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Title: Draught of Truth
Rating: G
Date: 7/23/03
Fandom: Harry Potter
Spoilers: Book 5 (OotP)
Stats: 915 words, 5498 characters
Summary: A missing scene from Book Five. Umbridge makes a demand of Hogwarts' resident Potions Master in the aftermath of Dumbledore's departure. Snape responds in a typically Slytherin manner.

*****

Severus Snape, Potions Master of Hogwarts, fumed incredulously at the false saccharine smile of the woman before him, which was to say his death-glare was set somewhere between Longbottom-Blowing-Up-The-Class-Again and Working-With-That-Murderous-Mutt-Who-Should-Be-In-Azkaban.

'Professor' Umbridge, the latest candidate of the short-lived DADA position at Hogwarts - and Severus prayed to Merlin that she would soon follow the way of her predecessors, painfully if at all possible, for the woman was even more intolerable than Lockhart - merely giggled at the dour Potions Master in that nerve-grating high-pitched voice of hers.

"Now, now, Professor Snape," cooed the woman who Severus had privately labeled as 'The Ministry Lapdog', "you know the Potter boy and his attention-seeking and mendacious tendencies. Now that Dumbledore's gone, we can't have the staff continuing to tolerate his lies as the former Headmaster did. A dose of veritaserum would put a stop to his fibs and make him veracious."

Severus sneered again at her specious cajoling. Did the woman truly believe that the staff believed the sugarcoated poison that she had been spouting all year? Severus would be willing to wager that not even the most ingenuous and naïve Gryffindor trusted the witch… well, one of the duller Hufflepuffs maybe. But it seemed that the woman actually thought herself wonderfully ingenious in her propaganda-mongering and subtle-as-an-elephant machinations (not to mention how his more precocious Slytherins have been using her agenda for their own purposes). Sometimes Severus wondered if he'd chosen correctly to defect from the Dark Lord if it meant saving people like Fudge and his witless cronies.

"You should know better than I, Professor Umbridge, that veritaserum is a highly controlled substance by the Ministry. Even licensed Potion Masters are proscribed from brewing it without the proper paperwork." Severus had raised his usual biting tone a few notches, with a small hint of disdain thrown in - not that the woman would notice, of course, only Albus and Minerva ever noticed the nuances of his repertoire of verbal expressions. "Not to mention which," he continued sharply, "it's illegal to use the potion on a child, and Mr. Potter has not yet turned sixteen."

He didn't mention that he had a small vial of veritaserum already brewed and bottled illegally anyways. But that was for the Order of the Phoenix, and he'd never stoop to actually using it on a student, no matter what he had said to threaten a certain Boy-Who-Lived.

Umbridge cleared her throat in that annoying way of hers. "Oh you won't need to worry about that, Professor," she informed him. "Minister Fudge hasn't left Hogwarts yet. I'm sure he can clear up any difficulties regarding Ministry permits." She paused for another irritating giggle, her face taking on a look of fanatic zeal. "As for the using it on Mr. Potter… The Minister thinks that we can be a bit iconoclastic in this particular case - and perhaps even permanently. Times are changing, Professor, and I'm afraid that some traditions and Old Rules simply must go in the face of Progress."

Her eyes turned back to him, no longer glazed with fervor. Severus easily caught and recognized the glint behind that blankly fatuous mask - he'd seen it before many times from his fellow Slytherins, from the Dark Lord, and oddly enough, also from Dumbledore. It was a watchful expectancy, a trap that lay in waiting, a test to see where his loyalties lay. Severus had been a Slytherin and a spy for too long to be caught by such a pathetically amateur snare. He knew that his position as Head of House to the children of the politically powerful, as well as his cultivated disdain of Harry Potter, kept him in a far safer position than most of the other staff members.

