Methos: And every cloud has a silver lining.
Duncan: What do you mean?
Methos: If you die, Amanda will be free to date.
Duncan: (pause) That’s a comfort.
~ Finale, Part 2
Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1995
It took a moment to relearn how arms and legs worked, but Duncan struggled onto his feet, then made his slow way down from the Tower to the grounds below. He limped a little, Kalas’s quickening lingering like a bad aftertaste. Then, he saw her. He saw them: Methos and Amanda, and Joe at their side. The three of them, waiting.
“That was a big one,” he said, as they closed in around him. He sighed, in relief.
They took him home, to the barge. Joe left for an hour and then came back. In desperate need of a wash, Duncan abandoned Methos and Amanda to their own devices while he took a shower and changed. The shower felt wonderful on his sore, aching muscles, and he imagined that the stench of Kalas’s quickening was washed away as well, flowing down the drain.
When he emerged, he saw Methos and Amanda huddled close together near the galley. Methos was opening a champagne bottle and Amanda took down four glasses, placing them on the counter. Duncan watched from the bedroom area, unobserved while they busied themselves pouring champagne, noticing how easy they were in each other’s company, how familiar. The soft lighting cast a warm glow. Methos said something and Amanda laughed, then wrinkled her nose. Methos’s return grin to her was slow, teasing, and his eyes twinkled. The old man was flirting, Duncan realized, and Amanda, bless her, responded, but not in the same way she flirted with Duncan. These two had a different way with each other, a different language. They were friendly and intimate, hinting at many long centuries.
It did things to Duncan to see these two enigmatic friends of his so close together, awakening inside of him a strong, somewhat bittersweet curiosity. He realized he didn’t really know Methos.
“So tell me,” he said, fresh from his shower and dressed again. Both Amanda and Methos turned with twin looks of surprise when he spoke, but Amanda’s eyes lit up and she quickly grinned at Duncan. Ah, he thought, there was his Amanda, with a smile just for him. Methos, perhaps reading Duncan like a book, gave him a teasing smirk. Duncan tilted his head and looked at them. “I know you both said you met through Rebecca. When was that?”
Amanda and Methos exchanged brief but all too knowing looks, and then Methos scrunched his face up like he was trying to do big math. “Gosh, how long ago?” he counted in his head. “Pre or post King Arthur?”
“Oh, darling, I am not as old as that,” answered Amanda, slightly offended.
Duncan laughed and then felt himself blush. “Okay, you two. I’m just curious.” He turned to Methos. “She knows who you are.”
There was a silence as all three looked at each other. Methos narrowed his eyes at Amanda. “She does. She stole that knowledge, just as she steals everything else. Thief.”
Amanda straightened. “Excuse me,” she said, folding her arms across her chest. Then, with a coquettish little shrug of her shoulders, said, “You were careless.”
Methos grinned, making a face. “I guess I was.”
“She knows who you are,” repeated Duncan, standing between them. “And she never once mentioned you to me. Not in all the years I’ve known her.”
Amanda rolled her eyes. “Well of course not,” she said. “I keep the jewels I steal, you know. I don’t sell them or give them away, if I can help it.”
Duncan huffed, amused to see the faint blush of color on Methos’s cheeks. “Is he a jewel?” asked Duncan, examining Methos.
“A prize, certainly,” said Amanda. She walked her fingers up Methos’s arm to poke affectionately at his face and nose. “Well. Rebecca thought so, anyway.”
“Stop,” said Methos, now very red in the face. “Where is that Joe?” he asked, searching for a distraction, looking around for their missing Watcher.
Amanda grinned, then draped herself into Duncan’s arms. “To answer your question, I first met him as Matteo, a slim-limbed, very young, very beautiful spark who fluttered all over Rebecca like she hung the moon. Well, she did. He was, to put it frankly, a lovely bed warmer.”
Methos snorted, but he didn’t deny it. “Matteo was a good soul. Dumb as bag of rocks, but useful. I miss him. I spent a very comfortable number of years as Matteo. No one ever suspected him of anything.”
Duncan shifted in his chair. “Did Rebecca know?”
There appeared a quiet stone-like expression on Methos’s face, but then he softened as he took a sip of his champagne. A little shrug, a little waggle of his eyebrows. “Yes,” he said. His eyes met Amanda’s, and he held out a hand for her to take. “Rebecca was special.”
“She was,” said Amanda, a look of sorrow passing quickly. She held on to Methos’s hand, though she spoke to Duncan. “Matteo’s time with Rebecca ended because of a challenge, of course. And it would have meant the end of Methos as well if I hadn’t been there to save his life,” she added.
Duncan watched as a slow grin spread across Methos’s face. “Is that how the story goes?” he asked.
“Oh. Certainly,” she said, her eyes big and round and most sincere.
Methos’s laughed, and he slowly raised her hand to his lips. Duncan actually felt Amanda shiver. “If you say so, my lady,” Methos murmured, then kissed her hand.
Sly old dog, thought Duncan, amused (and, to his private chagrin and surprise, also slightly aroused). He watched Amanda blush as she and Methos shared a moment that was entirely theirs.
Joe returned and brought with him news of the Watchers, of destroyed CD-ROM discs and secret hideouts. The urgency, the fear of exposure, and the remnants of Kalas’s quickening, they all began to fade as Duncan sipped his champagne, pleased to know Joe was safe, to have Amanda in his arms, to have Methos nearby occasionally meeting his gaze, with all manner of unsaid and hidden things.
Amanda suppressed a sigh and continued to fix a placid smile to her face, pretending the room wasn’t stuffy, full of old men with beards, and smelling of unwashed bodies and heavily cloying incense. She was not fond of Spain. To tell the truth, she preferred any other royal court in Europe. She preferred Paris. But a girl must go where the jewels were.
A momentary ripple of excitement filtered through the room as the queen entered, surrounded by her ladies in waiting. Anna of Austria, Queen of Spain, was young and pale and somewhat pretty, her strawberry blonde hair the sole bright spot in the otherwise gloomy room. Around her neck she wore a jeweled choker encrusted with pearls, diamonds, rubies, and a large emerald—worn over the high collar of her bodice, of course. God forbid any woman in this dreary court showed an inch of flesh. The jewels sparkled in the meager light.
Amanda felt a degree of pity for the queen. Her new husband was much older than she was, and he was also her uncle. It didn’t seem right. Another reason to dislike Spain.
The dignitaries all bowed to the queen as she came to stand beside King Phillip, and then they returned to presenting their gifts to the court. First came a large trunk of gold, melted into ingots. The king raised an eyebrow, then nodded in acceptance. The trunk of gold was carried away. Next, the lead dignitary produced an elaborate golden headdress on a velvet pillow, bowing before the king.
“Why wasn’t this melted down?” asked the king.
