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Highway Summer

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Summary: In a midst of a battle gone horribly wrong the unthinkable has occurred and the walls between realities crumbled. Nothing isconstant as universes intrude upon each other. Among the survivors wandering the worlds gone mad, this changes are known as Shifts

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Multiple Crossings > Dawn-CenteredParadoqzFR13624,925022,65023 Aug 0423 Aug 04Yes

6

Disclaimers: See part 1.

***

"Are you and Spike...- " Dawn paused, unsure how to continue and felt
the traitorous, hateful blush heating her cheeks. "... involved?"

'God, what a lamer.' The self-flagellating thought was interrupted
however as the recipient of her question sprayed her coffee in a
spectacular arc around her. "What?!" Faith rasped out, coughing and
looking at Dawn as if the teenager had just grown a third eye. "No!"

"Sorry." Dawn mumbled and felt the blush deepen. 'Time to go,' she
decided firmly and made a cautious move away from the violently
coughing Slayer.

"Wait."

'Oh God.'

Faith's hands were still busy wiping the remnants of hot liquid from
her shirt, but she was not coughing anymore and the clever green-brown
eyes were speculatively narrowed, assessing Dawn. "Why? Are you like,
into him?"

She should have really expected it. That was, after all, the obvious
conclusion. Still... Man. Never a power of invisibility when you need
one. Bummer.

Faith nodded to herself. "Oh. Umm... I don't wanna butt into you
business but I don't think it's such a good ide-"

"I'm not into Spike!" Dawn scowled, annoyed out of her mortification.
"I mean, not any more. I mean, I used to be but not... I mean... wait!
Why not a good idea?"

Faith was grinning now. Dawn's scowl darkened. "I babble when I'm
upset. So what?"

"Nothin'."

Dawn sniffed and drummed a brief solo on the wagon's roof. The wood
felt hot under the summer's sun and next to Faith Ruv was napping,
growling in sleepy contentment. Below, Remy and Spike were walking
together, Jaime was pestering Saul and slightly behind them all Methos
was humming something under his breath, seemingly lost in thought.

"Well?" She glanced warily at the dark-haired Slayer. "Why not a good
idea."

Faith was silent for a second, thinking, looking for words. The reins
gripped were loosely in one hand, her left held the half-empty coffee
mug into which she was staring morosely. Finally she sighed and
snorted and gestured with her mug. ""Cuz, girl, these here..." The red
mug's arc encompassed most of the men. "Are good to walk with. Y'know?
Always there in a pinch. They've got your back and shit. That's rare
in this world."

Dawn frowned, unsure, but Faith gestured impatiently that she wasn't
finished. "Not a damn one among the lot of them arrogant pricks you
want for your honey though. Ooh, bad things that way."

Dawn swallowed and held herself to the tight calm until she was sure
her next words would come out calm and even. "That's not fair."

"Of course it isn't," Faith agreed immediately, sighed and smiled a
little sadly. "Still true tho'."

She nodded downward, lips quirking wryly. "That breed right there?
They're in love with pain and self-loathing and not a little with
themselves. Bad combination." She grinned suddenly. "Put it simply?
They're all fucked up. And Spike, love the bastard though I may, is
more messed up than most. Trust me. He and... " She patted the wolf
absently. "...Ruv found me. I walked with them for a bit 'fore we got
tribed."

She shrugged fatalistically. "He's more twisted than his Poppa Angel,
and that's saying something, believe you me. All of them are." She
shrugged again and grinned, tasting the words. "Fucked Up."

Draining the last dregs of coffee from the mug she sighed. "A pity.
But hey..." Winking at Dawn slyly, she let her pink tongue dart out
quickly. "Ain't like most of us gonna live for it to matter. And,
fucked in the head or not, makes no matter if you want to pound the
bedroll with one of them."

"Ew." Dawn shuddered demonstratively. "Gross."

"Suuure," Faith drawled out mockingly and glanced at her from beneath
long lashes, lips pursed in the knowing smirk. "Of course it is."

Methos glanced up at the sudden peal of laughter from the wagon and,
frowning, sped up his stride. The laughter, seemed to him just a
little too high pitched, even for Rory. And she was rather flushed
when he caught up to the wagon and glanced at the pair on the roof. "I
don't really want to know. Do I?"

"No!" Dawn answered firmly and her blush deepened, although she
squarely met his amused eyes with hers.

"Oh, I don't know. " Faith shrugged and gulped from her red mug,
glancing askance at the immortal. "He might find it educational."

"Shuddup," Dawn hissed. "Wench."

"What's up with them?" Jamie blinked in mild confusion as the pair
dissolved in snickers once again.

Methos shrugged. "They're bonding."

