Closing A Chapter
by CC and Lara
This is a piece of amateur fiction and not intended to infringe on the copyrights of Panzer/Davis, Anne Rice or their publishers.
This is a crossover between Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and Highlander: The Series. It is the sixth installment in CC's crossover series, which can be found here.
General spoiler warnings for both VC and HL, though nothing too concrete
The night was chilly. I was sitting on the bed, wrapped in a blanket and drinking a mug of coffee, trying in vain to keep myself from freezing. I was ignoring Duncan's disapproving glances; my lover didn't like me bringing either coffee or cookies to the bed. But it was not my fault that the temperature had dropped so unexpectedly. I wouldn't have been surprised if it started to snow right now.
Winter was close, and Duncan and I would leave Paris soon. We would stay in Seacouver for some months and reopen the Dojo after a long hiatus. I would have preferred we went to Bora-Bora, but Duncan had insisted that we went back to America. At least we would visit Joe. Our old friend had been sick, and as we became more aware of his mortality, we tried to pass as much time as possible with him. We would lose him soon enough, and though this would always happen with those we loved, it still hurt.
My lover was leaving Paris tonight, though; he had contacted a sword collector in London, who had offered him a Scottish Court Sword the man had acquired some months ago. I had yet to finish some business in Paris, so I would wait for my lover to come back and then we would leave for Seacouver together.
Duncan was talking on the phone, confirming his reservation at the hotel in London. But I knew his mind was not there anymore, but on a pale auburn-haired vampire who was somewhere in the city taking care of some business. The boy had showed up here last night after ten years of silence, and it had disturbed my lover to see him again. It had disturbed me as well, though I had been able to hide my uneasiness. I couldn't let either of them guess what was going on in my mind.
Armand had appeared out of thin air, telling us that it had surprised him to know we were in Paris in this time of the year. He was here for a routine meeting with his mortal agents in the city. The boy had been his usual charming self, and for a change he hadn't tried to annoy Duncan in the least. We had had a pleasant evening. I was glad for that, but at the same time I was a little disappointed. A part of me was relieved that this unexpected visit wouldn't make Duncan more jealous than expected. But the part of me that still loved the boy... had realized that Armand was not ever going to come back to me.
I should have realized it when he came to Paris ten years before. Something in him had been different then, but the intensity of the moment had clouded my reasoning and I had wanted to see things that were not there anymore. I had lost my boy sixteen years ago, and the wound was still there, though it didn't hurt as much as before. Armand had killed my adoptive son, unknowingly, in an attempt to protect me. And I had driven him away, realizing only too late that he was not coming back.
Get over it, Methos. He cares for you still, but there is no love or passion in his eyes anymore.
It was true. My auburn-haired angel didn't feel the same love for me anymore. And he was not alone now. I had asked him while we walked down the Seine barely an hour before dawn. I had asked the boy if he was alone. I had needed to know. Armand had smiled, his eyes acquiring a luster I had never seen in them, his smile so genuine that I had wanted to take him in my arms and hold him tight. "I am not alone anymore," he had said. And then he had tilted his head and looked into my eyes. "I am happy, Methos. I am so happy that still I can't believe it. But tell me, are you happy too? Are you happy with your Highlander at last?" I had smiled, nodding and assuring him that Duncan and I had finally made our peace. And it was true. I was in love with Duncan, and sharing my life with him gave a new sense to my life. But I was in love with Armand too. And I was just too glad that the boy hadn't tried to read my mind.
"You still could come with me to London, you know?" Duncan's voice shook me out of my musings. He had come to sit at my side, and he was taking the coffee mug from me and placing it on the nightstand. He pulled me close, and placed his lips on mine for a heated kiss. I placed my arms around his waist, giving into the kiss and losing myself in the love and passion I've always felt for him.
I love you so much, Highlander. But I love Armand too.
I was not going to make the same mistake again and tell Duncan that I still felt love for the boy. My lover knew, and he was jealous enough just to have seen Armand last night. I raised a hand, running my fingers through Duncan's soft hair. It was short still, but not so short anymore.
"I can't, Highlander," I said softly. "I still have some things to take care of here before I can leave for the 'sunny' Seacouver."
He ignored the irony and smiled. "Aye. Just don't stay awake too late, will you?" He was trying, but he would not be himself if he were not worried about leaving me alone now that Armand had showed up.
"Alright. My taxi is already waiting outside." He didn't say anything else, but his eyes said it all. He kissed me passionately and then picked up his bag. "Good-bye then."
I threw the blanket away and stood, embracing him for a last kiss. I would miss the Highlander. But it would be only for some days. Soon we would be traveling to Seacouver and we would see Joe, and our life would follow its course again. And I would try to forget I had seen my boy, and that his eyes were shining with the love he felt for someone else. I was happy for Armand, anyway. After all he had suffered, the boy deserved to be happy at last. And I had Duncan with me. I too was not alone.
Duncan pushed me gently on the bed and wrapping the blanket around me, he lightly kissed my lips. "I'll be back soon, love," he said. And then he was gone. I stayed there, lost in thought until I felt a current of air coming from the entrance to the barge. It didn't surprise me at all that Duncan would leave the door opened. He was a firmly believer in the benefits of being in contact with nature, even if nature was freezing as hell. I left the bed, taking my sword with me just in case.
No, you do not want to look in this direction. There is nothing here to see in the shadows, nothing at all. Surely you will agree that here is simply blackness. What, that small noise? Just a cat. Not someone who is hiding here and has been concentrating on that interesting image in your mind too much in order to see where he was stepping. Turn towards your cab, Duncan MacLeod. No looking back.
Don't worry about your lover. There is no need to do so. No harm will come to him.
I frowned a little at myself as I kept standing motionless in the so convenient shadows near the wall. To accidentally kick a coke can simply was an unacceptable mistake, even though I had a rather good excuse for it. Not that anybody was going to blame me, apart from myself of course.
Silently I watched as the dark-haired man got into the waiting cab and drove off, his thoughts still audible even after the red tail-lights had disappeared around the next corner. Normally I would have left now, either to return to my lover or to find some other way to spend the night until Armand was back from his meetings. There was always enough to do in a city like this; the museums and especially the churches could have kept me occupied for weeks, maybe months. No problem to enter them at night; the lock that kept a vampire out had yet to be designed.
What made me stay there at the embankment of the Seine was what I had seen in the man's mind, the worried thoughts being projected all over the place, strong enough for anyone to pick up. And especially alluring for me, considering that what MacLeod had been thinking about was a certain auburn-haired, youthful-looking vampire who happened to be my lover. Enough to make me forget about whatever plans I might have had for the night and go exploring instead. I had meant to find out more about immortals anyway, and MacLeod was as good a starting point as any.
Immortals were not something new to me. After a few centuries of hearing legends about people who never died, or who died many times and came back afterwards, the fact that they were immortal had merely helped me in labeling them. I had kept a safe distance, considering it wiser not to get involved with them, and had never been much more than mildly curious.
Of course, after hearing of Armand's involvement with the immortals I had paid more attention to them. My lover had gotten hurt while dealing with them, that was enough reason for me to do some research. Knowledge could be valuable, especially if it might help to keep Armand out of trouble. A small smile crossed my lips. My lover sometimes had an almost uncanny ability to maneuver himself into difficult situations.
Armand had never really spoken about what had happened during the time when he had met immortals. What I knew had been gathered from glances into his mind when he had allowed me to do so, and from taking advantage of the fact that Lestat tended to be a little sloppy with shielding his thoughts sometimes when he did not think that somebody would dare to look into his mind. It all basically amounted to some names and faces, and jumbled feelings from Armand's side. Enough to make guesses at what had happened, but not enough to be certain that my beloved was not in danger still.
Firmly turning my mind away from the younger vampire, I tried to decide what to do now. The Highlander was gone, but he had not been all that interesting anyway. The only surprise was that he had met Armand, and was worried by it. Well, maybe worrying about meeting a vampire was not all this surprising; at least the man seemed to have some ability to think reasonably. I was not certain, but it seemed unlikely that an immortal could survive in case a vampire wanted him dead. Maybe they could handle swords, but that would never be a sufficient match to agility, supernatural speed and a more or less strong ability of mind control. The thought helped to soothe my nerves somewhat; being in an inferior position had never been something I had felt comfortable with.
No, MacLeod was not what I had been looking for. It was that second mind, still inside the boat, that had me intrigued. Far more controlled and guarded, radiating a constant alertness. Interesting, truly interesting.
I was about to reach out and scan the surface thoughts to find out more when the slim figure of a man wrapped into a blanket appeared in the open doorway of the boat. The sword in his hand made the scene appear somewhat surreal; certainly he did not expect to battle like that, did he? Amused, I approached, not deliberately making noises like I usually did when dealing with non-vampires. This particular immortal should be used to the way my kind moved, and he was wary and attentive enough to spot me rather quickly.
No immortals here, I could not feel the faintest of buzzes. Nothing. Just the barge, and I, stupidly dressed in my boxers and one of Duncan's T-shirts. And my blanket. I almost laughed at myself. I was relieved that no challenger was waiting outside. It would have been ridiculous, to say the least, to defend myself while freezing in this damned chill. But I hadn't really been expecting anyone.
I reached for the handle of the door and was about to close it when my eyes fell on a tall figure I had not seen before. A man, completely dressed in black and unnaturally pale, was walking towards me. I cursed myself for coming outside without putting something else on, but there was nothing I could do about it now. So I let the blanket fall to the floor, and tightening my grip on the sword I came out. Not that this would be of any use. I was well aware that I was facing a vampire, and that I was no match for him. But I just felt defenseless without my sword.
