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In the Still of the Night

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Upstate New York, Spring 1963

“It’s two in the morning, what the hell do you want?” Methos demanded, pulling his dressing gown tighter around himself and glaring down his rather prodigious nose at the intruder blinking in the sudden light on his doorstep. The boy took a half-step back before visibly steeling himself to hold his ground, chin coming up and blue eyes rising almost defiantly.

“Are you Dr. Adams?” the boy asked, squinting to try and make him out in the dimness just inside the door and sounding nowhere near as confident as he seemed to be trying to appear.

“Yes,” he answered curtly.

“We, my friends and I, we heard you provide medical care, no questions asked,” he answered, and Methos followed his gaze as he glanced almost furtively back at the dark sedan idling at the curb in front of Methos’ current home. He felt a strange almost...itching at the back of his mind as he looked at it and shifted his attention uneasily back to the boy on his doorstep.

The boy was right, of course. He was known in the area for providing...discreet treatment to those who couldn’t afford to show their face in a hospital. And sometimes to those who simply couldn’t afford it at all. But he had a strange feeling about this, and he’d learned long ago to pay heed to his gut.

“You heard wrong,” he answered, making to step back and close the door on his uninvited guest.

“No! Wait!” The boy followed him forward, his shoulder blocking the door before Methos could shut it entirely, and Methos reached reflexively for the gun nestled at the small of his back under his dressing gown. He might not have felt an immortal presence in the area, but he wasn’t in the habit of opening his door unarmed to strangers in the middle of the night. “Please, Dr. Adams. My friend-” The boy didn’t seem to have noticed his move, or failed to interpret it as threatening if he had, and looked back at the car again, for longer this time. When he returned his attention to Methos the defiance was gone from his eyes and he looked simply lost and weary and frightened as he pushed sweat damp red curls back from his forehead. “He’s hurt. Bad. And we can’t take him to a hospital-” He shook his head, his expression seeming to go distant for a moment before he focused on Methos again. “He’s, um...he’s different.” He looked at Methos intently as he said it, and he could see the tension in the boy’s shoulders, as if he were making some profound admission. “Erik...Erik Lensherr told us about you,” added, looking abruptly down at his feet.

Methos loosed his grip on the gun and glared down at the boy in silence for a long moment as understanding dawned. “Different, is he?” he finally asked. “Just how different...and just how dangerous?” He didn’t owe Lensherr anything, after all, and though his curiosity was almost overwhelming he wasn’t about to stick his neck out based on a brief acquaintance almost a decade past now.

“Um...really different,” the boy admitted, looking back up again and pushing back the red curls that had fallen into his eyes again. “But he-” He could see him hesitate, visibly discarding whatever he’d been about to say. “He won’t hurt you. I promise.”

So, very dangerous, then.

“You promise, do you?” He gave the gangly teen a disparaging once over and rolled his eyes. “Pardon me for not being terribly reassured.”

“Seriously, man. I swear.” The kid extended his hands, palms up. “ him. Please. And we’ll totally get out of your hair.”

Methos looked over the kid’s shoulder, out to the car at the curb again, shoulders shifting restlessly at the resumption of the strange itching feeling. When he looked back at the kid his shoulders were slumped and he looked very much like he was in danger of simply sliding down into a crumpled heap where he stood.

“Bring the car up the drive to the side,” Methos told him gruffly, not entirely sure why he was relenting. “I’ll meet you at the kitchen door.”

The boy brightened immediately, exhaustion seeming to slip away like a discarded cloak as he turned back to the car with a broad grin and two thumbs up.

“What’s wrong with him, anyway?” Methos asked, suddenly realizing he didn’t even know what he’d gotten himself into as the boy started to trot down the walk.

“Shot!” he called back over his shoulder without stopping, the word a quick chirp.

“Wonderful,” Methos muttered under his breath as he closed the door and locked it. Just what he needed, someone bleeding out on his kitchen table. “Damn German.” If he ever ran across Lensherr again he’d be giving the man a piece of his mind, a very large piece of his mind, about passing his name out to his associates. Still, in had been hundreds of years since anything had intrigued him as much as Lensherr and his strange abilities, and if this boy and his mysterious friends were cast from the same mold-

He shook his head and lurched into motion as he realized he’d just been standing at the door. It took him only a minute to discard his dressing gown and change into jeans and a t-shirt. He grabbed his emergency bag from the hall closet on his way past, and by the time he’d set it on the counter and opened the kitchen door the sedan had pulled into place and the redheaded boy had clambered out, joined by a smaller blond boy. Both were leaning in at the back, whispering to each other as they worked to carefully manhandle a third out of the car.

Methos watched from the top of the steps for a moment then trotted down, one hand checking automatically for the gun now tucked into the back of his jeans as he came up behind them.

