Title: Visiting the Crown Jewels
Pairing: Willow/Amanda, pre-slash
Disclaimer: Joss owns all things Buffy. Davis/Panzer owns Highlander. None of it belongs to me.
A/N: This is a sequel to ‘To Catch a Thief.’ While it’s not strictly necessary to read that one first, I would recommend it. If you do, this fic will make more sense, and (hopefully) have more impact. Both stories are quite short. For Buffy, this is about two years post-Chosen. For Highlander, this is any time after Amanda went platinum.
Willow sat on a bench on the side of the Thames and looked up at Tower Bridge. She loved it. She felt like she was inside a postcard, and that prompted happy feelings, because postcards came from people on vacation and the little colorful cards always had happy things written on them. Whoever sent a postcard that said ‘Vacation sucks, I’d rather be doing paperwork and killing demons’? Nobody did that.
She sighed. Perhaps that thought was a bit of transference. Since her breakup with Kennedy and her move to England, it seemed like work consumed her whole life. Her lists of things to do grew faster than she could cross items off of them. Who knew there would be paperwork involved in setting up the new Watcher’s Council? Who would have thought that it would take two years for them to get started?
Of course there was Cleveland, and then there was gathering up all the new slayers. She and Kennedy had spent most of the first year in South America, and then a sweep through the Caribbean before they met up with Faith and Robin in Africa. Maybe it was seeing the depth of Faith’s new relationship that caused Willow to examine her own. She came to the conclusion that she was with Kennedy because it was easy. They worked well together, and Kennedy definitely wanted Willow, but it was starting to feel a bit hollow. It was becoming harder and harder to ignore Kennedy’s occasional immaturity. She still cared for the slayer a great deal, but Willow finally realized that the relationship had lost most of its fire after the specter of impending doom evaporated along with Sunnydale.
This wasn’t nearly the love that she had had with Tara. It wasn’t what she had shared with Oz either. Being with Tara had felt like being home. Being with Kennedy was like a whirlwind tour of exotic locales. It could be exciting, but eventually one tired of feeling rootless. So, Willow had decided to end it. Kennedy was hurt, and Willow felt terrible, so she buried herself in a mountain of paperwork in England. Her only ‘excitement’ in the past year had been her sporadic patrols with one of the new slayers.
Willow pulled her coat around herself. Thanks to the wind whipping off the river, what would have been a slightly chilly day became downright cold. She stood up, gazed at the picture-perfect bridge once more, and shook off her melancholy mood. She turned to face the huge stone wall that was the outer boundary of the Tower of London. Her stomach rumbled and propelled her toward the small restaurant that sat in the shadow of the Tower. Willow bought an egg mayonnaise sandwich packaged in a plastic triangle and brought it back outside. The outdoor tables had been abandoned in the cold. She hunched her shoulders against the wind and chewed her sandwich as she stared down into the now-grass-covered moat that surrounded the Tower. It never ceased to delight her that there was a small playground down there for the children of the Yeoman Warders.
She didn’t feel like going back to the office, so she decided to play tourist. She tossed the remains of her lunch into the rubbish bin and headed back toward the entrance to the Tower. She had sensed some magical residue during her last visit, but she had been riding herd on three of the new slayers at the time. Now would be a good time to investigate the little magical mystery. Besides, it would give her a chance to get another look at the anti-theft spells protecting the Crown Jewels. Now, that was an impressive bit of magic.
* * *
Amanda stepped out of the cab on Tower Hill and looked around with satisfaction. She experienced mixed feelings whenever she came back to England. Paris usually had better luck for her, and the United States had been consistently amusing for the last two hundred years, but England was home. Granted, her mortal life had been generally miserable, but she had her memories of Rebecca. She also had a sense of belonging. It was as if the earth recognized her and welcomed her home. She had a fleeting thought of Methos, and his claim not to know where he came from. If that was true, then she felt a small flash of pity for the irascible ancient. Amanda didn’t have the intense connection to her homeland that Duncan did, but she valued the ability to place a finger on a map and say, ‘This is the place of my birth.’ Amanda gave a mental snort. Birth? Perhaps, or maybe it was where the aliens had dropped her off. She didn’t really believe that, but one never knew.
She gazed at the castle which made no excuses for taking up river-front real estate in the middle of what had become a bustling modern city. She suppressed a grin as she contemplated the kings and queens of yesteryear. They must be spinning in their graves at the idea that the Tower had become a tourist attraction. Her heels clicked on the cobblestones, and soon, she was inside.
She passed a tour group and headed for the Jewel House. She couldn’t pass through London without visiting her favorite jewels. These were jewels that would never belong to her, not as long as England existed. And if you believed the superstition that England would never fall as long as the ravens didn’t leave the Tower, then the jewels were safe. The ravens’ wings were clipped. No one could say that the English weren’t a sensible people.
Even if she thought she could take them, she wouldn’t. If she did, then only she would be able to enjoy them, instead of thousands of people. Duncan might die of shock if he knew about her sentimental, yet non-propriety, attachment to the Crown Jewels. The solution was simple, he would never know.
