Written In The Stars 3/?
By Harmonie at email@example.com (feedback, please!!) Rated PG-13
Spoilers: Around Season 1 perhaps after I Robot, You Jane, but it doesn't really matter...you'll see.... Disclaimers: Not mine, belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Summary: The Master has discovered a sure way to be rid of the Slayer after all, but he seemed to forget about Angel...(I used Buffy's middle name, Elizabeth, as it would better suit the time and Xander is obviously short for Alexander)
Elizabeth felt a thrill of anticapation as the carriage finally emerged from the cool shadows of the forest into the bright noon sunshine of the grassy plain. She peered eagerly out the windows searching for...she knew not exactly what.
At Elizabeth's polite, but insistent, urging, Lord Harris called a halt to their progress near a small brook. Alexander helped the ladies out of the couch onto the soft turf as the servants bustled about to spread a lunch and tend to the horses. As they waited for the preparations to be completed, Elizabeth took Alexander's arm, impelling him into a walk. They strolled along the edge of the forest.
"No, this way," Elizabeth said when Alexander tried to guide her back to smoother ground. It was always so with them, wasn't it? She tried to steer a path into unexplored places; Alexander pulled them back to the placid and predictable.
It felt good to stretch and walk after the hours of jolting in the carriage. Elizabeth tilted her face to the warm sunshine, watching fleecy clouds like a flock of floating sheep in the sky. All about them was tranquility. Nothing here was amiss, nor in any of the land they had crossed. Not a soul, besides herself, apparently had seen the star that fell to earth for no one had commented on it. Or, she confessed silently, prehaps it was simply that no one had attached such foolish importance to the event.
Still...the story of the Wise Men and the Saviour's birth came to mind. How many had seen the holy star? And how few had realized the importance of what it foretold?
She left her contemplation when she realized that Alexander was saying her name.
"I'm sorry, milord. What did you say?"
Alexander hesitated. "I said that you ought to heed where you walk, Mistress Elizabeth. You could misstep on this uneven ground," he said, but she had the feeling that wasn't what he had wanted to tell her at all, that something else troubled him. Sometimes she felt she didn't know him at all.
Elizabeth tossed her head, savouring the feel of the cool silk against her skin and the hair loose down her back. There was a spark in very blood that wanted her to take Alexander and shake him, to make him stand up to his father, speak loudly and resolutely for himself, to be the man she believed he was inside. Likely it was the blood of a brazen commoner who seduced a rich French noblewoman flowing through her veins that made her so. But a wife was not to be that way. Her place was to be meek in obedience to the will of her husband, not to nag and scold him. That would only hurt Alexander and she did truly want him to be happy. With grim resolution she vowed she would be a seemly, virtuous and obedient wife to Alexander, no matter how rebellious she felt inside. She would do credit to her father's wishes and ambitions.
They came to a rise in the land leading down a gentle slope. A shiver ran up and down the length of Elizabeth's body. She'd seen this place before. Hints of memory teased. Glimpses of the half-remembered dream tickled her mind. This slope, these trees...Their shape was familiar to her. She'd seen them before. Elizabeth pressed her free hand to her lips as she stared and struggled to grasp the elusive memories.
Distracted, Elizabeth didn't notice she was already disobeying Alexander's warnings to mind where she walked, misstepped down the hill and jarred her foot. Alexander's sure hand on her arm caught her and she turned to bestow a grateful smile up at him.
The smile faded as something beyond him caught her eye. Down the slope, the trees at the forest edge were singed, blackened near the tops with branches broken. Elizabeth's heartbeat quickened.
"What is that?" she asked Alexander, pointing toward the wilted leaves and scorched limbs.
"Like as not lightening struck there," he said after due consideration. "Come now, let us turn back. The dinner must be ready." His arm on hers urged her back.
"Please, just a bit further. I should like to see this thing," she gestured towards the burnt trees, trying hard to keep the excitement, and a bit of fear, out of her voice. Her fingers reached for her cross as they took a few steps down the slope toward the forest edge. She'd danced naked beneath the stars to the music of unseen players, laughing and twirling while a darkly handsome man worshipped her with eyes that were fire on her flesh as she...Suddenly Elizabeth cried out and ran forward.
"Stop!" Alexander called, easily overtaking her with his long strides. "There could be danger. I will go first." Though subdued, the concern in his eyes made her stop and obey. She stood still, trying to see as her bethrothed made his way down the slope toward the shape nearly obscured by the tall grass.
