A/N: To anybody who's still reading this story, I have no excuse to offer for the long absence, especially since most of this chapter was already done, then forgotten about because I'd mistakenly thought it was already published. I apologize for the mix-up and the long gap between updates. Hope you still enjoy.
Tommy fell asleep halfway through the book, after that Methos returned to the main bedroom and went back to sleep himself. He sincerely hoped that this was a sign of better things to come in the next couple weeks. If she wanted to fight him at every step of the way, he could do that, but the time would pass far easier if she'd just learn to trust him.
The next morning when Methos went to get Tommy up, she was already getting dressed, he took that as a sign of improvement. She went with him downstairs and today he was able to get her to eat without any coaxing. It was too early for him to believe this level of obedience would be longstanding, but he decided to enjoy it while it lasted.
After breakfast he got Tommy in the car and they headed into town. It still looked like it could rain but the air didn't feel so ominous now. During the drive, Methos kept looking over at Tommy who either looked straight ahead or out her window at the scenery passing by. He could only imagine what this was like for her, being away from the house for the first time in months, most likely ever since Kronos broke her out of the asylum. And, if he was right, that meant this would be the first time since then that she would be exposed to other people. This, he thought, ought to be interesting.
Methos watched for any sign of recognition on Tommy's face as they pulled up to the store. Nothing. So apparently his brother hadn't bothered to bring her out here at all. Somehow, he felt he shouldn't be surprised.
"Come on," he told her, "let's go in."
She got out of the car and followed him into the store. Night and day. Outside it was cold and dark and dreary, and inside everything brightly illuminated, the air was warm by comparison, and luckily enough, there weren't a lot of other people around. Until he knew how Tommy would act around other people, Methos decided to take that as a good thing.
Maybe it was some indicator of Tommy's age when she last had a functional daily life, she practically clung to him as they walked up and down the aisles, if she got any closer to him she'd knock him down, as if she were afraid of getting too far away from him. He looked at the other people in the store and tried to see what she was seeing, could any of them pose a potential threat? Did any of them remind her of the doctors at the asylum? There were only a few kids, none of them near her own age, he wondered what she thought of them? He watched her eyes, they shifted from the people to the stuff on the shelves. With a slight nudge of the elbow, he forced her back a couple inches and told her, "Go on." She looked at him and he told her, "Pick something up."
Uncertainly, she stepped away from him and headed down the aisle.
"Don't get lost," he called after as she turned the corner.
This ought to prove interesting. Since they'd already established that Tommy wasn't retarded, least of all as most people knew the word, if she brought anything back it would probably mean it was something she liked, which might give him a little more insight to her life before her mother abandoned her.
He had a good idea what it would take to keep them stocked up for two weeks and acted on memory of what they'd already been eating since he arrived. He'd just added a couple six-packs of beer to the cart when he saw Tommy return with her arms full, and watched as she proceeded to dump into the cart two kinds of potato chips, a box of cereal, a package of cookies, a box of popsicles, a bag of mandarin oranges, a dozen doughnuts, a pound of licorice, two pounds of popcorn kernels, and a six-pack of soda.
"Why not?" Methos asked himself, sleep was overrated anyway. He noticed, and was impressed, that for as far as he knew, not knowing the layout of the store, Tommy made short work of the place to find what she wanted.
He helped her straighten out everything in the cart, then something occurred to him. He picked up the soda and looked at it. Something told him he'd just found the first clue. Mortal parents were dumb enough to give small children this carbonated crap, but Immortals knew better. Which meant Tommy must not have been quite so young when her mother disappeared. If that were true, there might be hope for her yet.
They got checked out and headed back to the car.
"So Kronos has been teaching you to drive," he said.
She looked at him and merely nodded.
It was still early enough in the day the streets were pretty empty.
"Alright then," Methos held up the keys, "Why don't you show me what you've learned?"
She looked at him with an unreadable expression, but she took the keys and went around to the driver's side.
It was obvious that whatever time Tommy had spent learning to drive hadn't been much. She either hit the gas or the brakes too hard, she turned too sharp and too soon at the intersections and when she put the car in reverse to work out a maneuver, she steered the wheel in the wrong direction each time. They only made it a mile from the store when Methos had her stop, and she hit the brakes so hard they both about went through the windshield.
"That was a good try," Methos maintained his nonchalant composure, and asked her, "but what do you say I drive us the rest of the way home?"
Tommy looked at him and had no verbal response, she just lunged forward and hugged him.
"Okay-y-y," he said, trying to maintain his composure.
Methos carried his laptop into the kitchen where Tommy was seated at the table. He'd spent the last couple hours putting together a program that would show Tommy the pictures of several women Immortals, but with no information provided about them. He decided to bite the bullet and put the pictures of closed files up first, if it was bad news there wasn't much sense in delaying it.
"Alright, Tommy," he told her, "I want you to take a look at some pictures on here and tell me if any of them look familiar to you."
"Why?" she asked. He could tell by her tone that she suspected something was up. He'd come prepared for that.
"If you recognize any of them, we might be able to find a link between them and your mother," he answered.
She shrugged, "Okay."
He opened it up and showed her how to scroll down through the pictures. There were a lot to look through, so for now he'd narrowed it down to 50 to begin the search, and started with some cases that that had ended in the last couple years. Tommy went through them all slowly, studying each and every one meticulously. Every woman looked somewhere between 20 and 40. Blondes, brunettes, redheads, some had long hair, some had short, most had straight hair, some were curly, some were tall, some were shorter, some had a slight build, others were more muscular. And every last one of them had lost their heads to another Immortal.
When Tommy reached the bottom of the list, she closed the computer and shook her head. "I don't recognize any of them."
"That's alright," Methos told her, "There are others, we'll keep checking, maybe we'll get lucky."
