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To Live Again by Sophie
Soph's take on the resolution of the problem's caused by Macleod's Dark Quickening.


Part 1/6

It was going to be one of those days, Methos could feel it in the air. There was nothing out the ordinary about the day on the surface; yes the sun was shining brightly through wispy clouds making the Paris day unusually warm for October, but that wasn't it at all. Neither had the strange conversation he'd had that morning with Duncan really made any impact on the pathos in his soul - maybe it had been part of it, but not everything and it was far from his mind as he glanced back over his shoulder down the crowded street.

The ancient Immortal knew he was being followed, but there was no sign of the perpetrator. Whoever it was, they were good, only impinging on his special sense, the one beyond even the Immortal warning signals, the one which had kept him alive more than once. He was almost sure it was one of his own, and despite the unease it gave him, his spirit told him this was meant to happen. It was to do with the scheme of things, the delicate web of coincidence to whose fibrous strands he had occasionally been privy since his memory began. It was the same as the touch on his being he had felt the day he met Duncan MacLeod and the reason he had risked his life to help him return from darkness. But this was not MacLeod. Methos had no idea of the identity of the ghost behind him, his instincts were dangerously vague, as usual. In five thousand years he'd never really been able to shake the disquiet that accompanied every moment like this - it was a reflection of the fragility of coincidence, a knowledge that this scheme, like many others, could crumble away if that is what was intended.

The old man was especially wary today because of his destination. Adam Pierson had a lot of secrets, Methos far more, and this was the greatest. If coincidence decided to fail this day then a part of his world would be in immense danger. Still, it was meant, and as he paused at the steps to the town house, glancing hopelessly into the anonymous crowd for some inkling of his tail, the man knew he could not wait long. It was not often that the experienced creature had his heart in his mouth, he had felt that way faced with the Dark Quickening in the Clansman, he had felt that way when his head had been offered to stop Kalas, and now he felt it again.

"So many times in a few years," he muttered to himself as he gave up the sharp-eyed scan, "I can't take much more of this."

It had been a long journey, not merely for his body, but for his spirit as well. The young Immortal had admitted it to himself weeks ago, that violent night in the dojo had changed Richard Ryan beyond what he could have conceived and it had taken a terrifying few months to finally bring him to this place. He wasn't quite sure why he was in Paris, it was an awkward place for him at the best of times, but now was worse; MacLeod was here, the last person he wanted to see. He had no idea how that night in the dojo had ended, he had fled, grabbing a pack and some money and driving away. He hadn't stopped for three days, pausing only momentarily at gas stations along a haphazard route, going nowhere except away from his home city. He'd wanted to contact Joe then, find out what had happened, but something had stopped him, maybe the memory of the triumph and dispassion in his mentor's eyes, maybe the gun in the `safe' watcher's hand, he hadn't really dwelt on why, he just knew that he could not face that part of the torment which had driven him to this place.

The money had run out too quickly, and he'd begun to work his way along a lost man's route. Nothing had made much sense, and looking back he wondered how anyone had employed the sorry-looking, wild-eyed man prone to violent mood swings. Yet, there'd been some kind souls who'd seen the pain in his heart and made sure he stayed on at least a safe road. The young man didn't remember much, not even the Immortals; there were brief recollections of Quickenings, but to whom they had belonged and how the challenges had happened, Richie could not recall. He knew only that his sword arm was stronger than it had ever been.

Battered, but his mind once more his own, the Immortal had arrived in the cosmopolitan city unsure of the time in between the start and finish of the arduous travel. He'd been dirty and tired as he had been once before, but now there was no friend to ask for help. He'd booked into a small, plain, but clean hotel, washed and slept for twenty four hours. Then something had led him out to view the city he had come to love. The youth had missed his first taste of the world, and he had begun to explore early that morning.

Adam had been an unexpected sight, folded easily over a cafe-front table, reading intently some tattered piece of manuscript, oblivious to the world around. He was MacLeod's friend, another reminder of the tall, warm-hearted Immortal he had known all those moths ago, and the youth had found himself leaning on the wall of an alley and staring fixedly at the young-looking figure. He had no idea who Adam really was, or if he'd even had contact with the Highlander since his transformation, but he was a tangible link to an old life and Richie needed that. He'd been deliberately transient too long; he had forgotten what made Richard Ryan the man MacLeod had moulded out of the wayward teenager. Adam brought back a little of the old feeling of welcome and belonging which had been shattered almost beyond redemption.