"Awww. That'sh sho schweet," Jamie lisped, and grinned into Dawn's
narrowed eyes. Secure in being safely out of her reach he batted his
eyes at her coquettishly.

"You'll get yours, Maddrox," the teenager promised frostily. "Just
wait."

"Nyah," Jamie countered eloquently and elbowed smiling Saul. "So
what's up, kemosabe? We there yet?"

"What you mean we, white man?" Saul rumbled and Faith snickered as
Jamie's jaw dropped in disbelieving and wordless shock. The surprise,
or the silence, didn't hold however and the mutant glared at the
Slayer. "You told him to say that, didn't you?"

"Maybe I did, maybe I didn't," Faith shrugged. "I can tell you one
thing though, I _really_ didn't think that frog in my bedroll was all
that funny."

"Revenge," Jamie told her with quiet conviction. "Shall be mine. Oh
yes. It shall be mine."

"You keep telling yourself that, J. Self-confidence is muy
importante."

Jamie very carefully folded his fingers into an age-old gesture and
demonstratively turned away before the Slayer could respond in kind.
Rounding on Saul instead, he demanded. "Well? If we're done with the
Amateur Comedian hour over here, can I get an answer now?"

Saul shook his head tiredly at Methos and the latter spread his arms
in silent commiseration. Jamie didn't look impressed. "Yo, Mime
Brothers. 'm still waiting."

Saul's lips twitched but he simply pointed somewhere over Jamie's
shoulder.

"We are there, dude." Faith added quietly.

Jamie glanced at her suspiciously and turned around, his lips
spreading in a grin as he spotted the stone idol watching them sternly
from the low hill. "All right!" He squinted suddenly and his grin
widened, just a fraction. "Guess what I spy with my little--"

"Remy! Spike! Oh, Dios Mio!" Dawn looked at Faith questioningly as a
gray-skinned youth seemed to appear out of nowhere and proceeded to
grasp first Gambit, then Spike, in a fervent embrace. "Hermanos! You
have no, I mean NO idea, how I missed you, guys..."

Dawn's silent query was in vain however as Faith's attention suddenly
narrowed to, with singular focus, the young Latino as the latter
continued to hug Spike.

"And if you aren't letting me go in one second you can start missing
_you_. " The vampire apparently was not quite as enthused as the
newcomer. "Hey! Skinboy! Leggo!" Spike roughly disconnected himself
and motioned with his head, "We all know who you want to grope
anyways."

'Aha.' Dawn thought smugly as Faith was suddenly not sitting beside
her at all, but on the Latino's chest and was doing things with her
tongue to his throat that were very definitely not PG 13.

'Got it,' she thought and glanced at the young mutant next to her who
had an oddly sad smile as he watched the Slayer. Feeling Dawn's eyes
on him he grinned at her, and she pretended that she accepted the
emptily cheerful expression at face value. "That's Angelo." Jamie
explained. "He's my pal. My bud. Me amigo."

From under the Slayer, his amigo grunted something and raised his fist
with thumb upturned. Jaime shrugged. "He was also trapped with the
estrogen brigade for a month, so I'm guessing he's very happy to see
us."

"Oh?"

The question was mild, gentle and deeply terrifying. Or at least that
appeared to be Jamie's assessment as he swallowed carefully and looked
pleadingly at smirking Remy. "Behind me, right?"

"'Fraid so, mon ami."

Jamie nodded fatalistically and started to turn but suddenly
brightened. "Redhead?"

"Qui."

"Which one?" Jamie appeared to be regaining most of his color as he
looked at Gambit hopefully.

The Cajun smiled spread his arms. "The bad one, pest. The bad one."

"Oh." Jamie wilted and turned around to smile weakly at the tall
redhead behind him. "Hey, Bobbie."

"James."

Jamie chuckled faintly at the even tone and looked at Dawn a little
desperately. "This is Robin. Ragged Robin, to be exact. She's the most
wonderfulest, the most kindest, the most beautifulest-"

"Oh?"

"Dammit!" Jamie hissed. "Stop that!" he demanded. glaring at the woman
Dawn actually recognized from a photo that Giles showed her once a
hundred years ago.

"Stop what?" Jenny Calendar inquired gently, brushing a piece of lint
off Jamie's shoulder, blinking in artful innocence as he recoiled.
"You were saying something? Do continue."

Behind her, Robin smiled and crossed her arms, tapping her foot in
slow. measured beat.

Methos squinted and rubbed his temple tiredly. Leaning slightly he
spoke directly into Jamie's ear, his whisper barely enough for Dawn to
catch. "Stop now, kid. Don't dig yourself any dee-"

Jamie's shoulder twitched irritably and he smiled ingratiatingly at
both women as Methos raised his hands in admitted defeat and stepped
back to stand by grinning Remy.

