The Hitchhiker

Part 2 of the New Beginning cycle

by Jennifer Campbell

I do not own the character of Methos and have no affiliation with the show "Highlander: The Series." The character of Lindsey Allen is my own; please ask for permission before using her. This story is all in good fun with no harm intended. I don't make any money off this, unfortunately.

A big thanks goes out to my beta, Farquarson.

This story is the second in a cycle and will make more sense if you read Life is All About Change first, but it's not necessary. This story stands on its own.

The sun slowly sank behind the thick Carolina forests, and the hitchhiker emerged. He walked slowly by the interstate with wide, careless strides, his back to the last rays of light.

Occasionally, he held out his thumb to a random car, but none stopped for him, and he was not surprised. He portrayed a sinister image: dark hair and pale skin -- giving him the countenance of the undead under the headlights -- a long, black trench coat and a backpack slung over his shoulders. Only the bravest souls chanced a meeting with this dark man, and no brave souls, apparently, drove the interstate this night.

That did not faze the hitchhiker. He trusted his feet more than another's driving, and walking allowed his mind to examine, sort his life, relive his past. Drivers tended to make conversation, asking trivial questions about where he was from or what he did for a living. He dreaded such questions because every answer he gave was a lie. He was so tired of lying.

He shied from sharing his past with strangers; and as for his identity, well, that was even more sensitive. He had done many things in his life -- soldiery, politics, medicine -- but he never had thought of himself as a soldier, politician or doctor. He somehow belonged to all professions and to none. The same held true for his origins. No one country or city could ever mark his place in the universe because none carried the comforting label of home.

He also had worn many names, but none ever defined who he was; he shed them at convenience like a snake slips its skin, becoming someone new and unrecognizable when necessary. Most recently, he had gone by the name of Adam Pierson, an unassuming English graduate student. But he was not English, or a student -- not anymore. Adam Pierson had outlived his usefulness several weeks ago, when the Watchers had discovered his true identity, effectively unmasking him to the world. Pierson's true name, his exposers said, was Methos, a 5,000-year-old man of great power; a man whom others would risk their lives to kill. But Methos knew himself only as man already beyond the reach of death, who had lost himself among his own personas several centuries ago. Methos felt as though he had no identity without his masks, and the Watchers had stripped all the masks away, leaving him naked and alone.

So it was that he had left Seacouver with no destination, wandering from town to town, searching for a sense of self and a fresh start. Somewhere, he knew, was a new life for him, but he had yet to find it. Everything seemed so hollow and meaningless because he had no one to live for but himself. For thousands of years, he'd told himself that survival came before friendship, and he'd even believed the lie until he had walked out of Joe's bar without a backward glance. He had severed ties to everyone and everything Adam Pierson had cared about, and now there was nothing.

Feeling like a ghost with an impossibly heavy past and no future, Methos mechanically set one foot in front of the other, hoping that this road might lead him back to himself and away from despair.

Lindsey Allen considered herself the typical American girl -- whatever her grandmother instructed her not to do, she promptly did. When Lindsey was a child, Grandmother told her not to climb the giant oak tree in the front yard, and Lindsey fell and broke her leg while reaching for the highest branch. The cast came off, and she was in the oak a few moments later, determined this time to reach the top.

As a teen-ager, Grandmother said she should not date Jason Snyder, and Lindsey inevitably ended up with a broken heart when he left her for someone prettier. At the time, Lindsey decided, with typical teen-ager logic, that it must be her hair that drove Jason away. Her long, mousy brown hair. So, despite Grandmother's warnings, she dyed the thick mass to a stunning platinum blond -- and it began falling out a few days later. Lindsey never dared to mess with her natural color again. Grandmother's idea of raising a child, Lindsey later realized, was to offer advice and then let her young charge from learn from her own mistakes.

After 23 years of ignoring Grandmother's advice, Lindsey thought maybe she would learn enough to pay attention to it, if only to keep from getting burned. But as she sped her Honda Civic down the interstate at 90 miles per hour, she realized some things never changed.

When Grandmother had called that morning and said she was in the hospital, she also had given Lindsey three pieces of advice. (1) If you come to Charlotte, wait until tomorrow morning. You're exhausted from finishing papers and final tests for the summer session, and you cannot drive in that condition. (2) Stop to rest every couple of hours, if only to stretch your legs. It will keep you alert. And, for heaven's sake, (3) don't stop for any hitchhikers.

