Kindred Spirits: Eight
by Lillian Wolfe


continued from part seven...

Amanda waited down the hall, out of sensory range, well aware that Methos had been involved in something unpleasant. She hadn't gone far down the hall toward his cell before the lack of indication of an Immortal told her he wasn't there. She had backtracked to the hall and gone toward the strong signals when she'd heard shouting and Miles' voice at a near yell telling someone to get out. She'd stopped, slipped back against a doorway and waited as a little troupe of medical people had vacated the room, passing her unnoticed in the hall.

In spite of her concern for the old man, she decided to back off and give Miles this time with him. She'd heard enough to know Miles had matters under control and if he needed her help, he'd call for her. So she retreated just behind the chastised medical group and did a quick check on the security of the building just to insure the Immortal she and Miles had sensed had been Methos. Satisfied, she'd taken up a position down the hall.

For a while, she pondered over the contents of one of the rooms she had searched. If the items had been medical equipment, it was certainly not like anything she'd ever seen. It looked more like an arcade game, except there was nothing to indicate what the game was or how it was played. She'd seen a few of the new interactive games and this one resembled that, with the imaging helmet and all, but there were definitely differences. In spite of the game-like appearance, it had the clinical look of medical equipment. For a man who professed to prefer psychology to psychiatry, Miles had the most interesting toys at the clinic. She'd have to ask him about it. Sighing with impatience, Amanda glanced at her watch.

She was getting, not exactly worried, but understandably curious, as she waited for Miles to return. In some ways, she was like MacLeod, uncomfortable with sitting and waiting, wanting to do something. Besides, Miles had a really boring selection of reading material on the tables in the waiting area.

At last she spotted him coming down the hall, waited impatiently as he made a stop for a few minutes at a side room, then met him partway. "What happened?" she asked as soon as she was within range.

"He's okay," Miles answered, evading the question. "He's sleeping. Where did you get off to?"

She fell into step by him. "I checked the grounds to make sure everything was okay, then I just waited for you. Something unexpected happened here, Miles. Do you want to tell me about it?"

He hesitated. "It's a little complicated, Amanda, and I am really beat. I'll tell you later. If I'm lucky I can get two or three hours sleep. "

She studied his face a moment. He looked exhausted, but the worry that had marked his face earlier was gone. "Okay, I'll wait until after you sleep. but I want the details."

He nodded, heading up the stairs to his rooms. Amanda watched him go, then slipped down to Montgomery's office to check the monitor. The door was still unlocked, not that the opposite would have presented a problem, and, as she had expected, the monitor now showed the details of the cell. In the dim light, she could easily see Methos sleeping peacefully.

His face was relaxed, the shadows making him look incredibly young. Most of her life Amanda had kept men at a distance, reluctant to let them get too close... even MacLeod. She'd often used them to get what she wanted and seldom had any remorse in her actions. Duncan had always treated her like a lady, breaking down some of those formidable barriers and gaining her respect and trust. Methos had never really tried to get too close as his own reticence and distrust matched hers in many ways. He'd formed a strong bond with Rebecca long before Amanda was born but he'd always remained aloof with her or anyone else she knew.

Even though she'd accepted that Duncan had forged a friendship with the old man, she hadn't been too pleased about it at first. She'd wondered what he was up to, what he wanted with MacLeod. But she'd begun to see another side of Methos and it had surprised her. She'd never realized how deeply he could care about people. She began to see why Rebecca had been fond of him.

Right now, she wanted nothing more than to go to that miserable, windowless room and curl onto the bed beside Methos. She wanted to slip into the folds of his arms, fit her body against his, and feel the warmth of his breath on her throat.

With a deep, soulful sigh, Amanda pushed to feet and returned reluctantly to her room.

Any kind thoughts Rory had for the doctor vanished as he read through her notes. While the shock might have worked, she had, nonetheless, taken a rash step in using it, however, it was the rest of the treatment that made his jaw tighten.

He gave up on sleep and quietly started down to his office to continue reading. As he reached the ground floor, a thought occurred to him and he made the turn toward the ECT room again. The lights were still on and it would need straightening. Rory crossed to the EEG unit, noted with satisfaction that the file was recorded and still on the machine. He pulled out a disk and backed the information up before he erased it from the memory.

With that, he turned off the machine, the lights and continued on to his office. After he made a fresh pot of coffee, he turned on the monitor to reassure himself that Methos was safe, then sat back in his chair, feet propped on the desk. The first light of dawn was just beginning to touch the horizon with a faint golden glow.

As he sipped at his coffee and flipped a page, his eyes scanned through the notes rapidly. "Shit! She gave him clozapine? No wonder he was acting so weird!" As he continued to read, he grew angrier. When she didn't get the expected results from one drug, she switched to something else. Granted, she didn't know she was dealing with an Immortal, but even if Methos hadn't been one, that could have been a disastrous treatment. He should have seen it, or at least, should have suspected that it could be happening. He was so damned confident that his staff wouldn't disobey his instructions that he's been blind to the possibility.

Grimly, he thought that MacLeod would have his head if he found out about this. At the same time, he didn't know how he could keep it from him. If Methos was truly back, he'd want to know what had done it and, somehow, he didn't think the Scot would believe he just snapped out of it on his own. Especially if Methos told him about the shock treatment. This was a mess.

Feeling more depressed, he booted up his computer and slipped the disk into it. According to Dr. Anjouli's notes, Pierson had been claiming to be an ancient warlock or something like that when they'd taken him to the office. She stated the readings on the EEG had changed dramatically as he'd undergone the treatment. Her notes had stopped mid-word as the situation had gone out of control. Rory studied the file, noting that the brain waves had changed considerably and at one point, it almost looked like there were two readings trying to register.

Frowning, he hit a few keys, getting a split on the reading and comparing it with the one before and the one after. Of course, it was inconclusive, but it looked like it might have been the point where Methos gained control, a few seconds with both personalities in the brain, then the change over. The end of the file would be Methos.

He rubbed at his eyes and glanced toward the monitor. It was nearly eight and Methos still slept. Occasionally, Rory was amazed by how deep his feelings for the man went. Certainly, he wasn't the first man he'd ever had a relationship with, and he likely wouldn't be the last, but he was definitely the most unique. //How can I back away from him?// he asked himself. //Even when he was just plain Adam Pierson, I wanted to be around him. I was happy with his companionship, his affection. But how can I stay if it puts us both in danger? And I have to consider Kyra. She's a high profile model, easy to find and even easier to destroy.//

He barely noticed another Immortal approaching but it was enough that he tensed in anticipation, even knowing it was likely to be Amanda. His hand went to his sword in readiness, something he wouldn't have done a few days ago.

"You're up early," she commented as she walked in. "I thought you were going to sleep in. Oh, you look terrible. Did you sleep at all?" This last as Rory turned to greet her.

"I couldn't sleep-- too keyed up," he answered, gazing pointedly at the monitor.

"Is he doing okay? You didn't tell me what happened." She crossed to get a cup of coffee, frowning at the extremely dark look of it and making a face as she sniffed it. "How old is this coffee?"

"I made it about six. You know, Amanda, this may have been a positive thing that happened last night," he said evasively. "We'll have to see when he wakes up." The same concerns he had about telling MacLeod about what had happened applied to Amanda. Not that he thought she'd take his head, but that she would probably tell the Highlander. And of course, she knew something happened

Amanda waited, but when it became clear he wasn't saying more, she prompted, "Could you elaborate a little, Miles? You're not telling me anything."

"Oh, sorry. He-- uh-- was hurt a bit, but he was Methos... present-day Methos. And he recognized me, talked to me."

"He is breaking through then!" Her eyes brightened with her smile and she was side tracked for a moment. "But I am worried about him having to hurt himself to talk to us. He can't keep doing that."

"No, of course not. But I think the longer he can retain his identity, the more likely he is to regain it totally. I've got my fingers crossed he wakes up as Methos."

Amanda's eyes focused on the monitor screen where Methos rolled and flung an arm over his face, trying to block the light. "I think we may be about to find out. Shall I?" At Rory's nod, she picked up the microphone. "Good morning, Methos. It's Amanda."

He slowly slid his arm away and gazed at the ceiling. "Damn! I was hoping this was a nightmare. Where are you, Amanda?"

"I'm close. I'm with Miles." She tried to keep the excitement out of her voice, but she grinned happily at Montgomery.

"Miles?" Methos sat up slowly, rubbing at his hair. "He's there?"

"Yeah. Do you want to talk to him?" She surrendered the microphone to the doctor.

"How are you feeling this morning? Any soreness or headache?"

He stretched, raising his arms over his head and lifting his whole spine like a cat. "A little stiff and a slight headache, but nothing coffee won't cure." He frowned at the pajamas, "Can I get a change of clothes, Miles? Like jeans and shirt?"

"Uhmm, yeah," Rory answered uncertainly. Jeans, he could provide. Shirt was another issue. Methos' shirt was pretty well shredded.

"I'll call Mac," Amanda volunteered. "He can grab something on the way out." Almost as soon as she'd said it, Amanda was on the phone to MacLeod.

Without another word, Methos began stripping off clothes as he headed for the shower. Even though the facilities were only behind a partition, this was mostly concealed from the camera to give the patient a little privacy, but Methos was indifferent to the probability he was being watched.

Rory picked up the interoffice phone and called for breakfast and a pot of coffee to be sent to Pierson's cell, then set off to get cleaned up himself. The stress of the night was lifting and he was feeling somewhat optimistic.

By the time MacLeod got to the clinic with clothes, Methos had already changed into his jeans, slipped a fresh pajama top on and had devoured breakfast with an enthusiasm he'd lacked for the past two weeks.

Gawking like a tourist, MacLeod sat across from Methos as he changed into the dark blue Henley the Scot had brought with him. Methos tucked the shirt in, then spoke firmly as he zipped the jeans up. "MacLeod, I wish you'd stop staring. I feel like the feature attraction at a circus. Is there something wrong?"

Mac shook his head and tore his eyes away. "Sorry. It's just... good to see you behaving normally."

