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 2

Troy, 1176 B.C.

Methos ran through the gates of Troy, his sword drawn and thirsty for Trojan blood. Any Trojans who looked into his eyes found themselves frozen in fear from the icy fire that burned there, and they knew this was a man who cared only for the kill.

Methos hurried past the wooden horse that stood burning just inside the city walls, throwing sparks onto nearby houses and setting them on fire. With a small flicker of glee, he noted that the whole city soon would be consumed in flames. The Trojans deserved it for 10 years of sitting outside their stinking walls. Oh, but they had provided a glorious war.

He saw a troop of Trojan soldiers rushing madly toward the gate to close it before more Greek soldiers could fight their way into the city. Time for a little fun, he thought as he hurried to intercept the troop. He killed two before the men even realized they were under attack. He rammed his sword into a third poor bastard up to the hilt and threw the body into the face of another soldier. The man yelped in surprise, giving Methos just enough time to slice his throat.

More Greek and Trojan soldiers joined the fray. Methos was reveling in the warm blood spilling over his hands and armor, losing himself in the moment, when he felt a slow chill crawl up his back and invade every fiber of his body. An immortal was near.

He scanned the square in search of the culprit, who must surely offer better sport than the regular Trojan fodder. He saw a man standing not far away, still as a statue and franticly looking through the chaotic mess of people. The man was huge -- at least 7 feet tall with powerfully built shoulders and arms. Still, a man that big would be slow on his feet and, therefore, easy pickings. Methos advanced on the giant, pushing Greek and Trojan soldiers alike out of his way.

He stood face to face with the man and raised his sword to fighting stance. "I am Methos, and you are dead," he said.

"I am Theodorus, and I have no fight with you," the man said in a deep voice. "I only wish to end this slaughter."

Methos sneered. If this man hated battle, what was he doing here? The idiot was about to pay for his folly. "Stop the slaughter? That will be difficult without your head."

He pressed into the attack, hoping to take Theodorus by surprise. The giant man warded off Methos' fury of blows, but his movements were clumsy and haulting. Methos wondered if he'd found a relatively young immortal who still couldn't handle a sword with a sense of style. That might mean the Quickening would be small, but he could live with it. He'd gone almost the whole war without a Quickening and hungered to feel the power surge through his body.

Under Methos' attack, Theodorus slowly backed away, and when he reached the edge of the square, he backed into a house. Methos laughed in delight as he cornered the other immortal behind a table. There was only one door out of this building, and Methos controlled it. He relished the terror that grew in his opponent's eyes as Theodorus realized he was trapped.

Methos disarmed Theodorus with one quick stroke of his sword and kicked the weapon out of reach. Now that the giant wasn't going anywhere, Methos' felt an urge to kill this man slowly and enjoy the experience. He sliced across the immortal's exposed neck with a light flick. Theodorus gasped and raised one hand to his wound, trying to stop the steady flow of blood. This is going to be fun.

Through his battle haze, Methos began to feel uncomfortably hot. He looked toward the ceiling and was greeted by the sight of flames that were spreading quickly and beginning to erode the support beams that held the house together. If he judged right, the house would collapse any moment, leaving both immortals trapped to burn to death.

Methos scowled at the inconvenience. He didn't have time to kill his opponent and absorb the Quickening before the fire finished its work. He'd have to settle for the next best thing.

With a grim smile, Methos sliced his sword down Theodorus' hamstring, forcing the other immortal to his knees with a strangled cry of pain. That wouldn't heal for several minutes, giving Methos time to escape. He saluted and ran out of the house just as the roof creaked and snapped, throwing itself down completely on the unfortunate immortal within.

Methos returned to the battle with a thirst for more death, but he re- entered the square and found the fight was over. Dead bodies littered the ground, and Greek soldiers were beginning to loot what houses were still standing. The promise of Trojan riches didn't appeal to the immortal, so Methos just stood and watched as the Trojan horse shot high flames and smoke into the sky, obliterating the rising sun.

Present Day

MacLeod stared at Methos with an expression akin to disbelief. "I can't believe you did that," he said.

Methos shrugged. "You know who I was back then. Did you think Cassandra was the only immortal I tortured?"

"I'd want your head, too, if I were Theodore."

Methos sensed that although Mac talked as though he were angry, he was accepting what Methos had told him. This was going much better than the last time he had been forced to share his bloody past with the Highlander, but he still would have to give Mac some time to think about what he had said. He decided that now would be a good time for an exit.

Methos finished his drink, pulled on his coat and grabbed the duffel bag he'd left at the bar that morning. "Well, as much as I enjoy reliving the good old days, I must be going. Thanks for the drink, Joe," he said, and Joe nodded. He looked at Mac, who was staring into his own drink in an effort to avoid looking at Methos. "See you around, Mac."

MacLeod mumbled something too low for the older immortal to hear as Methos left the bar. His departure would give Mac time to talk with Joe, and that always seemed to make the Highlander feel better.

It was completely dark as he walked toward downtown and the promise of a hotel. He'd even welcome a hard mattress. A good night's sleep, some food and maybe he would begin to feel a little more like himself again.

