A Quickening of Friends
by Maxine Mayer

 

3/14/97


The dojo storey of Duncan MacLeod’s building, which accommodated his living quarters, is rank with the smell of sweat. It’s close to midnight on a spring evening. MacLeod and his Immortal friend and sometimes lover, Amanda, don’t notice. Each is intent on the other’s sword strokes, as they practice the same combinations of fight moves again and again.

"Half speed, half power," mutters MacLeod, and Amanda nods. Sixteen steps, sixteen strokes, advance, retreat, turn then turn again, first Mac the aggressor, with Amanda defending, then the reverse.

"Okay, okay, stop now," Mac shouts. "What are you doing?"

"What?" Amanda’s eyes widen, and she lets her sword arm fall.

"You’re not concentrating, Amanda," Mac shouts hoarsely, impatiently.

"I am, I am."

"No - you’re not. How many times must I tell you - your upper body isn’t strong - it’s a female’s weakness - you’ve got to compensate, by skill, by strategy."

"I do - I am."

"No, you’re not!" MacLeod grabs her shoulders. "If you go up against a man, any man, the way you just came at me, he’ll take your wrists and force your sword out of your hands, and you won’t be able to stop him. Any man, Amanda - maybe not Methos, skinny like that, but no, Methos, too, he’s got height. Amanda, any Immortal with any upper body mass at all, and any training, will get your sword away from you - Richie, me, Kallas - how many times have you had that happen?"

"I’m tired, MacLeod." Amanda tosses her head. "And you’ve got a nerve! I’ve lived twice as long as you - I must be doing something right!"

MacLeod grabs a towel and dries his sweaty hair. He sits on a bench along the wall, pushing Amanda away with his foot when she makes to join him. "We’re not done yet."

She whacks his foot away, then sits on the floor in front of Duncan.

"How many men have you killed in a fair fight, Amanda?" he asks, with a smile.

"Enough." She pouts. "Some." Then, "A few."

"Not drunk, not drugged, not tied up spread-eagled on a bed -"

"MacLeod! Never!"

"Amanda, those days, they’re gone." Reasonable. "The days when feminine charm and wiles won you protection from men, or gallantry. Nobody’s going to let you live, now. It’s the time of the Gathering. You’re one more obstacle to plow through. Chivalry is dead -" Mac stops speaking.

Swords at the ready, both Immortals are on their feet instantly, acknowledging the "buzz" of another Immortal’s approach. It’s an old familiar "buzz," the cracked cackle of more centuries of living than any other Immortal had survived.

Simultaneously, relaxing, they tell each other, "Methos."

"What’s this I hear, MacLeod - chivalry is dead - this, from you?" He saunters in, a tall thin drink of water of a man, smiling his sunniest smile, wrinkling his nose, sniffing the air. "Disgusting odor in here," he says, giving Amanda a hug, and lightly punching MacLeod’s upper arm. "Glad you’ve come around to my way of thinking, good buddy."

"I didn’t mean it the way it sounded." Flustered, MacLeod turns and goes to the freight elevator, beckoning the others to join him upstairs. "I was just trying to work a little with Amanda on her sword technique. She’s really good, Methos. Better than you’d think."

"MacLeod," Methos interrupts, "no decent Immortal would kill Amanda, and anyone not decent, who would and could, she cannot stop, not with all the tricks you can teach her. You’ll only give her a false sense of security. Her safety lies elsewhere, as well she knows."

"You tell him, Methos," Amanda says, laughing. "And chivalry or no, I’m showering first. I’m glad you’re here. I was exhausted, and Duncan doesn’t know when to call it a night. Bor-ing!" she adds, her voice ringing out in the loft.

"We’ll have a drink at Joe’s, if you like," Methos calls after her back.

Amanda turns and nods, "Absolutely!"


"What’s up, Methos," MacLeod asks, eyeing the tuxedo his friend is sporting. "Been to the opera?"

"You wish! No, I’m going to a funeral."

Instantly serious and concerned, Duncan asks, "Whose? When?"

