This story is a work of Highlander fan-fiction, a non-profit, amateur piece done without the permission of Rysher Entertainment. It is in no way intended to infringe upon Rysher's rights to their world or characters. Please notify me before publishing it elsewhere, whether electronically or in print. Updates on my other work are available on my fiction page. This story previously appeared in Interregnum #30.
Note that because of when this story was written, it does not take into account any episode that aired in the fifth season or later. I have decided that the changes that would be required to accommodate those episodes would alter the story too much. Besides, this story was never intended to be part of the "real" Highlander timeline to begin with.
Amanda sensed an Immortal approaching her hotel room. Duncan? No, paranoia was running rampant this late in the Game. He would have called first... unless he was coming for her head. The thought chilled her. Drawing her sword, she cautiously opened the door a crack. When nobody attempted entrance, Amanda slowly increased the size of the opening, carefully extending her weapon out before her head.
A familiar voice whispered, "Put your sword away. I'm just here to talk."
Peering in that direction, Amanda spotted a man up against the wall. He was wearing a trench coat that still concealed his sword. The hat and sunglasses were apparently a feeble attempt at a disguise, but she recognized him anyway. "Methos?"
"Shhh. They think I'm dead." Methos looked around nervously. "I'd rather keep it that way for the moment."
"Who does?" Amanda stepped half way into the hall, looking around herself. She didn't see anyone else.
"May I please come in before someone sees me?" Methos somehow managed to convey the full force of his irritation without raising his voice above a whisper.
Amanda suddenly realized that he was referring to the Watchers. With it came the revelation that Methos was currently more afraid of being unmasked by them than he was of being beheaded by her. That meant he was sincere in his claim of wanting to talk. Sheathing her sword, she gestured for him to enter.
Methos continued to check about uneasily, but as he ignored her in his search, it lent further credence to his peaceful intent. Finally satisfied, he sat down on the bed.
"What's this about?" Amanda prompted.
"The Prize." Methos sighed. "I'm here to convince you that you don't really have any use for it."
"Who wouldn't want ultimate knowledge and power?" Amanda asked, incredulously.
"I don't for one. Neither would you, if you'd stop to think about it." He looked at her seriously, trembling inside as he revealed himself more than he normally considered wise to such an obvious potential foe. "You live for excitement like I live for knowledge. You have as much use for omnipotence as I do for omniscience. It would be a lot of fun for a decade or two. After that we'd be bored to tears."
Amanda considered this thoughtfully. Methos was probably right. He seemed to know her better than she knew herself. Of course, Methos had probably used his Watcher connections to read her file. Still that didn't change everything. "Even if I don't want the Prize, it's certainly better than dying. If you think I'm going to let you take my head..."
"I am not going to kill you," Methos insisted with a firmness that defied the situation.
Catching the implications, Amanda stared at him. "There can be only one. You know that better than anyone."
That seemed obvious. "Because you're the oldest Immortal."
Methos shook his head. "That means I've known longer than anyone, not better. I still have no idea why." He looked at her pointedly. "Do you?"
Amanda realized she had been answering the wrong question. She shook her head. "But what difference does that make now? This is the Gathering!"
"That I do know better than anyone." Methos sighed and looked away. "We have a bulletin board at headquarters with only seven names on it." He turned to gaze at Amanda intently. "There are only eight of us left alive."
It took Amanda a few seconds to deduce the source of the discrepancy. The Watchers thought Methos was dead, therefore they didn't include him in the continually shrinking list of those Immortals still living. It had shrunk a lot more than Amanda had realized. "So that's you, me..." She trailed off as Methos shook his head at the anticipated next person on the list.
"That's the other reason I'm here." Methos closed his eyes. "He didn't make it. They took his name down this morning."
"Just give me the name of the bastard who did it and I'll..."
"Get yourself killed in a misguided attempt at revenge," Methos finished, staring at her.
"So what do you expect me to do?"
"Work with me. Together, I think we have a good chance, especially since it's the last thing anyone will expect this late in the Game. I know it's supposedly against the rules, but desperate times call for desperate measures and I know you've done it before."
