DISCLAIMER: Due to the slightly off chance that Joss or a legal suit type person may read this and in their anger, sue, I will say that this little piece of work is for fun. The characters contained below belong to Joss, ME production, and others that I don't know. The Chinese from this story is taken from the book, Finding Serenity.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is a repost of the story, O,Zhe Zhen Shi Ge Kuai Le De Jin-Zhan, from IKOLY. It is re-edited and the ending has been altered. Heart felt to thanks to the following: Didge, Valyssia, Dennis, Jay, and Thumper. They all contributed in some way and the story would have sucked lots without them. Read and enjoy. Feedback: Good, bad, whatever...I like...so leave it on here or email if you feel the urge.
FEEDBACK: To whedonistic.tendencies[at]gmail.com
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Happy Development
By Whedonist


Chapter 1- O,Zhe Zhen Shi Ge Kuai Le De Jin-Zhan

"Heya Buff, we had a big bang out by the lake," Xander's voice rang out through the intercom. "You want me to send a team or do you want to check it out yourself?"

Buffy was in her room with a bottle of coral pink nail polish in one hand and her right little toe in the other. "How big, Xand?"

"Big enough that we have to intercept the cops en route."

Buffy sighed and capped the polish in her hands. "Great, at least my tootsies are done."

"What?" Xander asked confused.

"Nothing, I can check it out. Hey is Wills back? Maybe she can go with."

Just then a knock at the door was followed by the door opening to reveal the redhead in question smiling over at Buffy. "Hey there nail polish girl, Dawn just let me know. Come on we'll go check it out, slay if needed, then mochas"

"You buyin'?" Buffy queried, putting the nail polish down on her dresser and finding a pair of socks for her feet.

Willow walked all the way into the room and sat on the bed swinging her feet. "No, but Xander is. He lost a bet and this is his payment."

Buffy smiled and slipped her feet into some boots. "All the better." She picked up her standard issue weapons: stake and holy water, and went for the door. "Come on slow poke. I've got a peppermint mocha with my name on it."

Willow let out a breath dripping with playful exasperation, "Yes, General Summers, whatever you say."

"That's General Goddess Summers to you, General of the Witch-Fu Rosenberg."

"If we're that, what's Xander?" Willow asked mischievously.

"He's," Buffy stopped and put a serious face on. "He's General of the Moon Pies Harris."

Willow rolled her eyes. "I'm sure the title will please him."

"It better!"

The two women continued down the hall, chuckling as they went. They picked up a truck at the garage and made their way out into the night. It was fall and Cleveland was absolutely beautiful this time of year. The leaves were changing color and although it was night Buffy could easily discern the difference. She absolutely loved Cleveland in the fall. The winter sucked, but she felt it was worth the price to see the autumn colors. While Willow was driving out to the lake shore Buffy let her mind wander a bit. It was September, nothing major going on, and 2007 had shaped up to be a really great year. She noticed though that after Sunnydale, all the years just seemed to get better. Things were routine and she could plan her life months in advance. That took getting used to, but once it was established that Buffy could plan and plan well, she did it all the time. She was currently working on a 6 month outline of her life and even though she felt 6 months was stretching it, she took the advice of Faith: 'Go big or go home.'

When they reached the lake Willow pulled the truck to the curb and followed Buffy down a path to the shore.

"I don't see why I couldn't drive."

Willow raised an eyebrow in response and nothing more.

"What? My driving has improved! And, and we could have gotten here quicker!"

"You mean to say we could have gotten here so much deader."

"Is that even a word? Deader? Come on, Wills"

"You're one to talk Buffy."

The blonde's lips formed a tight line and she shut up the rest of the way to the lake side. They were both plugged in to the command center and turned on their COM links.

"This is Wicca 1 and Slayer 1 checking in. Over." Willow's voice hushed as they made their way to the lake side.

"Roger that you two," came Xander's voice through the earpiece. "It seems like the big boom is over in the Southeast corner. No visuals, just a lot of electro static feedback. Proceed with caution. Over."

Buffy just rolled her eyes at the army speak. She wasn't happy at the similarities between their way of doing things post-Sunnydale and what she went through with the Initiative. Willow noticed Buffy's annoyance and stuck her tongue out at the blonde. They moved quickly towards their destination, but stopped about 100 yards out when they saw the source of the big boom. On the shore stood what could only be described as a space ship. Mouths hung open, flies got in, it was not pretty.

The witch motioned for Buffy to turn off her COM Link and found her voice in the process, whispering, "Buff, now I know in the past 10 years you and I have seen loads of stuff. Probably more stuff than we should have. So I am going to ask this very slowly and seriously: Is that a spaceship?"

Buffy could only nod at her friend's question. The slayer rubbed at her eyes, blinked, then rubbed her eyes again. The one girl in all the world who's stopped more apocalypti than anyone should have to, the girl who's died twice and come back for more, and coincidently the one girl in all the world who used to have a taste for the undead of the male persuasion was so awestruck at the sight before her that she was only able to grunt in response.

Willow grabbed her friend's hand and pulled her along. They approached slowly using any available cover and as they got closer saw a group of people standing in front of the ship talking. Willow took in the sight of the people in the group. There was the leader, or at least what she assumed to be the leader, he was standing in the center wearing black boots, brown pants and a long brown coat waving his arms about. There was a dark skinned girl as tall as Willow dressed similarly to the man, but she had on a leather vest instead of the coat and her hair was braided down the back. There were two other men with them; one was kinda dirty looking. Big gorilla with a gun popped into Willow's mind as she took him in. The other man had on slacks and a button down shirt, well kept and very neat. Along with this group were three girls. The first Willow took notice of was the one the leader was yelling at, she was wearing what appeared to be mechanics overalls and she had black smudges covering her body. The next girl was in a flowing off white dress and combat boots. The third woman, yes definitely a woman not a girl Willow thought, was dressed in what looked like a sari and sandals. Willow shook her head at the oddity of the group standing before her. She motioned to Buffy and they moved closer to eavesdrop on the conversation.

"What in the sphincter of hell are you playing at, Kaylee!?" Mal had given up on all pretense of being cool and calm. His wonderful Boat boat, his home was currently unable to fly and his crew was stranded on God knows what rock with God knows who around. He clasped his hands behind his head and continued to pace back and forth.

"Capt'n I'm tellin' you, I don't know what happened." Kaylee was clearly upset and she was unable to keep up the bravado any longer. Tears spilt over and created tracks down her grease and grime smudged cheeks.

River watched the scene play out and decided that she'd had enough. "Navigations are secure, nowhere we are and nowhere we'll stay as this continues." She slipped her arm around Kaylee's waist and led her away from Mal.

Mal turned to Zoë and asked, "Do we have any power?"

"Yes, but it won't do much good if she can't fly. We've got some electrical, but no power from the engine. It looks like the converter got fried on entry."

Simon stepped up and tried to add some sense to the situation the crew found themselves in, "Mal, perhaps we should find some of the local inhabitants, it would be prudent to see if we are in friendly territory."

"Doc's got a point Mal. We could talk to the locals and find us some supplies," Jayne said, spitting out the lugee that had been lodged in his throat.

"Liou coe shway dug biao-tze duh bun ur-tze. Fine, but only Zoë and I are going. I don't want anything happening to you guys while we're gone, getting into that kinda bind is never something I feel like dealing with. River, Kaylee, you guys try and figure out what in the tyen shiao duh is going on here. Dong ma?"

The girls nodded and continued to look around. Without saying anything, Zoë drew her weapon and pointed it to an outcropping of rocks 10 feet to their right. Mal and Jayne quickly followed suit and pointed their weapons in that general direction.

"It'd be a might good idea of whoever's out that way to show themselves, 'fore my first mate gets trigger happy," Mal hollered.

Willow and Buffy exchanged a glance appearing to come to a decision. Buffy made the first move and stepped out from their hiding place with her arms raised. Willow followed, half hiding behind the slayer with her arms in a similar position.

Mal didn't notice any weaponry and holstered his gun, motioning the other two to do the same. He tried to give the two girls before him a winning smile, but by the looks on their faces failed miserably. "Good evening, ladies. Sorry about that. You can't be too trusting sometimes and it seems like now is one of them times."

Buffy and Willow both nodded and lowered their hands.

"You two wouldn't mind tellin' me where me and my crew've landed would you?"

"Cleveland," Buffy answered.

"Huh? Come again?" Mal asked, clearly confused.

"Cleveland, Ohio," Buffy tried again, speaking slower.

Simon stepped up and asked for clarification, "What planet are we on?"

Buffy looked at the 7 people and shrugged giving up, "Willow, you want to take this one?"

Willow smiled. "Uh, you guys landed on Earth. You are in Cleveland, Ohio. Ohio is a state in America."

She hoped she was being clear enough but by the looks on the visitor's faces she knew that was clearly not the answer they were expecting.

Zoë and Mal both hissed out, "Taikong suoyou de zingqiu saijin wo de pigu!"

"Mal, I think the redhead's kinda squirrelly, maybe we should just shoot 'em and find some people that are gonna talk sense," Jayne said eyeballing the two girls standing there.

"Bi zui! Jayne, don't make me shut your mouth up for you. River! Get back on the navsat and see if there's anything at all comin' up. Move girlie," Mal barked the order out and River ran off.

"Uh, you guys wouldn't like to keep this in English please. We don't speak whatever it is that you're speaking," Buffy asked, annoyed.

The crew of the ship just looked at Buffy as if she was simple. River came running out of the ship a few moments later and whispered in Mal's ear.

"Well now, zhen shi ge kuai le de jin zhan. River, talk crazy speak to these two please?"

River stepped up to the two strangers and smiled. "What year is it?"

"2007," Willow said.

"Oh, existing is going to continue to be a problem then." River turned and walked back to her brother.

Buffy was fed up with all the weird talk and stepped into Mal's space. She'd eyeballed him for the leader and was glad when her estimation wasn't wrong.

"Look, I don't know where you guys are from, but me and my friend will be more than willing to help out if one of you would explain to me what in the hell is going on." Buffy placed her hands on her hips and waited on a response.

"Look little girl…" Mal started.

