Where the River Meets the DawnFandom:
Dawn Summers/River TamSummary: Serenity
drops out of the heavens onto a Santa Monica beach, and an insane Reader meets a Key.Where the River Meets the Dawn
Serenity flew straight, towards the second star to the right--it was the curve of space and time which was warped, broken, violently looping back upon itself, or perhaps it was that what was supposed to be curved suddenly found itself to be straight, if indeed such topological distinctions could be said to be any more, or any less, than geometrical illusions--straight through the violent vortex (a whirlpool, an eddying mass, from the Latin
vertere, "to turn"--but to turn to where, into what? the dictionaries are as ever silent, in this and in all things), into what can only be described as a crash landing, as River clutched the yoke to her breasts as a child to her mother's, into what hitherto they have only known in their fantasies, and in their history books, as the Earth that Was.
. . .
There was, Dawn reasoned, an inevitable increase in the credulity of someone who had been convinced in the most effective way possible, with repetition, that vampires and other demons were real, that magic was a tangible force, that everything one thought she knew was wrong. So it was natural that when a very large metal construct suddenly fell from the sky a very high speed and crashed into the Santa Monica beach, none of the vacationing group of Slayers and Slayer support questioned the fact that a spaceship had just fallen out of the sky and crashed into the Earth in front of them.
On the other hand, what everyone's worries were immediately directed to (except for Faith, Caridad, and Chao-Ahn, who had been using their Slayer skills and precision to build the most elaborate sandcastle Dawn had ever seen. and were none too happy their towering edifice of wet sand had just been toppled by the concussive force generated by the nearby impact), was the question of what, exactly, was inside said vehicle.
It was equally natural that when presented with the unexpected, one should try to assimilate what one saw into what one already knew, into paradigms already in place. "Even when we blow up the Hellmouth, it still follows us," Vi said as she jumped up from where she was sunbathing. She pulled a cover-up on over her bathing suit as she stepped closer to get a better view. "Doesn't it know the meaning of a vacation?"
Buffy had been sunbathing next to Vi, sharing a blanket, and she too jumped up--but then realized that she had untied the back of her bikini top to get a fuller tan and then scrambled embarrassedly for several seconds to get it on. Fortunately for her, Xander, Andrew, and Giles were all to fascinated by the metal ship that now sat on the beach to have noticed her unintentional indiscretion. "It doesn't seem to be the meteor-y thing that the Quellar came in," Xander observed. "It's more sci-fi."
"No," agreed Giles, "we're definitely dealing with someone technological--perhaps not occult at all."
"You mean like real aliens?" asked Andrew, taking a step back. "Like in Aliens vs. Predator
It was only a moment after that that the ship opened up, a metallic panel flipping down to form a ramp as the hull slid open. A young woman in a brown jumpsuit walked out first, a revolver (not sitting quite comfortably) in her right hand, flanked by a pretty barefoot young girl in a blue sundress who held a handgun in each hand with easy confidence. The woman let loose a string of syllables in what Dawn was reasonably sure was Mandarin Chinese. "This is going to be a"--and here the woman let loose another string of Mandarin syllables--"to fix."
"We'll manage, Captain," answered her younger companion. "We always do, like a pain on a polecat."
Three more figures stepped out onto the ramp, one male and two female. "Erm, does anyone know where we are?" asked the male. "I' pretty sure we weren't supposed to be crashing into any planets for at least another two days."
The girl in the blue dress stuck her tongue out at him. "The planet crashed into us," she insisted.
"We're on Earth-that-Was," red-headed woman--the only person in their party not armed--answered. She had glanced at the contingent of Slayers which by now had assembled around the ship. "Late twentieth- to early twenty-first-century, based on the beach fashions."
"It's 2003," answered Buffy--and added, indignantly, "this is a right-off-the-line Vera Lyn original; it'll be out of fashion by next summer."
"And how exactly did she afford that?" Dawn heard Rona prison-whisper to Shannon. It was a good question, and Dawn had to disguise her ensuing laugh with a cough. That was apparently enough to attract the attention of the barefoot girl, who began to stare at Dawn with a fascinated gaze of fear and curiosity. "Little Miss Muffet," she said in a low voice. "Fell asleep on a tuffet, and was brought tea and cakes."
Dawn could feel her heart plummet into her stomach as the girl's eyes bored into her. She hadn't heard those words in over two years. Not since Glory.
The other four members of the group all shot looks at each other. "Sorry about River," the male said at last. "My sister can be, well, a little crazy at times."A little crazy.
And crazy people could see the Key.
It would be a lie for Dawn to say, even in the private space of her own thoughts, that she had not thought of her unreal status since Glorificus' defeat. But she hadn't had
to think about it, hadn't had it thrust in her face like this; when those nagging doubts occurred, as they always did every so often, she could just push them away to the back of her mind, focus on something else (flumen, flumen, fluminis, flumini, flumine; flumina, flumina, fluminum, fluminibus, fluminibus
). She hadn't been confronted with her own unreality, not like this.
"The scarecrow got a brain," River said, "and the tin man a heart, but the Wizard couldn't send Dorothy home again."
There wasn't much that could be said to that, so it was Andrew who finally responded. "You're really from the future."
The red-headed woman nodded at the same time Giles interjected, "A
future, even if you believe them. For them to come from our own would invoke all sorts of paradoxes; the timestreams are complicated things, and out of there array of possible futures and potential pasts--"
"They're not from our future," Willow broke in. ""But they have traveled through time and space; you can tell from their auras. So their story checks out."
