Gold streaked the black - a shower of red and blue and green, patterned with purple and silver. A second - a brief recollection of the night - and then sparks blossomed and fell back to earth, flaming tears against the darkness. The grass crackled where the sparks landed, and the heat of some of the larger fragments scarred the tarmac. Joe Dawson tipped back his head to watch a second volley of fireworks, marvelling in the majesty of so simple a display.

"This is great, Joe." Clutching a glass of wine, Duncan MacLeod appeared at Joe's shoulder in his customary, unannounced fashion. Joe didn't jump. He had done once, in the early days of his association with the Highlander - but these days he was used to the soundless comings and goings, and the unexpected salutations voiced out of silence.

"Yeah." They were silent for a few seconds, listening to the sounds of the fireworks, and to the music of the live jazz band playing some two hundred yards off to the right. Somebody laughed, a firework exploded, somebody gasped. "When Methos insisted on setting up a big Easter celebration, I thought it would be a waste of time. I've got to hand it to him though. He's really come up trumps."

"Looks like you might have tapped into his hidden inner talents." MacLeod looked about. "Where is he, anyway?"

"Inside propping up the bar, most likely." Joe took a sip of his wine, which to his way of thinking tasted suspiciously expensive, and favoured MacLeod with a smirk. "That's the only reason he set this up - so that he can doze inside where the beer supplies are, and I won't be able to make him do any work."

"I still can't imagine how you got him to take that job behind the bar anyway. The man's been a dedicated layabout for five thousand years." Duncan laughed. "Unless you're paying his salary in beer, of course."

"I'm hardly paying him a salary at all. I don't think I want to know how he's pays the rent on that new apartment of his." Joe sighed. "But he sure knows how to throw an Easter party."

"And you got a jazz band too. I'd have expected him to hire some seventies throwback rock band, who'd be blasting our ears with Stones covers and classics by The Who all night."

"Not at my jazz club." Stifling a yawn that suggested it was hard work circulating amongst close to a thousand noisy guests, Joe rubbed at his eyes before discarding the wine glass in favour of his stick. "I suppose I'd better go and find him, make sure he's not drinking all the merchandise."

"Is he on his own?"

"No, Daniel's with him. I gave him a job behind the bar too. Seemed sensible, since he missed his ship helping us out over that affair with Gulmore and Pascoe."

"Yeah. He came in pretty handy." MacLeod shook his head somewhat ruefully. "Seems that I always miss out on the interesting stuff."

"Like hell you do." They shared a grin. Duncan MacLeod's propensity for finding trouble seemed second only to that of Methos himself - and both men seemed barely able to make it through a single calendar month without becoming embroiled in something unsavoury. Evil Immortals, dangerous criminals, crooked politicians... all were attracted to Seacouver as well as to Methos and MacLeod, and Joe Dawson had long ago given up all hope of a normal life. These days any sign of normality just made him suspicious.

They made their way through the crowds, arriving at the main door of the club more or less unmolested. Everywhere there seemed to be guests who knew Joe - although he himself was not entirely aware of knowing them - all of whom wanted to shake his hand, and declare their high state of satisfaction. He smiled and nodded bemusedly at every compliment and commendation, and eventually led the way into the darkened interior of the club itself. A record was playing quietly, from some hidden source behind the bar, and there were two shapes seated on barstools in the midst of the looming shadows. One, a towering shape that belonged to a powerfully-built man of advancing years, looked up as Dawson and MacLeod entered, and slid off the stool to greet them.

"Joe! How's it going outside?"

"Great. Just great. The whole night's been a resounding success." Joe shook the proffered hand. "Why are you two skulking about in here?"

"Methos wanted to drink alone. I wasn't sure that was such a great idea, with the way he's been acting just lately. Figured I'd keep him company."

"He's feeling down again?" MacLeod rolled his eyes. It sometimes seemed to him that Methos lived to be miserable. If he wasn't mourning some dead friend who really didn't deserve to be mourned - in MacLeod's opinion at least - then he was grousing about his age, or his situation, or the fact that he couldn't remember anything of his long-distant early years. There were times when Duncan MacLeod still found it impossible to believe that the legendary Methos he had heard so much about in his life - the five thousand-year-old paragon of Immortality - was the man he had come to know. Surely you couldn't live for five thousand years and still be a sulky pain in the butt?

"Not down exactly. Just weird." Striding back towards his seated companion, Daniel Reuben - sometime sailor and self-appointed guardian of the world's oldest Immortal - nearly knocked the older man from his chair with a hearty slap on the back. Methos glared at him.

"Do you have to be so cheerful?"

"It's a by-product of being alive." Sliding back onto his stool, Daniel gestured behind them. "We have guests. They want us to go outside and join in the fun. Circulate. Do party things."

"I arranged this get-together. How much more do you want?" Turning about on the revolving stool, Methos glared up at Joe and MacLeod through eyes blurred by too much beer. "Oh, it's you two. Hi."

"Hi." Joe headed towards a nearby booth, lowering himself onto one of the chairs, where the light was rather more welcoming. Duncan went to sit beside him. Having only just returned a week previously from a trip to visit his immortal friend Amanda, he still felt a little confused as to the situation he had discovered upon his return. Methos was now working for Joe Dawson, behind the bar of his jazz club - and although he had turned out to have a genuine talent for the job, he obviously didn't enjoy it. Quite why, in that case, he had agreed to take the job in the first place was beyond MacLeod. Dawson would not comment on the state of affairs, but clearly there was something unspoken between him and the ancient Immortal. Something had changed between them, and MacLeod could feel it in the air. They were closer, and yet in other ways more distant than they had been before. Dawson was quieter, and rather more given to brooding than the Highlander had ever known him to be. He and Methos spoke less to each other, and the flow of jokes and half-meant insults had slowed. Something, definitely, was not right.

And then there was Daniel. MacLeod had been introduced to this hulking mortal on the very night of his return to Seacouver. He had gone to the club to greet Joe, and had been met at the door by Methos, absently polishing glasses, and apparently trying to set a record for the slowest preparation for opening in the club's entire history. Daniel Reuben had been seated in a corner; a tall, tanned, seagoing man, dressed in colourful work clothes and huge iron-nailed boots. Apparently he had appeared out of the blue with some story of having overheard details of a contract on Methos' life, and had come to Seacouver in an attempt to warn the legendary Immortal. Reputation had led him to Adam Pierson, and logic had then led him to Adam's little secret. Methos seemed ambivalent about the whole affair, as though it mattered little to him whether or not Daniel chose to stay around. Joe, clearly, was pleased to have him about. He followed Methos like a faithful hound, and had already defused more than one potentially awkward situation in the club. Drunken troublemakers had long ago identified the false-legged proprietor as a likely target for fun and abuse, and apparently his lanky British barman made a similar target. Daniel, however, made the ideal discouragement. Nobody tried anything with him about, and for that MacLeod was willing to accept him - and yet there was something about the man that didn't quite ring true. Perhaps it was the story of his reason for having come to Seacouver. Perhaps it was the way he had latched on to Methos. Perhaps it was just the watchful glint in his hard eyes, with their veneer of charm and agreeability. Duncan wasn't sure at which point he had decided that the charm was just that - a veneer - rather than something more substantial and real. He just knew that he was not yet ready to give Daniel Reuben his trust.

"What do you think of the party?" His tone of voice suggesting that he really couldn't care, Methos found his way to his feet and stumbled over to join them in their booth. Joe smiled.

"It's great. It was a brilliant idea. I didn't think Easter was such a big festival to your average Seacouver citizen, but I guess I was wrong."

"It's not the festival. It's the excuse to party." Methos shrugged, eyes staring at the polished wood of the table as though seeing something else entirely. "Back in the old days, when the Christians were trying to convert the native English, they mostly did it through parties. Christmas, Easter - all that kind of thing. The English liked the idea of a few extra feast days, so they welcomed the new faith." He turned his eyes to watch another sunburst of multi-coloured fireworks, and gave them an indicative nod. "I used to make those things."

Joe looked intrigued. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. Used to work with... with a friend of mine." He frowned slightly, and MacLeod almost imagined that he saw a look of understanding pass between his two friends. "I know they always say you should never return to a firework once it's lit... but if you'd have done that with ours you'd have lost more than just your eyebrows. No safety rules back then of course. We could sell what we liked, to who we liked."

"I can't say as I'm sorry times have changed." Daniel smirked. "The history books tell us some careless baker started the Great Fire of London. In actual fact it was Methos and his pal having a firework display."

"No." Methos glanced away. "Although he and I were there at the time..." He smiled, but when he glanced up for a second, and his eyes met with those of Joe, the smile fell away. He shrugged. "Still, it was a long time ago. London hasn't burnt since the Blitz, and that certainly wasn't my fault." He rose to his feet. "If you lot don't mind, I think I'll call it a night. I'm pretty tired, been on my feet all night..."

"Sure." MacLeod rose to his feet in automatic courtesy. "Want some company on the way home?"

"I'll go with him." There was an - apparently unconsciously - protective sheen to Daniel's eyes as he made this offer, and for a second MacLeod let a tiny, hairline frown touch his forehead. Methos shook his head.

"No thankyou Daniel. I just want to walk home alone."

"It's a big city. Muggers in every alleyway."

"And I'm five thousand years old and still going strong. If muggers were going to be a problem they'd have killed me several millennia ago." For a second Methos sounded hard, then he gave a half shrug, and an even more half-hearted smile. "Don't worry about it. I'll see you all tomorrow night."

"Tonight." Joe tapped his watch. "Early opening, remember?"

"Yeah. Course." Methos was already walking away. "Tonight then." With a clunk the door swung shut behind him. Daniel let out a long breath.

"Is it just me, or is he even more crabby than usual?"

"There is no usual with Methos." Joe was smiling, but there was still a faintly worried look in his eyes as he stared after the oldest Immortal. "You'll get used to him."

"Maybe the business with Pascoe and Gulmore shook him up more than you thought. You said it got pretty intense for a while, with that old friend turning up..." MacLeod frowned hard at Joe. "Maybe there's something else? Something you're not telling me?"

"Nothing else." Joe's answer was just a touch too quick to be honest, although there was no shadow over the open expression on his face. "You know how he is. He likes to brood, and to sulk all the time - or to make us think he's sulking anyway. There's probably nothing wrong at all."

"Probably." MacLeod smiled. "You're right, of course."

"Of course." Daniel was heading towards the door. "Think I'll call it a night myself. It's been a long day."

"Sure." Joe flashed him a fond smile. "See you... oh, you're not coming in tonight, are you."

"Nope. Night off." Daniel grinned his broad, easy grin. "Glad you remembered." He rubbed his hands together. "Hot date, so I'm hoping I won't even be thinking about this place tonight. No offence."

"None taken." Joe was smiling. "Planning something special?"

"Oh, very." Daniel's eyes smiled even more broadly than his mouth. "So I'll see you."

"Yeah." MacLeod gave him a gentle slap on the back, and watched him as he strode away. The door opened slowly, momentarily letting in bursts of sound from the party outside. Voices mingled and blurred, music throbbed in the background, another volley of fireworks peppered the air with heavy sound. From somewhere came gusts of air painted with the smells and tastes of the roaring barbecue. Before Duncan had time to feel hungry, the door swung shut again; and once more the barroom was isolated.

"There something wrong, Mac?" Joe was looking up at the Highlander, eyes narrowed. Duncan could not help smiling - after all, the same question hung heavy on his own lips. He shrugged.

"Just thinking about Daniel. What do we really know about him?"

"He's a friend."

"So he says."

"Yeah." Joe seemed to relent. "As a matter of fact, I am running a trace... asking around, making enquiries, that kind of thing. The guy's a Watcher, so somebody somewhere must know him. I've drawn a blank so far though."

"Odd." MacLeod's eyes showed signs of suspicion. Joe smiled.

"Always the careful one. Sometimes I think you'd ask a bucketful of questions before you trusted your own shadow."

"If it was a friend's life that rested on it, you bet I would." MacLeod's eyes narrowed. "And speaking of which... what's going on between you and the old man?"

"Adam?" Joe shook his head. "Nothing. Look, I know you think he's acting a little weird lately, but--"

"I don't think he's acting weird. I think you both are. One minute you're as thick as thieves, whispering like a couple of schoolgirls, and then the next it's as though there's half a continent between you. You've been acting differently around me, too. It's like Methos is suspicious whenever he sees we've been alone together. Is there something he thinks you might tell me? Something he doesn't want me to know?"

"Such as?"

"Such as who that friend of his was - the one Daniel says looked like an eighteenth century poet."

"More like a twelfth century courtesan." Joe grinned for a second, then let the smile fall away. For the briefest of moments he almost looked scared. "No, there's nothing I'm not telling you. Leave it at that, Mac. Sometimes it's best not to push."

"Maybe." MacLeod shrugged, his eyes guarded and strange. " I'm going back outside. It's suddenly a little too stuffy in here for my liking."

"Mac--" Joe sounded as though he wanted to say something more, but he faltered before he got past the first half of the Highlander's name. For a second MacLeod hesitated, hand on the door, frozen in the act of opening it. He seemed to be waiting for something, and Joe seemed to be waiting for something, and the whole of the rest of the world seemed to be waiting for it too. The silence hung between them like a sheet. Finally Joe lowered his eyes. "See you later?"

"Yeah." MacLeod pulled the door open the rest of the way. "Maybe." He left, and Joe was alone. Slowly he tipped back his head, gripping his cane so hard that his knuckles hurt. He could barely see the ceiling, but he told himself that it was fatigue that blurred his eyes, rather than tears. A stiff smile crossed his face.

"There's nothing I'm not telling you, Mac..." His words echoed in the still and empty room. "Except the truth." He let his eyes close, listening to these thoughts as they circled through the distant air above his head. "And I still don't know if it's more dangerous to keep it a secret, or to just go ahead and tell you everything. Either way it's likely to get one of us killed." The stick slipped from his fingers and rattled on the floor, but that was the only answer he received in response to his words. For a second though, in the dark and empty bar, he thought that he heard somebody breathing, or moving just softly enough for their footfalls to remain inaudible. There was a sound like cloth brushing against furniture. Joe opened his eyes and looked up. "Mac? You there?"

There was no answer. If there had been somebody in the room - if somebody had heard his words - they were gone now. Dawson retrieved his stick and went back to join the party. Lately he always thought there were people listening in; watching him when he couldn't see them. This time was obviously just another trick of the mind.

Behind him, in the darkened interior of the club, a scratching sound suggested at the sudden moving of hasty boots on the polished wooden floor. Whispers followed whispers across the room, heading for the back door and the exit onto the street. There was nothing especially human about the whispers or the scratching, and either could have been the work of wind or relaxing woodwork - but the dark shape that watched Joe had a shadow, and the shadow was in the shape of a man.


The streets were quiet once the sounds of the party had faded into the distance. Methos walked slowly, trailing his feet, hands sunk deeply into the pockets of his jeans. He was oblivious to the silence, and even to the darkness, and was aware only of the thoughts in his head. Deep, dark thoughts; twisting, circuitous, complex thoughts, that drew him down into his own mind. Memories blocked out the present, plans blocked out his usual sense of detachment. A low laugh grew from somewhere within him, as one particular memory made him smile. The sound startled him, and he glanced up for a moment. Had he caught a glimpse of somebody watching him? He had thought so for a moment, but now he could see no one at all. He shrugged off the thought. He was so on edge, wondering each moment if Kronos was going to return, that he was starting to see people everywhere. Even more than usual he was tuned into the search for nearby Immortals, his mind and consciousness scanning the ether for that familiar buzz and sparkle. There was none. He could have been alone in the whole city, for he saw no sign of life of any kind, immortal or otherwise. No footsteps echoed in the streets about him; and for some reason that made him feel even more uneasy than the idea of being followed.

It was almost one in the morning by the time that Methos mounted the steps of his apartment building, and made his way upstairs to the place that he called home. The place in Seacouver that he called home, that was; he had five or six such places, in five or six such cities. One in Paris, one in Berlin, one in Melbourne, one in London - all listed in the names of a handful of aliases, some acquired as much as a century ago. Of all of them the one in Seacouver had become his main abode. Paris had become too full of people who knew too many truths. In Seacouver, however, a man could live for a long time in anonymity; which was just the way that Methos liked it.

The Seacouver apartment was large, very new, and still bore the lingering smell of paint from recent decoration efforts. After finally getting his last apartment looking just the way he wanted it, he had been forced to move; evicted no less, after his neighbours, the building superintendent, and most of the population of downtown Seacouver had taken exception to his being kidnapped in the middle of the night by a gang of men armed with stun grenades. The damage to the apartment had been considerable, and there was still talk of somebody being sued - not that the building superintendent could find anybody to take to court. In the event Methos had chosen to leave quietly, and had almost immediately fallen in love with the new, vast, copiously-roomed establishment just down the street. He had moved in the next afternoon, despite the owner's lack of conviction that a tousled-haired, badly-dressed grad student could afford to pay the rent; and had immediately begun to redesign the place in his own image. It was a long job, not least because the paint seemed stubbornly determined never to dry, but he had finished it eventually - or at least he thought he had. The skirting-board was still persistently tacky in places, where the paint had not yet dried, and his fingers kept sticking to the bedroom door, but other than that it seemed just about perfect. Perfect for him, anyway.

