Like a Moth to a Flame
by Lillian Wolfe

 

This vignette is based on the characters in the Davis-Panzer Production, "Highlander The Series". The characters of Methos, Duncan MacLeod, Joe Dawson, Christine Salzer and Sean Burns all slipped away to do a little moonlighting and we beg their bosses to be understanding. None of us are profiting from this, but Methos felt inclined to chat about this period in his life. They are returning to their regular jobs with no permanent damage (except for the dearly departed, of course.)

My thanks to Tiffany and Dianne for proofing, critiquing and being great readers/editors. If there are mistakes left, they are entirely my own. It was originally published in Dianne Smith's 'zine, "Potpourri," but it has been revised and expanded a bit for web publishing.

Please do not copy, publish or post on the Internet without permission from the author. I would prefer to avoid any legal entanglements. Methos tells me stories and I write them down like a good little chronicler to share.

1st Version Completed: 11/29/97 - Revised: 03/08/99

 

On March 6, 1995, Duncan MacLeod went in search of watcher Adam Pierson and found Methos, who then disappeared. A few weeks later, Methos came back into the Highlander's life. Between these two events was a period of decision for the five thousand year old Immortal.


March 9, 1995

With a screech of noise, a couple of naked tree branches scraped across the window as a nagging breeze touched them. Inside the sparsely furnished hotel room Methos sat, legs crossed Indian style, on the bed and studied the assortment of papers he'd spread across the covers. He'd been shuffling them around for the past hour or so and still hadn't made a decision.

Without much enthusiasm, he picked up one set of documents, read the name at the top - Alain Fouchet, and flipped through the five pages that made up the packet. His face screwed into a disgusted frown. He wasn't crazy about the name nor was he eager to become an x-ray technician, although it certainly paid more money than his last occupation as a graduate student and researcher. Setting that packet down, he selected another. Steven Elliot, this one read, and the credentials stated his profession as a teacher of history, graduate of Oxford University, specializing in medieval studies. Not a bad option. He'd taught a few times before and it was a pleasant enough experience, especially if your students were interested in the subject. It would mean expounding on the version of history subscribed by whatever institution hired him, not what he knew. An impish grin threatened with the prospect of shedding some heretofore unseen light on a couple of incorrectly recorded events.

Languidly, Methos stretched his arms above his head, lifting his shoulders against the tightness that was setting into them, then reached across the bed for another room temperature beer. Three solitary bottles made him realize he was going for his fourth one in less than -- he glanced at the clock --two hours. Even worse, he hadn't eaten anything since an apple at breakfast. Not good. He rarely let anything worry him this much this long, but the recent change in his situation was definitely gnawing at him.

He knew from the moment that Joe Dawson called "Adam Pierson" to tell him Duncan MacLeod needed to talk to him about Methos that his life would change. He'd accepted it with the same pragmatic attitude he took most things. There had been no question in his mind that once he'd talked to MacLeod, Adam Pierson would have to disappear. He'd planned for it long ago, knowing that sooner or later something would happen to call attention to him. Although he couldn't hide his Immortality from MacLeod, he could have had someone else meet him instead of doing it himself. But he really wanted to meet the Highlander, judge the stories against the man.

Reading MacLeod's chronicles was like reading about a heroic myth-- the great Highland warrior who stood by his code of honour for four hundred years. His cousin Connor was far less heroic, more bent on winning the game, yet Methos thought that possibly Duncan MacLeod would be one of the last left when -- and if -- the Gathering came. So he figured it was worth the risk to meet the Highlander.

Of course, much to his chagrin, he hadn't expected Kalas to find him quite so easily. He'd slipped up there, left far too much of who he was easily visible in his flat. It had made it too easy for another Immortal to guess that he was more than a Watcher. That was most annoying and certainly made him aware of how sloppy he'd become about his identity. But Kalas was the first Immortal to coming looking for the head of the legendary Methos in over two centuries; the most recent to want to kill him for the power and not for any grudge against him. Not that there weren't some in that second category.

Luckily, MacLeod wasn't in either group. He hadn't expected him to be, but he still questioned his own sanity in provoking the man to take his head. What if he'd guessed wrong? The scary part was, he wasn't sure he could have stopped the Highlander from doing it.

The touch of the steel against his throat had felt so familiar. It had been a long time since he'd even pulled his own sword let alone worked out with it. God knows, that was obvious when he tried to fight Kalas. But when he'd brought MacLeod's katana to his throat, it had sent a spark of electricity down his spine and he remembered what this kind of danger felt like. He'd felt his pulse quicken and the surge of excitement in his body. In some ways, he'd missed it.

Life had been fairly quiet the past century or so and he'd managed to avoid most of the passing Immortals. He'd spent the last decade hiding in the Watchers, which had been an inspiration, the perfect opportunity to get paid to do what he liked and keep himself out of trouble. He hated to let that job go- to let Adam Pierson go. And that's where the difficulty in this decision rested- letting Adam go.

