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Master of Opportunity (Conclusion)

by Denise Proctor and Bertha Trusdell (c) 1999


Emily Baldwin started her shift just before dawn. She checked the night sheet to see if her patients had sleep through, problem free. After concluding that no crisis had occurred while she was away, she started on her morning ritual of checking all the rooms. It was her habit to walk the halls, checking in to make sure all her patients were comfortable before she started her required duties. As she headed down the hallway, glancing into each room as she passed, she thought of the events of yesterday.

That young man that visited Joe Dawson yesterday...what was his name? Pierson, that was it...Adam Pierson. Emily had taken an instant dislike to the boy but she didn't know why. He was very handsome, she admitted to herself, with his dark hair and ivory skin. You could tell that there wasn't an ounce of fat on that slender, muscular body. And he had a fabulous smile, the kind that could take your breath away. Emily smiled as she recalled the image he presented as he had walked towards her yesterday.

Then there were those eyes. She could imagine the women who lost themselves in those pools of ever changing color, colors that flickered and danced with playfulness, mischievous barely contained within them. But they were also very frightening eyes. She had watched as they had turned to deep, terrifying pits of blackness when he had gotten angry. Is that why she didn't trust him? No, she finally admitted to herself. She didn't trust him because of Joe.

She had known Joe Dawson for many years, had seen him come in for check-ups after returning from Vietnam. He had always teased and taunted her, but the verbal barrage had always been accompanied by a friendly smile. Their sparring had become the routine and they both seemed to enjoy it. She wanted the relationship to become more personal and had just worked up the nerve to ask him out when, suddenly, he'd left town, moving, she'd heard, to the West Coast. She cursed the missed opportunity then went on with her life.

Then, about a year ago, he'd come back. She was saddened as she watched him fight the terminal illness that continued to take away his strength and energy, forcing him to, finally, be confined to the hospital. She hated the illness that brought him here but at least she was able to take care of him, make him comfortable and protect him. And that's what she was doing now, protecting him.

In the two months that he'd been in this hospital and under her care, Emily Baldwin had watched as Joe had received no visitors. A multitude of phone calls, yes. And she had become familiar with everyone of the callers, some from halfway around the world. But still, no visitors. Until yesterday. Then suddenly, this Adam Pierson walked in and decided to take over, as if he knew what was better for Joe than she did.

What did he want from Joe? Was he after his money? His property? Emily didn't know. But, if this young man was really a friend, why hadn't he come to visit before? Why had he left Joe to fight this battle alone? 'Oh, well,' she thought, 'that was yesterday. The Pierson fellow is gone and things will be back to normal today.'

These thoughts ran through her mind as Head Nurse Emily Baldwin continued her rounds. As she stopped at the door of Joe Dawson's room she was surprised by what she saw.

Joe was sleeping soundly, the monitors telling Emily that everything was normal. What surprised her was the other sleeping figure.

Adam Pierson had placed two chairs next to Joe's bed and somehow managed to drape his body between them. Covered by a small blanket, his one hand abandoned the warmth to rest lightly on Joe's arm as if to assure the man that, even in sleep, he was still there.

As she watched, Pierson stirred and, slowly opening his eyes, saw her standing in the doorway. He gently unfolded himself from his makeshift bed and, satisfying himself that Joe was still sleeping soundly, went over to the nurse.

He was exhausted. Thirty-six hours ago he had been hauled out of a sound sleep by the phone call from Dr. Madison. Six hours of air travel across at least five time zones had helped to expend his energy. Then, there was the tale. He had spent the whole day, with only brief pauses for Joe's medications, giving the Watcher the intimate details of his life. The absolute highs, the deepest lows and every emotion in between had been explored as he chronicled the reasons and events that brought him into the life of Duncan MacLeod. By the end of the day he was emotionally, as well as physically, drained. But still he couldn't relax. He had caught maybe an hour or two of sleep as he sat at Joe's bedside during the night. Now he awoke to find the nurse from hell staring at him. He needed a shower and he needed some sleep. What he didn't need right now was another argument.

He stepped past her into the hallway, forcing her to turn after him. If she wanted to fight, he was determined that she wasn't going to disturb Joe. Rubbing his hands over his face, trying to wipe away the sleep, he sighed as he looked her in the eye.

"Good morning, Nurse Baldwin." He smiled, trying to be cheerful. Maybe, if he were pleasant, she would be, too.

"You slept here all night?" she asked, keeping her voice low. Her question came out as a mild accusation.

He nodded, too tired to waste words stating the obvious. She looked him over from head to toe, as if reassessing him.

"What are you doing here, Mr. Pierson?"

"What?" Methos was momentarily confused by her question.

"What do you hope to gain by being here? What do you want from Joe?"

Suddenly he realized where her questions were coming from. She was trying to protect Joe and she saw him as a threat. Sighing, he shook his head.

"Joe has already given me the most precious gift there is." Seeing her questioning look, he explained. "His friendship. What more could I possibly want?"

"If you're such a good friend, you and this MacLeod person, why haven't you been here for him? Why has he been dying alone."

As exhaustion got the better of him, he hung his head. He didn't have the energy for this. He took a deep breath, hoping to regain some strength, then looked her in the eyes.

"Joe hid his illness from me, just as I'm sure he hid it from MacLeod. He didn't want us to have to go through watching this illness slowly eat away at him. Hell, I didn't even know he was sick until yesterday!" Realizing that he was getting loud, Methos lowered his voice. "We haven't been here for him because that is what he wanted."

That sounded like something Joe would do, she admitted to herself. Maybe she had judged this young man poorly. It was obvious to her now that he cared about Joe. And she could see that he was exhausted. As her mothering instincts kicked into gear, she decided that he probably hadn't eaten yesterday, either. Well she could take care of that.

She placed a hand gently on his arm. "Down the hall is the nurse's lounge. There's a shower in there, if you want to use it."

Bewildered by her sudden changes of attitude, he wasn't sure how to answer. He nodded.

"Good." She smiled. "And while you're getting cleaned up, I'll see about getting you two some breakfast."

"Oh...uh.." he stammered. "I...uh...really appreciate that, Nurse Baldwin, but, well...I've tasted the hospital food, you see, and...well..."

Her smile broadened. "I understand, Mr. Pierson. But there's a café down the street that makes great pancakes and sausage. They also have the best coffee around." She leaned closer, dropping her voice to a whisper. "I can have them deliver it for the both of you. I'm sure Joe would like something different."

The thought of a hot shower and some good food filled him with joy. Taking her face in his hands, he placed a kiss on the nurse's forehead.

"Nurse Baldwin, you are an angel sent from heaven!"

Emily Baldwin blushed. This young man really was very nice. And very handsome, too. Getting control of herself, she switched back into Head Nurse mode.

"That's enough of that, young man," she said, trying to appear gruff. "You just get in there and take that shower! And don't dawdle!" she ordered. "It wouldn't due for Joe to wake up and you not be there." With that, she turned and walked away but not before Methos saw the smile on her face.


Ignoring Nurse Baldwin's words, Methos had dawdled. The hot water pulsing over his aching body had felt like heaven, easing his tired muscles with its soothing warmth. After what, he realized, was an extraordinarily long time, Methos emerged for the shower and dressed quickly. He wanted to be there when Joe woke up. Running his hand through his short, spiked hair, he grabbed his bag and head back to his friend's room.

Coming quietly through the doorway, he found Joe sitting up, wide awake. It appeared that he, too, had been bathed and his hair combed. Dropping his bag, Methos walked over to Joe.

"Good morning," he said with a smile as he sat on the edge of the bed. "You look rested and refreshed."

"So do you," Joe smile in return. "Where'd you go? Back to your hotel?"

"Actually, there is no hotel." Methos admitted, a bit embarrassed. "I came here directly from the airport yesterday. I didn't take time to get a room."

"So where did you get cleaned up?"

"The nurse's lounge down the hall has a shower in it. Nurse Baldwin let me use it."

"Nurse Emily Baldwin?!" Joe asked, in total shock. "The same Emily Baldwin that keeps wanting to throw you out of here?" When Methos nodded, Joe laughed. "What did you do...threaten her?"

"No," the Immortal assured his friend. "I think we've finally reached an understanding. I think she realized that I'm not here to steal your vast wealth or harm you in any other way. She's very protective of you, you know."

"Hmm," Joe shook his head. "Maybe that explains the personal sponge bath." Methos raised his eyebrows in question and Joe laughed. "And they call me a dirty old man! Let's just get back to the story, ok?"

"Not just yet, Joe." Methos said as he saw a deliveryman step into the room. "I think breakfast has arrived."

The aroma of freshly cooked pancakes and sausage wafted across the room, setting Joe's mouth to watering. "What did you do?" he whispered, savoring the smell of the food.

Methos paid the man then brought the bag of food over to Joe's table. "Not me, Joe. Nurse Baldwin. She thought we'd both like some 'good' food for a change." He began pulling out styrofoam containers, opening them to reveal the warm treasures inside. Placing one container in front of Joe, he took the lid off the large cup of coffee and handed it to his friend. Joe sipped the steaming brown liquid as Methos settled himself down on the bed.

"Ahhh" Joe sighed, savoring the flavor. "That tastes great." He looked down at the steaming food before him. "And this looks fantastic. Whatever you did to Nurse Baldwin, keep it up."

Methos laughed as he squirmed into a more comfortable position, preparing to dig into his food. "You just eat it before it gets cold. I don't want all my efforts to go to waste."

At that, both men began to devour the breakfast. But, by the time Methos was finished, Joe was only halfway through his meal.

"Everything all right, Joe?" he asked, trying not to sound worried.

"Great," Joe answered around a mouthful of pancakes. "I just want to enjoy every morsel." He caught the Immortal's eyes. "Why don't you continue with your story...and stop worrying!"

"Ok...ok," Methos surrendered, grabbing his cup of coffee. He got more comfortable, leaning against the foot of the bed. "So where was I in my long and often boring tale?" he inquired.

"Long, yes...boring, I don't think so." Joe silently offered Methos some of his food and was secretly glad he declined. "You had just finished telling me how you penetrated the Watchers."

"Ah yes, getting back in with the Watchers, for what I did not know, would be my last time." Methos sighed, somewhat regretfully. It was difficult not to feel regret; the Watchers had been a large part of his life for so long.

