A Life Apart

Picture from Raelyn.

This was the land of his ancestors, the land he once, so very long ago, called home. 

Angelus remembered very little of his time as a human, remembered even less of this island now called Ireland and how it once was. The water crashed along the rocky shore below and he listened to the wild call of the wind. If he listened carefully enough, close enough, he could hear only that and block out all the voices that continued to clamor through him, screaming for restitution, for vengeance, for peace. 

Peace, there was a word he’d forgotten the meaning of these long years. He knew the moment, could pinpoint the exact second he’d lost that peace. When Buffy told him of her pregnancy, when he refused to believe her, when he beat her mercilessly in a fit of pain and rage. Despite all that, she was still there, Angelus could feel her; she was there, always there, begging him to come home. 

Back to her. 

And he longed to. Longed to feel her once again, longed to hold her, kiss her, and breathe in her delicious scent. He wanted her with a need that consumed him; just to be with her once more, to let her love and innocence and acceptance envelope him again, for her to hold him like before, as if she’d never let him go. Angelus needed her; there was no denying that. Just as there was no way he’d ever go back to her like this. Sullied with a soul, a conscious. 

Buffy, as with all elves, possessed a soul and it was one of the many things he loved about her. Truly, it wasn’t the fact that he had a soul now that cause Angelus to continually evade the soldiers his beloved sent to find him, not entirely. It was that the soul wouldn’t stop, he had a conscious now, and it was loud, telling him repeatedly, what he’d done wrong and that he needed to atone for those sins. 

He was no longer the vampire she loved, he wasn’t the Ancient who ruled with an iron fist, whose people somehow still loved him, he wasn’t the man who captured the elfin princess’ heart, he wasn’t the one who shared her bed, who shared her life for so many (not enough) wonderful years. Angelus was different now; he was…nothing. 

Nothing without her, but beyond that, now, changed as he was, Angelus didn’t know who he was, or what. 

“I miss you,” he said aloud, with only the wind and moon for company. “I miss you so much, Buffy.” 

She heard him, Angelus knew she did, and she smiled, kissing him through their bond, which even now pulsed strongly between them despite their best efforts to the contrary. Neither time nor distance changed that. Nothing, not even death, would.

When they’d married, it didn’t matter that their marriage was permanent. He’d thought that once their initial infatuation with each other faded, they could move on to others that no matter the vows they took, if both were unwilling nothing could hold them to those words; that hadn’t happened and Angelus knew he wanted it no other way. Then their bond began to mature, to grow between them and Angelus realized that the feelings between them had grown as well. Again, that was fine; it was as they both wanted it. 

Now, farther apart than mere miles, Angelus wondered at that. Every moment he craved her, craved her blood; he once thought that it was a huge mistake to taste her blood, but then circumstances being what they were, it was an added dimension to their relationship. Now, however, now it was an addiction he could never overcome, one that would haunt his dreams and plague his waking moments as much as the voices that screamed from his past. 

The tall vampire couldn’t help but wonder how she fared, without his bite, without his own blood. They’d been careful to limit Buffy’s tasting as it was highly addictive, tasting a vampire’s blood, even more so than his tasting of hers. But she’d drank from him all the same, and that, too, added to their intimacy. Angelus wondered if the old rumors were true, if Buffy would be forced to have someone else taste her or risk insanity. Or if she risked madness because she couldn’t sample his blood. 

The fact that he’d kill anyone who touched her was irrelevant, Angelus supposed, if it kept her sane. Then again, it didn’t look as if he was ever returning, so did it matter if she did? If she drank from another, if another vampire drank from her, would that sever their bond? Despite the circumstances surrounding him, despite the fact that he didn’t think he’d ever be rid of the voices that haunted him, Angelus knew that he’d kill anyone who dared try to touch his wife. 

The wind continued to howl, the ocean continued its inexorable crash against the shore, and Angelus stood there, allowing Buffy to comfort him. She begged him to return home, to return to her and their beautiful daughter, but he refused. Not outright, and they both knew he wasn’t refusing her, but he couldn’t. Not until he figured out what he was. 

