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Master of Opportunity (Part 5)

by Denise Proctor and Bertha Trusdell (c) 1999


Joe shook his head in amazement. "It must have been fate, Methos, for you to find him like that."

"Fate, destiny, whatever...I was just glad that I found him." Methos sat forward to investigate the food tray that had just been delivered. "This looks interesting." He said, smiling at Joe. The old Watcher gave him a look of disgust.

"Oh, yeah...cold, lumpy, tasteless...interesting isn't a word that I'd use."

"But you will eat it." Methos leveled a glare at his friend, challenging him to argue.

"What will you do if I don't? Kill me?"

"Nope," Methos answered lightly, sitting back in his chair. "I just won't finish the story." He folded his arms across his chest, waiting for Joe's response.

Joe stared at him for a moment, trying to return the glare.

"You'd think they'd take some pity on a dying man," he grumbled as he picked up his fork. Methos smiled at him. "Well, don't just sit there smiling," Joe protested around a mouthful of food. "What happened next?"

"Well, I found the old woman and got her to take the baby to the MacLeods. I found out later that their own child, a son, had been stillborn and they had put this baby in it's place. He would be raised as the Chieftain's son, as heir to the Clan MacLeod."

As Methos sat quietly, reliving the fond memory, Joe noted the look of pride on his face. 'Old softy,' he thought, smiling to himself.

Bringing his mind back to the present, Methos continued. "My task now was to find someone to watch over him, to protect him as he grew. I didn't want to influence him, not during his formable years, so it had to be someone else. But I knew exactly who that would be."


"Yep," Methos nodded.

"But how would you get in touch with her? How did you even know where she was? And why did you think she would even consider doing this for you?"

"Whoa, take it easy Joe." Methos laughed, holding up his hand to ward off the onslaught of questions. "One question at a time!" Joe squirmed in anticipation. Methos had to laugh to himself. Joe reminded him of a child listening to a fairy tale, desperate to know the ending. He leaned forward to pick at the food still on Joe's tray, popping a cooked carrot into his mouth. 'This is disgusting' he thought to himself. 'No wonder Joe doesn't want to eat.'

"I knew where she was because I made a habit of keeping track of people who wanted to kill me." Joe nodded at that practicality. "As far as getting her to do this, she would never know that the request was coming from me."

Methos got out of the chair and walked around the room, needing to stretch his legs.

"There was an old friend, a woman named Gwendolyn, who lived in the wilds of Wales. She had been a friend of Ambrosius. She had also been one of Cassandra's teachers and Cassandra trusted her completely. I went to her and told her a story about the child and a prophecy. Cassandra had a weakness for prophecies and such. I knew that would draw her interest. I told Gwen that the child had to be watched, be protected and that Cassandra would be perfect for the job. She said that she would see to it that Cassandra took up the task. I returned to the Highlands and waited for Cassandra to get into place. It wasn't long before I started hearing tales about the Witch of Donan Woods."

"So," Joe summarized, "you'd found the next Champion, placed him with a good family and set someone up to watch and protect him. What did you do next? Tell Timothy?"

"No,' Methos shook his head. "As much as I wanted to tell him that his task was nearing it's end, I knew, or at least hoped, that it would still be many years before Timothy and Mac would meet. I decided to wait until Mac's first death to alert Timothy. So," Methos raised his arms over his head, stretching his entire body. "for the time being, there was nothing left for me to do. The next step would be to find him a teacher and I already knew who that would be."

"Connor." Joe stated as Methos agreed

"His teacher, Ramirez, had been a student and friend of mine. After Ramirez was killed, I befriended Connor, thinking that he might be useful in the future." Methos chuckled. "And I was right."

"So what did you do?"

"Joe, for the first time in I don't know how long, I wasn't needed anywhere. I had nothing to do. So I decided to take a relaxing vacation, a trip around the world. I headed east to Asia, meeting old friends, renewing old acquaintances and generally relaxing. From Asia, I headed across the Pacific to South America then up through Mexico and across North America. I ran into an old friend, an Indian shaman..."

"Kol T'ek?"

Methos nodded. "...and continued heading east. From there I came back to Europe. I had just returned to Paris, to the court of Louis XIII, when I received the news that Duncan had been killed in another ridiculous Clan Battle and, when he'd revived, had been banished from the clan. I headed back to Scotland, to tell Timothy and to set out to find Connor."

**1623 - Timothy's Cave**

"Timothy? TIMOTHY!" Methos shouted, fear blinding him to all around him. Where is he? Why can't I find him? After all this time, was it possible that Timothy had finally been killed? The old immortal cursed and pounded his fist against a tree. Why now? The Champion had finally been found! He had recently suffered his first death and was now ready to learn of his destiny. Methos had to find him a teacher, one that would give him a firm foundation that Methos could build upon. He planned to let Timothy know this before he set out in search of Connor MacLeod, a kinsman of the Champion.

Methos spun around, sword in hand before he was aware that he was moving. He blinked and was not really surprised to see Timothy standing there, blending in with the trees so well that he was almost invisible. So relieved was Methos to see the hermit that, for a moment, he did not speak.

"It is me, Timothy. It is Marcus. He is coming to you Timothy! Do you hear me? The Champion is getting ready and he will be coming to find you. His name is Duncan MacLeod. I must go find his kinsman, Connor, who will come to teach him. Timothy, do you hear me? You are almost done!"

The hermit stared at Methos and tugged at the long beard he now wore. He looked around slowly and focused back on Methos.

"You are sure? He is coming?" The rusty voice finally said.

Methos threw his head back and laughed out loud. "Yes, yes! He will be here soon. I am going to find him a teacher. Do you remember what to do?"

Timothy gave a slow nod of his head. "I am to teach him what I know, teach him what he needs to learn."

"Very good. Be well, my old friend, your journey is almost at an end. I must go but I will return."

Timothy watched Methos ride off. A strange smile crossed his face. He would teach, the Champion would learn and his journey would end, but not in the way that was expected.


"Wait a minute." Joe's face wrinkled in concentration. "Mac's first death was in, what, October?"

"Yep," Methos nodded. "October, 1622. By the time I got to Timothy, it was not long after the Winter Solstice, sometime in January, 1623."

"Then why didn't Connor get to Mac until 1625?"

Methos was fascinated by Joe's ability to, even now, remember the most insignificant fact of Duncan's life. He shook his head in amazement while he started to chuckle, remembering the trek he'd been forced to make in his attempt to find Connor.

"Because Connor MacLeod was an idiot who was having too much fun playing a game on his friend." Methos sat heavily in the chair as he continued on with the saga...

**1624 - Lisbon**

Methos stopped his horse in front of the tavern and dismounted. His frustration and anger radiated off of him in waves, warning anyone who came near that it was best to give this man a wide berth. Passing the animal, along with a few coins, off to a nervous stable boy, he grabbed his saddlebags and stalked toward the entrance that would bring him face to face with a potential dead man.

That detestable wretch of a Scot! That Godforsaken debased Highlander!

Connor MacLeod!!!

For almost two years Methos had been traveling much of the world, searching for this low-life, good-for-nothing son of a sheepherder. Across Europe into Asia, down through India, back west towards Africa. Every time that he thought that he'd located this nefarious dolt, he'd find that he'd missed him by a week, or by a few days. His last near miss had been in Verona. He'd entered the city only to find that he'd missed Connor by a day! One day!

From there, Methos discovered that the longhaired, foul-smelling reprobate had taken a ship to Lisbon. Methos had finally arrived in the coastal city, riding across the continent as fast as he could, determined that he wasn't going to miss him this time.

He stopped at the door, taking a deep breath. He had to get his anger under control. After all, he admitted to himself, it really wasn't Connor's fault that Methos couldn't catch up with him. Connor wasn't even aware that Methos, or Mathias, as the Scot knew him, was looking for him.

Methos had begun his search not long after Duncan had met his first death. He had always tried to keep track of Connor, knowing that he'd planned to have him become Duncan's primary teacher. He never imagined that finding this Scot would prove so difficult.