"Indeed, I was just saying that it is unbelievably GREAT to see you
ladies, " Jamie forged ahead, heedless of the groans behind him. "I
was soooo worried. I mean we ourselves ran into Gigglers and Gonzag,
and oh boy was I worried for... you..." He trailed off, spread his
arms and smiling winsomely. "Hug?"

"He was worried for us, Jenny."

"I heard. Isn't that something?"

"Indeed. What do you think he means by that, Jenny?"

"Oh, I don't know." Jenny looked at Jamie coolly. "He couldn't
possibly mean that he was thinking that without our capable menfolk,
us frail damsels in distress would be purely unable to cope. Could
he?"

The last question was most definitely directed at Jamie and Spike
whistled softly, blinked and took a careful step back.

Saul glanced at Maddrox interestedly with a farewell sort of look and
scratched his beard absently, black eyes intent.

"No!" Jamie protested indignantly. "Of course not." He waved airily,
dismissing the very notion. "No-no. I was only concerned that in the
absence of the glory that is me from your otherwise drab and
meaningless existence you might wither and lose the will to live. It'd
just be tragic and I'm going to go away now."

"Do." Robin suggested coolly and Jenny snickered softly as Jamie
retreated quickly down the road. "Y'know, " she said musingly,
sneaking her arm under Saul's and kissing him absently on the cheek.
"I kinda missed him. Who's the new girl?"

"Dawn." Methos introduced her. "She's actually the Slayer's sister."
He squinted and added. "The blonde's, that is."

"Oh." Jenny said and smiled at her. "Hi."

"Gonzag?" Robin asked Remy softly as the small caravan finally moved
on. Gambit shrugged easily. "It's fine, chere. We still best friends."

Spike snorted sourly and Methos glanced at the Cajun disgustedly
before pointedly addressing Robin. "If I never have to deal with that
one again, I'll die a happy man."

Robin winked at him, white teeth flashing briefly. "Hey, you never
know. One of these days Messer Gonzag might make an acquaintance with
the Jerusalem Man."

Methos grinned slowly. "I'd pay to see that. I'd even help Shannow
bury the bastard."

"I dunno." Jamie, who had quietly made his comeback, scratched his ear
and blithely ignored Robin's chilly look, while prudently positioning
himself behind Spike. "Personally, I'm hoping for the Saint of Killers
to meet him. Messier that way."

Methos's smile became almost dreamy and he sighed. "Ah. Good times
ahead, if we're lucky."

Awkwardly pulling on the reins, Dawn muttered most of the bad words
she knew, glaring briefly downward at the wagon's roof. From inside
the sounds, of things the she really did not want her mind to
elaborate on, were carrying quite clearly.

Jenny grinned at her, and in a fluid motion grabbed one of the
railings and pulled herself up to the roof. "Faith is..." She
shrugged. "Not much for waiting."

"I noticed," Dawn muttered and swore as leather cut into her skin.
"Dammit!"

"Like this." Jenny's fingers were cool but not cold as she grasped
Dawn's wrists carefully. "See? That way you can feel what... yeah,
like that."

Dawn nodded gratefully, unconsciously biting her lip in concentration
as she maneuvered Zuny.

"So." Jenny's eyes crinkled as she watched Dawn work. "You're Tara and
Willow's Dawnie?"

"You know them?" Her attention wandered and Zuny sturdily made for the
nearest puddle. "Dammit."

Jenny nodded. "Yep. They got separated same time we did. We were
actually hoping they were with you."

"Well..." Dawn glanced quickly from the reins at the black-haired
woman. "Maybe they'll be at the Gathering?"

Jenny shook her head, grimacing unhappily. "We already checked. And
there are only two days left, so..."

"Oh." Dawn fell silent, unsure of what to say but somehow the silence
didn't feel needed to be filled with words and they simply sat, under
the slowly sinking sun as the hill and the stone statue grew with
their approach.

"Big." She whispered and Jenny's eyes flicked toward hers, and then at
the looming idol. "Oh, Ozymandias? Yeah, he makes an impression
doesn't he?" Jenny smiled. "He's a good guy though."

"Huh?" Dawn said intelligently and gasped as she saw the idol's hand
move, the stylus sliding across the great stone tablet on its knees.
"Wow."

"Something." Jenny agreed but something in her voice made Dawn look
again, not sure what she was seeking. But there was nothing, only the
great stone golem, nothing until they passed it and she saw _him_.

He was dirty, was her thought. She never imagined him getting dirty.
Ever. But he was. Dirty and tired and moving with fluid exhaustion in
the shadow of the living rock. Shadow boxing on a hill, dark against
the setting sun.

