Heaven and Earth
Disclaimer: BtVS and Angel belong to Joss Whedon and Highlander belongs to Panzer/Davis. I'm just playing in their sandbox!
Sunnydale, Summer of 2002
"So, Dr Pierson, how soon can you start?"
"Something is very wrong here," Methos thought worriedly, leaning back in his chair as he caught the desperate glint in her eyes; "I wonder if I'll figure out what before it stabs me in the back? "Um, I shall have to get back to you on that," he said uncertainly, "As I've said before, I've still some research to finish at the Sorbonne…"
"Yes, yes," the professor said dismissively, waving his excuses away with her hand. "However, I'm sure as soon as you explain to your superiors how desperately we need to fill our lecturing position in Ancient Linguistics..."
"Yes…about that," Methos interrupted worriedly. "I was under the impression Professor Bulmer lectured here and I was being offered a fellowship, has Professor Bulmer left the university?"
Ah, yes," the interviewer said cagily, "An unfortunate accident…hmmm…great loss of…to the University."
"Are you trying to tell me he's dead?" asked Methos incredulously, "But I only exchanged an e -mail with him last week; what happened to him?
"A stabbing incident, I believe," the professor murmured, "I'm afraid I don't know the details."
And I'm afraid that you're lying to me, Madam. Methos thought wryly, his eyes narrowing suspiciously. What in Hades is going on in this place? Damn it, I knew this job offer was too good to be true…
Well, actually, he didn't, he admitted to himself silently as he smiled blandly at the interviewer. He knew his last paper, on Sumerian glyphs, had caused quite a stir in his small academic circle – as he had intended it to – and when he had been offered the fellowship at Sunnydale University, he had congratulated himself on a plan well executed. Being a fan of the Late Professor Bulmer's work, he had jumped at the opportunity to work with him…and the thought of living under the Californian sun didn't hurt either.
So why did sunny California feel a lot less inviting all of a sudden? "Give me a few days to think it over," he prevaricated, softening his words with another smile as her face fell. "I'll let you know by the end of the week."
"You promise?" she asked, her voice suddenly becoming small.
Why did he feel like the bold man who had stolen a child's biscuit? "Um, promise," he muttered. "And hope to die…somewhere else."
"Very well," the Professor replied, regaining some of her composure as she got to her feet. "I look forward to hearing from you. I'm positive you would fit right in. Our ancient Studies department is one of the more…dynamic…of our faculties."
"I'm sure it is," he muttered, mentally cursing himself for not doing a more in-depth check on the University. If Professor Bulmer hadn't died, he mightn't have picked up on the strange undercurrents until it was too late.
"We look forward to hearing from you, Dr Pierson," The professor murmured as he rose from his seat.
"Ah, yes," Methos muttered, summoning a polite smile. "Well…it's been nice meeting you, Professor Logan."
"And you, Dr Pierson."
Methos gathered his coat and gave the interviewer a polite nod as he left the room. Shutting the door behind him, he gave a sigh of relief and shook his head ruefully. Discreetly, he let his eyes wander over the students as he stalked down the hallway; on the surface everything was as it was supposed to be; students arguing and laughing in the hallways. Now that he was actually paying attention, though, he noticed it. The laughter was a little too forced; the nonchalance a little too studied. He had seen this before - in London during the Blitz; a population living under the spectre of death but striving to ignore it; striving to 'get on with their lives'.
Puzzled, he noticed how the students watched him from the corner of their eyes as he strolled down the hall, and he found himself wondering how high they'd jump if he made a sudden move…he had a funny feeling it would be pretty high. What the hell was going on here? Slowly, he walked out onto the grounds, sat on one of the benches and settled down to observe his surroundings. Sunnydale niggled at his sense of curiosity; unfortunately, it also niggled at his sense of self-preservation.
The grounds were awash with students leaving their classes; the college day was nearing a close. Frowning, he noticed how few were lingering to talk. Usually a university's grounds would be swarming with students planning their evening, but these students seemed very eager to get out of the open. Lost in thought, Methos let his eyes rest on the sun. There was still few hours left in the day, maybe he should give the town the once over..
