“No, Joe. I'm still not going to tell you her name,” Methos rolled his eyes as the bar’s owner refilled his mug for the third time in the last hour, waiting till he had the newly refilled beer in hand before he finished flatly. “Or anything else about her. At all.”
The Watcher grimaced, like he'd actually thought that getting any more answers out of him in front of their friends would be any easier than it'd been without them there. “Well, will you at least tell me why MacLeod hasn't met her yet?”
“Met who?” the Scotsman finally asked, visibly amused. He and his student kept looking between them curiously; both of them visibly wondering if he'd finally managed to move on after Alexa. Though the Highlander, at least, looked doubtful of that. Not because it wouldn't eventually happen. The Highlander did know that the five-thousand-plus-year-old man had been married sixty-eight times. Had learned that shortly before he'd talked him into his insane plan to save the de Valicourt marriage when it looked like one of the world’s rare Immortal pairs might be breaking up for good. Or, as Felicity had laughing told him upon hearing both her teacher and her student’s sides of the tale, it might’ve taken them at least a few extra years of strife to get back together again.
That unfortunate series of events was also about as close as Duncan MacLeod had ever come to meeting Felicitas so far: as the passionate Gina de Valicourt was one of her students and friends. A lucky thing for Methos when the irate lady herself had wanted to take his head for daring to threaten her husband. Once she'd realized the man she'd seen fighting Robert was her own teacher's mentor, it hadn't been that hard to convince her he really wasn't a headhunter. The quick telling of what’d actually led to the ‘duel’ she’d witnessed between her husband and an unknown headhunter who happened to later be on the Highlander’s barge had even made a strange sort of sense if you’d ever met Duncan MacLeod’s romantic side, so Gina had forgiven him as long as he was willing to go along with her slightly evil prank to punish the other two Immortals, and Methos was more than happy to oblige. Based on that, Methos’s student and Gina’s teacher would normally have been inclined to meet a man like the Highlander.
But ancient Immortals weren’t typically prone to quickly rearranging their chosen lives just to make new friends who should be around for hundreds of years anyway, and the de Valicourt’s weren’t about to rush Gina’s teacher or tell her secrets; even to a friend they trusted. So the only one that could’ve pushed Felicitas back then was Methos, and he’s let his little sister put off the meeting for a little too long.
Because it was also only a few months after that that Duncan had helped Cassandra out with Roland Kantos, and that'd made all her student's praise for the Highlander as irrelevant as the fact that Methos, too, actually liked him. Felicitas would forgive almost anything—except willing association with 'the Witch.' Or the Roman Empire, though that grudge she seemed to have put behind her these days—finally.
Regardless, it was likely that Highlander's glances between Methos and Joe Dawson had more to do with the Watcher's clear interest and the ancient's unhelpfulness. Because he was more than capable of coming to the realization that the interaction meant the woman in question was another Immortal, and one that the Watchers didn't know. After all, Duncan had to know he'd be wrong to assume that a man who'd managed to marry sixty-eight mortal women over his five millennia hadn't learned to love, lose, and eventually love again. Whether the idea of 'Death of the Four Horsemen' aligned with a man that any woman would want to marry in the Scot’s head or not.
Realizing all of this, Methos should probably say 'no one important,' or something like that, but Felicitas was one of the very few friends—perhaps the only one—that he couldn't bring himself to so readily dismiss; even if he justified it as protecting her. She was family. So instead he brought the beer up to his mouth and started drinking it again.
“Few weeks ago, he had a visitor here,” Joe started telling them when the ancient stayed silent. “An Immortal woman we've never seen before. I've looked through every photo of suspected, unidentified Immortals we have and she's not in them,” he grimaced a little. “Not that surprising, though, since all of our surveillance tech—even the security cameras—went down while she was here.” He shot Methos a look. “And he won't tell me anything about her. Thought we were friends?”
“We are. Somehow,” the ancient rolled his eyes again, “And you can quit it with the surprised act, Joe. This can’t surprise you.”
Duncan was smirking as he glanced between them, downing some more beer himself instead of saying anything.
“So who is she?” Richie asked before the Watcher could do anything more than halfheartedly frown.
Methos laughed shortly, “If I've been telling Joe 'no' for weeks now, why would I change my mind now that two more nosy busy bodies are asking?” he asked, making Richie and Joe both looked mildly offended.
Duncan just chuckled. “Anyone I know?”
“How can you be so sure?” Joe tried again. “She's obviously one of the old ones, and we would’ve met her by now if you two spent a lot of time together. He may have met her at some point.”
“He hasn't,” Methos responded firmly.
If Felicitas had already met the younger Highlander she wouldn't still be so set against meeting him. 'Another foolish defender of the Witch'—as she referred to Cassandra, and by extension MacLeod—wasn’t someone she was willing to meet.
“Anyway,” Methos went on after another sip, raising any eyebrow at the Watcher. “Shouldn't you have a photo of her if he had?”
He knew they didn’t, of course, because he kept just as close an eye out for any potential references to her as he did for himself. The closest they’d come lately was that note about the painting of her, and he’d erased that accurate reference back in the 90’s. ‘Las Cenizas del Ángel’ was barely a threat so long after it’s time. It was one of some eighty-six-hundred paintings at El Prado, but it was one of Goya's. The Romantic artist's historical fame meant it would always be noticed, but Methos didn't dare try to destroy it outright. Felicitas would have a very hard time forgiving him if he burned down another national collection of knowledge. Thousands of paintings might even bother her more than the scrolls that'd passed for books back in Cleopatra's time. So he’d have to trust that the Watchers didn’t spend too much time studying old portraits that weren’t already linked to known Immortals, and the Watcher that’d remembered her from her time in the Spanish court—and had made note of the royals’ fondness for her and the later outrage at her betrothed’s betrayal—had long since died of old age. And at least it was a painting: masterfully made, but not a photograph.
“Like I said, all our surveillance was down. Even the bank’s cameras across the street went out before she entered the frames. And don’t think I don’t realize that she did that somehow,” the Watcher told the ancient, shaking his head. “You know photography's not that old, and the sketches we had before that weren't anywhere near as accurate.”
Methos shrugged, unable to deny it. After all, he had just been thinking very close to that. Counting on it, in fact. “Well, he hasn't met her. I can tell you that much.”
Joe's eyes narrowed at him. “You know, I could have people scouring all of Starling City for her.”
“You could,” the ancient replied lightly, “If you want to waste the manpower.”
“She's in Starling City?” Richie butted in again. “With the Robin Hood guy?”
Methos rolled his eyes at that. “He's not Robin Hood.”
“So you do know him,” Joe seized on that like a bulldog that hoped his bone would get bigger if he held onto it tightly enough.
Methos rolled his eyes again. “No. I just know he's not Robin Hood. I told you, Robin Hood wasn't an Immortal. He wasn't even one mortal man.”
“Wait,” Richie blinked at him. “He was real?”
Methos snorted, though he couldn’t say if it was more in disgust or amusement. “I know you're a child of the twentieth-century, Richie, but would it kill you to study history at all? Crack open a book once in a while?”
“Pretty sure Robin Hood wasn't covered in History class,” the still much younger Immortal shot back.
“And he still doesn't read much,” Mac acknowledged for him.
"No, movies and T.V are more my thing, thanks,” Richie interjected, ignoring the other three men's groans as he went on. “But there's plenty on Robin Hood there. Cartoons, movies, a few series... it's actually all based on a real guy?”
“No.” Methos rolled his eyes before he replied. “It's all based on stories told around campfires that got more and more fantastical with each retelling. It's all based on the fact that archers weren't uncommon before firearms were invented and readily available. And hoods were kind of the 'in' thing for a long while back then.”
Richie blinked at him, “Huh?”
The Highlander chuckled, but took over before Methos could seriously consider wasting a perfectly good beer by dumping it on the young idiot. “Used to be that anyone who wore a hood was referred to by it, and Robert was a popular name. Some version of ‘Robin Hood’ was a very common name.” He finished with a shrug. The thieves in question were all before his time, too, but not by much.
Methos nodded. “Though my friend would be happy to know her support of the entertainment industry was at least somewhat educational for you.”
“She works in films?” Joe asked quickly. “That how she—”
“No,” the ancient answered easily.
Glad that that, at least, was never a vocation his little sister had been drawn towards. It was difficult enough to keep her out of the history books with her tendency to end up around the people that history would want to remember. The people that shaped the world; and what those books about history would say. Inevitably, she always made it in there somehow, though it was never about fame for her.
Supporting films and the like that she found promising, was a slightly sentimental act of hers that harkened back to when art only flourished under the generosity of royal patrons; and later some wealthy nobles, followed after that by common folk who amassed enough wealth to be generous with it. Felicitas had been a real ruler several times over, and had played the parts slightly below one many—many—times to; though her loyalty to the arts traced back to the appreciation inspired in her too short childhood by her own mother’s love for them.
Not that Methos was going to tell any of his present friends any of that. Trying to redirect the Watcher's attention for at least a moment, Methos asked him, “Speaking of your reports, anything interesting?”
Joe got up from his seat on the other side of the bar; the one that it’d taken him years of increasing aches to finally relent and give himself a place to sit back there from time to time. He started putting the glasses that’d been on the drying rack a long while away as he answered. “Not in the normal ones, no,” he shrugged. “The Game’s gone pretty quiet these last few years, you all know that.”
“You don't have to say that like it's a bad thing,” Richie complained dryly, knocking back a good bit more of his beer with that slightly sour expression he tended to get whenever anyone wanted to talk to him—or around him—about The Game. In some ways Felicitas would completely adore him, but he’d annoy the hell out of her, too—much like he did her brother.
The Watcher had shaken his head immediately. “You know that’s not what I mean,” he paused in thought, and then tried to put it into words. “We thought The Gathering was happening back in the ‘90s,” he paused for a moment, and then went on. “Maybe it was just that travel got so much easier, but…”
“Communication, too,” Methos interjected offhandedly. “Wasn’t just that Immortals were meeting up more: the Watchers were also reporting back faster and more frequently. And it wasn’t just a couple men following around an Immortal and writing what he did in a book anymore. It was regular reports even before the Internet made ‘em at least weekly.”
It wasn’t only that, of course, but there was no reason to tell the Watcher and his still too young friends that. Really debating The Game was best done with other ancients—specifically those that’d already agreed it was something that should be stopped, not the rules any of them should want to live by. Madness always had an appeal to a certain sort, but the fewer Immortals who embraced it the better. Unfortunately just telling everyone that didn't work. Never had, and never would. As the Immortal that'd briefly impersonated Methos had learned to his detriment, like many had before him. He lost his head, and so too had all those that'd believed him and been unwilling to raise a sword to defend themselves or run thereafter.
Joe nodded, looking back at the Highlander as he went on. “Take your chronicles? Mac, you weren’t just meeting headhunters and the occasional immoral Immortal every now and again. You were fighting a duel every couple weeks, at least. Sometimes more often than that.”
“I remember,” Duncan said gruffly, before drinking several gulps of his own beer.
“Must've been exhausting,” Methos commented dryly, raising his mug to the Highlander in sardonic salute. “You must be glad that’s stopped, at least, even if you—and the Watchers, too—aren't sure why.”
“What?” Richie snorted into his own beer. “Like you are?”
Methos only shrugged.
It wasn’t worth trying to explain, even if he could, which he couldn’t. Not with Felicitas dead set against even meeting the younger Highlander. Without her approval, and his first millennium still centuries away, there was no way Duncan MacLeod’s nomination could make it past those first three vital votes. Methos could nominate the younger Highlander himself, of course, but he’d still never be approved by a second and third nomination. Not if Felicitas spoke against him, which she would, so long as Cassandra lived and Duncan defended her.
In the few, oft-repeated arguments the ancients would debate amongst themselves whenever they were called to meet; most of the other ancients would always side with Methos and Felicitas. They were both among the eldest of those who remained, and like all of the others they were each wise in their own ways.
The former Horseman, however, held no illusions there. Between him and the brilliant lady that’d been the beloved rule of multiple nations, there was no contest. He might be the world’s oldest Immortal, and he had once been someone many people wisely feared, but the others had long since become accustom to his history. Watchfulness, wariness and wiliness were the qualities he was respected for amongst his fellow ancients, but he'd never delude himself into thinking any of that’d be what would sway many of them, anymore than however many more years he had over most of them did.
Yes, his myth held some power. It was over the younger ones, though, more than the other ancients. They couldn't nominate or support nominations, anymore than they could veto actions before they came to a vote unless they were overruled by a majority of the other ancients. Only ancients could do that. By the time the younger ones had spent any number of centuries interacting with the other ancients, the awe at his age passed. Waning in the face of all the far greater gifts among those few that drew them all in.
And Felicitas wasn’t just one of those few. She was the most influential of them all by far. Methos was bias; but he was also right. Her heart, her mind and the general goodness at the core of her being just meant that no one wanted to work against her unless they weren't capable of not being entirely selfish individuals. On top of that, her history reassured them all that she was more than capable of making the hard calls, no matter how much those calls always haunted her afterwards. That they haunted her, too, only served as further reassurance…
Methos was no different. It hadn’t taken the young Queen of Carthage long to charm him at all, and that was back when she was still a new Immortal and the reigning queen of a great empire. Looking back, he thought he’d been caught up in her spell even before he snuck into her home to introduce himself. While the world had known many different nations and every one of them had had a ruler of some sort, the ones that deserved to rule and were loved for it were rarities: a recognizably very precious few, especially in the barbaric, brutal world that they’d all once lived in back when humanity was still in its infancy or toddlerhood. And the gracious queen’s reputation had spread far and wide even before she became an Immortal.
