Author's Notes: Hey, if George Lucas can do it...why can't I? Okay, so my real reason for reposting this story is because I felt like I never really did it the justice it deserves as the piece that started this huge *thing* that became the MacGreggor Arc. So....I've cleaned it up a lot. And added some new scenes to flesh it out. There is one inconsistency that I added in the revision, though. The first version of this story called Methos Adam through out (as do Cardinal Rules and everything up to Everything Moves in Circles)--but it just felt too weird to call him Adam now. You'll also notice (probably) that this is a pretty severe divulgence from the events in Season 4...the original was written after Timeless, but before that whole Dark Quickening incident and it didn't seem feasible to try to retrofit such a major plot twist into this.
Finally, I have one major regret about this arc that I can't do anything to change, really. Were I able to go back in time, I would pick another nickname for Sarah to call Methos. At the time, I thought it was funny to name him Petey...now...I still think it's amusing, but realize that it comes very close to crossing the line of appropriate behavior in fanfic.
Disclaimer: Methos, Duncan, Joe and Richie still belong to Panzer Davis/Gaumont and I'm still borrowing them without permission. Sarah is still mine. If I were making any money off of this, I'd gladly share.
Lindau, Germany 1367
She took her opponent's head with an upward stroke and sank wearily to the ground, waiting for his Quickening to tear through her body. It had been a long fight and she'd almost lost, but, at the last minute, Albrecht Zauer had tripped over a loose cobble in the narrow alley and lost his balance, allowing her the moment of advantage that had parted him with his head.
The Quickening came, like they all did, with howling wind and an exquisite combination of pleasure and pain, wracking her to the core. Then, quite suddenly, it was over. She was left reeling and confused as the life force of another immortal tried to reconcile itself with her own. Her desire was to curl up and sleep off the exhaustion of the night, but time was of the essence if discovery was to be avoided.
Sarah MacGreggor used her longsword as a crutch and hauled herself to her feet, glancing around nervously as the first shouts of terror from the villagers echoed through the night. She stashed the sword under her cloak and stalked into the shadows, making her way quickly to the inn where her companion would be waiting for her.
She half expected him to meet her on the street somewhere along the way. He hadn't wanted her to take Zauer's challenge and no doubt would be greatly concerned by the Quickening. They had fought about it, actually; a shouting match that had ended with her swearing at him in a dialect of Scottish Gaelic that had died out with the massacre of her clan three hundred years prior. He'd called her stubborn, idiotic, and foolhardy. She'd told him to go to hell.
As she ducked through the crowd outside the inn, Sarah drew her cloak tightly around herself to cover the bloodstains from her battle.
"Es war unheilig," she heard the innkeeper say.
It was unholy.
Indeed. A lightning storm out of a clear night sky probably was unholy. Certainly there was nothing righteous about cutting off another's head.
Peter Lenahaughn wasn't waiting for her in the room they had been sharing under the guise of man and wife. His absence solicited a snicker from his student. No doubt he had found a bar maid somewhere that was willing to share his bed. They were many things, Sarah and her teacher, but lovers was not on the list.
She stripped off her bloody clothing and crawled into bed, exhausted, but her eyes had barely closed when the small city was struck by another unholy lightning storm. Sarah was out of bed and across the room to the small window in two long strides, recognizing the sizzling energy.
It went on forever, setting fire to several thatched roofs and panicking the villagers. Sarah watched with a slack jaw. This was no ordinary Quickening...it marked the passing of an immortal whose power had been amassing for thousands of years. Then, like the one she had experienced not an hour previously, it was over.
Her mind was racing. *He* was thousands of years old. His Quickening would likely look like that. But he didn't lose fights. Ever. It was impossible. He was *not* dead.
She dressed quickly in traveling clothing, knowing that he would want to leave town as soon as possible. He'd be back any minute now, flushed and tired, but likely smiling, and they would ride out of town before anyone could identify the sources of those two unholy storms.
"Any minute now," she muttered, gathering her possessions.
Sarah MacGreggor waited for three days. Her mentor never returned.
Seacouver Autumn 1996
Richie Ryan was alone in the dojo, working his way through an agonizingly complicated sword kata when the buzz hit. He glanced at his watch quickly. It was too early for Duncan to be coming home. That meant this was likely a...
Before he could complete the thought, a tall woman walked through the door.
"I'm looking for Duncan MacLeod," she said in a muted Scottish accent.
He sized her up with suspicious eyes. She looked to be in her mid twenties--though he had learned the hard way that looks could be very deceiving when immortals were involved. And most of the women that came looking for Mac had proved to be trouble in one form or another.
The woman crossed the floor and approached Richie, obviously assessing him. "You're a student of his?"
"I'm a friend of Mac's, yeah."
In the light, he could see that she had moss green eyes, high cheekbones, and a sharp nose. Her ash-blonde hair was cropped short in what the fashion magazines would call a "Gen-X Shag" and she carried an elegant swept hilt rapier; its hilt made evident by a casual, but meaningful, resting of her hand on her hip. Her clothes were nothing more exciting than jeans and a faded green t-shirt under a black vest, but the coat was London Fog and looked to be cashmere.
"Will he be back soon?" She advanced again, but kept an unthreatening distance.
She stood a good three inches taller than he did, but Richie knew that he was almost certainly physically stronger. The question was, was she better?
"I don't know. What do you want with him?" he asked, flexing his grip on his own sword.
She laughed. "Kid, if you think you are going to do Duncan a favor and take my head before I can take his, you're crazy."
"Why's that?" he asked, bristling. He hated being called kid.
"I'm not after Duncan's head..."
He cocked an eyebrow. "Why should I believe you?"
"Because you'd lose if we fought," her reply was rather matter of fact and it sent a rush of angry pride through his chest.
"What makes you so sure of that?" Richie raised his sword purposefully.
Instantly, her rapier flashed into a defensive position. "Kid, I'm warning you, don't pick a fight with me..."
"Don't call me kid," he swung and engaged her.
It was a very brief battle consisting of three blows. On the fourth, she disarmed him and brought her sword to his throat.
"Told you so," she flashed a crooked grin. "Now be a good boy and tell me where Mac is."
Richie gulped. Somehow, he didn't think his date would appreciate it if he arrived headless. He opened his mouth to speak with the hopes of convincing her that killing him wouldn't be a good idea, but they were both overcome for a moment by the force of two buzzes in rapid succession.
Seconds later, Duncan and the man Richie knew only as Adam Pierson entered the dojo, laughing. They stopped short at the sight of Richie and his foe.
"Sarah?" Duncan asked.
"Sarie?" Methos echoed, his jaw agape.
"Hey Mac, tell your student here not to pick fights with immortals he doesn't know anything about," she grinned again, lowering her sword.
Richie breathed an audible sign of relief. "I want a list of all your friends, Mac..."
Duncan smiled and stripped off his coat, moving toward the office and allowing the stranger a better look at his companion.
Sarah MacGreggor dropped her rapier and it clattered to the floor with a loud echo. The last time she had been in the same room with this man was over six hundred years ago. He had called her stubborn, idiotic, and foolhardy. She had told him to go to hell.
Her mouth worked in a series of up and down motions as the years washed over her. His hair was shorter than she had ever seen it, and he was minus the worn blue woolen cloak he had been perpetually wrapped in, opting instead for a shapeless trench coat. But those were his eyes and that was his smirk. And he was alive. He was *alive*...and she was rooted in place by disbelief and a slow growing joy.
Methos crossed the room with long strides and stooped to pick up her rapier. "You dropped this, Sarie," he said with a smile.
In response, she threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.
He returned the affection with a squeeze. "You were supposed to meet me at the inn."
Sarah stepped back and frowned at him. "*You* never showed up!"
"You should have waited longer. But you never were very good at taking direction."
"You arrogant little..."
Methos laughed and curled her fingers around the hilt of her sword. "You haven't changed a bit, Sarie."
What she wanted to do was hug him again. Hard. And then give him a good sucker punch to the gut. But, for the moment, Sarah was caught up in the wonder of having her oldest friend back and could only stare at him slack-jawed. He was *alive*. And still as sarcastic as ever. The arrogant little...
Duncan cleared his throat.
They turned to look at him in perfect unison and Methos smiled.
"You know Sarie," he said. "I had no idea."
"We go back a ways," Duncan responded with a smile of his own. "But I haven't seen her in decades."
His last statement was punctuated with a playful glare at Sarah, who suddenly remembered her manners and blushed.
"Hi, Mac," she said, engulfing him in a hug of his own.
"Is there anyone you don't know?" Richie interjected. "Or am I the only one who ever runs into strange immortals?"
"Richie, this is Sarah MacGreggor. Sarah, Richie Ryan," Duncan said.
She stuck out her hand, and Richie took it with some chagrin.
"You're good with a sword..." he said, working up a decent flush.
"She'd have to be at her age," Duncan answered with a wink. "Come on, let's go upstairs."
Methos looked at his watch. "I wish I could...but I have to go meet Alexa."
"Alexa?" Sarah cocked an eyebrow at him. "In love are you, Petey?"
