Buffy and Dawn walked down a London street together. Dawn noticed a door up ahead, with a small sign that read Hunter and Cross: Purveyors of Fine Books beside it. “We really ought to get something for Giles,” she told her sister, “after all it’s his money we’ve been spending.”
“No,” said Buffy. “It was the Council’s money. Now it’s our money.”
“Still, I think we should get him something.” Dawn went to the book shop door. “You’re super strong, you can carry lots more.” She pushed the door open and entered the shop.
Buffy smiled and followed her sister. Dawn had already loaded her down with the bulk of their purchases and it wasn’t even noon yet. Her hands were full—several shopping bags in each—while Dawn just had one small bag in her left hand.
Buffy’s first glance around the dimly lit shop made her feel that she and Dawn were very out of place. Their bright clothes just screamed ‘tourist,’ but there was nothing touristy about this shop. It took a couple of seconds for her eyes to adjust to the dim lighting and Buffy saw rows of book shelves crammed close together: so close that two people would have difficulty passing each other in the aisles between them. The book shelves along the side walls went all the way to the ceiling, complete with sliding ladders to reach the upper shelves. Then Buffy inhaled and felt strangely at home. The smell reminded her of the old high school library: the musty scent of ancient paper, and fine leather bindings.
There was only one other person in the shop: an elderly bald man with his nose in a book, sitting on a stool behind a counter with an antique cash register. Buffy felt another twinge of familiarity. It looked like the twin to the cash register from the Magic Box. He looked up from his book and frowned at the two girls who had invaded his shop. The expression on his face told Buffy that he didn’t think they belonged there either.
The man was still frowning, and watching Dawn as she moved down an aisle, her eyes scanning the shelves. Buffy gave her sister a look, and decided that she needed to do something to reassure the man behind the counter. “You rip it, you bought it,” she told Dawn. She looked around a bit more. “And it looks like some of these books would take years for you to pay off, on your allowance.”
Dawn gave her sister a withering glare. “I’m not the one who tried to use a 12th century Papal Encyclical as note paper.” She stopped moving down the aisle, reached out, and took a book from the shelf.
The shopkeeper watched Dawn carefully as she first examined the binding, and then carefully opened the book. She turned slowly through the pages before she closed it and put it back in its place on the shelf. His eyebrows went up a bit and the frown left his face. It was so rare to see a young person who knew how to properly handle a book these days. Seeing it in an American tourist was unprecedented. His eyes moved back to the older blonde girl, and he frowned again. Anyone who would write on a 12th century manuscript bore careful watching.
The girl flashed him a smile. “Hey, don’t worry. I was her age at the time.” She pointed to the corner beside the counter, out of the way of anyone trying to move through his shop. “Mind if I stash my bags there?”
He gave her a nod, and she dropped the bags. He had been about to suggest that she do so anyway. Some of those bags were easily large enough to conceal a volume. He glanced back at the younger, dark haired girl, and decided he didn’t have to worry about the small bag in her hand. It wasn’t big enough to conceal anything. He went back to watching the blonde as she started to move through the shelves herself.
Buffy quickly discovered that there were three sorts of books in this shop: ancient, ancienter, and ancientest. The most ancient seemed to be on the upper shelves, only accessible by ladder. She squinted up at them, and frowned. Some of the books on the top shelves, where their bindings would be invisible in the dim light to most people, had familiar titles. She recognized a couple. She knew that copies of those books were now residing at the bottom of what had come to be known as the Sunnydale Lagoon. The Pacific Ocean had come pouring into the crater created by the Hellmouth’s collapse soon after it had happened. The water was almost a thousand feet deep where her house had been.
Buffy considered asking the man at the counter if he’d mind her climbing up to take a look at the upper shelves, but one look at his frown told her that wouldn’t be a very good idea. She decided to file the information away to tell Giles later. She wouldn’t be surprised if he’d been a customer here. She directed her attention back to the merely ancient volumes in the shelves more easily reached by someone her size. She didn’t want to get Giles anything ‘work’ related, and she figured these books would be more in her price range anyway. She pulled one ancient looking book off a shelf at random, and looked for a price tag. There was nothing visible on the outside, so she opened the cover to look inside.
