Memories Like Blood

Author: Mac Xavier <mac.xavier[at]>

Disclaimer: ... Actually, I own everyone in this story but Dawn. Huh. Neat. :) Dawn belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. The Journeyverse in Tenhawk's Playground.

Timeframe: Between "Secrets of the Blood" and "Year Two: New Beginings".

Location: The Tanner basement, Sunnydale California

Summary: Jacks Standish shares secrets and her memories of another young Blood Mage as she starts to teach Dawn.

Rating: FRT

Chapter 1

Jacks crossed her legs under her as she motioned for Dawn to make herself comfortable on the other side of the circle the older woman had spent hours drawing onto the bare concrete floor with damp chalk. "We start by meditating."

"I already know how to meditate," Dawn protested as she carefully sat down so as not to smudge her friend's efforts.

"This is going to take it further than you have before, Dawn," Jacks said, keeping her voice level and free of doubt.

Dawn closed her eyes and started the breathing exercise she was most familiar with. Jacks slapped a hand on the floor directly in front of her student. There was a sharp crack of sound and a brief flash of bright light.

Dawn jumped, her eyes flying wide.

Jacks scowled. "Try again. You want to learn Blood Magic, you learn to focus past distractions."

"So are you going to keep trying to startle me while we do this?"

The half-fey stared hard into the too young face. "Dawn, by the time we're done you will be able to stand face to face with an Abysmal Beast and cast calmly. And if you can't ... you deserve to be eaten."

Dawn's jaw dropped open. She snapped it shut then tried to speak again. "Okay. Let's do this."

"Then start meditating," Jacks ordered. Dawn took a deep breath then settled back into meditation. Jacks counted off her student's breaths until she found a point that was right for another sneak attack.

"What the hell!" Dawn shrieked as Jacks slapped her hands together right under Dawn's nose.

"Focus, Child."

The novice Blood Mage stared at her disturbingly calm instructor for several moments before returning to her meditation. Jacks made Dawn jump, screech, and fall over dozens of times before the Key made flesh stopped responding to the distractions.

Jacks nodded slowly in satisfaction. Dawn was a quick study. And even better, Dawn had a personal stake in getting it right. With that thought Jacks allowed herself to sink into a trance.


Dawn blinked as she looked around the open rolling meadow with a stream rushing over stones and sand across one side before the trees rose up on the other bank. "Where the ..."

"I drew you into my mind for your first lesson," Jacks said calmly. From somewhere above and behind the younger female.

"I thought meditating past distractions was the first lesson?" asked Dawn as she turned and looked up at her floating friend.

White curls bobbed merrily around a much too serious face as Jacks shook her head. "No, that was just to get you here. I need to show you something. Your first lesson is going to be about why I'm going to be putting you through hell."

"What are you talking a ..." Dawn's voice trailed off as the meadow melted away into a dusty encampment. "Jacks?"

"This was my home from the time I was six until I was eighteen." Jacks walked forward, Dawn trailing along behind her. "Coyote was the only one who called me Jacks, and only when the tribe couldn't hear us. They called me Ghost Child because of my coloring."

Dawn tried to keep from gawking. She had seen more amazing things in her life, but to actually be inside her friend's mind and to see one of her memories...

"Ah, there we are," Jacks said softly.


Jacks smiled slightly, only the faintest lifting of her lips as she gazed at two little girls staring at each other. One was obviously Jacks, with the gleaming white curls and much too large green eyes in a tattered Puritan dress. The other ... "Her childhood name was Voice in the Wind. She was the first of the children brave enough to approach me, and became my best friend."

The two little girls shared a grin before racing off, tossing a small ball of green light between them.

"You loved her," Dawn commented more to herself than to her teacher.

Jacks nodded. "She was very nearly my sister. She had the talent for magic. So I taught her what I knew. But she only listened sometimes."

"What happened?" Dawn asked without taking her eyes from the playing children.

