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Highlander Fanfic: Refuge (Part 2)

Highlander Fanfic: Refuge (Part 2)



He woke shivering, immediately aware he was still naked but also that he was lying flat on his back. In pain. His lungs convulsed and he coughed, great agonizing whoops. He tasted bitter bile in his mouth and wished desperately for a good glass of beer to wash it away.

When he started to sit up, he realized he couldn’t. Wrists and ankles were tied tight, and not with rope but thick twists of wire. Painful. He was turning his head to examine the restraints when he saw Eilas.

She glided into the glow of the overhead bulb like poured honey, graceful, beautiful, impossibly young. No sword in her hands, but something that caught the light. He didn’t have time to recognize it before she bent over him and he felt something brush his throat, gentle as a feather. She adjusted something out of his sight, then sat back.

She hadn’t changed, except that her hair was longer, her eyes colder. If he’d still believed in any of the hundreds of gods he’d worshipped, he’d have started to pray.

She did not speak. She reached down to her waist, and when her hand came back into his line of sight it held a knife – not large, but the blade looked sharp enough to carve diamond. He felt his skin tighten and raised his head to follow the progress of the knife as it drifted over his chest, down to his stomach, lower.

When he lifted his head a fraction higher, something cut deep into his throat. He froze at the pain, the unmistakable hot line of blood. Eilas smiled.

"Monofilament wire, Methos. Any sudden moves, and you might take your own head. I advise you to hold very still, no matter what the provocation."

He gasped out loud as cold steel touched his thigh. Held his head rigidly still. Richie Ryan was right, payback was a bitch.

"I hope you dreamed of me," she said.

He licked his lips and tried for a jaunty tone. "Actually, I was on a beach on Santorini."

"Ah, yes," she said, voice dropping an octave to a warm, intimate purr. "With Alexa."

The world went very still. He experienced utter clarity, able to see every pore in her skin, hear every beat of her heart. He felt lightheaded with fear, as if Alexa was in the next room, just out of sight, waiting to be hurt. Impossible, but the tone in her voice --

"That was how I found you," Eilas continued. "Your grand tour of Europe -- what a foolish thing to do, but then, you were in love. I followed you from Egypt to Rome, then to Switzerland. I had planned to kill her there, but she cheated me. I was watching when she collapsed in the market in Geneva."

He was unable to speak. The wire around his neck felt hot and wet, and all of his muscles trembled with strain. All he could do was listen and clench his fists hard enough that tendons popped in protest.

"Remember the hospital, Methos? I could hardly believe it when you left her alone for almost a week – what were you thinking? Poor girl, dying all alone. But not to worry, I kept her company." The world fell away beneath him. He gasped for breath but the air was gone. Not Alexa. No. If there had been one pure act of love in his life, it had been the moments with her. Don’t take that.

She was watching his face, and she knew what he was thinking. She smiled.

"You think I killed her. Well, I could have killed her, in a hundred different ways, but what would have been the point? She was finished. So I took what revenge I could."

She wanted him to ask. He felt the blinding pressure of tears and under that a rage so cold it made him shiver. He forced himself to say it.

"How."

Eilas bent forward until her lips were only inches from his. Her face consumed the world. "I told her about the Four Horsemen, and the rider who was known as Death." She hesitated, waiting for his reaction. He wanted to close his eyes, but some last shred of defiance wouldn’t let him. She drank his pain like spilled blood. "I told her about two thousand years of murder, torture and rape. I told her about the savage slaughter of infants in their mothers’ arms. And then I told her what his name was, this Death who rode a horse. Methos."

More than anything in the world, more than living another day, he wanted Eilas’ throat under his blade. It was all he could think of. He could not think of Alexa, trapped in that bed, weighted down with tubes. He could not bear it.

"She wept," Eilas continued. "She couldn’t talk any more by that time, of course, but she understood every word. She went to her grave knowing what kind of monster she’d taken to her bed and her heart. The disease ended her life, Methos. I destroyed her soul."

He lunged for her, felt the wire cut deep. For Alexa, he thought, do it for her, but his courage failed. He fell back gasping on the bed, hardly able to breathe against the pressure of rage in his chest; he managed to say, with raw simplicity, "I’ll kill you."