"You mean being myself," he stated. "I guess I should expect some close observation. I mean, you and Amanda have been watching, haven't you?" He gazed pointedly at the camera in the ceiling.

"Yeah, we have. Joe, too. You've been--"


"Of course. He's been as worried as we have. He's coming up later today and I know he'll be glad to see you. Methos, we were all concerned."

"I know. Look, MacLeod, I'm still feeling really confused. Things haven't completely sorted themselves out... especially timelines and people. I mean, I know the date but the people aren't necessarily connecting with the date. Some of the memories have been pretty intense. So, what I'm saying is if I seem shaky on anything that occurred in the past few years, it's because of that."

"I understand." That was twice now he'd called him MacLeod, not Mac. Give him time, the Scot cautioned himself. He'd been through a lot over the past fortnight and he'd need time to adjust.

Methos pushed up a sleeve, gazed unhappily around the padded room then asked, "Do you suppose we could go outside for a bit? This place is beginning to get to me."

He saw the hesitation in MacLeod's eyes, read them before Mac could even form his thoughts into a statement.

"I'm unarmed, MacLeod. If I suddenly go berserk, you could take me down in no time. I just need to get some air."

The hazel eyes beseeched him with a familiar look, the intensity of it reminding him of how close he and Methos had once been. He nodded, "All right, but I'm with you the whole time."

Looking as if a weight had been lifted, Methos smiled. "Fine."

"How much do you remember?" Mac asked as they strolled causally into the vineyard. The plants were beginning to produce lush-looking bunches of grapes promising a good harvest. Montgomery even had a winery, the Highlander thought with amusement. He had more than one way to make this property pay. He wondered if that had been the blonde's idea or if it had come from Sean Burns. Sean had concerned himself with making sure that people who needed help could get it and the idea of insuring that the clinic could augment its funds would be one that he would have considered.

"Of what?" Methos countered as he squinted out across the rows of plants, spotted the white-washed buildings in the distance, and started toward them.

Mac caught at his arm, pulled him back with a shake of his head indicating clearly that he wasn't ready to go on a hike. "Not today. Montgomery has a nice garden this way. You'll like it."

Methos nodded and let Mac lead him back toward the clinic.

"Do you remember fighting on holy ground?" Mac continued as Methos settled in beside him again. "Or the aftermath?"

For several paces Methos didn't say anything and he seemed to be deep in thought, then finally said, "Not a lot. I thought I was going to die, that there would be some horrible retribution for it. I'm still not sure what exactly happened."

"Didn't think so. I'll tell you about it." With that he guided Methos into the maze while he began unraveling some of the twists in the old man's faulty memory.

Although humidity thickened the air, the day was warm and pleasant as Rory and Methos had breakfast on the patio above the maze two days later. They had been a busy two days and everyone had spent some time alone with Methos, mostly talking with him and generally gaining a feeling of comfort that he was, indeed, okay. Joe had some reservations, feeling that Methos wasn't quite himself, but it wasn't anything he could specifically put a finger on. Given the circumstances, it wasn't surprising that he was tentative about many things and his memories were not as solid as usual.

Even Rory had been unsure, but the more he talked with him, the more comfortable he was that Methos was back in control. As he watched the dark-haired man latch on to another croissant and cover it with jam, he leaned back in his chair and made his decision. "Are you ready to leave here?"

There was the slightest pause in the spreading of the jam and Methos glanced up at him. "You mean check out?"

Rory nodded.

"More than ready. How soon?"

"Today - this morning. I'm ready to go back to Paris and I think you're okay to release. There is one thing -" He hesitated, not sure how to put it.

Methos chewed thoughtfully on the buttery roll, waiting. He swallowed, then prompted "And that is?"

Rory sighed, cut to it. "I don't think you should be alone for a while. You're doing fine, but it's only been two days. I'll be a lot more confident after a week or so."

"I see. So what are you suggesting?"

"You can stay with me or MacLeod... or Amanda. They've agreed. The point is, none of us want you to be by yourself until we're certain."

"Are you talking constantly?"

"For the most part." Rory shifted nervously under the intense gaze Methos directed at him.

Washing down the roll with a gulp of coffee, Methos finished up and wiped his fingers. "Agreed. Let's go then."

"As soon as Amanda's up. Any preference where you'd like to stay?"

"All three," Methos answered easily. "No reason one of you has to baby-sit me exclusively."

Rory frowned, "It's not baby-sitting."

"Isn't it?" The reply was innocent enough, but the look in Methos' eyes said that he considered it nothing more than that.

"No, it's not," Rory retorted a little too sensitively. "It's simply caution. I don't particularly want to see you back here in the same condition you were in. Okay?"

Before Methos answered, they both sensed Amanda approaching a few moments before she walked through the office to find them on the patio.

"'Morning," she offered with a big smile. "Did you leave one of those delicious croissants for me, Methos?"

"Of course, Amanda." He returned her smile, shoving a chair out from the table with his foot in an invitation to her to sit. "A couple, in fact. Miles made sure we had plenty."

"Well, he's had an appetite like a horse the past few days," Rory added quickly.

Amanda sat, poured a cup of coffee before reaching for the rolls, then asked, "What were you two talking about?"

"I was telling him-"

"Miles invited me to stay with him," Methos interrupted a bit sarcastically. "Or you. Is that all right with you, Amanda?"

"You're not happy," Amanda replied as she detected the tone in his voice. "It's only for a few days, Methos. Think of it as a holiday, a chance to be in Paris as a guest instead of a resident. We can have a lot of fun."

"It's all right. I've already agreed. If it's okay, I will stay a couple of days with you. I don't want to wear out my welcome with any of you. Thanks for offering, Amanda. It's good to have friends." He smiled. "I'd go pack, but I don't seem to have anything here."

"We'll stop by your place on the way," Rory assured him. He was disappointed that Methos had chosen to go with Amanda. He'd hoped he'd stay with him, but maybe he'd move over in a couple of days. In the meantime, it would give him a chance to get back to a routine in Paris.

"It's worth two hundred thousand if it's worth a dime, Amanda," Methos stated firmly. His eyes peered intently into the glass case at a particularly fine emerald, the Eye of the Soul. The stone was on display at a small museum near Amanda's modest Paris flat. At least, it was modest by Amanda's standards although downright luxurious when compared to MacLeod's barge.

Across from him, Amanda's nose wrinkled up as she frowned. "That much? Really? I thought maybe half that, a hundred-fifty at the most."

"No, look at the quality of the stone and it's an almost perfect cut. Definitely two hundred thousand."

"Maybe." She straightened slowly, her eyes meeting his as they both raised them from the exquisite gem. She'd had more fun with him this afternoon than she had in a long time. She'd had no idea it would be so entertaining to go museum hopping with Methos. Of course she knew he'd liberated a few valuables along the way during his lifetime... she just didn't realize how much he knew about art, jewelry and antiquities.

After they'd left the clinic mid-morning, they'd made the promised stop at Methos' flat. It had been brief as the old man gazed without expression or comment at the mess that still remained. Amanda knew Joe had sent some people to tidy up some, especially any blood stains and such, but the place still looked like a tornado had hit it. Not saying a word, he'd quickly packed some clothes and a couple of books then led the way back out.

At her place, he'd gazed around appreciatively before settling into the guest room where he'd changed into dark trousers and an olive green shirt. She'd taken him to a favorite little café for a late lunch, then suggested they go on a little museum tour, some of her favorite smaller ones that displayed unique antiquities that might help him focus.

As she gazed at him now, she was captivated once again by those brilliant eyes and she found herself studying his delightfully formed lips, narrower than MacLeod's, but sheer perfection. Without thought, Amanda stepped around the case and kissed him. He seemed surprised, not responding at first, then he leaned into it and his hand moved to cup her chin as he kissed her back. His mouth covered hers, sucking in the air and taking her breath away, leaving her feeling slightly dizzy. He broke it off, leaned his head against her forehead and just held her.

"Amanda, I don't -- that is, I'm not sure this is a good idea."

"Shhh, Methos. I know you feel like you're stepping on Mac's toes, but you're not. I wanted this, too." She caressed his cheek as she spoke, indifferent to the several pairs of eyes of other visitors to the museum that watched them. In a way she couldn't explain, the kiss had been different, felt different, but it wasn't unpleasant and it was undeniably passionate.

Methos nodded, then without another word, he caught her hand and led her out of the building and pulled her down the street with him. His long legs set a quick pace that Amanda had to almost run to keep up with in spite of her own tall stature.

"Where are we going?" she asked breathlessly. "What's the hurry?"

He slowed a bit. "No hurry. I just thought of something I wanted you to see. It's a couple of more blocks..."

She cast a curious glance at him, but his face was unreadable. Another two blocks down and one over, they came to a small, enclosed park and he pushed through the gate into it, pulling her behind him. It was a lush square of land with tall bushes affording privacy to the central grassy area. In the center was a glass dome- covered sundial, a fairly modern one, but the digits on it were all jeweled-looking. Amanda blinked in surprise, then moved in for a closer inspection.

"Emerald, sapphire, diamonds, topaz... this is amazing. I mean, that it's sitting here in the middle of this park. It's like an invitation."

"Not quite," Methos answered. "There's an alarm on that glass bubble. The wiring is hidden in the base of the sundial. So tell me, Amanda, how would you liberate those stones?" He slipped behind her, wrapped his arms around her.

She rotated to face him, her mouth brushing next to his. "With great care. I'd have to study it more, look for a way to disable the alarm. Why? Do you want to steal it?"

He bit her ear gently. "Not at the moment. I just wanted to see if we could figure out a way."

His tongue ran over her earlobe and she caught her breath, unable to think. She wanted him now. She wanted to rip his clothes off and crawl all over him... wanted to taste his body and drive him crazy with need. "How secluded is this park?" she choked out, going for the buttons on his shirt. Her fingers suddenly felt like big bandaged thumbs in her eagerness as she fumbled to undo them.

He pulled back a little, gazing at her with a look of desire and hunger, then guided her away from the sundial toward a clump of bushes and led her though the hedge to a small, hidden opening in the bushes. It was enough room for them.

