Title: A Touch of History
Author: Jinni (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Disclaimer: All things BtVS belong to Joss Whedon, et al. All things Highlander belong to Panzer/Davis, et al.
Distribution: The normal places.
“Is that -- ?”
Joe glanced up from the bar, smirking openly when he saw who had just walked in. He looked at the red head across from him, shrugging good-naturedly. “Yeah, that’s MacLeod and Ryan. You want an introduction?”
“I really shouldn’t. . .” she hesitated, her eyes clearly begging to meet these two, legends among the modern world of Watchers. “You know how the superiors are.”
Joe snorted. “Willow, one of the main reasons they rushed you through training was so that you could go out in the field and gets some hands on experience. It doesn’t get more hands on than meeting one of them face to face.”
She nodded slowly.
“And,” Joe continued. “How can you ever put your gift to use if you never get close to them?”
That brought a grin right to her face. “So, technically, I’m doing what I should, right. Meeting, greeting, getting to know them.”
“And recording it all for another time,” the older Watcher agreed with a nod of his head. He turned to the other end of the bar, where the two Immortals had taken a seat and were patiently waiting for him. “Hey guys, come on down.”
He could already see the question in their eyes. Meeting a new Watcher wasn’t a big deal after this long in his company, though. They’d rather know who she was than keep wondering, he was sure.
“Mac, Richie, I’d like you to meet Willow Rosenberg, one of our newest researchers,” he offered with a cordial smile and a discreet tap at the inside of his left wrist, where his tattoo was.
Richie’s eyes widened. “You’re a Watcher? But you’re so. . .female . . .and young. . .and, you know, not old.”
Willow laughed, her anxiety draining away visibly. “It –does- happen, you know.”
MacLeod smiled outright, offering her his hand. “Well –I- think the Watchers could use a little young blood. Something to bring them into the modern age.”
The red head grinned, reaching out to shake his hand lightly. Her eyes grew wide for a second, something that Joe doubted the two Immortals had noticed. He had only picked up on it because he was waiting for that exact moment.
“How old?” He prompted her, drawing curious stares from MacLeod and Richie.
“Four hundred and two,” she murmured, looking towards the other Watcher for confirmation. Her smile grew as he nodded.
“On the dot,” Joe chuckled. “Guys, Willow here is a bona-fide witch. She can read auras, cast spells and all that. But, most interesting of all, she can tell how old an Immortal is by touch alone.”
“Not really that useful of a trick,” she admitted with a shy blush on her cheeks. “Considering we have all those books telling us exactly how old most of you are, anyway.”
”Do me,” Richie smirked, offering her his hand with great production after wiping it on his jeans.
“Twenty-three,” she shrugged without preamble after touching his hand for only a moment. “Barely a blip in my aura radar.”
MacLeod smirked at the pouty look on his student’s face. “Neat party trick, I guess.”
“Right,” Willow nodded. “Because, you know, I go to so many parties with Immortals.”
Joe chuckled. “Get you guys a beer?”
“Sure.” They echoed as one, drawing a snicker from the red head.
“So – you’re a witch?” Richie asked as they waited for Joe to draw the beers from the tap. “Like spells and pointy hats and all that?”
She looked vaguely offended, in Joe’s opinion, at the mention of those stereotypical black hats.
“No hats,” she wrinkled her nose. “And no, I don’t ride a broom. I swear, people have such a limited view of witches. We’re not all old crones huddled over bubbling cauldrons, you know.”
“You’re nothing like a crone,” Richie hurried to assure her, much to MacLeod and Joe’s amusement. “Definitely too pretty to be a crone.”
She blushed, turning her head aside.
”Cassandra was a witch, Richie,” Duncan reminded him, with just a touch of rebuke in his tone. “You didn’t see her wearing a big pointy hat, did you?”
Joe remembered the Immortal in question all too well, and knew she’d take the idea of being dressed in one of those ridiculous hats even worse than Willow did. He pushed the two newly filled beers across the counter to the waiting Immortals.
“Witches come in all shapes and sizes.” Willow offered the younger Immortal after a minute of letting him chew on what his teacher had just given him to think about. “I’m sure that there’s some that wear the hats just for kicks, but I’m not one of them. And yes, to answer the other part of your question, I can cast spells. It’s sorta that deciding factor on whether you’re a real witch or just a wannabe.”