"Mine. Probably tomorrow." Methos drops onto the sofa, stretching out. "Toss me a beer, would you?"

"That’s not funny, Methos. Someone’s after you? Joe hasn’t said anything."

"He doesn’t tell you everything, you know, MacLeod. And he doesn’t know everything."

"You look relaxed for a man expecting to die. What kind of joke is this, Methos?"

"No joke. Edward Rasmussen, formerly known as Erasmus Minor, heard about our little contretemps with the Horsemen this winter, and decided he wants a piece of the action."

Amanda comes in, already dressed in a slinky black dress, her hair gleaming under the fluorescent kitchen light. She gets a beer and joins Methos on a sofa arm, runs her fingers through his short dark hair, drinking her beer. "What does that mean - ‘a piece of the action’?"

"Don’t fool around, Amanda," MacLeod advises. Amanda gets up quickly and goes to stand near the window.

Lazily, Methos replies. "Rasmussen figures if he takes me as well as you, he’ll get more old power, and young vigor, than he’ll ever find in one place again."

"And, better fighters. He must be a fool, to try for both of you."

"Not a fool, Amanda. And he won’t be the last to try. Yes, we’re good. But so is he. Old as the hills. Quite calculating, too."

"Wait a minute," Amanda interjects, excited, "I think I remember him now - he was a monk -"

"He managed to get away from Kallas with his head, even though Kallas had the advantage of surprise." Methos offered.

Duncan says, "But he didn’t kill Kallas."

"No - Kallas scooted back to Holy Ground. Rasmussen didn’t follow him."

"You know that -?" Mac asks, surprised.

"I wrote it up for the Watchers. It was a long time ago."

"Why didn’t you go after Kallas back then?"

"What - and blow my cover?" Methos grins. "I haven’t survived this long by looking for trouble."

MacLeod sits and buries his head in his hands. Amanda and Methos exchange bewildered glances.

"What?" Amanda asks.

"First Grayson, then Xavier, Kallas, Coltec - now this one, this Rasmussen - all old Immortals."

"Not stronger than you, old sod," Methos chimes in, to comfort.

"That’s not the point," MacLeod replies bitterly.

Amanda’s voice rises as she speaks. "Duncan, you’ll take his head and like it! I don’t give a damn how old he is!"

"What am I missing here?" Methos sings out.

"He doesn’t like to kill you old ones - thinks it’s disrespectful."

"No," Duncan explains, "not disrespectful. It’s like - vandalizing a church, or a museum - it’s destroying something valuable, and beautiful, that’s lasted so long - it’s - it’s killing our history."

"I don’t like the sound of that, MacLeod. I’m not a bit of history, and neither is Erasmus. We’re alive. Now. And besides, you take all we are, when you get our Quickening - everything valuable -"

"I don’t believe that," Duncan replies. "Who you are is more than your spirit, your power, and your memories. Who you are is - it’s you loving Alexa, and making her laugh, it’s you drinking a beer with Joe, or listening to Springsteen, making fun of opera. Who you are is a man who says ‘candygram’ when he comes to my door. Not an ancient relic from before the time when men walked upright. And that can’t be replaced - or received - in a Quickening. Death won’t ever replace life."

"Bravo, MacLeod, and thanks. But I’ve had my run, you know. In the end there can be Only One. It certainly won’t be me. And it won’t be Rasmussen or Amanda here. Maybe it’ll be you, MacLeod, or Richie, or someone who hasn’t even achieved First Death yet. But it’s what we do - and we accept the losses, we fight to the death. ‘Don’t cry for me, Argentina!’"

Amanda goes over to Methos and hugs him, then kisses his cheek. "God, Methos, I love you! But you date yourself so, with those outlandish musical references!"

"Yeah, I know." A dreamy look comes into Methos’ eyes. "I once told somebody I felt as though I’d left my heart in San Francisco. The worst thing about it, is that the man I said that to understood the reference!"

Curious, Duncan asks, "Who was it?"

Methos grins. "Kronos."

