by Maxine Mayer
Place and Time - a small island in Greece, Summer, 1912
Sitting on a green and white striped canvas beach chair dug into the sand several meters from the shore, looking out at the shimmering water, I paused in my work for a few moments. I carefully put down my palette and brush on the tiny table Amanda'd given me to use when I paint on the beach. I straightened my floppy straw hat - the sun is so bright and hot in Greece - and adjusted the rolled-up sleeve lengths on my white cotton collarless shirt, then bent to check the rolled-up bottoms of my flannel trousers. I wiggled my bare toes in the sand, whipping up a small rain of grains, and clasped my hands between my legs, staring down at my feet.
I could feel her - Amanda - from this far from the cottage. Faintly, a misty presence in the background of my thoughts. Ever present to my heart. Amanda, my oldest living friend, my beautiful girl.
She'd taken me in again, after my last spiritual fiasco, happy to have my company, pleased to bask in my admiration for her loveliness, even without any lovemaking. That was over for me, for good - lovemaking. I didn't expect ever to experience it again, neither the desire for it nor the act itself. I was old.
Oh, I didn't look old. Didn't even sound old. But it was true - finally, I'd reached the end of time, for me. I'd no heart left at all.
So I'd come to Amanda's cottage on this tiny Greek Island, to die.
"Methos," Amanda murmured, coming up behind me and slipping her arms around my neck, sliding one cool hand inside my shirt, smoothing the skin beneath my collarbone. She rested her chin on my head, atop my straw hat, and said nothing more.
"Amanda." I scrunched up my shoulders to show my joy that she'd walked down to the beach to be near me, and she hugged harder.
"It's nearly time for lunch, love. Will you come up to the house or shall I bring something here? It's really hot."
"I'll go up to the house. I'm finished for today," I said, lifting my hand and indicating the canvas I'd been working on. "Nothing more to say on this subject, today."
"It's lovely, Methos. Truly. Only you could paint the portrait of a man while staring at the sea for inspiration!"
"Not inspiration, cherry blossom! Perspective." I frowned, pinched my lips together, and threw off Amanda's arms unceremoniously. Suddenly, I was unbearably hot and sweaty. "At my age, a little perspective's what's needed. A remembrance of things past. This too shall pass," I told her, pointing once more to the canvas. "This too shall pass."
"He wasn't worthy of you, Methos, if he left you behind."
"He didn't leave me - I left him, Amanda." I stood abruptly, knocking over the canvas seat. "There comes a moment in every relationship when you must either tell the Mortal who you are, or leave. I left. My choice, not his. He was more than worthy."
"So why didn't you tell him, if he was so fabulous?" Amanda demanded sarcastically. "Couldn't trust him with the truth?"
"No. He simply was - too young to understand. Much too young." I frowned. "We - you and I - look young enough. But we're not. Sometimes - the ones we care about are too inexperienced, too naive, to know."
"Tell me about it!" Amanda replied with a laugh. "I can't even make love to a Mortal any more. I feel like I'm molesting a child when I do."
"Something like that," I murmured. Then I turned and put on a happy face. "I'd like that lunch now, madame, if you please!" I said with a deep bow. "The service in this hotel is truly disgraceful!"
"At your service, monsieur!" Amanda said, dancing effortlessly into our little game. "Lunch is now being served in the main dining room!" She grabbed my hand and dragged me along up to the house, where we sat on her shaded porch and ate bread and olives and cheese and drank rancid red wine in great quantities. Immortality has its good points, I thought to myself. I can drink till I'm blue in the face, without harm to my body. And I can love a woman like Amanda for centuries, if I'm lucky, without her aging or dying before my eyes.
Amanda eyed me speculatively, without speaking, daintily patting her mouth with a linen napkin, then placing it carefully by her plate.
I'd felt her aura spike and looked at her quickly. "What?" I asked.
She tossed her head. Nervously, she told me, "I got a letter from an old friend, from Switzerland. I could tell he'd like to visit me here, get away from things for a while."
"Tell him to come along, then, blossom. By the time he arrives, I'll be long gone." Things came and went slowly, back then. Long train journey, boat ride, from Switzerland to Greece. Could take weeks.
"I think you'd like him, Methos. You should stay and meet him, meet somebody new."
"You must be mad, Amanda! Why on earth would I want to meet anybody new? Isn't it sufficient that I'm dying from my last mistake in judgment?"
"Rainer's not like that - he wouldn't affect you that way, Methos. He's a poet. A great poet."
"Just what I need - another poet! Or didn't I mention what the last one did to earn his keep? He was a poet, too."
"There are poets and poets, Methos. Byron was a poet, and look how happy he made you!"
"While it lasted, cherry blossom, while it lasted!"
"Well, Rainer's not like Byron! Rainer's - special."
"So was Byron! Rainer - not THE Rainer? Does he speak any English, Amanda? My German's rusty." I'd already decided to try. I knew when I was defeated. Amanda wouldn't rest until she'd convinced me to meet her friend. She was a born healer, and a born matchmaker, of friends.
"Yes!" she exclaimed, "and he likes to meet new people! Loves adorable men like you, with talent and charm! But he's very - inward - very private. But lots of fun!"
"Fun! A poet! You're joking!" Byron's idea of fun had been macabre, to say the least.
"No, really, he's the ideal houseguest, oddly enough. Doesn't seem to have a home of his own, really - just flits about from countess to countess, making rich ladies fall in love with him!"
"I hope you don't expect me to fall in love with him, Amanda! I'm all loved out. I'm dying."
"Right, of course you are! Dying! As if you could! No, he's not after men, although he adores painters. Fell in love with Cezanne - his work, I mean."
"Enough, Amanda! I concede! Write to your Rainer and tell him to come along! We'll feed him and entertain him and send him on his way renewed!"
"Well -" Amanda looked contrite.