"It will take me a full day to brew the veritaserum," he informed the woman coldly. Then he rose from his seat behind his desk, his dignity and cloak wrapped tightly around him, and swept from his office before the infernal woman could say anything else to darken his day. Out of the corner of his eyes, he noted a flash of striated grey markings disappearing around the end of the corridor, and idly wondered if McGonagall had been planning to drop by and informing him of what exactly happened in the Headmaster's office earlier that day.

The path that led to Severus Snape's private chambers and workroom was as tortuous as the serpents that Hogwarts founder Salazar Slytherin was so fond of. Rounding another curving corridor, Severus reflected on the conversation he had just left behind.

Normally, he would be the first to agree to any form of punishment or control applied to Harry Potter, Dumbledore's "Golden Boy" and the refractory Gryffindor who thought rules were for everyone else but himself. Unfortunately, the boy knew far too much to be allowed to take a truth potion in front of the Umbridge woman. And now, if the rumors were true, Albus could no longer serve as a buffer - ineffective though he had been, Severus thought darkly - between the Ministry's demands and the school.

Slamming and warding the door behind him, Severus took himself into his workroom, gathering up various Potions equipment and ingredients. A few changes to the process here and there under his expert hands, and he would have the world's most ineffective Truth Potion ready in the morning.

Now if only the boy wouldn't be stupid enough to say the wrong things on his own.

Vocab Words:

proscribe

fatuous

specious

ingenuous*

iconoclastic

refractory

mendacious

veracious

striated

tortuous

Title: Waiting
Rating: G
Date: 7/25/03
Fandom: Harry Potter
Spoilers: CoS (movie continuity)
Stats: 409 words, 2418 characters
Summary: Ron's thoughts while waiting for Harry to return from the Chamber of Secrets.

*****

For the third time in forever, Ron cursed Harry's intransigence in insisting that he stay behind to baby-sit the amnesiac Gilderoy Lockhart at the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. Just like the two previous times, though, he immediately felt guilty for reproaching his friend. He decided to curse Salazar Slytherin instead for whatever recondite motives the Founder had in building a secret chamber under Hogwarts and keeping a bloody basilisk of all things there.

And now whoever had awakened the basilisk has Ginny, his baby sister. Meanwhile, one of his best friends lay petrified in the infirmary and the other one was off to confront whoever's behind everything. Ron had to remind himself that Harry Potter hadn't earned the approbation of the wizarding world for nothing - and last year had proved that Harry's knack at defying dark wizards worked just as well now as when he was a baby. Or so Ron hoped. Desperately.

He still wished that he didn't have to stay behind with Lockhart though. Although the man was easier to bear since his amnesia replaced his typical bombastic boasting with an out-of-character diffidence, and stopped his displays of not-so-charming facial plasticity. But his garrulous chattering hadn't changed, and it was setting Ron's teeth on edge. His hands twitched on the wands he was holding as he resisted casting a Silence Charm on the man.

Not that he should be casting anything at all, if possible. Using someone else's wand to do magic can be a tricky thing, as Lockhart's current condition showed. His own wand had been broken since the beginning of the school year, and thus was even less trustworthy.

Ron sighed. A broken wand was normally seen as a sign of opprobrium among wizards, usually associated with expulsion or indictment. It was a sign of his family's indigence that his parents couldn't afford to replace it until next year. The same thing applied to just about everything he owned, really. Ron and his siblings had lived with the bitterness of want for too long to still be wasting energy cursing Fate for it.

And speaking of siblings… a loud yell brought Ron whirling around, his eyes scanning through the gloom, past the uneven stony ground littered with a diffuse layer of rocks to lock onto the most welcome sight of his life.

"Ginny! Harry!" Laughter mingled with relief bubbled up within him. Things were going to come out all right, he decided.

Vocab Words:

intransigence

difuse (adj)

bombastic

approbation

garrulous

recondite

indigence

plasticity

opprobrium

diffidence

Title: A One Way Trip to Middle-earth
Rating: PG
Date: 7/26/03
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Spoilers: Two Towers (movie continuity)
Stats: 898 words, 5138 characters
Summary: Mary Sue bashing. A fangirl without a clue finds a way to get herself into Middle-earth. What happens then is not what she expects.

