Alternate Universe "Immortal 7"
Sam Calkins breathed out in a silent sigh. Jetlag left him feeling like he couldn't tell night from day, but it was so good to be back in the United States. Watching Standish was always an exhausting undertaking. The green-eyed immortal seemed physically incapable of spending more than a few weeks at any one locale. Or at least incapable of it when on his own. When he was with the others, the man seemed to be all but rooted to the earth.
The others were six other immortals. Chris Larabee, Vin Tanner, Buck Wilmington, Josiah Sanchez, Nathan Jackson, and JD Dunne, along with Ezra Standish, the Watcher organization had dubbed them collectively the Magnificent Seven. They were definitely unique in the chronicles of Watcher history. Over the centuries various Immortals had formed long term friendships or associations, but never had there been so many or for so long as the Seven.
Watcher records had documented their being together off and on for nearly two hundred years. They would split up for a few years, and then regroup. None of the watchers had yet determined how it was that they managed to all show up at the same time and place when there didn't seem to be any obvious form of communication between them. But you could almost count on them coming together as if the time and place were pre-determined.
Josiah Sanchez, when on his own, seemed to gravitate to various religious institutions all over the world. He would spend his time apart from the others in one place, seeming intent on study and prayer, before abandoning it all and joining up with the others again. Over the centuries, his watchers' had noted that he seemed the most stable and predictable of the Seven.
He rarely challenged anyone for his or her head, but didn't seem inclined to walk away from a challenge when it was issued. He looked to be the oldest of the group, having come to immortality rather late in his life. His hair was gray at the temples, and his face a bit more careworn, and seemed to reflect his long life far more than the others. The circumstance of when and how he'd died the first time were still a mystery. His exact age was unknown.
Buck Wilmington and JD Dunne seemed inclined to stay together no matter what. They were referred to as the 'brothers' since their relationship seemed to mimic that of a younger and older brother. It wasn't known if they were actually blood relatives or not. It seemed unlikely, but with immortals it was best not to discount anything.
Two watchers were still required, one for each of them, because despite their close association, Wilmington and Dunne were not always together. Wilmington was infamous in watcher circles for his many romantic liaisons. He seemed to spend his time traveling around the U.S. visiting women in every city. Wilmington came across as fun loving, good time guy, but he was as dangerous as any of the others, having taken a number of heads over the years.
Dunne, by all accounts, seemed comfortable to just tag along with his 'older brother'. His watcher had noted, Dunne showed an astounding aptitude for computers, perhaps one of the few Immortals in recent history to do so. He regularly carried a laptop as well as a sword. He appeared to be the youngest of the group, but as with the others, his exact age was something of a mystery. Dunne had only one kill attributed to him, but it was entirely possible that was the only one they knew about, and that there were more.
Nathan Jackson was always drawn to professions involving medicine. His watchers noted that he went through numerous colleges, and had racked up an impressive number of degrees and specialties. He also seemed to favor the U.S., and spent most of his time there.
The black immortal had a truly impressive skill with a blade. He was possibly the best of the seven when it came to swordsmanship, but he was by no means the most dangerous. Jackson, like Sanchez, rarely issued challenges, and like Dunne, had only one kill that they knew of.
Sam Calkins felt pity for whoever ended up watching Vin Tanner. The long-haired immortal seemed to enjoy living in the great outdoors. His professions had included a wilderness ranger, white-water rafting guide, logger, mountaineer, smoke jumper, and anything else that revolved around spending as much time out of doors as possible. When apart from the others, Tanner never seemed to spend any time close to anything that resembled civilization.
Tanner was known to have been a head hunter for a time. His active pursuit of other immortals seemed to have ended about the time he joined up with the Seven. Since then, he'd never issued a challenge, but he'd never walked away from one either. The soft spoken man was as graceful and as deadly as a big cat. He had a penchant for slipping away from his watcher on a regular basis. The man was nearly impossible to follow at times.
Chris Larabee was believed to be the most dangerous of the seven. He had the most kills attributed to him, and had a vicious temper. His watcher said keeping an eye on Larabee was not difficult, but no one really wanted his job. There was an aura of violence that just seemed to hang about Larabee that made everyone wary of him.
