Crossover: Roswell, Kindred: the Embraced, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Character Focus: Liz-centric, mostly.
Spoilers: Futurefic. Post-Departure for Roswell, Post-Cabin in the Woods for Kindred, Post-The Gift for BtVS.
Disclaimer: Nothing owned. Bite me.
Summary: Three years ago Liz fled Roswell to find herself and her own destiny. And an unexpected destiny it is.
Author's Note: This was written over the course of a couple years, here and there, so there's a little variation you might notice (in tone, action, that sort of thing) from Part One: San Francisco to Part Two: Roswell to Part Three: Sunnydale, and so on, as I continue. I mention this so that you won't be surprised, but also in hopes that if you don't like it at first, you'll still try the next part, lol.
Also, thanks to hah -- you rule. And for those scratching their heads? The inspiration for the title is a line from "Nightstalker," when Daedalus says to Julian:
"It's like a Kindred disease, this hopeless desire for humans."
This fic won Best Crossover Fiction Story at the Fall Roswellian Fanfiction Awards, the Venus Rising Fanfiction Awards, and the Substantial Myth Awards.
San Francisco, Summer 2004
"So young, and yet so old," Daedalus murmured.
Gently, surprisingly gently for hands of such brute strength, he pushed back a lock of hair that fell smoothly across her childlike features. He wanted to see her eyes clearly in the sunlight. In the distance, the sound of children playing in one of San Francisco's many parks faded away.
"I think," he started, pausing to study the way her jaw tensed as she swallowed. "I think we could have many interesting conversations."
Her eyes never left his as one long fingernail, a talon really, scraped lightly down the side of her face, leaving a trail of slight redness where it passed. She never felt it, was oblivious to the way his inhuman heart leapt at the scent of blood just below the surface of her skin.
"Would you like that?" he persisted, not really expecting her to respond.
But she did. She nodded. And she spoke. Whispered, really. "Yes."
"Tell me a story, Liz."
She considered his request carefully. He had brought her back to his home, an apartment beneath a mansion, and she felt infected by its dark, sombre atmosphere.
"There once was a girl who was loved, but she did not know it. Then one day, she almost died. She had been shot, and as she lay on the ground, she felt the life the blood "
Almost imperceptibly, a muscle in his cheek twitched. Otherwise, he was still.
" Draining out of her. Then, miraculously, he was there. The boy who loved her. And he brought her back to life."
She paused to close her eyes, to take a deep breath. Opening them, she continued.
"They fell very much in love, but they were so different "
"After she escaped with his baby, this killer, what happened then?"
"He told me he loved me," she replied, raising her eyes to look deeply into his. During the tale they had drifted to focus on the small fire in the grate, lost in memories. This was the first time she admitted to being the girl in the story, although it had been obvious.
He took his cue, studying her face as he spoke. So young, yet so old. The contradiction tantalized him.
"And what did you do?"
She returned his gaze steadily. In that moment he knew he could love her. "I left the next morning."
"Why did you come to San Francisco?"
She turned to look into the fire again. "I saw an ad in the bus depot. The city looked nice. And big enough to lose myself in."
She smiled, because he was right. She did have another reason. "And to find myself, to find my destiny."
"How long ago?"
"Three years. I haven't seen or spoken to anyone from home in three years."
The fire began to die. "Fiat ignem," he murmured. It crackled to life, small sparks rising into the darkness above.
She didn't notice. She was looking to the shadows, as if seeing something or someone that wasn't there. Her mind had drifted, and he knew he'd pushed her far enough for one day.
"Will you stay here tonight? We could speak more tomorrow."
She didn't hesitate. "Yes."
The young man who showed her to her room in the large house was a pleasant shock, his frenetic energy abrasive against the genteel opulence.
"Daedalus said you'd be staying here for a while, so I had them make up a room. Um," and he looked slightly awkward. "There're some clothes in there too. Daedalus said you didn't bring any."
In a different time, a different place, she would have smiled at his discomfort. Clearly he wasn't entirely comfortable in his role as host. Now she simply shrugged and he grinned in frank appreciation.
"I never thought I'd actually meet a woman who traveled light. Cool."
She smiled and played along, rolling her eyes and sighing as if exasperated. "Men."
He laughed and turned to leave, stopping at the last minute to get her attention. "If you need anything, food or something, dial nine on the phone by the bed. If you need to talk to me, just tell whoever answers."
She nodded and asked before he disappeared, "Whose house is this, Cash? Does it belong to Daedalus? It's beautiful."
He shook his head. "Nah, the man'll be back here tomorrow. Name's Julian Luna." He paused, obviously expecting her to acknowledge the name in some way.
She just looked at him blankly; the name seemed familiar, but she didn't know why. "Well, good night," she said, and closed the door behind her.
Only then did she remember the article in the Chronicle about the reclusive business magnate who seemed to have a hand in just about every pie in town. He was a real mystery man, but very, very rich. And she was in his house.
This was shaping up to be a very interesting day indeed.
She had moved through her first day in this house as if in a trance, aware of the surreal nature of her unnatural calm but unconcerned. Now, she settled into the bed provided for her and hoped only that she would not dream that night. And for the first time in five years, she did not.
She was grateful. Truthfully, she never wanted to dream again.
"Hello, Daedalus," she greeted him brightly.
He gestured to the book on her lap. "What are you reading?" he asked, curious as to what a young girl would find so fascinating on his shelves.
"'Cryptic Counterspells: A Beginner's Guide to Deciphering Dead Languages for Protection'," she read aloud. "By Willow Rosenburg."
He nodded, intrigued by her choice. Was it coincidence? "Willow is a good witch," he offered.
She looked up then. "You know the author?"
He nodded solemnly. "I do. She's young, but very powerful. We collaborated on a project once and I've received Hanukah cards every year since."
She laughed before it occurred to her not to, and her girlish chuckling echoed through vast, normally still, chambers. He found himself wanting to smile in return, but unsure how, he merely watched her.
And then the moment passed, and she looked a little embarrassed. "Sorry."
"Don't be," he replied, suddenly remembering something gallant he'd heard Julian tell a woman once. "I'm not." And it was true.
She looked surprised but pleased. Emboldened, she asked, "Could I get her address? I would like to write to her." She'd never met a witch before, and in this place, it seemed perfectly reasonable to want to.
He shook his head. "No need." Holding up an envelope, he explained: "Willow is coming to visit." He did not explain that he had asked the witch to come.
She smiled, and his ancient heart barely recognized the stirrings of warmth that would have quickened his heart rate, if he'd had much of one to speak of. It was remarkable, he reflected, the way she seemed to come alive with just a little encouragement, despite all that weighed upon her spirit and conscience.
"Is she a real witch, like with powers and everything?" she asked artlessly, half-joking.
He nodded, captivated by the innocence and naïveté she projected with every word.
"I can't wait to meet her," she said, and returned to her reading.
