pbIn the Family Way /b

pby: Linda Atkinson

PWarnings: This is an AU piece. It contains male pregnancy, eventually. It also contains the surgical mutilation of a main character for reproductive purposes. There is also one rape, not violent, just sneaky and creepy.

PbLos Angeles, California. July 22, 2021. /b

PThe emergency room of St. Mary Margaret Medical Center was always busy on a Friday night. No one had ever been able to figure out why, they just accepted it. Frankie Johnson, the senior nurse on duty, checked the charts of the elderly woman she was triaging, as the patient lay motionless on a steel gurney. The small woman looked dazed and confused as the nurses and orderlies scurried about the room on their seemingly endless tasks. As Nurse Johnson removed the blood pressure cuff from her patient's slender upper arm, the elderly woman grasped the nurse's hand.

P"Is the doctor going to be here soon?" she asked, "I really need to be getting home."

PThe nurse smiled down at the pale drawn face, gently disengaging the trembling hand. "Dr. Macleod will be here shortly. I'm sorry, but Friday nights are our busiest nights."

PJust as she placed her final notes on the chart and hung it on a hook at the end of the gurney she spotted the tall, slender form shuffling his way through the crowds. It was unmistakably Dr. Adam Peyton-MacLeod. He was a first year resident, having just graduated from John Hopkins Medical School with a degree in Emergency Room Medicine. Dr. MacLeod was a little over six feet tall, with a slender wiry build. His dark brown hair fell over forehead in soft wisps, sometimes shading his gold-green eyes. However, it was his prominent nose that was his most distinguishing feature, and while many people would have said it was patrician, Nurse Johnson just thought he had a big nose. Still altogether, Dr. MacLeod was an attractive young man. And if it had not been for his even more attractive "husband" Nurse Johnson might have made a play for him.

PGlancing up at the nurse Methos accepted the chart and flipped through the few notes. Gently he smiled at the elderly mortal on the gurney letting his hand gently travel over her pale face with professional ease. Quickly he brushed a stray lock of gray hair aside studying the slightly clammy skin.

PThe patient, however, leaned away from him, "Who are you?" she asked with a grimace.

PMethos grinned settling on a rolling stool. "I'm sorry. I should have introduced myself," he said holding out a hand, "Dr. Adam Peyton-MacLeod."

PShe harrumphed, "You don't look old enough to be a doctor; how old are you anyway?" The oldest immortal scrunched his face up trying to remember the birth date on his driver's license, "Uh, twenty-five. And I assure you I am a doctor. I graduated at the top of my class from John Hopkins."

P"Oh, okay." The elderly woman replied letting her head drop down on the smooth linen pillowcase. With a sigh she submitted to Methos' gentle probing and grunted when he said, "You look a bit dehydrated. Are you staying indoors? This heat wave is putting a lot of people in the hospital."

P"Well, I have my garden to care for," She said softly, "My husband doesn't seem the least bit inclined to care for it and I hate to let it get out of control."

P"I think that you should take it easy. Let the gardening go just for a couple of days. Where is your husband?"

P"Oh parking is so bad he's probably half a mile from here trying to find a spot." She smiled at the young man. With a wince she tried to sit up and pull her handbag from the foot of the gurney. "I have some pictures of my rose bushes. I won the Women's Club Flower Show this year. My roses are bigger than your hand."

P"That's very nice, but I need to speak to the nurse. If you can't promise me that you're going to stay out of the heat I'll have to admit you for a couple of days." Methos pulled a pen from his pocket and scribbled a few notes across the bottom of the chart. As he looked up an elderly man approached shaking his head at the mass of human movement in the room. He paused at the gurney looking at the woman then turned to Methos.

P "Well, Doc?" he asked affably, smiling.

PMethos started hearing the name that Lord Byron had tagged him with so many years ago, then nodded politely, "Your wife is just dehydrated, not severely, but enough to cause some dizziness and lethargy. I've advised her to stay in doors until the heat wave passes. If that doesn't happen she will back and she will be admitted to the hospital." he said sternly.

P Both the patient and her husband laughed, and then she finally said, "Doctor, that expression might actually work if you weren't young enough to be our grandchild."

PSighing Methos shoved the chart back onto its hook and moved off to his next patient. Nurse Johnson made note of his recommendations and motioned the woman to sit up. "Dr. Macleod has released you for tonight, but he wants me to get you some re-hydration supplement first, and then you're free to leave. Wait right here." A few moments later she returned with a bottle of pinkish fluid and a paper cup. "You need to drink all of this before you go. I'll be back to check on you."

PA sudden commotion at the double doors leading into the emergency room from the parking lot brought all movement in the room to a halt. The door swung open and two EMT's in Los Angeles City Fire-fighter uniforms pushed a gurney into the hallway, shouting for a doctor. A white-sheeted figure was restrained on the gurney jerking at the leather straps and cursing. Quickly Methos ran across the room, grabbing hold of the gurney and helping the paramedics trundle it into a small screened off area just off the main waiting room.

P"What's the problem?" Methos asked. Carefully he caught the patient's head trying to focus on the man's face. With a sudden wrenching movement the young man jerked his head around sinking his teeth into the immortal's hand. Methos cried out as the grasping teeth bit deeply into his flesh.

P"Oh shit!" one of the paramedics hissed catching the patient by the head carefully prying his jaws open. Once the young man's teeth were separated enough Methos pulled his hand free, and stood silently watching the bright fountain of blood gush forth. The second paramedic grabbed his first aid kit off the shelf on the bottom of the gurney, and tugged Methos into one of the exam rooms. "Here, Doc, let me just get that cleaned up for you.'

P"It's all right I can do it," the immortal said trying to pull his hand free, but the other man would not be discouraged. Carefully he began swabbing the lacerated hand clean. Quickly, Methos unwound a length of gauze and began wrapping it around his now healed limb.

PThe paramedic shook his head, "I didn't really get to clean that, Doc."

P"I'm okay, John. Really it wasn't that deep, just caught at the wrong angle." Methos continued to wind the bandage around his hand and secured it with surgical tape." "So what's his story?"

P "Drugs, what else?" He's totally wiped on one of those new designer drugs. I think Carl said it was called Freefall."

P"Uhmm, that's particularly vicious stuff. Well, there's nothing we can do for him then. He'll be like this for the next four to twelve hours depending on how much he did."

PJohn nodded, "So what'll we do with him?" he asked. Methos pulled the gurney around to stare into the vacant blue eyes.

P Finally he said sighing, "I'll have him admitted, and then have the nurse call someone in rehab, see if we can't get him committed for a few days and clean him out."

P"He'll be back." John shrugged nodding at the writhing figure on the gurney.

P"Probably he'll either be back here or in the morgue." The immortal sighed again. Trying to grasp his pen with his bandaged hand and watching the pen drop to the floor. He stooped over to pick it up, and froze. The faint tickle of immortal presence touched the back of his neck, making the hair on his nape rise. Quickly Methos rose to his full height staining to see the double doors leading in from the parking lot. He hitched a sigh of relief as he spotted the familiar form of his husband.

PDuncan MacLeod paced into the emergency room waiting area restlessly. He stalked forward and the mass of humanity cluttering the area parted before him like a wave breaking off the bow of a ship. MacLeod tugged his black leather duster off folding it carefully over one arm; taking time to make sure the katana concealed in the sheath in the lining fell naturally. Looking up he watched Methos as he wrote the last of his notes on the chart he was holding, and then handed the chart back to the paramedic.

PCarefully MacLeod worked his way through the crowd and brushed his hand down the slender back of his spouse, "Busy night?" he asked leaning forward to brush a quick kiss over the ancient immortal's cheek. John flushed crimson looking away, and MacLeod gave Methos an amused glance while waggling his eyebrows.

PMethos snorted, "Okay, John, turn him over to Nurse Johnson. She's got a room ready for him." Turning to MacLeod he said, "So what brings you to this part of town on a Friday night?"

P"I let my evening class out early for the football game. It's Homecoming. Want to go with me?" The Highlander batted his eyelashes artfully for effect, and his spouse adopted a put-upon expression.

PMethos clucked disapprovingly, "I never understood the American concept of putting on fifteen pounds of padding to play rugby."

P"Don't be such a grouch."

P"Why ever not? After all this time I really have had a chance to perfect my technique." The ancient immortal said. "I'm just finishing up my shift. Sometimes I don't know why I decided to go into medicine again."

P"I thought as an inducement I'd take you to that Greek restaurant you like before the game starts. If we don't hit too much traffic we shouldn't have any problems making our reservation," Duncan smiled then took Methos' right hand. "What happened?"

