|Behind the Scenes: Archangel
by Meredith Lynne
Reading the scripts only took about twenty minutes.
Most of them were finished in ten, but it took Methos and Richie a bit longer; Richie, because he couldn't make out some of the longer words and Methos, because he spent a great deal of his time sounding them out for the kid. Finally, though, the last page had been turned, the last lines gone over.
Around the table, there was a silence like death itself.
Duncan glanced at Methos, catching his eyes, and the two shared a long look. This was going to be rough. It was going to be very, very rough, and they both knew it.
Across the table from Joe Dawson, Amanda smiled brightly, drumming long red nails against the pressboard tabletop. "Well," she said finally, her voice a little too cheerful. "I don't suppose you'll be needing me around, will you?"
She leaned forward, as if to rise, only to be halted by Methos' hand on her arm. "Don't be like this, Amanda," he said. "It's no worse for you than for any of the rest of us."
"I'm not even in it!" she said, pouting.
"Yes, well, the rest of us are, so we're having a bit of trouble drumming up sympathy for you at present." The words were as cutting as Methos meant them to be; Amanda would have been angry, if he hadn't made such a good point. Sighing dramatically, she settled back into her seat.
"Remember the one with the crystal, Methos," she said softly, smiling fondly at the older Immortal. "We had so much fun back then."
"Would that be before or after you tried to cut my head off?"
She frowned. "After," she said huffily. "Forget it."
"Break it up, you two," Duncan said from the head of the table. "We've got to talk about this. Something has to have gone very, very wrong out there."
Joe nodded. "Yeah, Mac, but what can we do about it? It's written. It's signed. We have to do it."
"I don't get it," Richie said, scowling at the last page of the script. "Do I die here, or don't I?"
"You die," Methos said. "But you get to be Evil Incarnate first."
Duncan lifted an eyebrow curiously at the irritation in the set of Methos' jaw. "What's wrong, Methos?" he said cautiously. "You don't even like Richie."
Methos scowled darkly. "For a year now, they've been telling me I would get to be Evil Incarnate. And now they give it to this...this kid. He couldn't do 'complex' if he had a multiple personality disorder. And did you see what I'm doing in this one??? Did you look at any of those lines?"
"They seemed pretty straight forward to me," Dawson offered.
"Precisely," Methos snapped out in a clipped British tone. 'Where are you going, Mac?' 'It's me, Mac.' 'You need help, Mac.' The fans will think I've turned into a bloody boyscout. Worse, a stupid boyscout."
Duncan looked at Methos coldly. "There's nothing wrong with being a boyscout."
Methos snorted. "Well, I hope you got a badge in hair dressing, because I've seen your hairpiece for this episode. It looks like three-day-old roadkill." There was a certain cheerful malice to his tone, as if the thought of MacLeod wearing a dead cat on his head held a special appeal.
"They're really going to kill me?" Richie said in a small voice. "I've been here since the first season."
"Dead as a doornail, kid," Methos said, grinning. "Only...wait...doornails have heads, don't they? So maybe that's not an apt analogy."
"Ha ha," Richie said. "I hope you enjoyed that. Considering that your actor hasn't been signed yet, you may have just used up your last amusing line on me. Was it worth it?"
"They might just give him what he wants, Kid," Methos said with a feral grin. "After all, they won't be paying that Kirsch fellow any longer, now will they? And I understand a space has been freed up in the opening credits, too."
"Cut it out!" Joe interrupted. "This isn't doing any of us any good. We've got to find a way to get out of this."
"Oh, no," Methos said, leaning back in his chair as if to disavow any responsibility that might be thrown his way. "I'm already out of it. This is probably my last show, you know, and they give me nothing. No angst. No manipulation. No complications. Just following around after a bloody Immortal Scotsman, feeding him straightlines and looking cute in a duster. I'm nothing but a mobile coat rack. Even Amanda could play my part," he added, shuddering.
"I resent that, Methos," the lady said darkly. "I resent it a lot."
"Yeah? What are you going to do about it, Miss Didn't Even Make the Season Finale?"
Amanda cast him a look of pure venom, and turned away.
"My end scene is actually not bad," Dawson said, obviously trying to make the best of things. "I sob heartbrokenly, and you hug me, Methos. It's right after you refuse to kill Mac."