"I knew the time was getting near at hand for Duncan to face his challenge. I had to meet him personally to help prepare him for the last few steps of his journey. I had made sure that he was well prepared by others but the only way to insure that was to test him myself and shore up where he was weak."

"So you made sure that I knew Adam, hoping I would introduce you?" Joe cocked his head slightly.

"No, I had not planned to let Duncan know of the Adam Pierson persona right off. I did not want to involve you in it...remember the motto "observe and record but never interfere?" Methos gave a mock stern look to Joe. "I had no idea how you decided to ignore it to suit your own purposes."

Joe almost choked on a bite of his breakfast and Methos held up a hand to stay the tide of angry words.

"Joe, I am not judging you here, believe me. It is fact that you ignored or at least bent the hell out of the rules when it suited you. But I was planning to meet MacLeod through Sean Burns. From there, I would cultivate a friendship and we would go from that point. I had no idea our meeting would come about because of Kalas."

Joe nodded thoughtfully and then a thought occurred to him. He frowned, trying to think of the detail that was nagging him. He chewed and narrowed his eyes at Methos.

"The Chronicle!" Joe exclaimed.

"The Chronicle?" Methos echoed, innocently.

"If you had planned all along to meet with MacLeod, how did he get the Chronicle? The one that led him to me? I know what the Chronicle was, how did he get it?"

Methos gave a small smile. "The Chronicle, ah yes. I had removed it from the Watchers Library many years prior, just so that I had access to it if I ever needed it. Yes, I had planned to meet with MacLeod all along but there was just a small snag in my plans that was ...shall we say, unexpected?"

**1993 - Paris **

Darius sat at his desk, his head in his hands, contemplating his dilemma. Xavier St. Cloud had committed murder last night then confessed the crime to Darius, knowing full well that the priest could not report the crime to the police. Six innocent people were dead and there was nothing that he could do. Or was there?

Should he break the seal of the confessional, a primary vow as a Christian priest, to stop this killer? 'No,' Darius thought, 'a vow once taken is a vow for life.' Should he leave his sanctuary of Holy Ground and challenge Xavier, taking a head for the first time in 1500 years? It was a possibility.

He had been a warrior, a general, leader of an army that had swept across the continent, conquering everything in its path. He knew how to kill. Or, at least, he used to. His only battles recently had been in the abstract. He enjoyed the games that he played with Duncan; the strategies of chess, the tactics of the battle reenactments. But toy soldiers and game pieces were no replacements for the challenge of an actual battle.

So he sat here, agonizing over his inactivity, searching for a solution. Suddenly, the presence of another Immortal washed over him, demanding his attention. Could it be Xavier, returning to taunt him again? Darius shook his head as he pushed himself away from his desk. 'Stop being paranoid, old fool,' he laughed to himself. 'Its probably Duncan, here for his game of chess.' Darius walked over to the door, preparing to greet his friend. Pulling the door open, Darius was surprised to find no one there.

With the presence still humming in his head, Darius knew that the Immortal was still inside the church. Leaving his room, he made his way to the altar, searching the interior of the church but seeing no one. 'Is it possible that we passed each other?' Darius wondered, returning to his room. The door stood open, just as he'd left it. As he entered the room, the presence grew stronger. Feeling a little nervous, even in this sanctuary, Darius called out softly.


Darius caught a small movement in the darkened corner opposite where he stood. Separating itself from the shadows, a shape emerged and stepped into the light, revealing the form of a young man who, in reality, was the oldest man alive.

"Methos!" Darius relaxed as he closed the door behind him. "You startled me."

"Forgive me, my friend, but I had to be cautious." Methos said as he sat wearily in the nearby chair. "I cannot be seen here."

Walking over to his cabinet, Darius retrieved a bottle of scotch, usually reserved for Duncan, and poured an ample amount into a glass for his worried friend. Coming back to the desk, he handed the drink to Methos, who eyed the amber liquid with a smile.

"Drink up, my friend," Darius smiled. "Duncan will never miss it."

As Darius sat back down at the desk, he watched Methos empty the glass in one swallow. He waited for the ancient to meet his gaze before he asked his question.

"Tell me what is wrong, Methos."

"I have to leave," he answered. "Immediately."

"Who is after you, my brother?" Seeing Methos flinch at the endearment told Darius all that he needed to know. "Kronos?"

"Yes," came the quiet response

"He has found you?" the priest asked.

"No, but he is getting too close."

Darius sighed at his friend's situation. "Will you leave your Pierson identity behind?"

"No. I just think it is time that Adam Pierson did some out-of-town research. Way out-of-town."

Methos rose from his chair and started pacing the room like a caged animal, his frustration breaking through his normally calm exterior.

"Of all the times for him to show himself, why did he have to pick now. We're so close to the end and there's still so much to do." He stopped at the far wall, pounding his fist on it, in an effort to relieve his growing tension. Placing his forehead against the cool stone, he sighed, "Duncan still has so much to learn."

Darius crossed over to stand by his friend, placing a calming hand on his back. "And I have no doubt that you will be here to teach him."

Methos looked at the priest, searching his face. "But I have to prepare, just in case that I'm not. That's why I'm here."

Darius nodded as he guided the man back to sit, once again, at the desk.

"I will do whatever I can, but I'm afraid that isn't much. I can guide him, Methos, and I can counsel him but I'm afraid, I can no longer protect him. His honor will not allow others to fight his battles nor will it allow him to run, you know that."

"Yes, I know." Methos shook his head. "Somehow, in the past six months, he has become an Immortal magnet. Every lunatic on the planet seems to be looking for him." He clenched his fist in frustration. "I could just kill Connor for dragging him back into the Game."

"It wasn't Connor's fault. He didn't lead Slan to Duncan." Darius tried reasoning with the other Immortal. "As a matter of fact, he chased Slan, trying to prevent him from getting to Duncan. And when that failed, he did everything in his power to prevent Duncan from taking the challenge."

"Connor should have taken Slan's head before he every got close to Duncan." Methos shouted. Hearing how ridicules he sounded, Methos gave up, folding his arms onto the desktop and gently lying his head down.

"Connor did what he could, Methos." Darius gripped the older man's arm.

"I know, I know," the muffled voice responded. Methos lifted his head to face the priest.

"But tell me, my troubled friend." Darius grinned at Methos. "What can I do?"

Methos reached down to his duffel, searching through the contents. Finally finding what he was looking for, Methos straightened, handing Darius a book. The priest gingerly accepted the apparently ancient, leather bound journal, gently leafing through the exquisitely lettered, handwritten pages.

"What is this?" Darius asked, reverently examining the tome before him.

"It's a Watcher's Chronicle." Methos told him. Darius looked up at the mention of the mortals that tracked their every move.

"Whose Chronicle is it?" Darius asked. "Surely not yours."

"No," Methos smiled. "It is Timothy's Chronicle, covering the years 957 through 999 AD, leading up to the period when Timothy faced Ahriman. His Watcher tracked his training and his other preparations for the confrontation. Of course, his Watcher thought that he was mad. I made some notes inside, so that Duncan may know what to do."

"But what do you want me to do with it?" Darius asked

"Read it, expand on it, add whatever you think that Duncan may need to know. Then, when the time comes, if I haven't returned, give it too him." Methos ran his hands through his hair, hoping that he was covering all the bases.

"I don't know what else to do, Darius. I just know that if I stay around here, Kronos will track me down. I've done what I can to throw him off the scent, but I can't be sure. He still may find me. Or worse, he may find Duncan, and that's a confrontation that I can not allow to happen!"

"Duncan's an excellent fighter, Methos. He could probably take Kronos, if he had too."

"But I can't risk it, Darius, not yet." Methos grabbed the priest's hand trying to convince him. "I can't risk him before the millennium. He's too important to lose." Methos rose, grabbing his duffel, making ready to leave. Darius got up from the desk, and, coming around to face his friend, placed his hand on Methos' shoulder.

"Rest easy, my old friend. Leave town, protect yourself and I will do what I can to protect Duncan." Darius assured Methos. "And, I promise, Duncan will receive this Chronicle, no matter what happens."

The tone of the priest's voice caused Methos to look him in the face, seeing, for the first time, the worry in his friend's eyes.

"What is troubling you, Darius?"

"Besides the fact that my oldest friend is leaving town?" Darius smiled at Methos, trying to ease his concern. "Nothing that you have to worry about, I promise."

Methos continued to search the priest's face, knowing, unfortunately, that Darius wasn't going to tell him anything else.

"All right," Methos said, as he headed for the door. "I'll be out of contact for a few months, at least, but I'll contact you as soon as I can." Methos turned to face his friend again. "Take care of yourself, Darius and take care of Duncan. Just be here when I return."

Methos pulled the priest into a quick embrace then quickly walked away. Darius watched the ancient Immortal disappear down the darkened hallway, his presence fading with his exit.

"I truly hope so, my ancient friend. I truly hope so."


"But he wasn't there when you got back, was he?" Joe asked quietly

Methos shook his head, fighting back the tears that threatened to escape his eyes. "No. By the time that I returned to Paris, Darius was dead and Duncan had returned to the States. But he did have the Chronicle." Methos shook his head. "That damn Chronicle. I gave it to Darius and those bastards killed him for it."

"Those 'bastards' would have killed him anyway, Methos.' Joe assured his friend. "Horton would have killed you all, if Duncan hadn't stopped him."

"I should have stopped Horton." Methos challenged. "I was a Watcher! I should have seen what was happening!"

"You did what you could, my friend." Joe smiled. "Besides, that Chronicle led Duncan to me and I, in turn, led him to you."

"Not a part of the plan, Joe," Methos shook his head. "And we both lost a good friend in the process...."

**1995 - Paris**

Methos turned off his computer. Taking the backup disks, he placed them into the safe that was hidden in the wall and, locking it, slid home the secret panel. He turned back to the desk and rested his head on his folded arms, weary beyond belief.

Don Saltzer was dead. His friend and mentor on everything Watcher related had been brutally murdered and Methos didn't know why. He had entered Shakespeare and Company and found Don's body, the letters "M" and "E" written in blood beside him. Who Don was trying to leave a message for or what that message had meant, Methos wasn't sure but he knew that there was nothing more that he could do for his friend.

