|Adam Piersons Dead
by Maxine Mayer
"Well, that's that," I thought to myself, as I sealed the last box for storage and took a look around my flat in Seacouver. "Paris flat empty, Shakespeare and Company basement empty, this flat empty by tomorrow. What else?"
I sat down on my decrepit steamer trunk and scrounged around in my pocket for a bit of paper and a pencil. "Let's see. Bank accounts - closed. Transfers to vaults - made." I checked off the list as I muttered along. "Electricity and gas - cancelled. Phone - disengaged. Newspaper delivery - cancelled. AOL - cancelled. Watchers' records - returned. Lawyers - notified of changes and plans. Okay, good. Okay, fine. Only the one thing left. Goodbyes - not yet said."
With that, I stuffed the scrap of paper and pencil back in my pocket, grabbed my coat, secreted my sword, shut off the lights and left for Joe's Bar. I took a deep breath of cool Seacouver air when I reached the street, expelling it energetically. I'd miss the old place - had lots of good times here. In this life. But Adam Pierson, Watcher of Immortals, Master of None, is dead. Gotta move on.
"Methos! You're a sight for sore eyes!" Joe Dawson said, when he saw me come into his bar. It was early. There was nobody there but him. "I knew you'd survived, but you didn't come - and you didn't come - thought you'd given up on us!" He beamed at me, and I felt like road tar, knowing what was coming.
"Joe - good to see you." We shook hands across the bar. "How about a beer?"
"Sure - on the house! You back for good?"
"Ah - no, not really."
"Going back to Paris already? I'm disappointed. Thought we'd get a chance to catch up on things."
"Well, so am I. So am I disappointed. But that's the way things are, Joe. Sometimes you're pleasantly surprised. Sometimes you'd prefer a sharp stick in the eye to what actually goes down."
"What's up, Methos? You and Duncan getting along okay?"
I made a face. "You might say that - if you were a dyed in the wool liar."
"Give him time, Methos. He'll come around. He always does," Joe said sympathetically.
"Well, it doesn't matter. I won't be back for a while - probably, decades. He'll have plenty of time to come around, as you put it."
Joe realized that something serious was going on with me, and he gestured to a table. "Let's sit down. I need a drink. It's almost that time - not too early in the evening for the hard stuff."
"Joe - I really must go. I just came in to say my goodbye, my respectful and most grateful goodbye."
"You - you mean, this is it? You're moving on? To a new life?"
"Yes, Joe. This is it. Adam Pierson's dead. I don't want to be the Methos I'm becoming. Not again. I've gotta move on. To a new life. I know you'll understand, even if nobody else does. Immortals do it all the time."
"Okay." We'd moved to a table, despite my protests, and he set up two scotches. I nursed my beer and ignored the hard liquor. Never liked the taste of scotch, though sometimes it was the only way to go. "Let's see if I got this right. You're leaving because Adam Pierson's dead?"
"You got it. Bright boy."
"How about just changing your name? Fake up some new papers. You at loose ends for cash? I can make you a loan. Or - you've got a job here any time you want one -"
"No, Joe, you're not getting it."
"What's he been doing to you, Methos?" He meant MacLeod, of course.
"To me? Nothing. What can he do to the real Methos? Methos is impervious to a Green Boy. But yes - he's been smacking poor Adam Pierson around unmercifully. Hasn't noticed yet, that Adam Pierson's dead."
"I'm not getting this, Methos. You think you can speak a little English here?" Joe's a love, but subtlety and irony aren't his forte.
"Adam Pierson's dead, Joe. The identity is lost to me now - everybody who's anybody knows Methos and Adam Pierson are the same person. And he's dead in another way. I can't be him any longer. I don't react the same way. I don't know how to say it, Joe - but I've let the cat out of the bag. Methos isn't going back inside. Adam Pierson hasn't got a chance against who I really am."
"I hope I'm not hearing bullshit from you about the crap that went down three thousand years ago - it's enough I got an earful from Mac."
"No, not that old crap. I've changed. I'm not that Methos either. But the one I am -" I took a deep breath. This was harder than I'd thought it might be.
"Just relax, Methos. Drink your beer. I'm in no hurry. Neither are you - not really. This sounds like something you should talk about. And if there's one thing a Watcher's good for, it's listening."