Cold night air was drifting in through the open windows as he entered, and he hurried over to pull them closed. Chances were that the paint there was not yet fully dried either, and he would find it impossible to reopen the windows now; but he dismissed the concern. Since he lacked the patience to do the decorating thing with any real dedication to detail, it was a wonder that things were looking as good as they were; and why it would have been of no surprise to anyone to discover that the furniture had already been pushed back into place, and the carpets re-laid, long before the walls were really ready for it.

There was a pile of mail lying inside the door. Methos picked it up, glancing disinterestedly through it. There were three official looking envelopes, which might have been bills or might have been bank statements - either way he didn't much care. He tossed them all into the bin and glanced through the remaining post. One was a personal letter from a Watcher in Denver, who had been trying to pin him down for a discussion on Immortal history for the best part of a year. Methos didn't know whether or not this particular Watcher knew who he really was - the letters so far had been rather vague on that point - but either way he had no intention of replying. He tossed that envelope into the bin too, and turned his attention to the other three. One was a letter from his former ward, Reece Walton, who merely chatted about life the universe and everything, as was his wont. Since falling in with the flamboyant Kyle Shade, Reece seemed to have taken up a lifestyle that was nearly as eventful as that of Duncan MacLeod, and he chatted as openly and offhandedly about battling smugglers and murderers as he did about the excellent scrambled egg served in the hotel from which he had sent his letter. Methos smiled to himself. Reece and Kyle made a good team. He hoped to see them both again soon.

The other two letters were catch-up ones from old friends - one in Moscow, one in Belfast. He threw them both onto his desk and resolved to read them later. He knew the type - people he had once known, in previous decades, who had grown older and older and yet continued to write. Sometimes he liked to read their tales - from first love to first grandchild, from raucous youth to ponderous old age. Tonight he wasn't in the mood. The only letter he was really interested in was the one that, as usual, had not arrived. Kronos clearly did not like to stay in touch. It was hard to worry and yet not to worry, all at the same time. To want somebody to be okay, and yet at the same moment to be unsure if you really even wanted them to be alive... Methos shrugged off the thoughts. Since meeting with Kronos again he seemed to have spent his whole life in reflection; and he had had enough of it. If Kronos wasn't going to get in touch with him, he wasn't going to waste any more time thinking about the man. Just because you loved your brother it didn't mean that you couldn't hate him at times too - and think of him as the world's biggest pain in the neck into the bargain.

Beginning to whistle a merry little song that had started out in life as a hard rock classic by Def Leppard, but seemed to have mutated in his mind into a frothy little sixties pop tune, Methos grabbed a book from the shelf behind the desk and threw himself onto his bed. He kicked off his shoes and socks, slid a CD into the sound system beside his headboard, and turned the volume down to a suitable 'pacify the neighbours' level. Bruce Springsteen didn't sound right when played quietly, but he was willing to make concessions if it helped him avoid being thrown out of his home again. He was already on probation, now that his new landlord had heard from the last one about what sort of tenant he was - which he found rather unfair. Loud music he was prepared to take the blame for - but loud kidnapping raids involving heavily armed masked men certainly weren't his fault.

The hours ticked by in gentle refrain. Two o'clock saw Methos reach out to change CDs, substituting Springsteen for The Kinks. Half-past two saw him sleepily starting a new chapter of his book, turning the pages with decreasing speed. Outside his apartment the flow of traffic had reached its lowest level of the day, lost in that point between day and night when the city came as close as it ever did to sleeping. The minutes ticked by, Methos turned his pages, the music played on. Three o'clock came and went - and by half-past three, long after the CD had come to its end, the quiet apartment looked down upon Methos, fast asleep on his bed and still fully-clothed, his book held fast in one hand. He moaned in his sleep and stirred slightly, and the book fell onto the floor with a dull thud. He did not awaken. He did not awaken, either, when the door to his apartment creaked and whispered its way open, and a pair of black running shoes found their silent way across the recently laid carpet. The smell of new paint caught in the intruder's throat, and he coughed lightly, but Methos did not open his eyes. The intruder froze as though anticipating discovery, but the old Immortal barely moved. Relieved, the intruder moved onwards again. He glanced at the mail on the desk, looked over the computer with its pile of games and its novelty mouse mat. He looked over the titles in the bookcase above the desk, stared around at the myriad other bookcases, but made no move towards any of them. Instead he stole towards the bed and its sleeping occupant. Inside the bedroom the light was brighter - and had Methos opened his eyes at this point he would have recognised the features of Daniel Reuben, staring down at him with a look of undisguised hatred. But he didn't open his eyes. Lulled by the slow-acting pills Daniel had slipped into his beer earlier in the evening, Methos was dead to the world.

"Sleep on, Methos." Daniel reached into his jacket, pulling something from inside one of the pockets. It was an envelope. Using one, black-gloved finger, he opened the flap and tipped the contents onto the bed beside the sleeping Immortal. A single sheet of black paper floated onto the covers, along with a little red book and a shining gold coin. Daniel stared down at them coldly, then replaced the envelope in his jacket, and with the same steady precision pulled a knife from another pocket. He weighed it in his hand for a second, as though considering a particular course of action; then he leaned over the bed, and used the tip of the knife to scratch three words into the dark wooden headboard. His fingers tightened around the handle of the knife as he carved this strange legend, and his eyes took on a strange and determined glow. Beside him Methos stirred restlessly, but showed no sign of waking. Daniel glanced down at him. In his sleep the ancient face of the world's oldest man seemed even more unworldly than usual. The eyelids fluttered in dream patterns that suggested memories lost to him in wakefulness, and his lips moved in speech that only he could hear. In his jeans and long-sleeved T-shirt, with his bare feet and ruffled hair, he looked as though he belonged in a student's commune, discussing plans to solve the wrongs of the world, or painting posters to stir the population into action. Any other observer might have smiled at the sight - but not Daniel. Instead he finished his engraving, then tossed the knife onto the pillow, and turned and walked away. He did not look back as he strode from the room, nor did he hesitate before leaving and shutting the door. The handle clicked loudly as it bounced back up into place, but once again Methos did not awaken. He showed no sign of movement until the hands on the clock beside his bed ticked their way into position at eight o'clock - and then he merely rolled over, and drifted off into a deeper sleep still.


Duncan MacLeod finally finished his telephone call at ten o'clock in the morning, and tossed the receiver back into its cradle with a feeling of distinct displeasure. The police in Archville had been happy to furnish him with the details of the recent strange events in their town, and all of the evidence, to his experienced mind, added up into the tale of a battle between Immortals. That much he knew already of course. Joe had told him about Gulmore and Pascoe, and about how one of them had been killed by Methos' mysterious friend. What MacLeod hadn't been told was that a policeman; a promising young uniformed officer; had been killed the same night by a single sword thrust to the chest. In the midst of their tales of holes suddenly opening in city streets, and tunnels being discovered beneath all their homes, the policeman Duncan had spoken to had almost glossed over this murder. He had talked about melted gold and broken statues, priceless paintings and tapestries hacked to shreds, and strange blue lights which had ransacked almost an entire block. Duncan hadn't really been listening after he had heard the news about the policeman. Why would Joe and Methos have missed that part out of the narrative? If the policeman had been killed by Gulmore or Pascoe there would have been no reason not to mention it; which could only mean that he had been killed by Methos' mysterious friend - or by Methos himself. Joe was another possibility of course, but then he rarely used swords. If ever Joe Dawson turned a weapon against another living being, it was invariably a gun. Even then he hardly ever fired.

The policeman in Archville had given Duncan a description of the man seen on the night of the murder - a man who had been with Adam Pierson, Joe Dawson and Daniel Reuben, but had then vanished during the early hours of dawn. He had not turned up with the others the next day to make statements, sign paperwork, and otherwise fulfil official requirements, and hadn't been seen by anybody since - which didn't surprise Duncan in the slightest, although it did seem to annoy the policeman somewhat. He had been of average height, or perhaps a little less, with a slight-ish build, cold and determined eyes, and the kind of hair and beard that made him sound like a Byron groupie. There had been talk of finding him out for the count, flushed and exhausted, in the midst of the scenes of greatest devastation, which made sense to MacLeod. That would have been the scene of the Quickening. Clearly Methos' mysterious friend was an accomplished fighter, practised in the art of disappearing without a trace; and apparently equally practised in the art of cold-bloodedly killing policemen. MacLeod's face hardened at the thought. There was more going on here than met the eye - and you didn't need to be four hundred years old to work that one out. Something was being hidden from him - and he wanted to know what that was. Time, he thought with a cold grimace, to visit Methos. Time to demand some answers.


The door to Methos' apartment stood open, but for once the corridor outside was not filled with the sound of escaping music. MacLeod did not bother knocking and strode straight in, ignoring the new furniture, the new decorations and the rather clumsily laid carpets, and not even noticing the lingering smell of paint. There was a newspaper freshly deposited on the doormat, along with three letters that looked suspiciously like final demands. MacLeod picked them up and threw them onto the desk, where they skidded across the unusually empty surface, and collided with Methos himself. He was sitting there, his feet on the chair, reading what looked like another letter - this one written on a sheet of thick black paper. It was not until MacLeod had moved closer that he realised Methos was not reading the letter at all - could not be, for although he appeared to be looking closely at it, his eyes were shut tight. He was biting his lower lip, and the blood was beginning to run.

"Methos?" There was no answer, so MacLeod returned to the door and shut it with a loud bang. Methos jumped, and almost fell off the desk.

"What - Oh, it's you." It seemed incredible that he had not been aware of the other Immortal's approach, but he did seem oddly distracted. MacLeod frowned at him.

"You look like you've seen a ghost - and not a friendly one."

"Maybe I have." Cloudy green-brown eyes flickered and shifted, as though wondering what to say - but for some reason the usual deceptions did not seem ready to play the game. Instead Methos let his shoulders slump, and the sheet of paper fell to the desk. It landed beside a little red book, with a hard and glossy cover, which in its turn lay next to a shining golden coin. MacLeod stepped forward and picked the latter up. It caught the light as it lay in the palm of his hand, momentarily blinding him, and hurting his retina. He turned it slightly to remove the glare, so that he could get a better look, only half aware that Methos was staring at him as though he were handling the Crown Jewels - but ones that had all become somehow cursed, and though priceless, were also quite deadly.

"This is a nice piece." MacLeod held the coin up in illustration of his point. "It's Spanish, probably fifteenth century. In this condition it's worth a small fortune. Where did you get it?"

"It was delivered some time during the night." Methos' voice sounded very small. "With some other things. Things that once belonged to a friend of mine." He gestured at the red book beside him, but when MacLeod reached out to pick it up, Methos' hand closed over his, pinning it to the table. "Be very careful with it."

"Of course." Frowning slightly, MacLeod waited until the pressure on his wrist was removed, then lifted the little book and glanced over the cover. He had thought at first that it was plain, but now that he was looking at it more carefully, he could see a few words pressed into it in silver leaf. Much of the leaf itself had worn away, leaving only faint indentations of the original title - Poems Of The Romantics. MacLeod smiled. The poetry of that strange era had a habit of following Methos around. Being very careful with the obviously well-read pages, the Highlander opened the book and scanned the title page. It was made of very thin paper, more like a frail kind of parchment, the ink black but faded, the look one of something weakened through over-use. The first page bore a copy of the book's title, along with the name of the editor in tiny, copperplate script. There was a publisher's date too, and the name of the company behind the edition. It looked like Veronique's of London, which was not a company that rang any bells. That surprised MacLeod. As an expert in antiques he had come to be familiar with so many companies, from the famous to the obscure. The date was another surprise; 1923. He would have thought it much older had he been asked. The whole book had more about it to suggest the latter half of the nineteenth century, save for the colour of the outer cover, and he would have dated it from the 1880s. Intrigued he glanced up at Methos, but the older Immortal was no longer looking at him, and was not even still sitting on the desk. Instead he was standing by the window on the other side of the room, hands sunk deep into his pockets, hunched shoulders resting against the glass. One bare foot drew patterns in the dust on the floorboards, where the carpet did not quite reach the wall.

The second page was blank, the third was given import by a black silk string, that seemed to serve as a bookmark. It too had been left blank by the publishers, but there was a message written on the page, in a sloping, uneven hand. It was written in a blue-black ink, slightly smudged in one place, where the pages had been turned before the ink was completely dry. MacLeod glanced through the message, realising the significance of the book, almost able to see, in his mind's eye, as some doe-eyed young suitor presented it to his smitten lady. It read, To Molly, all my love, always. Yours, Stephen. There followed a Latin inscription, something about trees and moonlit walks, followed at the end by a date. The twelfth of May, 1924. MacLeod allowed himself a tiny smile, before turning more pages.

It was a pleasant collection; some of Shelley's earliest works, before the death of his young son had turned him to brooding and the depths of depression; a few of Keats' more flowery offerings, of the kind so beloved of his female fans; Byron's unmistakable prose, twisting and turning the familiar language into something that played new tricks with MacLeod's mind. He had loved Byron's work once. It had enthralled him. Now it conjured up thoughts that he didn't like at all. He flicked on past further collections, lesser known poets, verses and stanzas and single lines, some marked with much handling and reading; others less favoured, less creased; until finally he came to middle of the book. He turned the page carefully, mindful of possible fragility, and came upon a page left blank in its entirety. There was nothing written on this centre page at all - but it had been marked in its time by the owner of the book. Pressed carefully by the pages and dried by the passage of time, there lay before MacLeod a single violet flower, in full bloom, still bearing a little of its stalk and leaves. There were fingerprints on the largest and greenest of the leaves - traces of a substance which seemed now to be dry and brown, but which once had been bright and red. MacLeod had no idea how so beautiful a flower had come to be marked with blood-soaked fingers, but he gave the matter little further thought, for his eyes were drawn to something else pressed carefully in the book beside the flower. It was a spider, long dead, its spindly black legs caught in a pose of life, rather than drawn up as they would otherwise have been in death. It was a Black Widow, a female, its shape as familiar to MacLeod as the many other species of wildlife he had come to know so well in the course of his long life. He looked up, questioningly.

"Why the flower and the spider?"

"Read the letter." Methos did not turn back around, and remained staring out of his window. His voice sounded strange - not sad, not sorry, not angry, not touched by the book or its words. Instead he seemed troubled and concerned. MacLeod looked about for a letter, and settled on the sheet of black paper. Carefully closing the book, and replacing it on the desk with the coin, he picked up the piece of paper and began to read. It began simply enough - My dear Stephen - the same Stephen, he presumed, as had written the dedication in the front of the book of poetry. Intrigued now he read on, charmed by the black paper and the faded silver-white ink. It was clearly old, which made the choice of colours so much more distinctive and unique.

My dear Stephen -

I have waited for many years, patiently I hope, but you have not returned to me as you so faithfully promised you would. My neighbours have told me that I should not have been surprised; but I have turned my back on all of them, many years ago, and no longer listen to the insults they throw at us both, whenever our names are mentioned. You must understand that it is a small town and tongues will wag, tales will tell themselves, especially when the wine is flowing. I have turned my head away, and closed my ears often enough, but now the time has come when I can wait no longer. Perhaps you are dead? If so then you shall never come to read this; but if you are not dead take heed - for this letter will reach you, no matter how long it may take. When you receive this letter, you will learn of my fate; and perhaps then you will recall me, and perhaps you will not. It matters little. Know just that my long years of waiting have embittered any feelings that I might once have held for you; and where once there was only the sweetest and most purest kind of love, there now resides in my heart something much deeper, and much darker, and much less innocent and chaste. All that you need know is that I am what you have made me; and your fate must therefore be one that you have woven for yourself.

Beware the messenger, and know that the words are mine.

Yours, once -

Margaret Perceival - May 12th 1937

The letter was signed with a neatly printed hand, the name underlined not once but twice. There was a simple line drawing beside the date, of a bridge with a half moon above it, and two people standing shoulder-to-shoulder. There was no detail, but it was clear that one of the people was a man, and the other a woman. MacLeod glanced up.

"Okay, I'm intrigued. Who are these people? Stephen, Margaret and Molly - I'm assuming that Margaret and Molly are one and the same?"

"Oh yes." Finally turning from his window, Methos fixed MacLeod with a typically unwavering stare. "Margaret Perceival was an English girl whose family came from Sussex. Quiet type, very wide-eyed. Terribly romantic."

"And Stephen?"

"Don't be obtuse, MacLeod. I'm Stephen - or was, a long time ago. Molly reminded me of a girl I had once known. Somebody very special to me, also called Molly, who I lost early in the nineteenth century thanks to her interfering father. I suppose I let my memory run away with me..."

"And you made her fall in love with you?"

"Yes." Methos shrugged. "I was still thinking of my Molly, and I'm not exactly proud of myself. I tried to get away from her - concocted some cock-and-bull story about having to go away to America - but she followed me there. In the end I couldn't find any way around it. Everybody expected me to marry her. I kept trying to tell her that it wasn't her I was interested in, but she didn't seem to want to hear the truth."

"Can you blame her?"

"I don't blame her for anything, but I don't blame myself either." The old Immortal's eyes flared for a second, with the lights of the man who was so strongly opposed to guilt. "She had this stupid romantic notion of the two of us growing old together, and living in some thatched cottage in the countryside with beautiful blond children." He grinned, but it was a stiff smile, which bore no humour. "Where they were going to get their blond hair from is anyone's guess. She was darker than me."

"And you couldn't tell her the truth?"

