Escape From Purgatory (1/2)Author:
Magical Elves aka pat_tWritten for: tryfanstoneCharacters:
Duncan/Methos, Joe, Bobby Singer, Dean, Sam and Castiel (SPN) Rating:
This takes place during the timeline of season six in SPN. Castiel is still on the boy's team although he's been absent a bit as he's dealing with the turmoil in heaven. Sam has had his soul returned, but he hasn't started remembering everything he did during the year when he didn't have a soul. Duncan and Methos still live in Seacouver - post season six. A huge thank you to my amazing beta who always gives me support and encouragement. As always, all mistakes are my own. Summary:
When demons start wrecking havoc with immortals it's Sam and Dean to the rescue.
Portland, Oregon 2010
It was the time of the morning Linden Daniels loved most, when the dusky gray of predawn enveloped him in a comforting cloak of anonymity and the fine mist of early morning dew clung to his skin in a familiar embrace. He walked with determination through the underground garage, already setting his site on his target, a dark blue sedan, now forlorn and much too obvious in the nearly deserted garage.
He sped up his steps, his senses hyper-alert as he breathed in the lingering exhaust fumes remaining in the semi-enclosed area, well aware that the shadows that concealed him concealed approaching danger as well. Pausing as he neared his car, he hesitated and turned slowly, his senses confirming a lack of immortal presence, a fact that would normally reassure and comfort him. After all, there was very little an immortal had to fear outside another immortal coming after his head.
But not tonight.
For the past week he had been experiencing a sense of approaching doom, a dark and foreboding evil that hovered just out of reach, a feeling of malicious laughter when he tried to reach out with his immortal senses to pinpoint its direction and level of danger. Tonight the feeling was stronger, the evil a heaviness pressing down on his chest, the laughter a harsh whisper in his ears, the first time actually heard instead of just felt.
He continued to slowly turn, surveying the area as he reached inside his coat and wrapped his hand around the hilt of his sword. His body was already dumping adrenaline into his blood stream, preparing him for fight or flight, when he suddenly and inexplicably found himself paralyzed with fear.
Suddenly, a vague, shapeless black fog appeared in front of him. His mind was screaming inside his head to pull his sword, to fight for his life, to move--dammit--and get the hell out of there. But his body was stubbornly refusing to move, his legs firmly planted in place, his arms immobile as he continued to grip the hilt of his sword in a now meaningless gesture. Then a large, translucent blade was coming toward his neck, the hiss of disrupted air the only warning he had before his world went black.
Doug Jones knelt behind a white SUV, sweat running down his face despite the chill of the early morning air, absently rubbing the inside of his tattoo covered wrist against his jeans as his immortal subject entered the garage. He was fortunate that Daniels kept to the same routine every week; therefore, he could anticipate his comings and goings instead of following him everywhere he went.
He didn’t watch everything the man did anyway. Most Watchers didn’t watch their subjects that closely. The important thing to note was who their friends and contacts were as that usually led to the identification of other immortals in the area. The one thing a Watcher never wanted to miss was a challenge. Not witnessing your immortal losing his head was an unforgivable faux pas. Therefore, he always arranged to position himself in the areas where another immortal might find his subject alone and vulnerable and issue a challenge.
He had been waiting behind the SUV less than an hour when his immortal had arrived just as he suspected he would. Admittedly, he was becoming worried as he waited, alone and exposed, in the underground garage. He was pretty sure Daniels would stay with his routine, but the man had been acting strangely the past week, seemingly more agitated, often stopping to survey the area, his eyes darting around nervously when Jones could see nothing amiss. He had checked the Watcher files, called in a few favors, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary with other long life-lines in the area. So, why was his immortal acting so strangely?
Daniels was walking swiftly toward his car, his coat flapping against his legs as he made a mad dash to the vehicle. Grimly, Jones wondered if he was about to see a challenge, and reached inside his pocket to bring out his iPhone just in case. They weren’t supposed to record immortal challenges, but what was the harm? He would be able to file a more detailed and accurate report if he had it recorded. And he could always delete it later.
He waited expectantly as his subject stopped and turned, his hand disappearing inside his coat for his sword. Jones held his breath, fearful his subject would hear his labored breathing, the pounding of his heart which was now sending blood rushing to his ears. His palm was sweaty as it wrapped around his phone and he decided to leave it off as it suddenly occurred to him that a ringing phone could be a death warrant if an immortal discovered his presence.
Curiously, he peeped around the bumper of the SUV he was using for cover. What was Daniels doing? Why was he just standing there immobile, his hand still concealed in his coat? Was there another immortal in the garage or had Daniels sensed his presence? Ducking back behind the vehicle, he let out his breath slowly and willed himself to relax. With any luck Daniels would just get in his car and drive home. Then Jones could go home himself, write up the day’s report and go to bed.
He took in deep breaths, slowly in and out, waited a beat and another. He risked another look, now more curious than concerned as he noticed the other man had still not moved. He could only see Daniels from the back, but there definitely did not seem to be anyone else in the parking garage as far as he could tell. What the hell was going on for pity sake? Jones was cold and his knees were hurting from the pressure of the cement flooring of the garage. Come on, Daniels, get in your damn car already.
Suddenly, Daniels toppled over, crumpling to the ground in an ungraceful heap. Seriously, what the fuck? Jones stood up slowly and looked around. Nothing in the garage moved save himself, his own breaths overloud in the stale air. So why would an immortal suddenly fall to the ground without reason? Jones didn’t know for sure, but the man appeared quite dead even from the distance he was standing. He didn’t dare venture closer, however, as the immortal could awaken any moment.