"Yeah - at least, you are."
"Okay. What's wrong? If it's not MacLeod, and it's not the paperwork of a new identity, what's this you're trying to tell me about the old Methos - or the new one?"
"Joe, I almost killed a man in Paris, a week ago. For no reason at all. Except that he was there. And he threatened MacLeod - who could take him easily - which I knew. And I also knew I could take that man with my hands tied behind my back."
"News travels fast."
"Computers," Joe said, shrugging.
"Joe, I'm not Adam Pierson. But I don't want to be Methos again. Either. I'm out of the Game. Been out for two hundred years, give or take, until I met MacLeod. Until Kalas. And Kristin. And Silas. And a couple others you don't know about, while I was traveling."
"Oh, we know about them."
"That's not the point. Joe - I hadn't killed anybody for centuries! Not because I was a coward. Not because I couldn't. Because I no longer wanted to. Then - five minutes with MacLeod, and the whole thing was lost. Everything I'd worked for, struggled for - the peace I'd scraped off the bottom of my boots, painstakingly - was gone! Lost!" I stopped. I sipped my beer. Joe didn't speak. "And it's gotten worse, since Kronos. Since I took Silas' head."
"We talking Dark Quickening, here, Methos?"
"No! No! Nothing so absurd. Just - old habits die hard," I finished lamely, my voice fading off.
"Old habits - like, kill or be killed - die hard?" Joe asked.
"Yeah. Like that." I looked up from my drink. "Joe, I can't do that any longer. That's why I stopped in the first place, centuries ago. Tried to stop. Then finally, succeeded. It's like alcohol to a drunk. One sip and you're hooked again." I continued earnestly. "Look, it was really 'one day at a time,' for me, for decades, centuries. Back away, run, hide, anything - just don't kill. Accept being called a coward, a weakling, a fool, by other Immortals. Whatever it took, just - don't kill anybody."
"And don't get killed yourself."
I grinned. "Well, of course, that was priority. No point saving my soul if I'm gonna lose my head while doing it."
"Saving your soul? Is that what you were doing, these last four or five hundred years?" Joe asked curiously.
"No. Not my soul. Simply, my sanity."
"And ten minutes with MacLeod drove you round the bend?"
"Five. You might put it that way. At least - I certainly would."
"So." Joe summed it up. "Adam Pierson's dead. No more meek and mild Watcher here. And whoever Methos had become by - say - the seventeenth century -?"
"Whoever Methos had become by the seventeenth century, is wiped away? And you're back to before then. Not as far back as Kronos and his crew, but nothing you want to bring home to mom?"
"Exactly. I've gotta get away, Joe. Please understand. Forgive me. Believe me, I care about you. About our friendship. But I can't hang around here anymore."
"Not around here? Or not around MacLeod?"
"Same difference, isn't it?" I asked, bitterly. "This is his town. This is his hangout. You're his Watcher. I'm the new kid on the block. Gotta go, Joe. Gotta go."
Dawson made a strange movement with his mouth. Shook his head. "Dunno. Dunno who I'd rather have for a friend - you or Mac. Known him longer, that's true enough. But he's a hard man. Plenty of trouble. I'm not so sure I'd choose him over you, Methos."
I laughed. "Nice try, Joe. You and MacLeod are a team. Till the day you die. Or he loses his head. You're a team. You and I - well - I really like you. Maybe I'll write."
"Great! More e-mail from Bordeaux? That was some piece of work, Methos. Better phone. At least then, I'll hear your voice. Know how you're really doing."
"Okay. Deal. I'll phone, from time to time."
"And not Immortal time - once a decade. I'm talking Mortal time - once a month would be nice."
"I'll try." But Joe knew I wouldn't, couldn't keep in touch like that. An Immortal who moves on, moves into a new life, doesn't 'keep in touch,' it's just not done.
I stood, took a last swallow of beer. Joe stood up too. I went round the table and embraced him. "Goodbye, Joe. Thanks for everything. I won't forget."
"I know you won't, Methos. And neither will I."
"Bye, Joe." I walked towards the door quickly.
"Methos!" Dawson called to me.
I turned. "What?"
"What do you want me to tell MacLeod?"
