Chapter 07 - Old Man

As Methos ended the call he looked at his friends. They stared back with open curiosity. He waited casually. If they didn't ask, that was their problem.

"Well, guys, it was really nice chatting with you but I gotta get going. Have a rendezvous in half an hour." He picked up his long black coat and turned to leave, smiling inside. He so knew who'd speak next and what.

"Hey! Are you going to tell us or what?"

And there came that irritating Scottish accent. Methos turned. "What?"

"Oh, come on, Methos! You know we're dying of curiosity here. Aren't we Joe?" Duncan asked looking at their Watcher friend.

Joe just shrugged. "If you say so, Mac."

"Hey, don't do this, we're supposed to be friends, remember? I know you want to know too." The Highlander turned his chocolate brown eyes on Joe and did his best wide-eyed begging look.

"Oh, all right." Joe gave in, putting down the rag he was using to polish the counter's surface. "I gotta admit it's a bit strange, someone calling you, Old Man. You're not that big on keeping in touch with old friends, and if somebody does turn up, they usually don't ask for your help."

"Hey, Kronos came for my help! Though it's true that he didn't exactly ask..." Methos trailed off before they could get into the topic more deeply. It remained a sore spot.

"Come on, tell us," Joe asked, and he pushed a bottle of the best beer he had towards the Oldest Immortal. Methos grabbed the bottle and uncapped it with an expert's ease. He sighed after drinking. Well, he was going to tell them anyway.

"Inao is a very old friend of mine, he's four thousand to be exact, and I've known him for almost that long. He got into some serious trouble and he needs a friend's helping hand. Now, don't worry, none of us is in any danger, he'll just need a little consolation, that's all. He'll be fine."Yeah right. And aliens exist and this is their fault and I'm gonna have to help him relive all of his memories while trying to hold on to his sanity. Everything's just perfect, Methos thought bitterly. This was gonna be a tough ride for both of them.

Mac and Joe looked dumbstruck.

"Are you telling me that there's a 4000-year old Immortal we never even heard of?" The shocked disbelief was evident in the grey-haired man's voice. OK, it was fine if the rest of the Watchers didn't know where the Oldest Immortal was, but to completely miss a 4000 who probably is the second oldest now? Jeez...

The Old Man just smiled. "He's very good at hiding, he learned from the best. Maybe I'll tell you more... after I came back. But maybe you'll be able to ask him how he did it. I want to make him visit after this is over, cause we sure have a lot to catch up on."

Duncan nodded even while his mind was starting to buzz with questions. Was this true? Did Methos really have a 4000-year old friend? Did someone exist who knew the real Methos? Because if they had known each other for almost 4000 years, then this Inao had known him when he was with the Horsemen... God, Duncan really hoped this incident wouldn't be similar to that one. He shuddered at the thought.

"Anyway, I really gotta get going. I don't know how long this is gonna take but be prepared for a guest," Methos said, not even bothering to ask. He rarely asked for anything. He drank the last of his beer, said goodbye and left.

"So what now?" Joe asked after a short silence.

Duncan shrugged. "I'm gonna humor him. He said he won't be in any danger and he'll be back in a few days with his friend. I can wait that long." He hoped. But at the very least, he could count on the Old Man to keep himself safe. There was no doubt about that. It's what Methos did best.

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Vala reappeared in Daniel's house wearing casual clothes and holding a radio in her hand. She smiled at him a little too brightly, trying to hide her nervousness.

"Hi darling, the others are already upstairs! I came to beam you up. Shall we go?" she asked, holding her arm out with hand open. He stood up and took it. Sensing how tense she was, he guessed at her problem. He raised his other hand and gently nudged her chin to make her turn towards him. Vala looked up, right into his eyes. He was smiling, though a little sadly.

"I meant what I said, Vala."

"What?" Vala asked, trying to pretend she didn't know what he was talking about.

"That I love you. That hasn't changed." Daniel's voice shook slightly with the fear that this was only going to cause them more hurt, but he couldn't take it back now. He didn't want to.

She nodded, casting her eyes downwards. "And I meant what I said, too. I love... Daniel, and I'm willing to listen to Inao. But it hurts, and I don't understand yet. But I will. I can promise you that."

