Normandy, Fall of 1659
It was a beautiful day to be outside and Duncan MacLeod was enjoying every bit of the fine fall weather as he rode leisurely along a stream bed. He was heading towards Le Havre, having formed a desire to return to England after twenty-five years on the Continent, but he was in no particular hurry, and if it took him days or years to get there, it was much the same. While passing through Paris, he had obtained a copy of Shakespeare's play "Hamlet" which he was puzzling over at the moment. Reading was still a new skill of his and Mr. Shakespeare's words were a bit tricky, but he was determined to persevere.
The sudden sound of a gunshot rent the air and caught his attention. He reined in his horse, listening to determine where the noise was coming from. Up ahead was one of the main roads that connected the half-dozen little villages in this area and no doubt one of the local lords was out hunting. But then there were more shots and the sound of shouting, and it was clear that some mischief was afoot. Another man might have thought it none of his business and ridden in the other direction, but Duncan MacLeod was a warrior - and a little bored with his currently tranquil life. So he spurred his horse towards the road and, gaining it, listened again. There was another gunshot to his right - but then a flurry of shots to the left and the definite sound of carriage wheels and pursuing horsemen.
He turned his horse's head in that direction and kicked him into a gallop, soon catching up with the carriage and its pursuers. The driver appeared to have been injured for he was clutching the reins with one hand while his other hand was clapped to his shoulder and he listed in the seat. MacLeod spurred his horse once more as the highwaymen ordered the occupant of the carriage to surrender, and as he neared the stopped vehicle he felt the distinctive tingle of Immortal presence. This could be good or bad, he quickly reasoned. Two Immortals meant two swords against the two highwaymen, so the odds were considerably evened. On the other hand, an unknown Immortal was potentially a threat.
"You in the coach!" one of the highwaymen repeated, cocking his pistol. "I said stand down."
MacLeod reined in his horse, maneuvering closer to the coach. "I believe you've chosen the wrong traveler, gentlemen. I suggest you let this coach alone."
The two men laughed and the one leveled his pistol at MacLeod. Before he could fire off a shot, however, a gun's rapport came from inside the carriage and the highwayman fell down off his horse, dead. MacLeod immediately loosened his sword and charged the other man, knocking him off his horse. He jumped off of his own horse and quickly disarmed the other man, sending him fleeing on foot down the road. A quick check of the other highwayman confirmed that he was dead.
"Hey, you in the coach!" he called out in his passable French. "Nice shot, but you could havea given me a hand with the other one."
A gun barrel emerged from the carriage's interior, followed by a slender young man who held a large sword in his other hand. "Oh, I don't know," he said genially in English, lowering the pistol to his side. "I thought you were doing quite nicely on your own."
The young man's eyes flicked down MacLeod's body in a quick assessment and there was something in the man's heated glance that stirred MacLeod's loins. He'd felt this flicker of interest before and, on a few occasions, had followed it to its natural conclusion. It looked like this little diversion might be more interesting than he had thought.
A groan from the carriage box caught his attention and the young man put aside both weapons to attend to his driver. He helped the man to the ground and then, after checking the wound, pulled loose his cravat and made a pad of it. "Quick, your cravat if you will!" he called out. MacLeod tugged off his cravat and handed it over, watching with interest as the young man bound the pad tight.
"You're good at that," MacLeod said.
"I should be," the stranger replied. "I'm a doctor. Piers Adams, by the way. Can you drive a carriage?"
"Then if you wouldn't mind," Adams said as he helped his driver into the carriage. "I can offer you hospitality in return, Mr. - "
"MacLeod," he replied. "Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."
The other Immortal looked at him with interest. "Are you, indeed?" Adams climbed up into the carriage after his driver and shut the door.
MacLeod quickly tied his horse to the back of the carriage and climbed up on the box. As he gathered the reins he called down to the carriage's occupant, "And just where will I be drivin' this thing?"
"Just follow the road," the man called back.
