Special thanks to Matt Garvey for beta-reading!

The Autumnal Equinox.

Paris,
22 September of 1995

Methos was leaving Watcher's HQ, when his eyes caught a familiar silhouette.
"Debra!" he called.
A woman in a long red coat turned and smiled genially:
"Adam! It's so good to see you! I hope you don't have to hurry?"
"No, I don't. And you look incredible."
"Look," she glanced on her watch. "I'll finish everything here in twenty minutes, could we?"
"Of course. I'll wait you in that café across the street."

Debra Adkins, about ten years older than "Adam Pierson", had been Don Saltzers' previous protégée and assistant. She'd moved to the field when her favourite Immortal, Ceirdwyn, had come to Paris with her mortal husband, Steven Jarmel, shortly before Methos had joined the Watchers. But Debra had never fully abandoned research or her teacher, so they'd often met in either HQ library or "Shakespeare & Co". She'd usually treated "Adam" as a younger brother, which had been rather funny, but she was a good person. They'd never had a chance to talk properly after Don's death, and that wasn't right.

"So," Methos asked over the third cappuccino, "how are your Jarmels?"
Her face darkened, and Methos tensed inwardly. Dammit, what did he miss?
"Oh, you haven't heard yet… Steven was killed about a month after Don."
Oh no.
"An Immortal?"
"No. Just a bunch of street punks."
Damn. Most of the deaths were senseless, but some…
"And… What happened afterwards?" he asked, careful not to show too much concern.
"One of these bastards was found dead next week, killed supposedly by a sword."
"Oh."
"I can't say anything for sure, I lost her that day."
Methos nodded understandingly. Sometimes not to know was the best way not to interfere. Besides, following an Immortal like Ceirdwyn during the hunt was extremely dangerous.
"But others," Debra continued, "were arrested in the end. I think it was MacLeod who'd persuaded her to leave them to the police."
"MacLeod?"
"Yeah, this guy seems to be everywhere, doesn't he? Anyway, she stayed here after this, but now she is preparing to move."
"And that's why you were in HQ today?"
"Yeah. Travel arrangements and so on. Today is a perfect day for paperwork."
And, seeing his inquiring look, she explained:
"She went to greet the Equinox."
"Ceirdwyn is greeting the Autumn Equinox, and you are not Watching?"
Debra shrugged.
"I've seen it enough times by now, nothing interesting. And nights are cold already. But while she is burning firewood on Holy Ground, I can do something useful with no worry. Chat with an old friend, for example."
Methos grinned.

They talked for another hour, before Debra went home. So, Ceirdwyns' Watcher decided to give her privacy for the Equinox night; good for her. But the nights truly were cold, and nobody should be alone in a cold night, they say. Fortunately, Methos knew where to go without asking Debra.

Ceirdwyn threw another log in the fire, watching the flames. She was determined to spend the Equinox night here, bidding her farewell to Paris and that part of her life. She'd stayed after Steven's death, mostly because of their friends and Steven's family, but now it was time to move. It became too hard now, when everyone around her, even Steven's sister, began trying to "divert" her. Ceirdwyn wasn't angry at them; they just didn't know and couldn't understand. Unlike Kate Jarmel, Ceirdwyn the Immortal could allow herself to mourn her husband for decades, not just six months. And so it was time to leave Kate Jarmel behind. Her new identity had been almost prepared, only details were left; she'd chosen Spain, somewhat in Steven's memory…
Suddenly her musings were interrupted by a strong Immortal Presence. Ceirdwyn grabbed her sword, lying next to her, and rose to her feet.
"Who's there?" she asked into surrounding darkness.
"Greetings, Ceirdwyn," answered the familiar voice. "They say, nobody should be alone in the cold night. Especially Equinox."
The speaker came closer, within the circle of scanty light from the camp-fire, and Ceirdwyn finally combined the voice, the face and the memory.
"Wanderer?"
"At your service, Drottning," he answered, slightly bowing.

Some fiord in Norway,
815 AD, early autumn.

