Author: Ecolea
Title: Let There Be Light
Rating: PG
Keywords: X Files Highlander: The Series Crossover

Feedback: Comments, flames, superfluous remarks and vicious character assassination maybe cheerfully sent to: ecolea@juno.comc

Archive: All ready sent to Gossamer and Seventh Dimension. All others go for it.

Disclaimer: Owning them would be too aggravating, so please sue me for copyright infringement. I love Court TV and need seven more minutes to complete my 15 minutes of fame.

Summary: When a catastrophe strikes Washington, DC Mulder is left to find his own way until someone a little older, a little wiser and a lot more cynical helps him find the answers.

Authors note: Many thanks to Arameth for guidance, assistance and lots of little extras. And to my beloved carnivores, you know who you are, looking forward to taking you shopping.

Dedicated to Estella, who deserves more and better.

Let There Be Light
By Ecolea

FBI Headquarters
Washington, DC
January 4, 2001

It took three days and a thousand some odd rescue personnel to clear enough debris from the blast area to begin digging out the basement where one last body was expected to be found. Assistant Director Walter Skinner and Special Agent Dana Scully stood together, waiting in silent vigil in the safety zone a hundred yards from the remains of the Hoover Building. In the background, chattering radios announced the progress of the work. Slow, tedious and cautious as the way was cleared. An hour passed, then another and another until someone brought coffee and they drank without tasting on this cold midwinter's morning.


Fingers twitched, a hand moved and oxygen deprived lungs gasped in agony as a trickle of air wafted through the twisted metal and shattered concrete that had once defined the X Files office. Memory stirred and with it came fear, confusion and discomfort. Movement was impossible and Mulder, trapped between his crumpled desk, the smashed file cabinets that had stood behind it and the weight of the collapsed retaining walls, waited to die again.

He vaguely remembered the distant sound of the explosion and flinging himself beneath his desk as the building shuddered, rocked and finally crumbled. Clearly remembered waking briefly several times to an icy, near quiet darkness where his labored breaths and the terrified pounding of his heartbeat were the only sounds to break the awful silence. Then the air would grow stale and suffocating and he would gratefully lose himself to the senselessness of being unconscious.

Mulder had always suspected he would die violently -- though he'd never consciously considered the possibility. That way led to madness. Or worse, paralytic fear. He'd never anticipated this. The slow, creeping inertia of lonely death. Didn't really want to anticipate it now. And maybe, he thought, with a sudden sense of fear tinged relief as the distant sounds of movement from above finally began to penetrate his stifling tomb, maybe he wouldn't have to just yet.


Seacouver, Washington
Joe's Bar

"Lucky bastard!" Joe Dawson exclaimed as he poured two shots of whiskey. One for himself and one for Duncan MacLeod as they watched the latest news report on the bombing in DC. Special Agent Fox Mulder presumed to be dead, found alive and uninjured beneath his sturdy desk.

"Y' think." Methos commented sarcastically.

Joe's head did a quick swivel in the direction of his friend. "One of you guys?"

Methos shrugged. "Maybe. Could just be incredibly lucky. A few hundred metric tons of concrete and steel come crashing down on him one New Year's morning and he survives."

"It's possible," MacLeod interjected thoughtfully. "Especially if he wasn't in the direct path of the blast and had a pocket of air surrounding him."

Methos nodded then sipped his beer. And pigs fly, he thought. "Whatever."

Joe grinned wryly. "Not your problem, right? Well, I've never heard of an immortal Federal Agent. Can't imagine you could get in the FBI without a lot of background checking of relatives and such. That kind of infiltration takes more than just time and money. But just to be sure I'll have someone check it out. Could be a first death."

"Still not my problem," Methos smiled.

MacLeod sighed. "Nothing's your problem. We know this. Joe, let me know what you turn up. If it is a first death he needs a teacher."

Methos groaned. "And now, for another exciting adventure of "The Boy Scout Rides Again."

MacLeod grimaced. "You just don't get it, Methos. If it is a first death and he doesn't get a teacher soon, someone will take his head."


Dawson nodded. "He's right, Adam. A Fed beheaded by a sword? And one as high profile as this guy now is? Think about it a minute."

Methos sighed. "Yes, I see. An investigation might reveal the existence of immortals and a witch hunt could begin. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe the government already knows and doesn't give a shit what we do to each other."

"And maybe," MacLeod finished his whiskey and stood. "They do and it would. We can't take that chance. Joe, I'll be at the dojo. Let me know what you find."

Methos watched him leave with a cynical eye. "Another beer, Joe. And could you change the channel? Christ! There must be something else on."

Dawson gave a disgusted sigh and reached for the remote under the bar. "You're a heartless bastard. You know that?"

"Thank you. I try."


"Jesus!" Methos heard Joe exclaim into the phone as he exited the men's room a few hours later. "Did everyone get clear?" Methos raised an eyebrow as he rejoined his friend at the bar and Dawson held up a hand to forestall any questions. "Good. Good," he muttered. "No, don't. No one goes near this guy, got that? I don't care if he's one or not, he's got baggage none of our people need to be exposed to." Another long pause as Joe listened to the other end of the conversation. "Yeah, make that a directive and make sure everyone knows." Joe didn't bother to say goodbye, just snapped the cell phone shut and rubbed his eyes.

"What's up?" Methos asked casually, retaking his seat.

"This guy Mulder is hot!"

"Why Joe!" Methos uttered innocently. "I never knew you swung both ways. You've gone up a notch in my estimate."

Dawson sneered sardonically at the other man and ignored the jibe. "Hot as in fifteen minutes after one of our best guys hacked Mulder's file two truck loads of black ops goons trashed our Washington field office." Methos raised both brows and nodded for Joe to go on. "Luckily, they knew it was coming. Seems Mulder's file is flagged and tagged. They tried to spike the trace, but the system was too damn fast. They barely got out in time. Didn't even have a chance to read the guy's file."

"Your tax dollars at work," Methos drawled, nonchalantly sipping his beer.

Joe shook his head and sighed. "Anyway, I've called off any observation for the time being. Immortal or not, he's on his own."

"A wise decision," Methos agreed. Anyone with that much government interest in them was far too much of a threat for anyone to be assigned as a Watcher. Either Mulder had friends in high places, or he had powerful enemies and the Watcher organization certainly wasn't equipped to handle either of them. "So what are you going to tell Mac?"

"Jesus, Mac." Joe shook his head. "You know what he'll do. He'll go on his own to check him out."

"And now that somebody knows someone else is interested in him they'll be waiting."

Dawson nodded and moved to pour himself another whiskey. "Mac's already too high profile himself."

"You want my advice?" Methos offered. Joe gave him a dubious look and nodded. "Tell him the truth. You've turned nothing up. As far as you know he's just some lucky son of a bitch who isn't immortal."

Joe looked thoughtfully at his whiskey before swallowing it down in a single shot. "It is the truth," he murmured.

"Yes, it is. Just leave out the really exciting bits that will make him drop everything and run off half cocked."

"And what about Mulder? If it is a first death..."

"Joe, we all sink or swim on our own merits. He's a grown man. Either he'll find a teacher, a teacher will find him, or he'll learn about The Game the hard way. Like most of us did. Besides, he's a Federal agent which means he's armed. First time someone comes at him with a sword he's likely to shoot first and try to question the corpse later. He'll learn. And then he'll either live or die."

"That's pretty cold logic, my friend."

Methos shrugged. "It's a cold world and Mac's passions run far too hot." Methos paused for another drink. "Then we're agreed?"

Joe nodded. "Agreed."

They left it at that, drinking in silence as they watched the latest news bulletin on the miraculous survival of Fox William Mulder.


Arlington, Virginia
April, 2005

Mulder dropped his travel bag on the floor beside the door, stripped off his coat, jacket and tie then toed off his shoes eager to relax. His cell phone rang and he fished it out of the jacket as he headed for the bedroom. All he wanted was a long hot shower, a comfy place on the couch and some take out.

"Yeah, Scully," he answered automatically. It had become a routine with them. One would call to make sure the other got home without mishap after an unusually long assignment. First one to call bought lunch for the other. "You win. I'm home safe and sound."

"Do tell Agent Mulder."

Mulder paused at the unfamiliar voice. "Who is this?"

"A friend."

"My friends generally have names," he responded tartly, too exhausted to play this particular game tonight.

"Names can be illusions," the voice replied.

"So is pulling a rabbit out of a hat, but we all want to know how it's done."

The voice chuckled. "You may call me Mr. Smith. And I'm going to take your head."

"My head?" Mulder rolled his eyes. "That doesn't sound very friendly. You another asshole with a sword?"

"Come now, Agent Mulder. You're either in The Game or you're out of it. Permanently. No more hiding behind that badge of yours."

Now Mulder was pissed. Every so often some loony would challenge him to a sword fight. At least once a year since the bombing of the Hoover. Guess it was about time for another. Usually, he simply put a bullet in some part of their anatomy that never did too much damage, then arrested the stupid jerks. Most of them were now in prison with sentences ranging from thirty to sixty years. The attempted murder of a Federal officer was a very serious offense. Of course, interrogation had led to some interesting information. The first one had gone on and on about some kind of game he and others like him were playing, laughing when Mulder didn't seem to know what he was talking about. That particular individual had spent some time in a psych ward before being found legally sane enough to stand trial. Who they were or what this game was about still eluded him. Another X file he and Scully had been unable to solve.

"You'd think after all this time with three of your buddies in jail and a fourth awaiting trial you'd take the hint," Mulder muttered disgustedly.

There was a pause on the other end of the connection, then the voice became thoughtful. "Perhaps you're right, Agent Mulder. You are very new to The Game. Not much power in you. Yet. And you lack honor. Reason enough for me to find you worthless quarry, at the moment."

"I'm happy you've resolved your issues," Mulder retorted. "Now fuck off!" He snapped the phone shut and tossed it onto the couch.

By rights, he admitted as he shed his clothes and got ready for his shower, he probably should have set up a meeting with the unknown caller and tried to apprehend him in hopes that it would lead him to however many others there were in this bizarre death game. Unfortunately, the last two times he and Scully had gone that route they'd turned up nothing and no one. All Mulder had gotten out of it was a migraine and the feeling that he was being played for a fool. He'd finally decided after the last round of this so called game that the next time it happened he was going to ignore it until he had to actually do something about it. Like arrest the bastard. Not a very proactive plan, but a plan nonetheless.

As for the game itself and why he of all people should be chosen as its target, he could only wonder. It might be some lame idea to distract him from his search for the truth. Or it could simply be that people did some really weird shit. Inexplicable shit. And as for the number of players in this game, Mulder consoled himself as he finally stepped into the steaming spray of the shower, how many of them could there be?


Bangor, Maine
November, 2007

Mulder glanced at the bloody cloth in his hands with a shudder. He heard the trunk slam shut and quickly balled up the shirt he'd worn, stuffing it under the seat of the car. Scully came around to the passenger side, slid into the seat and handed him a clean one. She was pale and nervous, but they'd been through this before.

"Mulder," she finally began as he was doing up the last button. "I think it's time we ran some more tests."



He shook his head and started the car. "No more tests, Scully."

"But Mulder--"

"No!" He didn't want to talk about it. Didn't want to think about it. Let alone acknowledge this accelerated healing business with more tests. "What's the point," he added bitterly as he turned on the heater so they could wait for the local police in comfort. "Look, Scully. I know you mean well, but we just have to face the facts. I haven't been a...normal human since They took me. Since maybe before They took me. We know They can heal, let's just consider this part of the new and improved Mulder package and forget it. Okay?"

Scully sighed and nodded. He knew she didn't like it, but then she didn't have to. Neither did he and they both had to live with that fact. There wasn't an answer for this, and there was certainly no cure. And besides, who'd want to be cured of this anyway?

"You know," he grinned wryly. "Maybe we should consider this a blessing. I could have been killed tonight."

Scully shook her head and gave him a small, yet meaningful smile. "Maybe you're right. That last auditor certainly seemed to be pleased."

Mulder grimaced. "Don't remind me." No injury report meant no reimbursement costs. "My out of pocket expenses for clothes are killing my lifestyle. Pay-Per-Porn won't even take my calls."

"Think of it as a small price to pay for immortality," Scully teased.

Mulder's eyes widened. "I'm not immortal! Jesus, immortal. That's not a blessing, that's a curse. I think They just want me alive and healthy. For whatever reason They need me. And as soon as They don't They'll just terminate this little experiment and I'll be on my own."

In the distance the sound of sirens could now be heard and as they stepped out of the car to wait in the open, Mulder made certain his torn and bloody suit jacket was carefully out of sight. It wouldn't do for there to be any questions. Even if his blood was all over the crime scene they wouldn't know it was his unless they caught him trying to hide it.


Washington, DC
New Hoover Annex
March, 2015

Director Skinner's retirement party was in full swing by the time Mulder arrived. He'd finished up the last of the paper work he'd needed to do and sent Scully on ahead, hoping the party would cheer her up. Ever since her divorce papers had come through she'd been quietly depressed.

