Protected. Prol   Leave a comment

Title: Protected: *Reworked version*.     Pr ficpic
Author: illusion
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Rating: R for language and violence.
Category: BtVS Season 3. Angst.
Content: C/A. Maybe minor B/A? Hopefully not too much though, if any.
Sumary: People from Angel’s life before Sunnydale are threatened, and Angel will do everything in his power to keep them safe, with help from an unlikely place.
Spoilers: Season 3 of BtVS, up to ‘Lover’s Walk’. B/A are broken up, C/X are broken up, W/O are sorting things out. Wes and Faith are non-existent. Sorry, I just couldn’t work them in. This story takes place AU a few weeks after the events of ‘Lover’s Walk’, after Cordy’s all healed.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: GT, Anywhere, just ask.
Notes: This is just a silly little ‘what-if’ that popped into my head and refused to leave. Also, I’m going to alter the events in Angel’s history a little. I’ll go into more detail when it comes up – don’t want to spoil my evil designs.
((Writer’s block has really hit me hard, and my muse has eloped… okay, no excuses. I haven’t been able to get through Chapter Five yet. So in an attempt to get back into the flow, I went right back to the beginning to re-read, and found myself making quite a few edits and corrections. I’m sorry to be a tease, but I thought I’d repost if anyone was interested. I hope that you enjoy. Also, a tiny little treat at the very end, just to prove that I AM writing Chapter Five, and have not given up on ‘Protected’.
Thanks & Dedication: Thank you so much to Amanda for all of your advice, patience and support, and for inspiring me and encouraging me to write again. It really means a lot to me. And thank you to everyone who has left feedback and asked for more. Thank you to everyone whose given me feedback, and I hope that I can continue it soon! NB:I went right back to the beginning to re-read, and found myself making quite a few edits and corrections. I’m sorry to be a tease, but I thought I’d repost if anyone was interested. I hope that you enjoy
Feedback: Do I really need to ask? Okay. Pretty, pretty, pretty, PRETTY please?


Prologue

The Sunnydale High School Library doors flew open with a resounding crash against the walls that shattered the still night. A man that appeared to be in his early twenties ran through the swinging doors, two precious bundles cradled tightly in his arms as he looked about wildly. He was already aware though that this room, like the rest of the building, was empty.

Ineffectual moonlight trickled serenely through the large windows that bordered the room, oblivious to the man’s frantic dash around the front counter and through the open doors into the private office beyond. His hurried footsteps never faltered, regardless of the almost pitch black darkness.

Carefully he placed his burdens upon the well-worn brown couch positioned to his right up against the wall, and flinched as a soft moan sounded from the larger of his cherished load. He knelt beside the sofa, barely thinking to reach out to the desk beside him and flick on the lamp there.

Scooping up the smaller of his two treasures, he set his crying five-year-old daughter beside him, holding her close to his side with one hand, while the other moved to staunch the steady flow of blood that seeped from the through-and-through wound in his wife’s abdomen.

The cool fingers of her right hand caught his in a feeble grip before he could touch her though, and a choked sob escaped the man’s throat. She moved her other hand soothingly through his shoulder-length brown hair. Blood on her palm wet the messy strands, darkening them to black.

“Shhh,” she murmured in a fragile whisper, bringing their entwined fingers to her lips and kissing his hand lovingly. Her husband cupped her middle-aged cheek, the pad of his thumb tracing the fine worry-lines that came from a life rich with smiles and laughter. Absently he brushed aside a few errant caramel tresses and tucked them behind the delicate shell of her ear. Still touching her limp hair, he didn’t notice the dirt or oiliness. None of them had been truly clean for days.

Gently extracting his fingers from hers, the man shrugged out of his black leather jacket, again attempting to tend to his wife’s injury, but she weakly shook her head. She dropped her already bloodstained left hand to rest over the wound, blocking him from it rather than applying pressure, before looking toward their young daughter.

Obeying her unspoken command he wrapped his jacket around his little girl’s tiny shoulders, enveloping her completely. The heavy garment fell halfway below his daughter’s scraped knees. To generate some heat and warm her small shivering frame, he rubbed his hands rapidly up and down along her upper-arms.

