Author’s Note: If you’re confused as to the ‘sudden’ state of Buffy and Legolas being married, never fear. An NC-17 interlude explaining the whole thing is forthcoming (if you’ll pardon the pun).


The Gift of Death, Chapter 26


Aragorn spent much of the next day closeted with the twins, Gandalf, Eomer, and Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth deciding what to do next. Gimli spent much of it telling the Hobbits of their trip along the Paths of the Dead and taking of the Corsair fleet. Boromir spent the day fussing over Dawn and Faramir, and Buffy and Legolas spent it in bed together, much to the amusement of all of the above.


When they finally emerged from their room, Buffy was blushing like the bride she was and Legolas’ usual mien of serenity was even more profound than usual. Of course, Gimli felt it was his duty as not only their friend but a dwarf to tease them unmercifully and see exactly what shade of ‘tomato’ he could make Dagnir turn.


The merriment was not destined to last, however.


Pippin, with all the authority of a lord, ordered the dwarf and Buffy to set up tables in the garden behind Boromir’s house while he drafted Legolas to assist with cooking. “Merry is feeling well enough to leave the houses of healing for a few hours, so we shall have a party!” the Hobbit announced, stirring a glutinous mass atop the fire with a spoon almost as tall as he was.


Legolas was not a very able culinary assistant, however, and was soon excused from kitchen duty with orders to summon the other members of their group (“You’re faking,” accused Buffy, to which the elf merely smiled angelically on his way out the door).


Twilight was only just done when Legolas returned. Gandalf announced his appearance with a celebratory firework, and Merry weakly exclaimed “Huzzah!” from his perch in a nest of blankets in Aragorn’s arms. Behind the wizard were Eomer, Elladan and Elrohir, and even Imrahil. Pippin ushered them all into seats and commanded them to eat, eat, eat.


Buffy knew she wasn’t the smartest immortal in the place, nor the more observant, but even she picked up on the speculative glances the others were sending her way. “Ok, spill,” she said when they were done eating, throwing down her fork and glaring at Aragorn. “What’s with all the shifty looks?” He tried to protest but she narrowed her eyes at him dangerously.


“It would seem,” he began slowly, “that we will have perhaps seven thousand with which to confront Sauron.” His face was drawn and so, so tired looking Buffy felt like crying at the sight. “We are woefully outnumbered, and will need to use every weapon in our arsenal. You recognize that, do you not?” His eyed beseeched her to understand. “That I would not ask you this unless the need was desperate?”


She was beginning to get frightened, and with great relief felt Legolas’ hand slip into hers, squeezing comfortingly. “You’re scaring me,” she said, her voice low. “What is it you want to ask me? You know I’ll do anything I can to win this war.”


“Truly anything, Dagnir?” Gandalf spoke up now, his wizened face grave as he peered at her through the smoke of his pipe. “Are you prepared to sacrifice the one thing you leapt into a portal to save? The thing given to you by the Valar themselves?”


Horrible realization began to fill Buffy. “You don’t mean…” she whispered, unable to say it.


Gandalf sighed. “Dagnir, I fear I will need to use Dawn for the battle that comes. It will require her blood, much more than the previous times.”


“No.” Buffy said it with great gentleness, but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that she meant it irrevocably. “Absolutely not. I’ll die for this cause again— I already have twice just in the past year, and a few dozen times since coming to Middle-Earth in the first place. But I won’t have you use Dawn like a— a tool, to wring her dry and discard her.”


The wizard frowned deeply. “Do not mistake me for those who have wronged you, Elizabeth Summers,” he exclaimed, and his voice held a note that was very disturbing. “Never have I done such, and I will not begin now. Protest as you may; this is Dawn’s fate, as I saw when first we met in Fangorn. Hers to be a tool, and mine to be the hand that wields it. She is flesh, yes, but she is also the Key; an entity of immense power.” He gazed pityingly at her. “Why else would the Valar have given her leave to join you in Arda?”


“No,” she repeated, and Legolas pulled her into his embrace. “It’s bad enough that I have to be the Chosen One, and have no control over my life. But not her, too!”


“We all have destinies, Dagnir,” Aragorn told her quietly. “Think you I want the burden of rule upon my shoulders? That I would not prefer to live out my days as merely Strider, Ranger of the North? It is not my wish to usurp Boromir from the role he has been trained to take, nor to have all look to me for guidance and protection. Easily could it mean my death; I do not relish it, not at all. But it is my duty, and my birthright. I shall not shirk it.”


Buffy gazed around the table at them all; Eomer and the twins met her eyes unblinkingly. They, too, had fates beyond their control, and would not support her. Looking at the Hobbits, she saw they flushed guiltily, but the sympathy on their faces told her that while they didn’t like the idea, they agreed with Gandalf and Aragorn. In desperation, she turned to Legolas.


