Debra Fran Baker

There was MacLeod kneeling in shock and pain. There was Richie, all of his immortality spent in three years. And there was Joe, sobbing in his arms. There was supposedly a demon loose in the world, and MacLeod, the only man who could defeat him, the man Methos pegged to win the game, was about to offer him his head.

"Take it." There the man was, holding out his sword.

"I will not." Nor would he. MacLeod would have to live with this. As Methos held Joe close to him, he watched MacLeod drop the katana and leave, carrying Richie's glove and muttering in what Methos assumed was a Native American language.

He'd deal with the body later. He'd had millenia of practice taking care of beheaded bodies. He had a living man to worry about now.

"Come on, Joe. I'll take you home." He led him out of the warehouse to his own car. Joe leaned heavily on his cane on the way. For the first time since Methos had met him, Joe looked crippled and old. Not his Joe! Not . . .

He waited until Joe settled himself in the front seat and they drove back to Methos' apartment in silence. When Joe looked at him in surprise, he shrugged.

He parked and sprinted up the stairs to his door. By the time Joe had caught up, he'd gotten most of the books and papers off the sofa. He let Joe sit and fetched a couple of beers from the refrigerator.

"Silly Yanks and cold beer." He handed a bottle to Joe, and fell bonelessly next to him.

"Thanks, Adam." They opened the bottles, but Joe just held his. "Oh, God, Adam . . . Methos . . . he was only a kid."

"I know." He snaked an arm around Joe, who didn't lean into it but didn't shrug it away.

"He was Immortal. He had centuries ahead of him. Who knows what he would have been."

Methos was silent for a moment. The words he was going to say would not bring comfort, but they were the truth. Joe wanted truth. He always had. "He would have been the same daredevil kid. He might have traded in his motorcycle for a rocket ship or even a starship if he could have kept his head that long, but he never would have been able to stay anywhere long enough to change. And that would have lost him his head anyway."

"I don't understand."

"Oh, Joe. You've read the same Chronicles I have. Immortals rarely advance beyond where they were when they were first killed. Look at MacLeod. Four hundred years ago, he was a stuffy, moralistic man dedicated to his Clan above all else. He's added some polish - he can read, he can use a computer and he's the best figher I have ever known, and I know them all, but he's the same. Or Amanda, or Kronos. Immortals almost never change who they are any more than they age."

"You changed." Joe looked at him with serious eyes. "You were a Horseman. You murdered and pillaged your way through the known world, but you changed."

Methos smiled ruefully. "I don't remember who I was when I first died. I barely remember my first Quickening. I became a Horseman not just because I e