"I'll tell you all about it," Duncan draped an arm around her shoulder. "He's gone wonderfully soft and mushy."
Sarah smirked at her oldest friend and Methos shot a mild glare at Duncan, who responded by wagging both eyebrows at him.
"I'm sorry, Sarie. I'll see you soon?" Methos caught her hand.
"Go on...don't keep your girl waiting," she smiled.
Methos looked reluctant to leave, but let go anyway. "Tomorrow?"
Sarah nodded. "If you bother to show up this time."
Methos opened his mouth to quip back a reply, but opted instead to hug her once more before slipping out the door.
Sarah watched him melt into the darkness of the stairwell, still not fully believing what she saw. Six hundred years. He was alive. Incredible.
"Sarah?" Duncan's voice brought her back into the present. "Are you coming up?"
"What? Oh...yeah, thanks," she followed him onto the lift and stood back while Richie dropped the gate.
"So, how long have you two known each other?" Richie flopped onto the couch and watched Sarah scan the loft.
"Oh my...since Duncan was just a pup," she grinned.
In the better light, Richie could see that she was lithe and quick to smile. There was an unmistakably Scottish look about her, though her accent had been softened by the years. Still, he could easily imagine her in a tartan, strolling through the highlands. Had she been one of Duncan's many women? That seemed very likely, given the fact that it was incredibly rare for a woman to show up who *hadn't* been in love with him.
"You're older than Mac?"
"Sarah is nearly a thousand," Duncan said, bringing her a beer.
She swatted at him playfully. "I'm only nine hundred and fifty three, thank you very much."
"But you don't look a day over nine hundred and twenty," Duncan grinned.
"You should live so long, laddie. Does Richie here know what you were like when you were a kid? I could fill him in..."
Richie sat up, suddenly interested, but the stern frown Duncan shot him quelled it quickly.
"I'm more interested in how you know Adam Pierson than in telling stories about my wayward youth," Duncan said.
"Petey?" she chuckled.
"Petey?" Richie echoed.
"When we met his name was Peter...I'll never be able to call him anything else."
"Were you two involved?" Richie asked, making himself more comfortable. Maybe she was a woman from both Mac and Adam's past. Now *that* could prove to be interesting.
"Involved? You mean romantically?" Sarah laughed. "No. We were great friends, though, for nearly three centuries."
"How did you meet him?" Duncan asked.
Sarah furrowed her brow and rubbed her neck, drawing Richie's attention to a thin seam of a scar that ran diagonally from just under her chin down toward her left shoulder blade, disappearing under the collar of her shirt.
"Petey was my first teacher. He was there when I woke up from my mortal death."
"This has got to be a good story," Richie said, eager to hear something of Adam's mysterious past.
"Depends on how you define good," Sarah answered. "When I was twenty-six, a Norman raiding party found its way to my village. My husband and I had been off riding, tending the sheep. We came back to see our village on fire. They killed all the men. Even the boys. Alan told me to run, but I was transfixed by it all...I couldn't. We were dragged from our horses and they killed him right in front of me. Their leader beheaded him. Then...well...then exactly what you would expect to happen to a bunch of defenseless women happened," she craned her neck back and pointed at the scar. "They slit my throat. I bled to death. And then, the next thing I knew, I was very much alive and looking up at Petey."
"Why did he behead your husband?" Richie asked. "That doesn't make sense..."
"I think he was looking for me," she sighed. "The captain was likely an immortal...somehow he must have thought that there was one of us in my clan...even though it hadn't manifested yet. I'm guessing he took Alan's head out of frustration, if nothing else."
"Wow..." Richie trailed off. "I'm sorry..."
Sarah shrugged. "It was almost a thousand years ago..."
"Did you ever find the guy?"
Sarah studied him for a long moment before answering. He couldn't be more than thirty or forty years old, not with that unbridled curiosity and the foolish passion for a fight he had demonstrated in the dojo. Odds were he was even younger than that. His smile was infectious, though. And if Duncan had taken him in, Richie Ryan was well on his way to a good education about immortal life.
"No," she said at last. "I've been looking for years. Not that killing him would bring anyone back or solve anything."
Richie nodded, she did have a point. And the conversation was getting rather depressing. "How long were you and Adam friends?"
"Richie..." Duncan warned.
"No Mac, it's okay. Petey and I traveled together until about the middle of the fourteenth century...1367 to be exact...then we went our separate ways."
"What happened? Did you guys have a big fight?"
Sarah chuckled. "We had lots of big fights. We *started* lots of big fights in taverns from one end of Europe to the other. But that's not how we got separated. We were in Lindau, Germany and I saw a Quickening that I was sure was his," she shrugged. "I waited for a couple of days, just in case, but he never showed...so I just presumed he was dead and left for France."
Richie shifted on the couch and hugged a cushion thoughtfully. Adam? Bar fights? 1367? "I had no idea he was that old. Wow."
Sarah and Duncan exchanged a glance that clued her into the fact that the boy had no idea whom he was talking about and she smiled.
"He's right up there. And me...well...I took my first head long before Connor was born, let alone Mac here."
"Finally someone who is older and wiser than Mac," Richie said. "You're sticking around, right?"
Sarah laughed. "Mac, have you been pontificating at the lad? He's prone to do that, you know," she added, winking at Richie.
Duncan shrugged. "Can I help it if I'm always right?"
Richie rolled his eyes and glanced at his watch. "Oh man, I'm late. I gotta go."
"Hot date?" Duncan asked.
Richie nodded and grabbed his coat on his way across the room. "Her name is Angela. And she'll kill me if I'm late. I'll see you guys tomorrow. Sarah, can we work out sometime? I'd love to know that twisting thing you did downstairs."
"Sure thing," she smiled and waved. "Have fun on your date."
"Oh, I will."
Duncan chuckled as Richie dropped the gate on the lift and waved a good-bye. "He's eager to learn."
Sarah laughed and took a long pull from her beer. "About women or swords?"
"Both," Duncan answered with a chuckle.
"He's pretty good. You're a good teacher."
"And it was Adam that taught you how to fight?" Duncan dropped onto the couch where Richie had been sitting and propped his feet up.
"He and a few others. Why?"
Duncan smiled. "We've sparred...he didn't seem like he was that good."
"He was holding back, I'm sure. And I know all about who he really is, so you can drop the Adam act."
"He told you?"
Sarah nodded. "At one point in time there wasn't much I didn't know about Petey. That, of course, was long before Adam What's-His-Name walked the earth, though."
"And you're sure you and Methos weren't involved," he teased.
"*Methos*?!" She exclaimed, nearly spewing beer across the loft. "He told you he was *Methos*?"
Duncan's eyes grew very wide. "N-no....I just assumed and he never..."
Sarah threw her head back and laughed loudly. "You are the most gullible Highlander I have ever come across, Mac. Can't you tell when someone is pulling a fast one on you?"
"You mean he's not..."
"Of course he is," she smirked. "But I had you going there, didn't I?"
Duncan looked around for something to smack her with and settled for threatening her with rolled up copy of Rolling Stone that Richie had left behind. "You two are too alike!" He grumbled good naturedly, tossing the magazine aside.
She nodded. "He was like a brother to me."
"We didn't part on the best of terms. Toward the end...we fought a lot."
"You seemed happy to see him today."
"I thought he was dead all this time," she took a big gulp of her beer and stretched. "And I didn't know you knew him."
"Actually, we just met a few months ago...he's...enigmatic."
Sarah chuckled. "When you're that old, Mac, you will be too."
"MacLeod, if you keep telling immortals about us, we won't be a secret organization any more," Joe Dawson scolded, thunking down a glass on the bar.
Sarah laughed. "I've known about the Watchers since the thirties, Joe."
"I've read your file," Joe said thoughtfully, mentally scanning for how she might know about the Watchers. "You've got quite a history."
"How can you not when you've been alive this long?" She took the drink he offered with a smile of thanks.
"We didn't know that Peter Lenahaughn was one of Methos' aliases," Joe returned the smile and began to dry glasses efficiently with a towel. "You two have a huge file."
Sarah smiled and nodded. "Petey and I did a lot of traveling."
"Your file is one of the most complete we have...until about 1367. Then you dropped off the face of the earth for a while. It wasn't until about 1930 that we figured out all your aliases and strung them all together," Joe paused and lay his towel aside, regarding her thoughtfully. "1930..."
"Donald MacGreggor," she supplied with a small smile. "My Watcher and...friend."
Joe laughed and returned to his task. "I've gotta start paying more attention to the Chronicles. I can't believe I forgot that."
Sarah smiled again, but it faded suddenly and she spent a moment looking into the depths of her drink before speaking. "But here's a question for you. If the Watchers knew that both Petey and I were alive, why didn't you tell one of us?"
"We watch," Joe said flatly. "We don't interfere."
Sarah raised an eyebrow over the rim of her glass. "Bullshit."
Duncan barked out a laugh but recovered quickly. "What surprises me is that Methos didn't find you when he was putting together his database."
