Deanna wasn't quite sure what had drawn her to the Observation deck. A faint and pervasive longing, a strange sense of regret, and a budding wonder that seared her to her bones ... she all but trembled with the force of emotion, had trembled an hour ago when she first sensed it, when it stole across her senses and seized her breath. Not with vehemence, but with depth. A heart so deep, so full, spilling over and over, filling the dock, and beyond. She thought that any sensitive in orbit must feel this, must touch this well, must know this sweet pain and vibrant joy. And for her ... she was closest, she thought. The nearest to the origin of this wild love.
She trailed after it, moving further and further from the ship, wandering the corridors in search of the source, of the heart that felt so deeply. Not compelled, but curious. Not forced, but enchanted. It filled her mind, feathered over her heart, beguiled her with a child's innocent wonder. Whoever this was, whatever their species, already in her heart she knew they were beautiful. To feel this, to know this ... She knew their beauty as she knew her own.
She found him in one of the observation lounges overlooking Earth, in the end. He stood at one of the great windows, the lights dimmed around him by the courtesy of the staff, hands pressed to the glass as he looked down on the planet. She couldn't see his face, not directly, but the reflection overlaying the Earth was narrow, elegant, and very, very young ... though whether the youth of it was a result of actual age, or simply the expression of wonder that filled it, she wasn't quite sure. His heart sang with a deep, sweet age against hers, as if to whisper the lie of that countenance.
"I've never seen it like this before," he said, softly, not turning to look at her. His eyes in the reflection lifted to catch hers, a faint smile playing at the corner of his mouth, almost hidden beneath a proud nose. She smiled back, moving to his side, standing a little away to watch him.
"It's your first time in space?" she asked, gently, feeling his amusement and wonder swirl and eddy around her. He eyed her sideways in the glass, not quite turning his head, like a child sneaking glances, and she could feel herself smiling almost involuntarily at him. But that was alright. He smiled back.
"Oh yes," he whispered softly, eyes once more on the planet drifting beneath them, that leap of wonder and regret and longing rising through him again. Caught in the edges of it, she almost gasped aloud. "Never before. I never dreamed before ... I never dreamed to see it like this. Not while I lived. Not like this." He laughed, a little. "I was meant to die long before this ..."
That stole a frown from her. "Die? You believe you were meant to die?" she asked, voice softening on instinct, soothing, reaching out in offer of shared burden. "Were you ... ill?"
He turned to her, blinking a bit, surprised and chagrined for reasons she couldn't understand. When he laughed this time, it was rueful. "Oh. No. Not ... not exactly. It was more ..." He stopped, dipping his head as he thought about it, turning something over in his mind, something heavy and old and secret, a heavy reluctance and a fragile, nascent hope. Driven by instinct, she reached out, seeking to soothe.
"You do not have to tell me," she said, gently. "I do not seek your secrets."
He looked up at her, a quick flash of surprise, an ancient weariness and a childish delight. She tilted her head, confused, feeling his emotion flowing and changing like flickers of candlelight, never the same twice, but founded in something as old and steady as the turn of years. The heart that had flowed to fill the station rested before her, secrets old and mischievous dancing a pace away. Something in the sense of him ... enveloped her. Enfolded her. Reached out and feathered across her, as knowing as a sage, as curious as a young boy. He was ... something. Nothing she knew. Everything her heart recognised. She didn't know what he was.
But she loved him. Just a little, for the heart that laughed beside her.
"I have walked every inch of that Earth," he said, suddenly, eyes meeting hers, shining with age and joy. "A hundred times. A thousand times. I was born there. I have lived there, and died there, and lived there again for time ... for time without meaning, really." He laughed, bemused, wondering again. "Strange. When I was born, when I first looked out on these heavens ... they were a thing so distant. The realm of gods. When I first looked on the heavens ... this place, this time, it could never even be dreamt. And now ... now man is his own god, and we walk the path of stars." He smiled, shaking his head. "Is that hubris, I wonder? Or simply ... a child's first steps beyond his own home. Weak, fragile, but growing stronger with every step ..."
He trailed off, drawn once more to the window, to the fall of stars beyond the glass, to Earth, to the home his wandering steps had taken him beyond at last. Deanna stared at him, at the richness of him, the depth and joy. "A child's steps," she said, quietly, reaching out to touch his arm gently as he dipped his head to her. "It's the first steps of a child, and beautiful for it. I don't doubt it."
He smiled down at her, a little hint of teasing. "And how many steps have you made, since your home?" he wondered softly. "How many worlds have you seen, fair maid, in your wanderings among the stars?"
"Many," she smiled. "Many, but never enough. Never finished. And never as many, I think, as you will see, Ancient. Never as many as your feet will touch."
He turned to her fully, then, one slender hand reaching up to rest over hers, and in his heart it was the richness of regret that swelled, the ache of leaving, and the hope for the journey. "Do you think so?" he asked, so quietly she almost couldn't hear. "And do I want to? Ah, fair one. That world of mine, that Earth ..." He looked back, looked down, a whisper of human longing against the depth of aeons. "So many times," he said. "So many times, so many homes. I've lost them, one after another. Fallen to war, or poverty, or flood, or simply time. Endless time. Every time. That Earth ... I have walked every inch of her. I know her as no-one else does, as no-one else can. She is my home, and now ... do I dare leave? Do I leave all that I have ever known? Become the wanderer once again? Once upon a time ... I was so young, the world so new, and now ... do I really want to leave, now that I've only just come to know her?"
