A/N:For my friend, collaborator, ever-patient and wise beta and comrade in Denial strangevisitor7. Happy Birthday Casey, may your day and life be filled with love, joy and serenity (or Serenity, whichever you prefer *g*).
I know you've never seen Archangel, so here is your own special version of it.
Disclaimer: I don't own Highlander or Quantum Leap, or any of the characters. No profit made, no harm intended.
The Leap of Angels (or Casey's Archangel)
Sam felt the moment of disorientation that was so familiar to him now as he leapt into another person. He actually stumbled, but strong arms caught him before he could fall to the floor.
"Oh boy," he said as he was righted and placed in a chair.
"Joe! Are you alright?" said a concerned voice, presumably attached to the arms. Sam nodded.
"I'm okay, just need to sit a moment," he said. So I'm called Joe. That's a start, he mused.
He looked round at his rescuer and discovered him to be a tall man, broad across the shoulders and muscled, with long dark hair scraped back in a ponytail. From the looks of the clothing the guy wore, Sam figured it was anywhere from 1978 to 2008. Unfortunately, jeans and a tee were pretty 'in' from the fifties onwards, but Sam had developed an eye for identifying the date from clothing in his years of leaping.
Further examination of his surroundings showed him that he was in a bar, and from the cars he could see through the window, he could narrow the time period to late 80s, or the 90s. The plates on the vehicles looked strange, foreign. And his rescuer had an unusual accent; it seemed to be a mix of nations, although mostly he thought it sounded British.
Okay, so I'm maybe in Europe, about 1990. This is good, Sam thought to himself. He felt a hand on his shoulder.
"I'm just going to call Richie, won't be a minute. Will you be okay?"
"Sure, you can stop fussing, I'm fine," Sam replied, hoping this was the right kind of tone to adopt. The dark haired man smiled and headed to the phone behind the bar. As he picked up the receiver, Al appeared with his cigar in his mouth.
"Al! Boy, you got here fast!" Sam whispered, a huge smile on his face. Al smiled and took the cigar out.
"It's always easier when you're closer to us. It's May 15th, 1997," Al explained, reading from his link to Ziggy. "You're one Joseph Dawson, former Marine, lost both legs in Vietnam in '68. Currently runs a Jazz bar in Paris. That reminds me of this sweet little thing I used to see from New Orleans. Sam, she had legs from here to next Tuesday, and boy was she stacked!"
"Any idea why I'm here yet?" Sam asked, keeping an eye on his companion at the phone.
"That one's going to be a little trickier. Best we can figure so far is that you're here to save one rich…" Al paused and put his cigar in his mouth as he slammed his palm against the side of the link. He took the cigar out again and continued. "Richard Ryan. Good friend of Dawson, the kid gets killed five days from now. That's Duncan MacLeod over there, also a friend of yours and Ryan. We can't seem to find much information on him; Ziggy keeps throwing out data on Duncan MacLeods all the way back to 1592, but nothing useful on this guy. Ziggy's on the fritz again, she told us that this Ryan guy died two years ago! Unless of course they're both zombies," Al joked. Something in that statement tugged at the Swiss-cheese of Sam's memory, but he couldn't place what was important.
Duncan finished his phone call and walked back to where Sam was sitting.
"I'm going, Joe. Richie wants me to look at a painting he's found, see if it's any good. Thought he could put it away somewhere for a rainy day. I'll see you later though," Duncan said.
"Yeah, Duncan, see you later," Sam replied a little uncertainly. Duncan smiled and headed for the door, throwing a wave over his shoulder. His departure left Sam alone with Al and he heaved a sigh of relief.
"I'll get back to see what else Ziggy can dig up, but if it comes to it I'll have to talk with Joe myself. Just hope he can accept what's going on," Al said. Sam nodded and stood to go toward the bar. "Oh, and don't forget you walk with prosthetics, and a cane. Don't want to give anyone a heart attack!" Al added with a wink. He put his cigar back in his mouth, opened the door to the imaging chamber and was gone.
Picking up the cane that was propped against the table, Sam made his way to the bar and examined his reflection. The man looking back was older than Sam, grey and grizzled. He looked like a man who had been through war, and other tragedies besides.
"Hello Joe," Sam said to his reflection. He saw the front door open in the reflection. "Sorry we're closed, nous sommes ferme," he called out to the newcomer.
"Well I know that, but it's never stopped me before," said a voice that was weirdly familiar to Sam. He turned and looked at the man who had entered the bar, who in turn was staring at Sam.
"Sam!" cried the man. "What are you doing here?" The man's unexpected declaration made Sam start. Not only was this man somehow able to see Sam, but it seemed that he knew him. Sam searched his memory, trying to remember when they'd met, but he couldn't quite place it.
"You can see me?! Wait, I know you, don't I?" Sam asked, confused. "I think your name…William?"
"Not at the moment, no," the man looked at the reflection in the mirror. "You've leaped into Dawson, haven't you, Sam?" the man asked. Sam nodded. The man sighed. "Then you'll need to know my real name. It's Methos."
