Connor felt like ten kinds of a traitor when he left Adam at Aaron's front door. Somewhere between Duncan's house to Knight's, the deceptively young looking ancient immortal decided to quit whining about the appointment. This, of course, coming after a threat from Connor that he could spend the entire afternoon whining, but he would end up there regardless. By the time they arrived it was Connor who suddenly developed such a nervous case of the guilts, that Adam threatened to feed him his wireless phone if he asked once more whether or not it was turned on, or reassured him that he could call him no matter what.
"If that's the case, why even leave me here? You know I don't want to be here."
Adam could do guilt real good. Connor looked at Aaron for help. "Connor, would you like to stay in the house? Methos and I can take a walk to the cemetery, or the old church."
"You have Internet access?" Connor smiled, raising his eyebrows trying to peer into the house from the doorway. "I'm way behind in my email."
Adam seemed to relax just a bit knowing Connor would be nearby, but not able to hear their conversation.
"Help yourself. Computer's in the study. Second door on the left." Aaron waved his hand toward the room. The Scot passed by so quickly Adam almost smiled. "So, let's walk." Knight led the way down the front steps of the old parsonage and into the yard. "So, what do you prefer to be called nowadays?"
"Adam." He replied coldly. Name rank and serial number. That was all Knight would get from him.
"And before you get all psychological, it is not denial. It's simply that someone is going to slip and call me Methos at the wrong time. Too many people suddenly know who I am."
"You don't want anyone to know who you really are?"
"Are you kidding? That invites every young punk to come along and take the head of the oldest living immortal. I don't fight anyone if I can help it, so putting myself out on public display isn't my idea of fun."
"How long have you been out of the game?"
"Why? Sizing me up? Just because I don't want to kill, doesn't mean I can't. Between the MacLeods I get more than enough practice."
"I'm not sizing you up. I don't get much chance to practice myself these days. Angie is my only sparring partner. She's good, but we know each other's moves too well. Might be good to have some friendly immortals around for a change."
"Maybe, but that just seems to invite more trouble. I managed to stay out of the game for two hundred years until I met MacLeod. Since then I have taken four quickenings. Trouble seems to follow him and anyone around him."
"Connor or Duncan?"
"Both." Adam grinned despite himself.
"Yeah, I remember that well enough." Aaron laughed shaking his head. "Busy body was always in to some trouble for as long as I've known him. When did you meet Connor?"
"A year or so ago. I needed help with Richie. I couldn't think of anyone else. So we tracked him down." Why was he talking to Aaron?
"Right. Connor mentioned the boy at dinner the other night."
"You were at dinner, too?" Adam's shock was quickly out weighed by the disappointment he knew Connor must have felt.
"Yeah, though I think Connor would have preferred it if I wasn't. He thinks he hides how he feels from me, but he doesn't. I can't help it though. Angie is one thing I can't share. We have our spats. She usually gets tired of me every few decades, but we always work it out."
"Admirable, providing she feels that way, too." Adam challenged.
"I hope she does. I've never forced her to come back to me, Adam. I give her the space she needs. Even left a time or two myself." Aaron glanced around at the trees, listening to the birds for a moment. "Times have changed. Thank God so have we. You know, people complain about the shape of the world. They think it's going to hell, and people in general are just plain corrupted. We know better, don't we? We remember what barbarism was really like. The world isn't any worse off today than it was thousands of years ago. I'd like to think it's better. You just didn't have it served to you with your evening meal back in the bronze age."
"And we're not on America's Most Wanted for our daily routine."
"Do you ever wonder why we were like that?" Aaron asked gently. "I mean, I know it was our lifestyle, but there were others who weren't like that. I've never been able to figure it out."
"It was all I knew. All I could remember- until lately." Adam didn't mean to let the words slip out. He had spent years at a time contemplating the same subject.
"How so? I thought you cleaned up your act a couple thousand years ago."
"I did. A little more than that actually. Kronos blames you for that."
"He does?" Aaron was careful not to place any emphasis on the present tense. "Why?"
"Because I learned to read when I was with you. He thinks that was the start of my downfall."
"Ah, yes. Knowledge and an open mind. A very powerful combination. So he thinks your ability to read, to understand other cultures, is what wised you up?"
Adam nodded slowly. He realized he was suddenly talking too much whether he had wanted to or not- but it was an interesting conversation.