MacLeod makes a face. "I’m taking a shower. You two stay here. Don’t get yourselves killed before we have a chance to talk with Joe. I want to know more about this Erasmus, Rasmussen, whatever he’s calling himself now. And not what he did a thousand years ago."


Behind Joe’s Bar, in a private back room, the three Immortals, and MacLeod’s Watcher, Joe Dawson, stand in hostile silence.

"I don’t believe this, Joe," Mac says, finally.

"Believe, Mac. I’m a Watcher, not your personal spy. There’s no reason in the world for me to give you guys information on Edward Rasmussen. He’s in the Game, so are you three. He’s no danger to anybody outside the Game. He’s an Immortal. He doesn’t kill Mortals. I’ve no right to reveal anything about the guy to you."

"Joe," Amanda says, "pretty please. We just want to know where he lives - his hangouts - nothing really personal."

"Why? So you can kill him before he even challenges you? On the strength of a rumor? No soap, guys. You’re on your own."

"Let’s go, kiddies." Methos turns and starts towards the door.

"Wait a minute. You’re telling me you won’t help us. Why? How is this different?" MacLeod asks.

"It’s different, is all. Think about it, Mac. This man’s done nothing to you, nothing to anyone. He’s a law abiding citizen. He’s just an old Immortal, living quietly, not bothering anybody. Let it play itself out, Mac. It’s the way to go."

"Damn you, Joe."

"I’m sorry, MacLeod. I call ‘em like I see ‘em. This one isn’t even gray, from where I’m standing."

The three Immortals look at each other. Amanda is the first to go, pushing past Methos, and out the door. Duncan quickly follows her.

Before he leaves, Methos says, "You’re wrong, Joe. And you’ll be in this up to your baby blues before it’s done."

"Maybe so. I’m sorry. I really am. I just can’t help you here."

"Gotcha. Take another look, then call me. You know I’ll be with MacLeod. He won’t talk to you, so ask for me."

"I won’t be calling, Methos."

"Yes. Oh yes. You will."


The three Immortals walk along the river, back towards the dark neighborhood MacLeod calls home.

"So - what do we do now, fellas? Wait and see?" Amanda swings around in front of them, walking backwards.

"You said it. Or - we could get drunk someplace else. Joe’s is not the only gin joint in this town. There’s a really nifty jazz club over on -"

"Methos, how well did you know this Erasmus?"

"Nothing deflects you, MacLeod, does it? I knew him well enough, a thousand years ago. He won’t be challenging one of us, not while the three of us are together."

"Nobody would," Amanda retorts.

MacLeod shakes his head. "That’s not necessarily true. Most Immortals know their prey by reputation. None of us would take a man’s head when he’s down, after a Quickening."

"Speak for yourself, Duncan," Amanda says, smiling wickedly.

"Yes, you would. But Methos wouldn’t let you, and neither would I."

"That never stopped me before."

"It would, if both of us were there with you," Duncan replies, smiling. "So we know he isn’t trusting."

"That’s right. He’ll want to see for himself," Methos muses. "Look, MacLeod - Erasmus has survived a minimum of two thousand years. He’s good, he’s clever, and he’s patient."

"And determined?" MacLeod asks, looking Methos in the eye.

"Yes. Very."

"Well, we won’t be together forever," Amanda quips. "He can wait."

MacLeod puts his arm around her, looks at Methos, and smiles. "But we can stand each other for one more night at least. Let’s go back to my place and have that drink."


Edward Rasmussen walks out of the shadows behind Joe’s Bar. Seen by the dim light of a halogen street lamp, he’s a lean, hard-bitten looking man. His hair is silvery white. Deep grooves line his long, handsome Scandinavian face. He’s an attractive man. By all appearances, serious. Crafty.

He watches as several of the bar’s help leave, calling out their goodnights to their boss. He waits until the lights inside are off, and the neon sign outside is off as well. He waits with patience, absolutely still and silent, as Joe comes out, locks the outer door of the bar, and turns awkwardly, transferring his cane from one hand to the other. He waits until Joe reaches his car. Then he speaks.

"Mr. Dawson."

Joe turns in the direction of the voice, and sees Rasmussen. "Yeah, that’s me. How can I help you?"

