DANIELLE FRANCES DUCREST
Disclaimers: Highlander: The Series
and its characters are the property of Davis/Panzer Productions, Gaumont Télèvision, and Rysher Entertainment. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
and its characters belong to Joss Whedon, Marti Noxon, UPN, Mutant Enemy, Sandollar Television, Fox Television Productions, and Kuzui Enterprises. Angel
belongs to most of those, David Greenwalt, Greenwolf Corp., and the WB. Any copyright infringements were not intended. This story was written for entertainment and not for profit. Marie de Champagne and Marc are completely fictitious and are the sole property of moi.
Timing: in the Highlander
universe this takes place sometime in the late fourth season, and on Buffy
these events take place around "Welcome to the Hellmouth" and "The Harvest" with minor spoilers for those eps. As for Angel,
this takes place several years before the pilot episode "City of."
Notes: This is the fourth story in my Immortal Life Series. Familiarity with the rest of this series would be extremely helpful.
Summary: Why did the older version of Xander change history? Three years before he reverses the time traveling spell, he isn't sure himself. While he tries to make up his mind, he runs into trouble when one of his students meets his younger, Pre-Immortal self in Sunnydale and comes to Paris demanding an explanation.
Dedication: This story is dedicated to Devil Hunter/Cestershire for writing 33+ reviews at fanfiction.net (you really know how to get my attention, don't ya? lol) asking me to continue this series. Hope you like it, Cestershire! And feel free to bug me whenever you want J
*****Paris, France, 1996
"Would you like something to drink while you wait, Monsieur?"
Startled, I glanced up at the waiter. "Oui," I answered. He nodded and poured the alcohol into my glass. After he left, I went back to staring out at the Seine. In the distance, I could see the bell towers of Notre Dame peeking up behind residences and other buildings on the Ile de la Citée, the Island of the City. My vantage point, while sitting at an outside table at a French café, gave me a decent view of the barges and other boats that passed by on their way through Paris.
Feeling the Buzz, I tensed and glanced around for the source. Paris, I knew, was a hotspot for Immortal activity, no matter what century it was. I was meeting an old friend for lunch, but I could still run into unfriendly Immortals at anytime while I was in the city, so it was wise to stay cautious.
My eyes landed on a woman, petite, with brown locks pulled back in an attractive style that made her appear years younger than when she first died. It was my old friend. I relaxed.
I stood up to greet her. "Marie, you look as lovely as the last time I saw you," I said. I smiled charmingly at her, took her hand, and kissed the back of it.
She raised an eyebrow at me and grinned. "That's doubtful. My face tends to end up with quite a lot of cuts and bruises every time I see you."
I smiled widely at that comment. That was certainly true, but I did have a good excuse. I used to be her teacher. When she was a Pre-Immortal, Marie de Champagne had been a courtier in the French Court. While I was training her, at times I would cut her face several times for one reason. I can remember telling her, "Your opponent is not a courtier and will not treat you with the respect and gentleness that you're used to. He, or she, will not hesitate to cut your pretty face into a million slices if he knows that it will knock you off-balance and make you afraid." After the first ten cuts, I finally managed to get her past her indignation and taught her how to be ready for anything.
I can remember a time when I would have hesitated before cutting any female's face. It was in 1998, back before the spell that sent Giles, Anya, and I back in time two thousand years. That was also before I fought a female Immortal for the first time in the same year.
"You were a difficult student," I told her with a smirk after we sat back down.
"*I* was difficult?" Marie de Champagne asked, giving me an incredulous look.
I nodded solemnly. "Yes. You were worse than Marc ever could be." Marc was another one of my students, and was known in our little circle for getting into constant, never-ending trouble. He's worse than my younger self ever was.
She slapped my arm. "Alex!"
I laughed and decided to change the subject. "It's Aaron Harrison now." Nope, I wasn't using 'Harris.' I haven't used that name in over two millennia. I didn't want anyone to mistake me for my younger self, who is currently living in Sunnydale, pre-time traveling spell. Looking back, I think that right now, he's just meeting Buffy and discovering a world full of vampires and other creatures of the night. He won't even become Immortal for another three years. And a few months after his first death, he'll be sucked back in time to 2 BC…unless I do something to change that.
"Aaron," she repeated, testing it on her tongue. She nodded. "I like it. It suits you."
I smiled again. "I know."
She rolled her eyes. "I know, I remember, you know everything."
The waiter came and took our orders. We watched the Seine in companionable silence for awhile. "Paris has changed so much since I was a courtier here," Marie said at last. "But I still like it so much. I'm glad we decided to meet here."
I agreed. "It's been awhile since the last time we saw each other. What have you been up to since then, Marie?"
She shrugged. "I've been in America, actually. I've got a job at Hollywood."
"I'm one of the editors for a TV show," she said. "Don't worry, I've managed to avoid being caught on film."
"That's good to hear. What's the show about?"
We continued to chat while we ate and an hour or so after that until Marie glanced at her watch. She had to go to an appointment, so we parted ways.
