Adam Pierson has been identified as a new immortal, taught by Duncan MacLeod. The watcher council didn't like it but after the Galati fiasco didn't dare do anything more to interfere in the Game and so left him alone. Joe was supposedly watching both teacher and student with help from Mike the bartender.

Adam fairly stumbled into the bar, his normally light step seeming heavy. It was late in the evening, things had quieted down a bit and so Joe immediately ambled over toward the young-looking man who had taken a seat at the far end of the bar. Recently Adam had seemed pretty tired Joe noticed, but the bluesman chalked it up to concern over MacLeod not to mention being woken up in the middle of the night by Amanda. Strange that as much as they all railed against the man for being a self-serving bastard, they all counted on him to save their asses when the shit was neck deep, like a sort of means of last resort, a trump card.

As Joe got close enough to place a beer in front of the man, he noticed that his friend seemed more than tired. Adam seemed haggard, dead on his feet.

"Hey, what's going on?" Joe's voice reflected his sudden concern for the ancient immortal. Keane had been dealt with, and according to Mac he wouldn't be back so what was the matter?

Before the old man could answer or, more likely, make an attempt to avoid the question, the lean figure stiffened and the hazel eyes became distant in a manner Joe knew only too well. Another immortal was close. However the response this time was extreme even for the paranoid old bastard. It was in the eyes, they had gone so hard Joe wasn't sure that they belonged to a human instead of a wild animal or some caveman evolutionary ancestor.

It told Joe a helluva lot about the situation. Adam was expecting someone besides MacLeod then. But it was the Highlander who walked in the door and Adam visibly relaxed. Actually the old man didn't so much relax as perk up. The tension was still there but it was covered by a brittle representation of his normal sarcastic self.

Mac didn't seem to notice, not that Joe was surprised. The awkwardness that the Horsemen had injected into their relationship hadn't eased despite the new perspective that Keane's appearance had brought. MacLeod was so concerned with keeping an eye on his own stilted behavior and avoiding any potential minefields in the conversation that the awkwardness of his friend didn't even register. And their awkwardness made Joe awkward which annoyed him. He was too old for this juvenile shit! It gave him a new appreciation for all the times that fights between himself and MacLeod had caught Richie in the middle.

Adam left first, not giving Joe a chance to ask again unless he did so in front of MacLeod. And he really didn't want to ask in front of the Highlander. Maybe it was because Methos obviously didn't want the younger immortal to know hence the exaggerated normalcy. Or perhaps it was because they both knew that MacLeod would overreact. He doubted that was all there was to it though.

Adam Pierson had been his friend long before he had done anything more than just watch MacLeod. Adam may have ostensibly quit the Watchers but he was still the link between all of Joe's worlds: the Watchers, the immortals, and the regular life at the bar. 'Adam Pierson' hadn't been a lie exactly, but rather an obfuscation, maybe a lie by omission. The world's oldest man's latest persona had been like a fossilized tooth found in the Ethiopian desert. It was only a piece of something far greater but it still spoke eloquently about the characteristics of the whole.

No his relationship with Adam existed outside of Duncan MacLeod and he would interrogate the ancient pain in the ass himself.

He didn't bother hunting the old man down. Adam had been coming in pretty regularly. Whatever was bothering him, he wasn't running. Which was confusing in itself.

The next night, he was just working behind the bar enjoying the guest band when Mike came up and whispered in his ear.

"Pierson's facing off against some big guy in the alley behind the bar. I saw them when I took out the trash."

Joe swore under his breath. The ancient bastard would definitely leave now. He hurried as much as he could, trying to get there before Adam could get away from the other immortal.

He needn't have bothered, Adam was rather incapacitated. The scene was strange, not unusual just unexpected. The head-hunter was lying a short distance away, the head had rolled even further. Which begged the question, why had Adam killed him? Adam almost never killed, even when challenged, even for vengeance. Joe had only known the old man to kill when it would prevent injury or death to his friends, MacLeod in particular.

The other question was what was wrong with Adam? He was still on the ground, slumped over his own knees and emptying his guts onto the cement. It was like he couldn't stop, like his insides were trying to claw their way up his throat. The spasms continued for at least ten minutes and Joe's gut clenched in sympathy.

