A/N I know I really should be working on "New Horizons", but it is darned near impossible to tell those little plot bunnies "NO!". Heck, I'm just happy that my Mewses decided to grace me with their presence again; even if it isn't in the WAY I want them to *sigh*
As ever, I own none of the characters or settings - although I take full blame...er, credit for the ridiculous things I put them through!
River danced slowly and gracefully across the cargo hold of Serenity to music only she could hear. Ever since Miranda she could feel the pieces of her life falling back into place, but the process was by no means complete. It wasn’t helping that the entire crew –even her own brother- were regarding her with varying degrees of fear since the incident on Miranda. In moments of lucidity she knew that every instinctive recoil from her friends and family set her back an average of 3.7 days from achieving full psychological re-integration.
She was aware that Mal and Zoe were watching her from the catwalk overhead, but they didn’t bother her; they were far enough away that their thoughts didn’t even ruffle the surface of her mind and so she continued to dance in peace.
Gradually she came to a halt and tilted her head to the side, listening. A puzzled look came over her face before she abruptly fell to the floor screaming.
“NO! The time isn’t right! If the rising sun bleeds in conjunction with the triad then the rest of the stars will fall out of alignment and she may never be found again!” River curled up on her side and wrapped her arms around her knees as her screams subsided into sobs. “It’s too early. It’s too late. She’ll be coming soon.”
Distantly she heard the sounds of pounding feet and the Captain calling for her brother, but River could only helplessly stare at the past/future unfolding before her eyes…
Dawn looked down at her feet and concentrated on not falling. Whoever decided that the top of a mountain was the perfect place for a ritual should be strung up by their toenails and flogged mercilessly while being forced to listen to elevator muzak for hours on end. And then the REAL torture could begin. It didn’t help that the weather was cold and rainy and Dawn had dressed for a semi-tropical climate; every so often a sideways gust of wind would force icy water down the neck of her shirt to dribble down her back.
She caught herself just in time as she tripped over a rock that was mostly submerged in mud by flailing her arms for balance, then cussed steadily in several languages – most of which had never been intended to be uttered by human vocal cords. Dawn looked up and peered through the concealing curtain of rain and heaved a great sigh as she realized that she was almost at the ritual site. A few minutes later she flung her backpack onto an almost flat rock, pulled out a tent and set about erecting a temporary shelter from the storm.
As soon as the wind and rain were cut off by canvas walls, Dawn started to pull out the rest of the things she would need for the ritual and arranging them outside where she would be needed. It was so great that Willow had finally perfected the Mary Poppins’ Carpetbag spell that let her carry as much as she wanted in her backpack without adding any weight or bulk, the only restriction being that it could fit in the . The card table barely fit through the opening, but “barely” counted. The battery operated lamp, folding chair and towels made things inside a lot cozier. Once Dawn had herself dried off and warmed up and everything she needed out and arranged she checked her watch. There was still 37 minutes left until show-time. She made sure that her alarm was set, pulled out a trashy novel and settled in for the wait.
The book was okay, but didn’t really hold her attention so she put it aside and let her mind wander. It had been almost a year since Sunnydale became a crater and all the Slayers were activated. Too bad that “all” wasn’t really that many; the Bringers had done their job just a little too well and after all the newly activated were found there were barely fifty Slayers scattered around the world. A few had chosen to stay with their families, but most decided to join the reformed Watcher’s Council headed by Giles. Giles hadn’t had much trouble taking over legally from the now dead former members, but unfortunately, the old Watcher’s Council had been pretty much broke (aside from the priceless book collections that had been blown up…) and things had been pretty tight for a while until –weirdly enough- Anya’s estate had been settled. Nobody had realized just how much she had been making from the Magic box, nor had they realized just how savvy she was when it came to making investments and playing exchange rates. Originally her will had named Xander as the beneficiary, but after being left at the altar she had changed her will to name Giles as the sole recipient. The 3.2 million that she had left him had gone a long way towards rebuilding the infrastructure, now located in Cleveland as the site of the largest remaining Hellmouth.
Buffy and Faith were still the strongest Slayers and they were usually sent where the worst trouble was brewing…or as a last resort clean-up crew. Apparently, one of the side effects of awakening them all at once was that the newbies had a smaller portion of the Slayer Spirit than the “real” Slayers so they were set up as teams of five along with brand, spanking new Watchers and apportioned out to various hot spots in the world.
And all of this musing led to why Dawn was here, freezing her butt off on the top of this miserable mountain. Some Watcher had found an obscure prophecy that stated that in –she checked her watch again- 8 minutes when 3 particular stars aligned a rift to another dimension would be opening at this site. And of course it required a Slayer’s blood to keep it closed. With the Slayers spread as thin as they were, and since this was an otherwise relatively safe location, Dawn got tapped to take care of it. After all, her blood was technically the blood of a Slayer…even if she didn’t get any nifty super-powers out of it, dammit!
The 3 minute alarm going off jerked Dawn out of her musings and she shot upright and grabbed the backpack before slinging it over her back. Once she had forgotten to keep the backpack on her and had been royally pissed when Willow had yanked her out of there magically without it; by the time she had made her way back the pack had been long gone - along with most of her personal possessions and some rather private diaries. She quickly went outside to kneel in front of her ritual supplies.
Right on schedule a hole in the fabric of reality started to tear itself open and Dawn chanted the proper words (according to the book) in Latin while making a shallow slash in her palm and carefully allowing three drops of blood to fall into the bowl that was already filled with water and herbs.
Dawn frowned when the rift didn’t immediately close at the conclusion of her chant, but at least it didn’t get any bigger. It just kind of stalled at about the size of a surfboard and pulsed a bit. Then she noticed a faint glow coming from the bowl at her knees and she glanced down to a swirling, green glow that gave off faint sparks. Uneasiness coiled through her, along with the notion that maybe it shouldn't have been HER blood being used to deal with a portal, and she looked back up at the rift. It was also glowing green although it appeared that it was finally shrinking a bit.
The shrinking was of the good and she relaxed a bit; at least, she relaxed until she felt the rift start sucking her in. Strongly. It pulled her off of her knees and forced her forward a step before she could dig her heels in. Even then it wasn’t enough and she frantically grabbed at the rock that her supplies were on as she was pulled past it, but only succeeded in snatching the dagger lying there before she was out of range.
Dawn had time for one last thought –“It’s not even Tuesday!”- as she was yanked into the rift just before it snapped shut and she fell into the endless black.