Title: Little Death
Word Count: 2,335
Disclaimer: Merry Gentry and all related characters are copyright of Laurell K. Hamilton and Random House. Buffy the Vampire Slayer and all related characters are copyright of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement intended. ***
Note :: AU for BtVS***
Synopsis: There was the distinct possibility that Queen Andais would see Darla executed for seducing a noble sidhe of her court.Little Death
Frothy arcs of white rose up and out of the surf as the Irish Sea beat against the rocky shore, muffling the sounds of the child bundled in her arms. Green eyes scanned the coastline, pale lashes dipping as those eyes narrowed and Darla’s mouth thinned. An angular chin dropped and she directed her gaze toward the child, hushing her. The lullaby fell easily past her lips as she coaxed her daughter to calm and cradled her closer as the waves rose higher.
The dark sea swirled around the Calf of Man, striking its coast until a fine mist settled across the rocks and the lighthouse in the distance dimmed to a candle ghosting the shoreline. Darla adjusted the bundle in her arms, tucking the child closer to her chest, the beat of her heart and turned, checking the offerings once more before a lick of cold traced its way down her spine. She inhaled, caught the heavy scent of salt from the sea and sweetness of the grass beneath her bare feet and further down was earth, compact tight and sound.
It grounded her because buried deep beneath the scent of sea was power, it tasted heady and old and it turned her around, back towards the shore. A wave rose in the distance, the tide receding until nearly all the shore was bare before it rolled forward, carried with it the darkest scents of the ocean, where the old things slept, until it crashed against the rocks. Slicing upward, towards the sky and the child’s wail was lost to the sea and Darla rocked her gently, trying and failing to calm the frightened infant.
A figure appeared as the wave swept back, nude and perfect and paler than the glowing moon above them and the shifting waves of his hair shimmered. The squalling child in her arms drew her gaze away from the glistening length of his hair and she murmured promises of safety even as the most dangerous creature she’d met in her long life strolled towards them. Darla raised her gaze to his, watched his slit pupils narrow on the bundles of reeds, meadow grasses and yellow flowers behind her.
The line of his mouth lifted, tucking in at the corners before he spoke, his voice as cool as the sea settling around them, “It is not midsummer,” his gaze settled on her, “and you are not one of my worshippers, succubus.”
That was not the worst thing he’d ever called her so Darla ignored the barb as she agreed, “I am not,” and then countered, “but I knew of no other way to summon you, Sea King.” She inhaled the thickening scent of dark waters before stating, “I need your aid,” another membrane slid over his eyes and Darla rocked her child in response, “You were a friend to Essus—”
“Do not speak his name,” the interruption was low and the sea hissed Barinthus’ displeasure as he stepped forward, skin filling with a vibrant light as he demanded, “You speak his title!”
“He was not my prince!” Darla argued, and accurately, her voice never betraying the fear raging within her, “As your kind made it so abundantly clear centuries ago. We are your whores. Your pets, but we are not of your court.”
“Beneath you?” She laughed, a bitter sound. “I am acutely aware of what you think of me and mine. You’ve no need to enlighten me. You’ve no need to care at all about me
for I am not the one that needs your aid.” Darla moved forward, her own movements graceful across the rock strewn meadow until she stood before the towering fey and drew back the blanket protecting her daughter’s face from the cold mist. “The bastard child of your dead prince does.”
Barinthus stiffened, the muscles beneath his chest tightening as he kept his gaze on Darla’s upturned face as if afraid to look upon the unhappy infant in her arms. She lifted her chin in challenge and her pale lashes gathered around her narrowing eyes before his nostrils flared, jaw clenching before it dipped. His breath expelled outward, a slow sigh that had Darla’s face dropping, her gaze settling on the sun-kissed cheeks of her daughter. Her soft flesh held a golden glow usually found within the Seelie Court and spoke greatly of Darla’s own heritage, proof that her kind was bartered and traded between both courts.
A crown of fine hair in varying shades of blonde, from the coolest ash to the warmest of strawberry, struck out in disarray from her head. Her whimpers slowed as tricolored eyes locked onto Barinthus and she studied another of her kind for the first time in her short life. She cooed and her pupil shrank down, as she focused on his face, highlighting the ring of green that surrounded the black of her pupil. The green, softer in color than the Gladiolus Essus had gifted her before his death, paled into a vibrant ring of yellow before being encircled by much darker amber.
The outer ring of amber held fissures of gold that highlighted how very sidhe her daughter was and Darla would not allow her child to be tormented and targeted as Essus’ other child. She wished the princess no ill, but she knew, without her father’s protection, that Princess Meredith’s life was nearly forfeit even with one such as Barinthus at her side. The other sidhe stared down at her child, Essus’ second daughter, before his dark gaze rose and Darla could taste his grief and resisted the urge to comfort him.
He was not of her people and she was merely the favourite
of Prince Essus and there was the distinct possibility that Queen Andais would see her executed for seducing a noble sidhe of her court. The child they’d conceived might save her, though Darla had no intention of allowing the Queen near her daughter. A daughter she required Barinthus’ aid to protect, to hide with magics that were beyond her capabilities. Her glamour was too closely bound to the heart’s wants and would be of no use and, not for the first time in her long life, she wished her sidhe blood thicker.
“You should not have chosen full dark as your time to call upon me.”
Barinthus drew Darla out of her internal musing and she looked up into the arrogant lines of his face and snorted. The corner of her eyes gathered as his own eyes widened in outrage before she countered, “Do you think the location by chance, Sea King?” His chin lifted, hers dipped and she gazed up at him through the pale lace of her lashes as she continued, “The Isle of Man is shrouded by your mist. Your power.” She turned, lifting her child up and closer to her shoulder as she finished, “This sea is more yours than any other.”