Lindsey had hung up, packed a bag and jumped in the car about 20 minutes later. She drove for almost 12 hours straight, getting out of the car only occasionally for gas or food. The sun disappeared unnoticed behind her, and one thought circled through her mind: She had to see Grandmother. The old woman was her only family in an empty world, and she lay dying in a hospital bed, the cancer gnawing at her existence. Lindsey had to reach Charlotte before Grandmother surrendered the fight.

She finished her fourth cup of coffee and tossed the paper cup in the back seat. The caffeine hardly affected her body anymore, and she knew she either had to stop to rest or risk falling asleep at the wheel. She reluctantly slowed and pulled to the roadside, depressed the button that ignited her blinkers and relaxed into her seat. She was asleep almost before she closed her eyes.

Methos sensed the immortal before he saw her. But seeing was impossible in the dark and the torrential rain. He wiped his eyes with one hand and reached under his coat with the other. At first, he thought the immortal was another traveler on the road, but the sensation did not fade as cars sped by him. He grasped his sword but kept it hidden under the long coat; no need to over-react until he knew who he was facing.

The situation felt too much like Kansas City. He had walked aimlessly through downtown at 3 a.m. and suddenly had found himself in the midst of a challenge. "Prepare to die, Methos," the man had said, and Methos had shivered with panic as he heard his ancient name on the lips of a stranger. He usually fought with calculation and logic, testing his opponent and never revealing his true strength until the final blows. But panic had made him attack ferociously, withholding nothing.

He won, of course. He always did. Still, he could not escape his horror at his own lack of control. He had known immortals would hunt him from the moment he had read the e-mail informing all Watchers that ex- member Adam Pierson was Methos. He knew word of the myth made flesh would leak through the organization to at least a few immortals in a matter of hours, setting himself as the target in a deadly game of hide and seek.

Watchers were idealistic fools for believing their rules of noninterference would stop interaction between the Watchers and the watched. There were immortals like Michael Christian, whose Watcher, Rita, acted as his manager, telling him which opponents were vulnerable. And there were Watchers like Joe Dawson, who could not abandon a friend who came asking for information. Too many knew of Methos' existence now, and, more important, they knew his face.

Still, this night, he had no escape route, nowhere to run to. So he walked cautiously through the rain and furtively looked in all directions for the mystery immortal.

He dimly saw blinkers a few dozen yards ahead -- a car pulled off the road. He became certain the immortal was the car's driver as he came closer, but he also realized that his prey would not know an armed foe stood outside the window. It was no immortal but a pre-immortal he was tracking.

Methos relaxed, releasing his sword as he peered in the passenger-side window. The woman in the driver's seat was not pretty, but young and handsome. And she was so still, her chest barely rising with each breath. If he did not know better, he might have thought the woman were dead. But he knew she was only asleep -- not for long, however. Methos was tired of walking in the rain.

He pounded on the window, and the woman awoke. She rolled down the window about a half-inch and yelled into the night. "Who's there?"

For lack of a better idea, Methos assumed the guise of Adam Pierson. People tended to instinctively trust Pierson, at least more than they would trust a confused and depressed immortal. He granted her an open smile and made a show of wiping his soaking hair from his forehead.

"Are you OK in there?" he asked.

The window rolled down a little more, and Adam moved close enough that the woman could see his face. Her startled expression faded, and she nodded.

"Good," Adam said, smiling. "I thought you might be hurt. Not many people pull off in the middle of nowhere for a nap."

The window came down the rest of the way, and Adam allowed himself a small surge of satisfaction. She was so trusting, so innocent -- traits she would have to lose after her first death.

"What are you doing walking in the middle of nowhere?" she asked.

Adam shrugged. "I don't own a car, so it seems the best way to move from place to place." He paused for a moment and smiled. "Well, I guess if you're OK, I'll be going."

He made a show of turning back to the rain with a resigned sigh. As he expected, he heard the woman's voice calling him back before he had walked two steps. He returned to the window and assumed a slightly confused expression.

"Would you like a ride?" she asked.

"That would be great."

She opened the door, and he settled in as she started the car. Life seemed more bearable from the other side of the windshield, and he did not even mind the mindless chatter he knew was his ticket to keeping his seat. Talking would distract him from the problems that seemed heavier with each step through the rain. And wearing the identity of Adam Pierson, even if only for a few hours, pushed his search for a new life to the back of his mind.