Apart from the others he usually stayed in the United States or Canada. He showed an aptitude for raising horses, and seemed to enjoy it. He'd set up ranches and farms over the years that always turned a profit. Like Tanner, he'd been a head hunter for a time. There was a rumor that he'd had a family once, but to date no one had been able to substantiate it.
Larabee was the undisputed leader of the group. But it was always Standish that seemed to indicate when the others would be joining up again. He was somehow the trigger. Sam knew whenever the man returned to the states the magnificent seven would be getting together, and would stay together for several years to come.
Standish was something of an enigma. He was a true chameleon, capable of blending into anywhere. The man seemed to be as much at home in a five star restaurant as a he did at a greasy spoon. Like an actor on a stage, he managed to fit in no matter where he was. He spoke numerous languages, but never lost the southern accent that marked him as coming from Virginia. He'd traveled to nearly every corner of the globe at one time or another. He would issue challenges on occasion, and had managed to talk himself out of a few over the years. No one knew for sure just how many heads he'd taken, or just how good he was with a sword. Not a single watcher had actually gotten to see him in a fight because the man could be incredibly difficult to follow. Like Tanner, he seemed to simply slip away when he wanted to. Usually they found out about his fight after the fact.
Sam had found Standish's choice of Seacouver, Washington to be a bit odd. The man had never favored the Pacific Northwest before. As far as Sam knew, the man had never even been in Washington before.
He followed Standish into Joe's Tavern. The tavern was owned by another Watcher, Joe Dawson. Dawson was more than just a watcher, he was also a regional director of operations. He still found time to regularly watch Duncan McCloud, an immortal who spent a lot of time in the area. Sam found himself hoping McCloud wasn't at the bar. It was well known that Joe and Duncan were friends. Things might get ugly if Duncan were present.
Standish removed his long jacket and draped it over his arm with a grace and style Sam couldn't help but envy. Standish was impeccably dressed, wearing a charcoal gray designer suit. The man surveyed the quiet bar and nodded in approval. Sam didn't know what he liked about it. Given his current attire, Joe's Tavern didn't seem to be a place where Standish could blend in. And in all honesty, it was the last place Sam had expected him to go to.
Standish made his way to the bar. Joe was idly cleaning glasses. Sam had called him a few hours ago, giving him a heads up that another immortal was in town. It was common practice for watchers to keep each other abreast of who was in town. Besides that, Joe was a regional director. It was Joe's responsibility to keep others informed so they could be on the lookout for possible duel. Sam knew that Joe was aware of who and what Standish was, but none of that showed on his face.
"Can I help you?"
"May I see a bottle of your best single malt scotch, please?" Standish asked politely, his southern accent a distinct soft drawl.
"Sure." Joe reached for a bottle of GlenLivit. It was a forty-year old bottle. It was likely to be very expensive, as well as very good.
Standish's grinned, his gold premolar glinting. He picked up the bottle. His long, elegant fingers gently stroking the label. "Excellent. Oh this will do nicely."
Standish returned the bottle to the bar, and pulled his wallet from his pocket. "I would like to run a tab, if I may." He laid several crisp bills on the bar, two hundreds, and three fifties. "Would this be sufficient to act as good faith?"
Joe raised an eyebrow. "One bottle doesn't cost that much."
Standish laughed lightly. "I am well aware of that. However, I am expecting some friends. And if tradition holds, they will have no money with which to drink. This," Standish tipped his head toward the cash still on the bar, "will cover them as well."
"If that's what you want." Joe shrugged. "Shouldn't be a problem."
Standish raised two fingers to his forehead as though tipping an imaginary hat. He made is way to the back table, taking his bottle and a shot glass with him. Sam sidled up to the bar, deciding he might as well settle in where he could keep an eye on Standish.
Sam was just glad to finally be able to sit down. Just fifteen hours ago he'd been keeping an eye on Standish in Spain. Without warning the immortal was suddenly on a plane winging halfway around the world. Sam selfishly wished Standish looked as tired and washed out as he felt. But he knew all to well Standish never looked tired. Sam didn't know if that was just Standish or something that all immortals were able to do, but the man always looked fresh as a daisy.
He pondered the fact that Standish would be so free with his money tonight. The man normally didn't spend it carelessly or frivolously. He wasn't stingy or miserly. Oh far from it. He just wasn't usually so obvious about it.
You had to truly understand finance to be able to track the money he gave to numerous charities, but Standish regularly provided financial support to various causes. He had numerous investments that were all managed very well. Of the seven he was the one least likely to ever have money problems. Sam knew that Standish had to be worth several million at least.
