Methos fell asleep on the couch sleeping the sleep of the dead- dead drunk. He had gone through more beer than even Duncan had ever watched him consume. Duncan gave up trying to wake him up to go to bed, when Richie questioned the logic behind that for the sixth time in ten minutes.
"Alright," Duncan finally agreed when Connor returned to the room with a blanket. "But if he pukes all over the floor he's going to clean it up." They covered up the rather helpless and pathetic looking ancient and left him to his dreams.
Despite the headache, the hangover, the hour he spent in the bathroom and shower, Methos was one happy immortal. It had worked. He'd drank himself into such a deep slumber that he hadn't once seen another vision of Kronos or even dreamed of any horrible part of his past. This might actually turn into a good day after all. When he finally drug himself into the kitchen it seemed as though everyone was trying to deliberately annoy him with loud noises that only intensified his pain. He poured a cup of strong coffee and painfully made his way to the table, where he collapsed into a chair.
Richie deliberately crunched a bowl of cereal as loud as he possibly could. Duncan placed a plate of scrambled eggs in front of him as heavily as possible. "No thank you. Coffee's all I can handle."
"Eat. You have a busy day ahead of you."
"MacLeod, I've missed a lot of meals in 5,000 years. As a matter of fact, I've starved to death- at least one hundred times so I don't think once more will kill me. Well you know what I mean."
"Eat. You're leaving in ten minutes."
"Why? I didn't throw up on your couch or anything. I won't drink anymore beer I don't buy." Adam turned big hazel eyes surrounded by dark circles on his host.
Duncan laughed gently. "Didn't you say you have to finish up some paperwork on campus today?"
"Oh, yeah. Did a Fed-Ex package come for me?" He sucked up the warm coffee.
Connor entered the kitchen with the requested package. "Here it is, in the nick of time."
Adam eagerly peeled the tab back and opened the envelope, pulling out several pieces of paper. "Oh, this will do fine."
"What is it?" Richie asked over a glass of juice.
"My college diploma."
"Michael send it?"
"Sort of." Methos grinned.
"What do you mean sort of?" Duncan took the diploma and looked it over carefully. "Funny, I thought you were a graduate student by this time."
"Yeah, well things had to be doctored a bit. Connor knew this guy who could change the dates. This baby's been around the world twice in the last couple of days." Adam's smile faded as he watched Duncan's frown move back and forth between he and Connor. "Oh come on MacLeod, I can't go back to pre-med. It's not fair and I don't look that young. I'd absolutely spend my entire existence in school if I have to keep repeating everything. It's a vicious trap. You think you've got it bad, Richie? I'm in this stupid loop..."
"Okay, okay," Duncan patted his shoulder soothingly. "I get the picture. But you have to admit as much as medicine has been changing that you could benefit from going back to medical school."
"Not quite as far back as I'm going, but yes a refresher course couldn't hurt- much."
"The next few years could get you a solid foundation to practice medicine for awhile. Then if you do some things to look older- "
"Like dress the part." Duncan surveyed the jean-clad immortal in the baggy shirt and hiking boots.
"Wear glasses in a few years, grow a beard."
"Well that doesn't work too well, but I've never tried glasses."
"Works for me." Connor smiled. "Otherwise people would really start to wonder about Russell Nash, back in New York."
"I could try I guess."
"Do they make gray hair dye?" Richie grinned.
"I don't know that I want to get that old anytime too soon."
"What would make me look older?"
Duncan looked down at the eager blue eyed baby faced kid before him. "Plastic surgery."
Richie turned an offended look at them all, in particular Connor who laughed out loud at the comment.
"Sorry kid, but it's true." Connor patted Richie on the shoulder. "Come on, finish up. We've got work to do."
"Great, I get to stay here and work, while they go off and have fun."
"Yeah, loads of fun. I get to go hand over a forged diploma and sign away thousands of dollars in tuition for training I've already had again and again and again. I'm excited."
"Yeah, by the way, how is poverty stricken graduate student/ Watcher Adam Pierson affording medical school?" Duncan was curious.
"Didn't you hear the sad news?" Adam tried to look grief stricken. "Seems his uncle died and left him a lot of money. Actually, he never has to work again a day in his life. So now he's completely leaving the Watchers and going on to fulfill a dream of becoming a doctor."
"Touching. But at least the money is going to good use and he's not squandering it away on wine and women."
"No, that was the 18th century."
