Being Adam Pierson meant more than a few limitations Methos was usually quite willing to deal with in order to maintain his cover. So his clothes were well worn? They were comfortable. So he had to buy cheap train tickets and fly coach? It was better than traveling by mule, or, heaven forbid, boat. He lived in relative comfort and he just didn't invite anybody over. He worked at the bookstore with Don Salzer but that was all perfectly fine because he liked it there. And most of the time he didn't mind pretending that he was utterly helpless in a fight. It had been expedient at the Academy to be considered hopeless for field assignments. Up until recently it hadn't mattered. The only other Immortals in town were Marcus Constantine and Darius. Old friends. Old old friends.
Then things changed, as they do, and Paris had somehow become a hotspot of Immortal activity. Lovely for the field agents and for some of the researchers catching breaks on old files. Suddenly, though, it had become a whole lot more likely that someone would pass by Methos, notice him, and challenge him. And since Adam Pierson had a less than stellar combat reputation among his fellow Watchers he wasn't going to be able to explain away his survival by claiming good training at the Academy.
It was time to be out of sight for a while, let people forget Adam Pierson couldn't handle himself in a fight, let Paris calm down perhaps.
"I think there's a good possibility that Methos might have spent some time in New Orleans," he explained to Don the morning after feeling another Immortal near the cafe he normally got coffee at before work.
Don sighed. "Are you certain, Adam? We didn't have any indication that he was ever in that region."
"Well, no, I'm not certain," Methos said, allowing a tiny sheepish note into his voice. "But that's why I need to actually go there. Dig into some of the local history. See if I can find any records, talk to some of the researchers there. I can't do this remotely, Don."
"Fine, fine," Don said. He waved a hand vaguely in Methos' direction. "I'll clear it with Vemas. But you had better come back with something other than a hangover!"
Two days later Methos was touching down in New Orleans, ready for a relaxing trip during which he could miraculously find some evidence that he had been in the city a few hundred years back. After all, he really had been there. He had plenty of material to work with. He could pick and choose what to "discover" while he was there. Methos? A doctor? Perhaps he'd first trained in Ancient Greece! Which was bullshit - he'd been far more interested in philosophy than physical medicine at the time, but it was the sort of bullshit the Watchers loved. And then he could find more leads for other places, stay out of Paris for months if he worked it just right.
Unfortunately for Methos, he was only in town for a day before he was hit by a car in a very public intersection, several passers-by coming to his aid right as he recovered from what had probably been a nasty head injury. And somewhere very close there was another Immortal. Very close indeed. Like, right above him, looking around at the crowd and warning people back.
"It's cool, looks like he was just stunned. It's fine, folks, really, I'm an EMT. He's my buddy."
The other Immortal was young, both in looks and reality if Methos' instinct was anything to go by. He was giving a disarming grin to the people who'd gathered and who were already apparently deciding that things looked under control and did they really need to be involved?
"You okay, man?" the other Immortal said quietly. "I'll explain shit as soon as we can get out of here. The less fuss the better, believe me." He waved to the driver. "Hey, it's fine, no harm done!" he called out.
"No harm done?" Methos muttered as the young Immortal got him up and hurried him away from the scene, around the corner and into a bar. He waved to one of the bartenders and guided Methos towards a back room full of broken furniture and old decorations. Methos wondered for a moment why he was letting a relative child nanny him and decided it must have been a nastier head wound than he'd initially thought. And, well, it was amusing.
"Hey," the other Immortal said as he sat Methos down and offered his hand. "I'm Richie Ryan."
"Adam Pierson," Methos told him. No need to get fancy with false names now.
"Cool. So. I can probably answer a bunch of your questions, but… There's no easy way to say this: I think you might be Immortal."
