Prologue/Girl in a Bar
This is a derivative work using characters and intellectual property belonging to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Fox Television, J.K. Rowling and her publishing company. And eventually others.Warning/Rating:
Adult situations and subtext.Spoilers:
All seasons of BtVS (Pretend Angel Season 5 never occurred. If you want to know what happened to our heroine and her compatriots between "Chosen" and this story you'll have to read this and future stories in the series.). HP: Order of the Phoenix (In a world where the events in the last 2 books never happened and the Voldemort issue was solved in a slightly different way (This was written before HP Books 6 & 7 came out and making this story fit the events in those story would require too much rewriting.))AN:
There is a mini prologue, 7 main chapters and an epilogue to this fic. AN:
[25-Feb-2006] I've tweaked several sentences to make this story more compatible with several other stories in this series and moved the epilogue to a separate chapter after tweaking it a little. Otherwise, this story hasn't changed since it was originally finished back in 2004. AN:
[21-Aug-2009] Minor dialogue punctuation tweaks but still needs work. Someday.--- --- ---Prologue
She'd been in London for a week now and she was bored. Not just the boredom of inaction or the boredom of too many Watcher meetings but the boredom that comes from spending too much time trying to prevent boredom. In Buffy's opinion boredom feeding on itself was not a pretty sight.
She didn't know how Giles had managed to convince her that her input and presence in London, as the oldest surviving vampire slayer, would be an important part in this stage of rebuilding the Council of Watchers. And after a week of this she no longer cared.
So far, none of the meetings and events she had attended really needed her to be in London. She could have just as well used some of that fancy teleconferencing equipment Willow had recently installed in their Cleveland office.
If they needed a living, breathing slayer for their Council meetings the two currently in residence in the Council's London office could serve that purpose. And if they really wanted one with experience working with the old Council it wouldn't be too hard to track down Faith or Robin and his merry band of demon hunters wherever they were this month. If not Dawn or Xander, someone else in Cleveland or the LA office would know where they were or how to contact them.
Sure, they would probably have had to bribe Faith to get her to play nice but if they could afford to put her up in one of the Council's guest flats and pay all of her expenses while in London, a little Faith bribing wouldn't have taken much more effort.
If she were the suspicious sort she would suspect some Dawn or Willow plot to trick her into taking a vacation. While two weeks away from the Cleveland Hellmouth and a break from visiting the slayers scattered across the globe had originally sounded very tempting, she hadn't been this bored since the summer after they'd shut down the Initiative. She wasn't a watcher. Meetings and research were really not her thing. She needed action!
Even patrolling the back alleys and cemeteries of London had proven to be an unproductive way to relieve boredom. With two young and energetic slayers running around London the demon and vampire population were keeping a very low profile. And she wasn't going to ask Fred and Izzy to take a break just so she could kill something evil because she was bored.
So, a week into her London visit, when she wasn't in a boring meeting; training with one of the local slayers; at a boring Watcher party; or on the phone with Willow or Dawn in Cleveland; Buffy would escape from the Council office complex and wander around the older sections of London, a tourist map in hand, looking for something a little more exciting to do.--- --- ---Chapter I: Girl in a BarMonday
It was getting late, close to dusk. Wandering semi-aimlessly around dusty, old, history laden buildings, monuments in parks, and following in the wake of a 'Jack the Ripper' tour was thirsty work. Even for a slayer.
Giles was meeting with old friends and for the first time since arriving in London, she was on her own for dinner.
Fast food she could get anywhere and, looking down at her black leather jacket, white t-shirt and jeans, she wasn't really dressed for anything fancy or expensive. So now seemed the perfect time to find one of those stereotypical English pubs that she had always imagined Giles hanging out at in his youth and later during that year he had abandoned them in his misguided attempt to help her by running away after her return from her second death.
This was something she had promised herself she would do if she ever had the time during one of her many visits to London. Not that she would ever tell Giles that. Maybe Dawn or Willow. Later. He knew her too well and would know why she wanted to do it and would feel guilty even now, several years later. It still hurt but she'd grown past any desire to punish him for the pain his abandonment that year had caused her. This was just for her. If she could just see where he'd been, maybe it wouldn't hurt as much. Maybe.--- --- ---
Pausing on the cobbled street, she was drawn to a spot where there was an odd, almost electrical, tingling in the air. Kind of like the feeling she would get around Willow when she was doing major magic, though not as strong. It was as if the hairs on her arms were trying to stand straight up but couldn't.