"I’ve been told you’re a friend of Duncan MacLeod, the Highlander. More than that. That you’re his Watcher."

"Jeez, ain’t there nobody left, who doesn’t know that?" Joe replies, with a rueful smile.

"I think there are many, who don’t know. But I do know. My sources are - reliable. Like yours."

"Who the hell are you?"

"My name is Edward Rasmussen."

"My God !"

"Yes, I imagine you were expecting me."

Joe smiles. "Actually, I wasn’t. Actually, I’ve got more egg on my face right now than I care to admit. You gonna kill me, now - to get MacLeod’s attention?"

"That’s not my plan. Or you’d be dead right now. I was hoping our relationship would be less hostile than that. I want you to give MacLeod a message. Him, and his friend, Methos. It’s a short message. Would you do that for me?" Rasmussen’s voice is calm, quiet, nearly hypnotic. Intense. But relaxed, as well.

"You’re a strange one, Rasmussen. But then, you old ones always are."

"Yes, we are. It comes with the territory. Can’t be helped."

"What the hell - what’s your message - a meet?"

"Yes. A ‘meet,’ with both of them. Holy Ground. St. John’s By-The-Sea. The cemetery will do fine."

"Let me guess - by Haresh Clay and Carter Wellan’s graves."

"That doesn’t matter."

"No, of course not. You’ll sense each other coming."

"Mr. Dawson, I won’t fence with you. Those men experienced something rare and wondrous, recently. A special kind of Quickening. Simultaneous, and extremely powerful. From two very old Immortals."

"So what?"

"You don’t understand. Let me explain. They shared their Quickenings. They didn’t simply happen at the same moment. It was - exchanged, shared. They are - one person - now."

"Could’ve fooled me."

"Apparently, they have."

"If they did become ‘one person,’ neither Mac nor Methos knows it. I think you’re wrong, Rasmussen."

"Perhaps. Yes. Perhaps I am. I’ll find that out. My message - you will pass it to them?"

"Tomorrow night good for you?"

"Very good, Mr. Dawson. I thank you."

"No, I thank you, Rasmussen. You’ve vindicated me."

"How so?"

"I told them to let it play itself out."

"I see. They wanted you to break your vow, reveal my whereabouts, my habits, perhaps. That is unworthy on their part."

"Not really. They just got a little overexcited, they haven’t recuperated so well, yet, from - things."

"Months have passed," Rasmussen muses, "but they’ve not recuperated yet? Oh yes, a very special Quickening, I think."

"Why’d I tell you that?" Dawson asks, almost to himself. "I can’t believe I said that."

"Don’t concern yourself, Mr. Dawson. I shan’t use it against them. Nor shall I expose what we’ve said here to your friends. As to why you’ve told me all you have - it’s quite simple, really. I am a very old Immortal, and you are a very special Watcher. You’d give your life for any one of us who’s worth his salt, I think."

"Yeah - whatever."

"Goodnight, Joe Dawson. And thank you."


"That was Joe," Methos says, hanging up the phone.

"What does he want?"

"MacLeod, you know you can’t stay angry with Joe, so why do you bother trying? You can’t want to hurt him."

"It’s not your business, Methos, my friendship with Joe."

"He’s my friend, too. I don’t like seeing you hurt him -"

"Boys, boys - no fighting. Methos, what’s the message. What did Joe say?"

"He’s on his way over."

"No. I don’t want to see him," Duncan says quickly.

"Oh yes you do. He just had a face-to-face with our friend Erasmus - Rasmussen. In the parking lot behind his bar."

"Is Joe hurt?" MacLeod’s about-face is so immediate, and so predictable, both Amanda and Methos burst out laughing.

"This isn’t funny, you two. I take it, Joe’s not hurt."

"Yes, it is funny, MacLeod. If you could see your face."

Amanda adds, "Duncan, there’s nobody quite like you! You’d make me laugh while somebody shovelled dirt on my grave!"

"Which God forbid!" says Methos.

The elevator up to the loft rises, and Joe Dawson struggles to open the gate when it stops.

