The wedding planning was in swing, quiet as it was. The announcement of Wesley and Fred's engagement had finally broken at least some of the palpable tension prevalent at the Hyperion Hotel. Everyone was happy both for Wesley and Fred making a step so few of them ever took; but also they were thankful for a distraction that didn't involve imminent death for once.
Dawn's heart broke everyday for the man she now knew was her father; but approaching him barely seemed possible. She wanted so badly to hate him, tell him to leave and never come back. She wanted her decision to be the clear, correct one. But as each day passed, she knew what she had to do, difficult as it seemed. She loved Angel; and Angel loved her. For that very reason, Lorne was correct in saying that he would respect her decision. Her father loved her, too. And her mother. And her whole family that she had a lifetime to get to know. She had watched him worry himself to death over her for the past months. She knew the depth of affection he truly had for her, his daughter. And she knew in her heart that she couldn't turn him away.
She had avoided him. He had assumed it was out of dislike, an assumption Dawn hadn't had the courage to correct. She knew time had come for her to make up her mind. She had made him, and everyone else, wait entirely too long, and she owed them that much. She found him in the courtyard sparring with Elrohir. Or Elladan... She couldn't really tell them apart. They both noticed her immediately and ceased sparring immediately, bowing to acknowledge her appearance.
"My lady," Aragorn greeted. Her heart broke even more at the look he had in his eyes. Somewhere between hope and dread. She nodded awkwardly, wanting to return the gesture, but it didn't quite come naturally.
"Hi," she said. Which ever one of her uncles with whom he had been sparring looked back and forth between the two of them before discreetly taking his leave. She stood there, avoiding looking at him, unsure of where to start. He, in contrast, had to fight not to stare at her, knowing that it tended to make her nervous.
"Are you well?" he attempted.
"Yes," she said, relieved he had spoken first. " I've felt much better lately. I'm starting to feel like myself again. Sort of..." She trailed off, her brows knitting together slightly at the thought of the distinct changes that had been made to her. The king nodded.
"Yes," he said. "Ada... Lord Elrond has told me there were some changes he could sense. They have not affected you too badly, I hope." Dawn shook her head. She had soften slightly toward the... elf... she now knew to be her grandfather.
"What did you call him?" she asked.
"Ada," he said, acknowledging his slip. "It's Elvish for 'father.'"
"Is that what you would have taught me to call you?" she asked. The question was surprisingly bold; and it struck Aragorn to the core. He felt and ocean of heartache swell in his chest at the though of all of the years in which she would have learned speech. The thought of his daughter as a toddler, and him trying her to teacher her the word 'ada,' was almost too much to bear.
"I imagine I would have. Yes," he said, using every inch of resolve he had ever attained as a ranger, soldier, or king, to night let his voice tremble under this, or rather, his, precocious teenager's scrutiny. Why would she ask him such a thing?
"I guess we've missed out on a lot," she said wistfully. Aragorn nodded, afraid to interrupt her, and unsure of what to say even if he had not been. "How long are you staying?" she asked. He froze. Oh, what was he to say?
"As long as you need," he said vaguely, hoping to not scare her, but to comfort her that he was not leaving her.
"As long as I need?" she asked, confused. "For what? For me to be content with you leaving?"
"For you to be content leaving with us," he corrected, hoping to the Valar he was not saying the wrong words and driving her further away. Dawn looked at the floor, where she seemed to think her best answers would be.
"I could not know for sure if that was what you wanted," she admitted. " I know I'm not what you were expecting."
"Oh, Dawn," Aragorn whispered ever so softly, desperate to reach out to her as he had longed to do since he first realized who she was. "Of course I want you to come home with us." She managed to look him in the eye. How often had she imagined this moment? To finally meet her real parent. To hear them say they had only ever wanted her back. That things beyond their control took her from them. That they search tirelessly for her, trying desperately to get her home. And this she knew for a fact was the case.
"If you are sure that this is what you want, then I will come back with you," she finally said The king's heart felt like it would leap from his chest. He didn't want to move for fear that he would go everywhere at once. "I just have three things to ask," she said.
