In the Shadows
A/N: Ok, there was supposed to be more of the movie in this chapter but once again, my narrative seems to get away from me :/ oops. Thanks to all my reviewers, you guys give me inspiration to keep writing! I know there's been more time between chapters than there were at the beginning, but I've been sick and sleeping a lot. There's my excuse. lol. I'm surprised that no one has noticed that I've named all my chapters after songs, like an internal soundtrack for the story LOL.
A/N 2: FINALLY we get some real Dawn/Lancelot interaction! I thought I was going to have to change this to a Dawn/Gawain because they just seemed to get along better. I swear, I have no control over these characters they just do what they want. But I finally managed to get some true interaction out of Dawn and Lancelot and I'm pretty pleased with it.
As time passed and Gawain had managed to secure more drink for them, the festivities really started. Gawain and some of the other men had started what Dawn could only assume was a game of this times 'drunken darts' using knives and a wooden stool turned on its side. There was a couple women milling around, mostly to lavish attention on the men when they returned to their seats. Galahad had a dark-haired woman on his lap as Gawain took his turn throwing his knife...and almost missed the stool completely. Gawain laughed loudly and lurched towards the stool, yanking his knife from the wood. He turned to Dawn and handed it to her.
“You try,” he told her with a broad grin.
“Me?” Dawn practically squeaked, glassed raised halfway to her lip as her blue eyes went impossibly wide.
“Yes, you, I'm looking at you,” Gawain answered, waving the knife at her more insistently so that she'd take it.
“Yes, Dawn, let's see how well a lady's skill rivals that of a Knight's” Galahad teased. It wasn't meant to be rude or misogynistic, Dawn knew that, but she still pulled a face at him. The girl on his lap smiled at her comfortingly, as if telling her that it was just best to go along with them rather than fight them.
“Fine!” Dawn huffed and took a large drink from her cup, pulling herself from the chair and nearly falling over when her foot got caught on the underneath of it. One of the men whose name she never did catch, caught her as the rest of them laughed uproariously. Dawn blushed and straightened herself, deliberately brushing the nonexistent dirt from her dress. “Fine,” she repeated, “but if I kill one of you, just know that it wasn't my fault.”
“Bah!” Gawain dismissed her statement with a sharp wave of his hand and held the knife out for her. “Go on then,” he urged.
Dawn took the knife from him, testing the weight of the handle in her hand. It wasn't the first time she'd handled a knife, being sisters with the Slayer saw to that. All the training that she'd gone through, leading up to this point and the minimal Slayer powers she'd acquired seen to it that she at least had some degree of skill with weapons. She was drunk, however, even she could tell that, though she still felt the need to adamantly deny it when someone pointed it out. Dawn had no idea how the drink was going to effect her aim. She took a deep breath and released it heavily, squinting her eyes as she tried to get the stool to come into complete focus. At least she wasn't seeing double, everything was just blurry. She hefted the knife in her hand, grasped the tip of the blade and flung it at the stool with a wince, hoping that she actually hit it and not some poor passerby behind it.
“Ah there, see!” Gawain cheered loudly and ambled over to the stool to take the knife out from where it had struck the left side. “Not such a bad aim, after all, are you? Another try?” he offered her the knife.
“Let's not test my already thin luck,” she suggested and grabbed her cup. “How about I just go fill the glasses?”
“I accept!” Gawain answered immediately. The men called out loud thanks and praise as she gathered cups from all around the table and made her way towards the bar, figuring she'd save Vanora the trip and a possible impaling by a random knife. Her head was spinning at a pleasant, languid rate. At times it almost felt like she was moving in slow motion. At this moment in time, however, she felt like she was in a pinball machine. The ground was working against her, she was certain of it because as soon as she'd tried to turn left, the world tipped right and she banged her hip into a table that seemed to just appear out of nowhere. She was stepping on her own feet as she tried to walk in a straight line towards the bar. This whole 'being drunk' thing was vastly overrated if you needed to get somewhere.
Before she could make it to the bar, even though it looked like it was in reaching distance, she stumbled again and nearly dumped herself into someone's lap. That someone steadied her with one hand and steadied the cups she was carrying with the other. “Having trouble, Lady?” Lancelot's teasing voice filled her ears and she groaned in embarrassment.