Connor and Richie had been painting the front of the cottage for the last hour when Richie got a sudden and intense craving for a beer. "Hey, Connor, you want a beer?"
"No and neither do you." Connor replied sternly.
"Oh, man, I hate it when you go into teacher mode. Why not?"
"Mostly because I said no, but also because it's only eleven o'clock in the morning. You don't need a beer. If you want something get some bottled water." Connor continued, his patient voice as even as the strokes of white paint on the cottage.
"It's not like it can hurt me, you know? Look at Adam, he drinks it all the time."
"Whining about it can, and Adam is drinking far too much. Just because you are immortal does not mean you can't be sluggish and unhealthy. And trust me, it's not easy to face another immortal when you are drunk off your ass. As you would say, been there, done that."
"But you won?"
"No, we both passed out." Connor laughed at the memory.
"Oh." Richie enjoyed his funny easy laugh. He'd missed Connor a lot in the last month. "So did you and Adam keep busy?"
"Training, yes. I can't believe how lazy he can be."
"I think I would get tired after 5,000 years, wouldn't you?"
"You believe he's that old?" Connor smiled at Richie.
"Sure. Or he has one really wild imagination."
"His past doesn't bother you?"
"No. It's like being reincarnated, you know?"
"What?" Connor stopped to look at his student. The young could be interesting and more often than not you could learn as much from them as they learned from you.
"Well think about it. A lot of people believe that you can be reincarnated. So should someone who did some awful things in a past life be held responsible in their next life, or lives?"
"In some religions they are. That's the purpose of being reincarnated. You continue to come back until you've made up for all of your transgressions."
"Well, see my theory still works. Immortals can't die, but they have to live with what they've done forever. They can start over again and again, but they are always trying to make up for the past, or avenge it or something, right?"
"I think I see where you're going with this. It's been so long that Adam could have been re-incarnated many times. But he doesn't have the luxary of having the slate wiped clean and being given a second chance to atone for his mistakes."
"Right, so he has it even rougher than most."
"Nice theory." Connor nodded.
"Thanks. So you want some water?"
"Sure. And when you get back we're going to discuss the current location of your sword."
Richie jumped off his ladder and ducked under a sawhorse, snatching his sword up before Connor had turned around. Richie let the blade rest with the slightest pressure on his mentor's back. Again the old Scot laughed, turned suddenly, grabbed both of Richie's wrist with excruciating pain, forced him to drop the sword and pulled his feet out from under with one of his own.
"You're improving, young one." He grinned as he pinned his victim to the ground. "Have you and Duncan been training this summer?"
"Yeah, a little. He taught me this." Richie brought his knee up, but Connor saved his own kidneys when he grabbed one of the kid's legs and flipped him on his stomach.
"I taught him that." Connor laughed again.
"I'm glad you're finding this so funny."
"Come on, up." Connor stood and pulled Richie to his feet and into a sudden hug. "I missed you, kid."
"You and Duncan doing okay together?"
"Yeah, pretty good. After that incident in Scotland things were better. Once he quit walking around on pins and needles."
"Really ticked him off, huh?"
"Yeah, and he didn't take my head."
"Scared the hell out of him, didn't you?"
"What are you thinking about?"
"He still won't sword fight with me. We practice everything but that."
"That will probably take awhile. It might not be something he'll ever be able to do."
"How about you? Do you think you could handle it?"
"I don't know. The only clear memory I have is him taking my head- and my taking his."
"Then those aren't memories are they? Those were illusions used to destroy you both. But you survived, and so did Duncan. It's time for the both of you to let go of the nightmares and get on with life."
"You're right." Richie playfully slugged Connor in the shoulder. "I'll go get the water, okay?"
"Sure. After lunch we'll practice. I want to see how sloppy you've gotten."
"You want to eat now?" Richie asked hopefully.
"Nice try. Let's get this done first."
"Sure." Richie ran up the path to the garden, leaving his sword lying on the ground.
In the kitchen he went directly to the refrigerator and pulled out two bottles of chilled water. He sat the bottles back on the refrigerator shelf when he noticed a package of sliced turkey. He reached into the plastic deli bag and pulled out a couple of slices dropping them directly into his mouth. As he stood up he grabbed an apple and the bottles. Then he froze. Someone was standing directly behind him and it wasn't an immortal- which left out anyone who belonged there. It couldn't be Joe, he would have heard his cane and footsteps. Mattie was babysitting her younger brother and sister. He turned slowly around. In a blink of his eye he saw the outline of someone not five feet from him, but even as his eye reopened the man wasn't there. He uneasily kicked the refrigerator door closed behind him as he looked around the room.
