Disclaimer: Highlander don't belong to me...whimper.
~~~THE CURTAIN FALLS~~~
My dream was past; it had no further change.
It was of a strange order, that the doom
Of these two creatures should thus be traced out
Almost like a reality - the one
To end in madness - both in misery.
Methos hunched his shoulders against the biting, Berlin cold and blinked to clear the snowflakes that had settled on his eyelashes. It was New Year's Eve and the city's revellers were already clustering under the glowing street lamps, looking more like deer herding together for safety, rather than friends celebrating the turn of the year.
He had heard the rumours, of course, and had listened, detached, to the changing rhetoric in the drawing rooms of London and Paris, but he hadn't known it for a certainty until he'd touched down in Berlin that morning. War was coming, and it wasn't going to be the polite crossing of swords Europe had become accustomed to over the last few centuries. No, it was going to be hate filled and bloody, the like of which no one had seen since the reformation.
He was already regretting entering the city but knew it was too late for second thoughts. He dug his hand into his coat pocket and let his fingertips brush the crumpled telegram for reassurance.
In Berlin. Join me. B.
No address, no details, not even his full name, but Byron had crooked his finger and Methos had come running. Not much had changed in the past century.
It was easy enough to track him down once he knew which city Byron was in; he had never been one for getting lost in a crowd. Which was why Methos now found himself standing in front of a small, narrow doorway that had recently become famous for all the wrong reasons.
A small, discreet sign announced club's name. Ten years ago, the sign would have been brightly lit, heralding the vivid, glittering show within; but this was 1933 - at least, for a few more hours - and Berlin's bright lights had dimmed somewhat, especially if you were a cabaret artist. Methos sighed, wishing he were somewhere else, anywhere else, but the thought of seeing Byron again dragged him across the threshold.
The stairwell was dim and smoky, it's narrow steps made even narrower by the loiterers on the steps; a tipsy couple snatching a heated kiss before stepping out into the cold, a small troupe of youngsters sharing a pipe that smelled suspiciously of opium, Methos politely averted his gaze as he descended into the club.
He hadn't made it to the bottom step before the heavy, insistent pressure of another immortal's presence threaded through his senses. His contact had been right; Byron was here.
A soft, lazy voice began to sing as Methos lingered at the edge of the tables and he glanced at the stage. She was young, barely into her twenties, and her long, dark hair spilled over her shoulders and down her back. Her dress was a simple, long royal blue sheath of satin that fell to her ankles, and her voice lent the raunchy lyrics a gentleness they didn't deserve. A waiter arrived and offered to take his coat, but he politely declined, not wanting to relinquish the heavy comfort of his blade.
Suddenly, he felt uneasy. He had never felt the need to be armed in Byron's presence before. What had changed?
"Doc, over here!"
Byron's hair was cut shorter than Methos remembered it, but it was still longer than the current fashion. He had always been vain about his hair. An extravagantly embroidered waistcoat peeped from beneath the folds of his elegantly tailored frock coat and Methos shook his head in amusement at the picture he cut as he bounded around the tables, his cane barely an impediment. "Resplendent as usual, I see," he said.
Byron grinned widely. "Is there any other way to be?" he asked. "Come, let me introduce you to our companions for the evening." Bemused, Methos let Byron lead him to a small, corner table, and wasn't surprised to see the two young women awaiting them.
"Doc, this is Ella," Byron drawled as he draped an arm over the shoulders of a pale dark eyed girl. "Ella is a dancer, aren't you, my dear?" Ella's giggled what Methos could only assume was an assent as Byron turned his attention his other companion. "And this Greta," he murmured as he played with a lock of her platinum blonde hair. "Greta is Ella's friend, and is a bit shy, but I'm sure we'll all get along together famously." A nervous smile quivered on Greta's face at the sound of her name, and Methos began to suspect that neither of Byron's new 'friends' spoke a word of English.
"Charmed, I'm sure," he murmured as he slipped into a seat and waited. He knew this game of old. Byron was in the mood for putting on a show and he'd already prepared his stage and props. All he was waiting for was his cue.
Which was him, he supposed.
Amusement tugged at Methos's lips as he watched Byron trace his fingers along Ella shapely arm and along her collarbone. Surely he had not dragged him all the way to Berlin to watch him tumble a couple of chorus girls? Not that they didn't have their charms, of course, but he'd been expecting something a little more inventive. It had been more than a century, after all, and Byron was never one to disappoint.
The singer crooned the last few notes of her song and the quiet murmur of the audience rose to a raucous din as the spotlight on the stage dimmed. Smirking, Byron leaned forward in his seat, and nodded towards the stairway. "We've got company," he said gleefully, as he raised his hand in greeting.
Methos looked over his shoulder and noticed a figure steering himself in their direction, his smile freezing on his face as he recognised the uniform he was wearing. "Byron, what the hell are you up to?" he asked, under his breath.