He stared at her a long moment, an almost tangible current of emotion flowing between them, and then he turned to Gandalf. “I do not believe anyone’s fate should be decided by another,” he said at last, ignoring the expressions of shock and disbelief on the faces of the others. “Long have I been prince of Mirkwood, and long have there been expectations placed upon me that I would rather not. Why do you think I am here, instead of the forest of my homeland? For my heart longs to explore and seek, not to reside in a palace and rule. I did not have to be the elf that joined the Fellowship; Glorfindel would have done just as able a job.”


Legolas rested his gaze on each of them in turn. “I have know some of you for centuries,” he said, addressing Gandalf and the twins, “and some of you mere months.” He smiled briefly at Aragorn, Gimli, and the Hobbits. “And Eomer, Imrahil, it is my honour to know you, though it be but weeks. I would give my life for all of you, or each in turn, if I could. But I will not offer the life of my new sister, for it is not my place.”


His eyes hardened then; soft and dreamy no longer, they became hard and opaque as lapis. “I say we put the question to Dawn herself. If she agrees, then she shall join us at the Black Gates of Mordor. If she refuses, then you will have to step over the corpse of an Elf to take her.”


“And a Dwarf,” rumbled Gimli, scowling around the table at them.


Tears ran freely down Buffy’s face and she reached out to Gimli, clasping his hand tightly in her own. “And a Slayer,” she added thickly.


Then Pippin made a sound of great agitation, and leapt to his feet. “I cannot do this!” he exclaimed, shame writ plain on his little face. “Merry and I, and Sam and Frodo, we all joined the Fellowship of free will. If we die, it’s our own choice. But we can’t make Dawn do anything she don’t want to do!” And he bounded across the room to Buffy, submitting to her teary hug and standing proudly between her and Gimli. “You’ll have to get past an Elf, a Dwarf, a Slayer, and a Hobbit if you want to take Dawn against her will!” he declared.


“Two Hobbits,” corrected a frail voice, and all turned to see Merry struggle free of his blankets. “though I am not much of a barrier at the moment,” he continued weakly. “Still, bringing me down will slow you a little.” He walked slowly to Pippin’s side and leaned heavily on Gimli’s shoulder, allowing Buffy to kiss his cheek.


Gandalf and Aragorn exchanged glances, and then the Man sighed. “It will be as you have said,” Aragorn conceded. “We will ask Dawn.” And he stood.


“What, now?” Buffy demanded. “It’s late! She’s already asleep.”


“This matter cannot wait for the morrow, Dagnir,” Gandalf told her. “If she will not come, we must devise an alternative plan for our attack.”


They made for the houses of healing, Buffy grumbling the entire way. Once inside, she stomped to the head of Dawn’s bed and crossed her arms over her chest, glowering at Aragorn and Gandalf as they followed her in.


“What is the meaning of such a scowl, Dagnir?” Boromir asked mildly from his position between Faramir and Dawn. His betrothed was fast asleep, and he’d been speaking quietly with his brother. His future sister-in-law had always been somewhat distant from Gandalf, but he’d thought her quite close to Aragorn and was quite surprised to see such ire directed that way from the small woman.


She smiled grimly, and it wasn’t a nice smile. “I’ll let Aragorn fill you in. I’m sure you’ll just love what he has to say.”


Boromir never thought he’d see the day when Aragorn son of Arathorn, also known as the mighty ranger Strider and future king of Gondor, would blush bright red and begin to stammer, but that is exactly what the Man did when Boromir turned an expectant face to his new liege. “Um, you see—“ Aragorn began, only to stop a scant moment later. “It is like this,” he tried again, but got no further. “It would seem that—“


“Oh, for chrissake,” Buffy muttered, rolling her eyes.


“You are not helping!” Aragorn exclaimed, glaring at her.


“Great, now you woke her up!” she retorted as Dawn stirred and opened her eyes.


“It is just as well, for this concerns her more than any other!” Aragorn snapped, and turned to smile pleasantly down at Dawn, who eyed him with great and increasing suspicion.


“Whaddya want?” she asked sleepily, pushing messy hair off her face. “You’re creeping me out with that smile.”


“You and your sister, ever suspicious,” he grumbled, fiddling with the tongue of his leather belt.


“With good reason!” Buffy snapped. “Will you just ask her, already?”


He opened his mouth to reply but Boromir raised a hand to silence them. “Enough,” he commanded. “Dagnir, shut your lovely mouth a moment, will you, my sister? Aragorn, tell us what troubles you.”


Aragorn took a deep breath. “Long have we debated it, and I need not tell you that your sister opposes us, but Gandalf and I, with Eomer and Imrahil, have decided that we will require you when we go to Mordor. Gandalf will need you as the Key if we are to defeat Sauron.”


Boromir exhaled sharply, and his face flushed a deep brick-red under his tan, but he did not speak. Indeed, it looked as if he were fighting some extreme internal battle with himself, and his hands clenched and unclenched on his thighs before he blinked several times, seeming to come to some conclusion, and his colour returned to normal.