The dignitaries gave each other glances, sweating a little, wiping their foreheads. “We thought it a unique piece, your highness. This is what their emperor wore, a symbol of his power. We thought…” he trailed off, growing pale.
The king stared imperiously at the dignitaries before ordering one to bring the headdress closer. He inspected it, then gave a weary sigh before nodding in acceptance. The dignitaries hastily brought forth other gifts from the New World, clearly hoping something would please their king.
Amanda eyed the gold but then gave herself a mental shake—there was so much of it! But it gave her an uneasy feeling, and she had learned enough over the years to listen to her instincts. This gold was not for her. Instead, she returned her attention to the young queen, and to those jewels around her neck.
Slowly she made her way closer to where the queen stood, intent on catching Anna’s eye. But then, a shiver started low in her spine, blossoming into a strong Immortal presence. It gave Amanda no time at all. She looked around, trying to spot the other Immortal among the greybeards and the abuelitas.
Someone came up behind her. “Does Rebecca know you’re here?” asked a deep, somewhat amused voice.
Amanda turned swiftly. Methos stood there, plain as day, with that irritating smirk of his. He had on the same dark brocade doublet the rest of the court favored, but unlike most of the men in the room, remained clean-shaven and wore no cap.
“Why, you!” she cried, and hit his shoulder, but then—remembering where they were—she faced the crowd again and resumed her fixed and placid smile, nodding cordially to those who had turned to see what the fuss was about. Through gritted teeth she asked, “What are you doing here?”
“I could ask the same thing of you. But I believe I can deduce why you’re here,” he said, turning her gently so they both faced the queen. He eyed Queen Anna’s choker. “Does Rebecca approve of this activity?”
“Certainly not,” said Amanda, stiffly. “But what Rebecca doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” A thought came to Amanda and she narrowed her gaze at Methos. “You’re not here for it, are you?
“Certainly not,” he said, using her words. “What would I want with a bit of trumpery like that? Much too gaudy for my tastes. No. I’m here for…”
A trumpet sounded, interrupting their tête-à-tête. The dignitaries from the New World stood back to allow a large decorated box to be wheeled in on a dais from the back of the room. The wheels squeaked slightly until the dais stopped in front of the king and queen.
“As a final gift, your Highnesses, may we present…” The dignitary pulled the ribbon that held the box together and the sides collapsed down, revealing a small, bent figure, head bowed and on her knees.
There was a collective indrawn breath from the crowd, and then a cry of shock as the figure moved and lifted her head. She was small, almost entirely naked, and her large dark eyes looked curiously around the room before she faced the king and queen.
“I’m here for her,” finished Methos, speaking so only Amanda could hear.
“Why…it’s a child,” said Amanda, perplexed. “Is she...?” And then Amanda understood as they both listened to the dignitary explain. She felt both sorrow and wonder. “Oh. They took her.”
“She’s quite harmless,” said the dignitary to the startled court. “A savage, from the New World. We believe her name is Cusi-Huarcay, but we have been calling her Maria.”
Cusi seemed no older than ten or twelve years old. Her hair was bluntly cut, with short bangs across her forehead. In contrast to the stiff high collars and heavy brocade of the court, Cusi wore only a thin pale cloth around her waist, and another cloth around her chest, for minimal modesty. Her skin, so out of place in that room, was the color of sun-dried earth. She looked at everyone with large, intelligent eyes. Then, Amanda felt a quiet flicker of…Immortal presence.
“But, she’s one of us,” said Amanda, staring at the child. “Or she will be.”
“Yes,” said Methos, flatly.
Amanda turned to him. Her first thought, she was ashamed to admit, was that Methos meant to keep her, like a pet. That he was after her as a prize. But then she looked more closely at his face and studied the particular expression she found there. “You plan to rescue her.”
Their eyes met. “Yes,” he said, in that same flat manner.
“I must say, I’m surprised.”
“Why’s that?” he asked, and there was a hard look in his eyes.
She shrugged. “I just never thought you the rescuing type. That’s all.”
“I’m not,” he said, lifting his chin. “But,” his eyes darkened as he observed the girl. She had been led to Queen Anna and pushed to sit on a little jeweled pillow at the queen’s feet. The queen seemed kind to her, at least. “I don’t like to see a person sold into slavery. No one. But especially not one of us.”
Amanda studied him, and in his eyes she saw a hint of those many centuries that lay within his ancient soul. Sometimes she still thought of him as that beautiful, slim-limbed Matteo, but he wasn’t that. Not by a long shot.
“I understand,” she said, and laid her hand on his. He curled his fingers around hers. “I have an idea,” she said, brightly, all smiles. He answered her smile with one of his. She turned to direct his attention back to the queen and Cusi, sitting side-by-side. “Why don’t I help you with yours, and you help me with mine?”
Methos eyed the girl-child and the queen, and with an enigmatic smile on his lips, he raised an eyebrow. “An excellent proposal, my lady,” he said, lifting her hand to his lips.
2120, New York City
She looked at him as cars flew past, and he looked at her as pedestrians pushed and pulled, and there existed between them a space of time that happens between any two Immortals when they meet—Are you here for me? But that moment passed, and they both laughed.
Dodging fast-moving cars, Methos crossed the street to her. Amanda held out her hands. Bundled beneath a hat and scarf wound around her head, she said to him as he gripped both her hands tight, “It’s so good to see you.”
“This is a surprise,” he said, his grin crinkling the corners of his eyes. He had his own woolen hat and scarf, his nose red from the cold. “I thought you were in Russia.”
“I was,” she said. “I only just got back yesterday. Are you going to Duncan’s for the holidays? He said he’d invited you.”
He made a face. “Yes, I suppose I’ll have to. I’ll never hear the end of it if I don’t.”
She laughed, and they linked arms to walk side-by-side despite all the traffic. The future had come to New York City in the form of drones and traffic lanes both on the ground and in the sky, but the city was much as it ever was with large crowds of pedestrians pushing their way here and there.
Though it had been more than a decade since they’d last seen each other, it didn’t take long to catch up. “Are you in a hurry?” she asked. “Do you have time for a cup of coffee? I know a place right up here.”
He agreed. It was quite chilly and they were both ready to get out of the cold for a bit. Amanda led him a little further, until they turned the corner onto Fifth Avenue, across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
It took a moment for it to sink in, and Amanda was not ashamed to admit she held her breath. Methos glanced at the museum and didn’t pay much attention to it in particular, but then he stopped. He turned back. He stared at the banners displaying the current exhibition. And then he rounded on her, livid.
“No,” he said, shaking his head, outraged. “No, absolutely not. Are you out of your mind? I should have known you were up to something.” He started walking in the opposite direction.