*****

Susan Maris, a.k.a. Sylviana Merielwen Silvermere in her own mind, checked for the third time that her bedroom door was locked, before falling onto her bed and gloating over the small gilded box clutched tightly in her hands.

Earlier that day, Susan's shopping trip at the annual town fair had been abruptly thrown into abeyance when she had wandered up to a dingy corner stand under the gloomy shadow of several trees. The old woman there - or old man, she couldn't tell - claimed to have something that would bring her to Middle-earth - rather, "Lord of the Rings", since Susan had drawn a blank on the words "Middle-earth". It had been horribly expensive, much more than she could have afforded. But that didn't stop her from appropriating it while the shopkeeper wasn't looking. The guy was probably a crackpot anyways, and the box was still pretty, with pictures from the movies printed all over it.

Susan opened the box and dumped the contents out. There was a small crystal ball and a scrap of parchment with instructions scratched onto it. She spared it a quick perusal, barely registering the parts of the instructions that told her to look into the crystal and picture herself into Middle-earth.

Susan snatched up the crystal ball impatiently, her mind's eye flashing furiously over her options. She would be a princess! Yes, the Princess of the Secret City of Silvermere, who was sent out to Elrond's Council on behalf of her people. Or she could be a princess in hiding - a warrior princess who can dissemble at being a ranger! She would save Boromir from certain death and slay the perfidious Wormtongue before he can tell Saruman about Rohan's defenses. And then, when she reveals herself to the Fellowship, they would all fall over themselves to propitiate her every whim. Arwen and Eowyn would stand aside and show deference to her when she bags Aragorn when he becomes king! Or… no, she'll go for that blond elf guy instead. Aragorn's too dirty for most of the movies anyway. Yes, that's it. She'll go for the elf by going directly into his forest as a princess. Maybe they could already be engaged!

Grinning excitedly, Susan stared into the crystal, trying to picture a forest in her mind. What was the name of it again? Milkwood? Lorien? Fangorn? As her mind struggled to recall details beyond the shallow "hotness" of individual characters, a white flash erupted from within the heart of the crystal, blinding her for a moment.

As the flash faded, Susan leapt to her feet in glee as she took in her surroundings. She was in a forest! Like one of the ones in the movies! She was in Lord of the Rings! And looking down at herself, she could see that she was dressed like a princess. There was even a silver circlet on her head! Confidently, Susan - no, Sylviana Merielwen Silvermere now - plunged noisily into the forest, looking for her Elven beau-to-be.

Half an hour later, 'Sylviana' wasn't so confident anymore. In fact, she was tired, sore, and terrified. That last part was probably due to the fact that she was currently held midair by a large branchy hand, as two gleaming eyes peered out of a tall tree trunk and considered her.

"HOOM!" boomed the Ent as it finally broke the silence. "What have we here? HOOM! A little orc spy? HOOM!"

'Sylviana' squeaked and tried to gainsay the Ent. "No! No! I'm… I'm Princess Sylviana Merielwen Silvermere of the Secret City of Silvermere, the Secret City of the fairy people!"

"HOOM!", considered the Ent in a flat, phlegmatic tone, "Silvermere. HOOM! Fairy people. HOOM! Never heard of such things before. HOOM!"

But before they could argue further, a loud booming call rang through every nook and cranny of the forest. It was the call of Treebeard, a call of outrage and a call to foment war. Fangorn forest was marching on Isengard.

"HOOM!" said the Ent that had grabbed 'Sylviana'. "We will see what you are, little one, after Isengard falls." Then, ignoring her shrieks of terror, it placed her up on its topmost branches and joined the Last March of the Ents.