And he was dirty. Sweating, tired and grim. His concentration almost
too intense.

But she had never imagined Riley dirty.

His face was asset and serious as she remembered it, the wet hair
falling across grimy forehead and sticking and he was falling. Getting
up and stepping into the dance again and falling again and doggedly
getting to his feet.

"Riley."

But there was a hand on her shoulder and Jenny's head was shaking.
"He's not tribe. Has to find his own." She followed the dark figure as
it stumbled and fell again, her eyes sad and Dawn didn't understand
but...

"Trust me, Dawnie."

She did.

***

"All right." Remy squinted at the clearing and shrugged. "Qui, not the
best but we're late so... We'll set up here." He nodded to Robin. "You
are in charge, chere. I'll be back, after I collect from the Marquis."

"Which one?" Robin asked somewhat snidely and Remy shrugged again.

"Well if de Carabas's here he owes me as well" He let his shades slide
down and glanced at Robin. "Is Ammar around?"

Jenny answered him, leaping lightly off the wagon's roof, followed by
the wolf. "Nope. Theodora was looking for them, she wanted something
with Miranda and Jehane, but I guess they didn't make it this time."

"Merde. Well... " Gambit shrugged again and disappeared out of the
torches' light, only his last words carrying back. "Bobbie, you be
good, y'hear?"

"Go away."

In the darkness Methos's voice sounded strange. "Theo is here?"

Robin nodded and motioned for Dawn to help her with the firewood.
"Actually a lot of the Conclave are. Theo," She started folding her
fingers. "Ramirez was earlier, but left. Esmeralda was rumored but I
haven't seen her. Umm..." the redhead frowned then shrugged turned
toward her gypsy friend for help. " Jenny?"

"Daddy Cool and Cass." The former computer teacher swore quietly and
looked sadly at her ripped skirt.

"Cassandra's here?"

"Yeah." Robin dipped the torch into the small pyre and eyed the
Immortal carefully. "Problem?"

"Not with me," But his lips were tight and the impenetrable, carefully
neutral look was back in his eyes, Dawn thought. Another story there.

"Good." Robin yawned hugely and snorted wryly at the muffled gasp from
inside the wagon. "I'm off to sleep. Anyone want to go to the fair
tonight?"

"Umm..." Dawn raised a hesitant hand. "If..."

"Yeah, that's fine." Robin nodded, smiling encouragingly. "Jenny will
take you."

"And me!"

The redhead stared at Jamie for a minute than shrugged. "Fine. If
it'll get you out of my hair for a couple of hours. Any other takers?
Ok." She frowned at the mutant. "If you get her into any trouble..."
she trailed off meaningfully

"Oh it'll be fine. Trust me." Jamie smacked his fist against his
chest. "I'll be good."

As the three silhouettes melted in the darkness, Robin glanced at
Spike and the vampire snorted sardonically. "Right."

***

"So, if you know what to look for you can figure out how long before
the next Shifts. And some places are very good that way so, whoever
finds them, sets up the marker and voila - the Gathering. Ozymandias
is the best there is at it. Dunno why." Jenny grinned. "Doesn't always
work of course. A while back, right in the middle... " She sniggered,
glancing at Jamie. "Remember?"

"Dude, like I could forget. And the Empress's truly awe-inspiring
tantrum after she had to spend a three months with Mickey's mob..."
Maddrox chuckled. "Classic. Ah, yeah, Theo is definitely my favorite
Elder. She's just fun." He winked at Dawn. "A bit of a bitch but don't
let that scare you. Oh, and don't call her the Empress to her face."

"Ummm..."

Jenny frowned at the mutant. "What are you talking about? She doesn't
care. Hell she loves it.'

"Does so hate it! She ripped me a new one when I... Oh."

The gypsy smirked at him. "She just doesn't like -you- calling her
that, Maddrox. In fact, I think she doesn't like you. Period."

"Shuddup."

"Hee."

"Hey!" Dawn's not-quite-shout effectively drew attention back to her
and she inquired cautiously. "Am I gonna be meeting these Elders
guys?"

Jamie nodded, frowning at her quizzically. "Likely. Why?

"Probably." Jenny agreed. "They usually mingle all around the fair.
Making deals and all that stuff." She glanced at Jamie and back at
Dawn. "Is there a problem?"

"I look like a total skank!"

"What?" Jamie looked at her blankly, taking in the jeans and the
sweater that Dawn incidentally 'borrowed' from him in the first place.
"You look fine. What the hell are you talking about?"

Dawn glared at him and he turned to Jenny for support. "Right? She
looks fine?"

