Title: Faithful Will
Era/Season/Setting: Once Upon A Time (or maybe Season 5)
Warnings: Some Buffy/Riley.
Author’s Note: OK, so here’s the fusion fic no one ever asked for: BtVS with the very obscure Grimm’s fairy tale (at least, I’d never heard of it) “Faithful John.”
This originated in an extended brainstorming session with thenewbuzwuzz, so I owe them a lot of credit for the inspiration. But of course, anything that is weird or doesn’t quite work is probably my fault. Buzwuzz is also responsible for the lovely banner and for the last-minute beta, so applause and confetti for them!
There was once a queen who realized that she was dying. So, she called to what had become her deathbed the one person outside of her family who had been most loyal to her and to the crown: Faithful Will. Faithful Will was a vampire, which was an unusual thing for a servant of a royal house to be. This meant that, despite the loyalty that he had always shown the queen, there were few in the court who trusted him.
The queen had once been riding with members of her guard when she’d seen Will, beset upon by others of his kind after a falling-out with his sire. She had slain the vampires and saved his life. After this, he had offered his services to her and her line, and the queen, touched by his offer, had offered her kingdom as a safe haven for him for as long as he chose to remain. But she did ask one condition if he was to be so near her daughters, and that was that he swear a binding oath to never again take a human life. This had gone against his nature as a vampire. Yet he had taken a liking to this queen who had shown him such great mercy and who had proven to be a formidable warrior. So he had sworn it and served the slayer line faithfully ever since.
As he approached her grand bed, Will made out the queen’s pale form. Her honey brown curls spilled out onto her deep green pillow and her thin body was enveloped in her heavy counterpane, the embroidered white lilies looking like so many flowers strewn upon a grave.
“William. My ever-faithful Will,” the queen said, clasping his hand. Will noticed that her skin was scarcely warmer than his own. “How fare you? Well, I hope?”
“Me? Well as I ever have been. It is you whom I worry over.”
She smiled fondly at him. “Why worry over me? My fate is known. I will die and soon. If you must worry over anyone, it should be my daughters. My youngest will not take my loss easily. And my eldest shall be queen soon. I am sure that she is ready for most of the challenges she will face, but there is one that frightens me. You will look after her, won’t you? As you have looked after me? I know that she can be cold towards you, but once she comes to know you as I know you, I am sure that she will come around. And she will… she will need someone like you. Both my daughters will face dangers and difficulties which I won’t be able to protect them from. Being a slayer is… no easy life.”
“I promise that I will look after your daughters.”
“It does my heart good to hear it. I leave most of it to your judgment. But there is one thing that I must instruct you on before I go. You know the castle better than any. I have shown you all its rooms and passages, including those which are well hidden. And you will show them to my heir after she is crowned. Be thorough. But there is one room that I would have you ignore. She should never know that it is there.”
“Why can’t she know of this room?”
“Because in it I have hidden the portrait of the Prince of the Silver Lance. It was sent for my eldest as a gift on her sixteenth birthday. But I have never allowed her to look upon it, because the queen of the Kingdom of the Silver Lance is a witch, and I strongly fear that she has lain some enchantment on the portrait. I have tried to destroy it, but it was beyond my powers. Do not allow my daughter to see it. Please.”
“Good. It is in the last room at the end of the long hallway on the top floor of the eastern side of the castle. The one covered by a tapestry of my great-grandmother slaying the Dragon of the Black Marsh.”
“I know the one. I’ll do whatever I can to keep her away from it.”
“Good.” She smiled again. “I am glad to know my daughters are in good hands.”
Within days, the queen had died. Will watched in pity as the eldest daughter carried the grief of her mother’s loss while trying to maintain a strong face in front of her people.
Will could not attend the funeral, as it was held on a clear, cold November day. And while he saw much of the younger sister, who adored him and came to him for solace, during the mourning period, the same did not hold true for the newly crowned queen. She had never trusted him, and she avoided him as much now as she ever had. He did not press her but allowed her time to grieve.
A week after the funeral, the new queen came to him. She looked beautiful in a simple black velvet gown with a longsword strapped to her side. The downward tilt of her lips made clear what she thought of Will and of his simple quarters with the blinds pulled down against the sun.
“Vampire. Before my mother…” For a moment, the young queen looked as if she might break composure, her expression veering close to tears before she steeled herself again. “Before she passed, she told me that I would never have ‘a more faithful companion’ than you. I trust my mother’s judgment on most things, but I think her heart was a little too kind to see you for what you are.”
“You don’t trust me,” Will replied.
“I don’t. The binding oath you swore may prevent you from taking a human life, but that doesn’t mean that I’m so foolish as to assume that you can be trusted implicitly.”
“I understand. And I will do everything I can to show that I can be trusted. My Queen.”