"Tell him Adam Pierson's dead. So he can stop smacking him around." I grinned. "Tell him whatever you tell the Watchers. He doesn't rate better, or truer."
"You sure about that, Methos?"
"Very sure, Joe. Take it from an old old man. He doesn't rate better. You'll see."
I'd fixed up a new identity already, of course. My lawyers knew how to reach me. If I could reach myself, all would be well. I was torn between two ways to go. But I finally settled on the second, because the first involved returning to Ireland, which meant I'd be close to the Gathering again, because MacLeod drew the Gathering like a magnet, and Europe was his second home.
So I went with my second choice, which would bring me back to New York City. I hadn't lived there for a long time, as Mortals count the years. Not since the mid-fifties. I didn't know if I could go back to that life. It was a strange place - where I'd lived back then. Off the beaten track. Maybe it wasn't there anymore. In which case, I'd think through my options again. But for now, I'd check it out. I wondered if any of the old crowd were still there, to remember me as I used to be. As I used to look. Still looked. I'd find out soon enough.
I flew to New York that night, having left instructions with my porter to allow the storage people to take my things out of my Seacouver flat and to close up the place, for good. I'd already told my landlord I was breaking my lease, paid him for the last few months still left on it. I thought he'd have a stroke when he realized what I was doing - actually fulfilling the terms of my lease. I suppose nobody'd ever done that before, in his experience. But leaving for a new life meant cleaning up the old, when possible. Didn't want anybody searching for me, like the police. Better to pay my debts and start over clean.
New York City at night is something to see. Bright lights and dark sky - even stars and a moon - this night. I felt lucky, I think. Blessed. Always had liked the moon.
I paid the cabby off, hitched my duffel bag onto my shoulder, and started into the park. Central Park. Effortlessly, my feet took me back to the entrance to the tunnels, the only entrance I felt safe using, although I knew there were others. But this one would still be open, while the others might be closed off. They were always doing that, the underground dwellers in this peculiar community - closing off the ways. This way was best. Accessible.
I bent nearly double to avoid hitting my head on the drainage tunnel ceiling, walking carefully so as not to leave tracks in the muddy pathway. Can't be too careful. Finally I was there, facing the massive iron gate which marked the entrance to what the community had begun to call 'Below,' a few months before I left, last time. Looking around, I noticed many signs of comings and goings. Somebody still used this entrance, I knew. Hopefully, somebody I'd want to meet.
I picked up a stone and began to bang on a pipe. I used conventional Morse Code. Not that I didn't remember all the words of the pipe language I'd helped develop forty-odd years ago. I remembered. But who knew if anybody else did? Or if the language had mutated so much by this time that what I'd signal would be unintelligible now.
After a while I sat down with my back to a wall to wait. Distances Below were vast. The nearest sentry might be a mile or more away. Or so deep down that it would take some time to come up and see what was happening at this entrance. Who was happening, that is.
I think I dozed off for a few minutes. Suddenly, I was awakened by the 'feel' of an Immortal. Pretty old, too. That had to be the last straw! Not even in the Tunnels would I find sanctuary? Immortals 'Below?' Cripes.
I stood quickly and unbuttoned my coat but didn't raise my sword.
"Who's there?" a voice called, as the Immortal came closer to the iron gate.
"Who the hell are you? And what are you doing down here?"
"I'm -" The Immortal cut himself off. He sighed. "I'll come out. We'll talk."
By not saying his name, the Immortal had declined to challenge me. A good sign. "Works for me," I replied, and took my hand off the hilt of my sword.
By the dim light of the Immortal's torch, my skull must have looked cadaverous, because his certainly did. His fine eyes stared at me, and I returned the stare.
"Methos?" he said, incredulous.
"Erasmus?" I answered, amazed.
"What are you doing here?"
"I might ask you the same question," I replied. "But I'll answer you, instead. I've come seeking Jacob - Jacob Wells. And for sanctuary."
"You've lived here before?"
"Yes. A long time ago. At the beginning. Near the beginning. Are they still down there?" I asked.
"Oh yes. They're still here. I've accepted sanctuary myself, for a while. They call me Snow."
"Snow. Well, not particularly original, but certainly apt." I grinned. Erasmus' snow white hair had been his trademark over the centuries. He wasn't really old. About half my age. But the white hair made him look much older than me, though we'd been nearly the same age when we'd each achieved First Death - millennia apart.