Methos stared at him, laughter just micrometers from his lips. Might be Immortal. It was amazing. Had the kid not felt him nearby? Well, no, maybe not. After all, he hadn't felt the kid either. So they'd been just far enough away to not notice each other, then the car had hit him and Ryan had felt him revive. A dozen possibilities flashed through Methos' head in just a few seconds. He could admit he was definitely Immortal, but not new, and run with it from there. He could be old or young or whatever, it wasn't like he had to stick to a particular story with someone he'd just met. But then what if this Richie kid demanded a challenge once he knew Methos wasn't brand new to it all? And then too, he couldn't just take off. He'd already introduced himself to the local Watcher office, told them he was doing research in the city. If he was lucky, none of them had been actively keeping an eye on his new pal.
What a mess. Of course, there was a way to perhaps mitigate the possible damage. There was nothing that said Adam Pierson couldn't have been potentially Immortal, after all. It would hopefully forestall a challenge from Ryan and it would keep his cover intact even if he got drummed out of the Watchers for becoming the other side.
All that sorted in a matter of moments, Methos looked up at Richie Ryan and shook his head. "Immortal?" he asked, as incredulously as he could manage. "What the hell do you mean? There's no such thing!"
The kid actually laughed and dragged a chair over to sit down across from him.
"Yeah," he said. "I know. It's tough to believe. But there is such a thing and man, we're it. I mean, not it it. There are others. But I know I am, and I can tell you are. You feel that… I dunno, that sort of hum? Like you're standing near power lines or something? That means you're like me." He looked at Methos, who was staring at him now. "Aw geez, I wish I was better at this."
Now, what did new Immortals do? Methos wondered to himself. It had been a while since he'd taken on a student of his own, and his last few hadn't really been good examples of typical behavior. Better question: What would newly Immortal Adam Pierson do? Well, Adam Pierson was an academic. Even if he couldn't very well tell Ryan what, precisely, he'd been studying, he could still approach it from an academic point of view. With a touch of hysteria. A little hysteria would be perfectly reasonable right about now and honestly, the situation did warrant it enough that it wouldn't even be completely faked.
"Convince me," he demanded. "How do I know you're not some cult recruiter?"
"Well…" Ryan sighed and pulled out a pocket knife. "Don't freak out, okay? I'm not going to hurt you and I swear, this is going to be fine."
Methos almost lost it and laughed, but managed to direct it into shock and horror as Ryan demonstrated. Wherever this was going, he was pretty sure he'd be getting good practice on his poker face.
Two hours and several beers later (Ryan had offered to pay and Methos hadn't protested), Methos was trying to fully inhabit this 'lost babe in the woods' character he'd had to pull out of thin air. Sure, he'd played at pretending to be younger than he was. It went with the territory of not letting anyone know who he was. Anywhere between two and three thousand years old and younger Immortals just didn't care about the hundreds anymore. But then you still had to deal with hunters who figured older Immortals were the best targets. It was better to stick within the past couple hundred years, but while Ryan went on about the basics Methos realized he hadn't really ever tried to be a new Immortal. Well, not this new. Not since he was new. Which he wasn't going to strain his brain over.
"So, I know it sounds weird, but you're going to need to learn how to use a sword," Ryan told him. "We all carry them. I mean, I've never met one of us who doesn't. Unless you want to live on holy ground? But the guy I learned from? He said that never really works out for most of us. You leave eventually and then you're out of practice and someone comes along and WHACK, off with your head."
Methos turned wide eyes on Ryan, who shrugged. "Hey, I didn't make the rules. I just follow them. So, you know, I think the way this works, I'm supposed to teach you some things. I'm pretty new to it myself but I can hold my own. I had a good teacher. I can show you how to use a sword. I picked up a spare for myself on my way down here from Seacouver. You can use that until you get one of your own. Or, you know, I'll get a new spare and you can keep it. But you've at least got to know how to use it enough to keep your head attached."
"Why can't I just get a gun, shoot anyone who attacks me, and run as fast as I can?" Methos asked. It was, after all, one of his preferred methods. But these kids today, they were either assholes with creative interpretations of the rules or they were so honor-bound they'd practically let you retrieve your sword and continue even if they had you dead to rights.