Frankly, he mused as he watched her being chatted up by a couple of younger female agents, he hadn't been all that surprised that her three year marriage to a Navy captain had ended. Or that Scully had filed the divorce papers first. He'd been a teacher at the naval base and wanted a sedentary life. She'd spent the last twenty-two years running around the country with her crackpot partner. He'd always suspected she'd married a man like her father and hoped to be like her mother -- happily married until death us do part. Instead, they'd fought over everything until the bitter end. Including the set of Tiffany lamps that had belonged to his mother he'd given them as a wedding present

Twenty-two years, Mulder silently wondered as he looked at Scully then glanced at Skinner. At sixty-something, the former marine was still vigorous and commanding, though well deserving of the 30 year pension he'd earned. Scully, though still in her late forties, was just starting to show her age. Fine lines becoming wrinkles from too much time spent out in the elements traipsing around crime scenes and the stress inherent in the job.

And he? Mulder looked around at old faces and new suddenly startled by the revelation. At 55 he looked much the same as he had in his hey day when the conspiracy threatened and an alien invasion seemed imminent. And he hadn't noticed.

Well who would? Mulder reasoned. He'd never been vain or obsessive about his appearance. Most times he only looked in the mirror to shave or comb his hair and he was usually half asleep at the time. He turned to leave, feeling the overwhelming urge to look in a mirror. Really look this time and see if it were true. Had Scully been right all those years ago? Was he somehow immortal?

Surely not, he silently insisted as he strode down the hall to the men's room. The place was nearly empty with only a stall in use and he stared at his reflection in the bank of mirrors above the line of sinks feeling both relieved and appalled. Relief that he still looked the same as he always had and appalled by that very fact. Not an ounce of fat to forewarn against a hanging jowl, not a single gray hair, not even a frown line between his eyes to slowly form a network of ever increasing wrinkles. He looked as if he hadn't aged a day in fifteen years.

"Jesus, Mulder, give the rest of us a break!"

He whirled, startled by the sudden interruption of his thoughts. "Agent Colton," he greeted the man politely, noticing the he hadn't aged at all well. A beer belly paunch was held in by a too tight belt which already showed signs of breakage in the leather against the strain of his weight. What was left of his hair had gone silver gray, while his skin looked like sallow parchment, and his nose, now bulbous and fatty, had fine lines of broken capillaries which told Mulder that Colton was probably an alcoholic.

"Cut the crap, Mulder, you selfish bastard."

"I beg your pardon?"

"You look great. You always look great. While your partner looks like you've run her into the ground. Everyone knows she covers for you. Taking up the slack because you're too incompetent to do the job. You even wrecked her marriage. Dragging her all over creation because you were jealous and too fucking full of yourself. I don't know why she's loyal to you. You've done nothing but wear her down and make a mess of her life!"

With that, Colton turned and stalked out, leaving Mulder open-mouthed and stunned. Did people really think that? For Scully's sake he hoped not.

After taking a moment to collect himself, Mulder left the room and headed back to the party, pausing at the door to look around. Yes, there was Scully speaking in gentle tones to another young agent and looking... Mulder swallowed hard on the word. Motherly. Scully looked motherly. Not just in attitude, because it was obvious she was giving someone a good piece of advice, but in appearance. There was a lot more gray in her hair than he'd realized. And she looked tired. Worn out, just as Colton had said.

Without thinking about it, Mulder turned and went to his office. He grabbed his overcoat, hurriedly leaving the building in need of time and space to consider things. He knew that most of what Colton had said was pure bullshit and malice. He'd had a thing for Scully since their Academy days and he'd never tried to hide his disdain for Mulder. But he'd been right about one thing. The job was draining on Scully. She was no longer a young woman of twenty-three, fresh faced and eager to plunge head first into the unknown. But still she followed. Not blindly, yet bravely indeed.

Mulder turned onto Pennsylvania Avenue walking aimlessly past the White House, head down against the chill and the fine mist of rain that shrouded the brightly lit night sky of the city. His thoughts circled around what all this meant and what, if anything, he could or should do about it. Twenty minutes later the misting rain had turned to fog and he found himself alone on a side street not far from the Lincoln Memorial. He knew a decent bar not far from here and the urge took him to have a drink. Maybe a little muddling of his thoughts was what he needed. Some empty headed down time to let his musings simmer until a clear and coherent idea bubbled up from the morass of his thoughts.

He liked the notion so much that he turned on his heel and headed in the direction of the bar. It was just as he'd finished crossing the street that it hit him. Another one of those god awful headaches that often presaged a meeting with a Sword Bearer, although he hadn't met up with one of those for a few years. He supposed they'd taken the hint that he didn't want to play, or maybe he'd finally put the last one in jail. He still didn't understand it, but it was a minor blip on the view screen of his life. He could live with it.

Up ahead a man came out of the darkness and into the fog blurred light of a street lamp. Mulder paused, easing his hands out of his pockets to reach for his gun if need be. The man's hands also rested calmly at his sides, though his posture telegraphed tension and wariness.

"I'm Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod and I don't want any trouble," the stranger announced.

Taken aback Mulder suppressed a smile. "Special Agent Fox Mulder of the FBI. Glad to hear it." He edged cautiously past MacLeod, who looked a tad relieved as he went on about his business.

More weird shit, Mulder thought as he saw the bar up ahead. Stuff like that also happened occasionally, though he'd never before associated it with the headaches. Strange men and women introducing themselves and declaring peaceful intentions. Too weird. He definitely needed a drink. If that kept up... Jesus! What was the world coming to?


"Hey MacLeod! Long time no hear," Joe eased back in his chair, cradling the phone against his shoulder.

Methos perked his ears up while pretending to read the paper. He and MacLeod had been at odds for a few years, though nothing that would bring them to blows. Still, he liked to keep an eye, albeit distant on the Scot.

"Who? Oh yeah, him. You don't say." Joe held the phone away from his ear for a moment and glared at Methos, who hid a smile and tried for all the world to look exactly what he wasn't, innocent. "I never told you that. I said as far as we knew he wasn't immortal." Another long pause and this time Methos did look up. "We couldn't get anybody on him. It was complicated, MacLeod. And frankly, after, I just forgot he existed." A few minutes later after promising to give Mac the whole story when he got home and agreeing to finally put a Watcher on the immortal in question he hung up and sighed.

"What's up?" Methos asked, his curiosity piqued.

"Remember that guy, Mulder, the Fed who survived the Hoover bombing?" Methos nodded. "Well, he's one of you guys and Mac ran into him tonight. Did a little checking, too. Seems Mulder's been arresting any immortals who challenge him and charging them with attempted murder. He's got five cooling their heels for the next forty odd years and two locked up as criminally insane."

"Good lord!" Methos whispered. "They're not going to be happy campers when they get out. Well," he shrugged, going back to his paper, "hope he knows what he's doing."

"You think he doesn't know what he is?" Joe asked aghast.

Methos looked thoughtful, then shook his head. "It's been what? Fifteen years? Either he's fairly old and doesn't want to risk his role as an officer of the law for whatever reason, or he knows about The Game and is biding his time until he's stronger. It's what I'd do at any rate."

Joe looked equally thoughtful. "You're probably right."

"Of course I am. Did Mac even imply that he might be ignorant of The Game?" Joe shook his head. "Well then, there you have it. Mac would have said something. That was the whole point of observing him in the first place wasn't it? To make sure he knew and didn't make things uncomfortable for the rest of us."

"Yeah," Joe agreed. "He's gotta know. There are at least fifty immortals living in and around DC. If it was a first death then someone must have pulled him aside, given him what he needed and let Mulder make his choice."

Methos nodded. "See, I told you there was nothing to worry about."

"There's still Mac. He's going to be really pissed."

"He'll get over it."

With that Methos snapped his paper open and went back to reading, leaving Joe to ponder the interesting notion of a Federal officer being an immortal. Maybe Mac could approach him, try to get his help in locating some of the more dangerous immortals who were too hazardous to keep a Watcher on them all the time. Then again, maybe not. By the time Mac got back he'd be in no mood to do any favors for The Watchers. Of course, Methos was a former Watcher...

"Hey, Adam. How'd you like to do an old man a favor?"


The appointment was for eleven o'clock sharp and Mulder waited in his third floor office gazing out the window at the distant promenade with its vast reflecting pool gleaming in the sunshine. After the bombing when they'd built the new annex no one had even suggested putting the X Files offices down in the basement again. He hadn't argued, despite the fact that he now had less space. Admittedly, while Mulder wasn't violently claustrophobic, the nightmare of being buried alive had taken him years to shake. And although Scully did have her own private office across the hall and they shared the use of an administrative assistant with another department, Mulder often missed the quiet privacy of his old office. Still, he would never again gladly spend his days and nights below ground.

Another headache suddenly assailed him and he tiredly rubbed his eyes. They usually didn't last long, but they'd been coming more often over the past few days. Along with the distinct impression that he was being watched.

"Agent Mulder?" The admin popped her head in the door. "Mr. Pierson to see you."

He turned from the window, surreptitiously unsnapping the safety on his holster. "By all means, show him in."

Now this should be interesting, Mulder thought as Adam Pierson entered his office curiously glancing around. To Mulder's eyes the man appeared to be very young, perhaps in his early twenties. Yet, his movements, graceful, at ease and all together masculine belied the fact of his face. And his eyes told a different story entirely. Worldly wise and weary. Still, nothing about his appearance communicated the fact that he was somehow involved with the Sword Bearers and the threats against Mulder.

He waited while Pierson took a seat then snapped a question at him. "You said you had some information for me. Information about the attempts on my life?"

"Ah," Pierson stammered then caught himself, his soft English accent once again surprising Mulder. "I don't believe I said any thing of the sort, Agent Mulder. I did say I wasn't hunting you and would like to speak with you about certain matters related to The Game. Not that I was currently in it."

"Currently?" Mulder spat. "And how long were you in it before you became disenchanted with murder?"

Pierson leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms. "That's a very personal question, Agent Mulder."

"Murder generally is very personal, Mr. Pierson."

Pierson gave a gentle, amused shake of his head. "The Game isn't personal. It's about survival. Not merely survival of the fittest, but of the best. Or so some of us would like to hope. I can tell you're very young and very new to everything, and it no doubt seems that every challenge is singularly peculiar to you. But we've all had to face the fact that most of those who hunt do so because they want to be The One. Not because they care anything about us."


"Like you, most of us just want to be left alone to live our lives. If The Game didn't exist we'd all be perfectly happy. But it does." Pierson sighed, vaguely annoyed. "Look, I'm sure your teacher explained all this to you, otherwise you wouldn't still have your head."

"Mrs. Fiengold said I should play nice with the other kiddies, but I don't think she said anything about my head. She did smack the back of it once for talking out of turn, but other than that... Nope. Nothing about my head. Now give me the information I want, Mr. Pierson, or we can do this just as easily in an interrogation room downstairs. Withholding information regarding a conspiracy to commit murder has an equally long sentence as attempted murder when the target is a Federal agent. However you're involved in this you'd better start giving me some straight answers."

Pierson leaned forward in his chair a look of sheer disbelief on his face. "You don't know, do you?"

"Know what, Mr. Pierson?"

"You don't know what you are. My god man, it's been fifteen years, hasn't anyone approached you? Or," Pierson sat back with a sardonic smile. "Someone did approach you and you ran them off. What'd you do? Hmm? Trace the calls? Try to 'bust' anyone who tried to help you? I take it no one but me ever thought to simply make an appointment?" Pierson shook his head. "Ah, Mulder. No wonder you've never had a teacher. Anyone but a Federal agent would have long since been brought into the fold."

Mulder straightened in his chair. The half-pitying tone that implied he was a child, or perhaps worse, childish, was more than insulting, but as he opened his mouth to argue Pierson held up a hand.

"No. Words would be meaningless now. I have to show you."

With that he pulled out a small pocket knife and Mulder's fingers itched to reach for his gun. Still, the thing was so small and the man so affable and innocuous in appearance that he held off, his eyes following the movement of Pierson's hands as he took the blade and sliced deeply into his left palm.

Mulder flinched, remembering the night he'd done pretty much the same thing for Scully's benefit. She'd been shocked, horrified and utterly fascinated as she watched the healing process. What should have taken weeks and left a scar had taken only moments and left his own palm as pristine as it had been moments before.

It took less time for Pierson, Mulder noted distantly, and a small electrical discharge around the wound left the scent of ozone in the air, but still, it was the same.

Mulder swallowed hard, that same relieved yet appalled feeling creeping through every inch of his body until he forced himself to repress a shudder. He stared at Pierson, who'd tossed the blade on his desk and was now wiping his bloody hand on a handkerchief.

Again Pierson held up his hand, fully healed in seconds. "Now," he said. "Either I'm the long lost brother your mother never bothered to mention, or we need to talk."

Mulder nodded slowly, more to himself than to Pierson. "I think," he licked his lips and cleared his dry throat. "I think I need to hear whatever you have to say," he murmured, at last finding a sense of salvation in the calm, quiet eyes before him.

"Good man," Pierson smiled. "Come on, let's take a walk."


Methos followed Mulder out into the hall silently berating himself for being six kinds of fool. He didn't need a student, he didn't want a student, but no one else in the area appeared to be willing to take him on. Not surprising, Methos imagined, given some of the things he'd found out about Mulder just from what was available over the Internet. He'd come expecting to find a brilliant, but gullible, idiosyncratic flake kept on the payroll out of compassion for all he'd endured. Instead, he'd found a sharp, suspicious, straight-to-the-point officer of the law. It would have been refreshing if it hadn't meant that he now felt responsible for the man.