"Methos," Sam said, trying the unfamiliar name as he wondered about its origins. Methos nodded.
"Although only a select few that includes Dawson know that. To everyone else, I'm Adam Pierson," Methos instructed. Sam nodded his understanding, but he was still trying to remember when he last met Methos.
"I remember you now, we met in Nepal. But that was… I think it was 1970? You haven't changed at all!" Sam stammered, as he walked to a table and sat down. Methos took a chair opposite him. "Are you a time-traveller too? Is that how you can see me?"
"No, Sam, that's not it, and I'm not a crazy person either. I don't know how I can see you; we never did figure that out. Maybe our brainwaves are similar or something. Nepal was actually 1957, forty years ago. Although we have met twice more since then. Either you haven't been there yet, or that Swiss-cheese brain of yours has forgotten," Methos added with a grin.
Sam smiled too at that. He couldn't remember much about Methos, but he was fairly certain that he was a friend and had helped him with that previous leap.
"That still doesn't explain why you haven't aged," Sam pressed.
Methos wasn't sure how to continue, he knew he'd told Sam about Immortality on one of their previous meetings, but he didn't know if this Sam didn't remember that or if he hadn't had that conversation yet.
"Well, I suppose I ought to tell you everything. Joe Dawson knows all this, so it would seem very odd if you don't. Me, and two other friends of Joe's that you'll probably meet, Duncan MacLeod and Richie Ryan, we're Immortals. We don't age, or get sick and we heal from any wound…" Methos explained, but he stopped at the confused look on Sam's face. "I know it might be hard to accept…"
"No, it's not that, I think I remember you telling me this before, but…" Sam started. Methos nodded confirmation then waited for Sam to continue. "Al told me that I was here to save Richie, but if he's Immortal then how can he die?" Sam said.
"Ah, well, we can be killed. By beheading. But for an Immortal to die in the Game, that isn't something I'd think was a wrong that needed to be put right," Methos reasoned.
"Long story. It might be best if we go upstairs and you peruse Joe's library," Methos said. The two got up and, after locking the front door, headed up to the apartment.
"Just how old are you?" Sam asked, wondering again about Methos' strange name. It sounded Greek to Sam and the thought that the Immortal counted his age in centuries or even millennia was fascinating to Sam.
"Old enough to know better," came Methos' evasive reply. Then to forestall any further questions he asked, "By the way, did Al tell you when?" unable to add 'Richie dies'.
"Five days from now," Sam answered. At the concern on Methos' face, he added, "Which is a lot more than I usually have to work with. Don't worry; I'll save your friend."
"We'll save him," Methos said.
Several hours later, Sam had finished reading the most salient parts of Watcher history and the chronicles of Duncan and Richie that Methos had placed before him. Sam sat quietly on Joe's couch, absorbing the information. Methos sat opposite, watching his friend's face.
"You're right, if Richie were killed as part of the Game, it wouldn't make sense for me to come here to put that right. There must be another reason behind it," Sam said finally.
"Yes, but what?" Methos asked. "Some kind of freakish accident?"
Sam thought about it for a moment.
"Are you certain that the Watchers eliminated all of these…Hunters?"
Methos' face grew dark at the mention of Horton's rogue Watchers.
"They more or less disbanded with Horton's death. Those that were still loyal to his insane 'ethnic cleansing' scheme were…dealt with by the Watchers," he replied.
"You mean killed. They sound like a pretty hardcore group, these Watchers," Sam said.
"They've had to be, to maintain the secrecy of their society and what they protect - Immortals. Look, I'm not exactly in the loop with the Watchers right now, but I'm sure Joe would have warned us if he'd heard of any Hunter activity," Methos reasoned. Sam nodded.
"Well then, we have to figure out how a man could get decapitated in Paris in 1997. I mean, it's not like they still use the guillotine here."
"The sharp end of a swift blade is the only obvious answer that springs to my mind. But I can't think of many other possibilities that are likely to occur. Maybe it would be safer just to hang around with Richie, make sure he can't get into trouble?" Methos suggested. Sam thought about this for a moment.
"As long as Richie wouldn't think that too odd," he said.
"No, I don't think so. I've been meaning to spend a bit more time with the brat anyway. He amuses me," Methos said with a smile that was verging on evil. Sam had no idea what thoughts were firing in that Machiavellian brain, but he had a feeling there was more going on than he knew about.
It was just past midnight, May 15th turning into May 16th as Richie and Methos checked the coast was clear and climbed out from their hiding spot atop the Eiffel tower.
"I still don't see why we couldn't do this in the day," Richie complained as he reached the viewing platform. "Then we wouldn't have had to wait for over an hour in the cold. And how exactly do we get down, with the elevators no longer running?"
At this height the wind was strong, whipping around them both. Richie pulled his jacket closer around him as he spoke.
"That's the point Richie, my boy. We're taking the express elevator to the bottom," Methos said with a malicious smile and pointed between the railings and down.
"We're what now?!" Richie cried.
"Ssh, there may still be some guards checking the platforms," Methos hissed. "Richie, Immortality allows us to experience life like no other can. We can jump off the Eiffel Tower and know that we will walk away from it. Haven't you ever wanted to try something like that?"