"Tell me a story, Daedalus," she asked drowsily.
She was fighting exhaustion, clearly unwilling to cut short what had proved to be a wonderfully companionable evening.
Obscurely flattered, he thought for some time before speaking. What would she relate to?
"There was a man who loved a woman very much, but believed that she could never love him. For in her eyes, he believed he would be a monster."
Then he fell silent. In his impetuous desire to please her, he had forgotten how painful a story it was.
"And was he?" she asked finally.
"Yes," he said. He wouldn't lie to her.
He felt her gaze fall upon his disfigured face, and knew his expensive clothing only served to emphasize his ugliness. But he liked to surround himself with beauty, and had the means.
"Eye of the beholder," she said simply, and together they watched the fire burn.
The second day ended much like the first. Already she began to feel as if her entire life leading up to this point had been the dream. She was rising towards consciousness, and knew that soon she would wake up. The thought comforted her as she sank into darkness.
Again, she knew, her sleep would not be troubled by dreams. She would awake refreshed. Renewed.
She felt the ominous shadow of destiny looming. But something was changing in her, and she welcomed it.
"Elizabeth Parker, this is Julian Luna, my benefactor."
She nodded, somewhat intimidated by the aura of pure power that surrounded the man.
She overcame it to step forward, intending to shake his hand. "You have a beautiful home, Mr. Luna." Then she froze, suddenly aware that everyone in the room was watching her, and from the lack of expression on their faces, she knew she had done something wrong, broken some point of protocol.
But before she could step back, Julian reached out and grasped her hand in his with a reassuring smile. "Thank you, Miss Parker," he accepted graciously, and she relaxed somewhat when she looked to Daedalus and saw he was not upset.
"Are you enjoying your stay?" Julian asked, and she didn't miss the way he raised an eyebrow at Cash, who was standing nearby. Immediately Cash gestured to the other men in the room and they turned to leave. One hesitated, and something about the way he stared at her with nostrils flared was deeply unsettling. But they did leave, and in a moment she was alone with Daedalus and Julian.
Realizing that Julian was waiting patiently for her answer, she nodded. "Very much," she added, and was rewarded with a smile.
"Will you join me?" he invited, and they sat around a small but ornate table. Daedalus remained standing. "Something to drink?"
She shook her head. "Thank you, no." As it was, she had simply expected to meet the man and then return to her reading, but now she was starting to wonder if there wasn't something else going on.
"Mr. Luna," she said finally, "is there something I can do for you?"
He studied her intently. "Yes, there is. I'd like you to answer some questions."
Before her eyes he seemed to grow somehow, become more imposing, and she couldn't look away. As if from a distance, she heard him speak.
"What are you?"
"So what is she?" Cash asked.
"I'm not sure," Julian responded thoughtfully. "As far as she knows, she's human. Perhaps I did not ask the right questions."
"But, her blood."
"I know; I sense it too. And she has been reanimated, although not as Kindred. But until we know more, no one is to touch her. Is that clear?"
"Yeah, it's clear. I'll make sure the word gets out. But she should stay here so no one gets tempted."
There was silence for a moment. "Did Cameron say something?"
"Really." It wasn't a question. "Daedalus?"
And a third voice sounded, its presence vaguely reassuring if not the words. "I would welcome her as Nosferatu. Her sorrow calls to me."
"What say Gangrel?"
Cash hesitated. "I won't deny I'm interested. But Julian I think she's a better fit for Ventrue."
The conflict between desire and loyalty was evident in his tone. Whoever Embraced the girl would drink deeply of her blood, and it was an intoxicating prospect. But he already liked Liz, and his loyalty to Julian and the Masquerade was absolute. An unusually strong Gangrel might upset the delicate balance of power in the city whereas a carefully cultivated Ventrue protégé could reinforce it.
"So everyone thinks she should be Embraced then?"
Cash sounded shocked. "With that blood? Was there ever any doubt? She's going to be powerful."
"Exactly. We have peace among the clans. Would she become a danger to that peace?"
Cash nodded to hear his own concerns voiced, but only shrugged in response.
"Not if you took a personal interest," Daedalus suggested. "But she must not be Caitiff."
"She wakes," Julian said. "We'll talk more later."
When she opened her eyes, Julian and Daedalus were gone.
"Here, let me help you back to your room," Cash said, and pulled her upright before she could protest the sudden movement.
"Cash?" she asked. She sounded very young.
He didn't look at her as they walked along, but he didn't cut her off either.
"What's going on? Why happened to me?"
They were at her room, and her hand was on the knob. Somehow she found the courage to look up at him, willing him to answer.
A strange expression passed over his face, but eventually he spoke, as if to himself. "Definitely Ventrue "
Suddenly the door opened and she staggered a little to catch her balance. She hadn't turned the knob.
The cheerful redheaded girl on the other side had.
"You must be Liz!"
"So when Daedalus told me he was harboring some young girl, I knew she must be special and I came right away to meet her. And here you are! So you're a witch too, is that right?"
Liz gaped at her. "What?" The girl - woman, really - had seemed so blessedly normal when they'd introduced themselves. Her flamboyance even reminded Liz a little of Maria. But if this girl saw witches everywhere "No, I'm not a witch," she answered.
"But ..." Willow frowned, and her eyes seemed to darken almost to black for a moment before clearing. "But Liz, you have a total aura of power around you. If you're not a witch, are you part demon? I mean, I know you're not about to vamp out, I can tell a mile away -"
"Part what?" Liz interrupted, utterly bewildered and beginning to wonder if asking to meet Willow was a bad idea. The girl was starting to freak her out.
Willow studied her in what Liz was quickly coming to realize as uncharacteristic silence. "You mean you don't know? About -" and she waved her hand about for emphasis.
"Know about what?" Despite the haze that seemed to have centred over her mind the past couple days, Liz was beginning to get angry. There was something going on, and she was the only one in the dark. "What the hell is going on around here?"
Nonplussed, Willow stared at her. "Liz -" she tried, but Liz shook her off.
It was like a switch had been thrown.
Panicking, no longer caring about being rude, she rose off her bed - no, not hers, it was just a bed - and made her way to the closet, where she found the outfit she had been wearing the day Daedalus had found her outside the library. It was the only thing here that was truly hers, and she would wear it as she left.
She frowned, trying to think clearly. Why had she come here, anyway? It wasn't like her to trust people she just met, to just follow them without question. She'd worked hard to get by without even a high school diploma, working double shifts at some dive to pay the rent and now ... now she only hoped she still had a job, because her rent had been due the day before and she'd already missed three shifts.
Liz sighed. She knew what it was. There had just been something in the way Daedalus had spoken to her. She had immediately felt a certain kinship with him, a security in his presence that she hadn't felt in a long time. Stepping into his world had been a wonderful fantasy. A refuge.
