Disclaimer: Buffy and all related characters are property of Joss Whedon and some other people. All Lord of the Rings characters belong to J. R. R. Tolkein.Part III
Arwen gazed out her bedroom window, and her face fell. She had a clear view of Osgiliath from her vantage point, so she could see the depressing image of the burning city. Oh how drastically everything had changed. The Osgiliath of the past had stood proudly in the distance, the great protector of the White City. Now it lay in bitter ruins for all to heed as a warning of future destruction.
Eldarion poked his head through the doorway and gazed at his mother with his big blue eyes. “Why are you sad?”
Arwen opened her arms to him and smiled as he came to sit in her lap. At the age of four, he had an uncanny way of sensing people’s emotions.
“Is it the bad people?” Eldarion whispered, as if by uttering any louder he might be putting himself in danger.
“Yes,” Arwen sighed, “it is, my child.” She paused, reluctant to give him information on something too dark and bleak for his young heart. “The bad men have taken over Osgiliath.”
“They’re not friendly, are they?”
“No, I’m afraid they’re not.”
“Papa will make them go away,” he said firmly. He raised his tiny fist into the air, as if wielding a sword, and waved it about in the air.
“If only it were that simple,” Arwen said, smiling at her son’s adorable display. “Papa is going to need help.”
“Can I help him?” Eldarion asked eagerly.
The thought of her little boy on a battlefield struck her heart, but she did not show it. “Of course you can help him. You can keep his favorite horse company while he’s away, or maybe you could tell him how much you love him.”
Eldarion contemplated this for a moment, scrunching his nose up in the process. “Alright,” he said brightly. He gave Arwen a quick kiss on the cheek before scurrying out the door to find his father. Arwen let out the breath she had been holding; thanking the stars that Eldarion was so easily trusting. It was all she could do to keep him out of danger while that responsibility was still in her hands.
Buffy gasped for air as she was tackled to the ground.
Andrew squealed in delight, clinging to her like she was his lifesaver. At long last, he was reunited with his favorite heroine, the slayer of the vampyres. Sure Wonder Woman was great and all, but she could never compare to the Slayer, who was destined to be a fierce warrior and a savior to her people. Along with her right hand man, she wielded the mighty power of the stake for many a year, battling evil and struggling for justice. Andrew’s mind reeled as he began to lose himself in past tales of the Slayer and her Vampyre, only to be reminded that his heroes would never be together again.
“Get off me,” Buffy grumbled, picking herself up off the ground. Andrew, who had fallen in a heap as she got up, scrambled to stand. He looked at her sheepishly, quickly apologizing for getting a little overexcited. He sighed in relief when Faith and Wood walked in, thankful for the distraction.
“Hey, B,” Faith said casually, waltzing into her home like she owned the place. She had visited quite a bit in the past, and was more than comfortable with just walking in. Buffy ignored her for the time being and gave Wood a hug. He smiled and returned it before turning his full attention back to Faith. He was so obviously devoted that it was almost too cute.
Giles had patiently waited for everyone to get reacquainted, but he was starting to get fidgety.
“So, ahem, if that’s it we can start the meeting,” he said, clearing his throat. Everyone filed into the living room, and Buffy braced herself for a long spiel. "I have a arranged for you all to receive one of these." He rummaged through his pocket and produced what looked like a small clock on a chain. "When wound up correctly, this little trinket will create a portal that will allow you to enter Middle Earth. I can not impress upon you enough the importance of holding on to this when you reach the other side. It is your only link back to this universe. Also, these portals allow for only one body to pass through in order to avoid letting in some unwanted creature. If one of you loses it, you're stuck." Everyone looked around the room at each other. They didn't exactly like the sound of that.
Willow raised her hand. "How long are we going to be there?"
Giles looked trouble for a moment. "Well, the amulets are set to bring you back after one full year-"
Everyone shouted something along the lines of 'One full year!?!?' Giles held up his hand for silence. "I know that seems like a long time, but we need to take every precaution. We can't very well have you returning before your job is done. And you needn't worry about things here. You will be returned to the very moment you left, which will be in a few hours time. Until then, I think we should all retrieve the supplies from my car and start preparing."
Buffy shifted the shiny little trinket from hand to hand. Giles said it was a tele-something or other, but that was too long to remember so Dawn named it a 'clocky thing.' She let out a sigh before contemplating the seriousness of this new venture. Giles had said the use of a full year was just a precaution, but she knew that wasn't true. They were going to need the entire year for this, one way or another.
One. Whole. Year.