"We grew up," Jacks sighed. The world around them blurred and swam as the memory shifted. "We became women. Her adult name was Doe Leaps the River and I became Coyote's Shadow. Some time while Coyote and I traveled to other tribes and even other worlds, Doe Leaps the River learned to amplify her power through blood magic."

"That's why you've been all twitchy about me being a blood mage?" Dawn demanded as she turned toward the half-fey.

Jacks turned a hard stare on her friend and student. "No. I've been all twitchy, as you put it, because of that."

Dawn turned to see what Jacks was pointing at now that the memory had stopped swirling around like a science fiction special effect.

A beautiful young woman, with skin like burnished copper and hair like a river of night flowing down her back, stood over the crouched form of Jacks as she had been almost exactly three hundred years ago.

This time Dawn didn't even bother trying not to stare. Jacks couldn't help but be beautiful, it was the blood spreading across the nearly white buckskin dress under the half-fey's hand that held the Key's attention.

"Doe Leaps the River was a very smart girl, Dawn," the Jacks beside her said as old pain welled up in her voice. "She figured out that while her own blood made her spells stronger, the blood of others made them more so."

Dawn forced her gaze from the bleeding image of a younger Jacks to the other girl. To the iron knife in the girl's hand.

"She came, correctly, to the conclusion that my blood ... the blood of a living spirit, would make her spells stronger still." Jacks stopped talking as she started to walk toward the memory image as it froze, Doe Leaps the River raising the iron blade again. "She betrayed me, Dawn. But that isn't what hurt me the most, you know."

"I wouldn't do that! I couldn't ... You're my best friend," Dawn whispered.

Jacks turned back to her with a small smile. "As she was, Dawn. But I am the one who failed her. We were children playing with powers beyond what she was ready for. I failed her because I wasn't harsh enough when I was teaching her. She wanted power equal to mine and there was no way that I could give it to her, and no way that she could gain it for herself."

"I wouldn't do this," Dawn said, shaking her head as she scrambled back.

Jacks suddenly appeared in front of her, gripping her arms hard. "Then you will listen when I teach you. You will abide by the Laws of Magic and the rules I lay down. Or so help me I will bind your powers so tightly that not even God can undo it."

"Why?" Dawn screamed as she shoved Jacks away. "WHY DID YOU SHOW ME THIS?!?"

Jacks let herself be shoved. "Why?" she echoed quietly. "Why? So that I won't have to do to you what I had to with her."


Behind Jacks the memory started to move again. Doe Leaps the River brought the knife down as Coyote's Shadow brought her blood covered hands up. There was a moment when Dawn wasn't sure what was happening.

Then her mind grasped what her 'eyes' were telling her. Coyote's Shadow, *Jacks*, had exploded into an inferno of green flames.

There was nothing left but screaming as the fire started to die down.

Nothing that Dawn could see was left of either girl. Except for the fact that they were in Jacks' memories and the mental 'self' of the half-fey was standing in front of her, Dawn would have sworn she'd just witnessed her best friend's death.

And there was still the sound of screaming.


The white haired magic user closed her eyes and took a deep breath. But it was another voice that answered as the scream cut off.

"The Fires of Avalon."

The Key turned, automatically taking a protective stance between her grieving friend and the stranger.

The blue haired woman snorted softly. "I am Kaina'tal, Dawn Summers. And nothing in here can truly harm Jacqueline. Well, except Jacqueline herself."

Dawn swallowed and nodded stiffly. "You said ..."

"The Fires of Avalon," Kaina'tal said as she stared blindly past Dawn. "Jacqueline is Avalon's Heir, it's living Avatar. The Fires are how Avalon itself protects her."

"But Jacks can't kill with magic," Dawn pointed out.

"This was before Oberon bound her powers." Kaina'tal shook her head and walked toward Dawn, passing through her before waving a hand across the memory image. Banishing the thing back to her wielder's nightmares. "But Jacks wasn't the one killing with magic. That was Avalon killing with Jacks. This was just the first time it manifested."

