Methos doesn't believe in fairy tales – or gods.
Once upon a time, on Earth, Immortals were at the top of the food chain. They may not have known what they were, or where they came from, but they were secure in the knowledge that they were unique and without peer. But there came a day that something happened to shatter that belief. For on that day, the Bifröst opened, bringing through it beings that, in Earth's mythic past, had been considered gods. For the Immortals of Midgard, when the gods returned, the universe, and their place in it, changed irrevocably.
Joint Dark Energy Mission, Western Division, SHIELD Accelerator, somewhere in New Mexico
Methos rubbed at the crick in his neck, exhaling tiredly. He glanced over at the glowing face of the clock on his desk, not really sure if it was eleven a.m. or p.m.—probably a.m., though he wouldn't bet money on it. He pushed at the pile of books, papers, and scrolls that littered the surface of his worktable. He wasn't getting anywhere fast with his translation, and the aggravation of it all was eating at him. He never thought that digging through dusty old tomes would have come with such a sense of urgency, or that the hunt for some kernel of knowledge could mean the difference between life and death for the inhabitants of Earth. Everything had changed the day aliens went from science fiction to fact; and they were woefully outgunned. Methos was doing whatever he could to even the odds.
When he'd signed on with SHIELD, it had been as a medical doctor, but it hadn't been long for his talent as an historian—well, as history itself, really—to become the focus of his work for the secret organization. Oh, he still patched people up; god only knew he'd put enough stitches into Barton. It was the universe's way, or maybe it was Fury's, of pulling his chain. But when he wasn't in the medical bay, he was here, surrounded by pages of time, trying to buy more of it.
Sliding down into the chair, he dimmed the lamp next to him, closing his eyes. Maybe just a quick nap. And maybe you should go home. How long has it been since you touched her face? Heard her laugh? That made him wince, the voice in the back of his head. Home, he hadn't been home in days, hadn't slept in a bed, felt her warmth against his chest in the still dark of the night, hadn't eaten anything that didn't come from a box. God, what he wouldn't do for a real meal. Somewhere along the way, this work of his had become obsession. It had to be so. And she understood that, had stood in this same place seventy years ago, another war, the fate of mankind on the knife's edge. He sighed, letting sleep tug him down into the dark. He would call her later, he promised himself.
A growing sense of unease pulled him from slumber, a feeling of power, similar to another Immortal's, and yet, not. One smooth motion, and he was up, eyes sweeping the room, looking for the danger, ready to attack if need be. In the gloom, Methos made out the shape of a man sitting at his desk, only illuminated by the glow of computer monitors and the faint light of the lamp on his work table. Reaching out, he flipped the switch on the wall next to him, the overhead lights splashing the office with sharp white light.
Methos quirked a brow. "A guest from so very far away." The man's garb and its decoration made it clear his unexpected visitor was Asgardian. And he had his suspicions as to the identity. "Should I be honoured?"
His uninvited guest stood with a florid bow. "I am called Loki; but I think you knew that." He laughed. "And yes, greatly honoured." He walked the short distance to the worktable. "I suppose it goes without saying that I've breached what passes for your defenses, with none the wiser to my presence."
"I suppose it does," Methos agreed. He stayed where he was, drawing no weapon.
"It is something of a pleasant change."
"Let's just say I'm not used to such a…peaceful response to my arrival."
Chuckling, Methos shrugged. "You've offered me no threat." The 'yet' was unspoken. "What brings you to my door, Loki?"
"Curiosity." He flipped over a book, running a finger down the spine. "The Immortals of your planet in general, and of you in particular, ancient one." He pointed the spear-like scepter in his hand, with its glowing blue orb, at Methos.
"I see that my fame precedes me."
Loki just smiled, picking up a scrap of parchment, which had once been part of a larger sheet. "I see you have an interest in the Múspellsheimr."
Methos stood straight, no longer feigning disinterest, but Loki appeared not to notice, reading from the ancient text, "And the fire of the gods shall be gathered up and ruin shall follow." He tossed it back on to the table. "Or something along those lines; hard to make out really." Cocking his head, he searched Methos' eyes. "Ahhhh, but you didn't know what it said, did you?"
"No." The parchments had been found in Norway, in the ruins of a bombed out building, after World War Two, the language not of the Earth. Methos could see no point in lying.
"If only you had the entire volume, and were able to translate it, of course, I believe you would find the contents quite illuminating."
"Care to give me a hint?"
"Have you ever wondered where your race comes from; what you are? I have. In truth, it has been uppermost in my thoughts for some time." He fell silent for a moment, and then said, "Thor would simply believe you an Elf." Shaking his head, he muttered, "simpleton," under his breath. "But my brother is not one for deep thoughts, as you and I are, Methos."
"If not, then what?" Methos couldn't quite keep the burn of curiosity from his voice.
"What indeed?" There was a secretive glint in Loki's eyes. But he didn't seem inclined to share any further information. Instead, his attention focused on the framed photograph under the work lamp. He took it, tilting it to get a better look. Methos stepped forward as he fought the urge to snatch it from his hand. "She's lovely, your Charlotte." This time, the smile on his lips was a warning. "You'll find I know a great deal about you and your friends, ancient one. Secrets are my special talent, after all."
Methos forced himself to relax – he was revealing far too much to the God of Mischief. This time, he did take the photograph from Loki's hand, but casually, with no urgency. "She is," he agreed, looking at the photo, Charlotte smiling up at him, grapevines tangled in her black hair. A sense of dread touched his heart and he wished he hadn't stayed from home for so long. "But I may be biased," he said lightly as he set it face down on the table next to him, as if being from Loki's view could somehow protect her.
"A lover's prerogative," Loki replied, circling the table till he stood even with Methos. "I told you I was curious, and that is true. I believe that you could answer so many questions, Methos; for both of us."
Shrugging, Methos leaned casually against the corner of the table. "I'm an open book, Loki."
There was a bark of laughter in response. "You are anything but – which makes you all the more fascinating to me, it is true. But arriving at the answers, that, my friend, is almost as rewarding as the answers themselves."
Loki waved a hand around the room. "You could rule them, the mortals, they are sheep. And yet, you make yourself subservient to them; such a waste of potential."
"Tried that once—long before you were born, in fact." It didn't hurt to remind the pup, that god or no, Methos had been at this game for eons longer than Loki had lived. "It didn't work out."
"Ah yes, your little band of horsemen, playing at the apocalypse." He leaned in, picking up the parchment he'd read from before, waving it at Methos. "This is as the coming of Ragnarök, and I'm not playing at it, Methos," his voice, almost a hiss, echoed round the confines of the cement walls.
"I've heard that before too," Methos replied, matching his tone, "more times than I can count. And I'm still here, and I will still be here when all your plots have turned to dust and the universe forgets your name."
"How easily you pull on Death's cloak," Loki observed. "Can you remove it just as easily? I wonder."
"What do you want, Loki, really?" Methos was losing patience.
"You asked me what you were, what your people are. I believe the answer to that is the key to a power that will change the course of time itself. You and I," he stood straight, "Methos, we shall discover it together," he promised darkly.
Methos shook his head. "I've chosen my side, Loki. I won't help you."
Loki appeared once more to be all good cheer. "Honestly, it wouldn't be fair to accept your decision quite yet. You see, you do not have all the facts available to make an informed decision."
He waved away Methos' protest. "But soon, ancient one, soon. I am a patient man, after all. I can give you the time you need to consider my offer." The orb in the scepter seemed to throb briefly, and then he was gone. There was no flash, no smoke, nothing at all. Just an empty space where Loki had stood mere seconds before. All that was left was the echo of his voice, "I'll be waiting."