Title: The Scarlet Immortal
Author: Jesmin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: A moment, frozen in time, is still waiting for its ending.
Disclaimer: Buffy is owned by Joss Whedon, Fox, WB and everyone else under the sun except me. Duncan and Methos are owned by Davis/Panser (I think I got that right). Basically, I own none of this.
“It was August 19th, 2005. The day will always be fresh in my memory, dreamed over and over. A friend of mine, Joe, had signed over his most prized possession to me – a blues bar set in the back lots of Seacouver. Joe had owned it for decades, his love for the blues driving him to keep it up through changing times. For me it was a constant, a place to go and be with friends, to relax. So here I was, on that August day, enjoying the same old when something new and fresh walked into my bar.
When it comes to owning a bar, you see several different types cross your doorstep. There are the regulars, blues and beer junkies who come to enjoy the atmosphere while throwing back a pint of draft, listening to the blues wafting through the rafters. Then there are those who just come in, looking for a good time, usually the type that end up either being dragged out or dragging themselves out. Last of all there are those I think of as upper working class, men and women dressed in suits, skyscraper yuppies looking for a change in their environment for lunch. It was of this last type she seemed to be, but there was something about her that was so much more.
It wasn’t that I saw her. No. It was more like I felt her. Across the room she stood in the door, dressed in a gray business suit, long legs stretching from the bottom of her skirt to heels that didn’t seem at place on her. Her eyes momentarily met mine, green pools that were brighter than any emerald I’ve ever seen. How I wanted to stand there forever, just gazing into them, but she pulled away, looking around the room until she found who she was meeting. Tucking a rogue strand of warm red hair behind her ear, not trying to manipulate it back into the twist the rest of her hair was in, she sat down with her companion, into her world and not mine.
Placing a cool beer on the counter for a customer, I found myself drawn to her. There was that beautiful red hair. I wanted to know what it smelled like, to bury my face into it. Did she ever wear it down, let it out to fall wild about her? What would it look like fanned out on a pillow? Just to be able to know…
I watched as her companion reached out and took her hand in his. He seemed to lean forward, to wipe a tear from her cheek. Then she was standing, giving him a quick hug, and rewarding me with one final look as she walked out the door. There had been such sadness on that second look. I wanted to chase her, to wipe the tears from her eyes. Her emerald eyes shouldn’t hold grief but should sparkle with happiness. Laughter, not silent mourning, should fall from her lips – lips that I wish would wear a smile to bewitch the soul with secrets of a cherished childhood.
For twenty years she has been a scarlet stain upon my soul and in my heart, immortal.”
Buffy finished reading and then closed the book, holding it out to Willow and then dropping it on her desk. “Spike brought it to my attention. For some reason, he thought you might want to have a look at it.”
Willow nodded, not looking up but rather at the book lying on her desk. It was a simple book that one might find at a local bookstore, a collection of short stories. The cover was in black and white, a picture of an empty table inside a bar. In red letters, the title and author held her attention: Scarlet Immortal: A Collection Of Short Stories by Adam Pierson. Her fingers tapped the table for a second then she turned it over, reading the description on the back. Trying to sound flippant about it, she finally looked up at Buffy to say, “Looks like an interesting book.”
“Willow, it is a collection of stories that he has made up about someone based on seeing her one time.”
“And who hasn’t done that, Buffy? Who hasn’t found themselves riveted by a complete stranger, only to fantasize exactly what that stranger may be like? What do they do? Where do they live? Do they prefer chocolate or vanilla ice cream?” Willow placed the book to the side and got up, eyeing her friend. Now in her fifties, Buffy commanded respect in her bearing. She always wore her hair up in elegant styles, gray threading in and out of the blond. Her once perfect skin belied old age but also wisdom. Willow thought it was wonderful, to age so beautifully. Buffy, who had asked Willow to use magic to remove her slayer abilities, who many thought it would be a miracle to live into her twenties, had learned to live with grace. “What you have to ask though is what has you so upset about this book?”
Buffy eyed her friend – her best friend. Willow had gone to Cleveland after Sunnydale had become a huge crater in the California landscape. Xander, Kennedy and Willow had all moved into a place together, allowing the other new slayers to come and go. Everything had been going great. They talked back and forth with Buffy and Giles in England, planning to keep the Cleveland Hell Mouth in control. Then something awful had happened. It hadn’t been vampires or demons. No. It was a semi. The driver had fallen asleep on the road, forcing them off and into a ravine. The only survivor, with no scratch on her at all, was Willow. Not long after they realized why. Willow was an immortal, a being who could only die by losing her head. Now in her fifties, looking barely thirty, Willow still bore the consequences of that night. “My problem is that there is some weird stalker guy out there writing about my best friend.”