“Now, Methos, don’t yell at me,” she said, raising her hands to stop him. “Wait. Please. It’s not what you think.”
“Oh, you do not want to know what I think,” he said, his eyes sparking, but he did stop.
The banners that hung on the face of the building flapped in the breeze, announcing the exhibition of the Spanish Collection with that famous portrait of Anna of Austria, Queen of Spain, in her canary-yellow bodice, wearing a golden, jeweled choker.
“You cannot be serious.” He pointed at the building, at the picture of Queen Anna. “Amanda. What are you thinking?”
“I just want to see it. To look at it again. Oh, come on,” she pleaded, grabbing onto his coat, peering into his face. “It’s the one that got away. Surely you understand.”
“Did you plan this? Meeting me, here?” he asked, narrowing his eyes.
“No….” He gave her a fierce look and she caved. “Well, okay, yes.” He snorted. “But only because it’s you, Methos. Who else can I share this with? Who else would understand? What this piece means to me? To us?” He was listening, and that gave Amanda hope. “Come with me. I’m not going to steal it. I just want to look at it.”
He eyed her suspiciously, but her words had an effect on him, she could see that. He looked at the giant banner flapping in the wind, at the over-sized blow-up portrait of Queen Anna and the damned jeweled choker around her neck. Methos took a deep breath in. “I suppose you blame me,” he said.
“What?” She shook her head, linking her arm with his again. “No. How could you say that? Yes, it smarted having to choose between Cusi or the choker, but in the end there wasn’t a question. And I never regretted it.”
Their eyes met, and so much history lay between them. Methos’s expression lost all of his previous anger, and instead softened with his sorrow, but also his amusement. Slowly, a smile emerged. “All right,” he agreed.
They entered the museum, paying their entrance fees. The exhibit was packed, and it took some time before they made their way to stand in front of the display containing the choker. Amanda stared at it. Someone had done a good job in restoring the piece. It looked even better than it had centuries ago. Brighter, cleaner, as if all that hazy incense smoke had been lifted right off.
Amanda sighed wistfully. It was difficult to let it go. Methos didn’t push her to leave, and they stayed with the piece for far longer than any other visitors that day.
Later, after they had parted with a hug and a promise that they’d see each other again soon at Duncan’s, Amanda stood by the window of her hotel room, gazing out at the view of Manhattan. Her room faced midtown—something she hadn’t asked for but was glad to have—and she could just make out the shape of the museum in the near distance as the day sunk into dusk.
Immortal presence preceded the knock at her door. Surprised, the first bead of hope caused her heart to pound. She peeked through the eyehole and saw Methos standing in the hallway. She opened the door, breathless.
He raised a hand to stop her from speaking. “First, I want you to know that if you ever breathe a word of this to MacLeod, I will come after you. And I will find you. And I will take my revenge.”
Tingles went up her spine, and she opened her mouth to answer, but he interrupted her.
“Second, consider this your Christmas gift for this year and every year after for the next thousand years.” He paused, and a less combative look came over him. She even saw a little confusion in his eyes. “I realized after we said goodbye today that I didn’t want to leave it there. If it belongs to anyone, it belongs to you.” Their eyes met. “Let’s go get it.”
Amanda blinked, hardly believing it. The hotel hallway fluorescent lighting cast odd shadows over Methos’s face, but he stepped closer, his eyes searching hers. Amanda flew into his arms. “Yes, yes. Thank you.”
Surprised as she threw herself at him, Methos made a noise, but then his arms came up and held her close. She drew back to look at him, then laid her cheek against his, leading him into the hotel room. Once they were inside, he didn’t let go of her hand. He raised it to his lips.
Methos could barely stand to look at her—Amanda was so full of life, strength, and vitality. But, at the same time, he felt immensely grateful to her. Amanda offered him her crystal. He knew what that meant. He knew the gift contained in the offer.
“You keep it,” he said, handing it back to her. “Think of us.”
She held onto his hand, pressing her cheek to his. “Courage, courage,” she said, and kissed his cheek.
Driving away into the night, with Duncan and Amanda in his rearview mirror, the warmth of her lips on his skin lingered. He put a hand over his cheek to keep that warmth there a moment longer.
Outer Space, near the planet of New Seacouver, 3120
Methos cursed. Alarms blared as several small spacecraft flew out of the space station’s hangar bay, swirling all around him, sending phaser fire. The ship shook. He made some quick adjustments, banking hard to the left, just missing colliding with the lead ship.
“We’ve got company,” he said, speaking into comms. “Can you hurry it up? This was a mistake.”
“You should have thought of that before you and Duncan came up with this hare-brained scheme. I’m going as fast as I can,” said Amanda, static cutting in, breaking up communication. “Hold them off.”
Methos growled, irritated. “Hold them off,” he muttered to himself. But he could see Amanda through the viewscreen, dressed in her spacesuit and clinging to the outside of the space station as she worked to override the access panel. She looked small and vulnerable, floating in space.
“Come on, boys,” he said to the other spacecraft, intercepting their approach as they swung around. Making sure they were on his tail, he drew them away from Amanda’s position, skimming along the underbelly of the station, firing at the station’s hull. He sent more fire, seeing small explosions bloom all along the station’s exterior.
That did it. It worked. A little too well, he thought with alarm, cursing again as six more ships joined the ten that were already on him, each with their weapons locked. They chased him, sending a barrage of weapons’ fire. His control panel sent up sparks as the system short-circuited. He cried out, covering his eyes.
The goons secured Duncan to the interrogation post with magnetic-lock restraints at his hands and legs, but they didn’t gag him. The big brute with the grotesque neck tattoo cracked his knuckles. Duncan raised his eyes to the brute’s face, then regretted it.
“You’re a pretty one,” he said mockingly.
The brute sneered. Then, quicker than Duncan had given him credit for, the brute gave him a one-two punch, aiming for Duncan’s chest and kidneys.
Duncan coughed. “Ouch,” he said.
From the shadows of the interrogation room, a man appeared. He was about a quarter of the size of the brute, but looked meaner, if that were possible. White hair cropped short, his skin was a cadaver-like gray, and he had ink-black, mechanical eyes that had no white at all—the mark of an augment, and no longer fully human. Ugh, thought Duncan. Just great.
With a look that gave Duncan the willies, the augment lifted Duncan’s chin with one finger, forcing him to look up.
“Where is it?” he asked, tapping on Duncan’s skull with his finger. “I know you took it. And I know you have it hidden.”
Duncan sighed. “I can’t decide which one of you I like more,” he said, looking between the pair of them.
The augment stepped aside and the brute gave him another one-two punch. Duncan grunted, catching his breath.
“Is that the best you can do?” The brute wound his arm back like he was going to punch Duncan again. “Wait,” said Duncan, hastily. He turned back to the augment. “I don’t have it.”
