The Holyground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge
Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Holyground Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.
The Challenge by Leah CWPack
Chapter 9 of the Watch Manual by wildcard
Keeping Watch by Ysanne
Private Journal of a Watcher by vixen69
Las crónicas de Sor Juana by Wain
Full of Grace by Lovie MacFru
No One Looks at the Help by Robin
Baiting the Bear by Titania
So Close, Yet So Far by Daire
Playing the Field by vixen69
Dear Father by HonorH
Watching Amanda by Ghost Cat
Closing Time by SwingGirl
MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: FIRST WATCH
This MWC idea was suggested by SwingGirl; many thanks. I just added a touch or two.
Your challenge, should you decide to participate:
Write a short story, scene or vignette featuring a Watcher we have not yet met or seen, who watches an Immortal character who is known to us. The only element that you *must* incorporate is...breakfast.
MWC: Chapter 9 of the Watcher Manual
Okay, this was done pretty quick, so it's rough. I couldn't resist picking on Fitz a bit, it's so much fun. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to research this very well or to include everything I wanted to. Currently, the only internet access I have is at work. Maybe I can clean it up some time.
Chapter 9 of the Watcher Manual
New initiates should be aware that the life of a Watcher is not typically an exciting one. Although they are likely to hear tales of swashbuckling valor and ominous peril, they should know that these are uncommon events. The sad truth is, the life of an immortal differs little from that of any other man. These people, by their nature, are solitary and avoid attention. It is in their best interest to be discreet and lead uninteresting lives, to take every necessary measure to prevent the discovery of their immortality. Flamboyant acts of heroism or macabre plots of villainy are little more than a fairytale. Immortals do not engage in dazzling duels, peppered with witty banter, nor do they actively seek to destroy one another and steal each other’s Quickenings. After all, it is not yet the time of the Gathering.
A Watcher must be willing to accept his duties, with no expectations of excitement. His job is to watch and catalog the activities of his assignment, regardless of the tedium. In time he will learn to cherish those fleeting moments of adventure when his Immortal does something out of the ordinary. Many new Watchers hope to receive notable charges, to get the “juicy” assignments. However, they will find that even the most outgoing Immortal can be a complete bore, and that their most exciting experience was when they got their Watcher tattoo.
What follows is an excerpt from a report regarding Immortal Hugh Fitzcairn, it should serve as an example of the high level of excitement one may expect:
January 1st, 1900 – 3:52am
After his “End of the World” party, mister Fitzcairn retired for the evening, passing out on his couch. I had hoped to take the opportunity to catalog the trappings of his estate, as this was the first time I’d been in his home. However, once he lost consciousness, his guests filtered out, to give him his privacy, and I followed to avoid suspicion.
January 1st, 1900 – 11:34am
After sleeping for a few hours, I woke up to find that my charge had not yet awakened. Just before noon, I finally observed movement within the house and watched Mister Fitzcairn emerge for his usual morning constitutional. Unlike other mornings, Fitzcairn moved slowly, in a somber mood. It wasn’t until I observed him vomiting in his neighbor’s hedge, that I realized he was still suffering the effects of last night’s stupor. I find it amusing to note that alcohol can cause an Immortal’s head to pound as violently as it does my own. Mister Fitzcairn stopped at the local inn for his usual breakfast, but quickly pushed it aside, clutching at his stomach.
January 1st, 1900 – 2:40pm
Having now regained his constitution, Mister Fitzcairn returned to the inn for a large supper and a pint, relaxing afterward with his pipe. Not recovering as easily, I resigned myself to a bowl of porridge.
January 1st, 1900 – 6:23pm
Rather than returning to his home, Mister Fitzcairn decided to stay at the inn for dinner, drinks, and to carouse with the rest of the bar crowd. I have grown accustomed to this behavior and have found it allows me to easily approach my assignment, learning bits of his past. However, I have yet to develop his tolerance for alcohol.
January 1st, 1900 – 10:57pm
As I learned some time ago, I held tight to my pint, drinking little so it would always appear full. I spent the evening chatting with “Fitz,” who boasted of various exploits, ranging from death defying adventure and dramatic duels to grave wounds and tragic loss, and especially regarding his prowess with women. However, these are all tales I have heard in the past and have recorded previously. I have never been able to verify any of them.
January 2nd, 1900 – 1:13am
Mister Fitzcairn finally passed out in the arms of a buxom young serving maid, while demonstrating a proper golf swing. The young woman and myself were then assigned by the establishment to escort him home. After carrying him home, I left Mister Fitzcairn in the nubile hands of the lass, whom he insisted must stay during sporadic moments of consciousness, and went to my own home to get some much needed rest.
MWC -- Keeping Watch
Posted By: Ysanne
Date: Wednesday, 24 January 2001, at 1:09 p.m.
I push my way through the door of Joe’s bar and order a double from Mike. He gives me a hard look because of the early hour, but serves me anyway, and I take the drink back to a table where there is room to write in my notebook. How to begin? I sip at the drink and ponder everything that I have seen.
I let the memories of the last few hours wash over me, trying to sort them into an orderly closing report. Dank, chilly air stained by auto exhaust…the roar of an overtaxed engine…a man running for his life, dark greatcoat swirling around him. Swords, of course, catching the dim light of the garage and reflecting it in quick glints. Recalling the gruesome look and sound of a body crushed by a van, I shudder and take another sip of whiskey. The accompanying picture of the victim ramming his sword through the windshield and into his attacker calls for a few more sips. I hope my stomach settles soon; at least the alcohol has warmed me.
Where was I? Yes, the windshield…and then two wounded men fighting desperately with the weapon at hand whether it be a katana or a tire iron. Both of them should have been dead instead of doing battle – what am I saying, they *were* dead, for a while. They’re like a video game on steroids, these Immortals.
Video game warriors don’t cry, though.
Being Brian Cullen’s Watcher was no fun at all. He was a pathetic, dirty, out-of-control doper – no friends, no purpose, no life. Hard to imagine him being the man described in his early Chronicles, yet he must have been, because Duncan MacLeod wept for him. I’d read about MacLeod but never saw him until that horrendous fight, where a raving Cullen tried every way his stoked-up brain could come up with to kill him. MacLeod’s sheer strength and willpower were impressive, but his tears astonished me.
In fact, I was so fascinated by the man that I followed him, abandoning my mutilated assignment. I think I had some vague idea that MacLeod needed me. Luckily, I came to my senses and kept my distance, satisfying the odd urge to comfort him by just staying nearby, watching over him, so to speak. After a couple of hours in his loft he appeared, looking freshly showered although not any more rested, and drove away. Still concerned, I followed him once more.
He sat on a railing outside the local hospital, looking so sad and lost that I found my throat tightening up. When he surreptitiously wiped away a few tears I clenched my hands around the steering wheel so I wouldn’t do something insane like leave the car and offer him a Kleenex. Then a woman came out of the hospital and walked over to him, greeting him in a way that let me know that they knew each other. As they walked away arm in arm, something in her expression told me that she, too, saw the vulnerability in MacLeod that morning.
Naturally, I had to know what would come next; Watchers must be the nosiest people in the world. What came next was breakfast, plain and simple. Breakfast, and friendship, and the comfort of a caring woman. Seeing them eating together finally broke the strange spell that had me Watching someone else’s Immortal subject, and I came here to Joe’s to write my report on Cullen.
Could be that I’m also hoping to talk to MacLeod’s Watcher about his subject, the warrior who weeps after a victory.