"This is just what I mean. Idiocy! You know, if anything like this were to really happen, Highlander, I wouldn't go offering me your sword if I were you. You'd make a pretty poor hat rack once I was through."
"You'd take my head??" Duncan asked, clearly startled.
"If you were mistaking your friends for manifestations of some big, red, evil whatever? And cutting their heads off as a result? You bet, bud. And I wouldn't go wandering into firing range, either," Methos added. "I'm still packing the gun they gave me for Trespasses."
"I thought you were supposed to return that to Props!"
"Hey, there were bullets left!"
Duncan snorted. "Blanks."
Methos leaned in over the table, smiling conspiratorily. "Doesn't matter if you're close enough and aim for the throat," he said with a jerk of his head toward Richie.
"I don't think that's funny, Methos," Richie said sharply.
"I don't think I was joking, Kid," Methos replied with a smirk.
"I think the question we should all be asking ourselves," Joe drawled, smoky voice undercutting the invective, "is are we going to do it?"
Another silence fell, this one slightly embarrassed.
"Do we have a choice?" Richie said finally.
"We're the characters, Richie," Amanda said patiently. "What are they going to do without us?"
The infant Immortal thought for a moment. It looked as if it might hurt. "Uh...Act?"
Methos smirked. "Wingfield would be nothing without me. Joe?"
"Jim Byrnes has a great voice," the Watcher said, "but without my help, it's Wiseguy reruns and Omen City."
"I don't know how I feel about abandoning Elizabeth..." Amanda said softly. "We've become close."
"You don't have to," Duncan said, smiling. "She's not in it, remember?"
"What about you, Mac?" Richie said. "Can you deal with letting Adrian go it alone for an episode?"
Methos threw his head back and laughed. "Kid, Mac's skipped out on half the episodes this season. Didn't you see the Frankenstein episode?"
"They didn't need me for that one," Richie said.
"Yeah? Well, they apparently didn't need Mac, either. Let me tell you, Adrian is one hard-nosed S.O.B. Killed Byron without even thinking about it, even when I asked him not to as a special favor." Methos shook his head, remembering. "And then, he wanted to come in and have a drink with me. Class act, that one," he added sarcastically.
"You're just upset over that double Quickening fiasco," Duncan said. "It wasn't entirely his fault."
"It was his idea, Mac," Methos said angrily. "Now the only person I get to sleep with in the fan fiction is you. They think the whole spiral thing says something about my sexuality."
"It doesn't?" Richie asked. "I thought--"
Methos glared. "You're walking a very fine line, Kid," he said coldly.
Once again, it was Joe's voice which cut through the tension. "So, are we agreed? No inspiration for these guys during filming? We stay out of it."
Duncan was the first to nod. "I don't know anything about Demons, anyway. I'd rather have a sword and an evil Immortal any day."
"Always one for the deep deliberations, aren't you, MacLeod," Methos said dryly. "You know, there's a reason why none of us regulars have the letter 'k' in our names. The writers didn't want to confuse you."
Duncan ignored him; over the past year, he'd found it grew easier with practice. "Richie? We haven't heard from you, yet."
The youngest of the Immortals squirmed a bit in his chair. "Stan's such a nice guy," he said. "And it's his last show." In an unusual moment of wisdom, he decided it best not to mention that with a last name like 'K'irsch, Stan had been doomed from the start.
Even Methos had to think about that for a moment. "Does he have anything lined up?"
Richie shrugged. "Nothing definite."
"Okay. You can help him out," Joe said. "But the rest of us, we stay out of it. They're on their own." He looked at Methos and MacLeod in turn, gathering a nod from each of them. "All right then. Let's say we meet back here in....say....a week? By then just about everyone should have seen it, and we can speak freely."
A round of nods, fond farewells, and the character cast of 'Highlander: The Series' was officially on strike.
One week later
The silence today around the long card table was, if anything, heavier than it had been the last time they met.
One chair, the one next to Methos at the back, was notably empty. For all that Methos had never really much liked the kid, it was an excuse to seek comfort in liquid oblivion, and he took it. The black armband wrapped around his right biceps bore mute evidence that the cast had lost someone valued beyond anyone's expectations.
"They didn't even notice," Joe Dawson breathed, watching as Archangel played yet again on the VCR over in the corner. Amazement lowered his voice. "How could they not notice?"
