Title: A River That Flowed
Fandom/Character: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Ethan
Summary: "The heat was hot and the ground was dry, but the air was full of sound"
Notes: Inspired by the song, 'A Horse With No Name.' Set after the season four episode, 'A New Man.' This makes more sense if you've read the comics.
Ethan wasn't enjoying Giles' joke anymore. The raging ball of fiery death above him was only making his blistery sunburn worse. It hadn't been too hard to skip out on the soldiers, but that bitch, mother nature, was another story. He felt as weak as the fragile mesquites and small shrubs he passed. Their tiny leaves trembled in the wind. Dust swirled up; stinging his eyes. Ethan didn't even know where he was. He stopped feeling the deep hum of the hellmouth days ago, but something else had been sending tingles down his spine. He had no idea how far the soldiers had taken him. The truck never seemed to stop bouncing on the road except for small breaks. He had escaped, but he missed his gallon jug of water his captors had so thoughtfully gave him. Ethan wanted to scream but he kept shuffling instead.
Everywhere he looked there was empty space. It was high noon and everything from the rocks to the cactus was sun bleached to a brittle pale. The silence grated on him.
Ethan was an urban creature. He liked his streets dirty and his nightclubs dense with the young and debauched. He was more alone than he had even been, but it felt like he was walking in the footsteps of many that had come before. Balling his fists up, he pressed them against his tired and gritty-feeling eyes. Sparks in green, purple, and brown bloomed in his vision. He breathed deep. It was hard to swallow and put his thoughts in order
Two-three-a hundred days? How many spent in the sun? Time had never been so slow. It couldn't end like this. Ethan didn't remember how he ended up on his knees or how long he knelt there. He only knew that the sand felt hot through his trousers and that there was something wrong with a giant cricket urging him, with the frantic twitches of his antenna, to drink from a gourd. Ethan grabbed it before slurping the water down. Beyond the gourd's rim, he watched the cricket change, thickening and shrinking, into a man. A wooden flute was pressed to the man's lips and its song seemed to stretch into the distance.
The gourd dropped from his hands and Ethan fell with it.
The sand was cool and fine under his cheek when he awoke. He sat up. The man who had been a cricket was sitting in front of him with his legs crossed as he played the flute. Jagged dusky pillars of rock jutted up from the ground all around him. The stars were larger and more luminous. This was not the place he had passed out in.
⌠An age is passing.■ The man intoned before continuing with his song. ⌠Feminine gave way to masculine and now both must become one.■
⌠Am I dead?■ He had no time for mystical gibberish. Ethan stared at the man's face, but the features seemed to shift. Brown eyes replaced green eyes as a hooked nose became a flat one. Ethan looked away.
⌠No, a border patrol officer has already found you.■ The man smiled. ⌠I am just taking advantage of your delirium.■
⌠It's happened before.■ Ethan shrugged. There was a sheen of power to the flute player, but Ethan had a feeling that he was missing the delta for the stream. The pillars above him seemed to hum. He shook the thought from his mind before asking,⌠Why though?■
⌠You're a bastard son of chaos, aren't you?■ The man asked. His eyes were now the deepest blue and his skin the darkest black. A silver ring gleamed from his nostril.
⌠I appreciate your-■ Ethan said only to be interrupted.
⌠I've already decided how you can repay me.■ He smiled through a bushy beard.
⌠Of course.■ Ethan returned the smile and resisted the urge to roll his eyes. This wasn't a human magician, but he hesitated to call it a demon. Throughout the conversation, Ethan tried to decipher what kind of magic held him here, but all he felt was pure chaos. It wasn't like anything he had felt before and the tinge of power had grown.
⌠You must return when I summon you again. Things are going to get very exciting here.■ He winked an almond shaped eye. ⌠Those men will still be after you.■
⌠When? What is going to happen?■ Ethan coughed.⌠If I may ask?■
⌠The Slayer will need you to guide her.■
Ethan couldn't stop a grimace from spreading across his face. He choked out the only non-smite worthy response he could think of. ⌠Fun.■ He scratched the side of his head. ⌠Can I ask why? Why me, specifically.■
The flute player laughed. ⌠The sides of a volcano are always the most fertile.■ His features shifted faster, but his amusement was clear. Raising his flute to his now thin lips, he began to play again.
Ethan didn't get a chance to ask how the hell that meant anything before he felt himself fall. Then he was back on solid ground. He wheezed and sputtered as he tried to breathe. The heat was back; the back of his eyelids glowed red from the rays of the sun.
A rough hand smacked him on the cheek. It belonged to a leathery lawman who stared at him with a mixture of confusion and suspicion. ⌠Hey, fella, you alive here?■
⌠Yes.■ Ethan sighed as he sat up in the gravelly sand. The flute player's song lingering in his ear. ⌠Unfortunately.■