The Beholder

Summary: Puck's thoughts on the Xanatos/Fox relationship, specifically during the episode "The Eye of the Beholder." Takes some actual dialogue from the episode.

"The course of true love never did run smooth." – Lysander, to Hermia, in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

"Lord, what fools these mortals be." – Puck, to Oberon, in Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Puck had always thought it was all rather ridiculous.

But then he supposed that was the fun of this foolishness they called falling in love, at least when mortals did it. On that midsummer night, centuries ago, watching the young lovers in the woods of Athens, with their high-flown vows, their sighs, their smiles, their tears … they were so melodramatic, it seemed to him the night had become play and pageantry long before the Bard had written it to be so. It made him roll his eyes, even as he chuckled.

At least their quarrels did not open up the earth and split the sky, the way the fights between Oberon and Titania sometimes did. And as for that night, all had been well in the end, even between the rulers of Avalon.

The thing Puck didn't much care for, though, was that in the end, love tended to make the mortals rather dull. On the one hand, the night's merry confusion had been extremely entertaining; on the other hand, once it was over, the three couples had become … boring. And as far as he was concerned, there was no greater tragedy. Of course, the Athenians hadn't been especially interesting to begin with; they were more diverting as victims of circumstance than because of any special qualities they possessed.

But over the centuries, he'd come to know many mortals, interesting mortals, fun mortals, who inevitably succumbed to the tedium of domesticity once they found a mate. Normally when that happened, he'd simply bid them farewell, and find someone more exciting to play with.

This time he couldn't, however. He'd made a deal with David Xanatos, and the Puck always honored his deals.

Oh, how he hoped it would be different this time. And maybe it would. After all, dear Davey-boy had already surprised him once. He'd chosen Owen over Puck. It was entirely possible he could surprise him again.

The night of the proposal, he'd played his role to the hilt. Fox by this time was well-aware of his true nature; Xanatos had shared pretty much all his secrets with her, which Puck took as a sad sign he had indeed been felled by Cupid 's bow. But though she knew who "Owen" really was, she treated him no differently.

He remembered it well, them sitting across the table from each other, David with that almost annoyed expression on his face. Puck liked to think later that he was trying to puzzle out the least flowery, least lovey-dovey way to propose. And in his opinion, Xanatos pulled it off beautifully.

"Mary me," he'd said simply.

Fox had looked up at him, her eyes widening slightly. "Are you serious?"

Xanatos had stood then, striding over to her with careless confidence. "We're genetically compatible, highly intelligent, and have the same goals. It makes perfect sense to get married." Puck chuckled inwardly. It sounded like a sales pitch. Perfect. No sappy poetry for David! He quickly went to retrieve the Eye of Odin.

"True," he heard Fox say, "But what about … love?"

His ears perked up at that. He had no idea how the man would answer.

David had merely smiled, putting his arm around her, managing to seem casual without being dismissive. "I think we love each other," he said lightly. "As much as two people such as ourselves our capable of that emotion."

By that time he was standing before them, and when he opened the box, Fox's face was lit in the glow of the jewel. Her eyes were wide and eager, and for just a moment, she looked so much like her mother that it took his breath away. What untapped power lay in that frail mortal form of hers? Would she ever get to find out?

He could see she was drawn to the Eye. True, most mortals would be, but Puck liked to think that her half-fay heritage would make the engagement gift even more special to her. Xanatos had chosen well, albeit unwittingly.

"For me?"

"To seal the bargain."

She'd lifted it out of the box, clasping it in her hands.

"It's beautiful." Oh, but it's much more than beautiful. Can you feel it, little halfing? Can you hear the hum of its power?

How he'd love for Fox to find her magic. That would make things around here even more fun. Perhaps the Eye could help with that. And surely, Titania wouldn't mind?

"Proposal accepted," she'd told David. He'd almost forgotten about that in his musings on Fox's magical potential.

David had clasped her hand then. He looked satisfied, almost smug. He'd seem the same expression on the man's face the last time he'd closed a lucrative business deal.

Well well well, it seemed Cupid had missed his mark – or least, merely grazed the skin, when he meant for the arrow to plunge straight into the heart. Apparently, David would not be making a fool of himself anytime soon. Good.

And the Eye of Odin did indeed awaken something in Fox. Just not in the way he'd hoped.