"I would probably agree. It's what got to me finally. Actually, by the time I captured you, I was starting to comprehend something other than a barbaric lifestyle. Believe me, I could have treated you a lot worse than I did, had I met you a hundred years earlier."
Aaron watched Adam wince with worry. He remembered that expressive face well. He had hated sending Methos away, but at that time he couldn't comprehend or justify risking the lives of others to keep a slave who didn't want to be kept. He would never forget the look on Methos' face when he left. It wasn't the forlorn look of a lover, but perhaps of a student being sent away for the first time. The look had quickly been crushed by the nervous apprehension he adopted when he rejoined Kronos.
"How did it go? When you went back to Kronos?"
"Oh, the usual. He killed me a few times. I shouldn't have allowed myself to be captured. I should have tried harder to escape. After weeks of sparring to the death, with Caspian, Silas and him I was finally allowed to regain my status as a brother. The usual routine after running away, or being captured." Adam was sarcastically casual about the whole thing.
"Yeah well, what could you do?" Adam looked around nervously.
"I could have killed him."
"And I would have taken your head when you were down."
"Nothing personal, but I was still very much a Horseman then. I wasn't quite ready to give that up." Okay, so why was he trying to explain this to Aaron, and where was Kronos when he needed him? Adam looked around nervously. Still though, it had been so long since he could talk to a seemingly normal person about the life he remembered from so long ago. Why did he suddenly consider Aaron a normal person? "Yeah. It's not an overnight transition is it? Going from barbarian to down right normal. Though, in comparison to mortals I suppose we aren't nearly that normal."
"Hardly." Methos smiled quietly. Aaron was a curiosity. Maybe, he, like Methos himself, truly had reformed. Maybe it wasn't an act. "So when was your transition completed?" "Oh, there are some, Angie, for instance, who would tell you I'm still a barbarian, but I'd like to think it was within a few hundred years after we met." Aaron smiled in his relaxed, almost bear like manner.
The man was the epitome of casual, much more relaxed than Adam remembered him three thousand years ago. He still had that snake charmer personality though. Adam knew if he wasn't careful he'd be helping Aaron and the MacLeod's move him into a loony bin, before evening. He just found himself really wanting to talk. How had Aaron done this? How did they get so nearly relaxed? How had he gone from hating the man to perhaps feeling somewhat of a kinship to him? Perhaps they could start an ex-barbarian in need of forgiveness support group.
That was the way Aaron always worked. Make everything so appealing, so interesting that you were doing exactly what he wanted before you realized it. Damn. He should have been more careful. He had forgotten what a manipulator Aaron was.
Aaron laughed gently, thoughtfully. "Boy, I tell you, Meth- Adam, when I was a kid it was practically the stone age. I would have never thought that I would live to see so much. I never imagined in my wildest dreams that life would be like this. I've gone from wearing animal skins to silks, to blue jeans, to tuxes on a bad day. Did you ever try to imagine what the future would be like?"
"No. Not until a couple of hundred years ago. DaVinci. There was a guy with an imagination."
"So you really remember being a kid? Being a pre-immortal?" Adam asked curiously.
"Sure, don't you?"
Adam looked around again.
"Connor's in the house. He can't hear us out here."
"I'm not worried about him." Adam seemed momentarily distracted.
"So how far back do you remember?"
"Most of the memories I'm having now deal with that time period between my first death and taking my first head."
"How much time was between those two events?"
"I don't know. I think probably years. I don't even know if I knew about time then. Or how to count the years. Kronos said it was more than a hundred years."
"When did you become one of the horsemen?"
"I don't know. When I took my first head, we were raiding a village. Kronos was allowing me more freedom. He had started letting me carry weapons during the raids. I remember coming across an Immortal. He had never told me anything at the time, so he sort of found himself coaching me from the sidelines. Before the memories started that was my first memory, and barely one at all. For years I couldn't remember how I came to be in Kronos' camp. I was just always there. I knew what he told me."
"What had he told you?"
Methos awoke in the comfort of blankets and pillows, the morning sun filtering through the cloth of the tent. The surroundings seemed vaguely familiar, but he had an annoying sense of confusion- a buzzing sensation in his head. The tent flap flew upward, causing him to jump with a start. The man standing there filled him with dread and fear, but the buzzing began to adjust in his mind and become less disturbing. The man watched him curiously.