He turned to face her and his hands caressed her breasts through the silk blouse, rubbing against the unencumbered tight mounds with insistence as his mouth sought hers and melted against her lips. He tasted like a sea breeze, salty and crisp with the tinge of the beer he'd imbibed at lunch. It was exhilarating and her head swam with the exploding desire in her.

Amanda wrapped her arms around him, pushing her body tighter against him and brought her leg around to wrap his securely. A hand worked at the buttons on her blouse, easing them through the buttonholes until she felt the warmth of his body against hers as their bare skin touched.

Eagerly, she pulled her mouth away, brought it down to his shoulder and bit at the firm flesh there, her teeth making a line of marks in the pale skin before moving on to the hollow at his throat. She sucked the flesh in, aware of the pulsing of his blood and bit a little harder, savoring the taste of his skin.

Methos groaned, a deep, throaty sound that she felt rumble against her body. It was sensual in a primal way, making her body tingle. His knees pressed against her and he bent her backward, lowering her to the cool grass as he followed her down, dropping beside her.

As his nimble fingers released the fastener on her Gucci slacks and eased down against her panties, she caught her breath and pressed her face against his chest, her mouth licking him and seeking a firm nub to tease. A pair of fingers slid inside her slacks with a feather touch to press against the thin, slick material so that it just tickled and made her squirm in reaction, her hips pushing up for more attention. His eyes met hers, the golden centers almost shining with the pleasure.

//Oh, God! Every little thing he does just makes me want him more!// she confessed silently, then gasped as his mouth covered her shoulder and he sucked at the skin, biting down lightly, but still enough to bruise it. //The mark will only last a minute, only a brief brand of his passion.// She was slightly saddened that mortals could wear these indicators of lovemaking longer than they could... could feel the lingering aches of pleasure longer.

She retaliated by pulling the nipple her mouth had been circling into it and teasing the hard nub with her tongue, then scraping it with her teeth. She felt him tense and his breath caught with a little stifled cry in his throat giving her satisfaction. She repeated the move, pressing him onto his back where she could crawl on him. Her hands caught his, forcing them above his head as she straddled him and began a thorough cat washing of his enticingly bare chest.

Methos twitched and squirmed as her tongue circled the pectorals, tracing the smooth lines just above the ribs. He inhaled shakily and she peeked up to see his eyes squeezed shut and mouth open in a near pant. Wickedly, she scraped her teeth down the center of his chest to his bellybutton and purred with satisfaction as his body arched involuntarily and he moaned. Beneath her thighs she could feel him growing stiffer and she positioned herself over the bulge in his pants, rocking against him.

"Oh, shit!" he moaned as his fingers laced through hers and squeezed.

As if it were a signal, Amanda rolled off him and tugged urgently at his pants as Methos wriggled out of his shoes and raised his hips so she could slide them down. She shed the rest of her own clothes as quickly as possible, anxious to feel him against her naked flesh. For a moment, they were like an erotic tableau - Methos lying spread-eagled in the grass, one knee bent slightly breaking the long line of his body and pointing back to his very obvious pleasure in Amanda...she kneeling beside him, an ivory white statue with slightly-parted pouting lips and gleaming eyes, her breasts firm and nipples rigid.

She moved first, her hand sliding delicately down his thigh, following the invitation it offered. She felt his muscles tremble as her fingers touched him and was aware his self-control was slipping. Her fingers moved on to caress the heavy sacs and her lips curved with satisfaction as he moaned deeply, his eyes closed and mouth open so slightly. Gingerly, she lowered her body over his, so that his erection was captured between her breasts, cradled there as she rocked gently against him. Moisture lightly coated the valley between her breasts as his body reacted to her pulsing touch, their hot bodies aware of every sensation. "Oh, gods, Amanda! You're killing me," he choked out.

"Nowhere near it, love," she murmured softly as her hands stroked along his hips, caressing his skin delicately, knowing the effect her wispy touch would produce. And it did... He bucked a little, body squirming under her as the rigid rod between her breasts rubbed against them and more liquid spilled onto her. He gasped, barely able to control his rebellious body and his hands reached for her, to lift her.

"Not yet," she murmured, catching his hands and forcing them down against the ground, then rocking her own body against his like a wave touching the shore and receding gently. He breathed harshly, panting and his head pressed into the ground as the tension in his body mounted. His fingers dug into her hands where they laced through hers and he tried to pull them both into the ground as his hips wriggled against her.

Amanda's own body was primed, as anxious for the coupling as he was. She raised herself over him, lifting her body up to position over his erection, then lowered herself onto him, her knees straddling each hip as she still maintained her grip on his hands. A moment or two of pain that quickly transmuted to pleasure and he was part of her. She rocked forward, gazing at his torso, glistening with perspiration, and brought her eyes up to meet the glazed-looking almost solid green of his.

She released his hands so she could run hers up his side to rub against those seductive mounds of his pectoral muscles. His hands flew to her waist, gripping firmly and within moments, he'd flipped her onto her back and was on her, in control and eagerly pumping into her.

Amanda wrapped her legs and arms around him, clinging like a monkey as he pounded against her like the hard storm-driven winds slapped the fronds against the tree. She was part of him, barely allowing the withdrawal as his hips thrust back and forth, driving him deeply into her. She bit his shoulder and her nails raked his back, urging him on in his lust. Unexpected, a finger thrust into her anus, teasing just inside the edge and she wiggled against it, wanting more, trying to force him to go deeper. It became part of the rhythm of the movement, driving her to the brink of insanity in the passion.

She came first, unable to stop the surging flow that rocked her abdomen and smoothed the path even more for him. She held him tighter as spasms of passion rolled through her. He paused, grew more frenzied in his need and thrust so hard she felt like he would break through her body, then he, too, became a fountain of hot liquid inside her, flooding into her with repeated thrusts and pulses until he was spent and lay, exhausted, on top of her.

Amanda could barely breathe. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been so aroused to this kind of passion, this urgent need and desire. Methos' head rested against her chest, his breathing rough and painful-sounding as his body gradually returned to normal. Gently, she stroked his damp hair, only now becoming aware of the scratchiness of the grass against her bare backside. The prospect of putting her clothes on again against the now-drying stickiness of her body was not pleasant, but she had little alternative.

Just then, her lover's hand covered her left breast, massaging it forcefully to the point of near pain. She caught his hand. "No more, Sweetie. Not now."

"Mmmmm, why not?" he mumbled as his mouth nuzzled at the edge of the mound. "You're the sweet one, Amanda. Like candy. Let me eat you." He closed his mouth over her nipple sucking at it.

She laughed softly, but the remark disturbed her in a way. It was almost an acceptance of the endearment she knew he disliked. Somehow, it just didn't sound quite like Methos. She caught his face in her hands, lifting him away from her chest and his head moved up to loom over hers. His face came down until his mouth closed over hers and he kissed her deeply.

When at last he pulled away, she managed to speak. "Umm, Methos, I think we should get dressed. We're lucky we don't have an audience here."

"Would you mind?" he asked softly, seduction still husky in his voice.

"Let's just say it could be awkward. There are better places for this." She pushed firmly and he rolled off her.

Unmoving, head propped on his arm as he lay on his side, Methos watched as she dressed. It was almost disconcerting to have him gaze so intently at her. At last, as she was buttoning up her blouse, he moved to begin pulling his own clothes on. Inexplicably, Amanda was suddenly anxious to get home and wash all evidence of this passionate moment off her body. It had been completely incredible, yet had somehow left her feeling dirty.

Amanda paced the smaller footage of Montgomery's Paris office in her worried, somewhat brisk pace. She'd always had this nervous energy when things bothered her and she found it easier to think while moving. Miles, on the other hand, sat in the heavily stuffed chair and merely let his eyes exercise along with the model-slim woman.

"I- I don't know what it is, Miles, but he's just not right. You know what I mean? It's not specifics, it's - it's..." Words failed her and she paused to face the psychiatrist, frustration evident in her face.

"Intuition, Amanda?" Miles supplied. "You intuitively feel that Methos is not the same person?"

She nodded, eyes agreeing with it. "Exactly! He's not the same Methos I know."

Miles considered this for a few more moments, framing his own thoughts carefully before he spoke. "Amanda, you've known Methos for what? Over a thousand years, isn't that right? Now, in all those years, how many different versions of him have you known?"

"Dozens, but this isn't the same! Miles, have you ever kissed someone and felt like something wasn't quite right?"

"Once or twice."

"That's how this feels." She stopped and dropped to the reclining sofa next to him, leaning forward. "He doesn't feel like Methos. I'm not speaking about it physically, but on the emotional level. It's hard to explain."

"Consider what he's just gone through, Amanda. Is it surprising he seems a little bit off? Some wisps of those personalities are very likely lingering. Give him a little more time."

She sighed deeply, her gaze locked on her folded hands. "Maybe you're right. Maybe I'm just over-reacting."

"Where is Methos now?" Miles asked, more curious than concerned.

"He's with Joe. The two of them are going on a jazz cruise this afternoon." She smiled a bit as she recalled how eager the Watcher was to spend the time with Methos. When it came to music, it seemed the old man had a tighter bond with Dawson than MacLeod did and the two genuinely enjoyed each other's company.

She closed her eyes, recalling with vivid detail the afternoon in the park. In the past three days that Methos had stayed with her, they hadn't repeated that intense intimacy. Amanda hadn't been able to shake off that unclean feeling, nor could she explain why that incredible experience made her feel that way. Where at first she'd thought that she might share her bed with Methos, she hadn't wanted to touch him since the park, hadn't wanted to see if the feeling would be the same or if it had been the situation that had left the bad feeling. Even though he'd done nothing to warrant the reaction, she just couldn't bring herself to allow that intimacy again and, thankfully, Methos hadn't pushed it, although he had certainly given her more than a few lustful looks. So, she was relieved when Joe had asked her house guest to go with him this evening, glad for the time alone and the chance to talk to Miles about what troubled her.

