DISCLAIMER - Highlander and its characters is the copyright of Rysher and Panzer/Davis Productions and no infringement is intended. The story, such as it is, is copyright Karen Colohan May 1999.

With thanks to Margaret for reading and commenting.

AND THE WINNER IS...

He really didn't want to be here, Methos reflected. The shadows of this second-rate Camelot, engendered by too little light, threatened to rise up and swallow him whole. Methos suppressed a shudder that had very little to do with the chill, damp air of the old submarine base.

He was aware that he was very probably being watched. Kronos' trust was such a fragile, fickle thing - nothing new there - and any signs of weakness would not be appreciated. Methos could still hear the disdain in Kronos' voice as he'd accused him of going soft. The deadly nature of the game he was playing was readily apparent to Methos. He was caught between the opposing sides - and neither one of them really trusted him. Not that it was so surprising; both knew he had yet to show his hand... and therein lay his real dilemma.

Methos took a moment to consider his options once again. He had lost count of the number of times he'd gone over this same ground since he had revived to find Kronos looming over him, a heavy length of chain clutched threateningly in his hands. Not surprisingly, Methos always came back to the same conclusion, but it never hurt to review all the possibilities of a situation just one more time. He was the master strategist, after all.

The plain truth was that Death wasn't who or what Methos was any more and hadn't been for a very long time. Yet there was still a part of him - deeply buried perhaps, but there, nonetheless - which relished the simplicity of the old ways. And Kronos had seen it in him, encouraged it to surface... You want. You take. Simple... No need for thought or debate, no wrestling with your conscience or worrying about such inconveniences as honour or rules...

Ah yes, Methos thought ruefully, he had managed quite well without such troublesome notions for a very long time - until a damned Immortal Boy Scout had rediscovered his conscience and imposed his own code of ethics on the oldest Immortal.

Were it not for Duncan MacLeod he probably would not be caught on this knife-edge now, Methos finally admitted to himself. If he had only had his own fate to worry about it would have been all too easy to let himself be drawn into Kronos' madness once again. There had always been a certain comfort in its predictability, its inevitability. It was, Methos thought, probably why he had stayed so long before.

It had always been so much easier to defer to Kronos and retain the protection of the Horsemen - long after the killing and the destruction, the illusory power, had ceased holding any appeal for Methos - than to fight his own way to survival. And that was what it had always been about - Methos' survival. There had been a certain safety to be had in numbers and so the Four Horsemen had continued to ride then... would ride again now.
Blood oath Methos would go with the winner. That was as true now as it had been before. He was nothing if not a pragmatist, and at the moment the deck was stacked heavily in Kronos' favour. So, for the time being at least, Methos would step into his old place at Kronos' right hand.

Yet nothing was as straightforward as it had once been. Much as Methos might like to deny it MacLeod had left his mark on the other Immortal. And he was still out there, drawn to Bordeaux by Methos himself. Did MacLeod offer a viable alternative to Kronos and his insanity? Methos wasn't ready to let himself hope it might be so, but he was determined that Mac would stay alive. It didn't matter what he thought of Methos now, MacLeod was still too important to lose.

Methos had already taken foolish risks to ensure MacLeod's survival; risks which Mac in his judgemental dismissal of Methos' friendship would never appreciate. All the bridges between the Highlander and the oldest Immortal had been irretrievably burned, it seemed.

Ruthlessly, Methos crushed his regrets. They would only make him sloppy, get him killed. Kronos had already anticipated his actions where MacLeod was concerned once. He couldn't afford to slip up like that again. Thus far Kronos had seemed to find his sentimental attachment to MacLeod's friendship amusing, but for how long? If he believed Methos was allying himself with him...

Full circle, he was back once again to that same, inescapable conclusion. MacLeod was a weakness Methos could no longer afford. Yeah, Mac was on his own from now on...

**********

"Elysium church. Thirty minutes. Come alone." Methos pressed the button on his cellphone to end the call. He was outwardly calm, but inside his thoughts were in turmoil. What the hell was he thinking? He was a fool - very probably a dead fool once Kronos found out what he had done - but whatever else he was now, he wasn't Death any more. Methos had lost that simplicity forever. He had moved on while the other Horsemen remained frozen in time, locked in a past that no longer existed.

Oh, he was still going with the winner, Methos told himself fiercely. That would never change. He was merely going to load the dice a little. This time Methos was going to ensure that the winner would be Duncan MacLeod.

THE END

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