It was good to see her. I didn't have many Immortal friends, so I always liked to catch up with them every once in awhile. The few friends that were still alive included Marie and Marc, both very good friends and excellent students, and then there was Amanda, the 1180-year-old thief. I've helped her do a few jobs, actually, but not many. I used to visit Darius often back when he was alive. Fitzcairn had also been fun to hang out with, although the guy had attracted about as much trouble as Marc and for the same reasons. I wondered if they ever met each other before Fitz was killed. I missed both Fitz and Darius. I knew a handful of other Immortals, but I hadn't seen them in awhile and I didn’t know if they were even still alive.
I took a stroll on the pavement next to the Seine. Looking around, I could remember Paris looking a lot different, but the modern bits of it hadn't been a shock when they were first introduced in this city. During the past two millennia, I'd known whenever anything big was about to happen because of what I could remember from history class, so nothing really surprised me, although all of it happened much differently than what the history books claimed took place.
In only a few short years, my younger self would become Immortal, and then he, Anya, and Giles will be transported back two thousand years…unless I do something about it. I'd been planning to for all these centuries to change history, but as I walked along the Seine and remembered all the good and bad things I've been through in my two millennia, I had second thoughts. It's a scary thought to end my own life so that my younger self, Giles, and Anya wouldn't have to go through what I did.
I had three more years to make up my mind. Hopefully, it would be enough time to come to some sort of decision.
As for that moment in 1996…I paused as I felt another Immortal presence. I looked around, taking in my surroundings: a tethered barge with a black T-Bird parked in front, with no other boats for several meters in either direction. No one else was on the concrete dock, so that had to mean that the other Immortal was inside the barge.
A man I didn't recognize appeared on the top deck of the barge. He had a large, muscular body structure, dark skin from much time spent in the sun, and dark hair. He held a katana in his large hands. "I'm Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," he announced, eyeing me warily.
"Aaron Harrison," I said. I'd heard of Duncan MacLeod many times; the first time had been before the time traveling spell, when I met his Watcher, Joe Dawson; since then I'd heard his name many times over the years. "I've heard a lot about you, Highlander."
He nodded; evidently that wasn't any real surprise. He gave me a curious look as he studied my features. "I don't think I've heard of an Aaron Harrison, but I have heard of an Alex LaVelle. His description matches yours."
I nodded. "I've gone by Alex LaVelle in the past, but now it's Harrison. I have no quarrel with you, MacLeod. I was just passing by."
He relaxed, and his sword disappeared.
"MacLeod? Who is it?" another voice spoke up, coming from somewhere on the barge that was out of my line of vision. I tensed again as the figure appeared.
This Immortal had fairer skin than MacLeod and dark brown hair. He was also a lot shorter and thinner. I recognized him instantly.
I smiled. "Benjamin Adams!" I greeted him, using the name of his persona the last time I ran into him.
"Alex!" Methos greeted me. Yes, I knew he was really Methos. When we first met, at least two thousand years ago, he wasn't trying to hide his identity; he's become so paranoid since then.
He walked down the gangplank and gave me a friendly hug. "Fancy seeing you here, kid!" he said.
I rolled my eyes and smiled. He calls everyone 'kid.' Even if he met someone who was close to his age, he'd call them 'kid.' It was exasperating at times, but I welcomed it because I'd missed hearing it from him for some time. "Dito," I said, grinning at my use of slang.
"Come on inside. We've got plenty of beer, don't we, Mac?"
MacLeod let out a long-suffering sigh. "Yes, Adam, we do." He looked curiously between the two of us. "So, you two know each other?"
I gave Methos a look. He interpreted it correctly. "Mac knows who I really am."
This surprised me. "Good. You need to be more open with people, doc." I turned back to the Highlander. "Actually, we go way back. It's good to know that he's actually attempting to make new friends nowadays instead of fleeing from every Immortal he feels."
We entered the barge and walked down the stairs. Methos groaned theatrically. "Not that lecture again. By the Gods, this one can be bossier than you, MacLeod!" he complained to the Highlander.
"God forbid," a new voice said. I looked up and watched as a mortal with a graying beard and a cane stood up from the couch in the middle of the one-room barge. I recognized him from my days before The Spell, and he only confirmed my memory when he introduced himself. "Joe Dawson."
He, of course, wouldn't meet my younger self for a few more years, so he didn't recognize me. I shook his hand. "Alex LaVelle. Any friend of the doc's here is a friend of mine." I said this not only for Mr. Dawson's input, but also for MacLeod's.
Both of them nodded and we took our seats in the living area of MacLeod's barge. Methos got us all drinks and passed them around. "So, you knew Methos as Dr. Benjamin Adams?" MacLeod asked after we'd all taken a few sips.
I nodded. "What name do you go by now, old man?" I asked the ROG.
"Adam Peirson," Methos answered, "although quite a lot of people keep finding out my secret nowadays."
"You're slipping, Methos," I said, smiling gleefully.
He scowled at me and I kept smiling in return.
"So how long have you known the old bastard?" Joe asked.
"Joe…" Methos said, looking hurt by the teasing nickname. I was pretty sure it was feigned.
"I think it suits you," I told him. He didn't bother giving me that hurt look; he went straight to glaring. I turned back to MacLeod and Dawson. "We met in Greece in…" I looked back at the old man as I tried to remember the correct date. "What? 29 AD? 30?"
