Author's Notes:

This is an unfolding drama and as such, there are threads left hanging, which hopefully will be tied up before I run out of steam in this series. Actually, I'm thinking the end of this series is near, not because I'm bored with it, but because I'm accomplishing what I set out to do: restoring Methos by exposing his past and removing the grime that dulled his colors. However, even if I finish the series, I haven't finished with Duncan, Methos, and Joe. I'll just have to find something else for them to tackle.

Oh, the Latin exorcism rite I excerpted from can be found at http://www.logoschristian.org/catholic.html. If there's something grammatically incorrect about the Latin, forgive me. I can't read or write the language; I merely cut-and-pasted.

Hope you enjoy!

Restoration Series #5

WHAT LIES WITHIN

by

D.L. Witherspoon

(Posted 08-01-00)


What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Chapter One

Duncan MacLeod was pissed and he didn't care who knew it. Students who passed him in the wide hallways of Seacouver University stopped or stepped out of his way as he breezed by them, so focused on his goal that he didn't even notice their existence. Several worried that something dreadful had happened because everyone knew Mr. MacLeod was an easy going man with a ready smile and infinite patience. If something had gotten him that stressed--

Then those same students remembered whose office was at the end of the long corridor, and they relaxed. No doubt this was just part of the game their beloved Mr. MacLeod was playing with his best friend, the equally beloved Dr. Adam Pierson. It had all started with Mr. MacLeod signing up Dr. P. for the Faculty Talent Show. To everyone's delight, and no doubt Mr. MacLeod's surprise, Dr. P. had blown away the competition. But even in Dr. P.'s triumph, there had been a bright promise of revenge in his eyes. Apparently, the games were afoot again and the students groaned when they realized it was the last week of the semester. Surely Dr. P. wouldn't deny them the chance to see how he paid Mr. MacLeod back. No. Dr. P. respected them too much to leave them wondering over the summer. They'd just have to keep their eyes peeled for fireworks.

Oblivious to all the speculation, Duncan left the students behind, walked smartly to the door at the end of the hall, glared at the sign that read, "404 Dr. Adam Pierson, Professor of Linguistics", then shoved the door open. Two seconds later he mumbled a quick apology and stumbled backwards into the hallway. Five minutes later, the student with whom Adam was in conference came out of the office. The large African-American male's eyes were suspiciously bright and there were visible streaks on the coffee-colored cheeks, but the voice was whole and deep when he informed Duncan that Dr. P. said for him to drag his uncivilized butt on in. So Duncan, who had every intention of blasting his friend upon his arrival, opened with an apology instead.

"Just be more careful in the future," the good Dr. P. said with an impish grin. "Or I shall make you write on the chalkboard a hundred times, 'I will knock before entering.'"

"You know where you can stick that chalk, Adam," Duncan replied. "You having problems?"

"With Mr. Turner? Don't be ridiculous."

"He'd been crying, Adam. Don't tell me you've been playing Oprah. Or is it Dr. Ruth?" he asked with a grin.

Hazel eyes rolled in their sockets. "Actually, he did come to me for advice. He's been offered a full scholarship for graduate school here at SU, but he's also been selected to go into the football draft-- which is how the Americans choose who become professional athletes and what teams they will play for. Guess it beats a military draft hands down. Anyway, Mr. Turner was concerned about the choices he'd been offered.

"What does he want to do?"

"Go to graduate school. He has aspirations of becoming just like me. I was touched." Adam beamed proudly.

Duncan shook his head. "No, he's the one who's 'touched' if he sees you as his idol. Are you going to be his faculty advisor next semester?"

"I told him to participate in the draft."

Duncan looked at him, stunned. "One, I thought you would have been flattered to have a protege following in your footsteps. Two, you've had your head in a book ever since I met you; surely you of all people would emphasize academics over athletics. And three, you don't even like American football."

"But the players make so much money, Mac."

"Methos!" Duncan said sharply, his surprise and dismay making him slip and call his friend by his real name. "You know money means nothing!"

"So says the man who drives a classic car, shops for designer clothes in Paris, and owns a fortune in antiques," Adam said dryly.

"As if you don't have money stashed away on every continent."

"Exactly, MacLeod. I know the value of having money. And I know Mr. Turner has never had quite enough. Mortals have such short lives. Doesn't he deserve to spend some of it not worrying about money? Do you know what he wants to buy with his first paycheck? A washer and dryer for his mother. For twenty-five years she's worked the laundry room of a hotel so her son could concentrate on getting an education instead of falling asleep in class because of the hours he worked. Now, he wants her to do her laundry and no one else's."

"That means she would be very proud of him if he got a Master's or a Doctorate degree."

"Proud, but still poor, Mac. By being drafted, he can make her proud and the owner of a Neptune washing system."

"But playing professional sports can be dangerous."

"Everything is dangerous to them, MacLeod. Yet they still manage to go on, to not only endure, but to progress. I am humbled by the spirit and will of these mortals. But about the danger. Mr. Turner and I both agree that he signs no more than a five-year contract, and that the bulk of his pay be invested for the future. I can't imagine anyone trying to survive on Adam Pierson's paycheck alone," Methos said with a shudder.

"Well, it's bigger than mine, Doctor Pierson," Duncan pointed out. "He's going to have to be very careful about who he puts in charge of his money though. People love to take advantage of athletes."

"He's graduating magna cum laude; he's not an idiot," Adam said defensively.

"I didn't say he was. I just thought you should warn him about--"

"The evil that men do? I'm intimately aware of such things, and of course I've warned him. Besides, he's already decided who's going to be his manager."

"Who?"

"Me."

Duncan stared at him. "How did you manipulate him into that?"

Hard eyes stared back. "If Richie had suddenly come into a large sum of money, who would he have turned to, MacLeod?" Adam asked icily.

Duncan didn't have to think about that one. Richie Ryan had been his student so therefore he would have-- He blinked as he realized what Adam was telling him; a student was a student whether Immortal or mortal. But how could that be? Teaching mortals was just a job. For an Immortal to take on a student was a sacred trust because it was a life and death necessity. Surely, there could be no comparison between the two. Then he thought about how Methos had taken Mr. Turner under his wing when the young man had taken Introductory Linguistics because it was the only class he could fit into his schedule. And he thought about how the football player had responded to Methos' care. Maybe that, too, had been a necessity.

"You're amazing."

Adam grinned. "Yes, I've been told that on occasion."

Duncan shook his head. "You honestly don't see us as separate anymore, do you? Is it because we're all so young in comparison? Or is it that you can see our natures and know that beneath it all, we're all the same?"

"We are all the same, Mac. And we are not. I don't have an early warning system to alert me to an approaching mortal, but neither is it necessary to assess the danger of that mortal to my immortal self-- not usually anyway. However, we are all fundamentally human in our actions and our reactions. A student is a student. A friend is a friend."

"Maybe that Watcher in Rome was right. Maybe you should speak to graduates at the Watcher Academy."

"Sure, Mac. I'll take the stage right after you."

"Speaking of stages," Duncan began, eager to change the subject before he ended up taking a challenge to do something he didn't want to do. "You want to tell me why I had a note in my campus mailbox from Dr. Tomlinson?"

