Disclaimers: Unfortunately, the characters of Methos, Connor, Duncan, and Joe do not belong to me. :-(
Notes: Written for the "Highlander Spring Fever" challenge. Requirements were-- Methos/Connor, H/C, and Methos is maybe temporarily blinded.
Connor clenched his katana tightly, the buzz from so many Immortals in one place making him feel decidedly twitchy. He could still feel the aftereffects of the Quickening he'd taken causing the hair on the back of his neck to stand on end. Feeling around on the wall with his free hand, he finally encountered a light switch and flicked it on, blinking rapidly to adjust to the brightness. There was nothing remarkable about the room in which he found himself, save for its spartan state. It was obvious that it was not being used as its intended purpose--as a living room. He searched the rest of the house methodically, unsurprised to discover that all of it was in the same state of disuse. Taking a deep breath, he approached the door to the one part of the house he had not yet explored, and the most likely to contain those he sensed--the basement.
As he descended the stairs, soft whimpers and sobs reached his ears and he flinched internally at the hopelessness and despair that those sounds conveyed. Finally reaching the bottom, Connor was horrified by what he found. At least ten Immortals were in the basement. Some were in chains, a few were in cages, and one poor wretch was staked to the wall. Swearing softly in Gaelic, he strode forward, but before he could reach the staked Immortal, a familiar voice called to him.
Turning quickly, he focused on the owner of the voice and let out a sigh of relief. He had not been too late. "David?" he called quietly as he slowly approached the cage.
"Russell, you have to get out of here. If Renault comes back..." David whispered frantically, clutching at the bars.
"Renault is never coming back. He's dead," Connor stated firmly as he eyed the lock on the cage. "Move back." Sheathing his katana, he pulled the gun from his pocket, took careful aim, and shot the lock off.
"Dead?" David repeated, unable to conceive of such a thing. Stefan Renault had seemed invincible to him, especially in light of how easily he had captured, tortured, and murdered so many other Immortals.
"Permanently deceased," Connor said with great satisfaction. He had known that Renault was insane and violating all of the rules of the Game, but knowing and seeing were two very different things. Taking in the conditions of the captives, he wished he could have made Renault suffer more before he separated his head from his body.
"Thank god," David sighed, sagging a bit against the bars.
"Renault is dead, truly?" asked the woman in the cage next to David's.
"Yes," Connor assured her.
She immediately burst into tears. "Thank you, thank you," she said between sobs.
Ignoring her for the moment, Connor focused his attention on David. "Are you all right? When you missed our appointment, I was concerned."
David hid a smile. For Connor to admit it, he must have been much more than concerned. "So you came looking?"
"Someone mentioned that Stefan Renault was in the area, so yes, I came looking. This is not the first time he has done this," Connor said, indicating the room with a wave of his hand.
David nodded. "Yes, we know. And, to answer your question, I'll live. Evidentally, he liked to starve his captives before he started in on the actual torture, so I'm just really hungry."
"Good. Then you can help me with the rest," Connor said as he moved to the door of the woman's cage. She moved back without him having to ask and, within moments, her cage was open, as well. Then, the three of them went to work on the Immortals still in chains. David had located an acetylene torch, which caused one of the Immortals to flinch violently, but worked very well on the manacles.
As the Immortals took turns using his cell phone, Connor approached the last Immortal, the one staked to the wall.
"That's Adam. Or Matthew." David shrugged. "Renault called him Matthew, but he insisted his name was Adam." Immortals often changed their names, so it was likely that neither was his true name. "Renault spent most of his time torturing him. From what we could gather, he escaped from Renault once, many years ago, so Renault took extra precautions to be sure it wouldn't happen again," David explained as he came up to stand behind Connor.
As he got closer, Connor thought there was something familiar about the man. And then his mind clicked. Adam. Duncan's friend. Duncan's *ancient* friend. With a trembling hand, he reached up and lifted the man's chin so he could see his face. "Holy Mother of God," he whispered. "What happened to his eyes?"
David's eyes were grim as he took in the damage. "Renault used a hot poker," he said flatly.
"Help me get him down," Connor commanded, his jaw set in a firm line. A fine time for his cousin to be off "finding" himself. A blind Immortal was a sitting duck. And with Duncan unavailable, that left him with the duty of caring for the crotchety old bastard. He wasn't even sure if an Immortal could heal such damage. Was an eye more like a limb or an organ? Organs regenerated, while limbs didn't seem to. At least, Xavier St. Cloud's hand had never grown back. But perhaps he simply hadn't lived long enough? Shelving such thoughts for later, Connor looked around the room for something to use to pry the railroad spikes out of "Adam's" hands and chest. Among Renault's various implements of torture was a crowbar, which would do nicely.
"Grab his legs. When I get these spikes out, he's going to drop like a stone," Connor said.
Once David was in position, Connor set the crowbar under the spike and, using one of the manacles as a fulcrum, pried the spikes out of the wall. As predicted, Adam fell heavily onto David's shoulder, and was then eased down to the floor.
"Oh my God."
Connor glanced over at the woman he'd freed from the cage. She was staring at Adam in horror.
"Is this what he was going to do to all of us?" she asked in a quavering voice.
"No." Connor shook his head. "His usual strategy was to starve his victims, then torture them until their spirit was broken, then give them back their swords and issue his challenge." He gestured to the body on the floor. "Adam, here, seems to have been a special case."
The other Immortals had gathered around as Connor was talking, all looking at the man whose screams they had heard for days, or possibly weeks. All sense of time had been lost while they were Renault's prisoners. Someone had ripped part of his shirt off in a long strip and handed it to Connor, motioning to Adam's sunken eyelids.
"We can't just leave him," one of the men who had been chained said while Connor tied the cloth around Adam's head like a blindfold. "He's defenseless."
The others murmured agreement, but no one offered to take him. They were all too traumatized from their own incarceration to be able to even think of caring for another of their kind. And soon, all eyes turned to Connor.
"I'm taking him with me," Connor stated, and no one objected, although David gave him a considering look.
The sudden gasp for air from Adam startled the group, and they hastily drew back, except for Connor, who placed a restraining hand on Adam's chest. "Easy, Adam. Renault is dead. You are in no danger," he spoke quickly and quietly, trying to reassure the Immortal. Adam's muscles slowly began to lose their tension as the words penetrated.
"Russell?" Adam croaked, reaching out with his hand until he could weakly grasp Connor's arm.
"Aye," Connor replied, relieved that Adam, or Methos, still had the presence of mind to use his current alias of Russell Nash.
Methos let out a small sigh of relief and let his hand drop back down. There were few people he trusted, but Connor Macleod was one of them. He need not fear for his head while in the Highlander's care. He shuddered a bit as he felt the press of many Quickenings and couldn't see to calculate the danger. He needed to get to holy ground, and quickly.
Sensing Methos' distress, Connor stood up and addressed the group of Immortals. "OK, why don't you all move upstairs? Adam needs some space, and I'm sure you're all ready to get out of this cursed basement."
Nodding in agreement, the Immortals each stopped to shake his hand and thank him for their release (the woman even hugged him) before making their way to the stairs and up into the empty house above. Finally, only Connor, David, and Methos were left.
"You know him," David stated. It wasn't a question.
Connor sighed and then nodded, kneeling back down to grasp one of Methos' arms. "Aye, I know him. He's a friend of Duncan's." Gesturing to the shivering Immortal on the floor with his free hand, Connor made introductions. "David Olbrich, meet Adam Pierson. Adam, the man about to take your other arm is David, an old friend and my current solicitor."
David blinked in surprise. If Adam was a friend of Duncan Macleod's, then he most likely knew Connor's real name, even though he had addressed him as Russell.
"Ah, yes, Renault's latest acquisition," Methos quipped before hissing as Connor and David pulled him to his feet. He swayed for a moment, trying to find his balance.
