Life is All About Change

Part 1 of the New Beginning cycle

by Jennifer Campbell

Methos, MacLeod and Joe don't belong to me, and I promise to return them to Panzer/Davis in top condition when I'm done with them. I make no money off this, unfortunately.

No beta on this story, so please forgive any typos you might stumble across.

part 1

Methos walked through Seacouver in a daze. People in three-piece suits hurried by him, bumping their leather briefcases into his legs, but he hardly noticed. All he really felt was the cold bite of his sword against his side, and that particular day, the weapon felt heavier than usual.

MacLeod's fight with O'Rourke had been several months ago, but this was the first time Methos would see his friend since that fateful night. Mac had left the morning after without a word even to Joe or Amanda, returning to Seacouver and the dojo after almost a year in Paris. Joe had muttered something about having to relocate every time Mac had a moral crisis, and Amanda had left for places unknown, leaving Methos alone in Paris.

Normally, he wouldn't have minded -- MacLeod attracted immortals like a magnet, which made him an unsafe man to hang around -- but the French city reverted to a dull, lifeless prison without his friends. So when his classes ended, Methos packed a small bag and jumped a plane for Seacouver, determined to track down Mac wherever he might be hiding.

But he found a nasty surprise at the dojo. He intended to sneak in the back door, grab a beer from the fridge and camp out on MacLeod's couch until the immortal came home. But when he broke in, he was greeted by the sight of a spotless, empty loft. Alarmed, he took the lift down to the weight room and found it too had been gutted.

For lack of a better idea, he left and headed toward Joe's bar, hoping it was still there. On foot, the hike was a substantial one, but he'd left his car in Paris. So it was that he walked down the streets of Seacouver without really seeing anything, just hoping that, after all he'd had done to keep Mac in one piece, the Highlander hadn't managed to lose his head.

About an hour later, the neon-blue sign outside Joe's bar came into view, giving Methos a much-needed wash of relief. Although it was early, he knew Joe already would be there, probably working on Watcher business. He masked his tension beneath a passive expression and opened the door.

Joe was sitting at the bar, hunched over a laptop computer. He looked up as the immortal entered and, as always, Methos was fascinated to watch an entire spectrum of emotion cross Joe's face in a heartbeat. The Watcher seemed finally to decide on annoyance, just as Methos expected he would. He snapped shut the laptop and glared at his unexpected visitor.

"Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in," Joe said. "What are you doing here, Methos?"

Methos smiled slightly and took a bar stool across from Joe. "Good to see you, too. So, where's MacLeod?"

"After months without one word, all you have to say is 'Where's MacLeod'? There is such a thing as keeping in contact with your friends."

Methos shrugged. "You knew where I was. It's not like I sold my house and vanished. That honor belongs to someone else, this time."

Joe broke eye contact with an almost guilty look and pulled two glasses from under the bar. Methos relaxed. If Joe was offering him a drink, that meant he'd recovered from his initial surprise and was ready to be cooperative.

Joe pulled out a bottle of scotch and poured. "When Mac got back, the first thing he did was sell the dojo. Too many memories of Richie, I guess. He bought an old, out-of-the-way church outside of town and has kept himself busy by renovating it into cabin."

"Nice of him to tell me. It was quite a surprise to find the dojo empty." Methos lifted the glass and drained it.

"It's not like you haven't pulled the same stunt, Adam," Joe said.

"I know, but I'm different. Mac is not the type to pull a disappearing act. I am."

Joe leaned forward to refill Methos' glass, and the immortal recognized the concern in the Watcher's eyes. Apparently pulling a Houdini wasn't Mac's only stunt recently. Whatever the Highlander had been up to, it had worried his Watcher more than a little. Methos thought that maybe his visit was long overdue.

Joe leaned over and began rummaging under the bar. He reappeared a few moments later with a long object wrapped completely in cloth, but Methos didn't need him to uncover the object to know what it was.

Mac's sword. The idiot Highlander was running around Seacouver with no protection. Methos softly ran his fingers over the wrapping and turned down one end of the cloth to reveal the hilt. He ran his fingers over the carved white dragon and looked up at Joe with an expression than needed no words.

Joe lifted his arms in a gesture as if to say it wasn't his fault. "Hey, I tried to to talk him out of leaving it here, but he's one stubborn son of a bitch."

"What happened, Joe? I thought he'd accepted Richie's death and moved on."

"I think he is over Richie," Joe said, watching Methos' fingers explore the hilt. "But sometimes Mac reaches a point where he just wants out of the Game for a while. It's happened before."

"Mac wants out, and you've been keeping his sword under the bar?"

Joe sighed. "Look, Methos, you have to help him."