He'd guessed that Mulder was immortal from the start, just as Mac and Joe had suspected. He'd also postulated, though he'd kept that to himself, that it was most likely a first death situation after the bombing. What he hadn't counted on, which he should have if he cared to admit it, was that Mulder's natural instinct to protect himself using the law would make him leery of anyone who approached him through anything other than regular channels.

Immortals loved their own sense of the mysterious and weren't generally given to scheduling appointments with other immortals during business hours. Which was, of course, exactly why he'd done it. He'd simply assumed that Mulder knew the rules and would take the gesture as it was meant. Openly amicable and without risk. Besides being unable to come to death blows in public, getting a sword past security was nigh on impossible. Leave it to him, the oldest and supposedly wisest immortal alive to stumble into a mess of his own making! A pointed reminder, he thought wryly, of why he didn't do profound.

Mulder suddenly paused as he led the way toward the elevators, turning abruptly to take the stairs. Methos glanced past him, spotting a rather determined redhead striding down the hall in their direction. Her level gaze caught his and she opened her mouth to call out, but Methos didn't stick around to discover why Mulder was trying so hard to avoid her. He plowed through the door, chasing hurriedly after Mulder, who'd apparently taken the stairs three and four at a time.

"So," Methos asked as they exited through the garage. "Why are we running from your boss?"

Mulder did a double take and frowned. "My partner, Scully. And technically, I'm her boss."

Methos grinned. "You always run from your employees then?"

Mulder slowed to a casual walk as they reached the street. "She's not just any employee. At the moment she's a disgruntled employee -- with a gun."

Methos chuckled and left the matter there, sensing a great deal of history between the two. It was not unlikely that Mulder had confided some of what he'd been experiencing with her. If that was the case then it would be his decision and his alone whether to tell her the truth or leave her behind when this life ended and another was begun.

"So, what exactly is an X file?" Methos asked, trying to work the conversation around to something Mulder felt comfortable with before laying the big one on him. Not to mention putting it off until they found a less crowded boulevard to wander down.

Mulder stopped and suddenly smiled. "Apparently, we are."

Methos raised an eyebrow and Mulder shrugged. "The X files are cases that fall outside the purview of mainstream investigative techniques. Sometimes, but not always, encompassing the paranormal, the inexplicable and the indecipherable. Not to mention the occasional alien abduction."

"Alien abduction? And they let you spend tax dollars on this?"

"Maybe they know something you don't."

"I doubt it," Methos muttered sotto voce as Mulder started walking. On the other hand, the existence of immortals was certainly inexplicable, even to him. So, maybe Mulder did know something the rest of them didn't. Methos gave an internal shrug and moved past it, catching up to Mulder and letting him set the pace as they headed away from the monument-strewn heart of the city.

Eventually they found an empty bench overlooking the Potomac. If Mac had been here the Scot might have regaled him with stories of General Washington and his band of brothers rowing across the little river during a terrible snowstorm in the dead of night. And he'd have been arguing that the historians said it was far earlier in the day, the weather was clear and they'd merely drifted with the current at the time. But he wasn't and they certainly wouldn't be talking about anything anytime soon.

Methos heaved a silent sigh and sought for words to explain the inexplicable to an expectant Mulder. "No one knows how it began or why," he finally said. "It, The Game, simply was. It's really very simple. There can be only one. One survivor of The Game. For better or worse. So, when an immortal, that's what we are, comes into existence after his first death either a teacher or a hunter finds him. The teacher will tell him, as I'm telling you, the rules of The Game. The most important is that the challenge must be private and can only be one on one, blade to blade. Mortals must not see or even suspect our existence. If the new immortal is found by a hunter, he generally loses his head -- the only way we can be killed -- and his Quickening to the victor."

"Quickening," Mulder murmured thoughtfully. "The spark of life?"

Methos nodded. "Exactly. Your Quickening contains all you are, all you've known and experienced throughout your existence. It's the very core of an immortal. What heals us and keeps us alive. And when we kill, when we take a life, we take all of that life into ourselves. Good, bad or indifferent it is ours until we in our turn are killed and our Quickening passes to another."

Mulder shifted uncomfortably in his seat, distaste and disbelief written across his features. Whether it was the notion of taking a head or the idea of absorbing a Quickening which disturbed him, Methos didn't know. Perhaps both. He gave him a moment to digest this then he went on.

"Now, we do have some advantages in The Game. We can sense each other, or more accurately, we can sense each other's Quickening."

Mulder closed his eyes briefly and nodded. "The headaches. I had one right before you showed up."

"It's like an alarm going off, telling you to prepare. As you get older it will feel less like a headache and more like a buzz, but that also comes with the knowledge of what you're feeling and a lack of resistance to the sense of your own Quickening. "

Mulder sighed. "Don't you guys have a handbook or something I can read?"

Methos smiled. Actually, The Watchers did, but he wasn't about to tell that to Mulder. "Handbooks are so impersonal, Fox. And they never tell you the finer points of sword fighting. Like how it feels to stab someone and have their blood run down your arms."

Mulder's eyes suddenly grew cold. "I already know that. And it's Mulder, not Fox."

Methos said nothing, but the thought came to him that Mulder was not as innocent as he seemed. It was a forgone conclusion that Mulder had already killed to survive, which would make Methos' job so much easier. Mulder wouldn't be squeamish when it came to fighting for his life. Of course, now he had to get him past the first shock before the man went into denial and decided to bolt.

"So tell me," Methos asked, deliberately changing the subject back to Mulder's safety zone. "In all of these X files didn't you ever once come across a case where there was a series of mysterious beheadings with no connection between the victims?"

Mulder stared at the river for a long moment and sighed. "Of course, but that's presupposing you can identify the victim in the first place to establish a connection, or lack thereof. From what you've just told me most immortals," Mulder shook his head at the word, "live pretty average lives. No criminal activity means no finger prints. No family means no one to file a missing persons report, or to identify the body. That's also presupposing that every unexplained crime that's committed comes across my desk. It would be more likely that a simple beheading would be filed as random gang activity, especially if the body couldn't be identified. The simplest explanation is generally the most accepted. Unless there was something truly unusual found at the crime scene, even more unusual than a sword, I wouldn't hear about."

And of course, Methos thought, that was also presupposing The Watchers didn't suborn every ME or local detective that got a little too curious and redirect the path of any investigation.

"That's good to hear," Methos murmured.

"What's good to hear?"

"That our cover has never been blown. When we first heard about you we were a little nervous."


"The idea that someone in the government might know about immortals, someone who might use their position," he lied adroitly, "to start a witch hunt. There's a reason the vast majority of mortals must never know about us."

Mulder nodded. "Jealousy is a pretty good motive for mass murder."

"And if one has no sense of honor one might use every means at their disposal to rid themselves of the competition. It's been done before. Whom do you think started the Inquisition or the Salem witch trials? A few immortal victims mixed in with all the rest would never be noticed."

"So that's why you're here," Mulder murmured. "To find out whether I'm a sociopath, or to help you locate those sociopathic immortals before they become a danger to the rest."

"Or to humanity," Methos added. "Life is much richer, my friend, when you have an average Joe to sit down with and share a beer and some pleasant conversation."

"But..." Mulder began. "To live for centuries watching those average Joe's and Jane's grow old and die... How do you move on? How do live knowing every friend you make is going to die?"

Methos felt a surge of pride. This one asked the right questions. Maybe he'd be worth teaching after all.

"The same way mortals move through life. Nothing is certain. We live, we love, we go on."

"But what about the children? Do they become immortal? And if they do does that mean one of my parents was an immortal?"

Methos shook his head sadly. "There are no children. I'm sorry, Mulder, but we're all sterile. And our parents," he went on despite the shocked look he received, "don't enter into the equation, because no matter what you've been led to believe, you were a foundling."

"No," Mulder insisted. "I have a birth certificate. I even know the name of the hospital where I was born."

Methos sighed deeply. "You know the name of the hospital where the birth certificate was issued. I suspect if you dig deep enough you'll find that there are no charts on file to document the birth. That your mother told her doctor you were born at home. She might even have miscarried before you serendipitously appeared on her door step in the middle of the night. So there might even be a record of a pregnancy on file somewhere. But no, I assure you, Mulder, you were a foundling like all the rest of us. That doesn't," he added sternly, "mean that your parents or siblings were any less than that. Merely that a biological connection never existed."

For a moment it looked as though Mulder were preparing to argue the point, but a sudden look of comprehension crossed his features and Methos knew he had scored. Finally, Mulder nodded and stood.

"Thank you, Mr. Pierson," he said, putting on his best professional facade, though Methos knew he had to be hurting. "I appreciate all you've told me. Send me what you have on those immortals you suspect might be dangerous and I'll check it out. I can't promise to share the information, but I can alert the local PD's to keep a look out."

"Fair enough," Methos said. Mulder was obviously clever enough not to trust a complete stranger too far. Probably didn't want to give either side an unfair advantage. But he would protect the general, law-abiding public which included most immortals.

Mulder started to hand him his card and Methos stood. "What do you think you're doing?"

"I have to get back to the office. But thank you again for your time."

"No," Methos shook his head. "You can't just go back to your normal routine. Now that you know what you are you have to be trained to fight. And there are things you need to know."

"Like what? That you haven't a clue as to where immortals come from?" Methos didn't bother to hide his surprise. "That was rather obvious," Mulder told him dryly. "You started with The Game, not 'In the beginning...' And as for learning to fight... I've been doing pretty well on my own."

"Sure," Methos hurriedly interjected. "Until the immortals you've sent up the river get out and come looking for revenge. And this time they won't challenge you openly, because as far as their concerned you don't fight fair. I know honest immortals who'd kill you just for having that reputation. Right now you've got an unfair advantage. You're a Federal agent and no sane immortal wants the kind of scrutiny taking your head would bring. But this life will end, Mulder. It must! And then you won't be able to hide behind a badge or a gun."

Mulder looked away, staring sadly at the river. Clearly he'd already begun thinking along those lines. At least in terms of his career at the FBI.

"A few more years where you are, Mulder, and people will begin to wonder whether you've a painting locked in the attic and the Dorian Gray comments will start. There's just so much that can be attributed to good genes even in this day and age."

Mulder nodded absently and Methos pressed the point. "I'm not saying that you have to leave for good. Just for a little while. Long enough to learn what you need in order to defend yourself and those you love."

Methos knew he'd finally gotten to Mulder when the other man looked stricken and silently mouthed the single word, "Scully." As he watched the blood drain from Mulder's face Methos had to wonder at the reaction. Were they lovers? Perhaps. Or perhaps they were something far more important. Friends. Confidants. Partners. One thing was sure, Methos surmised, if any immortal dared to threaten so much as a single red hair on the woman's head he'd find himself a foot shorter and six feet underground without an iota of guilt being felt by Mulder.

Suddenly, Mulder's expression turned to one of determination. "I have six weeks vacation coming. And I can tack on an extra three of sick days if necessary. Will that be enough?"

Methos gave a reassuring smile. "It's a good start. The rest, of course, will be up to you."

Mulder nodded grimly as if he knew full well that there were some things in life worth fighting for.


"I don't like it," Scully responded. "You just met this informant and you're willing to go off with him? I thought you knew better than that by now."

"You don't understand," Mulder insisted. "He's like me. He's just like me! And I have to find out why. I have to know the truth, Scully."

"All right. I can accept that. But why do you have to go alone? That's the part I don't like. For all you know it could be a trap."

Mulder sighed. He hadn't told her the whole truth, judiciously leaving out the bit about learning how to decapitate immortal homicidal maniacs with a sword -- and even he didn't quite believe that. He'd told her just enough to make her curious, but not enough to send her into an over protective frenzy. The least she would do was follow him. At worst, she'd have him locked in a psychiatric facility just to keep him from wandering off on what she would consider an insane quest.

"Yes," he admitted, saying only the truth. "It could be a trap. But if it isn't... Scully, it won't be forever. I'm coming back."

Scully shook her head, refusing to listen. "This is foolish, Mulder."

"Is it? Look at me, Scully. Really look at me. Better yet," he grabbed her arm and pulled her into the bedroom, forcing her to stand in front of the mirror beside him. "Now look. Look at both of us and tell me what you see."

She did as he asked and saw what she'd suspected all along. Only she was aging.

"Don't you see, Scully? In a few years I really will have to leave and the opportunity will be gone."

Scully stared sightlessly at the mirror. "You aren't immortal," she whispered. "It isn't possible. Somehow the aging process has been slowed. There's a study being done in Finland that hypothesizes--"

"No!" Mulder hissed. "No more studies. No more tests. Jesus, Scully, do I have to stick a knife in my heart and drop dead at your feet to prove it?"

"Don't you even think about doing something that stupid!"

Finally, Scully shook her head and sighed. "I guess it really doesn't matter whether I believe you or not, Mulder. You're going to do this anyway, so what's the use in us arguing anymore. But I'm going to insist you take some precautions and I want to meet this Adam Pierson before you go."

"I can do that," Mulder nodded. "And if he won't meet with you then I promise I won't go. Okay?"



"What do you mean she wants to meet me? I'm going to be your teacher, not your prom date!"

Mulder had the grace to look embarrassed. "It's that or take her with us."

"You couldn't just leave?" Methos muttered angrily.

