Chapter One: No Mortal Youth

"Lord Archer, Death, whom sent you in your stead?
What faltering prentice fumbled at your bow
That now should wander with the insanguine dead
In whom forever the bright blood must flow?"
-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Methos comes back to life in the boot of a moving car, throat aching with the memory of being strangled. He fights down the first gasping moment of returning consciousness, forces his muscles to stillness and his lungs to slow, regular breathing. It's not easy. Immortals claw their way back from the grave, and the blood re-starting in his veins, the first rush of air into his lungs, combine to create an adrenaline rush equaled only by a Quickening. Still, he manages it, and once he realises where he is he allows himself to move, to perform a body-check and figure out what to do next.

His hands are free, but his sword is gone, as are the three pistols he normally carries, and all of his daggers. This makes the situation even less tenable than before. Not only has he been murdered and thrown into the boot of a car; now he's fairly sure that his would-be killer is not only a professional, but one accustomed to dealing with the supernatural. Searching a dead body is one thing; checking it for weapons is quite another, especially as Immortals do 'dead' as convincingly as any mortal corpse.

Methos hasn't been strangled in nearly a century - or, rather, he hadn't - and it's been nearly four thousand years since it was done so...neatly. Whoever it was had him down before he knew they were there, hardly an easy trick to play on a five thousand year old Immortal, and a garrote is not an amateur's weapon. Methos should know - he carries one himself, and has since the 1730's. It's a neat little curve of razor wire, kept in the collar of his coat, with handles so small that he slices his fingers to ribbons whenever he uses it - but it's saved his life on three occasions. The wire is sharp enough to cut through bone, if one is willing to expend a little effort.

He slides one hand up to check for it - stupid, not to have done so before - and a chill settles over him as he realises that it's gone. No one has ever found that particular back-up weapon before, and its absence now is another in a series of increasingly bad signs. There's no good way to get out of this situation, and the search of his body was dangerously thorough. The car will stop eventually, and the driver will come to retrieve his body - his very alive body - at which point Methos is fairly sure that things will get messy.

There's no way he can pretend death. He's going to have to fight his way out of this, and that's going to attract the attention of whoever hired the assassin in the first place. The only positive side to the whole thing is that he's going to get the chance to find out who that was before they find out that he's not dead.

The car comes to a stop. He does his best to prepare for a sudden exit from the boot, despite the cramped conditions, trying not to betray himself by any drastic movements. The engine shuts off, and he feels one of the doors open and shut. Just one, and he thanks every god he's ever even heard of for that, because a second man with a gun might have proven permanently fatal, especially if they were bright boys and could draw conclusions.

A few seconds later, the key is inserted into the lock. As the lid of the boot swings open, he launches himself outward, the stiffness in his muscles easily overcome by five thousand years of fire and determination and the desire to live. He collides with the assassin, hits the man square in the chest in the sort of tackle he's seen in American football games, and the two of them go sprawling backwards into dirt and sunlight.

Methos lands on top and takes advantage of that for all he's worth, digging in a knee and an elbow in the first millisecond, then brings his hands up to snap the man's neck. Except his arm is caught, twisted, and he barely manages to knot one hand in the assassin's collar.

The assassin shoves Methos off and over, landing on top of him. Methos' hand brushes the other man's back, feels the lump of a hidden gun. He slips it from the holster as they roll, thumbing the safety off as he brings it up and jams it hard into the man's chest. He realises that there's a matching pain in his own chest, and glances down to see a second pistol aimed directly at his heart.

Everything freezes, narrows down to the pain in his ribs, the air burning in his lungs, and the steel and oil sensation of the gun in his hand, his finger on the trigger. He can feel the man's heartbeat through the pistol's grip. The pale blue eyes staring down at him are as cold as Kronos' ever were, and Methos realises that he's got about half a second before they both squeeze the trigger and die together. He'll come back, of course, but probably not before someone comes along, and he needs to avoid any more exposure. Besides, it has just occurred to him that the entire thing could be a setup for the assassin rather than for himself. Methos does not like being used as a weapon.

"That's not going to work," he rasps, letting a little of what he really is show in his eyes; a hint of Death, a trace of the razor's edge in his voice. "And I can guarantee that I'll have enough time to pull this trigger."

"Silver bullets," the man says flatly. Both of them are still breathing hard.

"So what?" Methos asks, and lets that sink in for a brief second before he smiles, the curve of his lips that once frightened kings and princes into submission. The assassin doesn't even flinch. Instead, there is a cool calculation in those blue eyes that makes the blacker parts of Methos wonder what he could construct out of this darkling mortal. Wonder, and crave.

