A/N: Just a quick warning before the last chapter; there is an attempted suicide, while it happens off-stage, so to say, it is there.
The next morning I woke on my own; Kate often made breakfast, but she'd left a note saying that she'd been running late for class. I grabbed a shower and a piece of toast and some juice before calling Joe. He'd heard from Richie, who wanted to meet with us, so I swung by to pick Joe up then met with the kid.
Richie had hardly greeted us when he started his story. "We were coming back to the barge late last night when this old guy came up to us, asking… He knew Mac's name. He said something about, 'he's coming,' and, 'the time is at hand.' That's when Mac said he saw Horton; we went to look forhim… There was no one there, but the old guy was dead. Killed, strangled. The next day, well, you know what happened at the airport. Thing is, before we left the station, Mac checked with the morgue. They said Landry, the old guy, had died of natural causes. Mac visited Landry's granddaughter and got his journals… There's stuff in it about demons and a champion… Landry thought that Mac was the one to fight this thing, Ahriman. I don't know, maybe…"
The story was bad enough, but the fact that the kid was starting to buy it… "Millennium theory is nothing new, but I've seen good years, I've seen bad years and it doesn't have much to do with the calendar."
"But you should see this guy's journal. It's pretty convincing stuff."
I shook my head. "Of course it is. You can prove anything if you look hard enough and skew the numbers just the right way. Most religions have some version of the savior myth; Demons come to destroy the earth and Champions are sent to protect it. It's a comforting thought, but Richie, I've lived five thousand years and, I've never seen a demon."
"A Zoroastrian demon," Joe said, disbelieving.
"Maybe you've got another explanation for what's going on?"
"What's going on is that Duncan MacLeod is losing it," Joe snapped.
Richie looked to me, pleading, and I relented. "Let's go talk to the granddaughter," I sighed.
Richie smiled grimly. "Where do you think I'm taking you?"
We weren't far from the girl's apartment when we saw the smoke and it didn't take long at all to realize where it was coming from. The street outside the building was filled with police, bystanders, fire trucks, but the hoses were being retracted and things were being cleaned up. Whatever had happened, it was over.
Cops were interviewing bystanders and one of them, seeing us, made his way over. "Do you live in the area?"
"No, we saw the smoke," I told him. "What happened?"
"Arson. We're looking for a man who was seen leaving here late last night. Tall, dark hair, ponytail."
Not good, not good. I looked away, letting Joe answer.
"No one we know. Sorry."
"Not a chance, Joe," Richie said firmly once the cop had moved away.
"Look, Richie, I know how you feel."
"Yeah, right. Mac was not involved and you know it."
They started off and I followed, pausing at the bottom of a ladder as a body was lowered down.
"Who was that?"
I sighed and shook my head. "Poor, poor Allison."
None of us said much of anything as we wandered, finally stopping at a café for lunch. We ate in silence as well, each of us deep in our own head. I knew what it was like, to fall into madness, but I never expected it to happen to MacLeod. Not like this.
"So, you agree with him?" Richie finally asked me once our dishes had been cleared. "You think Mac's crazy?"
"I think he's hallucinating, Richie. He's seeing people he's killed and who knows what else he's doing."
"He did not set that fire. What if all this stuff is real?"
"So, there are demons running around? Dead people walking?"
"You're walking. How many times have you been killed?"
I shook my head. "That's not the same, and you know it."
" No, no, no, no, I don't know it. Nobody knows the reason why immortals exist. Maybe this is it. Maybe we're here so that one of can fight this thing."
Joe shook his head. "Yeah, and this has been going on for thousands of years, but no one has ever heard of it, not Watchers, not Immortals…"
Joe and I exchanged a look. Richie threw up his hands, disgusted.
"Aw, forget it. I'll see you guys," he said sharply, leaving.
I sighed. "Blind loyalty, very common in the young."
"Yeah, I guess that's why we feel like rats," Joe grumbled. Then, brightening, "Hey, what about Katie? Maybe she knows something. Though, why she wouldn't have said anything…"
"She may not have known it was time—from what she told me, dates were few and far between—and I told her not to worry about what had happened. She had enough to deal with as it was." Now, I was starting to wonder if that had been a big mistake.
He dug out his cell phone. "So? Call her, already."