As long as she did not fly off the road and kill them both, this could be a decent night.

Lindsey did not mind silence. In fact, she sometimes craved silence, especially when the stress of classes and work became too much to bear. But this man's stillness sent chills up her spine. He kept his hands folded carefully in his lap while rain water dripped from his coat onto the floor of her car with a steady rhythm. But he did not make a sound or even move. It was eerie. She had to draw him from his shell or pull to the roadside and throw him back to the storm -- but no more stillness.

"So, um, my name's Lindsey Allen," she said. He did not move. "What's your name?"

After a pause, the man seemed to pull himself back from his thoughts with effort and smiled softly at her, breaking the tension between them. "Adam Pierson," he said.

She smiled back. "Nice to meet you. Where were you going, Adam Pierson, that was so important that you'd walk in the rain?

He shrugged. "Where does this road go?"

"Charlotte is the next big city, about fourty-five minutes from here."

"Is that where you're going?"


"What is so important, Lindsey Allen, that you would drive all night through the pouring rain?"

His words jumpstarted her imagination again. She already could see the hospital in her mind's eye -- white-washed walls, doctors in spotless uniforms with their squeaky-clean hands. She shuddered to think of Grandmother in such a place. It was a prison, filled with those who were dying and those who yearned to leave.

"My grandmother is there, in a hospital," she whispered. "She ... doesn't have long."

Adam looked at her with so much compassion and pity that Lindsey thought she might begin to cry. "I'm sorry," he said. "Are your parents also there? In Charlotte?"

She pushed down the tears and focused her eyes on the thin white line separating lanes on the interstate. His eyes looked through her with so much understanding, and she did not need that just yet.

"No," she answered, surprised at the calmness of her voice. "I never knew my parents. My father died before I was born, and my mother died in childbirth. Grandmother is all the family I have. Well, she's not even really my grandmother. She adopted me when I was three years old." She paused and glanced at her passenger. "I don't know why I'm telling you this. I don't even know you."

"Sometimes, when life gets hard, we need someone to talk to, and we choose whoever we think will listen and understand."

His voice was so soothing, she found his words easy to believe. He sounded as though he spoke from experience. Still, it was not fair to saddle this stranger with her problems; he probably had enough problems of his own.

"Can we talk about something else?" she asked.

He nodded. "Of course. So, um, what do you do for a living, Lindsey?"

OK, this was a subject she could handle. "I'm a graduate student. I study archaeology."

"Really," he said, sounding genuinely interested. "Why did you choose that?"

"I don't know. I just think it's fascinating, learning about past civilizations, trying to find out what they were really like. Do you ever wonder what ancient Greece was like, Adam? Or Egypt?"

"Sometimes," he said. Out of the corner of her eye, she thought she saw him smile almost wistfully.

"You know, sometimes I wish that I had been there," she said. "I wish that I could live all through the ages and see what they were like. Just imagine meeting Julius Caesar, or Aristotle. We can only examine them with the perspective of how their actions shaped history, but I wonder what their contemporaries thought of them. I guess we'll never know."

He turned to look at her again, examining her so closely that she thought she must have something stuck to her nose. It almost seemed that he was reaching into her soul, but that was just silly. He probably thought she was crazy for even wondering such things. Only students lived in the type of atmosphere that caused such thinking.

"Let's say you own a time machine," he said. "You travel a thousand years into the future and join an archaeological dig where Charlotte stands today. And in that future, one of the archaeologists finds a calculator. They all think that this calculator is some amazing, primitive artifact, but to you, it's just a calculator because you remember when everyone owned one. Do you think, Lindsey, that the past would hold as much mystery and excitement if you had lived through the eras you studied?"

Adam's words surprised Lindsey. Here was this vagabond, walking down the highway at night, and yet he threw such an original idea at her. This Adam Pierson was more than a hitchhiker, she realized. He was intelligent and educated. His words made her think for a few moments in silence as the rain pounded against the windshield.

"I think," she said carefully, "I would not be searching for a mystery but for my origins. I still would dig and study and write, not to discover the unknown but to stop the past from fading away. It would be hard to go on living, knowing that everything I'd loved had been forgotten."