"Kinky, was it?"

"She's eighty-two years old, Adam!"

"Not quite a fourth your age. Hmm. I see your problem, MacLeod, but I really don't see anyone accusing you of robbing the cradle," Adam pointed out helpfully.

"That's it, Old Man," Duncan growled. "Tell me why Dr. Tomlinson thinks I volunteered to be the model for her senior art class's final exam."

"A model? I always knew you were an exhibitionist."

"Adam!"

"What? You mean you didn't volunteer? Are you sure, Mac? I mean, I couldn't possibly see anyone volunteering you for such a public act. That would be downright rude to just sign you up for something that could be potentially humiliating. Don't you agree?"

Duncan sighed, and Adam grinned. "I don't have to be nude or anything, do I?" the Scot asked, knowing he had to take his medicine like a man.

Adam snickered. "Of course not. I told my esteemed colleague that I thought capturing the folds of your kilt would be an interesting challenge for her students."

Duncan groaned. "Is this it then? Will my debt to you be paid?"

"Never, Highlander. But this may buy you a few years," Adam teased. "You know, I could--" He paused, looked at the door, and stood suddenly.

Duncan stood as well, thinking Adam had sensed an Immortal nearby. When he never felt anything, he turned back to his friend, just in time to see Adam collapse.

Chapter Two

"Adam!" He raced around the desk. "Methos, what happened?" he asked, kneeling next to the dazed Immortal, who was sitting on the floor, his legs splayed wide.

"I...I don't know. Suddenly, it was as if I had the strength of a newborn and I collapsed." Methos reached for the hand Duncan offered, then smiled grimly when his fingers refused to curl around the strong wrist. "Apparently, I was a bit premature in my analysis. Even a newborn has the ability to grasp."

"Just rest a minute," Duncan prescribed. Whatever had happened, Methos was Immortal; his body was already repairing whatever had gone wrong.

"I don't like this," Methos muttered. "I don't like this at all."

Duncan nodded sympathetically. Immortals got used to having infallible bodies. "It's okay. We've all had moments of weakness."

"It's not my pride that's hurt, you bloody fool! If I can't hold your arm, I can't hold my sword!" Methos spat out. "What if I'd been by myself when this happened? I'd be a sitting duck for any wandering Immortal."

Duncan's eyes widened. "You think this was done intentionally? A delayed reaction poison? It can't be anything airborne because I'm okay. Maybe I should call Joe, see who's new in town."

"That's a good--" Methos words were cut off as he doubled over.

Duncan kept him from toppling as the older Immortal fought through the pain that gripped him. "Damn, you were poisoned," he said as Methos took a shuddering breath.

"No," Methos whispered. "It doesn't feel like a poisoning."

"Then what could it be? Somebody put a spell on you?" Duncan questioned dryly. Hazel eyes which were nearly black with pain stared into his. "What? You've run into any witches lately?" He could have kicked himself as soon as he said it. "Cassandra." The Witch of Donan Woods. Hadn't they all concluded she was the one who had sent the Hunters after Methos several weeks ago? Damn her.

Methos shook his head. "I'm immune to Cassandra's 'charms'. But that's not to say magic isn't involved."

"You actually believe in magic? I mean, what Cassandra does is just illusion."

"Cassandra and David Copperfield aren't the only magicians around." Methos tried his body. "I think I can make it to the chair." With Mac's help--actually the Highlander did most of the work--Methos sank into his office chair. "As long as there's been the unexplainable, MacLeod--the rising and setting of the sun, the changing of the seasons, the movement of the tides--there have been gods. Man, being the opportunistic bastard that he is, figured out there had to be a way to manipulate these gods. Thus, magic was created. No, not the magic you know, but that which is more ancient, that which succeeded so well it was banned to the realm of superstition and legend so that it would not be used again. It's an overwhelming power. Dangerous. Hard to control. Usually demanding a terrible payment."

"And you think someone may be using that kind of power against you?"

"It's possible. But then again, what isn't?" he asked acerbically, trying to gain control of the situation.

Duncan sighed and leaned back against the desk. "Are we talking personal vendetta or just a general attack against the oldest?"

"Maybe a little of both. I admit it, MacLeod; I've pissed off quite a number of people in my very long lifetime. But for someone to have the skill to do what was just done to me...they'd have to be quite old themselves. I was completely helpless. He or she had to expend an incredible amount of power to pull off such a trick."

"You seem to know a lot about something that has been banned to the 'realm of superstition and legend'. Were you a practitioner of this--"

"Black magic, sorcery, witchcraft, necromancy?" Methos supplied dutifully.

"Were you a practitioner of all of the above?"

"Practitioner? Hmm. I'm not sure I'd call myself a practitioner, but I have some knowledge of the art."

"Some knowledge? Or are you an adept?" Duncan pushed. Getting the truth out of Methos required a series of well-defined questions and the constitution of a bull.

Methos frowned. "I'm not sure."

"Methos."

"I'm not playing a game, Highlander. I'm not sure of anything at the moment. And let me tell you, I don't like not knowing everything about myself. I thought I was a good person when I was mortal, and I was wrong. I told you I didn't know anything about demons, and I was wrong. I can tell you that to the best of my knowledge, I stayed away from such studies because I knew that in the long run, dabbling in such matters was risky and the deals made to have access to such power usually did not benefit the one making such deals. But as soon as you said the word 'magic', it sounded right, and I don't know how I recognized that." Methos lifted an arm and ran his fingers through his short dark hair.

Duncan realized Methos was being as honest as he could be, so he backed off. "Let's get you out of here and somewhere safe, then we'll try to figure this mess out. Think you can walk?"

"I'll give it the ol' college try. Go Wildcats!"

"I think your Mr. Turner has been a bad influence on you," Duncan said as he readied himself to catch his friend if he started to fall.

"And you thought it was the other way around," Methos said as he tested the ability to stand upright. He smiled with relief when his legs didn't collapse beneath him. Now to walk. A tentative step, followed by another. Not exactly Olympic material, but at least he'd bypassed the toddler stage. "I think we have a go. Just walk ahead of me on the stairs so I'll have something soft to land on if I fall."

"The name's Duncan, not Cushion."

"Cushion MacLeod of the Couch MacLeods. I kinda like it," Methos said as he carefully made his way out of his office.

Duncan laughed and shook his head. "You're a very sick man."

"But amusing. That's always a plus, MacLeod."

Conversation halted as they reached the two flights of stairs. Instead of walking ahead, Duncan stayed by Methos' side, hands ready to grab him at any time. Methos' hands stayed on the smooth wood bannister, and he was constantly on alert for another "wave" of magic intent on sucking out his strength. The trek proved event free, but Methos was still grateful as he sank onto the top outside step to wait on MacLeod who had gone to get the car.

"Enjoying the sun, Adam?"

Biting back a curse, Adam turned toward his fellow professor Rose Bacall. It wasn't that he didn't like Rose, but he really didn't think he was up to small talk. "It seemed a shame to waste it," he said politely.

"Or maybe he's hiding from MacLeod," Ed Robbins said as he, Gray Morgan, and Victoria Moon came out of the building.