The fact that Duncan was without his teacher was a bit of concern for the ancient Immortal. Oh, he knew that Cassandra was still in the Highlands and would continue to watch over the youngster. He hoped that Duncan, drawn by the essence of the other Champion, had found Timothy. 'Stop worrying, old man,' he admonished himself. 'It's not like he is wandering the Highlands aimlessly, not knowing what he is.'

Methos had chosen Connor as Duncan's teacher for a few reasons. Their common background, their relatively close age but, most of all, because Connor had been taught by Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez, the master swordsman.

Ramirez had been Methos' student, for a time, and they had developed a long friendship. Ramirez had introduced the ancient one to his newest student and Methos, ever vigilant, had filed that acquaintance away for future use. When The Kurgan had taken Ramirez, Methos sought to strengthen the relationship even further...

**1545 - Scotland**

Methos scanned the crowd that surged in and around the stalls and tents of this village market day. He was looking for the mortal woman, Heather, lover of Connor MacLeod. He'd come to visit Connor but wanted to do it alone, unobserved by anyone else. Once he was sure that she was here, making her weekly trades and purchases, he would make his way to the croft that the two young people called their home.

He had been drawn here by the news of the death of Ramirez. Saddened by the discovery that his former student and friend had lost his battle with The Kurgan, Methos wished to check on Connor's progress. At their previous meeting, Methos discovered that he liked the brash, young Immortal. Strong and fearless, the bullheaded Scot could be a test on ones patience, though. Methos had laughed at the predicament that Ramirez had gotten himself into.

'There she is,' he said to himself as he spotted the young, blond haired woman just entering the marketplace. Grabbing the reins of his horse, Methos headed nonchalantly the other way, not wanting to encounter the woman. Once away from the square, Methos mounted the animal for the short gallop to find the Highlander.

A few minutes later he pulled his horse up short as he felt an immortal presence. Dismounting, he walked the remaining distance down the trail, giving the Highlander time to become aware of him. Cresting the small hill, he spied the Scot, sword drawn, ready for battle.

"Greetings, Highlander," Methos shouted, waving. He waited until he saw the other's sword lower a bit before he continued down the path.

"Mathias?" Connor questioned, momentarily unsure of the identity of the approaching Immortal. Finally recognizing his teacher's friend, Connor lowered his blade. "Mathias," he nodded, offering this friend his hand, relief apparent in his voice

Methos clasped the offered hand, searching the Scot's eyes. Despite the outward show of calm, Methos could see the raging emotions that he barely held in check.

"How goes it with you, Connor?" he asked, placing a hand on the young man's shoulder.

"He is gone, Mathias." Connor answered softly. "Ramirez is dead."

Seeing the tears that threatened to escape his eyes, Methos pulled the Immortal child into an embrace. 'By the Gods, he's still a baby,' he thought as Connor gave in to emotions. 'He's suffered so much and he's not even thirty years of age.'

Connor broke the embrace and turned away, embarrassed by his unmanly display of tears. Methos, sitting on a nearby boulder, waited for the Scot to face him again before he spoke.

"Tell me what happened."

Connor recited what he knew of the encounter, his anger building with every word. By the time he came to the end of his tale, he was stomping the ground, waving his arms, unable to find a sufficient vent for his rage.

"I'm going to track that murdering bastard down and I'm going to take his head!" Connor screamed

"No, you will not!" Methos' words, spoken quietly, held an undeniable force that stopped the young Immortal cold. Turning to face the older Immortal, Conner found the other's eyes boring into his, frightening him.

"Why?" he asked weakly, his anger washing away in the face of those flashing, hypnotic eyes.

Methos rose and walked over to the Scot, the movement breaking the Highlander's trance. Connor blinked, seeing, once again, only the face of his friend.

"Because you are in no condition to face anyone, let along the Kurgan. Your anger will serve no good purpose. It will only get you killed."

"Then what do you suggest that I do?" Connor's stubborn pride would not allow him to simply walk away.

"Live, Highlander. Grow stronger. Fight another day."

They talked for a few hours, sharing stories of their friend. When Heather became visible at the top of the hill, Methos took his leave, assured that their conversation had brought some measure of comfort to the Scot. What it had brought for Methos was a promise for the future.

**1624 - Lisbon**

Taking another deep breath, Methos grew calmer, taking on the air of nonchalance. He could feel the presence of the Scot even through the door. By now, Connor should also be aware of him. Methos smiled. He would approach Connor, remind him of his promise and send him back to the Highlands. Then he planned to take the next couple of years and simply relax!

Pushing through the door, Methos scanned the room searching for the one face that should also be searching for his. But, other that the innkeeper, no one paid him any mind. At the sound of a barmaid's giggle, Methos turned to look at the table situated in the far corner of the room.

The barmaid was seated precariously on a patron's lap, her head thrown back in laughter, as the patron seemed to be burying his face in her breasts. As Methos was about to turn away he heard the patron's raspy laughter and, stepping forward, took a closer look.


Methos was shocked to see the object of his search so thoroughly enjoying himself, oblivious to his surroundings. The fool didn't even have enough sense to acknowledge the presence of another Immortal!

As Methos' mind searched for other suitable epitaphs to lavish upon the Scot, Connor turned to face him, a broad smile creasing his face.

"Mathias, my friend." Connor waved a tankard of ale at Methos. "You've finally arrived. What took you so long?"

'...finally arrived? ...took you so long?' Methos stood, his mouth agape, unable to believe what he was hearing. Finally, a recognizable sound escaped his lips.


The Scot gave a booming, Highland laugh at the bewildered expression on the older Immortal's face. Taking pity on his friend, Connor moved the little lady from his lap and, standing, crossed over to Methos.

"Mathias, please forgive me, but I was having such a wonderful time." Connor continued laughing as he placed his hand on the ancient's shoulder. "You must admit that this merry chase has been a delight."

'...merry chase?' Methos thought. "Merry Chase?" he said aloud, his voice tinged with amazement.

"I apologize, my friend but, when I realized that you were searching for me, about 8 months ago, I thought it would be fun to see how far you would go." Connor laughed again as the color began to rise in Methos' face. "But I finally took pity on you and decided to wait for you here."

As the Highlander continued to laugh, his words wrapped themselves around Methos' mind.

'This loathsome rogue has known, all along, that I was searching for him! The perverted buffoon had been playing a game all this time!' A cold rage began to build in his soul as the realization settled in. 'All this time I've been chasing him and now he stands before me, laughing! The depraved scoundrel! The abhorrent miscreant!'

At a momentary loss of suitable descriptions, Methos reacted the only way that he could. As Connor turned from the barmaid back to Methos, the oldest Immortal punched him in the face, dropping the Highlander immediately to the floor.

"Damn, that felt good!" Methos shouted, as he broke into laughter.

The screaming barmaid, who had run to Connor's aid as he hit the floor, moved aside when Methos bent down to pick up the unconscious Scot, throwing him over his shoulder. The innkeeper, hoping to forestall any further disruption, moved closer.

"Does he have a room here?" Methos asked the nervous old man as he held the Highland idiot's legs, not wanting him to fall on his head. 'On second thought...' he mused, chuckling.

"Top of the stairs, milord. First door on the right." The innkeeper indicated the staircase at the other end of the room. Methos nodded and made his way upstairs.

Entering the room, Methos looked around for someplace to put his Highland parcel. After a moments thought, he simply dropped him to the floor. Going over to the only chair in the room, a solid, sturdy piece made of a heavy wood, Methos dragged it to the middle of the room. He picked Connor up and not too gently placed him in the chair. Taking a length of rope from the saddlebag that he'd carried with him, he proceeded to tie the Highlander to the chair, barely giving him enough space to breath. Confident that the Scot was secure, Methos took an apple from his bag and sat down on the bed to wait.

A short time later, Connor began to stir. Realizing that he was bound, he began to struggle until he looked up and saw Methos, still sitting on the bed, smiling at him.

"Comfortable?" Methos asked

"Mathias, this isn't funny. Let me go!"

"Well, I would, my friend," Methos responded as he rose slowly from the bed to walk over to his prisoner. "But, after all the trouble that I went to just to find you, I simple can not take the risk that you'll get away."

