Chapter Two: Little Orphan Annie takes a trip
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Authors Note: Thanks to everyone who reviewed. It made my day.
Little Orphan Annie takes a trip
The light from the torches flickered, casting shadows on the stone walls.
Isabeau rushed down the stone corridor, her long indigo skirts swirling around her legs, the silver veil flowing out behind her.
The smell was what reached her first. Dank and decay, it flooded the air, soaking into the very pores--- inescapable.
As if from far away, the sound of chanting echoed… the Knights preparing for the coming battle.
She gave a wild laugh. If they only knew that the battle was already here.
There was wetness on her hands and face. The taste of copper in her mouth.
The rasp of heavy breathing filled the silence and it took Isabeau moments to realize that it was herself.
The blow that struck, came from the back and the force threw her to the ground----
Buffy woke up.
Her eyes snapped open then automatically squeezed shut at the bright light that had flooded the bedroom.
She groaned and turned to the clock on the bedside table. It proclaimed the time to be 8:30 in the morning, and Buffy seriously gave thought to the idea of burying herself back under the covers with Mr. Gordo and giving into the stupor of sleep for the foreseeable future.
She could hear Lindsey in the kitchen, no doubt making her breakfast. The thought of food was enough to set her stomach a grumbling and she gave a token sigh before sloughing off the covers and leaving the bed.
Staggering to the bedroom door, she caught sight of her image in the mirror that hung on the back. Buffy barely recognized herself. Her long hair was uncombed and knotted. Her face was free of any cosmetics and looked pale and pinched, her eyes puffy. She wasn’t even wearing her own pajamas, instead a ratty pair of grey sweats that had once belonged to her mother.
Although they were baggy and too long, Joyce had worn them often enough that they still smelled like her. When Buffy buried her face into the fabric, she could still smell her mother’s favorite rose soap, the Amber oil that she had often used on her skin, and underneath that…just Mom.
Tears welled up and she blinked them back. She felt like she’d cried enough for a lifetime.
Buffy continued through the door. Lindsey had seen her looking worse anyway.
The lawyer was in the kitchen with his back to her when she walked in. He was cooking something at the state-of-the-art stove that smelled an awful lot like French toast and her tummy gave another grumble in anticipation. She couldn’t blame it. She’d barely eaten anything lately.
Lindsey gave her a warm smile when she plopped herself down on a stool at the island.
“ Sleep good?” he asked.
She gave a noncommittal shrug, “ I slept okay.” There was no need to mention the latest nightmare.
The Texan gave her a look that told her clearly that he wasn’t buying it but he also didn’t push. Instead, Lindsey changed the subject, “ Hungry?”
“ I could eat.” Buffy gave him a small smile.
“ Good.” he looked pleased. Turning back to the counter, he began piling food onto her plate, “ So the social worker, Ms. Steele, is supposed to be meeting us at the office at 11:30. That gives us sometime to eat, shower, and get dressed before we need to leave.” He turned back and set the plate in front of her.
He’d loaded it with French toast and bacon. He’d even sprinkled it with powdered sugar and topped it with sliced fruit…just the way she liked it.
Eagerly, she shoved the first bite into her mouth. Buffy knew it wasn’t ladylike but she was too hungry and it was too good for her to care. It wasn’t till she was halfway through her second piece that she looked back up at him. He was watching her with an amused grin that made his very good looking face turn nearly unbearably handsome.
She shoved a piece of bacon into her mouth and asked, “ What? You’ve never seen someone hungry before?”
“ Sorry, Just never seen a teenage girl shovel it in like that.” He teased.
She rolled her eyes and tried not to smile, “ Oh please, you know you’re an awesome cook. Stop fishing for compliments.”
Lindsey snorted, “ Oh yes, you caught me.” He let out a light chuckle.
He eyed her for a moment, his face growing more somber, “ Are you going to be ready for this?”
Buffy knew he wasn’t referring to a second helping of his kick-ass French toast.
She nodded but didn’t look up from her plate as she replied, “ Ms. Steele. 11:30. Your office. I’ll be ready. With bells on even.”
“ You know what I mean, Buffy.” His blue eyes were serious and his voice gentle, “ If you want another day or two, I can push back the meeting. It’s up to you, don’t worry about anything else.”
This time she met his eyes, “ I’m ready Lindsey.” She said it sincerely, “ So stop worrying. You’ll get wrinkles and gray hair. Well, more anyway.”
