Sparring Partners

Debra Fran Baker

Spring 1590

There were two Immortals nearby, fighting. Methos could hear the clash of their swords. Others ignored them - most probably thinking that two noblemen had gotten insulted yet again. For all Methos knew, they had.

He edged closer to the alley where they battled, knowing the heat of the conflict would conceal his presence from them. Someone had stuck a torch onto a holder on the wall. He could see everything. He didn't know either of the two men. One was large and clumsy, his clothes dirty and ragged and his face filled with rage. The other was...oh, he was lovely. The torchlight glimmered off his long blond hair and he moved with the grace of a dancer, catching and parrying the other's sword with true elegance.

Methos recognized the style right off. 'Oh, Ramirez, you old Egyptian. You found another, did you? He may be your best pupil yet.' He'd sparred with the man many times over the centuries. It had been exhilarating to find a true challenge when they'd first met. Especially after he got that amazing sword...the sword in the blond man's hand.

So...this was his final student. Was he worthy of that sword? Methos couldn't tell. The clod fighting him was no challenge. And, in fact, as he watched, the blond man neatly took off the big man's head. Why did he take so long?

Lightning flashed in the clear night sky, and the man was driven to his knees, his mouth open in the pain/pleasure of the Quickening. Methos shivered, remembering the feeling despite the years, the decades, since his last. He'd become focused on survival since he'd left Kronos and the others, and survival meant avoiding fights.

As soon as the private storm was over, he hurried to the lovely man's side. He helped him to his feet, ignoring his protests. "I will buy you some wine, m'sieur. After that fight, you deserve it. We will toast to Ramirez."

The man stared at him with dazed eyes. "You knew Ramirez?"

"I know his sword, friend."

"He was my teacher. I will not dishonor it." He had an odd accent...German? No...Scots.

"He would not teach a man who would. Come, there is a tavern not too far with drinkable wine."

"Let me steady myself, man." He leaned on Methos' shoulder for a moment, and then stood firmly. "I will join you...but a man wants beer."

"Their beer is more than drinkable. I am Martin LaPointe, and I have the honor of meeting...?"

"Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, and the honor is mine if you are a friend of the Spaniard."

They sat at a table, drinking so much of the strong, thick ale that the other customers began to place bets and the innkeeper looked worried.

"Who did you take tonight, MacLeod?"

Connor's voice became hard. "He was a thief, one who waylaid others as they walked the streets. I do not think he was taught at all, and he was not long an Immortal. 'Twas not a challenge. He's name was Jean-Claude, and he admitted to no other."

"You are young, too, are you not, mon ami?"

"I am over seventy. It may not be old to some, but it is older than others, and I have been trained by the best."

"Yes, you were." Methos downed another tankard and poured more from the pitcher.

"You knew him?"

"I...sparred with him many a time." Methos smiled. "He enjoyed it all. He enjoyed everything."

"Aye. That he did.