First chapter, yet another new fic. Please read and review!

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Claudia picked up the phone. "Ancient Studies, how may I help?"

A male voice, husky and quiet, spoke, "Hello, Claudia. I can't come into work today... could you tell Sydney please?" The voice was a cultured British accent, with a polite edge.

"Nigel? Is that you? You sound awful!"

"Thanks, Claudia. So kind of you," Nigel coughed, then continued, "to say so. Is Sydney there?"

"Nope." Sydney stalked through the door and slammed it behind her, glaring evilly round the office. "Um... hang on, she just came in. You want to talk to her?"

"Yes, thanks, Claudia."

"Hey Sydney, Nigel's on the phone. He wants to talk to you."

Sydney snatched the phone off Claudia, and snapped, "What?"

At the other end of the phone, Nigel cowered. Oh, he hated it when Sydney was in this sort of mood. Things were liable to get broken, and sometimes it was him. Plus, he was the one that was usually forced to calm her down. It was one of the more dangerous aspects of being her assistant. "Uh... well, uh... I'm a bit ill... can I have the day off? I can always come in if you need me, but I'd rather stay off, if it's ok..."

"If you absolutely have to stay off. But this is something I could really do without!" Sydney ignored Nigel's protests that he could come in if she really needed him there, and passed the phone back to Claudia, glared at her, and slammed the door to her personal office.

Claudia sighed into the phone. "Sorry, Nigel. She's a bit cranky today. One of the freshmen boys still hasn't handed in their homework. She hates giving out detentions. It means she has to stay in at break."

"I know. Listen, I'll come in. It sounds as though there's a lot to do, so Sydney could really do with a hand." Nigel tried to hide a cough, but Claudia still heard it.

"Nigel, you sound really ill. Stay at home. Sydney can manage fine without you for one day."

"I'm not that ill, Claudia. I don't know why I rang in the first place. I'll see you in twenty minutes. Try to calm Syd down for me."

Claudia sighed. Nigel could be as pig headed as Sydney when he wanted to be. "Ok, Nigel, but if you feel ill I'm sending you straight back home!"

"Yes, Mother." Nigel put the phone down, rubbing his forehead. He had a pounding headache, his stomach hurt, and he could really do with a long sleep. But hey – work was work, and work was in charge.

= = = = = = = = = =

Nigel slowly pushed open the door to the Ancient Studies office. "Hello, Claudia. Is... Syd still grouchy?" His face was pale, his hair was slightly messy, there were dark circles under his eyes, and his voice was harsh.

"Yes, Nigel, I think she is. I'd watch out if I were you-"

"Claudia! I thought Nigel wasn't coming in today. Why can I hear him?" Sydney interrupted Claudia's words with a snapped question, called through the door.

Nigel cringed, and answered for the secretary. "Uh... I thought you might need a hand... and I'm not that ill... so I came in..."

Sydney walked through the door and glared at him. "Fine. You're here. Now do something useful. Here," She grabbed a pile of papers from her desk. "You can mark these exam papers. I've got to teach SM now. And I'd appreciate it if you hurry up – they have to be ready for third lesson."

Claudia and Nigel stared after Sydney as she stalked out, after slamming the papers onto Nigel's desk. He sighed, and flopped down into his chair. "I'd better get marking, then, hadn't I?"

Claudia frowned at him. "Sydney shouldn't be treating you like this! I mean, you're ill, and she makes you come in and mark papers! It's not fair!"

"It may not be fair, but she's my boss. I have to do what she tells me. Oh well. I like marking exams." Claudia raised her eyebrows, and Nigel sighed. "Ok, I hate marking papers. It's particularly boring. But I have to do it, so I'm doing it. Now let me work in peace for a bit."

= = = = = = = = = =

Half past one, same day-

Claudia stood up, turning off the computer. "Hey, Nigel, do you want to come with me to lunch in the canteen?"

Nigel made no move from his position – head on his arms, legs curled up on the chair – and Claudia frowned. "Nigel? Wake up, Nigel, its lunch time." Still, he didn't move, and Claudia began to get worried. Shaking Nigel's shoulder, Claudia muttered, "Come on, Nigel! Wake up! Come on!"

When he still did nothing, Claudia stepped back. "Nigel, get up! Don't make me get Sydney in here!" She pushed his shoulder hard, but all that happened was that Nigel fell off the chair and landed in a crumpled heap on the floor.

Claudia scowled at him to hide her panic, and stepped smartly out of the room. "Sydney! Come here! Something's wrong with Nigel! Sydney!"

A few minutes later, Claudia marched into the office, dragging Sydney behind her.

"He won't wake up, Sydney! I shook him, but he still wouldn't! Do something!" Sydney knelt down beside Nigel as Claudia fidgeted beside them.