"Easy, we have you," Connor reassured him as Adam gripped his arm tightly. Methos grumbled under his breath in a language that Connor didn't understand, but otherwise didn't comment.
Seeing the tight expression on Methos face and the stiff way in which he held himself, Connor just knew that taking care of the oldest Immortal was going to be a real bitch. Once again, he wished that he could just dump Methos in Duncan's lap and make himself scarce.
Noticing Connor's scowl, David gave him a sympathetic look, but wisely didn't offer to help. Once they were up the stairs, he released Adam's arm and took Connor's free one in a warrior's grasp. "Thank you for coming after me. I would offer to buy you dinner, but quite frankly, I really just want to go home, take a hot shower, eat, and go to bed for about a week."
"Good plan. I'll call you later in the week to reschedule our appointment." Connor glanced at Methos, worried by the other man's silence. The other times he'd been in the man's presence, he'd been impossible to shut up. Of course, having been tortured for who knew how long and blinded to boot would probably have stilled anyone's tongue.
David made to shake Adam's hand, but Connor shook his head minutely. Understanding that Adam might not react well to being touched unexpectedly, David dropped his hand. "Good-bye, Adam. I hope that if we meet again, it will be under pleasanter circumstances."
Adam nodded. "Likewise," he said.
His voice was steady, but Connor could feel Methos' muscles quivering like a thoroughbred that had been run hard and put away wet. It was past time to get out of that house of horrors.
Once they were in Connor's car, Methos forced his muscles to relax. It was easier with only the buzz of Connor's Quickening skating over his skin, but he was still tense. Being so much at the mercy of another Immortal was not something he enjoyed, but at least it was a sort of friend. "There's a monastery in Gordes where I have stayed before. I would really appreciate it if you could drop me off there."
Connor snorted. "I won't say it's not tempting, but if anything happened to you because I left you in such a condition, Duncan would never let me hear the end of it. No. You're coming with me."
"I really don't think that's wise, Macleod. Holy ground is the best option," Methos argued.
"Oh, we'll be on holy ground, all right. But not in some monestary. There'll just be the two of us. We'll start training in the morning," Connor assured him.
"Training? I'm not your student!" Methos protested, but he didn't have any energy to put into the argument. If Connor really wanted to nursemaid him for a few days, he was too exhausted to fight him over it.
"You will be." Connor paused, and then broached the subject that had been stewing in the back of his brain. "Is it permanent?" he finally asked.
"The blindness? I'm not sure. I've never had my eyes put out with a hot poker before. At the moment, I'm very determinedly not thinking about it. Instead, I'm fantasizing about a hot bath and a beer, not necessarily in that order."
"That, I can handle. But I think you should eat something, as well. And drink something besides beer. You're already dehydrated enough," Connor stated.
"Ah, and now I see where Duncan gets his mother hen tendencies. Comes by it naturally. Must be some peculiarity of the Clan Macleod," Methos said and then yawned widely. Shivering again, he wrapped his arms around himself tightly and leaned his head against the window.
Glancing over, Connor frowned again and then turned up the heat. He had won the argument much too easily. "Tomorrow, you can call that Watcher friend of yours and have him send you some of your things. He was complaining about how you and Duncan had both deserted him."
"Didn't desert him," Methos mumbled. "I was shot in the parking lot of the bloody library."
Connor nodded, even though he knew Methos couldn't see the gesture. "You can explain it to him tomorrow," he repeated. When there was no answer, he was unsurprised to discover that Methos had fallen asleep. Sighing quietly to himself, he returned his attention to the road and planning how to manage Methos in the days and possibly weeks to come. He only hoped that an Immortal's eyes proved to be regenerating.
Methos jerked awake and it took a minute to figure out where he was. Then he realized that it was the cessation of the car engine noise that had awakened him. "Connor?" he called softly, straining to hear any indication of the Highlander's presence. The sound of his door handle moving had him lunging for the driver's side of the car and clawing for the handle, but then he heard the raspy sound of Connor's voice.
"Easy there, it's just me. I wasn't certain you were going to wake up," Connor explained, speaking softly and slowly to calm Methos down.
Methos took a deep breath and then let it out. He carefully eased his way back over to the passenger's side until he felt one of Connor's hands grasp his elbow. The other hand was placed on his head to keep him from bumping it as he exited the car. As he gingerly stood up straight, he sniffed appreciatively at the fresh air--they definitely weren't in Paris anymore. "Where are we?"
"It's a small church that I converted into a house a while back. Comes in handy," Connor said.
"I'll bet," Methos muttered.
"Mind the steps," Connor cautioned as he guided the older Immortal carefully to the door.
There was a jangle of keys, and then Methos heard a door creak open. From the faintly musty smell, he deduced that Connor had not been here in some time.
"It's not much, but I think it'll do for our purposes. I'll run you a bath and then see what I can find for food," Connor said as he led Methos over to a wooden bench. "Why don't you rest here and I'll get you when your bath is ready."
Methos nodded in agreement. "Sounds good." He tracked Connor by his footsteps, and then he heard the water running and the pipes protesting. To distract himself, he began lightly tracing the bench with his fingers, following the smooth wood. From the shape and size, he theorized that it was once a pew bench from when the building was still a church. As he sat there on the hard bench in his own private darkness, Methos wondered why Connor had been so insistent about staying with him. Sure, Duncan might have been a bit upset, but Methos was not Macleod's responsibility--either of them. If he lost his head, well, that was the Game. Those with disabilities didn't tend to last very long. At that thought, his hands clenched into fists. He wouldn't survive long if his eyes didn't regenerate. He wasn't even sure he would want to. He would be unable to fight or read... so what would be the point? Sure, there were many mortals who were blind and managed to live productive and fulfilling lives, but they hadn't lived for over 5000 years. He was much too old to make that sort of an adjustment.
"Adam, the water's ready."
Connor's soft spoken words yanked Methos out of his depressing thoughts. He had to take a moment to calm his pounding heart, as he hadn't even heard the other man's approach. Not a good sign. He was going to have to learn to pay more attention to his surroundings.*****
Methos leaned his head back against the side of the tub with a soft sigh. The warm water surrounding him was more comforting than he could have imagined. To be warm and clean and *safe* was something he had thought would probably never happen again. He'd pretty much resigned himself to losing his head to Renault. The man was insane. He'd only left Methos alive as long as he had so that he could make an example out of him. 'See, this is what will happen to you if you try to escape.' Yep, staked to the wall like a butterfly in some kid's collection.
He slid down, totally immersing himself in the water. He didn't open his eyes, though, as he normally would. What if they had started to grow back and the water dissolved the tissue or something? He shivered involuntarily at the image that thought evoked. This certainly wouldn't do. He needed a plan. He couldn't rely on the Highlander's hospitality for too long. Connor Macleod was known for his quick temper and limited patience. And Methos himself had never been described as any one's idea of the perfect house guest. He didn't imagine that being blind and therefore vulnerable would improve his disposition any, either. Feeling the need for air, and not wishing to die anymore at that very moment, he pushed himself back up and took in a huge breath. At the sound of a soft knock, his head swung over towards the door.
"I've brought you some sweats. They're on the chair next to the tub, under the towel," Connor's voice came out of the darkness.
"Thank you," Methos said, and his tone indicated that it was for more than the clothes.
"You're Duncan's friend," Connor said, as if that explained everything.
And, in a strange way, it did, and Methos felt his mouth quirk up in a smile for the first time since he'd been taken by Renault. "Yes, well, I've met some of his friends, and I've got to say you're a braver man than I am."
Connor snorted in amusement. "That's not news. When you're ready, I've got some stew warming on the stove."
"Connor..." Methos paused. How to broach the subject without seeming completely pathetic or melodramatic? Shit, what did it matter? "Will you stay?"