Reining in his grief, Methos had set about the task of wiping Don's computer clean, copying then deleting all the files pertaining to their current project: an interactive Watcher database, all the records in one handy, easy to access file. It was going to make retrieval so much simpler.

That done, Methos did the same with all of Don's other Watcher related files, secreting the discs on his person before calling the police. With the Watcher's information safe, Methos knew that he could come up with a workable story, and alibi, for the investigators.

His discussion with the police completed, Methos had returned to his apartment to download Don's files. He would let the Watchers know that he had them, safe from outside scrutiny. But for now, he needed some peace.

The shrill ringing of the phone disturbed him. He decided to let the machine pick it up. He wasn't in any mood, at the moment, to speak with anyone.

"Adam Pierson here." He heard the machine say. 'You can leave a message after the beep."

"Adam, this is Joe Dawson. When you get..."

Methos lunged for the phone, cutting off the machine.

"Joe, I'm here." Methos was afraid to ask why Dawson was calling him. Had something happened to MacLeod? 'That's all I needed now,' he mentally groaned.

"Adam...good." Joe recovered, momentarily startled by the interrupted message. "Adam, I heard about Don. I'm sorry."

The condolences hung in the silence as Methos allowed this information to sink in. Joe knew about Don! How did he find out? And so fast? Methos began to feel as if things were spinning out of control.

"How did you find out, Joe?" he asked, hoping that his voice didn't betray his disorientation. "Did Headquarters call you?"

"No," Joe responded. "Duncan MacLeod did."

Joe proceeded to tell him everything that had been happening with Duncan (and Kalas) for the past few months: Kalas beheading Brother Paul, his obsession with destroying MacLeod, his beheading of Fitzcairn and, finally, his murder of Don Saltzer.

"But why would Kalas kill Don?" Methos asked, in amazement. "What could he possibly have that Kalas wanted? And how did MacLeod find out?"

"Mac went to the bookstore looking for Kalas." Joe said. "He found Don, who tried to tell him what Kalas wanted. He managed to write out the letters "M" and "E" before he died." There was a moment of silence on the transatlantic line before Joe continued. "Adam, I think Kalas is searching for Methos."

"That's crazy, Joe." Methos stated in disbelief, refusing to accept this idea. "There is nothing in the records to even suggest that Kalas and Methos ever crossed paths. What would Kalas want from him?"

"What do you think he wants?" Joe's voice began to rise in frustration. 'These researchers just don't understand' he thought as he tried to bring himself under control. Taking a deep breath, he ventured to explain to the university grad student.

"Do you know how powerful Kalas would become if he took a Quickening as old as Methos'?" Joe asked evenly. "No one would be able to defeat him, not even MacLeod!"

Methos was silent, his mind racing with this information. Kalas was hunting for him and Don had died because of it! He wanted to crawl in the nearest hole and hide for a few centuries, at least. But he couldn't do that, not now, because now Duncan was involved. He had to think of something.

"Is MacLeod looking for Kalas?" Methos needed to find out where Duncan was. 'I can't protect what I can't find.' he raged at himself.

"No, actually he figured that it would be better if he found Kalas' target first." Joe stated. "He's looking for Methos."

With those words, the world that had been so recently spinning out of control, came to a sudden stop. Duncan was looking for him! His mind began to race. He could leave Paris, save himself, but then who would watch over MacLeod? He could let Duncan find him, maybe it was the right time. Or, he could...

"Adam. ADAM!" Joe shouted into the phone.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Joe, I was thinking about Don." Methos said, trying to cover his distraction. "What were you saying?"

"I told MacLeod that if anyone could find Methos, it would be you." Joe took the silence on the other end as fear, so he tried to reassure the young Watcher. So many of the non-field guys reacted that way to the possibility of meeting Immortals.

"Adam, trust me. Duncan MacLeod is an honorable man. He won't do anything to you and he'll be very discrete. Please, as a favor to me, help him?"

Methos almost laughed aloud at the mortal's plea. 'Help him,' he thought. 'Like I haven't been doing just that for the last four hundred years!' But this was different, this was to stop Kalas. This was for his friend Don.

"OK, Joe, if you say so." Adam Pierson agreed. "Send him over and I'll do what I can."

"Glad you said that, my friend," Joe laughed. "Because he's on his way."

"Pretty sure of yourself, aren't you, Joe?" He found himself smiling for the first time in days.

"No. I was sure of you." Joe replied "He should be there any time. Let me know what happens."

"OK, Joe, I will." Methos promised as he hung up the phone. Running his hands through his hair, he tried to come up with a plan. For four hundred plus years he's been staying out of MacLeod's way, always following but never too close. Their only meeting had been that rainy day on the road to the monastery, but Duncan would never remember that. Now Methos was going to come face to face with his charge. What was he going to do?

MacLeod would know him as Immortal; there was no way around that. Should he be up front and honest and tell the Highlander that he was Methos or should he wrap himself up in his Adam Pierson persona and not breath a word?

"I think I'll just play it by ear." Methos said as he got up from his desk, preparing to set the stage for this fateful meeting. Grabbing his journal from the desk and a couple beers from the refrigerator, Methos sat on the floor next to the bed. Pulling his Walkman from the nearby table, he pushed the earphones into his ears, allowing Adam Pierson to take control.

A short time later, his mind was assaulted by an Immortal presence, one he recognized as Duncan MacLeod. He slid his hand under the bed, feeling for his sword. 'Just in case,' he told himself as he took a deep, calming breath. 'Well, this will either work out well or it will destroy everything. No big deal.'

He felt the Highlander getting closer, his presence actually bringing a feeling of comfort. He saw him now, out of the corner of his eye, moving cautiously at the bottom of the steps. He heard him call Adam's name.

Adam Pierson turned to look at the man who stood there, starting at him. Turning off the Walkman and pulling the plugs from his ears, Methos greeted him.

"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Have a beer." He tossed a can at Duncan, pleased to see how easily the Scot caught it. But the look on the Highlander's face worried him. Was it bewilderment? Confusion? Recognition? For reasons that he would never understand, even if he lived to be ten thousand, Methos added to the greeting.

"Me casa et su casa."

The look on Duncan's face turned to one of stunned realization.


Now it was his turn to be surprised, as he smiled at the man before him. 'Bright boy' he thought.


"But how did he recognized you?" Joe asked, his voice sounding tired.

"I don't know, Joe," he answered, shaking his head. "I just don't know. It could have been the Latin. It could have been anything. Maybe it was one Champion meeting another. I don't know. But I knew that I couldn't deny it. I couldn't lie to him."

Methos looked over to the man in the bed, realizing that Joe was struggling to stay awake.

"Why don't you get some sleep, Joe," he said, reaching out to place his hand gently on the other man's arm.

"But I want to hear the rest of this." Joe protested, unable to fight off the drowsiness.

"I'll tell you the rest when you wake up," Methos promised

"You'll be here?" Joe asked, as if he believed that Methos would disappear as soon as his eyes were closed.

"I promise, Joe." Methos assured him. "There's no place else I'd rather be."

He smiled at Joe as the old Watcher closed his eyes, his even breaths telling Methos that he was already asleep. He reached out to touch the hair on Joe's head, smoothing the gray mane that had been thinned by the illness.

"I think my running days are over, my friend."


A short time later Joe awoke to find Methos still sitting by the bed, watching him.

"Feeling better now?" Methos asked as he moved the water glass closer to Joe, placing the straw to his lips.

Leaning forward slightly, Joe sipped the cool liquid then sat back, refreshed.

"Yeah," he answered, breathing deeply. "I'm surprised that you're still here."

"Think I'd run out on you?" the Immortal smiled, placing the glass on the bedside table

"Given the choice of finishing the story and running, I figured that you'd run."

"To tell you the truth, Joe, it feels good to have somebody to tell." Methos sat back in his chair, getting comfortable. "I haven't been able to talk to anyone since Darius."

Joe nodded as he looked at the Immortal, really seeing him for maybe the first time. All that he had heard these past two days had astounded him. That Methos had had an agenda all along was not really a surprise. The depth and span of that agenda was. He had always felt that being 5000 years old could be very lonely, but to carry the weight that Methos had carried for the past 2500 years must have been devastating. Yet Methos survived. This man that he called friend was, indeed, an extraordinary person.

"So, where were we?" Joe asked, wanting to get back on track

"Where were we." Methos took a minute to think. "Oh, yes. The meeting."

Joe eased himself down in the bed, getting comfortable. He watched Methos as his eyes darkened, lost in the memory.

"We left the apartment to take a walk, down by the canal. MacLeod seemed to be a bit in awe of 'Methos, the oldest Immortal'." Methos shook his head and smiled. "I was definitely in awe of him. Remember that this was my first, real face-to-face meeting, the first opportunity to see, up close, the man that he'd become. And do you know what amazed me most of all?" Joe shook his head. "He hadn't known me for thirty minutes, didn't know me from the garbage man, but he was ready and willing to protect me. I was touched. I was also terrified."

"Terrified?" Joe seemed surprised. "Why?"

"I spent 400 years doing everything I could to insure that he stayed alive and he's willing to risk it all for someone he doesn't even know. That was one habit I was going to have to break."

"You never did succeed, you know."

Yeah, I know." Methos smiled. "Anyway, I left him there at the canal and walked back to my apartment, trying to decide what to do. But I already knew. I had to find Kalas and take him. I couldn't let Duncan fight this battle. He was too important to lose. I had to find Kalas first." He snorted with the irony of the situation. "Just my luck, he was waiting for me outside my flat. The aftermath of that encounter was one of the lowest points of my life."

**1995 - Paris**

He dragged himself slowly from the water, collapsing on the bank. He lay there, in the darkness, feeling totally despondent. He had failed! He had gone up against Kalas and the man had beaten him. If it weren't for that fall into the water, he would have lost his head.

He was good with a sword. 'Damn it, I am very good with a sword!' he silently ranted. But Kalas was better. Methos couldn't beat him and now Kalas would go after MacLeod. He wouldn't be able to beat Kalas either.

Methos was tired, drained to his very soul. All these years of work, all the sacrifices that he'd made and now, when the end was in sight, he was going to lose everything.

For 3000 years he had been running, from himself, from Kronos, from everything that mattered except MacLeod. He had barely managed to defeat the demon. Timothy had won, but because of Methos, he had lost his mind. Methos swore that this time, with Duncan MacLeod, he would do everything right. This time he would succeed: the demon would be defeated, Duncan would survive and Methos would finally have made his retribution.