“And she is most definitely a ‘real witch’.” Joe smirked, easing onto a stool now that his guests were served. “This little lady’s seen more weird things in her short life than I’ve imagined in my whole existence. Tell them about where you’re from, Will.”
She flushed, embarrassed that she was the focus of so much attention. The poor girl was still so shy, even after spending all that time in London, in the crowded motherhouse, learning to adjust rapidly in ever-changing social situations. It was a good thing, he knew, that she had chosen to become a researcher rather than a field agent. The only contact she would have with Immortals was that which she chose to have. He hadn’t told her part yet, but that was one of the big reasons she had been sent to Seacouver for her first temporary assignment. Here she could learn to interact with Immortals like MacLeod and Richie before she tried to make contact with some of the others. Amanda would be her next assignment, assuming they could ever track down the elusive thief. She was, in effect, a test run of a new program where Watchers would interact with their Immortals on a permanent basis, such as he had done with MacLeod.
“I come from this little place called Sunnydale, California,” she began slowly, her voice slowly gaining confidence as she spoke. “The supernatural name of the town is the Hellmouth. That’s the Mouth of Hell, in case the name alone didn’t make it really clear. A Hellmouth, in case you’re wondering, is exactly what it sounds like. An actual entrance to Hell itself. An opening through which Hell can be unleashed upon the earth. Not a big shocker to find out that that’s where a good deal of the supernatural baddies of the world come to vacation, right? So – me and my friends sorta. . . well, stopped them.”
“You. . .stopped them?” Joe could hear the confusion in MacLeod’s voice.
“Yeah. We fought the good fight, righted the wrongs. Made sure that there was another sunrise on the planet and that all the people that didn’t even know the boogeyman existed still got to wake up to greet another day.”
“So,” Richie searched for the right words. “You were like a group of superheroes?”
Willow laughed. “I guess. Sorta. I –“
Joe heard her continuing on in the back of his mind, watching with a feeling of trepidation as MacLeod and Richie slowly turned towards the door. He knew that look all too well. Another Immortal was near. He flicked his own eyes over to the door, breathing out a quiet sigh of relief as the Immortal finally made himself known.
“Just Adam,” Joe muttered with a shake of his head, conscious of how he chose to call the Immortal with Willow sitting right there. He ambled behind the counter and pulled out another glass, already filling it with the tap beer Methos enjoyed the most. Something was nagging at the back of his mind, like a thought that he’d forgotten and desperately needed. But he couldn’t seem to come up with what it could be. He watched Willow’s eyes widen as Adam joined them at the bar. She knew who he was, of course. What Watcher alive didn’t know about the infamous Adam Pierson – once a member of their ranks and now one of the Watched.
“Evening gentlemen,” he greeted with a lazy smile, grabbing hold of the glass Joe slid the glass across to him. His eyes settled on Willow, the smile becoming something of a smirk. Trust Methos to fixate on a pretty face above all else. “And good evening to you, too, ---“
“Willow,” she held out her hand, grinning like a kid in the candy store. Three Immortals in one night. She had to be in heav—
Joe bit back a cry of despair as Methos’ hand touched Willow’s, remembering finally what it was that had been nagging at him. His eyes went wide, darting to MacLeod and then Richie. It was the Highlander that caught on first, uttering a curse in Gaelic that Joe found himself somewhat happy he couldn’t translate.
But it was Willow that worried him the most.
She had gone absolutely still as Methos lifted her hand to his lips, brushing them across the back of her knuckles in a greeting that would have had most women pooling into mush at his feet.
But not her.
Because Joe was damn sure she had just realized who ‘Adam Pierson’ really was.
“Fuck,” he sighed explosively, surprised when Willow broke free of her stupor to spare him a half-smile.
“You can say that again.”
She had felt it the second –before- his skin even touched hers. A tingle of power that was unlike anything she’d ever been in contact with before. It wasn’t possible, she was telling herself even as her senses were screaming otherwise. Adam Pierson had only become an Immortal a year or two ago. There was no way. . .
Five thousand, one hundred and twelve, to be exact.
That could only mean one thing. Something that Joe apparently already knew, if his started curse was any indication.
