Adams, the devil, is standing over him when he wakes. Lungs burning, Connor tries to shout, but the best he can manage is a wheeze. Rolling onto his side, he can see the house where Heather is working. Her skirt flicks past the door, a blue in the sun's faint winter light, and he hears the lilt of her singing on the breeze. It's enough, just enough, that he makes it to his feet and raises his blade once more.
That it shakes makes no mind to him. All it'll take is one good strike.
Connor falls to Adams's blade a second time, the English bastard's voice following him into the dark saying, "Ramirez will owe me the whole of Spain for this."
Connor dies, not knowing who Ramirez is, but despising him all the same.
Adams huffs a breath, impatient, and it's the first thing Connor hears when air rushes back in and he opens his eyes to the grey of a Scottish morning. He turns his head and finds the English devil staring at him. He starts, trying to lash out, but finds himself securely tied.
"Wonderful woman, your wife," Adams says, grinning. "Don't know what she sees in you."
Connor tries to spit, but can't. He settles for struggling against the ropes, trying to work free. "Come here then," he says in a rasp, tongue thick and mouth dry. "I'll show you."
"Mm, in another life, perhaps," Adams says with that same bloody grin, but the look in his eyes makes Connor squirm. Heather, behind him, laughs and Adams nods his head. "Yes, exactly. I'm beginning to see the attraction."
"Aye," Heather says, venturing closer. "He grows on you after a while. Bit like moss in his way." She tugs at his shirt, tsking in annoyance. "This'll be a fright to mend, must you?"
"Your husband is a slow learner, Madam." Adams raises his blade, frowning dismissively at Connor's blood coating it. "Most of my previous students have caught on by now." He looks down the blade at Connor, death in his eye. "You, my boy, are Immortal. Now, do I have to kill you again to prove it?"
Heather huffs, shaking her head. "Honestly, Connor, just listen to the man. There'll be no saving that shirt if you don't."
Connor shuts his eye. "Be quiet, woman! I'm trying―"
She brandishes her mending, scowling. "Connor."
"Aye, aye," he says. "I'll listen, just bloody untie me first."
The Kurgan is a ugly brute of a thing and Connor's swordhand shakes at the sight of him. The memory of the last time, the first time, surges to his mind and he feels the sharp thrust of the blade
Somewhere, Heather shouts, but it's fury and fire in the sound and he bears up beneath it. Adams is with her, the slow teeth-grinding presence creeping over them both.
The Kurgan's head swivels and he smiles, eyes gleaming with greed as Adams and Heather clear the trees. Connor hefts his blade, ready to make the rush, but the Kurgan's voice, slick and heavy with satisfaction, stops him cold. "Methos."
"I knew him once," Adams says, staring moodily into the fire. "Reminded me of one of my brothers. That should have been my first warning."
"A name that I once used." Adams almost smiles. Almost. Something chases it off, something dark and horrible, like the stories they told about the fire to keep away the night. "Many centuries ago."
"When you knew the Kurgan?"
"Yes, and, as such, thought it best abandoned thereafter." Adams stretches his legs, edging closer to the hearth and the fire. "Wouldn't want that one coming to my door."
"Why not kill him?" Connor asks. "Why let such a monster roam free? You fight better than any man I've ever known." It feels traitorous to say, even years away from home as he is, but he ignores the twist and looks to Heather, mending just by the door. "You could rid the world of him."
"Survival. Winning means a good sword arm yes, but more than that. You must learn to pick your battles well, Connor, for there will always be another Kurgan and you will want to be around to face him." Adams stretches one leg and then the other. "Your lot always does."
"The hero." Adams's smile is, then, old and very, very weary. "I've never managed to train that out of you, though the gods know I've tried."
"But you still keep trying?"
"I'm an optimist. It's my one failing." Adams gets up. It's a smooth movement that reminds Connor of the man's fighting. Seamless and deceptive. He wonders, watching his teacher roll his shoulders, of the name the Kurgan had called him.
He curls fingers around the hilt of his sword and rises as well.
