Midgewater, February 2, 2998, Third Age.
Buffy Summers stared numbly into the fire with her arms wrapped firmly around her legs, and her chin resting softly on her knees. She held herself tightly as if afraid if she would let go for even a second she would fall apart.
Buffy had known Elladan and Elrohir would have to go back home to their realm sooner or later, but now that the time had finally come, she was having a hard time dealing with it. She understood why they had to go, understanding it was never the problem. She also knew, that however long it would take them, eventually they'd be back. But that didn't mean she had to like it.
Buffy knew of course why only the thought of them leaving her made her feel like being punched in the gut by Caleb-The-Eye-Gouging-Preacher. She was afraid. She feared what would happen to her after their departure.
Would she revert back to the broken, wounded girl she was when she first arrived at Middle-earth? It was a scary thought. She didn't want to be her anymore. That girl had given up on...everything a long time ago, Buffy wasn't even sure when.
She wondered if it was around the time she buried her first watcher, Merrick. Maybe it was the first time she died. She remembers things seemed clear before she woke up from her first death. Everything used to be black and white, good or evil. Things seemed so much more simple. She still held hope for a normal life, a future. Not like the way she saw things now. Not anymore.
Or maybe her hope left her gradually over time. It could be the reason why she never really noticed until it was too late. Her destiny, the slayer that lived inside of her slowly chipping away at the Innocent girl she once was, piece by piece.
Killing Angel... Buffy remembers feeling like a big part of her died and went with him through that portal. She never did get it back when he returned from hell.
Gutting Faith... Not one of her finer moments. Hell the entire Faith saga was screwed up beyond recognition to start with. Buffy still felt partly responsible for Faith going off the deep end. She so should have seen it coming, it was obvious really. Buffy vividly remembers feeling something die inside her when she slid that knife into Faith's flesh. The part of her that would never hurt a human being, let alone someone she felt deeply connected with on an instinctual level, someone who felt like a sister to her, died that day. Finding Kendra's dead body was... excruciating, attempting to kill Faith... she couldn't even describe how she felt about that.
Then Dawn came. Buffy saw in her everything she used to be. She felt as if the monks gathered all the pieces that died in her, connected them together and created Dawn. She loved that girl with everything she had. Then Giles the man she trusted to guide her to the right path when she could no longer see it for herself, the man she loved like a father, told her to kill her baby sister, the only part of her that was completely innocent. The only thing that kept her human, and she couldn't. The girl she had become since Merrick died and everything went to hell, would have done it - like she killed Angel to save the word. But Buffy didn't feel like her anymore when she held Dawn in her arms. She felt like she was finally complete again. As if just being close to Dawn brought back the girl she used to be. Brought back Buffy. Dawn healed her, made her feel, and Buffy would rather die then lose herself like that again.
So instead of murdering her sister Buffy sacrificed herself. With Sineya's words 'Death is your gift' ringing in her ears, Buffy jumped. Things seemed so clear back then. She never again felt such a moment of perfect clarity as she did that night, staring into her little sister's big blue eyes while a feeling of complete serenity, of knowing everything was going to be alright, flooded her.
Naturally that didn't last long. Willow brought her back, starting a sequence of events that almost ended with the First Evil destroying the world. Of course, that wasn't the only thing Willow's spell caused. But Buffy didn't find that out until years after the destruction of Sunnydale. Humans really weren't meant to be ripped from heaven. Besides turning into a bitter shell of her former self, there were other consequences tied to being brought back to life. For example, the reason she was roaming around Middle-earth
Her eyes drifted towards the two cots holding the sleeping forms of Elrohir and Elladan. It was strange how much she loved them. She never even meant for it to happen. One day, when Elladan was once again cursing Hedwig and plotting his next move against her in the war they were having, while Elrohir was watching his brother with hidden amusement, she just sort of realized that she did.
The realization scared Buffy enough for her to leave them, muttering something to the twins about needing to be on her own for a couple of days. When she finally found the courage to look them in the eye, all she had found there was understanding and acceptance, but she didn't know how they possibly could understand. She knew they would never feel the need to run because they discovered they loved someone. They weren't like her. They weren't broken and dead inside, afraid of even coming remotely close to feeling...something let alone love.
How could they understand? How could they think they knew her? How dare they presume to know her, to understand.
They found her seventeen days later when they went down to the lake to bathe. She was covered in orc blood from head to toe, staring blankly into the water.
They never asked what happened or why she ran, Elrohir just told her he was happy she came back before they had to go out and hunt her down themselves, because just waiting around for her to come home was getting boring. Elladan just asked her why she couldn't have gotten rid of that infernal bird while she was away.
That, more than anything else, told Buffy that even if they didn't understand now, they could if she told them. So she did. She didn't tell them everything, because she hadn't dealt with a lot of things herself. But she described to them what her life was about before she came to Middle-earth, and why she was there now. Though she never went into details about what was going to happen, or her mission.
They listened, and didn't ask questions. She loved them even more after that.
Once she accepted the fact that she loved them, it was easy to see that they felt the same. Elrohir and Elladan took great pains to make sure she understood just that. She who had been alone for so long, even before she came to Middle-earth and discovered the true meaning of the word alone, was not anymore.
Elrohir and Elladan. Two brothers who fiercely loved and protected each other and who had decided for some reason only the gods knew, because she sure didn't, to extend that love and loyalty to her.
They made her feel things, things she thought she would never feel again. Things she promised herself she would never feel again. She fought it with everything she had at first, but it was impossible. They were just so there. Always one of them around to watch her back, take care of her, talk to her, or comfort her. It drove her insane sometimes, but other times, she just had to stop and breathe because she loved them so damn much, she was scared her heart was going to explode. Like when she loved Angel, before it all went to hell and he became the source of all her pain. So much like Angel and yet so different.