Dawn looked around and attempted to focus her gaze once more, her eyes narrowed into tiny slits as she attempted to see Lancelot clearly. “I'm just fine,” she answered, “merely going to get more drinks.”
He laughed then, a rich and warm sound. “From the looks of it, you've had enough.”
“I'm fine!” she insisted heatedly, head spinning faster as her heart thudded against her chest in recognition of her agitation. She blinked slowly for a moment and then sighed. “I'm never drinking this much again,” she confessed, looking down at him but not really seeing him that well.
“That is what they all say, Lady,” Lancelot grinned smugly at her. “Most likely than not, the same night finds them back with the drink again.” Dawn scoffed in reply, but it didn't seem to wipe the smile off of Lancelot's face. “Come, sit, let the men get their own drinks,” he motioned to the table he was sitting at and Dawn shook her head.
“No thank you, I would rather play with the knives,” she answered smartly. It was odd, the feeling that had swept through her at that moment. She was keen enough to know when to listen to her instincts, but she couldn't have begun to tell anyone why they were telling her leave as quickly as possible. It wasn't like she found Lancelot particularly intimidating. She knew that she definitely wasn't as comfortable around him as she was with Gawain or Galahad, but she wasn't scared of him. Her head was just spinning and she couldn't think straight, that had to be the answer to that. Coherent thoughts were escaping her mind and the way that he smiled at her gave her the impression that her sitting down with him would be a very bad idea. So she didn't. She excused herself and hurried to the bar like a scolded dog with its tail between its legs.
When she returned with the drinks, balancing them all precariously in her arms and walking as slowly as she could so as not to spill...or fall over and spill as the case may be, Galahad was up with his knives. There was a woman rubbing Gawain's shoulders as he blew a raspberry at Galahad's throw, knowing full well that it was better than his but obviously not wanting to admit it. “Ah, look, the best vision there is in the world,” Galahad stated, turning to look at her with a bright smile. “A lovely lady carrying a vast amount of drink with her.”
She giggled and rolled her eyes at him, setting the glass down and tumbling into her seat as soon as she'd bent over. “Oof!” she grunted as she thumped into her chair, blinking large blue eyes slowly so as to regain her bearings. She felt a startled and awed gasp escape her when there was suddenly a knife lodge into the hilt of the one Galahad had just thrown.
“Tristan...” Galahad sighed.
“How do you do that?” Gawain wondered drolly.
“I aim for the middle,” Tristan answered, pointing at the stool with an apple in his hand. Dawn found this utterly hilarious for some reason known only to her and she burst into laughter, nearly falling out of her chair in her amusement. Gawain found her display of humor rather amusing himself and chuckled deeply as he watched her try and cover up her laughter with her hands.
“How do you keep sneaking about like that?” Dawn finally asked when she'd gained control over herself. “I never see you coming you're just...there.” He looked at her for a moment, smiled slightly and then retrieved his knife from the stool, not saying a word in answer to her question.
Dawn shrugged her shoulders and raised her glass up to take a drink from it. She wasn't expecting the loud voice of Bors to roar a quick and overpowering “SHUT UP!” to silence the entire Tavern. Dawn started violently, an icy trail of fear slipping down her spine at the sudden noise and the glass slipped from her fingers before she could bring it to her lips. It fell to the ground and shattered, the sound echoing around the now silent Tavern. She flushed guiltily and looked around to where Bors was standing. “Vanora will sing,” he informed everyone when it was quiet. Vanora protested softly, but there was no real fire behind it.