Finally they did stop and Adam lifted his head to look at his one person audience. The sweat bathing the sharp features glinted in the artificial lights from the streetlamps and made the ancient man seem exceptionally young, like a sick child desperate for comfort.

"Adam, are you all right?" It was a stupid question, Joe knew. The lean frame shook under the force of panting breaths and he saw Adam swallow thickly before answering.

Still that sarcastic pain in the ass managed a chuckle however breathless. "What does it look like Joe?!" Adam's knees buckled momentarily as he pushed himself to his feet, his normally sharp eyes slightly glazed.

"It looks like you're in some shit, the question is how deep?" Joe reached out and patted Adam's back. "Come on back to the bar…"

"I'm fine Joe. I'm just gonna head back to my place. Don't worry about it…"

"Don't tell me not to worry, Adam!"

Joe stopped walking, closing his eyes briefly in an effort to restrain his rising frustration. Then he turned to face his wayward immortal friend. "You're right, you should go home and get some rest. But I want to see you back at the bar before we open tomorrow to explain why you look like something the cat dragged in. And no disappearing!"

"Wouldn't dream of it." The cocky smirk was back in place as the immortal slipped his long legs into the driver's side of his Volvo station-wagon. Joe walked slowly back to the bar, content that Adam would indeed be back the next day. Whatever it was that made the ancient immortal kill the challenger would bring him back to the bar. The tough part would be getting the tight-lipped s.o.b. to talk about what was really going on.

It was as frustrating as Joe had anticipated. Joe was tired the next morning as he had spent half the night on the Watcher network looking for a reason why Adam might have killed the other immortal last night. There was really nothing special about the guy. He was young, at about a hundred and fifty and originally from the eastern block. As far as Joe could tell, Adam had never met the man or his teacher. Neither had the other immortal done anything weird in the weeks before coming to Paris and challenging Adam. The guy was a hunter, just traveling around and challenging people. It really looked like it was just a random incident.

The bluesman was sitting at a table near the stage, looking over some financial papers when Adam wandered in. The immortal acted like nothing had happened, but the bags under Adam's eyes said different. They couldn't even be called bags, they were the size of the luggage Amanda brought with her when she came into town.

And once the immortal took off his long coat, Joe saw that Adam had lost weight, weight the already lean man could ill afford. It made Adam's face look like some predatory bird. It also told Joe that this had been going on longer than he had thought. Why hadn't anyone noticed? Why hadn't he noticed?

"So what was that all about last night?"

Adam gave a nonchalant shrug as he poured himself a beer despite that it was before noon. Joe almost laughed at himself, expecting a five thousand year old man to conform to twentieth century standards regarding alcohol consumption. For most of the man's life, beer was probably safer than water.

The ancient sat down at the table before answering. "Oh you know the drill, Joe. Immortal challenges me, I win, I take his head…"

Joe shot the other man a glare that Adam patently ignored. "Why did you kill him?"

"Because it's what we do, or have you forgotten?" Joe in turn ignored Adam's droll tone.

"I mean, why didn't you run?"

"I will decide when I run." Adam hadn't raised his voice but the words were said with all the intensity of a shout.

"It has something to do with Mac." Joe was certain now. A nerve had obviously been struck.

Adam gave a great put-upon sigh and leaned back into his chair with his glass. "Not everything is about that bloody man Joe." Right. That meant it was definitely about MacLeod. Still the old man obviously wasn't going to tell him, so he changed tactics.

"Fine, but that doesn't explain your reaction last night."

At that comment, the ancient immortal actually looked slightly embarrassed. "I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know?!"

Adam surged forward to set his glass down hard on the table. "I mean I don't know. There isn't a whole lot of bloody precedent for the reactions of five thousand year old men to multiple quickenings!"

Joe frowned. Adam was right; most immortals didn't make it to one thousand much less five thousand…wait. "Multiple quickenings?"

"It's been a bad couple of weeks." Adam frowned and leaned his forearms on the table, apparently deciding to spill it. "I've taken maybe nine quickenings in the past two weeks. They know me Joe."

"What?!" Oh God this was worse than he thought.

"The first one called me by name but I didn't recognize him. I killed him just to keep him quiet. And then Keane…and now." Adam stopped talking, leaving Joe with a strong desire to take his cane and whack the immortal with it.

"And now," he prompted with barely restrained impatience.

"They know me, my habits, my…friends." Joe nodded tightly. If the old man had a weakness that was it, probably why he was so aloof.