MWC—Private Journal of a Watcher
Posted By: vixen69 <email@example.com>
Date: Wednesday, 24 January 2001, at 11:47 p.m.
Private Journal of a Watcher
I must admit that the idea of a personal journal that will never be seen struck me as a stupid idea at first, but now, I can see that it has so much therapeutic value. After all, we Watchers see so much that we can never tell anyone outside of the organization—and yet the * things * that we see are often so tragic. Not to say that the excitement of our lives often compares to that of our subjects, and yet, at times, I wonder why more of us don’t go off the deep end. I’ve heard the stories of them—James Horton, other Immortal killers. I’ve heard the rumor of one Watcher, some time ago, who was under the impression he might be pre-Immortal. Ended badly, I understand. And then—there’s the sympathy you come to feel—if you’re assigned to a good one. You suffer through every battle, on edge, knowing someone will die—hoping it isn’t the person you’ve come to know so well. Or, if you despise the one you observe—how every despicable act grates on your conscience! And you can say * nothing *. Simply observe and record. Compared to that agony, which I can certainly imagine, I’m glad my current crisis is such a small one. It can be summed up in one word.
I can remember back at the Academy being taught that strange lesson about what to expect as a field researcher. “Neoteny, the appearance or condition of remaining young. Most Immortals did die young—and will remain youthful, until they die. This can be a very long time. You will be amazed by it. You will grow tired of it. At last, you may even come to resent it.” I can recall it so clearly, because I scoffed—not me! NO, no—that would be so small-minded. I’m * comfortable * in my own skin. Why would I resent anyone for something they can hardly help? Immortals can’t help not aging. It was very rational to think as I did. I learn, as I get older, that feelings rarely are rational. That is what makes them feelings. And today—I found myself doing the unthinkable—I found myself hating Amanda because she’s beautiful. It was terribly cliché—I’m embarrassed by it, but more than that, I’m disturbed by my thoughts—it isn’t like me. No—it is more like the thoughts of someone who’s getting older—that can’t be me! (And yet, I know full well it could.)
It was breakfast at Le Chein Fume—I find I grimace at her tastes—not because they do not suit me—but because they do! My poor waistline! I, thanks to will power, managed to settle with a croissant and coffee, as I observed her—she met with a young (appearing) man. I found myself paying more attention to her plate than her date! In the course of an hour and a half, she demolished two muffins (blueberry, from my vantage), a croissant, ordered an omelet (there appeared to be ham on the side—there was undoubtedly cheese sauce, there is * always * cheese sauce)—which she slowly killed, before taking a few stabs at the plate of her companion (while he was not present—her tendencies towards thievery do indeed extend to other aspects of her behavior). Not to mention two glasses of orange juice and several cups of coffee. (I record this here—having no intention of turning her Chronicle into a diet diary.) I counted perhaps 1000 calories or so—one for every year! And this was only breakfast. I could in no way fathom it. Where does she put it? She is, as I’ve definitely mentioned elsewhere in this journal—on the lighter side of shapely—not emaciated—but still! Most women I know would diet relentlessly for such a figure—of course, most women I know are my own age. There was I time I could eat almost anything. That was a while ago.
Perhaps I should have observed her companion more closely, instead of being wrapped up in her fare. His name would have occurred to me then—instead of the nasty shock I had later. I followed her through the rest of the day wondering where I had seen him before—because I certainly thought I had. And yet it seemed so obvious to me that his interest in her had to be romantic. Why wouldn’t it be?
(I regret, of late I’ve been somewhat vicariously enjoying a love life through her—of a sort. “Of late” meaning “the last five years” and “of a sort” meaning I’ve had hopeless crushes on the sort of men who find their way into her life.)
Amanda must have felt the same way. She bought a new dress—quite exquisite, eggshell white and silky, rather excellent with the pearls she chose. (Size six—and in my opinion, it could have been more fitted around the hips. What do I envy—the price tag, the size, the fact she has a date?) It wasn’t until he showed up that evening, in attire less suited for an evening out, that I realized he was stringing her on. If I ever imagined being stood up was bad—this would top that. And his name finally clicked with me—a headhunter—usually preying on women. And I was worried for her, not just because this came seemingly out of the blue, but because of the usual reason—the unevenness of the match-up.
I watched the fight between them in shock. It went longer than her usual—if possible, she seems to make a point of dispatching an opponent at her soonest opportunity. She didn’t go for any finishing gambits at all. He was talented—but heavy-handed. She was able to keep him at a distance with a combination of parries and retreating steps—moving unpredictably. But once it had gone an hour, I began to see the wear on her opponent. He lost a step over the course of the battle, and then, stepping up her speed, she was able to take him. But the hour’s work left her obviously drained. She sank to the ground, not simply from the Quickening, but also from sheer exhaustion. (Necessarily, I detailed this more fully in my actual report.)
Watching her, as she simply sat there, panting, I recalled what I’d been thinking earlier—and didn’t like myself too terribly. It’s a trade-off—a horrible trade-off. If I wondered before how she stays as she is—I wondered now if I could imagine doing what I had seen her do—stand toe-to-toe against a larger opponent for as long as she had. Her life could be brutally interrupted—has been—by violence. It can happen at any time, and it does happen only too often. I’m merely inconvenienced by middle-age spread. She faces the sensations of horror directly—and probably still relives the battle in her dreams. I sit here, and write in my book. I will have to think about this some more.
Tomorrow—the heck with it. Blueberry pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Heavy on the syrup.
MWC: Las crónicas de Sor Juana
For Doña Leonors del Val, Duchess of Osorno
at the court of His Majesty Felipe V and his
lady wife, Queen Isabel
at La Granja
My Dear Lady,
Blessings to Your Grace from the convent of Santa María de Wamba. Prioress Antonia bids me express her deep gratitude for Your Grace’s generous gifts to our library and to our charity work.
The books arrived on the Feast of Candelas. We are most grateful for the copy of Santa Teresa’s “Camino de la Perfección.” The chronicles and correspondence concealed in the bottom of the trunk are now safely in my possession. I have begun to copy them as my religious duties permit; I will need to begin a new book on the Immortal in Madrid, as the current volume is now filled. The requests for information regarding new and suspected Immortals as well as those Immortals who are without Watchers has also been copied and dispatched to Santo Domingo de Silos and Santillana de Mar.
I beg leave to remind Your Grace that should I pass from this life before a chronicler is found to replace me, all of the chronicles and letters are hidden behind the bookshelf of our library that holds the stories of our blessed founder, la Infanta Doña Urraca, may she rest in peace.
Sent this feast day of Santa Scolástica, the tenth of February of the year of our Lord 1716, from the convent of Santa María de Wamba.
For Doña Leonora del Val, Duquesa de Osorno
Attendant upon His Majesty Felipe V at La Granja
My Dear Lady,
Greetings and blessings from the Convent of Santa María. An extraordinary visitor arrived two weeks ago, and while I am not certain of the meaning of events that have transpired since that day, I feel that I must share what I have observed with Your Grace and ask for guidance.
I was called from my duties as librarian for our order after Nones by our Prioress. A woman--all alone and without defense--had come to the door of our convent. Sister Porter did not discern the way from which she came. As the stranger spoke but little Castilian, Prioress Antonia called our Sister Infirimarian, Sor Inés, to see if she could make herself known to the wanderer in her native tongue of Galician. When Sor Inés determined that the stranger spoke no more Galician than Castilian, Prioress Antonia called me to see if she spoke English. Hospitality to strangers is, of course, part of the Rule of St. Benedict, and I beg Your Grace name me a better hospitality than trying to speak in tongue of a foreign guest.
