Chanukkah Harry aka silvercobwebsWritten for: merrimanCharacters/Pairings:
Methos, Amanda, Methos/Amanda, implied Methos/Rebecca Rating:
Ebrauc is one of the old names for the city of York post-Roman invasion. Summary:
England, 851 ACE, a year after Amanda's first death. Two Immortals seek very different prizes.
When they set out Amanda is certain that she knows his name. It is not part of the game, but she feels a hot joy in possessing this seemingly clandestine knowledge. She overheard him talking with Rebecca, hushed voices in delightfully echoing corridors. Rebecca murmured it, concern with a dash of rye amusement muddying her tones. Amanda doesn't care much for myths and legends unless they feature a shiny trinket somewhere, but now they are to set out together on a bone bitingly chill day, just her and Me- no, she must keep calling him Matthew, and there is a prize to be won, so she takes a little more interest in the strange man with a Roman profile who speaks like a Briton.
She and Rebecca have a bet.
'Tell me', Rebecca smiles as she neatly swathes her student's neck in rough wool and furs, like an wary mother sending her child out into the snow for the first time. She tickles Amanda's ear with moist breath.'Tell me his trade, and I will give you a treasure,'
Amanda's eyes sparkle like two tiny diamonds.
'And if I fail?' Failure of course is not optional, but she must consider these things.
Rebecca smiles. 'Then you will give me a treasure of yours. And not one that can be found in any man's pocket.'
It is agreed.
They have only just walked out of the range of Rebecca's Presence before Amanda starts to question him. She doesn't expect a simple answer to any question, she has already learned that in the small amount of time she has known this man – a man who appears as both easy confidante and reserved foe – that he enjoys confusing people.
'Why do we need to travel such a distance to find a dusty old book?', she queries, her horse steadily plodding through a sprinkling of fresh snow. Ebrauc would take days to reach, and the journey's conditions were unlikely to present much change. She shivers and tugs musky furs more closely to her, noticing her companion's pointed ignorance of her frosty plight.
'Rebecca has taught you something of reading, yes?' He glances over his shoulder as she nudges her horse closer to his. 'Then you would understand that some books carry knowledge which is more precious than a king's ransom.'
She arches an eyebrow. 'And what of the book you seek? What fabulous information will you gather from it?'
'Ah, well I should call it sentimental value in this case.' He snuffs out a grin, and they continue, the last rays of light chasing them onwards.
They spend the first night huddled under thin blankets whilst the wind howls and rails against the small inn they came across not far from the road. Amanda looks through the hole at the end of her cot to her companions' more robust frame and coughs delicately, and then less so when he refuses the hint.
'What is it?' he asks wearily, head smothered in travelling furs.
She sits and tugs her blankets up around her. 'They do say that sharing a bed is the best way to keep warm on a cold night.' A long leg strays to the floor.
Amanda pouts just enough. 'I'm being practical. I thought you favoured practicality?' She rubs a toe against an icy slab of stone, suppressing the shiver that cuts through to the bone. A little extra warmth never goes amiss as far as she is concerned.
His voice drifts from his blankets, a wisp of steam escaping and then vanishing into the air as if eager to visit its formless siblings. Amanda idly considers if this lifesbreath is composed of the same thing as Time. It would explain much.
'I do,' confirms Methos, snapping her thoughts back to the present, 'but your snoring is already loud enough from this distance, let alone nose to nose.'
If it were a warmer night, Amanda would get up and throw her boots at him, and feel a special joy in the resounding thunk she imagines they would make as they hit his big fat head.
Two more days have passed without event and Amanda's boredom grows more quickly than Methos' impatience. They have argued over everything possible; the weather, the horses, the way that Amanda insists on greeting every fellow of fortune with an unexpected visit to his purse, and of course how Methos, Matthew, whomever he calls himself, is insufferably opaque about nearly every aspect of himself Amanda cares to mention. She wants her treasure, and moreso, she needs to sate her curiosity.
An argument develops until Amanda finds herself silenced as he holds up a hand, listening. They spy the small ambush party and realise it is too late to seek retreat. Methos unsheathes his sword and Amanda neatly folds her arms across her chest.
'I hope you are as good a swordsman as you are a teller of tales,' she begins as she dances away from trouble with simple elegant leaps.
Her companion scowls and fends off one, two attackers as Amanda watches each thrust and parry, laughing when she spies their final fat assailant land heavily on his backside. He notices and the ground beside her grumbles in protest as he staggers toward her, axe raised in fury. Her eyes dart to Methos who is casually dusting himself off, muttering something about ridiculous prices for new shirts these days.
'Hey!' She calls out to Methos, panicking momentarily before struggling with her own blade. 'You missed one.' This is no Immortal battle. Methos is a gentleman accompanying a woman, and surely if nothing else it is his duty to defend her?
'You are a big girl now, Amanda Darieux. Fight your own battles.' is all he offers as two blades clash in a shower of sparks and her arm feels as if it is to be wrenched from its socket.
She does all the wrong things. Her balance is off, her attention only on her opponent's face, and a high-pitched whine fills her ears, deafening her to everything else. Years pass, or so it seems, and yet she watches mutely as he stumbles into the nearby forest, blood oozing from a deep gash in his thigh. She pants, exhausted - exhilarated - and drops her weapon. She has never fought a man like that before. There have been altercations, yes, but she has always been able to trick or flirt her way out of any situation before. This time presented something new.