Ryan wasn't sure if Pierson knew he was there; a few minutes, or an hour after the watch had begun, the youth wasn't certain as his intensity wiped away the passage of time, the subject had rubbed his neck and looked up sharply as if stung by some kind of insect, but his eyes had then surveyed his immediate area. Whatever it had been, the researcher had seemed to settle quickly, and his gaze had never turned to the cool figure who stood, hands in his pockets, statuesque, a hundred yards down the road. Soon after that, Adam had packed up his document wallet and moved off at a leisurely pace. With the same, confused, vulnerable feeling in his heart which had made him stop in the first place, Richie found himself following.

The walk had not been far, a few streets, but for some reason, Richie had absolutely no recollection of the way he had travelled, only being intent on the casual figure striding evenly ahead of him. He didn't even know how he had kept out of sight, or why, Adam was no threat, and why would he be following unless he wanted to talk, but he had become the man's shadow. As the Immortal Watcher disappeared into the tall, elegant house, Ryan walked out from behind the parked van which had been his cover and stared up at the building. Now he was feeling something else, it wasn't curiosity, it wasn't anything he could identify as he took in the beautiful, but unimposing structure - the young man merely knew there was something inside for him.

Duncan, the centre of his emotion, the harbinger of terror and nightmares, the memory of something so close that present reality was painful, the man slipped out of his thoughts and his gaze cleared a little as only immediate things mattered. Ryan loosened the brown leather of his jacket, he hadn't noticed the warm turn in the weather before. It was something too mundane to have reached his battered senses, but now there was time for the little things. He moved with an ease in his stride that had been missing for too long, his shoulders proud rather than hunched, no thought for the sword protectively hidden in the folds of his coat. The young man walked towards the house, leaving the weight of his personal torment behind in the street that was too busy to notice it.

The door was on the latch; Richie didn't even think twice before pushing it in to reveal hallway. The immediate area was completely open, only a staircase decorating the simple, white-walled atrium. The place reverberated warmth as the bright rays of sunlight danced through a window which demonstrated that the hallway ran the depth of the tall building. Doors were sunk back in the walls of the corridor, but the captivated Immortal ignored them all, and headed up the stairs at a light, gentle trot. The movements of his clothing and his breathing were the only things to disturb the silence that had fallen as the door closed on the outside. Ryan listened to the tap of his boots on the bare wood of the flight. He recognised a slight increase in the rate of his breathing as a nervous anticipation made itself plain from the pocket of emotion which he still couldn't fully define.

Richie's actions were completely out of character. He didn't know where he was going, or into what situation he was placing himself, and the unknowns usually made the street-raised youth wary. Yet, no matter that he felt a vague angst about what he was doing, it was of little consequence - something greater led him on. It spoke to his soul, offering a hope, a friendship he had missed so terribly. The Immortal existence was inherently a lonely one, MacLeod had forced that message home with the razor edge of his sword to an unprotected throat, but the feeling in the young man's heart was warming his thoughts away from the ice of `There can be only one'. The Eternal in him was almost singing, harmonising to a tune he had never heard before, a chorus where there should have only been a solo; it didn't make any sense, but the injured being accepted the melody which reached in to heal his wounds.

A door stood immediately in front of the explorer as he reached the head of the stairs as they turned sharply to meet the landing. It was locked. He turned the brass handle, but the panel did not give. There was a hiccup in the gentle concord, the youth had not expected anything in this place to be barred to him, then again, he had no idea what he was expecting. No more than momentarily unsettled, the deep blue eyes scanned up and down the open landing. He hadn't seen it at first, it was hidden by the bright sunshine streaming through the first floor window, but as his eyes adjusted to the light, the youth made out a doorway beyond the stairs, on the other side of the hall. It was nestled in the corner where the outside back wall met the internal divider and seemed smaller than the other typically Victorian portals. Richie smiled to himself, it had been a long time since he'd done that. His mind was calmly blank as he wandered over to it and reached out for the small, ivory handle.

