“Okay, take the next right,” Toshiko’s clipped voice instructed.
Ianto yanked the wheel to the right at the next corner and Owen, Gwen and Jack hung on as tires on the big, black SUV squealed in protest. They jerked to a stop at an opening to a construction site. In seconds they had all spilled out of the car, their flashlights playing over and around the area in a search for anything unusual.
“I think the energy surge must’ve blown out the lights,” Gwen observed, automatically lowering her voice to a near whisper in the eerie, dark silence.
“Ya think?” Owen groused sarcastically.
“The lock on this gate is sheared clean through,” Gwen announced. “Whoever, or whatever we’re after went through here.”
“Be careful!” Jack admonished, his torch sweeping the nearby area. “There’s junk everywhere! Tosh, where to now?” Jack snapped into his comm unit.
“My reading isn’t exact, but I think the center of the surge was Northeast of your location,” Toshiko answered. “About 10 o’clock, 100 feet.”
The three of them pushed through the broken gate and picked their way through piles of construction equipment and anonymous debris, into a half-finished high rise. The unexplained energy reading had set off a cacophony of alarms in Torchwood Headquarters only minutes before and they had been out the door and into the streets in near-record time, but other than the broken gate, there was no obvious evidence of anything unusual here.
“Hold up,” Jack ordered to his three companions. “And turn off those flashlights!” The space was suddenly very dark and full of ominous shadows. “Any more readings?” Jack asked Toshika softly.
“Nothing in the past seven minutes,” she answered. “It’s dead quiet.”
“I’ll go in first,” Jack instructed, generating a muttered curse from Owen and an angry scowl from Gwen, who started to object but stopped herself at Jack’s warning raised hand.
Jack eyes were quickly adjusting to the dark. He could see skeletal ribs of reinforcing rebar jutting out from recently poured concrete pilings and large stacks of stored sheet rock and other materials, making the area a dangerous obstacle course at night and providing ideal hiding places for anyone — or anything — that might be trying to avoid detection. He worked his way into an open area of what would eventually be a car park, finally spotting what looked like a figure, crumpled and still, on the floor — except that something about it looked distinctly off. An alien using unknown technology? That would account for the strange energy reading. He warily moved closer, observing what appeared to be legs and a torso, but he had learned never to assume anything. He looked around, but other than the unmoving figure on the ground, he saw and heard nothing out of the ordinary. He squatted by the body, finally daring to turn on his flashlight, and his stomach lurched. Even after his decades of war and death and alien oddities, the sight of a decapitated body had the power to make him ill.
The head had rolled a few feet away, its dark brown eyes still open, staring at him accusingly. He stood, moving his circle of light in a search pattern until he spotted something else unexpected a few feet away. He knelt, inspecting it more closely and felt Gwen come up behind him.
“I told you to stay back.”
“No you didn’t,” she answered stubbornly. “You said to let you go in first. I did. What is that?” she asked in surprise, kneeling beside him and turning her own light on the long, shiny object.
“Looks like a sword,” Jack noted, nudging it carefully with his flashlight, “but you never can tell.”
Owen knelt by the body, inspecting it curiously. “Bloody hell,” he muttered. “Clean cut, though,” he noted, playing his light on the stump of the neck, then examining a number of bloody slashes in the body’s clothes. “Someone — or something, did a number on the guy.”
Gwen stared at the mutilated body in macabre fascination. “Uh,” she finally hiccupped an uneven breath and tore her eyes away, playing her light around the area. “Well, it seems whatever did this didn’t stick around to… oh, shit.”
Jack looked where her light was shining and froze, his eyes narrowing as inspected what her light had revealed in a deep shadow of a nearby pillar. “Interesting,” he observed softly. It was a man standing — or not standing exactly, since he also appeared to be dead, but pinned in a standing position up against the pillar by a point of rebar stuck straight through his chest. Most interesting, however, was that a second sword lay on the ground by his right hand. Jack moved closer. The first body had had numerous slash marks on it, clear evidence of a fierce battle. But this guy was uninjured except for the rebar stuck through him like an insect on a pin.
Owen opened the gap of the dead man’s coat, examining the blood-soaked sweater where it appeared the iron spear had run straight through his heart. “Well, that’ll certainly kill a bloke,” he observed. “Here, help me get ‘im off,” Owen instructed, moving up under the dead man’s arm and lifting. Jack grabbed the other arm, and together they pulled the body off the rebar and let it down onto the ground.
Jack searched the second corpse, finding a large caliber handgun in one pocket and a switchblade in another, in addition to the formidable broadsword that lay nearby. “Looks like he was a paranoid bastard, but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of alien artifacts.” He finally found a wallet and opened it. “Adam Pierson,” he read from a license. “Here’s a card, but it just gives a London post office box. Tosh, see what you can…”
The corpse coughed and gasped, his eyes snapping open.
“What the fuck?” Owen whispered and knelt, quickly ripping open the bloodied sweater front. “He’s alive! Gwen, get my medical kit from the car!”
“Wait!” Jack ordered.
“Wait?” Owen snarled. “If I don’t stop the bleeding, he’ll be gone in seconds… I need…”
“I said wait! Look!”
Jack held open the torn fabric, and they watched the gaping, bloody wound disappear in a miniature shower of tiny blue sparks, leaving behind smooth, unblemished flesh. All of them were stunned into momentary silence as Jack met the equally surprised, fully conscious stare of a youngish man with a sharp-edged face and impressive nose.
Could it be? Surely not. The hand should have warned him if the Tardis had arrived. But in Jack’s strange world, coincidences took on a whole new universe of meaning.
The man blinked, examining Jack with narrow-eyed intensity. “Jack Harkness?” the man asked, cocking his head. “What the hell?”
“Doctor?” Jack whispered, leaning close. “My God, did you regenerate to a new body? Was that what that energy reading was?”
“Uh, regenerate?” the former corpse asked, looking confused, then he gazed down at his still-bloody chest. “Oh, that. This isn’t my blood,” he rushed to explain, grabbing at his sweater and wrapping it closed. “I was just passing by and heard something in here, like someone was calling for help, and…”
“Bullshit,” Owen inserted. “You were dead!” Owen looked suspiciously at Jack. “You know this guy?”