P"Oh, a drug addict bit me." He replied shrugging then noticing the Highlander's expression added, "It's an occupational hazard in the ER. I'll get my jacket out of the office. Where'd you park?"

P"Way down the street. It's a madhouse out there." Nervously MacLeod twitched the jacket he was holding over his arm. The older immortal glanced at him shrewdly as they walked toward the small side office down the corridor reserved for the doctors on duty. Methos quickly unlocked the door, turning on the light. Macleod squeezed through the door at the same time as his spouse pushing him against the doorframe.

PUnder the shocking blue lights of the small office Methos could finally see the splotches of blood on the dark blue shirt that Macleod was wearing. He turned sharply drawing his husband close inspecting the golden skin for injuries. "Who was it?" he asked stiffly.

P"Someone who really didn't know what he was getting himself into. A headhunter I think. He was young anyway not much of a challenge, but he was a randy little guy, and I really wanted to get you in here alone…."

P"Oh and you expect me to do something about this randy child you whacked in the alley, here?" Methos said dryly.

PMacLeod grinned widely, "Oh yeah!"

PPulling Methos against his body the Highlander ran his hands slowly over the older immortal's slender shoulders and down his arms, finally grasping the slim waist. Methos leaned into the solid body of his mate, feeling something stiff and hard digging into the flesh of this upper leg. "Duncan your gun is digging into my thigh," he whispered.

PThe Highlander just grinned wider, "I'm not carrying a gun."

P"Oh?" Methos said grunting as Macleod rocked his hips forward thrusting against the older immortal's groin. Carefully, MacLeod rolled his crotch against the denim-clad form of his spouse until Methos was as hard as himself. "Oh!"

PMacLeod quickly unfastened Methos' jeans, tugging the white dress shirt out of the waistband and crushing it against his broad chest. Pulling his spouse along Methos stumbled until the back of his knees banged up against the desk. He shuffled around as quickly as the jeans and boxers bunched around his knees would allow, leaning over the top of the desk to pull a tube of hand lotion out of the drawer. MacLeod was busily unfastening his own trousers, but he caught the tube that Methos thrust over his left shoulder letting his grey dress slacks drop to the floor, pushing his underpants down as well. Quickly, the Highlander squeezed a dollop of the silky cream onto his hand raking two fingers through the lotion. With an indrawn breath Methos bent over the desk as MacLeod thrust his two fingers into the other man's body.

P"Youch! Mac, that's cold," he objected as the Highlander rotated his fingers digging deeply inside the hot, tight channel. He hit Methos' prostate and the older man surged upwards hissing as drops of clear pre-ejaculate splattered the side of the desk.

PWith a kiss to the nape of his spouse's neck MacLeod pulled his fingers free, smoothed the rest of the cream over his hot, aching flesh and drove home. Methos surged upwards again, "Oh god, Mac!" he whispered, "Slow down a little or I'll come right now."

P"I want you to come. I want you to scream at the top of your lungs and pour over the desk like fountain!" MacLeod thrust his hips, drawing out and driving in the tight body before him in ever quickening lunges.

PMethos' knees banged against the desk with a loud thud, and he gritted his teeth. "Oh shit, I think I forgot to lock the door!"

P"Then you'd better hurry because I'm not stopping!" Macleod pistoned in and out of the small hole grunting then reached around grasping Methos' hard penis stroking the heated flesh in time to his thrusts. Methos gasped crying out loudly and came hard against the side of the desk; Macleod followed him over the edge pouring himself into the willing body held in his hands.

PBoth men stood panting as Methos watched his semen drip down the side of the desk to the floor, "Well, that was an unexpected end to my day at the office."

PSlipping out of his mate's body the Highlander leaned over the desk tugging a handful of tissues from the box; he thrust the mass at Methos then took more for himself "Come on clean up; we're on a schedule."

P"Don't I even get a kiss?" Methos wiped the fluid off his softening flesh then tugged his boxers and jeans back up. "I think I deserve a little more than wham, bam, thank you Methos."

P"I didn't say 'thank you, Methos'." MacLeod snorted indelicately.

PSighing Methos smoothed his crushed shirt down, tucking it into his jeans. Turning he tugged a black leather jacket from the coat tree in the corner of the office. He turned to his husband smiling as MacLeod took the jacket holding it out for the other man to slip into.

PLeaning over the Highlander brushed a quick kiss over Methos' cheek and they walked out the door. Methos brushed his fingers down MacLeod's face to the collar of his shirt; "You have blood on your neck. He didn't get that close did he?"

P"No," MacLeod said shrugging. "My hair caught on his sword and some of it came out, it took some skin too I think. No big deal," he said holding the door open for his mate. As the two men walked down the corridor to the rear entrance of the Emergency Room, passing by the scurrying staff Methos waved to the two new doctors now on duty .He pushed the door open turning to the younger immortal.

P"What did you do with the body?"

P"Actually a couple of watchers were there. I left it for them to clear up. I didn't have time to try and drag the body somewhere and they seemed to want to check things out." He took Methos' hand and the two men walked toward MacLeod's car farther down the street.

PbGenetech Labs, Los Angeles, California. /b

PThe white van slowly drove around the circular driveway that led to a single story building sprawled over several acres of property. The dull, red brick building standing under old growth pine and fir trees was surrounded by a tall wire mesh fence, topped by barbed wire, and fitted with security cameras at intervals on tall metal poles. The front gate of the parking lot was flanked by a small guardhouse occupied by two uniformed security guards watching a bank of monitors and checking identification as vehicles came down the road.

PThe van stopped at the guardhouse as a young blond woman walked out of the guardhouse. Carefully she noted the van's license plate number on a clipboard and motioned the driver through the gate.

PThe guard raised a hand waving at the man riding in the passenger side of the seat, revealing a blue tattoo on her wrist. Both the passenger and driver returned her wave also revealing the same tattoo on their wrists as well. As the van drove slowly through the parking lot it made a sharp left turn and disappeared behind the building.

PA loading platform was located behind the west wing of the building and the passenger motioned the driver over to it, "There that's the genetics lab. We can pull the van up to the loading ramp, and use that gurney to move the "donor" into the morgue. Dr. Baines particularly asked for material from this immortal and he is going to be really happy we got intact hair and skin samples off Croft's sword."

PThe driver grunted pulling to van over, quickly backing to the concrete ramp leading into the double doors of the genetics labs. Both Watchers climbed out of the van moving to the rear door. Walking swiftly up the ramp the driver collected a metal gurney parked beside the door and pushed it to the van's rear bumper. Silently they unloaded the black plastic bag holding the dead immortal's remains. A second smaller bag holding several strands of long dark brown hair coiled inside was also removed and tucked under one of the Watchers' arm. The two men pushed the gurney up the ramp, through the automatic doors and down the cool dimly lit interior of the white tiled corridor. They turned to the left, taking the corridor to a metal door. A telephone sat on a desk just inside the metal door and the driver picked it up punching in a four-digit number. The phone rang only once as if the person on the other end had been waiting for the two Watchers to arrive, and a man's voice said, "Baines here."

P"Yeah, doc, this is Ralston. Berry and I got the donor material you specifically requested."

P"The exact donor I asked for? You have his material?"

PRalston sighed tugging the small plastic bag from under his arm he tossed it onto the desk, "Yeah, the exact donor you asked for. I haven't been able to examine it well enough, but considering the circumstances under which it was obtained I'd say it was complete."

PTurning to the door he motioned the other man to push the gurney into the cold storage area at the far end of the room. Berry grimaced but did as he was told moving slowly through the lab passing several six-foot tall cylindrical tubes of high-density plastic scattered trough out the room. Flinching noticeably as he glanced into the clear, blue fluid filling the tubes Berry sighed. Inside the gently bubbling fluid were human organs. Organs Berry recognized from his brief medical training as female reproductive organs. Several of the organs were pulsing with life, and as Berry watched the skin wriggled and moved the shape of a small foot or hand pressing against the thick muscular walls.

PIn the last tube closest to the doors of the cold storage room stood the fully-grown form of a young man. He was slender perhaps eighteen years old with blond hair floating gently around his face, as he stood in peaceful slumber. Berry paused leaning close to the glass to study the boy's face. Suddenly the young man's arm twitched slapping against the glass, and Berry jerked back, grinning at Ralston who laughed nervously. Pushing the gurney into the cold storage closet he carefully closed the door. Berry turned back to his partner as the door to the lab opened admitting a tall, slender man with thinning black hair and a neatly trimmed moustache. His eyes crinkled as he glanced towards the two men, "Well, where are the samples you brought me?"