Ryan winced a little. "I mean, you could? But it's kind of frowned on? And then you've got guys coming after you again later, cause man, you shot them and that pisses people off, you know? Not to mention, eventually someone's gonna know you're the guy who shoots and runs and they're gonna shoot first and not bother to wait until you revive."
Methos briefly wondered if Ryan had learned that from his teacher or from experience. He'd pegged the kid as not even really older than he looked, but that was the sort of answer you didn't get from the young. You got that from those who'd tried it and failed.
"Great," Methos sighed, making himself look every bit the woebegone and overwhelmed 20-something he was supposed to be. "Now I've got to add swordsmanship to my studies. I've got a dissertation to finish!" And an entire secret society of professional busybodies to keep in the dark, if he could manage it.
"Look." Ryan leaned forward. "I know this all sounds ridiculous and your life's turned upside-down, believe me. I get it. And I wish I could just let you go back to your classes or whatever. But, see, I can't."
"Why not?" Methos asked. "I'll be fine! Honestly. I'll take some fencing classes back at home or something."
"Sorry," Ryan said, and he did indeed look sorry. Mostly. "See, the thing is, my teacher? We don't see eye to eye on a lot of stuff, had a falling out about a month back. But he's this genuinely good guy, you know? Real honorable and shit. And we may not be on great terms right now, but I know for a fact if I let you go without teaching you something? He will find me and level this glare at me that will peel my skin. I'll have nightmares about it. There's no way I'm letting you go off without being able to defend yourself."
Honor. Great. Methos sighed and gave up. He'd have to just skip town in the morning. If the regional office hadn't gotten wind of this little disaster already he'd just tell them he got a tip or something and had to leave to follow it up. At the urging of his would-be teacher he scribbled down his hotel and room number (wrong hotel, wrong room number) on a napkin, then took Ryan's advice to go and rest up for the remainder of the evening.
Once back in his actual hotel room he plugged in his computer and pulled up the database he'd been working on to find out about one Richie Ryan.
Wonderful. A MacLeod student. Honorable didn't even begin to cover the younger MacLeod. The good news was that Methos knew Mike Barrett was stuck in Seacouver at the moment and couldn't be following Ryan. Which left it down to the local agents looking for anyone interacting with their assignments. They couldn't be everywhere all the time and that meant Methos was likely safe from being hauled in front of a Tribunal for becoming Immortal.
First death: 1993
Teacher: Duncan MacLeod
Watcher: Mike Barrett
Methos quickly packed up his things. Not that he had much. Traveling light was an art he'd been practicing since as long as he could remember. A late night departure would be remembered, but an early morning checkout wasn't unusual, so Methos set an alarm for five a.m. and tried to get some sleep. And he did get some. Not as much as he'd planned, because around midnight he woke up to the sense of another Immortal nearby and the sound of his window opening.
He reached for his gun from under the bed, his sword being stashed in his luggage, but sighed and dropped it when he saw Richie Ryan climbing through the window.
"You know that's a good way to get yourself shot!" he snapped at Richie, not bothering to temper his annoyance. Newly Immortal grad student Adam Pierson didn't like having strange Immortals breaking into his hotel room any more than old as the hills Immortal smartass Methos did and Ryan would just have to cope with that.
Richie smirked at him and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'd be fine. My first death was a shooting. Kind of takes the edge off it. I was just thinking maybe you'd be panicking right about now, convincing yourself it's not real, I'm just some crazy guy." He sort of trailed off there, a slightly guilty look coming over his face as he glanced at the open window he was standing by. "I might have miscalculated here," he admitted. "But I didn't want you to run off."
"You climbed through my window," Methos pointed out. "You broke into my hotel room."
"You gave me the wrong hotel," Richie countered. "I didn't sense you there so I've been checking hotels near where you got hit. Look, I know this is bizarre and you're probably freaked out, but I can't just let you take off without making sure you won't lose your head to the first jackass with a sword who thinks you're an easy target."
