Author’s Note: review, please?
The Gift of Death, Part 16
Dawn tried her best not to slump too much against Boromir as they rode to Minas Tirith, knowing he had to be tired after a full day of traveling, but after a few hours of the rhythmic motion of the horse and Gandalf’s voice pointing out to Pippin every hamlet and molehill they passed, she was so sleepy couldn’t help herself.
Before she woke, she dreamt of blood, and green portals, and Spike’s face when she said goodbye to him. Boromir smiled wearily down at her, and she found herself telling him all about the vampire, about how devoted he’d been to her since Buffy’s ‘death’, how even after his chip was removed he hadn’t wavered in the least in his pursuit of eliminating evil from the world.
And most of all, of her guilt at leaving him to come to Middle-Earth after he’d remained by her side for seventeen years, helping her deal with the loss of her sister so soon on the heels of her mother’s death. “What’s he going to do now?” she wondered aloud, brushing tears from her cheeks. “Where’s he going to go? He said he might stay with Cordy and Wes and the others at AI in LA, or maybe fly out to visit Giles in London, but…” She realized then that Boromir had no idea what she was talking about, and drooped a little.
“I am glad you had a foster-brother like that,” he told her gravely. “And now you shall have another, my brother, Faramir. He is a fine man, and I think you shall love him as I do.”
“Is he anything like you?” she asked, curious even as she studied the lean angle of his jaw, under the loads of manly stubble, and pressed a kiss to it.
“Not much,” Boromir replied, giving her a little squeeze. “For he is ever circumspect, while I am impetuous.” He grinned down at her. “He, for instance, would never ride into Minas Tirith with an unknown maid on his horse and announce she was his betrothed.”
“Yeah, speaking of which,” she said, pouncing on his words. “What the hell kind of proposal was that? Cuz it left a lot to be desired, let me tell you. Not saying you have to drop down on bended knee and present me with a ring, but—“ Here she stopped speaking, because Boromir had halted their horse abruptly and climbed down, tugging Dawn after him. Gandalf noticed they had fallen behind, and wheeled back to rejoin them, grey eyes gleaming with humour as Boromir dutifully knelt before her in the dust.
“Boromir, you don’t have to…” she demurred, but he reached up and placed a finger on her lips, hushing her.
“Yes, I do,” he corrected gently.
“Yes, he does,” agreed Pippin. “You must woo a maiden properly, else she’ll find another who will.”
Dawn pulled a face at the Hobbit, who only laughed at her, and Boromir pulled a bit of cloth from a hidden place in his tunic. Unwrapping it, he revealed a ring wrought of pale metal, richly engraved with vines and leaves. “This is mithril,” he told her, “and my mother’s. I keep it with me to remember her; never did I think I would want to give it to someone, for it is precious to me. But more precious to me than the ring, are you, Dawn,” Boromir told her. “And I trust you to keep it safe, as I trust you to hold my heart.”
“Your love and courage were made plain when you left behind your home to come to your sister, to take on her plight as your own. You do not shrink from danger, and your first thought is for others than yourself. Your faith in me has healed me of my lust for the One Ring, and I give you this other ring as token of my adoration of you. Will you accept it? Will you accept me? For I would ever strive to make you a fine husband, though I might fail on occasion.” And he held the ring out in his palm, which trembled ever so slightly.
Dawn stared through the tears blurring her vision at him; his face was utterly genuine, his eyes open and clear. Boromir really loved her, she thought in amazement. He wasn’t just after her for her appearance, hadn’t mentioned her beauty once as he declared his love for her. Her ex-husband, Layne, hadn’t really been interested in her so much as her looks. Of course, she hadn’t been much better—she’d been entranced by Layne’s gorgeous face and body, and not so much by his personality.
Once the novelty of sex with a beautiful woman had worn off, Layne had started sleeping around. Dawn had only learned of it during her yearly female exam, when her Pap smear had come back abnormal. It would seem that not only was Layne unfaithful, but undiscriminating as well, and had passed an STD on to his wife. Fortunately, medical technology was vastly better than it had been before Buffy’s death, and Dawn was able to be cured completely, but the betrayal and pain lingered, would always linger, even as it dimmed…
Boromir would not betray her, this she knew. He was so strong and brave, she thought, placing her hand on his face, her thumb brushing over his lips. Suddenly she too knelt in the dust, and grabbed his hands. “Do you love me?” she asked earnestly. “I have to hear you say it.”
He nodded, golden hair swinging down around his face. “I love you, Dawn. I have almost from the beginning, but only did I realize it that night when the orcs attacked, and Dagnir fought them without her trousers.” Dawn giggled at the memory. “I had not slept before Frodo cried the alarm, because I was laying there listening to you breathe. It was sweeter, more restful and comforting to me, than any sleep could be. That is when I knew.”