"Sure I could," Mulder drawled. "And then Scully, who's spent the better part of twenty years solving complex medical riddles and paranormal puzzles will hunt us down. When she found us, I'd get a lecture and a few dirty looks. You on the other hand..."

"Might end up on a slab in the morgue with a scalpel happy red head trying to decide which pound of flesh she wants to lop off. Fine," Methos sighed in disgust. "I'll meet the woman. But," he added, wagging a finger at Mulder. "I make no promises about your virtue."

Mulder rolled his eyes and ushered Methos into his apartment. To the ancient eyes of this particular immortal the place seemed to suit the man. Unprepossessing, sparsely furnished, with a fish tank to one side of the room that fairly shouted bachelor. Methos paused to appreciate the naked mermaid sitting atop a downed UFO while posing lasciviously for a deep sea diver when there was a knock at the door and Mulder went to answer it.

The redhead from the Hoover walked in and Methos stood, letting himself slip a little more deeply into his Adam "Perpetual Grad Student" Pierson persona -- the charming, affable, studious young gentleman that had served him so well for the last 30 years.

"So good to finally be allowed to meet you, Agent Scully," he held out a hand without missing a beat, or the annoyed glance Scully shot Mulder.

"Mr. Pierson," Scully responded, coolly returning the gesture.

"Adam, please."

"And exactly how old are you claiming to be, Mr. Pierson?"

Out of the corner of his eye Methos saw Mulder watching the exchange with a calculating eye. Oh, very clever, he thought, good cop, bad cop.

"Old enough to drink and wise enough not to do it and drive. I also," he smiled, putting a little twinkle his eye, "remembered to bring protection." He patted his side where Mulder must know he kept his sword and watched a little color drain from the other man's face. Scully, on the other hand, had gone a bit red. Now he knew exactly how much Mulder had told her about being an immortal -- next to nothing -- and she was none the wiser about him or his intentions.

"I think," Scully finally answered, no longer trying to be the calm and collected Special Agent interrogating a suspect -- not with her face glowing two shades deeper than her hair. "That's between you and Mulder."

Methos turned a brilliant smile on the other man, who looked uncomfortably at both of them for a brief moment before he gave up and grabbed his bags.

"See you in a few weeks, Scully."

The woman nodded and Methos was relieved to see that she was not quite as sharp as her partner. To Scully's eyes he appeared to be exactly as he'd hoped. A rather likable fellow, possibly old enough to be more clever than she, and relaxed enough about it to tease her mercilessly for her impertinence. As he followed Mulder out the door, he turned to give Scully a winning smile and a flirtatious wink. After all, she was a very attractive woman and she did blush rather nicely.


"We're here!" Methos sang as if they'd just finished a two day drive instead of twenty minutes.

Mulder stared at the other man as if he'd gone insane. "Are you joking? I could walk to work from here."

"Damn, and I did so want to impress you with my cleverness taking that wrong exit off the expressway."

Mulder gave a wry twist of his lips as if to say, "Yeah, right, tell me another one," and climbed out the car. In the distance he heard the flickering pop of muffled gunshots followed quickly by the loud whine of police sirens responding. "Picked a real garden spot, Pierson. The old warehouse district of downtown DC. Nice."

"Isn't it though," Methos grinned, helping Mulder with his things. "It's perfect. Not a soul around and no one, not even an immortal foolish enough to come down here day or night."

"Then what are we doing here?"

"Isolation is the next best thing to holy ground. And since this is both it really is perfect."

"Holy ground?" Mulder asked, obviously confused as he followed Methos from the sheltered overhang of the side entrance where they'd parked.

"This used to be a mission," he responded, leading Mulder deeper into the building. "During your Civil War it became both a hospital and a morgue." Methos flipped on his torch, shining it around the cavernous room. "Later, when the area fell into disrepute the church turned it into a food bank and homeless shelter. Eventually, when even they refused to come into the area it was abandoned. A few years back I purchased the place. Life lesson, Mulder. A man can never own too much holy real estate."

There was silence from behind and Methos smiled in the dark waiting for the obvious question.

"Would you be insulted, Pierson, if I said your investment strategy was creepy?"

That wasn't the question, but Methos laughed and told him anyway. "Sacred ground, Mulder. It's the only place we can't kill each other. No immortal will ever violate that rule. So, no matter what the lovely Agent Scully might think, you are perfectly safe here. Even from me."

"Any sacred ground of any religion?"

"Anyone's church," Methos agreed as he started up the wide, solid stairs. "Even what you'd consider pagan."

"What about the Church of Satan?"

He paused in his step, glancing nervously back at Mulder. "Now that's creepy." Where did he come up with these things?

"It's hallowed ground to somebody, even if it is the antithesis of God and therefore technically unholy," Mulder insisted with a grin.

"Then I expect one would think twice about it," he replied tartly. "At least," he murmured, "I hope they would. Some of these younger immortals do seem a bit flighty."

Mulder ignored the obvious rebuke as Methos continued climbing. "What happens if someone breaks the rule?"

"No one really knows," Methos answered honestly. "But there is a story of two immortals mixing it up in a temple just before Mount Vesuvius erupted ever so spectacularly."

Before Mulder could begin speculating about the nature of God and immortality, or some other such nonsense, Methos reached the second floor landing, turned into the entrance to his hidden loft and switched on the overhead track lighting.

"Home sweet home," Methos said with a grin as he tossed his keys onto a recessed shelf that ran the length of one wall.

Mulder blinked as his eyes readjusted to the light and wandered over the huge sparsely furnished room. Egg shell white walls, pale oak floors with matching shutters on the long narrow windows, a few scattered white rugs, a king sized platform bed of the same pale oak, a desk, a few chairs, and a state of the art entertainment center. With the exception of a few carefully placed objets de art, that made up the entire contents of the room.

Mulder nodded as if he suddenly understood something which had be bothering him. Adam Pierson was a great deal older than he'd like people to believe. "Spend a lot of time in Sparta, Pierson?"

Methos glared at him. "Don't be insulting. A duller group of war mongers never existed. Corinth," he added. "Now that was the place to be. Everybody went to Corinth."

"I thought Athens was the place to be?" Mulder asked, putting his bags down.

"It had its moments, but Corinth was consistently entertaining."

Well, Mulder thought as he wandered over to a beautifully preserved figure of a man about to toss a javelin, that placed him at around 500 BC. Maybe earlier. Interesting. "So, how old is the oldest immortal?"

Methos shrugged and went to get himself a beer from the small kitchenette hidden neatly behind a set of folding panels. "Who knows," he told Mulder, handing him a bottle as he found a seat on one of the scattered chairs. "There are myths, of course. Eventually you'll hear them. Supposedly, the oldest immortal is a man named Methos and has lived for five thousand years."

"Methuselah?" Mulder asked, astonishment rounding his eyes.

Methos shrugged again. "Wouldn't know. Never met the man. Frankly, I don't believe he even exists. Maybe he did once, but I think he's dead. It stands to reason, doesn't it? How could any man survive that long without someone taking his head?" Mulder nodded thoughtfully, but said nothing. "Another life lesson, Mulder. The older you get the more powerful you become and are perceived to be."

"More power, so more challenges," Mulder surmised. "Still," he went on. "That's a lot of years. A life that long... Terrible and wonderful things to be remembered." Mulder suddenly smiled. "If I were that old I wouldn't worry about losing my head to another immortal, I'd worry about some secret government think tank finding out about me and locking me in a basement laboratory somewhere trying to figure out what made me tick."

Methos stared at him blandly. "Whatever for?"

Mulder shook his head, took a sip of his beer and found his own seat. "Curiosity. Jealousy. Greed. Or," he shrugged. "Just because they felt like it. Who says they need a reason? It's a thing they don't have. Something they don't control. Knowledge they might need, or would merely like to possess."

Methos stared, refusing to betray the anxiety this caused him. "That's a bit paranoid, isn't it?"

"Yes. And? Since when has that ever stopped the government, or any of the shadow governments from doing whatever they want to do?"

"Shadow governments? This is America, Mulder, there are no shadow governments here."

Mulder snorted in contempt. "Tell that to Scully, who was made barren because she got in their way. Or to my sister, Samantha, who was taken for their experiments. Or my father, who was murdered by one of their agents. Try telling that to the thousands of Americans who've been victimized by these same individuals over the years. They'll tell you I'm not paranoid enough in spite of what I've seen."

Methos looked away, saddened by what he was hearing. He'd only meant to distract Mulder from pursuing the question of his age.

"Listen, Mulder. It isn't that I don't believe you. It's just that it's been my experience that these government conspiracies have a short shelf life. Factions are by nature fractious. The lust for power becomes all consuming and they burn themselves out fairly quickly."

"Historically speaking that's true," Mulder agreed. "Unless there's an outside agency fueling the conspiracy. Creating a mindset of purpose, if not of unity."

"And you know of something that powerful, that frightening?"

Mulder grimaced wryly and finished his beer. "Know of it? I was a key player. Back in the day," Mulder sighed almost wistfully. "We brought them down, but we couldn't make them pay. At least we avoided the apocalypse."

Now that got Methos' attention. "Apocalypse?"

"Alien invasion," Mulder told him as casually as if such things happened every day.

"Right. Okay, no more beer for you, friend."

Mulder turned melancholy eyes on him. "It wasn't going to be what you think. Not the kind of pyrotechnic movie invasion that I'm sure you're imagining. You'll find the records in a sealed vault at the CDC. Remember the bubonic plague epidemic of 2008 that never happened?"

"Remember it?" Methos nodded slowly. "I lived through the nightmare of the first. It was the only time I've ever supported a declaration of martial law and house to house searches for those who refused to go to an inoculation center."

Mulder sighed. "It was the only excuse we could think of to get everybody inoculated. No one would have believed an invasion in the form of a sentient virus that digested its human host as it gestated."

Methos didn't bother to hide his disbelief. "Look, Mulder, I'm fairly old and I've never even heard of such a thing."

Mulder shrugged and stood. It had been a long eventful day and he really needed some sleep. "Believe what you like, Pierson. I know what I've seen. And I've long since passed the point where I needed others to embrace the truth -- only that they learn it. That way, when the shit hits the fan they can't say they didn't know -- they just refused to believe."

In silence, Methos helped him carry his bags to the extra bedroom upstairs, thinking his new student had some pretty odd ideas. Still, he'd believed in demons and spirits all his life. Given the nature of his existence it stood to reason that there was a higher power involved somewhere. But if what Mulder said was true, and he had no doubt that the man believed what he was saying, then what role did immortals play in the world? Were they merely bit players in the great drama, destined to forever kill and be killed somewhere to the left of center stage? Or was this, he wondered suddenly as he told his guest goodnight, what had averted the Gathering? He'd felt it. They'd all felt it. The need to travel to this continent to fight for The Prize. The building up of energies in every sinew of the body until there was nothing to do but fight. Then, without warning, it had stopped.

Methos hurried down the stairs to his own bed, nervously running a hand through his hair. The timing was about right, if he recalled correctly. December, 2007? Wasn't that when the real killing started? When rumblings of a possible epidemic had begun. And a few months later, right about the time martial law had been implemented it had ended.

And they'd all been inoculated. No getting around that, even if immortals couldn't catch the plague. He'd been quarantined and rounded up with the rest of Joe's patrons one day.

And after that? Yes. It was after that, he thought with no small amount of astonishment. The need to fight, the feeling that if he didn't fill himself to the brim with Quickening after Quickening he would somehow burst at the seams had all just dissipated. At the time, he'd merely been relieved. But now? He reached for the phone eager to tell Joe and exchange ideas.

No. Methos tucked his cell back in his pocket. No, this he would keep to himself. Even if the coming of the Gathering was somehow linked to Mulder's averted alien invasion it didn't necessarily mean anything. And if no one believed Mulder, they certainly had no reason to believe him. The oldest, most powerful immortal in the world claiming the Gathering had come, gone and been a complete non-event? When they'd got done laughing at him they'd hunt him down just for the amusement of cutting out his foolish tongue right before taking his head.


"Do it again," Methos repeated despite the fact that Mulder had gotten the movements down perfectly after the first few times. He ignored the sour expression and went back to his paper. There was the clang of metal hitting concrete and he looked up to find Mulder standing in the middle of the floor, hands on his hips, breathing hard and obviously annoyed.

"Why? You're not even watching to see if I got it right!"

Methos hid a smile. He'd wondered how long it would take to piss him off. "You've got it right. Now you have to make it part of you. The basic moves are easy. Coming out of a sound sleep into the middle of a fight and keeping your head, now that's hard." Mulder took a deep breath and nodded, bending down to pick up the sword he'd tossed aside. "And don't treat good steel like that," he chided. "Respect your weapon. It should become as much a part of you as your hand."

Mulder bowed, "Yes, Master Yoda," and moved back into first position.

"I rather thought of myself as that Quon-gi fellow Liam Neeson played," he murmured, going back to his reading. "Now there was a Jedi master." A moment later his cell phone rang and he pulled it out.

"Hey Joe," he answered after seeing the familiar number on his caller ID. "You're up early." After a moment's pause he shook his head. "That's not good. Sounds like the seepage has been going on for a while. That's going to cost mucho dinero to repair." He caught Mulder eavesdropping with half an ear and frowned. "Joe, hold on a sec," he said quietly. "Pay attention to what you're doing!" he shouted at Mulder, who didn't trouble to look embarrassed. "Either keep on correctly, or just put it aside. Losing your concentration in the middle of a fight is not an option." To his credit, Mulder grinned and went back to his pattern without missing a single stroke.