Alexander knelt beside it, then called back to her, "It is a man."
She knew that. It was insane, impossible, but she knew. And as surely as she knew that, Elizabeth knew this man would not fit into the neatly arranged chessboard of her world. He'd upset the pieces, disrupt the game, change the proscribed moves. But was he the king? Or a deceptive knight coming at her from askew? And what was she? The queen...or naught but a pawn?
No longer able to contain herself, Elizabeth dashed down to join them. The man lay face down in the grass. Mud and blood in his short, dark hair and face concealed his features. His clothing, torn and dirty, was of a very odd cut, but clearly rich and exotic material. Elizabeth fingered the black tunic, amazed at the tightness and fineness of the weave.
"He must be a gentleman," she commented.
Alexander nodded. "Badly hurt. Waylaid by bandits, no doubt." He looked up, scanning the woods. "I see nothing, but they could still be about. We must warn our company." He stood.
"We must first help this man." Elizabeth insisted, not stirring from the strange man's side. "In all good Christian charity," she belatedly added.
Alexander looked perplexed and agonized. "Indeed, indeed. But I cannot carry him and, as well, cannot send you back unescorted nor leave you here alone." He extended his hand. "Come."
Elizabeth shook her head, her minutes old vow of obedience already forgotten. She pulled her kerchief from her sleeve and began dabbing tentatively at the man's wounds. "I'll be quite safe. Be gone with you now. Hurry," she ordered and was mildly surprised when Alexander obeyed her.
Alone with the strange man, Elizabeth had a moment to order her thoughts. God in His mercy and wisdom had sent the falling star to guide her to this spot, and marked the very trees with His lightening so that she might find and save this poor traveler. That must be it. Elizabeth whispered a soft prayer of gratitude that she had been chosen to be God's instrument.
Yes, it was all clear to her now...save that she didn't believe a bit of it.
The man groaned and twitched. Elizabeth carefully rolled him over onto his back. His full face came into her view. Elizabeth gasped. Beneath the dirt and streaks of blood was the face of her dream lover.
She scrambled to her feet, stumbling backwards, away from him. What trick was this? How could this be? The man's eyes opened and met hers. They were ebony pools with the sparkle of stars shining from them. They were eyes that bore into her soul, into her heart, into her dreams. Strange surges of heat flowed up and down Elizabeth's body. She felt faint.
Angel opened his eyes to a vision. Framed by the green grass and tall trees, with the sun providing her a dazzling halo, Buffy stared down at him. Her hair, the golden tresses that reminded him of the sunlight he could never see, rippled past her waist (far longer than he remembered). Clothed in green with bits of gold and white, he saw the girl that he thought he had lost forever. For a moment he thought this was one of the dreams he had been having in the months since she disapeared. He wondered if he closed his eyes and reopened them he would be back in his dark room. He dare not risk losing her again.
There was an open innocence in her wide, concerned eyes and unadorned face. He had yearned for those eyes for so long, yet he'd never believed he would see them again. Pity she was just a hallucination.
"I've dreamed of you," he murmured as his eyes drifted shut.
Elizabeth fought the urge to swoon. Voices of the others were drawing near. Falling to her knees beside the man, she dabbed at the blood on his face.
On the knoll the men of the company appeared. Four of the servants took hold of the strange man's limbs and carried him back toward the carriages. Alexander grasped her arm again and guided her behind them.
So distracted was everyone, that they failed to look any further down the hill, or over the next rise where a great gash tore the earth. And they failed to see resting at the end of that gash, in the shadows of the scorched trees, a crushed silver shape unlike any ever seen in their place or time.
Lady Harris and her maids waited anxiously by the coaches, guarded by Lord Harris and two other armed gentlemen of the company, their swords drawn and ready. Elizabeth heard a gasp from Alexander's mother as she saw that they carried a body. With growing admiration Elizabeth watched the way Lady Cecily took charge, snapping out orders to the men, gentlemen and servants alike. Her quiet reserve covered a core of steel, Elizabeth realized.
The two maids stripped the uneaten feast from one of the board tables that had been set up near the carriages. Lady Cecily ordered the strange man placed on the platform. Elizabeth edged nearer. Using her own eating dagger, Lady Harris sliced the fine fabric of the man's tunic, laying bare his wounds.