The two men had spoken simultaneously, and they shared a long look. “I thought you were someone else,” Pierson rushed to explain. “You look like someone I met a long time ago but you couldn’t possibly… I was still feeling a little confused, after all. Whoever knocked me out…”
“But…” Now Jack truly was confused. “If you’re not the Doctor…”
“I don’t know what the hell you people are talking about. I was just passing by, and…”
Jack’s fist hit the man square on the jaw, slamming his head onto the concrete. “Owen, sedate him!”
“Jack, what the fuck are you…”
“I said sedate him, now!”
Despite the expert blow, which should have at least dazed the former corpse, the strange man somehow managed to twist away and was on his feet and running so fast Jack barely had time to react, then it was a foot race through the dark, crowded, debris-ridden space. The man was fast, dodging around and over piles of equipment and supplies like a trained hurdler.
“Ianto!” Jack yelled into his comm unit as he tried to follow. “Subject headed your way. Stop him!” He didn’t have breath for any more words as he leapt over a pile of lumber, running pell-mell towards the gate where they had come in, his coat flapping behind him like wings. Gwen and Owen were behind him, making a terrible racket as they tried to follow. Then he heard a shout, turned a corner around a stack of sheetrock and skidded to a stop. Ianto was standing over the now-unconscious, unknown alien — one who inexplicably knew Jack’s name. Ianto was holding his bloodied flashlight like a club, and looked stricken at what he had done.
“He… he practically ran into me. I think I may have killed him!”
Owen and Gwen were gasping for breath as they reached the scene, and Owen knelt, feeling for a pulse. “No, he’s not dead, but you may have fractured his skull.”
“Sedate him,” Jack instructed.
Owen looked up at him with a frown. “Not with a skull fracture, Jack. It could kill him.”
“The guy just instantly healed from having a metal rod stuck through his chest, and you’re worried he’s going to die from a sedative?” Jack asked incredulously. “I said sedate him, and restrain him as well. Let’s get this guy back to Torchwood.”
Methos was having a Very Bad Day. Iilya Sedorsky, an asshole he had known over six hundred years ago somewhere in Eastern Europe, had found him at a Cardiff conference on recent archeological finds in the British Isles. When it became clear Sedorsky would not go away, the two men found a deserted spot for a confrontation. The guy had never been a particularly good swordsman, but he had evidently thought Methos even less of one — an impression Methos had gone out of his way to project all those centuries ago — until Methos had Iilya locked up in a Romanian prison for the rape and murder of several young women — so the man’s long-standing ire was somewhat understandable.
The fight was over quickly, but the Quickening had thrown him forcibly backwards, skewering him on a pole of rebar jutting out from a concrete column. And then… Methos made himself lie as still as possible, feigning unconsciousness as he sorted events out in a mind somewhat befuddled by a Quickening, death and injury and drugs.
He had seen someone out of his past. It had seemed so real, but it was just not possible. The man’s personal energy felt odd, but he was certainly not an Immortal. Maybe a descendant? Captain Jack Harkness had been a quirky, appealing, quite memorable character he had met sometime in… when was that? The first half of the 20th Century? In London? Yeah, that was it — during the Blitz, as he recalled.
He carefully cracked open one eye, examining his surroundings through the blurry curtain of his eyelashes. He was in a medical theatre. Lots of bright lights and sterile surfaces. Damn. He really hated modern medicine with its machines and purported scientific certainty that left no room for the unexplained reanimation of the dead.
“He’s human,” a man stated unequivocally in a working-class English accent.
They had doubted he was human?
“No extra heart sounds?” That sounded just like Jack — the one in his memory. “This isn’t making any sense.”
“You expect something around here to make sense?” a woman’s voice asked in an amused, slightly irritated tone.
“I wasn’t able to find much info on your friend here,” a new, lighter woman’s voice joined the conversation. “There’s an Adam Pierson who teaches ancient cultures and languages at Oxford. Published a few articles, but his personal history isn’t in any database that I could find. A 1971 birth record in Wales, but family all deceased and no record of property ownership. A few credit cards with moderate balances, nothing that sticks out. Mostly purchases of personal items and books. Bought a round-trip train ticket to Cardiff from London three days ago, but the rest is pretty unrevealing.”
“That’s odd,” Jack observed as Methos carefully watched him through almost-closed eyes. “These days everyone’s history is in some electronic database somewhere.” The handsome man pressed his lips together in thought. “Well, my dear Mr. Pierson,” he said softly, leaning over Methos’ naked body, covered only in a light sheet after they had apparently stripped him of his clothes and done all manner of tests. “You are a pretty mystery, aren’t you?”
Methos’ memory came back in a rush of heat — the odd sense of energy, the long, lean body that smelled slightly spicy and foreign, the sensuous, talented lips… He gave up on trying to feign unconsciousness and opened his eyes, looking directly into the intriguing gaze of chronically mischievous, sea-blue eyes. Damn. He could swear it was the exact same face, the same expression, the same undercurrent of desire that fizzed through his veins — just as it had almost a century before.
Methos struggled to sustain a useful train of thought. “What… where the hell am I?” he asked, trying to project a careful mix of outrage, fear and confusion.
“Tell me, Mr. Pierson,” Jack asked. “What earthly use do you have for such a very, large, sharp… sword, when you’ve got a whole set of more modern weapons in your pockets?” He picked up the weapon in question from a nearby steel table, holding it in front of him and letting the glare of the harsh fluorescent light play across its surface — a surface still stained with Sedorsky’s blood. “Do you like playing with swords?” he asked, hitching one hip onto the examination table. The question seemed potent with meaning as Methos’ memory provided an explicit and vivid image of Jack’s sweaty, naked body under him, heaving and gasping and….
“I… I’m an historian,” Methos determinedly interrupted his own errant thoughts. “I carry them as examples. There’s a conference in town. You can check. Now, either charge me or let me go,” he added, molding his features into stubborn determination — a MacLeod moment to be sure. Oh, shit! That thought reminded him that he was supposed to meet Mac in London in only a few hours, and if he didn’t show, who knew what havoc the man would wreck? Given the circumstances, he was uncertain whether that was a good or a bad thing. One more reason to figure out what the hell was going on, and quickly.
“Sorry,” Jack responded, not sounding sorry at all. “But we aren’t required to charge you, so the sooner you tell us exactly who — or what — you are, the sooner we can decide what to do with you. So,” he continued, and this time the amusement in his eyes faded to a cold, calculating assessment, “what’s your real name, and what do you have against,” he checked an ID card in his hand, “Boris Vildofsky?”