Ceirdwyn the Immortal, currently known as Vigdis Drottning, was in a good mood. The last sail had been fortunate; the holds of her longship were full with spoils and now she was studying the prisoners they had taken on Sweden trade ship. Mostly garbage; but the last one… So that was him, the Immortal she'd felt earlier. It had been hard to distinguish him during the battle, since he wasn't the leader; but he'd fought well, very well. If the others had fought at least with half of his strength and skill, the outcome of the battle might have been different. Good, that he hadn't been dumped in the sea with other bodies.
"Your name, Swede," she demanded, pointing his heart with an edge of her sword.
"Stigandr, Drottning," he answered, never lowering his eyes.

He was on his knees and his hands were bound, but there were no trace of fear in his voice or look, though she could behead him right on the spot. Yeah, she definitely liked him. Stigandr… a wanderer in the language of these shores. Most likely, a fake name, and he was no more a Swede than she was a Norwegian. A Roman, probably, or maybe even a Greek. But it didn't matter right now. What did matter, however, was what she should do with him. The slave house wasn't a place for an Immortal warrior, so she had three ways. She could either let him go, challenge him or make him join her hird. The first one wasn't an option, her men wouldn't understand; the second one… Of course, Marcus had told her about the Game, but he didn't actually believe in it, and she didn't, either. She'd never been first to challenge an Immortal without strong personal cause, and that Stigandr was a stranger. The third way was the most attractive. She'd lost more men in summer than she'd wanted to, and her nearest neighbour was reasonably called Einar the Greedy. She could use another good swordsman by her side, especially an Immortal one. So…
"You've disabled couple of my men, Swede. I need a replacement… "

Einar the Greedy attacked a dozen days later. The battle was heavy, but exciting; finally Ceirdwyn slain down Einar and raised her sword, proclaiming a victory… And that very moment a spear pierced her heart.

When she revived, she found herself in a dark place, her sword beneath her right hand and an Immortal nearby. Instinctively Ceirdwyn grabbed the hilt and sat up abruptly, and felt a touch on her shoulder.
"Quiet, Vigdis. And quickly, we must get out of here." Stigandr's voice.
"Since when
do you give orders?"
"Well," he answered irritably, "if you are so eager to sail to Valhalla in the morning, I can leave you here. I can even put the spearhead back in place."
Oh. Now she remembered the battle and recognized the place. They were in the Gods House of her village. And no, she didn't want to sail to Valhalla. So she took his hand and followed him out of the House.

When they were far enough from the village to set a fire, she asked:
"What happened after…"
"After you were killed?" he finished her question, dividing the load into two bags. It looked like he'd taken along enough food for a month.
"Yeah."
"Well, you won, you know. Your hirdmen were too busy avenging you and preparing your funeral, they've completely forgotten about me. And I was lucky enough not to catch a spear."
Oh. The spearhead must have stayed in her chest, that's why she hadn't revived in time. But he
had bothered to return, to sneak into Gods House, had extracted the spearhead and lead her out. Ceirdwyn imagined for an instant reviving during the fire funeral (or after it) and shuddered.
"I guess I owe you, Stigandr."
He shrugged, finishing the packing.
"Show me the shortest way to warmer places, and we are even."

Whoever gave Stigandr his name did a good job. He turned out to be even more experienced as a traveller than Ceirdwyn herself was. And the travel itself was rather pleasant, despite the autumn weather and the necessity to stay out of the settlements. (Vigdis Drottning was too well known in the neighbourhood.) But eventually their last night in the woods came; the next day they were reaching Ystath, the big trade city. A good place to begin a new life.

"We should arrive at Ystath around tomorrow noon", she said. "The trade season isn't over yet, we can part company there."
He nodded; as usual, they were sitting on the opposite sides of the fire. Ceirdwyn wrapped her cloak tighter; it was the Equinox and Nature decided to celebrate it with the first really cold night. She began drowsing, when his sudden touch startled her.
"Sure, the death from cold is one of the least painful, but you sure you want it right now?"
"Any better ideas?" she asked sarcastically.
"Yeah," his face came closer. "I heard about one or two ancient ways to get warmer."

