Love, Honor and Immortality, Chapter 3
Methos entered the clinic to the worst possible situation. Buck was gone, dead and the clock was ticking. He'd never actually collected any data on the rate of resurrection but he knew it could be as quick as fifteen minutes or stretch to more than a day.
JD was kneeling by the bed, Buck's hand in his, openly sobbing, begging the man to wake up. Josiah sat in a chair off to the left, head in hands, the shaking of his shoulders telling Methos that the preacher was also giving into his grief.
Nathan stood off to the side, the shock of Buck's death evident on his face as he met Methos' eyes.
"Nothing I could do," he whispered almost inaudible, tears were sliding silently down his cheeks. "He – he was coughing up blood and I – I couldn't do anything."
Methos walked over to the healer and helped settle him into a chair. "There was nothing you could have done, that anyone could have done. That wound was fatal."
Nathan nodded. Methos patted the man's hand as he stood and tried to figure out what his next move should be. Performing a faux medical miracle was out. These three knew Buck was gone. He was a good doctor but no one would believe he could raise the dead – well at least not that way.
The sound of two gunshots pulled Methos from his planning.
"Did Chris just shoot Don Paolo?" Josiah wondered.
"No," Methos replied. "I took care of that problem."
"Whatcha mean?" Nathan asked.
"I did what Buck tried to do and what Ezra was thinking of doing, beat him with his own sword." Methos quickly shared the story of Don Paolo's demise.
"I hope the bastard rots in hell," Josiah said nodding his approval.
"Oh, he will. Of that, I have no doubt," Methos agreed.
"Won't bring Buck back," JD added, his voice rough from crying. "But I'm glad the bastard's dead, too.
"Thanks for that, Ben," Nathan added.
"It seemed the best course of action at the time." Methos was still in a quandary on what to do about Buck. Close to thirty minutes had passed since the man had died. The window of opportunity was rapidly closing.
The door to the clinic was flung open as Chris Larabee stormed in, Vin and Ezra close on his heels.
"You shot?" Nathan asked the gunslinger.
Chris ignored him as he stared at Buck.
"Senor Raphael wanted to find out if he was faster than Mr. Larabee," Ezra explained. "He was not."
Chris looked to Nathan who shook his head. Larabee picked up the first breakable object he could find and flung it against the far wall.
"Damn it, Buck!" he yelled at the corpse. "I told you – I told you –" the man in black couldn't finish as he sank down onto the bed by Buck's feet. He continued to stare at his unmoving friend.
Methos could see all the hope drain out of the man as his eyes turned cold. Chris sat stock still, his face unreadable.
"Thank you for what you did, Doc," Chris said, his voice devoid of any emotion.
"I too am grateful," Ezra said, his voice unsteady as he struggled to control his own emotions. "I do believe you saved my life."
"I only wish I could have done more," Methos replied.
No one spoke as the men focused on controlling their grief. Methos looked around the room at the raw emotion pouring out of these tough men. Buck had been the heart of this group; he'd figured that out once he'd gotten to know them. Don Paolo had ripped that heart out.
Methos hoped their bond could survive the death of their resident jokester and ladies man, but somehow he suspected that the death of one meant the death of the seven as a team. He didn't understand why that thought saddened him.
"Might be best if you gave us some time," Vin said.
"Of course." Methos nodded his goodbyes and closed the clinic door behind him. Standing on the balcony he looked down to see some of the townsfolk gathered, waiting for news of Buck.
His eyes locked with Inez Recillos', he nodded and she wasted no time racing up the steps. She was followed closely by Mary Travis, the editor of the Clarion News and unofficial representative for the gathering below.
"Senor Buck is he – is he still alive?" the barmaid asked as she clutched at his arm. "Did you save him, Doctor Adams?"
Methos grasped her hand and looked into her tear-streaked face.
"We are doing all we can for him, but it is too soon to tell," he lied. It was best to keep his options open. "It could go either way. If he lives through the night, then I believe he might recover."
Mary placed a hand over her mouth as she struggled to hold back her tears.
Inez began to sob openly, holding onto Methos' hand as if it were a lifeline. "This is all my fault," she cried. "I should have gone with Don Paolo."
"No, Senorita that was never going to happen," Methos said. "Buck and his friends would never have let him take you."
"Doctor Adams is right," Mary confirmed, placing a comforting arm around her friend. "Buck did what he had to do; what any of them would have done for you."
Inez nodded as she looked down, her hair covering her face as the tears continued to fall. "Thank you Doctor, for finishing it," she said quietly.