Shouts of 'Sing!' sounded off around her in encouragement and she joined in heartily. It didn't take much egging and soon Vanora's voice filled the air and it was beautiful. It was a song of their homeland, the men she could see each one of them drinking in the words as Vanora gave them. This, in turn, made Dawn think about her own home. Not of the night of the battle, which she was thankful for, no, this wasn't a sad song. It made her think of all the happier times that she'd had with her family. They were few and far between, but they did happen. It called to mind all the laughing and smiling faces of Buffy, Willow, Xander, Faith, Giles, Spike, Illyria, Angel, Cordelia (even though she was technically dead now). All these face played in her mind. Times when they were all happy and well and nothing was threatening to tear apart their world. Her eyes slipped closed as she reveled in this moment. It had been the first time since she was dropped in the past that she'd thought about home without thinking about that fateful night that had set all of this into motion. It was the first time that fear and panic didn't grip her heart, the first time that she saw Buffy's eyes alight with laughter and joy instead of glassy and unseeing. This was the world she was fighting to save, not the nightmare she'd left. It was like a healing touch to her heart to not have to see the grotesquely grinning face of her sister when she closed her eyes, that crooked neck twisted in her direction and those dull eyes looking straight through her. This was replaced with Buffy's bouncing blonde hair, her determined smile and her compassionate eyes when she looked at Dawn. In place of death she saw Willow's mischievous grin, the nerdy excitement she got when presented with a book and a happy dance or two. She saw Xander's snoopy dance and heard his many nicknames for her. It filled her with a determination so fierce that it was almost unsettling. Yet, it calmed her at the same time, leaving her almost peacefully serene in her newfound strength.
This was all shattered, however, when Jols called out Arthur's name. Vanora's song faded away and everyone turned their attention to where the Captain of the Knights was attempting to walk away, unnoticed. As Gawain and Galahad left her to go to Arthur, Dawn stood and followed Vanora back into the Tavern. Or, well, this was her intent, it took a couple of attempts to get there and around the tables that seemed to have stepped in her way. “You have a very beautiful voice,” Dawn told her with a small smile.
“Thank you, dear,” Vanora replied, a look of delight crossing her face at the compliment as she gazed lovingly down at the baby in her arms. “Another drink for you?”
“No...no no no,” Dawn shook her head and groaned as the mere mention of more drink made her head spin uncomfortably. “I think I'm done for...ever.”
Vanora laughed, a sweet tinkling noise, and turned smiling eyes on Dawn. They held a motherly sort of compassion in them, a look that Dawn was sure that her children saw often. “I did warn you not to drink so much. You'll be regretting it in the morning.”
“I'm regretting it now,” Dawn muttered as her stomach rolled uncomfortably. It seemed as if that last walk had done her in for good. She was ready to find a place to curl up and hopefully not die in the middle of the night.
“Here, let's get you some water, it should ease you some,” Vanora answered and moved around behind the bar, shifting the baby to her hip so she could pour out a glass of water for Dawn. Dawn took it gratefully and took a sip from it, not trusting her stomach to be able to handle a large swallow. “You recover quite well, Dawn.”
“Hmm?” Dawn asked curiously as she took another drink, the sound muffled by the glass.
“Any other woman I know, had they been taken captive and treated as you were, they would not have been out here celebrating,” She said, rocking the baby in her arms and staring curiously at the leggy brunette in front of her.
Dawn thought on this for a moment, a deep frown on her face. She knew that it was true, any person would have been less than joyous after her encounter with the Romans. The Romans hadn't phased Dawn so much though, once it was over, it was just that. Over. She really hadn't spared much thought for the Romans besides the odd bitter thought here or there for hindering her. The thing that had most taken up her mind were thoughts of home and of her family. It was lonely here in this time without them. Dawn couldn't ever remember a time when she hadn't been surrounded and protected by Buffy and her friends. It had just been one of those natural things in life. The world turned, the sun came up in the morning, rain was wet and Buffy was her protector. The thoughts that had filled Dawn's head the most while she had been with the Romans hadn't been the Romans
, it had been a stricken sort of realization that there was no Buffy in this time and there would be no Buffy ever if she didn't accomplish what she needed to. The Romans didn't even compare to that. Hell, the Romans didn't even compare to most of the things she'd been kidnapped by in the past. They were no Glory, that was for certain. Being kidnapped wasn't what phased her the most, it was the not being rescued by Buffy part that had gotten to her the most. Being kidnapped, to Dawn, was, again, one of those things that just happened like the world turning. It was always followed by her sister rushing in to save the day. Buffy didn't exist in this time and it was supposed to be Dawn who was meant to do the saving. That had been what had bothered her the most. But that was nothing that being drunk couldn't fix, she'd found that out after the first time her sister had died.