Without her husband as a protector Felicitas would not have ruled nearly so long—a certain amount of fear was always required to keep your enemies in check—but that was why she’d married him in the first place. Eligius was rightly considered the most dangerous warlord of the age, though those years were among the last of when the Four Horsemen were still riding. Even Kronos, for all his madness, hadn’t been willing to risk invoking his wrath, nor his mighty army, which had made Carthage an ideal place to hide when Methos had still feared that the former brother he’d had to betray might escape his well and try to find him. How well-protected the capital city of the Carthaginian Empire was made sure of that, even if it’d been only barely far enough away from that well for his peace of mind.
All the stories, however, hadn’t prepared Methos for Felicitas herself. Everything she stood for was the exact opposite of the Horsemen’s insanity: Order against chaos, joy rising over fear, and mercy undermining hatred. All that made the world beautiful embraced and shielded against all that was ugly—not in appearance, but in spirit. Though the queen's fair face didn't hurt her city, anymore than its high marble walls and defensible port by the seashore, or the well-armed, armored and disciplined army did. They formed the backdrop for the arts and charities she supported to make her city an ideal during her reign and for some long times thereafter. All of it making the city, and Felicitas, the perfect chance for any attempt Methos might make at some sort of redemption.
And that, of course, had only made Cassandra’s crimes against the queen strike so very deeply. Exactly as she had intended, because she wanted to hurt Methos more than she wanted to kill him, especially back then. The healer he’d turned into a slave and eventually let run away was perhaps the only individual in the world that Felicitas could never imagine forgiving, and with good cause.
So Methos completely understood why Felicitas hated Cassandra. Of course. But that didn’t mean he could hate her. Not when he’d made the woman into what she was. Her First Death had been at his hand. Her initial formative impression of Immortality had been the sheer brutality of the Four Horsemen. The end of everything she’d known: her home, her people, and her mortality. Taking her life in every way imaginable.
That Methos had saved her head when he’d claimed her—thereby forestalling any of his so-called brothers from doing the same or just raping her and then taking her Quickening, was irrelevant. He’d had to be a monster to survive among monsters, so when he should’ve been her teacher he’d been a monster, too. Thus, every monstrous choice she’d made after that—every crime, every evil act at all—was at least partially his fault, too. He’d made her, so he was to blame.
Felicitas refused to see it that way…
…FLASHBACK: 2,788 years ago…
“You are not a monster, Methos,” the Queen of Carthage had waited till he looked at her again before she continued with a gentle smile. “Your circumstances may have made you be one, for a time. And for that time, you were one.” She nodded acknowledgment of his past crimes without breaking eye-contact. “Then you chose to change. To become a better man: the man that you are now. That is the man I know, the man that Carthage has always known. We are our choices, and that choice made you that man.”
The man that'd been called Death had to frown at her. “Murder and rape are crimes here in Carthage. Punishable by death. Just last week you sentenced and oversaw—”
“And I always hear their stories before passing judgment on them, just as I have done now,” Felicitas interrupted, still sounding so very gentle. “Can’t you guess why?”
Methos made himself think it through before he responded slowly. “It’s the last chance they have to defend themselves. The last chance that those who’re falsely accused have to save themselves from dying for crimes they didn’t commit,” He shook his head sharply, looking down. “But I did everything Cassandra’s accused me of —I did it. All of it. Or near enough to it.”
The young queen was quiet a moment, then her soft voice replied, “Look at me, Methos.”
His gaze rose automatically at the still quiet, and gentle, command. Their eyes stayed locked for several long moments before he had to fill the silence. “I was one of the Four Horsemen, Your Majesty. For over a thousand years before Cassandra was born. I killed thousands—tens of thousands at least. I was Death, Fel —Yo ur Majesty.”
“Yes. So you have said,” the queen nodded, not correcting his use of her title instead of her name.
Because she was a queen right now, not his student or friend. All were the same woman, but the role mattered. Maybe more to him than her right now, but she wouldn’t question that.
“But you also said that your only choice at the time was to become one of them. To become one of them, or die. And I do not consider one’s own end a choice anyone should have to make,” She swallowed slightly, just barely deep enough to be noticeable through her regal composure. “That sacrifice, if it needs to happen, should never be diminished. It is a choice that has to be honored.”
Of course she felt that way. The daughter of Dido had still been a very young girl when she’d had to watch her mother climb atop a burning pyre. A sacrifice that’d achieved exactly what it was intended to, but had broken the little princess’s heart in the process. That harrowing experience would've forged very strong opinions on choices and death in anyone, but especially in a child that'd had to start ruling a nation the very next day. From what the longtime palace servants had said, the orphaned princess had given herself that night to mourn privately, but by the dawn she was ready to face the Council, just as her mother had commanded. Then she was the ruling queen of this city and its empire. Making choices for all her people—choices that sometimes ended lives, choices that sometimes took their freedoms away from them—for every day thereafter.
But the good, merciful queen’s strong convictions didn’t change what he’d done.
“I am guilty, Felicitas. I am,” Methos told her again, forcing the words to form on his tongue as she looked calmly back at him. “I deserve to die for what I did. And the world will be a better place without me in it.”
It was not something he would normally say. Not something he'd ever imagined he even could say. But it wasn't every day he had to face the righteous fury of one of his victims. The only one that could come back and call for her vengeance. The only one he could name, who he'd come to appreciate and admire. The only one he'd tried to protect, failed, and then had to let go.
And it wasn't every day he had to kneel before the throne of the most gracious, well-intentioned leader he'd ever met to confess his crimes. Again, and again, and again. Three times now, all after listening to Cassandra tell of her own ordeal. After he'd watched her dissolve into tears several times through the telling. After he'd watched her need to be led away by the palace maids, who'd had to all but carry her out...
He had done more than enough damage in the world. It seemed only right that this woman—the one he'd decided to help as an attempt at redemption—be the one to send him from existence. Her husband could easily deliver the final blow: far away from the city, where Methos's old, violent and Dark Quickening couldn't touch either Felicitas or Cassandra. Or Eligius could, if his wife would command it of him. Except she didn't seem to see that.
"I don't believe that,” the queen was shaking her head again. Slowly, smoothly from side-to-side with her chin held high so as not to displace her crown, which was still sitting steadily atop her head. “The man I know recognized that what he’d allowed himself to become was wrong. The man I know chose to change and is trying to be a better man. And succeeding. That man has been nothing but good to me—"
"I throw you off cliffs and balconies every chance I get,” Methos reminded her, the point slipping out because it was her most common complaint about all his lessons in their various forms. Kneeling on the cold, hard marble of the throne room's floor, those balconies seemed a long way away, though they were made from the same smooth stone and part of the same palace.
His student snorted in half-hearted exasperation, somehow seeming no less ladylike as she did it. “You haven't managed that in more than a year now,” she pointed out, shaking her head. “And it serves its purpose. Just as all your lessons do. It’s taught me wariness.”
Yet somehow she wasn't wary of him when they weren't standing too close to cliffs or balconies. Not even after hearing everything Cassandra had said, so many words he'd barely heard as his own guilt mounted while he watched her tears. His mind recalling his crimes all too easily.
"The skills you learned then, as one of the Horsemen, you have also put to good use here,” Felicitas went on. "And not just for me. Though even Eligius says I do know how to fight now.”
“You still have a long way to go,” Methos told her automatically.
She did. And sometimes he thought she always would—and that that was a journey he didn’t really want her to ever completely make.
"I do. I know that,” Felicitas agreed with a small nod, studying him for another moment before going on. "But no, that is not why I refuse to order your death. Cassandra has called for my judgment as Carthage’s queen, and I have always tried to be a good queen. A just queen. Though it would seem that weighing the actions and lives of Immortals could never be quite the same as the mortal affairs my mother taught me to judge, her lessons and my own experiences are all I can call upon. An eye for an eye is not justice, it is vengeance. One can create peace, while the other will breed only hate. And so my decision is made.” She sighed, shaking her head so slightly the elaborate hairstyle holding her crown atop her head didn't shift at all, but it never did. "I am not lying to you, Methos. I can see you are not the man Cassandra remembers... You chose to leave the Four Horsemen, despite your fears. You chose to change, to become a better man and more than you were. Much as most would like to believe otherwise, that is not an easy thing to do.”
Methos heaved another heavy sigh, “But I still was that man, Your Majesty. I killed countless people. Cassandra’s tribe alone was at least three dozen strong, maybe more. That was far from the first and not nearly the last.”
“I understand that,” Felicitas said again, then she cocked her head to the side just as far as her crown and hair would allow. “You mentioned the murderers you’ve watched me condemn. Don’t you remember the ones that I did not?”
The older Immortal blinked, but then nodded. “You made the woman who poisoned her husband a maid here in the palace, but that was self-defense. The man was beating her practically from the day they were wed.”
That same woman had been among those that'd helped Cassandra stand and depart when their sovereign had given her leave. All her injuries taken away by time and leaving behind another mortal who was just as happily devoted to her queen as all the rest.
“Yes,” the queen nodded. “And the boy on the run from Rome?”
That 'boy' was a young man now, as he'd nearly been one then. Now he was a skilled, loyal soldier. Recently risen through the ranks of the army to the Royal Guard—Carthage's most elite fighters. And among them, though young, he was still one of the best.
“The Romans don’t have the authority to conscript or enslave anyone in the Carthagian Empire. He only killed the Roman soldiers because they tried to make him leave with them. He sought sanctuary in your city, and you gave it to him. That’s politics, and again, arguably self-defense,” Methos shook his head again. “I planned the slaughter of — ”
“Do you remember Patroklos, the Blacksmith?”
Methos had to think for a moment about that one, but then he remembered the man that the queen had forgiven for his crime with an official royal pardon given only a couple of days after the former Horseman had arrived here in Carthage. Long after the crime, and barely in time to hear the verdict. “The man he murdered was a murderer himself; a man who’d killed over a dozen women, right? He did the city a favor. Yes, he took the law into his own hands, but the man had killed his daughter — and he saved the girl that would’ve been the bastard’s…fifteenth victim?”
“No. Seventeenth, sadly,” Felicitas corrected quietly. “Patroklos’s daughter, Kathara, was the fifteenth. Killed while on her way to the palace, on the same walk she made long before sunrise every day, so that we might have freshly baked bread with our breakfast. She'd just turned seventeen...” the queen looked away this time, sad eyes studying the horizon but probably seeing the face of a girl she'd barely known. "Kathara was the first victim I'd met personally, but all of them were murdered inside my city, their home, where they should’ve been safe to walk the streets.”
This time it was the guilt and grief he heard in her voice that made Methos frown, “Carthage is one of the most secure cities in the world, Felicitas, but even your army can’t post guards on every corner or patrol every alley.”
“No, I know,” the queen sighed. “Yet sixteen innocent girls died. Almost seventeen. All because a madman hated their red hair.” She shook her head again. "And the man that stopped him? Patroklos? He wasn't a warrior sworn to fight for this city. He was a grieving father who took to patrolling the streets his daughter had died on. He shouldn’t have had to do it, but I couldn’t punish him for it, either. We had failed him, not the other way around.”
Methos eyes narrowed when she finally got to that point. “No city failed me, Felicitas — Your Majesty. I’ve told you — ”
“Immortals can’t have any permanent place in mortal societies, and we can’t all trust each other enough to form one of our own,” Felicitas barely nodded. “I can’t believe that. Perhaps I’ve just been too lucky in my own life — ”
“You’re still very young,” he interjected.
She laughed lightly, “Compared to you I’ll always be young, won’t I?”
The small smile slipped from her face as soon as he replied seriously. “Not after I die for my crimes.”
The queen sighed, royal composure swiftly restored. “I won’t kill you, Methos, and I won’t condemn you either,” She paused, and then nodded. “I will, however, promise to stop you if you ever slip back into the ways you hate yourself so much for following before. That man I could never call a friend, let alone the brother you have become to me.”
Methos swallowed, barely able to believe the woman in front of him was real even as he stared at her. It was the ruling queen he was staring at as she turned towards the slightly wide-eyed court scribe that was sitting off to the side of the dais.
The wrinkled old man that would never live a fraction of any Immortal’s endless life had not recorded a single word since the former Horseman had knelt before the throne. Now, he quickly picked up his quill and began to write as his queen had bid him with a regal nod.
"Let this decree by Felicitas; Queen of Carthage, Daughter of Dido the Phoenix, be known by all our peoples in Carthage and across all our empire. On this day we pass our judgment upon this man: Methos, warrior from distant sands. We do here by decree all past crimes committed and confessed in our presence as actions made under fear for his life and the lives of others.”
The words sounded both wonderful and impossibly wrong to the man that'd been Death, but even as he thought that he found he could not move while she continued, her powerful voice echoing around the throne room.
“We recognize the fears confronted and the evils thereafter averted, as well as the remorse that yet remains. Thereby, under the laws of Carthage, and by royal decree, we hereby declare all past wrongdoings by this warrior pardoned, and extend our protections and well wishes for a brighter future,” She rose from her throne with all the graceful ease of long practice, and offered him her hand. “You may rise.”
Methos almost shook his head, but he knew the words were a command, not an offer, and to refuse her hand now would only mildly insult her. It wouldn’t change her mind. So he reached up and gently caught her slender fingers within the folds of his palm, not needing the help to stand again but accepting the pretence of it anyway as he rose to his feet. On the lowest step of the royal dais his head was at eyelevel with the queen, but he looked down as he tried to let go of her hand.