Joe shrugged. "If he thought she was dead, maybe he wasn't looking."
Sarah sighed heavily, not really wanting to engage in pointless debate about wasted time. "Joe, will you help me or not?"
"I'm not supposed to..."
Sarah's eyes hardened. "Look, I'm not asking you to hand me his head, just tell me if he's immortal and what continent he's on. This man killed my entire family...I deserve the chance to avenge my clan."
"You told Richie that killing him wouldn't any good," Duncan admonished.
"That was before I knew someone who could find the bastard for me," she answered, looking pointedly at Joe.
Joe sighed. "Okay. Who is he?"
"If your files are so complete, you should know."
"Jean Paul Martin," Joe sighed again. "I'll see what I can do...no promises."
Finally; an name to go with the face.
"Thanks," she leaned over and planted a kiss on his cheek.
Methos looked up from the pile of jeans he was folding and glanced around the Laundromat, waiting for the source of the buzz he was feeling to walk through the door. Seconds later Sarah entered, balancing a huge basket of dirty clothes on her hip and carrying a backpack and a bag of what looked to be Chinese take-out.
"You're MIA for six centuries and now all of a sudden you're everywhere I go," she said with a smile.
He chuckled. "Even I have to do laundry."
She made her way through the empty rows of washing machines and thunked the basket down next to him. "Kung Pao?"
"I'm starving," he admitted.
"Let me get a load in and I'll split it with you," she said, stuffing clothing into the nearest machine.
"You should separate those."
Sarah cocked an eyebrow at him and flashed a crooked grin. "What, you're the Stain Master?"
Methos shrugged. "You pick things up over the years."
Sarah jammed seven quarters into the machine and threw in some detergent, then hopped up onto it and pulled a series of white cardboard containers out of the paper bag.
"Only one set of chopsticks," she said. "Sorry, we'll have to share."
Methos shoved his laundry aside and hopped up next to her with a smile. "You don't have anything communicable, do you?"
"Nothing that you could catch from sharing chopsticks," she winked.
He took the paper napkin she offered and peered into the bag. "You never used to like Chinese food. You refused it once, in fact."
Sarah rolled her eyes. "Petey, that was about eight hundred years ago, my tastes have matured," she grinned and handed him the sticks, chewing on a piece of chicken. "You still get seasick?"
He nodded and swallowed. "Miserably. Still claustrophobic?"
"Nice to know that some things never change," he smiled. "What's in the backpack?'
Sarah sighed. "Thirty five Lit 101 papers to grade. Topics vary from _The Scarlet Letter_ to _Ethan Frome_. Wanna help?"
Methos screwed his face into a scowl. "American Lit? They have you teaching American Lit 101? Poor Sarie."
She laughed and used the chopsticks to fish out a bamboo shoot. "At least I'm not researching *myself*, Adam Pierson. And really, Petey, a *Volvo*?"
"I like that Volvo, thank you," he smiled. "Very safe car."
Sarah grinned back and pulled a stack of papers from her backpack, tossing them into his lap. "Here. Just don't get any Kung Pao on them."
Methos looked at the first sentence of the top page and sighed. "How do these kids make it into college when they can't even spell Hawthorne?"
She shrugged and shoved another piece of chicken in her mouth, bending her head in concentration and tapping a pen repeatedly against her thigh. Methos sighed once more at the thought of wading through all the grammatical errors and unsupported claims, then smiled and grabbed the pen she had tucked behind her ear. At least the company was good.
Nearly an hour passed in comfortable silence before she looked up and smiled at him.
"You ate all the dumplings," Sarah said.
"You were neck deep in Lit 101."
She rolled her eyes and handed him a fortune cookie, cracking one open herself and laughing.
"What's it say?"
"When all else fails, look to your elders for wisdom," Sarah read.
Methos grinned. "Now there's a bit of kismet for you."
"I see you still like to think the years have lent you some wisdom," she responded, elbowing him lightly in the ribs.
"I see *you're* still as wise-assed as ever."
Sarah nodded and shoved the cookie into her mouth, speaking around it. "It's what you love most about me, remember?"
"Yeah," he smiled. "I do."
She glanced over at him and echoed his smile. This was nice...the camaraderie they'd slipped back into. She'd almost forgotten how much she enjoyed his company. What an amazing twist of fate--to come to Seacouver and find him after so much time. "Joe tells me you're about to hit the road with Alexa."
Every trace of joviality flew from his face and Methos nodded. "Monday."
Sarah's faced softened and she wanted to tell him to be brave and take care of himself in the hard days that would be coming, but the words refused to form. She'd done her stint with mortal lovers. It was hard, even under the best of circumstances. What he was doing for this woman was nothing short of amazing.
"It's a good thing...what you're doing for her, Petey," she said.
Methos blinked at her for a moment, trying to reconcile the hot-headed girl he'd lost in Germany with this woman sitting next to him. "I figured you'd tell me to leave well enough alone."
Sarah shook her head. "They only have minutes, really. And if you love her you should count each one as golden."
Six months later...
The rain fell steadily, running off the plastic turf they were standing on in growing rivulets. They all had known this day would come, but the knowledge hadn't softened the blow any. Two weeks prior, in Paris, Sarah had run into Methos at the wedding of Robert and Gina deValincourt and gone back to Geneva with him to meet Alexa on her deathbed. He'd sobbed openly on her shoulder in the hospital hallway. He'd cried into the phone the night Alexa died. And he was crying now; slow silent tears that fell as uncompromisingly as the rain.
The other funeral go-ers had departed one by one, leaving the five of them in a loose circle around Methos. Duncan and Joe shared an umbrella, and Richie had ducked under Sarah's, but Methos stood alone with only his collar turned up against the deluge. Each of them had been sending meaningful glances her way with growing frequency, waiting for her to make a move. But, Sarah was watching the expressions shift on Methos' face, knowing exactly what he was feeling. She had buried her fair share of lovers over the centuries and was waiting for some sign that he had come to grips with Alexa's death. He had to be allowed a good-bye before they left the cemetery.
Sarah recognized that sign to be the slow raising of his head until he was looking skyward. She handed Richie the umbrella and crossed the soggy ground to stand at Methos' side.
"Come on, Petey, it's time to go," she said, taking his hand.
He looked over at her and gave a grim smile. "No matter how many times I do this, it never gets any easier."
Sarah nodded, "I know."
He took one last look at the flower-covered grave and let her lead him back through the rows of head stones toward the car. The other three followed, a few yards behind and Joe chuckled suddenly, soliciting a confused look from Duncan.
"What's so funny?"
"Nothing's funny," Joe answered, "I was just suddenly struck by the irony of standing in a cemetery with four immortals."
"Believe me," Duncan said quietly, watching as Sarah draped an affectionate arm around Methos' shoulders, "we spend our fair share of time here."
"Are you crazy?" Methos shouted, slamming into the dojo.
Sarah and Duncan had been sparring, but stopped to stare at him blankly.
"Are you out of your mind, Sarie? Going after Martin?!"
"Dawson found him?" She set down her sword and wiped the sweat from her forehead with the tail of her shirt. "Where is he?"
"You must be stark, raving mad," he replied.
Sarah sighed heavily. "Look Petey, you saw what Martin did to my family...and I'm sure he's done it hundreds of times over since then..."
Methos took her gently by the shoulders and echoed the sigh. "I know Sarie. And he deserves to lose his head...but let someone else take it. Let MacLeod or me do it for you...Martin is dangerous..."
"What, and I've never taken a head before?" She glared at him defiantly, causing Methos to take an involuntary step backwards and drop his hands.
Sarah had always had a quick temper and the glare was nothing new to him, but something in her stance communicated very clearly that she was six centuries past being his student and the shift in the dynamic caught him off guard.
"He's stronger than you are...tell her, MacLeod," he hedged.
Duncan stepped forward and assessed the situation quickly before speaking. This was tricky at best. Everything he knew about Sarah told him that she would not tolerate being patronized. But Methos did have a point. "Martin is very old...and he is physically stronger than you are, Sarah..."
She sent a piercing glare at Duncan, then turned it back on Methos. "Nine hundred years and I have never asked anyone to fight for me...I'm not going to start now."
"And you, Petey, this is not the battle to make your comeback in. It's not even your battle at all," she grabbed her sweatshirt and pulled it on, heading for the door.
"Where are you going?" Methos demanded.
"To see what Dawson will tell me."
He grabbed her elbow and spun her back toward him, realizing instantly that the move was a huge mistake. Methos expected a punch to come flying, but instead, Sarah looked him squarely in the eyes once more. "Let go of me," she said evenly, "or I'll break your arm."
Methos spent just an instant assessing the threat before deciding that she'd make good on it, then let go with a sigh. Once she was out the door, he threw up his hands in dismay. "MacLeod, do something!"
"She's got the right to face him. It's part of the Game," Duncan answered.
"Damn the Game. Mac, I can't lose her again," he clutched his head and leaned against the wall.
Duncan frowned, not used to such obvious displays of emotion from Methos and fell back on a standard reply. "You know we can't interfere..."
