“We have been seen by friendly eyes,” Elrond said. “Aragorn is near. Gandalf and Legolas are with him.”
“Arien?” Elrohir asked. “Can you see her, Ada?”
“They have found her,” he said gravely. His sons looked at him, confused.
“Already?” Elladan asked. “It has been but hours since they left.”
“They have found her,” Elrond repeated, confused by his own sight. “She is not as we remember.”
“What do you mean?” Elladan asked.
“I am not sure what has happened to her yet,” Elrond said, observing his incredibly strange surroundings cautiously.
“I do not understand what happened to *us*,” Elrohir said. “Was the portal still opened?”
“It must have been,” Elrond said. “It had only been a few hours. It must remain active for a period of time, only to show when some is too close to it.”
The twins, vigilant as ever scanned the terrain is search of any direction.
“I see no evidence of any of them having been here,” Elladan said.
“You saw this?” Angel said. “How?”
“I don’t know,” Dawn said.
“Maybe it’s the dream demon messing with you,” Cordelia said.
“No. I know what that feels like. This wasn’t it.”
“You’ve felt the dream demon, then?” Angel questioned. Dawn looked at him.
“Yes,” she said. “Sorry I went all one-with-the-mood-swings on you guys. I just wanted to sleep it off when I felt him. But those were just…really scary nightmares .This was different. I was just like… seeing it happen. It wasn’t scary at all. It was comforting… or something. Why would he give me visions like that? How would he even know about their world?”
“It could be a trap,” Gunn said. “To get you to go to the cemetery.”
“No,” Lindsey said from the corner. “They don’t know anything about these guys. They know her blood opened a dimension, but they don’t know the people who came through are staying with you.”
“And we’re just supposed to believe the completely redeemed over here?” Gunn asked bitingly. Lindsey rolled his eyes.
“Gunn,” Fred interjected. The firm tone used by the usually quiet physicist stopped the argument before it started.
“Okay,” Angel said. “We’ll go look and see if they somehow got pulled into our world. You guys,” he said, indicating Aragorn, Gandalf, and Legolas, “should come with me. Everyone else just sit tight. Guard these two,” he said, meaning Dawn and Lindsey. The three of them were hesitant to leave Dawn’s side; but if Elrond and the twins were in this world as she thought, they knew that had to search for them.
“Light has fallen; and we are completely lost,” Elladan said, irritated.
“And this world is strange,” Elrohir added. “We have been nearly killed several times with those metal beasts.”
“How can we hope to find them? We have no idea where we are.”
“They are coming for us,” Elrond said confidently, attempting to still his rather impetuous sons. “They know we are here.” Elrohir stopped suddenly, ducking behind an alleyway.
“An evil is near,” he whispered, suddenly feeling very conscious of their lack of weapons. They had not expected to leave when they had, leaving them regrettably ill-prepared.
“Yes,” Elrond said quietly, also ducking in the dark. “I have felt it’s presence since we were brought to this world. It has been getting stronger.”
“Perhaps you should have run then,” they heard behind them. The three of them very slowly moved so that their backs were the other’s as they were encircled by the one’s whom they had felt. “It’s dangerous at night.”
Elladan quickly counted seven. They’re yellow eyes stared at them as viciously as any orc. The group of them seemed almost human were it not for the prominent ridges on their foreheads and overwhelming sense of malice coming from them in waves. The three elves stood still, ready for hand-to-hand combat, as they were short of weapons. Elrond considered the movements he should be making, as he was in his formal robes and in no way dressed for fighting. Elladan and Elrohir were at least in the Gondorian riding habit their brother had given them.
Feral growls emanated from the creatures chest, sending shivers down their rather straight spines. Elrond braced himself to the sudden attack from the first one as it leapt at him. In mid-air, a sudden look of shock crossed its face as an arrow tip protruded from its chest. It disintegrated into dust, leaving only a familiar looking arrow lying amidst what was left. The remaining six launched into a frenzy, attacking both the three they were surrounding and the approaching group. Elrohir found himself flat on his back, strangling the creature attempting to bite his neck, it seemed. Elrond moved easily out of the way as clumsy creature charged him. Elladan grabbed the one that had went after his father, slamming him hard against the alley wall. He turned to see faces he knew along with one he did not. The one he did not know produced a piece of wood from his pocket, tossing it to him.
