Beginning One

Methos worked his way through the chronicles, checking only the last entry of the last book of every Immortal whose whereabouts were currently unknown but who apparently vanished within a certain area of the world. He worked quickly, not wanting to remain in Seacovuer any longer then he had to. Being here made him intensely uncomfortable but this was the best way for him to get the information he needed. Thank the deities Joe never revoked his Watcher privileges. To be honest, he was surprised that his former friend hadn't revealed who he really was to the Watcher council but, then again, maybe he was afraid of the repercussions.

He'd already gone through the computer files but there were still hideous gaps in the information entered in there. Hence his search through book after book after book. Normally he would find this fascinating but the sense of urgency was ruining the normal sense of fun. He had been here for four days straight, sleeping in snatches and grabbing food from the kitchen when he got too hungry to continue. His companion had spent his time mainly searching the library and sleeping, not really able to help Methos in his search. Even now he. . .

A scent reached Methos and he stiffened, nostrils flaring even though, technically, he was not the one receiving the scent. Ever since that odd double Quickening seventeen months ago, he had found himself able to tap into Nightstormís senses, a decidedly odd experience but well worth it. And now that sense told him that a human. . .a mortal. . .had entered the library. Another Watcher, no doubt, coming in to do some research of his own.

Yes, his. Methos smiled slightly, realizing that he was finally reaching the point where he could get more detailed information from his borrowed senses. He closed his eyes, concentrating on the sensory input.

The newcomer was male and in his middle years. . .how Nightstorm could figure that out from scent alone Methos had no idea. There was a heavy scent of pain mixed liberally with a very real scent of plastic and metal. Methos frowned, his mind searching for the reason behind that combination when a once-familiar sound reached him and he stiffened again, realization reaching him just as the newcomer spoke.

"What the hell are you doing here?!" The familiar voice was harsh and Methosí eyes flew open, turning to look at Joe Dawson. Methos stared at him blankly for a long moment, trying to keep his emotions under control. A bit of anger at being caught by the last person he wanted to be caught by, joy that Dawson was alive and well, concern at the new lines that creased his former friendís face and a great deal of sorrow at what had been and could never be again.

"Research." He said finally, reaching over to close his laptop, not wanting Joe to see what he was researching. He concentrated briefly on Nightstormís whereabouts and finally established that his companion was hiding several bookshelves away. He sent what he hoped was a stern order for him remain where he was and turned his attention back to Joe.

The Watcher hadnít moved, just leaned on his cane and stared at Methos with hard eyes. But were they as hard as that fateful night two years ago when Cassandra, having guaranteed that the people he once called friends would ever have anything to do with him, "forgave" him and let him live? Methos didnít think so.

ĎSo, youíve had time to think, old friend, without Cassandraís influence. I wonder if MacLeod has managed to do the same.í

"Iím surprised you dared to come back." Joe said tightly and Methos shrugged.

"I had loose ends to tie up and some research to do. This is the only place that has the information I needed." He glanced at the rows upon rows of chronicles then back at Joe, sighing at the suspicion in the other manís eyes. "This has nothing to do with MacLeod. Or Cassandra or Richie or Amanda. I no longer have any interest in them and no plans on seeing any of them until the final Gathering. If then." He carefully covered the pain of that lie with practiced ease, scooping up the chronicles with the intent of putting them away. He glanced down at his list, pleasantly surprised that he had managed to reach the bottom. Good. Now he could go home.

Home. What an odd idea. Two years ago, kneeling on the floor of the barge with his wrists bound to his neck, he had thought he'd never call any place home again. Or, for that matter, any person friend. And certainly no Immortal. Life was full of surprises.

Silently he made his way to the shelves, slipping the books carefully into their places. Finished, he returned to the table and wasn't surprised to see Joe there, looking at the list he had left on the table. He mentally kicked himself for leaving it in plain sight then shrugged. Why bother? He had no real reason for hiding his research. He started to gather together his notes, aware of Joe staring at him thoughtfully.

"What are you researching?" The other man asked abruptly and Methos paused, frowning. Oh, hell. Why not? As long as he told him what he was researching and not the real reason why he was doing the research.

"Certain. . .missing Immortals. Immortals whom the Watchers have lost track off. Vanished for one reason or another. Presumed dead but not known by whom."

"Why are you researching that?"

