Methos is in his office watching videos of cats on his laptop when Tony Stark wanders in looking for a consult. Mortals might say that this obsession with house pets is somehow representative of the end of western civilization, but Methos remembers Egypt, and a goddess with the head of a cat. Methos thinks maybe western civilization is overrated anyway.
"How did you get in here?", he asks, when it's clear Stark isn't going to just leave.
Stark smiles like he's posing for the cover of TIME, like he pays for sunbeams to fall at just the right angle and set off his cheekbones. Charisma hasn't been Methos's thing, not since Kronos, but he appreciates the effort. "I asked your department secretary to dinner," he admits.
Methos thinks of Paul and his obsession with alphabetizing, and winces. "I hope it was worth it," he says, closing the computer.
"We'll see," Stark says, handing him a sheet of paper. "I need this translated right away."
"Of course you do." Methos looks down at the paper, which is covered in what appear to be Norse runes, painstakingly retraced on looseleaf with a blue ballpoint pen. "I'm afraid ancient Norse mythology isn't really my field... Maybe Dr. Olsen, at Yale, if you're looking for a consult in the U.S."
Stark wiggles his eyebrows suggestively, which is possibly meant to indicate that Dr. Olsen is also six feet tall, blond, and built like a Barbie. Methos sighs repressively, even though he secretly agrees. "She's very good at what she does," he points out.
"She sent me to you," Stark says. "She said it wasn't ancient Norse, it must be a contemporary dialect, or possibly a joke or a fraud, and you were the guy to talk to either way. She said not to take no for an answer."
Methos slept with Dr. Olsen once, at a linguistics conference in Oslo; he didn't call her afterward, because hey, modern women don't approve of chivalry. Methos was never too into opening doors or buying flowers, but maybe he should have at least texted. Not that Tony Stark takes no for an answer much anyway, he bets.
"She's right," he says finally. "It isn't ancient Norse. I don't know what it is." He traces the runes with a finger. "Maybe it is a fraud. Where did you get it?"
"It's a long story," Stark says. He goes out into the main office and comes back with a black plastic case. A sword case. Methos almost tasers him, purely on reflex. He slips the taser back into its nest of ungraded research papers while Stark flips the case open with a magician's flair, and holds the sword out hilt-first.
Methos takes it gingerly, with his left hand. It looks like it's made of iron, but it's as light in his hand as aluminum and oddly warm to the touch-- he doesn't have to pretend to almost drop it. He doesn't know what he was expecting, precisely. There are swords he carried for years, for centuries, until they became almost a part of his arm; there are swords that might almost leap to his hand as the hammer Mjolnir does to Thor's.
This is a sword he has never carried, the runes on its hilt unfamiliar under his palm. Methos knows swords the way some other men know guns, or cars, or pornography. There was a time when he knew every master smith in Europe by his work, and most of them by name. He never met the man who forged this sword, not that man's master, not his master's master. "Where did you get this?", he says, as casually as he can, and swings it experimentally.
Stark grins. "It turned up in my office unexpectedly. We don't know where it came from. I was hoping you could tell us. I mean, you are The Swordsman, aren't you?".
A flick of his wrist, and the blade is at Stark's throat; it was made to thrust and not to cut, but it has enough of an edge for this. Stark swallows, and Methos can see that he is afraid, that he knows. One crappy cellphone video uploaded to Facebook, and everyone knows what you are. At least most people have the sense to hate the things they fear but Stark's eyes blaze with excitement. Methos wonders where he rates-- above driving too fast across the jagged California coastline but below playing chicken with 747s? He knows who Stark is, too.
"Why would you think I'm The Swordsman?", he asks. "I'm a linguistics professor. In Minnesota. I drive a Volvo."
"And you have very impressive academic credentials," Stark says soothingly. "It just so happens that I watched that video a number of times, using very sophisticated technology to zoom and sharpen the images. Also when Dr. Olsen recommended I speak with you, I ran an extensive background check and facial recognition scan. The results were-- interesting."
"But not legally evidence."
"Of course not." Stark looks shocked. "I wasn't threatening you, Dr. Grant."
"No," Methos agrees. "I was threatening you. Too subtle?"
"Maybe a little," Stark admits. "It takes quite a bit these days. Something to do with the company I keep, probably."
The only other Avenger Methos has met is Natasha Romanov. She was frightening in the way Darius was frightening, at his worst. But she was someone else then; that woman is dead, and he is not sure how much of her past Tony Stark knows. "I could cut off your head," he says, "if I were The Swordsman. One fell swoop." He taps Stark's throat.
"It isn't sharp enough," Stark protests. He isn't stupid, can't possibly be stupid even if only a third of his press is true, so Methos assumes this is bravado and not optimism. Of course it's sharp enough. He decapitated another Immortal with a stick once, and it took less than an hour.
"What exactly do you want from me, Iron Man?", Methos asks.
"I was just going to get you to translate the runes," Stark says hopefully.
"Well, I can't. They're gibberish in any language I know, and they aren't a modern forgery. So, not from around here. Which you knew. What do you want from me?"
"I want someone who knows how to use that, who can fight with us," Stark says, "and I think maybe whatever sent it meant it for you."
Methos lowers the blade to the desktop. He has been Peter Grant for three years now, which meant he might optimistically get another five out of the identity. But it's getting harder and harder to hide. If Stark found him, even if he hadn't really been looking--. He had had to burn a lot of bridges, after the video had gone viral. If Stark found him, the Watchers might. A part of him misses Joe and Mac and the others the way he'd miss his sword arm. He has been alone for so long, for so much of his life.
But he isn't sure he's ready to join Stark's little club. He isn't sure he wants his face on cereal boxes next to Captain America, or Pop Tarts boxes next to Thor. If he were an Avenger, if everyone in the world knew who he is but not what he is... "No," he says, and he makes himself mean it. "No."
He lets go of the sword all together and steps away from Stark. "I think I'm done with saving the world." I think I'm done with destroying the world to save it, he doesn't say. Stark looks a little too much like Kronos when he smiles.
"Okay," Stark says, but he doesn't reach to pick up the sword. "Well, why don't you hang on to that for me." And before Methos can call him back, he's going.
Methos wonders how he knew, what magic or science or myth it was that really drew him here. Methos never carried this sword, never even held it before today. But he saw it once centuries before, when he stopped to water his horse. He remembers the weak warmth of the English winter sun, and how he was sweating under his robes. While the gelding drank, he stared vacantly out over the lake, still doing alchemical sums in his head.
He almost missed it: he almost missed the woman's arm, rising out of the dark water, the dull gleam of the blade. But he could not have missed the voice, the voice of a woman who said twice in clear fluent Latin, "Go, son of no man. This is not for you." He was on his horse and half out of the clearing before she said it the third time, but he heard her, and this time she finished, "Not yet for you."
Methos shivers as he packs the sword away in its carrier. "Not yet," he says to it, and maybe not ever. But he's already planning Peter Grant's death, already wondering where he can go that Tony Stark can't track him, already wondering what kind of outfit Stark has planned for The Swordsman anyway.