Author: Paladin SteelbreakerTitle: Searching For A Heart Of Gold
Copyright: December 2003
Spoilers: None that I can think of. Except for "Cries From The Heart" of cause.
Keywords: Sydney and Nigel.
Summary: Sydney and Nigel go to Norway, on the search for the crown of Harald Hairfare. Sydney struggles with bad memories from her past, and of cause her feelings for our favourite English bookworm.
Legalese: All characters except those noted below with their respective rights, properties and copyrights are the property of their respective creators, authors, owners, producers and agencies. These characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended or meant, and no money will be made from this story. This story may be copied in its entirety, and may be distributed as long as all copyright information remains
Author's Notes: I want to warn all readers. Again I am taking both Nigel and Sydney out of character. But maybe not so much this time. But someone has to bring those two together!!! EVENTUALLY!!!!! SEL!!!! (Supremely evil laughter)
Dedications: I would like to dedicate this story, how ever amateurish, to some of the greatest fanfic. authors out there. Namely:
If you want to comment on my story.(please, please, PLEASE!!) Compliments, or fire spitting criticism, you are welcome to mail me
At this address: firstname.lastname@example.org
And now finally on with the story:
SEARCHING FOR A HEART OFF GOLD.
'Here we go again!' Nigel thought as he stared out of the window, and down at the cotton ball clouds underneath them. The crown of Harald Hairfare. It wasn't one of the greatest relics they had searched for, and he didn't particularly yearn to be back in Scandinavia.
Las time they were there he experienced some of the most embarrassing times in his life! He held it a miracle that she didn't find out then. Found out how he felt about her. Seeing her naked had taken all blood from his brain, and rendered him a complete idiot. Even more so than he usually was on a relic hunt.
And he damn-near strangled that bloody twit Stewie. The guy had the unmitigated gall to flirt with Sydney – whenever he didn't make an ass of himself in other ways. Perhaps it was a good thing he was. Or else Sydney might have focused more on Nigel. And that would be bad, really bad. He could just figure her reaction. She would find herself a new TA faster than he could say relic.
He stole a glance at her. The vibrant energy she had when she came out of her office was gone. Her face was slightly scrunched in concentration as she was looking through some old maps. But what caught his eyes, was something else. Her shoulders slumped slightly, and her mouth were slightly drawn. He could see almost hidden dark bags underneath her eyes. And she looked generally tired. It looked like she hadn't slept for a while.
Still she was the most beautiful, arousing, intelligent, interesting, enticing woman he knew of.
'Gees! Not again!' he silently chastised himself. He steadily found it more difficult to think of Sydney in just a professional working way. She had always had the power to fascinate him. But the last year it had been more and more difficult to be purely professional around her. If he didn't take care, he feared he could fall for her. And that could only lead to disaster.
With an effort he forced his mind onto their hunt. An old acquaintance of Sydney's, a history professor named Sigurd Brunbekk, said he had a map that lead to the crown, and he wanted Sydney to fetch it. What Nigel couldn't figure out was why he didn't go for the crown himself. Oh now well, if he was anything like Sydney's other exes, he probably didn't have the guts to do it himself, Nigel thought with a slight snort. Then he closed his eyes and tried to sleep. Who knew when he would get the chance next time.
Sydney was staring at the same old map she had been looking at for half an hour now, pretending to prepare for the hunt. When she had gotten the phone call from Sigurd, she was so happy, that she didn't realize what it really meant if she accepted his proposal. Eager to see him again, she had accepted without thinking about the fact that this meant she had to face her past again. And in her excitement she had taken Nigel with her, something she was seriously regretting now.
Sitting mere centimetres away from him was both wonderful and sheer torture. Just to be in the near vicinity of Nigel was making her heart beat faster, and she had to concentrate not to let out a happy grin. Once again the two of them were on their way towards adventure. She loved having him with her on her relic hunts. Someone to share the adventure with, someone with knowledge and experience. Someone that she didn't have to explain every single detail to, but actually could tell her a thing or two.
