Disclaimer: I do not own BtVS and LOTR.
Giles took off his glasses and resisted the urge to sigh.
“Dawn, tell me again how our three…guests managed to arrive here?” he turned towards the teenager nervously standing beside him, vaguely gesturing at the table in the back of the Magic Box.
“Er…the ghost of Christmas past hired some helpers?”
“First of all, it’s not Christmas and secondly, there is no such ghost, nor has there ever been such a ghost as the ghost of Christmas past.”
“Well,” she shuffled her feet, attempting a stance which didn’t exude so much guilt and tried to casually continue, “they could have, hypothetically and through no fault of my own, been released from one of those orb thingies on the shelves over there?”
She surreptitiously tried to nudge some glass shards out of the way with her foot. Giles sighed. He knew it was probably hopeless, but he had to ask anyway, “Do you happen to know which one may have, and I say this as a purely hypothetical question, shattered?”
Had she not been related to Buffy, Giles would have been surprised at the look of disbelief she directed at him.
“It was made out of glass and it was round,” she pointed to a shelf, “Knock yourself out.”
“That was so very helpful, Dawn. Congratulations on managing to describe more than 90 percent of the orbs on the shelf in two sentences or less.”
“It’s a gift.” She grinned and Giles found it hard to hold onto his annoyance.
“Yes well, however true that may be, can you recall any other distinctive features on the orb that you broke?”
Dawn’s eyes widened, and then narrowed.
“I thought this was a hypothetical discussion?”
“Alright, alright!” She held up her hands in surrender, having the good grace to look sheepish. “There were these…um, squiggly markings on it.”
“Yeah, nice wavy lines. Very loopy and curvy. Couldn’t make heads or tails of them. So I…er, tried to reach for that book there,” she nodded to a book precariously near the edge of its shelf above the assortment of orbs, “and then I sort of…dropped it?”
“Dawn,” Giles turned towards her kindly, but sternly, “much as I appreciate your curiosity, the next time you have trouble reaching a book or when you want to do research of any kind on the supernatural, please ask somebody to help you.”
Her look of contrition turned into a glare. She crossed her arms.
“But you never let me get involved in anything
“Yes, incidences such as this, being one of the many reasons why we don’t!”
“Oh.” A moment passed. “So…er, what do we do about them?”
“Perhaps you could stop talking about us as if we weren’t present!” one of the three ghosts snapped. Reminded of the ghosts’ presence, Dawn edged away slightly from the table while Giles furiously cleaned his glasses again. Another ghost, the only female in the group, moved slightly, as if to pacify the irate one. He jerked away from her, eyes wild.
“And if you tell me to calm down, by Eru, woman or no, I’m going to shove my sword through you!”
“Isi-” the woman tried again, obviously not worried about the threat of a phantomly sword.
“No, no and no! It’s the same bloody thing every few centuries! I’m sick of it! I want my peaceful afterlife! I was promised a peaceful afterlife! But no, I have to be at the beck and call of every idiot who manages to break one of those damn snowballs, stuck here with you and that hopeless pansy!” He gestured violently to the only one of their trio who hadn’t said anything yet. The slightly effeminate male ghost was deeply absorbed by the sparkles produced by one of the small crystals Giles had on display in his shop. Giles suppressed a gasp when the ghost leaned forward, his hair falling so that a delicately pointed ear was revealed.
“You’re an elf!” he blurted, oblivious to Dawn’s excited exclamation of ‘cool!’ and the other male ghost’s scowl. The woman merely smiled serenely, tucking a strand of her hair behind a similarly pointed ear. The male elf ignored them, occupying himself now with some dangling amulets.
“It is not surprising that you have never seen one of the Firstborn,” the lovely woman said to a still staring Giles, “My people had left these shores long ago, so long ago that I cannot remember when.”
Giles was fascinated by all of this. And considerably less annoyed with Dawn for breaking a very expensive orb. This was a remarkable opportunity! Most people considered elves as legends, even those in the know; nothing was known about them except that they might have, once long ago, existed on Earth.
“Pardon me if this seems rude, but how can you remember how long ago it was if you’re…well…”
“Dead?” she smiled.
“Well, duh,” Dawn said as she moved closer to the table, eyes fixated on the faintly glowing ghosts. Giles cast an exasperated glance in her direction.
“Not the way I would have put it, but essentially, yes.”
“Did you really think that death is the end? It is but a journey all mortals must make and at the end of it, far green lands under a swift sunrise.”
“Th-that sounds quite-”
“Boring to tell you the truth,” was the opinion of the bearded ghost sitting beside the female.
“What? It is. There’s only so much happiness and perfect landscaping you can take. It gets dull after a few thousand years.”
“You were very keen to get back there a few moments ago,” she retorted dryly.
“Well, my lady, there’s being bored by myself and then there’s trying to exert enough self control to keep from strangling that damn elf,” he said, leveling a glare towards the other male.
“Are you implying that my company is boring you?” she raised a haughty eyebrow. It was remarkably ineffective.
“Why, my lady Arwen, I would never!” Isildur said in a tone that clearly indicated he was. She sniffed delicately.
“Well, I always found these visits to the land of the living wonderful opportunities to learn something new.”