"Little?" Buffy grew angrier than she was only a few moments ago.

"Gorram it, will you let me finish."

"Insulting me isn't getting you anywhere faster."

"Okay there, hot pants, as I was saying, me and my crew here were being chased by some Alliance ships and flew into a black hole. Next thing I know, we lose control and land on this rock. So let me wrap my head around this a moment. We are on Earth That Was and it's the year 2007?"

"The time is about right, but Earth That WAS?"

"Tama de!" Mal threw his hands up in the air.


Chapter 2 - Einstein Was Right-Chapter

Introductions were made all around with both the blonde and the redhead snickering when Jayne was introduced. It was a common twist of fate the two had grown used to, after all, the slayer was named Buffy. Cussing, Mal led everyone, including Buffy and Willow, into the cargo area of Serenity. Of all the things that had happened, of all the weirdness that was his life; he could not wrap his head around being thrown back in time and crashing on Earth That Was.

He took a look at the two girls from this time and noticed the wonder with which they not only climbed aboard, but also took in his home. He had a hard time not trusting them. Both girls had a look about them that made him jumpier than a cat in a dog pound but that set him at ease because that look, he knew, was one that was often found on himself and Zoë.

Buffy stood, hands on hips looking at her surroundings. She smiled at Willow. "Xander should be here for this."

"He would definitely flip out. This is just wow!"

"Capt'n," Kaylee called from the stairs. "Can I see you a moment?"

Mal looked up and nodded. "Tell me you've good news little Kaylee?" Mal asked after meeting her up near the engine room.

She shrugged. "It's not so bad. The core containment is cracked, but it's not like I can't fix it. The trouble is the stuff I need we may not be able to get." Kaylee looked down at her feet and said, "The other thing is, I found the major problem."

She glanced back up cautiously meeting Mal's intense gaze. "I ran a better check of the wiring. Seems it got partially fried. I've run tests and it may be that the electrical storm we passed through after coming out of the hole fried parts of the converter and some secondary circuits."

"So how long, 'fore we get runnin' again?" Mal asked, hopefully.

"Don't rightly know. If we can get the materials, it may only be a day or two, but even when we get Serenity airborne again, how are we gonna get home?"

Mal saw the fear in his mechanics eyes and shrugged. "I don't yet know, but maybe our new friends might be able to do somethin' for us. Good work sweetheart." Mal turned and walked back down to the cargo bay.

"Alright, everyone gather up. Kaylee said that she needs some stuff to fix the boat up with, but the bigger problem is how we get to our own time." Mal turned to River. "Nyen ching-duh you think you might be able to figure something out?"

River shrugged and went back to peering at the two new people and holding on to her brother's hand.

"Okay, then, while Kaylee gets a list of supplies in order I suggest we all just get some shut eye." Mal turned to the two new girls and asked, "Where do you two call home?"

"A school about 10 minutes from here," Buffy answered. "What are you guys planning to do with your ship?"

"Can't we just park it here?" Mal asked.

"Sure if you want the government to confiscate it and then turn you and your friends into a bunch of lab rats," Buffy said.

"Not on my list of things to do. You got a plan?" Mal eyed the little blonde one up; sure that she had something up her sleeve.

"Will." Buffy turned a thoughtful gaze to her friend. "What do you think? Can we get this thing moved to a storage facility close to the school?"

"How? It's not like we came equipped with space ship moving paraphernalia?"

"How about a truck, like one of those big flatbed thingy's that haul stuff?" Buffy asked, knowing what the answer was going to be.

"Nope, I think the best thing to do would be to take everyone back to HQ. They can stay there." Willow looked at the assembled group and knew that if they doubled up the school would have enough rooms.

"And the big hunk of metal out in the open?"

Willow shrugged, "I think maybe I can come up with something to cover it up. A spell or two that will ward anyone away from coming within 100 yards of the place, they crashed in an area not really visited that much this time of year."

"And what if we get curious people?"

"We can set up a perimeter and have two slayers patrol around the clock."

Buffy smiled and slung her arm over Willow's shoulder. "Did I ever tell you I like the way you think?"

"No, in fact last week you were cursing my name."

"That's 'cuz you weren't being all agreey with me." Buffy smiled wide and only received an upturned eyebrow in appreciation of her attempt at humor. Buffy looked at the rest of the people and said, "I would pack some clothes. You guys can stay with us."

"Why can't we stay on the ship?" It was the first time Inara had spoken in all of this and the question had taken Buffy and Willow off guard.

The redhead and slayer exchanged a look. "Because it's not safe," Buffy answered. "The ship will be fine, but you guys won't be safe here."

Mal had gone off to get Kaylee, so Zoë stepped up and said, "Inara, this isn't our world. I suggest we do what the blonde one says."

Inara only nodded and went to her shuttle to collect some clothes. Jayne just stood around while everyone left to pack a bag.

"What?" the man asked, as he noticed both Willow and Buffy looking at him expectantly.

"Nothing, but aren't you going to ya know go pack?" Willow asked.

"Whadda I need to do that for? I've got a few guns on me and I just put these clothes on yesterday."

Willow had to turn around to keep from laughing while she pinched her friend's arm so that she wouldn't comment. As Willow regained control, Mal appeared followed closely by River, Kaylee, and Simon. Zoë showed up shortly after and Inara came a few minutes later.

"Is everyone ready?" Buffy asked.

"Let's move," Mal hollered. "Kaylee shut the bay doors and meet us outside."

They walked through the cargo bay and waited as Kaylee followed Mal's instructions. She came out a second or two after the door shut and joined Simon.

"You need anything for the hocus pocus?" Buffy inquired.

"Nah, just give me a few minutes, it's a big ship." Willow turned back to the ship and began muttering in Latin.

As she continued the incantation, the ship began to fade from view. Five minutes later and with more sweat than Willow remembered ever having produced; the ship was not only warded, but completely invisible. She turned smiling to Buffy. "One invisible ship for you, General. Would you like fries with that?"

Buffy just stuck her tongue out at the witch.

"Whatdya do with my boat girl?" Mal asked eyes wide with shock.

Willow shrugged. "Nothing, it's fine, you just can't see it. We can't have people knowing it's here. Even on a hellmouth, this thing would draw a lot of attention."

"What?" Three voices asked in unison.

Willow wasn't sure who said what so she supplied a general answer, "The ship would cause too much attention. I bent the light around the ship to make it appear like nothing was there. It's fine. Trust me."

"Oh," Mal let out. He approached the area of where he thought the ship was cautiously. He took a shaking hand and pressed it against the cool metal of the now invisible Serenity. "It's all here?"

"Yep," Willow confirmed.

"Alright then, as long as it stays that way everything's shiny."

Buffy had grown increasingly nervous standing out here in the open. As inactive as this hellmouth was there were still beasties roaming and she didn't want a conversation that she would have to take the time to explain the downside of living on a hellmouth. It would be better to do it in the morning when she was not as disgruntled. "Ok, is everyone ready? Our truck's just up the way." Buffy turned and started walking ahead of the group.

Mal looked to his crew and nodded towards the blonde. "You heard the girl, move!"

Willow took up the rear and watched as the strange group of people followed her best friend, thinking that she and Xander were going to have a lot of fun with this. She also gave a small thanks to the gods that Andrew wasn't here with his endless supply of annoying questions and quips.

Inara held back and began to fall in step with the witch. "That was a pretty impressive trick you pulled with Serenity," the companion complimented.

"Uh? Serenity?"

"The ship."

"Oh, its name is Serenity?"

Inara nodded but didn't say anything.

"It's nice I like it, Serenity. And the invisible thing wasn't much of anything really. It's all about control. Now, like five years ago, it would have been impossible, but now it's like nothing." Willow smiled. "See the trick is to realize that you can't change the ship and you may not be able to change the air around the ship, but you can manipulate the air easier than you can a big hunk of metal. So you bend the air, which bends the light which renders things non-seey. If only I could tell this to NASA and prove Einstein right," the redhead trailed off wistfully.

Inara just looked at the redhead and nodded. Despite not being able to follow what the other girl said, there was something about her that set Inara at ease and she liked the feeling. After everything that had happened to her, feeling at ease was more of a luxury than not. The women fell into a comfortable silence and finished the walk in peace.

The ride back to the school wasn't that bad. Willow had chosen to drive one of the trucks and luckily they were able to fit almost everyone in the cab. Jayne and Zoë had taken the truck bed as accommodations while Mal, Inara, Simon, River and Kaylee squeezed into the cab. As they pulled into the garage, Buffy saw Xander and Dawn pacing at the bay doors. Buffy hopped out of the cab first and went to go smooth things over with Xander.

"Hey guys, we have company." Buffy smiled at the man and her sister.

Xander looked up at Buffy's jovial tone. He had been worried sick since they turned off communications. The only thing that kept him from going out there and looking himself was Faith assuring him that she could feel Buffy was okay. He knew that if Buffy was ok then Willow was ok so he took to pacing the garage floor.

"Who?" He asked, slightly confused and miffed.

"That's going to take longer than I want. Let's get everyone settled and then I'll have them explain it to you in the morning."

Xander nodded and met Willow with a hug.

"Hey there big guy, you done freaking yet?" Willow teased. She knew he was hurt that they cut transmission, but Buffy and her needed to figure out what was going on without him freaking out 15 miles away.

"Kind of." Xander turned to the oddly dressed group that his friends brought back and asked, "And who might you be?"

Taking time to point out his crew, Mal made the introductions. When he was finished, Willow ushered them in and showed them to extra sleeping quarters. By the time everyone was settled and buttoned down for the night, it was close to 2am. The witch had seen to everyone's needs and was walking back to her room when she was pulled into a room by an outstretched arm. She let out a small squeak and then relaxed when she saw the arm belonged to the blonde slayer.

"For goddess sake Buff, were you trying to give me a heart attack?" Willow had her arms folded across her chest.

Buffy smiled sheepishly and nodded. "I didn't mean to ya know attack you, but it seemed like fun."

"Kriminey. So why did you attack one of your oldest friends?" Willow went over to the bed and plopped down on the comforter.

"Bored, I dunno. Wanted to see if you were still up for mochas and talk about getting those people back to their time."