The fact that she also had to protect him and help him a lot on the more strenuous parts of their hunts, didn't face her. It was just a part of the package that was Nigel, and he HAD become less clumsy over the last year. Sometimes he even surprised her as he instead of fumbling and doubting himself, just went ahead and did things he wouldn't have dreamt of doing two years earlier. But she also knew that he didn't realise that. She knew that for some reason she couldn't fathom, he had a very low self esteem.
Even though she didn't mind helping him out, she did worry for him. The last year her worry for him had increased in tow with her growing feelings towards him. And even worse, she had increasing difficulties concentrating on their work. He was just so darned cute. Even though he wasn't very muscular and athletic, he did have a very nice build. He just was very good at hiding it with those loose sweaters and his shyness. And those eyes of his! Well, best not to think of them, or she wouldn't be able to think a straight thought.
True as that might be, her eyes seemed to have a will of their own as they searched for his. A soft smile that very few people had seen on Sydney lit up her face and made her for a split second seem like a happy girl in her late teens, as she watched the sleeping form of her teaching assistant. Then her eyes became hooded with pain. What was she going to do, she thought as she shook her head.
A year ago she thought she knew the power of love. And she believed herself immune to it. Mary mother of Jesus!!! How wrong she had been. She knew better now. She never had felt this strong towards anybody, and it only grew stronger for every day she knew him. She didn't know how long she could take this before she made a fool of herself, and he found out. With an effort she forced her thoughts away from Nigel. Closing her eyes, she tried to go through some yoga breathing exercises. Maybe that could calm her down.
As the cab stopped outside a large one store wooden building, Sydney drew her breath and put on her best act, to hide how tired and scared she was. Being here brought back so many memories. The good ones she could deal with, but she wasn't so sure about the bad ones. She had spent most of her adult life trying to forget about the past. This at the cost of the close friendship they once had, she thought with a jolt of guilty conscience.
"Come on Nigel, It will be great to see Sigurd again. I'm sure you two will get along fine. He is just as bookish as you. Or at least he was, I haven't seen him in eight years." They had to wait a little while, before the door was opened, by a man Sydney's age, sitting in a wheelchair. His hair was slicked back with sweat, and a towel hung over his massive shoulders. He had obviously been working out.
"Syd! My God, it is good to see you again! I didn't expect you before tomorrow!" Then his face contorted in mock anger. "I should be angry at you for the way you just stopped keeping in touch," he said with a great smile and gave her a bear hug.
"Sorry about that Siggy, and its great to see you too." Then she drew back a bit and looked at him. "Wow, You must have been eating your weaties, you look gorgeous."
"Well thank you, you don't look bad yourself," he answered, before he hugged her again.
Nigel looked on, and was a little shocked. Never had he seen such warmth in her eyes, as when she hugged this guy back. Nigel felt a shiver of something unpleasant in his stomach, by the thought of that. But luckily he was distracted as an obviously pregnant redheaded beauty came in.
"Keep your hands of my man; you've had your chance." The harsh words were belied by the happy grin on her face as she hugged Sydney. "Good to see you again Syd."
"You mean that the two of you? Oh, I'm so happy for you both! I said it then, and I still mean it, you two would be perfect together. Congratulations, when did this happen?"
"Well, we were dating on and off from about half a year after you left. Then we moved together three years ago, and last year we married. I have been in seventh heaven since then, well maybe not heaven," he said, sending a heated glace towards the woman, before he blushed furiously. "God, I cant believe I said that," he muttered, shaking his head in embarrassment. "One of these days you're going to drive me crazy, Renate." Then he looked up, and grinned mischievously. "Well I think you owe me a little presentation. Who is your chap?"
"Oh, sorry Nigel," she said. "This is Nigel Bailey, my TA at Trinity College. He usually comes with me on Relic Hunts. No one can translate old texts like him. And this is Sigurd Brunbekk and Renate, the two best friends I have ever had, Nigel."
"Nice to meet both of you," he said, struggling to hide his irrational jealousy towards Sigurd. The guy obviously meant a lot to Sydney. And to Nigel's frustration, he found he couldn't despise the guy, like he usually did Sydney's exes. Both he and Renate seemed to be really nice people.
"And I see further congratulations are in place," he nodded towards Renate.
"Yeah, isn't it great! I'm going to be a father!" Sigurd shouted, beaming like a stage light, and giving his wife a big kiss.