But now, with the end only a few years away, Kalas comes along, out of nowhere with plans to destroy it all. Methos couldn't defeat him. MacLeod wouldn't be able to defeat him. There was nothing left to do.

Or maybe there was. Kalas could defeat MacLeod. He would defeat Methos. But could Kalas beat them both? Was that the answer? Would the joining of his and MacLeod's Quickenings be the only way to win? And how could he convince Duncan to take his head?

Part of Methos was surprised that he so lightly contemplated his own death. But another part of him knew the truth. He couldn't do this anymore. He couldn't go on, after 2500 years. He no longer had the strength, no longer had the desire. He was just so tired!

He forced himself to his feet, rising slowly from the ground. His decision was made. He would find MacLeod, challenge him then let him take his head. With their combined Quickenings and Duncan's passion, Kalas would be defeated.

Methos brightened with a sudden thought. When Duncan took his Quickening, he'd also gain all the knowledge of the Battle yet to come. He'd learn all that he needed to know about being Champion! This must have been what Timothy had in mind. This was the perfect solution! That his death was a by-product of this solution was, surprisingly, a comfort.

His decision reinforced, Methos headed off into the night, searching for the Highlander


He felt the Immortal presence and knew that he has found MacLeod. Exhausted by his fight with Kalas and by 5000 years of life, Methos forced himself through the arch that led under the bridge, coming upon MacLeod.

He saw the concern on the Highlander's face. 'He's worried about me.' Methos noted. 'He should be worried about himself. Doesn't he realize what's about to happen?'

MacLeod spoke to him and he responded, not really hearing the question or the answer. His mind, numb with fatigue, was concentrating only on the actions necessary to achieve his goal. He would fight, he would lose and the Highlander would take his head. With only that thought in mind, he attacked.

MacLeod was startled by his action, parrying his attacks with his hands and arms before grabbing Methos and throwing him into the wall. Backing away, he reluctantly drew his weapon, asking 'Why?'.

The part of Methos' brain that was controlling his speech gave some mundane answer as he attacked again. MacLeod, realizing that this was a battle in earnest, avoided, then began an attack of his own.

'Yes!' Methos shouted in his mind. 'He's finally on the attack. Now I just have to lose.'

Putting up only the minimum of defense, Methos allowed MacLeod to bring the katana to his throat. But why was the Highlander stopping? Why wouldn't he finish this? Didn't he understand?

"What are you waiting for, MacLeod?" Methos asked, extending his neck even further, providing a large target. The Highlander stared at him, deciding.

'Why is this so difficult, Highlander?' Methos questioned in his mind. 'I mean nothing to you! Take my head!'

As if in response to the ancient's thoughts, MacLeod responded.

"NO!" he shouted as he knocked the sword from Methos' hand.

Methos sagged in defeat. Why wouldn't this child take his head? 'Maybe if I make him mad...'

"I'd have killed you," he stated, hoping to inspire anger.

"No, you would have made a mistake and let me take your head!" Methos was surprised that MacLeod could read him so easily. 'This Scot is smart,' he thought.

"Do you think I want to die?" Methos asked. Maybe he could reason with this child. "Do you think it's easier after thousands of years?"

"Then why?" he heard MacLeod ask

"Because, if you don't kill me, Kalas will."

"Not unless I get him first." MacLeod responded with bravado.

'If I can break through his Scottish pride, I might be able to make him understand.' The oldest Immortal thought

"And if you don't?" Methos challenged. "I cannot beat him, I've tried. He will take my head and then he will have the strength to take yours."

Duncan began to pace. 'Good, that's got him thinking.'

Suddenly, MacLeod turned around, exasperated. "So, after 5000 years, your only solution is that I kill you?"

"He can beat me." Methos said as he turned to face him. "He might beat you. He can't beat both of us!"

"If it's that simple," the Highlander challenged, "why don't you take my head?"

'Please, MacLeod,' his mind pleaded 'I just want this to end. Don't you realize that I can't do this any longer? How can I make you understand?'

"Because it's not just a matter of who is the best fighter." Methos voiced as he moved closer. "It is about passion and hate. I don't have the fire. You do. You want Kalas."

Methos reached down, gently taking the blade of the Highlander's sword and placing it to his throat. 'Take it, Highlander!' he begged in his mind as he offered the Scot his head.

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

MacLeod stared at Methos, his sword still poised at the old man's neck. 'Good, he's thinking about.' Methos reasoned. 'Take it, take it, take it...' became a mantra in his mind

"No!" Duncan shouted as he moved his katana, throwing it to the ground behind him. Standing in front of him, he grabbed Methos by the upper arms, as if trying to shake some sense into this man.

"I will not challenge you, Methos, and I will not take your head. Don't you realize how important you are?"

"You don't know me, Highlander."

"I know you enough to know that this is not the answer." His voice was raising in anger. "How could you think that I would do this? Don't you realize that you are my friend?"

As Methos heard these words, something inside him shattered. His body went limp. Duncan tightened his grip, preventing Methos from crumbling to the ground. Turning him around, Duncan lowered him gently to sit against the wall.

Methos' mind was racing, as if freed from a very long sleep. 'He doesn't know me five minutes and he offers to protect me. I attack him, unprovoked, and he still calls me friend.' He tried to make sense of the events, but his mind wouldn't allow him to think. He looked up at the Highlander, seeing the concern on his face. Realization began to dawn on his slowly settling mind.

'This is a man of honor,' he thought. 'This is a man of good. How dare I contemplate ending my life and leave this man to the events yet to come. He is the Champion, at this moment and for the future. I must make sure he survives. This is my reason to live!"

Methos smiled at the Highlander, then slowly shook his head. "You are such a pain in the ass."

"Yeah, well, it's part of my charm." MacLeod responded, chuckling as he sat down next to the oldest Immortal.

They sat together, in silence, each lost in his own thoughts.

"So, what do we do, now, Highlander?" Methos asked lightly

"I go find Kalas." Duncan stated emphatically, waiting for an argument. Getting no response, he got to his feet. Offering his hand to Methos, he asked, "What are you going to do?"

Standing to face the Highlander, Methos smiled. "Oh, I'll think of something."

Picking up his sword, Methos turned and walked away, his hands stuffed deep into his pockets, a new spring in his step.

'Oh, yes, I'll think of something,' he thought. 'I'll do whatever I must to protect you, MacLeod. You will survive to fight your battle with Ahriman. And I fully intend to be there to see it!'


"So you arranged for the police to pick up Kalas?"

Methos nodded. "I had originally told them that I wasn't there when Don had been killed, which was the truth. After Mac left me under the bridge, I went back and told them that I had lied, that I had been frightened but that I had actually caught a glimpse of the man who killed Don. When they wanted to know why I was coming back to them now, I told them that I had spied the man, just outside my apartment. So, they took me back to my place and we ran into Kalas on the way."

"And you identified him and had him arrested." Joe chuckled. "Mac was pissed, you know."

"Yeah, I know," Methos smiled. "But I couldn't risk it, Joe. I wasn't sure that he could win and I couldn't take the chance. I figured that Kalas would be in prison until at least after the Champion's challenge. But I hadn't counted on Amanda."

"Yeah, she sure did throw a wrench into things, didn't she?" Joe sat back into the pillows and relaxed. "I thought Mac was going to kill her when he found out what she'd done."

"And if he didn't, I swore that I was going to. She doesn't know how close she came to losing her pretty little head."

"Would you really have killed her?" Joe asked

Methos looked up at him, aghast. "After six hundred years of searching for him and four hundred years of preparing him, are you kidding? If Kalas had beaten Mac, Amanda's head was the first thing I intended to take!" Methos took a moment to stretch the kinks out of his muscles. "But, fortunately, everything worked out in the end."

"Yeah. Mac eventually returned to the States, back to Richie and the dojo. Then you showed up at the loft when Kristen came to town. Why didn't you just call him? You had to know the danger you were putting yourself in when you showed up on his doorstep."

"Didn't matter, Joe." Methos replied. "I knew that he'd be vulnerably to Kristen, because of their past and his ridiculous moral code. She would have taken him, eventually, if I hadn't acted. Besides," he smiled, "if I hadn't paid that visit to Mac, I would have never met Alexa."

Joe smiled at the memory of his former waitress, the young girl he had taken under his wing. Methos had fallen hard for her, acting like a giddy teenager when he asked her out on a date. Joe was sure that she was the best thing to happen to Methos in a very long time.

"You made those last months of her life worth living, you know."

Methos hung his head. "I did the best I could, Joe." After all this time he still missed her elfin face, with her bright smile. He'd had many mortal women and many mortal wives but none of them had effected him the way Alexa had. "I never thought her death would effect me like it did."

"You loved her, man." Joe told him. "After all, you're only human."

That observation made Methos laugh. "There were times in my life when that was in doubt, my friend."

"Never by me, Methos."

Methos looked at Joe's withered face, at his bright, caring eyes. "No, Joe, never by you." Methos smiled at the Watcher. "You've been annoyed with me, frustrated by me and, at time, genuinely pissed off at me, but you never doubted my humanity. Even in the worst of times." Methos looked around the room, fighting back the tears that threatened to fall. Getting his emotions back under control, he looked back at Joe, smiling. "You've been a good friend, Joseph. The best."

Joe nodded, unable to put his thoughts into words for fear that his emotions would take control. Methos seemed to understand this as he sat back in his chair. The two men sat quietly for a short time, lost in their own thoughts. Finally, Joe decided to get the Immortal to answer some final questions.

"So," Joe ventured, studying his friend, "tell me what happened when Kronos came to town."

Methos, sitting with his elbows on his knees, dropped his head into his hands. "I screwed up big time on that one, Joe." Methos sat, shaking his head silently for a few moments, remembering the near-disaster. Suddenly rubbing his hands over his face as if wiping away the past, Methos looked at his mortal friend.

"As Kronos said, I got sloppy. I had come back into town and got myself wrapped up in Mac's problems. First there was the 'other' Methos and that fiasco with Richie then Ingrid came to town, with all her baggage, dropping it at Mac's feet. I should have realized that I wasn't in control when I made you this little promise." Methos smiled. "I had no idea that Kronos had found me until he showed up outside my place."

"You didn't know that Cassandra was hunting for you?"