P"The big one is in the fridge," Berry snorted, "But Ralston put the hair sample on the desk."

P"You were careful with it? I mean, you made sure not to damage the follicles and attached skin."

P"Yeah, yeah, "Ralston said angrily, "we did it just like you said. Pulled the hair off the sword intact, and put it in the bag." He pushed the small plastic bag over the desktop to the scientist who picked it up holding it to the light. Carefully Dr. Baines inspected the hair strands, "It's not very much, but maybe it will be enough. We managed with Jack Singleton well enough. The growth inducer seems to work well on small samples. We managed to produce Singleton's clone from a small sample after his opponent had buried the body."

P"When will you know if he's immortal?" Ralston asked glancing at the sleeping form hanging suspended in the tube across the room. Baines also looked at the younger man.

P"We can't know until he's "born." But we did have an immortal in here a few days ago, and he said that he did not feel any immortal presence, not even a pre-immortal one. However, the cloning technique works on single organs or organ systems like the female reproductive organs we are growing to gestate the clones in until they are full term. It really isn't practical to gestate the clones artificially; there is too high a failure rate. It took fifteen tries to get as far as we got with Singleton, and it costs close to a hundred thousand a try. I'm hoping to procure some mortal or immortal volunteers to have the cloned reproductive organs implanted so that we can produce the clones naturally. I think that we can convince them it will be a way for immortals to be able to reproduce. We wouldn't have to use the growth inducer on the fetuses if they were gestated inside a host body."

PRalston looked at the young man sleeping peacefully in the blue fluid. "He seems normal enough. What about the smaller ones in the other tanks?"

P"They're not immortals I'm using those as research for the reproductive medical clinic to help convince the government to allow the use of transplanted cloned organs for infertile couples. The cloned organs can be implanted to replace damaged or diseased organs, or even implanted in male recipients with proper hormone supplements. The research on cloning immortals is just to produce regenerating organ banks for transplant purposes.

P"The growth inducer causes the pituitary gland to excrete growth hormones irregularly, producing growth spurts that allow us to bring the clone to full adult growth in a short period to time, however it is also extremely degenerative to the tissues of the body, as a result it causes death easily. Also the brain has a hard time producing chemicals to keep up with the increased growth; often the clones suffer brain damage or insanity. Singleton's clone is the only one we have managed to bring to full adult growth. And it only works on male clones. I haven't had one single female fetus survive. It must either be an XX chromosome related defect or it's due to hormones. Maybe the testosterone in a male fetus helps the growth inducer work. The females simple die."

P"I'm going to begin working with the fresh samples right away. I should have both clones in utero by this time tomorrow, and with the growth inducer they can be fully grown in a matter of weeks."

PbLos Angeles, Mt. Palomar Observatory. /b

PThe telescope swung gracefully in a large arc as the man sitting in the viewing chair traced the course of several large objects moving towards the Earth. Carefully Dr. Bill Norman recorded the location of the faint redish looking blips on the computer maps lining one wall of the observatory. He pressed the mouse against the computer screen in the bank of equipment beside the telescope pulling up a series of numbers denoting longitude and latitude. He fed the numbers into the computer and watched as a glowing red line appeared on the huge telemetry map on the wall. The small blue dot glowing in the center of the map brightened as the red line intersected with it. Bill Norman gasped the sound echoing in the dim vast room. With a sigh he picked up a cordless phone settled on the table beside his now forgotten coffee cup. "Marilyn," he said to the operator, "Can you please connect me with Colonel Nate Rubric at the Pentagon?"

PThe telephone rang twice and a deep, resonant voice answered, "Rubric."

P"Nate, its Bill Norman. I've been tracking those asteroids since Hubbell picked them up three weeks ago. Yes, I've plotted the ultimate course, and there's no doubt. The three asteroids will impact the Earth."

P"You're absolutely sure?" The colonel asked tersely. Picking up a clear glass snow globe on the corner of his desk he shook it gently watching the sparkling white glitter fall over the White House. Sighing he gently placed the globe on the corner of the desk, and turned this attention back to the man on the other end of the telephone, "Well, Bill, can you give me a probable date of impact?"

P"Not exactly, but based upon the rate of travel recorded over the past few weeks I'd hazard a guess at approximately two months."

P"Are these planet killers?"

PNorman actually snickered at that and he could hear the displeasure in his friend's not so subtle cough, "Really, Nate, you watch too many movies. No, these asteroids are not nearly that large, and they'll take a battering going through the Van Allen Belt, but the pieces that do get through will be large enough to cause some damage. I can't say where they'll hit, but they will hit."

P"Okay," Rubric said stiffly. "I'll contact the President, and see what we need to do. I don't have to tell you that this is to be kept quiet for now. If the President decides to release information you'll be the first one that I contact to go to the press."

P"I understand, Nate."

PColonel Rubric sat staring down at the telephone for a few moments. Quickly he picked it up punching in a number, "Hello, Jeanne. Yeah it's Daddy. Say why don't you and Roland meet me at the Prichard House for dinner tonight. No nothing's wrong; can't a man just take his best girl and his son-in-law out for a bite to eat? Sure, I'll call Mom and the whole gang can meet at seven? 'Bye sweetheart, yeah, love you too."

PAs the colonel was walking out of his office he glanced at the evening sky glowing softly above him. The city lights were much too bright for many of the stars to be visible but enough were so that the sight still filled him with wonder.

PWhen he had been a young man Nate Rubric had been so enraptured with the night sky and its many mysteries that he had applied to NASA to become an astronaut. The two shuttle missions he had actually gone on had forever changed the colonel's life. He had never felt the draw of those far away star fields as intensely as he had after actually walking among the stars. Now he felt the intensity burning inside again, yet he had never been so afraid.

PbPeyton/MacLeod Residence, Brentwood, California. /b

PGladys Harrison pulled the bubbling casserole out of one of the kitchen's three ovens then paused to check the timer on the bread baking in the convection oven. Carefully she transferred the white ceramic baking dish to the serving cart and covered it with a clear glass lid. She hummed cheerfully as she prepared the evening meal for her employers.

PGladys' friends at the church had been a little scandalized when she had told them that she had taken the job as housekeeper for a young gay couple. But Mr. MacLeod had been so respectful and kind that she couldn't decline when he had offered her the position, even after seeing his newlywed spouse was a slender, sarcastically witty young man. And, truthfully, Gladys was sure that Dr. Peyton-MacLeod was much too thin, and could use a bit of motherly care, a comment that seemed to amuse the apparently younger MacLeod to no end.

PIn the months since Gladys had taken the job as the MacLeods' housekeeper she had found out that Mr. MacLeod was an antiques dealer who was one-half owner in Nash and MacLeod, the largest antique shop in Los Angles. The other owner being Mr. MacLeod's cousin, Russell Nash. Gladys had met Mr. Nash and his lovely wife Alexandra a few days after taking her position. The younger MacLeod, Adam, was a doctor.

PNow that Gladys was properly settled she had taken the running of the household in firm control, and everything ran right on schedule. Breakfast was served precisely at seven and so was dinner. She pushed the serving cart into the dinning room exactly as the door joining the kitchen from the garage opened. She could hear the amused, slightly accented voice of the senior MacLeod as he scoffed at something his spouse was saying. The deep, melodious baritone of the younger MacLeod answered in the snippy manner she knew amused his husband. In fact Gladys often suspected that Mr. MacLeod antagonized his young spouse just to produce that snippy sound, and the eye rolling expression that accompanied it.

P"Good evening Mr. MacLeod," she said sighing as MacLeod waggled his eyebrows behind Adam's back. She smiled primly, "Good evening Adam."

P"And a very good evening to you Gladys," Methos said settling into one of the padded high-backed armchairs around the long trestle table. "Uhmm smells lovely."

P"Good," she said huffily, "Perhaps you'll eat some of it then."

PMacLeod grinned, "Now Gladys not all of us have a hearty appetite. You know that Adam wants to watch his weight."

PWaiting until her back was turned Methos flipped him the finger, "Well, Mac, not all of us have your sturdy northern frame."

MacLeod sputtered, choking on his wine, "Sturdy northern frame? That remark, my lad, will earn you a spanking..."

P"Promises, promises." Methos hissed gleefully as he twisted the cap off the glistening brown bottle perched on the table beside his china plate. Gladys had clucked disapprovingly when he had instructed her to place the beer bottles on the table in the place of his wine glass. And in reality he would have taken the wine occasionally, but her demeanor was too amusing and he insisted on the bottled beer refusing even a chilled glass mug. Frowning slightly Gladys served the food, "The pool man is coming tomorrow, and the mail is on the desk in the study. "

PMacLeod smiled, "Thank you, Gladys. Have a good evening," he said watching her move smartly through the connecting door into the kitchen. He and Methos were in the habit of clearing the table themselves and loading the dishes into the dishwasher knowing that she had cleaned the spotless kitchen earlier and would have taken her meal to her private quarters at the rear of the house flanking the patio and pool.