Sydney just smiled to Nigel who was a bit baffled by the other mans unrestrained enthusiasm. "Just get used to it, the man just doesn't know how to contain his enthusiasm," she whispered with an amused grin as they followed their hosts into the living room.
The following hours were filled with a friendly atmosphere, and more laughter than Nigel had had in a long time. He got to hear a lot of amusing stuff about Sydney. He never knew she was in a band in her teens. And that she used to be an easily scared fashion addict, was something he had a hard time believing. Looking at Sydney, she was almost unrecognisable. She seemed more happy and relaxed than he had ever seen her.
Still, there was something about her that told him that all was not great. He got the feeling there was more to her past. Something Sigurd and Renate knew of, but didn't tell. Sometimes he saw the three of them communicating with eyes and almost imperceptible nods of their heads. And deep down he could read anguish in Sydney's eyes. It was as if she was glad to be here, but her being here brought up bad memories or something.
Over dinner it was Sydney and Nigel's turn, as they told of many of their hunts. And Nigel found himself enjoying himself immensely, despite Sydney dishing up with some of his more embarrassing moments. Luckily he could add a few of his own, that made Sydney blush. He found their hosts to be both very knowledgeable, and with quite a few refreshing views on the Ancient studies. They, like Sydney, were very much in tune with time of today, and had a open mind for new and untraditional theories. The discussion went on well into the night, before they decided to call it a day. After all, they had a busy day ahead of them.
"Dammit!" she cursed under her breath, as she turned over, for which time that night she didn't know. With a sigh of frustration, she gave up and stood up. Maybe a glass of milk could calm her nerves, she hoped as she went for the kitchen. Grabbing for the door of the fridge, she jumped high by a movement in the darkness behind her.
"Couldn't sleep either?"
"Jesus, Siggy. Don't do that," she said as she noticed him sitting behind the kitchen table.
"Sorry" he said and came out of the shadows, looking at her intently. "What's wrong? Are you thinking about Hans?"
She shook her head. "No! Well, a bit, okay yes," she finally admitted. "It is unavoidable. I am thinking of Hans……… and Nigel." The last came out as no more than a whisper.
"I knew I felt something between the two of you. So how long have you two been together?"
Sydney shook her head. "We are not."
"But, but why not?" he said in surprise.
"I can't, I just can't."
"Now, why not, Sydney, I have been following you in the press.? And I know you've had plenty of lovers over the years. So why not him, what's wrong with him? I clearly see you are attracted to him, and he absolutely adores you. So what is it? Doesn't he fill your standards for being big burly and stupid?"
Sydney blushed. "You really have been following up on me haven't you?"
He nodded. "Yes I did. I knew why you stopped keeping in contact with us, and I don't blame you for that. What you went through that time………" He shook his head again. "I don't know how you did make it through the whole ordeal. I don't know anyone else who could have made it. No wonder you didn't want to be reminded of it. But I sure as hell wasn't going to forget about you. After all we used to be best of friends, not to mention lovers. Now, tell me. Why are you and Nigel not a couple? Isn't he good enough?"
Sydney's eyes shot arrows at him. "Not good enough?!!! Nigel is the kindest, most courageous, most decent and caring man I have ever met! Why wouldn't he be good enough?! Any woman would be lucky to have him as hers!"
Her irritation deflated, and she sighed. "And therein lies the problem. He is too good. If he and I started something, then I wouldn't be able to keep it on the physical level. I would come to love him. Oh God! Who am I kidding? I already love him. But I can't go through with it. Not again. Every time I have let myself feel something more, I have been hurt."
It was silent for a long while. Sigurd took two glasses and a bottle of Whiskey down from a cupboard, and poured a stiff drink for both of them. They drank in silence. Then Sigurd looked up at her. "Do you really think that Nigel will hurt you?"
She shook her head. "Not intentionally, not now. But somewhere along the line it will happen. You see, I make the men I love hurt me. There is something about me. Sooner or later they all hurt me."
"That is bullshit, and you know it," he said in an angry voice! "Hans wasn't your fault, and neither were the others. Look me in the eyes for Pete's sake. Am I telling the truth?"