Maybe it still could be, but she didn't care anymore. She was getting out of here.
"Stop," the other girl said, but she said it sympathetically. "You can't go."
"Why not? The last time I checked, I was a guest, not a prisoner," Liz shot back.
"Because here you're under Julian's protection. Out there, they'll hunt you."
"You lied to me."
Her voice was neutral but Daedalus heard the hurt, the accusation.
"Would you have believed the truth?" It pained him to ask, because he could not have told her even if she did.
Especially if she did.
"I still don't know what that is. Everyone speaks in riddles. But I - I thought you would be different. I was wrong. I'm getting out of here."
She turned to leave, to go back to her room. To turn away from him.
He was at her side in an instant, trying not to intimidate her but succeeding anyway. "No. It's not safe for you out there."
"What does that mean? And why do you care?" she demanded. "You brought me here. I wouldn't be in this mess - and I don't even know what kind of mess it is - if you hadn't brought me here."
He shook his head. "One of the others would have found you sooner or later. Your blood ... it calls out."
She backed away from him, her fear and frustration evident. "Why does everyone keep talking about blood all the time? I heard you, you know. I heard you and Mr. Luna and Cash talking, and I don't know what you were talking about, but you were talking about my blood. Why?"
"I can't explain much. It's not my place."
She shouted desperately. "Stop talking in circles!"
"I will explain what I can, if you will do the same."
She stared at him in defiance, but wilted before his implacability. "You already know everything there is to know about me."
"Tell me how he brought you back to life."
She opened her mouth. Then closed it. "No."
He did not protest when she turned and left. He just stared into the fire.
"Have you decided then, Miss Parker?"
Liz froze with her hand on the knob, and turned slowly, fighting to stay calm.
"Mr. Luna, I -"
"Call me Julian."
That caught her off guard. She had already grown accustomed to a certain formality with him. But here, now, he seemed much more approachable. Perhaps deliberately so? Automatically, she found herself returning the courtesy. "Liz."
"All right. Liz, are you going to leave us?"
She fought to stay angry, but the look of open appeal on his face was compelling. Plus, he kept his distance, as if to say that if she chose to leave he would not stop her. She opened her mouth to tell him yes.
"Are you aliens?" she heard herself asking instead.
That caught him off guard. "I beg your pardon? Are we what?"
"Aliens," she said firmly, ignoring the nausea that even now threatened to erupt.
"No," he said, and she saw his lips quirk slightly. "No, we're not aliens."
"Well, you're not FBI," she stated more than asked.
"No, we're definitely not the FBI," he agreed. She suspected that only a remarkable amount of control kept him from laughing outright, and felt incredibly foolish.
Wearily she sank down onto a nearby step. "Then what the hell's going on here? Why won't anyone tell me? All I can figure out is that there's some kind of dance you people take really seriously and that I'm none too subtly being pushed into attending."
He was speechless for a moment. "A a dance?"
"Yeah, some masquerade ball." Something in the air changed then, although his expression was unchanged.
"Where did you hear that?" he asked smoothly.
"I found it in some book, something about how this masquerade thing was the centre of society or something, but really secret, and I have to tell you, that doesn't make a whole lot of sense," she protested. "I asked Daedalus and Willow about it, but Willow avoided the subject and Daedalus just said a few cryptic things that probably only made sense to him."
"They're not allowed to speak of it to you," Julian cut in, sensing her hurt. "Willow is a special case, who knows about the Masquerade on sufferance."
When he said it, she heard the capital 'M'. Despite herself, she was intrigued. "So who can tell me about it then?"
She blinked, a little stunned by his admission. "Oh," she said, rather inadequately. She hadn't expected that. Although in hindsight, he seemed like the obvious person.
"Oh," she said again, lamely.
Julian sighed. She was so young. If only there was time but time was something they didn't have. Sasha had taught him that. And he wanted to do this right; he wanted her as an ally, a true Ventrue, not a resentful fledgling that would take time he didn't have to tame.
He had to admit that the prospect of taming her was not precisely unwelcome. He hadn't seen Caitlyn in years, and he hadn't felt this kind of instinctive physical pull in a long time. But he shook off unwarranted thoughts to consider his options. He had to be careful with her, at least for now.
Where would she feel most comfortable?
"Will you join me in the kitchen? I could prepare us a snack, and tell you something about the Masquerade."
Liz laughed. "Do you really expect me to believe this? Vampires? But, I met Daedalus in broad daylight."
"He had fed recently, then. And we prefer the term Kindred."
She stared at him, a little unnerved by his even tone. He did seem more approachable here, but he still had that air of extreme power about him. It even resonated in the way he attempted to make them a salad, although he was clearly unfamiliar with the workings of the kitchen. Every move bespoke grace and purpose. She was more than a little awed by him.
But that didn't mean she would accept everything he said at face value.
"Here, let me," she said, holding out her hand for the knife he was using to cut a head of lettuce. He hesitated but handed it to her, hilt first, and then watched as she finished slicing lettuce and vegetables with the air and competence of a professional cook. "I worked in my parents' restaurant for years," she explained, noting his raised eyebrows. She had to smile though; in the CrashDown, burgers outsold salads twenty to one.
They ate quietly for some time. Actually, she ate. He drank some very sweet juice that had been in the fridge but only took a few bites of his salad, more as a compliment to her than out of any real desire, she decided. She herself would have preferred a sandwich, but there had been no meat or cheese at hand. Liz tried not to think about the implications of that.
"We don't really eat much solid food here," he explained, watching her expression tighten as she heard what he wasn't saying. "We cater in for parties."
"Are you sure you're not aliens?" she tried again. Now aliens, she could handle. It didn't involve disturbing mental images of people biting and sucking on other people.
"Very." He sipped at his drink and looked at her curiously. "Why do you keep asking about aliens? Would you find this all more believable if I said we were?"
"Well, yeah," she said, without thinking.
She didn't answer at first. Then, "Because I believe in science. And science tells me that there should be other life in the universe. But nothing in my experience has ever prepared me to accept what you are saying."
He looked at her, thinking. "What if I showed you proof?"
She looked at him nervously. She really didn't know this man, and no one knew where she was outside of this house.
"That's okay," she said.
Julian was a little saddened - and frustrated - to feel fear radiating from her. "I just meant a visual demonstration. Not a feeding." He was careful to hide the effect the mere thought of feeding from her was having on him. He was the prince, damn it. He could control himself.
"Oh," she said, curiosity obviously winning out. "What kind of demonstration?"
Her third day did not end until the fourth began. She spent the night huddled, wide-eyed and shaking, in Willow's comforting arms.
"What happens to me if I decide against becoming Kindred?"
Daedalus looked up from the list of questions in her hand to study her face. He spoke carefully. "We would not force it upon you," he said. She heard the emphasis on 'you' and wondered. "It's your choice."