Damn. Had they moved the Faculty Lounge outside? No. They were painting it. Adam groaned silently. "Why would I be hiding from MacLeod?"

"I heard he's gonna be posing for Tomlinson's art class-- wearing a skirt."

"Actually a kilt is a very manly garment," Morgan commented, wondering why he hung around such a Philistine. Just because the Math and Physics Departments shared the same building and Robbins was always nice enough to save him an eclair every morning....

"And sexy," Victoria added. "Think we can get Theodora to exhibit her students' work?"

"I've already reserved a hall in the Fine Arts building for such a showing at the start of the Fall Semester," Adam admitted with a faint smile.

"That's our Adam," Rose said, joining him on the step. She looked closely at him. "You seem a bit pale."

"Must be why I'm sitting in the sun," Adam said dryly.

A mother of three boys, Rose ignored him and reached out to touch his forehead. "You have a fever."

"He's not contagious, is he?" Robbins asked.

"Why don't you come here and find out," Adam snapped.

"Maybe we should get Duncan," Victoria said.

"I'll go," Morgan volunteered.

Adam sighed. Why couldn't the clucking hens mind their own business? "MacLeod has gone to get the car." And my sword from my car. But that won't help me deal with you people.

"You're having a time fighting that flu you picked up several weeks ago, aren't you?" Rose said sympathetically. "Maybe you went back to work a little too soon. Surely the world can do without you for a short time."

"Maybe not," Adam said softly. Something was happening and he might be the only one old enough to stop it. God, he hated when that happened. "I'll be fine, Rose. Just feeling out of sorts."

"You have a fever, Adam. That's nothing to play around with. What does your doctor have you taking?"

"My doctor?" Shit. Where the hell are you, MacLeod?

The sleek black Thunderbird pulled up smoothly. "Having a party without me?" Duncan asked as he exited the car.

"You need to question Adam's doctor about his prescriptions, Duncan," Rose said sternly. "I think he's reacting badly to them."

"Uh, sure, Rose. I'll do that."

"You feeling okay, MacLeod?"

Duncan looked at Robbins. "Yeah. Why?"

"Just wanted to make sure you ain't caught what he has."

"Ed, shut up," the usually easygoing Rose said. "Nobody wants to hear your mouth when they're sick. You and Gray come here and help Duncan get Adam into the car."

"I can get to the car by myself, Rose." Adam wondered at what point he had stopped being her colleague and turned into one of her children.

"Don't be a stubborn goose." She directed the men to walk on either side of the obviously ailing man. "Duncan, make sure he gets lots of fluids. And he needs to rest. If he says he's feeling better, don't believe him."

"Yes, ma'am." Duncan smirked as Adam shook off Robbins' guiding hand.

Five minutes later, Adam had been belted into the T'bird, and MacLeod drove off amidst a hail of "I hope you feel better"s and "Take care of him, Duncan"s.

"What's the name of that store where you can buy sneezing powder?" Methos asked wickedly. "I want to get some for Robbins. Watch him run screaming that I've given him my disease."

"Be nice, Methos. That's just Robbins' way of showing that your health matters to him. He was really worried about you when the dean sent you home. They all were. And if you don't start looking healthier soon, Rose is going to adopt you."

"Meddlesome."

"Caring."

Methos clicked on the radio, signifying the conversation was over.

"To recap this afternoon's top story: authorities are searching for seventeen-year-old Michael Lampley who is wanted in connection to the brutal murders of his parents, brother, and sister. The Lampley family were found in their home earlier today, their throats slashed in what looks to be a ritualistic killing. Channel...."

"Methos!"

He blinked, trying to figure out what was going on. The car was pulled off into a nearly empty parking lot and MacLeod was leaning over him, calling his name. "What happened?"

"You squealed, then you passed out."

"I did not squeal, MacLeod," Methos said adamantly. "Did I?" he asked unhappily.

"How about 'cried out'?" Duncan tried patiently.

Methos stared at his hands dejectedly. "I squealed and passed out. A beautiful and respected colleague calls me a stubborn goose. And I go ass over teakettle in my office. This has not been a good day, not at all."

"More magic tricks?"

Methos shook his head. "I think I lost it because of the news report."

Duncan struggled to remember what had been on the radio. "The killings? Why?"

"I did it."

Duncan frowned. And he talks about my guilty feelings. "You didn't kill that family, Methos. You've been at the university all morning."

"Not that family. Mine."

Chapter Three

Silence.

"Got any of those plastic bags left that the kind officer gave you at Christmas?"

"You're going to be sick?"

Methos stared out the window and took a deep breath. "No. I don't deserve the relief being sick would give me."

Duncan examined the steering wheel. "You killed your parents?"

"We don't have parents."

"Cut the bullshit, Methos. Neither of us is in the mood."

"I didn't kill the people who raised me. Or at least I don't know if I killed the people who raised me. I haven't remembered quite that far back."

"So this is something you did as an Immortal?"

"No. I was mortal."

--Flashback--


Sometime During The Early Days Of Civilization (translated into English because the original language is very, very dead.)

"The harvest will be excellent this year thanks to you, my son."

Methos beamed at the praise. "Thanks be to the gods for giving me the idea of cutting trenches from the river to the fields, Father."

Isshar smiled. "The gods smiled upon me when your eyes fell upon Inna and you found her suitable for a wife."

"Your daughter is far more than suitable, Father."

"Even though she hasn't given you children?"

"We have Abda's children. They are more than enough at the moment." His brother-in-law and wife had perished during the flood three seasons back.

"You are a good man, Methos. Come. The evening meal is ready."

He nodded and followed his father-in-law into the family dwelling.

"Methos?"

After dinner he went outside to his favorite perch: a flat-topped rock on a rise near the edge of Isshar's domain. From it he could see for miles all around. He jerked around at the sound of the soft voice, but then recognized the dulcet tones of his wife. "I'm sorry, Inna. I was lost in thought."

Inna folded herself at her husband's feet. "Where do you go, beloved, as you stare at the lights of heaven? Father says you are communing with the gods and that we should not disturb you."

He stroked the fine dark strands of her hair. He'd often wondered why the entire household left him alone for so long. "Perhaps they are communing with me, my love, but I understand naught of what they say."

She shook her head. "You cannot deceive me, my husband. I feel the restlessness in you. I see the way your eyes wander as you walk with Father. The gods have told you of an ill wind's approach and you seek not to worry us."

"Why would the gods talk to me?"

Inna lay her head in his lap. "We all can see the differences between you and us. Your noble presence of nose, your eyes which accept no single color, your mind which anticipates problems and solves them long before the rest of the men can perceive an error at all. At the very least you are the gods' messenger, interpreting their instructions for us."

"And at the most?"

"You are one of them."

"I am not a god, Inna. A god would have been able to give you a child by now."

"Unless I am unworthy to bear such wondrous seed."

"You are far more worthy than I."

Inna turned around to stare into the odd, changeable eyes that she loved. "Mourn quickly for me, Methos. I worry about you being alone. It is not good for you."

"I say the same to you, Inna, although it saddens me to think of you in another's arms."

"Then think no more of it. We both know that the gods won't call you back to their realm until your task is done. I am honored that I am the first you have loved, but I will not be your last."