But she couldn't bring herself to discuss the details with Miles. She couldn't tell him that a man he had also slept with had made love to her and left her feeling as if she'd had sex with a stranger. And sitting here, listening to Miles' calm, logical voice, she admitted that she might be too sensitive to what she thought Methos should be and, in all likelihood, should not have let that interlude in the park occur.

Joe, too, had misgivings about Methos, sensing uncertainties in his friend. He'd partied with Adam Pierson almost ten years before he knew his real identity and they'd become friends based on mutual interests. One of those had been an appreciation for music, all kinds of music. They both enjoyed jazz so Joe had been excited about getting tickets for himself and his friend to this special afternoon event with four of the local jazz groups performing for three hours on a Seine River cruise.

Methos had been complacent about it, showing neither excitement nor enthusiasm. So far, he'd been pretty quiet through the afternoon, paying attention to the music, occasionally tapping his fingers against the table and sipping contentedly at his beer. Not a bad thing, Joe thought, but not exactly Methos either. He'd expected some conversation, some of the old man's thoughts on the musicians.

Joe's hand scraped against his beard as he listened to a saxophone player who obviously didn't have enough practice on the instrument. The sound was harsh, squawking more than it should and the fingers were rough, sliding from one note to another. "That kid could use a little seasoning," he commented to his companion.

"He sounds okay, Joe," Methos answered. "Just the style of the music, probably."

"Okay? Do you hear that squawk? His lip isn't that good. He might even have a dry reed."

"Really? I wouldn't know." The reply was easy, unconcerned, a quick dismissal.

Joe's eyes narrowed as he thought back to a conversation they'd had a couple of years earlier. "Whaddya mean you don't know? I thought you played the sax?"

Methos blinked at him. "I just dabbled, Joe. I wasn't that great myself. Like I said, the kid sounds okay to me. Want another beer? I'm buying."

Joe nodded, still staring at the old Immortal as Methos made his way to the bar. //Just dabbled? Hadn't he said he was in a band in the Second World War? He'd talked like an expert about Sidney Bechet, had seen the man play and raved over his skill. Had he forgotten all that?// Joe's frown deepened. Maybe his memory was flaky, but it seemed like a pretty big hole if the old man had forgotten that. In fact, Methos was far from his usual self today and Joe couldn't reconcile it. He felt like he was out with a casual acquaintance instead of a long-standing buddy.

Four days later, Joe made his way up the gangway to MacLeod's barge. He was still troubled by the incongruities in Methos' behavior, the little things that didn't quite seem to add up. He used his cane to thump on the door, smiled warmly as MacLeod ushered him in with a welcoming gesture.

Montgomery was already there, sipping at a coffee and scribbling on a note pad. Amanda was still with Methos, keeping an eye on him. The subject of their scrutiny had decided to stay with Amanda the whole time, making himself at home in her guest room rather than shifting to either Montgomery's home or Mac's barge.

"Hi, Joe," Montgomery said, looking up. "Thanks for coming." He rose, offering a hand.

Joe settled, accepting the offered cup from Mac, then waited as the Highlander settled. "Have you talked with Methos?"

"Yeah, I spent a little time with him this morning. He seems to be doing okay," Miles replied.

"Humph," Joe muttered. "That's questionable."

"Well, that's what we're here to talk about," the blonde continued. "I've discussed this with Amanda and I know how she feels, so I want to get your comments. How do you think he is?"

"There's something not right," Joe stated bluntly. "He is and he isn't Methos. He remembers some things about his life, but other things are missing or uncertain. When I'm around him, I almost feel like I'm around a stranger."

"Specifics, Joe?" Miles prompted.

"It's hard to pinpoint them. It's a gut feeling that he's not normal."

"I agree," Mac interjected. "In many ways, he's okay, reacting as usual, even as sarcastic as usual, but there are a few gaps in his memory."
Of them all, Mac had spent the least amount of time with the old man, almost as if he was avoiding any close contact.

Miles nodded. "Is it enough that you don't believe at any point that you've been with Methos? Do you think he's slipped to another personality at any point?"

"No," Mac replied quickly. "It's just that he seems to be lacking part of his memories."

"He's been through a very traumatic experience. I suspect it could have affected his memory and that there's still hidden episodes that will eventually sort themselves out. It's also still likely there is a residue left over of the other personalities. What we need to decide now is if we allow him to get back to his own life."

Joe frowned. "I know it's Methos, but I just feel something isn't right with him. I don't know that it's enough to cause a safety issue."

Miles leaned forward a little, pressing his hands together as he thought. "Isn't it possible that we're all watching him a little too closely? That we're looking for problems where none exist and seeing traits that he's had all along but we've never noticed before. Since they seem new to us, we think he's doing something different. Combine that with the slight memory loss and we feel he isn't behaving normally."

"Maybe," Joe growled. "I just wish he felt like the guy I've known for the past fourteen years. But maybe you have a point. One thing's for sure... he's still the same smart-ass he's always been." It had to be Methos, Joe reasoned. There were too many things he knew about Methos' life for it to be any of the Quickenings he'd taken.

"So, we're agreed then to let him move back to his own flat?"

Mac chuckled. "I'm surprised he's been this patient with us this long. I don't think we could keep him from breaking out on his own if he wanted to. Yeah, I think it's time to let him get back to normal. If there are problems, he's more likely to sort it out in his own surroundings."

"That's that, then."

"One thing, Montgomery," Mac added. "I'd like to tell him. He's coming here this afternoon and I can let him know then."

Montgomery hesitated a moment, then nodded. "Of course, MacLeod. I'm sure you're the best one to tell him anyway. Just tell him that I'd like him to keep in touch with me."

"Professionally?" Mac asked.

Montgomery stood, shrugged on his light coat, tucking his notebook into it. He gave the Scot a tight smile. "Of course."

"You're pushing him," Joe said quietly after the psychiatrist had left.

"It's intentional," Mac replied shortly. "I want to know what he's really made of."

Shaking his head, Joe shoved to his feet. "It may backfire on you one day, Mac. The kid's okay and he's been a good friend to Methos. And I think he knows all about you and Sean Burns. Maybe you don't want to push him."

With that, Joe turned and started for the door. He was almost out it when Mac called to him. "Joe, thanks." He paused, then pushed the door open, stepped out into the warmth of an early summer day in France and inhaled a deep breath of the fresh air.

Sprawling on the futon couch, Methos stared pointedly across the barge at MacLeod. For once the older man hadn't complained about how uncomfortable the couch was and how he missed the more heavily padded sofa Mac had discarded. In fact, Methos seemed relaxed and at peace for the moment. Mac pulled a pair of cold beers from the 'fridge and returned to the living area, handing a bottle over to Methos before settling himself.

Mac thought about the earlier conversation with Joe and Montgomery, admitted that maybe he was looking for problems and differences in a man who was never quite the same each time he talked to him. They'd all been looking for anomalies instead of focusing on the overall well-being of their friend. Fact was, Methos was more relaxed and at ease than he'd been in the past week, as if he was settling into himself.

"So, how do you feel?" Mac asked, a standard opener, but sincerely meant.

"Fine, really," Methos replied after a long gulp of the beer. "I just feel like I'm on display in a department store window. Everyone keeps watching me like I'm going to metamorphous into something else. It's a bit disconcerting. I can guarantee I will not be a butterfly."

Mac nodded sympathetically. "I can imagine how you feel. But we watched you change into other people for the over two weeks and it's been pretty scary."

"I understand that, Mac, and I don't blame any of you. I'd be just as leery of me as you all are. Probably more so. You know how cautious I am."

Mac returned a grin, feeling more at ease with Methos. "So, now what?"

"I thought that was my question. Am I going to continue in this mode... being in the constant company of one of my friends or are you willing to allow me to resume my life?"

Mac grinned, reached under the couch and extracted a long, wooden case. He handed it to Methos. "Well, if you're going to be on your own again, you'll need this."

Methos set his beer on the table and reached for the oblong object. He raised the lid carefully and stared at the gleaming metal object in it for several long heartbeats. Then he lifted the sword from the case, fitting his hand around the cone-shaped pommel and easing to his feet to test the weight and balance.

"It's the same weight as your old sword and the balance is a little better, I think."

"My sword?" Methos glanced at him with the question clearly in his eyes.

"It was destroyed in your fight at the church." Mac watched him closely, not sure if Methos had ever realized that.

"There was nothing left?"

Mac shook his head. "Nothing usable."

The other Immortal accepted that quietly, swinging the sword back and forth to judge the feel of it. "It's a good weapon, Mac. Thank you. Now, draw yours."

Surprised Mac's head came up sharply and his eyes met Methos'. The sword was pointed at him, and the expression on the old man's face seemed very serious. "What?"

"Oh, come, come, MacLeod. It's not that difficult. I expect you to fight me. Although I admit, I hadn't expected you to just hand me a weapon. But since you did, let's get to it, shall we?"

Mac felt a chill scurry up his spine and ruffle the hairs at his neck. The voice, the cadence of the words, the whole movement of that long, slim body had changed and this wasn't Methos. Abruptly, Mac moved, barely getting out of the way of the suddenly moving sword.

His opponent laughed, a chilling, all-too-familiar sound as Mac backed away. Kronos...

"But I took your Quickening!" Mac objected. "This can't be!"

"Ha! Did you think you could hold me alone, MacLeod?" The voice carried the disdain so typical of Kronos. The tone, the inflections, even the look in Methos' eyes were those of the leader of the Horsemen. "Do you think I would stay with you when my brothers were so close? When I could have Methos and Silas as well? I knew the time would come when Methos would be weak enough for me to take over. And when I kill you, I'll have Caspian. The Four Horsemen again and I will have all the qualities that made us unique. No betrayals this time."

"The connected Quickening," Mac realized, his mind flashing back to the powerful dual Quickening when he killed Kronos just as Methos killed Silas. He knew part of the force of the Quickening had flowed to Methos, but he never dreamed Kronos' personality could actually transfer with it.

