Title: One Who Wandered
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.
Summary: Warren accidentally succeeds in ridding Sunnydale of the Slayer. Elrond deals with the fallout. 1200 words.
Prompt: FFA #1124; tth100 #18 - Soul.
Notes: Mid-"Dead Things" (6.13) for B:tVS; pre-trilogy for LotR.
Jonathan watched grimly as the Raswundis' localized temporal disturbance worked its effects on the Slayer, sending her staggering as enemies appeared and disappeared around her without rhyme or reason. He'd already donned his Katrina disguise, even down to the detail of applying his own mascara; all he had to do was choose an opportune moment, when Buffy was totally absorbed in the fight, to surprise her from behind and absorb her inevitable reaction. Then, when she went to look for Katrina after the fight-- because she'd win, of course, she always won-- she would trip over the real Katrina's body and naturally assume she'd killed her.
The whole scenario didn't sit all that well with Jonathan. Sure, he'd been one of the main cheerleaders behind the idea of removing the Slayer from Sunnydale so their arch villainous plans could come to fruition, but somehow his dreams of grandeur had never included killing a girl and framing the only actual superhero he'd ever met for her death. Katrina had been right; one of the last things she'd said before Warren had knocked her down the stairs was that this wasn't a fantasy, it wasn't a game. Real people were being hurt by the things they were doing; there were real consequences for their actions. Warren and Andrew didn't seem to see that yet-- or worse, they just didn't care.
Bile rose in Jonathan's throat. He swallowed it back down, and prepared to move. What else could he do? Just a few steps from his concealment, all he had to do was reach for her shoulder--
--a shoulder that was suddenly no longer there.
Jonathan blinked at the space where Buffy had been standing in confusion, then glanced around hurriedly, afraid he'd been caught up somehow in the Raswundi demons' disturbance and that she'd simply been catapulted to another moment of the fight. Two of the demons were already down, though, with Buffy nowhere in sight, and Spike had almost finished off the third one--
"Buffy!" Spike yelled, and punched the demon so hard his fist went all the way through it.
"Shit," Jonathan muttered, then turned and ran for all he was worth. The *last* thing he needed was for Spike to find him there and question him about Buffy's disappearance.
No, the *second* to last thing, Jonathan realized, veering away from the van as he ran. With the Slayer out of the picture before even making contact with Jonathan, Warren would have no easy scapegoat for Katrina's death except for those closest to him, and Jonathan was under no illusions as to which of them Warren would choose to frame. Especially if-- when-- Buffy came back from wherever or *when*ever she'd disappeared to and remembered Katrina from before. Andrew was so impressionable and so eager to suck up to the alpha dog of their little pack; Warren would keep him, for sure, and frame Jonathan to take the fall.
Of course, the police *might* rule her death a suicide, the way they always ruled vampire kills as animal attacks or barbeque-fork accidents. Jonathan wasn't willing to bet his life on that, though-- besides which, a suicide ruling would not placate the Slayer or her friends. And even if it did, Katrina's death had sucked all the fun out of what they were doing. He didn't really want to be an arch villain, not the kind who hurt other people; all he'd ever wanted was to be *cool*. He'd never find that in Sunnydale, not now. Better to get out of town while the going was still good.
Elrond frowned and brushed a lock of blonde hair out of his newest patient's face. It had been long centuries since he'd faced such a challenge to his healing skills, and longer yet since the Valar had interfered in his life in so direct a fashion. For surely it must be their doing which had brought the woman to his valley in the first place; from her language, dress, and manner upon arrival, it had been quite obvious that she was from a far distant realm with little or no knowledge of the Eldar, and her sudden appearance in the gardens of Imladris was beyond all ordinary methods of travel.
She was clearly not of the Dunedain, and despite the color of her hair, he doubted she was of the tribe of Men known as the Rohirrim, either. Her stature and facial features did not resemble what he knew to be typical of that race, and though her musculature suggested a high level of fitness, it was not what one would expect from a member of a people known as the Horse Lords. Nor did she more than superficially resemble any of the other races of Men with which he had come into contact in his several millennia of life.
Indeed, she was a mystery. A superficial examination after her near-immediate collapse had indicated the stranger to be possessed of superior strength and physical healing capabilities, yet also considerably underweight and suffering from an advanced stage of fading-- a spiritual ailment that often occurred in traumatized or grieving Elves, but which he had never before seen in any of the Secondborn. The powerful negative emotions of Men often drove them to actions they would never otherwise consider, but they were never stricken unto death by them, not in the way one of the Eldar might be. Yet there was no other explanation for what he sensed in this woman.
She stirred slightly under the light coverlet, a pained grimace crossing her features as she dreamed, and he turned to add a freshly broken leaf of *athelas* to the gently steaming bowl at her bedside. The air in the room filled with a fragrant, living freshness, and she stilled with a sigh.
Something grievous must have occurred to loosen the ties between the woman's hroä and feä-- between her body and soul-- and she was suffering greatly for it; it was a miracle that she'd still been able even to stand when the Valar had sent her to him. Perhaps, with time and care, she might have been able to recover from that disassociation in her own lands; it was not a natural state for a child of Men, after all, and the strength of her will would surely have been in her favor. Even so, she would have been deeply scarred by the experience, something he still might not be able to completely avert, despite all the medicine and wisdom at his disposal.
He thought briefly of Celebrían then, beloved wife and mother of his children; she had been forced to sail West to seek healing when his abilities had proved insufficient to mend the wounds of her spirit, and he would not see her again until he joined her in Valinor. Yet he *would* see her again-- and he *would* do his best by this woman.
Whatever her purpose here might be, however long the Valar might permit her to tarry among his people, Elrond would provide her refuge and healing here as he had done for all who found their way to his realm in the millennia since its founding.