Disclaimer: I own Daenerys Aerilyn Ramsey, Jared Russel, Derrik Kingsley, Margret Grosse and Mimzy. I do NOT own characters or content belonging to any of the mentioned published works, films, television series, etc. It would be so very, very awesome and amazing if I did but I don't. If I did own the rights to anything other than what I've specifically mentioned, I wouldn't be writing fanfiction. Warning: This chapter contains adult content. Discretion is advised.
I awoke to the front door slamming and looked around with bleary eyes. The clock on my dresser told me that it was very, very early. Groaning, I stepped out of bed and stumbled into the living room. Buffy was gone, the blanket tossed to the floor in what looked like a flurry of motion. The front door was closed but not locked. She'd rushed out in quite a hurry. I shrugged. Today was a day off for me, so it wasn't like I was needed anywhere. I was confident that if the young woman needed more comfort, she'd seek it out again.
Making breakfast was easy. Bacon and a spinach omelet. No more blood in the fridge. Only real food. I fed only when wounded these days. Thranduil had allowed me to feed from him fairly often, not just because he wanted me to be strong and safe but for other reasons, too. Oddly enough, he explained that my bite actually brought him pleasure. It made no sense to either of us but we thought it was an unspoken gift of Eru, for what was the point in being able to feed from the one I loved if it caused him suffering? My heart clenched. If you think about it, it'll hurt more. Pretend it isn't happening. Pretend your heart is still whole, I reminded myself.
It was the only way to get through the pain that would have crippled lesser beings. I'd been bound to Thranduil from the first night we shared in each other's touch but the bond had become much stronger after the blessing of our union by Eru. We'd been able to sense each other's moods after a while, even when the other was not in the room. He'd sense my irritation in the middle of official proceedings if I were out in the woods hunting Spiders and I'd feel his boredom when dealing with the lesser problems of the Men of the rebuilt Lake Town, especially when it came to minor trade details.
Shaking my head as I finished the small meal, I turned towards the intentions I'd had for the day. Researching how to defeat the Judge had turned up little else than the simple mantra we'd all become adept at repeating: no weapon forged could kill him, it took an army to bring him down. It was maddening to realize that we might be in a no-win situation. I dressed in a loose-fitting shirt and pants before heading out to the van. I drove to the school and headed for the library directly. I was passing by the computer lab when all the students rushed out, casting alarmed looks over their shoulders. The sight that greeted me was of Buffy, Rupert and Jenny with the last one having a rougher look about her as she straightened up from where the Slayer had slammed her down on the desk.
Buffy must have gone home to change because the clothes she wore were not the same. The computer teacher cast a pleading look my way and I just gave a confused but apathetic shrug. She was someone who made my friend happy but I didn't really know her. I'd had little interest or time to speak with her since my return.
"Start talking," the blonde demanded with narrowed eyes. Rupert's face told me that he was hopelessly confused.
"I was only told to keep you two apart," the brunette started slowly.
"You knew this would happen?" Buffy's voice was slightly louder, angrier. Jenny cringed and glanced at the Watcher. His eyes had suddenly become fastened to her and his posture was rigid. The tension was coming off in waves.
"I didn't know what would happen, only that you two had to be separated," she admitted. "I was sent here to watch you. Both of you. No one told me…"
"So, it's true… I did this." There was no room for error in the words. Buffy's face crumbled slightly at the realization, the admission.
"Buffy, I don't understand. How could this be your fault? Jenny?" Rupert finally spoke.
"Angel was meant to suffer for all time for what he did to my people. His punishment was his soul. But the soul is meant to be plaguing his thoughts at all times. If he was to experience one moment, even a second where his soul and his torment were not on his mind, one moment of true happiness where he forgets his suffering…"
"But, how could this have been Buffy's fault…?" Rupert asked again and the question died as he looked at the shameful, pained expression on the Slayer's face as she looked him in the eye. He took his glasses off and took a step back, having the decency to look away in embarrassment as he worked it out. "Oh… I see."
"Curse him again," came the demand. Buffy's face was stony and hopeful at the same time. I felt like I was watching a tennis match with how my eyes kept bouncing between the two of them.
"You can't or you won't?" was the angry, quiet voice that came from the Watcher.
"Those magicks are long lost, even to my people." Jenny's voice didn't even waver but her expression wore the hurt she was feeling easily. "There's no one alive who could perform the ritual. But… I think I might know someone who can help."
The trio turned and it was the first time that either Slayer or Watcher seemed to notice me and looked surprised to see me there. "Danni, how long have you been standing there?" Rupert asked as he stepped forward. He gave me an appraising look that spoke volumes of how little he expected to see me today.