Methos stood up, stretched like a cat, and reached for his coat. Noting that he felt slightly lightheaded, he decided it was definitely time to find some food. As he stepped out of the entry door to the hotel, he considered the possibility of relocating to Bordeaux. It was a quieter corner of France than Paris, not a place Immortals tended to frequent. On the other hand, he would be limited in work opportunities and would be more likely to run into someone he already knew. His safest option would be to relocate to a different continent. Maybe Australia- if he could get used to the abomination of that accent. On reflection, he thought that wouldn't be too hard; he'd adapted to the Louisiana accent well enough. But he'd have to change his whole look to escape detection from the Watchers.

And that was a big worry. He had no doubt in his mind that MacLeod had told Dawson who he'd found in Adam Pierson's flat. The question was did Dawson share that information with Watcher Headquarters? He wasn't sure and hadn't quite worked up the nerve to find out. His own colleagues could be looking for him even now and they knew what Adam Pierson looked like-thanks to the identification photos they required. That was an unpleasant thought. Would they assign someone to him he could handle? In the past, he'd managed contact with his own Watchers several times; had managed to disappear totally a few times. Most never really knew who their assignment was, accepting him for whatever name he was using at the time. But it wasn't as easy now -- there were pictures and fax machines and video cameras and computer networks. Not to mention the little nightmare he helped create with Don Salzer -- the Watcher Database. He'd recovered all the copies of it, but it was still worrisome that it could end up in the wrong hands.

Methos found a deli, ordered a chicken sandwich, potato salad, and an espresso and sat down at a small table inside to eat. It was starting to drizzle outside, enough moisture to wet the streets and dampen his mood even more. Maybe he should consider Bora Bora- warm climate, not too heavily populated, well out of the Immortal travel routes. He could try again for that tan he never seemed to manage. He could sit on the beach with his laptop computer desperately trying to keep up with what was happening in the rest of the world. He half-smiled at the thought. No, he wasn't inclined to withdraw that much. He needed to know what was happening in the Game. His mind drifted back to the final events a mere three days earlier.

"Remember, Highlander- live, grow stronger, fight another day." How had he had the nerve to intervene in MacLeod's fight with Kalas? What gave him the right to do it? Hell, he wasn't even sure why he'd decided the Highlander wasn't ready to face Kalas! But he'd brought the police into it, insuring Kalas was locked away. Then he'd had to face MacLeod and tell him he couldn't take the chance he'd lose. The hair on the back of his neck had stood on end as he'd tried to maintain a steady pace away from MacLeod.

Even then, he had already packed up his belongings and moved them to locked storage south of Paris, knowing he would have to disappear. So he'd caught a cab, had it drop him at Shakespeare & Co., Don Salzer's bookstore, where he'd proceeded to clean Don's computer of any of the database files they'd been working on together. Don hadn't been that knowledgeable with computers, but at least those files had been protected. Methos had seen to that and he knew the passwords to enter and delete the files. He'd almost reformatted the hard disk to be sure, but decided against it at the last moment. He'd taken the CD Don had been working on and left with a sense of closure, an ending of his work with the Watchers and his friendship with Don, the former as dead as the latter. He'd then taken another cab to his Volvo, which was parked at the airport and ended up driving south to Bordeaux to decide his next move.

And here in Bordeaux, where the decision should have been as simple as picking a new identity and moving on, he'd gotten bogged down in, of all things, regrets. Regret that he wouldn't be able to attend Don Salzer's funeral and offer some comfort to his wife Christine. He'd known the couple for years, had been recruited for the Watchers by Don (with a bit of careful manipulation on his part) and had dinner with them on numerous occasions. Don had been a good friend and deserved his final respects.

Regret that he would be losing another good friend in Joe Dawson. He didn't see Dawson often, but he talked to him regularly, mostly about Watcher business. Like Salzer, Dawson had made Adam Pierson a part of his life, seeing fit to insure the young Welsh researcher got out on the town and had a bit of a social life. Methos really had become a separate entity for a while, as if he honestly was looking for the myth. He was far more Adam Pierson these days and he liked it. He liked the friendships he'd made. Liked to feel he was wanted for the person that he was, not the name he carried, and not what he was. Joe was probably cursing himself now that he hadn't figured out Adam was Methos. But had Joe passed the information along yet? Was there a chance he could talk him out of it?

Then there was Duncan MacLeod. He'd learned more about the Highlander than MacLeod had probably ever heard about Methos, which was as it should be. He could have denied he was Methos when he'd met MacLeod, let him think he was another Immortal who'd settled into the Watchers, but for some inexplicable reason, he wanted MacLeod to know he existed. He wanted to spend just a little time with Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod to judge the man for himself. But now, he wanted to know MacLeod better, to perhaps claim a friendship with him.