Methos shrugged. Now for the lies. "Something I was curious about. Some time back, when I was doing other research here, I noticed that some Immortals just disappeared. I got curious and not having much else to do now that I'm not hauling MacLeod's ass out of the fire every other week, I decided to scratch the itch. Unfortunately, the best place to look is here so here I am. And now," he slung the backpack onto his back and scooped up the laptop. "I am out of here. Hopefully never to return." He paused then sighed, sending a "come-hither" thought to his companion.

Claws clicked on the wooden floor and Nightstorm appeared from behind a row of shelves. With a single bound, he leapt onto the table, standing patiently as Methos slid the laptop into one side of the pack the huge wolf wore and adjusted it so that it rode comfortably. Satisfied, he looked up to see Nightstorm studying Joe intently. A warm feeling of approval came from the wolf and Methos bit his lip, wishing futilely for that time when Joe would have invited him to the bar for a beer and quite possibly a bed for the night. But those times were gone forever and he gave Nightstormís ear a gentle tug.

"Come on, old son. Letís go." The wolf jumped down, pacing Methos as he started for the door. Once there, he paused, frowning, wondering. . . "Joe." He said abruptly, not turning to look at the man. "Has Cassandra ever told you why I submitted to her demands?" There was silence behind him. "Why I let her do that to me; paint my face. . .make me back into Death, flay the skin from my back, tell all of you the truth of what happened between the two of us? Why I let MacLeod and Richie. . .and you. . .torture me all that time?"

Joe cleared his throat. "I assumed that you choose survival. Like always. You keep your head in exchange for telling us the truth. It isnít as if you lost much." He said bitterly.

Pain flared in Methos and he closed his eyes against the threatening tears. "Not lost much? At the time, Joe, it was everything." He said in a low voice then, in a louder tone, he continued. "You forget. I tried to spur MacLeod into taking my head. Begged Cassandra for it. No, if it was my head I was bargaining for, I would have very gladly given it to her."

He sensed the confusion in the man behind him and dropped a hand to rest lightly on the wolfís head. The feeling intensified and he realized that Joe had not really thought about it. He had always assumed that Methos, the ultimate survivor, had chosen survival.

"Then why. . ?"

"Ask Cassandra." Methos interrupted. "My guess is sheís still full of self-righteousness, still thinks that what she did was for justice and not simply vengeance. She just might tell you the truth." He closed his eyes tightly and took a deep breath. "I have to go. Get some decent food and some sleep before heading back." He looked over his shoulder at his former friend and he felt his heart ache. In his own way, he had loved. . .still loved. . .the crotchety mortal. "Good-bye, Joe. Have a good life." He said quietly before walking from the room, Nightstorm at his heels.

Left alone in the library, Joe stared sightlessly after him and wished he had followed his original instincts two years ago when Methos was effectively banished from Seacouver and from his life.


Methos tossed the backpack onto the floor of his jeep and stepped aside for Nightstorm to jump on the seat. He didnít bother taking off the wolfís pack, knowing that his laptop and the other items secured there were infinitely safer. In order for a stranger to get the pack they would have to kill the wolf and, unlike his brethren, this wolf would not stay dead. He wondered briefly what Joe would think if he ever found out that there were nonhuman Immortals. Not many though. In fact, he suspected that Nightstorm was the only one.

Sliding into the driverís seat, he started the car and drove away from the Watchers headquarters. He doubted he would ever return and wasnít too surprised to find that he really didnít care. The Watchers and his place in their society was now no more then a past chapter in his life.

"Well, old son. How about we find a nice little place that serves beer and raw meat by the pound?"

Nightstorm whuffled his enthusiastic agreement.

"Yeah, well this time *I* get the beer. You get the meat. The last time you got drunk, I had to pay to remodel an entire tavern and hide a body to boot."

Nightstorm whined and buried his head under the blanket on the backseat, obviously thinking it very unfair for Methos to bring *that* up.


Joe left the Watchers headquarters several hours later, wondering how much longer he would remain with the group. The higher-ups were unhappy with him and his relationship with the various Immortals he knew. To be truthful, he was growing increasingly unhappy with the various Immortals he knew. Amanda had vanished shortly after the Horsemen incident and the revelation of Methosí part in it. Richie kept disappearing back into the motorcycle circuit, reappearing now and again. In fact, he had been due to arrive for a visit this morning. Duncan was still around and so was Cassandra. At least she was at the moment. She had vanished after "forgiving" Methos only to reappear a few months later, moving in with Duncan.