Willow shook her head and laughed. “You don’t know that. There are plenty of red heads out there. Not only that, but it isn’t like I visited many bars in Seacouver the year I lived there.”
Buffy glared at her. “Spike told me about your meeting, about how you visited him shortly at a blues bar in Seacouver.” Shaking her head, Buffy added, “I guess it kind of freaks me out that this man could have seen you, could have been fantasizing about you for so long. Isn’t that kind of weird?”
“Why? Am I not the kind of girl that could capture a man’s dreams for decades?” Willow asked bitterly.
“I didn’t mean it like that, Wills.” Groaning, Buffy added, “Look, Spike asked me to give this book to you, to tell you that he did a background on this Adam Pierson.”
“And what kind of crazy man do I have lusting after me?”
“Now this is the kicker, Wills. Adam Pierson of Seacouver died fifteen years ago. This book was published a month ago.”
Willow sat silent for a moment. Turning through the pages, smiling at the first story, “Joe’s Bar,” she remarked to her friend, “I have somewhere to go, Buffy.”
Twenty Years Before…
Willow, dressed up after her meeting with Seacouver’s Slayer’s Watcher, stepped out of her small SUV, her heels clicking on the pavement. It had been awful trying to find this place, being it was off the main roads. Leave Spike to ask her to meet him in a hole in the wall bar not far from some alleyway. It was just the type of place Faith and him would frequent. Taking a deep breath, she paused at the ringing in her head, and then stepped into Joe’s. The tables were all round and made up of wood and the floor was worn and checkered, giving the bar a bit of a hole in the wall feel with a stage in front, a young man strumming blues chords on an acoustic guitar upon it. To the right was the bar area, and her breath shortened as her eyes met that of the bar keep. He was older than her with brown hair and hazel eyes. His nose was that in Roman art, and his smile was full of life. In her opinion, no one had appeared sexier in plain jeans and a blue sweater. Looking at her, probably feeling the same slight ringing, he gave her a quick nod and then turned back to his work.
Glad there wasn’t going to be a confrontation, Willow glanced to her right and noticed a man who looked very familiar getting up from his table. Spike, now sporting more of a brownish blond hairstyle and black slacks with a cream sweater, got up. Grinning, he remarked, “I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed you, Red.”
“I’ve missed you too, Spike.” As they both sat, she added, “I’m sorry that I haven’t kept in touch that well, but it’s been hard.”
“Still trying to walk in the Watcher’s footsteps?”
Willow chuckled, but it didn’t have the sound of happiness her old laugh held. “I’m in charge of research here in Seacouver, but there is all this whispering around me constantly.” Leaning forward, she added, “There are others here. They don’t think I know, but I do.”
“Other watchers. Not the kind that looks after slayers, but those that watch immortals.”
“Do you think they know about you?”
“I hope not. I’ve tried to keep a very low profile.”
“Creepy, knowing they could be watching at any time.” Looking around the bar, he added, “Just think, they could be sitting in here right now.”
Shuddering, Willow sighed and added, “It’s just strange. This lifestyle isn’t me.”
“Oh. Changes of lifestyles, I wouldn’t know about that.”
Shaking her head at him, Willow stated, “I know. What’s up with the clothes? The Spike I know never would wear those.”
“Call it being part of the Wolfram and Hart family.” Sitting back, he added, “LA’s splitting branches. Faith and I are taking over the new one. So, now I have to dress the part a bit more, just like the big Poof.”
“You have no idea.” Taking a drink, he added, “But enough about us. How’s it going with Niblet?”
“She’s in England, going to the University. I think that she is also going to be following in the watcher’s footsteps. Plus, there’s this boy…”
“I thought there might be a boy. Why else would she go all the way to England for school?”
“Well, the Watcher’s Academy is there.”
Spike shook his head. “I can’t believe Dawnie is going to join the ranks of those wankers.” Sighing, he then asked the dreaded question, “And what about Buffy?”
“I removed her Slayer abilities, so she is after the perfect life in Houston. I think she just wants to get away from everything.” Lifting an eyebrow, she added, “She still asks about you, Spike.”
“Good. I thought she was still pissed since Faith and I’ve gotten together.”
“She’s over that.”
The two sat silent for a while, and then Spike mentioned what should remain unsaid, “Speaking of where everyone is, it seems strange not talking about the whelp.”
Willow got up. “I’m not going to talk about that night, Spike.”
A tear slowly worked its way down her cheek as she thought back to that night. There had been the screeching of tires and the next thing she remembered was waking up about twenty feet from the car. She had crawled to it and… Spike wiped away her tear and remarked, “Don’t let that night rule your life, Red.”