"Mathias, let me go!" the Scot shouted, getting angry. Methos laughed at him. His temper taking over, Connor renewed his struggle against his bonds, to no avail. Tiring, he gave up.

"What do you want, Mathias?" he asked wearily

Towering over the compliant Scot, hands on his hips, Methos fixed him with an icy stare. "I want you to know that I have spent the last two years chasing after you and I do not appreciate it."

Connor cowered a little under the frightening gaze. He had been introduced to Mathias by Ramirez and always thought of the Immortal as friendly enough but he never seemed to have much to say, content to sit back and watch. Connor thought that maybe he was a little slow. He had never seen this side of Mathias, with this cold, calm look of death. He began to grow worried.

"I'd take you head right here, you imbecile, if I didn't need you. But, alas, I do. So, you are going to listen to me and listen closely." Suddenly, from out of no where, a dagger appeared in his hand, its point pressing lightly at the base of Connor's throat. "Do I have your full attention?" Methos asked softly.

Connor gave a slight nod, afraid to move too much lest he impale himself on the blade. Methos saw the fear in his eyes and smiled to himself. 'This is fun,' he thought

"Fine. Now, a few years ago I told you that, in the future, I might need a favor. If I remember correctly, your response was something along the line of 'your wish is my command'. Do you remember that?" Connor nodded again. "Good. Now, there is a young man, a Highland Scot, that I have been watching for a long time. Two years ago, he became Immortal. So, for my wish. Are you listening?" He pressed slightly on the dagger, the point piercing the skin. Again, Connor responded with a slight nod. "My wish is that you become his teacher. I want you to teach him as Ramirez taught you. Do you think that you can do that?"

"Yes." Connor managed to whisper, willing, at this moment, to promise anything.

Methos removed the dagger, which disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared. Connor decided that there was a lot about this man that he didn't know, some of which he was sure that he didn't want to know. It might just be wise, he decided, to keep this man a friend because Connor was sure he didn't want him as an enemy.

"Mathias, I'm sorry," he began. "I didn't realize that you had a purpose for seeking me out. If I had known, I wouldn't have played this silly game on you." Connor saw a sparkle in the other man's eyes. 'Good,' he thought, 'I think this is going to work.'

"As for this young Immortal of yours," Connor continued, "it would be my honor to teach him. Can you tell me more about him?"

Methos watched the Scot as he spoke, seeing the perspiration on his brow. 'I wonder what else I can get him to promise?' Methos chuckled at this thought. 'Concentrate on the task at hand, old man.' His inner voice told him. Sprawling across the bed, getting as comfortable as he could while still trying to appear a bit menacing, Methos filled Connor in.

"Actually, he's somewhat of a kinsman of yours, my friend. His name is Duncan MacLeod. He was raised as the son of the Clan Chieftain. He possesses a very deep sense of duty and honor, so he may be a bit bull headed but, I'm sure you can handle that." Methos smiled.

"A Chieftain's son, you say?" Connor considered this information. "Is he a warrior? Is he strong? Can he already handle a sword?"

"He's a Chieftain's son, you moron!" Methos allowed a bit of anger to flash in his eyes. "What do you think?" He was enjoying the little game of fear that he was playing with this child.

"Oh, well, yes. Of course, you're right." Connor stammered, trying to regain the good will that he thought he'd been building. He realized that he'd made a grievous error. He'd been a fool to play with this man.

"So, if you would just untie me and tell me where to find your young friend, I'll be off."

Methos studied the Highlander before him, taking in his words and demeanor. 'No,' he thought. 'As soon as I let him go, he's going to run.' Groaning to himself, Methos realized that he was going to be forced to deliver this nuisance himself, if he wanted to make sure that he arrived. Methos sighed. 'Months on a horse, in the company of this dunderhead!' Turning his eyes to the heavens, he pleaded. 'By the Gods, do I really deserve this?'

Rising slowly from the bed, he went over to the Scot, reaching out to test the ropes. "I think it would be best if I left you right where you are. We'll both leave in the morning, after I've had a good night's sleep." He smiled at the young man, seeing anger beginning in his eyes. "Relax, Connor. Get comfortable. It's going to be a long night."

The next morning found them on the road, Methos riding and leading Connor's horse; the Highlander bound, hands to feet, across the saddle. Spending the night tied to the chair had not improved the young Immortal's mood. As soon as Methos had released him, he started to fight, trying to escape. Methos was once again forced to render the Scot unconscious. Methos now smiled at the memory.

They had been riding for hours, Methos grumbling at the inconvenience of it all. As much as he thought he liked the Scot, he had no desire to be in his company at the moment. He had no desire to be returning to Scotland, especially with winter not too far away. He wanted to be someplace warm, someplace where beautiful young ladies would have nothing better to do than to respond to his every wish.

His soothing fantasy was disrupted by the shouts of the disgruntled Scot.

"Mathias, let me go!"

When he received no response from Methos, Connor began to thrash about which only set to spooking his horse. The animal began to buck, slamming the tied Highlander into its sides thereby causing the Scot to scream louder. As much as Connor's pain was bringing Methos pleasure, the noise was getting on his nerves. Pulling up, he dismounted and tried to calm the frightened animal and, quite by accident, managed to smack Connor in the back of the head. A few times.

"Mathias, let me down. Ouch! Hey! Stop!"

"Oh, I'm sorry Connor," Methos said, he voice apologetic, happy that the Scot couldn't see the broad smile on his face. "But if you would just be still, I'd be able to calm the horse."

"And if you'd just let me loose, the animal wouldn't be tossing me around like a toy!"

"Well, if you insist," Methos responded as he reached under the horse and, tugging on the rope, untied Connor's hands. A well-placed elbow into the horse's flank resulted in Connor being thrown, quite soundly, to the ground.

"Are you all right?" Methos asked, his voice just dripping with concern.

"No, I'm not all right!" Connor shouted. "I think I broke my nose."

"Oh, let me see," Methos said as he knelt down beside the moaning Scot. "You are such a child!" Running his fingers along Connor's nose, he gave it a tweak then stood, laughing as the young Immortal yelled. "Don't worry, Connor. You'll heal."

Connor got to his feet, torn between taking his revenge on this man and running. Methos fixed him with an icy glare as he made the decision for him. "Don't even consider running. You don't want to make me chase you."

Connor sagged into the ground in defeat. He was tired of fighting with this man, he was tired of being tied up and he was tired of riding with his face pressed against the side of a horse. As he sat on the ground, watching Methos set up camp, he tried, unsuccessfully, to remember why he was fighting at all.

'Mathias has always treated me as a friend,' Connor thought. 'I did make him a promise, after Ramirez died. Now he's come to collect and I'm honor-bound to comply.' He thought about the situation a bit longer. 'It is my fault that he's angry,' Connor admitted to himself. 'I suppose that I should make amends.'

"Mathias," Connor ventured, "if this youngster is so important, why don't you teach him yourself?"

Methos walked over and handed Connor some dried fruit then sat on the ground beside him. Taking a pull from the wineskin, he passed that over, too.

"Because I have no patience with children, as you can see." Connor managed to look a bit embarrassed, which brought a smile to the ancient's face. "Besides, I don't know how to talk to him. We have nothing in common. He would not learn from me."

"Well, you do have the look about you of a scribe, not at all like a warrior." When Methos glanced up at the Scott, Connor hurried to add, "which I know is an assumption that would be fatal to make." Methos smiled. "But, tell me Mathias, why is he so important."

Methos thought about this for a few minutes, trying to decide how to explain. Finally, he gave up. "I can not explain it, Connor. You'll just have to wait until you meet him. Then you will see."

"Do you think that he could be the one?"

"The one?"

"The only one. The winner of the prize?"

"That's very possibly, Connor. That's very possible."

They continued eating and talking and finally came to an agreement. Connor would go to Scotland to teach this young Immortal and Methos would refrain from hitting him and punching him and tying him up.