I asked her to me tell me her name and whence she had come, but she did not respond with more than a faint gesture toward the west. Her dress and shoes were covered in chalky, gray dust, and her face--Oh, Doña Leonora, her face!--was fearsome to behold. Her jaw was set as if in anger, her large eyes empty and hurt, and she seemed to have endured far more than was possible for one of her years, which I thought to be between five-and-twenty and thirty.
If indeed she came on foot from the west, she would have come from Peñaflor de Hornija, and before that from the monastery of La Santa Espina, where a splinter of the True Cross graces the altar. Beyond that, she might have come from Zamora and Astorga much like a pilgrim of olden years, tracing a route home from the shrine of St. James the Apostle in Compostela.
But this poor child of God did not have the air of one returning joyfully home. Exhausted, she bid leave to stay in our convent for a while. We are not such a large community as to support a house of lay sisters, so we housed her with the novices and dressed her in a novice’s habit.
Shortly thereafter, I cast my mind back on Your Grace’s letter. Perhaps it is the undisciplined mind of an old woman who has spent too many years among chronicles and martyrologies, but I found myself returning to the description of the suspected Immortal from Ireland. Our strange visitor is certainly not from the Kingdoms of Spain or Portugal, and she resembles the woman described by Duncan MacLeod’s Watcher.
At Prioress Antonia’s behest, I attended upon our visitor with the hopes of discovering her name and if she had any family who might come to her aid. I must confess that I hoped to see if her name was like the one mentioned in the chronicles of the Scottish Immortal. In the quiet of the cloister walk, I felt that our visitor might be more at ease with me. When I asked if she had family, she answered with a short negative nod of her head. Thereupon, I asked if she were married. She thrust her hands up the opposite sleeves of the novice’s habit she wore and hugged her arms to her chest, but did not answer. She closed her eyes in pain against my questions.
“You must have faith, Sister, and remember that the Rule tells us never to despair of God’s mercy,” I reassured her before gently asking again, “What is your name?”
She seized upon what I had told her and responded, “That is my name.”
“Mercy?” I queried, “or Faith?”
“Faith,” the word escaped her lips, which twisted into a brief, sad smile. “How do you say that in Castilian?” she asked.
I answered her, “In Castilian we say, ‘Fé’.”
At that she laughed, not with mirth but with bitterness. Through her laughter, she told me, “It sounds like fey in English.” So low that she must have thought I could not hear, she added, “That is perfect.”
I crave indulgence and pardon if I dare to instruct Your Grace, but I must needs say that our Castilian word “fé” sounds like the English word for otherworldly, enchanted people like unto the “santa compaña” that Sor Inés tells me wander the countryside of Galicia when the moon is new, ready to snatch any unfortunate soul who might stare them in the eye. I found myself wondering if an Immortal might think of herself as such a creature.
It is not without shame that I confess to having examined the belongings of our guest, Faith--for that is what I must call her, even though I think it is not the name her parents gave her. She had only two dresses, a cloak, a single pair of shoes, and we have safeguarded them. Should she decide to become a novice, they will become her dowry to our convent. There was a golden locket secreted in a small pocket in one of the dresses, but there was no sword.
I shall continue to observe Faith, but without certain knowledge that she is the suspected Immortal listed in the last Watcher communication. The guidance of one such as Your Grace will be of great benefit to me. I have no experience with Immortals save what I have recopied into the chronicles. It seems odd that an Immortal would travel without a sword. Could she have lost it? Or perhaps she does not know what she is? Most likely, these are the fantastical imaginings of a cloistered librarian who cherishes heroic notions of what her Watcher companions do.
Written this Feast Day of San Juan Bautista, Anno Domini 1716, at the Convent of Santa María de Wamba.
For Doña Leonora del Val, Duquesa de Osorno
Attendant upon His Majesty Felipe V at La Granja
My Dear Lady,
Greetings to Your Grace from our community of sisters. Our Prioress bids me write that we remember Your Grace daily in our prayers.
I have continued to observe our sister Faith as you requested. My lady Leonora, Our Lord Jesus Christ spoke truly when he said that man may not serve two masters! How it grieves me to have broken my vows to our Order and my Prioress.
Prioress Antonia asked me to talk to Faith and to determine if she wished to become a novice and one day take holy vows. Our Prioress believes that Faith has no vocation to become a religious. She has learned to say the Holy Offices, she wakes for Lauds, Matins, and Prime without complaint, and takes quite naturally to the turns of work and prayer that compose our day. Faith seems to have no great love of talking; even in our hour of recreation after Vespers, she speaks little. Despite all of this, no burning devotion to God or the cloistered life shines in her eyes, and one must take vows because of a love of Our Lord, not for fear of the outside world. I pray that God might forgive me! I lied to our Prioress and told her that I did indeed see a vocation in Faith, that she might remain with us a bit longer and I might determine if she were Immortal.
Faith’s skill with embroidering vestments and altar cloths has been a boon to our small sisterhood. It seems that time spent with needle in hand is her happiest. And Prioress never has to chastise Faith for gossiping idly while sewing, as she must do with the novices.
There has been only one other time that Faithhas smiled since she came to us. One afternoon, she and the novices were asked to play with the two orphaned girls in our care. Such attention Faith lavished on them! She hugged them, kissed them, and carried them on her shoulders. When the novices told Faith that perhaps her true vocation was motherhood, she stopped playing with the children of a sudden, and left the courtyard. I found her later, helping our other sisters with the mattresses. The mattress casings had been opened to beat the woolen stuffing to unknot and air it. Faith was flailing at the poor tufts of wool so angrily that I felt compelled to remind her of the part of the Rule that reminds us to treat all objects as if they were vessels of the Sacrament. Her face was hard and closed, albeit she beat more gently thereafter.
I fear that her anger and sadness have not been assuaged among our sisterhood. She is tormented by evil dreams from which she awakens screaming.
I continue to watch and to wait, and make penance for the deception I have practiced upon our Prioress.
Written in the year of Our Lord 1716 on this Feast Day of Saint James, Apostle, at the Convent of Santa María de Wamba.
For Doña Leonora del Val, Duquesa de Osorno
Attendant upon His Majesty Felipe V at La Granja
My Dear Lady,
Blessings upon Your Grace, and may it please Your Grace to remember in her prayers this poor sinner, who has failed as a nun and as a Watcher.
The Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin and of Saint Roque, patrons of the village of Wamba, took place last month. As is our custom, the sisters of our order joined the procession of the saints around the village. Leaving the cool, dark church echoing still with prayers, we were startled by the searing sun, the hot, dry wind, and the brilliant blue sky. The girls of the village lined up to dance the jota in front of the statue of Our Lady and her servant, Saint Roque. Behind them were the members of our sisterhood. When the music of the dulzainas began, I noticed Faith’s head jerk up. Sor Inés was standing next to her. I heard them speak; Faith’s Castilian had much improved, for all she was not over fond of talk and gossip.
“Is something wrong?” Sor Inés, our infirmarian, asked.
Faith shook her head. “Those instruments remind me of home.”
The Infirmarian smiled and added confidentially, “They remind me of my home in Galicia, also. But where is your home?”
“Ireland,” Faith replied.