"Sorry, Mac. I know you’re angry. But you’ll want to hear this."

"I’m not angry, Joe. Not any more. What did Rasmussen want?"

Joe sighs. "A meet, what else? Tomorrow night, Clay’s graveyard."

"What’s he like, Joe?" Duncan asks.

"It’s not really a question of what he’s like, Mac. It’s how much he knows, what he believes - about the two of you." Joe points his cane at Duncan, then at Methos.

"He knows you’re a Watcher, my Watcher."

"That’s the least of it. I’m getting used to every Tom, Dick and Harry knowing that." Joe chuckles. "We used to be a secret society. Now, we might as well have put an ad out on the Internet."

"Things are tough all over, Dawson," Methos cuts in. "Tell us about Erasmus. I haven’t seen him in a thousand years."

"He’s - quiet. His voice - it’s like he hypnotizes you. He’s skinny, like you. No, lean’s a better word. He’s like a vampire. Bloodless, intense."

Amanda says, "Sounds scary. Lighten up, Joe. He’s like any of us. He’s just a guy."

"Yeah, Amanda - just which guy?" Duncan responds angrily. "A guy like Luther -"

"Below the belt, MacLeod -" Amanda responds.

"- Or like Kallas, or like Kronos. Or maybe, just maybe, he’s like a mild-mannered Watcher guy, I know, like Methos here!"

MacLeod is growing angrier by the minute.

"Hey, Mac, that’s not why I came over - to discuss this fellow’s personality quirks."

"So, why did you come, Joe?"

Joe sighs. "Can I get a drink, somebody?" He’s hesitating. The Immortals’ tension rises.

Methos says, "Uh oh."

"Yeah, sure, you can have a drink." MacLeod pours a Scotch for his friend.

Joe downs it in one gulp. "That’s good stuff, Mac."

"Thanks. Now - what’d he say?"


"Imaginative, I’ll give him that," Methos says, grinning. "’One person,’ - has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?"

Mac asks, "You don’t believe that’s what happened, do you?"

"What, that you two guys shared the Quickening? That you each got the guts of both of those guys you killed?" Amanda asks.

"Not that," Duncan answers. "That we were open to each other, too, during the Quickening. Got each other’s - guts - along with the rest."

"Fellas," Joe interrupts, "get real, here. The guy’s a crackpot. Have you experienced the slightest thing to make you believe you’ve become ‘one person’?" Joe looks at each of them. "Any evidence at all?"

The two male Immortals look at each other intently. Their silence fills the loft. "The same taste in beer, maybe?" No response.

Amanda, puzzled, says, "What is it, guys? Duncan?" She turns to Methos. "Methos? Say something."

Slowly, Duncan nods his head, and Methos speaks. "It’s nothing absolute. Really not. Just - dreams."

"You mean, some kind of nightmares you two are both having?" Joe asks.

One word at a time, Methos croaks out, "Not that sort of dream."

"What ‘sort,’ then?" Joe is skeptical.

"The ‘hope’ kind. Like in, ‘all my hopes and dreams.’ Like in, ‘wanting the same things.’ Like in, stepping on each other’s words, finishing each other’s thoughts. Knowing, before we speak, what each of us is going to say."

"And that’s your evidence? How long has this crap been going on?" Joe is angry.

"You mean, without us letting the Watchers in on it, Joe?" Duncan replies. "It’s not your business to know us intimately. It’s an accident. Not meant to be. Watchers watch, you observe, record. If you can get close enough to one of us, even listen. But no Watcher is expected to read our minds, Dawson. You can’t watch all the time. You’re not voyeurs. And you’re not meant to be our friends -"

"Or our psychiatrists," Methos adds.

Joe turns and walks towards the window. "Well, isn’t this just great. Isn’t this dandy. This son of a bitch is after the two of you - my friends, I don’t care what you say - for the Double Quickening. And I laughed at him, laughed at his theory. And now, I find out the S.O.B. is right!"

"It doesn’t matter, Joe," MacLeod says. "His theory doesn’t matter, because he’s not gonna take our heads."