Connor turned back, startled, then cursed himself for being a fool. Of course Methos would want company. He'd been tortured by a sadistic immortal and was now dependent on another immortal for his very survival. "Yes," he answered, then moved the towel and clothes off the chair and onto the counter so he'd have a place to sit.
"So, how did you find Renault? Were you hunting him specifically?" Methos asked conversationally.
"I had some help from your Watcher friend. David, the man I introduced you to, had missed a meeting with me and I started looking for him. That led me to Renault. Evidently, he wasn't prepared to be the hunted."
"No, he wouldn't be. He thought of himself as the hunter, always, but he didn't want to risk losing to his prey. Hence, his little basement of fun and games," Methos agreed.
Connor just grunted.
"I have a favor to ask of you," Methos began, his hands clenching the sides of the tub tightly.
Noting the tense fingers, Connor's eyes narrowed. "Go on."
"If this... condition... turns out to be permanent, I want you to take my head," Methos stated.
Connor sucked in a breath to speak, but Methos interrupted him.
"Wait, hear me out first. I don't mean tonight, or tomorrow, or maybe not even next week. But, if there is no indication that my eyes are going to regenerate, I want you to take me out in the woods somewhere and take my head. I can't live like this. It's suicide. Sure, I could stay on holy ground, but that isn't the sanctuary it once was. Just look at what happened to Darius. And I won't be a burden to anyone. This way, if I give my Quickening, my power, to you, I'll know that you'll use it well. You'll protect Duncan, as I've tried to do. I would have given it to him, but he never would have accepted, he would have felt too guilty. You, on the other hand, barely know me, and you've always been more practical about such things," Methos explained.
Connor stared at Methos in shock. He didn't want to agree, but the man had some valid points. And he hadn't realized just how much Methos cared about Duncan, probably because Methos hadn't wanted him to. He wondered briefly if Duncan knew... Most likely not, his clansman could sometimes be as dense as a block of wood.
"Connor?" Methos prodded when there was no answer after several minutes.
Clearing his throat, Connor finally responded, "All right. But not until we're sure it's permanent. A month at the very least."
Methos nodded. "OK. A month. Thank you."
Grunting noncommittally, Connor shifted on his chair. He eyed Methos critically. The bath had done him some good. With the blood and dirt washed off, his eyes closed, and the warmth of the water giving his skin some color, Methos looked almost normal... well, normal for him.
Yawning widely, Methos sat up in the tub and felt around for the drain plug. Once he'd pulled it and the water started gurgling down the drain, he shivered a bit as the air hit his wet skin.
"Here," Connor said as he wrapped a large towel around the other immortal. "I have you, step over the side... that's it," Connor encouraged as he helped Methos out of the tub. There was a tense moment when wet feet slid a bit on the tile floor, but Connor held him steady until his balance was restored. Waiting as Methos dried off, Connor retrieved the clothes from the counter. "Hold out your hands." Methos complied and Connor placed the clothes in his hands. "To get to the kitchen, go left as you leave the bathroom and just follow the hall. It goes straight to the kitchen. I'll start dishing out the stew." With one last look to be sure Methos was still steady, Connor left the room.
Methos waited until he heard the door latch before dropping his towel. Sure, the man had just seen him in the all together, but that didn't mean he would really appreciate a reverse strip tease. Shaking his head and chuckling softly at his foolish thoughts, Methos set to work on getting himself dressed. Happily, sweats were some of the easiest clothes to handle--no buttons, zippers, ties, or other fastening mechanisms to worry about. And tags were remarkably useful for helping distinguish the front from the back and the inside from the outside. Once dressed, he ran his fingers through his hair a couple of times and called it good.
Following Connor's directions and the tantalizing aroma of food, he soon found his way to the kitchen. He paused, however, when he ran out of wall.
"About three steps in front of you is a chair," Connor informed him.
Stepping forward tentatively, Methos moved cautiously until his questing hands encountered the aforementioned chair. Moving down from the chair, he continued investigating until he found the table, as well. Pulling the chair back from the table, he gingerly sat down and then scooted forward carefully, not wanting to bump the table in case Connor had already served his own stew. No sooner had he gotten himself situated when Connor set a bowl and spoon in front of him.
"Beer?" Connor asked, as if he didn't already know the answer.
"Oh, and dug these out for you, too," Connor said as he placed a pair of sunglasses on Methos' nose.
Reaching up to touch them, Methos smirked. "I suppose they are less conspicuous than a dirty rag around my head, aren't they?"
Connor snickered. "Yeah, you're Mr. Cool now."
"I'll have you know that I'm always Mr. Cool," Methos insisted indignantly.
That engendered another snicker from the Highlander and then Methos heard the heavenly sound of a beer cap being removed from a bottle. He held up his hand and was not disappointed when a cold bottle met his grasp.*****
Methos woke with a start, his breath uneven as he tried to discern between his nightmares and reality. The darkness didn't help. Raising his hand to his face, he felt the bandage Connor had insisted on putting on his eyes. It was odd, having something not heal immediately. He had suffered diminished healing in the past, after some truly horrific experiences, but no one had ever put his eyes out before. He listened intently, trying to figure out what had him feeling so uneasy... there was no sense of presence. He couldn't feel Connor's Quickening! Sitting up, Methos groped on the floor for the clothes he'd shed the night before. In his rush, he bumped into the dresser.
"Adam? Are you alright?"
Methos paused, his heartbeat slowing as he recognized the voice. "Joe?" he called out in disbelief.
"Yeah, it's me. I've brought some of your stuff..." Joe trailed off as Methos opened the door.
"Did you happen to bring a sword?" Methos asked hopefully.
"Well, yeah, but..." his voice trailed off again as he really didn't want to bring up the whole blindness issue. After all, of course, Methos knew he was blind.
Methos' lips quirked up a bit. "I know, but it will make me feel better to have it, just the same."
"Guess I can understand that," Joe said. "Here." He held out the duffle he'd hurriedly packed after Connor's phone call earlier in the morning. He held the bag steady and managed not to say anything as he watched Methos cautiously feel for the handle. Damn. This was not good. No wonder Connor had called him.
"I take it Connor called you to come babysit? Where did he go, anyway?" Methos asked once he'd finally snagged his duffle.
Joe shrugged. "Said he had to get some supplies. He didn't think you'd want to be alone when you awoke. I made some coffee and there are croissants, if you're interested."
"Yeah, I'll be out in a minute. I'm just going to change," Methos said, holding up the duffle. "Thanks for bringing my things."
"No problem. I'm just happy to see you," Joe said, wincing even as the words left his mouth.
"Wish I could say the same," Methos muttered, but without heat, and then closed the door.*****
Joe was reading the paper at the table when Methos made his way into the kitchen. He looked a bit more like himself in a henley, jeans, and sunglasses.
Easing himself into the same chair he'd used the last time, Methos let out a soft sigh. "So, coffee and croissants?"
"Yeah, hang on." Joe levered himself up to get the coffee pot. When he got back to the table, he filled up the cup he'd gotten out with his own and pushed over the plate with the croissant. "Croissant in front of you, hot coffee on the far side of the plate on the right."
"Thanks," Methos said as he reached forward for the croissant. "You know, you're better at this than Connor."
"More experience. When I was in the VA hospital, there were a couple of guys in the ward who had lost their sight in the war. We were all learning to adjust to our losses."
Methos nodded thoughtfully.
"And how are you adjusting?" Joe asked.
Methos shrugged. "I'm sure worse things have happened to me, I just can't seem to recall them at the moment."
"Do you want to talk about what happened?"
"Not particularly, but I suppose I should." Methos sighed heavily. "Not much to tell, really. They kicked me out of the library at closing. I only needed a few more hours, and I could have finished that paper on Machu Picchu that was due... What is today?"
"It's Monday, the twentieth," Joe answered.