"31 AD," Methos said without any hesitation. "It was a year that I'll certainly never forget," he muttered.
I understood why. That was the year that he discovered demons and vampires. Even after all this time, it still amazed me that Methos avoided them for three thousand years.
When I felt the Buzz in 31 AD, I was surprised. I hadn't felt the Buzz since before the time-traveling spell, when Anya, Giles, and I were still in Sunnydale in the year 1999. Then this guy shows up, looking grim but ready for a challenge, and says he doesn't want to challenge me. That was fine with me, and we were about to go on our separate ways when a group of vampires and demons came out of hiding and grabbed us, intending to sacrifice us to some un-Roman Goddess. The demons and vampires probably hadn't expected their "sacrifices" to fight back. After Methos and I killed or dusted all of them, he was in slight shock. I treated both of us to some drinks at a tavern and answered all of his questions. We bonded, and the rest was history.
"So what are you doing in Paris?" Methos asked. "Any new threats you need help with?"
"Nope, just here on a visit. Paris has always been my favorite western city." I knew that Methos was referring to the undead population of Paris, and from his cryptic wording, I guessed that Dawson and MacLeod were clueless. I went on, "Although I do plan to go out this evening."
"I'll come with you. I need some practice doing something other than swinging a sword at someone's neck."
Dawson and MacLeod exchanged confused glances; it looked like we weren't cryptic enough. "Are you in some sort of danger?" MacLeod asked.
"It's nothing, MacLeod. We're just gong to do a little sparing, that's all," Methos covered, standing up.
I glanced outside. It was getting dark out, so leaving would probably be a good idea if we wanted to do any vampire or demon hunting that night.
We said our good-byes and left the barge and the Seine behind. "Know of any hot spots that we should check out first?" Methos asked.
I shook my head. "No. I figured we could just start someplace good and work our way from there." I grinned. "Just like old times."
He groaned. "Did you have to remind me?" He asked, prompting me to laugh as we both remembered the 'old times.'
*****The Middle of the First Century AD, Rome, Italy
After Giles' mortal death in the year 22 AD and Anya's mortal death twenty-one years later, I started traveling around the Roman Empire. A year or so later I ended up in the grand Imperial City of Rome. I'd gotten pretty used to wearing togas by then. Once I'd settled in at Rome, I got a job as an architect's assistant in building the Baths of Nero. It was like no other or bathhouse I'd ever seen; unlike earlier bathhouses, this one was the first one to be decorated in mosaics that I was told equaled, maybe even rivaled, the beauty and magnificence of the mosaics in the house of Apollo over in Pompeii. It was certainly one of the toughest construction jobs I've ever done. I was used to twentieth-century power tools and cranes; building the Baths of Nero was certainly a lot harder than that.
It took us only a few years to complete its construction, and I was paid rather nicely for it. So I moved into better apartments and settled down to everyday life in Rome. Despite the fact that I traveled through it every day, it took me over a decade to explore every part of that huge place.
I went vampire hunting a few nights a week. Rome was filled with them, and they tended to crowd around the Coliseum; there were a lot of underground tunnels in that complex where they could hide, and plenty of spilt blood from fallen gladiators that they wouldn't go hungry. I usually caught them whenever they ventured out into the city in search of something fresh, and something that would be more afraid of them than your average lion, which were kept chained up for the fancier gladiator fights.
One day at sunset, I was crouching behind a wall out of sight of the coliseum doors, waiting for vampires to sneak past the guards - or kill them in passing - when I felt the Buzz. My hand went to my hilt as I glanced around the dark street.
"Greetings, Marconis," a familiar voice said as he stepped into view.
I smiled. "Hello, Methos," I said. "What brings you to Rome?"
"Thought I might settle down here. How are the people?"
"I've taken a few heads during my past ten years here, but it's possible to go days in this city without running into any other Immortals."
"What are you doing?" he asked me as I returned to my lookout point.
"Hunting vampires. Want to tag along?"
He did. We talked in hushed voices until I spotted a small group appear from an alley near the coliseum. They walked with the self-assurance that comes from overconfidence, and I could hear them give low growls. That was enough confirmation for me.
With a nod from the three-thousand-year-old man beside me, we drew our swords and ran toward the group.
The battle outside the coliseum didn't last long. Unfortunately, Methos got stabbed in the back, so after they were dusted I carried him a few blocks away where he could heal safely.
A few minutes later, I felt his presence and his body arched as life returned to him. He sat up and looked down at his ruined tunic. "This is going to cost you."
I snorted. "Me? I don't think so, old man. You're the one that forgot to get out of the way."
"Yes, and you're the one who conveniently forgot to warn me that a sword was about to plunge through my back!"
"I thought you heard it coming!" I said defensively.
"Well, maybe you shouldn’t assume things like that, kid!" Giving up on trying to clean up the bloodstains around the hole in his tunic, Methos stood up and glared at me.
There was a whisper of air, and suddenly, an arrow was sticking straight through Methos' left shoulder. "This is just not my day!" He said through gritted teeth as he leaned against the wall, trying to take the arrow out while I took out my sword and looked around for the source.