"You are insane," he told himself as he left the cafe, walking unhurriedly in the light rain. Although a bit depressing, the weather never really bothered him, except when it was really cold. He hated the cold, a few old frozen memories were associated with it. But a little rain was nothing to get excited over. His thoughts went back to MacLeod, back to facing the big Scot with his rusty fighting skills and bringing the katana to his own throat. Back to that moment when there was just a bit of hesitation and he wasn't sure if the Highlander would follow through. In some ways, he'd really meant the offer of his head when he made it and that scared him. He wasn't prone to noble acts of sacrifice, becoming acutely aware as he'd waited for MacLeod to do it that this gamble might be his last. But thankfully, he'd judged the Highlander right and gained a certain amount of trust with the Scot.

"So, now what, old man?" he asked himself for the fifth or sixth time in the past couple of days. Hearing himself called by the name he'd been referring to in the third person for so many years had been strange. For nearly two decades now he'd been Adam Pierson, the reality of Methos neatly submerged in yet another persona he'd adopted until MacLeod had stepped through his door. So now, he either disappeared again or resumed the game. No matter how he looked at it, Methos had ceased to be a myth. At least he'd gotten all his journals and all the Watcher references to Methos away with him.

As darkness descended, his footsteps carried him to a bar a few blocks from the hotel. A few more drinks wouldn't clear his head any, but maybe it would help him to not think about it for a while. He found a seat at the bar, ordered a dark ale and settled back to listen to the jazz trio that was just getting started. Quite a few couples huddled together near the corners or on the small dance floor. Friends joined other friends, formed groups of twos, threes and fours. A pretty young woman stood next to him at the bar, flashed a brief smile his way, then left to join her boyfriend.

Methos was fully cognizant of what he was losing by giving up Adam. He had a few friends, or at least they were Adam's friends-- people he sometimes went with to a movie or to dinner or a friendly poker game. He sighed, chewed at his lower lip, then glanced at his watch. Nine hours time difference to Seacouver-- it would be two in the afternoon there.

Without thinking too deeply about it, Methos located a phone booth and dialed the number for Joe's bar. As he waited for an answer, he told himself that if Joe wasn't there he was going to forget this whole idea and run as far as he could. And if he was there, well, he might have to run even faster. His hand shook a little as he waited to the fourth ring. He was almost ready to hang up when the phone was picked up at the other end. The voice that answered wasn't Dawson. His own voice sounded rough to himself as Methos asked for him.

"Dawson here," the familiar American accent said. It sounded so normal, so safe.

"Hello, Joe. It's Adam Pierson," he managed. He felt like his throat was closing up.

"Adam! Are you all right? Where the hell are you?" Joe's voice sounded concerned, but not threatening. In fact, Methos could almost picture the relief on the Watcher's face. Maybe there was a chance...

"Not in Paris, Joe. I felt I had to leave-at least for a while. Did MacLeod tell you...?" His voice trailed off, uncertain how to continue, how much to say.

"That he found an interesting surprise at your place? Yeah, he did." Joe's chuckle carried easily over the line.

"And the Watchers? Did you tell them?"

"I told 'em you had a family emergency and had contacted me. You better get in touch with them and arrange for a leave of absence, Adam. Unless you're planning to quit the Watchers?"

"Joe, I- I need time to think about this. Why haven't you told them?" Methos was unsure, not certain he could trust Joe on this.

"Because Methos is a myth and Adam Pierson is a friend. We need to talk, Adam- soon."

"Give me a little time. I'll call you, Joe."

"It's okay," Joe's voice was reassuring. "You do that."

Methos hung up, leaned against the wall next to the telephone feeling like a ton of bricks had been lifted off his shoulders. If he could trust Dawson and MacLeod on this... if they didn't tell anyone, Watcher or Immortal... then he just might be able to resume Adam's life. And with at least two people, he could be himself as well- or at least a little of who he was.

Methos ambled casually back to the bar, splurged for a scotch and contemplated the possibilities. A little vacation to give him a chance to be certain no one was looking for Methos, then he'd call Joe again. Then he'd find a reason to see MacLeod. Because no matter what the risk, he had to somehow build a bridge with the Highlander, had to become a part of that circle the Scot called friends. A small smile touched his lips. Yes, it would be worth it.


March 11, 1995

Christine Salzer stood ramrod straight at the edge of the open grave, the severe black clothing making her complexion seem even more sallow than it had been the past few days. As he stood next to her, ready to offer a helping hand or a comforting word if she needed it, Adam thought she was holding up well. Then he decided he'd concluded that too soon as he saw the tears on her cheeks begin while the old priest offered a final prayer. As Don's coffin was lowered into the ground, the sobs began. Adam bit at his lip, feeling a good portion of the same grief that Don's wife felt and sympathizing fully with her.