She stared wonderingly up at him until he grimaced showily and shifted. “Will you be telling me your answer soon, sweet? For I fear my knees shall never be the same, if we continue to crouch here in the dirt.” He glanced around her at their companions. Gandalf was watching them with a raised brow, while Pippin wept with unrestrained joy. “And Gandalf is eager to be away.”
“Yes,” she whispered. “Yes, I love you, yes, I will marry you, yes, yes yes!” And she threw her arms around his neck and hugged him until his eyes bulged.
“Perhaps you should wait until he is fat and balding before you try to kill him, Dawn,” suggested Pippin from his perch before Gandalf, atop Shadowfax.
“Indeed,” agreed the Maia. “Keep him alive while he is still young and handsome.”
Dawn released her new fiancé with a slight blush and let him slip the ring on her finger before standing, accepting his kiss gladly and wrapping her arms around his waist before letting them fall lower.
“What are you doing, there?” Boromir gasped at the touch of her hand on his backside.
“Just brushing the dirt off,” she told him, eyes huge and innocent.
“But he was kneeling, not sitting,” Pippin mused, a little confused, and Dawn just grinned naughtily at Boromir.
“Oh? My mistake,” she said, and sauntered back to Timon.
“Wake, sweet,” Boromir said, urging Dawn awake when at last they began the approach to Minas Tirith.
“Whah? Huh?” she said sleepily, rubbing at her eyes like a child, and he chuckled at the sight.
“Look you ahead of us,” he told her, “for it will be your first glimpse of your new home, once we are wed.”
And she obediently turned in the direction he indicated, gasping at the sight of the tall city rising out of the side of a mountain. Seven tiers it had, all of the purest white stone, and a lone tower rising above it all from the highest tier. Dawn turned back to face Boromir, and saw that he was gazing upon his city with pride and affection.
“I am a Son of Gondor,” he said, a trifle sheepish, when he noticed her watching him with a faint smile. “And you, you shall be its Daughter.”
“A Daughter of Gondor,” she repeated. “I like the sound of that. Haven’t really had a permanent home, you know. Sunnydale’s not exactly a place to brag about, and when Buffy died, I was just shuffled back and forth between everyone.”
“Shuffled no longer,” he told her sternly. “For I lay claim to you here, and here you shall stay with me.”
“Sounds good to me,” Dawn replied, and snuggled deeper against him as they trotted on and the city grew larger before them.
When they neared the great gates of the Minas Tirith, the guards set up a cry of “Boromir! The Lord of Gondor has returned!” And when they recognized Gandalf, another shout was raised: “Mithrandir! Mithrandir!” They entered the city, and followed the winding street through six of the gates, Pippin and Dawn gawping all the while at the lovely buildings, the graceful gardens.
At the seventh gate, however, they had to dismount, and Boromir led them with great pleasure into the courtyard, in the centre of which was a beautiful fountain. In the middle of the fountain, however, was a great tree, quite obviously dead, and Dawn longed to ask Boromir why they’d leave a dead tree in the middle of an otherwise perfectly-kept city, but he was so eager to see his father again that she decided to wait until later.
Inside the hall, on a raised dais, was an empty throne. At the foot of the steps, level with the floor, was a chair of carved stone, and in it sat an old man, lined and grey from time and care. “Father!” exclaimed Boromir, striding eagerly forward.
“Boromir,” replied Denethor, and stood to embrace his son. His keen eyes did not miss the slight wince when he pounded Boromir enthusiastically on the shoulder. “Have you been wounded?”
“An arrow to the shoulder, naught serious,” Boromir assured him, reached back for Dawn’s hand. “Father, this is—“
“That you would be injured so,” Denethor lamented. “And on a fool’s errand such as this. Would that Faramir had gone instead…”
Boromir gritted his teeth. “I wanted to go, Father, and do not begrudge my blood to the Fellowship. It is a worthy cause, and an privilege to me to be one of its number.” He took a deep breath and tried again. “I would like you to meet—“
“Ah, ever are you the noble one,” Denethor said, smiling fondly at his eldest. “Were Faramir as fine as he purports to be, it would have been him on that quest, an arrow piercing his flesh, instead of you.”
“The Fellowship would have been greatly strengthened by his presence, my lord. Come, say hello to—“
“And here is Mithrandir, come to honour us with his presence.” Denethor’s words, while courteous, were marred by their sarcastic tone. Dawn was positive by this point that she strongly disliked Boromir’s father, and wondered how it were possible for her boyfriend—er, fiancé—to end up being so cool when his dad was such a jerk.
“Father!” Boromir roared, his patience fled at last. “Be you quiet, and listen to me!” Denethor blinked and obediently shut his mouth. “Yes, Mithrandir is come, and Pippin Took as well, but I am most eager for you to make the acquaintance of this fine lady, here.” And he took Dawn’s hand and led her forward. “This is Dawn Summers.”