"France during a revolution, Connor? Yes, this is a brilliant plan, really." Adams is there when he wakes. Adams is always there when he wakes. Groaning with the pain of his revival, Connor waits for the rest of Adams's speech. It's as inevitable as the old man's presence. "Did you perhaps miss the part where the French are terribly fond of beheading?"
Connor opens his eyes, feeling the sway of the boat beneath him. The bed feels familiar, comfortable, and he scowls. "You stole my ship?"
Adams shrugs. "Appropriated, Connor, appropriated. You weren't using it. Off saving the world again." He slumps in his chair, swirling wine in a goblet. "How goes it, by the way? Nearly got yourself beheaded last I heard."
Smiling into the goblet, Adams shrugs. "Friends. Someone needs to keep an eye on you."
"You have friends?" Connor sits up, swinging his legs over onto the bed. The laugh stutters out of him and grows strength with the scowl on Adams's. "Do you pay them?" He thinks of Bouchet, falling to the guillotine's blade, and sobers.
"On occasion, but Darius is a different sort." Adams puts the goblet aside. "He usually does something good with it."
"Darius?" Connor turns round, thinking of the gentle-eyed priest. "You know him?"
"A thousand years and more. We rode together once." Adams leans forward. "France will take care of itself, Connor."
"Perhaps," Connor says, watching the horizon rise and fall with the ship's movement.
"But that won't stop you."
"Not for a second."
"There'll come a time, Connor, when you can't bear it any longer," Adams says, knowing. "When every second and every breath feels like stone on your shoulders, bearing down until you're ground to dust."
Connor turns from the port, meeting Methos's eyes. No pretending him to be otherwise, now. "And on that day, what will you do?"
Methos shrugs and refills his glass, pouring one for Connor as well. "Sit down, have a drink. We've a long journey ahead of us."
"I thought we should see the New World," Methos slumps back with a smile. "I'm tired of the old one."
Laughter. Rich, rolling laughter that fills the room around him. Connor scowls. "It's the only way."
"You know, it's a good thing I like being right," Methos says, grinning. "If I weren't, my life would be damned inconvenient. I suppose you and Junior dreamt this one up over a pint? How is Duncan, by the way? Still tilting at windmills?"
Connor rolls his eyes. "As I recall, you've tilted at a few of your own."
"Mostly yours," Methos waves a hand. "There can be only one, Connor. We've heard it all before." He sighs. "On our better days, I'm even able to admit that it probably won't be me." He slumps into his chair, watching Connor prowl the room. "You decided a long time ago that it wasn't going to be you."
Connor leans against the wall, his fingers tracing the rim of a Ming vase. "Why do you keep this shit?"
"I like to dust." Methos rises. "Keeps me busy."
"I can't beat Kell alone," Connor says. "I'm not strong enough."
"Oh, please, met you haven't I? Kell's no stronger than any of us, he just sells it better." Crossing the room to join him, Methos leans against the wall to watch him. "Fifty centuries, kid. I've taken a head or two in my time."
"More than Jacob Kell?" As soon as he asks, Connor has his answer. He's had it all along. "Let me guess," he says, laughing. "That many in the Bronze Age alone?"
"Possibly. Which means, of course, I have no use for yours, so forget offering."
"Who says I was going to?"
"The hulking hero complex that's followed you around for five hundred years, that's who," Methos snorts. "This should be about when I say I told you so."
"I'm feeling magnanimous," Methos says, pushing off from the wall. "It's a bit of a phase I've been experimenting with. Blame it on that kid you call a student. He seems to demand it of people."
Connor chuckles. "Duncan does have that habit."
"Wonder where he picked it up," Methos says, heading for the door. "Let's have a beer, kid, and we can talk about mid-life crises."
"Didn't think Immortals had them."
"If you live long enough. They usually hit around the middle of the millennium." Methos looks over his shoulder with the faintest of grins. "Looks like you're right on schedule then, doesn't it?"
"There's still the matter of Kell."
"Haven't you learned by now?" Methos throws a beer his way. "There's always going to be a Kell."
"Take his head, have a beer, find a pretty redhead." Methos shrugs. "What else?"