Her tear-wet eyes met him, and for several seconds they stared at each other. Then she nodded. "Yeah you're right. I am not to blame. But it's hard to remember it sometimes. I guess I didn't make it through as much as you thought, as I thought. I am just plainly and simply scared."
"I know," he said. "I saw it in your eyes the day you left, and I saw I there when you came today. But you have to try. Who knows, maybe Nigel is the right one?"
She shook her head. "No. I can't. There is more to consider. Over the last years I have earned myself quite a few enemies, and if it came out that we were an item, he would become even more of a target that he already is. As pathetic as it is, its better to have him in my life, and not being able to show him my feelings, than to not have him in my life and still don't being able to show him my feelings. Besides, he has already gone through far too much because of me. The stories you heard tonight, those were the edited versions. He has been shot at, poisoned, cursed, nearly drowned, nearly drained by a vampire….. The list just goes on and on. Why he is still working for me, I don't have the faintest idea of. I just thank the good Lord for every day he remains at my side."
"Sydney, Sydney. How can you not see? The guy is head over heals in love with you!"
"He is?" For a moment her eyes lit up, but then she looked down into the glass again. "Anyway, it doesn't really matter. He works for me, and there is a strict non-fraternization rule on campus. If we started anything, we probably would be fired both."
"I am sure neither of you would have any trouble getting new jobs, as you are considered the worlds foremost experts in your field. Could it be worth it? Just think about it will you?" It was silent for a while. Then lost in thought, she stood up and left for bed. Sigurd looked after her and shook his head. He hoped she could make up her courage to do something about her situation. Because he knew no one who deserved happiness more than her. But he had a small hope. At least she had admitted to herself that she loved the guy. The wall was broken.
"She really loves him doesn't she?" Renate kissed the top of his head.
"Yeah, she does, and he loves her I suspect. I just hope they do something about it before it is too late."
"Well, you have done your best my little Amor. Now come back to bed. I am in the mood for some snuggling, and maybe a little more." Sigurd didn't let her tell him twice, as he hurried after her with a goofy grin on his lips.
The next day they were all up with the birds, despite the late night. Too excited to stay in bed, they started going over the old architectural drawings Sigurd had managed to dig up. And finally after two hours, they found a place on the old drawings that matched those on the map to the crown room. It was time for Sydney and Nigel to go into action.
On the way to the Cathedral, Sydney drove in silence. The entire time they had sifted through the architectural drawings, she had been short, and impatient. And as the time went, Nigel got the feeling she was angry with him for something. That he had done something wrong. But he couldn't for the love of God tell what.
Nigel was tired. He hadn't had a wink of sleep all night. And now this, why was she like this? Again he thought that there was something about this trip, or rather about this place, that she didn't tell him, something that brought up bad memories, or something. And he felt slightly wounded that she didn't tell him. After all, she knew almost everything there was to know about him. Nigel started humming an old Irish song he had been taught by his nanny, to alleviate some of the tension in the car.
Outside Nidarosdomen, Mr. Larssen, a friend of Sigurd, met them and let them in. Sydney walked straight to the baptismal font.
"According the map, there should be a hidden entrance under the font," she said and started feeling around the font for some kind of hidden mechanism. Half an hour later, she was sitting on the floor, looking angry at the font that refused to reveal its secret.
"I don't get this. There should be something here, a level, a button, a loose rock. But no, there is nothing, zilch, nada!!!"
"Don't give up, Syd." Nigel sat down by her side and placed a hand on her shoulder.
"What! What is wrong," he asked when she pulled violently back from his hand.
"Nothing," she muttered. "Nothing, just don't……… I need to focus on this problem" she hastily added.
Still somewhat hurt, Nigel stood up and went over to the font. Trying to get his thoughts away from Sydney's reaction, he again examined it. The foot of the font was quite wide, almost as wide as the actual font. Carefully he lifted the silver inlay of the font, and knocked on the wooden surface. It sounded hollow. With his heart racing, he slowly pushed down. First nothing happened, but then, slowly came the squeaking sound of corroded hinges, as an opening appeared.
"Look Sydney! The font is the entrance!"
