Life had been good to Richie for several years. Waking up on the other side of the planet after supposedly having been killed by his best friend had been weird, but so had the whole Ahriman incident. Finding out that he'd lost several years and it had been 2000 had also been something of a shock. Given that the world had not ended and everything seemed to be ticking on as normal he had decided, at the time, to just get on with his own life.
It all seemed like such a long time ago now and he really had no idea why he was thinking about it. He had a new life and no intention of going back to his old one. It had to be the holiday season that was making him look back. Beth, his business partner, was off home with her family and that made him dwell on the things he didn't have. Beth had invited him, but he had needed to see a client, so he'd declined. Of course her parents would still welcome him like a long lost son if he just appeared, but he didn't want to take advantage of them so late on Christmas Eve.
Someone needed to be available for holiday season disasters anyway; being in the catering business, even the high end exotic foods one, made the holiday season very busy. Taking a business degree while in New Zealand had been one of the best decisions he had ever made. Gray Enterprises was a very successful business and they were well known all over Europe which was where he had finally decided to set up.
"Get your head out of your ass, Rich," he told himself as he stepped into the damp Dutch night.
The head office was in Amsterdam and so were several of their clients. The meeting about supplying one of Amsterdam's high end hotels for New Year had gone on far longer than he had hoped, but he had made them see reason in the end. He would get them the finest produce and they would pay his price.
Tucking his scarf around his neck and pulling it up over the bottom of his face, he started to walk towards the nearest taxi rank: he was in no mood to wait for a tram. He'd stayed in New Zealand for five years, establishing his new identity of Richard Gray and so far it was holding up well. His one and only brush with the law in Amsterdam had been a parking ticket and he intended for it to stay that way. He even had a bicycle; he was that well adjusted these days, but they weren't good for cold, winter nights.
He'd just turned into the main street near the RAI where he knew he could find a taxi when he felt the touch of another Immortal. There were a couple in Amsterdam, but they were as well adjusted as most of the Dutch and he'd never had any trouble with them. One was a bookish professor type who seemed to live in the libraries and museums and the other was a woman with a very large extended family, so he couldn't think what either of them would be doing out so late. Knowing it was unlikely to be one of his neighbours, he put his hand into his coat onto the hilt of his sword.
"I'm not looking for a fight," a voice said from the darkness.
The thing was, it was a familiar voice.
"Neither am I," he replied, keeping his tone low and muffling his voice with the scarf, "come out into the light."
Footsteps alerted him to the exact position of the other Immortal and he looked over just in time to see Methos step into the light.
"I'm just here to visit a friend," Methos said, holding his hands out in a peaceful gesture, "I want no trouble."
It was clear Methos did not recognise him, but then he was dead, so with the scarf obscuring half his face it wasn't really surprising. Seeing someone from his past after so recently thinking about it spooked him a little; he didn't dismiss anything out of hand these days; not after what had happened to him. He had long since realised that the whole Ahriman incident had left him a little bit psychic. The only problem was he never really knew why things came to him. The fact that Methos was in Amsterdam could have triggered his thoughts about the past, or it could be more than that.
"Mortal or Immortal?" he asked, keeping his voice muffled.
Methos frowned at him.
"Immortal," was the eventual response, "but no one for you to worry about; we're both just passing through. We meet here occasionally."
That caused a little spark to go off in Richie's brain, but he had no idea why. The vagueness of the ability left over from contact with a demon was annoying to say the least.
"I'll just be going," Methos said and went to walk round him in a very wide arc.
His sensible brain said to just let Methos go. He did not want to go back to his old life, in fact he wanted nothing to do with it, but his instincts were screaming at him.
"Don't go," he said before he could keep his mouth shut, "don't go to meet your friend."
It was what the little spark was urging him to say, but it clearly sounded as insane to Methos as Richie's logical brain was telling him it was.
"Look, we'll be clearing out tomorrow," Methos said as if trying to placate him. "We drink a bit and then we go our separate ways, that's it. Nothing to be paranoid about."
The ancient Immortal than went to walk on and Richie knew he had to stop him.