"Ah, well, two weeks' ago, then. No check this month, I suppose," Methos said mournfully, then sipped at his coffee. "Guess it doesn't matter now. Anyway, before I reached my car, there was a sharp pain in my chest and I was dead before I hit the pavement. Next thing I know, I'm waking up in Renault's little 'Chamber of Delights.' And this time, he knew just how to ensure that I wouldn't get away from him."
"This time? You mean, he's had you before?" Joe asked, eyes wide in shock.
"About, I don't know, forty or fifty years ago or so? Renault, who was going by the name John Reams at the time, had grabbed four of us. I managed to pick the lock on the cage he'd stashed me in, release the other three, and escape. Burnt down his house on my way out and got out of town. At that time, I hadn't taken a head in 150 years and didn't want to ruin my streak."
"Jesus," Joe breathed, "You're William."
"Matthew Kingston, at your service." Methos smirked. He took another sip of his coffee and scowled. "Isn't there any beer?"
"I wondered how long it would take for you to ask that," Joe said as he slid over the bottle he'd taken out of the fridge before Methos had made it to the kitchen.
"Ah, Joe, you know me so well." Methos took a healthy drink and sighed in contentment as he set the bottle back down.
Joe snorted. "Yeah, right. Pull the other one, pal. William Kingston, hmm? No Watcher, only mentioned in the Chronicles of Renault and those three other Immortals you'd let loose."
"William kept a low profile. Evidently, just not low enough. Bad luck that Renault snatched me that time, too, but he always nailed his prey from afar. Wouldn't want to alert his victimes with his Presence, you know."
"I take it he remembered you."
"Oh yes, he remembered me quite well. And blamed me for spoiling his fun and hunting grounds. Needless to say, he decided a bit of payback was in order." Methos rubbed the bridge of his nose just under the sunglasses. He didn't really want to think about Renault's version of payback--the sense memory of the glowing hot poker coming towards his eye... and then the other one... His fingers clenched the table tightly as he fought down the panic.
"Methos," Joe said urgently and then placed his own hand on top of Methos'.
At the warm touch, Methos took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I'm fine," he muttered.
"Sure you are," Joe agreed as he eyed his friend in concern.
They both jumped as the door slammed open and Connor strode in, arms full of groceries. Methos pulled his hands out from under Joe's and casually picked up his beer.
"It's about time you got your lazy bones out of bed, Pierson," Connor said as he placed the bags on the counter.
Joe sat back as well, silently cursing Connor's timing. Methos had been weakening, he'd let down a few of those massive shields he hid behind. If he'd had a bit more time alone with him, he was sure he would have opened up. For some reason, Methos had always been able to talk to Joe, albeit sometimes reluctantly. He'd cried over Alexa, gotten very drunk and mourned the Horsemen, shared grief over both Mike and Byron, and even commiserated over the difficulties in being Duncan Macleod's friend, and each time Joe felt the wonder that Methos, who had lived over 5000 years, had chosen him to share such things with--not Macleod, who was Immortal, not Amanda, who was closer in age--but him, Joseph Dawson, mortal, bartender, Watcher.
"I'll let you put stuff away, that way, when it's your turn to cook, you'll know where things are. I'm not going to wait on you while you're here," Connor said as he went back out for the next load.
With a soft exhalation of air, Methos stood up. "Very well, but no complaining if your meal doesn't come out just right. Although, now that I think about it, maybe you wouldn't notice. I seem to recall Mac complaining about your cooking?" Methos drawled.
Joe just managed to stifle his snigger as Connor slammed back out the door, mumbling something in Gaelic. He didn't understand the words, but at the amused look on Methos' face, it was a good bet that Methos did. "Want some help?" he offered as he watched Methos carefully navigate his way around the kitchen.
"Just don't let me damage anything too valuable. I'd rather not have to spend my remaining days with a sulky Scot," Methos replied.
This time, Joe didn't bother to repress his sniggering. But the ancient Immortal's words bothered him. He didn't like the way Methos had said 'remaining days,' and decided that a chat with Connor was going to be in order in the near future. The elder Macleod may have had experience dealing with his pig-headed clansman, but that in no way prepared him for the complexities of dealing with the chameleon that was Methos. Where Duncan Macleod was a rock--sturdy and damn near impossible to budge--Methos was quicksilver--unpredictable and ever changing.*****
After Joe had left to open his bar, Connor nudged Methos' feet off the coffee table.
"Hey!" Methos complained.
"Up. First, a tour of the house, and then I think you need some practice," Connor said.
"Practice? Practice doing what?" Methos asked warily as he got off the couch. A tour sounded good, but he didn't trust the Highlander when he had that particular tone in his voice.
"Fighting, of course. Wouldn't want you to get out of shape," Connor said cheerfully.
"Ha ha, very funny, Macleod. I may be blind, but I'm not stupid," Methos snapped.
"Good, then you won't argue me, will you?" Connor returned.
Methos just grunted. If he wasn't careful, he was going to pick up more of the Highlander's bad habits. He winced as his shin connected with the table, but refrained from vocalizing the curse that sprang to his lips. He somehow doubted that Connor would appreciate the aspersions that Methos was casting upon his countrymen.*****
As Methos felt the wooden blade against his neck for the fifth time, he decided that he was thoroughly sick of the sensation.
"You're not even trying," Connor taunted as he tapped Methos' neck gently with the wooden practice sword.
"I swear, Macleod, if you tell me to 'feel the Force,' I will find a way to hurt you," Methos growled, wiping the sweat from his face with his arm. The sunglasses had once more been replaced by cloth, so he didn't have to worry about knocking them off.
Connor's raspy laugh mocked him and Methos forced himself to stand still and not simply lunge at where he thought the Highlander was. It was time to stop thinking and start reacting. Breathing deeply, he centered himself. He had fought in the dark before; just because he was the only one in the dark this time, it didn't mean he should fight any differently. The sword was a part of him, the moves were ingrained, he just had to let his reflexes take over...
The next time Connor swung, he was surprised when Methos blocked his sword. He was then forced on the defensive for the first time since they had started their sparring session. "That's better," he approved, then used his foot to hook Methos' leg and send him plummeting to the floorboards of the small training room. "But maybe that's enough for today."
Methos remained on the floor on his back, attempting to catch his breath. He felt the fear and panic try to take hold again and battled against it. For just a moment, he had felt like maybe he could survive this, but then reality had reared its ugly head and he had found himself crashing back down to earth, literally.
"Not too bad. Tomorrow, maybe you'll be able to avoid the first five beheadings."
Connor's words interrupted Methos' internal monologue and he groaned. "What is this? Torment the really old, blind guy day?" he groused as he held up his hand for Connor to help him up.
"No, it's torment the really old, blind guy month," Connor tossed back as he pulled Methos to his feet.
Joe closed the office door behind him as he came out into the main bar area and was surprised to see Connor and Methos sitting at a table near the back. In the past two weeks, there had been no indication that Methos' eyes were going to regenerate and the Immortal had steadfastly refused to leave holy ground. That he was in the bar now meant that something must have happened. Although, from the twin scowls, it could just be that the two were about to kill each other. Making his way to their table, he greeted them, "Connor. Adam."
"Hey, Joe," Methos said amiably. "Do you have a set tonight?"
"In a bit. What brings you two into town?"
"You mean besides the fact that I'm about ready to break the no fighting on holy ground rule?" Connor asked.
"Ha bloody ha. I wanted to listen to some real music," Methos retorted.
"But first he had to demolish the radio," Connor added.
Methos sniffed. "I couldn't take anymore of that mindless drivel. You're lucky it was just the radio. I was just about to take care of the television, as well. Do you have any idea how dreadful daytime television has become?"
Joe signalled to the waitress for a round and gave a pointed look to Connor.