Less than five minutes after Standish had sat down and poured himself a drink, Vin Tanner entered. Standish didn't immediately look around searching for the possible threat, as was normal behavior for most immortals when they sensed that another of their kind had gotten close. He simply raised his glass and toasted Tanner with it.
Tanner shook his head, and rolled his eyes, a ghost of a smile on his lips as he spotted Standish. He headed casually for the bar. "Can I get a bottle o' bourbon?" Tanner jerked his thumb over his shoulder, pointing toward Standish. "Ya kin put it on his tab."
Joe handed Tanner a bottle and a glass. "Better give me a few more glasses." Joe raised an eyebrow, but just shrugged and handed them over. Tanner nodded his thanks, and headed for Standish's table. He seemed to settle into a chair with near boneless grace. Sam was somewhat surprised to note that the two didn't say a single word. By all accounts they were good friends, he expected at least a handshake or a back slap, but the two seemed content to sip their drinks in silence.
The phone rang, and Joe answered it. A few coded responses that Sam heard let him know it was Tanner's watcher. The man was reporting into to tell Joe he'd lost him. Sam sighed. That was a fairly common problem with Tanner. No one seemed able to just stick with the man. Joe told the man not to worry about it. With two of them here they could probably keep an eye on him. Besides with the seven coming together again, it would be easier to keep track of all of them than it was when they were apart.
Nathan Jackson and Josiah Sanchez entered next. Sanchez had his arm casually draped over Jackson's shoulder. The two of them were laughing about something. Some had suggested that these two had been friends before the seven had gotten together the first time. No one knew for certain if that were true or not, but it could certainly be possible.
Together headed for the table where Standish and Tanner sat. Tanner poured them each a drink from the bottle of bourbon.
Joe answered another phone call. Sam already knew it would be the other watchers checking to see if they should hang around. Joe told them he and Sam would take care of it.
Conversation started at far table where the immortals sat. Sam was too far away to hear what was said, but it appeared to be amiable. Some laughing, grins, and back slaps, an occasional concerned glance, a few frowns, but nothing out of the ordinary. They could easily have been regular old friends catching up. That is if you discounted the fact that Standish was in a $1000 suit, Tanner looked like a bit like a disreputable biker, Sanchez could have doubled for an aging hippy, and Jackson looked like he'd just gotten off working a shift at the hospital.
It wasn't long before a deck of cards appeared in Standish's hands. He was thought to have gambled in nearly every casino known to man, and never went anywhere without a deck of cards. Sam was still trying to figure out if it was luck or skill that made it possible for Standish to win as often as he did. Standish idly shuffled, his hands working the cards with a deft grace and skill.
Wilmington and Dunne came in a few minutes later. Wilmington called out to the others. "Boys!"
Standish nodded toward him. "Mr. Wilmington." A chorus of Buck's came from the others.
Spotting the deck of cards in Standish's hands, Wilmington ordered, "Deal me in." Wilmington smiled widely, blue eyes clearly showing he was eager for a game. He looked like he'd just stepped out of a Marlborough ad, minus the cigarette.
Standish raised an eyebrow. "Oh so ready to lose. I do love an eager victim."
Wilmington laughed and shoved Dunne toward the bar. "Get me a beer, will ya, kid?"
Dunne shoved him back. "Get your own beer, Buck." The young looking immortal asked for a glass of milk. Sam figured he'd probably got tired of trying to provide ID that said he was over 21 and just found easier not to order alcohol.
Dressed in a t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers, Dunne didn't look a day over 18. It had to be tough living so long and looking forever like a teenager. And despite his earlier statement, he got a beer for Wilmington as well before joining the others. Both the beer and milk went on Standish's tab.
Wilmington's watcher joined Sam at the bar. It gave them both good cover for being in the place that was nearly empty except for the immortals. No reason for them to advertise the fact that they'd tailed the other men to Joe's. Sam bought Dale a beer, and they quietly compared notes, giving them the appearance of being friends and having planned to meet at Joe's.
The last of the seven to arrive finally came through the door a moment later. Larabee was dressed all in black, and even if Sam hadn't known his history, he'd have known this man was dangerous just by looking at him. Larabee headed for the table.