Setting a brisk pace, he set out for the city centre. Considering the town's size, Sunnydale museum boasted quite an impressive collection of Bronze Age and medieval artefacts. If he hurried, he might have enough time to have a look before the museum closed.
Draping his coat over his arm, he basked in the warm sun and smiled contentedly. This was the life; no rain, no cold…pity about the whole mysterious-dead-body thing. Rooting around in his pocket, he pulled out a small, folded map. Two more blocks, then turn left. Walk straight past the hospital, and then take the first right. Satisfied, he pocketed the map and kept going. If he hurried, he would have a good hour to check out the exhibits. He remembered an email the good professor had sent him about a number of old Native American artefacts they had uncovered here a few years ago. They should be interesting to see.
The distant wail of an ambulance caught his attention and Methos raised an eyebrow as the vehicle sped up the street and passed him in a blur, the wheels lifting off the ground as it careened around the corner. He had seen an ambulance break the speed limit before, but he hadn't seen one act as if it was in a car chase - he half expected to see another one on its heels. Looking over his shoulder, he laughed as he saw another ambulance pull onto the street, albeit at a more sedate pace. His good humour faded, however, as the unmistakable presence of another immortal washed over him. Damn it, where did he come from? He had checked the watcher files thoroughly before he'd left Paris and no immortal was supposed to live here, it was one of the things he found attractive about the town. Come to think of it, the files had stated no immortal had ever lived here; which, now he thought about it, was rather odd…
Automatically, his hand reached for the familiar shape hidden in the folds of his coat. No doubt about it, this town definitely had him on edge. The poor bastard was on his way to a morgue, for crying out loud. The only challenge he'll be facing in the near future is how to sneak out of the coroner's office before they realised his heart had started beating again…
Shrugging, he walked on, hesitating a moment as he passed the hospital. Shaking his head, he snorted and redoubled his step. No doubt about it, that bloody Boy Scout was having a bad influence on him. For a moment he had actually considered going to the immortal's aid. He really needed to get out of Paris before it was too late. Next thing you know, he'll be taking on a student…
His good mood ruined, Methos muttered under his breath as he turned the corner. That was it; he'd have a quick look at the museum's collection and then take the next flight out of it. There was a midnight flight to L.A., if he remembered correctly. Looking up, he ground to a halt and stared at the cordon tape blocking his way; beyond it, stood the Museum. It seemed academia was a hotbed of crime in Sunnydale.
Seeing a policeman lounging on the steps with a cup of coffee, Methos hunched his shoulders and casually sidled up to his side. "Good day, officer," he said amiably, noting the distrustful expression on his face. "I don't suppose you could tell me what happened?"
"Robbery," the policeman said shortly, straightening up as he glared at Methos.
"You're kidding me," Methos replied, his eyes in a picture of surprise. "What was stolen?"
"Why do you want to know?" the officer demanded hostilely.
Taking a step back, Methos raised his hands in a gesture of submission. "Just professional interest," he demurred, "My speciality is ancient languages, you see, and I heard the museum had an impressive collection of manuscripts. I was in town being interviewed for a teaching position at U.S.C. so I thought I'd have a look…"
"Yeah, well, it was the armoury section that was robbed," the policeman said with a shrug. "So you needn't worry."
"Oh…I see…I don't suppose the museum will be open to the public before closing time?" Methos asked, uncomfortably aware of the antique sword in his coat - time to leave.
"Not a chance," the officer muttered. "This is the second robbery they've had in the last few months. They're not going to open for the rest of the week."
"Hmm...well, I won't keep you any longer, officer," Methos said, smiling genially as he backed away. "Good day."
Without looking back, he quickly retraced his steps, not pausing until he turned the corner. He couldn't put his finger on it, but something about this town was not right. Maybe it was just his paranoia getting the better of him. Checking his watch, he realised he still had a few hours to kill. He could get something to eat before making his way back to the motel. Seeing a small coffee shop, he stepped inside and ordered.