A sharp cry echoed on the wind, and Angelus turned to the right, enhanced vision seeking the source of the shout. Moving quickly and quietly, leaping over jagged rocks and all but invisible holes, the vampire found a woman, heavily pregnant, lying alone against a large bolder. 

His first instinct was to leave her. His second was to look for whatever danger might surround her, causing her this pain. Finally, slowly, Angelus lowered to her side, holding her limp form against him. Her face was pale, deathly so, and the beat of her heart sluggish to his trained ears. Brushing the few strands of dark hair off her face, he tried to decide what to do with her. He couldn’t leave her (yes you can) he couldn’t drink her (Priestess, when was the last time he’d had the hot blood of a human? His normal fare wasn’t available in this cursed realm and he was forced to resort to the ignominy of vampire junkies and animals. It was embarrassing.) 

“Allen?” The word was so faint Angelus would’ve missed it had his hearing not been exceptional. Looking down at her upturned face, he watched in fascination as her eyes fluttered open. They were a startling blue against the paleness of her face, a sharp contrast to the darkness of her hair. 

“No,” Angelus denied, making to lower her back to the ground. What was he thinking? He couldn’t hold her and he certainly couldn’t help her. He wasn’t any good at helping anyone, not even those he loved and this woman, this stranger, was no different. 

“Ah!” She cried out, clutching her large stomach and doubling over. “Please, help me…” her voice trailed off as another wave of pain swept through her. 

Angelus had no idea what was happening, the woman was in pain, that was obvious, but he’d never been around humans enough to know what caused her pain. She was still clutching her middle, where it was obvious her babe grew, panting in pain with the next wave. Oh for the love of…she was having a child! 

Now he knew he wasn’t going to be any help. Angelus hadn’t been there for his own daughter’s birth, watching only distantly through the bond he shared with Buffy. A bond that was opened because he was needed, not because he was wanted. Despite occasions to the contrary, only when one or the other consciously opened their link was that connection used; usually they went through their days without the comfort of each other. 

What made anyone think he’d be of any use to a human

Frantically searching for someone – anyone at this point, a Watcher would do – he was distressed, but not shocked to see only the barren landscape laid out before him. Naturally. Picking the woman up, he began to walk, not entirely sure where he was going, but knowing that she couldn’t have the child there, more importantly, he couldn’t help her have the child – anywhere. She clung to him, but the tall vampire didn’t notice. He was too busy cursing his fate. 

Instinct made him reach out for Buffy, but just as quickly as he did, Angelus stopped, forcibly closing the link before she sensed what he was doing. What was he doing? 

Helping… 

Not sure if the word came from his newfound conscious or from Buffy, Angelus grimaced all the same. Did he want to help? Not really. He wanted to be left alone. No, he wanted to go back to the way things were, to be with Buffy and their daughter. Since living in the past had gotten him, thus far, nothing but heartache and headaches, he continued his trudge forward. 

Really, there wasn’t another choice. 

He wanted to ask the semi-conscious woman who she was, why she was along the shore in the first place, where the father of her child was and why now, of all times, she chose to go into labor. He scowled again at the thought and swore he heard Buffy’s laughter. ‘Women don’t choose when to go into labor, my darling, the babe does.’ 

Angelus was not at all comforted. 

He couldn’t say why he continued to walk in the direction he chose, or how long he did before he spotted a cabin in the distance, a plume of smoke curling up from the chimney. Perfect. He’d take the woman there, drop her off with the tenants of the little thatch cottage, and be on his way. Wherever that may be. 

‘Back to me, love.’  

Again, Buffy’s voice resounded within him, despite his attempt at blocking her out, but Angelus stopped his instinctual response. It was always the same; that of course he’d return to her, it was what he wanted most. But he couldn’t. Shifting his hold on the again moaning woman, he pounded on the lopsided wood door. It was late, granted, only several hours until morning, but Angelus didn’t care. He wasn’t about to let this woman stay outdoors any longer than necessary – he refused to analyze why – and besides, he needed to find his own shelter. 

Moments only passed before a tall thin man, white hair sticking out in all directions, opened the door, one hand clutching a lighted candle, the other a pistol. Oh, perfect. 

