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Author: Dria
E-Mail: filmindie@hotmail.com
Feedback: Yes, please.
Distribution: I’d be glad if you want to post it just tell me where it’s going so I can look at it and be impressed with myself. It’s also will be at my site which is marked below.
Rating: PG-13 at the very most for a little angsty stuff.
Pairing: B/G
Summary: Buffy stumbles across an old painting that awakens some new ideas. Spoilers: Up to “First Date” with a possible few tidbits from “LMPTM”, my ending is based on my own ideas.
Note: “Written in the Stars” is a song from the Disney musical Aida, which basically is only relevant because the associating wallpaper, which can be found at (http://www23.brinkster.com/driasgallery/index.html) (please amuse me and at least look at it), has the lyrics from it. Also on that wallpaper I used the painting The End of the Quest by Sir Frank Dicksee just because A. it’s hanging above my bed and B. I like the idea that at the end of all a man’s journeys and battles it’s all for or because of love.
Note 2: Supremely special thanks to my beta Deb B.


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Buffy awoke with a start, her heart racing from yet another dream about being killed by a new Turok-Han. However, the abrupt manner in which she’d woken hadn’t helped her increased heart rate. She could hear Dawn banging on her door and yelling something about the potentials hogging the bathroom, and Chao-Ahn screaming in her native language. Buffy’s head found the underside of her pillow, but it did her no good - she could still hear everything loud and clear, and now more girls were screaming. Buffy felt like crying.

“BUFFYYYYYYYYYY!” rang into hears just before the banging began again.

“Buffy?” A muffled voice rose from the floor.

“Wha?” she asked trying harder to block out the noise with her pillow.

“Please, make it stop.”

“You.”

“Your turn.”

Buffy reluctantly sat up and looked over the side of her bed at Giles, who was flat on his stomach rolled in his sleeping bag.

“Maybe we can just lock them all in the basement and see what happens,” she grumbled. “Spike wouldn’t like it though.”

She noticed him tense at the mention of the blond vampire, and sighed, remembering his anger with her the day before. What did he expect from her? More doom and gloom Buffy, hadn’t she done enough of that? Wasn’t he the one who said she should rest?

“Well, I guess I should go stop the carnage.” She threw her covers off and went to the door, but stopped when Giles started to speak.

“I’m sorry, Buffy. I know last night… I’m being too hard on you, all of you.”

“You were kind of a kill-joy.”

“Yes, well… maybe it’d be a nice break if we got out of this house for a little while. Just you, me, Xander and Willow. Like old times.”

A small smile played on her lips. “That’d be nice.”

He grinned. “Good.”

Buffy grimaced as she turned from him and opened the door, and rightly so for in the next moment Dawn was using her as a human shield.

***

The core Scoobies were planning their escape in the dining room. Giles made his suggestion for the outing and now the other three were looking at him, appalled.

“Art gallery? For fun?” Xander asked.

“Well excuse me for trying to introduce culture to you lot.”

“Maybe…” Buffy started, “Maybe just you guys should go.”

“Nice try, Buffster.”

Buffy’s face fell knowing Xander had seen through her charade.

Willow perked up. “Maybe the gallery thing could be fun.” Xander made a face, but she continued. “Those Pre-Raphealite guys weren’t big on the clothing, you know.”

“I’ve matured beyond that, I’m a grown man now and… I’m in! Buff?”

Giles looked at her hopefully and any argument that she was going to try to make got lost on the way to her tongue. “Color me cultured.”

“Now hold on a moment. You’re all actually agreeing with my idea?” Giles asked. They all nodded but he shook his head. “This is a sure sign of the apocalypse.”

“The surest. So, should we tell them we’re leaving or just sneak out the window?”

***

They didn’t sneak out the widow but they did manage to leave unseen, leaving four notes in the house so no one would worry. Xander drove since Giles had neglected to renew his California State Driver’s License. When he had shamefully mentioned it Buffy’s mood had darkened, but neither said anything about it. Willow sat in front much to the dismay to her friends in the back. Buffy had huffed that being the slayer didn’t mean anything anymore - not even the right to shotgun, and Giles’s legs were uncomfortably scrunched behind Willow’s seat. Everyone had settled though and when Giles looked over at Buffy he saw a huge grin on her face.

“What is it?”

“My sister’s gonna kill me!” she exclaimed.