"I appreciate that." And she did. "But what exactly is my choice? From what I understand, humans aren't allowed to know about the Masquerade."
"No, they are not."
She thought for a moment. "I can't believe some don't know. How do you feed without drawing attention? Julian said you don't kill the people you - you feed from."
"We do not. We have the ability to make people forget. We could make you forget."
"No!" she shouted before thinking, jumping out of her seat and pacing agitatedly about the room, small fists clenched. Suddenly she stopped, and looked Daedalus straight in the eye. It was something few Kindred could do, let alone humans, and he was transfixed by the raw emotion he saw in her gaze. "Promise me something, Daedalus. Promise me you will never mindwarp me."
If he was surprised by her reaction or choice of words, he did not show it. "Then you would not leave this house alive."
She paled. It was pretty much what she suspected, but hearing it was still a shock. Slowly she sank into the nearest chair, her legs unable to support her at that moment.
"All right," she said hoarsely, not recognizing her own voice. "I choose Kindred."
She didn't notice when he left. Or the look on his face as he did.
"Here you are! I've been looking all over for you. I'm starved, aren't you? I'm thinking Chinese. Or maybe Italian. There's a good pizza place that delivers near here. You want some? You've got to be hungry, you haven't eaten a thing since I got here -"
"I had a salad." Liz interrupted, only half-listening to Willow's chatter. Then both girls looked down as her stomach rumbled, and she had to laugh. It sounded foreign to her ears, but good. Normal. Human. "Okay," she admitted. "I'd love some pizza. Even a condemned man gets his last meal, right?"
Willow looked at her seriously then. "You decided to be Embraced," she said. It wasn't a question.
Liz nodded, blinking back tears. It sounded so final.
"Listen," Willow said into Liz's hair, having pulled her into a comforting hug. "It might not be so bad. It's just a change of lifestyle, that's all. It's not like you're used to a normal life or anything. It's just - par for the course."
Liz had to laugh. The older girl sounded so pragmatic about the whole enterprise.
"Willow," she said impulsively, "what's your role in this?"
"Yeah, you." Her tone was fond but firm. Liz liked Willow, it was true, and didn't know how well she would be handling this alone. But there was a story there.
"You know I'm a witch." Liz nodded, clearly doubtful. She'd seen alien powers at work. What could a witch do?
Catching her speculative look, Willow sighed and closed her eyes, concentrating. When she opened them the room grew dim, and Liz's eyes grew wide to see a cluster of tiny lights appear above them and begin dancing about. One zoomed in very close to her, and she felt as though she were being studied back as it bounced tentatively against her nose, making her giggle. It seemed to get excited and flew back amongst the other lights.
At some hidden signal they raced back over Willow's palm, where they faded until invisible and the room lights brightened.
"Oh, wow!" Liz said, enchanted by the show. Willow shrugged, pleased. "Please go on," Liz urged. Her tone was a good deal more respectful now.
"Well, my best friend is a vampire slayer. I help her."
Liz jumped away. "What?"
"Don't worry," Willow said. "Not your kind, not organized Kindred. There's a difference."
"What do you mean?"
"Time for a history lesson," Willow decided. "Stop me if you've heard this."
Liz just waited. Julian had shown her how she would change as Kindred, but she hadn't been terribly receptive to his explanation why at the time.
"Kindred go way back. Like, Biblical times. And sometimes they've clashed with humans. So some time during the Dark Ages a bunch of Kindred got together and created this Camarilla thing, a sort of charter, for living among humans without being detected. That's the Masquerade. It's a feudal set-up, with clans and chieftain types. You've already met the bigwigs here in San Francisco, but there are similar set-ups in just about every major city in the world and -"
"What do you mean, I've 'met the bigwigs'?" Liz asked, her mind working. "Julian, right?"
Willow nodded. "Julian's the Prince of the City. His word is law."
Liz nearly choked; no wonder everyone was shocked by the forthright way she behaved in front of him. She grew a little dizzy as Willow continued.
"Cash, his right hand guy and a lot of fun - he and an ex-boyfriend of mine got along really well - is the Primogen of the local Gangrel clan. They're a little wild, coming from Gypsy blood and all. Lillie is the Toreador Primogen. They're all artsy. Cameron is the Brujah head guy, and you should stay away from them. Thugs, most of 'em. And Daedalus is -"
"Nosferatu," Liz finished, eyes wide, as a memory clicked into place.
Willow nodded candidly. "Alchemist undergroundish types. You with me so far?"
"Yeah. Kind of in shock, but I think I am."
Willow patted her arm sympathetically. "Don't worry. It'll be second nature in no time." She paused and smiled wryly. "Literally."
Liz wasn't ready to think about that yet. "So there are five clans?" she asked instead.
"More. Those are the local ones. But there are a lot of others, and they tend to be bad news. With any luck you'll never meet any."
Liz thought about that and shivered. "So tell me about your friend."
"Buffy. She kills vamps that are out of control. Some are rebel vamps that don't follow the rules of Kindred society, some are Malkavians and just plain insane, like I mean psychotic, but most are just Caitiff who don't even know about the Masquerade and threaten it because they breed and attack willy-nilly."
"Wait - 'Caitiff'?" Liz remembered hearing that word too.
"When a Kindred is separated from or abandoned by his clan for some reason. It happens. And in some places, like my hometown Sunnydale, there's an extra whammy called a Hellmouth, a sort of mystical convergence that screws with supernaturals and makes things even weirder. So the vamps get a little extra out of control, and you need a Slayer to cull the herd. Oh, Buffy also kills other demons and stuff, and three years ago she destroyed a god from another dimension, but her main purpose is vamp population control."
Willow stopped to take a breath, and tried not to smile at Liz's dazed expression.
"Never mind. It'll all be second nature in no time," she promised again. "You'll see."
"But," Liz said finally, "that still doesn't explain why you're here."
"A couple reasons. For one thing, I'm kind of like an ambassador between the Slayer and local princes that she's on good terms with. Buffy can't just leave the Hellmouth whenever she feels like it, you know. Plus it really screws with her spidey senses to come to places like this and be around so many Kindred. It makes her nervous, it makes them nervous, and nothing gets done. But right now I'm here because Daedalus has some books I need for a spell I'm working on and he wanted me to use them here."
She paused to take a sip of pop.
"Daedalus knows more about magic and alchemy than anyone I know, and what he doesn't know he can tell me how to find out. I think he also thought that maybe you could use a friend."
Liz took a moment to absorb the last bit, absurdly pleased. "He said that?"
"More or less."
Suddenly Liz felt horribly guilty. "I feel like such a jerk. He's done nothing but look out for me since I got here and I was so rude and ungrateful and -"
Willow shook her head. "No, you were scared. And you had every reason to be. You still do." She was deadly serious now. "Liz, life as a Kindred is not all fun and puppies. There are a lot of rules to be followed and if you screw up you die. It's that simple. And a lot of people will be paying attention to you because you're different and that scares them. You're probably going to have to prove yourself more than most other Kindred, and having Julian and Daedalus and Cash behind you is a mixed blessing. They're powerful and respected, but they have enemies too. Your enemies, now."