Raising an eyebrow at the gun pointed at his heart, Angelus smirked down at the man. “You needn’t shoot me, I’m positive you have nothing I desire in your little cottage.” The gun didn’t wavier and Angelus’ scowled in aggravation. He didn’t need this; here he was trying to help, and look where it got him: nothing but aggravation. Going for the truth, he stated, “I found this woman by the shore, she’s having her babe and she needs help.” 

Warily backing away, the man still said nothing, his sharp brown eyes watching Angelus even as he motioned Angelus to enter the small home. Without thought, the Ancient stepped over the threshold and into the warmth of the room. Seemingly satisfied, though the vampire had no idea why, the man set the pistol down and called for, Angelus assumed, his wife. 

“Where did ye find th’ lass?” The man asked, peering at the pale face of the woman. 

“By the rocks lining the shore,” Angelus said and watched as a woman peered around a partition, also in her sleepwear. 

“How far along is she,” the woman asked, coming fully into the room. She was a short round woman, heavily lines streaking her face and wisps of dark hear falling out of her nightcap. 

“I’ve no idea,” Angelus repeated in an aggravated voice. “I found her along the shore and carried her here.” 

Looking skeptical, the man said nothing, merely motioned for his wife to move closer to the pregnant woman. He stoked the fire and lighted several more candles, bringing the small cottage a faint glow and sat in one of the chairs nearest the fireplace. Angelus scowled, was this how all humans were? Unconcerned with one of their own, mistrustful of everyone? 

‘Come back to me, my love,’ Buffy’s voice floated to him. ‘And you needn’t worry about that anymore.’  

Angelus closed his eyes against her voice, her plea, her emotions, and turned to the round Irish wife, flittering around the again moaning woman. “Well, if you have things under control here,” he said, backing away from the door. 

“It’s not safe out there,” the man stated, his eyes holding something Angelus couldn’t place. “There are all sorts of…riffraff out there at night; ye’d best stay here, this eve.” 

Angelus merely looked at the old man. Did he mean there were monsters out there, vampires and demons? Or that he knew what Angelus was if not who and there were others out there, others who were looking for creatures such as he? Either way, the vampire didn’t care. He couldn’t stay here, had no desire to, and even though he preferred to be left alone, he’d take on either demons or Watchers, it didn’t matter. 

“Thanks,” the Ancient said with a cocky smirk. No matter what the appearance of a soul he hadn’t had in longer than he could remember had done to him, it hadn’t stopped his common sense. More, it hadn’t stopped his facial expressions. “But I need to leave. I can’t stay and frankly, I don’t really want to.” 

Just then, the woman cried out, screaming the name “Allen” once more and folding nearly in half with the force of her contraction. The wife, Mora as Angelus would later learn, tried to soothe the obviously distraught and in pain woman, but she’d have none of it. Her hand, much to the surprise of everyone in the room, reached out for Angelus. 

Not knowing what to do, having absolutely no basis for anything like this, the vampire with a soul moved to the woman, grasping her hand with his. Immediately she calmed, and fell backwards; Angelus caught her before she hit the floor. Well, now. Now he was stuck. And while it was a simple feat for him to move the woman, disentangle himself from her weight, Angelus didn’t. 

He could never say why, exactly he hadn’t, only that he didn’t. 

And several long hours later, through screams of pain and hisses at people not present in the room, Angelus realized just what exactly Buffy went through. 

He loved his wife, no matter how his presence here rather than there made it seem otherwise. He loved her and would do anything for her. In the four Land years, nearly twenty Earth years that passed between his leaving her and now, that hadn’t changed. Angelus tried to believe that Ariana Amira Kali was his daughter, but oftentimes there was something stopping that belief. Jealously, possibly, jealously over so many things that it didn’t matter when it all boiled down to the fact that he couldn’t get past the reality that vampires did not have children. 

Seeing this child born into a world that was not his, never would be his, made Angelus realize something else, too. 