The mechanism slid and the door swung open without a sound and the youth stumbled into the room as the ease of action took him by surprise. Now, the Immortal had had his rash moments, he knew only too well that impulsiveness was one of his problems, but as he found his balance a few steps into the new room, reality hit and impulsiveness seemed too slight a word for describing his total lack of foresight. The young man straightened and turned rapidly to his right as his re-alerted senses felt a warning like none he had ever encountered. His skull shuddered with the touch of his own kind and breath almost failed him as his body jarred against the strangeness in the shift of his soul. If the edge to his Eternal sense was not enough to tell the befuddled newcomer that his host was more than an ordinary Immortal, then what met his eyes was surely the clincher. Richie's mouth went slack and his heart jumped wildly as he took in the view before him. There were about twenty of them, all broad as a bus, tall, and armed to the teeth - Ryan knew he was looking at trained warriors as his eyes flicked over the taut, disciplined figures who made an avenue ten deep down the long room. Yet, they weren't what drew his alarmed attention, not one of them was Immortal; the call of his spirit sought out another body. A pile of cushions rested at the far end of the room and a small, shrivelled old body was sat atop them. A man, wizened in the extreme, white-haired, white- skinned and white-eyed, he was the sight which defied the strength of telling in the young Immortal's spirit. On the surface, a harmless old man, sat cross-legged and helpless on the spread of down; underneath, Richard Ryan recognised a very strange Immortal, and his instinct told him that the figure wasn't exactly seated on the cushions so much as millimetres above them.

His logical brain kicked in a second later and denied that observation, but the fact that there was an Immortal in front of his surrounded by an awful lot of dangerous-looking steel could not be shunned. Ryan was a survivor, and his instincts told him that this was bad. He had the same feeling about the past few minutes as he had about the past few months, nothing new, and it seemed that he'd woken up to reality just a fraction too late. Still, there was a way out of everything, and it was obvious that his sword would not be involved this time. There appeared to be absolutely no reaction from the wispy form before him, or his guards, so he was in with a chance.

He spun on his heels and took a stride for the door. Richie knew his luck had just run out when a shadow fell across his only exit and he felt another of his kind. The touch was surprisingly insignificant compared with the quality of the warning he had just experienced, but it was enough. The young Immortal's hand was in his jacket, halfway to his sword by the time he recognised the visage which gazed back at him with a look somewhere between surprise and cool business. He froze, uncertain of how to treat the figure who merely stood in his way, arms crossed and with a smile playing on his lips.

The smile was in way of an attempt at seeming non-threatening - Methos was not sure how to handle the feral being he greeted. To look at Richard Ryan was to see the Wild Man tamed only by evolution. There was some semblance of order about his person, but it was a translucent veil covering instinct and the knowledge of man's brutality towards man, which civilisation usually hid. His hair was brushed, but barely, and the curls were longer and wilder than the normally styled cut allowed; there was at least a week's growth on his chin, but it was not intended to become a beard, this creature attended to his toilet only when life let him. Then there were his eyes, the windows to his soul, and the elder Immortal saw the destruction of trust, friendship, a world, in that brilliant blue stained-glass.

In all his experience, Adam could only liken Richie to a startled jack-rabbit, but this bunny had teeth and the experienced being was wondering why he walked into these kinds of situations. There were no rules to this way he'd chosen five thousand years since, so why was he standing facing down a cornered, half-mad Immortal who was armed while he was not? There wouldn't be an answer, he knew that, he'd accepted that after a few hundred years of temper tantrums. There was only now and his own cunning to get out of this one with his head.

The ancient man took a risk; he had known this boy briefly, and praying that the child, who was very much in control of the man, would not strike out at a familiar face, the Immortal stepped forward. It was one pace, short, unintrusive, but Ryan skidded back three for his one and there was no doubt as to on what his fingers rested within the folds of his clothing.

"You won't need that here," Adam smiled openly and glanced at the bulge under the jacket.

"Like I didn't in the dojo," Richie hissed, his voice was thin and unused.

"I'm unarmed," the other unfolded his stance and held his hands away from his body; it was obvious that he had no weapon.

"They're not," the youth nodded towards the statues of humanity, all the distrust of the loner in his manner.