"And end up in a Paris morgue? No thanks, been there, done the naked run back to the barge. Not in any hurry to try it again. Have you been hanging out with Cory Raines lately?" Richie replied. Methos chuckled. "You're drunk then, or stoned. Is that it? You decide to see how nineties acid compares with the stuff you had in the sixties?"
Methos shook his head and smirked in amusement.
"Come on, Richie, you're supposed to be the film buff. Have you never seen A View to a Kill?" Methos said.
"Yeah, but Grace Jones had a parachute. That river is a long way from here."
"I've calculated it all. We take a running jump; throw ourselves as far away as possible from the tower. The arc of our trajectory and the wind will do the rest," Methos reasoned. Richie shook his head and laughed.
"Have the millennia finally got to you old timer? Or is this one of your jokes? Immortal or not, there is no way I am jumping off this tower," Richie insisted. Methos shrugged.
"Huh. I owe Joe a twenty. He said you wouldn't jump off a cliff if someone told you to," he said with a smirk. After a moment, Richie got the joke and broke into the patented Ryan Smile No. 6.
"You've got a warped sense of humour, old timer. But, seriously, how are we going to get down?"
"Simple, kid, we walk. There are maintenance stairs to this level. Come one," he said and led Richie toward the east pillar of the iron structure. There he opened a small door to reveal a winding set of stairs that would take them all the way down to the ground.
He took Richie back to Joe's bar, where Sam was keeping a light on for them. Sam sat on the edge of the stage, guitar on his lap, idly strumming. As the two Immortals entered, Sam looked to Methos expectantly.
"Well?" he asked.
"I owe you twenty," Methos grumbled as he made his way behind the bar to grab a beer.
"Along with your tab. Am I gonna get that back in my lifetime?" Sam groused good-naturedly. Methos had briefed him on enough of their running in-jokes to make sure Richie didn't feel suspicious. "Way to go there, kid. I had complete faith in you."
Methos nearly spat out the mouthful of beer he had, but he managed to swallow it before spluttering,
"Liar! You just said that I couldn't make him do it, but if Mac said it…"
"That's not fair, you're twisting my words," Sam blustered. Richie rounded on Sam.
"He better had be, Joe! We've had this argument, I'm not Mac's sidekick," he said, glaring at Sam. "I'm my own man."
"Preaching to the choir here, Rich. He's the one thinks you follow him round like a lost puppy," Sam said, pointing to Methos.
"Oh no, don't pull me in to this…"
"You started it! In fact, this entire thing was your idea. I'd have closed up and gone to bed hours ago otherwise," Sam lay down the guitar and cautiously used the cane to stand. He made his way over to the bar. "I ought to throw you out, you ungrateful old…"
"Careful what you say here, Joseph," Methos warned.
"Hey, guys, come on, this was all just a bit of fun wasn't it? No need for it to turn serious," Richie interrupted, hands raised in a placatory gesture. The two other men looked at each other. After a moment, Methos held out his hand.
"He's right, I'm sorry, Joe. Let's just sit down and have a friendly game of poker. Agreed?"
"Agreed," Sam said and took Methos' hand.
As Richie walked over to a table, Methos winked at Sam. The old man's plan had worked perfectly, now Richie would sit and play poker for hours without question, thinking that he was acting as mediator between his friends.
Five hours later, and two hundred dollars poorer, Richie yawned and stood up.
"You're not leaving? Don't you want to win your money back?" Methos said, shuffling the bills in front of him.
"No thanks. Playing you for money I'm liable to lose my shorts. Besides, I need to catch some zees. Mac's taking me to the opera tonight and he'll kill me if I fall asleep," Richie replied with a grin. Methos and Sam looked at him, eyebrow raised. "I know, I know, but Mac's always saying I should experience everything, try everything at least once. I don't get what he loves about the damn thing, but hey," he finished with a shrug. He picked up his jacket and headed for the door.
"No, you're right, Rich, not his sidekick at all," Methos called after him. Richie flipped him the finger as he walked out the door.
Once Richie had gone, Sam turned to Methos and said,
"So, now what?"
"Don't worry. The Boy Scout will protect Richie if he gets in trouble. Besides, it's more likely for Mac to be challenged than Richie," Methos replied. "He's perfectly safe."
Methos got up and stretched before heading for another beer. Sam was about to protest that it was a little early, but Al appeared through the imaging chamber door.
"Al!" Sam said. Methos looked over and smiled in recognition.
"Morning, Admiral! How's Tina?"
"Oh she's fine," Al replied absently, casually looking at Methos before turning back to Sam. He then did a double take as he realised that a) Methos could see him and b) he knew him from another leap. "I…uh…huh?" Al asked, pointing with his cigar toward Methos before circling it around beside his temple in the universal sign for 'insane'. Sam shook his head and smiled.
"Long story, Al, one best saved for another time. So, what have you found out?"
"It's not good. There's still a 68% probability that Richie Ryan is killed on May 19th at…" he slammed the link "…around 9pm. Though time of death's a little uncertain. Killed by decapitation, although there's never any official investigation into his death."