He huffed and threw a dish towel at her, “Hey! Oh, that’s real nice. Finish eating then go hop in the shower. We’ve got a lot to do.”
As he left the room, Buffy let the smile and humor fade from her face.
The truth was that she wasn’t ready. She was no where near ready for what was coming.
It had only been five days since the night that changed her life. When Buffy tried to think back, it always seemed to be divided… her life then
, and her life now
She’d had a mom, one who had loved and cherished her. One that had always been there, waiting with open arms and reassurances. Then
she’d been part of a family and had been sure that she always would be. Then
she’d been Buffy Anne Summers. She’d been confident in herself and in her ability to take on anything and everything.
And then there was Now
she had Nothing. Her mother was gone, murdered by a man that had sworn to love and cherish her. Now
her mom wasn’t even the same person. In her place was now the knowledge of another woman’s life. A stranger. Now
she knew Nothing. Now
Buffy was alone. Abandoned. Now
… who was she? She couldn’t be that girl anymore. Would never have that same innocence. She could never go back and unlive that night.
What was left? To go forward apparently.
These past few days had shown her that.
After walking into the kitchen and finding the body of Hank, Buffy didn’t even remember calling 911. She’d been huddled in the hallway, clutching the cordless phone to her chest and staring off into the distance when the police and paramedics showed up. The paramedics had said something about shock to Detective Lockley, the police officer that had been trying to ask her questions.
The detective had been getting more and more frustrated with Buffy’s lack of response and had been rapidly losing patience with the traumatized girl.
Thankfully, that’s about the time when Lindsey McDonald showed up. He was a good looking, well-dressed man with rich brown hair and sharp eyes. Buffy knew him of course. He’d been her mother’s friend and lawyer for a couple of years, handling all of the Art Gallery’s legal matters.
But Lindsey had always gone out of his way to be nice to her and she in turn had always liked him. She even liked to think of him as her pseudo big brother. Seeing him dressed in a crisp suit, not a hair out of place despite the fact that it was two in the morning, had been something tangibly familiar that she could grab on to. She knew Lindsey would take care of everything. He would take care of her.
She’d so needed someone to take care of her.
And he had. She’d been pretty out of it at the time so she wasn’t exactly sure what he’d done but the police had backed off and talk of child services had gone away. And then he’d whisked her off to his penthouse apartment.
Buffy had been inconsolable. He’d given her a day to herself before sitting her down and gently explaining that he had handled other things for her mother besides business matters. He was the executor of her mother’s will and would be serving as Buffy’s temporary guardian.
That had been enough to bring Buffy out of her stupor but when pressed, Lindsey wouldn’t explain anymore. He’d said that he would tell her everything the next day when she’d had sleep and a clearer head.
That’s what she liked most about Lindsey. Although he was a lawyer, and a pretty impressive one at that, and could manipulate and pull the strings with the best of them, he was straight with her. Buffy wasn’t sure if this was because he’d been such good friends with her mother or because he had a soft spot for kids with raw deals. She’d pretty much decided it was a little of both.
But Buffy knew she could trust him. Her mother certainly had after all.
The following morning wasn’t any better. Buffy had barely gotten any sleep. She’d simply cried most of the night. Some of the fog that had taken over her mind since that night had lifted but with it gone, realization was now sinking in and it wasn’t any better.
Her mother was gone. Dead. Murdered by the man who had raised her, who had been her father. A man that had then taken his on life. No one could explain why…it had been a fairly simply divorce. He’d been eager to get read of them, to start anew his own life. To the police, it made no sense. Buffy had never hated anyone before, but for him… it grew in her heart like a malignant tumor.
She was now alone in the world. Oh sure, she had Lindsey but he couldn’t keep her forever. He’d said it himself, he was her ’temporary guardian’. So who was her actual guardian?
Apparently, as Lindsey explained later that morning, it was her mother’s brother Lucius Malfoy.
“Huh?” had been Buffy’s only response.
To say she was confused was pretty accurate. Joyce had told Buffy of her own childhood several times. Her mother had been an only child. Joyce Summers had been an army brat, traveling the world with her own mother and soldier father her entire childhood. She’d even explained to Buffy more than once that that was how she’d acquired a faint accent. Joyce had often said that she’d had a falling out with her strict family and had left home, becoming something of a wild child for a number of years. By the time she’d had Buffy, her mother had always said, both of her parents had passed. So it had always been just them.
Only, according to Lindsey, that wasn’t true.