"Cassandra wasn't hunting me, Joe. She was just a tool that Kronos used to get to me. That was until he found a better one."


"MacLeod," Methos agreed. "Kronos' plan was simple, as the best plans usually are. He wanted to bring me back to him but first he needed a tool. So, knowing that Cassandra would hunt him to the ends of the earth, he allowed her to find him then he led her straight to me. Knowing that I couldn't kill her, he figured that he would, putting me into his debt. Kronos had a way of collecting on his debts."

"So Kronos came to town, knowing that Cassandra was following him. Do you think he knew that she would go to Mac for help?"

Methos nodded. "He planned on it. She would go to Mac, which would lead her to me. He was counting on the fact that, with my instinct to survive, I would turn to him."

"But you didn't, not really."

"Not until I had no other choice." Methos looked down to study his hands, as if seeing on them the blood of the thousands that he had killed. Even now, when it was over with and in the past, the memory terrified him. He took a deep breath and continued.

"I wasn't surprised to wake up after taking that dagger in my chest. Even if Kronos planned to kill me, I knew he'd want to taunt me first. So I said what I had to say and did what I had to do just to survive long enough to get away from him. When I did, I headed straight to Mac. That was my big mistake." Methos rose from the chair and began pacing, needing the movement to settle his soul.

"You see, at that point I didn't know about Cassandra or Kronos' little plan. I intended to tell Mac a version of the truth: An old enemy had come to town and I was bugging out. I knew that, if I ran, Kronos would hunt me down. I intended to draw him as far away from MacLeod as possible."

"Didn't you think Mac could take him?"

"I wasn't sure, Joe, and I couldn't take the chance. But then Cassandra showed up and told Mac about my part in the Horsemen. I denied everything, of course, and with Mac's help, I got away. But now I knew the depth of Kronos' plan. He was aware of Mac and, because I ran right to him, Kronos would know how important Mac was to me. If I ran now, Kronos would still hunt me down, but I knew that he would kill MacLeod first. My only chance to save Mac was to get him as far away from me as possible."

"Which is why you staged that little scene outside your apartment."

Methos nodded. "I had to make him hate me, so I told him the most brutal of truths. I had to make sure that he never wanted anything else to do with me. Keep him away from me and keep him away from Kronos, that was my plan."

"A plan that didn't work."

"Nope." Methos shook his head. "My plan to deal with Kronos was what it had always been: do whatever I could to make him happy until I could get away. But Mac, with his 'white knight' attitude, decided to help Cassandra track Kronos down. So I shifted my plan to do whatever I could to help him succeed."

"Even if it cost you your head?"

"The world could survive without me, Joe. It couldn't survive without MacLeod." Methos stood silently by the window, staring at the world outside. "I still didn't like the idea of MacLeod facing Kronos, but I couldn't think of any way to stop it. So I was biding my time, hoping that I'd come up with something."

"And hoping that, whatever it was, Mac would back you up."

Methos turned to Joe, a sad smile on his face. "There was a part of him that wanted to trust me, that still wanted to believe in me. I was hoping that part would win out and it did, in the end. But, for a long time, I wasn't sure. Then, when I found out that Kronos has sent both Caspian and Silas after Mac, I gave up. I figured that there was no way that he could survive both of them. I underestimated him, once again."

Methos sat down in the chair again, drained by this telling. "I had no hope left, Joe, not for my redemption, not for the world. Without MacLeod, everything was lost. The only thing that mattered now was survival. I tried to convince Cassandra that, if we stuck it out, made Kronos happy and stuck together, we could both survive. But she wasn't having any of it. If it meant working with me, she'd rather die."

"Would you have let her?"

"Joe, in my mind, everything that mattered was destroyed. I'd lost a special friend, the world had lost it's Champion, and everything I'd done for 2500 years had been for nothing. So, yes, I would have let her. If she wasn't willing to try, then I wasn't going to die helping her."

The two men sat quietly for a few minutes, each lost in his own thoughts. Finally, Joe broke the silence.

"But you went back to save her in the end."

Methos looked at Joe, shaking his head. "Saving her was a by-product of my actions. I was still trying to protect MacLeod." Seeing Joe's questioning look, Methos continued. "When I realized that Mac was alive, and that he had taken Caspian, I knew there was a chance. With Caspian's Quickening, he now had enough power to take Kronos, as long as it was a fair fight. That meant that I had to do something with Silas. I didn't want to kill him, Joe. He was my friend. But, when it came down to a choice between him and the Highlander, well...there really wasn't any choice."

"So you took his head." Joe concluded.

"I took his head," Methos agreed. "I protected MacLeod and, together, we destroyed the Horsemen and saved the world." Methos chuckled. "And Mac stopped Cassandra from taking my head. It was a fair trade, I guess."

"But the relationship that you two shared was never the same after that."

"No, Joe, it wasn't. And it couldn't ever be again. Duncan felt that I had lied to him and, instinctively, he knew that there were other secrets that I was keeping. Unless I was willing to tell him everything, he was always going to have that doubt, no matter how much we tried to rebuild."

"So why didn't you tell him the truth?"

"After that whole episode, I couldn't, not right away. There's no way he would have believed anything that I said. Then Keane came along, which was a whole other problem, then Byron and the aftermath of that. By the time I decided to tell him the truth, it was too late."

"It seems as if the Gods were testing you." Joe said, with a smile

Methos laughed a real laugh, the first one that Joe had heard in many hours. "It does seem that way, doesn't it. What's that Murphy's Law? 'Everything that can go wrong will'? " Methos let out a sigh, shaking his head. "The important thing is that everything worked out in the end."

"Yeah, I guess it did." Joe replied. After a moment he asked, "What was the problem with Steven Keane?"

"What?" Methos was momentarily confused

"You said that Keane was a whole other problem. Why?"

Methos leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. "Steven Keane, Steven Keane, Steven Keane," he sighed. "He was definitely a test from the Gods..."

**1997 - Paris**

Methos could hardly believe his ears, listening to Amanda. Steven Keane was after Duncan? He cursed silently, yet fluently, under his breath, not letting it show on his face. The one think he had dreaded for centuries was unfolding before his eyes.

After Amanda left, he found himself unable to go back to sleep. Steven Keane, after all of these years, was finally coming back to haunt him. Methos gave himself a mental slap; he should have killed Keane when he had the chance but there was always the possibility that Keane would be needed.

"You had to be so smart, didn't you?" the old Immortal muttered to himself, throwing off the bed covers and getting up to pace. "Never before did you have this happen and you took it as a sign that it may be needed. A bitter, ironic chuckle escaped his lips before he continued. "Now, look where it has got you! Not only is it possible that you are about to lose Duncan, you may have to kill Keane in the bargain." Methos stopped his pacing and collapsed into a chair.

"Why me? I know I needed retribution but did it have to be so damn hard?" He questioned the ceiling, rhetorically, hoping that the God would not actually answer. "I think I have done well with what I was given...is this some type of further test?" Running a hand through his hair, Methos stared at the wall, his mind drifting backwards.

**1658 - England**

"Bernard! My old friend, how are you?" The tall, red haired man gave a wide smile of pleasure and grasped Methos' hand.

Methos smiled broadly in return and warmly returned the greeting. "Sean, it is good to see you! It has been too long since we last spoke. How is that student of yours you were telling be about last time we met?"

Sean shook his head in mock sadness. "The mind is the first thing to go. Bernard, that was over 100 years ago. Steven is no longer my student. He has been out on his own for quite some time. Curious that you should mention him, though. He happens to be visiting me at the moment. Let me introduce you to him."

Methos gave a theatrical moan of anguish. "Please, I have been riding for what seems like weeks. Let me bathe and eat first." He began to follow Sean bent over, acting like an ancient old man.

Sean laughed and picked up Methos' bag while signaling a stable boy to come take his horse. The two immortals made their way to the manor house, sharing news with one another and catching up on events.

The door closed behind Sean as he left and Methos was alone at last. He gave a grateful sigh and opened his coat, pulling out the wads of stuffing that put on at least 50 pounds to his appearance. He looked in the crude mirror and grinned rakishly at the image there. He was sporting a full mustache and beard. Once again, Methos gave thanks to whatever fashion dictated that wigs were in. He wore the most powdered and outrageous wig he could. A hand went to his nose and he gave a slight grimace. There was nothing he could really do to disguise it but an actor had shown him ways to minimize its presence. An eyepiece and an annoying nasal voice completed the ensemble. Bernard Adams, the gentleman fop was complete.

Methos stretched like a cat and dropped wearily to the bed. He had not come to visit Sean so much as to see Keane. He had been hearing things about Keane that had him a bit worried and Methos knew he would have no choice but to come and see the man for himself.

He had been fortunate enough to discover that Keane was visiting Sean. Wasting no time, Methos had resurrected Bernard Adams and made all haste to Sean, hoping fervently that Keane would still be there when he arrived. Methos made a grimace of disgust. After the debacle of chasing Connor all over the world, he had not looked forward to doing the same to Keane.

Glancing out the small window, Methos judged enough time had passed and he regretfully donned his padding once more. It may add weight but it was also damn hot!

Methos descended the stairs and followed the sound of laughter to the study. He paused outside the door to check his appearance one last time, took a deep breath and minced into the room.

Sean looked up and smiled as Methos made his way into the room. The other man looked in distaste at the ...creature coming towards him but innate politeness kept him from laughing. Sean, who was used to seeing Bernard, thought nothing of it.

Methos saw the look of disgust on Keane's face and gave a chuckle to himself. "It works yet again" he thought in triumph.

Methos had long made it a practice to study people so that when he needed a persona to use, he had one available to him. Bernard Adams was based on a gentleman who was a supporter of Louis XIV of France. He dressed in the loudest colors that he could and made no secret of the fact that his taste for bed partners did not extend to women. He was also deadly with a sword and no one crossed him without a good cause.

Methos practically danced his way over to Keane and grabbed one of his hands, carrying it to his lips for a lingering kiss. "Sean, you must tell me who this delicious man is? Surely, this is not the Steven Keane that you have told me so much about?"

Sean shook his head, sure that Steven was going to hit Bernard. Keane merely disengaged his hand and bowed slightly.

"Steven Keane, at your service sir. And you would be...?" He waited expectantly for the reply.

