Who Watches the Watcher?
A Highlander novel by Sisiutil
This story is fictional and does not contain any references to any actual persons living or dead. All characters contained in this story who appeared in the Highlander franchise are the property of Warner Media/Davis Panzer Productions, Inc.
Chapter 11: Joe's
The next day, in late afternoon, a trio of men sat at a table in Joe's Bar. Each had a bottle of beer that he sipped from every now and then. They'd talked for most of the afternoon and had run out of talk a few minutes before. Now they just sat in the bar, empty except for the three of them, each preoccupied with his own thoughts.
Two of the men lifted their heads and turned to look at the front door just before it opened. A fourth man walked in. He wore a long, dark leather coat and dark clothing beneath it. He removed his wrap-around sunglasses once he entered the dark bar. His head was bald and his face was clean-shaven. As he slowly walked towards the trio, they could see stubble on his head, as though he'd suddenly decided to grow his hair out.
"You've got your nerve," Joe Dawson snarled, struggling to stand as Marcellus approached their table, "comin' in here today!" Methos and Duncan MacLeod also stood, their arms reaching out to gently restrain the angry Watcher.
Marcellus came to stand before him, his face expressionless, except for his eyes, which seemed tired and saddened.
"I thought you might have some questions, Dawson," Marcellus said quietly.
"Yeah, I got some questions all right!" Dawson shouted. "Like what the hell you thought you were doin' dragging Terry into some goddamn firefight! You son of a bitch!"
Dawson grabbed his cane from where it rested against the table. He lifted it and made as if to strike the Roman with it. Methos and MacLeod reached out to stop Dawson, calling his name as they did so, but Marcellus made no move to defend himself.
"Do you really think you can do anything to me that would make me feel worse than I already do?" Marcellus asked Dawson. "If you do, please do it."
Dawson glared at him for a moment, then put the cane back down and awkwardly dropped back into his chair. He sighed heavily, then took a swig of his beer.
"What the hell happened?" he finally asked.
"May I sit down?" Marcellus asked politely. Dawson looked up at him, glaring again, then looked away and waved him towards a chair. "Thank you," Marcellus said, pulled the chair over, and sat down. "I assume Ortega's Watcher reported in?"
"Yeah," Dawson replied, "he sent in his report along with his resignation. I guess watching a drug lord scumbag like Ortega operate turned him off this gig."
"Really?" Marcellus said flatly, one eyebrow raised slightly. "Well then, you know what happened at the factory last night."
"Yeah, I know what happened," Joe snapped. "You finally caught and killed the man who killed your wife. Too bad there was so much collateral damage. And what the hell happened to Terry's body, anyway?"
"There was a fire, Dawson," Marcellus answered, his voice flat. "The whole factory blew up right after she died. I was exhausted from the Quickening. I barely made it out myself before I turned into a Roman candle."
"You think this is funny?" Dawson shouted. "You son of a…"
"Joe," Methos interjected, "you're not helping."
Dawson turned to glare at Methos for a moment, but then let out a long sigh and shook his head. He raised his hands to his face and rubbed his eyes, which were tired and red. He'd spent a good portion of the morning weeping. The phone call to Theresa's parents in New York had been the worst of it. They'd been inconsolable, as he'd expected. They were all Watchers, and they all blamed themselves for ever allowing her into their organization in the first place.
"I know," Dawson said sadly. "It's just…I've known her since she was a kid." His voice cracked, and he paused for a moment, then turned to Marcellus. "I know the what. What I want from you is the why."
Marcellus nodded, his gray eyes staring at a spot on the bar floor.
"I gave her every opportunity to withdraw," he explained. "I urged her to do so. She refused. Methos can attest to that. I did everything except physically restrain her."
"And why didn't you do that?" Dawson demanded.
Marcellus raised his head and looked Dawson in the eye. "When the Watchers wanted to execute you, and MacLeod tried to talk you into leaving, you stayed. How would you have felt if he'd knocked you on the head and dragged you out of there?"
"Angry as hell," Dawson admitted.
"Even though he would have saved your life?" Marcellus asked.
"It's not the same!" Dawson insisted.