My mind was racing while I waited for the guy to come closer. Who was this vampire? What was he doing in Paris? At least Duncan was gone... if this guy had not crossed my lover's path. I could only hope that the Highlander was alright. And Armand? My heart skipped a beat remembering that guy from the boy's coven in Paris, the one who had tried to lock the boy to die in the sun. If this vampire was the same... If he was hunting Armand down...
Stop. You have to keep a cool head if you want to have the slightest chance of surviving this.
Slowly, and trying to make my mind a blank, I looked at the vampire, who was already standing in front of me. If this guy were an enemy to Armand I would not lead him to the boy. At least I'd try to do my best to protect him.
"My name is Adam Pierson," I said. It was no use to try to hide my name, it would mean nothing to him. I was trembling, if out of fear or cold I could not say. Maybe both. "Who are you?"
The vampire stepped closer, his piercing black eyes seeming to glitter in the night. He was examining me as if I was some curious specimen he had just found, or maybe he was just trying to decide what to do with me. He had chosen to make his presence known, that was obvious. But why? So perfectly still, a deadly creature who could do away with me in the blink of an eye. But he was taking his time. Eventually his eyes fell on my sword, and I could see a little smile on his lips. When he finally spoke, his voice was smooth and calm.
"An unusual name for an immortal. But if you prefer to be called like this, I will not argue."
It took some seconds for my mind to fully register the meaning of his words, but there was no mistake. He knew I was an immortal. I shuddered involuntarily, remembering all too well how that French vampire had tortured me once he had discovered I healed instantaneously. But the worst was that he was implying that Adam Pierson was not my real name. Just how much he knew about me? Or about immortals for that matter? He could feed from me eternally as I would always come back.
This set off all the alarms built in five millenia, and for a moment I seriously considered trying to escape. But I was just making a fool of myself. If this guy really wanted to kill me, or enslave me, I had no way to escape. And calling out for Armand was not an option. I would not place the boy in danger no matter what happened to me.
I forced myself to calm down and think. The vampire was still staring at me, but he was not making any threatening moves either, so it was safe to assume that he was not going to kill me right away. I knew I would survive if he only wanted the blood, but something in his eyes told me that it was very unlikely. And he had smiled at my sword. Now that I was aware that he knew about immortals, that smile could mean a very different thing from what I had believed at first. But there was no other way to know but asking him. And I was freezing.
"So you know about us? May I ask why are you here?"
Again the vampire took his time to answer, and again I had the feeling that he was toying with me. And that he wanted something other than kill me.
"Assume I answer that I have come to find out your name," he said. "And maybe something else. That should be enough for now."
I felt the anger rise in my chest. I was not going to freeze in order to amuse a vampire who couldn't give a straight answer at all. "So why don't you read my mind and get over with this?" I demanded. I was well aware I was gambling with my life, but it was out of my hands anyway. So much like the boy, and so different at the same time.
The vampire smiled, and then he motioned for us to get into the barge. "You are freezing. Maybe we could go inside so you put on some clothes?"
I stared at him for a full minute, wondering what was behind that face. What was it that he wanted from me. And then I nodded slowly, leading the way inside the barge. It seemed to me that whatever was going to happen it would at least be an interesting night.
Adam Pierson - or whatever name this immortal used when he thought about himself - was cautious, I would grant him that. And not an idiot, or he would have tried escaping me. In that case I would have been forced to follow him, of course, to make certain he did not attempt any rash actions. It would not have been pleasant to do so, but there would not have been any hesitation from my side if it had been necessary to do away with him. However it was that one removed an immortal. Another thing I was determined to find out. The sword was an interesting hint already; nobody carried a weapon like that nowadays without good reason.
I followed him inside the barge, wondering for a moment why anybody would want to live on a boat. The thought did not seem very appealing to me, but that was probably due to being used to having a handy basement or a garden near just in case a safe resting place for the day was required. A boat was hardly suitable for vampires.
Once inside, I felt free to take a look around. A little too dark for my taste, I preferred bright, spacious rooms at the moment. Sparse furniture, some decoration that ranged through several centuries. Even if neither man had been here when I arrived, a look at this collection would have told me that they were living longer than normal. Certain items tend to accumulate over the years, and they never show up in collections of antique lovers. Only groups like the Talamasca could rival a vampire's assemblage of junk.
"Your lover's taste in art is... interesting," I commented politely, looking at a few small modern statues, occupying myself while my host was watching all my moves.
Still wary, are you? I do not mean you any harm, not because of what you are. What you did may be a different matter altogether.
I caught myself lowering my shields as I thought this, an almost unconscious gesture in a conversation between vampires. The immortal could not read my thoughts, of course, so he could not grasp what I had meant as a calming move.
His tension was beginning to annoy me a little. It would have been fine in a prey, but I meant to talk to him, not kill him. And a conversation partner who seemed constantly ready to bolt at the slightest threatening move or noise was not quite my idea of interesting company.
Eventually I took a seat on a chair, hoping that this would at least help to some extent to soothe my host's nerves. I tried to remember all the tricks I had ever used to make a person less nervous, a somewhat puzzling thing for me to do. Usually I tried to keep everybody a little on their toes around me, but I had the suspicion that if I attempted any of that with this immortal, he'd be gone in the blink of an eye. And he looked like a good runner to me.
"Armand will probably come to visit you again," I said conversationally, studying the sleeve of my shirt and deciding that I did not particularly like the look of it. Something about the seam was wrong. Looking up again, I studied his face.
The immortal's eyes had widened at once.
Not letting go of his sword, the man stepped forward a little, leaving the safety of the wall shielding his back. Interesting to see that my lover's name could rouse him like this. I would have to investigate; the look on his face, wavering somewhere between wariness and curiosity, was beginning to make me wonder just who this Adam Pierson really was. Armand had spoken about an immortal lover once, but I had not asked him for details when I had realized that their relationship had definitely ended. Indeed we had come to Paris several years ago so Armand could say goodbye to him.
Considering that this particular immortal did not look too shocked at the prospect of Armand coming to visit him again, he probably liked him. I wished I had a quiet hour on my own now to think this all through.
"So you know him? He didn't mention coming here with someone..." he said, sounding pensive as he trailed off. So tempting to sneak a look into his mind and find out exactly what he was thinking in this moment... but again I decided against it. There was no need to do so right now.
"Maybe he did not tell you because you have not asked," I replied, uncertain as to how much I should let him know. Armand had spoken with him, and I had not noticed my beloved being upset, which he would have been if the talk had been unpleasant. And if Armand liked this man, I probably should not unsettle him too much.
I sighed inwardly. No toying tonight. And I had been looking forward to making the immortal feel calm before setting him off into a new wariness again. For training purposes, of course; I was getting less opportunities nowadays to practice. Almost a pity.
The immortal seemed to be thinking hard about something; trying to figure who I was, most likely. Ah, names would be a good idea to put him a little more at ease.
"Santino," I finally offered, waiting for my opposite to reciprocate the move. It would have been easier to learn his name by glancing into his mind, but I wanted to do it like this. The way somebody introduced himself could be speaking volumes about his personality. And I wanted to find out as much as I could about him, how he thought, how he moved. How he lived. And of course who he was.
Santino? It took a mere second for my mind to associate the name with a story I had read in the books. And what I remembered was not calming at all. This vampire was the Italian coven master who had ordered the attack on Marius, the boy's maker. His followers had set the ancient afire and then Armand had been taken in a ship to Rome, with a gruesome scene before a bonfire in between. This I had learned mostly from my readings; All that Armand had said about this painful event of his life had been "We were separated..." he had not talked about his life in Rome at all.
Quickly I tried to remember all I knew about Santino. He was older than Armand, so he was powerful in what one could call 'vampiric standards'. He had led this coven in Rome for over three centuries; a coven based on a similar structure and hierarchy as the one of the Catholic Church. Servants of Satan, austere priests of the Prince of Darkness, vampires who killed in his name and believed they were part of a grand scheme.
Armand had been forcefully introduced in this dark world, after having been born to darkness, as they say, in Marius' luminous world. A dreadful thing to happen to a child who was losing his home for the second time. The boy had been convinced that this was the true world for vampires and that Marius had been a heretic. Then, after a short training period, he had been sent to Paris along with a female vampire, Santino's former aide. Whether to control him or to be the power behind him I couldn't know. Either would be a suitable explanation.
This has been the reason for Armand to become the master of the coven in Paris, a coven I knew a bit more about. While Armand was here, Santino had left his own coven in Rome, and only surfaced again in modern times. From what I had read he and Armand were not on bad terms now, but they were not friends either.
And now this vampire was sitting on a couch in Duncan's barge and telling me calmly that he had spoken with Armand about me? It made little sense, but then the boy had mentioned not being alone. Was Santino his lover? Or had this been only a meeting of chance? It was difficult for me to reconcile the image I had of Santino, that of a ruthless and capable leader, with a lover who could erase as if by magic all the sorrow and pain from Armand's eyes.
"I am Methos," I said, not wanting to stay silent for longer. "That is the name I was given when I was born... about five thousand years ago."
Santino raised an eyebrow, but it was brief and for a moment I thought it had been a trick of the light. I hadn't expected him to be impressed by my age; if I remembered well the oldest among his kind were six thousand years old. I really didn't know what to expect from him. He would hardly gain anything from cutting my head; quickenings can only be absorbed by immortals.
"Methos. An interesting name," he said, an unreadable expression on his face. "Hard to place. And very rare. I assume you are the same Methos whom Armand has met about thirty years ago?"