Staring sightlessly out the window, his mind went over the events of the day. Now that he thought about it, things were rather odd from the start. Take the strange array of weapons the motel owner had on the wall behind the desk. Many people, who never used a weapon in their life, display swords on their wall…but an axe and a crossbow as well? He pictured the weapons in his mind and immediately realised what he had missed; they looked… used.
Methos smiled absently at the waitress as she put his meal on the table and continued cataloguing all he had seen since he's arrived at Sunnydale. Glancing at the door, his eyes narrowed as he noticed a new customer stroll in. There was nothing odd about him, per se; what was odd was the waitress's reaction. Silently, he watched as the waitress slowly turned and studied the customer's reflection in the large mirror behind the counter, frowning as she pretended to rearrange her fringe.
He remembered the clerk had done the exact same thing at the motel last night.
Deep in his bones, Methos knew he should know what this meant; it was all so familiar. Why he couldn't pin it down? Polishing off his sandwich, he decided to walk back to the motel and collect his bags. He'd wait for his flight at the airport.
The first thing he noticed as he stepped out onto the street was the sunset; the second thing he noticed was the deserted street. Once again, Methos was reminded of the war years in London; if he didn't know better, he'd swear there was a curfew. "The sooner I'm out of this town, the better," he thought irritably as he threw on his coat.
He had barely stepped outside when he heard the sound of footsteps behind him, "I don't believe this," he thought, incredulously. Oh…wait a minute…yes I do." Rolling his eyes, he slowed his step. Sure enough, the footsteps slowed down too. His would-be-mugger wasn't exactly subtle. Methos thought swiftly; which would be more effective; sword or gun?
He decided on his sword. Nothing like a sharp, shiny object to make a mugger nervous; his hand curled around its handle as he swiftly turned the next corner. Spinning on his feet, he unsheathed the blade and waited for his attacker. He didn't have to wait long.
Raising an eyebrow, Methos relaxed as a middle-aged man followed him around the corner. He looked like an accountant. Seeing the man's startled expression, Methos smiled embarrassedly as he hid the sword in the folds of his coat. "Sorry about that," he muttered apologetically, "I thought…."
With a snarl, the man pounced, slamming him into the wall. "Bloody hell!" Methos gasped as his breath left his lungs. Ignoring him, his attacker grabbed him by the hair. Methos reacted instinctively.
He kneed him in the balls.
Howling in pain, the mugger doubled over and let loose a torrent of expletives. "Language, Language," Methos said, tutting under his breath.
With a low growl, his attacker jumped to his feet and lunged. With a cry of disbelief, Methos jumped back, barely avoiding a kick to the head. What the hell? Snaking his hand into his coat, he drew out his sword. Slowly, the circled each other, Methos nervously keeping his blade between them as he reached for his dagger; something was extremely off about this guy. He was unarmed but didn't seem the least bit worried about the great big sword waving in his face, not to mention the fact he wasn't even breathing hard…wait a minute…he wasn't breathing at all.
Unease crawled down his spine as an old memory surfaced. No, it couldn't be…he hadn't seen one of those in over three millennia; they were extinct…weren't they? With a sinking heart, Methos realised he had come to gunfight with only a knife…or should he say stake fight?
"Well…look on the bright side…at least now you know why the locals are so nervous."
Grimly, Methos went over all the things he knew about vampires – primarily, how to kill them. Stake…sunlight…holy water…decapitation! Well, well, well, maybe things weren't so bad after all. This, he knew how to do.
Methos attacked, feinting with his dagger as brought his sword down on the vampire's neck. For a split second, his mugger's feature's morphed; showing his true face before it dissolved into dust. Sheathing his sword and dagger, Methos stepped back and caught his breath. He was getting too old for this shit.
The hairs on the back off his neck stood up and, with a groan, Methos realised he still wasn't alone. He spun around just in time to see the vampire's grin as he punched him the stomach. Winded, Methos doubled over and resigned himself to a painful death as the creature jerked his head back with a snap. With a roar of triumph, the vampire sunk his teeth into his jugular and the world faded to grey...