He registered Jenny's non-committal silence and blinked. "WHAT?! What
am I missing?"

"A brain. " Dawn informed him sullenly and sniffed, her long nervous
fingers picking at the sweater."

"But..." Jamie looked at his own jeans in vague hope of finding an
answer and when faced with failure looked back at Dawn again. "I don't
get it."

"Quiet." Jenny said firmly and, stepping around Jamie, gripped Dawn's
shoulder lightly, grinning crookedly when the girl met her stare.
"Come with me, Dawnie. I know just the place." She pulled on Dawn's
sleeve insistently. "C'mon."

Jamie was left standing in the middle of the road looking after the
pair, frowning in puzzlement. "I still don't get it," he informed the
uncaring sky, shrugged and ran to catch up.


Three hours later, much of his natural good humor had evaporated and
the remainder was grimly considering painting its face blue and going
on a warpath through the bustling alleys of the great bazaar.

"I hate shopping." Jamie confided to a random passerby, grabbing the
latter's lapels for emphasis and a guarantee that he wouldn't run away
like the last one. "And I don't mean hate like so-so, or like I hate
Nazis or something. I loathe IT! LOATHE! WITH THE HEAT OF A THOUSAND
SUNS!"

"Yeah..." The short balding Peregrine nodded uncertainly and patted
Jamie on the shoulder. "There, there. It's going to be all right,
buddy.

"You promise?" the mutant demanded of his new friend.

"Sure," the latter replied and using the momentary lapse of his
captor's attention, deftly freed himself. ""Nice talking to you. I'll
see you later."

Jamie followed the squat figure until the latter disappeared in the
throngs of the Fair-goers. "Liar. He won't be back." Sniffing and
contemplating the general perfidy of mankind, Jamie cast another
long-suffering look toward the stall into which his companions
disappeared hours ago. "I hate you." He informed the stout door.

The door did not comment. Admitting defeat, Jamie sighed and dropped
into a cross-legged slouch under the lamp hanging off the stall's
roof. Looking glumly at the people moving briskly through the moonlit
bazaar alleys, he sighed again. "Shopping sucks."

***

"This is. So. Cool."

Jenny chuckled softly as she followed Dawn through the racks of
clothes. "Yeah. Mamma Soo keeps the best stock."

She grimaced a little. The best cost accordingly. Shrugging, she did
her best to keep up with the teenager. That's what the Fairs were for
after all. Wasting money on pretty stuff.

"Ooh! I want one!"

Jenny winced.

***

Jamie got bored easily. Very easily. And Jenny knew it too. So in
away, Maddrox reasoned, it was completely her fault that he was
dancing on a roof with a pink bath towel on his head and banging on an
old flower pot to keep the beat. Besides, his audience was
appreciative. He grinned at his dancing partner and Jubilee's teeth
flashed in a returning smirk.

Below somebody was singing the tune without which no Kurultai was
complete.

We who with songs beguile your pilgrimage
And swear that Beauty lives though lilies die,
We Poets of the proud old lineage
Who sing to find your hearts, we know not why, -
What shall we tell you?



'I hope someone down there has a camera.' Jamie chewed his lip as he
tried to keep up with the other mutant's quicksilver spins and twists.



Tales, marvelous tales
Of ships and stars and isles where good men rest,
Where nevermore the rose of sunset pales,
And winds and shadows fall towards the West:
And there the world's first huge white-bearded kings
In dim glades sleeping, murmur in their sleep,
And closer round their breasts the ivy clings,
Cutting its pathway slow and red and deep.



Technically Jubilee had him outdanced, Jamie knew, what with her fancy
gymnastics training and the having a sense of rhythm and all.



And how beguile you? Death has no repose
Warmer and deeper than the Orient sand
Which hides the beauty and bright faith of those
Who make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.
And now they wait and whiten peaceably,
Those conquerors, those poets, those so fair:
They know time comes, not only you and I,
But the whole world shall whiten, here or there;


Jamie shrugged mentally as Jubilee pirouetted gracefully along the
very edge of the roof. That was just fine he'd smother her with sheer
enthusiasm, he thought and attempted to duplicate what Angelo called
'the shimmy.'

On the bright side, he didn't fall of the roof.



When those long caravans that cross the plain
With dauntless feet and sound of silver bells
Put forth no more for glory or for gain,
Take no more solace from the palm-girt wells.
When the great markets by the sea shut fast
All that calm Sunday that goes on and on:
When even lovers find their peace at last,
And Earth is but a star, that once had shone.



The clamor below evened out now, the clapping, yelling and the singing
settling into a thrumming beat. Jubilee did some kind of a backflip
that almost gave him hernia just from watching it and grinned at him,
not even breathing hard yet. Jamie was starting to feel just a little
bit resentful about the whole thing. At least she didn't have a pink
bath towel on her head, he consoled himself.