Reading Joe's desire to have some time with Methos alone, Connor got up with relief. He had come very close to strangling the old bastard several times in the past couple of weeks. With any luck, maybe the Watcher would be able to get Methos to relax. As the days had passed with no sign of improvement, Methos had just been getting tighter and tighter, and Connor was afraid the older Immortal was going to snap like a bowstring that been pulled beyond taut.
Joe waited until Connor was at the bar before he turned back to Methos. "So, do you want to tell me what's really going on with you?"
Methos sighed deeply. "I'm bored. I mean, really and truly bored. And I can't read, which means that not only can I not enjoy a good novel, but I can't do research, work on any papers, or... hell, even surf the web. If I hadn't made that damn promise, I wouldn't wait another two weeks."
"What promise?" Joe asked warily, although the tightening in his gut told him that he had a pretty good idea.
Surprised, Methos cocked his head. "You mean the Highlander didn't tell you? We made a deal. If I can't see by the end of the month, he'll put me and everyone else out of my misery."
All of the blood drained from Joe's face, and for a moment he couldn't speak. It didn't seem possible. The world's ultimate survivor calmly talking about suicide, or would it be euthenasia? "Adam," he choked out.
"What? Joe, think about it. It's too dangerous for me to be this vulnerable. Do you want some two-bit punk to receive my Quickening? I don't. I've guarded it a long time, and there's no way I'm giving it up to anyone but someone of my choosing."
Joe shook his head. "There's got to be another way. I mean, Darius lived for centuries without taking a challenge..."
"Yeah, and his Quickening was lost forever when the Hunters killed him. I don't want that to happen," Methos countered.
Thinking fast, Joe tried to think of something to say that would change Methos' mind. He wished Mac were here... "What about Macleod? Duncan, I mean," he clarified hurriedly.
"What about him?"
And damned if he didn't sound honestly confused by the question. Joe mentally cursed. "Don't you think you should talk to him before you make such a final decision?"
"Whatever for? So he can try and talk me out of it? I don't think so. The boyscout would lay some guilt trip on me that I really don't need." Methos shrugged. "Besides, it'll probably come as a relief. No one questioning his decisions and morals. He won't have to justify being friends with someone who is such an amoral bastard anymore. After all, he doesn't 'know who or what I am,'" Methos quoted.
Joe winced. "Adam, you know that's not how he sees you," Joe protested.
Methos just shrugged again and took a healthy swig of his beer. "It's already been decided, Joe. I'm sorry, you're a good friend, but I just can't live like this."
"Don't you have a set coming up?" Methos asked pointedly. He wasn't about to let the stubborn Watcher change his mind.
"Yeah, yeah, but we're not done discussing this," Joe warned him as he pushed himself up out of his seat.
Methos just slouched lower into his chair. Shaking his head in disbelief, Joe made his way to Connor at the bar.
"Well? Did you manage to coax some civility out of the blind old bastard?" Connor asked.
"What do you think? And why didn't you mention his little 'euthanasia' plan?" Joe demanded, thumping his cane on the floor for emphasis. For once, the elder Macleod looked a little uncomfortable.
"I was hoping it wouldn't be necesary, that the blindness would be temporary. But now..." Connor trailed off, his eyes sliding away from the Watcher's.
Joe sighed heavily. "Yeah, I know." He rubbed his face wearily before turning back to contemplate his friend. Slouched down in his chair behind the table at the back part of the bar, Methos looked more isolated than Joe could remember seeing him. He wondered if this was how Methos had felt during the whole Horsemen debacle.
"You've known him longer than I have. Is he right? Would it be better for him to die than to live with this disability? If it had happened to me, I would probably make the same decision," Connor admitted.
"I don't know. I just can't believe, that after five thousand years, the man who says survival is the most important thing would suddenly change his tune. Unless... " Joe frowned as something flickered in his brain. Maybe it wasn't just the blindness.
"What is it?"
"I have to think about this some more, and I have to get on stage. Tell you what, bring him back into the city for a day or so this week. That'll give you a break and me a chance to see what's going on in that twisted brain of his."
Connor studied him thoughtfully and then nodded. "All right. It won't be easy," he warned.
"Don't worry, I'll guilt him into agreeing," Joe assured him. "You just have to know which buttons to push... and be someone he allows to push them."
Methos tensed when someone took a seat at his table, then relaxed when he realized it was Connor. "So, did you and Joe have a good time gossiping about me?" he asked with amusement.
"What makes you think we discussed you?" Connor asked.
Snorting in response, Methos held his reply when he heard the band begin to play. Of course they'd been talking about him. He knew that Joe was going to be interfering--defying the Watcher directives seemed to be his favorite past time. He briefly wondered if Joe would be able to disuade Connor from fulfilling his promise, then promptly dismissed the doubt. Connor was a Macleod, and that meant that his word was his bond--just like his clansman. Methos himself didn't believe such foolishness, but that didn't mean he wouldn't take advantage of such honorable streaks in others.*****
Connor glanced over at his passenger. Methos had been strangely quiet since they had left the bar, and it was making Connor nervous. Whenever the other Immortal became quiet, it was usually followed by some sort of hissy fit. Brows drawing together, Connor considered the possibility that Methos planned his tantrums in order to cause Connor the most annoyance possible, but dismissed that as paranoia. He was certainly relieved that Dawson seemed to have some sort of a plan. And he would definitely enjoy some time to himself.
Resting his head back against his seat, Methos mused that he missed driving. Sure, it was usually a pain in the ass and the other drivers were inconsiderate morons, but he enjoyed the freedom that driving gave him. The automobile had proven to be a very effective manner of escape, and it was now denied him. Of course, being chauffeured around by Connor Macleod had its own perks, one of which he was going to enjoy now. Barely managing to hide his smirk, he casually reached forward to turn on the radio.
Connor scowled as the unwelcome bass of some techno-pop tune filled the car. The low thumping never failed to make his heart pound in sympathetic rhythm. His fingers tapped on the steering wheel in annoyance, but he didn't touch the radio controls. To do so would be to admit defeat.
Relaxing into a more comfortable slouch, Methos waited. The finger tapping had already started, next would come the body shifting... ah, there it was. He carefully schooled his features so that his amusement wouldn't show, but it was always a fight by the time Connor started muttering Gaelic curses. Not much longer now... Methos raised his eyebrows at the particularly vulgar suggestion. He hadn't known that Connor had quite that vivid an imagination.*****
Methos smiled in satisfaction when he felt the practice sword make a direct hit on his opponent. Had they been using live blades, he knew that Connor would have been bleeding all over his floor. He hated to admit it, but he was grateful that the Highlander had insisted on so many hours of training. Learning to keep his balance and focus all of his senses on his opponent had kept him busy and gave him something to do besides brood. One of the less constructive habits he seemed to have picked up from Duncan. That, and guilt--he'd thought he'd left that behind centuries ago. Well, to be honest, he hadn't really, but he liked to tell himself he had.
"Enough!" Connor wheezed out. He was in excellent shape and his fighting skills were top notch, but he wasn't used to such prolonged bouts, especially with someone who was so difficult to predict. Flicking an eye at the clock, he discovered he had a perfect excuse for ending the sparring session. "If you want to shower before Dawson gets here, you'd better do it now. I think I've been your pinata long enough for one day."
"But we were having so much fun," Methos taunted. He'd received his fair share of whacks, as well, but he imagined they hadn't hurt his pride nearly as much Connor's. After all, who wants to get beaten by a blind man?
Deciding that Connor's suggestion was a good one, Methos sauntered over to the wall to replace his weapon. He could now navigate his way around the place with confidence and only had a problem when Connor moved something. Methos suspected that it was on purpose, to keep him on his toes, and he admitted to himself that it was a good idea. It was never a good policy to become complacent, especially when one was vulnerable.*****
Methos sank into Joe's couch with a soft sigh of contentment. It wasn't as comfortable as the one that Duncan had, but it was still familiar. He had slept on it a time or two in the past. He still couldn't believe he had agreed to Joe's request to help him fill in some of the blank spots in the Watcher chronicles, but at least it would give him something constructive to do. He had been going stir crazy. He never realized before just how much he depended on his eyes, and not being able to read was worse than any torture he had ever had to endure.