"And there's no way for you to control it, Jacks?" Dawn asked, giving a shiver at the eerie feeling of being passed through before turning to the older being.

Jacks flinched at the suggestion without answering.

"She's afraid of fire," Kaina'tal said quietly.

Dawn opened her mouth, the most obvious question on her tongue when Jacks laughed bitterly. "I saw my mother burn at the stake, Dawn. Of course I'm afraid. Fire destroyed my family."

"But the fire place at your house," Dawn stammered. "The barbecues at Xander's... The time you burned down that Terakan safe house in Africa ...."

"I didn't start the fire, Dawn. I just contained it, and it cost me dearly to do so. I learned to control the fear, to keep it locked up as much as I can. Little fires I can deal with easily enough. Camp fires, cook fires, small cleansing fires. The fireplace. But ... infernos? I freeze. I can't control something that terrifies me beyond reason, Dawn. But I can't stop the Fires of Avalon when I'm about to die."

"And one day, Avalon will consume the woman you know if she doesn't learn to control it," Kaina'tal told Dawn flatly. She paused for a heart beat. "Or Jacks will stop putting herself in the direct line of fire."

"Right, so I'll avoid crazy evil Blood Mages and power draining Lyches," Jacks smarted off.

Kaina'tal wheeled on her. "And yet you're training a Blood Mage now!"


"Then you didn't need to show her this," the ancient rune weapon said gently.

"Yes, she did," Dawn whispered. "I needed to know the worst I could become if I'm not careful."

"And the woman who was going to bleed you, Jacks and Faith for the sake of power wasn't the worst you could become?" Kaina'tal demanded.

Dawn's hair flew around her head as she shook her head. "No. No, she isn't even close to as bad as I could be."

Kaina'tal stepped toward the young mortal shell of the Key, crowding the girl back and away from the silently shaking form of her charge and wielder. "Why?"

"Because, we were just objects to her. She didn't know us," Dawn whispered. "I would go after the people I love ... because they're the strongest sources of power. How powerful is a Slayer's blood? How powerful is Mikki's? Xander's?" She closed her eyes and trembled. "Jacks'? How powerful is an Immortal, even one only a century old?"

"You don't have to take what will be given if you ask," Jacks whispered as the world around them stilled.

Dawn opened her eyes to find the image of emerald flames gone. Sunlight filtered gently through a canopy of spring fresh green leaves. Moss and leaf mould made a soft carpet under her feet, and water splashed over rocks in the distance.

"I protect you, because that is what Xander gave me as my duty," the small woman said, looking very much like Coyote's Shadow in the near white buckskin dress with ivy woven into her hair. "I teach you, because you need to learn."

Dawn opened her mouth, but closed it again at Jacks' gentle smile.

"But my heart calls you 'sister' because you are Dawn Summers."

"But ... what if I ask so I can use it for something evil?" Dawn asked quietly. Her eyes stayed locked with Jacks' own. The physically youngest Summers girl had no idea that a pair of eyes could be so serious and so filled with laughter at the same time.

Jacks' lips tilted up into a small smile. "Then I'll say no. And you understand now that I can make 'no' stick."

Waking World

Two pairs of eyes fluttered open at the same moment. Blue stared into neon green for several slow breaths as Dawn processed the new things she had learned from her best friend.

Jacks gaze was just as serious in the real world has it had been in the Dreaming. It was also just as filled with love and concern.

"You ... you really trust me, don't you?" Dawn asked softy.

The smile she received in return would have lit up LA for decades. "With all that I am, Dawn."

With all that she was ... Dawn was starting to realize exactly how much that might be. It wasn't just the magic in Jacks' blood that she was being trusted with, but two things that the Key suspected that Xander didn't know yet.

Jacks was terrified of fire.

And Fey Avalon could act through Jacks.

The End


Valid XHTML 1.1! Valid CSS!