The augment leaned forward, tilting his head to inspect him closer. His eyes dilated, gears turning to better focus on Duncan. “You’re lying,” he said. He tapped his temple beside his unnatural black eyes. “I can tell.”
“Your circuits must be rusted,” said Duncan through gritted teeth. “I said, I don’t have it.”
“Then why are you on this station?” asked the augment. “This is a private facility. And its location is not listed.”
Whoops, thought Duncan. The man had him there. “You know, I actually have no idea where we are right now, or how I got here. Must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. If you could just…point me in the right direction, perhaps lend me a ship? I’ll be out of your hair in no time.”
Duncan stalled, trying to buy time. Quantum shielding worked even against augments, but there were other ways for the man to find out what Duncan kept locked and hidden.
“Fine. Have it your way,” said the augment, stepping back. He nodded at the brute who then took out a wicked looking weapon, long and thin but with a blunt end. With a push of the button, the end sparked as an arc of electricity appeared.
Duncan gave a nervous little laugh. He’d been on the receiving end of an interrogation stick before. The brute stepped in front of him, slapping the device menacingly against the palm of his hand, baring his teeth.
“Aw,” said Duncan, “And I thought things were going so well for us.”
The lights flickered, and then, as if someone had dropped something heavy, the station shivered. Both the brute and the augment glanced at the ceiling and then at each other. Duncan grinned with delight as sensation rippled down his spine. Finally. He had started to get nervous.
“Then again, it looks like our time together is over,” said Duncan.
Another series of explosions rocked the station, one right after the other. The augment’s black eyes went comically wide. Then the lights went out and the mag-locks released. The force field around the room suddenly switched off. Duncan moved swiftly, narrowly avoiding another of the brute’s punches. He reached behind him, found the space at the base of his neck cloaked by the quantum shield, and withdrew his katana. He dispatched the brute, but the augment proved more elusive.
With the lights out, everything became shades of black and gray. It looked like the augment had vanished into thin air, but Duncan knew better. He was probably wearing a stealth suit.
Duncan swung and missed, then swung again. He took a deep breath, reaching out with his senses. Nerves tingled, and the hair on his arms stood straight up. He turned just in time, one arm catching the downward strike of the interrogation stick. With his other hand, he raised the katana, catching the augment just under his chin.
“I should cut off your head,” said Duncan, tearing at the man’s suit to prevent him from disappearing again. “But there’d be nothing in it for me.”
The augment sneered. “You’re going to leave me alive? Big mistake.”
Duncan grinned. “You’d think so, wouldn’t you? Well, kind of not up to me.”
The augment narrowed his gaze, the gears in his black eyes contracting as they focused. He looked confused, then realization clicked. Panic showed on his face as he turned to see Amanda standing next to him. She appeared out of nowhere, wearing her own stealth suit.
“Goodbye,” she said, wiggling her fingers. She took the stick and pushed it against the augment’s temple, activating it. The augment screamed as he convulsed, his skeleton glowing through his skin, his eyes turning blue with electric light. Then he dropped to the floor in a heap.
There was a beat of silence. Amanda inspected the smoking end of the interrogation stick. “Hm,” she said, both amused and surprised at the result, then tossed it aside.
“Amanda,” sighed Duncan, taking in her sudden appearance. He had been expecting Methos. She looked stunning, as usual, the slim fit of the stealth suit showing all her curves. Her hair was longer than he’d ever remembered and back to its natural black, braided in two long French braids. Her lips were bright red. “You’re a sight for sore eyes.”
She smirked. “Miss me?” she asked, her voice silky.
“More than I can say.”
She grinned brightly, and he enveloped her into his arms, swinging her around, his heart glad to see her.
Another explosion rocked the station. They stumbled, grabbing hold of each other as they ran into the hallway. “Hurry,” she said. “Methos is in trouble. I can’t raise him on comms.”
“Of course he’s in trouble,” exclaimed Duncan, ducking away from a circuit exploding above his head. “When is he not in trouble?”
They skidded around a corner, running into several guards. Amanda went low, letting her suit shield her. Duncan wielded his katana, taking on four of the guards while Amanda easily took down the last one with a swift kick to his face.
“That hardly seems fair,” said Amanda, taking Duncan’s hand again as he assisted her over the pile of bodies. “I mean, he is here, isn’t he? To rescue you.”
“Is that what he told you?” asked Duncan, with that charming Duncan outrage that he reserved just for his best friends. They continued running through the hallways, Amanda directing them to the hanger bay. “This whole thing was his idea. He asked for my help. And what do I get? A punch in the gut.”
“Wait,” said Amanda, pulling Duncan to a stop in the middle of an abandoned hallway. Alarms began blaring, and the lights went blood-red in warning, but for the moment no guards were after them. “You mean, this is…for him? I thought it was just one of your normal scrapes.”
“Hey. Thanks a lot.”
“Well,” said Amanda, with a shoulder shrug. “Can you blame me?” She narrowed her gaze, closing in on Duncan who suddenly looked nervous, backing away from her until he butted up against the wall. “Tell me what’s going on here. I know a heist when I see one, Duncan. What are you stealing?”
Amanda looked closely at Duncan. His expression went from irritation to coy and secretive, increasing her curiosity. Well, what do we have here, she thought. The boys had their secrets.
“Amanda,” said Duncan, gently laying his hands on her shoulders, giving her a squeeze. “If he hasn’t told you yet, then I don’t think I should.”
That only intrigued her more. But the station shook again, throwing them off their feet. The whole thing was going to go up in a fiery ball in space, with them in it, if they didn’t hurry.
“Let’s get back to the ship and then you can question him all you want,” said Duncan, and Amanda let herself be satisfied with that since death by fireball in space wasn’t high on her list of things to experience.
They continued until they finally reached the hangar bay. It was empty, no ships to be found at all. “What now?” gasped Duncan, looking around for options to get them off the station.
Amanda grinned at him, lifting her wrist and pressing a button on her suit. “Darling, who do you take me for?” A second later, a small spacecraft appeared from under a cloak, docked in an out-of-the-way corner of the bay. “You know,” she continued, conversationally. “I have to say I quite like that I get to do the rescuing for a change. I get to rescue my boys. This is fun. I see why you like it.”
“Honey,” said Duncan, enveloping her into a grateful hug. “Rescue me all you want.”
“My,” said Amanda, actually blushing and giving his cheek a quick kiss. “You are feeling frisky. I like that even more. Come on. You can thank me later. Let’s get off this sinking tub.”
They scrambled into the ship, and in less than thirty seconds the engines were engaged and they shot out of the station hangar bay. It didn’t take long for them to swing around.
“There,” said Amanda, pointing at the viewscreen. “There he is.”