"Which truth? That I was only interested in her because she reminded me of a woman I had fallen in love with more than a hundred years previously? Or that I couldn't give her children, or grow old with her? You don't understand, MacLeod. She was so sheltered, so stifled by her parents, by her background - she couldn't seem to understand anything save thatched cottages and idyllic destinies. Her life was about poetry and painting; she was all flowers and songs by candlelight. In the end I told her that I had to go away, and that I probably wouldn't be able to come back. I made up some story about business and all the rest of it. Contacts in faraway places. Even then she kept talking about what we'd do to celebrate when I came back. I kept trying to tell her that I wasn't going to come back; that she ought to go home to her family rather than staying all on her own in a strange country. But I just couldn't make her listen." He shook his head, consumed by the memories. "She was twenty-four when I left her, in 1924, on May 12th - but she was really still just a child. I gave her that book of poetry as a way of saying goodbye - the coin too, since she'd always liked it so much. I thought she'd get the hint then, and understand that it just wasn't going to work out between us; but I guess she never did."

"If the wording of this letter is anything to go by, I'd say it's a sure thing she never did." MacLeod sighed. "Well somebody wants you to remember it all, old man. Somebody must have delivered all of this - and I don't like the sound of the last line in this letter, either - 'Beware the messenger'."

"Yeah. Somebody is obviously looking for some kind of revenge." Methos smiled bitterly. "Whoever it is, they were in here last night, when I was asleep. They left a message on my bed, along with all of this stuff."

"A message on your bed?" Turning away from the desk, leaving the sheet of black paper lying next to its accompanying book of poetry, MacLeod headed towards the indicated piece of furniture, at present draped with a scrumpled and untidy quilt bearing a large drawing of Roger Daltrey's head, much reminiscent of Tommy. There was a cloudy depiction of a pinball table in the background, and what looked like the lyrics of Pinball Wizard loomed above Daltrey's head. MacLeod might not have been a very big rock fan, but he didn't think that the picture looked much like Roger Daltrey at all. In his opinion it looked much more like dear old Hugh Fitzcairn. He turned away from it, and let his attention wander to the headboard. Scratched there, no doubt with the wicked and glittering knife that currently lay on the pillow, were three words. They were uneven and badly cut, as though by hands inexperienced at such work, but the words themselves could still be easily read - Sweet Is Revenge. The words were underlined shakily, but with force - just as Molly had underlined her name at the base of her silver-inked letter.

"Where were you last night?" Gesturing at the words on the headboard, MacLeod glanced back over his shoulder at Methos, now sitting slumped in a brand new armchair. It was sky blue, with impressive curving arms and an imposing back, giving it the appearance of something that mightn't have been entirely out of place in the possession of a king or a warlord. Chunky wooden legs held it up, and the seat was bestrewn with cushions bearing half moons, stars and signs of the zodiac. Methos' furnishings had always been peculiar, at least in Duncan's opinion, but it looked as though he were now consciously decorating with a view to confusing his guests.

"I was here." Methos did not look up, and his voice was snatched and dampened by the cushions around him. "I got back not long after I left the club, and I read for a while... I guess I must have fallen asleep after that, on the bed. I didn't wake up until about half an hour before you arrived."

"You slept through all this?" MacLeod gestured expansively at the apartment. "You slept through it? The world's most cautious man?"

"Very funny." Methos did not sound in the slightest bit amused. "I just know that when I woke up this morning I had a killer headache."

"You drank too much last night." MacLeod pronounced it like the Word Of True Certainty, but Methos just glared.

"I only had two glasses of beer last night. I had actually been outside most of the evening, enjoying the party. I put a lot of work into setting that thing up, and I wanted to get the most out of it. I didn't even have any wine while I was out there. I was too busy keeping all the guests happy, doing my charming host routine." He tapped his chest. "I even impressed myself with my bubbling social skills and redoubtable effervescence, so don't go trying to play the hangover card." He slumped back into the chair, his sudden verbosity leaving him in a powerful outward rush of energy. "I still feel terrible. Like my head belongs to somebody else."

MacLeod wandered around to sit on the closest chair, a tall, spindly scarlet affair bedecked with gold braiding, bearing a set of carved wooden legs that did not look even nearly strong enough to support his weight. It felt solid enough though, when he finally dared to put all of his weight down upon it. "Drugged?" he asked, his voice questioning. Methos shrugged back.

"I didn't have anything to eat when I got back. Mind you, my head's a little..." He gestured blankly for a suitable word, and finally wound up just shrugging again. "You know. Like it just took part in the annual cheese rolling race. I remember coming in, putting some music on... I picked up a book, read for ages. An hour at least."

"Some drugs are slow acting. It could have been given to you at any time during the day." MacLeod leaned back in his chair. "We have to think this through properly, at any rate. Whoever wrote that on your headboard presumably knew that you weren't going to wake up. He was standing over you - possibly for some time - with a knife in his hand." He paused. "Or her hand of course. Isn't 'sweet is revenge' a line about a woman?"

"Yeah." Methos nodded miserably. "It's from Don Juan, by Byron. The poem isn't included in the collection I gave to Molly, but she was a big fan of his. She could quote his work better than I can, and I watched him write some of his best stuff."

"Yeah, I know." MacLeod stopped himself from rolling his eyes - Methos was an incorrigible namedropper. "I'm assuming that it's not Molly herself though. She'd be - what - close to a hundred by now?"

"She was born on May 1st, 1900." Methos lowered his eyes. "So yeah, she'd be a hundred - but I don't think she's alive. That letter sounds like a suicide note to me, and the spider in the poetry book says it all."

"Suicide by spider?" MacLeod winced. "Not likely though, is it. Black Widows aren't as deadly as people think. A young woman of Molly's age... what was she then... thirty-seven... she'd have been in no real danger."

"She would if she'd taken something else first. She always had this thing about a book she read when she was a child. Typical depressing Victorian stuff, all preaching and virtue, about a young woman who slept with a man before she was married, and was brought such bad luck and misery by it that she committed suicide by letting a poisonous spider bite her. I don't know where she got it from - raided the reptile enclosure at London Zoo or something." He shrugged. "Anyway, Molly must have mentioned that a hundred times. She loved the idea of the poetry in it. Death by poisonous spider - like old Cleo and her asp I suppose."

"That was a snake," MacLeod pointed out. Methos glared at him.

"You don't say." He sighed. "Anyway, she was very taken with Black Widows. So many stories revolve around them. I remember telling her once that they aren't as dangerous as their reputation - what is? - but she didn't like that at all. I guess I told her once that you'd have to be ill already - or tanked up to the gills with something pretty nasty - and then let the spider finish the job. She said in the letter that I'd know her fate when I saw the stuff that was delivered, and I have a nasty suspicion that I do."

"If she let that spider bite her, and that's what killed her, who pressed it in the book with the flower?" MacLeod was looking very interested now, and his eyes glittered with his delight in the new puzzle.

"She might have done, before she succumbed." Methos managed a smile. "You're hinting who might be responsible for delivering all of this stuff, aren't you."

"Relative? Friend? Or descendant of a relative or friend." MacLeod raised his eyebrows, but Methos did not look at all enlightened.

"She only had parents - no brothers or sisters, or any other family that I know of. It's possible that she got married after I left her, but her surname stayed the same..."

"Or it's possible that she had a child out of wedlock. Remember that story she liked, and the girl who killed herself for sleeping with somebody she wasn't married to? I'll bet you that she had a child, who knows all about Stephen the legendary love cheat." Duncan smiled in an attempt to lighten the tone of the conversation, but Methos did not reciprocate. "Question is, how did this descendant discover that bad boy Stephen was really Methos the Immortal? I'm assuming that you didn't tell Molly?"

"Of course I didn't." Methos was back to pacing up and down the room, letting his hands slide across new and intriguing pieces of furniture that he seemed hardly to notice. Duncan couldn't help noticing them. He remembered the eclectic mix of styles and designs in the apartment the oldest Immortal had had in Paris, at the time of their first meeting. This was even more eccentric than that. Deep blue walls beneath a blazing yellow ceiling, with the woodwork and window frames painted the same glossy shade. The bedroom was a vision in breathtaking white, with bare wooden boards on the floor, and rugs that looked suspiciously priceless thrown about with wild abandon. Every available surface was covered in knickknacks ranging from the cheap and tacky - a large stuffed dolphin reading 'A Gift From Margate' - to the astoundingly impressive - a gigantic globe on a wooden stand, all polished oak and mahogany, with beautifully rendered sea monsters rising from hand-painted waves. "All that I told her was that I wasn't who she thought I was, and that I didn't feel able to go fulfilling all her daft childhood fantasies." He paused. "Although I don't think I phrased it quite like that. I certainly never told her who I really was. The only name she knew me by was Stephen Blackwood, and even that was only supposed to be a short-term alias. I read it off a packing crate in 1911, used it to get across to Russia for some reason or other. When I met Molly I was trying to get away from a gang of protection racketeers, and Blackwood's was the first name I could think of." He frowned. "There were probably a lot of gaps in the story I gave her family. If somebody really thought about it, they could probably pick all kinds of holes in it."

"Which backs up my theory." MacLeod rose to his feet. "Alright, old man. We'd better get onto it. We need to know where Margaret Perceival lived - and where she was likely to have died - so that we can try to trace this descendant." He shook his head. "Just do me a favour, okay? One nice, quiet day - not that we ever get many of those - just sit down somewhere and write out a list of all the screwed-up nutcases across the globe who might want you dead. That way we can be prepared when the next one crawls out of the woodwork." The smile he received in reply was so wan that he gave a heavy sigh. "We will find this person."

"Whoever it was could have killed me, Mac. They were in here with a knife, and I didn't know a thing about it."

"Yeah." MacLeod clapped him on the shoulder. "But it's not murder they're looking for is it. It's revenge. I think we can assume that if they'd been planning to kill you, you'd already be dead."

"Unless they're just waiting for something - the anniversary of her death... some interesting phase of the moon..." Kicking hard at one of the carved marble pyramids forming the legs of his huge glass coffee table, Methos caused the steel metronome on top to begin a frantic ticking. As if in answer the telephone rang. The old Immortal stared at it for several moments without showing any sign of answering it, and in the end MacLeod grabbed it and threw it forcefully at his companion. Methos caught it almost robotically.

"Hello?" His expression was almost hopeful, but as MacLeod watched it changed into disappointment, a sort of relief, and then a definite caginess. "Hi Joe." MacLeod's ears pricked, thoughts returning to his mind, somewhat belatedly, about his reasons for coming to visit Methos in the first place. "Er... no, now's not a good time actually. Could we talk later?" There was a long pause, during which MacLeod tried his best to look as though he wasn't listening. Methos was ignoring him completely, which was a sure sign that he was watching him closely. Joe apparently said something at this point, and Methos smiled. "Yeah, that's right... No..." A slightly sulky expression clouded his eyes. "No, I haven't heard anything... Yes I am telling the truth, Joe, there'd be no point in-- Yes, I'm sure." He sighed. "And no I don't think it's a good thing. He happens to be--" He broke off, but whether that was through interruption by Joe or ultra-awareness of MacLeod's presence, the Highlander could not be sure. "Look, just don't worry about it, okay? If he's going to get in touch, he will. And yeah, I know what he could be... No, I... Joe, would you let me get a word in edgeways? It's okay. He'll be in touch, everything will be fine." The old Immortal sighed. "Look, I 'm going to come round and see you anyway. Things are a bit weird at the moment. MacLeod's with me, and-- Yeah, I know. I know, Joe! I'm not going to--" He sighed and broke off. "Never mind. I'll see you in a little while... Yeah. Better make it decent strength British beer, if you've got any." He hung up. MacLeod raised a questioning eyebrow.


"No. Watcher stuff." It was a sure-fire excuse meaning that Methos was not prepared to talk about the telephone conversation - as far as MacLeod knew, 'Adam Pierson', Methos' Watcher alter-ego, was on hold indefinitely. Seacouver's Watcher department was hardly going to trust him with their business these days, now that they knew who he really was. Admittedly Joe did still tend to treat him like a colleague, but that was as far as their co-operation ever seemed to go - until just recently of course.

"Fine." MacLeod nodded, his eyes telling Methos that he didn't believe a word of it. "One of your lot gone AWOL, or something?"

"Yeah." A slight smile curled the old Immortal's lips into a deeply untrustworthy expression. "I suppose so." He flashed a sudden grin. "Come on. I promised Joe we'd be round there in a few minutes."

"You think we should tell him about this stuff?" MacLeod gestured at the letter and the poetry book, but Methos was already scooping them up, slipping them into the pockets of a battered leather jacket he had somehow put on when MacLeod had not been looking.

"Why not?" The old Immortal was halfway to the door by now, and MacLeod glowered at his back.

"Because somebody is out to get you. And when people are you to get you, they have a nasty habit of dragging your friends and neighbours into the deal as well. The last thing Joe needs right now is to get caught up with some warped mortal looking for revenge over a hundred-year-old broken heart. In case you hadn't noticed, he's been pretty pre-occupied of late."

"He's okay." Methos' voice sounded low.

"Are you sure about that?" Determined to press the issue, MacLeod caught up with Methos just outside his apartment door. He was met with an arctic stare that reminded him of something. His memory was telling him things about icy blue eyes that smiled as they killed, but Methos' eyes were green... He shrugged away the thought. "Joe's been acting very strangely just lately. Jumping at every shadow, worrying over every little creak the floorboards make. Do you really want to saddle him with some other problem? I think he needs a rest."

"No." One of Methos' hands shot out, apparently as though he had no control over it. For a second it gripped MacLeod's shoulder, the fingers digging deep, the eyes flashing and burning just like those crazy blue ones Duncan couldn't get out of his head... then very slowly the old Immortal relaxed, and his hands fell back to his side. He smiled a crooked little smile. "Joe's fine. He doesn't need a holiday. And I need his help."

"Why his help?" There was an open challenge in MacLeod's voice. Methos shrugged at him.

"He's my friend. He understands... he understands things. He helps me stay grounded."

"If there's something going on between you two - something that happened, that you've been keeping a secret..." MacLeod took a step forward, gripping the other Immortal just as, moments before, the other Immortal had been gripping him. "Something that the police might want to know about? The Archville police, for instance?"

"MacLeod..." Methos tried to extricate himself from the other man's grip, but wasn't quite able. The Highlander's greater strength was pushing him into the wall, and the experience was not terribly pleasant.

"He 'keeps you grounded'?" There was a certain sarcasm to MacLeod's echoing of Methos' own earlier words. "In what way? Why is it that I can hardly see daylight between you two just lately?"

"We're friends." Methos finally managed to push the Highlander away, and then pointedly straightened his clothing. It didn't do any good, for he was the sort of person who never seemed able to look neat and proper. "A lot's happened lately, and I like having him around. He was a lot of help when I was getting over that business in Poland."

"That's bull, and you know it." MacLeod was still looming over him, but Methos chose to ignore his fellow Immortal, turning instead to pull his apartment door shut, and check that it was locked. "You hardly even spoke to each other after that. Joe stayed here, and you went beetling off to England. You spent a fortnight huddled in a tent in a forest hardly even speaking to me, and then went running off on your own to Southern Italy to deal with yet another psycho from your distant past. Joe didn't even enter into the equation."

"He understands the situation." Methos narrowed his eyes. "You think I killed that policeman in Archville, don't you."

"Yes." MacLeod had not been intending to be so open about it, or so direct, but when Methos mentioned it, he found it impossible to avoid the subject any further. "I do. Either that or your mediaeval poet friend did."

"And you think Joe's helping me to keep it hushed up?" A bright smile made the old Immortal's eyes shine in mockery. "Why? I'm not threatening him, any fool could see that. So why would Joe help hide a murder? Your theory is full of holes, MacLeod." He reached out to push the bigger man out of his way. "Now if you don't mind, I'd like to get on. I have things to do."

"You're hiding something, Methos." MacLeod had not meant to let on that he had realised this, either, but somehow he couldn't stop himself. For a moment he fancied that Methos' step faltered - but it was only for a fraction of a second, and then everything was back to normal. Methos did not turn around as he walked away, but Duncan could hear the superior smile in the other man's voice as he spoke over his shoulder.

"Are you coming or not?"

"You think I'm going to let you out of my sight?" He hurried to catch up, eventually falling into step beside the older man. Methos did not look up at him as they walked, but Duncan could see the myriad thoughts and expressions chasing each other across his face and eyes. The old Immortal had something on his mind - something big and worrying, that had nothing whatsoever to do with a long-dead girlfriend searching for some bizarre kind of revenge. The Highlander smiled coldly to himself. He would find out what it was. Joe Dawson was the closet friend he had had since the departure of Charlie DeSalvo. Pretty soon, whatever happened, Dawson would confide in Duncan MacLeod. In the end, everybody did.


The club was quiet and dark when they arrived. The front door stood wide open, suggesting that Dawson was going about his daily sweep-up, a particularly frenetic event involving copious amounts of dust and cigarette ends, which had increasingly become Methos' own task on arriving at work in the evening. Not that he usually did arrive at work in the evening, if he could help it. Since being blackmailed into taking the job at the club, he had been arriving increasingly late, so that the only thing he could do to be of use was to pull a few chairs off the tables before taking up his place behind the bar. Joe still seemed to find the time to make him sweep up though. He glowered as they approached the club now. If Joe was sweeping, he would be determined to get it finished - or, more likely, make Methos finish it for him - before they were even allowed to think about talking. Joe might be a Watcher, a hero and a level-headed friend to those in need, but first and foremost he was a bartender. Bad guys were never allowed to get in the way of dusting the booths and polishing the beer taps.

"Maybe we'd better wait outside." Peering through the darkened windows, Methos tried to catch a glimpse of Dawson inside. MacLeod shook his head.

