Sanctuary Found and Lost Disclaimers: I don't own Darius and Methos or the concept of Immortality as set out by Highlander. It's all owned by men in suits with big lawyers. Please don't sue me - I promise everything will be returned no worse for wear.

Thanks: Thank yous to my wonderful beta readers, Sonia, Anthea and Tracey for providing invaluable feedback (hugs and virtual chocolate to you all g>). Thanks also to everyone on the Methos Scrolls list and on ATH who responded to my slightly frantic questions about Darius - the information has been put to (good?) use g>.

Feedback is craved - love it or hate it. Rachel.Trench@tesco.net




Sanctuary Found and Lost


Darius slowly moved around the chapel, lighting candles and preparing for evening Mass. As he leant over to light one of the altar candles, he felt the wash of another Immortal presence. It was something he had long since ceased to react to - he had been a priest for six hundred years and there was no Immortal alive, or dead, who would risk a battle on holy ground. But even so, this presence caused the monk to look up. It was a strong, powerful sense: Whoever it was, they were either a prolific head hunter or a very old Immortal. Head hunters were quite rare, but the ancients were possibly rarer.

Fully curious, Darius turned to face the door, just as the visitor entered. Outwardly, the visitor could have been any age from sixteen to thirty - except for the so obviously world weary eyes. This was a very old Immortal for sure. Darius was not even sure what race this man belonged to - very few peoples combined such dark hair with such fair skin; and those eyes... The monk had never seen anyone with eyes of such a combination of colours. He could not decide if they were green or brown or perhaps a hazel mixture of both. This, Darius decided even as he approached the visitor, was a man out of time and who knew it all too well.

"Greetings, friend," Darius said, spreading his hands in welcome.

"Am I?"

"Are you what?"

"A friend."

"Is there any reason why you wouldn't be?" Darius enquired. "Any reason for me not to treat you as such?"

The man's shoulders slumped. "You don't know what I've done - what I've been."

Darius smiled kindly. "I may not, but surely if it is *done*, it is all in the past. Yes?"

"Would that it were."

Darius appraised the young/old man before him. Here, clearly, was a soul in pain and torment. How best to excise these ghosts so that the man might go on and live? "Tell me your name, my friend." Instant wariness was the only response. "Surely it cannot hurt you to reveal your name to me. I am a priest - a man of God. I shall not betray you."

There was a snort of harsh, bitter laughter. "Priests! I have seen Gods rise and fall like the desert sands shifting on the wind. Deities one moment, forgotten superstitions the next. I have known hundreds - thousands - who have claimed to be 'men of God', and all of them would have sold their own mother if it profited them."

"I am not them," Darius answered quietly. He wondered how many betrayals this man had suffered that could make him so cynical. "I swear that you may trust me. I took a vow never to betray or break the confidence of confession, and nor shall I."

"Why *should* I trust you?" The man countered. "All you have is words and words may be unsaid - retracted. Broken."

Darius bowed his head in a slow nod. "True my friend. But, sooner or later, you will trust again." He studied the man. "Yes. You do not trust easily, but when you do, that trust is the most important thing to you. Yes?" The stranger looked openly shocked at the perception of the Immortal priest. He smiled gently. "It is written in your eyes my friend - if one is willing to look. Those who would betray you are - and have been fools for thinking or doing such."

There was another bark of harsh laughter. "Pretty words - pale comfort, *friend*." The man turned to go.

"Wait!" Darius was not prepared to give up yet. "You came here for something. What was it?"

"Perhaps I am a head hunter come to drag you from holy ground," came the caustic reply.

Again, Darius nodded slowly. "Perhaps - but I think not. I think you are a man who does not like to kill..."

"You think too much," the man hissed, "and know too little. You would not understand what I've been even were I to trust you...which I don't, any more than I trust *this* God to survive human nature any better than the thousands before."

"Are you a head hunter, then? Come to drag me away?"

There was a long, long pause, and finally the man admitted, "No."

"Then, my friend, if not for that - why did you come here?"

The fierceness and tension bled away from the lanky frame and the man visibly sagged. His body simply folded in on itself until he was sitting on the edge of a nearby pew. "I...don't know," he whispered.

Darius' heart cracked at the pitiful sight of a man broken by the weight of his worries. "I know some of what it is like, my friend - to see the world change all around you but not to change yourself. My tribe were not Christians, yet here I am - a priest of Rome."

"How old are you?" the stranger suddenly asked.

Darius smiled a little ruefully. "Nearly a thousand years old - I'm not exactly sure. My tribe did not mark calendar months as the Romans did."

"A mere child, then."

"To some," Darius agreed. "To you?"

"Perhaps."

The first of the congregation were arriving now and Darius turned away to attend to his priestly duties. As he turned away he heard a soft whisper behind him: "They call me Marcus the Wanderer." Another slow nod was Darius' only outward response. Inwardly, however, he allowed himself a smile. Trust was won. Now if only he could be sure that Marcus was not about to run out of the chapel while Mass took place.

At the end of the service, Darius was greatly relieved to find Marcus still slumped on the pew where he had collapsed earlier.

"Come," Darius invited, "I have supper waiting and a warm fire. A chance for you to rest yourself before you move on."

An eyebrow lifted. "Who says that I would be moving on?"

"Why else would they call you the wanderer?" Darius countered.

A reluctant smile crept across the sharp planes of Marcus' face. "A point well made." Slowly he got to his feet and followed Darius through into the rectory of the church. "What do they call you?" Marcus asked as Darius invited him to sit while the monk bustled about readying the evening meal.

"Darius."

"Well, Darius, thank you for your hospitality."

A smile graced Darius' face. "It is my pleasure." He paused briefly, then added, "May I ask you something." Marcus inclined his head. "Have you travelled far?"