PMeal eaten, dishes loaded into the dishwasher, MacLeod checked the door and turned on the security system then followed Methos to their bedroom in the west wing of the house. Flicking on the light Methos opened the door on the entertainment cabinet and pulled the T.V. out on its turn table. Stripping his jeans off he tossed them at the hamper perched in the corner. They missed hanging precariously off the edge. MacLeod glared at him then tipped the offending garment into the wicker hamper. Methos grinned at him unrepentantly and tossed his shirt over as well, making sure that the shirt landed over the Highlander's head.

P"Keep going, that spanking is getting to look more and more like a good idea," MacLeod said raising an eyebrow at his spouse.

Methos stretched, "Yeah, you'd have to catch me first."

P"Is that a challenge?"

P"I make it a point never to challenge another immortal when I'm naked, and ready for bed," the ancient immortal said yawning. MacLeod settled down in the padded armchair beside the wardrobe to take off his shoes. Carefully he placed them in the open door then tossed his clothes into the hamper as well.

PHe rose swiftly intercepting his mate on the way to the bathroom, "Going somewhere?"

PMethos swerved aside, "Yeah, gotta take a leak."

pAs he listened to the muffled sounds coming from the bathroom the Highlander reached under the bed, and pulled out a small black leather bound box. Shuffling through the contents he choose an item that he set on the night table before reaching inside for a bottle of clear viscous liquid. Quickly he finished stripping before he rose to his full height positioning himself on the wall beside the closed bathroom door. The door swung open and Methos stepped out. Spotting the empty bed the ancient immortal paused listening suspiciously. MacLeod leapt forward grabbing the slightly smaller man and tugging his arms up behind his back. "Got you!"

P"Mac," Methos sniffed, "Stop being childish. This is so beneath you."

P"The only thing that's going to be beneath me is you. " He roughly shoved the other man forward pushing him along as Methos dragged his feet, cursing softly. When the ancient immortal saw what was laying on the night table he began to struggle in earnest,

P"Mac, you wouldn't dare!"

P"You've been asking for it for days now. Well, reckoning time is here."

PQuickly MacLeod pulled his struggling mate to the bed throwing him down on the deep rich green duvet. Methos tried to launch himself off the soft surface, but the Highlander threw himself down on the slim, wiry body pinning the other man in place. Methos grunted as the air was forced out of his lungs, gasping as the Highlander settled on the bed and dragged his spouse across his lap. He could feel Methos' hard erection digging into the top of his thigh and MacLeod spread his legs slightly letting the hard length of flesh fall between his thighs then closed gently around it. He leaned back pulling a small blue plastic implement that looked like a hairbrush with no bristles off the table waving it in front of Methos' face.

P"Be still you're only making it worse for yourself."

P"Fuck you, MacLeod!" Methos hissed, but the determined Highlander merely laughed.

P"No, I don't think so. You've forgotten who does the fucking around here, and who gets fucked."

PWithout another word Macleod raised the paddle slightly and brought it down on the smooth rounded curves of Methos' buttocks. The older man pressed his lips together to hold in the grunt threatening to escape.

P"Oh, tough guy, eh?" MacLeod hissed.

PThe paddle rose again this time coming down with enough force to jar MacLeod's hand. Methos hissed in pain trying to shuffle forward, feeling the delicious slide of his hard, hot flesh between MacLeod' s silky thighs. As the paddle continued to rise and fall tears sprang to the ancient immortal's eyes. He cried out, pleading with the Highlander to stop, all the while jerking on his lap thrusting between the strong, hard thighs that would later be pressed between Methos' wide spread legs. MacLeod paused ever so often listening for their safe word, but Methos never uttered it.

PMacLeod lowered the paddle one last time, and Methos gasped out as the Highlander rubbed his palm over the red, throbbing flesh of the ancient immortals buttocks. With a growl Methos gasped out, "For all the gods' sakes do not stop!"

PPicking up the paddle MacLeod administered a few more blazing whacks until Methos gasped one final time, surging forward and a warm, wet, heat spread over the Highlander's thighs, and Macleod's own erection dug painfully hard into Methos' warm belly. Quickly MacLeod jerked Methos upright throwing him onto the bed on his back. He climbed the length of his spouse's prone form and seizing the bottle of lubricant. Carefully he dribbled the liquid on Methos belly raking his fingers through it as Methos drew his legs up holding himself open. Knowing that when Methos was in this mood he wanted minimal preparation MacLeod raked his fingers through the liquid smearing it over the tight puckered opening. The rest of the lubricant he wiped over his aching erection, and slammed himself home. Methos jerked under him trying to scoot backwards to escape the sudden invasion. But MacLeod held him tight thrusting hard, moaning his satisfaction.

PThe Highlander could feel Methos getting hard again as his belly rubbed against the other man's warm flesh. Driving forward he grunted as Methos flung his head back crying out and came again. MacLeod followed right behind him.

PDropping onto the older man's chest he gasped out. "What you do to me, Old Man!"

PHe rolled off his spouse pulling the trembling body into his arms. Methos snuggled into the Highlander's arms, resting his head against the still heaving chest. "Uhmm thanks Mac. I really needed that."

P"Hey, my pleasure." As his partner drifted gently into sleep MacLeod slipped out of bed and picked up the remote control. He clicked on the local news, turning down the volume as Methos rolled over grumbling into his pillow. Tugging his own pillow from under the slim body the Highlander propped himself against the ornately carved headboard as the face of the eleven o 'clock newscaster filled the screen.

PThe slender blonde with a slight Texan drawl was standing on the streets of nighttime Los Angeles. As she spoke the camera shifted overhead then refocused on the reporters face. "Scientists at NASA today released a report confirming the findings of Dr. William A. Norman at the Mount Palomar Observatory that rare summer meteorite showers will be visible in the nighttime skies beginning early next week. The NASA science team has been tracking the meteorites since last month using the Hubbell telescope. Dr. Norman has also been tracking the meteorites since early in June and had contacted NASA to confirm his findings. Channel Seven Science Reports will be running weekly updates on the progress of the meteorites as they approach Earth. I'm Sandra Renolds, back to you, Casey and Norm."

PbGenetech Laboratories, California. /b

PDr. Ronald Baines stood beside the clear high-density plastic tube that was suspended in a metal frame. Slowly the metal frame rotated until the plastic tubing was parallel to the floor. Inside the tube the blue opaque fluid bubble and began draining into a stainless steel flexible hose seated in a floor drain. As the fluid level in the plastic tube fell, the tube rotated until Dr. Baines could reach a seam in the top. Using a small pry bar the doctor opened the seam spilling the tube's occupant onto a metal examination table in a rush of fluid.

PThe man on the table lay motionless until Dr. Baines pressed a small bulb syringe to his nostrils clearing the fluid away. Suddenly the prone form began to twitch, jerking with rough spasms. The man's eyes flew open, staring vacantly up at the doctor and his two lab assistants.

PNick Ralston looked at the prone figure, "What's wrong with him? Why doesn't he sit up?"

PBaines smiled, "He's just been born, Nick; give him a break. It'll take a few weeks to teach him to walk, dress, and feed himself. But the growth inducer works wonders on the mental growth as well. Our friend here will learn those things that it takes a natural born human five years to learn in several weeks. In a month's time there will not be a person on the streets who would ever suspect that he's not the original donor."

PRalston grunted, "Well an immortal that knew the original donor would, considering that he's as mortal as the rest of us."

P"Yes, that's true. It is too bad that we can't reproduce immortals as such. But all the clones turned out to be mortal. Still his genetic material is a perfect match. If a female was impregnated by this clone the child would be a perfect genetic match for the original donor."

PbPentagon, Washington D.C. /b

PColonel Nate Rubric paced the small office as he waited for Bill Norman to arrive. The colonel had been waiting for this day since their first telephone conversation almost a month earlier.

PThe scientists' calculations had been slightly off and the asteroids hurtling silently through space had just reached the far side of the moon earlier that morning. At three o'clock Eastern Standard Time the Hubbell Telescope had relayed photographs of the three huge chunks of space rock rotating seemingly motionless in the dark void. They would miss the moon by mere miles, and strike the Earth sometime in the next two days. Nate Rubric and Bill Norman were going to the White House where the President would be announcing the asteroids officially although Rubric knew that the media had been spouting rumors for almost two weeks.

