Disclaimer part one.
Dawn stopped by the door. It looked like every other door she had passed on her way here. Except for the two armed guards which were eyeing her with curiosity, while pretending to be indifferent. She really didn’t look forward to talking to Ace. She didn’t know what would be worse. Going in there and seeing a stranger, who could care less who he killed in order to do his job, or her friend who was in over his head. God, what a mess! But she couldn’t just let him go to Leavenworth without talking to him first. She needed to see him. And this was her last chance. They were going to move him tomorrow. God, she was too tired for this, maybe she should just forget about it. She didn’t move, knowing already that she was going to open that door and talk to him. One last time. She just doubted that anything he could say could make this better. Make it okay. But at the same time she couldn’t just walk away and not try. Try what? God, she didn’t even know.
She straightened her shoulders, nodded to the guards, who told her that she had twenty minutes. Then one of them swiped his identity card through the small panel next to the door and typed in the security code. Dawn slowly opened the door. There were bars dividing the room in half, going from the floor to the ceiling. On the other side there was a small cot and Ace, standing up, facing her.
‘Hi.’ She looked at him for a second as the door fell shut behind her.
‘Hi, Ace.’ She answered.
‘So… are you okay?’
‘What? You mean besides the headache? Or are we talking about the near death experience?’ She couldn’t keep the sarcasm away.
‘That was harsh, Summers. Guess I deserve it, though.’
‘Yeah… God, why did you have to do this? I mean, didn’t you think?’
‘Of course I thought! It’s not something I did on a whim. Didn’t wake up one day and think, hey, how can I really screw up my life. And I’m not sorry about it. I did what needed to be done. And the information I sent on to those scientists will help protect us when the goa’uld decide to attack.’ He sighed, and sat down on the bed. ‘For what’s worth, I’m really sorry you got mixed up in this. I never meant to hurt you.’
Damn it! Why did he have to make sense? Why did he have to sound exactly like he always had? God, she knew where he was. How he decided to betray the sgc. Why. She could have done it herself, would have, if she had believed like Ace did, that the world was ending. And he did. For him it was only a matter of time before the goa’uld launched an attack on earth and destroyed humanity. He didn’t believe the protected planets treaty would safe them. That the internal power struggles of the goa’uld made a large scale attack very unlikely. But it didn’t really change things. He acted as she would have done, if she had believed that it was necessary, in order to protect the earth.
The only difference was that she had enough experience to read the situation right. To judge the amount of danger they were in. Ace didn’t. He’d never seen anything like the goa’ulds, never seen how the world looks like when it was ending. How should he have known? God, whoever had gotten to him, convinced him to sell the information, had done it just after telling him that aliens were real. Probably had some proof too. He must have been shell shocked. Probably still was. God, she just wished he had taken a minute to think.
‘Yeah, I’m sorry too. I really wish you hadn’t done it, you know?’
‘I didn’t have a choice. I know you think I’m wrong, but I really think that sharing the information, giving more than one person the chance to figure out how this alien technology works, how we can use it against the snakeheads, is the only chance we have. I couldn’t just walk away from what I believed in.’
‘I know, Ace. I just wish things had gone differently.’
Ace nodded, still seated on the bed and looking at his hands. Dawn fought the temptation to play around with the hem of her shirt. She wasn’t even angry anymore. Just really tired and sad because it had to end like this. Because Ace had just thrown his life away.
‘Are we okay? I mean, I’m not asking you to come visit me or anything, but are we…’ She interrupted him.
‘We’re okay, Ace.’ She gave him a small smile. Ace got up from his seated position on the bed and stepped up to the bars. Just looking at her. She meet his eyes and held them. He seemed older, somehow. Sombre.
‘Okay.’ He nodded, broke eye contact and turned away from her stretching out on the bed, starring up in the ceiling. Dawn sighed. She had a feeling this was the last time she was going to see him. That despite the vague idea floating around in her head about visiting him, she never would. And Ace knew. She’d seen it in his eyes. This was it, goodbye, not see you around. She looked at him a last time and slowly turned, walking to the door and knocking on it, letting the guards outside know that she was ready to leave.