A few hours later, the aforementioned Ent was singing a soft song of lament in the aftermath of the defeat of White Tower. It was an elegy for the creature it had brought, whose pretty dress had caught fire when the orcs threw their fiery projectiles, and then had been swept away by the water released from the River Isen. But death was a part of war, and the Ent would simply remember and move on, as was the way of Ents.


Meanwhile, back in the real world, an old man gathered up his merchandise into his tattered trailer. As the door shut securely behind him, the air around the man began to shimmer. His form blurred, and revealed behind the glamour was a tall and inhumanly handsome being, with long dark hair and leaf-like ears. The only thing that marred his perfection was his eyes, which gleamed with the spark of insanity and malevolence.

Reaching into a large, intricately crafted box, the being took out a large roll of parchment. Then Maglor Feänorion, exile eternal from Valinor, crossed out "Sylviana Merielwen Silvermere" from his long list of names… and smiled.

Vocab Words:

gainsay

phlegmatic

appropriate (v)

perfidious

elegy

deference

dissemble

abeyance

foment

propritiate

Title: Healing Hands
Rating: G
Date: 7/27/03
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Spoilers: none
Stats: 449 words, 2563 characters
Summary: A conversation between a young Estel and his foster father about the arts of healing.

*****

Elrond Half-elven, the Lord of Imladris, looked up from his writing as a soft rapping sounded at the door to his private study. A moment later, the door cracked open and a small dark head peeked into the room, blinking owlishly at the Elf Lord.

"Ah, Estel." Elrond carefully put down his quill, allowing a warm smile to belie the usual solemnity of his bearing. "Come in, child." He reflected absently that he had missed the presence of youth in the Valley, ever since his own sons had repudiated the safety of Imladris to ride forth in search of vengeance.

The six-year-old human flashed his foster father an answering smile, and slipped into the room, climbing up onto his usual chair. Taking the patient look on Elrond's face to be a question, he launched directly into the matter that had brought him there. "What is wrong with naneth? She's tired all the time and has taken to drinking a bitter draught every night."

Elrond pondered for a moment how much to tell the surprisingly observant child, before deciding on "Your mother is ill, Estel. Hers is an illness endemic to the race of Man."

"Like mortality?" the child asked brightly, and Elrond was taken aback for a moment by the artless innocence that accompanied the statement. Like most of the Firstborn, he was inured to the Elven way of speaking tortuously around such issues.

"Tis nothing so dire in your mother's case," he told Estel. "The healing draughts I make for her will ameliorate her health considerably."

Estel's eyes grew round. Everyone - even those who visited from outside of Imladris - spoke of Master Elrond as an unsurpassed Healer in all of Arda. "Can I learn to be a Healer too?" he asked excitedly, blurting out the first thing that came to mind.

Elrond contemplated the unspoken request for mentorship with a careful consideration that one did not usually grant children. He was not sure if this was but a whimsical and transient fancy. But still, the patience and compassion that Estel may learn from the healing arts might well serve to buttress the other skills he would need to learn of kingship.

"Perhaps when you are older, little one," Elrond finally qualified. "Now then. I do believe it is time for your lessons with Glorfindel. Let us not keep him waiting." He stretched a hand out inviting to the child as he stood up and moved around his desk.

Estel gave a complaisant nod as he scrambled off the chair and slipped his small hand into that of his foster father. All thoughts of illness and healing were pushed away as man and elf departed the room.

Vocab Words:

belie

inured

artless

qualified

repudiate

endemic

complaisant

buttress

whimsical

ameliorate

Title: Hormones and Potions
Rating: PG
Date: 7/28/03
Fandom: Harry Potter
Spoilers: none
Stats: 509 words, 3041 characters
Summary: AU 5th Year. Harry decides that the only thing worse than being in Potions class is being a teenager in Potions class. Warning - hint of preslash HP/SS

*****

Harry absentmindedly divided up the inchoate base mixture for the day's lesson into commensurate amounts between his and Ron's cauldrons. Ron had insisted that he do most of the pouring and mixing, not wanting to get any spills onto the new robes that Fred and George had bought him over the summer with the money Harry had given them last year from the Triwizard Tournament. Penury had kept Ron in old hand-me-downs for most of his life, and he was almost paranoid when it came to his new robes.