Joe wasnít stupid. It hadnít taken him long to reason out the revenge Cassandra had taken on Methos. She had alienated the only friends the ancient Immortal had acquired in centuries. Quite possibly the only true friends since the Horsemen. But they hadnít proven to be very true, had they? Who was it that had said a true friend was someone who stayed when all others walked away? They had walked away, disregarding what they knew of the manís present.

For the first few months after the revelation of Methosí past, every time Joe had thought of the man he had known as Adam Pierson, he had seen the face of Death. But that memory faded under the onslaught of what he knew personally of the man. The days of Methos shyly courting Alexa, finally convincing her to spend her last months letting him show her the world. The night he had flown in from Switzerland with Alexaís body, when he had gotten drunk and wept inconsolably for hours before finally falling into an exhausted sleep on Joeís couch. Methos offering his head to Duncan to help him win against Kalas. Methos leaving Alexaís side to come help Duncan fight the dark Quickening. Methos laughing, tossing out sarcastic, jesting remarks, drinking beer stolen from any refrigerator he found it in. Helping him. Helping Duncan. Being a friend....

If he had been capable of it, Joe would have kicked the side of his car. Instead, he settled for slamming the door as hard as he could before driving away.


Finding a place willing to serve a overly-large wolf was close to impossible anywhere but before he left home, he had made a point of looking up a few places run by members of the Community. A small family-run Oriental place on the list proved most helpful, sending one of the children out to buy several pounds of prime beef. Expensive but worth it to keep Nightstorm happy. Methos settled at a table outside, Nightstorm happily munching away underneath, snarling at any passerby that got too close.

He was clear across town from the dojo and from Joeís. For some reason, he didnít think Joe would call and tell MacLeod he was in town so he figured he could eat, catch a quick nap and be long gone before the other Immortal ever knew he was here. This thought reassured him until he felt the unmistakable buzz of an Immortal in the back of his mind.

Nightstorm growled as Methos raised his head, looking for the bearer of that buzz. Not in sight yet, a fact that had ceased surprising him months ago. Apparently his link with Nightstorm had given them both much larger ranges of Immortal detection. A helpful talent that helped him avoid other Immortals when needed.

He was just considering the wisdom of ducking out of sight when he heard the sound of a motorcycle. He automatically looked in that direction and his heart sank, realizing it was too late for him to get out of sight as Richie Ryan went by. For a moment, he thought the younger Immortal may not have sensed him but then the riderís head turned to look directly at him. He heard Nightstorm snarl and dropped a hand to rest on the wolfís head, staring directly into Ryanís eyes as the younger Immortal noticeably hesitated then rode away. Methos closed his eyes in disgust, having no doubt that Ryan would call MacLeod as soon as he reached a phone.

"Shall we wait for them or flee while we can?" He asked the wolf. Nightstorm snorted and returned to the serious business of eating. Methos sighed. Well, he hadnít eaten yet and, to be honest, why should he flee? After all, Cassandra had "pardoned" him, forgiving his past acts, apparently content with the belief that she had ruined his life forever. Little did she know that, in reality, she had freed him.

He felt the buzz of two Immortals just as the little girl acting as his waitress appeared with his food. He smiled at her, leaning back so she could skillfully juggle the plate in front of him, plucking the condiments from the shelf of her crippled arm and setting them on the table before politely inquiring if there was anything else he needed.

"Bring another pot of tea, dear, and two cups. Then you may wish to remain inside for a time."

She looked at him with wide eyes then nodded, darting back into the restaurant, leaving Methos to reflect that sometimes being a member of the Community could be as dangerous as being an Immortal. At least the kids were brought up to respect that danger. He reached for the chopsticks, glancing up as the ~Presence~ drew nearer.

"Damn!" He muttered. "Cassandra!"

There was a sharp crack and the table jumped. Methos blinked, looking down at the table then at the wolf now sprawled on the ground, looking dazed. "That was brilliant. Did you knock yourself out cold or are you just practicing for your imminent future as a rug?"

The wolf glared at him and stood up gingerly, carefully stepping clear of the table before looking at the newcomers. Methos smiled, glad the table was of wood and not wrought iron like last time. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the little girl re-appear, setting a pot and two cups on the table before fleeing back into the building.

"Methos." MacLeod said coldly and the ancient Immortal flinched.