Ariana Amira Kali would never know her father. She’d grow up believing whatever Buffy told her, whatever everyone else in court told her. She’d know of Angelus only through stories and rumors and malicious gossipmongers. Maybe that was better, considering the fact that he couldn’t fully accept her parentage, but still, watching the as yet unnamed woman holding her son as she lay sweaty and limp in Angelus’ arms, the vampire couldn’t help but mourn the fact that he’d never know her, his daughter. 

“What’re you naming him, lass” Iain, the old man asked as the sun rose high in the daytime sky, though its rays never penetrated more than a foot into the tiny cottage. 

“Allen,” she whispered before falling unconscious. 

A day later, she was dead, leaving Allen an orphan before he ever really knew the term. 

“We’ll take care of him,” Iain assured Angelus three days after the mother’s death. “Mora and I raised six children and buried four of them. We’ll take care of the lad.” 

Angelus nodded and bade Iain and Mora Doyle one last farewell before slipping into the night. Maybe he’d be back to visit the boy, having not much else to do with his life. Just to see how the child fared. After all, Angelus helped bring him into this world, it only seemed right…didn’t it? 

He did his best to ignore the jealously emanating from Buffy and the hurt that went with that. Angelus understood, though neither said a word about it, that Buffy was more than angry with him for caring about a human boy who was of absolutely no concern to him, while he stayed away from his wife and daughter – ‘Don’t even give me that, Angelus, she’s yours.’ – who needed and wanted him. 

And another layer of guilt piled itself onto his broad shoulders, though Angelus did nothing to remedy the situation.
**********  
Buffy smiled as she watched her daughter race over the hill. 

Despite the quantity of memories she had about the hill just outside the castle, Buffy couldn’t help but allow her only child the same thrill she always experienced. There were days and nights where Angelus took her riding, had Cook prepare a picnic for them, or they simply strode over the knoll as he explained something about the kingdom to her. He never made love to her there, despite several starts to their passion, always insisting on a much more private place for that. 

Just in case someone happened along and spotted her, Buffy knew. 

Ariana Amira Kali, Ariana as her mother called her, watched the elfin queen as Buffy watched her. Though she was only ten, the child understood things no one expected of her. It was a product, Drusilla and Cora told her once, of her mother’s magicks and her father’s heritage. Ariana still didn’t understand that fully, but she knew enough to realize that whatever made both her parents special, transferred into her as well, giving her an insight into them even they sometimes lacked. 

And right now Ariana knew that her mother missed her father terribly. She never said so, only brought him up to Ariana when they were alone, but the child knew. It was in the way Buffy said his name, that indescribable quality that held love, devotion, and longing. She didn’t know all that happened to her father, Buffy never said exactly why he wasn’t with them, but Ariana knew it wasn’t because he didn’t want to be there. 

Running back to her mother, Ariana watched as the guards closed in further, quietly surrounding both mother and daughter for their own protection. While the fact that she was never alone occasionally bothered her, Ariana knew of no other life. Since before she was born, there were people surrounding her, seeing to her comfort and safety and just about anything she asked. 

“Can we go for a ride, mother?” Ariana asked as she stopped in front of Buffy. 

Smoothing a hand over her child’s dark hair, Buffy couldn’t help the wistful smile. “Maybe tomorrow, darling. It’s getting too dark out; we need to return to the castle.” 

Pouting, Ariana started to protest, but stopped when she saw the look on her mother’s face. Young though she was, the girl was already an accepted member at Council meetings and had seen ambassadors and council members cower under that look. Wisely keeping her mouth shut, Ariana nodded and walked beside her mother. 