Inwards, though, Harry wasn't paying all that much attention to his potion. He was berating himself for the umpteenth time for his unnatural eagerness for Potions class. Not even Hermione or the Slytherins had arrived with the alacrity that he had for the last few months, and that was worrying indeed. More worrying was his newfound tendency to follow the tall looming form of his Potions professor all through class upon the edge of his peripheral vision, his heart inexplicably jumping with every snap of the long black cloak.

It was true that four years of being targeted by the world's most powerful Dark wizard and his lackeys had left Harry rather disingenuous despite his youth when it came to the conflict between Dark and Light. He had a grudging respect for Professor Snape's own peculiar brand of probity in his service to the Light as a spy in Voldemort's inner ranks. But that didn't mean the mutual antagonism between them was any lessened, especially in class. And it certainly didn't mean that he actually liked the sharp-tongued and House-biased git. Of course not.

As if his thoughts had called it forth, the familiar scathing drawl suddenly roused Harry's attention abruptly out of his contemplation. "Mister Potter!" The low rolling hiss seemed to reverberate through Harry's bones and set his blood tingling. He could feel Snape's black-robed figure looming menacingly behind him. "I see that you are incapable of following the simple directions that a first year could understand. And you, Mr. Weasley, are no better! The amount of base in your cauldrons will dilute the potion to less than half the desired efficacy, as your textbooks clearly indicate…"

Harry tuned out the diatribe after the first sentence, letting that striking voice wash over him. That was getting to be a worrisome habit as well - he usually ended up muttering a few inane excuses and apologies after the voice finally stopped, and then Snape would narrow his eyes suspiciously at his uncharacteristically tractable nemesis, before storming off in a flutter of ebony.

This time, though, Snape's harangue was suddenly interrupted by the exigency of Neville's cauldron exploding for the third time that month. As Harry stumbled out into the corridor with the rest of his class to escape the expanding cloud of acrid purple smoke, his emotions still in a welter from the abrupt departure of Snape's sheer presence, he decided aggrievedly that perhaps the only thing worse in being the famous 'Boy-Who-Lived' was in being a confused teenager.

Vocab Words:

commensurate (adj)

penury

disingenuous

inchoate

welter

efficacy

exigency

tractable

probity

alacrity

Title: Up a Mountain
Rating: G
Date: 7/29/03
Fandom: Highlander
Spoilers: none
Stats: 426 words, 2517 characters
Summary: Duncan takes his friend out hiking. Methos is not amused.

*****

"…and I don't see why I have to be the one to get dragged up this bloody crag just because you can't find a normal physical outlet for your monthly rites of caveman-like physical anachronisms! What's next? You'll insist that I accompany you on another one of your harebrained adventures to rescue some maiden in distress - oh wait, that's already happened -"

Duncan MacLeod winced again at the vituperative exposition coming from behind him. The sarcastic castigation had been running for almost an hour now, starting out with a few laconic statements about his intelligence and his parentage punctuated by austere glares burning into the back of his head, before plunging down into a full-blown harangue in a mix of Gaelic, English, and Greek.

He supposed that he hadn't helped his friend's irascible temper with his inattentively perfunctory grunts and nods in response to the ranting. Methos never did like being ignored while he was on a verbal roll. Duncan stopped walking as he came to the remains of a desiccated streambed, and finally turned around to face the music.

"Methos." He patiently waited until the 5000-year-old Immortal paused for breath. "Come on, Methos. It's only hiking. I'm sure you've climbed plenty of mountains in your life."

"They invented the bloody airplane so I wouldn't have to anymore!" Methos snapped, "but gods forbid that you ever join the twentieth century -"

"It's good for you. You need a break from being buried under piles of archaic tomes." Duncan sighed, wincing again at how lame his explanation sounded. Then he stubbornly inhaled the rarefied mountain air in demonstration.