"Ah, the mighty slayer brain is working over time?"

"Maybe. Come on. You, me, the kitchen and chocolaty something then maybe a nap?" Buffy made sad eyes at the redhead that she knew always worked.

"Fine, let's go. We are forgoing the kitchen though. Let's go to Eat'n Park. They're open 24 hours and sure no mochas but the coffee's not half bad."

The two left the room and headed to the restaurant. The place was moderately quiet and the ones who were there were teenagers and early twenty somethings who had nothing better to do with their time. They took a booth near the front of the restaurant and ordered. Forgoing chocolate in favor of fried cheesy goodness, Buffy had an order of cheese sticks with a diet coke and Willow took a coffee with a muffin.

"So Wills, do you have any ideas on how to get them back to their own time?"

"I've been thinking there are some spells that create temporal folds. You know we've been privy to a few, but all of them are dangerous. We can't send them back the way they came, that's for sure."

"You mean we can't just say something like "let the spell be ended" and then poof they're poofed?" the blonde hopefully asked.

Willow shook her head no. "They weren't poofed here. They were…they were well I'm not sure really. There are a couple of theories some physicist were working on, but from all the stuff I've read no one is close to figuring out time travel. It's relatively looked at as a myth. Besides magic, there's no way to do it."

"Hmm, how dangerous could it be?" Buffy wanted to know the answer but figured it would be on par with the usual.

"Oh, well, the usual, dimensions bleeding together, hell on earth. The standard fare really."

"You couldn't have lied to me?"

"No, I mean I've been through the possible spells that would make things as they were, but as I said, I don't think they will work. The spaceship wasn't magiced here; it crashed here because of a temporal fold in a black hole and that causes even my head to go all kerfloopey."

"Well, aren't you just chock full of fun and optimistic news?"

"I know, I know. I'm not saying it can't be done. I'm just sayin' that it might be a while."

Buffy sighed and began picking at her food. "Hey Wills, I was wondering, does Mal seem familiar to you at all?" This small feeling of recognition had been bugging the slayer since meeting the man.

Willow cocked her head to the side and studied her friend. Also, she couldn't help but smile at the look Buffy was currently wearing. Her brow was slightly crinkled and she had the patented Summers' confused mouth, slightly down turned at the corners. The redhead would also have been lying if she said it wasn't one of the cutest looks Buffy had in her arsenal. "Mal? No, not really. Why?"

"I…he reminds me of someone and I can't it figure out. Gods, this is going to be bugging me all night!" Buffy shook her head to try and remove the thoughts. It laid there though in the back of her head as she tried to remember who Mal made her think of.


Chapter 3- Bunk Mates and Pillow Talk

Mal decided to make one last check on everyone, except Jayne, who had opted to take a room with only a single twin bed, before turning in. Kaylee and Simon took one room, Inara decided to share with River, and Mal and Zoë took the last. It was late and the man was tired and more worried than he could ever remember being. He closed the door and saw Zoë had taken the left side of the bed. Mal removed his coat first then boots.

"Mal?" Zoë looked up into the light.

"Go back to sleep. It's been a good long day and I don't suppose they're gonna get any shorter for a spell."

"We need to talk."

"Morning?" he asked hopefully stripping off his shirt.

"We need to figure what's gonna happen."

Mal slipped under the covers and clasped his hands behind his head to look at the ceiling. "Well the way I see it is, first we see if we can repair the damage. If so, then let's get Serenity back in the air. Now, about gettin' back to our own time? That I don't rightly know. Maybe the little one can cook something up for us." Mal's voice lowered at the thought and continued, "If not then we might be stuck here." He didn't know what Earth That Was held and truthfully he didn't care. He loved The Black. He liked the freedom that it gave and he loved the people he sailed with.


"Where else? These folk seem alright. Pretty helpful folk and they seem awful close. Maybe they got work that can be done. I don't know," Mal finally conceded. "Look, let's just get some shut eye and deal with this fei hua in the morning. I got a notion it'll be waiting on us."

Simon held on to a Kaylee. His wife hadn't said a word in nearly an hour and that was not like the mechanic he knew.

"Kaylee, bao bei?" Simon kissed the top of her head and waited on a response.


"What are you thinking about?"

"A whole lot right now Si. I reckon that even if I can get Serenity up and runnin' again that we may not be able to get home. If we are able to get home, then what's fer us there t'ain't much but runnin' from the law and stayin's far away from the Alliance as possible."

"It's what we have been doing and you seemed ok to do just that."

"I guess, well, awe hell I dunno what I'm gettin' on about. I just want us back where we belong. Sailin' in the Black and pulling the occasional caper or two." Kaylee snuggled into her husband's embrace and let the rhythm of his breathing lull her to sleep.

The next morning Buffy had gathered everyone up in the conference room to go over the entire situation, the crew of Serenity's and the School's. She paced at the head of the table as everyone gathered in and took their seats. Willow was the last to breeze in and closed the conference room doors nodding to the blonde slayer at the front of the room.

"Mal, I'm going to give the floor to you for a moment to go over the details of how you guys got here," Buffy started. Turning to Giles and Faith, she said, "This is Rupert Giles and Faith. You met Xander and Dawn last night."

A bit uncomfortable in the meeting, Mal stepped up and began, "Well, I can sus' it out for you to the best of my abilities. I'm Malcolm Reynolds, captain of the transport ship, Serenity. My crew is as follows: First Mate: Zoë Washburn, Pilot: River Tam, Ship Medic: Dr. Simon Tam, Mechanic: Kaylee Tam, On Board Companion: Inara Sera, and our Public Relations Guy: Jayne Cobb." He pointed to each of his crew as he went through introductions.

"We were flyin' through between a few of the border planets and got tracked by an Alliance War vessel. They decided to give chase and we out ran 'em best we could, but they got a few more bells and whistles. In a last ditch effort to not get caught, we flew into a black hole. Now the way I hear it tell is they just spit you right back out on to the other side. 'Cept that's not what happened. Kaylee tells me the electrical or some such doodad got fried going through. When we did get spit out, we were movin' like a bat outta hell and then crashed here. That's about it. Not sure what you're lookin' for here."

Through the course of Mal's explanation Xander's jaw dropped lower and lower until the muscles creaked in protest. He snapped it shut by the end and just couldn't believe his ears. There's a spaceship out at the lake. These people are from the future and the one eyed Scooby nearly wet his pants at the enormity of the situation.

"What year are you guys from?" Dawn asked.

"2507. Why?" Mal said.

"Curious is all. That puts you exactly 500 years in the past." Dawn shrugged.

Giles just finished putting his glasses back on and stuffed the kerchief back in his coat pocket. "Then the questions are as follows: How do we repair your ship and then how do we get you home?"

"That'd be the one's we need to worry about." Mal sat down in a chair towards the head of the long, oblong conference table and propped his feet up.

"Giles, I've already started looking for a spell or something, but I'm not sure that's going to work," Willow piped up from her place beside Inara. "Buffy and I were talking last night and I'm not sure magic is the way to go about getting them home."

"I think we'll worry about that a little later on. I would like you, Buffy, and Xander to go to the ship with them today. See if you can get a list of parts that would be suitable for use. Then let's see if we can get it repaired. Now, about this spell you put over the ship?"

"Just a glamour really, bends the air and light around the ship so it can't be seen."

"Right, very good dear." Giles smiled over at Willow. Despite the distance she'd come since Sunnydale, he was wary, at the very least, of his "daughter" performing any major spells.

"Hey now, what's all this? Magic! Girlie, what in the hell 'r you talkin' about?" Jayne got a little nervous when the word spell came up. "You some kinda witch?"

Willow sat back and smiled. "Yep."

Her calm reply startled the man and he sputtered, "You just keep your conjurin' to yourself and I won't have to introduce you to Vera."

"Jayne," Mal warned. "Jayne, shut your trap." He sent a hard look at the man and then nodded over to Willow. The last thing he wanted to do was offend the people who were helping them out of this bind. He was also pretty certain that these were probably the only people who would. "Thank you. Your help is appreciated."

Willow merely nodded in the captain's direction and continued to sit back unfazed by Jayne's outburst. Willow looked to Giles and gave him a nod to continue.

"Certainly. Alright then, Buffy, I think we should fill them in on who we are and what we do here," Giles said with a raised eyebrow.

"Sure thing. Well, you guys mostly know who we are, but not what we really do and not about the school. Do you guys know what vampires are?"

"Story book legends, myths told to keep children home at night," Inara spoke up, slightly amused that such a serious group of people would ask such a question.

"Ah, how much do you know about this time?" Buffy probed.

"Bits and pieces, Earth That Was is a fairy tale land. There are traditions and customs in our time that are based on Earth That Was, but I'm quite certain that nothing is truly replicated only shadowed," Simon offered.

Buffy looked to Giles asking, "Do you want to explain this part?"

"Fine," Giles said, launching into the long standing explanation of the history of the earth not shown on the History Channel and the existence of slayers, vampires, and demons. As he finished his tale, Giles looked to Buffy to pick up and finish off the story.

Buffy nodded and stood once again. "I was called as the slayer at the age of 15. I moved to Sunnydale, California, shortly after being summoned where I met everyone that you've met here today. Six years ago, I died facing a hell god; three months after my death I was brought back to life by my friends. Because of that and some other vague stupid reasons the Powers that Be refused to explain, this allowed a being to slip through and try to bring forth hell on Earth. It's called the First. We stopped it in Sunnydale, but not before taking the slayer line and tweaking it. To win that war, we gave all potential girls full slayer power. The school you guys are in right now houses and trains these girls until they are of age to go home and do it themselves." Buffy finished the speech and sat back down waiting on the reactions of the new people.

"Dung ee-miado. What exactly do you take me and my crew for a bunch of yu buh dun dai ngoi hwoon dahns?" Mal couldn't help but feel insulted. Sure, they seemed nice and then came at you with all this stuff about demons and vampires and slayers? "Look, if you folk don't wanna help just say so. It's fine we can make our own way just fine."

He nodded to Zoë and they stood to leave signaling the rest of the crew it was time to go.