Every time MacLeod suffered from a fit of self-loathing, it seemed that Methos was the one to slap him out of his foolishness. He briefly wondered how the Highlander had managed to survive this long. Methos re- covered the hilt and ran a hand through his hair. This would not be easy, but someone needed to make Mac see reason.

"All right, Joe. I'll go see him," he said.


"But I could use a ride."

Methos was surprised to see how far out of town Mac's newest project was. After turning off a two-lane highway in desperate need of repairs, they followed a dirt road for a couple miles before finally ending up at the back of a large, ornate church with a lake stretching out behind it.

"Mac certainly knows how to pick a good spot," Methos said admiringly.

"Yeah, I'm think it was a popular retreat for the upper class about twenty years ago, before it fell out of use. But he didn't chose it for the scenery," Joe said.

Methos nodded. "Holy ground. At least Mac hasn't lost all his good sense."

Joe pulled up next to Mac's Thunderbird, and Methos felt the familiar presence of the Highlander -- and someone else. Mac had company, and it was someone with a long lifeline. He resisted his first instinct -- to tell Joe this wasn't such a good idea and get the hell out of there -- and firmly reminded himself that he was safe on holy ground. It was probably just Amanda, anyway.

"Methos, what is it?" Joe asked, reading the sudden alarm in the other's expression.

Methos quickly masked his concern the best way he knew how; he slipped into the guise of Adam Pierson and looked at Joe with his most innocent expression. It was a dirty trick, Methos knew, but Joe tended to trust Adam more because he'd known him long before he had met Methos the immortal.

"Nothing's wrong. I, uh, just sensed MacLeod, and it caught me off guard. That's all."

Joe seemed to buy the story, making Methos relax the lie a little. Joe was worried enough, and there was no point in making it worse. Methos tightened his grip on MacLeod's sword and stepped out of the car before his friend could ask anything else.

"Thanks for the ride. I'll take it from here."

Joe nodded. "Good luck."

Methos walked toward the church as Joe pulled out and drove back down the mountain. He then dropped his guise, knowing MacLeod would pick up on the change and immediately go on guard. He approached the church, and the Highlander already was waiting in the open doorway.

Methos stopped and absorbed the changes that the past few months had taken on his friend. He was regrowing his hair, which was barely brushing his shoulders, and he looked more at peace with himself than Methos thought he'd ever seen the other immortal. Methos almost envied him.

"Methos," MacLeod said as way of greeting.

"Mac. Nice place you have here."

MacLeod's eyes glanced at the bundle in Methos' hand, and he scowled. "You've been to see Joe."

"Well, how else was I going to find you?"

Methos reached the doorway and let himself passed MacLeod into a large, rather rustic looking living room. He noticed a stack of paints and tools pushed into one corner -- the renovation obviously was not yet complete. There was no sign of the mystery immortal, though. Then Methos heard a toilet flush. The other would come out soon enough.

He also noticed that his favorite couch from the loft was sitting in the center of the room, just waiting for him to stretch out his tired limbs and unwind. It looked so inviting, especially after tromping through the city all morning -- but he couldn't accept the invitation yet. Business came first.

Mac shut the door and walked around Methos, meeting him face to face. "What are you doing here?" he asked.

Methos wondered why that always was the first question out of everyone's mouth. One might think he never stopped by for social calls. "Oh, I just came by to visit for a few weeks. Maybe I'll even wait around to watch your Quickening. It should be spectacular, and, if I don't miss my mark, I won't have to wait too long."

"I need to have a talk with Joe," Mac muttered as he sat in a living room chair. "And I'm not going to die."

"So, is that the lucky contestant in there?" Methos nodded toward the bathroom. "Nice of you to let him relieve himself before the fight."

"Theodore and I are friends. He would never take my head."

Methos set Mac's sword on the couch and glared at MacLeod until the other immortal met his gaze. When he spoke, his tone was low and intense. "You are playing a very dangerous game, MacLeod. You can't afford to trust anyone."

Methos heard the bathroom door click open and turned, expecting to see a new face, but the one that greeted him was all too familiar. He was an unusually big man and had a faint scar across his neck. Methos simply stared at him, trying to place him. If the hair were slightly longer and he grew a beard, he'd look just like --

Oh, gods preserve me.

Theodore took one look at Mac's visitor, drew his sword and determinedly advanced on Methos.

"I can't believe you're still alive, you bastard," Theodore spat, pointing his sword at Methos. "But I can fix that."

Methos quickly backed away and put the couch between him and his assailant; MacLeod simultaneously jumped to his feet, ran to Theodore and grabbed his sword arm, yelling the whole time.

"Theodore! Stop! This is holy ground!"

Methos ducked under his attacker's swing and dashed for the door. His heart pounded so hard he was sure the other two immortals must be able to hear it. Then he noticed that they still were locked together, Mac using every ounce of his strength to wrest Theodore's sword away.