We travel not for trafficking alone;
By hotter winds our fiery hearts are fanned:
For lust of knowing what should not be known
We take the Golden Road to Samarkand


Below the crowd grown to a rather respectable number and most of them
were singing now, taking parts and arias as the song began winding
down.



Have we not Indian carpets dark as wine,
Turbans and sashes, gowns and bows and veils,
And broideries of intricate design,
And printed hangings in enormous bales?

We have rose-candy, we have spikenard,
Mastic and terebinth and oil and spice,
And such sweet jams meticulously jarred
As God's own Prophet eats in Paradise.

And we have manuscripts in peacock styles
By Ali of Damascus; we have swords
Engraved with storks and apes and crocodiles,
And heavy beaten necklaces, for Lords.



The tempo was increasing and Jamie gaspingly attempted his level best
to keep his somewhat desperate hopping and gyrating up. 'It's time to
finish this,' he thought. 'With a bang. Have to have a bang. I need a
clever plan. And medical attention.'



We are the Pilgrims, master; we shall go
Always a little further: it may be
Beyond the last blue mountain barred with snow,
Across that angry or that glimmering sea,
White on a throne or guarded in a cave
There lives a prophet who can understand
Why men were born: but surely we are brave,
Who make the Golden Journey to Samarkand.



Jubilee whirled to a flowing graceful finish and stepped forward,
prepared to take a bow. 'Haha," Jamie thought . 'Upstage me, will
ya...'

"Jenny...." Dawn was looking up at the stall's roof.

"Yeah, Dawnie?" Jenny's eyes were fastened securely to the same spot
with a kind of horrified fascination.

"Why are there five Jamies doing the can-can on the roof, waving pink
towels at us, Jenny?"

"I don't know, Dawnie."

"I'm scared, Jenny."

"Me too, Dawnie. Me too."


***

"Was I great, or was I great?" Jamie was still waving the towel,
occasionally stopping and bowing to onlookers. Every time he did, Dawn
and Jenny quickened their step in a futile attempt to outrun the
rumors of his command performance.

"I'm also pretty sure somebody down there yelled for me to take it
off. " Jamie looked thoughtful for a minute. "I -think- he had a
beard. But I'm going to pretend it was Cindy Crawford."

"Could you get rid of the towel?" Dawn asked somewhat plaintively.

"What, are you crazy?" Jamie looked at her uncomprehendingly. "I'm
going to have it framed! They're going to be talking about this for at
least three... no four Gatherings, you'll see."

A haunted look entered Jenny's eyes.

"I think I'll get Angelo to work something out with me for the next
time. With a little time and practice..." Towel smacked Jenny in the
face as Jamie gesticulated excitedly, "The sky is the limit!"

"Next time?" Dawn said weakly.

"Costumes." Jamie was thinking aloud. "And props. The dance of the
seven veils!"

"Oh God."

"I rather second that sentiment." The quiet voice behind her made
Jenny jump, but her face relaxed into a smile as she recognized the
young guy grinning at them.

"Alec!"

Winking at her and brushing light-brown hair out of his eyes the
newcomer smirked at Jamie. "Unless, of course, by the dance of seven
veils you mean hiding your ugly mug behind all of them."

"You're just jealous of my ability to can-can." Jamie countered. "cab
you can-can? No, you can't. _I_ can can-can." He sniffed. "Jelous."

"Yeah. That must be it." Alec glanced speculatively at Dawn. "Who's
the new girl?"

"That's Dawn." Jenny supplied. "Dawn - Alec Smart. Or Smart Alec, take
your pick. Alec, stay away from her."

"You don't trust me?" Hazel eyes flickered in a wounded expression.
I'm hurt." He smiled winningly at Dawn. "They lie. I'm perfectly
harmless."

Dawn smiled back, uncertainly.

"Alec..." Jenny said, warningly.

"Fine, fine." Winking at Dawn, he gestured at Jamie and fell back a
step. Frowning, the mutant followed. Dawn's eyebrow arched. "What's
that all about?"

Jenny shook her head, a small frown flickering across her face as she
watched the two men pause just out of earshot. "I'm not sure."


"What?' Jamie demanded warily. "What's with the James Bond routine?"

"The Raynes are here, man. Watch yourself."

"Shit." His good mood fled and the young mutant restrained himself
from throwing a glance at Jenny. For the lack of a better way to
express his feelings he repeated himself. "Shit!"

"Yeah." Alec nodded. "Exactly. And... you didn't hear it from me. I
got no intentions of ending up as the most good looking corpse in the
entire Guevara kumpanie."