The remainder of the trip was basically uneventful, building a deeper friendship between the two men. The crossing of the Channel proved a delight for Connor and a misery for Methos. While Connor reveled in the turbulent voyage, with the ocean's spray and the salty breeze through his hair, Methos, whose love of the sea died centuries ago, spent the trip below decks, maintaining a lovely shade of green. The moment that brought the greatest laughter to Connor's heart was when they docked at Southampton and Methos, stumbling down the gangplank, fell to his knees and kissed the ground. After spending a few days in the port, Connor finding all the taverns and Methos finding his stomach, they took their horses and headed north to Scotland.

A few weeks later found them almost at their destination. They rode along the trail, nearing Timothy's cave, talking and laughing together as the sun began to set behind the hills. Without any warning they were assailed by the sounds of nature exploding, the feel of the rumbling earth and the sight of unnatural lightening. A Quickening!

Methos and Connor looked at each other in shock and mute agreement then suddenly took off down the trail, Methos in the lead, as fast as their horses could go.

Stopping at the crest of the hill just outside the cave, the two Immortals watched as a young man, dressed in various rags and furs, came stumbling from the tumble of rocks that had once been the hermit's cave. Duncan! Methos watched as he fell to his knees, stunned.

Methos made a move to go to assist the future Champion when, from the corner of his eye, he saw Connor spur his horse forward. Methos waited and watched.

Connor halted in front of the kneeling figure and dismounted, crouching down in front of the trembling innocent. Duncan looked up at this stranger, tears streaming down his face.

"Father was right! I am a demon!" he cried. Seeing the clansman before him, Duncan pleaded "What have I done? What am I?"

"You are not a demon, my friend." Connor said softly, trying to soothe the quaking body. "You are Immortal."

"Who are you? What are you?" Duncan asked, feeling the jumble of energy along the edge of his mind.

"I, too, am Immortal." Connor smiled. "I am Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod and I have come to show you our way."

Connor raised his stunned kinsman to his feet and, after some urging, managed to get him up onto the horse. As he began to lead the horse away, he turned to look back at Methos, still sitting at the crest of the hill. His look told Methos everything that the ancient needed to know. Duncan would be fine. Connor would see to it.

When the two immortals, new teacher and new student, were finally out of sight, Methos made his way to what used to be the entrance of the hermit's cave. He had to get inside. He had to find out what had happened. He had to find Timothy.

He began to move the fallen rocks, throwing them aside, until, finally, he was inside the cave. He found the fire, still burning; a rabbit still on the spit. Then he saw Timothy's body, his head not far away. Kneeling down, he reached out to touch the now dead form, tears spring to his eyes.

"Oh, my friend, what have you done?" His voice, so sad, so weary, still echoed through the cavern. "What happened here, Timothy? What went wrong?"

He rose and began to search the cave, hoping to find answers to his questions. He came upon a wooden chest, one that he knew that Timothy used for keeping his important items. Kneeling down beside it, he lifted the solid, wooden lid, scanning the contents inside. A few dried herbs, some small sticks, some bones and, moving those things aside, a scroll, tied up with blades of grass. Methos was stunned to see his name, METHOS, written in Timothy's hand, on the outside.

He gently removed the scroll from the chest and, sliding off the grass ties, opened it and began to read:

Do not worry, my friend. The Old Ones told me of your true name so that I may understand fully.

You were right, he is coming. I can feel his presence growing closer every day. And when he finally arrives, I will keep my promise, made all those years ago.

I will tell him of his future, of the things that he needs to know. But it will not be enough, my friend. He will not believe. He will not understand. So I will do what is necessary. I will force him to take my head.

The knowledge that I posses will become a part of him, buried in his memory until it is needed. Fear not, old one, he will have it when the time comes. But I have known, almost from the beginning, that I would not be able to make him understand.

Do not grieve, teacher. I am looking forward to the moment. I am so tired, so very tired. I have fought my battle and won and I will pass the information on. My destiny will be fulfilled, because of you.

Thank you, my friend and rest easy. Your biggest battle still lies ahead.

Methos wiped at the tears that were streaming down his face. How long ago was this written? Was he lucid at the end? Methos checked the scroll again, hoping to find a date. Down in the right hand corner of the scroll, Methos saw something that tore at his heart.

Timothy had written this note only this morning! He hadn't met Duncan until today!

His mind was reeling as Duncan's words came back to him. 'I am a demon.' Duncan had shouted. 'What am I?' he had cried. Methos stood, disbelief washing across his soul. That which he had feared had come to pass. Duncan had spent these past three years wandering the Highlands, not knowing what he was, cut off from everything that he'd known.

"Damn. Damn! DAMN!" Methos shouted, kicking at the fire, at the chest, at anything that he could take his frustrations out on. If he had gotten here faster, maybe he could have stopped Timothy. If he had found Connor sooner, Duncan wouldn't have been made to suffer.

Methos felt his anger at Connor once again rising to the surface. 'No,' he told himself, 'that will accomplish nothing.' Methos took a deep breath, calming his mind. 'Connor has him now. Everything will be all right.' He scanned the cave again, his eyes once more coming to rest on Timothy's body.

Without another word, without another thought, Methos began to move everything about the cave, positioning the body, and its head, in a place of reverence by the fire, surrounding it with the belonging that held importance to Timothy. Taking the scroll and holding it to the flame, he watched the only evidence to his identity turn to ash. That done, he backed slowly out of the cave, resealing the entrance, he hoped, for eternity.

"Farewell, good friend. Your task is done. Rest easy now with your Gods."

Methos mounted his horse and slowly rode away, towards his and Duncan's future.


"So you and Connor remained friends?"

Methos stood, looking out the window as he answered. "Yes. When he was younger, I thought he was a fool but, after Duncan, he became more serious, almost as if he sensed Mac's importance. But he always had a way of frustrating the hell out of me." Turning back to face his friend, he continued. "You know how easy it is for me to get under Mac's skin, to push his buttons? Well, with Connor, it was just the opposite. I could never get at him and, whenever I tried, he would simply laugh. He was so frustrating."

"So he got the best of you."

"At times," Methos admitted, with a smile. "Although, I'd never admit that to him."

"Does Mac know that you know Connor?"

"Joe, there's a lot about me that Mac doesn't know and I think it's best of we keep it that way."

"Why," Joe asked, suddenly turning serious. "Don't you think he should know about the sacrifices that you've made for him? Don't you think he deserves to know the truth?"

"Frankly, Joe, I'm not sure that he'd understand and I really don't want to risk it." Methos sat down in the chair, suddenly looking very old. "There's always been a part of me that he didn't trust, as if he felt there was something I was hiding." Seeing Joe's eyebrows raised in a 'well, you were' expression, Methos chuckled. "Yeah, well, alright. But that uncertainty seemed to lead him to believe the worst of me."

"Like with Kronos?"

"Yeah, but even before that, he wasn't sure."

"What do you mean?"

Methos sat silently for a moment, unsure as to whether he wanted to share this part of himself, this hurt, with his friend. 'Well, you've told him so much already, what's a little more,' he thought.

"That incident with the crystal. He asked me if I sent killers after Amanda. A part of him actually believed that I did."

"No, he didn't," Joe tried to reassure him. "Both of you were his friends and he was worried."

"If he trusted me, Joe, he wouldn't even have had to ask." The pain and disappointment in his voice almost broke Joe's heart. "If he ever found out the rest, he'd probably hate me for manipulating him his entire life. No, I don't think I'll share this information with him."

Methos looked at Joe and, for a moment, thought he saw a smile on the old man's face.

After a few moments of reflective silence, Joe spoke again. "So, Mac spent those three years alone, like you were worried that he would. It seems that he came through it unscathed."

"Unscathed?" Methos starred at Joe, stunned. "I don't think so. Those three years effected him more than any other experience in his entire life."

"Do you really think so?" Joe asked

Methos nodded. "I didn't realize it until we met, until I actually got to know him, but yes, I believe that it did."


"Well, think about it, Joe." Methos explained. "He grew up as the only child of a doting mother and a proud father, surrounded by a clan that loved and protected him, who looked to him for their future. Then, one day, like that..." Methos snapped his fingers "...it was all taken away. He was abandoned by his father, banished by his clan; he lost his family, his Clan, his very identity and he was suddenly alone."

"But he was still the same man."