That was more than Inao dared to hope for, but it still hurt. He gave her another sad smile and nodded. Maybe one day she would realize they were one in the same.

"You okay?" came the inevitable question from Jack as the two took solid form.

"I'm fine," Daniel said, then, seeing their expressions he added, "for now, anyway. Do we have the beaming coordinates?"

Sam nodded. "There's a place in that park where we can safely beam in. There's already a life sign nearby so we should find your friend easily."

"That's good. Uh, listen..." Daniel hesitated. "It'd probably be better if only one of you came with me. Six or seven people comig to get him would be a little intimidating, he doesn't trust easily." Heh. Isn't that the understatement of the year?

"I'll go," Jack said without hesitation. Daniel nodded, relieved. Jack was the best choice - Daniel had already told Methos about Jack when he visited the Old Man after Abydos. And as the highest-ranking officer, Jack could legally assure Methos that they could be trusted not to tell anyone about Immortals. Plus he had a feeling that the two men would like each other if they could get over their initial mistrust... which was likely to be strong.

Jack stepped forward, put his hand on Daniel's shoulder and they appeared in a sunlit park in the shade of a tree. They looked around.

"Sam's map said he's that way,'" Jack pointed taking off to their right. Daniel followed, but after a few steps he gasped in pain, clutching his head. He fell to his knees as the feel of a Presence in his brain strenghtened. He didn't remember it being quite so painful so it must have been because of his messed-up state. The feeling was enough to weaken his hold on his Quickening and the lightning started to appear around him forcing Jack to step back.

"Daniel? Tell me how to help! Focus a little. Come on!" Jack urged his friend.

As the Immortal came closer the strong signal of an approaching presence faded. As usual, he still felt the other Immortal but it was only a vague awareness. Inao looked up just in time to see Methos step out from behind a hedgerow. The sight of him led to flashbacks, images of him changing with dizzying speed, faster than he could follow, each image sending waves of different emotions coursing through him. The lightning of his escaping Quickening increased, but even as he started to lose focus of where and when he was, the alien Presence weakened, giving him a little relief.

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Methos walked around Seacouver Park, trying to look like he wasn't pacing. He knew he was a few minutes early but he couldn't help himself - he was worried. What happened to Inao shouldn't have been possible. It went against all he'd known for five thousand years. Immortals were above the laws of science. No manmade device was able to give someone Immortality, so no device should have been able to take it away from an Immortal, either. It was unnatural.

Then again, they probably shouldn't have played with fire. Maybe learning to control their Quickening had been a mistake. It's true they only did it with the power of their mind, through meditation, but still, restrained power could always find a way to break its bonds and strike back. That's why they used it only when absolutely necessary, but lately, this had saved Methos so many times. Sometimes the ability to make himself seem weaker was the only thing that protected his identity. Without it, he might not be here now. But alien devices capable of messing with a Quickening...? It was usually the other way around. Quickening affecting electronic equipment, not vice versa.

The Old Man relaxed, completely letting go of the control to expand his senses and feel in advance when Iano arrived. In this state, he was able to sense things from quite a distance, so he knew he would feel Inao before the younger man felt him.

He didn't take into consideration the means of transport his friend arrived by.

The sudden appearance of a Presence nearby threw him a little off-guard. Shocked, Methos quickly recovered his senses. He could have recognized Iano's Presence anywhere, anytime - that wasn't such a rare ability. If two Immortals knew each other well they could recognize the other's signature if they payed enough attention. Even younger ones had been known to do that. But what he felt now was unlike anything he ever felt from Inao. Unlike the almost undetectable signature of a weak Pre-Immortal that he sensed when Inao came to him ten years ago, this was a dual Presence. Similar to feeling a new Immortal and an ancient at the same time, but but now he felt as if the ancient was far, far away. The duality screamed of tension - as if a seastorm wanted to rage in a small mountain lake.

The Old Man rushed round the corner to find Inao on his knees, trying to stop the Quickening escaping his body. Methos quickly suppressed his own Quickening, knowing that the feel of it couldn't have done anything good to his friend. He barely even glanced at the mortal who was trying to calm Inao from a few steps behind, instead he shouted at Inao in their own millennia-old language. "Inao, look at me! Remember, you know how to control this! Remember how we did it together, how we meditated!"