"What's the matter, Methos? Still not over the quickening? I would have thought last night would have taken care of that." Methos noticed the man carried fruits, bread, and wine.
Methos took a deep breath, suddenly remembering last night. He swallowed hard, trying to decide if it was a good memory or a bad memory. The things this man before him evoked were unsettling. Fear, terror, pleasure, comfort, pain, control. What should he feel? He remembered a burning village. People screaming, dying.
"I don't even remember the first head I took. There have been so many." Kronos threw Methos a piece of fruit. "You'll feel better shortly. If not, I'm sure I can give you something else to think about." He stroked the side of his face lovingly. Methos enjoyed the sensation. "Here, have some wine, child." Kronos handed him a skin, which Methos carefully unfastened and drank from as Kronos set about preparing the morning meal.
"You did very well yesterday. Your brothers are quite envious. After all, why should you, a mere slave of the camp, be allowed on raids, let alone take the first head of all of us in years? I think Silas is actually more proud than anything. I reminded Caspian that we did not spend all this time teaching you to kill, to use pain and fear, for you to sit back in the camp and watch over slaves. You're better than that, aren't you?" Kronos handed him a slice of the rough bread.
Methos reluctantly reached for it.
Methos nodded and Kronos released the bread, which Methos devoured with a healthy appetite.
"You've learned well. From mere slave to my trusted right hand. From this day forward, Methos, you answer to no one but me."
Methos wasn't quite sure who he had answered to before. He stopped chewing for a moment trying to understand the significance of the command. Images of a large, hulking, slow witted man, another man with a cruel grin in his eyes, and then finally Kronos.
Kronos smiled at him. "You truly have not disappointed me. I trust you will not in the future. I knew you were special the day I found you. Do you understand now why I burned your village and killed them all?" When Methos cocked his head slightly from uncertainty, Kronos still smiled moving closer until the young Immortal could feel his breath on his face and bare shoulder.
"Do you remember the day I took you from your people?"
Methos hesitantly shook his head, carefully swallowing his bread.
"No? Has it been that long?" He used his soft hypnotizing voice. "Why, yes, I suppose it has. Well, let me assure you, young one, you will always belong to me. No one will ever harm you, who does not die by my sword. You are one of us now, but you will always belong only to me." Kronos took the wine skin from Methos' hands, and pushed him back into the comfort of the blankets.
"Why did I forget everything before that? Why was my first Quickening the defining line?"
"It was the moment, you completely severed yourself from your old life. Methos the slave had to die, for Methos the warrior- the horseman, to live. You couldn't be both."
"But I had killed before that. I'd killed hundreds by that time, according to Kronos."
"But they were mortals. "
"Tell me something, Methos? When you killed mortals, how did you do it?"
"What?" Methos' eyes widened in horror.
"I'm not asking you to relive it, Methos, just the basics. Did you torture them? Quick with as little pain as possible?"
"Quick. Kronos and Caspian would get so angry with me. I killed with efficiency. I could kill ten, twenty, without stopping for air. They toyed with them. Tortured. Raped. Dismembered. Anyone I didn't put out of their misery." Methos' breathing suddenly increased to a convulsive intake and he felt horribly dizzy. He bent over, almost retching.
"Slow down." Aaron put a hand on his shoulder. "Slow down."
Methos made an attempt to steady his breathing. After a moment or two of silence, Aaron proceeded. "Is that what you were doing, Methos? Putting them out of their misery?"
Methos nodded slowly, trying to straighten upright. "It's the only thing that makes sense. I wasn't a killer before that. I recently remembered the first mortal I killed. A boy. Kronos was so brutal when he was in a foul mood. I came in to the tent. He was hurting him so badly. The boy looked so desperate. He was in such pain. His screams deafened me. I picked up a dagger and I killed him, as Kronos was?" Methos covered his mouth.
They were standing in front of the two hundred-year-old chapel near the cemetery. "Let's go inside. I leave the door unlocked." Aaron opened the church door and held out an open hand, motioning to the entrance.
Adam stepped inside, forcing himself to enjoy the sun filtering through the stained glass windows that lined the church, anything to get his mind off the past for a moment. "Very nice. Why isn't it used anymore?"
"Congregation got too big. We built a new church, about a 100 years ago. The parishioners wanted it closer to town."
"This was your church?"
Aaron nodded. "Angie and I built it in the late 1700's. I was the first minister. Episcopalian. Naturally, I eventually had to move on. Every seventy five years or so, we come back. I somehow keep inheriting the property." Aaron smiled. We keep it up as an historic landmark."