Half an hour later, Amanda walked out of the Jewel House with a deep sense of satisfaction. Standing so close to such magnificence made her dirty and demoralizing origins seem farther away than a mere 1,100 years. Her reverie was abruptly shattered as she ran into someone similarly preoccupied with her own thoughts. Both women wound up sprawled on the ground.
Amanda scrambled to her feet first and extended a hand to help the other woman up. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you . . .”
Her voice trailed off as she recognized the redhead. It was the little witch from the house in Devon a few years ago!
Willow got up and displayed a sheepish smile. “That’s okay, I guess I wasn’t looking where I was going either.”
She took in the other woman’s shocked expression and cocked her head slightly to one side. She seemed strangely familiar.
“Have we met before?”
Amanda considered lying for about half a second, and then she nodded.
Willow’s eyes opened wide. “You . . . you were at the coven house! I remember now, but your hair was . . . different.”
Amanda reached up and brushed at her shorn platinum locks. At their first meeting, her hair had been its natural black and slicked back into a short ponytail at the nape of her neck.
“Well, I wanted something a bit more subtle.” She said flippantly.
Willow laughed, and then seemed surprised by her own reaction. She bit her lip for just a moment, and then gestured at a nearby bench. “Do you want to, um, talk, or something?”
Amanda felt a tingle race over her skin. At their first meeting, she had been drawn to the redhead out of a need to ease the young woman’s pain. Now, she felt like an object in space that had fallen into the other woman’s gravitational pull. The . . . attraction, for want of a better word, was more all-encompassing. She eyed the bench, and met the redhead’s intense gaze.
“Yes, I think I’d like to talk, but how about we go someplace warmer? The restaurant at the Tower Thistle is quite nice.” The hotel was a short walk away, just beyond the bridge.
Willow immediately agreed and the women headed for the exit by the river. Soon, they were seated, with warm beverages and an order had been placed for tea for two. Willow tried not to stare at the woman that she had dubbed ‘The Sexy Thief’ in her head. If it was possible, she was just as beautiful in full daylight as she had been in the flickering firelight. Willow hadn’t thought much about the other woman’s beauty at the time. She had still been recovering from her adventure with dark magic. She had been grieving for Tara. But after she returned to Sunnydale, and especially after her breakup with Kennedy, lonely nights caused her thoughts to drift back to the enigmatic thief.
“I’m Willow.” She volunteered.
Amanda reciprocated with her own name as she contemplated the utter rightness of the redhead’s name.
Willow indicated the direction they had come from with a tilt of her head and a raised eyebrow. “I hope you weren’t casing the joint when we ran into each other.”
Amanda laughed ruefully, “No, nothing like that. I was just visiting my favorite jewels. I wouldn’t take them even if I could.”
“Good, because the protective spells are quite a bit nastier than the one on that ruby.”
Amanda’s eyes widened, “Really? Did you do them?”
“Nope, I just appreciate good work.”
At that moment, tea arrived. There were finger sandwiches and scones with some truly sinful clotted cream. Both women ate a couple tiny sandwiches, and silence reigned. They each took a scone, spread the cream, and then sat staring at their plates. The food had interrupted their conversation and now neither one knew how to start it back up.
Willow was examining her easy acceptance of the woman in front of her. All she knew about her was that she was a thief with an eclectic taste in hair color. Plus, when Amanda had lowered some of her barriers that night in the library she had revealed that she was not an ordinary human being. She couldn’t be a demon, could she? She didn’t feel demony.
Amanda was cursing her own impulsiveness. Aside from another Immortal, this woman was probably one of the only people on the planet that posed a physical threat to her. She suddenly remembered the small kiss she had given Willow that night. It had seemed like the right thing to do at the time, but the woman before her wasn’t the same sad little creature by the fire. The woman before her was causing her middle to tighten in a way that was usually reserved for people who possessed a Y chromosome. Nothing about this situation was usual.
Willow broke the silence. “You were right, that night, when you said that it would get better.”
“I’m glad. So, things are better now?”
“Actually, things stayed pretty crappy for a while. Then they got better, and then they got worse, and now . . .” Willow shrugged.
“Now?” Amanda prompted gently.
“Now, things are . . . the way they are.”
Willow looked down, spied her scone, and took a bite. She lifted her head, intending to say something light and playful about how clotted cream could make anything better, at least for a few minutes. The words stuck in her throat as she saw the heat in Amanda’s expression.
Seemingly of its own volition, Amanda’s hand reached out and she wiped a bit of cream off Willow’s lip with her index finger. Her hand hung motionless in the air for a moment before Willow leaned forward and her tongue darted out to lick the cream off the thief’s finger. Amanda lowered her hand to the table, where it unerringly came to rest on top of Willow’s hand.
Amanda looked into the witch’s eyes. “Do you want to get out of here?”
Willow didn’t break eye contact. “Yeah, let’s go.”
~ Fin ~