May. 16th, 2011

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It isn't the preparation that's the problem.

If it weren't for the fact that the last time Fred rode a bike, she wasn't nearly dragged into a hell dimension, 'just like riding a bike' would be a good analogy for how Fred feels about preparing her speech for council. It reminds her more of preparing her p-dimensional subspace theory than would like, but it's easy and familiar, and she knows how much of a statistical improbability it is that the same thing would happen again. She's read her talking points to just about anyone who would listen: to Spike, to Buffy, to Sawyer, and despite knowing her speech nearly backwards and forwards by the time she walks up on stage, there are still butterflies in her stomach. She still can't shake the memory of the last time.

Still, she presses onward; Fred's been through worse things than a plain old boring old speech. She's seen demons and vampires, decapitations and prophecies... heck, she's even had her life personally threatened a couple of times. This should be a piece of cake. Though, she still takes in a nervous breath as she walks onto the stage for her own turn to speak.

"Hi, everyone," Fred starts, a nervous smile on her face, and she waves, "I'm Fred Burkle. You guys might know me from-- well, maybe you don't know me at all and you're tryin' to figure out who the heck let me run for council in the first place, actually..." she trails off, realizing she's gone far from the point. She really should have written a joke to open with to break the ice.

Only, when Fred looks down at her hands for a second, trying to decide if she should come up with a joke or just go on with her speech, something happens.

She knows immediately what it is. After five years with the collar around her neck, she still feels it there sometimes, the metal on her neck that's been there so long that it's been warmed by her own body temperature long ago, slight weight a constant reminder of how very far from home she is. It's familiar and terrifying all at the same time, and her hands immediately go to her neck when she realizes there's something there that hadn't been there a moment before.

"No, no, no, no," she's saying, crowd forgotten as she takes a few steps back on the stage, eyes wide, legs nearly buckling, "It's not real, it can't be here, it's not real."

She's muttering to herself now, eyes shut, trying to will the feeling away, trying to come to her senses. And then her legs do give, and she nearly curls into a ball there. Maybe it's all been a dream. She never left Pylea, she never left Los Angeles, she never met Angel and the others at all. But the metal against her neck is still cool, still new, like when she'd first gone through the portal.

It doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make any sense.

None of this makes sense.

[Takes place during the council speeches this week. For those of you who don't know, the collar looks like this (couldn't find a clear shot of Fred herself wearing the collar, alas). Warning: it's going to be very difficult to calm her down, and she's not just going to let someone touch the collar at first. Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey in regards to who actually takes off the collar. Email or ping me if you have any questions.]


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Fred Burkle

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