The thing Liam noticed about this part of the city was the feeling of apathy. It was like the fight had gone from the air itself. The warehouses and buildings here were deserted and in varying stages of decay. Business had never been good here, and the 'benefits' the Taelons had brought had been the final blow for the area; it simply wasn't needed any more. Consequently the area had become the perfect place to have out of the way, clandestine meetings. The Resistance used the buildings on occasions; on occasions so did other people.
There wasn't actually any meeting for Liam to be attending that day. He'd decided to take a walk and the feel of the place matched his mood. He'd been drawn to the warehouses and he'd spent the day ambling aimlessly from one abandoned building to the other.
Liam stopped outside one of the nameless buildings when an unusual sound caught his attention. It sounded like metal striking metal. He turned towards the sound and as he approached the building he heard what sounded like a fight. His first instinct was to rush in, but caution prevailed. Instead he climbed the old rickety fire escape and looked into the warehouse from a first floor window. The window was cracked and he could hear everything going on as well as see it. Simply put, though, he couldn't believe what he was seeing.
Two men circled each other with swords in their hands - not fencing swords, either; these were real and from the skill displayed by these men they knew how to use them to lethal effect. One of the men had blond hair tied back in a ponytail, the other was of a slightly smaller build and had dark hair. The blond spoke.
"You ruined everything! Why couldn't you just stay out of it?"
"Travis, I've been staying out of things longer than you've been alive, but you were using mortals as distractions to those you fought in the Game. I will not let you use any more as cannon fodder just to make your fights easier. Shut up and fight. Take my head and you can leave - no other way."
Then the fight began in earnest. Liam watched from above in awe. It was fast and furious; he saw each man take blows which should have maimed or at least seriously injured, but the blond was obviously no match for the other man. He knocked the sword out of Travis' hands and in one continuous move he swung his sword and decapitated the other man.
The first thing Liam noticed was the lack of blood. Then he heard the other man say, "There can be only one!"
Then all hell broke loose. Liam had no idea what all the lightning signified, but he watched as windows, including the one he was looking through, exploded inwards and as the great rush of electrical power and energy seemed to concentrate in on the man in the warehouse. It seemed to Liam as he saw the man drop to his knees that he had absorbed it into himself.
The man looked exhausted and Liam knew he should just have turned and left. Instead he went down to the door and entered the ground floor of the warehouse and approached the man.
The other man looked up as he heard him approaching.
"Hello. I saw you up there. I was half hoping you'd just leave and decide some things were better off not known. I should have known my luck this week would continue to hold. Explanations later, I'd rather not wait for any curious passers by to report strange noises and explosions to the police. I need a drink and if you want an explanation, you'll have to wait till then."
Liam, feeling deep in his soul that this was one story he wanted to hear, said that he'd go with the man. He did ask one question, though. "What's your name?"
The man paused and seemed to consider the question. Then he said, "In for a penny, in for a pound. Methos, kid, my name is Methos."
Liam and Methos had left the warehouse district before Liam had asked where they were going for that drink. He left unsaid 'and explanation', but Methos got the message all the same. He gave Liam an appraising look and said, "What I have to say is not really for anyone else to hear. I shouldn't really be telling you, but for some reason I think you need to hear it almost as much as I need to talk to someone unrelated to it all. I'm just passing through and my hotel is not the place I want to discuss this. Any suggestions?"
Liam didn't hesitate.
"My apartment isn't far from here and I can assure you it is secure from all forms of surveillance."
Methos agreed, but it was clear he was wondering why the other man had a 'secure' apartment - obviously he wasn't the only one with secrets.
The walk through the city was carried out in a surprisingly companionable silence, considering the two of them had only met that day. They seemed to recognise in the other a shared loneliness, like they were in the world but still separate from it.
Methos eventually broke the silence, saying, "I know your face from somewhere, Liam. Who are you?"
When Liam identified himself as a Companion agent, Methos nearly stopped this whole fiasco before he went any further. The Taelons weren't to be trusted, every fibre in his body screamed that fact. Somehow, though, those same instincts were telling him that Liam could be trusted to keep his secret.