"There wouldn't be. Joe would pull some strings to keep it quiet," Methos said as he returned to the table. Al looked a surprised at this information, but more so by the fact that Sam wasn't surprised.
"There's something I don't know, isn't there?" Al said, eyes narrowing. Sam looked to Methos, who shook his head.
"Another time, Al," Methos said. "Don't want to mess up any timelines."
Al was sceptical, but he didn't protest.
"I'd better head back, try to get more information," he said.
"What an excellent idea. Try to make it a little more useful next time?" Methos snarked.
The morning of the 17th, Sam was wiping down the bar, cleaning up from the previous evening when Methos arrived at the bar, a look of concern on his face.
"What's wrong, is it Richie?" Sam asked, stopping his cleaning. Methos climbed onto a stool on the opposite side of the bar before answering.
"No. I forgot to tell you something, Sam. Remember Horton?"
"The Hunter guy?" Sam said. Methos nodded.
"Well he was Joe's brother-in-law. Joe told me that his niece wants to bury the body in the States, so Joe had arranged to fly the body back. The flight is in a few hours, I think you need to go to the airport to sign some papers," Methos explained. Sam let go of the cloth and picked up Joe's cane from where he had propped it behind the bar.
"There's a folder in the office with some papers, I think they might be about this," he said and disappeared in the back. He didn't bother to use the cane, but he carried it in case Methos wasn't alone when he returned.
He came back to the bar a few moments later, carrying a thick manila folder and laid it on the bar. Opening it, he took out some documents and passed them to Methos.
"Yes, this looks like the ones Joe showed me. He was grousing that he had to do so much paperwork," the Immortal confirmed.
"Okay, can you give me a ride? I don't know where the airport is," Sam said, putting the papers back in the folder and picking it up.
"Sure, but then I'll head over to Mac's barge, check in on him and Richie."
Sam stood anxiously by the coffin containing the remains of James Horton. He wanted this over with quickly so he could get back to protecting Richie. As he signed the final release forms, he heard MacLeod's voice behind him.
"Well, if I'd known, I'd have sent flowers," Duncan said sarcastically. Sam sighed. He really didn't need this now. Methos had explained a lot of what happened, of why Joe had told him and not Mac that he was moving Horton's body. Sam didn't know how Duncan had found out, but he had a feeling that this conversation wouldn't be pleasant. Sam was at least relieved to see that Richie was with Duncan.
"This is personal business, MacLeod, it really doesn't concern you," Sam said, a note of warning in his voice.
"Anything to do with Horton concerns me," Duncan practically growled.
"Look, my niece, his daughter, she moved back to Chicago, wants him buried there. So I'm helping the kid out. It's a family thing," Sam explained.
"Oh, a family thing, is it? Then why did you hide it from me?" Duncan asked. His aggressive tone worried Sam. He didn't want to wreck Duncan and Joe's friendship. He looked at Richie, but the younger Immortal was wisely staying out of this argument.
"I know what he did to you, and I know how you felt about him," Sam answered, hoping that his sympathetic approach would calm Duncan down. He was wrong.
"Well, that's very considerate of you," Duncan sneered.
"What is wrong with you? The guy was my brother-in-law. His daughter wants his body shipped home."
"Well she's going to be very disappointed, isn't she," Duncan retorted. Confused, Sam looked to Richie.
"What is his problem?" he asked. Richie just held his hands up.
"I saw him, I saw Horton. He's alive," Duncan insisted. Sam was stunned; he let out a little chuckle of disbelief.
"No, Horton is dead. You killed him yourself, remember? I was there!"
"Yeah, well he looked very healthy last night," Duncan said, then walked away from the coffin and picked up a crowbar. Richie threw an exasperated look at Sam; obviously he'd heard this from Duncan already.
"This is insane! Whatever is left of James Horton is in that box," Sam said, pointing to the coffin.
"Oh, well we should really wish him a bon voyage, then," Duncan replied and began to pry at the lid of the coffin. Richie started forward and tried to stop him, finally spurred to action by Duncan's seemingly crazy behaviour. Sam could only look in horror as Richie and a guard struggled with Duncan. Duncan pushed them both off and the lid flew open. Inside was a decayed corpse, presumably that of Horton.
Sam and Richie looked at each other, upset and confused, as Duncan was dragged away by airport police.
Richie drove Sam to the nearest police station, where Sam convinced them to let Duncan go without charges. But Duncan still was convinced that Horton was alive, even though he had seen the body. He argued with Sam, pointing out that he only saw a body; that it needn't belong to Horton. Frustrated that Duncan wouldn't see sense, Sam wouldn't back down, but neither would Duncan and the argument ended in stalemate. As he watched Duncan and Richie walk away, Sam was worried for MacLeod's mental health and a horrible idea entered his head.
"I couldn't find Mac, and Richie wasn't at his apartment either," Methos said as he walked into the bar and sat at a table, opposite Sam.
"That's because they were at the airport. And Duncan was acting really strangely. He said Horton was alive, that he'd seen him last night," Sam replied.
