Disclaimer: I don’t own Highlander or Buffy or any of the characters of Highlander or Buffy, and I’m not making any money out of them, I’m just doing this for the love of the shows and the love of Richie. All rights and ownership belong to the clever people who created them and therefore own them. I’m just paddling in their playpool so please don’t set the dogs on me.
Warning: This story contains a non-graphic same sex relationship, so don’t read it if that sort of thing offends. Oh and there’s the odd naughty word.4. London calling
Methos and Duncan arrived at Waterloo station two days after leaving Colorado Springs. Due to the urgency, Joe couldn’t get any direct flights and so the two Immortals had ended up taking three different internal flights before a stopover in New York and a Red-eye to Paris, then finally the Eurostar train into London. Methos was not happy, and spent much of the journey devising ever more ingenious tortures for his favourite Watcher. Not wanting to waste any more time, the two checked into a hotel and then headed straight for Watcher HQ. The impressive Georgian structure was the new base for the Watchers, acquired after the minions of the First blew up the old council building. As they approached the front of it, Duncan felt a sense of familiarity.
“Didn’t this use to be a coffee house?” he asked his companion.
“Um, yes I think it did, about two hundred years ago.”
“What can I say; I don’t get to Mayfair that often. This must have cost the council a fair few quid.”
“I expect it did. I’d already left before it was purchased, but I do remember Joe ranting about the ‘damn English and their damn extravagance’.” Duncan laughed at Methos’ pretty accurate impression of their grizzly friend as they entered the door of the imposing façade. They spoke to someone at reception, who directed them to the top floor offices of Mr. Rupert Giles. They went up and introduced themselves to Mr Giles’ secretary, who asked them to take a seat, before disappearing into one of the offices. Before long, she reappeared, followed by a young blonde man. Well that can’t be Giles, thought Duncan.
“Good afternoon.” The young man said. Definitely not, this kid was American and Joe had said that Giles couldn’t be more British if he tried, despite living several years in California. “My name is Andrew; I’m an associate of Mr. Giles. Would you please come with me?” They rose and followed Andrew into his office. “Please, take a seat.” They did. What a geek, thought Methos, is this what the next generation of Watchers is going to be? An army of D&D players? “Mr Giles was unfortunately called away urgently, and couldn’t wait for your arrival. He sends his regrets and his sincerest thanks for coming so quickly. He asked that you leave a number where you can be contacted and he’ll be in touch just as soon as he gets back. He shouldn’t be gone more than a week.” Duncan glowered at the nervous young man, then wrote his name and the number for his hotel before they both got up and left a rather perplexed Andrew, trying his best to look officious. As they got outside, Duncan was not happy.
“Well that was a waste of time.”
“You know what; I think this is all some elaborate joke on Joe’s part. Forget the torture; I’m just going to take his head.”
“Well what good would that do?” enquired the Scot.
“It would bloody well make me feel better.” The two returned to their hotel and slept off the jetlag. The next day they decided to play tourist and went round all the usual sites. It was a bit cheesy, but they realised that neither of them had ever done it, despite both living in London for several decades over the centuries. After the third day, Methos got fed up of waiting and decided that whatever the problem was, the overgrown Boy Scout could handle it alone. If he couldn’t he had Methos’ cell number. He decided to look up a mortal friend of his, and hopped on the next train to Cardiff.
Ten days after arriving in London, Duncan got a call from the Watchers, asking him to meet with Rupert Giles and associate for dinner. Duncan guessed that the Watcher was probably assessing him on neutral ground before giving him the details of his problem. He duly turned up at the restaurant at the appointed time and was directed to a table where two men were already seated. Rupert Giles was younger than Duncan had expected, and less tweedy than Joe’s description. In his mid-to-late-forties, he was dressed in smart but casual clothing, and an earring adorned one lobe. Duncan turned to assess the other man, who he had not yet met, and caught the faint Buzz of a Pre-Immortal. He was still young, only in his late twenties at most, but Duncan could see the mark of hard battles was upon him, an effect made stronger by the young man’s eye patch. As he approached the table, they both rose and Giles stuck out his hand.
“Duncan MacLeod, I presume. It’s a great honour sir. Joe’s told me much about you.” Duncan took the proffered hand.
“Oh, please, call me Rupert.”
