that makes more sense than barbecue forks being the locally popular weapons for PCP-addled gang members.
"So that's why I'm not a klutz anymore."
"You have been chosen for the gift of supernatural strength, speed, and grace, by we, the Powers That Be," intones the apparition, "with which to combat these wicked powers. Slayers also may develop a sixth sense to detect vampires as they move among humans, although whether that will function with your uncooperative mind is unknown to us."
There is a pause.
"Sweet," says Bella. It sounds like she's a special snowflake, but it also sounds like she's screwing up whatever mechanisms are used to find her brand of special snowflakes, except for this person's, and this person doesn't sound like he wishes her dead. So having the powers strictly dominates not having them. "That's neat," she reiterates.
"The purpose of the enhancement is not to improve your quality of life," snaps the Power That Is.
"Oh, sure. If I find evil things, I will Slay them. Slaying evil things sounds good to me, because, you know, evil, bad stuff. If I'm good enough at it to think it's a reasonable tradeoff I might even start looking for evil things. Sweet," repeats Bella.
The Power That Is appears to decide that this is the best it's going to get. It disappears.
Bella sits around and waits to wake up, and when that doesn't work, she tries going to sleep. That does cause her to wake up, some eight hours later, remembering the encounter with perfect undreamlike clarity.
"Sweet," she tells her empty room.
She wonders if the Sunnydale library has anything on vampires. The suspicious death stats make it a reasonable bet.