Duncan stooped and collected the bokken they had been using, then paced to the wall and returned them to their mounts. The scene he had just witnessed...it spoke of more than a teacher's concern for his student and went beyond the ties of friendship--even one that was close to a thousand years old. In fact, nearly every exchange he had witnessed between Sarah and Methos had been pregnant with the same sort of intensity, regardless of the actual emotion involved.
He studied Methos, who had slumped into a miserable heap on the floor, before speaking. "What's the real issue here?"
"What do you mean?"
Duncan frowned, choosing his words carefully. "Sarah is a very capable fighter. She can probably take Martin."
"And if she doesn't?" Methos asked quietly.
"Then one of us will."
Methos shook his head. "Not good enough. I lost her once. I can't do that again."
Duncan dropped to the floor next to him and squeezed Methos' elbow lightly. "Then tell her."
Methos snorted out a mirthless laugh. "Tell her *what*? And you saw her....she's not listening."
"Tell her how you feel. Don't storm in and act like the Headmaster at a boy's school."
Methos glanced over quickly, then resumed staring at a spot on the floor. "That would require me knowing it myself."
Duncan smiled. "It's pretty obvious from where I'm sitting."
"Oh really," he cocked an eyebrow. "Do enlighten me."
The Highlander's smile faded, but he refused to be cowed by his friend's sarcasm. "I think you love her. You may even be *in love* with her, but you don't know it, or won't admit it."
Methos let out a sharp bark of laughter.
"Am I wrong?" Duncan prodded, sincerely doubting it.
In response, the world's oldest man bent to tie his shoe.
"Well? Am I?"
Methos tugged at the knot until it was overly tight, then looked up. "What? And you've never had a woman whom you were half in love with and half best friends with?"
"Those two halves don't have to be separate."
Methos shook his head. "Imagine finding a friendship again that you thought you lost for all time. What if Fitzcairn walked through that door? You don't risk bonds like that over trivial things like love."
"Love is never trivial."
Methos drew a deep breath, searching for words. He found none, though, and let it out slowly. It wasn't that simple. The choices were to risk losing her to Martin's sword, or risk losing her to unrequited emotion. Neither was particularly enticing. And, for that matter, he wasn't sure *what* he felt for Sarah.
Love, certainly. She had been one of his best friends and a nearly constant companion for three hundred years. He remembered the pain of seeing the Quickening that he thought was hers rip through the sky in Lindau with startling clarity--like it was yesterday. It had brought utter agony combined with a profound emptiness that had haunted him for centuries. And guilt. He never should have let her go to the challenge. He should have followed her at the very least. He should have gone back to bury her instead of high-tailing it out of town after his own fight. He hadn't done any of those things, though, and she was lost.
And then, all of it had vanished one night in the fall when he had walked into this very room to see her standing there alive and well. Something....God or Fate or....*something* had been working for him to bring her back as Alexa was slipping away.
"I fought Martin once," he said. "I had him on his knees, I could have taken his head, but someone found us...I let him go. If you had seen that village after Martin and his men left it...if you had seen *her* when I found her...I should have killed him for her."
Duncan squeezed his shoulder reassuringly. "She's a good swordswoman, Methos...she'll be okay."
"Aren't you in my section?"
Methos looked up from the stack of papers he was sifting through to find a young woman eyeing him curiously. "Beg pardon?"
"Yeats and Joyce," she said. "You're here to see Sarah, right? Is it about the paper?"
He blinked at her for a moment and watched as she pointed to the sign on the door to Sarah's office. "Oh...no. I mean, yes, I'm here to see her, but I'm not a student. I'm just a friend of hers."
"Oh," her face fell. "I was hoping for some help. This is really over my head. She's a good prof and all, but sometimes *she's* way over my head."
Methos smiled and was going to offer a response, but was distracted by the sensation of Sarah's arrival. She was carrying an arm-load of books with a stack of papers and a bottle of Coke perched precariously on top and looked rather frazzled.
"Thank god," she said by way of greeting. "Petey, can you get my keys out of my pocket for me and open the door? I'm about to lose this, I think."
He smiled again and obliged, ignoring the raised eyebrows of his new acquaintance as he and Sarah did an intricate dance while he fished for her keys.
"It's the one with the blue sticker," Sarah offered, shifting her books once more. "And Julie, what can I do for you?"
The co-ed looked up suddenly and blushed, afraid she had been caught speculating about her teacher's private life. "I'm having trouble with my paper. Can I make an appointment to see you?"
"Sure," Sarah smiled and followed Methos into her office. "How's tomorrow morning for you?"
"I have a 9:10...how about at 11:00?" Julie responded, grabbing the Coke as it started to slide.
Methos tossed her keys onto the desk and deftly relieved Sarah of the rest of her burden before dropping into the nearest chair.
"Thanks...both of you," Sarah smiled again. "And eleven is perfect."
"Great. I just can't get a handle on this stuff. I'll see you then." Julie left with a wave and shut the door soundly behind her.
"So," Sarah sank into her own chair and shoved the books aside so she could see Methos. "What brings the world scholar to my door?"
"This," he handed her the file.
Sarah's face twisted in confusion. "What is it?"
"A copy of Jean Paul Martin's Watcher File."
Her head snapped up, but the confusion remained evident.
"I figured that I wasn't going to talk you out of this so I might as well help you any way you'll let me," he said.
Sarah took a moment to leaf through the stack of paper, then closed the file neatly and set it on her desk. "This is too easy. What's really going on?"
She narrowed her eyes. "Don't give me that innocent little boy look. I've known you all my life. What gives? What's in this file that you think will convince me to let you or Mac take care of Martin?"
Methos sighed, realizing that he was beaten. He got to his feet, came around next to her, and flipped through the file quickly. "There," he pointed. "And here. And here."
Sarah scanned the text next to his index finger. "So? He doesn't fight fairly. I could have told you that nine hundred years ago in Glenstrae."
He sighed once more and wandered over to the window. How on earth was he going to keep this from happening short of cold-cocking her one and leaving her tied up somewhere for the duration? "Sarie...please...don't do this. Revenge won't get you anywhere and it cost you your head."
"It's my head. And it was my family he slaughtered. I can't *not* do this." She paused for a moment, then let out a loud sigh. "I spent three hundred years training with one of the best swordsmen I have ever come across, Petey. And after you I had other teachers. I'm nine hundred and fifty three years old...I'm not your student anymore. You can't protect me and I don't want to be protected. So have some faith in what you taught me. And have some faith in *me*. I didn't make it this far without being handy with a sword."
"I do have faith in you. It's Martin that I don't trust."
Sarah spun in her chair and studied his profile for a moment. The conversation was nothing new to them; she doubted she could count the number of times that he had tried to talk her out of a fight. But there was something in his posture that was different this time. Typically, the topic had been approached very similarly to their spat in the dojo three days prior. So why were his shoulders slumped and his face drawn? If he yelled, she'd know how to respond. This quiet concern was disarming.
"He's here," Methos said suddenly. "Or on his way, at any rate. Seems that MacLeod is a magnet for ill-mannered immortals."
Sarah stiffened, "Where can I find him?"
Methos turned slowly and met her gaze before heading for the door. "Even if I knew, I wouldn't tell you, Sarie."
Two days later, Martin made an appearance at the dojo while Sarah was teaching a Tai Chi class. After her recent conversation with Methos, Sarah had spent some time wondering if her want for revenge was worth it. Would it make her feel any better to kill Martin? Would she even recognize him after nearly a thousand years, for that matter? Her answer came with a seizing of her throat at the sight of him walking through the dojo doors.
She wanted to vomit. Right after she tore his head off with her bare hands.
"And you are?" he asked, taking her hand with a bow.
"Sarah MacGreggor of the clan MacGreggor," she jerked away from his touch.
He stared at her blankly for a moment with the same piercing blue eyes that had scanned the bloody body of her husband with abject disappointment before telling three of his men to do what they pleased with her. Then a flash of recognition crossed his face.
"Yes, *that* clan MacGreggor," she snarled.
"Well, well, it seems I made a mistake all those years ago," he smiled, taking her hand once more. "I trust you'll give me the chance to rectify it?"
She glared at him and thought very seriously about breaking his arm, but that would draw too much attention. Instead, she found the pressure point between his thumb and forefinger and dug her own thumb into it until his face paled from the effort of masking the pain and he let go.
"When I take your head, it will be for my family."
He glanced over her shoulder at the students and smiled thinly, rubbing his hand. "Some other time then, Miss MacGreggor. And you will tell MacLeod that I called?"
Richie appeared from the office and wedged himself protectively between them. "If she doesn't take your head, I will. Now get out of here."
Martin laughed. "Your Quickening wouldn't be worth my time, boy," he said over his shoulder on his way out the door.
Richie turned to Sarah and lay a hand on her arm. "You okay?"
She shook her head. "Take over the class?"
Richie opened his mouth to offer some support, but she spun on a heel and
disappeared up the stairs before he could figure out what to say.
