"You've changed," Methos said quietly from behind her.
Charlotte's hand stilled, her eyes capturing his in the mirror of her dressing table. She shook her head ever so slightly, before removing the sapphire and white gold earring from her ear, setting it in a small crystal dish with its mate. "I disagree."
He stepped closer, his hand reaching out, laying the palm against the curve of her throat. "It's been almost imperceptible, the transformation into Charlotte Black. You've become Fury's Charlotte—SHIELDS' Agent Black, once more; a woman I never knew
"She's always been there, Methos. But I didn't need to be her again till the whole damned world got turned upside down."
He didn't reply, his hands beginning to undo the French braid that held her hair back from her face. She'd seen this image, in this mirror, so many times before. Her hair had been longer then, and the light that of an oil lamp, not an electric bulb, but the same nonetheless. Tony had been more right than he knew, except it wasn't just the memories of the dead that haunted this place. The memories of the living, the lives she and Methos had lived here a century and a half before, those were what must be dealt with.
Running his fingers through her hair, he sat opposite her on the small upholstered bench, their shoulders touching. "She doesn't quite trust me."
Shifting towards him, she made a half-hearted protest, not really able to deny it. After all, it had only been a few hours ago that she'd admitted as much to herself during Tony's unexpected visit.
He dropped his head, a crooked smile on his lips. "That Charlotte, she holds me to account for the promises we made to each other in this house; promises that were never fulfilled, gone to dust long ago."
"So much has happened since then, especially the last few months. We've changed, Methos, of course we have. But what hasn't, not through all of it, is that I love you." She slipped a hand around to caress his jaw, pulling him closer, kissing him, her lips gentle. "If I never knew you…that woman, I would not recognize."
Taking her hand, he stood, pulling her to her feet, leading her across the bedroom to the small sofa in front of the kiva fireplace. She sat down, while he put more wood on the fire. But after he'd done, he didn't join her, instead crouching in front of her, looking up into her eyes. "I need your trust, Charlotte," he said quietly. "What Jack and Larabee held; I want that too, love."
She brushed at her eyes, feeling the prickle of tears. If she didn't step across the chasm now, she knew that it would only widen, and that even the love they shared would not be enough to cross over. Nodding, she reached for him, taking his arms, needing him next to her.
Sitting down, he put an arm around her shoulders. "I don't trust me either, Charlotte," he admitted. "I couldn't protect you, not from Kronos, not from Loki. And I accepted Fury's offer to join SHIELD, even though I knew you weren’t entirely at peace with the idea, after all the years you'd spent trying to separate yourself from that life. I should have put your feelings over the temptation of knowledge, I know that now. I'm the reason Loki targeted you, and I don't know if you can ever truly forgive me for that."
She shook her head. "Maybe Loki targeted you because of me, Methos. Has that not occurred to you? What if what I saw in the mirror, in that place, was a true foretelling, even if only a possible future?"
He took a deep breath, exhaling slowly. "The mirror…you mean the child, the one he claimed was yours and his—Verdandi."
"I see her in my dreams, Methos," she finally confided. "I see him in my dreams, and sometimes, when I wake up, I don't know if this world is the real one, or that one he inhabits." Now she'd confessed what she'd been keeping from him, the words poured out. "When I was hiding Jane Foster, after Loki came through the portal, he would be there when I slept, and it was not a dream, Methos! It was just as real as it had been when he held me captive. It scares me, Methos—what if I am never rid of him?"
"You should have told me weeks ago." He held her tight.
"I know. I wanted to, but I was afraid. Afraid you'd think I was losing my mind, that I was compromised. And so much has been going on since the attack; we've hardly had two minutes together. That's why I asked Nicholas for the time off, for both of us. I needed to take a step back, to have some control over where my life was going, not just be a hostage to events."
He drew back, taking her face in his hands. "We can walk away, Charlotte. Away from SHIELD, your past, leave it all behind. We can go the island; use it as the sanctuary Jack always intended. If that's what you want, we'll do it."