“I’m sorry, babygirl,” he whispered brokenly, eyes glimmering with unshed tears even in the dim glow of the desk lamp. He couldn’t let them fall. He couldn’t let his daughter see just how afraid he was.

The girl gave him a small lopsided smile despite her own fear and uncertainty, and her father managed a brief watery smile at her bravery, pressing a loving kiss to her forehead. Pushing her little arms into the overlarge sleeves of the jacket, the girl took a step closer to her mother.

Large round blue eyes still leaked moisture as they came to rest on the older sweat- and dirt-streaked face before her, her mother’s head lying against the arm of the sofa. “Is Mommy gonna be okay?” she asked, her question directed to neither one of her parents, but both.

The woman forced a bright reassuring smile to her face that made her husband’s heart ache with longing and anguish. “Mommy’s… just tired, baby,” she told her daughter, her soft tone meant to comfort not only her little girl, but her husband as well. She knew he was terrified, for both of his girls.

Knew he was distraught. But she wouldn’t tell him that her whole upper body was almost numb with a cold that had nothing to do with the chill night air. She wouldn’t tell him that long before the cold had begun to spread, she’d lost the feeling in her legs. She couldn’t tell him.

Leaning forward, the little girl kissed her mother’s cheek, just like her mother kissed her every night after tucking her into her bed at home. That bed, that home, that life, was so far away now. Head turned away, the youthful-looking man squeezed his eyes shut against the burning tears. He sucked in a long ragged breath and forced them open again, the salty liquid kept at bay for the moment.

He returned his gaze to his wife of nine years, his best friend for almost twice that, blue eyes meeting her deep jade, and he saw the truth there. He saw the acceptance. He saw what he wouldn’t let himself acknowledge, even now. Drawing his daughter back to his side, he held her tightly, desperately, trying to shelter her. “Em…” he cried, pleaded, one saline droplet escaping his eye and running down his ageless cheek.

Emily just smiled, a smile as peaceful as the moonlight outside. Her eyelids fluttered for a second as tears slipped out the corners of her eyes to fall down the side of her face onto the threadbare couch-arm. Following the actions of his daughter, the man leant forward, brushing a kiss against his wife’s cheek, then the faint crinkle at the corner of her eye, kissing away her tears, even as more fell down his own face unbeknownst to him.

He choked back another sob as Emily’s cold hand reached up to his cheek, her thumb weakly but tenderly brushing away the moisture coursing down his face. “Emily…” His lips met hers, moving against them so softly, so sweetly, Emily’s determined composure wavered slightly, and she had to turn away after a moment. She couldn’t let her husband see her as anything but calm, and at peace. She knew what needed to be done to protect him, as well as their daughter.

She felt her husband’s forehead rest against hers and turned back, nuzzling his wet cheek, running her fingers through his tousled straight hair. His face dropped down beside hers to nestle in her hair in reply, and she could hear him sniffling as he tried to regain control of himself.

“It’ll be okay,” she murmured. “He’ll find us here. T-the Watcher… will come. And the Slayer… He’ll find us,” she promised her despairing husband as his face finally drew back to look into hers once more. It was only that hope that made it possible for him to do what he had to do.

One hand still firmly holding his daughter, the man trailed his free hand down his wife’s older-looking face, fingertips skimming the fine column of her unblemished neck down to the delicate dip where it met her collarbone. Resting in the hollow there, on a strong silver chain, was a small pendant of the same metal, slightly bigger than a quarter.

His fingers traced its familiar raised surfaced, elegantly decorated with a sun and three stars encircled by an ancient rune that symbolized fidelity.

It was a token not only of loyalty and belonging, but also of protection.

Both his wife and daughter wore the tokens. They signified that protection was granted to the people he loved by someone far more powerful than him. It was the one reason for which he could feel some small measure of relief. He pressed his open hand over the pendant, over her chest, feeling the slow throb of his wife’s heartbeat beneath his palm, and knew his girls would be safe here, under this being’s protection.

But he had to leave.

Her confidence strengthened his resolve. It always had. Finally drawing back, the man allowed himself one final caress of her lovely face. She was beautiful, in spite of everything. In spite of the tears, the dirt, the fatigue, the years. The past four days on the run.

