Title: One Good Turn
Universes: Highlander x AtS
Disclaimer: David Panzer et al own HL, Joss the Almighty owns AtS
Characters: Methos, Joe, Giles, Wesley, Illyria
Genre: Dark Drama
Warnings: None, really. Implied violence and consumption of beer.
Rating: no more upsetting than an episode of Highlander
. Historical violence, ruminations about the way the world turns.
Setting: December past the end of AtS5, four months from Encore Une Fois, which took place about August of that year.
Summary: Methos and Joe meet another Watcher who has alarming news about the Game, and two new players: Wesley Wyndam-Pryce and Illyria.
Prequel: Encore Une Fois
. If you haven’t read that one, you’re going to be very lost. It explains how Wesley and Illyria came to be a couple of sorts and shows the first meeting of Wes and Giles after his First Death.
Dedication: For Qill, your wishlist fic. I hope you find it most satisfactory.
~~~ One Good Turn ~~~
A good, dark brew made the world go round.
Methos didn’t mean this in a literal sense, of course. Gone was the flat world of his youth, supplanted by spinning spheres far from the center of everything. However, with long fingers curled around a chilled glass of faintly foaming bitter ale, he couldn’t think of anything better. It bit at the tongue and warmed the heart, wonderful stuff.
He had decided many years ago, a thousand or so, that one couldn’t continue charging forward in that dance called life motivated solely by the belief in good, or right, or mighty ideals. Ideals crumbled, and the definition of good evaporated like alcohol on hot pavement.
But the little things? The taste of beer, the smell of green grass, the wonder of starlight: those things were constant. One even so old as he could take solace in the small wonders that kept the world going.
Thus: a glass of beer on a chilly night, listening to a singer only mildly butcher ‘We Three Kings’, blues-style.
Methos had been around the block a few times, lived some lifetimes more cynically than others, but for the first time in a long time since Alexa’s death, he finally felt comfortable. Like this could be home for a while, before the wanderlust kicked in. He had Mac and Joe and the bar, the memories of lifetimes to keep him company. He was… as content as Death can be.
As if on cue, MacLeod blew in on a gust of winter wind. Seacouver was never actually cold, not like Methos knew cold, but around the holidays it could be rather drafty and damp. Mac shook himself, shaking rain from his hair, and made his way over.
“I heard from Amanda today.” Duncan reached behind the bar and snagged himself a beer, popping the top with casual ease.
Methos took an appreciative sip in beer lover’s camaraderie. “Oh? Are you still going to go visit her after the New Year?”
The Scot shook his head. “Actually, no. She says weird things are happening on the Continent, and she wants to come here instead. Says something’s scaring the locals.” At Methos’ raised eyebrows, Duncan elaborated. “Our
kind of locals. She doesn’t know what.”
Methos paused for another swill and surveyed the bar. The warm sounds of happy couples swirled around him like auditory mist, providing a comforting jacket of anonymity. You could say the most private things in a public setting and no one would be the wiser. Try to be secretive about it, though, and everyone would want to know.
He glanced across the bar counter to the office behind, following Duncan’s gaze. Joe was on the phone with someone, receiver held tightly. Whatever he was talking about had him agitated and both Immortals were silently curious as to why.
Rubbing his eyebrow thoughtfully, Methos added, “Lots of strange things, recently. First that sinkhole in California, then those riots in LA.”
Duncan snorted. “Things are usually strange in California, that’s not unusual.”
“But these were stranger than the usual unusual. Then there was Peterson down in New Mexico or Arizona or wherever it was. You have to agree that was weird.”
The stockier man grimaced. They all had heard about that beheading- the first time any Watcher had recorded a head being literally ripped from an Immortal’s body in written record. There had been legends, of course, but it wasn’t something anyone ran across any day. Even Methos was surprised—and he’d seen much more of the unnerving side of Immortals over the years.
“Yes, that was strange. Peterson was a head-hunter though; what comes around goes around.”
“Bit off more than he could chew, I suppose.” Frowning at the terrible pun, he took another contemplative swig and motioned to Joe, now hanging up the phone. “I wonder what that’s about, Mac. He looks concerned.”
The Watcher in question made his way slowly behind the bar, leaning on the counter heavily. The seated pair waited for him to speak. It was open-mic night, and while they waited for Joe to collect his thoughts, a young man who took himself entirely too earnestly began to croon ‘Santa Baby’. The connotations were disconcerting, to say the least.