Methos went very still. If this group was some extra-legal group, this whole business could get very ugly, indeed. Maybe MacLeod coming to the rescue — usually something he tried to avoid — might not be such a bad idea after all.
“Who the hell are you people, anyway?” Methos asked defensively, not really expecting any kind of informative answer, but he was surprised when Jack stood, carefully putting the sword on a table before he turned, meeting Methos’ eyes easily.
“We are called the Torchwood Institute, and we have absolute authority over anyone or anything that we declare jurisdiction over, which is anything and everything we choose, but mostly alien life forms, artifacts, events…” Jack shrugged, and stepped closer. “And you, my friend, have given us more than ample cause to investigate you. A fight with swords? A beheading? Bizarre energy readings?” Jack leaned his hands on the exam table, looking deeply into Methos’ eyes. “And that coming back from the dead trick? Impressive.”
Torchwood. That sure as hell rang a bell.
“Ah,” Jack smiled. “You’ve heard of us. Why am I not surprised?”
“I’m a researcher,” Methos snarled. “Of course I’ve heard of you. But I don’t even know a Boris… whoever you said and whatever you think happened tonight, it has absolutely nothing to do with aliens, for God’s sake!”
“Then exactly what does it have to do with?” Jack asked softly, leaning in.
Methos just looked at him in silence. Jack blinked and took a long, slow breath, then backed off.
“Give him his clothes and put him in an unmonitored cell.”
“But…” the dark-haired young woman who had been standing as silent witness started, then she went silent as Jack tossed her a hard look and left the room.
Their version of an “unmonitored cell” was pretty grim, Methos decided. More cave than prison cell, it had minimal comforts of sleeping platform and toilet and little else, but he’d been in worse — a lot worse. He sat quietly on the bench in a meditation position, keeping his mind clear of extraneous thoughts. He was sure events had now been set into motion that would lead almost inevitably to violence — potentially to someone’s death, but fretting about what MacLeod or the Watchers might be doing was pointless. It was a shame. He remembered really liking Jack Harkness, and if this version was similar, he would hate to see him die. He had absolutely no explanation for the truly remarkable resemblance to someone he had known briefly so long ago. Only time would reveal if there was any connection, and he had always had lots and lots of time.
There was a mechanical buzz, and the heavy, transparent sheeting that covered what constituted a door slid back and Jack sauntered in. The heavy military-style coat was off and he was dressed dapperly in an open-collared shirt, pleat-front pants with suspenders instead of a belt. A little old fashioned perhaps, but quite appealing, overall. The door slid closed and he leaned up against the wall, his hands in his pockets, and just gazed at him for a minute, then cleared his throat.
“You’re a patient man,” Jack observed. “You’ve hardly moved since we put you in here. No pacing, no demanding your freedom, just sitting quietly, waiting.” He changed his stance a little and crossed his arms. “That’s the kind of patience rarely seen in such a young man, and all the evidence suggests to me that, despite appearances, you, Adam Pierson, are not a young man.” He pushed away from the wall and approached the bench where Methos was sitting in a lotus position and reached out, touching Methos’ cheek in an almost tender gesture. “No,” he said softly. “Not young at all.”
Methos looked up and met those remarkable, discerning eyes. “Appearances can be deceiving.” He cocked his head with a small smile. “And you? Are you what you appear to be, Jack?”
Jack’s brow furrowed. “And that’s another thing. How the hell do you know my name?”
Methos shrugged. “A long time ago I met someone named Jack who looked and acted very, very much like you. A relative, perhaps?”
Jack turned suddenly and paced away, then back again. “All right, let’s cut the crap, Pierson. You healed from a mortal injury, you talk about meeting me a long time ago, what exactly are you? Tests show you as human, but tests have been known to be wrong.”
Methos took a breath to speak, but Jack stopped him with a raised hand.
“And in my travels, I’ve learned that no one is exactly what they seem, so whatever weird or shocking secret you think you’ve got, trust me, I’ve heard weirder and more shocking. But,” he leaned a little closer, “I truly need to know… are you…” he stopped and swallowed. “Are you immortal?”
Methos contemplated the plethora of answers he could offer to that question — denial, derision, ignorance, confusion, outrage — but considering his circumstances, and that sometimes the truth could be the most effective offence — especially since the other choices would present their own set of problems — he simply answered, “Yes.”
Jack’s sharp cheekbones flushed pink, then faded and he staggered back a little, bumped against the wall and sank down, finally sitting on the floor with his hands around his knees. “Fuck,” he whispered. “And all this time I thought I was …,” his head snapped up. “Are there more of you. More like you?”
Methos nodded slowly. “And what that means, Jack, is that if you continue to hold me, there will be people coming after you, coming after this institute, it’s staff, it’s very existence. People of enormous power. Violent, determined warriors with unlimited resources and hundreds of years of wisdom and experience, who cannot be killed.” He unfolded his legs and stood over the obviously shaken man. “It is in your own interest and the interest of your organization to free me, and to forget you ever knew me.”
“But,” Jack surged to his feet. “I’m immortal, too! I’m one of you! I need to meet them, to talk to them, to understand…” but his protest faded at the look on Methos’ face.
“No,” Methos stated firmly. “I’m sorry, Jack. I don’t know what you are, but you’re not one of us. And trust me, you don’t want to be one of us… to know us.”
“But how do you know?” Jack insisted in irritation. “I can’t die! I’ve been burned and… and shot, and radiated and beaten and had my life force sucked up by a demon straight from the pits of hell, and I’m still alive! Damn it, I truly thought I was the only one. Not even the Doctor is like me.”
“The Doctor?” Methos asked.
Jack shook his head in frustration. “It’s a long story, but how do you know we’re not the same?”
“Because we can sense each other, Jack. I know when another of my kind is around. We can feel the special energy that keeps us alive, and I don’t feel that from you. I think I feel… something… some odd difference, but it’s not the same, and for that you should be very, very glad.”
“Glad!? Damn it, why? For the first time I’ve found someone who knows what this is like, who realizes that dying and living again isn’t some kind of… of gift!” Jack spun around and slammed his fist into the wall and Methos could hear the snap of bones and the tear of flesh as he left a bloody streak behind. Jack cringed, grabbing his wrist and Methos circled around him, taking the injured hand and watching as misaligned bones moved and torn flesh mended. In seconds there was no trace of anything wrong other than a smear of blood.
“Well, well, well,” Methos said softly in surprise. “Look at that.”
“I didn’t want this!” Jack hissed.