PA light tapping on his office door brought the colonel out of his revelry. Bill Norman stood in the hall a grim look on his face. He tried to muster a smile, as his old friend moved to firmly grasp his hand. "Come on, Nate." Norman offered, "It's not as bad as that. We've determined that the asteroids will impact in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. A couple of big tidal waves and some land damage due to the high tides. I mean considering how bad it could have been we're getting off lucky."

PRubric gasped, "They've been evacuating military personal off Hawaii for two weeks now. But they haven't done a thing about the civilian population. Hawaii isn't going to exist in about two days. Do you know how many lives we're talking about?"

P"In the grand scheme not many. Come on, if these things hit populated areas it could be much worse. We have lived in fear of asteroids impacting the Earth for years now. Remember those old movies? This is not going to cause that kind of damage. Once the things have actually impacted they'll break up. They may break up in the atmosphere, into smaller chunks. We can't be sure. It's the best we can do."

PNodding the colonel motioned his friend to the door. The two men walked down the corridor and out the side door to the parking lot. A young solider with flaming red hair stood patiently beside a dark blue sedan. He quickly opened the door for the colonel as Rubric settled in the back seat. Bill Norman walked around to the other side of the car and opened the door seating himself beside the other man.

PbWhite House, Rose Garden. Washington, D.C. /b

PMichael Allen Covington restlessly paced the area behind the podium. Before him a sea of faces stretched out all intently glaring at the young man. The President was still ensconced in the side office with his military advisers and the Astronomer from Mt. Palomar who had first tracked the asteroids.

PSuddenly the side door opened and three older men stepped out. Covington of course knew the President, having been his secretary for two years. He also knew Colonel Rubric from the many times that the colonel had met with the president. However, Covington did not know the middle-aged man with thinning blond hair dressed in professorial looking tweed and black jeans. He assumed that he was Dr. Bill Norman. As the sea of faces wavered and the whispering settled down the young man moved smartly forward, "Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States."

PThe applause was polite but died quickly as the deep strenuous tones of the president's voice rang out, "A day has come that we have long feared in this nation, on this planet; a day when we could not face our enemy on the fields of battle. The battle has been brought to us not man-to-man or nation-to-nation but mankind against nature. In two days time three large asteroids will impact the face of our mother earth. We have determined that the asteroids will strike the surface of our planet in mid ocean. Two of the asteroids will impact somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean and one will strike in the Pacific near the island of Hawaii. I have with me today Dr. William Norman of the Mt. Palomar Observatory in California. He is the astronomer who first detected the approaching asteroids. He has been able to determine the course of the asteroids and can give you details of the approximate impact sites and the amount of damage to expect at the impact sites. I'll turn the podium over to Dr. William Norman."

PBill Norman stood as the smattering of applause rippled away to a sullen silence. Clearing his throat Norman nervously tapped on the podium with his fingers then spoke. "I could give you the following information in terms of longitude and latitude, etc; but for the most part I don't believe that information would do most people any good, so I'll try to keep to laymen's terms as much as possible. The larger of the three asteroids designated G-3 will impact the Earth at approximately six fifteen a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Monday, August 31, 2021.

PIt will be followed in quick succession by the two smaller asteroids designated G-1 and G-2. The smaller of the two remaining asteroids will impact some 3000 miles to the south of G-3 approximate forty-five minutes later. G-1 will impact on the southern most end of the big island of Hawaii at approximate seven a.m. Pacific Standard Time. G-1 will cause the most land damage. Not only will the asteroid impact on land, but also the resultant tidal waves will cause most of the surface of the island to be wiped clean. Smaller waves will also strike the other islands, causing damage as well."

PA voice from the audience carried across the garden, "What is being done to evacuate the people on the island?"

PDr. Norman paused looking over his shoulder at Nate Rubric. "That's the military's end not mine. I don't really know anything about that."

PGlancing at the President Colonel Rubric strode forward. His crisp clear voice never wavered as he said; "We have been evacuating military personnel and their families out of Hawaii for two weeks. The civilian population is being told to report to the military landing sites for transportation. We have continued to move people out of the highly populated areas day and night."

PbAugust 31, 2021. 7:00 a.m. EST. /b

PThe asteroid designated as G-3 swung gracefully over the curve of the planet's horizon. Caught in the Earth's gravity well the huge chunk of space rock rolled, tumbled and fell into the atmosphere a fiery red tail streaming behind it. G-2 the slightly smaller asteroid was caught up in the larger asteroid's wake, and it tumbled into the atmosphere as well. As the asteroids rolled into the Earths atmosphere tiny spoors seated deep within the grayish rock blossomed and came to life, coaxed into existence by the fiery heat.

POn the planet's surface many people had risen earlier or stayed up all night to watch the fiery mass that nightly drew closer to the Earth. In the dim light of the early morning sky the glowing red ball appeared low over the horizon dropping lower. The molten red mass of rock and ash sped onward, hurtling over the landmass of the Northern American continent and plunging into the glassy gray-green water of the Atlantic Ocean.

PA huge geyser of white hot water and steam rose upwards, rolling into a massive wave. The white-capped funnel churned and rolled dancing over the ocean's surface, spreading out in an ever-expanding tidal wave.

PFar below the surface of the churning waters the still molten mass of rock and ash drifted, cracking and splitting into a multitude of chunks and pieces. The rushing water caught up bits and pieces of broken asteroid carrying them far and wide.

PbAugust 31, 2021. 7:00 a.m. PST /b

PFar off into the early morning sky a red-white stream of light danced in the growing light. On the tiny land mass of the island of Hawaii the first rays of the sun touched the silent and still cities. Empty streets lay still shrouded in the twilight gloom. No one looked up into the sky and noticed the approaching ball of fiery white light.

POut in the fields surrounding the cities the cattle grazed, milling restlessly as the tumbling mass of molten rock fell out of the sky. The pineapple fields lay quite, the fruit rotting sweetly in the cloying humid mid-summer air.

PNo farmer approached his fields with hay for the lowing cattle and no workers made their way to the dimly lit fields to pull the sweet, prickly fruit from their vines. There was not a single human soul present to witness the awesome impact of the asteroid and the Earth's surface. Clouds of dust and rock shot up into the air trembling in the heavy breezes generated by the rolling tumbling asteroid. The gray chunk of rock and ash skittered over the earth's surface plowing a deep furrow into the ground. The rolling rock shattered sending huge pieces of stone bounding over the asphalt and concrete of the city streets.

PHuge fissures opened in the earth, crumbling soil, asphalt and concrete tumbled into the faults pulling more dirt down, widening the rips in the ground. The chunks of asteroid hit the gas mains and the electrical lines, pulling them, free of their fittings. Inevitably the gas lines and electric lines intersected and huge explosions vibrated the air, setting off alarms and torching buildings. Fire rained up into the air, creeping over the city streets enveloping cars and buildings alike.

PThe explosions worked their way on the tumbling bits of asteroid, heating the dormant spoors in the rock releasing them from their slumber.

PThe heavy winds generated by the asteroids passing caught up the smaller bits and pieces of rock and dust carrying them over the land to the water and into the jet stream, which whipped them along to the far corners of the Earth.

PWithin a few days the spoors had spread over the face of the Earth settling on the Earth's unwitting inhabitants ready to blossom and grow in their new homes.

PbSt. Mary Margaret Medical Center, Sept. 21, 2021. /b

PIn the weeks that followed the asteroids impact life slowly returned to normal. Once the loss of life on the Hawaiian Island had been totaled the numbers were astonishingly low. Although the lower laying areas were completely submerged some of the residents had returned to their homes and property.

PIt seemed to everyone that the Earth's residents had gotten off easy. Some flooding in low laying areas and some minor damage to coastal areas on the European Continent and Britain had also occurred, but for the most part the populated areas were spared any real destruction.

PThe first cases of the unspecified fever started to appear about two weeks following the impacts. The patients trickled in, mostly younger girls around nine or ten years old. Some pediatricians complained that the cases might be a resurgence of small pox; however the telltale blisters never appeared and a brief flurry of panic news reporting settled down, just as the hospitals began seeing more and more cases. They remained largely un-remarked upon except by the frustrated and aggregated ER staff.

PMethos paused pushing the hair back out of his eyes. Slowly he settled into a chair in the cafeteria watching as the nurses and doctors on duty hurriedly wolfed down their lunch. He himself had been on duty for eighteen hours straight. Even with his immortal healing he was feeling the strain, how much more so must his mortal colleagues. With a sigh the ancient immortal sipped at the hot coffee savoring the bitter flavor and the soothing warmth on his over-stressed throat.