"I don't want to waste any time. Involving Joe is fine, if you're really determined to bring him into this, but I don't want to let this go on any longer than it has to. We pick him up and then we get moving. Understood?"

"Fine." Pushing open the door the rest of the way, Methos ventured into the cool interior of the club. The place was certainly in need of a sweeping, for remains of the previous night's party were everywhere. The tables were piled high with glasses and other debris, and a few half-eaten relics of the barbecue lay spread across the floor. Clearly the party had moved indoors at some point after he had left. He glanced about.

"Joe?" There was no answer, which surprised him. Joe Dawson was rarely out of hearing of the front door, especially when it had been left open. "You there?"

"Methos?" The deep voice that boomed out from behind the bar was not that of Joe Dawson, but it did sound very urgent. The old Immortal felt a chill run up his spine.

"Daniel?" He took a few steps forward, but the darkness deepened with every step that he took away from the front door. "That you?"

"Yeah." Slowly, shakily, the large form of the ageing sailor rose up from behind the bar. He was covered in dust, his grey-speckled hair sticking up, and the front pieces straggling in a sticky patch of blood that was spread across his forehead. As he raised a huge hand to run through his hair, Methos saw that the knuckles were bruised and bleeding.

"What the hell happened?" His footsteps echoing in the empty room, MacLeod came up behind them, making both men jump. Daniel managed a shaky smile when he saw MacLeod.

"Duncan." He gave a polite nod, which seemed to make his head hurt, for he rubbed at his temple with a grimy hand. Blood smeared itself, and he seemed surprised to find it on his fingers, when he pulled his hand away from his head.

"Where's Joe?" Methos did not feel good, and quite suddenly the book and the letter in his pockets were heavy, pulling weights. He was painfully conscious of them, as though they were about to start burning holes in his jacket. Daniel leant on the bar.

"I don't know." He reached out, grabbing Methos by the arms, apparently needing his assistance to stagger around to one of the bar stools. Methos supported him, although the strain made his arms burn, and his legs wobble uncertainly. "There was this man..."

"A mortal?" Methos threw the words away even as they fell from his mouth. Daniel, of course, had no way of knowing whether the man had been a mortal or not. "What did he look like?"

"About your age. A bit smaller maybe." Daniel was frowning, rubbing his head. "Blue eyes. Very pale blue eyes. He had an English accent too, and a soft voice. Sort of menacing, but very theatrical. I had never seen him before." He shrugged. "It was very strange. He came in here, and Joe seemed to know him. They started talking but then... I don't know. There was a struggle. Joe didn't want to go with this guy, so I went over to see if I could help, and then... bam!" He shrugged. "Something hit me. When I woke up I was lying behind the bar, and there was no sign of Joe anywhere, or the guy with him." He frowned, then looked back behind the bar. "There was something in my hand when I woke up. I think I must have dropped it..."

"Here." Duncan, who had made his way behind the bar already, straightened up with a piece of paper in his hand. It was black paper, marked with silver ink - three, familiar words, in a confident hand. Sweet is revenge. Methos took the paper, and his eyes lowered.

"What does it mean?" Sounding eager, Daniel leaned over to get a better look at the paper. "The words seem familiar. Like they're from a poem or something. My mother was a big fan of poetry, and she used to read a lot to me when I was a kid." He frowned hard apparently, searching for the memory. "Byron, isn't it. From Don Juan."

"Yeah." Methos was holding the paper so tightly that it was beginning to scrumple. Duncan took it away, before it was ripped completely, and became no use to anyone.

"Does it mean something to you?" Daniel was scrutinising his face, but Methos' secretive features were giving nothing away. "Who would want to take Joe?"

"You didn't recognise the man with him at all?" MacLeod's urgent voice seemed to snap Reuben's attention away from Methos, and the big man shrugged.

"I haven't seen him hanging around here lately if that's what you mean. He's not a regular at the club from what I could see, and it's not like I've seen anybody watching the place recently. Except..."

"Except?" Methos echoed the word in a voice like the crack of a whip, and his eyes leapt up once again to bore into Daniel's. The big man shrugged.

"The more I think about it, the more I think I know him. I keep thinking about that weird guy - the creepy one that we found in your apartment, who got mixed up with the whole thing in Archville. And - well I think, if you take away the beard, and all that curly hair... well I think that's the guy who was talking to Joe. Positive of it in fact." He smiled hopefully. "Does that give you any clues?"

"Methos?" There was a warning hint in MacLeod's voice, that told the other Immortal he would not be very popular if he continued to insist on his secrets. Methos had gone a pale shade of grey.

"I don't know who that guy was, MacLeod." The words sounded dull and uncertain. Anger flashed for a second in the usually gentle brown eyes of the Highlander.

"He was your friend. You and Joe both said as much. Now maybe this was him, and maybe it wasn't, but it's certainly as good as place as any to start. Joe's life could be at risk."

"No." Methos was shaking his head. "I don't know--"

"Don't give me that. Don't you dare try any more of your lies with me!" Grabbing Methos by the scruff of his neck, MacLeod hurled him up against the bar. The sharp wooden edge caught the old Immortal in the back, knocking the breath out of him, and almost bending him over backwards as MacLeod continued to push. Daniel caught the Highlander's arm, gently but firmly pushing him back.

"Leave him alone, Duncan." There was a note of warning in his voice. MacLeod glowered.

"If you know who's got Joe, Methos, you'd damn well better tell me." He had backed off slightly at Daniel's insistence, but the threat was still plain in his eyes and voice. Methos straightened up, coughing a little as he tried to get his breath back. There was a look of childish petulance on his face, mixed with a great indecisiveness.

"I don't know who's got him. I don't know who this guy could be." His voice sounded shaky. "You don't understand, MacLeod--"

"No. You don't understand." Shrugging off Daniel's arm, which was no longer pressuring him to stay away from the old Immortal, Duncan stormed forward. His glaring eyes looked down on Methos, as though from a great height. "You do know who that man was. I think Joe does too. Doesn't he?"


"Whatever reason you've got for keeping it a secret better be a bloody good one, Methos." A large, hard hand had once again gripped the old Immortal by the shirtfront. "Because if anything happens to Joe - anything at all - you'll pay for it. Understand me?"

"Yeah." White as a sheet beneath the grey shades of panic, Methos nodded his head. He did not look at MacLeod. MacLeod was nodding too.

"Fine." With that he let go and turned to walk away.

"What happens now?" Daniel asked, as the tall, determined Highlander stormed past him. Duncan glared.

"Keep an eye on him." His cold eyes indicated exactly who he meant. "Somebody's out to get him, again. I'm going after Joe."

"But--" Methos started forward, but McLeod's glare froze him in his tracks. "This is a red herring, MacLeod. It has to be. The guy I was with down in Archville would have no reason to kidnap Joe, I swear..."

"Maybe." Duncan stared him down, expression supercilious and overbearing. "But until you tell me who he is, and where I can find him, I can't believe you. Can I." He continued to glare in the ensuing silence, but Methos gave him no answer. A look rather like disappointment filled the Highlander's face, and he sighed. "Then I'll be seeing you. I hope."

"Mac..." Methos took a few steps after Duncan, but was surprised to find Daniel's hand on his shoulder, holding him back. He glared up at the sailor. "What do you want? Why did you go and tell him all that?"

"Ssh." Daniel waited until he was sure that MacLeod had gone before he released Methos. "I had to say something. It was Joe's idea."

"Joe?" Methos looked up. "But you--"

"That guy I mentioned did come. I thought you'd get the hint." Daniel looked faintly exasperated, albeit amused. "They're waiting for you. Got to talk, they said."

"Kronos?" The joy that sparked in Methos' eyes was touching indeed, and Daniel smiled at the sight of it.

"Then that really is his name. I wondered..."

"Where is he?" Clearly excited, Methos was looking around as though he expected his old friend to leap out from under a barstool. Daniel gestured towards the back door of the club.

"This way." He paused as they were going through the hatch in the bar. "Who is he, anyway? How come he's such a big secret? I mean, MacLeod didn't--"

"Long story." Methos was already pushing ahead, eager to be off. Daniel smiled at his back. The smile was real enough, and it grew as he followed in Methos' wake to the back of the club. There was a car parked in the dusty alley behind the building, right by the place where the back door opened out. Daniel gestured to it, and Methos slid into the passenger seat.

"Where are we going?" He sounded excited, his usual cautions and suspicions thrown aside. Daniel favoured him with a big grin.

"Following some directions I've got." He slid into the seat alongside Methos, and stared up the engine. "It might be a long drive."

"Never mind that." Methos was staring out of the window. He looked troubled, but this latest excitement was apparently dispelling the last of his worries, and his guilt over Duncan's hurt feelings. "Just drive."

"Your wish is my command." Daniel pulled the car out of the alley, and grinned down at Methos. The old Immortal was too busy staring out of the window to see the cold light that flashed in the mortal's down-turned eyes - or to wonder why a burst of unspeakable menace shone so brilliantly in the icy twists of his smile. Methos was thinking about Kronos, and the letters and poetry books of Margaret Perceival no longer held a place in his mind. He didn't even wonder at how Daniel had known to put her favoured quote in the bar. The sheet of black paper MacLeod had taken from him might just as well have ceased to exist.


"Damn him!" Punching the wall of the apartment building, Duncan MacLeod glared at the piece of paper that Daniel Reuben had found in the club. The damning words in their ghostly silver ink stared back up at him, and he punched the wall again. This time it hurt, and he let rage wash over, lashing out with his foot and kicking the wall just above where it met the ground. That hurt even more, but strangely it made him feel better. Taking a deep breath he pocketed the sheet of black paper, and headed off upstairs. Methos' apartment was not hard to break into, and soon he was once again standing in the unnecessarily large living room. The restful blue walls calmed him, and he tried not to let the disarmingly eccentric furnishings lessen his anger. He was enjoying it too much for that.

"Alright, old man. Let's see what we can find." Turning his attention to a large chest of drawers nearby, MacLeod began to rifle systematically through their contents. Methos could try to shut him out of this, and keep the identity of his friend a secret even when Joe's life was at risk - but MacLeod was determined to get to the bottom of it all. If Methos was friends with this screwed-up descendant of Molly Perceival, there had to be some evidence of it somewhere in his apartment. The old Immortal hardly ever seemed to throw anything away, and his collection of bizarre souvenirs was rivalled only by his equally bizarre collection of notes, diaries and other hand-written oddities. There were letters written in 1816, bound together with a collection of newspaper clippings dating from 1976, all wrapped up in a map of Ancient Rome taken from a recent edition of the National Geographic... newsletters written by long dead authors and journalists lay beneath magazines dating back at least a hundred years; letters from a hundred mortal girlfriends, all long buried; something that looked oddly like an autograph book, bearing the signatures of people MacLeod recognised - some of whom he had met - and all of which had been dead since at least 1920. He sighed. This was like looking for a needle in a haystack.

He was halfway through looking at a diary from 1926 - no mention at all of Molly, despite the fact that, at that time, Methos had left her only two years previously - when he began to think about the fabled Methos Chronicles. Legend - and frequent boasts - suggested that the old man had been keeping his journals practically since writing began. Surely then, in that case, there had to be more in this roomy apartment than a small, pocket-sized diary for 1926? He threw the volume back into the drawer and began to look around. Each step seemed to swell his frustration; every movement increased his rage. Much though he wanted his presence here to be a secret, he kept hoping that Methos would walk in. He wanted to confront his fellow Immortal again, preferably without Daniel around to get in the way. The mere thought of that particular mortal made the Highlander kick the closest chair, and he scolded himself under his breath for yet another, rather uncharacteristic, loss of temper. An hour ago, MacLeod had been willing to suspect Daniel Reuben of practically anything. The big mortal had appeared from nowhere, wormed his way into Methos' trust, and been involved in whatever peculiar events had occurred in Archville - all whilst MacLeod himself had been miles away, visiting Amanda. Now it seemed that Daniel was just another injured party, and that Methos - yet again - was responsible for all the chaos. All the same, it was hard to dispel the mistrust that he felt for Reuben. There was something about the sailor... something that just didn't add up. MacLeod dismissed the thought. He had Joe to think about now, and a mysterious bearded Immortal who apparently had a beard no longer; an old friend of Methos' who clearly had come to town to kill the old Immortal, to avenge a long dead mortal woman; and yet was still someone that Methos himself was not prepared to betray. Duncan shook his head. It was weird; which was about par for the course.

The room's vast collection of books proved, on closer inspection, to be entirely diary free. MacLeod glared around at them, damning each and every one of them - from the huge, sumptuously illustrated works of Jules Verne, to the tiny, much-battered edition of War And Peace - in Russian - with what looked suspiciously like the author's signature sprawled across the first page. Turning his back on them all, MacLeod let his searching gaze fall finally on the room's final, smallest bookcase, situated near to a window, and half buried under a pile of rugs. He crossed to it quickly, running his eyes over the contents. Books on Arthurian history; three different editions of Horsemen? Fact Or Fiction? A Treatise by Henry R Lucas; Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, filed rather inexplicably between Know Your Mushrooms and a book entitled 1965 - The Year You Were Born. Bemused, MacLeod turned his attention to the bottom shelf, and finally came up trumps. He fumbled his way through a decidedly dusty collection of journals, apparently written on hand-cured parchment, and finally tugged out a large, dog-eared volume bearing the legend 1924 on the spine. The year was written in faded black ink, and Duncan turned immediately to the month of May. The twelfth was written in a shaky hand, as though the writer had been onboard some form of transport whilst updating the journal. There was a brief mention of the farewell with Molly, and a rather jumbled account of how Methos had presented her with the book of poetry, and a coin supposed to bring good luck. She had cried as she had waved him off, and Methos had watched her as she walked away in tears - not that he sounded at all sympathetic. Given that the girl had apparently turned out to be more than slightly unhinged, MacLeod was actually inclined to support such cold-heartedness; although that didn't change his current attitude. He flicked through a few pages, finding photographs of the sights Methos had seen, and the places he had been to; and finally coming across a photograph of Margaret Perceival herself. She had been a tall woman, with very dark eyes and hair, and the look of somebody who spent a large percentage of her time out of doors. She reminded MacLeod of somebody, although he couldn't think who. He pushed the diary back into its space on the shelf, and reached instead for the volume marked 2000. It was the least dusty of all the books, clearly often removed from the shelves, and the Highlander turned immediately to the last page written on by Methos. The old Immortal's untidy handwriting stared back up at him; a jumble of comments about the weather, about preparations for the Easter party at the club; disjointed mumblings about how boring the upcoming Presidential election already was; comments about whether or not the publicity machine was joking when it hinted that Leonardo DiCaprio might be in the running for the rôle of Anakin Skywalker... a hundred and one other things, none of which were even nearly useful. Swallowing the frustrations that were threatening to burst forth, MacLeod turned back a few pages. Walks in the park, midnight fencing sessions with the very pretty fencing teacher who lived three blocks down... a few more pages back and there was an account of a trip to a furniture store to buy another bookcase... a few more pages, and MacLeod found himself reading through some garbled mutterings about the Hanging Gardens Of Babylon, and how little modern archaeologists seemed to know about them. There was a marked amount of smugness in Methos' writings, and not a little of his famous namedropping. MacLeod flicked back a few more pages, reading on until the names of Gulmore and Pascoe caught his eye. He stopped skimming then, and turned his attention fully to the book at last. The entry began with typical vagueness, talking idly about the redecoration of the apartment, before quite suddenly flicking to something else altogether.

It began with Daniel Reuben, wandering down to the riverside, paying two small boys to pass on his message to Methos; then went on to talk about Daniel's introduction to Joe. The remarkable wealth of information that the old man seemed to put into his diaries made MacLeod almost yearn to study them in more detail; but more pressing matters had control of his mind, and he focussed on January 2000. There was a spring behind Methos' pen, as though happy thoughts had spurred on his writing, lending the narrative a jauntiness that seemed out of keeping with the subject matter. MacLeod had to smile at the description of Daniel, and his old fondness for Methos warmed his heart. He quelled that feeling immediately. Rarely had he been as angry with the oldest Immortal as he was at that precise moment. He read on, brows drawn together into a beetling frown that quite transformed his usually placid face.

I was quite chuffed that Daniel seemed so eager to act as my knight in shining armour. It's been a while since anybody but the Boy Scout offered to play that rôle, and even though Daniel is hardly Mark Anthony - now there was an interesting encounter - I was quite happy to let him go ahead. Maybe I already knew who my invited guest was, or suspected it at least - at any rate, I think that I managed to convey an air of relative calm and decorum, at least at first. Daniel was laying on the violence a bit thick of course, not that that was likely to quell the inelegant storm of my baby brother's impressive rage. (I used to call him that, a long time ago. Didn't last long). Anyway, we fought a bit, argued a lot - Daniel didn't know which way to look, and I have to confess that I didn't know whether to go for my sword or for my bottle of 1969 Möet Et Chandon that I keep for special occasions. Make that kept for special occasions. I think I drank it last April, to celebrate some ancient festival of the sun that I felt like commemorating - well, somebody has to remember the old festivals, don't they. Anyway, I digress. That was when the bombs came flying through the window. I wasn't really of a mind to complain at the time, but sitting here now, and looking at the damage they did, I'm inclined to try and claim compensation of some kind. There should be an International League of Immortals that we can refer to at times like this. What am I supposed to do, with six black holes in my ceiling, and my new windows blown to pieces? Anyway, I digress again. When I woke up I felt like I'd just gone six rounds with Kronos on one of his more psychotic days. Why are people so fond of knocking me out just lately? Five thousand years old, and I still haven't learnt when to duck.