Maybe coming to Seacouver wasn't such a good idea. Methos decided that his best course of action was to stop by Joe's early the next morning to say goodbye and catch a plane back to Paris. Or maybe somewhere a little warmer, like Hawaii. Methos always had liked Hawaii, where all those women in grass skirts insisted on draping lays around you neck.

He was drawn from his thoughts by a faint shiver down his spine. Methos had the uncomfortable feeling of eyes watching him as he walked down the dimly lit streets, and the feeling grew stronger the longer he thought about it. After five thousand years, he'd learned to trust his instincts, so he slid into a dark alley and waited to see who was following him. The sensation came only seconds later. He drew his sword from under his coat, taking scant comfort from its cold hilt, and pulled back farther into the shadows.

A giant figure came into view at the alley's mouth with sword drawn. Damn! He must have followed MacLeod to the bar. All that trouble to avoid Theodorus, and he had found Methos anyway. Well, no point in running from the inevitable. Methos stepped into view and faced what was to come.

John Baker crept along a few dozen yards behind his assignment, keeping Theodore just barely in view. He really hadn't been that surprised when he'd left Joe's bar and had seen a familiar car across the street. It made sense that if MacLeod came here, Theodore would follow.

So, John had found a good hiding spot and waited. A couple hours later, a man he recognized as Adam Pierson, an ex-Watcher, had entered the bar. He'd walked back out after a while and headed toward town on foot. Theodore had gotten out of his car to follow, so John had little choice but to tag along.

John couldn't understand what an immortal would want with Pierson. The guy hadn't ever been out in the field, settling for the more boring, safe occupation of searching for the legendary Methos in books. John remembered meeting Pierson once at a formal dinner. He was nice enough, but he had been too reserved for John's liking.

In the distance, John saw that Theodore had stopped and produced a sword from somewhere under his coat. "What the hell?" he muttered quietly as he moved closer. The immortal was standing at the entrance to an alley and was looking hard into its depths.

"Methos!" he boomed. "Methos, come out."

"Talk a little louder, and you'll attract an audience," said a smooth voice from the alley. John recognized the British accent as belonging to Pierson. "Is that what you really want, Theodorus?"

Methos? John could hardly believe his ears. Adam Pierson was Methos? But he used to be a Watcher! That wasn't not possible.

Theodore raised his sword and moved forward. John risked moving closer, just peeking into the alley, and was greeted by the sight of Pierson with a sword in his hands. He held it like an experienced fighter. John pulled a small video camera from his coat and started taping.

Then the opponents clashed swords, and John found himself torn on who to root for. He'd watched Theodore for three years and wanted him to live, but he also wasn't willing to lose the greatest discovery of the century. But whether Pierson lived or not, John was going to tell everyone.

Methos struggled to hold his own against the powerful onslaught of blows from Theodorus. The giant had obviously picked up a few tricks over the past few centuries, and he had learned to put his strength to good use. He was still slow, though, and Methos knew that might be his only advantage -- one he had to exploit soon.

Ducking under a blow aimed for his neck, Methos slipped around the bigger man, intending to strike the fatal blow from behind. Theodorus turned just enough to throw off the angle of Methos' swing, and it slashed across the back of his shoulder. Theodorus howled in pain and took a blind swipe at his opponent, which Methos easily avoided.

Good, Methos thought. His opponent was getting angry, and angry fighters made mistakes. He decided to press his advantage and sliced across Theodorus' belly while the other immortal still was recovering from his last failed swing. Blood began to seep from the gash and Theodorus dropped his sword with a painful groan.

Methos didn't hesitate. He swung hard and fast at Theodorus' neck and watched as the head rolled away and the body collapsed onto the pavement. He felt a brief moment of regret and wondered what MacLeod would say next time they met. Then, the Quickening hit him, and all thoughts were driven from his head.

John watched the duel through the lens of his camera, and then the Quickening came. It was bigger than any the Watcher had ever seen, shooting lightning high into the night sky, almost making the alley as bright as day. John suspected that most immortals would scream in pain with that much power surging through their bodies, but Pierson just moaned and moved smoothly with each strike. The man must have the largest capacity of any immortal who ever lived.

Then it was over. Pierson dropped to his knees, his sword sliding unnoticed from his fingers. John flipped the stop button on his camera, stuffed it in a coat pocket and left Pierson to his recovery. That lighting storm was sure to attract notice, and John didn't want police to peg him as a witness for some mysterious electrical outage.

He returned to the parking lot outside Joe's bar and climbed into his car. The tape had to go into the right hands immediately. He couldn't give it to Joe, that was certain. Pierson was his good friend, and the Watcher probably knew who he was and protected his identity. That would make sense considering MacLeod's corruptive influence and the revolting display earlier that evening. So, where to take it?

After a few minutes more thought, John started his car and drove straight to the airport. Three hours later, he was on a flight to Denver -- and Watcher headquarters for North America.

Methos returned to Joe's bar the next afternoon. He'd slept all morning, giving up on any plan to catch an early flight to Paris. After all, his reason for leaving was now a headless corpse, so he was in no hurry. He might even hang around MacLeod's for a few days, assuming Mac forgave him for killing a friend. Not like he had a choice, and it was no worse than what the Highlander had done to Byron.