“Hardly anybody does.” The young man was soft spoken, with a humour that shone through, and Duncan immediately warmed to him. He shook his hand, before sitting down.
“This is Xander Harris. He was one of my students at Sunnydale High, and since Sunnydale… well disappeared, he’s been my right hand man. I must apologise for not being here when you arrived, we had to make an urgent trip to Italy.” Joe was right, mused Duncan, he’s very British.
The evening passed amicably enough. The food was good, the wine flowed freely, and the conversation was pleasant, though superficial, Duncan noted. As the evening wore on, he couldn’t help warming to his dining companions, and began to wax lyrical, slipping back into his native brogue as he became more inebriated. Duncan didn’t easily trust mortals, especially Watchers, but there was something about these two that set him at ease. They finished the evening back in Giles’ flat, sipping fine single malt. Duncan couldn’t quite remember much beyond that, except he had a vague recollection of agreeing to go to Liverpool the next day.
Sure enough, he was roused from his slumbers by the arrival of Giles and Xander around lunchtime and they caught the 2.15 from Euston to Lime Street. It had been a century since Duncan had visited the bustling port and he was surprised by how much she had changed in one hundred years. It was always a thriving town, but here was now a truly metropolitan city that had justly earned the title Capital of Culture. They walked through the city centre, past Mathew Street and The Cavern toward the now-trendy Albert Docks. Duncan was a little puzzled as to what they were doing there, but all he could get from Giles was that it was a little demonstration to prove they weren’t insane and a test of Duncan’s abilities. Just before sunset they approached an abandoned warehouse near the Mersey that had not yet been developed into executive flats. Giles instructed him to hide and keep watch. As the sun went down, three men cautiously came out of the building. They all lit cigarettes, and stood around, like any other group of men on a break. Then an argument broke out, which came to blows. One was knocked to the ground, and when he stood up again, his face was different.
“My god.” whispered Duncan, looking to Giles. Giles motioned him to remain still and they waited for the three to go back inside, before slipping away. “What were those things?” questioned Duncan. In over four hundred years he had never seen anything like that before.
“They were vampires. We are here to kill them.” Duncan looked at him incredulously. “That’s why you had to see them for yourself. Even with all your experience, even with what you have just seen, you are still looking for a rational explanation, aren’t you? Well they were vampires, and they were very, very real. We’ll attack at sunup.”
They waited out the night in a nearby pub, and Duncan was very grateful for late licensing. He needed many stiff drinks to get a handle on this. Just before daybreak they returned to the warehouse and Xander pulled a crossbow and some wooden stakes from his holdall.
“These work best on vamps.” He told a stunned Duncan. “But beheading works too, so I guess you might as well stick to that.” Still not quite believing what was happening; Duncan pulled his sword from his coat and followed the two into the building. They grabbed the first two off guard and Duncan was stunned to see them turn to dust. If he hadn’t been convinced before, he was now, and set to beheading as many as he could. It was a small nest, only a dozen or so vampires, and the three of them had caught them as they were winding down the night. Most of them were drunk or high, and it made them sloppy. Within half an hour the battle was over, and three very dusty heroes walked into the sunlight.
They made the journey back to London in silence, Xander sleeping most of the journey, and Giles allowing the older man to process what he had seen. At Euston, Giles asked Duncan to think long and hard about what he had witnessed, and what he may be getting into, and told him to come to his office in three days if he still wanted to help.
As he entered the headquarters of the Watchers, Duncan felt a little apprehension. Though he hardly knew him, he felt comfortable around Rupert, the head of the Slayer branch of the Watchers, and he was good friends with the head of the US branch of the Watchers, but still he couldn’t help but feel that he was walking into the lions’ den. Going there so late at night didn’t help his unease. Unexpectedly, he felt the Buzz, so Duncan concealed himself behind a pillar. At the last second he swung out, bringing his sword around to clash with the blade of Richie’s sword. “What are you doing here?” he exclaimed as he lowered his blade.
“It’s good to see you too!”
“Why have you left your student? He shouldn’t be left alone so soon.” Duncan had automatically slipped into teacher-mode himself.
“Relax. Daniel had to go away on a mission, somewhere I couldn’t go with him. I know he’ll be away for at least two weeks, so I thought I’d follow you. I missed you.” He caressed Duncan as he said this and then gently kissed him. Duncan kissed him back and enfolded him in an embrace.