"Long enough. You guys do what you have to do, I'm going to the library. I'm going to see if there's anything I can do there to help. You know where to reach me if you need me," my voice was even and revealed nothing. I had no right to be angry about Jenny not talking about her past or her knowledge. I've done the same since I got here. After Rupert had figured out that I'd killed people to bring Lucian here, he'd been rather quiet around me. Buffy had generally disliked my presence unless it was helpful but had been somewhat understanding that for me, it had been centuries. I wasn't likely to do anything like that ever again.
I ignored them as they turned to leave. I reached my office in no time at all. Snyder was there, the sniveling weasel-faced goblin nosing about my personal items that were on the desk. I sighed. He knew today was my day off, so he probably decided to go snooping for a reason to fire me. He didn't like that I had kept my job. He was about to pick up the picture of my infant children with Lucian that I'd found and framed when I snatched it out of his reach.
"Miss Wolfe. I don't recall today being one of your work days," he sneered. "Tell me, I heard a little rumor. I heard that your husband and children are missing. I find it strange that you haven't said a word or even gone looking for them."
I wanted to ram my fist into his chest and rip out his beating heart, if I could find it. I wasn't sure that this thing, this creature before me was even human or had that particular organ. Instead, I let the appropriate amount of grief enter my expression and moved a hand to cover my mouth. The squat little bastard looked uncomfortable and his eyes shifted longingly to the office door that I was currently blocking.
"Yes, they've gone. I have some documents he left on my pillow. He had our marriage annulled. He left while I was at a doctor's appointment and didn't even tell me he was planning to leave. He took our children and I haven't been able to find them. I've hired private investigators, I've called his family in England. No one knows where they are. It's something that I've been trying to deal with in private but... but…" I started in on the crocodile tears now, sniffling and letting wet drops slide down my cheeks. "I just don't know what to do! So, I've been coming in on my days off to get ahead on the paperwork! To make sure that every book is filed and every sheet collated! It's the only way to stay sane."
Snyder had a distinct look of disgust on his face and he stepped around me like I was infested with the plague. He hadn't expected this reaction and clearly wasn't prepared for it. "I see. In that case, please… Continue your work. But don't expect to be paid overtime, understand?" he cleared his throat and gave me a stern, calculating look. I nodded my head and sniffled pitifully. I kept up the act until he was out of earshot.
"Twat," I muttered as I put things back in their proper places. Time to research the hell out of this thing. Again.
Hearing Xander's plan was one thing. Seeing that plan be put into action had given me a newfound respect for the dark-haired boy. He was smarter than he wanted people to know. I could understand that. I had come along with the Slayerettes with the express intent of helping to defeat the Judge. I realized that I kind of loved how Xander's mind had worked on this particular problem. A bazooka. Xander's genius and childish imagination was really all the weapon we needed to defeat the giant, ugly smurf. It was a matter of collecting and separating the pieces that we needed to really concern ourselves with. I'd suggested driving to construction sites in Los Angeles to dump a couple pieces.
Rupert had gleefully (and it was odd putting that word to his demeanor) suggested mailing a dozen or so to the Watcher's Council for safekeeping. Willow had asked if we should dip some pieces into molten metal, let them harden and then drop the Judge Nuggets into the ocean, specifically into the deepest trenches on the planet. I could only grin at how creative she was with the nickname. Judge Nuggets. That sounded like the name for some kind of meal at a themed restaurant.
Buffy wasn't nearly as cheerful about this win. She had decided to confide in me about her more private dealings with Angel, or Angelus as he truly was called. He'd touched on a very basic fact. Rubbed it in her face, really. She couldn't kill him. Yet. I had no advice for her on this matter. I was in a similar boat. Derrik's appearance in Middle Earth and the discovery that he'd gone mad had shaken me to the core and now Buffy seemed to be living with a similar situation, except her former lover wasn't coming back hundreds of years later. This was a fresh break-up, if it could be called that, and fresh revenge. This wasn't going to be something that took years to come and bite her in the ass. It was happening now.
I sat across from the tiny slayer in my apartment. I held a cup of coffee between my hands while she fingered the tab on the can of soda she'd barely touched. "Is it strange for me to say that I know how you feel?" I asked softly. She looked at me with startled blue eyes.
"What?" Buffy was clearly in her own little world.
"I was just asking if it's weird that I know how you feel."
"Losing the one you love because you're pulled away from him is different," she replied with a slight scowl on her face, her eyes returning to the soda.
"No, I mean I know how you feel. Derrik, the guy that came after Lucian and the kids? He was my lover a long, long time ago. Before I started jumping between worlds. He was the last lover I had before this whole thing started," I told her, taking a sip from my cup. Her eyes snapped back to me with sudden interest.
"You never told me this."
"Never needed to before."
She was silent for a moment, her eyes carefully considering me. "What happened?"
