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Narrow Is The Way Which Leadeth Unto Life

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Walking down the dusty street, a familiar creeping feeling invades Methos' head, buzzing with insistence. He stops, shocked; he hadn't thought there were any other immortals in the city. A quick glance about soon identifies the source, a young man with a wild and disoriented look on his face as if he's never felt such a thing before in his life. Methos frowns. He's really not in the mood for playing mentor to a baby immortal, not right now. He's been having a relaxing few decades, and he's not going to let Capernaum mess that up for him. Even if he were to babysit, this backwater city is the last place he wants to be: it's too connected with the messy religious politics of Judea, which look ready to blow out of control at the least provocation. Rome, on the other hand, has been serving him well lately, and he is eager to go back.

But it's too late; the wild young man has noticed him staring, and has made the intuitive leap between the staring and the buzzing. He walks over to Methos, and Methos knows that running away will be pointless. The young man's eyes have an intensity, a determination, and if Methos ran that young man would follow.

"What was that feeling?" the man asks, all of his intensity focused on Methos until Methos can hardly breathe from the incandescence it lights within him. Too late, too late, it's far too late now, and Methos knows that Rome will have to wait. He lets out a shaking breath, and says, "No, not here. Do you know some place more private we can go to talk about this?"

The effect this young man has on him is a little frightening. Methos sees too many parallels with how he reacted to Kronos. He does not want that to happen again. Oh, he loved it while it was going on, glorious centuries of brotherhood and blood, but in the end it was bad news. He's been lying low for a while now, drifting, itinerant. Sometimes he settles for a few years, sometimes he does nothing but walk further and further on. Sometimes he gets entangled with local problems and has to sort them out before he can escape and breathe deeply again. Getting caught up with another immortal will not be so easy to escape.

And so he sits across a table from the man -- Yeshua, his name is -- and explains immortality, as he turns over in his mind all the options. Convince Yeshua to come with him; leave Yeshua behind with no training to be easy fodder for the next immortal to stumble across him; stay here and teach Yeshua. He knows he's chosen already.

But when Methos stops talking, Yeshua does not fall neatly in with his plans. "This cannot be the truth," he says. "I can tell you believe it with your whole heart, but it's not true. I'm immortal, yes. I knew that already. I died several months ago, but God saw fit to raise me again. That's the important part, you see." He leans forward, earnest. "It's because of God that I'm still alive. God has a special purpose for me. I knew that immediately, and set out from home to take up my responsibilities. If God has afforded you also the gift of life, and others as well, then how can I in good conscience choose to take away what God's given? I want no part in this Game of yours. Those who live by the sword will inevitably die by it, and I don't intend to die by a sword."

Throughout this speech, Methos can feel the look of astonishment grow stronger and stronger on his face. Immortality as a gift from the gods? Ha. He's lived through the rise and fall of many gods, and no matter which gods a nation or a person chooses to worship, things always end the same. Gods are useless.

But Yeshua believes so thoroughly, with such firm conviction, that Methos knows he can't convince him. "You must learn to fight, at least," he says desperately. Yeshua will stand no chance if another immortal ever feels his presence. This talk of not living by the sword will be all very well right up to the point when a sword takes off his head, and Methos knows that's inevitable. "You must let me teach you. Unless you want to die. Is that what you want?"

"No," Yeshua says, smiling kindly. "No, I don't wish to die. But I don't need you to teach me. If I die, it will be God's will. In the meantime, I'll make use of the time I have, to spread God's word." Yeshua stands. "Thank you for the drink," he says, "and for your explanation. I wish you well in your travels."

He turns and walks out the door, and Methos stares helplessly after him. Fuck this, he thinks. It's not worth it.

The next day Methos goes to the market, and asks around after Yeshua. Every time he asks, people see it as an invitation to tell him what they think of the man. Apparently he's a big deal, because everybody's at least heard of him. Some call him a teacher, some call him a prophet, and some even say he's the son of some local god. Others call him blasphemous, heretical, dangerous, unhinged. Methos doesn't argue with any of them. Eventually he is pointed towards a synagogue a few streets over. Yeshua likes to go there and debate the Jewish holy books, he's told.

When he arrives at the synagogue, he can hear raised voices from inside. The most strident he immediately recognizes as Yeshua's. Methos walks in, working his body language all he can to project his unimportance at the world. He sits down unnoticed in a corner of the room and listens.

It's fascinating, really. Methos knows almost nothing about Judaism. Oh, he's heard about the tribe of Israel a few times over the last thousand years, but he's never thought much of it. Just a stubborn group of people who never quite fit in. But now he begins to think maybe he should have paid attention. Their rules and beliefs are obviously hotly contested, and yet they have managed through sheer willpower to hold themselves together as a people for this long despite the discord.

Brotherhood. Methos can understand that.

He slips away again a few hours later, filled with a strange fierce pride at how well Yeshua dominated the debate. Oh, the things he said sounded nonsensical, but they obviously made sense to the people listening, and left the others cowed in his wake. It was magnificent.

Methos finds himself coming back the next day, and then the next, and within a week he is no longer sitting in a corner but is part of the group. He doesn't add much to the discussion, being entirely ignorant of Jewish laws and traditions, but he is interested, eager to learn more about this idiosyncratic religion.

Sometimes he joins Yeshua and his friends for lunch, after, and there he feels free to air his ignorance and ask questions. Yeshua answers every one with passion and clarity. It's obvious that Yeshua cares deeply about his religion. Sometimes it's just Methos and Yeshua for lunch, and then Methos becomes even more outspoken. Inevitably he raises the topic of learning to use a sword, and just as inevitably Yeshua expertly deflects the conversation elsewhere.