Liz held her head. It was all so much to take in. She needed to catch her balance. She needed something normal.
"Is the pizza here yet?" she asked.
"So," Liz said, burping lightly; "I wonder where everyone is."
The house had seemed deserted when they left her suite for the food.
Willow laughed as she sprawled at the foot of the bed, similarly gorged and nursing a coke. An empty pizza box and several pop cans littered the space between them. But now she propped herself up and looked a little concerned.
"You know, that's a good point. Usually when someone gets Embraced it's done quickly. They generally don't stretch things out like this."
"Maybe they changed their minds," Liz said hopefully.
Willow looked at her. "I thought you were okay with this."
Liz sighed. "Well, it's better than being dead or mindwarped," she said glumly.
"I've never heard it called that," Willow said, changing the subject. "Usually it's all 'being enthralled' and stuff. Where did you get that from? And why do you hate the idea so much? Some people prefer it, I think."
Liz stared at the ceiling until the older girl prodded her. "Liz?"
"Willow, if this doesn't if something goes wrong, can you do something for me?"
"There are people who should be told, family and a few friends. Not about Kindred," she said quickly, "just that I died or something. I'll ..." she hesitated, but only for a moment. "I'll tell you why I'm different."
Willow jumped at that. She hadn't pushed, but there was no denying she was curious. Giles had asked her to keep him abreast of this latest development in the vampire underworld, in case the situation ever got out of hand. And as much as she hated the thought, the Slayer needed to be prepared if someone as powerful as Liz was going to be ever got out of hand.
Not to mention, Liz's family did deserve to know if she died.
"Deal," she promised, and they shook on it.
"I was working in my parent's restaurant one day, and these men got into a fight. One pulled a gun "
"Then Daedalus came up to me in the park, and for some reason I wasn't scared. Maybe I was enthralled or whatever it was you said." She cringed at the thought. "The next day he came back, we talked some more, and he brought me back here. You know the rest."
The two girls sat in silence.
"So are you part alien then?" Willow asked finally. She didn't have much trouble with the concept, but it was something new to wrap her head around.
"I don't think so. I'm pretty sure I'm still human, but then hybrids look completely human too until you get their blood under a microscope."
"Have you ever looked at yours?"
"No," Liz admitted sheepishly. "I could never bring myself to do it."
Willow nodded. She understood. "Liz," she said thoughtfully, "you've considered that being Embraced might be different for you than normal people, right?"
Liz nodded. "But I guess it's a chance I'll have to take," she said.
Willow smiled suddenly. "Do you think you'll stay here afterwards?"
"Here? I don't know. Why?"
"Well, I'll need an address if I'm going to add you to my Hanukah list."
Liz laughed and reached out a hand for Willow to grasp. "Thanks," she said, as her chuckles abruptly turned to sobs and then Willow was rocking her as she cried, both mourning the life she was never going to live.
The fourth night passed uneventfully for her, and she slept soundly, secure in her friend's arms. Elsewhere, a battle raged.
She could feel their eyes on her when she walked in, but tried to ignore them.
Willow said she was safe here, and that it was never too early to start earning the respect of the people who mattered, so Liz made an effort not to look cowed as she approached Mr. Luna.
Inwardly she cringed at how ridiculously small she had to appear among them. Were all Kindred so damned tall? Even Lillie towered over her.
"I'm ready when you are." Her voice was deceptively calm. But she knew from the way Julian's mouth tightened slightly that he knew the truth, and realized that every person in the room knew exactly how fast her heart was beating.
"Everybody out," he said, his eyes never leaving hers.
The man she remembered from before, the one who had been reluctant to leave the first time she'd been in this room, spoke up. "Julian, reconsider. After what happened -"
"Leave, Cameron," the prince replied, his voice hard and cold as marble. With one more look at Liz the other man followed the others out of the room.
Then they were alone. Julian just continued to watch her.
"Julian?" she asked, uncertainly.
"Yes?" his voice was low. He never looked away.
"Is this is going to hurt?"
"Yes." Still he didn't move.
"What - what are you doing?"
"I'm making a decision."
She felt dizzy. Had he changed his mind? Was he just going to kill her then?
Suddenly, so fast he seemed to disappear from one place and reappear in another, he was standing over her. Her breath caught as his eyes glinted silver. She couldn't look away as one hand cupped her face and the other held her arm. He had a light touch, but it left no doubt who was in control.
"Last night I lost two good Kindred protecting you."
She gasped. What?
He nodded. "Word has spread. Other princes either want you dead, or want you under their control." He paused. "I'm trying to decide whether you are going to be worth the trouble of keeping you alive."
She felt his eyes studying her, testing her. Somehow she stood taller, determined not to collapse or start begging now.
His eyes flickered, darkening as they raked over her small form.
"So young," he whispered. She heard the regret in his voice, but also the hunger.
Julian, she tried to say, but she couldn't speak.
"It's wrong. We have laws against Embracing children for a reason," he said, seemingly talking to himself, debating with himself.
"But you're not a child, are you? You haven't been one for a long time. Still, you will never age. You will always look this young, this innocent. This is wrong," he said again, although he never broke eye contact and his hands held her captive.
Had she ever thought Julian civilized? Gentle? The man before her was neither. He was wildness restrained, nothing more.
As if from very far away, Liz heard herself choke out three final words.
"Changed your mind?"
For a second, an eternity, the universe stood still.
"No," he growled, and sank sharp fangs into her throat.
It did hurt. She had an idea that Julian was making a point, making it harder than it had to be, before she lost all ability to think at all.
It burned. It was agony. This hurt more than getting shot. Not her throat; that felt strange, but it didn't hurt. This was a pain that started somewhere deep in her belly and spread outward as she felt the blood leave her body, felt his throat undulate against her as he gulped greedily, excited by the taste.
The last thing she saw before she died was the expression on his face as he pulled back to look at her, her blood smeared across his shocked face.
She ached. She didn't hurt anymore, but she ached. Deep inside of her, something burned still.
"You're alive." It wasn't a question, but it sounded like one.
Somehow she opened her eyes, but she was weak, so weak. She felt light-headed, but her body felt strangely heavy ... and cold. So cold.
Something was shoved into her face. If she had the strength she would have pulled away. But she didn't.
She felt something drip onto her lips, and it tasted like nothing she had ever known.
More flowed into her mouth, and suddenly she felt the first spurts of unnatural life awakening inside her.
Opening her mouth, she became impatient. It wasn't coming fast enough. She needed more.
She clamped down and sucked, intoxicated by the flavour, the scent, the slick sensation, the the memories?