Felicitas surprised him by holding on, but when he looked back at her, her eyes had gone to the scribe again.
The old man had just finished blowing the sand he'd scattered upon the parchment off of it. They waited while he dutifully shook some of the excess off, before dripping the royal red wax in a small pool by the base, before he stood on slow, shaky legs and tottered over to the two Immortals that were waiting patiently.
Felicitas pressed her royal seal into the cooling wax, before she accepted the document of her decree with a small smile and nod. “Thank you, Master Nabu. You may go now.”
It almost hurt to watch the old man bow. Nabu the Scribe didn't have long left in this world. He looked like he might fall over at any moment and just stay there on the ground, whether the fall itself broke his body or not. But eventually he managed to stand up, almost all the way with his bent back, and then he slowly tottered his way out of the throne room as the two ageless, ever-young Immortals watched him go with equal parts patience and pain.
Only then did Methos look back at the younger Immortal, to find the queen’s eyes returning to him at the same time.
“You cannot change what you have done, my friend,” Felicitas told him, her voice that same soft, gentle tone again. “Only what you will do next.”
Methos shook his head. “I don’t know how many men I’ve murdered, Felicitas. I don’t know how many women and children suffered at the hands of the Four Horsemen. But I can guess.”
“So can I,” Felicitas told him, shaking her head. “But you put a stop to that.”
“After centuries of riding with them!” Methos spat, shaking his head but still not trying to yank his hand away from hers or break their locked gazes. “I was one of them, Felicitas. For thousands of years!”
“I know,” she nodded calmly. “I know exactly who you were, Methos. You told me, remember? That first night, when we met.”
He stared at her disbelievingly when one of her eyebrows rose.
“Did you think Eligius and I didn’t recognize, didn’t realize, what the stories you told us of your times before coming to us in Carthage meant? We knew, and we accepted you anyway,” Felicitas shook her head. “Since then you have become my truest and most trusted friend. The only friend I have that time will not eventually take away from me. How could I ever turn on you now?”
“I helped slaughter her village. I took her mortal life away from her and killed her myself,” Methos swallowed. “I raped her. More than once.”
Still the queen didn’t withdraw her hand, she only looked thoughtful. “I can’t believe that.”
“What?” he blinked at her, bewildered by her calm acceptance of a crime he knew she abhorred. “But I did it.”
Felicitas shook her head, “Yet she did not accuse you of that when she pled her case before me. Yes, you and the other Horsemen murdered her people. You killed her and made her your slave.”
“Yet the only time she mentioned rape was when the other Horseman—Kronos, I think it was?—wanted her and you didn’t fight for her. She had to protect herself and flee, she said.”
“I couldn’t protect her,” Methos admitted with a wince. He could barely believe he was defending himself now, given he really didn’t think any of his actions were defensible, but it felt almost good to say it aloud. “Kronos would’ve killed me.”
“And her, yes,” Felicitas nodded again. “So she had to save herself. And she did, and then you did,” She raised an eyebrow. “Or are you really going to tell me that you couldn’t have stopped her escape? That it wouldn’t have been easier for you, if you’d let Kronos take his rage out on her?”
“How…” the ancient warrior blinked at her as he trailed off uncertainly, amazed at just how accurate her assessment of Cassandra’s escape was when he’d spoken barely a few full sentences about it.
“You turned against the Horsemen not long after that, did you not?” Felicitas didn’t wait for confirmation before she nodded, rendering the query rhetorical. “It couldn’t have been very long. By her own reckoning, she’s only a few decades older than me.”
Methos swallowed, but slowly made himself say, “I realized I couldn’t ride with them anymore. I knew that I had to escape—but that they’d never let me go. If I tried to escape they’d hunt me down, and I’d never know peace,” He closed his eyes. “So the next time we separated, as we did from time to time, briefly, I didn’t warn them of any of the dangers in the local area. What areas they should avoid, natural dangers, anything. And I followed Kronos,” He shook his head, swallowing as her small have gave his a gentle squeeze of comfort. “He knew I was there, of course, so he waited for me. He thought I’d planned to make amends after Cassandra… instead I trapped him in deep well, at an all but abandoned outpost.”
“You didn’t try to kill any of them?” she asked gently.
“Just putting him in that well was terrifying enough, thank you,” Methos shook his head. “Silas and Caspian I might’ve had a chance, but Kronos… if my talent is survival, his is killing. I can fight, but I’ve always been a strategist first. Kronos is a fighter through and through.”
“Where is this well then?” his student asked him. “This outpost?”
“Far from Carthage, across the sea,” Methos replied readily. “Outside of all your realms and control.”
The young queen sighed, but then nodded. “Well, we can only hope the well doesn’t run dry and no poor fool stops by to help him escape it.”
“I’d paid men to guard it, so the outpost didn’t seem abandoned when we got there,” Methos told her with a shrug. “But their service ran out years ago.”
“With you far across the sea, that makes sense,” Felicity nodded, thinking about it a moment before she asked him, “What of the other two? Caspian and Silas? What was to stop them from rescuing Kronos than coming to find you?”
Methos snorted, “Caspian wouldn’t work with Silas without Kronos forcing him to. Both of them love to fight and kill, but that and their so-called brotherhood are the only common ground they have. Any attempt to work together without anyone to keep them in line would inevitably lead to one of them losing their head. And Caspian can’t be sure he’d be able to beat Silas, so he won’t try.”
“Well, that’s one less thing for us to worry about, then,” Felicitas sighed.
“Kronos alone is a threat, Felicitas,” Methos tried to tell her. “Most of my lethal skills I learned from watching him.”
“And now you have city walls and an army around you, around all of us,” she reminded him, giving his hand another squeeze accompanied by a sardonic smile. “Eligius and I did realize that as well.”
The older Immortal shook his head. “If Kronos got out and decided to come for me, none of your guards would be able to stop him. And I couldn’t either. Much of my more lethal skills I learned from watching him.” He sighed, “I’d hoped the distance would be enough. The city built by Dido, the queen who sacrificed herself, was a far off, exotic place from the lands we were rampaging through. But Cassandra found me.”
“Actually, she didn’t,” Felicitas told him. “She thought Carthage was a long way from the Horsemen, as well. That is why she crossed the sea herself. Finding you here before her was a shock.” She pulled her hand away just enough to gently pat the top of his before she folded both her hands around his one. “Our choices are our own, Methos. You made yours, and I’ve made mine. Now we each need to live with the consequences.”
…End of Flashback.
Choice. That was a very important thing to Felicitas: it always had been, and undoubtedly always would be.
Taking into account her mother’s history it made some sense. The Phoenician princess that took her fate into her own hands, leaving all she knew behind to start anew elsewhere. Then Dido’s ultimate decision to sacrifice her life rather than her freedom, to sacrifice herself rather than risk her daughter… All of it had understandably shaped that daughter into the incredible woman she was. Had always been, and undoubtedly always would be.
And Methos still had that scroll. Despite not understanding at all how the good queen could’ve given it to him, that document was one of the oldest personal possessions he’d long made a point of holding onto. Over time the almost pretty blue-black ink had faded to a dull brown, and the papyrus scroll itself had become quite fragile despite the care taken with all royal records and the expense that went into making them. Still, the royal pardon was there, kept safe among the oldest of his journals, which even he had not seen in some decades now. The most vibrant part of it—that red wax royal seal that’d purpled with age—still a vibrant physical reminder of the beloved, merciful queen regnant she’d been back then. The gracious sovereign who knew the worst of him, but forgiven him anyway, long before they called each other brother and sister by choice…
Not that many could read the words once scrawled there by an old man’s hand, of course; the Phoenician language had only outlived its people in mostly papyrus and leather records that fell victim to the region’s dampness. The number of people these days that could even read his pardon were probably only in the hundreds or less. And that was assuming there were still that many mortal scholars that’d care to study a language long dead without much history to go with it. Not when the city and empire itself had fallen to Rome so very long ago. A shame, perhaps, as almost all the western languages ultimately developed from it, but convenient for those that didn’t want too much of the world’s true history revealed.
All of that, however, was still only a fraction of the treasure Methos’s favorite student—the woman he’d always consider family, his little sister—really was. Whether her understanding and compassion was crafted by her upbringing or if she was born with it—nature, nurture, or the perfect recipe thereof—it hardly mattered. Everyone who knew Felicitas couldn’t help but recognize it. Be amazed by it. Add her equally impressive intelligence in, and an argument she made against someone had to be given a lot more weight than any arguments in favor coming from him.
“You think he’s back yet?” he heard Richie say, drawing him out of his thoughts and memories even as the two older men shushed the still youngest member of their little group.
“Sorry,” Methos shook his head and then glanced between them. “Got a little lost in thought there.”
“It happens,” Mac forgave him immediately, looking a little pensive as he took the final sip of what was probably still the first beer Joe had given him shortly after the other two Immortals’ arrival.
“Anything you’d care to share?” the bar owner questioned.
“Nope,” Methos snorted, and finished off his own beer, too.
“Hey, Joe, turn it up,” Richie said suddenly, and all eyes went to him and then they followed his line of sight to the television just in time to see the BREAKING NEWS headline finish scrolling off the screen to be replaced by a familiar anchor over the actual news headlines. The Starling City news anchor, who was saying something about it as the Watcher looked for the remote.
ATTACK ON STARLING CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT!
After several seconds of fruitless searching, his stumbling around probably more a product of his old injury than the age that was slowly creeping up on him, Joe finally gave up on the missing device and instead went to the T.V itself to turn the volume there in time to catch the end of the news anchor’s introduction.
“…Dispatch’s own Jacqui Simms is on scene with more details.”
“Geeze, don’t they have any other reporters?” Richie wondered as the news switched to the woman in question. “She was the one that reported on the last big thing there, too, wasn’t she?”
“Yeah,” MacLeod agreed. “Think she might be a fan.”
Methos and Joe both snorted.
“You think?” the ancient asked.
“Of The Vigilante?” the Watcher said at the same time. “She’s definitely a fan.”
“Good evening, Jonathan,” the reporter herself a few moments after the camera switched to her, undoubtedly once she’d received confirmation that she was in fact being broadcast around the country again. “We are here at the Starling City Police Department, which has so far issued no official comment on the incident earlier tonight. However, an anonymous source has confirmed that the attacker is believed to be none other than the same archer responsible for the Christmas Hostage Crisis, where the Starling City Vigilante saved six hostages from the man the S.C.P.D believed to be him until that very confrontation. There was no sign of The Arrow this evening when this other archer used what appeared to be some type of widespread knockout gas to disable the entire police force on site. Another anonymous source has confirmed that this other archer’s objective here tonight appeared to be the escape of Helena Bertinelli, daughter of convicted mob boss Frank Bertinelli and also known as the Huntress. Miss Bertinelli was captured in a sting operation not a full hour before this stunning breakout occurred.”
“So much for the police not releasing any comment,” Richie snorted. “Sounds like a bunch of ‘em are talking anyway.”
He wasn’t wrong. While there were undoubtedly more than the cops in their station, it wasn’t likely any of these specifics could’ve come from someone who wasn’t one. A sudden uptick of noise from the television drew their attention back to the screen before anyone else could say anything, and they all watched as the reporter and her cameraman both turned to see what the ruckus was all about. Not surprisingly it was the arrival of someone important at the scene.
“Looks like it’s time for the official comment already,” Joe observed.
Methos snorted again, “Imagine that.”
The higher ups in the S.C.P.D would probably have preferred to get out ahead of this news report, but in a nation with free press and so many other freedoms that was nearly impossible to do these days.
“Police Commissioner Brian Nudocerdo has just arrived,” the fearless report said into her mike even as she joined the rush of heels, microphones and cameras towards the man in question. Her voice, being the closet one to her own microphone, was the only one they could make out over all the others calling questions at the man, though they were likely all saying similar things. “Commissioner! Commissioner Nudocerdo!”
The head of the city’s police didn’t pay the questions any more attention than a nod and a raised hand to forestall further shouting, though it took several seconds for every self-important reporter there to realize that shouting some more at him wouldn’t get him to change his mind and answer whatever specific question they wanted him to. “Good evening, I have a statement for the people of Starling City. My office will be releasing a report containing more specifics shortly. No further questions about the incident in question can be answered at this time, as the events are part of an open investigation.” He paused a moment for the discontented grumbles to die down, which they did after a few long seconds. “There has been a great deal of unsubstantiated speculation regarding what happened here at Police Headquarters. I will start by saying that yes, an attack on the police was carried out here tonight involving the use of an incapacitating agent. The incident has been classified as terrorism. However, it is with considerable relief that I can report there were no fatalities as a result of this attack here tonight. At this time, we are aware of two suspected perpetrators. One, Miss Helena Bertinelli, was in custody and under arrest at the time of the attack but missing afterwards. Her picture will be released to the public shortly. She is to be considered armed and dangerous. She may be accompanied by a man whose identity at this time remains unknown, he too is considered armed and extremely dangerous. He was last seen wearing all black, armed with a bow, arrows, and a sword. At this time, we ask the public to be on the lookout for both individuals, but do not attempt to approach them. If you see either suspect, please call our hotline or 9-1-1,” He paused to look around seriously, seemingly ignoring the restless mutters of the reports. “Thank you for your time and help. Have a good evening.”