"Baby brother?" Lowering the book, MacLeod glanced back up to the relevant sentence, reading it over again. Who was Methos' 'baby brother'? The only people he had ever referred to in the past as his brothers were his three comrades in arms, the deadly Horsemen. They were all gone now, beheaded and safely interred in the ground. MacLeod smiled in a warped kind of pleasure at the thought. He had enjoyed taking Kronos' head, and listening to the evil man's cry of rage as it was cut short. He remembered the most powerful Quickening of his life, and the way that he had somehow shared its strength with Methos. A moment when they had been one; a moment of startling clarity, when five thousand years worth of memories had been his. It was not until his eyes snapped open that he realised he had let them close. Methos. Methos had been there, and he had shared the Quickening, and in doing so he had fulfilled his part in an old ritual all but forgotten to the world. MacLeod's gentle brown eyes hardened at the thought. Memories of confusion, loss of self, the gradual encroachment upon his mind of a man who refused to stay dead. He glared down at the pages of the diary, and with his eyes hardening more with every second, he turned the page over and picked a paragraph at random to begin reading once again.

I didn't understand it at first. Don't now, as it happens. Probably never will. Who cares? For a few moments I was myself again, as I used to be - and it felt great. Not wrong, not guilty, not confused - just bloody brilliant. I had my sword in my hand, and I could hear all of the yelling. I was in the thick of a battle again, facing people who didn't have a chance against me. I could have killed him of course, running off and leaving me like that. Could kill him now, come to that, for running off again without even saying a sensible goodbye. Infuriating man. Quite why I'm so happy to have him back I can't imagine. And then, when I wonder about things like that, I remember back to that battle underground, and the joys and the thrills of it - and I know exactly why I'm so happy to have him back. I'm not myself without him. I know that now. When he was gone, I was somebody else. I was more mortal than immortal; more Watcher than warrior. I can't really blame MacLeod for that of course. He was only doing what he thought was right. But now... Now I think back to my passage through that room, hacking a path through mortal men all fighting for their lives - and I know that I've found myself again. Funny how it always seems to take a blood bath to do that. Funny how I can say that without the slightest trace of guilt. It's not even as though I believed that those men deserved to die - I just wanted to kill them, and so I did. And now, as I sit here in my apartment, wondering when I'm going to get the chance to see him again, I know that something about me is very, very different. The last time that I made an entry in this book I was worried about whether or not he would come to see me, after I found out that he really was alive. I didn't know if it could ever be like it was before. How could it, when we've both been through so much? Changed so much? And now I know that it doesn't matter, and that it hasn't all changed. I can't wait to see him again, and I can't express how glad I am that Joe has agreed to keep the secret. Of course he's only doing it because he thinks he's helping to protect MacLeod - at least I think that's why he's doing it - but I'm grateful anyway. I feel whole again tonight, and I only wish that I could share that feeling with MacLeod. Damned Highlander - he'd never appreciate it. I understand, I guess. I mean, it's not likely to be an auspicious reunion, if those two do ever get together again, is it. One nod of greeting before they hack each other to pieces. Charmed, I'm sure. This is what I get for hanging out with barbarians. Barbarians and opera lovers.

I wonder where the greatest barbarian of them all is tonight? Probably best if I don't know. If I found out that he's out there right this minute carving pretty young women into little pieces, I'd probably have to feel guilty. And that would spoil a beautiful sunset.

Slowly the book tipped from MacLeod's hands. He heard it as it fell; heard it strike the carpet, and skid slightly on the thick new pile. The words ran before his eyes, again and again - disjointed sections of text, given meaning by his equally disjointed brain. After I found out that he really was alive... I'm not myself without him. I know that now... carving pretty young women into little pieces... Kronos, on one of his more psychotic days... He shook his head. It couldn't be. It was daft to even consider the possibility. MacLeod had watched Kronos die. He had taken the head, felt the Quickening. Sure, there had been moments of doubt. There had been the Ahriman Demon, twisting his head; there had been Kronos, returning to wander in and out of his thoughts and dreams; there had been the Involution, turning mammoth resources to the task of resurrecting a dead Immortal, because their research had told them that it might be possible. And there had been Peter Kerensky, dragged into insanity because of a startling resemblance to a dead man. MacLeod shook his head again, harder this time. Kronos had to be dead. There was no way that some stupid ritual, dreamt up in an ancient shack in Poland by two drunken Immortals, could restore life to a man who had been dead for nearly three years. No way. It wasn't possible. And even if it had been, Joe would never have kept a secret like that from him. What possible reason could he have had for wanting to? And yet, the more that MacLeod read the words of the journal, the more he found himself believing his suspicions to be true. He stared down at the book, lying on the floor with the pages fluttering in the breeze from the open door. He became aware of many things that he had not noticed before - the strong smell of paint in the room, the figures of dark-clad warriors in the strange stained-glass window above his head. He gradually came to notice that there was a certain theme to the paintings and decorations in the room. Perhaps it was just his imagination, but behind the cheerful eccentricity there seemed to be a hint of something very much darker and more unpleasant. At his feet the diary's pages stopped fluttering, their movement blocked by something slipped inside. His movements mechanical now, he bent to retrieve the book.

It lay open on New Year's Day, a day he vaguely recalled spending in Seacouver, after his return from Southern Italy with Methos, Reece Walton and the bizarre Kyle Shade. Methos had been acting oddly - jubilant, excitable, filled with energy. MacLeod had become used to the older Immortal's moods and sulks, which were particularly noticeable around the turn of the year. This year it had been different. No miserable reflections, no sorry pondering over his long life, lost past and many, many mistakes and bereavements. This year there had been nothing but parties, loud singing, and - if he remembered correctly - inadvisable acrobatic displays on the roof of one of the other buildings in the street. There was nothing written on the first page of the diary that might have explained such antics; just a single sentence, scrawled diagonally across the pages, with a little disc of metal tucked into the spine nearby. The sentence - MacLeod imagined it was a sentence at least - was written in some language that he didn't recognise; but the characters seemed very similar to the single design engraved on the little metal disc. MacLeod picked the disc up and examined it in the light coming in from the windows. It had a small hole in one edge, and looked to his expert eye to have come from an ancient form of armour. His mind blinked and jumped, and he saw the Ahriman Demon again, as it had been when it had taken the form of Kronos. Pale blue eyes flashed inexplicably in the darkness, an evil grin deepened the shadows. Black paint formed serpents that twisted across the familiar face - and black leather armour, strengthened with hundreds of little metal discs that caught the non-existent light - MacLeod saw it all again, heard the gently mocking voice, heard the rustle of the leather and metal and the sound of a drawing sword...

The book fell from his hands again, and this time he did not bother stooping to pick it up. In his hand the disc of metal had cut into his skin, and the blood ran across his palm to trickle onto his upraised wrist. He let the disc fall, watched it as hit the floor, bounced and rolled. A single drop of his blood sprang from it and was absorbed into the carpet. He closed his eyes. Part of his mind stormed restlessly through the dreams he had thought were left behind - hallucinations and nightmares he had hoped were buried in Poland, in a burnt-out old shack alongside the bullet-riddled body of Peter Kerensky. But now it seemed that they were buried no longer. Rage grew within him as he had never known it to rise before. He felt it coming, and he let it grow until there was nothing left within him but the towering column of his own uncontrollable fury. His hot voice burst from his tight, pale lips.

"Kronos." He hardly recognised the voice, hardly knew the name that it spoke. It didn't matter. Spinning on his heel he let his fury carry him forward. He wasn't aware of leaving the apartment and reaching the street, of striding off down the road. All that he was aware of was his own anger, and the certainty of what it was going to lead him to do.


"So who exactly is Kronos?" They had been driving for more than an hour, and Methos was growing increasingly restless. He did not hear Daniel's question at first, and merely shifted in his seat.


"Kronos. Who is he?"

"Oh." There was a long pause. "Old friend."

"Yeah." A dry smile crept across Daniel's face, hiding what remained of the harshness of earlier. "I guessed that much. Why do you and Joe have to keep him a secret from MacLeod? What's he done that's so terrible? When we were down in Archville, the two of you were saying some pretty weird things..."

"Just Immortal stuff." Methos stared out of the window. "Are you sure you've got the directions right?"

"Positive. What do you mean, Immortal stuff? I thought you were practically a Watcher these days."

"I was. Got into the flow. Hid behind Joe and MacLeod." Methos shrugged. "Times change."

"Yeah. They do." They drove on a bit longer. "So you and he go back a long way?"

"Me and Joe?"

"You and Kronos."

"Oh." There was another long pause. "Four thousand years, give or take a decade. We met when Kronos still thought he was mortal."

"Four thousand years?" Daniel gave a low whistle. "That's quite some friendship. No wonder you were so willing to leap into the car without asking questions."

Methos frowned at him. "Is there something I should have questioned?"

"I don't know, old man. You tell me." The big mortal laughed. "Don't worry about it. So I take it that MacLeod and Kronos don't get along?"

"You know they don't. You've heard Joe and me talking." Methos was frowning more deeply now, the faint suspicions that he always carried in his head beginning to twist and grow. "That's why we decided to keep it all a secret from MacLeod. If he and Kronos meet, they'll kill each other."

"And you don't want that." Daniel was nodding, the faint ghost of a smile raising the corners of his mouth. His voice no longer sounded entirely sincere.

"Of course I don't want that." Methos stared up at the human mountain beside him, then shook his head briefly and turned away. "How much longer before we get there? They can only have left a few minutes before us. How come we haven't met them on the road?"

"I can't imagine." Daniel shrugged. "Maybe Kronos drives fast. I mean, you don't exactly expect the Leader of the Horsemen to follow the rules of road safety. They'll turn up."

"Then you do know who he is." The eyes of the old Immortal narrowed perceptibly. "Who told you?"

"You did. Or rather your journals did. Fascinating reading." He smiled. "Well, bits of them anyway. I could read most of the Greek stuff, although it was awfully dated. The Latin was a bit of a problem, but I went to a good old-fashioned school. The Egyptian was a bit beyond me mind, and all that stuff in - what was it? Mesopotamian?" He shrugged. "I've got to hand it to you, though. You learnt English pretty quickly. Must have realised how it was going to spread, too, 'cause you've been using it a long time. I found sections dating back as far as the Norman Invasion that were in a kind of English. Bit unreadable though. Made Robert Burns look like Danielle Steele, if you get my drift." He let his foot fall casually onto the accelerator, making the car move faster, as though trying to discourage any attempt Methos might make to jump out. "You and Kronos got up to a fair bit together, didn't you. Murder, pillage, death and destruction. Leaving Margaret Perceival behind to die of a broken heart must have been a drop in the ocean to you. What's another life ruined, when you've had a hand in destroying whole continents?"

"You left the letter and the poetry book." Methos was once again horribly conscious of them in his pockets, like hot coals burning against his skin. Daniel laughed.

"And just as I was beginning to think that you were really slow. Didn't take much to win my way into your affections, though, did it. The great Methos, suspicious of everybody - or so they say. All I had to do was smile nicely, and offer to throw my life away to protect yours. You're a pushover, old man. How you got to live this long is beyond me. Not that it matters."

"Why." Methos did not look at him, and for now was making no move. He had a dagger hidden in the lining of his jacket, just as always, but for now he wanted answers more than he wanted blood.

"Why what? Why bring you the letter and the book? Why take you for a drive in the country? Or why pretend that Joe had been kidnapped by your precious Kronos?" Daniel laughed. "Actually all those questions have the same answer." He leaned closer to the Immortal, and the car wobbled slightly, sliding across the centre of the road and causing several other cars to beep their horns loudly. "Margaret Perceival, in case you were wondering, was my grandmother. She was ruined by your departure. Everybody thought you'd jilted her. She lived in an out of the way kind of place, remember? Small town America, all that Puritan, Prohibition feeling? A young woman who lived with a man she wasn't married to, and then suddenly got left all on her own. There were all kinds of stories circulating about her. She hardly stuck her head out of doors anymore - till she met my grandfather."

"None of this is my--"

"Shut up." Daniel shot him a furious glare, and the car lurched again. Methos let one hand fall against the knife inside his jacket, but he made his fingers lie still. Not yet. There were other things he wanted to hear. "He was just like you. Turned out he couldn't be trusted either. He stole what was left of the money she had, and walked out on her, leaving her pregnant. She told everybody you were the father, and I know that was what my mother always believed. Couldn't be the father though, could you." He gave a bitter laugh. "So my mother was born, the town shunned them both... My grandmother became more and more shut off... All she thought about was you. In the end she died, and left my mother all on her own. The town tried to find you then. Where were you in 1937? Russia? Britain? Australia?"

"I don't remember." Methos looked away. Daniel gave a bitter laugh.

"I do. I found it in your journals. Found out where you were, what you were doing, on the very day my grandmother died. My mother grew up alone, married somebody as restless as you, and spent the rest of her life wondering about her father. Where he had gone, what he was doing. Not her real father of course. She didn't know anything about him. She wanted to know about you - the man who had sent her mother mad. And naturally she told me all about it."

"So you came after me." Methos laughed a short, exasperated laugh. "For some kind of warped family revenge?"

"Not exactly. I always thought my mother was crazy, but my father... He had other ideas. He had some interesting connections, and he got me thinking. I researched it all; traced Blackwood, found a hundred other aliases that all seemed to fit... You can change your name, you know, but your fingerprints have been the same for five thousand years."

"So you found out that Stephen Blackwood was really Methos the Immortal." Methos' voice dripped with sarcasm. "How very clever of you. Your mother must have been so proud."

"Oh she was dead by then. Killed herself in 1968." Daniel's smile was almost pleasant. "But my father was very proud of me. He and I found out so many other things." He shook his head, making disparaging clicking sounds with his tongue. "The list is endless. Hearts that you broke. Women who got thrown on the scrap heap, just because you dragged them into your life, and then used them and threw them away. How many of them were there in all those thousands of years?"

"What are you? Some kind of mortal conscience guide?" Methos turned away in disgust. "How I choose to live my life has got nothing to do with you."

"On the contrary." Daniel's expression had darkened. "It has everything to do with me. You're five thousand years old. I can't even imagine that long. My mother was thirty-eight when she died. My grandmother was thirty-seven. You made their lives that short, in just the same way that you've made your own life this long." Perhaps it was a twitch in Methos' fingers that gave him away, for the mortal gave a brief smile. "And don't even think about going for that knife, or you'll never see Joe Dawson again."

"What have you done with him?" Methos' eyes flashed. Daniel shrugged and gave a little laugh.

"Maybe nothing. Can you afford to take the risk? Just put the knife on the back seat, and then I think we'll have you with your hands on your lap, or somewhere where I can see them at least."

"Where are we going?"

"Haven't you guessed?" They were on the freeway now, heading far out of Seacouver towards less lived-in places. "I thought I'd show you a little of your past. A little of the havoc you leave behind you. We're going to visit my grandmother's grave."

"I'm disappointed in you, Daniel." Very slowly Methos complied with both requests, and after sliding the knife onto the back seat, he put his hands on his lap and forced himself to relax. "I thought you were an intelligent man. I thought there was more to you than this. But revenge and spite, all in the name of a woman who's been dead nearly a century? It's madness."

"Maybe." Daniel's eyes were distant. "But if I'm a disappointment, what about you? I found out who you were, spent my life trying to convince my father that you weren't the man he said you were. The world's oldest man - it was a dream. All that knowledge and experience, all that wisdom. A man who could have been a repository for all the great thoughts and memories of so many lifetimes. It was my dream to find you, to meet you - but do I find in reality? Just some gullible old fool." His sudden laugh was bitter. "And not even a well-meaning fool. You're scum, Methos. Just some good-for-nothing thug, who destroys every life he touches."

"You don't know anything about me."

"Oh I know enough. When my father sent me after you, I didn't believe that you could really be that much of a waste of space. I came looking for a reason to let you be, but instead I found a thousand reasons why I'd be doing the world a favour if I took your head. I saw what you did to Gulmore and Pascoe, you know. Maybe you thought you'd pulled the wool over my eyes, the way you did with Joe, but I saw it all. Two men, one of them horribly disfigured - but did you show him even a tiny bit of sympathy? All that he had to live for was that collection - every beautiful object denied to him in his old life above ground. Thousands upon thousands of the most precious items. And you destroyed it all. I saw it. Statues, paintings, tapestries, sculptures, jewellery - all slashes to ribbons, or ground to pieces, or broken up and tossed aside. Everything that man had ever cared about, you ruined. You massacred the men he was with. How many were there? Twenty? Thirty? All of them hacked to pieces by you; and I'd swear that when Joe and I found you, you were laughing." He shook his head. "And then there was that policeman. I know, you see. I saw. Joe didn't, he was still trying to fight his way out through the ruins, but I saw. And you didn't see me. I saw you kill that policeman, and then I saw you browbeating Joe into agreeing to cover it all up. I saw Kronos take off his beard, and I saw who he really was underneath it all. I see the news, you know; even when I'm out in the middle of the Atlantic onboard ship. I know that that guy is wanted for all kinds of crimes. I know everything. And you're going to pay."

Methos shook his head. "You're nuts."

"Yeah? Well you're going to have plenty of time to get that way yourself." Daniel was grinning, eyes fixed on the road ahead, no longer bothering to give his companion so much as a second's glance. "Because believe you me, what you did to my grandmother is nothing to what I'm doing to you." He flashed a quick look at the clock in the dashboard. "By now I reckon that your life is in ruins. Everything you ever cared about is on its way out."