“Honey, are you alright?” Dawn asked him, concerned. He only shook his head, refusing to speak.


Buffy beamed proudly at her future brother-in-law. “He doesn’t want to make decisions for you, Dawnie, but he really hates the idea.” He smiled tightly back at her in recognition of her perception.


“Um… Aragorn, it sounds like a great time,” Dawn began with not a little amount of sarcasm, “but I’m not exactly at my best, here.” She indicated the fact that she was sitting in a hospital bed. “Kinda indisposed from the last battle. Broken arm, dislocated shoulder, weird shadow mojo.”


“I know,” he murmured, and sat on the edge of the bed beside her. “If we could wait until you were stronger, or there were another way, I would not hesitate to give the order. But I fear there is not.”


“When would we leave?” Dawn asked softly, her voice quavering a little as she reached out to clasp the hands of Buffy and Boromir.


Aragorn did not answer; Gandalf shifted from where he leaned on his staff and said, “The day after tomorrow, at first light.”


Boromir could not contain himself any longer. “You mean to drag her over war-torn lands when she is but days out of the grip of death?” he demanded, leaping to his feet. “Or is her health of no consequence? Will she not return from this mission?”


The glance exchanged by the wizard and Aragorn was his answer, and he again flushed darkly. “I will not answer for you,” he told Dawn, his gentle tone at odds with the murderous expression on his face, “but I do not want you to do this.”


Dawn looked at Buffy. “I already know how you feel,” she said, and Buffy nodded firmly.


“Legolas, Gimli, Pippin, and Merry are all on your side too,” she told Dawn.


“As am I,” mentioned a voice from behind Boromir, and he shifted aside to reveal Faramir propped on an elbow. He looked almost as angry as his brother. “It is irresponsible to ask this girl to give more, when she has almost forfeited her life already. She is but newly arrived in Middle-Earth! This battle is not her own.”


“Sing it,” Buffy agreed ominously. “I didn’t have her come here so she could bleed all over the place and make little portals for you to suck energy from.”


Aragorn stepped close to her, and was about to say something deeply stupid when Legolas’ calm voice flowed through the room. “Might I suggest you step away from my wife, Aragorn? For I cannot say I like how you are looming over her in that manner.”


“Wife?” Boromir asked, looking puzzled.


“Wife!” Dawn shrieked, and started bouncing up and down in the bed until she became dizzy and fell back against Boromir. “When did this happen?” she continued weakly. “And why wasn’t I invited?”


Buffy and Legolas exchanged a glance. “It wasn’t exactly a time you want to share with the family and friends,” Buffy murmured. “Sort of an intensely private moment.”


Dawn gave an ‘ah’ of understanding, and then leveled a very scary, very blue stare at Legolas. “I’ve heard you were a real dickhead to Buffy for a while,” she said to him. He blinked, but did not reply. “She’s apparently forgiven you; I’m reserving judgment. You’d better hope I never hear of it happening again, because elf or not, I will lay a smackdown on your ass like you’ve never dreamed.” He blinked again.


“I believe that means she will cause you deep suffering,” Boromir translated cheerfully. “And I second the sentiment.”


“And I third it,” Faramir piped up in back. “Think you an elf can resist an attack by three warriors of Gondor?”


“And a Ranger,” Aragorn added almost reluctantly, shooting her a sulky look from the corner of his eye.


“And a wizard,” Gandalf said with a gallant bow to Buffy.


She sighed, trying and failing to keep a smile off her lips. They were trying to apologize to her. “Oh, fine,” she said ungraciously. “I don’t hate you anymore. As long as you abide by Dawn’s decision.”


They all turned expectantly to Dawn then, and she squirmed uncomfortably. “I’ll have to give it some thought,” she said at last.


“Everybody out now,” Boromir said, and flapped his hands in a shooing motion to usher them outside.


“I would speak with Dawn a moment,” Legolas protested gently.


Several sets of eyes narrowed at this; but he’d locked eyes with Dawn once more and she must have seen something in his that satisfied her, because she nodded. “It’s ok,” she told Boromir and Buffy. “It won’t take long.”


“And I shall remain,” Faramir said from his bed a few feet away.


The others clustered around the door, frowning suspiciously at Legolas as he whispered into Dawn’s ear. It was fairly obvious that Faramir was striving mightily to overhear what they were saying, but from the cranky look on his face was having no success.


“Faramir’s a hoot with his overprotective brother act,” Buffy muttered to Boromir.


“He has ever wanted a sister,” he replied just as low, smiling down at her. “As have I.”


“Aw, shucks,” Buffy said, grinning at him, and then was distracted by Dawn flinging her arms around Legolas’ neck. The elf’s eyes bugged out as his oxygen was cut off, and he patted Dawn’s back in an effort to encourage her to release him.


“What was that?” she asked curiously as Legolas joined her once more, rubbing his throat.


“It is for Dawn to share with you, if she wishes,” he only said mysteriously, and she could get no more from him.