That was like one year of high school, one year of memories, one year of the drama that seemed to have taken residence in her life, and it would all last less than a second in the end. A proverbial year really would pass in the blink of an eye. Would that make her 24 when she came back, or would she still be 23? Would she be the same person she was now, or would everything about her change? There was no way to fully know, and she could only hope that it would all work out in the end. Her life was hard enough without the added stress.
A knock at the door roused her from her thoughts. "May I come in?"
The doorknob turned and Giles poked his head in. "Do you have a moment?"
Buffy nodded, motioning for him to sit down next to her on the bed. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," he said, taking off his glasses to wipe them. "I just wanted to get some things cleared up before you left."
This wasn't good. She could sense his weariness, but she silently urged him to continue.
"I know I haven't been very attentive to your needs as of late, and I can't help but feeling I've neglected to fill the role of a father." He put his glasses back in their place. "There has just been so much going on with the Council that I don't have the time to do all I'd like to. I don't mean to make excuses either; just to clarify I haven't forgotten you. I wanted to know if there was any way I could make it up to you." He looked at her hopefully, eyes pleading with her to understand.
Buffy shifted under his gaze. How would she tell him that she hadn't minded his neglect? She had been so busy wallowing in her self pity that she hadn't thought of Giles much at all, save when he sent her on a mission.
"It's okay Giles. You don't need to do anything; I understand."
Giles seemed a little put off by her quick dismissal of something that had been troubling him so, but he tried not to show it. "Alright then. I just wanted to let you know before you, er, left."
Buffy gave him a small smile before he left to go finish whatever business he needed to. As he shut the door, she let out the sigh that had been desperate to escape. Everything was hard enough without the added guilt of upsetting Giles. It wasn't just Giles, either. It was everyone. All she could think about, all she could dream about was Spike. She didn't know why, but she couldn't seem to let him go. It was like he wasn't completely gone yet, but he was still beyond her reach. She knew that if she didn't let him go soon it would eat her up more than it already had.
Continuing the packing that she had yet to finish, she looked around the room for anything she might have missed. Mr. Gordo had been the first thing she packed, figuring she was going to need him when things got rough. Giles said clothes were going to be provided, considering Buffy didn't have anything close to appropriate. With an assortment of weapons and a few important items, she was ready to go downstairs.
Everyone was already in the living room when she arrived, apparently waiting for her. Buffy completed the circle they had formed, her clocky-thing at the ready.
"You will be meeting two others when you arrive there," Giles informed the group. "Two slayers: Alexandria and Kennedy. Oh, do stop. There is nothing you can do about it now. We need her, whether you wish to admit it or not." The protests died down as they all silently agreed with him.
"Okay, everyone," Giles said solemnly, "Are you all ready?" He received a series of nods in reply. "Right. Now all you need to do is turn the knob on the side of the, er... clocky-thing six times to the left. All right? Now pull out the knob and-"
Buffy felt a tug on her consciousness, and the room vanished immediately. Frantically, she looked around to see where the others had gone. No sooner had this ordeal started than she was flung onto a cold, marble floor.
Aragorn jumped clear out of his seat as ten bodies fell from an opening in the air and onto the ground with a thud. He simply stared as they groaned and moved to get up. He glanced over at Gandalf and, seeing that he was perfectly calm, waited patiently until they realized where they were.
Buffy's head was spinning a million miles an hour. She brought a shaky hand up to her forehead in an attempt to stave off the residual nausea. She opened her eyes slowly, freezing as she was met with a familiar blue. All thoughts shattered, all feeling melted away, there was nothing but the crystal blue of his eyes and a shock of platinum hair. She forced her eyes shut, trying to steady her breathing. The jump to a different dimension must have discombobulated her more than expected, she thought furiously, nothing more. Cautiously, she opened her eyes once more. There he was, clear as day, lying on the floor in a similar position to the one she was currently in. He stared back at her, unmoving.
Buffy's throat suddenly became dry, and little spots of light appeared behind her eyes. Her breathing echoed in her ears as she passed out.She stood there on the balcony overlooking the river, deep in thought. This place had become her home, but she was so desperately needed elsewhere. If only everyone would just leave her alone in peace, she could continue on as she had always done. With the cool breeze against her face, she realized that wish was slowly becoming a lost reality. Closing her eyes, she let the serenity of the wood wash over her, let go of all thoughts and cast them out to mingle with the ever-rushing wind.
She turned her head slightly towards the speaker in acknowledgement. "I know."