“Dawn?” Vanora prompted when she received no immediate answer.
“Hmm, wha-...oh,” Dawn looked up at the redhead and realized that her thoughts had wandered. She rubbed the back of her neck in embarrassment and smiled slightly. “Well, I guess it all really just boils down to the fact that I'm used to getting captured by people,” she replied and shrugged. “Once you get over the shock of the first couple times, it actually gets quite bothersome after awhile. I mean there you are, standing there and all of a sudden – BOOM – your hands are tied and people are giving you some huge Monono...Mona...Mana...speech.” Her drunken tongue stuttered and slurred over her intended word and a part of her brain told her that maybe it was a warning sign to shut up before she said top much. “They all like their speech giving,” Dawn told her in a secretive whisper.
Vanora looked confused by this, her brow drawn together tightly as she tried to figure out whether or not Dawn was being serious or just drunk and rambling. She opened her mouth slightly, her lips parted questioningly but no sound had a chance to escape. At that very moment, they heard a loud thundering roar from Bors that had the both of them running from the Tavern to see what was going on. “I AM A FREE MAN! I WILL CHOOSE MY OWN FATE!” he was yelling in Arthur's face.
“Yeah, yeah, we're all going to die some day,” Tristan said flippantly, cutting off a piece of his apple. “If it's death by a Saxon hand that frightens you, stay home.”
“Look, if you're so eager to die, you can die right now!” Galahad rounded on Tristan but was pushed back by Lancelot who looked like he'd be punched in the gut.
“I have got something to live for!” Galahad shouted angrily, turning back on Arthur.
“What's going on?” Dawn whispered fearfully, her eyes wide. The baby in Vanora's arms was crying and so Vanora didn't answer, merely tried to comfort the child, who had been scared by all the screaming.
“The Romans have broken their word,” Dagonet said. His voice, while quiet, pierced through the thick silence of the Knights, almost as if he'd heard Dawn's question and was answering her. “We have the word of Arthur, that's good enough. I will prepare,” he pushed himself off the wall and started walking away towards Dawn and Vanora. He then turned to Bors who was pacing around, looking both lost and furious. “Bors, you coming?” he asked sharply.
“Of course I'm coming!” Bors yelled at him, his voice course and gravelly with anger. “Can't let you go on your own, you all will get killed! I'm just saying what you're all thinking” His chest heaved greatly as he turned away and towards the two women. “Vanora'll kill me,” he muttered to himself, but Dawn heard it with her extended hearing.
She turned to face Vanora who was clinging to her baby, looking almost a paler shade of death, eyes wide with fright. Dawn wasn't an idiot, she realized that instead of their freedom, these men had just been sent to do something else. That much was painfully obvious. It was a shocking blow to Vanora, who looked as if she might just faint. As soon as she saw Bors, however, her back straightened and her face slipped into a steely resolve that told Dawn that she was not going to let Bors see her so distraught. The stocky man came over and silently led Vanora away, Dawn figured to talk to her and explain what was going on. She'd be getting no answers from either of them and suddenly felt very much alone without her new-found friend standing there with her.
“And you, Gawain?” Arthur asked in an iron tone.
“I'm with you,” Gawain nodded, causing Dawn's heart to sink a little. After a pause, Gawain looked to the man next to him and back to Arthur, “Galahad as well.” Galahad turned to look at him incredulously, laughed disbelievingly and then turned to Arthur, puffs of air leaving his lips as though his disbelieving laughs were soon about to turn into cries. He shook his head slightly, poured out his bottle of drink and then slammed it to the ground, walking past Gawain in a daze.
Dawn felt Galahad brush past her. His steps were still stumbled, like that of a drunk man, but his face looked anything but, he looked painfully sober. Dawn rested her hands on Gawain's arms as he walked towards her and turned pleading blue eyes on him. “What's going on?” It was as though she could physically feel the drink leaving her system. Icy cold sobriety slipped down her spine at the dull resignation in his eyes.
He reached up with his free hand and wrapped his fingers around hers. “Come, I will explain,” he told her, leading her away from the Tavern after dumping his glass onto the nearest table. Once they were free of the Tavern and the people there, he sat her down on a nearby crate. “The Knights are leaving in the morning on a final mission from Rome.”