"Well, gee, nice to know you're all optimistic about this."

"Just one of my many loveable traits," Alec agreed. "I'm gonna jet.
Good luck with the whole... y'know.... why are you carrying a pink
towel by the way?"

"Go away. And say hello to Maxie for me, will ya?"

Alec grinned. "Wilco. Later."

"Yeah." As the gene-engineered would-be super-soldier disappeared into
the crowd, Jamie carefully schooled his features into a guileless
smile and firmly squashed the desire to jump under the nearest bench
yelling, "Dive-dive-dive!!"

"What was that all about?" Jenny's eyes sparkled with curiosity.

"Oh nothing. He just wanted to ask me to teach him how to can-can and
he wanted to do it in private 'cuz he's all embarrassed that..."

"Ey. We gotta go, the Raynes are here."

Jamie sighed and rubbed his eyes tiredly before looking at Spike. "Or
you know, why don't we break it to you gently, girls."

The vampire glanced at him oddly and turned back to Jenny. "Let's go."

Dawn frowned, unsure of what was going on but aware of the unease
lining Jamie's feeble puns, the sudden paleness of Jenny's face and
the darting wary looks Spike was throwing around.

"Let's go," the vampire repeated insistently. "This is too open, we
got to get back to our wagons." He started to reach for Jenny's hand
when suddenly his head snapped to the right. Dawn followed the motion
just in time to see a silver flash blurring through the air, she felt
more than saw Spike shoving Jenny behind himself and then suddenly
grunting and recoiling as if from a punch.

Jamie swore softly and Jenny gasped and blood blossomed, looking
crimson and unnaturally bright in the torchlight and on the undead
skin and only then she saw the knife imbedded in Spike's throat. The
blood gushed quickly, in a hideous flood, and the vampire sank to his
knees, his face a pallid rictus of fury. He tried to say something,
tried to get up again, his fingers scrabbling on the bone handle, but
even a vampire could not ignore the torn jugular. Even as his brain
shut down, he continued to glare rage and hate at the approaching
figure.

"Oh," Jamie said softly and moved to meet the man coming towards them,
"Words cannot describe how much I don't want to do this."

Dawn, steeling her hands from shaking, did not look up as she grasped
hold of the dagger and pulled. 'Of all the nights to take off the
ring,' she thought dully.

The fountaining blood, freed by the withdrawn blade, splattered across
her face and she gasped, recoiling despite herself. And, accidentally
looking up, froze at the sight of the familiar face. "Giles."

"Hello, Ripper," And Jenny's voice was cold, cold. "Enjoying the
Fair?"

"Witch." The voice was his, the familiar British accent. It was Giles.
No glasses, younger and way too much leather and he seemed to be
awfully good with the knife weaving through his fingers for her peece
of mind but it was Giles!

"Hey." Jamie's voice was loud and cheerful and fake as he spread his
arms in a comradely greeting, carefully positioning himself in Giles's
way. "What's up, Ripper, old buddy, old pal. Say, we got some new
stuff you might like. All sorts of old dusty books with all sorts of
perverted rituals in them. What do you say we go and bring some for
you, huh?"

Giles... Ripper... didn't even stop as his casually brutal shove sent
Jamie sprawling. His eyes were still on Jenny. "You had your fun. Your
little 'vacation.' Time to come back to the fold, Jenny."

Dawn blinked, absently wiping the blood out of her eyes with the back
of her hand. "Giles?" she asked uncertainly.

His eyes flickered to her, and something within her went dead at his
flat, disinterested look and the total lack of recognition before he
turned his attention back to Jenny. "Let's go."

"I think not."


'His accent got more French again,' Dawn thought absently as Jamie
sagged gratefully back to the ground. "Thank God."

A tiny flare and the small spark before he stepped out of the small
crowd of onlookers. No coat and staff extended and at the ready,
mocking tone and small twisted smile. "Ripper. Don't you know that a
no means no?"

"Must've skipped that school day." The man with Giles's face sneered
and the knife spun in a silver circle. "She's mine, Cajun. She belongs
to me. So bugger off."

"She changed kumpanies of her own free will, English. Witnesses and
oaths. You got no claim here."

"I say I do. She belongs to me."

Jenny looked beyond the two circling men, her eyes fastening on the
third sitting in an easy crouch and watching with a grin. "You want to
pull your boy back in line, Ethan?"

He smiled, an easy almost friendly expression as he spreads his arms.
"Ey, I'm just here to watch. Sorry, Jen."