Once alone, Sarah fought for control of her shaking body. Somehow, even nearly a thousand years later, one touch from that man had brought back all the humiliation and fear she had suffered at the hands of his men. She could hear the screams of her mother and friends. The acrid scent of the blood of her clan filled her nose once more and she could almost feel the weight of each of the three men who had raped her. Sarah did the only thing she could do and sank to the floor in a quivering heap.
Glenstrae Scotland, 1068
Had they been paying attention to anything but one another, Alan and Sarah MacGreggor would have noticed the plumes of black smoke rising from their village. Instead, the couple rode close together, exchanging innuendo between bits of serious discussion about the best place to pasture the flock for the winter.
When they crested the knoll, both horses balked at the noise and stench rising through the crisp Highland air. Sarah sat on her mare gaping at the scene, utterly transfixed by the horror unfolding before her. As daughter of the chieftain, she knew the dangers of clan life. Twice in her twenty-six years neighboring clans had made raids on her village, but her father and the clan men had fended them off easily. What lay below could not be real. The MacGreggors were a strong clan...
"Ride, Sarah!" Alan ordered, reaching for his dirk.
But she saw Lily, her brother's wife, wailing over Robert MacGreggor's body near the well and spurred the mare forward without thought. Robby was her favorite brother and Alan's best friend. Lily was half-way to bearing their second child. This had to be a nightmare.
"No!" Alan followed, scrambling to reach her reins. "Ride! Go!"
But he over balanced himself and toppled to the ground, rolling to avoid flailing hooves. When Alan came to his feet, he was immediately surrounded by three men wearing the strange helmets that a traveling peddler had told her father were token of the Normans who were invading England. A fourth arrived quickly and caught Sarah's bridle with an iron grip.
Sarah suddenly knew that she would die at the hands of these people. She looked from Alan to the fourth man--obviously someone of rank--and back, her heart pounding wildly. Her husband had startlingly blue eyes and a spray of freckles across the bridge of his nose. His chin was cleft by a scar from the afternoon that Robby and he had tried to climb the cliffs as boys and his lips were slightly wind-burned from their trek into the hills. But Alan's lips were soft and gentle, even as they twisted in a guttural howl of agony as a sword ripped through his stomach.
The man at her bridle moved quickly and swept Alan's head off with his sword. For a brief moment, there was an opening and something in the back of Sarah's head yelled for her to run. Her limbs were leadened, though, and her blood had turned to ice, leaving her staring wildly at the crimson stain growing around Alan's body.
The fourth man spoke in a language whose words were lost to Sarah's ears, but she took his meaning well enough by the leering expressions of his men as he stalked off. Instinct finally kicked in. She lashed out with a booted heel and broke the nose of the man who grabbed at her knee, then spurred the horse forward. Strong hands caught the fabric of her skirts and pulled her out of the saddle.
Sarah hit the ground dazed and missed the opportunity to duck the punch that slammed into the side of her head. She fought with all her might, but twenty-six years of tending sheep and weaving cloth were no match for trained soldiers.
One held her arms. Another her legs. The third smelled like woodsmoke and had fingernail scrapes on his cheek. They took turns.
"Sarie," Methos was saying.
She looked up, still shaking convulsively, to see him squatting in front of her in the locker room and sporting a very worried expression.
"Sarie, come on, it's okay," he reached out slowly and took her elbow.
Memory inspired instinct caused Sarah to respond with a kick that would have left him groaning in a heap next to her--had he not expected it and blocked it with a well placed forearm.
"It's me," Methos said. "It's 1996 and it's me."
Sarah stared at him for a long moment before fully returning to the present. "What time is it?" she asked at last.
Methos smiled. "If I move my arm to look at my watch, you're not going to
kick me, are you?"
Sarah shook her head, but he remained unconvinced and laid a hand on her ankles before checking his watch.
"Five-fifteen. Richie called me. You've been in here for nearly two hours."
"Oh Jesus," she groaned, letting him pull her to her feet. "How embarrassing."
"Not at all," he answered. "He was just worried about you."
Sarah sighed and leaned against the wall. "Nine hundred years. Nine hundred years I've been fighting and winning and making my own way through life. And one look from that guy turns me into a sniveling mess."
Methos draped a supportive arm around her shoulders and steered her for the door. "There's no statute of limitations on trauma, Sarie."
Richie was startled out of his Gilligan's Island re-runs by a buzz. His hand went instinctively to his rapier on the coffee table and he got to his feet in time to hear a sharp knock echo through his small apartment.
"Richie?" Sarah's voice carried through the door. "It's me, Sarah. I brought some food..."
Richie's nerves unwound themselves enough to allow a large grumble to run through his stomach and he dropped the sword, crossing quickly to the door and pulling it open.
"Hey! I didn't know you knew where I lived," he relieved Sarah of the pizza box she was carrying. "Come on in."
"I asked Mac," she answered, following him into the cluttered living room and looking around for a place to set the chocolate milkshakes she'd picked up from the ice-cream parlor on the corner. "These are getting pretty gooey, I'm afraid."
Richie grinned and dropped onto the couch, gesturing for her to take a seat. It was certainly odd that she'd shown up out of the blue, but far be it from him to kick out someone bearing food and drink. "They're chocolate, aren't they? Who cares?"
Sarah offered a smile of her own and sank into the rather tattered arm chair. "Oh, hey, the episode where the phone line washes up onto the island. This one is a classic."
Richie stopped mid-bite and blinked at her for a moment, then forced himself to chew and swallow. "You watch Gilligan's Island?"
"Of course," she answered, reaching for a slice of her own. "Doesn't every one?"
Sarah laughed. "Mac is a bit of an old fart at times. And he's not nearly old enough to carry it off."
Richie gulped in an effort to keep milkshake from shooting through his nose. "It must be nice," he said once he'd reined in his mirth.
"What's that?" Sarah asked without tearing her vision away from the Professor using Mrs. Howell's diamond necklace to create a saw.
"To be on the same level with him. I'll never get there, even if I live to be five thousand."
Sarah cocked an eyebrow at his choice of hyperbole but Richie's face was twisted into a small frown, making it obvious that his concern was with his teacher and not with deducing the true identity of their resident Mild Mannered Watcher.
"He's just a guy, Rich," she said. "And so are you."
Richie snorted. "That's easy for you to say, *your* teacher treats you like an equal instead of a kid."
It was Sarah's turn to try to keep milkshake from blasting through her nasal passages. "Are you kidding?"
Richie shook his head. "He respects you."
"He patronizes me. Always has."
"Is that what he was doing earlier today? In the locker room? Patronizing you?"
Sarah blinked at him for a moment, startled his bluntness. "No," she said at length. "He was...doing what he's done about a thousand times...bringing me out of a nightmare."
Richie shrugged. "Mac probably would have made me soup or something...given me a blanket and made me take a nap on his couch. Adam just gave you a ride home."
"And made me tea," she laughed. "And asked if I wanted him to stay with me."
"Really?" he laughed. "So it's not just me who gets to be the sidekick? Did he used to tell you 'don't follow me' and 'stay right here'?"
"All the bloody time," she grinned and reached for another slice of pizza. "And I never listened to him. In fact, I bet if you asked him, he'd say I *still* don't listen to him."
"Well," Richie said, falling into a moment of distraction as MaryAnn pranced across the screen in her gingham sun dress, "do you?"
Sarah inhaled a long breath and rolled the milkshake around on her tongue, watching the shadows play on the far wall. "Sometimes. Not that he's been around much, though."
"Sometimes," he turned to face her. "Why not always? I mean...wouldn't it be easier if you listened to him? And safer?"
"About Martin, you mean?"
"It's not that easy," she answered.
"Adam thinks it is."
Sarah took a minute to collect her thoughts before answering. She highly doubted that Richie, of all people, was trying to lecture her. It was more likely he was looking for some kind of empathy.*That* she could certainly provide.
"You're right," she said. "It would be easier if I just let Petey or Mac deal with Martin for me. But it's not their fight and we both know that. There are roles to play, Richie, teacher, student, peer...and we can get trapped in them sometimes. I've always been...a bit hotheaded and stubborn and Petey has always been a bit exasperating and patronizing at times. It's who we are--how we have learned to interact with one another.
"And I think part of the reason that we're bashing our heads about this is because we fell back into those roles. We don't know anything else, really. He looks at me and thinks I'm the same person I was in 1367 and I do the same for him. Duncan probably looks at you and sees you as the same kid who broke into his store. It's hard to see it when your student is growing and changing."
"So you're saying that no matter what, I'll always be Richie Ryan, Boy Immortal? Gee, that makes me feel *so* much better."
"Hey," she grinned, "I'd rather be Richie Ryan Boy Immortal than Sarie MacGreggor, Insolent Scot. But no, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying that we all have roles to play and that it's hard to escape them sometimes. Hard, but not impossible. Someday, Petey will realize that I'm a grown up. And someday Mac will realize that *you* are one too."
Richie chuckled and took several swallows of the shake, allowing his thoughts to settle with the liquid as it flowed down his throat. "I'm...uh...glad you stopped by. I was worried about you. Are you okay?"