It took all my control to try to keep a neutral expression too, but I could feel my heart racing. I wondered how much Santino knew about Armand and I. I was starting to believe that he was the lover Armand had spoken of, and this knowledge was troubling me for two completely different reasons. Santino was linked to painful events in the boy's past and even though I didn't believe him to be evil or cruel, I wondered what kind of relationship they had.
And even if I didn't want to admit it to myself, I was jealous of this guy.
But this was not important. I had lost Armand sixteen years ago; there was no return. I just wanted to know if the boy was happy and safe with whoever his lover was. And I wished for Santino to take Armand away. It was dangerous for him to come to Paris. There was always some unrest within the Watchers when the boy came near me. I could not ask Santino if he was Armand lover, but maybe I could ask him to protect the boy. It would depend on how this conversation developed.
"I am the same, yes," I answered, studying his face. "And I suppose you are the same Santino that Lestat and the boy... Armand mention in those books," I said, cursing myself for the slip.
"The boy?" Santino said, looking rather amused. "Interesting that he lets you get away with calling him that." His expression had changed as he spoke, and now he looked slightly thoughtful. I wondered what was going on in his mind. "I see you have read those infamous novels. I should like to do the same in case there are similar publications by immortals."
"There are none," I started to say, remembering my diary. But it was not a novel but my thoughts and recounts of the many events I had witnessed in my long life. The Watchers' records were a different matter though. "Armand didn't like it when I called him a boy the first time," I said, remembering the boy's reaction back then. "I am just so very old, and he does look like a teenager."
Boy? He called Armand boy? If I had been less used to appearing dignified and unmoved, I would have been pouting. This was my word. Well, the Italian version, at least, but that did not change the fact that it was mine. Armand would hardly let just anybody to call him that. To think that Methos was allowed to use it too was slightly upsetting me. But it did answer a few of the questions I had meant to ask. Specifically, it kept me from having to inquire more directly whether Methos and Armand had ever been lovers. Even though I might have preferred not to get to know this.
Ah well. The blood does not lie, never; I would have known if Armand had still wanted to return to the immortal. There had never been any traces of such a thing, only that one visit years ago, when he had wanted to tie up some loose ends. No reason to be jealous, or so I hoped. Nevertheless I made a mental note to find out what Methos felt for my lover. It always paid to be sure about things.
"Maybe he looks like a teenager, but he is far from being a child," I commented more calmly than I felt, trying to decide which direction to take now in this talk. Methos had read the books, that meant that he probably had a rather fixed idea already about who I was. It gave me some base to work with, even though Lestat's second-hand narrative and my lover's own story did not paint a very charming image of me. "Surely there are very young immortals as well, so you must be used to seeing creatures like him," I continued after a moment of wondering just how they were made. Certainly there was no blood involved, was there? Yet another addition to my growing curiosity.
I studied Methos more closely now that he seemed to have calmed at least a little. Dark hair, hazel eyes, prominent nose... I asked myself whether I had seen this face before. Would have been a tremendous coincidence, but by now I had learned not to rule out such possibilities. However, I could not remember ever having crossed his path.
"Allow me to apologize," I said, glancing at his wiry body and noticing the goose bumps on his skin. Boxers and a casual t-shirt were not much for mortals - and obviously immortals - to keep warm at this time of the year. "I am afraid I am making you freeze. Perhaps you would like to dress in something more convenient?"
Methos nodded slowly. "I'll be back soon," he said, and left and after a last quick look, probably to make sure I was not planning to attack him once he turned away, then grabbed some clothes at random and disappeared in the bedroom.
His leaving gave me some thinking space to order my mind again just a little. I was realizing that I had not prepared for this discussion well enough, and it was beginning to bother me. Relying only on some comments from my lover, a visit to Paris years ago, and the sometimes melodramatic memories of Lestat was not nearly enough to stay in control of the situation. Too much guessing for my taste; I was not entirely certain whether I could manage to outwit and corner Methos to make him give me answers without receiving too many in return.
I was beginning to understand how students felt when they had not done their homework. Stupid mistake.
If I wanted to find out something, I would have to first figure out just what I wanted to know. Whether Methos knew Armand or not was answered; whether they were still staying in contact too. I would have noticed something like that. So basically there was not all that much to this immortal, just that he had been a former lover of Armand. And that he had been involved in events that got my lover hurt at least once. Therefore, what was important was to get to know whether there was still danger coming from this side. Armand could be difficult enough to keep out from trouble under normal circumstances, if there were immortals
involved as well, problems could arise.
Very well. I'd just have to ask Methos how Armand had gotten hurt. Not this directly, of course. The man clearly was not fool enough to simply answer questions. Back to the old games again; at least I felt more comfortable being back on the familiar ground of coaxing information out of people.
A noise made me look up; Methos had returned from the bathroom, dressed in faded jeans that looked like they were older than his body and a loose gray sweater. Overall he was looking slightly more comfortable than before. A trench coat completed his attire, a little strange considering that we were inside, and that it was not this cold. Unless Methos was a devoted fan of the Matrix movies, there had to be a simpler reason.
I remembered that MacLeod had been wearing a coat too, despite the rather warm air outside. And that there had been some distinctively metallic noises coming from him when he walked. Hard to believe that immortals walked around carrying swords beneath their clothes, but it was the best explanation I could come up with for now. They were, admittedly, beginning to puzzle me more than a little bit. And I was determined to get at least some answers this night.
I took a seat on a chair, watching Santino with increasing curiosity. It was obvious for me that he was not planning to kill me, though with vampires one never knows. They can change their mind in the blink of an eye. But I doubted Santino would be like this; he just didn't seem at all like Lestat. I thought of offering him coffee, but I dismissed the thought. Even though Armand liked to hold a mug of steaming coffee between his hands until it grew cold, I didn't want to assume too much about Santino.
"There are some immortal teenagers," I said, resuming the topic of our conversation. "But they are few because they seldom survive the game." I paused, wondering if this was what his question had pointed at. I didn't really know how much he knew about immortals, but if he had spoken with Armand about me, he might as well know about the game. When he stayed silent I continued. "It isn't the same as with vampires. Armand seems, at least to me, capable of confronting a vampire of his age. But young immortals are not strong enough to battle against grown men and have to rely upon other abilities."
Something was different. It was subtle but I could detect a slight change in Santino, though I couldn't pinpoint what it was. Something in the way he was looking at me... I could swear he had shifted a bit on the couch, and with vampires even the slightest change meant something; I knew it well enough from my time with the boy. I berated myself silently when I found myself again thinking of Armand as a boy; it would only serve for me to slip the word out again, and I had the vague feeling that Santino hadn't liked it much.
But he looked completely at ease, aware of his power and of my uneasiness. He was looking at me, and when his eyes lingered a bit too long on my neck I couldn't suppress a shiver. But I forced myself to stay calm.
"Understandable that they cannot handle swords as well as adults, though the defense problem is not just for the immortals," Santino said. "Vampire fledglings stay with their makers for a while usually."
"For how long is a vampire considered... a fledgling? I suppose it doesn't have to do with the age at which they are made." My mind was drifting to Armand again; he had been rather young when he had been taken by Marius. But a vampire like Marius, or Santino himself... I could remember that Marius had been orphaned right after being made, and so had been Lestat.
"It's different with immortals, you see. We don't have a direct link with each other, like you have the blood. Some of us take students and train them, mostly when we find them wandering aimlessly and scared out of their minds after having come back for the first time."
There was no change in Santino now; he was sitting there and looking at me with an unreadable expression on his face. He was managing to look interested and detached at the same time. And dangerous. A regal being like Lestat had said in one of his books. A natural leader. Again I wondered if he was the lover Armand had mentioned.
"The first years are always difficult, aren't they?" Santino said. "Adjusting to a new kind of life always brings so many problems and fears. I have seen it happen many times, though I would dare say that for newborn vampires it is harder than for immortals."
I thought of this for a moment before speaking again. Vampires were made by a infusion of blood, but there was nothing in a man or a woman who determined that fate. Just being beautiful enough and crossing the path of a vampire. But immortals... We were born like this, and our nature was different from that of mortals since the beginning. There was no escape, even if we managed to reach the old age without dying. And that was not a good perspective; it was better to die when we still had enough strength to defend ourselves.
"It can be rather difficult, yes. One day we think ourselves mortals living a normal life, and the next moment we lean the truth, that we are of a different nature, that we will spend the rest of our lives fighting for this life we have. But we still share many things with mortals, we can blend more easily with them. We can pretend we are part of their world, at least for a while."
I paused, trying to order my thoughts and hoping Santino wouldn't take my words in the wrong way. "But you and I know that we are different from mortals, and that there are mortals who know what we are... There are the Talamascans... and there are the Watchers." I sighed, wondering if I was making sense. "And they get nervous when a vampire comes to visit an immortal."
I wondered whether Methos was aware of just how much information he was giving me on immortals. The old trick of supplying some facts and then waiting for the other person to fill in the holes and gaps was working better than usual here, and it puzzled me a bit that he was not realizing it at all. One should think that a creature this old had experience with hidden questioning. But either he really did not notice, or he did not care. Both would be a little strange, though his last comment explained it all a bit. If he was worrying about the Watchers, it could be forgiven that he was a little careless about his comments towards me.
"The Watchers," I repeated their name, trying to gather fuzzed thoughts together. Lestat had known of them, there had been bits and pieces of information in his mind, though nothing was very substantial. God knew where he had it from; could have been his annoying new fledgling for all I knew. Basically Lestat knew that they existed, that the Talamasca knew of them, and that they were potentially dangerous.