Her eyes snapped open, immediately captured by Julian's. She watched his stoic face clench as she fed from his strength and emotions. He had loved deeply, and it spoke to her own wounded soul, filled it. he felt the connection forming between them, and in a dim corner of her mind she compared it to the connection she held with a love left behind.
That had been pure, bright, fragile. This was visceral. Dark. Forever.
She was changed, again.
She grunted in protest when he pulled away, but was no match for his strength. Then slowly, Liz licked her lips, holding his stunned gaze with the intensity of her actions.
He pulled away, but jerkily, his composure shot. "What have I done?" he breathed.
Kindred were supposed to be weak when they were turned; helpless.
Julian could tell she felt a little overwhelmed, but that was all. She was recovering faster than he was.
What was she?
When he fed from her he had felt the depth of emotion that simmered under her placid exterior. And he had learned why her first thoughts were always of aliens and fear of exposure. He had decided that she should die, that she was too big a risk for the Masquerade. But when he had drained her far beyond what should have killed her, she somehow survived. He found himself bringing her over instead.
"Julian," she said then, and the sound of her voice sent ripples of - something - down his back. Lust, which didn't surprise him, as Embracing was an extremely sensual event. But he could feel the power radiating off of her, pulsing in the link they now shared, and that compelled him more.
He tested the link. The bond was deep, and already so much a part of him that he no longer remembered what it was like to live without it, without this electricity flowing through his veins.
"What are you?" he whispered, quietly, but she heard him.
"I was human. Changed by an alien," she answered. There would be no secrets between them any more. "But now I am Kindred. And I am your Childe."
He stood over her, amazed that even bloody, she looked as fresh and innocent as she had before. It was a disturbing image, and he raised a hand to wipe his blood off of her pale skin.
But she caught his large, bloodied hand in her small ones and licked it clean.
Looking up at him, her eyes shone with a new hunger, mesmerizing him.
"Julian," she whispered urgently. "I want ..." She did not have to finish.
"Yes," he promised.
When she awoke, writhing from some deep-seated ache and a little awed by the way her flesh healed so quickly, Cash was waiting for her. They talked, and he showed her just how strong she had become. In the days immediately following her Embrace, he and Daedalus would see to it that she knew as much as possible about the world she had entered, and how to manage her seemingly insatiable hunger.
But her fifth and sixth nights - those precious hours as the sun peered out over the horizon when all good Kindred make their way to bed - belonged to her prince and sire. She learned what it was to have and to satisfy Kindred desires, Kindred drives, Kindred needs. And more.
In the scarce hours of deathlike sleep she received she did not dream. She would never dream again, she knew now.
She didn't feel the loss.
Willow watched Liz hang up some new clothes in the large closet. She had moved into the room permanently.
She couldn't get over the changes in the girl. On the surface she was still the same girl who had shown up here. She welcomed Willow's company, and she seemed as friendly and curious as ever.
But she had lost that edginess that spoke of past hurts, the pain that had compelled Willow to watch over her at night when she seemed painfully vulnerable. She even carried herself with a greater sense of her own presence.
She had matured in other ways as well. Willow watched the way she walked, the casual way she spoke of Julian, the scratches healing unnaturally fast under her shirt, and knew they had been together. Though she would never say anything, it bothered her that Kindred were so cavalier about sex, and it saddened her that Liz's first time - as she had no doubt it was - was as Kindred, not human.
"So, what was it like, being Embraced?" Willow asked finally. Liz turned and smiled, and for a moment she was a young girl describing her first date.
But only for a moment.
"It hurt. I didn't know anything could hurt that much. But - Willow, the power. I have all this power flowing through me, and I feel like I could take on the world and win!"
It was disconcerting when she swirled about, arms in the air, a gleeful smile on her face. Willow was glad when she threw herself down in a chair.
"Do you still - do you still feel like 'you'?" It was a tentative question, but Liz considered it carefully, without offense.
"Yeah. Just - more. Like, I still miss my friends and my family, but I don't feel so helpless any more. And I'm always hungry." She was not talking about food.
"Am I safe from you?" Willow tried to make a joke of it, but it fell flat.
Liz looked at her. "Always," she promised, and paused. "I still remember, Will. I know what it is to be human. And I wouldn't take that away from you. This," she said pointedly, gesturing expansively, "is not for you. Not now, anyway."
It was the look of sorrow on her face rather than the sincerity of her tone that convinced Willow. Liz was still Liz.
Willow nodded, immeasurably relieved. She had said she would stand by her new friend, and she would; this just made her feel better about doing it. "Are you allowed to leave yet?" Julian had made it clear that his Childe was not to be risked or left unattended.
Liz nodded. "I have the hunger under control." Her tone bespoke immense pride that she had achieved so much so fast. "I want to go out and celebrate."
"Where?" Willow asked, and Liz scrunched her face in thought.
"I know!" she cried out, inspired. "Let's go to the Haven. I've heard so much about it; I want to see it. I'm sure we could get someone to drive us." Actually, she'd learned a great deal about the club and its owner through Julian, who didn't quite seem to comprehend the breadth of her flashes yet, or just how much information she received through their connection.
She really wanted to meet the infamous Lillie one on one. Now there was a woman who could teach her a few things.
Willow thought about it. She felt nervous about it, but was fairly confident that no one would bother them there. Either of them. And she hadn't yet shaken her instinct that told her Liz needed her protection.
"Okay," she said. "Let's do it."
They didn't recognize the band on stage, although both knew immediately that the lead vocalist was Kindred. Willow by experience, Liz by instinct.
"Toreador," Liz said, amazed that she could tell.
Willow nodded. "Probably." Catching the bartender's eye, she pointed to herself and Liz. Nodding in recognition and understanding, he served up a white wine for her and something that looked like red wine, only thicker, for Liz. Willow watched her for any signs of vamping out, but Liz merely looked eager - rather like any young girl getting her first sip of alcohol.
"Let's find a seat," she suggested, and they looked around.
Then Liz stiffened, and they both turned to find Lillie watching them with a cool smile.
"Willow, it's good to see you again," the Toreador primogen greeted the witch smoothly.
"Hello, Lillie." Willow answered, relieved. She and Lillie got along after a fashion, and she knew nothing would happen to them under Lillie's watchful eye. Well, she amended silently, other than Lillie. She was notorious for deliberately befriending the humans close to important Kindred - like Caitlyn, Frank, and yes, Willow.
But she always tested them first.
"Liz," she nodded, accepting Liz's gesture of respect in return. Willow was glad Liz knew to be respectful of elders. She really did not need to alienate a primogen.
"Would you care to join me?" Lillie invited, and they followed her through the crowd to the small alcove reserved for her. In it, she could observe everything that happened in her club from a position of considerable privacy.
"So what are you going to do with yourself, Liz?" she asked, when they were settled in.
"I don't know," the young girl replied honestly, then smiled. "Perhaps I could apply for a job here. I've had years of experience as a waitress."