"It's the name I'd been using. Before," he explained. "Before I was killed here, Below, by one of the community."
"Somebody managed to kill you, Erasmus? Hard to believe."
"Well, let's just say, he beat me at my own game."
"Not another Immortal!" I said, horrified.
"No. But - different. Truly different." He paused. "One of the good guys. A friend. You'll meet him, eventually. But first, let me tell Father we're safe." He picked up a rock and tapped on the pipes. Sure enough, no change from my code - safe is safe, even today.
"Come on. I'll take you to Jacob and the others."
As we started the long trek down, to the heart of the Tunnel Community - at least, what used to be the main dwelling places - I asked 'Snow' a few questions.
"Does Jacob know what you are?"
"No. Only one person Below knows. He keeps my secret."
"Are there many here now? Besides Jacob and your friend, I mean? How about John?"
"Oh, before my time. He's dead. Thank God."
"I see." I did. Man was insane. Brilliant, but twisted. I resumed my questions. "How many live here now?"
"Couple hundred, give or take."
"Jeez, when I left, there weren't more than twenty or so, all told."
He nodded. "The place grew, like any good sanctuary. Lots of children now. Many, in your time?"
"A few." Then I remembered, and understood. "There was a child, an infant. Different. That's who killed you, right? That child. Grown up."
"Yes. Vincent." Snow stopped and looked at me. "You saw him when he was a baby?" I felt sheer awe from him.
"Yes. Wasn't supposed to. But I did. Not an Immortal."
"No. But a special soul. Makes me remember the old days, being with him. When people believed in magic. When it took an act of will, not to believe."
"He's - what - around forty, forty-five, now?"
"I guess. And he has a son. Jake."
"A wife, too?" I couldn't imagine it. That baby. So different. A man, by this time. With a Mortal woman. Cripes! And I thought I was different. Imagine being that baby....
"No. She's dead. One of us murdered her, after she gave birth to the child."
"Damn his eyes."
"You betcha. He's dead now. I made sure of it."
Snow nodded, and walked on ahead of me. Finally, we came to the better lit, better paved sections of the tunnels. Signs of habitation were everywhere. From children's toys carelessly left about on the ground, to little bowls of violets snuggly nestled into corners. How they kept violets alive down here was a mystery to me. But then, the whole damn place was a mystery. Peace and community - without vows or habit or uniform creed. Held together on a shoestring by a couple of bright boys - Jacob Wells and John Pater. I guessed Jacob did it alone, now. Wondered how many helped, from Above. Or if they'd figured out another way to finance their operation.
Probably could use a hefty contribution, right about now. From an anonymous donor, like me. Hmmm.
"This way," Snow told me.
"I'm with you." I was a bit nervous. Jacob Wells - let's just say, he wasn't a man to take Immortality in his stride. A rationalist. An intellectual. A humanist. Not a believer, in any sense. Not a man who'd accept magic easily. Except for the child. The child who was different....
I hadn't stayed long, after the baby was found. So I didn't know what Jacob made of him. Named him Vincent. Good name, Vincent. Must be a top-notch Warrior, if he could kill Erasmus Minor, a great Warrior Immortal. And still be called friend, by this amiable guy, this 'Snow.' Couldn't wait to meet Vincent. I'd seen a lot in five thousand years, but that baby was different, all right.
Jacob Wells was waiting for us, in a large messy book-strewn study after my own heart. If he'd let me stay, I'd be in heaven here.
"Who are you?" he asked, when we approached. Then he startled, half rising out of his chair. "Dear God! Is it you? Michael? No, it can't be - it's not possible. Who are you?" He sounded angry and bewildered both.
"It's me, Jacob," I said quietly. "It's Michael." To tell the truth, I hardly recognized him. He'd aged, as Mortals do. Perhaps, more than he ought, considering his age. I felt disoriented, myself. But I pulled myself together, braced myself for the questions, the disbelief, the problems I brought on myself, by returning to a place where I'd lived so long ago.
"No. You're a young man. Michael would be close to my age now." Shock. Disbelief. The whole nine yards. Worse, with Jacob, the rationalist.