Electrified blue eyes looked up at Methos, desperately trying to focus on him in the present. That voice and language managed to get Iano's attention away from the torrent of memories and he grabbed hold of it to avoid giving in to the power coursing through his mind and body.

"Calm!" Came the order in Methos's voice.

Inao closed his eyes and his breathing slowed.

"Focus!"

An expression of intense contrentation filled Inao's features as he felt every bit of energy inside of him and around him trying to get loose. He had to be aware of everything if he wanted to succeed.

"Control!"

And Inao pulled everything that managed to escape back into that little corner of his mind again. The lightning bolts again seemed to strike him and then disappeared inside of his shaking body.

Methos smiled, relieved. He was proud of Inao who now toppled to the ground, exhausted from the effort. The dual feel of him was almost gone, only Methos's time-sharpened senses could feel how big the problem still was. They really didn't have much time.

Jack rushed to his friend's side in an instant. "Daniel?" he asked, concerned. "How are you?"

"I'm fine now, Jack," Inao managed to croak. "Just help me sit up."

Methos watched as this friend of Inao's, Jack, did as he was asked. He assumed this to be the same Jack Inao had told him about ten years ago. A Colonel in the Air Force, and it seemed a very good friend by now - if he was the one who accompanied Inao to meet Methos.

Jack pulled the gasping Daniel into a sitting position. When the exhausted man finally seemed to get himself together enough to open his eyes, he saw the Old Man standing a few steps away.

"Methos!" Inao exclaimed with a sudden, wide smile on his face. He quickly got to his feet with some help from Jack and, stepping forward, they enveloped each other in a hug. Methos couldn't stop the happy, relieved laughter. He really missed the kid. Ten years was an extremely short time by their standards but this was a special situation. Knowing what he faced and, on top of that, as a mortal... The Old Man had to admit he had been really worried about his slightly younger friend.

In all honesty, Methos thought this would have happened sooner. He had faith in Inao's abilities, but he didn't think he'd survive ten years as a mortal going to Goa'uld planets with a military unit... It boggled the mind. When his friend was reported missing-in-action five years ago he'd awaited the call and when it didn't come, not even for a year, he feared the worst: that Inao died and their theory was wrong, he wasn't Pre-Immortal. But a year later he was reported found and he still didn't call Methos. He'd have to ask him about that...

But right now his best friend and chosen twin brother shivered violently, despite the huge grin on his face when he stepped back a little to look at Methos properly. The Old Man didn't mind the chance to look at him either... and his jaw dropped.

"Bloody hell, Inao, you look older!"

"Well, what did you expect, Methos? I certainly wasn't going to get any younger," Inao lauged. Methos rolled his eyes. Intellectually, he knew it would happen, but it was still strange to see the face that has been stuck at the age of twenty-three for almost four millennia actually looking ten years older - or more. It had to have been a really hard ten years...

Daniel turned to look at Jack, quickly becoming serious again. They had to get going because this trembling wasn't going to get better by itself.

"Jack, I'd like you to meet Adam Pierson, also known as Methos. Methos - General Jack O'Neill. The Colonel I told you about, and who has been my best friend ever since." And Daniel begged silently to anyone that would hear that Jack still was his friend. It seemed he got his wish by the look of relief and gratitude in Jack's eyes.

"General?" Methos said, offering his hand. Jack responded without hesitation and the two men sized each other up.

Jack nodded. "I take it you know about the Stargate," he stated sternly. He got a nod instead of an answer. Methos was hard to intimidate.

"So Inao, where do you want to get back your power? You'll need a nice, open space judging by the way your Presence feels..."

"Oh, I thought the middle of the Sahara is open enough, don't you agree?" he said sarcastically.

Methos blinked. "And we're getting there..."

"...Exactly the way we came. You're gonna like this. Ever seen Star Trek?" Inao asked, a mischievous sparkle in his eyes.

Methos seemed speechless. "Don't tell me..."

"One of our ships is standing by to 'beam us up' at our signal. A few other friends are waiting there who'll be coming with us." He made air quotes, forgetting for a moment how much his hands shook now.