My head began to whirl, my Lady, with the thought that Faith might indeed be the suspected Immortal of whom you wrote late in the year of Our Lord 1715. After that, Faith spoke more freely to Sor Inés, smiling at the nimble feet of the girls dancing the jota, and asking the names of some of the villagers. She stopped for just a moment when Sor Inés indicated the road that snaked through thistles and live oaks, up the hill and away from the village to the city of Valladolid, where our most Catholic monarchs Fernando and Isabel held court so many years ago.
I wondered then if the longing look in Faith’s eyes meant that she would leave us presently, but she settled into our daily routine after the feast days without any sign that she might re-enter the world.
Then, dear Lady, came the day that I will rue forever. It was an unsettled and rainy morning. The sisterhood was breaking our fast, and Prioress Antonia was performing the day’s Lectio Divino. As Faith was carrying a serving vessel, she slipped. The earthenware vessel broke, and she fell upon it. When she arose, there was blood on the front of her habit. I thought at first that she had pierced her chest, but the cut--a deep and frightful gash--was along her wrist and hand, which had pressed against her habit and smeared it with blood.
The poor child screamed as if done to the death and, following Prioress Antonia’s nod, I hurried her to the Infirmarian. I held Faith’s arm steady as Sor Inés cleaned away the blood. Then we beheld small bright flashes of light, almost imperceptible, and the flesh closed in upon itself and knit itself back together again.
“Meiga,” Sor Inés whispered--witch in her native Galician--and crossed herself. I doubt that Faith understood the word, but she surely read Sor Inés’s thoughts.
Then I did what I wish I could undo. Blessed Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ, I wish that one could snatch back ill-spoken words from the ether, but I know that they cannot. I regret to tell Your Grace that I failed the oath of secrecy that all Watchers take: I looked Faith straight in her eyes and said, “You are Immortal.”
I knew nothing more after that until I heard the flat clapping of the bell calling the sisters to Sext. I had lain insensible on the floor with Sor Inés beside me. Faith was gone as were her belongings. I followed her wet and muddy footsteps through the cloister garden to the church door, but did not go beyond there. I have risked much for the Watchers, and have broken my vows as a nun time and time again, yet I could not leave the convent to follow Faith. I have much to be penitent for: for the sins of lying and disobedience and the cardinal sin of pride, to have imagined that I might dare to be faithful to two different worlds.
Given time, I hope that Your Grace can forgive me. As for myself, I wish to return to copying the chronicles, if that can be permitted to one so unreliable as me. I know that it is not for us to say who will be the one Immortal left at the end of time, but still I wish that Faith not lose her head to one of the evil of her kind. God willing, Your Grace may one day send to me for copying a chronicle on Faith. I pray that she might find the peace that she lacked when she was among our company.
Written this feast day of San Mateo, Patron Saint of the city of Valladolid, the twentieth of September, in the year of Our Lord 1716.
MWC: Full of Grace......
Posted By: Lovie MacFru <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Thursday, 25 January 2001, at 4:04 p.m.
The buzzing of flies near the refuse pit was especially loud this morning. Dennis wrestled his feet free of the mosquito netting and followed them out into the sweltering heat of the one room hut. The window openings, though arranged to catch the slightest movement of air, channeled nothing but the noise of a waking camp into his private quarters.
Today was special. He splashed tepid water over his face and neck, reaching for the crumpled towel that hung from the edge of the makeshift table. His glance rested for a moment on the duffle bags and backpack that rested on the dirt-packed floor near the door. Today was the day they escaped this God-forsaken place.
He drew a plastic comb through his shaggy hair, looking forward to the return to civilization and the chance to sit in the chair of a real barber. Grace did her best, he thought with a wry grin, but trimming hair was not her forte.
Grace. At the thought of his current assignment, Dennis’ grin broadened. Grace Chantel had led him a merry chase across the wilds of the African continent. Her missions of mercy read like something from the Missionary’s Guide to Southern Africa. Wherever there was a need, Grace went, from the edges of civilization to the depths of the jungle. She was tireless. Her small compact body exuded an energy that constantly amazed him. The thought of a new village in need seemed to energize her. The thought of bringing comfort to those who had so little in their lives would leave her eyes damp and shiny. She was devoted to her mission, no question there.
Dennis reached for a clean shirt and pulled the loose cotton garment over his head and settled it carefully on his broad shoulders. Sometimes he wondered what it would be like to be assigned to watch an Immortal from the sidelines, so to speak. Maybe witness a Quickening, or at least a major battle between Immortals directly involved in the Game. Ah but his assignment was Grace. He couldn’t watch from the shadows, with Grace he had no choice but to attach himself to her side, to use his slight knowledge of first aide and the treatment of the sick to become her assistant. Out here in the boon docks there was no place for a Watcher to hide. But careful maneuvering had made him indispensable to his Immortal assignment. Working side by side with the small dark haired Immortal was exhausting but exhilarating, as well.
Over the past five years they had covered thousands of miles and treated hundreds of tribesmen who would never have been exposed to the wonders of modern medicine had it not been for Grace and her mysterious benefactor. Not for the first time, Dennis let his thoughts wander to the man that Grace would only refer to as “my friend.” Was he an immortal, as well? He certainly was a friend. There was no question that his regular shipments of food and medicine, reaching Grace, even in the darkest corners of Africa, were what kept her working steadily at the merciful work that she did.
As late as yesterday morning their departure from this small village had been he doubt. Medicine and supplies had not arrived. It was touch and go there for a while.
Dennis gathered up the last of his writing materials and crammed them into the side pocket of his small duffel bag. He remembered the look of anxiety that flitted across Grace’s face as she sat beside the young woman whose face nearly shimmered with the heat of her fever. Her own fears for the woman were held tightly in check as she spoke softly and bathed the woman’s forehead with a damp cloth. He could tell that she was deciding whether to stay and hope the medicine, when it arrived, would help the woman or to go, leaving specific instructions with the woman’s mother-in-law on how to administer the penicillin. Grace was not one to leave a patient in less experienced hands if she could help it. Her dark troubled eyes wandered often to the open door and the trail that led into the village.
Dennis remembered the look of relief and real joy that Grace flashed his way when the cart of supplies arrived in the mid day heat. She’ll be ok, the look said, we are saved once again. And so they had begun to pack, stopping occasionally to check the young woman’s vital signs. The woman improved, they made their final plans, and this morning after breakfast they would leave. The villagers were already gathering outside the cooking hut to say their goodbyes..
Time for reflection is over, he told himself, smiling again as he looked into the mirror. Reflections sometimes led you off track. He grimaced at his own reflection in the mirror. Like that ugly mug, he thought, rubbing the half grown facial hairs that he was trying to cultivate into a beard. Would anyone looking at him be able to see that he was half in love with Grace? He hoped not. That would be the worst thing that any Watcher could do, fall in love with his assignment. Besides he thought, as his stomach let him know in no uncertain terms that it was time for breakfast, a woman like Grace would never consider spending precious time with an able bodied assistant when there were so many people with life altering ills that needed her. It wouldn’t pay to lose his head over her.
He stooped to lift the backpack into place. Breakfast was waiting, and there were miles to go before they could settle into the next camp. Dennis patted his hip pocket to be sure that the one page report he'd completed last night was there. At the first opportunity he would send it out to his superiors in Paris. It was important that they understand that this Immortal, his Immortal, was not only unique in her immortality, but unique in every way. No head lost here, only one heart.
MWC: No one looks at the help
Posted By: Robin <Catnature@yahoo.com>
Date: Thursday, 25 January 2001, at 10:11 p.m.