There were questions called after the man as he turned and left, headed straight into the building that’d been attacked a short time before. That he couldn’t answer any of those questions and had said as much meant nothing to these people that supposedly wanted the truth but really, for most of them anyway, seemed to like hearing themselves talk more than anything else.
“Well, there you have it, Jonathan,” Jacqui had her microphone back in front of her perfectly painted lips, her pretty face fixed in a serious expression as the cameraman focused on her again. “Confirmation from none less the Starling City Police Commissioner himself that the Dark Archer was here, rescuing the Huntress, tonight. And again, it seems, without intervention from the Starling City Vigilante, our local police were unable to handle the threat.”
Richie whistled, “None of the cops are gonna like that.”
“Surprised she hasn’t been arrested already,” the Highlander commented.
Joe shook his head. “They have to be more careful of that sort of thing these days. Especially in this climate. The public’s not positively predisposed towards the police as it is, and the media is supposed to hold them in line. Fairly and without bias, supposedly. But unfairness and bias both sell; and everybody wants to grab their moment of fame these days,” He shrugged to dismiss his own disgust at the dishonesty of it all. Or maybe at the duplicity. “Usually the media’s only going after the cops this much when they’ve gone over the top or over the line, but that city’s been hurting for a while. The report I just got from research compares its crime stats to cities two or three times its size.”
“How big is it?” MacLeod wondered. “How many people live there?”
“‘Bout five-hundred-eighty thousand, all told,” the Watcher replied easily. “Some reports say their tourisms been doing a lot better since this Vigilante started up,” He shook his head. “Apparently people like the idea of visiting the home of the modern day Robin Hood.”
“Don’t they care that he’s a criminal?” the Highlander frowned.
Methos raised an eyebrow, “I seem to recall you fought in more than one revolution in your time, Mac,” He shook his head. “You haven’t lived that long yet, but even Richie has to have realized life’s never really that simple.”
The youngest Immortal shrugged, “Hey, something’s obviously screwed up there. I mean, if it weren’t, no one would like what this guy’s been doing.”
“Actually it’s at least two guys,” Joe put in, shrugging when the Immortals all looked at him. “Even the reporters realized that, you three. She just said so,” he pointed out, gesturing towards the now muted T.V as he went on to explain. “They’re calling The Hood either ‘The Vigilante’ or ‘The Arrow’ now, but he and this other guy, the Dark Archer, they’re definitely two different people. Remember? One of ‘em wanted to kill the other a couple months ago? Took a handful of hostages ‘round Christmas time?”
“And the Vigilante came to the rescue,” Methos nodded, frowning slightly. “Getting in without any help from the cops, and both archers got out with the building supposedly completely surrounded.”
“Not sure what to make of the Dark Archer rescuing the Huntress though,” Joe admitted with a frown. “We thought the cops were right about her connection to the Hood.”
Richie snorted again at that. “Why would he rescue the other guy’s girlfriend if he wants him dead?”
“Bait,” Methos shrugged. “Or just information, maybe,” He took a sip of his beer. “The first guy really needs another name though.”
Richie laughed lightly, “I know, right? It’s like he wanted to be compared to Robin Hood all the time!”
“Pretty sure the police picked the name for him, or the media,” the Highlander put in then.
“From the police reports we were able to get our hands on,” Joe spoke up. “He was originally called ‘the man in a hood’ or ‘the vigilante.’” He shrugged. “Got shortened from that mouthful to just ‘The Hood’ pretty quickly, or ‘The Vigilante’ with all capitals. And like I said, research says ‘The Arrow’s’ another name for him, too.”
“What about this Huntress?” Methos asked, hoping his interest didn’t come across as too much because he couldn’t help himself at this point.
“Helena Bertinelli. Daughter of Frank Bertinelli,” Joe dutifully reported as he put three full beers on the counter before them in preparation for when they finished the ones they already had. “He was the head of the Italian mob there before the Hood brought him down. Had to break up a big fight between Bertinelli’s people and the Chinese mob to do it, which could’ve gotten real messy, real fast if Bertinelli had died instead of being arrested,” He shook his head. “His daughter apparently set the whole thing up: tried to get the Chinese mob to take her father out. But she disappeared during the takedown, after the Vigilante stopped her from killing her father herself. The S.C.P.D didn’t see any sign of her working with the other mobs—they thought she might’ve been working with the Hood. Or maybe he was trying to stop her after he realized what she was doing was gonna spiral into an all-out mob war.”
From some of the heroics he’d read about already, Methos thought that sounded more likely. As the man they were talking about was starting to shape up into some sort of heroic champion for his city. The likes of which the world really hadn’t seen since ancient times. Not nearly so publically, anyway.
“No sign of her after that?” Mac asked, clearly curious despite himself.
“She may be responsible for a few more hits on the mob around the world, targeting her father’s people,” Joe shrugged. “According to the S.C.P.D, anyway. They thought she’d come back when her father agreed to testify against his buddies in the East Coast Crime Families, and she did, so they were ready for her.”
“They just weren’t ready for her boyfriend?” Richie asked, sounding a little confused.
“There wasn’t any indication that she was working with the other archer earlier,” the Watcher reported, tiredly shaking his head even as he finally took the last empty glass to put in the sink after Richie had claimed his refill. “Some of the violence against the Bertinelli Crime Family could’ve been him, but there were never any arrows at all. Green or black.”
Richie snorted, “Wait, they actually color-code themselves and the cops didn’t realize they had a copycat right away?”
“Probably did realize it,” Duncan put in before his Watcher could respond. “Just wasn’t something they wanted to tell the public if they didn’t have to,” He looked at Joe then, in time catch his nod of agreement. “Didn’t one of Amanda’s student’s move to Starling recently? That guy she’s still keeping tabs on?”
“What?” Methos looked between the two men with a deep frown, and demanded harshly, “Who?”
“Don’t think you’ve met him,” Joe told him, frowning at the Highlander then. “Didn’t think any of you had.”
“Have’na,” Duncan acknowledged, going on after a somehow more brooding sip of his own beer—and the brooding would’ve been clear even if some of his native brogue wasn’t slipping out a bit more heavily than normal. “Amanda doesn’t want to introduce us. An’ she made me give my word that I wouldn’t seek him out. She still keeps tabs on him though, mentioned he’d moved to Starling a few weeks ago.”
“Did she?” Joe asked, and then shook his head with a sigh. “Would’ve been nice to know,” he smirked a little at the oldest Immortal. “You obviously didn’t. Not that I’d really believe he was the one you wanted us keeping an eye on.”
“Why won’t you at least tell us her name?” the Highlander asked then, frowning at the ancient he still sometimes alternated between not trusting and yet still went to for his supposed ‘wisdom’ whenever it might suit him.
“Joe could do that,” Methos replied before another sip of beer.
The Watcher snorted, “Alyssa was no more her real name than Adam’s yours. She even admitted it straight to my face with a smile.”
No one forgot that beautiful smile. And Joe Dawson had even earned the real one by being a good friend to her brother. A better friend than Duncan MacLeod undoubtedly was in her mind, Methos didn’t doubt, so long as the younger Highlander freely associated with Cassandra. That her teacher also spoke up in his former victim’s defense was neither here nor there in her mind.
“Adam Pierson is my name,” the world’s oldest Immortal replied immediately, meeting the mortal’s eyes squarely. “True, it wasn’t the first name I was known by, and it won’t be the last. But it’s the name all Watchers know—of the Immortal that was one of them—so it’ll live on a lot longer than most,” He held the younger man’s eyes for several long moments, and then sighed. “It’s nothing against you, Joe. I’ve told you that already. But her secrets are not mine to tell.”
The Watcher kept frowning at him for several more moments, but then looked away with a nod. He grabbed another glass from under the counter and started refilling it before he started talking again. “Nick sent me some of the police reports when I asked, before the S.C.P.D laid their trap for the Huntress. One of Bertinelli’s underlings—a drug lord, I think—swore up and down that the Hood and a woman in purple took his people down with arrows and crossbow bolts. Even quoted his line about his targets having failed Starling City. But no arrows were found at that scene, green or black. No bolts, either.”
“So it could’ve been the other archer,” Methos observed, almost enjoying the intrigue of it all.
Almost. He couldn’t quite enjoy anything about all of this when there was this violent churning sensation being sent straight through his gut by the discussion—by what his sister might’ve gotten herself involved in this time—and only tight control kept him from letting any of it show on his face as he finished off another drink before accepting the next replacement with only a nod of thanks.
“A bunch of mobsters that haven’t met either one before probably couldn’t tell the difference between one archer and another. Especially if he attacked at night and it was dark—green can look a lot like black in the dark.”
“So can purple,” Duncan pointed out, still nursing his second beer. Probably hoping to encourage his still young protégé to do the same, though that really wasn’t working so far.
Joe snorted, “Not this purple,” he told them, shaking his head. “The Huntress wasn’t aiming to blend in. There’s some black in her outfit, but that bright purple’s supposed to stand out.”
“There’s times and places for that,” Methos observed, trying to think it through. “If the objective—destroying her father—was hers, she’d want to be the one they remembered. The green archer seems to stay out of the spotlight for the most part. The black one does, too. He had a hostage read his demands, after all.”
Just because Felicitas was living in the same city as all these crazy people didn’t mean she’d end up dating one of them. After all, his sister was only one in over half a million people there.
Even if every new thing Methos learned about the green archer made him think that the vigilante fit his sister’s type a little too well for her Immortal mentor’s peace of mind. Though he’d made sure that Felicitas of Carthage was well able to defend herself if need be, and she’d more than proven through the ages that she certainly could so long as her heart didn’t get in the way. But she really did tend to fall in love with a specific type.
That type being the exceptionally skilled, smart warriors whose moral codes didn’t differ too far from her own. And an ancient’s mindset on murder differed distinctly from what most modern minds might say, so the woman that’d ruled several nations; even rising to the top, ruling rank of the Amazons—most of them Immortal warriors just like her—to become one of their only two remaining queens. It wasn’t as though the so-called ‘Starling City Vigilante’ was killing indiscriminately. From the reports Methos had managed to hack himself there were only a few questionable kills in there; bodyguards who may or may not have known what the man they were protecting was, but they probably did, and the vigilante tended to incapacitate rather than kill them. Most of the one’s who’d failed Starling City, as the vigilante apparently said before trying to intimidate them into changing and later put an arrow in them if they didn’t, were among the nastier types of criminals or the exceptionally corrupt.
If Felicitas had been born in this age, if she really was Felicity Smoak—genius hacker that recently graduated from M.I.T but who’s overall exposure to the world was really just the seedy streets of Las Vegas—she might have a hard time seeing that. But Felicitas wouldn’t hold the man’s actions against him. Even though she didn’t like to fight: didn’t like fighting or killing anyone she didn’t have to, her royal upbringing had always ensured that she could recognize when it had to be done. Her ideas of when headhunters had to be killed were much more discerning then Methos’ own, of course, but so long as it didn’t look like her heart was going to make her let someone take her head like she’d let that Spanish bastard burn her to death, there really wasn’t much her big brother could say that he hadn’t already repeated at least a thousand times before.
Besides, there’d already been more than a few acts of heroism from the vigilante already. Something the media hadn’t failed to portray—had picked up on pretty quickly, actually—even as the police continued to hunt him as a dangerous criminal.
From what Methos had found out about the man, puzzle pieces though many of those findings were, he couldn’t deny that this Vigilante could very easily win Felicitas over. So he just had to hope that they’d never meet.
However foolish holding onto that hope seemed now that he knew one of Amanda’s students was in Starling City. Because it wasn’t easy for any Immortal to rise high in official ranks without help; the sort that Amanda would ask Felicitas to provide whether her student was talking to her again or not…
“This other archer—The Dark Archer is what the police are calling him, unofficially,” Joe went on thoughtfully, and thereby drew Methos and seemingly the other two Immortals out of their thoughts. Only to see him reading something on his phone, undoubtedly a real-time report of some kind—most likely about what’d just hit the news, but he kept speaking even as he read through whatever messages had come in through the Watchers app that Methos would have to remember to hack again later—though what would be there now was only preliminary, not the detailed reports he really wanted. “He makes more sense as the Huntress’s boyfriend than the Hood really did.”
“Why?” Richie asked him after a glance between the other two Immortal men confirmed they weren’t going to.
The Watcher had already put his phone down on the bar, but he still thought about his response for only a moment before he explained slowly, “Helena Bertinelli, she was killing almost indiscriminately before someone got to her. Mostly drive-by shootings aimed at members of her father’s organization. Not caring if she hit anyone else at the same time.”
“With a crossbow?” Duncan asked, both looking and sounding understandably confused. He’d probably used one at least a few times before, and like him Methos didn’t think that it really would work all that well for trying to kill anyone specific. “From a car?”
“No, motorcycle,” Joe shook his head. “And she was using a gun then, switched to a crossbow after she almost killed Moira Queen.”
“By mistake, right?” Methos clarified, vaguely remembering the events himself. He’d called his sister when that hit the news, but it barely affected her as the woman wasn’t the acting-C.E.O of Queen Consolidated then, not when her husband, Walter Steele, was still around. That was the first time he’d heard about the fact that Felicity Smoak had met Oliver Queen, performing some odd jobs her professional ethics—and love of annoying her brother—wouldn’t let her talk about. It’d been only another occasion when the younger ancient’s good heart had managed to surprise him: because an unreformed playboy wasn’t at all the sort of man that Felicity would typically give the time of day without a good reason, recently returned from the ‘dead’ as a castaway or not. But she spoke of Oliver as she might a new friend, rather than just another famous man she’d happened to meet in passing. A friend who’d had to go through too much even before he’d almost lost his mother.