"That still doesn't explain your reaction."

Adam grimaced, his gaze sliding away. "Maybe there's some kind of upper limit or something or too many close together…It wasn't a problem until maybe the fifth one but it's getting worse."

"What are you going to do?"

"What do you mean what am I going to do?" Adam snapped. "It doesn't seem as if I have a lot of choices here."

"Well you can't just wait for them to kill you?!"

"Joe as far as I know, there is no one out there who knows who I am besides you and MacLeod and the rest of his bloody clan. I don't know where to start looking and I can't leave…"

"If you told Mac he would keep a watch while you…"

"No." Adam's tone was adamant and suddenly Joe could see the determination that had kept this man alive for all of recorded history. "MacLeod will not fight my battles." And then a look like pain and bitter regret crept over Adam's entire countenance. "He doesn't need to worry about an old bastard like me anyhow." The last was said in a lower, softer voice as if it hadn't really been meant for Joe to hear. But the old mortal did hear it and the self-contempt in his friend's voice loud and clear.

Mac really could be a bastard sometimes. There had only been glimpses of Adam's pain in the time since Bordeaux, since Byron. And this Keane business had just dragged it all out again. The stubborn Scot hadn't judged him worthy of death but Mac had judged him unworthy of trust and friendship, acted like Methos should be doing penance or something.

How could any of them really understand what it was like back then? Sure everyone liked to believe that they made their own decisions that they weren't unduly influenced by the culture in which they lived. People like MacLeod liked to believe that no matter what he'd been taught that he would never beat his wife, never harm an innocent. Wasn't it Einstein who said, "Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions." And yet Methos had. He had walked away, had changed and he hadn't the excuse of a light quickening like Darius.

Methos had been both killer and healer, slave and master. He had walked away from two thousand years of learned behavior, from perhaps the only family he had ever known. But even MacLeod's own violent past couldn't convince the self-righteous Highlander that Methos deserved a little consideration, a little forgiveness, maybe even a little comfort.

"But what if it gets worse?"

Adam stared at his hands clasped together. His features were tight and a muscle in his jaw twitched. His friend's sudden brittleness told Joe the answer that Adam was too proud to ask. That was why he had really shown up, why he was being so forthright. Absurdly it gave Joe a perverse sense of pride that Adam trusted him enough to let him take care of his ancient carcass. The barman couldn't help but wonder how long it had been since Methos had let anyone get close enough to watch his back.

So Joe prepared to keep an eye on the ancient man. He fed Mike some story about headhunters going after the student of Duncan MacLeod, believing that Adam knew where Methos was. Joe didn't know if the lie would keep Adam's true identity a secret but frankly that was the least of their worries at the moment. It was actually amazing that he hadn't been identified already, but it seemed that of the four dead immortals that had had watchers, none had been close enough to hear the challenge. A good idea since these were headhunters.

Mike was discreet. He had known Adam was immortal before the ancient man had informed the Watchers of his recent demise and quit. He hadn't said anything then, had never commented on Joe's flexible interpretation of the rules. Joe told him to call immediately whenever Adam was challenged. He also told the other watcher not to approach Adam no matter what. Who knew if one of the quickening induced side effects would make the ancient man violent.

It was the next night that Joe got the first call. He was at the bar, just sitting on a stool. He had called in every favor owed to him to get enough staff for the bar with Mike and himself basically out of commission. Mike said that Adam had been challenged right outside his apartment building, that the hunter was waiting for him there.

Joe rushed right over, Adam had literally gotten an apartment right behind the bar. When he got there, Joe decided that being challenged outside his own home had actually been a mercy for the ancient immortal. Less travel time.

Adam looked too exhausted to have to drive himself anywhere. Though the man wasn't vomiting, it was obvious that he had. Now he was just kneeling, looking like every breath was an extraordinary effort.

Joe waited. Watching without comment as Adam eventually levered himself up off the ground and then into his apartment building. The old mortal knew that it was only ferocity of will that would get Adam up to his apartment and into bed. But it was too early to start cosseting the immortal. Adam was still strong enough to protest. He only told Adam to be at the bar the next morning, because Mike needed some time to sleep too. Adam nodded his reply.