MacLeod rolled his eyes as he flicked the reins to start the carriage horses up. "Just follow the road, he says. And what if we end up in Paris - or in the Channel?"
"Then I'll think you're a very bad driver and rescind my offer of hospitality!" his passenger retorted. "Now shut up and drive - I have an injured man to tend to!"
This may be more trouble than it's worth, thought MacLeod as he drove the carriage along the road as instructed. But then again, he'd never gone out of his way to avoid trouble so why start now?
In the end, it turned out to be just that easy. The horses clearly knew the way home and, given their heads, turned off the main road after about two miles. There was a long carriage drive leading to a very pretty manor house on attractive grounds, and a stable lad ran out to hold the horses' heads as they neared the house. A footman came out of the house and Adams sent him in search of his valet and housekeeper. MacLeod helped him shift the wounded man out of the carriage and two servants appeared to carry him into one of the outbuildings.
"Pierre, fetch my bag from the library," Adams instructed his valet upon his arrival. "Henri has a bullet in his shoulder that will need extracting. Madame Dubois, this is Monsieur Duncan MacLeod and he is to be our guest - please see to whatever needs he has." He turned to MacLeod. "Sorry to leave you for a little while but my patient needs tending. In the meantime, mi casa is su casa." He hurried off in the direction that they'd carried the wounded man. The stablemen unharnessed the horses from the carriage and he turned his own mount over to them after unbuckling his saddlebags.
MacLeod followed the housekeeper into the manor. It was a handsome establishment, not overly large but appearing to have a good number of rooms and two levels above the kitchen basement.
"I hope I won't cause you much trouble," MacLeod said to the housekeeper. "Or to the lady of the house?"
She chuckled at that. "Oh, there's no such person to worry about! Dr. Adams keeps a bachelor establishment, but a very respectable one!"
Which MacLeod took to mean that there were no drunken carouses to disturb the servants and trouble the maids.
"Now, what are you most in need of, Monsieur MacLeod?" she asked.
"Food and drink, s'il vous plait." Then, looking down at himself and his travel-stained clothes, he added, "Although a bath might not go amiss first. I wouldn't like to sit down in all my dirt."
The housekeeper gave a quick order to the servants and led the way upstairs to a nicely appointed bathing chamber. A large copper tub stood in front of the fireplace and servants with buckets of hot and cold water appeared to fill it. MacLeod sat down on a nearby chair to remove his boots and stockings, then opened his saddlebag to extract his extra shirt and breeches. They were a little worn and dusty from the road but they were cleaner than what he was wearing.
Once the tub was filled and the maids gone, MacLeod stripped down and climbed into the tub. The footman finished mending the fire and left, closing the door behind him. MacLeod laid his head back against the edge and closed his eyes, giving a contented sigh as the warmth of the water soaked into his bones.
It was the sound of the door opening and the tingle of an Immortal presence that stirred MacLeod from a sleepy doze. He sat up and glared over at the doorway.
"D'ye mind? I like a little privacy while I bathe!"
"I don't mind at all," Adams said, coming fully into the room and closing the door behind him. He leaned against the door and folded his arms over his chest, his eyes filled with amused mischief.
MacLeod decided that he was no entertainment to be peeped at and decided to get out. He looked over at the chair where he'd set his change of clothing and, to his horror, realized that all of his clothing was gone.
"Where are my clothes?" he demanded. "They were right there!"
"Oh, my servants took them away," Adams said airily. "To clean and mend - you'll get them back."
"They're all I have! What am I supposed to wear?"
Adams held up two garments, a shirt and breeches. "You can borrow these for now."
MacLeod looked over the items. While the shirt looked to be a finer linen than he was accustomed to wearing, the breeches looked acceptable. "Hand them over," he said.
Adams gave him another appraising look. "Hmm, no. Come and get them."
MacLeod gave an indignant gasp. Did this man really think he was just going to stroll across the room, naked as the day he was born! Obviously Adams was bluffing. "Don't think I won't!"
Adams smirked. "Oh, I'm hoping you will."