“As far as we know, the Queens had no connections to the Bertinelli’s before that,” Joe confirmed with a nod. “And I think she may’ve felt bad about it, because I can’t think of any other reason she’d take the time to have dinner with Oliver Queen a few nights later.”
“This is starting to sound like one of those soap operas you have to see every second of to have any shot at understanding,” Richie muttered, making all of the older men laugh.
“Remorse might’ve had something to do with why she sought him out in the first place,” Methos opined. “But she probably just dated him ‘cause she was looking for a good time. A rich playboy could give it to her, and daddy dearest probably wasn’t going to let her mourn her dead fiancé forever without saying something. Whole flock of birds with one stone.”
“Wasn’t Oliver Queen accused of being the Hood?” Richie stuck in them, frowning in clear confusion. “Like a month after he first got back, wasn’t it?”
“He was,” Joe confirmed, nodding again. “The charges were dropped after the Hood was spotted on the opposite side of the city while he was under house arrest with an ankle monitor.”
“Surprised they let him go that easily,” the Highlander interjected. “The Queen’s are billionaires, it’s not like they couldn’t afford to pay someone to put on some green leather and shoot a few arrows while he was throwing a party.”
“They didn’t have a strong case against him,” the Watcher sighed. “According to the file, Queen was the first one to see the Vigilante—when he was saved from kidnappers—but there were no arrows then. Those showed up after that, so the S.C.P.D had the timing of his return but that wasn’t proof.”
“What proof did they have?” Richie asked curiously.
“A grainy, gray-scale video of Queen grabbing a bag that might’ve held a bow and arrows in it, pulling out what might’ve been a hood as he headed towards a sniper that the Hood was believed to have stopped.”
The three Immortals stared at him, though Methos already knew that it still struck him as oddly as it did the two younger Immortals.
“That’s it?” Richie asked, just to be sure.
“Yeah,” Joe shrugged. “There was the timing and apparently Queen didn’t come home without some scars and maybe some survivor’s guilt,” He shook his head. “It wasn’t anywhere near enough for the D.A to want to take it anywhere near trial. She tried a plea deal, but he didn’t bite,” He hesitated a moment, then added,
“According to the file it all hinged on a video that wasn’t concrete proof. Sure the Hood showed up after Queen’s return and Queen was the first one to supposedly see him, but that wasn’t proof… Plus the arresting officer was his ex-girlfriend’s father,” the Watcher went on with a grimace. “The same ex-girlfriend Queen cheated on with her sister, who didn’t come back after the Queen’s Gambit sank.”
Again not at all the sort of man Felicitas was ever likely to be impressed by, but people did change. Sometimes not easily, and mortals seemed to have a harder time of it than Immortals. Then again, the younger Immortals seemed to have a hard time of it, too, until they got used to the fact that everything in the world did change and they couldn’t be an exception if they wanted to survive…
“Ouch,” Richie said after he put down another emptied beer mug, which Joe didn’t take back or refill right away. “Surprised he didn’t just shoot him.”
“Cops aren’t supposed to do that,” Joe pointed out. “But it’s a definite bias that the D.A couldn’t ignore. Especially after the only real evidence they had linking Queen to the crimes disappeared. And someone sent a hitman to off him during the party, which Detective Lance actually prevented.”
“Good man,” Duncan murmured, sounding only a little surprised. “That couldn’t have been easy.”
He wasn’t wrong, but Methos was still stuck on the facts that Felicity had met Oliver Queen, and performed some undisclosed work for him that led to them being on friendly terms. That the man had at some point gone out on a date with Helena Bertinelli after she almost killed his mother, but around the same time that an archer—one of them—started reining her in? It worked against the theory that she’d been working with the other archer all along. Making Queen look a lot more like the vigilante. But where did Felicitas fit into it all?
As if in answer to his thoughts, the Watcher sighed again, “They didn’t have a strong case against him at all even with that video,” He shook his head. “Now they don’t even have that.”
“Why not?” Duncan asked with a frown. “They dropped the charges, they could still charge him again if they got a stronger case.”
“If they still had the evidence, they could,” Joe nodded. “But there was some sort of screw-up and one of the S.C.P.D techs deleted the footage—or they were hacked, but that wasn’t in the report.”
Methos only let his gaze narrow because he was contemplating his beer at the moment so none of the men were likely to see it as they all listened to the Watcher go on.
There were over half a million people in Starling City. Surely a few of them could be skilled hackers…
But Felicitas definitely was one, and she’d done some work for Oliver Queen. Whom she was on somewhat friend terms with… and she was ‘dating again.’ Since that was what they called it now.
It almost made the man that’d once been Death of the Four Horsemen want to start beating his head against the bar. Though his sense of humor, at least, was appeased by the fact that his sister might soon be a ‘Queen’ again. Even if ‘soon’ was a relative term—what were a handful of years to anyone that’d lived thousands of them? And even if she was a queen in name only, this time… though if the next man she might one day marry was the archer some were calling a vigilante and others a hero, now, it wouldn’t be long before he was recognized as a champion by the city that probably did consider his family royalty.
How did she keep doing this? And without even trying, it seemed…
It was one thing when she was the daughter of a queen, princess and future ruler of a city. But how was it that all these warriors, heroes, champions and conquerors alike, kept finding her like they were seeking her out?
It was almost enough to make even a man that’d been called ‘Death’ believe in the fates and destinies… and wasn’t that a depressing thought? Again, the bar was starting to look like a good place to start banging his head against, which probably meant he should leave sooner rather than later.
“Anyway, there’s nothing tying Queen to this other archer, far as we can figure,” Joe continued with another shrug. “Other than the two dates he went on with Helena Bertinelli, and the Dark Archer rescuing her.”
“Could still be a trap,” Methos pointed out again. “If she was working with the green archer, the other one could be trying to bait him now.”
There was, of course, another possibility. This could be the work of the League of
Assassins, but they wouldn’t operate in Starling City without Felicitas’ permission. Supposedly. They couldn’t without breaking their leader’s word to his teacher… and while MacLeod had been taken by a Dark Quickening before his fourth century, Ra’s al Ghul seemed to be a lot more careful of such things. Much more selective with which Dark Immortals he bothered to behead himself. Along with agreeing to end the existence of more than one Immortal who wasn’t Dark and just wanted a permanent escape from eternity. On top of that, Ra’s did have plenty of mortal warriors he could send off into the middle of the nowhere with ‘dead’ Immortals and orders to behead them where their Quickenings couldn’t corrupt anyone. And much as Methos didn’t want to trust the other Immortal that Felicitas called her brother, the Leader of the League of Assassins had always seemed very loyal to her. Not quite to the worshipful extent of Alexander once upon a time, perhaps, but then Ra’s wasn’t a mortal who wanted the world to remember him forever and found that possibility in the arms of lover that should—and did—long outlive him. The Demon’s Head was also an Immortal, and a powerful one that could’ve quickly become a very great danger if not for the ancient who taught him how to live and lead as an Immortal. But Ra’s respect for his elders and for the wisest of his teachers wasn’t something that could be completely feigned. Something Methos himself could completely understand, of course, but it left him confused by the possibilities that left open…
“Nothing on the scanners there. And listening to those things is about all the poor guy I had assigned to field duty in Starling City can do right now.” Joe shrugged. “And I try not to bother Nick too much, since I’m not entirely sure why he’s there in the first place and his bouts of helpfulness kinda come and go.”
Methos blinked at him, actually startled out of his own worried thoughts and half-formed plans to leave soon. “Wait, they’re actually writing reports about the vigilante?”
The Watcher shrugged, “Well, what’d you think they’d be doing when they were assigned to Starling City? I told you there’d been no other sightings of Immortals since Fournier gave up headhunting after he visited there.”
“Gave up headhunting?” Duncan repeated with his surprise even clearer than it was before. “Do many do that?”
“Usually not without a good reason, or someone convincing them to,” Joe nodded between the Highlander and his student. “Like you got Richie to stop.”
“Richie wasn’t headhunting,” Duncan protested.
“Yeah, I was, Mac,” the younger Immortal interjected before the Watcher could try to argue the point. “For a little while there, I was basically challenging any Immortal I met. That’s headhunting.”
Which wasn’t at all the argument that Methos wanted to wait around for, so instead he asked the only mortal among them, “Does the Tribunal really think this vigilante is an Immortal?”
“No real data to base it on,” Joe replied with a sip of his own beer that had Richie looked at his still empty second cup again. “But Research raised the idea even before you put in the request on the city,” he shrugged. “The Hood’s classified as a potential Immortal, we don’t know for sure, but he’s too good a fighter not to be considered… It’s one of the ways we find peaceful Immortals. There aren’t enough of you to be running into each other every day.”
“Small mercies,” Methos murmured, then smirked. “Did they really think he was Robin Hood?”
“No one’s said that in the report,” was the Watcher’s immediate reply as the other two Immortals’ attention immediately returned to them. Then, a moment later, he admitted, “But yeah, the idea’s come up in gossip more than once. And it’s not like the vigilantism thing would be that far out of line for some Immortals.”
“A young one, maybe,” Methos agreed, then—thinking of the student he’d clearly have to visit sooner rather than later—he grimaced. “Maybe a few of the older ones, too.”
Though strictly speaking that wasn’t true. Sure, Felicitas had sided with people called criminals before. Rebels, revolutionaries, freedom fighters. But they were only criminals until they won and history remembered them as the founders of nations. And Felicitas had never lost. Not on that level anyway. No, it was on the personal level that she really needed protecting, though she’d rarely admit as much.
“Most of Research wouldn’t say that,” Joe observed, eyes narrowing with clear curiosity.
“No,” Methos chuckled. “If they’re still following the same train of thought they were when I was there, they think the peaceful ancients are all a lackadaisical bunch hiding on holy ground most of the time.”
This time it was the Watcher that snorted, but the other two men were grinning, too. “You can’t actually say they’re wrong, old man.”
“About me and a lot of others, no,” Methos shrugged, before smirking at his mortal friend. “But some of the other ones you’d be interested in, the ones you can’t find—”
“It’s because they don’t fit the usual standards, yeah, we’ve realized that,” Joe took a much longer pull from his beer, and then gave the ancient a speculative look. “So whoever’s in Starling City—”
“If someone’s there that you don’t already know about, Joe, I certainly wouldn’t tell you,” Methos cut him off, before grumbling. “Believe it or not, a lot of the ones you’d like to find but can’t don’t want people spying on them, and they don’t give a damn about your mission.”
The other two Immortals looked understanding at that, even as they deliberately looked towards their beers again. Well, Duncan took a sip from his. Richie was still waiting for another refill that probably wouldn’t be coming until the bartender refilled the Highlander’s or his own again, so he was left studying his empty glass for the time being. That ever-young face and the personality that mostly went with it didn’t do him many favors in that regard, even if the fake I.D’s he carried around these days always insisted he was in his lower to mid twenties.
The Watcher shrugged again, knowing better than to try debating that. After all, despite his now forty plus years as a Watcher, Joe Dawson wouldn’t like to find someone spying on him either. “Well, the Tribunal decided to re-task an S.O Field team to investigate what’s happening over there. So the reports you want copies of should be getting a lot more thorough soon.”
And it went unsaid that the Immortal he wanted watched without the Watchers knowing they were watching her would have a lot more eyes to avoid drawing. More power to them, however, since Felicitas had long been better at avoiding prying eyes than even her teacher was. Most of the tricks he used to escape tails he’d learned from the younger Immortal that’d grown up with the attention of at least her city always on her. She’d known, even in her mortal life, how to direct the attention of the masses—and she’d known how to avoid it, too.
So the ancient was smiling slightly as he followed the other line of conversation that the mortal was mostly avoiding at this point. “You’re sending one of your precious special operations teams to look into the vigilante?” Methos laughed, shaking his head again as he continued. “How? No one knows who he is,” he shrugged. “I mean, you could always try to predict his next target and follow them around, then maybe you’d spot him. But it’s not like all of his targets have been in the news before he targeted him, or even afterwards. You could end up following someone who already paid up to avoid an arrow and never know for sure.”
“So you have been following him,” Joe accused as soon as he paused.
“Electronically, yes. I pay attention to what’s out there. And the Starling City Vigilante’s interesting, that’s why he is the news so much,” Methos admitted noncommittally, seeing no reason to deny it at this point. “It’s one of the great beauties of the ever-growing worldwide web. I can track almost anything all over the world from behind the safety of the computer screen.”
“Especially with a good friend in charge of professional spies,” Duncan interjected, sounding amused, while his Watcher rolled his eyes. Though the Highlander likely wasn’t just talking about the Watchers—he clearly still thought that the ancient had some ties to other organizations that dealt in intelligence.
Technically, he wasn’t wrong.
“And hacking our database whenever you feel like it, yeah, I know,” Joe reached for the nearest basket of pretzels on the bar and tugged it closer, taking a handful and munching on it for a moment.
Methos decided that was a good idea and stole a handful, too, easily feigning his practiced indifference as he waited for the Watcher’s next jab. Or whatever the hell the other two Immortals might say, because he wasn’t entirely sure at this point.
A little surprisingly, Joe’s attention turned back to the Highlander. “I can’t decide if you’d like him,” he murmured after he’d swallowed the handful, adding at the raised eyebrows from all the Immortals. “The Vigilante, I mean.”