Elizabeth bit her lips as the man's chest was uncovered. He was as magnificently muscled as her brief touch had told her. There was no chest hair to hide the succulent view of his pale chest. This was no pasty court dandy. This was a man of substance, capable of wielding the heaviest sword with ease, capable of mounting and taming the wildest horse...or fiestiest maid. In a place deep within her belly a new and peculiar sensation took hold of her, radiating out to send a shudder throughout her whole body and an odd dampness between her thighs. She glanced covertly around her to see if anyone noticed her cheeks burning with a rosy flush.
She forced her attention back to Lady Harris' ministrations. Alexander, surprising Elizabeth with his quick and ready hand in providing whatever his mother needed, hurried to the table with a basin of water and some torn strips of cloth. "My second best shirt," he murmured to his step-mother in answer to her questioning look. Elizabeth was sure he meant his words to reach no other ears, but she had moved to stand opposite Lady Harris.
Knowledgable fingers probed the man's chest and shoulders. Elizabeth scrutinized each movement of the Lady's hands. Noticing her attention, Lady Cecily glanced at the girl. Quietly, she said, "I think this is not a fit sight for you." Her words were not unkind or chastising, but gentle with concern.
"I would learn this skill of yours so that I may better tend my husband if, God forbid, the need should ever arise," she whispered, thinking, no, she couldn't be sent from this man's side, not now. Not when this unknown stranger's very nearness quickened within her an achy ecstasy such as she had never known before.
Lady Cecily nodded. "A worthy aim, dear child. Very well." Taking Elizabeth's hand, she guided it to the man's chest. Pressing upoun Elizabeth's fingers into the hot flesh she pressed them down, rubbing in a small circle over the man's ribs. "Feel that? Two of his ribs are broken. Here...and here. But no so bad, I think, as to disrupt his breathing."
Laying back the tunic further, she came to a long, ragged gash down the man's side. With a wet cloth she worked loose the fabric, dried into the wound with blood. The torn skin parted revealing the depth of the injury, and began to bleed afresh. The man mumbled and moaned but did not fully awake. Elizabeth gulped repeatedly.
"We've no surgeon to bleed him, so we'll let this wound bleed a bit on its own before we bind it up. Alexander...my sewing kit." She shook her head. After a moment she began stanching the flow of blood with the damp cloth. Alexander returned from the carriage with her small chest. Opening it she selected fine silk thread and a needle. Carefully, she joined the edges of the lacerated flesh, holding them together with single, tied stitches of silk. Elizabeth watched with growing fascination. Others, bored with the painstaking process, drifted away. As the needle bit in the man's eyes popped open. He stared, unseeing, at Elizabeth and muttered something about 'the Rift' and 'The Master coming'. Lady Cecily dismissed his words as hallucinatory and continued her work. Elizabeth pondered them thoughtfully but could find no meaning.
When the wound was firmly closed, Lady Harris straightened, flexing her fingers. Then, with Alexander's sure hands to lift and turn the man, and Elizabeth's untrained and uncertain hands to help, Lady Harris wrapped long strips of linen cloth around the man's chest. Blood soaked through the first few layers of cloth. "We bind it tight to ease the broken ribs. I fear for that wound, though. 'Tis a bad one, and deep. I fear ill humours will enter his blood and fester, poisoning him."
Undaunted, Lady Harris continued her examination, feeling his arms and legs, probing unabashed into areas Elizabeth would not have dared. The sight of a man unclothed was no novelty, but to touch...Elizabeth felt that odd sensation begin to sweep over her again and wondered if Lady Cecily would need to remove the man's breeches. With a stubborn will she fought the curious thoughts and feelings down. How odd that quivering rush was, she thought, it left one feeling somehow oddly stimulated but decidingly unfufiled. She'd have to ask Aunt Jenny about it.
While she worked, Elizabeth stole a peek at Alexander. But his attention was wholly fixed on the strange man and his stepmother's work, ready to aid her with subdued competence. How handsome he looked now, she realized abruptly. Gone for the moment was the submissive man-child of his domineering father. Here was a different Alexander, revealing a surety she'd never dreamed existed.