Giving him a quick hug, Willow nodded and turned to leave, meeting the gaze of the bar keep one more time. He had been watching her. She could feel it. His gaze burned into her, and even though she felt she could stand there with him across the room all day, she wasn’t for sure she wanted him to see her so. Trying to give him a smile but not being able to, Willow walked out of Joe’s, not to return until twenty years later.
Willow parked her vehicle as close as she could to what used to be Joe’s. Getting out, locking it with voice activation, she wandered through the alleys, finally spilling out in an area in front of the bar. Surprisingly, it was still around. The same neon red light blinked out side, humming from the electricity running it. Reaching out, she pushed the door open, stepping into an area that was like walking into the past. The décor was exactly the same, and the strange thing was that as before, she was met with the ringing of an immortal nearby.
Heading straight to the bar, she sat down as a man with long, dark hair, walked over to her. His deep brown eyes looked her over with curiosity. In a slightly accented voice, he asked, “May I help you?”
“I’ve come seeking information on Adam Pierson.”
“He died fifteen years ago. I believe there was a freak shooting in the bar that night.”
She pulled the book out a bag, laying it on the counter. The man looked down at it. Reaching out, he picked it up and shrugged, “And?”
“This was published a month ago.”
“I’m sure there is more than one Adam Pierson in the world.”
“Maybe, but I have a friend who traced that book to the man who died fifteen years ago. Strange, huh?” When he didn’t answer, she took the book back. “Thanks for nothing.”
Heading out, Willow placed the book back in her bag. Heading back to her vehicle to think of how to approach act two, she stopped as a voice called, “Wait!” Turning, she found the man from the bar running towards her. Holding out a hand, he remarked, “Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod.”
“Willow Rosenberg.” She took a deep breath. In all of her studying, she had heard of Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander who had killed his own student because of black sorcery. It was said that Duncan hadn’t returned much to Seacouver after the death of his student Richie Ryan, only opting to return when most people would have forgotten him.
Pointing to the book in her bag, he asked, “Was it really the book that brought you here?”
“No.” The answer came out quick. There was no thinking about it. Closing her eyes, she thought back to that day, when she had seen him, the man behind the bar. “He was behind the bar, and when I left, I turned to look at him. Our gaze met, and it took everything for me to pull away. It held onto me with such intense power…” Taking a breath, she looked back up, “Adam Pierson wasn’t the only one who held onto something that day. Where is he?” She knew the story about him dying was wrong. He had been an immortal also.
Duncan slowly smiled. Taking her book from her bag, he pulled a pen out of his pocket and then wrote an address down. “He’s visiting in three days. Feel free to drop by.”
Duncan shook his head as he noticed the large vehicle in his drive. Parking beside it, he got out of his own and headed to the front door, not even bothering with checking the door. He knew it was unlocked. Stepping inside, he threw his keys to the side and stepped into the living room where Methos sat on his couch, reading. Sitting beside him, he asked, “Enjoy the trip?”
Methos nodded, not looking up. “It was okay. The peanuts were a bit stale though.”
“Still as grand as ever.”
The two sat for a while before Duncan commented, “So, how much do you really know about Scarlet? Have you studied her?”
Methos looked up and shook his head. “Who?”
Standing, Duncan walked over to a shelf and pulled a book off. Throwing it down on the couch beside Methos, he answered, “Your Scarlet Immortal.”
Picking up the book, Methos started, “I tried to find out who she was by Watcher files, but found nothing except the name I used for the book – Scarlet Immortal. According to the watchers, around the time of 2009, an unknown immortal started showing up. She was only seen when a watcher’s immortal would start a fight with her. When the fight would end, this unknown immortal always found a way to get away without being followed. To add to the confusion, none of the pictures they have taken of her have come out. She has been hard to document for them – a thorn in their side – who they call the ‘Scarlet Immortal’ not because of her hair, but because the lightening in her quickenings are always red.”
“No. What is strange is that this girl has no official records. The Watchers have drawn composites of her, but even from them, we can match her to no database. It is like she has been erased.”
“It sounds like she doesn’t want to be found.”
“When people want your head, who would want to be found?” asked Methos. Sitting back, he added, “So what made you think of her anyway?”
Duncan grinned. “A few days ago a young woman by the name of Willow Rosenberg came by the bar looking for an Adam Pierson.”
“She was an immortal with red hair.”
Jumping up, Adam ran to his bag and pulled out his laptop. Starting it up, he clicked on a file titled “Watchers.” After typing in his password, he entered a search under the name “Willow Rosenberg.”
Duncan pointed to the screen as it went blank, the word ‘transferring,’ appearing on the screen. “Is it supposed to do that?”
Methos shook his head. “I haven’t seen it do that before.” Suddenly the screen popped back on, but it was different than before. The screen had the heading, ‘Slayer Watcher Headquarters – Cleveland.’ Then below it were the words, ‘Any information related to Willow Rosenberg – Research Head – may only be released via password.’ Below that was a box for a username and a password. Looking over at MacLeod, Methos slowly smiled. “She’s a watcher.”