"You know my feelings on the subject," Yeshua says on one occasion, "so why do you persist?"

"A talent for lying to myself," Methos says resignedly. "Is there anything I could say that would convince you?"

Yeshua laughs. "No," he says, "I'm quite stubborn once I make up my mind about something."

Lifting his eyebrows, Methos says, "So am I."

Months pass and Methos grows no closer to convincing Yeshua, but he begins to better understand what Yeshua is trying to do with his life. Each debate, each speech, each story, even each meal -- it all adds up to a picture Methos can appreciate, if not believe in. Yeshua is using his beliefs to instigate wholesale social change. "The kingdom of God is at hand," Yeshua says, and all humanity must live in a manner which befits this kingdom.

Methos is quite sure the kingdom of God isn't anywhere near. He's lived for three thousand years, and no matter how much the world changes it always remains all too human. Nonetheless he can see the effects Yeshua's words have on the people who listen: they are captivated, just like Methos was when he first looked Yeshua in the eye. They believe in him, they believe him, and they will do anything he says.

Methos watches tax collectors fail to extort, petty thieves ignore easy marks, prostitutes refuse all offers, and all of them turn to Yeshua for guidance. It would be nothing short of astonishing, Methos thinks, for any man but Yeshua. He refuses to think of another man who could have done the same if he had cared to try. But to Kronos, brotherhood was meant only for three, not for the whole world.

Once, Methos asks Yeshua how he can manage to show such respect and affection for the neverending stream of lowlifes, and Yeshua looks surprised at the question. "Haven't you been paying attention?" he asks, and then refuses to clarify further. Yeshua looks so obviously disappointed that Methos can't bear to say that intellectually he understands perfectly, but that intellectual understanding doesn't stop the dregs of society from being truly aggravating people. A vision of Kronos raises its voice in agreement from the back of Methos' mind, and he thrusts the thought away. He's part of a different brotherhood now, and thinking like Kronos is not the way to belong.

Each day that Methos remains with Yeshua is another day for Methos to observe Yeshua's ridiculous capacity for love. He heals the sick, speaks kindly to the brokenhearted and distressed, reaches out to the outcasts, and he encourages everyone to do the same. And day after day, Yeshua gains more devoted followers. But to Methos' surprise, he also gains more enemies. He's become so used to the conviction with which Yeshua speaks that the very idea that people would hate him for it seems anathema.

When Methos stops to think about it, it makes sense: Yeshua is upsetting the status quo, and for the people in power this is a frightening prospect. The Romans and the various Jewish sects feel threatened. If I hadn't met Yeshua first, Methos thinks, I'd have been perfectly happy to see him die to preserve the peace. I didn't want to get involved in these religious squabbles.

It's too late now; he's involved. This isn't the low profile Methos intended to have, and things could get dangerous any day now. Methos lives in fear of the day Yeshua gets arrested, and everyone who sticks with Yeshua is liable to be in danger too. Methos repeats to himself that the only thing that matters is staying alive, but his traitor mind slips off to construct endless schemes to protect Yeshua at all costs.

Yeshua sometimes likes to go to the garden of Gethsemane to pray, and some of Yeshua's followers keep him company. Methos comes along to keep him safe. They laugh and joke together while walking to the garden, and when they get there they pause to admire the beauty of the place, lush green in opposition to the endless dust. But one evening Yeshua wanders off to a corner of the garden to pray alone, and the day has been long, and darkness falls softly on Methos, welcoming.

Methos wakes with a start. How long has he been asleep? He doesn't know. But he can hear a nearby commotion, and the others are stirring around him. He rubs his eyes, and tries to clear his sleep-fogged mind. What's going on? He elbows Peter, sitting beside him, in hopes that Peter's been more alert, but instead of explaining whatever he knows, Peter springs up with sword drawn and plunges into the confusion.

Moments later Yeshua's voice rings out over the hubbub with a reminder of his opinion of swords, and Peter draws back, abashed, and wipes the blood off of his blade. Methos' own sword feels heavy at his side, and he is tense with the need to draw it. Yeshua wouldn't want him to, but Yeshua should live, and Methos doesn't care what it takes to make that happen. He jumps up, hand at his hilt, and with no further thought he is running forward, drawing his sword as he goes. He's only one man, but he's good with a sword, and with luck he can get Yeshua out of here alive.

Hands pull at him from behind, grab his arms, slow him down until it is too late and Yeshua is being hustled out of the gardens, taken farther and farther away. He turns, wild-eyed, to see that it's Yeshua's other so-called friends holding him back.

"How could you?" he shouts. "You let them take him away! They'll kill him, you know they will!" And he sinks to the ground, rage coming out in tears as he ignores their explanations.

His only hope is that if Yeshua is not declared innocent -- and he won't be -- he will be found so treasonous that the honourable death of beheading is not permitted. But even if he escapes a beheading, Methos aches for him, a sick feeling crushing his chest. Crucifixion is long and torturous, and Yeshua won't even have the permanent relief of death waiting for him at the end.

Methos can't bear it anymore, the stress and the pain and the heartache that are the inevitable end of loving Yeshua. Yeshua is delusional, has a deathwish, and is dangerous to know. That's it. It doesn't matter how captivating his eyes and his words are, Methos should have left two years ago. Well, he's fixing that mistake now. Without a second glance towards the people who were his friends, he stalks out of the garden and goes home. He packs up the few possessions he cares about, walks out the door and into the night.

When he walks up the wide road into Rome a year later and hears that Yeshua is dead, he tells himself he doesn't care.