He started from the half doze he had fallen into when Joe entered the room and dropped something on the couch next to him. Stretching languidly, Methos yawned before putting his hand down to examine what Joe had brought. "What's this?"
"Oh, just a little something to keep you occupied," Joe said.
Opening the duffle bag his hands had encountered, he discovered what felt like several large books with raised bumps... Methos frowned. "Is this braille?"
Joe chuckled. "I knew you were smarter than you looked. It's just a another language, right?" Joe shrugged. "So, if you want to read, you just need to learn this form of writing. Can't be any harder than hieroglyphics."
Adam opened his mouth to argue, but then closed it again. After all, what could it hurt? It would pass the time and might possibly keep Connor from killing him several times before the final one. Suddenly, he grinned. His easy acceptance was sure to throw the Watcher for a loop. "Thanks, Joe. That's a good idea."
Stunned, Joe swallowed back all the good reasons he had compiled for Methos to learn braille. He took a deep breath and then slowly released it, shaking his head. "You contrary son of a bitch," he said softly.
"What? Would it make you happier if I refused? Told you there was no point, since I didn't plan to be around that long? Want me throw the stuff on the floor and 'make a scene?'" Methos asked.
His words earned him a smack on the shin from Joe's cane.
"Ow! What was that for?" Methos complained, rubbing his leg.
"For being such a pain in the ass."
Methos chuckled. "Guess I can't argue with that. So, which of these am I supposed to start with?" he asked, as he carefully removed the items from the bag. In addition to the braille books, there was also what felt like a Walkman and some sort of tools. A stylus, maybe? For creating his own braille?
Joe limped forward and poked around in the pile that Methos had spread next to him on the sofa. "This one," he poked Methos gently with a smallish book that was bound in a manner similar to a writing pad. "It has the alphabet, one letter per page, followed by the numbers."
Accepting the book, Methos traced over the bumps carefully. OK, maybe he could do this... Before too long, he had completely tuned out the rest of the world as he bent all of his considerable concentration to learning yet another language.*****
Joe was puttering around in the kitchen, trying to decide what to fix for supper when his cell phone rang. "Dawson." He listened intently, and then swore softly to himself. Glancing into the other room, he has happy to see that Methos had the headphones on as he tried to follow along with one of the braille children's books. "Yeah, I hear you. Thanks for calling. I owe you one," he said and then ended the call. He tapped the phone against his thigh a few times as he considered his next step. There was no help for it, he was going to have to call Connor and warn him. Checking to be sure Methos was still occupied, he slipped into his bedroom and closed the door.
"Yes?" Connor's raspy voice answered after the third ring and Joe breathed a sigh of relief.
"It's Dawson. Listen, we have a problem. It seems that someone saw your little light show a couple of weeks ago. My contact at the police department just called and said that a witness came forward and is working with their sketch artist right now."
Connor swore under his breath. "What about your precious Watchers? Why didn't they see this witness? And why has it taken so long for this person to come forward?"
"Hey, don't get mad at me, I'm just telling you what the guy said. I guess the witness was originally too frightened to speak up, but his conscience started bothering him. Anyway, I think it might be a good idea if you made yourself scarce for awhile."
"What about our mutual friend? I can't take him with me--he's vulnerable and conspicuous," Connor protested.
Joe sighed. "I know. Listen, I'll stay with him at your place and contact some of Mac's friends. Amanda, at least, knows who he is, and maybe one of the others has news of Duncan's whereabouts."
"He will not be happy," Connor predicted.
"Who? Adam or Duncan?"
Connor snorted. "I was referring to the pain in the ass you're currently watching. Duncan is a pain in the ass, as well, but under the circumstances, he'd probably want to be found. Good luck, Dawson. I'll call you in two weeks."
Joe stared blankly at the phone for a few moments before clicking it shut. The elder Macleod's abruptness was always a bit startling. Now, he just had to inform Methos of the change in plans. He blew out a gusty breath. Maybe after supper and he'd softened the Immortal up with a few of his favorite beers.*****
Methos set his bottle down with a satisfying thud. Joe had elected on Chinese take out, which suited him just fine. Days of the elder Macleod's cooking made him grateful for more palatable fare. Cocking his head, he listened as Joe continued to make small talk. Something was definitely up. Normally, Joe would be trying to coax a story out of him, or confirmation about some tidbit in a chronicle. But tonight, Joe had done most of the talking, and none of it had been very important--just idle Watcher gossip. "OK, Joe, what is it you aren't saying?" Methos finally interrupted.
Joe shut his mouth with a snap. He should have known Methos would know something was up, but he couldn't seem to keep himself from trying to put off the inevitable by talking about whatever popped into his head. Heaving a sigh, he levelled a useless glare at the Immortal. Shaking his head in consternation, he decided to just blurt it out. "There was a witness to Connor's fight with Renault."
"Ah." Methos picked the bottle back up and began idly peeling the label off. "So, I hope that our Highland friend has made himself scarce?"
"Yeah," Joe reluctantly confirmed.
Methos nodded. "And... the problem is...?" he left the question hanging.
"Jesus, Methos, how can you be so calm?" Joe demanded.
"What? Would you rather I hid under the table? Pitched a fit?" Methos asked. "Look, it would be unrealistic to expect Connor to babysit me for a month." Methos shrugged. "I'll just stay on holy ground. And no, you won't be staying with me."
Joe bit back the suggestion he had been about to make. "But..."
"No. If you try it, I'll just wait until you're asleep and disappear. And don't think I can't do it," Methos warned.
Scowling, Joe downed the shot of whiskey he'd poured himself. The contrary bastard would do it, too. "I don't like it," he stated, slamming his glass on the table for emphasis.
Methos smirked. "Hey, you're the one who's been trying to convince me that it's possible to live with this disability. Were you planning to babysit me for the rest of your life? And what about after that?"
"All right, all right, you've made your point. But I want you to keep your cell phone with you at all times," Joe said.
"Yes, Mama Joe," Methos said mockingly.
"Keep it up and I'll hide your beer."
"Ohhh, now that's low," Methos complained.*****
Methos locked the door behind Joe. The Watcher wasn't happy, but he'd left. In the spirit of compromise, Methos had agreed to spend some evenings with Joe, both at the bar and in the Watcher's home. Joe had threatened to stick some rookie Watchers to following his every move if he didn't agree. At least Joe had promised to feed him. He wasn't sure how well his cooking skills would hold up when he was guessing as to some of the ingredients. He'd have to get Joe to help him label things in braille the next time he came over.
Feeling strangely bereft, now that he had gained the solitude that he wanted, Methos huffed at himself in exasperation and headed for the bedroom. A good night's sleep, and tomorrow he would continue his study of braille. At the very least, it gave him something constructive to do. Much better than just sitting around and brooding. That thought made him snicker to himself quietly. If he wasn't careful, he'd start picking up some of the Highlander's bad habits.
The once-church felt different without Connor's buzz, and Methos was alone in a way that he hadn't been since Connor had released him from Renault's damned wall. The quiet and darkness combined to disturb him in a way that he had never experienced before. Sure, he'd been locked away in small, cold, dark spaces before, but he'd never felt this vulnerable. Every small sound of the building settling around him made him jump, and his nerves were just about shot. Finally giving up on getting to sleep right away, Methos threw off the covers and sat up. OK, so plan A wasn't working out. Time to come up with plan B.