"Well, what?" I narrowed my eyes in an expression of stern disapproval. A mockery of that expression, of course. "What have you done, Amanda?"
"I already invited him. He's on his way. He'll be here this evening, suppertime. I got a telegram from the mainland."
"Good lord - tonight?" I'd hoped for days to ready myself for company.
"Forgive me, Mike?" Amanda asked prettily.
I sighed with exaggerated heaviness. "Ah well, yes, I forgive you, Amanda."
She jumped up and ran round the table to hug me, knocking over my wineglass. "Methos! You're such an angel! I love you! And you'll love Rainer, you'll see! He's magnificent! Wait, I'll bring you his letter - he's written a new poem and added it in - you'll see!"
I nuzzled her neck and held her tightly. She was the only person left between me and total bereavement. I sniffed her hair. "What's that you're using on your hair? Smells like beer!"
"It is beer, silly boy! The latest thing! They say it gives hair body!"
"Your hair doesn't need body! It's lovely as it is!"
"One day, I'm gonna cut it all off, and go about like a boy, scalped and free!" Amanda shouted exuberantly, jumping away from me. She twirled in place on the porch, her arms flung out at her sides, her hair bright in the sunlight, her long cotton summer dress swirling and catching at her ankles. "I'll be free, Methos! Free!"
I watched her and smiled with delight at her joy. "Some day, beloved, some day. When the world's come round and is no longer mad, and the wondrous glory of a free woman is appreciated again! Until then, you are free - with me."
She came to me quickly and crouched by my chair, slipping her arms around my waist and laying her head in my lap. "I know, Methos," she breathed quietly. "I know. And I thank you." Her voice shook for a moment. Then she repeated low and fiercely, "I thank you."
I kissed the top of her head. "And I thank you, Amanda," I replied solemnly. "For everything."
Rainer Maria Rilke lived up to Amanda's description - both his person and his poetry were great fun and incredibly complex, layered with meanings in indescribable inchoate indefinable ways. Like silent thunder, his poems, or an utterly cloudless, absolutely blue sky. Whatever that means. He was a veritable bundle of contradictions as a houseguest. Gregarious and solitary simultaneously.
He took to me immediately. It was frightening, the way he took me in, in one quick swallow, with a tiny frown, a squint, and a gasp.
"Herr Benedict," he said with a bow, "so pleased to make your acquaintance. Dear Amanda's told me so much about you."
"I am happy to meet you, Herr Rilke. Please - call me Michael - I prefer it."
"Michael, then. And address me as Rainer. I too prefer it. We shall be friends, I know."
Amanda chimed in, "Of course you will - that's why I brought you together! Come, come inside, we'll take your bags upstairs, Rainer, and have a bite to eat. Are you hungry?"
"Famished, Amanda. But I shouldn't like to put you out. It's well past dinner time."
I spoke. "Nonsense - dinner's any time we're hungry, isn't that true, Amanda? Take Rainer up to his room and make him comfortable. I'll prepare a small repast for us."
When they'd gone I rushed into the kitchen and began to arrange food on plates. I was energized. Unaccountably so. Because I'd needed to jolt myself into the frame of mind required to greet a guest. Now, that frame of mind was no longer an act. It was real. Real joy.
I puttered about the kitchen, and back and forth to the dining room, darting from one place to another, fetching dishes and napkins and silver. I was distracted and intensely focused both. This man was special, as Amanda'd claimed. This man was more than special. He was a genius. And he'd guessed something about me, without any possible way of guessing it all. I breathed in and out several times, then flitted to the parlor and grabbed the vase of fresh leaves and twigs Amanda'd arranged. I brought it to the table and placed it in the center. Then, just as quickly, I took it away, so my view of Amanda's houseguest would be unobstructed. Instead, I brought a silver bowl of apples and plums from the sideboard to use as a centerpiece, for color. It wouldn't block my view.
I remembered phrases from this man's poems which had moved me tremendously, long before Amanda'd spoken of him. Now I would speak with him - arguably the greatest non-English writing poet of these times - what a blessing! How incredible!
Then I stopped in my tracks, a silver knife in one hand, a linen napkin in the other, and grinned.
How predictable I am, I thought. How easy to please! How childish!
I grow old, I grow old. I'm dying, I moan.
And here I am, alive again!
I thanked the gods for small mercies, those mercies which had helped me survive for five thousand years.
Then I went back into the kitchen to fetch the rest of the meal.
Amanda'd gone to bed. Rainer'd retired to his room, exhausted from his long trip. And I sat in the parlor, in the dark, alone, my hands clasped firmly together on the hilt of my sword.
I am Immortal. I will survive. These phrases I repeated to myself several times, to calm my heart. The loneliness had returned in full force after dinner, the instant the others went upstairs, leaving me alone. Then, the huge monstrous black bird which is my loneliness pressed against my frantic heart once more. I was terrified.
If Rainer Rilke couldn't push the black bird away, I certainly was dying.
I am Immortal. I will survive.
If there's nothing else, there's always the Game, I thought. It's mine, forever, or until somebody takes my head. I breathed deeply. Tried to pray. Tried to cry. Nothing.
I'll go away, I decided. I'll go back to Europe. The war will come soon, a big one. Immortals will gather, drawn to the conflict, the blood, the excitement, the risk. I'll be one of them.
I'll go home, back to Paris. Wait for war. Darius must need me, to fight against war. Deliver messages for him. Bring old friends to his cloister. Spread the word of peace. He must need someone. Why not me?
Something. I must find something to catapult me out of this mood, this death. I always have, before. Just a little ingenuity's all it takes. I'd been wrong to come to Amanda. What I needed was action, not rest. Blood, not paint. People, not poetry.
I sipped tiny portions of air in through my teeth, making a hissing sound with each intake. I dared not move from the sofa, terrified I'd disintegrate from the inside out, and be left with just this unkillable body and my unstoppable thoughts, when that was finished.