Joe startled Methos from his mental musing by saying softly, “I had a call just now from Rupert Giles, another Watcher.”
“I don’t know that name.” There were many Watchers that Adam Pierson hadn’t met, but few he’d not heard of.
“You wouldn’t- he’s not our sort of Watcher. You know about the Demonic Watchers, right?” Methos nodded, but Duncan looked confused. Joe sighed and waved his hand a bit. “The Council of Watchers used to have another division, or you could say we were a division in another organization. A while back, how far no one knows, the two groups split. Ours handles Immortals, the other does the supernatural. We don’t really interact.”
Duncan nodded, and Methos gestured for Joe to continue.
“I met Mr. Giles quite a few years ago when we were both working on assignments that happened to coincide. Needless to say, it was quite an education for the both of us. I must have made an impression because despite seeing me only once, and that’s been twenty five years or more, he wants to meet.”
“About what?” Methos wondered aloud, trying to quell the rising feeling of unease. It moved over his skin like goosebumps, tiny frissons of trepidation. He was old enough to remember when demons interacted with men much more frequently. It was not a good time in humanity’s history.
“I don’t know.” When the Immortals made to interject, Joe raised his hand. “I really don’t. He’s upset about something, says it’s imperative he speak to me in person—wouldn’t talk over the phone. He’s arranged to wire me money for a ticket to London for me and anyone I should wish to bring in order to feel safe.”
“Feel safe? That’s it Joe, you’re not going.” Duncan’s face was set in firm lines and Methos could see his hands clenched under the rim of the bar top. “If it’s so dangerous you need someone with you, then you shouldn’t go.”
“I appreciate the concern, Mac, but if he’s gone through all this trouble to track me down, maybe I should listen to him. After all, he’s done nothing threatening, and made every effort to be accommodating.”
Methos watched the exchange with interest. No matter how old MacLeod got, he was always a Highland Hero at heart. Protecting those he loved no matter the cost. The Old Man was hardly surprised when he said, “If you insist, then I’ll go with you. We leave tomorrow then?”
But Methos was very surprised at what Joe said next. “No, Mac, I don’t think you should go. I would rather take ‘Adam’ here, as it’s Watcher business. I don’t think that Mr. Giles knows I have a relationship with my Immortal, and it may seem a bit out of place to bring you along. It’s said one of the reasons the Watchers split is a difference in watching philosophy. Besides, Methos is still a member of the Watcher’s Council, as a Watcher, and would generate much less speculation.”
The older Immortal’s jaw dropped open. Joe was a friend, truly, but this was a bit out of character to ask, even if it was logical. He blinked a few times and swirled his glass. “I guess.”
Joe noticed Duncan’s outrage and tutted like a mother hen. “He’s good with a blade, Mac, and he won’t let anything happen to me. Besides, there’s probably nothing wrong. If you had to deal with the demonic you may be a bit overly paranoid yourself. Giles seemed like a genuine young man when we met, though he has to be close to fifty or so by now. He was a bit wild, but he had a good heart; I don’t think he could possibly have changed that much.”
Methos frowned, face sour. People could change, did change, no matter their best intentions. Even if Joe was right, he couldn’t shake the feeling that the strange things happening were coming to him. In the past, this was his cue to move on, find somewhere else to be. But these were his friends, and it was hard to say no to friends.
“Besides, who better to look after the bar when I’m gone? I don’t trust it to just anyone, you know.” Joe winked, and Duncan grumbled good-naturedly at the teasing.
Methos looked away, out into the crowd. They were definitely merry and bright, as befit the season, but he was suddenly chilled. Too many strange things, and he hated to be proven right.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
The flight was uneventful, if comfortable. The mysterious Giles had sprung for first class tickets, and with the new room Methos could almost forget he was miles above ground. He hated flying, always had. The scientific marvel of it all had always impressed him, he of the humble-horse-riding beginnings, but that wasn’t enough to get over the unease of being trapped in a metal cylinder zooming along at entirely ridiculous speeds.
A driver had met them at the airport, collected the sword case from checked baggage, and without much fuss at all, they found themselves in the drive of an old manor house about an hour from Heathrow. Joe turned to him, eyebrows drawn. “I thought the Council headquarters was in London? They had a whole block of buildings.”
The driver must have overheard because he turned and spoke to them for the first time in fifty kilometers. “Those offices were destroyed two springs ago. Most of the old Council was destroyed along with them.”