Team up with another Immortal? In the middle of the Gathering? It was so crazy it just might work. But there was still a nagging detail. "Who gets the Quickenings?"
Methos shook his head. "Whoever gets them, gets them. It doesn't matter." He looked at Amanda. "Probably the best strategy is for one of us to challenge them while the other sneaks up and takes their heads. Since I'm better at fighting and you're better at sneaking..."
"You'd let me steal your kills?" Amanda stared at Methos incredulously.
"I'm not going to deliberately stall until you get there. If I see an opening, I'm going to take it. But if you see one first..." He shrugged. "The only thing I'm concerned about is you taking too long and letting me get killed."
"You're being entirely too causal about this! Why doesn't it matter to you who gets the Quickenings?"
Methos sighed. He had never told anyone, but if was ever going to trust another Immortal with the information, it had to be now. "Any Immortal within range will get part of the Quickening. Whomever actually makes the kill gets the largest share, but..." He shrugged. "I already have a lot more energy than you anyway."
Amanda considered this carefully. The explanation was difficult to accept. If anyone else had proposed it, she'd probably laugh out loud. "How do you know this?"
"Careful observation over thousands of years with senses diligently honed to be more acute than you ever dreamed possible."
After staring at Methos a moment longer, Amanda decided that she could accept it as an explanation as to why he didn't care if he got the Quickenings. If he had been trying to convince her to let him have them, it might be a different story, but there didn't seem any logical reason for Methos to be lying in this fashion. "Okay," she said at last. "I'll ally with you."
Methos nodded. "I have a few of things I need to take care of. I'll be back in a couple of hours and we can get started." He rose from the bed and turned to leave the room.
"He's really dead, isn't he?" The thought brought tears to Amanda's eyes as the sudden lack of any more pressing concerns allowed the grief she had been suppressing to come rushing out.
"I'm sorry. I wish he weren't." Methos reached out to place a gentle hand on her shoulder. Amanda instinctively responded by pulling herself closer to the offer of comfort. Methos held her a minute, giving a soft smile when her hand started to wander. He'd had a few fantasies about Amanda, like anyone with male hormones would, but that's all they were - fantasies. There were all kinds of reasons why he shouldn't get involved with Amanda. But when he tried to remember them, Methos realized that the deal they had just made rendered all of them inapplicable or inevitable. Still, he did have things to do. Reluctantly, he pulled back. "There'll be time for this later. If we succeed, we'll have all the time in the world."
"And if we don't?"
"It won't be because we didn't try. We need one more ally and I left all of my files at home."
"Who else is there that we can trust?" Amanda couldn't think of another Immortal she even liked who was still alive.
Methos shook his head. "Not another Immortal, another... A Watcher." Like it or not, rejoining the Game would sign Adam Pierson's resignation.
Amanda nodded understanding. "Joe."
"I'll be back as soon as I can." He brushed a tear off Amanda's cheek and, without another word, left her room.
Joe heard the knock on his door, but ignored it. It was less than three hours since he had witnessed the death of Duncan MacLeod and he felt he deserved to be alone.
His visitor obviously didn't since he knocked again. "He was my friend too."
The voice was muffled, but still recognizable. "Adam?"
"Let me in or you'll have two more dead friends to mourn over."
Two? Methos was still concerned about another at this stage of the Game? Reluctantly admitting that the Immortal Watcher had caught his attention, Joe called out, "Hold on a minute," as he reached for the artificial limbs he needed to reach the door.
When he finally got the door open, he asked Methos, "I presume you're one of them, but who's the other?"
"But she's an Immortal!"
"So I've noticed," Methos replied dryly.
"We've agreed not to kill each other. Neither of us wants the Prize and we're going to work together to make sure no one else gets it either." Methos looked at Joe. "And before you make any remarks about the rules of the Game, keep in mind that all of our opposition have done a lot worse and that if we don't win, one of them will."
Joe sighed. "What do you need me to do?"
"I've managed to gather the current addresses for all the other Immortals, but they're not going to stay put. We'll need updates, especially of any deaths." Methos took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "But what we really need your help with isn't the other Immortals."
"Who else is there?"