"Not any day soon," Methos follows up quickly, as though he’s reading Duncan’s thoughts.

Amanda looks at Dawson. "They’re not going to keep the meet. They’re going to run."

"You’re kidding!" Joe’s incredulous. "MacLeod, you haven’t run from anyone in years. Methos, maybe -"

"No. Both of us. We’re outta here," MacLeod says tightly. He and Methos rise as one, grab their coats and swords, and leave by the back staircase.

Amanda and Joe stand rooted to their places, looking at each other, as though they’d been struck by a bolt of lightning.

"Did I just see what I think I saw?" Joe quips, finally.

"We both saw it. I just don’t believe it," Amanda answers. "They just want us out of the way, safe. And I’m gonna prove it. Before I’m done, I’m gonna prove it. And get that sonofabitch Erasmus, too. You believe that, Joe. Believe."

"I do, Amanda, I surely do."


The two Immortals reach the cemetery within the hour. Methos parks himself atop Carter Wellan’s headstone, while MacLeod sits on the ground and stares at Haresh Clay’s epitaph. "Even that’s a lie, false date of birth, false name. Everything - lies."

"So, MacLeod, those were dark days for Richie, were they?"

"Fallout from my Dark Quickening, Methos." MacLeod looks straight at his companion. "Clay’s death made it right between us, Richie and me, but I’m sorry it had to happen the way it did."

"You didn’t mention Clay as one of your ‘old Immortals,’ those ‘worth saving.’ He was about Amanda’s age, as I recall."

"Give or take, yes, he was. But that’s not why I didn’t speak of him. He - and one other - they were unusual men. Brave. Honorable, in their way. Their deaths were - bad. I regret them. I always will. But I treasure something noble, something fine, I got from each of them, in the Quickenings."

"Ah, yes - about Quickenings - what do you make of that last insanity?" Methos studies his fingers as he speaks.

"Methos, something did happen. That never happened before - at least, not to me. You know it did. Something different."

"You think so?"

"Why, don’t you?"

"MacLeod, I’ve lived five thousand years, give or take. Nothing as awful as that moment - nothing as frightening or glorious - ever happened to me before. I felt your soul, and it confirmed me in my path." Methos gazes up at Duncan. "And you? Was it - dreadful - for you?"

"It was incredible, Methos, my friend - and you know it. Absolutely unbelievable. I’m still in shock."

"Are you?" Nonchalantly, Methos asks, "Might I know why?"

Duncan turns away, stares out at the sea. Finally, he looks at the older Immortal. "Methos - you’ve got - I felt - it was - oh, all the memories, the ugliness, the deaths, the blood - that was all there. And your age, your pain, the losses. Such deep sadness. It felt like I was riding the current of a very deep river. But - there was something else, something I’ll never forgive you for keeping from me, all this time."

"Ah - the unforgivable. Back to that, again. I’m sorry, MacLeod - I didn’t plan it that way. For us to - share - that way. Truly not."

"You don’t understand, Methos. What you gave me, what I found - was innocence, your innocence! The soul of a child. Clean as snow. Fresh - like spring flowers. How could you hide that from me, from all of us, tell us all those lies?"

"That might have been Silas -"

"It wasn’t Silas, Methos - it was you - you - as distinctive as a fingerprint."

"You’re right. Silas was slow-witted, not innocent. You’ve found me out at last, MacLeod. I’m really a ten year old with a high I.Q."

"Don’t belittle yourself, Methos," Duncan says earnestly. "It’s a remarkable achievement, to retain your innocence after what you’ve seen, what you’ve lived through -"

"What I’ve been, what I’ve done?" Methos mocks. "What you can’t forgive?"

"Don’t knock it - Richie’s not as clean inside as you’ve managed to keep yourself."

"Not ‘keep,’ MacLeod - restore. Take back. Wash in the Blood of the Lamb. Redeem."

"Whatever, Methos, whatever you want to call it. It’s worth saving, worth knowing, worth having. You’re worth saving."