For a moment - okay, two moments if he was being honest - Methos almost wished that he was indeed a new Immortal. That he was some lucky sap who'd had his first death in public and not had to run. That he'd happened upon a well-meaning Immortal who was offering to teach him and was apparently invested in keeping him alive. Another moment was spent feeling a tiny bit guilty that Ryan hadn't found an actual student.
Of course, Methos realized he had no idea if Richie Ryan was at all a competent swordsman even. He could just be coasting on luck. Or he could be decent with a sword - he was Duncan MacLeod's student, after all, and both MacLeods were known to be among the best - but not a decent teacher. Not yet, anyhow. But it looked like he was going to find out one way or the other.
"Fine," Methos muttered, falling back onto his bed and grabbing a pillow to put over his face. "Are you going to babysit me all night?" he asked, voice muffled.
"Yup," Ryan said.
Methos heard him take a seat at the tiny table in the corner of the room. Wonderful.
For all his good intentions, however, Ryan had apparently not been ready for a 5 a.m. wake-up call. When Methos' alarm went off Methos himself was already awake and poking through the database on his computer where Ryan couldn't see the screen. He hadn't thought to bring a modem with him, so he couldn't get onto the web to see if there had been any updates, but he could at least read up on MacLeod the younger and his most recent student's history.
At the sound of the alarm, Ryan started in his chair and almost fell out of it, catching himself just in time. Methos watched him, amused and approving of the kid's reflexes. He wasn't hopeless, so that was nice at least.
"Are you serious?" Ryan asked him when he saw that Methos was already awake. "Morning people," he sighed.
"I'm a student," Methos pointed out. "I told you I have a dissertation to finish. I was just doing research here. I have to go back to Paris soon." He'd already explained that the day before, but he'd gotten the impression that Ryan thought this was more important. Of course, it would have been, had Methos truly been new to it all.
"Paris, right," Ryan said, nodding. "Yeah, well, I've got buddies in Paris too. I could probably even crash at Mac's barge if I needed to. We'll make sure you've got the basics before you go back, I swear."
Which was how Methos found himself being coached in some of the most beginner forms, in the basement of the bar Ryan had taken them to right after the fateful accident the day before. And okay, Methos had to admit to himself he was out of practice. Enough so that he wasn't faking being out of breath by the end. It also helped with his act that the style of fighting Ryan had been taught was far more formalized than what he himself had gotten used to over the centuries. Methos had a feeling that Ryan was teaching him the same way he'd learned from MacLeod, which told him plenty about both of them.
"Now, the cool thing about this Immortality stuff?" Ryan said as they left the bar. "You won't be in nearly as much agony tomorrow as you think you will. Like, none at all. It's great."
Methos found an internet cafe that evening and checked up on any news from the Watchers. Not a peep about Adam Pierson's unfortunate accident in New Orleans, so it looked like he'd gotten off lucky. He made a point of emailing Don, even though Don checked his email about once every two months, then logged off. All things considered, it was turning out not to be such a terrible vacation after all. He was even almost - almost - looking forward to another day spent relearning some basic techniques.
It wasn't all that bad, getting a refresher course, even if he did feel like an utter fool every time Ryan managed to truly surprise him. Methos felt there was a certain unfairness to it, that he had once been one of the most dangerous men on the planet, and now he was getting his ass handed to him by a kid only just into his 20s. But it wasn't unfair. It was what happened when you got complacent. So he kept his mouth shut and focused on getting something out of the situation.
Except on the fourth morning Ryan was late to meet him. He finally showed up, an hour late, looking flustered and a little harried. Methos tried to act like he hadn't noticed, but when he was able to disarm Ryan easily with a clumsy move that should have left Methos lying on the floor, he had to say something.
"Are you okay?" he asked when they took a break. "You were a lot tougher yesterday."
