Summary: A sorceress summons Sydney and Nigel to the magical realm of Avalon during spring break. Shippiness and supernatural happenings abound...
Disclaimer: Don't own them, just borrowing. I promise to give them back. Eventually.
Note: This is a sequel to my previous Relic Hunter fics (The Cauldron of Cerridwyn, Heart of Gold, and Working it Out), which means that Sydney and Nigel are starting to explore the possibility of a romantic relationship. If you don't like it, you still have the chance to run...
Note: Yes, I know that I'm butchering the Arthurian Avalon tradition here. Poetic license, right? This is more based on pre-Arthurian myths and legends of the Sidhe and a more recent, if somewhat revisionist, take on the myth of Avalon. Fear not, Nigel will explain it all later... :)
Feedback: Yes, please... Feed me, feed me!!!
Chapter 1 -- Calm Before the Storm
"So, Nigel, big plans for spring break?" Karen asked as she worked on getting the last of the grades entered.
Nigel shrugged absently. "Not really, no. Just... you know, hang about campus, get some reading done, things of that nature..." he said evasively.
"Exciting..." Karen muttered sarcastically.
Nigel grinned. "Don't worry, Karen, I'm sure you'll have more than enough fun in Barbados for all three of us."
Karen grinned. "Well, I certainly plan to try."
"Just try not to get arrested, okay?" Sydney asked, walking out of her office and handing Nigel a stack of papers. "File these, will you, Nigel?"
"Sure, Syd." He nodded and dropped the papers into his lap, rolling his chair across the floor to the file cabinet.
Sydney started back to her office, then stopped. "Oh, hey!" she said. "You saw the physical therapist today, didn't you?" she asked.
"I did, yes." Nigel nodded and pulled the drawer open, maneuvering his leg, still covered in a heavy cast, out of the way. "He says that, with luck, I should regain my full range of motion."
"Oh, that's great, Nigel." Sydney smiled broadly.
"Good news." Karen grinned and nodded. "When's the cast come off?"
"Not soon enough..." Nigel grumbled, shaking his head. "They want to keep it on for at least two more months."
"Eww..." Karen muttered, frowning.
"Sorry, Nigel." Sydney said with an apologetic shrug before returning to her office.
"Doesn't it itch?" Karen asked as she entered the last grade.
"Only when I think about it..." Nigel told her with a shrug. "It's easier if I can just totally immerse myself in work."
"Not that that's ever a stretch for you." Karen grinned and shook her head, logging on to the Internet as she spoke. "You're always working or studying. What do you do for fun, Nigel?"
"I enjoy working and studying, Karen. They are fun..." Nigel muttered without looking up from his filing.
"Filing is fun?" Karen asked, shaking her head. "Hey, computer says you guys are in for some nasty weather." She smiled. "Lucky me, I won't be here for it."
"Unless the storms shut down the airport..." Sydney said, leaning out of her office. "They made the front page of the paper this morning. Apparently they did some serious damage in the Midwest and now it's our turn."
"Well, I am not going to be stuck here when I could be in Barbados..." Karen said, shaking her head.
"Take off early..." Sydney suggested. "See if you can get an earlier flight."
"Wow, Syd. Really?"
Sydney nodded and shrugged. "Why not. Nigel and I can finish up here. There's not much left to do."
Karen smiled. "Thanks, Syd." She rose and picked up her coat. "Won't be needing this where I'm going."
Nigel smiled and waved as she left. "Have a nice spring break, Karen."
"Yeah, Nigel, you too. Try to get your nose out of a book for a little while."
"If you insist." Nigel smiled absently. "Bye, Karen."
"Bye, Nigel. Bye, Syd." Karen waved and left, humming a Beach-Boy's tune under her breath.
Sydney grinned and shook her head, closing and locking the door behind her. "She's hyped."
"Of course she is. I mean... Barbados!" Nigel said, in imitation of Karen's excited tone. "Not that I blame her for wanting to get away. The weather here has been rather dismal lately." He grinned and slid the filing cabinet shut. "Are we, uh... still on for dinner?" he asked hesitantly, rolling the chair back to his desk.
Shaking her head, Sydney walked over to join him, sitting on the edge of his desk. "Why is it that every time you ask that, Nigel, you sound like you think I'm going to say 'no'?"
Nigel shrugged and glanced up at her shyly. "Perhaps I still am, Syd." He gave an embarrassed smile. "I mean... a week ago I never would have guessed that we'd be... whatever it is we are."