"That's ridiculous. Horton's dead."
"Well, he was so convinced that he pulled the lid from the coffin. The police practically dragged him away. I managed to get them to drop the charges, but he's still certain. I think he might have been hallucinating."
"MacLeod? I don't know, Sam. I mean, Immortals do lose it, but Duncan is one of the steadiest, sure-footed men I know. He's like you, a moral compass that drives the very centre of him," Methos said. The way he said it, Sam wasn't sure if Methos intended it as an insult or compliment.
They were interrupted by the arrival of a worried looking Al.
"Sam, now it's a 91% probability the kid's gonna die. Stop doing whatever the hell you just did!"
"Oh boy. Do you know any more yet? Where, or how?" Sam asked.
"How's still unclear, but where seems to be an abandoned racetrack just outside of Paris. I'll head back and see if I can get any more on the how," Al said before he opened the door to the imaging chamber and vanished.
"Why would he go to an abandoned racetrack?" Sam wondered aloud.
"Apart from a challenge? To rescue Duncan or Joe, perhaps," Methos said. He considered the idea for a moment before snapping his fingers. "That's it! I bet Duncan gets in some kind of bother, and Richie goes steaming in to help, winds up getting killed!" Methos stood up and grabbed his jacket. "Gods preserve me from thick-skulled boy scouts with a martyr complex!"
"Where are you going?"
"Richie's safe until the day after tomorrow, correct? So I'm going to have a little talk with the Highlander."
Sam was closing up the bar for the night when Methos reappeared. The worried look on the Immortal's face made Sam stop wiping down the bar. He dismissed the staff early, locked up, handed Methos a beer and sat down with him at a table. Methos swigged half the bottle of beer and then sighed. Sam was startled to realise that the old man didn't know what to say.
"Methos, what happened?"
The low light in the bar cast a shadow across half of Methos' face as took another drink and collected his thoughts. He sighed again and leaned forward, cradling the beer in his hands. Sam leaned forward expectantly.
"I think you're right. I think Duncan might really have lost his marbles. He told me that he'd just seen Kron…well, someone he killed," Methos replied, visibly blanching. He finished the beer and stared at the empty bottle.
"Do you think that's it? That all the killing might have got to him? If he's seeing men he's killed…"
"No, that makes no sense. Those two definitely deserved to die. I know Mac's done things he regrets far more. Why on Earth would those two be haunting him?" Methos interrupted with a shake of his head.
"What about this Quickening you told me about? Oh, no, Horton wasn't Immortal," Sam interrupted his own train of thought, shaking his own head. He leaned back in his chair to mull over the options. Methos stood suddenly and began pacing the floor.
"I can't believe MacLeod…After everything he's been through; he's always come out okay. He's a bloody rock!" Methos muttered and drank some more beer. Sam decided to voice the concern he'd had since Duncan's performance at the airport.
"You don't think that Duncan could …" he began tentatively. Methos stopped in his tracks and turned to face Sam.
"No! Not a chance in hell. Never," Methos stated firmly. "Not MacLeod…" he added, a little less sure.
"Look, I'm sorry, Methos. But you said yourself that Richie dying in the Game wouldn't need to change, and that was the only obvious way he'd lose his head. But what if he wasn't killed by an enemy, but by a friend," Sam said, trying to be as delicate as possible. Methos sat again, thought about it for a moment, and then shrugged.
"I have to admit; it wouldn't be the first time…" he mused aloud, and his face darkened. "But if it is Duncan, and he has gone insane, how the hell do we stop him?"
The next morning, Methos and Sam visited Richie at his apartment. Their worst fears were realised as Richie told them that Duncan was seeing visions that nobody else could see.
"But it's because of this evil, this demon. Look, there was this old man, he was an archaeologist. Two nights ago he tried to warn Mac that something was after him, something evil that only Mac could defeat. Then the old man died in front of us," Richie explained. The three of them were sat around Richie's table, half-drunk cups of coffee in front of them.
"Some old fruit loop dies in front of you and Duncan goes cuckoo. I fail to see how the two are related," Methos commented.
"I know, it sounds ridiculous, but remember Cassandra's prophecy about Duncan? What if it's true?" Richie said. Methos rubbed his temple and then smirked.
"Don't tell me you believe it! That a demon is stalking Duncan MacLeod?! Give me a break!" he said, trying very hard not to laugh. The situation wasn't particularly funny, but after 5000 years, there was a lot Methos found amusing that others wouldn't. Richie didn't share the elder Immortal's sense of humour, and he stood up and glared at Methos.
"Is it so ridiculous? We're Immortal for God's sake! If we exist, why couldn't demons? Look, I don't really care what you believe; I'm helping Duncan fight this thing. You can either help, or stand aside and mock. Don't really care which," Richie replied. He grabbed his jacket and started to shepherd Sam and Methos to the door. Sam gently reached for Richie's arm.
"Look, Rich, we're just concerned about Duncan. And about you. One of you could get hurt," Sam said, trying to sound fatherly. Leaving the apartment, Richie closed the door behind them and laughed.