She was silent for a long moment, watching the brush of tears as they slipped from his lashes, watching the liquid hazel of ancient eyes swirl with regret and longing and confusion. She watched him, and understood. Just a little. Just the edges. Of a heart so old and so deep, its wonder filled a world. Of a joy and a pain so ancient, it was only against the pulse of stars that it could look young. And of a youth so strong, so enduring, that every step forward was the wondering step of a child, hesitant and fearful and holding forth such pained and terrible hope that she almost wept.
"You do," she said, soft and crushed and happy, reaching out to lay one hand over his heart, smiling up into those eyes as they stared at her in surprise. "You do want it. To walk beyond, to take that next step, and the one after, and all that follow. Until you reach the end of your path. You do want that." She smiled, feeling the ache of him, the joy, the eternal wondering hope. "Ancient one, you want everything. I can feel it."
He stared at her, confused, suddenly wary, and then something sparked in his gaze, some recognition, and he took the hand she'd laid over his heart between his own, smiling ruefully. "Sensitive," he said, self-amused. "Forgive me. You're a sensitive, aren't you?"
She blushed, a little, and nodded. "I'm an empath, part Betazoid." Then a smile, as she realised that she had not even introduced herself, in all this time. "Deanna Troi," she offered, squeezing his hands lightly.
He laughed, then, shaking his head, worrying a lip between his teeth as he studied her, once again weighing something in his head, turning over old secrets, old cautions, and new hopes. Finally, he nodded, having reached a conclusion, and this time when he smiled it was mischievous, sly, a little naughty thrill, like he was about to tell her a secret. She found herself grinning in sheer anticipation, wondering at how childlike he was.
"I could tell you my name is Matthew Adamson," he said, a smooth rumble of cheer, "and it would be true. For the moment, anyway. But for you, my guiding star ... for you, my name is the oldest I can remember. The closest to true. For you, my fair maid, my name ... is Methos." And he bowed before her, a smooth and flourishing gesture, a laughing sincerity. The joy bubbled up inside him, reaching out to wrap around her, rushing over ancient fear to spring forth from the heart of him out into the world, the galaxy, the universe. She laughed, startled, caught up in an event she had no understanding of, but loved anyway.
"And who is Methos?" she asked, breathless, caught in the depth of him, swept off her feet and uncaring. "Who are you, Ancient One?"
He paused, tilting his head to one side, sly and ancient and childlike and breathless. His eyes slid sideways, to the Earth that drifted serene, and back to her, a woman born to alien stars, and a wonder so deep and so painful and so happy welled inside them that she did gasp, this time. She did cry. Softly, only a little.
"I am the world's oldest child, fair maid," he said, gently, a faint and ancient smile on that youthful face. "I was born so long ago there is no longer even a name for where it happened, born to a people no-one now remembers, not even me. I am a child wandering forwards through time, as lost and helpless as the day I was born, as old and wicked and wary as any man ever born." He smiled, a crinkle round the eyes, a faded bitterness and a budding joy. "And right now, I am a man leaving behind all he has ever known, all he has ever loved, and I don't know which is stronger. My fear, or my hope. When I was born, my world was the jewel in Heaven's Eye, and now ... now I walk among the stars."
She looked at him, remembering how he trembled, how she had trembled for him, on the strength of his emotion, on the way here. She remembered leaving her own world behind, so long ago, remembered the fear of it and the joy, the anticipation. And then, she remembered something she had once been told, all those years ago.
"We are each our own world," she whispered, gently, resting her hand once more on his heart. "Wherever we go, whoever we become, we each carry our world within us. Our home, no matter how far it may be." She looked up at him, smiling gently. "Your world is here," she said, pressing gently on his chest. "Your heart is the jewel in Heaven's Eye, Methos. It is Earth, and always will be. No matter how far the child's wondering steps may take him, his heart is always his home."
He stared at her, something nameless in his eyes, in his heart, something stunned and fearful and loving and wise, something pained, something fierce, something as old as time and young as this moment. Something fleeting. Something enduring. His eyes slipped closed on the strength of it, and his whisper was almost silent beneath its weight.
"Every time," he said. "Every time I falter, you do this. Mortals. Every time." A curve of a smile, faint in the light of stars. "And they wondered why I love you so. Mortals!" A laugh, stunned and amused and rich with joy. "Against you, the wisdom of ages pales!"
"Methos?" she asked, a little bemused, and his eyes snapped open with a laugh, a fierce flash of grin, and then softer, gentler, looking inward with amusement, and outward, towards her, with something close to love.
"Thank you," he said. "Thank you, Deanna Troi. For the courage to take the next step."
She smiled, and shook her head. "No, Ancient. That courage is all yours." And then a little smirk, a hint of her own humour, her own rich joy. "I'll not take the blame when you trip over your own feet, after all."
And his laugh at the last was the jewel in Heaven's Eye.