"So, you’ve found me out at last. Not just a guy, much worse, a child - but I always said I had no words of wisdom for you."

"Innocence after fifty centuries! How much wiser do you want to be, Methos? In the end, there can be Only One -"

"In the end, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," Methos says, standing up, "there can be only love. Yes. My first insight, and the one I remember best, you see. It shouldn’t surprise you. It’s what I discovered in your heart, long ago."

"That man, that Rasmussen - he mustn’t get your head, Methos. I’ll die before I let that happen."

"My head’s worth nothing, MacLeod - you are the One who’s too important to lose!"

"I don’t want to kill this man. I don’t ever want to kill at all," MacLeod says, tears in his eyes. "Ever again."

"Not up to you. Up to him. You’ll find, I think, good reason to kill Erasmus, once you get to know him."

"Joe says he’s harmless. Quiet."

"You’re forgetting - that’s what Joe said, before he met Rasmussen. Now, he dropped an uglier word. Vampire. Not exactly a term I’d use, if I wanted to describe somebody harmless."

"There is that," MacLeod agrees.

"Come on, MacLeod. Let’s get some sleep. We’ve got a big night ahead. We can’t go back to your place. Gotta keep Amanda and Joe out of this."

"Where, then?" Duncan asks wearily.

"I’ve got a hidey hole down by the docks. Don’t look so surprised - just because I say I’ve no place to stay, that’s no cause for you to believe it. My flat’s not elegant, but it is mine own."

Duncan gets up. "Why do I feel so horrible, Methos?"

"Like there’re ghosts walking on your grave?"

"Yeah. No. Worse."

"Haresh Clay wants his fight, to the death. It’s what he did. He’s there, in you, along with all the others. They take their toll, the Warriors, MacLeod, believe me."

"If they won’t let me rest, what should I do?"

"Ah, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, what should you do? Drink in the heady brew of spring and innocence you say you got from me! Trust it! It’ll put you out like a light, my friend!" Methos smiles, and wanders towards the car.

Duncan follows, answering with a laugh, "You trying to tell me your soul’s boring, Methos, that it’ll put me to sleep?"

"If the shoe fits -"

"Yeah, I’m wearing it, been wearing it for months."


When they get to Methos’ loft, MacLeod marvels. It’s huge, painted white, as his Paris apartment was. He’d set up only a small portion of it, with bookshelves, which caught one’s eye first, and a kitchenette, a computer work station, and two Army cots, situated about ten feet from each other.

"That one’s yours," Methos tells Duncan.

The sheets are silk, the quilts high-piled and soft. Several pillows are heaped atop the blankets. But the bed is an Army cot, however disguised.

"I’m beat," Methos says. "There’s beer in the fridge, if you want it. Stronger drink in that cabinet there, over the sink. I’m turning in - don’t wake me before midday."

"Yes, sleep, friend."

But when Methos wakes at dawn, suddenly, shivering and frightened, from a nightmare, Duncan isn’t sleeping. He’s sitting in lotus position on top of his cot, watching Methos. Immediately, he goes to Methos’ side, sits on his cot, grips his hand strongly with both his own. "It’s all right now, it’s just a nightmare."

"I’m freezing, MacLeod, I’m freezing," Methos repeats again and again.

"Aye, I know." Duncan fetches another quilt from his cot, and wraps it around Methos. "Try to rest, Methos. You’ll need your wits about you, tonight."

"It’s the nightmare again," Methos replies through clenched teeth. "I see Silas’ face, Kronos - and Cassandra, as she was long ago."

"You did what you had to do, Methos. We both know that."

"You forgive me, then?"

"There’s nothing to forgive. I know that now."

Steam hisses gently from the radiators. The loft is warm and cozy. MacLeod takes off his jacket, then sits down again, at the foot of Methos’ cot.

"Don’t leave me, MacLeod. I’m so cold."

"I won’t leave you. I promise. Rest now."

"Don’t leave," Methos mutters, drifting back to sleep.

"I won’t leave you. I won’t leave you. Not in ten centuries. Not in a thousand. We’re in this together now, my friend. Together."