Eilas smiled and reached out to hush his lips with the flat of the knife.

"Perhaps," she said. "It won’t be the first time."

###

She fought him harder than he’d suspected a girl of her size could. Methos had neither the time nor the moral strength to treat her gently; he hit her hard enough to break her neck, slung her temporarily dead body over his shoulder and walked to the edge of holy ground. The Kurgan had heard him. He was standing a few feet away, waiting, his men arrayed in sleepy fascination.

"You’re giving me the girl," the Kurgan said. Methos let the body slide to a heap between them. Kurgan prodded her with an interested toe. "I thought you would."

"We have an agreement. You take the girl, I go free."

A ripple of amusement through the Mittani henchmen; he didn’t like the implications. Kurgan signaled one of his men, who dragged the girl out of the way by one limp arm.

"One more thing," Kurgan said. He had a thin smile, like the edge of an ax. "Your sword. I want it."

"No."

"I’ll let you go with your head intact. My word on it. But I’ll take the sword."

"No."

Kurgan adjusted his stance slightly, leaning closer, eyes shining in the pale moonlight. "You’ll get another. I need a trophy to remember you by."

"Are you deaf? I said no."

The Kurgan’s black-feathered cape fluttered in a sudden cold wind. More rain coming. "You think I’ll break my word. You’re afraid I’ll take your head."

"I don’t think there’s a distant chance you could," Methos said casually, "but I prefer not to make a fool of myself proving it. You have what you wanted. Take her and go, and I’ll owe you a favor."

"Why would I need a favor from you?"

Methos smiled. "Everyone needs a favor from Death. Don’t try me, Kurgan. You’ll find my neck isn’t as tender as yours."

Kurgan laughed out loud, a startling sound; it faded, and in the silence Methos heard the rumble of approaching thunder.

"I like you," the Kurgan said. "You ruled the world once, and you might again if you last long enough. One day we’ll dance, old man, but I think that day is not here. I take the girl, I take your sword as a trophy, and you live."

It was his philosophy, wasn’t it? Live. Grow stronger. Fight another day. And this was what that philosophy had created – a generation of Immortals like the Kurgan. The legacy of the Horsemen. His children.

I’ll make this right. I’ll find an Immortal I can trust, someone who isn’t like me. I’ll give him everything I know, everything I am. I’ll make it right.

But first he had to live. One more sacrifice.

A bolt of lightning speared the ground on the horizon, and the sky muttered. Methos reached down and drew his sword. The crest of Babylon winked gold in the faint moonlight. He offered it to the Kurgan, hilt first.

The Kurgan’s hand closed around it and he had a second’s cold certainty that he had just killed himself, but then the Kurgan’s lips parted and he showed his teeth in a full, savage smile, grunted his approval, and turned his back. He walked to where the girl was stirring on the ground, her life returning. He pulled her up to her knees by the hair, and Methos forced himself to stay still as the girl screamed.

The Kurgan put Methos’ sword to her neck.

"Kurgan," Methos said softly. He knew his voice would carry. "Let her live."

"Why? I kill them as I find them. Easier than waiting for them to grow strong." But the Kurgan was waiting, the sword paused. He was interested.

Methos was glad he couldn’t see the girl’s face; there was some mercy in the world, if there was no reliable god. "It takes a long time to train a decent slave. Mortals don’t last. Immortals are very durable."

The Kurgan lowered the sword, looked down at the girl. The laughter this time was darker, and it made Methos shiver to hear it. The Kurgan let go of her hair, grabbed her by both wrists and shoved her into the arms of one of his men. "Tie her. Let her run behind the horses. I’ll see to her later."

Methos stood in the rain as the Kurgan rode away, the girl tethered and stumbling behind his horse. She looked back at him, her dark eyes huge with terror.

He did not follow.

###

She was going to kill him. That was absolutely certain.

Methos couldn’t deny that there was a certain poetic justice to it, but that didn’t mean he preferred to suffer through it. Of course, he didn’t have to suffer -- she was right about the wire beheading him if he moved quickly enough – but if he failed, he’d slice through his vocal cords, and he’d been around long enough to know that they never quite healed right. He liked his voice the way it was. He’d taken great care to learn to use it well.