"Are you still a minister?"
"No." Aaron shook his head. "Not for a long time. Oh, I still study theology, but psychology is my current fixation."
Adam continued to study the inside of the church. Aaron had built this with his own hands? This man he had personally witnessed murder and destroy was capable of such beauty?
"I'm impressed." He nearly whispered.
"Thank you." Aaron nodded. "So, Connor tells me you're going back to medical school. I take it you've been a doctor before?"
Methos nodded. "Every so often. Different lifetimes here and there."
"Are you good at it?"
"Yeah, pretty good." Methos realized for a fleeting moment what Aaron was doing. He was again manipulating him. He was getting him to talk, backing away before he got uncomfortable, drawing comparisons between them, building trust and rapport. He was very skilled- and he was getting the information he needed to form a diagnosis. Pretty slick. His patients probably didn't even realize they were in therapy. And Methos found that despite knowing that Aaron was building his trust, he didn't mind. His anger, his hatred, his fear of this man, was slowly dissolving and being replaced with trust and awe. The realization that Aaron had truly changed was reinforcing his belief that he had also. Aaron was including him among the elite reformed. When had he become such a ball of clay? Two could play at this game.
"Why aren't you a minister, Aaron?"
"I told you, I'm into psychology now."
"Can't you do both?"
"Do you feel like a hypocrite?" Adam asked curiously. He knew it came out more accusing than he intended, but he truly wanted to know.
It was Aaron's turn to be slightly off guard. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, knowing what you were. All the lives you took. Does it ever make you feel like a hypocrite to play the good guy?"
"When you save a life are you being a hypocrite? Considering how many you killed? What's your score? Are you trying to save one life, for every life you took?"
Methos squirmed. Kronos had asked him this before. How had Aaron turned the tables on him? "What if I am?"
"It doesn't work that way, Methos. Absolution is unconditional."
"What about penitence?"
"Good therapy." Aaron replied as dead pan as ever.
"But I'm good at being a doctor." Methos protested.
"Then be one." Aaron shrugged.
"It would be a waste of your talent not to be."
Adam looked around the church nervously. "Absolution is unconditional?"
"Yes. Did you ever receive any formal absolution? Or was it self proclaimed?"
"Both. I can't change what I was."
"From whom? And why do you feel so guilty?"
"John. Because I can't forget their faces. Because I set Kronos up. Because I killed Silas. Because of everything I ever did to avoid a confrontation or a fight to keep from taking another life. Because of everything I ever did to stay alive, because I'm terrified to die and go to the next life."
Aaron was silent for a moment after the outburst. Finally he spoke quietly. "If I remember correctly, John's only intent was to open the door. He did not grant absolution. The rest was up to you."
There was a long quiet moment. Methos' head bobbed anxiously around, eyes finally fixing on his feet. "Oh."
Aaron closed his eyes and shook his head. "Say ten million Hail Mary's and call me in the morning, Methos."
Methos looked up with a funny, almost embarrassed blush, shaking his head, then nodding as the impact of the spoken words became evident. Damn him! How did Aaron get so much out of him in so little time? How had he pushed just all the right buttons until he had Methos blabbering like an idiot?
"Methos, your new life began the day you woke up to what you were and committed yourself to make that change."
"What about afterwards? What about Silas? Kronos? The doctor I stood by and watched Caspian kill?"
"Could you have stopped him?"
"Would Silas have killed you?"
"Yes, and Cassandra, though he wouldn't have liked it much."
"Who did you set Kronos up with?"
Aaron was quiet for a moment as he gave it some thought. "From what Connor said he's a pretty skilled fighter. He and Kronos were inevitable. Get over it. Next?"
Methos studied him for a moment. "Alexa." So quietly.
"Who was Alexa?" Aaron asked gently.
"My- last wife. She died a few years ago. We were only married a few months."
"Was it an accident? Or did you know she was going to die?"
Adam nodded. "I knew she was ill. I- I just wanted to show her- the world. The beautiful parts. I had to share it with her. What if- what if being in a hospital- what if she could have lived longer?"
"Methos, you know better than that." Aaron chided. "The dying die- regardless. How she chose to live in the short time you had together was her choice. I didn't know her, but you have to know she would have preferred sharing your world rather than being used as an experiment."