"Isn't it?" Marcellus replied. "You had to be true to yourself and your beliefs. So did she. She knew the risks not just last night, but when she joined the Watchers years ago. I laid out her choices for her clearly and without deception. She chose, and her choice was pure and true to herself. That's how she lived her life, and how she died. May the same be said of us all."
The four men were silent for some time. Dawson and MacLeod stared at the tabletop, lost in thought. Marcellus looked across the table at Methos. Their eyes met in an unspoken challenge. Methos stared back at Marcellus, then he sighed quietly and almost imperceptibly nodded his head. Marcellus gave a single nod back then turned to Dawson again.
"Joseph," he said quietly, "she was one of the bravest women I have ever met. And in some ways, she was also one of the wisest, despite her youth—or perhaps, because of it. And coming from someone of my years, that's saying something. If you think it worthwhile, please pass that along to her parents, along with my condolences."
Dawson stared at the ancient Immortal for a moment. Then he nodded. "Okay," he said. "Yeah. I think that might mean something to them."
"Good," Marcellus said with a nod. "Now if it's not too much to ask, her dying wish—as strange as it may seem—was that I should have a drink here. It was to have been with her, but given the circumstances, I think she'd be glad I was having it with you."
"I'll get it, Joe," MacLeod offered, rising from the table. Normally he wouldn't have done so, preferring to respect his disabled friend's independence. But today Dawson was weighed down by the death of a young woman he regarded as a niece, as family—the closest thing he ever had to a daughter of his own. "What'll it be, Lucius?" MacLeod asked from behind the bar.
"A shot of Scotch whiskey, if you please," Lucius said. A moment later, the shot glass of dark amber liquid was in front of him. "It's what she reminded me of," he explained. "Smooth and beautiful, but with one hell of a kick."
Dawson chuckled quietly. "That was Terry, all right."
Marcellus raised his shot glass and the other three men raised their beer bottles.
"To Theresa MacNeil," Marcellus said. "The best damn Watcher there ever was. Present company excepted of course."
"To Theresa," the other three chimed in. Glass rang against glass, then the quartet drank and sat in silence for a moment.
"Listen, gentlemen," Marcellus said. "I just thought you should know that I'll be heading off for awhile. You might not be seeing me or hearing from me again for quite some time."
"Oh, like that's anything new," Methos remarked.
"Yeah, you're pretty damn good at that," Dawson said. "The only one better was that bastard Ortega."
"I thought you said you weren't gonna disappear again?" MacLeod asked.
"I've lived a very long time," Marcellus said. "For a thousand years, I lived for Rome. Then I lost her. For a thousand years after that, I lived for Alodia. Then I lost her. For nearly a century, I've lived for vengeance. And, truth to tell, I'm more than happy to lose that cold-hearted bitch. So now I have to find something else to live for."
"I could give you a few ideas," Methos said.
Marcellus glanced at him. "You already have, old friend. Notice, I just had a drink at Joe's, and this morning..." He paused and drew a deep breath. "This morning, I watched the sun come up. I haven't done that in years. It was…extraordinarily beautiful. Did you see it?"
"No," Methos answered, then smiled contentedly. "I was…enjoying the company of a beautiful woman."
Marcellus smiled and nodded. MacLeod and Dawson turned and looked at the oldest living Immortal, their eyebrows raised.
"Who?" Dawson asked.
"Anyone I know?" MacLeod remarked.
"Well, I'm not telling you two anything!" Methos responded. "You've both proven you can't keep a secret longer than two minutes!"
As MacLeod and Dawson began to voice their objections, Marcellus rose from his chair. The other three turned to watch him.
"I'd love to stay, but I really must be going. How much for the drink, Dawson?"
The Watcher waved his hand dismissively. "It's on the house. Any friend of Terry's…" Marcellus smiled at that. "Hey, that stuff about you going off again…you tryin' to tell me not to have them assign a Watcher to you?"
"Oh, my dear Joseph, please!" Marcellus said innocently. "I wouldn't dream of telling the Watchers how to run their quaint little organization!" He glanced at Methos, who looked away and coughed. He turned back to MacLeod's Watcher. "But whoever they do assign to me…just tell them to make sure it's somebody who's not easily frustrated. And…I wouldn't mind a head start, if it's all the same to you." He lifted his arm in a Roman salute. "Ave and farewell, my friends."
