Author's Note: Apologies if anybody read this and found the second chapter twice. This story takes place between season two and three of Buffy but is written in such a way that it will not greatly impact the later Buffy seasons. Many thanks to Vega1 for the title idea.
Disclaimer: Sadly I am just borrowing these fantastic characters. They belong to Joss and to Panzer/Davis. I promise to return them relatively undamaged.
The bus station was noisy, crowded and incredibly large. It was the perfect place for a parent to accidentally lose a child if they didn't keep a close enough watch and public enough for an immortal to hide from a foe without fear of being challenged...for a little while anyway.
Adam Pierson, an immortal known only to a few close friends as Methos, had counted on this very advantage, as he was presently hiding behind a pillar, hoping the immortal that followed him in there would tire of the game in short order. It hadn't happened so far however, and didn't look too likely to. He had been standing behind the pillar for about four hours now and the man who had followed him in hadn't budged from the exit in which he stood, waiting for Methos to give up and attempt to leave. They were at a standoff.
It wasn't as if Methos was a coward. He had no qualms about taking a head if there were no other option. Rather, Methos was a survivalist and the first rule of survival was don't let men with sharp swords attempt to chop off your head, no matter how good you are. He had survived this long in the game simply by avoiding as many conflicts as humanly possible. The man looked as if he would be fairly easy to defeat, but Methos was not the type to gamble.
Having survived over five thousand years, Methos had an infinite amount of patience. He could wait in this bus station for days and days before he even began to become bored. He doubted the younger man possessed the same ability. The young were known for their impatience...and their stupidity. Look at that Richie Ryan kid that always followed MacLeod around.
Methos checked his watch and gave a small, taunting wave to the immortal watching him. It would be nightfall soon, and Methos' best chance of sneaking away unseen would be when the other immortal got tired enough to fall asleep. Methos had perfected the art of staying awake, sometimes for weeks at a time, but it was a skill that had taken him centuries of practice and he felt certain the younger man didn't possess it.
Sighing, he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a chocolate bar that he had bought earlier. He had only just begun to eat it, when the familiar buzz of a fellow immortal hit him full force. At first he just assumed that the man who was pursuing him had moved close enough for the buzz to reach him once more, but upon looking to where he was, he saw the man hadn't moved. Instead, he noted that the other immortal had also noticed it.
Great! He thought angrily, was there a convention or something I wasn't informed of? Looking towards the source of the buzz, he saw it come from a bus that just pulled into the station. Passengers were filing off of it now, and Methos knew any minute he would see the immortal in question exit the coach.
Sure enough the offending party exited next, but the sight of this particular immortal startled Methos slightly. It was a young girl, no more than seventeen years of age. She was small in stature and strikingly pretty, even to one such as Methos who had been in the presence of many incredible beauties over the centuries. What he noticed most however, was the look of intense pain written over every inch of her expressive face. She wore baggy, unflattering jeans and a nondescript black sweater and carried only a small bag with her, leading Methos to guess that she was running away from something.
The freshness of her buzz told him she was new to the game. Perhaps very new. There was a strangeness to it, that gave him pause. She's probably fleeing her previous life. Doesn't understand how she died, or came back. Poor girl. He was surprised at the pity he felt for her. Looking at the immortal that had followed him into the bus station, he noticed the same realization of newness dawn on his face as well. It was then he realized what the other man now had in mind. She won't have time to enjoy her new life either if he decides to corner her instead of me.
The other immortal began to advance towards the girl. She barely even noticed him, although he could tell the feeling of the immortal buzz had affected her. She looked shaken and nervous, but unsure as to why. The other immortal no longer even looked his way, his sights fixed entirely on the young girl as she headed towards the exit.
Methos knew that he should take this as a sign of good fortune. After all, he had only to slip away while the other immortal took the girl's head and he could be home in time to catch the game on satellite and drink a nice cold beer he remembered resided in his fridge. It would be of no great loss to him if she died. Why should it be? One less immortal to worry about when it came down to it. He didn't know her, and yet something gnawed at him at the idea of simply leaving her to die.