Minutes dragged on and still the man had not moved. Telling himself he could convince Daniels he was just a concerned bystander, he moved cautiously toward his immortal’s body and nudged him with a foot. Nothing.
He leaned over and peered at the man’s face, his features frozen in death, his eyes open wide with seeming fright. Squatting, he reached over to close the man’s eyes, the look on his face chilling the Watcher to the bone as the actual incongruity of the immortal’s death sunk in.
He stood, shivering as a cold wind swept across him, then froze, stunned as a shimmering ball of light lifted from Daniel’s body, hovered for a few seconds and then vanished. Then, he watched, shocked with disbelief, as the immortal aged into an old man right before his eyes.
Joe Dawson settled back in his office chair, unmindful of the squeaking frame as it adjusted to his shifting weight. He scratched his beard, scowling as he read Doug Jones’ newest entry on his immortal, Linden Daniels.
This wasn’t the first time an immortal was found dead, his head still attached to his aging body, incredible as that sounded. It was the third such incident this month. But it was the first time it had been witnessed by a Watcher.
Joe had seen a lot of things in his life. Many of them had happened in Viet Nam when he was a marine -- strange things, events that couldn’t be explained scientifically. Hell, look at immortals. Who would believe such a race could exist? Therefore, very little shocked him. Even less frightened him. More than anything he was intrigued and he loved a good mystery. Begrudgingly, he also admitted he was worried about his immortal friends.
Thumbing through his personal phone book, he picked up the phone and dialed a number.
Two rings and he heard a gruff voice come over the line. “Yeah?”
Joe smiled, aware age has roughened his own tones as he answered the terse response. “Singer, you old heathen. It’s Joe. Dawson.”
“Dawson? Man, how ya been?” A pause. “What’s wrong?”
“Does something have to be wrong for me to call you?”
Joe sat forward and ran his fingers through his now solid white hair, his good humor already dissipating as he skimmed over a section of Jones’ report.
“You’re right, buddy. Something’s wrong and I think it’s in your field of expertise.”
Ignoring the answering snort that followed that declaration, he briefly explained the situation, waiting patiently while the other man silently mulled the information over in his head.
“Yeah, I’d say you’re right. I haven’t kept up with Immortals. I figured you had that covered. But, if my memory serves me, and it usually does, what you’re describing can only be the result of unnatural forces. Do you remember John Winchester?”
“Look, John’s dead, but his boys, Dean and Sam, are good hunters. I’ll do some research on my end, but I want to send the boys there and see what they can dig up.”
“Do they know about Immortals?”
“They will now. I’ll call you when I know something, Dawson.”
“Fair enough. Thanks, buddy. I’ll look for the guys when they arrive. They know to keep this under their hats, though?”
“Hey, don’t insult my ass unless you want me to show up instead of the boys.”
Joe chuckled and reached for the bottle of whiskey sitting open on his desk. “Anytime. I can still drink your ass under the table.”
“That’s not how I remember it,” Bobby grumbled good-naturedly. “Look, let me give them a call. I’ll let you know when I find out something.”
Joe hung up the phone and refilled his glass with the amber liquid. He took a swallow, relishing the burn as it slid down his throat and settled in his stomach. Putting the glass down, he reached for the phone. Mac needed to know what was going on. Some evil, unnatural son of a bitch might be killing immortals, but it wasn’t going to get his immortal. Not on Joe Dawson’s watch.
“You’re shitting me, right?”
Sam Winchester looked up from his laptop screen and raised a brow at his brother’s incredulous tone. If Dean’s smirk was any indication, and it usually was, they were in for a hell of a case. Might as well relax and wait, though. As soon as Dean got off the phone with Bobby he’d find out what was going on.
“Of course we’ll get on the case. Yeah, thanks, Bobby.”
Dean clicked off his cell, his smirk now replaced with a concerned frown, and turned to his brother.
“What is it?”
“Sammy, you’re not going to believe this.”
“Come on, Dean. After everything we’ve been through, do you really think anything could surprise me?”
“I don’t know. This might.” Dean slid his cell phone into his shirt pocket and sat down on the end of the bed to face Sam. “It seems Bobby’s been holding out on us. There’s a race of people known as immortals on the planet.”
“Yeah, hey, you want a beer?”
Waiting until Dean returned from the mini-fridge with two beers, Sam reached for one and stood up to stretch while his brother plopped back on the bed inelegantly.
“Immortals? Like in people who can’t die, immortal?”
Dean looked up and smiled. “Evidently. They’ve been around for thousands of years. They can’t die unless someone takes their head.”
“Takes their head?”
“Is there some reason you’re repeating everything I say, Sam? Yeah, you know, whacks their head off with something sharp.”
“Dean, why would anyone want to cut off their heads?”
“Not just anyone. Other immortals. According to Bobby it releases something called the quickening which contains all their knowledge and power. The other immortal, the one who took the head gets the dead immortal’s quickening.”
“How does Bobby know all this? Stop being a jerk, dude. Just tell me what’s going on, okay.”
“Bobby has a friend who watches these so-called immortals. His friend is a Watcher. He documents the battles between the immortals. The reason he called Bobby is that something weird has started happening. Three immortals have died this month without losing their heads.”
“How did they die then?”
“That’s just it. No one knows. They shouldn’t be able to die with their heads still attached. What’s even stranger is that after they died, the immortals suddenly aged into very old men.”
