DISCLAIMER - Highlander and its characters is the copyright of Rysher and Panzer/Davis Productions and no infringement is intended. I don't know who owns Medics and Alex Taylor, but they don't seem to be doing anything with them at the moment, so... The story, such as it is, is copyright Karen Colohan February 2001.
NOTES - This story is a crossover between Highlander and Medics, a series from 1990/91 in which Peter Wingfield played Alex Taylor, a medical student who makes something of an error of judgement right before he's due to take his finals. He then runs away and ends up working on a building site. I couldn't help wondering what might have happened if he'd met a certain Watcher/researcher during that period of time and how that might have influenced his subsequent decision to resume his medical studies...
by Karen Colohan
London, summer 1991
The pub was busy with the lunch-time crowd in - an unlikely mixture of office workers in pristine suits and labourers from the nearby building site in dusty overalls. No one seemed to take much notice of the sign forbidding hard hats and work clothes - the extra business was too welcome.
Negotiating the crush at the bar to get served required persistence and a certain amount of nifty footwork. It was almost inevitable that the occasional collision would occur.
"Oh, I'm sorry..."
Two voices rose in simultaneous apology as the young man turning away from the bar, drink in hand, bumped into another who was trying to move towards it through the press of bodies. As the two men got a good look at one another, each did a double-take. Apart from their clothing - one was clad in jeans, sweatshirt and a long, lightweight coat while the other was in overalls and clutching a hard hat - they could have been mirror images.
"My God!" muttered the man in labourer's garb, looking his counterpart up and down in frank astonishment.
"Well, hardly," observed the other with a disarming grin, "but still, it is uncanny..." He laughed, a pleasant sound. "It's certainly something you don't see every day - except in a mirror. Adam Pierson," he added, offering his hand.
"Alex Taylor," the other replied, grasping the outstretched hand and shaking it.
"Can I buy you a drink?" asked Adam. "It seems the least I can do after trying to knock you over. Besides, how often am I going to run into someone who looks as if he could be my long-lost brother?"
"Well..." Alex looked uncertain.
"Go on, live dangerously," Adam urged with a smile, though a less threatening-looking individual than the floppy-haired, hazel-eyed young man was hard to imagine. "At any rate, we should probably get out of the way before we get trampled underfoot."
It was true that the crush at the bar seemed to be getting worse, and Alex had been intending to get himself a drink. Where was the harm in it? And the other man's physical likeness to him was intriguing to say the least. He nodded.
"OK, thanks - guess I still have some time on my lunch break."
"You work around here?" Adam asked as he turned back to the bar.
"Yeah, the site across the street. Just doing a bit of labouring to fill in time," Alex answered.
Eventually Adam managed to attract the barmaid's attention again and bought another beer. He handed it to Alex and they carefully negotiated their way through the throng to a quieter corner of the pub. They found a recently vacated table and sat down, pushing the empty glasses out of their way. Each of them covertly studied the other as they sipped their beers.
"Forgive me for saying so, but you don't really look as if you'd have made labouring on a building site your first career choice," ventured Adam, to break the slightly uncomfortable silence between them. "You taking a year out after uni or something?"
Alex shook his head. "No, I didn't," he said shortly. His expression immediately became more guarded.
"Oh?" prompted Adam casually.
"It's a long story - very messy - you really don't want to hear it," sighed Alex. He suddenly seemed to find his beer utterly fascinating, avoiding Adam's questioning gaze.
Adam was well aware it was none of his business - he'd only just met Alex after all - but, all the same, he found himself wanting to know what the other man's story was. Maybe it was the unmistakable tinge of regret he could hear in Alex's voice that prompted his curiosity. After all, Adam Pierson aka Methos, the world's oldest Immortal, was intimately acquainted with the consequences of living with one's regrets. He knew how they could eat away at your soul if you locked them up and let them fester. Then again, perhaps it was simply the novelty of seeing this stranger wearing his face that piqued his interest. Either way, Adam found he wanted to keep Alex talking.
"I'm a good listener..." he offered at last.
Looking up, Alex measured the sincerity of his companion's offer. Evidently, what he saw in Adam's face reassured him because he gave a resigned shrug, muttering, "If you're sure."
"I'm sure," agreed Adam with a faint smile. "So, what was the first career choice?"
"Medicine," said Alex softly, and now the tones of regret were even more apparent. "I never wanted to do anything else. And I was good at it."
Adam frowned. "What went wrong then? Trouble with exams...?"
