Author: Sophia Prester
Summary: An old friend pays Methos one last visit.
By the Age of Steam, the dragons had all but died out. In another twenty years, it would be hard to remember them as anything but legend.
Methos hadn't seen one of the beasts since shortly after he fled New Orleans and Morgan Walker's wrath, and that was nothing but a small Seminole Cutwing, riderless and probably feral. He wasn't sure what had brought dragons to mind again on this particular day, but he had been thinking about them off and on since that morning. And he also wasn't sure why he knew that the small shape silhouetted against the afternoon sun was Vita, but something told him that the speck in the Brittany sky was no hawk. He quickly dismounted his horse.
"Long time, no see, love," he told the aged Yellow Reaper once she had landed and collected herself. It was a heavy landing, with little of the grace of her youth. "Please don't tell me you've deserted your post."
The dragon stepped towards him, flattening the winter wheat. His horse had bolted the instant it had scented the dragon, but that was a small loss in the face of this great and unexpected gift.
The huge, almond-shaped eyes were filmed with cataracts, he noted with a pang, but Vita's impish personality still shone clear. "An old dragon who can't even get a crew of five into the air?" She laughed. "They'll think I flew off to die of plague."
Methos reached out to stroke her muzzle. The scales were no longer as smooth as he remembered. "I'm sorry."
He remembered watching, helpless, as the plague had decimated the dragon population. He'd seen similar things happen to other species, their numbers cut down through hunting, or disease, or loss of territory. And even when the dragon surgeons were still holding out hope for a miracle cure, Methos had known that their numbers had dropped past the hope of recovery, even if a cure could be found. Another generation, maybe two, and these wonderful creatures would be no more than legend.
"I'm glad to see you still have your head." She gently butted him with her own head, nearly knocking him off his feet. "I still remember the war against Napoleon..."
"Yes, yes..." He laughed at the memory. A Flamme de Guerre had an Immortal as a captain, and of course it had broken ranks to come straight at him. It had been quite the duel, the two of them slashing at each other as their crews ducked for cover. Some crew members even chose to plunge into the sea rather than face their captains' madness. In the end, he and the other Immortal (an old Visigoth, he recalled, born in France long before it was France) had lost their footing, plummeting towards the sea and still trying to use their blades. Methos had got in one last swing as Vita somehow caught him and pulled him up and away from what she believed would be a fatal fall.
That last swing was a good one, and the Quickening hit both dragon and captain in mid-air. Through some miracle, they lost no more of their crew.
It had been a cloudy day, and the crew had readily accepted his weak explanation of a lightning strike. Vita, on the other hand, had demanded the truth.
To his surprise, Methos gave it to her, a little bit each night, as they sat together in the covert. He started by slashing his arm open. She'd raised her wings and started to roar in outrage and horror, but then her eyes went wide and she fell silent as the wound sparked and sealed over, leaving only a trail of blood to show that he had been wounded.
Maybe, he thought, he felt he owed Vita the truth because she was the only creature who had never lied to him.
He had no idea how she'd found him now, just as she'd found him all those other times when she could no longer stand having another man command her when she knew that he was still out there, somewhere. ("Why can't you stay with me as my captain?" she'd demanded when he finally had to fake his death before people started to notice his longevity. "I don't want a new captain, not if you're still alive! Can't you explain to the Admiral the way you explained to me?" "No, love," he said sadly, and he told her a story that took place less than seventy years ago, and what had happened when he'd been found out.) "I'm glad you're here, but won't your captain be missing you?" he asked.
She rustled her wings: the draconic equivalent of a shrug. "You're my captain."
"Yes." He had watched her hatch. He had fed her and given her a name, half-laughing and half-crying at this craziness of his and everything it represented. He was her captain, and now she was dying. "Let's head back to the barn, and I can build you a fire. I think I also might be able to spare a cow or two for you."
"Yes. A fire would be good." She had glided down from the sky easily enough, but her gait on the ground was stiff and the motion caused her eyes to cloud with more than just cataracts. "And can I have a story, too, while I eat?"
Methos kept his hand on her shoulder as they walked along. He paid his workers well enough that they would not think to ask any questions about an English dragon or any missing cows. "Of course there will be a story. A new one, or one you've heard before? Whatever you want, you shall have it."
With over five thousand years to draw from, there was never any danger he would run out of stories. Even so, there were some stories that Vita wanted to hear over and over again.
They walked on without speaking for a moment, the only sound that of vegetation being crushed beneath Vita's talons.
"Tell me the story of my name," she said at last.
Methos swallowed hard, but then he began to talk as they walked, and he continued to talk as he built a fire to warm her, only stopping when he loosed a cow into the paddock for her to kill and eat. It was her favorite story, and it was a long one, a good one for seeing her through her last night. It was a story of a man who had once ridden across the land as Death, and who in seeking a way to put that life behind him, had the crazy idea of taking to the skies on a creature named Life.