“Wait, Dean. I’m not getting this. Wouldn’t they be aging anyway?”
“Look, it’s a long story. We need to pack up and hit the road. I’ll explain the rest on the way.”
Sam closed his laptop and slid it into his book bag. Packing wouldn’t take long. They never completely settled in when they reached a town. A few minutes later they were loading the Impala and heading toward Washington State.
Dean checked the rearview mirror and changed lanes. Sammy had been awfully quiet since he had explained the situation. He couldn’t help but wonder where his brother’s thoughts had gone. Unfortunately, Sam hadn’t exactly been forthcoming with his thoughts or his feelings ever since he began remembering the year after he returned without his soul. Not that Dean was in for the touchy, feely stuff. And it wasn’t like he was exactly comfortable telling Sam his thoughts either. But, damn it, they were supposed to be rebuilding the trust between them and that was never going to happen unless one of them gave in.
Sighing mentally, he glanced over at Sam. “Any theories?”
“What? No. Just thinking about everything you told me. Immortals. Man. Can you imagine what we could do if we couldn’t be killed? If we didn’t age after our first death?”
“Beheading, Sam. Remember that? Do you really think the demons wouldn’t know that?”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. But, no. No theories.”
“Me either. Might as well sit back and rest. We’ll be driving all night.” Yeah, Dean thought, it was going to be a long drive.
They pulled into the motel parking lot early the next morning. Getting a room was no problem since they normally stopped at the less expensive motels in the area. After all, they only needed a couple of beds, a table and chair or two, a mini fridge for the beer and a television with pay-for- view. A few minutes later they were unpacked and setting up the laptop.
Dean pulled out his cell phone. “I guess I’d better call Bobby and see if he’s found out anything.”
“Yeah, go ahead. I’m going to check out the local news and see if anything out of the ordinary is going on.”
“I know what’s causing them to age.” The voice was soft and without inflection, and while Dean should have been used to the sudden appearance of the angel, he couldn’t help but jerk in startlement. The fact that Sam seemed amused by his reaction only made him more aggravated.
“Dammit, Cas. Can’t you give us a warning before you pop in?”
“I can tell you about the immortals.”
Sam opened his laptop and plugged it in. “You know about immortals too?”
Dean noted the scowl on Sam’s face, the furrowed brow and crinkled forehead that usually meant he was more than just a little annoyed.
“Does it matter, Sam? What’s eating you anyway?”
“Dean, don’t you think it’s a little weird that Bobby knew about these people, but we didn’t? They aren’t mentioned in dad’s journal either. Now, all of a sudden, everyone but us seems to know about them.”
“No, not really, Sammy. We’re being told about them now. That’s good enough for me. Go on, Cas.”
“Of course, I know about immortals,” Castiel replied while easing into the center of the room. “Immortals have been around before Christ walked the earth.”
“Hang on, Dean. Maybe Bobby ought to be in on this.” Sam picked up his cell and hit the speed dial.
The phone was picked up on the first ring. “You got something already?”
“Not yet. But Cas is here and he might have some information for us. Thought you might want to be kept in the loop. Hang on. I’ll put you on speaker.”
“You thought right. You boys in Seacover yet?”
Dean shot a look at Sam. “We’re here, Bobby. Go ahead, Cas. So, what’s killing them?”
“It’s a legion of very old demons thrown into purgatory thousands of years ago. Their name would hold no meaning to you. For mankind’s limited vocabulary you may think of them as soul takers.”
“Soul takers? As in stealing a person’s soul?” Sam clarified, while turning to this laptop and clicking the webpage to Google.
“Yes, but you won’t find them on that, Sam.” Cas indicated the laptop with a cursory wave of his hand. “They are very old and have been buried for thousands of years in a special hell dimension made especially for them. They are considered undesirable even by demon standards so Lucifer exiled them to another realm away from the general population.”
“Great.” Dean flopped down on the bed. “So the red-headed step-children of hell have decided to come topside. “ Why now and why immortals?”
Dean heard a chortle on the other end of the phone. “Step-children, my ass. More like the evil stepmother. Boys, if what Dawson told me was true, these things are nasty.”
Castiel looked from Dean to Sam questionably. “I don’t understand those references. But somehow they have managed to harvest enough power to escape. There is no way they could have managed it on their own, so they must have had help.”
“Look, Cas. That’s all very interesting, but what are these things and why are they on earth now?”
“As I said, somehow they managed to escape. They’ve always had the ability to steal souls, but over five thousand years ago they found a way to harvest an immortal’s life source. That’s why the immortal is able to die with his head still attached.”
“You mean they can steal an immortal’s quickening?”
“Yes, and without their quickenings or losing their heads, the immortals simply die as if they had never been immortal. What I don’t know is how they managed to escape and why they are going after immortals now. Or why they seem to be focusing their power in this area.”
“More importantly, how do we stop them?” Sam asked worriedly.
Cas looked from one man to the other, hesitating as if gathering his thoughts. Dean felt his stomach sink at the angel’s next words. “You can’t. At least not by yourselves. There are very old rituals that can turn the demons corporal so they can be destroyed, but it is very difficult to do and many of the old writings were destroyed when the demons were sent to purgatory.”
“But it can be done?” Bobby’s voice came over the speaker.
“Yes, but highly unlikely. All of the immortals they have targeted were relatively young and weak. It was easy to break through their defenses and steal their quickenings.
Only an immortal with a very powerful quickening can withstand their onslaught. And that immortal would have to use all his concentration and power to fight the demons and keep them from breaking apart his life force. Then you would still need someone powerful enough to force them back to hell.”