Adam was at the bar as promised, just barely before noon. Joe knew from MacLeod's complaints that the ancient immortal often slept the morning away, but Adam looked as if he hadn't slept a wink. Joe wondered if he hadn't, if Adam couldn't sleep or was it that no amount of sleep was enough to compensate for the quickenings and the battles and the constant suspense of when the next one would come. Joe himself was starting to lose sleep because of that last one.

Despite his exhaustion, Adam was actually pretty handy behind the bar. And the immortal seemed glad to have something to do. They talked like old friends of inconsequential things, skipping between ordinary topics and immortal ones. It was companionable and humorous and enlightening and frustrating as so many conversations with the ancient immortal were, like being given a 'pearl of wisdom' and a 'bone to gnaw on' at the same time.

That night though, Adam was actually challenged at the bar, discreetly thank God. The immortal had been taking a break from behind the bar since Mike had shown up after some much-deserved rest. Adam was listening to the band play and propping up the end of the bar as he often did. Joe almost shrugged off the obvious signs of immortal presence, taking the seeming normalcy for granted and assuming it would be MacLeod.

It wasn't. A stocky, bald-headed man who looked to be about forty approached Adam wearing a grim expression and gesturing obviously to the inside of his coat. Adam's back was stiff as he followed the challenger outside without looking back at Joe.

It was that more than anything which made it clear that Joe himself was only in danger if Adam stopped participating in this slaughter. If they had wanted him dead, Joe would be dead by now.

The barman waited two minutes before heading into the alley. It was the first time that Joe had really seen Adam fight. He was good, very good, quick and efficient. Joe wondered absently if Mac really knew how good the ancient immortal was. He knew that they had been practicing together, the younger immortal having refused to take no for an answer.

Watching the fight was a reminder that there was more to this than helping Adam deal with his strange reactions to the quickenings, it reminded Joe that Adam had to fight to get the quickening. Of course he had known that, it had just never really occurred to the bluesman that the immortal would lose…ever. The man had survived five thousand years for heaven's sake so he only felt a little sheepish for his assumption. But if Adam wasn't eating or sleeping, how much longer til losing was a real possibility?

Joe waited, noting that Mike had followed him outside as well. Mike's curiosity must have been piqued by this sordid affair, though the other man had asked for no further details. Joe figured it would just be a matter of time before Mike got himself dragged right into the middle of it. When that happened Joe would have a lot of explaining to do.

Adam won easily, disarming the other man by flipping his sword into a reverse hold and slicing his opponent across the stomach. Joe looked away as the final stroke landed, barely hearing the thud thud of flesh bouncing. The quickening began with Adam standing but he quickly dropped to his knees not unexpectedly.

But to Joe's surprise, the old man fell onto his back before the end, his long limbs jerking wildly as he was buffeted by the electrical currents. It took Joe a minute to realize when the lightening had died away, because Adam was still convulsing. The old mortal swallowed heavily as the realization stole over him. It was indeed getting worse. Who knew that immortals could have seizures?

When it stopped Joe approached cautiously. Adam's eyes were closed though whether the immortal was unconscious or dead he couldn't tell. Not knowing what else to do, Joe poked the man's leg with his cane. Adam jerked awake immediately, scanning his surroundings before lying back down on the ground. He gave the bluesman a small, pathetic smile as he sat up. It disappeared as Adam held his head, acting like he was having a headache caused by the movement. The immortal shrugged off his friend's concern though and pushed himself to his feet with a stony expression.

Joe wanted Adam to rest before driving home, but knew that the immortal was too disheveled to be able to go back into the bar. He wanted to suggest that Adam stay the night with him, but knew that it was still too early. So he watched, noting with grim satisfaction that Mike was getting into his own car to follow.

The next morning, Adam was cornered at a cafe near a bookstore he frequented. Joe knew he couldn't get there before Adam would leave, so he headed to the ancient immortal's apartment. Mike told him it was mostly a replay of the night before anyway.

Adam opened the door looking like death warmed over and still wearing the bloody clothes he had fought in. Upon discerning that it was friend not foe, Adam had simply flopped back on his bed, leaving Joe to lock back up.

Joe stood there, feeling like a fish out of water. What was he supposed to do? He knew from personal experience how frustrating it felt to be nurse-maided. How much more difficult would it be for Methos to accept help. The man had lived five thousand years without sickness. He was used to taking care of himself and more than that he was used to not having anyone else to take care of him. Methos couldn't even remember his mortal life for god's sake.