He placed a finger under her chin and forced her to look at him. "I'm just glad all those hours of sword training could be put to good use," he said trying to assuage her guilt. "You should never fault a man for trying save the fair maiden from harm."
"You sound like Senor Buck," Inez said, rewarding his efforts with a small smile.
"And soon it will be him flirting with you," Methos teased.
"I hope you're right," Mary said sending her own unspoken thanks toward Methos before turning her attention to Inez. "We should let the good Doctor get back to his patient.
Inez swiped at her tears, nodding. "Thank you again, Doctor Adams," she said as she allowed Mary to lead her away.
"Ladies," Methos replied. The women navigated the steps down to where the rest of the townsfolk waited.
Methos watched as Mary spoke to the crowd which then began to disperse. Mary, with her arm still around Inez, guided the woman down the street and out of his line of sight.
Methos sighed. Well, at least the town was handled. He was at a loss as to how to get the six lawmen out of the clinic. Hell, he wasn't even sure he could come up with a reason to go back inside, let alone a reason to be left alone with Buck's corpse.
And then his options were taken away as the buzz of another Immortal assaulted his awareness. "Damn!" he muttered. Buck was reviving and he was out here.
It would only be moments before Buck was completely resurrected. Methos stood paralyzed on the balcony. The same choice that had been plaguing him these past few days reared its ugly head once again. Stay and reveal his secret to the men in the clinic or run and hope Buck survived on his own.
Taking a deep breath and muttering a few curses about honor and responsibility, he turned the door knob and as quietly as possible slipped inside.
Methos shut the door behind him. Silence reigned in the small room. Only Ezra and Chris turned to acknowledge his entrance, the rest were caught up in their own grief. Neither man told him to go, so Methos moved to the far corner of the room to await the inevitable.
He studied Buck. It seemed no one had noticed the color return to his cheeks or the slow rise and fall of his chest as his body healed its wounds. JD was still by Buck's side clutching his friend's hand.
There was a part of Methos that was looking forward to their reaction. Truthfully, he anticipated that Buck's revival could be quiet humorous.
As if on cue the show began. JD jumped up suddenly. "He squeezed my hand," he shouted and backed away from Buck's bedside. "Nathan, he squeezed my hand I felt it. He ain't dead!"
Nathan came up behind the kid and laid a calming hand on his shoulder. "Yeah he is, JD. Sometimes the body just does that," he explained. "The muscles contract even when the person is dead."
"Wouldn't be so quick to put me in the ground just yet, Nathan," Buck said quietly as he opened his eyes to look toward the healer.
JD whooped for joy as he returned to Buck's side. "I told you! I told you! You were wrong, Nathan."
The others came to their feet, all eyes on Nathan, waiting for an explanation. Stunned, Nathan whispered as he stared at Buck, "That ain't possible. You've been dead for over an hour. I don't make that kind of mistake."
"Well I ain't dead now," Buck said laughing as he came to a sitting position and leaned against the bed's headboard. "Hey, did I win?" he asked JD, ruffling the kid's hair.
JD batted the hand away as he shook his head. "We thought you were dead. Don Paolo ran his sword straight through your chest."
Buck reached down to pat himself. "You sure, JD, 'cause I feel great, except for this buzzing in my ears." Buck looked up, caught Methos' eye and tilted his head in confusion.
Methos smiled. Buck had found the source of his 'headache' but didn't yet understand what it meant.
"Nathan?" Chris demanded never taking his eyes off Buck.
"He was dead!" Nathan insisted. Buck allowed the healer to examine him, the amused smile never leaving his face.
Methos waited quietly in the corner knowing it was too much to hope that Buck's revival might be viewed as a mistake by Nathan.
Nathan pushed aside the tatters of Buck's shirt and reached out to touch the now unblemished skin. "That ain't right," he said as his pulled his hand away. "The wound's gone."
Nathan stumbled backwards away from Buck. "That ain't right," he repeated. "It ain't natural. That chest wound was fatal. You weren't breathing."
Buck laughed. "Come on, Nathan. If I'm dead, explain how I'm talking right now."
"I am the resurrection and the life," Josiah intoned. "I prayed for a miracle and we received one. Buck has been brought back from the dead."
"Josiah are you suggesting that Buck has been resurrected in the manner of your Lord?" Ezra asked. "That he is some kind of god?"
"Hey, I like the sound of that." Buck chuckled. "I know the ladies have always thought so."
"Sure sounds like Buck," Vin laughed.