Buffy didn't love them in a romantic sort of way, she just loved them, and for her, a woman who feared and even hoped she would never love anyone ever again, it was a miracle. They were her miracle. And they were leaving.
Saying goodbye hurt. The thought of them not being around anymore, if only for a little while, didn't sit to well with her. But knowing that they didn't want to leave her anymore then she wanted them to leave helped a lot. It was clearly written on their faces and evident with every lost look they sent her way. Leaving her hurt them too, and that's what made it bearable.
When they asked her to come with them, it took her everything she had to say no. She wanted to - gods how she wanted to - but she couldn't. Buffy had a job to do in Middle-earth, and meeting the key players of the coming Apocalypse would break so many rules it wasn't even funny. She shouldn't even have been hanging out with the twins. She should have saved them and be on her merry way. But she had been alone for so long, and she was so lonely. So very lonely. She couldn't leave them and when they asked her to stay, she stayed. Breaking one of the most important rules the Powers That Suck gave her. Buffy ignored their displeasure because honestly, she didn't care, and loved breaking rules anyway.
But going to Rivendell, or even Lothlorien would bring about a whole shit-load of trouble,trouble they weren't ready for. Like Whistler said 'Throw a pebble into shit creek and you'll get ripples, throw a boulder and you'll get so many waves you'll be mopping up shit for the rest of your existence'.
Now Buffy was never one to shy away from making waves, in fact, she enjoyed it immensely. But she didn't particularity enjoy shit, so she steeled herself and told them no. It wasn't her Apocalypse. She was here to help, not lead. But if there had been even one sliver of doubt in her mind that Whistler's words were his usual PtB crap, she would have accepted the twins' invitation without any hesitation.
She hated the fact that she couldn't and that her refusal was hurting Elladan and Elrohir. She couldn't exactly explain to them that she wasn't suppose to meet their father, or more importantly the heir of Isildur, just yet. If she met one of them on coincidence, it wouldn't be that bad, but to deliberately seek them out would be disastrous.
She sighed, frustrated with her complicated life. She was just going to have to deal. Her personal happiness was not an excuse to mess around with the fate of their world. Her world now too.
She smiled when Elrohir looked up from his dinner at her frustrated sigh, and waved off his concerned frown. She was going to miss it though, having people around that looked out for her. Middle-earth was a lonely place without her two friends by her side.
"When are you leaving?" she asked startling the twins out of their own silent contemplations.
"Soon," Elrohir answered.
Elladan snorted. "Come on you two, you're acting as if this is the last time we will enjoy each other's company. We will meet again, and while we are apart we have that spiteful bird to send our correspondence to one another. Even though I do beg of you to make certain you send him to Elrohir, not me. If he so much as flies withing pooping distance, his life is forfeit," he sniffed haughtily.
Buffy grinned widely, her face lit with amusement. "You know, if Hedwig wasn't a bird, I'd suggest you two get a room. The tension between you two is murder, literally."
"Since I have not understood what you just said, but am fairly certain I was just insulted, I shall endeavor to ignore you, like I do more often then not."
"You could have just said whatever," Buffy grinned before turning to Elrohir to seem him watching them with a part amused part indulgent expression.
"How long will you have to stay home?"
Elrohir sighed tiredly, his face devoid of all previous amusement. "Before we met you we were gone for over nine years. But we went home as often as we could to make sure we weren't needed and to get supplies. We haven't been home since we met you, and that was almost two years ago."
"Won't your father be worried?"
Buffy shifted uncomfortably. "Well then you two need to get your asses home, pronto."
At the twins' confused look Buffy rolled her eyes. "Soon. It means soon, I think."
"Yes, I do believe you are correct," Elladan sighed. "Have you changed your mind?"
"About coming with you?" at Elladan's short nod Buffy shook her head.
"No. But I'll meet you as soon as you can come back. Just send word with Hedwig and I'll find you."
Elrohir caught Buffy's gaze for a moment studying her carefully. "It could take some time," he finally said evenly. "I am aware you do not age as fast as other mortals, but elves have a different sense of time then mortals do. A decade is nothing to us."
His gaze drifted from her to the fire. "We will of course endeavor to make it sooner rather than later, but you must understand that it could take some time if we are needed home."
Buffy nodded slowly, outwardly looking calm and collected but from the inside trying to quell the large burst of panic that came over her at the thought of not seeing her two friends for over a decade. "I understand. I don't particularly like it, but I understand."
Elrohir smiled sadly. "Perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that we are not happy with the circumstances either."
"I don't," Buffy said softly.
"Ugh enough with this depressing mood. All will be well. Buffy just needs to make sure to keep her head firmly attached to her body, and we'll promise to take care of our responsibilities as fast as we can manage. It will be interesting to hear how many orcs you slayed without us by your side. Perhaps you can keep count?" Elladan suggested trying to lighten the mood.
"Is that all you can think about? Killing orcs?" Buffy demanded.
"Yes. That and killing that abomination you call bird. And food. Possibly eating your bird while hunting for orcs, that would mix the three together quite nicely," he replied thoughtfully.
Buffy grinned widely. "You are insane."
Elladan shrugged casually. "Well then, I reckon I'm in good company."
Buffy chuckled when Elrohir, feeling offended, started wrestling his brother to the ground. Yes, everything was going to be fine. She could handle being alone if she knew she had people waiting for her to come home.
And so Buffy Summers, for the first time in twenty-nine years, relaxed, and allowed herself to love completely.
A/N: Next story in the series is a work in progress. It's actually almost done, but somehow, I'm not completely happy about it. Thanks for sticking with me, your words have been what made me want to finish this.
Sincerely, Hanane El Mokkadem