“The heart,” he said as Elladan instinctively caught it, turning quickly to pierce the creature that was already coming after him again in the heart. It, like his associate, also crumbled to dust. Elladan turned to see his father side stepping yet another creature and throwing it to his adopted brother that had left hours ago. He vaguely noticed his beard seemed rather thick as he lopped off the head of the creature. Legolas elbowed the fourth one in the face, knocking it to the ground and quickly landing an arrow in its chest. Elladan tossed the sharpened piece of wood to his twin who had managed to get to his feet to fight one of the creatures. Elrohir caught the weapon with the grace of his father and brother, following suit by burying the word into his chest. Gandalf knock the sixth one two his knees with his staff, finishing him off by running it through his heart as Angel took the final aim with his crossbow to dispatch the last vampire. There was heavy breathing around the group as the seven stared at each other, none of them knowing what to say.
“How did you get here?” Aragorn asked, still staring at the several piles of dust in the alley.
“The portal must have still been open,” Elrohir said. “We came back to the hall when we manage to get Arwen to lie down and we just… were here.” Aragorn nodded. He had already known time passed much faster in this world than in their own. Angel wanted to look shocked, but already knew that was case. What disturbed him was the people who had been staying with him for a month now were not surprised at all at the fact that it had only been hours in their world. Aragorn locked eyes with the vampire, a realization beginning to form.
“More time has passed here,” the king said simply. Elrond nodded.
“How much time?” the elf Lord questioned; although both he and Aragorn knew the real question.
“Fifteen summers have passed since Arien was first brought to this world.” Elrond bowed his head gravely. The twins looked incredulously at their brother.
“You have only been in this world for but hours,” Elladan said.
“It has been two fortnights here,” he replied.
“How did you know it’s been fifteen years?” Angel questioned suspiciously. Aragorn met eyes with Angel as Gandalf and Legolas also looked at the vampire.
“You know who she is,” Gandalf said. Angel leaned his head back as he exhaled unnecessarily.
“When had you planned to tell us?” Aragorn questioned angrily.
“When had *you* planned to tell *us*?” Angel demanded.
“What in the world are you speaking of?” Elrohir questioned, his irritation increasing every second.
“I have known for but a day,” Aragorn said, his temper continuing to rise uncharacteristically, taking a step towards Angel.
“Well I’ve known for even less time!” Angel said, matching the king’s less than subtle challenge, his eyes turning yellow.
“Stay yourselves!” Gandalf called as Elrond and his sons looked on in confusion and Legolas stepped forward with his bow ready again. Gandalf was glad their host had not seen the elf’s defensive move. The wizard moved quickly to place his staff between the man and vampire.
“Angel, we did not mean to hide what we knew from you,” he said quickly, desperately, but calmly. “We meant only to wait until we thought would be favorable conditions to tell you this information.” Angel looked at the wizard, returning to his stare to Aragorn who also continued the staring contest, although they were both getting less angry by the second. “We realized only last night when Aragorn saw the blanket his daughter had been wrapped in when she was taken from us in Dawn’s possession. I’m sure you, especially if you yourself have only found out today, had good reason also to wait before telling us.” Angel’s anger was deflated tenfold at the mention of his daughter’s kidnapping –Dawn’s kidnapping- as he turned from the king, growling softly. There was a long moment of silence as Elladan and Elrohir tried to understand what exactly was going on. Their father was able to follow with less difficulty. It was a rather tense moment to only have just come into that world.
Aragorn let his eyes drift over to his adoptive family as they stared back at him, intensely puzzled at what exactly was going on.