“A...final mission?” she asked in confusion, “but I thought you were getting your freedom today!”
“Germanius is a hard man, he is holding our papers until we do this task for him,” Gawain answered.
“Germanius is a rodent,” Dawn spat, crossing her arms over her chest. “What exactly do you have to do?”
Gawain was silent for a moment, a thoughtful and far off look in his eye. When he finally turned back to look at her, Dawn was frightened. She had seen that look many times, more times than she would have liked, personally. It was the same look Buffy had given her before she'd jumped off of Glory's tower. It was the same look that each Slayer and civilian alike had gotten right before the battle with The First. She'd seen that own look in her eyes a couple time after Buffy had died the first time. It was recklessness. It was a look that said you knew you were going to die and you weren't going out without the biggest fight of your life.
“There is a family North of the wall, in Woad territory. A Roman family that the Pope wishes to see safe.” Gawain answered and turned his head away from her. Dawn couldn't help her reaction, really, it just seemed like the thing she was supposed to do. She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly, feeling her heart pound in her chest painfully as tears pricked at her eyes. He stilled a moment and then wrapped his arms around her as well, clinging to her tightly and burying his face into her neck. His beard scratch her sensitive skin, but she said nothing, just comforted him in the only way that she really knew how. After a while, pulled away from her and smiled slightly. “I must go prepare for the journey,” he told her grimly “and you must rest, you were sick not too long ago and you will be sick in the morning should the drink have any say in the matter.”
Dawn nodded solemnly and offered him a watery smile as he stood, cast her one last look and then left. She continued to sit there for only the Powers knew how long. Her gazed was fixed on a specific spot in the dirt as her mind wandered and raced. She'd done the very thing she swore to herself she wasn't going to do just at the beginning of the day. She'd gotten attached. It wasn't like they'd exactly made it easy for her to brush them off. Vanora was a sweetheart, if not a little hard and firm, though Dawn supposed that she had to be with eleven children. Gawain had been incredibly friendly and welcoming, she felt a connection with him even in just the short time that she'd known him. Galahad was sweet, she could tell where the 'Chaste' legends had come from, not that he was anything resembling 'Chaste', but he seemed to be the most innocent. He was just as friendly and boyish as Gawain was. Everyone she'd met, bar the Romans, had been so welcoming and friendly towards her, it had been hard to not get attached. Now she was involved, far more involved then she wanted to be but what did she really expect? Dawn was a woman who liked people and had never had very many friends that were her own, not while Buffy was around. She couldn't just go around, detached from a situation like her sister could. It brought the question to mind of why she was trying to act like Buffy in the first place. She knew that part of the answer was that she was insecure in her ability to accomplish anything, let alone a task this momentous. She'd never had a reason to, she wasn't a Slayer, the weight of the world never rested on her. The one time that it did, she was fifteen and in no way capable of dealing with a Hellgod. But she wasn't Buffy, she couldn't think like a Slayer or a Warrior, she could only think like Dawn and Dawn was an emotional girl. It hurt to think that these men, the ones that had saved her from the Romans, were tricked and that they would go off, into dangerous territory to rescue a family they didn't know or care for. It hurt to know that it was possible some of them might die. Dawn didn't like it when people she knew die, because it seemed inevitable. Everyone that Dawn knew seemed to keep dying around her. Sometimes more than once.
With a frown, Dawn stood from the crate. She wasn't tired, despite how much she'd drank that night. She was a little disoriented and her head was still spun if she tried to move too much, but she wasn't tired. There was too much on her mind, too much she had to think about. Being here was all well and good, but she didn't have a plan. She needed a plan. She couldn't just go headlong into a random battle without having a plan. That was a good way to die. So she walked, trying to come up with something that didn't involve 'hit it until it dies'. That was a classic 'Buffy' stratagem, and while it worked for her, Dawn was terribly sure that it wasn't going to work that well with her and her less-than-whole Slayer abilities. No, to face a master vampire and not die painfully, Dawn had to be cunning and crafty. Two of the things she was never very good at. She found herself at the top of the wall, looking out into an expanse of forest, the view was incredible but it sent a shiver through her body. She was staring at the field where, in over a thousand years, she would be watching her family be torn to shreds. Well, unless she could stop it, which was the whole reason for this brain storming session.