"We're Immortal, you idiot child!" There was an uncharacteristic sneer on Methos' face. "We don't bloody need to engage in this barbaric example of masochism in order to maintain a salubrious physical state!"

"Methos!" There was almost a pleading note in Duncan's voice as he held up his hands to halt his friend's tirade. "Look, can we just finish this in peace? I'm sure you can get back at me for it later." He resigned himself to spending the rest of the month, and maybe the year, in paranoia.

"Oh yes." The cold smile on Methos' face sent a shiver down Duncan's spine. "That has been a given from the beginning, Highlander." With that, Methos strode past Duncan on his long legs. The silence that came from him now was even more eerie than the previous verbal outpouring.

Duncan wondered if he needed to get a new identity made up. His current one might not last the month.

Vocab Words:

rarefied

perfunctory

salubrious

vituperative

castigation

austere

anachronism

irascible

dessicate

laconic

Title: Twilight's Morning
Rating: G
Date: 7/30/03
Fandom: Lord of the Rings
Spoilers: none
Stats: 326 words, 1879 characters
Summary: The King of Gondor has passed away. A decision is made in the aftermath.

*****

Legolas Thranduilion slowly picked his way along the levee that ran along the River Anduin, making a conscious effort to keep his face turned away from the black-clad turrets and half-occluded gates of Minas Tirith. Faintly, he could still hear the doleful dirges echoing from the city. Gondor did not stint for the funeral of its King.

Though he had arrived weeks ago from the Elven colony in South Ithilien, anticipating the last remaining days of his dear friend's life, Legolas could no longer bear to stay in the city. It was not for his usual reasons of avoiding various officious courtiers who thought of the Eldar as little more than connoisseurs of their pompous ideas of art, but rather for the dangerous emotions of all those around him.

Grief was a dangerous thing to one of the Firstborn. Already Arwen had quietly left the city; her beloved husband's death had obviated her own will to live. Eldarion, the heir to the throne and now the new King of Gondor, had put forth a mask of strength for his people, but his abstemious eating habits and long silences also gave hints to his own despair.

The loud calling of seagulls snapped the wandering wood-elf out of his daze. For once the cries of the gulls did not bring a painful ambivalence to Legolas' heart. There was no more conflict in the choices that lay before him. Aragorn was dead; Gimli had been given leave to accompany him to Valinor; there was nothing to keep him in Arda-Marred. Already, a white ship was under construction in Ithilien.

Legolas quickened his stride as he turned toward where his entourage awaited him. They would return to Ithilien. There, the Elves would weave their own eulogy for Elfstone and Evenstar. They would bring those paeans and laments with them to the Blessed Lands, where they will endure past the dissolution of all mortal kingdoms and the fading of mortal memory.

Vocab Words:

stint (v)

occlude

levee

obviate

eulogy

ambivalence

connoisseur

abstemious

officious

dissolution

Title: A Human Strength
Rating: PG
Date: 7/31/03
Fandom: Yu Yu Hakusho
Spoilers: none
Stats: 304 words, 1679 characters
Summary: Shuuichi Minamino reflects on the changes that human life has wrought in him, and on the decision that he has made with said changes.

*****

The bell rings, and the hallways of the school are immediately filled with students. I walk quietly among them, meeting each solicitous well wishing with perfunctory politeness. My façade of calmness and control is the result of centuries of development both in the Makai and the Ningenkai, and now it serves to hide the desultory turmoil within my mind.

Once, before my 'rebirth' into this human body, I was a youko and a denizen of the Makai. I specialized in chicanery and outright theft, and many who I once knew would aver that I had no heart; no loyalties. Treachery and calculated manipulation are the struts on which that society was built, a lesson I learned well when I was but a kit.