The Highlander frowned thoughtfully, considering it for a few moments before he admitted, “Can’t say I’ve given it much thought.” He shook his head, and shrugged, “Didn’t cross my mind that he might be one of us. He’s running around with a bow and arrow, not a sword.”
“The other one, the Dark Archer, does carry a sword,” Joe interjected then. “He never drew it during the police raid, but the commissioner just mentioned it and it was in the BOLO they sent out. And we’ve gotten good at spotting them even with the sheath partially covered by a bow and arrow harness.”
“What kind of sword?” Methos asked curiously, going with it because it was already out there. Sure he could find it in the report later, but with the Highlander having brought it up there was no reason not to follow along even as he finished his third beer.
The bartender immediately grabbed his empty glass and Richie’s to refill them again even as he answered. “Research just confirmed it’s probably a spatha,” he told them with a gesture to his smart phone.
“A what?” Richie repeated, not really surprising any of the older men.
“Long Sword from the later Roman Empire—first in the heavy infantry, but they’re better remembered as the swords of the gladiators,” Duncan explained, going on when his protégé blinked at him in bewilderment that had the other two men rolling their eyes. “Could mean he’s from that time period. Did the Watchers suspect any of the Gladiators of being Immortals?”
Methos almost laughed at the mental leap. It wasn’t hard to see how the Highlander’s mind had made it, but the younger man really over estimated exactly how many Immortals ever survived past their first few centuries, let alone made it all the way up to a couple millennia. Granted, the athletic superstars of the ancient world that fought for the entertainment of thousands at a time might have had the sheer skill needed to survive a time in The Game. But only those that eventually realized avoiding fights improved your shot at longevity a lot more than seeking them out did tended to make it to a few thousand years or more past the time of their birth.
Joe shrugged, “Not really my area of expertise,” He raised an eyebrow at the former-Watcher across from him. “You worked in Research.”
Again it was left unsaid that Methos was around for those ancient contests of strength, skill and gore before the masses, but they all knew it was true. Particularly since the ancient had all but admitted that he’d met Julius Caesar at one point, and therefore couldn’t say the Empire of Rome was a place he’d made much effort to avoid. He well might have if his sister’s machinations in those same eras hadn’t made it nearly impossible to avoid direct involvement in some of the cataclysmic events of their history, but that history was all ancient now.
“Like Spartacus, right?” Richie asked, making the other three men laugh. “What?”
“We’d be impressed if we weren’t sure you only know that name because of the Starz show,” Duncan told him with a grin, raising an eyebrow at the oldest Immortal while the younger one grumbled. “He wasn’t—”
“No,” Joe and Methos answered at the same time.
The Watcher went on when the world’s oldest Immortal turned back to his beer instead of saying more. “I know that one for sure,” he said, before explaining. “Several Watchers checked back then. And the Romans really wanted him dead, and they were proud of accomplishing it, so it wasn’t that hard for Roman Watchers to find him afterwards.”
“Plus the empire outlived Spartacus by a long while,” Methos pointed out. “If he’d been an Immortal, he would’ve kept fighting till someone put him down.” He considered it a moment, then added, “Probably would’ve been Marcus Constantine, he was still in the Roman military back then.”
Marcus may’ve been a historian in this age when he’d finally died, but he one once a great general of Rome for a rather long time. Including when he’d met Methos—then called ‘Remus’—and saved him from the cross after a false accusation of rape from the wife of a Roman senator. Drucilla had been twice his size after a lifetime of the sort of gluttony that only the high ranking Romans could afford, but Methos mainly hadn’t been willing to consider sleeping with her because her husband would’ve had him killed and it didn’t seem worth the risk of some loyal soldier following orders and just happening to kill him by beheading. He hadn’t expected she’d cry rape at his rejection, but it at least led him to an interesting meeting.
Methos had been impressed by Marcus, and probably would’ve been even if the man hadn’t gone out of his way to come to the aid of another Immortal in need. But he was a Roman, and back then Felicitas was still very untrusting of the nation that seemed to rule the world. The general hadn’t taken part in the destruction of Carthage himself, had outright refused to leave Rome to enter the African theater during the Third Punic War. Probably not out of any particular sense of friendship to the Carthaginians, as Marcus had been a loyal defender of Rome—from a mere foot soldier to a great general, and everything in between—for centuries at that point, and Carthage was only ultimately destroyed in the third Punic War. Actually, after meeting with the man himself and benefiting firsthand from the help he was always willing to lend fellow Immortals who did not make themselves his enemy, Methos thought it very likely that the stories of an obviously Immortal queen as a the city’s founder likely had a lot to do with Constantine’s refusal to attack his own empire’s rival. Not that that’d helped sway Felicitas to inviting Marcus Constantine into the Circle even less than one year before his thousandth.
Felicitas was at least very consistent in her limited hatred. She’d forgive anyone for killing her. They were a product of their time, of their nation, of something beyond their control. But she could no more forgive Rome for destroying her home than she’d ever forgive Cassandra for killing her first family.
It didn’t matter that Rome was more than the men that’d taken part in Carthage’s destruction. It didn’t matter that Marcus Constantine avoided that conflict and many others like it. They were all part of Rome, all Romans, the people that’d all believed—like Cato the Elder who famously said it at the end of his every speech—that Carthage had to be destroyed. ‘Delenda est Carthago.’
There were surely many who didn’t support it. Peacekeepers and pacifists existed even in ancient times, and there were those—likely the majority—that simply didn’t care about anything beyond whether they had enough food to get by. Others, like Marcus Constantine, didn’t want to cross the ocean looking for trouble… though he’d eventually ended up in Egypt anyway. But that, of course, was because civil war had erupted in Rome itself and the Immortal Roman had sided with Julius Caesar. Which Methos knew his inventive little sister had had some sort of hand in, even if she’d never outright admitted to it…
But none of that mattered to Felicitas after she’d looked upon the ruins of what’d once been her childhood home: burnt to ash, the crumbling ruins surrounded by salted earth. Her people scattered at best, enslaved or wiped out at worst. Her hatred, after all, found root in her own self-blame. She blamed herself for not recognizing Cassandra as a threat even though she should blame him for asking her to take pity on the woman that mere months later murdered her loved ones. And she blamed herself for not being there to save her city, even though Carthage hadn’t been her home—and she’d been little more than a founding myth there—for more than six centuries by then…
“Could have been Flavius Sulla, too,” Joe pointed out, bringing the ancient’s mind back to the present again, though this time when the Watcher tried to pour him more beer Methos shook his head.
“Sulla wasn’t a soldier,” the world’s oldest Immortal pointed out, forcing himself to concentrate on what they were discussing. “Yeah, he would’ve fought Spartacus if their paths crossed and Spartacus was another Immortal bent on destroying Rome, but he wouldn’t have sought him out otherwise,”
He’d never met Constantine’s teacher, and had never even shared his real name with the other ancient—even most of the ancients didn’t know the face that went with his very old names and reputations. But he was sure of that nonetheless, because Constantine’s teacher could’ve played a part in either helping him be accepted by the other ancients or not, if he’d live that long. Sulla, however, had been centuries dead by the time Constantine reached his first millennium, and he’d been a Roman also, so it’d mostly been a moot point, but one that was still worth learning.
“Not really relevant since Spartacus wasn’t an Immortal,” Joe sighed, then raised an eyebrow at Richie. “Do you know any other gladiators?”
Spartacus’s story had been retold time and time again enough times over, making it into movies and television, that it wasn’t surprising for Richie to at least know his name. Other gladiator’s claims to fame hadn’t been nearly so long-lasting. Much like any of them would’ve probably been as Immortals.
They all watched as the young man tried to think of another ancient name he might’ve heard from a movie or television show, but after almost a minute Richie shook his head. “Keep coming back to Robin Hood, and I know he wasn’t one.”
The older men all laughed again.
“Wrong millennium, Richie,” Duncan pointed out, smiling in amusement as his protégé shrugged, unconcerned by his own ignorance regarding ancient history.
Joe again turned on the ancient that had been there then, “What about Priscus and Verus. They were—”
“The first two Gladiators to fight in the Flavian Amphitheatre,” Methos nodded, not feigning any ignorance because there was no reason to in this case. “Fan favorites and rivals for about half a decade before that fight, and it was a great one. But no, both of them were mortals,” He considered it a moment, and then shrugged. “Don’t know if he was, but from what I did see in the archives I’d say the Gladiator most likely to be an Immortal that might’ve survived to this age was Spiculus,” Methos shrugged, “Or any others that earned their freedom and left. Or escaped.”
It took the Watcher a long moment to place the name. “The Gladiator that didn’t kill Nero?”
“Why?” Duncan wondered. “Because he vanished when Nero fell?”
“He used the games to achieve enough fame and riches to rival any of the conquering generals returned triumphant from war, then disappeared with it when any security in the favor of the fallen ruler was gone,” Methos shrugged. “You asked if I could think of any Gladiators that might still be around, he’d be one,” He didn’t look at either of the other Immortals as he added, “Skill in combat is important, but it’s not everything. Knowing when not to fight can prolong your life a lot longer than any trick with a sword.”
The silence weighed down on them for only a moment before the youngest spoke up again, sounding only a little uncertain because this was an argument that Methos and MacLeod had long agreed to disagree on, as honor wouldn’t let the Highlander back down from far too many fights. “We kind of got off topic…” Richie pointed out, nodding towards the television though the breaking news was no longer playing on mute across the screen. “Do you really think this guy might be one of us?” he looked at the Watcher as he finished.
Joe sighed, shaking his head. “No way to be sure without either seeing him heal, come back from the dead or run into another Immortal.” He pursed his lips, “Nick’s working on their Vigilante Task Force, but he’s been about as helpful as this one with actually answering questions.”
Methos rolled his eyes when the mortal gestured at him, pushing his empty glass away and again waiving off a refill as he replied. “He must’ve given you the video of the attack though?”
“No,” Joe snorted, almost grumbling as he continued. “Our Field Watcher had to hack into the building’s surveillance, and he thinks he may’ve been caught doing it. So maybe we have Nick to thank for no arrests after that, though we won’t know for sure if he sensed another Immortal when the attack was happening unless he admits to it. Apparently it looked like he knew where the attacker was coming in from when everyone was falling over.”
The world’s oldest Immortal carefully didn’t let his expression tighten as he took another handful of pretzels and started munching on them, not liking where his mind immediately went once again. The Starling City police were clearly understaffed and underfunded—from what he’d found online about the city in recent years it seemed they could barely keep up with the regular crimes, never mind catch someone with any kind of real skill. That being the case, it seemed rather unlikely that they had a computer security expert on hand at all times to catch people breaking through their undoubtedly outdated firewalls. A hacker that’d already broken through those same walls without being burned, however, might just leave some traps behind if she had too much time on her hands. Or if she had a reason she wanted to know. So, whether Felicitas had been keeping a close eye on the Watchers already or not, there was a good chance that she knew they were there now. Wonderful…
“Anyway,” Joe went on with a sigh. “The sword was too long to be a Gladius, but shorter and maybe broader than a lot of the Eastern styles—hard to tell for sure with it still in its sheath on camera.”
“He didn’t bother with the other Immortal that was there?” Richie sounded surprised, like he’d only just realized that must be the case. “Nick-something?”
“Yeah, like I said, Nick’s a detective on the Vigilante Taskforce there,” Joe shrugged. “But the man was on a mission for sure.”
“Anything else?” Methos asked, reaching for another handful of pretzels to give himself something to do other than drink while he waited for the man’s answers.
The Watcher shrugged again. “The Huntress isn’t an Immortal, we’re sure of that. She was injured during the fight with the Hood when she tried to kill her father the first time, and it hadn’t healed by the next time she was spotted—about a month later in Barcelona.”
“She might be a Pre-Immortal,” Richie pointed out.
And he may be right, though Methos really hoped he wasn’t. There were already enough crazy Immortals as it was.
“Might be,” Duncan replied after another swallow of beer. “Hope not.”
“Yeah, well, Nick hasn’t said anything about that either,” Joe replied, still frowning. “He would’ve met her earlier tonight, so he’d know for sure.”
“You know police detectives aren’t actually supposed to share details of their investigations with anyone outside of the justice system, technically, right?” Methos pointed out with a smirk.
“Funny,” the Watcher grimaced, and then shook his head. “He’s worked with us before, for exactly this sort of thing. And we’ve helped him clean up after he’s taken care of one of the headhunters. Like McCormick,” he added as a reference for the Highlander.
“He works with law enforcement a lot?” Duncan clarified.
“No, but he did before—that was how he met Amanda,” Joe replied, shaking his head. “Trying to prove she stole something, which she did.”
“Of course she did,” Duncan rolled his eyes.
“So Wolfe’s being unhelpful all together?” Methos checked just to be sure, because it was starting to sound more and more like Felicitas had to be helping the first Vigilante.