Methos shied away as the sword was finally drawn, but he had no reason to move for cover, the young Immortal was not about to go for a defenceless head. Ryan backed away from him, more concerned with the avenue of arms to his left, he was trying to keep everything in his field of view.

"If you'll just get out of my way, I'll be leaving," the words were polite, but there was a threat beneath them as they slid through gritted teeth.

Adam wasn't given the chance to even contemplate the choice, and he was rather relieved as another entered the pointed conversation.

"Have you brought me our Savage, Methos?" came the interjection from a light, gentle voice that could have inferred absolutely no animosity even if it tried.

The Immortal looked to the old man at the sound of his voice and then glanced back to survey the dangerous creature in the corner. It had surprised him to find Richie part of this, it had never even occurred to him before, but as he took in the shambles of humanity that the boy had so swiftly become, he had no doubt as to the assessment.

"Yes, Tomas, I think I have," he answered, and added with his usual ironic humour, "I had wondered where we would find a Savage in this day and age."

"Then remember your manners and invite him to sit with us," the wizened form defied the mood of his guest with the good temper and warmth in his tone.

Richie was at a loss for how to take the easiness in his associate's tones. His sword spoke for the paranoia in his soul, but his head still held some sway over his world, and it couldn't understand the conflicting messages the armoured guard and the openness sent him. Of course they were confident, there were twenty mortals at their command, but still, he sensed something, a little of the daft notion that had got him here in the first place. The youth couldn't shake that tiny spark of harmony which sat at the back of his defensive persona. What was more, the name Methos had stuck in his mind, both Duncan and Joe had mentioned the name to him, a legend among a society of myths, and equating Adam Pierson to the historic figure did nothing to aid the young man's already failing grasp of the situation. His incomprehension and disquiet showed only too well on the young face aged by trouble, and the blade remained poised toward any man who even dared breathe. The suddenly strange Pierson didn't show any signs of moving aside, and the soldiers appeared to have little if no interest in him, it was stalemate.

"Richie, this is Tomas, a very old friend of mine," Adam told him; still no sign of hostility. "Tomas, this is Richie Ryan, I know him through MacLeod."

"The Warrior's pupil?" there was surprise in the aged man's voice, and then he murmured more to himself, "I had wondered, this is becoming very interesting."

"What the hell are you talking about?!" Ryan demanded hotly, his confusion boiling to the surface as a rage.

"If you'd just put your sword down we can sit and explain," Methos sighed, understanding in his eyes.

The patient, calm front was the last thing the youth had expected from another Immortal, he'd lost all trust of his own kind with MacLeod's attack, and it was a difficult thing to rebuild. There were too many variables to make the circumstances easy to assess, and still, the young man hung back, poised like a frightened animal.

"The boy is understandably nervous," Tomas observed, a smile creasing his face like old paper. "My friends, you may leave, I will not be needing your protection this day."

The old man clapped his hands together and bowed his head to the gathered company. The change in his escort was amazing; the men relaxed instantaneously, and blank faces softened to fond smiles for their small charge. There wasn't a word spoken, but each man bowed to the centre of his attention in his turn and moved to leave. Methos was given a farewell by each, and Richie watched suspiciously as the Immortal dismissed them all as comrades. Some of the men even sent him supportive glances and grins as they left. He was severely perturbed by the time the last heavily armed man exited and shut the door behind him. He was unready for the easy shrug that Adam produced as he turned his attention back to his guest.

"Dammit, Richie," Adam scoffed without malice, "put down the bloody rapier and at least listen to what we have to say."

"Methos!" Tomas immediately scolded.

"Well," the man waved a hand at the tense youth, determined not to be put down, "this is ridiculous, what's he think he needs a sword for against an unarmed opponent and an old man."

"You've been doing this for five thousand years, Methos," Tomas reminded him patiently, "your friend must think us more than a little crazy."

"You could say that," Ryan snarled, but did at least lower the blade to his side.

"Try and remember what it was like when you first came across all this," the fragile form wagged a finger at his long-time comrade.

The Immortal snorted, he remembered alright.

"That would be the time you put me between you and a seven-foot barbarian who was determined to take both our heads," he disclosed with heavy cynicism in his tone.