"Yeah," she smiled. "I'll be fine. I just didn't want to be alone."
"I thought you said that Adam offered to stay."
Sarah nodded. "He did. But...well...I wasn't in the mood for soup and blankies. I'd much rather eat greasy pizza and watch Nick at Night."
He drained his glass with a small sigh and leaned back against the cushions. "You *really* think Mac will treat me like an equal some day?"
"I'd say you've got about the same chance of that as I do with Petey," she winked. "It might take a few hundred thousand lost spars on their part, but eventually it will probably sink in."
"Mac's never late," Richie said as Methos checked his watch for the seventh time.
"Never say never," the older man grumbled.
"We can always catch another showing," Sarah offered, glancing at her own watch. "At this rate, there's no way we'll make the eight-ten."
Richie sighed. MacLeod was never late. The man was as punctual as anything. It was downright infuriating at times. So where was he now that the latest Batman movie was about to open? They'd never get seats and all the popcorn would be stale by the time the late show started.
Secretly, Methos was relieved. He had absolutely no desire to see Val Kilmer in any role, let alone starring as a comic book hero. Jean Paul Martin was in town and a quick chat in the bar with his Watcher had confirmed that the other immortal was intent upon challenging MacLeod before turning his sights to Sarah. With just a hint of luck, the Highlander was off taking the bastard's head at this very moment. That would be that and Sarah would stay out of harm's way.
But luck never had been on Methos' side, really.
"Mac!" Richie exclaimed as the sensation of an arriving immortal washed through the dojo. "Where have you been? We're going to be late!"
Methos felt Sarah stiffen next to him on the weight bench and knew instantly that the figure in the doorway was not Duncan.
"Ah, I see we seek the same quarry," Martin said with a smile. "The Highlander isn't home? Pity. I keep missing him."
Richie glanced at the bench where his sword sat, gauging the distance and wondering if he could make it there before Martin drew his own. He saw Methos reach into his coat from the corner of his eye and blew a small sigh of relief.
"Martin," Sarah spat, moving to stand.
Methos leapt to his feet and put himself between them instinctively. His sword slid from its accustomed place in one fluid motion and he opened his mouth to issue a challenge. Then, quite suddenly, stars burst before his eyes and the room went totally dark.
Richie's mouth fell open in abject shock as Methos crumpled to the floor; victim to Sarah slamming the hilt of her sword into the base of his skull with near lethal force.
"You want a Highlander?" Sarah asked, turning to Martin.
The Frenchman's face twisted into a positively malevolent smile. "You'll do, Miss MacGreggor."
"There's a warehouse at 212 Cover Street. Meet me there in twenty minutes."
"But of course," he swept a bow and melted into the shadows of the stairwell.
Once her foe was gone, Sarah stooped to check Methos' pulse. "He's going to be dizzy when he wakes up," she said. "Keep an eye on him?"
Richie nodded, unable to find words.
She stood with a sigh and stashed her rapier under her coat. "I have to go. Tell him...tell him I'm sorry, okay?"
"Yeah. Okay," he swallowed, digesting the fact that she was about to go face a challenge that she could very well lose. He liked Sarah. She was funny and smart. She treated him like an adult, not Duncan's student, and her wit was sharp enough to neatly put both Mac and Adam in their places. He'd miss her if she...didn't come back. God. What if she didn't come back? Adam would *kill* him if she lost this fight because he let her go. "Sarah, wait."
She stopped in the doorway, but didn't turn around. "I have to do this, Richie. Please don't try to stop me."
He blinked. Please. She'd said please. She'd caved in Adam's skull to keep him from interfering, but she'd just *asked* him not to. Roles. Her role to Adam was that of a student--someone to be watched over and second guessed. But her role with him was different. They were peers. He owed her the same respect she'd shown him.
"Be careful," he said, swallowing hard.
"Thanks," a smile was evident in her tone. "I'll see you later."
Richie watched her disappear into the stairway and blew out a heavy sigh. He'd have some serious explaining to do when Adam woke up. And where the hell was Mac, anyway?
Methos came back to the world a few minutes later with a loud groan and a piercing shaft of pain through the back of his head. He tried to roll onto his back, but it hurt to move. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to *think*. Richie's voice shot into his consciousness with the force of a cannon, soliciting another groan.
"Are you okay?" Richie repeated. "She said she was sorry."
She. Sarie. *Shit*.
"Where is she?" he asked, moving gingerly to a sitting position and trying to ignore the urge to vomit.
Richie hedged for just a moment before deciding that he'd rather have Sarah alive and mad at him than dead and not. "She went to fight Martin. I know the address."
Methos used the tail of Richie's coat to haul himself to his feet and clamped an iron hand on the young man's shoulder as the floor spun underneath him. He nearly collapsed when Duncan's buzz exploded into his brain.
"What's going on? I had a flat...where's Sarah?" MacLeod's words came in a torrent of confusion.
Richie reached into Methos' coat pocket and fished out the other man's keys, tossing them to Duncan. "Drive. I'll explain on the way."
They arrived at the warehouse amidst the clanging of swords, just in time to see Martin slice a long wound into Sarah's left forearm.
She fell back, using the distraction of their arrival as a breather.
Martin glanced at the doorway then circled around her. "I wasn't thinking about the fact that it could have been a woman in your clan," he said. "I wish I had...we could have had great fun together."
She ground her teeth. "Just shut up and fight."
"Stay focused, Sarie," Methos said. "He's doing it on purpose."
Sarah growled and risked a glance at him. "What the hell are you doing here?"
Martin took advantage of her momentary distraction to strike another blow that Sarah countered with an upward stroke and a kick to the knee.
They traded several blows, moving across the floor and away from where Richie, Duncan, and Methos were standing. It was clear to the observers that Martin's strategy was to try to beat her down with brute strength, but Sarah seemed to be using speed and agility to her advantage and managed to dodge many of his attempts.
The older men were watching the fight intently and Richie knew that he should be as well. This was an excellent opportunity to study two immortals in combat and maybe pick up a few moves, but he found himself riveted to the expression on Methos' face. From what little he knew of the older man, Richie had decided that he was a rather closed off individual. Yet, there he was, wearing a look of open emotion that ranged nearly instantly from fear to pride to shock and back again. Is this what Mac would look like if he were watching him fight? Somehow, he doubted it.
"You're very good," Martin said suddenly. "Your dead husband would be proud of his Highland lass."
In response, she let out a wordless roar of rage and they locked in a downward stroke, dangerously close to Sarah's shoulder. She had no hope of out-leveraging him and chose instead to step into the arc of his blade with the hope of using his own momentum to deflect the blow. It wouldn't hit where he wanted it to, but she knew it would meet her body somewhere and Sarah braced herself for the pain and staggered backwards as his blade bit deeply into her thigh.
Methos reached for his sword almost unconsciously, but Duncan laid a restraining hand on his shoulder.
Martin advanced on Sarah, dealing her a slice across the chest. His next stroke came like lightning and caught her along the collar bone. Sarah managed to bring her sword up in time to block the follow through, which would have severed her head, but the force of it threw her onto the floor, rolling.
Methos growled, and Duncan restrained him again.
"I know," he said in response to the pained expression in his friend's eyes. "I know."
Sarah used the momentum of her roll to get back to her feet and looked down at herself. For just an instant, the years fell away and she remembered looking down as her own blood soaked her clothing from the gaping wound Martin's man had left in her neck. When she glanced up again, Martin was grinning at her.
Her eyes narrowed in a focused hatred and she struck out, following through with a kick to the stomach that knocked the wind out of him. He faltered for a moment and she wasted no time, slicing him across the abdomen. Another stroke severed the tendons in his right wrist and his sword clattered to the floor. Martin sank to his knees, clutching his arm.
Sarah took his head with one swift stroke.
She glanced at Methos before the Quickening rose out of Martin's body and slammed into her own, bringing her to her knees. It rocked the building: shattering glass and showering them with sparks and shards. And then, with the same sudden silence that follows a storm, it was over.
"My car," Sarah said as Methos helped her out of the building.
"I'll drive," he answered, fishing for her keys.
He glanced at her quickly and nodded in agreement. "You can shower at my place."
"I need clean..."
"I'll send Richie to your house for some clothes," he interrupted, unlocking the passenger side door of her Toyota. "Now be a good girl and sit down before you pass out."
Sarah worked up a scowl, but dropped into the seat. "I am *not* a girl."
Methos grunted and snapped her seat belt into place. "Figure of speech. Just rest, okay?"
Sarah awoke a few hours later, lying in a strange bed and slightly dazed. Methos was propped comfortably against the headboard reading through a Norton Anthology that had been in her satchel on the backseat.
"Ah," he smiled. "You're awake. You know, the poems they picked for this weren't Byron's best by far."
Sarah sat up and scratched her head, ignoring his literary criticism in favor of grimacing at her blood soaked clothing. "How long was I out?"
"About two hours. Just long enough for the blood to stain my sheets."
She flipped back the covers and gasped. "God! I'm sorry! You should have just dumped me in the tub or something. I'll replace them..."