“Well, that’s just great. Bobby, you catch all that?”
“Yeah, Dean. I got it. Look, you eggheads. Be careful. From what I know it’s not just the demons you have to worry about. Immortals kill one another to stay alive. They’re dangerous and you do not want to piss one off. Stay clear of them as much as possible. Got that?”
“We got it, Bobby. I’ll call you when we know something.” Sam clicked off his cell and slid it back into his pocket.
Dean pulled on his jacket. “How about getting some grub and looking over the town?”
“Yeah, that sounds good.” Sam stood up and stretched, then reached for his jacket. “Cas, you--” He turned to address the angel, unsurprised when he found an empty room. He looked at Dean and shrugged. “Guess not.”
Duncan handed Joe a glass of whiskey and motioned for him to take a seat. “Might as well get comfortable, Joe. It might be awhile before Methos’ flight gets in from Paris.”
“I thought he was supposed to arrive an hour ago.” Joe sat down in a large overstuffed chair and sipped his drink.
“He was. But you know how it is at the airports. And international flights are never dependable.”
Joe nodded, silently watching his immortal pacing the kitchen area and wondering what the hell was going on. He could understand Mac being upset about the recent events. Hell, one of the men was a good friend. But usually Mac became more focused and emotionally withdrawn when facing a problem, especially when it came to immortal business and a possible upcoming battle.
Briefly, he reflected on the pending arrival of the world’s oldest man. He knew Mac and Methos had been sleeping together when they were in the same city. But, as far as he knew, Methos had left on good terms. At least Joe hoped he had as he suspected they were facing enough trouble without the two men being at one another’s throat.
“Mac, everything okay with you and Methos?”
“Hm? Yeah, why do you ask?”
“Because you seem a bit on edge, buddy? You sure everything is okay?”
Duncan smiled, a bit too grimly Joe thought, and came into the living room area to sit on the couch.
“Everything is fine, Joe. Don’t worry. Fact is, I’m glad he’s coming in. I won’t have to worry about his safety if he’s here.”
“Where you can keep an eye on him, you mean.”
Joe raised his glass in salute to the rejoinder, and then turned toward the door as he saw Mac still, his muscles tense as he turned toward something only he could feel. The old man had arrived.
The elevator jerked to a stop with a creak and groan, the gate making only a slightly less annoying squeak as it was lifted to allow the entrance of one very old immortal.
Methos strode in with wide purposeful steps, easily scooping his duffle up and tossing it to the kitchen counter in one fluid movement.
Duncan was at Methos’ side almost immediately, wrapping his arms around the other man for a welcoming hug. Joe almost snorted his whiskey when Methos pushed him away and turned toward the living room area with a playful roll of his eyes.
“For Christ’s sake, MacLeod. I just arrived. Give me a minute before you start pawing at me. Hey, Joe.” Methos plopped down on the couch and grinned at Joe impishly while Mac scowled at him from behind.
Duncan tossed Methos’ duffel to the floor and joined them, clearly already annoyed with his friend’s antics as he made a point to sit well out of reach of Methos’ personal space.
“Has it ever occurred to you that I may have been worried about you with everything that’s been going on? Or that I may be happy to see you, you irritating old man?”
Methos closed his eyes and tilted back his head as if in deep thought. “Um, I’m thinking you missed my hot body and you couldn’t wait to jump my bones.” Methos opened his eyes and grinned broadly, winking at Joe while pointedly turning his back to the other man on the couch.
“All right you two,” Joe groused while trying hard not to smile. “Enough of the comedy hour. There’s some serious stuff going on here, and I would think you,” he pointed to Methos with his cane, “would be a bit more concerned.”
“Actually, I’ve already been doing a bit of research.” Methos stood and looked toward the kitchen island for his duffel, scowling at Mac when he spotted it on the floor. A moment later he had it open on the coffee table and pulled out a large, and very old, leather bound journal.
Now with both Joe and Duncan’s complete attention he began to search through the journal to the pages he had annotated in advance. “I think we may be dealing with very old and powerful demons,” he stated matter-of-factly while flipping to another page, removing the bookmark to toss it casually onto the coffee table.
Duncan shifted closer to Methos on the couch and reached out to touch his wrist. “Wait, when I was fighting Ahriman you said you had never witnessed anything to prove demons existed during your lifetime.”
“Well, I was wrong.” Methos sat back, dislodging Duncan’s hand from his wrist, and sighed loudly. “Mac, once it was obvious you were fighting something very real and very dangerous, I decided to probe into some of my old journals a bit more diligently.” He paused and stated more slowly, “I found some things.”
“Such as?” Joe leaned forward in his seat, knowing his impatience was clear in his tone and not caring one little bit.
“Nothing I want to share right now.” Methos shifted on the couch so he was now addressing both men once again. “Look, I still have a lot of reading to do and I have to admit the flight knackered me.” This time he reached out and touched Duncan’s hand. “Sorry, but I do need a bit of down time. And I do have a few more sections I need to sift through.”
Duncan smiled and squeezed his partner’s hand in reassurance. “No problem. The two guys Joe’s friend sent should be here by now. I think I’ll give them a call and see if they know anything.”
A phone call later verified the two hunters were in town and a meeting was arranged. Duncan hung up the phone and turned to Joe. “They’ll meet with us in their motel room. Coming with me?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Joe pushed himself up from the chair, grousing against the pain in his hips and stumps as he shifted to a standing position. He paused by the couch and lightly whacked Methos’ leg with his cane. “You behave while we’re gone.”
