Buffy lay curled up by the stream, back where she had started. Her mind was a mass of confusion. For once, the clarity that so often eluded her throughout the dream remained. And she knew, without a doubt, that this was where she belonged. In the sunny field, where if she looked in the water she could see a long ago Buffy and Angel smiling and together. Where she wasn't dancing with Spike. No, definitely not.
"You think too much," a familiar voice announced. Buffy raised her head to see her mother kneeling beside her. "The clarity you fight for in these dreams only keep you from the truth."
"I like to know what's going on," Buffy answered warily, moving to her feet.
"When you are awake, that is good. But you are sleeping now. It is the time to watch, to see what unfolds. To be a passive observer and learn from what your mind reveals. This dream is no trick, Buffy. Everything here belongs to you. Only you. Even the pieces you don't want to admit to owning."
"Then where are the hot guys with the massage oil?" Buffy asked, in her classic 'witty repartee' voice. "And the calorie-free triple chocolate sundae?"
"That sort of dream is a moment's thought, your mind resting from all the troubles of the day. This dream is about deeper things." Joyce reached out and held Buffy's hand. "Relax, let it flow. See where it takes you. Think no more about right or wrong. Simply feel."
"So I won't wake up with the crazy Spike lust?" Buffy demanded, refusing to give in just yet.
"Only if that's what you really want," reassured Joyce. "Let go. Close your eyes. Just let yourself be."
"But - "
"It will all be okay. Nothing here is binding. Consider this only an exploration of possibilities."
Buffy found herself lulled by the words and relaxed. She slowly closed her eyes and let Joyce pull her forward a few steps.
"Open," her mother's voice whispered in her mind.
Buffy was standing inside a small cottage. In front of her stood Giles, Willow, and Xander. In very funny clothes.
"They were going to make it pink, but I insisted on red," Giles told her.
Xander poked him in the shoulder. "I lucked out. I got to be blue."
Willow simply watched them, laughing a little. Her own green dress swished gently with her chuckles.
Buffy felt herself want to question, to demand answers for this strange sight. But she obeyed her mother's directive and allowed herself to simply flow. She felt herself slip into that dazed awareness and acceptance that had filled so much of this dream.
"You should go out now," Giles told her, giving her a push to the door.
"And gather some berries," Willow added, handing her a basket.
"Don't worry about us, we'll be fine," Xander said as he helped her out the door.
Buffy stood outside the cottage a moment and then started walking down the path. She felt a little lonely, walking all alone. But she didn't mind it too much.
She finally came to stream lined with bush after bush of blueberries. Finding a seat on a nearby rock, Buffy idly began to pick berries while looking into the water.
At first she saw only herself. Then the water rippled, and showed a scene she'd never seen before.
A man she vaguely recognized, with sharp cheekbones and blue eyes, was being mocked by a group of people. Buffy found herself a little angry on the poor man's behalf. He seemed like a good man. She watched him confront a beautiful woman. She never heard a word, but obviously the woman had said something to hurt the man's feelings. He ran into the street crying, only to meet up with a dark beauty who Buffy thought also looked familiar.
"That is the past," someone informed her. Buffy turned away from the water to see Dawn sitting on a rock near her. "Everything that is of the now comes from the then. The man he is now is based so much on the man he was then. Remember that."
Buffy nodded thoughtfully and then returned to look into the water.
It now showed the same man, a little more familiar in appearance now. He was talking, no, pleading, to a woman who looked an awful lot like Buffy. But in her dream state, Buffy was merely observing, not making any connections. The man had done something wrong and was trying to apologize, but the woman wouldn't listen. She shut her door in his face instead. Buffy was sad that the woman hadn't even listened to the man's apology. The fact that he tried should count for something, shouldn't it?
Yet another ripple, and now the man was standing in a dark room, his hands tied above his head. He was badly beaten and in pain. A beautiful blonde stood near him. She was the source of all the pain, and would keep hurting him unless he answered her questions. But the beaten man was protecting someone, someone special to him. He said nothing.
"Near-past and near-future, so close the now to be the present. They say much, don't they, these frozen moments?"
"What about the far future?" Buffy asked. "What does that say?"
Dawn gave an impish smile. "It has yet to be. So many possibilities stem from a single moment. There is nothing to be said for them, for they are not yet even the beginnings of a thought." She stood and began to leave. As if remembering something, Dawn turned to Buffy and said, "The only thing that can be said is choose your future wisely. Don't spend it sleeping. Wake up and live."
Buffy nodded and watched Dawn go. When the girl was no longer in sight, she picked up her basket to walk back to the cottage.
On her way, she met a strange man. He reminded her of the one she saw in the water.
"We've met before," he told her.
"Yes. You know that's true." He smiled at her and took her basket away and set it on the ground. "Do you want to dance?"
Buffy smiled, remembering a little. "That's all we've ever done."
A familiar song swelled throughout the air.
And they danced.
Maleficent stared into her crystal and let loose a thousand curses. The girl was not supposed to do that! She was supposed to remember her hatred and hold it strong, to cling to the belief the vampire was her enemy and nothing else.
No matter. This was only a small problem. Regardless of the powers such dreams were said to hold, Maleficent knew that it was one thing to dream, and another for the actions to carry over into reality. The girl may believe herself to be in love right now, but even the accursed meddlers would agree she was not thinking with her mind.
They would say the girl was thinking clearly, though, only this time with her heart. But Maleficent knew this girl's history. She had ignored her heart before. There was still a chance Maleficent could win.