Sydney called quietly, "Nigel. Come on, Nige', wake up. I know staying unconscious seems nice at the moment, but you have to wake up." She rubbed his collarbones gently, and Nigel's eyelids flickered.

"Wha... Sydney...? That you?" Nigel muttered the words, and blinked at her slowly, trying to focus through his reading glasses.

"Yep. I think you passed out. C'mon, let's get you home. I'll pick you up, and we'll go to my car, and I'll drive you home, and put you to bed. Ok? Ok. Now, come on, stand up for me."

She put an arm round Nigel's waist, and helped him to his feet. Nigel groaned, and, with Sydney supporting him, lurched out of the office.

= = = = = = = =

Sydney pulled up outside Nigel's apartment and slid out of the car. Helping him out of the car, she took his keys out of his pocket and unlocked the front door. "Well done, Nige'. Come on, now, up the stairs. Well done."

She gently lay Nigel down on his bed, then pulled the blanket up over his legs. "I'll stay here for now, until you wake up."

Moving the only chair from its position behind the desk, Sydney sat on it and pulled a book on Egyptian Mythology from a shelf, and started to read.

As she turned the page for the second chapter, a letter fell out – Nigel had obviously been using it as a bookmark. Sydney picked it up, and frowned when she saw that it was from a major British museum. Feeling slightly guilty at nosing through Nigel's things, she started to read it. It was dated as being posted three days ago, from England, so it must have arrived with that morning's post.

"Dear Mr Bailey," she read, "We are delighted to offer you the position of museum translator. We have been following your work, and you seem to be perfect for the job. We know of your current job at Trinity College with Miss Sydney Fox, and would offer you a higher salary and much more rewarding work.

"You would be in charge of commissioning people to find relics, and also be the person responsible for translating any ancient texts or scrolls we may need.

"We hope you will seriously consider our offer, and we would appreciate it if you contact us as soon as possible with your response. Thank you."

Sydney's eyes filled with tears, and she put a hand to her mouth. Nigel couldn't go back to England! She couldn't manage without him! But he should go; it would be much safer than joining her on the hunts... and after the way she had been treating him recently, she wouldn't be surprised if he did accept the job.

"I'm sorry, Nigel... you have absolutely no idea how sorry I am..." Sydney sniffed away a tear, and scrubbed at her face, then pushed the letter back in its place in the book and put the book back on the shelf.

She stood up and pulled the curtains closed so Nigel could sleep peacefully, and so she could sit and be ashamed of herself in the dark, where no one could see her cry.

= = = = = = = = = =

Nigel opened his eyes to darkness, which slowly formed itself into the familiar shapes of his bedroom. He was warm, and his stomach didn't hurt quite so much, though he still had a headache. Sitting up slowly, Nigel took off his reading glasses and placed them on the table.

He tried to remember how he had got home, but all that came up was a vague memory of marking essays, a dark blank, then Sydney's voice and a car ride. Well, Sydney was involved, so it couldn't be that bad.

He stretched, then jumped as a voice interrupted his thoughts. "Hey, Nigel. Nice to see you awake. You had Claudia and me worried, earlier."

"Sydney?! I thought you were at the college... I thought you were mad at me..."

"I'm not mad at you, Nigel. I was mad at an irritating freshman kid again. Are you feeling better?"

"Yes, thanks. What're you doing here?"

"You fainted in the office. I brought you back here until you woke up. Listen, Nigel... I'm sorry for being so grouchy... If there's any way I can make it up to you..."

"What? No, no, it's not you, I hadn't noticed anything."


"I said, I hadn't noticed anything. Now can we leave it as that?"

"Ok, Nigel. I'll leave it as that. But you are staying in bed until you are thoroughly better. Or else there will be trouble!"

"Yes, Syd. I'll stay in bed. Don't you have to be at work? Or is the day over now?"

"No, it's not over. I just wanted to hang around until you wake up. I should actually be going back now. There's aspirin and water on the table, and a cheese sandwich. Actually, I have a question for you."

Sydney tried to make herself ask about the letter, but found that for once her voice had given up on her. She couldn't bring herself to admit that she had been reading his private letters. So, instead, she went a safe question. "Why on earth do you have marmite in your cupboard? I mean, you can't seriously eat that stuff, can you?"

"Oh, very funny. I love it, actually. It's wonderful stuff. Thank you for the sandwich, Syd. I think I'm gonna go back to sleep now. See you tomorrow or whenever..." Nigel pulled the blanket back up to his chin, rolled over, and a few minutes later, as Sydney watched, his light breathing showed that he was fast asleep again.

"Goodnight, Nigel." Sydney smiled at him, and gently smoothed his hair away from his face. "Sweet dreams."

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

End of chapter 1! Please review! (I say that a lot).


= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =