They always ask eventually.
He goes down to the sea every bright morning, to watch the shreds of fog tatter and drift away. This beach reminds him of no specific ocean, no specific age. He whispers snatches of Homer to himself, in the original, words he memorized to pull himself down into a new life. These fragments are about the sea, not love and brotherhood.
Alexa joins him when the fog has lifted. She's very thin now, but she drinks her tea obediently, and the Mediterranean sun has given her freckles on the bridge of her nose and a deceptive glow of color to her cheeks. "Let's go for a walk," she says, in that tone of challenge, as though she still expects him to deny her anything.
They walk along the wet sand, Adam dutifully placing himself between Alexa and the sea, in case of rogue waves. They hold hands, and Methos feels like a child in love, like his heart is breaking, and is infinitely grateful. "Tell me more about your research," Alexa says. "Did Methos ever come here?"
It's foolish, of course, but Methos can't bear not to share a small part of himself, even doled out in stories, layered behind Adam Pierson's enthusiastic half-informed lectures. "To Santorini?" He shrugs, grins, squeezes Alexa's hand. "There's no record. But maybe he was there for the volcano, can you imagine?"
Alexa's eyes sparkle. She doesn't believe in Methos; he's a series of interconnected stories, superstitions, a man whose immortality cannot hurt her because it is untrue. They speculate together, about the eruption, about Atlantis, about minotaurs and sailing ships, Adam's imagination matching Alexa's absurdity for absurdity. There is no ash to taste here, just the sun-bright salty air, and Methos is weak with gratitude and joy.
They stop for lunch uphill from the sea. Alexa picks at her sandwich, and her hands tremble, but there are no ghosts in her face. "So what does it mean?" she asks, with simple innocent curiosity.
"What, life?" Methos asks, laughing.
"Adam." She fixes him with a look. He laughs harder. Her face twitches into a smile. "No, silly. What does 'Methos' mean? It sounds Greek."
"It isn't." Methos squints out over the traffic and white buildings, all the life on this young piece of land. "Or, well, it could very well be a corruption of muthos, which is your Ancient Greek 'myth' right there, but that takes all the fun out of it, and -- I'm boring you to tears, aren't I?"
"No," Alexa assures him, laughing, her whole body trembling with it. "You're cute when you talk about ancient history. So what do you think it means?"
"Assuming it's an old Proto-Indo-European derivation -- and that's assuming, since our first records of Methos are Sumerian, which is a whole different can of linguistic worms -- there are at least a dozen possible combinations that could make sense and be the basis of the name." Alexa is still watching him, smiling, interested, and Methos relaxes. "The one I like best is Medhu-s -- 'medhu' means 'honey'."
Alexa's eyebrows go up.
"It would either be a pet name from his childhood," Methos explains, "or a joke about alcohol. 'Mead' has the same root."
Alexa starts to grin, that constantly-sought-after grin that lights her whole face and turns her into something ethereal and briefly eternal. "That fits him," she says, and for a wonderful fraction of a moment, Methos lives with the beautiful illusion that she knows him.
It will have to be enough.
"Helen of Troy," Joe says. The bar is empty, lights low, late-night blues playing soft on the radio and drifting out from Joe's office. They've exhausted Watcher falsification in the first century BC, Darius' invasion of Paris, and the Norman conquest.
"Not as attractive as they say," Methos replies, accepting the refill of his glass. "Good bearing. Nice smile. Average, in fact. She was a dumb kid in love, Joe; it was a political dispute. Menelaus wanted to save face. His face, specifically -- he didn't care that much about hers."
"Leave it to you to take all the romance out of a story," Joe grouses. "Next you'll be telling me there were no goddesses with apples, either."
"Oh no, that part's completely true," Methos says, straight-faced. Joe stares at him for a long moment, then whacks him glancingly across the shoulder, and Methos cracks up. "You make it too easy!"
"Man, I never know when you're pulling my leg," Joe says, shaking his head.
Methos considers a handful of remarks concerning the state of Joe's leg, but discretion is the better part of gallows humor at the best of times, so he merely takes a drink and says mildly, "Yeah, so they tell me."
"Okay." Joe leans forward, propping his chin on his hand, and scrutinizes Methos. "Maybe the problem here is that I have all the biased garbage in my head that I was fed growing up, so when you say Helen of Troy wasn't a babe, I have a lifetime of conditioning saying otherwise."
"Very astute of you," Methos says, sloshing the whiskey in his glass back and forth and watching it absently.
"So let's cover something I didn't hear in seventh-grade history, wiseass," Joe says, not without affection. "Let's have something about you, not those other people."
"Joe," Methos says, in some alarm, "I don't think --"
"Hey, no, this isn't Joe Dawson's tell-all session," Joe interrupts. "It's not 'Hey, pal, tell me where you were on June 23, 68 AD' or anything. How about something simple? I mean, where did you pick up your name?"
"Oh, Joe," Methos sighs. June 23, 68 AD was roughly two weeks after Nero had killed himself. Methos was packing his bags and getting out of Rome as fast as possible, because he'd been there, done that, and liked to avoid all the truly spectacular collapses. He's more than willing to tell that story, but that isn't what Joe asked. The awful thing about being friends with Joe Dawson is that, more often than not, Methos will give Joe what he asks for.