"I'm getting out!" he warned, bracing to push himself out of the tub.
"Good. I can't wait." Adams crossed his arms and remained where he was.
" 'Tis not chivalrous of you t' gawk at me."
"Good thing that I was born long before chivalry then."
Aghast, MacLeod said, "Have ye no shame, man!"
"None whatsoever," Adams said cheerfully. "I gave it up back in the 11th century."
MacLeod gathered his resolve and pushed up out of the water. Adams let his eyes roam freely and smirked.
"And you have nothing to feel shamed about, either."
MacLeod stepped out of the tub and stomped over to the other Immortal, wet and naked. He grabbed the clothes and then, just to regain the upper hand, pressed forward and kissed Adams, hard. The other man stood passive for a moment, just accepting the kiss, then pushed him back a little. MacLeod looked down to see a towel pressed against his chest.
"You might want this, MacLeod. You're all wet."
Releasing the towel into MacLeod's grip, Adams stepped back and opened the door, then walked away.
If Adams was embarrassed by his behavior or regretted the subsequent kiss, he didn't display any signs during dinner. He was the ideal host, serving the best food and wine for his guest and providing stimulating conversation over the meal. He was flatteringly interested in MacLeod's adventures over the past few years, and if Adams sensed that he was avoiding more painful topics (it was too soon for him to talk casually about either Ashe or Kalas), he was polite enough not to pry.
Once the meal was finished and they'd had their fill of brandy, Adams gave MacLeod a tour of his house, starting with the kitchens and wine cellar. On the main floor, MacLeod was pleased to find that he had a salon fitted out for practicing martial skills and hoped that Adams would consent to spar with him. There was an elegantly appointed drawing room that looked like it was infrequently used, leaving MacLeod to guess that Adams didn't receive many visitors.
"Upstairs are the bedchambers - the housekeeper has given you the one adjoining mine, if that suits you," Adams said as they crossed the foyer in front of the staircase. "And this is my favorite room, and where you'll find me most days."
Adams opened a set of double-doors that revealed a comfortable looking room indeed. It was a large room, and at the far end was a large set of windows whose curtains had been pulled against the chill autumn night. Along one wall was set a large fireplace where a cheery blaze dispelled any cold and which was framed by two large armchairs. And the rest of the walls were taken up by bookcases, floor to ceiling, and all of the shelves were filled to capacity.
MacLeod looked around at the shelves and shelves of books. He had only seen this many in one of the libraries in Italy, when he'd accompanied the man he was employed to guard to the university there. The thought of a single individual owning all of these was stunning. "Are all of these yours? It must have taken a long time to accumulate so many!"
"Now MacLeod, don't you know that it's impolite to ask an Immortal how old he is?" Adams said lightly.
MacLeod picked up one of the books sitting on a table next to a comfortable chair and flipped through the pages. It was a journal of some kind, hand-written in a language he didn't recognize, although that wasn't surprising. At present he could only read Italian and English, although he had picked up a little French. He wondered what it was and how many languages Adams knew and how long it would take him to learn this one.
Adams deftly abstracted the book from his hands, closed it and set it back down on the table. "I don't think you're interested in my books, though."
His voice was low and enticing, a definite seductive edge to it. MacLeod could feel his pulse begin to pick up and his loins stirred. It had been a long time since he'd bedded anyone and longer still since it had been a man. And there was something very appealing about this Piers Adams.
"Oh, I don't know about that," MacLeod said, stepping closer to Adams. The other Immortal took a small step backward, then another - not in flight but as if teasing MacLeod to see if he would follow. MacLeod did, until he had Adams pressed up against a bookcase. "I admire a man with a large...library."
He kissed the other man, not hard like before but soft and seductive. And this time Adams was anything but passive, returning his kisses as he wrapped his arms around MacLeod's back. And when they eventually paused to pull in needed breaths, Adams took his hand and led him towards the stairs.