Methos shook his head, pouring another single-malt from the bottle he'd brought forth from katana space as soon as he arrived. "Oh, they knew we weren't there, " he said. "Why do you think they hired in so much smoke and red light and flashy special effects? They thought they could distract the fans long enough to get the actors out safely after filming."
"And it worked," Amanda said.
"More's the pity," Methos muttered darkly. "I would've liked a few words with them myself."
Duncan looked over at the oldest Immortal sharply. "Wingfield did a stunning job in the last five minutes of the episode," he said meaningfully. "If I hadn't known you were going to stay out of it...."
For a moment, the oldest living Immortal considered telling the truth. He closed his eyes, counted to ten, and waited for the fit pass. After all, it wouldn't do any of them any good to know Wingfield had managed just fine on his own at the end. "Oh, all right!" Methos said finally, feigning both disgust and guilt. "I helped at the end. I just felt so sorry for the kid. Five seasons, and he's gone in a heartbeat and a cheesy bit of montage footage. I thought one of us needed to be with him at the end." A twinge of real guilt crept in as he finished; he squashed it quickly before it could mulitiply.
Joe cleared his throat self-consciously. "I...ah...hmmm," he said.
Duncan frowned in disgust. "Not you, too, Dawson."
"He needed us!" the Watcher said. "And Adrian wasn't any help at all, what with the glove and all. Who did he think he was? Mark Fuhrman? Not to mention the little Hiawatha touch at the end."
Sighing, Duncan relented. "He always was overly fond of those Little Deer episodes. I think he liked the braids."
"At least they didn't play 'Dust in the Wind,' for the montage," Joe said. "I don't think I could have stood that."
"I read on the Internet that some people actually liked Archangel," Amanda said, mystified. "Liked it a lot."
Methos snorted. "There are people who like Barry Manilow, too, but that doesn't make him a great artist, now does it?"
"What's wrong with Barry Manilow?" Duncan asked.
Methos studied his fingernails intently and clenched his jaw around his instinctive response. They were supposed to be in mourning; he could always kill MacLeod later. "Did you get the bit about never having seen a demon?" he asked after a few moments, smiling with real satisfaction. "I knew Peter trusted me to read the scripts and just winged the rest of it; now I have proof."
Amanda smiled maliciously. "I noticed that Peter makes just as attractive a coat rack as you do, Methos. And he has better manners, as well."
"Yes, well, he doesn't have to deal with you on a daily basis, now does he?"
"Sometimes you're not a very nice man, Methos," Amanda answered.
"Sometimes, Amanda, I don't even try to be."
"What's done," Joe interrupted loudly, "is done. We did our best."
"Technically," Duncan pointed out, "we refused to do our best."
Methos sighed. "Thank you for that moral clarification, Highlander. Now I know why we put Joe in charge of pep talks."
Suddenly, a knock at the door of the trailer interrupted them. Methos reached back and pushed it open, admitting a rather disheveled, blood-covered spectacle with strawberry blonde hair and a hunted look in his eyes.
"Richie!" Duncan said, stunned. "What are you doing here? How did you survive? Are you still Evil? What happened to your Buzz?"
"Hiding. With a great deal of luck. Not at present, at least I don't think so. And I think they confiscated it once they thought I was dead; those buzzes really cut into the special effects budget after a while. Did you know that in Chivalry there were four Immortal encounters where nobody got a buzz?"
"Slow down, Kid," Methos said, easing Richie's battered body into his chair and trying not to look pleased to see him. "Who are you hiding from?"
"David Tynan. If he sees me hanging around, he could be ticked off enough to keep me dead or evil forever."
"I thought you were out of the show for good," Amanda said. "What happened?"
"No telling." Richie said, rubbing a scar at his throat. "All I know," he continued, leaning forward, his voice dropping into a whisper, "is that the fans are mighy upset about a lot of things right now. Anything could happen. I think that's why I didn't just vanish when they killed me."
"This is ridiculous," Methos said. "Doesn't anybody know anything about what to expect?"
The Immortals and their Watcher friend glanced at one another, each shaking their heads in denial.
"Well then, what do we do?" There was a rising note of panic in Methos voice as he contemplated spending the next four months with an axe poised over his head.