"The Watchers. It was chaos when I left headquarters. Horton's followers were out in force, preaching the end of the world and recruiting almost openly."
Joe shook his head in denial. "No, it can't really be that bad."
"Do you blame them? As far as they know, Amanda is the nicest Immortal still alive and, even if they wanted a thief in charge of the planet, she's probably the worst fighter of all the Immortals left alive. Hell, if I were really Adam Pierson, I'd join them."
Joe nodded. "I'll do my best to keep them from going after the two of you." Logically, as the only good guys left, they should be low on the list of targets if the renegades did go head hunting, but the renegades had never been high in terms of logic. Besides, if there was any truth to their claim that killing enough Immortals prevented the Prize from being won at all, then the still living Methos would top the list. "I'll... I'll see you. Good luck, Adam."
They had Adam's hand written notes and computer printouts spread out all over Amanda's bed. Besides the seven Immortals still believed to be alive, there were sheets covering the last half dozen to die. While Adam had been aware that Methos was still alive, he had not been motivated to keep a record of his own movements, so those pages were conspicuously absent.
Amanda held up one of Hedeon Chapaev's pages. "We should go after him first."
"No," Methos retorted firmly. "Since he's the best fighter and most powerful Immortal of all our opponents, we are going to save him for last."
"He killed Duncan. We have to..."
"We will avenge MacLeod's death, but that is not our first priority. If we are following my plan, we will do it my way. If you don't like my plan, you're perfectly welcome to go on a suicide run while I retreat to the Watchers to come up with a back up."
Amanda gave in reluctantly. As much as she hated to admit it, she needed the older Immortal's help more than he needed hers.
"Now, we are going to start with the easiest targets and then use the power we take from them against the stronger ones. If we act fast enough, Joe should be able to prevent the renegade Watchers from coming after us until it's over." When Amanda nodded, he began picking up the papers. "Let's go."
First on the list was Morel Vitalis. He was so surprised to find a mythical being on his doorstep that he barely fought back and Methos was able to dispatch him with ease. Afterwards, the victor wondered how the deceased Immortal had gotten even this far.
Amanda didn't know. "You're the one with the Watcher files."
They were half way to Vencel Balogh's last known location when Joe called to tell them it was unnecessary. Chapaev had beaten them to him.
It wasn't the lost energy that bothered Methos most, though. Hanging up the cellular phone, he shook his head and muttered, "I didn't know."
"Didn't know what?" Amanda asked curiously.
Methos looked at his passenger carefully before answering. "That another Immortal had died."
"Why would..." Amanda remembered Methos telling her that his senses were unbelievably acute. "You can really sense that?"
Shaking his head, the older Immortal replied, "Only during the past three months." But thinking about it, it did make sense that it wouldn't work any more. Receiving a Quickening always was somewhat disorienting to the fine tuning of his senses while the presence of another Immortal reduced his sensitivity to faint signals. And, of course, his actions in reentering the Game meant the Gathering no longer had to provoke him into doing so. Since none of the possible explanations he had come up with still applied, there was no reason he should be able to detect the deaths of other Immortals at a distance. It was still somewhat disconcerting to discover.
The fight with Mikkel Fabricus went off exactly as they planned it. Methos challenged him and, while the eldest Immortal held his attention, the beautiful thief stole his head from behind.
The report from Joe wasn't promising though. "We almost had the other Watchers convinced that you were their salvation, but this set them off again. The only thing that saved you is that when it came down to it, they decided to take logic over appearances. You couldn't want Amanda to interfere in your fights, therefore she did it without your approval. They're still trying to figure out why you're driving around together." Joe paused for a moment as if listening to something. "Hold on a minute."
After a much longer pause, Joe returned with more news. "It looks like Kivi found Dolinski before you did. They're fighting now."
They arrived in time to see Oskari Kivi behead his opponent. As the fireworks began, Amanda looked at Methos who shrugged. Absorbing a Quickening caused a temporary overload of even the least sensitive Immortal's senses. Kivi didn't notice Amanda until she was practically on top of him.
Not being involved himself, Methos was free to observe the look of horror that crossed the face of the only Watcher visible from his vantage point. He turned away in disgust. Methos and Amanda were doing things this way because they had to, not because they wanted to. Why couldn't the mortals they protected understand that?
