“Wesley! Wesley! Wesley! Wesley, open up! Wesley it’s Dawn! Please! Wesley, please, open up!” The Englishman hurried to his door that emanated with the sound of collective pounding and screaming.
“Dawn?” he said as he opened the door, seeing whom it was. He found himself with his arms full of a hysterical fourteen-year-old. “What are you doing out by yourself? What is it?”
“It’s Connor! I-I think he’s going to do something terrible to Angel.” The estranged researcher shifted a moment.
“Wesley, please!” she said. “Fred and Gunn are out looking for Cordy. Connor and Justine locked me in my room before they left. He thinks Angel killed Holtz; but it was her, I know it! and if he does anything to Angel… I just…” Her words broke as she fell to the ground, bringing the Wesley with her. A cracked and pained wail escaped her as he held her.
“Shhh,” he said whispered, trying his best to soothe her.
“You left me!” she cried. “And I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry for everything. I should have worked harder on that translation with you and kept up with you. I shouldn't have left you alone to do it. I should have screamed at them every day until they came and got you! I thought some days my heart would bleed with us family torn apart like this.But I was so scared! And I’m still so scared. I just… I just want us to be together again. But everyone leaves!”
“Dawn. Dawn, listen to me,” he said gently, pulling her back to look at her. “I never left you. I would never want to leave you…”
“Then come back! Help me stop Connor! I don’t know what they’re going to do; but I can feel the hate coming off him in waves and…”
“It’s okay, I’m coming,” Wesley said, lifting her and himself up. “Do you know anything about where they were going?”
“I heard Justine say something about a boat when they locked me in my room.”
“Okay, then,” he said, grabbing his jacket. “We'll find Angel.”
“Angel,” Dawn whispered as she stirred back into consciousness. But the face before her was not the man she was calling for. Angel didn’t have long hair. Or a beard. Angel had the face of his namesake. His eternal youth a comfort to her in a world that changed too quickly. She didn’t know or care who it was in front of her. She only wanted one person. “Angel,” she called louder, willing him to be there.
“I’m right here, Dawnie,” the vampire said, rushing into the room with the full extent of his unnatural speed. He was willing to let her father be the one there when she woke up; but he would not ignore her crying for him. He sat down on her bed opposite of Aragorn. Neither Dawn nor Angel noticed the hurt that registered on the king’s face at his daughter calling out for another in her sleep for comfort. He stood up as Angel gently wiped the sweat from her forehead, stroking the side of her face. A mix of pain and anger stirred in his stomach as he turned toward the window.
“You were gone,” she whispered desperately. Panicked.
“Where had I gone?” he asked, hugging the teenager to him.
“Justine and Connor took you,” she whimpered. “They were going to send you to the bottom of the ocean.”
“But you saved me,” Angel said. “You and Wesley came and got me that night, remember? You were so brave. You stopped Connor. And Justine went to jail. And Connor got better. Because you helped him, remember?”
“I was so afraid,” she said. “So much was changing. You guys drove away Wesley and Connor was kidnapped and came back all grown up and I was just… spiraling out of control and no one was there...”
“Wesley was there,” Angel said, hugging her to him. “You brought him back to us.”
“Where is he? Where’s Connor? Where’s… where is everybody?”
“Downstairs,” he replied gently. “We’re all here. We’re all safe. We’re all here for you now, Dawnie.” She was shaking less. Her crying had died down to heavy breathing. She still kept herself glued to the vampire.
“How long have I been asleep?”
“About a day,” he replied. She was silent a moment.
“I’m hungry,” she said. Angel smiled into her shoulder as he pulled away from her to lead her down to the kitchen. Dawn, however, gripped him more tightly. Angel smiled, picking her up and carrying her downstairs, Aragorn’s presence forgotten.