So Joe did what he could. He scrounged in the kitchen cabinets until he found a can of soup and heated it up. Adam slept like the dead, not moving except to draw breath. Joe hated to wake him but Adam needed food just as much as sleep and he was pretty sure that the immortal hadn't been eating.

So he set the bowl on the floor and sat on the bed and nudged the unresponsive body that lay there.

"Adam, wake up. You need to eat something."

Petulant as a child, the figure rolled over and buried his face in the pillow. Joe couldn't help but laugh at the man. How does he do it, Joe thought. How did that man make it through five thousand years filled with death and destruction with anything approaching innocence left? Because Adam did still have innocence. Sometimes it was the bright innocence of a child, sometimes the wounded innocence of the wronged, and every so often it was the harsh, self-righteous innocence of the warrior.

At the sound of his laughter, the prone immortal lifted his head, giving Joe a glare with slitted cat-eyes. It was ruined by the mouth that was turned down in an unmistakable pout though. Amazing. Here the man was fighting a battle for his very life against incredibly long odds and he was pouting about eating soup.

"I made you soup."

Suddenly serious, Adam inhaled a great breath before sitting up to lean against the wall at the head of his bed.

"I can't." The desolate sound of his voice caused the last of the laughter to die in Joe's throat.

"Sure you can. It's just soup. Here just a little." Dutifully Joe placed the bowl in Adam's long fingered hands. Eventually the broth at least disappeared.

Not particularly satisfied but realizing that was all the concession he was going to get, Joe took the bowl away. Adam went back to sleeping though more restlessly this time while Joe sat on what turned out to be a terribly uncomfortable couch and leafed through a half dozen of the books that were scattered around. He headed back to the bar when Mike called him to say that he was back from his nap, sitting outside in his car again.

Joe woke the immortal again before leaving, fairly shoving him towards the shower and forcing Adam's promise to be at the bar later in the evening.

He never got there. Another head hunter found him as he left his apartment. That made twelve. It signaled that things were escalating, building up to the release of the biggest quickening ever seen. Five thousand years worth. It would be enough to take out a city block.

Mike called and told him that when the convulsions had stopped this time, Adam was dead. Mike had carried the dead immortal up to his apartment and left him on the bed. And so it begins, Joe thought. A simple act of kindness, but most Watchers would consider it interference nonetheless.

The next day, Adam showed up at the bar around lunchtime. The man's weary frail appearance tugged at whatever paternal instincts Joe possessed. It was hard to keep things in perspective sometimes. Joe knew intellectually that Adam could take care of himself, that he had been doing a fine job of it for a long time.

But Joe could still remember how Don doted on his protégé. How proud the man had been of Adam's genius, how much he wanted to support the young man, guide him. Adam must have gotten a good laugh at them all.

But as Joe brought another bowl of soup over to the ancient immortal seated at a corner table, he thought maybe not. Maybe his protective instincts were right after all. Everyone needed people to care for them, perhaps this ancient man most of all. And he doubted very much that Adam had laughed. He could remember the indulgent smile that Adam had tried to hide when Don praised him.

And then MacLeod showed up. It was a kick in the gut to realize that this situation made him actually sorry to see his friend in his bar. Dammit he hated secrets and yes he knew that his life was built on secrets. That didn't mean he had to like it.

He conjured a believable smile; after all there was always the possibility that MacLeod would wheedle the older immortal until he explained what was wrong. Adam was a great actor, but he couldn't hide the fact that he was eating broth and drinking water. And Mac definitely noticed, looked at the evidence pointedly.

Adam simply responded with an acerbic, "What?" It was the perfect thing to make the Highlander back off. It made MacLeod feel like he no longer had the liberty to comment, to question, to worry. And Adam took advantage of the younger man's confusion to quickly exit. And even though Joe could see honest sadness in those dark brown eyes, he shrugged off the following questions without speaking.

"So Amanda must've left town again…" Joe steered the conversation away with practiced ease.

Joe headed for Adam's apartment at about eight pm that night, having made it his personal responsibility to see that the five thousand year old baby ate regularly. He got the call about half way there. Adam had gone to meet a challenge in a warehouse, so Joe changed directions. Once there, he watched the fight with a curiously anxious Mike. The other watcher was certainly not unaffected by Adam's increasingly worn down state. It offended the man's sense of fair play.