"Don’t move," a feminine voice commanded. We stared as a young woman, definitely Roman, appeared. She held a loaded bow pointed at us, ready to fire.
"You must be the Slayer," I said.
"You have heard of me. Now you know who will kill you."
"We're not vampires!" Methos said in frustration as he finally managed to pull out the arrow. All three of us could see the sparks of his Quickening fly across the wound, repairing it.
The Slayer's eyes widened. "No, not vampires. You are Demons, which I am also required to kill."Shit,
I thought. I traded a glance with Methos. The look he gave me carried the same message: she's really going to shoot us, isn’t she?
Just as we suspected, she fired the bow twice, and two arrows ended up piercing through our hearts.
I managed to pull mine out just before death, and prayed that the Roman Slayer wouldn't cut our heads off before we came back to life.
I was very relieved when I actually woke up again. The Slayer was gone and our heads were thankfully still attached. I yanked out the arrow piercing Methos' heart and waited until he revived for the second time that night.
"That's it," he said when we headed for my home. Both of us were worn out; dying actually takes a lot out of an Immortal. "Tomorrow morning, I am getting on the first boat out of here."
"And I'll be right there with you. I need a new identity, and I'd also like to keep my head attached. Being near an angry Slayer is not going to help my case."
"Can't disagree with that."
"You were always afraid of running into Slayers," Methos commented as we patrolled a seemingly quiet graveyard. We were speaking in English, for no other reason except that we've hardly ever spoken to each other in that language. "Not that I had a problem with that after running into the one in Rome."
I'd wanted my head to stay attached, true, but that wasn't the only reason. I also wanted to avoid ending up in any Watcher Council Records, so none of them, especially Giles, the younger Xander, Buffy, and everyone, would hear of someone going by Alex LaVelle or Aaron Harrison who looked a lot like their Pre-Immortal friend. I wasn't about to tell Methos all of that, though.
I noticed the dirt on a fresh grave move and signaled for Methos to be on the alert. We took out our swords and waited.
Dirt flew as the vampire emerged from his grave. He let out a growl and lunged at me, the first one he noticed. I simply swung, decapitating him. The vampire crumbled away to dust.
Methos coughed as his lungs cleared themselves of the vamp's dust. "Maybe I will get some decapitating practice in after all."
I just smirked at him.
We dusted a few more vamps before calling it quits and parting ways, promising to meet again the next morning at MacLeod's barge. I knew the old man well enough that "the next morning" actually translated into "late afternoon," so I didn't venture out to the barge until around 2:30 PM.
I felt the telltale Buzz as I approached the door. Before I raised my hand to knock out of courtesy, I heard MacLeod's voice inside, "Joe, what does this Ian Madison have to do with LaVelle?"
"I'm not sure yet. I sent out a request for information about both LaVelle and Madison, but I haven't gotten anything back yet."
The door opened, and I met MacLeod's eyes. I knew that my face was as still as stone. It was an expression I'd perfected with lessons from Methos. It was hard enough for this moment in time. "Who's Ian Madison?"
"Aaron," MacLeod greeted me, surprised.
"I'm meeting Methos here," I explained. "Now answer my question."
MacLeod's expression became grim and he led me down the stairs. Joe was waiting for us at the bottom; evidently he'd heard us. He glanced at the Highlander, concerned and on his guard.
"Ian Madison is an Immortal that stopped by early this morning," MacLeod explained. "He was looking for you."
Damn. I hate it when that happens. I've taken a lot of heads in my lifetime, but I never have liked it one bit. Too bad I've had to do it so many times, and this time I'd do it again if I had to. "What did he look like?"
MacLeod answered, "He had cropped black hair, dark skin, and his accent was North African, maybe Egyptian. I'm not completely sure; I didn't spend much time in that area when I was there. He was about 5'10''."No,
I thought. I was pretty sure I knew whom MacLeod was talking about…"Marc?" I said, my voice coming out in a whisper.
Apparently, I have a loud whisper. "Who's Marc?" Joe asked.
I felt a Buzz, and MacLeod and I glanced at the door. Methos stood there, looking down on us. "Marc is Alex's student," Methos answered. He never took his eyes off of me as he descended the stairs. "What's happened, Alex?" he asked me in Latin, what he thought was my Native Tongue. Not that I noticed; I was so worried about the reason why my student was here in France that I didn't even notice the change in dialect. Marc hardly ever left Egypt, so whatever he wanted to talk to me about had to be important, but as far as I knew he hadn't known that I was visiting Paris.
Marc and I…we were as close as Marie and I. In some ways, they were like the children I'd never have, and in others, they were like the siblings I never had, either. If that relationship had changed…I'm not sure what I would do. I didn't want to find out, because it probably wouldn't be pretty.
"What did he want?" I demanded, my voice coming out sounding like a growl. Dawson and MacLeod both took a step back, startled by my change in demeanor. Methos laid a hand on my arm.
"I don’t know," MacLeod answered honestly. He seemed frustrated that he didn't have the answers I was looking for.
I turned to Methos. "I have to find him."