Sensitively, he laid his hand on her arm, wanting to give her a little of his strength and a bit of comfort. Christine had often fed him and conversed with him when Don had invited him over. He wasn't prepared for the woman to jerk away from his touch and the angry glance she cast at him warned him away from any other attempt to show his sympathy. He didn't take it personally- she was angry with the situation that had taken her husband. He understood that, but he wished he could somehow convey that he shared that anger with her.

In some ways, it was worse for him. Don had lost his life because of him- not just because Don was a Watcher, but because he was Adam's boss and Adam was researching Methos. Kalas had ruthlessly killed Salzer just to get a hint of where Methos was. Like MacLeod, he hadn't expected to find Methos at Adam Pierson's flat, but he had carelessly left his identity all over and his journals too readily available. So Don was dead because of this slight link. //No,// he amended silently, //Don was dead because Roger wasn't cautious enough around Kalas and let himself be caught. Don was dead because Roger broke under the torture. I will not bear the responsibility for this.// Easy to say, but not as easy to banish the pain.

He glanced around the cemetery, spotted at least thirty people he knew were in the Paris office of the Watchers. Another dozen had been to the mortuary earlier- he'd recognized their names on the visitors' book. But Joe Dawson wasn't among the mourners. Methos was a bit disappointed at that, but Joe had called his condolences and apologies to Christine. He had business he couldn't put off and Methos could guess it had to do with the Watchers more than the little bar Dawson owned.

Methos hated this ritual of standing at the graveside while the coffin was interred. He'd been glad when most services eliminated this painful process, but, as the priest had informed him shortly before the services began, Christine had insisted. She'd wanted this closure, needed the final bleak image. He'd seen enough of this in his very long life, seen it in more brutal forms than the tall woman near him could possibly understand. He'd watched dirt cover the faces of the dead without benefit of a coffin or even a rug to protect them. And he'd felt what it was like to be on the other side, in a grave with the silt feel of earth filling in the openings and crevices in your face. Or even worse, sharing the grave with the truly dead while you're the only one who is alive. Clawing the clay to escape before you suffocate, feeling the stiff, icy limbs of others against you... Methos shuddered at the suddenly sharp memory and closed his eyes. Even so, he still heard the thud of the clods against the coffin.

He cast his mind to happier times, remembering Salzer alive and laughing, gleefully sharing a long-searched-for piece of information with him. They'd spent long hours working on the database, scanning pictures into the computer to be added to the files, painstakingly building a history of all the known Immortals, alive or dead, and matching them to their Watchers. Methos had been careful with his entry, making sure that Adam Pierson didn't reveal too much about the myth, suggesting enough to sound plausible, but giving no real information. Don had grumbled about the computer, complaining about the lack of real feel to it. It wasn't like picking up a book, but telling Don that one little CD held more information and photos than a score of books didn't make an impression.

After they'd finished for the night, they'd frequently stop by a quiet corner bar for a beer or a glass of wine and talk about philosophy or history or even the latest Clancy novel. He would miss those conversations, would miss Don in even more ways. He recalled a few fishing trips with the Watcher, just the two of them at a calm lake and their lines cast into the water purely for the fun of it, not caring if they snagged any fish or not. In some ways, Don had seemed like a father to him, as if he could remember what that was like- or maybe because he couldn't ever recall a father. He glanced at Christine again, took in the watery eyes behind the handkerchief she held to her face, and assigned her the role of reserved old aunt. She was never overly affectionate toward Adam, but treated him with consideration and a touch of fondness. He realized the woman was jealous of the time Don had spent with him, but she also knew that Don had valued him. He gnawed at his lip a few moments. Maybe there was some resentment there...

The services ended and a few of the Watchers he knew came his way. None approached Christine except for Barbara Chagall who had been a friend of Don's wife before she became a Watcher. Methos moved away from Don's widow where anything that was said to him wouldn't be overheard. Mostly there were condolences about Don, questions about his family emergency and an invitation or two to lunch. Then everyone dispersed and Christine left with a tall, gray-haired gentleman who might have been a family friend, but it wasn't anyone Methos knew.

Alone now, Methos stood next to the grave and gazed at the fresh mound of dirt. "I'm sorry, Don. I wouldn't have wished this on you for anything. At least your murderer is in prison. And sooner or later, I promise you, he will lose his head." He pivoted slowly and walked toward his car, the sole occupant of the narrow road that circled the cemetery.

Well, he was back in Paris and it seemed his secret was safe, thanks to Dawson and MacLeod. He wasn't officially due back at work for another week, so, time to find a new place and get settled in. He'd already made a list of flats to let and had focused on an area of Paris near the Seine and Notre Dame-near MacLeod's barge. That was where he pointed his car.

Four unsuitable flats later, Methos finally stepped into one that looked like it would fit the bill. It was a little smaller than the last place he'd had, yet it was within ten blocks of the river, had a nice little kitchen and breakfast nook and, best of all, was within the budget of a researcher. The landlord was willing to let it on a month to month basis and he could move in immediately. Methos checked the fire escape, the access to the roof and the main stairwell one more time and decided this one had adequate escape routes and struck an agreement. He paused one more time to look around, decided some of his furniture wouldn't fit, but the main items would be okay. There was a suitably cheery area next to a window for his computer. Yes, things were looking up already.