When Duncan had a call on his cell phone, he left Richie to show Joe around the estate. Richie had already given him the grand tour of the caretakers cottage, the pond , the clearing they had been using for practice, and now the very decrepit guest house.
"Now, let me guess. If you and MacLeod are living in the house, and Adam is living in the cottage, you're going to get a couple of more Immortals to live in this shack once you get it remodeled."
Richie laughed. "Well, I don't know about that. But maybe Connor will stay here sometimes."
"This place is going to turn into an immortal training camp."
Richie smiled worriedly and nodded as he turned away muttering something that sounded like, "If I stay."
"What did you say?"
"Oh, nothing." Richie turned back smiling. "Come on, I'll show you the house."
"Hold on there." Joe held his cane out and blocked Richie.
"If you stay? What kind of talk is that?" Joe grumbled.
"I said, yeah, I'll say." Richie stammered.
"Yeah, right. Start talking, Richie."
"Look, I don't really- "
"What? Remember me? Don't feel like you have to tell me anything, because you don't remember me? Is that it?" Joe demanded kindly.
Richie shook his head, "Maybe. I don't know. I don't- "
"Let me tell you who I am, Richie. I am the Watcher who kept your immortality a secret for as long as possible. I am the one you came to whenever you had problems with the old man. I am the one who broke all the rules for you when I shot MacLeod to keep him from killing you. I am the one who buried your fake body when MacLeod couldn't handle what he'd done, and I thought Adam had taken off so he wouldn't be next. I'm the one who stayed in Paris, just so that when MacLeod did come back, I could tell him where I buried you." Joe poked at his chest then grabbed his arm when he tried to turn away. "That is who I am, kid. So don't screw around here. What is your problem?"
"I'm sorry." Richie swallowed hard. "Joe, you were there. Was he really going to kill me? When he had the dark quickening? Would he have stopped?"
Joe stared helplessly at him. So that's what this was about? "Have you remembered that?"
"Oh, kid. I'm sorry. You've got to know how MacLeod feels about you."
"Would he have killed me, Joe?"
"Richie, it wasn't him. I tried to tell you that. The dark quickening nearly destroyed him. He was completely out of control. If he had killed you and later regained his senses, it would have destroyed him."
"Yeah, well he did on the third time, right? Don't bother answering. I know the answer."
"Richie, it wasn't his fault. Do you have any idea what happened to him when he thought he killed you? Do you know what he went through?" When Richie didn't answer, Joe continued. "He went through agony, Richie. He disappeared for over a year. He nearly lost his mind. He stayed in a monastery barely existing, until he could finally face the world again. And the only reason he came out was for revenge. He couldn't stand the thought of allowing Ahriman to exist any longer. It was his responsibility- it was a prophecy-"
"A prophecy?" Richie scoffed.
"Yes, a prophecy."
"I'm suppose to believe that?"
"You did at the time. When the rest of us were worrying that he'd lost his mind, you were the only one who believed in him. Even after he'd tried to kill you twice before, you still had faith in him. So if you can't believe him and you won't believe me, why don't you believe yourself? You were the one who stuck by him, right up until it got you killed. And as it turned out you were right. Richie, don't you understand what you and MacLeod have?"
"Yeah, he has me as a convenient punching bag."
"Has he hurt you since you've been here?"
"No, of course not." Richie frowned.
"Richie not only has he killed for you, he would die for you. As you have proven you would for him. The two of you have faced some of the most extraordinary circumstances, but you have always managed to get through them together. The two of you have been one hell of a team, kid. Are you just going to blow that now, because you get a case of the jitters?"
"I don't know."
"Have you talked to Connor about this? About leaving?"
"Not the leaving part."
"Are you going to go back with him?" The distress on Joe's face was starting to show.
"Maybe it's time I'm on my own."
"Okay, I've had enough of this ridiculousness." Joe thwaped him on the head with his cane.
"Ow!" Richie rubbed his unexpected headache. "What the hell did you do that for?"
"Because you're acting like an idiot. You have no more intention of leaving here than you do of becoming a priest. You're letting your worries get to you, but you aren't a coward. If MacLeod was going crazy again that would be one thing, but he's fine." Joe studied the pouting Richie. " Now come on and show me the rest of the place."
Richie rubbed his head again. "It's awful hard to believe I could forget someone like you."
Joe laughed. "Sorry. Maybe I'm just warming up for Adam."