Yet…

Yet what is this soul-wrenching pain that claws at me as I look upon the frail form of my ningen mother? Is this hope that I feel each time the doctors tell me some new or esoteric treatment can temporarily attenuate her suffering? Is this grief that I feel every time I see her pain and her fatigue enervate her already weakened body?

It should be called weakness, by every convention and precedent in the Makai. It calls for me to be prodigal in power for her sake, discarding my plans for my own future. It calls for me to be precipitate in action, throwing centuries of caution to the winds.

It should be called weakness… but I have found it to be strength. With it I have defied the Reikai and its Lord mere days ago. With it I shall make the ultimate sacrifice today upon the Mirror of Utterdark for a mortal woman who shall never know the truth of her darling child.

I'm sorry, Hiei. 'Shuuichi Minamino' has found a strength that Youko Kurama will never match.

*****

Footnotes:
Makai - Demon world
Ningenkai - Human world; ningen - human
Reikai - Spirit World
Youko/Kitsune - fox spirit
Vocab Words:

solicitous

precipitate (adj)

strut (n)

aver

enervate

attenuate

chicanery

desultory

esoteric

prodigal(adj)

Title: Conversation Over Beer
Rating: G
Date: 8/1/03
Fandom: Highlander
Spoilers: Methos, Finale I & II
Stats: 468 words, 2731 characters
Summary: Joe Dawson tries to feel out the 'young' Watcher who is possibly not so young.

*****

Joe Dawson eyed the seemingly young and innocuous man lounging on the barstool across from him, searching for a felicitous moment to launch his interro - that is, questions. The aforementioned young man seemed to be ignorant of the piercing gaze, looking every inch the cogent picture of a carefree grad student as he assiduously finished off his seventh beer that night.

Finally, looking around one last time to make sure that no one else was in the now-closed bar, Joe decided to dive in.

"So. You're Methos."

The 'young' man smiled at him; it wasn't quite the shy, innocent smile that he'd seen the few times he'd met 'Adam Pierson'.

"Hmm… I guess it's too late to prevaricate. So I guess I am." Methos studied his almost-empty beer bottle as if it held all the secrets of the universe. Maybe it did.

"You're not going to deny it?" Somehow, that took Joe by surprise. He'd expected a lot more paranoia and obfuscation from the real Methos if he ever met the man. He was still only half sure that 'Adam Pierson' was who MacLeod said he was.

"You're not an idiot, Joe," replied Methos affably. "I leave willful intransigence in the face of futility to stolid Highlanders better suited to it."

"That 'willful intransigence' saved your life," Joe pointed out, a bit miffed at the aspersions being cast upon his Immortal. "As I recall, Mac said something about you offering him your head?"

Rather than reacting to the implied accusation of weakness, Methos simply flashed an amused smile. Secrets sparkled in those hazel eyes.

"Call it a moment of insanity in the face of childish truculence." Methos shrugged. "Why should only the youngsters have fun in their ostentatious melodrama?"

Joe blinked. That was certainly not what he expected. The man was confusing him with his non-replies. "So… you do still consider yourself in the running for the Prize?"

Methos snorted. "I'd rather play no part at all in the coda of Immortality, if it exists at all."

"You don't believe in the Game?" Joe asked incredulously.

Methos shrugged. "My beliefs hardly matter. The Game will still go on as long as others believe, and as it does, I much prefer the less strenuous role of playing the malingerer, and occasionally to delineate the story of Immortality within a certain group of historians." A wicked smirk now appeared on the man's face.

"Hence the Watchers…" Joe whispered, mind whirling in awe and confusion. Did Methos - if this was indeed Methos - just imply that he'd ensconced himself in the Watchers more than once? How far and for how long had their security been compromised?

"Hence the Watchers," came the calm agreement. The smirk remained on that youthful face - no longer wicked, but also no longer innocent.

Vocab Words:

intransigence

malingerer

delineate

ostentatious

stolid

coda

truculence

assiduous

cogent

felicitous