At last I stood and quickly went to my own room. I lit a small lamp and packed in the glow of its faint illumination, trying to make no noise. I'd noticed that Rainer's light was extinguished, finally. He'd gone to sleep.
I went to Amanda's room and woke her. I sat on the edge of her bed.
"What?" she murmured sleepily.
"I'm leaving, Amanda."
"Leaving. Hmm. Okay. I'll talk to you in the morning."
"I'll be gone at first light, on the first fishing boat out of here. Better say goodbye now, blossom."
She sat up and drew her sheet close to her chin. "Why, Methos? I thought you liked Rainer. He liked you a lot. Thinks you're witty."
"I am witty. And I do like him. Tell him so. I think his poetry's the best I've read in centuries. Tell him that. Tell him anything you like. I've got to leave."
"Where you going?"
"Europe, I think. You can reach me through Darius, if you need me."
"You believe there'll be war soon?" Amanda asked, wide eyed.
"I know it. And it's my only hope. Action. I've gotta stop sitting on my derriere. I've gotta do something, anything. I need it, Amanda. I can't die but I sure can feel as if I wished I could. This mood is killing me. I've gotta try something."
"I understand. I'll make your apologies to Rainer. Pity, that. You and he were made for each other."
"I don't mean that way. I mean - inside." When I didn't respond, she put her arms around me and held me tightly. "I've got another friend for you to meet, a special friend. An Immortal."
"Sure. Any time. Just - not now, sweetness."
"Oh no, you're not ready for him. And he's not ready for you. Some day, though, you'll make music together, I know it."
"Sharing, Amanda? Not a bedmate, then, is he, your friend?"
"Oh he's a bedmate, all right. Just - he's a Green Boy, Methos. Almost still Mortal. The time's not quite right. But I'll share, when the time comes. I promise."
"Why doesn't the thought of that comfort me, blossom?" I asked ruefully. "Why does the thought of you sharing a Green Boy with me put me into a positive panic?"
"You'll like him, Methos, better than anybody so far, I promise. Some day." She released me from her embrace and hopped out of bed. "I'll sit with you till dawn. I know I won't be able to sleep another wink, thinking of you out there on the beach all alone, in that awful black raincoat, waiting for a fishing boat!"
"Always glad to have your company, Amanda," I replied, watching her put on an old pair of men's trousers and a long black silk shirt. Her hair was lovely, thick and long and rust-colored. It hung round her face in untidy endearing billows. I didn't tell her, nor ever would, but the thought of her cutting it off made me sad. Her hair was so beautiful, so alive. It was - her. A living symbol of the living woman, her fullness of heart and wildness of loving. Her limitless acceptance of everyone, everything. I'd miss it, when she cut it. Terribly.
I've gotta snap out of it, I told myself angrily. This sentimentality must go! A decrepit old romantic, that's what I was turning into! Absurd! Disgusting! Feeble! Cripes!
This must go! I must go!
I was right about Darius. I got back to Paris and visited him almost immediately. He was terribly sad, his beautiful face gray with worry, his lovely eyes awash with grief.
"Methos - thank God you've come! I've needed someone to help, so badly! This war - it will come soon! I feel there will be nothing I can do, nothing I can say, to prevent it!"
"Darius, good to see you, too!" I grinned. "I'm fine, thanks for asking."
"Methos, forgive me. I'm distraught. This war! There's no preventing it! I feel it! Come inside, have a drink. Let me take your coat."
We walked up the stairs to his quarters in the old church, the spiritual home for Immortals of every type, every stripe, every belief. We all knew Darius, each in his own way. Some hated him, some loved him. None of us was indifferent to him, or his message. Peace.
"Would you like something to eat, Methos? Or drink?" he asked, putting my coat, with its hidden weapon of war in its folds, on a chair where I could see it. I wondered for a moment, how he felt when his fingers grasped my sword through the cloth. I dismissed the question - which I'd never ask him - from my mind. I'd certainly never know, because I'd certainly never go about unarmed.
"If you have a beer, I'd like that, Darius," I replied. "Still playing war games, I see." His chess set was in place, with pieces already moved into positions different from those they'd been in last time I'd visited him. "New opponent?"
"Yes. A young Immortal. I don't think you know him. Very kind, a generous person. You'd like him."
"Why is everybody always trying to match me up with someone?" I asked, in an exaggerated tone of irritation. I was amused and annoyed both. "Don't you think I get into enough trouble on my own?"
"Nobody doubts your ability to get into trouble without assistance, Methos. That is why we try to introduce you to people who might be a better influence on you. Your own taste in friends leaves something to be desired."
"How can you say that, when my best friends are you and Amanda?" I quipped, my mouth twitching with suppressed laughter.
"Amanda - a case in point, old friend!" Darius said with a smile. "How is our girl?"
"She's healthy as a horse, beautiful as Diana, wicked as Caligula, and charming as Cleopatra!"
"You've seen her lately, then?"
"Just left her, in Greece, with a new poet friend, Rainer Rilke. Heard of him?"
"Hmm, yes. My Green Boy likes his poems. For me, his work is a little too romantic. I like a harder edge."
"Such as?" I lifted an eyebrow. Darius' tastes always amused me.
"Oh, your William Shakespeare."
I laughed. "Poetry didn't stop being written when William died, Darius!"
"I know that. I just don't care for the moderns."
"You mean, Byron and Rilke?"
"All right, tease me all you like. We will see, in the End, who is remembered as first rate, and who is forgotten entirely."
"From your mouth to God's ears, Darius - that we'll be there, in the End, to find out!" I retorted bitterly.
"Something is wrong, Methos. I can feel it. What is it?"
"Just a mood. It'll pass. Got work for me?" I asked.
"What mood? Age? Death? Tell me, Methos. Maybe I can help."