She walked around in the corridors aimlessly till she decided to go to the locker room and change into her civilian clothes. Technically she wasn’t even sure if she was allowed to leave the base. Not that they didn’t believe her this time, but Hammond had probably not thought of changing that order, so she was fairly certain she was going to be stopped by the surface guards if she tried to go home. She took a shower first, standing under it and letting the hot water pelt her skin for a little longer than strictly necessary. She really wanted to get out of here. Preferably straight into bed. Fully dressed she opened the door, ready to find the nearest phone and ask for permission to go home.
O’Neill sidestepped Sam, and placed himself between her and the door to her office. She gave him a pointed look, but didn’t ask what he was doing, waiting for him to explain. She wasn’t really in the mood for games, she was still trying to wrap her head around the concept of magic, and she needed to get to work.
‘You’re not really going to write that report now, are you?’
‘Actually, sir, I am.’ She tried to walk past him into her office and her waiting computer.
‘Ah!’ Jack stopped her, waging a finger in front of her face, and she was torn between annoyance and amusement. She managed to keep her face straight. ‘Daniel, will you please tell Carter that it’s…’ he looked at his wrist watch, ‘oh… nearly 1900 on a Friday and way too late to start writing reports.’ Sam rolled her eyes and looked at Daniel who shrugged slightly. She had been walked to her office by the entire team minus Dawn. Even Teal’c was standing there. Silently looming over her doorframe and probably supporting Jack a hundred percent. She sighed.
‘Okay, what would you suggest I do?’ She couldn’t keep the small smile away.
‘How nice of you to ask. As a matter of fact I was thinking my house; Pizzas and beer. You can always write the report on Monday. Or get an early start and go in on Sunday. By the way, that wasn’t a suggestion. We just need to find Summers and we are good to go.’
‘He has a point.’ Daniel said.
‘Fine. At least I’ll have a little extra time to find some really long words for my report.’ She started walking down the hall choosing the corridor that would take them to the locker rooms.
‘That’s my girl.’ Jack said, probably grinning. After she had decided to forget about the report tonight, pizza sounded better and better. She was really starting to get hungry. And it had been a long day. She couldn’t even remember if she had eaten lunch. Probably not. She had been to busy dealing with Dawn’s tests and well, after that she had tried to work out some kind of logical explanation to fit the test results. Except there wasn’t any logical explanation. Because magic wasn’t logical. She still wanted to punch holes in that theory. Magic didn’t exist, it couldn’t. But on the other hand, magic was the only explanation that fitted the evidence. Inductive reasoning told her it had to be true. Magic. The part of her that wasn’t greatly disturbed by the fact that her logical world had just turned out to be a good deal less logical, was almost excited at the prospect. She knew she’d never come face to face with it. Not unless she counted Dawn. This dimension was still everything she had always known. There was no magic here. But the idea that it was out there. It was fascinating. She smiled.
Dawn was about to leave for the mess hall, after having consulted her watch and discovered, somewhat to her surprise that it was almost seven, when she spotted her team coming from the other direction. She waited up for them.
‘Summers, just the person we were looking for. What do say about pizza and beer at my place?’
‘Sounds great, sir, but I’m not sure I’m allowed to leave the base.’
‘Sure you are.’ Jack shrugged. Dawn waited outside with Sam as the men changed out of their military clothes and into something a bit more comfortable, and later with Daniel, Teal’c and Jack as Sam changed into civilian clothes herself. When they reached the guard post at the exit of the sgc, the guard still had his original orders not to let her pass, but a quick call to Hammond later and the guard let them all pass, wishing them a nice evening.
‘See?’ Jack asked smugly. Dawn smiled in response.