“Oh, look at my ship!” Duncan complained in disgust, punching in commands to chase after Methos who had many guard ships on his tail and was taking heavy fire. “I just got it detailed. This is the last time I’m lending it to Methos,” he growled. “Get the weapons ready.”
They swooped in, the element of surprise on their side. Amanda aimed and fired. One by one they picked off the enemy ships just as the station finally met its end, going up in a big explosion. The remaining ships fled, disappearing into the dark of space.
Amanda prepared the ship for docking while Duncan flew them into position. A moment later they were secured. She looked up at the hatch as it opened and smiled when she saw Methos. “What the hell took you so long?” he asked, but he held out a hand to her.
“Are you kidding?” asked Amanda, climbing up into the ship’s small cargo hold. Then, they both turned to help Duncan onto the ship. “That was some of my best work. It’s not every day I get to steal a Duncan,” said Amanda with a grin.
“Haha. Very funny,” said Duncan, but his cheeks were a little flushed. He turned to glower at Methos. “You didn’t tell me about the augment.”
Methos winced. “Right. About that. Did you get it?”
Duncan stood very tall and puffed out his chest. “Did I get it? Of course I did. And I still maintain, if you’d bothered to invite me the last time, we wouldn’t have to go through this all over again. At least I don’t have to bail you out of jail this time.”
“Will someone please explain what this is about?” begged Amanda, looking from Methos to Duncan and back again.
At first, they answered her with silence, the tension rising and Amanda’s curiosity rising with it. She was about to scream, but then Methos finally spoke. “Go ahead,” he said to Duncan. “Show her.”
Duncan reached behind him, into empty space. Amanda had no idea what he was doing, but then she remembered the quantum shield. What else besides the katana had it been hiding?
From some hidden space at his back, Duncan withdrew a folded golden yellow velvet cloth, rich in design and laced around the edges. He handed it to her. It was heavy. Somewhere deep inside of her, she knew what it was but could hardly believe it. Carefully, she unfolded the fabric. Inside lay Queen Anna’s jeweled choker, shining brightly, catching the cargo lights. Finally, after millennia, she held it in her hands.
“Methos,” she said, her voice a whisper. “You did this… for me?”
He tilted his head. “Is that so hard to believe?”
Tears blinded her, and she could only look down at the jewels in her hands, overwhelmed. It had been a thousand years since she’d seen it last in person, that day she and Methos had met in New York City and had seen it on display at the museum. Their attempt to steal it had ended in disaster, requiring Duncan to bail them both out of jail. It had gone out of public notice after that.
Through the fog of emotion and memory, Amanda realized that Duncan patted her on the back, and then left the cargo hold to see what damage the ship had sustained. Methos stayed with her a moment longer, but then said he needed to get to the helm. Alone, Amanda let go a shaky breath, then looked more closely at her gift, taking note at the ancient latch that still worked, and the careful restoration of some of the jewel settings. It was odd to realize this piece was probably one of the most valuable in existence, and she hadn’t even stolen it. It had been stolen for her. And wasn’t that the greatest gift of all.
She found Methos on the bridge, busy at the helm and yelling back and forth with Duncan over comms. Duncan must be somewhere nearby, she reasoned, fixing the parts of the ship that had gotten damaged in the fight.
Methos glanced at her as she approached. He must have realized this wouldn’t be a quick conversation and turned to silence the comms with a flick of a switch. Amanda sat back against the console, facing Methos. She couldn’t quite get a read on him.
“Why did you do it?” she asked. “I never asked you to.”
“I know,” he said. He held a hand out and Amanda placed the bundle of golden velvet into his hands. “Come here,” he said.
She slipped onto his lap, nestled against the armrest of the pilot’s chair. He unwrapped the fabric, then held out the jeweled choker. Carefully, he made her turn slightly so he could put it on her. His touch at her neck was light. It made her shiver. When he finished the delicate latch, she turned to face him. His eyes lay first on the jewels at her neck, then rose to meet hers.
“I wanted you to have it,” he said. Then, he grinned. “It’s not like I didn’t make you wait for it.”
“A thousand years, Methos!” she said. They both laughed, sharing this moment that was millennia in the waiting.
“Well, if you lose it, you’re on your own.”
“Bite your tongue. You know I never give away my jewels. If I can help it.”
He smiled, raising a finger to touch her cheek. “So I’ve been told before,” he said.
He brought her hand up to his lips and kissed it, and she melted in his arms, resting her forehead against his. She heard a distant banging, and then Duncan stomped onto the bridge. He huffed when he saw them.
“If the two of you are done canoodling,” he said, gruffly. “I’d like to get on our way home now. Ship’s all fixed, no thanks to you.”
But as usual, Duncan was all gruff and no bite. He came bearing beers for everyone. Somethings were constants in this universe, and it turned out bottled beer was one of them. He handed one bottle to Methos and Amanda each, taking time to pat Methos’s face affectionately and to plant a quick kiss on the crown of Amanda’s head before he plopped down heavily into the co-pilot’s chair.
“Very fetching,” said Duncan, indicating the choker around Amanda’s neck, punching in coordinates and setting the ship on course, taking a drink from his beer. “That necklace. Fine bit of trumpery. Bit gaudy, though, don’t you think?”
Amanda and Methos laughed. As the ship sped its way through space, Amanda regaled them both, telling the tale of how she and Methos had failed to steal the jewels the first time.
Amanda was in one of the several hells found in London, having made a name for herself as a gamester. All the young swells wanted in on the action, and the place was packed to the gills. She looked up from her cards as the first ripple of Immortal presence broke through the smoke.
“Merde,” she said under her breath, throwing down her cards. And she had been winning, too. But there was no time to mourn. Perhaps if she slipped out the back, she could avoid a confrontation with whichever Immortal had come calling.
Unfortunately, the Immortal had the same thought and just as she stepped out into the alley, she felt him though she couldn’t see him through the thick London fog. He was a dark hooded figure, and his presence was unusually strong.
“You might as well show your face,” she said, taking out her sword. “So I might have the pleasure of knowing who I’m killing today.”
“Peace,” said an all to familiar voice. The figure stepped closer, reaching up to take down his hood. It was still almost too dark to see, but the lantern outside the pub spread just enough light. “It’s only me.”
She breathed a sigh of relief. “Methos. What the hell are you doing here?”
“I need your help,” he said, and then he stepped aside.
Amanda hadn’t known they weren’t alone. A smaller figure stood behind Methos, also hooded. The figure pulled her hood off, and there stood little Cusi.
“Oh,” said Amanda, and at once she and Cusi reached out for each other, embracing. “Look at you,” she said, cupping the young girl’s face to look at it more closely. “No longer a child. And,” she added, trying not to reveal the melancholy she felt, schooling her voice. “One of us in all things now,” she said, bravely, grasping Cusi’s hands in hers. “Courage,” she said.