The Watchers exchanged glances, but stayed silent. Neither had known of the destruction.
Still lost in thought, they were herded up the stairs into a grand foyer where a young brunette with sharp blue eyes looked them over carefully. Whether she noticed the sword tucked under Methos’ jacket or not, she didn’t comment. Perhaps she didn’t view them as a threat.
She showed them to a meeting room, decked out with antique weaponry, the likes of which Methos never thought he’d see again. He touched a few reverently, wondering when had been the last time some of them had seen combat. One behemoth double-headed axe was bolted to the wall at eye level. The etching was beautiful; this was obviously a well loved weapon. Axes were hardly popular among Immortals these days, but he remembered a time in which heavy bladed axes were a popular means to remove head from shoulder. If he concentrated enough, he could smell old blood on rusted blades and sweaty axe handles.
Eventually, he slid into a plush leather armchair next to his friend. There was a carafe of water and glasses in the center of the table and he poured them both a glass to give himself something to do. After a few minutes of sitting, during which Methos wished they’d waited a day so he could get some sleep and ease the jet lag, they heard noises in the hallway.
The same young brunette woman opened the door and ushered in a man of middle age, hair graying around the temples. He wore a dark grey sweater and black slacks with glasses perched on his nose. In his hands was a slim brown folder. The woman glared at them one last time and left, shutting the door tightly. Methos wondered about her hostility, though it seemed more a mark of concern than aggression. She was worried about her friend.
The man extended his hand, “Rupert Giles, thank you for coming.”
“Joe Dawson, and this is my fellow Watcher, Adam Pierson.”
Giles nodded, and gestured for them to sit back down. “A pleasure to meet you, Mr. Pierson, and it’s been quite a long time, Joe. May I call you Joe? Please call me Rupert. We’re among friends here.”
“Of course.” Joe smiled, rapidly running his fingers over the head of his cane. Subconscious or not, Methos now knew that Joe was very nervous. Interesting.
“I’m sure you’re both very curious why I called you, and be assured I am pleased you could come. My associates and I debated long and hard about whether to contact you, especially given your organization’s hands-off policy, but we couldn’t let this situation pass without trying to do something.”
He took a deep breath and seemed to gather his thoughts. “We were wondering whether or not a Watcher has ever become an Immortal?”
Methos nearly choked on the sip of water he’d just taken. Joe covered the moment by answering for him. “It’s not unheard of, but it’s very unusual.” Methos was glad Joe didn’t look his way. Eventually he’d ‘die’ and the Watchers would know who he was, but hopefully it wouldn’t be for many years to come—until the lack of aging became noticeable.
Giles seemed to relax infinitesimally. “Well, it seems that one of our former Watchers has done just that.” He almost said more, but swallowed the words with a grimace.
Joe and Methos exchanged a glance. Surely this man hadn’t called them all this way to say that? “Rupert, is that all?”
The Englishman cleared his throat and fingered the folder. “No. It’s not. And we’re partially to blame. I said ‘former Watcher’—he left our organization about five years ago or so. He was deemed unsuitable. We worked together briefly with my Slayer and things went poorly. But like all Watchers he was trained in elementary spell casting.” He gave them an apologetic glance. “It’s a prerequisite when dealing with the supernatural. A Watcher must always aid his Slayer.”
“I know you don’t believe in interacting with your subjects, but understand that we have to help our Slayers. They’re the last line of defense in many situations, and without help, they fall too young.”
He sighed, but neither man interrupted him. “They always fall too young anyway, but we’re obligated to help. In days of old, Watchers treated Slayers as weapons, but we’ve come to realize the error of our ways. They may have lives like mayflies compared to Immortals, but they are so very precious. One way we helped, then and now, was providing magical support. Currently, we have many more witches to help our cause, but traditionally Watchers assigned to active Slayers had to show some magical ability.” He paused to look at them intently. “Wesley can do magic.”
That crawling sensation was back and Methos distinctly wished he were anywhere but here. Joe sensed his distress and said carefully, “There are instances of Immortals able to do magic.”
“Hmm? Oh, yes, we found references to at least one, a Cassandra. She had moderate power but little training.”
Methos tried not to fall out of the chair. This was getting worse and worse. One person he did not want to deal with was that particular mistake. Cassandra was bound to haunt him for all eternity. Literally.
“We do have records of some Immortals in our files, particularly if they crossed our paths mystically over the years. Also, sometimes human activities were inaccurately prescribed to demons over the years. Take the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Many believed them to be demons but a Watcher in the mid-eighties proved conclusively that was not the case.”
