Taliesin

by dossier

Notes & Warnings

The flight had looked mostly unpromising; the fight crew of the newest DC3 in the air were a bunch of dour-looking Dutch fellows, though the steward was pleasant enough. The plane was big enough for nearly ten people, but the cabin held only himself and one other passenger.

The only reason the flight wasn't completely unpromising to Cory Raines.

She was barely more than a teenager, but what a vision of potential. Her green eyes were spaced widely apart, giving her an open look; the faint dusting of freckles that belied summers playing tennis and sailing the family yacht gave her a hint of plainness. And it was the only hint. Her red-gold hair was tucked neatly under one of Paris' latest, and the trim cut of her suit screamed couture. She had met his eyes briefly from under the small net veil, as they introduced themselves, then taken her place onboard the aircraft as if young ladies flew alone across the North Atlantic everyday.

Cory mused about his young goddess for a while. Miss Irene Whittier had Money, that was the obvious part-the lesser obvious was what approach to use, and how far was it going to get him? At the least a conversation here and there over the next day or so would be dandy. At best, maybe more after the plane landed? But, they were seated at the window in their respective rows, and it was going to take a bold move to get her attention. Bold moves, his specialty.

The take off from Amsterdam was exhilarating. It was a far cry from the planes Cory had wrangled in the Great War as a lark, but the power humming through the aircraft from the two engines was exciting. The vibrations from the long climb to cruising altitude wore thin after a while, but eventually the plan leveled off, and the noise died out some. The steward came and offered them fresh cocktails before luncheon. They had some hours before they landed in Reykjavik for refueling, and he intended on making the most of the meal the steward was preparing for them in the galley.

***||***

Dinner in Iceland-- what a concept, Cory thought. The small airfield had sported huge fuel tanks, a control tower and a tiny lounge that barely lived up to the name. It had been cozy though, and Cory'd had the opportunity to meet and talk with the mysterious Miss Irene Whittier who had spent the whole flight to Reykjavik buried in the last 3 issues of "Look" magazine.

They had also learned from the captain, that due to the light load and possible storms, that the route was being shifted to a mad dash across the North Atlantic directly to New York, since they could afford to miss the scheduled fuel stop in Newfoundland.

Cory had slipped into the seat next to Miss Whittier at the first sign of turbulence from the greenish, storm-laden clouds. She looked over at him, him and gave him a grim smile that had nothing to do with humor.

"Hello, there. You looked like you could use some company."

Irene gave him a sick look. "I don't mind telling you that I am really scared. This is exactly what I told father would happen if he made me fly home."

"I see, and where is home?"

"We have a house on the Hudson, but we are there so rarely, I daren't call it home. I've spent far more time in Italy than I have New York, and I so love it there."

"So, why is your father banishing you to dread New York?"

"He says that Italy isn't going to be a very good place to live in a very short while, and he thinks I don't know that war is coming. I let him think I'm the innocent he wants me to be."

"I've found that fathers usually don't like to have their illusions about their daughters shattered."

"So true. But, I'll be transferring to Columbia in New York, and living with my Aunt, jeepers that'll be jolly. I'll miss Italy, but I have something to look forward to."

Cory was about to reply when the airplane fell about a thousand feet straight down, leaving the cabin in a shambles, and their stomachs on the roofs of their mouths. The storm they had thought to outrun or detour around, had come and found them.

Irene had grabbed his hand, and was clutching it tightly, but she hadn't screamed, nor was she crying.

"I have an idea, Miss Whittier. Why don't we play a game? Take our minds off the weather and amuse each other for a while."

"Only if you stop calling me Miss Whittier, Mr. Raines."

"Cory, please. All right then Irene, hypothetical question. If you could ask six hundred and seventy two year old man five questions, what would they be?"

Irene cocked her head and looked at him oddly. "That's a bizarre number. Why didn't you just say five hundred, or a thousand?"

Cory grinned and leaned towards her in a conspiratorial fashion. "It was my birthday last week, and I'm six hundred and seventy two now." His crazy grin and ready laugh pulled her into the game.

"I get it. Throwing yourself into the role, are you?"

Cory gave her a quick, noncommittal shrug. Irene leaned back in the seat and closed her eyes as she thought for a moment, then a wicked grin crossed her face an she opened her eyes. "Christ, are you still here?"

He laughed out loud and squeezed her hand. "That’s the really old guy, not me-but yes I'm still here. Four more."

"That was all I could think of." She paused and though some more. "I don't know, how about 'What was Martin Van Buren *really* like...?'"

Cory glanced over his shoulder to assure their privacy. "The official story is we never met... but unofficially, the Oval Office was never the same." He waggled his eyebrows lasciviously and made the innuendo obvious but seemingly harmless.

Irene was a little taken a back, but she assumed his since intent was to distract her, he was throwing himself into the role again. "Well, a lot less traumatic to picture than Taft, I suppose."

Cory had to admit that she had him on that one. "Eeeeyyyeeewwww, that's almost to much to consider!" Internally he was delighted. She had fallen into step and was turning out to be worldlier than he had suspected.