"I do love you, Inna."

"May the gods always walk with their beloved, my husband. May their favor shine upon you. May their love never dim." She lifted her head to kiss his brow, sealing her blessing.

He wrapped his arms around her and held her close.

--End Flashback--

"What happened?" Duncan asked when Methos fell silent.

"Two days later, I cut their throats while they slept. Inna, her parents, the three children we were raising. I remember noting how warm their blood was as it spurted into the air. It was very different from beheading an Immortal. Perhaps it was because the blades in those days could not hold an edge for long," he said with seeming indifference.

"Why?" Duncan's voice was hoarse.

"That's what the rest of the family asked when I was dragged before them. I didn't know the answer then, but now I suspect it had something to do with the demon. I think he possessed that poor child to get my attention, perhaps to make me remember."

"Or maybe it's a challenge."

Methos shrugged. "They say you never forget your first. I guess 'they' were wrong again."

"Your first love or your first murder?" Duncan asked bitterly, regretting the question before it finished passing his lips.

"Ah, but we don't know if it was my first, dear friend. I was a man at that time. I could have been killing for years before then," Methos pointed out, his voice full of loathing. "Apparently becoming Death wasn't as original an idea as I thought millennia later."

"Don't, Methos."

"Don't what, MacLeod? Don't feel bad about not only being an Immortal homicidal maniac, but also a mortal one? Poor Inna had it backwards; I was not beloved of the gods, but eternally cursed."

"Look, I know that you harbored certain hopes about your mortal existence, but don't lose sight of the demon in this, Methos. If it isn't my fault that I killed Richie, then it isn't your fault that your family died."

Even upset, Methos recognized a trap when he saw one. If he took the blame for the murders, then MacLeod would go back to blaming himself for Richie's death. And he'd worked too damn hard changing the Scot's mind on that one. "Just take me home, MacLeod."

"Only to get you a change of clothes or two. We're staying together until this situation is resolved. As you pointed out, you couldn't even hold a sword earlier."

Methos slumped against the door, as if trying to get as far away from Mac as possible. "After learning who I am, what I've done, how can you still believe I'm worthy of your protection, Highlander?"

"Maybe because I too have been the pawn of a demon. Maybe because I can see the true regret you have for your actions. Maybe because I know that the man you are today is not the same man who did those terrible things. You've taught me-- no, you've shown me the path of acceptance, Methos. Now it's time for you to travel it as well." Duncan started the car and continued on to Methos' apartment.

"They're up there," Methos said, stiffening suddenly.

"Who?"

"The boy and the demon. They're in my apartment." Duncan reached for his car door. "No, MacLeod. We can't confront them now."

"You want that boy killing everyone in your building?"

"What I want is irrelevant-- always has been," Methos shot out. "But what the hell are we supposed to do? We could kill the boy with our swords, but the demon will merely laugh his fucking head off and still do as he pleases."

"So your solution is to run away and let both keep on destroying? Like Kronos?"

"Kronos is dead."

"Two thousand years of murder and mayhem later."

"Who was just preaching to me about acceptance?"

"I accept who you were, Methos. I just still have trouble with you leaving Kronos and Caspian alive. I know they were your family, but you had to know their wanton behavior would not stop after you left."

Methos got out of the car and started walking down the street.

Chapter Four

Duncan watched him for a long minute before swearing and starting the car. At the end of the block, he pulled into a space, and got out, leaning against the car as he waited for Methos to reach him. Guiltily, he noted that the older Immortal was still not steady on his feet, and he belatedly realized that if Methos knew what awaited him in his apartment, then the magic, or whatever the hell it was, still had to be affecting him. He really should have left the "K" word out of the conversation.

"Adam--" he began as soon as Methos was in hearing distance.

Methos stopped, wrapping his long arms around his middle protectively. "Go away, MacLeod."

Three steps had Mac at his side. "You're going to fall flat on your face," he said worriedly, reaching for Methos' arm.

Methos stepped back, stumbling slightly. "No! Take your judgments and go. It's too much, even for me. I can't deal with the past, and the present, and your condemnation simultaneously. I just can't. And I won't." He swayed dangerously.

Duncan backed off a bit, giving Methos space to regain his balance. "I'm sorry, Adam. You're right. This isn't something that you should be dealing with right now. Consider it tabled for the foreseeable future. But I won't make you any promises about the next decade or two."

"I'd prefer at least a century, but I'll take what I can get," Methos said casually. "And what about the way I want to handle the demon?"

"It's your demon, Adam. When our positions were reversed, you allowed me to proceed as I saw fit--"

"I thought you were insane," Methos said, discounting Mac's revisionist version of what had happened.

"Is that why you disappeared afterwards? Because you thought I was crazy? Because you thought I might take your head? No. Because if you were truly worried about that you would have taken my head when I offered you my sword. I know you, old friend. I think at that moment you realized the demon was real. I also think you thought about tracking me down, then realized I was better off on my own."

"What I think is that you think too much, and I would appreciate it if you would do the thinking in your car as I would dearly love to sit down before I fall down. I didn't like it in the privacy of my office, and I am reasonably sure I'll like being a public spectacle even less."

"Wouldn't it be easier to just say, 'I need to sit down, Mac'?"

"Will it make you open the car door faster?"

"What I was trying to say," Duncan said as they finally got settled in the car, "is that I respect your ability to deal with this demon, this threat. I am here if you need me, or if you need me to leave you alone, I won't like it, but I'll go. I only ask that you explain, or let me explain it to Joe. The last time we both just walked away, and it hurt him."

"You know, I'm remembering that wonderful time in my life when I answered to no one but myself. Make a right at the corner."

"Bullshit. You may have had no one to answer to, but I doubt if it was all that wonderful."

"Stay out of my head, MacLeod. It's a dark, and dangerous place."

"And what about your soul?"

"Equally dangerous. Pull into the U-Store-It drive and stick this in the slot." Methos handed Duncan a coded key card.

"You have some chronicles stored here?"

"I have many things stored globally. One acquires a certain amount of baggage when one lives such a bounteous life. In fact, I think I have a velvet Elvis painting in a little town in Germany. Go to Bay 119. I'll be out in a minute."

"I don't even get to peek?" Duncan asked, not really pouting but close enough to it that Methos sighed and motioned him out of the car.

"You know if you were so concerned about Joe, you would spend this time on your super deluxe cell phone and update him on the situation," Methos pointed out as he opened the garage-like door.

"I'll call him on the way back. Jesus, Methos! Do you have enough boxes in here or what?" Rows of shelves spread out before them, each shelf laden with look-alike boxes. "Tell me you have a system."

"I have a system."

Duncan looked for markings on the boxes. There were none. "We could be here all night." Considering he was going to get a glimpse into the things Methos thought important enough to keep, that didn't sound like such a bad way to spend an evening.

"Or we can be out of here in five," Methos said, heading straight for a box on the third shelf to his right. He opened it, took out a smaller wooden box, sealed the original box shut, and placed it back on the shelf. "Ready, MacLeod?"

"You're an evil man."