Joe coughed to cover up the strangled sound Methos made. Giles paused for a moment, noting their surprise, but he didn’t question it. Perhaps the other Watcher had enough issues on his plate that he didn’t need to go digging into Immortal secrets.
After a heartbeat or two, in which Methos wondered if he was going to change his mind and ask questions anyway, Giles continued on. He was obviously following some previously mulled problem, talking almost to himself.
“Demons were around long before Immortals, or so our records indicate. They’re incomplete, I realize, given our limited study and the non-demonic nature of Immortals, but I’m still not sure why don’t we see more interactions, particularly with vampires. Immortals can’t die, and would provide an unlimited blood supply to whatever vampire could subdue them. You’d think they’d be a virtual feast.”
Methos opened his mouth before he realized what he was saying, “Lightning. Vampires like to be struck by lightning as much as they like to eat it. The blood taken from Immortals tends to…disagree…with them. We think that initially some Vampires did try to drink from Immortals, but over the years and successive generations Vampires began to avoid them, much as birds avoid moths that poison them. A type of race memory, if you will.”
When Joe looked like he was going to ask all sorts of questions about this entirely heretofore unknown revelation, Methos trod lightly on his foot, bland smile in place. He was old enough to have been one of the ‘experiments’ and watching a vampire combust from the inside out was almost worth dying of blood loss. Vile creatures.
Starting visibly, Giles frowned. “Fascinating. Under other circumstances, I’d love to discuss that more, but now is not the time.”
Giles removed his glasses and began to rub them vigorously. “When Wesley—that’s his name, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce-- was with us, he was a competent spell-caster only. After he began his work in Los Angeles, he became much more proficient. And now?” Giles frowned.
“Now?” Methos prodded.
“Now he has help,” Giles said flatly.
They were silent for a moment. Giles obviously had more to say, and it began to seem to Methos that they were here not as much for themselves, but so Giles could absolve himself of some weight.
“You’ll have to forgive me, this story is rather complex. A few months ago, I made a terrible mistake. I’m not sure the blame is solely mine, but if I had done things differently, the current situation may not have happened.”
His face a picture of comfort and concern, Joe leaned forward. “Tell us what happened. You called us to come from across the Atlantic. It must be important.”
Talking softly, Giles directed his words not to the two listeners, but at an antique set of armor in the corner. “Over the last few years, there were two civilian groups in the United States doing work that would traditionally have been under the purview of the Watcher’s Council. One of those was a group headed by my Slayer, a Buffy Summers, and her friends. The other was made up of offshoots of our initial group. Freelance demon hunters, if you will, based in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, most of the members of Angel Investigations weren’t as close to us, sometimes even actively disliked. Over the years our two groups grew apart, though occasionally we did still interact under dire situations.”
Methos thought of the sink hole and the riots two years running in LA and said nothing.
“At some point when my group was busy trying to prevent yet another apocalypse, Angel’s group took over control of the Los Angeles division of Wolfram and Hart.”
“The lawyers?” Methos frowned. A number of less-savory Immortals had dealings with them over the years in their many incarnations. It never ended particularly well, if it ended at all.
“Indeed. The evil lawyers, in fact. Due to a series of past events, we were inclined to believe that they had switched sides and were in fact dealing with the devil.” He gave a sad smile. “We should have known better, but we had too much on our hands. We wrote them off when they called for help. One of their members, Winifred Burkle, a physicist, was sick. They needed help, but I—“ he stopped, eyes searching in the distance. “But I decided we shouldn’t help. After all, who knew if it was a nefarious plot to sink us as well?”
“Was it?” Joe asked. Something in the other Watcher seemed to break at the question, a cracking of his professional veneer, showing a doubt-filled man behind the mask.
“No. And perhaps we should have trusted they knew what they were doing taking over Wolfram and Hart. But we left them to sort it out for themselves. I don’t even know if we could have done anything.”
“She died. And they thought they couldn’t trust us to watch their backs anymore. You see, Angel is a vampire. He has a soul now, but it’s hard to forget he was Angelus.”
“Angelus, as in Scourge of Europe, Angelus?” Methos remembered that bloody quartet. Brief as their reign of terror had been in the grand scheme of things, he recalled thinking at the time that he should look up his old friends and see if Pestilence, War and Famine would have been impressed.