Larabee sat in the only chair left vacant. It could easily have been thought of as the head of the table. Standish poured a shot of scotch into one of the glasses left sitting in front of Tanner. Tanner passed the glass to Larabee. The rest all raised glasses in a salute to him.
Larabee grinned, raising his glass as well. "Good to see you." Larabee said quietly, his eyes clearly indicating he meant that for all of them. He downed the shot. "Deal me in."
"Certainly, Mr. Larabee." Standish swiftly dealt the cards, and the game began.
Sam wondered how long they'd be staying in Seacouver. He sighed. Over the past few years of following Standish around he'd be glad to just have the chance to stay in one place of awhile. He found himself hoping that the Seven didn't run afowl of anyone here. He'd actually grown rather fond of Standish. The man was a challenge like none other.
The seven seemed content to play cards for hours. Their conversation got a bit more boisterous, but they weren't rowdy. They acted like it had only been a few days since they last saw each other instead of four years. Sam wondered what it must be like to have friends that you'd known for centuries. He envied them that, but was glad he didn't have to know what it felt like when friends like that got killed.
Sam was so lost in his own thoughts that a touch on his shoulder surprised him. He glanced up to find himself face to face with Ezra Standish.
The immortal smiled at him. "You can go home if you like. We'll be here for some time. I'm sure someone else can take this shift for you and let you get some rest. I know jet lag can be awful."
"Excuse me?" Sam nearly choked on the sip he'd just taken.
Standish turned toward Joe. "I'll be needing another bottle of scotch, and another bourbon, if you please. Oh, and another beer."
The immortal lightly patted Sam on the back while he waited for Joe to provide the bottles. Standish raised an eyebrow, his expression sardonic when he looked at Sam. "Come now, I would not have lived as long as I have if I were not observant. An extra shadow was bound to get my attention. If it's any consolation, you are rather good at what you do, far better than my previous tails. "
Standish chuckled. "You might want to find someone better to observe Mr. Tanner. I'm afraid he rather enjoys the challenge of losing them. It has become quite a game for him. You'll have to up the ante if you want to keep playing."
Standish picked up the bottles Joe placed carefully on the bar. In the past, immortals tended to be rather hostile toward having their actions monitored. Joe looked wary, ready for trouble. Sitting next to Sam, Dale looked just as uneasy.
"Not to worry, Mr. Dawson." Standish tipped his head toward Joe. It was more than a nod, but somehow less than a bow. The respect and courtesy were there though.
"We have no intention of causing trouble here. Since we will likely be staying in the area for some time, we thought it best to communicate honestly, at least once."
Standish shrugged on shoulder. "I would suggest that you no longer keep such close tabs on Mr. Larabee. He is not nearly as accommodating as myself, or the others. You might wish to consider dropping your observation of him altogether out of concern for the safety of those in your employ."
Standish grinned, dimples flashing briefly. "Mr. Jackson has requested that you find a shadow for him who will not throw up at the sight of blood. Mr. Sanchez would like someone who can at least give the pretense of interest in religion or philosophy. Mr. Wilmington, as you can well imagine, would prefer a woman. Mr. Dunne has made no requests or stipulations. He is still trying to figure out what you would find so interesting about his life."
With that, Standish moved to take the bottles, and head back to his table. Joe called after him. "Wait?"
"What about you?"
Standish chuckled. "I have found Mr. Calkins to be most acceptable. He is generally discrete, and usually good at blending into the background." Standish winked at Sam. "He's not half bad as a poker player. But it wouldn't hurt for him to brush up a bit on other games of chance, though."
Sam stared at Standish. He hadn't even realized the immortal knew his name. Sam looked at Joe wondering if he was in a lot of trouble. Sam sighed. "Sorry, Joe."
Joe shook his head. "Don't worry about it, Sam. I'm sure you didn't do anything wrong. Given how often they manage to lose their watchers it really isn't a huge surprise that they knew about us. Might as well call it a night."
Sam nodded. He couldn't believe Standish had known about him all this time. He got to his feet and headed for the door. He looked back once, and found himself meeting Standish's green eyes. The immortal raised two fingers in a salute, and Sam copied the gesture.
Sam consoled himself with the thought that he wasn't the only watcher of the seven to have been noticed. And if nothing else he could finally go to bed. He'd worry about the rest of this when the sun came up.
Immortal Seven, Revisited
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