Two hours later, Marcellus walked into his basement apartment beneath the old warehouse. He shut the door behind him and automatically reached for the lights before realizing they were already on. He walked into the living room and took off his coat, tossing it onto the sofa. He then walked into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and pulled out a bottle of beer. He had opened it and was about to take a sip when he heard her walk into the room.
"So, did they buy it?" she asked, her voice flat and expressionless.
Marcellus turned and looked at Theresa MacNeil. She couldn't use that name anymore, of course. He had already obtained some very expensive, very authentic-looking forged documents for her. They'd obtain some new official ones later, when they had time. It would be one of several things he'd be teaching her. How to obtain a new identity every twenty to forty years, possibly more often than that. How to make it look as though you were aging when you actually weren't. And, most important of all, how to fight with a sword.
"Yes, I'd say they did," he answered quietly. "I'm a very effective liar. It's not one of the personality traits I'm proudest of, but it has proven to be very useful."
"Joe thinks I'm dead?" she asked. "Is that absolutely necessary? Couldn't we tell…"
"Theresa, we've been over this," Marcellus said patiently. "The Watchers think you're dead. If they find out you're an Immortal…"
"I know, I know!" she exclaimed, holding her hands up in front of her. "They'll hunt me down themselves." She leaned against the wall, her shoulders slumped, her face dejected.
"They've done it before," he reminded her.
The Watchers had tests to discover Immortals. The most effective was to inflict a mild injury—a cut—and watch to see if it healed instantly. Methos still hadn't told Marcellus how he'd managed to fool them on that one for so long, but the crafty Roman had some ideas. Nonetheless, for the most part, Immortals were relatively easy to detect. It was the potential Immortals that were impossible to discover—for mortals, anyway.
Potentials passed for mortals because they were, effectively, mortal. Marcellus had known several potentials who had lived normal lives, married, had children, and died peacefully of illness or old age. Only another Immortal could detect a potential, and only by passing within a yard or two of one. Even then, their latent Quickening was so subtle that it could be mistaken for a nervous spasm or a cold shiver. And until two nights ago, Theresa MacNeil, despite functioning as a Watcher in the field for five years, had apparently never been close enough to an Immortal to be noticed for what she was.
Two nights ago at Joe's, however, as he stood next to her at the bar, Marcellus had unmistakably sensed Theresa's latent Immortality. That hadn't surprised him. The real shock had come when he noticed the Watcher tattoo on her left wrist. He knew what would happen to her if she ever achieved Immortality. It had happened a handful of times in the Watchers' history. Each and every time, they had hunted down and taken the head of the new Immortal themselves, simply because that person knew too much about the Watchers and their organization. The Watchers never interfered—unless they had to do so to protect themselves.
But the Fates had taken a hand. They had, in a fit of perverse humor—or was it divine wisdom?—arranged for Theresa to become Marcellus' Watcher. They had thrown her into danger the first time, two nights before, to push the two into even closer contact. And they had placed her in mortal danger last night to make her Immortality manifest. Regardless of those strange sisters' reasons for it, Theresa had been placed in the company of one of the few men who could protect her.
And he would protect her, even from herself. He remembered the shock on her face when she'd revived last night in the spare bedroom, the confusion, the sudden realization. He remembered the anger she'd vented at him for not telling her until she remembered that he hadn't told Alodia either, and remembered why. Then she'd begun to understand why he'd told her the story. She had wanted, of course, to contact her parents to let them know she was alive. He'd had a devil of a time talking her out of it.
"Yeah, I know," she now said, her voice resigned. She glanced at the front door. "You locked me in when you went out." Marcellus nodded. "And you disconnected the phone." Again, he nodded. "You don't trust me."
"Theresa," Marcellus said with a sigh, "do you think you can trust yourself right now? After what's happened to you?"
"I just…" her eyes closed, and her voice caught. "I just keep thinking of what my mom and dad are going through right now."
They were Theresa's adoptive parents, of course. By the age of thirteen, when the precocious teenager had figured out enough about genetics to wonder how two blond, blue-eyed, fair-skinned Aryans had managed to produce a girl with auburn hair, brown eyes, and an olive complexion, they'd finally told her about their infertility and her adoption, insisting that they loved her as if she was their own. They'd certainly never given her reason to doubt that. Which only made this harder for her.