"Eilas." He put all of his sincerity into her name, drawing her attention from an unsettling study of his anatomy. "I did what I did to save your life. I gave you the only chance there was. It might have seemed cruel, but – "

"Seemed?" Some of the lazy pleasure left her expression, and he didn’t like what replaced it. "Seemed. You gave me in slavery to the men who’d already raped and killed me once. You left me to be brutalized in ways you cannot hope to imagine. And do you know why I hate you? Not for that. Not for doing the expedient thing – I have lived long enough to understand that sometimes there are no right answers.

"I endured everything the Kurgan did to me. Everything his men did to me. I lived, Methos, as you advised me to do; I pleased them and I waited. I waited. Because I knew you would come for me."

The words felt like molten lead burning into his soul. He couldn’t answer her.

"Tomorrow, I told myself. Tomorrow he will come. He cared enough to save my life, he will save me from this. But you never came. For almost two thousand years, you never came. In the end, someone else did – a man named Vassily, an Immortal hunting the Kurgan. He saved me, he taught me to fight, he showed me kindness and love. I loved him more than I loved anyone or anything in the world."

Oh, gods. It came back to him with the terrifying inevitability of a fatal wreck.

Vassily Federev.

It wasn’t possible that he could be so wrong, so many times.

###

Cadiz, Spain 1783.

"Vassily Federev," Methos said. He stepped out of the shadows, careful of the footing on the damp cobbles; Cadiz was an old city, not half so old as he was, but rather worse for the wear. He remembered when it had been Gades, a Roman outpost known for its sweet wines.

Vassily Federev wouldn’t have remembered that. He was only about three hundred years old, a child in the scope of the Game. A dangerous, deceitful, ungrateful child.

The sight of him woke anger in Methos that he’d thought long buried and forgotten. He’d been a man of peace so long -- but the part of him that craved war was never really gone. He knew it every time he touched his sword.

Federev paused where he was, half-hidden by the moonlight. He was soberly dressed, a little out of fashion even for conservative Spain; he would have been laughed out of any salon in Paris. The sword he drew was definitely antique, an old-fashioned heavy rapier, far more efficient a killer than the needle-sharp toothpicks the dandies favored these days.

"I don’t know you. At least have the courtesy to give me your name." Federev hadn’t lost the accent of his Mother Russia, but it was smoothed by centuries of Continental travel. A bit of nervousness around the edges of that voice. He liked to know his opponents. Good.

"No, I don’t think so. If you win, you’ll know; if you lose, you won’t need to." Methos stepped forward and raised his sword. The Russian took a step back.

"We have no quarrel," he said. "Let it go. I’ll forget."

"I’m not in the mood to forget the murder of my friend."

"Your – " Federev’s voice faded. He knew now. The Quickening had lit up half of Cadiz. "You knew Petersen."

"For longer than you’ll ever know. You took him unarmed."

Federev snorted. "You believe that? He was my teacher. I would never do that."

"You expect me to believe it was a fair fight?"

Methos lunged. Federev danced backward, sword rising to counter, graceful and controlled. Petersen had taught him well. Stronger than he looked; Methos felt the force of the parry up through his arm and let his blade be pushed from position. He slid deftly in under Federev’s guard and nicked him over the ribs, a shallow cut but one that would bleed profusely if he didn’t give Federev time to heal.

Two more passes, and he cut the tendon in Federev’s right wrist. The boy let no fear mar his concentration; he transferred his sword to his left hand.

But the issue was already decided.

Federev had no chance. But he had a stark determination that was surprising, in a backstabbing coward. Methos cut low, feinted, darted in to slice at Federev’s white-stockinged ankles. Federev let out a faint cry as his hamstrings parted; he toppled forward to his hands and knees, lost his sword, raised his head to meet Methos’ eyes as the older Immortal stepped forward.

"Not me," Federev said faintly. "I swear that."

"Don’t bother to lie," Methos said, and let his emotion break through for the first time. It made his voice savage. "He was your teacher, and you took him from behind."

Federev refused to look away. He was still staring into Methos’ eyes as the life left him, as his head rolled loose from his shoulders and blood carpeted the cobbles, as his Quickening drained like white fog and climbed Methos’ body, wrapped him in a feverish embrace.