Methos entered the bar to find Joe and Mac huddled around Joe's laptop, twin expressions of worry on their faces. MacLeod hadn't even looked up when Methos entered, which meant he must really be upset. Time to break the ice a little, Methos thought.

"Don't tell me," he said, "you have finally discovered the Playboy site."

Joe looked up at him. "Methos, thank god. Are you OK?"

Now he really knew something was wrong. "Why would I not be OK, Joe?"

"You've got to look at this," Mac said, beckoning for him to join them at the laptop.

Methos complied, and Joe and Mac moved away so he could get a better look. It was an e-mail message from Watcher headquarters to every Watcher in the world. Methos figured it must be important if the organization was broadcasting it across every continent.

He started to read.

URGENT. To all watchers:

It has come to our attention that the ex-Watcher known as Adam Pierson, who worked as a researcher on the Methos Chronicle, is none other than Methos himself. One of our field agents recorded his fight with another immortal and the Quickening that came after.

We suspect that Pierson will attempt to disappear as soon as he receives word that we know his true identity. All watchers are ordered to keep watch for this immortal. He is too important to lose again.

Tom Johnson, coordinator of the North American bureau

Methos read the message again, and again. He mentally kicked himself for being so careless. Of course there would have been a Watcher, and Theodorus had called him by his true name. He looked up at Joe and MacLeod in alarm.

"Don't say anything yet," Joe said. "There's more."

Joe punched a key, and a new message appeared on the screen, this one addressed directly to Joe.

Joe Dawson,

You are required to report immediately to North American Watcher headquarters regarding the issue of Adam Pierson. Do not attempt to contact Pierson or tell him what has happened. I expect you in my office by tomorrow morning.

Tom Johnson

Methos closed his eyes and tried to regain control of himself. Having his own identity revealed was not that big a deal -- he'd been a known immortal at various times in his past, and it always had been a matter of time before he was discovered again. But now he had put Joe in danger, and he worried for his friend's future with the Watchers.

"What will you do?" he asked softly.

Joe shrugged. "I take the next flight to Denver, and tomorrow morning, I deny that I ever knew the truth." He paused and looked hard at Methos. "What will you do?"

Methos sat down and collected his thoughts. Joe had just asked the million-dollar question, and although Methos knew the necessary course of action, he didn't look forward to it.

"Now that the Watchers know, it's only a matter of a few days before word begins to spread among the immortals. When they discover that Methos the myth actually exists, they'll be fighting each other to take my head. So, it appears that despite the Watchers' order that I be kept in sight at all times, I'm going to have to disappear. Adam Pierson is about to have a fatal accident, I think, and then I go someplace where no one can find me."

He looked Joe in the eye to gauge his reaction. He knew Joe understood what that meant -- no contact, perhaps for several years, or longer. If Methos was to vanish without a trace, it had to be complete.

Joe nodded in resignation, but MacLeod did not accept as easily. "What do you mean disappear? You mean just vanish off the face of the earth? It can't be serious enough for that."

Time for a lesson in the hazards of immortality. Methos switched into lecture mode and turned to the Highlander.

"Why do you think I've lived so long, MacLeod? It's because I know that the world changes, and I accept it. People change, places change, situations change. If you don't change with them, you lose your head."

"How can you be so damn calm about it?" Mac asked.

Methos narrowed his eyes and forced Mac to meet his gaze. His voice was tinged with sadness. "Do you think this doesn't hurt? Do you think I want to leave? I know that I might never see Joe again. Or you or Amanda, for that matter. But I put you in danger if I stay. I'm doing this for my own head, yes, but I'm also doing it for all of you." He paused. "MacLeod, you made me realize that there are things that matter more than my own life. You and Joe rank at the top of my list, and I won't risk either of you to satisfy what I want."

Satisfied that he had convinced MacLeod, Methos turned his attention back to Joe, who had grabbed Methos' bag and held it out to the immortal. Methos took it and pulled Joe into a hug.

"Take care of yourself," Joe said.

"You, too."

Methos pulled away and extended his hand to MacLeod for a shake, deciding the other immortal probably would throw him across the room if he tried to hug him. But instead of taking his hand, Mac reached out and pulled Methos to him in an embrace strong enough to hurt Methos' ribs.

"Be careful, my friend," Mac said, his voice rough with emotion.

Methos tried hard to control his own emotions and failed miserably. He couldn't keep the tremor out of his voice any longer. "Take care of your head. I do hope to see you again, MacLeod."

Methos was the first to back out of the hug. He smiled in what he hoped was a reassuring manner and, without a backward glance, left the bar. He knew he would be followed to where ever he decided to go, but it shouldn't be too hard to lose a Watcher. With any luck, the immortal community would overcome its initial shock at learning of his existence and stop hunting for him within a few years. And then he could return here, to this place, to his friends.

The sky clouded over and began to weep as Methos walked away. It was fit.

The end

Continue to The Hitchhiker

Posted October 5, 1998