This was interrupted, however, by a familiar voice from behind her. “Hello, Dawn, I didn't realize anyone was up here.”
She turned around to face Lancelot who still had that expression on his face, like all the wind had been knocked out of him with brute force. “Hello, Lancelot,” she replied with a smile, “It's a beautiful night.”
“Is it?” he asked curiously as if he genuinely didn't know, “I shall let you get back to it then.” He turned and headed for the stairs, but Dawn was gripped with a sudden need to stop him.
“No, please stay,” she reached out for him but didn't quite grab a hold of him and instead let her hand fall limply to her side. He froze and then slowly turned to face her, but didn't say anything, merely walked past her and placed his hands on the top of the wall, leaning heavily against it and looking out into the distance.
After a moments silence in which she stared at his back, wanting so badly to say something but lacking the proper words, he finally spoke. “Rome has issued one final order for us,” there was a note of bitterness in his voice.
“I spoke with Gawain,” she replied quietly, a soft wind fluttering her dress around her ankles.
“On the day we were supposed to gain our freedom, Rome has issued an order for our blood,” he spat and turned to face her, eyes blazing angrily. “I was to be a free man!”
“You still will be,” Dawn answered assuredly, taking a step towards him but faltering in the last second. “You'll come back and that toad will give you your papers and you'll be free.”
“And if I don't come back?” he questioned with a raised eyebrow.
“Death is its own freedom, I suppose,” she told him, walking to the wall and looking out into the field. “I don't believe that you'll die though.”
“This mission is far more dangerous than any that Rome has sent us on,” Lancelot told her.
“Because of the Prydyn?” she looked at out of the corner of her eye curiously.
“No, Woads we have fought and won against. Saxons are sweeping this land, coming closer to Hadrian's Wall everyday,” he faced her, as though to gage her reaction to this statement.
She nodded silently, eyes focused on the field below and sighed. “You're strong, Lancelot. You and the other Knights out of how many have survived for fifteen years? Are you afraid of the Saxons?”
“You just met me, Lady, how would you know of my strength?” he asked, sarcastic amusement in his voice. He didn't answer her other question.
“I've heard stories,” she answered noncommittally.
“Stories lie, how do you know that what you've heard is truth?”
“Because I've met you,” she turned away from the field to face him. “I've known Warriors my entire life, I grew up with them. I've know some of the strongest Warriors you'll ever meet, the one's that have lived the longest when others have failed to live. I know something about strength,” she told him and took in a deep breath. “I'm not talking just about physical strength, though I'm sure you have it. You're alive, I'm sure, because you decided that you weren't going to die.”
Lancelot turned his eyes away from her thoughtfully, a blank expression on his face. “How do you decide something like that in the face of no hope?”
“I asked that once,” she replied. “I was told that in war, people die but as long as you continue to fight, there is always hope that you're going to win.”
He was silent for a long time, processing this, his face turned towards the horizon as he continued to lean heavily against the wall. “The Saxons will reach the wall,” he told her quietly. “Even if we do meet them on our journey, we will hardly stop the entire army.”
“Does this frighten you?” he turned to face her curiously.
“Not really,” she answered blankly, leaning her back against the wall and staring up at the sky. “Death is inevitable, I don't fear it. I've seen too much death to fear it. I've seen wars, fought against a number of things myself. If I'm to die, I will die fighting.”
“Fighting?” Lancelot asked, eyebrows raised. “You would stand and fight against certain death?”
“Not all of us have an army to fight for us, Lancelot,” she sighed and traced the stars with her eyes. “Sometimes you are
the army that has to fight. People die, Lancelot, you can't stop that. I know more about that then I'd like. But if you're fighting, if you're fighting for life instead of death, I have no doubt that you'll pull through.”
“How can you have so much confidence?”
“Because I've seen people survive on sheer willpower alone when the odds were very much against them,” she answered, finally turning to face him again. She offered him a small, comforting smile and lifted her hand, placing against his arm and squeezing gently. “Please, just think about it. You will get your freedom, you've just got to believe that.”