She grinned at him, a much easier smile and the death grip on his left hand was lessening. "See?"

He nodded fervently in reply. "Marty was only 37 when his wife died, and he never remarried, did you know that? They had only been married 12 years."

"Awww, that's terribly sweet, don't you think?" Irene made a little cooing noise.

"He outlived her by 22 years, but he managed to stay busy."

Irene gave him the sly grin this time. "And now we know why."

Cory returned the expression. "And now we know why."

She laughed, and slapped his hand lightly. "You are so awful, I can't believe I'm letting you corrupt my delicate mind this way."

"Methinks the lady doth protest too much!" The English accent fell easily from his mouth. "Three more questions, ma'am."

"Uhmm...let's see... "Did Coleridge ever forgive you for interrupting him?" She thought to trip him up with this one.

"Now there is an interesting topic. You see he had a horrendous case of writer's block. Some old crone had declared that it was a case of the bad humors backed up in his system. All I was trying to do was rid him of his bad humors. It wasn't MY fault the ass kicked over and died!"

"Did he tell you the ending to 'Kublai Khan' before he died?"

"Well, he rambled on about something. Can't say that I recall anything about Kublai Khan."

"That's too bad."

"But I wasn't particularly paying attention to it either. His publisher was really mad about that, too."

"I'd imagine…."

"I offered to make up an ending, but he declined my assistance; said I'd caused enough trouble, and it would be better if I vacated the premises, or something similar legal connotations."

"How dare he put you off like that!"

"Rather. I told him, 'No, really -- I know someone who was with the Horde! I can find out!'"

Irene laughed out loud. "I can't imagine him not taking you up on that offer!"

"Very, and you have 2 more questions."

"Argh, I have no idea what to ask. No idea at all."

"Oh! I just had a brilliant idea. Ask me how I got to the States. The first time anyway."

"Okay. 'How did you get to the States?'"

Cory leaned back into the seat and relaxed. "Funny you should ask me that."

Irene rolled her eyes in her head, but also relaxed farther. She got the impression that this was going to be a little longer story than the others had been.

"I had been having this long drawn out torrid affair with a Marchioness, and the Marquis had finally got it figured out that it was me. She was safe, she had the money in the family-- he was a title with no cash, but *I* was not safe from this madman with a sword. He didn't know the deal, but who wants to take the chance?"

Irene looked confused and was about to ask a question, but Cory interrupted her. "Immortals can't die unless they have their heads cut off."

She laid on the sarcasm a little. "Of course, I was just going to say that very thing."

"Anything for a story, right?"

"Okay, I'll buy it, swords, immortals, heads." She shook her head.

"So, I had heard that they were recruiting sailors for the next trip to Hispanola, and decided that the farther away I from France that I was, the better off I would be. I let myself get shanghaied by the Captains' men, and off we went for the New World. I get there and decide I liked it, a lot! It was sunny, tropical, beautiful natives, and there was adventure to be had as well.

"So I bailed out on the Captain and signed up with the troops that Ponce de Leon was gathering for his trek to Isla de Flores. Of course, I had decent skills with a sword, and it looked to be a regular lark.

"Take a little boat trip, meet some natives, do a little trading, you know, have some fun. Ponce was a fine figure of a man, too. Tall, red hair and snotty as hell. I had heard of his quest for the fountain of youth, and that amused me. I was only two hundred fourty nine at the time, but I figured I could take him down a peg or two--but the opportunity never really served itself.

Irene interrupted again. "This isn't actually a question, but would it have been feasible for an Englishman in those days, to be among the Spaniards?"

"I had come to them from France, and I was masquerading as a French mercenary. If you didn't make too much book over the fact that you were English and pretended to be Spanish, or French, well, yes it was possible. Could be that was what Ponce had against me, too. 'Fee Fie Fo Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman!' But, like I said, they had picked me up in France, so it wasn't too obvious.

"We landed on this lovely beach, and damn if the natives didn't decide immediately that they didn't like us much. We held them off, and managed to barely win, but I had got stuck with one of their poison arrows. I knew I was dying and I knew I had to get out of there."

"Okay, now wait a minute, I thought you said that immortals only die if their heads get cut off. Which I have to comment on, sounds truly disgusting."

"They can be temporarily killed by the things that kill everyone else. Plague. Gunshots, stab wounds, and oddly enough, poisons. They only stay dead permanently when you shorten them at the neck."

"Truly disgusting idea." Irene reiterated.

"So, to continue: I crawled off into the bushes and found a nice place to die and resuscitate without being found..."

"You were dying and you didn't want to be found?"

"No, they can't let regular mortal humans see this happening, it's against the rules."

"There's *rules* about this?" Irene sounded incredulous at the concept.

"Hey, it's just a story to pass the time, and the more ridiculous, the better, right?"

She shook her head slowly, looking unconvinced. "Riiight."

"I was crawling off into the bush to die, except I *had* caught the eye of de Leon, and he followed me. It would have been perfect any other time, but it was damn inconvenient right at the moment. I did my best to escape him, but I finally ended up at a pool. I stopped to take a drink, but ended up dying of the poison arrow. And guess who was right there when I came back to life?"