“Forgive me,” Aragorn said suddenly. “My anger was misplaced. You have been nothing but kind and helpful of us. I had no right to provoke you.” Angel said nothing for a while. He merely crossed his arms, looking at the sky. He was not ready for this.
Was it not a year ago when he was in this man’s place? His child taken to another world. Years together stolen from them. Would he do as Holtz had done? Would he do everything in his power to keep Dawn away from him?
He turned to see Aragorn’s outstretched hand and shook it. No. That he would never do. Aragorn placed his left hand on Angel’s shoulder in friendship.
“Come,” he said. “This is my family. This is Lord Elrond of Rivendell and his sons, Elladan and Elrohir.” They all bowed respectfully. Angel nodded in return. “This is my wife’s father and her brothers.” Angel stared at them.
“So then you’re…” he paused, hesitant to continue, “her uncles… and grandfather.”
“So you have found her,” Elrohir stated. Angel looked away.
“Yes,” Aragorn said. “She lives with this man. He has cared for her for the past two years of her life. It was by chance… or destiny… that they found us when we first came here. He has kept given us shelter in this world since we have been here.”
“You have been here for weeks, then?” Elladan said. Even as a being that lived outside of time, it was certainly hard to grasp. “And have found Arien?”
“Yes,” Angel said sadly, turning to Aragorn. “Wesley found out the origin of her being last night in the Dagon papers. We always thought she began in this world until Wesley told us what he found.”
“Dagon?” Elrond said. Aragorn looked at him.
“You know the name?” he asked. Angel also looked at the newcomer, less surprised. The elf lord stood in silent contemplation a moment, connections that he hadn’t thought of in hundreds of years.
“All this time, I did not see,” Elrond said, more to himself.
“Look,” Angel started, “we can’t stay out here. There will be more of those guys around any second. Let’s just get back to the hotel. We’ll have to cram, but I think We’ll be able to fit,” he finished, leading them out of the alley to where his car had been parked. Elladan and Elrohir tensed, having been almost killed several times from the same thing. The three newcomers watched their friends sit in the metal beast, attempting to do the same. Somehow, the seven of them managed to cram uncomfortably into the vehicle as the elves sat in the backseat while the other three sat in the front.
“What is this machine?” Elrohir asked, his curiosity begging the question.
“It gets us from A to B,” Angel said, starting the car. The noise startled the dark-headed elves of the car. Even more so were they taken aback at the speed at which they pulled away. They moved much faster than any horse. The other three had grown quite used to the speed.
“Who all knows who she is?” Aragorn suddenly asked as the light and darkness of LA illuminated and darkened the too long, too awkward ride home.
“Everyone,” Angel said. “Except her.”
“Wesley found out?”
“He found journal entries last night of the Monks of Dagon that began in Arda or Middle-earth or wherever you guys live. The order apparently began protecting her there thousands of years ago and followed her to this world when she was taken from you guys. The stole her from Glory and gave her to Buffy. Glory stole her back two years ago. Glory’s dead. Dawn came to live with us.” Angel turned to look quickly at Elrond before looking back at the road.
“He read us the papers,” Angel continued. “Your name sound really familiar.”
“I remember the order of which you speak,” the elf lord replied. “For thousands of years, The Beloved Light remained in my realm,” he said, “being constantly guarded by the group of elves to protect it. The Dark Lord Sauron had captured it, using its power to make the One Ring. It stayed in Rivendell until Gollum found the ring over five hundred years ago. The Order of Dagon then gave it to a group from the Race of Men what was called The Key to protect. I had not heard of it spoken since. Secrecy was required to keep The Key from evil. I never could see the gift Arien had until now.”
“See it?” Angel asked.
“He has the gift of foresight,” Aragorn said as his father attempted to absorb all that he was hearing.
“A gift that might have been passed to Arien,” Gandalf said. Angel tensed. “To Dawn,” Gandalf changed. “If she saw Lord Elrond and Elladan and Elrohir enter this word, she might be awakening that power. Lord Elrond might have been able to speak to her mind when he came.”
