Circle Back

Lisa Krakowka

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Author's note: This is for Sandra McDonald, who, many moons ago, lamented the fact that I did not cover the resolution of conflict between Methos and Richie in "Everything Moves in Circles". Call these Eurominutes, I this scene was "missing" from that story. It fits into the plot right before Sarah goes to fight Kevin Drake in whatever part number that was. If you haven't read Circles, I'll suggest that this might make more sense if you did. And, of course, I can't resist a shameless plug for the rest of the MacGreggor Arc... If you're confused about the nature of Sarah and Richie's relationship, read Cardinal Rules, also available at the web site.

Disclaimer: Methos and Richie belong to the Highlander PTB. They just talk to me sometimes. Sarah is mine...if she starts talking to you, let me know. :)

Glenfinnan, Scotland
Spring 1999

"You are driving me nuts, will you quit it please?" Sarah said rather crossly, without looking up from her computer screen.

Methos grinned sheepishly. "Sorry. I'm just bored out of my mind. What do people *do* in Glenfinnan, anyway?"

She looked up at him and frowned. "They *try* to write another damn Ph.D. thesis. Read a book, Petey. Go for a walk. Go muck out the barn. I don't care....just quit tapping that damn pencil on the arm of the couch."

Methos debated what kind of reaction sticking his tongue out at her would solicit, but decided that things hadn't been resolved enough to risk it. A big step toward the restoration of their relationship had been taken last night when she consented to let him sleep in her bed while Richie had the couch and it had been blissful to wake up with her hand on his chest after being separated for so long. He wasn't about to test his luck by instigating something that at any other point in their history would have escalated into a good natured wrestling match, but today could wind up with her sword at his throat. Sarah had been vacillating between pure rage at him for allowing her to believe he was dead for the past several months and absolute joy at seeing him again...this was not the time to do anything but let her sort things out for herself.

"Maybe I'll just go down to the pub," he said.

Sarah waved a dismissing hand at him and clamped her teeth down on the pen she had been holding, searching for the correct way to phrase a sentence that she had been working on for at least five minutes. He was almost certain that he could walk over to the door, open and close it, and stand in the middle of the floor and she would be completely unaware of his presence. The urge to tease her by doing just that was almost overpowering, but he fought it down and grabbed his coat.

Sarah's head snapped up as he was searching for his scarf. Moments later, a buzz ran through his own consciousness. Richie. It must be Richie. And it was down right uncanny how she seemed to be able to sense the boy before he could.

"Take him with you?" Sarah asked as Richie's footsteps echoed on the stair.

"To the pub?"

She nodded.

Methos shifted uncomfortably. He had never had the greatest relationship with the young man, and things had been even more strained than usual since their confrontation in Duncan's dojo.

"Sarie, I'm not so sure that's a good idea."

Sarah sighed and set down her pen. "He's part of me, Petey. And he always will be. Whatever this thing is between you two, it needs to get resolved," she said. "And, I'll never get *anything* done with him here. He's worse than you are."

Methos chuckled. "Okay. I'll take him with me."

Sarah smiled a thank you and bent her head once more.

Methos paused to watch her type for a moment, then reached for the doorknob and met Richie on the landing.

"Come on," he said. "I'll buy you a beer."

Richie blinked at the older man, completely dumbfounded.

"Come on," Methos repeated. "She's hell bent on Yeats and kicked me out. She'll do the same to you, so you might as well come with me."

Richie shrugged. "Okay."

The ride down to Rachel MacLeod's inn was thick with tension and Richie spent the entire time looking out the window; purposely ducking the occasional glances Methos shot his way.

"Why are you doing this?" He asked as the older man set a pint of Lager and a basket of chips down in front of him.

Methos shucked off his coat and slid into the booth across from Richie. "Because she asked me to. And because she was right when she said that we need to resolve things between us."

Richie reached for the ketchup, found there was none, and settled for some salt. He was on his sixth chip when Methos finally spoke again.

"Look, I'm sorry I lost it back in Seacouver. You just have no idea what it felt like to suddenly realize that you had been lying to me about not knowing where she was."

"Yeah, well you have no idea what it felt like to watch her sort through your stuff and fight back tears," Richie answered, not bothering to look up from his food.

Methos sighed. "Believe me, if I had any idea that she thought I was dead, I would have been back in Seacouver in a heartbeat."

Richie glanced up at him, then focused his attention downwards once more. "It all could have been avoided with one phone call, or a letter, or something. But you just dropped off the face of the planet. Connor told us you were dead and we never heard from you again. What were we supposed to think?"

"Look," Methos said. "I never claimed to be perfect. And I can't change the past. All I can say is that circumstances were such that I couldn't keep up communications. And I had no idea that MacLeod thought I was dead, or that he had told you all that. All I knew was that I couldn't come home because if I did, I'd bring a host of nasty immortals on my trail. I couldn't put Sarie or any of you into that kind of danger."

"Yeah well, thanks for looking out for our best interests," Richie snapped.

Methos ground his jaw. "I've said I'm sorry. I don't know what more I can do."

Richie looked up at him and was very tempted to throw a punch that he hoped would at least knock out a few teeth, but settled for clenching his fist repeatedly under the table.