He was dimly aware of his own moan as Federev’s life poured into him, a hot pulse of memories and emotions, of loves and hates and hopes.

One last memory. One he didn’t wish to see.

Petersen and Federev, drunk, leaving a tavern, clinging to each other. Singing drunken bawdy verses. Federev feeling steel in his back. Dying, but not quickly enough – able to see Petersen on his knees, held by the hair, a blade at his throat. A giant of an Immortal holding that blade.

"No," Federev begged. But it was too late.

The Kurgan took Petersen’s head.

Methos pitched to his hands and knees after the Quickening ended, weak and ill with more than just the aftershocks. He’d been deceived. His old friend had died at the hands of the Kurgan, not this boy.

He’d had done murder, as the Kurgan had known he would.

"I saw it," Eilas said. "From the window. I was waiting for him to come home, and I saw him die. You took everything from me, Methos. Not just by giving me to the Kurgan – by killing the only man who had ever shown me anything but cruelty. And that I cannot forgive you."

The terrible thing was that he had no defense. He’d wronged her more than anyone should have to bear. But he wanted to live.

She was waiting for him to speak. He swallowed, felt the wire tight against the veins of his throat. "It never ends," he said. She didn’t move, but her eyes glittered. "Revenge. It won’t help you sleep at night. I tried, Eilas, I did the best I could do; I tried to give you the chance to live. Maybe I should have fought the Kurgan, I’ll never know. But what I did to you I did because I didn’t see another choice."

Still no move. He couldn’t tell if she understood him – or had even heard him. He forced himself to continue.

"You say I never came for you, but I did. I followed the Kurgan to a camp outside of the walls of Babylon; he was long gone but I found a dead girl, her head severed. I thought she was you. I thought your suffering was over. I was wrong. I’m sorry."

The glitter in her eyes was tears. He wondered how long she’d waited for that apology, dreamed of it, hoped for it. Like her escape from the Kurgan, it had been impossibly long in coming.

"I killed her," she said. "He made me. I didn’t know why."

Now for the difficult part. He closed his eyes for a second, taking comfort in the darkness, then opened them to focus on her face.

"I took Vassily because I believed he’d betrayed his teacher, my friend. I didn’t even know you were there. I swear to you, Eilas, I never intended any of this. If I’d foreseen this back in that Mittani temple, I would have killed us both."

"Liar," she said without any particular emotion. Tears raced each other down her cheeks, and she lifted one hand to wipe them away. "In all my life, I had only one chance for happiness. You took that from me. You took my life."

"I’m sorry," he whispered. "I truly am. I swear it."

The knife flashed, its point a bolt of lightning coming for his heart.

At the last instant it paused, trembling, and then withdrew. Eilas looked away from him for the first time.

"Perhaps you are," she said. "But that is not enough. I give you this chance, then. I will let you live if the gods will you should live."

She turned away from him and dug in some kind of knapsack on the floor; she came up with a cannister than made a liquid sloshing sound when she opened it. He recognized the smell immediately.

Gasoline.

"What are you doing?" Too sharp an edge in his voice. She began to pour it over the floor, the rugs, the furniture. Gods forbid, the bookcases. "Eilas, please. Don’t do this."

Eilas finished her arson preparations and set the can down, surveyed her handiwork and said absently, "I do as you taught me, Methos. I hunt where the risk is smallest. I use the skills I was given. I am as you made me. If you find a way to free yourself from the fire, then the gods let you live and I do not argue with the gods."

Methos swallowed hard as she picked up her knapsack and walked to the stairs that led up to the bookstore.

"Don’t do this," he said a little desperately. "Not to the books."

She struck a match. Its glow brought out the perfect gold of her skin. "They are what you love," she said, as if that explained it, and tossed the flame.

He couldn’t see it hit the floor, but he heard the hiss of ignition. By the brightening flicker, he saw that she was gone. The place was going to go up like a candle – not the books, damn it – and if he struggled too hard the wire around his throat would tighten further.

Methos forced himself to a state of precise calm, turned his head to the right and stared at his right wrist. The wire was thick – pieces of coathanger? He touched the raw edges of the twist but couldn’t get leverage to begin to turn it. The fire built to a roar. It consumed the furthermost bookcase. Aristotle … Aristophanes … Sophocles … Plato … It was like losing friends.