“Trust me, Jack,” Methos said softly. “If being Immortal has taught me anything it’s that it is a gift, but it is also a great curse, one that you have to learn to live with, or you will die, in here.” He touched Jack’s chest.
Jack shook his head and staggered back to sit on the bench protruding from the wall. “I’m not sure that hasn’t already happened.”
“No, I don’t think so,” Methos chuckled, drawing a dark look. “You sound like a friend of mine. Yes, another Immortal,” he said in response to Jack’s questioning look. “He’s a man with a great, great heart, but it is because he cares so much that the helplessness of watching the people he loves die, and sometimes being part of that death, overwhelms him. But then,” Methos shrugged, “he’s a Scot, so it may be just because he’s a brooder by nature.”
“A Scot? You mean, he’s… like… born here?”
“In Scotland, over 400 years ago,” Methos answered with a shrug.
“Shit!” Jack rose. “That’s older than I am! I thought only the Doctor was…” Jack stopped himself, looking closely at Methos. “How old are you, exactly?”
“Who the hell is this Doctor you keep talking about? You think he’s Immortal, too? Sounds like someone I’d like to meet.”
“And I bet he’d like to meet you.” Jack’s face softened as he smiled. “Yes, I bet he would. I suppose calculating his age is a bit tricky given the whole time travel thing, but I think he’s around 900 or so. You know, you remind me of him. Maybe it’s the nose,” his voice trailed off.
“What about my nose?” Methos asked, feigning offence while he absorbed some of Jack’s more bizarre statements, the strange events of the past… hours? Days? He wasn’t sure… started to come into clearer focus. “Jack, did you say “time travel thing”?”
“Yeah,” Jack answered, seeming a little distracted. “It’s,” he waved a hand, “complicated.”
“Well, well, well,” Methos sighed. “Something new under the sun. And that would explain why I remember you, but you don’t remember me.”
“I assume you can travel forward as well as back in time?”
Jack frowned. “I don’t usually talk about…”
“Oh, come on, Jack, that’s the only explanation for my knowing you. My past is in a version of your future that doesn’t include a memory of our meeting now.”
Jack shook his head, looking up at him with a smile. “Does being old make you smarter, or am I just being particularly stupid?”
“Let’s just say that in the short run, experience teaches you that events and behavior are depressingly predictable, but in the long run — in the very long run — it teaches you to appreciate the nuances that constitute the new, the different, the unexpected. And you, my young friend, are very unexpected.”
“As are you.” Jack stood and moved close. “When I saw you come back to life, I felt like a door opened up, a whole world of possibilities I thought had been locked away the first time I revived. I want… I need to know I’m not alone, that I don’t have to… exist… through time. Alone.”
“What about your Doctor friend?” Adam asked in the same near-whisper. They were so close he could feel the man’s body heat.
Jack shook his head. “The Doctor’s… different. He’s the only one left of his kind and he feels responsible for that. He’s tortured by it and nothing I do or say has ever even touched that wall of isolation.” Jack looked deeply into Methos’ eyes. “I don’t want to be like that. I want,” Jack grasped his upper arms, moved closer and suddenly warm, supple lips moved over his and he was pushed against the wall, a hard thigh pressed between his legs. Methos’ arms rose in response and moved around Jack’s back, feeling the play of skin and muscle under the soft, fine cloth of his shirt.
“Jack,” Methos finally pulled away, “our lives are not like that. We are a violent people, and if some of my… compatriots… knew you were an Immortal, even a different kind of Immortal, it could be very dangerous for you and everyone around you.”
Jack chuckled. “How could it be dangerous? I can’t kill you, you can’t kill me.” He moved closer, their foreheads almost touching, but Methos put a hand on Jack’s chest, keeping at least a small distance.
“Yes, Jack. We heal and we don’t age, but… we can die, and legend has it that the last one of us left alive will have unlimited power, so…” he shrugged, knowing it sounded too bizarre to be true. “We cut off each other’s heads.”
Jack’s eyes narrowed and he gave Methos a puzzled, dubious look.
“The swords?” Methos prompted. “The headless body?”
“You go around cutting each other’s heads off? That’s… that’s just weird!” Jack turned and paced away, running his fingers through his hair in confusion. “Who would want to live forever as the last one of their own kind?”
“Didn’t you hear the part about unlimited power? Trust me, Immortality doesn’t automatically confer rational thinking or even moderate intelligence. And no matter how pointless and destructive I think it is, there are still those who would take my head unless I defend myself.”
Jack half-turned, looking back at Methos over his shoulder, his eyes dancing with mischief. “So you think one of your guys would cut my head off, just to see if they got any power from it?” he asked, then went on with a tight smile. “The sad thing is that I’m not sure even that would kill me. Can you see it? Spending eternity as a disembodied head?” The smile faded and small shiver ran across his shoulders.
“Jack.” Methos moved closer. “I tell you this so you understand that I’m of no value to you. That we’re not the same. That you really need let me go,” he advised softly. “Soon. Very soon, you’re going to have more trouble than you can…”
“Jack!” A woman’s voice barked over the intercom just as a blaring alarm sounded in the hallway. “Intruder alert! There’s someone in the access tunnel!”
“How the hell did anyone get in there?” Jack shouted.
“Shit! That tears it!” Methos grumbled and grabbed Jack’s arm as he tried to leave. “This is what I was warning you about! Somebody could get killed!”
“Jack,” a calmer male voice now spoke. “The Hub has been breached and I can’t reach Tosh.”
Jack looked curiously at Methos. “You think these are… Immortals, come to get you? I thought you people only killed each other.”
“Not all of us, and this particular one is known for daring rescues.”
Jack smiled. “Sounds like my kinda guy. This wouldn’t be your brooding Scot would it?” Methos shot him an irritated look. “Follow me.” He activated something on a wrist device and the door whooshed open.
“Ianto, is anyone else unaccounted for besides Tosh?” Jack asked as they trotted down a tunnel-like hallway.
“No, Jack,” the calm voice replied. “I’ve locked the main room down. Owen is out… doing whatever Owen does, and Gwen and I are in the medical center.”
They slipped into a small chamber that apparently served as an elevator because Methos immediately felt it start to rise. It moved up smoothly for long enough to make Methos nervous about just how far underground they had been, but eventually it opened up to a another cave-like chamber that contained a sleeping area as well as a desk outfitted with a plethora of electronic equipment that made Methos’ eyes widen in wonder.