It was down to just three now. Methos and Amanda drove in grim silence to what they hoped would be the last hostile encounter between Immortals. Once Chapaev was taken care of, the two remaining would be free to do whatever they wanted... forever.
First, they had a major challenge ahead of them. Chapaev was the most skilled and most powerful of their opponents, the reason they had saved him for last. Chapaev had managed to defeat MacLeod and Methos had spent too much time in hiding to be at MacLeod's level of skill. While Amanda had not run from the Game, she did spend most of her time in other pursuits and wasn't even as good as her older partner. They only hoped that together they would be able to defeat their opponent.
Chapaev had sensed them coming. He watched them getting out of the car, swords at the ready. "I see you found some chump to champion you until the last," he commented to Amanda. "As amusing as it would be for him to turn on you later, I'm afraid I'm going to have to disappoint you by beating him." He gave an evil grin. "But if you'd like, I'll consider giving you a chance to work your wiles on me before you join him."
"I don't think you realize who I am," Methos stated calmly.
Turning back to his approaching foe, Chapaev commented, "Well, you look like a schoolboy with a crush, but I'll assume you wouldn't have made it this far if you didn't have a few centuries under your belt. Go ahead and enlighten me. I'd like to know who's giving me the Prize."
"A few centuries?" The ancient Immortal laughed, though he didn't feel amused. "Try a few millennia. My name is Methos."
"Methos?" It was Chapaev's turn to laugh. "He's been dead for centuries, if he ever existed to begin with."
"Not dead, just hiding," Methos replied.
"Well, if you've been hiding, then you must be out of practice." Chapaev tried to prove this by catching the ancient Immortal off guard, but Methos parried his first swing with ease.
"You'll have to do better than that," Methos taunted, giving a swing of his own as he began to slowly circle around his foe.
Chapaev seemed to be falling for their plan. Busy exchanging blows with Methos, he allowed his attention to be diverted from the apparent bystander. He mistook the eldest opponent's timid strokes and primarily defensive style as signs of fear and weakness. The thought that Amanda was there as anything other than a witness never occurred to him until he felt her blade in his shoulder.
"Damn!" she swore. She had missed Chapaev's neck by mere inches. If he hadn't moved just as she swung...
It was his off hand, but still Chapaev was not happy. "No two against one," he reminded Amanda, turning slightly to get a glimpse of his new opponent.
Methos took advantage of the other Immortal's distraction to make a swing that Chapaev barely avoided. "You're a fine one to quote rules. How many Immortals have you shot and then taken their heads while they were down?"
It was only five times and only when he was most desperate. Chapaev was that desperate now, but his gun was at home. However, there was a more important aspect to the circumstances under which the events had occurred. "There were no witnesses," Chapaev gasped. "How could you know?" He was too surprised to remember to swing back, but managed to back away sufficiently that both his opponents were within sight.
Just because Chapaev hadn't seen the Watchers, that didn't mean they weren't present. Methos had only heard a few snatches of conversation when he had been at headquarters this morning and was mostly taking a shot in the dark. He managed to hide his relief at hitting target and replied, "A five thousand year old man has to have a few tricks in order to survive."
The first traces of fear started to appear on Chapaev's face. Methos might not be quite as skilled a swordsman as he was, but the ancient Immortal was extremely devious and more than good enough to defeat him if his attention stayed divided. Amanda wasn't really attacking in earnest, so Chapaev concentrated on his elder opponent, though still careful not to let her get behind him again.
Amanda realized that their original strategy wasn't working. Not having to defend herself against attacks, she was free to observe Chapaev closely as he fought. When he looked at her at all, he was watching only her sword. Amanda smiled as she stuck her foot out instead.
Methos stepped back and Chapaev tried to follow, but lost his balance and ended up impaling himself on the elder Immortal's blade. Amanda's killing stroke sliced open a nice gash on her partner's sword arm, but the flood of relief that crossed his adrenaline filled system drowned out any sensation of pain.