"And do what?" he asked. His voice was calm, quiet, and reasonable. "Go unprepared? You don't know what he's like now, Alex. It's been three hundred years since either of us saw him last. Anything could have happened to him. Going to him may be the wrong move!"How the hell can you say those things!
I thought, but somehow managed to suppress the urge to voice the sentence. I needed someway to calm me down, and I needed it fast. I fell down on the couch and closed my eyes until I felt myself regain control. The beer Methos handed me helped, too. Losing it in front of these people wouldn't do me any good. First of all, I didn't even know what the situation was, and I wouldn't know it until I asked Marc. But Methos was right about that; going near him blindly might be like walking into a trap unawares. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew from experience that people you knew for years could suddenly turn on you.
I glanced up at Dawson as a new thought entered my mind. "I think I know another way of getting some Intel," I said. I stood up and met Dawson's eyes. "I know you're a Watcher."
That statement gave me three stares, but I wasn't about to explain how I knew that. "I know you have the resources to do a little digging into Ian Madison's past. Will you do it? Will you help me?"
"He doesn’t have to," Methos said, stepping forward. "I'll do it myself."
I wasn't expecting that. "What do you mean, Methos?"
He pushed up his sleeve, and to my amazement, there was a blue tattoo on his inner wrist. "I've been hiding out in the Watchers lately. Besides Joe, none of them know who I really am. I'll get you the information you need."
I smiled, grateful. I'd press for an explanation later. "Thanks, Methos," I told him in Latin. "You're telling me everything later."
He nodded, but I'm not sure if the gesture was genuine. Methos would probably try to wind his way out of an explanation. Hopefully, I had enough experience with him that I'll be able to get it out of him anyway.
Methos left the barge and returned an hour later with his laptop. Joe left so that if his superiors asked if he knew that I was getting information through the Watchers, he could honestly say that he didn't see me do any such thing.
I watched in interest as Methos logged onto the Watcher Database. I'd never seen it before, and apparently MacLeod hadn't either because he looked over Methos' other shoulder. Methos hated to be crowded and glared at us both but we refused to move. Giving up, he logged into the Database and started a search for Madison, Ian.
A picture and a profile appeared. It was Marc, and I announced as such. Methos confirmed that statement with a nod. "Why is he listed as Ian Madison and not Marc?" I asked.
Methos, also wanting to know the answer to that, searched for Marc. A profile came up, but a picture was missing. "They must not have a good description of him from when he went by 'Marc,' so they didn't connect Marc with Madison." Methos shrugged and grinned. "Happens a lot."
"I bet it does," I said, grinning back. Methos was probably responsible for a few of those missing descriptions and pictures.
"What is he doing in Paris?" MacLeod asked.
Methos turned his attention back to the screen. He scrolled down through a list of reports submitted by a Charles Bartholomew until he came to one with a recent date. "It looks like Marc's been doing a lot of traveling. He's been spending a lot of time in the States and in Europe."
That was a little confusing and worrying. "But he loves Africa. He hardly ever left the continent!"
"Yes," Methos said. His brow also furrowed, and no wonder; he liked Marc and knew him better than I did.
"So when did he leave Africa?" MacLeod wondered.
Methos scrolled up to an earlier report. "It says here that he had to leave Egypt on business. It seems that some old Egyptian artifacts had ended up in Sunnydale, California, and he wanted to see if anything there could be of some value or was once his."
"Sunnydale?" I repeated loudly. MacLeod and Methos gave me two questioning looks. "When?" I asked, dread filling me.
Methos consulted the report. "Two months ago."
Two months ago. That would have been before my younger self, before I, met Buffy Summers the Vampire Slayer. I would have been so innocent and clueless that it would have been easy for a guy like Marc to get information from me. And if Marc ran into my younger self, presently alive and living in Sunnydale…Marc must be pretty shocked to find a Pre-Immortal that looked exactly like me and used part of my name.
"What did he do there?" I asked, my voice coming out sounding hoarse. I really needed to work on keeping my voice level in tough situations.
"He bought a few things at the auction and Principle Flutie of Sunnydale High asked him to give a lecture or two for a sophomore history class."
Damn. He must have seen my younger self then. I wondered what had gone through his mind when he saw my Pre-Immortal self? Shock? Surprise? Doubt?He must be so confused,
Methos moved on, apparently discarding the incident in Sunnydale as unimportant. I almost gave a hollow laugh at that. He didn't know who I really was, after all. How would he know that a little town like Sunnydale was so important? I haven't even told him that it was the Hellmouth!
"He traveled around a lot, looking for something. Apparently his Watcher didn't know what Marc was doing or what triggered this search for you, Aaron. We wouldn't even know he was looking for you if he didn't come here."
"Where is he?" I asked. "I need to talk to him. I think I know why he's looking for me."
Methos gave me the name of a hotel. "Do you want backup?"
I was about to say 'no' when I saw the look he was giving me. He wanted to come. He needed to come.
