Author: The Time Traveller
Written For: mogwai_do
Characters/Pairings: Methos, Amanda, Kronos
Word Count: 1643
Author's Notes: This is not the story I originally intended to write. It's not the second story I started - that one's turning into a novel, and wasn't done by the deadline (and I knew it wouldn't be when it took on a life of its own). This is, however, what I knew I could finish by the deadline, and has elements the recipient requested. I hope it works.
Summary: It's time to leave a dying world.
He hasn't had any sort of technology on him since a few decades after the colony was destroyed, when the last of the battery packs stopped charging. He hasn't had beer since the barley crop was killed by a too-early frost a century after that. Hasn't tried to cultivate anything once the growing season grew too short for any non-native plants to survive to harvest..
Methos lost track of years after that, tracking time by the advance and retreat of glaciers, by the cycles of abundance and scarcity in the once-tropical seas of the equatorial region of the planet. Keeping neat records of it all, and sometimes scribbling bits of poetry or prose that strike his fancy. Nothing that anyone will see, until and unless someone manages to come across this planet, and searches for any sign of the long-destroyed colony under the ice sheets. Or rather, away from the ice sheets, where he's been camped out on what used to be a chain of low-lying islands, and is now a penninsula off the mainland.
That he has friends who know where he went, and might still want to check on him after centuries of time, is not something that crosses his mind until a strange whine fills the air that he takes a moment to identify as technological in origin, rather than a variation on the whine of his pets. A disc of some sort that flies over his current camp briefly before continuing on. Locked in a search pattern, perhaps. It's nothing like he'd seen before leaving Earth, but that doesn't rule out anything.
Nothing more happens that day, and he settles down for the night in his carefully constructed shelter, with a low fire and his pack of unruly pets to keep him warm, and a fish stew for dinner. Summers are briefer than before, if all the more brilliant for that, and the winters long and vicious. Methos had once contemplated migrating over the ocean to the southern hemisphere during the winters, until he'd spent three weeks getting back to dry land after being sunk by an autumn storm. After that, he'd merely retreated as far south as his penninsula would allow, and hunkered down for the winter there.
The fire casts weird shadows on the walls of the tent, and Methos watches them for a long moment, memories of other long winters spent in tents curling through his mind. With company of more than pets to keep away the cold, winds howling past on the steppe. Or the deep silence of the taiga, not unlike the silence of a dying world.
They've piled the furs and blankets as close to the fire in the center of the tent as they dare, remaining curled in the nest as much as possible simply to stay warm. The winter's been vicious, three of their slaves already lost to the cold and snow. The rest huddle in the tent along with the horses and the two Immortals, when there is nothing the requires they go outside into the cold.
For the extra warmth they provide, if nothing else, Methos is more than willing to ignore them so long as they do what needs done. Kronos, perhaps, might get ideas, but Methos distracts him when he sees the the gleam of frustration in his brother's eyes. Soon enough, the weather will warm, and they can return to their journey across the steppe in search of plunder and tribute.
The next morning dawns as clear and colder than any morning of the last years he spent on Earth before the generation ship left. Before he'd made a foolish choice, and risked the danger of the long trip simply to get away from Earth. Away from Immortals, from the Game, from the risk of truly dying.
"Only you'd find a place that never gets warm enough," he mutters to himself, the words sharp despite the lack of an audience to say them to. The language is that of the colony, a varient on English. He wonders for a moment what sort of linguistic drift there's been on Earth since he left, before focusing on the day, and gathering what he can of supplies, and checking on his smoking tent, to make sure the fish he's caught are curing well. The supply will have to feed him and his pets through the coming winter. Since he couldn't just let the half-tamed beasts go hunting on their own. They'd probably get eaten.
A faint rumble announced the displacement of air near noon, growing steadily louder, though Methos doesn't bother to budge from where he's settled back in front of his fire. If it's a cosmic reset button, he's not going to be able to outrun it, and if a ship, there's no point in either hiding or going to greet it. He's easily enough located from their probe, after all. Besides, for all that he wants off this iceball of a planet, he knows better than to appear too eager.
Until Presence washes over him, setting his nerves on edge, and making him reach for the sword that he's practiced with despite the lack of any human company. There's no excuse to neglect a skill that he might someday require again, with humanity out among the stars. After all, he doubts he'd be the only Immortal with a desire to get off the planet of humanity's birth.
The voice isn't immediately familiar, though he does place it after a moment, last heard centuries ago. At least three, he thinks, but can't be entirely certain of the planet's year against Earth's. Certainly he's been alone here for more than two local centuries.
"Methos, you're the only Immortal who took the chance on a generation ship, and I know this is supposed to be the correct planet, so come out here."
Amanda sounds impatient, and Methos lets a wry smile cross his face before he slides the sword back into its sheath across his back, stepping out of the tent with his pack of pets trying their best to get underfoot. Amanda has black hair again, cut boyishly short, though Methos supposes that has more to do with her being on board a ship than anything else. He vaguely remembers the mortal women on the ship doing the same for ease of care when water was strictly rationed.
"Hello, Amanda." His voice is rough from lack of use, though there's genuine warmth in the tone for all that. He's missed company, and this sort he doubts he'd imagine. "What took you so long?"
She stares at him a moment before letting out a huff that's part amusement and part exasperation. "I had to provide scientists an unlimited budget to get the technology to get here faster than you did the first time, without requiring a large crew." Amanda studies him a moment before she asks, "How long have you been on your own?"
Methos shrugs, looking past her to the ship that brought her down. It's small and sleek, more like a fighter jet than anything else. Too small, he thinks, to be useful as living quarters for long, even for one person. Which means it's probably just a shuttle, leaving a larger ship in orbit. However much larger, he's sure he'll find out soon enough.
The whine of his pets drags his attention back to the here and now, blinking when he realizes Amanda's close enough to touch. And close enough to touch him, which she does after a moment's hesitation, one hand coming to rest lightly against his arm, the tension in her expression fading a little when he doesn't flinch away.
"Is there anything we need to take up, Methos?" Her voice is quiet, and she raises an eyebrow to underscore the question. "Journals?"
"In the tent." He shrugs again, before stepping away. It's been too long since he last had human company, and the touch feels oddly like too much. He wonders for a moment if Kronos felt like this when he finally dug himself out of the well Methos had buried him in, before dismissing the thought.
"And your... pets?" Amanda's looking at the creatures with a faint frown of puzzlement. "What are they?"
"Local oddities. Intelligent, for the most part. Possibly self-aware. Not coming with me." Methos isn't worried about their ability to adapt and survive in this chilly world. Unless it freezes over entirely, and they have nothing but themselves to eat for long enough to wipe themselves out. "I'll get my journals, and we can leave."
The sooner he's off this planet, for all its one-time charms, the happier he'll be. At least for a while. He's not entirely certain how he'll react to company after so long without, though he can only do his best to adapt. It's not the first time he's had to do so, and he doubts it will be the last. Though it is the first time he's been this alone in his long life, with no option to return to civilization under his own power.
Amanda's waiting by the ship that brought her down when he comes out of the tent with the bundle that contains all that he cares to take with him. His pets cluster close, their whining no longer setting his teeth on edge, though he can see the pinch of pain on Amanda's face. They're afraid, no doubt picking up on his intent to leave. Maybe someday he'll come back, but not for a long while. And not without some way of leaving on his own.
He doesn't say anything to Amanda, just climbs into the small ship, ignoring the increasingly frantic cries of his pets as she does the same, and prepares for takeoff. They'll survive, or at least their species will, and perhaps be the better for the influence of his pets.
And anyway, it's time for him to leave.
The guessing post for this fic is here.