Gasping painfully, Methos regained consciousness, his hand reaching to his neck automatically. Rolling to his feet, he checked his watch and cursed. He had been out for over an hour; it seemed exsanguinations took a lot out of one. Grimacing at his own joke, he dusted of his clothes as he scanned the alley. Luckily, nobody was around to witness his miraculous return from the dead. Readjusting his coat, he winced as he noticed the absence of his sword. A quick search found his dagger and wallet missing too. Brilliant, just what he needed to round off the day. Checking his leg-holster, he noted he still had his gun. Not that it would do him much good, he wryly thought.
The sound of police sirens caught Methos' attention and he cautiously followed the sound. Stepping around the corner, he stopped in his tracks. Everything else paled into insignificance as he witnessed the impossible – a woman with some kind of skin mutilation, dressed in black, floating in mid-air in front of the police station. He watched in amazement as, with a wave of her hand, she hurtled a car across the street. Wearily, Methos shook his head in defeat. He'd had enough, time to leave. Silently, he staggered down the street towards the motel. Mac and his problems didn't seem so bad after all.
He had nearly reached the motel when he felt the presence of the other immortal; oh goodie, looks like he found a way out of the morgue. His eyes wary, he reached for his holster and retrieved his glock. Without his sword, he wasn't in the mood for a chat.
It was then he saw the girl stumble out of a side street. "Who are you?" she gasped, clutching to the wall for support.
"Adam Pierson, at you service," Methos muttered, pocketing the gun. He doubted she was hiding a sword under the hospital gown she was wearing. "Don't take this the wrong way, but couldn't you have found something a little more discreet to wear…or at least a pair of shoes," he added, gesturing at her feet.
"I…I didn't know what to do," the girl gasped, clasping her head. "One moment I was at home; the next, I was in the Morgue….oh!" Her eyes wide, she stumbled back, raising her hand warning. "Stay back! You're in danger!"
Methos' mouth twitched. "Oh I am, am I?" he drawled, folding his arms.
"I'm not kidding!," the girl insisted anxiously. "You have no idea…I'm not what you think I am."
Methos groaned in disbelief as understanding dawned. "Oh no…no, no ,no! This is not happening. I refuse to believe this is happening." Not believing his bad luck, Methos sighed. Where was the Highlander when you needed him? "I hate to break it to you, kid," he muttered sourly, "But you aren't what you think you are either…."
The girl moaned, not answering as she cradled her head and, against his better judgement, Methos took a step forward. "It'll pass in a moment," he said abruptly, putting a hand on her shoulder. "Just take a deep breath."
"No! Stay away, I might hurt you," she cried, shrugging away his hand.
"Trust me, Kid; not going to happen," Methos said, amusement showing in his voice.
"You don't understand, I'm a killer," she sobbed, sinking to the ground.
For a moment, Methos felt a pang of regret for what was about to happen, "No, you're not, child…not yet." Crouching down, he lifted the girls face by the chin. "Let me guess," he murmured. "You put two and two together and came up with five. Not surprising, really, I've already bumped into some of Sunnydale's nightlife…you're not a vampire, you know."
"But I have to be," the girl said uncertainly. "I woke up in a morgue, I was…." Her voice drifted off, unable to say the word.
"Dead," Methos confirmed. "Yes. I'm afraid so. But you're not a vampire. Here, let me prove it to you," taking her unresisting hand, he placed it over her heart. "Feel that?" he said softly. "That's your heartbeat."
"I don't understand," she whispered. "If I'm not a vampire, what am I?"
"Here we go again," Methos thought, a wave of sadness washing over him; he had always hated this part. "You're an immortal," he said.
"An Immortal?" the girl repeated unsurely. "I've never heard of them. Does that mean…I mean…am I a demon?"
Methos smirked. "I don't think so. At least, that's what I keep telling myself!" With a sigh, he sat down beside her. "We're human – sort of."
"I see," the girl said numbly. "Well…I suppose I should go home," Dazedly, the girl scrambled to her feet and looked down at her feet. "You're right…I should have taken some shoes…"
Wincing, Methos jumped to his feet; the girl was obviously still in shock. Gently, he laid a restraining hand on her arm. "You can't go home, kid. You died, remember? People tend to get a bit nervous when somebody rises from the dead; you can't just stroll through the door."