As it turned out Joe didn't have very long to wait for Adam and Connor to return. He was sitting at the kitchen table with a cold glass of lemonade when he noticed Richie look up from the vegetables he was slicing for Duncan. He looked over at MacLeod who was also noticeably reacting. Then he heard the SUV in the driveway.
"Yes, it went okay," Joe could hear Adam complaining. "I just don't see why I should have to go back so soon."
"Well, you will continue to go everyday until Aaron says different." Connor was obviously growing tired of the argument. "Now, end of discussion. I want a pleasant evening."
"Excuse me?" Adam opened the back door as he turned back to Connor and held it open.
"You heard me. Joe!" Connor smiled. "Straighten up, Adam, we have company."
"What?" Adam looked disgusted. "You just don't have a clue do you? Hi, Joe. You just act like I'm some brainless twit. You treat me just like Richie!"
"Hey!" Richie brandished his knife at Adam. "Watch that, Old-Timer."
"Plenty taken." Richie took a bite of the carrot he was slicing.
"Sorry." Adam turned around in total frustration. "Joe, would you please convince Mr. Clan MacLeod that I'm 5,126 years old and that I can make my own decisions."
"Sit down!" Joe practically thundered.
"What?" Adam screwed up his face as he looked at Joe directly for the first time since he arrived.
"You heard me. Sit down." Joe motioned to a chair opposite him. Richie found himself stuck between the two Watchers as Adam plopped in the chair curious to hear what had upset Joe.
"Look if it's about my resignation?"
"Your resignation is quite appropriate now." Joe gave him that famous fed up smirk and folded his arms across his chest.
"What do you mean?" Adam snatched several of the carrots and began munching trying to act nonplused.
"You know you are one lucky Immortal." Joe didn't exactly sound like he meant that. Adam stopped eating. He knew when Joe was angry.
"How's that?" He asked cautiously.
"You get to pick the date and time of your first death."
Both Duncan and Connor paused momentarily with their dinner preparations, looking first at each other then curiously at Joe and Methos. Richie's eyes darted back and forth between the ancient immortal, the gray haired watcher and both of his teachers.
"What are you talking about, Joe?" Adams eyes nearly grinned with curiosity. He knew Joe was somewhat enjoying this.
"Aaron Knight's Watcher reported you this morning. What the Watchers have expected to be true has finally been confirmed.
"They suspected me already?" Now that grabbed his attention and opened his expressive eyes.
"What do you think? A young Watcher starts hanging out with Immortals on a regular basis. Somebody's going to catch on. You've been suspected as a pre-Immortal or a new Immortal for five years. This time you were made. And since you are already wielding a sword you've been confirmed. Now it's my job to put the pieces together. Do you have any idea how bad this makes me look? They want to know why I didn't report you as Mac's student a long time ago. They want to know why I didn't toss your young butt out of the Watchers as soon as you became an Immortal."
"I didn't think about Watchers this morning. I'm sorry." Adam looked around at his friends. His cover was blown. His years of hiding were over. He could never go back to the Watchers. Truthfully, though, somebody would have realized he wasn't aging sooner or later. It had to eventually happen, but why now? But all this really meant is that he'd be watched. He'd be in the chronicles as a new Immortal. Adam Pierson, mild mannered graduate student. He'd be the laughing stock of the academy.
"I'm sorry? That's all you have to say? I'm sorry I screwed up your career? I'm sorry I further abused your already abused reputation? Just what is it that you expect from me anyway?" Joe was definitely after his pound of flesh.
"I don't know. I'll come up with an idea. Just give me some time. I'll go to them and tell them that you didn't know. That I convinced you I was experimenting or something."
"What kind of experimenting?"
"Whether or not immortals sense pre-immortals?"
"What? And how were you supposed to know you were a pre-immortal, genius?" Richie stated the obvious when the others stopped everything they were doing and stared at him like he was an idiot.
"Oh, I guess that wouldn't work, would it? Well give me time. I'll think of something."
"You damn well better. And whatever it is, had better be flawless."
"Don't worry. I'm known for my clever and devious planning."
"Hah!" Connor scoffed then shook his head laughing.
Adam rolled his eyes comically and stood up. "I'm going to get a shower."