"You could say that." Alex snorted derisively. "I didn't turn up for my finals. All that work, the effort I'd put in... I threw it all away because of one moment of weakness. I couldn't handle it, so I packed up and left - and here I am."
"But why? What do you mean - 'one moment of weakness'?" Adam was genuinely curious.
"Right before my exams I made a spectacularly bad error of judgement - just about as bad as it gets." Alex looked down into his glass, as if seeking answers in the amber liquid.
"And now you regret it?" Adam prompted.
"The mistake I made? Or leaving?" Alex's voice was tinged with bitterness.
"Well, it sounds to me as if you have regrets about both," observed Adam.
"Yeah, I guess I do," admitted Alex sadly.
"Did you ever think about going back?" Adam asked. It was clear to him that the other man was just marking time, drifting without any real sense of direction. It seemed a damn shame - mortal lives were all too short as it was, without wasting the best years of them. "Couldn't you resit your finals?"
"It's not that simple." Alex shook his head with a sigh. "What I did..."
"Did someone die because of your mistake?" Adam hazarded. From his own experience with the medical profession he could see how that might have destroyed the young man's confidence in his abilities, but Alex was shaking his head again.
"Oh no, it was nothing like that," he assured Adam. "What I did was morally wrong."
"Ah, ethics..." Adam sat back in his chair, a wry smile on his face. Yes, he knew all about doing things which ran counter to accepted moral standards.
"Yes, exactly," said Alex, eyeing the other man carefully. "What I did violated the Hippocratic Oath. I didn't deserve to be a doctor after that."
"You judge yourself very harshly, it seems to me," Adam said softly. He caught and held the other man's gaze. "What did you do? What was so terrible that you ran away from it and haven't stopped running yet?"
"I slept with a patient." There was a startling depth of self-loathing in the bald statement of fact.
Adam's eyebrows raised. Well, that certainly hadn't been what he'd expected. And clearly there was more to it than that - Alex's voice gave that away. He didn't want to push too hard - it wasn't as if he had the right - but he hoped Alex would tell him the rest of it. If ever there was an ideal candidate for a crash course in the Methosian art of putting the past behind you and getting on with life, Alex was it. He seemed to be doing a great job of running away and not dealing with what had happened - which was OK, if you had the potential to live forever, but wasn't so good if you only had a mortal span of years. Adam found he didn't like the idea of this particular young man wasting his life. So...
"And?" he prompted gently.
"And nothing." Alex shrugged, but his casual attitude was too studied to fool Adam. "If I did it once I could easily be tempted again. It was better for everyone that I left."
"For everyone but you," Adam reminded him.
"I don't get a vote on this one," insisted Alex.
"Tell me what actually happened," said Adam encouragingly. There had to be more to it than that.
"You really want all the sordid details?" Alex's distaste was evident.
"Indulge me...?" Adam contrived his most winsome smile, drawing an exasperated sigh from the other man. "So, she was your patient? I thought you said you hadn't taken your finals."
Alex sighed again, this time in resignation. "I was sitting in on her sessions - she was seeing a psychiatrist, had all kinds of problems. For some reason she latched onto me, called me at home in a real state. I knew she'd tried to commit suicide once... I was worried, so I went to her place. She'd been drinking - she said her husband had been there and had hurt her... She practically launched herself at me... Christ! Why am I telling you all this?"
"Because you need to talk to someone about it - and I happen to be here and willing to listen," said Adam softly. "Go on..."
Alex nodded, albeit unwillingly. "At the time I thought I'd be doing her more harm if I refused her advances. From what I knew her husband had hit her; she already felt worthless. If I rejected her... Well, whatever the rights and wrongs after the fact, I did sleep with her. Of course, the whole thing was stupid on my part, crazy - and I was wrong. I wasn't helping; I was using her, just like all the others before me. I should have been strong enough to say no."
"It's easy to blame yourself with the benefit of hindsight," said Adam sternly. "But 'if onlys' will just drive you mad. You have to learn from the experience and then let it go - move on."
"That's easy enough for you to say," muttered Alex bitterly.
"No, not really." Adam shook his head. "It's not something that ever gets any easier, but you do learn to cope with it better - over time."
"Listen to you!" Alex protested. "You're hardly older than I am and here you are giving me the benefit of your extensive experience."
"I'm older than I look," replied Adam dryly. If only the kid knew...
"Right," said Alex sceptically.
"... you're a doctor," Alex interrupted him sarcastically. "Yeah, I've heard that one before. I might even have thought it was funny - once."
"Actually, I am a doctor - well, I was..." admitted Adam in a moment of candour. "Though my skills could probably use a little updating now."