"Wait, stop," Buffy urged as she saw them get up to leave. "I know it all sounds crazy, but if we hadn't seen your ship, do you think we'd believe you. Give us a chance to prove ourselves at least."

Mal looked to Zoë and saw the imperceptible nod. "Alright girl, when?"

"Tonight. I can't show you anything until tonight. Until then, let's get something to eat and then we can go look at your ship."

The captain nodded and waited for Buffy to show them where the kitchen was. The crew and gang ate and then made a quick trip to the ship to try and find what parts were needed for repairs.

Willow was currently in awe of the engine room. She had brought a digital camera and voice recorder so that she could record Kaylee's explanation of the inner-workings of the ship. Part names, coupling locks, and wiring all whizzed past the redhead as the now greasy mechanic beamed when she finished welding the core containment closed.

"See, more 'n anything. This ship," Kaylee dropped her voice at the word ship and patted the side of the main engine, "she's my girl, Serenity. We've got an understanding. I take care of her good an' proper and she keeps us movin'. She's part of the crew." Kaylee once again grinned at the redhead with a look of familial pride evident on the young woman's face.

Willow, feeling a little inadequate and unsure of what to say, just nodded and followed her out of the engine room, across the catwalks of the cargo hold and to Inara's shuttle all the while thinking that Kaylee had to be one of the more interesting people she had met in a long time. The grease covered mechanic knocked before entering and allowed Willow to move past her.

"Hey Inara, I'm just shuttling around Willow here and thought you would like to take over for a while. I got a few more things to look over 'fore I hand over the final list. That okay?"

"Of course," Inara answered. Smiling, she ushered Willow in. "Welcome to my home, Willow."

The redhead looked around at the area. Deep rich colors of red, burgundy, gold, silver and black ran everywhere. The room was steeped in Asian culture. Willow noticed some Geisha drawings; an interesting depiction of one of the Hindu goddesses, and in the corner of the room sat a Buddha statue at the centre of an altar. The bed looked inviting, but somewhat dramatic. The room gave off an aura of a stage set and not a bedroom.

Willow took in the immaculate woman who was now staring at her curiously and really saw her makeup, the careful construction of the woman and couldn't help the words that came tumbling out of her mouth, "What is it exactly that you do? With the ship I mean? What's a companion and gosh, I know it's kinda weird, but you don't seem to really…" Willow trailed off in frustration. The last thing she wanted to do was offend Inara.

"Fit in?" Inara offered with a small smile playing at the corner of her mouth.

"Uh, yeah sort of. It's just that you and Simon both aren't really…"

"We're from a different part of society. Trust me the differences are glaringly obvious, but these people are our family."

"You guys really seem to care for each other."

"We do, but you also seem to care for your group of friends as well."

"I do. The Scooby Gang we've been through more than most."

"You all are serious then about the vampires?"

"I know it's unbelievable. When I first found out it, well, it took some getting used to, but things are a lot quieter now."

"When did you find out?"

"Ah, let's see, I was a sophomore in high school, about 10 years ago."

"How old were you?" Inara asked, clearly confused.

"15-16 years old. It was a few months before my 16th birthday actually."

"And you've been fighting this…war ever since?"

"Well, yeah." Willow sat down on the couch Inara had motioned to and allowed herself to relax in the other woman's company. "it's weird I guess, but once I saw what's out there, how can you not want to try and help? I guess it's also for Buffy. She was so young and I couldn't let someone I cared about go through that alone. I refused to. She risked her life for me the first day we met and to not return that type of loyalty wasn't even a consideration. I'll tell you more stories later if you want. You never answered my question."

Inara smiled and leaned into the witch. "I'm a companion. In our time, they are women trained in certain arts. We are…" Inara found herself at a loss for words. She had never had to explain what a companion was before. Everyone in the planets knew what type of work she did and while she wasn't ashamed of what she did, to try and explain it to someone was leaving her tongue tied.

"In your terms, I suppose you might find that I am a prostitute. It's a very crude definition of what I do. We, companions, are trained at schools. We are brought up learning skills and languages and history, all to make us better at what we do. Seduction is part of it, but not all of it. Sex plays a role obviously, but it is never the focus."

The witch leaned back in to the couch and just listened. She wasn't shocked or appalled just really curious. "Okay, I guess that clears it up. I just saw all of this and well, got curious."

Inara had never felt the need to defend or explain her career, but there was an unexplainable urge to make Willow understand. She didn't know why but she needed this girl to like her. "I know, it's unconventional here, but in our time companions are held in very high regard, sought after and given status in society. Respected."

"That's cool, I mean I can't judge really, so not my place, but it's cool. Do you like it?"

Inara smiled and let the relief wash through her. She told Willow about her time at the academy and both women got lost in conversation and each other's company.


Chapter 4 - Crosses Aren't Just for the Faithful

Finishing off the list of parts proved to be more difficult than Kaylee had anticipated. Because of the electrical routing on Serenity, she needed an exact measure of how much wiring was needed. The mechanic had enlisted the help of Buffy due to the blonde slayer's size. When they had finally finished, Buffy looked as if she had been down in the sewers for a week and grumbled the entire way back to the school about perfectly good clothes being ruined.

Buffy left to go shower while the rest of the Scoobies and the crew of Serenity convened in the main conference room. Willow sat down next to Inara and they restarted the conversation they were having on the ride over. Willow had been telling the companion about the Scoob's encounter with Dracula. Kaylee was going over the list of parts with Mal and Xander, Dawn, and Faith were trying to get Jayne and Simon talking. Out of the two Simon proved to be the more vocal.

Buffy walked in a few moments later fresh from the shower and gathered everyone's attention asking, "So, you guys have a list right?"

Kaylee handed her the paper. "It's all right here, but I'm still worried about where we're gonna find some of these parts. They're easy as pie to get at any one of the port cities, but I don't know what you have available in this time."

Buffy looked the list over and scrunched her eyebrows. "Uh, Will, I'm gonna need you to decipher this list. Help Kaylee out and see what we need." She passed the list over to the redhead and watched as Willow's brow furrowed at the items.

"Most of this is fibre optic material? There is also material that we don't use here. High voltage wiring, so stuff that's more than copper right?"

"Yeah, just wiring and such, that's the major problem. I was able to take a look at Serenity's body and there wasn't any damage when we crashed." Kaylee smiled over at River and praised, "Our new pilot set her down right proper."

River smiled at her sister-in-law and tugged at Zoë's sleeve offering her a sad, but heartfelt smile. Zoë returned the smile in kind and winked at the girl.

"Give me a few days and I'll see if we can find something comparable."

"What's the up Will?" Buffy asked.

"Well, it's just that the material for the wiring isn't stuff we use. Not regularly I mean. I can check around and see if some of the newer buildings or maybe NASA is using stuff like this, but it's going to be hard to come by. Let me do some digging and maybe try and figure out if there's an alternate substitute for carbon nanotubes. This just came out a few years ago and from what I've read is still in the developmental stages. So off the top of my head, I can't think of an alternative." Willow plastered on her best reassuring smile. "Although, I'm sure I can find something to replace it with. No worries here. Nope. Worry free."

"Thank you, Willow," Mal said. He smiled at the group. "So when do we get to see these vampires?"

Buffy looked at the clock on the wall and nodded. "In about an hour, let's eat and then I can take you on patrol. Are all of you coming?"

Everyone in the room nodded and Buffy rolled her eyes. It was going to be hard finding vamps with such a huge entourage and then try and keep said entourage with all of their bits intact. Calling out to Willow before she left, Buffy watched the rest of the group file out.

Willow grinned and walked over to the blonde. "You rang?"

"Yeah, I uh," Buffy sputtered a moment more and fell back on shop talk, "how impossible is it going to be for us to get that stuff?"

"Maybe not too bad. I need to brush up on my space craft electrical systems, but we should be able to find some decent substitutions."

"Good, good." Buffy swung her arms and looked around the room.

Willow picked up on Buffy's nervousness and felt the need to ask, "Was that all?"

"I, uh, well." Buffy's eyes skirted to meet Willow's and then quickly found an interesting scar on the back of her hand to admire.

"Buff?" Willow was becoming concerned. The blonde was never this nervous with her.

"I, it's nothing."

"You do know you're a terrible liar?"

Buffy blushed bright red and nodded. "I was, ah, you seemed to be getting awfully chummy with Inara. Wanted to know what was going on?"

Willow looked at her friend a bit confused and then shrugged it off. She was chalking it up to concern. Willow had come back from Rio withdrawn and depressed after breaking up with Kennedy some 18 months ago. Since then Willow had not even been interested in dating, citing the need for a break and some alone time to try and figure out what she needed and wanted from a relationship. Buffy had been there through the crying spurts and had done the requisite best friend duties. Thinking that's what was troubling her friend, Willow took Buffy's hand and sat down at the table pulling her along. "Buff, you worried about Inara and me getting involved?"

"Well, yeah kinda. I mean you've just been as non datey as me lately and then it seems like since they showed up, you and her are all with the chummy. Just worried and curious."

"Nothing going on, of course I wouldn't say no if something did happen, but I think we're just becoming fast friends. She's really easy to talk to."

"Oh, okay." Buffy nodded and let some relief show, but wasn't entirely convinced. She stood and let the witch follow her out of the room.

Diner was a tad more interesting what with Mal and his crew at the table. Diner had become something of a ritual over the past year with the Scooby gang. Regardless of the busyness of their lives, they had made it a point to have dinner together. Buffy had been the instigator, using Joyce as the reason.

Truthfully, Buffy had always harbored one form of guilt or another for the lack of time she had spent with her mother before her death and she had made a promise to herself during the time of the First that if they made it out alive she would make more time for the people that mattered to her. Dawn had been the second to fall in line with the rest of the gang quickly following suit. The meal was boisterous and full of conversation. Everyone had traded one story or another and before they had a chance to finish two hours had gone by.

Once everything was settled, Xander led them down to the armament centre and passed out the requisite stakes, holy water vials and crosses. He then let the crew pick out another weapon they would be comfortable with. The only two to do so was Inara, who picked up a compact crossbow and extra arrows and River, who picked a smaller broad sword.