Impulsively, she seized a cloth from those Alexander had brought and dipped it in the basin he held. So startled was he by her sudden action, that Alexander sloshed some out of the trestle. He appeared to truly notice Elizabeth for the first time. Ignoring his stare, but warmly aware of it nevertheless, Elizabeth dabbed carefully at the man's face, cleaning away the dirt and blood. She'd never seen a face like this before. The lines were angular and strong, the nose straight and even, cheekbones high. He wore no beard but the shadow of a day's growth. Dark and shiny as a raven's wing was the hair that lay tangled atop his head.
He was no slave to the fashions of the day, that was a certainty, Elizabeth thought. Alexander kept his own hair a bit long like all the gentleman of the court. This strange man would stand out for that reason alone if no other. His clothes, save for the obviously high quality of the fabric and dye, were quite plain and unadorned, no skirted doublet or coat, only a strange thin black shirt. Instead of proper hose, he wore breeches of a coarse, tough dark fabric. She noted no jewellry upoun him, though the bandits may have stolen those. If there were bandits, she amended.
The gentlemen of the company, bored with the time spent on this stranger, had all wander away from the circle that surrounded them and ate from the pushed aside food, talking with loud speculations of what may have befallen the stranger. As the wine began to flow, the talk turned to boasts of what they'd do to the bandits when they caught them. Though, Elizabeth noted wryly, none of them actually suggested going off in search of the rascals. Alexander's father soon joined them. Only the maids and other servants, held in place by stern glares from their mistress, remained shifting from foot to foot in exaggerated discomfort to show their annoyance.
Elizabeth ignored them and continued bathing the man's face. His lips parted slightly as the cool water touched them. She let a few drops into his mouth. Slowly she eased her way down his neck until she wiped his shoulder. Lady Harris' eyes flicked her way, then back to her work.
Over the man's proud chest Elizabeth trickled water and softly wiped away the grime. Good clean dirt never did a body harm, she knew, but how much finer he looked with that pale skin unveiled. Using her work as the excuse, Elizabeth bent closer. Mechanically moving her hand in slow circles with the cloth, she touched an inner seam of the man's tunic with the other. Inquisitively she studied the stitching. Such craftmanship in this plain garment. Never had Elizabeth seen such construction before. If seams these were, the stitches were tinier than those made by the most skilled seamstress. Every thread was precisely the same distance apart. All of it was such as Elizabeth, no mean talent with a needle herself, had never seen before. She couldn't figure out how it had been made. What a man of mysteries he was, delivered by God into her care.
"Well, that's done," Lady Cecily announced, straightening. She gave a cursory glance at the cut on the man's forehead, near his hairline, but seemed to think of it as no consequence. "The rest is naught but bruises, from what I see," she said. "Now, you there," she pointed to the servants. "Take him gently into the carriage, I'll tend him there for the rest of the journey."
"Hold now," Henry Harris overrode his wife's command. Elizabeth observed Alexander's expression lapse into its guarded, subservient mode. "Put him in the open coach," he said. "The maids can tend him and the rest of you lazy lot can walk."
Elizabeth glanced at Lady Harris for word or sign of argument but saw none. The servants did as their master commanded, one earning a sharp clout from Lord Harris' gloved hand for his sullen glare.
The stranger groaned again as he was roughly placed into the coach, but did not wake. Elizabeth began to wonder if she had only imagined his eyes opening to stare into hers, only imagined the wonderment in them as they gazed at her. As she turned away from his limp form, she noticed a spot of blood on her white silk sleeve. His blood. It lay amidst the embroidered pattern of green and gold. Gazing at the tiny spot of red, Elizabeth considered, that if she stitched carefully, she could work it into the design, keeping it forever.
Lady Harris beckoned one of her maids to the rough table upoun which the tattered remains of the main's tunic lay. "Gather that up for rags," she told the girl.
Elizabeth interposed, "If I may, please, 'tis a fine fabric. I can wash it and use it in my needlework." She kept her voice steady and low, trying to sound detached, pleading only with her eyes.
Elizabeth rolled up the torn and stained material and bound it with a strip of Alexander's second best shirt. Hurriedly, she put it in the carriage, then joined the others in the remainder of the meal.
With a good portion of bread and ale in her stomach she felt better, less disposed to flights of fancy. Still, as the jarring, jolting carriage started away on its delayed journey, she couldn't help leaning out the window and sighing.
I dreamed of you, he'd said. "And I of you," she breathed.
For the rest of the trip she unconsciously fingered a particular spot on her sleeve and pondered stars that fell from the sky.
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Harmonie
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