Buffy awoke to someone screaming next to her. But no one was next to her. It was coming from Dawn's room down the hall. Idiot, she cursed herself. Shouldn't have let her wake up by herself. How would you feel if you suddenly woke up a foot taller? Buffy squashed the feelings of longing such thoughts invariably brought on as she raced to Dawn's room. "Dawn! Dawn! I'm here. Shhhh. It's alright." she assured her sister.
"Simon! Help me Simon!" Dawn screamed, clutching her head.
"Dawn! There's no Simon here." Buffy informed her. "It's okay. It's just us."
"Buffy?" there was a look of recognition in her eyes. "Oh Buffy! It's so loud in here. Make it stop. Please, just make it stop." Dawn clutched her tightly as tears streamed down her face.
Twenty minutes later Giles was there and Dawn was sedated.
"Do I even want to know why you have sedatives like that?" Buffy wondered.
"Well Buffy, one must- one must be prepared." Giles stammered.
Just then the front door slammed shut.
"Oh no! Mom! We're dead!" lamented Buffy.
"Doughnuts!" Xander called out.
Both Buffy and Giles released the breaths they were holding.
After the sugary goodness was consumed Buffy got down to business. "Xander, does the name Simon mean anything to you?"
Xander had a sharp intake of breath. He took his time finishing the bite of doughnut he had in his mouth and washing it down with the rest of his milk. "That something Dawn said?" he guessed.
"Dawn went as River Tam for Halloween. Simon Tam was River's brother. A doctor trying to help her because the government did something to her brain. It made her... well psychic. And maybe crazy too, though it wasn't ever clear if that was because of all the voices she heard."
"Dear God." Giles breathed.
"I know. And if I ever get my hands on that Ethan Rayne, he'll wish he'd never heard of Jayne Cobb."
Giles did a double take. "Excuse me, did... you say Ethan Rayne?"
"Yeah, he called our costumes the Rayne combo because it was both River and Jayne." Xander gave a grim smile.
"Indeed." Giles was all grim and no smile. "If you'll excuse me, I believe I should check out this costume shop for myself."
"Wait! What about Dawn?" Buffy grabbed his sleeve.
"I shan't be gone long." he assured her.
"And what if my mom comes home early?" she demanded.
"Tell her that... she stayed up all night eating candy and is now sleeping it off. Perhaps you can pile some toys at the foot of her bed to make it less obvious how tall she's grown." Giles pulled his arm free.
After Giles was gone, Buffy refilled their milks. "So, what's with the knives?"
"Noticed that, did you?" Xander drew one and placed it on the counter. "This one's yours. Sorry but with Jayne's memories so fresh, I just felt naked without one last night."
"And the other two?"
"Are mine from home."
There was silence for a minute until Buffy spoke. "I have this insatiable need to crochet something right now. I know for certain that I can play the piano really well and I speak both French and Latin fluently. Also if I needed to, I could throw a party for 20 people tomorrow."
"Not the most useful skills." Xander observed.
"No, but my French grades should improve. So spill. What kinds of things did you learn?" Buffy prodded.
"Some decent fighting skills. Also, I could probably field strip and clean any gun you put in front of me right now. And I got my own insatiable need: to exercise." Xander grabbed his stomach. "I did 100 sit ups last night and another 50 this morning. I can barely sit up straight right now."
"What about Dawn? What do you think she got?" Buffy wondered. "She woke up screaming for Simon this morning." she swallowed. "It worries me."
"I'll find out when she comes to again." Xander promised. That she kept River's height was a worrying sign even without the screaming. It spoke that she probably kept more than even Xander. And he had 41 years of Jayne's memories and habits to deal with. On the plus side, he could speak fluent Mandarin and could probably read a bit too. But whereas Xander looked like Xander again, Dawn had kept something physical and if the physical changes extended to her brain then they'd be in real trouble.
Buffy, Dawn, Xander and Giles were in the desert, miles from the nearest person. Xander had insisted that waking her far away from most people would be best for her. Willow had been filled in on the day's events and wanted to come too but they decided that the fewer people the better for now. Giles wouldn't have even have come except that neither of the children had a driver's license and even if Buffy had one he wouldn't have let her take his car.
Dawn was starting to come around.
"I think I should be the one she sees first." Xander stated.
"But I'm her sister."
Xander swallowed. "I know, Buffy. But I've got Jayne's memories here to help me. So whether it's Dawn or River that makes an appearance, I'll be capable of helping her. Do you know how to calm an insane psychic? No? Then let me try first."