As he stood on the sidewalk outside the flat, Methos gazed toward the river and debated whether he should go for a stroll that direction. After all, he reasoned, he needed to check out the area around his new place. And if he ran into MacLeod? //Well, that was the idea, wasn't it?// he asked himself. He couldn't even explain to himself what the fascination with Duncan MacLeod was. He only knew that from the moment he met him, he was caught by the powerful magnetism of the Scot. Oh, he was aware of where MacLeod stood in the parameters of the game, that he was a top contender for the prize, but he wasn't the only one. No, this was something more. When they'd talked together, he'd found an easy comfort with the Highlander, felt almost like he could trust him, would have to trust him. In reality, MacLeod had met Adam Pierson even though he called him Methos, but he was willing to protect Adam, to put his life on the line for him, not knowing who or what Methos was. It was incredibly noble or incredibly stupid, depending on your point of view.

In truth, he felt like a moth attracted to a bright flame, darting in to bask a moment in the warmth and brilliance, willing to risk destruction for those precious moments of pure incandescent light. He knew he would be risking a great deal if he pursued the friendship of the Highlander, possibly finding that destruction simply by being too close to the beacon MacLeod was, yet he felt compelled to be there. He needed to be there-- and that both excited and terrified him. Need, like friendship, was not a frequent visitor to Methos' life.

His sense of caution won out over desire and he turned away from the river and walked a few blocks to the east, then turned right to discover what was in his new neighborhood. Finding a cafe, he stopped for coffee and enjoyed the fairly mild day. If it hadn't been for Salzer's funeral, he might have called it perfect.


March 14, 1995

With furniture in it, the flat was even smaller than it had appeared when Methos first looked at it. His bed alone took up nearly one third of the combined living and bed rooms. But the computer settled in neatly and he had a decent view of a small green park from the window. As he dragged himself up the stairs to the third floor for the eight time that day, Methos decided, yet again, that he really hated moving. He didn't even have that much to move and it was still a pain. He set the boxes down and reached for an open can of beer sitting on the computer table.

His hand didn't quite touch the can when his skin fairly crawled with the awareness of another Immortal. Instead of the beer, his hand flew to the sword that was lying on the small sofa and he turned toward the door to greet his visitor.

"Put it down, Adam. It's a friend," the smooth, unworried voice said as the red-haired man stepped into the open doorway. "I thought I saw your car out front, but I only got a glimpse of the person carrying the boxes."

Methos let his breath out. "Hello, Sean." He dropped the sword back on the sofa, grabbed his beer and offered another to Sean Burns. "Haven't seen you in a while. What brings you by?"

"Visiting a patient in the area. Seriously, I just accidentally spotted your car. I'd heard you'd moved. Is everything okay, Adam?" Sean asked sincerely. Methos had known Sean a few centuries under a few names, but they rarely saw each other. Burns probably best remembered him as the moody medical student he'd first met in Heidelberg. They'd never been close, but there was a calm friendship between them. Burns lived outside of Paris and rarely came into the city, which made this visit even more unexpected.

"Yeah, it's great. I had a few problems, but I think they're settled now. Unfortunately, I lost a good friend in the process." He motioned Burns to the sofa as he picked his sword up and put it back into his coat. "Speaking of friends, I met one of yours- Duncan MacLeod."

Methos watched as the fond smile touched the red-haired man's lips. "Ah, Duncan. He's a good man and a good friend. I trust it was a quiet meeting?"

A flash of images crossed the old Immortal's mind, from the very amiable walk he'd taken with Mac, to flying off the bridge to escape Kalas, to the tense moments with MacLeod's steel to his throat. "Absolutely. I like him. Actually, he'd come to do me a favour."

"And that was why you moved?"

"A consequence, yeah. But it's settled now."

"Someday, Adam, you will learn there are people you can trust." Burns cast an affectionate gaze on the young-looking man before him. "Duncan MacLeod is one of those people. I would trust him with my life."

"You have a lot of faith." Already done that, he thought to himself and wondered again that he'd done it. Maybe it hadn't been such a risk after all. But he didn't need Sean Burns to tell him what he already knew. Yes, he could trust MacLeod with his life, but how far would that trust go? There was only one way to find out and that was why he was here now instead of Australia.

Sean grinned at him, rising to go. "And you have hope, Adam. Well, I must go- my patient waits. You take care, old friend."

Methos saw him to the door. "I always do." He leaned against the wall after the other man had left and considered the situation. In a city the size of Paris, Sean happened to spot him moving into his new flat and stopped in to bring him a message of hope. It seemed that fate was definitely moving around him and this quiet period of his life was coming to an end.