He just laughed as Xander found a parking space behind the Sunnydale Museum; quite a feat since apparently all of Sunnydale had decided today was an art day.

“Wow, is the convention of really boring people in town?”

“Maybe they got word of the nudity.”

“Buffy! Xander!”

“Sorry, Giles, didn’t mean you were boring, and I’m sure Xander wasn’t implying that you’re into 18th century porn.”

Giles’s skin turned scarlet red.

“Well, it has been awhile… and I’ll be shutting up now,” Willow wisely added as Ripper glared.

When they entered the museum they discovered that for every car outside there were five people inside. The museum staffs’ faces were panicked as they looked to one another for help or possibly an answer to the sudden surge of people. Buffy approached one of them.

“What’s going on?”

The young man shrugged. “You’d think we had free keggers or something.” He laughed as Buffy’s eyes went wide remembering her own fun with beer, and added, “But we don’t.”

When she spotted Giles she headed over. She stood next to him pretending she knew how to study art, but even she had to admit the art was remarkably beautiful. Suddenly she was shoved forward into Giles , caught her before she could fall.

“At least we know people’s manners have remained intact.”

“Quite.” He abruptly removed his arms from around Buffy, who attempted to read something from his eyes, but found them to be everywhere but on her.

“Oh, look, there’s Xander he might… break something. Are you all right?”

“I suppose.” At her tone he looked at her, confused, but she shook her head and waved him off in Xander’s direction before turning her back to him. She wasn’t sure why she was bothered by his discomfort with touching her in such a protective manner, especially since it was accidental; it wasn’t like she threw herself on him randomly. She was beginning to think she’d been right all along and this trip was nothing but a mistake. She looked for Willow and found her intently examining a painting with shock on her face. She glanced at Buffy and eagerly waved her over.

“Will, what’s up?”

She pointed at the painting. A woman sat on a throne of some kind with a man kneeling in front of her, in a courtyard with mountains in the background. It was nice but Buffy had no idea what the fuss was about. Then her eyes settled on the woman of the picture and widened.

“It’s me!”

“It’s you!” Willow squeaked.

Buffy’s eyes slipped to the man kneeling in front her exact replica and they somehow managed to expand while her mouth fell open.

“And- and…” Buffy covered her mouth quickly. “Don’t say anything to him. Not until I know what this is.” She knew what would happen if they sought his help, he’d argue endlessly with her about it’s importance, and try to stop them from researching “But Buffy…”

“No, not a word. We can research this ourselves.”

She took one last look at the painting and noted the title and artist: “The End of the Quest” by Sir Frank Dicksee. “C’mon, let’s go.” Willow followed her friend feeling her sides bursting with the need to share what they’d seen, and idly wondered if another person guessing was the same as telling.

***

That night Buffy lay in bed waiting for the sound of Giles’s light snoring. Her finders impatiently drummed against the comforter until the noise she’d been waiting for finally floated through her bedroom. She crept out of bed and out of her room without disturbing him. As she tiptoed down the stairs she heard Willow typing away at her computer, but when she entered the room she saw Kennedy researching and her temper flared.

“You told her?” Buffy accused.

Willow jumped and sheepishly looked at her friend. “Well, I thought the more help the better.”

“Did you find anything?”

“Willow’s ticklish behind her… oh, not that type of anything.”

Buffy folded her arms. A blush had taken over her entire face when Willow began. “Well, um, all I found were more pictures, biographies of Frank Dicksee, nothing incredibly helpful.”

“Or at all one might say,” Buffy snitted.

Willow winced. “One might.

It’s really weird timing, though. It can’t just be a coincidence, right?” The slayer relaxed and pulled a chair up beside her friend. “I don’t know. I don’t think so. I have no clue what it could mean. Maybe it’s not even real, like a trick or magic, or ooh- a magic trick.”

“Well, it looks the same all over the net so I kinda doubt it.”

“And here.” Kennedy held up the book she was looking through and consequently the painting.

“So it’s real.”

“I’d say so.”

“Ooh, what’s this?” Buffy pointed at Willow’s screen, which had just returned the results of a Google search, to the words, “ ‘End of the Quest’ is based on…” Willow clicked on the link, however their hope was squashed when an Internet explorer error message appeared on the screen. “You know sometimes I just hate this thing.”