PDr. Gary Burrell, the pediatrician on duty in the ER, settled into a chair beside Methos, "God, Adam. I don't know how much longer this can go on. I've had fifteen patients since six this morning, all under the age of sixteen."

PNodding Methos said, "I know. I've seen twice that myself, and there are four other doctors on duty. Half of the one's I've seen today are final stage terminal. There is absolutely nothing I have done for them that has made a damn."

P"Yeah, it's just a matter of time for all the ones I've seen today as well. You know what's odd?"

P"No, what?"

P"They're all female. Every last one of them. None under the age of nine though."

P"Hum, now that you mention it. All my patients today have been female as well. All between the ages of sixteen and fifty-five. None post-menopausal."

PMethos settled his cup on the table and glanced over at one of the nurses, "Jamey, can you give me some information of Bill Morrison's patients."

PThe nurse glanced up at him with weary eyes, "What about them?"

P"Are they all female?" He asked and she paused closing her eyes while she thought then nodded, "Yeah, well except for the car crash, and the mugging all the patients that we treated today were female and all of them had the same symptoms."

PBurrell rose to his feet, "I'm going to make a couple of calls. I've heard that we aren't the only ER doing triple duty. Look Adam you've been here for three full shifts. Dr. Casey is going to send you home. Check out the news and see if there is anything being reported."

PMethos nodded rubbing his eyes. "I will. Mac is going to be here to pick me up soon. I already called him. I'll keep an eye out and see if I can figure out anything else and let you know."

PThe immortal rose to his feet, "I almost hate to leave, but I don't know how much longer I'll be good to anyone." Sighing he set the coffee cup on the chipped wooden surface of the cafeteria table turning to the other man, "Who do they have coming in this evening?"

PBurrell rubbed his eye tiredly, "I don't know. They have all the staff on call, and Dr. Baines in the Reproductive Medical Clinic has three new orderlies."

P"How did he rate three new orderlies and the ER none?" Methos snapped. "Sorry, but that really burns me up. I'll see you later."

pGathering his jacket up the ancient immortal wound his way through the shuffling crowd in the cafeteria and pushed his way out the door into the hallway. Farther down the corridor he could make out the broad shoulders and dark brown hair of his husband. Quickly Methos pulled his jacket on and trotted toward the bend in the hall. Waving he tried to catch Duncan's attention, "MacLeod," he called. The retreating figure never paused, "Mac, wait, I'm coming." he said.

PThe white clad figure hustled into a small waiting are for the Ob/Gyn department and Methos glared at the broad back of his erstwhile mate. "MacLeod, will you slow down? What is your problem?"

PSuddenly Methos found himself threading through the crowds as the white clad figure paused in front of the elevator doors. The green numbers flashed downward, and the man bounced on his heels impatiently until the door parted. Methos has almost reached the elevator when the doors swung closed. Through the closing door the ancient immortal caught a glimpse of the Highlander's brown eyes and he hissed angrily until he realized that he had not felt the immortal buzz that flowed from his mate.

PThe ancient immortal was jerked from his puzzled revelry by the deep resonant thrumming of immortal presence. Whirling around Methos reached into his jacket pocket for the knife sheathed in the lining. Glancing around he tried to spot the immortal and found himself staring at MacLeod. The Highlander smiled warmly, and then Methos watched the cheery grin fade to a troubled expression, "Baby, are you all right?"

P"I thought that I saw you go into the elevator. I mean… I was sure that it was you." Methos paused rubbing his hand over his eyes, "I guess that I'm just a lot more tired than I thought. Please, Duncan, let's go home."

PDonald McQueen rolled the custodial cart out of the third floor supply cabinet and began his shift by mopping the ICU floors as he had for the past week. Dr. Ronald Baines had gotten Donald the job as a hospital orderly, although the younger man could not quite remember how he had met the doctor. Somehow he felt that Baines' explanation that McQueen had suffered brain damage in a car wreck was not quite true. Still Donald was grateful to be gainfully employed even if he was just a glorified janitor.

PBobbi Carmichael, the second shift nurse, was checking a patient's blood pressure as Donald walked by. She smiled and waved. Donald waved back. Bobbie was one of the nicer women on staff, and she was more interested in Donald's dark good looks than his lack of education. Donald paused glancing at himself in the highly polished glass of the ICU windows.

PSmiling at himself Donald pushed the ponytail lying over one shoulder back. He was a tall, youngish looking thirty-five year old man, with shoulder length dark brown hair and large chocolate brown eyes. His smooth golden skin was pulled taut over his well-muscled chest and shoulders. He moved with an easy grace that seemed unusual for so large a man.

PCarefully Donald lifted the mop working over the floor with precision and great attention. He took pride in the fact that when he was finished with the floor he could see his reflection in the white marbleized tiles.

pOnce the floors were washed to perfection the orderly pulled the cart over and began his careful cleaning of the gleaming metal bed rails and table trays. Bobbie wandered over to stand beside him, "So, Donald, how are you?"

pHe shrugged, "Fine. It seems really busy. I mean I don't think that I've seen so many patients since I got here last week."

p"That's true. And to tell you the truth. I'm not feeling so well myself."

p"Maybe you should go home. This fever might be catching. Even if you are careful, you treat a lot of people."

pSighing Bobbie shrugged, "Well, I haven't been around any of them. I've been in the ICU all day, and we follow strict sterilization procedures. Anyway I'm off in forty-five minutes and I think I'll go home and kick back for a while."

pHe smiled, "Do that. Maybe I'll see you tomorrow. I think I'm working the same shift." She smiled moving away.

pDonald pushed the cart to the window and pulled his squeegee and window cleaner out. Glancing down at the staff lot he caught sight of a man disappearing into a black BMW, one of the doctors was also walking around the car to the passenger side door. The orderly watched in rapt silence as the slender, dark hair young man slipped into the car. He smiled. As nice-looking as the nurse was she didn't hold a candle to the pretty young doctor with the gold-green eyes that Donald had been following around the hospital all week. He signed, whoever the other man in that car was he was one lucky guy.

pbPeyton/MacLeod Residence. Brentwood, California. /b

pThe BMW rolled to a halt in the garage beside the green land rover that Methos drove when he chose to drive himself. The ancient immortal was sitting, head back, snoring loudly as MacLeod opened the car door. Gently he patted his spouse's shoulder, "Methos we're home. I'm sure Gladys has an early dinner waiting."

pWearily Methos rose following the broad back of his mate into the house. The warm scent of lamb stew and fresh baked bread seemed to rouse the ancient immortal and he smiled at the small woman fussing with the dishes.

p"Oh," she said smiling. "You're home. Well, I'm glad. Really that hospital keeping Adam there all that long time..." She clucked in her crisp unforgiving tone.

pMacLeod grinned at his ancient love then winked before turning to Gladys, "Don't worry, your baby is home."

p"My baby indeed, Mr. MacLeod," she sniffed, but the Highlander did not miss the obvious concern in her cornflower blue eyes as the elderly lady surveyed Methos' pale, drawn face. Methos glared at the Highlander but accepted her gentle pat on the arm; "Perhaps I should bring a tray to your room, Adam."

p"I think I will." He sighed as she pulled the serving cart over and began loading the meal onto a wooden breakfast tray. MacLeod helped her load the tray then gently patted her arm touched by her concern for the Old Man. "I'll take it in, Gladys. Why don't you go on to bed?"

p"Yes, Mr. MacLeod. If you need me for anything at all…"

p"We'll be fine." He smiled at her over his shoulder then carried the tray down the hall to the bedroom. He could hear the shower running as he deposited the tray on the small table in the corner of the room. Tugging his shirt over his head Macleod pushed the bathroom door open.

pQuickly he finished stripping and stepped into the large, tiled shower stall behind his mate. Methos leaned back into the solid, warm body as MacLeod carefully adjusted the water so that the pulsing cascade hit the ancient immortal in the center of his chest. "Uhmm, that feels good," Methos whispered, and MacLeod chuckled low and deep. A shiver ran the length of Methos' back and he leaned into the solid bulk of his mate stroking himself up and down the lightly furred chest and hard sleek muscles, "Mac," he whispered with a breathless sigh, "put your hands on me."

pSilently the Highlander ran his fingers down the slender shoulders and across the breadth of his mate's chest. The broad callused palms slipped over the glistening wet skin with a practiced ease, and Methos purred his satisfaction.

