For Everything A Season
For Everything There is a Season
Spoilers: The Mummy, The Mummy Returns. No specific ones for BtVS.
Pairing: Willow/Ardeth Bey
The book lay on its dark blue velvet pedestal, gold leaves gleaming in the soft illumination. It was sealed shut with heavy ebony locks, unbreakable and unassailable. Hieroglyphs covered every millimeter of the cover: warnings, curses, hints of power, and spells all combining to form a secondary lock over the heavy book. It would not do for this book to be opened by the uninitiated. The pages were thick, all of the same gold material that was close enough to true gold to hold the power of the words written on the pages and just enough of something else to hold the hieroglyphs without losing their crisp edges to time, use, or damage.
Brown eyes stared down at the book in sheer dismay. It was protected by thick, clear, bulletproof glass, a steel casing, and more alarms than anything the Sunnydale museum had ever seen before. There was no way this mystic artifact would simply vanish like so many others had. This one would be hard for any thieves to steel. At least that was what the brown eyes hoped at they took one more look at the security arrangements. Even with them, though, that book should never have left Egypt. And more importantly, it should never have come within one hundred miles of the hellmouth.
“It’s marvelous!” Willow Rosenberg looked around the exhibit with awe. The walls were carefully painted to look like the interior walls of an Egyptian tomb. Pale, off-white backgrounds only highlighted the brightly colored murals as Egyptian people were portrayed in their daily tasks. Women gathered reeds along the river, their pure white gowns and bright golden jewelry highlighting their dusky skin and jet tresses. Men rode chariots to war, noble faces impassive as they looked down on the young American woman.
“Quite,” Rupert Giles smiled at his young friend. In the past year Willow had been almost too quiet. Even the English coven members had commented on her reluctance to participate in the things around her. She had changed; the taint of her addiction to dark magic was softened, distanced by time and a rough rehabilitation. Noticing it again, Rupert pulled off his glasses and cleaned them with a soft cloth he kept in his pocket for that purpose.
Too engrossed in her perusal of the figures adorning the mural, Willow did not notice the Watcher’s carefully study of her. She stood, her body almost motionless as she gazed up at the women, bright green eyes animated with amazement. For too long her eyes had been dulled by guilt, remorse, and horror as she whipped her conscious for her actions. Her skin, always pale, had a subtle translucence now – giving her an almost ethereal glow. Her hair was still the same shade of brilliant red, but now it reached halfway down her spine, a long cascade of brilliant color marred by a single lock of jet, unchangeable black. The physical changes were not what her friends noticed, however, for they were negligible. The main changes in Willow were all deeper, psychological ones. Her brief addiction to the dark magic had scarred her, leaching away her once bubbly, youthful enthusiasm and innocence, leaving behind a contemplative, soft-spoken and solemn young woman.
It made Rupert smile wistfully as he saw the traces of the girl she had been not too long ago. He missed that bright woman-child. He understood her changes, though, having been forced through something similar during his own youth. He still blamed himself though. In retrospect he realized that simply warning the budding witch off of magic would have been insufficient. Instead, he should have interfered, gotten her the training she needed – far away from the Hellmouth. But he had not. As penance, he had become her guardian and watcher during the long withdrawal and training process in England. He had gone through every step with her, encouraging her, helping her, and being there when she simply needed a shoulder to cry upon. These brief glimpses of the girl they had lost were more than ample repayment for his efforts.
An accented voice called to him, breaking his reverie and Rupert turned, a smile crossing his face. He had not seen his friend since his days at the British Museum. When he had realized who was arranging the display at the Sunnydale Museum, he had contacted him.
“It has been many years, old friend,” the man stepped into the exhibit a smile lighting his face, but not quite reaching his eyes. He studied Rupert Giles thoughtfully and glanced around at the young woman who was still studying the mural in rapture, her eyes following the path of the river as it swept past a palace. “Is this your Slayer?” he asked softly, curiously. “I would not have thought her to be so … delicate.”
“No,” Rupert shook his head, a fond smile quirking his lips. “This is one of her companions and a friend of mine. I thought she would most appreciate seeing this before the crowds.”
Ali nodded, his eyes troubled as he glanced over the exhibit. “I would have a favor, if I may.”
Frowning, Rupert studied his old friend, noting the tension and … fear in his eyes. He should have realized that any coincidence near the Hellmouth was more of an act of fate. It had been years since he had seen Ali and finding him in Sunnydale, an exhibit timed to open within days of his and Willow’s return from England was no coincidence. “What is wrong?”
“Giles?” Willow froze near a glass cage, her eyes locked onto beautiful gold book. She could feel the power that emanated from it in overwhelming waves. The sheer strength of it was almost enough to knock her over. With the ease of long practice and sheer determination, she strengthened the shields she wore as a matter of course. Even then the book called to her, tempting her with its elusive power. She knew her eyes were dilated in reaction as she backed away from the display and turned to face Giles. “That should NOT be here. They need to get it far away! It’s too dangerous to be here.”
Ali stared at the slim young woman. After the quick once over to determine if she was the Slayer, he had dismissed her. Now he could not. She was small, almost fey in appearance with her pale skin and delicate features. Clad in a simple green dress that covered her from neck to ankles, she looked almost childlike except for the way the material hinted at womanly curves. Her eyes though, haunted and wide, almost fully dilated from fear and shock held his.
“It will not be here long,” he found himself promising her, wanting nothing more than to reassure her.
“You don’t understand!” Willow argued, glancing from one man to the other. She could still feel the book, as if now that she knew about it there was no way for her to ignore its presence.
“Willow, this is my friend Ali Khalid Bey,” Rupert introduced the two, his eyes never leaving Willow’s frantic face. If she was reacting so strongly it had to be bad and he regretted his decision to bring her now. They only returned to America a few days earlier and he doubted she was ready for any serious problems. They were both still tired from the transatlantic journey and off kilter from the changes in climate and time. “Ali, this is my protégé, Willow Rosenberg.”
“It is my pleasure,” taking her hand, Ali bowed over it courteously. “My apologies for the book frightening you.” His words were slightly accented, a mixture of British and something else. “You can feel it? Then you know why I asked Rupert to come tonight. I need his assistance to ward it until it can be safely removed and returned to its rightful guardians.” A sharp pain made Ali look down and he stared in shock at the slim silvery blade protruding from his stomach. The shock of it took him to his knees, his eyes returning to Willow. He felt an instant regret. He was a Bey, a member of the Med-jai. He should never have been surprised like this. He watched, eyes dimming, as Willow pulled a red feathered dart from her throat and then silently crumpled. Darkness swallowed his sight.