Chapter One: Waking Up
A Price to Pay
Chapter One: Waking Up
Disclaimer: I don’t own Buffy or Lord of the Rings
It was cold. That was the first thing Dawn noticed, the second was that she ached all over. It felt like her very bones and muscles had been shifted around on her. Not the kind of pain that was incapacitating but the kind that did take days and weeks to fade completely. The third thing she noticed was that she was lying on the ground, she twitched her fingers. Yep, that was the ground, the frozen ground. Why was the ground frozen? She wondered.
“Dawnie, are you awake?”
That would be Xander. Oh, that was okay then, if Xander was here everything had to be fine. Dawn tried to rein in her scattered thoughts. What was she doing before she was lying on the ground?
“Dawn, are you okay?”
Oh right, Xander was worried. Xander would want to know she was okay. How was she going to do that? Carefully she shifted trying to ease some of the discomfort on her chest and summon up enough breath to talk.
“Xan…” she cough to clear her throat, which was raw and sore, just like the rest of her body, “Xander…” she managed to force out.
“I’m here, can you move yet?”
Dawn thought about that and taking a deep breath tried to summon the energy to roll onto her side. She thought her body might have twitched a little before she ran out of strength.
“I’ll take that as a no then,” Xander said with an ironic chuckle.
“What…what…happened?” she managed to breathe out.
“The Spell worked, Willow managed to get us an audience with a representative of the Powers,”
Dawn crinkled her brow, oh that hurt, trying to remember more than a flash of white light and the faint smell of burning sugar.
“Future Guy?” she guessed her voice coming more smoothly now.
“One and the same, and after telling us all about what he knew that we would say he offered you a deal from the Powers,” Xander prompted.
“Oh, what was it?” Dawn asked weakly.
“Okay, back a step then,” Xander muttered to himself, “Do you remember the Ritual?”
“Ugh,” Dawn thought about it, “Yeah, um Willow was going to summon the Powers to hear my request right?”
“Right, what was your request?” he quizzed.
“Danny, I wanted to get the Key taken out because of Danny!” she exclaimed wincing when that irritated all of her aches and pains.
“Correct, another A plus for the Dawn-Meister,” Xander said sadly.
“Right,” Dawn continued excitedly, “You wanted to be there too so we met with Future Guy on the Astral Plane, he said some annoying stuff about how because the Powers were all seeing and all knowing and we should all kiss their ethereal asses that he already knew what I was going to ask. He had an official contract drawn up. I could release the power of the Key back into the ether and be given a soul of my own if I agreed to help kick evil ass in a dimension far, far away,”
“Good, so then what happened?” Xander prompted.
“You said…you said you’d go with me to protect me! Yeah, and then Future Guy was saying that you couldn’t fight the evil for me I had to do my own fair share of evil fighting or I wouldn’t get my soul and I could kiss my sentience goodbye,”
“That’s right; now near as I can tell by what I’ve seen since I woke up yesterday is the Powers worked some major mojo on our bodies. That’s why you took so long to wake up by the way and why you feel so weak. We’re in the middle of a forest, a genuine one not some cookie cutter nature park either, so I’m guessing this is a medieval dimension,” Xander told her.
“Well that’s not so bad; we use mostly middle age weapons anyway. What time is it?”
“Early in the morning, pre-dawn,” he said with a little chuckle.
“Very funny,” she said sarcastically, gingerly opening her dry, crusty eyes.
As promised it was very dark and Xander’s silhouette was blocking the annoying cheery glow that sent little pinpricks of pain shooting through her skull…for the most part. Dawn sighed in relief at the relatively painless motion.
“There now you’re half-way to walking,” Xander encouraged.
“It gets better Dawnie, I promise,” he said sympathetically stroking a bit of hair away from her face.
“You said the Powers worked some major magic on our bodies and that’s what’s making me so sore…Xander what did they do?”
“I was hoping you’d forgotten about that,”
“Xander, what did they do? Tell me right now or so help me god I will rip off your earlobes!” Dawn growled.
“It’s nothing bad per se, you’re just not going to like it,” Xander told her.
“Alexander Lavelle Harris, stop stalling and tell me what those bastards did to me RIGHT NOW!” she demanded growing steadily louder.
“Alright, alright, stop the yelling do you want to bring some unknown demon down on us when we have no strength and no weapons?” he hissed clapping a hand over her mouth gently to stop her tirade.