I'm not good at predicting first impressions between two other people. I figured, before Marc had met either of them, that Marc would get along great with Amanda while Methos would be too guarded to start a closer relationship. Boy, was I wrong. Amanda and Marc never got along after they first met. Marc could be just as devious at gettingdates as Amanda was in getting priceless artwork and jewelry. He made the mistake once of trying to get Amanda in a place she didn't want to go, and ever since then, they've been in semi-friendly competition with each other. Sometimes it got pretty nasty. Methos actually had to act as referee a few times when I wasn't around, but he never did seem to mind. Marc and Methos had grown close pretty quickly after they first met. It was less than a year into Marc's training when Methos had shown up out of the blue and decided to come stay with us. I don't know how or why the two of them bonded, but all I know is that they did, which was fine by me. Like I said earlier, I don't have that many friends, and being caught in the middle of a fight between two of them is something I'd prefer avoiding; I had enough to worry about whenever Marc and Amanda got within range of each other.
When I looked into Methos' eyes, I knew that I couldn't go alone, not even if I wanted to. Methos would never forgive me, and I still wanted him as a friend. So I nodded. "Yeah, I could use some. Want to come?"
A look of relief appeared on his face. Unlike with most people, Methos is never afraid of showing his real emotions to me, so he didn't bother to cover it up.
He did, however, return to a mask of neutrality for MacLeod's sake. "Let's go, then," he said, standing up and sliding on his trench coat. He logged off the database. "I'll come back for the laptop," he told MacLeod.
The Highlander nodded. "I'll give Joe an update."
Methos and I left the barge and climbed into his van. "So what's so important about Marc's visit to Sunnydale?" he asked me as we drove down the deck next to the Seine.
I started. "I thought you dismissed that as unimportant." Damn. Either Methos was getting better at hiding what he was really feeling or I'd spent too much time away from the ROG and couldn't read him as well anymore.
He smirked at me, evidently thinking the same thing. "So, are you going to tell me or should I do some digging in the Database?"
I sighed. I'd forgotten that I would have to explain my past to him now. Hadn't considered it, and right now I dreaded that he'd take it the wrong way. But I didn't think I had a choice. Methos would find out as soon as we got to Marc's anyway. Might as well prepare him.
"You should pull over somewhere, old guy," I told him. "My explanation might take awhile."
He gave me a curious look but didn't question me. He found a spot in a museum parking lot and waited while I gathered my thoughts. So here it is, the moment of truth,
I thought. I can't remember where I originally heard that phrase, but it seemed appropriate.
After I'd given my explanation, he sat back, shocked, as he tried to absorb everything. "Wow," he said.
"Yeah," I agreed, letting out a nervous laugh as I watched his face for clues of what he was feeling. That wasn't difficult; Methos was making no effort to mask his surprise. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you, old man," I said. "You never were really happy when you found out about vampires and demons. I was afraid you'd react badly to my own little secret."
"I know I would have," Methos admitted. "I didn't believe in the power of spells back then. But I've seen a few things since then that I never expected to see three millennia ago, so I'm open to the possibility of this time-traveling spell. And I know you well enough to know that you wouldn't make up something like this."
"So you believe me, Methos?" I asked.
Methos nodded. "Yes."
I smiled, thankful for this acceptance. "I wish I could have told you sooner," I said regretfully.
Methos smiled sadly. "We all have our secrets, Xander."
So you have a few of your own, old man? I've always known that, and I've known that they've haunted you for all of the years I've known you. I hope that you will someday share those secrets with me, but I'll be patient until then. I just hope that you get a chance to tell me before I reverse the time-traveling spell in three years.
"What will you tell Marc?" he asked.
"What I have to," I said. "It's about time I told him the truth as well."
"What about Marie and Amanda? Will you tell them anything?"
I thought it over. Amanda would probably be okay with it; she'd met a few vampires herself. Marie, however, had no knowledge of the supernatural underworld. I didn't know what that knowledge would do to her. "I think I'll tell Amanda. As for Marie…I don't know yet."
It was Methos' turn to nod in understanding. He knew how close-minded Marie could be sometimes; telling her anything would be extremely difficult. "So, have you known everything that was going to happen before it happened in the past two thousand years?" Methos asked, his awe rather obvious. That was a funny sight; usually the awe would be on someone else's face when they found out that Methos was the oldest of their kind.
"Not exactly. You know that history tends to be written differently and with less personality, so even if I knew it was going to happen it was still a shock."
Methos nodded and shook himself from his daze. "We'll have time for twenty questions later." He looked at me. "Are you ready?"
I wasn’t sure if I could handle a second explanation in the same evening, but I knew it had to be done. I nodded and Methos guided the car back into city traffic.
Methos ended up staying in the car. He already had his answers, he said, and would talk to Marc about it later. Marc was in his hotel room. When he answered the door, I couldn't help but stare at his appearance. He'd always paid so much attention to his physical impression on other people. Now, however, it was obvious that he was no longer trying.
His hair was clean, but it was longer than I remembered. His clothes looked like they hadn't left his frame for days, and he was also a lot thinner. Had my secret done this to him? Driven him closer to the edge without any easily obtained answers?
"Hey, Marc," I said, speaking to him in his native Egyptian.
