Chapter 10

Later, they stood in the empty, barren filed of the landing area, their bags at their feet and a sober crew gathered around them.

Giles reached into his duffel and pulled out a small, bulging mesh bag.

"For you," he said, tossing it to Captain Reynolds. "This should cover us."

The captain peeked into the bag, then his eyes widened. "Yes," he squeaked, clearly stunned by the prize. "This will be...fine..."

"Oh, are we doing presents?" Buffy asked. "Cause I've got one too..."

She reached into her bag and pulled out a handful of stakes, neatly bound together with ribbon. "Got a little bored being all holed up in there," she said. "Had some time to do a little whittling..."

She passed it to Zoe, he gave it a firm tap, then let Kaylee touch.

"Remember, they have to be wood," Giles said.

"Cross-bows if you don't want to get too close."

"And fire works too?" added Kaylee.

"Yes, -mei-mei-," said Buffy, trying out the endearment. "Fire works too."

The girls hugged, and as they pulled away, Kaylee started blubbering. Simon immediately pulled her into a hug and held her close, eyes still locked with Buffy's.

It was River who finally broke the poignant tableau. She reached out, brushed her now-bandaged finger against Buffy's cheek. "There's another one," she said.

Buffy gently pulled the fingers off of her. "There's a what, now?"

"Another girl. Another girl they've touched. A girl full of light."

"Dawn," said Giles. "She's referring to Dawn..."

"Yes, River," Buffy said. "There is another girl."

Then River pulled back again. Apparently, the mere knowledge that she was not alone was sufficient for her.

"I have a gift too," said Inara, stepping forward shyly. She slid a piece of paper into Giles' hand. "My WAVE i.d. So you can find me, if you cross to this world again."

With a reverential smile, he ripped off a small corner of it, scribbled something and handed it back to her. "My phone number. So you can find me if you ever cross over to mine.

He held out his hand to Buffy. "You ready?"

She shook her head, gave Simon a nod. "You can still come with us, you know."

Simon smiled, a little sadly though. "What they did to River, they did it here. I have to stay and find the answers, Buffy."

"I understand. You guys take care, you hear?"

There were collective nods, then the Serenity crew stepped back to give them space. Buffy flexed her arms, acclimating herself to her world and her watcher again.

"So that takes care of them," she said. "But what about us? What do we do now, Giles?"

"Now? We go home."

"And then?"

"Then we do a little magic."

"And then?"

He pondered for a moment. "And then we have tea. Shall we?"

They clasped hands and the last thing they saw as the vortex formed was a ring of smiling faces, waving goodbye to them across a curtain of light.

the end

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