Hell, according to Lindsey, her Mom was British. “British!,” She‘d gaped.
As Lindsey explained further, Buffy could actually feel the foundation that her life was built on start to crumble.
Her mother’s name wasn’t Joyce. It was Josceline Malfoy. Josceline Malfoy had grown up in England, part of a very uppercrust family. She’d had one brother, younger, and they’d been quite close. She’d left home at seventeen due to ‘family issues’ and hadn’t looked back. She’d ended up in America, changed her name, had Buffy, married Hank, and lived out her life as Joyce Marie Summers.
Buffy had been reeling,“ How do you know all this? She told you this?” she’d demanded.
Lindsey nodded, “ She did. When I became her lawyer, Joyce---”
“ Don’t you mean Josceline
?” she’d snapped.
He gave her a look, “ Joyce
was very upfront about everything. And she was very explicit in the will she had made up. In the case of her death, I would become your temporary guardian until the time I could locate and contact her brother, Lucius, who she named as your permanent guardian.”
“ So?”, she’d asked warily, “Have you? Contacted him I mean?”
Lindsey hesitated, “ Not yet. He’s rather difficult to get a hold of I’m afraid. Plus the… government channels we have to go through in both countries---”
She’d interrupted again, “ Wait just a second. What do you mean… countries
Lindsey had given her an exasperated look, “ Well, he lives in England---”
“ Yes!!!” He’d snapped, “Now, if you’ll let me finish! He lives in England----”
“ I’m going to have to live in England, aren’t I?! ”
“ BUFFY! If you’d just let me---”
“ But I’m an American! Its like a whole other world over there!” Buffy had wailed.
Lindsey opened his mouth then shut it again. He cleared his throat rather awkwardly, “ Uh, yeah, about that. Buffy… what exactly do you know about… Magic?”
As Buffy had sat there, wide eyed and disbelieving, Lindsey had gone on to explain that where she would be going was indeed a whole other world. The Wizarding World. While half of her had been highly skeptical, the other half had simply gone, Oh well, that makes sense
. After all, hadn’t she seen those men turn to dust that night at the dance? Hadn’t she seen the fire itself reach out from the wall and lash out at him? When she brought these things up hesitantly to him, Lindsey seemed relieved, “ They were vampires. After you told your mother what happened, she knew right away exactly what they were. I believe that the girl you saw ’fighting’ them was what is known as a Slayer. Magical Demon Hunters basically. You’ve seen something rare indeed, Buffy. They’re mythical creatures, a lot of people don’t even believe in them. But don’t you realize Buffy? That girl wasn’t the only thing that saved your life that night. Your magic did.”
“ Again I say, huh?” Buffy gaped.
“ The fire. That was you. You’re an untrained witch and your magic created the fire as a defense mechanism. It was pretty impressive actually. Your mother was very proud.” he said.
She’d stared at him, “ You’re saying I can do magic? Like the bibbity-bobbity-boo kinda stuff? Or like pulling rabbits out of hats?”
“ Well, with the right training, probably a little bit of both.” he’d smiled.
Buffy had sat there for a moment, trying to take it all in.
“ Why didn’t she ever tell me?” She’d asked quietly.
“ She was trying to protect you,” Lindsey said softly, “ Joyce wanted you to have a normal childhood. She was planning on telling you everything after high school, then teach you magic herself. Joyce never really talked about her past.
She simply told me what she thought I’d need to know. My personal opinion was that she was trying to escape something from her past. But she never told me what.”
Lindsey went on to tell her more about this ’so-called wizarding society’. The immensity of it all simply baffled her.
Buffy studied him for a moment before asking, “ So you’re a wizard too?”
Lindsey let out a dark chuckle, “ Something like that. My mother was a witch that had given up her magic. My brothers and I kind of learned the backwoods way of things growing up. But by the time I began working for Wolfram & Hart, I’d already picked up a few tricks that help me keep up.”
“ Wolfram & Hart… so wizards work there?” Buffy was curious.
“ All kinds work there. While they do take on ’normal’ high profile clients, the firm specializes in representing magical folk. Wizards & witches, demons, fairies, basically you name it and we’ve represented it.” he’d explained.
“ Could I come in and see? Cause seeing and hearing about are two different things.” She’d pointed out.
Lindsey said, “ Not tonight. You need to get some sleep, enough so that those circles go away under your eyes. Maybe tomorrow night I’ll take you out and show you your proof.”