"Alex," he said in greeting, surprise clearly written on his face. He answered in Egyptian. "I've been looking everywhere for you. I saw something, and I'm not sure what…" he stopped and regarded me closely, a look of doubt plainly written on his face. "What are you?"
"Can I come in?" I asked.
He tensed and I tensed in response, but after a moment, he moved to the side, allowing me to enter.
I glanced around the small room. Not much was there; Marc obviously hadn't been there long. He hadn't used the showers either; fresh towels sat on the shelf in the open coat closet.
I turned back to Marc. "I know what you saw, Methenes," I let him know. "You saw a younger version of myself, right? A Pre-Immortal." He hadn't expected that but nodded. "It wasn't a hallucination. He acted a lot like me, right? Maybe a little immature and naive, but a lot of his habits were exactly like my own."
I got another nod. "How?" he asked. "I can't understand it no matter how often I think about it, Alex. How can he be so much like you? There's no possible way that could be."
"Actually, there is." I sat down on one of the two twin beds in the room. "I think you should sit down."
He did, taking a seat on the bed opposite me. His wide eyes never left me, as if he expected me to disappear like a phantom at any second. My throat constricted at the sight. Marc usually was so confident no matter what situation he was in, especially when that situation involved getting another woman into bed with him. I used to think that nothing could get to him that couldn't be solved overnight. Why hadn't I told him all of this before? I knew the answer, of course; I was afraid he wouldn't believe me. Perhaps he would, just like Methos had. Now was no time to back down, so I'd find out soon enough.
"I was born in the year 1981 in Sunnydale, California," I began. "I was telling the truth when I told you how I died the first time, by being drained of blood by several vampires. What I didn't tell you was that I knew about vampires and demons for a few years before that night. I was the friend of a Slayer named Buffy Summers. A few other people and I helped her fight demons and vampires. After I died for the first time that didn't change until a few months later. To stop the entire town from being sucked into Hell, we tried to perform a spell that would stop it from happening. Only Giles, Buffy's Watcher, translated the text incorrectly and it went wrong. It transported me, Giles, and a young woman named Anya back in time to the year 2 BC, and there was no way for us to get back to Sunnydale." I thought about Giles and Anya, both old and gray, dying decades apart from each other. I missed them both terribly.
"Anya and Giles lived out the rest of their lives as Roman citizens. Since their deaths, I've been drifting around from place to place. And now, hear I am, talking to you."
I waited for him to take this all in. "It makes since," he finally said. "You always seemed to know when something big was going to take place before it did. I never thought you knew about major events because you were from the future."
I smiled, once again relieved and amazed. Two of my closest friends believed me. It made me feel overjoyed. I don't know what I had expected. Of course they'd believe me. Why had I been so worried all this time that they wouldn't?
"So, we're good?" I asked him, needing a little more reassurance.
He smiled. "We're good. Now that I know I'm not losing my mind, we're good."
He did look a little better. I hoped that it was genuine and not just a front.
"I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I was afraid you wouldn't believe me, and I don't know if I could have handled that," I admitted out loud.
He rubbed his hands together. "I won't deny feeling betrayed, Teach," he said at last. "But I think I can understand your reasons. It'll just take me a little while to get used to it, that's all."
I nodded sadly as some of my joy dissipated. Everything wasn't fine between us, but maybe they would be again one day.
"Want me to send Adams up here?" I asked him as I stood to leave.
His head shot up. "Ben is here? You've told him?" I nodded. "Please, tell him to come up."
So when I met Methos at the car, I told him that he was expected. Methos handed me the keys to the van and told me I could bring it to his apartment in the morning.
I drove home. A feeling of uncertainty crept into my chest as I sat in my living room, wondering what they were talking about. It would be about me, no doubt, but not knowing their exact conversation was driving me crazy. I didn't fear for my safety, but I did value their opinions and hoped they weren't thinking badly of me now, despite what they told me earlier.
At some point I dosed off, and the next time I woke up, it was around six in the morning. I'd unintentionally gotten ten hours of sleep.
And I hadn't woken because of restlessness or anything. No, it was the phone, which continued to ring despite the growls I threw in its direction. What if it's Methos or Marc?
My groggy mind spoke up. I was instantly completely awake. I reached for the phone. "Hello?" I asked, clearing my throat when I heard how dry it was.
"Hey, Teach. It's Marc."
I felt really relieved that it was actually one of them that called. "Yeah, Marc?"
He hesitated. "Methos and I have a question."
I swallowed as my doubt returned. "Which is?"
"What are you going to do in 1999?"Woah,
I thought as I sat back down on my bed. I've asked myself that question so many times already, but I've never heard it spoken from someone else. Hell, I've never heard it spoken period, not since Anya's death. For some reason, talking about it made it more real. "I don’t know," I answered at last. "I used to know. I used to think that I'd try to stop the spell. When I saw Giles and Anya grow old and die in a place they weren't supposed to be, that's what I was determined to do. That's what they wanted me to do. But now…I'm not so sure anymore. A lot of things have happened since then, and if I try to change history, everything's going to be affected."
It wasn't the answer he was looking for. "I don't want to lose you, Xander," he said, speaking the name I haven't used in so long. It surprised me how much I missed it. It felt right to be called that. "You were a good teacher, and I don't want you to change it so that I end up with a different one."