"Was he?" Methos stood, making his way back to the window. "Did you ever watch him when he declares himself, Joe? 'Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod'! He says it with such pride, such strength. Says it with such defiance, as if daring anyone to tell him different, because there's a part of him, deep down inside, a part that he is unwilling to acknowledge, that knows that it's not true. So he tries, with every breath that he takes, during every waking moment, to make it so. He surrounds himself with friends, people that he loves, people he can protect. He tries to rebuild his Clan, to replace what he had lost." Methos shook his head in sadness, his voice falling to a whisper. "And when he loses someone, when somebody that he loves dies, he experiences that tremendous lose all over again." Methos turned to face his friend. "So, yeah, Joe. I think that experience, more than any other in his life, made him the man that we know today."

The men sat in silence for a short time, each lost in their own thoughts. Joe's mind was replaying everything that he'd heard, trying to reconcile it with the truths that he'd known all his adult life. He didn't doubt what Methos was telling him. One look at the Immortal confirmed to Joe that this telling was costing the man dearly. Methos was exposing his vulnerability and that, Joe knew, went against five thousand years of survival instinct. So, while Joe believed that Methos was, for once, being completely truthful, this was still hard to accept.

Meanwhile Methos sat, his head in his hands, not believing that he was giving Joe all this information. He hadn't opened himself up to anyone like this since Darius and that was ...what...1500 years ago? He would never admit this to Joe but he was suddenly feeling very vulnerable. His life had always been about caution, about never reveling too much, always holding something back. Knowledge was power and Methos never gave that kind of power to anyone. He trusted Joe with his life and had done so on many occasions but this was different. Methos hadn't survived five thousand years by exposing his weaknesses and this, this was exposing his deepest secrets, his greatest weaknesses, and he didn't like the feeling at all

A soft chuckle caused Methos to raise his head and look over at the mortal sitting in the bed. Joe was shaking his head, smiling.

"What?" Methos asked. No matter how uncomfortable he was, he owed it to Joe to finish this. So, pushing away his feelings of discomfort, he rose from the chair and walked over to the bed.

"Is there anyone in Duncan's life who's meeting you didn't orchestrate?" Joe asked in amazement

Methos laughed at the question. "Oh, yeah. There were a few people that he met strictly on his own. I had nothing to do with them."


"Fitzcairn, for one." Methos shook his head, remembering. "I thought of taking his head a number of times, trying to prevent that friendship."

"You didn't like Fitzcairn?"

"Oh, I liked him well enough. He was a good man and he was a great friend to Mac, but, I'll tell you Joe, there were times when he was so reckless, I thought he was going to get MacLeod killed!" Methos tried to explain. "It's like being a parent meeting your teenager's friends. They seem nice enough but, God, they scare you!"

"Well, with some of the things I've read in Fitz's Chronicles, I'd tend to agree with you." Joe laughed "Anyone else?"

"Yes," Methos smiled. "There is a certain female thief that he met all on his own."

"Amanda?" Methos nodded. "You didn't know her?"

"I knew OF her. I had arranged for Rebecca to run into Duncan, hopefully to teach him a few things. I didn't realize that her student would come with the deal."

"So you did know Rebecca." Joe pushed a little harder

Methos shrugged his shoulders. "We were, uh...friends. Close friends."

"How close?" Joe asked, already knowing the answer. When Methos simply looked at the Watcher and smiled, Joe knew that was all the answer that he was going to get.

"There were others, along the way." The Immortal offered. "Brian Cullen, Kamir, Kiem Sun. I simply couldn't be everywhere, watching him all the time, although, I'll tell you, I tried."

"Kept you busy, did he?" Joe chuckled

Methos shook his head as he laughed. "In the beginning, he nearly drove me nuts. I tried to watch him constantly, controlling everyone he met, protecting him from everything. But I soon realized that, if he was going to be the man that he had to be, I had to let him fight his own battles. I couldn't fight them for him. The only thing that I could do was to make sure he was as prepared as possible for any challenge that he met. So I kept throwing different teachers in his path. It was all that I could do. But, I'll admit that sometimes I made mistakes. One person that I thought would be his best teacher turned out to be the person that almost destroyed him."

"Who was that?"

"Graham Ashe." Methos replied. "What he did shattered Mac's self-confidence and made him doubt his judgement of others. For the first time in Mac's life, I felt that I had to step in."

**1658 - Central Europe**

The early spring storm had been raging for days, dumping torrents of water on the region. Methos rode slowly, trying to keep a safe distance from the infuriating Scot that he was following. Couldn't this child have traveled south, into the warmer, sunnier climes? The south of France, perhaps. The South Pacific would have been better. Anywhere that didn't have this godforsaken rain!

Methos pulled his oiled cloak closer around him, trying to ward off the chill. He hated the rain and the cold but he had no choice. He had to keep an eye on MacLeod. After that fiasco with Graham Ashe, he didn't dare leave the Highlander on his own, not until Methos was sure that he was safe.

As Marcus Antillicus, a centurion, Methos had befriended Ashe during the time that was the glory of Rome. His prowess with the sword, and with the women, made Ashe a zestful companion. The man was a lover and a philosopher, and, although he never went looking for a fight, there was no one that could best him. So, given what he knew, Methos was unprepared for the man's action during his recent challenge.

Methos had arranged for Ashe, as a special favor, to take on Duncan MacLeod as a student. As the man who had taught Duncan's teacher's teacher, Ashe relished the irony of situation. He also enjoyed the opportunity to pass on, and show off, his not inconsiderable skills.

But, in a challenge with the Moor, Haresh Clay, Graham Ashe's skills had not been enough. The battle, witnessed by MacLeod, was a brief one but one that would remain with the Highlander for a very long time. Because, in what the young Scot saw as a moment of complete shame, Ashe had begun to beg. With Clay's sword resting lightly at his throat, Ashe had pleaded for his life in a show of total cowardice. Then, after taking Ashe's head, Clay had stalked Duncan, taunting him and humiliating him. It was only the advent of Holy Ground and Clay's honor that saved the Highlander's life.

Duncan's faith and confidence had been shattered by the experience. In the nine months since the encounter, Duncan had wandered, almost aimlessly, throughout Europe, seeking friendship and comfort but finding only more fighting and killing.

Methos had picked up his trail about six months ago and was shocked by the young Immortal's frame of mind. When Duncan had finally made plans to meet a friend, Peter Hale, at the Monastary of St. Christopher, Methos was relieved. Duncan would surely find the solace that he needed there. And so, to insure that the Scot arrived at the monastery unchallenged, Methos followed, close enough to sense his young charge but far enough away that the Highlander's unskilled senses could not pick up his presence.

But this was getting ridiculous. Duncan had managed, in this pouring rain, to get lost! Unbeknownst to the Highlander, he had been circling the monastery for two days, missing the trail at least six times. As the rain began dripping off of his prominent nose, Methos decided to take action. Spurring his horse forward, Methos cut through the forest, heading for a place on the road that Duncan would eventually cross.

Finding a spot in the cover of the trees, not far from the trail to the monastery, Methos set about his task. Retrieving the dry kindling that he always kept from his pack, a practice that went back as far as the Horsemen, Methos managed to start a small fire, no easy task in the pouring rain. With the cover of the trees above him and the small fire to warm him, Methos prepared to sit and wait.

A short time later Methos felt the increasing closeness of the immortal presence that he'd come to know as Duncan MacLeod. He pulled his cloak closer around his body and, at the last moment, wrapped his scarf around the lower half of his face, leaving only his eyes visible.

'The time isn't right for us to meet,' he told himself as he saw the man slowly approaching through the rain. Keeping his voice low, he called the cautious man closer to the fire.

"Fear not, fellow traveler," he said, his voice disguised further by the scarf, "come, take comfort of my fire."

Seeing the Highlander's hesitation, Methos waved his hands around the small cove in the trees. "I have no weapon, as you can see and I mean you no harm. Come, warm yourself."

Duncan eased his way past Methos' horse and sat down by the fire, relishing the warmth. Methos took the opportunity to examine the Scot further, taking note of his tense body and the almost dazed look in his eyes. 'Yes,' Methos thought, 'some time at the monastery will do him good.'

