Whose Woods These Are...

This one-shot short story is set within the canon of Season Five... between the episodes The Messenger and Comes a Horseman. And yes, I am aware that The Valkyrie was also set between them. The reader can decide if it happened before or after. --elle

"This wasn't exactly what I had in mind," groused Methos, the world's oldest man as he gripped the mug of steaming hot chocolate in his reddened hands and hunched about the open campfire, shivering in the cold.

"No?" grinned Duncan. "But snow in this area even in late spring or early summer is always a possibility."

"Somehow I didn't think snow and a spring fishing trip to this island paradise of yours went together."

"One would think you'd never been camping before."

"I've been camping. Hell, I lived like this for longer than you've been alive. I didn't like it then. I like it even less now. Give me central heat and an electric blanket any day."

A high-pitched growl sounded in the darkness.

Methos gulped his chocolate and shivered. "What's that?"

"What's what?" Duncan asked innocently, a tiny smirk playing across his dark Celtic features.

"That!" gestured Methos as another howl sounded.

Duncan shrugged. "Sometimes cougars swim over here."

"Cougars? There are cougars on this island?" Methos sputtered, a spray of hot chocolate landing on the melting snow about the campfire.

"Sometimes," smirked Duncan. Satisfied that the fire was at last roaring as he wished... the Highlander settled back and sipped his own chocolate.

"At least you could have remembered the marshmallows," Methos complained. He'd reluctantly come along on this little weekend fishing trip of Duncan's to be able to spend some quiet time with the Highlander in a safe environment.

Methos had reached a decision about confessing some of his long past to his friend... and holy ground had seemed the best place for it. After all... MacLeod was a fanatic about the rules... one of which was the sanctity of holy ground... and if Methos told him the truth... he'd likely need holy ground to insure his survival. He was nothing if not a pragmatist.

Another growl... bordering on a scream... sounded even nearer.

Methos shivered inside his lightweight jacket... wishing he'd brought something else. Like a gun. He'd faced wild animals before... many times... but he'd always had a weapon. Warily he looked around. Sticks... stones... Methos shook his head. All those will likely get me is broken bones. Once more he shuddered as in the distance the high-pitched cry sounded again. "I don't see how you can just sit there and ignore that there may be a beast on this island... a hungry one at that?" he sputtered.

MacLeod chuckled and then pretended an innocence on the subject, his grin wide with reassurance. "Honestly, Methos. You know if you don't bother them... they won't bother you. Now relax. More chocolate?" He lifted the steaming frothy mixture and grinned even more broadly.

Methos held out his cup; his hand shaking a bit as MacLeod poured more of the hot chocolatey goodness into the Ancient Immortal's tin cup.

Another cry pierced the darkness. Closer this time! A growl followed and seemed to move about the fire.

Methos hunkered down. Maybe if he were very... very... still, the animal would attack MacLeod instead. Better him than me! he thought as he sipped his hot chocolate nervously. Now how to broach the subject of my past misdeeds?

Methos cleared his throat. "You know how you're always wondering about my past?"

MacLeod smiled. "I figured you'd tell me when you were ready."

"Well... there is a bit more to it than you might think."

"Five thousand years is a long time. I'm certain you've done just about everything you could think of."

"Several times," murmured Methos.

"What?"

"Nothing." He took a deep breath. How to tell the Boy Scout that he'd been the worst of the worst... once upon a time? How to make him understand how time had changed? How he had changed? He took a deep breath.

Another scream sounded closely behind him.

Methos stood suddenly and turned to gaze back into the darkness surrounding the small campfire.

"You act like an old woman," chuckled MacLeod. "Sit down... speak your mind." He seemed to be enjoying Methos' nervousness. But then... MacLeod had no way of knowing some of the nightmares that still haunted his ancient friend.

"Cute... MacLeod." Methos snorted, but regained his seat on the log and eagerly took another gulp of chocolate... not caring that he scalded his tongue and the roof of his mouth in the process. After all... he was an immortal... he'd heal. Already the numbness was fading. "Now... where was I?"

"Your past," supplied MacLeod helpfully.

"Right... my past." The Ancient Immortal sat quietly staring at the chocolate swirling in his cup. "I... uh..." He hesitated.

"Want more chocolate?"

"Yes... please," and he held out the tin cup. Anything to put this off. He'd rehearsed this... several times and several different ways... but now that it was time to explain... it just didn't seem to be coming together.

The growl hit new heights of intensity! the high-pitched scream echoed in his ears!

"That's enough!" Methos tossed the tin cup to the ground... watching as the dark chocolate melted the remnants of the snow about the campfire and plucked a burning brand from the fire. Swiftly he rose and stalked to the edge of the campfire's light and began to swing the branch back and forth.

Behind him he heard laughter.

Turning back to MacLeod, Methos said pointedly. "What's so funny? This is a time-honored way of dealing with dumb animals."

"What if it's not dumb,"

"What?"

"What if it's not dumb?" MacLeod repeated with a laugh.

Methos lowered the brand and stared at his friend. At a movement, he turned sharply and raised the brand as a tall, shaggy, bear-like creature approached. He screamed and dropped the brand. Swiftly he raced back to the firelight... hopping the campfire and crouched behind MacLeod.

At that, both the shaggy creature and MacLeod began laughing uproariously. Methos eyed them both. Then pulling at his jacket and flapping his arms in an attempt to regain some semblance of dignity he straightened and strolled back to his seat.

The shaggy creature pulled off its head. "Hey Old Man... You were so funny. I only wish I'd dragged it out a little longer."

"Little Richie Ryan," smirked Methos as he regained his seat and gritted his teeth.

MacLeod and Ryan continued to laugh.

"I suppose this was your idea, MacLeod?"

Between peals of laughter, the Highlander nodded. "Couldn't resist. You are always so non-flustered. I just had to get you. Nice to know you're not always in control of every situation."

Methos sniffed and replied, "No... I'm not."

Richie, crouching beside Methos, clapped him on the shoulder. "Hey Old Man... it was all in fun. Besides... Mac played that same trick on me one time."

"You're not five thousand years old... more or less."

"Relax Methos," MacLeod said and nabbed the empty tin cup from the ground. "Let me pour you another. And how about you, Richie? Chocolate?"

"You bet! did you bring the marshmallows?"

Methos accepted the cup of chocolate and sipped with a sigh. Well... he'd have to tell MacLeod another time about his ancient past. He wasn't going to say a single word with Richie here. Nope... maybe tomorrow... or next week... after he had that appearance on that game show he had tickets to. Yep... maybe that would provide the perfect opening.

His mind settled, Methos smiled as he sipped the chocolate. "By the way... do either of you know any good ghost stories?"

--------------------

NOTE: This story was inspired by an actual event on the set of filming the episode Band of Brothers. AP and the crew played this trick on SK... I merely adapted it for the purposes of this story. elle