A coffee date ruined
Three weeks later
Last call had come and gone. The blues player on stage had left considerably before the final round of drinks. The only people left in the bar were Joe, Willow and Methos. Joe and Willow were actively working on cleaning the place up for the night. Methos mostly sat on his barstool and surreptitiously watched Willow. / She is really quite remarkable. She’s open yet mysterious, friendly but not overly gregarious, one helluva bartender, and an honest-to-Goddess witch. Oh, and don’t forget old man, she’s also extraordinarily beautiful . . . and completely unavailable. She also seems to be impervious to my charming and oh-so-subtle efforts to get to know her better. It’s been three weeks and I have made absolutely no headway in figuring her out. OK, fine, time to step things up a notch. / Methos finished off his beer and walked over to Willow. She was just starting to sweep the floor when Methos snagged the broom from her hand. Willow quirked an eyebrow at him, but the old man ignored the question in her eyes.
Willow sighed, “Fine, you’re going to make me ask. What exactly are you doing?”
“Just thought I’d lend a hand.”
“Really?” Her skepticism was almost palpable.
“Yes, but if you don’t need . . .”
“No,” she interrupted, “Some help would be great. I’m just a little surprised because you don’t normally seem too big with the manual labor.”
Methos stopped sweeping and looked over at the bar owner. “Joe, I think I’ve been insulted. Did she just call me lazy?”
Joe made a sound somewhere between a snort and a laugh. “But she did it in such a nice backhanded way. Well, I have to say that your sudden urge to be of some use couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ll leave you kids to it and finish up in the back.”
Methos and Willow cleaned in silence for a few minutes. He finished sweeping and sat down on his barstool again.
“ I knew it was too good to last.” Willow teased. “You just wanted to make Joe think you were being helpful. Were you trying to get a reduction on your tab? I wouldn’t get your hopes up, buster. Joe isn’t exactly a pushover.” The potential sting of these comments was negated by Willow’s shy smile.
/ Yes! Finally she’s warming up to me a bit. How should I proceed? I don’t think she’d appreciate any dissembling. All right then, the direct approach. / “Actually Joe wasn’t the one I was trying to bribe. I was hoping you would agree to talk if I continued the bribes, perhaps over an overpriced flavored caffeinated beverage?”
“Mmm, Mochas?” Willow said eagerly.
“But, what exactly do you want to talk about?” Willow’s suspicion was back.
“Nothing in particular. Everything, anything. Politics, religion, the newest software, our favorite episodes of Seinfeld.” Methos let out a mental sigh of relief as Willow’s expression softened back into a smile. “You just seem like a really interesting person. It’s been my experience that there are relatively few of those on this earth, and when you find one, she’s generally worth talking, and listening to. And you needn’t worry about your virtue. I realize that I’m not exactly your type.”
Willow finally relented under the force of 5,000 years worth of charm. “OK, tomorrow, elevenish?”
“Not so great.” Joe’s voice broke the mood and his flat, expressionless tone set warning bells off in the old man’s head. When he turned and saw Joe’s face the bells turned into klaxons.
“What’s up, Joe?” Methos’ voice broadcast his own tension through his forced casual demeanor.
Joe rubbed one hand through his beard and finally made himself meet his friend’s eyes. “I just found out . . . Cassandra took a flight into Seattle two days ago.”
For a moment silence reigned, and then Methos swore, quite colorfully, in Sumerian.
“Wow, if I were a sailor I think I’d be blushing.”
Joe looked over at Willow. “What’d he say, Red? And how did you understand him?”
“Um, as for what he said, let’s just say that . . . I think it’s a physical impossibility. And, um, I understood what he said because I kind of know a little Sumerian.”
“Joe, forget it. It’s not important.” Methos grabbed his coat and started to shrug it on. “Right now I’m concerned with keeping you two away from Cassandra.” He pulled out his wallet and tossed a credit card on the counter. “I want both of you to get hotel rooms and stay there until I tell you it’s safe. I don’t know why she has decided to renew her vow of revenge now, but I do know that I want you guys out of the line of fire.”
“Adam, wait a god damn minute. I’m not going to just leave you to deal with this on your own. Besides, the last time my people saw her was in Seattle. She could have gone anywhere from there. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
“Joe, think about it. I’d love to believe that she’s just passing through, but let’s not kid ourselves. MacLeod’s still in Paris. You’re the only other person who might know where to find me. She’ll come after you to get to me, and I won’t allow her to hurt you. Take Red with you. No, don’t argue. I have my reasons. Now get going, both of you. And don’t call MacLeod.” Methos turned and headed for the door only to be stopped by a loud shout.
“Hey!” Willow was the very picture of pissed off. She had walked around to the front of the bar, and now she stood with her feet firmly planted and her hands on her hips. “I’m standing right here! I don’t really appreciate other people deciding what I’m going to do when I’m totally in consultation range. That’s pretty high up there on the rude-o-meter. And don’t say that I don’t know what’s going on. Of course I don’t know, you haven’t bothered to tell me! I *do* know that there’s something you know that you don’t want me to know. Well, here’s something that *you* don’t know. I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what the hell is going on and whatever it is that you don’t want me to know!”