And right there, between a bookstore that just shouted 'tweed' and 'Giles' and a grungy old record shop was just what she was looking for, a pub. It seemed a bit more decrepit than what she would normally seek out. Unless she was demon hunting she usually went for something a bit more modern and clean looking. But she'd wanted a pub and there it was. What kind of name was "Leaky Caldron" she wondered. Just before she reached the door that electric staticky feeling disappeared.
She was curious and thirsty enough to push aside any doubts about this being a good idea and walked all the way in, not quite sure what to expect and ready to leave in a hurry. And hoping they would take her American money. She'd used up the English currency she'd had with her earlier in the day to pay for lunch and that tour.
The outside world fell away. Standing in the entryway, it felt as if she'd entered a sanctuary far away from the hard edged and ancient London she'd spent the afternoon getting acquainted with.
Quickly looking around, trying to not be too obvious about it, she checked out the pub and mentally cataloged its occupants. There was something distinctly odd about the clothing choices of the people she could see in the dim light. Lots of flowing robes and cloaks in a lot of loud and glaring colors, making her feel distinctly underdressed. Cordelia would have been horrified at the sight.
Picking out the unusual and hidden being a highly developed survival trait in a vampire slayer, she knew there was something different about the place but whatever it was it wasn't something evil or dangerous. There were none of the usual signs of a demon hangout and the inhabitants at least looked human. And while the clothing worn by the majority of the occupants made her eyes hurt, that wasn't a sign of evil.
The murmur of voices died down for a moment as she stood there and picked up as she moved into the main room.
Walking over to the bar that covered most of the left side of the room she had just entered, Buffy addressed the bartender, who was giving her a curious look. "You take American money, don't you?" she asked him with her best 'innocent, harmless tourist' smile.
"Yes miss, though we prefer our own," he said with that traditional bartender smile used to welcome the stranger.
With an amused grin she replied, "Okay. I promise next time to bring the right kind. Could I have a half pint of bitter?" One drink wouldn't hurt as long as she had something to eat soon. That unfortunate beer incident was years ago and she'd long since gotten over her aversion to any hops related beverages.
"Thanks." She picked up her glass and the unfamiliar change, glad that a few minutes with a British English phrase book had saved her some potential drink ordering embarrassment, and headed for an empty table she spied in a quiet corner. There was a comfortable feeling to the pub and she sat back to enjoy it as she sipped her beer. No one around her seemed to be in a hurry, coming and going from both the main entrance and another entrance at the other end of the pub.
Very relaxing, she mused. She wasn't ready to completely abandon going out to dance clubs and parties but she could get used to it. She just needed to find a place like this in Cleveland.
Putting down her empty glass, she wasn't sure if she should head back to her guest flat or get another. Contemplating what had turned out to be a surprisingly drinkable beverage, she was startled out of her reverie by a cheerful voice, "Miss? Someone thought you would like to try this." and the waitress placed a pint of some steaming, foamy substance in front of her and subtly motioned over to the bar.
Surprised, Buffy thanked her and glanced over at the bar to see if she could pick out the person responsible. It had been a while since she had been on the receiving end of such attention. Other than a woman who could be her age sitting near the door, everyone at the bar seemed to be engaged in deep conversations with their neighbors.
When Buffy cocked a questioning eyebrow in her direction, she slid off her stool and headed towards Buffy's table. As she drew near, what struck Buffy the most were her twinkling brown eyes, short red hair, and her Dawn-like height.
Stopping at Buffy's table, "I hope you don't mind the company?" the woman asked with a slight grin.
Without a second thought, Buffy gestured at her table "Have a seat."
Sitting down, the redhead leaned forward -- "You aren't from around here." It was a statement, though the implied question in her eyes was clear. "Tom keeps a nice pub," she said, nodding towards the bartender, "but not many tourists find it."
