Before the Dawn
Title: Before the Dawn
Genre: BtVS/LotR/Andromeda crossover
Timing: This story is a sequel to "In the Forests of the Night", and occurs concurrently with "Always Darkest" (my Andromeda/Angel crossover).
Disclaimer: Sadly, I do not own these characters. Willow and the Buffy crew belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Legolas and all things elfy belongs to J.R.R. Tolkien. Trance Gemini belongs to Tribune.
Distribution: After the Hellmouth (http://www.creative-insanity.net/ath/) , List archives, others please ask.
Author's Notes: For Buffy, this takes place early season seven after "Same Time, Same Place" and "Help," but before "Selfless." For "Lord of the Rings," this story follows book/movie canon until after the Ring War, but becomes AU sometime after that. Note that this story takes place several weeks after "In the Forests of the Night." For Andromeda, takes place starting in the season two finale, "The Tunnel at the End of the Light."
Thanks to: Canada and Carol, for their beta-ing, and Valerie and Carol (again) for their suggestions. Thanks guys!
In the Summers' kitchen, Willow sat staring out the window. She sipped her cup of coffee, hoping the caffeinated warmth would give her the energy to move from that spot.
Willow looked up as Buffy walked into the kitchen, slowly pouring her own cup of coffee before joining her friend at the table.
"How are you doing?" Buffy asked.
"Me? I'm okay. How are you? I mean, with everything that happened with Cassie and all..."
"I should feel okay. After all, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and it looks like an apocalypse-free day. But I'm not." Buffy smiled ruefully. "Aren't we a pair? Me, mourning the girl I couldn't save, and you... well, you haven't been the same since..."
"Since I got back from Breaker's Woods." The redhead couldn't bring herself to meet her best friend's seeking gaze. She didn't know what to say. She hadn't been terribly stable while in England, and the events of the last few weeks hadn't made it any better. She didn't know how she'd managed to find the courage to visit Tara's grave, just that she couldn't let her late girlfriend spend her birthday all alone.
"This elf guy really did a number on you," Buffy commented.
"It's just..." Willow stopped, unsure of how to explain what she was feeling. "I loved Tara. A big part of me always will. I never thought I'd feel that way again, certainly never so soon." Willow smiled, despite her grief, at the thought of her first glimpse of Legolas. "Then I saw him. At first I thought I'd imagined him. It actually hurt me to think that he might not be real, because I felt connected to him, even before we'd said a word to each other. I was so desperate to prove to myself that he was real that I went into the woods, in the dark, to look for him."
The witch looked over at her friend. Did Buffy understand what she was trying to say? "We're connected, Legolas and myself, in a way that goes beyond anything I've ever felt before. I loved him from the first moment I saw him. If I believed in the concept, I'd want to call him my soulmate. But he's lived so long, and lost so much. He's protected himself for thousands of years, always alone, never making a connection."
"He made a connection with you," Buffy pointed out.
"He refused to admit it, even to himself. He's so desperately alone, but can't change that because he doesn't believe he can survive losing anyone else he loves." Willow couldn't fight the tears that started falling. "I love him, and I'm never going to see him again. Worse, I'm living here, with you, my friends, surrounded by love...and he's out there, somewhere, alone. Forever."
Buffy stood up, pulling Willow into her arms as she cried. "I'm sorry, Will." Soothingly, she rubbed her friend's back as her sobs quieted. "He doesn't know what he's missing."
Willow pulled back, shaking her head. "That's the problem. He does."
He staggered down the sidewalk, fighting to remain upright. His vision narrowed to two small points before his eyes and a wave of fatigue threatened to drive him to his knees. Legolas concentrated on breathing, praying to Iluvatar for the strength to continue on. He had not believed there existed a mystical poison strong enough to kill his kind until it had happened. The arrow had seemed to appear from thin air, but he had thought himself safe as it had not inflicted a mortal wound. He had fought off the evil ones and escaped with his life, with the precious object in hand. While all-out war against evil was still at hand, he had won that battle for the forces of good.
Then the pain had set in. Blinding waves of agony had washed over him, accompanied by a fever that had left him delirious and barely able to walk.
Still he had kept it safe from the demons and forces of darkness. The Dark Lord could not prevail, not this time. The sacrifices his people and his friends once made were not in vain.
He was not long for this world, and if he died, it would be unprotected. None of the elves remaining on the earth were near. Legolas only had one person he could trust with this secret. He did not want to put her in any more danger than she was already in because she was a witch and a friend of the Slayer. But no ordinary mortal could survive when the evil ones came for their treasure. He needed supernatural assistance.
He worried about the temptation, did not want to risk Willow's tenuous grasp on peace after her brush with the darkness. But he knew she was strong. She had faced evil, faced the temptation to destroy the world, and had overcome it. She could overcome this as well. She had to. The world was depending on it.
He looked up. 1630 Revello Drive. He was just steps away.
Dawn sat in the living room, a Pepsi in one hand and Brockman's Concise Guide to Modern Demons in the other. She wasn't researching anything specific, but more demon knowledge was always a good, especially if she wanted to become a full-fledged member of the Scooby Gang.
She jumped at the sound of a thump at the front door, then sat silently, listening. The thump came again; someone -- or something -- was knocking on the front door. She looked out the window. It was a bright sunny day, so there definitely couldn't be vampires at the front door. Still, in Sunnydale, the thump-making-thing could be any sort of demon... or it could be Xander.