She had worked at the diner for years. During that time she had seen it all. Fights, drunks, break ups, make ups and even the birth of a baby.
Yes, she had seen it all, mortal, Immortals and Watchers all going through their day.
Duncan MacLeod and Tessa Noel would sometimes stop in for a early breakfast. She remembered the way they would look at each other and how Duncan looked after Tessa's death. She had cried also.
Richie Ryan, now that boy could eat. Six eggs, two orders of toast, six pieces of bacon, a large milk and orange juice, two full stacks of pancakes and hash browns.
Now she was serving Adam Pierson, no that's right he is Methos. He had been in the Watchers too long to have one Watcher, he spotted them too quickly.
Her boss had a problem with tattoos so she covered her wrist with fake skin from a theater arts store. It bet band aids and no one noticed.
"More coffee?" she asked ready to pour.
"Yes, please." came the rich, accented voice.
MWC "Baiting the Bear"
The large dining hall was full of noise. Mind numbing, deplorable noise. All he wanted to do was eat his breakfast and get the hell out of there. If one more person asked him what his dream Watcher assignment would be he swore he’d...
“Excuse me.” The feminine voice interrupted his inner tirade.
“Yes.” He answered. He was looking at the owner of the voice. A very short young woman with brown hair, eyeglasses and an attitude to match his arrogance.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” She asked, gesturing to the seat across from him.
“Please, be my guest.” He answered sardonically.
The woman smirked at him, obviously aware that he wanted to be left alone. She delighted in ruining his plan.
“Mine aren’t we a grouch this morning, Adam. Wake up on the wrong side of the bed did we?” She smirked. She loved to torment him. Especially when she’d bested him in something.
“You know Miriam, it’s not nice to bait the bear before he’s had his breakfast.” Methos replied.
They continued to eat in silence for a few more minutes.
“Adam, if you needed help studying for the history exam, you should have...”
“Not another word, Miriam”.
MWC - So Close, Yet So Far
Posted By: Daire
Date: Friday, 26 January 2001, at 5:18 p.m.
The thought of keeping a personal journal aside from my Watcher chronicle-ing hadn't appealed earlier. What use would it be? Then I went on assignment. This could prove therapeutic; I can't express my opinions to any high degree on my subject, so it wouldn't hurt to keep a separate chronicle. Lord only knows when I'll have the chance to write in it, it seems my subject will be on the move a lot for the foreseeable future.
"Subject"....makes it sound like a lab experiment. What if they knew we were keeping tabs on them? I know my assignment and his teacher know about us, but how many other Immortals know? Dawson has warned me that my assignment knows, and to keep a safe distance and not interfere.
Well, he's on the move again....
I almost wish I hadn't taken on this field assignment. I'm a researcher! Taught to get the facts from an unbiased position. You can't overly care for who or what you are researching, there's no point. Yet I've come to care for and about my assignment; on the whole, he's a good kid who screws up like anyone else his age. How does Dawson stay detached after having made personal contact with Duncan MacLeod? Though there have been rumblings in the ranks for a while now about his supposed personal relationship with MacLeod.
But since the opportunity to actually Watch an Immortal rarely comes to a researcher, I jumped at the chance. As much as I loved my work, I needed a change, if only short term. I could use the experience if I ever wanted to make the move for long term. Extra work on my file wouldn't hurt. Both my assignment and I are still young, maybe if I do a good job I'll get an assignment permanently.
So, when Dawson's request was handed in and offered, I took it. I had the most time put in as researcher in the Northwest U.S. Division, no one had more Watcher experience than I did in Research. Besides being out in the field, I've also gotten to explore the States and wherever else in the world my assignment leads me....something I've never had the chance to do before. My family grew up poor and then I struggled to pay for college. Then I joined the Watchers, learning about the secret organization from a Professor who was also a researcher. He was my mentor and miss him terribly at times. Especially now that I'm out in the field for the first time.
Dawson's Immortal assignment, at least one of them, Richie Ryan was leaving town, and since Dawson's principal assignment is the Highlander, he needed someone mobile to keep an eye on Ryan.
I've read his file; he hadn't had a great childhood. Who would, bounced from home to home or orphanage, feeling unwanted? After turning 18, he was legally an adult and once more on his own, only he had to provide for himself now. Before, he'd been on his own, his own family, never belonging to anyone permanently. Then finding MacLeod and his girlfriend gave him a new turn in life; then his Immortality giving him another. I think he's still getting used to it, he's only just worked up to actually taking Mako's head.
Now he's on his own again. Feeling a cold shoulder from his teacher, he left Seacouver. When I first saw him, he looked as though he felt unwanted again. Harder I'm sure, going from feeling unwanted by foster families to unwanted by a trusted friend and teacher. I can't believe MacLeod doesn't want him, I think he only just realized that Richie has taken his first head and is ready to deal with his own life as he sees fit.
I just hope Ryan doesn't do anything rash. He hasn't so far, but there's still a lot of country left, and I can't say Iowa is my favorite; hopefully he'll head somewhere warmer soon.
It's been a couple months and Ryan has yet to reconcile with MacLeod. As much as I enjoy my work, there are times when I see him brooding and want to shake him and tell him to call his friend.
As we both sat in a central Tennessee highway diner eating breakfast in separate booths, I quietly wrote or read, looking like an inconspicuous patron. I donned a mousy brown wig to hide my riotous red curls, and black framed glasses; playing the part of quiet innocuous patron. As occasionally as I could without arousing suspicion, I nonchalantly looked around, my gaze resting briefly on Ryan's face to see if I can gauge what he's thinking. He was obviously unhappy.
For more than a few minutes, he seemed more interested in what his breakfast looked like rather than tasted like. From what I learned from Dawson, Ryan couldn't eat enough; he's barely eaten since leaving Washington, only when the mood seems to strike him. I couldn't help but stare at him. Was he thinking about MacLeod? Knew that I was following him? Pondering the meaning of Immortality?
What was it like to be Immortal? I'd willingly taste Immortality for a while if not forever. Not to age, get sick. But on the other hand, kill to survive, watch mortal loved ones die....
Absent-mindedly, I tapped my pen against my teeth while staring at the young man. I looked at him, but then he wasn't the same person I've been watching for these past months. Who is Richie Ryan? The face is familiar, but he's a stranger. I know everything there is to know about his life, but I'll never know him personally.
As I studied the man, he turned his gaze from the window to his next bite of his waffle, then to me. Straight on. Like a deer in headlights.
That was the moment I'd half-feared. What if he recognized me? Would he give his best effort at trying to ditch me? I knew he wouldn't kill me, but I didn't want to get caught.
But my fears were quickly allayed as he gave a small smile, one that didn't quite reach his eyes, and went back to his food after I returned the smile. Too close.
It was time to change looks and get a new rental car. I always wanted to see if blondes had more fun.
MWC: Playing the Field
Posted By: vixen69 <email@example.com>
Date: Friday, 26 January 2001, at 11:00 p.m.
Can't be helped-the notion of Methos as field agent had too strong an attraction for my muses. And then, they got *encouraged* (they don't need encouragement--they're incorrigible). So, I consulted them, insisted--not too long. And this is what I got.