Maybe she’d talk William and Drusilla into going with her tomorrow, as Buffy had a meeting scheduled for most of the morning and Ariana wasn’t invited to it.
~~~~~~~~~~
Several hours later, after tucking her child into bed, Buffy returned to her own room. 

Once Ariana was born, Buffy had the rest of the wing converted to her daughter’s rooms. There was still enough privacy for the girl, but Buffy could keep a better eye on her, no matter the guards always with her. 

Sighing once she reached the solitude of her own rooms, Buffy began to undress, forgoing both her maid, Celica, and the sometimes stand-in, Drusilla. The long gown, a flowing gold, was carefully folded on the dressing chair, missing only one button in Buffy’s haste to disrobe. Her shoes and stockings were tossed on the gown, along with her corset. Moving to take the long silken robe that hung nearby, she slipped it on, tying it tightly around herself before moving to the window. 

Looking out at the landscape, Buffy couldn’t help the memories that assaulted her. Over the years, she’d tuned out most of them, doing her best to live in the present for both her kingdom and her daughter. She tried, oh how she tried, to block the bond that joined she and Angelus as well, but that was harder. An addiction she couldn’t quite quit. 

Buffy knew that Angelus also tried to close the bond between them, but it was harder for him, surrounded by things not familiar. Was it easier to keep their bond closed, to block everything the other did and hope it was enough? No, Buffy admitted, it wasn’t because she tried that and always, always, found herself reopening the never-fully-closed link between she and her husband. Often she told herself that it was just to see how he fared, just to make sure that he was healthy, well, alive… 

She didn’t believe it, no matter what she told herself, or how many times she said it. 

So much changed in the decade since Ariana’s birth. For one, Aurelius and Rezov signed a binding and long-term alliance on Ariana’s first birthday, using that sacred day to seal the pack. Cuman was now a constant at Buffy’s court and his Ancient, Gavrie, made the trip to Aurelius, signing the agreement himself in front of Buffy. It was definitely a sign, though many thought it more dark than light; the other lands threatened war over the alliance, but none dared cross the Continuum, and that august body approved of the alliance a little too enthusiastically. 

Still, the alliance was cause for celebration, and it did quell many of the younger vampires who thought that the Continuum was too old and unwieldy to maintain for much longer. It did have the opposite effect on many others, however, and there was always the constant threat of rebellion. Lir, the Seer from the High Priestess’ temple, and her Rezov counterpart, Danica, assured both Buffy and Garvie that this was but a prelude to something bigger. 

It was debatable, and both Buffy and Garvie debated it, on whether that something was for good or ill. 

All anyone knew was that Ariana played a bigger part in the future of both kingdoms than Buffy liked to admit. Ariana was her little girl, her only child, and the last tangible evidence she had to link her to Angelus. Turning slightly to listen for any sounds from her room, Buffy couldn’t stop the smile as she thought of her daughter. 

The girl looked like her father anyone could see that. And that wonderful fact crushed any and all rumors to the contrary. She was already tall for her age, though as far as anyone could tell there were no other Elf/Human/Vampire children anywhere in the Lands. Still, it was clear she was going to have her father’s height in addition to his dark hair and vampiric golden eyes. She had his temper, too, though Oz often teased Buffy that her own temper was nearly identical to her husband’s. 

Her parentage was not in doubt, her succession sealed, and still, Buffy was constantly worried for her safety. She wanted to protect her child from every harm that threatened her but refused to let Ariana not see what truly went on in their kingdom. It was a fine balance that Buffy constantly questioned herself on and one that, more than once, she’d tipped in favor of one or another.

At the age of ten, one should never have to worry for one’s life. But that didn’t matter here, and it was better, Buffy knew and Oz and Gunn assured her, that Ariana learn early on how to take care of herself. Buffy sincerely hoped her daughter never needed to, but knew that to be a fruitless prayer. 

Watching the night guard change, Buffy wondered where Angelus was now, what sights he saw, who he talked to – if he did, Buffy wasn’t sure of that – and how he was surviving. The light doused from the parapet, signaling the official change in guard, and Buffy turned from the window. She had a long day tomorrow; it was mere months until Ariana’s official announcement, on her eleventh birthday, into court life, Garvie was sending his favored childe and heir for a state visit, and Darla needed to be officially recognized as a member of Buffy’s house once more. 

It wasn’t that the elfin queen wanted to do so to the vampiress who helped to bring about near ruin to the kingdom, but Darla proved herself, time and again, to be loyal and trustworthy. Buffy wasn’t so blind not to test that loyalty, having been burnt too badly once already by the vampiress. But every test she, Gunn, and Oz devised for Darla, the blonde passed. Not always easily, but she definitely changed. 

It angered Buffy that she had. It angered her more that she owed Darla her life and that of Ariana’s. 

Since giving her blood, since helping to bring Ariana into the world Darla was noticeably changed. She dotted on the new child, telling her stories of both Angelus and Buffy, of the magickal creatures in the Dragon and Beasts Lands, protecting the girl on one memorable – and terrifying – occasion when a member of the kitchen staff decided that Ariana wasn’t the true heir to the throne, and that an elf shouldn’t sit in a vampire’s kingdom. 

Covering the shaking child with her own body as flames spread across the kitchen, Darla managed to save Ariana and not kill the would-be-murderer – that was not her position but Buffy’s as Ariana’s mother – before collapsing from her injuries. It’d taken Marcus, the physician, a week to fully heal her, and Darla another three before she was back to full strength. After that, even Gunn admitted that she may have – marginally – changed. 

Ariana adored her, much to Buffy’s chagrin, and everyone else’s amusement. But even to Buffy, it was clear Darla loved the child. It was, the vampiress admitted, the first honest and good thing she’d ever done and Ariana was the first being she truly loved. 

Ade-Aman stamped his approval on her, once more stating how she was useful in the future, referring Buffy to Drusilla or Lir for confirmation and details. They were sketchy on those details, but Buffy gleaned enough to understand that the stability of Kingdom Aurelius depended on Darla being on Buffy’s side. She hated it, much as she hated the vampiress, but she accepted it. 

Now, several years after all this, Buffy still didn’t fully trust Darla, though she admitted that the other woman was good for several things, not the least was amusing diversions. 

Turning to her large and empty bed, Buffy’s last thought, as she pushed all those of Darla, alliances, and tomorrow out of her head, was, predictably, of Angelus. She couldn’t help it, despite knowing what a weakness this was. Silently seeking out the link that bound them, no matter what her waking self wanted as her eyes drifted closed, she grasped the bright light, tugging gently to gain his attention. 

‘You’d be so proud of her, love,’ she told Angelus, and though he didn’t acknowledge her Buffy knew he heard her. ‘She’s beautiful, strong, brave, and proud. She’s going to make a magnificent warrior and an even better Ancient.’ 

There was no response, but Buffy sensed his interest as she fully drifted off to sleep. Maybe it was her imagination, her longing to hear the words once more, but she thought she heard, ever so faintly, Angelus whisper, “I love you.”
~~~~~~~~~~
It wasn’t obvious to those who didn’t really know her, and despite the fact that she was queen of the kingdom and in constant attention of all, very few realized it. 