"They're probably going through a great deal of grief, pain, and anguish," Marcellus told her.
"So why can't I tell them I'm okay?" Theresa demanded, shouting in frustration. A tear ran down her cheek.
"Because their anguish would be tenfold if they knew that the organization to which they had devoted their lives was doing its best to hunt down and kill their only daughter. I would rather not put them or Joe Dawson in the position of concealing the secret of your existence from the Watchers. They would live in constant fear that one slip on their part would cost you your life. It's terrible, but it's better that they think you're dead."
"Just like your family thought you were dead," Theresa said sadly, but calming down. "And the way Alodia's family thought she was dead. And every other Immortal's family…"
"Things haven't changed that much, have they?" she said, her voice trembling. Her hazel eyes still brimmed with tears. She took a step towards him. Her hands reached up and pressed against his chest. He gently put his arms around her and held her against his strong body. He'd embraced her several times like this since her revival last night.
"You're not alone," he whispered to her. "I won't leave you alone," he promised.
Marcellus took her left hand in his, gently drawing it away from his chest. He stole a glance at her left wrist, where they'd burned off her Watcher tattoo with some mild acid that morning. It was completely healed, with fresh, healthy skin making it seem as though the mark had never been there. Her hair was dyed dark brown, almost black. She had changed into new clothes, a white blouse and long burgundy skirt; Theresa MacNeil never wore skirts. Marcellus cast an approving eye on the changes they'd made to disguise her appearance.
"You were gone so long," Theresa said, pushing herself back from him. "I was worried."
"I had some errands to run," Marcellus said smoothly.
He removed his arms from her and grabbed his beer again. He saw no reason to tell her about his visit to Andrew Howard. Once he'd determined that the man had submitted his report, which would establish Theresa's death as a fact, Howard's purpose on this earth had been served. The police and the Watchers would explain away the man's death as the first of many in a war between drug gangs struggling to take over the local trade once Albert Lewis had disappeared. Marcellus and Mick Porter had deduced Howard's culpability over a year ago. The Watchers would have taken him out themselves, eventually; he'd simply saved them the trouble. Marcellus would also sleep better knowing the world lacked a former Watcher with a drug empire at his disposal.
Theresa nodded, accepting his explanation. She knew they had to leave town and go into hiding as soon as possible. Though she hated leaving her friends and family thinking she was dead, Theresa wanted to live. She was barely into her first lifetime. And she was gradually realizing that Marcellus truly wanted to keep her alive, and she knew would have to do whatever he said was necessary to stay that way.
"Are you going to be my teacher?" she suddenly asked.
"I thought I already was," Marcellus said with a smile. "Are you asking me to be your teacher?" Theresa hesitated a moment, but then nodded. "Then I accept," he said, and a gentle smile curled the corners of her mouth.
"It was worse for you, wasn't it?" Theresa said a moment later. "Worse than for me, maybe even worse than it was for Alodia. You were alone."
"I don't know how you measure misery," Marcellus said with a shrug. "But it wasn't pleasant."
"That's when it started for you, didn't it?" she asked. "The loneliness?"
Marcellus looked at her, evaluating her yet again. She continued to surprise him with her perceptiveness. She had a way of seeing through his facades, of penetrating his defenses. He'd known only one other woman who'd been able to do that. He tilted his beer bottle up above his lips and emptied it.
"Yes, I suppose," he admitted reluctantly. "But we can talk about that another time. I haven't packed. Once I do, we have to go."
Marcellus walked into his bedroom. He pulled out a large duffel bag from his closet and began to throw clothes and other items into it. Theresa followed him into the room and watched him. She seemed to have a powerful need to be near him right now. Marcellus understood. He'd also craved contact, and comfort, from others when he had first become Immortal. But he had received scorn and rejection instead. Is that when he had begun to bury his feelings from everyone, including himself?
The Roman shook his head. There'd be time for introspection later. He had to get Theresa out of town and disappear before he was assigned a new Watcher—assuming they hadn't done so already. He stole a glance at her, standing in the entrance to his bedroom, leaning against the doorframe, her lovely face so full of anxiety. But full of hope as well. And strength. She'd need it.