“You can say that again,” she murmured, a giggle breaking free of her throat. She looked askance at ‘Adam’, shaking her head at his confusion. Poor man. He had just walked into something he couldn’t even begin to guess about. “Guess that’s one cat you guys didn’t want let out of the bag, huh?”
“You can say that again,” MacLeod mocked, rolling his eyes.
“What’s going on?” Adam frowned. She looked down, unsurprised to see that, in the confusion, he hadn’t let go of her hand. She pulled it free, giving him a weak smile.
“She’s a Watcher, Adam,” Joe began slowly.
“Ah,” he nodded, as if that explained everything. “A bit overwhelmed, I see. Meeting three of us face to face in one night? The regional director is going to be furious with you.”
He was chastising her! Standing there, being who he was and had always been, the entire time he was a member of the Watchers, he was actually standing there chastising her! There were only two options that her brain presented her with at that moment – knock him on his ass with a nice little psychic shove –
She chose to laugh.
“You broke her, Joe,” she heard ‘Adam’ warn the other Watcher. It only made her laugh harder.
“I don’t think that’s what’s making her laugh, -Adam-,” Joe sighed. She wiped tears from her eyes, blinking with far too much amusement at the men that were watching her.
“Sorry, just a little overwhelmed, you know,” she grinned cheekily. “Not every day I get to meet three big, powerful Immortals.”
“Wait –“ Richie cut in, eyes growing larger and larger as she watched. Oh, goddess. He had just figured it out, hadn’t he? “You touched him. . .”
“Right,” Willow nodded.
“That means that you know –“
The red head risked a glance over at ‘Adam’. His face was covered with absolute confusion, though there was a gleam in his eyes now that Richie had spoken up.
“She senses age in Immortals,” Joe muttered quietly, the words choked from his throat as if he was the last one that wanted to tell the legend himself that he had just been found out.
“She. . .” ‘Adam’ began, turning to glance at Willow with shocked eyes.
“Yeah,” she nodded. “So, I’m a little overwhelmed, yeah, but not for why you think.”
He swore, the expressive Sumerian words flowing off of his five thousand year old tongue.
“Hey!” Willow scowled playfully. “I understood that, you know. Potty mouth.”
“You’ve got to be joking!” The man now uncovered as Methos groaned, sinking onto a stool to stare at her with undisguised awe. “Not only can you tell how old I am just by shaking my hand – you understand Sumerian?”
“I understand a lot of those old languages,” she smiled gently. “Goes with the territory.”
“I’m afraid to ask what territory that might be,” he groaned, reaching for his beer only to have a newer, colder one pushed into his hand by Joe. Willow watched the ancient Immortal throw the aging Watcher a weak thank you.
“Demon hunting, mostly,” she offered with a shrug of her shoulders. “A lot of those old prophecies on some of the bigger, badder demons are written in those weird old languages. Like Seers quit writing things down after a few hundred BC or something.”
She supposed she was saying it a little too off-handedly for the old man’s tastes, though one would assume that, given how old he was, he would know of the ways of the supernatural, including demonology, witchcraft and the fine art of prophesizing.
Apparently assuming he would take it well, however, was something of a mistake.
“You’re a demon hunter?” He asked incredulously. “A little thing like you?”
Willow sat up straighter, brow furrowing in unveiled irritation. “Little thing? Me? Sure, on the physical side. But, hey, packin’ the mojo here.”
“She’s a witch,” Richie cut in to inform the ancient Immortal, earning himself a glare from the witch in question.
“-So- not needing the help here, you know. I can stick up for myself when it comes to obnoxious old men.”
Duncan snorted, Richie blinked in surprise. And ‘Adam’ just frowned.
“I resent that.”
“You should,” she nodded sagely. “Otherwise I’d have to add dumb to my list of first impressions on you.”
She stood up, giving Joe a smile. “Thanks for a fun night. I’ll call you tomorrow?”
“Sure thing, kid.”
“Nice meeting you,” she offered to Richie and Duncan. “I’m sure we’ll meet again.”
“Count on it,” Richie grinned, daring to throw a wink at her.
“Pleasure,” Duncan smiled before turning his glare on the Immortal next to him. The one known to the Watcher journals as Methos hadn’t spoken since her last insult, and she found herself preferring that it stayed that way. Maybe it was something that came with that much age, she supposed; an insane lack of tact. Or was that just arrogance? She honestly didn’t care.