"What are you?" the man demands. He's fair-haired and slender, a New World aristocrat with an accent that's pure American heartland, region non-specific.

"None of your bloody business," Methos tells him precisely.

"You'd better-"

"Shut up," Methos says coldly, emphasizing his words with a jab of the pistol in his hand. "Pay attention. If you pull that trigger, I'll pull this one. We'll both die, and I am the only one who will come back. If I wanted you dead, you would be. Put your gun away."

"You first."

"Why? So that you can shoot me and try chopping up the corpse? It won't work," he lies, "and it will irritate me." He doesn't need to add that irritating him is a bad idea. "I assume you're a professional?" He doesn't wait for an answer, just keeps talking. "There is no reason for a professional killer to be sent after me, aside, of course, from what I am."

Realization sparks in the blue eyes, and Methos continues, "If your employers know what I am - which is another safe assumption to make - then they must have also known that your death was the most likely outcome of this scenario." He makes sure his eyes are locked on the mortal's, and lets the edge creep back into his voice. "I would like to explain personally to them why that was a bad idea."

"You're not the only one," the man mutters, and the danger in his eyes is a reflection of what Methos knows can be seen in his own.

"Adam Pierson," he says, and it's an offering of peace, and possibly of mutual war.

"Edward," the other man tells him, and pulls his gun out of Methos' ribcage.

Methos reciprocates, and Edward rolls off of him and to his feet in a smooth movement that is almost as impressive as a vampire's grace. He does not offer Methos a hand, but then again, Methos hadn't expected one. He gets to his feet.

"So," he says, dusting himself off. "Where are we?" Edward raises a pale eyebrow.

"About forty-five miles outside ."

Good. Methos wasn't out for long, then, despite the trauma to his neck, which takes longer to heal than anything else. He supposes he should be grateful that Edward didn't slit his throat.

"I don't suppose you've still got my weapons," he says, hoping that Edward hadn't ditched them before he woke up. He's had that sword since the twelfth century, and one of the daggers is nearly two thousand years old and has been in his possession since Claudius ruled in Rome.

"Of course," Edward tells him. "They're...interesting. And old." There are unspoken questions there, but Methos ignores them.

"Yes, they are."

"I particularly liked the garrote."

"I thought you might," Methos says sarcastically, rubbing at his throat.

"What are you?" Edward asks, locking eyes with him, serious and intent. "I won't have something at my back that I can't trust. Tell me, or I'll shoot you and leave you here, then go after my client alone."

"Someone," Methos corrects him acidly. "I'm human - I'm just Immortal."

"Like a vampire?"

"Hardly," Methos says, with a curl of his lip.

He's not fond of vampires, not even a little bit. Three thousand years ago, he and his brothers cut a swath through the undead world that rivaled their rampage through the human one, and the vampires, at least, have not reduced the Horsemen to myth. Vampires have longer memories, after all, and most of them are well aware that Death was once a living man, one they could not kill, and who hunted them down with merciless abandon. He has heard rumors that they have given his old name to an assassin who kills them as efficiently as he once did, and there is a part of him that enjoys knowing that they still fear him. That if he were to reveal himself, there's not a vampire alive who wouldn't run - or die.

Methos waves one hand at the sunlight drenching the roadside. "For one thing, there's no pesky sun allergy to worry about. For another, I'm Immortal on my own. I don't drink blood, or devour the flesh of virgins." A flash of humor in those cold eyes, and Methos smirks to himself. "I heal very fast and, as you've seen, being killed doesn't stick."

"You carry an awful lot of weapons for a man who can't die permanently," Edward says.

"Oh, I can," Methos tells him lightly. "But only by another Immortal, and then only if he takes my head." He's hardly about to tell Edward that he can be killed by anyone with a gun and a sword. The man is definitely the sort to get ideas.

*****

Author's Notes: This is more of a fusion than a crossover; basically, I've taken the liberty of inserting Immortals into the Anita Blake-verse. Unlike vampires, etc., however, Immortals are not something that the general public is aware of. As far as the Highlander timeline goes, this is set a few months after 'Revelations 6:8'. Methos has taken a job at the St. Louis University, teaching history. As far as the Anita-verse is concerned, this is set about three months after Guilty Pleasures.

Unbeta'd, so please forgive (and feel free to point out) any mistakes. As always, feedback is love.