“A bed, Jack?” he asked, automatically surveying the personal space as he moved towards the amazing display of technology. “I thought you didn’t sleep?”
“How did you know that?” Jack snapped, slipping into a chair and tapping a few screens with expert precision.
“I’ve met you before, remember?” Methos replied, letting a hand rest on Jack’s shoulder as he worked.
“Oh, yeah,” Jack noted, pausing and looking up at him with a smile. “Well, sleep isn’t the only thing a bed is useful for, you know.”
“True. I remember that part, too,” Methos replied. “It’s a shame you don’t.”
The two men shared a long look that in other circumstances might have led to something very interesting but the moment was interrupted by a new male voice. “Jack! Where the fuck are you?” the voice called, and the face of the doctor who had been ‘treating’ him in the medical center appeared on one of the screens.
Jack sighed, turned back to the display screens and tapped one. “I’m in my quarters, Owen. Where have you been?”
“What the hell is he doing there?” Owen demanded, looking over Jack’s shoulder straight at Methos. “Is he holding you hostage? Now look here, Pierson, or whatever your name is, you have no idea what you’ve gotten yourself…”
“No, I’m not a hostage, Owen. Ianto, what did the monitors pick up?”
“Feeding it to you now.” A young man turned from another screen to the left of Owen, pushing a few buttons as he did, and two of the screens in front of Jack flared to life. It showed a young Asian woman, jerking up at a disturbance behind her and pushing away from her desk. Then a tall, dark figure grabbed her from behind, covered her nose and mouth and backed away. For a moment only a part of her body could be seen struggling, then her arms fell slack and she was eased gently to the ground. Methos breathed a sigh of relief, and squeezed Jack’s shoulder.
“He’s not out to kill anyone unless he feels he has to,” Methos said. “He probably suspects Torchwood is out to do experiments on us — on me — though, so I need to talk to him.”
“I take it this is your heroic friend?” Jack said, staring intently at the image he switched to a ‘live’ monitor where they could barely see a dark figure flowing through the room from shadow to shadow like black liquid mercury. “I thought our defenses couldn’t be breached. He’s good. Very good. ”
“You have no idea,” Methos agreed softly, and Jack turned to look at him.
“Here,” Jack finally said. “Touch this screen here and he can hear you.”
Methos touched the screen. “MacLeod, it’s me. I’m okay. I want you to leave here. I’m not in danger.”
The dark, hooded figure paused, his head cocked as he listened. “Me… Adam?” he called.
“Yes, Mac. Please, clear out of here before someone gets hurt.”
Mac stepped out of the shadows and pulled back the hood of the black sweatshirt he was wearing, his eyes scanning the room for cameras.
Jack leaned toward the screen, looking closely. “So that’s the 400-year-old Scottish warrior hero. Nice,” he observed softly, then gave a low whistle. “I wanna meet this guy.” He pushed himself out of his chair and headed to the elevator entrance.
“Wait!” Methos called.
“What?” Mac called, thinking Methos had spoken to him, then the expression on the screen hardened into an all-too-familiar stubborn mask. “I need to see you. To see for myself that you’re okay. I’m not leaving til…”
“All right, all right! Just give me a minute!” Methos threw up his hands. “Fuck!” he whispered to himself as he dashed after Jack. “I’m not sure I can handle two of you at the same time!”
Jack waited briefly for Pierson, who looked seriously annoyed and a little concerned, before triggering the elevator’s trip to the Hub level. There were a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, and Jack’s curiosity got the better of him. “So, you and this guy — Mac, you called him? You are… good friends?”
Pierson pinned him with a “none-of-your-business” look that could have melted steel. The man looked harmless initially, but there was personality and power there that rivaled the Doctor’s. Ever since he had witnessed Pierson’s revival, the breathtaking hope that there were others like him had seized him like a fever, so warnings of dire consequences seemed ridiculous in the face of that wonderful possibility.
The door slid open and Jack stepped forward, but his shoulder was grabbed and pulled back, “Let me…,” Pierson started, but a very long, very sharp blade appeared out of nowhere, and was now hovering at Jack’s throat.
“It’s okay, Mac!” Pierson snapped. “Put that thing away.”
“Step out of the elevator, both of you,” a smooth baritone ordered, and the blade moved slightly away, clearing just enough space for Jack to step into the Hub with Pierson behind him. Jack’s heart took a few extra beats, as it always did when he saw something — someone — he found really appealing. It was his nature. Always had been, and this guy absolutely took his breath away. Pierson was attractive and mysterious and powerful in subtle ways. But, the man in front of him was a personification of pure male physical power and beauty that eclipsed anyone he had ever known. The expression, however, was set and hard, dark eyes studying him as predator studies prey just before striking. Even knowing he couldn’t be killed didn’t stop the frisson of fear — or was that lust? — from crawling up Jack’s spine.
“You okay?” the man asked, addressing Pierson but never taking his eyes off Jack.
“Yes, MacLeod, I’m okay,” Pierson sighed, sounding tired and exasperated. “I really didn’t need rescuing.”
“I know there are others in this base,” MacLeod snapped at Jack, “Other defenses, but I have many, many friends waiting to hear assurances from me that no harm has come to him, so tell everyone to stand down!”
Jack nodded and swallowed to wet his throat. “Ianto, disable defenses and stand down. Code blue,” he called. “In case you wondered,” he smiled at MacLeod. “Code blue means that the order is valid and to be obeyed.”
The klaxon that had been sounding for the past several minutes finally stopped and the sudden silence was palpable. Jack stuck out his hand. “Jack Harkness, and you must be the Scot that Adam here keeps talking about. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”
The long, curved, deadly sword didn’t waver, but MacLeod’s focus turned to Pierson standing behind Jack’s shoulder. Some silent communication must have occurred because he finally straightened out of his warrior’s stance and lowered the blade. His intense gaze moved over Jack, examining him from head to foot. Finally a small smile twitched at the corners of full, incongruously sweet lips and a hard, callused hand reached out and grasped his in an unyielding grip. “Captain Harkness, I’m afraid kidnapping my friends is not a particularly auspicious introduction.” He didn’t let go and Jack decided that a test of hand strength was probably one he would lose rather spectacularly.
“Mac, all this is totally unnec…”
“If you mean what you say,” MacLeod continued mildly to Jack, “let us both leave here right now,” Mac tightened his grip. “I have no desire to hurt anyone but I will if I have to.”