Without a word, Sydney shone her Maglight down the hole, before she with her usual ease climbed feet first into it. Okay, if that was the way it was gonna be!!! Not even a thank you! Irritated he followed her. Of course it was higher than he had though. And as he lay embarrassingly sprawled out in the dust under the opening, she just yanked him to his feet, before she walked down the corridor at an unusually brisk pace.
"Slow down Sydney. Who knows what traps those old Vikings set down here. What is it with you today? You are rude and ill tempered. What wrong have I done? And now you are running around like a rabid elephant in a china store. This is not like you, what is wrong?"
"That's none of your damned business!!!" she shouted and continued walking.
Then she halted. And he heard her draw her breath, as if trying to calm down, and turned towards him. "I am sorry Nigel," it came with a sad voice. "You didn't deserve that. You have done nothing wrong. I just haven't slept for a couple of days. And then there is the thing that last time I was In Norway, something very bad happened. Please don't ask me what. I can't talk about it."
Nigel nodded. "That's okay. But Sigurd and Renate know, don't they?"
"Yes. They were there when it happened. If they hadn't, I am not sure I would have been alive today. They are the best friends I have ever had, and I am ashamed that I stopped seeing them the way I did. Please, Nigel. Can we get back to the hunt?"
Nigel nodded and squeezed her shoulder. And this time she didn't flinch. Instead, she for a fleeting moment rested her chin on his hand. Then she straightened up and continued down the dark corridor.
It went slowly downhill. Down, down, down. They had been walking for ten minutes, when Nigel muttered. "This isn't right. The corridor is straight as an arrow, and the floor, walls and ceiling are cut out in solid mountain. There has been no sign of a trap of any kind."
She looked up at him with a crooked grin. "Oh, my. You are learning Nigel," she said good-heartedly. "You are right. It is too easy. It is as if they didn't think they needed to set up any protection for the crown. That probably means that the crown room itself is enough," she said and bit her lip. "I don't like this!"
Just as she said it, the angle of the corridor sharpened abruptly, and the floor that before had been of bare rock, was now layered with a carpet of fine sand. They found themselves sliding downwards with a steadily increasing tempo. "Yupp! The Nigel curse strikes again, I should have kept my mouth shut," Nigel muttered.
"Now Nigel, at least this isn't an episode of Indiana Jones. If it was, there would be a giant stone rolling after us now."
"You said?" Nigel gasped out as they both heard the sound of something extremely heavy rolling at them from behind. They were now nearing what looked like the entrance to some kind of room.
"Nigel, you go right, and I go left. One, two, three,"
As they suddenly were in loose air, they tried to get away from the opening. They both landed knee deep in sand, even more so as a giant boulder landed between them, followed by a shower of sand from above that finished the job of burying them. It was silent for a while, while they tried to find out if they were still alive.
"Sydney, are you okay?" Nigel crawled coughing and sneezing up from the sand.
"Ptwuichhh!!! Now I know what a sandburger tastes like," she mumbled as she came out of the sand. Both of them looked around. They were in a huge circular room with a sand floor.
"Look at this Nigel. This is incredible. Look at the architecture. It reminds me of the Death Chamber we found in the city of Tenochtitlan. Only one entrance placed high up on the wall, so that there would be no escape. Where did the Vikings come up with the idea for something like this? This supports the theory that Leiv Eiriksson vas the first European to discover America. And not only that, to learn things like this; he would have to have close dealings with the inhabitants of the new continent. This is sensational!!!"
"Look over there!" Nigel pointed towards the centre of the room.
And there, on a pedestal of green marble, sat the crown. As crowns goes, it wasn't very big or flashy, but the simplistic beauty of it awed both relic hunters. It was made of hammered and polished gold, with a single red ruby in front, and two smaller aquamarines at the sides. Once it had had an inlay of some kind of fur along the inside, which time had eaten away. Now were only left a few strands of hair. Carefully she put it in her backpack.
"Now how do we get out of here?" Nigel looked hopelessly at the entrance.
"The same way we came of course," she said and took out her trusted crossbow.
Three quarters of an hour later, they were up in the corridor again. Three quarters that would forever stand before Nigel as one of the most harrowing experiences he had ever had. His entire body felt like a gigantic bruise, and his arm muscles burned like fire.