July 7, 1995

Life had settled into a more or less routine pattern again. Adam Pierson was back doing research on Methos and checking in periodically at Watcher Headquarters to see if any new documents had turned up. He had access to any reports that were filed and in spite of his confidence that Joe would keep his identity secret, Methos was on the alert to any mention of his name. There was one other who knew who he was besides Dawson and MacLeod and that one he could not be sure about. He judged that Kalas would not, even if he had the chance, tell another Immortal that the legendary Methos was alive and well and living in Paris. No, he expected that Kalas still coveted that Quickening for himself. Still, he was a little more nervous than was usual and tended to glance back over his shoulder a bit more often.

As for MacLeod, he hadn't seen the Highlander since that last meeting. He'd stayed away from the river in his rambles around his neighborhood- it would be too obvious to just happen to walk up, but he was still looking for a decent excuse to see him. So far, he was uninspired and even if he did accidentally run into him, he wasn't sure what he would say.

He stretched his long frame out on the floor by his bed, back propped against it, popped open a beer and flipped his book open to the marker with a practiced move. He hadn't even turned the first page when the phone rang. He cast an annoyed look at the instrument, almost decided he would let the machine get it, then changed his mind and lunged onto one knee to grab it.

He barely got "hello" out before Christine Salzer's voice burst through. She was obviously upset. "Adam, I've made a decision. It has to do with that little organization that you and Don worked for... I think it serves an evil purpose and I intend to do something about it."

"Christine, what are you talking about?" Methos felt a knot tighten in his stomach.

"You know very well what I'm talking about. Did you think Don didn't tell me all about it? I'm only calling you to give you a warning." Her voice definitely had an hysterical edge to it.

"Wait a minute," he said calmly. "Let's talk about this. I think you've got a wrong impression-"

"No. I don't need to talk-"

"Please, Christine. Just give me a chance to come over and discuss this with you. Don wouldn't want you to do anything-"

"That would hurt you?" she interrupted. "No, I don't imagine he would. But this evil killed him. All right, Adam, I'll talk to you. Monday evening, seven-thirty. But you're wasting your time. I won't change my mind."

As she hung up, Methos sat back, stunned by the burst of emotion. What the hell had set that off? He hadn't heard anything from Christine in the past few weeks, now this almost hysterical phone call. He glanced at the clock, calculated quickly- 10:30 a.m. in Seacouver. Dawson probably wasn't at the club yet. He'd give him a couple of hours before he called, but he definitely needed to speak with the Watcher.

Feeling too edgy to go back to his book, he sauntered to the computer instead and flopped in front of it. He logged onto his bank account and resigned himself to addressing the small pile of bills he'd let accumulate. Adam Pierson's bank account looked fairly pathetic and the last move hadn't helped. "Well, it looks like my rich uncle will have to give me a little gift," he murmured as he opened a different account in Switzerland. A satisfied grin stretched his face as he studied the current balance, then he transferred a modest amount to Adam's Paris account. This Swiss account easily provided an annual interest return to allow him to live in whatever style he chose. Right now, Adam suited him fine although he could wish for a little more income. But too many "gifts" added to Adam's account would call unwanted attention to the researcher.

Flipping a bill over, he noticed another envelope caught in the flap of it, pulled it loose and glanced at the return address. Abruptly, he sat up straight and quickly tore the envelope open, his hazel eyes scanning the letter. It was from Don Salzer's lawyer- a notice about the reading of Don's will and he was invited to attend. Don had a stipulation that his will not be processed until at least three months after his death. A cooling off period, he had called it. The reading had been at two that day. The old Immortal's expressive eyes reflected his thoughts as he considered the implications. Don had joked a few times about leaving him the book store, but Methos didn't think he would do it. Legally, it belonged to Don, but technically, the Watchers had expected him to leave it to them. Yet he had the suspicion that Don had done something that had upset Christine.


It was nearly one in Paris before Dawson finally called Methos back. He had thought quite a bit about the situation and what to tell Joe, but it didn't make it any easier to start.

"We've got a problem," he stated bluntly after the usual greetings. "It's Don's wife, Christine. Something's happened to upset her. She called me this evening and was making a few threats. I think it has to do with Don's will."

"Wait a minute," Joe interrupted. "She threatened you?"

"Not exactly." He took a deep breath, plunged in. "She's threatening to reveal the existence of Immortals."

"What?! Oh, dammit! Don't tell me Don told her about them?"

"'Fraid so. And the Watchers."

"Oh, this is just great!" Joe muttered. "I suppose he thought the oath meant he couldn't tell anyone except his wife. Did he tell her about you?"

"Yeah, I think she knows I'm a Watcher- or she figured it out herself. Joe, I've talked her into seeing me on Monday. Maybe I can convince her that Don wouldn't want her to say anything. I think she's just upset. Do you have any idea what was in Don's will?"

"No. He never mentioned it," Joe replied thoughtfully. "What makes you think that's it, Adam?"