"She may not be home. Sometimes she goes out to lunch after class."
"Class, huh? What's she taking?"
"French. She originally wanted me to teach her, but I thought classes would be better. Give her a chance to meet some normal people."
Joe chuckled. "Probably not a bad idea."
He waited impatiently as I dialed and let the phone ring. It went for so long that I was about to hang up when it was answered, after a fashion. The ringing ended and I could hear something, but I couldn't tell what it was.
"Kate? Kate, are you there?"
That was all, a weak cry that scared the hell out of me. "Kate? Kate!" I disconnected and called emergency, giving them the address and telling them to break down the damn door if they had to. Then I tossed the phone and a, "Kate's in trouble," at Joe and rushed out.
She was just being taken out when I got there, one bandaged wrist seeping blood. I pushed past the medics and took her other hand, but she didn't respond.
"She is unconscious, M'sieur, she has lost a great deal of blood. You are…?"
"Roommate. Friend. What happened?"
He hesitated briefly. "It would appear to be a suicide attempt."
My blood ran cold. "Where are you taking her?"
"The American Hospital is closest."
I let them take her and made my way to the hospital. Once there I called both Maurice's club and Joe's hotel and left messages telling him where I was. Then, I sat down to wait. Suddenly whether MacLeod was crazy or the end of the world was at hand didn't seem so important.
It felt like days before the doctor came out, but it was probably only a matter of minutes. "M'sieur? M'mselle Brown is resting. We have begun transfusions to replace the blood she has lost. Physically, she will be fine."
"Thank God. What happened?"
"A razor blade was found near by…"
I shook my head. "No. Doctor, I know her, she wouldn't do something like that."
He looked at me sympathetically. "There are hesitation marks, which tells us that this was a cry for help less than a true attempt. We will keep her in psychiatric care over night, at the very least."
I didn't want to leave her here, but what choice did I have? "As long as you need. Can I see her?"
"She is still unconscious. We will take her to a room; once she is there you may see her. She will likely be weak and not able to say much, however."
"I just want to be with her."
He smiled. "With a friend like you, M'sieur, she will recover."
I had barely sat back down when Joe came in. "Damn it, Old Man, what's going on?"
"They think Kate tried to kill herself."
"Are you sure she didn't?" he asked gently.
"Yes," I said firmly. But, was I? "Maybe," I sighed. "She took her wedding ring off, yesterday, and she left before I woke up, so I don't really know what her state of mind was this morning. Have you talked to MacLeod?"
"No. When I called the hotel and heard your message, I came right over. I'll wait with you. Mac's got Richie to help keep him sane."
I nodded. "Thanks, Joe."
It was another hour before Kate was taken to a room and even longer, nearly night, when she woke up. Her hand tightened on mine then she moaned slightly.
"I'm right here," I told her, scooting closer and brushing the hair off her forehead. "Are you okay?"
"Allison? Is she…?"
"Dead," Joe said gruffly. "Fire."
Kate smiled weakly. "Hey."
"Don't try to talk, just rest," I told her gently.
"Ahriman tried to keep me from telling what I know. He's going to lure Richie to the old racetrack… When Mac goes after he'll be tricked into taking Richie's head… Tonight…"
I felt the blood drain from my face. "Joe…"
"I know," he said, standing. "I'll get to Mac, keep him from…"
"I'll go with. A taxi's going to take you too long. Kate…"
"Go. Tell Mac… Can't sense Ahriman."
"I'll remember." I wanted so much to ask, but we didn't have the time. "Oh, hey, I brought this for you. He'll have to do until I get back." I pulled the Otter Thomas out of a pocket and gave it to her, pressed my lips to her forehead, promised I'd be back as soon as I could and followed Joe out.
MacLeod was alone when we got to the barge. The door was, of course, unlocked so we let ourselves in, finding him in the middle of the floor as if we'd interrupted something.
"Where are the men in the white coats?"
I took a deep breath. "I'm not so sure we weren't wrong," I told him. "We've been talking to Katie…"
"Of course! Why didn't I think…? Did she tell you how to stop him?"
"We, uh, we didn't get that far. She did say to tell you…"
That's when the phone rang. MacLeod grabbed it. "Hello?" He listened for a minute then looked at Joe. "That's impossible."