He bowed before her, barely low enough to avoid seeming insubordinate, but then bowing wasn’t in his nature. And when he arose, he couldn’t hide the smile of genuine affection on his lips.
“Fine,” she said. “Show me the castle. I don’t want any secrets left hidden away.”
Will showed her the castle from bottom to top, opening every door for her using the large key ring the late Queen had entrusted him with. Every door but the one at the end of the long corridor behind the tapestry.
He moved quickly, hoping she wouldn’t notice. “And that’s the top floor. Now, if we go down now, I think you’ll be just in time for lunch with your sister.”
But the young queen shook her head. “You missed one. There’s a little door behind the portrait of my great-great-grandmother defeating the dragon of the Black Marsh.” She laughed at his expression of surprise. “I found that while playing with my sister years ago. You don’t think you are the only one who knows secrets in this castle, do you?”
Will affected a puzzled look. “Oh, that door? I certainly wouldn’t call it a secret. There are only mops and old broken brooms in there. Certainly, nothing that would interest a queen.”
“Is that so?” There was a crafty look in her eyes and Will realized she’d seen right through his poor attempt at deception. “Then you won’t mind if I look at them.”
“No! Wait! It’s not just mops and brooms and stuff. There’s something in there. Something so terrible that it would… it would give you nightmares for years if you were to look at it. So, best if you don’t risk it.”
“Oh? Now I have to see what it is.”
He moved to stand between her and the end of the hallway where the tapestry hung.
“Will,” the queen said, her voice steel. “Get out of my way.”
“Look, the queen––your mother made me promise not to show you that room. There’s something in there that’s cursed––”
“My mother made you swear? A convenient thing to say now that no one can ask her. Get out of my way.”
“Fine then.” She slipped under his outstretched arms and approached the tapestry, pulling it back to reveal the door. She tried the handle, only to find it locked with a lock too thick for even a slayer to break.
She turned back to Will. “As your queen, I command you to open that door.”
For a moment, Will stood frozen, locked between his obligation to his queen and his promise to the previous one.
“Give me the keys, Spike.”
There was a moment where they both stared at each other, puzzled by the name she’d used and how natural it had felt. Then the young queen shook her head as if to clear cobwebs and punched Will hard across the face. As he stumbled back, she agilely grabbed the key ring from his belt, unlocking the door before he could catch up with her.
At first glance, the room looked much like what Will had described. Broken mop handles and other bits of detritus were scattered all about the room. But leaning against the far wall under a large white sheet was a massive rectangular shape which the young queen immediately recognized as a canvas. She strode up to it and ripped the covering cloth off.
Underneath the cloth, she saw a portrait of a well-dressed man. He had to be a prince or a king, because who else could afford a portrait so fine? But there was a casualness in his bearing, an ease to his smile that made him seem almost like an ordinary person. He had sandy brown hair, blue-gray eyes, a square jaw. There was something oddly familiar about him, as if he was someone that the queen knew, even though she had never seen him before in her life.
The prince seemed almost to be standing right in front of her, instead of merely painted onto a canvas. The young queen had the strangest feeling that he would any moment step out of the portrait and take her in his arms.
She took one step towards the canvas and collapsed on the ground.
I’m sorry, my queen, thought Faithful Will, as he stepped forward and scooped the young queen into his arms, I couldn’t prevent the curse from taking hold. And now where will it all end?
“Buffy? Buffy, can you hear me?”
Someone was calling her name through the darkness. Except, that wasn’t her name. What was her name, anyway? Surely that was the kind of thing one was supposed to know about oneself. She knew she was queen and heir to the slayer line, but surely she must have a name as well.
“Buffy?” She focused, trying to see who was calling. (Calling her?) And suddenly a form was standing in the darkness. A young woman, close to her own age, with red hair and an implausible form of dress. A witch?
The young queen wondered if she should respond. She wasn’t sure if she could or if the voice was really talking to her. And interactions with witches could be dangerous. What if she was trying to trick her into giving something important up?
“I-I can’t tell if you can hear me,” the voice continued. “We’re trying to get you out, OK? Just stay put.”
The apparition turned its head as if addressing someone the queen couldn’t see. “No, I’m not getting any response from her. Do you think I should try Spike?”
Her gaze turned back towards the queen’s general direction. “Listen, Buffy, if you can hear this, wherever you are, whatever you’re seeing, it isn’t real. Your mind got sucked into this crystal we just got in at the Magic Box. OK, Anya, you just got in at the Magic Box. Anya and I were trying to figure out what it was when you came in. We might have been gotten into a little argument, so we didn’t really notice you picking up the crystal. I’m so sorry, Buffy. We’re working on figuring out how the crystal works so we can get you out, but Giles is still in England till the end of the week. So far all we’ve got is that this crystal seems to have been some kind of magical focus, like the witches sometimes use. It must have been used as some kind of storage, but we’re not sure for what.