Adam let the water rush over him until he began to feel his tense muscles relaxing. What a day this had been. Kronos, Aaron, Watchers. It was enough to make him crazy except that he'd spent so much time that way in the past and truly hoped he wasn't headed that way again. He turned off the water, quickly dried and wrapped a towel around his waist. Opening the shower curtain revealed Kronos watching him, with an appreciative smile. A small scream stuck in his throat and he lost his balance and fell against the shower wall, swearing in several old languages.
Kronos laughed. "I believe the occasional pond or river was safer."
Methos stood up carefully, glaring at him. "What the hell are you doing here? Where were you all afternoon? And stay out of my life. Especially when I'm showering."
"Never let it be said I don't appreciate beauty."
Methos felt a chill run down his spine. No, he would not listen to this nonsense. This was his delusion. He had to control it. But could a delusion make him feel so much tension and anxiety?
"You don't seem happy to see me for having missed me this afternoon."
"I didn't say I missed you. It just didn't seem like an opportunity you would pass off." Methos set about finding his change of clothes and dressing as they argued.
"I was there. You just aren't very good at concealing me when you are talking to others. I didn't want Aaron to think you really were crazy. Besides, you did alright until you opened your mouth."
"I should have known the truth would displease you." Methos shot out bitterly.
"I would not have tolerated your insolence millennia ago, and I certainly won't know."
"Oh, what are you going to do? Kill me for sport?"
"I've thought about it." Kronos paused when he achieved the desired effect." Methos eyes widened with fear. "But I'm having so much fun, with you this way."
"Well, I'm tired of playing your games. It was nice not having you around this afternoon."
"I'm offended. Perhaps Richie would like to play?"
"Leave him alone." Methos warned.
"Or what? Are you going to tell MacLeod, so he can kill me again?"
"I'll find a way to do it myself." Methos kept his chin tilted defiantly, even as Kronos circled him closely.
"You can't kill me, Methos. Even if you had the guts, you wouldn't have the strength. No, your style is helpless mortals. You've never been much of an immortal fighter, have you? You hide under the protection of others, Watchers, Immortals. No, I think you know exactly what you must do." Kronos held his gaze with his intense eyes.
"What do you want, Kronos? What is this all about?"
"I want you to kill Aaron Knight."
"Because you didn't have the guts to do it three thousand years ago."
"And what makes you think I do now?" Adam nodded with a worried smile.
"Your, young friend, Richie? What would it take to throw him over the brink?"
"Leave Richie alone."
"One too many memories? What would drive him away from here, into the dangerous world?"
"Why would you want to do that?"
"Maybe, I don't like the company you're keeping."
"Adam?" Methos could hear Richie bounding up the staircase. "Adam?"
"Which horrible moment of his young life should he relive tonight?"
"He's going to remember eventually anyway. You have nothing to do with that."
"Don't I? Where do you think your memories are coming from?"
"You don't expect me to believe?"
"Remember the little story about the Titans? Your first death?"
"You son of a bitch. How long have you been here?"
"Hmm, what I did on my summer vacation." Kronos smiled, the gleam in his eyes almost contagious. "Now what shall we let the boy?"
"Adam, are you in there?" Richie was knocking. "Are you asleep or something? Dinner's ready."
"No." Adam pleaded. "Don't do this to him."
"How about a clearer view of what MacLeod did to him at the racetrack? Up until now it's been pretty jumbled. Oh, no I have it! After the dark quickening Richie went on a little binge didn't he? Let's remind..."
"No what?" Richie hollered from the other side of the door.
"Uh, no I'm not asleep!" Adam covered shakily.
"Can I come in? I need to talk to you."
"Just- just a minute. I'm dressing." Methos watched Kronos cautiously. "What do you want from me?" He whispered.
"Obedience." Kronos' voice grew dark, old and commanding. "A little respect. Your complete cooperation."
Methos nodded. "Just leave him alone."
"Richie would rather deal with the memories that to have me kill an innocent man."
"Aaron is hardly innocent, Methos. And I can do a far bit more to Richie than a few bad memories."
"Okay! That's it!" Richie threw the door open. He noticed Adam was dressed. "See, I knew you had enough time to dress by now." Richie came to a complete stop and stared across the room. "Oh, not him again."
"What?" Adam stammered. "You see him, too?"
"What's not to see? He's sitting on your window outside." Richie pointed to the window.
Adam slowly turned around, apprehension frozen on his face, and saw the crow sitting on the window ledge. It gave a loud shrill scream.
To Part Eight