Giles nodded. “So you can see where the inherent distrust comes from. Angel and I have a complicated history as well, and as petty as it was, I didn’t want to get embroiled with them again. When Fred died, I’m afraid that Wesley became a bit unhinged. He loved her, you see.”
Methos remembered what the death of a loved one could do all too well. It seemed as if only yesterday Alexa was warm in his arms. The heat, the passion, was all gone now, but if he concentrated hard enough he could feel her there, heartbeat loud against his cheek, breasts soft beneath his skin.
Giles continued on, oblivious to Methos’ inner musings. “Apparently he went a bit… mad. Some of this was related to a rather nasty memory-altering spell Angel subjected his friends in order to save someone important to him. Wesley always seemed a bit wussy, to use one of Willow’s favorite phrases, but from all accounts he had become ruthless when his throat was slit.”
“His first death then?”
“No, he was tougher than we imagined. He recovered due to good old human determination, but he was never the same. When Fred…died, he became more lost. He did his job, but Angel says he bordered on insanely cruel at times.”
Joe and Methos exchanged glances again. Things were not sounding good.
“As it turned out, Angel was much cleverer than we expected. He was trying to take down the Senior Partners, the driving force behind Wolfram and Hart in this dimension, from the inside. When he made his move, he didn’t tell us what was going on. We only learned of it much later, when the mess in Los Angeles reached our ears. He succeeded, but at a terrible price.”
Giles opened the folder for the first time, revealing pictures of destruction and chaos. Buildings collapsed, corpses piled high in a dark alley. The corpses were not human.
“When we came to help any survivors, there were none to be found. We had Willow do a locator spell for everyone we knew to be involved, but there was nothing. Everyone had disappeared. It seemed as if we’d misunderstood, and now it was too late. Faith, another Slayer, was livid—“
“Wait, I thought there was only one at a time. One Slayer to stand against the darkness and all that.” Joe looked puzzled, much like Methos felt. All Watchers received some education in the other branch, their dogma and motivations.
Giles barked out a rough laugh. “Oh, times are a-changing. Now there are hundreds—also our fault. We changed the order of the world to save it, and we’re trying to get some semblance of order back again. It’s one of the reasons we were distracted when Angel’s team needed us.”
“I imagine it’s not important now, but we would love to know how you accomplished that,” Methos said, stunned. It was akin to changing the rules of the Game so all Immortals won. Unthinkable.
“As I said, Faith was livid and demanded we try to find out what happened. Gunn was dead, Spike was ash, but Angel, Wesley and Fred disappeared, no corpses found. That didn’t mean they survived and despite Willow's magic, we were at a loss.
“A few months later, I went to Roger Wyndam-Pryce, to tell him of the loss of his son, when the most frightening thing happened. Walking down his front steps were Wesley and Fred, alive as could be.”
“I thought you said Fred was dead. Though, it’s likely that Wesley’s first death was in that battle.” Joe tapped his cane on the floor rapidly a few times in agitation, then remembered what he was doing and laid it carefully across his lap.
“Yes, he fell fighting a demonic sorcerer named Vail. Vail was later defeated but it was too late for Wesley. Angel says that Wesley accepted that task knowing full well he was going to die.”
“How do you know all this? You speak as if Angel was alive—or undead.” Joe asked, taking another drink of water. When nothing made sense, take a drink—the bartender’s rule of life.
“Lucky us, he was vomited out of a sand volcano during an earthquake in Romania last month. He had been trapped by the Senior Partners and only barely managed to escape. He came to find us as soon as he was able, desperate to find his people.” Giles gave a hollow laugh, a bit high pitched at the end. “All we could say was that Wesley was alive, but changed, and he had a companion.”
“Not exactly. I don’t know how to say this so you’ll understand.” He dropped his head, exhausted. “Fred died. Her body remained in the form of a shell for an Old One. Illyria.”
His gaze was bleak when he raised it meet their eyes. “An Old One walks this earth again, and her guide is a broken man who has no hope left and very little kindness.”
Methos quelled his rising nausea with difficulty. An Old One. Joe obviously didn’t know what it meant, but the crawlies on his skin had upgraded from Imminent Harm to Flee For Your Life. His hands shook as he pushed his water glass around. He idly watched the sparks of light swirl across the table top, dull gleams of color.
Seeing Joe’s confused expression, Giles elaborated. “Old Ones were gods among demons. They ruled before time, and were not kind masters. They had power beyond imagining, though Angel swears they did something to bind her power to reasonable levels. He also says Wesley is capable of repairing or reversing the process if he’s motivated enough: he designed the spell in the first place.
