The Dead From The Living . . .
Title: Amin Khiluva Lle A' Gurtha Ar' Thar
Disclaimer: Tolkien owns LOTR, Whedon owns BTVS.
Spoilers: S7 for BTVS. ROTK for LOTR.
Summary: I will follow you to death and beyond. . .
Notes: Just got the Twin Towers on DVD and feel a sudden LOTR kick settling in . . .
For BTVS: Instead of escaping Sunnydale before it collapses, our heroes get sucked into the crater.
Part One-The Dead From The Living . . .
He could barely see through the sheen of his own tears. Quick, ragged breaths escaped his throat, runny nose swiped at repeatedly by the back of his hand. He was a mess, he could tell that much. All the cleaning and wrappings that his saviours had done to him was all wasted. He wept openly, barely able to keep his head up as he looked down at the row of cots lined up neatly in this bare white room.
Twelve little cots, all lined up in a row. Eleven bodies and one pile of ash. He couldn’t believe that it had come to this.
Xander Harris shook his head, a flood of fresh tears streaking down his cheeks. With indescribable pain, he looked down at the body on the first cot. Weak whimpers escaped his lips as he brushed back curly blonde locks away from a pale face. Amazing that her body was still intact, that it hadn’t even begun to rot. Hadn’t they been out for a good day or two? That’s what those healer people had said, that was their guess. A day asleep in this palace thingy and maybe a day or more outside, lying on the ground where they had been discovered.
Wasn’t the body supposed to decay after awhile? There should have been some sign of it. But there was nothing, only the thin red line running diagonally across her body. If he hadn’t known any better, if he hadn’t frantically searched for a pulse beforehand, he would have thought her sleeping. He would have thought they were all sleeping, except for Spike. There was no real way to pretend with a pile of ashes.
The soft exclamation came from somewhere behind him. Xander didn’t turn around at the sound of the voice. He knew who it was.
Footsteps announced the approaching person. Xander turned his eyes to the side, watching as Faith walked into his periphery. The brunette Slayer looked like hell, though a clean kind of hell. Her hair had been washed and her skin as well. But he could see the bruises dotting her cheeks. They were fading fast, due to that good-old Slayer healing, but she was still weak. Her movements were slow, a bit unsure. She was kind of limping, her right ankle wrapped up in bandages that he could see peeking out from underneath the dress she was wearing. If he were in the right mood, he would have teased her for that very fact. Faith wasn’t the kind of girl who wore dresses, even though this wasn’t a pink, frilly kind of dress. It was white and simply cut, a lot like his borrowed clothes. In fact, it was a lot like the clothes they were all wearing, even the bodies.
“It’s true,” Faith muttered, her voice strained. She turned towards him, her eyes full of pain and loss. Her eyes fell on the cot before him, gaze softening when she saw Anya lying there.
“How many?” she managed to gasp. Xander shrugged his shoulders listlessly, picking up Anya’s cold dead hand and pressing a kiss to her knuckles.
“They only found twelve,” he finally answered, gesturing with a nod to the other cots. “Spike’s at the end. They said they found his body burned beyond belief. When they picked him up, he fell into ashes.”
Faith nodded faintly, staggering over to the ashes at the end. Her hand swept over the pile, not quite touching it but skimming it. She stopped her movements slightly, her hand shaking when she lowered it to the cot’s surface. He heard some clinking before she straightened, turning around to show him what she had found. Spike’s gem, the one that had destroyed the Hellmouth by bringing the sun right into it. The chain was still pure silver, but the diamond in the middle was burnt out, blackened and chipped all over.
“He did good in the end,” Faith murmured. Xander nodded his head silently in agreement. No matter how many problems he had with the vampire, it was never untrue that Spike came through in the end. This time was no exception. He came through, right unto his final death.
“Buffy’s going to freak,” Faith stated simply. Xander shut his eyes and lowered his head to rest on Anya’s arm. Faith was speaking the truth, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to hear it. He didn’t want to think about the pain his friends would also go through when they made their way down to this room. His own sorrow was crippling enough, he wasn’t sure if he could handle watching Buffy or Dawn or Willow collapse.
This was whispered too and Xander didn’t need to raise his head to know who Faith had found now. He had seen Robin’s body, right in the middle of the row. His heart had sunk to know that the man had not made it. Robin had been a great help in the last days, and Xander wasn’t exactly as blind and clueless as everyone thought he was. Robin had meant something to Faith, even though the Slayer would never admit it.
“He looks so peaceful,” he could hear her crying. Xander looked up, not shocked to find the brunette sitting on the side of Robin’s cot, her hand pressed against his chest. She had been looking for a heartbeat, all in vain. Robin was dead, gone like the rest of them.
“They all look that way,” he rasped, his throat sore from so many tears. “It’s like they’re sleeping, but none of them are. Maybe it’s magic, maybe it’s not. I don’t want to think about it. It’s hard enough that they’re gone.”
Faith shook her head, taking deep breaths as she moved away from Robin’s body. Her eyes swept over the other dead, face lighting up with recognition and quickly darkening with sorrow. He knew how she felt, felt the same way when he had seen all the others. Nine young Slayers, dead at the time of their Calling. Emily, Claudette, Jamie, Rhona, Gail, Liz, Erin, Trisha, and Bridget, nine young girls, dead before any of them hit seventeen. It was enough to make anyone cry.
“You think that it happened when the ground gave way?” Faith asked, bringing him out of his thoughts. The Slayer's words were sort of panicked, her breathing coming too fast. She looked almost desperate as she talked to him.