"Because the reading was today. I didn't see the notice from the lawyer until this evening, but it seems Don left me something. I suspect he might have left something to the Watchers as well."

There was a long silence as Joe digested this. Methos let it go on for a couple of minutes, growing a little more nervous with each passing second. Finally he broke it. "Joe? Are you all right?"

"Yeah. I was just doing some fast planning here. I'm coming over, Adam. I know Christine pretty well and maybe I can help. I'll be there as soon as I can get a flight out. I'll call you back with the information. Meantime, you try to find out anything you can about the will."

"Right. Let me know which flight to meet and I'll be there." As Methos set the phone back in its cradle, he felt a twinge of excitement. Ready or not, it looked like he would be having a conversation with Joe soon.


April 9, 1995

Methos eased his tall, lanky frame into one of the lounge chairs at Orly airport to wait for Joe's plane. Although he appeared relaxed, he was decidedly nervous. He hadn't seen Joe since the Watcher had learned his true identity and this situation was not the best circumstance to have this meeting. Add to that the information regarding Don's will and he felt a bit shaky. True to his promise, Don had sort of left the book store to him, yet there were stipulations. But there were bigger issues with the will. And there was the database. Sooner or later, he'd probably have to tell Joe about it.

Some of his fears vanished the moment Dawson spotted him and a big grin crossed the Watcher's face. Methos reached to take his carry-on only to find Joe's strong grasp on his wrist, pulling him into an affectionate one-armed hug. "It's good to see you, Adam. I was a little worried about you for a while there."

"Joe, about that- I don't think I ever-"

"We'll talk about it later. We have bigger concerns right now." Joe set the pace through the airport with Methos following closely. The Immortal's emotions skittered like a nervous bird- grateful for Joe's acceptance, suspicious of Joe's acceptance, worried about the situation with Christine, and about as frightened as any man could get that everything was going to come crashing down around him.

Once they were in the Volvo and moving, Joe asked, "So, what have you found out?"

"Don's will was very interesting. He left almost everything to Christine- with a few stipulations. After her death, the house and property are to go to the Watchers- he named one of the cover philanthropic organizations as the recipient. Shakespeare & Co. is mine, but while Christine is alive, all profits from the shop go to her. I get a regular wage for managing the store whether I'm actually there or not. Apparently, Christine has challenged the will."

Joe let out a long whistle. "I can see why. What was Don thinking?"

Methos shrugged. He understood why Don left him the book store. It was his pride and joy and he knew Adam would take care of it, appreciate it as much as he had. Christine didn't have any interest in the shop. If she resented Don leaving it to him, it was probably in light of the greater endowment. That he couldn't explain.

"Well, we'd better come up with a game plan," Joe continued. "Tell me exactly what Christine said."

Methos pulled the car into a parking area near a quiet park. He didn't want to be driving when he told Joe the next bit of his confession. "There's more, Joe. Don and I had put most of his files on the computer. We were compiling information on all the Immortals..." His voice trailed off. Joe was staring at him in disbelief. Not the time to tell Dawson it was actually a database and It included Watchers as well as Immortals.

"Did you clear this with anyone?"

Methos dropped his eyes to the floor and shook his head. He looked for all the world like a child who'd gotten caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He and Don had thought it would be an easier sell once everyone saw how beneficial it would be.

Joe's voice was surprisingly calm. "You are one clever Immortal, aren't you, Methos? "
He paused, waited until Adam looked at him. "You really are Methos? Five thousand years old and all?"

The Immortal gave a half-laugh. "Hard to accept, huh? Would I claim to be Methos if I wasn't, Joe? Would that be a wise thing to do? Making myself a target for any power hungry Immortal who comes along?"

"What was the world like when you were born?" Joe asked, suddenly overwhelmed by the concept.

Methos' eyes took on a distant look as if he was trying to recall images from that past. "It was-- Everything was very different. I can't recall a lot of the years I lived before I took my first head. But I remember that survival was the only priority for anyone. Every new discovery, every invention, every innovation seemed like a luxury. And there were always those who wanted to destroy, wanted to possess, wanted to conquer. Life was tough."

Joe shifted uncomfortably. "Okay. Now, suppose you tell me why. Your reason?"

Methos stared at the steering wheel, gathering his thoughts. Here it was and he had to give Dawson an answer he could understand. The truth? No, at least, not all of it. He forced himself to look at Joe, answered the unasked question first. "It wasn't intentional, Joe. Becoming a Watcher was an opportunity that presented itself and I took it. The Watchers weren't exactly a revelation- I've known about them for centuries. I haven't been in the Game for a long time now and my only agenda here is keeping Methos safe. I figured if I was in a position to keep track of the others, it made that a little easier."

"And was compiling a list of all the Immortals your idea?"

"It was just a tool. Don and thought that if we had a list, it would be more efficient to keep track, to cross-reference."

"And your interest in it?"

