Title: To Catch a Thief
Disclaimer: Everything Buffy belongs to Joss and Co. The Highlander stuff belongs to Rysher, Davis/Panzer, and the gods know whom else.
Distribution: If you want it, help yourself. Please just tell me where it’s going.
Summary: Willow has a nocturnal visitor.
Notes: For Highlander, the timing is pretty flexible. I was thinking it probably takes place in one of the last few seasons – Definitely before The Raven. For Buffy, this takes place between Season 6 and Season 7. Vague spoilers through 7.1. Amanda’s POV
/indicates thoughts/ *indicates emphasis*
Amanda eased the heavy oak door open slowly to reveal a very large room that was obscured by shadows.
/Damn moonlight. All the shadows mess with my depth perception. I’m toast if I run into something noisy – like one of these authentic suits of armor. Who actually has those things as decorations anyway?/
She had to maneuver around several impediments as she went in search of her objective. The room looked like a movie version of a proper English library. The walls were lined with dusty tomes. Heavy wooden tables and big wingback chairs were scattered about. And there were books . . . everywhere. They were in piles on tables, and chairs, and the floor. Her elbow grazed a four-foot high stack and she barely managed to avert what would have been a chain reaction as one collapsing pile brought down the rest like dominoes.
/This is a more effective security system than lasers and pressure sensors. *Those* I can handle./
Finally, Amanda made it to the far end of the room. She didn’t bother to suppress her predatory smile. The display case in front of her held numerous strange objects, some of which might loosely be called art, but Amanda was here for the ruby. It was huge. Amanda tore her eyes off her prize and conducted a quick but through examination of the display case. There were no indications of any security measures. The case didn’t even have a lock.
/This is way too easy./
But she couldn’t stop now. Jewels were her specialty, and this one was magnificent. She opened the glass door and stretched out one tentative hand . . . and spun around in surprise as a loud whooshing sound came from behind her.
The cold, dark fireplace that she had seen as she entered the room was now filled with a bright crackling fire.
/That was not there two seconds ago./
Suddenly, Amanda noticed a young woman with red hair who was wrapped in a blanket and curled up in a big chair to one side of the fire.
/She must have been sitting in the dark and I didn’t see her. Sloppy of me./
“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you.” The redhead said with a solemn expression on her face.
Amanda’s shock quickly morphed into indignation. /Okay, so she caught me. That doesn’t mean that she can sit there and issue ambiguous threats. Besides, I definitely think I can take her. I’m getting what I came here for./
Amanda quirked one perfectly shaped eyebrow and folded her arms across her chest. “Why not? Are you going to stop me?”
“No, I won’t stop you, but the ruby will – permanently.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It’s cursed.” The redhead stated very matter-of-factly.
/ ‘It’s cursed,’ she says. Does she really think I’ll believe that? This isn’t exactly King Tut’s tomb, and I’m definitely not Howard Carter – the man had no fashion sense whatsoever./
“Fine, if it’s cursed then I’m sure you’d be happy to get rid of it. I’ll just take it off your hands.”
Amanda turned back to the case and barely managed to snatch her fingers out of the way as the door snapped closed. She grabbed the handle and pulled, but nothing happened. She yanked harder. It still wouldn’t open.
“What the hell?” Amanda muttered. /This job is turning out to be more complicated than I had expected./
“Sorry, I can’t let you touch it. I wasn’t kidding. It really is cursed. A few hundred years ago some wealthy folks planted it among other valuables as a security device to deal with . . . um . . . people with sticky fingers.”
Amanda folded her arms across her chest again and assumed a pose of indignation.
“If you touch it, you’ll activate a spell that will cause your blood to solidify. It doesn’t last very long, but you’ll still be pretty much dead.”
Amanda’s nose wrinkled in disgust. “That’s . . .”
“Really gross? Yeah, well, apparently the nobles way back then didn’t have much of a sense of humor when it came to their gold and jewels.”
“Tell me about it.” The thief muttered under her breath. Then she shook herself. “Wait a minute, you’re serious about this curse stuff.”
Amanda took a deep breath. “Then that means that you’re either crazy . . . or you’re a witch.”
“I’m not crazy, well, at least not at the moment.”
The two women stared at each other for several moments until the redhead shrugged and made a small flicking motion with one hand. A book on a high shelf inched its way out and then flew straight at Amanda. She caught it with a small “Oof.”
“That’s Bartleby’s Compendium of Extinct Demons. We have two copies, and we really don’t need it much for research, ‘cause, you know, extinct demons aren’t all that dangerous – what with being extinct. So, I can’t let you have the ruby, but the book should be worth quite a bit in the right circles.”
Amanda made the quick decision to cut her losses and get the hell out of there. /Maybe the book will be worth something – maybe not. Either way, I think it’s past time to be elsewhere. I’ve only met people who could be classified as witches a couple of times, but they didn’t impress me as the most stable people. She even admitted that she’s not crazy ‘at the moment.’ I don’t want to tempt fate that she’ll suddenly decide to cast some kind of strange spell on me, or worse yet, call the police./
The firelight allowed Amanda to traverse the obstacle course of books, and she was at the door when she heard a tiny sigh behind her. Against her better judgment, she stopped and turned around. The redhead wasn’t even paying any attention to the hasty departure of the thief. She was staring into the fire with a look of sad resignation on her face.
“What’s wrong?” Amanda asked while silently berating herself. /This is not my best idea. I should be getting my cute little butt out of here. But, she was actually nice to me. That’s definitely not the reaction I usually get when caught with my hand in the proverbial cookie jar. She reminds me a little of Duncan when he gets all broody./
“You should go. If one of the coven wakes up they’ll probably call the cops.”
/Coven? Okay, let’s not go there./
“I’ll go . . . but you helped me out here. Is there anything I can do to return the favor?”
The redhead shook her head slowly. A single tear rolled down her cheek. Amanda put her book down on a table and walked over to the young woman that seemed so tiny curled up in her big chair in front of the fire. She gently wiped away the tear with her fingertips and bent down to place a light kiss on the redhead’s lips. She straightened and walked back towards the door. She collected her book and paused.
“It will get better.”
“How do you know?”
Amanda turned around to face the young woman once more. Then she let down some her own emotional barriers and allowed her age to be reflected in her eyes.
“I know because I’ve lived on this earth for a very long time, and eventually, it always gets better.”
The redhead closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and let it out very slowly. Despite herself, one side of her mouth curled up in a hesitant smile. When she finally opened her eyes the thief was gone.
~ Fin ~
NB: First, I must apologize to the folks who asked for a sequel to Death and the End of the World. I still plan to do it, but real life has been exceedingly crappy, and long stories are officially on hold – at least ‘til the end of the semester. (Law school bites!) I’ve had several plot bunnies scampering around my apartment for a while. This story was one of them. I finally managed to finish it, although it wound up going in a direction that I had not foreseen. Feedback would be wonderful.