Even though Adam was better than anyone expected, he was becoming increasingly desperate by the circumstances. If he had been out of practice before, now he was experiencing an excess of opportunity to practice. At this point, Joe didn't begrudge the old man whatever tricks he had up his sleeve. Neither it seemed did Mike who grunted in approval of the outcome. Methos had had to throw himself on his opponent's blade for that win, but it was a win and that was all that mattered.

The quickening healed the wounds and the two Watchers waited as Adam convulsed and then vomited only liquid. When he was done he fell again onto the concrete floor on his side, clutching his head like he was having the worst migraine ever. Joe began his approach.

"At least he let you fight in a more private location this time."

Adam's head lifted warily but his eyes showed confusion. That was all the warning Joe got before Adam began spouting what sounded like nonsense but what was probably some ancient language. This wasn't good.

Keeping a little distance, Joe tried again. "Adam, it's me Joe."

Adam nodded and Joe could see recognition along with pain in those eyes. The immortal knew who the mortal approaching him was. Adam opened his mouth again but still English was not what came out.

In frustration, Adam pushed himself to sit on the warehouse floor, his legs stretched out in front of him. Slowly and watching Joe's face with expectant eyes, Adam began talking. It seemed to Joe that the man was cycling through all the languages that he could remember. But none of them were recognizable as either English or French.

With impatient hands, Adam rubbed away his tears of defeat, his lower lip trembling. Angrily, he stood up. He brushed past Joe and Mike, heading towards his car. But when he got to it, he seemed uncertain, baffled, like he couldn't remember how to open the door much less drive. He stood there staring at it, with a hand over his mouth, the faint trembling of his body just barely perceptible. Then with a roar, Adam smashed his hand into the driver's window.

After the outburst, the immortal was subdued. He let himself be led away by Joe, let the barman reach into his coat pocket to get his car keys. Joe gave them to Mike, asking him to drive Adam's car back to Joe's house. Asked, not ordered. Joe knew very well that this was outside of his authority to command. But Mike did it without comment, not even asking about the ancient languages. It was a blessing.

Adam stared out the window during the drive, not even attempting to speak. Perhaps that was a good idea, but it was certainly unnerving. Methos was rarely quiet and never so passive. Though Joe could not fathom being in such a situation, he did sympathize. To be trapped, betrayed by his own mind and unable to do a damn thing about it…Joe was glad that despite the despondency he could still see anguish flash brightly in those eyes. At least Adam had not been cowed, had not given up.

His immortal guest got showered and then Joe tucked him into bed…tucked him into bed. Joe never thought he'd see the day. In his mind, he'd always thought of these men as his immortal charges. Duncan, Methos, Richie, his brood, but of them all Methos seemed the strongest. They had all taken it for granted really. That he would be ok no matter what, that he would be their rock to lean on. After Alexa…died, the ancient man had withdrawn into his books, acted like nothing had happened. And they had let him though they all knew better. That business with the Methuselah stone had made it very clear the depth of love Methos was capable of.

When Adam awoke in the morning everything seemed to be fine. Well at least Adam could talk coherently again. The man in front of Joe was definitely not fine. He was withered, wasting away. Adam's skin was ashen, with a gray tint. The hazel eyes were too bright as if with fever but it was just determination, a determination that Adam was clutching so tightly he trembled. Obediently Adam slowly drank the broth that Joe placed on the table in front of him.

They talked haltingly, not about the challenges or Adam's failing strength. They talked of the bar, of new goings-on for the Watchers. Adam seemed hyper-alert, eyes twitching at every sound, fingers restless on the kitchen table. When silence inevitably fell, Adam turned eyes on Joe that spoke of gratefulness and shame and fear…and resignation.

Joe almost cried at the sight. Adam was certain that this would end in his death and fearful that even before the end, there would be nothing left of himself to save. And the ancient man was grateful for the small comfort of Joe's presence, to know that someone cared about his struggle, that someone who knew him would remember him even though he was ashamed to be seen so vulnerable. Joe just nodded his understanding.

Adam stood then, rubbing his forehead absently as if the headache still hadn't left him entirely. Then the immortal wandered away to prowl and pace the house, like a feral animal exploring his new cage. And Adam was becoming more animal than human, his humanity being wrenched away from him every minute of every day. He was like a ghost, living only to fight, winning only so that he could fight again. He was coming apart at the seams.

