Rated: FR15Disclaimer: All things BtVS belong to Joss Whedon, et al. All things HL belong to Davis/Panzer, et al.
For the tth5000
Author's Notes: Part of the TMTC universe. TMTC is currently 70 parts long, with 23 parts to go, and can be found at TtH Fanfic (.) com.
x x x
This couldn't be right.
Willow blinked in stunned shock down at the book in front of her, as if clearing her eyes would somehow make the words on the page disappear or change into something other than what they were.
Unsurprisingly, it didn't.
She reread it again and then another time just for good measure.
But the words still didn't change.
Immortals are all, as found as of this time, foundlings. That is to say, they are not born of mortal women. Instead, they are 'found' and adopted into families which then raise them as their own. It is unknown at this time exactly how Immortal babies enter into this world, though the current theories are…
She sighed and twirled her pencil on the table anxiously, feeling suddenly very much sick to her stomach. Her head hurt from staring at the cramped, blurry handwriting of the older Chronicle, but that had nothing to do with her nausea.
How was this possible?
No, it couldn't be right.
But the more she read over it, the more it sank in that this wasn't just some kind of joke or addlebrained entry made by a bored Watcher. No, he cited far too many examples of foundlings, one of which happened to be Amanda. This, as much as it pained her to admit it, was the real deal.
And it was slowly but surely ruining what had otherwise been a really, really good mood.
The day had started off fine and well enough, she supposed. A nice morning sparring match with her love and partner, Methos, and then straight to the Council's headquarters to get some more studying done. He'd laughed at her exuberance, of course; teasing her about the way that she had embraced the whole researcher lifestyle for the Council. But that was what she was and always had been - a researcher. For Buffy and the Scoobies...and now for the Watchers.
The Immortal Watchers, that was. Not the Slayer Watchers. They could all go hang themselves, for all that she cared. None of them had been worth anything except for Giles. Well, and Wesley - sometimes. When he wasn't being a wuss.
No, the Watchers she worked with had nothing to do with Slayers or any of that stuff. They didn't dabble in the supernatural past their own Immortals and Game.
And that was just dandy with her. She'd honestly had enough of the supernatural world to last her an entire life. Outside of patrolling regularly, she didn't want to dabble anymore. Let the Slayer do that. Let the Slayer's Council help.
She was through with that end of things.
Some would say that her being a Watcher and an Immortal at the same time was cheating. That she had access to too much information. Those people could go hang themselves right along with the Slayer Watchers, as far as she was concerned.
She had come up with her own little code in the short time since she had died her First Death. The first part of her code and the portion most central to her entire way of thinking was that she didn't fight unless she was challenged. Not once had she sought out an opponent. That just wasn't who she was. Neither herself nor Methos did that sort of thing. Nor did Duncan and Richie. In fact, the only Immortals she knew that went looking for fights were the ones that soon found themselves decapitated.
Not liking to fight was not the same thing as not knowing how to, after all.
But none of that really mattered right at that moment and her good day was suddenly not looking so good, after all.
In fact, it was looking downright depressing.
This didn't make any sense.
Immortals were all foundlings. Immortals did not have a mother and a father. They just…appeared. Like a gift from heaven or some other such nonsense. Maybe a stork just deposited them randomly in hospitals or by the side of the road?
But she had parents.
Sheila and Ira – she certainly hadn't imagined them, though her memories of their faces and tendencies had grown faded over the years since she had last seen or spoken with them.
And Joe Dawson, a fellow Watcher, was her uncle – her mother's brother, however estranged they currently were with one another.
She had a family.
Therefore she could not be a foundling, she told herself.
But still the nagging insecurity persisted. The Chronicles were rarely wrong with broad sweeping statements like, oh say – 'All Immortals are Foundlings'. Sure, little inaccuracies, but nothing big. Nothing like this.
Was she adopted, then? Had she been switched at birth with Sheila and Ira's rightful child? Maybe that was why they never had been too terribly attached to her; why it was so easy for them to abandon her as she got older. Or had she –
There was dozens of possibilities, she realized forlornly. Including that one with the stork just dropping her off in the hospital and she somehow ended up in the basinet where Sheila and Ira's real baby was supposed to be.
Oh, goddess – what had happened to their real child? Had some poor, defenseless baby just been left in a hospital ward to fend for itself until getting tossed into the care of social services. Had --
"Stop it," she whispered to herself, tone biting. Across the way, at another table in the library, a head looked up. She offered a smile at the young Watcher, earning herself a hostile glare in response.