"What do you mean?" His expression suddenly cold, Methos whirled to face him, but Daniel merely smiled on.

"You'll see, old man, you'll see. Course by then it'll already be far too late." And he pushed down even harder on the accelerator, and laughed his way onwards to the county line.


MacLeod wandered the city for a long time, not sure if he was looking for Methos, for Joe, or even for Kronos himself. He walked with his head down, one hand on the sword inside his long coat. It was too hot for such a garment, but he didn't want to take it off. He didn't want to be without his weapon after what he had just discovered. He just wanted to meet somebody that he could pick a fight with - some depraved Immortal, like so many of those in Seacouver, that he could fight and defeat, to cleanse his soul in the fire of a Quickening. He closed his eyes as he walked, trying to think of all the good times, so that he could find some forgiveness in his heart for the oldest Immortal - his friend. There was nothing. In his mind, where before there had been so many memories of fun and laughter, or just plain togetherness - helping Robert and Gina to repair their marriage; looking after each other in the dark times after Richie's death; the times when he had helped Methos, following the death of Alexa... It all might just as well have never happened. He remembered the worry, when Methos had been kidnapped by a group of Watchers over the business with the Methuselah stone. He remembered their closeness, when Methos had travelled all that way, and risked so much, to help him through his Dark Quickening. Fighting Frank Horton together, fighting the Involution, fighting everything that stood against them. All he could see now was Methos whispering with Joe, keeping their secret. Kronos, reborn, living his life again, just as he had lived it before. How many people had he killed already? How many lives had he already destroyed? MacLeod knew the effect that the dark Immortal had on Methos; had seen it before more than once. Could the old man even be trusted anymore? Could Joe? And yet, if Methos was shutting Duncan out, desperate to help Kronos, why would Kronos be after him now, to search for vengeance in Molly Perceival's name? That bit didn't make sense. The only answer, of course, was if Daniel had been lying, and it hadn't been Kronos who had taken Joe. But why would he have lied? And if he had lied, how had he known what to write on the piece of paper he had shown them? Only somebody who knew about Molly could have written sweet is revenge for them to find. It didn't make any sense.

"Unless they wanted me out of the way..." He didn't realise that he had spoken the words aloud until he saw several people staring at him as he walked past. He ignored them. So what if he spoke to himself? He had done worse than that in the past. It was becoming more clear to him now. Daniel had set things up to send him away, so that he himself could spend some time alone with Methos. But why? Was he looking for an excuse to hurt him, or kill him? The thoughts fluttered and stammered. That was crazy. Daniel had risked his life for Methos in the past - unless that was only so that he could wait for his own moment to strike. And yet that didn't make any sense either. Did it? Duncan had always been suspicious of him... He shook his head, rubbing his temples in a way that seemed to make the other pedestrians even more suspicious of him. He wanted to smile at their concerns, but he no longer seemed to have any smiles left inside him.

In the end he returned to the club, unsure where else there was for him to go. He found it as he had left it, the door still ajar, the lights still turned out. He had been away for most of the day, he realised, as it began to sink in that it was now too dark to see with the lights off. He clicked them on, one after the other, making the flickering strip lights in the ceiling chase each other in waves of illumination. The furthest corners of the bar were lit up, showing him each and every booth, each and every chair. It would be time to open up soon, he realised; but he didn't feel inclined to make any preparations. The floor still needed sweeping, the tables still needed cleaning. Methos' job these days of course, not that he was here to do it. MacLeod wondered where he was. Off somewhere with Kronos? Or tricked into going with Daniel, to face... what? The Highlander shook his head, then slammed the lights off again with his fist and stamped over to the bar. He poured himself a large whisky. Did he really care where Methos was anymore? The old Immortal had hurt him, probably more than either of them had realised. Stupid old man, with his pointless and twisted loyalties to people who were dead for a reason... He shook his head, and poured himself another whisky to follow the first. It wasn't making his sight any clearer, and it wasn't making it any easier to think; but it did at least make the pain in his heart a little easier to bear.

"Mac?" Joe's voice startled him, and made him spin around. Even so he didn't spill a drop of the whisky. He stared towards his old friend, thinking back without realising it over all that they had been through together. The day they had first met. His anger towards all of the Watchers following the murder of Darius. James Horton. It was a long and impressive catalogue of battles and struggles together, but already he could feel it falling away from him. It was like standing on an island, watching the sea crumble the coastline. Everything he seemed to hold dear was wearing away. He was watching it depart inside his mind, as though he were twelve again, and watching the waves of men depart for battle with the English, knowing that most of them would never return... He shook his head to clear the confusion, and glared at Joe.

"Where did you come from?"

"I just got back." Joe stretched, looking stiff and uncomfortable, before crossing the floor to reach one of the barstools. He looked towards the bottle of whisky and the glass still held by MacLeod, as though considering saying something about them. In the end he remained silent.

"Where were you?" MacLeod poured himself another whisky, but didn't drink it yet. Joe was frowning.

"Watcher HQ. I'm sorry I couldn't be here earlier, but I got a call through on my private line just after I got off the phone with Methos. I should have left a message, I suppose..."

"Yeah. You should have." MacLeod had an idea that it wouldn't have made any difference. "Was Daniel here when you left?"

"He was out back. I thought about calling him in, but he's from the European Division. Seacouver business doesn't really concern him. I figured I'd leave him here."

"Oh." MacLeod drained the whisky and then poured another. "You know he can't be trusted?"

There was a long pause. Joe nodded slowly. "Yeah. I was beginning to suspect..."

"So what are you going to do about it? Or aren't you going to bother?"

"What am I... Aren't you worried? He could be with Methos right now."

"And I'm supposed to care? I'm only surprised I didn't see through him earlier - after all, everything Methos is involved with gets twisted before very long."

"That's a little unfair, Mac." Joe sounded almost hurt, perhaps on behalf of his friend and former colleague. MacLeod gave a loud, derisive snort, and knocked back another large shot of whisky.

"Is it? Tell me something, Joe. Archville. Methos and another guy, probably wearing a disguise. Necessary I suppose, given that he's wanted by the police. Small kind of a guy. Dark hair, and really cold blue eyes. A smile that could make your heart beat faster, or stop it beating altogether. You know the guy I'm talking about?"

"I don't know what you're--"

"Save it Joe." Never before had Dawson heard the Highlander speaking in so cold a voice. "I know. I know that he's back, and I know that it was him you and Methos met down in Archville. I just want to know why you decided to keep it a secret."

"Because if we'd told you, you'd have gone after him." Joe was looking at the ground. "You'd have killed him, or he'd have killed you, and neither one of you would have been happy until then. Methos couldn't face that. He didn't want to lose either of you, and I guess I can sympathise in a way. The way he was down in Archville, Mac... I haven't seen him that way before. It was as if... I don't know. As if he was somebody new - somebody stronger. Remember the way he used to be, always hiding in shadows and avoiding confrontation? Adam Pierson, keeping Methos hidden from the world. Well in Archville it was the other way around, and I suddenly realised that I liked it. He annoys the hell out of me, drives me mad, makes me so... so... furious at times. But I like him. I really like him. And when he asked me to help him save the lives of his two greatest friends, I had to agree. What else could I do?"

"You could have given me the chance to make up my own mind. I don't want you deciding what I can and can't know - what's worth me risking my life over. Kronos isn't just dangerous. He isn't just evil. He's something more than the either of those two things."

"You're biased, Mac."

"And you're a fool." MacLeod's expression had darkened. Joe shook his head.

"I'm just trying--"

"Save it. I don't care." MacLeod poured himself a last whisky, drained it, then stood up. His legs refused to hold him at first, but he ignored them, and managed to stand up straight. "I don't care. The three of you will be very happy together I'm sure. The world's oldest juvenile delinquents, and their mortal stooge. Still, it's a great career move. Being my Watcher was never going to get you very far, was it. But Kronos. Nobody's ever been able to put a Watcher on him, have they. You'll be the first. Congratulations."

"It's not like that, Mac. I don't want you to think--"

"I told you to save it. Trust me, I really don't care anymore." MacLeod was heading towards the door, leaning on the occasional chair for support. "Just be aware that I'm out there. And if I run into Kronos, one of us is going to lose their head. I promise you that much."

"How did you know?" Joe was staring at the floor now, watching the patterns that his cane made in the dust and debris of the un-swept floor. "About Kronos I mean. Surely Methos didn't tell you?"

"No. He didn't." MacLeod sounded hurt, and Joe's chest constricted slightly. It had never occurred to him that MacLeod might feel that way, after being excluded from the secret. "Actually it was Daniel who told me, and I have a feeling he knew exactly what he was doing. He made sure he said just enough to let me find out what's been going on."

"Daniel?" Joe had paled. "But how did he know? What's his--" His eyes widened. "Methos? Where's Methos?"

"No idea." MacLeod stood as tall as he could, although the whisky made him sway quite alarmingly. "In case it matters anything to you, because I really don't think it matters to me anymore, they seem to have gone somewhere together. It had something to do with an old girlfriend of Methos', that he abandoned years ago. She went mad and killed herself, which is about par for the course. Daniel's probably some relative of hers. Maybe he's after revenge - he certainly wouldn't be the first. Maybe we'll even get really lucky, and he'll do us all a favour. That's one head that's been connected to a body for way too long."

"This isn't like you, Mac." Concern drew lines on Joe's face. "It's the whisky talking, it has to be. You care about Methos."

"I don't want to care." MacLeod's eyes were the coldest Joe had ever seen them. "He's betrayed me, in a more fundamental way than anybody else ever could. He knows what Kronos means to me. He knows that that man is at the heart of everything that turned my life upside down. Ever since I took his head it's been a downward spiral. Nightmares that won't go away, everything going crazy. The Ahriman Demon, the dreams I had that made me think Kronos was coming back. Getting away from Poland, losing Kerensky... that all made me think I had put it behind me at last; but now I have to accept that he's back? Alive again? The most evil son of a bitch that I ever had to face; and my two best friends are helping him. The two people I care about most - the two people I trust the most - are helping a man I hate. Do you know how that makes me feel? Do you know what that does to me - here?" He tapped his head. "And here?" He banged on his chest. "Dammit, Joe - Kronos is evil. And you've sheltered him. You're helping him wreak God knows what kind of havoc in the world."

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I've hurt you, and I'm sorry that you feel betrayed. But I'm not sorry for what I've done. I kept this a secret because I knew what the truth would do to you. I knew that you wouldn't rest until you found Kronos and killed him - or he killed you. You barely won the last time. Methos has always believed that Kronos let you win, because he was so disillusioned with the way his life had been going, and he wasn't sure that he wanted to live any longer. You won't have that advantage the next time. He could kill you, and I don't want that."

"Or maybe it's Kronos you don't want to die." MacLeod's voice sounded flat and strange. Joe sighed, and shook his head.

"I'm not sure that I do. I don't want to have to pick up the pieces if that happens. I'm not sure that Methos will be able to deal with losing him again. They need each other. Imagine being that old, MacLeod - imagine being that old, and being alone. Methos doesn't have anybody else. Kronos, for all his faults, is a part of his history, a part of his memories. He needs that. It's his anchor. The last time he thought that he was alone in the world, he lost his way. You saw how he was then, and you've seen how he's grown since. Maybe things will be different now. Maybe Kronos will have changed."

"Kronos hasn't changed. Kronos will never change." MacLeod stared at him, eyes hot and wide, sweat beading up on his forehead. He didn't look like MacLeod anymore. Joe wasn't sure what he looked like. "He's evil, and you're helping him."

"It's not like that. Think about it. He was dead. That's got to have had some effect. We don't know where he's been, what he's been doing these last three years. We don't know how much of Peter Kerensky there might be inside him. We have to give him a chance, for Methos' sake."

"No we don't." The hard line of a smile painted itself across the Highlander's jaw. "We don't have to do anything for Methos. I'm sorry, Joe. I can't just forgive that kind of betrayal, and Methos knows that. He knows." He shook his head. "No. It's just-- It's all too difficult, too complicated. I have to think, to-- I have to sort things out." He let his hand fall to his sword. "Where is he?"


"Kronos." Just the mention of the word made MacLeod's heart beat faster, hurting his chest.

"I don't know. He took off somewhere, and Methos has been waiting for him to get in touch ever since. Mac--"

"Then it's up to me to find him, isn't it."

"But Methos. He's in trouble. Daniel might kill him."

"I don't think so, but you never know. We might get lucky." MacLeod shrugged. "I don't want to care, Joe. I don't want that responsibility as well. I already have one judgement to pass."

"You're going after Kronos?"

"Of course I'm going after Kronos. It's my job - the job you gave me. Always coming to me, with tales of evil Immortals, people you wanted me to deal with for you. Well this is just another evil Immortal who needs beheading. My judgement this time, not yours."

"I never asked you to kill anybody."

"No." For a second MacLeod's eyes lowered. "No, you didn't. That was a responsibility I took on myself. Maybe I didn't need to, but I did. And now I'm taking on this responsibility as well. I'm going to take his head, or loose mine in the process. Methos will have to look after himself."

"But Mac..." Struggling to keep up with the agile Immortal as he strode towards the door, Joe almost lost his footing. For a second MacLeod looked torn, as though he wanted to run to his friend's side. Instead he turned his back and tore open the door.

"Forget it. Like I said, I don't want to care. Not anymore. I just want to send Kronos back to where he belongs. Why the hell should he be alive again, when Tessa and Richie and Fitz and all the others are still dead? Why does Methos get to have his brother back, when all of mine are gone?" He shook his head. "Kronos won't rest until the world is his again. He'll maim and he'll kill and he'll destroy, until he's found a way to get what he wants from all of us. He raped and murdered and pillaged his way throughout the known world three thousand years ago. What's to stop him from trying all that again now? Imagine the Leader of the Four Horsemen, with his hand on the red button. Nuclear weapons are easy to come by these days - hell, the man's a scientist; he can probably come up with something a hundred times worse on his own. Imagine it, Joe; and then tell me that you're willing to take the chance that he's changed. Because I know that he hasn't. He's out there, watching and waiting and learning, just like he always is. He's looking to see where the best place is to strike. The world isn't safe so long as he's alive." He gripped the door edge hard. "Now are you with me? We can find him quicker together. He might even trust you, and make our job all the easier."

"No." Joe didn't even need to hesitate. "No Mac. If you're right... If you're right then I have no place in this, because it's Immortal business. And if you're wrong then I want no part in it anyway. Methos is my responsibility. I have to help him before I can even think about anything else."

"You'll put one man's welfare before the rest of the world?"

"Yeah." Joe smiled almost bitterly. "I'm not immortal, Mac. I haven't had four hundred years to learn the ins and outs of everything. I don't have all the time in the world to correct my mistakes. Methos is my friend, and that means more to me than the rest of the world. I see the small picture. That's what mortality does to you."

"I never really thought of us as being that different before." MacLeod seemed to be hesitating, wavering perhaps. Joe smiled.

"I never really thought of us as mortal and Immortal before, either - but that's what we are, isn't it. Methos... Methos has been an Immortal so long he's ceased to count as either. Maybe that's why I can understand him better than I understand you."

"And that's why you're choosing him over me?"

"I don't want to do that. I was friends with you when Methos was just Adam Pierson; some pain in the neck I had hardly spoken three words to in ten years. I don't want to have to choose sides."

"No." MacLeod turned away then, and stepped out into the darkening night. "But you already have. You chose your side the moment you agreed to keep Kronos' resurrection from me. Now you have to live with the consequences."

"What do you mean?" Joe hurried out after MacLeod. It was hard to see him, with the club in darkness and the streets still largely unlit. MacLeod did not look at him, but merely began to walk away.

"Figure it out, Joe. Methos is going to have to choose his side too, and I think we all know that he's going to choose to stand with Kronos. You've already put yourself with them; so don't get in my way."


"Forget it. Maybe when Kronos is dead, we can share a drink again." MacLeod paused for a moment, glancing back - but his face was so much in shadow that Joe could not discern his features. It might as well have been a stranger looking at him, and not his friend at all. "Until then, don't try to contact me. I should hate to think that you were spying for the Horsemen. If I thought that... I'd have to do something about it."

"Mac!" Joe stumbled after him, hurrying into the shadows that lined the streets - but MacLeod had gone. There was no sign of him anywhere. Joe's shoulders began to stoop, and he shook his head. "No. This is crazy. Methos would never..." He raised his voice, calling for MacLeod, hearing his voice echoing from building to building throughout the street. There was no answer, and no sound of footsteps. He sighed and rubbed his eyes, leaning heavily on his cane. Damn the Immortals and their stupidity. Damn every last one of them - except maybe Methos.

"Methos..." He had forgotten the oldest Immortal for a moment. He was in trouble somewhere. Where though? Shaking his head, he wandered back to the club, his mind full of thoughts and worries. He had to call Watcher Headquarters. Daniel was supposed to be one of them; perhaps they would help out. After all, Methos was one of them too - or had been once. Might be again, if he no longer had MacLeod.

Pouring himself a whisky in the glass MacLeod had left on the bar, Joe sipped it slowly as he reached for the phone. It was a big decision to make, bringing the Watchers into this. It would be like turning his back on everything he had done since first making contact with Duncan MacLeod. It was going back to the old ways, when he hadn't had his own immortal trouble-shooter to handle everything for him. He took a deep breath. It was a hard thing to do - but it was the only thing to do. With heavy, stabbing fingers, he dialled the number. The three rings it took for someone to answer were the longest three seconds of his life.