Again it seemed as if it was a walk in the park for Sydney. She was only slightly out of breath. It was bloody embarrassing, that's what it was. How was it even possible to crawl through a thousand years worth of dust, manage nearly impossible feats of strength, and still look so damnably sexy! IT JUST WASN'T FAIR!!!
Nigel shuddered by the though of how he looked now. And why she always insisted on having him with her on these relic hunts, he couldn't fathom. Compared to her, he was just a fumbling fool. He was only slowing her down with all the help she had to give him. They were almost under the baptismal font, when he was brought out of his thoughts of misery by a sharp crack from above.
"Look out Sydney," he shouted as he pushed her out of the way. Moments later the ceiling collapsed over the TA.
When the dust settled, Sydney dizzily scrambled to her feet again. "What the hell happened, Nigel? Nigel….Oh, God, Nigel! Nigel!!!!" Sydney shouted as she without thought of possible more stones coming down, started to dig in the rubble for Nigel. In her desperation she threw away impossibly large stones, not caring that she tore up her hands. When she finally dug him out, she was crying in both relief and worry.
He was so still as she pulled him the rest of the way towards the opening in the font. "Come on Nigel! Don't quit on me now. We are almost there? Oh, God! You saved me!!! Don't die on me Nigel! Do you hear me?!! Don't die on me Nigel!!! Please!!!" Babbling in almost full out hysteria, she sat there in the dark corridor, with tears running down her chin. And for the first time in a very long while, Sydney Fox was on the verge of giving up. For once, she didn't know what to do.
"I don't think they ever intended anyone to fetch the crown."
His voice was barely audible, but she never had heard anything more beautiful. "Nigel, you are alive!"
He coughed. "Well, yes! But I do not think that was their intention. False ceiling, Sydney, we should have thought of that." And with that Nigel Bailey fell into blessed darkness.
Nigel Bailey, teaching aid of professor Sydney Fox at Trinity College, and renowned capacity on ancient languages, was immensely annoyed. For the past minutes he had listened to this maddening sound from somewhere nearby.
Tap, tap,taptaptap,tap,tap.taptaptap, tap,tap, taptaptap….
Grrrrrr! If it didn't stop he surely was going mad. With a major effort he forced his eyes open. And he immediately regretted it as a splitting headache came out of nowhere. Argh! "Sydney, would you, for the love of God, quit tapping your fingers?" he croaked out.
Immediately she stood up. "Hi there! You gave me quite a scare!"
"Where am I?"
"You are at St. Olavs Hospital, and have been for a day or so."
He tried to nod, but groaned in pain. "How seriously damaged am I?"
She looked on him with the kindest of eyes. "You are pretty beat up, and you have a concussion. But the worst thing is your hand. A splinter of rock cut pretty deeply into it. A few millimetres further, and there might have been nerve damage. But all in all you were lucky. The doctors assure me you will have a complete recovery."
He sighed in relief. "How are you? Did any of the rocks hit you?"
"No, Nigel. You pushed me clear of the collapse. The only thing wrong with me is that I miss my TA and best friend."
Nigel sighed, and locked his weary eyes with hers. "I am afraid you did loose your TA."
"What do you mean?"
"I can't do this anymore. For two years now, I have followed you all over the world, on one hazardous relic hunt after another. And, and I….. I can't do it anymore, Syd. Why do you always want me with you, I only slow you down anyway? I am a miserable relic hunter. All I seem to do is fumbling around and making a complete fool of myself. I just can't do it anymore."
"But, but, but you can't. I cant…." Her eyes shone with something, was it pain?
Then she resigned. "I……… I understand. I guess I can't blame you. This was just the tip of the iceberg; I have put you through so much these past two years. I guess I always wondered when you would leave. You know, in the last seven years, you are the only one that has been my TA for more than a year. You should be proud. Thank you," she said, stroke his chin gently and turned to go. She stopped by the door. "You know, relic hunting won't be the same without you Nigel. Not the same at all! I'll miss you, good recovery," she said before she left.
"And I'll miss you," Nigel whispered as a tear ran down his face.