“Worried about me, Joe?” Methos looked up innocently and grinned.
“Pain in the ass.”
Duncan stood off to the side, allowing Joe the only available chair in the sparsely furnished motel room at Seacouver’s not-so-finest motel. He superfluously studied the two hunters knowing already they were young and mortal. According to Joe there were indeed demons – as if he needed convincing after Ahriman–and hunters who did nothing but hunt down and fight them before they could rain down terror on mankind.
He mentally shook his head. He had no reason not to believe Joe’s friend, but how could these two innocuous appearing men fight and kill demons? He continued to listen as he simultaneously scrutinized their appearance. One man was tall and lanky, with longish brown hair, and features open and trusting, as he allowed his brother to carry the conversation.
His brother was shorter, stockier, his features comparatively hard and closed off, as he told them about the demons they believed were plaguing immortals. It sent a chill down Duncan’s spine to hear the two mortals talk about his race, to realize how many mortals not only knew about immortal existence, but also knew how to kill them.
Dean, who was the older of the two, finished his explanation and looked Duncan in the eye, his stare never wavering as he awaited Duncan’s reply. That chilled Duncan even more.
Duncan met the hunter’s gaze without flinching. “You’re telling me that these soul takers have escaped from purgatory and now are hunting immortals to steal their quickenings?”
“That’s exactly what we’re telling you.” This time it was Sam who answered. “Look, man, we don’t know why or how exactly. Hell, we just found out about you guys a couple of days ago. But somehow they have found a way to get to an immortal’s quickening and suck it out.”
“Without taking our head?” He looked incredulously at Joe who appeared deep in thought, a frown deepening the lines in his face as he mulled over the new information.
“And how do you know this? Exactly?” He put emphasis on the last word, pointedly looking at Dean since he seemed to be in charge.
“We have information. Nothing you need to be concerned about. Just trust us, okay.”
Duncan felt himself rankle at the mortal’s blasé attitude. Joe must have felt the shift in tension in the room because he sat up straighter and held up his hand to halt the coming storm.
“Wait, Mac.” Joe turned toward the two hunters and softened his voice to his most reasonable tone. “No offense, fellas, but I think you better come clean. I don’t know what’s going on, but we don’t need any secrets here. Bobby said we could trust you.”
Sam shifted toward his brother. “I know this is hard. It’s not that we don’t want to tell you everything, but there are some things even we don’t understand. Let’s just say we have a friend who gives us information. Knowing who he is isn’t going to help you. But I promise he’s working on our side.”
Joe shook his head in obvious disbelief. “Of all the fucked up…. Do you really think we’re going to buy that? You boys don’t seem to have a clue what you’re messing with here. Do you not get you’re dealing with a race of people who survived by cutting off each other’s head?”
Dean held his hands up in surrender. “Look, we get it, okay.” He turned toward Duncan. “You’re immortal. You cannot die unless someone like you cuts off your head. Now all of a sudden something has come out of the woodwork that can kill you without taking your head. You can’t see it. You don’t know what it is, but it’s scaring the hell out of you. Now you have two guys who seem to have come out of nowhere who not only knows your secret, but are telling you there are demons chasing your tails.”
Duncan took a deep breath and visibly tried to rein in his temper.
“Look, why don’t we all sit down again and relax, okay.” Joe pointedly looked from one man to the next. “I think the real question is what we’re going to do about this.”
Both Sam and Dean sat down on the end of one of the full size beds. They stayed silent, each man contemplating the problem at hand while the tension slowly eased down another notch.
Dean spoke first. “What we don’t get is how they escaped and why now.”
“Or why they are coming after you guys.” Sam interjected.
“Bobby called right before you arrived. He was able to put together some of the information you gave him, Dawson.” Dean addressed the Watcher.
“You gave them Watcher information?” Duncan asked incredulously.
“Just hang on, Mac. We need all the help we can get. I trust Bobby Singer. He can help us, but he has to have something to work with.”
Duncan glared at his friend and Watcher. Intellectually, he knew Joe was right. And he knew they had asked the guys for help. But something in his gut told him they were treading into dangerous territory. Immortal business stayed secret for a reason. At this rate, none of them were going to survive. And suddenly he thought of Methos’ quick temper and was grateful the ancient had decided not to join them. He was so caught up on that thought that he almost missed what Dean was telling them next.
“What? Repeat that.”
“What I was saying is that it appears all the incidents are occurring around this area of the United States and they may even be maneuvering toward Seacouver.”
“Why?” Duncan asked, still annoyed, but no longer angry as he mulled over this new information.
“We’re not sure.” Sam spoke up. “Bobby thinks they are looking for more powerful quickenings. He thinks the older you guys are and the more immortals you have killed the stronger your quickenings are. Up until now it appeared they had been choosing immortals at random. But looking at the trends, he now thinks they may be collecting in a certain area with a particular target in mind.”
“Seacouver is an immortal hotspot, Mac. Mainly because you live here I might add.”
“But why wouldn’t they come here first and attack me if that’s what they are after? It doesn’t make sense.”
“Yeah, you may be right.” Dean sniffed loudly and leaned back on his elbows. “Unless they think they may be able to draw someone even more powerful than you to the area using you as bait.”
Duncan felt his stomach clench and looked at Joe, unsurprised to see a look of shock cross the other man’s face.
Duncan noted Joe reaching for his phone, but he had already hit the speed dial on his own device. Turning to the two mortals, he was already formulating the answer to the questions he knew he would see in their expressions.