Sydney laughed softly. "Exploring, I think is the word. Testing the waters."
Nigel grinned. "Well, I think I can safely say that the water feels fine from over here..."
"Yeah?" Sydney asked, grinning and leaning towards him.
Nigel nodded. She was wearing one of those tight-fitting, low-cut tops she favored. "View's not bad either..." Nigel teased, grinning at her.
"Nigel!" Sydney laughed and tossed a file at him.
"Well, I'm sorry, Syd. You can't dress like you do and expect me to maintain my professional detachment all the time." He shrugged helplessly.
"Ah, but, Nigel, we aren't doing professional detachment any more..." Sydney reminded him.
"We're still playing at it..." Nigel reminded her gently.
"Right." Sydney sighed and shook her head. "Because this... whatever it is that we have is breaking about a dozen rules even if we don't decide to get any more serious."
"Tell you what, Syd..." Nigel said thoughtfully. "Let's run away together. To a college that hasn't established any rules on fraternization yet."
Sydney laughed. "It's good to see you in a good mood again, Nigel."
He smiled. "It's good to be in one again. Thank you, Syd."
"Hey, just doing my part for the cause. If I'd have known that it was going to loosen you up this much, I'd have started going out with you years ago."
Nigel grinned. "You know, Syd, I'm feeling a very strong urge to break a rule..."
Sydney grinned and leaned forward, brushing her lips against his cheek. "Which rule, Nigel?" she whispered in his ear.
He grinned. "Um... This one will do just fine..." he whispered. "Green light, Syd?" he asked, his eyes sparkling.
"Green light, Nigel."
Nigel laughed and licked his lips. It had been less than a week since their first 'real' kiss, and he still got nervous every time he was about to kiss her. He suspected that Sydney liked it that way, so he did not try too hard to change. He rather liked the nervous anticipation himself. For her part, Sydney just appreciated being around a man who viewed her as more than an attractive woman. It did not hurt that Nigel was an excellent kisser, as he once again proved.
"Wow..." he breathed softly, pulling away from her.
Sydney grinned and nodded. "Wow, indeed. Where'd you learn to kiss like that, Nigel?" she asked with a grin, leaning back on his desk.
"Um, I'm going to have to claim the Fifth on that question, Syd." Nigel grinned at her. "Want to get out of here? Take in a museum?"
She nodded. "Museums are nice."
"There's a new exhibit downtown. It's on Egypt, I believe. Want to go point out mistakes in the tour-guide's lecture?"
"And they say that the academically inclined don't know how to have fun." Sydney laughed and nodded. "And afterward, we can go on a picnic."
"A picnic, Syd?" Nigel asked, grinning. "You're joking?"
She shook her head. "I once heard that they're romantic."
"Hmm... A romantic afternoon with Sydney Fox? As if there's more than one answer to such a proposition." Nigel smiled and rose. After arranging his crutches, he offered her his arm. "Milady."
Sydney laughed and accepted his arm.
They selected a nice, secluded area in a copse of trees for their picnic.
"That was nice..." Sydney said with a yawn. "Did you see the look on that tour-guide's face?" she asked as she caught Nigel's arm and helped him lower himself onto the ground.
"Thanks, Syd. Which look, exactly?" he asked, smiling faintly. "The one that said 'what did I do to deserve this' or the one that said 'maybe I should just let them take over the tour'?"
Sydney laughed and nodded. "Both, actually."
"Well, I'm sorry, but they've no business putting people who know nothing about a subject in charge of tours on it."
Sydney grinned. "Hungry?" she asked, nodding towards the basket.
"Not particularly, no. You?"
"Not really." She shook her head. "Let's just relax for a while." She stretched out on the ground next to him, her hands over her head.
Nigel smiled down at her as she provided him with yet another excellent view. She really was an incredibly attractive woman on top of all of her other attributes. "You look tired."
"Just a little. Long week with midterms and everything." She smiled up at him. "This is nice, Nigel."
"Yes, the weather's holding nicely."
"That's not what I meant." Sydney smiled and shook her head. "This, Nigel. Us."
He blushed and grinned down at her. "It really is, Syd. You're right." He rested his hands on the ground on either side of her and leaned close. "It's all rather like a very wonderful dream. Except for where I wake up in the morning..." he trailed off, realizing what he had just implied.
He had meant that when he woke up in the morning he was still in the wonderful dream, but judging from Sydney's shocked and amused expression, it had not come out that way at all. She laughed as he attempted a stammered explanation.