The last woman, the one dressed in some sort of elegant sari and who had been silent so far, offered them a gracious smile. "I'm glad to hear that," she said with warm, yet restrained, enthusiasm. "Kaylee?"
"It's not going to be easy to fix Serenity
," the captain answered, holstering her gun; the others followed her lead. "Maybe impossible without Alliance tech." She looked around. "And if we really are on Earth-that-Was, then"--more Chinese--"only knows how we're going to get back."
we get back," corrected the red-haired woman.
The captain frowned, but didn't respond. Instead, she looked at the group of Slayers. "I'm Kaylee Frye," she introduced herself to the group, "and this here behind me's Serenity
. This here's River, our pilot and second-in-command. and her brother Simon's our doctor. Saffron--that's what we call her, anyways, as she won't tell us her real name and that what we knew her as all firstlike, she's our co-pilot and hostage, sort of. And 'Nara's a Companion."
The Slayer contingent just sort of stared at each other, and it was once again Andrew who rushed in to fill the silence. "I'm Andrew, and I'm sort of a hostage too, only it's my job to chronicle the exploits of our band of Slayers of the Vampyres, and--"
"Shut up," Buffy ordered.
. . . River is baptized into a new world even as she is exorcised from the old. The old nightmares, the Reavers and the Alliance, hands of blue two by two, Miranda and her tempest, all slip away, to be replaced by ones even worse: vampires and werewolves and demons and witches, every storybook monster that once scared her, once woke her screaming and caused her to run to Simon's room for comfort, now made real.
And there is something else made real, something so old and so powerful River has no words to describe it, to give it flesh, make it real, but now it is made of sugar and spice and everything nice and there is a word to name her, a name that can speak of what she is and what she will be.
. . .
"So what do you think?" Vi asked Dawn on the walk back from the beach, as they, along with Faith and Caridad, took up the rear of the group. "Do you think they're for real?"
"I don't know," Dawn asked truthfully as they gazed up at the group of four women and Dr. Simon Tam, who walked with Buffy Giles at the front. "We did pretty much watch them fall out of the sky, And Willow says they're for real, so I guess they are. That's good enough for me." She looked up uncertainly at the girl in the blue dress, River. The thought that she could see the Key still unnerved Dawn. But it wasn't as if she could explain why she was bothered to Vi.
Unfortunately, Faith apparently caught her looking at the other girl. "Have the hots for the wacko job, D'?" she asked. "You keep on staring at her."
"She's just--" Dawn couldn't think of anyway of denying the accusation without telling the truth, "She's awfully different."
"Different with a nice rack and a tight ass, you mean."
"She doesn't--" Dawn broke off, unable to deny that River did indeed, to use Faith's idiom, have a nice rack and a tight ass, at least insomuch as Dawn could tell under the sundress. "I don't have the hots for her," she protested weakly.
. . .They are both girls, not yet women, in a state of being which is a state of becoming. A dynamic process given name, a gerund. They both yearn, desire, seek. They are incomplete, unsatisfied, unfinished. A work-in-progress.
But if there is something that the river and the dawn have in common, it is that they cannot be restrained. They come, inevitably, for they are forces of nature that cannot be controlled by Man. And at last, at the horizon, they meet, as the waters of the river reflects the light of the dawn, and if there were anyone there to see, they would be able to do naught but marvel at the beauty of God's creation.
. . .
Dawn began to strip out of her bathing suit even before she was completely inside the small motel bathroom, much less had closed the door behind her. She was uncomfortably sandy and couldn't wait to get inside the hot shower and wash it all away. She turned on the hot water, pulling the damper to route the water from the tub faucet to the shower head, and once the water was suitably warm stepped into the tub and into the spray of water, letting out a sigh of relief as the water washed over her. She picked up the bar of soap and began to scrub away the sand from the various crevices of her body.
She was just about to start on her hair when she heard the bathroom door open and shut. "I'm in here, Vi," she said as she worked the shampoo into her hair. But moments later, the shower curtain was drawn back just enough to let a naked River Tam slip into the bathtub with her. "All joy are due to thee, as souls unbodied, bodies unclothed must be, to taste whole joys," River said. Dawn vaguely recognized the words, as if the girl was quoting some Renaissance poet, Shakespeare or such.
"Done," said River. "Done waiting, done traveling, done wondering." She leaned forward and kissed Dawn.
Dawn had never kissed anyone before, if you didn't count that Halloween two years ago or those times when she and Janice would practice for boys. She certainly didn't expect her first kiss to be when she was naked, when an equally naked girl--yes, a girl--had slipped into her shower. Yet she was too taken aback to do anything but let River slip her tongue into Dawn's mouth, pull Dawn close as two hands slipped down to hold her buttocks.
After a moment Dawn came to her senses and pulled away from the other girl. "I--" she began, failing, finding herself at a loss of words. "I--"
"Yes," answered River. "You. Dawn."
Dawn stopped for a moment, staring into River's eyes. It was as if she could see her own reflection within them. "Me," she said at last, with a triumphant smile. "Dawn."
And, grinning broadly, Dawn pulled River to herself, and they kissed, the water flowing over them, and each of the girls was a real girl, with real hopes and real dreams, and the kisses they kissed were real kisses, and the love they shared was real love.
. . . And if they haven't stopped since and gotten out of that shower, then they're in there still, kissing and loving and more, like only real girls can.