“I know you may not see the problem immediately, but bear with me. Wesley is a man skilled in fighting both with archaic weapons and guns. He’s ruthless and reckless. He has magic at his call, boosted by a mystical reservoir that we have no way to calculate. And he’s very, very angry.”
Methos paused for a moment before coming to a rather alarming conclusion. “With Watchers. He blames you, and by connection us, for his loss.”
“Precisely. And according to Angel, Illyria is fiercely protective of her guide. She was most distraught at his first death and Angel says she will stop at nothing to protect Wesley.”
“Peterson,” Methos breathed. “She’s strong enough to rip a head from a set of shoulders is she not?”
Giles nodded. “Easily. She has no conscience, no sense of humanity. She has some memories of Fred, but it is to Wesley she looks for guidance. We know they’ve been exterminating demon nests here in Britain as well as the European continent, but eventually they may return to the US.”
Giles pushed forward a picture of the former Watcher across the table. It was drawn in charcoals on parchment paper by a skilled hand. The man looked haunted, a rough scar running nearly all the way across his neck. Stubble was rough on his chin and he wore a collared shirt. The next drawing was of a lovely young woman, curling tresses falling down her back, and a sweet expression her face. The third drawing was chilling in its semblance to the young woman. Same facial structure, but it had been tinged with blue on eyes, hair and skin. There was some sort of armor covering her body and even in a still sketch the Watchers could easily see the innate power captured by the artist.
“Angel drew these for us recently. Wesley probably hasn’t changed much, but Illyria most likely looks like a combination of the two of these portraits. Apparently, Wesley does not like her to take the full form of Fred.”
“How precisely does this concern us? We don’t communicate with our subjects.” Joe peered at the drawings closely, obviously remembering every detail to tell MacLeod when he got home.
“Perhaps not, but I know you talk to other Watchers. If Wes wishes to hide, he will, whether or not he’s killing someone who challenges him. Willow is one of the most powerful witches on the planet, if not the most powerful. She still cannot find them. They do not wish to be found, and anyone attempting to invade their…privacy…may not like the results. Please warn your fellow Watchers to stay far away. Angel believes Wes and Illyria will leave those alone who do not attempt to harm them, but it’s hard to say what they’d do if they caught a Watcher following them.”
Joe frowned, lips pursed. “You called us all the way to England to say to stay away from this pair? That seems a bit of overkill. Why couldn’t you speak over the phone?”
Methos had to disagree, but he knew much more about the potential consequences than Joe did. And Joe’s hand was still rubbing the cane, a sure sign that he was more concerned than he let on.
“Damn it, man, don’t you see? This changes everything. They will annihilate everything in their way. The Game as it was played is over. Angel believes Wesley will leave Immortals alone as long as they don’t instigate a Challenge, but he’s furious with Watchers.” Giles fixed Joe with fierce hazel eyes. “I remembered you from years ago and couldn’t risk another senseless death. It would have been such a waste—so I brought you here to impress the seriousness of the situation in person.”
He glared at them in silence for a moment before softening. “Maybe this was selfish of me; Angel said as much. Both he and Faith thought we should leave them be. We’ve caused Wes enough pain as it is. But I couldn’t just let this go.”
And then Methos understood something. Giles felt responsible, driven by guilt. He indeed feared for anyone that came between Wesley and his targets, but he also felt responsible for the other Watcher. He wondered what transpired between them when they worked together over that Slayer. Did they respect each other, work as a mentor-mentee? Somehow he doubted it, though it was obvious that Wesley was a much younger man.
Giles rubbed his face roughly and swept the pictures back in the folder. He didn’t meet either of their gazes, and when he was all in order he cleared his throat. “If you have any other questions, please feel free to contact the new Council.”
His eyes flickered their way. “You can tell your compatriots they can have the name The Watcher’s Council all to themselves now. We deemed that a bit anachronistic for the organization as it stands. It’s Watchers, Slayers, Witches and Demons now, all working to save this world from the forces of darkness. Seemed inappropriate to leave the name as it was.”
Giles stood, smoothing his hands over the folder. He looked around the room, glancing at the weapons from lifetimes of battles and sighed. He touched a pair of crossed rapiers gently. They were dulled with a patina of age, but still handsome and appeared as sharp as the day they were forged.