Abruptly, she grabbed him by the shirt with both hands and pulled him even closer. "I know what you meant, Nigel..." She grinned at him. That surprised, embarrassed look on his face was adorable beyond words.
"Oh, right, then..." He nodded shakily. "Because I would never want to imply... Not that it would be bad to wake up next to you..." he trailed off again, looking mortified as he realized that he had done it again. "I've done it again, haven't I? Oh, bloody hell..."
They laughed together then for several minutes. Shaking her head and grinning at him, Sydney pulled him onto the ground next to her, then rolled on top of him, reversing their positions. The memory of a comment she had made to him earlier that same day about liking to be on top in her relationships sent them both into fresh gales of laughter.
The truth, of course, was that Nigel would not have minded waking up next to Sydney in the least, but he was more than happy with their relationship exactly as it was now, relaxed, casual, and, above all, fun. Somehow he felt that sleeping with her this early on would only have cheapened the nature of their relationship. So he was more than happy to wait.
Sydney, for her part, felt much the same, if for different reasons. Their newfound romantic attachment was still fairly tenuous. Not that it could not have stood up to all kinds of pressure exactly as their friendship had, but it remained to be seen if it could truly stand on its own. Sleeping with Nigel now could ruin not only their romantic relationship, but also their friendship and their working relationship. It would not be the first time that she had lost a close friend in that way, so she was grateful that Nigel seemed content to wait.
As their laughter died down, he smiled up at her and lightly brushed her cheek. "Syd, you are absolutely amazing..."
She smiled and blushed faintly. God, who was the last man to have been able to get that response from her. "You aren't so bad yourself, Nigel."
"I have got to be the luckiest man alive..." He shook his head in amazement as he stared up at her.
Sydney grinned. "Well, Nigel, I'll tell you this much. Dating you has been great for my ego."
Nigel laughed. Stopping abruptly, he stared over her shoulder. "Syd, I think this might be a good time to run for cover..."
Sydney frowned and glanced at a sky which was almost black, despite the fact that it was just after two in the afternoon. "Yeah, I'm going to have to second that." She climbed to her feet and helped Nigel up as well. "Think we can reach the car before the rain starts?" she asked.
A streak of lightening illuminated the darkening woods, followed almost immediately by a crash of thunder. The wind whistled through the trees, causing the branches to rustle. Nigel glanced at Sydney. He could almost swear that he heard thousands of voices whispering at once. She was looking around, alarmed.
"Where did we park, Nigel?"
"That way." He pointed. "We'll have to run if we want to get there ahead of the rain..."
Sydney nodded and caught his arm, breaking into a half-run. She did not go faster because, on his crutches, Nigel could not. She shook her head in disgust as they hurried down the path, leaving the picnic basket behind. What had she been thinking, proposing a picnic when thunderstorms and tornados were in the forecast.
"Syd, over there..." Nigel shouted over the howling wind, pointing to a small rock outcropping. "It'll at least keep us dry."
She nodded and they hurried to it, managing to hide under it mere moments before the rain started. There was barely enough room for both of them to huddle under the outcropping, and it would have been almost romantic if the temperature had not so suddenly dropped. Nigel stripped off his jacket and wrapped it around Sydney's shoulders. After all, she had much less shirt on than him.
She smiled gratefully and slid an arm around his shoulder, pulling him close so that they could share the jacket. Nigel smiled at her. Chivalry did, after all, have its advantages.
"Thanks, Syd. Think it'll let up soon?"
Sydney stared out at the teaming rain with a shrug. "Don't know. I hope so, though. I forgot to roll the car windows up."
"So, we just wait it out?" Sydney asked with a sigh.
Nigel nodded. "I think so. That wind's strong enough to knock down trees, and then there's the lightening..."
She nodded. "So we just wait. Wish I'd thought to grab the picnic basket..." she trailed off and grinned at Nigel. "You know, it's actually kind of romantic. In a... soggy sort of way."
Nigel, whose cast was starting to get waterlogged, nodded and shrugged. "Yeah, I suppose it really is." He sidled a little closer to Sydney under the jacket, grinning at her.
Sydney smiled at him. "Well, it's not exactly the romantic picnic I had in mind, but I think it'll do..." She rested her head on Nigel's shoulder and wrapped her arms around him. "At least we have to keep each other warm..." she teased.
Nigel stared at her for a moment, surprised, then slid his arms around her. "Wouldn't want you to get cold..."