“Try not to let him bleed all over th-” Methos stopped abruptly mid-sentence as he got a look over the boys’ shoulders into the car, and at the...thing...they were attempting to help sit upright and slide out onto the drive. “What the hell is that?” he demanded, at the sight of blue - no, it wasn’t a trick of the light, it was definitely blue - fur and a decidedly feline muzzle on an otherwise human, if overly bulky, physique.

Correction, there is nothing even remotely human about those claws, he amended as the creature shifted, draping a massive paw over the blond’s shouldersand looking up at him...through spectacles, of all things, behind which were a pair of remarkably human, pain-fogged eyes. He was eye to eye with nearsighted monster. And to think he’d once thought he’d seen it all.

He’s our friend,” the blond snapped, glaring back at Methos over his shoulder before reaching back in to sleep an arm around the creature’s torso and heave, helping to lever it - him, apparently - to his feet between himself and the redhead. “C’mon, Bozo,” he added, lower and obviously meant for the creature. “We’d carry you, but you’re just too damn big. It’s only a few steps up, though.”

“Yeah, dude, we’ve got you,” the redhead chimed in, looking almost pleadingly up at Methos, and he could read the worry there. The fear that, now that he’d seen their ‘friend’, he’d turn them away...which he almost certainly should. But how many physicians had ever had the chance to treat- Well, whatever this was?

For just a moment he looked past the two boys and the burden they supported between them, back into the car, and met another pair of eyes in the shadows. The itching at the back of his mind seemed to intensify and he felt, for a moment, as though he were trapped and could not possibly look away, but then he jerked his attention back to his putative patient and the sensation dissipated so quickly he wasn’t entirely sure it had ever been there.

“He is not a monster...Dr. Adams.” The owner of this last set of eyes leaned forward, enough for the light streaming from the open kitchen door to wash over a youthful but not young face under a shock of dark hair, and Methos wondered for a moment at the hesitation before his name, but then he was speaking again and the importance of it...slipped from his mind. “He is a man, and he needs your help.”

He looked back at the creature - the man - and found the same undeniably human, pain-glazed eyes gazing back at him from behind the incongruous spectacles, flanked by his companions, one visibly pleading and the other defiant.

“Bring him in,” he ordered. “And do try not to let him bleed everywhere,” he added, for the first time looking past the superficiality (hah!) of the creature’s physical appearance to notice that the front of his shirt was saturated with blood, some of it dark and drying, a makeshift bandage wadded at his shoulder.

“I...promise bite,” the creature rasped, and Methos was taken aback at the voice: a warm tenor, words carefully enunciated despite the oddly formed mouth. “Or to...stain your carpet.” His voice faded into a gasp as they reached the first step and the effort to help him up jostled him. Methos resisted the urge to visibly shake himself as he realized he was staring at the thing as though a housecat had just spoken, and slipped past the trio, up the stairs and into the warm light of the kitchen, where he opened his bag and began to lay out what he was likely to need.

He glanced up as the three made it to the door, the blond still giving him a challenging stare while the redhead had shifted all of his attention to their companion. In the bright light of the kitchen the creature was both more alien and more human than he had been in the shadows outside.

“Bring him here.” Methos pulled a chair out from the table and turned it around, belatedly wondering if it would take the creature’s weight. They’d find out soon enough, he supposed. He ignored the murmuring between the three as the boys settled him into the chair, which groaned beneath his weight, but held, and selected a pair of heavy duty shears, in case he had to cut the creature’s shirt and bandages away, and stepped closer.

“You do realize you’ll need to actually move if you wish me to treat your friend?” he asked with a sardonic curl of his lips as both boys continued to hover over him, very pointedly between their friend and his intended physician. “Now that I’ve agreed to treat him I’d really rather he not bleed out in my kitchen,” he added as the redhead stepped sheepishly back, but the blond hesitated.

“Yeah, fine. Whatever,” he finally said, taking a half step back and to the side, though he kept one hand firmly positioned on the creature’s uninjured shoulder. “But you hurt him and-” He cut off abruptly as the redhead hip checked him, glaring.

“Shut it, Alex!” he stage-whispered. “The Doc’s agreed to help, now let him help!”

“I’m sure he a commendable...job,” the creature chimed in, obviously trying to reassure the boy.

“I’m not in the habit of damaging my patients,” Methos said, tone dry as he gave the blond a withering look. For all his defiance, it had the intended effect and he took another step further back, though he didn’t drop his hand.

“The bullet...seems to have...missed...the brachial...artery,” the creature informed him, meeting his eyes with remarkable steadiness. “But I has...lodged itself-”

“Hush, Bozo,” the blond ordered, leaning down closer to his ear. “We’ve got a doctor, let him figure it the hell out, huh?”

“I’m inclined to agree.” Methos tone was brisk, but not cold, as he stepped forward and, after a moment’s hesitation, laid his hands to blood soaked fur and set carefully about cutting away the remnants of some sort of heavyweight uniform.