"Relax, old man, just having a little fun."
The officer still had the roundness of youth on his face, his bright, blonde hair shining even in the club's murky light. A shiver passed through the room in his wake.
"Frederic, my old friend," Byron bellowed into the sudden lull in conversation. "So good of you to join us."
"Byron," the officer said softly as he came to a halt at the table. "I had not expected this place to be so….off the beaten track." His English was perfect, with a trace of a Cambridge accent.
"Wait until you see the main act!" Byron said, with a sly smile. "Trust me, you'll love it."
Methos felt his heart trip that little bit faster. He had a funny feeling he knew what the main act was, and it wasn't going to be on the stage. He watched warily as Frederic sat down and raised a hand for a waiter, who stumbled towards them hurriedly. Methos threw Byron a questioning look, but he just grinned back.
The waiter scurried off and arrived back quickly, laden with champagne and glasses. Methos watched as the waiter popped the cork and noted his trembling hands as he poured the champagne into the glasses, splashing some over the rim. Frederic didn't seem to notice as his attention had been captured by Ella's bosom, which was now pressed up against him, Methos caught a glimpse of her shadowed, unfocused eyes as they flickered briefly in his direction. Ah, so opium was the drug of choice this evening.
Eventually, Frederic tore his eyes from Ella's womanly attractions, and turned his attention to Methos. "I don't believe we've met, Herr…?"
"Adams," Methos supplied, "Doctor Adams, actually." He hadn't used that name in nearly a century, but he didn't trust Byron's ability to remember his new alias for the entirety of the night and he didn't want a slip to draw Frederic's suspicions.
A spotlight appeared once more, and a dapper bespectacled man appeared on the stage, a small smile hovering on his lips. "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Catacombs, I'm Werner Finck, your host for the evening," he said. "At least I hope so. The night is still young and who knows who it will be before the night is over. There might be change of management coming." The host's eyes rested on their table as his native Berliner accent drew out his words, his meaning only too clear. Methos sensed Frederic shift in his chair as the audience laughed uneasily.
Byron chuckled as he leaned back in his chair, drawing Greta with him, who had seemed to have gotten over her earlier reservations and now had her head draped on Byron's shoulder, her platinum curls mingling with his darker ones.
Methos tuned into the Werner's patter once more, as the comedian noisily opened up a newspaper that he'd brought onto stage with him and began to read one of the articles. It was a long, sonorous piece about the hearts of the German Republic's youth and how they were being corrupted by certain elements of society. Werner read the piece slowly, wryly interspersing it with sly little comments of his own. Nothing too direct, but he got his point across nonetheless.
Herr Finck had a very good idea of what direction his country was taking, and he was not amused.
Laughter thrilled nervously through the room, and Methos got the impression that it would have been a lot more wholehearted if it weren't for Frederic 's presence in the room. The Gestapo was a new military organisation, but it already was a name to be feared.
Methos risked a glance at Frederic and saw the anger and tension embedded in his face, as he ignored Ella's attentions and pulled out a small notepad and pen from his pocket. The pages snapped angrily as he opened it and began to write. Ella's content, passive mask seemed to falter as her eyes followed Frederic's pen.
"Ah, it seems this young gentlemen is taking notes," the host said tightly. "Am I talking too fast? Do you want me to slow down so you can follow?" This time the nervous laughter was mingled with a low murmur in the room, and Frederic looked up from his notepad, his eyes saying it all. "Ah well, perhaps not," the host said mockingly. "Perhaps a song instead?"
The band started up, a faltering cacophony as they wrestled to agree on a tune. At last, the jumbled notes settled into a recognisable harmony and the tension in the room seemed to ease.
Byron laughed throatily into Greta's hair, and Methos closed his eyes and tried to reign in his temper while Frederic stiffly returned his notepad and pen to his pocket. Luckily, Ella's sense of self-preservation seemed to have raised its head, and she handed Frederic a glass of champagne and smiled encouragingly as she lifted her own glass to her lips. Her fear wasn't noticeable as long as you didn't look too hard.
With a silent grunt, Frederic took a sip of the champagne and let Ella slip her arm back around his shoulders. Methos's eyes slid back to Byron's and sighed as he saw the mirth in his eyes. He was getting too old for this.
The stage lights brightened, and a troupe of dancers filed onto the boards, their wide smiles gleaming as they kicked their stockinged feet into the air. A giggle bubbled from Greta's lips as Byron whispered something into her ear and Methos felt his irritation rise. He transferred his attention to the audience, hoping for a distraction to ease his mood, but those who caught his eyes swiftly looked away; he was tainted by association, apparently.
The dancing troupe on the stage parted, and a spotlight fell on a figure draped over a chair. It took a moment for Methos to recognise her as the chanteuse from earlier. The simple blue grown was gone, to be replaced by a concoction of feathers and glitter which revealed more than it hid, Her hair was piled high, highlighting the half mask that now graced her face and hid her features from the audience. For some strange reason, Methos found that even more disturbing than Frederic's uniform.