It was a deal.
The next night, Lindsey took her to the proof. Took her downtown to a karaoke bar called Caritas and introduced her to Lorne, the green skinned, red-eyed demon owner. Demon or not he was the sweetest guy she’d ever met. He’d pinched her cheeks, called her a looker, and slipped her some fancy martini called a ’naughty schoolgirl’ when Lindsey wasn’t looking.
It certainly didn’t take him long to notice though, “Lorne! She’s fourteen!” he’d practically growled.
“ Keep your pants on. It’s a virgin.” He reassured the irate man. He waited until Lindsey had turned to the stage before looking back at Buffy and winking.
She loved that guy.
They’d spent most of the evening sitting with Lorne, watching the strangest creatures enter and leave. She’d stared and gawked and had even come close to pointing rather rudely a few times. But she had seen the magic. The first time had been when one very drunk, apparently human, girl conjured up something she had slurringly called a ‘faerie light‘. It’d been the size of the tip of her pinky finger and had glowed like a tiny star. It’d flitted around its creator and then around the room. It even took a detour towards Buffy. The light had reminded her of a tiny firebug, and when it danced and weaved around her, had made her smile.
Buffy’s second experience with Magic wasn’t nearly as fun. Two of the small club’s patrons had apparently had a rather severe disagreement and when both had attempted to start a fight, had been tossed by an invisible force right out of the club. Through a wall. Lorne had chuckled at her shocked expression and explained about the non-violence spell that covered the entire club. Then he’d muttered something about insurance premiums and how much it cost for repairs every month.
Despite everything, she’d really enjoyed meeting The Host. And when he’d explained about his ability, Buffy had even sang a little for him. Both he and Lindsey had seemed pleasantly surprised that she had a fairly nice singing voice especially with the low, sad ballad that she‘d chosen. However the demon frowned at the vision that came and explained that it was quite fuzzy. He guessed it was because of her untrained magic, saying that it hung heavily around and in her aura like a storm. She’d shivered at the image.
Lorne was very apologetic about the failed reading. Buffy tried to tell him it was no big deal but he was adamant that he do something else to make it up to her.
“ Come on, Cupcake. Just name it.” He insisted.
She sighed and glanced at Lindsey but he just smiled and shrugged. She frowned at him but then thought for a moment.
“ Well,” Buffy hesitated, “ That faerie light thing was cool. Could you teach me to do that?”
Lorne rubbed his hands together, a terrifying smile lighting up his face, “ I can do better. Wait here.” He rushed into the back only to reappear a few minutes later.
“ Aha!” he shouted and practically threw the object at her. It was a book, leather bound and worn. The front cover had gold writing on it but it was flaked off in too many spots to be legible. Buffy gave Lorne a skeptical look.
“ What? You think I’d give a dull present?” he tsked at her, “ This my dear, is perfect. That little wiccan spell you were coveting happens to be in this book. But more importantly, that book has other spells. Rare wandless spells.” he emphasized.
She scrunched her brow, “ Wandless?”
Lindsey looked impressed and explained, “ There aren‘t many books that record such spells. Although most Witches and Wizards use wands to focus their abilities, some of the more formidable ones are able to use magic without one. Its hard and takes skill.”
“ Of which our little sugar dumpling will soon have in great amounts.” The host said smugly, “ I picked this little beauty up at an inner-dimensional swap meet downtown a few months ago. Got a great bargain. Of course, once I got home I had no idea what to do with it. I’m not exactly Glenda after all.”
He muttered out of the side of his mouth to Buffy, “ I’m a shopaholic you know. It’s a sickness.”
Buffy felt the side of her mouth twitch and muttered back, “ Pot meet Kettle. I may be sick but I’ve got great shoes.”
Lindsey rolled his eyes at their exchange.
She picked up the book and smiled genuinely at Lorne, “ Thanks.”
His eyes held warmth, “ You’re very welcome.”
They’d left soon after. Buffy was surprised at how disappointed she was to say goodbye to him. Even though they’d just met, Lorne had away of making everyone feel good around him. In fact, he seemed to be rather fond of her as well. Especially, since he’d slipped her a bright green card with his name and numbers listed on it in a rather dramatic font. On the back was a message scrawled in loopy handwriting. It simply said, ‘If you ever need anything.’
That night was a good memory compared to the rest of the week. Although Lindsey took care of pretty much everything, none of it escaped her notice. From ordering a cleaning crew to her former home, having them pack up the house, packing up her own things, to of course the cremation of her mother’s body.