Tomas just laughed, a clear, bright sound that cut through any atmosphere that stood between the men. Adam raised an eyebrow and glanced across to the slowly relaxing, but still largely confused Ryan, he received a frown for his trouble. There wasn't much humour left in Richie, the dark circles round his eyes gave reason to his sour disposition.

"Come here, both of you," the strange old man beckoned to them.

The elder moved without hesitation, he loved the source of most of the waves that ever possessed the sea of his life, and he trusted him implicitly. The younger took a few moments to make his decision, but Methos was glad when he eventually slunk forward. The web that had been spun over millennia was finally coming to completion, he could feel it, and the wild youth was the silk that made up the final strand. The Savage had been his reference since Tomas had deemed it fit to place another player in the game, which was only fully known in the old man's head. This wasn't the big picture, it was only a tiny piece, protected and brought to fruition by a crippled old man whose age had never quite been ascertained. Yet it was important, and one of it's key roles walking away would have meant that the fragile links of coincidence had finally failed.

The gaze, that watched Methos lazily throw himself down onto the cushions beside his comrade, was suspicious and narrowed in cool separation, but the youth could not fight the urge to move forward and lower his defences. It had been a long time since anyone had even offered him such familiarity, and he needed it; Ryan may have grown up on the streets, relying on number one, but he had needed friends, in Angie, in Donna, and his solitary journey had cut deep into his soul. His stare shifted from the relaxed Immortal to his upright, poised associate, and the young man found himself transfixed by the white stare he found in the gentle visage. There was no sight there, he knew it, but still Richie felt a touch on him; this creature was not even ordinary to an Immortal. The wild being caught his more familiar companion look down at his hands, and he was left in the private moment with the blind ancient. Those pale irises were hypnotic in their purity. Yet, just as the helpless soul felt itself begin to slip into the colourless depth, the moment was broken by a wide, welcoming smile. The skin on Tomas' face folded in creases so deep there was no doubt that they had been made through years of such a motion, and he held out his hands up to the figure before him.

"Sit, Savage," he waved him down beside him.

If anyone else had called him Boy, or Savage, the street punk would have probably decked them, but from this mouth, it was completely without offence. Slowly, his instincts still reluctant to let go of his defensive position, he sunk onto the softness of the feather seating. Tomas was sat some way back on the massive pile, and so the young man came face to face with Methos once more as he finally gave in to the weakness in his knees. He merely blinked at the wide grin on the dark man's face, not easy enough with the situation to allow anymore expression.

"Thank you," the elderly form beside him nodded and the youth started as a light palm was laid on the back of his hand.

Still, he resisted the urge to pull out of reach.

"Now, you must have quite a few questions," Tomas began his blank gaze once again seeming to look into his guest's soul.

Richie took a breath, there were suddenly a mass of thoughts in his head as he relaxed and let them in. Confusion was putting it mildly; yet, it was peevishness which found him first and he glared across at Adam.

"Does MacLeod know?" he asked tartly.

"About me, yes," the other took the curtness in his stride, "about this, no not directly. Tomas is a very well kept secret."

The old man laughed and added, "Methos had been playing decoy for me for five thousand years - I am too old to spend my time running from Watchers and our own kind, so he set about creating himself the oldest living Immortal. And I must say he's done a magnificent job, no one has found me who wasn't meant to in all that time."

"So you expected me?" the youth enquired incredulously, he was practical by nature and prophecy was a little hard to swallow.

"Not exactly," Tomas shrugged vaguely, "I know my characters by feeling, Richie; Methos I knew as Fox about a year before he arrived in my life, cunning, careful, a little too cynical for his own good," he smiled and the man in question snorted in response. "MacLeod is my Warrior, proud, honourable, strong, and he will know it soon. You, well, you appeared in my dreams only a few months ago, and your name reflects what I recognised; wild, dangerous, unpredictable."

Richie bowed his head as he listened, chilled by the description, but well aware that it was true. It was only another reminder of how much his life had changed and the words hurt. Whether his companion heard the change in his breathing as a sigh was held back form his lips, or something else told him of the emotion in the spirit close by, the hand on his squeezed protectively and the voice was soft as he was told, "Don't despair of it, Boy, what is, is, you can only learn from it and you will heal."