He took a deep breath that burned hot in his lungs and pulled hard against the restraint, pulled down with a smooth, powerful motion. His thumb dislocated, a spike of pain driven up his arm. Not enough. He jerked again, harder, felt heat against the soles of his feet and couldn’t help but review in his mind the corpses he’d seen in their pugilistic poses, their skin flayed black.

Blood slicked the wire. One more pull. It felt as if he was leaving half his hand behind. And then he was free, just as the dislocated thumb snapped back into place and the skin healed with a flash of blue sparks.

He fumbled behind him, found the wooden handle of the wire garrote and stripped it off his neck. The left-hand restraint came free with three twists of wire. His feet weren’t tied as tightly.

He lunged off of the table in the direction of the tunnel – and hesitated, looking back at his bookshelves.

It was like abandoning a room full of children.

He grabbed a bag and ran to the nearest shelves, grabbed armloads of books and swept them into the bag, all the books he could reach. They were already hot, the edges crisping. No more time. He backed away into the tunnel as the last of the bookshelves went up with a sound like an indrawn breath.

Tears on his cheeks as he made his way down the tunnel, coughing, hauling his pitiful sack of books behind. So many gone.

He didn’t realize until he felt the cold night air on his skin that once again, he’d forgotten to dress.

And he’d forgotten his sword.

###

Richie was trying out his fourth apology on the mirror.

"Look, Mac, I’m sorry about the car, I just – I mean, how was I to know that truck was going to back out like that? I just left it for a second, I swear."

The mirror wasn’t impressed. He looked guilty as hell. He’d never used to have this problem; in the old days, he’d been able to lie like a rug and everybody, but everybody, had bought it. But one look at him now and Mac would know all about it, the whole story, and he’d give him that disappointed look, the one that made Richie want to hit something. Preferably himself.

Why did Mac have to drive a damn Porsche, anyway? He’d never had a flash car like this before. What, he got rid of the kid and all of a sudden he was Mario Andretti? And anyway, Richie was good with Porsches. Usually.

"The good news is," Richie told the mirror, "it won’t be any big deal to fix. They’re saying, uh, three weeks maybe. And I’ll pay you back. Really. Just as soon as I – pick up that Nobel prize. Win the Publisher’s Clearing House giveaway. Rob Fort Knox. Hell."

He wasn’t even supposed to be in Paris. He’d told Methos a tiny little lie – Mac hadn’t exactly invited him to housesit in his absence. Mac had, in fact, told him to get the hell out of France and back to the good old U.S. of A., but Richie had met this girl named Simone, and until just last night he’d had real good reason to be alive in Paris.

And as soon as MacLeod’s plane landed, he was going to have good reason to be dead.

Speak of the devil … he jerked upright at the feeling of another Immortal’s approach, sweeping like a slow electric shock over his skin. Mac's plane was early? Oh, hell. He hadn’t even cleaned the beer can rings off the coffee table.

A sound at the door. Faint. Faltering. Richie held his sword partly hidden behind his back as he opened it; he started at Mac’s eye level, which would have served for Methos, too, then quickly dropped it about two feet.

The girl from the church. Methos’ girl.

She fell forward, covered in blood, her clothes in tatters. He had to drop his sword to catch her. "Please," she gasped. She was so small. He lifted her in his arms and kicked the door shut, carried her to the couch and put her down. He’d worry about the dry cleaning problem later. Even though she was healing, she was a mess, cuts, fading bruises, a broken arm – "Please, sir – MacLeod, I need Duncan MacLeod – "

"He’s not here, but it’s okay, you’re safe. I’m Richie Ryan," he added absently as he noticed the way her clothes were torn. Torn off. "Who did this to you?"

She said something in a language he didn’t understand, but he understood the tears in her eyes, all right. He reached up and smoothed tangled hair back from her face. She was just a kid. Why? Oh, he knew why. He’d been in and out of foster homes and not all those had been what you might call paragons of family values. He understood how sick people could be. He just couldn’t stand the look in her eyes.