“You should also know the only things he took from his father’s house were a book on Immortals and a magical sword. The sword was of great value, I believe, and is supposed to give the wielder an edge in mystical combat.”
Giles nodded to them one last time. “Thank you for coming. I hope you’ve not found this a waste of your time.”
Joe made to respond but Giles had already slipped through the open door, leaving them alone in the silence.
~~~ ~~~ ~~~
The car ride back to London proper was tense. Joe stared out the window at the gloomy grey sky, breath fogging up the glass. Methos wished he knew what the man was thinking, but didn’t have the heart to start a conversation. He’d not lived this long without a great sense of self preservation, and it was screaming at him now.
An Old One, alive again. When he was but a young Immortal, he’d heard tales of the creatures that came before, the cruelty and thoughtless destruction. Their legacy haunted his days as Death, fitting deities to emulate. How ironic that one was coming back now, when he’d long ago given up Death and decided to live again.
The driver pulled up in front of a small hotel with ornately carved doors and held the door open to the lobby. He took their bags and handed them to the bellboy. Only minutes later, they were in adjoining rooms, looking out over the city.
“It’s amazing how little it really changes. The architecture, the technology, the pollution. This is still London, and it always will be, because the people will it so.”
Joe raised an eyebrow and poured himself a scotch from the mini-bar. “Feeling nostalgic tonight, Old Man?”
Methos smiled. “A bit. What we heard today is a bit much to handle. I’m not sure this doesn’t call for a beer. You want to come? I seem to remember a good, gloomy pub around here somewhere. Perfect for drinking the fears away.”
Joe slumped into an overstuffed arm chair. “No thanks. Too much plane time. Maybe tomorrow.”
The Immortal nodded and left Joe to his drink and his thoughts. There was little doubt the blues man would be on the phone to MacLeod in minutes. Downstairs, the lobby had a roaring fire and several snuggled couples, but that wasn’t what he wanted. He wandered outside, wrapping his coat tighter against the chill. It was a typical London Christmas, with decorations and howling wind. He couldn’t decide if he was happy to be back, or not.
Down a side street littered with discarded papers and cans, he felt that familiar twinge in his head. He slowed for a minute, debating what to do. If what Amanda said was true, something was unnerving the Immortals she saw in Paris. Perhaps if he talked to this one, in a non-challenge related way, he or she may have some insight.
He wanted desperately to believe that things weren’t as dire as Giles had made them out to be. Perhaps he was wrong, mistaken. There was always hope, right?
His decision made, Methos ducked down a half-flight of stairs and into a dimly lit pub. Dark and warm, it was the perfect place to beat the winter chill. He scanned the crowd, looking for a familiar face, though he doubted it would be anyone he knew. Frustrated, he slid into a booth and waited for the Immortal to come to him.
As the second one to enter the establishment, he should either issue a challenge if he were searching for heads to take, or leave. Since he was sitting, peacefully, it would give the other Immortal a chance to depart or come to see what he wanted. He was hoping for the latter.
But nothing happened. A frazzled waitress came to take his order, smelling like burned chips, and he ordered the house dark lager. She scribbled something down and stalked away.
Still nothing, and Methos was now intrigued. Maybe this was a new Immortal, someone who didn’t know the Game. If that was the case, he’d leave before any of Duncan’s desire to help the helpless rubbed off on him. He needed no new students.
The beer arrived, and over the waitress’ shoulder, he saw something that made his blood run cold. A thin man with just a hint of facial hair loaded coins into jukebox. He stood for a moment with his eyes closed and body tense, though Methos knew before he turned around his eyes were the color of robin’s eggs.
The man sighed and shook his head, heading back to his table. It was tucked under an eave, deep in shadow. At the table Methos could just make out the shape of a woman. When the man reached his chair, he held his hand out to the lady.
When she stepped into the light, Methos forgot to breathe.
She was as beautiful as her portrait indicated, with the same blue-streaked hair and disconcerting eyes. She moved like an alien thing, far too graceful for a human. Her head turned this way and that, scanning the crowd, and when her eyes lit on him, she snarled silently.
But Wesley took her hand once more, and led her to a small open space near the speakers. The song came on, a wistful Johnny Cash singing of hurt, voice low and rich. He took the former goddess into his arms, treating her as carefully as glass, and she followed where he led. It was obvious to any watching eye she was unused to this, perhaps even her first dance.