He loved her with everything he had. “I love you, Em,” he whispered. “I’ll always love you.”

“I love you too,” she replied, smiling again, and closed her eyes peacefully. After a moment, they reopened, and fell upon her daughter. At once the five-year-old lunged back to her mother, wriggling her arms around her neck, the supple leather of her father’s jacket flapping below her hands.

Despite her waning strength, Emily wrapped her daughter in a fierce hug. “I love you, sweetie,” she told her baby. “Make our guys smile a lot for me, okay?” She wouldn’t ask anything more than that of her daughter – it wasn’t her daughter’s responsibility to take care of them. She already knew that they would take care of each other.

Her husband couldn’t help but smile softly at the request, even as their daughter promised that she would and returned her mother’s words of love. The smile disappeared as Emily looked over her daughter’s shoulder to her husband. “T-Take her out of here…” she told him firmly, leaving no room for argument. Though the command was steadfast, her voice was breathier, faint. “Make sure… she’ll be safe…” Unable to deny her, knowing she was right, but also unable to find his voice, he nodded once sharply.

Reluctantly he slipped his hand around his baby girl’s waist, drawing her back to him and turning her in towards his chest. He felt her tears pool in the threads of his shirt, wetting the dark blue fabric against his shoulder. The bottom was already soaked with his wife’s blood. The man comfortingly caressed the soft curls of her caramel brown locks, the same light brown locks she had gotten from her mother. His other hand gripped Emily’s tightly, almost to the point of painful, but neither let go.

Abruptly the man pulled his hand back and stood. The movement wrenched a cry of protest from his daughter as he held her effortlessly in his arms, taking her away from her mother, but she kept her head buried against his chest.

Emily closed her eyes once more while a peaceful contented smile graced her lips. He switched off the desk lamp, and stopped. For the longest while he just stood there, gazing at the still lithe and trim body of his middle-aged wife, his sight ignorant to the slowed bleeding of her stomach wound.

He watched her chest rise and fall with her deep steady breathing, eyes following the single last tear that escaped beneath her eyelid and rolled down her temple, but the woman he loved never opened her eyes again.

He turned and left the office.

Closing the door with a soft click behind him, he strode with purpose toward the opposite side of the library. Even as he approached the caged section, his eyes assessed its strength and capability for concealment.

The bars of the door were thick and narrow, the preexisting wide mesh having been replaced with a heavier, denser one. Hinges were reinforced and bolted. Darkness hung thickly in the spaces between the shelves of rare and important books, enough to hide a small child.

The access slot on the front was large enough for a book or a hand, maybe a slim wrist, but not an arm, and there was more than an arms-length between the door of the book cage and the enclosing walls. He knew that it was strong enough to hold the werewolf.

It was the safest place for his babygirl until she was found.

Reaching the cage door he found that the keys were nowhere in sight though. He cursed under his breath and crossed quickly back to the bench, reaching over it with a fumbling hand. Anxious fingers danced over the dusty surface of the shelf below the countertop until they stumbled across the hard jagged metal edges of small objects that clinked lightly on their smooth metal loop.

Snagging the ring of keys in relief, he quickly moved back to the book cage, inserting the right key after a couple of failed attempts, and swung the door open with an eerie creaking of metal.

He deposited his daughter gently on the floor and crouched down before her. “I want you to stay here, princess,” he told her, swallowing hard. “Stay hidden, and stay quiet.” He pressed a long desperate kiss to her forehead.

Then, he pulled her close, hugging her ardently, dropping another kiss to her hair. “I love you, and I’ll be back as soon as it’s safe. I promise.”

“I love you too, Daddy,” the little girl responded. Her father wiped at his eyes vigorously, before he pulled back and forced himself to move away. He grabbed the cage door as he moved quickly back over the threshold. “Daddy!” Even as she ran forward the door slammed closed with a heavy clang between them, masking the man’s distressed sob.

One shaking hand shoved the key back into the lock and twisted until he heard the click of the lock engaging. Fingers laced through the small holes in the mesh wiring, he rested his forehead against the cool metal. He looked down into the watery blue eyes set in his daughter’s pretty face and again saw none of the tearstains and smears of dirt and blood and grime. She was just as beautiful as her mother. Just as innocent.