pCarefully MacLeod lifted a bottle of shower gel from the tiled shelf pouring a dollop of the softly scented liquid into his hand. With gentle touches he massaged the gel into soft white foam smoothing it over Methos' hairless chest and down the smooth ripples of his abdomen. Methos spread his legs and MacLeod's hand dipped past the soft tangle of curls to the length of flesh that lay acquiescent on the hard muscled thigh. Grunting Methos ground his buttocks into the Highlander's groin, rubbing himself over the hot, hard flesh rising to meet his every backward thrust.

pGently MacLeod slipped his hand to the shelf and fumbled a small bottle of bath oil open, dripping the golden liquid over his fingers. His hand slid down over the rounded curve of Methos' buttocks and into the deep cleft.

pMacLeod smiled as his fingers slipped easily inside, and Methos drew a ragged breath leaning forward, resting his cheek against the cool tile wall. Languidly he raised a hand, stroking down the length of the Highlander's arm, and then slipping his hand behind him pulling MacLeod close. Methos spread his legs, and MacLeod stepped forward, pressing the blunt head of his penis into the soft downy crevice, slipping over the warm oily skin, until he could press inward. He slid forward as Methos' body parted easily for him. He pulled back and thrust forward slowly, gently angling his thrusts until Methos jerked hissing his pleasure.

pAfter several minutes of slow thrusting Macleod reached around fisting Methos' erection stroking in time to his slow thrusts, and Methos gasped trembling as his body spilled out his release. MacLeod breathed softly, burying his face in the crook of his mate's neck and shoulder. Eyes closed he breathed in the soft clean scent of the ancient immortal's skin, big hard hand grasping Methos' hips holding them together until their heartbeats returned to normal.

pWrapped in a warm robe Methos settled back against the headboard of the huge king sized bed, the wooden tray balanced on its long legs beside him. Carefully he spooned the still warm stew into his mouth savoring the rich flavors. MacLeod settled beside him as the news program flickered into life on the television screen.

pThe news broadcast opened with two men sitting at a desk. The older of the two men turned to the camera smiling wanly. "Good evening, I'm Norm Donaldson and this is the eleven o'clock news." The camera panned to the younger man, "I'm Albert Amescua sitting in for Jan Miller who's feeling a little under the weather this evening."

pThe two men quickly segued into the first story about a high-speed freeway chase, which ended in the suspect being shot on the 101 Freeway into Los Angeles. After the first round of commercials the broadcast quickly picked up the fever story.

pThe camera pulled back revealing a reporter standing in front of the Los Angeles County Medical Center. A steady stream of patients and visitors was clogging the double glass doors to the emergency room. Methos sat up frowning at the picture, "It was like that at St. Mary's today, too." He said glancing over at MacLeod.

pThe other man looked apprehensive, "Let's see what they say."

pThe blond reporter, also male, stared into the camera then said, "Hospitals and medical clinics across the state today are reporting record numbers of fever patients being admitted for treatment. Every clinic and hospital reports that the fever victims are all female between the ages of nine and fifty-five years of age and all are suffering from some unspecified virulent fever. The hospitals and clinics also report that of the initial victims admitted seventy five percent have died and the remainder is in critical condition. Doctors are reporting that to date no cure has been found for the fever and traditional treatments are proving unsatisfactory."

pWith a grunt Methos rolled over, "maybe I should go back to the hospital." He tried to rise only to find the Highlander's hand grasping his shoulder.

"No. You're staying here and getting some rest. They will still be there tomorrow, and it won't do anyone any good if you're completely exhausted."

pMacleod's fears proved justifiable. Methos spent days at the medical center, and hour after heartbreaking hour he watched his patients die. Every one of the fever victims was female, all of child bearing age. Older women seemed to contract a less virulent fever that faded after a few days. But Methos' patients were by far the sickest cases. Some of the women never even made to the hospitals and cases of fever sprang up in all parts of the city.

pNight after night Methos and MacLeod watched the death statistics climb on the nightly news. In the end the grim faced reporters dragged out the statistics from other countries and the news was appalling.

pIn a month's time seventy-five percent of the female population of the Earth was dead as the adult women died the older female children fell victims as well. In the end there wasn't a fertile prepubescent or adult pre-menopausal female alive.

pbDecember 1, 2021. The White House Oval Office, Seven-fifteen a.m. /b

pColonel Nate Rubric settled into an uncomfortable overstuffed wing chair casually worrying the coffee cup sitting on the corner of the desk before him. His fingers were trembling slightly and the delicate bone china cup clattered against the saucer. Stilling his hands the colonel lowered his head.

pHe hadn't wanted to come to the President's office, for the first time in his life he hadn't wanted to obey his Commander in Chief's summons. This task that the President had set before the colonel left him cold, and reeling. Still overwhelmed by the loss of his wife and daughter Rubric and Roland Nettle, his son in law, had shut themselves into the colonel's Washington town home and drank themselves into oblivion. Slowly the numbing pain faded as the oval office drifted away and Rubric's memories rose to the surface again.

pRubric had only dragged himself out of the alcohol induced fugue state a week earlier when the President's first summons has arrived on his doorstep in the form of two burly Military Police officers. The female Sergeant had been as bulky and unsmiling as her male partner and Rubric had decided that he wouldn't want to take on either one of them in a fair fight, maybe an unfair one either.

pThe colonel had forced himself into a cold shower, shaved and dressed. Thumping his son in law on the back as he walked out the door he watched as the younger man raised his head from the drool-covered pillow on the living room sofa. "Rol, get up and get showered. We're finished with this. I'll pick you up for lunch; be dressed and ready."

pThe young man had nodded dazedly and Colonel Rubric closed the door firmly, leaving his only remaining family behind. His President and his country waiting he walked to the car head held high.

pThe door to the dark blue sedan had closed on a proudly determined man. And the Colonel Rubric that walked into the President's office was nothing like the lost and broken man the MP's had roused only an hour earlier.

pInside the office were three men. The President, of course, and two men the colonel had not met before. One of the men was a slender blond boy of perhaps eighteen; the second a tall, cadaverously thin middle aged man with dark hair and hooded black eyes. Rubric had seen men like this in the POW camps in the Baltic and the oily feeling he got when he grasped the man's cold hand left the colonel feeling dirty.

pClearing his throat the President motioned all three men into chairs, "Nate, this is Dr. Ronald Baines from the Los Angeles Reproductive Medical Center. I have been consulting with a number of medical experts on what to do about the plague that has robbed humanity of its ability to continue as a species."

pGrief made the colonel bold, "Save the speeches for the public, Jack," he hissed. And the President merely nodded.

p"Okay, man to man, Nate. No bullshit. Humanity as a species is dying out. What ever the hell this plague is it's killed off all the females on this planet old enough to reproduce, and we can't be sure the younger girls will grow up to bear children. The number of older women still healthy enough to survive pregnancy and childbirth is appallingly low. I've discussed this with a number of other foreign powers and they're in the same boat as the United States. Some decisions have been made and Dr. Baines is going to be the one to help us out. Doctor, if you please."

pBaines rose silently, smiling easily at the remaining men. "I have been working on a procedure to clone human organs for transplant purposes. I've developed a method of producing organ systems from stem cells. Because I work in a Reproductive clinic I have a large bank of human stem cells from female fetuses. I have managed to produce functional reproductive organs for transplanting into infertile women. Now there are no women left to have the organs transplanted into. However, I have been able to transplant the organs into a male volunteer as well. This is Michael Singletary. He's one of my volunteers. I transplanted female organs that I had produced from a physically similar female donor. Michael is also eight weeks pregnant."

pThe colonel gasped, "Pregnant? Doctor are you out of your mind? How can he carry a child, a man isn't built for it even with the transplanted organs?"

pRaising a hand Baines motioned the two other men to a television and video player set up in the corner of the office. "I have developed a procedure that allows me to re-assign the gender of the transplant recipient. The surgery is a modified type of sexual re-assignment surgery. We don't remove the male's sex organs we simple readjust the body to accommodate the female organs we transplant. We do have to restructure the body somewhat, but not enough to be noticeable from the outside. The hormones and transplant drugs are administered automatically via a small pump implanted in the abdominal cavity. The testicles are not removed just relocated to inside the abdominal cavity as well, here."

pHe pushed a button freezing the video image. The colonel forced himself to not squirm in the chair. He had been in three wars, but medical procedures left him feeling ill, and this one in particular left him cold as well.

pBaines continued, "The anti-rejection drugs that I have developed and the fact that we use stem cells from genetically similar donors keep the male recipient's body from rejecting the organs. Of course the recipients will have to undergo therapy and counseling to adjust to their new gender, but there is nothing else that can be done to replace the lost child bearing members of society."