Lillie cocked an eyebrow in amusement while Willow rolled her eyes. As if Julian's protégé would be allowed to wait tables.
"We're not hiring right now," Lillie said delicately. "Do you have any other skills?"
"Well, I interned for a politician for a while," Liz said thoughtfully.
That made Lillie laugh. "You really are a Ventrue," she proclaimed, and Liz smiled proudly.
"Yes. I am."
"Hello, Lillie. Liz," Cameron greeted them. He did not acknowledge Willow. She was more relieved than insulted.
"Cameron." Lillie was not pleased to see him, and didn't hide it.
"Sir," Liz nodded shyly, and he looked at her intently.
"Call me Cameron. There's no point in standing on ceremony here."
Willow felt the first stirrings of panic at the way he spoke. He almost sounded warm. Almost. And Liz was responding, blushing lightly (which was quite a trick for a Kindred) and ducking her head with a tiny smile.
"Cameron," she said, plainly but respectfully, as he tipped his head once more and then left to sit with a table of Brujah companions.
Lillie and Willow studied Liz as she blandly watched him leave before turning back to her hosts.
"Think he bought it?" she asked mischievously, and Willow practically fainted with relief.
"Careful, little one," Lillie cautioned, although she was smiling. "Don't underestimate him. He could teach you some important lessons."
"I think it is you who could teach me a lot," Liz countered, quite seriously.
Willow watched as the two Kindred studied each other.
"I suppose I could, at that," Lillie agreed. "Willow, why don't you let me call you a ride? Liz and I have a great deal to talk about."
"Stop pacing, Willow. I'm fine."
Willow froze, then ran and hugged her friend. "Are you all right?"
"Of course. Lillie and I just talked for a while." With a start, Willow realized that Liz was lying. Well, not lying exactly, more like avoiding the truth.
Remembering Liz's performance with Cameron earlier, she had to wonder - who was the seduced and who was the seducer? Not that she objected in principle, of course. She'd spent hours on the phone with Tara that night, and missed her lover profoundly. But even given Kindred attitudes towards sex, she couldn't help worry that Liz might be getting in over her head, sleeping with both a primogen and a prince.
"She taught me a few things, that's all," Liz summed up her night, reminding Willow why she had been so worried.
"No, Liz, I don't mean that. I mean that there was another attack tonight."
Liz's eyes widened, and she gestured for Willow to continue.
"Cameron lost one of his men, and tensions are really high. I overheard them shouting, and he challenged Julian's ability to handle your being here."
"What happened?" Liz asked breathlessly.
"I don't know. Things got really quiet. I think they're still talking now."
Liz was frustrated and not a little scared. It seemed like for every step she took forward, she slid two back. Something needed to be done. And she really, really wanted to know what Julian was deciding.Closing her eyes, she pictured him in her head, feeling their bond flow through her, connecting them.
Instinctively, she concentrated.
And when she opened them, she was standing in Julian's reception room, standing in the corner, watching him deal with the other primogens - including Lillie, who must have made record time getting here.
"I should take her with me. As a Brujah, she would be protected." Cameron spoke boldly.
"You would blood-bond her? Bastard," Cash snarled from the other side of the room. Cameron ignored him.
"Not an option," Julian said, his tone curt.
"Reconsider Santiago's offer," Lillie said then. "She'd be out of the spotlight in Albuquerque, but not out of reach." The others looked at her then at Julian, who appeared deep in thought.
Albuquerque! Liz couldn't believe her ears. So close to Roswell almost without thinking about it, she concentrated on her sire and prince, willing him to agree.
"All right," Julian said finally, looking up. His eyes widened to see Liz in the corner, but he continued as though she were not there, as every instinct told him she was not. "I'll make the arrangements. She goes to Albuquerque."
He hesitated as her image faded from view, and stood. "That will be all."
The other primogens left, muttering among themselves. Except for Daedalus. He said nothing.
Julian stepped into the room and studied the image before him: Willow was sitting on the bed reading a rather thick and arcane-looking book, and Liz was curled up in a chair by the window, idly fingering the edge of heavy drapes and seemingly lost in thought.
Willow looked up and closed her book. She started to rise, then hesitated. "Liz?"
"It's all right, Willow," Liz responded, still seemingly absorbed in the pattern of the fabric. "Go on. And say 'hi' to Tara for me. I definitely want her to come, okay?"
Willow smiled slightly and started towards the door, pausing only long enough to nod respectfully at Julian before leaving.
He nodded solemnly in turn and waited for her to leave.
Once the door had closed behind her, he walked over to her, savouring the way the air seemed to shimmer in her presence, the crackling of their bond almost palpable. He rested on the side of the bed closest to her, feeling mildly ridiculous but there was nowhere else to sit.
"Albuquerque," she said suddenly. "Why Albuquerque?"
"Santiago is a loyal friend but not a supporter. He will protect you as a personal favour to me, and no one can accuse him of having a political or hidden agenda. He has nothing to gain from doing this."
"Oh. When do I leave?"
He paused, willing his body not to betray him and the way his soul seemed to wither just thinking about it. When he spoke, his voice was calm and measured. "Tomorrow."
"Am I ..." she hesitated. "Am I allowed to go home?"
He stared at her, aghast at his own idiocy. How could he have forgotten her alien side or the life she had left behind? "Do you want to go home?" he asked. Despite himself, he listened for some hint that she considered home here, with him. Her sire.
Now she looked up and he was struck anew by her youth. That bewitching mixture of wisdom and naïveté. Could it be that she didn't know the effect she had on him? In some ways, she knew him better than he knew himself, because of their bond. But in others he felt heavy with age as with every word she hammered a stake into his heart.
"Could I?" she countered wistfully, unable to hide her enthusiasm. "I haven't seen my parents or Maria or Kyle or Michael or Isabel or - or the CrashDown - in so long. And for the first time in a long time, I want to go back, even if just to visit."
He didn't miss the way she avoided saying one name. And in that moment, he hated the alien who had saved her life so many years before, who started the chain of events that brought her to him, only to take her away from him now.
She's mine, Max Evans, he thought fiercely. Mine. He wanted to shout it aloud.
But he was a prince. He smiled and nodded as she jumped out of her seat and ran over to the closet to begin packing. He just watched as she stacked her clothes neatly on the bed, muttering about needing a suitcase and wondering what she needed to take with her, what the weather was going to be like.
Her happiness was a vise around his chest, squeezing tighter and tighter until he might have suffocated had he needed to breathe.
"I'll leave you to your packing, then," he said smoothly, and left to seek out the only person who could possibly understand.
When he left, Liz stopped smiling and turned to the door that closed behind him. "I'm sorry, Julian," she said softly.
"She's leaving tomorrow."
"She doesn't see this as exile. In her eyes, she's going home," Julian mourned. "I need her, Daedalus. What if I can't feel her when she's so far away?"