Kronos arched an eyebrow and grinned, the look seeming eerie on Methos' face. "Actually, you made it easy, MacLeod. That wasn't the first Quickening where the two of you had been near each other when it occurred. The earlier ones paved the way for an opportunity like that one. With a double kill and my fury with Methos, it was simple." He spun the sword around, taunting. "I quite like his body, actually. Always wanted to be taller and he's in fit shape. So why don't we give it a go, Highlander? Can you kill your friend?"

With that, he launched the attack. MacLeod barely had the time to go for his sword as he practically dove out of the way. His fingers touched reassuringly on the carved ivory of the katana just as the heavy sword swooshed over his head. He rolled, came to his feet in a smooth move, shifting to come around to face his opponent. The man who confronted him wore a feral expression, a stranger in a friend's body.

//Shit! Now what?// Mac thought as he watched the familiar body crouch into a fighting stance, weapon extended. He'd seen that stance before, had it invade his dreams on more than one occasion. He didn't want to kill Methos, but this wasn't Methos. "How long have you had control?"

That laugh again, a smug look of one-upmanship. "Fooled you all, didn't I? Poor Methos hasn't been in control since he was weakened that last time." He flipped the sword, then lunged, forcing Mac backward. He twisted, avoiding the furniture, blocking the sword blow and shoving Kronos back. With speed and agility in his favor, Kronos could easily move out of the way of Mac's stabbing lunge and find time to set his own pass in motion.

Again, the Scot had to go on the defensive, dodging the furniture in his barge to avoid the deadly swing of the sword. He rotated to the right, misjudging the next move and found the sword there as it sliced into thigh. Reacting with a trained body, he rotated out of the way, limping slightly, but not giving the other man an edge.

Still amused, Kronos shifted the sword in his hand, reversing his grip and came after Mac with a vengeance. "Do you think you can kill me? Come on then. Even if you do, I still win. I still have Methos... and I'll take him to hell with me for all eternity."

The bigger man gave way under the series of blows that came quicker than he could ever imagine. Kronos wasn't hindered in the slightest by using Methos' body and, in fact, appeared to be even deadlier than he had been before as he easily adjusted to the longer reach and agility of the man whom he had once called "brother."

The sword caught Mac's, turned and Kronos darted in and landed a hard kick against his knee. A pain-filled growl escaped as Mac's knee collapsed and he fell to it on the hardwood floor. Kronos didn't hesitate to take advantage and he spun his sword around, catching the base of the katana, and coincidentally, the edge of Mac's fingers in a deep, slicing cut, then flipping it across the room where the weapon clattered on the floor. A sharp kick to the groin and it was over. MacLeod knelt on the floor, his bleeding hands barely able to hold him up.

"I've waited for this moment, Highlander. I will have the final laugh, won't I? From you, I will have the fourth horseman back with me and I have Methos where I can control him completely. Nothing will stand against me now. And you can't stop it." Kronos brought the sword up for the beheading blow.

Mac gazed up for a moment, desperately trying to force his unwilling body to move but he needed more time, just a few more seconds. The sword arced toward him and Mac closed his eyes. No time. It was over for him.

But the expected beheading didn't happen.

"MacLeod... please... take the sword... now!" The voice was strained, struggling. Methos...

Mac's eyes flew open to be filled with the vision of the heavy sword held rigidly only a few inches from his head. The muscles in Methos' arms bulged with the strain of the effort to halt the motion. His jaw was tight, as if he were fighting to speak.

Not waiting for another invitation, Mac seized the sword, then had to force the fingers to let go. "Methos! Fight him!"

The hazel eyes were wide with the strain. "I can't hold on much longer, Mac." He squeezed his eyes shut, gasped sharply, then opened them again. Abruptly, he grabbed for the sword blade, oblivious to the sharp edge slicing his hand, and pulled the blade toward his neck.

"Do it, Mac! It's the only way. I can't fight Kronos! Please..."

MacLeod's skin crawled with the sense of déjà vu at this awful recreation of nearly the same scene when he'd first met Methos. Mac gazed into his friend's eyes, saw the plea that was there and nodded grimly. He felt numb as he read the acknowledgement in them... and the regret for all that would never be between them. So much was flashing in his eyes, unspoken love and loyalty, a plea for his understanding and the need for him to do this.

"Please hurry, Duncan," Methos begged, a sob breaking his voice. "I've always been your friend. Be mine now. Do it."

As Duncan brought the heavy sword back for the killing stroke, Methos closed his eyes, tilting his head back to give him an easy target. His muscles were still tense with the fight to hold on against the man who demanded his body.

//There has to be another way,// Mac thought furiously even as he threw his strength into the powerful swing that would end his friend's life and send him to damnation. Kronos would win, would have Methos for eternity.

"NO!!" Mac screamed at the last second, reversing the sword and smashing the heavy hilt into Methos' temple. The intense force of the blow smashed the cone-shaped pommel into his skull, shattering bone and driving bone splinters into his brain. Methos crumpled, blood oozing down the side of his face.

Duncan shuddered in reaction, hurled the sword to the floor and dropped to his knees next to the inert body. //So close. I came so close,// he thought numbly. He'd almost killed Methos, may yet have to do it if the old man couldn't be helped. //If there's no way to exorcise Kronos... There must be a way. There has to be a way!//

It took a few minutes before Mac could move to take any action. Lifting Methos' head into his lap, he took a few moments to examine the deep wound, judging how much time he would have before Methos revived. He winced for his friend as he touched the shattered bone and saw the extent of the damage. That would definitely smart when Methos woke up. Grimly, he almost hoped that Kronos was in control when the body healed and woke.

During the past two weeks, Methos had never repeated a personality and Mac hoped that would be the case now, but he feared it wouldn't hold. Methos' own words gave rise to his fears. "...I can't fight Kronos."

Determined, Mac got to his feet and set about finding strong cord. Within another ten minutes, he'd secured Methos' wrists snuggly behind his back and tied his ankles together. Only then did he reach for his phone and dial a number that was now familiar to him.

"Montgomery, better get your butt over here now. We have a problem," he muttered as soon as the psychiatrist answered.

He hung up with a depressed sigh, and dropped onto his couch to wait. Only a yard or so from his feet, the trussed up body of his best friend lay still in temporary death. He'd lost so much already, lovers and friends, people he treasured. He couldn't lose Methos, too.

Miles Montgomery's face was set grimly as he leaned over Methos and checked out the progress of the healing. MacLeod could see the worry in his face and could well appreciate what he was going through. The twenty minutes it had taken the man to get to the barge had been too long to sit and consider everything that had happened. And he'd let loose as soon as the psychiatrist had walked through the door, like it was his fault this had happened.

Montgomery sat back and turned to face MacLeod. "How long ago did you say this occurred?"

"About thirty minutes now."

Miles chewed at his lip as he thought. "I think we have about thirty or thirty-five minutes before he's healed enough to wake up. You know, MacLeod, I've gone through the majority of my life with very little violence, relatively speaking - if you don't count the wars, then I meet him and it's like he's a target for everyone."

Mac pressed his mouth into a tight line as he hunched forward. "No, he's not, really. It's just the dregs of his past catching up at the moment. He spent at least two hundred years at peace, more or less."

//Until I came along and urged him back into the game,// he added mentally. //If I hadn't found him, would Kronos have taken his head or would he have ever known who Adam Pierson really was? Would Methos have just disappeared again?// He shook his head slowly. He'd never know and speculation wasn't going to help him. "So what do we do now?"

Miles seemed a little uncertain. "Wait for him to wake up, see who we've got, then get him back to the clinic?"

"And then?"

"I don't know, MacLeod! Try to get him through this. Maybe this particular personality won't come back. Jeez, he was doing very well-- or seemed to be."

"I think we all had our suspicions, voiced them to the extent that Methos didn't seem quite normal, but we overlooked them in the belief he just needed more time," MacLeod said softly. He caught the sharp intake of breath the doctor took, ready to protest, and he put up a hand, adding quickly. "I'm not blaming you, Montgomery. We just didn't expect this to happen. We didn't consider someone who knew Methos so well that he could become him. In fact, we weren't looking for this particular personality at all. I never expected him to be there. "

"What do you mean?" Miles asked, confused by MacLeod's statement. "Is there something more I need to know about this?"

//More he needed to know? Oh, yeah... lots more. If Kronos came back...// Tiredly, Mac rubbed at his eyes and answered. "Yeah, there is. But I'll fill you in after we get Methos settled. I think we should start for the clinic now."

Mac moved to throw Methos over his shoulder, settling the dead weight comfortably. "Check for observers," he ordered as he tossed the rover's keys to Miles.

So, for the second time, MacLeod and Montgomery loaded a dead body into the back of Mac's vehicle and headed south with him. The doctor sat on the floor in the back with Methos, waiting for him to regain life, and ready to inject a strong sedative to keep him quiet if necessary.

Rory couldn't quit believe this was happening. How the hell had he misjudged the stability? He would have sworn Methos was doing fine. Joe, Amanda and MacLeod all tried to tell him something wasn't right, but he had thought they were wrong. Damn! Maybe he just wanted so much for Methos to be okay that he was looking for excuses. He felt slightly ill thinking about what might have happened if Methos hadn't been able to take control of the situation and MacLeod, no doubt, would have quite a bit to say about it.

An unsteady hand reached to touch Methos' cold cheek, guilt and a sense of failure at this turn of events made Rory question his ability to handle it. In fact, he wasn't even sure where to go now. He gnawed at his lip, trying to think. He had more experience, more years on the job, in dealing with psychological problems than just about any other psychiatrist on the planet and he didn't have a clue what he could do now.

"Kronos- this personality-- made an odd comment, Montgomery. He said Methos hadn't had control since he was weakened the last time. At first, I thought he meant from the Quickening at the church, but Methos has been in control since then, hasn't he?" Mac called over his shoulder as he guided the vehicle through traffic.

"Yes, I believe he has. He was himself a few times. I'm pretty sure of it." //Here it comes,// Rory thought dismally. MacLeod was going to begin asking questions until he told him how Methos regained control the last time.

"So what did he mean- weakened? Did something happen that gave Kronos an opportunity to take over?"