Nick Wolfe would’ve moved to Starling City to join the S.C.P.D if she asked him to. Not because he really knew all that much about Felicitas—he might not even know her real name, let alone her history before whenever Amanda had asked her to contact him—but because blending into mortal society had gotten a lot harder in some ways as the world seemed to get smaller and faster in a very short amount of time. Knowing someone with Felicity Smoak’s legally ambiguous skill-sets was worth the world to anyone that wanted to have even the pretense of a normal life every now and again. Let alone someone that wanted anything to do with the government…
If Matthew McCormick of the F.B.I was the one in Starling City looking into the Vigilante there’d be no question that Felicitas had called him. Instead the feds hadn’t said a thing about the case, so maybe the supervisory agent had stepped on it at her request, maybe not. He owed her at least that much, and he knew it, after she’d stepped in to save him from his own screw up a couple decades back—helping him stage his ‘death’ to end his career when his superiors started to notice that a few too many of the cases he’d requested involved beheadings and ended with the primary suspect also dead without a head. Felicitas had even helped him return to the F.B.I some safe number of years later, with a distinctly different hairstyle and a solid background as his former self’s cousin’s kid—or something like that—to explain why Evan McCormick looked just like the previous Agent McCormick. Since then he’d obviously been more careful about covering his tracks: using his Circle contacts—and especially Felicitas, at her insistence—so Methos thought it rather likely that the English-born Immortal would make every effort to move hell if she asked him to. Not that dozens of other Immortals like him, Methos included, wouldn’t do the same…
“No,” Joe sighed again. “Just… a lot less helpful than I’m used to, I guess,” He shook his head, then added as an afterthought, “Anyway, the Dark Archer’s sword—the spatha—it had a distinctive crossguard, too. Research is still working on that.”
“Distinctive how?” Duncan asked with clear curiosity.
Methos didn’t really understand the Highlander’s fascination, but then again he didn’t collect swords anymore than he collected anything else. Other than memories, but everyone had to collect those. Yes, he’d held onto a few specific swords over the years, but that was because they were irreplaceably useful tools of self-defense to any Immortal. For others, of course, it was a means of judging where—and maybe when—they were actually from. Not the younger Highlander, however, as he seemed to have mapped the world with the swords he’d acquired along that journey.
The Watcher was shaking his head. “Nothing functional, not really, more like the sort of artwork you see these days in fantasy movies and stuff like that.”
Methos didn’t let himself smile, and forced himself to take another steady sip of beer instead, adding only after he’d swallowed it, “Some of the younger ones are influenced by that,” he pointed out, and jerked his chin towards the youngest man there. “Take this one, for instance.”
“Hey,” Richie protested, but after the whole ‘I learned history from watching television and movies,’ he couldn’t really argue the point. Instead, he went back to an earlier question, looking at his mentor. “So what do you think of him, Mac? The Hood?” he shook his head, not quite managing to hide his own admiration. “I mean, I know he’s breaking the law, but…”
“Laws are written by men,” Duncan surprised the older Immortal by saying. “They can be changed… and they can be wrong, too…” the Highlander went quiet a moment more, and then added, “I haven’t followed everything he’s done, but some of the people he’s killed had hurt a lot of people. And even when he first showed up, he wasn’t killing everybody, right?”
“No,” Joe nodded, not needing to think about it before he started rattling the relevant facts off, because those facts had undoubtedly been going around in his head ever since the Tribunal asked him why he wanted to look into Starling City and he’d realized that Methos was using him but let it happen anyway. “First sighting, he was rescuing Oliver Queen and Tommy Merlyn after they were kidnapped by armed men. He killed all three of the abductors, but then they’d already killed a witness during the abduction itself.”
How inclined Joe was to be helpful had a lot to do with why their friendship worked so well, from Methos’ perspective anyway. Although he probably did owe the Watcher another real life story sometime soon: he’d have to think of a good one. One that’d get him to stop whining for at least a little while…
“Either way, if Queen is the Hood, that’s self-defense,” Richie pointed out. “And protecting his friend.”
“I agree,” Duncan interjected, while Methos and Joe both nodded.
“Hell, no one can argue that,” the Watcher agreed, then went on, “The Hood’s first verified appearance was when he targeted Adam Hunt later that week. Threatened him first, then went through a bunch of bodyguards and cops to take the money anyway. Forty million dollars.”
Richie whistled appreciatively. “That’s not pocket change.”
“No, it’s not,” Duncan agreed, but he was frowning at the Watcher. “Didn’t he give it away, too? I thought that was what started the Robin Hood comparisons.”
“Pretty sure he had that coming with the bow and arrows anyway,” Joe snorted, then he nodded. “But yeah. A bunch of the people who were suing Hunt for all his scams should’ve been worse off after Hunt had to declare bankruptcy, but most of them appear to be doing pretty well these days. And a handful of them haven’t been shy about their support of the city’s ‘new hero’ after that.’”
Methos blinked, “Wait, is that reporter—”
“No. Not as far as I know, anyway. Pretty sure she just connected the dots herself and developed a case of hero-worship.” Joe sighed, taking a sip of beer before he went on, obviously having realized he was going to be the one doing most of the talking for a while now. Good thing he was used to it, after years of reporting to the Council about all the Immortal goings-on in America. “Next up was Martin Somers. The Starling District Attorney should’ve been prosecuting him for murder, instead the victim’s family had to resort to suing him for the crime.” He spread his hands, “But even that wasn’t making much headway. Somers’ ties to the city government—cops included, from what I understand—were keeping him pretty unsinkable. Him being the Hood’s next target after that lawsuit made the news shouldn’t have surprised the S.C.P.D.”
Methos already knew most of this as he’d been researching the recent events in his sister’s home himself. Like the bartender, however, he was somewhat interested in watching their friends reactions to the story with it all laid out before them. Though he would’ve preferred doing it somewhere more private, or when the jazz bar wasn’t open, even though the handful of people in the room weren’t close enough to hear their quiet words over the band and most of them were Watchers anyway.
“Incidentally, that lawsuit again Somers for the wrongful death of Victor Nocenti, a stevedore at the city docks, was being brought by Laurel Lance, Detective Lance’s daughter—”
“And the ex that Queen cheated on, right?” Richie checked.
“Yeah, but that’s not the point,” Joe waived it aside. “The S.C.P.D may’ve tried to trap The Vigilante a few times more than they’re admitting on record.”
“Wait,” Duncan’s brow furrowed with his frown. “You think Detective Lance used his own daughter?”
“By pitting her against the Triad?” Methos added, because it seemed very relevant to him, and why the Watcher’s point—something he hadn’t really considered when he’d looked back at the events in question—didn’t seem very likely. “He had to know they’d try to kill her.”
“Which is why I’m surprised he didn’t give her police protection sooner,” Joe nodded. “The detail he did assign her didn’t last long when the Triad put out a hit on her though. She’s lucky her ex-boyfriend was visiting, with his bodyguard, the night they attacked her.”
“Wait…” Richie blinked at him. “So you think they set up a trap for the Hood and didn’t notice that Queen was there?”
“Oh they noticed. His bodyguard took out two of the Triad’s thugs,” Joe shook his head. “I wouldn’t like to think any father could use his daughter like that, but about two months ago he did just that on record—bugged a phone the Vigilante had sent him and gave it to his daughter.”
“Why?” Richie asked; his frown as much born of confusion as the disapproval on all the other men’s faces.
Joe sighed, “I don’t know. The Hood had helped her before, apparently. Helped her save that guy who’d been framed for his wife’s murder right before he would’ve been executed. Maybe Lance though his guard would be down around her.”
Methos had obviously never fathered any children of his own, but he had raised the children of women he’d loved, and loved them in turn. So he could partially relate to his friend’s abhorrence at the idea. Especially since Joe did have a daughter, though he’d barely played any part in Amy’s life—before or after they’d saved her from Morgan Walker—at least until she’d married, had children of her own and wanted their grandfather to have some part in their lives. Joe adored those kids, and the memory of how his getting her assigned to the field had nearly ended with her being killed by the first insane Immortal she was assigned to couldn’t be far from his mind right now.
“Anyway, he did,” Joe went on with a sigh. “Miss Lance asked him for help when Cyrus Vanch was released from prison when the S.C.P.D screwed up some of the evidence again him. He’s a career criminal that makes mobsters like Bertinelli look like nice guys, so the Vigilante was really doing a public service by helping out there. Though why the S.C.P.D would devote more resources to catching the Vigilante than putting Vanch behind bars I have no idea..”
“Wasn’t he charged with something like fifty counts of murder?” Methos tried to remember, but he didn’t tend to pay attention to the local news of places he wasn’t living and looking back through the event’s in his sister’s city—even just as the events that involved the Vigilante—meant covering a lot of info.
“Fifty-two, yeah. And human trafficking, drug running, and racketeering. Real scumbag,” Joe nodded, grabbing his beer again, but pausing when it was halfway to his mouth to frown at him. “Sure you don’t want another one?”
“Not staying much longer,” Methos shook his head. “And you can’t afford the amount of alcohol it’d take to actually get me drunk enough to loosen my tongue, Joe. You know that. You’ve tried.”
The Watcher rolled his eyes as he took his sip of beer, before going on. “So Vanch got out, probably ‘cause one of his buddies with friends inside the police force made sure the evidence disappeared. Miss Lance apparently called the Hood to ask him to help the S.C.P.D put Vanch away again. Meanwhile the Vigilante Taskforce tried to arrest him when they met about it—bet that went over real well all around.”
“They didn’t catch him though,” Richie pointed out.
“No, they’re not very good at that. Or maybe this guy is just that good, I don’t know,” Joe nodded, before sighing. “Anyway, Vanch found out that Miss Lance was working against him with the Hood, probably from his buddies in the S.C.P.D. He kidnapped her to bait The Vigilante—and Detective Lance actually had to work with him to get her back.”
“He realized that a corrupt cop must’ve talked,” Duncan nodded. “Was she all right?”
“Didn’t go to the hospital afterwards,” Joe shook his head. “Don’t know if she scheduled a meeting with a shrink or not.”
Richie snorted as he reached down the bar to snag some pretzels from the basket. “Sounds like this city needs someone doing something like this guy is,” he jerked his chin towards the television. “The reporters seem to think so.”
“That they do,” Methos agreed, grimacing as he recognized what was on the muted screen. No more news, but whatever was actually playing at this time had broken for commercials and one of them was yet another annoying ad for a drug with so many potential side-effects that listing them basically took up the entire advertisement and left you wondering what it was even for in the first place.
Not that an Immortal would ever need most medications. Some of the ones for fixing brain chemistry in crazy people might save a few heads if they could stabilize Immortals overtaken by the Darkness of their Quickening, but the likelihood of anyone managing to make that happen were too low to even consider. The ads bothered him more because he had been a physician in lifetimes past, and the idea of instructing patients to tell their doctors what they needed rather than explaining what ailed them and asking for the best cure made no sense to him. It illustrated a fatal flaw of modern society quite clearly—in that the drug companies only cared about the money they could make rather than the people they could help, and those people were so overwhelmed with all these signs of drugs they should need it wasn’t any wonder that a large percentage of the population ended up addicted to something at some point.
“He could’ve become a cop,” Duncan pointed out, not sounding particularly invested in the idea. “Instead of another problem for the cops to deal with.”
“And how many times have the police bothered you when you were trying to solve a problem?” Joe asked him, one eyebrow up even before he’d started.
“That’s different. I’m usually trying to stop another Immortal.”
“Yeah,” the Watcher shrugged. “Usually.”
The Highlander shook his head, “I’m just saying, it’s… not simple. Not—”
“Black and white,” Methos cut in with a shrug. “Never is, Joe. Even MacLeod’s had to realize that by now. The world’s all shades of gray with different colors sometimes thrown in for flavoring.”
“You’ve fought in a few wars yourself, Mac,” Joe pointed out before the Highlander could decide on whether he wanted to argue with them or not, never mind getting around to doing it. “And you’ve gone after mortal criminals before, too. Usually ‘cause they were working with an Immortal, yeah, but he’s right. Nothing in life is as simple as good and evil. Everyone’s somewhere in between.”
“Can’t say I disagree with that,” MacLeod replied, then shook his head. “But a vigilante’s not the same thing as a soldier.”
“Who’s in charge is the main thing there,” Methos opined, shrugging slightly when the other three looked at him. “No way of knowing if anyone’s ordering these archers around or not.”
He highly doubted Felicity had created this hero for her current home. It was the sort of thing she’d done before, yes, but it’d been a long while since she’d been able to motivate herself into doing anything so overt. Not since something had broken that forth time she’d burned to death. He hated to think it was her heart, though her husband-to-be betraying her so violent had certainly broken her heart, the bastard hadn’t ever deserved it in the first place. But Felicitas had moved further into the shadows where she tried not to shine and was mostly safe. Her brother had to wonder if she could ever be happy hiding; like that, but either way it seemed much more likely that the goings-on in Starling City were happening all around her, and that may have eventually drawn her out.
Methos couldn’t entirely say that was a bad thing, not if it meant she was going to start living again. Sure, it irked that she was obviously keeping it from him, and the big brother in him couldn’t help but be bothered by the fact that she might have a new lover that could never be good enough for her. But if it meant getting back that brilliant, noble leader that’d so easily charmed countless conquerors, warriors and whole nations alike, he’d learn to live with it. Somehow. Just like he had every other time before…
“Not till he’s caught anyway,” Richie said like it should be obvious, only noticing the three raised eyebrows aimed at him after he’d taken another sip of beer, because he was more preoccupied with that sip from his newly refilled glass. “What?”
“If,” Methos corrected mildly, shrugging when the much younger man blinked at him. “If he’s caught. The cops don’t catch everybody, Richie.”
“They never caught MacLeod here,” Joe pointed out, briefly raising both hands in mock-defense when it earned him another look from the Highlander. “And they’ve missed the first archer more than once, too. Now the other one stormed their station and broke out the only vigilante they’ve managed to catch so far, and she was the amateur of the bunch.”
“And it sounds like there are already quite a few people that don’t want this guy caught,” the world’s oldest Immortal observed. “That’s why he’s regularly in the news—the national news, even—despite no one really knowing anything new most of the time.”