Cusi nodded, her dark eyes searching Amanda’s. “Courage,” she answered, her voice little more than a high whisper. Cusi had never spoken much, Amanda knew that. It had been difficult for her to speak anything but her native tongue.
“You see what I need,” said Methos, urgently. “I can’t train her. Not in the way she needs. I thought maybe you….”
Amanda took a deep breath in. Frankly, the timing could be better. She had a million and one schemes in the works. But there was no way she could refuse. “Of course,” she said. “Come with me.”
Cusi was small, light, and compact. Though she was fully grown, she only came up to Amanda’s chin. The European style of swordplay would not do Cusi much good. Instead, Amanda taught her how to fight with a long, sharp knife. She taught Cusi how to use her strength, her speed, her natural athletic ability. They worked and worked, training until Cusi was absolutely deadly.
Several months later, after Methos and Cusi had left London, Methos sent Amanda a letter. Cusi had taken her first head in a challenge while traveling through Bohemia. After, she had set sail on her own, leaving Methos for the first time since he’d taken her from the Spanish court. She had wanted to return to the New World, and now she was ready to go on her own. Amanda could read between the lines of Methos’s letter. He was proud, and sad. Amanda never saw Cusi again.
Word had reached her while traveling through northern Africa. It had taken a devil of a time getting a flight out of Morocco, and then she’d gotten stuck for forty-eight hours in Brussels. By that time, it was easier to drive and take a ferry to cross the channel.
Out of desperation, she called Rebecca. “I’m not certain,” said Rebecca. “You could try the university. You know how he is. He never gave me a return address, but I know he was a student there, for a time.”
Amanda hired another car and drove from Dover to Oxford. It was a lovely drive. When she finally reached Oxford, she had no idea where to start looking. She’d only ever been to the university twice before. It wasn’t really her scene. But she fit in with the students, and walked from one part of the university to another. The buildings were all old and beautiful.
On a whim, she took a right on a narrow street in the old part of Oxfordshire. She only took a few steps when she felt it, Immortal presence cascading down. She turned and found Methos standing a few feet away. He was holding a grocery bag, dressed in a dark pea coat. He had sideburns and wore bell-bottoms.
She sighed in relief, though he didn’t look kindly at her. “I hear you’ve been looking for me,” he said.
She tilted her head, and he wouldn’t meet her eyes. But even so, when she came to him, he let her wrap her arms around him. “I came as soon as I heard.”
He shook his head. “We better get out of the street,” he said, and she followed him down the path.
His flat was rather large for a graduate student, light and airy and full of his odd collections. He took a bottle of whiskey out of the grocery bag and poured them both a drink. They sat in the late afternoon sunlight, on his small balcony that was full of potted plants.
Finally, he spoke. “It was nice, you know, having a student I could be proud of for once. You’d be surprised how rarely that happens. And she never tried to kill me.”
“I know,” she said. It was one of the terrible things about being Immortal, the precarious nature of the teacher-student bond. “When did you last see her?”
He wrinkled his brow, taking a sip of his whiskey. “About fifty years ago? Give or take. I was in Peru, I don’t remember why. She was in Cusco, living with her people, mostly providing aid, trucking in food. That sort of thing.”
“Who did it?” she asked. She had to ask, though from the hard look Methos gave her she regretted it as soon as she asked.
He swallowed more of his drink. “Lorca. Have you ever met him?”
“No. But I’ve heard of him,” said Amanda. She’d never heard anything pleasant. Lorca was a little too fond of being worshipped.
The dark look bled out of Methos, and he shook his head, taking another drink. “Well,” he said. “I guess their paths had cross one too many times.”
She sighed. They were close enough on the balcony that all she had to do was reach out a hand. It took almost a full minute, but eventually Methos took it. “What was it, that Cusi used to say?” she asked.
Methos’s expression softened. He squeezed her hand. “Courage, courage.”
He gave her a smile. It was sad, but honest. Then, he kissed her fingers. “It’s nice that you came. You didn’t have to.”
“I know. But she was my student, too.”
Amanda stayed for a week and then succeeded in convincing Methos to take a leave of absence from the university. Together, they traveled back across the channel and went to Rebecca’s castle in Normandy. They stayed with her and John for the rest of the year.
The Bed Warmer
Normandy, 874, December
“Rebecca,” she called, quickly going up the stairs. She had been away for a month but had found herself very homesick and had decided to return. In her haste, she hadn’t even sent a message. “Are you home?”
It was a ridiculous question. Of course Rebecca was home. Amanda felt the strong presence sweep over her as she strode down the stone hallway to Rebecca’s rooms.
“Darling, are you still asleep? At this time of the day? It’s nearly past noon.” Amanda pushed open the doors to Rebecca’s rooms, then stood there completely shocked, her mouth falling open.
There was an Immortal in Rebecca’s bed, but it wasn’t Rebecca. A man lifted his head from the cloud of pillows, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, his long dark hair falling romantically over a pair of bright hazel-green eyes. He grinned when he saw her, revealing his strong profile.
“You’re not Rebecca,” they said to each other at the same time. “Who are you?” they both asked next. “You first!”
Amanda stomped her foot in frustration. “What have you done with Rebecca?” she demanded.
“Me?” said the man in Rebecca’s bed. He shifted higher onto the pillows, evidently very naked. He moved languidly, his long limbs stretching out. “I haven’t done anything with her. Well,” he added with a laugh, his eyes gleaming. “Nothing since last night.” He tilted his head. “You must be her student. Amanda, is it? I’m Matteo.”
That he knew her name was really the final blow. Amanda drew her sword, pointing it at Matteo. “Where is she?” Amanda asked, thrusting her sword at him, attempting to poke him with it.
“She said something about needing to ride to the northern farms, and then left early this morning,” he said, scrambling away from Amanda’s sword and nearly falling out of the bed. He stood up, grabbing a pillow to hide his nakedness. He stood with the bed between them. “You can’t be serious. This is holy ground.”
“I know it is,” mocked Amanda. “I’m not going to take your head.”
“No one is taking anyone’s head,” said Rebecca as she strode into the room, her presence a sudden resounding clamor in Amanda’s head. Rebecca stepped between them, dressed in rich robes, her cheeks blooming. “Amanda, we do not draw our swords on a guest. Not in this house.”
Shame flooded over Amanda, and she quickly hid her sword. “I…I thought… he was…You never mentioned him before.”
“Must I make every friend of mine known to you?” asked Rebecca. “As it is, have you two been introduced? Amanda, this is…” Rebecca stalled, looking at Matteo with a question in her eyes.
“Matteo,” supplied Matteo, helpfully.
“Matteo,” continued Rebecca. “And Matteo, this is Amanda.”