"Methos," he said with deliberate slowness, "don't go to see your friend."
The other Immortal froze at the use of his real name. Gone was the unassuming human facade and the man who turned to him was all deadly seriousness.
"Who are you?"
Richie reached up and pulled the scarf away from him face.
"That is impossible," Methos said very definitely.
"Waking up on the other side of the world in the year 2000 was impossible," Richie replied, "everything else seemed mundane after that."
"I saw you dead," Methos said.
"I remember dying," Richie countered, "but, other than losing a couple of years, everything seems to be in working order."
Methos just stared at him.
"Look, I don't care what you believe," he said, "just don't go to see your friend. Something is wrong."
"What do you know?"
"Nothing, but I know bad things will happen if you go."
"How do you know?"
"I'm psychic, okay, there I said it. It's 99% useless, but everything I feel is telling me to tell you not to meet your friend. I don't have a clue why."
Methos just glared at him some more.
"I don't know who you are," the ancient man said, "but I've had enough of these games. I'm going to meet Erik."
With that Methos turned on his heel and began to walk leaving Richie just standing there. The sensible thing would have been to just let Methos go, but Richie did know better than to ignore his instincts when they were this strong. The last time they had been this certain was when he had considered taking the business degree. With a growl of exasperation he put his hands in his pockets and headed after the other man.
"What are you doing?" Methos demanded, rounding on him as they reached the corner.
"Following you," Richie replied in a peeved tone, "what does it look like?"
"If you think I'm leading you to a friend, you can think again."
"I'm not interested in your friend, I'm interested in you, god help me."
"Sod off or I will make you."
Richie was about to launch into all the reasons he was not going to 'sod off' when a peculiar sensation ran up his spine. He looked in completely the opposite direction to the one they were travelling and saw a huge fireball leap into the sky, quickly followed by a loud boom.
"What the hell?" he said, but Methos was already off running, so Richie just followed.
They doubled back round the end of the buildings, heading back up an alley in the direction of the explosion. It took him a few seconds to realise they were heading towards somewhere he knew.
"You're here to see Jan," he said as they ran, realising that Methos had been telling him a whole pack of lies.
Jan was the professorly Immortal whose house was built on a nice little plot of holy ground that had once been a monastery.
"You know Jan?" Methos sounded suspicious.
"I have been to a museum or two," he shot back, even as they charged into another road; "he's hard to miss. I also know he carried a 22 pistol in his pocket and would shoot any Immortal who tries to challenge him and then leaves them where they fall."
Methos raised an eyebrow at that.
"He tried it on me twice," Richie said, "he's a paranoid bastard. The second time he missed and actually let me get a word in edgewise; we have lunch every other month."
That made Methos appear even more dubious.
"We both like super bike racing," Richie said, since he was absolutely positive Methos would not believe he had picked up any culture.
They ran into Jan's road to see one house up in flames and a burnt figure lying on the pavement in front of it. It looked as if Jan had staggered out of the flames and then collapsed. It began to dawn on Richie that if he had just let Methos go without talking to him, the ancient Immortal would have been in the house as well. Jan's was the only house between little shops and offices, all of which were closed for the holidays, but there were people beginning to appear and Richie could hear a siren.
"Let me do the talking," he said as they approached the scene.
Methos did not look happy, but nodded.
"Who is it?" he asked, coming up beside a man who had run down the road from the other direction.
"It's impossible to tell," the man said, clutching the cell phone that must have called the authorities, "but this is Jan Van De Mar's house."
"But he's away for Christmas," Richie said without hesitation, "he asked me to water his plants."
Jan was not the social type, so Richie was pretty sure no one could contradict him. The man with the cell phone accepted his story instantly and it didn't take him long to convince the police when they arrived either. Three hours later Methos distracted the morgue attendant while Richie went in to collect the newly revived Jan before dragging them both back to his apartment. It was quite an adventure really.
"Oh dear," Jan said in a very distracted way as Richie poured them all a drink, "I'm going to have to rebuild my whole house."
"That's what happens when you blow them up," Richie replied, with little sympathy.
