The day after
The next morning – Duncan’s loft
The ringing phone jolted Duncan awake. He opened his eyes and was momentarily disoriented. The last thing he remembered was stumbling out of the elevator and shedding clothes as he headed for his bed. Apparently he had made it, because he was definitely in bed. He had been only marginally successful in removing his clothes. He could see his coat thrown over a chair and his sweater in a heap on the floor. He couldn’t see his shoes, but they weren’t on his feet. He still wore his pants and one sock. He groaned and reached for the phone on the bedside table.
“Mac---owd.” He said as a yawn bisected his answering the phone.
“Mac! Hey man, did I wake you up?”
“Dawson? What time is it?”
“What?” Duncan looked for a clock and grimaced as he saw that Dawson was right. /I never sleep this late! If Methos hears about this I may not survive the jokes./
“Don’t worry, I won’t tell Methos.”
“Damn it Joe, sometimes I swear you’re a mind reader.”
Joe laughed. “Actually, I was calling to see if you had heard from the old man.”
“No, the last time I talked to him was last night when he dropped me off at home. Are you worried? I thought everything was taken care of.”
“No, nothing like that. Everything should be fine. In fact, I have confirmation from Cassandra’s Watcher that she took an early morning flight out of here.”
“Good, I’m glad to hear th . . . wait, Cassandra’s Watcher? Did he see what happened last night?
“No, *she* didn’t see anything. She couldn’t come into the bar to watch Cassandra because there was no crowd to blend into. She did see us all go in there, but she didn’t get a good look at the old man’s face. I told her that Cassandra came to town to have a little chat with you. I’m not sure if she’s buying that, but right now she doesn’t have much of a choice.”
“Joe, what *did* happen?”
“You know as much as I do, Mac. That’s why I was trying to track down Methos. He said he’d explain in detail later.”
“Yeah, I got a similar promise. I think I remember Willow saying something about Cassandra having a vision, but I didn’t get too many details.”
“That’s more than I heard buddy. I woke up from my nap on the floor with just enough energy to make it to the couch in my office. But I did find a pretty interesting letter on my desk this morning.”
“It was from Red. It was a list of names along with an address in England. Then it had a couple paragraphs of writing that were in a language that I’ve never seen before. Now get this, the weird language was in two different handwritings. I’m guessing that those are personal messages from Red and the old man. There was a small note paper-clipped to the letter that asked me to get the information to Cassandra.”
“Why? Do you know who the people are listed in the letter?”
“I’m not sure, but I can guess. When Methos told me all about Red’s past he said that she went through magic rehab with a powerful coven of witches in Devon, England. The address in the note is in Devon.”
“So . . . what do you think Joe? Willow’s recommending a magical 12-step program for Cassandra?”
“I don’t know Mac.” Joe sighed and absently rubbed at his beard. “If you hear anything from either of them, let me know?”
“Of course, Joe.”
“Will you be by later?”
“Yeah, and if we still haven’t heard from Methos, we’ll just have to go pound on his door again.”
Joe chuckled. “That’s a deal, Mac.”
On the other side of town
Methos opened his eyes and caught his breath at the sight before him.
/She looks so peaceful, and so *young* like this. Even if she is sprawled across the entire bloody bed. How can someone so tiny possibly take up so much space?/
Willow muttered in her sleep and tried to move her right leg, but it was tangled in the sheets. In fact, Methos was decidedly chilly because not only was Willow hogging the bed, she had also stolen the covers. They were wrapped around her legs and torso, showing just enough flesh to titillate. He couldn’t resist reaching out and touching her. The same skin that soaked up the moon had a golden glow in the morning sunlight.
“Good morning.” Her voice was low and still sleepy.
“Good morning to you too.” He replied.
She yawned and blinked a few times as she progressed toward wakefulness. She looked Methos up and down and her face took on a quizzical expression.
“What’s the matter?” Methos asked.
“You’re all naked.” She said.
Methos suppressed a chuckle. “You helped me get this way. Besides, it didn’t seem fair for you to be the only naked person in the room.”
“No, I mean, you don’t have any blankets. Aren’t you cold?”
“As a matter of fact, I do feel a draft. And I don’t have any blankets because you took all of them.” He teased.
Willow looked down at her sheet-wrapped-body. She gave him a goofy smile. “Sorry ‘bout that.” She tugged experimentally at the sheets. They weren’t going anywhere. “Um, I don’t suppose you’d want to help me get de-tangled?”