When she next looks about, gathering her wits, Methos sit upon his horse looking down at her with pure amusement adorning his features.
'Well don't just stand there all day. Come along.' His tongue makes a soft click and the horse rides on. Amanda flexes a hand that only a minute ago felt as if grasping claws were tearing at the insides and carefully re-arranges her cloak.
She concludes that he is certainly no knight.
Their argument continue minutes later when she accuses him of deliberately placing her in danger. Rebecca would be most displeased if harm were to come to one so young and full of promise, she suggests.
'Rebecca would wish you to fight your own battles,' he counters, tethering his chestnut mare.
'And yet' Amanda drawls as she descends from her steed with all the casual grace of a queen of the realm. 'I still think she may be somewhat upset if I were to return in several pieces.'
She crosses the threshold into their room. It appears to be as inspiring as the last. He follows silently.
'You are an infuriating little vixen, aren't you?' Methos snaps, and Amanda is uncertain if this is flattery or not. Nevertheless, she continues. A tiny fleck of blood still remains on his shirt from the fight, and she cannot help but flick it away with a fingernail, her hand hovering over his chest. She meets his eyes and smiles and bats her eyelashes exaggeratedly.
'Why thank you. Now be a lamb and stop yelling so much would you? I do need some
beauty sleep.' She attempts to turn, seemingly eager for bed but is met with resistance.
His hand wraps around hers and their gaze locks for a moment too long. His jaw spasms shut for an instant, his eyes closed as he makes his decision. Before their lips touch he makes a final demand of her.
Amanda agrees. Just once, just tonight. Probably.
They move to the bed.
She safely confirms that he is no monk.
When they reach the abbey it is only through Methos' influence that Amanda is allowed to enter. She is a lost soul, he informs them, pressing coin into a brother's palm, and to spend quiet time in observance of his work before she is to be made a bride of Jesus. Amanda attempts to look suitably contrite, ducking her head shyly, curtseying, and then emitting a coquettish giggle before Methos tugs sharply upon her arm, his expression warning. The monk's stony features remain unchanged, but they are granted access to the library.
'There was no reason for you to act like that,' she says, automatically rubbing her arm. They are in the library, more or less alone, and Methos immediately makes his way to a particular shelf of books with the familiarity forged of one who has worked or studied there before. Noticing the chains attached to each book, Amanda forgets her complaint and in moments she has fashioned a pick for any lock. 'So which one do you want?' Her fingers flit from title to title, waiting to be directed to a potential escapee.
'Put that away' Methos hisses, batting her hand away, and carefully pulls out a disappointingly shabby looking tome. It is thin and covered in dust and lessons in the old languages have taught Amanda enough to be able to read the title. She expects maps of ancient treasure, a book of physic perhaps, or even secrets of the underworld.
Methos touches the paper with more reverence than she has seen some priests give to the blessed sacrament. His smile seems quietly significant.
He waves a hand, eyes never leaving the page. 'I will be a while.'
'You're welcome,' Amanda sighs as she finds herself a distraction. Some interesting looking gilt caskets tickle the corner of her eye, and her mouth dries in excitement when she uncovers the contents.
Later, Methos finds her carefully stuffing something glittering into a concealed pocket in her robe, and presently ignores it.
'Time to go.' His voice is barely above a whisper, and suddenly Amanda finds it quite confusing how someone could look so sad after reading a book of humour. Nevertheless she nods and pulls up her hood around her face.
'I cannot believe that you would come so far for a book that you would not keep,' she laments as they make their way back to their horses. 'I could have got it for you without any problems. I know the chains look intimidating, but really there is just a simple trick to it.' It would have been so easy for her. He must understand this. This is what she does, after all.
He smiles ruefully. 'I know,' his fingertips stroke her shoulder for a moment so fleeting she wonders later if she had imagined it. 'Sometimes I must remind myself that I only have very little room for these...impermanent things.'
Amanda decides that he has wit, but is no philosopher.
The journey home is uneventful. They do not speak of that night they shared together. No-one needs ask if it is something to be repeated, or if it is something that Rebecca requires knowledge of. Instead they ride and eat and talk of everything and nothing. Little appears to have changed. Methos however, does request that Amanda return the six coins she took from his purse the previous night.
She shrugs good-naturedly and tosses each piece to his outstretched hand one by one, watching each spinning disc as it catches the light, and guesses which side each will land on with that perfect little clink. Five correct. Even Chance is a mistress she appears intimately acquainted with.
Methos reminds himself that gambling with Amanda would involve a price too high for his diminutive purse.
When they return Amanda swiftly alights from her horse and runs to embrace her teacher, her sister, her dearest friend. When Rebecca smiles properly – when the skin around her eyes creases just so - she makes Amanda experience a warmth so intense she fears she might burst into flames.
Amanda smiles triumphantly and Rebecca nods, inviting answer.
'I know.,' Amanda breathes into the proffered ear. Her confidence is slick and sweet. 'His trade is survival.'
Rebecca tilts her head a fraction and looks from the man quietly tending to the horses, to her shining jewel. She loves them in both equal and terrible measure. She loops her arm through Amanda's and they begin the short walk to the gates of home.
'Very good. And what is my trade?' Rebecca smiles, and it is a sin not to return it. 'If you can answer me then I think you will find your prize.'
Amanda whispers the answer into Rebecca's ear, and they laugh.