But Aragorn certainly hadn’t forgotten about them. He freely let tears fall as he stared out at LA through Dawn’s window: a habit to which he had become quite accustomed. It was less painful to look outside the hotel than inside it. He knew Dawn needed people she knew and trusted and loved right then. But it ate him up inside that he was not that person to her. He was a stranger to her, even if she did know that he was her father. ‘Father’ was just a word. Angel was the idea in her mind.
He turned to see Cordelia as she entered the room.
“Oh,” she said surprised. “Sorry, I didn’t know you were in here.”
“Forgive me for startling you, my lady,” Aragorn said quietly, looking back toward the window. Cordelia watched him a moment before coming in further to the room.
“I just came to change her sheets. She didn’t get to shower before she fell asleep yesterday, so... I can only imagine the yuck factor,” she explained. The kind nodded. She suddenly realized that since she saw Angel carrying Dawn downstairs, Aragorn had to have been there when she woke up, only to be passed over for the vampire whom Dawn clung to when she had nothing left to hold on to.
“She’s confused,” Cordelia said. Aragorn looked back at her quickly. “And scared. And she's only had him to hang onto for so long now. HE's the only one who's never left her. It’s not going to be the easy reunion you were expecting. Dawn has hated the idea of her real parents her whole life; she won’t know how to begin to come to terms with you.” The king was quite surprised with her frankness, but found it oddly comforting. "It's just going to take time. Like everything."
“I’ve fought the monsters of the world to find her,” Aragorn said. “I would continue still. But these demons are ones I cannot fight.”
“Dawn may be stubborn,” the Seer answered, a smile on her lips that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “But even she will realize, sooner or later, that you didn’t abandon her. And when she does… then you guys can start to heal.” Aragorn struggled to keep more tears from falling. He was almost successful.
“She would not even look at me.” He said quietly.
“She will,” Cordelia replied, “When she's ready. Don’t give up on her.” The king nodded silently as the woman look her leave of him. Yes, he would wait for his daughter. But would she ever be there meet him?
It was a tense time at Angel Investigations. That was for damn sure.
The thin façade of tranquility threatened to shatter with the slightest breath about the wrong subject. Everyone resumed their lives the best they could, knowing exactly what to talk about to keep the tranquility going; and, more importantly, knowing what not to talk about. Such subjects included Dawn’s recent and torturous stay with Wolfram and Hart, her newly acquired powers that apparently decided to stay after her grandfather’s occupation of her body, and absolutely, under no circumstances, was anyone to mention her leaving possibly for Middle Earth any time soon.
The powers mentioned proved most interesting at that particular time, especially considering the name of the game was “Let’s Ignore the Fact that Dawn is Related to Four out of the Six Visitors From Another Dimension.” Elrond had left quite the genetic thumbprint with his granddaughter when he took over her mind for the brief moment to get her out of Bazarias. Namely the fact that her senses were since practically equal to that of an elf, and her mind seemed to be almost perpetually connected to his. He did not go out of his way for that condition, mind you. But just as elves with the gift of foresight were able to communicate with no words as he could with her grandmother the Lady Galadriel, so could he now communicate with Dawn. A fact to which she took not the least bit of liking.
Dawn adjusted back to her life the only way she knew how: burying her nose in books. (Books to cases the Fang Gang worked excruciating hard to collect, if not for the bills, for the sake of having something to do.) She even came around to talking to Legolas, Gandalf, and eventually even the twins. Elrond and Aragorn kept their distance: Aragorn for fear of bursting with emotion at trying to pretend not to acknowledge her as his daughter; and Elrond for not having much to say as she could communicate with him without words. Not exactly mind reading... but close. There was really no need for them to speak, Dawn felt... ever.
Dawn found her uncles a most welcome and refreshing change to the tense mood that had cloaked her home for two months. Little could ever dampen Elladan and Elrohir’s fun: and having who they found to be their delightful niece safe and at their disposal for amusement was no exception. Of course, they knew better than to address her as such. While Dawn’s demeanor suggested “Ha, ha, we can have a good laugh together about that story you told me about getting trapped in an orc-toilet (or whatever it was),” both the twins understood that also meant “Don’t you dare mention us being related.”
