What a strange creature you are ...
Ethan couldn't help but think it, sometimes, watching Methos move around him, watching the man ... creature ... man ... Watching the strange, quixotic thing that prowled through his life, peeling shreds of sticky paper off bottles of German beer, laughing and pricking at bubbles of conversation, this lounging, leonine, fragile being. Chaos, bound to static form, lightning in a bottle, but delicate, the lighter side of Chaos. The side Ripper had forgotten exists, the side Ethan himself had almost lost so many times. Whimsical. Delicate. Morose. Methos was often morose. Ethan almost found it charming. He's not sure why, when he's always hated that.
What a strange creature, then, to do this to him. An impossible being, dropped in his lap by pain, and fire, and blood. A gift from Chaos itself, thrown up from the flotsam of his shattered life, a burning phoenix flung into his path, searing him free of what had bound him. A wild, half-burned man, pale and furious, tearing through the soon-to-be ruins of the Initiative, catching Ethan up in his wake, tugging him free, and staring down at him in utter bewilderment when it was done. Blinking at him while lightnings stitched raw flesh back together, as if in all the madness and the whirl of Chaos around him, only Ethan had been unexpected. Only Ethan had been strange.
He still laughed at that, sometimes, half-choked and bright with fear. That of the two of them, he should be strange. That Methos, brought to him by Janus' mad fortune, by the liminal god himself as a doorway, as a beginning ... that Methos, poised between life and death, should look at him with that faint, creased bewilderment, and smile at the strangeness of him. But Methos did. Methos, ever-wondering, looked on him as some strange wonder that dropped in his lap, and Ethan couldn't help but be amused by that, couldn't help but let it tickle that part of him that delighted in the absurd.
What? Could he help it if he's easily amused?
Those first few weeks, he'd been almost too shattered to appreciate the absurdity, though. Those first few weeks, scarred inside and out, in some places and some ways still bleeding, he'd had little enough time for amusement. Not when he'd been waiting at every turn for this strange benefactor to abandon him, for this immortal creature to tire of his rather pressing mortal fragilities and cast him aside. For weeks, he had waited for that, while strength slowly returned to him, while Methos dragged them by secret ways far from that Nevada hellhole, and indeed out of America altogether. And travelling by illegal means only by the grace of someone who may abandon you at any turn was not a pleasant or anxiety-free experience, let him tell you.
But Methos hadn't abandoned him. And if Ethan still wasn't wholly sure why, when only the whim of fortune and Chaos had thrown them together in the first place, well. He'd never been one for looking gift horses in the mouth. Much, anyway. Maybe a peek or two, now and then. For caution's sake, and in the interests of preserving what's left of his skin ...
"It's all about boats, you see," Methos had explained once, when Ethan had managed to get him rat-arsed drunk. And then refused utterly to elaborate, which hadn't helped at all, and only cemented Ethan's opinion that Methos had taken the art of inscrutability to truly astounding levels. Not that that particular opinion had needed much cementing. If there was one thing he'd learned about his strange saviour ...
"The thing about boats," Methos had continued, two weeks later and with half a gallon of whiskey in him (either the man had a hollow leg, or immortality had an adverse affect on one's ability to get drunk), "is that you don't throw people out of them. And that they're horrible, horrible things, of course. 7th century. Monks. I don't like to talk about it."
Which wasn't true at all, as two hours and increasingly unintelligible mutterings proved, and at the end of it, Ethan still wasn't any the wiser about why the bastard hadn't dumped him off on the first charity they passed. He did, however, know a lot more about the toiletry habits of Irish monks on long sea voyages, and was beginning to think Methos had been as much curse as salvation, and sent as further proof of Chaos' wicked sense of humour. Which, admittedly, was an acceptable price and par for the course for a degenerate son of said power, but Methos had to be past limits. Even Janus himself would have to take a moment's pause faced with the immortal.
"What," he finally hissed, five days later when he finally had both legs back under him, and enough of his magic back to make a decent attempt to press the point, "does your helping me have to do with boats?" Not to put too fine a point on it, or anything.
Methos blinked at him, languid and secretive, silently laughing. A more perfect image of Chaos given form, Ethan had never seen, and despite himself, he couldn't help but appreciate it. Inscrutable, unbalanced, utterly untamed behind the calm facade. A creature capable of anything, spurred by whim. Looking at him now with amused eyes, stone-cold sober and softly, gently amused.
"The thing about boats," the immortal told him quietly, "is that when you're in the same one, you don't throw people out of it." He smiled wryly. "For a start, it might give other people ideas, about how much you weigh, and how much you eat, and how much faster the journey would go without you ... Trust me. I know. So ... you and me. Same Initiative boat. Not throwing people out. You follow?"
Ethan paused. Felt his shoulders slump, felt his magic drain faster than it ever had into the Initiatives machines. "I really, really, really hate good guys," he sighed. "The worst of the degenerate powers don't demands debts as heavy."
Methos laughed, uncoiling in one fluid motion and wrapping a companionable arm around him. "Don't I know it," he grinned, and shook his head. "Which is why I pointed to self-preservation as the prime motivation. Don't worry, Ethan. Between us aging villains ... we'll call it an open debt, to be repaid only if fortunes favour, and count it done, yes? Besides." He smiled a distant smile, Janus, looking forward and back in a single moment, as clear in either direction, a liminal god, and rested their foreheads together. "You're charming company, you know. Worth a little effort here and there."
Ethan quivered, an aging tremble, human frailty before Chaos and eternity, and tucked his face towards the smile. "Fair enough," he whispered, hoarsely. "Fair enough."