Adam looked out his side window without answering, and Lindsey wondered what she had said to kill their conversation just when it was getting interesting. She never got the chance to ask. A huge truck that had been driving the other direction suddenly spun out of control on the wet road. It swerved and tipped and then plowed across the median and rammed into Lindsey's little Honda Civic before she could react. The force crumpled her car like an empty soda can, and the last thing Lindsey remembered was the searing pain of her head smashing through the windshield. The world instantly went black, and she knew no more.

When Methos awoke, his first thought was that perhaps his head had been severed in the accident and this was the afterlife. He had expected to revive on the highway, but this place was absent of all light. He was in a small, confined space, alone and -- he realized with some amazement -- completely naked. This certainly was not heaven, but it could be his own personal hell. To spend eternity trapped and alone was no more than he deserved for his past crimes.

He breathed slowly and allowed his head to clear. He felt lightheaded, indicating a lack of oxygen, and he was freezing. This place was not hell; it probably was a compartment in a hospital mortuary, which meant he had been dead for quite some time. Long enough, at least, for paramedics to arrive and transport his body to a hospital, where, he was sure, they declared him dead on arrival. The damage to his body must have been extensive.

He gave up on escape after a few failed attempts to push open his compartment from within. He was having trouble breathing, and his attempts at thinking were like pushing through thick mud. He dimly knew that his little bit of oxygen soon would be gone, replaced by carbon dioxide, and he would suffocate, if he didn't freeze to death first. Well, this certainly would not be a pleasant death, but at least his convulsions should make enough noise to attract some attention and get him out of here.

The next time he awoke, Methos involuntarily gasped for air, filling his empty lungs. He opened his eyes and quickly glanced around his surroundings. Someone had laid him on a table in the mortuary and had promptly vanished, leaving the door to the hallway wide open. The doctor probably had taken one look at his body, panicked and left in search of a colleague to ask why this man had asphyxiated when the chart said he had died in a car crash.

Methos had no clue how long he had before the doctors returned, so he wasted no time. He located his clothes and sword lying on a nearby table and thanked some long-forgotten god for lazy hospital aides who were slow to give evidence to the police. His sweater, jeans and coat were mangled beyond repair, ripped and bloody. His broadsword, however, had survived the crash with hardly a scratch.

Then he noticed the other pile of bloody rags, and Methos remembered he had not been the only one in that car. Lindsey was somewhere in the morgue and most likely scared senseless. No matter what else happened that night, Methos knew he had to get her out of the hopsital.

Footsteps pounding down the hallway warned Methos that his time was up. He grabbed his sword and hid behind the door, and the two doctors ran in a moment later. They were out of breath and so transfixed by the now- empty table on which Methos had revived that they did not notice the immortal approaching from behind. He smashed the sword's hilt down on both men's heads, knocking them unconscious. He turned and quietly closed the morgue door.

Methos quickly dressed in the uniform of one of the men and stripped the other one. The extra set of clothes hung loosely from one hand as he methodically opened each compartment, searching for the new immortal. He found her behind the third door, her face as calm as he had first seen it through the car window. The peace was shattered as she awoke, her eyes wild with panic. Methos clamped a hand over her mouth before she could scream.

"Quiet," he whispered. "You're going to be fine."

She stopped struggling and went limp, but her eyes betrayed her fear. Methos pitied her, but he could not empathize. The vastness of time had wiped his own first death from his mind, but he still could help ease the transition for Lindsey. And with a startled revelation, he realized he wanted to help her. She had attracted him with her inquisitive mind and adventurous, passionate nature. He would grieve if some immortal ripped those qualities from the world with one stroke of the sword.

Methos slowly removed his hand from her mouth and helped her sit. "No questions -- not yet. Just put these on," he said, handing her the clothes.

She nodded and did as he asked without a word, the simple task dulling some of the panic in her eyes. Dressed in the pale green, loose uniform, she stood and looked to Methos expectantly. He finished wrapping his sword in a bundle of towels and grabbed his wallet from his coat pocket.

"We're going to walk out of here," he said, "but for that to work, you have to act calm. Do you understand, Lindsey? Just follow me and act like you belong here."

Lindsey took one deep breath. "You've done this before," she said, a statement more than a question. When he nodded, she breathed again. "OK, Adam Pierson, or whoever you are, but you better give me an explanation when we're out."