"Too, freakin' weird." He shook as though he had a cold chill. "Look, I know you were there. I don't know what you are and I don't particularly care. You stay in your realm, I'll stay in mine. Deal?" Richie nodded slowly. "Good. Now I've got work to do. Stick around. You'll like what we do to the place."
Richie walked slowly back to the cottage. I can't believe I just talked to a ghost! He shook his head in amazement. He seems much friendlier than the demon was. There must really be a difference. He better keep the information to himself. Who knows what the others would say? Would they tell him he was crazy? Connor might. Duncan, Adam, and even Joe Dawson had met demons. They had to believe in other forms of life. Or other forms of good and evil, as Duncan had put it. Even so, Mac would probably just tell him it was his imagination running wild. Old houses settle and make noises, he had reassured his young student the first night in the house. There was nothing to worry about. Well, a week later, he'd finally met the guy with the "bang clang machine." The bang clang machine? Gus the ghost had a band clang machine, didn't he? Damn, a ghost and a memory! This was his lucky day. He smiled at the thought of a children's book he could recall vividly. He was sitting in a classroom on the floor. He was the little squirming kid the teacher had sitting toward the front. He couldn't sit still, not because he was hyper, but because he was in pain. Someone had beaten him the night before. He could remember the reason he was fidgety and wondering why the teacher was so stupid. But then she read the story. He became so involved that he forgot the pain for a few moments. Then suddenly he was in a hospital. A policeman was talking to him.
"Okay, that's not exactly a life I want to remember." He stopped on the path and gathered his thoughts. He was stunned that he'd remembered so much, so quickly. Was that the way his life had been? Wonderful. No wonder he forgot it. Shake it off, Richie. Connor will think you're crazy.
Methos wandered through the halls of the old administration building that mostly housed professors' offices. He was searching for Duncan's office and too late had realized he hadn't really been paying attention to MacLeod when he had given him explicit instructions as to how to find him. He didn't panic when he first felt the buzz of other immortals, as he had been expecting MacLeod or Dr. Knight to pop up, but instinct told him that neither of these immortals were the Highlander. The closer he got to the buzz, the more he thought he heard slightly raised voices. He decided to pass by the office and not investigate who might be in there. Neither of the voices particularly sounded like Mac either. He cautiously continued walking. As he started to pass the door he realized it was open. The arguing had stopped. Surely they had sensed his presence also. He hesitantly looked inside. He was right about the cease-fire but it had nothing to do with him. Dr. Knight was locked in a serious embrace and a long passionate kiss with the other immortal.
Wow, I like kissing as much as the next guy, but she makes an Olympic sport out of it.
Methos stood there staring at them. His gut reaction was to rush to judgement, which was not something he considered himself qualified for. Perhaps it was because he and Connor had become such close friends. Just yesterday he had seen this same woman locked in just as passionate a kiss as this with Connor. Her back was too them. The kissing suddenly stopped and the man spoke quietly.
"I think we have an audience."
"Oh." She murmured. "Which one is it?"
"He looks familiar."
As Methos saw more of the tall man's face and the blond curly hair, memories flooded back. His mouth fell open slightly in shock and horror as the man stood up straight, studying him with that same worried look of recognition. He should be worried, Methos thought. I know what he is.
"Methos." The man had recognized him as well.
Methos started to back up, shaking his head.
"Adam?" Dr. Knight called gently, looking first at Adam then at the man next to her. "Old friend of yours, Dear?"
"Something like that."
"He doesn't seem to have fond memories."
"No, he wouldn't, would he? Methos, it's okay. Come in and talk to us. Angie will stay, won't you?"
Methos shook his head. "Not bloody likely." He backed into someone, then suddenly realized he was feeling yet a third buzz. He turned suddenly, a look of relief quickly washing over his face as he recognized MacLeod.
"What's wrong, Adam?" Duncan was careful to use his public name.
"Nothing, I was just looking for you. You did say you'd run me back to the house at lunchtime, right? I've really got to find a car or something of my own, that is if I decide to stay here, anyway. Which would probably at this moment involve my being able to kill the really big guy behind me, which we both know that bloody likely won't happen, so why am I even contemplating a car or staying or living longer than the next hour anyway? Are you by chance in the mood to kill the really big guy behind me?"
