The fact that he waited until the next night when MacLeod walked into the bar to say a word to him about Willow proved, in Joe’s opinion, that he had the patience of a fucking saint. In all honesty, however, it took him that long just to calm down and think rationally.
Which wasn’t to say that he was thinking rationally at all when he caught sight of the sonofabitch walking through the bar’s door. Joe gripped the edge of the bar, nails digging in and leaving marks in the already scarred surface. He wanted to punch the smile right off of MacLeod’s lips. Maybe then he’d feel a little better about what Methos had (intentionally) let slip.
But he doubted it. There wasn’t a damn thing in the world that could make this better. Oh, Joe knew better than to think that he’d stay mad at MacLeod for very long, but even when his friendship with the Scot was back on even footing, there would still be the little problem of Willow being a pre-Immortal.
That was a problem that wasn’t going to go away. It could only become a bigger problem, in fact, when one day she died her First Death and joined the Game until the day she died.
“Joe,” MacLeod greeted, pausing to hover over the barstool, not quite sitting, when he saw caught sight of the look on Joe’s face. Joe supposed he wasn’t hiding his anger very well, then. “What’s wrong?”
Joe snorted and shook his head, still unable to let go of the bar out of fear that he might just take that swing he wanted. That would, most likely, end up with him flat on his ass because he wasn’t even foolish enough to believe that he could take Mac when it came to a fist fight. He took a deep breath and forced himself to tell MacLeod exactly what was wrong as calmly as possible.
“You should have told me about Willow.”
To his credit once MacLeod realized exactly what Joe had to be referring to, he didn’t try to deny it. He sighed and sat down completely on the barstool, looking around to see if there was anyone close enough to risk being overheard. “You know that’s not how it works.” He frowned and then continued. “And what would you have done if you knew? Wrote her down in your little books to be watched?”
Joe felt like MacLeod had just slapped him in the face. Willow was his niece. Maybe not by blood, but blood wasn’t the only important thing in this world. He loved her like she was Sheila’s own child because he’d never thought of her as anything other than Sheila’s child. She would always be his niece – whether she was pre-Immortal or Immortal or just plain old Willow. Of course, plain old Willow still wasn’t very plain, he had to admit. No matter what, though, it added up to the same thing. He cared about her too much to just offer her up for observation. True, that was his duty to the Watchers, but this wouldn’t have been the first time that he didn’t follow the rules completely. “I wouldn’t have done that to her.”
“Right,” MacLeod drawled. “Beer? Please? If we’re going to have this conversation, I’d much rather be drinking for it.”
Frowning, Joe filled a glass from the tap for MacLeod, sliding it across the bar to him a little harder than necessary. Beer sloshed up and over the side, dribbling down and onto the polished wood. MacLeod cocked an eyebrow but didn’t say a word, just picked up a bar napkin and wiped up the little pool of beer around his glass before raising it to his lips.
Joe sucked in a breath and then sighed hard. Leaning against the bar, palms splayed on the rough top, he bent his head and just concentrated on breathing. What had he really expected of MacLeod? Joe had known all along that there were limits to their friendship, and he supposed that this was one of them even if it did
have to do with his niece, for Christ’s sake!
And then there was that one thing that he couldn’t let go. That thing that he would continue to remind MacLeod about until the day that came that one of them died. Because this one? Well, it was a big screw up.
“I would never have let her become a Watcher if I’d known,” Joe said quietly. Because there it was, the heart of the problem. Willow was a Watcher, and that meant that one day she’d be out in the field watching an Immortal of her own. An Immortal that would know she was there, know that she was following them, because that Immortal would damn well feel
her the second she got within range. It was a disaster waiting to happen. Worse, it could get Willow killed if the Immortal in question was the sort that would take her as a threat, even at pre-Immortal status.
He was talking about the permanent type of death, too.
“I tried to talk you into talking her out of it,” MacLeod muttered, making a face into his beer. He sighed and set the glass down, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “What’s done is done. She can always leave the Watchers.”
“And what reason do we give her for doing that?” Joe asked, voice going up one notch, then another. “Or are we going to tell her why?”
“Of course not!” Mac snapped. “She’s already living a dangerous life – what do you think would happen if she knew about this
The point was no sooner made than the idea was discarded silently by both of the men. Even if telling Willow was an option, that was the one good reason they needed not to do it.