Joe cleared his throat. "I...ah. I've given that some thought. Mac and I were tossing around some ideas, and..."
Methos pursed his lips and watched Joe with little trust. "Out with it, Dawson."
"It's our very survival that's at stake, you know," the Mortal said, defending himself before the fact. "If we're not out there, doing new things, we fade out. Nobody will remember us."
"What've you done, Joe?" Methos demanded.
"Well...you remember that woman from California? The one that got you and Mac straightened out after Trespasses?"
Methos nodded slowly. "Merry. Sweet kid. A little angsty for my taste, but not a bad writer."
[Not bad, am I? Oh, Methos. You're going to seriously regret that...]
Methos looked up suddenly. "Did you guys hear something?"
Duncan looked around the trailer. "Ah...no." Then, solicitously: "Did you hear something, Methos?"
The oldest Immortal glared. "No," he said, darting a quick, nervous glance around the room. "Go on, Joe? You were saying?"
"Well, Merry's planning a kind of a sequel to Resolution, and she wants us. All of us, and a few of Joe's Watcher friends, too. I told her we'd consider it, but she wanted to get started. Said she was under a deadline."
"And?" Methos grated through clenched teeth.
"And so I told her we'd do it. It's not a big deal, Methos. Besides, she really likes you. A lot. I mean, really a lot."
"Joe! She likes me with HIM!" Methos fairly shouted, waving a hand at Duncan. "I told you I wasn't going to do that kind of thing any more. Do you know how long it's been since I slept with a woman? One who wasn't scripted to die of some unnamed degenerative disease after three episodes?"
"It's not her fault," Richie said. "You just have this...this air about you." He fluttered the fingers of one hand in the air and grinned, enjoying a brief feeling of power. "Everybody notices it."
"Is that a bit of red fog I see behind you, kid?" Methos said, glancing over the young Immortal's shoulder.
Richie yelped, and tried to spin around in his chair. Methos took the moment of imbalance to give the kid a shove that sent him and his seat toppling to the floor. "Sorry, Ryan," he said to the tangle of human limbs and furniture legs below. "Trick of the light." Somehow, Methos' face managed to radiate both total innocence and malicious glee.
"Give it a rest, Methos," Duncan ordered. "We already agreed to it on your behalf, and I don't like to think of what might happen to you if you back out on her."
A shrewd glance. "She told you to say that, didn't she," Methos guessed.
"Right," Methos said, squaring his shoulders. "Fine." He poured another drink, tossed it back, and poured yet another.
"I'm glad we're doing it," Amanda said, smiling cheerily. "Nobody ever wants me to be in the fan fiction. It'll be fun!"
"If you get to keep your gender orientation, maybe," Methos muttered around his shot glass.
"All right then." Joe looked around the table at the people who'd been his entire life for the past five years, and nodded slowly. Good people, all of them, in spite of the occasional characterization flaw. "We're off to the fan fiction season. I think we should have a toast."
An inquiring glance at Methos made the oldest Immortal clutch his bottle close to his chest. "Get your own," he said sharply. "I said I'd do it; I didn't say I'd do it sober."
"Here, Joe," the Highlander said with a smile, passing the Watcher a bottle of scotch and setting up shot glasses in front of him.
Joe shook his head, smiling in wonder and resignation. "I'll never understand how you guys do that," he said.
"Katana space," Richie answered. "It's Kind Of Like Magic."
"Thanks for clearing that up for me, Rich," Joe said, rolling his eyes as he passed the glasses to his friends.
"Who's going to do it?" Duncan inquired.
"I'll start," Joe said, smiling. "I have something in mind."
All around the table, glasses were raised expectantly. Joe smiled at each of his friends in turn, and raised his own glass.
"To the fans," Joe said simply. "Without whom."
Much-beloved faces softened a bit, smiles forming slowly. Even Methos couldn't help it. "The fans," he said, nodding, and tossed back his drink.
"The fans." Each of them said it in turn, setting their glasses back down with a feeling of well-being, secure in the knowledge that no matter what happened, each would be remembered.
[And in a small room, at a smaller desk, before a Macintosh Centris 650, a young woman with tears in her eyes lifted her own glass toward the computer screen. "And to you," she said softly, on behalf of everyone who loved them. "Without whom."]