Apparently, even though Joyce had run from her ancestral home years ago, it still meant something to her. Her mother had written explicitly that she wanted her ashes entombed at her childhood home, Malfoy Manor. Lindsey planned on speaking to her Uncle about the details whenever they finally spoke with him. For now, her mom’s ashes were in a silver urn that sat on the dresser of her current room. Buffy never looked directly at them.
Finding and contacting Lucius Malfoy had turned out to be much harder that anyone had thought. Not because they didn’t know where he lived or where he was but because of all the bureaucratic red tape with both magical governments that they had to go through.
Lindsey had spoken with America’s Federal Bureau of Magic about the situation and they in turn had contacted their British counterpoint- the Ministry of Magic. The Ministry had then contacted her Uncle. Eager to know anything about this mysterious family member, Buffy had relentlessly questioned Lindsey. It was no use however, since the lawyer didn’t know much more that she did. All they did know for sure was that Lucius Malfoy had been notified that his sister had died and that he had the guardianship of her daughter.
A day later, the Bureau of Magic ( or as Lindsey called them, the FBM) notified them that in just a few days, an official meeting had been scheduled for all parties in Roanoke, the magical capital of America. They were sending one of their social workers, a Ms. Steele, to meet with them and escort them to said city. Although, Lindsey was recognized as her temporary guardian and lawyer, Ms. Steele had been assigned to look after Buffy as well until custody was handed over to her uncle. Buffy, Lindsey, and the social worker would be arriving a day ahead of the scheduled meeting to fill out paperwork and have a small interview with a government official. Apparently, when you where an orphaned, underage, and untrained witch that was going to be changing countries, you tended to get a lot of attention.
After finishing up her breakfast, Buffy placed the dishes in the dishwasher and headed for the bathroom. Today was more than likely going to be difficult and she would do her best to be ready for it.
Buffy groaned. Her uncle was scheduled to arrive at the magical city tomorrow afternoon. God, she was incredibly nervous. After all, what did she even know about the guy? He could be an axe murderer! Okay
, Buffy admitted to herself as she turned the shower on, Probably not an axe murderer. Mom did name him my guardian and he is her brother. I’m just overreacting. He’s probably an jolly, old, fat guy who loves kids and has always wanted a daughter to spoil.
The thought immediately cheered her up as she stepped into the hot spray. As she lathered up with her jasmine scented body wash, another thought occurred to her. Malfoy Manor…
well, it sounded pretty snooty to her but weren’t really big houses called Manors? And if that were the case… well, how many lonely old portly uncles with no kids and who had always wanted a daughter to spoil lived in places like a Manor? Not many and those that did were probably not her Uncle. No, her uncle would probably be one of those withered old men, the tall kind with hooked noses who liked to swoop around glaring at you if you breathed wrong.
Buffy groaned as she began to shampoo her hair, That would be just her luck to get Uncle Hooknose.
She was applying conditioner to her ends when yet another thought occurred to her, What if he wasn’t lonely?
Her mother’s will had specifically stated her guardian was Lucius Malfoy. Just him. But her mother hadn’t spoken to her brother in years. He could be married and have kids or hell, even just a girlfriend. He might not want any extra company. What if he didn’t want her?
Buffy was drying herself off by the time she reached a conclusion. Although she figured he wouldn’t be traveling across an ocean to come and get her if he didn’t want her, she certainly wasn’t going to cast him as the Daddy Warbucks to her Orphan Annie.
She’d be practical and simply wait to see what he was like. If she got her hopes up… well, chances were that she’d be disappointed right? Right.
Dressed in a towel and with her wet gilded hair falling down her back in tangled curls, she walked back into the guestroom she’d been staying in. The once impeccable room was now far from it. Boxes and suitcases littered not only the floor but ever other available surface. The cleaning crew that Lindsey had sent to her house had been magical in nature and it showed.
It hadn’t even taken them a day to clean and pack up everything on the premises, leaving the house in perfect condition for being sold. All of Buffy’s own things had been packed in these boxes and suitcases. Everything else, namely her mother’s things and furniture, had already been packed and shrunk. Of all the magic Buffy had seen so far, that had impressed her the most. Lindsey had promised to do her things as well but was waiting till right before they left, giving her time to pack a small bag of things she wouldn‘t have to worry about unshrinking right away.