"And let them fight alone?" She placed her hands over his. "Can we do that, Methos?"
He curled his fingers around hers, pulling their entwined hands to his lap. "There will always be war, love. It has always been that way—civilizations rise and fall, and rise again.
"This isn't just any war though, is it, Methos? If there was ever a battle that Immortals were meant to fight, isn't it this one? It's our planet too, whatever Loki claims to the contrary. Before, when Nicholas was trying to get me to come back, it was easy to say no. It was just more of the same, but with better tech. Even after Loki held me captive, I still didn't want to go back, not really. But when that portal opened… I sat, glued to the TV, desperate to be there, to help, to fight alongside my friends."
"Then I guess I have my answer."
She smiled a little. "Coulson was right, when he told me that I wouldn’t be able to let my friends stand alone when the time came."
Brushing a thumb across her lips, he nodded. "But we do this together, Charlotte. No secrets, not anymore. Deal?" He took her chin in his fingers, making her look at him when she averted her eyes. "Tell me. Charlotte," he commanded when she pulled from his hold.
Wrapping her arms around herself, she got up, beginning to pace. "This one, you really aren't going to like," she promised darkly.
"Oh, I'm quite the expert at dealing with disappointment, Charlotte, so why not try me?"
Grimacing at his snide tone, she tried to decide where to begin. Oh God, he was going to be furious. "I told Tony about what happened to you at the end, with Loki, him using a Quickening like a power source, controlling it, that he implied to both of us, that we, Immortals, held a power we could wield. Our own kind of…magic." She stopped to take a breath, daring a look at Methos. He was completely and utterly still, with no emotion in his eyes. Then she rushed on, before she lost her nerve, "I asked him to recreate Loki's experiments. If I can be used as a weapon, I want to be the one to control it—not Loki, not SHIELD, or anyone else who might get the idea. I won't be Loki's victim ever again, Methos!" She stopped, breathless, waiting for the explosion.
In a deceptively quiet voice, he asked, "Anything else?"
She bit at her lower lip, nodding. "Tony convinced me to let him bring in Bruce, Dr. Banner," she practically whispered. "He's helping Tony create the instruments we'll need. We can trust him, Methos." The last held a note of pleading.
"Because trusting Stark is a given, of course." Methos rolled his eyes.
"Yes, it is!" Her fear of Methos' reaction was quickly giving way to anger at his continued mistrust of her best friend. She knew this was how he'd react, feeling vindicated for not telling him before now.
Then Methos began to laugh, really laugh, till he couldn't breathe. Finally, he stopped, wiping at his eyes, before fixing his gaze upon her. "There are days, Charlotte, when I really wonder why I put myself through the exasperation. But then I think of a life without you, if I never knew you—" he stood, coming to stand in front of her "—and that life would be one I'd never wish for." He kissed her forehead. "You should have told me."
"Shhh." He placed a finger against her lips. "You should have told me, but I understand why you didn't. You didn't think I'd believe what you hold true in your heart: that Stark would do anything for you, and would never betray you."
"You aren't mad?"
He chuckled. "I wouldn't go that far. But my anger is tempered by the by fact that I agree with you."
"You agree with me?" Charlotte wasn't sure she'd heard him right.
"Hard to believe, I know," he said with a grin. "Yes, Charlotte, I agree with you. We need to know what we are, what we're capable of, if we're ever to be safe. And if anyone on this planet can figure it out, it's Stark."
"Thank you, dearest Benjamin," she said softly, kissing the corner of his mouth.
For a moment, all the years slipped away, leaving nothing but a feeling of possibility for what these extraordinary lives that had been granted them might bring.
"All is not darkness, Charlotte."
"No, it is not."
"What lies ahead, we shall face together, whatever comes. I told you that night, long ago, that so many wonders awaited us, dear Charlotte. That is a truth that has not changed, not in all the years that have passed since then, and one we must continue to hold close.
"I think I can do that, my love, so long as this time, you walk with me into whatever lies ahead."