Not all of the Watchers were happy to have an out-of-the-closet Immortal working alongside them, even months later and after all the little inside perspectives she had been more than happy to give them; like what exact did a Quickening feel like or what was it like to wake up again after you've died? Those handful of naysayers most especially did not like the fact that she wouldn't' divulge what she knew about the Immortals that she was close to – like Duncan, Richie, Amanda, and Adam.
Oh, the things she could tell them about 'Adam' in particular. Not that she was going to. No, not even if he up and decided that their relationship was over. He'd placed his trust in her the moment that he told her that he was Methos and she wasn't going to break that trust. She wasn't like that and never would be.
Giving the glaring Watcher another bright smile, as if to say that she didn't care that he didn't like her, she turned back to the book in front of her and the problem that it had presented to her.
The problem – her entire world had just been thrown off its axis and she didn't know how to deal with it in the slightest. It wasn't too long ago that she'd found out she was Immortal and had to change her entire way of thinking to account for this insane Game. And now… now she found out that her family wasn't really her family?
Slowly, as if in a dream where she was walking through a thick fog, she gathered up her belongings and replaced the Chronicles on the shelves she had taken them from.
There were only a handful of times in her life when she could remember feeling like this; like she was floating, disconnected from reality and unable to make heads or tails of what was going on in her own mind, much less in the world around here.
Did her uncle know?
Of course not. How could he and still treat her like she was family? She wasn't family. She wasn't related to him in any way. Just some random stranger off the street that had shown up on his doorstep one day. He, of course, wouldn't have known until he found out she was an Immortal, but after that he had to have evaluated everything that he'd thought about her – including her so-called blood relations to him.
All that happiness she had found with him… and it was based on something that wasn't even true.
How was she going to break this to him?
Would he still want to be a part of her life after he found out?
A sob welled up out of her chest and she didn't bother looking to see if anyone in the library was looking her way, glaring or not. She had too many thoughts racing around her head now to care about those people or what they thought of her. Too many thoughts filling her head to worry about the Watchers and their sometime pettiness.
Yes, too many thoughts, entirely.
x x x
Something was wrong.
It didn't take thousands of years of experience or even a keen sense of empathy – something he most definitely did not have nor had a desire to acquire – to determine that much. All one had to do was look at Willow face. From the pale, drawn expression, right down to the red eyes, it was plain to anyone that looked at her. She had been crying and pretty hard, by the look of the puffiness under her eyes.
Putting aside the book he had been reading – one of Willow's journals of her time helping the Slayer, Methos stood up. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," she said hurriedly, looking away from him.
Methos frowned. It wasn't often that Willow tried to hide things from him – and never when she was upset like this. Not since the rocky beginning of their relationship, that is, when they had both learned that hiding what they felt only led to heartache and suffering for themselves and everyone around them. "What is it?"
He wouldn't let it go and she knew it, judging by the weariness with which she sighed, shoulders dropping as if the weight of the world had somehow landed upon them. The first thought that crossed his mind was that she'd been Challenged. However, there was no sign of a fight in her appearance – no dirt or blood on her clothes, no tears or rips.
Willow dropped her backpack to the floor, still not meeting his eyes. "Did you know that all Immortals are foundlings?"
The question struck him so off guard that Methos was momentarily speechless. He filled the time by grabbing his beer from the coffee table and taking a swallow, staring at her the entire time. What had prompted this odd question?
"Of course," he answered with a shrug after putting the bottle back on the table. It was hardly common knowledge in the Immortal world, but he was hardly the typical Immortal, either. MacLeod and the kid didn't know, he was pretty sure. Nor did Amanda. It was not as though Immortals got together on a regular basis and discussed their parentage or lack thereof, after all.
Watchers knew about it, however. It was recorded in a few places within the older Chronicles, the ones that were kept in the library of the Motherhouse. Which was where Willow had been today, he realized; the dots beginning to connect in his mind.
"Of course?" she repeated dully. Her eyes narrowed. "And you never thought to tell me?"
Perplexed as anything by her reaction, Methos fought the urge to back away from her. When Willow got that fire in her eyes there was every reason to be… anxious.
"I thought you already knew?" he offered. Truth be told, the thought had never crossed his mind to tell her or to ask if she knew. He'd always just assumed that she knew since Dawson had to know. Dawson would have told her early on about foundlings.
Or – maybe not, judging by the look in her eyes as her pique faded away. Sadness beyond measure.
"You didn't know," he said.