They drove to Jack’s house in two cars, his and Sam’s. Dawn knew they were probably curious about her. Probably had some questions. She would have in their place. But through the entire ride to the house the conversation had been on movies. But that might have just been because she was in a car with Teal’c and Jack. But even inside as they sat with a beer each, waiting for the pizza delivery guy to arrive, there were no hard questions. Just small talk about the latest mission sg4 had been on, and how they’d brought back some very interesting artefacts. That was until Jack was bored out of his mind and changed the subject to hockey. It was nice. Comfortable sitting there, talking about nothing. Reminded her of back home. When they’d had a really bad day. When they’d lost people. When Willow had died. That’s what they did. Just gathered around talking small talk. Never mentioning what had happened. Because it was too early.
Giving themselves a few hours of peace. And then, when the fire had almost burned out, when there was nothing left but cinders they had talked about it. The demons that had torn through a village, slaughtering people, children. Willow who hadn’t emerged from the building when it collapsed, too weak to withstand the magical onslaught of her fight with the dark witch. No Dawn had no illusions that they’d just ignore the whole, magic is real revelation, and go on as though nothing had happened. But it was nice that they could pretend even if it was just for a few hours. She smiled and leaned in, enjoying the play by play summary of a hockey game from last Friday, Jack gesturing to illustrate the movements and soon moved around the remote control and other things lying on the table in a miniature version of the game, with Teal’c asking questions whenever he didn’t understand the rules. The pizzas arrived a few minutes later and they all through dinner they kept the subjects light.
They had eaten. And Dawn could feel the mood change. Going serious as Jack took another swig of his beer.
‘So… What’s this key thing?’ He asked after a few moments of silence.
‘You can’t tell anyone.’ She said.
‘Of course not. You can trust us.’ Daniel reassured her.
‘Not even Hammond.’
‘Why? He is a good guy. He stood up for Teal’c when the NID wanted him. And he just lied for your sake.’ Jack asked.
‘Because he is a good guy. If he found out, he’d have to tell his superiors. You probably should too, but I don’t think you will. Hammond, he is a leader. He has to choose the safety of many over any single person. That’s his job. Even if there is no actual danger. Because he’d have to trust my word on that. And I don’t think he can do that. Not after I lied to him before.’
‘Okay. God, I don’t even know how to say this. First of all I’m not the key anymore. No powers, no abilities, the only leftover is the whole, I can adapt to any dimension. That’s it. The key is gone.’
‘I think we get the point, Summers.’ Jack said.
‘I hope so.’ She muttered. ‘Right, the key could open portals to any dimension.’
‘Like the one you came here through?’ Daniel asked.
‘No. That was a magically created portal. Willow, she was a witch, created the spell. A one way trip to another dimension. I haven’t been the key since I was 14. Probably half a year or so after I was created.’
‘Oh… So the key opened portals. What’s so bad about that? I mean I understand that the NID might want to get their hands on you, but you made it sound like the key had some dangerous properties that would force the general to hand you over to his superiors. If he thought that you could still use the key powers, that is.’ Daniel said.
Dawn frowned, how did she explain this. Really explain it so they understood. Saying that she could destroy all of existence sounded, well, pompous, and it didn’t exactly give a clear picture of what that really meant. And did she really want to tell them everything. She looked at them. Yeah, she did. She needed to. They had given her a lot of chances, and every time things had gone wrong it had been because she had kept secrets. She trusted them. At least she wanted to. Sometimes you had to force it, even if you didn’t quite felt it yet. Sometimes you just had to tell them. Stop playing it safe.
‘Sam? What would happen if the stargate portals could open independently from the gates themselves?’
‘That’s impossible, the wormholes are generated, in part by the naquadah in the gate. It would be impossible to generate a stable wormhole without…’
‘Just forget about the physics of it. What if it could be done? What would happen?’ Dawn asked.
‘Well, I guess, without a gate system the wormhole would shift positions both the entrance and the exit of the wormhole would jump randomly with no gate to hold it in place.’ Sam theorized after a moments silence to think over the proposal.