Dawn stepped forward, uncertain if she should curtsey or something. “Hello,” she said and settled for bobbing her head. “It’s nice to meet you.”
Her death-grip on Boromir’s hand did not go unnoticed by his father. “Dawn Summers,” he repeated, gnarled hand moving to stroke his chin in conjecture. “A time of day, and a season. Tis a lighthearted name, a fanciful name.” His gaze raked over her slowly, almost insultingly, before returning to hers. His eyes were flat and black, like a serpent’s, and Dawn found herself taking a tiny step closer to Boromir. Denethor turned his snake’s gaze to his son. “And why would you be eager for me to meet this… lady, my son?”
Boromir straightened his back and squared his shoulders, looking most impressively tall and strong, much to Dawn’s admiration. Got myself a hottie, she thought happily. “Because I love her, and she me, and we are to be wed when this war is over,” he told his father firmly.
“Is that so?” Denethor asked mildly. “And what has she to recommend her? She is beautiful enough, I suppose…” his tone was insulting enough to make even Gandalf bristle in offense. “But what else? A fine lineage? A hefty fortune? Would this be a politic match?”
“I care nothing for any of these things,” Boromir declared. “Not even of her beauty, though I love to look up on her, for it is her heart that has captured mine, not her face. We Stewards of Gondor have fortune aplenty, and need not marry more. As for lineage, her sister is none other than the Dagnir herself, the Ranger of legend and a finer, more stalwart ally is not to be found in Middle-Earth, nor on Valinor itself.”
Wow, Dawn thought. No worries about the in-laws getting along there. Boromir seemed to really like and admire Buffy. She was basking in the afterglow of the other things he’d said about her when Denethor shifted in his vastly uncomfortable-looking stone chair and turned his speculative gaze upon her.
“Yesss,” he said at last, “We Stewards of Gondor do indeed have fortune aplenty. Perhaps that is why one such as she would be interested in a rough warrior such as yourself?”
The slur to herself didn’t even register to Dawn; all she could feel was fury that the man would insult his own son so horribly. “I violently dislike you,” she said by way of introduction. “Are you actually saying that only a gold-digger would be interested in Boromir?” she demanded, pulling free of Boromir’s loose embrace to confront his father. Standing just a few paces from Denethor, she jammed her hands on her hips and glared, so strongly resembling Buffy that even in this tense moment, the Fellows behind her were hard-pressed to keep from laughing. “Because if you are, I gotta say, you’re dead wrong about that.”
She returned to his side then, tucking herself snugly against him. “First of all, he’s gorgeous. I’d bet there are women lined up around Minas Tirith right now hoping for a shot at him. But, hah! He’s taken. By me, and I’m not letting him go any century soon.” She felt a vibration go through Boromir then, and knew he was struggling with both anger and amusement at the same time. “Secondly, he’s a wonderful man, a truly amazing person. Even if he looked—and smelled—like an orc, I’d love him.” Then Dawn frowned. “Though I will admit, it would be harder.”
Her fury wound down then, and she sagged a little against Boromir’s side. “Don’t you dare say anything against him again,” she finished tiredly, the stress and fatigue of the past few days seemed to return to her in full force. He curled an arm around her waist and held her tightly to him.
“Well, my son?” prompted Denethor silkily. “What say you to your strumpet’s outburst?”
Gandalf and Pippin leapt to their feet at that, and joined their voices to Boromir’s in his fuming. He easily out-shouted them, however, so angry was he. “Long have I endured your abuse, Father,” he said, his voice low-pitched and menacing. “Long has Faramir borne your displeasure, your mocking tirades. Ever have we withstood it, for love of you. I see now how misguided we were.”
Denethor made as to speak; Boromir held up his hand for silence in a manner most lordly. “I will not hear more of your venom,” he declared. “If you do not accept Dawn as my betrothed, then you do not accept me as your son and heir. If you cannot refrain from your offense of her, then know that you offend me as well with every slight against her.” He lifted Dawn’s hand to his lips the, and kissed it showily, the better to display the mithril ring of his mother’s that she wore.
Denethor’s eyes widened at that. “Your mother’s ring--?” he stammered in shock.
“My mother is dead,” Boromir said coldly. “As, it would seem, is my father.” He turned then, and began to stride from the hall. Dawn hurried to keep up with his agitated stride, only too glad to leave this horrible chamber with its equally horrible lord.
“You desert your duties to Gondor, then, do you, my son?” The last two words were stressed apurpose, and rang out against the stone walls. “For if you leave this hall with her, you are stripped of your title, your home in the citadel, your sire, your livelihood, your family, your very birthright.”
Boromir did not turn around when he answered, but his voice sounded clearly enough that Dawn imagined Eowyn might be able to hear it back in Edoras. “None of those things hold the slightest appeal for me, Denethor.” He paused for effect. “Especially my sire.”