A small file card fell out of the book, and fluttered to the floor. She bent down and picked it up. Something else that looked familiar: a library catalogue index card with all the details about the book, with the addition of its price: £75.95. Of course, they wouldn’t be so crass as to actually stick a price tag on one of these volumes. Buffy did a quick mental calculation that she was getting very used to doing: about $110. She was a little puzzled by the notation under the price: 15G 2S 28K. She wondered what it could mean. She replaced the card in the book and replaced the book on the shelf. She tried one of the ancienter volumes, and had her suspicions confirmed. Its price was nearly £200. That card had a notation under the price like the first one had: 38G 15S 28K.
Buffy noticed that Dawn was having a look at something that fell into the ancientest category, and went to have a quiet word with her about their budget.
The shop door opened, and a couple more people entered. Buffy hoped that they’d take up some of the burden of the proprietor’s glare. At first glance they didn’t look like they belonged there any more than she and Dawn. They were both rather shabbily dressed. The man’s clothes kinda reminded her of what Giles used to wear during his first year in Sunnydale…after several very bad nights in a cemetery. He seemed to be in his thirties, with light brown hair, flecked with grey. His face was gaunt, with a bit of a goatee for a beard. Everything about him seemed worn, like he’d had a very hard life. His tweed jacket had been patched multiple times.
The second man—he moved away from the glare from the door and Buffy hastily revised that first impression, he was a boy, about Dawn’s age—was dressed in clothes that would have fit well on someone twice his size. The wear patterns visible on them told Buffy that the kid wasn’t making some sort of grunge fashion statement…they were second hand. The boy had dark, unruly hair that kinda reminded Buffy of Xander’s, and was wearing glasses with round rims.
She fully expected the proprietor to glare more strongly at these two than he had at her and Dawn, but he surprised her by smiling brightly. “Remus! Good to see you again!”
“Good to see you too, Mr. Cross,” said the man. “We received a message that you had those books we’d ordered?”
“Of course! Of course! They’re in the back, I’ll go get them.” Mr. Cross leaned closer to Remus and whispered something that he didn’t intend Buffy to overhear. “Keep an eye on those two for me will you?” Buffy smiled to herself and kept browsing.
Remus stayed by the counter and the boy started to wander through the shelves. He was tall, and thin, and had a curious lightning shaped scar on his forehead. Remus didn’t glare at Buffy and Dawn the way Mr. Cross had, but Buffy could tell that he was keeping an eye on them. Buffy noticed that the boy didn’t seem to be browsing the books or keeping an eye on her. He was checking Dawn out. Buffy saw the way his eyes kept glancing toward Dawn’s ass, which was being very well displayed by the tight blue jeans she was wearing. She would have smiled, but her spider sense was tingling. She was getting a vibe off both Remus and the boy. She couldn’t pin it down though.
Buffy had gotten a boost too when they had done the spell to empower all the Potential Slayers all over the world. Her strength hadn’t changed much, that she’d noticed, but her senses had improved a lot. Buffy now found that she could sense vampires and other demons the way that Giles had always told her she should be able to. She could pick a vamp or a demon out of a crowd at a hundred paces.
She was getting a feeling off these two. It didn’t feel Evil. It kinda reminded her of the buzz she sensed off Willow now. Remus and the boy had magic. She was feeling something else off Remus too, something she couldn’t nail down, but something about it said ‘friend’ which Buffy found very strange.
The boy was looking like he might risk actually saying “Hi” to Dawn when Mr. Cross came back carrying a plain brown package.
“Here you go Remus!” Mr. Cross went behind the counter again and pressed some buttons on the cash register. After a nervous glance toward Buffy and Dawn he wrote something down on a slip of paper and slid it across the counter to Remus.
Buffy watched out of the corner of her eye as Remus reached into an inner pocket of his jacket and pulled out a cloth pouch. He dumped several large coins out of it onto the counter. Mr. Cross dropped them into the cash drawer, and gave back several smaller coins.
Remus scooped up his change, and dropped it back into the bag. One of the coins missed. It bounced off the counter and scooted across the floor toward Buffy. She stopped it by stomping on it with her foot. She bent down and picked it up.
Remus was coming toward her, looking embarrassed. Buffy had a quick look at the coin before he got to her. She smiled and held out her hand to him. “Here you go.”
Remus smiled back as he took the coin. “Thank you, Miss.” He looked at the boy. “Come on Harry, Let’s get you some clothes that fit, before we go back.” They left the shop.
Buffy went back to looking at books while she pondered the coin. She’d thought that she’d seen or heard of all the different English coins by now, but what the heck was a Knut?
|Contents||Chapter 2: Lunch|