Disclaimer: Methos belongs to Panzer/Davis, not me. Marie and the others are my creation. If were making any money from this, I'd gladly share it with all the folks who have been reading.
The shores of Loch Lommand
"I hate Scotland," Marie said stoutly. "It's cold and dank and miserable. Let's go back to Constantinople."
Methos slid from the back of his horse and grinned up at her. The woman certainly had a taste for the finer things in life.
"Look at this view," he said, gesturing to the loch and rolling hills. "How can you say this is miserable?"
Marie dropped to the ground and tossed him her reins, glancing at the wealth of natural beauty and waving a dismissing hand. "It's lovely. But doesn't the sun ever shine on this accursed island?"
He chuckled. "Not until the Summer solstice, at least. Come on then, I'll start a fire and we'll get you all warmed up."
His mortal companion smiled at him, knowing fully that his previous sentence had been wrought with double entendre. "I'll just go down to the lake and see if I can wash off some of this grime," she said.
"Loch," Methos corrected.
She flung a "whatever" over her shoulder at him on her way down to the shore and he found himself smiling again as he watched her skirts sway through the tall winter grass. The year was 1042 and Marie had left her father's home in France to travel with him. Life was good.
"There's a village down the shore," she said upon her return. "Maybe they have an inn and we can sleep in a real bed."
"They won't have an inn," he answered, gesturing to the pile of cloaks and fur-lined coverlets that he had arranged near the fire. "And what's wrong with this?"
"It's March. I'm freezing. Last night we woke up with snow on the covers."
"But you were plenty warm," he smiled again.
"I'd be warmer in an inn," she grumbled good naturedly, sinking into his lap.
"I'm sure you would. But these people are farmers and warriors. The closest inn is most likely back in Glasgow."
Marie pushed out her lower lip in a pout that she knew he couldn't resist, but the man she knew only as John Dorset merely smiled yet again and planted a kiss on her nose.
"The fresh air is good for you," he said. "And, I've a rabbit on the spit, would you watch it while I go clean up?"
Marie sighed and nodded.
He found his way down to the shore in the growing dark, whistling an ancient Irish walking song and watching the firelight from the village play across the water. The winds were light and unseasonably warm for the Highlands and it was only another day's travel to the home of his old friend Fitzroy Buchanon. Then Marie could have her real bed to sleep in.
She was tougher than she looked, he knew that. He also knew that she was an expert at manipulating him into doing what she wanted. Some of that was genuine craftiness, most was his own doing. If there was one thing he had learned about women in his four thousand some odd years, it was that they were all different. Some were fun to match wits with in verbal power struggles. Some were in need of a man who would direct them kindly. Marie liked to think that she was running the show.
Her voice brought Methos out of his reverie with a start.
"John! Come quickly!"
The genuine alarm in her tone brought him back to their small camp at nearly top speed. She was sitting on the ground, wrapped in a blanket and grinning up at him nervously. If he hadn't been able to see the collar of her cloak at her throat, Methos would have thought this was another round of her favorite sexual game.
"I think we should go to that village," she said.
Methos rolled his eyes. "Why now?"
"Because of this," Marie drew back the blanket to reveal the small pink head of an infant peeking out from her cloak.
"For the love of God, where did you get *that*?" He asked, rather crossly.
Marie screwed her delicate face into a scowl and narrowed her eyes. "The fairies left her. Where do you think? I was relieving myself in the bushes and saw a large dog sniffing around, then I heard the baby cry. She must belong to one of the villagers. We have to take her back."
Not tonight, they didn't. That baby was abandoned in the woods in late winter for a reason, Methos thought. And the nearby clan would not take kindly to their returning it in the middle of the night. He sank down next to
Marie, clutching his head and praying that she would not suddenly feel the urge to play mother. Maybe they could take the baby to Fitzroy and his wife Ellen.
Maybe they should just leave the child where they had found it and trust the gods to come up with an appropriate fate. Or was he that fate? Had the gods dumped this child into his lap for him to raise? Or was he supposed to pass it on to someone else and forget about it? Certainly the idea of fatherhood hadn't been on the agenda when he and Marie left Bordeaux. Not his agenda, anyway.
As if she knew she was the topic of Methos' inner dialog and found offense in his last thought, the infant chose that very instant to set up a squalling that put his teeth on edge. Marie, who despite Methos' fears, lacked even an ounce of maternal instinct or desire, did what any daughter of a French Nobleman would do and handed him the child rather matter of factly.
And that's when his life became even more complicated. Methos' mouth filled with the slightly metallic taste that always came with the fragile buzz of a pre-immortal and he groaned loudly. This was no abandoned baby from the village.
"Don't hold her like a sack of potatoes, you oaf," Marie admonished.
"And I suppose you think I should nurse her instead?"
Marie made no response and Methos examined the child at arm's length for a moment, then sighed and tucked her into the crook of his elbow, surprised at the sudden silence. Maybe it was due to some kind of racial recognition or, perhaps the small person in his arms that might one day grow up to be the immortal foe who took his head just liked him. He had been told by many women that he had a way with babies. It was, at times, remotely embarrassing.
"She likes you," Marie smiled. "What shall we call her?"
"*We* won't call her anything," he said flatly. "Tomorrow, once it's light, we'll drop her back in the village and be on our merry way."
There was no way he had the time or inclination to raise a pre-immortal child. Hopefully someone in that village did.
He spent an uneasy night with Marie curled on his left shoulder and the baby tucked into a pile of covers near his right hip. Both women were sleeping soundly and making rather adorable noises in the process, but Methos was too distracted to notice. Where had this child come from? Surely she hadn't just fallen out of the sky. In all his time on the planet, he had never figured out that particular part of immortality and it was a thorn in his side. No, that was the baby's foot...and she was fussing. Damn.
