Hopefully, I can still do something with Strangely Literal before the day is out, but my employment anxieties got hold of me and I couldn't concentrate enough to write that next chapter. Sorry, folks. So since I've been on a Wheel of Time kick these past couple days, this is what you get instead! Alternate fic-a-day entry.-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-:-
Xander and Dawn waited semi-patiently while they waited for Willow to complete the spell to open the portal. Buffy, brain trust that she was, had one of her rare klutz moments while fighting a demon next to a dimensional portal. It had been a grotesque pseudo-minotaur/wolf mishmash thing, and while she did kill it, its death throes knocked her through.
So they had to rescue Buffy from the portal. Again. The only thing they knew, was that she definitely didn't die this time. Thank the Powers that Be for small favors. Those asshats.
Xander looked at his watch, absently scratching at his eyepatch. "Will, c'mon. Buffy's not just going to rescue herself. Except, y'know, when she does. But she can't this time! I don't think."
Dawn gave Xander a fond look. "Do you ever think about how those sentences sound before you say 'em?"
"I'm an improvisational rambler." Xander looked haughty and buffed his nails on his sweater.
Willow murmured a few more words in Latin and a burst of power formed a slowly opening portal, a silvery slash forming above their heads, then extending down to the ground. She let out a gust of breath from her exertion. "Hey, blasting a hole in dimensional space isn't exactly the same as being able to fly, y'know."
"Blah, blah, blah." Xander hefted his axe while Dawn bounced her sword on her shoulder. "Let's go have a look. And this better not be the world without shrimp."
Without losing her concentration, Willow muttered, "It's not the world without shrimp anymore, Mister-I-Couldn't-Finish-Dinner-Before-We-Opened-The-Portal."
"How jaded are we, if we talk like this when we're going on a dimensional rescue mission?" Dawn frowned. "See, now you guys have me doing it!"
"C'mon, Dawn." Willow tugged on Dawn's elbow. "We were all bound to get a little too blasé about this stuff sooner or later."
The three of them stepped through the portal and experienced a stomach-lurching wave of dizziness before their feet touched ground on the other side.
The three friends were on the side of a mountain, as best they could determine, and a battle seemed to have recently torn through the area, if the assorted bodies were anything to go by.
"Huh. Must be a medieval-ish kinda place. Armor, swords, spears." Willow gestured to a few of the fallen.
"Were they evil?" Xander asked. "Or were they maybe desert ninjas?" He examined one of the fallen bodies, which looked like it was in ninja-wear, except the pajamas were brown and the head coverings were black. Also, spears, which Xander found a bit odd. What kind of ninja carries spears that were only a couple feet long?
Willow shook her head. "Not that I can tell. There's some faint traces of dark intent around, but nothing demonic."
Dawn cocked her head. "Hey guys? What's that sound?"
Xander and Willow both paused to listen. After a few moments, they could faintly hear the sound of a higher pitched voice crying out in a mixture of pain and what seemed to be exertion.
"Will, do your thing. C'mon, Dawn. Maybe we can be inter-dimensional EMT's!"
"For free? Pff. You're on your own there, Xander."
Xander and Dawn followed the sounds of unhappiness until they came across a cluster of shrubs that had grown in a rare patch of dirt on the mountainside. They peered around the shrubs to find an extremely pregnant redheaded woman apparently neck deep in labor, wearing the brown pajamas but with her hood and mask off.
"Pregnant girl ninjas? There's something you don't see every day." Xander blinked.
The woman started at the sound of his voice and lifted a spear that was by her side, her arm poised to let the spear fly. "Stay away from me, wetlanders!" she spat.
"Huh? Oh, right! Dawn, weapons down." He and Dawn slowly set their weapons in the dirt and Xander lifted his hands peacefully. "Hey, it's okay. We don't wanna hurt you. We thought someone was injured over here."
The woman looked skeptically at him. Dawn shook her head. "How long have you been in labor?"
"Labor?" The woman growled. "I'm not digging a hole, I'm birthing a child!"
Dawn winced. "Right, no English medical terms," she reminded herself under her breath. "I mean, how long have you been having birthing pains?" This time, Dawn moderated her tone to a more soothing one.
The woman eyed them suspiciously for several moments before relenting. "Hours. They came and they went, but now it's -" She cut herself off to let out another sharp cry of discomfort.
"Now the pains don't stop?" Dawn asked gently. She looked at Xander. "That baby's coming right now, Xan."
"This is officially the weirdest trip we've ever taken. You deliver, I'll cheerlead?"
Dawn nodded and looked back to the woman, who had lowered her spear slightly. "Can we help you? Without getting stabbed, I mean?"
Maternal protectiveness warred with labor pain for a moment before she gave an exhausted nod and lowered her spear.