MacLeod's garments were returned two days after his arrival, cleaned and mended, but he delayed his departure. The weather had turned unseasonably chill and the library with its large fireplace was infinitely more hospitable than a horse's saddle. Adams was an accommodating host, inviting him to stay as long as he liked, and bringing in a sewing woman to augment MacLeod's meager wardrobe. MacLeod insisted on paying for the new clothes and they compromised on him paying for the materials as Adams already had employed the seamstress. As winter deepened, Adams gifted MacLeod with a heavier cloak than his current one, to keep him from catching cold when they rode out to hunt. Mornings were divided between tasks around the estate and sparring in the long salon. Their afternoons were spent largely in the library and Adams hunted out the books that he thought would appeal to MacLeod. Occasionally one of them read aloud for their mutual enjoyment, but most often they enjoyed their own books alone. And evenings were generally spent in Adams's large bed sharing mutual pleasure.
There were very few visitors to the estate. Occasionally Adams would be sent for when medical skill was needed and the village doctor not at hand. He shared with MacLeod that he'd had formal medical training two centuries earlier at Heidelberg and then in Florence earlier that century, although he'd been a healer off and on during much of his life. (He refused to reveal just exactly how long that had been, although MacLeod thought he might nearly be as old as Connor's old teacher, Ramirez.)
Messengers from nearby estates brought invitations to dinner parties and dances which Adams occasionally accepted, briefly expanding their social circle. MacLeod found himself looking forward to these occasional disruptions to their usual routine for, as much as he enjoyed spending time with Adams and found the tranquility of their lives restful, part of him itched to be doing something.
So when Adams unexpectedly ended one of their evenings out early, pleading a headache and calling for their carriage, MacLeod was upset and angry. When they got home, MacLeod had waited until the footman took away their outerwear before turning to Adams.
"Ye dinna ha' a headache," he said, lapsing into his brogue as he still tended to do when emotions were high. "Were ye ashamed t' present me tae your fine friends?"
"Nothing like that," Adams assured him, drawing him upstairs with him.
MacLeod was reluctant to follow him into his bedchamber, his pride still hurting, but he wanted to know the truth of the matter. He was not a fine gentleman dressed in silks and laces like some that he'd seen, but Adams wasn't a court dandy either, and had seemed to accept him as he was.
"There was another Immortal there," Adams said once they were private. "I sensed her and I knew who she was. Her real name is Kristin Gilles, she's about two hundred years old, and she has a reputation as a bit of a black widow. She ensnares young men and binds them to her until she tires of them and then...disposes of them." Adams slid his arms around MacLeod, pulling him into an embrace. "You, my young friend, would be just the sort of tasty morsel she'd like to devour."
MacLeod's pride was assuaged but he didn't give in easily. "I'm nay sae stupid tae be caught by such traps."
"Oh, I don't know about that," Adams said with an impish grin. "You fell into my snare quite easily, after all." And with that he tumbled MacLeod down onto the bed.
Later, when they were both spent and enjoying the aftermath of pleasure, MacLeod broached the original subject again. "Ye dinnae mind that I'm na' a gentleman? That I dinnae ken much about wines 'n' clothes?"
"You're Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," Adams said, leaning over to kiss him soundly. "And that's more than enough for me."
Normandy, Spring 1660
MacLeod stormed into the house, flung open the door to the library, and slammed it shut behind him. "Ye're leaving!" he shouted at Adams. "And ye dinna think t' tell me about it?"
Adams closed his book and set it aside on the table. "I'm not leaving," he said quietly.
"But the stable lad! The coachman! They said t'were told to ready for a journey!"
"I'm not leaving," Adams repeated, standing up. "You are. My servants are preparing provisions and packing your clothes. My coach is at your disposal, to take you wherever you'd like."
Stung by the unexpected rejection, MacLeod said, "I'll ride my own horse, thank you! And I'll na' be beholding to you or anyone for my food or clothes."
Adams sighed and crossed the room, taking MacLeod's shoulders between his hands. "MacLeod - Duncan. I don't want you to go. I'm sending you away for your own good, for both of us."