“Sorry, I forgot,” she muttered sheepishly.
“S’alright Dawnie, it’s been a stressful couple of days,” Xander sighed.
There was a long pause as he gathered his thoughts and began.
“Well I don’t pretend to know for sure why…I’ve got a few guesses…but in any case, it looks like we’ve been de-aged about thirteen years,”
Xander tensed braced for an ear shattering screech, but Dawn, having heeded his earlier warning, put a restraining hand over her own mouth.
Once she had calmed down enough she let her forearm flop uselessly back to her side.
“Why would they do that?” she asked her voice quavering with suppressed anger.
“My best guess is because our bodies are now young, strong, and undamaged,” Xander said sheepishly.
“They don’t think that sending a twelve year old girl to fight demons is pushing it just a little,” she snarled sarcastically.
“My guess would be no, look at how young the Slayers are after all,” Xander pointed out reasonably.
“But I’m petite!” she growled annoyed, “And what kind of demon is going to take me seriously?”
“You’re about the same size as Buffy, and I’ll admit you don’t have the advantage of Slayer strength backing you up, but with a little training we can make up for that with speed and skill. Plus all the baddies will underestimate you; you’ll have the advantage of surprise. Besides if you need muscle that’s what I’m here for, just hand me a battle axe and give me a month or so to firm up this body and you can call me Mr. Intimidation,” he said trying to be reassuring.
“So these are literally the bodies we had when we were younger?” Dawn asked.
“Yep, down to the too many Twinkies and lack of any real exercise,” Xander commiserated seeing where Dawn was going with that train of thought.
“Oh god, that means we’ve got none of our muscle memory,” she moaned.
“Yep, hard, painful days await,”
“Why did I agree to this again?”
“Your husband divorced you and locked you in a mental ward for a week because every time you got a paper cut you opened a tiny dimensional portal,”
“Right, why did I decide college and a normal life were good plans?”
“You were tired of Buffy and Willow interfering in your training, you didn’t want to be a target, a goo demon kidnapped you and you were almost made a Queen of Ooze…again, you wanted to be able to leave the house on Tuesdays, take your pick,” Xander listed.
“Right…in my defense it seemed like a good idea at the time,”
“It always does,” Xander nodded sagely, “Which is why when Buffy told me you’d gone AWOL I hopped the first camel out of Egypt and moved to Texas with Brigit and Sola,”
“I still can’t believe you were stalking me all that time,” Dawn scowled.
“Just because you want to induce a case of Sunnydale Syndrome doesn’t mean the rest of us lose our minds,” Xander scolded, “And you’ll note that before Buffy got her cancer she left you be trusting us to keep you safe discretely, she at least knew what it was like to want a normal life and she did everything she could to give you one,”
“Yeah,” Dawn muttered tears coming to her eyes at the thought of her sister.
Buffy had been dying of the same cancer that got their mom when Dawn married Danny Cowley. She’d wanted to spend more time together but Dawn was always too busy for her with work and trying to find a house. She’d had no idea Buffy was even sick until Xander had come to get her explaining that Buffy was bedridden after a cancer induced seizure had left her paraplegic. She’d lived for another three months in a wheelchair and Dawn had been with her for every second of it but…the guilt was still there, for not being there and spending time with her sister while they still had it.
“I’m sorry, Dawn, I shouldn’t have said that, you know Buffy didn’t blame you…”
“I know, and don’t be sorry, you’re right of course,” Dawn said blinking to clear her eyes.
Self-pity never got anyone anywhere. The only thing she could do was to live her life in honor of her sister’s memory.
“She’s watching over us Dawnie,”
“You think so?”
“Do you think she would settle for anything less? She would badger and beat up whoever’s in charge up there, until they let her, hang the rules,”
Dawn laughed a bit at the mental image of Buffy twisting the arm of some poor stodgy old angel in his white robe with his halo all askew.
“Yeah, that sounds like Buffy,”
“Get some sleep Dawnie,” Xander ordered.
Reserves exhausted by the emotional conversation Dawn muttered something that might have been goodnight and went limply and blissfully back to sleep safe in knowledge that Xander and Buffy, wherever she was now, were looking out for her.
Author's Note: Like it? Hate it? Please review, constructive criticism is always appreciated and taken into consideration. Also even though I'm going to spend a few chapters setting things up and let the story flow from there, eventually the story will have romance in it (just cause I'm a romantic at heart) so suggestions as to pairings are very welcome.