Her Return by Mira Westing

Duncan caught sight of her only a split second before he felt the immortal buzz. Scarlett Andrews. She was sitting on the ramp of the barge, legs drawn up, chin resting on her knees. The pose was oddly reminicient of the last time he'd seen her. That horrible day in Charles DeGaul airport when he'd sat holding her hand silently, praying that Methos would rush in and prevent her from leaving.

"Scarlett!" She ran to him and threw her arms around his neck.

"Duncan! I missed you. It's been so long."

"Three...no, four years." Draping an arm around her shoulder, he led her into the barge. "What brings you back to Paris?"

"My mother died about two years ago." Scarlett found that it was easy to lose track of time in immortality. "I sold the farm and have been travelling the world ever since. Now the money is gone and I'm beginning to think about settling somewhere."

He touched the tip of her nose. "I'm so sorry."

"It was very peaceful. I'm just glad that I was there." Her mortal family was gone. It was time for her to ease into her immortality - at least, begin to accept it. "How about you, Duncan? You look well."

Without being asked her poured her a glass of red wine. She had great taste in wines. "I *am* well. I'm seeing an American woman and I've taken a new student."

"A new student?" She'd never known Richard Ryan but Methos had told her about him. "Yes, he's a handful but I guess they can't all be Scarlett Andrews."

"I wasn't exactly a perfect student," she laughed. Her training *had* been relatively easy but not completely without its problems.

"To hear Methos tell it you were. He says you're the best he ever trained."

Scarlett looked away. Duncan meant well but..."And this American...is she as beautiful, intelligent and sophisticated as I remember all of Duncan MacLeod's women being?"

"She's all three." Mischief. He'd forgotten how capable she was of light-hearted, bantering mischief. The happy, bubbly Scarlett he'd known for so many years had somehow been obscured by the memory of her last few months in Paris. Serious, lonely, afraid. "You'll have to meet Nina. She's in New York on business but she'll be back next week. You'll be here that long won't you?"

It was difficult not to laugh at him. Duncan MacLeod was a planner, he had no concept of anyone being unsure about the near future. "Sure, why not?"

"Are you going to live here in Paris?"

"I don't know. I haven't decided yet."

He rolled his eyes at her. Scarlett never had much of a set pattern. "Do you have a place to stay?"

"I came straight here from the airport but I have a standing invitation with Joe." The Watcher was the only one out of her Parisian past that she'd actively kept in touch with. "I called him. He's expecting me."

"You called Joe? When? He didn't say anything?"

"Last week and I asked him not to tell anyone I was coming."

"*Anyone* or just Methos?" Despite the fact that she'd so artfully avoided the topic once before, Duncan had to know.

"So he's still in Paris, is he?" Scarlett conceded defeat. Whether it came sooner or later, eventually they were going to have to talk about Methos.

"You didn't know?"

"Of course I did. I was attempting to be nonchalant." She sighed. She could lie to Duncan but she didn't really see the point. "How is he?"

"Methos?"

"Don't be obtuse."

"Same old Methos."

"Good." She'd never wanted him to change. Unlike everyone else, Scarlett had easily accepted Methos as he was. It had seemed simple to her. Why change the man she had fallen in love with?

"Joe doesn't tell me much. Little bits and pieces sometimes."

Duncan refilled her wine glass. "Did Joe tell you how miserable Methos was after you left?"

"He must have missed that part."

"Then I doubt he informed you that Methos has never gotten over it. He still talks about you."

"But not *to* me." Throwing her hands up, Scarlett sighed loudly. She'd promised herself she'd be aloof -- it had lasted a full minute and a half. Not bad for an amature. "Listen, Mac, I'm here. That ought to say something."

"You're on the barge instead of at Methos' apartment."

"I'M IN PARIS. I don't even particularly *like* Paris. But I'm here. I toured the world, don't you think that, if I wanted to, I could have found somewhere to settle that didn't involve seeing my ex-husband on a semi- regular basis?" The hard-headed Scot was either truly dense or the best conversation manipulator she'd seen in 48 countries.

"So you came back to see Methos?"

"Not to diminish the value of you're company but, yes, I came for Methos." Standing, she walked to one of the small circular windows facing out onto the Seine. It had grown dark - lights reflected prettily off the water. "Before I left he told me that we would meet again. Maybe this is the time."

The lights bounced off the water and into her glass. The colours danced over her fingers. Duncan joined her at the window and gently caressed her hair. Duncan MacLeod with his fine taste in wines, love for art, and aptitude for romance was the type of man to whom Scarlett had always been attracted. If she had been a third party observer of her own life, she would have assumed it was he she would have married. But she hadn't and here she was - wanting him for nothing more than comfort and a kind word. "I still love him." Methos was the one who had consumed her. The games fate played.

"You belong together."

"He doesn't even know I'm here. I don't know how...to start."

"Start soon." He could read the thoughts in her clear blue eyes. Methos was the only motivation left to her. "Scarlett, I never asked and I don't want to pry but-"

"Why did he leave me?"

"Yes."

She'd always wondered if Methos had told anyone. If Duncan didn't know, no one did. "It was very simple really. Simple and petty. Methos wanted to go on a world tour - a second honey moon to leave all our worries behind. I didn't want to leave Paris in case my mother needed me." Scarlett moved away from the Highlander. She didn't want to be facing him when she told the rest; she knew that he'd be able to read the pain on her face. "We quarrelled. He said that I was hanging onto a memory that wasn't even my own. I said that it was all I had. He wanted me to make a choice, I couldn't, he left."

She twirled in place, her thin ankle-length skit fanning out around her. "Want to know the crazy part? I would have chosen Methos. But..." Smiling slightly, she caught Duncan's eye. "The past is the past. He taught me that."

"He still loves you."

Again that mystic smile. "We'll see."