Marking Time

Seattle, 31 December, 1899

Snow was falling swiftly now, piling up on both the garden below and on the streets still brimming with early evening traffic.

Staring down at the snow as if he were outside of this place and time, Methos reflected on other New Year's Eves over his long life. Oh it hadn't always been called New Year's Eve… nor had it always occurred on December 31. Sometimes it had been simply the turning of an artificial means of counting time. He'd long since stopped counting the years… but when a major milestone like the turning of a mortal century occurred, he celebrated. He was another century older since the last time he'd marked the turn.

Stepping away from the frosted window and letting the heavy, red velvet drapes fall over it once again, he surveyed his surroundings, taking in the gaslights on the walls, the watered silk wall-coverings, and the porcelain basin with real running water. The ancient immortal smiled as he considered for a moment the technologies of the new century. Already he knew that electricity would soon replace the gaslights, and that a means of heating water before it flowed into the lead pipes would be a reality. In it's relative infancy, mortal mankind was increasingly creative. Perhaps the candle that burned shortest burned brightest.

Surveying his reflection in the mirror, he took note of his white linen shirt, his green silk vest and ascot and his lightweight, black wool frockcoat, tailored to hide his muscles and make him appear slighter than he really was. It had been just over a century since he'd actually taken his last head, but he still practiced daily. After all, one never knew when the next challenge might appear. He'd left the name of Methos behind long ago, preferring in this life Benjamin Adams.

One hand caressed for a moment the black leather jewelry case. He flipped the brass latch and opened it for one last look. A choker of jet and onyx studded with emeralds in the style of the period and two teardrop earrings of the same materials nestled on green velvet. They were exquisite… like the woman who would wear them. Methos hoped they would please her.

Not knowing the day or year of his birth, he'd selected New Year's as a fitting time to celebrate the passing centuries of his continued existence; but rather than receive gifts, chose to give them instead. Thus he had this small token for the woman who currently shared his life.

Methos snapped the case shut smartly. Eleanor was increasingly distant these days. She was still attentive in bed and in direct conversation, but more and more he noticed a lost look in her thousand-year-old green eyes. She'd been challenged recently and the aftermath was disturbing. While she did not rage and threaten all about her as she had with the first one she'd taken almost seventy years ago, he would come upon her in a room, staring into space, listless and sad. She seemed much as she'd been in the final years of her pre-immortal life… when the reality of her childlessness had overwhelmed her and led her to believe he should cast her aside. She'd had no clue about his immortality… or hers.

He'd run across her again about a dozen years ago in a dusty western town and they'd mutually decided to "try again" as they'd put it, and for a while it had been good between them. But once she'd accepted and defeated that challenge, she'd changed. Methos knew that all of them changed when they absorbed the life force, abilities, and memories of another immortal… but Eleanor's responses were extreme. Perhaps it had to do with her living so long without taking a head… or perhaps it was the power and sheer age of her first one that had altered her so completely.

Lifting the box he turned towards the door and opened it crossing the bedroom that lay between their separate sitting rooms. He paused before her door, feeling the light, skipping tone of her presence that recalled the melodies and dance steps of her youth, and then knocked briefly before opening it.

She sat before the circular mirror of the vanity, daubing perfume on her white neck. Eleanor's green eyes met his in the reflection of the mirror and the shadow of a smile crossed her face.

"You look nice," she said, but he detected no warmth or joy in her tone. He eased onto the bench beside her.

"I have something for you."

"Oh… right… it's 1900… you're another century older." Methodically she replaced the glass stopper of the perfume bottle and sat back. Methos took a moment to take in the green taffeta, off-the-shoulder gown she wore with its crocheted black trim about the neckline. With her upswept black hair, crowned with a few peacock feathers and her startling green eyes, the effect was charming. He pushed the box toward her.

"Open it," he pleaded softly. "Please?"

Her small hands rested on the leather case a moment before she slowly opened it. "Oh… they're lovely," she said with a smile, if not the outright excitement he'd hoped for. He'd commissioned them when he'd seen the gown.

"I even had the jeweler add a few small emeralds to set off the black," he said, lifting the choker and adjusting it about her neck where the green and black stones glistened in the gaslights. The lacy pattern of the choker set off the lace on her dress just as he'd imagined it would. He kissed her shoulder and was rewarded with a small genuine smile… the first he'd seen in ages. He sat back to watch her affix the earrings. Eleanor seemed genuinely pleased and he circled around on the bench and leaned next to her as if they were having a portrait made… something they never did of course. Photography was a real danger to immortals.

"Look," Eleanor said softly. "We match," she laughed lightly, noticing that his tie and vest were of the same green taffeta as her dress. "However did you manage that?"

"You're not the only one who knows the dressmaker," he teased and kissed her cheek.

Below they could hear the voices of their arriving guests. They'd soon be leaving Seattle for San Francisco… a boomtown of new construction and a rising upper class amongst whom they could live anonymously.

He rose and held out his hand. She picked up her peacock feather fan and rose to accompany him down the stairs to meet their guests. On the way, Methos mused that perhaps they had passed a milestone and that with the beginning of this new century, it was the beginning of a new life for them both.

London, 31 December, 1999

Methos snapped the jewelry case shut with a bang and tossed it to onto the shelf in his vault. So much for reminiscences! He wondered what had possessed him to pull out that item on this eve of another century. Perhaps it was the empty loneliness of the past one.

The hopefulness of that last one had faded within a few short years and Eleanor had moved on. He'd seen her a few times over the past century, but never for more than a few days at a time. Each time seemed shorter and shorter as if whatever chance they'd ever had for happiness had died in the passing of the centuries. Maybe there was a reason immortals could never commit to one another.

The ancient's hand fell on a packet of photographs that Alexa Bond, the last of his mortal lovers and the first woman since that long ago December to really mean anything to him, had taken during their all-too-brief world tour.

"They're my gift to you," she'd said, pressing them into his hand shortly before she died. "Something to remember me by." Hidden among them was one she'd managed of the two of them together. For once, Methos had smiled into the camera in defiance of his self-imposed ban on allowing his photograph to be taken. It had meant so much to her. Looking at it now, he rubbed his fingers softly over their images and then closed his eyes, seeking to recall that day on the sun-drenched beaches of Santorini. Strange how that other, more distant memory seemed clearer, more in focus.

He'd been alone since Alexa's death. He'd neither seen nor heard anything of Eleanor in nearly a decade. MacLeod was in Paris, as was Joe. His long-time friend Phillip was in Greece, and Cassandra, blessedly, was in New York. No one else living knew for certain he was Methos, except the Watchers, and he hadn't wanted to share the evening with them.

Glancing around the cellar vault of his London home he wondered if he'd even see in another century. Snapping off the lights and locking the door, he considered inviting his Watcher in for a drink and maybe… just maybe… Methos would tell him a story.

#30#

Author's Endnotes: This story grew out of an image for a flashback in one of my others stories where I'd seen Methos and Eleanor hosting an elegant ball. Alas, I could never find a dramatic hook for its inclusion. Joining that image to that of a more modern Methos recalling Alexa finally gave me a reason for this story.