"Well that depends." Duncan looked at Angie and then the new immortal who were both watching Methos cautiously.
"On what?" Methos nodded nervously.
"Why do I need to kill him?"
Methos took a deep breath.
"Methos and I have a bit of a past."
"A bit? Is that what you call it? A bit? I should bloody well take your head right now." Methos reached into his long coat, but Duncan grabbed his arm and pushed him into Angie's office. Both she and the strange immortal followed shutting the door behind them.
Duncan pushed Methos onto the couch. "Now somebody tell me what the hell this is all about."
"I have a pretty good idea," Angie nodded. "But I think one of them should tell us."
Methos just sat on the couch glaring holes into the floor.
"Alright, somebody talk. First of all who the hell are you?" Duncan demanded.
"I am Dr. Aaron Knight. I'm a psychology professor here."
"Oh, that's beautiful. You would know so much about the human mind having destroyed so many, wouldn't you?"
"Sadly, that's true." Aaron Knight nodded.
"Oh, let me guess, and now you've been all reformed by the love of a good woman, right?"
"If you mean, Angelique- no. I haven't been the man you knew for at least three thousand years."
Duncan darted a sudden look at Knight studying him carefully. Great! Another ancient with a complicated past.
"I'm only 387 myself, thank you, Adam."
"Then maybe I should enlighten you about your- your- boyfriend there."
"Husband." Aaron corrected.
"Husband? Really?" Adam grinned. "I wonder if-"
"That's enough, Methos!" Duncan turned a hard warning glare on "Adam Pierson."
"We've been married for the past 250 years. We're currently separated." Angie explained.
Aaron rolled his eyes. "Again. We do this every so often."
"Sounds oddly familiar, huh, Adam?"
"Now you call me Adam, when everyone knows my name?"
"I think we all need to remember others might hear us." Aaron cautioned. "Perhaps we should go for a walk."
"Why would I go anywhere with you?"
"There's a church and cemetery on the campus. Would you be more comfortable there?"
"I'd be more comfortable with you buried in it."
"Why don't you at least hear me out?"
"I don't care what you have to say."
"Adam, you of all people should be willing to listen to him."
"I really don't think you know what you're talking about, MacLeod. You have no idea what he did to me. You have no idea what it was like. He was as bad as Kronos, if not worse."
"I don't think I compared to Kronos, but I can understand your reasoning." Aaron suddenly turned his eyes to Duncan. "I was the commander of band of soldiers sent to stop the pillaging of villages. Truth was that my men and I weren't much better. We raided a small settlement where we believed the raiders to be staying. We weren't after Methos or Kronos or the others. We were after a smaller group of mortals. The horsemen had sent this one into the area to scout around. Kronos was shrewd. He knew the boys' looks would gain him acceptance among the villagers. We captured him."
"You captured me."
"Yes, knowing what he was he was rather easy to find."
"So, you sent him to prison or what?" Duncan studied Aaron closely.
"No." Aaron stared at the floor and took a deep breath. "I enslaved him." Aaron met Methos' eyes. "In every sense of the word. For nearly five years. Till one day Kronos came looking for him."
"Then you sent me back. To avoid a war."
"You were a slave. Stolen property. And you were as crazy as he was. Dealing with you was a daily struggle. One I wasn't equipped for at the time. I wasn't exactly a nice guy either and truth was you were just one of many. Despite that I would have liked to have kept you around, but considering your mental state- you weren't worth the risk to my men. Not by my standards four thousand years ago. I had no reason to believe you didn't want to go back until it was too late. God knows you warned me about your "brothers" often enough, but I am glad to see you survived. Whatever happened to Kronos?"
"I killed him three years ago." Duncan answered. "Methos managed to free himself two thousand years ago."
"Slightly longer than that, but it's none of his damn business!" Methos turned on Angie. "You don't seem too surprised by any of this. Or do you just find it a turn on?"
"Methos!" Duncan turned on his friend. "Enough."
"I know all about his past. He's been very honest with me."
"As far as you know." Methos stood up suddenly. "I'm out of here. And don't tell me I can't go, MacLeod, or so help me God I'll take your head and his."
"You could try." Duncan gave him a sympathetic smile. "But I think it would be best if we left for now, also." Duncan steered Adam out of the office. "Angelique, I'll call you about Richie in a few days."
"Mac, you can't let Richie?"
"Go!" Duncan shoved Adam from the office.