It confused Amanda why Rebecca couldn’t remember her own lover’s name, but she figured she’d pressed her luck enough for one day. “Rebecca, I should have sent word I was coming. I didn’t think.”
“No matter,” said Rebecca, taking Amanda into her arms. “There’s no harm done. It’s good to see you. Are you staying long? Did you come for the winter?”
“I…if I’m welcome, yes.”
“Don’t be silly. Of course you’re welcome.” Rebecca turned to look at both her guests. Matteo was still standing there, holding a pillow. “Well,” she said, gently guiding Amanda toward the door. “Are you hungry? Let us see what food the servants have for us. Will you both join me for a meal?” Rebecca turned to address Matteo. “Though, Matteo, perhaps you’ll want to dress first. Or not,” she added. “Suit yourself.”
Matteo blushed. Amanda let herself be guided from the room. “Rebecca,” she said, scandalized, glancing behind her one last time to catch a glimpse of Matteo looking around for his clothes. “I never knew.”
“There’s much you do not know,” said Rebecca, as cool as anything, but she gave Amanda a secret smile.
But the truth was, it was quite difficult for Amanda to make space in her and Rebecca’s time together to accommodate a third person. And another Immortal at that. Amanda had not yet met many other Immortals. Matteo’s presence confused her, even though she would never want to interfere if Rebecca wanted a lover. What’s more, Amanda rather liked Matteo. He was completely devoted to Rebecca, and though he liked to flirt, he was harmless and seemed to be genuinely kind. Her shame and confusion made her prickly and difficult, so much so that a week after her arrival, Rebecca had to pull her aside.
“Amanda, what are you afraid of?”
“I’m not afraid,” she said, but couldn’t hold up the lie. Not when Rebecca looked at her like that. “Oh. I guess I just don’t want anything to change. It’s not Matteo. Not really. The winter will end, and I’ll have to go away again.”
Rebecca was sympathetic. “Yes. But you’ll always be welcome here,” she said, lifting Amanda’s chin. “Believe that.”
Amanda nodded. “I do.”
“Well then,” said Rebecca, taking Amanda’s hand. She then reached for Matteo, who had been standing patiently at the other end of the room to give them privacy. He strode over, showing off that languid way he moved. Matteo put his hand in Rebecca’s. She then placed Amanda’s hand into Matteo’s. “Can I trust the two of you to behave while I’m gone? I should be back by morning, perhaps even sooner, but I must ride out to the northern farms again. However, I won’t go if I’m going to find the two of you at each other’s necks.”
Matteo smirked, raising Amanda’s hands to his lips. “My lady,” he said. “But it’s such a lovely neck.”
Amanda glared at him, and then at Rebecca. “I cannot believe this is who you choose to warm your bed.”
Rebecca’s color was a little high, and she looked like she was trying not to laugh. “Promise me,” she insisted.
“Oh, all right. I suppose so,” said Amanda. “I won’t poke him with my sword, in any case.”
That day proved to be the coldest of the year so far. Amanda retired to her rooms, making sure the fire was good and strong but it was still chilly. Before too long, she heard a noise at her door. “What is it?” she called.
Matteo entered, looking sheepish. “It’s lonely in Rebecca’s rooms without her. Can I stay in here?”
“What?” cried Amanda. “Am I supposed to entertain you, too? No. Go away.”
“Please?” he asked, his eyes very large, very innocent and round. Somehow, he looked prettier than ever before. It was quite a skill. How did he do that? She wondered. “Just for a short time?”
Matteo was already entering her room, already inching toward her bed.
“No, stop,” said Amanda. Matteo stopped, but he looked so forlorn Amanda nearly gave in. “No, honestly. I won’t have you being untrue to Rebecca. That’s going too far.”
“I don’t plan to be untrue,” said Matteo, shaking his head. “And I would never hurt Rebecca. Not ever.”
The odd thing was, Amanda believed him. And, to be honest, she was cold, even with the fire burning as hot as it was. She sighed. “Oh, all right. Get in here,” she said, lifting up her bed covers.
Matteo quickly crossed the rest of the room, sliding in beside her. She hesitated, but he held open his arms. “Come here,” he said, gathering her close. “I swear it will be all right.”
She sighed, then let herself feel the warmth of his embrace. It was indeed a lot warmer in her bed with him in it. He told her stories of his travels and never pressed her to tell him more of her life. He made her laugh, and then pulled out an intricate set of cards with foreign lettering and a beautiful drawing on each, teaching her a game to play. She instantly coveted the cards, and he saw how she fingered each one, looking more closely at them.
“They’re from a land very far away from here,” he said. “All the way on the other side of the world.”
For the first time, Amanda began to wonder who Matteo really was. “They’re beautiful,” she said.
He looked at her knowingly. “You can keep them if you like. You don’t have to steal them.”
She blushed, hotly. “I wasn’t going to take them.”
“All right. But in any case you don’t have to. I’ll give them to you.”
“No,” she said, pushing him away. She almost ordered him from her bed, but he laughed, and then pulled her back into the circle of his arms.
“Amanda,” he said. “It’s quite all right.” She lay quiet, but still resentful, and yet couldn’t help but respond to the calming way he caressed her hair. “I’m just a passing fancy, you know. I won’t be here forever, and then you’ll have Rebecca all to yourself again.”
She frowned because suddenly she didn’t want that either. Nor did she want to be coddled. She turned around to face the other way. “Do as you please,” she said.
She felt Matteo sigh, fully expecting he’d grown disgusted enough with her odd behavior and would finally leave her alone. But he didn’t. Instead, he came a little closer, but not too close, and laid a hand on her arm. “Good night,” he said, gently.
Amanda held still, but then turned back around to face Matteo. He lay with his eyes closed. He was really quite beautiful, she thought, and not in a placid way, but with all sorts of interesting features and angles and a lovely mouth. She poked his nose. He cracked one eye open, then smiled. She smiled in return, and then they both gently drifted off to sleep. Before morning, the bed shifted, and Amanda woke up long enough to realize Rebecca had come home. Rebecca slid into the space on Amanda’s other side. Amanda shifted closer to her, and then Matteo rolled closer as well. The three of them slept, all together in a row.
But the next day, Amanda was still unsure of what she wanted, still unsure of her place. She packed a bag, and without telling Rebecca, she gathered her horse from the barn and set out across the country. It was far too cold, and the nip in the air promised snow soon, but she didn’t let that stop her. Not until she heard hooves galloping up to meet her. She looked and saw Matteo riding Rebecca’s gray mare.
“You’re following me,” accused Amanda.
“Are you leaving?” asked Matteo.
“No…” said Amanda, stubborn. “I don’t know. Maybe. What concern is it of yours?”