But then Buffy was a marvelous actress, and worked hard at keeping such things as gossip at bay. 

She changed, not only mentally, but physically, too. Oh, she’d had a child, and that changed all women no matter who they were. Her body wasn’t nearly as toned as before, though she still worked hard to maintain her physical prowess. But the curves that showed now, were much softer, much more noticeable if one compared. 

Her smiles rarely reached her eyes, and when they did, there was a wistful sadness there that haunted all who noticed. She still visited her towns, held celebrations for the people of Aurelius, and promoted trade as much as possible. Buffy actively took part in all aspects of running her kingdom and reminded anyone who dared forget, that Angelus would return; do not doubt it. 

At the moment, she was more nervous than she’d been since her wedding day. 

Garvie of Rezov’s favorite childe was visiting and Buffy had a bad feeling about that. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust the Rezov Ancient, so much as she didn’t know what to expect, and didn’t like surprises. This visit was one, though they’d had a month to prepare; but there was something in both Ambassador Cuman’s tone, and in Garvie’s missive that bothered Buffy. 

Oz was stationed to the right of her throne, Gunn to the left, as Drusilla sat with the council, at a special request from them. Several of the members relied on her visions or feelings for things relating to the running of the kingdom, and often asked her to sit in on meetings. It was almost superstitious the way they acted when it came to making important decisions, and Buffy couldn’t help the sardonic smile that briefly graced her face. 

The great council of the noble Kingdom of Aurelius, looking to a crazy seer for advice. No one outside the Continuum would ever believe that. But then, no one outside the Lands would believe much of what the fierce and vicious vampires were capable of. 