"What, with your religious spiel? Let it be, Darius. I'm okay. I just need a distraction, a diversion. This war that's about to break out in Europe - is there anything I can do for you, to prevent it?"
"I think there is nothing anyone can do, Methos, to prevent it," he said sadly. "It will be slaughter on a scale even we cannot imagine, or remember. But I try." Darius sighed, looked down at the chessboard. Took a sip of his drink.
"And -" I prompted, hoping for a task to do.
"If you care to, you can help. Talk to some of the leaders, on the many sides. Try to talk some sense into them. If you wish. I can make introductions." He shrugged. His lovely face - for once showing its age and experience - was tired and despairing. "I don't know. I don't know anymore. There seems to be nothing I say, or do, no matter how I try, or how I pray, that helps." His voice trailed off. There were tears in his eyes.
"Well, maybe you need a lighter touch," I said. "Give me a mission. I'm your man." I couldn't bear to see Darius this way. Down and out. Despairing. It was awful.
"Very well, Methos. I'll find something for you. Maybe -"
"Maybe there is something you can do. I don't know."
"Darius - this isn't like you. Has your new friend disappointed you in some way? Do you think he'll join up, fight? Give up pacifism?"
"My friend?" He looked bewildered for a moment. "Oh, you mean my chess playing friend. No. He'll hold the line. But he is not a pacifist. He still carries his sword. Accepts challenges. He's in the Game. A Warrior."
"That bothers you?"
Darius replied with an unusual intensity, for him. "He must stop, Methos! And I cannot tell him why, or show him how, or help him in any way! He must stop!" I couldn't believe how upset Darius was.
"This must be some monster, this Green Boy of yours! To upset you so! Why don't you just tell him why he's gotta stop killing?"
"Because he is not simply killing! He - lives each kill, each Quickening, each death. He dies a little every day from the Game. He is not like us, like we were, Methos. Not like you or me or Amanda! He is - too human! This will destroy him in the end, this killing. I know it!"
I sat very still in my chair, surrounded by Darius' room, with its artifacts and chess table and crucifix. Surrounded by his church, with its huge stone chapel and empty wooden chairs. Surrounded by his life, with its stone building and its iron fence and its small garden in back. Holy Ground.
And I knew - at once - that Darius and Amanda were talking about the same Green Boy.
Who was he? Why did they never speak his name? Why did they keep him from me?
Who was this Green Boy?
Nobody would tell me but I knew. He was my Destiny, as sure as I sat there, silent and inward, staring at Darius' chessboard. I checked out the moves the Green Boy had made, and I knew.
My God! Both of them think he's the One, the One in the End, when there'll be Only One!
Both of them won't bring us together, because they're afraid I'll take him out, before his time. They're afraid of me!
Good God! They're both mad!
Place and Time - my flat in Seacouver, Summer, 1997
I'd been right to come to Paris, to Darius, for work. He kept me busy for the next several years. First, selling Peace as an Alternative to War. Then, selling Peace as a Respite from War. I saw enough blood to appease even my appetite for the stuff. I didn't accept any Challenges, though, not a one. Hadn't, in over a hundred years. Neither Darius nor Amanda knew that. It was my secret, which I guarded as I guarded my head - vigilantly, desperately, with every survival instinct at my command.
I'd made it my business to discover who the Green Boy was, who Darius and Amanda both wanted to hide from me, until the time was "right." Whatever made them think they knew better than I, when the time would be right? I was older than they were, and much wiser. Much.
Of course, the time wasn't "right," for Duncan MacLeod and Methos Valerius to meet! Certainly not!
But that was my call, not theirs, to make!
It wasn't the work of Peacemonger that Darius gave me, which brought me back to health. It was the Highlander.
Once I'd seen him, felt his aura, then scooted out of range, I was hooked. I was no longer old, or dying, or dead. I was alive!
As long as Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod walked the earth, I'd stay alive!
Yes, oh yes! Every move that he made intrigued me. I joined the Watcher Society and read his Chronicles thirstily, greedily, like a schoolboy reading his first pornographic magazine. His exploits were incredible. How he'd survived mystified me. The man was insane! Talk about Quixote, tilting at windmills! This fellow made Quixote look like a piker!
But it was his everyday life that fascinated me, not his battles against Immortals.
He lived simply, quietly, like a monk, in a little flat not far from the Eiffel Tower. He wore plain serviceable clothes and went to cheap cafes to eat supper every night. I searched the records for hints of his financial situation and discovered he had some money, which he used, in the main, for charitable purposes. Financing the education of young artists, musicians and writers. His only extravagance was art and books. He had no talent of his own, but appreciated the best anybody else could do.
And oh, he loved the opera, spent several evenings a week alone, hearing opera, in a good seat, but not the best seat by far. Apparently, nobody he knew liked opera well enough to attend with him, but that didn't stop him from going by himself.
I learned to detest opera, during my study of MacLeod. Cripes, how could he bear the stuff?
He loved Mortal women. Truly adored them. In the course of seventy years - from 1912 through 1982 - he actually fell in love with more women than I'd had long term relationships with in fifty centuries. His sexual appetite was enormous, if one-track, and there was no hint of any disappointed customers. Lovely!
During the day he trained in every form of hand-to-hand combat known to man, as well as every form of swordplay, if that expression isn't absurd. Before I'd even heard a rumor about a new martial art being practiced in the Far East, he was out in the park near the Eiffel Tower, at dawn, performing its kata, with a concentration even I envied. He might be a romantic when it came to Mortals, but when it was a matter of the Game, he was a realist to the core. He had no intention whatever of losing his head through carelessness or ignorance. If he'd lose, it would be because the time had come for him to die, no other reason.
As I watched him, I was convinced his skills would hold him in good stead against any of us I knew. Even me. And his heart would take him far beyond the tricks of the trade, to victory, every time.