"So, keep these with you at all times," said Xander. "It looks like you guys are used to keeping guns on you. They won't work on vamps, so keep these handy."

Mal tried to hand Xander back the cross. "Don't see much use in this boy. I'll be alright."

Xander looked at Mal and shrugged. "Fine, but if you meet a vamp the most sure fire way to get rid of him is stick a cross in his face. We're not big on the religion here either, but a fact's a fact: crosses repel the vamps."

Mal shrugged and placed the cross on the table. "I'll take my chances."

"I get to tell you I told you so later."

Everyone met back up in the garage. Willow and Buffy were talking about the best way for them to patrol and were standing by one of the school's commuter vans.

"Xand," Buffy called out. "You coming or are you staying for communication?"

"Ah, I think I'm gonna go tonight. I've got Vi and Kimmie on deck so they should be able to handle it. We've also got Faith with the red team over on the west side. I'm thinking we should take a stroll a little further out to the south?"

"That's what we were thinking." Willow opened the doors up. "Okay everyone let's go. I want to be home before 2."

Buffy shook her head and made her way to the driver's seat. A firm hand stopped her and she looked up to meet Willow's questioning gaze. "I can't drive can I?"

"No," Willow said, slipping into the driver's seat before anymore protests could be raised.

Buffy walked over to the passenger door grumbling about the resolve of annoying redheaded witches and the fact that sure, she may have gotten in to one or three accidents, but that was forever ago.

They got to the first cemetery by 9pm. Buffy gave them a crash course in the do's and don'ts of staking vampires and then set off with Willow and Xander to lead the rest of the troops to a roomier spot in the crowded area. They situated themselves on a hill side that was secluded enough to avoid civilians, but just in the path of un-dead types who were looking for a meal. The Scoobs on more than one occasion had saved some teenagers from becoming walking happy meals in this general area.

Buffy looked around at the group. The mechanic looked really nervous and a smile couldn't help itself from forming on Buffy's lips. Kaylee reminded her of a pre-magic Willow that made the blonde slayer's heart lighten just a little bit. River was looking around and Buffy's spidey sense tingled whenever she came near the girl. Deciding to figure out the why later, Buffy sent a small smile and nod in Willow's direction. The two stepped over by Xander to discuss the plans.

"Buff, you want to go find some un-dead pale guys to bring around?" Willow knew that's what Buffy wanted to let everyone in on. The witch waited on confirmation from the slayer and returned the grateful smile Buffy had on her face.

"Why bring them to us again?" Xander asked, slightly confused.

Buffy quirked a brow and motioned to the bored time travelers.

"Oh right, proof that we aren't insane type people. Gotcha. Wills, you go with the Buffernator and I can watch these guys."

"Cool. Buff?"

"Right," she said, as she turned to the group. "Wills and I are going to see if we can chase anything back this way, you guys hang tight." Buffy took hold of Willow's hand and glanced back to see Inara's reaction. She smiled internally at the narrowed eyed gaze of the companion and tightened her hold on her redhead.

It didn't take long for them to open a crypt and find five vamps hanging out.

"Aren't you guys supposed to be stalking the living? Really now, you guys are la-az-zy." Buffy grinned at them while Willow threw a vial of holy water at their feet.

All five shot back way from the shattering glass. A few drops had gotten on one of the vamps and Buffy snickered as he tried to stop the burning. The other's looked up pissed and ready to tear the girl's heads off. Normally that would have frightened the standard person, but not the two girls who only exchanged bored looks and shrugged at the vamps.

"Jeez, is that all you guys got? A glare? Man I tell you, you blood rats sure do make my well placed puns a waste."

"I'll show you what we got, bitch!" the leader, or the one the girls picked as the leader, shouted, advancing.

Buffy picked out the weakest one and threw a stake straight into its heart. The thing dusted and as the ashes floated to the ground, his friend's started chasing the slayer and witch through the cemetery. The two girls had worked this out ahead of time and split up at an outcropping of headstones.

Buffy sped up and knew that 3 of the remaining 4 were chasing her. She smiled as the hunt truly began. She catapulted herself over headstones and stopped short of running into a mausoleum. She leapt up, onto the roof and jumped off landing a good 20 feet from the edge of the roof. She glanced back and saw the vampire's were having a hard time keeping up. Slowing up, she then took a quick glance to her left and saw that Willow had done an excellent job of paralleling her movements.

Both girls came to a screeching halt when they met head on. Ducking as they grabbed each other's arms for balance, they watched as the four vamps crashed into each other trying to reach their "prey". The girls had led the small clan around to the hillside where they had left Xander and the crew of the spaceship.

One had been knocked unconscious so Xander moved in, dragged it backwards out of the fray and tied it up. Willow looked the one over that had been chasing her, he was the first to regain his balance and she could tell by the look in his eyes that his only concern was to kill her. Her vampire took a wild swing at her face. In one fluid motion, she ducked the attack brought out the stake and rammed it firmly up and under the vamps ribcage. The demon exploded into dust which floated down on Willow.

Before continuing, Buffy shot a look to her friend and made sure Willow was out of the way before she began to pummel on the two remaining vamps. She wanted to draw the fight out as long as possible as it had been ages since she had taken on two at once. The leader of the clan lunged for the blonde, but missed as she crouched down, sweeping his legs from under him as he passed. The second had thought that Buffy was defenseless while on the ground, but quickly learned the opposite, as Buffy's leg swept out to catch the lunging vampire, she rested her weight on her hands, thrusting back with her right leg and catching the advancing vampire square in the chest causing him to go sailing fifteen feet backwards. The flying vamp crashed against a broken branch of a tree dusting on impact. The leader had regained his balance and was now circling the blonde slayer. Buffy couldn't resist the laugh that bubbled forth.

"I'm gonna rip your neck open girl. I'll drink your hearts blood while it still beats."

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Really? You honestly think that's the first time I've ever heard that? Is there a handbook you guys get when you rise? Seriously, I want to know." She threw a punch that connected with the underside of the vamps chin sending him back a few feet.

"Do you know who I am?" Buffy asked, annoyed as the thing lunged for her once again. She side stepped and kicked out breaking the vampire's left shin.

His cry of pain rang loud and he seethed, "A slayer obviously." He was in serious pain, but still made an attempt to kill Buffy. The blonde gave him points for effort.

"Riigghhttt, I'm Buffy, the Vampire Slayer." She smiled triumphantly as the name registered with the vamp. Using the shock as a distraction, she spun forward and neatly placed Mr. Pointy into the vamps chest. The usual shocked look appeared and right before he dusted, Buffy causally waved goodbye. "And you are dust. Have a nice trip to hell."

She was all smiles as she turned to the group. Dusting her hands off, she walked over to the remaining bound, vamp. She held the vamp up by the shirt collar and turned towards the group. "Questions, comments?"


Chapter 5 - And It Was A Whale of A Tail Too

River was the first to step up and look at the vampire. She circled the demon slowly looking at the pronounced ridges and the elongated teeth. Simon looked on concerned as his sister studied the creature. Not wanting her to get hurt he stepped forward and pulled her back with a well placed hand on her forearm.

"River, I don't think getting that close is such a good idea."

River looked back and smiled at her brother, placing her hand over his. "It's okay."

Willow stood back watching the reactions of the rest of the group. Everyone wore similar expressions of shock and disbelief. Mal stood hands on hips staring at the vamp. Zoë was looking anywhere but at it. Kaylee and Inara were holding on to each other while Jayne stood statue still his hand on the hilt of his knife. Deciding it was time for a lesson in vamp dusting; Willow stepped from behind Buffy and motioned her to the side. Buffy smiled and moved over to allow Willow to address the group.

"So right, this is a vampire. I've already been over the finer points of making it a big pile of dust, but I just want to make sure that all of you understand. I don't want you to get a false sense of security and drop your guard out here. They are quick and very deadly."

Willow took a long look at the three who now had their hands resting on the butts of their guns and shook her head. "You guys, guns don't work on these creatures. They are demons and mostly evil. Not saying that bullets can't hurt demons, but these ones, vampires that is, bullets aren't helpful with the killing or maiming even" Willow looked over to a grinning Xander and ducked her head. Thinking of another way to show them what she'd babbled out, she motioned for Jayne to step forward. "Jayne, I'm not big on the guns, but can I have you maybe shoot him for us."

Jayne stepped forward and raised his handgun getting ready to shoot when the audible static of the COM Link came to life, "Slayer 1 this is Command. Come in. Over."

Buffy jumped at the chatter in her ear. She had forgotten about the device right after she put it in. "This is Buffy. What's going on, Vi?"

"Buffy, I just received word from Red team they've got a class 2 demon. Three slayers are down. Faith and Carrie are holding their own, but they need bigger weapons than the stakes they brought. Advise. Over."

"Where are they at?" Buffy twirled the stake in her hand before slamming it into the bound vampire's chest. Without breaking her momentum, she spun around and began making her way back to the van expecting everyone to follow her.

"Lakewood Park Cemetery."

"We're on our way. Tell them to hold on for five minutes." Buffy began picking up her speed and called out over her shoulder, "Alright everyone let's hurry up."

Xander and Willow had already begun picking up speed with the rest of the group following close behind. They reached the van barely breaking their momentum to hop in and allow Willow to turn the engine over peeling out of the cemetery.

The redhead reached down and flipped on the sirens, "Xander, get through to CPD and re-route everyone far, far away from where I'm headed please."

The man nodded and began barking orders to Vi at the command center. Feeling relatively safe about not being followed by a cop car Willow pushed down on the accelerator and shot forward. It took 7 minutes to get to Faith and Carrie. Buffy left Mal and his group at the van while Willow and Xander were close at her heels.

They crested a small hill in the deserted cemetery and saw Faith and Carrie being thrown by a rather viscous, brown and green, mangy looking demon. As they approached, Buffy took in the size and defenses of the creature. Standing nearly 10 feet in height, the thing was massive. Stakes protruded from its body and even though its blood seeped from the wounds, the demon was not slowed. Muscles rippled underneath the leathery skin and Buffy watched on as Faith tried to land one of her best flying kicks at the creatures head, but was batted away like an annoying fly.