"Ponce de Leon."

"Yes, de Leon himself. Of *course* it looked like the spring had revived me!"

"Aha, that explains a lot. How did you dissuade him that it was not a Fountain of Youth?"

"What else could I do? I had to injure him with the same arrow, and hope there was enough poison left on it to finish him off too. No such luck, it did grievously sicken him, though the idiot managed to hold on for about another two months, and then I got sick of playing nursemaid, and making sure that everyone knew he was a raving lunatic with his tales about the fountains of youth, etc."

"You killed Ponce de Leon in disguise as his best companion?"

"I had to. He knew the secret of immortality, and he would never stop pursuing it. I did him a favor, if you think about it."

"Some how killing the man over a case of mistaken science hardly seems like a favor, if you want my humble opinion."

"Times were different. It was he or I, and I definitely intended on hanging about much longer. I had gotten more of the poison, and rubbed it into the wound that refused to heal, so he finally croaked the rest of the way."

"That is a bizarre, disgusting story, Cory Raines."

"You have another question, if you like."

Irene pursed her lips, and thought a moment. "I think I'll save that question for another time. Thank you for the entertainment, it was quite fantastic. If you don't mind, I think I'll just take a little nap. It's quite late and the storm has passed."

"By god, it has. Look at that."

The moon was low on the horizon, and it shed silver light on the coastline they were following down to New York. The dark waters of the North Atlantic pulled the light in, and it appeared as if the world ended right there on that coastline.

"Thank you Cory. It was a fun story, if a little on the macabre side."

"You are welcome." He gave the back of her hand a brief kiss, and then returned to his own row, to contemplate just where his strategy had failed him completely. It wasn't as if he had lied to her, but h admitted it might have been a little strong for so young a girl.

***||***

The plane had landed in the late morning sun of the Idlewild airport, and the steward had opened the door as the stairs were wheeled up.

Miss Whittier looked at him with the same cool discerning look that she had greeted him with so many hours ago. Cory sighed, and knew that he had better think of a fast, last minute way to eat crow or this birdie was going to fly the coop forever.

As she turned her back on him to make her way down the aisle to the exit, Cory leaned over shoulder and whispered in her ear. "I'm terribly sorry, I was trying to take your mind off that storm and I let myself get carried away. I hope I haven't offended you."

Irene turned slightly to see his face so close to her she could have kissed him. Irene turned away, quickly ducking her head and blushing furiously.

Cory smiled, score one for the home team.

"No Mr. Raines, I am not truly offended, but I do wonder about the kind of person that can make up stories like that." She pushed ahead to make the exit before he caught up to her.

He considered letting her make her escape clean, but a momentary devil seized him. Taking a few strides to catch her, he put a hand under her elbow. "Let me help you down the stairs. Do you have someone waiting for you?"

Irene stiffened for a moment, then allowed the familiarity. "My aunt should be here with her car and driver, t was arranged by telegram weeks ago." Her sweet nature overcame her distaste for Cory's story telling. "I could ask her to give you a ride into the city if you need one."

"Thank you, Miss Whittier, for the kind gesture, but I believe I have a party of my own waiting for me here. The jangly buzzing in his head had started as they strolled down the tarmac towards the customs house got stronger; he prayed that it was Amanda as promised.

He stopped paying attention to the conversation of his young travelling companion, and was searching the area for unfriendliness. He had no sword on him; as a matter of fact he rarely carried it all. Cory Raines preferred to run or fuck his opponents, it always worked one way or the other.

There, by the fence. An immortal that looked to have had his first death at a young, dissolute age, but that didn't seem to detract from the danger of the situation.

Cory pulled Miss Whittier's arm through his, and made sure she was on the side as the headhunter. Damn him, how did he find me here?

Another jangling set up in his head and he saw Amanda, and his plan was set. The two of them strolled through the fence as if nothing was wrong, and the other immortal began following them a few paces back. They had nearly covered the distance to where the cars were parked, Amanda next to the sleek roadster and Miss Whittier the elder next to the black limousine.

Irene had caught on that someone was following them. She leaned over to him, and asked in the same conspiratorial tone that Cory had used the day before, "Question Five: is that man with the long black coat one of your immortals?"

Cory took advantage of the moments closeness to kiss her briefly, then shoved her backwards, ass over teakettle into their pursuer, as he took off running to the car as before they could extricate themselves.

Amanda had the car moving almost before he got to the door. He dove in and she sped away, leaving a very shocked and dusty trio behind them.

"So, darling, how was your trip?"

"Boring, boring trip, glad to be back."

~fini~


Notes

Fandom: Highlander

Category/Rated: Gen, E

Year/Length: 2002 ?/ ~3200

Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, only having fun.

Summary: Cory Raines takes a plane ride.

Author's Notes: Could not have been written with out a long afternoon discussion with Jami, and afternoons chat with Realitycek, or a deft suggestion from Sebastian. It was quite the collaborative effort, and just under the wire for the NickZone Picture This challenge.

Beta: My darling Sue, of course.

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