Pulling his sword from the now headless body, Methos managed to stagger back the few steps needed for it to fall lifeless to the ground. The standard lightning that accompanied a Quickening soon surrounded Amanda, filling her with more power than she dreamed possible. While most of the impressive display missed him, Methos could feel the deceased Immortal's escaping life force all around and through him. Chapaev's Quickening was so powerful that Methos managed to pick up more energy from just a fraction of the overflow than he had from many Quickenings that had been his alone.
Amanda woke up in an unfamiliar bedroom. The state of the art home computer looked somewhat out of place among the ancient books that surrounded it. But Methos was a scholar, no matter what age he was living in, and the mix seemed appropriate to him.
Spotting an empty champagne bottle and beer mug on the floor beside the bed, Amanda guessed them as the source of her mild headache. She groaned. It had been ages since she had last had a hangover, even a mild one. Half a bottle of champagne didn't seem like enough, but then again she couldn't remember having anything with it and her stomach rumbled its agreement.
That didn't seem very sensible, but Chapaev's Quickening was the largest she had ever received and her third in one day on top of it. Her thinking probably wasn't all that clear even before she started with the alcohol. Methos should have been in better shape, though. He had only had one Quickening and a comparatively small one at that. But then again, he had managed to find his way home, so he probably was in better shape. For that matter, they must have managed to pick up the champagne en route. The fact that they were drinking it out of beer mugs implied that it was something Methos didn't normally keep in stock.
Finally, Amanda turned her attention to the man lying in bed next to her. The mythical eldest Immortal looked amazingly peaceful and vulnerable in his sleep. He was also the only Immortal left in the world, aside from herself. Even though she had no use for the Prize, Amanda still couldn't help noticing what a tempting target Methos made at the moment.
No! What was she thinking? Methos was her friend! Amanda couldn't remember how she got here or if they had done anything other than get drunk, but that didn't change the fact that Methos had trusted Amanda enough to invite her into his bed. How could she even consider taking his head now? She shivered.
When Methos woke up, he could feel Amanda's fear. Obviously she was afraid of him and wanted to kill him before he was awake enough to defend himself properly. With effort, he pushed aside the Gathering inspired impulse. It was more logical to assume that Amanda was afraid of herself because she didn't really want to kill him. She didn't have even his meager skill at detecting and resisting the influence of the force that ruled all Immortals.
"It's not you. It's the Gathering. We can resist it," Methos soothed. Amanda looked at him pleadingly and he reached out to touch her. Gradually, they turned the fatal attraction they had for each other into an attraction of a different kind.
Amanda was every bit as good as Methos had fantasized. Of course, she had been refining her techniques over the course of eleven hundred years. While Methos had never tried to become an expert, over the course of his five millennia, he had managed to pick up a few tricks that impressed even the infamous seductress.
They had just finished when a shot rang out. It hit Methos in the back, causing him to topple out of bed. Amanda rolled to the floor on the other side, narrowly dodging a second bullet as she made herself a moving target, albeit a naked and unarmed one. The lack of a third shot from the stunned Watchers indicated that her nudity might actually be an advantage as she looked to rectify her other condition.
Both swords had been dumped in a haphazard pile of clothing near the doorway, beginning an erratic path to the bed. Amanda couldn't remember whether this was due to a carelessness born of too many Quickenings and too much champagne or a slight paranoia about the Gathering making them kill each other. Whichever it was, it had been a stupid move, leaving the weapons out of reach of the Immortals and practically under the feet of the intruding Watchers.
On the floor, Methos had managed to fight off the pain of the wound and his headache sufficiently to remain conscious. He had even managed to put the extra energy gained yesterday to good use, applying his limited skill at quickening manipulation to concentrate as much energy as he could on his injury.
By the time he had recovered enough to be able to sit up, Amanda had crossed the room and was engaging the Watchers in unarmed combat. They still had guns, but she was moving too much for a clear shot, which made the risk of hitting each other in the close quarters too high.
Methos debated over whether he ought to get up now or wait until his back and chest stopped hurting. Then one of the Watchers grabbed his sword off the floor. A seductive voice whispered that if he just sat there and did nothing, he would win without having to commit the gruesome act himself. He refused to give in to it. "Stop!" He rose to his feet. "If you kill one of us, the other one becomes invincible. Isn't that what you're trying to avoid?"