The blonde huffed out and tightened her grip on the sword in her hand, silently thanking River for having brought one with her. Buffy turned quickly to Willow and Xander. "Check the other girls, I'm gonna go help Faith."

The slayer took off at a dead run, sword raised, screaming at Carrie to watch out as a now visible 6 foot long tail came sailing around to knock the girl off her feet. The girl heard Buffy just in time and rolled out of the way. She bounced up to her feet and ran towards Buffy. The 17 year old was breathing hard and bleeding from a nasty gash along the left side of her face.

Buffy tried to give the girl a nice, encouraging smile. She was one of Buffy's favorite slay partners. Quick, funny and fiercely protective of the people she patrolled with. The blonde lifted a lock of pink hair away from the oozing blood on the teen's cheek and checked for any other injuries that would make her tell Carrie to go find Willow and get healed up.

"So, Buffy, are you going to concern mother me all night or are we gonna kill this thing," Carrie's thick Scottish accent did nothing to cover the sarcasm. The girl lent down and rested her hands on her knees trying to catch her breath as they waited on Faith to get done having her ass handed to her.

The two girls looked on as Faith noticed the two standing off to the side. The demon roared as Faith took a flying leap over its head and landed 5 feet behind it and came running towards the two other slayers.

Buffy stuck her hands up in the air trying to get the brunette to stop running towards them. Big and tailey had whipped around and started coming after Faith and coincidently straight towards Buffy and Carrie.

Buffy called out to stop Faith from moving towards them, but it was too late. The demon was too close to not engage. Buffy readied herself for her attack and looked to Carrie and smiled. "Can you distract it while I circle around?"

"Distract?" Carrie looked at her confused.

"You know make with the diversion." Buffy looked forward and winced as Faith was picked up and thrown nearly twenty feet to the right landing with a solid thud against the side of a crypt.

Carrie hissed, "That's gonna smart later. Watch out for his tail. Go! " The girl shoved Buffy away from her and hefted a mace. "Oy, yeah, you. Is that all you got? A tail?" Carrie dove forward while Buffy made her way round towards the back of the creature.

The Serenity crew piled out of the van with the slayer and her friends, but was told to stay behind. Buffy using the excuse of not knowing what was up ahead and she didn't want to endanger anyone else unnecessarily. So Mal being the kind, respectful thief he was stayed put with his crew. He looked around the cemetery thinking that what he had seen of this place was similar to some of the central planets. Although, he assumed the government wasn't as meddlesome now as they were in the future. All in all it was a nice cool evening to be out and about. No one from the ship had stayed this long on a planet going on a year.

Mal noticed Kaylee and Inara moving towards the back of the van and called out, "Hun ta ma yao ming. Joo-ee."

Everyone else had gathered off to the side talking amongst themselves.

The two women had moved out of sight and rounded the back end of the van. Kaylee had her hands wrapped around her waist and was talking to Inara about some of the things the companion and Willow had talked about during the course of the day. Neither was paying attention to their surroundings. They were situated apart from the group when Inara suddenly went flying into the rear door of the van. Kaylee didn't even have the chance to warn anyone before she herself was knocked unconscious.

Three vampires and two demons rounded the corner of the van. Mal and Zoë looked up drawing their guns. Firing on instinct they hit the vampires first. The vamps staggered back, but kept on advancing. The first vamp to reach Zoë was struck with the butt of her rifle, but quickly recovered. It let go a series of punches that left the Amazonian like woman bleeding from her temple and then finally a well placed roundhouse connected with the left side of her head. She was unconscious before she hit the cold asphalt of the parking lot.

Mal screamed and watched as Zoë crumpled to the ground. He was unable to go to her because of the attack he was under. The two vampires that remained made short work of the captain. One was able to twist the gun away from Mal while the other landed a solid punch to the man's face. The fight was over before it even began.

The two demons had taken hold of Jayne and Simon disregarding River in the process. Jayne had put up a decent fight, but was quickly subdued and joined the majority of the crew in forced slumber. Simon was held tight by one of the demons and watched as the other demon and the three vamps advanced on River. The small girl hefted a stake behind her back and let the vampires make the first move. Only one attacked the girl and she could handle that. She ducked low and shot her hand up into the creature's stomach sending it stumbling back a few feet. Righting herself, she leapt towards the vamp with a well placed round house sending it sprawling to the concrete unconscious.

The remaining vampires looked at the teen and hissed out in agreement, "Slayer."

River cocked her head to the side and smiled. The demons could think whatever they wished; she just wanted to protect her family. She let them see the stake she was twirling in her hands right before she threw it into the chest of the vamp standing to the left. The remaining vamp watched as its companion vanished and let out a yell of annoyance. The vamp wasted no time in lunging at the girl, but was stopped short by River meeting it half way. The vamp found itself sailing through the air landing solidly against the side of the van.

River watched as the vampire rose from the uncomfortable position it had landed in and couldn't help the small smile that formed. Thoughts whizzed through her brain and she held on to the one that couldn't help but think that this was kinda fun. She saw the larger demon trying to sneak up on her from behind. Right before he was going to wrap his arms around her she threw herself forward springing down on her hands and letting her left foot connect solidly with the underside of its chin. Unfortunately that wasn't nearly powerful enough to affect the demon. It grabbed her right leg as her legs began the upward swing in the flip and it shoved out causing River to go sprawling on the ground. The demon walked over to the small girl kicking her with its cloven foot to make sure she was unconscious.

The first vampire that had attacked River slowly came to and met its friends around the unconscious body of River Tam.

"Joe, which one's are we taking?" the vampire closest to the van asked.

"Take her, that one there." He pointed to Mal directing the others. "And take one of the other girls from around the back. I don't care which, just grab one and let's go. There are other slayers around."

"And that one?" the other vampire asked, pointing to Simon, who was feebly struggling against the demon that held him.

Joe looked around for something to use to tie up the last conscious member of the group. Not seeing anything he looked down at River and smiled. Grabbing at the bottom of her dress, he tore off a long strip and tossed it to the other vampire. "Use this to tie him up and leave him in the van."

"What no snack?"

"Bill, we didn't come here to eat. We'll eat later once we deliver the cattle." Joe smiled and hefted River in his arms. "Let's go."


Chapter 6- Little Red Riding Who?

The battle with the demon was quickly finished as Carrie made good on the distraction her leader had asked for. While the girl engaged the demon with mace in hand, Buffy was able gain a small advantage by sneaking up from behind and decapitating it. She rode the headless body to the ground and jumped off tucking herself into a roll as she hit the ground. Popping up she ran to Carrie first.

"You ok?" Buffy smiled at the girl. Receiving an affirmative nod, she then took a look over to Willow and Xander. They had gotten the three other girls up and on their feet, but Faith had yet to come to. "Come on; let's see if we can wake up your team leader."

Buffy's inquiries regarding the health of the injured slayers were stopped short as Willow pointed to Zoë who was staggering up the hill waving her arm. Buffy spun quickly and ran to meet the other woman. As Zoë got nearer, Buffy took in the thrashed look, the cut eye, and bruised cheek. "What happened?"

Zoë winced as the pain in her side flared from the jog over to find the slayer and did her best to answer, "We, we were talking outside the van and three vampires and two ugly lookin' ching-wah tsao duh liou mahngs attacked. They were too strong. Tied up Simon while the rest of us were taking a forced nap and made off with the captain, River, and Kaylee."

"Damnit. Okay." Buffy turned to her group. "Xander carry Faith. We've gotta motor. Our friends here were attacked." Everyone looked rather confused at the command, clarifying she said, "Let's go guys. Death, kidnapping, any of it ring a bell?"

Willow was the first to react, Xander then quickly scooped Faith up and the rest followed as her friends made their way quickly to the blonde's side. No one talked as they half walked half jogged back to the van.

Worried about any injuries sustained, Willow strode ahead of the group and was the first there to assess the injuries. No one was too bad off. Simon had already checked everyone over and let the witch know that out of everyone Zoë had sustained the worst injuries. Willow felt a small pain in her chest as she took in the battered people. They hadn't even been here two days and already three members of their family were in grave danger.

Sighing Willow walked over to Inara. "You okay?"

"Besides my head, I'm fine. Does this happen a lot with you guys?"

"Only every other Tuesday, we'll get them back. Promise." Willow tried a reassuring smile and put her arm over the woman's shoulder giving her a good squeeze.

"Willow, Zoë, Jayne and Carrie come with me," Buffy barked the order out and turned away.

The redhead nodded towards Buffy then turned a reassuring gaze to Inara. "Be back soon."

The four went to meet the slayer and noticed what she had found. There were hoof tracks that led away from the van. Willow bent down and felt the markings. They reminded her of horse tracks, but larger, and it looked like they were also clawed. She stood and looked out over the hillside of the cemetery.

The nice thing about Lakewood was that it bordered a huge golf course and the golf course bordered woods that were at least a mile and a half deep. It was a good bet that's where they went and it was probably where the vamps and demons had come from. She turned to look at Buffy and knew what she was thinking.

"Xander," Willow called over to her friend, "inform command of the sitch please. Let them know that we are gonna go track the kidnappers down." She turned to Buffy and nodded. The slayer returned the smile and hefted the still slimy sword.

"Xand," Buffy asked, "see if you can get a clean up crew out here? That thing, whatever it was, stinks." She turned back and shook her head. "These leather's are completely ruined."

"We ain't gonna go after those things are we?" Jayne asked, the worry evident in his voice.

Zoë was the first to respond, "Jayne, they have our crew. This is not open for discussion."

"Look here. All I'm sayin' is those things whatever they were whooped on all of us right and good and I kinda happen to like all my parts. We go after 'em; I might lose some of my parts."

Zoë stared at the man for a moment and out of all the surprises of the night, Jayne backing down and nodding his compliance was the biggest of her evening. She motioned to Buffy and Willow. "You can lead the way."

Buffy nodded and began the trek down the hill towards the golf course. The walk was short and they were at the edge of woods when Willow stopped everyone in their tracks. She opened up a telepathic link to Buffy to discuss what was up ahead.

"Buff, can you feel the demon's ahead?"