A ghost of a smile appeared on the girl's face. "You're not from around here, are you?" she murmured.
"No, I'm not," he admitted. "But I think I've already figured out that this town has some unusual quirks."
"Listen, you don't have to worry about me, I'll be fine," the girl insisted. "My friends are bit more open minded about this kind of thing than you'd think. I mean, as long as you were telling me the truth about not being a demon…" Uncertainly, the girl studied his face as Methos hesitated.
"You're not a demon," he confirmed, "But you're not exactly human anymore either." Grimacing, he combed his hand through his hair. No doubt about it, he was spending way much time with that blasted Scot. "They are a few things you need to know; I can't just let you wander off home without telling you the basics."
"I'm not going to like this, am I?" the girl asked resignedly.
"Probably not," Methos sighed. "Listen; just give me a few minutes of your time. Then, once I've filled you in, you can make your decision."
"I don't know…"
Methos studied her face and watched the battle raging within. It occurred to him he could just walk away; he had done his best hadn't he? It wasn't his fault she chose not to listen… "You could try harder." Methos grimaced as Duncan's disapproving face flashed across his mind. Since when did his conscience speak in a Scottish accent? "So tell me," he murmured. "What's your name?"
"My name? Oh…it's Tara…Tara MacLay."
"Oh great, that's all I need in my life - another bloody Scot." "Well, Tara," Methos said dryly. "Before you toddle off home and resume your life, there are a few things you should know – the first thing being you can't go home."
"Didn't you get the memo? You're died, woman!"
Methos raised his hands in exasperation. This was going to take a while. The sooner he pawned this one off on the Highlander, the better…
The outskirts of Sunnydale, Summer of 2003
Calmly, she blinked away the tears as she stared at the yawning pit stretching out as far as the Horizon. She had read the accounts in the newspaper and had had looked at the blurred footage on the news. But none of it prepared her for the stark reality; the pure, unrelenting devastation. Dear Goddess, what happened?
"The newspapers said most of the population had already evacuated before it happened...funny how they didn't dwell on why."
Tara turned and gave Adam a wry smile. "Is that your version of moral support?"
"Need a little practice, do I?" Adam drawled, leaning against the car's bonnet.
"To put it mildly," Tara said as she brushed the last few tears from her face. "They wouldn't have left, you know, they would have stayed 'til the bitter end."
"They still might have made it."
"I need to know, Adam. I can't just walk away and....I just can't."
"I knew it was a bad idea to come here," Adam said grimly. "If I've told you once, I've told you a million times..."
"I know, I know…" Tara interrupted softly, turning to look at the devastation once more. "But you don't understand, Adam; living in Sunnydale was…it forged bonds, bonds which are hard to break, and Willow…I shouldn't have left her. She needed me."
Behind her, Adam sighed. "Where do you want to start?" he muttered.
"You mean that?" said Tara, her voice filling with hope as she spun around to look at his face.
Reluctantly, Adam nodded. "But I warn you, you might not like what you find, Tara," he said darkly, opening the car door. "There's a reason why we break all ties after our first death…and it's not because of insurance fraud."
"You'll see, it'll be okay," she said excitedly, joining him the car.
"So?" Adam asked as he started the engine.
"Where do we start?"
"Oh!" Frowning, Tara thought. "Angel," she eventually said. "He lives in Los Angelus."
Adam nodded. "The Vampire with a soul; bit of an oxymoron, if you ask me," he murmured. "What's he doing in L.A., by the way? You never told me."
"He runs a detective agency…helping the helpless and all that," Tara explained.
"Oh lovely," Methos grumbled under his breath. "Just what I need – another boy scout."
"I heard that!" Tara teased, grinning at him slyly.
"Pity your hearing isn't as good when I try to give you advice," he retorted as he backed up the car. "It would make my life so much simpler."
Ignoring the jibe, Tara closed her eyes and leaned back in her seat. She had imagined this moment a thousand times over the last year and had rehearsed it a thousand more. But now the time had come and her mind was a blank. How could she explain what she'd become…how could she explain the game?