Dawn nodded. ‘Okay, what if everyone of those places were the wormhole had been, became a portal itself? If every time it jumped, the portal would leave a new portal?’ Dawn looked around. Sam frowned for a second and then her eyes grew large as she understood the implications. Teal’c was silent as always, keeping his mask firmly in place. In the muted light, they had turned of the ceiling light using the lamp in the corner instead, she couldn’t hope to read the minute changes in his expression. Maybe in broad daylight she would have had a chance. Daniel looked like he had grasped the main idea, and Jack was frowning too
‘The wormholes would multiply, each one straining the fabric of space. Now, with the gate system the strain is negligible. There aren’t enough wormholes open at anyone time to do real damage. But with an ever growing number? It would be a domino effect. In the end there would be no point in the universe not occupied by a wormhole opening. Everything would be destroyed. I don’t know what would happen after that. If two wormholes can exist in the same place? Or if they would just stop multiplying…’
‘Christ, kid!’ Jack looked at her.
‘How did you find out? I mean, how do you deal with something like that? God, I can’t even imagine…’ Daniel faltered.
‘Glory, a hell goddess wanted to use me to open a portal to her own dimension. She told me.’
‘Use you? How?’ Jack asked.
‘In human form the powers of the key are in the blood. She had this ritual and cut me, so my blood could open the portal. It worked, she got back to her own dimension after killing my sister and Giles and Tara… Willow, she had to stop it. She used magic to kill me, to stop the blood from flowing and the portals closed. Then she brought me back. Apparently after the key has been used it dissipates.’
‘God… that’s terrible.’ Daniel said. He looked pale, probably still having trouble with the whole concept of how much power she had actually possessed.
‘Yeah. But it’s a long time ago. And compared with everyone else back home I am lucky. I got out.’
‘Right… so back when you were a fourteen year old kid, you could basically destroy the universe. That’s… a lot of power. Jesus!’ Jack summed it up. For a moment Dawn was tempted to leave it at that. They all looked shocked. Even Teal’c was looking at her with a new kind of intensity. He hadn’t said anything, but she hadn’t expected him to. He usually kept quiet if he didn’t have anything worthwhile to say. She didn’t even know why they believed her. Why they hadn’t called Hammond. Or perhaps dr. Mackenzie to have her committed. Maybe her story was so unbelievable that they had to believe it. Because no one would be stupid enough to make up such an obvious lie. She took a deep breath. She supposed she could leave it there. She could destroy the universe and that was it. But she wanted to say it. For her own sake. Because these were most likely the only people she would ever tell. Because she couldn’t talk to Spike about it anymore. Or Anya, or Xander, or Gunn and Cordy.
‘Sam?’ She could feel the intensity change the moment she said it. Feel the focus on her once again, as everyone wondered what she was going to tell them now.
‘Yes?’ Sam frowned.
‘Those wormholes… what if they had been inter-dimensional?’
There was a sharp intake of breath from Sam as she realised the result of something like that. She tightened her hold on the beer bottle and Dawn could see her knuckles go white. Daniel was staring openly at her, frowning, she could practically see how he put all the peaces together, knew the exact moment when he reached the conclusion. Even Teal’c looked shocked for a moment before he schooled his features back into the stoic mask that she was used to seeing him with.
‘That would be bad.’ Jack mumbled faintly. Looking at his beer.
‘They would destroy everything. Not just your universe. Every universe, every dimension. All of existence… gone.’ Sam took in a deep breath of air and drank some beer. ‘If that friend of yours, Willow, if she hadn’t… killed you, we’d all be gone. Dead.’
Dawn got up to grab another beer, using it as an excuse to leave them alone for a while. Let them deal with the first shock. It wasn’t really the dead part of it. Or even the magic. It was the sheer scale. She had known for years and it still scared her. Still freaked her out, more than any demon ever had. And she had seen her fair share of demons. There was just something about the size of this, the power that was simply too large to wrap your head around. Trying it always ended up with her heart going a mile a minute, and waking up in the middle of the night with a nightmare. For the most time she simply didn’t think about it. It was easier that way. The world made sense that way.