He slid out from under Marie carefully and lifted the swaddled bundle, tucking it inside his cloak and pacing quietly down toward the shore so as not to wake his companion. Methos planted himself on a rock and rested the child on his knees, smiling down at her despite himself. Babies were undeniably cute, regardless of their origins. He bent close to examine the child's tiny toes and was rewarded by five small fingers gripping his nose rather tightly.
It wasn't that he had never been in the role of Father before. Nera, his twentieth--no...twenty second--wife had had three children by her previous husband and Methos had enjoyed being part of their upbringing immensely. There was something to be said for small arms wrapped around your neck and kisses on your cheek that smelled of wildflowers and river water. It was satisfying and, in fact, rewarding to help a child find its way in life. He had spent many a long day laying in the tall grass making pictures in the clouds with the children and spinning what they thought were wild tales which were, in fact, stories from his past with some embellishment here and there.
But those three had been mortal children. Ara, the eldest--a daughter-- had grown up to marry the village healer. And Martes, the middle child, had used his keen mind to apprentice himself to a traveling bard. Enjo, the baby, had wanted to be a soldier and called Methos Papa. He had been too young to remember when his real father had died at war. They were all long dead and buried by now. And he felt a pang of regret that he had never checked in on them in their adulthood, despite the fact that it would have been impossible to arrive at their houses looking identical to the day they had last seen him.
This child, this girl with a good head of what looked like it might turn out to be blonde hair and already startling moss green eyes, would only age to a certain point. Then, one day, she would die and quite unexpectedly wake up again. Then what? Would she find someone to train her in the ways of the Game? Or would someone find her and take her head before she had the chance to learn to use a sword?
He could do it. He could take this child and raise her as his own. Groom her for the day of her death and then set about making sure that she had the skills to survive the centuries. There would be small arms wrapped around his neck and wet kisses on his cheeks. She could be a new ear for the old stories. And, after her immortality had been manifested, she could be a companion. Or an enemy. A cold shiver ran down his spine. What if he raised this girl and she betrayed him? Or worse, what if she remained loyal and someone killed her?
His demeanor must have changed enough for the infant to notice at that last series of thoughts, because she quit her happy babbling and began to cry with the amazingly loud screams that only tiny lungs could produce. Methos looked around nervously, hoping the noise would not wake Marie, and got to his feet, bouncing the child against his shoulder and walking in a small circle around the stone until she quieted again. He rounded the rock twice more, to make certain she was done, then sat back down with a sigh.
The child blinked up at him and cooed happily when he tickled her chin with his index finger. Babies were undeniably cute....
No. He couldn't make that kind of commitment. It wouldn't be fair to the child. What if some immortal killed her as a means to get to him when she was a mere girl? She would be forever trapped in a child's body in a Game where her sex already hindered her greatly. Methos eyed the eastern sky. It was nearly dawn, if he started out on foot now, he would just make it to the village as the sun crested the hills.
"Come on little one," he said. "Time to find you a mummy."
The village boys were leading the sheep from their pens as Methos arrived at the edge of the small hamlet. They eyed him suspiciously and sent the smallest running for the Chieftain. Moments later, close to thirty Scots were gathered around him, speaking quickly in a dialect of Gaelic that he only half understood.
A burly bulk of a man made his way through the crowd, wearing a silver torque around his neck and carrying a battle axe that could all to easily separate Methos' head from its accustomed resting place. The Chieftain's clansmen parted before him in a fluid wave and the young man came to stand face to face with the stranger in his village.
They exchanged a few brief words in Gaelic, misunderstanding each other greatly, until another man made his way to the front of the crowd and asked Methos if he spoke Latin.
"Quite well, yes," he answered.
"I'm Gregory, the Vicar," the young man said with a smile. "I'll translate for you...before Angus here thinks you're trying to steal his cows."
Methos smiled. "Quite the contrary, actually."
He allowed himself to be lead into a stone and thatch hut that was large by the standards of the village but still smaller than many of the stalls Methos had seen while a General in the Roman Cavalry. Gregory offered some cheese, which Methos declined, and pointed to a low chair near the hearth.
The chieftain eyed him suspiciously, but took his own seat and settled the axe across his knees.
Methos took a moment to compose his lie, then launched into a story so heart wrenching it nearly brought tears to the Celt's eyes as Gregory related it. It seems his wife had died in childbirth on the road from Glasgow to Fife and left their daughter in desperate need of a wet-nurse. He had very urgent business in Fife, and would look for a surrogate there, but could someone in the village please do him the kindness of taking care of his little girl in the meanwhile? He would pay, of course. The child was healthy and strong, if not a little hungry.
Methos thought all was lost as the Chieftain rose and disappeared behind a curtain without so much as a grunt, but Gregory smiled reassuringly and related a tale of his own. The Chieftain's wife, Mary, had just lost a daughter to the birthing process two days prior and was heartbroken and despondent. True, they had five strong sons to continue the clan name, but both were longing for a daughter to spoil. Methos smiled inwardly. It seems the gods had plans for this child after all. And he had played his role. They would soon forget all about the mysterious stranger as the girl grew and prospered in his absence.
Moments later the Chieftain poked his head out from behind the curtain and motioned for Methos to join him. The immortal shifted the baby in his arms and ducked behind the cloth, only to smack his forehead on a low beam. A soft chuckle sounded from the bed and when his eyes adjusted to the murky darkness he saw a pale, but lovely, woman lying on a straw mattress.
"Leave us, Angus," She said quiet clearly.
The Chieftain protested at the very thought, but acquiesced to his wife's order.
Methos chuckled himself and knelt by the head of the bed. Women were the same, regardless of the culture.
"John Dorset," he smiled, then laughed as the baby gripped his nose again.
To Part 2: Long Lost
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