"Joe, we're Immortal. What can happen? Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a friend to help," Richie answered. Without any goodbye, he headed downstairs, leaving Sam and Methos standing there.
Although they searched everywhere they could think of, Sam and Methos were unable to find either Richie or Duncan for the rest of that day, and the two began to get very worried. If they couldn't keep Richie away from that racetrack the next night, it was very likely Sam was about to fail this leap. It was an uneasy Sam that lay in Joe's bed that night, tossing and turning.
He was finally drifting off when a light cough roused him once more. Sitting up, and turning on the light, he was relieved to find Al standing there. The relief didn't last long however, when he saw the look on Al's face.
"Al? What's wrong?"
"Sam, Ziggy did some more digging and well…" Al stopped, and Sam waited to hear what was coming. What could be so bad? Al had always delivered him the facts, even if they meant Sam was in danger himself. "It's never happened before, but there's a 100% probability that Richie will be killed tomorrow night. By Duncan."
Sam sighed and rubbed his tired eyes.
"I was worried that was a possibility. But 100%?" Sam replied.
"I really don't think we can change this one, Sam. Everything you're doing is just making things worse. Besides, isn't it just part of the Game anyway?" Al asked. Sam began to agree, then realised what Al had just said.
"Wait, I never discussed Immortals with you. How do you know about the Game?" Sam demanded, swinging his legs round and standing up. Al grinned, an evil, humourless grin and his eyes glowing momentarily red. "You're the thing, the demon, aren't you? My God, you're real!"
"God has nothing to do with it. But a gold star for figuring it out so fast. You've meddled in history for the last time, Sam Beckett. You'll fail this leap and be stuck in this life. The Highlander will kill the boy tomorrow night and there's not a thing you can do to stop it!" Ahriman sneered before disappearing, leaving a confused and terrified Sam alone in the dark.
The next day, Richie came to find Methos and Joe. He asked them to accompany him to see the archaeologist's granddaughter, Allison Landry, so that she could tell them everything she knew. Sam and Methos knew the only way to keep Richie safe was to keep him in sight, so they agreed.
As the three of them walked through a Paris park towards the building where Allison lived, they continued their previous day's discussion from where they left off, though Sam was quiet, not knowing how to describe what he had seen the night before.
"Most religions have some version of the saviour myth; demons sent to destroy the Earth, and a champion comes to protect it," Methos said.
"That is exactly what it says in the journal."
"But millennium theory is nothing new, Richie. Every thousand years, I hear these same stories. Listen, I don't know, I have never seen a demon," Methos added.
"A Zoroastrian demon," Sam said. To the others, he probably sounded sceptical, but he was actually simply trying to get his head around his late night visitor.
"Well then maybe you guys have another explanation for what's been going on here," Richie challenged.
Sam wasn't entirely certain of what he had seen the night before, but he was almost convinced that Richie and Duncan were right. But he couldn't explain why without revealing to Richie that he wasn't Joe Dawson. For the time being he would have to continue acting as though he didn't believe. All that mattered was keeping Richie alive.
"What's going on, is that Duncan MacLeod's losing it," he answered. Richie shrugged, and shook his head dismissively.
"Okay, we'll talk to the granddaughter," Methos conceded.
They approached the building to find police, fire trucks and ambulances parked outside. Firemen were bringing a body down a ladder from an upstairs apartment. One of the policemen spotted them and came over to talk to them. He told them it was arson and asked if they had seen a man leaving the area who they wanted to talk to. A man who sounded a lot like Duncan MacLeod. As the policeman walked away, Richie and Sam looked at each other.
"Not a chance, Joe."
"Hey, Richie, I know how you feel…" Sam began.
"Gimme a break. Mac was not involved with this, you know it," Richie replied and began walking away. Sam knew that this was a turning point.
"I know, Richie. And, look, maybe there is a demon, I don't know," he admitted, "But I do know that Duncan or you could lose your head. Take my advice and just stay out of it." He was practically pleading. Richie stopped, looking back at him.
"You want me to leave Mac to face this alone? Are you serious?" he replied. Shaking his head he turned and walked to the end of the fire truck. Sam grunted in frustration.
"Is he always like this?" Sam asked Methos, waving his arm in the direction of Richie.
"Pretty much. Fiercely loyal to a fault, that's Richie. Some might call it noble, I just call it bloody-minded," Methos answered. He and Sam joined Richie and watched as they lowered the body from the ladder and into the waiting ambulance.
"Who's that?" Sam asked the cop.
"She was Allison Landry."
The three of them decamped to a nearby bar to continue their discussion. They sat at a table, looking to the world like three friends having a casual drink together. In reality, their conversation was deadly earnest. In fact, if Richie were to be believed, the fate of the whole world was in the balance. Sam was convinced now, he believed what Richie was saying, but that didn't alter the fact that Richie was going to die. He had to find a way to stop Richie going to the racetrack that night. He only hoped that if he continued to appeal to reason, he and Methos might convince Richie to stay away from Duncan, at least for a while.
"So, you agree with Joe. You think MacLeod's crazy?" Richie asked Methos.