She sighed heavily in reluctance. Leaving this place would mean giving up some of the control she so desperately clung to and placing her life within the hands of others. Was she really ready for that? Was she ready to take the risk of getting hurt, of putting herself in most certain danger? This was supposed to be her time to reflect, her time to mourn the losses that she had had no time to mourn in the past. However, time was not on her side. It never was.
"Are you coming?"
"Five more minutes, mom," Buffy grumbled, rolling away from the soft voice that was trying to rouse her and putting a pillow over her ears.
"Buffy," it repeated once more, firmer this time.
Her eyes shot wide open as the masculine voice finally pierced her dream-addled brain. "Spike?"
"Hello, pet," he said smirking.
Her heart pounded a mile a minute, her mind working overtime in an attempt to comprehend what was going on. This wasn't right. Spike was dead; he shouldn't be here. She had the strongest urge to wipe that smug look off his face for finding her distress so amusing. Anger, relief, and something she couldn't quite identify flooded her all at once. She really didn't like feeling so confused.
"What the fuck is going on here?" she cried, anger and confusion coloring her voice.
"Well I couldn't let you have all the fun, now could I?" he drawled. "Epic battle and all."
"Cut the crap, Spike, and get on with the explainage."
Spike grew serious. "So I guess no one told you, then."
"Told me what?"
"That I'm alive."
Buffy rolled her eyes. "No shit, Sherlock."
Spike chuckled. "No need to get testy now, love."
Buffy took a deep, calming breath and sat up. "Alright, please just explain to me how this all happened."
"Right, well I died because of that whole amulet thing, which you probably already knew. When I dusted, I sort of got sucked into it. Someone must have sent the amulet to the great poofter because the next thing I knew, I was in his office at evil incorporated. Yes, evil incorporated. Now let me finish. Anyway, I came back all ghostly, walking through walls and such. I couldn't leave the building either. Then one day a package was delivered to Wolfram and Hart, and when I opened it, boom, corporeal again." Spike frowned a bit. "Actually, it was more like a whoosh than a boom.
"So then Niblet wrote to me when she found out I'm alive and filled me in on what's going on with the Council and everything. We exchanged a couple letters, and in her third one she told me about an apocalypse that was about to happen in Middle Earth. She mentioned that you were going to be there, so I decided to come along."
She looked at him suspiciously. "Exactly how long were you corporeal before you decided to come here?"
"Couple months, I reckon."
Spike had no time to even think about dodging the punch to his nose.
"Bloody hell, woman! What was that for?" he cried, clutching his now very broken nose.
"You were corporeal that long and you didn't even think to come see me?" She was standing in front of him with her hands on her hips, a murderous glare taking up residence on her pretty face.
"Of course I did. I just..." He shifted his blue eyes to the floor.
"What?" Buffy demanded impatiently.
"Well if I came back after having died for you, it would make my sacrifice less... I don't know, valuable? I'm not sure if that's the right word for it but, in a way, it would mean that I had never died, that I just temporarily burned up and got transported somewhere else. The entire act would lose its meaning."
"If I opened your head right now and screamed into it there would be an echo."
"Do you even possess a brain? Oh, I'm not going to go back to the woman that loves me because if I do, she'll be ungrateful for my sacrifice. What the hell kind of logic is that? It's the non-logical kind of logic, that's what it is!"
"The woman that loves me," he repeated to himself. He had never really let that thought sink in before, but now it felt very, very real.
Buffy's expression softened and she sat down in front of him once more. "Yes, you big dummy, the woman that loves you. Not that you believed it."
Spike's peroxide head shot up, his eyes meeting hers. "Of course I believed it. God, how I wanted nothing more than to just hold on to you and never let go. But you would've died if I did that, and that's just not something I could let happen. You have to understand; I did it for you."
"I do understand," Buffy said, sighing. "But that didn't make it hurt any less at the time."
"And I'm sorry for that. I really am. Trust me when I say I'll never ever do that again."
Buffy smirked. "Because the chance of denying my love to save me from death by collapsible school happens all the time."
Spike chuckled and turned to look out the window. It was very dark out, midnight at least. Remembering Aragorn's words of having a meeting early the next morning, or this morning as it were, Spike got up to leave. "Well, I guess I'll turn in for the night."
Before he could turn around, he was grabbed and flung on the bed, covered in warm slayer.
"Okay then, good-night Spike."
"Good-night, Buffy," he said, not bothering to keep the goofy grin off his face. End
Okay, I had never really planned to end it like that. In fact, it was going to be a loooong
story, but I kind of got sick of writing it. I might do a sequel, but at the moment I don't have one planned. Thanks to everyone who read and reviewed. You guys rock.