Grabbing a couple of cold beers from the fridge, she walked back into the living room, placing them on the table, keeping one for herself.
‘So… that’s a pretty serious mind fuck.’ Jack observed.
‘Yeah. I try not to think about too much. Easier that way.’ Dawn answered. ‘You’re not going to tell Hammond, are you?’
‘Nah… You’re right, he’d report it. But, well, since you aren’t, you know, the key anymore, there’s really no point. Unless you want us to tell?’ Jack offered.
‘No! That’s fine. Secrets are good. Thank you.’
They talked for a while. Not about the key. It wasn’t needed. They knew, and for right now, they didn’t need anymore information on her life. She was certain that they’d ask questions later. About magic, and demons, and slayers. But that wouldn’t be today. Probably not in the first few weeks. She was fine with that. She leaned back and smiled to herself as she listened to the others, keeping the subject carefully away from anything magic or portal related. From time to time they’d throw her a glance. As if checking that she was really there. That she was okay. That what she had told them was real. She joined the conversation.
‘Whoa! It’s almost two in the morning!’ Sam exclaimed, surprised, after consulting her watch. ‘We should probably get home.’
‘Don’t worry about it, Carter. You can sleep here. Daniel, you can take the sofa, and Teal’c you can just do you keel’no’reem thing on the floor. You and Summers can take the guest room.’
‘Thanks sir, to be honest I wasn’t up to driving.’ Sam said, yawning. ‘I’m going to turn in.’ She walked out of the living room.
‘Yeah, I’m feeling pretty tired too, Daniel admitted and stretched out on the sofa. He had already tossed his shoes on the floor beside him. Jack left the room and returned with a blanket that he threw to Daniel who mumbled a thanks and rearranged it around his body.
‘Well, kids, I’m going to bed too. It’s the second door on the left, Summers.’ He turned and walked a way. Then stopped just as he reached the living room door. ‘And kid?’
‘Yeah?’ Dawn asked.
‘You did good. Real good. Wouldn’t wish your life on my worst enemy… well, maybe Apophis, but he deserves it… Anyway, just wanted to let you know that you did okay. Not bad at all.’ He didn’t wait for her answer but walked out the door and on to his bedroom.
Dawn smiled. She supposed she should get to bed too. She could already hear from the soft sounds of regular breaths that Daniel was out cold.
‘I concur with Col. O’Neill’s statement. I would be honoured to share stories with you in the future.’ He nodded at her from his seated position on the floor, ready to slip into the meditative state of keel’no’reem. She smiled.
‘Of course, Teal’c. Anytime.’ She promised. She looked at him. He was alien here too. But like her he had found a home with this team. She had told them everything there was to tell, and they hadn’t pushed her away. They had been shocked, of course, but they had accepted her. Just like they had accepted him. Past and everything. And it felt good, she realised. To be on a team again.
‘They’re pretty amazing people, aren’t they?’ She asked, more to herself than anyone, but still he answered.
‘Indeed, Dawn Summers.’
She smiled as she walked down the hall to find the guest room. She wasn’t naive, she was a soldier, after all. They’d probably all end up dead someday. But she could live with that risk, she had gotten used to it back home. And she knew she was a good fighter, knew she would do her utmost to keep her team safe. And for the first time since Sunnydale, she had a team that would do the same for her. People who knew the truth and accepted her anyway. Life wasn’t perfect, hell, she just had to look at Ace to know that, but it wasn’t supposed to be perfect. It was okay. She was back were she needed to be. Part of team, fighting the for something she believed in. And living again, after having just survived for so many years.
She quietly opened the door, trying not to wake Sam as she slipped into bed, falling asleep the moment her head touched the pillow.
Well, that was it. Dawn's journey from one life to another, what happens next is up to anyone's imagination. Thanks for reading and reviewing.