Methos grinned. "Yes, quite. Come on. I'm sure--"

He opened his eyes to find Duncan kneeling beside him. "This is getting bloody annoying. I do not appreciate someone else pulling my strings like I'm some fucking little marionette. Whoever, whatever this is, is getting close to making me angry. I don't do angry very well. Help me up, MacLeod."

"You seemed to have recovered faster."

"I know the game they're playing now. Where's my box?" Duncan handed him the wooden chest that had fallen to the floor, but not opened. "Kneel before me."

Duncan took a step back. "What?"

"Do you want to help me or not?"

Duncan sank to his knees, not knowing what to expect. However, Methos draping a necklace over his head was not in any of his imaginings. Nor were the familiar Latin words or the benevolent kiss on his forehead. "Don't tell me you were a Catholic priest," he commented softly as he looked closer at the cross Methos had bestowed around his neck.

"I have been many things."

"You don't believe in Christ."

"Who told you that?"

"You did."

"If I did, I lied, but I'm sure I had a good reason. However, I don't seem to recall saying that. Use that Immortal memory of yours and tell me exactly what I said," Methos prompted.

"You said you've seen many gods come and go, and that you doubted he would be the last."

"See? I didn't say I didn't believe. That was merely your assumption. Why are you bowing before me? I'm not the next in line, you know."

"Methos, is it your plan to drive me insane?"

"I wouldn't call it a plan," he replied, snapping the wooden chest shut. "But everyone needs a hobby."

"You actually believe in Christ?" Duncan asked as they headed back to the car.

"I believe in Christ, Buddha, Osirus, Ra, Zeus, Hera, Ahura Mazda, An, Baal-- stop me if I start repeating myself."

"Darius practiced many religions, too. But I'm not sure if he believed in their gods, or just in the message they spread."

"I think it's been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm not Darius."

"You really believe in all those gods?"

"Yes, and more."

"How?"

"How what?"

"How can you believe in everything? By doing so, you believe in nothing."

"On the contrary, MacLeod. With all that I am, I believe."

"That doesn't make sense."

"When you have seen all that I have seen, had the experiences I have had...then you will understand the phrase, 'that doesn't make sense', and you will understand why I believe, Duncan MacLeod. You will understand that believing is the only thing that does make sense."

"I will never understand you, will I?"

"Pray that you don't."

As Duncan reached to turn on the ignition, the sunlight caught the cross and he gasped in surprise. "This is Darius' cross!"

Chapter Five

Duncan fingered the pendant which had dangled from the neck of his mentor, remembering the serene gray eyes which held such love and peace. "There's a small flaw on the edge. He said it was like a Persian flaw, there to remind him of his own imperfections."

"Several hundred years after Darius became a priest, he grew pompous. It wasn't his fault; all the priests were pompous at that time. But not all priests had a background like Darius'. I gave him the cross to remind him of who he was."

"How did...why did...when did he give it back to you?"

"I was out of the country when Horton and his minions attacked. When I returned to my flat, the cross was in the post along with a letter thanking me for keeping him honest."

"He...he knew, didn't he?" He had often discounted his mentor's dreams of the future as a product of his old age-- much like Methos saying he could see the patterns in human behavior because he'd seen them over and over again. But Darius had been so right about his death.

"Yes, MacLeod. He knew."

--Flashback--


St. Julien le Pauvre Church, Paris, France 1993

"Come in, old friend. I have the chessboard already set up."

Methos walked into the rectory and noticed that indeed the board was set, and that Darius had the wine already breathing. "You act as if you were expecting me. This isn't our usual night."

"No, but whenever I have needed you, you have been here. Why should today be any different?" the priest commented as he poured two glasses of wine.

"So, which one of your flock is in trouble this time? Young Claude having problems at university again? Or does Madame Ducet need another fourth for her dinner party?" Solemn gray eyes stared at him. "Oh, this is something serious. Therefore, it must be something with the child. What has your bonny Highland laddie gotten himself into this time?"

A sip of the wine. "If I could have had a child, I could not have had a better one than Duncan MacLeod. After all, children should be the hope for a better future." Darius sat down and moved a white chess piece. Methos never chose white.

"What is it, Darius? Has another Grayson appeared from your past? The child handled him quite easily. I'm sure this one he was dispatch just as well. But if you are concerned, I could see to it that this threat disappears until your MacLeod is ready for him." He moved one of his black men.

"You would do that, wouldn't you, my friend?"

Methos shrugged. "As long as I don't have to get involved directly."

"What if that is what I ask of you? That you get involved?"

"Is that what you're asking?"

"A godparent in this age is someone who buys gifts, perhaps takes a child for a day or two, but traditionally a godparent was the person chosen to take care of a child if something happened to the parent. It was not only an honor, but a responsibility. Over the years I have come to see you in that role to my Duncan."

"So you want me to buy him a birthday gift? Just tell Uncle Methos what to get. Anything except bagpipes. I hate bagpipes."

"Methos, he's going to need more than just a birthday gift."

His hand stilled in the act of moving a game piece. "Don't be ridiculous, Darius. You never leave Holy Ground."

"Holy Ground doesn't mean the same thing to everyone."

Methos pushed away from the table. "You want me involved? Tell me the name of the bastard who is after you, and I'll show you involvement."

"Fate cannot be escaped."

"Sure it can. I've been doing it for five thousand years."

Darius walked around the table and placed a calming hand on Methos' forearm. "No, my friend. The five millennia has been your fate. You still have many tasks still left undone. That's why I can accept this without fear. Duncan will not be left to face his future alone."

"You don't want to do this, Darius. I'm no role model for an Immortal child, especially not for one such as he."

Darius smiled. "How can one so full of himself think so little of himself at the same time? You are so much more than you realize, old friend. I think you and Duncan will be good for each other."

"Don't let this happen, Darius."

"I can't stop it." Methos opened his mouth and Darius closed it with his finger. "And neither can you."

"Do you know when?"

"Soon."

"But not as soon as next week, right? I have a bloody Watcher's conference to attend in the States. It's going to be extremely boring, full of long-winded reports and slide-show presentations. Slide-shows in the computer era, Darius. I don't think they even know what PowerPoint is."

"Not everyone is as adaptable as you, old friend. By the way, how goes that database project you've been working on?"

"It still needs some tweaking. Give me another six months and--" He stopped, his eyes sad as he looked at his companion.

"I will miss you, too," the priest said gently. "Come, let us return to our game. Maybe I'll even let you win."

"Like the last seven games were just flukes," Methos teased for Darius's sake. He would mourn in private. "You'll need divine intervention to take me tonight."

"Supposedly that's one of the perks of my job, old one."

"Better take a raise instead." Laughing, they settled around the table again.

"By the way, what exactly is 'PowerPoint'?"

--End Flashback--

"So you're my godparent."

"No. I'm just a friend."

"Is Darius the reason why you let me find you, why you didn't run when you found out Kalas was after you?"

"Part of it was Darius. Part of it was Don. Kalas murdered a good friend."

"You wanted Kalas."

"I thought I did. I thought Don's murder could fuel the fire in me after two hundred years. I was wrong."

"And it almost cost you your head."

"The only time my head was in danger was at the end of your sword. Perhaps I could not defeat Kalas, but never did that mean I would lose to him."

"'Live. Grow stronger. Fight another day.'"