He hung up and I stared at the receiver.
"Decisions can be terrible things sometimes, can't they?"
Startled, I dropped the phone, grabbed my sword by the hilt and spun, settling into a defensive position.
A badly dressed man with black hair, a round face, and hazel eyes hastily backed away from the blade. "Woah there," he said, his Irish accent obvious. "Do ya mind pointin' tha' thing somewhere else? I get a little nervous around sharp edges." He added under his breath, "Besides my own."
"Who the hell are you?" I demanded.
"The name's Doyle, Allan Francis Doyle. And I think it's obvious tha' I'm not Immortal, 'cause-no Buzz, so there's no need ta use that sword, don't ya think?"
"Not necessarily," I replied. For instance, I knew of several breeds of demons that could only be killed by decapitation.
"Well, yeah, I guess a beheadin' would kill just about everythin'. It would even work on my race." The face of my Irish visitor promptly changed from one of a Caucasian human male to that of a Brachen Demon.
I've met a few Brachens over the years, and from my experience they were pacifists…to a certain degree. But it was a high enough degree that I felt safe enough to lower my guard and my sword. He visibly relaxed when I did that. "So what is a Brachen Demon doing in my house?"
"I was sent by the Powers That Be ta talk ta ya about a little spell that'll be cast in three years."
Ah, yes, the infamous Powers. I'd heard of them and their messengers, but I never would have guessed that the guy in front of me was one of them.
"You don't have ta worry about much," he continued. "Well, not as much as ya think. See, if you stop the spell from happenin' this time around, you aren't goin' ta change history."
Doyle scratched his head and shrugged. "It's pretty complicated, so bare with me. You see, you were destined ta go back in time two thousand years. Your life up 'til this point was supposed ta take place."
"It was?" I asked, hopeful. Maybe I wouldn't have to stop the spell after all.
"See, when ya were sent back in time - that was the first time 'round. This is the second run. The rules are different now. You're supposed ta stop the spell from happenin' this time."
That paragraph was filled with oxymorons. I was sure of it, and I said as much.
Doyle went on to explain what he meant the best way he could. After I stopped the spell, the Powers would make sure that the past remained preserved the way I lived it and influenced it. Even if I prevented my younger self from being sent back two thousand years, Methos will still meet me for the first time in 31 AD. I would still meet Marie and Marc when they were Pre-Immortals, and become their teachers after their first deaths, and everything else I've done in two thousand years will also take place.
"They're plannin' ta merge two worlds together," Doyle explained. "One universe where ya went back in time, and another where ya prevented yer younger self from goin' back in time."
"So, what? There will continue to be two versions of us running around the planet?" I asked, struggling to understand what he was saying. Science never was and never will be a strong suit for me.
He squirmed. "Actually…no. You will cease ta exist. Only the younger Xander will survive. But only fer a few months."
My head hurt. He was speaking in contradictions again. "Will you make sense, please?"
Again with the squirming. "A few months after ya stop the time-travelin' spell, you and yer younger self will merge. Become one. Like, you'll be young, only eighteen and grossly inexperienced, while at the same time, you'll have lived fer two thousand years, and will have all of the experience you've acquired in tha' time."
There was no denying it any longer. I was losing it just listening to this guy. I got up and took a beer out of the fridge. Without even bothering to pour it into a glass, I just chugged it back. After a few gulps, I fell to the floor and just started laughing hysterically as the stress of the last fifteen hours finally caught up to me.
Doyle watched me for awhile before he helped himself to a beer. Eventually, I managed to calm down and breathe properly. "What if I don't do anything? What if I let my younger self get transported back in time like I was?"
"Well, that's an easier one, if not any less intense. The Mayor of Sunnydale will reach his Ascension, and without Giles' and Anya's insight and yer younger self's help in fightin' him, he will kill everyone in Sunnydale and then go on a huntin' spree around the globe. Also, a few apocalypses won't be diverted 'cause the Scooby Gang is officially dead, and a bunch of other things tha' shoulda happened won't."
I hauled my ass off the floor. "I guess that solves that, doesn't it? I'll stop the spell, stay dead for a few months, before coming back to life as someone else." Like a Dark Quickening or something. Or would this be closer to a Light Quickening?
I shook my head clear of that train of thought. That way led to madness, I could tell. Well, more madness than what I was obviously experiencing that morning.
"I've gotta go. I'll be in LA if ya need me," Doyle promised. "Be sure ta stop by after you stop the spell."
"Sure, why not," I answered. He left and I collapsed back on the couch.
Well, that was okay news. Not the best news, but okay. I didn't like the idea of not existing for 'a few months,' but it's not like my other option was good. And this way, what Marc feared would happen wouldn't.
So, I guess I've finally made up my mind. Now, whether or not the Brachen Demon was telling the truth about everything…I really hoped he was…I'd find that out in less-than thirty-six months.
I grabbed my coat and headed for the door, wondering how I'd word this when I broke the news to Methos and Marc. I hoped that I would be clear enough, 'cause like I said, I wasn't sure that I understood it all myself.