"Wills? Christ I hate it when you jump in like that. Yes, yes I can sense them, but I don't know how many. Do you?"

"5 vamps, 2 Fyarls, and another one that I can't make heads or tails of. It feels like this is their hide out. What do you want to do?"

"I'd rather come back here with more than a short sword, a mace and a few stakes. You think they're gonna kill Mal, Kaylee, & River?"

Willow squinted in the direction of where she thought the demons were and shook her head, "I can't tell. But this does have an air of trap written all over it."

"You picked up on that too? Can you at least tell me why a routine patrol can never be simple? We go, we slay, and we go home to a shower and food?"

"So I'll take that as we go in and kick a little demon ass?"

"Can't take the chance of people dying."

Willow only nodded and moved forward. The trek was through the lower half of the adjacent golf course and into a thick part of the woods that bordered the cemetery and the golf course. Buffy pulled everyone back when she saw firelight up ahead.

Whispering she gave everyone the heads up, "Okay so there are at least 8 demons, some are vamps, but not all. Carrie, you and I go in and clean house. Willow stay alert for magical backup. Do not move in unless absolutely necessary. Zoë and Jayne, you two find your people and get them out then wait with Willow until we are done. Everyone clear?" she waited as nods of understanding came from all involved.

Moving forward she gave a quick glance over her shoulder to ensure Carrie was following and watched for a moment as Willow and the other two moved into a better position. Buffy approached the small clearing and did a quick scan of the area. The vamps were surrounding three poles. She assumed Mal and the others were tied to them. The Fyarls were just standing around and the other demon Buffy recognized as the counterpart of the one they had just slain.

"Willow, you there?"

"I would be where else?" the witch teased.

Buffy took a moment to puzzle out what her friend said, "Oh, well then ah, we are so gonna need some help. Is there any way you can crispy up any of the demons?"

"Ah, no, unless you wanna have fire roasted time travelers. Do I look like Martha Stewart?"

Buffy stifled the giggle, "No, absolutely not Wills; you look like the most gorgeous woman on the planet." Buffy's mouth dropped as soon as the words filtered through her brain and into the link she and Willow shared. Her face flamed red and she smacked herself on the forehead for her lack of censorship. She took a quick glance at Willow to her far left. Willow was giving her a funny look. The blonde only shrugged, she would think of an excuse later if asked.

Buffy nodded to Carrie and they took off into the clearing. The Fyarls were the first to attack. With no silver at the ready Buffy relied on the short sword that she had to at least decapitate or incapacitate the demons. She glanced over and watched as Carrie started in on the 5 vampires. Buffy felt the impact of one of the demon's fist to the side of her head; she stumbled back, stunned and dropped the sword. The second one took the opening and launched itself at her midsection. Fists came flying at her head and the only thing she could do was curl up defensively before her world went black.

Willow watched as Buffy was overrun by the demons and Carrie had only managed to dust one of the five vamps circling her. Not being able to sit still any longer, she strode forward and raised her right hand in the air. "Espesar!"

The air was loud clap in the air and then the atmosphere turned to the consistency of treacle. Willow, unaffected by the spell, moved gracefully towards the demons that were struggling over Buffy and laid a hand on each of their backs. Flames ignited on both demons and she threw them in opposite directions away from the fallen slayer. She turned heel and looked at the four remaining vamps struggling against the tar like air and smirked. She took the stake from Carries' hand and dusted the four of them while they just stood in mid attack and watched.

The last remaining demon watched as its henchmen were slaughtered with ease. It howled into the night air and tried to reach Willow. The witch only helped the demon by walking up to it and rested a glowing hand against its abdomen. The demon cried out as a fire burned it from the inside out. As the last of the demon's ashes floated in the air the spell ended and Willow collapsed on the forest floor.

While Buffy and Carrie fought, Zoë and Jayne had been able to get halfway to their crew before Willow stepped in. As the spell ended, the two rushed in and got their family untied. The five of them looked on as Buffy rushed to Willow and tried to get the redhead to recover. Mal walked over and placed a hand on Buffy's shoulder.

"Let me carry her back to the van?" he asked.

Buffy shook her head no and visibly winced as the blood dripped down her cheek and on to her clothes. The slayer shot a warning look over her shoulder and growled, "I'll carry her."

Mal balked at the idea and was about to comment on her size when he watched as she effortlessly scooped the unconscious redhead in her arms and began walking purposefully back to the van. It took a bit longer to get back, but when they arrived, Delta Team was cleaning up the remains of the demon Buffy had beheaded. Xander was barking orders at the clean up crew and remaining slayers. He looked up as he saw Buffy crest the top of the hill and took off running when he saw who she was carrying. His heart dropped to his stomach until he saw his friend's chest rising and falling.

Buffy didn't answer any of the questions being thrown at her; she just moved to the van and laid Willow on the backseat. "Xander, take Carrie and let her show you where we found everyone. See if you can find out the why behind the kidnapping. I'm taking Will back to HQ. She worked some serious mojo and she's out. I need to get cleaned up. Can you do that?"

Xander gave a curt nod to Buffy then wrapped her in a hug. "I've got it covered. Is Will going to be ok?"

"Yeah she just used too much and is exhausted."

Xander felt his pulse die down just a little bit and squeezed Buffy's shoulder. "Take care of her and go home."

Buffy searched for the keys on the unconscious witch and handed them to Faith. The blonde climbed in and then settled Willow's head on her lap. Her head was ringing from the pounding she took from the two Fyarls, but that took second place to the worry about her witch. She stroked the soft red hair in silence hoping that the girl would be fine come morning like she promised Xander. The ride back to the school was quiet. Everyone was still in a bit of a daze as the van pulled in. Simon held on to River and Kaylee as they followed Buffy to her room where Buffy laid Willow on her bed. He untangled himself from his wife and sister and moved to the bed and stood next to Buffy.

"Do you want me to take a look at her?" He placed a hand on her shoulder and waited.

"No, she's just wiped out. The magicks she worked were pretty heavy. She should be good after a solid 8 hours sleep." Buffy tried to school her features and take the worry out of them when she looked over her shoulder. The movement caused her to wince and she cursed the stone like fists of the demons.

"Then at least let me get you cleaned up and if you need stitches…" Simon nodded to River who went to the bathroom in search of a towel and something to hold warm water. She came out a few moments later with the things she knew her brother would need. "Come on. Come sit and let me fix you up."

Buffy grudgingly left Willow's side to sit at the desk by her bed. Simon crouched in front of her and gently wiped at the crusted, dark blood along her face and jaw. It came off in chunks and turned the water a rusty brown color. He was surprised when the blood was finally washed off to find only four shallow cuts.

Buffy smiled at his confusion and mumbled, "Slayer healing. I heal quicker than most. It'll be gone by morning."

"Oh." Simon got up and handed the bowl off to River. "We're going to go back to our rooms. Will you be okay?"

"I'll be fine," Buffy assured the doctor, letting him see a smile she surely didn't feel at the moment. "Thanks again."

Simon nodded and ushered his two girls out of the room all three bidding a good night to the slayer. She let out a breath of relief as the door clicked shut. Hobbling over, she clicked the lock in place and made sure it was secure before turning to Willow. She moved to the redhead and covered her with the comforter. She then hazarded a glance down at her muck and dirt crusted clothes. Making a face as she peeled the items off, she threw them in a heap by her trash can. Taking one last look at Willow, she shuffled into the bathroom.

Once there, a look in the mirror revealed some serious bruising to her back and she made her way over to the shower. Adjusting the nozzle spay to its most forceful setting, she turned it on to the hottest temperature she could take. Stepping in, she turned her back to the hard spray. It felt great on the knots that had formed after the demons were trying to make her a permanent fixture in the ground. The speed and strength of the Fyarl's attack had surprised her and she had taken some nasty hits which she suspected hadn't stopped when she lost consciousness. The heat and pressure of the water felt good despite the protests from the bruises that marked her body.

It was there in the solitude of the bathroom that as per Buffy ritual she broke down and cried letting the water mix with tears. She was sore and more than likely had a few cracked or bruised ribs. The fear that had gripped her as she watched Willow collapse was the most draining. She couldn't believe her friend had taken such a huge risk. Buffy berated herself for not following her instincts on waiting to get back up and bigger weapons. She stayed in the shower until the water ran cold. Turning the faucet off, she stepped out and wrapped herself in the robe hanging on the back of the bathroom door.

Buffy flipped the lights off as she walked in to the bedroom and noticed Willow curled up on the left side of the bed. The slayer slipped in underneath the sheets and watched her friend sleep. She was still thinking about how much of a risk the witch took performing the spells she did. Since leaving Sunnydale, Willow only practiced on esbats and sabats or when she was called in by the coven to find a new slayer. There was also the healing spells she did, but that was more energy focusing than actual spell workage; what Willow did tonight was the biggest piece of mojo the blonde had seen her work since Sunnydale. Buffy's face was creased with worry for her friend. She didn't know how Willow would be when she woke up. Yawning, Buffy absentmindedly formed into Willow's back as the sun began to filter through the curtains and drifted off to sleep.


Chapter 7 – Kidnapping Schmidnapping

River had assured her brother for what felt like the bazillionth time that she was okay and in no way traumatized by the kidnapping before he would let her leave the room. She was hungry and wanted to see if there was anything in the kitchen to eat. It had been funny the past year or so, her brain after sharing some of the secrets that she knew, had begun to quiet. There were still the memories of the things she knew. Of the secrets she had gleaned, not only from the parliament of the Alliance, but also the people she came into contact with and her family. Simon had done the best he could and she loved him for it. The entire crew, except maybe Jayne, had all watched out for her and continued to do so, but there was a small part that just wanted to begin to live a normal (whatever that meant for someone like her) life. She loved flying Serenity. It gave her something to do and kept her mind from going to too many places at once.

Letting out a frustrated sigh River entered the kitchen and stopped as Faith looked up from a huge bowl of cereal. She gave a small wave and received a huge grin in return. Images flashed through her mind as she neared the brunette. There was one of an angry woman standing over her with belt in one hand and a cigarette in the other. The next was of a woman being tortured by hoofed vampire looking guy. She stopped the flow of imagery with as much control as she could muster and sat down across from the slayer.