Several hours later, Methos panted hard as he finished his last kata. He didn't normally go in for the type of intensive training that Macleod seemed to favor, but he needed to burn off his excess energy. Hopefully, he had tired himself enough that he would be able to sleep now. Gripping his Ivanhoe tightly in one hand, he slowly navigated his way to the bathroom to clean up. He ignored the slight quivering in his overworked muscles, and promised himself that he would sleep in.
Coming instantly awake, Methos stayed perfectly still as he tried to orient himself. There was no tell-tale buzz of Immortal presence, so that wasn't what had awakened him. Listening intently, he couldn't discern any evidence of anyone in the house with him. And then the annoying sound of his cell phone rang out again and he groaned in recognition. Muttering about overprotective watchers, he felt around on the night stand for the phone, but only managed to knock it to the floor. "Damn it," he swore as he followed after it. Of course, by the time he finally found the stupid thing and hit the proper button, all he got was a dial tone. Sighing in frustration, he thumped his head back against the side of the bed and just waited. If, as he suspected, it was Joe, then the phone would probably ring again right... about... now. On cue, the phone fairly danced in his hands as it rang merrily. "Hello?"
"Adam? Are you all right?" Joe's voice, slightly strained with worry, greeted him.
"Yeah, I just woke up," Methos admitted.
There was a slight pause, and then Joe asked cautiously, "Do you want me to come over?"
Frowning, Methos tried to figure out what had brought that on. "Huh? I mean, what time is it?"
"After three in the afternoon."
Methos grunted. Well, the exercise had certainly worked. He'd slept like the dead. "Nah, I'm all right. Just had a late night." A banging at the door suddenly caught his attention. "Listen, there's someone at the door. I'll call you later." Methos clicked the phone shut before Joe could protest and pushed himself off the floor. Fumbling around on the nightstand, he located his sunglasses and slipped them on before running a hand through his hair. Good enough. The banging started up again and Methos called out, "Hold on, I'm coming!" as he made his way to the door.
"Who's there?" he yelled through the door. He knew that his visitor wasn't Immortal, but that didn't mean he wanted to take any chances.
"The police," came the reply in heavily accented English.
At that, Methos paused. Could it be a trick? But for what purpose? No one even knew he was here except for Joe and Connor. "Just a moment, please." He disengaged the locks and opened the door slowly.
"Ah, Monsiuer, it was reported that this man was spotted in the area. Could you tell us please if you have seen him?"
Methos heard the crinkle of paper and assumed that the officer was most likely holding out a sketch of Connor Macleod. He found it ironic that he could tell the officer quite truthfully that he hadn't seen him. "I'm sorry, I can't help you," he replied.
"You haven't even looked at the sketch," the officer started angrily, but was interrupted by a second voice.
"Wait. Monsiuer, could you remove your sunglasses please?" This officer sounded younger and was obviously quicker on the uptake than his partner.
"It's not pretty," he warned, but he reached up to do as requested.
There was a sharp gasp and a small sound of dismay, and then the second officer was apologizing profusely. "So sorry to have bothered you, sir."
"It's quite all right," Methos said smoothly as he replaced the sunglasses. "There was no way you could have known."
"What happen..." the first officer started to ask, but cut himself off. From the sounds of things, Methos guessed that his partner had nudged him none too gently in the ribs.
"Have a good day, Monsiuer. If you hear of anything suspicious in the area, please give us a call," the younger officer said.
"Of course. Good day, officers," Methos said. He waited a minute as he listened to their steps retreating and then shut and locked the door once more. He chuckled as he thought about the sight he must have presented, answering the door in his boxers and t-shirt with mussed up hair and sunglasses. The first officer had probably assumed he had a hangover. He felt a bit sorry for the nasty shock he must have given them when he removed the glasses, but they had asked for it. He yawned widely and headed for the bathroom.*****
Somehow, Methos wasn't surprised when Joe showed up on his doorstep an hour later.
"You didn't call back," was the first thing the Watcher said as he stumped his way into the kitchen.
"I was going to call you after I'd eaten," Methos said. "I'm fine. It was just the police. I'm guessing they're going door to door with a sketch of Connor. Someone reported having seen him in the neighborhood."
Joe grunted at this new information as he looked over the Immortal with a critical eye. Methos may have slept in, but he still looked like crap.
"But since you're here, you can help me in the kitchen. I want to tag the stuff in the kitchen so I won't be making a mystery meal whenever I get hungry," Methos said.
"Tell you what, I'll fix us a couple of omelets, and then we'll reorganize the kitchen," Joe suggested.
"Sure. I've learned never to turn down the offer of a meal," Methos agreed amiably. He cracked his neck and then went to get his braille books and supplies. In truth, he was sort of grateful for Joe's arrival. He'd never admit it to the Watcher, but Joe's presence made him feel safer. The visit by the police had only served to reinforce how vulnerable he currently was. Learning braille was an interesting and entertaining past time, and he could spar well enough without his sight, but he truly doubted his ability to survive with such a handicap. Not being able to read the body language and expressions of others was a huge disadvantage, especially since his main method of survival was to present the image that others expected to see. And the thought of having to face another Immortal made him feel physically ill. Macleod didn't count, as he knew the Highlander wasn't interested in his Quickening. That thought brought up another problem. If Connor was being sought by the police, it was unlikely that he would be returning anytime soon. How, then, was he going to fulfill his promise? Methos sighed. If, by the end of the month, Connor hadn't contacted him, he'd just have to weasel the Highlander's location out of Joe.*****
Joe sighed as he glanced at the clock. He'd need to get a move on if he was going to get to the bar on time for opening. He didn't like the idea of leaving Methos alone, though. The Immortal hadn't said much, but Joe could tell that the police visit had shaken him. If a couple of mortals could throw him off his stride, Joe hated to think what the arrival of a Challenger might do. Sure, Holy Ground was supposed to be safe, but not all Immortals played by the rules. And Methos just wasn't the type of person who could stay confined for long periods of time. Joe still couldn't figure out how Darius had managed it for all those years without going stir crazy, and Methos sure didn't have the sense of peacefulness and calm that the holy man did.
Catching the soft exhalation of air, Methos cocked his head. "You should probably be getting back, shouldn't you?" he prodded.
"Yeah... Look, are you sure you don't want to come to the bar tonight?"
Methos shook his head. "Not tonight. I've had enough excitement for one day," he said sardonically. "Let's just keep the schedule we had planned. Come get me on Friday so I can hear you play."
"All right, but you'd better not back out on me, buddy," Joe warned as he levered himself up with a grunt. "And call me regularly. I don't have any Watchers on you, and I worry. It wouldn't do if I lost both Macleod and you."
"Yes, Mother," Methos agreed. Suddenly, he flashed Joe a grin. "You'd think I was a chick just pushed out of the nest."
"Hmmf. I'm not so sure that's not far from the truth," Joe muttered.
"Bye, Joe. Thanks for coming by," Methos said more seriously as he walked his friend to the door so he could secure the locks.
"Yeah, yeah," Joe brushed away the thanks. "Just try not to poison yourself with your cooking. The cleanup could be nasty."*****
Methos let his head fall back against the seat in the booth Joe had reserved for him. The soulful sounds of Joe's guitar and voice washed over him and the sadness of the song of love lost had him contemplating all that he had lost in his own long life. 'Well, it's all about to end, isn't it? Only a week left. I'd better start working on Joe now. He's going to be reluctant, but he's too susceptible to guilt to hold out on me," Methos thought. He stiffened as the unmistakable Presence of another Immortal shivered down his spine. 'Terrific.' He waited, knowing that the other would be able to single him out without too much trouble. Soon enough, he felt the Presence approaching even before the sound of the man's boot heels reached his ears. The man had a loud, purposeful stride, and Methos sighed inwardly. 'Why couldn't it have been a nice, timid creature, just out for a few beers and good music?' he asked himself wistfully.