Stupid mortals. Why could they not leave us alone? There was nothing to gain in studying us as if we were their own private laboratory rats. The Talamasca had never been of help, they had only caused problems. Unearthing vampires during the day, stealing their property. Trying to spy on us. And two of them had even been accepted into our ranks thanks to their insisting on staying in contact with vampires. One of them I could not blame, her making had been an unfortunate combination of circumstances. But the other had been a fool to ever give Lestat this much attention.
I sighed softly. "Those mortals have never heard the term privacy, it seems. It's unlikely, though, that Armand has been followed by one of the members of the Talamasca. They normally know better than to do that." At least I thought that they did, considering that during the last few decades several of their investigators had been neatly deposited at the doors of their headquarters with very clear signs that they had come a little too close to the object of their studies. Nobody ever said that laboratory rats were not allowed to bite.
No, they would hardly have traced Armand. And still Methos worried about the two organizations knowing about their meeting. Raising an eyebrow, I gave the immortal a questioning look, expecting this to be enough indication for him to offer some more details.
Methos remained silent for a while, looking past me at the wall and seeming lost in thought. Ah, so tempting... but I had chosen to do this the old-fashioned way, so mind reading would have been like cheating. Not that someone would have minded, apart from me. Keeping my eyes on him, I simply waited for his next move. Waiting was easy, for me as well as for him.
He eventually shifted a little, glancing at my face for a moment as if he were trying to read something there. Indecision shadowed his features again, made me wonder just which choice he was trying to make right now. Was he asking himself just how much he could tell me? If he was truly concerned about Armand, the answer should be easy to find for him.
Finally he cleared his throat a little, apparently having come to a conclusion. "They have already tracked him once," he said, studying my face closely.
I frowned slightly. Armand had been followed by them? From Methos' words I was not sure whether it had been the Talamasca or the Watchers, but it did not matter. Investigators meant danger, among other unpleasant things. And my lover was prone to attracting problems like a magnet sometimes. So if they had managed to find him once, they could do it again, perhaps more easily if they had gathered experience the last time. I was rather sure that there had not been anyone following us during the last week, but with those scholars one never knew. The Talamascans were good enough to hide themselves from us; at least their stronger, experienced members had managed to do so several times. And they were stubborn enough not to let some killed members interfere with their investigations.
"Who did it?" I asked, almost hoping that Methos would say it had been the Talamasca. The Watchers were too much of a mystery to me still, and I did not like unknown factors.
Methos was still watching me intently. "A group of renegade Talamascans and Watchers, and only David and Joe's intervention was preventing them from hunting him down."
Sighing softly, I leaned forward a little, assessing this. Not good. Not good at all. One group alone would have been trouble enough. Renegades too, so they did not even obey those few rules that might have made hunting them down easier. It was interesting, though, to hear that David had known about this. And even more interesting that he had never deemed it necessary to mention it. I made a mental note to put this Talamascan-turned-vampire through a little inquisition the next time our paths crossed. He'd been getting away with far too much already.
"Joe is an important figure in the Watchers, I assume," I said, not caring that this might give away that I was not nearly as certain about them as Methos seemed to think I was. It was more important right now to get information quickly than to get it without anyone noticing. "Would he know if they were following one of us again? And would he tell you?"
At last. Santino had barely frowned, but something had definitely changed in his body language as soon as I mentioned the renegades, and the fact that they had tracked Armand already once. I had been waiting for some kind of reaction in order to tell him about my concern for the boy's safety in Paris. If Santino was not his lover, at least he seemed to care for Armand.
"Joe is not in Paris at the moment, but he would know," I said, realizing that Santino might not be as well informed about immortals as I had supposed. At least he didn't seem to know much about the Watchers. I was almost glad for it; I didn't want to imagine what he would do if he knew that I had been a watcher too. Either way I needed his help with this. "Let me make a couple of calls and we'll know."
Santino seemed to think for a moment and then nodded slowly. "Go ahead," he said. I looked around for my cell phone but couldn't see it anywhere. Finally I remembered that I had left it on the nightstand in the bedroom.
"I'll be back," I said quickly, standing and walking over to the bedroom to retrieve the phone. I didn't want Santino to get any wrong ideas about my real motives, so I came back and taking a seat before him I dialed Joe's number first.
"Joe? It's me, Methos. Yes, Duncan is in London right now. We're planning to be there next week." I paused. "Yes, Armand is in Paris. So you know." I shook my head and sighed. If Joe already knew that the boy had visited me... Damned watcher... I looked over to Santino, wondering how much he knew and how much I should tell him.
Whatever is necessary to protect the boy...
"Alright Joe. Thank you. Yes, I will tell him. Take care. Bye." Placing the cell phone on the coffee table I looked at Santino and decided to tell him all. The situation was not desperate, but it was serious enough.
"The Watchers are already aware that Armand is in Paris. My... watcher saw him last night when he came to visit me and Duncan, and reported it to the Chief of the Watchers here in Paris. Armand has lived here before, so they know who he is." I paused, wishing I knew if Santino was the boy's lover or not... and if he knew about us. "There is no immediate danger, but if you came here with him I would advise you left Paris as soon as possible."
Santino nodded, his expression telling me that he understood the urgency of taking Armand away, and that he appreciated that I was telling him this. I was relieved to know that he would take care of this, but I couldn't help the wave of sadness that washed through my soul. This was the confirmation that I had been looking for, even if Santino had not said it explicitly; if he had come to Paris with the boy, surely he was the lover Armand had mentioned.
I didn't let it show on my face though. If my boy... no, if Armand had found someone who could really make him happy, who could make his eyes shine when he spoke about him, I should be happy for him. And I was, but the human heart can be strange, and I, after having lived for five thousand years, was very human still. I looked over at Santino, wondering if I had been silent for too long, but his face had returned to being unreadable. He spoke suddenly.
"So you are being followed... we can solve that problem for you." It took me a moment to realize what he was talking about, and another one to decide that it was not a good idea. They would just replace the poor guy who was supposed to follow me... or confirm their impression on Armand, that he didn't care to involve himself in the game, that he was dangerous and needed to be eliminated.
"I can lose my watcher easily enough when I don't want to be followed," I said. "And doing it now would only convince them that Armand is dangerous for them." I paused, hoping the boy would forgive what I was going to do, or that he never got to know. If I wanted Santino to fully understand the problem, he had to know what had happened sixteen years ago.
"Armand lived in Paris for six months, and he got involved in our Game, killing immortals... That is the reason why renegade Watchers and Talamascans decided to hunt him down. Joe and David stopped them, and shortly after this Armand left Paris with Marius. So basically, they will just replace the guy and try to keep better track of Armand... and of you."
"Monitoring vampires is harder than following mortals. Or immortals for that matter. But I accept that you don't want to take up the offer." I did not quite agree with Methos' reasoning, although his explanation made sense from his point of view. Making those Watchers see that vampires were dangerous was exactly what I wanted to achieve, but Methos considered it risky. And perhaps it would also be inconvenient for him to have a new Watcher, one whose methods he did not know yet.
I'd have to think about this all. After all I had not said anything about not killing this annoying investigator. Only that I would not do it for Methos. Accidents happened, even to Watchers. Hungry vampires rarely checked who their prey was working for. But this was not so important right now. A day or two would not matter where Methos' watcher was concerned.
So Armand had killed immortals. Methos had not mentioned a reason, but I knew my lover well enough to make an educated guess. Armand liked, or perhaps had loved, Methos. Methos was immortal. Immortals, from what I had gathered, killed each other. It made perfect sense that Armand would attempt to improve the odds a little in favor of his friend, and that the Watchers would not like it. I wondered, though, why Methos seemed to object to it. Was it concern about Armand, or annoyance that a vampire got involved in immortal business?
"If you want me to take Armand away from Paris, that is not going to be a problem." I allowed myself to relax a little for the moment, still studying his face. "I would prefer not to have to do it, though. He is enjoying it here at the moment." Enough reason for me to remove the source of disturbance in our lives, and not simply leave like I would have done if I had been on my own.
And just killing those Watchers would make it all so easy, no matter what you think about it... you simply don't see the possibilities.
Methos looked a little sad at the prospect of Armand leaving the city, but there was also a certain amount of relief in his eyes. It made me wonder just how great the danger really was if we should decide to stay after all. A serious talk to Armand was definitely in order to find out how big the problems had been the last time he had gotten involved with the immortal society.
"Please keep him from coming to visit again in case you don't leave the city." Plain concern in Methos' voice, and I could not help appreciating it. That he cared a lot for Armand was clear, and I was certain that he was not faking it. Deceiving a vampire about feelings was difficult, considering that our kind tended to notice body language far more easily. Methos was definitely being honest. He did not like the thought of Armand leaving, but knew that it probably was necessary.
I sighed softly. Taking my lover out of Paris would not be difficult. But convincing Armand not to see Methos again would hardly be possible, especially when the two of them were in the same area. And if I told Armand that he was not supposed to see his former lover, he would think me jealous and probably start asking himself what he had done wrong, and when I would leave him.
And to think that this had started out as such a nice vacation... I was beginning to wonder just what I had done to deserve this.
"Can you imagine Armand completely ignoring you when he knows where you are?" I asked, trying to come to a solution for this all. The idea of Watcher hunting was looking more and more appealing. "He would not stay away, and I can't and won't restrict him like that." And I wish you would see reason... I'd even enlist Lestat's help for this if it would make you feel better about it. I'd ask Marius.
Well, perhaps not that.
"I can bring him to another place for now. But," I hesitated a little, then decided to make the point even though I did not like it too much, "he was your lover, and he won't simply forget about you."
This earned me a surprised glance from the immortal. "He loves you now. He doesn't need to visit me."