"No," she whispered, the fire leaving her just as quickly as it had come. She leaned against the wall nearest her. Even from across the room, he could see her eyes welling with tears. "Uncle Joe must not know, either… I mean…He thinks I'm his niece."
Methos frowned, disagreeing with that statement but having nothing to back up his reasoning, either. So he kept his mouth shut and went to her, wrapping her in his arms. If Joe hadn't said anything to her, he had to have his reasons.
"I don't see how he could not know," he said slowly, after a moment's thought. He chose his words carefully, not wanting to distress her any more than she obviously already was. "He has access to the same information you do, Willow. For that matter, he has been a Watcher longer than you and has probably read about this theory before."
"He thinks I'm his niece," she repeated slowly, shaking. "He thinks I'm Sheila's daughter. He would have said something to me if that wasn't the case."
Would he have, though? Somehow, Methos couldn't see Dawson telling Willow that she wasn't truly a part of his family. Not when she was so happy to be accepted. On top of that, Dawson hadn't even known about her Immortal status until late in their relationship. He had most likely already formed an attachment to Willow by that point. An attachment that he would not want to break.
At least, that was Methos' theory on the matter.
This all stank of the same sort of misunderstanding that he and Willow had gone through at what would have been the beginning of their relationship, had they not both gotten so tangled up in the head.
Then again – he couldn't say anything for sure. Lord only knew that he had never sat down with Dawson to discuss the great foundling theory. He couldn't even imagine how that conversation would come up, though he was pretty sure it would be amusing, embarrassing, or a combination of the two.
He'd have to somehow get MacLeod to bring it up sometime. Preferably when there was a camera handy to record the Scot's imminent embarrassment.
"I am positive that it won't make a difference to him," he murmured instead, holding her against him. She was trembling in his arms, obviously shaken up by this news.
She sighed. "It will, though. I'm not really related to him – that makes all the difference in the world."
And there was nothing that he could say to argue that; nothing that she would believe.
He pulled her back, kissing her forehead tenderly. "It will work out just fine. You'll see."
She nodded. "Sure."
Just as he'd thought – there was nothing he could say that could change her mind at this point. If words wouldn't work to make her feel better, there were always things he could do to take her mind off of the situation entirely.
Methos tilted Willow's head up with a soft hand under her chin. He smiled down at her. "You'll see."
Before she could say another word, he cut her off with a gentle kiss to her lips. It took a moment, but she melted into him with an almost inaudible sigh.
"Don't worry," he murmured into her lips.
He cut her off again, but this kiss was far from gentle. With firm insistence, he pressed against her mouth, sliding his tongue between her lips to explore the warm cavern of her mouth. She tasted like sweet lemonade, a signal that she'd stopped off on at her favorite beverage stand on her way back to the flat.
Yes, she was truly feeling depressed if she had gone to the lemonade for comfort.
Not breaking from the kiss, he swung Willow into his arms. She needed to not think about this for a little while. Just long enough for her head to take over where her emotions were leading her astray.
And he had just the thing to keep her from thinking about Joe or foundlings.
x x x
The following week they returned to the States, back to their flat in Seacouver. But it no longer felt as much like home as it once had. Not now that she knew.
Willow did her best to smile when Duncan picked them up from the airport, but she felt hollow inside. Like she'd lost something.
She had no family.
No one to call mom and dad, no matter how bad they were at the job.
Not even her Uncle Joe.
She was going to tell him, she had to. Maybe whatever luck had brought him into her life in the first place would keep him there – but things were bound to change. He wouldn't think of her as his niece anymore, of that much she was quite sure. How could he?
"I'm fine," Willow forced herself to smile again, meeting Duncan's eyes in the rearview mirror.
He didn't believe her and she didn't care. It was one thing for Methos to know about this before anyone else – he was as close to her as any one person on the planet could ever be – just as close as Tara had once been. But Duncan didn't need to know. Not yet and maybe not ever.
Certainly not before Joe did.
There, she was already trying to distance herself from him, she realized dully. 'Joe', not 'Uncle Joe'. Not hers. Never hers.
She bit her tongue hard, the pain keeping her from crying when the tears threatened to spill down her cheeks.
Tonight? No… tomorrow. Tomorrow she would go to his house and let him in on the devastating little bit of information that had stumbled its way into her life.
She jerked back to the present with a little shake, looking toward the front of the vehicle again.
"Do you want to go get something to eat with MacLeod and the kid or just go home?" Methos asked. He had turned to look over his shoulder at her and his dark eyes radiated worry and concern. It was almost enough to make her break.