Abruptly, he decided it was time to leave
Well, that's my cue," he said, careful to keep his tone pleasant as he got to his feet.
Byron tilted his head, a glimmer of puzzlement showing in his eyes. "So soon? But the night is still young, old chap, it hasn't even got interesting yet."
"I have a train to catch first thing in the morning," he lied smoothly. He had originally intended to stay the week but, now, the morning train to Paris looked like a better option.
Before he could change his mind, or have Byron change it for him, Methos got to his feet and nodded his farewell to Frederic, who only looked back at him blankly. Methos suspected that Ella's clever fingers under the table had taken away his ability to think coherently.
A ghost of a smile crossed Byron's lips, and Methos smiled back before he made his way to the stairwell At last, he gained the top of the steps and stepped outside, breathing in the chilly night with something approaching relief. He hadn't realized how trapped he'd felt until he felt the freedom of the outside air.
Shaking his head to clear it, he crossed the street and started walking. The chances of finding a cab on New Years Eve were slim at best.
Startled, Methos turned on his heels to find Byron hastening towards him, his cane tapping loudly on the tarmac. Methos waited for him to catch up, noting the heightened colour in his cheeks, the light snow drifting onto his dark curls. The image brought up buried memories; shattering the sense of unease and anger he'd felt moments before. He remembered Vienna; when everything was still fresh and new, and Byron was still floating on the high of his newfound immortality.
Things had seemed simpler then, their friendship developing into something deeper over a scant few weeks. For Byron, he had thrown caution to the winds and basked in the younger immortal's passion, feeling almost young again. Perhaps that's why Byron's abrupt disappearance had cut so deep. He had been left, not only alone, but feeling the press of his long years behind him. For a brief while, he had almost forgotten who he was, what he had been, and it had felt so… good.
He felt Byron's hand fall on his shoulder, and caught the fleeting grin crossing his face as he caught his breath. "You still with me, old Man?" he asked cheekily, leaning into my shoulder. "You seem miles way."
Methos sighed. "Mr Finck is likely to wake up in a cell tomorrow," he said, his words coming out more harshly than he'd intended.
Byron raised an eyebrow. "Is that what this is all about? Have a little faith," he said mischievously. "Frederic will be too busy tonight to be working in any official capacity and, by tomorrow morning, he'll be trying his damnedest to forget this night ever happened."
"And why is that?"
"Ella's Jewish," Byron said simply. "And the Gestapo frown on such dalliances. A fact I'll remind him of, once he sobers up enough to remember who he is."
And suddenly it made sense. This evening's debacle had been about putting Frederic in his place, not Finck; but even as Methos felt the tension flow out of his shoulders, he wondered if Byron truly realised what kind of flame he was playing with. "All the same, I wouldn't hang about Berlin much longer, Byron," he warned gently.
"Ah, but then I'd miss out on all the fun!"
Methos gave him a rueful smile. "You'd better get back in there, before they realise you're missing."
"Little chance of that, I suspect," Byron said, tilting his head as he leaned in closer, his breath falling warmly on Methos's cheek. "I'm sure they're more than preoccupied with each other…why don't I ditch them, and keep you company instead?"
And, Gods help him, he was tempted. It would be so easy to accept his invitation, to fall sway to his easy ways and knowing touch. He eyes fluttered closed as Byron's hand touched his cheek and he leaned into the warmth of his palm. The answer formed on his lips: Yes, say yes.
He sensed, rather than felt, Byron shift closer, and wryly wondered what the new regime's thoughts would be on two men kissing on a public Berlin street. The thought made Methos's eyes fly open, catching the unguarded expression on Byron's face.
He saw something there he'd never seen before.
With a harsh breath, Methos drew back, letting the cold air between them become his answer; and Byron's eyes once more became shuttered as he smiled mockingly. "Yes, it's probably best," he allowed softly.
And then that mad, glorious grin graced his face once more and he tossed Methos a sloppy salute and half ran, half limped across the street and through the darkened doorway. "See'ya, Doc!"
Methos stood still, his eyes still on the doorway, as he tried to process what he'd seen in Byron's face for that one heartbeat of a moment. He had seen many things in Byron's eyes over the years; glee, sadness, desire, arousal and, yes, even madness.
But not once had he ever seen Byron's eyes smoulder with such rage.
His eyes hazed over, and he blinked, blaming the snowflakes. He was lying to himself but he didn't care. He'd had enough hard truths for one night.
Author's Notes: 'Die Katakombe' really did exist, as did Werner Finck and his sharp tongue (and the incident with the gestapo officer - although I gave him a name.) Everything else is fictional.
FICTION : BUFFY/ANGEL
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