The bag she planned on taking was open on the bed. She’d already placed a few things inside, mostly clothes - underwear, a nightgown, a couple of outfits and a few pairs of shoes. The rest of the space was taken up by other things: Mr. Gordo, a picture of her and her mom, her diary, the book from Lorne, her laptop, ipod, and cell phone and various chargers. Lindsey had mentioned that most technology wouldn’t work around heavily magicked places but the way Buffy figured it was better safe than sorry.
Frowning at the little light flashing on her cell, she picked it up and flipped it open.
Sixty-nine missed calls. Sixty-nine messages.
Most were from girls at her school but a few were from teachers and even a couple from unknown numbers. The last thing she wanted was to have to talk to the gossip mongers at Hemery High.
Sighing in disgust, Buffy quickly hit ‘delete all’ and hit the off button. Grabbing her leather purse from the nightstand, she chunked the offending object inside. Pausing to grab her makeup bag from inside, Buffy spotted the little silver tube that she‘d thrown inside so long ago. A matter of days sure but it seemed like a whole other lifetime now.
She held it in her hand for a moment and briefly contemplated mailing it back to Cordy. In the end though, Buffy simply placed it back inside and tossed the purse next to her overnight bag. Turning she headed back into the bathroom.
It was time to put her game face on. Grrr.
Buffy was ready and waiting in the living room at 10:55. Her bag and purse were waiting by the door and her boxes were closed up and ready to be shrunk.
When Lindsey walked in, his expression was pleasantly surprised, “ I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen a female on time for anything. Good job.”
She let that one go but then bit her lip and asked nervously, “ Am I dressed alright? To meet with the social worker, I mean?” She did a little twirl.
Buffy had been worried while dressing for today. After all, she was normally trying to look older. But Lindsey had impressed upon her the importance of impressing this woman, so she really had tried to look cute and pretty but not too alluring. She’d chosen a soft green sweater, a blue jean skirt that wasn’t too short or too long(it did however have the added benefit of also making her butt look fabulous), dark gray leggings, and silver ballet flats because they were unbelievably comfortable and cute. She had left her hair down and dried into loose ringlets. Topped with light makeup and her trusty leather purse on her arm, Buffy felt like she was in her battle armor.
He smiled but reassured her, “ You look lovely Buffy. And very age appropriate.” he threw in, smirking.
She rolled her eyes, “ Suck it Lindsey.”
He laughed like she knew he would, “ Okay. The boxes ready?”
At her nod, he headed for the bedroom, pulling his wand out as he went. The first time she’d seen him do this, Buffy had commandeered the piece of wood, examining it closely. It wasn’t quite a foot, more like ten inches, and was made of what Lindsey said was Hickory. It was rougher than she’d thought it would be, with a texture like bark. When she’d asked about it, the lawyer had told her that all wands were different and to just wait until she got hers. Buffy was kinda secretly excited for that herself.
Making quick work of it, Lindsey was soon walking back in, teeny tiny little boxes in his hand. He moved to his own overnight bag and placed them with the others in one of the inside pockets. Glancing up at her, he asked, “ You ready?”
She nodded and extended her left foot in an exaggerated dancer‘s pose.
Lindsey glanced down at it puzzled.
Buffy shook it slowly and the chime of bells filled the room, “ I told you I’d have bells on.”
It startled him into laughter and he examined her ankle with a grin, “ Where did you get that?”
She gave a small sad smile. Tiny silver bells hung from a delicate silver ankle chain. Whenever she moved, it tinkled charmingly.“ My mom gave it to me when I turned thirteen.” The pain in her voice didn’t need to be explained.
Lindsey gave her a solemn look, “ Its beautiful.”
“Thanks.” she shuffled from foot to foot, “ Shouldn’t we go? We don’t want to be late.”
“ Right.” he grabbed their bags, leaving Buffy to carry her purse. He held the front door open, “ After you milady.”
The ride to Wolfram & Hart was a tense affair. Lindsey tried to make small talk but Buffy was too nervous to pay attention. After the fifth attempt, he’d simply given up and turned on the radio.
The office building that housed the legal firm of Wolfram & Hart was a monument of shining glass and steel.
Walking through the lobby was weird. Everywhere she looked were young business execs dressed in expensive suits, snapping orders to either each other or into their cell phones. Some looked outright human but Buffy could have sworn she saw a guy with tail. And then their were others that were most definitely not human. They were gigantically tall and dwarf short and every size in the middle. Some were wisp thin and a few where even built like the incredible hulk. Some had blue skin, green skin, and in one case pink skin( the poor guy looked like he was trying to fade into the background). There were feathers, fur, and some strange blue goo. And she’d thought she’d seen it all at Lorne‘s. Oh Boy.