Jan had already admitted that he had been trying one of the old experiments he had been researching, which is how his house had turned into a fire ball.
"You're lucky you didn't set the whole street on fire," he added for good measure.
"And that Richie and I were there to put off the police, or you'd be dead here," Methos pointed out.
At some point during all the excitement, Methos seemed to have begun to believe he was actually who he said he was.
"You're going to have to go and stay with Anna for a few days and then pretend to come back from vacation," Richie continued; "she has a spare room."
"She threatened to behead me last time I stayed with her," Jan said with a frown.
"Then try and be nice," Richie replied and shoved the phone at his semi-friend.
Jan could be more than a little eccentric without trying, but did take the handset. The academic wandered up the other end of the room while dialling the number.
"Another Immortal?" Methos asked as Richie finally let himself fall into a chair.
"The only other one I know for sure is in residence in Amsterdam," Richie replied with a nod. "She has at least seven adopted children so she can cope with one more."
It really was hard to believe someone could blow up their own house. He put his head back and closed his eyes; it was now Christmas day and all he really wanted to do was go to bed and sleep. He did not need excitement in his life.
"You really woke up in New Zealand?" Methos asked and made him open his eyes again.
"Yeah, and I have no idea how I got there or what happened after the fight with Mac," he replied. "I had no obvious scars or anything that would give me a clue and the only after-effect is the whole random psychic intuition thing."
"And you didn't think about coming back?" There was no condemnation in Methos' voice.
"I figured Mac had to have won, because there was no end of the world," he said with a shrug, "and I seem to be a hell of a lot safer away from the Highlander."
Methos just nodded at that.
"Life does tend to be more exciting with him around."
"I've had two challenges since 2000," Richie said, "two; it's way more exciting with Mac around and it's excitement I can do without."
"Boy scout syndrome," Methos agreed and finally smiled for the first time since they had met. "Do you have any beer?"
Richie just rolled his eyes and went to get some from the refrigerator.
Another hour later and Anna had picked up Jan, Methos was sprawled on his couch and Richie was on his third beer. It felt strangely domestic and comfortable.
"Merry Christmas," Methos said and saluted him with a bottle.
Methos was on at least his sixth beer, but still seemed to be completely sober.
"Merry Christmas to you too, old man," Richie said with a grin.
"Watch who you're calling old," Methos replied, but grinned back.
"If anyone's old it's you," Richie replied with a laugh; "you were born way before there even was a Christmas."
"True, but any excuse for a party."
That made Richie laugh some more. He was a little worried about what would happen now that Methos knew he was alive, but it felt strangely good to have an old friend in his apartment. They'd never been close, not like Mac and Methos had been, but the hawk-nosed Immortal made him a little nostalgic.
"You're welcome to stay," he said as he considered going to bed.
He was pretty sure there was a spare duvet and some pillows in the closet somewhere.
"Do you want to have sex?"
He froze mid sitting up as that question caught him completely from left field.
"What?" he asked, because that just did not compute.
"I thought I was quite clear," Methos replied with a grin. "Do you want to have sex. Espionage always makes me horny."
"You call what we were doing tonight espionage?" It was the easiest question to ask first.
"Sneaking around, lying to authorities; it's the same difference," Methos said.
Richie didn't really know how to respond to that.
"Don't tell me you're still boringly heterosexual like our Scottish friend," Methos said with a disappointed frown. "I've been trying to get him into bed for years. You have no excuse; you live in the middle of the most gay-friendly country in the world."
"Actually I'm not," Richie defended himself, "Jan got me drunk the other year and ... oh, so that's why you were visiting Jan."
He put two and two together. Jan might look and act like a professorly type, but he was quite a goer in the bedroom.
"We've been shagging for three hundred years so don't even try and judge us," Methos said in a haughty tone.
"Wouldn't dream of it," Richie replied and then decided what the hell. "And since you asked, yes, I would like to have sex."
"Oh thank god," Methos said and stood up with far more grace than should have been possible after six Dutch beers.
Richie laughed and accepted the offered hand to help him up as well and then let himself be dragged into the bedroom. It wasn't going to be such a lonely Christmas after all.