Methos heard Joe laughing and sighed. "Yes, I've taken on a student. Mulder? Why ever would you think that?" He smiled and nodded at the man, who'd paused as he heard his name mentioned and correctly put up his sword. "Yes, I spoke with him and he didn't exactly agree to help, but then he didn't blow me off, either. Said he'd look into the matter and alert the locals if there was anything going on that might affect the civil peace." Methos grinned at Joe's comment, giving Mulder a thumbs up. "Yes, I thought so too. Now, I've got to get back to the little one or he's likely to cut something important off."

A moment later they'd said their good-byes and Methos waved for Mulder to go on. It was a good thing Joe had suggested he be Mulder's Watcher for the time being since he had to stay in town for a while to do the student-teacher thing. Otherwise, someone might get suspicious. And a curious Scot was an annoying Scot. The last thing he needed was to give Mulder a giant dose of sanctimonious pabulum. Fighting in the name of Justice was all well and fine when you were as good with a sword as MacLeod. But Mulder was new to The Game and Methos had seen what happened to Ritchie, Macleod's long dead student, when he'd tried to follow in his senior's footsteps. That wasn't Methos' style. First, he'd teach Mulder how to fight, instilling in him a bit of cynical self-preservation to keep him alive. Then he could play The Game however he wanted and, consequently, get on with his life.


Mulder awoke with a painful gasp anxiously reaching for his heart. There was a clink of bottles to his side and he rolled over, staring with horrified eyes at his teacher casually kicking back with a cool one.

Methos raised a brow as Mulder got to his feet and angrily stalked forward. "You fucking put a sword through my heart!"

"Yes, and remember it, because the next time you screw up a move I know you can do blind I'm going to do it again." He watched the anger drain out of his student with a silent nod. They didn't have time to do this easy and Mulder knew that. In a few weeks he had to return to work and now that he'd graduated to mock fights they were going to do this dirty and hard. "You have a bad habit of pulling your blows, and while I appreciate the consideration, I won't tolerate it. If you can't deliver a death stroke, you'll never disable your opponent enough to take his head. Got that?"

Mulder nodded, his expression telling Methos that the idea of actually playing The Game was becoming far too real. Tough, Methos thought, reaching for his sword. For all his bizarre notions of alien abductions and genetically mutated viruses he'd grown to like Mulder. If he had to be a little cruel he'd do it if it meant the man would survive. Someday he might even give MacLeod a run for his money in a contest of arms.

"Good. Now let's go on to--" Methos stiffened as he felt the buzz of a strange immortal and looked nervously around. The last he'd heard MacLeod was in China on a buying trip, having gone into the import/export business. And besides, he doubted the Scot would try to track him down. Which meant this was probably a stranger. And whether they were here to a purpose or simply by accident neither mattered. "Wait here," he told Mulder.

Moving closer to the main entrance of the first floor hall where they'd been practicing Methos loosely, but carefully held his sword.

"This is holy ground!" he called out. "Show yourself or be gone!"

"Rapist!" a familiar voice hissed and Methos sighed, sheathing his sword.

"Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, Cassandra." A woman, tall, dark hair flowing past her shoulders and very beautiful, even wearing a snarl, stepped into the light. "I'm busy here. Now get out."

Cassandra gave him a nasty smile. "I'm not here for you, Methos. I've come to have a word with your student."

"Leave him alone. He has nothing to do with this."

She ignored him and turned to Mulder, whose face had gone still and expressionless. "Come with me..."

Her voice echoed in the cavernous hall, vibrating dully inside Mulder's head. The compulsion to go with her was negligible enough to disregard and his eyes widened with curiosity instead. "How'd you do that?"

Both Methos and the woman looked surprised.

"Cassandra is a witch."

"Really? A real witch? With powers and everything? Cool."

Cassandra remained silent for a moment. The Voice hadn't worked, but the truth, Methos knew, just might. He'd dreaded this moment for over a month now. The moment when Mulder found out his dirty little secret and walked out. And with Cassandra as unbalanced as she'd been in recent years, she just might take his head for spite.

"Come with me," she told Mulder again. This time leaving out the mind tricks. "I'll find you a better teacher. One with honor."

Mulder cocked his head. "Why don't you tell me what you mean by that and let me decide."

Cassandra gave Methos a look of triumph. "That man you call friend is a liar. A murdering rapist who kills for pleasure. A thousand years he rode to the hunt, destroying every living thing he came across. Death, that's what we called him. Death on a horse. He and his band of bloodthirsty riders. Their evil and their memory live even now in your Bible."

"That was three thousand years ago," Methos interjected. "People change! I've changed!"

"You change?" Cassandra laughed harshly. "You're the same as you ever were. Using him for your own ends. Playing at kindness. You don't know the meaning of the word."

"Oh, but I do! You taught me that. Do you think I ever had a captive I treated like you? Kronos saw that. That's why he demanded you. To sully what we had."

"What we had? What you had!" she spat.

Methos nodded. "Maybe. Yes," he shrugged. "What I had then. But still, I let you go. I saw you run and didn't call out. I wanted you free."

"Liar! You didn't want to share!"

"And why was that, Cassandra? Could it possibly be that I felt something for you other than lust?"

"You can't feel anything!"

"Enough!" Mulder interrupted. "I've heard enough. You," he told Methos, "go upstairs. I want to talk to her alone."

Methos stared at Mulder, but his expression was unreadable. With a disgusted sigh he turned to go. "Don't leave the building," he called without looking back. "Remember, you're still on holy ground."

"I will have your head!" Cassandra called after him. "I swear it!"

"Threaten him later, ma'am," he heard Mulder tell her as he reached the landing. "I'm a Federal agent and if you do that again I'll have to arrest you."

Methos choked back a laugh and went inside. God, he would really love to have seen her expression!


Mulder found him a while later sipping a whiskey. "So, have you made your decision?" Methos asked casually.

Mulder crossed his arms and leaned against the door jam. "I made that one a few weeks ago. I just needed to give her a chance to calm down."

"So what did you say to her?"

"I asked if she'd ever been in therapy and pointed out that taking your Quickening would be the worst possible thing. If she hates the thought of one part of your anatomy having been inside her, just think what having all of you in there would mean."

Methos raised an eyebrow at that. "Look," he began apologetically. "I know how you feel about knowing the truth and all, but..."

Mulder held up a hand. "Don't. It isn't necessary. I suspected as much from some of the things you've let slip. And the truth is, if you hadn't already gone through a period of temporary insanity I'd be really worried."

"A thousand years isn't temporary," he admitted sadly. "And I was old when I started."

Mulder shook his head. "Doesn't matter. You reached a point where you lived through one too many horrors and became the horror yourself."

Methos smiled. "Don't kid yourself, Mulder. I enjoyed it. I was a monster and I liked it."

"I don't doubt," Mulder agreed. "But monsters can be made. Take my word for it."

"Crap!" Methos insisted. "I ought to know, I studied with Freud."

"I'm not a Freudian."

"I also studied with Jung."

"I'm not a Jungian, or any other ian for that matter. I'm a criminal psychologist with a specialization in abnormal behavior. I've spent most of my career profiling mass murderers, serial killers, and deviant sociopaths. And though I've never actually profiled you, I can guess what category you fall into."

"Do tell," Methos snorted and focused on his drink.

"You were a 'made' psychopath. A far more common occurrence than most people would like to believe. Kick anyone enough times and they'll kick back. And the more peaceful they were when you started the more dangerous they'll be when they finally snap. Historically speaking, I could name you a dozen who became military leaders."

Methos looked up, clearly startled. "So what does that make me now?"

Mulder sighed deeply. "Truthfully? I don't know. Most made psychopaths suicide when they figure it out, taking their truly psychopathic and sociopathic followers with them. I do know one thing. You are not suffering from any form of aberrant psychopathy. Not even a controlled psychopath could hide it for as long as we've been here, especially not with someone who knows what they're looking at when they see it."

Methos bowed his head and rubbed his face with his hands. "That still doesn't change what I did," he whispered.

"No, it doesn't," Mulder agreed, coming forward to sit near him. "But you know that. And what's more important, you feel guilt. The criterion for parole in this country is a full and complete understanding of one's actions. A comprehension of the pain and suffering inflicted on the victim. I can think of no better punishment than for you to live a year for every innocent life you've taken carrying the weight of that guilt."

Methos stood and moved away. "And what about Cassandra? I did what she said."

Mulder rose and nodded. "I know you did. And much as I find it distasteful personally, I can't presume to judge a man, let alone a culture three thousand years dead. And that man is dead, Methos."

Sorrowful eyes turned in his direction. "But will he live again?"

"No," Mulder told him honestly. "The triggers are gone. Once a man's been broken he can't be broken again, and the broken place is actually stronger than the rest."

Methos simply nodded, his voice filled with exhaustion. "You know, I don't want to fight her."

"That was obvious. But just because you'd like to say to yourself that there's at least one person from that time in your life you didn't kill doesn't make it's true. The woman she was before you took her is dead. The body goes on, the personality remains the same, but Cassandra died the day you took her against her will. That said, who she is now has nothing to do with you. She's done what the vast majority of assault victims do. She's let you get inside her head and stay there. She gives the memory power over her by refusing to take that power back. Until she does, she'll remain fixated on you. And, yes, I told her that, too."

Again Methos nodded tiredly. "Could we change the subject, please?"

"Not before I make a professional observation." Methos frowned, but listened.

"I'll give you the same advice I gave Cassandra. Go find yourself a therapist who's dealt with POW's and torture victims. Whatever catastrophic event occurred in your life to send you reeling towards self-destruction still has power over you." With that Mulder left him to go downstairs and continue his training.

Methos sighed. Good advice, really, and he knew it was true. But how did one get therapy for an event or series of events one couldn't recall? And if he could, was it anything he'd really want to remember? He doubted it. May all the gods forgive him, he thought, finishing his drink, but better to let it just rest.



A surprised Methos poked his head out of the shower. "Joe?" He grabbed his robe and went into the living area. "How the hell did you... Oh," he nodded. "Cassandra's Watcher."

Joe nodded and made his way over to a chair. "I figured it was you from the description. Not of you," he clarified seeing the nervous look on the other man's face. "But from the way she was behaving. What did you do anyway? She's been wandering the streets for days snapping at everybody."

"Guess she didn't like what I had to say."

Joe turned in his seat, staring at the other man.

"Joe Dawson meet Fox Mulder, my student."

Joe shook his head. "You could have told me it was him. I wouldn't have been so worried when Cassandra appeared."

"I'm a secretive bastard," Methos shrugged. "You know this."

"You're not immortal," Mulder interrupted, having learned to ignore the irascible side of his teacher.

Joe grinned. "Nope. Not even pre-immie," he rapped his prosthetic legs, "luckily."

Mulder moved into the room and took a seat as well. "So, what's a Watcher?"

The older man winced uncomfortably. "Heard that did you?"

"It's a long story," Methos interjected. "And frankly, not very interesting."

Joe nodded in agreement. "It's really, really boring."

"Uh huh," Mulder grunted, obviously not believing a word of it. "Well it appears, given our friend Adam here, that I could have as much as five thousand years worth of listening left to me."

Joe's mouth hung open. "You know? He knows?"

"He knows," Methos sighed. "Cassandra never was very discreet."

"Why would she be?" Mulder asked rhetorically. "What do you imagine her fondest wish is?"

"I'd rather not, if you don't mind," Methos responded testily. "As for The Watchers, they're a secret society of, well, watchers. They watch immortals do what they do, record it all for posterity, but never interfere. Usually. See? Very boring. Now, if you'll both excuse me, I'm going to dress."

"Take your time," Joe grinned, chuckling as Methos rolled his eyes disgustedly. When he'd disappeared back into the bathroom Dawson leaned forward conspiratorially. "So, what's he like?"

Mulder's eyes crinkled in confusion. "I thought you knew him."

"Yeah, but I met him as Adam Pierson, squeaky clean geek and endearingly annoying grad student. I've never actually been able to get to know the real Methos, immortal warrior and scourge of history. So, what's he really like?"

"In comparison to what?" Mulder teased.

Joe sighed despairingly.

"Stop pumping him for information," Methos chided as he stepped out of the bathroom, barefoot and dressed only in a pair of jeans. "Now, anybody want a beer?"

"It's seven o'clock in the morning," Mulder protested.

"Right. Anybody else want a beer?"


Breakfast had been Methos' favorite. Beer and sausages. Lunch had been the left over sausages, bread with cheese and yet more beer -- a never ending supply of which seem to flow out of a storage room in the back of the old mission. Now, as Methos was making dinner, beer fortified rabbit stuffed with sausages, Mulder watched him with a bemused expression.

In between long bouts of conversation, ranging from topics such as the origins of beer, upon which Methos waxed eloquent, to the origins of blues, where Joe's expertise held sway, he finally decided he really did like Methos. Oh, he'd thought about whether he did or not prior to Cassandra's appearance, but at that point he'd still had far too many questions to make an informed decision. After, he'd been cautious, because Methos had been -- afraid to get too close in case Cassandra's words came back to haunt Mulder and his student openly rejected him.