I turned to Erasmus. "Leave us, please," I requested quietly.
"Sure. You'll be all right, Father?" he asked. "I'll be outside, within calling distance, if you need me."
"I won't need you, Snow. Don't worry." Jacob made the effort to put his friend's mind at ease. A good omen for me.
When Snow'd left I asked, "Jacob, might I have a cup of tea?"
"Not until you tell me - how."
"I could say I was Michael's son, but that's a lie. I could say it's none of your business, but this is your home, so it is your business."
"Perhaps you could simply tell me the answer to my question. Then you won't need to theorize about your other options. You'll have none." His eyes twinkled when he spoke, and I knew he believed. Recognized his old friend Michael, by my voice, my looks, the way I spoke.
"Simply put, Jacob Wells, I'm Immortal. In the normal run of things, I cannot die. I do not age. Perceptibly, at any rate. There are others like me. I'd like to avoid them, insofar as I can, for a time. I'd like to join your community again. What say ye?"
"I say, welcome home, Michael." He smiled and put out his hands, taking mine in his. "Welcome home."
I sat in one of the worn chairs by the side of Jacob's desk and stretched my feet out. "Well, now can I have that cup of tea?" I asked.
"Certainly. I'll ring for the maid." He stood and limped over to a brazier, and poured me a cup of tea. He spoke again when he handed me the cup. "There's someone you should meet, Michael, before you decide to stay. My son, Vincent."
"Snow told me about him. It's the baby that was found just before I left."
"Yes. He's a father himself, now, with a boy nearly eight years old. A lovely child. An angel -" He laughed. "I've become a doddering grandfather, you see!"
"There are worse things - Father." I grinned. "Do they all call you that, Jacob? A bit over the top, don't you think?"
"It's because of the children, Michael. We'd find one here, one there. Wretchedly abused, hungry, lost, abandoned. So frightened. Needing a mother, a father. After a time, I began to tell them to call me Father. As the years passed and newcomers joined our community, my real name was forgotten. I was simply - Father."
"Yes. I can see that happening. Easily."
"If it disturbs you, Michael, please continue to call me Jacob. My true name is no longer a secret to anyone. Not since Vincent named his son after me."
"Well, I think I can croak out 'Father,' if need be." I grinned.
"Am I to assume that, even when I knew you first, you were - older - than you appeared to be?"
"I'd say it's safe to assume that, Jacob."
"Will you help me pass an evening or two by telling me your story - your history - Michael?" He had a flash of insight. "That is your name, isn't it? Michael?"
"At the moment."
"Might I know your real name? I'd prefer it to a pseudonym. And it would be good to introduce you to our little family by your true name."
I decided to risk everything. "I am Methos, Jacob Wells. And I am five thousand years old."
For a moment, I thought he'd collapse right before my eyes. But he didn't. He just sat quietly for a moment, looking at me. Then he shook his head. "Five thousand years old? You can't be serious."
"Well, where were you when I needed advice on how to develop a community, how to raise children, how to settle quarrels, how to feed people without money? Where were you when I needed someone to teach me how to accept that the life I'd been born to live, the life I'd been trained to live, was gone, forever! Where were you when a miracle was put into my hands - someone magical and strange and different beyond anything I could ever imagine - and I needed a friend who could believe in magic, to talk to? Michael - you say your name is Methos? Methos, then. Where were you during the last forty years? I certainly could have used some help!"
"I don't do advice, Jacob. Never have. But I'm willing to lend a hand at any task you choose for me, if you'll have me."
"I'm glad you're back - Methos. But why? What's wrong, Above? What's happened?"
"It's a long story - Father. For another night." I wasn't about to rehash my latest fiasco tonight. "When can I meet the others, and Vincent?"
"Soon. Vincent must be on his way right now. I sent a message to him."
Sure enough, on cue, a massive vision of golden strangeness appeared at the top of a short flight of iron steps. No, he wasn't Immortal. But his aura was strong, nevertheless. For a Mortal, he was incredibly vital. He had buzz - and plenty of it. Simply, a different sort of buzz. I could tell by his eyes, blue as summer sky, that he sensed me as well. Empathic. Very. Cool.
"Father, I heard the message - an intruder. Are you well?"
