Title: Bonds Stronger Than Death
Author: Jinni (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Pairing: W/Duncan MacLeod
Disclaimer: All things BtVS belong to Joss Whedon, et al. All things Highlander belong to Davis/Panzer, et al.
Distribution: The normal places.
Summary: Sequel to "Who Wants to Live Forever".
Willow bit the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling. Now wasn't the time for smiling. Not when he was so upset.
"It's alright," she called out to him. "Don't you have faith in me?"
The Highlander glanced over at her. "Yes -"
"But you're still worried?"
He shrugged. "It's your first challenge!"
Another bite at the inside of her mouth. That smile was going to peek through at any second if she wasn't careful. Damn if he wasn't sexy when he was all prowly and pace-y. And that accent?
She shivered. His accent was usually hardly noticeable - but when he got agitated or emotional it came out like nothing else. Just like now. It was washing over her in thick, rich waves of Scottish brilliance.
"Yes," she nodded when the smiling had been beaten back. "My first challenge. We knew it would happen eventually."
The truth was, she told herself, it really was very soon. She'd only just died her first death two months before. Those first weeks afterwards had been a mad race to get her up to speed on sword fighting and physical endurance. Something she was proud to say she'd picked up rather well. Or, at least, she thought she had. The way he was worrying had her starting to get nervous, though. What if she wasn't as good as she'd thought she was?
“It’s too soon.”
“Is it ever –not- too soon?” She rebutted quietly, meeting his dark eyes. “I’ll go out there and give it my all. You taught me well. Not like I was some girl off the streets before I did the whole Immortal dying bit, you know. Hello – lived on a Hellmouth. I’m no slouch.”
He sighed and nodded. In a couple quick steps he had crossed the room to kneel before her, taking her hands in his own and squeezing. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she smiled, feeling her stomach tighten just as it always did with him. This was the real thing, she told herself. “And even if. . .you know. . . something happens. I’ll always be there for you.”
As she said those words she reached out, touching his heart. Her lips trembled a little. The idea of dying tonight, when she met Tanya, the female Immortal that had challenged her, scared her senseless. It was one thing to go on patrol, knowing that you could die but also aware that the odds weren’t good for it. It was something else entirely, this feeling of going into a Challenge. These odds were worse – fifty-fifty. Maybe a little more, maybe a little less. Tanya was unknown to Duncan, therefore her skill level was also unknown.
All Willow –did- know was that Tanya was a royal bitch and out for as many heads as she could get. She’d challenge Willow on what seemed like a whim, without provocation, as the red head was shopping at the mall that morning. The challenge had been issued with a quiet deadliness that made Willow feel cold even now, thinking back on it. Tonight. Just outside of town, at an old warehouse. Duncan was to stay at home.
She’d agreed. Honor demanded that she do just that, even if Tanya had no such honor to live by.
And Duncan –would- be staying at home, even if she had to knock him out to get him to do just that.
Duncan groaned, wincing as he opened his eyes. He was in his flat, lying on his back.
It hit him just as suddenly as the spell that had knocked him out, and suddenly he was tumbling from his bed, reaching blindly for the first clothes he could get his hands on. How long had he been out? A quick glance at the clock showed forty-five minutes, as he tugged on his pants.
He bit off a curse, fear lancing through him. There had been more than enough time for her to get there, fight, and be back.
If she’d won, that was.
Even as he was pulling on his shirt, the Highlander was beginning to assess the reality that maybe, just maybe, he’d lost her. Tanya, for all that she was still young enough that he had never heard of her, could have been trained longer and better than Willow.
He paused, trying to put order to the scattered thoughts of his mind; even as his heart was breaking into a thousand pieces.
What would running off accomplish? Either she’d won and was on her way home. . . .
Or she’d lost.
He cursed, loudly, the sound echoing through the silent flat. After everything he’d lost – he hadn’t expected her to be next. Tessa, Richie. . .and now Willow. The pain of her assumed death throbbed dully in his chest. Her words earlier that night, before she’d taken matters into her hands and made sure he wouldn’t follow her, came back to him – and he found himself stumbling back towards the bed, sitting heavily on the edge, head in his hands.
“. . .I’ll always be there for you. . .”
He could still hear her saying it now, touching his chest right over his heart. She’d always be in his heart, even if she no longer walked this earth.
He didn’t realize he’d started crying until the first tear fell onto his hand, dripping wetly down over his palm to run down his inner arm. It was soundless, yet came from the depths of his soul.
It was then, lost in the cavernous pits of his sorrow, that he felt the first stirrings of an Immortal buzz. It grew to a hum as the elevator started up, clanking its way towards the top.
Lifting his head, the Scot debated reaching for his sword; but found himself standing instead, moving towards the elevator unarmed.
As the rickety old car came into sight, Duncan exhaled so long and hard that he felt as if his lungs would never inflate again; that he’d drained them of breath entirely.
“Hey,” Willow murmured tiredly as he slid the grate open. Her face was dirty, her clothes torn. And her eyes held sorrow he knew all too well. “Miss me?”
He didn’t speak, couldn’t have even if he’d wanted to. With a long-suffering sigh, the Highlander pulled her into his arms.
”Don’t do that again.”
“Can’t promise that,” he heard her whisper softly, voice cracking as her own tears fell. “I have to learn to live for myself, you know.”
He nodded, not letting her go even to tumble into bed.
Let her learn to live this life some other night, he told himself; sometime when he didn’t need to just hold her and reassure himself that she was still alive.