"What happened?" he asked slowly. Faith made a sweeping motion with her arm, indicating all the bodies around her.
“Them!" she responded. "The way they are now, how they look. That whatever magic it is happened when the ground fell? That had to be it, right?”
“Why do you care Faith?” Xander asked hollowly. “What does it matter? They’re dead.”
“Because,” Faith snapped suddenly, her face falling suddenly and eyes filling with tears. “Because if it happened then, then they were all dead when the floor gave way. And that means they were already at peace when we wound up in this weird place.”
The brunette sank to her knees beside Rhona’s bed, her head hanging in shame as she tried to wipe away evidence of her tears. She seemed furious with herself, for showing any sort of weakness. But that was Faith; it was how she would always be. She couldn’t be emotional, she couldn’t let people in. But in the last few days, it had been hard not to let some of these people into her heart. Fighting the end of the world tends to bring people together.
“And that means that they weren’t laying there for days,” Faith gasped, choking over her own tears. “That they weren’t alive, dying slowly while looking for help. That means they didn’t suffer, they weren’t waiting for us-”
“I know Faith,” Xander interjected, picking up for the brunette when she fell silent. “I know.”
Both were silent for a while, looking remorsefully between the twelve cots. Xander shifted slightly, placing Anya’s hand at her side and moving up to help Faith to her feet. His eye patch was still intact and for some reason, it felt like that eye had dust in it. Faith watched him approach warily, her eyes going back to the bodies. She wiped whatever tears she had left from her eyes, taking a deep breath to regain her composure. She wrenched on the cuffs of her dress, looking down at her clothing and then around the room once more. The brunette allowed him to pull her to her feet, her eyes dark with suspicions.
“What is this place Xander?” Faith asked, sounding incredibly tired for a moment. “Where the hell did we end up?”
“I can’t tell you that Faith,” he replied, moving both of them towards the door. Faith moved slowly, still favouring her right ankle. “All I know is that I woke up and they told me that we were found and brought here.”
“Where’s here?” Faith asked, straightening and her voice taking on a hard edge. Xander shrugged helplessly again, turning the knob and ushering Faith out into the hallway. The hallway was nothing more than a giant balcony, framing a courtyard of sorts. The sun was out and shining, birds chirping in the distance. Entirely too cheery an atmosphere for them. Not when twelve of their comrades lay dead behind them and six of their companions were still too injured to wake.
His eyes fell on the two men, dressed as medieval knights, complete with swords and chain mail, standing at the end of the hall. He recognized the one on the right as the man who had escorted him down to this room in the first place. The other one must have brought Faith. They were both looking very serious, but not the least bit forthcoming. Xander had found that out pretty quick, when all his questions fell on deaf ears. Xander had simply been too tired to really fight about it.
"I honestly can't tell you where we are Faith," Xander finally replied. "I woke up and they told the name of this place was Gonzo or something."
Faith made a face, turning her face upwards to glare at him. The guards were watching both very closely, but Faith ignored them for the time being.
"Gonzo is a Muppet, brainchild," the Slayer shook her head. "What is this thing with you and mispronouncing everything?"
"What do you expect when everything is so damn un-pronounceable?" Xander retorted, a sad smile tilting the corners of his mouth. "Besides, I'm not as bad as Buffy is about it."
"You got that right," Faith agreed, her face becoming serious again. "She's going to wake up soon Xander. She had a hole in her stomach, but she's Buffy. She'll be up and alert pretty damn soon. And she's going to want some sort of an answer for all this. How are we going to explain any of this when we're both incredibly lost? I mean, who's in charge of this place? Shouldn't we talk to someone or beat up someone for information? I say we start with those two."
Xander followed her finger to look at their guards. Both men seemed mildly affronted by Faith’s words, but then shared a small laugh. Probably laughing at the thought of someone as tiny as Faith trying to hurt them.
They were in for a hell of a surprise.
"Just like a Slayer," Xander chuckled half-heartedly. "Jumping to violence as the answer."
"Worked before," Faith smirked, the expression not quite making it to her eyes.
"When?" Xander demanded softly. "When you were jail?"
"You had to bring that up," Faith rolled her eyes, falling silent once more. Her eyes went back to the closed door, her mind no doubt back on their dead. Xander sighed, wanting suddenly to be very far from this place. Anya was dead. He wasn't going to be able to stay on his feet much longer. He needed to crawl into bed and finish crying his heart out. But first, there was the matter of his friends to tend to. He had to make sure everyone else was all right. And then maybe they could all cry together.
“Is it right to leave them?” Faith asked, voice uncertain and awkward. “Shouldn’t one of us stay with them or something?”
“They’re gone Faith,” Xander replied tiredly. “We can’t do anything for them anymore. We knew we were going to lose people going in and we accepted it then. We have to focus on the more important matters right now. Like where we found ourselves and how we get back home.”
“But it hurts,” Faith muttered unhappily. Xander nodded, eyeing the stoic guards at the end of the hall suspiciously. They pretended like they weren’t listening, but Xander knew they were filing everything he and Faith said away carefully. He didn’t like that much. He touched Faith’s arm and motioned for her to follow him.
“It always hurts to lose people Faith,” Xander replied. “And God-willing, it always will. It’s the price we pay for having our souls.”
“Didn’t know I fit into that category,” Faith laughed dryly. Xander smirked and began to lead her down the hallway.
“Yeah. I was kind of surprised too.”
“Oh shut up Harris.”