Methos closed the book and waved a dismissing hand. "It's all right. They're just sheets. Richie and MacLeod got waylaid at the warehouse, but Richie's bringing clothes over. You can borrow a robe or something until then if you like. And there are clean towels in the bathroom."
"Thanks," she smiled.
Methos watched her disappear into the bathroom, then spared the sheets a disdainful glance before heading for the kitchen. Quickenings tended to effect each immortal differently; some felt the energy as sexual desire, some as hyperactivity, and some as sheer jubilation. Sarah, if he remembered correctly, came away exhausted and starving.
By the time she rejoined him, a bowl of steaming pasta and two bottles of beer were sitting on the coffee table. Sarah grinned her thanks and tossed the towel she had been using to dry her hair onto the back of a nearby chair before sitting down next to him. He offered a fork wordlessly and couldn't help but chuckle as she dug directly into the serving bowl.
"I'm sorry I had to clock you one," she said between bites.
"Yeah, me too, actually," he replied.
Methos sat back against the arm of the couch and tipped his beer to his lips, studying her as she ate. She'd found a pair of his jeans and a t-shirt to wear and was looking a bit like a walking anachronism as far as his memory was concerned. He was used to seeing her in medieval attire with long, plaited hair. Cuffed jeans, a baggy shirt, and a tousled mop of cropped hair were still odd, despite the fact that she'd been back in his life for close to a year now.
It was obvious from her posture that Sarah was very relaxed and he found himself smiling. So many of their recent encounters had been stressful, to say the least. It was good to finally be at ease with one another again.
"What?" She eyed him skeptically. "What's that look for?"
"I'm just glad to have you back."
Sarah flashed a smile of her own and took another swig from her beer as the CD player whirred to change discs. "Me too," she paused mid-sip as the strains of Big Band music began to echo through the room and her face lit up. "God, Petey, if you had known me in the forties! I could Lindy like no one else."
Sarah nodded enthusiastically. "Bry and I used to dance all night."
Methos considered the thought of her clothed in 1940s attire and Swing Dancing with their mutual friend. It was an easy picture to find in his mind's eye--Sarah had always loved to dance and Bryan Cutler and she were very close, even in the Middle Ages. He glanced at her feet, which were tapping of their own accord, and smiled before offering her a hand.
"May I have this dance?"
Sarah cocked her head to one side and regarded him thoughtfully before answering. "Sure."
They jitterbugged as best they could in his cramped living room and wound up crashing into everything from the table to the floor lamp before the disc whirred again and a slower song started.
Methos heaved a sigh of relief and rested a hand on her hip to lead. "Much better."
Sarah looked up at him and smiled. "You must have been very dashing in the forties...in your double breasted suit and fedora...I bet you had women falling all over you."
"I tried to avoid it," he smirked. "But they just kept hounding me."
Sarah laughed and rested her chin on his shoulder. "You always did have a way with women."
"But they all keep dying on me," he said, attempting to joke but failing miserably.
"Oh, Petey," she squeezed him lightly. "You always did feel with every fiber of your being."
"I never did thank you for coming to Geneva with me," he said quietly. "It helped to have you there, even if it was only for a little while."
Sarah pulled back and smiled at him. "You are the best friend I think I have ever had, there's no need to thank me. I just wish I had gotten the chance to know Alexa better. I'm sorry you lost her."
He sighed. "That's the price we pay when we get involved with mortals. The good-byes always come."
"You sound like you're reading a cue-card," Sarah frowned. "I know how much it hurts, you know. I've lost them, too."
Methos blinked for a moment. Of course she had. It hadn't really occurred to him that she had likely had several husbands over the centuries. "Robert and Gina's wedding was hard," he said at length. "To have to sit there and look at a love that is timeless while trying to cope with your own that is so bound by time..."
Sarah pulled back again and stopped dancing long enough to look him in the eyes. "Dance," she said. "Think about where to put your feet, not about where they have been."
Methos laughed, despite his mood. "For someone who is constantly denying that age brings wisdom, you've certainly picked up some over the years."
Sarah draped her arms around his neck and smiled. "Just dance."
He wrapped his arms around her waist and obliged, half hoping that she would drag him through another fast song as the disc whirred once more. But, instead, Sarah pulled away and flopped down on the couch, reaching for her beer. She took a long swallow and several more forkfuls of pasta before speaking.
"So...this has been bugging me since you walked into the dojo last Fall," she said.
Methos cocked an eyebrow and sank down next to her. "Yes?"
Sarah took another drink and squared her shoulders, looking him directly in the eyes. "What the hell happened to you in Germany?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean...what happened? If that wasn't your Quickening I saw, why the hell didn't you come back to the inn?"
Methos sighed. "I thought you were dead, Sarie. And I had to get out of town quickly--those Quickenings had the locals on a witch-hunt."
He nodded. "I never expected you to survive that fight with Zauer--I didn't even want you to fight him in the first place, remember?"
"Of course," she scowled. "You were treating me like a child."
Methos sighed again. He recognized that set of her jaw--this was about to get dicey. "I wasn't treating you like a child, Sarie, I was trying to save your head. You were good with a sword, but he was older and stronger and I didn't want you to wind up dead because of a misunderstanding in a tavern."
"Well," she snapped "thanks for the vote of confidence, Petey."
He drew in a deep breath and counted to ten and back silently. So much about her had changed in six hundred years. It was just his luck that the short temper wasn't on the list. And this...*this* argument was one they'd had no less than a hundred times. "Sarie...it didn't have anything to do with my confidence in you. It was the logistics of the matter."
"Spare me," she rolled her eyes and got up to pace--whirling after two steps. "My god! That's what was going on with Martin too! You think you have to protect me....that I can't handle myself. Well, here's a news flash, Methos, I've been doing just fine for the past six centuries without the benefit of being your ward."
"Forget it. You can't shelter me," she paced away again--this time making it four steps before turning back. "I am *not* a child."
Methos got up and caught her by the shoulders. "No, you don't understand. I always knew you could take care of yourself. But I wanted to take care of you anyway. You're my best friend and I thought you were *dead*. I couldn't let that happen again--*that's* why I tried to take Martin."
Sarah shook her head and opened her mouth to shoot back an answer, but a buzz pounded through the room; followed shortly by the doorbell ringing.
Methos ignored it in favor of tightening his grip on her shoulders. "Listen to me, Sarie."
"No," she interrupted. "You listen to me and get it through that thick head of yours this time. I am *not* your student any more. Stay the hell out of my challenges."
The bell rang again and Sarah took advantage of his momentary distraction to duck out from his grasp and answer the door.
"Hi," Richie said. "Sorry I'm late...here's your..."
She snatched the armload of clothing from him and stormed out, leaving both men staring at the stairwell with slack jaws.
"What was that all about?" Richie asked.
Methos shook his head. "Don't ask."
Two days later...
Richie was busy laboring under the delusion that he had the upper hand in the spar that he and Sarah were pacing through and made the mistake of attempting conversation.
"You know," he said. "I think you really hurt Adam's feelings the other night."
"You'll lose your head if you try to have a conversation with another immortal in the middle of a fight," Sarah responded, punctuating her statement with an elbow to his chin.
"Ow!" He backed off and touched his bleeding lip lightly. "Was that really necessary?"
"Look," she sighed, "the deal is, I teach you how to fight; you don't give me advice about my friendships. Now pick up your sword,"
Richie stooped to collect his weapon, still nursing his lip. "What were you guys fighting about, anyway?"
Sarah heaved another sigh. "You know, you should be a Watcher instead of an Immortal, for all your concern about other people's business."
"Go easy on him, Sarah," Duncan said from the doorway. "He's just concerned about his friends."
Sarah looked from one to the other and back, suddenly guilty.
She flung her sword to the floor in frustration, then flopped down beside it. "What is it with you men, anyway? I've been around for almost a thousand years.. and suddenly everyone feels like they have to protect me?"
"We're all looking out for one another," Duncan smiled, used to her temper manifesting like this. Sarah did not handle frustration well. "And what Adam feels for you is more than a just need to protect you."
Sarah flashed him a quizzical look, then began to pick at the tape on her wrists absentmindedly. More than protection? What the hell did *that* mean?
He crossed the floor and sat down next to her, ducking his head in an attempt to get into her line of vision. "He left the Game was because he lost his passion. But he would have stepped back in the other night for you. Doesn't that that tell you anything?"
She stared at him blankly for a moment, then set her jaw. "It tells me he was pulling the big brother act again."
Duncan sighed. There was no pushing Sarah anywhere. Period. "Maybe he's just glad to have you back in his life and doesn't want to lose you again."
"There is a difference between that and wanting to fight someone's battles for them," she said. "You know how we live. We all have our own wars to fight."
"Maybe he wants to help you fight yours," Richie offered. "Or maybe he's in love with you."
Duncan shot a glare at his student, but Sarah threw back her head and laughed.
"In love with me, that's a good one."
Duncan aimed another silencing glare at Richie, then turned his attention back to Sarah. "Look, you two have been lost to each other for centuries. Maybe you just need some time to sort things out between you."