"One of your ships? I guess there are new things in the world after all... Maybe not under the sun, but above it." Methos couldn't believe this. Maybe he'll get some surprises, for the first time in a long time.

Jack watched the exchange with mixed feelings. He felt amused, relieved that a more than 5000-year-old man could still be so... human, and he felt a little jealous, too. Daniel almost never smiled anymore, and if he did, it was always a sad smile. But just a minute ago he was grinning like an idiot. Why was that?

On the other hand, his emotions all seemed more extreme than usual since this whole thing began. He didn't usually get to the verge of crying either and he didn't storm out of the briefing room, so maybe that could be blamed on this situation, too. Or maybe he was just playing being serious, and this was normal for him. Jack quickly dismissed that thought. He spoke to prevent himself from thinking.

"So, ready?" He got a nod from the man.

Daniel grabbed Jack's arm and indicated that Methos should get a hold of his. At the questioning look he explained. "The beam needs a signal to lock on to, and Jack's carrying the locator beacon."

"And... how does it feel?" Methos asked. Daniel gave him a half-smile.

"You don't feel anything but you can see the bluish-white flash of light if you pay attention."

"Carter? Three ta go!" Jack grinned at Daniel a little uneasily.

Before Methos could register what happened, the Seacouver park was replaced by a room. He quickly looked around. It looked decidedly like the bridge of a spaceship from a sci-fi movie. His jaw dropped at the sight, because on the other side of the huge window, there was something he'd seen almost every corner of, but never as a whole. Earth was drifting serenely above them, giving off a breathtaking blue light. The view was perfect. Nearly half of the planet was visible as they floated above - or below? - the Atlantic Ocean. The continent of America was completely sunlit while the east half of Africa was already covered in darkness. An incredible sight! For a moment he felt as if the reason he had lived this long was to see this. Shocked by the thought, he wondered why was this affecting him so much? Because I just found a place to call home, he realized. He never had that before, not remembering the place of his birth, spending 5000 years living in different places... he never got more attached to one than the other. But now, faced with the planet he lived on and knowing that there were other inhabited planets, it suddenly was so clear. Earth, this beautiful planet, was his home.

The touch on his shoulder brought him back from his musing. Methos realized how many people were in the room and that they were all looking at him. Inao was smiling understandingly at him, his eyes conveying the same sense of wonder that he felt.

They stared at each other for a few more seconds before a spike of pain in his head reminded Daniel of what he should be doing.

"Uh, sorry. Introductions. Everyone, this is Methos, but please call him Adam Pierson when there's a chance that someone will overhear. Methos, these are my - Daniel Jackson's - best friends and colleagues. General Hank Landry, present leader of Stargate Command," Daniel indicated everyone one by one and they all nodded or said hi, "Dr. Carolyn Lam, the CMO of the base, and my teammates: Colonel Cameron Mitchell, Colonel Samantha Carter, Vala Mal Doran and Teal'c. Vala's not from Earth and Teal'c is..."

"Wait!" Methos interrupted. "don't tell me, I think I got it..." he thought for a minute, trying to remember. "You're a Jaffa, aren't you?" He smiled in wonder. "I remembered that by myself!"

"Indeed I am," Teal'c bowed slightly. "I am pleased to make your acquaintance."

Methos was just opening his mouth to say something when Inao interrupted. "Hey, you can save your questions for later, after I..." He trailed off. He started the sentence still smiling but now he tensed and genuine fear touched his eyes as he reminded himself of what was coming. "I-I think we should go now... I don't want to get an attack here and destroy the ship or something," he mumbled, looking completely dejected. He was clutching one of the chairs for support.

The others looked at each other, the same worry as Methos felt evident in their eyes.

Landry moved forward. "I'll send you all down. Carolyn and I will stay on board." And with another flash of light, they were gone.

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P.S.: (sniff) Sorry, I got teary-eyed just by imagining what I would feel if I saw Earth that way...

But hey, new chapter! I hope you like it. When I got a few messages that more of you added this story to you alert list, I got the message... you got tired of always checking back to see if there was a chapter, didn't you:) I hope the chapter was worth the wait. Sorry for making it a kind of a cliffhanger again but there are no other places in the story to stop... Please tell me what you think and if you're still here! And did any of you watch those things I mentioned?

Thanks for reading!