Methos fell silent again, and I tried to decide whether there had been hurt in his voice or not. Hard to know just what his relationship with Armand had been like, how it had ended. How much pain there had been for each of them. I should have gathered more information before plunging headfirst into this situation, should have been prepared for this all. A stupid mistake on my side. Maybe it was necessary to concentrate more on caution once again; I had thought it to have become second nature by now, but I was beginning to feel that I was getting out of practice a little. Five hundred years ago I would not have gotten myself into such a situation.
"I won't stay in Paris for long." Methos appeared to have reached some sort of conclusion. "Maybe I should join Duncan in London and not wait for him... Listen, I understand you don't want to restrict him. I just ask you to take him away as soon as possible. If he insists on coming one more time please come with him."
I shook my head decisively. "No. If you leave now, you disturb the patterns those Watchers know of you. They will notice that something is amiss, and will start investigating more closely. Add to that their knowledge of Armand's visit, and you place him and yourself in danger." I paused for a moment, thinking before I continued. "I can accompany him, and I can make him leave the country later. But what I cannot do is keep him from seeing you again."
I sighed, running a hand through my hair and realizing that Santino was right about not being convenient that I left Paris now. It would only alert the Watchers, and they would put the boy under a closer scrutiny, probably following him even if he left the city. I didn't want that. Armand was no longer a source of disturbance for the Game, so if he left the city with Santino the Watchers would just record his visit as part of my chronicles.
It wouldn't place me in any danger, though. I was Methos, the oldest immortal alive, and they were too busy keeping count of the heads I took every year in order to stay alive. And they knew only too well that I would have no qualms about defending myself if needed. It was Armand whom they had wanted to hunt down, and even though vampires were superior both in strength and speed, they were defenseless during the day. All it would take would be a fire in their resting place.
I looked at Santino, wondering if he was still considering the possibility of killing my watcher. From a vampire's point of view it would make sense to remove the immediate danger in a definite way; but it could be the trigger for a crusade against both vampires and immortals, and even though the renegades would eventually be defeated they could do enough harm before this happened.
They could track the boy and set him afire.
"You are right, I should not leave the city, and Duncan will be back in a few days. There is always the possibility of telling Armand that he is already being followed... but knowing him it would probably make it worse, and he has been hurt enough..." I trailed off, wondering just how much Santino knew about us. It had shocked me when he had mentioned the fact that Armand and I had been lovers as a reason for the boy wanting to see me again. I hadn't been able to discern if this was bothering him or not. But it was obvious for me that he cared deeply for the boy, and that he was going to do whatever was necessary to protect Armand.
"I wish you didn't harm the watcher, though. There is always the danger of unrest; somehow they seem to be less disciplined that the Talamascans and renegades have surged more often within their ranks. The ones in charge are the 'good guys'; if vampires kill them, the 'bad guys' will take over and this will start a new crusade against my kind, and the first one against yours."
Santino raised an eyebrow, his expression darkening. It was obvious that he didn't agree, and his next words confirmed it. "They have close to no experience with vampires," he said. "Besides, a dead watcher can easily be hidden until it is impossible to find out what killed him. People disappear all the time, but hardly anybody suspects that our kind might have something to do with it." His body language had changed from relaxed to challenging; again he looked the dangerous creature he really was. I would have been fascinated if this were not so important for me. "If your watcher disappears after having booked a ticked to, for example, Singapore," Santino continued, "his superiors would hardly suspect Armand or me having to do something with it."
"Mortals are weaker than us, but they are not stupid," I said, feeling the anger rising inside my chest. "We are not talking about an anonymous watcher killed by an anonymous vampire! We are talking about *my* watcher booking a ticket to Singapore and disappearing mysteriously after my former lover, who used to kill immortals when he lived in Paris, came here to visit!"
I paused, trying to regain control and completely aware that I would stand no chance if Santino felt offended and decided to do away with me. But I didn't care what happened to me at the moment. It was Armand's safety that was at stake, and my survival instinct always wavered when it came to the boy.
"I see that all the years have not taught you patience," Santino said, smiling and showing his fangs for a second. I shivered involuntarily. Even after living six months with a vampire seeing the gesture on another than Armand always shocked me. If he had meant to unsettle me, he had succeeded, but I could not let myself be distracted from my main concern.
"I know that vampires are powerful," I continued, struggling for control, "and that you are perfectly capable of doing whatever necessary to keep Armand out of harm's way. But you are not invincible, and you are not with him all the time. And Armand is just so prone to getting in trouble..." I sighed, knowing all too well I couldn't prevent Santino from doing as he wished. "I'm just worried for him." And I am worried for Duncan too, I added silently to myself.
Santino's expression darkened further, his tone cold when he spoke again. "Worrying makes you vulnerable, and it makes you hesitate. All you achieve by it is bringing danger to yourself and those you worry about." He looked more menacing now, and even as I tried to hold his gaze I had to look away. It made me wonder if this was how he dealt with Armand when they had a disagreement. I really hoped it was not so. But Santino was right about something, losing control would take me nowhere.
"Alright," I said, taking a deep breath and looking back at him. "I can't prevent you from doing things your way. I think you are wrong about killing the watcher, and know that I wouldn't hesitate to do the same if I thought it would be of help. May I ask where is Armand now? If I know the watchers well, they must have already contacted the Talamasca. They will not go hunting him down unless something else happens, but they might decide to follow him."
For a moment I contemplated the benefits of engaging in a staring contest with Methos. He'd not back down easily on anything, that much was clear, and I was rather certain that if I just looked at him long enough, with the right amount of menace, I might get my way.
But it would not be fun.
This entire situation was serious, I knew that very well. But it was not dangerous, not yet. Not if I could trust Methos about the Watchers not hunting Armand for now; and I was certain that the immortal was not lying, not where it concerned Armand. So, basically, I could as well enjoy myself while discussing things with my opponent. Such talks had been rare in the coven lately, with Marius having decided that he wasn't too fond of my presence. I didn't blame him, the feeling was mutual after all.
"The Talamasca is not stupid enough to follow a vampire," I stated, putting as much conviction into my voice as possible. "They lose members whenever they get involved with the subjects of their studies. Vampires, witches, immortals... they got cut too often to reach for the blade again." Although I had to admit that the younger members might be attracted by the thrill of danger. But the apprentices were not a danger, merely an annoyance. So full of energy and the belief that everything could be explained, measured, recorded. The older members with their stoicism were far more comfortable to have around. And more easily
Methos' insistence that I should keep Armand at a safe distance was becoming a little irritating. It had made sense at first glance - after all I *knew* Armand well enough to be wary - but once the fact registered that the problem mostly were overly curious mortals, it started to look differently. Some careful kills, nicely deposited corpses to convey the message... but my mind was going in circles. Methos wasn't going to give in on this point, and that made it impossible for me to just go ahead and follow my own idea of security measures. Upsetting Armand's former lover was not sensible.
"We shall see about your Watcher." Inwardly I gave up on it, although if I should happen to cross the path of one of them and be hungry... Nobody could blame me for following my nature. "Have you spoken to Armand about this? He has been here after all." Part of myself hoped that I would be spared explaining to my lover why I was considering interrupting our vacation. But at the same time I strongly suspected that Methos had kept silent about this all.
The question earned me an irritated look, which in turn confused me a little. Methos knew that I knew Armand had seen him, and in my opinion it would have made sense to speak about the Watchers. My lover was level-headed enough to see a problem when it stared him in the face. Most of the times at least.
"No. Armand wouldn't have appreciated it, and he might have gone hunting watchers." Methos paused, giving me a meaningful look which I purposefully ignored. "Armand did say that he was not coming back, so I decided not to take further steps unless he changed his mind. I assumed he would leave Paris with his lover."
I frowned slightly. "You should have warned him nevertheless."
It unsettled me a bit to think that Methos would have kept silent about this all if I had not happened to visit him. Would he really have relied on Armand to stay true to his word and never return? The man was immortal after all, surely he was aware that 'never' was not an issue with anybody who had lived for more than two centuries. Everything was bound to happen again sooner or later.
"You said yourself that it is dangerous for him to be around you. And still you keep him unaware of that." I let a bit of my annoyance slip into my voice, felt old patterns fall back into place. Posture, expression, how to look at him... it was all too easy to remember. I'd have had half of the coven cower by now. "You worry so much, and yet you would risk his safety. And that all to keep your precious balance with the Watchers?" I told myself not to go into this again, and moved on. "I wonder whether you would ever have mentioned a word of this to one of my kind, or if you would rather have left the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads."
Santino's whole stance changed, again he was looking at me with cold eyes, radiating power as he questioned my reasons for not telling the boy about this. I couldn't suppress a shiver, once more unable to hold the vampire's gaze. No mortal or immortal could. I was perfectly aware of this. And I didn't like it. Who was Santino to demand explanations from me? I was trying to keep the boy safe! Even if he didn't agree or understand the reasons for my actions.
I was angry, but I knew I had to keep a cool head. This was a vampire, and one rather set in his ways. And above all, this was the man who Armand loved. So I had to try to make him understand that though Armand would be in danger if he came close again, I would have done whatever necessary to protect him.
"He is not in any imminent danger," I said, again looking at him. "And if he had come again I would have found the way to keep him safe. Armand knows about the watchers, and he is perfectly aware that they would follow him if he came to see me." And I expect you to protect him now, I added silently. "You are right in one point, though. I never had the opportunity to tell him about the renegades..." I paused, briefly closing my eyes and forcing the painful memories away. This was not the time to remember. "I never got to tell Armand about the renegades because he was already gone," I said quietly. "But he was with me when Joe mentioned that the Watchers already knew about his involvement with the Game. He just thinks, the same as you, that they are no match for him. And about my reasons, all I want is to protect Armand. I care for him."