Pretty soon they were cuddling comfortably under the now-smooth covers.
“So, you’re not sorry about last night?”
“What? No, last night was . . . very nice. Better than nice. It definitely wasn’t one of the things in my life that I should feel sorry about.” Her voice became less playful as her thoughts shifted to unpleasant memories.
“Don’t do that.” Methos said quietly, but firmly.
“Don’t do what?” She asked in a tone of voice that clearly conveyed that she knew exactly what he was talking about.
Methos sighed. “I want you to stop beating up on yourself.”
“I think maybe I deserve a little beating up.”
“Well, you don’t, and don’t argue with me! I’m older and wiser than you are, so . . . stop it.”
“Well, that was a persuasive argument.” Willow used more than a touch of sarcasm. “Besides, you told me that you were ‘just a guy.’ Now you claim to be ‘older and wiser.’ You can’t have it both ways.”
“Because you can’t.”
“Yes, I can.”
“No, you can’t.”
“Yes, I can.”
“No, you . . . oh, Goddess! Who would have thought that a five thousand year old man would argue like a nine year old boy?”
Methos grinned in response to her comment, but quickly sobered. “Look, Willow, I’m just saying that I think you’re pretty incredible, and I’d like to keep you around for a while. If you get too heavily into the self-flagellation, mental or physical, I’m afraid you’ll lose yourself.”
“Methos, it . . . it means a lot to me that you think I’m worth saving, but . . .”
“Hey! It’s not about saving you from your past. It’s about continuing to live your life.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do! I’ve tried to get control of myself. I think I’ve finally succeeded where my magic is concerned, but, changing how we act doesn’t change the past. It doesn’t change our . . . our capacity for darkness.”
“No it doesn’t.” Methos said quietly. Willow stared at him in shock when she heard him agree with her. She finally gathered up her courage and asked the question that she had been unable to answer on her own.
“So . . . what do we do?”
Methos was silent for a few seconds. He stared into space and absently drew little patterns on Willow’s hip with one finger. Finally, he looked up. “Okay, kiddo, listen up. This is the one and only pearl of wisdom you’ll ever get from me. We can’t make up for our past mistakes. Our present contrition and determination to lead a better life only counts for right now. We can’t live our lives as if there were some sort of cosmic tally board that would record our efforts to balance the scales. A quest to ‘fix’ the bad things in your life is really a quest to erase them. But they aren’t erasable. How would I say this in Willow-speak? Um, they’re written in indelible ink.”
“Like ink from those laundry pens that you can never ever wash out?” she asked.
“Exactly so.” He said with a gentle smile.
“So what do we do?” Willow repeated her previous question.
“We accept it. Accepting doesn’t mean we forget. It doesn’t mean that we don’t feel bad about our . . . indiscretions.” Methos paused for a moment. “I once told MacLeod that Cassandra was one of a thousand regrets. But you can’t let your regrets rule your life, not if you want to retain your sanity. So, you accept it.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
Methos shook his head. “It’s the opposite of easy. In fact, it’s really, really hard.”
Methos fell silent, and Willow was content to be held in his arms as her thoughts whirled inside her head. Eventually, she turned on her side and faced him.
Willow looked at him without flinching, and said slowly, “You *are* Death.”
Methos returned her intense gaze. “And you . . . are the end of the world.”
She looked stricken for a second, and then she nodded solemnly. They were both quiet for several moments. Then a mischievous grin crept across her face. Methos felt his own lips quirk in response.
/Gods, she’s incorrigible. What the hell does she find funny about this conversation?/
No answer was forthcoming. She snuggled closer into his embrace, and innocently batted her eyes at him. Then she kissed the tip of his nose. Finally he had to ask –
“I guess it’s a good thing we’re reformed.”
A/N: For those who are interested, I made up the protection amulets. The idea is that Wills will mix the ingredients and put them in little pouches cut from the cloth and bound up with the cord. Then the boys can carry the amulets with them. Here are the ingredients, and what they are used for.
Valerian – anxiety management
Yarrow – courage
Spikenard – mental clarity
Cinnamon, Honeysuckle, Thistle, Dragon’s Blood – protection
Vetivert – luck
Tiger-eye is also for protection.
I chose these ingredients from the back pages of Everyday Magic by Dorothy Morrison.