“You still shouldn’t have come.” Duncan chastised.
“When have I ever done what I should do?” Duncan smiled, and the two walked arm in arm toward the office of Rupert Giles.
“We have had some experience with demons.” Richie said, testily.
“Ah, yes. Ahriman. Although my research has led me to believe that he wasn’t a demon as such, more a corporeal manifestation of the First Evil.”
“You beat the First, alone? Very cool.” Xander was master of the understatement.
“It wasn’t really a physical fight, most of his power lay in influencing people, playing mind games.” Duncan looked at Richie as he said this, who had subconsciously put his hand to his throat. A look of pain crossed Duncan’s face before he continued. “He made a mistake, manipulated me into doing something intended to weaken me, which ultimately only strengthened my resolve.” He reached out and took Richie’s hand for the briefest of moments. The gesture was noticed by Giles, who understood. Joe had told him about what had happened and about Richie’s subsequent resurrection when he asked for his help in researching the myths.
“Well, yes, indeed. In fact I believe it was Duncan’s defeat of Ahriman that led the First to change tactics and focus on the Hellmouth.”
“Ah. Not so cool.” Xander absent-mindedly brushed his hand over his eye patch. Richie and Duncan both looked uncomfortable about the whole conversation so, diplomatic as always, Giles changed tack.
“Anyway, as I was saying, this is a particularly nasty and difficult to kill demon and we required the assistance of someone with your…talents. The demon himself is non-corporeal, but it has taken possession of a rather powerful host. An Immortal host.” Duncan and Richie looked at each other. This could not be good. “I tried the traditional exorcisms and incantations, but nothing seemed to work. Out of options we realised we would need to sacrifice the host, but when we killed him he rose again. This particular species of demon doesn’t have that sort of power, so I guessed he was Immortal. I contacted Joe, who confirmed the name was a known alias.”
“Why didn’t you just chop his head off?” Richie was straight to the point as usual.
“I was concerned about his Quickening.” Duncan looked at him, enquiring, “I was concerned that killing him wouldn’t kill the demon and that if the Quickening didn’t enter another Immortal it could stay with the demon and make his next host Immortal.”
“But how do you know that the demon won’t enter the next Immortal with the Quickening?” Duncan asked.
“Magic doesn’t work like that. Usually. Just to make certain, I will be casting a binding spell to contain the demon at the same moment that you take the Immortal’s head.”
“And you are certain there is no other way. The Immortal cannot be saved.”
“No, he can’t. From what Joe tells me he was a pretty nasty sort before, he may even have invited the demon to join with him in an attempt to increase his chances in the Game. So, will you do it?” Duncan and Richie looked at each other then back at Giles and nodded. They made plans to corner the Immortal the next evening, and discussed their exact strategy. At about two, Xander left to make some calls to ‘the cavalry’, just in case anything went wrong. Duncan took the opportunity to speak to Giles.
“Rupert, you need to keep an eye on Xander.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about him, he’s very experienced in demon fighting.”
“That’s not what I meant. You both lead very dangerous lives, and if something should happen to us tomorrow, you need to know.” Giles looked at Duncan quizzically. “Xander is one of us. He’s an Immortal.”
“Or at least he will be.” Richie chimed in. Shocked, Giles looked from one to the other and could tell they were deadly serious. He removed his glasses and began polishing the lenses.
“Oh my.” The Watcher said softly. Duncan placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.
“If Xander dies a violent death, he will become Immortal. If you can, send him to me or Richie and we’ll take care of him, but if something happens to us tomorrow, contact Joe, he’ll know someone who can teach him the Game.” Giles nodded his understanding. He was mortified at the thought that if Xander fell in battle he would be condemned to fight for eternity, but he knew he’d never be able to dissuade him from fighting demons, and was reassured that he had such a respected potential teacher. They parted to prepare for the next day, and as Richie and Duncan returned to the hotel, they discussed strategy. They agreed that Duncan would make the challenge in the usual way, but if the demon had indeed given this Immortal an edge, then Richie could interfere. These were exceptional circumstances, and the Rules did not apply. Both were frightened about the coming battle. They had only faced one demonic entity before, and that hadn’t exactly ended well. Duncan wanted Richie out of it, but he knew better than to try and order him to leave. Instead the two of them found solace in each other’s arms, and they made love until the sun rose over the Thames.