"I fear I have nothing to offer you but the warmth of the fire," Methos said quietly. "I am but a poor scribe, forced to travel in this deluge from heaven.'

"I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod." There was no challenge, only introduction, in his words but Methos had to smile at the way Duncan straightened with pride at the pronouncement.

"I am called Matthew." Methos offered. "What forces you to travel this road in such weather?"

"I am meeting a friend at the Monastery of St. Christopher." Duncan looked at the trail and the surrounding trees. "But I seemed to have lost my way."

"Not true, my friend," Methos told him. "You are less than an hour's time away from your destination. The trail," he leaned forward and pointed to indicate the location, "turns off but fifty paces down this road."

Brightened at the prospect of being so close to his destination, Duncan rose from the fire to continue his journey. Remembering his host, Duncan turned toward the man who had offered him comfort.

"Thank you, sir, for guiding me and for the warmth of your fire." Duncan looked deeply at the eyes that watched him over the covered face. "But, if I may, I have a question."

"If I possess the answer, sir, it is yours."

"Why did you not challenged me?" Methos was touched by the wonder in Duncan's voice.

"Not all of us seek the deaths of others of our kind," Methos said softly. "Some of us would rather go on living. You will find, my friend, that there is a time to fight and a time to simply live. This is one of those times."

Duncan saw a smile in those mysterious hazel eyes. He nodded and left the shelter of the trees, heading towards the trail for the monastery. He would remember this Matthew and the wisdom of his words. He would also remember those eyes.

Methos watched as Duncan turned off the road onto the trail to the monastery. Once he was out of sight, Methos gathered his belongings and put out the fire. He would continue to follow Duncan, at a safe distance, until he was sure he'd found the sanctuary. Then, once he was certain that Duncan was safe, he was off to a warmer climate.

'Or, at least, a dryer one!' he thought


Methos sat in the chair, shaking his head, as he remembered the near disaster of that encounter.

"You thought he would be safe at the monastery." Joe commented. "How were you supposed to know about Kalas?"

"I know," Methos admitted. "After leaving him there, I'd headed to Egypt and a quiet, relaxing vacation in the sun. When I finally made it back to Europe, I heard what had happened. I'll tell you, Joe, I panicked. As much as I wanted to leave him to his own devices and even though I knew that he could take care of himself, I still felt the need to protect him." He gave his friend a guilty smile. "I guess I still do."

"Yeah," Joe smiled back at him. "you do. I suppose even Immortals develop paternal instincts."

They shared a laugh and, after a few moments, Joe pushed on.

"What did you do after that?" Joe was starting to get tired but he didn't want Methos to know it. After all these years of holding back, Methos was finally opening up and Joe had no intentions of giving the Old Man an excuse to stop. He knew what this was costing Methos, sharing himself in this way but Joe needed to hear it. And, he was sure, deep down inside, Methos really needed to tell it.

"Well, basically, Joe, I just sat back and watched. By the time I'd returned, he had already met, and left, Kristen. He wandered around Europe for a time then returned to England. After enough time had passed, when he was sure he wouldn't be recognized, he went north to Scotland. Then, for reasons that I wasn't sure of, he packed up and headed to China. He ran into Keim Sun, spent some time then headed back. I think he was just stretching his wings, learning what Immortality had to offer. I kept an eye on him as best I could but I did manage to let him live his own life. It also gave me the opportunity to live mine."

"You sound like you almost fell into a routine."

Methos chuckled. "I guess I did. While I continued to track him, I spent my time setting other things into motion, finding teachers for him to stumble upon, setting up learning situations. Things seemed to go smoothly for a few decades until, eventually, he wound up back in Scotland and involved with Bonnie Prince Charlie." Methos shook his head as he remembered. "His darkest days happened after Culloden, after the defeat of everything he held dear. He set out on a killing spree that, although I could understand, worried me. But, before things got too out of hand, he took off again. Eventually, he ran into one of his most important teachers." Methos smiled. "It was one of my most elaborate connections and one that I work the hardest at." Methos sighed. "The things I went through for that man..."

**1778 - Japan**

Hideo Koto looked at the sleeping gai jin, this foreigner, and wondered what was so special about him. To his eyes, he was large, loud and had a foul stench. Yet, in the short time the Samurai had known this barbarian, he found that he also was a man of honor. The older man left the sleeping chamber and with heavy steps, went to the room that was reserved for him and him alone.

After making sure that no servant or family member would disturb him, Koto went over to his secret hiding place and removed a scroll. How many times in the past few years had he read this and pondered what it meant to him and to his family? Now, that meaning was clear and there was only one thing that could be done. Even though he had read the scroll often enough he could recite it in his sleep, he read it one final time.

Honorable Enseki(1),

Although we have not met, the ties that bind us are as strong as blood. As you are the descendant of Masamune, I am also of that lineage through his daughter, Shakiko. I ask a favor of you, one that your giri, your honor, will allow you to accept or to decline, and this is your choice.

You are renowned for your honor, your wisdom and your ability with the sword. I have a kinsman who would benefit from this and I humbly ask that you teach him what you can. He is gai jin, ignorant of the ways of us, he will be a difficult student. Although his standards are different than yours, you will find him a kindred spirit and willing to learn. His name is Duncan MacLeod.

I am unsure when or how that this man will come to you but he will come. I ask that you think upon this as I know what I am asking of you. There will be no shame if you should chose not to accept. Please think upon this. Three days after you receive this message, the same courier will return for an answer.

Whatever your answer is, know this, there is no familial obligation left between us. Consider the debt paid and no longer something to be concerned with.

Masamune Kazuo

Hideo reached once more into the secreted compartment and pulled out a carved piece of jade, one that had the traditional seal of the Masamune family carved into it. Only two had been made, over 1000 years ago. He already possessed one before the scroll arrived, and now, with this one, he had both of them. It could only have come from a member of the Masamune family.

Buddha had been smiling down upon him on the beach that day, that his hand had been stayed from killing the barbarian. He had his katana, drawn and ready for the killing blow, when he heard the strange words, Duncan MacLeod. It had taken a moment to register that those sounds corresponded to the name in the letter. He sheathed his blade, his life now forfeited twice, once when he agreed to the favor and again when one of the Shogun's men had been allowed to live and report that a gai jin was on his estates.

Koto knew that he was living on borrowed time and wanted to impart as much of his knowledge as he could to Duncan in the short amount of time that was left. His hand would be forced soon and he would have only one option left to him. Honor would demand nothing less.

The Samurai looked at the scroll a final time and then held it directly over the flame of a candle. He hoped that his actions would bring honor to his family. If this scroll were to be discovered his honorable death would be for nothing. He watched the scroll as it was consumed in flames and Hideo was at peace with himself.


"How in the hell did you feign a connection to a Japanese family in the 18th century? Isn't that a stretch even for you?" Joe asked, looking at Methos in disbelief.

"How do you know I am not?" Methos retorted lightly. "Think of it similar to an Immortal Good Ole Boy system, Joe. I once had a student by the name of Juan Sanchez etc...sound familiar? It was easy enough to arrange, through the Church system, for a message to go to the family still in Japan. I wanted Duncan to get the benefit of the eastern philosophy."

Joe nodded thoughtfully. "That makes sense. How did you plan to get him there? I think arranging a shipwreck is a bit too much, even for you."

Methos had the grace to look somewhat abashed. "I didn't have a clear idea of how I was going to get Duncan to Koto. He signed on that ship before I had a chance to do anything. I had planned to follow, which I did, and arrange for Duncan to be kidnapped and delivered to Koto. His being shipwrecked on Hideo's estate was pure chance...or perhaps divine intervention." The oldest immortal gave a smirk tempered with respect for the unknown.

Joe looked at the ancient Immortal in only what could be termed grudging respect. "You really have had your finger in just about every pie haven't you? Let me ask you this? How in the hell did you penetrate the Watchers in the first place? I know how the background check is and there is no way that you could have slid by it."

"Oh ye of little faith" murmured Methos, hiding a smile behind his hand. "Joseph, did you pay attention to what I said when I told how I met the God to begin with?"