Buffy sighed now even more frustrated. “We should be researching the First anyway, this is a waste of time.”

“But what if it is connected?”

Buffy stood and hit an innocent end table, breaking it in half and causing the lamp’s cord to leave the socket, but the lamp landed unbroken on the floor.

“Uh-oh, Xander’s not gonna be a happy camper in the morning.” Even though the room was darker Willow saw the frustration in her friend’s eyes. “Buffy, maybe you should get some sleep. If we find anything we’ll tell you first thing in the morning, promise.”

Buffy nodded reluctantly, knowing she couldn’t afford to lose any more furniture that night, and headed back up the stairs. She snuck back into her room suddenly all too aware of the man next to her bed. Suddenly? Well, maybe the idea had crossed her mind once or twice, but that was only natural right? They did share a sacred calling and everything. Don’t go there tonight. Need sleep… want sex dreams. She pulled her covers over her head hoping she would be able to silence her inner monologue long enough to rest.

***

The room was large and very elegant, though that was to be expected given its purpose. Looking up, eyes traveled lands to reach the ceiling, looking down, well; there were feet even if the grand silk of her dress covered them. Princess Belide wiggled them making sure they were still there; no one was paying attention to her anyway, even though she was the reason all of the townspeople were there. Beside her were her parents, King Henstriff and Queen Lyonis, on their thrones. She was filled with great pride in herself, which she knew her father shared, but her mother didn’t understand it. Her father, a large and imposing man, rose to stand grandly in front of his audience, silencing them at once.

“My beloved Belide was set upon two nights past.” The audience gasped and whispers started. “However, she was able to fight off the intruders before they could harm her.” He smiled broadly and he glanced back at her. “Though my daughter was able to escape unscathed, her guardian was not so fortunate, and forfeited his life so that she might live.”

Belide realized that she should feel some sadness for his passing, for Tyer had watched over her for five years and had given his life for her. She could not bring herself to do so, however. The intruders had posed as servants and convinced Tyer to drink. He had agreed not knowing that they had poisoned his. Belide had feared that one day his weakness for spirits would one day endanger them both, and regretted that she had been proven right.

“I suspect mine enemies, the Dark Knights, know of my deep affection for my daughter and have gone after my heart rather than my person. This is unacceptable, and I vow will never happen again. To ensure that promise I have sought the assistance of a man who has already proven himself as a worthy knight, and whom I trust with something much more dear, the guardianship of my daughter. Sir Gallin, my friend, please rise.”

Belide’s heart beat quickened in anticipation. She hoped that whomever this knight was, that he would be able to protect her. When he stood the beat fell with its maker to the floor. As he approached the throne nothing served to raise her spirits. He was quite a bit older than she had expected, and well battle-scarred. What good could he do her? She smiled politely as he bowed to her.

“Princess Belide, as of this moment I forfeit my life to you. I live to serve and protect, your Highness.”

“I thank you, Sir Gallin.”

He raised his head to look at her as the King resumed his speech. Given what Henstriff had told him about defeating one of the dark knights he was surprised to see she was so small, and so absolutely beautiful. However, he saw the fighter in her eyes, the rigid fierceness even as fear crept in.

When the crowd had dispersed Belide made her way to her father, and pulled him to the side, daring only to speak in a whisper.

“Father, do you really feel you used your best judgment in this matter?”

“I know I did.”

“My concern is that Gallin is-“

“My dear, I assure you he will be the greatest protector for you. He has seen many a battle, 'tis true, but that is testament to his fighting skill. He possesses strength and a great intellect. Perhaps you would do well to learn from him, my child.”

“I only hope you are right.”

“I am.” He kissed his daughter on the forehead and walked away, hooking his arm with his wife’s and leaving the newly formed pair alone. Belide approached her knight hesitantly. “Gallin, I hope you realize…-“

“Your Highness, I know that I am not what you expected. But I swear I will protect you.”

His eyes connected with hers long enough for her to become uncomfortable. She read the strength in them, and began to feel that perhaps her father was right after all.

“I know. However, you will do more than simply protect me. You will teach me.”

“Your father made no indication-“

“You will teach me, I’m not defenseless, and refuse to be so.”

He smiled, feeling her strength. “Then I will teach you. I promise.”

He took her hand and brought it to his lips bestowing upon it a gentle kiss. Belide smiled.
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