Xander and Dawn moved to her, Dawn by her feet and Xander by her head. "Xander, prop her up and let her rest on your knees." She gave the woman an apologetic look. "I'm going to have to remove your pants. I'm sorry."
An impatient nod was the woman's only response.
Xander eased her into a slightly elevated posture and dropped his jaw. "Dawn, she's wounded. Stabbed around the kidney." He gestured to the woman's right side.
Dawn swore and hastily removed the woman's pants and very bizarre looking underpants, flinging the pants at Xander. "Put pressure on it. Nothing we can do about it right now."
Once Xander got her situated, Dawn went through the somewhat tedious process of trying to tell the woman when to push and when not to, without using obstetrician words. After some time, they were joined by Willow.
"Hey guys, no dice. Or rather, no Buff- Okay, I leave you two alone for twenty minutes and you find a pregnant ninja?" Willow gaped. "That's it. No more wandering off when we do this."
The woman let out an extended growl of pain, followed by Xander echoing her sentiment as his hand was crushed in her grip. "Ow! Jeez, she's got near-Slayer levels of hand strength!"
"I think that's just pregnant woman strength, Xander," Willow absently corrected.
Dawn was gently encouraging her. "That's it, sweetie. That's the shoulders, you're almost done." She glanced at Willow. "Cut the cord?"
"Oh, right!" Willow fished in her pockets for a knife to cut the cord. Once she was done with that, she used a very focused fire spell to cauterize the end still attached to the baby.
"Clean-up." Dawn extracted the baby and passed him to Willow to wrap up and wash as best she could, while Dawn moved to see about the stab wound in the woman's back.
The woman was very tired by this point, but looking at Willow with wide eyes. "You're not a Wise One," she murmured.
"Only when I've had too much caffeine." Willow smiled gently and finished her ministrations, wrapping the baby in a conjured blanket. "Are you ready to hold him?"
"A boy?" The woman smiled a maternal smile and held her arms out to Willow, who eased the baby into her hands. For a few moments, she seemed the perfect image of a new mother, serenely holding her child. "Gift of my heart," she murmured serenely, nuzzling the baby's damp red hair atop its head.
Dawn, Xander and Willow all paused to smile for a moment at the woman. "He's beautiful," Dawn assured her. "But we need to take him back for a minute so we can try and stop the bleeding in your back.
The woman passed the baby back to Willow and shook her head. "Tell the shade of my heart..." Sadly, the message was never to be passed as her head fell back against Xander's chest and her last breath passed her lips.
Xander and Willow shook their heads sadly. Once she wasn't able to get a pulse or detect a heartbeat, Dawn muttered angrily, "Damn."
They restored the woman's body to modesty as best they could and covered her with another conjured blanket. Willow broke the somber silence. "Hate to break the mood, but we've only got a few minutes before the portal closes."
"Well, hell." Xander shrugged. "We can't just leave baby on a battlefield, Will."
"I know, but-!"
"Guys!" Dawn pointed. Further down the slope, they saw an armored man trudging along the base of the mountain.
Xander stepped forward. "Hello!" he called, placing himself between the man and the girls who were guarding the baby.
The man's head snapped up to look at them and he brought up his sword in a two-handed stance. "You're not Aiel," he called.
"Uh, no. No, we're not." Xander called before he murmured for the girls' ears only. "Man, this guy's powers of observation are staggering. We're not eels. Thanks for the tip."
"That's not what he said, Xander." Dawn took over the shouting. "No, we were looking for a lost friend and came across the battlefield."
"If your friend was in the battle here, mistress, you may have a long search ahead of you." The man sighed. "Many lives were lost today.
"No, we've finished our search and our friend isn't here. And one life may yet be preserved." Dawn took the baby from Willow and held him out to the soldier. "We found an injured woman birthing a child. We saved the baby, but couldn't do the same for the mother. Could you find someone that will care for him? Time is short and we have to leave this place." Dawn made a face. Talking in formal-speak was not her most favorite thing. But she had to do it, otherwise Xander would. And having a formal spokes-Xander just wasn't a wise idea.
The soldier's expression softened. "The poor lad." He seemed to think for a moment before sheathing his sword. "I shall do what I can. Perhaps if I speak with my wife..."
"We appreciate your kindness, good sir. Now, we must leave this place and so should you. A battlefield is no place for a baby." Dawn handed the child over to the man, who gingerly held him as though he were going to explode. Dawn had to pause and adjust the man's hold on the baby.
While the soldier was looking the child over in wonder, Dawn, Xander and Willow did a slow fade back to the portal. "Poor kid," Xander sympathized. "Poor mom. War sucks."
"Yeah. Least we found a home for the baby, though." Willow consoled.
"I call dibs on the shower before the next portalling." Dawn announced as they stepped through the portal. The portal closed behind them, leaving the dimension disconnected from earth once more. And on the slopes of Dragonmount, the Dragon was Reborn