"You're sure MacLeod doesn't know I'm an Immortal?" she asked. She'd been racking her brain, trying to figure out if she'd been near enough to any other Immortals to be detected.
"I don't think so," he said as he tossed some shirts into the duffel. "From the way you described it, you were never close enough to him, and he certainly didn't indicate that he knew. The only other Immortal who knows about you is Methos, and he won't say anything. I'm quite sure of that."
"Okay, good," Theresa said. Then her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open at what he'd said. "Oh my God! That was Methos! I knew it! You son of a bitch!" She turned around in the doorframe, her hands gesticulating, then turned back to face him. "I don't believe it! The oldest living Immortal! Right beside me, having a coffee, for Chrissake!" She paused a moment and calmed herself. She raised one eyebrow and cocked her head. "He was pretty…well-preserved for a five thousand year old guy…"
"I'm just guessing here," Marcellus said with a sly grin, "but I get the feeling you have a thing for older men?" He turned towards her, his gray eyes narrow as he looked at her through his lashes.
Theresa felt herself blush, then she got a little angry at herself for doing it. She never blushed anymore, hadn't done so since she was a teenager. Marcellus, though, could make her feel like a schoolgirl with a remark or a look, then boom, she went red in the face. Well, she had to acknowledge, he had twenty-five hundred years on her, so maybe she was entitled to feel and act so young. Nonetheless, she felt an urge to change the topic. Something about the two ancient Immortals had been bothering her anyway.
"So…what was that private joke you and Methos had about the Watchers?" she asked him.
"Oh…that," Marcellus said with a chuckle, throwing some socks and underwear into his bag. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
"Try me," she said insistently.
Rome, 88 BC
Late one warm day in autumn, in a quiet wine bar near the Forum, sat an Immortal so old he had trouble remembering his own origins. He was tall, dark-haired, and had a handsomely angular face. He wore the long, purple-bordered toga of a Senator and sat quietly, sipping honey-sweetened wine from a ceramic chalice. He sat alone, but was waiting for someone.
Suddenly the Senator's eyes opened a little wider. He sat up straighter in his chair and he looked expectantly at the entrance to the wine bar a few feet away. As a precaution, he moved his hand to touch the hilt of a sword concealed beneath the folds of his toga.
In the entrance to the bar, a figure appeared and entered. He wore a long scarlet tunic beneath a breastplate of shining armor. On his head, encircling his close-cropped dark hair, he wore a grass crown—the highest prize awarded to a Roman military commander. The grass crown was formed from foliage pulled from the field of battle and presented by the commander's own legion as a reward for exemplary leadership and bravery. He had come to the wine bar straight from his Triumph, the traditional parade of victory for a Governor or, in his case, a General returning with hard-won prizes from a new Roman province.
The two men spotted one another; the Senator rose as he relaxed and released his hold on his hidden sword. They smiled, walked towards one another, and embraced.
"Greetings, Methos, my old friend," Lucius Gaius Marcellus said.
"Greetings, Lucius. And congratulations," Methos added as he leaned back to admire the grass crown. The two men sat down at Methos' table, and the older Immortal signaled a nearby slave to bring a chalice of wine for his guest.
Marcellus looked around the wine bar while they waited. "Where's Constantine?" he asked, enquiring about another Immortal Roman of their acquaintance. "I thought he was going to share this drink with us."
"He had to run off to Egypt," Methos explained. "Some problem with the Pharaoh and his court. Again. So he's gone to try to negotiate an agreement."
Marcellus rolled his eyes. "Better him than me," he grunted. He had little patience for the Egyptians, their crumbling, corrupt kingdom, and their constant requests to renegotiate treaties. "Egypt should have been a Roman province by now," he remarked contemptuously.
"The Senate disagrees," Methos responded matter-of-factly. He was one of the disagreeing Senators; conquering Egypt, they felt, would require too much resources and earn them too much enmity in the region.
Marcellus raised his eyebrows. "Give me three legions and two weeks. Done," he said, his hand chopping horizontally to indicate the finality his impact would have on Egypt.
"You've had four legions for two years. Aren't you tired of playing soldier yet?" Marcellus simply smiled at him. Methos sighed. "Speaking of which, how were things in Iberia?" he asked, deftly changing the subject once the wine had been delivered and the two men left alone in their quiet corner to talk.