"It is ridiculous to think that you would protect him," Santino said coldly. "You are not capable of doing anything that Armand cannot do better on his own." His dark eyes were fixed on me, showing clearly that he didn't approve of what I had done. "But you can warn him, make him aware of dangers. And you failed to do that."
I felt the anger surging inside me with renewed force. Santino was not being fair judging my actions based on my words and whatever Armand had told him. He had not been here when Armand had come to Paris, broken and scared. Neither had he been at Seacouver when again Armand had come in search of someone who would understand him. I had pulled the boy out of it, and even if our relationship was over, I would not be accused of endangering him.
"He knows about the danger," I said coldly, barely restraining my temper. It would be no use to snap at Santino now; it would take me nowhere. "Armand knows, but he doesn't care. That is what got him in trouble sixteen years ago. I protected him then, and I would have done it now." I paused. "If you are going to kill my watcher at least take Armand out of Paris after that. It would be a good idea to change your usual resting-places too, or increase your security measures. Renegade watchers and talamascans can walk during the day."
Santino's face didn't change, but I could feel the cold anger in his tone when he spoke again. "Do not give me advice when you know nothing about those things," he said. "If a vampire does not want his resting place to be found, it will not be found. That's all there is to say."
"Fine." I said, giving up on trying to convince him that hunting watchers was not the best solution to this. At least he would protect the boy, I was sure of that. And I would have to leave Paris too. Whatever happened now I didn't want Duncan to be in the middle of it. And I didn't want him to know. But I didn't really have any hopes of keeping this visit from my lover, especially if the outcome turned to be my watcher's death. No, I would have to tell my lover about this... at least the relevant parts.
I looked at Santino, wondering what he would do now. After this argument I doubted we would ever meet again. And I hoped that he really left Paris with the boy. If he was happy... If my auburn-haired angel was happy I could only wish it lasted forever. Even if I never saw him again.
The situation was really beginning to turn ridiculous. To think that Methos would dare advise a vampire on how to find a proper resting place was something none of the others would ever believe me. Not that I would tell them; this discussion was not exactly something to be proud of. I had no doubts that I could convince Methos of my points, but to do that I would have to read his mind, find his weaknesses, his fears. Once those things were known, it was always easy to manipulate somebody into agreement. But I still hesitated to do that, because it would have been some sort of surrender on my side, an admittance that I could not meet Methos on his own terms. And I was not going to let myself be defeated by him. Better a stalemate than
nothing at all.
::Beloved? You are upset...::
I could only hope that my surprise did not show on my face. Hearing Armand call me was not unusual, most vampires were able to communicate telepathically after all. But that he could sense my annoyance meant that my shields were slipping, and that alone was unsettling. That Methos had managed to anger me enough to weaken my defenses was almost amazing.
::Don't worry, ragazzo, I am fine:: I replied, trying hard not to think about anything related to Methos. Armand would find out about this eventually, but I intended to keep it from him until we were safely away from Paris. I just didn't want him to get into trouble because of it.
When Armand spoke again, there was a trace of alarm in his voice. ::You are at the Seine?::
I sighed inwardly. This definitely was not my lucky day. It wouldn't take much for my lover to put the pieces together and figure out just what I was doing.
::You... you are with Methos?:: Armand was good at puzzling things out. Unfortunately he was also good at jumping at wrong conclusions when the opportunity presented itself, so I hurried to assure him.
::We are just talking, nothing more. Don't worry. I am not going to harm him.::
There was no reply, and when I tried to search for Armand's presence I could only find a very faint shimmer of upset, despite my efforts. Shielding, and doing it well. Under different circumstances I might have been proud that he had perfected the lessons from centuries ago, but right now it was not making me too happy that I could not find him properly.
Well, it was not too hard to guess what he was up to.
"Armand is on his way here," I told Methos, figuring that it would not help to keep him in the dark about it until he arrived. "And he won't listen to me telling him to stay away."
The immortal jumped to his feet. "Damn!" he cursed, looking as upset as I felt for a moment. "Stubborn boy..." He took a deep breath and then looked at me, his expression changing from anger to worry in an instant. "What are you going to do now? Can you please take him out of Paris?"
It was clear once more that he was worried for Armand, that he didn't want him to get hurt. All annoyance at me was gone, transformed into concern. I could almost begin to like him again, with this focus on getting Armand out of danger that he was currently showing.
"I will convince him that it is best to leave," I told Methos, not sure at all how I was going to do that. Manipulating Armand was easy. But doing it without him noticing it was harder; normally he just allowed it to happen and then went along with it. But he would hardly be willing to leave now that he had to worry about the meeting between me and Methos.
::Ragazzo?:: I attempted to find him, but without success. Our powers had been quite evenly matched five centuries ago, and by now it was showing clearly that Armand's maker was one of the Ancient Ones. ::Ragazzo, please. Stay where you are, I will come to meet you.::
Only a fleeting touch for a moment, acknowledging that he had heard me. But obviously he was not going to listen, since he disappeared again almost immediately. His mental signal had already been much closer, and I could only wonder how he managed to move this fast. Hopefully he was remembering that mortals shouldn't see him flying or anything, it only caused trouble and filled the yellow press. And it always was embarrassing to explain those articles to people like Marius. For a moment I wondered if immortals had the same problem; surviving being run over by cars and such certainly caused commotions as well.
Slowly I stood up, concentrating on not starting to pace. There wasn't much we could do apart from waiting for Armand to arrive, and then explain away the situation.
I was pacing along the length of the barge, fighting the urge to go out and wait for the boy on the dock. It would do no good to give my watcher more things to report. I just hoped that Armand managed to slip past him, to somehow come into the barge without my watcher noticing. Santino was standing a few paces away, his expression closed as we waited for the boy to arrive. I wondered what he would do now, how he would convince Armand that it was best to leave Paris. I really had no doubts that he would find a way to shake some sense into that stubborn auburn-haired boy. Not after the conversation we had had tonight.
Again I wondered about his relationship with Armand. It was clear for me that Santino cared for the boy, and that he would do whatever necessary to keep his lover out of harm's way. His lover... Say good-bye, Methos. This might be the last time you see that youthful face, and you must not wish for it to be otherwise. Armand will leave with Santino to never come back again. And I will go back to Duncan, and try to explain my lover that he need not worry because two vampires came to visit while he was away.
I just hoped the boy didn't do something rash... like killing my watcher. The thought had come suddenly to my mind, and I stopped pacing, my eyes turning to Santino, knowing all too well that he would not understand my concern. He would probably approve if Armand did away with the poor guy. But there was an important difference between them: Santino was too focused on security measures to kill recklessly.
"Do you think that Armand might... consider killing my watcher himself?" I asked, hoping that Santino would stop him if that were the case. "I already know your opinion on this, and that nothing I say will change your mind. But..." I sighed, frustrated at trying to say this without implying that Armand would not be careful. He seldom was when upset, and surely Santino was aware of this. "I just don't want him to get in any more trouble," I said finally.
Santino gave me a somewhat understanding look. "I don't believe that he will harm your watcher," he said calmly. "Killing and then hiding the corpse takes time, and Armand is rushing here as quickly as he can. I doubt that he will want to waste any time with a mortal right now."
He was right. If Armand was worried about this conversation he would certainly be here in no time. "Then all we can do is wait..." I said, letting myself drop on a couch. "You might have been right," I admitted, looking at Santino. "I should have taken into account something like this. But still... Either way he might have gotten into trouble. He always does when he comes near me." I shrugged. "Lestat was right. Please just take him away from Paris."
Santino nodded, looking quite composed, no trace of the earlier annoyance in his dark eyes. "I will do that," he said. "Preferably after you explain to Armand why it is necessary."
So I would have to tell the boy about this. It seemed fair, after all the danger came from the watchers this time. And with Santino here I was certain that the boy wouldn't do anything rash. Whatever they decided to do about this, Santino would make sure that Armand was be safe. It was enough for me.
"Of course I will explain things to him. But I will only be able to do that if he is calm." And I expect you to calm him, I added silently. "Did he say..."
Santino turned his eyes to the door, and I realized that Armand had arrived at the dock. A moment later the boy was inside the barge, his long hair wild and tangled, his eyes full of uncertainty. He looked first at Santino and then at me, and something like a soft sigh escaped his lips. Then he approached to his lover. "Is everything alright?" he asked, again looking from Santino to me.
Armand looked as if he had been expecting to find Methos and me at each other's throats. Metaphorically speaking in Methos' case, of course. He was standing in front of me, and I was highly tempted to gather him close and calm him in my arms. But that would be an offense to Methos, and no matter how much I disagreed with him, there was no reason to rub it in that Armand was no longer his companion. No need to make an enemy out of someone who could be around in five hundred years and decide to have his revenge.
"Don't worry, ragazzo," I told him calmly. "Methos and I have been having a rather pleasant discussion." And I am certain that you will want to know exactly what it was about, I thought, shielding my mind. If he saw the more heated bits of our talk, Armand would probably react badly, no matter what we told him.
"That's right," came a short confirmation from Methos' direction after Armand had shot him a brief glance.
"You just talked?" Armand asked, giving me a wary look before turning to face Methos again. He studied the immortal for a while, and I wondered whether he was reading his mind or not. The possibility couldn't be ruled out. "Then why were you both upset?"
"We had a little... dispute," I offered, watching as he sat down on the low wooden table, at exactly the same distance to me and Methos. "A disagreement of sorts."
This earned me a suspecting look.