"I think he's hallucinating, Richie. He's seeing people that he's killed," Methos replied calmly, his tone even. Richie shifted uncomfortably in his seat, and then glared at the oldest Immortal. "Who knows what else he's doing."
"He did not set that fire," Richie replied, adamant. Methos stared into his espresso cup, stirring it absently. Sam rubbed his nose and made the decision to stay out of the conversation. Richie leaned forward. "What if he's not seeing things? What if all this stuff is for real?"
Methos leaned forward in his own chair and spoke in a low voice, almost a whisper.
"So there are demons running around, and dead people walking," he said.
"You're walking," Richie replied, pointing a finger at Methos. The old man rolled his eyes. "How many times have you been killed?"
"Richie, it's not the same thing and you know it," Methos replied. Richie shook his head.
"No, no, no. I don't know it. Nobody knows the reason Immortals exist. Maybe this is it. Maybe we're here so that one of us can fight this thing."
"Yeah, this has been going on for thousands of years, and no one has ever heard of it," Sam said. He had to admit, it sounded ridiculous said aloud like that and so it was easy to sound sceptical. "Not Watchers, not Immortals."
"Basically, yeah," Richie answered. It was clear to Sam that Richie was quite firm in his belief. It amazed him that Richie could be so certain based only on what Duncan had told him. Sam wouldn't believe it if he hadn't seen the demon himself, yet this young man was willing to put his life on the line for his friend.
No wonder whoever leaps me around thinks he needs to be saved, Sam thought.
Richie looked at the two of them and sighed in frustration.
"Aw, forget it," he said, standing up. "I'll see you guys."
Richie walked away, leaving Sam and Methos at the table.
"Blind loyalty, very common in the young. So, now what?" Methos asked Sam. As if on cue, Al appeared through the imaging chamber door.
"Sam," he began, "There's now a 96% probability that Richie will be killed tonight. And Ziggy's now saying he's most likely to be killed by MacLeod!" he said. Sam and Methos looked at each other.
"Damn. It looks like you were right. The Highlander is losing it," Methos said.
"Actually, I'm not so sure. I had a visit last night, from someone pretending to be Al. He said that he was the demon, and that we couldn't stop Duncan killing Richie," Sam confessed.
"Don't tell me you're seeing things too," Methos said with a groan. Sam shook his head.
"Well I sure as hell didn't visit you last night," Al said. "Maybe you were dreaming? I mean, demons, seriously?" Al pulled at his collar nervously and looked around.
"Don't you start, Admiral. Sam, you probably ate too much cheese yesterday. It was just a nightmare," Methos said.
"I wasn't asleep, and I wasn't hallucinating. I think it's all real," Sam answered firmly. Methos smirked and shook his head.
In the mundane surroundings they were in, Sam could have been forgiven for dismissing the previous night as a bad dream, but he was more sure than ever of what he had seen. He wasn't about to back down, no matter what Methos said.
"Look, whether it's real or Duncan's a candidate for Cuckoo's Nest, it doesn't matter. What matters is that unless we stop it, Duncan will kill Richie tomorrow night. It will utterly destroy him, that boy is like a younger brother, like a son to him."
"Then we need to stop either of them from going to that racetrack. Richie wasn't listening, so we should try Duncan," Sam glanced at his watch. "Look, it's 8 o'clock, we should get to the barge," Sam added, already standing. Methos quickly followed after him.
They walked out to Methos' parked car and got in. Al projected his image into the back seat. Methos drove toward the barge, dodging the Parisian traffic, and Sam turned back to Al.
"It's gone up to 97%, Sam," he said, his voice full of concern and a little panic. "Gushie, centre me on Richie!" he called out to the room and vanished.
Al appeared to find Richie walking down the street in the rain.
"Well at least you're heading away from the racetrack," Al said, relieved.
A car approached them, slowing down as it reached them. Al did a double-take as he saw Joe Dawson in the back seat, being held at gunpoint by another man.
"Joe? Horton?!" Richie said, disbelieving. "Son of a bitch," he muttered as the car sped off. Richie began to give chase on foot, but he lost it as it turned toward the racetrack. He stopped and walked toward a phone a block away. Al looked at the link in his hand and groaned.
"Gushie, centre me on Sam, now!" he cried.
Methos and Sam walked onto the barge and up to the door.
"Well, at least one of them is still here," Methos commented, absently tapping the side of his head. Sam nodded his understanding and they entered. Duncan turned to face them, having felt Methos' arrival.
"So, where are the men in the white coats?" he asked snidely.
"We think you're in trouble, Mac," Sam said. Neither he nor Methos made any move toward Duncan. Duncan stepped forward and smirked, amused by the irony.
"Trouble, you think I'm in trouble?"
"Mac, you need help," Methos said, an uncharacteristic note of sympathy in his voice. Duncan looked at the floor as he said it.
"You can't do this alone," Sam added. Duncan looked up, and glared at them.
"I'm not insane," he protested and walked towards the pair, stopping only a foot or so away. "I saw them; Horton, Kronos. I heard them. I don't know what they were, but they were real."