The attacks started soon after she began wearing it, and continued with increasing frequency. It was no surprise to either of them when they finally confirmed who – what – was behind them.

"According to the monitor her metabolism is operating a phenomenally accelerated rate. If this keeps up, her system will burn out before morning. She'll die." And then so will I, once Queen Titania gets her hands on me.

Never mind that he had no clue what the Eye would do to her, or that it hadn't even been his idea to give her the damn thing in the first place. Quite apart from his fondness for Fox, the thought of the Queen's wrath was enough for him to consider simply dropping his mortal guise and tracking her down himself, ripping the Eye away from if he had to – assuming he actually could. Or perhaps placing a discreet call to "Anastasia" would be in order…

"Incredible," Xanatos was saying. His voice was as smooth as ever, his manner calm and controlled. "If I'd known the Eye of Odin had that kind of power, I'd never had just given it away." He shrugged. "Well, spilled milk. Let's move on to plan B."

But as the man turned away from him, he saw the slump of his shoulders, saw him clench and unclench his fists, heard the sharp intake of breath.

David was scared. He was really scared for her.

And truth be told, so was he.

Later, after the first failed attempt to get the Eye away from Fox, Xanatos returned to the Eyrie Building.

"It would appear that Plan B has not been entirely successful."

"True, but now Plan C is in place. Goliath and company are, as usual, determined to thwart me. They'll put out all the stops to get the Eye away from Fox before I do." A small, self-satisfied smile. "They'll do all my work for me."

"I fail to see how it will be any easier to get the Eye from the gargoyles than from Fox." But it's not about the Eye, is it, Davey-boy? It never was.

It's about her.

Perhaps Cupid's aim had been better than he'd thought. In any case, for Fox's sake, it still seemed like a good plan.

But then of course, naturally, Goliath had to go mucking it all up. Of all the nights for the big dumb rock to actually decide to grow a brain … okay, so that wasn't fair, the gargoyle leader wasn't a genius, but he was nobody's fool. But damn it, he had lousy timing!

And then David had been … honest with Goliath. He'd said the situation was out of his control, something he couldn't handle. The gargoyle didn't understand how much that admission had cost the man's pride, but Puck did.

"Why should I help her?" Goliath asked him.

"Because you know what's it like to lose someone you love." So there it was then. Love had reduced David Xanatos to this. Humbling himself before an adversary and begging for his aid.

Pity. Oh well, at least David still had the foresight to plant a tracker on Goliath.

And yet …

Well, whatever. Eventually, with Goliath's help, Xanatos had apparently managed to get the Eye away from Fox, and she'd reverted back to her normal, mortal, wonderfully non-magical self.

Poor, dear little halfing. What a nightmare she'd been through. But at least it was over now.

And with any luck, Titania would never know a thing about it.

"She's alive," Goliath said. Thank whatever deities the mortals worship these days! "The Eye," he continued. "Give it to me."

David's gloved hand closed briefly around the jewel. "A trade?"

"Let's just say, I don't trust you with it."

For just a moment, he thought Xanatos might argue, but the man didn't even hesitate. He just nodded and handed the Eye over to Goliath.

That's an awful lot of power for you to pass up, Davey-boy. I never thought I'd see the day.

"So now you know my weakness."

"Only you would regard love as a weakness." Xanatos scowled, and Puck was confused. What did Goliath mean, that only he would … but love was a weakness. Plain and simple.

Wasn't it?

Enough of this. Fox was safe, that was what mattered. Things had been much too serious lately. Now they could be good fun again.

"Actually, Mr. Xanatos, I believe he's right. You've never looked more heroic." Just please tell me this isn't the start of a new trend.

"A momentary lapse, I assure you." Good! Because heroes are boring. Love her if you must, but don't you dare go getting soft on me, Davey-boy.

Then Fox had woken up. She asked what had happened, and David, cradling her in his arms, had told her it was just a bad dream. He'd looked at her with such tenderness, and she'd looked at him with such trust … for some reason, it almost made Puck think of …

Amusing, Puck reminded himself. This was amusing. David Xanatos just continued to surprise him.

Perhaps this love thing wasn't so bad after all.

For mortals, of course.

"Goliath had the right idea. Let's go home."

As Owen, the Puck allowed himself to smile.