Playing the Field
Methos regarded the slim envelope before him much as an amateur black magician might regard a "real, live Necronomicon”— hesitant to open it and fearful of what terrors might be unleashed. Okay, perhaps he wasn’t exactly * that * agitated, but his look would give anyone the impression that he expected bad news within. He did. Visions of the possibilities flickered in his head—visions of them rejecting all of his suggestions, and assigning him to some savvy killer like Kalas, or some wretchedly bizarre character like Jacob Kell (and his traveling sideshow!). He put those fantasies aside, along with the other, equally intense fantasy of ditching the whole “Watcher” thing and “going native” in some tropical paradise. He reminded himself that the Watchers certainly weren’t going to stick a rookie in the position of trailing any truly active, gifted sociopaths. Then he reminded himself that most tropical paradises in this day and age were now vacation resorts loaded with tourists and watered-down drinks, which was a pity. He could remember back when a properly mixed “zombie” actually * could * raise the dead.
Swallowing hard, he slit open the envelope with a pocketknife and removed the two-page letter addressed to an entity referred to as “A. Pierson.” Summoning his courage, he read past the brief salutation, and fixated on the letter’s intent.
** “We would like to remind you of how fortunate you are in being given a selection of possible Immortal subjects to choose from—as you are well aware, field operatives are rarely if ever given a choice unless special merit or situation calls for it. In your case, however, having been trained specifically for research (for which, your record clearly shows, you have shown admirable talent and diligence), and being, as we have duly noted, apparently adverse to field work…” **
When any letter reminds one that one is fortunate, the rest of the correspondence will then go on to announce something unfortunate—Methos’ Axiom Number…well, quite high on the list, actually. “Adverse” was not the word. The thought of following another Immortal would certainly undo his entire scheme of using the Watchers to secure himself from the Game. Although it was possible to stalk another Immortal from a distance—it is only practicable for a short time, and usually only where the intention is a challenge. He continued reading.
** “We considered your three choices for potential assignments quite seriously, taking into account your rather eloquent reasons for those choices, as well as your own demonstrated strengths and what each situation might call for. On the basis of these factors, we have arrived at the assignment that we believe you to be best suited for. It was remarked upon that your list was rather eclectic and held some surprises for us. In the interest of explaining our choice more fully, permit us to explain our reasoning in this matter.” **
And * there * is where any future opportunity for argument is squashed, Methos thought to himself. “As for the lowly Watcher, presume not the Council to scan….”
** “As for your first choice, * B * , the musician, let it be said that we were impressed with your argument in favor of watching him by way of musical critique. None of us had been aware that you were also a rock aficionado. Given your historical bent, opera would seem more apropos.” **
(Here, Methos rolled his eyes. Nothing seemed less personal than the “forced” personal touch.”
** “However, given the history of the subject, in the light of his importance as a literary figure and his potential in his musical endeavors to reach some level of notoriety, we feel that a more seasoned Watcher would be more appropriate for this particular subject.” **
Was that the sound of the Aeolian lyre? No, merely the sound of strings being pulled. But he was somewhat relieved by this particular decision. Much as he liked Byron, and appreciated his genius, the simple truth was that the man was a danger to himself and other people. He was wonderful in small doses—a weekend binge, for example. But having to make a study of him would prove tiring.
** “Your most surprising choice was, of course, * C *. We were quite interested to hear that you’ve had a lifelong interest in the study of the psychopathic mind, and were particularly gripped by your rather thought-provoking discussion, at length, on the writings of Kraft-Ebbing in reference to similar cases. It was a very * academic * look at this assignment, which has made us certainly consider adding ‘student of psychology’ to your already fairly impressive list of credentials. However, it must be stressed that we truly have no particular interest in getting inside this particular individual’s mind—and also do not feel that it would be in our best interests to have one of our better ‘brains’ watch after a man in more-or-less permanent incarceration. In light of his situation, very little observation will be required for the foreseeable future.” **
Even reading the words made Methos tense up as he considered Caspian’s current “situation”. Although there were thousands of times when he and Caspian had not seen eye-to-eye, the simple truth was that he felt something almost akin to pity for the man, knowing that the years had not been kind to a mind that was, if anything, unique in its derangement. While he himself had adapted to the passing of the centuries, it seemed that the increasing alienation of modern times had finally caused the split between the thinking man and the unthinking hunger for his fellow former Horseman, making Caspian a more detached, cruel—and unfortunately, sloppy killer. In his * right * mind, Caspian might still be a killer, but he’d certainly not have gotten caught at it. And yet, he was relieved that he would not have this particular assignment, because the simple truth was, he could not bear contact with him under those circumstances. He knew only too well what was going on—a Watcher was already in place, changing a date here, an arrest record there—moving the dates forward to create as well as possible the illusion that the man had not already spent an improbable lifetime in a cell. He wondered how long they could continue that practice before something else would need to be done to preserve the secret of Immortality, and found his own answer—when the time came, perhaps he would be shipped to Sanctuary.
Methos shuddered, and though it was for the best he would know nothing about that. Even he, knowing the repercussions, might feel the temptation to intervene.
** “And so we have decided that the choice of “S” would be more suited to your abilities and our needs, as we certainly had the impression that this would be more in line with your level of experience. This is, admittedly, a * light * assignment, in that the subject is apparently docile and not actively engaged in the Game. Also, the area in which this Immortal chooses to seclude himself is somewhat remote—however, do try to see this as a blessing. If nothing else, you will be provided with ample free time to engage in whatever studies you choose, even continuing, within the limits of your assignment, of course, with research on your own pet project—on which, should you produce anything substantial, we should certainly appreciate your input.” **
He restrained the urge to laugh, as he knew how bitter and hollow that sound would actually come out. His “own pet project” was himself—and he was now being relegated to a field assignment because some bean counter had made the final, most compelling argument against his own existence. He had always imagined his existence would be disproved by historical analysis—not cost analysis, but such was life. Although it was demoralizing enough to make him consider psychoanalysis. Not that he hadn’t had identity crises before.
** “We do understand that this may not have been your first choice in assignment, especially given the unfortunate disappearance of the subject’s previous Watcher, but we do not believe that any harm befell him due to any contact with the Immortal, himself. From what we have been able to deduce from records left behind by the unfortunate, he was apparently not suited for the duty of a Watcher. A Watcher’s oath is a serious affair—for which many of our number have died in the past. In this case, however, we feel that your safety is not an issue in this particular case.” **
He found himself reading that paragraph more than once, using a few different spins. Either his safety was not an * issue * in that they did not perceive there to be a particular danger, or his *safety * was not an issue, as in, they couldn’t give a flying leap at a rolling donut for the value of his safety. Not even if it was a cream-filled donut.
He leaned back and sighed. His long, b. s.-encrusted letter had done the job, and the last, least-seriously stressed assignment was the one they had chosen—which was exactly as he had expected. In truth, this * was * the assignment he himself considered the safest, both due to his long acquaintance with the man as well as his sense of confidence that the man would neither challenge him, nor cause him to in anyway compromise his secret. Also, as remote as the assignment’s location was situated, he imagined he would be finding relatively little in the way of Watcher-supervision for himself. All in all, he considered himself happy with it.
“Remote” had not been a joke. After examining the map and considering the terrain, he found himself considering the unthinkable—forgoing the use of four wheels and adopting the use of four hooves. It wasn’t that it felt strange to be riding again—except that it did, and as he rode deeper into the thick growth of the forest, he imagined himself also riding deeper into memory. It was all very strange.