Methos and Joe stared at Willow in shocked silence. She looked back and forth at them, clearly expecting an answer. “Well?” she finally snapped.
Methos opened his mouth and then closed it. He tried again, “Sorry, Red, it’s just that I think you used more words in the last thirty seconds than you have in the whole three weeks I’ve known you. I’m a bit thrown.”
Willow rolled her eyes. “Yeah, well, to paraphrase my best friend, the last year of my life has sucked beyond the telling of it. With all the pain and guilt and recovery, I haven’t really felt too chatty. But that is entirely beside the point, and you are *not* answering my question!”
Methos looked over at Joe. “How does she do that without even taking a breath?”
Willow’s eyes narrowed and Methos held up a placating hand. “Ok, ok, you really want to know what’s going on?” Willow nodded and the old man’s voice took on a harder edge. “Fine. Cassandra is an Immortal. So am I. We’re both quite old and we have some rather unfortunate history together. I treated her very badly a long time ago and she wants revenge. She had her chance to kill me, but a friend of mine talked her out of it. I can’t think of any reason for her to come near me unless she’s decided to finish what she started. She won’t hesitate to use or hurt anyone in her pursuit of vengeance, although I’m sure she’d call it justice. Cassandra knows that Joe is my friend, and I’m afraid that makes him expendable in her book. She might put you in the same category simply because you know us. You know, guilt by association. Oh, and lest I forget to mention, Cassandra is also a pretty powerful witch. So, that’s the condensed version of events. That’s also why I want you two to drop out of sight for a while.”
Joe’s eyes were practically bugging out of his head as he frantically looked back and forth between Methos and Willow. The redhead was still holding her righteous indignation stance, but she looked noticeably paler.
“Oh.” She finally said.
“Now that you’re sufficiently well-informed, would you please go?” The old man’s voice was dripping with sarcasm.
Willow didn’t answer him directly. Instead, she gathered up her coat and walked over to the still speechless Watcher. “Come on, Joe.” She didn’t even look at Methos again as they left the bar, but her mind was working furiously. / So, Adam, or whatever your real name is, you think you’ve won this round? We’ll see about that. I’m not sure why, but I’ve gotten to kind of like you, even with your trademark snarkiness. You’re going to take my help whether you like it or not. /
* * *
Methos drove back to his apartment at a higher than legal speed. Seacouver traffic laws were not foremost in his mind. Instead, he thought of a small redheaded witch with flaming green eyes. / She was really pissed. Oh, gods, what have I done? Why did I tell her everything? Ok, it wasn’t everything. She doesn’t know about my angry adolescence playing a biblical bogeyman, but I still told her *way* more than I should have. Oh, shit! I wonder what Joe’s telling her right now. I put him in one helluva position. Wait a minute, I need to look at this situation from a more logical point of view. There’s more at stake than the potential loss of a friend. I’ve been thinking of her as the beautiful, mysterious little witch that I wanted to figure out. But she’s been extremely careful not to do anything magically-inclined since I found her out that first night. I have no idea how powerful she truly is. Hell, she might even decide to join up with Cassandra out of . . .witchy solidarity, or something. Good job, old man, you just exposed yourself to a potential threat of unknown strength. What happened to those celebrated survival instincts? /
* * *
Joe and Willow sat in silence on the way to the hotel. Joe made one attempt to start a conversation, but Willow said she’d rather wait to open up this can of worms until they were settled. They arrived at the hotel, got their adjoining rooms, and sat down to talk. Joe got himself a drink from the mini-bar and offered Willow something. She started to accept and then changed her mind.
Joe sighed, “I’m sure you have a lot of questions, Red. Maybe you should just fire away, ‘cause I sure as hell don’t know where to start.”
“Oh, Joe, I don’t want you to feel bad about all of this. It’s not your fault. Adam just has that ‘I’m-older-than-dirt-and-therefore-I-know better-than-you’ attitude. I’ve run into people like that a few times. He’ll get over it once I talk some reason into him. I’m not really upset with either of you.”
“You’re not? But . . . this is a really strange situation that you’ve been thrown into.”
“Not so much. Actually, I’m used to weirdness of a much higher magnitude.”
“But . . .”
“Joe, I’d love to stay and explain, but it’s late and I need to go talk to Adam. It’ll probably be dawn before we’re finished sharing the pertinent parts of our history. I’m sorry, but I don’t have time to explain everything twice in one night. I promise I’ll fill you in later.” Willow stood up, but kept her gaze on the floor. “Joe, do you really believe that Cassandra is a witch?”
“Yeah, I do.”
“Good. Hopefully you won’t be too freaked.” Willow raised her head and made eye contact with Joe. He gasped when he saw that her irises had become inky pools that tried to pull him into their depths. A phantom wind rose inside the hermetically sealed hotel room and started to swirl around Willow like a miniature cyclone. And then . . . she was gone. Joe reached for another tiny bottle from the mini-bar.