"Of course it's Buck," JD insisted. "It's a miracle just like Josiah said." The kid couldn't stop smiling at his friend.
Methos listened, waiting for his opening, as the men continued to argue about what was happening. He was enjoying their theological discussion and found the idea of Buck as a resurrected deity rather humorous.
Chris had remained silent throughout the conversation as he studied Buck. "I'd like another explanation besides a holy resurrection," he said finally.
"I don't know," Buck smiled at his friend. "I'm liking Josiah's explanation."
"Zombie?" Ezra suggested.
The men turned their attention toward the gambler. "What's a zombie?" Chris asked.
"There is folklore among the Creoles in New Orleans of a creature called a zombie. They believe that there are those among them that can reanimate a dead body to do their bidding." Ezra paused and added hesitantly as he examined Buck, "Zombies are – well, they are considered mindless and evil. They are not the person that they were," he added.
Chris' eye went wide. He whirled back to face Buck and pulled his gun. "Prove that you're Buck."
"I ain't a – whatcha call it."
"Zombie," Ezra supplied.
"I ain't a zombie," Buck snapped. "And I ain't mindless."
"Chris, what are you doing?" JD moved to stand between his two friends. "That's Buck. He's alive and it's a miracle."
"Don't believe in miracles," Chris growled. "I'm thinkin' this is unnatural, like Nathan and Ezra said."
Methos realized that he couldn't stay silent any longer as things were starting to spiral out of control. It was time to tell the truth. Chris might still shoot Buck but at least he wouldn't stay dead for long.
He stepped into the middle of the room, garnering their attention. "It's not a miracle and Buck is not a zombie. Zombie," Methos smirked and shook his head. "That's a new one."
"If you know what's going on here, you best start explaining," Chris demanded, not lowering his gun or taking his eyes of Buck.
"Put the gun away and settle down," Methos said. "I will explain."
"You've seen this before, Ben?" Nathan asked.
The men relaxed and waited for Methos to continue.
Methos took a deep breath and let it out. He'd never done 'Introduction to Immortality' for mortals and he wasn't thrilled about doing it now.
"Buck is Immortal," Methos said.
"Whatcha mean Immortal?"
"He's gonna live forever?"
The questions started flying at him and Methos held up a hand. "Gentlemen, please," he shouted them into silence. "Let me finish."
"First, I should clarify that Buck is himself. He is the man he always was except now he can't die. He is Immortal." Methos repeated.
Chris had yet to holster his weapon, and swung it toward Methos. "I'm not liking this explanation any better than zombies or a holy resurrection."
"I assure you, Mr. Larabee that what I'm telling you is the truth," Methos said as he held his hands up to show he had no intention of drawing against Chris.
"Immortality is impossible," Nathan insisted.
"Not impossible. Improbable perhaps, but Buck was one of the very few people who are destined for Immortality if their first death is a violent one."
"You knew this would happen," Nathan said. It wasn't a question.
"Yes, people with the potential to become Immortal give off a feeling that other Immortals can sense."
"Hey, Buck, maybe that's your animal magnetism," JD teased and then paused looking back toward Methos. "Wait a minute, if you sensed it – " the kid trailed off.
"It means the good doctor is Immortal as well," Ezra finished.
Methos nodded reluctantly.
"Is that why I have this buzzing in my head?" Buck asked.
"That's how Immortals know each other. It will fade the longer we are in close proximity."
"Prove it," Chris snapped. "Prove you're an Immortal."
"Isn't Buck's miraculous resurrection proof enough?"
"No." The gunfighter glared at him.
"Of course not," Methos grumbled. He was not in the mood to challenge the famous Larabee glare. But he was definitely not about to undergo a painful death and resurrection, not in a room full of suspicious gunfighters.
He thought briefly about shooting Buck and letting him revive again but Methos was sure he'd be gunned down before he could get the shot off.
"Fine, a little demonstration then," Methos sighed. "If you insist." Methos looked around the room hoping one of the others might step in but they were all backing their leader's request.
"I do," Chris confirmed.
Methos removed his jacket and laid it across the footboard. After rolling up the left sleeve of his white shirt, he held out his right hand toward Nathan. "One of your knives, Mr. Jackson, if you please." Methos always hated this part.
When Nathan hesitated to give the man a weapon, Josiah pulled his knife and handed it over.
"Thank you," Methos said. He held up his arm like a magician doing a trick to show the crowd that there were no marks. He grimaced as he sliced across the inside of his forearm creating a long gash that bled freely
"What the hell are you doing?" Nathan shouted as he grabbed Methos' arm. "This is gonna need stichin'."