It was inspiring, and humbling, to realize that Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod might just be able to take me out, if it ever came to swords between us. Just maybe, that is. I wasn't sure. I'd felt so alive since I'd begun watching him, that there was a possibility I'd be able to take him - that my heart, my passion were strong enough to match his. To be sure, by this time I hoped we'd never need to find out.
Of course, one shouldn't count one's chickens before they're hatched. How could I forget that? One day, Duncan MacLeod took the heart right out of me, and all my passion was wiped away as if it had never been. He met a woman, Tessa Noel, fell in love with her, and began to live with her as man and wife.
I waited patiently for this spell of madness to pass - a Mortal woman was no fit long term companion for one of us, as well I knew. It was the worst kind of self-delusion, trying to live a Mortal life, as Duncan was doing. Worse, still, when an Immortal succeeded, as Duncan did, with Tessa.
The blow to me was as nothing, the years of watching him with Tessa, a blink of the eye, compared to what happened to him when she was mugged and killed.
His face became a chalk mask and his aura went cold and dim. I actually couldn't sense him, except if I got so far inside the normal range as to be nearly on top of him. This diminishment of his aura persisted through his affair with yet another Mortal woman, Dr. Anne Lindsey, whose unsuitability for Duncan MacLeod would become legendary in the Watcher Chronicles, in time. He'd learned his lesson, and didn't tell her about his Immortality until he felt he had no choice. Wrong choice! It didn't help, as he knew it wouldn't. They parted on good terms but his heart was broken, the pain bleeding out of his aura and into mine in an unending river. I couldn't bear it. I moved away from him, for the first time in decades, to a flat on the other side of Paris. I didn't go near him for a long time.
So it was quite a surprise and a shock when my Watcher friend Joe Dawson phoned me from Seacouver and told me that he was sending an Immortal to visit me, to discuss how he could protect Methos from the evil Immortal Kalas.
"Joe, I don't think so. I don't know where Methos is. I can't be of any use to this fellow - what's his name again?"
"MacLeod, Adam, Duncan MacLeod. Look, do your best. Maybe you can tell him something he can use, about the kind of methods Methos uses to disappear. MacLeod's my assignment, Adam. He's a first-rate tracker, believe me. The best. Not that you're not, but you've gotta admit, you've been looking for Methos for more than ten years, and you ain't found him yet!"
"Don't insult me, Joe! Nobody's seen hide nor hair of Methos in centuries! You can't blame me if the fellow's an elusive bastard!"
"Will you try, Adam? Talk to MacLeod, for my sake. This Kalas is killing Mortals and Immortals both - he's not discriminating." Joe stopped. Then he said, "Damn it, I didn't want to be the one to tell you. Kalas - Kalas killed your friend, Don Salzer!"
"I'm sorry, but you had to know sooner or later. Kalas found out about us from his own Watcher, then he killed him. Then he went after Don Salzer, because he knew Don was studying the Methos Chronicles. MacLeod found Salzer before he died. There's some indication that Don might have told Kalas about your involvement with the Methos Chronicles."
"I see. You're telling me I'm in danger too."
"I'm asking for your help, Adam. Yes, it'd be in your best interests to connect with MacLeod. He can protect you, better than anybody."
"He'd do that, your MacLeod? Protect a stranger?" I asked, funneling a touch of incredulity into my voice.
"Absolutely. I'd trust him with my life."
"So that means that I should?"
"Look, Adam, this Kalas is killing us off. If the Watchers can help shut him down, I think it's in our best interests to try."
"Okay, Joe, I'll talk to your friend. But don't get his hopes up. Nobody knows where Methos is, and your friend MacLeod's not likely to find him. Neither is this Kalas person."
"Do what you can, that's all I ask. MacLeod should be coming by your place this afternoon, I gave him your address. Wait for him."
"I will, Joe. I will."
The time was "right" apparently, though I hadn't expected to meet MacLeod for centuries. Now I had no choice. We'd see if he lived up to my glimpses of him, and Joe's accolades, and his Chronicles. The Duncan MacLeod I'd learned to know was wiped out, I believed. And so was I. But Joe Dawson didn't think so. Clearly, Joe thought MacLeod was still a miracle worker. I'd soon find out if Dawson was right.
There was a rustling in the air, I felt it in my bones. It was a special feeling, not an ordinary garden-variety Immortal's buzz at all. Like wild strawberries, fresh blood and semen. Kalas? Or a revived MacLeod?
"Adam? Adam Pierson?"
I guess that's what he called out. I didn't hear him, had my earphones on, listening to music on my Walkman. But I felt him all right! What a buzz, up close! Clearly, his quarrel with Kalas had turned him on - he was a new man - more like the old MacLeod than he'd been in years. Yet different, as well. I hadn't recognized his aura with any certainty.
I turned round and took off my earphones. He was still beautiful to look at. I feasted my eyes. "Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," I sang out. "Have a beer."
He didn't answer, just looked at the beer I'd tossed him, then back at me.
"Mi casa es su casa," I added with a smile.
It got better and better. His expression was priceless. He took it all in like a series of chess moves - the buzz, the place, the person, the beer - and added it up. I could hear the wheels clicking in his mind.
"Methos?" On a breath - disbelief, awe - all on the one word, my name.
I smiled and nodded. For a moment it was touch and go. Then, he took to me, like a duck to water. Imprinted on me, like a baby swan on a mother duck. His aura flooded with joy, and I sighed with relief. Our fate was sealed.
So many contretemps we've had, MacLeod and I, over these last few years. Unimaginable. He was the first male Immortal I'd been able to befriend since Darius. Darius didn't count, house-bound as he was. But MacLeod! There indeed was a friend. The thick-and-thin sort, I believed.
I finally knew how Darius felt, without a sword, something I'd never expected to learn. I took to going about unarmed, when MacLeod and I were together. Knew I'd never be without protection, when he was close. Incredible.