"You heard wrong, Vincent," I contradicted. "I tapped 'visitor,' not 'intruder.'"
"I was not speaking of your message," he replied quietly, "but another's."
Father interjected, "Snow was mistaken. Methos is an old friend. He was with me in the first years. Please, Vincent, join us. I'd like you to meet this man."
"Certainly." Vincent descended the stairs and came close to us. "I am Vincent."
"I'm Methos. Father and I were just talking about you. And about me. Perhaps you've an idea of what I might do to earn my keep down here."
"You're planning on remaining with us for some time?"
"Time - yes." I began drifting. I felt it. Something was distracting me. Someone. Who? Maybe Vincent himself, reminding me, by his presence alone, of love. Of MacLeod. I thrust the thought from me. "Yes - for some time. I'm pretty versatile. Willing to try my hand at just about anything. Best with books, of course. But that job appears to be taken," I said, gesturing to the book-filled chamber. "I can cook. I can - let's see - I can eat - I like to drink. Just about anything, as you see." I grinned.
"Vincent, we need a teacher, now that Justin's gone," Jacob said.
I protested, "Well, no. Not that. I don't want to teach."
"Yes, Father, that would be best," Vincent replied to the older man. "The little ones would benefit from a bit of worldly wisdom. I think that would work well."
"I don't want to teach," I repeated.
"Methos," Father said, ignoring my remarks, "if you'll take the early classes, Mondays through Fridays, with the infants - simple things, a bit of reading, a bit of storytelling, something with numbers - you'll have nearly your entire day free to do as you like."
Vincent looked at me curiously. I knew he was testing me. Always, they tested me. Something in my manner, I suppose, that wakens suspicion among the most trusting souls. Leads them to test me. I hadn't figured out just what, not in fifty centuries of trying.
I sighed. "Very well. Infants at dawn. Freedom at noon. Where shall I sleep?" I lifted an eyebrow, glancing from Father to Vincent.
"I'll take you there," Vincent said. "Goodnight, Father, sleep well." Then he did a curious thing. He bent down and kissed the old man's head, and squeezed his shoulder gently. Jacob patted his son's hand, and smiled up at the younger man.
"We'll talk again tomorrow - Father," I said.
"Yes. That would be - quite a treat for me."
As I lifted my duffelbag and started after Vincent, Jacob added, "Good to have you back with us - Methos. Very good."
I turned. "Thank you, Jacob Wells. For being here."
Snow joined us in the corridor outside Father's study. "Vincent, I can take Methos to a spare chamber." I remembered they called them chambers, those huge cavernous spaces they'd made into dwelling places.
"No. I'd be grateful if you'd wait for me by the river, Snow. I wish to speak with you later - privately."
"Is there some problem, Vincent?" Snow asked.
"Nothing we can't resolve between us."
"All right. I'll meet you there." Snow nodded to me and left swiftly, silently, as he always did. Another trademark - I patterned my own disappearing act after his. Never as good at it, though.
"Is this spare chamber far, Vincent?" I asked.
"We're not going there yet," he replied.
"Ah - more tests?"
"No. Simply, I wish to tell you certain things. Ask you - other things. It's best we talk before you meet the others."
"Right. Whatever you say."
He took me to a place I'd forgotten, a glorious chamber which faced a natural underground waterfall. The noise of the water made our words indistinguishable to anyone standing even a few feet away. A perfect place to have a private talk. Vincent was shrewd as well as wise. Better and better. But - a child, by a Mortal woman? Not easy to imagine, even with my experience.
"You knew Snow before?" he asked me, without preliminaries.
I was startled. "How'd you know?"
"You're the first person I've ever seen him at ease with."
"Ah - I can believe it. Snow's not an easy man, in any sense."
"No, he's not. But you - he feels comfortable with you. He admires, respects you. What were you to each other, before?"
"Why do you ask? We came Below to escape the past, not dredge it up."
"I ask because of what he was, before he came to us. A killer. Is that what you are, as well?"
"If I am, I won't be, not here. That's about all you need to know, I think." I was becoming angry.
"No, that's not all. Please - tell me."
"I'm - like him, like Snow."
"Ah - you are Immortal, as he is. So, you are a killer, as well."
"What's he been telling you? I'm not an assassin. I don't kill Mortals."