Not long after they reached Liam's apartment. Liam provided the drinks and then they sat there staring at each other across a countertop.
"Well," said Liam.
Methos gave a resigned sigh and said, "Where to begin?
"First off, if we are going to be friends - and for some reason I think we are - you don't call me Methos in the 'real' world. There my name is Adam Pierson."
Liam gave a start and Methos grinned. "Why do I get the feeling I'm not the only person in the room with more than one identity? Fair is fair, kid. I tell you my secret, you tell me yours. Deal?"
Liam said, "I'll think about it."
"Fair enough. Where was I? Oh yeah, my name. Methos is my real name, but to my kind it is two things. To some it's a legend, to others it paints a target on my back. Do you have any idea what it's like to be unable to use your own name because it's too dangerous?
"I'm an Immortal, Liam. I'm over five thousand years old."
Methos was unsurprised by Liam's reaction: shock, disbelief and amazement flashed across his face. What surprised him was how quickly the other man accepted it. No exclamations about it being impossible. This kid had an interesting story, he was sure of it.
"We've always been among the mortals on this planet. We've walked through history witnessing all mankind's triumphs and follies.
"We are all foundlings; where we come from we don't know. We grow up amongst mortals and we cannot have children. Our first death is usually violent. Unlike everybody else, though, we wake up again. The only way an Immortal can truly die is by decapitation, as you witnessed earlier today.
"We all know one truth: there can only be one. We have fought each other across millennia. When one of us takes the head of another, we 'inherit' all their power and knowledge. We fight for the 'Prize'; one of us will be left in the end and that person will have all the power of every Immortal who ever lived. It's a power beyond anyone's ability to imagine.
"We do have some laws that we don't break. We never fight on holy ground. Ever. We do interact with mortals, live with and marry them. Those mortals we trust and tell our secrets to eventually die. I've lost count of the friends and lovers I've watched grow old and die.
"I'm the oldest living Immortal. Most believe I'm a myth and I prefer to keep it that way."
Nothing was said for a while. Liam was lost in thought. The history this man must have witnessed was overwhelming; how did he survive it?
Methos was lost in thought too. It had been a while since he had a mortal friend to talk to. The Watchers didn't really count. Here was a mortal that had no preconceived knowledge about Immortals and Methos was surprised to find how much he wanted the young man's acceptance.
Liam eventually looked at him and smiled. Methos felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. In fact, he was so distracted he almost missed the first hushed words Liam said.
"I do understand how it feels not to be able to use your real identity because all it would do would be to paint a target on your back.
"My name is Liam - not Liam Kincaid, though.
"Two of my parents are Companion agents. The third was the last surviving member of a race called the Kimera. He was killed before I was born.
"I'm a little over a year old. I matured into the man you see before you in less than a day. I work for the Taelons, but I've been a member of the Resistance since the day I was born. Nobody knows what I'm capable of, least of all me.
"All I do know is two of my parents are dead. The third doesn't know I'm alive, but he has tried to kill me before on orders from Zo'or, simply because Zo'o doesn't like me or trust me.
"My alien heritage means I hold all the knowledge of my parents. Some of the Resistance members that know about my heritage don't really trust that my loyalties lie with the human race. If I'm as long lived as my alien father, I'll quite possibly out-live you. I'm the only one of my kind, there can never be another, and it is quite possible that the only hope for survival for humanity lies somewhere in the knowledge I carry around in my head, knowledge I cannot access."
Liam looked directly at Methos when he made that last statement and it occurred to Methos that not even looking at himself in a mirror had he ever seen eyes that showed a soul that old and weary. This child had had to face far too much alone.
He looked at Liam and held out his hand. "Friends?"
Liam took a deep breath, smiled, put his hand in the other man's and said, "Friends."
"Sure, kid, come on over."
Methos closed off his vid screen with a sigh. Liam looked like death. What had happened now?
In the weeks since they had met, a bond had grown between them. Liam had needed a counselor and a friend. Da'an had screwed the kid up royally - the closest thing to a mentor the kid had and he had betrayed that trust so badly that Methos wanted to knock some sense into him. The kid had needed someone without a hidden agenda to confide in. The Resistance was no help at all; they manipulated him as badly as the Taelons did.