Joe narrowed his eyes in thought and then they sprang wide open in amazement.

"The symbol! It is the Watcher symbol isn't it? You sneaky bastard, you did start the Watchers didn't you? But how and why?"

"Very observant," Methos laughed softly. The ancient Immortal settled back into the chair and laced his hands behind his head.

"You have to remember that this was a long, long time ago. I had just been charged with an awesome responsibility and I was slightly overwhelmed by it all. I had to track down a single Immortal and prepare him. Obviously, I could not post up notices so I decided I needed some help."

"So you recruited people, told them about Immortals and had them searching for you? Doesn't that seem a bit like...cheating?" Joe hazarded a guess.

Methos looked at Joe and shook his head, rather sadly.

"Cheating? Cheating??? I was a single man trying to find a single man, how in the hell did anyone expect me to do it alone?" Methos realized he was beginning to be a little too loud and quickly lowered his voice before a nurse came to ask him to leave.

"No, Joe, I do not think I "cheated" in getting some help. Not only that, I did not exactly start the Watchers as you know them today."

"Well, then, what did you do?"

"I gathered a few people that I knew and asked them to travel and listen. I knew that word travels quickly and anything that sounded unusual or perhaps Immortal related would eventually find its way to one of my men. I assumed that I would be able to use these men until I found the next Champion and then it would be over."

Methos gave a quiet laugh to himself, thinking back. "What I did not count on was one of the men discovering the truth about Immortals. He actually witnessed a Quickening. It wasn't too long before more of the same were witnessed and Watchers, as you would know them, were born."

Methos ran a hand through his hair and scrubbed his face with his hands. Telling Joe all of this was taking more out of him than he had bargained on. He was tired and he was hungry but, he decided, he had to continue

"The men are the ones who started the Watchers more than you did. You just went along with them?"

"No, I made sure that they had the information correct. In the guise of one of the operatives, I sent back collaborating information. I also gave the report that I had actually talked to an Immortal and gotten the information contained there. It gave these men the basic rules of Immortality and also reinforced the idea of watch and do not interfere."

Joe sat up in bed, his face outraged. "You son of a bitch! You gave false information to set this up? The entire Watcher organization was based on information that you, an Immortal, gave? How much other crap over the years did you plant to further your own cause?"

Methos glared back at Joe. "What in the hell did you expect me to do, Joe? The man had found out about Immortals! Should I have just ignored it and hope that he would do the same? No, I did what I thought was the right thing to do; I gave just enough information to keep them alive. Furthering my own cause, my cause? It was not my cause, it was mankind's cause, I was just the schmuck who was tapped to do it. "

Methos dropped his voice to a whisper, his eyes narrowed, face set. "My cause, your cause, the cause of everyone. If not for me and my cause, do you think you would be sitting here today? What do you think your life or life as we know it would be like if I had not won my battle, not found Timothy or MacLeod? Before you lecture me about my ethics in placing things into Chronicles, you think on that, Mr. Dawson!"

Joe sat in his bed, face set and did not say a word. A moment later, Methos had the grace to look abashed. "I am sorry Joe, I know you were not really accusing me but it is hard to not take things like that personally. I did put information into Chronicles, I did further my own ambitions but it was to do what I thought was the right thing to do. I had to find my successor, that was my primary goal and I would have done anything to achieve it."

Joe nodded thoughtfully and gave a small shrug of one shoulder. "I am sorry too, I should not judge what you have done. It is a damn hard thing to have been asked to do and you did it. The Watchers have been my life for too many years and there are some things that are too dear to let go. To hear that the principals that the Watchers were founded on, were planted by...well, it is a bit much to take in at once."

Sighing heavily, Methos agreed. "It was not easy for me either Joe, it really wasn't."

"How did you maintain contact with the Watchers over the years? Someone must have noticed that you were not aging."

"Actually, that was easy enough to take care of. I would come and go every so often, staying 10 years or so. During that time, I would go over the information, looking for clues I needed to find the next Champion."

"How did you penetrate them though? If they were anything at all like we are today, it would have been almost impossible to find them or to get them to accept you." Joe took a sip of water and looked at the clock, trying to not grimace in pain.

Methos saw the glance and knew that his time was running out. Joe would get his pain medication soon and the drop off to sleep for a little while.

"Apprenticeship, Joe. Anytime I would show up, I would always have a letter from my mentor, usually whatever alias I had been using before. It worked well enough that even the last time I penetrated the Watchers, I used it. Do you recall our first meeting at Watcher HQ? I was just starting one of my periodic stays."

The two men looked at one another, both thinking back to that time, so long ago.

**1984 - Watcher's Headquarters in Europe**

Joe made his way down the stairs carefully, muttering to himself that the Watchers could certainly afford to install some elevators. As he made his way down the winding staircase, he felt nostalgic. He had started out in a similar position within the Watchers. How could 16 years have passed by so quickly? He made an exasperated sound at himself that was something he always heard from older people and one that he vowed never to say, or think, again.

Stepping more quickly, now that he had reached the bottom of the stairs, Joe looked with interest around the research section. There were small areas of tables, chairs, computer terminals and books throughout the entire space. All manner of people were working at some important task and no one gave him a second glance as he passed by them. Joe smiled to himself. Why would they look at him? Security here was the best that could be had, anyone down on this level had a reason to be here.

Don Saltzer had sent him down here to find out some information on Duncan MacLeod, the Immortal whom he Watched. Don could not stop raving and singing the praises of his newest research assistant, the whiz kid known as Adam Pierson. According to Don, this kid had a computer terminal for a brain and could recall where he read the most trivial bit of information. Joe had access to all of Duncan MacLeod's chronicles but could not find the information he was seeking. He wished that the Watcher organization would catch up with the rest of the world and put all the information on microfiche.

Joe stopped by a desk where a young brunette was busy trying to decipher a text that looked, at least to Joe, like chicken scratch. "Excuse me, perhaps you can help me?" Joe asked quietly, trying to not disturb others nearby.

"Yes?" The woman smiled helpfully. Her smile grew a little friendlier as she took in Joe's appearance and the humorous twinkle in his hazel eyes.

"I am Joe, Joe Dawson, field agent. Don Saltzer sent me down here. I am looking for Adam Pierson. Can you point me in the right direction?"

"Joe Dawson?" The woman said in a voice that was just a little too loud for Joe's liking. A few heads turned in curiosity and quickly went back to work. "You are Joe Dawson? I am sorry, I was just expecting someone more...I don't know." She smiled weakly and peered closer at him.

"Do we know one another?" Joe was a bit confused. How in the world would this woman know who he was? He shifted his cane from one hand to the other.

The woman laughed, and held out her hand. "I am Ayse Benson, research assistant for the British Isles. I am quite familiar with Duncan MacLeod as he is one of the more notable Immortals to come from there. Of course I would know who his Watcher is. I am so pleased to meet you." Joe listened with a bemused expression on his face and graciously shook her hand. "Maybe we could get together for a drink later and chat?" She offered hopefully.

"That would be nice. I will stop by on my way out and we can set something up." He smiled again and inclined his head towards the room. "Adam Pierson?"

"Oh yes, " Ayse gave a small, self conscious laugh. "He is down at the end, follow the music." She made a sour face that let Joe know she did not think much of Pierson's taste in music.

"Thank you Ayse and I will see you on my way out." Joe made his way in the direction she had indicated, never noticing the speculative gleam in Ayse's eyes.

After passing by a few more comfortable, yet functional work areas, Dawson heard the music. He felt inclined to agree with Ayse, it was nothing he would have chosen. It was entirely too zippy for this early in the morning and the person wailing about waking up was just too happy about it. Joe winced as the singer continued to implore the listener to "wake me up before you go, go" and did his best to tune out the racket.

Joe stuck his head around the partition and opened his mouth to speak but was struck dumb by the sight before his eyes. A tall, thin man with a rather prominent nose and shoulder length dark hair was dancing around the room with a book in one hand. He swung hips in time to the music and was singing into a pencil.

"I'm not planning on goin' solo" sang Pierson, or at least Joe assumed it was Pierson. As he turned around during a musical interlude, he spied Joe in the doorway and flushed. He realized what he must look like and quickly lowered the pencil, set the book down and turned the music off.