"Before I got sucked into this… thing… Derrik and I had been together for a little while. He had started going off his rocker in the weeks before. I found out he'd screwed around while we were together. He was paranoid about me cheating on him. So paranoid, in fact, that I got fired from a job because he came after my boss. I broke it off permanently when he hit me." I paused to take a long drink from my cup. Buffy watched me with avid interest. "He knew that I had certain rules in dating. Number one is that I don't ever tolerate it if I get hit. It's a one-and-done deal. You hit me once, you never see me again. He'd started stalking me just before I 'left'. It was disturbing how he was acting. He told people that I was his."
I drained the cup and Buffy was still watching me silently. "While I was in the world I just returned from… Middle Earth… Arda… He came after me and the group I was traveling with. He'd planned on killing them to get to me. I convinced him to let them go. While we fought, he told me that I was still his. He was insane. He was given the ability to go to the worlds I went to so that he could kill me but that wasn't what he wanted. He wanted to own me. He was going to make me watch while he killed my soulmate… My Thranduil," my voice broke at my husband's name. The hole where my heart was meant to be burned and throbbed. I took a moment to swallow down the pain that accompanied thoughts of my other half.
"What happened?" the question was quiet.
"I fought him off but I couldn't kill him. I wasn't strong enough. He was pulled to another world before I could hurt him enough and I nearly died. He tried to rip out my heart with his bare hands, you see. He'd been in at least one of the worlds I'd been in. He was a Lycan or a Lycan Hybrid of some kind. Derrik had seriously wounded me and I'd been without feeding on blood for weeks. I must have been thinking about Thranduil on some level because I found myself in the forest of our kingdom. Our people found me and I was dying in his arms," my voice had taken on the quality it usually did when I lost myself in memories. "I told him that I loved him. He offered his blood to me and I was terrified that I'd kill him if I tasted even one drop. He forced me to drink from him, begged me. I couldn't say no to him. So I fed on him, just a few mouthfuls to get my body healing properly."
I was lost in thought now. I remembered the bright light that I had floated in, of being within the presence of the creator of that world, of Eru. I'd heard his first boon but the second was still elusive to me. It had frustrated me to no end that I hadn't heard what the other gift was meant to be.
"What?" I looked at her in surprise.
"Oh, yes." I shook my head to clear it. "His blood was so powerful that just a few mouthfuls saved my life and put me into a healing sleep for three weeks. During that time, the creator of that world contacted me in my sleep. Because I had resisted feeding from his most precious children, the Elves, and only took what was offered and as little of it as I could, he blessed my union with Thranduil and blessed him so that I could feed from him whenever he offered without consequence. I could drink my complete fill every night for eternity and he would never weaken, never die. Wounds from my feeding would heal as soon as I was done. And, we discovered later, my bite was quite pleasurable to him. It became a part sex for us at times. He especially liked it when I bit his-"
"Okay, that's enough!" the tiny blonde in front of me cried with horrified eyes. I couldn't help but to laugh. My goal had been to disrupt the pity party that Buffy was indulging in and it seemed like my plan had worked. It hadn't been the way I'd planned on doing it but if talking about my beloved's sexual enjoyments had been one route. I'd need a cold shower to follow the hot one from the particular memory that rose up in my mind. That had my fingers itching to bring relief to the burning desire that pooled in my belly.
"I'm just saying, I know how you feel. I've got an insane ex that's trying to kill me and all that I love, too. I won't be able to see him coming. I won't be able to predict his moves. You've got a distinct advantage over me on that one. You guys can look at the Watcher's diaries from his century and see what kind of tortures he's inflicted on others and get an idea of what's in store. Me, not so much. Derrik is more than a little unhinged at this point and now he's got the firepower to back it up."
Buffy narrowed her eyes at me and frowned. Then she seemed to absorb what I'd said and then sat up a little straighter.
"The Watcher's Diaries. I could see what his past plays have been and then… I could make a move."
"Like in chess, you've got to be thinking more than just the next defensive move. What will Angelus do? Go look at what he's done first and then try to figure out what his move will be from there."
"You know what, Dae? You've just helped me out a lot. I'm going to look those diaries over first thing at school tomorrow. You with me on that?"
I nodded and gave a small smile. "Absolutely. Now, you've got some patrolling to do before you go home. I'm going to bed early. I'm beat with all this serious talk," I joked. Buffy smiled and stood up. I walked her to the door and she turned around, hugging me with all her strength. I groaned as I felt my back pop. She jumped back and had an apologetic look on her face. I shook my head and shooed her out the door. Heading to the bathroom, I turned the shower to the hottest setting and peeled my clothes off before stepping in and reliving one of the hottest memories I had of the Elf I loved.