I quietly pulled a dagger into my hand, just in case.
"No, Richie, do nothing, nothing," MacLeod said firmly. "Get back here. Richie! You don't know what you're facing." He handed the phone to Joe. "Keep him on the line; he's got them at the old racetrack."
While Joe tried to talk to Richie, I stepped forward and put a hand on MacLeod's shoulder. "Mac, you need to slow down, hear what…"
"Sorry, but I'm the one who has to fight this thing."
I hadn't been expecting him to clock me with a heavy paperweight from the table. I went down like a ton of bricks, out before I hit the ground.
When I came to I tried to sit up, groaning with the pain. Immortal healing or not, I was going to have one hell of a headache.
"How long have I been out?"
"Couple of minutes," Joe told me. "Richie was already gone when I got the phone. We've got to go after them."
"And pray we're in time," I said, letting Joe help me to my feet. "Damn stubborn Boy Scout."
It took far too long to get to the race track. Finally, though, Joe and I were making our way into the building, saying nothing in order to catch any sound that might tell us where they were. There was a gunshot, but it was hard to pinpoint where it had come from given the echoes. I thought down, so we made our way along the first stairwell we found, going carefully in the dark.
We were just stepping into the hall when we heard it. It was distorted from bouncing off walls but there was no mistaking it; the sound of a Quickening. I fell back against the wall and closed my eyes against a swell of tears, defeated. Too late. In spite of it all, we'd been too late.
Once it had quieted, Joe gripped my shoulder. I straightened and gave him a nod then we made our way along, trying to find MacLeod. Hoping against hope that it hadn't been Richie, that, somehow, there had been another Immortal…
I felt the buzz and we turned a corner and found him, on his knees, rocking over Richie's body. There were no tears, not yet, at least. He was still in shock; the sorrow would come later.
MacLeod didn't look up as we came up behind him, just took his sword and offered it, and his neck, up to me. It took me a minute to truly comprehend what he wanted and I felt sick. I gave him the same judgment he'd once given me and turned away.
"Take it, please."
"Absolutely not," I said, moving away before I could take the sword and give him what he didn't really want.
I heard him drop the sword then he pushed past me. I almost went after him, but a strangled sob from behind me made me turn and take Joe in my arms, offering him my strength and accepting his in return.
I wanted nothing more than to go back to the hospital, hold Kate and reassure myself that she was all right, but we had to see Richie to as proper an end as we could. It took all night but it didn't matter, neither Joe nor I would have slept, anyway. When we were done he sent me off to the hospital to see to Kate, while he took a taxi… Somewhere. I didn't even think to ask where he'd be.
When I stepped into her room, Kate took one look at me and knew. "I'm sorry," I told her, sitting in the chair and taking her hand. "I let you down."
She pulled me into a fierce hug. "Don't think that, Methos. Don't ever think that." She took a deep, steadying breath. "I didn't think it would hurt so much. I never liked him much as a character…"
"I know. I know." I shook my head, close to tears, myself. "I just... How is it that I didn't know? How is it that in five thousand years I've never seen..."
"Oh, Methos," she sighed, voice wavering. "Maybe you have. After all, you've forgotten more years than most Immortals live."
She had a point. "That isn't comforting in the least."
Kate laughed harshly. "The truth rarely is."
Yes and, speaking of the truth... Again I wanted to ask, but it wasn't the time. I stayed with her until they kicked me out so she could talk to a psychiatrist, making me think that it might not be a bad thing to have her here.
That, however, left me at loose ends. I decided to stop by the barge; I needed to see MacLeod, see if there was anything I could do. As if I'd done anything for him, at all. I should have… I ruthlessly cut off that line of thinking as self-destructive. I'd done my best. Sometimes it was enough, this time it wasn't, but I was going to accept neither guilt nor blame.
Maybe someday I'd come to believe that.
There was no buzz when I got to the barge and the only person I saw was Joe as he emerged from below. He smiled sadly and shook his head when he saw me.
"I don't blame him; Paris hasn't been friendly to him the past few years. Do you know where he went?"
"No. I just sent my guys to watch the airport, but I'm willing to bet he's already left. I'm heading back to Seacouver in a couple of days, though. I'll look for him when I get there."
