Rating – PG for language for the moment but may well change.
Disclaimer: Tolkien owns LOTR, Whedon owns BTVS.
Thanks to my betas - Zoe and Arsena McIntire – all help much appreciated.
The Museum was vast, the air clean and cool. Giles could smell the books in the Reading Room from the entrance and he longed to walk through the stacks, feel the softness of the ancient leather bindings, touch the paper, and fill his mind full of the words the books contained. Buffy grinned up at him. She could feel him twitching beside her and she knew exactly what he wanted. She took his arm and made him jump, so wrapped up was he in the fantasy of his library.
London was a huge and bustling place, somewhere she had never expected to go but after the Hellmouth closed. They had all found themselves at loose ends. Using what was left of the Council resources he had access to Giles had brought most of them back to England, his home ground. Faith and Robin had taken some of the new Slayers to Cleveland Xander and Andrew, to everyone’s surprise had gone with them making noises about needing someone sensible with them to keep them under control. Giles and the girls Buffy, Dawn and Willow had taken the next flight out of the country back to England.
The girls had exhausted Giles by hauling him all over London into what seemed like every single shop until they had replenished their wardrobes. Giles justified the use of Council money to himself as compensation for all the crap they had been through already. If he was frank with himself, he knew that money and belongings could never make up for all the shit that his Slayer had dealt with over the years. Once Buffy’s shopping needs were dealt with, he took them to his favourite parts of London, sharing with them the beauties of the City, the tiny pubs hidden away in Wapping, the wide open spaces of the London parks. Dawn giggled in delight as Giles took them on an open topped bus, on the London eye, a riverboat cruise. Willow, for the most part, was quieter than he had ever known her. Kennedy had gone with Faith, her need to control her Slayer abilities was too great and Willow, showing great wisdom if not sense, had encouraged her to go. Willow missed Kennedy very much and that loss together with her exhaustion from the spell had weakened her but she grew a little stronger every day. Her hair was now streaked with white at the front and she seemed indefinably older. Giles watched her silently as she encouraged Buffy and Dawn to live their lives but she herself did not seem to live at all – simply to exist. Which is why he had brought her here. The British Museum. Even Buffy had expressed an interest in seeing it and Willow seemed to show some interest so he had bundled them all into a cab one crisp winter morning and directed the driver to Bloomsbury Square.
“Go on then” Buffy nudged him in the ribs “I know you’re dying to go.”
She stifled a laugh as Giles grabbed Willow’s hand and pulled her off in the direction of the Great Court and the Reading Room leaving Dawn and Buffy alone.
“I didn’t realize how much he missed this place,” Buffy said, as she and Dawn ambled around the museum slowly, moving from section to section. They lingered in the section on America, marveling at the collection of pieces that were there.
“Can you blame him? It’s amazing here.” Dawn paused by a large exhibit board to read it.
Buffy gave her sister a sidelong glance. She seemed to be turning into mini Giles, so knowledgeable and serious – perhaps she should think about finding a school for her. Dawn was bright, brighter than Buffy had ever been and she deserved the best chances. Buffy allowed her thoughts to wander – how had the Monks made Dawn so much more intelligent that Buffy was if Dawn was made out of Buffy? And she was sure that some of Dawn’s more irritating characteristics had nothing to do with her. She was so caught up in her thoughts that she did not notice the tall man moving through the darkened exhibit hall and walked slap bang into him knocking them both to the floor, striking her head hard against the marble tiles.
“Oh god, I’m so sorry. I’m so clumsy sometimes.” Buffy struggled inelegantly to her knees and looked at the person she had sent flying and was, momentarily, lost for words.
“The clumsiness was mine” the beautiful man got to his feet and gave her a dazzling smile before holding his hand out. “I do apologize.”
She allowed him to take her hand and squeeze it in apology before he lifted her easily to her feet. She swayed against him, dizziness hitting her, and he caught her again.
“Sorry” she mumbled, “I think I hit my head.” She allowed him to help her to a chair set away from the main exhibit, and he stood in front of her tipping her head forward, pushing strong but gentle fingers into her hair to examine the lump that was slowly swelling there.
“I am sorry. I should be more careful” he stepped away from her and dropped to his knees so he was on her level. “I think it is only a bump but perhaps you would like a glass of water.”
“My sister is round here somewhere” Buffy managed to say. The vision before her nodded once and left her sight for a moment, returning quickly with Dawn by his side. Dawn rolled her eyes when she saw Buffy but concern was written on her face when she realized how pale her sister was.
“My office is just down here. It’s cool and quiet.”
“Sounds good” Dawn agreed.