Getting up, Dawn headed over to the front door and peered through the window. A tall man with long blonde hair was leaning against the doorjamb. Hmm... He didn't look demony. In fact, he looked like quite the muffin.
"Hi," she said as she opened the door. Up close, he didn't look too good. Pale, sweaty and shaky he looked like he could barely keep himself on his feet. "Can I help you?" she asked tentatively.
"Willow," he gasped, slumping to the ground halfway inside the door.
"Buffy! Willow!" Dawn yelled frantically. She bent down, shaking the man's shoulders. "Hey, mister..."
He didn't stir.
Buffy and Willow ran in from the kitchen at Dawn's shout.
"What's going on?" Buffy asked, stopping abruptly at the sight of the body halfway in her house. "You killed somebody?"
The teenager protested vehemently. "I didn't kill him. He just...fell at my feet...and I don't think he's dead."
"Legolas!" Willow exclaimed. "Get him inside."
The three half-dragged, half-carried him into the living room and got him on the couch. Willow felt his pulse, faint and thready. "Get some water," she ordered Dawn, continuing her examination of his unconscious body. His skin was hot, the sweat pouring off of him, and his breaths were weak and shallow. One hand dangled off the couch, his fist clutched, as if he were holding something.
Buffy felt his forehead. "He's burning up."
Dawn came back with a bowl of water and a clean washcloth. Willow wiped the sweat off of Legolas's face, but the elf didn't open his eyes. "Come on," she urged him. "You have to wake up. You have to tell me what did this so I can figure out how to make it better."
"Let's get some of these clothes off of him... cool him down," Willow suggested. Together, they pulled of his leather jacket and woolen sweater, leaving him clad in a thin green t-shirt and leather pants. Dawn pulled off his boots and socks.
"You said elves were immortal, right?" Buffy asked. When Willow nodded, she continued. "So how could he be sick like this? He's got a fever and he's all shaky. This has to be more than just the flu."
"He's been poisoned...or cursed somehow." Willow fought back the tears welling up in her eyes. "He can't get sick, so an attack of some kind is the only explanation. It'd have to be something mystical, and something really strong to take him down like this."
Legolas flinched as Willow brushed against his left side. She pulled up his t-shirt to reveal a gaping wound.
"God, Will, that looks horrible," Buffy remarked.
Willow grimaced. If he'd been wounded, then maybe the wound was the source for his mysterious illness. Angel had been poisoned once, by an arrow shot by Faith. Maybe Legolas had been poisoned by a mystical arrow...or something like that.
"What's he got in his hand?" Dawn asked.
Willow shrugged. Could he be holding onto something related to his attack? He fought her as she tried to pull his clenched fist apart. "Shh," she murmured soothingly. "It's Willow. It's okay, you're safe here."
"Meleth," he gasped.
"Shh," she whispered as she finally pried his fingers apart. There, in his hand, was a gold ring.
"All that for a ring?" Dawn moved in for a closer look. "It's shiny and all, but I'm pretty sure you can get one just like it at the mall for $99.95."
Willow could sense that this wasn't an ordinary ring -- it was pure evil. As her hand hovered over the ring, she heard it calling to her, tempting her, promising power, wealth... and the ability to heal her love. If she would put it on, everything would be okay. Willow reached for the ring, watching it shine in the late-morning sunlight. All she had to do was put it on, and everything she wished for would come true...
Willow jerked her hand away. "This is no ordinary ring. It's evil and powerful. We need to put somewhere, to keep it safe."
"Oh!" Dawn's eyes widened and she sprung backwards. "I know!" She sprinted up the stairs in the direction of her room.
Buffy and Willow shared a look. Neither knew what Dawn was going to d0.
She came down the stairs carrying a small wooden box with tiny holes on one end. "It's an Ephrata Box. It's magically designed to keep things in, safe, and protected from evil." She handed it to Willow. "Remember, Will? We bought it a while ago, when Amy was still a rat and kept getting out of her cage? We thought it would might her out of trouble...especially with all the evil we have barging in here. It should work for things, not just animals, right?"
"Perfect." With all that she'd been through since then, she'd completely forgotten about the box. Good thing Dawn remembered.
Keeping minimal contact with the ring, she quickly shut it up in the box. "Now all we have to do is figure out exactly what poisoned Legolas and how to counteract it." She turned to Willow. "Could this be related to the evil thing you saw in the woods? The thing that impersonated the Master?"
"I don't know." Willow shrugged. "I couldn't even find any information on what it could be."
"But it might be." Buffy had a bad feeling about all of this. It couldn't be coincidence. She shook her head. Had to get back on track. "We need to research mystical/magical potions and spells that could hurt an elf."
"I'll hit the books," Dawn offered.
"I'll try the 'net," Willow said.
"When Angel was poisoned, Wesley said that the Watcher's Council had a list of all known poisons - mystical or otherwise. I'll call Giles...Wesley...Quentin Travers if I have to." She helped Willow to her feet, meeting the other woman's eyes. "We'll find the cure, Willow. I know it."
"I hope so," she said. "It was bad enough when I thought he was out there somewhere, lonely and miserable. I don't know what I'd do if he died."
"He's not going to die, Will. We're going to beat this thing." She patted her friend on the shoulder. "Let's get to work."