“Oh! And Spike got sucked in too! He came into the shop right after you did. Said he had to say something to tell you.” The apparition shrugged. “So if you see him around, he’s real. I know he’s not the best person to have in there with you, but maybe you can watch each others’ backs.
“‘Cause, Buffy, the most important thing I needed to tell you was this: be careful! There’s a whole ‘die in the dream, die in real life’ thing going on. I mean, it’s not a dream, exactly. More like a psychic projection. But if something really bad happens to you there, it might effect your real self. So, just be careful! We’re working on getting you out, just hang in there for a little whi––”
Light invaded the darkness and the queen became aware of movement and cool strong arms wrapped around her.
The queen was being carried down the halls by Faithful Will. She asked him what had happened and he explained that she had collapsed and he was taking her to her bedchamber to recuperate. His expression was tense and worried and the queen wondered if the worry could genuinely be for her.
For a moment, the queen allowed herself to be carried, but then it hit her how inappropriate this was. To allow a vampire to touch her, to entertain thoughts about him as if he were human.
“Stop!” She said as forcefully as she could, though she realized that her voice was strained. “I said ‘stop!'” Will stopped in his tracks. “Set me down, I’ll walk the rest of the way myself.”
Will placed her gently on the ground and the queen walked the rest of the way back to her quarters as well as she was able. She was still weak from whatever it was that had caused her to faint, but she did her best not to show it.
Will helped her onto her bed and reached for a decanter that stood on her nightstand, pouring her a glass of wine.
As she sipped the wine, the queen tried to remember her dream. There had been a witch? And she’d said something about a magic box, whatever that was, and crystals, and someone named Spike? And why did that name seem familiar? But a dream was just a dream.
The more important question was why she had collapsed in the first place. It had been so odd. She had a constitution that even the strongest men might envy and she had never fainted in her entire life before today. What could have caused it?
Before she had collapsed she had been… Of course! She had been looking at the portrait of the handsome prince. As soon as she thought of him, her mind was awash with emotion. A hot flush crept across her breast.
“Will?” The queen asked, her voice distant and dreamy. “Who was that?”
“Who was who?”
“The man from the picture. He looked so… relatable. So kind.”
“Oh, him?” Will replied with poorly feigned casualness. “Well, if you must know, that was the prince of the Kingdom of the Silver Lance.”
“The Prince of the Kingdom of the Silver Lance. Oh, Will! I did not believe it was possible just from seeing paint on a canvas, but I know now.”
“Know what, my queen?” Will asked though he feared he knew the answer.
“That I love him,” she said, lying back on the bed and clutching a velvet pillow to her chest. So this was love. It was a warm and heady feeling, almost like being drunk. “Oh, if all the leaves of all the trees had tongues they could not express how much I love him. My very life depends on finding him.” She rolled to look earnestly at Will. “You will help me, won’t you Will? Faithful Will?”
“I… of course, my queen.”
It was well known that the Kingdom of the Silver Lance loved weapons, particularly ones of new and novel design. And so proud were they of their military prowess that they allowed no one to approach the court without a handsome gift of weapons. So Will instructed the kingdom’s most clever craftspeople to each prepare a special weapon as a gift for the prince of the Kingdom of the Silver Lance. The thought occurred to him to try to delay or stop the voyage, but he also saw that his queen was growing weaker by the day. Whatever enchantment was on her, it would continue to work its magic until the queen and the prince had met. And, as he knew of no way of breaking it, he was unwilling to risk seeing what would happen to the queen if she was unable to meet the prince.
Once the boat was ready, Faithful Will offered to travel by the queen’s side. The queen’s younger sister, as worried as he was by her strange behavior, had begged him to go to keep an eye on her. But the truth was that nothing could keep Faithful Will from his queen’s side short of a direct order on her part.
The queen at first thought to reject Faithful Will’s offer. But she decided that it would be wrong to not allow him to voyage with her after everything he had done in the preparations. So in the end, she took him and a small contingent of men along with her in the ship loaded with weapons and every variety of deadly implements. As the voyage passed, the queen and Faithful Will found themselves spending much time in each other’s company. Will would spar with her or teach her a game of cards, and over time, the queen noticed that Will’s company could actually be quite enjoyable.
And as for Will, it wasn’t long into the voyage that he realized that he was fully and helplessly in love with his queen.
I have this whole story written out at about 10k words (and let me say, never again during Nanowrimo) and I will edit and post it in its entirety probably over the month of December. Conscrit enthusiastically welcomed. And I know that the structure and conceit is a little odd, so please don’t hesitate to let me know whether it’s working for you.
P.S. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to check out and comment on more of everyone’s surely amazing fic, art, etc. This month has been really crazy for me.
Originally posted at https://seasonal-spuffy.livejournal.com/715981.html