"Challenging, old friend," Marcellus answered as he took a sip of wine. "But rewarding. On the way back, I saw they were starting work on an aqueduct in Segovia. I think it promises to be quite a spectacular one, given the hilly terrain. We shall have to go back and see it some day."
"I hope we shall, though the way things are going, I have my doubts," Methos said, his eyebrows raising slightly.
Marcellus frowned. "What are you talking about, Methos? Some new intrigue in the Senate I should know about?"
The older Immortal smiled and shook his head. "There are always new intrigues in the Senate, but if they were of any great concern to us, I would have mentioned them in my letters."
"What then?" Marcellus asked, leaning forward and lowering his voice. He had known Methos for over three hundred years—long enough to know that the older Immortal only avoided one topic in letters that could be intercepted or read by prying eyes: anything related to Immortals and the Game.
Methos quickly glanced around to ensure no one could eavesdrop on their conversation, then leaned forward and spoke in a lower tone as well. "I encountered no less than five new Immortals during the two years you were gone. Five! It used to be I could go for a century or more without encountering one of our kind. Now scarcely a day passes when I don't feel the presence of another Immortal nearby."
Marcellus nodded in agreement. "I know what you mean. I encountered six while I was in Iberia."
Methos cocked an eyebrow. "Did you take any heads?" He knew his younger counterpart had a greater enthusiasm for the Game than he did.
Marcellus nodded yet again. "Three. One was trying to lead an uprising—no choice there. The other two were too pig-headed to back down. Two more were smarter and went on their way. Oh, and one, I managed to win over. Brought him back to Rome with me; I'll have to introduce you. His name's Darius. He's quite bloodthirsty, I think you'll like him," Marcellus finished brightly.
Methos laughed softly and shook his head. He was loathe to admit it, but there was something about Marcellus and his irrepressible confidence and pride that charmed him, that had won the ancient Immortal over in spite of his general distrust of others of his kind. Marcellus' pride came not from conceit about himself, but grew from his zealous devotion to his hugely successful city and its civilization. Marcellus was convinced that the Roman Empire would last forever; Methos knew better, but at the moment, Rome ran the world, and Methos understood the wisdom of siding with a winner.
"What about you?" Marcellus asked quietly. "Did you take any heads while I was away?"
"No, I managed to talk my way out of things each time, or just disappear down an alley." Though Methos possessed formidable fighting skills, he preferred not to use them. He had lived long enough to know that quite often, victory came down not to skill and experience, but to luck. He had no intention of seeing his run out. "Though I was tempted to take on one fellow."
"Oh?" Marcellus said, his eyebrows rising. He knew of and accepted Methos' reluctance to take heads; it was one reason the two men could relax in each others' company. "Why? Did he want your head that badly?"
Methos shifted uncomfortably and grimaced. "No...he was an ancient Greek," he answered, his voice heavy with meaning. "My head was not on the list of body parts in which he was interested." Marcellus looked at Methos, his gray eyes opening wide, and burst into gales of laughter. "He kept following me around the Forum," Methos went on, as Marcellus continued to guffaw and wipe tears from his eyes. "I kept telling him, 'I don't want to fight!' and he kept saying 'Neither do I!' 'Then why don't you go away?' I finally said. 'Because I like you!'..." Methos rolled his eyes, earning more laughter from Marcellus, and Methos had to laugh as well.
Eventually, the two men's laughter died down. They emptied their chalices of wine and signaled for more. Their Immortal bodies' ability to repair damage—including that inflicted by alcohol—meant they had to quaff copious amounts of wine to feel its effects.
Marcellus took a deep breath and let it out; then his face grew more serious. "Do you think our numbers are increasing?" he asked Methos quietly.
Methos took a thoughtful sip of his wine and shrugged. "Possibly. The census seems to indicate that the mortal population is increasing, probably thanks to the Roman Peace. Why wouldn't the Immortal population increase as well?"
"I think there's more to it," Marcellus said thoughtfully, holding his chin in his hand. "Our roads, they make the population more mobile, including other Immortals. You and the Horsemen didn't leave Asia Minor for centuries. But now..."