It was a dangerous… dangerous time.
Legolas decided to continue his instructions for Dawn in various sparring to relieve some of her tension. Drilling was and excellent form of recuperation. As Dawn regained her strength, he and his elfinghood friends, also her uncles, passed the days teaching her various ways to swing an axe and sword. It seemed to be a safe enough occupation.
Dawn knew she was only buying herself time: a commodity of which she was able to find less and less with every passing day. She couldn't keep her 'family' in her world indefinitely. She was surprised they had been as patient as they had the few weeks since she had been rescued. Deep down, she wished someone would make the decision for her. Either they would get tired and leave, or Angel could kidnap her and take her far, far away, or they could kidnap her and take her to their world. Then, regardless of who got hurt, it wouldn't be her fault, right?
But no. This one was on her. At least when Connor was caught between two fathers, one was a revenge thirsty psychopath. She had no such luxury, and the right thing to do was less clear. She had two families who, apparently, both loved her very much. She could see into Elrond's memories. She knew exactly what they felt for her. And she didn't even have the decency to tell them: "Thanks, but no thanks, I like it here." She knew what her indifference to Aragorn was doing to him. She just didn't have the strength to reach out to him. She had wanted and hated him for so long: her father. Her real father, who wanted her and loved her. She had a mother. A mother who was waiting for her. If she could just tell them "Yes, yes I want to come home."
But how could she do it to Angel? Had he not also loved her these past years as much as any father would? Had he not risked his own unlife countless times to keep her safe? She loved him more than any person in the world. What would she do without him? And Connor? And Wesley? And Fred? And Cordy? And Lorne? And Gunn? She loved them all. Saying goodbye was not something she wanted to do.
"You look like you got the weight of the world on you, sugar," Lorne said behind her. Lorne was the only one who ever had the audacity to interrupt Dawn's secret place on the roof. The Fang Gang was always aware of the repercussions of invading the privacy of a teenager. But Lorne was always to carefree to... well... care. Dawn turned around to see him, smiling humorlessly. Lorne appreciated the effort.
"Two of them, actually," she said.
"And who ever said being a princess was an easy gig?" Lorne quipped. Dawn frowned at him non-threateningly for breaking the unspoken rule of not bringing that up. "At least they aren't trying to poke and prod at your brain for your visions. Cordelia would have a thing or to say about it." Dawn sniffed, trying to hold her adolescent emotions in check.
"I wish they were trying to kill me," she said. "At least then I'd know what to do: try to kill them back. But no, they just have to be so nice, and loving and concerned." She almost seemed disgusted with the idea.
"What is it you want to do, Dawnie? Don't think about who will get hurt, what do you want to do?"
"I want to not hurt anybody," she said frustrated. "I want to do what's right."
"And what's right?"
"I don't know!" she said louder than was necessary. "If I knew that, I wouldn't be having this problem! I guess the proper thing to do would be to go back to where I came from. We all thought Connor belonged with us for that reason. But how can I leave him?" The singing demon felt for her. He really did.
"Angel will understand," Lorne said, "no matter what your decision. Of course he wants you here. But he knows, even with him there, there's still an empty spot where your mother and father should be. Connor had Holtz. And he loved him. But he still needed Angel. That's why he found his way here." The first tear dropped. "I'm not telling you what to do either way. Of course I'm a little biased toward one of them. Not gonna say which one. But you can't keep torturing yourself like this. You make a decision, and we who love you will accept it. Okay, honey?" Dawn nodded perfunctorily.
"Come on. Fred wanted to see us downstairs. She sent me up to get you." Dawn wiped her face and scooted off her perch. "If Angel ever sees you on that ledge, he's going to have a heart attack."
"Metaphoric heart attack."