"And you think they were demons," Methos said. He was trying to sound sympathetic, but to Sam he sounded a little patronising. Duncan was unable to answer, and Sam realised that it was because he knew how crazy it all sounded.
"Please, let us help you, Mac," Sam pleaded.
"Look, I've been reading about this, thinking about it," Duncan began. He was agitated, pacing the floor. He picked up a leather bound book and waved it at them. "Look at the state of the world. War, famine, chaos. There has to be something to this prophecy," the Highlander continued; a note of desperation in his voice.
Sam realised that Duncan wanted it to be true. It gave his life, his Immortality, a meaning it had never had before. As Richie had suggested, it could be the reason for Immortals existing. Sam could understand that; after all, he was looking for the answer to why he was leaping from life to life, a reason for his life. Duncan simply thought he had found the answer to his. Perhaps he had, Sam didn't know, but that wasn't his concern, he just had to prevent Richie dying.
"Duncan, I believe you. I don't think you're crazy," Sam said, stepping forward. Duncan looked at him, processing what he was saying. At that moment, Al reappeared, panic on his face.
"Sam, Richie just saw you, I mean Joe, and someone called Horton in a car. He chased after it. He's almost at the racetrack," Al explained hurriedly. Duncan's phone began to ring. "That's probably him now."
Sam made to answer it, but Duncan blocked his way, confused by his actions. He couldn't move quickly enough without dropping the pretence of Joe's disability and doing that would only further add to Duncan's paranoia. Instead he pointed to the phone.
"Duncan, that's Richie. Tell him that I'm here, that he couldn't have seen me," Sam said. Duncan stared at Sam in disbelief.
"Just do it Mac, please! Trust us, his life depends on this," insisted Methos. Duncan continued to stare at them.
"And you're calling me crazy?" he said as he picked up the receiver. "Hello?...Richie!" he listened for a moment and continued to stare incredulously at Methos and Sam. "Joe's here, with me and Methos. You couldn't have seen him, it's a trick. It's a trick Richie, a trap, don't go. Damn!" Duncan hung up and addressed Methos and Sam. "He's gone to the old racetrack. He doesn't know what he's facing…"
"Mac, listen to me. Please, you have to trust me. You can't go. Let me and Methos take care of this, please. Stay here in case he calls again. Just whatever you do, do not go to that racetrack," Sam pleaded. Duncan looked at him warily for a moment, but he trusted Joe Dawson and so he nodded.
As Sam and Methos left the barge and headed to Methos' car, Sam asked him,
"Do you think he'll stay here?"
"Not likely, Mac hates to sit on the sidelines. Damn! Are you absolutely sure he's going to kill Richie?" he asked as he got in the driver's side. They looked to Al, who nodded.
"Ziggy's now saying a 99% chance that Richie is killed by MacLeod, tonight."
"Damn!" the old man repeated and sped off toward the racetrack.
They reached the empty parking lot and pulled up outside the entrance. Leaping out of the car, Methos and Sam ran inside; Sam simply carried Joe's cane, in too much of a hurry to pretend to use it. The building was dark, the walls dusty with disuse, and stray wires hung from the ceiling. They ran down an escalator to a lower level and then Methos stopped and motioned for Sam to do the same. Al appeared next to them, and looked at the handlink.
"It's dropped to 95%, Sam, but you need to get him out of here, fast. It's still too high a chance!" Al said. Sam nodded, too breathless to talk. Methos had caught his breath and said,
"He's close. Richie!" His voice echoed in the empty corridor.
"Methos?" came back the reply. Methos and Sam sighed with relief as Richie came into sight, his sword raised in front of him. As he saw Sam he lowered it, confused. "What…Joe?! You're okay! How did you get away?"
"Horton never had me. It was a trick, Richie. I was with Methos, on Mac's barge the whole time. Look, there's no time to explain, but you have to leave, now," Sam said. As he finished, Richie and Methos looked around, as though a sound had caught their attention.
"Mac must be here," Richie said. "We should find him, help him."
"Sam…" Al warned.
Sam knew there was no time to stop Richie with words, so he used the element of surprise. He delivered a roundhouse kick to Richie's head, sending him, unconscious, to the floor. Then he and Methos hoisted him onto their shoulders and carried him out of the darkened building to the parking lot. There they gently lowered him into the rear seat of Methos' car and waited for Duncan.
"You did it, Sam. Ziggy says that Richie is alive and well, and going to stay that way," Al said, a big grin on his face. "I'm glad; I'm really starting to like the guy."
"Me too. Hell, if I'd known a swift kick to the head would knock some sense into the kid, I'd have done it years ago," said Methos, a wry grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. Sam smiled at him.
"It's been good seeing you again, old man," Sam said, holding out his hand. Methos took it and pulled him in for a hug.
"You too, Sam. I hope it won't be the last time. Safe travels, my friend," Methos replied.
As the words left Methos' mouth, Sam was enveloped in a bright white light and he leaped, leaving Methos to explain to a bewildered Joe what they were doing hugging in a parking lot and to convince Richie that he had concussion and couldn't possibly have been kicked in the head by a man with two prosthetic legs.