With a sigh, Rory leaned back against the side of the rover and tried to find a way to tell MacLeod without getting himself in any deeper. "We - that is, a colleague at the clinic- thought that shock treatment might help and administered it without my supervision. I know, it shouldn't have happened, MacLeod, and I was very unhappy when I found out, but it did help him. He was definitely Methos and I talked to him enough to know he was aware of what had been happening to him. He knew me, called me by name and I know it was him." He waited for the angry words, the accusations.

"I think you're right," MacLeod commented calmly. There was worry in his voice, but he didn't sound angry. "A couple of times when I first talked to him after we thought we had Methos, he seemed uncertain about people - specifically you and Joe. He waited for me to give him a lead, using a characteristic that Methos uses so well that it didn't seem too out of place at the time. That's why he didn't want to stay with either of us."

"I'm just having a hard time accepting that anyone could duplicate his personality so well that we couldn't tell that it wasn't him."

"Kronos could," MacLeod answered grimly. "Probably the only one who actually had enough of a history with him to do it."

"What do you mean? How long had he known him?"

"About three thousand years, give or take..." Mac answered.

Astonished, Miles glanced back at the still dead man on the floor of the car as the hair on the back of his neck rose creepily. "Jeez! And he killed him?! A man he knew that long?"

"Not exactly," the Highlander answered hesitantly.

But the turnoff to the clinic came up on the left and there was no more time to elaborate on the circumstances of Kronos' death. To add to the delay, Methos drew his first revival breath just as Mac turned the rover toward the back of the house. Within moments, Miles had injected the sedative and Methos had drifted to a docile unconscious state by the time the vehicle stopped and an orderly had brought a gurney around.

Miles leaned over the EEG monitor, checking the readouts with a practiced eye. Fact was, MacLeod admitted grudgingly, the man appeared to be a very good doctor. He obviously had quite a bit of training, possibly more than those bland little certificates on the wall of his office suggested.

The blonde punched a couple of keys on the computer and brought up another set of lines that he used to compare the ones he was now recording. He nodded his head as he watched the lines register a similar pattern.

Nervously, Mac shifted his gaze to Methos, who groaned and rolled slightly on the bed. The head wound was pretty well healed now and he was fighting off the sedative. Miles had electrodes attached to his temples and head that were relaying the information to the machine. His wrists and ankles were firmly strapped to the bed.

Abruptly the eyes snapped open and immediately narrowed at seeing the Scot seated by the bed. "You barely escaped that one, Highlander," the familiar voice snarled, no subtlety at all in the man now. "I will get you though. It's inevitable." "Kronos" struggled against the restraints, muscles turning to rigid bulges as he tried to free himself.

Across from MacLeod, Montgomery's attention was riveted to the abrupt change on the readouts as Methos had switched to Kronos. He glanced back at the face of his friend, seeing a stranger in the eyes that glared at him.

"I wouldn't get too close to me, Dr. Montgomery. I wouldn't mind taking your head as well. So, what do you do now? You can't get rid of me and you can't kill him. Real dilemma, isn't it, MacLeod? " Kronos' voice was so disdainful that a chill ran down MacLeod's back.

"You haven't won yet, Kronos," Mac growled back. "I think Methos has more strength than you expected."

A broad smile blossomed on his face as Kronos fell back on the bed, ceasing to fight the restraints for the moment. "Ah, yes. The survivor. It's what he excels at, you know. Survival... You'd be amazed what he would consent to in order to survive, MacLeod. In fact, you might be disgusted. But sooner or later, he will lose. There's no way out this time." He laughed, the slightly maniacal sound that Mac had heard before.

Miles had moved, shifting to a different machine, which he now adjusted and turned on. Abruptly, the body on the bed arched up, his spine bending as a current of electricity shot through him.

Mac was on his feet, crying out sharply, "What are you doing, Montgomery? You're hurting him!" He started for the doctor.

"It's the only way, MacLeod," Montgomery replied. "Pain forces the other personality away and allows Methos to focus in. If he can get control, he can hold it. Take a look."

He stepped back to the computer where the lines on the readouts had begun to converge again. Miles pointed as MacLeod looked on from the other side. "This is Methos' readout from just before he woke up and this is where Kronos made an appearance. And..." He moved the image to the current. "...this is what's happening now."

Even without knowing exactly what the readouts meant, Mac could clearly see two distinct lines, radically different patterns, and one was beginning to recede, losing strength. He pointed to the remaining one. "That's Methos?"

Miles nodded. He waited a few more seconds until the pattern became stable, then cut the power on the shock down. "The electrical shock is within a safe zone, strong enough to disorient but it won't cause any damage."

"And this is what you did to him before? The time Kronos was talking about?" Mac asked. He didn't like it much and was relieved to see Methos' body relax as the shock came back into tolerable range.

"Pretty much," Miles answered evasively.

Mac shot a glance at him that clearly indicated that he'd caught the avoidance in the answer, but Miles wasn't paying any attention to him.

"Okay, Methos," the doctor said softly, moving a little closer to his patient. "Do you know who I am?"

"Miles," he replied hoarsely, not opening his eyes.

"Another name, please."

"Rory... Myles."

"Do you know where you are?"


"Methos, can you tell where you are?" Miles persisted, his voice gentle but insistent.

After a long pause, he spoke. "Your clinic? Not the padded room though?"

"Good. How's the current? Is it too much?"

Methos shook his head, his eyes still shut as if he was reluctant to open them. "No. Leave it as is, Rory. Don't turn it off."

Miles nodded, turned his attention back to the monitor to check the readout. For the moment, Methos seemed stable. The readings were consistent and he knew who he was.

"Well, Methos appears to be in control. There's no guarantee he won't slip back, but I don't think it'll happen. Especially if I leave a mild current going." He reached across and released the straps that were keeping Methos immobile.

"You're going to leave it?" Mac questioned.

"Yes, he's going to leave it," Methos muttered. "It's not that bad, MacLeod and I need to have it to focus."

But the oldest man didn't sit up, barely shifting at all.

Miles leaned over to touch his head. "Looks like just a bruise left of that injury. Does it--?" Just then, his pager went off. He silenced it, glancing at the message. "Excuse me for a few minutes. I have to take this." Without waiting for an answer, he was out the door, leaving Mac alone with Methos.

Mac sat on the edge of the bed, laid a hand lightly on Methos' shoulder. The green-gold eyes opened like slits in a blind, not completely wide but enough to see the glow of light. In this case, they revealed the anger that flickered in them.

"How do you feel?" Mac asked carefully.

Methos was in a waking nightmare, feeling like he barely had control and the bloody Scot was asking him how he felt. //Angry,// he thought immediately, //and scared.// Not that he was going to say that to MacLeod.

The glaring eyes focused on the Highlander, as he spoke sharply. "Like I was smashed in the head with a sword hilt by my best friend." Truthfully, it was little more than a dull headache now, but the sense of betrayal was a different kind of hurt.

"I'm sorry about that. I had no other choice, Methos."

"Yes, you did! You could have done what I asked!"

Shaken by the vehemence in Methos' voice, Mac sat back a little and immediately became defensive. "No, I couldn't. I couldn't take your head. Why are you so angry? Because I tried to save your life?"

Methos closed his eyes, swallowed hard. He looked as beaten as he felt, buried under the belief that he'd lost all hope of survival. "Don't you understand, MacLeod? I can't defeat him."

"Yes, you can! You can stop Kronos from taking control. He's only another Quickening inside you."

Slowly, Methos sat up, weariness evident in every movement. "It's not that simple. When I close my eyes, he's there. I'm afraid to sleep because I don't know how to keep him out."

Unexpectedly, Mac pulled the smaller man into his arms and hugged him fiercely. As he rubbed a strong hand across his back, Mac whispered, "Well, we'd better find a way 'cause I'm not gonna lose you to that bastard, Methos."

Methos didn't resist the Highlander's touch, instead he fell against his strong, sturdy body and let him hold him. //Oh, great!// an unhappy part of him groused about the circumstances. //Just great! I have his sympathy once again. Seems like it's the only time Mac can show any fondness for me. Shit! What does it matter? I'm going to die anyway.//

He forced himself to speak, his voice muffled slightly. "I don't think there is another way, Mac. We can't let him loose again and the only sure way I know is to kill the host."

"No! I won't accept that! What kind of hold does he have on you? Why do you let him scare you?"

"I just can't fight him. He's too strong. Anyway, who says I'm scared?" Methos muttered.

"It's all over your face. I should have seen it before when Kronos first showed up. You're afraid of him. Is it afraid of what he'll do... or what he did? Methos, talk to me. "

As the rough drag of Methos' intake of breath betrayed any lie he might have offered, the man who was once Death found he was shaking and very frightened. "I don't want to die, Mac. Not then, not now. When you want to live, you'll accept almost anything. Do almost anything. I would have betrayed you, but I couldn't kill you. I don't know how long I can hold out against Kronos though."

As MacLeod started to object again, they both sensed another Immortal approaching and MacLeod released Methos, pushed to his feet and took a couple of steps away. //So much for getting closer,// Methos thought with a regretful look tightening his mouth. //Don't let anyone know you give a fig, Mac.//

A moment later, Miles opened the door, stepping in just in time to detect the slightest movement and a feeling of tension in the room. His eyes flicked from MacLeod to Methos, then he smiled slightly and approached his friend. "Are you feeling better now?"

"Yeah. Until Kronos takes over again," Methos muttered unhappily.

Miles moved to the monitor to check the readings, then shut the current off.

Methos darted a sharp look at him. "What are you doing?"

"Turning it off. I think you can handle it from here," Miles answered as he quickly removed the electrodes. He saw the objection in the hazel eyes and spoke firmly. "I am not going to send a continuous stream of pain through your body. Sooner or later it would lose its effectiveness and right now, it's all we've got to fight this."

Methos swallowed hard, then nodded. "You're right. It's just the uncertainty. Kronos..." His voice trailed off. "Mac, why didn't you do what I asked?"