"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fine. It's just." Ryan stopped and shook his head. "Never mind. You don't need to worry about this shit yet."
"But I will some day?" Methos ventured. "Maybe it's better I find out now?"
That earned him a glare, then a guilty look as Ryan apparently thought better of snapping at the man he thought was his student.
"Look, you probably figured this out but some other folks like us? Not the sort of guys you want on your tail. And apparently…"
"You've got one on your tail," Methos finished, sighing inwardly. He did not want a hunter coming after him, ever. Not that he wanted Ryan hunted either, but he had left Paris in the hopes of getting away from the action for a while. Of course it would find him anyhow. That was life.
Ryan nodded at him and sat down. "Look, I'm sorry about this. We can keep going, see if this guy just passes through and leaves town."
"What are our other options?" Methos asked. "Aside from getting our heads chopped off. I don't like that option."
"You and me both," Ryan agreed. "Other option is we leave town before he does. Find somewhere else to go. I could probably get you up to Seacouver, where Mac - my teacher - is. He's older, better at this than me. We may be on the outs but I'm sure he'd help you, no problem."
The second to last thing Methos needed right then was to be escorted to Duncan MacLeod, one of the biggest trouble magnets in the world according to his Chronicles. The last thing he needed was to lose his head, which seemed a distinct possibility if he stuck around or let Ryan take him all that way. Never mind that MacLeod would likely figure out within seconds that he wasn't as young as Ryan thought he was.
"Look," Methos said, dragging a chair over to Ryan. "How about this: I go find a nice quiet place to keep studying, maybe on holy ground for a little while. Not forever! Just, you know, a little bit. You lose this guy. We meet up again somewhere." Or not. Not meeting up was an essential part of the plan now.
Ryan looked doubtful as he considered the proposal. Methos watched the kid's face as he went back and forth between clearly not wanting to let a "new" Immortal go off alone, and also not wanting to have to deal with exposing said Immortal to a hunter or look out for him if whoever it was decided to target the new guy first. It was kind of sweet, really, that the kid was so protective even at his age. But Methos was pretty sure it might eventually get Ryan killed.
Finally, Ryan let out a heavy sigh and nodded. "Yeah, yeah, that's probably a good idea. But you've got to be careful. We'll finish up today, make sure you know some good tricks, then we'll take off for opposite directions. I'll see if I can make sure this guy follows me. I mean, he probably will. I don't think anyone even knows about you except me."
Which Methos was certainly grateful for, though he wasn't about to go explaining just how grateful he was or why.
"Sure. Here, I have a friend who lives in an old church in Boston. Got renovated into condos. I'll go crash with him for a while," Methos said, quickly jotting down a phone number he hoped was the right area code. "That'll work, right?"
"Yeah, sure," Richie said as he took the scrap of paper. "It should. Look, I'll call you when I know it's safe, all right?"
Methos nodded. "Yes. Very good. And I'll keep my head down."
They spent the rest of the day working on tricks to get out of fights, then Ryan headed off, promising again to contact Methos when things were clear.
Methos made short work of getting out of town, calling the regional office just before leaving to tell them he'd gotten a good lead and thanking them for letting him poke around the city. He'd never even bothered to ask about their local archives, but then he could always say he knew what he needed wouldn't be in the archives or someone would have found it already. Once he was safely on a plane to Chile he could finally relax. Darius would likely laugh himself sick over the whole situation, if Methos ever bothered to tell him. In the meantime, he'd relax, take that vacation he'd intended in the first place.
One year later - Seacouver
Methos arrived at Duncan's loft, beer in hand as a preemptive attempt at peace for what he was about to say. And there was Richie Ryan, in the loft, staring at him like he was seeing a ghost.
Well. There was no getting around it now. If Ryan hadn't already told Duncan about his first attempt at teaching a new Immortal, he would soon enough.
"Hey," Methos said to both Ryan and MacLeod. "I think maybe I should explain a few things to you guys."