Of course, he'd no idea who I really was, not until later. He knew the name "Methos," and my age. For the rest, I was Adam Pierson in spades, with him, with Joe, with Alexa, with Robert and Gina - never out of character for a moment. Duncan MacLeod met Adam Pierson and adored him - I wasn't about to screw that up with the truth! Heaven forfend!
I was having too good a time!
I drank beer - didn't touch the hard stuff because Pierson wouldn't. I made stupid jokes and refused to give advice - Adam wouldn't, he was too shy. I couldn't actually take Duncan on the mat or with a sword - Pierson was a gawky teenager, not - not a Horseman.
I find I choke over the word, even now. The title - Horseman.
Best of all, I disappeared when danger approached, because Adam Pierson was a physical coward! Amazing! MacLeod bought the package, and adored me! I think I reminded him of Fitzcairn, whom he'd known and loved for so long.
Whatever it was, I was a happy camper, until Cassandra and Kronos ripped the tent right away, from over my head, and the rains came.
Unfortunately, it was too late. They arrived too late. Any moment up until he'd entered my flat, when Kalas threatened, would have been soon enough. But when they did come, it was too late.
The provocation was terrific, my disastrous confession awe-inspiringly violent, and MacLeod's defection - in his own mind - total. But it was too late. There was no parting us now. Our fate was sealed.
After the Horsemen were dead I believed we were through, as MacLeod claimed.
But we were not through, not by a longshot. Much to come and hell to pay, then.
I was happy to watch him from the shadows, the object of his venomous tongue. Truly happy. Anything was preferable to not seeing him at all, which was what I'd expected to happen, after he'd found out about the Horsemen. Even watching him and Amanda make love was better than not seeing him at all.
But it wasn't until we met up with Lord Byron that I knew how much was wrong with Duncan, with us - MacLeod and me. When Duncan challenged the poet, whose work he knew by heart and loved, I understood, and wept for him.
The poor soul was going mad because Adam Pierson was dead, and he loved Methos Valerius! He loved that murderous bastard, Methos Valerius!
There was no going back in time. Adam was dead and Methos - I - lived. Nothing to be done to smooth over those facts. Nothing.
Our fate was sealed.
"Methos, what can I do to help?" Amanda asked, her face gaunt with suffering when she arrived at my flat.
"About what?" I replied with a question. "What's wrong?"
"Look, Methos, I may not be Madame Curie, but I've still got a couple brain cells to rub together. I just spoke to Mac. You and he are 'wrong,' old friend. Very wrong. I know it's my fault - I know I shouldn't have asked you to interfere about Keane. That's probably why he's mad at you -"
"What game are you playing, Amanda? You know perfectly well why he's angry with me. It's got nothing to do with Stephen Keane. It's got everything to do with Kronos and Cassandra."
"Cassandra?" Her voice was very small. Her eyes were round. She began to shake.
"What's the matter, Amanda?" I asked, putting down my glass and going to her side. She sank into my arms, then pulled away quickly.
"I - it's nothing. I've gotta go. Sorry I bothered you, Methos." She rushed to the door but I was there before her, barring her exit.
"Talk to me, Amanda!" I ordered. "What have you done?" This time I wasn't exaggerating my stern tone or incipient anger. I had a feeling I wouldn't be happy with whatever she'd tell me.
She swallowed hard. Then she threw up her hands and shook her head. "I didn't mean anything by it, Methos. It just came out. I had no idea who she was. What you'd been to each other. If I had, I wouldn't have said anything -"
"Who are you talking about, Amanda? What did you tell, and to whom?"
"I told Cassandra - it just slipped out. We were drinking, you know," she waved her arms around and paced. "We were laughing and joking about old friends, guys we knew - girl talk." She tightened her lips.
"It - slipped out. That my best friend was the oldest Immortal, Methos. That we'd never even slept with each other, but we were closer than lovers -"
I stood there like a marble statue, silent and still, not even breathing. Like time had stopped.
With intense concentration I traced the line which was blindingly clear, now that I knew the source - Amanda. She'd leaked the fact that I was alive, and my false identity, to Cassandra. My whereabouts as well, I supposed, though that wouldn't have been necessary.
Cassandra'd followed up the lead until she knew enough to leak the information to Kronos, through a Watcher, I guessed again.
Kronos came to Seacouver, with Cassandra following - always planning to take us both down - me as well as Kronos. With MacLeod's help, of course. MacLeod and I fell into the trap like the stupid animals we are. Cassandra'd pulled the wool over both our eyes.
Of course, there was no telling MacLeod any of it. First of all, it would destroy his relationship with Amanda, something I'd never do. Secondly, it was too late. Thirdly, he'd never believe anything evil of Cassandra. And revenge planned and executed in cold blood - rather than the anger she'd evinced to MacLeod - was evil. She hadn't succeeded in getting Duncan to take my head, but I didn't doubt she'd come for me again, in time.
Amanda looked at me, almost cringing. I knew she expected me to strike her. I didn't, of course. I couldn't. My arms and legs felt like water. I thought I'd sink to the ground in a puddle.
"You told Cassandra who I was? That I was Methos? You?" I couldn't bring myself to believe it.
"I'm sorry, Methos. I didn't mean anything, it was just girl talk, I was bragging about you, because she's so much older than me, so damn elegant! Forgive me!" She looked as if she didn't think I would. Still waiting for me to strike her dead. Again she repeated lamely, "I'm sorry."
Finally, I stepped away from her and went to my chair and sat in it, crossing my legs. Trying to look casual. But I couldn't. I jumped up again and began pacing, occasionally glancing at Amanda who was still standing by the door, her shoulders a little raised, frightened.
"No idea, no idea what you've done! None!"
"None! You've killed him!"
"Adam Pierson! The one he loved!"
"Who? Who loved him?"
"Duncan. You've killed him."
"You're not making sense, Methos. Duncan's alive -"
"No - Adam's dead! And Duncan's not alive! Not anymore!"