The fur was a unique challenge as well as a distraction, and as he peeled the layers away he forced himself to focus on the task at hand. On the decidedly human musculature and bone-structure beneath his hands, no matter that it was covered by a dense layer of remarkably silky fur. On the quiet commentary of the creature - the man - he was treating, obviously constitutionally incapable of remaining silent, even when he was obviously weak and exhausted and speaking was a strain.

His companions had no such difficulty, and mostly hovered, silent and protective, while Methos went about his work, all of it with a steady stream of surprisingly educated commentary and suggestions from his patient. By the time he put the last stitches in and secured a fresh dressing in place, he was familiar with the man’s background and education, as well as the cause of his remarkable physiognomy. He had also, not incidentally, learned his name as well as those of his companions, though Hank had carefully avoided revealing anything about where they lived or exactly how he’d come by his injury.

“You’re going to have to watch for infection,” Methos advised as he put his instruments by the sink to be sterilized later. “I cleaned it as best I could, but there could still be fur and fabric in the wound. I gave you a shot of penicillin to hopefully head that off, but if you see any sign of infection-” He turned his attention to Alex and Sean. “Call me or bring him back immediately. Clear?”

Both boys nodded, Sean vigorously enough that his red curls bounced across his forehead. Hank just blinked blearily up at him, exhaustion and pain apparently catching up with him now that everything was taken care of. “Fortunately, he doesn’t seem to have lost an excessive amount of blood.” Very fortunately, given transfusion really wasn’t an option. “Just make sure he rests and gets plenty of fluids for the next few days and it should heal as good as new.”

“Thank you Dr. Adams, we really appreciate your help.” Sean stepped forward and extended his hand, his earlier hesitancy mostly gone, and Methos took the proffered hand in a firm grip. He wasn’t at all surprised when Alex didn’t offer the same courtesy once Sean had stepped back.

“I’d say it was my pleasure, but I’m really not in the habit of lying,” Methos lied blatantly. “Do me a favor, and if you need emergency medical care in this neck of the woods in the future? Time it for sometime between ten a.m. and three p.m., could you? I like my beauty rest.”

Sean smiled sheepishly, Alex (predictably, by now) glared, and Hank simply gazed blearily up at Methos until Alex bent and pulled his good arm over his shoulder again.

“C’mon, Bozo. Time to get you home,” he murmured as Sean bent to help him and, between them, they eased Hank laboriously to his feet.

The return trip to the car was slower than the trip in had been, and Methos stayed close in case they needed any help maneuvering Hank’s bulk back down the stairs and into the car. They seemed to have it under control, though, and Methos found himself standing aside as they helped Hank slide back into the rear seat of the sedan and got him carefully situated.

He looked over their shoulders again at the man who’d remained behind - Professor Xavier, paraplegic - and met his eyes. He was unsurprised this time when the itching buzz started up again, and he cocked one eyebrow at the man. “Whatever you’re trying to do, you must know by now that it’s not going to work on me,” he told him as Sean and Alex withdrew, both giving him odd looks.

Xavier just smiled enigmatically. “Yes, well, that would presume I was trying to do something to you in the first place, now wouldn’t it?”

Sean smiled at him as well as he closed the door to the back seat and made to climb into the front passenger seat. It was Alex’s voice that drew his attention, though.

“Thanks, Doc.” The boy held his gaze for a moment over the roof of the sedan before slipping into the driver’s seat. Sean’s door had already closed, and the redhead waved at him through the window as the engine roared back to live.

Methos stepped back as the car backed down the driveway, and he felt the strange mental itch one more time.

I believe we both have our own secrets to protect, Dr. Adams, a voice sounded inside his head. It was staticky and broken, like a radio station that wasn’t tuned properly, but he recognized it as Professor Xavier and he took a step forward, hand reaching for the gun still nestled against the small of his back. The car was already turning at the end of the street, though, and he cursed under his breath. Respect our secrets, doctor, and we will return you the courtesy. We have no reason to endanger you, and every reason to wish you well, the voice continued.

“Bugger,” Methos muttered as he returned to his kitchen and closed the door behind him. He’d become comfortable here, but no matter what mutual incentive the man seemed to believe they had to protect each others’ secrets, he had no intention of remaining here, potentially at their mercy. Perhaps it was time for a return to Europe, though South American had a certain allure.

He set about cleaning and sterilizing his instruments almost mechanically, then tidied the kitchen and set everything to rights before returning to his room and pulling a duffel from the closet. Yes, perhaps a trip to Brazil was in order. Packing was a job of minutes, and by dawn the cozy bungalow he’d spent the last few years in stood silent and empty. And he most definitely wouldn’t be leaving Lensherr word of his latest move. However fascinating the man and been, catering to his curiosity was not worth the threat of discovery.