Duncan pulled the SUV into the park away from the large crowd of college students and children enjoying the last few days of summer. "Get out." He ordered Adam.
"Look, MacLeod, I don?t care to talk about this no matter how bad you might want to."
"You know I'm not much interested in what you want to do. We just had a major blow up on a college campus with two other immortals. Do you have any idea how many people would have heard that if classes had already started?"
"Well, wouldn't they have got a real education?"
"Fine, Adam. I realize you and Aaron have some issues, but I think you need to stop and consider something."
"Issues? The man kept me prisoner for five years. He enslaved me. He forced me to do things I would have never chose to do, but you and he seem to think that's okay, cause Kronos was even worse, right? Then, once I finally got used to being there, once I finally realized I was in a better situation, once I started relying on him- he sends me back to Kronos to save a bunch of soldiers who would end up dying in one senseless battle or another anyway. Issues!"
"So what bothers you more? That you were his slave, or that he sent you back where he thought you preferred to be? Did you ever tell him you didn't want to go?"
"No! I didn't know I didn't want to go."
"Then how was he suppose to know?"
Adam started to object, but couldn't think of an answer.
"This isn't going to be easy. I understand that, but you two are going to have to find a way to get along."
"We will- just as soon as I kill him."
"Me- Adam. He's changed."
"And you believe him?"
"I believed you."
"You knew me first before you found out what I was."
"And Angelique knows him. She's been married to him for over a hundred years."
"There has to be a reason she keeps leaving him. And why was she kissing Connor like that yesterday?"
"That was probably for old times sake. They have quite a history. And you are not going to tell him that Aaron is her husband. They'll work that out."
"MacLeod, where do you get all this blind faith in human nature?" Adam shook his head totally baffled.
"Would you rather I not have any?"
"I'm going to kill him."
"You'll die trying. If you go after him, you do it on your own."
"Do you think I expect you to fight all my battles?"
"No, of course not. You managed without me for quite some time. There's something I want you to think about. A few years ago, Cassandra was in your position. She wanted you dead. Now you're in her position and Aaron is in yours. You consider that before you go hunting."
Duncan watched Methos as he sat there trying to bring his breathing under control- refusing to talk.
"Fine. Just think. We're going home. You can put some of this anger into the cottage, but you keep your mouth closed about what happened this morning."
Connor and Richie were dragging lunch out of the refrigerator when Duncan and Adam returned. Adam brushed by everyone and went directly upstairs without saying a word. Duncan collapsed into a chair at the kitchen table with a bottle of chilled water. How in the hell had he ever gotten into the position of playing baby sitter to a troubled ancient immortal? It didn't help that this particular immortal looked so young. He constantly had to remind himself that Methos/Adam was not the young and inexperienced newcomer he looked like. It was a good defense for him- until he ran up against other ancient immortals or those with far much more physical power than he possessed. In this case Aaron Knight had both formidable qualities. Duncan hadn't seen Knight in action, but he was pretty sure he was quite skilled. He didn't look forward to going against him. But there shouldn't be any need to, he reminded himself.
"What's wrong with him?" Richie asked.
Connor waited curiously for the answer to that question.
"Nothing." Duncan wasn't a good liar and he knew it. "He's just anxious to get started on the cottage."
"Yeah, okay." Richie raised his eyebrows. "Well, if that's true, he's going to be surprised when he sees what we've done."
"But, we're going to have a little practice session before, we get back to work. Richie tells me he hasn't had much sword practice lately." Connor sat down at the table and began making a colossal sandwich.
"Yeah, well we've been busy lately." Duncan answered with a bit of an edge to his voice.
Connor nodded knowingly. "I see." He stopped himself from delivering a lecture about the necessity of constant training. They would talk later away from Richie. If he was going to leave Richie in Duncan's care again, he had to stop undermining his position of authority.
Lunch was a quiet and quick affair. Duncan worried about the triangle between Connor, Angie, and Aaron. The impending showdown between Methos and Aaron and the ancient's general mental health. Just when he found truly good immortal psychologists Methos would have issues with one of them. He realized now that Aaron Knight was the doctor he had thought he was going to see yesterday. Instead he found his wife- Connor's old girlfriend. Could things get worse? Don't tempt fate, Duncan.