A pause, and then a fury of motion. The fight was brief and violent, a
thing of shadows in the unsteady light. Both men fighting more by feel
then sight. Lunges and dancing ripostes, the glint of the dagger, the
whistling scream of the staff cutting air, heavy breathing and grunts,
the sounds of flesh hitting flesh, the dull thud of a blow connecting
and a body falling heavily on the sand.

Gambit stepped back, the staff balanced across his shoulders, the
white of his shirt split across the chest and the blood welling
quickly. His tongue darted out to run over the split lip but his eyes
were very clear and hard as he stared at Ethan Rayne. "This ends it,
or I will see it finished before the Conclave."

"Hm." The British sorcerer smiled thinly, still squatting easily next
to a shop's wall. "You lost all your sense of fun ever since you
became a captain, Remy. Honestly."

"Don't push me, Rayne."

Nothing had changed and the same easy grin was still playing across
Ethan's lips, but the night seemed to have suddenly got darker and
Dawn shivered as Remy's eyes locked with those of the Englishman.

"Don't threaten me, LeBeau. I don't like it."

"Enough." Jenny's voice cut though the dim background noise of the
muttering spectators and Dawn could have sworn that for a brief second
as she stared at Rayne, the gypsy's eyes went pupiless and black.
"Take him and go, Ethan. And tell him that next time, he'll have to
deal with me." The torches' light illuminated Jenny's face and her
eyes were normal, but there was nothing pleasant about her expression.
"And unlike Remy, I don't fight fair or give warnings."

"Oooh." Rayne laughed out. "You are so pretty when you're mad, Jen. I
can see why Rupert can't let it go. Your vampire is stirring by the
way." He got up lithely, pushing his way through to Giles's prone
body.

"Good bye, Ethan." Jenny's voice was cold and then they were walking
away.

***

They stand in a small dark room. It's warm outside. It's summer. They
used to do it in the middle of the Fair, Jamie told her, until people
started asking for the mark to be made in weird and occasionally
obscene places. She giggled, when he told her because it was morning
then and the sun was shining and she still had an entire day before
she had to be here.

They introduced her to so many people and she forgot most of the names
five minutes after and they told her stories about the Oasis where
Shifts don't come, and the Forever Express that runs through every
universe, and the first Peregrinus, and right now she can't remember
much of anything that happened since she woke up. Only Remy balancing
himself on the edge of the wagon's roof and spreading his arms to
greet the rising sun. "It is the end of summer!" His coat flying in
the wind like Don Quixote's cape and the crowd exploding and Chuck
Berry being blasted on the boombox and Methos smiling, clever eyes
crinkling in a moment of an unguarded rest as he watches laughing
Gambit. "I knew there was a reason he's a captain."


Oh God, the knife. Shallow cuts. Hell opening beneath her. But that
was before. Not here. She's not the sacrifice for a Hellgod here. And
it will only be one cut.


"Giles and that Ethan guy?! Ewww!"

Jenny's face uncertain as she glances at Remy and back at her. "I
thought you were ok with ... I mean Tara and Willow... and you knew
right?"

"Not because they're gay! Because he's Giles! Ew! Oh, eww!"

She wished Saul was here doing this. Or Jamie. Anyone she knows
really. But they are not and it's just her, the stern woman and the
knife in the dark and tiny room.

There won't be a scar if she doesn't want it, Remy told her. And
something else, a lot of words but she wasn't listening by then,
because it was time to go in. And now it _is_ time and she almost
screams as the knife whips out, snake-fast hungry and familiar and...

... it hurts but...

...the blood falling slowly and sliding just like then, and...

...the heavy drop hits slowly and heavily and splatters across the
crude ceramic bowl...

...and...

...she's not alone and...

... The woman's wise, merciless, kind face, so much like Saul, black
eyes boring into her.

"In the world gone mad, when everything else is but a dream and gone
tomorrow, when all else crumbles, where can we place out love but the
people. Blood endures. We are one blood you and I. We are tribe."

...oh... oh wow...


***

The last evening was subdued. Robin brushing Jenny's hair. Faith and
Angelo sitting quietly, fingers entwined. Saul and Ruv stretched out
by the wheels, silent and as if guarding the slouching Jamie, staring
sightlessly into the night. Half listening, half-not to the soft
voices over the fire.

And it felt right and the memories of the Blood Bonding were receding
and she felt sleep claim her. It was the end of summer and tomorrow
they would be off again. Walking across the forever highways. Walking.

It was a hot, humid night, the last night of the fair. The wagons in a
circle, fire throwing sparks in the blue-black air, Spike reclining
with Dawn blinking sleepily on the crook of his arm, his other hand
absently walking through her hair, as he watched with unseeing eyes
Methos and Remy argue over predestination.


Home.

The End

You have reached the end of "Highway Summer". This story is complete.

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