"You must have drunk more than I thought," snorted Alex derisively. "You're crazy - you're too young to have been out of the profession long enough to get rusty. You barely look old enough to have qualified."
"I told you, I'm older than I look," insisted Adam. He could sense the other man pulling back into himself, withdrawing from the tentative rapport they'd begun to build. He cursed his own ineptitude.
"Yeah, I heard you when you said it the first time," agreed Alex. "Look, thanks for the drink and everything. I don't usually dump all my problems on someone the first time I meet them. Then again, it's not every day you get to meet your doppelganger."
It was clearly intended to put an end to the conversation, but Adam found he wasn't ready to give up on this troubled young man - who walked around wearing his face - quite so easily.
"No, you're right, it's not," he agreed smoothly. "So, feel free to turn me down, but... well, would you like to go for a meal or something one evening. If you don't have other plans, of course..."
"You live around here, then?" asked Alex.
"At the moment, yeah. I'm renting a place," Adam told him. "I'm working on some research... Look -" Hurriedly Adam scribbled his number on a beer mat and held it out to the other man. "Here's my number. If you're at a loose end, give me a call."
After a moment's hesitation Alex took the beer mat and pocketed it. Then he stood up and retrieved his hard hat. He looked down at Adam, who was watching him expectantly. The uncanny resemblance struck him all over again, and a faint shiver ran through him as two identical pairs of hazel eyes met and locked for a moment.
"All right, maybe I will," he conceded. "But now I really have to go. Thanks again."
With that Alex turned and hurried away, fighting his way through the crowd still filling the pub.
Methos looked after him with a speculative gleam in his eyes. There was no denying it - Alex Taylor intrigued him, and not many people had done that in recent times. Perhaps this trip to London was going to turn out to be more interesting than the old Immortal had thought it would.
London, several days later
Methos sprawled comfortably across the couch in his rented flat. He was surrounded by the newest batch of Watcher journals he'd managed to unearth. Some of them were very old and he was deeply absorbed in trying to translate the archaic language. He'd known the Immortal these particular journals referred to quite well and he was curious to find out if he himself rated a mention.
When the phone rang, breaking the silence, Methos frowned. Who knew he was here? He briefly considered just letting it ring, but his concentration was already broken; he might as well find out who it was. He reached out a hand. lifting the phone from its cradle. Distractedly - another intriguing passage had just caught his eye - he answered.
"Hello... is that Adam Pierson?" the person at the other end asked tentatively.
"Yeah, who...?" Methos began to ask, but suddenly realised that the voice on the phone was unmistakable - the twin of his own. All at once he sat up straight, paying proper attention to the conversation. "Alex? Is that you? Hi, I was starting to think you wouldn't call." Methos allowed genuine warmth and the hint of a question to colour his tone.
A faint, slightly nervous laugh greeted his words. "So was I. Not sure why I did really, but... Well, you said maybe we could meet, talk... Look, perhaps I'm way out of line here, but - you seemed to understand. You know..."
Methos could hear the tension in Alex's voice, a faint note of - something. It was clear that the other man needed someone to talk to. Methos guessed that was a luxury Alex hadn't had of late. And if there was anyone around who knew what it was like to have to deal with life- changing events on one's own... Well, Methos considered himself a master of that particular art. And he still felt a strange pull towards his young doppelganger. Maybe he could do something to help, something that would stop Alex throwing his life away, working on building sites, when he clearly had the potential to do so much more.
"Yeah, maybe I do," he said finally, breaking the long silence. "Are you doing anything tonight?"
"No - nothing planned." There was a wry twist to Alex's voice as he added, "Actually, I don't seem to have anything planned most nights. All my friends..."
He didn't need to continue. Methos could deduce the situation from the unspoken words. Everyone Alex knew and cared about had been left behind, together with the existence he'd walked away from so abruptly.
Methos didn't dwell on the thought any further. He simply offered, "OK, why don't we meet for a drink then - say 7:30."
"Where?" Alex seized on the invitation.
"You know The Founders?" Methos asked, trying to remember the nearest pub which actually stayed open after the City workers deserted the place for the day.
"Down by the river, yeah, I know it," Alex agreed.
"I'll see you there, then."
"OK, 7:30... and thanks."
Listening to the clear note of gratitude in Alex's voice, Methos paused before he spoke again. "I'm looking forward to it."
And, strangely, Methos found that he genuinely was. The realisation left him sitting, staring at the phone, for long minutes after he replaced the receiver.
Evening, The Founders Arms
to be continued...
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