“A Watcher friend of mine and Joe’s. He might be able to give us some answers.” They weren’t the only ones who had secrets to keep, Duncan thought smugly.
Methos finished towel drying his hair, and tossed the damp towel toward the general direction of the hamper on his way out of the bathroom. He paid little attention to where the towel actually landed. Duncan expected him to make a mess and who was he to disappoint?
A hot shower was just what he needed after the long flight from Paris. He had been itching to visit his sometime lover for weeks now, but couldn’t seem to get away from the bookstore. Of all times for him to do a booming business, he mused. But Duncan’s phone call had shaken him. There was something in the story that had niggled at his memory and made him uneasy. That tended to make his choices easier. The bookstore was closed down with a “sorry, will be open again soon” sign on the door and now he was in Seacouver once again enjoying the Highlander’s hospitality – and bed.
If only things weren’t so precarious, he thought uneasily. He had been pouring over his oldest journals feeling there was something in them he needed to know. So far, he had only found the vague mention of something unearthly, of dead immortals who should not have been dead, but there was nothing he could use, dammit.
He sprawled on the couch, his bare feet on the coffee table, and a smug knowing smile on his lips, as he imagined his lover’s irritation once he was discovered. He would have to make it up to the man, after all. That was his job--irritate the man to distraction and then drive him crazy in bed to make it up to him later.
He was so focused on his thoughts, on the anticipated pleasures of his lover’s body, that he almost missed the shadow that floated across his periphery. Almost. Closing his journal and setting it down carefully on the coffee table, he reached for the Ivanhoe and stood. He lifted his sword in a defensive pose and turned slowly, surveying the room with a practiced eye.
A dark shape appeared, hovering only seconds before evaporating as if never been. He felt the hairs stand up on the back of his neck, a chill crawl down his spine, and he shivered against the sense of evil which now seemed to permeate the room.
He walked around the couch into the open space, continuing to turn slowly and looking into every corner and crevice of the room in case the object was hiding or waiting to pounce once he let his guard down. He felt something brush against his arm, just the tiniest movement of something touching his skin, as a soft voice whispered in his ear. “Old one. You are mine.”
He could not tell if the voice was male or female, the tone too soft and low to hear the words clearly, the soft hiss of the syllables a taunt as he strained to listen. “Old one. Mine.”
“Who is here?” He sounded overloud in the empty room, his own voice seeming distant and echoing in his ears.
The room filled with stifled laughter and he bristled. “Glad I could amuse you.” There was nothing worse than a smart-assed demon.
As quickly as it appeared, it was gone, and the room suddenly brightened, the gray shadows and chill dissipating as quickly as it had descended. One last look around the room assured him he was quite alone. Placing his sword on the couch by his side, he sat down and picked up his journal with shaky hands. His stomach was queasy and he was almost positive he was going to be ill. Whatever this evil thing was, it was here. Now the one question remained -- was it Duncan the demon was after or was it him?
The cheery tune of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” was almost anti-climactic when it erupted from his cell phone. He started at the noise, took a deep, calming breath and reached for it, vowing as soon as the caller was off the line he was changing that damn ringtone.
Duncan picked up the phone on the second ring. “MacLeod”.
“It’s me, Mac. Any word on your end?”
“Not a thing, Joe. So far I haven’t seen or heard anything out of the ordinary myself.”
“Good. Not that I mind hearing from you, but the message you left me sounded kinda
important. I know it’s not just because you missed the melodic sound of my voice.”
“No, smartass. You’ve been around Methos too long.” Ignoring the snort coming from
the other end of the line he continued. “It’s about Methos actually. He’s been acting
strangely ever since we went to the motel to talk to Sam and Dean a couple of days
“With him how can you tell? Seriously, buddy. What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. It’s nothing I can put my finger on exactly. He's been distracted. Nervous
one minute and withdrawn the next. Downright distant at times. Our lovemaking has
become intense to the point of being frantic.”
“What’s the matter, Dawson? I thought you wanted to record this stuff.”
“Yeah, yeah. Anything else?”
“Nothing concrete. He’s just not acting like himself and it’s got me worried.”
“You think this thing is after him?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. But if he thinks I could be in danger he’s not going to confide in me. I’m thinking about calling our friends and seeing if they have anything new.”
“I don’t know, Mac. They said they would call and Methos wouldn’t appreciate it if you blew his cover.”
“Maybe I wouldn’t have to tell them who he is. Just that he’s immortal. I’ll think about it, Joe. I’ll see how he’s acting when he gets back and make a decision then.”
“Wait. He’s not there?”
“No, he went out about an hour ago and I can hear you growling over the line, Joe. It’s not like I can stop him from tearing off on his own. He’s a grown man.”
“Yeah, I know. Keep me in touch, buddy. I think I’ll call the boys just to see how their research is going. I’m getting nothing here.”
Methos pulled his SUV over to the side of the road and put it in park. Looking to make sure there was no traffic heading his way, he opened the door and stepped out to the curb. He was still slightly shaking, the near miss from the semi-truck a little too close for comfort. He would have survived, of course. Well, probably. Unless he was beheaded during the accident. But coming back to life in front of witnesses, either at the scene or in the hospital, was not a good way to end the day.
Besides, it wasn’t the near-wreck that had his nerves frayed. It was the incessant whispering and shadows that moved in and out of his peripheral vision, the nudge of something other-worldly against his skin, the smoke that filled his car and masked his vision, only to clear just seconds before he ran head-on into a semi-truck.