"There isn't anything you can do," he said. "Nothing will take away the memories of watching her sink to the floor when Mac told her you were dead. Nothing will change the fact that she left Seacouver and wouldn't tell me where she was going. Nothing will make me forget what it was like to walk into her apartment for the first time after she left and feel how completely empty it was."

Suddenly, some pieces fell into place for the world's oldest living immortal.

"I am such an idiot," Methos said.

Richie grunted in concurrence.

"You're not pissed at me for the same reason she is."

"I'm pissed at you because you're a jerk," Richie grumbled.

"Well, yes," Methos said, fishing a chip out of the basket and chewing on it thoughtfully. "Sarie's mad as hell at me because it's a natural reaction to the situation. But you, you think you're mad because of what she went through, right? But the real reason is because *she* left, because I caused her so much pain that she had to leave you and Seacouver to get past it."

"Don't psychoanalyze me."

"I'm not," Methos said. "Look, I don't pretend to understand this weird bond you two have. I have no idea whether it's because of the whole mixed quickenings thing or not. And, frankly, it doesn't really matter. It *does* matter that she left you, though. And it makes perfect sense for you to be angry with me because I was the catalyst for that."

"And now that you've figured me all out is a light bulb supposed to flash inside my head and make everything okay?" Richie asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

Methos blinked at him calmly. "Am I wrong?"



"Okay?" Richie echoed.

"Yeah," Methos shrugged. "So, I'm wrong. It's been known to happen."

Richie stared slack-jawed at the older man for nearly a minute. No one had ever given up that easily when it came to spouting theories about what was going on inside his head. Everyone had an idea, an explanation.

"You want to know why I'm mad at you?" He asked at last.

Methos nodded and reached for his beer.

"I'm mad at you because it just about killed her to hear that you were dead. She spent most of a year going through daily life as best she could, waiting for you to come back. She fought people who came looking for you. One of them almost killed her. And then, one night, Connor calls...and it was all for nothing. It's not supposed to work that way. It's supposed to have a happy ending."

"It does have a happy ending," Methos said.

" waltz back in and we're all supposed to be overjoyed and forget what we've been through."

"No," Methos said. "You're all supposed to move past it and forward. I don't expect to snap my fingers and make everything right with the world, if I could do that, there'd be none of losing people you love. I can't change how things have played out this past year. All I can do is be grateful that I'm still alive, that Sarie is still alive, and hope that, someday, she might actually forgive me for the pain."

Richie picked up the last remaining chip and examined it closely, then threw it back down into the basket. "She will."

"You think?" Methos asked.

Richie smiled. "If she wasn't going to forgive you eventually, she would have taken you head by now."

Methos laughed.

Richie drained his beer and glanced around the room, watching with passing interest as another patron wandered in and knocked mud off his boots before crossing to the bar. "Can I tell you something?"

"Sure," Methos said, finishing off his own beer.

"You were kind of right, about what you said about me being mad because she left. But that's just because of how I grew up."

"It's nothing to be ashamed of, you know," Methos said quietly. "And I wasn't trying to compartmentalize you as one of those kids who suffers from abandonment issues. I just suddenly realized that this whole mess affected you in ways that I'm sure Sarie or Duncan never even considered."

"She was too busy being sad," Richie said, with a sigh. "And I think it brought back Tessa for Duncan."

"And you lost someone who is very dear to you when Sarie left Seacouver. I'm sure that brought back all kinds of stuff for you."

"Emotional baggage is a real drag," Richie said. "Please tell me it goes away once you hit like a hundred or something."

Methos smiled. "Nope. It does get lighter, though. Who we are is sculpted by what we experience, both good and bad. And we all carry around our own personalized set of scars."

"You're not going to tell her, are you?"

"Tell her what?"

Richie looked down at the table for a minute, then back up at Methos. "Tell her that I got freaked out because she left. I mean, she's been through enough...she shouldn't have to worry about my childhood scars."

Methos shook his head. "I won't say anything. But I can tell you that she'd never hurt you on purpose."

"I know. She was just doing what she had to do to get by. I can't blame her for that."

"If I tell you something, do you swear not to ever tell Sarie?" Methos asked.

Richie nodded.

"I think her affection for you goes way beyond the fact that you have part of her quickening. I think you remind her of Alan MacGreggor...or maybe one of her brothers. She lost her whole world in the span of one horrific afternoon and I think you bring some of that sense of family and security back to her."


"Yes, really," Methos answered. "And I envy you for it. Not only do you have this strange connection with the quickenings, but you have the ability to carry one of her emotional bags for her. I've known her for nearly a thousand years and we are part of each other, but not in a manner that is even remotely like the way you are. I can make her forget that day in Glenstrae in 1068, if I'm lucky. But you, you can take her back to a time before it even happened. I'm her friend and a partner, you're kin."


Methos laughed. "And now that I've laid the weight of Sarie's world in your hands, I think I need to buy you another beer."

"Methos," Richie said, as the older man got to his feet.

Methos paused and looked down at him expectantly.


The world's oldest living immortal shook his head. "No, Richie, thank you, for taking care of her while I was gone. And I'm sorry that you had to go through so much."

"It doesn't matter now," Richie said.

Methos smiled and scooped up Richie's glass, heading off toward the bar.


To Part 9: Worlds Collide: The Gathering Storm

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