Methos opened the door and peaked around the corner. No hospital personnel were in sight, so he gestured to Lindsey and walked into the hallway. He did not know where he was going, but he walked quickly down the hallways without hesitation, and Lindsey walked beside him with assurance in her attitude. He had to admit that she would have made a great actress. They took a stairwell to the first floor, avoiding the crowded elevators, and followed exit signs out the front door.

"Have a good night, doc," said a guard at the entrance.

Methos smiled and nodded. "Thanks. You, too."

Once outside, with the sun low in the sky, Methos led Lindsey away from the building and into a nearby wooded park. She sat on a fallen tree trunk and ran her hands over her face and neck, an incredulous look on her face. Methos leaned against a tree and waited, giving her time to assure herself that she was uninjured and more important, that she was alive.

"We both should be dead," she said, fear once again creeping into her voice.

Methos sighed. He had introduced dozens of immortals to what they were, and it never became easier. He knew there was no point in pulling any punches. "You did die," he said quietly. "We both did. But one advantage of immortality is that you don't stay dead for very long."

"Immortality? Is this a dream?"

"It's no dream, Lindsey Allen. You said you wanted to live through the ages. Now you have your chance."

She just stared at him, speechless, so he began to explain: first death, holy ground, swords, beheadings. When he finished, she tore her eyes from his face and looked at the ground, seeing nothing. Every immortal reacted differently to the revelation of what they were -- anger, disbelief, joy -- but Methos could not remember one who answered with silence and thought. For several minutes, Lindsey did not move, and just when Methos began to worry, she returned her eyes to his intense gaze.

"What about Grandmother? I need to see her."

Methos knew this was the worst part of immortality: losing those he cared for, locking them away in some secret space in his heart where no one could ever dislodge them. And then, gradually, they faded from memory. Time heals all wounds, no matter how deep they cut, but new ones always wait around the next corner. That lesson took Methos several hundred years to learn. Lindsey, he knew, would not understand the necessity of leaving her grandmother and sustaining herself only with the memories. She was too young.

"Adam?" she asked, her tone small and scared. Methos didn't know how to answer, so he just looked at her. Tears began to form in her eyes. "I have to see her."

Methos looked away. "I'm sorry," he murmured.

"It's not fair," she whispered.<

"I know, but there will be others."

"If I live that long."

She retreated back into her silence, and Methos gave her time to control her emotions. She sniffed and wiped at her tears with one pale green sleeve. Her eyes once again met Methos', bloodshot and red but filled with determination. When she spoke, her voice was strong and steady.

"Will you teach me to fight?" she asked.

Her words surprised him. She didn't understand why she could not even say goodbye to those she loved, but she trusted him enough to accept his explanations as truth. Whether she realized it or not, Lindsey had just placed her life in his hands with one simple question. Few people ever made him such an offer. None had, in recent memory, except for maybe Joe and MacLeod, but even they were wary of the man hidden behind the mask of Adam Pierson.

A few years ago, Methos would have shied from taking a student. Students were dangerous because they needed protection until they could fight for themselves. And for Methos, a man who avoided caring for other immortals as a survival instinct, the greater danger was the threat of becoming too attached. He still could visualize MacLeod kneeling over Richie's lifeless body, sobbing. The Highlander had offered his own head because he had loved his student too well. Oh, yes, students were dangerous.

But Lindsey had offered something to him, as well, and Methos knew he would be foolish to refuse. She had offered him a purpose, something to live for, a reason to pull himself from self-pity and begin to live again. Adam Pierson might have died in that accident, but Methos the immortal went on, and he was needed. Lindsey Allen needed him, and, he realized, he needed her, too.

All this flashed through his mind in the span of a few rapid heartbeats. Then, his decision made, Methos stepped forward into his new role and a new life, as teacher to this newborn immortal. Perhaps, he thought, this would be fun.

He nodded, and she relaxed. "I will teach you," he said. "But first, we have a few loose ends to tie up. We both need new identities, and then we're leaving the country. I have a cabin in the Alps that would be a good training ground -- no immortals coming for your head until you're ready."

"Thank you."

For an answer, Methos offered his hand and pulled Lindsey to her feet, and they headed toward a nearby road in the fading light. Where one walked before, now there were two. Methos managed a genuine smile, a new purpose in his stride. For the first time in weeks, he felt hope that the future might hold more than death.

The end

Continue to A Life in Progress

Posted November 12, 1998

Updated Feburary 2, 1999