Night falls. Methos and MacLeod return to the cemetery, St. John’s By-The-Sea. They stop and glance around, feeling for the source of the "buzz," ancient and ugly.

"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Edward Rasmussen at your service."

"We don’t have to do this, Rasmussen. There’s no reason. Walk away."

"MacLeod, we must," Rasmussen replies simply. "This happened once before, to me, I had a friend. We shared a Quickening. Became like brothers. He’s dead now, but I still remember the feeling, the power, the glory of that Double Quickening, the knowing of my friend’s soul. I’d risk anything, to savors such a moment once again."

"You’re not gonna savor anything, Rasmussen. You’re just gonna lose your head. Give it up. Walk away. I don’t want to kill you."

"Methos," Rasmussen calls out.

Methos emerges from a darkness behind a tomb. "Greetings, old friend. You don’t have to worry - I won’t take your head while you’re down. I’ve developed a conscience in my old age."

"You mean, you’ve received one, from the Highlander."

"You said it." Methos smiles. "How about, we start with you and me, then. You trust MacLeod to do things right, don’t you?"

"I’ll start with him. He’s worth my while, alone. I don’t need your old carcass, Methos. MacLeod, first."

"Come and get it, then," Duncan replies, walking rapidly off Holy Ground. The other two Immortals follow.

Turning and saluting each other, Rasmussen and MacLeod begin their fight. The swords clank loudly in the silent night, sending fiery charges flying across the sky. From a distance, Methos watches anxiously as the minutes pass, evidence that Rasmussen is stronger than he looks. Duncan’s hair escapes its clasp, his sweat is tangy in the wind. He charges, lunges, retreats, circles. Cannot seem to finish Rasmussen. The man is strong.

At last, Rasmussen trips, tumbles down a small hillock, is hidden behind a gravestone. Duncan cautiously approaches the spot where he’s last seen the other Immortal. Steps round the area in ever decreasing circles, trying to sense Rasmussen’s "buzz."

Suddenly, the sky’s alight; explosion upon explosion burst in the night, filling the air with thunder, fireworks, enormous surges of power and light. Duncan and Methos both turn away from the Quickening - which someone else has taken.

At the same moment, Duncan and MacLeod say, "Amanda," as the sparks die out, and the night is quiet once more.

The two Immortals rush to the spot where Amanda kneels, exhausted. Slowly, Joe Dawson makes his way to join his friends.

"She told me she’d make him pay. She stole his Quickening, MacLeod. He fell on a rock, was out like a light, for an instant. She seized the moment. I never would have believed it!"

"She was always a thief, Dawson," MacLeod replies. "Always. This isn’t the first time she’s stolen a Quickening."

"Won’t be the last, either, I think," Methos adds.

Duncan looks down at Amanda, and lifts her into his arms. "You little thief, you’ve stolen what was mine, Amanda."

"I’d do it again, MacLeod, if I got the chance. He was one powerful sonofabitch. Worth a little petty larceny. Worth your disapproval."

Joe says, "I don’t know about you guys, but I need a drink. How about you follow me in your car, MacLeod, and I’ll open the bar early."

"You go ahead, Dawson, we’ve got some cleaning up to do. Meet you later."

"You clean up, MacLeod," Methos puts in. "I’ll take Amanda to the car, look after her."

"Lazy."

"You said it!"

MacLeod stands alone on the hillside looking down at the dead body of Edward Rasmussen. "How long did you live, to come to this, in the end. For nothing. For no reason. How long? Why?" He hoists the body on his back, grabs up the head, and walks heavily down to the river. He wades out as far as he can go, until the water reaches nearly to his neck. Then he dumps the body into the river and turns back to shore.

When he stands at the shoreline he turns and stares back out at the sea. There are tears in his eyes. Finally, he’s ready to leave, to join his friends. He whispers a few words before he walks back to his car. An epitaph for an old Immortal, no different than the words he’s said for others. There aren’t any better ones, not that Duncan can think of. "Rest in peace, Erasmus Minor. Rest in peace."

 


- Methos/Adam Pierson,
Child of These Times

End