Jack nodded carefully. “Tell you what. There’s a pub just down the block that has quiet booths where we can talk, and I could use a drink.”
“Fuck all!” a hard voice came over the intercom. “I don’t bloody think so! This arsehole broke into the Hub! He hurt Tosh! You can’t let him go.”
MacLeod had yet to let go of Jack’s hand, nor had their mutual stare wavered one iota. “Tosh is fine, Owen,” Jack reassured since he could see her wiggling on the floor, now conscious but neatly bound, hands to feet. “And you’ll just have to trust me on this one.”
The noise that came over the intercom was an interesting combination of growl, curse and strangling noise, then the comm went suddenly dead. Evidently Owen was taking his frustrations out on the equipment again.
“Can I have my hand back?” Jack asked, not breaking the mutual gaze. When MacLeod released him at last, the tension in the rest of Jack’s body relaxed incrementally. Anyone who could single-handedly infiltrate their security was a force to be reckoned with, Immortality or not. Besides, the man was simply gorgeous and that was reason enough to make Jack tingle in all kinds of places.
“Well, MacLeod,” Pierson quipped, “You knew the way in, you must know the way out.” He gestured vaguely towards what looked like an exit.
“My entrance was… unconventional,” MacLeod replied, exchanging an amused glance with his friend. “Perhaps Captain Harkness would prefer something a little less hard on the clothes.” He tugged at a bloody tear on his black, long-sleeve shirt. “The laser defenses in the ventilation system can be tricky.” Jack also noted a long blood-soaked rip in MacLeod’s upper thigh. Those lasers were set to kill, yet there was no sign of any present injury or weakness. The further evidence that here was another Immortal thrilled him to the core, and he felt a grin spread across his face.
“Let’s try this,” he offered, knowing he was showing off, but not really caring. He led them to the emergency exit platform, directing the other two men as to where to stand, then activated the lift, enjoying their surprised expressions as they rose swiftly, dramatically coming to a halt at the edge of the enormous fountain outside the building.
“Clever,” Pierson commented wryly. “Although popping up out of the ground isn’t the most inconspicuous way to move around.”
“There’s a localized perception shield that prevents anyone from noticing us,” Jack explained.
MacLeod’s brow furrowed at that. “A localized perception field? Sounds like technobabble from a bad sci-fi movie.”
“Hey,” Jack smiled, “I could strip naked and stand here for an hour, and no one would give me a second look.”
“Really? No one?” Pierson commented with a twist of his mouth. “Ever try it?”
“Not yet,” Jack retorted. “I’m waiting for a warm summer day.”
“Are you two finished?” MacLeod asked, stepping to the ledge and looking back. “I don’t know about you, but I’m thirsty and I have a number of questions for both of you.”
“Uh, oh,” Pierson spoke sotto voce.
“What?” Jack asked in a similar soft tone.
“MacLeod’s in one of his I Want Answers moods,” he replied. “He can be a bit overbearing.”
“He can overbear me anytime,” Jack quipped back, his eyes following the taut line of the skin-hugging dark pants Mac was wearing as he walked in front of them towards the corner.
“Hands off, Harkness,” Pierson returned.
Jack turned to see if Pierson was joking, and encountered a charmingly smiling mouth, but eyes telling a different story. “Oh, really?” Jack asked. “I should’ve guessed, the way you talk about him. How many decades does it take for a straight guy like that to find… other interests?”
“He’s a little slow,” Pierson replied after a pause. “Over 100 years.”
“And were you…?”
“None of your business, Harkness,” Pierson snapped.
The three men took a back booth at the out-of-the-way pub a few blocks from the Hub. The place was small, with a permanent infusion of the scent of old beer and tobacco, the high-backed wooden booths worn smooth and dark from long, long usage. But since it was after the lunch hour and before the post-work crowd would arrive, there were only a few other patrons watching a football game on a television near the entrance.
“Well?” MacLeod finally spoke only after Jack and Pierson had been served stout and he had gotten a double shot of the best scotch the pub had. “How the hell did you get into this mess?” he asked Pierson.
Pierson gave MacLeod an annoyed look and took a long swallow of beer. “I had an unfortunate run in with an old friend, and Jack and his friends came across the aftermath,” he answered.
“What kind of aftermath?” MacLeod asked, fixing Pierson with a hard look.
“One where I — how shall I say this — had an unexpected return to consciousness.”
Mac said nothing in reply to that, his face utterly neutral. He turned to Jack, waiting expectantly without comment, without a twitch of discomfort or agitation.
Immortals, Jack thought with another jolt of excitement. These men were hundreds of years old. Older than me. Maybe older than the Doctor. They gave nothing away, they had the strength of mind and character to simply… be. I could be like them. I am like them.
“My team investigates any strange energy readings in the city, and there was one hell of an energy surge,” Jack offered. “Pierson here was skewered on a piece of rebar. Dead. But… not really dead.”
“Ah,” MacLeod said, again giving nothing away.
“MacLeod… may I call you Mac?” Jack asked, and got a curt nod. “Mac, you need to understand. First, our mission is to find and learn about alien artifacts, and this had all the signs of something outside our experience. Second.” Jack took a deep breath. “Second, when I realized that your friend here,” he reached out and daringly put his hand over Pierson’s forearm. “That he literally came back from death, I had to take him in. I… I’ve been looking for so long… hoping to find… you see, I’m Immortal, too.”
MacLeod blinked, then looked over to Pierson, then back at Jack. “Excuse me? I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”
“It’s true, Mac,” Pierson finally spoke. “He heals. He dies. He comes back.”
Mac pushed himself back from the table. “But, he’s not…” he looked to Pierson for help.
“No,” Pierson said. “He’s not one of us, but he is Immortal.”
“Well, that does explain a few things,” Mac said softly, leaning forward again picking up his drink and sipping from it thoughtfully.
“What things?” Jack asked.
“Let’s just say I have… resources,” he replied carefully. “You have been noticed over the years, but because you didn’t act like… like one of us,” he nodded at Pierson, “and the sightings were extremely sporadic, no one knew exactly what to make of you. But when you took Adam, my friend, you opened a real Pandora’s Box.” He looked over at Pierson with a smile that implied a great deal — not the least being a patient, affectionate tolerance of someone who regularly complicated his life.