"Heya," said Faith around a mouthful of Captain Crunch.

"Hi. I…was hungry?"

"It's cool; I always get hungry after fighting. You okay with the kidnapping and all?"

As lucid as she felt now, River decided to try and maintain a conversation. Faith had peaked her curiosity the first time she saw her. As it was this was also the first time they were alone together. Thanking the universe for her clear-headedness, River nodded and asked, "You were kind of gone there for a while, are you okay?"

"Got a headache the size of Nebraska, but I'll live."

"What's Nebraska?"

Laughing, Faith shook her head. "It's a state. Like Ohio." Faith watched a look of confusion flow over the girls face. She tipped her chair back and smiled, "How much do you know about America or now that I think about it, how much did they know that they taught you?"

"They know more than they let on I think, but it's all kind of muddled with fiction. People rewrite the past to suit the needs of the future."

"Uh, yeah. So you were hungry. What's your poison?"

"N-no poison, uh, if you have any of the chicken from dinner, that would be good."

Smiling Faith pushed back from the kitchen island and nodded. "We do, but have you ever tried Captain Crunch?"

"I don't eat captains..."

"It's a cereal, made of wheat or something." Faith shoved her bowl at River and urged, "try some. I promise if you don't like it, we'll find somethin' else for ya."

River eyed the bowl and its contents for a moment and then picked up the spoon. She got a few pieces of the cereal on the spoon and cautiously brought it up to her mouth. She was surprised by the sweetness first and then the way the crunching cereal mixed with the refreshing milk to make it taste better. Nodding her head, she looked at Faith. "Is there any more of this?"

"We've got tons. It's a staple in this place." Getting up, Faith turned to make River her own bowl. She came back to the counter a moment later with a bowl half the size of hers and pushed it towards the dark haired girl. "Eat up kiddo."

The two girls sat in the kitchen for sometime talking. Conversation flowed naturally for River for the first time in what felt like forever. Despite a few of the emotions she picked up on from the slayer, River felt like they had known each other for a while and was happy to just have a conversation with someone with out them worrying about her health or mental stability. Sure she knew that there were things wrong, but she didn't need the coddling. Faith proved to not be the coddling type while also being open and easy to talk to.

Willow woke to a vaguely remembered sensation. A body was pressed into her back and it was a small one at that. She craned her aching neck and head around and was met with blonde hair covering the face of her best friend. She looked around more closely and realized that she was in Buffy's room. Doing her best not to disturb a restful slayer, Willow extracted herself from the bed and turned around to pick up her shoes lying on the floor. It was when she looked up that she noticed Buffy. A robe clad Buffy who at the moment in time had one breast neatly exposed and who had just been spooned to Willow's back. Blushing a healthy shade of red, Willow quickly turned and made her way out of the bedroom as quietly as possible.

She walked the five feet to her room and opened the door. She needed a hot shower, a change of clothes, ten aspirin, and some breakfast preferably in that order. Thinking about it she added a large cup of coffee to the list. Deciding on the most efficient way to go about it, she was done in the shower in less than 10 minutes and dressed by 15. Willow was halfway to the kitchen when she changed course deciding to stop and see if Inara was awake and had eaten yet. She glanced down at her watch; it was still early 9am.

Willow knocked quietly and was rewarded with the sound of Inara granting access. She pushed the door open and grinned. "Hey, mornin', I just wanted to know if you've eaten yet?"

Inara sent a sheepish smile to the redhead. "No, I just woke up."

Willow looked the woman over. The make up was perfect, the hair was down and flowing over her shoulders in a way that caused feelings in Willow that she thought were long since buried and the companion's sari was a deep burgundy then made her skin glow or so Willow thought. She then looked over at the bed that too was made and immaculate. "Well if this is you waking up, then I don't think my heart could take it if it saw you ready to go out."

Inara laughed at the hidden compliment and motioned Willow to sit down. "Were you going to go get something to eat?"

"Yeah," Willow answered, taking a seat in a recliner off to the side. "I figured I'd stop by and see if you would like to maybe eat me, er, ah, grab something to eat with me. Sorry, my brain's still all jumbly from last night."

"It's quite alright. Are you feeling okay? Buffy looked really worried and I must admit, that I too was concerned. What you did…I'm not sure that I've ever seen anything so surreal."

Willow ducked her head embarrassed. "I…" The folded hands in her lap began to fidget, "It was kind of an accident. I tend to get upset when things beat up on Buffy."

Inara only nodded and waited on Willow to continue.

"I haven't done anything like that in a while. Magic wise, it's pretty hard on the system."

"Why?" Inara pulled up a chair next to the redhead and grabbed a hand.

Willow looked up into concerned brown eyes and felt her pulse pick up as she answered, "It's…that type of stuff, the hurting and maiming and the…the killing comes from a dark place. Touching that now… just… it leaves a stain that I can't ever seem to remove." Willow looked at the confused face in front of her and realizing that this was probably her first real introduction to magic, tried to explain to Inara, "You can think of magic as energy transfer. Have you heard Energy can not be created or destroyed but is transferred from one system to another?"

Inara nodded her head.

"Well, that's like magic. Magic is the connection between everything. It exists and we can use it to perform acts. Intent is also a major player in magical use. It's like knowledge neither good nor bad, it's the user that defines the label. Last night, despite the why of the intent, my intent was clear."

"And that was?"

"To Kill. They were going to kill Buffy and probably everyone else. So, I killed them instead and that, regardless of the why, leaves its mark that can't be easily washed away." Willow ducked her head back down trying to reign in her emotions.

Inara cocked her head to the side in confusion. This side of the world, the vampires, and demons and magic was all still hard to understand, but after last night, after she had cried herself to sleep in the privacy of this room, she couldn't deny the truth of what these people had said. "I'm not sure I completely understand, but if it hurts you, then why do it?"

"The alternative is death." Willow scrunched her brow together and tried to clarify the statement, "The alternative to me not doing stuff like that means that someone I care about can die. Buffy told you guys I brought her back to life. That wasn't a lie, but the price I paid for her, well, I'm not entirely sure that didn't earn me a spot in a special place in a hell dimension when I die."

"A hell dimension and why would the price be that?" Inara was growing more confused as this conversation continued. She had thought that this would be easy, in the realm of listening to a client easy, but the pain etched in the redhead's features spoke more than the words she used to try and explain.

Willow answered the simple one first, "A hell, yes there is more than one dimension that is hell like, each unique and possibly limitless. The why well, that's a long story and a bit heavy for morning, especially before coffee, can we maybe revisit this later?"

Inara just nodded and stood pulling Willow to her feet. "Breakfast it is then. What do you like to eat?"

Willow smiled, thankful that Inara had dropped the topic. "Uh, coffee first, aspirin and then maybe some fruit."


"You do know what fruit is don't you? Do they not have stuff like that in the future?"

"Yes, we have fruit, but traveling the way we do, we eat flavored protein. On the core planets I was telling you about, it's a tad more common, but still a delicacy. Truth be told, I haven't had a piece of any type of fruit for quite some time." Inara sent Willow a heart warming smile and followed her to the kitchen.

Mal rolled over and sat up in an empty bed. He stretched his sore muscles and looked around to find his pants and shirt. Taking a quick glance at the clock he moved slowly to the bathroom. After last nights patrolling fiasco, he had barely made it to the room upright after checking on everyone. His head hurt, his stomach was growling and Zoë had obviously been awake for some time. The shower looked to have been used a while ago.

Last night, they hadn't even had a chance to talk about what in the hell happened. He still reeled at the things he saw. He had been in war, he had seen some of the worst man had to offer, but watching Willow do the things she had done had unnerved him. It just wasn't natural to him. The more he thought about it the more he needed to see to it that he and his crew got back to where they belonged. He didn't feel that they fit in here. He was out of place in this world and this time. He raked a hand through his floppy mass of hair and left the room to find some grub.

Buffy groaned as her ribs audibly creaked when she moved to get up. Willow was obviously gone and she had overslept. Cursing, Buffy rolled out of bed, dressed and made her way to get a sorely needed cup of coffee. She walked down the hall thinking about last night events. Hopefully Xander had some information for her. She was also still worried about Willow. She needed to make sure that the witch was okay with what had happened.

Buffy froze when she walked into the kitchen. Willow was apparently up and feeling okay, because there she sat in a huddled conversation with the time traveling companion. They were sitting knee to knee and giggling like schoolgirls. A flash of jealousy flared as Buffy was taken back to a time where a scene similar to this played out, but the girl next to Willow had been Tara and Buffy had yet to realize what her feelings had meant. She coughed to let her presence be known.

Willow looked up startled and then sent her friend a smile. "Mornin' Buffy, you sleep okay?"

Buffy nodded and made a dash for the coffee pot. She needed to clear her head before she said something she would regret later. Kicking herself once again for having these thoughts she turned from the two girls and excused herself to the back yard. Sitting down on one of the benches that riddled the backyard she took a long drink of the coffee that she'd hastily made and grimaced, too much sugar and not nearly enough half and half. She threw the contents in the grass and rested her head in her hands.

She couldn't seem to stop the thoughts about Willow that had been plaguing her for the past year. It had started a bit after Willow had come back from Rio. Buffy began to see Willow in a whole new way and it scarred the living shit out of the slayer if she were honest with herself. She had never been attracted to Willow before then or had she? The slayer got lost in thoughts of the redheaded witch and completely ignored Dawn sitting down next to her.

"Buffy?" Dawn nudged her sister's shoulder and waited on a response.

"Uh." Buffy looked up startled. "Oh Dawnie, hey. What's up?"

"Giles, Xander in the war room. They want your assistance."

Buffy nodded. "Anyone else?"

"Willow went in with Inara and Faith was sent to go get the rest of the people from the future. How weird does that sound? People from the future, as if our lives weren't complicated or strange enough?" Dawn sighed out loud and stood, waiting for Buffy to follow.

"Well squirt, it's the life we live."

Part 8

Return to Buffy the Vampire Slayer Fiction

Return to Firefly & Serenity Fiction

Return to Main Page