The phone startled them, Adam came running back into the living room before Joe had even picked it up. It was a challenger, wanting to speak to Methos. The immortal on the other end used that name, Methos. The fact that Adam's exact whereabouts and Joe's phone number were known to these guys prevented Joe from even attempting to dissuade his friend from going.

But Joe drove him there. Adam hadn't said a word of protest when Joe announced that. The bluesman was glad that he wouldn't have to fight Adam's pride every step of the way. Though when he thought about it, Joe felt kind of stupid, the man wasn't fit to drive a car himself but he was fit to fight to the death with a sword that weighed as much as a child?

As they walked outside to the car, Joe noticed Mike's car waiting across the street. He almost laughed. The watcher was under surveillance now too.

And Adam still won, his face a frozen mask of concentration. Fighting seemed to be the only thing the man could concentrate on. This time during the quickening, Adam didn't end up on the floor convulsing with the quickening though. Something was different.

Adam had dropped to his knees and was clutching his head, howling in pain. When the lightening died there was only that sound, screams of pure agony. Joe was stunned when Adam started to claw his own face, desperate as if trying to get something out, wild like an animal will chew its own foot to get out of a trap.

Joe wasn't quick enough to stop Mike from rushing towards the tortured man. His yell of protest died in his throat as the other watcher attempted to subdue the immortal, Mike trying to wrench Adam's hands away from his face. But Adam was strong and crazed with pain. Joe didn't know what else to do so he took his cane and bashed Adam over the head with it.

The immortal went limp in Mike's restraining arms, causing the other mortal to turn surprised eyes up at Joe. Mike was breathing hard and looked down at the limp form in his arms. Joe knew that Mike was realizing what he had done, how much he had interfered. Fortunately Mike decided that the only direction to go was forward. He picked Adam up and carried him to his own car, telling Joe that he would meet the bluesman back at the house.

Joe was stunned but beyond grateful. He certainly couldn't carry a hundred and eighty pound dead weight around. Mike tucked the ancient man into the spare bed before going to make up the couch for himself. Joe smiled. Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb he supposed.

Joe himself waited in a chair beside Adam's bed, waited with his gun just in case. After an hour total of unconsciousness, the lean figure moved under the blankets. Adam turned onto his side, facing away from Joe towards the wall. The immortal clutched his head again but the pain seemed to have subsided some. Still Adam whimpered pitifully before sliding into a deep sleep.

Moving to retire to his own bedroom, Joe took a last look at Adam's face. The dried blood was all that was left from his earlier attack, the wounds having healed completely. But something…Joe squinted in the dark before realizing to his horror that Adam's nose was bleeding, the blood an almost black stain on porcelain skin and white pillow-case. But he didn't dare wake the ancient.

The next morning was much like the previous. Adam came downstairs showered and dressed, no sign of his battles besides the lines of exhaustion carved into his face. He acknowledged Mike, but spoke little to either man. When Joe put the usual bowl of broth in front of him though, Adam looked green like he was about to be ill just at the smell. The immortal ran from the room, leaving a distraught Joe and an uneasy Mike in his wake.

For the rest of the morning, Adam only sipped at a glass of water. None of the men spoke.

Joe and Mike were sitting in the living room, it being just past two o'clock when they saw Adam rush past the room on his way out the door. Joe was irate. That an immortal would come to his home and challenge Adam, expect Adam to fight right outside his sanctuary.

This fight Joe watched with baited breath, waiting for Adam to make a mistake that he wouldn't recover from. But again Adam prevailed, maybe he was pissed at being challenged at Joe's house too.

Neither watcher was prepared for the immortal's reaction to this latest quickening. Adam vaulted off his knees, sprinting back into the house as soon as it stopped. What the fuck?! Mike was quicker but the man was just standing inside the doorway to Adam's room when Joe caught up.

Adam had removed his clothes, literally tore them right off it seemed. The ancient immortal was crouched on the carpet desperately trying not to fall over from exhaustion. Joe moved forward, his hand outstretched.


"Don't, Joe." Adam's voice was tight with pain and adamant. "My skin…I can't stand the feel…" Adam broke off, unable to put into words what was wrong but Joe had heard enough to understand.