The graveyard was messy and overgrown. Tufts of grass, grey, green and brown, burst upwards through the broken concrete path. Most of the gravestones were faded and cracked, almost covered by moss and lichen, with tendrils of ivy crawling their way across them, sticky fingers gripping tightly to the chipped white stone and the marble. Methos stared around at the bleak scene, listening to the last crickets of the day chirping their evensong in the grass. A snake hissed somewhere, probably as it left its daytime sun bed to head for home. The whole place seemed tumbled down and deserted, the kind of graveyard that nobody came to anymore, where none of the graves had fresh flowers on them, and none of the people buried in them were remembered. Most of the names on the stones were unreadable, their letters blurred and faded by the weather, or just by Time itself. Despite that, Daniel led the way to Margaret Perceival's grave unerringly.

"Here." He stood very still at the foot of the grave, pointing at the stone. It seemed to have been cleaned recently, and the stone itself stood a little straighter than most of those around it. There was a bunch of fresh violets and roses on the faint mound of earth; unseasonal flowers, probably raised in a greenhouse. They were clearly not used to the open air, and were already wilting. As Methos watched, one of the rose petals fell away from the others, fluttering across the ground as it was buffeted by an unfairly strong wind.

"Very nice." He wasn't sure why he was here. Daniel was armed, but he didn't seem at all inclined to use the gun he so prominently wore. Methos had the impression that the mortal would not do anything to stop him if he tried to escape; and since he had already expressed an intention to keep him alive, his means of preventing such an escape were extremely limited. For some reason, however, Methos was staying where he was. Curiosity? He didn't know, although certainly he was curious. He wanted to see the grave, and he wanted to read the words on it. Maybe he needed to be here. He knew, in a way, that he owed Margaret something. He had never really thought about it too much in the past, but Daniel had been right of course. He did treat people badly. He came and went without a second's thought for them, and Margaret had been neither the first nor the last that he had left alone. It had been so easy to blacken a woman's reputation in those days, but that hadn't been his problem - to his way of thinking at least. He couldn't help feeling guilty about it now, and he cursed the sensation.

"What are we doing here?" Standing in front of the stone, Methos folded his arms. He didn't like being here without a weapon, and he wanted very much to return to the car for his dagger. There were quite enough daggers, though, in the look Daniel was giving him.

"Why do you think we're here?"

"So I can apologise to a dead woman? Sorry, Daniel. Not my style." Methos leant against the nearest gravestone, an ostentatious monument which had apparently belonged to one Jason Jefferson (1879-1947), and ran a hand through his hair. "Maybe it's time we headed back to the city."

"Not just yet, old man." Daniel was toying with his gun, rubbing the barrel on his shirt to ensure its cleanliness. He breathed on it, watching the metal mist over, then rubbed it a little harder. "Read what's on the stone."

"Margaret Perceival." Methos didn't even bother looking at the stone; simple common sense told him what must be written there. "1900 to 1937."

"Very good." Sarcasm dripped like blood from the mortal's mouth. "Now look at it, and read it properly."

Heaving a heavy sigh, Methos pushed away from the stone he had been leaning on, and knelt before Margaret's resting place. In the failing light he had to peer closely at the lettering just to read it properly, and the wind blowing dust into his eyes didn't help. He scowled and frowned deeply, his eyes just a few inches from the stone. "Margaret Perceival," he read, somewhat laboriously. "Mother of Rachel, died 1937 by her own hand..." He glanced up, rather sharply. Words on gravestones cost money, and Margaret had hardly been in a position to pay for her own funeral. The only explanations for a community willing to pay for so many words were if they had held the deceased in particularly high esteem - or if they had disapproved of her wholeheartedly. Daniel was smiling, his bright eyes hard slits in his tanned face.

"Keep reading."

"A fit end, to an unfit life." Methos shook his head. He was remembering Margaret when he had first met her, reading Shelley's words by moonlight; their meetings on the bridge over the river by her parent's house; her eyes wide as he told her fantastic tales he claimed to have made up - tales that were, in reality, entirely true. He had turned her head with his knowledge of Lord Byron, and his endless streams of anecdotes - passed down from his great-grandfather, naturally - about the exploits of the Romantics. He had held her hand and led the way across the bridge, enjoying the way she had gazed at him, as though he were the only man in the whole of the world. Her Methodist preacher father had been horror-stricken at the time they were spending together, and sweet, innocent little Margaret had been too shy even to look at 'Stephen Blackwood' for too long when there was nobody else around. An unfit life? All of a sudden he didn't feel able to look Daniel in the face.

"Read the rest." Daniel wasn't looking at him anymore either. Methos scowled at the stone, rubbed the dust from his eyes, and wished that the harsh wind wasn't quite so hot.

"Departed unmourned and alone." He could hear her laughing now, the way she had laughed when he had told her the tale of Byron's first duel. He could hear her crying too, the way she had wept when he had bade her goodbye, and had climbed into the carriage to begin his new life without her. He sighed, and his fingers sought out the gold coin in his pocket. It glimmered in his hand. It was probably the only thing of value Margaret had been able to leave her daughter, Rachel - the only thing she had possessed in the whole world since leaving her family behind in England. The pale gleam of the coin edge caught Daniel's attention, and he took the piece, turning it over in his hands.

"My mother showed me this when I was very small. She wanted to find you for all kinds of reasons, but I never understood them. My own reasons for finding you were totally different." He threw the coin up and down, watching it spin and flash. "It's easy to ignore a thoughtless fool who hurts a woman and leaves her daughter screwed up as well - but a man who murdered his way through the millennia... well that's something just a little different."

"Yeah." Methos straightened up. "So why are we here, if neither of us really cares about Molly?"

"Who said neither of us really cares about her? This is about her in more ways than you can imagine."

"Then hurry up and tell me, instead of speaking in circles." He folded his arms, avoiding the desire to lean back against one of the gravestones again. If Daniel was really that desperate to have him looking contrite, he could manage that. Anything to get out of here, and back to Seacouver. He was worried about Joe. "I want to know why we're here. Why did you try to find me? And why have you been acting like my greatest fan these past weeks?"

"Because of her." Daniel nodded at the grave, bending down before it to straighten the flowers. With his back to Methos he made an inviting target, but the Immortal made no move against him. "It's not who she was, it's what she was."

"Your grandmother." Methos still didn't understand. Daniel gave a short, bitter laugh.

"Not exactly. That's part of it, but it's not the reason. Truth is, Methos, that she knew who you were just as I do. She knew you were an Immortal - and a very old one at that. Whether or not she knew you were the legendary Methos is debatable. Her journals were inconclusive on that point. She was supposed to Watch you, but she fell in love with you instead. She wasn't the first by a long shot. Watchers have fallen in love with Immortals before, many times; although it is kind of frowned upon."

"Molly was a Watcher?" Methos felt as though he had been kicked in the stomach. All that time he had been with her, thinking he had been turning her head with his tales and his jokes and his unsurpassed knowledge of the poems of the Romantics - and she had been writing it all down? Reporting on it? He was filled with a sudden desire to pull her letter from his pocket and tear it into little shreds.

"Not exactly. She was Involution. There used to be a lot of active Involution agents in those days, Watching the Immortals in just the way that the Watchers did. She knew who you were because of something she had seen. You got into a fight, apparently, and when she saw you later in the day your injuries had healed."

"Her father." Methos was staring at the ground, his eyes dark with sulky rage. "The preacher. Churchmen were often Watchers. They hated us, because they thought we were ungodly." He shook his head. "So he joined the Involution. Some man of God he was."

"The Involution was a family tradition." Daniel nodded slowly. "Why do you think her family didn't object when she decided to move to America with you? She was supposed to go along, and keep reporting back every time she found out something new. Except she fell for you, head over heels, and thought you loved her too - and she forsook the Involution. Everything she had ever held dear, she gave up for you. But because of who she was, and what she was - or perhaps because of her obsession with you, she never stopped trying to research your life. She found out more and more about you - found pictures, records that stated all kinds of coincidences... She realised just how much you got about. Once somebody's on your trail they have a tendency to find out all kinds of unpleasant things about you, Methos. All the people you've hurt, all the toes you've trodden on - and all the hearts. It broke her. She didn't want to face what you really were, but then you left her, and she had no choice but to face it. She tried to get on with her life, but the people in her town - this town - weren't willing to forgive her for being who she was, where she was, how she was... and she couldn't go back, because once you've left the Involution you can never go back to it. Her family would never have accepted her back amongst them. She'd very likely have been executed."

"So she killed herself?" Methos felt his heart grow heavy. He stared at the golden coin in Daniel's hand.

"Yeah. She killed herself. She sent her journals to a friend she thought she could trust, and then she took her own life. Her daughter was sent away, and was brought up without Involution influence - or so her mother had hoped. In fact, of course, it wasn't that simple. It never is with the Involution; and certainly not back then, when they had eyes and ears everywhere. She wouldn't read her mother's journals, didn't care about the truth. She didn't need stories of other betrayals to know that she hated you. She still thought that you were her father of course. Later she married an Involution man, but when she found out who and what he was, she left him. Didn't last long though. They found her, and she killed herself. She thought that they were on your side, and she couldn't face that."

"So you're with the Involution." Very slowly Methos sat down on another grave, on the long, rectangular wall of white marble that surrounded it. He stared at the name written on a small brass plaque at the head of the grave, but was not really conscious of reading the name or the dates on it. Mabel Harrington, 1895 - 1967, meant nothing to him, even though she had clearly been a contemporary of Molly's. For all he knew she was one of the women who had treated her so badly, and had composed the spiteful epitaph on her stone. For a moment his mind dragged him back to the nineteen thirties, and he tried to imagine what it must have been like for Molly, living with so much animosity, and unable to think where else to go.

"That's right. My grandmother knew that the Involution would receive her journals, and see what sort of a man she had been with. All the bad things you'd done, all the mortals you'd used and hurt. They probably wouldn't have cared about any of that, of course. Not exactly moral paragons, after all. But she knew that it was quite likely they'd want revenge for what you'd done to her. She might have left them, and abandoned her post, but once she died any betrayal ceased to count."

"But I met the Involution last year. They never mentioned any of this."

"The centre body is splintered, and has been ever since our last major tussle with the Watchers. We wound up licking our wounds behind the Iron Curtain - you know about that?" Methos nodded. Daniel did too. "There were three main centres of power for us - in Poland, where the majority of our forces were centred; in Kazakhstan, where there was easy entrance to Asia; and on the borders of Greece and Turkey, where we could use the underground that operated out of the Mediterranean. My father is from that Greek section of the movement. He worked practically independently of the others, and anything that the Polish House were up to wouldn't have concerned him. That lot think they're all that's left of the Involution."

Methos smiled unpleasantly. "Bad luck for me that they're not."

"True." Daniel was matching him smile for smile, his eyes glinting nastily. "And I have to say, I'm grateful to them. Their interference last year gave me the perfect tools for revenge."

"And I thought you people prized destructive qualities like mine." Methos sounded snide and sarcastic, his hands sunk into his pockets as though for protection against the wind. Daniel smirked up at him.

"Oh we do. But we prize other qualities too; qualities we can champion in the person we decide should be the One. My father's tales, and my own research, hinted that you didn't have those other qualities - loyalty for one, and commitment, diligence... The only diligence you show is in your determination to hide your true self from your friends. Think Joe would be so happy to help you if he knew about Gulmore and Pascoe's men? All those mortals you murdered?"

"I didn't murder them." Methos spoke very softly, and his smile was like a line of ice drawn across his face. "They asked me to kill them. Looked to me like they were enjoying it."

"Well maybe that's what MacLeod will say, when he brings you your brother's head on a pole. 'He asked me to do it, Methos. He looked like he was enjoying it'." Daniel was smiling more widely now, his eyes hard and mocking. "I think I'd like to hear that. Hear you talk your way out of that one - find a way to bring your madman brother back to life this time." He shrugged. "Or bring MacLeod back to life, if it's Kronos that comes to see you with a head on a pole. How would you handle that one, old man?"

"I won't have to." Methos was standing very straight and tall, his eyes furiously a-glitter. "MacLeod isn't going to find out that Kronos is still alive. I'm not going to risk the two greatest friends I've ever had. That's one secret that's staying buried."

"You think?" Daniel was laughing openly now. "What did you think I brought you here for, Methos? To peer at some gravestone? To listen to me telling you how horrible and worthless you are? When my family says they want revenge, and when that revenge comes from somebody like my grandmother - pure Involution, Methos, remember that - for all the innocent appearance and the sweet smile - then it's going to be something more than a graveyard tour, and an exchange of insults. 'Sweet is revenge', old man." His smile grew. "Sweet is revenge."

"What have you done?" Methos felt cold. Daniel straightened up, no longer bothering to look at his grandmother's grave.

"Me? Nothing. Why should I? You're the one my grudge is against, Methos, and there's no reason to bring anybody else into it. But if I have happened to have let a few things drop... left a few things lying around... filled in a few blanks for MacLeod to add up..." He shrugged. "Well that's something different, isn't it."

Methos felt sick. "MacLeod..." Quite suddenly his eyes didn't seem to want to focus. "MacLeod knows about Kronos?"

Daniel glanced at his watch, his body language infuriatingly casual. "Yep. By now I reckon he must do; unless he's even slower than you are. And don't give me another tirade, old man. MacLeod isn't innocent. He doesn't even deserve your protection, however useless that's proving to be. He's just an executioner - a moral version of Kronos - who certainly doesn't deserve your protection." He allowed himself a little laugh, which made the hairs on Methos' neck rise in a sudden chill. "All in all, I'm rather proud of myself. By the time you get back to Seacouver, old man, Duncan MacLeod won't even want to look at you, unless it's to take your head along with your brother's. How Joe's going to feel about it I don't know. Who's side do you reckon he'll take? MacLeod's or yours? And even if he takes your side, what's it going to matter? One friend in all the city isn't going to help you save your brother's life or MacLeod's. Either way you're going to have to lose one of them."

"That's what you meant in the car." Methos had turned an ashen grey. "When you said that my life is in ruins."

"That's about the size of it." Daniel's already sizeable chest had swelled still further. "You ruined my grandmother's life, so now I've ruined yours. Seems a fair swap. You're going to learn, Methos - never mess with the Involution."

"But MacLeod... Kronos..." More than anything in the world, Methos wanted his sword right now. Perhaps there was a chance of taking Daniel's gun - but that wouldn't have been right - wouldn't have felt right. He needed the weight of the sword, needed to feel the cold steel, and be sure of its strength and sharpness. He wanted to feel the sensations that came from sinking a blade that perfect through a mortal chest. His heart raced, and his head spun. "Damn you..."

"Oh no Methos." Daniel gripped his shoulders, delighting in the paleness of the Immortal's face, and the evident misery in his eyes. "Damn you. And everybody who thinks he's your friend. My grandmother's going to rest easy in her grave tonight for the first time in sixty-three years."

"You think you're really clever, don't you." Hate was burning in Methos' eyes now, but if it worried Daniel he gave no sign of it. Much bigger than Methos, and considerably stronger, he no doubt thought that he would have an unbeatable advantage should his opponent choose to get violent.

"Oh I am clever. I have the greatest brains in the world behind me, Methos. The Involution, for all their fragmentation and singular purpose, are still able to recruit the greatest thinkers alive today. You've got to stop seeing the small picture, old man. I thought that was supposed to be a mortal trait? Take a leaf from Duncan MacLeod. He understands the whole canvas, the way that all the minds work, when they're added together. We're Involution, Methos. We judge and we pass sentence. We twist and we play, and we weaken and destroy. You, MacLeod - even Kronos - none of you are right for us to want as the One. You all have weaknesses, and for the most part those weaknesses are each other. My grandmother pointed you out, my father set me on your path - but it's the Involution that wields the sword in my hand. Revenge is sweet when it's for the sake of family, but when you know you're doing it all in the name of an institution as old as Immortality itself..." He clapped Methos hard on both shoulders, the force of the blow almost enough to knock the older man off his feet. The bright, dark eyes glittered beneath the row of glaring white lashes. "I only wish you'd put up more of a fight."

"Then don't let me disappoint you any longer." Methos lifted his hands, letting them fall, very lightly, onto Daniel's. Daniel just laughed.

"Oh there's no point in you fighting me now, Methos. It's all over. You're whole life is ruined, and there's nothing you can do to stop it now. You've lost MacLeod, you've probably lost Kronos, if you haven't lost Joe yet you soon will. Any name or reputation you've built for yourself these last few years is gone, completely. Why fight now? Don't you have a train to catch? A shadow to slink away into?"

"Not yet." Methos was still holding his gaze; and very slowly his grip on the other man's hands was increasing. Daniel broke it easily.

"If you want to do this the hard way, old man, I'd be happy to oblige. Dirtying my hands on some low down good for nothing piece of immortal scum is the perfect way to end my little tour of the United States."

"You raise one hand against me..." Methos' voice was as soft as the whisper of the wind as it floated between the graves. Now that it was almost completely dark the heat had lessened considerably, and the wind with it. "Just one hand... and you won't make it out of this place alive."

"Really?" Daniel was grinning. "You really are desperate, aren't you. What are you going to do old man? Shoot me with the poetry book? Point a pebble at me and make me run for cover? You just can't tell when you're beaten."

"I'm never beaten." Methos was still speaking in the same soft and sibilant voice. "A Horseman is never beaten."

"But you're no Horseman anymore. You're just a waste of space who likes hurting innocent people."

"And you're not?"