"You wanted to know what code I live by? That's it. Head for my flat."

"Why?"

"It's 'another day', MacLeod."

"Are you sure?"

"Not half an hour ago you were berating me for leaving the boy to kill everyone in the building. You can't have it both ways," Methos said, exasperated.

"I want to know you're going to come out of this alive-- and demon free."

"Life has no guarantees."

"Then we go to the loft and you study whatever you have to until you can give me one."

"What the hell happened to 'it's your demon, Adam'? I'm starting to worry about you, MacLeod. All this waffling is not good."

"How long would you hate me if I kill you now and give myself ten or fifteen years of peace?"

"I don't hate." Duncan looked at him solemnly. "But I'd really be pissed."

"Is hate something else you gave up for Lent?" the Scot asked meaningfully. Lent was a period of atonement and Joe worried Methos was still atoning for being Death.

"Hate is wasted energy that can be used for something more productive--like revenge," Methos said with an impish grin.

"I'm glad to hear you say that. I was beginning to think you'd already been possessed."

"I don't think I can be. At least not against my will. That's why this thing has been on my tail for so long. I have to let it in, but that's not going to happen."

"I wonder why he didn't approach you when you were Death?"

Methos laughed bitterly. "Death was his own demon."

"Why the hard push now?"

A shrug. "Maybe it has an expiration date stamped on its bottom."

Duncan snorted, then frowned. "I think it has something to do with the Dark Quickening. That's when all of this began, isn't it?"

"You think it was drawn to the light?"

The Scot shook his head in amazement. Methos was so casual about the light that his soul contained, never acknowledging how like the sun it was. "I think it finally realized how strong you've become. I think it's worried that if it doesn't get you now, it will never have you."

"That still doesn't answer the question of why it wants me."

"Doesn't it? Methos, the well of power in you is incredibly deep. Don't forget that not only have I seen the light you possess, but I've felt the full force of your Presence-- and that was before you took those five Quickenings simultaneously. If the demon taps into your power, the war between good and evil could well be over."

Methos rolled his eyes. "Let's not get too melodramatic, MacLeod, but I appreciate what you're saying. However, this demon is in for a rude awakening. I will not be turned back toward a life of violence and destruction. Been there, done that, and I have the nightmares to prove it."

Duncan took opportunity of a red light to look at his friend. "Yet beneath the nightmares, you must still have the memories of the power you had as a Horseman. That kind of power can be addictive. Just a taste of it could sway you."

"Which is why I will never taste of it again. Why do you think I avoid Challenges? Why do you think I've given up hate? It's certainly not because no one has given me cause. But I know what I was, and I know that's a person I don't ever want to be again."

"But you've killed since meeting me."

"None of it out of desire." Methos smiled to himself as they pulled away from the traffic light. "I was just being Uncle Adam, clearing the area of snakes so that the children could play safely."

"Uncle Adam?" Duncan asked, his voice full of youthful enthusiasm.

"Yes, dear boy?"

"You're full of shit."

"Your point being?" Methos replied with a smirk. "But there's a flaw in your reasoning. If the demon is after my power, why has it been after me so long? It possessed me when I was mortal. It beckoned when I was a new Immortal, before I took my first Quickening, before I managed to escape the tomb. Even while the stench of my decaying family still burned my nostrils, it sat there in the dark, begging entrance. I was nothing, yet it still craved me."

"You were never nothing, Methos. Inna loved you. She and her family were convinced you communed with the gods. Even as a mortal, you weren't 'just a guy.'"

"No, I was the tool of a demon."

"Welcome to the club."

Methos stiffened. "I didn't mean it like--"

"I know. But if the demon isn't after your power, then that means he's after you."

"My body? Why? I don't have the bulk of most male Immortals. You're certainly stronger than I am."

"Not your body; your mind. You're a genius, Methos."

"If that's the same as a 'calculating bastard', you might have a point."

Duncan laughed. "It doesn't pay to try to be polite around you, does it? Anyway, in the wrong hands, a calculating bastard could be hazardous to the entire world, mortal and Immortal alike."

"But you'd take my head long before that, right, MacLeod?"

Duncan gripped the steering wheel. "This is a moot conversation because the demon has to be allowed inside, and he's never going to get your permission."

"That's true."

"But what if he tries coercion or blackmail?"

"Let him. I have no hostages to give up to fortune."

So that's why you prefer staying on the periphery of life, huh, old man? But.... "What about Joe?"

"Joe is mortal; I began mourning his loss the moment I realized he was my friend."

"Amanda?"

"Amanda was a good friend to me when everything was going on with Alexa. I admire her. I commend her survival skills. Hell, I even actually like her. But I would not welcome Death back into my life to save her."

"What about me?"

Methos was silent for a moment as Duncan steered the car into a parking space across from his building. "You are not in danger. If the god of that cross cannot protect you, I know that Darius will."

"I have knelt with my neck to the sword because of danger to those I love; I don't think I could stand it if it was me that put you in that position."

Methos mouth quirked in a corner. "Fear not, MacLeod. You know exactly what I thought of that stunt." His eyes flicked up to the windows of his apartment. "I guess it's into the lion's den. You know, I tried to talk some sense into that idiot, too."

"Which idiot?"

"Daniel. I told him, 'Listen, Danny boy, outward appearances don't mean a thing. Bow before the king, tell him any crap he wants to hear. As long as you don't believe what you're saying or doing, it'll be fine. But no. He just had to stand for his honor, and where did that get him? Thrown in with a bunch of--"

"Methos, I want you to remember what you once said to me," Duncan said, interrupting what he knew was one of Methos' tales designed to divert from the problem at hand. "When I had to face the toughest battle of my life, you told me that I wasn't alone out here," Duncan placed his hand over Methos' heart, "or in there."

Methos looked at the hand, then closed his eyes. A second later, he reached for the car door. "What the hell. I guess I have nothing better to do."

Chapter Six

"You're in pain," Duncan said as he watched Methos slump in the corner of the elevator, the metal wall seemingly the only thing keeping the older Immortal on his feet.

"Perseverance seems to be this thing's middle name...or maybe first name. But I've managed to lessen its hold considerably."

"How? By using magic as well?"

"Damn it, MacLeod, I don't know how, and quite frankly at this point, I don't care. Later, when the demon is back in hell and you are obediently bringing me beer, then perhaps I'll try to work out how I know what I know. Until then, I'm going to be operating on sheer instinct. It's kept me alive this long; no use in changing the game plan now." Methos stalked out of the elevator and down the hall, stopping when his apartment door opened invitingly. His hands twitched, automatically seeking the sword which remained with MacLeod's in the Thunderbird. They'd both seen the aftermath of taking a sword into a fight with a demon. Nope. No accidental beheadings today.

"Methos, one last comment," Duncan said, shifting the wooden chest he'd been charged with carrying from one hand to the other.

"Promises, promises," the Ancient snarled. "What?"

"When I have seen all that you have seen and experienced all you have experienced, perhaps I will be able to believe as you believe, but today I choose to believe...in you."

Methos' head spun to look at him. "You are a fool."

Duncan, having fought a similar war, knew that the main battle ahead was going to be fought within Methos, and that doubt was the enemy--not the demon. "I'm only a fool if I'm wrong. And I'm not."