"Please help me," she said, and began to cry in earnest, her thin shoulders heaving. He fussed over her a little, trying to fold her shirt together where it gaped open. She was not old enough for this.

Thinking like a mortal, Richie. A voice in his head, startlingly cool. Not his own voice, either. He swallowed hard. It sounded like Mako, the first Immortal he’d ever --

She’s not a kid. She’s Immortal, like you. Don’t believe everything you see.

"Who was it?" he asked again. "It’s okay. You’re safe here."

Are you? Shut up, Mako. That was something he’d never been able to say to the old bastard when he was alive. It felt pretty good.

"I don’t know his name," she gasped out around the sobs. "I remember him -- from long ago. He was a bandit. He -- took me as slave. I ran from him but now he’s found me again -- "

"Who? Can you tell me what he looks like, maybe?" Like there was any doubt. In a faltering voice, the girl described Adam Pierson. Methos. Richie sat there watching her cuts heal, listening to her bones reset, and even though he didn’t want to believe it he had to. What had Methos said to him? I’m going to finish this the old fashioned way?

"I saw you on the street before," the girl said. "I was afraid, I thought you had come for me -- I went into the church for protection. And he was there. It was holy ground, but he attacked me -- I know it was wrong, but I cut him. I could have taken his head but I didn’t -- I only wanted to get away. But tonight he -- he found me – and my teacher said, any trouble, Duncan MacLeod would help -- "

The son of a bitch. And Richie had believed him about all this -- Mac had dropped hints about Methos, not said in so many words that he wasn’t to be trusted, but then Mac was always cautious like that. Maybe Mac knew. Or he’d sensed it.

"He’s not going to get you again," Richie said grimly. "You’re safe. I swear."

She smiled. A thin, trembling little-girl smile, but a smile. He remembered how she’d looked that day on the street, in control, confident, the ease of her walk betraying her real age even more clearly than the buzz he’d felt. But now she looked like a kid.

Which was what she was.

He froze at the skin-scraping feeling of danger. Another Immortal. Damn. He’d been right before, it wouldn’t be Mac --

He grabbed his sword up on the way to the door, already had his hand on the knob when the knock came. He opened the door just wide enough for Methos to see his face. Only it didn’t look much like Methos, at the moment; this guy was smeared with soot, red-eyed, dressed in a raincoat and, from the bare legs sticking out, not much else.

"Surprise," Methos said moodily, flat-palmed the door open and stepped in before Richie could overcome his shock enough to stop him. Richie got in his way as the other Immortal started inside. "Give me a break, Richie, would you? This isn’t shaping up to be one of my better days -- "

His voice faded out as Richie put his sword between them. Not an en garde, not yet, but a pretty clear barrier. Methos stared at his face for a second, then focused over his shoulder. His face went completely blank.

"Of course," he said. Richie didn’t like the tone in his voice any more than the look in his eyes. "Not just the books, is that it?"

"Richie -- " The girl’s voice trembled. He glanced back to see her huddled on the couch, her knees drawn to her chest. "Don’t let him hurt me."

Methos started to take a step toward her. Richie brought the sword around, not just in warning this time. Methos looked past the blade into his eyes. Oh, man. This isn’t happening.

"Don’t be more of a fool than usual. Put that down before you get hurt." If there was anything Richie hated more than a sadistic asshole, it was an arrogant sadistic asshole. He put the blade out at a precise angle. Neck high.

"Don’t you mean before you do? Turn around, man. I don’t want to have to explain your dead body to Mac when he gets back."

Methos gave him a look of utter contempt, then looked over Richie’s shoulder, eyes widening. "Eilas, no!" he yelled

"You really think I’ll fall for --"

Steel in his back. It hurt. Jesus, it hurt. Richie collapsed to his knees, gagging, and felt himself go liquid inside. Oh, yeah, he was going to die. And it was going to hurt like hell, too.

He fell sideways. The blade was still in his back, and at least a couple of feet of it stuck out his front, smeared with red that he still couldn’t quite believe was his own blood. His head hit the barge’s deck and he realized he was looking up at the girl. Eilas. She bent over and scooped up Richie’s blade from his limp hand. Then she smiled. Not a little-girl smile. First Kristen, now this. You’d think I'd catch a clue.