Jack took a swallow of his beer, suddenly feeling even more alone than he had before he met these two old souls. They were different. They might be Immortal, but they had a history, a shared sense of who they were and how to… to be, whereas he hadn’t a clue why he was the way he was, what his purpose was, what the whole point of living on and on…
A hand touched his arm and he looked up into Pierson’s complex eyes. “I know you want to be part of us, to connect with others who understand what outliving everyone you care about is like, but Jack,” he said softly, leaning in, “You must not! It will get you killed, or worse. It will endanger everyone around you.”
Jack met the eyes of these two remarkable beings and his throat closed. “I can’t…” he began, then had to swallow to continue. “I sometimes think I can’t go on like this, the not dying. To have no choice but to go on and on, I just… and to have no idea why or what the point is…”
“The point is to live,” Pierson stated firmly, squeezing his arm. “Survival itself is a testament to everyone you’ve ever loved, to every enemy you ever killed, every sin you ever committed, every good deed you ever did. People like us are the tabula rasa, the rosetta stone of time itself, Jack. I don’t know what made you the way you are, but the very fact that you exist, that it is possible to travel backward and forward in time, is a totally new thing in the universe to me.” Pierson was smiling at him with real excitement. “There are times when I think I’ve seen everything there is to see, known everyone there is to know, done everything there is to do, then I meet people like MacLeod here, who is no end of precocious annoyance, but at least he’s entertaining.” MacLeod snorted and took a large gulp of his drink. “And I meet you — or met you almost some 75 years ago — and I realize that no matter how long I live there will always be something new, eventually, whether it’s a unique personality or a scientific discovery or… aliens and time travel.”
Jack just stared into his drink, speculating again on just how old Pierson truly was. “But you have him to share things with,” he said dourly, indicating MacLeod with a gesture. “I’m alone, and now you tell me to ignore the existence of the only people I’ve found who I can really talk to.”
“I’m sorry,” MacLeod said softly. “If you envy us our small moments of companionship, I envy you the ability to live without perpetually fighting for your life against your own people. There’s truly nothing more lonely than being forced to kill one of your own. For us it’s an unending war that seems to have no real purpose other than death itself.”
“And yet you two found each other,” Jack noted.
“Yes, against all odds and our own natures,” MacLeod replied, then looked up at Pierson. The two Immortals shared an intimate, almost sad look. “And someday we may end up crossing swords in a fight to the death, a fate that looms large if we take any other Immortal as a friend or a lover,” MacLeod continued, and shifted his gaze to Jack. “Is that a lesser burden than the one you bear?”
“I don’t know,” Jack whispered.
“One thing I do know,” Pierson said. “Now that you are known to Immortals…”
“Adam!” MacLeod began. “I wouldn’t tell…”
“Damn it, MacLeod, you know there are leaks. If I can do it, so can others.”
“Leaks? Leaks in what?” Jack asked.
Pierson sighed. “There are records kept of Immortal lives, and while they are allegedly totally secure, there is absolutely no guarantee your name might not get out. It’s been known to happen. And when it does, Jack, you wouldn’t have a chance. One of us will come after you and take your head. Maybe soon, maybe a thousand years from now, but eventually it would happen. The only thing you can do is wipe your Institution’s records of clean of our encounter, we will do everything we can to get your name out of any Immortal records, and never contact one of us again. Ever.”
Jack had to chuckle at that, which drew two intense, curious looks. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small bottle. “You know,” he said softly, rolling the bottle in his fingers, “I don’t know how many times I’ve given the ‘forget I exist’ speech. It seemed straightforward, easy, and then I slip them some Retcon and voila, they never knew me, never saw anything out of the ordinary. Now you’re asking me to erase the evidence of the only people I’ve met who are like me.”
“Were you planning on giving us one of those?” MacLeod asked, pointing to the bottle.
Jack shrugged. “It depended on how the conversation went, but it certainly was… is… a possibility.”
Pierson shook his head. “Immortal memory is eidetic, Jack. Your little pill might work in the short run, but its effects would only be temporary.”
“You don’t know that for certain,” Jack replied defensively.
“True,” Pierson countered, “but I would hate the notion of not remembering you.”
Their eyes met and Jack felt his throat tighten. With a deep breath he took out his comm unit and activated it. “Tosh? I want you to purge our records of any evidence of that encounter we had with Mr. Pierson, or the intruder this afternoon…. Yes, I’m serious…. It’s policy if I say it’s policy, Tosh…. No, I’m not under duress… Why is not relevant, just do it…. Because I said so… That’s my girl. One more thing, Tosh. I want everything wiped clean, including the team’s memories. Institute the 409 protocol. You each get a dose as soon as you’ve wiped the records. No, I’m not kidding, and at least everyone will get a nice afternoon nap. Good. And… thanks, Tosh.” He disconnected the device and turned to his two companions, looking back and forth between them.
“Can I at least give you a call now and then, maybe a hundred years or so from now, just to check in?” he asked hopefully.
“I think Fate is a better arbiter of whether we meet again, Captain Harkness,” MacLeod offered gently. He looked back and forth between Pierson and Jack, smiled a little and pushed out of the booth. “To that end, I strongly suggest you not kidnap any more of my friends,” he grinned and stuck out his hand. “I am glad to have met you, Captain.”
“And I you,” Jack put out his hand, and this time the handshake was warm and firm before MacLeod shrugged on his coat and headed out the door. Jack could see him standing sentinel outside, waiting for his friend.
“He seems like a good man,” Jack said.
“He’s the best of our kind,” Pierson replied.
“What about you?”
“In my day, I’ve been the worst of our kind.”
“In your day?” Jack asked, leaning closer. “And when was that, Adam Pierson? Come on, what harm is there in my knowing how old you are?”
“What harm? Well, it seems that Immortals — our kind of Immortals — fight to the death to receive the loser’s Quickening. That’s the weird energy reading you guys got when you tracked me down. The greater the accumulation of Quickening power, the greater the chance of victory, until one of us becomes all-powerful, unbeatable. The other way to gain power is simply by surviving, so the longer you live, the more of a target you are.”
Jack smiled. “Just by admitting you have a concern about anyone knowing your age, I have to assume you have lived a very long time, indeed.”
Pierson just sat for a moment, looking at him, then nodded. “A very, very long time,” he admitted softly. “So long that, for a couple of millennia, mortal life ceased to have meaning for me. You know, Jack, being evil is very easy when you think there are no consequences, when death is commonplace, when everything and everyone you care about slips out of your hands. That’s why people who care, people like MacLeod — and people like you — are too important to lose. We just want to keep you and the people you care about safe, Jack. Away from the ugliness of our world.”