She turned back to him, his face less arrogant and perhaps more considering than she’d have liked, but she’d always played the fool at court, kept herself hidden well, beneath her supple curves and pretty face. With a sigh and another gentle rocking of her arms to quiet her still fussing child she felt compelled to speak, but quelled it and allowed the sidhe before her to look his fill.
Several long moments passed before he blinked, a lid moving from the corners of his fathomless eyes inward and Darla frowned. She’d never known he possessed two eyelids, but he distracted her from the trivial revelation by a questioning, “You wish me to protect her?”
“No,” Darla countered, “I wish you to hide her. I wish a mask for my child that she will wear until the day comes that she will not be targeted by fools filled with the ambition to garner favor with the crown.”
He stiffened, drawing himself up higher and Darla watched him pull back, retreat before he argued, “She would have allies—”
“She would have you and little else.” Darla spun, rocking her child as she struggled to find the words that would make him understand and settled for plain-speak, “Your Princess might feel kinship with her, but she is of no great power and the Prince will see her dead.” Darla watched his mouth open, to counter or agree she didn’t know, nor care as she finished, “And the Queen will turn a blind eye for she loves her son too much to do anything less.” Darla’s shoulders sagged and her green eyes lowered, gazed into her daughter’s tri-color eyes and felt her throat constrict as she finished, softly and more to herself than Barinthus, “Though I understand that love now
better than I ever have before.”
“This is your first child?” He asked the question and Darla’s eyes narrowed at the thread of doubt in his tone.
“Do you think me a liar, Barinthus?” She used his name, not his title and watched his gaze narrow and felt the sea tremble, “Do you think to make me an oath breaker? To make me something beneath your notice so that you won’t aid Essus’ child?” She reminded him neatly of his friend’s tie to the baby in her arms and the sea calmed.
Barinthus turned his gaze back to the bundle of blanket and golden skin. “What will become of her if I do this for you?”
“For her,” Darla corrected and finished, “I will hide her with the humans. I have already done much to ensure her survival, but my glamour is too small a power to hide her indefinitely.”
“Humans?” He scoffed the word, but continued to gaze down at the child, unmoving. The ocean stilled beyond them and silence descended, an utter stillness that had the fear within Darla twisting more than the child in her arms. The quiet was broken by a sigh and Barinthus stated, “What you ask of me will harm her.” His gaze rose to Darla’s bored into her own as he explained, “It will kill her more every day that she is hidden. That she is banished from her kind.”
“There are those of her kind that will kill her. A little death is far better a fate than certain.”
Her lips parted, stunned and hope swelled up anew as he opened his muscular arms to accept her child, but before she laid her within his grasp she requested, “I require your word, Sea King. Your most solemn oath.”
He was silent a moment, arms still outstretched before he spoke and the sea crashed against the shore, quieting his words or masking them as he stated, “I give you my word, Darla, I will aid you in your quest to hide this child.”
“Nothing more, nothing less.”
His brows dipped, as if insulted, but he repeated, “Nothing more, nothing less,” and Darla placed her child within the haven of his arms. She moved, her feet creating tiny ripples in her blanket and her tri-color gaze locked with Barinthus as he freed one hand from beneath her and placed it just above the bundle cradled to his bare chest. “I am sorry, little one,” and with those words Darla tasted the heavy salt on the air and a soft glow illuminated the space between his hand and her child’s face and she watched, saddened, as the color around her child’s pupil bleed outward and darkened to human-green.
Her lashes darkened, her skin lost its golden tint to be replaced with a paleness that mirrored her own and the hair surrounding her small head darkened to pale brown. The child handed back to Darla was so human, so ordinary and so perfect that her eyes welled and she raised her gaze to Barinthus.
She thanked him silently, never aloud, with that look and he stepped back, away from her and her child until the mist swallowed him and left them alone. ~*~
While Joyce knew potatoes au gratin was Hank’s favorite, but the mass of orange-tinted starch stuck to the bottom of her glassware just didn’t make them worth it. She lifted her wrist and used the back of her hand to turn the faucet to hot and waited on the water to warm enough to attack the last of the dinner dishes. A cool breeze swept in through the opened window above the sink and Joyce smiled, lifting her face towards it as the yellow and white checkered curtains snapped to life.
The water running over her hand warmed and she dipped the casserole dish beneath it before reaching for more soap in the hopes that soaking it would help. Bubbles formed, filling the shallow dish and making their way up and over the sides as Joyce lowered it back down to settle against the bottom before she reached for the faucet to turn it off.
The trill of the telephone had her sighing and green eyes rolled as she called out, “Hank! Honey, can you get that?” Before she flinched, remembering he was checking her spare tire in the garage before their trip up to Napa Valley for their anniversary weekend. “Damn, damn, damn.” She scrambled back from the sink and towards the corded phone on the wall and reached it by the fourth ring. “Hold on,” Joyce nearly dropped it from her slippery hands before tucking it against her ear and chin and stating, a little breathless, “Hello?”
“Hi. This Nell from American Adoptions. I’m calling to let you know you’ve been accepted.”
The voice faded a bit as Joyce felt her face numb and her hands grow cold. She swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry and her eyes impossibly wide as she struggled to comprehend. “I’m sorry, what?”
The voice, the beautiful voice on the other end held just a trace of laughter as the woman informed Joyce, “It’s a girl.”
“It’s a what?” Hope, such fragile, hope was born.
More laughter, more joy as the voice confirmed, “Mrs. Summers, it’s a girl.”
“A girl.” Joyce echoed and wept. The end.