The night was still warm when she set foot out of the bar, wandering off in the direction of her house. In Sunnydale this was something just short of suicide, walking a mile in the dark. Not here, though. It was too. . . . safe. Oh, she’d tried to find vampires to occupy her free time, but the few that had been in town had cleared out quick when she started doing nightly patrols, until now there was nothing.
Tonight had been a red letter night in so many ways. Finally meeting one of the famous Immortals that she’d studied for a year before finally earning her chance at field duty. There had been only two other Immortals that she’d come into contact with, and that had been purely a brush up against type of thing, managing to touch their arm or hand to get a feel of their age. Definitely nothing like what she did tonight with Richie and Duncan.
She rolled her eyes. Who would have thought that the world’s oldest living man was actually the world’s oldest living ass? Just went to show that not all legends and myths turned out to be good guys. Or even half way decent guys, actually.
Willow paused, turning to glance over her shoulder. Well, well – think of the ass and he shall appear, actually. She rolled her eyes, continuing down the street. Maybe he’d get the hint and just leave her alone.
“C’mon! Wait up!”
The red head snorted. He almost sounded pleading. Joe must have threatened to kick him out of the bar, a place that Methos seemed a little –too- familiar with, even in her brief meeting of him.
“You walk fast,” he commented, jogging up beside her. She kept walking. “Can you just hold on for a second? I’d like to talk?”
“Oh really?” She raised her eyebrows, not stopping for a single moment. “About what? How I should stay at home and not do such dangerous work? Or maybe how demon hunting is a man’s job. I know, I know. Little girls should play with their frickin’ dolls, right? Dress them up in the little gowns, act like they’re brainless little princesses, living in a dream world?”
“Of course not!” He protested, still at her side. “I came to apologize.”
Willow stumbled, catching herself before it became to obvious. An apologu? She hadn’t thought it was possible from someone with that much cockiness. “I’m listening.”
“Well, right,” he sighed, grabbing hold of her arm. She jerked to a stop, her glare intensifying. “I’m sorry.”
“For upsetting you.” He offered with a shrug.
“Not good enough,” she snapped. Should have known that he was only sorry for pissing her off. Just like a man, apologize for the obvious and not what he actually did wrong. She set off down the street at an even brisker pace.
“Wait, wait!” She heard him growl from behind her. “That came out wrong.”
“I’ll say,” Willow snorted. “You’d think someone of your age could speak properly, you know. Get the point across right the first time.”
He frowned. “The age jibes are going to get old real quick, you know.”
“Not as old as you are,” she managed, fighting off a laugh at the frustrated groan that tore from his throat.
“Now we’re insulting me? Oh, goodie. Because it’s not a real apology unless I get insulted a time or three.”
“I wasn’t –“
“You were,” she shrugged. Her apartment was looming ever closer, the front steps to the building only a few yards a way. She came to a stop with a sigh. “Thanks for walking me home, very gentlemanly of you. Please leave now.”
He looked around, mouth opening with shock. “You live –here-?”
“This is an awful neighborhood!”
Willow felt her cheeks flame. “Right, and how much were they paying –you- back when you were playing the part of a Watcher, I wonder? This is what I can afford right now, thank you very much.”
“I didn’t mean –“
“You keep saying that.” She rolled her eyes. “Yet the wrong things keep coming out of your mouth anyway.”
“Yes, well,” Methos shrugged. “Tact isn’t something I’ve picked up in all those years.”
Willow thought of Anya, who was also trying to learn the great art of tact. It was apparently pretty difficult for those that weren’t used to displaying it. She bit back a smile, wondering how many more similarities the former demon had with the Immortal in front of her.
“So, are you coming in or are we going to argue out here all night?” She offered, tilting her head towards her apartment after finding that she really didn’t want to fight with this. . .legend. She wanted to pick his brain about what Rome had been like at the height of it’s power. About the great events of the centuries before she was born.
“Inside would be more comfortable, I would imagine,” he shrugged.
The red head rolled her eyes, chuckling softly as she pushed open the door of the complex. Maybe a little more fighting before she got down to the questioning. After all –
Fighting was definitely more exhilarating.