Methos backed away. He really did look stupid in that too-short raincoat, his bare legs sticking out -- no sword. He didn’t have a sword, or it would have already been out. Eilas was stalking him like a cat as he dodged behind the couch -- the chair -- Mac’s carved chest from Spain. Tessa’s sculpture.

You’ve got a sword. Mako again. Damn it, couldn’t he even die in peace? Yeah, well, I’m a little busy right now.

You know what to do. DO IT, YOU STUPID PUP!


He didn’t want to. He really didn’t. But he put his hands on the blade and began to push it back out of him. That was a sensation he could do without. He kept pushing, grinding his teeth against the agony, until he heard the dull thump of the sword falling free.

And now he was bleeding to death. Great.

With the last of his strength, he rolled over and took hold of the blade. Heavier than he’d expected. He raised himself up on one elbow, yelled "Methos!" and threw the sword toward him.

Not a chance in a thousand that Methos would catch it, of course. But that was no longer his problem.

Richie was dead.

###

There was not a chance in hell of catching that sword, but since Richie had done him the favor of dying for it, Methos felt obliged to try. He threw himself out of the way of Eilas’ slash, kept going, overbalanced, reaching, reaching --

He missed.

Eilas hissed a laugh, leaped over the couch he shoved toward her, came down on top of MacLeod’s inlaid coffee table. Surefooted as a cat. He ducked a slice that almost took his head, rolled, felt for the cold metal of the sword --

Found it.

Brought it up just as Eilas stabbed him in the side, a wound he took because it trapped her blade, and he was able to put his old sword, the one he’d given up to the Kurgan all those centuries ago, through her heart.

She went pale as ivory, swayed, looked down in disbelief at the dimple of flesh and the intrusion of steel. She tried to draw her own blade out of Methos’ side, but he grabbed her sword hand and held it tight as she spasmed and fought him and gasped for breath that wouldn’t come.

Slowly to her knees. The fresh blood on her shirt mingled with the gore she’d put there herself to lure Richie’s trust. She was exactly what he’d made her. An animal with no thought but for her own survival, a creature without honor, mercy or principle. She was his own face, and he hated her for that.

And for what she’d done to Alexa. Oh yes, for Alexa.

He put his lips close to her ear and said, very softly, "She was innocent. Vassily was Immortal, it’s a risk we all take. But not her. Never her. You had no right."

And then he used the sword of Babylon to take her head.

The Quickening rose out of her in fog the color of pearl, and he closed his eyes as the currents caressed him, searching him for entry. He opened his mouth to gasp as he felt the first hot tingle of Eilas’ life sweep across his skin --

Dying. The hands of men, forcing -- he threw the image back but it was too strong, it came back at him, tore through him like another blade. This is rape. Feel it, Methos. Know it as a child knew it, alone in the rain while the Kurgan laughed. He felt himself on the ground, open, vulnerable, helpless.

No. This isn’t the way --

You wanted the Quickening,
Eilas’ voice whispered. Now you must endure.

He screamed. Kept on screaming as her pain poured into him, the Kurgan, the Mittani, months and years of torment and torture, no end to it, no end. He’ll come for me. He’ll help me. But he hadn’t. Vassily Federev, staring down at her with horror and compassion where she huddled, his hands gentle as he dressed her and took her out of that place. Safety. Warmth. Kindness. A hesitant, gentle love.

Gone in the flicker of a blade.

Methos, beyond screams, absorbed that pain as well. That desolation. That death of Eilas’ soul, true and final.

He didn’t want to remember Alexa in the hospital, dying, but she remembered it for him. He felt her cruel joy at the dawning terror in Alexa’s eyes.

Eilas had hated him so much. Her hate had consumed everything they both loved. And now, at the end, as she watched his sword come for her head --

Peace.

Methos realized that the Quickening was over, but he couldn’t stop his trembling. He was face down on MacLeod’s floor, half-buried in a hail of broken glass, and it was dark, so very dark. He rolled over on his side and came face to face with Eilas’ severed head.

For a second he could not move at all, and then he reached out and closed the open eyes. His fingers lingered for a moment on the perfect curve of her cheek. For all she had done to him, he could forgive her. For the pain, for the fear, for the destruction of his books -- for Alexa. Even Alexa.