"Just from Britain. Not far."

The food was ready, and so Darius served, placing a plate before his guest then a plate in his own place. He noted that for all his earlier scorn about Christianity, Marcus waited until a grace had been said before he started to eat. It was another thing about this visitor to be logged for further consideration.

"Tell me," said Darius as they ate, "what is Britain like? I never got that far in my own travels."

"It's very similar to here," Marcus answered, "wet, damp and mist shrouded for the most part." Then he frowned. "More sheep, though."

That made Darius smile. "It sounds lovely."

Marcus grinned. Darius was stunned by the expression - it was such a powerful smile; warm, happy, and kind with no artifice or ulterior motive. This was a truly remarkable man. All the more reason, Darius decided, for him not to be crushed by the weight of the past.

"You should go there in your next life," Marcus suggested.

"I have no next life - I vowed to be a priest, and a priest is what I am."

"Why?" Marcus looked mildly puzzled by the statement.

"It is a long story," Darius admitted, reluctant to get onto *that* subject.

Unfortunately, his comment effectively killed the conversation and the remainder of the meal was eaten in silence. When the food was finished, Marcus made to stand up.

"Thank you - for your hospitality...but I must be going."

"Why the hurry?" Darius asked, still not ready to give up his self-appointed task. Marcus could find no suitable answer for the question. "I have a fire and spare blankets - why not stay here tonight, in the warm and dry."

"Thank you again, then."

There was an uneasy silence between the two Immortals. Darius watched emotions chase across Marcus' face. He could see that the other had little wish to stay, fearing what may come, but not seeing any other choice. But, mingled with that fear was anger, sadness, shame, and confusion.

"Why do I matter to you?" Marcus asked bluntly.

Darius hesitated for a long moment, trying to pick the exact words to avoid another cynical outpouring. "Because you are troubled by the past, and I would like to help you..."

"For the good of my *soul*?" Marcus sneered.

Darius winced. "No. For the good of *you*. No man deserves the weight that you carry."

"Perhaps I do," came the soft reply. "You don't know what I've done. For my crimes there can be no forgiveness."

"How can you be so sure?" Marcus just said nothing. Darius gave a slow, measured sigh - this was not something he told to every passing Immortal. "I have not always been a priest. I was a warrior - a good one. I died my first death leading my tribe against the Germanic hordes. I fought against Rome. I was a great general - none was better; none had a greater tactical skill; none was as cruel and ruthless. Whole towns were raped and pillaged at my command..."

"I was right. You are no priest!" Marcus hissed, again moving to stand, but he found his arms pinned to his chair by the vice like grip of the monk.

"I was all those things and more. I could have ruled half of this continent...and then on the outskirts of this town, I met another of our kind. We fought. I forced him to...he was a man of peace but I forced him to fight me - and I took his head. When the quickening was done, I looked around me, saw what I had done; saw the blood I had shed; the lives I had taken...and I was sickened beyond all belief. For nearly four hundred years I had been fighting, telling myself that I was protecting my people - and I realised that my people had died a long time before."

Again Marcus tried to leave, but Darius' grip was too tight to break.

"I was found, a howling wreck, by a travelling priest. He took me to a nearby monastery where, over time, my mind healed. When I was whole again, I knew that I could no longer kill - and that frightened me. How can an Immortal survive if he cannot kill?"

"So you became a priest," Marcus sneered.

"I became a priest," Darius agreed. "And found something I had not thought I would ever find. Peace."

That took Marcus by surprise. Judging he was no longer likely to run out, Darius released his hold on the other Immortal and sat back, waiting. For another long moment, there was silence.

"How can you live with what you have been?" Marcus finally asked. "I cannot live so easily with my own misdeeds."

"What is it you have done that is so terrible?" Darius asked.

Marcus hesitated a brief moment, then, "Long before you were born, I rode across half the known world as one of the Four Horsemen." Darius gaped. Not even in his wildest imaginings had he guessed this. "I see you've heard of them. Even now...nearly two millennia later and people have still heard of them." Not for the first time that evening, Darius wondered just how old his guest was. Swiftly he shelved the thought to concentrate on Marcus' words. "I was Death to hundreds...thousands. My brothers and I raped, pillaged and murdered for a thousand years... I'm sure you know all the stories...all the nightmares. For a thousand years I *was* the nightmare. The demon. Now tell me I don't deserve the weight of my past."

For a moment, Darius was at a loss as to what to say. "Why did you do it?" he asked finally, careful to avoid an interrogatory tone of voice.

"Because I could. Because I wanted to."

Darius heard the falsehood but decided not to press on it. Instead he replied, "Do you still do it? Are you still the demon?"

"No..." Again the fierceness bled from Marcus' shoulders. "But that I did it at all makes me evil."

"You are so sure. What kind of world would it be if men like you and I were not allowed to change? You are not the man you were any more than I am the man I was."

"But it's still there - it is still my past. Haunting me. How can you live with your past so easily? How is it you can know peace?"

Darius smiled a little. "One of the things I learned in the monastery is that what is the past is past. Nothing I - or you - can do now, can change what we did *then* and to burden oneself with regrets is to waste time and is an open invitation to make more such mistakes. I live with what I have done because the alternative is unthinkable."

Darius watched his guest as more silence developed. Watched as Marcus tried to assimilate Darius' words. Watched as more emotions chased across Marcus' face. Darius willed the other to understand and let go, but suspected it would take more time before that would finally happen.

"Thank you," Marcus finally mumbled. Then without a word more and before Darius could stop him, the other Immortal stumbled out of the sanctuary.

Sadly the priest shook his head. As Marcus had left he had received a flash of what the future would hold for the ancient Immortal. "If you do not lay your burden aside now, Methos, it will haunt you for a long, long time more."