Once you managed to get past the dragon of a receptionist(and knowing this place, she actually probably was) that they had stationed at the long marble greeting desk, glass turned to rich wood paneling and steel to marble floors. There were plush carpets and antiques and all of it combined to create a beautiful, if somewhat cold and imposing, atmosphere.
Lindsey led her to a group of elevators situated at the back of a massive hall. She waited till he’d ushered them inside and the doors closed before turning to him.
“ This is where you work everyday?!” Buffy asked incredulously.
Lindsey’s expression was smug, “ Cool, huh? I told you, we get all kinds.”
She rolled her eyes and muttered under her breath, “ Yeah, All kinds of weirdos.”
The elevator dinged and the doors opened to admit a another person.
A stunning woman with dark brown hair and eyes.
She was beautiful, Buffy decided, but very shark like. She’d settle for admiring the gorgeous Manolo Blahniks and black Italian cut suit the lady was wearing.
Shark Lady gave her a once over then settled her gaze on the man next to her.
“ Lilah.” He didn’t so much as say it as spit the word.
Amusement and something akin to malice filled her eyes as she regarded the both of them, “ I know you like small blondes, Lindsey, but cradle robbing now too? What would the senior partners say?”
Buffy gaped but fury filled Lindsey’s face and his chest swelled, “ Shut your mouth Lilah! This happens to be a client who---”
“ Is just dying to know where you got those beautiful shoes!?” Buffy cut in quickly. She’d thought she’d better since Lindsey looked ready to blow. Boys! Didn’t they know how to play the game?
The woman, Lilah, looked faintly surprised and not just a little amused, “ My Shoes. Really? These old things? I think I picked them up on my last trip to New York. Don’t worry dear, you wouldn’t be able to afford them yet
anyway.” Her voice was sugary sweet and just this side of nauseating. She glanced back at Lindsey and smirked before continuing,
“ But I’m sure Mr. McDonald would be more than happy to buy you a treat later on.”
Lindsey opened his mouth, looking more than ready to blast the harpy, so Buffy cut in again, “ Oh, I’m sure he will,” her voice was no less sweet or any less poisonous and it went well with her thoughtful expression, “ Only I’ll make sure he gets a pair from this season’s line. Yours are nice but they’re also out of style. I like to be a little more current.” she paused and pulled back to study the woman’s face, which was currently flushing, “ If you don’t mind me asking… What are you?”
“ Excuse me?!” Lilah snapped.
She widened her eyes innocently, “ What kind of creature are you? Lindsey told me about how all kinds work here and well, after studying your face…Well, what kind are you?”
The explosion that was building on Lilah’s face was kinda funny and scary to watch. Thankfully, the elevator doors dinged and opened and Lindsey, grabbing the chance simply said, “ See ya, Lilah.” and shoved her out of the elevator, hitting the close door button immediately.
As soon as the elevator was on its way again, Lindsey laughed so hard tears formed.
Buffy raised a brow and said dryly, “ It wasn’t that funny.”
Catching himself, he simply grinned at her, “ Are you kidding? That’s Lilah Morgan. She lives to spread misery everywhere she goes. And you actually made her speechless. It was a beautiful thing. I’m definitely getting you a present!”
Pleased, Buffy asked, “ But why does she dislike you so much? Seemed pretty personal to me.”
Lindsey nodded, “ Lilah and I are actually competing with each other for a promotion right now. Its gotten pretty ugly already and will probably get more so before its over.”
She frowned, “ Well, that sucks.”
He nodded again then smiled to himself, “ I’ll always cherish the memory of the Lilah/Buffy incident.”
Buffy rolled her eyes, “ You are such a weirdo.”
Lindsey’s office was pretty impressive, with a big desk and even bigger windows. The walls that weren’t lined with the crystal clear glass were lined with shelves of legal books. Actually, it was kind of intimidating.
When she mentioned this to Lindsey, he’d just snorted, “ Now you’re intimidated? Maybe I should have brought you here first thing. That way I wouldn’t have gotten so much back talk.”
Buffy ignored him and pretended to examine a painting on one of the walls.
The phone on his desk buzzed and Lindsey crossed the room to answer. A moment later and Buffy heard, “ Send her up.”