"Not about you," I hastened to assure him. "About security issues."
I hoped that Methos would support me in this; the last thing I wanted was for Armand to think that we had been fighting over him. Just why did Methos have to be his former lover... things would have been so much easier if they had just been friends.
Methos shot Armand a warning look, which only confirmed my suspicion that my lover had attempted to read his mind. Whether successfully or not, I could not know. Normally mortals stood hardly a chance against vampires when it came to telepathy, but with Methos I was willing to accept that he had learned a thing or two about shielding in his lifetime.
"We were speaking about the watchers and how they must have already reported about your visit here." Methos paused for a moment, looking at Armand. "You know it is dangerous..."
"But there is no reason for it this time," Armand protested. "I didn't..."
He looked really unsettled, as if Methos' words had brought back some bad memories. I cautiously brushed Armand's mind, trying to see what it was that had upset him so, and was presented with a turmoil of guilt and distress. I was not willing to look too closely, the chance that it would upset Armand further was just too great; all I found out was that Armand had done something that had affected Methos personally. Combined with his involvement with the Game, and that the Watchers had been hunting him before, the only thing that made sense was that Armand had killed someone he should have left in peace. But I only knew bits and pieces of the whole story, so I could only guess until Armand confirmed it somehow.
His expression softening, Methos glanced at Armand. "I know," he said, his voice gentle, and I inwardly thanked him for trying to calm Armand. "But mortals can be silly sometimes. They don't understand, and right now there is a big fuss at the Watchers just because you came. Even Joe knows about it."
I wondered a bit whether Armand would accept being talked to as if he were a child, but there was no protest from his side. It could be a quite touchy subject with him sometimes.
Methos fell silent for some moments, apparently trying to think of the right thing to say now. He even startled me a bit when he shot me a glance that looked as if he were asking for help on this. I didn't do anything to come to his aid, but I did make a point to look a little sympathetic. The feeling was genuine anyway; explaining something to an unsettled Armand could be difficult.
"It's not what you do, Armand," he eventually continued. "It's what they think you might do. There has been some unrest within the watchers lately, with renegades trying to take over the organization again. They are still around, and they might try to find a way to hurt you."
Armand just sat on the table, looking ready to curl up in a corner somewhere and hide from sight.
"Ragazzo, we are not angry at you," I told him, wondering whether he was thinking that we were. "It is just that the situation is difficult here at the moment, so Methos suggested that we should leave Paris."
I was trying to sort out my conflicting emotions as I looked at the scene in front of me. The boy was sitting on that table, looking as if he had done something terrible and deserved a punishment for it. Santino was speaking to him gently, obviously trying to calm his lover. And I was standing here, unable to do nothing but try to explain things without upsetting Armand further when all I wanted was to gather the boy in my arms and try to make him smile. But it was no longer my place to do so. It had not escaped to me that Santino had called him ragazzo, the same word I used to call Armand when he was with me. It was a coincidence that we both would use the same nickname for him, but then he not only looked like a boy but, at least for me, was still a boy in many ways.
"It might be better if you leave, yes," I said, looking from Santino to Armand. "It's just a bad time to be here. And of course we are not angry at you." I would have said more, but how to explain things without making the boy feel that this was his fault. It was not. He had messed with the Game, that was true, but I should have realized that something like this could happen. I should have taken the time to convince him that I was perfectly capable to take care of myself. And I shouldn't have pushed him away from my side. Another regret to add to my long list.
"I didn't realize my visit would create such a problem," Armand said, his eyes fixed on the floor. "If there is danger then I am not the only one who could be hunt down..." He paused, turning to look at Santino with a mixture of uncertainty and worry. A silent communication seemed to pass between them, though I could not be certain. I looked away. "I am sorry, Methos," Armand spoke again. "I hope I didn't place you in danger from the watchers..."
"I am in no danger. Don't worry. I should have warned you last night..." I trailed off, again looking at Santino. I didn't know what else to say. It seemed that Armand would accept to leave the city, but he was upset and I was having a hard time just looking at him.
"You should have done that, yes," Santino said, looking calm. "But it is a moot point to argue now. If Armand agrees, we will leave tonight if we can manage it." Santino turned to the boy, seemingly waiting for his answer.
Armand nodded, looking more sad than shaken now. "I have no more meetings scheduled. It's only a matter of calling my pilot and we could be out of the city in a few hours." The boy stood and approached me. "Take care, Methos. I am sorry for everything." He looked around, as if remembering something. "Has the Highlander...?"
"Duncan is in London. He will be back in some days. Don't worry about him." I smiled a little. "It was good to see you, Armand. Take care of yourself."
"Grazie. Good bye, Methos."
Santino cleared his throat. "Do you want me to leave you alone for a moment?" he asked.
"No..." Armand said quietly, moving over to where his lover was standing. "We should go now." Santino nodded, and after saying good-bye they both left the barge.
I didn't follow them to the dock; there was no need to give my watcher more facts to report. If he ever got to make that report. I highly doubted that the guy would make it through tonight alive. I sighed, taking out a beer from the fridge and dropping myself on the couch. It was really over this time, had been over for long, but I had realized only now. I was calm though; Santino seemed to love the boy, to really care for him. And that was enough for me. I would have to call Duncan, tell him about the turmoil the vampires' presence in his barge had apparently caused. And then try to convince him than there was no need to be jealous of the boy. I would always love them both, but Armand was no longer mine.
Once we were out of sight of the barge, hidden safely in the shadows along the quay, I gathered Armand close to assure him that I was not blaming him for anything. I wasn't certain whether he was thinking like that right now, but even if there was no need to calm him, an embrace never hurt. For a little while he had looked so lost, so uncertain, almost as if he had been expecting Methos and me to walk out on him.
::I love you:: I told him, choosing telepathic speech instead of voicing my thoughts. Words were too cut off sometimes, while thoughts could carry far more feeling. ::Ti amo, ragazzo:: I repeated, slowly stroking unruly auburn curls. Armand's hair hadn't looked like that when we had left the hotel in the evening. It had been neatly combed and held together at the nape of his neck with a ribbon; now it was positively windswept, making me wonder just how much he had hurried to get to the barge.
::Love you too:: Armand replied quietly, his slender form completely still in my arms. "I'm sorry," he murmured aloud.
"What for?" I asked, placing a gentle kiss on his forehead. "That those Watchers are too curious for their own good?"
"That's not what I meant." A frown appeared on his face. "And you know that."
"I do. Ragazzo, you have no reason to apologize." I kissed him again, this time on his mouth. After a moment of attempted sulking he gave in, skilled hands making the rubber band that held my hair together disappear. His fascination with my hair never ceased to amuse me, and any others who happened to notice. Pandora, who would have been called his sister if those terms applied to vampires, used to tease him mercilessly for it.
The kiss turned from assuring to passionate rather quickly, and I no longer worried that Armand was upset. Touching was the best way to calm him, and also the most enjoyable. I bit my tongue to let him taste my blood, feeling him shiver in response as his hold on me became more possessive.
We would have continued enjoying ourselves if the sound of someone stumbling over a soft drink can had not interrupted us.
Armand drew back at once and looked around, warily searching the shadows for whoever was there. Mortal, immortal, vampire, nothing could be ruled out just now. Although the vampire option was highly improbable, because none of our kind would have dared to sneak up on Armand and me. Our reputations tended to keep others from doing that. Apart from Lestat of
course, but he was always an exception.
Which left the possibilities of mortal and immortal. And from what I had learned tonight about the Watchers, I was quite sure that I knew who had been unwise enough to make his presence known.
::We could do Methos a little favor:: I told Armand, at the same time scanning for the Watcher. Almost at once I found him; his mind was filled with fear as he tried to decide whether to hide or to run.
::Are you sure?:: Armand sounded somewhat hesitant.
::I am not thinking about killing him. Methos was quite firm about that.:: Stupid immortal, I added. It would have been so easy.
::Ah, I see.:: My lover was already moving towards the mortal, too fast for the man's eyes to notice before he was caught in an iron grip. For a few moments he struggled in vain, attempted to break free, but then stopped.
"What do you want of me?" the Watcher asked, voice shaking. "Others know that I am here!"
Neither Armand nor I said anything in reply as we carefully erased all memory of Armand's visit from the man's mind. I let my lover do most of it, only helping when he encountered difficulties; he was more experienced with how those people thought, and that always made it easier to find the right memories.
The Watcher had really seen it all, from Armand's first visit to the point when we had left the barge. It was downright shocking to think that we had been observed this closely. At least he had not written his report yet, had only made a phone call to his superior to inform him he would stay out for the night in order to investigate something.
He would not know anything of this in the morning. And the headache he would doubtlessly be nursing could easily interpreted as a hangover.
I hope you appreciate the effort we made, Methos. Draining him and then dumping the corpse in the Seine would have taken a total of ten seconds flat.
The plane was about to land in London. I was dozing lazily in my seat, trying to ignore the fact that soon I would have to explain my lover all that had happened in Paris. The day after the vampires' visit, Duncan had called me on the phone early in the morning, asking if I would meet him in London as his business there was going to take more time. He had already acquired the Scottish Court Sword, and now was waiting for another one the same guy had promised to get for him. My lover had suggested that I had our things delivered directly to Seacouver and met him in London. We would fly to America together when he was done. I had been more than relieved. Staying in the city had lost all appeal for me.
I had spoken with Joe, and convinced him, with no little effort, to keep quiet about what had happened in the barge that night. It seemed that my watcher had been unable to explain to his superiors why he had been so intent on staying the whole night at the dock on that particular night. The guy had called in sick the next day, and rumors were that he had drunk himself to oblivion and forgotten about the report. I was pretty sure that had not been the case. I could just see the boy and Santino draining the guy's mind of any information about their visit.