Richie just wondered why everyone was so quiet. They all seemed to be having problems of their own at the moment. It probably wouldn't be a good time to tell anyone he'd seen a ghost, or that he'd had a rather troubling memory of his childhood all within a couple of minutes of each other. They would probably just have him locked up for a lunatic. He reminded himself that he had been really lucky that Adam hadn't chosen that option when he first became catatonic. What a personal sacrifice that had been. He would owe him forever.
Adam landed in the kitchen dressed in paint-splattered jeans and an old t-shirt. "Hey, Rich, you want to help?"
"Sure, but we're practicing first."
"Practicing what?" Adam took a handful of carrot sticks.
"Swords? You know that thing we do to live?"
"Great! So why didn't someone say something? I'll go change again. Heaven knows there's nothing I'd love more than that right now."
"Maybe if you'd stopped long enough to say hello- just a thought." Connor's smile was lost on Adam as he bounded up the stairs. Connor looked at Duncan for answers but received only a shrug in response. Yeah, right. Connor knew when Duncan was hiding something from him.
Sword practice looked more like an exhausting work out that afternoon. Methos swung repetitively against Duncan's sword with a fierce anger Duncan had never seen before. His training with Connor most of the summer had not only improved his technique but his strength and endurance as well. Despite that Duncan still continually over powered him- his determination to put the ancient in his place was as desperate as Methos' was to defeat the Highlander. Methos must not believe he could win against MacLeod. That would only be the first step to him challenging Aaron.
Connor was surprised to find that Richie still maintained the grace and endurance he had taught him over the last year. He was a bit rusty not having practiced in six weeks, but he hadn't lost any strength. Richie had been compensating for the lost practice sessions with additional workouts.
At last when both of the younger looking immortals appeared to be defeated, Connor insisted that they practice with each other. He and Duncan sat on the sidelines observing.
"Richie's getting rusty."
"He looked pretty good to me." Duncan sat with his arms draped over drawn up knees.
"You're going to have to let go of the past, Duncan. It was an illusion. You never took his head and it's time you quit letting it control you."
"Why don't you just come out and say what you mean there, Connor?"
"I think I did. You either start practicing with him, or he comes back to New York with me."
Duncan stared at Connor intently looking for some hint that he was only threatening, but he wasn't. He was deadly serious. "You can't have him back. Sorry."
"I won't leave him here to be killed."
Duncan continued to watch Adam and Richie out of the corner of his eyes. He was making an obvious attempt to control his temper. "Even if that time was an illusion, that doesn't change the fact that I tried to kill him twice before that. Even if it wasn't intentional, Connor, you have to understand what that felt like."
"Then he comes back with me. Adam nor I have spent the last few years watching out for him and training him so that you can turn around and let him get killed."
"He and Adam can spar together. There are other friendly immortals around he can practice with."
"His best defense against you would be to know your every move. He won't know that unless he practices with you."
Duncan took a deep breath. So there it was. He nodded in that familiar offended way. "So, you think I'll try to kill him again?"
"Why not? You have three times already."
"You son of a bitch." Duncan shook his head.
"Sorry. It's something you either prepare him for, or you lose him. You are obviously susceptible to mental suggestions- break downs- something. Whether it's a dark quickening, hypnosis or demon possession the fact remains you could try to kill him again. So could I. Or Adam. Or any one of a thousand immortals. You either train him or you lose him."
"To the grave." Connor looked up as Richie screamed and fell to the ground in a heap.
"Damn you, Adam!" Richie gasped as a horrified Adam Pierson pulled his sword from Richie's stomach.
"God, Richie, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to kill you? Not like?Richie?" Adam threw his sword down, dropped to his knees, and lifted Richie's head into his lap. "Gosh, I'm sorry."
"You nerd! Nobody says gosh anymore." Richie "died."
Adam ran his hands threw his hair worriedly and looked over at Duncan and Connor. "I didn't mean to."
"It's alright, Adam." Connor assured him with a laugh. "You just illustrated my point nicely."
Connor and Duncan got up. Connor went over and pulled Richie's body up and over his shoulder, brought him back to the side and dumped him on the ground.
"You want to play rough, Adam?" Duncan grinned. "Let's play."
"Mac, I didn't mean to kill him. I swear."
Duncan started to advance on the exhausted ancient until he heard a young female voice calling for Richie.
"It's Mattie!" Adam looked down at his bloody shirt, ripped it off and threw it off to the side.
Connor drug Richie's body into the weeds and also removed his own shirt. "Duncan your shirt!"