After the incident at the loft two days before, the apparitions had returned at will to haunt him, appearing quickly, taunting him, and then disappearing just as effortlessly. It didn’t help that he knew the end result would be his death and the loss of his quickening. The question now wasn’t how, but when. Because he had no doubt that whatever these creatures were, they were responsible for the deaths of the other immortals.
Up until that moment, they had only appeared when he was alone at the loft. Hoping it
was somehow connected to the place, and not just himself, he had stayed away as
much as possible although he knew he was sending Mac warning signals and it was
just a matter of time before he demanded answers that Methos didn’t have.
Luckily, the trip back to the dojo was uneventful and he made it in record time. The feel of Duncan’s presence alerted him that his lover was still there. He wasn’t sure if he was glad or not. On one hand he was thankful for the company. On the other, he knew Duncan could tell something was wrong and the clan chieftain would be in full battle mode.
Feeling the need to burn off the adrenaline after his near accident he decided to take the stairs instead of the lift. He entered the loft, pointedly ignoring the worried expression on his lover’s face.
“Hey. I’m glad you’re back.”
“Did you doubt?” He stopped by the fridge to get a beer and glanced at Duncan. Seeing the concern on his lover’s face drew out a long suffering sigh. “Bloody hell. Look, Mac. I’m fine. Don’t fuss.”
Duncan followed him over to the couch. “In case you have forgotten, there’s something out there killing immortals without taking their heads. Of course I’m going to worry when you’re out of my sight.”
Methos felt his skin prickle with irritation. It didn’t matter that he knew Mac was right. Whatever this thing was
it was his ass on the line and he’d be damned if he was going to let Duncan be put in harm’s way to protect him. He had made the decision years ago that Duncan was too important to lose.
“Back off, Highlander. You can’t protect me and I won’t let you smother me. I know something is out there. We’ll figure it out.”
Duncan sat down across from him. Methos could feel the other man studying him, measuring his emotions and trying to figure out what to do. It irritated and comforted him at the same time.
“Fine.” Mac stood up and paced to the kitchen. “How about an early dinner and we can go to Joe’s and listen to the band.”
“Fine.” Methos picked up his journal and made a point of looking through the entries and ignoring his lover at the same time. There had to be something in the text he was missing. He had a feeling he was running out of time.
Methos made his way down the congested sidewalk, burning up the distance with long, purposeful strides. He didn’t have a particular destination in mind, only that he had to keep moving. If he had spent another day holed up in Mac’s loft he would have gone completely mad. Not that his current frame of mind was much of an improvement.
Someone bumped into him and he was pretty sure he growled as he stepped away and nearly crashed headlong into someone else. He ignored the expletive the other man sent his way as he shoved past him and disappeared. He was aware the sun was bright and beating down on him as he walked along. He should have been overly warm in his long coat, but instead he was shivering as a shroud of evil seemed to envelope him, pressing on his chest and threatening to cut off his airway.
He put his hands in his coat pockets and drew his coat more tightly around his body, and felt the Ivanhoe pressing against his hip. Normally the feel of his weapon, hard and unforgiving where it was sheltered in its sewn in sheath, would reassure him and give him a sense of power and determination. But that was before this thing started tormenting him.
He no longer felt safe taking his car around town knowing he was endangering innocent lives. So every morning he had set out on foot, escaping the strong arms of his lover and the false safety of the loft, to walk aimlessly through town as he tried to clear his head and shake off the sense of doom hovering over him like a black cloud. Whatever this demon was, it was evil and far more ancient than even himself. Duncan had fought Ahriman using love and tranquility to battle the evil. But Methos had a feeling that would be as ineffective as his Ivanhoe when fighting this thing.
The whispering had been replaced by laughter as Methos found it harder to focus and his nerves frayed more every day. He knew he was unraveling and he didn’t have a clue how to stop it. There had been nothing in his journals to help him. If he ever did know anything he had long forgotten it and did not know it was important enough at the time to keep a record. The two hunters were supposed to be working on the problem, but thus far that had been a bust. Personally, he didn’t have much faith in the two mortals helping them. How could they possibly be able to fight something so evil and old with nothing but their wits and a certain knowledge that demons existed? Duncan said they had never heard of these demons before. Hell, they hadn’t known immortals existed until now. Whoever these *hunters* were, they had better be some type of superheroes or they didn’t have a chance in hell of beating this thing. Literally.
He hadn’t been paying attention and it wasn’t long before he found himself on a more deserted street in an older section of town. The sun was already going down, the brightness of late afternoon fading away to a dreary gray which shadowed the older buildings, making them look worn down and forlorn with their dark windows and chipped paint.
How long had he been walking? A glance at his wristwatch told him it was well after six pm. Duncan would be worried and he reached into his pocket for his cell phone. When had he turned it off, he wondered. He turned his phone back on, unsurprised to see several messages from Duncan. No need to answer them, he mused. A quick look around assured him that he wasn’t that far from the dojo and he knew a few shortcuts that would get him home in short order.
With that in mind he turned into a darkened alley, carefully maneuvering around the debris littering the narrow walkway. The smell of urine and garbage assaulted his senses, and he covered his nose and mouth with his hand to keep the foul odor at bay. Nothing like having the lingering smell of urine leaving a stale taste in your mouth, he thought. Wrapping his coat more tightly around himself, he prepared to leave the enclosed space and sprint down the next street toward home.