“I wish you wouldn’t.” Matteo urged the mare to trot past Amanda, blocking her path. “Please.”
“I wouldn’t be gone for long. Honestly, why do you care?”
“Because you’ll break Rebecca’s heart.” Amanda froze. It seemed ridiculous to her that Rebecca would care that much, but Matteo’s eyes were so convincing. “Believe me,” he said. “I know of what I speak. Come back. Please. We’ll say we went out for a ride together. She’ll be pleased we’re getting along.”
She looked wonderingly at him. “All right,” she said. Matteo sighed in relief, and then grinned at her.
They rode side-by-side, the horses walking through the mess of fallen leaves. There was no need for words. It was a quiet countryside, until they felt Immortal presence crash in, bringing with it a harsh breeze.
At first, Amanda assumed it was Rebecca, but then she saw the dark figure blocking their way forward. The man raised his sword, pointing it at Matteo.
“Go,” said Matteo. He glanced at her but kept his eyes on the Immortal. “Leave us.”
“Like hell,” said Amanda. “I’m not leaving you.”
Matteo grabbed her bridle, then made her look at him. “Yes. You will. This is my fight. My challenge. You ride away, and get as far as you can.”
He had changed, right before her eyes. He was no longer the charming, sweet bed warmer she had spent the night with. In his place was something ancient, and strong. His eyes pierced her, and made her heart flutter.
“Go,” he said, pointing in a direction away from the Immortal on the road.
She had no choice but to obey, kicking her horse into a canter, but she only went far enough not to be seen anymore. She tied up her horse, then snuck back through the woods, trying to stay out of sensing range but creeping close enough to see Matteo. She heard the unknown Immortal speaking.
“It was difficult to track you, old one. But I knew one day I would. Methos. Your head is mine.”
Methos, thought Amanda, completely shocked. Old one. But it really wasn’t a complete surprise. Everything made a lot more sense now.
Matteo—No, Methos—gave the man a hard smile, taking out his broadsword. “Well, you found me. Good for you. You could still walk away. Turn around, leave this country and I’ll forget I ever saw your face. Last chance.”
The man sneered. And then, they came together in a clash of swords.
Amanda crept away. She wasn’t going to stand there and watch, and though she was pretty certain Methos was up for the challenge and could take that man’s head, she didn’t want to risk it either. It would take too long to ride back to the castle. Amanda quickly mounted her horse then kicked her into a fast gallop, heading in the direction of the nearby village.
She roused twenty men, and hoped she wasn’t too late. They came charging up the hill. When Methos heard the commotion, he turned away from his fight, distracted by the noise. The other Immortal, also seeing that their challenge would be interrupted, took out a knife. He threw it at Methos. It flew across and buried itself directly into Methos’s chest. Methos dropped like a stone.
“No!” yelled Amanda, charging through the crowd, riding up to Methos. The other men gave chase after the Immortal, throwing rocks at him. But Amanda dismounted her horse, going down to her knees beside Methos.
He was still alive, barely. “Amanda,” he said, a look of both amusement and exasperation in his eyes, but blood was filling up his lungs, and he couldn’t breathe. She held his hand as his eyes went blank, and he died.
Whoops, she thought. That wasn’t quite what she had in mind.
It took several minutes to arrange a cart to carry Methos’s body back to the castle, and to have one of the local boys take both her horse and the gray mare. She would drive the cart, promising its owner she would return it the next day.
She drove as fast as she dared until she was only a half a mile from the castle. Then, she stopped the carthorse and hopped into the back beside Methos’s lifeless body. Amanda had almost immediately stopped thinking of him as Matteo, she realized. That name had never quite fit. The knife came free of his chest with a sickening squelch. It took less than a minute for him to gasp back to life.
Taking a deep breath, Methos checked his chest and grimaced, and then checked the rest of his limbs.
“They’re all there,” she said.
He eyed her. “That was foolish,” he said.
“I know. But I couldn’t take the chance. I’m sorry. That didn’t go quite as well as I hoped. You died.”
He sighed. “And all the villagers saw,” he said, gazing out at the trees. The castle was just visible in the distance.
She nodded. She raised the knife, pointing it at Methos’s neck. He stiffened, suddenly cautious. “He called you Methos.”
“Ah,” said Methos. A strange light entered his eyes. “So you heard that, did you?” He looked down at the knife in her hand, then back up to her. “Am I to believe you’ll take my head?” He reached across and slowly, insistently, took the knife out of her hand. “You could have taken my head any time I lay dead. And you didn’t.”
She frowned. She wasn’t in the habit of taking heads. It hadn’t even occurred to her to take his.
“It’s all right,” he said, warming her hands between his. “There’s no need to hurry, to become a killer.”
She took a deep breath in. “I wouldn’t want you haunting me anyway,” she said. He grinned. “Besides, I think I’d like to keep you after all.”
“I’m glad to hear it. And just when I have to leave. That’s quick work, my dear. See, I said you would have Rebecca all to yourself again.”
She regretted all of it. “I’m sorry. I didn’t actually want you to leave.”
He shrugged. “We must occasionally live with disappointment. And the consequences of our actions. Tiresome, I know. But, I get to live another day, so I am grateful. Thank you.”
Methos raised her hand to his lips. He got out of the cart, and she handed him back his sword. “They will have brought the news to Rebecca by now, but if you go around the back you should be able to sneak in and say goodbye. I’ll make sure to draw the servants away. Go, hurry, so she doesn’t worry.”
He started off, but then stopped and returned. From a hidden pocket, he took out a small soft brown leather bag, handing it to her. It contained the beautiful set of playing cards she had coveted the night before. “Keep this,” he said. “And think of me, from time to time.” He began walking backward, raising a hand to his forehead in a salute of farewell. “I feel certain we shall see each other again,” he said.
She placed the cards in her own hidden pocket, then waved him off. “Promise,” she called back. “I saved your life, you know. Now you owe me.”
He looked like he wanted to argue and laugh, but then only bowed in acknowledgment before hurrying off into the woods.
He was sorry the night couldn’t have ended another way. The day’s events played out in his mind, starting with both Amanda and Joe being kidnapped, ending with fighting O’Rourke and taking his head. But Methos had stayed by his side, had yelled at him, frustrating and angry and irritated, but he never left.
“I just want to say,” he started, but then lost his words. Joe gave him a hearty pat on the back. Amanda kissed his cheek. Methos handed him a glass of champagne. “I just want to say,” he tried again. “That you each mean a lot to me. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
For a moment, he envisioned what it would be like years into the future. These three precious humans would still be his friends. He knew he would not get to keep Joe, but he couldn’t allow himself to be sad about that. Because, if he kept Methos and if he kept Amanda then he would get to keep a part of Joe as well.
“Come here,” he said, and then gathered all of them into a hug, and tried never to let go.