The Returnverse stories began with a story that included characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And the last words of the epilogue of that first story 'Return of The Key' were Tindómë found herself wondering if, with enough concentration, she might be able to ‘find’ Spike…
Almost since the first words of 'Return' formed in my head, the whole story line mapped itself out - and I have always planned to return to that last line - it was just sitting and waiting for me to do so.
Finally, with the Elves having been in Valinor for a little while, the story time-line has arrived at that point; and Dawn, aka Tindómë, begins the Search For Spike.
Also, I fully expected Haldir to be re-embodied in Valinor and have a role to play....
Outside it was dark. A proper black darkness – ‘as black as a coal hole’ type darkness, as his mother would have said… if she hadn’t been dead for two hundred years.
Less light pollution. Well, less than the twentieth century, although probably not less than the nineteenth. Strange how every generation over the past couple of centuries, and more, had ideas of what the future would be like – but when you got there it really wasn’t that much different to twenty, thirty, or even fifty years before.
But the twenty-eighties did waste less energy than the nineteen eighties had. If he had been an old fashioned, traditional, bite and suck, vampire the darkness of the small town at 3.a.m. would have been most beneficial. As it was it simply allowed for quiet contemplation in the small public park.
Two hundred years ago, when Spike had been a young man about to meet Drusilla and never be the same again, public parks had been a fairly new idea. A hundred years ago, about when Buffy had been born, it had seemed unlikely that any such thing would exist in the future, and yet here he was, on a seat in a public park, breathing in flower-scented air. Cleaner than the air was one or two centuries back – nobody would have believed that, either.
He was getting used to being alone, he thought. Not in the ‘last man/vampire/whatever left on the planet’ way, which so many authors had thought probable by now, but in the ‘I haven’t spoken to anyone who knows my name for three days’ sort of way.
Another couple of weeks and it would have been Buffy’s one hundredth birthday if she’d still been alive. Still, she had made it to ninety-eight – and being immobile, and in pain if she didn’t take all the meds, wasn’t a way for The Slayer to live. She’d been happy enough to go, in the end.
Another weird thing. A hundred years ago they’d thought that either everyone would live to be at least a hundred and fifty, or everyone would be dead by the year twenty-ten because of some nuclear war or great apocalypse. Then in the early twenty-first century they’d thought everyone might die young from lack of exercise – and yet, really, nothing much had changed.
People still drove around in cars, autos, whatever you wanted to call them, not in little space craft à la The Jetsons. (‘Huh!’ Spike thought. ‘Bet there’s no-one else left who remembers The Jetsons.’) O.K. – they were powered a little differently, and computer technology made it safe to not have all the highways floodlit at night – so less light pollution – but still recognisable family autos. People still shopped in malls, and lived in houses that his Mother would have recognised, despite twentieth century predictions about people living in glass bubbles or half-mile high tower blocks.
‘The more things change, the more they stay the same…’ he thought.
Except for the being alone thing.
Up until now he’d always had family. Mother, then Drusilla, Darla, and Angelus (strange family, but family none the less), and then the Scoobies – even if they had not wanted him as family!
Buffy had been all the family he had wanted, or needed, for over seventy years. Sure, the others had been there on the fringes; Willow and her daughter; Giles and Althanea; even occasionally, until their deaths, Xander and Faith. But Buffy was the only one who truly counted; Buffy, Joyce, and Dawn.
He’d never met Hank Summers – never wanted to – and Joyce had died before Buffy had realised that she loved him. Dawn, though, Dawn had stayed in touch with her sister through all the years, across dimensions.
Poor Buffy – she had been so distressed when she had to acknowledge that Dawn, in closing the Hellmouth, had been drawn into a dimension where she felt at home, where she had a husband and a son, where she wanted to stay. She had never, really, been Buffy’s sister; and yet she had used a magical device to contact Buffy, every few years, whenever the dimensions were close enough together to allow a small window to be opened between them.
Spike knew how much this had meant to Buffy. In fact he had felt, through her last year of life, as if she was only waiting to hear from Dawn again before she relinquished her hold on life for the last time. So it had proved; after that last ‘visit’, as she lay in the nursing home bed, Buffy had told him how much she loved him, but that it was time to ‘go to her Mom’, and had died within days.
He missed her. Every day he missed her. Some days he thought it would be easiest to just come out here in the dark and fall asleep, so that the first bright rays of the sun found him, and his dust would become part of the fabric of the earth. But he couldn’t do it.
Sometimes he wondered why he couldn’t do it.
He had come to the conclusion that it was mainly because he didn’t think it would bring him any closer to Buffy. He couldn’t believe that he had atoned for all the things he had done as a vampire; that he could end up in the same afterlife, the same Heaven, as The Slayer.