Sort things out? That sounded like a good plan. Maybe now that Martin was gone, they could get down to the business of establishing a relationship on equal footing instead of as teacher and student. That had to be it. The dynamic was shifting...just like she'd told Richie would happen between he and Duncan.
"You're right," Sarah said suddenly. "I need to clear my head. Rich, can we pick this up tomorrow?"
Richie smiled and extended a hand, hauling her to her feet. "You bet."
Duncan watched Sarah disappear up the stairs, then turned yet another glare upon his student.
"What?" Richie asked.
"You shouldn't have said that about Adam."
"It's the truth, though..."
Duncan frowned. "It's none of your business."
"You almost told her," Richie countered.
"No," he wagged a finger. "*I* made a suggestion that she could interpret as she wanted to, you stuck your nose in where it didn't belong."
Methos arrived at the dojo the next morning expecting to spar with Duncan. Instead, he found Sarah and Richie, dueling yet again. They stopped as he entered and Sarah flashed him a crooked grin.
He returned it with a slight flush. "MacLeod and I were going to..."
"Mac had some business to take care of at the university," Richie said. "He suggested that I practice my new-found Highland fighting skills with you...if you're willing."
Methos chuckled at the thought. This could very well prove to be the shortest spar on record.
"Kid, you'd better let me take this one on," Sarah said suddenly.
Methos cocked his head at her, wondering if she was still mad at him and looking to vent some frustration.
"You up for this, Petey?" She asked.
"Sure thing," he tossed his coat aside.
Sarah grabbed the roll of athletic tape and wound it around her left wrist a few times, adding to the layers already there, before tearing it with her teeth and repeating her actions on the right hand. "Don't you pull any punches. I won't."
Methos smiled sweetly and struck out at her before she had the chance to fully prepare herself. Sarah brought her sword up quickly and skittered out of his way. She countered with an upwards swing that he deflected easily and danced out of his way as he sliced back.
Richie leaned against the wall, watching as they paced back and forth, engaging each other alternately. Their swords rang together loudly and he realized suddenly that Mac had set him up for a fall by suggesting a spar with Adam. This guy was a lot better than he looked. They seemed to be pretty evenly matched skill-wise, though it was obvious that Adam was physically stronger. Sarah made up for it with speed though--speed and a ruthless economy of movement that Richie found fascinating to watch.
Their swords locked near the hilts, with the tips digging into the floor and Methos smiled at the sight of her muscles twitching with the effort of holding him off. "You know you can't hold out longer than I can," he said.
She smirked at him, then spun, using the momentum of his swing to accelerate the elbow aimed at his jaw. He staggered backwards from the blow and took a moment to recuperate.
"Ow, Sarie," he said, rubbing his chin.
Richie barked out a laugh.
Sarah flashed him a quick grin and bent over her sword, turning her attention back to Methos as she caught her breath. "That's one you taught me, Petey. I can't believe you fell for it."
He grunted and raised his sword again. "I didn't realize we were fighting dirty."
"I told you," Sarah charged and forced him back a few steps, "no pulled punches."
Methos chose to respond to that by kicking her feet out from under her. Sarah landed hard on her back, but managed to roll away before he could plant a foot on her wrist. She scrambled to her feet, breathing hard, and spun around just barely in time to block the blow aimed at her shoulder. He wasted no time in engaging her again, striking alternating high and low blows with a force that was driving her backwards across the room. She met his swings, but was rapidly losing ground.
Richie chuckled softly as Methos' plan became clear to him. He was obviously pushing her toward a corner with the hopes of boxing her in. And, judging by the expression on Sarah's face, she knew it.
Sarah swore, looking for a chance to move in any direction aside from backwards. She'd forgotten how utterly relentless he could be in a fight. Their swords locked for a moment and she stomped on his instep, following through with a punch to the abdomen that solicited both a ragged breath and a glare.
Sarah saw the look and was tempted to use her hilt to punctuate an upper cut to the jaw, knowing it would probably knock him out. But, she didn't have time to execute her plan when he swung at her feet, forcing her to leap upwards. She landed off balance.
That was all Methos needed.
They traded a few more blows, but Sarah never fully recovered her balance and they locked in a downward stroke identical to the one that had nearly cost her her head against Martin.
"Come on," he grunted. "Give."
"In your dreams, Petey."
His strength finally won out and Sarah's wrists buckled under the pressure, despite the layers of supportive tape. Unfortunately, Methos had been bearing down too hard, counting on her weight to balance his own and wasn't able to check the force of his blade. Sarah swore and threw herself to one side, but his sword bit deeply into her thigh.
He threw the sword away and knelt down next to her, staunching the blood with his hands. "Richie, get a towel!"
Richie hesitated for half a second, then dashed for the lift.
"Sarie, are you okay?"
She ground her jaw against the pain, but nodded. "I think my wrist is broken, but I'm okay. Set it before it heals wrong?"
Methos peeked under his hands at the wound on her leg. On a mortal, it would take about twenty stitches to close, but the bleeding had already let up some. It would most likely be closed by the time Richie returned. "Okay, but it's going to hurt."
She nodded again, her lips white.
Methos offered what he hoped was a reassuring smile and began to unwrap the tape from her write. Despite his efforts at being gentle, Sarah hissed in pain several times before he finished.
"Ready?" He asked.
Sarah set her jaw and looked away as he gave a twisting tug that snapped the bones back into place audibly. She went pale and held her breath for a moment to block out the pain, then looked at him and smiled weakly. "Thanks."
"It's the least I could do," he smiled and bent to look at her leg again. "You've gotten good."
"In six hundred years, I should hope so. I *told* you I wasn't a kid any more," she responded. "But, here you are, covered in my blood again."
"Indeed, you most certainly are not," Methos glanced up and smiled again. "And I can't think of anyone else's blood I'd rather be covered in."
"Should I be flattered?" She laughed. "Just how many women have covered you with their blood, anyway?"
Methos cracked a grin. Their apologies had never been as boisterous as their arguments. He opened his mouth the quip back a reply, but his words were lost in the whirlwind of Richie's return.
"I brought the towels," Richie said. "Mac's gonna kill me, they're brand new. But...are you okay, Sarah?"
"You know," she looked at him and grinned, "sometimes it's really hard to resist the temptation to say 'relax, I'll live'."
Methos chuckled and mopped at the blood on her leg.
"I'm fine" she continued. "Petey and I have done this a thousand times."
Richie's jaw dropped. "You guys always spar that hard?"
Methos peeked under the towel, then tossed it aside and rocked back onto his heels, satisfied that she had healed. "Well, generally I try to avoid dismembering her, but yes."
"It's how we made a living for a while there," she said.
"You guys fought for money?" Richie asked.
"Sure, if it were the Middle Ages, wouldn't you pay to see a woman give a man a good fight?" Methos got to his feet and offered Sarah a hand up.
"So what, you guys like rigged the fights?"
Sarah nodded. "Sort of. We had a friend who would make bets with the crowd and split the profits with us."
"The fights were only rigged in that, mid-way through, he would give us the signal to let us know which one of us had more money wagered on them, and to win or to lose accordingly," Methos added, offering Sarah her rapier. "Up until that point, it was anybody's game."
Richie laughed. "Am I the only immortal who doesn't have a cool past?"
Sarah and Methos exchanged a glance and a smile.
"You don't even *have* a past yet," they said in unison.
"So, what do you think's gonna happen between those two?" Richie asked.
Duncan spun around on his stool and followed Richie's gaze across the bar to the corner booth where Methos and Sarah were sitting. Joe had asked them to collaborate and fill in some gaps in files related to their own and they had been playfully arguing back and forth for hours. Their table was covered with a mixture of papers, empty beer glasses, and plates and they were sitting close to one another, engrossed in a quiet debate over dates.
"Do you think he'll ever tell her how he feels? I mean, it's pretty obvious, even to me."
Duncan shrugged. "She knows how he feels, and she feels the same way--she just hasn't realized it yet."
"How do you know that?"
"Sarah's told me stories about her Petey," he smiled. "And even then--when she thought he was dead--it was obvious."
"But how can you be in love with someone and not know it?" Richie drained his glass and motioned to Joe for a refill.
"It happens all the time," Joe said. "Those two were lost to each other for so long...they just need a chance to catch up..."
"Just how young are you, kid? Do we need to explain that too?" Joe teased, snapping a towel at him and heading for the tap.
Duncan laughed to himself as a lull in the general noise level of the room allowed him a glimpse into the conversation in the booth.
"I'm telling you, it was September, 1287," Sarah said emphatically.
"I think I ought to know when I fought the guy, thank you very much," Methos responded. "It was March."
"It was September," she insisted. "We had barley stew afterwards."
"It was March, and the stew was rabbit."
"I was wearing short sleeves...it was September."
"March? In the Alps? Short sleeves? C'mon, Petey."
"You were wearing my woolen cloak."
Sarah threw up her hands in capitulation and flopped back in her seat. "Fine, have it your way..."
To Part 3: No Time To Dance
To the Authors pages