He stood on holy ground. The falling snow built little white caps on the cold gravestones, but where flakes fell on him, his body's heat liquefied them. He studied one headstone, in particular - an ending for him. He'd had them before, but this end was different.
He'd had no food or sleep for days when his tired horse finally galloped him onto the Earl of Rosemont's estate, but fury and grief had kept him strong. Behind him all of Scotland lay in broken ruins, women and children burned and gutted with the men in an attempt to wipe the Scottish race from the earth. The worst atrocities had been ordered by one man. That man now begged him for the life of his son.
"Let my son go. Let him go, and face me!" The pathetic mortal drew his rapier - a laughable weapon against a claymore.
He lifted the man's son - chubby faced English cherub, fat on the spoils of war and rape - and said, "That's right, boy. You run and tell every English boy you meet that Duncan MacLeod is coming for their fathers. You tell your children and your children's children that they're not safe from me."
Three centuries later, the grandchildren of those grandchildren, in a kingdom united with the Scots, held London together during the darkest hours of the Blitz with more courage than he had ever seen.
Joe had been there. Joe had emailed him that the funeral had been lovely. Intimate and dignified, with somber reflections on man's mortality. The deceased had been cut down in the prime of life, with everything to live for. A lesson for us all in appreciating the days that are given to us.
Nothing he hadn't seen before.
Life faded in him as he heard the voices of his clansmen outside, howling "Duncan! Duncan! Duncan MacLeod!" and then he knew only darkness. Until sound and smell returned. The soft popping of a fire that had died to embers in the rocks. The smell of smoke and hides and blood. Lots of blood. A woman's scream and then his father stood there, the beloved and revered face gone pale in horror.
"It is the work of the demon master of the world below! Fie, you're no bairn of mine. You're no' my son! You're no' my son!"
Terrified and heartbroken, stripped of everything dear to him, he was driven out of the only home he had ever known.
Not long after that, he'd met the most famous MacLeod of all, and together they had formed the immortal core of his own tiny clan.
Another immortal approached. He shivered minutely, but only because melting snowflakes were sliding down his neck. He stood on holy ground, and for once, there was more danger in being recognized by mortals than by immortals. Perhaps he shouldn't have come.
He had long ago learned not to allow the thought of losing to enter his psyche during a fight, but, dangling from the upper balcony of Vanderbilt Hall, with no sword, and Kalas poised above him for the death stroke, his focus became somewhat weakened. He lost it altogether at the sound of a woman's cry.
"Duncan!" Anne shrieked.
He knew then his only option, and all its consequences flashed through his mind in an instant.
"We'll meet again," he snarled, and let go, dropping free just barely in time to duck the beheading blow.
"Duncan!" echoed again in his ears as he fell to his death on the theater seats below.
"I couldn't handle another Tessa," he'd told Richie, as he'd walked away from his life and from the woman who loved him, forever. But a year later he'd delivered her baby, a beautiful daughter she'd wanted to share with him.
The other immortal did not reveal himself, and now the back of his neck prickled with the sensation of being watched. Of course, he thought grimly, he was always "watched." Feeling a bit self-conscious about being seen to visit this particular grave, he shifted his attention to the gravestone just to the right - the grave of the woman he'd shared the happiest years of his life with.
The moonlight shimmered on Tessa's classically beautiful profile no less than it did on the serene waters of the Seine. "I just want you to let yourself mourn," she said.
"I've buried more friends than I can count, Tess," Duncan replied, hunched against the chill of the night in his wool coat, watching, guarding. "Death is a part of my life."
She looked away, into the darkness, trying to see what he saw. He didn't know what he expected her to say, but it wasn't this:
"Not his death."
As she so frequently did, she had cut to his quick, the truth at the heart of his world.
Not his death.
"I know you'll never have another friend like Darius," she said, just before he sent his friend's ashes to travel to the sea, completing the ancient journey.
Not long afterward, he'd met the legend that was Methos. He became the first man to know him as Methos in millennia.
Only the world's oldest man could look so stately with strength and confidence, and at the same time so miserable with the cold. He wondered how Methos had known he had returned to Paris, and then he laughed gently at his own naivete.
He smiled as the man approached. "If you're here for my head, you'll have to wait until I leave holy ground," he said. They were the first words he'd spoken to his friend in some time.
"Not today, I think, Highlander," Methos said, his eyes warm with welcome. "It's too bloody cold."
"You'll have to stop calling me that," he said.
"I heard," said Methos. He said nothing further, but joined him in regarding the headstone.
The end is a mystery no-one can read.
Beside it was the headstone of Tessa Noel.
"What are you doing here?" asked Methos. "You've 'died' before."
"This time's different," he said, a little sheepishly.
Methos chuckled. "I'm proud of you. Are you going to let me know the new name? I'm sure you made a clean break - you aren't calling yourself Richie Noel, or Darius Little Deer or anything, right?"
"No, of course not." He looked around at the falling snow. "You look cold. Shall we go get a drink?"
Methos brightened. "There's a brilliant new pub just over there. They do something interesting with peppers . . ."
Methos left holy ground, followed by Richard Darius Connors, who wondered if it was too late to change his forged identity records.