Always before Mulder had wondered if the man had been play acting. And to some extent that was certainly the case. But seeing him share a beer and conversation with his average Joe, Mulder realized that much of the play acting was Methos as he had been. The underlying personality that time had filled with anger and cynicism. No wonder Dawson couldn't tell where Adam began and Methos ended. There was more of Adam in Methos than there was ancient immortal warrior king. Still, Mulder knew he should never discount the ruthless aspect of the man which must be there. That would be naive in the extreme.

As Mulder reached for his beer the sudden buzz he'd learned to identify as an approaching immortal hit him square in the center of his forehead. At the same time, Methos turned towards the door listening intently as heavy footsteps sounded loudly on the stairs.

"MacLeod," he muttered, wearing a vexed expression and turning furious eyes on Joe.

Dawson shook his head. "Wasn't me. Must have been--"

The door flew open and slammed against the wall, shattering the plaster. "What did you do to Cassandra?!"

"Who said he did anything?" Mulder blurted before either Joe or Methos could stop him.

"Who the hell are--" MacLeod paused. "I know you. The FBI agent." He discounted Mulder immediately, turning instead to Joe. "What's he doing here?" He twitched his head in Mulder's direction.

"Ah," Joe hesitated, looking helplessly at Methos.

"He's my student," Methos told him coldly. "And I think you'd better leave."

"I'll leave when you answer my question. What did you do to Cassie?"

"He didn't do anything." Mulder stood and moved between the two men. "I told her the truth. That she needed to seriously consider having a psychiatric evaluation and hospitalization."

The vengeful expression on MacLeod's face was all Mulder needed. Even as the big man moved to hit him Mulder ducked, shoving the indignant Highlander hard into the wall and slapping a pair of handcuffs on him. "Don't fuck with me, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," he growled angrily. "I'm not in the mood for it."

MacLeod twisted around until he was facing the room. "And what gives you the right to say anything to her? You don't know her. You don't know what she's been through!"

"But I do. She told me. Of course, first she tried to seduce me into leaving using some kind of mind trick. But hey, it was a novel approach, so I let it slide."

MacLeod took a deep breath. "So you know, that still doesn't give you the right."

Mulder shrugged and pushed away from him. "I just call 'em as I see 'em. The woman needs psychiatric care. If you're really her friend you'll see that she gets it -- before someone figures out that if she knows Methos from back in the day it would be far simpler to take her head right then and there than to wander the world searching for a myth."

MacLeod seemed shocked at the suggestion, looking to Joe and Methos for confirmation.

Dawson shrugged. "He's right, Mac. She's playing a dangerous game. This isn't the first time she's tried to convince some poor kid to go after Methos."

"And don't I know it," the immortal in question complained bitterly. "She trains them up just to throw them at me in the hope one will succeed."

This time MacLeod looked to Mulder, who nodded shortly. "As soon as we were alone," he confirmed, "she tried it on me."

Some of the air seemed to drain from MacLeod's sails and he sagged against the wall. He closed his eyes and nodded. "You can remove these," he clinked the metal gently.

Joe nodded. "Take 'em off, Mulder. He's gotten it out of his system. Now, he'll listen to reason."

Mulder stared at the man then went to do as he'd requested, hoping Joe would be able to talk some sense into the man. From what he'd learned during the past few hours Cassandra had done quite a number on the young Duncan. Even going so far as to seduce him as a boy of thirteen in order to plant the idea in his little pre-immortal head that one day he would face a great battle against evil. The evil being her former student, a powerful warlock she couldn't defeat.

Before leaving he turned to Methos and caught his eye, silently asking that he give them some privacy. MacLeod was not going to like what Joe had to say and he'd like it even less with an audience.

"You think he'll listen?" Mulder asked, just to have something to say as he led the way to the roof. He'd discovered that at sunset he could see the back of the New Hoover's garage. He kept hoping for a glimpse of red hair just to reassure himself that Scully was all right. Still, he had her e-mails and he'd even phoned her a couple of times. She was worried, but surviving.

Methos went to the edge and took a seat on the parapet. "Who knows," he sighed. "MacLeod can be the most pigheaded, stubborn, narrow-minded..." With a shake of his head he turned and dangled his feet over the side. "Depends on how Joe explains the situation, I guess."

Mulder moved to sit as well, knowing there could be no better time to have this discussion. "So tell me, how did you become one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?"

Methos gave him a sideways glance, no doubt wondering if Mulder really wanted to hear it, or was fishing for useful tidbits to use as ammunition. Either way, Mulder thought, it was more than MacLeod had apparently done. According to Joe, he hadn't been all that interested. Finally, Methos seemed to decide he had no ulterior motive and began slowly, almost desultory.

"I'd been working as a mercenary, I don't know for how long really. My employer was the son of some petty Assyrian king, I think. I didn't really care who paid me at the time as long as I got my money. I can't remember much before that. Except for a few odd bits and pieces that really stand out it's all a blur. I do remember that I'd been around a while. A couple of thousand years more or less, maybe.

"Anyway, I met up with Silas first. Of all of us he was perhaps the most honest. Put him on a battlefield and he tore through the enemy like they were stands of wheat. A berserker plain and simple. Hand him a homeless puppy and he was as gentle with it as a mum with her new born baby." Methos paused to swallow his tears. "I had to kill him, you know. He was a big, dangerous beast of a man, but I liked him."

Mulder said nothing, wondering what it must be like to carry not only the memory of a friend in your mind, but his soul as well. He hoped he never learned how it felt.

"Be that as it may," Methos finally went on. "Caspian was an entirely different story. In fact," Methos glanced at Mulder. "Given your profession you may have even heard of his last incarnation. Evan Caspari."

"Caspari," Mulder murmured, rolling the name around. "The Romanian serial killer? The one who escaped about twenty years back?" Methos nodded. "Jesus, I was sent to Paris to work with Interpol on the original task force. Nasty piece of work that bastard. Never could find a trace of him though."

Methos nodded. "Trust me, he never got the chance to harm anyone. MacLeod saw to that."

Mulder nodded, filing the information away. He'd make a note of it when he got back and pass the word to Interpol that Caspari was definitely out of action.

"A nasty piece of work," Methos continued with a nod. "Caspian was exactly that. Not much of a fighter, but what he lacked in skill he made up for in horror. He wasn't much of a threat to me, not with Silas around. And he really wasn't interested in The Game, except for figuring he'd been granted immortality to pursue his own devices. The seal of approval by the gods and all that. If he had to take a head now and again, risking his own life in the process he figured it was a fair trade.

"Then Kronos showed up. He was there for the big battle. Our petty king was making a move on another petty king, albeit one with a real city inside his border. Two little men fighting over a pile of mud brick huts. That's how I saw it at any rate. But it paid well, the beer was fresh and the food was decent enough." Methos sighed and smiled wryly, shaking his head.

"Anyway, Kronos was a bit more complex than the others. He was actually capable of real sustained thought. Of course, it all centered around being known as the biggest, the badest and the meanest, but at least he had a plan.

"When the battle was over and our petty king came out on top we all got our walking papers. Mercenaries are useful in a fight, but heaven help you if you keep them around during peace time. But that was okay, too. I had a big bag of gold and all the armor I'd stripped from the dead on the other side. That stuff makes great trophies, by the way, especially if you could find some nobleman's son who was too afraid to actually get right in the fighting. They'd pay a fortune for a banged up helmet or a rusty sword just so they could go home and claim they'd taken it in single combat. Made a better trade if you hung around to give them a really good story that would bug out the relatives eyes."

Methos chuckled at Mulder's expression. Not horror or fear, but intensely fascinated. "So, where was I? Oh, yes. Kronos." Methos paused and sighed. "I remember the day he told me his plan. We were in a bath house at some temple, I forget which god, but apparently one who liked his worshipers clean. I usually avoided him, although I have to admit a large part of me was attracted to the picture he painted. We were gods. Earthbound and condemned to squabble amongst ourselves, but still gods. Instead of hiring ourselves out to whatever little king happened to be in a greedy mood at the moment and hope like hell we didn't accidentally 'die' in battle before we got paid, we should band together and make them pay us tribute instead. Of course, we couldn't take on an entire army, but with hit and run strikes we could cause enough terror to incite the tithe paying populace who would eventually demand our price be met. And that, ultimately, was our mistake."

Mulder laughed softly and nodded. "Those who could ran to towns which grew into cities, which built bigger walls, which fielded bigger armies and were therefore able to protect more of their property. Without meaning to you spurred on the growth of modern civilization. That must have irked Kronos."

Methos grimaced wryly and nodded. "We'd started out as raiders and briefly became wealthy warrior princes. By the time I came across Cassandra we were already on a downward slide. We didn't roam across two continents because we liked to travel. The pickings just got slim. And every time a new king was crowned he'd come marching out into the countryside with his army, putting on a show for the indigenous crowd and refusing to pay our tribute. Eventually, most of the undefended villages had been replaced by small cities where the people came out only during the day to tend their crops. We spent more time sabotaging irrigation ditches than we did fighting for a while. Quite a come down, wouldn't you say?"

"So what made you leave?"

Methos shrugged. "Probably the same reason I'd originally stayed. Fear. I was afraid of being alone. And with the others I didn't have to fight for every scrap and mouthful only to lose it when a bigger, stronger immortal came and tried to take what I had. We shared everything. And our one rule was never to raise a hand against each other. We called ourselves brothers and we meant it. After a while, I thought myself happy. I was Death and I was good at it. I was Death and I took pride in it. I was Death and I never saw the end coming."

He paused for a long moment and sighed. "It wasn't Cassandra's escape that triggered my departure. In fact, I had to stay on several years after that just to make certain Kronos didn't suspect what I was planning. I'd really been thinking about it for a while. At some point, I'm not sure when, we raided this pathetic little caravan. For our trouble we came back with a few bolts of cloth, a handful of painted baubles and a dozen or so books -- scrolls actually -- and some slaves.

"I could read, of course, but Egyptian, Assyrian, Akkadian and Sumerian are nothing like Greek writing. So I forced one of the new slaves to teach me. Probably told him I'd sell him to a good house where they wouldn't beat him too regularly. And since people back then were a lot more practical and pessimistically accepting of whatever fate the gods ordained, he agreed."

Methos shook his head and smiled. "Those books were it really. They made me start to think."

"What were they?" Mulder asked curiously.

"The collected works of King Philip of Macedonia, Alexander the Great's daddy. He wrote about the proper disposition and rule of a city. How duty, honor and courage could make a man of the most humble means into a great leader. He insisted that talent and not patronage be used to determine who ruled -- after all, he was an elected king. He wrote about what part philosophy and education could play in the betterment of the individual. And, well, all sorts of crazy, dangerous new ideas that were considered scandalous in those days. Even the broad minded Athenians were shocked."

A smile played at Mulder's lips at the passion he heard in Methos' description, as if the man were rediscovering all those ideas once again.

"It shocked me too, I can tell you," he went on. "I couldn't stop thinking about it. I made the mistake of telling Kronos and he made me live to regret it. I could see him after that ever so subtly undermining my position with the others. Making them think less of me, questioning my orders, double checking with him about my suggestions. I suppose, looking back, I took Cassandra because I felt isolated. I needed someone to need and respect me. Only me. When I finally left I took the coward's way out. I found some poor mortal who resembled me, took his head and left him for dead."

They sat quietly for a long moment until Mulder sighed and slapped the other man's shoulder lightly. "It's a good story, but it still doesn't beat 'my sister was abducted by aliens and I saved the planet from an invasion'."

Methos pursed his lips thoughtfully and nodded. "No it doesn't. But what have you done lately?"

There was a noise from behind and they both turned to see MacLeod standing in the shadows. Mulder had no idea how long he'd been there, but he suspected from the big Scot's expression that it had been long enough to overhear most of what Methos had said.

"Duncan," Methos greeted him quietly.

"You'll want to turn the oven down in a bit."

Methos nodded diffidently and Mulder raised an eyebrow at the inane comment. A moment later, MacLeod silently turned away and headed down the stairs. All the way down and out to his car which Mulder heard revving in the distance.

"He'll be back," Methos commented. "He loves my rabbit with sausage."

Mulder stared in disbelief. "After all that?"

Methos shrugged. "MacLeod means well, but he's very young. Far younger, emotionally and psychologically even than you."

"How old is he, exactly?"

"Exactly? Four hundred and twenty-three."

"And what's the median age among immortals?"

"Eleven hundred years. It's a young man's game. Most immortals get sloppy after the first millennium. We start to believe in our own immortality, lose our edge and start making mistakes. Or worse, we can't move forward. An inability to change with the times that leads to self-destructive behavior. You're lucky in a way, Mulder."

"How's that?"

"Most immortals don't get the opportunity to live out their first life span normally. I died in my early twenties and like most immortals born before this century was cast out of my village. Even MacLeod, who was a chieftain's son was exiled from his people. You can't imagine what that means. To be loved one day, feared and hated the next, not knowing the how or why of it. We died very publicly and there was no doubting that we were not like the others of our clans, or anyone else for that matter. And being foundlings didn't help. You, on the other hand..."

"Died on national television and CNN."

