The Watcher retrieval and clean-up crew arrived shortly after he put in a call to Joe. He was gone by then. There was no need to remain. They'd take care of everything. He gave Joe her name and what he'd gleaned from her quickening.

"She was smart Joe… very smart. But her early life had twisted her thinking. When she happened to kill an immortal lover while making love to him… she felt more alive and in control than she'd ever felt. She studied and learned how to pull us in… make us want her."

"Damn… Portia Berrini. We had her down as missing… likely dead for the past eighty years," Joe had replied. Duncan could imagine his friend shaking his head and rubbing one hand over his hear and beard in exasperation.

"Well she's dead now," Duncan replied.

"Yeah. You okay Mac?"

"Fine, Joe." But he wasn't… not really. Something of her still lingered about him… some ghostly vestige that needed and wanted. He still had a stop to make before leaving… before going home to Florence… and to Amanda. He still had unfinished business in Paris.

Although it was still early, Cassandra let him in to Alisaunne's apartment. It was evident that the psychic was sleeping on the couch for now.

"I need to see her."

"She's sleeping," Cassandra said simply as if that would deter him. Any other time, it might have… but not today. He pushed past her and opened the door to Alisaunne's bedroom.

Alisaunne was curled atop the bedcovers… one hand outstretched. Duncan pulled up a chair and sat quietly… finally he reached out to slowly and softly clasp her hand.

"I'm awake," she laughed. He smiled at the sound of her laughter.

"I'm sorry," he said.

Her eyes opened… hazel eyes that seemed to sparkle with amusement. "For helping me?"

"For thinking you were the monster I sought. That it was you preying on immortals in the darkness and shadows."

She clasped his fingers with a squeeze. "Oh… I hunt sometimes. I told you that, but not lately… only when his whispers fill me utterly so that it is the only way to shut him up."

Duncan chuckled. "And for a while another voice supplants Nestor in your mind."

Alisaunne nodded sadly. "And even then… an older one within me observes and weeps. Perhaps that is why I can make no sense of his writings. I'm not ready."

Duncan nodded in agreement. "Nor am I." He rose from the chair and settled on the bed next to her… sitting against the headboard while she curled against him like a child.

"I miss him."


She nodded. "But Darius, too. I have no part of him it seems."

"Nor do I."

Only my memories and the things he left behind."

"Did I ever tell you about the first time he tasted chocolate?"

Alisaunne shook her head.

"It involved your mother." He relaxed against the headboard and began to tell her his story. Later, she told him one of hers and so on through the morning and into the afternoon while they rebuilt their damaged friendship by sharing their memories of the one person that they each had held dear in a past life.

From the outer room, Cassandra looked in approvingly on occasion. While healing had to come from within… one did not have to do it alone. It had taken her three thousand years to learn that. Hopefully these two would learn it sooner. And if they could… perhaps others could as well… and the game could end with a positive outcome.


Shadow of Doubt

Just another homesick child
Tired of running wild
Ready to stand trial and move on
Though I'm guilty in your sight
Have some mercy tonight
I can't make it through the fight alone.


Oh but Lord, no don't make it easy
Keep me workin' till I work it on out
Just please won't you shine
enough light on me
Til I'm free from this shadow of doubt

As I try to make some sense
of this world I'm up against
Well I know my best defense is your love
When the struggle gets insane and the lesson's full of pain
keep me calling out your name with love.


Oh but Lord, no don't make it easy
Keep me workin' till I work it on out
Just please won't you shine
enough light on me
Til I'm free from this shadow of doubt

Well I whisper in the dark
From the bottom of my heart
And I'm searching for one star to shine
I will shout from mountain high
And I'll reach into the sky
'Til you open up my eyes so blind.


Oh but Lord no, don't make it easy
Keep me workin' til I work it on out
Just please, please shine enough light on me
'Til I'm free from this shadow of doubt
keep me out of the Shadow...

lyrics by Gary Nicholson, sung by Bonnie Raitt

Author's Afterword: The chapter titles were suggested by the dictionary definitions of the word shadow. A reader on another board gave this genre of story the title... elle noir... for which I am thankful. I rather like the designation.

I realize that by listing this story as "M" it does not appear on the "Just In" lists... but the subject matter was such that I feared to list it as anything less than "M".

While this is not the next long story, some of the events of this story are referred to in the next one, and I felt that they had to be explored on their own, rather than relegated to flashbacks.

I look forward to comments and criticisms.

As always,