They tracked the Immortal to an abandoned Underground station in North London. As they descended down the dark non-functioning escalator they saw the remains of the demon’s victims. Richie noted with disgust that the bones had been gnawed, and not just by the rats. As they reached the bottom, they could see a faint light at the other end of the platform. Duncan and Richie felt the presence of the one they were hunting and gave a prearranged signal to Giles, who moved to take up position. He set up the equipment necessary for the spell as Xander stood guard, and the two Immortals moved toward the light. As they neared, they could make out a shape and drew their swords. A voice came out from the shape.
“Since when did this become a team sport?” The voice was like nails on a blackboard, icy cold and malevolent.
“I am making the challenge. I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod.”
“Greetings Duncan MacLeod.” The shape rose to standing and began to move toward them. “We are Barok. We accept your challenge.” As they stepped into the pool of light it became clear to Duncan and Richie that this thing was no longer human. Its skin was rotted and peeling, revealing a black, scaly flesh underneath and its eyes were yellow and reptilian. Richie found it hard to keep the look of revulsion from his face. Barok unsheathed a vicious looking axe and faced Duncan. With a roar he launched himself at MacLeod, covering the distance between them far quicker than any normal Immortal. It was clear that the demon was giving the Immortal an advantage, but Richie had his instructions, and wouldn’t interfere until Mac gave him the signal. He watched as Duncan battled the demon, deflecting blow after punishing blow with his katana. But he was tiring too quickly and he had no real opportunities to attack, with horror Richie realised he was losing and looked to his lover for the signal. Mac was too engrossed in defending his life though, and didn’t supply the in Richie needed. They were fighting ever closer to the edge of the platform, and suddenly Richie saw his chance, as Duncan lost his footing and toppled onto the rail. He charged the demon before he could have a chance to pursue Duncan, and Barok seemed happy to engage the newcomer, his previous opponent seemingly forgotten. The younger man spared a quick glance to his fallen mentor and seeing he would be okay shortly, he laid into the demon. His recent diligence in training gave him more stamina, and he was slightly faster than Mac, using Jaffa moves to find a gap to press home his attack. With a fury that matched the demon’s own, he pressed the advantage, driving Barok towards Giles. He swung his sword in an arc, chopping off the hands of the demon, before bringing it around again to remove his head. In the few moments of silence that followed, Richie could hear Giles chanting in some ancient language he didn’t recognise. Daniel would know, he thought absently, before his senses were engulfed by the Quickening.
Duncan hauled himself back on the platform in time to witness the Quickening. “Dammit,” he muttered as he ran to Richie, to catch him as the explosions ended.
“Whoa.” Whispered Xander, before turning to check that Giles was okay. Duncan stared into Richie’s eyes, looking for any sign that there was anyone else in there with him. Besides the demon, he was also afraid this may have been a Dark Quickening, so he softened as Richie reached out to stroke his cheek.
“Hey,” he said weakly, “now we’ve both slain a demon.” Then he lapsed into unconsciousness.
“The spell was successful.” Giles intoned with little emotion, the strain from performing such a powerful spell showing in his voice. “That’s just Richie.” Duncan smiled and nodded.
Xander helped Duncan raise Richie to his feet, and the four men began their journey back to the surface.
Once they were back in Giles’ office, the Watcher poured them all a drink.
“So is it always like that? The light show?” Xander queried. Richie nodded before sipping at his whiskey. It wasn’t wise for the Pre-Immortal to know too much, but as he was part of the Watcher organisation he had access to files anyway, so he may as well get information from the horse’s mouth. “Man. That was weird, and I know weird.” The other three men chuckled. They sat drinking and swapping war stories for the rest of the night, until Richie noticed the time.
“Hey, Mac, we’d better hit the road. We’ve gotta pack.” The older man looked at the time and agreed. They shook hands with their two new friends and walked out into the early London morning. “I really like that guy Xander. Do you think he’ll become Immortal?”
“I don’t know Rich, he’s survived this long without being killed. Perhaps he’ll live to a ripe old age and die peacefully in his sleep.” Richie could hear the unsaid implication in Duncan’s words.
“Yeah, right.”The L World will continue in Part 5: Less is more