"No it won't. Isn't that the point of my little show?" Methos tugged his arm away from Nathan and held it out for all seven to see. The blue spark of his quickening went to work, healing the wound and closing the gash.
No one said a word as they watched him heal.
"Nathan, a cloth please."
Wordlessly the healer handed him a bandage. Methos wiped the blood clear to show clean unblemished skin. "Shall I demonstrate on Buck now?" he quipped.
"Hell no," Buck said. "I'm convinced. You convinced, Chris?"
Chris slowly holstered his gun as he continued to stare at the Immortal's arm and then swung his gaze up to look Methos in the face. Anger flashed in the gunfighter's eyes. "You knew Buck couldn't die. You son of a bitch, you should have told us!" He stepped forward fist coming up with the intent to deck Methos.
The Immortal sensed the attack and ducked out of the way. Vin grabbed Chris' arm. "Easy pard, don't go making him mad. You saw what he can do with a sword. I figure he don't lose many fights."
Methos grinned. "You are quite right, Vin." He understood that Chris had been devastated by the thought of losing of Buck, but that didn't mean he was going to let the man hit him.
Chris shrugged off his friend's grip. "Don't like being lied to." Anger still tinged his voice.
"I did not lie," Methos snapped back. "If my help is unwelcome here--"
"How old are you?" Ezra interrupted. His non sequitur brought Methos and Chris up short, as they turned to stare at him.
Methos began laughing. "That is none of your business. But Buck will live a long time if he keeps his head."
"Mr. Wilmington has never been one to think with this head." Ezra smiled as he pointed to his brow.
Chris, the steam taken out of his anger, couldn't help but smile.
"Now wait a minute," Buck said. "What d'ya mean keep my head."
"We can die but only by decapitation. That is why you must keep Buck's immortality a secret."
"People fear what they do not understand," Josiah said as he quickly grasped the reason for secrecy. "They might decide Buck is unnatural and take his head."
"Exactly. Eventually, he will have to leave here as everyone around him grows old," Methos explained. "People do tend to get suspicious when we don't age."
Buck sat up straighter as the reality of the situation sank in. "I'm gonna watch all my friends die and I'll keep living."
"Yes, I'm afraid so. It's why we try to live solitary lives; most often unsuccessfully." He finished with a rueful smile. This situation drove home that point to Methos. As much as he wanted to avoid mortal connections, he was not as much of a loner as he tried to pretend.
Buck looked at his friends. "Don't seem fair. Hey doc, anybody else here like us?" he asked.
"Do you sense that they are?" Methos asked knowing the answer.
Buck glanced around the room at his friends and shook his head as his gaze settled back on Methos.
"I'm sorry, Buck," Methos said and he meant it. He'd lost many people he cared about over the years. It hadn't stopped him from befriending mortals but it never got easier to say goodbye. Losing friends and lovers was something that you never got used to.
"Don't matter," Vin said. "Not like the rest of us expected to live forever anyway. Kinda nice to know someone who remembers us will."
The others nodded their agreement. Methos was impressed again with the bond between these men.
Buck smiled. "Thanks guys. Me bein' Immortal should make life around here interestin'."
"And easier," Ezra said. "You can enter any situation first, thus preventing one of us from being shot. It is only right that given your new condition you should sacrifice yourself for the rest of us when needed."
"Plus you no longer have to fear getting shot by a jealous husband," Josiah added laughing.
"And you know how Chris is always threatening to shoot Buck?" JD reminded them. "Now he can!"
An evil grin appeared on Chris' face as he drew his gun, this time in jest. "Maybe we should see how this immortality thing really works."
"Go ahead pard," Vin encouraged Chris. "Might be an interestin' experiment. Least this time we'll be ready when he starts breathin' again."
"Now hold on there guys." Buck laughed as he held up his hands. "I'm still recovering."
Chris shrugged and holstered his gun. "Plenty of time for that later," he said leaning into Vin who nodded his agreement as both men smiled at Buck.
"What about children?" Nathan asked. He seemed the most reluctant to enjoy Buck's new status. "Seems kinda cruel that he'd out live them."
"That's not actually a problem," Methos said smiling, figuring the ladies man would like this aspect of immortality. "We can't have them."
"You mean I can't ever father any children?" Buck asked.
Methos shook his head. "Not before and not after."
"Well hell," Vin said. "That explains why there ain't dozens of little Bucklins running around."