“What is a Slayer?”
Sighing as he shut down his computer, Methos answered, “I’ve only run into three my five thousand years. They’re young girls, basically sent to their death. See, every generation one is born to take on forces of evil – usually vampires and your basic demons. From what I know, they have their own watchers, and it looks like this Willow might be one.”
“Sounds interesting.” Getting up, not sure if he believed everything or not, Duncan headed back to where his keys were, remarking before he walked out the door. “I hope she is all you dreamed up, because she’s coming tonight.”
Methos was in shock even two hours later. What was Mac trying to do to him? Now all cleaned up and trying to at least fix a snack type of food, Methos was about to go stir crazy. What if it wasn’t even the same girl? What if she just wanted to find him and tell him he was strange to even come up with such a concept? Come on, who lusts after someone they saw twenty years before?
As a ringing filled his head and the doorbell rang, Methos tried to calm his fast beating heart. Opening the door, his jaw dropped as he looked upon the same woman from twenty years before. She had a light blue dress on that flowed loosely around her, billowing in the wind. Her hair was free from the confines she had worn it in the first time he had seen her. Pushing some of it back, smiling up at him, she commented quietly, her voice music upon the wind, “Adam Pierson, I suppose.”
“Yes. I did go by that once. Would you like to come in?”
“Sure.” Looking down, Willow followed him inside. When she had pulled up all these fears had started to take over. What if this wasn’t the man? What if he only wrote it because he thought it would be a nice book, not a book actually having any true meaning to him personally?
When the door shut behind Willow, Methos remarked, “When I wrote the book, I never dreamed you would come looking for me. Who remembers some man keeping bar twenty years past?”
Looking up, Willow stated, “You were wearing jeans that day with a blue sweater. When I came in you looked up at me. Our eyes met for a second. It was normal – one immortal acknowledging another. I went to my table, had a short conversation with my friend, and then got up to leave, once again looking over at you.” Stepping up to him, looking up with searching eyes, Willow remarked, “And then our eyes met one last time. I had been crying and wanted to leave, but for a second I was glued to the floor. Part of me wanted to walk over, to ask you who you were. The other part of me wanted to flee, and it won out.”
“You do remember,” Methos whispered.
“How could I forget? Something stirred in me that day, something I hadn’t felt since Kennedy. It didn’t make sense. I left, and even though I have thought about it often since, I never returned until a friend of mine brought me your book.”
“Who was Kennedy? Was that who you were crying about that day?”
Willow shook her head. “No, not exactly. I was crying for my friend Xander. He died along with Kennedy in the car crash that made me the immortal I am. I loved Kennedy very much, but she couldn’t compete with the friendship I had with Xander. Yes, it was Xander I was mourning that day.”
“Kennedy was…” Methos started, unable to finish. Here he had hoped that his dreams may come true, that this woman would give him the chance he had hoped for.
Willow smiled, finishing for him, “…my lesbian lover at the time.” Taking a deep breath, looking down, not wanting to gaze into the eyes she had dreamed of for years, she remarked, “I would hate to think that I may miss out on something finally in front of me because of my lifestyle in the past. Plus, someone had once told me that what matters is that you fall in love with an individual, not someone of a certain sex. Understand?”
Placing his fingers under her chin, he lifted her eyes to his. “I want to rewrite the book, to fill it with short stories that are true, to write several books over countless lifetimes.”
Smiling, she simply stated, “Willow Rosenberg.”
Mirroring her smile, Methos whispered, “My close friends call me Methos.”
He leaned close, so close that she could feel his breath. As his lips were mere inches from her own, Willow moved even closer, surpassing his lips and whispering in his ear, “Is that food I smell?”
Backing up, Methos grinned, and then, picking her up, carried her into the kitchen, Willow laughing the whole time. Sitting her down, his eyes sparkling, Methos stated, “Just one thing.” Wrapping his arms around her, he started to kiss her, gently at first and then more passionately.
Willow groaned, her body heating up all over as it hadn’t for years. Who would have ever guessed one moment, frozen in time, could come to this?
Spike smiled as Buffy Summers walked into his office. “Enjoying LA?”
Buffy grinned back. All the bickering in the past was over, enough so that it didn’t seem strange entering Spike’s office, knowing that Faith was right down the hall. Then again, that also meant Angel was across town. How lucky was LA, having two souled vampires keeping it safe? “I haven’t had time to sight see yet. I just wanted to make sure I dropped this off first thing.”
A book dropped on his desk. Picking it up, his smile growing even more, Spike opened it up. At the end of the book was a single line written in Willow’s handwriting. “And they lived Happily Every After.”