"Let me know. Do you need a ride?"
Once I'd pulled into the hotel's parking lot, we sat for a long moment in silence until he heaved a sigh.
"Damn it," he sighed. "I can't help but be a little grateful. It's nice to know Mac isn't crazy."
"And that, at the very least, Kate was pushed into it. I know how you feel."
"You gonna be okay?"
I ran a hand over my face. "I have to be. I've got someone to take care of."
"Yeah. Give me a call when you know more about what happened to her, huh?"
I nodded. "Promise. Take care, Joe."
I watched him go. He moved a bit more slowly and leaned on his cane a bit more heavily, but he looked like he'd survive.
I went back to the apartment to clean up. There was so much blood—too much—and it took longer than I would have liked. I started thinking, trying to keep my mind off what had happened here, and decided that MacLeod may have had a good idea. Paris hadn't been very kind to me, either. Darius, killed by people I'd trusted. Don and Christine, killed by an Immortal looking for me. I'd come here most recently from Bordeaux, where I'd killed a man I'd once called brother and I had lost Byron here. Alexa was buried here. Now, this. Maybe it was time to leave for a while. Kate loved to travel and there was so much I wanted to show her…
I stopped to grab a bite to eat on my way back to the hospital. Once again, she knew what was going on the minute she saw me.
"MacLeod's gone, isn't he?" she asked, turning away.
"Yeah." I sat and took her hand, but she just let it lay limply in my own. "Kate?"
"You're going, too."
I still didn't understand what was wrong until I realized what she must be afraid of. I took her chin and turned her face towards me then took it in my hands.
"Not without you," I said firmly. "I'm not going to leave you, Kate."
She nodded, relief flooding her eyes. "I was afraid…"
"Don't be." Now or never, I thought. "Kate, I have to ask… I need to know…"
She nodded. "He tried to tempt me into saying nothing, but he didn't have anything I wanted. Well, he offered to send me home. That might have done it, if I'd thought for a minute that he actually could. It's partly my fault; I got cocky and let my guard down. He knew just what to say and just how to say it… I did do it, Methos. I was pushed into it, he knew all my weak points, but I did do it."
"Oh, Kate, I'm so sorry. I should have been there, I should…"
"Don't, please don't. Just be here for me now."
I drew her into a hug. "Promise. Joe's going back to Seacouver, MacLeod's gone… Do we have any reason to stay here?"
"They want to keep me for a few more days…"
"Let them. I've never been a psychologist and you need the help. And, that'll give me some time to make arrangements. You don't mind traveling for a while, do you?"
She smiled and I saw an echo of the real Kate. "Not at all. Especially not with you."
"I'm going to take the liberty of choosing the starting point, but then we'll go where you want. No itinerary, no schedules. We'll stay until we're ready to go."
Over the next few days I split my time between making flight and hotel arrangements, putting things into storage and closing up the apartment and spending time with Kate in the hospital. They were pleased with her progress, though it helped that she'd been in a good place before the incident and wanted to get better, and she was able to leave after a few days.
"There's just one stop I need to make," I told her on the way to the airport. I had tried to get there before Kate had been released, but I just hadn't been able to find the time.
"Montparnasse?" she asked gently.
"You don't mind?"
She looked shocked. "Why on earth would I? I know how I'd feel if I had a grave to visit."
I smiled and took her hand. "I should have known you'd understand. Thank you."
She came with me to Alexa's grave, helped me clear off the few weeds that the groundskeepers had missed. I talked to Alexa, told her that I was leaving and why. Kate said not a word, just let me go. Once I was done, she ran a hand along the head stone then followed me back to the car.
"I would have liked to meet her."
I considered that. "You either would have hated each other or been the best of friends. Frankly, I'm not sure which prospect frightens me more."
She laughed, the first time I'd heard her do so since Ahriman. "Well, we do have our caring for you in common. You wouldn't believe how many women bond over men. Of course, it's usually over a mutual ex…"
"Oh, let's not go there." We got in the car and I glanced at her. "Okay?"
She paused then nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, I think I am."
"Then it's time to go."
"You still haven't told me where."
I grinned. "Wait and see."
The look on her face when our connecting flight to Buffalo, NY was announced went a long way towards making me feel better.