Buffy allowed herself to be pulled to her feet and helped down the corridor. This was nothing less than embarrassing. Imagine her, a Slayer, a legend in her own time, brought low by a knock on the head.
A door was swung open and Buffy gratefully collapsed on green velvet sofa that ran along one side of the crowded office. There were books piled high, drawings and boxes of god only knows what, everywhere. The man disappeared off to find her a drink and Buffy allowed her eyes to close as the throbbing in her head increased. Dawn couldn’t help herself, and began to leaf through an old leather bound book that was beautifully illustrated. She glanced up guiltily when the man returned carrying a glass brimming with water for Buffy.
“Sorry” Dawn said, closing the book, feeling as though she had been caught stealing.
“Please don’t stop,” he said. Buffy sipped at the cold water and closed her eyes again as the noise of the museum faded away.
“I’m Dawn. Dawn Summers.”
“Henry. Henry Lorran but my friends call me Hal.”
Dawn smiled up at him, taking in his unusually white hair, worn down past his shoulders in a ponytail, his sharp cheekbones, vivid blue eyes and bright smile. He turned his attention on to Buffy who was recovering in the silence of the room.
“Are you feeling better Miss Summers?”
“Buffy. My name is Buffy. And yeah, other than the massive lump I’m fine.” Cautiously Buffy sat herself upright and touched the back of her skull gingerly wincing as her fingers brushed the wound on the back of her head.
“Are you still in pain? I think I have something for that bruise.” Hal Lorran moved away from the sofa to his desk and unearthed a telephone. He a few numbers and spoke to someone on the other end.
“My colleague will be here in a moment. She has something that will help with the swelling.”
Dawn diverted Hal’s attention from Buffy as she asked about the manuscript she had been looking at and Buffy, uninterested by the discussion, closed her eyes again to await pain relief. The muted voices of her sister and Hal lulled her into sleep, her eyes closing in relief.
A knock on the door interrupted Dawn and Hal’s conversation. Dawn’s mouth dropped open in sheer amazement when a woman entered the room. She had to be the most beautiful woman she had ever seen, her rich brown hair flowing over her shoulders with the same bone structure as Hal. Dawn looked from Hal to the new arrival.
“Is that your sister?” she asked tentatively. To her surprise Hal laughed uproariously, the laughter banishing any timidity she felt.
“What makes you say that?” he said smiling at the young woman.
“You look so similar. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you.”
“It is her you have offended, for suggesting that we are related so closely.”
Dawn was about to apologize again when she realized he was joking. The woman joined them on the floor, kneeling over Buffy who awoke briefly and submitted to being gently examined again.
“I am Arwen” the woman said, her lovely eyes attentive on Buffy who groaned as Arwen discovered the wound. “I am one of the curators of the Ancient Europe section. But I dabble in a little herbal healing as well. Your sister will be fine.” Arwen picked up the bottle she had brought in with her and poured it into the half drunk glass of water that Buffy had left on the floor. The liquid was bright red and filled the room with the scent of raspberries.
“Drink this – you will feel much better.”
“I’ve heard that name before” Dawn said. “Arwen. It sounds really familiar.”
Arwen shrugged gracefully before standing. “I hope your sister improves Dawn. And I hope my cousin does not bore you with philosophical talk.”
“Cousin?” Dawn’s eyes went from Arwen to Hal. “So you are related?”
“We are” Arwen confirmed, smiling “Just not as closely as you suggested.”
Arwen turned to Hal who was still sprawled on the floor. “Mind your manners with these ladies, cousin.”
And then there was silence. A short charged silence. Arwen and Hal stared at each other, deeply into each other’s eyes but Dawn, her attention now on Buffy missed it.
“Enjoy your visit here Dawn” Arwen told her, before leaving the room.
“Are you feeling better Buffy?” Dawn asked as Buffy pulled herself upright, blinking.
“Yeah. I don’t know what it was she gave me but the pain’s gone.” Buffy gave Hal a luminous smile. “Unbelievable. And better than aspirin She should sell that stuff.”
“Arwen has always been very secretive about her magic potions” Hal said. He rose from the floor as Buffy stood. “I am glad you are improved.”
Buffy eyed him thoughtfully. Now that her brain didn’t feel that it was splitting her skull open, she could take a proper look at him. Her Slayer senses were tingling a little but try as she might, she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was, just that there was some magic. Perhaps it was the concoction that she had just drunk. Even so, Hal was a sight for sore eyes, tall, much taller than her, and giving her a look that made her knees want to give way all over again just for him to catch her. Instead, she pulled her lust back into check and concentrated on the present.
“Let’s go and find Giles and Willow.”