And then, the cabin was in sight, and his assignment was sitting in plain sight on a stump, apparently enjoying breakfast. Not surprisingly, there were birds pecking the ground in front of him, until they were frightened away by the sudden intrusion of a squirrel. The man stood then, and at first, Methos thought it might be a reaction to the animal, but realizing he was in sensing range, he then saw that it was in reaction to himself.
He dismounted, and, holding the reins, took a few, very anxious, advancing steps. A smile spread across the man’s face, so simple and bright that Methos smiled, himself.
“Brother!” the man’s voice boomed across the distance.
Good old Silas. He hadn’t forgotten.
MWC: Dear Father
I'm borrowing my own character, Anne Southby of "A Lady's Occupation," for this fic.
I know you worry about me Watching Amanda, and to be honest, you have no little cause to do so. You were quite right in your estimate of her character in many ways (though she is not, to my knowledge, a Sapphist). She is a thief, and a liar, and a trickster. However, be that as it may, she is also very loyal to and protective of her friends, especially her mortal ones. Myself, for instance; for indeed, we have grown beyond the stage of mistress and lady's maid.
No, you don't need to say it, Father. I will not interfere in a fight. I have far too much respect not only for the Society, but for Amanda, to do that. Indeed, I doubt I would ever feel the need to interfere.
Take this morning as an example. Amanda and I were taking breakfast on the terrace at her country home, discussing current fashions (for she has decided to take my wardrobe in hand), when her housemaid, Jeanne, burst in to say a man had forced his way into the house. Amanda herself then stiffened, the way Immortals do when the feel the Presence of another. She sent me to her room. I, of course, only pretended to obey.
The Immortal man who had forced his way in was Justin Travers, whom you may recall from the Chronicles as having had his fortune stolen by Amanda in 1715. You may also recall that he originally stole that fortune from the Duc de Burgoyne, the father of a mortal friend of Amanda's, during the 1600s.
As I said, I pretended to follow Amanda's instructions; however, once her attention was elsewhere, I doubled back and observed her confrontation with Travers at a safe distance. This was not difficult, as they had retreated to Amanda's garden at the time.
I never once observed Rebecca in a fight, not directly, as she never fought anyone at home, and I only rarely accompanied her out. Now, I truly wish I had, if only for comparison. I cannot be in any way certain that Amanda's fight with Travers was typical of an Immortal woman's way of fighting. She attacked with her words as much as her sword, taunting him and flirting at the same time. As for her sword work, Father, you must believe me when I say it was masterful, far superior to that which I witnessed between mortal men while training as a Watcher--and in a gown, too. I should like to see a man do that! You will find a full description of the fight in the report I sent back to the Society.
In short, Amanda won her fight. I must admit to being glad of that, for I grow very fond of Amanda and am grateful to have been assigned to her. I must ask, however, that you not reveal to the Society how fond of her I am; for the Watchers have only recently begun to allow women into their ranks and I would not jeopardize the chances of another woman to Watch. Given the current Society directives to involve oneself as little as possible in the life of one's assigned Immortal (which seems to me frankly impractical), I believe admitting feelings for Amanda beyond those of scientific inquiry would give certain elements on the Tribunal just the excuse they are looking for to exclude women from Watching again.
But I do not wish to worry you, dear Father, who made it possible for me to enter this life. Know that I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity and have never been happier. I do my best every day to make you proud of me.
When next I write, it will be from the South of France. Amanda worries that servants' gossip regarding the Travers incident may damage her reputation; therefore, we will leave in a sennight.
Greet Marianne for me and tell her I shall write her anon, and send her a gift from France.
Your Loving Daughter,
MWC "Watching Amanda"
This story is a sequel of sorts to "After the War". And, yes, this is my real life boyfriend I'm doing horrible things to...
He wandered the narrow, twisted streets of Paris in a daze, still amazed at how much trouble could come out of one set of dog tags. Okay, he was big enough to admit it. The problem had been with him, a dangerous combination of stubborn pride and curiosity. If he had just been willing to walk away the old man wouldn't have had to recruit him. He had a strange feeling that the other man, MacLeod, had been ready to do something much worse.
That had been almost a year ago. His little trip to Normandy had turned into an exile in France. The Canadian army seemed like the Boy Scouts compared to these Watchers; this was more like James Bond meets the Masons; a militant cult of librarians. Following around a bunch of people who can't die, writing down everything they do? It was hard to believe. Who would have ever imagined that the crazy TV show his girlfriend obsessed over could actually be real? Even the hazing rituals were different: he'd spent the first few weeks being teased unmercifully for his poor spelling. The worst part for him was the sheer boredom. His days were filled with dull lectures on cataloguing, history, memorizing names and faces, observation and writing a good Chronicle. He wanted to finally do something, out there, in the field.
This was the first time they had let him out into the streets alone and he took full advantage of it, as he would any day pass. He supposed there were worse places to be stranded than Paris; everywhere he looked there were women who could be models, striding down the sidewalks... gorgeous! He decided to stop at one of the patio cafés for some serious babe watching-- or rather, to further refine and practice his observation skills.
By late afternoon he had mastered the skill of refilling his drink just often enough not to lose his table, waiters being a rather touchy group, here more than ever. He continued to casually observe the street, assuming the role of a bored tourist. He almost dropped his pose, and his coffee cup, at the sight of a black leather mini-dress, and the woman who wore it so well. Straight dark hair and high boots complimented the style, an effect marred only by the bulky oversized purse she was carrying. After he rolled his tongue back into his mouth, he realized that the woman was trying hard not to be noticed. That a woman in a black mini-dress would not want to be noticed was suspicious in itself.
As the woman passed close to the café he was shocked to recognize a face straight out of the Identification lectures. Dark hair, dark eyes, high cheekbones, small mouth...Amanda! As he watched her from behind (and what a lovely behind it was) something slipped out of the bag and bounced along to the rhythm of her long-legged stride. It was a dull metal carabiner clip, swinging on a loop of black nylon rope. Aha. To observe the Lady Thief on a job was an opportunity not to be missed: the grace, the skill, the confidence, the beauty of a body in motion. How could he resist? He took his time paying the cheque; never draw attention to yourself. The waiter seemed relieved to be rid of this dreamy-eyed foreigner, hoping for a customer who would actually spend money.
Even Dawson had to admit Stephen J. Savage could shadow with the best of them. It came from his background in defense and security. He had no problem blending into the pedestrian traffic while still keeping his target in sight. Oh, he had no doubts that she could lose him in a second, but to do that she'd first have to know he was there. For now, he had the advantage. When she moved into the alleys, staying hidden became more difficult, but not impossible. His self-confidence swelled; he was tracking Amanda, after this they'd see he was ready to be assigned.
Somewhere along the way she had slipped into a small shop and returned in a more "businesslike" black jump suit (it was amazing what a woman could get away with in a public washroom). Stephen followed her to the back door of a small but exclusive art gallery. He wouldn't be surprised if she went straight for the Louvre, but there was a distinct difference between overconfidence and sheer stupidity. This lady knew her own limitations.
Stephen was no fool either; he stepped only where she had stepped, touched nothing. He even imitated the high-stepping gait Amanda used to avoid any ground level trip-sensors. Not that he didn't also admire what it did for her legs. She worked in absolute silence and every move was perfect. The show at the gallery was entitled "The Art of the Jewel"; displays were filled with a fortune in cut and uncut stones. Picking and choosing as if this were her own private shopping trip, she took was pleased her and left the rest. There was an instant of panic when, in a sweep of the room, the Lady Thief seemed to look straight at him. He tried to slip farther into the shadows when something went wrong. He may never know exactly what he had triggered, but the resulting alarm screamed like a thousand raging demons.