"...all roads lead to Rome," Methos said. "I don't like it. The longer I live, the more attached to life I get. But with more Immortals around, it increases the chances that one day soon..." He drew his forefinger across his throat rather than finishing his statement.
Marcellus nodded. "It does make it difficult to plan ahead," he agreed. "And as you're so fond of pointing out, what if you meet up with the one who's faster, or stronger, or just luckier?"
Both men paused, lost in thought for a moment. Marcellus had no desire to die; he had so much more to do for his beloved Rome. As for Methos, he had no grand plans or schemes, but he was tremendously fond of living. They both sipped their wine in silence, lost in thought for a moment.
"If only we could keep track of them," Methos said.
"You mean like the census?" Marcellus said, frowning.
"Exactly!" Methos said, pointing at his fellow Immortal. "If we could only know how many of us there are...and their vital statistics: their age, years of training, number of kills, movements..."
Marcellus shook his head. "I don't think you'll find any Immortals willing to volunteer that information, my friend."
"No, of course not," Methos said. He paused. "You'd only get it by spying on them."
Again Marcellus shook his head. "How could we possibly spy on one another when we can sense one another's presence?"
"Yes, you're right," Methos said in a discouraged tone. Again he paused, then laughed softly.
"What?" Marcellus asked. "What's so funny?"
"Nothing. Well...I just had the most ridiculous idea. What if we got mortals to do the spying for us?" he said with a smile and a laugh.
"Are you mad?" Marcellus said, his eyebrows raised. He leaned towards Methos and lowered his voice. "Mortals? They'd destroy us if they knew about us, you know that! And if they spied on us, they'd find out how to do it quickly enough! The wine's gone to your head, my friend."
Methos raised his hands. "I know, I know! I said it was ridiculous, didn't I?"
Both men sat in silence and drank their wine. They called for more, which the slave dutifully brought to them, then left the two prominent citizens of Rome alone. Suddenly, they both exchanged a sideways glance. They quickly turned towards one another and leaned close together.
"If we make it a sort of mystery cult..." Methos began to say in an enthusiastic whisper.
"Yes, I was just thinking that!" Marcellus agreed, his gray eyes wide with excitement. "There would have to be screenings for members, indoctrination, and a strict set of rules..."
"Very strict," Methos said, nodding. "They'd have to do nothing but observe us, and record our actions..."
"...but they could never interfere!" Marcellus said, finishing Methos' sentence and pointing at his friend for emphasis. The two men paused and stared at each other for a moment.
"This could work," they both said simultaneously. They smiled conspiratorially and continued to make their plans.
Theresa stared at Marcellus, her eyes open wide in disbelief, her mouth hanging open as he related the story. "Do you mean to tell me," she said slowly once he was done, "that the Watchers...the organization to which I have devoted most of my adult life...was cooked up by a couple of Immortals, in a bar, as a drunken lark?!"
Marcellus shrugged apologetically. "Well, when you put it that way..."
"I don't believe this!" Theresa exclaimed, throwing up her hands and letting them fall to her thighs.
"Believe what you want," Marcellus said in an amused tone. "It's how it all got started. We never expected it to last this long, I'll tell you that much. For awhile, I thought the Watchers had disappeared along with the Empire. Imagine my surprise when I spotted someone with that tattoo following me around during the Dark Ages. Could have knocked me over with a feather."
"No. Wait," Theresa said, holding up an objecting index finger. "The Watchers started two thousand years before that, when Gilgamesh..." she glanced at Marcellus, who looked very much like a man trying very hard to avoid bursting out laughing. "What?"
"You people still believe that?" he asked, then couldn't hold back any longer as the laughter burst from him. He fell back onto his bed, hooting loudly, as Theresa glowered at him.
"Joe Dawson told me that!" she declared insistently.
"Oh, well then," Marcellus said between guffaws, "it must be true!" He continued laughing uproariously for several moments. "That...that was Methos' idea," he finally managed to blurt out, as he wiped tears from his eyes. "Stroke of genius, really. Didn't you ever wonder why the Chronicles only date back two thousand years?"
"The older chronicles were lost when..." she began to say when she heard yet another suppressed snort of laughter from him. "Oh, never mind!" She stared at him, her hazel eyes narrowing. "Are you telling me the truth?" she asked.