But Wesley didn’t care. He caressed her shoulder, her lower back, with the attentiveness of a lover and Illyria didn’t seem to mind. She looked up at him, face open and searching, as if her companion held the mysteries of the universe in his face.
Methos had to look away, embarrassed to have caught such a private act. This was not the picture of cruelty that Giles had painted. This was the tender communion of two souls forever intertwined.
It became as frightening as it was beautiful when Wesley turned to look his way. He watched the oldest Immortal with eyes devoid of sanity. This was a man who had been pushed beyond breaking and had found refuge in the damned. There was no turning back for him, and Methos knew without a doubt that they would annihilate anything in their path.
He remembered that look in his own face from long ago.
When the song ended, the couple remained entwined for a moment in the stillness. A heartbeat later they turned his way, and instead of making their way back to their table, they came towards Methos.
He held their gaze and indicated they should take a seat when they arrived; he managed a soft, “Good evening.”
Wesley nodded, signaling the waitress. “Good evening. I trust you’re having a pleasant holiday so far?”
A tad bit weirded out, Methos nodded. Illyria was examining him like an insect under glass. She titled her head and sniffed a bit before running sharp fingernails across the table top.
“I see you’re a Watcher.”
Too late, Methos realized his wrist was exposed.
“And an Immortal as well.” Wesley grinned. “How amusing.”
Illyria twisted her lip up. “I see no amusement. All he does is sit there.” She touched her finger to Wesley’s cheek. “Shall I damage him and see what he does? The last one was pathetic.”
Wesley was still watching Methos, and smiled as the other Immortal paled. “Not this one, my dear. He’s not playing that game right now, are you? Besides, I think the irony is amusing. We’ve not met anyone one else that could understand, but he might. How is it to live in two worlds, bent by a will not your own? Personally, I like this life.”
Illyria was distracted by something the waitress was doing behind his shoulder, but Methos didn’t turn to look. He didn’t for a moment think she wasn’t perfectly aware of everything. The Old One was fascinating to watch, though he was too concerned about his welfare at the moment to concentrate on her as much as he would like.
Wesley cleared his throat and tapped his glass. “How fortuitous to meet you here, or did you come looking for us?”
Very carefully, Methos answered, “No, not you. I wondered if I knew you, but it’s clear I do not.”
“But you know something of what we are. You knew who we were when you saw us, and you watch my companion as if she would snatch you up and eat you.” He leaned closer and grinned playfully; it was disconcerting against the chill of his gaze. “How do you know?”
Deciding that honesty was the best policy, or the least likely way to end up headless by the end of the evening, Methos said, “Your friend Rupert Giles is worried about you.”
Both of them went absolutely still. Methos could see something swirling in the depths of Wesley’s eyes, a disturbing trick for an Immortal. It was as if the little sparks of lightening were fighting to come out. But he remained composed. “Is he? How… fascinating.”
“Angel is as well.”
If mention of Giles got concern, Angel garnered shock.
“The warrior is alive? That is appropriate—he fought well.” Illyria looked smug, as if she had the answer to a perpetual question.
Wesley, however, looked as if he might faint. “Angel is alive? Where?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. All I know is that he was ‘looking for his people’.” The answer seemed to deflate something in the other Immortal.
Wesley looked at Illyria, though she appeared utterly unconcerned. “No, not yet. He can wait; I can’t deal with him now.”
They sat in silence for the space of another song, some warbling pop tune about the evils of ex-wives. The smoke in the bar swirled around the ceiling, pulling shapes from memory. There were many memories to choose from
, thought Methos, not all of them bad.
He wondered if Wesley and Illyria saw things in the smoke, but decided they had enough illusions to sort through.
The slender man shook himself from his reverie, sliding his hand down Illyria’s arm possessively. “This has been most enlightening. I think I wouldn’t mind seeing you again in the future.” He ghosted a smile. Illyria gave him a blank face, though her eyes were hungry.
Methos couldn’t help smiling faintly back. The couple turned and disappeared back into the dim reaches of the bar. The waitress brought him another beer and Methos watched the creamy head deflate, bubble by bubble. Little fingers of foam still clung to the glass, like drowning swimmers on a lifeline. He touched them with his finger, running it around the rim of the glass. It tasted bitter on his tongue and he smiled.
Whatever else happened, however Wesley and Illyria changed the Game forever, at least he still had beer.
Coming soon, the next in the series Special Brand of Crazy
. For a drabble in the meantime, please see the drabble Gingerbread
and a holiday FFA entry for Methos/Illyria Mistletoe