“Yes, like how many different times can Glorfindel the Golden Wonder screw us over?”
“Isildur! You know that he never meant to get us involved in this business with the orbs!”
“He didn’t mean to die either, but look where that got him,” he pointed to Glorfindel who was now trying to unsuccessfully lift a pendant, looking delightedly puzzled every time his hand passed through it. Arwen looked a bit flustered.
“It’s not his fault he gets a little distracted sometimes,” she turned towards the wayward elf, “Glorfindel, come here. Glorfindel!”
The elf turned and started, as if he had just noticed the other two ghosts.
“Ah! Arwen!” he bowed, “Isildur,” he said in a decidedly colder tone. He rallied quickly.
“Isn’t this place just remarkable? You must be the proprietor of this shop,” he turned towards a bemused Giles. “I absolutely love what you’ve done with the place, much better than the last location we had materialized in.”
He steamrollered over Giles’ stuttered thanks, continuing to expand on the ‘absolutely wonderful, quaint little store’. Isildur pinched the bridge of his nose.
“And you still maintain that he has no mental deficiencies?” he muttered to Arwen. She ignored him.
“At least I’m
still not bitter about the fact that I’m dead. You would think that after a few thousand years you would get over it. Other people have had it rougher and they’re doing just fine!” Glorfindel retorted. Isildur rose from the table. He was disturbingly, Giles thought, standing right in the middle of it.
“I’d like to see how collected you would be after becoming a pincushion for Orc arrows!”
“Oh please!” Glorfindel sneered, “You were evil! You got seduced by a piece of tacky jewelery!”
“You try having the One Ring falling into your lap after seven bloody years of trying to siege Barad-dur, your father dead, your people dying, exiled from your home!”
“You forget that, unlike you, I’ve already died once. And I have lived many more long ages than you could ever hope to,” Glorfindel was now deadly serious, his previous flippancy forgotten, “You know your history, son of Elendil, you know what I have done.” Isildur’s glare could have melted steel.
Glorfindel broke the staring contest and looked around at the store’s interior, the tense moment forgotten. “Granted, I could have been more careful not to drag us into this mess every few centuries.”
Giles coughed, uncertain whether he should draw attention back to himself.
“P-pardon me, but you said that you had already died once? How did you die again?”
Glorfindel perked up at the question.
“Oh, the first time it was in a valiant battle against a Balrog, a demon of Morgoth. I was granted the grace to return to Middle-earth. The second time was shortly after the War of the Ring. I-I’d rather not get into the details.”
“Too painful?” Dawn asked sympathetically, but with an undercurrent of excitement. Giles wondered why he hadn’t led her away from the ghosts. Buffy would have his head when she heard about this.
Isildur snorted, seated once again, his arms crossed and for all intents and purposes, sulking.
Arwen stifled a giggle. Was it possible for ghosts to blush? Giles didn’t think so, but Glorfindel was doing a fine job of it.
“It was a tragic accident!”
“A tragic accident?! You bloody idiot! You were so drunk after celebrating Sauron’s defeat that you fell face first into a puddle of mud. You drowned!”
“At least I’m coping better than you are!”
“You try coping with it when that husband of hers won’t ever let you forget about any
of your mistakes! You’d think his happiness had depended on what I had for breakfast! Oh no, I didn’t eat my greens! ‘How could you, Isildur? You have shamed your bloodline!’ Nag, nag, nag!”
This time Arwen looked affronted.
“Aragorn would never do that!”
“Then those little post-its saying ‘I’m watching you!’ didn’t come from him?”
“He…he would never…” but she didn’t seem so sure herself now what Aragorn would or wouldn’t do.
“As fascinating as this all is, I’m sure,” Giles interjected once more, “but would you be willing to tell us more about how you came to be in this state?”
“We died,” was Isildur’s glib answer. Arwen glanced at him in exasperation.
“I think he meant how we managed to appear out of the orb which broke.”
“It was his fault,” Isildur gleefully pointed to Glorfindel.
“Was not!” He deflated slightly under their glares, “Well, yes it was, but how was I supposed to know that that wizard was so incompetent? And he didn’t make three orbs like he promised.”
“How many did he make?” Giles was fascinated despite himself. He also found himself dreading the answer.
“More like three to four hundred,” Isildur answered, “And every time someone breaks one of those bloody things, we get pulled out of our respective afterlives for a few months, haunting the one who broke it. A chance to learn about the past, my arse! That guy just wanted to stare at the pretty elf ghost he stumbled upon if you ask me.”
“Can I help it if mortals are so taken by my visage?” Glorfindel preened.
“I was talking about Arwen.”
Sensing another row about to emerge, Giles quickly intervened.
“What did you mean by haunting the one who broke it? You don’t seem to be very…spooky.”
“It got tiresome after the first few times. But we still have to linger here for a few months before we can return. And by linger here, I mean, we have to be in the vicinity of the one who broke the orb.” There was a pause.
“Oh dear lord, I need a drink. Buffy is going to kill me,” Giles muttered and went to his office where he kept the good stuff. Dawn paled.
“A few months? What do you mean by a few months? You can’t be here that long! I have school and stuff and I’m so dead when Buffy finds out! Giles do something!” she turned, only to find him gone.