Methos grinned. "Not quite, but you were alive when they found you and seeing you rise from the ashes made the country happy. So no one was willing to look any further than that. But it's given you something most of us don't get. A chance to have a real life where you can have a beginning, a middle and an end of your own choosing. And, more importantly, you've had the opportunity to live as mortal for more than fifty years. There's something to be said for that. You've matured as any individual must, aware of your own mortality. That, believe it or not, colors the way you view the events of your life. You learn from your mistakes, knowing that because you have so little time every day means more as you age. So, in many ways, you are more like Joe than you are like Mac or me."

Methos turned from the edge of the roof and stood. "And while four and a quarter centuries may seem like a great deal of time to you, in my eyes MacLeod is young enough to be allowed a bit of slack. He's a good man at heart, though he is still very much a product of his upbringing and judging the world around him from that point of view. So, in an hour he'll be back with an expensive bottle of wine and I'll invite him to sit at my table and share a meal with me. In spite of the fact that he's been rude and obnoxious. And in spite of the fact that he thinks Cassandra can do no wrong. Because life really is too short and good friends, no matter how screwed up, are incredibly hard to find."

With that, he turned and left, leaving Mulder behind to sit and ponder his own life, and what if anything, when the time came to leave, he would say to Scully.


"So, there we were in Antarctica. Stranded and freezing when--"

Someone's cell phone rang, interrupting Mulder's story. Four men searched their pockets, but only Mulder came up lucky.

"Hey Scully, missing me?" he grinned.

Mulder's face went still, brow furrowing as he listened. Methos shared a glance with MacLeod, who gave a negligible shrug. Students who went on with their normal lives after first death were extremely rare, so anything was to be expected. Suddenly, Mulder's eyes shot to MacLeod then quickly moved away as he rose and ambled to the other side of the room talking quietly into the phone.

"I can be there in ten minutes," they heard him say as he turned, heading for the door. "No, I'm not at my apartment. I'm staying with a friend in the city. See you there."

Methos got to his feet and hurried after him. "Where are you going?"

"To work," Mulder told him, briskly taking the stairs to his room.

"You can't leave," Methos insisted, following him up. "We aren't done."

Mulder didn't bother to stop as he collected his weapon and checked the clip. "I'll come back, but right now I have to go."

"Why? What could possibly be more important than your life?"

"I can't discuss an ongoing investigation."

"All right," Methos nodded. "I understand the call of duty. But give me a minute and I'll drive you."

Mulder shook his head. "I can't take a civilian to a crime scene."

"Then I'll loan you the car, but give me a minute to get something."

Mulder nodded, whipping off his sweat and dirt stained tee shirt. "I'll meet you downstairs."

A few minutes later Mulder was ready and waiting when Methos, MacLeod and Joe joined him. In his arms, Methos held a long, narrow package, while Duncan held Mulder's overcoat -- which he distinctly recalled not having seen since Methos unaccountably sent it to the cleaners.

Methos cleared his throat gently. "I'd meant to do this later, but now is as good a time as any. I've never been much for tradition anyway. Here."

He thrust the package at Mulder, who took it, opening the cloth wrapping carefully.

"Wow!" Mulder whispered when he saw the sword Methos had given him.

"A Spada da fante?" MacLeod asked, staring in amazement.

Methos nodded. "I had it specially commissioned when I lived in Venice. It's wickedly dangerous and the longer blade makes it hard to handle, but I think he's capable."

"He'd better be," MacLeod stated emphatically. "Watch your swing with that thing, Mulder. You've got to come in at just the right angle or you're likely to lose your edge and sprain something."

Mulder nodded, hefting the blade and sighting along the edge as he tested the balance and weight. "I see what you mean," he agreed. "I'll be careful with it." He gave Methos a small nod, fully intending to give him more profuse thanks later when they were alone. "Now, if you gentlemen will excuse me, I've really got to go."

Methos sighed and handed over the keys. "Remember, if you get into trouble..."

"Holy ground, I know," Mulder finished, opening the driver side door.

"Wait," MacLeod said, tossing the coat at him. "You'll need this."

Mulder caught it easily. "I wondered why you had that out. It's a bit warm for a trench coat, don't you think?"

Methos rolled his eyes. "I took the liberty of fitting it with a sheath. Don't leave home without it."

Mulder threw it onto the passenger seat where he'd laid the sword. "You know, I'm not intending to go into battle here."

"As if that makes a difference," Methos chided.

"I'll be in the company of Washington's finest, not to mention Agent Scully."

"Well, yeah," MacLeod pointed out. "That would make a difference." Methos shot him a nasty stare. "Well it does!" he insisted.

Mulder grinned, turned on the engine and pulled away before he was drawn into the argument. For a long moment Methos simply stared after him.

"Who would have thought you could be such a mother hen," MacLeod chuckled, laying a hand on Methos' shoulder.

The older man shrugged it away. He had a very bad feeling about this. "Come on, let's go have dessert. I have a marvelous German beer that will go very nicely with some German chocolate cake."

They headed back into the building, MacLeod helping Joe up to the second floor.

"So where's the-- Methos?" MacLeod looked back down the stairs.

Joe followed suit, shrugging when he didn't see the man. "Maybe he went to get the beer."

"I think--" MacLeod paused as he heard a car engine revving. Frantically, he searched for his keys, Joe doing likewise as he suddenly realized what Methos was doing.


"Gone." Joe finished, frowning. "That sly little bastard. He picked my pocket."

"Our pockets," MacLeod fumed, moving back down the stairs.

"Hey wait up!" Joe called as he fell in behind the angry Scot. "Give me a minute and I'll hot wire the Chevy." MacLeod stared in surprise. "You guys aren't the only ones who had a disaffected youth!"


The scene at the abandoned factory was lit only by the headlights of a dozen police units and a van from the coroner's office. Broken glass littered the ground and the scent of ozone hung heavy in the air as if a storm had just past. Mulder flashed his badge at couple of uniforms and was pointed in the direction of the body where Scully stood waiting. She gave him the once over with her eyes, but said nothing.

"So, what have we got here?" Mulder asked.

"You should know, Mulder," she said, lifting the sheet and giving him a good look at the upper torso. "You're the one who instructed the local PD to call the bureau if there were a series of unexplained, random beheadings. We've got at least three in as many days."

"At least?" he asked, kneeling down to examine the neck. Yup, the head was definitely missing.

"They just called a new one in. Headless corpse seen floating in the river about five miles from here."

"Any ID on the victims?" he lowered the sheet to see the rest of the body, noting the lack of defensive wounds, or even slashes in the clothing.

Scully pulled a note pad from her pocket. "The first was John Cray, age forty-two, employee identification says he's a banker, no family, or at least none we could verify. His maid says he never mentioned any. He was killed at home. Second one is a Marianna Van Lundt, age twenty-seven, a psychiatric student at Georgetown University. Her body was found in the university parking lot about four a.m. this morning. No one's been able to locate her family yet. This," she gestured to the body as Mulder replaced the sheet and stood. "Is Ahmad Naftari, thirty-five years of age. He's a haute couture shoe salesman from Paris. And this," Scully ushered him over to a utility pole about fifty feet away where the police were lowering a charred body rigged in a climbing harness. "This is Henry Wallinski, age forty, a lineman with the phone company. He was out here working when he was apparently electrocuted. That's how the bodies were discovered so quickly. Someone spotted him from the highway and called it in."

Mulder grimaced and nodded. With the exception of the bystander it all sounded pretty much as Methos had described. The question now was just how much he could tell Scully. She'd never believe it, but that wasn't new. He sighed and took the coward's way out.

"I need you to autopsy the bodies," he began, heading back to the car.

Scully trotted faithfully along behind him. "And what am I looking for?"

Mulder shrugged. "Drugs, ligature marks. If they weren't lured to their deaths, they were certainly pretty complacent about being decapitated."

Scully nodded. "And what are you going to do?"

"Check out the body at the river, then swing back to the other crime scenes for a start." He climbed into the car.

"Mulder," Scully leaned down, resting her arms against the door. "I know these killings seem odd, but what do they have to do with us? They're not X files. If anything, they're gang or cult related, maybe even vengeance killings over drugs."

"You're probably right," Mulder agreed. "But I'll just see what I can find out. You okay with that?"

Scully smiled brightly. "Actually, it's rather nice to be working on a case that doesn't involve the paranormal. Just," she added hastily, "for the sake of variety."

"It is the spice of life," Mulder nodded, thinking this was just a little too easy. "See you later."

He pulled out missing the expression of wary suspicion that crossed her features. Mulder was never this easy unless he was hiding something. A moment later Scully turned and went to her own vehicle. It would be at least an hour before the most recent body could be brought to the morgue at Quantico. In the meantime, she'd follow him, just to be certain he did in fact go to the crime scene. Neither ever noticed the black Mercedes traveling between them.


"I cannot believe I'm riding around looking for a headache!" Mulder muttered. He had a vague uneasy feeling about who the rampaging immortal might be, but he didn't want to rule out anything. At first he'd thought MacLeod might have gotten into something while out buying just the right wine to serve with beer braised rabbit. But according to Joe the man was a marvel of self control, unless he happened to think the wheels of justice would turn far too slowly and be better served by slicing off the miscreant's head. Mulder didn't like it, but he could understand the point of view that would lead an immortal to think only they could police their own. It wasn't so much justice, he thought, but simple expedience. He certainly was not looking forward to running into those immortals he'd jailed when they finally got out of prison. Still, he mused, glancing at the seat next to him, at least now he could defend himself in the time honored tradition.

Another thing about these killings bothered him. Methos had indicated that few immortals would dare to fight a duel to the death in DC. Hell, even the local gang bangers had self- preservation enough to avoid shooting outside their own community. The president's neighborhood might be dicey, but his security was excellent. Any murder within a five mile radius of the White House fell under intense scrutiny. And, while he might be an officer of the law, he knew damn well if he didn't protect immortal secrecy he'd probably be the one to end up under the microscope in some hidden laboratory. That left only one assumption and he was loath to make it. Someone wasn't thinking. Someone who might be under a great deal of stress and taking out their anger in killing.

Cassandra, he thought sadly. He hadn't meant to push her over the edge. But if it were her then it was his responsibility to get her some place safe where he could see she got proper therapy. Even if he had to put her in jail to get it. Had it only been other immortals he might have considered shipping her off to a secure facility in Europe and getting Methos to foot the bill, but the telephone company worker's death made things complicated. Not overly complicated, but complicated nonetheless. She knew better than to challenge someone with a witness present. What had the woman been thinking?

He turned onto a side street, still headed in the general direction of the Potomac. Washington was not a very big city, but at night everything seemed more distant. The buzz hit him just about the time he smelled the river. She must be tired, he thought, on foot and walking. Though he himself had never experienced one, two Quickenings in fast succession must be exhausting.

Mulder pulled over, noting the area. Mostly boarded up dilapidated buildings, out of business stores shut up behind steel, graffiti covered gates, and a few empty lots where apartment blocks had once existed. He reached for his sword then drew back his hand. No, he did not want to appear threatening. He had another weapon at his disposal and if he could just get her down and the cuffs on he could get her someplace safe. If he couldn't... Well, he was probably dead anyway. He was definitely not strong enough, or skilled enough to take on a three thousand year old witch. Maybe like MacLeod she would listen to reason.

He got out of the car, moving cautiously forward as he eased his weapon out, keeping it at his side. "Cassandra!" he called. "It's Fox Mulder. We need to talk." He caught a glimpse of something moving at the far edge of a vacant lot and he made his way toward it. "I know you're hurting, Cassandra. I only want to help you."

"Then die!"

He dropped and whirled, firing once as the blade missed his head by inches. A woman shrieked and he heard trash cans tumbling as he lost his footing.

"You don't have to do this, Cassandra," he called out calmly, getting to his feet.

"You're wrong! I have to be strong. Strong enough to take him!"

"Is that why you're doing this?" Mulder asked, moving deeper into the shadows as he followed the echo of her voice. "Is that why you were willing to kill innocent men and women?"

"They were my students! They gave of themselves willingly!"

"Is that how you justify it?"

"I don't need to justify anything! Not to one who would choose Death over me!"

Mulder paused. "Or is it that Death chose life instead of you?" There was a long silence and he slowly moved forward. "That's it, isn't it, Cassandra? You bought into the myth. You'd almost have to back then, when raiding for women was synonymous with getting married. If you didn't you'd probably go insane." He felt his way up the alley, trying to keep her thinking rather than reacting. "It's not all that different now, Cassandra. My secretary likes to read those novels. You know, handsome warrior prince carries off beautiful peasant girl who's really a princess in disguise. He ravishes the fair maid and in showing her her heart's desire falls madly in love, keeping her safe and protecting her honor from various and sundry bad guys. But your prince wouldn't fight for you, would he? Wouldn't die for you. He wouldn't even come after you when you ran away, so you could go off together and hide. You thought you meant something to him. That's why you hate him, isn't it?" He turned another corner, nervously searching the darkness.

"I never loved him!" she shrieked.

"No? Then why try to kill him? He never once offered you death, Cassandra. Not even in taking your first life. So how do you justify killing him? Tell me I'm wrong, Cassandra. Tell me you didn't get over the past and move on with your life when you believed Methos was dead. It's been three thousand years. It must have occurred to you somewhere along the line that what happens to the body is ultimately meaningless. We are our minds, Cassandra, not just our flesh."

He turned another corner, which opened onto the interior of a half demolished building. Only the front facade remained and it was there he saw her standing calmly in the rising moonlight.