I've lived this long by not caring about anybody but myself, why start now? But even as he thought this, he knew they weren't true. He may have buried his conscience from time to time, but it was never gone. And he knew that the resurfacing of said highly annoying conscience had to do with that damned self righteous Scotsman MacLeod. Somehow, despite Methos' better judgment, he found the man's inherent goodness rubbing off on him. It ticked him off supremely, but he had long since given up trying to fight it. Time was, he would have been long gone at the first opportunity. Instead, he remained in the bus station, carefully following both the young girl and the man who stalked her, intending against his better wishes, to interfere in the fight. She's only a child, he reasoned, I can't let her die.
The girl did not make things better for herself. Instead of exiting the station onto a public street, she opted to take the back ally way behind the station leaving her far from any public interference and a prime target for the other immortal. Methos managed to stay far enough away from the other man so as not to alert him or her of his presence via the buzz. Being over five thousand years old had given him time to learn many things, including just how close one could get to another immortal without alerting them. It had been difficult, and varied from immortal to immortal but had been an incredibly useful skill over the years, both for hiding from perspective challenges and working with the watcher's council.
Once the two of them were deep inside the ally way, Methos watched the other immortal ready himself to make his presence known. The girl turned first however, and stared at him with fixed angry eyes.
"You wanna tell me why you've been following me, or shall I let my fists guess?"
"I am here to challenge you," the man said simply. He removed his sword and held it high for the girl to see. Strangely, she did not appear shocked or frightened by the weapon, but rather intensely repulsed as if it were an animal that would bite at any moment.
"I've seen enough swords to last me a lifetime thanks." She said softly. Methos could see the tears in her eyes, even from his vantage point. He bided his time.
"You think that matters child? You know the rules. I've challenged you. You have to fight."
"Excuse me?" She said, shaking off the emotion attached to the sight of the weapon for the moment and taking offense to his tone instead. Her eyes narrowed and she instinctively shuffled her feet into a battle stance. "I don't think you want to fight me. You're human right? Go home."
"Wrong child," the man said with a grin. "Fighting is exactly what I want to do. I want your head. You can either defend yourself, or die. It's up to you."
Realizing this was the perfect time to show himself, Methos stepped forth into the ally way, hands in his pockets and his face as neutral and unfazed as possible. He looked positively bored.
"That's rather unfair, isn't it?" He said, addressing the other immortal. "I mean, you and I can both clearly see she is new to this. She has no clue what she is, much less what the game is."
"This doesn't concern you," the other immortal growled. The girl looked at Methos in surprise and wariness, but not outward hostility...yet.
"Well, actually it does." Methos replied, smiling pleasantly. "You see, if I'm not mistaken, your challenge was originally for me. Call it vanity, but I take offense to you preferring this child's head over mine. You hurt my feelings and that makes me angry."
"My challenge was for the girl." The man maintained. "She must accept."
"Look buddy I don't know who you are," the girl was speaking to Methos now, "but I can handle myself. Cut the Knight in shining armor crap, and get out of here before you get yourself killed."
"You think you can take him on yourself little girl?" Methos scoffed. She glared at him and balled her fists. Methos nearly laughed out loud at the petite blonde in front of him. She looked so cute.
"I think the next person who calls me child or little girl is going to find out what I can really do." She muttered darkly. Looking towards the man who had challenged her, she set her bags down, removed her coat and assumed a fighting stance. "You wanna fight? Fine, but lose the weapon OK?"
"Ahh, but the sword is integral to the duel." The other immortal replied. "The only way to determine the winner is to sever the head of the loser."
"And that can't be done with fists." Methos put in sarcastically. He sighed. "For the last time, please fight me instead. I promise to make the battle worth your while. She will be a moment's entertainment and nothing more."
"After I take her head, I shall take you up on the offer." The immortal agreed with a nod. "Alright if you don't have a sword than that is not my fault. I challenged you and you must accept."
With no more preamble, he lunged.