Methos waved a hand, complete with lace handkerchief, airily. "Bernard Adams, late of France and many other places. We certainly did not have, " he hesitated briefly and added emphasis to the word, "men like you there. I would remember if we did." Methos gave a titter into his lace and was pleased to note the further disgust in Keane's eyes.

The three men chatted briefly and Methos took the opportunity to study Keane carefully. Since he had established his interest, despite no encouragement from Keane himself, neither of the other two men saw anything unusual with his scrutiny.

The more Methos saw of Keane, the more his blood ran cold. Keane had all the earmarks of a Champion yet how could that be? Less than 25 years before, Duncan had fully realized his potential as an Immortal and gained the knowledge of Timothy. Why, if Duncan was the Champion, did Keane also display the same characteristics? Was there a reason for this? His blood ran cold with a thought. What if that meant that something had happened to Duncan? He took a deep breath and calmed himself, surely Connor, for all that he was an idiot, would have let him know. Could this be a further test for him, for Methos? Was he supposed to chose between the two men?

Methos gave an inarticulate groan. He had entirely too much time and effort put into Duncan to even consider choosing Keane over him. On the other hand, what if Keane was the better man?

"Bernard, are you feeling well?" Sean's concerned voice broke through his musings and Methos quickly mustered a smile.

"Quite well, just tired. I was thinking how lovely it would be...in bed, " He paused again for effect before adding, "sleeping soundly."

Keane clenched his jaw hard to avoid saying anything that would offend Sean or his guest. He was relieved when Adams made his good nights and left. He turned on Sean and exploded.

"Sean, where did you ever meet that...that thing? He is positively disgusting! And those clothes!" Keane was sputtering with righteous indignation.

Sean collapsed into a chair and bent over with peals of laughter. Steven looked on in disapproval until Sean calmed himself. He pulled a handkerchief out and wiped the tears from his eyes.

"Steven, Steven. How many times have I told you that appearances can be deceiving? Bernard is more than he seems to be and you would be wise to not let his foolishness make you think otherwise. You could learn a great deal from him if you would but be receptive to him."

Keane flinched slightly. "Receptive to him?" He repeated, somewhat alarmed. "Surely you don't mean...?"

Sean snorted and shook his head. "No, I am not suggesting that at all, don't be absurd. I am merely saying listen to what he has to say and by all means, see if you can get him to spar with you, he is superb with a blade."

Keane looked relived and then thoughtful. He sat in an overstuffed chair and picked up a glass of brandy that Sean had poured. He sniffed it in appreciation and sipped it slowly.

"How did you meet him anyway?"

"A mutual friend, Darius, introduced us. Darius is a priest and one of us as well. He and Bernard are good friends. " Sean prudently did not mention that he actually knew Bernard by another name and a vastly different appearance. He must have a reason for the subterfuge so Sean sipped his brandy as well and the two men changed the topic of conversation.

Over the next several days, Methos made every effort to spend as much time with Keane as possible, trying to get an insight into the man. Keane was an honorable man and he was a little too unforgiving for Methos' taste. It did seem to be a fault of the young, Methos thought cynically. Time would cure that or he would not survive to have it cured.

Upon discovering that Keane was an avid chess player, Methos initiated a game. It was as Methos suspected, Keane was a brilliant technical player but lacked vision.

Keane looked in disbelief at Methos, who sat back smugly after saying, "Checkmate"

"You sneaky bastard! That is so...unethical!" Keane exclaimed. Methos merely smiled and shook his head.

"You silly kitten, what makes you think it is unethical? It was a legal move, just one you had not thought of. Don't let it worry you so much." The older Immortal leaned over to pat Keane fondly on the cheek.

Being in the company of Methos, as Adams, for the past few days had desensitized Keane to his constant patting and touching of his arm, cheek and shoulder. He no longer flinched and tried to subtly move away when Methos reached for him. To make sure there were not any doubts about Keane's habits, Steven made it a point to relay story after story about women he had loved and those who had loved him.

Methos found it all greatly amusing although maintaining himself as Adams did get wearing at times. To make sure that he was not accidentally discovered, it meant that he had to sleep in all of his padding. Luckily, the sense of an approaching Immortal always gave him enough time to make sure he was presentable.

"So you are a master chess player and Sean tells me you are good with a blade as well." Steven mentioned, a little too casually.

Methos examined the nails on his left hand carefully before answering. He held his hand out for inspection. "Do you think a pinky ring with an emerald or a sapphire would look better on this hand? I want something to bring out the color of my eyes."

Keane sighed heavily; he had learned that until he answered such trivialities, Adams would act like he had not heard him. He looked at the hand in question and tried to get a good look at the eyes. As always, the eyes were half lidded, as if Adams was on the verge of sleep.

"I would try a garnet, it is different and not as many wear them." Keane spoke quickly, trying to master his impatience.

Methos pursed his lips and twirled one finger into his brandy. He made a show out of licking the brandy off while keeping his eyes on Keane. Steven, wise to this game, ignored him completely and busied himself setting up the chessboard again.

"Sean is correct, I am wonderful with my sword." Methos gave a simpering giggle. "Although just how that dear man would know that, I am not sure."

Keane rolled his eyes upwards and did not comment.

"Naturally I am good with a blade, precious. I am an Immortal. If I were not somewhat skilled, I would not last long. I am very fond of living, so much to do...so many people to enjoy."

Steven looked at Methos in sudden curiosity. "Just how old are you Bernard? You know my age but you never mention your own."

Methos waggled a finger in admonition at Keane. "A lady never reveals her age you know."

Keane gave a sudden grin, making his normally sober face look quite boyish. "You, sir, are no lady."

Methos placed a fluttering hand over his heart and gave a slight moan. "You wound me to the quick, dear one. I demand satisfaction..." He paused, amused at the look of apprehension that came over Keane's face.

"Not that way, kitten, although if you are interested...perhaps later." Methos gave a slight laugh. "I am willing to practice with you. Sean has a lovely clearing that we can use without fear of harming anyone. If one of us should be so careless to actually kill the other, well, then no one will be the wiser."

Keane was more than mildly apprehensive after hearing that speech. Had Sean been mistaken in calling this man friend, was he waiting for the chance to kill Keane? Steven pushed the thought from his head and the two men went to get their swords.

In the clearing, Keane carefully folded his jacket and placed it on the ground, giving a few practice swings with his blade. He waited impatiently for Adams, who soon came sauntering his way towards him.

The two immortals bowed to one another and held their swords aloft. Because he wanted to see what kind of fighter Keane was, Methos took the defensive stance.

The clear air was soon filled with the sounds of steel clashing with steel as the men began the ancient ritual. Methos gave Keane many opportunities to blood him, but the only way Keane could have done it was by employing an unorthodox method. Methos remained blood free.

Keane smiled to himself, Sean had been wrong. There was nothing extraordinary about this man's ability with a blade. He was better than average but nothing that was impressive. He radically changed his opinion when Methos executed a spinning turn that ended with his blade against Keane's throat. Steven swallowed gingerly, very aware of the sharp instrument at his neck and the knowledge of just how vulnerable he was.

Methos was aware of it as well and an internal battle, one that did not reflect on his face, was being waged.

"Kill him! Kill him now! The can be only one and that can apply to the Champion as well." Methos certainly agreed with this assessment.

"Wait and see, you may need him in the event anything happens to Duncan. Why tip your hand and ruin the friendship with Sean? Duncan will need friends like Sean in the future. Hold, wait and see." The more practical side of Methos urged.

Methos looked into Keane's eyes, reading the trust there. 'Foolish boy, trusting one whom you don't know.' Methos thought.

Keane was beginning to get a little worried at how Adams was just standing there, looking at him, with his sword at his throat. He felt the pressure on the blade increase just a fraction and Steven closed his eyes briefly. When he opened them again, Adams gave a rueful smile, pulled his blade back and offered a hand.

"Would you like to see how I managed that? Sweetness, if you want to get ahead, you are going to have to learn to communicate your moves less. Shall we try that again?"


"Duncan was ready to die, thinking he deserved it after meeting Keane. I could not allow that to happen. " Methos said simply.

Joe opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again. He took a breath to speak and then let it out slowly.

Methos laughed. "I know what you are thinking Joe. If Duncan died, at least I had Keane to rely on as a back up." Joe nodded in affirmation.

Methos sighed and looked back at Joe. "Duncan was the Champion, no doubt, by that point. He had Timothy's memories and he had hundreds of years of preparation. Would you have wanted to see how Keane would have handled Ahriman with such a short time to prepare? I always go with the winner, Joe."

Joe responded with a yawn, followed by a grimace of pain. Methos walked over to the bed and pushed the button to call the nurse.

"I think its time for your medication and possibly a short nap."

"I'm not tired." Joe protested but, even as he voiced the words, he knew that Methos didn't believe him. Seeing the stark look on the Immortal's face, Joe gave in. "OK, I'll take a nap. What are you going to do?"

Methos stood a little straighter, shoving his hands into his pockets. The mischievous glint in his eyes belied the innocence of his words. "I'm going to see about lunch," he said with a smile as he headed to the door. Joe returned the smile as he relaxed into the pillows behind his head.

Out in the hallway, Methos intercepted Nurse Baldwin, who was responding to the call.

"I think his pain is getting worse." He confided in her. "The medication doesn't seem to be lasting as long as it did before."

Nurse Baldwin nodded. "I'll increase the dosage a bit, but you realize that it should make him sleep a little longer."

"I know," Methos replied. "That doesn't matter. The only thing that's important is that Joe not be in pain." The nurse smiled her understanding. "I'm going to get some lunch," he told her. "I'll be back in about an hour."

"I will be off duty by then but I'll bring the afternoon nurse up to date. She won't give you any trouble." she assured him. "You go and enjoy your lunch and I'll take care of Joe."

He thanked the nurse then turned and headed down the hall.


Methos returned a short time later and poked his head cautiously into the room, ready to leave again if Joe was still sleeping. As soon as the top of his head was visible, Joe called out.

"Quit lurking at the door, I am not dead or asleep. Get in here"

Methos walked in, grinning. If Joe was irritable, he was feeling better. Glancing behind him as he reached into his coat, Methos pulled out a brown bag. Taking out a beer, he set the bag on the table in front of Joe.

Joe smiled and glanced towards the door. Methos shook his head slightly.