“You can’t protect me, Adam. Not from your world. Not from my own.”
“I can try,” Pierson replied, gently laying his hand over Jack’s wrist. The touch was warm and tender. Pierson leaned close. “I’ll keep an eye on you, Jack Harkness. Somewhere, sometime, I’ll be watching, and maybe someday when our Immortal battles are not so threatening, I’ll make contact again.”
Jack touched the ancient man’s young face, tracing a finger along a sharp jawline. “Did we have a good time, the first time we met?” he asked.
“Oh, yes,” Pierson whispered. “We ran into each other at the Old Pelican Pub after the all-clear had sounded from a German bombing raid. I felt this strange sense of energy from you and introduced myself. We got quite drunk and went back to my place. A good time was had by one and all.” He leaned in and pushed Jack back into the corner and kissed him thoroughly and Jack wallowed in the feel, the taste, the smell, the power of someone so like himself, yet who had lived for so long, his very existence was alien and mysterious. His heart thudded in his ears, his breath came in short gasps and he leaned in for more as his groin heated and stirred, but Adam pulled away, licking swollen, wet lips.
“You have a hotel room?” Jack asked hopefully, but Adam shook his head.
“MacLeod is waiting.” Then Pierson shrugged a little sheepishly. “As I said, he’s the best of us. I’m a lucky man. I don’t know of anyone else who would go to such lengths to save this skinny old Immortal arse.”
Disappointment and a deep sense of loss settled over him and Jack let out a long breath, settling back again into the booth’s darkest corner. “He may be a great hero, and have the nicest ass this side of the Galifreyan galaxy, but I think he’s the one who’s the lucky man,” Jack insisted.
Adam’s lips twisted into a delightful, sardonic smile, and he leaned over one last time and kissed Jack hard, then pulled away, grabbed his coat and was gone.
Jack sat for a moment, then finished the last of his beer. It actually didn’t seem as painful as he thought it would. No, he hadn’t found the answer to his sense of isolation, his confusion as to his purpose, his direction, why or even what he was, but there was a comfort in knowing there were others out there. Decent people who didn’t die as everyone else died. People who knew him, and who he might actually run into again someday. Yes, it was a …. He shook his head, feeling a little woozy, and his thoughts seemed to slow to a crawl. He was so sleepy, but he never got sleepy! He knew he should be alarmed, but the sense of it slipped away and he settled gratefully back into the corner, the world fading away to nothing.
“You suppose he’ll ever remember?” Methos asked wistfully.
“I don’t know. Do you want him to?” MacLeod inquired curiously.
Methos turned, walking away from the pub without answering. MacLeod quickly caught up to him, keeping pace with his long strides, examining the small bottle in his hand as they walked. “You know, we should have these Retcon pills analyzed and replicated. They could come in very handy for any unwanted witnesses to, what did you call it — ‘An unexpected return to consciousness’?”
Methos glanced over and easily plucked the bottle from MacLeod’s hands. “A dangerous thing,” he observed. “Messing with people’s memories,” he sighed and shook his head. “Memories are what define us, what we learn from.” He tucked the bottle into his coat pocket. “I’ll keep these, I think.”
Mac sighed, shaking his head with a smile. “You’re lucky I’m feeling magnanimous.” He stretched his shoulders, relaxing fully at last. “You know, I went in to that place thinking I was going to find you drugged or eviscerated, instead I find you flirting with a fledgling Immortal of a totally new kind that you say you met before, yet he doesn’t remember it. You’ll have to explain how all that works.”
They walked in companionable silence for a moment. “You know you didn’t need to rescue me,” Methos finally said softly. “If they had been as malevolent as you suspected, they could have taken you, as well, and you’re not expendable.”
MacLeod stopped, grabbing Methos’ arm to hold him in place. “And you are?”
“I’d have survived, MacLeod,” Methos answered evenly. “I always survive.”
“I couldn’t let them hurt you, Methos, not as long as I have the power to prevent it. That’s my purpose, protecting the people I care about. I think that’s what Jack Harkness’ dilemma is. He wants to find meaning and purpose, love and companionship in a life that has no end, and you and I know just how hard that is.”
“Indeed, Highlander,” Methos said softly, returning MacLeod’s grasp with a firm one of his own. “Jack talked about luck tonight. I told him I was very lucky to have you.”
Mac stepped close, invading Methos’ personal space. The streetlights flickered on and the perpetually damp air caught the beams, splitting them off into rays of brightness. “Well, assuming you have a hotel room in town, you might get even luckier.”
“Well, Jack did also note that you have a very fine ass.”
“A man of discerning taste. Perhaps I will look him up after all,” Mac quipped as he stepped into the street to hail a cab, then had to move quickly to avoid a playful cuff from his friend. “In a few hundred years,” he added as a taxi pulled up. “In the meantime, I’ve got better things to do.” He opened the door to let Methos precede him, and slipped in after with an anticipatory smile on his face.
“Hey, buddy, you wanna sleep, getta room!”
Jack came to with a start, utterly confused as to time and place. “What?” he asked, still feeling groggy.
“You fell asleep. Now, order or get outta here,” the pub owner growled. “I got the after work rush comin’ in.”
Jack shook his head to clear it, trying to order his thoughts, a little alarmed that he had dozed off. He reached into his pocket to pay the tab and his hand closed on a piece of paper. He pulled it out and looked at it curiously. It was one of the pub’s paper napkins. There was writing scrawled on it in a hand he didn’t recognize. “Old Pelican Pub, London, October 12, 1941.”
“Well, that makes no sense whatsoever,” he muttered to himself as he reached deeper into his coat pocket for his wallet. “Wait, where’s the…?” The vial was gone. He always kept several Retcon doses with him, but…
Well, that would explain his falling asleep. Someone had dosed him with his own Retcon! He activated his com unit. “Tosh, I want a report on everything that’s happened in the last 24 hours,” he ordered as he headed out the door. “What do you mean you don’t know?!”
- finis -
Crossover with Torchwood. Duncan/Methos/Jack implied.
My thanks to amand_r for her patience with my slowness and her most excellent beta assistance, and my gratitude to unovis_lj for sparking the whole idea of a time paradox between these two universes. It didnít play out exactly like we discussed, but thatís the way the timeline crumbles, as a certain Time Lord might say.
Written for the hlh_shortcuts 2007 secret santa challenge.