"Methos, please, sit down, stop pacing!" She approached me cautiously, grabbing my elbow as I strode by her. "Stop it! For God's sake, Methos! Quit this!" She was angry now. "I told you I was sorry. The Horsemen - they're over! Cassandra's out of your hair! Duncan's alive, and he's still talking to you, even if things aren't great between you. That'll pass too. It'll be okay, in time. We both know that. So stop this crap, sit down, and I'll get you a beer."
I looked at her but I didn't see her, not really. I was wild with grief. Her revelation'd brought the whole horrid thing back to me - the moment in the dojo, when Cassandra'd appeared, like a ghost from the past. Duncan's face when he'd asked me whether it was true, what she'd told him. My own voice in my ears, when I'd told him it was true. His eyes when he'd told me we were through. And that moment, the Double Quickening, when his joy was revealed to me. Joy he felt because he thought he had me back, had Adam Pierson back again!
And the moment in the graveyard, when he realized he didn't.
I was wild with grief and despair!
I shook my head. Gently, with infinite care for her feelings, that she might not be frightened, I showed her to the door. "Goodbye, Amanda," I said.
"Goodbye, Amanda." I closed the door.
An hour later she'd returned.
"What do you want, Amanda?" I asked wearily. I'd calmed down. I wasn't angry with her - we'd known each other too long. She'd seen me through too many rough spots. She was still my best friend.
"Cops are all over my place! Can I stay here for a few days, Methos, until I can arrange to get out of Paris?"
"What are you talking about? What cops?"
"I tipped off the police that Duncan stole some jewels, worth a fortune. When they picked him up, put him in jail, he turned me in - for that job, and other jobs I've pulled."
"Why what? Oh, why'd I get him locked up? To keep him away from Keane, of course. I knew you'd never convince him -"
"So you had him put in jail. Brilliant!"
"Son of a bitch! I can't even go home for my clothes! Damn him! He's my best friend! To be betrayed by my best friend!"
"Well, I know how that feels," I said, taking my drink over to my chair and sitting.
"Methos - you're my best friend - not MacLeod. You forgive me, don't you, about - the business with Cassandra?" Her voice was small and her eyes filled with tears. I pitied her at that moment. To be betrayed by Duncan MacLeod - on whatever scale - was not a fun thing, as well I knew.
"I forgive you, blossom. You didn't mean any harm. You never do."
"That's right. I never do. But I'm such a fool! Twelve centuries, and I'm still a fool!"
"Better a big-hearted fool than a woman like Cassandra, with no heart at all," I said bitterly.
"I didn't know you loved her, Methos," Amanda said with wonder in her voice.
I breathed deeply. "Neither did I. Only Kronos knew, back then. The bastard told me, as best he could. And told me how unacceptable that was - to love her." I stopped talking about it, remembering it. Turned my mind right away from the whole thing. I couldn't bear thinking of those times, not anymore. It was over.
"I'm sorry, Methos, for everything. But I know you and Duncan will get back together again. I know it."
"You think he'll fight Keane after all?" I asked, changing the subject.
"He won't run away, and Keane won't leave him alone." She shrugged. "They're gonna do what they've gotta do. They're young."
"Maybe if you talked to him -"
"I already tried."
"I mean, to Keane. Maybe you can make him see reason, if MacLeod won't."
"That's an idea. He seemed like a nice enough fellow when we met. He took to me right away. If it hadn't been for this business with Duncan, I'd probably have slept with him. Maybe he will listen to me." She stood and took her coat. "Thanks, Methos. I'm gonna try." She kissed me lightly on the cheek, squeezed my shoulder and left, all thought of me or my pain forgotten. All her feeling for MacLeod at the fore again. It was only right. Only just. After he'd killed Keane, MacLeod would never see her again. That much was clear to me.
The only person remaining who'd count to MacLeod would be me, after he'd killed Keane and left Amanda. Me. Methos.
I felt badly for Duncan. How'd such a good man gotten himself mixed up with two reprobates like Amanda and me? It was a bit hard to understand, and harder still to live with.
But MacLeod didn't kill Keane. Neither Amanda nor I understood why not. Even after he'd explained it. Some form of trial by combat, I conjectured, and Duncan acknowledged that was correct. Made no sense at all to either of us.
"What if he comes after you again?" Amanda asked.
"You don't know that."
MacLeod insisted that Keane, who was a man just like him, wouldn't come after him again, because Mac wouldn't.
When Duncan told Amanda that we're not so different, any of us, that we all make mistakes, I ventured the remark that we all have something to forgive. The look he gave me would have killed anybody else.
I was wrong about Amanda, as well - off by a day. He kept Amanda with him that night, after he'd let Keane go with his head still connected to his body. I was the one Duncan threw out that night.
But the morning held the truth. Amanda left Paris, and Duncan and I became inseparable, locked in our mutual horror and despair, with only Joe Dawson - Watcher, friend, victim - to witness it.
I thought I'd known every facet of the prism called despair. In five thousand years, there'd been little I hadn't yet experienced. Back in 1912, though, when I'd left my Mortal poet and spent a month in Greece with Amanda, I'd hit rock bottom.
Or so I'd believed.
Now I knew better.
Rock bottom was sitting in Joe's jazz club with Duncan MacLeod when Gordon Byron walked in.
Rock bottom was finding out just how bad Byron's bad had become.
Rock bottom was defending Gordon to MacLeod, with theoretical conviction, and no faith whatever in Byron.
Rock bottom was letting Mac pass, to challenge Byron to Ritual Combat.
Worse still, rock bottom was sitting next to Mac, drinking with him, after he'd taken Byron's head. While Joe Dawson played guitar in the background.
Three people unable to leave each other, who by this time couldn't bear the sight of one another.
Rock bottom is the pits, let nobody tell you otherwise.