At least Santino had not killed the guy. I was so relieved that he had changed his mind. I could just see him convincing the boy that it was necessary to do away with my watcher for security measures. Not that Armand would need much convincing to agree with him... But I was grateful that Santino had chosen not to harm the guy.
So now all that was left was to explain my lover why his barge had been chosen as a privileged point of reunion for immortals and vampires. It would not be an easy task. He had been jealous enough on the night he had left knowing the boy was staying in the city while he was gone. And he would certainly freak out when I told him about another vampire coming to visit.
I was not going to give him any details.
I fastened my seat belt and waited for the plane to land at Heathrow. Half an hour later I had my luggage; Duncan's presence hit me as soon as I stepped into the main hall, and I looked around until I found my lover standing a few feet away and waving at me, a broad smile on his lips. I smiled in return and approached him, letting myself be enfolded securely in his arms.
"I have missed you, Methos," he breathed in my ear, making me shiver. He didn't seem to care about the people staring at us, and crushed me to himself in a possessive embrace.
"I'm not going anywhere, Highlander," I teased. "Unless you want me to pass out here..." He smiled and loosened his grip on me, and after a brief kiss he took the backpack from me and together we left the airport. Soon we were in a cab and heading for his hotel. We didn't talk much until we got to the hotel. What he wanted to ask, and what I had to tell him were not topics of conversation for a taxi driver to hear.
"Did something else happen while you were in Paris alone?" Duncan asked as soon as we entered the suite. He was trying not to sound as if he were jealous or didn't trust me, but it was obvious that he couldn't wait any more to ask.
"Apart from two vampires showing at the barge? No, nothing else happened," I said, concentrating on unpacking the few things I had brought in my bag.
"What? You mean Armand and someone else?" Duncan was standing in front of me, his hands on my upper arms, his eyes flashing with something between anger and worry. "Was it Lestat? I knew I shouldn't have left you alone!"
"It was not Lestat, Highlander, calm yourself. It was a vampire I had not ever seen before." The boy's lover... The one who has managed to erase the sadness from my auburn-haired angel's eyes.
Not mine anymore...
"Who was it?" Duncan had let go of me and now he was sitting on the bed and looking up at me.
"Santino. An Italian vampire who ruled a coven in Rome around the fourteenth century and for three hundred years."
"A coven master, you mean?" It was clear that my description had done nothing to put my lover's mind at ease. "Was he after Armand?"
"No. Santino came with him... The guy is Armand's lover, though I didn't know it at first."
"Armand's lover?" Was it relief that I saw in Duncan's eyes? "What do you mean, you didn't know it at first?"
"He just appeared out of thin air, and I invited him in."
"I was freezing." I stopped short before saying that I had been in my boxers at the moment. I had the feeling that Duncan wouldn't have appreciated it. I sat beside my lover and let him gather me close. "He is a nice guy..." In his own way, I suppose... He had seemed a nice guy until we had started to argue about my watcher.
"I can't believe it," Duncan said quietly, shaking his head and holding me close. "Where is that survival instinct of yours when it comes to vampires?"
"I'm here, Highlander," I said, kissing him on the lips. "I will always come back." And I meant not only survival, but also coming back to him. "I love you."
Duncan kissed me back and soon all thoughts about vampires seemed to have fled my lover's mind. His hands had become more urgent and his kisses more heated, until I couldn't think of anything but the strong body pressing me against the bed. "I love you," he murmured as he got rid of my clothes with surprising ability, and soon we were both naked on the bed and holding tight to each other, making love. His kisses washed away the last trace of sadness for what had happened in Paris. It had been a beautiful dream, but now it was really over. And I was in Duncan's arms, and I didn't want to be in any other place.
"Look at this!" Pandora exclaimed, almost pressing her nose against the glass of the exhibition case. The shopkeeper gave her a nervous look, quite obviously wishing that she would leave, but then returned his attention to another customer who was asking questions about silver spoons.
Obediently Armand and I stepped closer to Pandora and scrutinized her newest object of fascination, a small rose of glittering crystal. Quite beautiful in a fragile way, but I could not understand what was exciting Pandora so much about it.
"Don't you think it is nice?" she asked, looking at it from another angle.
"Very nice," Armand hurried to agree. After spending three nights with Pandora and being dragged into an endless chain of shops, we had learned to nod and smile whenever she got enthusiastic about anything. And to carry the bags once she had bought it and continued hunting for new treasures. It was wonderful to see her like this once more, even though it was a bit exhausting.
I was a little surprised that she was not with Marius at the moment. Now that she was so alive again, I had expected them to find together again and continue their endless quarrels. Apparently the prospect of being dragged into every single shop in London had scared the Roman away.
Pandora bought the rose, and had it gift-wrapped, though she would not tell us who would receive the present. "A friend," was all she hinted at, which left quite a lot of possibilities.
After Pandora handed her parcel to me, we left the store and slowly walked down Oxford Street towards our hotel. Neither Armand nor I had been planning to come to London, but the night after I had met Methos, Pandora had contacted us and asked whether we wanted to keep her company for a while. She had tried persuading, begging, asking politely and even threatening until we had given in. Not that either of us would have needed all the convincing, after all she was a close friend of both Armand and me. And we had not had any plans where to go anyway after having to leave Paris in quite a hurry.
We had not spoken about Methos or the immortals yet, though we both knew it would be impossible to avoid forever. Eventually I would have to ask what had happened in the past, and I hoped that Armand would answer. There were so many things I wanted, needed to know about the immortals, both for our own safety and to satisfy my curiosity. But not right now.
"Do you think we can return to the hotel early tonight, beloved?" Armand asked softly, his hand brushing against mine.
::I do hope so, ragazzo:: I answered, resorting to mind speech to keep Pandora's grin from growing even wider. Vampiric hearing could be such a nuisance sometimes, especially when gossip loving females were involved.
Armand smiled, a beautiful sight to behold. ::We will just have to lose her somewhere. She is old enough to be on her own for some hours.::
::You are absolutely right. We only have to hope that all her purchases will fit into her room.::
"Oh, look!" I heard Pandora say, her voice sounding delighted.
Reflexively I turned my head to look at the nearest shop window, and tried to find whatever she had spotted this time. It didn't seem right, though. Even Pandora would probably not get excited over a display of tennis shoes.
"Aren't they cute?" she continued. "Just like the two of you."
She definitely couldn't be talking about the shoes. I followed the direction of her gaze, and saw two men walking towards us at a slow pace. They were staying close together, hands brushing now and then, touching each other just a little too much to just be friends. Very clearly a couple. And the left one was very clearly an immortal whom I thought we had left behind in Paris.
Before I could even react, I felt someone grip my arm and drag me across the street, too fast for the passers-by to notice.
::Why isn't he in Paris?:: Armand asked, sounding absolutely confused as he stopped behind a rack of rain coats. ::I thought he would stay there...::
We both watched as Methos and Duncan MacLeod came nearer, stopping now and then to do a little window-shopping and looking absolutely at ease. Both were wearing coats again, and they were standing out of the crowd a bit because of that. It simply was too warm for that sort of clothes. But this was London, so nobody turned to give them a second glance. At least not
because of their attire.
A rush of air at my side was the signal that Pandora had followed us. "Just where did you think you were going?" she asked, shooting the rain coats an irritated look.
"We just wanted to avoid someone," Armand explained quietly, and I could see that encountering Methos again so unexpectedly had unsettled him. I wished I could embrace him, hold him and make him feel better again, but it was impossible to hug an apparent seventeen-year-old in public without attracting undue attention if you were another man.
"Avoid whom?" Pandora looked back to the other side of the street, curiosity plain on her face. "And why?"
"The two men in the coats," I answered her when Armand didn't seem about to do it. "As for why... a long story."
I should have told her immediately, that might have kept her from rushing back and getting a better look at the two immortals. Next to me, Armand sighed softly.
"I'm just glad she fed tonight," he said. I nodded in agreement; she could pass for human at the moment, the blood of her victim had brought enough color to her skin to make it possible. It was not pleasant to imagine what Methos would do if he spotted another vampire close.
Pandora watched them as they passed her, not hiding her interest at all, which earned her a somewhat irritated look from MacLeod, and a wary one from Methos. Hopefully they'd just assume that she was an American tourist or something like that.
"How much should we tell her?" I asked.
Armand shrugged. "As little as possible? But Lestat already knows, and Marius and Daniel too."
"So she can find out if she tries." Not to mention that she only had to read the minds of the two men who right now had her full attention.
The immortals turned around a corner, doubtlessly trying to see whether Pandora would follow them. Luckily she had enough sense not to do that, and instead returned to us, a thoughtful look on her face, an expression which I had come to dread over the years. Pandora was a highly intelligent woman, and once she put her mind to use it was almost frightening to see what she could come up with.
"It's strange," she said in a contemplative voice. "I could swear I have seen the thinner one somewhere. But the only name that I can think of is a friend of my father, and that was almost two thousand years ago..."
"Surely that is impossible," I commented after sharing an almost panicked look with my lover.
"You are right. He'd have to have been immortal or something." After this comment I was seriously wondering whether she knew already and just wanted to test us, or just thought of the situation as a surprising coincidence. "You will have to tell me later why you were scared of them," she said. "Right now, we have something more important to do."
"Dare I ask what?"
"Finding a tunic for Marius, among other things. He's been feeling nostalgic lately."
Next to me I could hear Armand laugh softly at the mental image this created.
"And once we are done with that, you two are going to tell me just where you met Methos."