The butterflies in her stomach were doing the mambo and she had a faint thought about throwing up. Whatever was on her face must have been bad cause Lindsey looked concerned when he asked, “ You okay? You got a little green tinge to your face.”
She nodded and tried to think calming thoughts. She wasn’t really nervous about meeting the agent but she was sure as hell nervous about what came after. She’d be entering into another world, living in another country, meeting family that she’d never even known existed. Hell, she’d probably be expected to drink tea! And what if they didn’t like her? Buffy knew she’d be expected to learn magic, but what if she sucked at it? All the thoughts swirled in her head and settled in her stomach like a cold weight, her stomach shifted uneasily and Buffy could feel her face break out in a cold sweat.
Lindsey asked, “ Do you want to go to the bathroom and freshen up a bit? Maybe get a glass of water?”
She shook her head and took a deep breath. Then another. And another. She had to do this. She could do this. She was her mother’s daughter, whatever that might mean now. Buffy stood tall and squared her shoulders. She was ready.
Just in time too, because a moment later there was a firm knock on the door and a woman entered. Buffy wrinkled her brow at her, taking in the woman’s appearance. The social worker was younger than what she’d expected. Mid-twenties maybe. She had a tall, thin build with a pretty face and big silver-blue eyes. What looked to be soft yellow hair was pulled back into a severe bun at the nap of her neck. The woman was dressed bizarrely in an unflattering, slightly moldy looking brown suit. Clunky black loafers adorned her feet. She carried a briefcase made from some sort of reptile skin that Buffy didn’t even recognize.
The woman crossed the room, glancing between Lindsey and Buffy, before extending her hand and giving them both a firm shake.
“ Hello, my name is Ann Steele. Lindsey McDonald I presume?” at his nod she moved right back to Buffy, “ You must be Ms. Summers. Its very nice to meet you.”
Buffy gave her a small smile, “ You too.”
The woman gave them a once over and a slightly puzzled, “ Did you send your things ahead?”
Lindsey smiled, “ I went ahead and shrunk most of everything. Its secure,” he gestured to the two bags by his desk, “ We‘re just going to carry these.”
Looking a bit flustered, Ms. Steele smiled at him, “ I’m sorry, I just had no idea you were a wizard. When they said you were a lawyer and worked at Wolfram & Hart… well, I just assumed--”
Amused, Lindsey smiled, “ Don’t worry about it. Happens all the time.”
Buffy gave them both a quizzical look. Why wouldn’t she think Lindsey was a wizard?
The social worker tore her gaze away from the lawyer‘s. She cleared her throat, “Okay, now are you both clear on how we‘ll be traveling?”
“ To Romono, you mean?” Buffy asked.
Ms. Steele gave a slight smile, “ To Roanoke, sweetie. It’s the oldest wizarding city in America. We won’t be able to apparate there, however, so we’ll be taking a portkey.”
Buffy understood about half those words, “ A portkey?”
Lindsey explained, “ Basically, its an object that if you touch at a specific time, will then ‘teleport’ you to a specific location.”
“ Oh.” Well, she’d believe it when she saw it.
Ms. Steele explained further, “ Now we will be making a small stop halfway to the colony but it won‘t take long. I need to drop off some paperwork and conduct a small interview for another case. But you two shouldn’t be bored, there will be plenty of stuff to do to keep you occupied until I’m done.”
Lindsey and Buffy exchanged looks. Exactly what kind of ‘stuff ’?
The agent dug through her briefcase for a moment before pulling a small object out. It was a normal looking key, the type for houses or apartments. She explained, “ Typically, port keys are made from random objects but I prefer to use an old key of mine. Ironic humor, I know. But it works for me.” Ms. Steele finished with a shrug. She glanced at her watch and gestured for them to move closer, “ Okay, we have one minute to activation. Everyone got everything?”
Lindsey nodded and grabbed both of their overnight bags. Buffy clutched her purse closer but nodded too. When Lindsey strode forward and placed a finger on the key, both grown ups turned to give her an expectant look.
She took a deep breath. This was it. God, she still felt like throwing up.
Buffy walked forward and placed her right index finger on the key. Lindsey caught her eye and gave her an encouraging smile.
She appreciated the small rush of comfort that caused but she certainly wasn’t prepared for the jarring sensation of being yanked by her belly button into a swirling vortex.
Her last clear thought was that if she threw up in here, she hoped that it at least wouldn’t get in her hair.