"Ah..." Daniel's grin had now reached its widest extreme. "But the thing is, Methos, that I have an entire organisation behind me, whereas you are alone in the world. You don't have a single person to rely on."

"I have what I always had. Myself. So you've turned MacLeod against me. Well I made it for five thousand years without him. So I may have to lose Kronos again. I lasted a thousand years without him too. Joe's just a mortal. I'd rather have him with me, but I learnt thousands of years ago not to rest too many hopes with people who always fade away. Maybe that was something you didn't find out, when you were spending those years researching my life. There's a reason why I've lived so long, and it's nothing to do with the hearts I've broken, and the lives I've destroyed, and the hopes I've ruined. It's because I'm me. And I always come out on top."

"Not this time." Daniel was raising a fist. "Maybe it's time somebody knocked you down to size, old man. Before the ruin I've made of your life does it instead."

"Maybe you should try, Danny." Methos just smirked. "Go on. Dare you."

"You're going to live to regret that." It did not take a genius to see the coming violence as it swirled across Daniel's face. The dark eyes, with their pale frames, narrowed almost to invisibility, and the powerful jaw clenched hard and tight. Methos did not move an inch. So slow was the big mortal when compared to the speed and manoeuvrability of the Immortal that it seemed impossible Daniel's first blow would ever strike home - and yet Methos made no attempt even to block it. He let it come, taking the full force squarely on the jaw. There was a heavy thud, and something that sounded horribly like splintering bone. The old Immortal went down, hitting the low white wall of Mabel Harrington's grave with a force that threatened to break his collarbone as well. He rolled over, staring up at Daniel - an immovable mountain of man and muscle, towering above him with malevolence bright in his eyes. On the ground, blood pouring from his mouth and soaking his shirt, Methos managed a lopsided smile.

"That the best you can do?" The words had to struggle to make themselves heard through the broken jaw. Daniel's eyes burned, and he reached down, hauling Methos to his feet.

"You really want to make this hard on yourself, don't you."

"Not really." Daniel's latest move had brought him closer to Methos than he had been since before he had revealed his hand. The gun in his waistband was cold against the Immortal's wrist. His eyes were blurred with pain, but with the smile still plastered across his bruised face, Methos yanked the gun free. Daniel felt it go, and knew what it meant. Desperation joined the rage on his face now, and he pushed Methos hard. The Immortal stumbled, lost his footing, crashed to the ground with enough force to drive the breath from his lungs. All the same, he was able to raise the gun, clasped tightly in both hands. His face was white with pain, and his eyes were dangerously fogged. He knew that he was on the verge of unconsciousness now, but he didn't quite have a clean aim yet. Daniel loomed up, his form a worryingly indistinct blob.

"You're not going to fire." The voice gave his position away much more than his physical presence did. The sound was enough to give Methos the aim he needed. Instinct rather than vision told him that the mortal was preparing for another blow, but he had no way of telling what kind, or where exactly it was coming from. He felt a rush of air, and interpreted that as a kick. With no way of moving aside without spoiling his aim, he steeled himself as much as he could, and fired the gun. Six shots echoed through the still night air, setting owls squawking indignantly, making distant dogs bark furiously. An explosion of pain in Methos' chest told him that the kick had struck home. What little air was left to him deserted him altogether. The blackness filled his mind. Above him - far, far above, in a place that his mind could not penetrate - he thought that he heard a groan. He smiled. A second later, Daniel's body crashed to the ground.

"Warned you." A laugh escaped Methos, although it brought with it so much blood that he nearly choked. Pain racked his chest. It felt as though several ribs were broken, and the pain alone was enough to tell him that there was some damage to his lungs as well. Not bad enough to kill, but enough to incapacitate for a while. He closed his eyes. In the darkness inside his head he could see MacLeod, and Kronos, and Joe, and that made the pain worse than ever - but he had sense enough to realise that there was nothing that he could do, here and now. Instead he let his body relax. The gun fell from his hands. Nearby he thought that he heard scuffling, and for a second he was sure that he felt the presence of another Immortal - but he dismissed the thought. It was nothing but an hallucination. What else could it be? There was nothing that he could do about it anyway. Unconsciousness enfolded him like a shroud.


"Methos?" Joe's voice sound faraway and distant, and Methos decided that he didn't want to answer it just yet. Had he fallen asleep in the bar again? Was it really time to begin yet another boring round of serving drinks, and making small talk with punters only interested in jazz music? How he longed to chase one of the bands off the stage, and take to the piano himself. He'd show them real music. Time was that he could have given Jerry Lee Lewis a run for his money - or at least he thought he could. Maybe that had just been a dream.

"Methos?" There was a hand on his shoulder, shaking him awake, and he opened his eyes in annoyance. Couldn't Joe see he was having a nice dream? He was playing the piano in the club, hammering away on the keys. Chuck Berry was there too, playing the guitar; and wasn't that Eric Clapton over in the corner? Brian May asking if he could join in... His head was throbbing with the sound of the music. Except maybe it wasn't music after all. Maybe it was just his hangover. He sat up, his vision finally clearing, and wondered what in Zeus's name he was doing in a graveyard. There wasn't one anywhere near the club, so far as he remembered.

"You okay?" Joe sounded serious, much more so than he had in a long time. Methos nodded. It was all coming back, no matter how much he would rather it didn't.


"Not now." Somebody was helping him to his feet, although Methos couldn't see who. He saw the man's hands though, and his wrists - and saw the blue tattoo that said it all. He was aware of a lot more people now, all milling around. Men in suits, with guns barely hidden. Lots of men, all with Watcher tattoos.

"What's going on? How did you find me?"

"That's nothing that you need to worry about, Adam." The booming voice of Howard Granger, one of Seacouver's Watcher godfathers, echoed inside Methos' tender head. "We've been doing some checking up on your friend Daniel. Turns out he's no Watcher."

"Yeah, I know." Methos stared down at the body, sprawled face down across Margaret Perceival's grave. "He brought me here to kill me. Said he was going to take my head. I'm sorry I had to kill him, he could probably have told us a lot, but... I didn't really see what else I could do."

"Don't worry about it." Granger's heavy hand slapped down hard on Methos' shoulder, with just the same irritating familiarity that Daniel himself had used. "You used his own gun?"

"I didn't have a choice. He kidnapped me. I didn't have any weapons."

"And you don't know why he wanted you dead?" Granger's booming voice was annoying, not least because it reminded Methos so much of Daniel's. He shook his head.

"Jealousy? It's times like this that make me remember why my kind have always lived in secret."

"Hmm." Granger bent to the stiffening body, removing what looked suspiciously like a homing beacon from the collar of Daniel's thick work shirt. "Can't be helped I suppose; still, it's a shame. I got a call from him yesterday, and he said he wanted to talk. Any ideas what about?"

"None." Methos thought about Daniel's 'research', and about the long list of nasty little stories he had undoubtedly intended to pass on. Tales of the many betrayals and back-stabbings which had helped the world's oldest man stay on top all of these years. Tales that were enough to make Joe turn his back on him for ever. "Maybe it was just a trap. From what he said to me, he was crazy - completely unhinged."

"It would certainly appear so." Granger turned to Joe. "It's a good thing you called us when you did, Dawson. It's just as well we were here to clean up this mess, get things sorted out before the rest of the population comes nosing around. We can handle things from here, though, so if you two want to get back to Seacouver I'll understand. Take Reuben's car. He certainly won't be needing it again."

"Thanks." Joe sounded triumphant, although it was a hollow sort of triumph. "We'll be hearing from you?"

"In a day or two." Granger was frowning at Methos, as though unnerved by all the blood. Perhaps he didn't have much close-hand experience of immortal healing powers. "Don't go far."

"We won't." Joe nodded his farewells and led the way towards Reuben's car. It was covered in dust from the wind, and the lights of dawn glinted on the bumper. He opened the driver's door, but made no effort to climb inside. Methos did not even bother going around to the passenger side, let alone opening the door. Instead he avoided Joe's gaze, and toyed with the poetry book in his pocket.

"Where's MacLeod?" he asked in the end. Joe drew something in the dust with his cane.

"Gone after Kronos. You know where he is?"

"No. Safe, I hope, a long way from here. Did Mac... Did he say anything?"

"He never wants to see you again, he said that much. Other than that... No, he didn't say anything. Not really. I'm sorry."

"Are you?" Methos sounded bleak. "Or are you going to walk out on me too?"

"MacLeod did not walk out on you." Joe's eyes were furious. "What did you expect? Did you think he'd be pleased to find out that you've been hiding Kronos from him? You knew he was bound to find out sooner or later - just what exactly were you expecting his reaction to be?"

"Something less extreme." Methos wandered around the car and hauled open the passenger door, his knuckles white around the handle. He stared at the dagger lying on the back seat, wondering who, if anybody, had seen it. He had told Joe and the others that Daniel had disarmed him. The story held less conviction when one of his weapons was lying around so openly. "I thought I could talk to him. I didn't expect it all to get blown into the open by some insane mortal with--"

"He wasn't insane. Don't think that I'll accept your stories as easily as Granger and his buddies back there. What is there that you're not telling me?"

"I don't know what you mean."

"Yes you do!" Joe's words exploded in a tirade of rage. "Daniel set you up so that MacLeod would walk out on you for good; so that you'd know you were doomed to lose one or the other of your friends. That's not the work of some jealous mortal. Now I know you were lying when you said Daniel brought you here to kill you. So is Mac right when he says you're a lost cause - that you'll always revert to type, no matter how human we think we've made you?" His expression darkened. "Is he right?"

"Yes." Methos wanted to look at the ground, but for some reason he could not unfasten his gaze from that of Joe. "I keep congratulating myself on how much I've changed; left my Horseman days behind me; become something better. Truth is, I haven't changed at all." He hesitated for a moment, looking indecisive. "Listen... I know that I've lost MacLeod... so if you want to leave too, I'm not going to blame you. I'll try and tell Mac you didn't want to keep the truth about Kronos from him."

"Yeah. Another lie is just what we need right now." Joe was staring at the ground, eyes feverish. There seemed to be a sheen of sweat across his forehead. "I need honesty from you, old man, if I'm going to work out what to do next. I need to know who killed that policeman back in Archville." There was no answer, and Joe snapped his eyes back up to bore into those of the Immortal. His anger was only just kept in check. "Who was it, damn it? Was it you?"

"Yeah." The word was barely more than a whisper. "Yeah, it was. He was going to arrest us, so I stopped him."

"You killed him."

"I dealt with him."

"Murdered." Joe stared at him harshly. "You murdered him."

"Yeah, I guess I did." Methos let his gaze trail towards the milling Watchers in the distance. "Just like I murdered Daniel. I always knew MacLeod would figure it out in the end, and go off on one of his judgmental kicks. I just always figured I'd be the one to walk out on him... if there was any walking out to be done at all." He was silent for a second, and all of the strength and tension seemed to wash away from him, leaving him looking pale and drawn and much, much older than was normal. "Take the car, Joe. I'll make my own way home." His shoulders seemed to slump slightly as he turned around to walk away. "Wherever that is now."

"Your home's in Seacouver, where your job is." Joe wasn't meeting his eyes, but he was no longer staring at the ground. "Once it gets back to Watcher HQ that I helped you conceal Kronos' return - and it will get out - I'm going to be just as alone as you are. So don't let's try to drive each other away."

"You have a daughter." Methos still hadn't turned around, and was speaking to Joe without being able to see him. Joe gave a bitter laugh.

"Yeah, I have a daughter - but if you think I want her mixed up in any of this, you don't know me too well."

"She doesn't have to be mixed up in anything. You shouldn't feel sorry for me. I don't want you doing this just because--"

"Feel sorry - for you?You insufferable... Oh just shut up before I change my mind completely." Joe took a deep, calming breath. "MacLeod won't speak to me. Pretty soon neither will any of my colleagues in the Watchers. MacLeod doesn't want to do anything to you either, unless it's to take your head; and if we don't do something about it, either he or Kronos is going to die. Just losing Byron turned you into a miserable bastard for several years, and I don't plan on going through all that again. So you listen to me. I don't approve of what you've done, or what you are, or who you think you want to be. I hate Kronos, and I'd see him dead and buried before the day is out. But you're my friend, no matter how much better off I'd be if you weren't. So I'm going to help you, just like I helped you down in Archville."

"Thanks." Methos didn't know where to look. Joe glared at him.

"And don't thank me. I'm not doing this for you. I'm doing it as much to keep MacLeod alive as I am to help you keep your friends intact. Now get in the car before my better judgement takes over and tells you to take a hike."

"Yeah. Sure." Much subdued, Methos slid into the car, watching as Joe settled himself into the driver's seat. "Are we going back to Seacouver?"

"You got any better ideas?"


"Got anywhere else to go instead?"

This time there was a longer pause, then a slightly terse head shake. "No."

"Well then. We'll just have to hope that we can find Kronos before MacLeod does."

"Or that we can find Mac before Kronos does." The car started up, and they began to pull away from the graveyard. Granger watched them go, with his army of Watcher assistants. There was, thought Methos, a rather wistful look in Joe's face as he stared at them in the rear-view mirror. If the mortal was right, and the story of his involvement in Kronos' return did get out, he would have to say goodbye to the organisation he had been a member of for practically the whole of his adult life - and all because Methos had broken Margaret Perceival's heart. He let his hand fall to the book in his pocket. He wouldn't tell Joe about that. Not yet anyway. He didn't have to know that his beloved MacLeod might be going to die because of a shiftless fool who had never learnt to think of anyone but himself.

"Something on your mind, Methos?" Joe asked him. Methos shook his head, eyes fixed on the distant horizon.

"Not really, no. Well... actually yes, as it happens. How exactly are we going to save MacLeod's life when he won't let either one of us near him?"

"Good question." Joe suddenly felt a strange urge to smile. "I'm sure we'll think of something. And speaking of which, how exactly are we going to save Kronos' life when we don't have a clue where to find him? You hoping that he's a long way away doesn't exactly help us."

"Mmm." Methos nodded sagely. "That's a good question too."

"But we will save them." Despite the sudden flash of humour, Joe sounded serious again. Methos' eyes were hard, his stomach knotted into worry and unavoidable fears, and he nodded with a solemn rigidity.

"Yeah." Something flashed in his mind, which might have been another Immortal; but when he looked around, all that he could see was a black car parked at the side of the road. He couldn't even see anybody inside it. "We have to."

"I guess we do." Joe put his foot down, letting the car speed and jolt increasingly fast along the bumpy country road. As he did so he stole a glance at Methos, staring fixedly ahead with the look of the possessed. There was a smile waiting to be born, he was sure, somewhere in that hard and unreadable face. "I guess it's a bloody good thing I've never much liked the quiet life." Methos turned slowly to look at him, and let the smile grow outwards from his eyes.

"Yeah, I guess it is." He leaned back into his seat and folded his arms, the smile turning into a teasing mask that might have been hiding something rather more serious. "Especially since there's something I haven't told you yet."

"Such as?" Joe felt his chest give a nervous flutter. Quite unexpectedly, Methos gave a broad smirk.

"Daniel wasn't working alone. Not by a long shot."

"Do I want to know what's coming next?"


"Does it involve improbably committed enemies likely to hunt us to the ends of the earth?"

Methos shifted slightly in his seat, looking almost hurt. "Naturally. When did it ever involve anything else?"

"I shouldn't have asked." Joe let out a long, slow sigh. "Oh well. I didn't have anything planned for the weekend anyway." And although it was decidedly inappropriate, he found himself beginning to laugh.


It was late when Methos returned to his apartment, still uncertain whether he should feel sad at the loss of MacLeod's friendship, or pleased at the unexpected strength of his bond with Joe. He had settled on an uneasy balance between the two, mingled with the helpless fear that one of his friends was about to kill another. The result was a strange sense of detachment. Why life could never be simple was beyond him. Just because he was five thousand years old, immortal, and best friends with a cold-blooded killer, was no reason to suspect that things were always going to be complicated - was it? He scowled as he fumbled for his keys, and scowled still further when he realised that his apartment door was open. Just what he needed, on top of everything else.

The sensation of an Immortal presence hit him just as he pushed the door open wide. Perhaps it was his preoccupation which had stopped him from feeling it earlier - but he felt it strongly now, and let his hand fall to his dagger. Not exactly a perfect weapon, but his sword, as he was so painfully aware, was still inside the apartment. Wondering if his guest was MacLeod, and if so whether he would be in any danger, Methos kicked the door open wide - and froze. Lying on the large, chunky new settee, sprawled in perfect comfort for all the world as if he owned the place, was a man. He was dressed entirely in black, and there was a sheathed sword lying on the coffee table beside him. It was in full view of the door, as though mortal laws weren't of the slightest concern or import; which they very likely weren't, to him. He grinned and raised his dark-haired head to stare challengingly at Methos, pale blue eyes flashing with a hundred threats, promises and welcomes all at once. Methos felt a shiver run through him that seemed to have been born far beneath the ground, and which flooded through every inch of his body with an increasing chill.

"What are you doing here?" It wasn't the most welcoming of greetings, but his guest didn't seem to have expected anything else. The lazy grin spread.

"I told you I'd drop by when I felt like it. Hello brother."

"Four months without a word - and you choose to drop by now?" Methos' legs carried him to the nearest chair, and then dumped him into it as though no longer able to hold him. "Now?"

"Why?" Kronos sat up, looking interested and uncaring all at the same time, and the grin became a smirk of amusement. "Is there something going on?" And too tired to consider explaining, Methos just glared.