Title: The Watcher on the Shore
Pairing/s: Arthur/Merlin if you squint. A lot.
Character/s: Merlin, Methos
Summary: Methos had passed that lake three hundred years ago. But the old man was still there, waiting for his king.
Warnings: Canon compliant. Post 5-13.
Word Count: 1112 *hangs head in shame*
Prompt: 99 - Crossover
Author's Notes: Strangely, although I was active in Highlander fandom years ago and the horsemen were my favourites, I realised that I never actually wrote any fanfic for them because I'd stopped writing fanfic by that stage. So, 17 or so years later this is finally my first attempt at writing Methos and one of the very very few crossovers I've ever written. For anyone not familiar with the character, Methos is the oldest surviving Highlander immortal, dating back to around 3400 BC or thereabouts. Apologies for any Highlander mistakes, it's been a very long time. This also fills my trope_bingo square 'au:crossover'. Thanks to deinonychus_1 for the beta.
The Watcher on the Shore
When you were as old as Methos, things tended to repeat themselves. History, mostly. It had long since ceased to amaze him that people never learned from their mistakes, that they never passed the lessons down to their children and grew richer and stronger for it. People repeated themselves too, genes passed down through the generations could fool him into momentarily thinking he was seeing a familiar face, wondering if it was friend or foe and automatically reaching for his sword... and then realising it was the great-great grandchild of the person he had known. The person who was long since dust.
Albion, once full of swordsmen, had changed. It had united, grown a little more peaceful. Boring. Methos had done the trip to the lake where the legendary king was supposed to be sleeping, and had seen a mad old man who people said had spent his life there, waiting for the king. When their lives were so short, it seemed wasteful.
Methos moved on, saw the world growing, changing yet essentially remaining just the same. There were lands over the sea that were more interesting. Young immortals were there, fresh, easy quickenings to be taken before the poor creatures even realised what they were. It was a time of plenty and he didn't return to Albion for many years.
It was three hundred years later when he passed the lake again. The old man was still there, waiting. This time Methos approached him
It could be an ancestor of the man he had seen before, but he didn't think so. People who sat around waiting for dead kings to be reborn didn't tend to reproduce. Still, it was a wasted life.
Standing close, Methos could sense this was a fellow immortal. It was curious though, the sense was very weak, quite different from any other immortal he had ever encountered.
By now, Methos thought, someone should have taken the man's head. Immortals trapped in physically old bodies were few and far between for a reason. They didn't tend to last long. This one was hunched over with age, his hair long and gray and straggly. Sometimes looks were deceptive, but the man shuffled along with all the cares of the world on his shoulders.
Too bad his head wouldn't be attached to them for much longer.
Methos wasn't one for taking heads when there was the slightest chance of the other immortal being strong enough to take his instead. It was one of the reasons he'd lived so long. He'd seen too many powerful, overconfident fighters lose their own heads that way. He kept his sword close, disguising his intent, biding his time.
"Friend. You were here last time I passed this way." No need to tell him that was three centuries ago.
The old man's head snapped round, fixing him with a sharp look. "I have no friends. I don't know you."
Well, that first part was hardly surprising if he greeted everyone like that. "It was a few years back. You've been here some time."
"Indeed. Longer than you've been alive, boy."
That was unlikely, but Methos wouldn't completely dismiss the idea yet. Sometimes he wished that he wasn't the oldest immortal, that there were people out there who could remember back as far as he could. People he could talk to. No need to contradict the man though. He preferred it if fellow immortals didn't know who they were dealing with. Too risky.
"How long is that?"
"Too long. What do you want?"
Methos shrugged, and gave his stock answer. "Knowledge. I write things down. Our kind..."
The old man gave a heavy sigh, shook his head and started to stomp away. "A likely story. You're another fool with a sword. My head won't give you what you want, immortal. I was born of Albion. I'm not your kind."
Someone who liked to run away then, to avoid a fight. The idiot had even turned his back. Methos felt a brief twinge of guilt, but he knew an opportunity when he saw it. He drew his sword silently, aimed and swung.
And suddenly there was a black-haired youth in front of him, eyes blazing gold and dangerous, his arm outstretched and words tumbling from his lips in a language Methos had never heard spoken before. The ancient immortal found himself flung backwards by some invisible force, his sword flying from his hand and spinning towards the lake.
That was something new.
"You won't defeat me. Don't try."
Methos scrambled to his feet. Without his sword he felt exposed, vulnerable. There was no sign of it.
"Your sword's gone," the youth told him. "Get another if you must. The way you people live is barbaric." He turned away again, walking down towards the lake then sitting on a bank, staring out across the water.
Methos followed him at a distance, then settled next to him.
"Do you have a death wish or something?" the man snapped.
"You'd have killed me already if you were going to. I'm hoping I can trouble you to retrieve my sword, and I'll be on my way."
"Leave then, and it will be returned to you."
"Thank you." Methos paused, still curious. "So, you say you're not an immortal."
"I didn't say that. I'm not one of your kind though."
"You're a sorcerer." He'd heard rumours. Sometimes, rarely, he'd seen one in action. Nothing like the power this man had though.
"Waiting for King Arthur's return?" Methos asked, ignoring the sharp look that the man gave him. "The legend says he will, and this is the lake where he was taken by... Ah. You're Merlin."
"I'm nobody." Merlin turned away.
"How long?" Methos asked again, still curious. He knew from the stories how long it had to be, but wanted confirmation.
"Four hundred and sixty two years, five months and nine days."
"And you've spent all that time here, never leaving the lake?"
Merlin shrugged, apparently less acerbic in his younger form. "He'll return, and when he does I'll be here. What about you? How long have you lived?"
Methos stared out across the lake. He thought it looked smaller than it had last time he passed this way. Things tended to do that, grow smaller then vanish entirely. One day it would be gone, and Merlin's dreams of his lost king gone with them. He didn't have the heart to tell Merlin that. But perhaps he would stay a while, try to persuade the strange but powerful man to travel with him. He would be a strong ally.
"Longer," he told Merlin. "Much longer."
But it probably felt like less.