"Taking your head is not an option either, Methos. I am not going to let that bastard win." MacLeod was firm. Methos' shoulders sagged as he realized the Scot was going to be stubborn about it.

"I don't understand. Who is this Kronos?" Miles asked, his gaze traveling from Methos to MacLeod in quest of an answer.

Methos sat on the edge of the bed, hands pressed tightly against his thighs and eyes fixed on a point on the floor. He had to concentrate, he reminded himself, not let Kronos use him again. Unconsciously, his fingers dug into his thighs, seeking the discomfort to keep him sane.

"Kronos..." MacLeod repeated in a low voice. "How do I begin?"

"You don't," Methos said hoarsely. "I need to do this, Mac." His eyes came up gradually, meeting the deep brown ones. In that look, he tried to say, //I'm sorry I didn't tell you, that you had to learn it from Cassandra, but please let me avoid the same mistake now.//

"You're sure?"

"Yes. Please leave us alone for a few minutes."

"Methos-" Mac started to object.

"Please, Mac. It'll be all right."

Unexpectedly, Mac turned to the doctor. "You keep the tranq gun handy and keep your distance from him. If he gets closer than five feet, shoot him. You got that?"

//So much for a vote of confidence.// Methos felt a mixture of disappointment that Mac felt he had to issue that warning and gratitude that Mac issued the warning instead of assuming he would remain stable. Maybe there was hope for the Highlander.

At least Miles took Mac seriously, reaching for the tranq gun then deliberately moving several feet away from Methos. The old Immortal situated himself as comfortably as he could on the bed, leaning back against the wall and folding his knees up so he could brace his arms against them.

Methos closed his eyes and spoke in a quiet, unemotional tone, as if he was narrating a story. "A very long time ago, I was part of a... gang. There were four of us - Silas, Caspian, myself and Kronos. We were known for almost a thousand years as the Four Horsemen. We were raiders and we were murderers. We took whatever we wanted and left destruction behind." He opened his eyes and looked dead on at Rory.

The blue eyes were wide in surprise and a touch of disbelief, but he said nothing... only waited for Methos to go on. He continued in the same tone of voice, a quiet conversation with a friend, unlike the emotional outburst he'd let loose at MacLeod when the Scot had questioned him.

"Kronos was the leader and I was his second. I planned the raids, took care of the details. I was Death, Rory. Everywhere I went, people died. Before I joined the Horsemen, they were like every other group of raiders, but together we made something to truly be feared."

He paused, searching for a way to explain the incomprehensible to a man who had no frame reference for what he was talking about. How could you explain a world in which savagery was prevalent and cruelty an everyday occurrence? "Prior to my life with the Horsemen, I'd known a lot of violence, slavery and enough of the good life to know which I preferred. When I met Kronos, I thought the only way to survive was to join with him. I'm not going to deny that there was a sense of power and pleasure in killing people then. There was. It was all I really knew of life. I was a barbarian in many respects. Except I had a good brain. I was clever and reasonably well educated, thanks to a couple of stints as a slave to wealthy merchants in Babylon and Acadia."

Methos hazarded another look at Rory. He was still gazing at him as if at a total stranger and he looked a couple of shades paler than normal. His hand was tense on the tranq gun. Still, he said nothing, only waited.

"Rory, it took a long time before I realized there was more to life than violence and death. I eventually escaped from Kronos, locking him away where I hoped he would never escape and I began discovering what life was really about. And I began to understand what I was, not in the sense of Immortal, but in the sense of an emotional, thinking creature sharing the earth with others. I began to place value on humans as I learned that they were not so different. And I realized that I had, by any and all accounts, been a monster. What I had done was unforgivable." His voice broke a little at the end, the only indication of how much strain this confession had put on him.

Methos fell silent, closed his eyes again and wished there were a way to erase all of that nightmare from his mind. Two thousand years since it ended and it still plagued him, still reduced him to something horrific in people's eyes and made him an outcast. He had found hope when MacLeod had managed to accept that he was not the same person and when Kronos had died. Only Kronos wasn't completely dead... not so long as he carried part of his Quickening.

Rory found himself shaking as he tried to wrap his mind around what his friend was saying. It was like hearing one of the nightmarish fairy tales, only Methos was talking about himself, not some long dead ogre whose singular transgression became the fodder to terrorize imaginative children.

As the minutes stretched uncomfortably out, Rory realized that Methos was waiting for him to say something. He cleared his throat nervously, "I - uh-I think I'm going to need a little time to think about this. It's quite a story."

Methos nodded, a touch of bitterness in his voice as he echoed, "Yeah. Quite a story." He turned his gaze onto his friend, his eyes trying to tell Rory that what he was about to say was the truth and he could be believed. "Rory, I'm not that person any more. I don't like to fight. I try not to kill anyone, but being what we are, I can't avoid it sometimes. Believe me, I have changed."

Rory met his look, clearly seeing the message in them, but he couldn't handle it just now. He felt like he was suffocating, needed to get to fresh air. "Like I said, I need time, Methos. You're talking about places and things that have no basis in reality for me. Babylon, for God's sake! It's only a place talked about in the Bible! The Four Horseman? Shit! It's a lot to absorb! We'll talk later."

With that, he forced himself to move past Methos and out the door. He couldn't stop or control the feeling of unease as he passed Methos, the sense of fear creeping up his spine as he ventured near something that lived in nightmares.

With his back to the room, Rory didn't see Methos' shoulders slump in defeat as he left.

Rory continued in a straight path, not pausing to say anything to Duncan MacLeod as he left the room and made his way outside to the garden. His sanctuary... his place to think. His feet followed the path through the maze automatically as his mind tangled with the short version of a horrific chapter in Methos' life. It was a shock, there was no denying that much. He hadn't expected it to be a cheery tale of a great life, but he wasn't prepared for it to be quite as horrendous as what Methos had suggested. And right now, his imagination was having a field day with the complete vileness and extent of it.

Rory dropped heavily on the bench and tried to corral his thoughts, to bring some order to the graphic images he was seeing so easily. The worst part was that the images bounced from an ancient scene of murder and mayhem to a much more recent and relevant scene of people, both black and white, friend and foe, dying at the end of a bayonet or in a burst of fire from a rifle.

Closing his eyes, Rory clasped his hands in front of him and leaned forward, wishing that he could talk to Sean. When his own nightmares had plagued him, Sean had been there with his calm, illuminating logic helping him to put everything in its proper place. He needed that sanity right now. Damn MacLeod anyway! He brought his head up, opening his eyes to the late afternoon shadows, and tears of anguish leaked down his cheeks.

Finally moving, Rory opened the vault and went digging for a volume Sean Burns had written, a diary really, but it contained many of the words Sean had said to him when he'd agonized over the deaths he had felt personally responsible for inflicting. Sean had helped him come to terms with it, accept that the past was unchangeable but he was not and he could move on. Right now, he needed those words and the guidance that Sean had given him.

Rory sensed another Immortal approaching and hastily checked through another file, spotted the volume he was looking for, then turned quickly to exit the vault before the visitor arrived. He wasn't quite fast enough and MacLeod stepped into the heart of the garden before he had closed the door.

"I wondered about that vault," the Highlander said as he noted the diary in Rory's hand. "I didn't think it held any bodies, but it would be like Sean to store books in it. Especially books that he wouldn't want non-Immortals to know about."

Rory caught his breath. The last thing he wanted right now was an intruder in his garden... particularly this intruder. "He kept most of his collection here. I brought the last of them over after his death." He finished closing the vault and stepped away from the door.

MacLeod sat down on the bench facing Rory and leaned back. "He was my friend, Montgomery."

Rory shifted his gaze to the ground, not answering. Words welled in his throat and he wanted to scream them out at the irritating man. He had a lot of nerve to sit here in this garden and tell him that Sean was his friend. "Then how could you do what you did?" he asked tightly, emotions barely controlled.

The bigger man sighed deeply, a look of unfathomable sadness filling the brown eyes. "It shouldn't have happened. I didn't want it to happen any more than Methos wanted to kill you a month ago. Like him, I wasn't in control at the time, Montgomery. Believe me, I regret it and I wish I could undo it."

"That's what Adam told me a couple of years ago when I wanted to kill you. It was just hard to believe." The psychiatrist moved away from the vault, starting for the pathway back to his office. He needed to get away, to be alone.

"Methos needs your help," Mac said before Rory got very far. "No matter how terrible you think the things he's done are, he's still your patient."

Angrily, Rory whirled around. "Do you think I don't know that?! He's also my friend and right now, I have to come to terms with what he was and what he is. But that doesn't mean I'm going to abandon him because his past is tarnished. Don't try to guess what I'm feeling, MacLeod. " His eyes blazed with his emotions. He sure as hell didn't need this man to remind him of his obligations, especially when he had no intention of deserting Methos. Shaking with fury, he took a deep breath and stepped through the hedges to disappear.

MacLeod stared at the slightly rustling bush for a few moments, then sighed. //Well, I certainly handled that well,// he thought disparagingly. The Scot admitted he'd read the man wrong, thinking his reaction to Methos' past would put the man off as much as it had him when he'd first learned of it. In many ways, Montgomery was more like Sean Burns than he had expected. It was easy to see why Burns took him on.

Though not in a padded cell this time, Methos was, nonetheless, locked in for the night and neither Rory nor Mac chose to pay him another visit. An orderly shoved a tray of food through the door at him around eight, but he refused to answer any questions. Methos picked at the meal, ate about a third of it, then shoved it out of the way. He had expected Rory to stay away. The kid had swallowed a lot and would need to come to terms with it, but he thought MacLeod might be back. On the other hand, maybe he was afraid to get near again... even if he didn't have a sword.

Methos paced, fighting off sleep with movement. He couldn't let himself sleep, he'd decided. If he slept, Kronos could regain control. This was possibly the worst predicament of his life and he was drawing a blank on how to combat it. The only solution he could come up with resulted with him minus the top foot or so of his body and wasn't something he wanted to contemplate too long. If MacLeod had done what he'd asked, this would be all be over.