"She is nowhere near, I checked." Methos lowered his voice dramatically.

Joe reached eagerly towards the bag and stopped.

"Is this what I think it is? You wouldn't torment a dying man, would you?" Joe asked in a suspicious tone.

Methos managed to look wounded despite the fact that he was smiling. "Pastrami on rye, hot mustard, extra pickles and some extra hot chips. Would I improvise on that?"

Joe dove into the bag, pulling out a thick sandwich wrapped in waxed paper. He took a deep, appreciative breath before taking a bite. He closed his eyes and chewed slowly, bliss etched across his face.

Methos gave a chuckle that caused Joe to open his eyes and grin back sheepishly. He swallowed and took a handful of chips, using a beer to wash it down.

"Much better than the slop they feed me in here, let me tell you." Joe stated firmly. The ancient Immortal shook his head and resumed his position in the chair, legs thrown casually over an arm.

After taking a moment to appreciate the food, Joe started in again. 'There is still something that I don't understand." Joe said, watching Methos closely. After listening to Methos explain his tale, there was one point that Joe couldn't comprehend. And the more that Methos said, the less sense it made. He needed the answer.

"What's that, Joe?" Methos asked softly, smiling at his friend. After everything that he'd just told Joe, he couldn't imagine holding back anything now.

"When the business finally began with Mac and Ahriman, you lied to us all. You told Richie and I that you'd never heard of this demon. You told Mac that you thought he was crazy. If this is what you'd been preparing for for 400 years, why did you lie?"

Methos looked at Joe for a moment then slowly rose from his chair. He walked over to the window, staring out but seeing nothing. His mind went back to those fateful days, back to that time when he'd almost lost it all. Back to his greatest miscalculation.

"Methos?" Joe prodded

"I thought I still had time, Joe." His voice was barely a whisper. "I thought I could save you all. I underestimated Ahriman and it cost Richie his life."

Methos rubbed his hands across his face, trying to prevent this depression from overtaking him. 'It worked itself out in the end,' he argued with himself. 'Yes, but at what cost?'

Methos came back to collapse in the chair preparing to tell, what was for him, the hardest part of this tale.

"When I saw Mac on the Quay that night, searching for Kronos, I suspected that Ahriman had arrived. Then, when Richie came to us and told us about Landry and Horton, I was sure. But I thought there was still time. I knew that Ahriman wouldn't kill Mac because that's not how the battle works. But I knew that, if he could, he'd try to use you or Richie against Mac. So, I came up with a plan. I would convince you and Richie that Mac was going crazy. I would get both of you to leave, telling you that I would take care of him, like I had during the Dark Quickening. I was going to convince you that it would be safer for everyone that way. Then, once you two were safely out of the way, I was going to tell Mac the truth and prepare him for the battle." Methos shook his head, his voice sounding worse then Joe felt. "But I underestimated Richie, I underestimated you and, more importantly, I underestimated Ahriman."

"How did you underestimate Richie and I?"

"I underestimated your relationship with Mac, especially Richie's devotion." Methos sighed. "It didn't take a whole lot to convince you that Mac had lost it. After his little scene with Horton's coffin at the airport, I think you half believed it already."

Joe nodded, remembering that unbelievable day. He hadn't told Mac about moving Horton's body because he had been afraid how the Highlander would react. When Mac did find out, he had accused Joe of lying to him, that Horton was still alive. Joe remembered thinking that Mac had gone mad.

"But Richie was a whole other story. No matter what I said, he wouldn't believe that Mac was crazy. You even tried to convince him."

Joe nodded. "He was determined to stand by MacLeod, no matter what it cost."

"But he didn't know it would cost him his life, Joe. He had no idea what lengths Ahriman would go to, but I did. I should have protected him better, but I still thought that I had time. I didn't think that Ahriman would act so quickly against Duncan. I realized later that just as I recognized Richie's devotion, so did Ahriman and he used it to weaken MacLeod."

"By killing him?"

"By having Duncan kill him. You see, Ahriman wanted you and Richie out of the way, too. He wanted to isolated MacLeod, to weaken him, to destroy his inner strength and outer support system. And, boy, did he find the way to do that. When we walked into that race track that night and found Mac kneeling over Richie's body, I realized how fatal my error had been." Methos was silent for a few minutes. Joe could see the pain on the Immortal's face, could hear it in his voice.

"The kid didn't deserve to die, Joe," Methos whispered. "Not like that, not by Mac's hand. And Mac didn't need to have to carry that with him for the rest of his life. When he walked out of the racetrack that night, I thought that Ahriman had won. I thought that everything had been lost because of my miscalculation. I didn't know what to do."

"But what did you do?"

"I followed him." He saw Joe's face frown in confusion. "Not right away, I had others do that. What do you think the Watchers were for? No, I stayed around for you for a time but, as soon as I could, I was out of there. I followed him at a distant, making sure that no one challenged him or that he, in a desperate need to die, didn't challenge someone else. Then, with a little underhanded, anonymous coaxing, I got him to the monastery. Once he was there, I knew he'd stay for a while and I could go off to find what I could to help him."

"Why didn't you tell him the truth?"

"Do you honestly think that he would have believed anything I told him? And, if he did, how do you think he would have reacted, knowing that Richie could have been saved if he'd only known? No, it was safer for both of us if I stayed away. So I had the monks keep me informed. And, when Mac finally left and headed back to Paris, I was right behind him."

"But we never saw you." Joe told him, still a bit confused

"No, you didn't," Methos agreed. "I'd come to realize how strong you were, Joe. I'd hoped that, when Mac returned, you would be there to help him. I couldn't, not directly. I'd done that with Timothy and his madness was a result. I wouldn't risk that with MacLeod."

"So you left again?"

"Yes. I headed back to the East, looking for anything I could to help him. I knew that he had Landry's journal and I knew that he had Timothy's memories. I just hoped that I could find something that would help him to put all that information into perspective. And I did."

"The Tibetan singing bowl." Joe whispered in amazement.

Methos nodded wearily. "That seemed to trigger what he needed to know. After that, the battle was his to fight. You couldn't help him and neither could I. No one could. So, I retired to the Monastery and waited. When I received reports that the battle had obviously been won, I stayed at the Monastery for a while." Methos looked up at Joe, who was surprised to see tears in the ancient Immortal's eyes. "You see, Joe, I had my own guilt about Richie's death that I had to deal with."

"And did you?" Joe asked quietly, his compassion for his friend almost overwhelming him.

"Eventually. I learned a lot of things during that time of seclusion."

"Like what?"

"Like I needed Duncan's friendship." Methos flashed Joe an embarrassed smile. "I had spent 400 years of my life guiding and pushing and manipulating him. When I finally met the man that I had made I found, to my surprise, that I liked him. He was a good man, Joe, and not because of what I'd done but, probably, in spite of it. He had been my reason for living but then, after getting to know him, I had found a reason to live. I wanted to get that friendship back."


Duncan paid the cab driver and raced into the hospital. He made his way to the information desk and waited impatiently for his turn.

"Joe Dawson? He is a patient here?" Duncan asked with some trepidation, afraid that he had been too late despite the efforts he made to get here as soon as the phone call had come.

The woman behind the desk smiled pleasantly and handed him a map of the hospital, visiting hours marked and Joe's room circled. Duncan thanked her and hurried off.

The shift nurse looked up as a tall, dark man walked in, a duffel bag over one shoulder and the wearied, anxious expression that she so often saw on family members who came at the eleventh hour.

"Joe Dawson?" the man had a deep baritone voice and brown eyes that seemed to implore her to say that Joe was still here.

"Mr. Dawson is resting for the evening." She said in a low tone. "Visiting hours ended an hour ago, I am afraid you will have to come back tomorrow."

MacLeod gaped at her foolishly for a moment and felt his anger begin. "I know visiting hours are over, I got here as soon as I could. Dr. Madison told me it was urgent that I get here as quickly as possible and that I would be admitted to see Joe as soon as I arrived. Can you please check his chart to see if there is a note there?"

The nurse's smile slipped a notch and she gave a mental sigh. This was a new one. She had heard just about every ploy possible from people trying to slip past after visiting hours.

"There is not any need for me to check. It is against policy to allow visitors after hours. Unless, of course, you are an immediate family member? Are you an immediate family member, Mr...?"

"MacLeod, Duncan MacLeod, and, no, I am not an immediate family member. Would you please check his chart? Please." Duncan said, leaning forward and tried keeping his hands still. His nerves were strung to the breaking point after the trip he had just made and the constant fear that he would arrive too late.

The nurse refused to look and the conversation grew louder despite both participants trying to lower their voices. The nurse was about to call security and Duncan was contemplating knocking her unconscious when Emily Baldwin came through the door. The nurse looked up in relief at the appearance of the Head Day Nurse and motioned her over.

"This is Duncan MacLeod and I have been trying to explain to him that he can't...." She never got to finish what she was saying as Emily immediately grabbed Duncan by the arm.

"Duncan MacLeod? We have been expecting you. Joe has been waiting all evening." She began to lead him down the hall to where Joe was. She looked back over her shoulder at the dumbfounded nurse. "I will deal with you later. It says right on Joe's chart that MacLeod was to be admitted no matter the hour."

Duncan was too relived to feel smug and followed Nurse Baldwin down the hall and around a corner. As they approached the door, it swung open and Methos sauntered out, stopping at the sight of MacLeod and the nurse.

"Of course, you already know Mr. Pierson." Emily said. Methos came forward, a smile on his face and was not prepared for the cold look on MacLeod's face.

"Yes, I do know Mr. Pierson." Duncan said, his voice hard and cold "Is there someplace private Mr. Pierson and I can chat for a moment? I would not want to disturb Joe."

Emily indicated the nearby lounge, a little confused at the undercurrents she could almost see between the two men. She watched them go into the room and close the door. She smiled to herself. At least Joe would be happy that both of his friends were here. Once again, she pondered what tie these three had that seemed to bind them so close to one another.

"Alright Methos," Duncan demanded as soon as the door was closed. "What in the hell is going on and why wasn't I called sooner? How is he?" Methos, ready to greet the Highlander warmly, stopped dead.

Methos had been through a grueling 48 hours, both mentally and emotionally. He was exhausted and his nerves were rubbed raw. Part of the fatigue was from sharing his tale and part of it was from having to come to terms with the fact that one of his closest friends was about to die and there was not a damn thing he could do about it. To have MacLeod practically accuse him of keeping him deliberately in the dark was the final straw.