Daedalus cast knowing eyes upon his friend and liege. "You are her sire. She will never be that far away." From you, he finished silently, and began to back into the shadows behind him.
"True," Julian nodded, relieved, but looked up when he received no response.
He was alone.
"Excuse me, Will," Liz interrupted. "I'm sorry, I just thought of something I have to do. I'll be back soon, okay?"
Willow smiled and continued packing colourful sweaters into one of the new suitcases Julian had provided for Liz. "No problem."
Liz paused with her hand on the door. "I'm really glad you and Tara are coming with me, you know that, right?"
Willow nodded and smiled. "We need a change of scene anyways. We haven't taken a vacation in well, ever and this'll give Dawn some time to practise her fighting spells without us hanging over her."
"I'd like to meet Dawn," Liz said wistfully. Buffy's younger sister was only a year or so younger than she was, and she sounded like a lot of fun. "Actually, I'd like to meet all your friends."
Willow cocked her head to one side. "Well, maybe they can visit us, or some day soon we could visit Sunnydale, when you don't have to worry about rogue Kindred coming after you anymore."
Liz grinned, looking very young. "Oh yeah. I forget about that sometimes. All the danger and threats and stuff. They don't always seem real, you know?" Not compared to what she lived through in high school, anyway.
The other girl snorted. "Yeah, right."
Rolling her eyes, Liz opened the door and pulled it behind her. "Be back soon," she called back.
Willow stopped folding sweaters and stared at the door. "Oh, the danger's real all right," she whispered. "I promise I won't ever let you forget that."
She found him in his library, poring over some faded text in a language that teased her eyes with foreign shapes and designs.
"I'm leaving for Albuquerque in the morning," she said.
After a moment of silence he closed the book and placed it on the table in front of him. "I know."
"Weren't you going to say good-bye?"
He just looked at her without expression.
"Well?" she pressed.
When he didn't answer, she turned to leave. But before her hand fell on the door, he spoke.
"Do you realize what you have done?"
Too relieved that he was talking to her to wonder at his tone, she sat down. "What do you mean? I haven't done anything."
"Haven't you?" His voiced echoed hollowly about the chamber until she winced. "Julian, Lillie, Cash, even Cameron. You've managed to draw the support of every primogen in the city."
"Not every primogen," she said. She wouldn't play coy with him; they both knew he spoke the truth, that her conquests, while sincere, were somewhat deliberate. "You don't seem to think very much of me at all."
She gasped when he turned, his eyes burning into hers.
"So very young," he whispered to himself. His tone was cold.
She returned his deep stare with some confusion. "Daedalus, I " she was speechless. In all the time they had spent together, he had never acted like this. He kept a gentlemanly distance but he had always seemed to welcome her company. She knew he liked having an audience, and she liked to listen to him, and she'd thought they were both happy with that. Had she missed something? He was acting so oddly now.
She took a step toward him only to find him backing away from her, into the shadows that seemed to follow him everywhere he went.
He paused. "What do you see when you look at me?" he asked suddenly.
"What? Daedalus, I " the change of subject confused her, but she tried to answer him honestly. "I I see you. Daedalus."
"Who am I? What am I to you?" he persisted.
"My friend? Teacher? Elder? Daedalus," she whimpered in frustration. "You know who and what you are. Why are you acting like this? I just came here to say good-bye, because I'm leaving and I'm going to miss you. I was kind of hoping we could keep in touch because I can't seem to talk to anyone else like I talk to you, and I thought you liked talking with me too." She spat out the last part, clearly hurt.
Across the chamber, Daedalus closed his eyes and then opened them. When he looked at her again, the uncharacteristic urgency in his tone was gone. Calmly he picked up a piece of parchment and a pen from his desk, and wrote a brief note.
"I am not always here. Leave messages with this man. You will find him at Santiago's side. He can find me anywhere."
Immensely relieved and curious, Liz walked over to retrieve the paper. "Oh my god," she breathed, and looked up at Daedalus with wide eyes.
"What is it?"
"I know him," she said, pulling herself together. "At least, I used to know him. Sort of. Anyway," she smiled brightly, "thanks."
He just nodded his head, but she thought she sensed a lightening of the atmosphere.
As she made her way upstairs, Liz felt a tugging sensation, and knew it was Julian. He needed her. With a final glance at the paper in her hand, she tucked it into a pocket and changed direction. She could give him this.
So that's where Eddie disappeared to, she thought, and then strong arms pulled her into a darkened room.
"She's young. She doesn't know any better," Willow said softly, stepping into the room from a shadowed doorway.
Daedalus didn't look up.
"I'll take care of her for you," she promised.
He listened to her leave. And was grateful.
On the seventh night she watched him sleep.
Their lovemaking had been fierce, as they both liked. Sometimes she wondered what happened to her girlish dreams of candlelight and gentle promises of love, but she didn't really miss them. The reality of their union, the raw, unbridled power of flesh merged and blood mingled, set her soul on fire.
If I still have one, she mused wryly, but she couldn't laugh about it. Not tonight.
Usually she was the first to fall asleep. Julian was old-fashioned, and considered it a point of honor to outlast the women he slept with. But this night he seemed frantic. It did not show in his actions, but rather in the expression in his eyes, and the way his animal side revealed itself more and more as the night continued until exhausted.
She could feel the itch of claw marks on her body as they closed, and she watched his fade with a dry, almost scientific curiosity.
Suddenly his eyes were open and they were watching each other.
Slowly, hesitantly, she reached out one hand and held it over the pillows they shared. Just as solemnly, he took her hand in his and they lay there, face to face and hand in hand, until the sun stood high in the sky and it was time for her to leave.
The journey to New Mexico was quiet, interrupted only by the delighted gasps of the girls as they discovered some new feature of the limo Julian had sent them in. Other than that, Liz was content to watch the scenery go by through tinted windows as Willow and Tara murmured softly to each other, making up for time spent apart.
"What is it?" Willow asked at one point, as the normally composed Liz fidgeted.
"Are you okay?" Tara asked, and Liz smiled at both of them. She had only just met the blonde witch but she liked her already. She seemed soothing, a nice counterpart to Willow's nervous energy.
"I'm fine. It's just I feel weird. Like, I'm going home, and I have all these memories and everything, but at the same time, I feel like a different person. Literally. And I have no idea what's going to happen next. You know?"
Her companions nodded. They knew.
Slowly, the sun dropped behind the horizon.
Liz turned to Willow and Tara and they smiled in understanding. Willow tapped the divider and the driver started the engine.
Liz had needed to pull over for a moment, to pull herself together. It had been a long trip, but she'd done what she set out to do. She'd found herself, found her own destiny.
And now now she was ready to see where it would take her.
The sign welcoming travelers to New Mexico swayed in the wind long after they passed.
The End, Part One
Continue to Part Two