Buffy's shoulders slumped and she backed away in defeat.
Giles spoke up, "You retained all of-"
"Can it." Xander growled. "She's coming to."
"Uhh. Wǒ gǎnjué jiù xiàng shì yī zhǐ shānyáng de niújiǎo jí zhòng. (I feel like I was headbutted by a goat)" Dawn groaned holding her hands over her head.
"Good morning yuèliàng dànǎo. (Moon brain)"
"Good morning ape man." Dawn replied still not taking her hands from her eyes. "Where are we?"
"Earth." Xander had to stop himself from saying Eath-that-was.
"She is aware of that, Jayne. But she can feel that she is no longer in the city. That was the where that she was referring too." Dawn chided.
"We're in the desert, about an hour east of Sunnydale. You, me, Buffy and Giles."
"Buffy's angry with me." Dawn opened her fingers enough to poke an eye out.
Xander sighed. It was hard to argue with a psychic. "She thinks she lost her sister. But she didn't, did she? You're still Dawn. Still her mei-mei."
"Just one more voice in all the noise." Dawn said cryptically.
"You're forgetting who you're talking to. This is Xander, Dawnie. I've heard you scream loud enough to shatter glass so I know you can make yourself heard if you want to."
"It doesn't matter. This mind is as broken as the last one. Simon could do nothing for her and Buffy can do less." She reached up to the sky. "And the peacefulness of the Black is unreachable when the gravity is so strong."
He took the hand reaching for the sky. "So you're just going to give up? You're not going to try? Not for Buffy? Not for me?"
"It's not enough. Xander loves Buffy. Jayne loves Kaylee. No matter who I am, I always get left by the wayside." Dawn lamented.
"You're sad because the men you liked weren't pedophiles? Jayne was more than 20 years older than River and yesterday Dawn was only twelve years old." Xander scolded. "I thought you were supposed to be a genius."
Dawn showed off the maturity of her new body by sticking out her tongue and blowing a raspberry. But she did rise to her feet and dust herself off. Only to be captured in a Slayer bear hug. "Buffy please." she choked. Once she was slightly more free she faced her teary-eyed sister with tears of her own. "It's not your fault. None of it is your fault." she assured her. "But I'm not going back." she met Giles' eyes. "It's not safe."
"I assure you we will keep you-"
"For you." Dawn cut him off. "It took River Tam years to... And that was with advanced medical care."
"I'll take care of her." Xander decided. "I have some experience in this sort of thing."
"No. I'll take care of her." Buffy countered. "I'm her sister."
But Dawn shook her head. "One girl in all the world... If there had been only one doctor in all the Verse, I never would have let Simon throw everything away on me. The world needs you too much to throw yourself away caring for me."
"I'd like to see you stop me." Buffy crossed her arms.
"I'm a psychic assassin. I think I could find a way." Dawn gave a small smile in return. "Besides, you can't keep me safe from myself. My life is small next to all those you would otherwise save." she threatened sadly.
Buffy covered her mouth in horror. "Dawn, you wouldn't."
"River thought about it every day after her third month in the Academy. But the situation is different here. Better. Once I can control it. I can come back. To my family. I'll get better. I promise I'll get better. But you can't come with."
Both sister's were bawling by that time. Giles pulled Xander aside while they embraced. "Are you sure you want to do this? Dropping out of school to help Dawn. I don't mean to make it sound like a whim, but it is rather sudden. And you will be missing a High School diploma, it could hurt your future."
"I've had more schooling than Jayne Cobb ever had. And Dawn and River both need me on this. I can't let them down." Xander met his eyes.
"Then I guess we'll give you a ride to the next town." Giles offered.
Xander shook his head. "Thanks, but I don't want to go through this all over again. We'll walk."
"Very well." Giles reached into his jacket and pulled out his checkbook. He wrote a check and handed it to Xander. "Cash that when you get to a town. It will give you some money to start with and let us know that you got to civilization alive. Agreed?"
Xander looked at the check and could only swallow and nod. Suddenly his mouth got very dry. "Thanks for all your help."
"Thank you for yours."
A/N: Ok, this isn't where I thought this was going. But I guess that's what's fun about writing. Finding out where the story goes.
我感觉就像是一只山羊的牛角击中。Wǒ gǎnjué jiù xiàng shì yī zhǐ shānyáng de niújiǎo jí zhòng. (I feel like I was headbutted by a goat) – Thanks (or blame) to Google Translate.
Yuèliàng dànǎo – Moon brain. Same as above.