"How typical of you MacLeod, to judge before you know the facts. Listen, you bloody Highlander, I just found out myself that Joe was ill. I got here as soon as I could and I have been here almost nonstop for the past few days. I've had to watch a man that I love and admire get a step closer to death with each passing moment. Just who do you think you are to be demanding anything of me? I don't owe you and I damn sure don't have to explain myself to you!" Methos spoke softly but forcefully, his eyes blazing and his fists clenched beside him. His entire body shook with contained emotion and his pain and anguish at the situation showed in every breath.

Duncan took a deep breath to retort and let it out with a gusty sigh. "You are right, I'm sorry, Methos. I should have known you would let me know. I would be willing to bet Joe didn't tell anyone." At the confirmation nod from Methos, Duncan continued. "I have been on planes and trains for the past 30 hours and I suppose I wasn't thinking clearly." Duncan smiled apologetically at the other Immortal. "How have you been, my friend?"

Methos let out the breath he was holding and tried, then failed to make a sarcastic remark. Instead, the two Immortals gripped each other by the forearm, the touch more than words saying everything that needed to be said.

"I am holding up but I wish I could say the same for Joe. He is going fast, Mac; I can see a difference in just the short time I have been here. He's on pain meds almost constantly now and he drops off to sleep often. I don't think he has much longer." Methos spoke through a thick throat, emotions still at a high. Afraid that they would overwhelm him, Methos took several deep breaths and kept his face averted.

Duncan was not really sure how he should react so he did nothing. He studied the poster on the wall quietly, waiting for Methos to regain control.

"I think the only thing that has kept Joe going was waiting for you to arrive. He won't admit it MacLeod, but he views you almost like a son." Both men gave a chuckle at the thought given the age differences.

"It is damn hard to lose someone, isn't it? It must be hell for him too. He is laying there dying and there I sit, in all my glory. Over 5000 years old and looking the same as I did when I was in my early 30's while he is an old man. "

Duncan shrugged, helplessly. "It never gets any easier, does it? Loving and then...inevitably losing mortals. All I can think is how rich my life has been for having known them."

Both men stood looking at each other, one thinking of a petite brunette who died a lingering death and the other man thinking of a striking blonde who died in a moment of senseless violence.

"Let's go see Joe." Methos suggested, opening the door.

Emily looked up from her task, interested in seeing what was going on. She had heard raised voices from the lounge but no crashing furniture so she had not investigated. To make it look like she was not paying attention, she lowered her head to her task. From the corner of her eye, she saw the two men open Joe's door and heard Joe's voice, clear and joyful.

"MacLeod! Damn, it is good to see you, man!"


The two Immortals stood silently, side by side, looking down at the newly covered grave. Joe had finally succumbed with his dearest friends by his side. Methos had seen many mortals die in his five thousand plus years, but this one hit him the hardest. There hadn't been many people in his life that knew the whole truth about Methos. Ambrosius had been one of them, Darius had been another; Joe had been the third. Immortals and Mortal, Holy man, warrior/priest and musician/bartender, three men who shared a common trait: The ability to know and accept the truth about a man once known as Death.

Duncan had paid for Joe to be buried here, in his beloved Chicago, the place of his birth. Their relationship had been tumultuous at times but sprang, thought Methos, from their tendency to care too much. Mac had also taken the mortal's death hard.

Methos let out a heavy sigh and turned to find MacLeod watching him, a slight smile on his face.

"It was the eyes." Duncan said softly

"What?" Methos didn't have a clue what the crazy Scot was talking about.

"When we met in your apartment in Paris. I knew you because of your eyes." Duncan took Methos by the arm and led the stunned Immortal over to a nearby bench. "They're very expressive, you know." he said, smiling slightly. Sitting both of them down, facing each other, Duncan continued.

"I came to your apartment in search of Methos, he was the only thing on my mind. And when I saw you, when I looked into you eyes, I just knew. It's as if they were saying, 'I am Methos', as if you really wanted me to know. I also felt some sort of unexplainable connection. I didn't realize what it was then, but there was definitely a connection. I felt it and it frightened me, always kept me off balance." Duncan sighed. "I always felt that there was something that you weren't telling me, some deep, dark secret. Then Kronos and Cassandra showed up and I thought that was it. After all, who would want to admit to being Death?" Duncan smiled. "But, somehow, that didn't quite fit."

Shaking his head, Duncan looked away, remembering. "When I left Paris, after taking O'Rourke, I had a lot of time to think. I tried to figure out how and why we were connected. I thought about all of our times together. I tried to understand why a man who survived by avoiding a fight would put himself in danger for me. Then it dawned on me that, from the moment that we met, you were protecting me. But I still couldn't figure out why, so I did a little checking. Do you know what I found out?"

Methos shook his head, unable to speak, stunned by what he was hearing. Duncan smiled at his friend's predicament.

"I traced you to almost everyone of importance who ever crossed my path." Duncan held up his hand to stop the protests he saw Methos beginning to voice. "There was always someone with a different name but I'm sure it was you. Then I remembered Matthew the Scribe." Duncan looked at Methos and smiled, waiting for the older immortal to recognize the name. "On the road to St. Christopher's Monastery, at one of the lowest points in my life, he offered me warmth, gave me directions and an important piece of advice. Do you remember what that advice was? He told me '...there is a time to fight and a time to simply live." I never got a look at his face and his voice was muffled beyond recognition but I knew I'd never forget those eyes." Duncan smiled as Methos appeared to relax. "A real Master of Opportunity, weren't you? But, still, I didn't know why!" Reaching into the inside pocket of his overcoat, Duncan pulled out two videocassettes. "Then I saw this."

Methos' eyes widened in horror, afraid that he knew what was coming. "What's that?" he squeaked, barely able to get his voice working again

"After Joe died, Dr. Madison gave these to me, saying that Joe had wanted me to have them." Duncan watched as what little color he had drained from Methos' face. "After the doctor contacted the two of us, Joe asked them to set up a video camera in the room." Duncan held up one cassette in each hand, an immense smile lighting up his face. "Two entire days of Methos telling the truth."

Methos slowly reached out to take one of the offered tapes. Duncan saw the color return to his face, pale to pink to bright red, before the oldest immortal exploded.

"That low-life, sneaky, manipulating bastard!" Methos jumped up, pacing in front of the bench, as if the movement would help him find the words to put with his feelings.

"He held me to a promise that I never meant to make, he plied me with question that he knew, he KNEW, I would answer, then he tapes the whole damned thing! He planed to give this to you from the start!" Methos turned to Duncan to find the Scot barely controlling his glee at the older Immortal's indignation. Methos was stunned into silence.

After a moment of glaring, his features softened as his face slowly broke into a smile. As the anger drained from his body, he began to chuckle, admiration apparent in his voice. "And he called me a calculating son of a bitch." Shaking his head, he sat down again next to Duncan as the Scot, finally losing control, dissolved into uncontrollable laughter.

As Duncan finally got himself under control, Methos sobered. What would this mean for their often-fragile friendship? Would Duncan react with anger at what he had to see as life long manipulation? 'He doesn't seem angry' Methos noted. 'Maybe he didn't watch the tape.'

Duncan watched the shadow pass over his friend's face. "What's wrong, Methos?"

"Did you watch this?" Methos asked, holding the tape out to Duncan

The Highlander gently took the tape as he nodded, his eyes not leaving the older man's face. "Yes, I did. A few times."

"And...?" Methos asked, afraid to hear the answer

"I think that you were given a task that would have broken a lesser man. Against all imaginable odds, you succeeded and for that I thank you." Duncan smiled as Methos looked at him in a mixture of disbelief and confusion. "Everything that you have done, all that you have suffered, made me who I am. I'm the man I am today because of you, my friend."

They sat there looking at each other for a few minutes as Methos, whose world had been turned upside down by the events of the past week, and Duncan, who lost a good friend but finally, FINALLY, gained the truth, seemed to let everything settle into place. Methos broke the silence.

"So where does this leave us, Highlander?"

"I'm not sure." Duncan let his eyes roam over the cemetery, taking in the tranquility of the grass, the trees and the open space. "Will there be another Champion?"

"Yes." Methos answered quietly, nodding his head. Duncan looked back at him as he continued. "At first I thought that it would end with me. Then, after my failure with Timothy, I thought you would be the last. But now, I know the truth." Methos sighed, the weight of the past and the future settling on his shoulders.

"It is all about balance, Duncan. For Good to endure, Evil must exist." Methos shook his head in resignation. "For a very long time, I was that Evil. Now, I must do everything that I can to assure that the forces of Good are prepared for the ongoing battle."

"A battle that is fought within the soul of one man, every thousand years." Methos nodded. Duncan smiled, clapping his hand on his friend's back. "Well, this time your task will be easier," he assured him.

"Really?" Methos asked him, "And why is that?"

"Because, from now on, my friend, we will do it together."

Methos stood and turned to face this man, searching Duncan's face. Seeing the honesty and trust that it held, Methos knew that this was his reward. The Gods had given him a partner in this task, someone to lighten the load.

"Together." He agreed, nodding. His heart was lightened by the knowledge that he could now add Duncan's name to that list with the other three.

Duncan rose and the two men embraced, warriors in a common battle, two men with a single goal.

"I do have a favor to ask," Duncan said, laughter sparkling in his eyes.

"And what is that?" Methos asked, smiling in return

"Please, whatever you do, please don't call me 'little one'!" Duncan begged, laughing.

"Well, you're not so little anymore, are you?" Methos playfully punched Duncan in the arm as the Scot shook his head, a smile still on his face. "Then I promise I won't call you that." Methos slapped MacLeod on the back, pushing him along the path. "So, Mac, have you ever been to the Salisbury plain? I have a little place there that I'd like you to see."

As they continued to walk the path that would lead them back to the car, Methos lifted his eyes to the heavens, offering an unvoiced 'Thank you' to the gods. And there was one other thing of which Methos was absolutely certain.

Whatever gods Joe believed in, Methos was sure that he now occupied his rightful place beside them.

*****The End (but the battle continues)*****

1 Enseki : Japanese word meaning 'relative separated by distance'


Master of Opportunity ] Shades and Shadows ]

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