Nodding to the guards at the door, and the herald banged his staff twice before announcing the vampire. “Andre Vladimir, prince of Rezov, heir to the Ancient’s throne, holder of the…” 

Sitting through several minutes of introductions, Buffy watched the vampire before her. He was handsome, tall, and muscled. His nose was long and straight, his eyes a dark blue that contrasted nicely with his darkened skin, nearly the color of Buffy’s. His hair was nearly black and brushed his shoulders, Buffy noted, as he stood patiently and quietly just outside the double doors. 

His blue eyes pierced her, trying to discern, Buffy fancied, all her secrets. Not bothering to even smile at that, the elf returned his look with her own calm one, revealing nothing. At the end of the herald’s words, Andre waited another moment for Buffy to nod at him before moving into the audience chambers. Well, she certainly couldn’t fault his manners. 

“I bring greetings from my Ancient and King,” Andre said with a slight bow, “Who wishes you to know that the power of Rezov are, as always, behind you.” 

Buffy allowed a small smile. “Welcome, Andre Vladimir of Rezov, favored childe of the Ancient of that noble and proud kingdom. I bid you greeting and hope that your stay here will be prosperous and amiable to all.” 

Bowing again, Andre raised those blue eyes to Buffy and she wondered if everyone agree to anything he said just by the power of his gaze. It was a bit disturbing, but interesting. Buffy got on well enough with Garvie and Cuman, as well as expected for leaders of countries and their official ambassadors, but this vampire was something else. There was a reason Garvie sent him, one, Buffy now wondered, that may have had more to do with her than anything else. 

Surely, that Ancient didn’t think to join their kingdoms through…marriage? 

Keeping her new suspicions to herself, Buffy introduced Andre to the head of her council, waiting as Theophilus introduced him to the rest of the members. She watched as he bowed to the men and, in a rare show of courtly manners, kissed the women’s hands. When he was presented to Drusilla, kissing the back of her hand as he had the others, the dark haired vampiress smiled, her eyes ticking to Buffy before anyone but the elfin queen noticed. 

Two hours later, after Andre was shown his rooms, after the council went over more for Ariana’s official introduction into court, and after they worked through all the problems that seemed to arise overnight, Buffy finally had a chance to speak with Drusilla. She still sat in the audience chamber, decked in both jewels Angelus gave her and the official Aurelius seal, back stiff from sitting so long. Gunn and Oz were still next to her but it didn’t occur to Buffy to ask them to leave. 

They probably wouldn’t have, anyway, knowing them. Besides, whatever Drusilla was about to tell her, Buffy didn’t doubt she’d eventually tell them as well. Somehow it all worked like that with the three of them, Nicholaus, William, Drusu, and yes, even Darla, knowing everything anyone of them discovered. It’d be more annoying than it already was, if Buffy didn’t realize two things. 

One was that they were only doing it to protect both she and Ariana, and two, that they told her everything, anyway. 

“Andre Vladimir is part of it,” Drusilla said as she stood in front of Buffy, head bowed in respect. “He’s part of the cycle, destiny’s wheel, bound to the child of that destiny.” 

Glancing at both Oz and Gunn, seeing that neither knew what she meant, Buffy nodded. If everything went as it usually did, eventually someone would figure out what Drusilla meant. Hopefully, it’d be sooner rather than later. 

It was much sooner than Buffy suspected and, when she realized what Dru meant by it, much sooner than she liked. 

Later that day, at the formal dinner welcoming Andre of Rezov to the Aurelius Kingdom, Ariana met the vampire. She hid it well, using the poise and composure both inherent and taught to conceal her interest in the good-looking vampire. But as her mother, Buffy knew. 

Her only child, the ten-year-old heir to the Aurelius throne, was smitten with the so very much older heir to the Rezov throne. Immediately seeking Drusilla out, Buffy wasn’t at all surprised to find her standing next to her. 

“So young is she, so keen, already knowing who and what she wants. Much like her mother,” Drusilla smiled at Buffy as she said that. “Fate does not halt, destiny does not thwart, prepare her as you will, but know that it will all work as it will.” 

Buffy didn’t like the sound of that…not at all.

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