Methos freely admitted he had needed this friendship too. For the first time in a long time he had been able to trust someone enough to relax his barriers. He was beginning to enjoy life for the first time in a long, long while and it was all due to Liam. It was impossible not to get caught up in the kid's unique outlook on life; it made Methos look at everything around him as though seeing it for the first time. For the first time in thousands of years he looked forward to each new day with joy.
Later that evening Liam was sitting slumped on his sofa and he'd had little success in prying the problem out of him. Liam looked near to tears and it hurt the Immortal to see his young friend in such pain. As gently as he knew how, he said, "Tell me, Liam."
Liam wouldn't look him in the eye; he sat there gazing at his fingers as he wrung his hands together. He started to talk, never noticing the single tear that ran down his cheek.
"He tried to kill me again. I know it was on Zo'or's orders, but it still hurts so much. I know it doesn't make any sense. I know he doesn't know who I am. I just can't help hoping that one time he'll refuse the order, or that he'll act to warn me first. He never does, though. Why?
"Why do I even care? Everybody says he's evil, says he's a lost cause. I should give up on him, accept that he'll never change, never accept me for who I am. So why is it I can't? Against all logic I hope. Why?!"
Methos sat beside him on the sofa, placed a comforting hand on his shoulder and said quietly, "Because he's your father and you love him. There's nothing wrong with that."
Liam started to sob then, and Methos simply held him till the emotion passed. Liam relaxed back with his head on Methos' shoulder and sat there and listened while his friend began to talk.
"I have a confession to make myself. I hope it doesn't alter the way you feel about our friendship, but after what you just told me I think you might benefit from hearing it.
"I wasn't always the kind, wise counselor, you know."
He smiled when he heard the chuckle coming from the younger man. Good; his spirits were starting to lighten.
"I've lived a very long life, Liam, and I've witnessed a lot of the worst thing the human race has done to itself. I've told you that before. What I didn't tell you was for a while a lot of that carnage I caused myself."
He paused as he felt Liam twitch in surprise, but then he continued his story.
"The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I'm sure you've heard the myths. You have to remember though that all myths somewhere, somehow, have a basis in fact. I was one of them. There were four of us, four Immortals that viewed humanity as nothing better than fodder for our whims. We fought, we slaughtered, we enslaved, we were death incarnate. The things I did haunt my worst nightmares and always will.
"I'm not trying to tell this story to shock you, I'm telling you it to prove a point. I changed. I changed dramatically. I can never atone for the things I did - they're unforgivable. I'll never ever do them again.
"Now I fight evil, I admit not always with a pure spirit myself, but what I'm trying to say is that I turned from that path. So can your father.
"Trust your instincts, kid. You've got the kindest heart I've ever seen. If your instincts tell you there's hope, then don't abandon it. Fight to preserve it."
Methos looked down into Liam's eyes and was relieved to see compassion and understanding as well as shock. Liam nodded his head and then curled down on to the sofa, resting his head on one of the arms. Methos got up to pour another drink and by the time he came back, Liam had fallen into an exhausted sleep.
Smiling, Methos fetched a blanket and placed it over the sleeping man before settling into a chair to keep watch on him.
"Sleep well, kid."
About a month later Methos was on an unavoidable trip to deal with a 'problem' Immortal that the aging Joe Dawson had told him about. His computer beeped to indicate that he had a message and he opened it up to find a message from Liam.
Liam was smiling happily and Methos smiled to see it. Curious, he played the message.
"I just had to tell you! He saved my life today! We were caught in an ambush by some anti-Taelon extremists. We got the girl that they'd kidnapped out safely - she's the daughter of one of the human scientists that works with the Taelons. We missed one in our round-up and he was aiming at me as we were getting ready to board the shuttle. Sandoval saw and pushed me out of the line of fire, getting injured in the process. We got the nutcase and Sandoval's going to make a full recovery. I still can't get over the fact that he saved me.
"You were right, there's always hope.
"Be well, Methos. Don't lose your head. Contact me when you get home."