In what wasn't quite a regulation Willow 'babblefest' but coming very close, Buffy blurted out, "No. I'm in London for business. Got bored with meetings I didn't need to attend. Thought I'd explore a bit. I was thirsty and always wanted to check out a real pub. There aren't any in Cleveland." before grinding to a halt in surprise. She didn't normally say so much to someone she'd just met and wasn't sure what had caused it.
Couldn't be she was missing her best friend, was it ? No. She'd talked with her just the other day. Lonely ? That didn't usually cause her to tell strangers her life story. Obviously no more beer for her. It was making her freer than normal with the verbage. Buffy gave a mental shake of her head at the thought - next thing she knew she'd go into 'Giles mode' and give the tired old 'Chosen One' speech. Definitely not something to share with a new acquaintance.
"In that case, we'll have to make sure you don't get bored while you're here," the redhead said with a grin. "I'm Ginny."
"Okay... I'm Buffy. And this is...", she pointed at the drink in front of her, not sure quite how to respond to what seemed like an offer of some sort.
"A butterbeer. Go ahead and try it. Alcohol free if that is a concern."
Buffy took a sip and was pleasantly surprised at the flavor. "This is good. A couple more of these and I could skip dinner."
"We can't have that. My mother would never forgive me if I kept someone from a meal. Depending on what you are interested in, there are a number of different restaurants nearby."
"I'm not really dressed for anything fancy. And I'm comfortable here," Buffy demurred, finding herself reluctant to leave. "But if you would like to join me I could go for something simple," she said, trying not to be too blatant with her invitation, not quite sure where it was coming from.
"If you would like to eat here, Tom does have private rooms and can get us that something simple," she offered.
"Sure. Sounds good. Whatever you recommend would be great," Buffy accepted. --- --- ---
The rest of the evening passed in one of those comfortable timeless moments of companionship that lately were so rare in her life. Buffy wasn't quite sure where the time had gone, what they'd talked about, or even what she'd eaten for dinner though she remembered some kind of soup being involved and laughter.
It was getting late but she wasn't sure if she was ready to end the evening yet when the decision was taken out of her hands. The subdued ringing of her cell phone, interrupted her in mid-sentence. "Ginny, I'm sorry. I should probably answer that," she apologized. Checking her phone and noticing it was Dawn's number, 'My sister' she mouthed at Ginny.
"Yes Dawn ?"
"Yes, you are interrupting something important. No, I haven't seen him since breakfast." She grimaced. "I appreciate the reminder but he could have called me himself or left me a message at my flat if it couldn't wait until morning."
Buffy sighed. "Okay. I'll give Willow a call in the morning. Yes, before we meet with her Wiccan friend. Anything else? No? Okay. Love you too. Goodnight."
"Sorry about that," she apologized again. "Family business. They know I can't hide from them. Not even death is an acceptable excuse." and I've tried she continued silently to herself.
And with the mood broken by the interruption, Buffy attempted to gracefully end the evening. "And I should probably be getting back to my flat. I have an early morning meeting, as I was just reminded."
"That's fine. I should probably head home also," Ginny replied with a disappointed look.
"Can I get you a cab? Or walk you home?" No, not a blatant attempt to find out where Ginny lived. Not at all, Buffy silently chastised herself.
"No cab needed," Ginny told her. "I live just a couple streets over. But company... walking home would be nice."
"Great! Walking it is!" Buffy grinned and bounced to her feet. Ginny smiled at her enthusiasm.
Neither of them were in any hurry. Walking slowly in companionable silence, they eventually came to a stop in the middle of a row of flats on a quiet street. "This is where I stop," said Ginny, pointing at one of the numbered doors facing onto the street. "Can you find your way from here or do you need a cab?"
"No. I'm fine. I shouldn't have any problem from here." Fumbling in her pockets for a pen and something to write on, Buffy hesitantly asked her "Would you be interested in going out later this week? Dancing or something? With a couple friends?" Writing on the scrap of paper she found she offered it to Ginny "Here's my number if you're interested."
"Thanks. Can I let you know tomorrow?"
"Sure, I'll look forward to your call," Buffy said, and after watching Ginny go inside, she headed off, humming softly to herself.--- --- ---