Food or home. Dinner with friends, or sitting at home where she didn't have to worry about how she was acting or whether or not she was happy enough for everyone.
It was an easy enough decision, on the surface. If she didn't want to look any further than that – the ability to have company or be by herself.
But she needed to. The last thing she wanted was Duncan getting too worried about her and putting his nose where it wasn't meant to be. He meant well enough, but this wasn't his concern.
"Dinner sounds good," she offered, her voice only wavering just a bit.
x x x
A cold beer and sitting in uncomfortable silence with a friend.
Just how he liked to spend his time when he had absolutely nothing better to do.
"What's wrong with her?"
And the silence was broken in true MacLeod form – with a worrying inquiry into someone else's life. He was an Immortal mother hen, that's what he was. This, however, was not something he was going to discuss with MacLeod or anyone else until Willow gave him the all clear to do so.
"She'll tell you when she's ready. Don't push her."
He should have known that telling Mac not to push her wouldn't work. Should have known that it would only make the other Immortal that much more eager to know what was going on.
"Methos, if something is wrong and –"
"No," Methos shook his head. This was Willow's tale of woe to tell and hers alone. A tale that he was pretty sure would have a happier ending than she believe it would once she got around with talking to Dawson, in fact. "We are not discussing this. When she's ready – if she's ready – she will tell you. Until then, leave it be."
"Seems I've heard those words before," the Scot grumbled, looking irritated and a bit hurt. Sort of like a child that was pouting because they were not being 'included'.
A pouting, Immortal mother hen. Just what he needed to make his day that much brighter. It wasn't enough that Willow was in a seriously deep depression that was beginning to affect even his own normally stoic outlook on life.
On second thought, he reconsidered as he watched MacLeod do something that most definitely resembled pouting, perhaps this had its own amusement value.
"Oh?" Methos asked, curiosity winning out over better sense. Letting the conversation go at that would have been too easy. But bringing up something that made MacLeod pout was, well, enticing to say the least. "And when was that?"
When Duncan didn't immediately answer, Methos started thinking he wasn't going to as a way to pay him back for not coming clean about what was going on with Willow right now. He leaned back in his chair, legs sprawled out in front of him, and stared at the Scot questioningly, expectantly.
Finally, MacLeod cracked. "Was before she trusted all of us with her secret. Richie and Joe kept saying she'd tell me when she was ready – even though she'd already told them."
Methos snorted. He couldn't help it. The boyscout was the last one to be let in on things? How wonderfully Willow.
He chuckled outright, ignoring the glare that MacLeod shot his way.
"It's not funny," MacLeod growled.
"Says you. I personally find it quite hilarious."
x x x
Willow shifted from foot to foot in front of her… Joe's front door. She held in her hand the page she had photocopied from the Chronicle on foundlings, the one she had cried while making just the day before they had left London. Even now there was evidence of her tears on the page, little water spots that blurred some of the ink. The gist of what it said was still legible, though, and that was all that mattered.
A part of her wanted to have hope that this wouldn't change a thing between her and the man that lived inside this house; that somehow he would find it within himself to still call her family even when he found out that she wasn't.
But she'd learned a long time ago that hoping for something didn't make it happen. Hoping didn't make fate sway one way or the other for or against you.
Only actions did that.
She pulled her lower lip into her mouth, nibbling at it and regarding the door like it was one of the foulest demons that she had ever encountered in her entire life. If there was a way to slay it and be on her way, she would. She'd blow it into itty bitty splintery smithereens if it meant that she didn't have to do this.
She did, though. And standing here glaring at the door wasn't making anything better.
Or worse, Willow added silently.
"This isn't getting it over with," she whispered to herself. Her eyes closed for a brief moment as she took a deep breath, then another. Inside her chest, her heart was racing a mile a minute, threatening to beat right out of her chest if she didn't calm down.
It was time. Time to get it over with, for better or worse.
Hand trembling, she reached up and knocked on the front door. Then, remembering herself, she rang the doorbell. It sounded through the house, making her jump just a little.
There wasn't even enough time between when the bell rang and when she heard the rustle of the door knob for her to contemplate running away. It was almost as if he'd been waiting right by the door for her.
She forced herself to smile as the door swung open, though even she could tell that it didn't look real or genuine. Strained, was probably the word best used to describe it.
"Hey, kid," he smiled at her gently, giving no indication that he noticed her discomfort other than the brief twitch of his mouth when he glanced down at her fake-smile. "Was starting to think you were just going to stand on my doorstep all day. I saw you pull up."