Methos knew this might be his only chance to escape. "Maybe I'll come back some other time, MacLeod," he said, "when you don't have company."

Mac gave one last yank at the sword, and it came loose into his hands. As Theodore yelled in frustration, Mac turned to the doorway only to find it empty. Methos was gone.

Joe returned to the bar and found a young man sitting patiently at the front door, waiting for the return of the owner. Joe recognized him. His name was John Baker, and he'd been assigned to watch Theodore. But what was he doing in Seacouver?

"Hey, John!" Joe said as he got out of his car. "How's it going?"

The other man stood, walked to Joe and extended his hand for a shake, which Joe readily accepted. "I'm doing well. I just got into town yesterday and thought I'd stop by and say hi."

"I'm glad you did," Joe said, guiding the younger man toward the bar. "So, is Theodore in town?"

"Yeah, he's here visiting MacLeod," John said. When Joe's eyes widened in surprise, he added, "You didn't know? He's in town to help MacLeod finish his renovations. In fact, he's up at the church right now."

Joe almost lost his balance and had to grab at John's arm to keep from falling. Theodore was at Mac's cabin? Methos must have known there was someone else there, and he didn't say anything. And he went in anyway?

"Whoa, Joe. Are you OK?" John asked as Joe steadied himself.

"I'm fine. So, were you up at the church today?" They reached the front door, and Joe unlocked it as he spoke, hoping he wasn't showing his nervousness.

"Yeah, but I left a couple hours ago."

Joe breathed a sigh of relief. If he had left that long ago, he hadn't see Joe and Methos. At least that was one worry off his mind.

The two sat at the bar, and Joe began making small talk -- the weather, John's flight -- anything to avoid talking about immortals. He was afraid that John would notice something was wrong if they came back to the subject of Theodore and Mac.

After a couple hours and a few beers, they were interrupted by the front door opening. Joe turned to see MacLeod walk in, and the immortal looked worried. He glanced back at John, who was staring at Mac in shock. This is not good, Joe thought.

"Dawson, have you seen --" He stopped when he saw John. "Sorry, I didn't know you had company."

"Um, no problem, Mac. I'd like you to meet John, a friend of mine. John, this is Duncan MacLeod."

John shook his head in disgust and stood. "Thanks for the beers, Joe. I have to go." Without another word or look at MacLeod, he grabbed his coat and stormed out of the bar.

Joe breathed out explosively. "Well, it's not like the Watchers don't know we're friends already, but I think John just lost some respect for me," he said. "So, Mac, what's up?"

"Have you seen Methos?"

"Not for several hours. What happened?"

MacLeod sat down as Joe went to the bar and poured him drink. Mac related the story, leaving out nothing, and when he finished, he stood and began pacing the bar, his drink forgotten in one hand. It had been several hours since Methos had vanished and Mac had come to town, leaving Theodore at the church. MacLeod was torn between annoyance at the immortal's abrupt departure and worry that maybe he'd met a mishap -- one that carried a blade.

"Mac, will you please sit down? Pacing won't bring him here any faster," Joe said.

MacLeod rejoined Joe and finished his drink. He gripped the glass so hard that it cracked in his hand, and he set it on the bar with an guilty look. "Sorry, Joe."

"For what? The glass or your impatience?"

"I just wish I knew where he was." He paused. "I've never seen Theodore so furious."

"Adam will show up when he's ready. Don't worry, Mac. He can take care of himself."

As Joe finished talking, Mac felt the distinctive presence of Methos, and he thought he'd maybe never been so happy to sense another immortal. A moment later, old man walked in. He didn't miss a beat as he saw MacLeod, and his stride was slow and steady as he crossed to the bar. He was wearing that damned blank expression again, which, Mac knew, meant he had something to hide.

"Took you long enough," Mac said.

Methos sat next to MacLeod and shot him a withering look. "I'd like to see you walk down that mountain any faster. I think I made pretty good time."

"What's with you and Theodore, Methos? You owe me an explanation."

Methos met MacLeod's eyes, and Mac was sure he saw a trace of anger flicker across the hazel depths, but it vanished so quickly that Mac wondered if it had been his imagination.

"I owe you nothing, MacLeod."

"I saved your head from a nasty death on holy ground," Mac said. He saw Methos' resolve begin to crumble as the older immortal broke eye contact. He decided to push a little harder. "You can't tell me you don't know him. It didn't work with Cassandra, and it won't work now."

He sensed the older man's surrender as he looked back at MacLeod and sighed. "His name isn't Theodore," Methos said. "It's Theodorus, and he was a Trojan."

"And," Mac prompted.

An evil smile crossed Methos' face, a relic of a life he'd long since left behind. If the Highlander wanted the truth, he'd more than oblige.

End of part 1

Posted October 5, 1998