"Remind me never to befriend a priest," Methos muttered as he continued toward the open door, "nor whatever offspring he may have acquired."

The stench was the first thing they noticed. It wasn't anything they'd never smelled before, but it had been a while since the age of open sewage systems or no sewage systems at all. The source of the smell was readily found; a naked Michael Lampley dipped his fingers into his own feces and continued drawing arcane symbols on the apartment walls. He'd apparently been at it for some time. Three walls were completely covered and the fourth was rapidly filling up.

"If you had asked, I would have told you that just beyond the door to your left is a lovely bath with plump towels, cushiony-rippled tissue, and a functioning toilet," Methos called, his nose wrinkling in distaste.

"I felt you come; I felt you go. I knew you would return."

Duncan was startled by the deep, nearly roaring voice that came from the teen. Ahriman had always used the voices of those he projected.

"Considering this is my home, forgive me if I don't applaud your skills of deduction. What do you want?" Methos demanded.

"You."

"Sorry. I'll stay with the toilet-trained crowd, if you don't mind."

"But I do mind. You belong to me."

"I belong only to myself. Be gone, Spirit. You are not only wasting my time, but your own."

Michael Lampley turned, revealing red eyes peering out where his own brown ones should be. "Being near you is never a waste of time, Father."

Father? Methos took a tentative step backwards. "Why do you call me that?"

"You sired me. From the depths of your soul you called me into being. These very words you writ and from them I was birthed." The demon/boy gestured to the walls.

Duncan watched silently as Methos' eyes widened. He could see his friend was translating the filth scribbled around the room, and from the way he paled, Duncan was pretty sure Methos didn't like what he was reading. So, was it true? Was this demon of Methos' own making?

"Father?"

Methos stiffened, then appeared to relax. "If this is true, then I must have been a mere child. How else could I have created something so crude and obviously flawed?"

"Do not mock me!" The boy waved his arm and Methos sailed across the room to smash into one of the marred walls.

Wiping away the flow of blood that trickled from his mouth due to the tongue he'd bitten upon impact, Methos stood. "Not only crude, but weak. Definitely not my best work," he said to Duncan, who was torn between helping Methos to his feet and staying out of the battle altogether.

"I am your child!"

Methos doubled over in pain. "Then show me!" he snarled, straightening with effort.

Duncan watched in horror as Methos was picked off his feet by invisible hands and body-slammed into a glass coffee table. He nearly crushed the box he held when the shards of glass floated in the air and started slashing at the elder Immortal, whose raised hands provided no protection from the knife-edged daggers. What the hell was Methos doing, egging the demon on like that? Had the knowledge that it was his own creation thrown the Immortal that badly?

Several bloody minutes later, Duncan realized that the demon was weakening, fewer shards danced in the air and the Lampley boy looked ready to crumple to the floor. He started to mentally congratulate Methos' tactics when suddenly one of the larger shards poised just above Methos' neck. The rest tinkled to the carpet.

"Submit to me or die, Father."

"Neither, Son." Methos stared at the glass dagger and it inched away from him.

Duncan watched the dagger jerk back and forth. The demon was weakened, but so was Methos from blood loss. He had no idea which would win and he didn't like the uncertainty. Somehow he had to make sure Methos was the victor, because he knew the strength of his friend's survival instinct. If the dagger pierced his throat, Methos would choose submission over death--then he would expect the Scot to do what he could not. And quite frankly, he was tired of killing friends.

"Fight, Methos," he whispered to no avail. Then he realized he knew something the demon didn't. There was something even more powerful than Methos' survival instinct; Uncle Adam's need to make sure the children could play safely. Remembering his brief stint as an actor, he clutched his abdomen and doubled over. "Methos, help me," he said weakly.

The results were immediate. The glass shard was driven into a wall and even before Methos could regain his feet, Lampley was pinned high in the air, his feet dangling and his throat gurgling as his fragile neck bones were slowly being crushed together.

"Methos, he's mortal!"

Methos gestured, and the boy slumped to the floor. "Bring me the box," he ordered as he knelt before the sprawled form. He opened the chest and took out a vial. He wet his fingers with the liquid inside and drew a cross on Lampley's forehead. "Exorcizo te, omnis spiritus immunde, in nomine Dei Patris omnipotentis, et in noimine Jesu Christi, Filii ejus, Domini et Judicis nostri, et in virtute Spiritus Sancti, ut descedas ab hoc plasmate Dei, Michael Lampley quod Dominus noster ad templum sanctum suum vocare dignatus est, ut fiat templum Dei vivi, et Spiritus Sanctus habitet in eo. Per eumdem Christum Dominum nostrum, qui venturus est judicare vivos et mortuos, et saeculum per ignes."

Duncan followed the Latin with ease although he'd never personally witnessed such a rite: I exorcize thee, every unclean spirit, in the name of God the Father Almighty, and in the name of Jesus Christ, His Son, our Lord and Judge, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, that thou depart from this creature of God, Michael Lampley which our Lord hath designed to call unto His holy temple, that it may be made the temple of the living God, and that the Holy Spirit may dwell therein. Through the same Christ our Lord, who shall come to judge the living and the dead, and the world by fire.

"Tu autem effugare, diabole; appropinquabit enim judicium Dei." And to you, O devil, begone! For the judgment of God is at hand.

"He is not your god," the demon snarled weakly.

"But I am not interceding on my own behalf," Methos replied. "This child belongs to him. You do not. Depart from this body and show yourself. This I order not only in the name of his god, but in my name, that of your creator."

A fine black smoke rose from the teen. It swirled around Methos, then took on a vague form before him. Only the red eyes resembled anything human.

"See to the boy, MacLeod."

Duncan found his arms full of a sobbing teenager, and he rotely crooned soothing sounds to him as he watched Methos confront the demon.

"Do you know me now, Father?"

"I know you, Dumah. But this, possession of mortals and the forfeiture of their lives, was not the purpose of your creation. He corrupted you, didn't he?"

"He grew stronger when you left. Without you, I could not resist."

"He sent you after me."

"To bring you home. Then you died and I lost you again. You resist our joining."

"Not anymore. It is time for you to go back to your origins, Dumah. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, from my soul to my soul." Methos leaned back on his powerful thighs, closing his eyes and spreading his arms wide.

"No," Duncan whispered.

Golden eyes opened and captured his gaze. "Dumah belongs to me, not I to him, Duncan. All will be well. Do you believe?"

"Aye. I believe."

Methos nodded and closed his eyes again. The smoke swirled around him three times, then sought his nostrils and traveled to his soul. Methos made a soft sound that could have been a sigh...or a sob. His eyes opened and he looked at the mortal in Duncan's arms. Reclaiming the vial, he wet his fingers again and anointed the unwrinkled brow. "Ego to linio oleo salutis in Christo Jesu Domino nostro, ut habeas vitam aeternam. Vade in pace, et Dominus sit tecum." I anoint thee with the oil of salvation in Christ Jesus, our Lord, that thou mayest have life everlasting. Go in peace, and the Lord be with you.