"Mee-dhes," he says, the word rolling off his tongue in an inflection that makes Joe blink and sit up straighter. "Roughly translated, 'he-who-cuts-the-gods-down-to-size'."
Joe snorts. "That's apt. But how --"
"I'll be a little more poetic about it, shall I?" Methos interrupts. "It means 'holy scythe-bearer', Joe."
Joe's face flickers through a catalogue of expressions, all of them laughably easy to identify: shock, aversion, remorse, embarrassment, a sort of calm acceptance. "Oh," he says. "Yeah, that's pretty straightforward."
"Yes," Methos says gently. "June of '68, on the other hand, was the month of Nero's suicide ..." and he pours Joe another drink in apology.
Smoke colors the horizon crimson above the dunes. Blood and ash and dust are all imbedded in the cracks of Methos' knuckles, under his nails, grit in the corners of his mouth. He ignores the small irritations, carefully picking the last of the stones from his mare's hoof and straightening to run an affectionate hand along her strong neck. She turns and butts her head gently against him in thanks. "My pale beauty," he murmurs.
A laugh splits the evening. Methos looks up to see his brother, out of his armor already, striding towards him with a bag of feed slung over one shoulder. "You're as bad as Silas," Kronos tells him. "Crooning over a beast of burden."
"And yet, you brought dinner," Methos observes, and returns Kronos' grin.
They feed the mare together, dusk deepening and the desert chill settling in around them. Between the tents, a fire flickers, and the scent of cooking meat seeped in the precious spices of their last raid drifts over on the faint breeze. Methos inhales contentedly but makes no move toward the fire.
"Tell me your thoughts, brother," Kronos says, in that voice meant for his ears alone.
"None," Methos replies. "We are safe; we are feared; a warm dinner awaits us. If you want a plan ..." He shrugs. "I hear Isuwa is very nice this time of year." For a moment he entertains the suggestion that they attend a city as guests, trade for fine carpets, their choice of wine, a new horse for Caspian, and women who would pretend compliance without the tedium of breaking them first. He imagines Kronos laughing at him. Where is the fun in that? Yes, where indeed.
But Kronos must read some of it on his face; Kronos knows him better than he knows himself, after all, and can sense all his hesitations, all his weaknesses, all those small moments when his mind is not in compliance with Kronos' will. "Tell me something else, then," Kronos says, and smiles, not the smile of delighted approval that Methos cherishes, but the other one, the one that still makes Methos' insides tremble a little, even after all these years. "Tell me," Kronos says, "how you came by your name."
The breath catches in Methos' throat at the audacity of it. For a moment he wants to yank Kronos' sword from its scabbard, press it cold against his own neck, and snarl There is all the answer you need. But they know each other too well for that game of false trust to mean anything between them. Kronos is not asking for Methos' body now. Methos' mind whirls with possibility.
"Think back, brother," he says softly. "Think back to the words you spoke when you were young, before the words were broken and corrupted by generations. Long ago, in seasons beyond count, I was walking along a road." He doesn't dare look, but he can feel the hunger in Kronos' gaze. "A man speared me through the chest to rob me of my clothes. He had taken my shirt and boots when I awoke and struck him down with his own spear, and as he lay dying, he gasped, 'Who are you?' And I said then what I've said forever since."
"What did you say?" Kronos breathes.
"Think back," Methos says again, gently. "I said me-dhes. 'I am God'."
A moment of silence. Then Kronos gives a peal of approving laughter and claps Methos hard on the back, his hand coming to a rest against Methos' neck, possessive. "And so you say now," he says. "But you are my god, Death."
Methos leans into the touch. "Yes," he says. "Of course I am."
They sit on the deck of the barge, the mid-afternoon July heat beating down on them. Methos has a mostly-empty, growing-warm beer, and Mac has iced tea, complete with a straw. He lounges there with the sun mirrored in his shades, and Methos is starting to drift into a pleasant doze.
"Can I ask you something?" MacLeod asks, the rumble of his voice merging with the hum of traffic along the Quai. It doesn't do much to rouse Methos, but he makes an effort to turn his head towards Duncan and make a sleepily affirmative noise. Duncan shifts fully upright and takes a sip of his tea. "You don't have to answer if you don't want to."
That wakes Methos up. "Gee, thanks, MacLeod," he says, and yawns. "What is it?"
"What does your name mean?" Duncan asks.
Doesn't demand. Doesn't assume. Just sits there, looking inscrutable in his sunglasses, the skin above the collar of his shirt beginning to go faintly pinkish. Methos takes a deep breath.
"I can't remember," he says.
Duncan takes off his sunglasses and examines Methos closely. Methos wishes he wouldn't do that. "Does it bother you?" MacLeod asks, and quickly, before Methos can decide what he means, adds, "That I call you Methos, does it bother you?"
"No." Methos doesn't even have to think about it. When Duncan says his name, it means things a thousand etymologies and derivations and clever puns could never say. "Doesn't bother me at all."
"I'll get you another beer, then," Mac says, levering himself upright. Methos nods contentedly and waves him away, but MacLeod stays standing there for a moment longer. "Thanks, Methos."
"What for?" Methos demands. "You're the one getting me a beer," and the smile he receives in answer is exactly the one he's been waiting for.