Marcellus sat up and looked at her. He took a deep breath, calmed himself, and his gray eyes held hers in an intense gaze. "My dear, I will make you this promise right now: from this moment on, I will never tell you anything but the truth, however unpleasant and harsh it may be. You have a long, difficult road ahead of you, and if I'm to be your teacher, I would do us both a disservice if I misled you. I need you to trust in me completely."
Theresa returned his gaze evenly. She looked into the steady gray eyes of the ancient Immortal and realized that of all the beings on this planet, this ruthless, cunning man was the only one she could truly trust now. The thought made a shiver run down her spine.
"Do I have a choice?" she asked him rhetorically.
He answered anyway. "Life is full of choices. The one facing you is simple: either trust and obey me completely..."
"...or take one of my swords and chop your own head off before the Watchers do it for you. If you can't do the former, do the latter and save us both a lot of trouble."
Theresa smiled and shook her head gently. "Boy, when you said harsh and unpleasant, you weren't kidding, were you?" she said. He only stared back at her silently in response. Theresa looked at him, then nodded. "I trust you, Lucius. I have to. But I won't keep my mouth shut like some meek little novice. I'll do what you tell me to, but if I don't like it, by God, you'll hear about it. And we've got eternity for me to chew your ear off, pal."
Marcellus watched her for a moment, then stood up from where he sat on the bed. He smiled and reached out with his right hand. "Deal," he said simply. Theresa took his hand, shook it, and nodded. "We have to go," Marcellus then told her, grabbing his duffel bag and throwing it over his shoulder.
Theresa nodded in agreement, then turned and walked out of the bedroom with Marcellus behind her. She looked around the apartment as they walked past the living room. "What about this place?" she asked. "If we're not coming back here for a long time..."
Marcellus looked around. "I'll have Methos and Duncan take care of things...sell the place off. You're right, we won't be needing it."
Theresa cast her eyes over to the life-size portrait of Alodia. "What about her?" she asked softly. "Are you going to have her sent to you?"
Marcellus turned to look at the portrait of his long-dead, beloved wife. He looked at it sadly for a moment. But then he noticed the smile, the beginnings of the impish grin on his lost love's face. He smiled back. Go on, my love, he could almost hear Alodia telling him, live, find joy again, it's what I would have wanted for you. Then he shook his head.
"No," Marcellus answered, and Theresa's eyes went wide with surprise. "I think I'll have Duncan sell it for me. He still has a few connections in the antique business." He turned to look into Theresa's astounded face. "It's time I moved on," he told her gently. "Time I found something else to live for."
He kept looking directly into her hazel eyes. Her lips parted slightly. She felt her heart beginning to pound in her chest.
"She...was your student too," Theresa said, nodding towards the portrait, "wasn't she?"
"Yes," Marcellus said. "She was."
Theresa swallowed. "Do you think...you and I..." she began to ask, her voice barely above a whisper. Her right hand raised and hovered mere inches in front of Marcellus' face.
Marcellus reached out and took her hand in his. He then clasped his other hand around it as well. Her fingers felt so smooth and soft, so delicate in his strong hands which were calloused by centuries of swordplay. His eyes flickered down to look at her breasts, which rose and fell as she began to draw deeper, more rapid breaths. He looked up and studied her beautiful face, framed by her dark hair: her dark hazel eyes, so anxious yet full of hope; her parted lips, so soft, the slightly thicker lower lip giving her the appearance of a mild pout. He longed to press those lips against his own, to feel once again the joy, the thrill of love, the relief from the bleak loneliness of his long existence.
But doing so now would break the delicate bond of trust that was just forming between them. He could not allow her to believe he had any ulterior motives. She had to believe he cared for nothing but her well-being. Only then would the lessons take; only then would she come through the transition to life as an Immortal with her humanity, her inner beauty, and her pure heart intact. Though he wanted, needed to draw her to him so badly, he knew he could not. The relationship of teacher and student was not one of equals; the relationship between two lovers had to be.
But he could wait. He had lived for over twenty-five centuries. It had taken him the first thirteen to find true love. What price was the passage of time, in exchange for a second chance? There was one tremendous advantage to being Immortal: it taught one patience. She would learn that too. He smiled at her.
"Ask me that again," he said, "in ten to twelve years." And thus began the lessons.