The further along they could get through the deceased list without her recognizing anyone, the better Methos would feel about the whole thing.
"Alright," he said, "so what do you want to do today?"
She just looked at him like he was nuts.
"I'm well aware of how things have been going around here the past few months," he told her, "But while I'm in charge you're not going to be sitting around the house all day." The words coming out of his mouth left him in awe, it was still the most unnatural thing he'd ever seen a child do.
Tommy merely leaned back in her chair and stared at him, and asked, "So now what?"
Maybe it was too cold to teach Tommy to swim, but for a change of scenery Methos took her down the back road that led to the quarry. He wanted to see what she would do actually being out in the open and away from the house. Thus far she stayed right alongside him the whole way and never said a word. The weather was chilly but nature was in full bloom, the grass was green, the trees were full of leaves, the flowers were just starting to open. This was the environment that every child was raised in for the last 3,000 years that he had ever known. If Tommy's mother was more of an ancient instead of a mere older Immortal, she would've instilled that in her as well.
Methos' mind wandered during their hike, thinking back to countless discussions he and his brother had had about how mortals took their ability to have and raise children for granted. They had kids, and then didn't want them. Often they killed them, not too long ago they'd wait until they were actually born and then kill them. Nowadays they had the convenience of abortion so they could kill it before it was even born, and while the concept wasn't new, the methods of execution today allowed it to be a full time slaughter, and there wasn't an Immortal alive who could process that fact without seeing it as the mortals' way of trying to subside their guilt. If they could kill it before it was born they could convince themselves they hadn't really killed it because it hadn't really been a baby, but of course the people who lived for hundreds and thousands of years and by now had witnessed millions of kids being born, knew better than to believe a fairy tale like that. And for the rest of the mortals, they wanted kids, just so long as somebody else raised them. And they raised them, shut up in a box in a city where all they knew was pollution and street noise, never seeing the stars at night or knowing the fresh air or the vast expanse of nature that people used to get lost in. It was nature that made a man, that age old fight to survive the elements and the other forms of life, both beast and man. There were no warriors in a city.
In theory, it was easier to get lost in a big city, but it was also far easier to be found there, that's why most Immortals who did have kids took to raising them out in the countryside where there were few people around, and even fewer who would make the trek out to the middle of nowhere to try and kill them, and if any actually did, it would be far easier to see them coming. And instinctively, Methos knew that Tommy's mother would've instilled that in her daughter as well, the ability to survive outside of the city. Even if at some point they had lived in the city, living in nature would've been a first nature to the girl…but once again, try and figure out how long she'd been in the asylum, that kind of isolation could be enough to destroy that first nature in a child, especially after an extended amount of time locked up, and if it really had been years, then this shouldn't come as any surprise.
There was an expression, don't worry when you feel something, worry when you don't, it didn't worry Methos when something did surprise him, he worried for the times when nothing would surprise him.
They were halfway to the quarry when suddenly Tommy stopped. Methos turned to see why, and he saw she was looking at another road that went in another direction. Somehow he'd missed that one before. It didn't appear to him that Tommy knew what lay over that way, but he could tell she was curious to find out.
"Let's have a look, shall we?" he asked, and they started down that path.
This road twisted and turned every which way and then suddenly came to an end, giving way to a neverending stretch of grass that spread out as far as the eye could see. And just at the edge of where the eye could see, there was an abandoned park. Tommy ran ahead of him, he didn't think she could get into any trouble but all the same he chased after her.
The ground was sparsely filled with old metal playground equipment that looked like nobody had used it in 30 years. The paint was long gone and a fine coat of rust covered half of everything, despite this everything still appeared to be in adequate order. He watched as Tommy made a beeline for the jungle gym and decided to see what she'd do. Oddly enough her first stop was at the end of a long metal slide, which she stepped on and proceeded to climb up, instead of going around and climbing its ladder. Once at the top, she leaned over and maneuvered herself onto the frame bar for the swings, and slowly pulled herself along the frame until she reached the monkey bars, where she swung down, grabbed two bars and pulled herself up and hung at the knees from the frame between the two bars. If Methos had to guess, something that she had done before, and often. After a couple minutes, Tommy reached up, grabbed the bars again, flung her legs off the frame, and instead pulled herself up in the gap between the two monkey bars, and proceeded to do a short series of pull-ups before she dropped down. The 5,000 year old Immortal could tell by the look on Tommy's face that she was frustrated at how easily she'd worn out. So, something else that she used to do. However long she'd been in the asylum, it had been long enough to weaken her muscles and shorten her stamina, not a big surprise for any length of time she would've been locked up, yet somehow he felt he was getting closer to finding some answers.
Tommy's face was flushed and she was breathing hard when he went over to her.
"Take it easy," he said with a small pat on the back, "go sit down."
Tommy let out a couple of particularly loud breaths as she sat on the edge of a large rusted merry-go-round. Methos could guess the things going through her mind right now, he walked over to her and patted her head and told her, "You'll get it."
Whatever was going through Tommy's mind was short lived as she set her sights on her next obstacle. Methos turned to see what she was looking at and saw it was a climbing tower of crisscrossed metal bars that stood about 15 feet high and over the years had lost half of the blue paint that coated them. Tommy jumped up and ran over to the tower and began scaling it. She gripped the bars above her tight and climbed up the intersecting rungs of the bars like a ladder. In a few short seconds she had reached the top and stood in the center and looked out at everything in awe from her newly elevated position.
The wheels were turning in Methos' head. He could certainly bring Tommy here every day while it was the two of them, from the looks of it she would get plenty of fresh air and exercise then, and it was something she was already familiar with which would make it even easier, she wouldn't fight him on it. Yes indeed, he had a feeling that things were taking a turn for the better and he and Tommy would do just fine until Kronos got back.