The footsteps halted and Methos waited impatiently for the other Immortal to make the first move. Undoubtedly, he was being measured up and found lacking, but that would work to his advantage. Maybe he'd be dismissed as too easy? It was a nice thought, but seemed unlikely given the the way his luck had been going lately.
"Why don't we step outside?"
Methos suppressed a sigh. He just knew it would end up this way. "Why don't we just stay in and enjoy the music?" he countered. From the other's tone, he didn't think his suggestion would fly, and he was right.
"No, I feel the need for some... exercise. I had hoped for bigger game, but as you're the only one here..."
Methos stiffened. Bigger game had to be Duncan Macleod. Well, that put a different spin on things. But could he take the Challenge and win? He really didn't want this jerk to get his Quickening. "Oh, I doubt I'd give you much of a work out."
Before the headhunter could reply, another voice interrupted, causing Methos to jump slightly. "Hey, Adam, this guy isn't bothering you is he?"
Mike, Joe's stalwart bartender and fellow Watcher. Methos grinned in Mike's direction. He'd have to mention to Joe that his man had perfect timing. "Nah, I think he was just leaving. He was looking for someone else," Methos said, knowing that Mike would understand his meaning.
"Well, in any case, I've brought more beer and my company. If you want the former, you'll just have to accept the latter."
"Gladly," Methos responded. He could almost feel the glare he was sure the other Immortal was sending his way as Mike slid into the booth next to him.
"Another time," the Challenger gritted out, and then he stomped away.
Methos let out a slow breath and let himself relax again. "Thanks for the rescue. He didn't want to take 'no' for an answer."
"No problem. Joe would have killed me if I'd let some kid headhunter take you out of here," Mike said.
"Do you know who he is? He was quite rude--no introductions."
"Nope. But I plan on finding out. I take it he was looking for the Macleod?"
Methos nodded slowly. "Oh yeah. Even when he's not here, the Highlander attracts trouble."
Mike chuckled softly in agreement and then they both returned their attention to the music.*****
"Damn it, Adam, I really think you should stay with me tonight. From what his file states, this Daniel Kirkland character is bad news. He tracks down Immortals who are believed to have a good shot at the Prize and takes them out," Joe said as he locked the door to the bar.
Methos waited patiently, leaning against the building. "Which is why I would prefer to get back to holy ground as soon as possible," he stated calmly.
Joe snorted in disgust. "All right, all right. But I'm staying there, too. This guy's sneaky."
Methos smirked and was about to retort that he was sneaky, too, when he was hit by Presence. "Shit," he whispered with feeling.
"What is it?" Joe asked, looking around to see what might have riled the Immortal.
"Company. Joe, I think you'd better get back inside..." Something flew past Methos' ear and he flinched even as he heard Joe's cry of pain. "Joe? Joe? Are you all right?" he asked anxiously. A soft moan was his only response.
"Oh, he'll be fine. It was only a tranquilizer dart. Mortals are no fun to kill--no Quickening." The voice was dry and matter of fact.
Not trusting this Kirkland character, Methos knelt down and carefully felt Joe's body, searching for the dart. When he located it, he gave a soft sigh of relief, but took his friend's pulse just to be sure. Slow and steady, good. "You couldn't just take no for an answer?" Methos asked rhetorically.
"I like to finish what I start. And I prefer no mortal interference."
Methos stood and drew his sword in one smooth motion. Maneuvering past Joe's unconscious form, he stepped lightly, but with some trepidition, away from the building.
"So, it wasn't a ruse. You truly are blind?" Kirkland asked with clinical detachment. "This will be even easier than I thought. Actually, I'll be doing you a favor, don't you think? Putting you out of your misery."
"No thanks. That's one kind of favor I don't need. Well, what are you waiting for? You wanted me. Come and get me." Methos centered himself, listening intently for his enemy's approach.
A dry chuckle reached him. "Good, you've got spirit. That always adds a nice bite to a Quickening."
Methos didn't bother to respond. He concentrated on gathering all of the information his remaining senses could give him. At the scuff of a boot, he turned his body slightly, and when he felt the air pressure around him change, he ducked and brought his sword up with a resounding clang. Now that his opponent was closer, he was better able to determine Kirkland's position and managed to fend off the furious blows the other Immortal brought against him.
Kirkland disengaged and took a few steps back. "You surprise me. But how long can you keep this up?"
"As long as it takes," Methos hissed, catching his breath.
"Shouldn't be too much longer," Kirkland taunted, and then he was on the attack once more.
Unfortunately, Methos was afraid Kirkland might be right. Having to concentrate so much on where his opponent was in addition to blocking his attacks was quickly exhausting him. 'Damn, I need to practice more often. Not that I'll ever admit that to Macleod,' he thought to himself as he failed to parry one of Kirkland's cuts and received a nasty gash in the side. 'Mind on the fight,' he reminded himself.
The fight continued, with Kirkland getting in more cuts, but Methos retaliated with a few of his own. Both Immortals were tiring, but Methos knew he needed to end the fight quickly. When he stepped on an empty bottle and lost his balance, however, he knew that wasn't the way he had wanted it to end. Flailing his arms, he still couldn't keep himself from falling backward and landing hard on his butt.
"Oops, I guess you didn't see that, did you?" Kirkland said mockingly as he stepped in to make the killing blow.
A strong Immortal Presence surged around them and Kirkland glanced away in surprise. Methos, on the other hand, relied on the hope that Kirkland had been distracted and surged up with a powerful swing. He felt the Ivanhoe cut through Kirkland's neck and greeted the sound of the severed head smacking the pavement with unmitigated relief.
The cry jerked Methos' head up and he stared helplessly into the darkness, searching for the one who had called out for him. "Mac?" he cried softly, and then screamed as the Kirkland's Quickening struck. Pain blazed through him, and he could only scream his agony as the energy attacked him again and again.
Duncan Macleod stopped dead, watching as Methos was pounded mercilessly by the Quickening. Lightning struck the thin body and exploded from his eyes, mouth, and fingertips. Eyes wide, he could only watch, wincing in sympathy as his friend screamed. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the energy ceased and Methos dropped limply to the ground. Wasting no more time, Duncan ran to his side. "Methos?"
A soft whimper answered him and he gently turned Methos onto his back. "Methos?" he called again, softly.
Methos shuddered and then slowly opened his eyes. Blinking rapidly, he was at first unsure whether he had won or not. Duncan was staring at him, warm concern evident in his expression. "Mac?"
Duncan smiled and gripped Methos' arm reassuringly. "Yes, it's me. Connor tracked me down and sent me home."
Methos blinked again and then brought his hand up to rub at his eyes. They were tearing, but they were there! "Mac! I can see!"
Suddenly understanding, Duncan paled. "You mean, you were still blind when you fought that Challenge?"
"Yes! But, it doesn't matter now. I can see! Joe will be so relieved. Joe!" Belatedly remembering the fallen Watcher, Methos turned to find Joe slowly levering himself up.
"Keep it down, will ya? My head is killing me," Joe complained.
Getting up, Methos rushed to the Watcher's side. "Are you all right? Kirkland said it was just a tranquilizer, but we can take you to the hospital, if you want. Oh, and look what the cat dragged in," Methos said, grinning widely as he jerked his thumb over his shoulder at Macleod.
"What?" Joe asked, brow crinkling in confusion as he tried to sort out what had happened. Then he looked down the alley and saw Macleod walking towards him. "Mac! Help me up, Adam," he requested. He had just regained his balance when he realized that Methos had lost the sunglasses and was once more gazing at him with affection in his hazel eyes. "Methos, how...?"
Methos shrugged. "I guess the Quickening jump started the healing somehow. I'm not going to question it, just accept it."
Joe looked from one Immortal to the other, unable to contain the grin that split his face. "Hot damn! What a night. I think this calls for a drink!"
"I'll buy," Methos offered.
The other two looked at him in disbelief and Methos shrugged. "Hey, tonight, anything's possible."