The room erupted in laughter. They really had accepted Buck's 'condition'. Methos was happy for Buck that he wouldn't have to leave his friends behind for some time to come. It also meant that Methos didn't have to stay here for too much longer or take Buck with him.
"Are you prophets sent from God to study the lives of men?" Josiah asked, turning the conversation back to the more serious aspects of Immortality.
"No not God." Methos laughed at that idea.
The oldest of all Immortals spent the next hour explaining the Game, the Prize and the myths surrounding his kind. The men listened carefully, occasionally stopping the recitation to ask a few questions.
"But if someday you might have to kill Buck, why train him?" JD asked.
"Shut up, JD. Don't give the man any ideas," Buck said smacking the kid on the shoulder.
"I'm not saying he will, but he might. I mean - Hey, stop that," he cried as Buck smacked him again.
JD was about to launch himself back at the big man and start in on one of their infamous wrestling matches when Chris grabbed him and hauled him away.
"Cut it out you two," he said and pushed JD back into his spot by Buck's bedside.
The others tried to suppress their laughter at the ridiculous situation.
"To answer JD's question," Methos said. "I'm not sure I believe in the prize and I'm certainly not going to risk my neck pursuing it. Let the others fight it out while I live into the next Millennium."
"Which brings me back to my original question: Just how old are you, Doctor?" Ezra asked.
"Let it go, Ez. He ain't gonna tell you," Vin said.
Methos smiled. "I will say that I would be long dead had I been mortal. And there are rumors of an Immortal who is more than 5,000 years old. But like zombies, I suspect that he is just a myth."
"What a fascinating man that would be to meet," Josiah said. "He might have been present at the birth of Christ."
"Possibly," Methos tried to keep the smirk out of his voice. "But then we'll never know since I'm sure he doesn't exist."
"What now, Doc?" Nathan asked. "The town thinks Buck is dead."
"Actually, they don't; I told Mary and Inez he could live," Methos explained. "All you have to do is wrap Buck up and let him pretend to recover for a week or so. The townsfolk will never know."
"Quick thinking." Chris nodded his approval.
"Well, I've had a few days to prepare for this."
"I might have won," Buck groused. "Didn't anyone think I might have won?"
Laughter filled the room. The humor of the situation allowed because the outcome had been so different than they'd expected.
"No Buck, I tried to help teach you. You're skill level was not high." Nathan teased.
"Would have been nice if someone would have told me that."
Chris rolled his eyes. "I seem to recall that I did."
"Oh, yeah," Buck said quietly, suddenly realizing that he should truly be dead.
"As soon as Nathan releases you from the clinic, we'll need to get started," Methos said turning the conversation back to important matters.
"Started?" Buck asked.
"Sword training. What did you think all this was leading too?" Methos asked.
"Sure, Doc, wouldn't want to lose my head now." He smiled.
"I'll be on my way once I've covered most of the basics. Between Nathan and Ezra, you have two good sparring partners to help improve your skill. Oh and you will need to get your own sword. Shouldn't be without one, especially outside of town."
Buck nodded as Methos recited his list and then looked to his friends. Both Ezra and Nathan quickly agreed to their role as trainers.
"You can even keep my sword with you until you get your own," Nathan offered.
Methos clapped his hands together. "Good! Now that this is all settled, I think I need some lunch and large quantities of alcohol. So if you gentlemen will excuse me." Methos grabbed his coat, tipped his hat as the others responded in kind and escaped out of the clinic.
Methos collapsed in relief against the closed door once he stepped outside. That hadn't gone too badly and he'd kept the bulk of his secrets intact, much to Ezra's dismay.
He'd stay in town for a few weeks, maybe more. He wanted to be sure that Buck was on a good training schedule before resuming his trip to California. Of course this time, no stopping in any towns until he reached the coast.
As he headed down the steps, he was still in a state of disbelief on how he'd come to trust these men enough to share his secret and care about what happened to Buck.
He doubted he'd ever see the big man again once he left Four Corners. The gunslinger didn't seem the type to leave the colonies and Methos had no intention of setting foot in this country again for a long time. Too bad, Buck might be fun to travel the world with..
Methos surprised himself with that thought. He was a loner wasn't he? He didn't need anyone and certainly not an optimistic ladies man traipsing after him. Still, it was probably a good idea to let Buck know where he was in case the man ever wanted to see Tibet.
All Methos had wanted to do was get to San Francisco and catch a boat away from the godforsaken wilderness of the new world; instead he had a new student, responsibilities and friends. What was the world coming to?