"Anything," Aragorn said, stepping a bit closer to her. Dawn nodded, still nervous about asking.
"I'd like to stay here until Fred and Wesley's wedding," she said.
"Of course," the king replied. "Of course you wouldn't want to miss that. The second?" Dawn paused.
"Secondly," she started, hesitantly. "I'd like for Lindsay to come with us, if he wants." Aragorn was confused for a moment at the request. "He helped save my life. He'll never be safe again in this world. Wolfram and Hart has no power in Middle-Earth." Aragorn nodded
"The gift of sanctuary is but a small gift in exchange for your life which he helped protect. Of course he may come." Dawn offered a small smile to him.
"And what is this last thing that you require?" Dawn returned her stare to the floor, unsure of how to continue, not wanting to hurt his feelings.
"I know 'Dawn' isn't name you gave me, but it's the name I know. I would like to keep it for now." Aragorn had to admit, that did tug a little at his heart; but he couldn't expect her to accept everything that was happening so soon.
"Actually, 'Arien' is Elvish for 'the dawn,'" he replied quietly. "I suppose it would be a small change to make. Your mother and I, as well as your friends can call you Dawn, in private. But my I ask that you be referred to Arien to your people? There will be enough confusion when it is revealed that you are now a teenager." Dawn frowned in confusion.
"My people?" she asked. "What do you mean?"
"I am the King of Gondor, Dawn. You, as my daughter, of course, are her princess. You are the first child born since the line of kings was restored. Our people will look to you with great hope." Dawn started to panic. It had been a vague factoid in her head before all of this happened that Aragorn was a king. All of his stories that he had told her had faded to the background in wake of the recent crisis. It was now a painful realization that she was being going to swept up in all of that fantasy he created with his stories.
"Oh," she breathed, nervous beyond belief. She just wanted a family. As spoiled as she felt she was sounding, being a princess wasn't in the cards. While being a princess was the fantasy of most girls her age, in Dawn's world, it usually meant incredible responsibility, arranged marriages, or, worst-case scenarios, being sacrificed to some horrible beast. Cordelia could testify. Surely those things weren't involved in her father's kingdom. He seemed at least halfway normal. But still, it was a tough stigma to lose.
"Worry not," Aragorn said, sense her distress. "You'll have plenty of time to adjust to your home. I will make sure of it. I merely wished to prepare you for the reality. Will that be agreeable?"
"Will what be agreeable?" the teenager asked, confused, having not entirely paying attention to what he was saying.
"That you are called Arien for your public affairs, when they arise." Dawn nodded, concern still etched in her face. She felt to large, warm hands on either side of her head as her eyes were gently lifted to look at Aragorn.
"Your mother and I love you more than our own lives. We will be with you every step of the way." Dawn smiled slightly as Aragorn removed his hands. "And your grandfather and uncles will remain for a time, until you are adjusted. Dawn shied, and her father noticed. "What is wrong?"
"Elrond." Dawn said, not ready referring to the rather intimidating elf as family. "I've been very cross with him. I don't know how to fix that. I feel bad and all. But it just makes me so uncomfortable how much he knows about me now. After the whole... you know. I feel like he can read me mind. I don't like it."
"You have been blessed with his gift of communication and foresight. I suppose it has just been buried here if no one ever taught you to use it. You will learn to use it to your advantage. He can help you with that. You can trust him, I promise you." Aragorn in a suspiciously playful. "He scared me too when i was your age." Dawn smiled brightly at her father's successful joke.
"I heard that, Aragorn," Elrond said humorlessly from within the hotel. They both looked inside and Elrond had not looked up from a book he was reading. Aragorn and Dawn laughed.
This is the second to last chapter. I will start to work on the second part, which will cover Dawn adjusting to her new role. Sorry for the delay. Since my last chapter, I have gotten married, started two new jobs, and moved twice. I am hoping to one day write with some kind of regularity. I have literally been writing this chapter for almost a year. Anyway.