He didn’t know how he would begin to forgive himself.

###

"Wake up."

He recognized that voice, kind of. It belonged to Methos.

Richie opened his eyes, blinked when he figured out it was still dark, focused on the light of the candle Methos held. The other Immortal was crouched next to him, dressed now in a pair of MacLeod’s sweat pants; the raincoat was gone. As soon as Richie moved, Methos was moving too, up and away, carrying the light with him.

No electricity. That meant --

Methos lit another candle from the first. In its glow, Richie saw the body on the floor. Methos had put a sheet over it, but the lump of the head wasn’t in the right place.

Richie couldn’t think of anything much to say. He sat up, careful of the still-sore muscles of his stomach. Methos sank into a chair, put his head against the cushions, and closed his eyes. He looked like he’d crawled out of hell.

"Leave me alone," he said when Richie opened his mouth. Richie nodded. He looked around at the mess the Quickening had made of MacLeod’s barge, and shook his head. After a moment of silence he went to the body and started to pick it up.

Methos slammed into him from out of nowhere, and all of a sudden Richie, back to the wall, was staring death in the face. Death had a sword, and his eyes were terrifying.

"Do me a favor," Methos said, very softly. "Don’t help."

He let him go. Richie slid sideways along the wall until he was out of grabbing range, bent over and retrieved his blade from the floor. Made a point of sheathing it.

"So, I guess I’ll take a walk, then," he said. Methos stood there over the body, watching him.

"Yeah," Methos agreed. "That would be good."

When Richie looked over his shoulder at the doorway, Methos was on one knee next to her, straightening the rumpled sheet. His fingers trembled.

"Richie." Methos didn’t look his direction. "Thank you."

Not a good time to ask what for. Richie nodded, closed the door behind him, and took a walk in the cold Paris night.

###

Methos was aware of another Immortal entering the church, but he didn’t turn to look. He had the sacristy all to himself, not counting the suffering Christ behind the altar. If he ignored the visitor, they’d probably leave.

"Thought I might find you here." Duncan MacLeod. He slid into the pew behind Methos, leaned forward and rested his head on clasped hands.

Methos didn’t look at him. "Sorry about the barge. The good news is, you’ll have to remodel. I hated the furniture."

"Come here to talk to Darius?" MacLeod’s voice was gentle and understanding. He had a gift for that. Methos closed his eyes a moment.

"He knew everything about me. Everything. He was the only person I trusted with my sins, and now – " Methos’ breath caught. He mastered his voice with difficulty. "Now he’s gone."

"I’m here," MacLeod said. "You could tell me."

So very tempting, but foolish. Methos shook his head. "No. I can’t. Not this time."

MacLeod touched him on the back of the neck, a startling warmth. Methos’ eyes went blind with tears.

"Darius always told me to forgive myself," MacLeod said. "Good advice."

"Is it? It’s too easy for me, MacLeod. Always a reason to soothe our conscience. Always an excuse. Sometimes maybe the answer is not to forgive."

He spent a moment more in silence, listening for any hint of Darius’ presence. The church echoed like an empty heart.

"Where are you going?" MacLeod asked when he stood up. Methos jammed his hands in his coat pockets.

"Know any decent bars?"

"A few."

"I don’t want those. I want a seedy bar with bad liquor, mean drunks and a bully who’ll kick the hell out of me. I want to get drunk, get sick and go home alone."

MacLeod stared up at him, startled, dark eyes wide. He blinked. "That going to make you feel better?" he asked.

Methos looked up at the roof and sighed. "No. But don’t worry." He put all his contempt into the words. "I’m a survivor."

"I’ll get the car," MacLeod said.



This is the first (and the earliest) of my Highlander stories. I'll be posting one a day, so I think it's going to be a whole week or so of Methos!

Not a bad thing, at least for me ...

-- J.

Comments

( 2 rants — Rant )
sanguinepen
Jan. 9th, 2008 01:42 am (UTC)
A week of Methos.... You say that like it's a bad thing. ;)
macgyvergal
Jan. 9th, 2008 05:00 am (UTC)
You know, for a guy that didn't show up until the third season Methos sure made an impression.
( 2 rants — Rant )