“Whoa whoa whoa,” Angel said. “One thing at a time, here guys. First thing, we have to get back and explain what happened. Second, we have to figure out a way to tell Dawn because the longer we go without telling her the more pissed off she’s going to be when she finds out how long we kept it from her. We have to take care of this thing that’s after her before Wolfram and Heart tries to use her yet again for another apocalypse.”
“We can take her home,” Aragorn said. “Let us take her home, Angel. She’ll be safe there. The prophecy is fulfilled, and that God is dead. Those people after her now have no hold in our world.” Angel remained quiet, knowing, deep down, what would be the right thing to do. How easy would it have been if Holtz had simply left Connor alone to do what he wanted… maybe even encourage him to stay with his true father. So much pain could have been avoided.
But how could he lose her? For two years, Dawn and Connor had been his reason for living. They gave him joy he had never felt in his wretchedly tortured existence. Could he just let her go without a fight?
“It’s not my decision to make,” the vampire finally replied.
“What happened in Sunnydale?” the ex-ranger suddenly asked. Angel’s eyes darted to Aragorn quickly before returning to the road.
“What?” Angel, said, buying himself some time.
“You know the question I asked,” he replied. Angel sighed.
“Glory tied Dawn to a tower and cut her open, using her blood to tear down the walls between this dimension and the Hell dimension she was from. The only way the portal could be closed before Hell completely consumed this world was for Dawn blood to stop flowing. To keep Dawn alive, her sister Buffy had a vampire, my childe, Spike, turn her into a vampire. She fed off Dawn and used the power she gained from her blood to defeat Glory and then jumped into the portal, closing it with Dawn’s blood and her death.” Aragorn was silent for a few moments as the rest of the passengers absorbed the gravity of what Angel had told them.
“And Dawn blames herself for this?”
“She has a very close relationship with guilt,” the vampire replied.
“Where are they?” Wesley said, pacing, wiping his glasses for the third time in thirty minutes.
“Whatever, this is ridiculous,” Dawn said, finally getting up from the couch. “There is still research to be done and a baby to find. We can’t stand around waiting forever.” The comment didn’t strike Wesley at first. In fact, it seemed like a good idea. But when he saw the teenager approach the papers he had poured over for two days and had apparently laid carelessly on the counter, he panicked.
“No!” he shouted suddenly as Dawn yelped, dropping the papers. His mistake was reflected in everyone’s faces.
“Why not?” Dawn asked in surprised, timid voice. Wesley stuttered here and there, hoping to come up with something.
“Um,” he started, rather eloquently, in his opinion, “if they are going to be bringing people back, we’ll need to prepare for them. Connor, why don’t you two go and prepare more rooms for the men you saw.” Dawn rolled her eyes as Connor smiled at her, darting for the stairs. Dawn immediately rose to the challenge, using her closer proximity to the stairs to get a head start. As always, he beat her to the top. She scoffed, remembering her irritation.
“Just because you’re a teenager… you always have to do the boring stuff,” she muttered as she finished climbing the stairs. The group downstairs waited until the two, or at least Dawn, were out of earshot.
“Way to be smooth,” Cordelia shot at the Englishman. Wesley said nothing, just looked at her in irritation.
“Look, we all know Dawn,” Gunn said. “She’s not stupid. She’s gonna to find out sooner or later. And better from us than on her own where she can freak out all by herself.”
“He’s right,” Lindsey said. “The sooner she knows, the easier it will be to protect her. I mean what if the other guys already know that’s she’s his kid?”
“Yeah, I mean,” Fred started, “what if they’ve known all this time? Is it just a coincidence that they happened to find us? What if they try to take her?”
“Yeah, we shouldn’t have them sing to find out what they know?” Gunn suggested.
“Oh fine, sure. I’m sure a bored little singing demon with nothing better to do,” Lorne muttered, walking into the hotel, causing the group to look at him. He looked back. “No, seriously. Our dreamy little friend we’ve been talking about? Yeah, he just crashed my place.”