Only there might be more to an afterlife than he'd ever believed and it would be more of a torment than he could have imagined. //Paying for his sins,// he thought grimly, //in a big way. Forever at the command of Kronos. Always forced to do his bidding.// He shuddered and paced a little faster.

Methos huddled on the bed, arms wrapped tightly around his knees as he rocked back and forth, still trying to keep moving. At least this room had a window and he could see outside to the vineyard where it was now full morning and a few people walked through the rows of plants, pausing now and then to check out the progress of the developing grapes.

Hunger gnawed at his stomach, but the dregs of the food he'd rejected earlier were unappealing now. He felt somewhat abandoned and undeniably depressed. Okay, so neither Mac nor Rory wanted to talk to him right now - they could at least send food. Disappointment weighed heavily. //Why did I think it would be any different with Rory than it had been with MacLeod? Just because I told him? A monster is still a monster... no matter how much you change.//

The sensation crawled in his mind as another Immortal approached and he steeled himself to face whichever one it was. He turned to watch the door, then relaxed a little as the doctor entered. He wasn't alone. A pair of orderlies who looked like they could play American football accompanied him.

Rory's eyes did a quick inventory, noting the now cold meal and the dark shadows in Methos' face. The light stubble of the night's beard did little to make him look alert, but even more, his eyes told the story.

"Did you sleep at all?" Rory asked sharply, motioning to a technician to bring the monitoring equipment back in the room.

Methos shook his head. "Couldn't."

"Oh, that's a great solution to the problem. How long do you think you can go without sleep?" Rory's voice was caustic.

"A few days, if necessary."

Rory shook his head in response, clearly not impressed with Methos' solution to the immediate problem. "I'm reasonably sure of you, but I want to get a reading this morning. Just relax. This won't hurt."

It only took a few minutes to attach the electrodes and get a solid reading that satisfied Montgomery. As he removed them, he gave Methos a quick smile. "Care to join me for breakfast? We can eat on the patio."

"Can I clean up first? I could use a shower."

"Of course. Lyle will show you to the bath, then escort you from there."

Methos felt like he was talking to a casual acquaintance, or worse, yet, the physician Rory actually was. The doctor was keeping him at arm's length. He said nothing as he followed Lyle to a clean, but very basic shower. But when he'd finished soaping, scrubbing and shaving, he found a fresh pair of his own jeans and a charcoal gray Henley on a chair. The clean socks, however, were definitely Rory's.

By the time he joined the blonde, he was feeling a bit more positive and the smell of the fresh coffee was welcome. Rory smiled up at him, motioned to him to sit. "You look better. Hungry?"

Methos nodded, accepting the offered seat and the freshly poured coffee, then helped himself to the fruit and a Danish. "Where's MacLeod?" he asked finally.

"He went back to Paris last night. He said he'd be down later this morning." Rory helped himself to another roll.

Uncertain what to say next, Methos fell silent again and concentrated on eating. MacLeod had gone back to Paris, not even a word to him. That stung a bit.

As they finished up, Rory shoved his chair back and rose. "Let's walk a bit. It's a beautiful morning and the fresh air will do you good."

Methos fell into step by him. "Finding a way to rid myself of an unwanted Quickening would do me more good," he mumbled.

"Can't argue with you there. I'm open to suggestions."

"I wish I had some. I don't see any options, Rory. I can't fight Kronos and I can't control it."

"Well, you can't give up, either," the younger man answered firmly. "And since you brought it up, did you kill Kronos?"

Methos laughed dryly, glancing up at the sky before looking directly at Rory, who watched him curiously. "That's the real irony of this situation. No, I didn't kill him, but he found a way to get to me anyway. Only fair, I guess. I did engineer his death."

"I don't understand," Rory prompted when Methos didn't continue.

"I manipulated MacLeod and Kronos to get them in a position where MacLeod could take his head. My own part in it involved killing another friend, Silas." There was a touch of sadness in his voice, a gauge of the pain that still lingered over his part in the death of the Horsemen. "We - MacLeod and I- managed to conclude our respective battles simultaneously and it appears to have allowed Kronos' Quickening to transfer to me. Curiously enough, the last battle I fought before this nightmare started had to do with Silas' death, a bit more retribution I hadn't anticipated. I never dreamed the Quickening personalities were so complete - that the essence of the Immortal is really there."

They walked in silence for a few minutes before Methos spoke again. His voice was soft, the raw edge of emotion making it sound shaky. "I nearly killed MacLeod... Hell, I nearly killed you, Rory,-- would have if someone hadn't stopped me."

Rory nodded. "I didn't think you remembered."

"Oh, yeah. I remember. Some of it is jumbled, some of what I did and said as those ...other people. But most of the memories are there -- not mine exactly, but it was my body. I was still there, still aware... only I couldn't control it. Couldn't control what I did."

"I understand, Methos. I know what you went through." His voice was sympathetic, a typical doctor's response that inexplicably annoyed Methos.

"No, you don't know! Mac doesn't know. Amanda doesn't know and you sure as hell don't know! You can't know. Even if -- even if you've had a similar experience, like Mac has, even then, it's not the same!" Methos had unconsciously folded his arms tightly across his chest and hunched his shoulders. His eyes blazed with the intensity of his emotions.

"You can't relate to me, to what happened," he continued. "You aren't me. Even if the same thing happened to you, it would be different. Each of us has his own uniqueness, his own experiences, fears and weaknesses that he carries into every situation. What I went through wouldn't be the same for you or Amanda or Mac. It's unique to me!"

He paused to catch his breath, ready to continue the tirade until he focused on Rory. The blonde had almost mirrored his stance, shoulders slumped and arms folded, except his head tilted toward the ground, eyes riveted to a crack in the pavement. The tight line of his jaw indicated his teeth were clenched and he'd most likely ceased to listen.

Regretting the angry outburst now, Methos let the intake of breath out in an audibly exasperated sigh. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have blown up like that."

Rory's reply was a little strained, his emotional hurt cutting through the reconciliatory words. "It's okay. You're right. I don't know. It was a poor choice of words."

Less than ten feet away, the two orderlies watched closely, the tranq gun readied if it was needed. It was an indication of how vehement Methos had gotten. This whole situation was so difficult. As he took another calming breath, the sweet scent of blooming honeysuckle overlaid with the new fragrance of the roses and carnations became obvious, a poignant reminder of just how much he stood to lose. Then, unexpectedly, he detected the heavy rich odor of damp dirt as a gardener dug up the rich soil to replace a dead bush. Nausea churned his stomach as dozens of memories of death and being buried assaulted him, screaming urgently like a beckoning call. Death would be permanent this time, no escape!

//It will all be over, brother. All of this beauty and life you cling to so desperately. But you'll be with me and I'll show what hell is. Come join me, Methos. You belong here.// Kronos' voice was so clear that he was sure he must have spoken through him, said the words out loud.

"No!" he choked out, the single word denial rising like a gunshot in the serenity of the garden. He couldn't breathe, gasped for air.

Rory filled his vision, concern on his face and his mouth moving as he spoke, but Methos couldn't hear. There was a roaring in his ears. He felt Rory's hands on him, grabbing him in a firm grip as his arms wrapped around him and pulled him sideways. Rory shoved and he felt his knees buckle, then he thudded onto cold, hard stone. The surprisingly strong hand cupped the back of his neck and pushed forward, forcing his head down until he was bent nearly double and his head was lower than his knees. He recognized the stone bench from the upside down vantage and peered at the green grass and flower stalks growing out of blue sky.

"...deep breath. That's it, Methos. Just take another deep breath." Rory's voice finally came through, calm and steady. His hand slipped to Methos' wrist, counting the beats that pulsed against his fingertips.

Stubbornly, Methos started to raise his head and straighten up, but Rory pushed against the dark hair again. "Not yet. Give it a couple of more minutes. Come on, take another breath. Good... and again."

The hand against his hair stroked it reassuringly, encouraging him to calmness. //What the hell just happened?// Methos asked himself, frightened by the whole incident. Kronos was right there, waiting for him, talking to him. He'd never let him go... not in life, not in death.

He felt Rory's arms around him, pulling gently and he raised his head. "Rory, I -- I'm... I have no hope."

Rory held him, hugged him affectionately. "That's not true. As long as you're alive, you have hope. You can beat him, Methos. Let me help you."

"It's not that easy..."

"I didn't say it would be easy. I said I could help."

Methos compressed his lips, looked away from Rory and let his field of vision encompass the color-coordinated blend of the gardens, the lush greens and browns of the vineyards and the bright blue of the sky. A teasing breeze blew across his face like a lover's kiss, filled with the scent and promise of life. In spite of the warmth of the day, he shivered. "Rory, you haven't a clue what you're doing here. You don't know how to help."

Rory's hand slipped to the back of his neck, his thumb rubbing just below his ear. "Surprisingly enough, in this situation, I do. But you have to cooperate. The reason you can't beat Kronos is because you believe you can't and that's something I can help you resolve. You have to open up, Methos. You need to let people in."

//Let people in? I let them in and they go screaming in horror. Look what happened when Mac found out about the Horsemen. Look what it cost me to tell him. And Rory wants me to talk about it?// Methos' thoughts raced as he continued to stare straight ahead.

"You don't need to tell me about everything, only about your relationship with Kronos... how you met him and what your status was with him. Can you do that?"

"Are you sure you can handle it?" he answered dully. "It might lead you to the conclusion that I deserve to die. That it's only fit I should join Kronos."

//He can't help you,// Kronos' voice seemed to whisper in his mind. //What does a mere boy know about us? He has no frame of reference, won't be able to comprehend what we were and what we did, Methos. You, my brother, have outlived your purpose. You belong with me.//

Methos barely heard Rory's answer over the insistent voice. "I already know you were a monster, that you did unspeakable things by today's standards. I also think you've changed in so many ways since that time, but I'm not your judge. I'm your friend and, ancient demon or not, I don't want to lose you. Will you let me help you?"

Dimly, he realized Rory was offering hope... hope that he might somehow defeat or at least banish Kronos from his psyche, hope that he could continue to live. He nodded.


continued in part nine...