"Duncan has had every contact he knows scouring half the world for you," Adam added warmly.

"He's okay?" the young man enquired tentatively, but there was hope in his soul; he hadn't dared discover the fate of his one time mentor before now.

"He beat the Dark Quickening," the Watcher nodded firmly and smiled at the relief in Ryan's sad eyes. "You didn't know?"

There was no reply - the young man had no words to explain the mixture of emotions that were inside him whenever the Highlander was mentioned. He was angry at the Scot for what he had done, he had sent him to hell, a cold, lonely place from which escape was near impossible. Yet, there was also the knowledge that it had been an external influence that had turned him against everything he knew and it muted the rage sometimes when he was in contact with the rational part of his psyche. It also warmed his soul to know that the Clansman had cared about his fate. Yet, he was not sure how he could return to a friendship which had been built on so much trust, that putting it back together was like trying to mend fine china in a thousand pieces. He was glad his teacher was well, the pure evil in his eyes the last time they had met had destroyed his world, at least that was gone. The young man felt his eyes sting hot and the view before him misted; he glared rapidly down at the burning red cushion below him trying to hide the momentary weakness.

"Well," Tomas was as perceptive as usual and pressed on, "these names may sound absurd, but humour an old man in his delusions. I see a path in my mind, at least I suppose it's a path, I have no idea what one looks like, an it winds its way through the ages, picking up travellers from time to time, and putting the down in their lives where they are supposed to be. Each of the travellers has a name, and you are the last, Richie, my Savage, you bring the path, which I have weeded over the centuries, to an end."

That was deep, and a tired brain pushed past the significance, unable to deal with it at that time. Instead, Ryan focused on the strange old creature.

"How old are you?" he questioned quietly.

A chuckle escaped Adam's lips as he heard the question, and he collapsed back down on the cushions from where he had been leant on his elbow. It was a sign of exasperation, and he worded his feelings in a long, amused sigh, "You don't know how many times I've asked that, and how many times I've been fobbed off with an old man's memory."

"Your own mind is misty before five thousand, Boy!" Tomas quipped, patting him affectionately, "Why should I know what even you cannot remember?"

"You know, Old Man!" Methos scoffed back, but it was a familiar argument and the frustration in his voice had been softened over time. "You just like the mystique."

The dark man waved an arm in the air and glanced in mock exasperation at his young companion; there wasn't a smile on the exhausted face, but Richie did show some signs that his tension was easing. It saddened the old man to see the traces of torture in the handsome visage, he had suffered his own share of troubles, but age had been on his side by the time they'd accosted him, and had made them more bearable. In a few hundred years, maybe MacLeod's betrayal wouldn't show in his eyes anymore - time had a funny way of soothing the emotions - but for now, it was painful. So much turmoil in such a young soul - Methos concluded that they were lucky there was any Richard Ryan left.

The Watcher held the gaze that fell on him, reading it, sympathising with the damp sheen that rested on the bright blue eyes. There wasn't anything he could say, he had known the youth too long to make the sometimes open talk of strangers possible, but not long enough for the compassion of close friends. Instead, he nodded cordially and deliberately redirected his attention to Tomas; it worked, and he smiled to himself as the silent form followed his lead.

A hand touched his shoulder as the old man took in breath to continue the conversation. Adam understood well enough what it meant; he was an inconvenience to the conversation, a link with the past, but an awkward half-stranger. He had experienced Tomas' ability to soothe even the most troubled soul, and his presence was only going to get in the way of the wizened creature's gentle art. It was time to make himself scarce.

In perfect accord with his ancient comrade, the Immortal sat up and announced before the next sentence had begun, "Before this goes any farther, I need a beer. Can I get you one Richie?"

The youth looked startled by the sudden movement, but he settled quickly and shook his head awkwardly.

"Your loss," Methos shrugged with his usual easy grin and clambered to his feet. "You want some of that disgusting stuff you call tea, Tomas?"

He didn't need to wait for a reply, the old man would say yes - the Immortal had never fathomed how his friend found any pleasant taste in the grey-green stew that was his habitual beverage. Methos had learnt very early on in their relationship, that Tomas' `acquired taste' must have taken a few millennia.

End Of Part 1