Unfortunately, I've survived long enough to tell you otherwise.
Rock bottom's taken on a whole new meaning for the three of us - Duncan, Joe and me. MacLeod murdered Richie Ryan, thus taking rock bottom down to a whole new level.
We cannot bear the sight of one another. Now, we needn't bother seeing each other at all.
We're off the hook. With Richie's death, we're freed.
Unfortunately, our love for each other didn't die with Richie, anymore than it died with our taste for each other's company.
So, while Duncan continues to go mad in Paris, and Dawson mourns in Seacouver, I'm busily growing old, growing old, dying, at Amanda's cottage in Greece.
"Methos," Amanda murmured, coming up behind me where I lounged on the sand, on a black and white striped beach towel, staring at the sea, with a straw hat on my head to prevent the sun from burning my fair skin.
"Amanda," I acknowledged, without looking at her.
She joined me on the towel, turning over onto her stomach, propping herself up on her elbows. "Maybe you should go back," she said.
"Back? Back where?"
"You miss him. I know he must miss you. Go back."
I closed my eyes. "Amanda, you're wasting your breath. We're through. We never were much good for each other, but after he found out who I was, we were really bad together. Have a little mercy, Amanda. Let it be."
"I can't. I can't watch you fade away, and do nothing - I can't. Do something, Methos! You used to be so brave! You always faced things! I remember!"
"You remember wrong, Amanda. I was a coward when we met, and I'm no different now. Give it up." When she didn't answer me I opened my eyes. She was looking out at the water. "Amanda - what have you done this time?" I raised myself up on my elbows so I could see her better. I remembered how she'd brought Rilke to me - like a cat brings a mouse to its master - to cheer me up, the last time I'd been down. "You haven't - invited anybody?" I asked, suddenly terrified.
"What do you mean?"
"It's not a difficult question, Amanda. Is anybody coming? A poet, for instance?"
"A poet? No. Nobody like that."
"So, somebody is coming. Who is it, Amanda?" I asked patiently, wondering who she thought would cure me of my sickness, this time. "Speak up, girl, I'm waiting."
"Beg your pardon? I thought I heard the name 'Duncan,' but I must've misheard." She didn't reply. "Tell me I misheard, Amanda. Tell me Duncan MacLeod is not coming to dinner." I paused. "Please tell me that, Amanda."
"I can't. He's coming."
"He knows I'm here?"
I jumped up from the blanket. "He doesn't know I'm here? Have you lost your mind, Amanda?"
"It'll work out, Methos, you'll see. A little sun, a little wine, a little love. What's so bad?"
"Amanda, did somebody drop you on your head when I wasn't looking?"
"You saying I'm stupid, Methos!" Indignant, she stood and faced me. "I'm not stupid! I'm doing what needs to be done. You two have to work it out. Even Joe Dawson says so -"
"Dawson thinks this is a good idea - MacLeod and me together again, like some aging vaudeville act?"
"Joe said I should try it, see what happens."
"But you didn't tell Joe you would ask MacLeod to join you here without bothering to mention to him that I was with you, now did you?"
"No - I didn't go into all the gory details with Dawson. But -"
"But what? But MacLeod wouldn't dream of coming, if he knew I was here? But you didn't want to take the chance of his not coming? So you neglected to fill him in on the details, gory or otherwise?"
"Methos - give me a break. Take a chance. Live dangerously. What can he do to you? Challenge you to a duel at dawn? The way you've been moping about, a girl would be justified if she thought you'd be happy to die, if it went down that way."
"Die, yes. Kill Duncan, no."
"Wanna bet he feels the same way?"
"Amanda, you take my breath away! This is no joking matter!"
"Where's your sense of adventure, Methos? What's happened to you? You used to be fun to hang out with. Now, you're turning into as dreadful a wet blanket as Duncan!"
"There's a thought. I never dreamed it was contagious."
"Well," Amanda replied with a laugh, "it's not. Look at all the time I've spent with the two of you, and I still have my sense of humor."
"Just you wait, it'll happen to you, too."
I knew I was grinning. Didn't take me long to figure out why. He was coming! I'd see him again! My God, how I'd missed him! As long as I could look at him - feel his buzz - one last time, before he took my head, I'd die happy!
Except, now that he was coming, I didn't want to die!
Cripes, I'm gonna go crazy! That maniacal Highlander would be the death of me!
Then I heard the helicopter overhead, and felt his aura, glorious - bright and hot, like the Greek sun. I looked up at the sky, grinning madly. Then I turned to Amanda and kissed her. "You were right, I was wrong. Better to die happy than endure living death. Thanks, blossom, I owe you one!"
She twisted her mouth, smiling ruefully. "Yeah - I'm the matchmaker from hell, and you and Duncan are the match made in heaven. Too bad none of us is into threesomes."
"Don't go away. Tune in tomorrow. Never know what the future will bring!" I said, still grinning.
"Oh, I'll tune in. But that's one show I'll watch from the sidelines. Don't want to get in the way. I can fade into the woodwork just as well as you can, Methos."
"Was that what I used to do? Fade into the woodwork?"
"Like mad. Every time. I felt bad for you."
"Shouldn't have. It's what I wanted to do."
"But not all you wanted to do, Methos."
"I'll be fine, now. Will you?"
"Absolutely. Duncan's bringing a friend."
"For you? Who?"
"He said it'd be a surprise. An Immortal with lots of charisma. Duncan said."
"Well, he's the expert on charisma. I'd be hopeful, girl."
"I'm more than hopeful, Methos. Better than hopeful. I'm Immortal. You and Duncan will fight again another day. While I live, and grow stronger. I can wait."
When the helicopter landed, she beat me to Duncan's side, and flung herself into his open arms. She smiled back over her shoulder at me, her most wicked smile. I wondered if she planned to give me a run for my money.
But no. Amanda knew better than that. She wanted to live, she definitely wanted to live.