An instant or an eternity later they were lying naked in each other arms in a cocoon of their clothes, cloaks and blankets. And this way it really was much, much warmer.
"Vigdis Drottning," he asked with an irresistible smile, "do you still want us to part company tomorrow?"
"No, Stigandr the Swede. I do not want us to part company tomorrow. And Vigdis Drottning is dead, perished in glorious battle. Let her feast in Valhalla. I'm Ceirdwyn the Iceni."
Something odd flickered in his eyes, and it was a while before he spoke.
"Then let Stigandr the Swede feast with her. I'm Methos."

Present day

"Methos," she outstretched her hand and he grasped her forearm in a warrior's handshake.
"It's Adam Pierson nowadays."
She smiled, acknowledging.
"I didn't know you were in Paris."
He shrugged and smiled sheepishly. "Adam Pierson" had been careful enough not to cross his path with either Ceirdwyn or Rebecca, mostly because of their Watchers. Besides, he didn't want to intrude, since they both were married. Had been.
"Ceirdwyn, I'm so sorry."
She sighed.
"How did you know?"
"A common friend told."
"MacLeod?"
He nodded. A little lie, yes, but he couldn't mention the Watchers, and Ceirdwyn had never been easy to fool. And MacLeod hardly would mind.

"Ceirdwyn, I've brought wood and wine for your fire, but if you want to be alone tonight…"
"No," she touched his cheek, "I don't want to be alone. It's really good to see you… Adam."
They spent the Equinox night together, sitting by the fire, sharing the wine and the memories of those they'd loved and lost. And the sunrise found Ceirdwyn sleeping on Methos' shoulder.

He walked her home; of course, it was a risk, but he was sure he'd be able to say something plausible to Debra, if necessary.

"Where are you going now?"
"Spain, at least for the beginning."
"Good place," he approved and added with a smile: "Warm."
She laughed, remembering their eternal discussions about weather and climates.
"And you?"
"Stuck in a Paris for a while, I'm afraid. Ceirdwyn," he suddenly became very earnest, holding out a small card, "Let me know when you settle down, ok? And if you need…"
"I know," she took the card. "I'll write, I promise."
For a long moment they just looked into each other eyes, then embraced tightly.
"Watch your head, Wanderer. Watch your head."
"And you. Please."

An hour later Methos returned to his empty apartment, where an unfinished translation waited him on the table. It really was good to see Ceirdwyn, to know, to feel that she was still there, still alive. Too many had died already, too many of those who shouldn't have. Methos sighed. He was a Watcher, after all, and had all the necessary access; he indeed should pay more attention to what's happening around his friends. And from that moment he will. Anything that can be prevented must be prevented. He won't lose anyone else.

Authors Notes:

Drottning: A queen/ woman chieftain in Scandinavian languages.
Vigdis: Derived from the Old Norse elements vig "war" and dís "goddess".
Stigandr: Means "wanderer" in Old Norse.
Hird: A group of warriors, bound by personal loyalty to their leader (Old Norse).
Ystath (modern spelling Ystad ): One of the oldest trade
centres in Sweden.

Historical/canon note, for pedants like me :-) :
Methos mentioned in "Till death", that he'd sailed to Iceland in 765 AD with Irish monks. Since the first known permanent settlement in Iceland is dated 874, they hardly stayed there long. But I've found it reasonable, that Methos had stuck in Scandinavian region for some decades. It was an interesting place to live in the beginning of the Viking Age :). I suppose, after 815 Methos and Ceirdwyn traveled or maybe even lived together for some years and then parted their company somewhen before 853. Because, as we know from Watcher CD, in 853 Methos was with Rebecca :).

Also according to Watcher CD, in 1983 Ceirdwyn moved to Paris and Debra Adkins became her Watcher; Methos joined the Watchers in 1984. He visited Seacouver to warn MacLeod about Kristin in the second half of October of 1995.