The male Watchers found Methos' naked body significantly less interesting than Amanda's, but his words caught their attention. "So we'll move you apart and kill both of you separately."
The ancient Immortal knew that wouldn't work. Their plan might not give him the Prize, but once Amanda was dead, he'd be close enough to be able to escape the Watchers. Both the knowledge itself and his acquisition of it seemed to defy logical explanation, but Methos didn't have time to figure it out now. "Why are you doing this? Did we look like we were trying to kill each other?"
The Watchers looked over the two nude Immortals, though they paid more attention to the female one. Finally their spokesman looked back to Methos. "No, but you've killed your lovers before."
"Only in self defense," Methos protested automatically, regretting the words the instant they left his mouth. From the betrayed look in Amanda's eyes, he knew that he would never be able to retract them.
How close to the edge Amanda considered herself to be wasn't obvious to the mortals. But the leader of the group sternly reminded himself that he couldn't afford to have doubts and raised his gun.
Methos dove forward, the bullet passing harmlessly over his head. Amanda ducked as well, giving the Watcher holding Methos' sword a shove as she snatched up her own weapon.
Watcher training covered the fact that swords were the weapon of choice for Immortals who wanted to kill each other. It seemed obvious that the hand held weapon ought to be less likely to hit his friends if he missed. Unfortunately, that was the extent of the sword knowledge of the man now facing Amanda. It didn't take long to convince him that he was greatly outmatched. The metal blade was much heavier and more difficult to wield than the Immortals made it appear. The Watcher had abandoned his gun in favor of the outdated weapon and now discarded this as well as he turned tail and fled.
The other two Watchers were attempting to shoot Methos as he approached them, but he was mobile now and already recovered from the earlier wound. One bullet winged his shoulder, but he reached the Watchers before they could do serious damage. While Methos disarmed one, Amanda ran the other through with her sword.
"Get out! Take your friend to the hospital," Methos ordered, sick of all the violence and killing.
The one Watcher still standing looked dismally at the guns lying on the floor, not quite close enough for him to be able to grab before one of the two angry Immortals caused him to regret the decision. Reluctantly, he half carried, half dragged his friend out, to follow the ancient Immortal's advice.
Methos stood in the bedroom doorway and watched them go. When he was finally satisfied that they were gone, the last of the tension caused by the fight drained from his body and he returned to sit wearily on his bed.
"This isn't going to work," Amanda said finally.
"It is possible to fight the Gathering," Methos countered. "I've been doing it for thousands of years."
"I've been doing it since yesterday! Tell me I get more than one mistake," she dared.
"I'd like to..."
"But you can't," she finished.
Methos didn't try to deny it. There didn't seem much point in lying when he knew Amanda wouldn't believe his words. Amanda was his friend, but there was only so far he was willing to go to keep it that way. If she went for his head, he'd have to defend himself. Last time it had just been a misunderstanding and he'd stopped her without killing her. Next time... If there was a next time, he'd have to kill her or there would be a time after that.
"Look, I'm sorry it didn't work out. Really I am." Amanda started gathering up her clothing and putting it on. "I'll..." She'd what? Call? Write? See him again? "Thank you for preserving my life. Unfortunately there isn't anything I can do to repay you except do my best not to take yours. For that we need to stay away from each other. Since you're out of the Watchers, you won't be able to use them to find me..."
"I don't need the Watchers. If I want to find you, I will," Methos replied quietly, the words neither hope nor threat, but simple statement of fact.
Amanda looked at him, realizing the truth of what he said and that it applied in reverse or even if neither of them wanted it to. The Gathering wasn't done with them yet. "I guess this isn't forever then. Until we meet again..."
Methos watched her go, knowing that her plan to distance themselves from each other was counterproductive, but unable to stop her. It was physical closeness that protected them from the Watchers and emotional closeness that protected them from each other. Unfortunately, he had no way to convince Amanda of that. Giving a sigh, Methos looked around the room, wondering how many of his belongings he could successfully hide from the Watchers and if any of them were really worth the effort.