The research assistant ran a hand through his blonde streaked hair and smiled at Joe. Joe had to wonder, with all that hairspray, how he was able to do that. Joe extended a hand in greeting.

"Joe Dawson and you must be Adam Pierson?"

The hazel eyes twinkled; amused at the picture that had greeted Joe. Pierson extended a graceful hand and shook Joe's firmly.

"Yes, I am Adam Pierson. Don't you just want to dance anytime you hear Wham?"

"Excuse me?"

Adam nodded towards the tape player, which was now mercifully silent. "Wham, George Michael, the song? Not familiar with them, are you? Pity, they are quite good. I think we will see them stick around for a bit."

Privately, Joe certainly hoped that was not the case but did not express that opinion. "No, I am afraid I don't follow pop music much these days. I'm a blues man myself."

Adam shrugged and straddled a chair backward while nodding for Joe to take a seat. Joe sat in a chair, leaning his cane nearby.

"What can I do for you, Joe Dawson, Watcher of the Infamous Duncan MacLeod?"

"How does everyone down here know my name?" Joe demanded.

"Ah, a "Cheers" fan, are you?" At Joe's blank look, Adam continued. "Joe, may I call you Joe?" At the affirmative nod, he continued. "I know who you are because Don called to let me know you were on your way down here. I saw you stop by Ayse on your way in; congratulations by the way, she doesn't stop to talk to many, feel lucky."

"We are going out for drinks later." Joe felt a smug smile threaten to break through and he held it back.

Adam looked impressed and a bit envious. "Lucky you, you must be something. Anyway, she would know who you are since she has a bit of a ...shall we say...thing for your MacLeod. All that aside, anytime someone comes down the stairs, we have an announcement that lets us know who is on the way and what clearance they have." Adam pointed up at a speaker and Joe then noticed there were speakers placed at regular intervals through the whole area. "We sometimes work on sensitive materials down here and not everyone is cleared to see them. We would not want an unfortunate incident to take place, do we?"

"At the risk of sounding like an old man, in my day..." He broke off as Adam gave a chuckle and motioned for Joe to continue. "As I was saying, in my day, we did not have speakers or clearances."

"The world has changed quite a bit, Joe. We have to keep up with the times." Once again Adam gave a chuckle and Joe wondered if Don ever had this kid tested for drugs. "We move faster, can get information more quickly than we ever have before. As a result, we have better, more accurate information on the known Immortals and we seem to find almost as many as are reported no longer active. Enough of all this though, what can I do for you?"

"I am looking for a piece of information that I know I have read. I thought it was in MacLeod's Chronicle but I cannot find it there. The only thing I can think of is that I read it in another Chronicle at some point but am not sure which one it was." Joe reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a sheet of paper with the information he was seeking written down.

Adam looked over the sheet, jiggling his knee and running a hand through his hair again. He was quiet for a few moments and Joe took the opportunity to look around the room. It was a typical research area: stacks of books, piles of papers, a board that was covered with handwritten notes tacked all over it. The computer at the desk had a troll doll standing on the monitor and there was a large sign nearby proclaiming that Adam's work area had been declared a natural disaster. Glancing at the books nearest him, Joe could see that they were an eclectic bunch of Chronicles that did not seem to belong together. Don swore by this Pierson guy so Joe was content to let him do the research for him. He did not relish the idea of trying to track down that little piece of information.

"Right," Pierson said suddenly, bringing Joe's attention back to him. "I also remember reading this at some point and you are correct, it is not in MacLeod's Chronicle. It is going to take me a bit of time to look this up for you. Would you care to wait or shall I send word when I have it? It could take me 5 minutes or it could take me 5 hours, I am not sure."

"Just send word when you have it. Here is my number where I am staying." Joe scribbled his number on a piece of paper that Pierson handed him. Adam folded it up and stuck it in the pocket of his pants. "If I may ask, what are you researching with all this?" Joe's wave of the hand encompassed the work area.

Adam smiled long enough for a hint of a dimple to show. "I research just about anything I am asked to do. My personal choice is the old ones, the really old Immortals. I guess you could call it my passion. What is it about them that have allowed them to survive this long? Why them? You have, for example, Darius, the priest. He was a warrior, not a very nice guy who suddenly, about 1500 years ago, gives up all of it and becomes a priest. Why did he do that, how could he have lived as long as he did and then retreat to Holy Ground? Then there is the whole man or myth of Methos. I find that fascinating."

Joe groaned involuntarily. "Oh jeez, they still have people researching him? I think he is simply a myth thought up to keep new research assistants busy and out of the way."

"No, Methos is real...or he was at some point. The records are not even clear if he is still alive or not but he did exist. I have been searching through older Chronicles looking for any mentions of him. That is what you see here. Let me get started on this for you and I will call you when I have something."

Joe stood up carefully and the two men shook hands. Adam suddenly clapped him on the back and winked.

"Good luck with Ayse later." He gave a chuckle and went to his computer terminal. As Joe was leaving, the radio was back on, sound turned up once more as a singer wailed about something.

Joe was unsure what to make of Pierson. He was like quicksilver, moving from one subject to the next but he did appear to know what he was doing. He was an interesting fellow and Joe looked forward to getting to know him better.

Joe did not see the smug look and sly smile that crossed Adam's face as the Watcher walked off. Pierson quickly typed in a few words and brought up a sub-screen that no one else would have been able to find. He typed a quick entry...

Finally met Dawson, think the foundation has been set and will proceed further with caution

Adam exited the program just as quickly and erased all traces of his having been there. That enigmatic smile was back in place as he began to call up files in an attempt to locate the missing information for Joe. He hummed in time with the radio and soon lost himself in the research.


Joe laughed, forgetting his pain briefly. "It is so disgusting that you don't look a day older than you did then. Are you still a Wham fan?"

Methos threw up his hands in mock horror. "Oh please, don't remind me of that! I cannot believe how into the Eighties I was then. Thank goodness there are no pictures of it!"

Joe looked at the Immortal slyly and smiled. "I would be willing to bet that there is a photo somewhere. All Watcher employees had to have them for the ID badge." He gave a dry chuckle. "I wonder how much MacLeod would pay to see a picture of you with long, blonde-streaked hair?"

Methos looked faintly alarmed and leaned forward. "I will deny everything!"

Both men gave a shared chuckle as the night nurse walked in. She gave a pointed look to Methos and then to the clock. As she turned to make a note on Joe's chart, he rolled his eyes at Methos, who stood up to leave. Joe opened his mouth to protest and Methos held up a hand to stall him.

"I will be back in a bit, Joe. You need to rest and I need to eat. I will pick this up when I get back." Methos smiled cheerfully.

Joe looked like he wanted to protest but he lacked the strength to do it. He was tired and did not like to admit that to his friend. Both men knew this and were aware that Methos was giving Joe a graceful way out.

As Methos exited the room, he looked back at Joe, already nodding. "Sleep well friend" he murmured.

The nurse came over to him as he stepped outside the door, her eyes narrowed and looking ready to do battle.

"Mr. Pierson, I must insist that you allow Mr. Dawson to get some rest. You are not helping him by making him tired."

Methos bit his cheek, not wanting to take his anger and frustration out on this woman. "He is dying! My being here is making it so that he is not dying alone. I think if you would ask him, he would want me here. I am going to eat, I will be back in a few hours. May I suggest that you ask either Mr. Dawson or his doctor about this because I will stay here with him and I don't give a damn what you think about it."

Methos turned on his heel and stalked off, not looking back at the nurse, who stood dumbfounded.


When Methos returned a few hours later, he found Joe sleeping soundly. "Rest easy, Joseph," he whispered, not wanting to disturb his friend. "We'll pick this up in the morning." Methos quietly moved a second chair next to the bed, placing it opposite the one he was using. Grabbing a book from his duffel, Methos settled down in his chair facing Joe, putting his feet up on the other one, and tried to get comfortable. It was going to be a long night and Methos was determined that his friend wasn't going to spend it alone.


Master of Opportunity ] Shades and Shadows ]

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