"But - " MacLeod tried to pull away but Adams held him fast.
"You're getting restless here; you've tried to hide it, for my sake, but I've seen. You're too young to want to settle down in one place yet. You have so much that you still want to see and experience." He cradled MacLeod's cheek with his palm and smiled at him. "More hearts to win and break? You belong to no one, least of all me. So it's best that we part fondly, and as friends, before you grow to resent me."
MacLeod cast his eyes down and bit his lips. He couldn't deny the truth, that their narrow little life had begun to chafe him, and as the weather warmed he had felt the need to be out and about. "Will we ever meet again?"
Adams smiled. "I expect that we will, one day - if you can keep your silly head down once in a while."
"I've naught a silly head!" MacLeod said indignantly, lifting his head to give Adams an indignant glare.
"You do, and it's one of your most charming attributes," Adams said and kissed him. "Live, Highlander. Grow stronger. And we'll meet another day."
MacLeod kissed him back, then took him by the hand. "I'm not leaving till the morning so ye'd best give me some last memories ta keep."
And he led Adams upstairs to the bedchamber.
Kalas had killed another person, this one a Watcher by the tattoo on his arm. MacLeod left the bookshop and got in his car, then called Joe.
"Joe, I've got some news about your missing Watcher. Kalas has killed another one of your people, at the bookstore."
Joe drew in a sharp breath and swore. "Don Salzer. He's a historian - he'd have no reason to be near Kalas!"
"Then Kalas must have wanted something from him." MacLeod started the car and pulled away from the curb. "Before Salzer died, he was trying to write something. They were the letters 'M-E.' What could they mean?"
Joe groaned and MacLeod could picture the worry on his face. "Salzer, he's been working on the Methos chronicle. If Kalas was to find that, find Methos - "
MacLeod gave a disbelieving laugh. "Oh, come on, Joe! Methos doesn't exist! The oldest Immortal? He's a legend, like Adam and Eve."
"Oh, he exists, all right," Joe assured him.
"Are you telling me you've seen him?" MacLeod felt his pulse quicken at the thought that someone where in the world lived an Immortal legend.
"Me? No. He's very elusive," Joe said, then added, "Well, he'd have to be, to live that long. Imagine an Immortal so old that he doesn't remember the time of his birth." Joe sounded just as fascinated with the idea as he was - well, of course he was. The Watchers must think of someone like Methos as a priceless artifact. "If Kalas found him and took his head, he'd be even stronger."
MacLeod's jaw tightened. "That means we're going to have to find him first."
Joe sighed, obviously reluctant to reveal anything about an Immortal to another of his kind, even MacLeod. In this case, though, he had little choice and he knew it. "We've got a guy at the university there. Adam Pierson. He's been our top Methos scholar for about ten years. He knows as much about Methos as anybody. I'll, uh, I'll let him know you're coming."
The name sounded vaguely familiar and MacLeod wondered if maybe Joe had mentioned him before this. He drove to the address Joe gave him and parked across the street. He cautiously looked up and down the street but there was no sign of Kalas, no tingle of his presence. He crossed the road and knocked on Pierson's door, then drew in a sharp breath as he sensed another Immortal nearby. Kalas must have gotten there first, must still be inside. MacLeod drew his sword and cautiously entered the apartment, slowly making his way down the stairs towards where he sensed the other Immortal was.
A young man was sitting on the floor, back against a bed and headphones on. As if sensing MacLeod's presence, he pulled off the headphones and turned his head towards him. MacLeod froze in place at the base of the stairs, taking in the familiar visage before him.
Piers Adams, looking much the same as he had over three hundred years ago. He smiled at MacLeod, casually, as if they'd just parted the previous day. "Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Have a beer." He lobbed a can at MacLeod and he caught it deftly in one hand.
Adam Pierson? No, not just Adam Pierson.
"Methos?" he breathed.
Methos's smile widened and he inclined his head. "Hello, Highlander. Mi casa es su casa."