"But you could, if you must?" Vincent looked at me, and I realized what he was getting at. He needed a killer. More than one. There was trouble. He needed help.
"If I must. I came here to do the opposite. There's no end to the irony of life, is there? Wherever I go, it knows, and makes it's way to that place to greet me when I arrive."
"Our community is defenseless, save for me. And now - Snow."
I took the point. "Yes, I can help. If I must. Is it imminent, this threat?"
"We'll speak again tomorrow. I simply - needed to know where you stood. How much you would sacrifice, of your personal quest, for those who might justify great sacrifice."
"Well, now you know. I'd sacrifice everything, if I must. But only if I must."
He nodded and made to go.
"Wait - I have a question for you."
"I will try to answer," he said gently.
"Good. What's Snow doing here?"
"He's - mourning."
"Who's he mourning?"
"The man he destroyed. Gabriel."
"How long's he been down here, mourning?"
"Nearly eight years."
I laughed. "And they say I'm over the top! Well, we all have our little foibles. We old Immortals more than most. We have so much time to fill. A decade or two mourning a vicious murdering bastard like Gabriel - what's that to Snow!"
"You're too hard on him, Methos. Snow loved Gabriel. What the man had become -"
I interrupted. "Always was, Vincent! There was never a moment in Gabriel's long long life when he wasn't a killer -"
"But not to Snow. Never to Snow. They were brothers. And now - one is dead. By his brother's hand. The other must mourn." He looked at me.
"Simple as that, is it?" I pursed my lips. "You're a forgiving sort, aren't you? I understand Gabriel killed your woman, the mother of your son."
For an instant, I thought I'd be ripped to shreds. Vincent's eyes blazed, then clouded with pain. Fresh pain, like his woman died yesterday, rather than nearly a decade ago. Then he shook his head, and the fire disappeared. "That is nothing to Snow. What I feel. What Gabriel did to me. To us. Is not Snow's concern."
"What's he do here, to earn his keep? Kill intruders?"
"Yes, if he must. So do I. So will you. But his assignment is teaching."
"We take turns at sentry duty. And other work to protect our space. No, Snow teaches. Very well. He's an old soul with valuable lessons to teach our young people. They love him. He's - redeemed."
"Not him, old sod, not him."
Vincent nodded. "I understand how you feel. Redemption is a possibility which comes hardest to those who need it most, I think. Those who need to accept who they are, what they've done, and move on. Our friends, our loved ones, forgive us for our sins, our violent acts, our failures. But we do not forgive ourselves." He looked up at the waterfall for a moment, then back at me. "You are fortunate, Methos. You have time. To change, to accept, to forgive yourself, to go forward. Many die before they can do that. You are blessed."
"Some blessing! Just means I live longer with the pain of it, the memories, the vileness."
"Why don't you try to forgive yourself?" Vincent asked.
I'd said the same thing to MacLeod, a few days ago. I smiled. "Why don't I? Bright boy, Vincent. That's why I'm here. For redemption." Then I added bitterly, "And forgetting. You'll probably be a great help. Distract me with all sorts of tasks to perform. Before I know it, I'll forget everything and everyone. That's good. Because I can't wait."
"Irony. It does suit you, my friend." He didn't speak again for a moment. Then, "Who is she?"
"What'd you mean?"
"I can see that you're fleeing from someone very dear to you, someone who's wounded your spirit. Who is she?"
"Tsk tsk, Vincent. You are Jacob's son. Must it be a woman?"
"Then, who is he?"
"Think I'll pass on this talk. Where's my room? Gotta sleep, if I'm gonna teach infants in the morning." I looked around, as if I'd dropped the room on the floor, or it was up on the ceiling.
"This talk cannot wait. Children attach themselves to their teachers very quickly. If you teach the little ones, you must stay. For a long time. Until they no longer need you. I must know that you'll be here for the children, once you begin."
"I'll stay. I can wait. Decades. Centuries, if need be. Don't worry, Vincent. I shan't run out on you."
"You're running now. I don't know if that's what you should be doing. Running."
"I'm a very old man, Vincent. I know when to disappear."
I sputtered, "You think I should go back and be damned? Just to face it? Just to have the satisfaction of facing what hurts more than death itself? Why?"