It didn’t matter that Willow said that, if he believed strongly enough, the Goddess would ensure that he spent eternity with Buffy. It didn’t matter what anyone else told him either. He was, at heart, the product of Victorian Christianity, and he knew, somewhere inside, that he had committed too many sins. He knew, too, that waiting to be dusted was simply suicide – another deadly sin to add to the tally. No – there would be no reunion in the afterlife, and so no point in lying here waiting for the daybreak. All he could do was keep fighting the good fight and hoping.
‘Bloody Hell, Spike,’ he thought, ‘you’re sounding much too much like fuckin’ Angel. Time to go and kick something!’
There wasn’t a lot around to kick, these days.
Things had changed; in the timelessness of the Undying Lands time had made itself known, and death as well.
The two old hobbits were gone.
One autumn Sam had professed himself too tired to make jams and preserves, and had sat watching Tharhîwon, Haldirin and Ithilienne carry out these tasks. Both Frodo and Sam had been too tired to do more than nod in appreciation when Gandalf had created fireworks for midwinter – something he had not done since the first midwinter after the Ithilrim had arrived in Valinor. And then both had sat in the warming sun of springtime, smiling at the unfurling flowers and leaves, before first Sam and then Frodo had slipped away in their sleep with only a few days between them.
It had been right, Tindómë had thought, that Sam had gone first. He would have been so very upset had he outlived Frodo – whereas Frodo had held his dead friend’s hand and smiled a little.
“This time, my old friend,” he had murmured, “you have gone ahead. But do not stray too far as I will not be much behind.”
And now he had fulfilled that promise and his fëa, too, had flown free.
Legolas was distressed by the deaths, but had first concentrated on comforting Frodo and now comforting Gimli.
The first night after his adar’s death Ithilienne and Haldirin had gathered Tharhîwon up and taken him to their shared room where he had, Tindómë knew, spent it held close between the two.
This continued until the second night after Frodo was buried, beside his Sam, in a sunny spot near their home in Master Elrond’s grounds. Then Naltatamë, the female smith who had escorted Gimli to Lord Aulë’s forge, arrived at the Hobbit house where Gimli, too, lived, and said she would be happy to ensure Lord Gimli was not alone in his mourning; Legolas might go and take comfort elsewhere.
And so, for a few nights, Ithilienne was missing from the room in the family house whilst Tharhîwon walked the dream paths there, guided by Haldirin.
“They are as we were when Haldir died,” Orophin commented to Rumil, “except that Haldirin’s mourning is little beside Tharhîwon’s and so he can give without needing to take - whereas we were both in need. This shared experience will be good for them both and help them be, even more, brothers to each other.”
A few nights more and Tharhîwon felt able to sleep in the rooms that had been ready for him in the home of Master Elrond and Lady Celebrían for many years, awaiting this loss, but all his friends ensured that he did not sleep alone for many nights. Many of them had lost family or friends to death themselves, and with less finality than this loss, and they made sure that he never awoke without the comfort of another body within reach.
Over the next few months it was clear that Tharhîwon sought his comfort more with Nithdur than any other. This pleased Tindómë and her family, for Nithdur had been one of the first party to follow Legolas to Eryn Ithil, and there was almost no possibility that he would be tempted to remain at the coast when, eventually, the Ithilrim’s Lord led them to a new forest home. If there was a relationship between Tharhîwon and the leatherworker at that time, they realised, their erstwhile Winter Elfling would be most likely to come with them, despite the roles Master Elrond and his wife played in Tharhîwon’s life.
Legolas remembered Frodo’s remarks made within months of the Ithilrim arriving on these shores. “Tharhîwon sees Master Elrond and Lady Celebrían as aunt and uncle, or grandparents. But by blood he is a wood elf, and the first mother figure he remembers is Tindómë. When you move from here, to be amongst the trees, he will feel torn between staying here and going with you.”
He hoped there would be no ill-feeling; especially as Tindómë seemed to have such a good relationship with Celebrían herself.
Then came another change. A much smaller one than the deaths of the hobbits to most; but a major one to Tindómë’s family.
Quick list of people;
Spike is a vampire from Buffy the Vampire Slayer - he was turned by a vampire called Drusilla, actually won back his soul, and became one of the good guys in the series. I go with the 'Spuffys' who see him as a long term partner for Buffy herself.
Dawn was, briefly, part of Buffy's family in the series - she had been 'inserted' there magically. In my stories she returned to Middle Earth, from whence she had originally come, and changed her name to the Quenyan Elven version of 'dawn' - 'tind