Amanda ran like a deer and, after a startled moment, Stephen followed. Reaching the back exit, he heard more than saw someone in the alley. He dodged the first attack, pivoting to the side at the last moment and, of course, that was when his government-issue knee decided to give out. His leg crumpled beneath him, bringing him down, as a well placed blow from a bag of loot took him out.
Amanda took one look at the unconscious man and swore in Old French. The first thing she did was pull up both sleeves, but what she found provoked more creative curses. One wrist did have a tattoo, but it wasn't the full Watcher's circle, just the wing symbol. Coincidence? She had to get away before the gendarmes came, but now she was curious. Making a quick decision, she dragged him, none too gently, through several alleyways.
When they were finally somewhere more private, she had time for a thorough search. She found one set of handcuffs (amusing), with two sets of keys (the spare set was a very interesting search), a stunner (bad boy!) and finally a wallet. The wallet was deep in a front pants pocket; at least he had that much common sense. A passport and Canadian driver's license both read Stephen J. Savage, a few francs (what, no credit cards?) and a business card. Now this was an item that stopped her in her tracks, the card was for DeSalvo's-- Duncan's dojo out West. On the back was a hand-written note. Watcher in training, it read, please don't kill him. Merde!
§ § §
Dawson was just getting some breakfast ready in what passed for a kitchen in Le Blues Bar: coffee, chocolate chip waffles, bacon and eggs. He was about to sit down to eat when he heard a knock at the door. "We're closed!"
"Joe, it's me. We have to talk." Amanda's voice. He sighed and unlocked the door.
She walked in briskly, slowed down only by the large, heavy bag she dragged behind her. He wondered what might be in that bag and then, knowing Amanda, just as quickly decided he didn't want to know. "Busy night?"
"You could say that, but not in the way I would have liked." She swung her legs as she sat in the chair, and one foot kicked the bulky duffel bag. A muffled sound came from somewhere within. "Tell me, Joe, how have you been lately? Anything interesting happen in the last year?" kick "Anything exciting, dangerous, Savage?" kick, grunt.
Joe was a little bit confused; this was too much to deal with before breakfast. "No, things have been pretty much--" wait a minute... "Did you just say Savage? You didn't kill him did you?"
"Oh, he's fine." Kick "Tell him you're fine Stephen dear." Grunt. She opened the bag; a head popped out, gagged with a silken scarf. "I think this one's yours."
Joe pulled out the gag; the man sputtered and coughed for a moment before looking up. "Oh, hi Boss! I've been practicing my tracking skills. You should have seen me..."
"Savage, you know you're not supposed to be in the field yet."
"Oh, come on, it was Amanda. I just wanted to observe."
Here the lady herself cut in; "Yeah, I can just guess what you wanted to observe."
"Calm down, let me take care of this." He turned back to Stephen, "At least get out of that stupid bag."
He struggled out, slid gratefully into a chair and gazed longingly at Joe's breakfast. One thing he had discovered in the army was that he hated being reprimanded on a empty stomach. Joe had spent his share of time in uniform too and with a sigh slid one of the plates over.
"You realize, kid, that we're going to have to do something about this." Stephen scowled; at 35, he hated being called kid. "I think a couple of months in the Library will calm you down a bit."
"The Library? No way; that Pierson guy gives me the creeps." Amanda somehow managed to stifle a giggle.
"After that, we'll talk about your first assignment. I'll keep in mind the fact that you like Watching women." Stephen didn't like the look on the man's face when he said that, but he completely missed Amanda.
"Debra?" she whispered softly. The old man gave a tiny nod and smiled.
MWC: "Closing Time"
Another night at Joe’s had come to an end. Most of the time, Joe Dawson loved being there. He enjoyed tending the bar and getting to know the regulars, but this particular evening had been a tough. The band he’d hired showed up an hour late, the beer tap had quit working, and at closing time he’d had to break up a fight between two drunken customers. It had been a long night and Joe was anxious to finish his daily closing chores so that he could go home and get some sleep. He was almost done when he heard a knock at the door of the bar. It was late and he was alone, so Joe was wary of opening the door until he heard a voice that he immediately recognized. "Come on, Joe, open up. I know you're still in there. Let me in."
He went to the door and opened it. Standing there was Edward Charles, a fellow Watcher. He had, in fact, been Connor MacLeod’s Watcher.
"Eddie, what are you doing here? You called to tell me that Connor was dead and then you just took off. Where the hell have you been for the last month? Everyone's been looking for you."
"Joe, I need to talk to you. Can I come in?"
"Yeah, sure. Come on in." He moved aside to let the other man enter. Joe had been angry with Eddie. Not only was he a fellow Watcher, but also a good friend. The two had gone through the Watcher Academy together, but after that they were separated by their jobs as various assignments had kept them in different parts of the world. Then Joe had been assigned to Duncan and a couple of years later Eddie had been assigned to Connor after his previous Watcher had passed away. Through the years Duncan and Connor were together often enough that Joe and Eddie had been able to spend time together and to renew the friendship that they had shared during their days at the Academy. Joe was upset that Eddie hadn’t tried to get in touch with him, to at least let him know that he was okay.
But now as Joe looked at the other man, his anger faded. He had been lucky with his assignment. Duncan had managed to keep his head, but Joe knew that many Watchers were devastated by the death of their Immortals, as if they had lost a close friend instead of an assignment that they were never supposed to know. Joe knew that Eddie had admired Connor, even if it was only from afar.
As if reading the other man's thoughts, Eddie said, "Look Joe, I know you're upset and I don't blame you. It’s just that after Duncan took Connor’s head, I didn’t know what to do. I had a couple of other assignments before Connor, but not for twenty years. I didn't know Connor the way you know Duncan, but after that long you still get to know your Immortal very well. I know Duncan did what he had to, but it still hurt. I just needed some time to think and to come to a decision."
"A decision? What decision?"
"Joe, I've decided to retire from the Watchers. I've been at this too long. I think it's time to stay in one place for a while, spend some time with Nancy. Lord knows why she puts up with me. She wanted to have kids, but I was gone so much we never did. We were only married for about a year before I started at the Academy. I love being a Watcher, but I love my wife too. I need to get to know her better than I do."
Joe didn't know how to respond, so he picked up a towel from the bar and started to wipe it down. He didn't have a family of his own, but he understood how Eddie felt. He had never been married or had a big family like he had wanted when he was younger. Joe knew that the main reason for that was the Watchers.
After a few more moments of silence, Eddie stood to go. "Well, it's late. I guess I'd better get going. See you later, Joe."
Joe leaned across the bar and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Wait, do you want to talk about what happened? How about a drink before you go. We can toast to Connor's memory."
Without waiting for an answer, Joe took two glasses from behind the bar and poured Scotch into them. Then both men lifted their glassed. "To Connor," Eddie said.
Then Eddie took the bottle and poured himself another drink and then another. Soon the two where sharing not only drinks, but also stories about their Immortals.
After they had been there for several hours, Joe suddenly realized that he was really hungry. "What do you say we go and get some breakfast? I know a little diner that opens pretty earlier. I haven't had anything to eat since last night."
"Sure, but you're buying. We'll call it my retirement celebration." Grinning, Eddie stood and put on his coat and moved to the door and Joe followed.
With a smile of his own, Joe agreed. Then they left, still talking about their assignments and there days at the Academy.