Reaching his hand as far as he could through the access niche, he took her small hand, drawing it up to the opening. He pressed the ring of keys into her soft palm and closed her little fingers around it. “Don’t make a sound, and don’t come out,” he beseeched her again. “Don’t open the door for anyone but him, babygirl. And don’t trust the Slayer or the Watcher. Stay away from them. Don’t give these keys to anyone but Angel.”

“I won’t, Daddy,” she promised him, nodding her small brunette head in understanding. He released her hand and nodded his head encouragingly towards the shelves along the back wall of the enclosure. Clutching the keys tightly to her body, the little girl walked across the small dark cage to the deeper shadows between two of the furthest bookshelves.

She slipped between them, pressed her back against one, and slid down it to sit on the cold linoleum floor, her knees tucked up to her chest. Unmindful of the intense darkness surrounding her, her wide azure eyes sought out her father once more, and again saw him nod reassuringly. The dark didn’t bother her, despite her very young age.

“I love you,” the man whispered again. Then he pushed his body away from the metal door and turned away, booted feet carrying him swiftly away from both his wife and daughter – his life – and out into the empty night.

Complete silence returned to the deserted high school building for several endless moments. The little girl did everything her daddy had told her, keeping her petite frame pressed back against the shelves and the wall, enshrouded protectively in deep obscuring shadow, not making a sound.

After a few minutes, her tiny round ears caught the sweet sound of a gentle breathy voice singing.

“Sleep O babe, for the red bee hums the silent twilight’s fall,
Aoibheall from the gray rock comes, to wrap the world in thrall.
A leanbhan O, my child, my joy, my love my heart’s desire,
The crickets sing you lullaby, beside the dying fire.”

A soft smile danced across the little girl’s lips as she listened to the familiar lullaby. She felt her tears cease falling though her eyes were still wet, and a warm feeling spread throughout her tired cold body.

“Dusk is drawn and the Green Man’s thorn is wreathed in rings of fog,
Siabhra sails his boat till morn, upon the Starry Bog.
A leanbhan O, the paly moon hath brimmed her cusp in dew,
And weeps to hear the sad sleep-tune, I sing O love to you.”

Her mother’s voice drifted pleasantly on the still air to the girl’s keen ears, muffled only slightly by the closed office door. She closed her eyes, suddenly less tired despite the soothing melody. Memories rose behind her eyelids.

“Faintly sweet doth the chapel bell, ring o’er the valley dim,
Tearmann’s peasant voices swell, in fragrant evening hymn.
A leanbhan O, the low bell rings, my little lamb to rest,
And angel-dreams till morning sings, its music in your breast.”

Her mommy’s tender smile. Loving green eyes. Her daddy’s shy lopsided smile, and twinkling cerulean blue eyes that matched her own. Safely wrapped within the warm covers of her bed at home, her parents whispering that they loved her as they tucked her in. The sweet rose perfume as her mother leaned down to kiss her cheek, and her father’s strong sandalwood and masculine scent, making her feel so safe, as he pressed a kiss to her forehead. Rose and sandalwood.

“Sleep O babe, for the red bee hums the silent twilight’s fall,
Aoibheall from the gray rock comes, to wrap the world in thrall.
A leanbhan O, my child, my joy, my love my heart’s desire,
The crickets sing you lullaby, beside the dying fire.”

The singing continued as the old lullaby began to repeat. It comforted the young girl, even as the voice grew fainter and fainter.

And after a while, the singing stopped.

Part 1

Pronunciations and definitions:
Aoibheall – (EE-val) Meaning: the name of the queen of the northern fairies
leanbhan – (LYAN-uh-van) Meaning: little child, baby
Tearmann – (CHAR-uh-muhn) Meaning: tearmann = sanctuary, refuge, or church land, name of village near Lough Gartan
Siabra – (SHEE-vra) a prankster class of trooping fairies, also spelled Shefro or Siofra.

The lullaby is “The Gartan Mother’s Lullaby”, lyrics by Seosamh MacCathmhaoil (Joseph Campbell). See end for pronunciations. For more information, please visit this wonderful site: Garton.

Posted July 5, 2015 by califi in TBC

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