Duncan yanked the sleeveless t-shirt over his head and tossed it into the weeds and onto Richie's lifeless body, just as Mattie came through the garden gate with a pizza box. "Hey, Mr. MacLeod!" Mattie stopped when she saw the three of them standing there shirtless. She bit her lip trying to cover an appreciative but embarrassed grin. "Hi, Adam, is Richie around?"
"He's dead- to the world, I mean. He's asleep. Exhausted. Stayed up half the night helping me paint."
"Oh, too bad. Someone made a crank call, and I thought he might like this pizza."
"Oh, well sure." Adam pulled himself together and went to Mattie. "I'll make sure that he gets some." He slipped into cute and charming mode. "But I have to taste test it first." He opened the box and pulled out a slice taking a big bite, and making delighted expressions. "This is good. If I make a crank call tomorrow, will you bring another one?"
"Somehow I think you guys can afford a pizza." Mattie grinned.
"So are you guys sword fighting?" She looked around curiously.
"Huh?" Adam looked worriedly at Duncan and Connor.
"The swords? Are you fencing?"
"Yeah, want to watch?" Duncan offered.
"I'd love to, but I have to get back to work. Are we still on for Saturday, Adam? Ally is looking forward to meeting you. I told you she's in med school too, didn't I?"
"Yeah, you did. I'll walk you to your car."
"Oh, you don't have to."
"Well, I have to take the pizza in the house anyway." Adam continued to make conversation as he ushered Mattie back up the path.
"He can do the fastest personality changes I've ever seen." Connor shook his head.
"Lot's of practice." Duncan agreed. "I've seen at least four today."
"I'll check on the corpse." Connor went to find Richie's body in the weeds.
Adam opened the car door for Mattie while balancing the pizza box in the other hand. "So we'll see you Saturday?"
"Sure. Hey, who was the other guy? The blond?"
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't introduce you, did I? That was Connor MacLeod. Duncan's cousin- but they're more like brothers."
"Oh, he kind of reminded me of Richie in a few years. Something to look forward to." She grinned playfully.
Adam nodded thoughtfully. Except that Richie would never look any older. "Yeah, I can kind of see that, I guess. Well, have a fun day."
When Mattie left, Adam took another slice of pizza and took the box back to the house. "As warm as it is, I had better put this in the ice-box. Refrigerator, Pierson- refrigerator." Adam started rummaging through the refrigerator trying to find room for the box.
"Maybe it will fit in the other one. After all you drank most of the beer." A warm English accent suggested behind him.
Adam raised up suddenly nearly hitting his head on the door. He turned around, already knowing who was standing there. Sure enough, Kronos was sitting on the kitchen counter grinning at him.
"You are not real. This is not happening."
"Is it that awful? I would think seeing me alive would relieve some of the guilt."
"For setting me up with MacLeod. Don't worry about that. I let him kill me, you know? I regret it, now of course, but at the moment- it seemed the thing to do. What with Caspian dead, your betrayal, and you and Silas trying to kill each other? There just didn't seem to be anything left."
"You are not real, and I am not talking to you." Adam started to leave the kitchen via the back door, but Kronos reached out and grabbed his arm. "What are you going to do about Knight? Are you going to get MacLeod to kill him to? Or are you going to remember what you are, what I taught you? You know how to get revenge. That's one thing you were very good at." Kronos smiled.
"I am not that person anymore."
"Really? Watching you fillet that brat out there reminded me of the old days." Kronos pulled Adam closer to him with a sudden jerk. "You've still got it in you. Quit hiding what you are, Methos. I know what you are."
"You made me what I was."
"Yes." Kronos smiled appreciatively. "I did a rather fine job of it, too, didn't I?"
"Leave me alone!" Methos pulled free, throwing his arms into the air.
"Ah! So you acknowledge I exist?"
"Only in my imagination."
"Really? Hmm. I must be doing quite well on imagination alone." Kronos tilted his head slowly to the other side as he studied his former student. "Methos. You are the only one I ever told my secret to. Don't betray me again."
Adam shook his head. "What secret?"
"I am the end of time."
"What the bloody hell is that supposed to mean?"
"I am Kronos."
"Yeah? And? I've known that for five thousand years."
"You know just because you are being so you, I'm going to make you figure it out on your own."
"Whatever," Adam sighed heavily closing his eyes. When he re-opened them Kronos was gone. "If you're so bloody real, where did you go?" He looked around the kitchen and out the back door, but saw nothing. "I am not going to go crazy after all these years. Not again. Never again."
To Part Four