"Please!" He said sharply. "Adam. Iím still using Adam Pierson." He looked up at his former friend, seeing surprise etched on his face. Obviously MacLeod had expected Methos to still be that cowed, dejected man of two years past. "Have a seat." His eyes slid to the woman next to MacLeod. "Both of you. Some tea?" He gestured toward the pot before using the chopsticks expertly to take several bites. "I assume you're here for a reason?" He asked politely.

"What are you doing here?" Cassandra demanded.

"Tying up loose ends." He said pleasantly. "Getting my stuff in storage shipped out. Doing some research. Etc, etc, etc."

"It might be best if you left town." MacLeod said tightly and Methos flicked a look at him before returning to his food.

"I plan on it. As soon as I finish eating and get some sleep, I am gone. And for Trinity sake, will you two seat down! If you think you're intimidating me, you think very wrong." He returned to his food and, after a long moment, both MacLeod and Cassandra pulled out chairs and sat down. "That's better. Hmmmm. Excellent. Ever try this place before? Have some tea. It's very good." Silence. "Look, MacLeod. I had no intention of meeting with you or Cassandra or anyone else. In case you hadn't noticed, this place is clear across town from your usual hangouts. If it hadn't been for Ryan coming by, you never would have known I was here. And frankly, I don't understand what you are doing here. My life is no longer any concern of yours." He glanced at Cassandra. "Or yours."

Cassandra was staring at him narrow-eyed, apparently not liking what she saw of Methos' attitude. Not that Methos cared.

Nightstorm let out a sudden sharp series of whoo-whoos, the kind he made to greet someone. Methos looked up to see Joe approaching. "Great Goddess! What is this, old home week? Have a seat, Joe. When's Richie due?" He glanced at the restaurant, not surprised to see the girl watching him. Holding up the hand holding the cup of tea, he stuck up a finger then gestured at Joe. The girl nodded and vanished.

"Richie doesn't want to see you." MacLeod said.

"Good. We're running out of room around the table. Are you here to discuss anything in particular or are you just thinking to bug me?"

"Actually, we're just wondering how your life is going?" Cassandra said with a slight smirk.

"My life? Well. . ." Nightstorm whoo-whooed in sudden urgency and Methos glanced down at him. "Park's over there. Don't get spotted by a cop." Nightstorm snorted and tried again with a sharper whoo this time, looking back over his shoulder at the pack. "What. . .oh!! He dropped the chopsticks and hastily dug out the cellular phone tugged into a pocket. "Sorry about that, old son. I forgot to turn up the ringer, didn't I? Excuse me. . ."

He flipped the phone open. "Hello?" The others at the table blinked as Methos' angular features literally lit up, his eyes sparkling with sudden joy. "H'lo, luv. What's the good news? Ahhhh. . ." If anything, Methos looked even happier. "Couldn't wait 'til I got home, eh? You're kidding. Three?!" There was a sudden thump and the table jumped, almost spilling food onto Methos' lap. "Just a minute, luv." Methos looked down, meeting Nightstorm's now somewhat crossed eyes. Tugging the phone down so he wasn't speaking directly into the mouthpiece, he held up two fingers. "How many fingers have I got up, Nightstorm?"

The wolf whoo'd three times before toppling over to lay blinking on the ground.

"Hmmmm." He lifted the phone back up. "Nightstorm just knocked himself out. Apparently he is not thrilled at the idea of triplets. No, no. Wooden table, not iron. Are Jarod and Steve still there? No? Damn. How about Ben? Good. Ask him to stay until I get back if he can. He can? Good. I'm leaving in the morning. I'll see you soonest then. Love you." He smiled as he closed up the phone, looking down at Nightstorm. The wolf was levering himself up slowly.

"Triplets." He said pleasantly and the wolf flopped back down, whining pathetically. He looked up with a wide grin. "This could be fun." Nightstorm apparently didn't think so as he crawled over to hide behind Joe, still whimpering.

"Tri. . .triplets?" Cassandra stuttered.

"Yes. My soon-to-be wife is expecting. Triplets." he added in the wolf's direction and Nightstorm covered his ears with his paws. "Actually, Cassandra, I should thank you. If it weren't for you, I'd still be here, pulling MacLeod's fat out of the fire every other week and trying to explain why my past does not meet up with his high standards. Which, to be honest, doesn't concern him in the least. Now. . ." He smiled. "Now I have a woman who loves me, friends who care about what I *am* and not what I was, a wonderful teaching job and access to some of the finest research libraries in the world. In other words, my wet dream come true."

end beginning one

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