Turning, Methos capped the vial and placed it back into the chest. Smiling at the now calm mortal, he placed his hand over the peaceful face and whispered, "Forget." The mortal slumped back against Duncan, his chest rising and falling in a deep, even sleep. Methos grinned at Duncan. "Something I saw in a Star Trek episode. He won't remember a thing."

Duncan lowered the boy to the floor. "Is this over?"

"Yes and no."

"He will be after you now." Methos raised a questioning eyebrow. "The one who corrupted the demon. He sent the demon after you, and now that the demon has failed, he will come for you himself."

"Very astute of you, MacLeod. But you have one thing wrong-- he won't be coming for me; I am going after him."

"Is that wise?"

Methos shrugged. "For thousands of years I have been literally running from myself. It's time the cycle ends. I now know my past; it's time I face it and lay it aside."

"As you did Death?"

"Yes. It took two thousand years and a hard-headed Highlander to make me stop running from him, stop ignoring the blue-faced elephant in the center of the room. It's time to get rid of all the elephants, MacLeod. If you think human shit is a bitch to clean up after...."

"Does this elephant have a name?"

"He went by many. I called him by one."

"And that was?"

"Father."

Epilogue

"That's all you know, Mac?" Joe asked as the Highlander came up to the bar for another pitcher of beer.

"That's it. Everything I know, he's already told you." After telling Duncan that the man they were after was his father, Methos had called the police, gotten rid of his bloody clothing, and had set up the lie about coming home to find Michael Lampley passed out on his floor after doing some serious damage to his apartment. The police had bought the scenario hook, line, and sinker, even the part where Dr. Pierson speculated Lampley had chosen his apartment because he was a linguist and could translate the wall "art".

The police sealed the apartment as evidence, which was fine with Duncan because he had already decided Methos was coming home with him. Methos had quietly packed his bag and told Duncan to stop by Joe's before they went to the loft. In the privacy of the office, he'd told Joe exactly what had occurred, before requesting a moratorium on questions and a pitcher of beer. That had been three pitchers ago.

"Aren't you curious about any of this? Or hell, worried?"

"All of the above, but I'm not going to push him. He'll tell us when he's ready, or when it's vital we know."

"I can't believe you guys have been shutting me out of this for so long. Methos has been remembering his past since before Christmas and I'm just now finding out about it," Joe said peevishly.

"I'm sorry, Joe. It was his decision and I understood it. You know him; he doesn't like being blindsided, and this has all been a shock to him."

"Yeah, I guess finding out that you conjured up a demon that caused you to slice and dice your family was unsettling. So if he's planning on going after his 'daddy', does that means dear ol' Dad is an Immortal, too?"

"I have no idea. All I know is that I have to keep him safe, no matter what."

"Even if it's by faking an attack? How'd you know that would work?"

"Because Inna and Darius was right; Methos has a specific task to do and I know what it is."

"Please, O Wise One, don't keep me in suspense," Joe said indulgently.

Duncan ignored the sarcasm. Considering the company he'd been keeping, he was quite good at it. "Methos and I are both warriors, as well as protectors. I didn't recognize that at first because my vision was limited; the big picture was beyond my skill."

"The big picture?"

"Yeah, what Methos sees. My battles are personal. His never are."

"But your battles matter. They're important."

"Yes, but if I'm a Boy Scout, Methos is a den mother."

Joe whooped loudly, causing several other customers to stare at him. "You mean he watches over an entire troop?" he guessed when he got himself under control.

"Exactly. Every so often Methos is given a band of mortals and Immortals to watch over, but unlike other 'watchers', he doesn't have a non-interference policy. If a snake enters his territory, he kills it, then goes back to tending the fire and teasing his charges."

Joe nodded. "Like that snake Kristin. You toyed with her; he just whacked her straight out."

"And Walker made the ultimate mistake of going after your daughter, crossing a boundary that he hadn't two hundred years ago. He thought Methos couldn't fight. It's just that he hadn't given the man a reason to."

Joe leaned forward, resting the bulk of his weight on his elbows as he considered Mac's latest theory. "Mother Methos, huh? Where the hell does Death fit into this fated role you've fitted the old man with? The Horsemen weren't Boy Scouts."

"I'll admit I'm having trouble with that particular incarnation."

"Maybe it's not that hard, Mac. Yes, Methos killed ten thousand, but how many did he protect by leading the Horsemen away from their villages? How many people who would eventually forge life as we've come to know it-- scientists, inventors, artists-- owe their existence to Methos sparing their ancestors? And what would have happened to Cassandra if Methos hadn't been a Horseman? She could have lived to a ripe old age, then been killed by the first Immortal who ran across her. Or the Horsemen could have attacked her people anyway, and Methos wouldn't have been there to make sure she lived. Not to mention Kronos and crew could have kept on riding for longer than that millennia. But Methos stopped them not once, but twice."

Duncan considered Joe's argument. It was damn charitable and he was sure the people slaughtered by the Horsemen wouldn't exactly see it that way, but he knew that sometimes shedding blood was the only way to get from one point to the next. He also knew something else. "I hated who I became during the Dark Quickening, but I don't think I could have dealt with Ahriman without the self-knowledge gained from that experience. To fight evil, one has to know it intimately. Methos knows it, Joe, in ways we aren't capable of comprehending. That knowledge helps him keep us safe."

Joe shook his head, staring at the lanky figured sprawled in the chair at the back table. "Does he know your thoughts about this?"

"No. I figured if Darius didn't tell him, I shouldn't either."

"You think Darius knew?"

Duncan smiled softly as he remembered his friend and mentor. "There wasn't much Darius didn't know." The cross was warm where it lay against his chest beneath his sweater. "I think he was one of only a handful of people who've ever seen the real Methos within. Most of us have our sight clouded by what he wants us to see."

"But not you."

"I've had mere glimpses, just as you. I've just decided that it's time I believe."

"The pitcher has been empty for thirty seconds," Methos said as he joined them at the bar. "The service around here is getting slack. I might have to take my business elsewhere."

"Business implies that you pay, Adam," Joe said dryly.

"You accusing me of something, Dawson?"

"Yeah, but you've had a tough day, so I figure I'll cut you some slack."

Methos smiled. "Just for that I'm going to let you in on a little secret." He leaned over and whispered in the barman's ear. Then he took the fresh pitcher and headed back to his table.

"What?" Duncan asked as Joe grinned at him.

"Nothing, Mac. Just thinking about the future." And a visit to Seacouver University in August. The MacLeod Collection. Should be interesting. Hell, the future in general was interesting thanks to these two. Spending the rest of his life involved in the adventures of Mother Methos and Kilt Boy MacLeod.... God, it sounded like a hoot.

"Hang on. I think I'll join you. " Joe said as Duncan started back toward the table. He hobbled around to the other side of the bar. "You know I've been thinking about what you said, and I've come to the conclusion that, yeah, maybe it is a good day to start believing."

Duncan smiled. "You know what this makes us, don't you, Dawson?"

"What's that, MacLeod?"

"Mother's little helpers."

Joe whacked the Highlander's ankle with his cane, and continued on to the table where he accepted the glass of beer Methos generously handed to him.

A limping Duncan joined them.

THE END

(Restoration Series #6A)


Comments? D.L. Witherspoon

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