"Oh," was all she could manage. Of course he had. And she'd been standing out here looking like a moron, wavering back and forth between announcing herself and running away. "Sorry – I have a lot on my mind."
"Mmm hmm," he said, nodding. "Come on in."
Following him into the house, Willow imagined that any second now her heart was about to explode out of her chest. Either that or she was just going to faint.
Yeah, that was definitely a possibility at this point, she thought sadly, feeling a little lightheaded from all the anxiety that was heaping upon her shoulders.
He didn't speak a word until they had both sat down, for which Willow was grateful. In fact, she thought as he turned his attention to her again, that she could have been even more grateful if there had been no more speaking. Ever.
But fate was just not going to be on her side that day. What had she honestly expected from fickle fate, after all?
"So – tell me what's going on."
"Is that your answer or a question?" he teased.
Willow offered up another half-hearted smile. "Um…"
"Tell me what's wrong." This time it wasn't a question. It was an order, however softly and politely it was phrased.
She sighed and fiddled with the paper in her hand.
"Well… you know how I was at the Motherhouse this past week?"
He nodded. "Were some of the Watchers rude to you again?"
They had been, true, but she'd learned to put them out of her mind and it didn't even really bother her anymore. "Some, yes but that isn't… it's not what's wrong."
"I was reading through this one Chronicle," she started again, trying to gain enough momentum that the words would just come out in one big rush, like the babbling she knew she did sometimes when she got upset.
But even that was failing her.
"And it mentioned something funny. Not rolling around laughing funny, but you know, 'ha ha' funny."
In a not really kind of way, she added silently.
"You've lost me, kid," Joe shrugged. "I don't remember any of the Chronicles being particularly hilarious. Not the ones you'd be looking through anyway."
Willow filed that comment away with a mental note to figure out which Chronicles were funny at a later date.
"Yeah… you see, this Chronicle mentioned that all Immortals are foundlings. As in, we're not born and don't have parents and… so," she paused. "Um… surprise, we're not really related?"
With those words, she broke. The tears that she had been doing her best to hold back were released to flood down her cheeks.
Willow froze, her sniffling cries coming to a screeching halt as she regarded him. "What?"
"I know about the foundling thing," Joe shrugged.
"You did?" Willow repeated dumbly. She couldn't believe what she was hearing. Was it possible that she had fainted, just like she'd thought she would, and this was a weird unconscious dream of some sort? "But –"
"Look, kid. Here's the thing – Sheila and Ira raised you like you were their kid. I don't know how it happened, but you were the one Sheila brought home from the hospital – I don't doubt that. Maybe it was a switch at birth thing, maybe it was just the Hellmouth doing something weird when it came to the Game. But they raised you. Therefore – you are my niece."
He shook his head, cutting her off. "No buts, Willow. You're my niece. We might not be related by blood, but that doesn't really matter in my opinion. Some things are more important than blood. Are you going to deny that you and Xander aren't like brother and sister after everything you went through in your lives? That Buffy wasn't your sister?"
His logic seeped into Willow's confused brain slowly, invading deeper and deeper until it finally hit home and made some kind of sense.
He was right, of course. Xander was her brother and Buffy was her sister. So was Dawn. They always would be – and they didn't share a drop of blood with her. Well, outside of all the blood they had spilled fighting together over the years. She had chosen them and they had chosen her and…together they had been family for a little while, just like any other family out there. They had worked as a little group to raise Dawn to the best of their abilities, even.
And didn't she think of Giles like a father – better than Ira had ever been?
She was an idiot sometimes.
"Tell me you haven't been worrying about that for the last week."
Blushing, Willow shook her head in abject denial. If she could just get Methos to keep his mouth shut, maybe she would come out of this looking like not too much of an over-emotional wreck of a fool. If all else failed, she supposed she could threaten to withhold sex. "Of course not."
"Uh huh. And Methos didn't bother pointing out to you that I would have to know about foundlings?" Her Uncle – and it felt so good to still call him that – looked amused. In fact, if she had to guess, she'd say that he didn't believe her denial one bit.
But that was her story and she was sticking to it.
She did dimly remember Methos pointing out something along those lines to her, though, right when she first found out about foundlings. "He might have?"
"We need to work on you listening to logic instead of your emotions so much, kid."
Oddly, she couldn't have agreed more.
This time, when she smiled, it was genuine.
x x x Endx x x
Check out Lycanthrope, the original anthology featuring stories by Echo (Liz Ashe), Lucinda Siverling, JMaria, and Kristen. Check my profile for a link to the book!