Then he stilled, goose bumps rising up over his skin, as he was overcome with the sudden sensation that something or someone was watching him. The odor changed from the familiar smells of human garbage to something much more dark and menacing. He fought against the urge to gag and reached for his sword as he turned sharply to meet his aggressor head on.
He shifted into a defensive pose, his sword gripped tightly in his hand, and peered out into the darkened alleyway. Not seeing anyone there, he shivered against the sudden cold that swept across his skin, and noted at the same time that his palms were sweating. He wiped the dampness from his empty palm onto his jeans, but never relaxed his hold from his Ivanhoe.
“I know you’re there. Show yourself.”
He heard a soft chortle close to his ear followed by a harsh whisper. “Old one.”
“Damn it. Come out and face me, you bloody coward,” he yelled. He felt movement from his left side and turned quickly, his sword slicing through the air and finding no purchase. Frustrated and angry, he turned sharply, and frantically struck out with his weapon, hoping whoever or whatever the son-of-a-bitch was it would get close enough to get several inches of cold, deadly steel.
Then he felt it, a powerful jolt of something very familiar crawling up his spine -- immortal presence. He gripped his sword tightly with both hands and turned a full one hundred and eighty degrees.
He was suddenly grabbed from behind and slammed up against one of the buildings. He kicked out, preparing to charge the other immortal, when he was punched in the gut and his arm was smashed against the unyielding brick building. His sword fell onto the ground with a sickening clank as he was gripped by the shoulders and shaken.
“Methos? Methos, stop. It’s me.”
He peered into concerned brown eyes as the whine in his ears subsided and his vision began to clear. Macleod? Damn it all to hell. What was the man doing? He could have been killed. Just ask Richie Ryan. Well, if you could. Actually, the stupid child was quite dead. That’s what happens when you run into another immortal’s blade when said immortal is being baited by an evil demon. He giggled, well aware that Macleod would never see the humor in his distorted thought processes.
He was shaken again--hard. A small, pounding headache began to grow behind his eyes.
“Methos, I don’t know what is going on, but let’s go. My car is parked up the street.”
Suddenly Methos was angry again, and he pushed the other man away, fully aware that it wasn’t Mac he was really mad at, but unable to pull back on the extreme emotions he felt bubbling to the surface.
“No, MacLeod. Why are you following me?”
“Following? Methos, I was looking for you because I was worried. You’ve been gone all day and you weren’t answering your phone.”
Duncan sounded genuinely concerned, and perfectly reasonable, which seemed to spike his anger even more. “You were worried. Well, guess what, Highlander? I don’t need to be coddled by you. I’ve been taking care of myself for centuries before you came along.”
He shoved away from the wall and picked up his sword. Holding it out in front of him in a clear warning he backed slowly out of the alley. “Stay away, Mac. I will hurt you.”
“Methos.” Duncan took a cautious step toward him.
Methos contemplated running the man through, but something about the worry in Duncan’s face unnerved him and he felt his anger begin to diffuse. Weary, but determined, he dropped his arm to his side and turned away. “I’m outta here.”
In an instant he was grabbed from behind and slammed back up against the building.
“No, you’re not outta here.” He was pulled away by his coat lapels and slammed back hard. “Talk to me, dammit.” Mac said roughly.
“No!” Methos spit the word out on a breath, flung his sword to the ground and slammed his fist into Duncan’s jaw, feeling a smug sense of satisfaction when he heard bone crack. Unfortunately, his triumph was short lived as Mac’s fist found his mouth in return and he was gagging on blood and saliva.
A knee to Mac’s groin released him and he used the opportunity to run, well aware that he had not retrieved his sword and not caring. Soon enough he would be back on the street and Mac wouldn’t dare confront him in front of an audience.
But before he could get to the street he was tackled, landing face down in the dirt and gravel. He felt the sharp rocks tear into his skin and closed his eyes tightly, determined not to cry out as his arm was twisted unnaturally behind him and a knee was shoved hard into the small of his back.
“Would you listen to me?” Duncan sounded winded as he fought to hold Methos down. “I don’t know what is going on, but I’m here to help you. Whatever this is, we can fight it together. Don’t do this, Methos.”
“Duncan.” Methos wasn’t sure why, but suddenly the tightness around his chest gave way and he stopped struggling. The hold on his arm loosened slightly easing the sharp pain in his shoulder. He took a deep breath and felt tears dampen his lids. Bloody hell!
Duncan released the knee from his back and strong arms were turning him over. “Let me help you.”
“I can’t. It will come after you.” The words were coming easier now and he fought back the tears, fearing they would break loose as a week’s worth of fear and torment bore down on him all at once.
“Not if we fight this thing together.”
Methos sat up, batting Duncan’s hands away as he reached out to help him. “I’m fine, Mac. Give me a minute.”
Duncan stood up and backed away for which he was grateful. Letting the man see him this fearful and unhinged was not acceptable. He took a deep, shuddering breath and fought to pull himself together. His shoulder and back still ached although the small cuts and abrasions on his face had already healed. Leaning over, he spit out the dirt and grit which had accumulated in his mouth when he was slammed face down.
Standing up on shaky legs, he bent over and retrieved his sword. “I believe you said you were parked nearby?”
“Yeah. Come on.” Duncan reached out to him, but dropped his arm and stepped back when Methos jerked away roughly from his touch. Methos heard the deep sigh behind him and felt a twinge of guilt, but right now he was too unsettled to accept Duncan’s need to care for him. He just hoped Duncan would understand and give him some space until he could pull himself together and sort out his thoughts.On to Part Two