Adam's sense of touch must be hyper-sensitive. He couldn't stand the feel of his own clothes on his skin, couldn't stand to be touched. Hazel eyes pleaded with him wordlessly, eyes whose pupil had constricted almost to nothing in pain, leaving only the colors of bright gold and amber and deep forest green glinting in the sunshine from the windows. Joe shot him three times in the chest with the silenced gun that Adam had given him.

Mike moved the body into the bed again. Despite the immortal's exhaustion, Adam stayed dead for only about five minutes before gasping awake. Fortunately death seemed to have been the needed cure since the ancient man slipped into sleep literally with his first breath.

And Adam slept until the next challenge. Joe drove him out to the warehouses again, this time Mike riding in the backseat. They didn't speak, but Joe watched the immortal the entire trip. Adam surely noticed his attention, very little escaped those watchful eyes, particularly lately. But Adam said nothing. To Joe's horror, Adam seemed actually more relaxed in anticipation of the battle to come. The mortal couldn't tell if Adam had given up though, if he intended to throw the fight. Adam's sharp features gave nothing away.

But Adam didn't throw it. He finished it quickly, pulling out his second blade to the surprise of his opponent. It was that surprise that gave Adam the opening he needed.

Like before, Adam took the quickening lying on his back. But instead of his limbs convulsing, they barely moved, like dead weight. That's what Joe thought at first, that Adam had died before the quickening had even really started.

But when the two mortals came up to the man, Adam's eyes were wide open and he was still breathing, his chest rising and falling in an unnaturally steady rhythm. He was literally catatonic.

Mike carried him to the car and then into the house, placing the immortal into the bed in a way that was familiar to them now. But this time they both stayed, wondering when…if Adam would wake up this time. They pulled up chairs next to the bed, watching the sleeping form like medieval physicians conferring in a sickroom.

"He's Methos. Isn't he?" Joe only nodded. Mike had nodded too as if understanding perfectly why they had to save a five thousand year old man. And maybe he did. It wasn't just that Methos was the embodiment of the entirety of recorded history that made him valuable, that he could recall and explain things that had long ago descended into myth and lore.

It wasn't even that he had five thousand years of experience to draw upon, five thousand years of watching the changes in the world around him, seeing the follies of mankind and learning from them. It was that he was all too human. He reminded Joe that immortals were just guys thrust into impossible, extraordinary circumstances.

With MacLeod, Joe couldn't help but get pulled in by a little hero-worship, thinking that the Highlander would be the One, that he deserved to be the One. But with Methos…most days Joe couldn't decide if the man was in actuality the embodiment of all earthly wisdom or the most foolish man alive. And the ancient asshole probably did it on purpose. Not that Joe thought that all the irritating behavior was an act and that underneath it Methos was as cute as a kitten, but he did think that maybe it was a conscious effort to push it in people's faces, to separate them from their idol quickly.

He was a good man, a wise man because he knew the meaning of friendship and was strong enough to be a friend no matter what anyone thought, even his friends. A man who deserved unwavering friendship, who inspired it in people like Mike who barely knew him but knew that he didn't deserve to be hunted down like a dog, didn't deserve to be abandoned and left to face the end alone. It was strange, two fragilely mortal men standing guard over a treasure, a relic of untold value that was as strong as steel and as fragile as the human heart.

Joe woke to the feel of eyes watching him. He looked over at Mike seeing that the other man was asleep in his chair, before turning towards the bed. Adam lay there on his back, skin glowing in the moonlight making the man seem otherworldly. The immortal's face was turned on the pillow towards Joe, his mouth turned upwards in a small, peaceful smile.

The mortal managed to pull up his own smile, however false it felt on his face. "Hey," he said moving forward. Joe gave into his impulse to smooth the hair back from Adam's forehead, his hand lingering there, his thumb massaging. "What was that?"

The peace was gone from the eyes in a heartbeat, replaced with a look of horror. "I was here, Joe, I just…couldn't move."

Bile rose up in Joe's throat. To be trapped in one's body, seeing and hearing but unable to move, to exert your will at all…no wonder there was a trace of hysteria in the cultured voice despite Adam's attempts to bury it.

Joe closed his eyes briefly to get his own emotions under control. He plastered the smile back on his face and continued stroking the soft hair as Adam went back to sleep. He stayed there all night, knowing the end was near.