“Could be the media just knows it sells,” Joe observed.
“Yeah, but someone would’ve stepped on them by now if someone else higher up wasn’t standing on them,” Methos shrugged again. “That’s the way these things tend to work.”
“Maybe people just like the idea of heroes,” Duncan interjected.
“Oh yes,” Methos laughed. “There’s always that. Can’t say I’ve ever envied you poor fools that find yourselves called that, though,” he nodded to the most heroic of their lot, then looked away, words coming easily even as his mind went back to some of the darker times he’d seen. Like that day he’d had to watch his little sister scream as she burned. “Even when they don’t have whole task forces hunting them down.”
“If someone’s stopping anyone from shutting the media down, why aren’t they stopping the police, too?” Richie questioned. “I mean, if it really is a witch hunt?”
“Except it’s not,” Duncan told him. “The man is breaking the law, and the law has to be upheld.”
“At least until it’s changed,” Methos added as he got up and shrugged on his coat, ignoring the speculative look on the Watcher’s face as he nodded to him. “Like I said, I’ve gotta get going. Thanks for the update. The rest is—”
“In your email already,” Joe interjected, following it up with a ‘you’re welcome’ that had a bit of sarcastic edge to it, but he didn’t take it personally as he nodded to the other two Immortals.
Joe Dawson actually was one of the few mortals he counted as a friend, after all. Despite all the trials that’d come from their friendship. Despite the trials that might still come. Forgiving ones minor faults was a very integral part of that friendship—how else could either of them survive Duncan MacLeod’s disapproval every time they inspired it?
The Highlander had gotten better; slowly, surely. But a lot of that had everything to do with the Watcher that’d had to retire from the field so someone younger and a bit spryer could follow the Highlander around all the time. Or at least as often as Mac allowed. His semi-retirement/promotion-to-supervisory-position had just been another reminder that Joe was a mortal man who was getting older and would one day die no matter what they did. It wasn’t something any of them had ever exactly forgotten, it was just something that always was and occasionally needed to be remembered before it was too late.
Methos was a little surprised it’d taken his sister so long to meet the man that didn’t approve of Cassandra and wouldn’t be around forever since he had talked to her about him. They were friends, even if they mostly spent their time mocking each other. With the ancient still only feeding the Watcher bits and pieces of what might be his history—usually it was, though frequently it was downplayed or embellished as stories must be—and Joe still fished for more even after all these years… hopefully he’d keep fishing for many more to come.
“Adam,” Duncan’s voice stopped him just as reached the door, and he turned back to find the Highlander had risen to follow him with a frown.
“I’m perfectly capable of walking myself home, MacLeod,” the ancient pointed out with a small smile that fell as the younger man shook his head.
“You’ll let me know if there’s anything I can do to help,” the sincerity in his voice and the gravity in his eyes held the older Immortal still for a moment, and then Methos had to sigh.
“If I can, I will.”
The Highlander’s brow furrowed, “What does that mean?”
“We all make choices, MacLeod,” Methos answered, looking away from his confused gaze. “But some choices aren’t our own to make.”
It took him only one long moment to figure it out.
“You think your friend won’t want my help? Why?”
That was not a tale he wanted to go anywhere near tonight, so Methos only shook his head. “It’s a long story. A very long one. And I have things to do.” He paused, considering this was another attempt at building their friendship beyond all the distrust that the exposure of his ancient history had sown with his former victim’s helping hand and his former brothers’ insane return.
The Double Quickening had helped, somehow, as had the Highlander telling Cassandra not to kill him because the younger warrior wanted him to live. It still surprised him that she’d listened… but then Felicitas might be right. Maybe Cassandra could sense her hold on the Highlander had slipped too much to risk destroying it entirely, even if she’d take Methos’s hated head at the same time and thus seen the end of all Four Horsemen permanently on that day. Cassandra had to have known that she’d still have Felicitas to contend with at the very least, and if she’d alienated her protector and killed the only one that’d asked the ancient queen—again and again and again—to stay her hand, the former healer turned witch wouldn’t stand a chance.
Regardless, it did matter that Duncan was still trying sometimes. So Methos looked back at him again to say, “I’ll call when I can.”
And as the world’s oldest Immortal stepped out into the cool night air a few moments later, he found himself smiling slightly. Closing the bar’s side door to keep the heat and the music inside, before tucking his hands into his pockets, he started the short walk to the hotel he’d picked for this particular visit to Seacouver. He wasn’t pretending to be a penniless researcher these days, so he could stay where he liked. Even when his interactions with Joe Dawson meant the Watchers had some idea of where he was.
Actually for the new alias he’d been building, he’d returned to medical school yet again, and even though he hadn’t accepted any of the offers he’d received after graduating second in his class—just because it’d seemed only fair to let the lovely lady that’s been working so much harder than him win the top slot—he’d made sure his made-up background included a sizeable inheritance from his dear old uncle, Doctor Adams, god rest his soul.
He found it somewhat amusing that his sister had done pretty much the opposite thing this time around financially. Something that was easy to keep track of because she still tended to build her current aliases off of his own and didn’t try to hide her work from him.
For much of history, of course, that sort of thing had been very necessary. If she wanted to be seen as a ‘respectable’ woman she couldn’t be seen as too independent. The times she’d married, of course, Felicitas had had little need of male relations to claim as protectors or the like. In fact, she’d been a lot more dangerous than most men for a very long time, thanks first to Methos and later even more thanks to her long time among the Amazons. But that was beside the point.
What was the point, Methos decided as he watched his breath fog the cool March air, was that he obviously was going to have to see his favorite student in person again very soon. If only to try and instill another little dose of survival instinct into her when it came to The Game.
If not her choice of lovers, too… though he’d have to reserve judgment this time. If helping and loving some archer that ran around punishing evil-doers like some comic book hero helped Felicitas feel like her life had a purpose again, and one worth fighting for… Well, then Methos couldn’t hate the man.
He was about halfway to the hotel when he decided he should give her one more chance, however, to try and ‘pacify him from afar.’ Only because she’d done just that before—nearly undoing her hard work by actually saying it. Felicitas could be very persuasive; half the time without even trying very hard. But somehow following her home when she’d gone out of her way to come see him hadn’t seemed like a great idea a few weeks ago, not when she had come to him for help and helping the Watchers tail her home would’ve been poor repayment for her doing what he’d asked her to do many, many times. But while that might’ve changed now, if nothing else, giving her a call would distract him form how cold Seacouver still was in March.
So Methos reached into his left inner pocket and pulled out one of his cell phones, glancing at it quickly to make sure it wasn’t the one he used all the time. The two phones looked exactly the same; of course, except for the desktop once he’d punched in his ridiculous password.
The one still in his right pocket that had Amanda, Dawson, MacLeod and a handful of others—Immortals and current acquaintances—listed in the contacts book. That one the Watchers could try listening in on if they wanted to, because he usually didn’t care what he was talking about on it. Unless MacLeod or Amanda had somehow gotten mixed up in something stupid again, but a short command to meet in person before abruptly ending the call usually fixed that before they could say his real name or make some other similarly stupid mistake.
This one, the one in his left pocket, didn’t have any names in the contacts info, just a few numbers. Other than the desktop, of course, there were a number of much more important differences, the three key ones being that the League of Assassins said it was untraceable so it probably was, but also the Watchers didn’t even know it existed, and the contacts hidden inside it were thus doubly protected.
It was also how he could call Ra’s al Ghul if he ever wanted to, but though Methos was half expecting to see purple smoke coming from a nearby rooftop sometime he wasn’t going to go there yet. He didn’t doubt the Leader of the League of Assassins would soon send him minions around, again, to burn saltpeter and sugar on rooftops in every place that they might find Methos. Because that was how they got his attention, and how they’d inform him that Felicitas was getting mixed up in League affairs again—if she hadn’t called the League in the first place. Instead of, you know, just calling or texting him on the phone system he’d made them setup. But no, purple smoke made so much more sense… no matter how much more time and resources it wasted. Still, it’d be a relief to see it when that happened, if only because it would almost reassure him that Felicitas’ most dangerous student hadn’t gone Dark already.
Shaking his head to clear it of those thoughts as best he could, Methos selected the first nameless number in the contacts—speed dial one—before hitting the ‘call’ command and pressing the phone to his ear.
Only to jerk back, barely keeping himself from throwing it into the street or sidewalk as the not untalented voice of Idina Menzel streamed from the speakers on a powerful song.
“Out of the mist of history
He'll come again...
Sailing on ships across the sea,
To our wounded Nation...”
The ancient rolled his eyes even as he started trying to at least turn the speaker off so that the music would only be broadcasting all around him. But a check of every function that should allow him to do that proved unsuccessful.
“Signs of a savior,
Like fire on the water...
It's what we prayed for,
One of our own...”
Felicitas was nothing if not thorough. Even with her pranks.
Now if only Methos could think of what she might be pranking him for... even she couldn't say he was wrong to lecture her about letting the French headhunter go!
Though wide he may roam.
A hero comes home.”
The ancient scowled at the device, even as he muttered to himself, “She's going to make me listen to the whole damn thing, isn't she?”
Not that it was a bad song. He'd even admit to liking it a little. Just not when his student was using it as a response to his critiquing her life choices. A response come before he'd even had the chance to offer any actual criticism.
Did that mean she didn’t want the criticism she knew she deserved, or was she going to be avoiding him now? And all but make him go to her as a result?
“He goes, where no one has gone,
A hero comes home.”
It didn't even make sense as a comeback.
Not if she was trying to tell him to mind his own business regarding her handling of The Game. Or her meddling in mortal affairs again.
Or was it just tonight she couldn’t be bothered? While her boyfriend was busy breaking some other woman out of jail… Or the League was doing it at her command?
“Deep in the heart of darkness sparks
A dream of light...
Surrounded by hope-less-ness,
He finds the will to fight!”
And if this was her more honest indirect response to his question about whether she knew anything about The Vigilante, as she'd not really answered, it wasn't at all reassuring. That he’d already figured out she was probably more involved with the archer then she’d admitted so far hardly mattered at all.
“There's no surrender,
It doesn't end here,
We're not alone!”
Well those lines, at least, were a little more in line with what he'd tried to teach her. Though he’d always tried to drive home that retreating was often the best option, it wasn’t a lesson she’d seemed to learn for herself all that much better than MacLeod ever did.
Though wide he may roam,
Our hero comes home.”
Really, it felt like she'd included the slowly echoing refrain to taunt him. She'd probably made it repeat a few extra times, too.
“He goes, where no one has gone...
A hero comes home.”
Methos tucked the phone back inside his coat as he entered his hotel, but he still got a few strange looks as he briskly crossed the lobby, bypassing the elevator to head up the stairs just in case the little witch did pick up before the end of the song. Her phone probably wasn't even set to start ringing before then though.
“And he will come back on the crimson tide,
Dead or alive...
And even though we know the bridge has burned,
He will return...
He will return!”
Methos regretted choosing the stairs almost as soon as he started climbing them.
Not because he particularly despised exercise. Despite what MacLeod thought, he was in fine shape. Both because ever not being able to run away was not something he could allow, and because it actually wasn’t that easy for Immortals to get out of shape, seeing as their metabolism never stopped burning hot and hard, thanks to their Quickenings.
Unfortunately in this instance, his Immortality insured that his hearing hadn’t deteriorated at all over the years either, so he could hear the pretty but pointedly taunting song lyrics soaring up the flights of stairs and ricocheting hauntingly back down, nearly masking his quick steps on the stairs.
Though wide he may roam,
A hero comes home.”
Really, it was like she was trying to destroy any chance he might have at continuing to like a particularly talented vocal artist.
“He goes for places unknown,
A hero comes home.”
When he finally reached the top floor, six flights up, Methos yanked the door open with a rough jerk, only slowing his pace in the hall enough for it to not be called running as he hurried towards his room, which was by design the closest one to the stairs.
Because most Immortals, impatient headhunters especially, would take the elevator instead of the stairs as they tried to figure out what floor the unknown Immortal they'd sensed was staying on. He'd be long gone by the time they made it to this floor, or back down to the lobby.
“Someday they'll carve in stone
The hero comes home!”
The door managed to avoid annoying him; opening on the first attempt with his keycard. Still, he slammed it behind him as he entered the room, flicking on only one light before he crossed to the chair in the corner, and dropped down into it with an aggravated sigh as the song continued.
“He goes and comes back alone,
A hero comes home.”
It had to be over soon, didn't it?
Though wide he may roam,
A hero comes home!”
“Finally,” Methos breathed, before forcing a calming breath to try to chase away the lingering sense of annoyance as the music petered off. If she knew she'd managed to bother him, after all, it'd only encourage her.
“Cute, Felicity…” he started, but then trailed off as what was obviously a recording went on.
“This is Felicity. I can't answer my phone right now. But leave a message and I'll call you back!” his sister’s cheerful voice finished.
“That was cute, Felicity,” Methos grumbled, giving up on hiding his aggravation because she really had gotten him here. “But we really do need to talk. Call me. Now.” The world's oldest Immortal sighed as he hung up. “I really am too old for this.”
As usual, the world didn't care.
Interlude: Double-Date or Couples Therapy?
Watching a movie with friends isn’t meant to come with baggage,
but then again that might depend on the movie and the friends…
or Felicity thought inviting Tommy and Laurel over for a movie with
popcorn and wine would be a good idea, why?
And why would Laurel’s first choice be Mr. & Mrs. Smith?
NEXT STORY: A Hero?
Because it’s much more than a word…