“Would’ve thought this would make you feel relieved, though,” MacLeod murmured, earnest eyes drilling into Joe with the weight of a thousand unspoken reprimands and apologies, all rolled into one. “With what she does out there at night, I mean.”
“Oh, that’s rich,” Joe’s response was immediate, mocking, and scathing. “You’re such a hypocrite.”
Beer halfway to his mouth, MacLeod paused and gave Joe an honest-to-God confused look if ever Joe had seen one. It was enough to chip away some at the anger and irritation he harbored for the Immortal in front of him. “What do you mean?”
“I mean you’re sitting there telling me you thought I’d be relieved knowing that Willow can’t get herself killed out there while hunting, but last time I checked you and Richie both knew about that all along, and yet the two of you still try to make sure one of you is with her Every. Single. Night.”
Obviously there wasn’t a response for that, because MacLeod merely lifted his glass to his lips with a little self-conscious quirk of the lips that Joe knew meant he’d won this round, so to speak.
That, at least, was something.
The death glare was palpable from the moment he stepped into the dojo, even from across the room. Methos sighed and shoved his hands down into his pockets, pasting the best I don’t care
expression he knew onto his face. He crossed the dojo, past the men practicing on the mats. Willow was no where to be seen, though he had thought that she taught classes around this time of day.
Her guard dog was around, however, and he looked like he’d bite if Methos even looked
at Willow the wrong way. He wouldn’t have thought the kid had it in him, but there it was. Champion and Protector of a girl that didn’t need to be championed or protected.Doing what you should be doing. Taking your place.
His head and heart whispered their insidiously evil proddings to him.
“Richie,” he greeted with a nod of his head. The kid cut him a look out of the corner of his eye, grunting a response.
This was the same cool reception he’d gotten from the kid since the moment he’d set foot back in Seacouver. If it were not for the fact that Richie was doing it because he believed it was what Methos deserved for hurting Willow, Methos would have been a little irritated. As it stood, he was still a little irritated – just not as much as he otherwise would have been.
There was that part of him that couldn’t resist picking at an open wound, though. And it was that part of him that leaned against the wall next to the kid, crossing his arms and hooking one ankle around the other, a silent mockery of the post that Richie was using at that moment. Only the faint twitch of the kid’s eyes showed that he’d noticed, that he was just as irritated by it as Methos had intended him to be.
Other than that, he received no response. Well, that just wouldn’t do. If there was one thing that he hated, it was to be ignored when he was looking for a good conversation. Or a bad conversation. Or any conversation at all, for that matter.
“You know – she and I called a truce.”That
got his attention. The kid’s head turned so quick that Methos winced himself, fighting the urge to rub at his neck. Anger colored Richie’s face.
“Really? Is that why she left the second I told her that I thought I’d seen you walk up?”
That revelation did just what Richie had intended it to do – hurt. Methos fought to keep the pain out of his expression, though. He wasn’t about to let the kid know that Willow’s near-constant avoidance of him in the last week was causing him any sort of heartache. Apparently when she had said that she wanted things to go back to the way they were, she had meant the way they were before they were even friends
, because how were they supposed to ever recapture their friendship if she ran off the moment he set foot on the same city block as her?
“The fact is – I’ve heard the story and sure, fine – okay for Willow. But you? You’re older than her. You should have known better than to even put the two of you in the position,” Richie growled, voice low and angry. Methos thought that it was completely possible he’d never seen the kid look quite this angry.
His assumption that Methos should automatically know better – or, better still, do
better – was enough to make him snap, though. Playing aside, this kid knew nothing about him, otherwise he’d never let Willow near him again. He pushed off the wall, muttering over his shoulder just loud enough for only Richie to hear.
“Being five thousand years old doesn't make me bloody omnipotent, you know! I still make mistakes."
And then he left. Maybe if he wandered aimlessly around the city he’d, stand a better change of running into Willow than trying to find her anywhere she should
MacLeod sat looking at the phone, head hurting and heart heavy. He didn’t want to believe the news he’d just received, but there was no getting around it. A friend had taken too many dark Quickenings. One too many and suddenly an entire lifetime of balance was shifted and…
…and now he had a mess to clean up.
He pressed the heel of his palm to his forehead, knowing that he needed to get up and get going. If anyone was going to do this, it would be him. Coltec had been his friend for a long time. He deserved that much, at least.