"I want to help you, Cassandra. Will you let me?"

"Yes, you can help me," she nodded, pointing her sword which crackled and danced with the energy of her Quickening at him. "You can die."

Mulder raised his gun as she rushed forward and the charge along the blade skipped and arced. It hit him square in the chest, taking his breath and knocking him to the ground. To his right he heard the sharp report of his gun accidentally fire as it hit the concrete foundation, skittering along the floor. Then Cassandra stood over him, sword poised, and he knew in that instant that he was going to die. Every nerve in his body felt seared by lightening and he realized why her students hadn't been able to fight. He shut his eyes as she started her swing, suddenly startled by the metallic clang of blade against blade.

"Not this time, Cassandra!" Methos hissed. "This time we settle the score."

In a blinding succession of thrusts and parries Methos drove her back, giving her no chance to marshal her arcane strength, until with a single lunge he plunged his sword into her chest. "I wanted to help you," he told her, watching the light die in her eyes. "Mulder wanted to help. And Marianna, the only student of mine you hadn't destroyed wanted to help. But you don't want help, Cassandra. You want revenge. And for that I'm sorry. But I won't have you stalking my children for all time." With that he pulled the blade from her heart and with a cry of anguish sliced his sword through the air separating her head from her neck.

There was a scream as the body slumped to the ground and Mulder shuddered at the sight of Scully standing on a rise of bricks nearby. As the wind came up a mist began to rise from the stump of Cassandra's neck. It lifted higher and a flicker of light began to glimmer inside. The glow expanded in the mist, enveloping Methos and the snapping crackle of an electrical charge shot out and upward arcing into the sky. Light seared Mulder's eyes again and he watched in fascination and horror as bolt after bolt of energy tore into Methos, who fell to his knees screaming in agony. And it was like a living thing the lightening. Aiming itself at Methos, at his sword and at the place where he knelt, until bricks imploded and the wall behind him crumbled and collapsed into the ground. A moment later it was gone. A few trailing wisps of static moving along his sword until it stopped entirely and the only thing Mulder could hear were harsh exhausted pants interspersed with tearful sobs coming from that dark distant corner.

"You bastard!"

Mulder saw MacLeod coming from behind as the other man raised his sword. He reached out, catching an ankle and pulling the man to the ground. Quickly, he scrambled over, shouting, "He tried!" while punching MacLeod's wrist until the sword fell from his grasp. "He tried! We tried! She wouldn't listen! She killed them all! Every student she had! Every student he had! She wanted enough power to take him. To take his Quickening and survive!" Finally, MacLeod ceased his struggles. "She wanted vengeance, not life," Mulder explained. "Not one that would have meant anything anyway after he was gone. She loved him, MacLeod. And she hated him for it. After all those centuries it came down to just one thing. The anger of a woman scorned."

He saw the light of understanding come into MacLeod's eyes. Comprehension of the depth of Cassandra's rage. He'd seen such things before. Perhaps even been the victim. Whatever the case, he nodded, grimacing as he realized what both he and Methos had known from the start. Cassandra would never have stopped until either or both were dead.

"I don't know what's going on here, but you're under arrest for murder."

Mulder turned his head to find Scully standing over Methos with her gun drawn and her cuffs out.

"Drop the sword and put your hands on your head slowly," she ordered.

"Scully, no." Mulder rose and staggered over. "She would have killed me, like she killed the others. The others like me, Scully."

She stared at him, perplexed and disbelieving as always. "What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that it was self defense. That it was the only way she could be stopped."

"He's right," MacLeod added, wiping tears from his eyes. "Your justice would have meant nothing. I knew Cassandra. She would have used her powers to walk out of wherever you took her, or pretended to die. And then she would have been back, killing more innocent immortals. You can't gain power by simply taking heads. Not if you can't control your own. And Cassandra couldn't."

"Mulder, what the hell is he talking about?"

"Remember The Game, Scully?" She nodded shortly. "That's what this is about. It was always about power. A power I didn't know I had until I met Adam."

"Look," Methos interrupted. "Why don't we all go back to my place. You can explain everything there. Then, if she still wants to arrest me, I'll go along. Peacefully," he added. "I've done prison. And I've done being executed. As long as no one whips out a guillotine I have no qualms about doing it again. Satisfied?"

Scully looked to Mulder, clearly unsure as to what to think of anything. "I'll vouch for him, Scully. All I want you to do is hear me out. Trust me."

After a long pause Scully finally nodded. "All right, but I want those weapons secured. And him," she twitched her gun at Methos, "cuffed until I decide whether or not you've completely gone insane."

Mulder looked at Methos, who shrugged and put his hands on his head. "Just give me a chance," he told her, doing the honors on Methos himself. "That's all I ask."

Scully nodded. "And that's all you're going to get."


"But Mulder, that makes no sense!" Scully reiterated. "There is no scientific basis for that conclusion. It's totally illogical!"

"Yes, Mr. Spock, but it's true."

"Butt out, Adam!" Mulder ordered.

"Just trying to help," Methos muttered, a bit miffed.

"Thanks, but..." Mulder rubbed his eyes. They'd been at it nearly an hour and still Scully refused to even admit that the possibility of immortality could exist. This was getting them nowhere.

"Listen folks," Joe interjected, having remained silent during most of the argument. "I'm used to dealing with this kind of thing. Mind if Agent Scully and I talk privately for a bit?"

He glanced at Scully, who nodded and they moved away to talk quietly in the little kitchen. "How are you doing?" Mulder asked Methos, checking to see that the cuffs were allowing for proper circulation.

"Better now that we're on holy ground. It was a difficult Quickening. I wasn't sure about everything you said out there, but with Cassandra here I can feel the truth of it. I'd no idea," he whispered sadly. "She thought of us as married. She didn't really want to kill me. She only wanted to hurt me, as I'd hurt her."

"You had no choice," Mulder reminded him unnecessarily.

Methos nodded tiredly. "You're the last of my students," he admitted bitterly. "Marianna... Sweet, gentle Marianna. I found her wandering the coast of Flanders. Such a tiny little thing. She'd been beaten to death and dumped in the sea by the people of her village after she changed. She'd called to let me know Cassandra had come to see her asking for therapy."

"She knew?"

"Not the gory details," Methos allowed. "Just enough to know I'd wronged the woman and mistreated her badly. I guess Cassandra realized she knew too much to merely be a sympathetic listener. Marianna was always very trusting."

"Look, about Scully," Mulder began.

Methos shook his head. "She won't listen. No matter what you do or say. I know the type. The minute she's alone she'll compartmentalize everything she's seen and find a logical reason for why she didn't see what she thought she saw. But I might be able to help you there."

Mulder nodded for him to go on.

"Cassandra's powers. I have them inside me. I can, if you're willing, obscure the memories. I can make her forget what she's seen. Make her forget even," he sighed, "that you're immortal." Mulder's eyes widened. "You could go back to work and she'd never suspect anything. Put a little gray in your hair and retire naturally in five, maybe ten years. Move someplace quiet and sunny. Give her a call now and again and invite to a retiree party."

Mulder looked away. God, how many times had he wished for exactly that in the past few weeks? And tonight, when she'd been pleased by working on what she thought was a case without paranormal leanings he'd seen at last that she wasn't really happy. True, they'd worked a lot of mainstream cases in recent years. But only as consultants. And mostly in his capacity as a profiler. More often than not when they weren't in the field working, she'd been lecturing over at Quantico. He'd even heard she'd been offered a tenured professorship at one of the Ivy League universities.

"It isn't fair, is it?" he asked quietly. "Her watching me go on and knowing."

Methos shook his head. "It's why we so rarely marry. I've had sixty-nine wives in five thousand years. And each time I wished I could take it back. Take back even the good years if I could just let them die in peace. Let them have at least the dream that one day I might join them, even in death."

For a long while Mulder stood thinking, then he nodded to himself and quietly unlocked the cuffs on Methos. "Take it all," he murmured and turned away. "Everything."

He refused to look as he heard Scully's tiny shriek as Methos came up behind her. Or see the look on her face as he took her memories. He hated himself for a coward, but he knew it was a kindness Methos was doing. She would grow old and they would drift apart during his forced retirement. And, one day, he would stand at her grave and remember for her, he silently promised. One day he would remember everything.

A long time later a hand clasped his shoulder. "Take her home, Mulder," Methos murmured gently. "Let her sleep. When she wakes in the morning she won't recall any of it. She'll transfer the case to Violent Crimes and remember only that she thought of calling you and decided against it. She didn't want to spoil your vacation."

He nodded and went to get Scully, leading her carefully down the stairs and to her car. She was quiet, as if she were sleep walking. When they reached her apartment he brought her inside and waited silently while she readied herself for bed then tucked her in.

"Good night, Scully," he whispered as he shut the door behind him. "May you always have peaceful dreams."


Malibu, California
November, 2025

The door bell rang and Methos nearly tripped over the carpet in his eagerness to answer it.

"Good God!" Methos uttered as he took one look at Mulder, then hugged the man, pulling him inside the entry way. "That's amazing," he grinned, grabbing his jaw and turning his head from side to side.

Mulder had 'aged' gracefully. After a few years of adding a touch of gray around the temples he'd finally begun frosting entire sections of his hair until it was completely white. A little spirit gum and faux molded skin around the eyes and mouth created the illusion of fine wrinkles.

"Amazing, yeah, but it itches like crazy. After five years I think it's given me a permanent squint."

Methos grinned. "Well, go take it off. Dinner will keep." He pointed the way to the bathroom and Mulder saluted.

"How's MacLeod?" he asked as Methos came to watch the youthful face re-emerge as if from chrysalis.

"Getting by. You know, Joe passed last year."

Mulder nodded sadly. "He wrote to tell me. Said he didn't think his new Watcher was going to be half as much fun to hang with."

Methos snorted. "So he claims. First time he approached the kid the boy nearly wet himself. Thought MacLeod was going to kill him. But he seems to be doing better."

"Good. So when do I get mine?" Mulder asked casually. Once upon a time Joe had agreed that putting a Watcher on a Federal agent would be redundant. Especially when the most significant portions of his day were readily available on the public record. The rest... Well, Mulder had insisted that as long as he was with the bureau he wouldn't be taking any heads. Shoot first, imprison later seemed to be the only route he could safely take without drawing attention, even if it was only that of The Watchers.

"You don't. At least not if I can help it."

Mulder glanced at him questioningly, the last of the fake skin coming loose as he dabbed it with alcohol.

"I deleted your name from the Watcher database back when Joe first retired. They should never," he grinned slyly, "have let me help develop the software in the first place. So, how's Agent Scully?"

"That's Special Agent In Charge Scully. As soon as I announced my retirement they promoted her. I guess they were waiting for me to bow out gracefully. There are already rumblings of an Assistant Directorship next year."

"Good for her," Methos declared. "She's what now? Almost sixty?"

Mulder nodded. "Yeah, and taking full advantage of the new federal retirement guidelines. Wish I could have," he added wistfully. With more than half the nation made up of so-called senior citizens, and most of them still working, new laws against age discrimination were being passed almost daily. One could work until one decided to retire, or was found incompetent to perform the skill set the job required. Unlike the generations before them the baby boomers had refused to go home, sit down and let the young folks come out to play.

"You had a good run," Methos told him honestly. "If you'd stayed any longer..."

"I know," Mulder agreed, washing his face with soap and water until it was completely clean. He grabbed the towel Methos handed him. "The thing is there was so much more to do and see."

"It doesn't have to end here," Methos told him once he'd dried his face. "You can still explore the paranormal, if that's what takes your fancy," he added, leading the way to the terrace overlooking the Pacific. A brilliant, orange-pink sunset suffused the clouds as the sea lapped delicately against the beach.

"I intend to," Mulder admitted, taking a seat at the little dining table Methos had set. "I've already laid the foundations for a dozen new identities." At Methos' questioning glance he grimaced wryly. "I'm not ever going to have the kind of access being employed by the FBI affords again. I thought I'd lay a little ground work to take me through the next couple of centuries."

"Wise move," Methos complimented, grabbing a couple of beers from a cooler he'd placed nearby. He handed one to Mulder and slid into another chair.

"The thing is, I don't really know what I want to do now that I'm 'retired'."

"You could write your memoirs," Methos suggested. "Or take up shuffle boarding."

Mulder smiled blandly. "Sounds thrilling, but I was looking for something a little more relaxing."

Methos grinned and reached across to uncover a warming dish. "You never did get to taste my beer braised goat with sausage stuffing. Dig in."

Helping himself to a plateful, Mulder paused as something occurred to him. "You know, I never did get to ask you. After fifty centuries you must have seen a hell of a lot of unexplained phenomena."

"Certainly," Methos admitted.


"Well what?"

"Tell me."

"Tell you what?"

"What you've seen!" Mulder practically shouted.

"Oh, that," Methos shrugged. "Really, Mulder, don't you know, some things have to be seen to be believed?"

Mulder laid his head in his hands and sighed. "You're not going to tell me, are you?"

"Actually," Methos said gently. "I thought I'd do you one better."

Mulder looked up, staring at what Methos held in his hands. A pair of airline tickets.

"I thought I'd show you instead."

Mulder snatched at the tickets, but Methos pulled them away. "Oh, come on! Where are we going?"

"To a galaxy far, far away..."