"You must go through life, not around it. Avoiding pain is not possible. Not Above, not Below."
"What, you wouldn't? If you had the choice?"
"I didn't, when I had the choice."
"Well, I'm not you."
"We're not so very different...." Vincent replied.
"I didn't mean it that way. I only meant - who was she?" I asked, turning the question back on him.
"A woman. A beautiful, wonderful woman. She loved me. Only - she couldn't trust her love. She came forward, pulled back, abandoned herself, pulled away, followed her heart, turned from it - until we both came to the point of destruction. I survived, as you see. She is dead. Her name was Catherine. And she is dead. Our love killed her."
"And that's what you'd see me do? Let love destroy me, and my friend? You're mad!"
"No. Not anymore. Simply - sad. And sad, as well, to see you run away from what I'd give my life to have again - the one I love, alive."
I shook my head. "Great philosophy, friend. Maybe it works for you. Not for me. I'm not heavily into self-destruction. I've had my fill, these past couple years. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll teach the infants. Better that, than trading insults with MacLeod."
"Is that his name, your friend, MacLeod?" Vincent's eyes were wide.
"Yes. Duncan MacLeod." I looked hard at Vincent. "You know him?"
"Knew him, yes. Years ago. Before Catherine. Before I'd ever dreamed I'd have a love."
"You know him." I repeated, stupidly. I'd heard that Duncan MacLeod knew everybody. Now I was sure it was true.
"He helped me once. At night." He paced for a moment. "I walk the dark streets of this city, watching the abandoned, the lost, the lonely ones. Sometimes I can help. But I got into trouble, one night. Duncan was there.. He helped me get away, to safety." He looked at me. "He's one of you?"
"I didn't know. He stayed with us a few days. We talked. I liked him," Vincent concluded simply. "He's a good man."
"Yes yes. A good man. Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. A good man. That's the trouble. He's good. I'm not. He found out just how 'not good' I've been over the centuries, the millenia. Didn't sit well with him."
"I am surprised. He did not seem - a man who judged - to me."
"Oh no. He wouldn't judge you. You're Mortal - for all your differences. You can do no wrong. Anything you do, he can justify, somehow. It's Immortals he's condemned himself to judge. And I don't measure up."
"How much time have you given him to understand, to accept, and forgive?"
"Enough," I said curtly. "More than enough."
"I said, enough!"
"Tell me. Please."
"A month," I mumbled.
Vincent smiled. "Come. It is time for you to leave us."
"I'm not leaving."
"Yes. You must. I'll say your goodbyes to Father and to Snow. The children will survive another few days without a teacher. I'll take the class myself."
"Vincent - Jacob said I could stay," I declared angrily.
"And I say, you must go." He smiled again. "Now. Before anyone knows you're here. Before your friend knows you left. You must go home. You have a home, a life, Above. Be grateful for that, and go to it."
I shuddered. "I can't go back!" I said, panicking. "I can't! It hurts too much!"
"Brother, as long as you burn, you belong to life!" he replied.
"The Egyptians," I replied automatically.
"Yes. But true, even so."
I groaned. "Vincent, it's not fair!"
"Ah - but life is not fair, my friend."
"Right. I've noticed."
We'd made our way up to the gate leading back into the park. My shoulders slumped with the fear of it. Going back out into the world, just when I'd thought I'd found sanctuary. Or at least, a place to hide.
"I never even got to meet your son, Vincent," I said sadly.
"Got nothing but," I muttered. I made a last ditch effort. "You said you needed me to kill someone for you, for the others. I'm still willing."
"Snow and I will manage. Don't worry."
"Right." At last, I accepted it. Like it or not, I was going back. So I took myself in hand, put on a happy face. "What shall I tell MacLeod? That I've met you? Any words for him?"
"Only - that I remember him with love and gratitude. I'll always remember how he helped me."
"And I'll always remember how you threw me out into the cold, Vincent!"
"It's not so cold. Bundle up." He smiled.
"Easy for you to say, dressed the way you are! You're sure this is the right thing for me to do?"
"No question. You must follow your heart. It is the only thing you can trust."
"As someone once told me, you should write fortune cookies."
"And you should write a book."
"That would be a long one!" I grinned.
"The longer the better," he answered, smiling. "I love to read."