Methos sighed. This was a tough one to answer without sounding trite. "I just wanted the information in one central location. I wanted to be able to know what was happening in the Game. I wasn't going to give it to any others."

Joe nodded slowly, thinking about it. Finally, he motioned to Methos to drive. "Let's get dinner and a few brews. I can't deal with this on an empty stomach."


Over a well-prepared meal in a quiet little restaurant that Adam knew, the two Watchers discussed the situation with Christine and how they would approach it. The list of Immortals on Don's computer was forgotten for the moment although if that got out, Joe knew there would be some repercussions on that one and "Adam" would have some explaining to do to people higher up the chain than he was.

As they sipped an after-dinner scotch, Joe studied the youthful-looking man across the table from him. Seeing Immortals who have hundreds of years on them looking like college students or even teen-agers was always a bit of a shock, but to look at Adam and try to attach five thousand years to his age was nearly impossible. He was walking proof of the incredible constitution and healing ability of an Immortal that the centuries of life didn't seem to touch him in any way. Except the eyes, Joe amended, as he caught a glance from Adam and saw something in the depths that said the man inside had seen more life than he could possibly conceive. Then that look was gone and Joe wondered if he'd just imagined it.

But he saw something else as well. Adam was a person he'd known for nearly ten years now, had gone drinking with on more than a few occasions and had genuinely liked. It was difficult to reconcile some of that past with the new knowledge of his identity as the world's oldest living Immortal. Yet it was the person he knew that had kept him from immediately reporting the identity and whereabouts of Methos. This "kid" was a gentle person, not a threat to anyone. He was obviously very intelligent and he'd managed to survive for over five thousand years. There was just no need to make him a target- and that's what would happen. Adam was right. If other Immortals knew he was more than a myth and found out his identity, they'd track him down. He'd be dead within a few months. And as much as Joe hated to admit it, he didn't trust the Watcher organization to keep Adam's identity a secret. He chuckled as he thought about the strain this was putting on his Watcher oath. And he was annoyed that Salzer had told his wife about the Watchers?

Adam shot him a confused look. "What?"

Joe pursed his lips into a tight smile that broke into a grin. "I was just thinking about the ramifications this will have on our oaths."

"How do you mean?" Adam asked curiously.

"Watchers and Immortals-never the twain shall meet, let alone be friends. And you, pal, are in a real pickle. You can't tell yourself about you!"

Adam laughed, a soft relieved sound that came from his heart. Joe realized then how tense Adam had been and he understood, at least a little, that the old Immortal had taken a risk in not disappearing.

"So, have you seen MacLeod lately?" Joe asked.

Adam shook his head. "No. Not since Kalas."

In the span of a few heartbeats, Dawson made up his mind. He knew Mac wanted to talk to Methos again and had almost expected the Scot to have made contact with Adam. He hadn't told Mac he was coming to Paris, but what kind of visit would it be if he didn't see his friend again? "Well, unless you want to just drop me off, then you most likely will see him tonight. I gotta stop by and say hi."

Adam hesitated and stared uncertainly at Joe. His hazel eyes were almost growing greener with his thoughts. "Are you sure it would be all right? I mean, I don't want to- uh, be too much of a surprise."

Joe leaned across, grasped his arm to reassure him. "You'll be welcome. Highland tradition and all that- he's a good host."


Methos felt like he was going to choke as he guided the Volvo toward the river. In some ways he'd hoped that Joe would want to see MacLeod, but now that they were nearly there, he wanted to bolt- put the whole thing off and do it some other day. If he'd have known they were going to this, he wouldn't have had that second scotch after dinner. Shit! What if MacLeod didn't want to see him? After all, he'd interfered with the Highlander's fight with Kalas. He had every right to be annoyed with him for that. Why was this so damned important to him anyway? What did it matter whether MacLeod liked him or not?

Nervously, he recalled a few other occasions when he'd felt like this about someone- felt like he had to be a friend, not just an occasional visitor to their sphere. In some ways it scared him because he knew what he could become if he couldn't hold his own in the friendship and he knew how much he could be hurt if he was rejected.

He pulled the car alongside the river and parked it a few yards from the undistinguished barge that was MacLeod's. As Joe got out, Methos took a deep breath, stared at the glowing lights along the river. Was it too late to go to Australia? Joe tapped on the window, indicated he should get out.

For better or worse, Methos thought, opened the door and followed Joe to the barge. Another quick gulp of air as he sternly told himself to get this under control. He would not look like a nervous kid in front of the Highlander. He stepped into the barge behind Dawson who wore a pleased smirk, like he'd brought the dynamic Scot a prize, then Methos put a shy smile on his face.

"Methos!"

He heard a touch of surprise and some pleasure in MacLeod's voice. His smile became genuine. This was going to be all right.


The End

There are dark seductions
in the candle's flame,
and, helpless as any moth,
I am drawn to your fiery embrace
again and again.
                                     --t.a. selby