pA soft sound brought the colonel out of his revelry and one look at the grim visage of his Commander-In-Chief and Rubric knew the decision had been made. The President settled into his chair tugging a cigar from the wooden humidor perched on the shiny mahogany surface.

p"So when will you make the announcement?" Rubric asked the other man. The President stroked his hand over his eyes, and the colonel noticed that his fingers trembled slightly. Politely he looked away. "I'm going on the air in ten minutes. I and every other world leader will be making a simultaneous announcement. We are declaring a world crisis. And I have sent doctors trained in genetics and reproductive health to every medical center that has a staff trainable. Within one month twenty-five percent of the world's men will have had the surgery and been gender reassigned."

p"Mutilated you mean." Rubric snapped. "God, my son-in law is twenty-five are your scientists going to do this to him too?"

pWhirling on his friend and advisor the President snapped, "What do you expect me to do? We are dying as a race; human kind cannot survive the years it will take for the female population under eight to mature to child bearing age and we aren't sure that the plague might not lay dormant in them until they reach puberty."

p"Bullshit, Jack. Humanity would survive, but the world's governments might not. This is being done to preserve the economy. We as a race could survive until those few girls matured, but the government might not maintain its power. Maybe the world would be better off if the old ones like us did died out, let them start over."

p"That's not an option. It's too late. I've already sent the military out. They are already rounding up every healthy male between the ages of nineteen and twenty-five, and they will be taken to the medical centers established for the surgery."

pRubric stiffened in his chair, then rose slowly. "If you'll excuse me, Mr. President."

pQuickly he exited the oval office and fled to the driveway. The blue sedan had left and he didn't pause to call it back. Fumbling his cell phone from his jacket the colonel dialed the number to his town home, listening as the answering machine clicked on. Jeanne's bright voice chirped out the greeting and Rubric felt his heart squeeze in his chest. When the cheerful voice faded he hissed into the phone, "Rol, its Dad, pick up the phone."

pThe phone on the other end crackled then Roland's sleep roughed voice came on, "Yeah, Dad what's wrong?" Unaccustomed to hearing panic in his father-in-law's voice the younger man cleared his throat then glanced around the dimly lit room. "Dad?"

pIn the distance the colonel could hear the doorbell ringing, "Rol, don't answer the door," he said clenching the cell phone in this fist. "Rol! Don't go to the door!" But the phone was settled on the table. A rough voice answered Roland's mumbled greeting then the sounds of a struggle came to the colonel's ears. "Roland," he shouted heedless of the fact that he was drawing attention to himself. A wave of cold fury swept over the colonel and something deep inside snapped. Flinging the cell phone down he fumbled his service revolver out of holster under his jacket. The gun barrel felt warm in his hand. Carefully with the gun pressed against his thigh Colonel Rubric made his way back inside the White House, passing the milling staff ignoring the muttered questions directed at him.

pTurning the corner of the short hallway the colonel glanced at the black clad secret service men positioned at a desk beside the door to the office. "Is Jack still here?" he asked with a grim sigh. The agent barely glanced up, "Yeah, Colonel Rubric go on in."

pQuickly he stormed the door. The President turned frowning, "Look, Nate, the decision has already been made. There is nothing that I want to discuss with you."

p"There's nothing I want to discuss with you either," he raised the gun. The President's eyes widened, "My god! Nate what's wrong with you…."

pThe colonel smiled, "Never again, Jack." He said then added louder, "Hitler tried to create a master race. He used human beings as guinea pigs, but I won't stand for it. Not here, it's not supposed to happen here. And I won't let you do it." The gun never wavered as the President moved around the desk.

pThe sound of thunder ripped through the still air, and the President jerked back flinching, throwing up his arm as if to ward off a blow. As the President settled into his chair, still shaking, the colonel turned to the Secret Security Agent standing, gun drawn, in the door.

pNate Rubric looked at the silent, un-fired, weapon in his hand, then down at the crimson flower blossoming on his chest. Staggering forward a step the colonel dropped the gun and collapsed to his knees.

pAs he lay staring up at the clean white ceiling he was conscious of a lack of pain and years of watching soldiers die told him that the bullet had probably broken his spine, and passed into his chest cavity piercing his lungs. He could feel as the heavy wetness settled in his lungs and he coughed up blood, the red foam flecking his lips, bubbling with his expelled breath.

pThe ceiling began to fade and an image of his daughter dressed in a blousy emerald green gown running to the door on the night of the senior prom filled his mind. Never mind that the sandy haired boy that was her prince charming arrived not on a white charger but a cherry red Harley replete with chrome.

pMore images flooded his brain and Colonel Rubric moaned in pain, tears filled his eyes as he pictured Jeanne clad in flowing white grasping his arm as he half carried her down the isle to the waiting young man she had learned to love. A young man Rubric himself had learned to love as the son he had never had. His lips trembled a string of blood staining his cheek, "I'm sorry, Jeanne. I'm so sorry. I couldn't save you. And God forgive me, I couldn't save him."

pbSt. Mary Margaret Medical Center. /b

pThe hallways were starkly bare following the harrowing activity of the past few weeks. Methos glanced at the shattered faces around him, shattered male faces mingled with the few older women who still worked in the Medical Center. Civilization had risen and fell three times before Methos had left the Horsemen. He was accustomed to radical change. Yet the haunted, empty faces surrounding him touched his very soul. Friends, good friends, had lost wives and daughters. Methos could well remember the brief love he had shared with Alexa; could strain his memory back and recall the faces, if not always the names, of lost loves. The pain had faded, but it never truly went away. He could grieve with these men in silence.

pA sudden commotion at the door leading in from the front parking lot captured the ancient immortal's attention and he slammed the chart he was working on down hurrying down the hallway.

pA group of soldiers were pouring into the waiting area, shoving patients and staff into the center of the room. "What do you think you're doing?" Methos hissed, grabbing the closest soldier by the arm. Suddenly he stepped back as a rifle was leveled in his direction.

pThe sergeant pushed past the soldier, "Don't cause trouble, doctor," he said staring at Methos. Then he paused as a calculating look crossed his saturnine features. "I have orders to detain and transport healthy males, aged nineteen to twenty-five to the nearest reproductive medical center for sexual re-assignment."

p"What the hell are you taking about? This is America, not Nazi Germany. You can't just take anybody out of here. These people have rights."

p"Not any more. The President just announced Martial Law about five minutes ago. By the way doctor, how old are you?"

pMethos pulled away, "I don't have to answer any of your questions and if you don't get out of my waiting room I'll get some of the orderlies together and get you out. Do you understand that sergeant?"

pBefore he could move the ancient immortal felt the cold sting of a hypodermic syringe in his bare arm. He jerked around staring at the medic carefully tossing the disposable needle in a biohazard container, "What did you do to me?" Methos asked as he swayed the medic caught him before he could hit the floor. The sergeant tugged a laptop from under the medic's arm, "What's his name?"

pTwo of the soldiers rifled through Methos pockets until they came up with his wallet. Carefully they lifted out his driver's license. "Adam Peyton-MacLeod, it says he's was twenty-six on September 15th. I'll pull his med records. The hospital did some testing on him a couple of months ago, for Aids. Says he was bitten by a drug addict while on duty in the ER. God, I wish I had his bio stats. He has the immune system of a healthy twelve year old. No drug or alcohol problems, no congenital birth defects, no history of any illness except a broken arm, also while on duty."

p"Load him up with the rest." The sergeant smiled "Dr. MacLeod is gonna make some rich politician a real pretty wife."

pDuncan MacLeod pulled his BMW into a vacant spot on the far side of the street as the convoy of drab olive green trucks disappeared around the bend of the street leading to the 101 freeways. He paused glancing at the last of the trucks. They were the old cloth covered personnel carriers that had been used in the late sixties. The old trucks were covered with canvas, and MacLeod caught the faint tingle of immortal presence as the last one pulled away from the curb. Well, he had served in armies, he suppose many immortals still did. There was something oddly familiar in the faint resonant buzz. Carefully he ran up the ramp and through the glass doors. An elderly nun was standing beside the door and the Highlander nodded politely at her, "Hello Sister is Dr. MacLeod still here? I was supposed to pick him up an hour ago, but my buying trip ran a bit long. I hope he's not too…."

pShe glanced at him, "Haven't you heard?"

p"Heard what? I've been on the highway for the last forty-five minutes. What's wrong?"

pShe gently touched his arm, "The military was here. They took them. All the younger men, and Dr. MacLeod was with them. They drugged him and took him too. I think that they are going to do something awful to them."

pWith his heart pounding, the blood ringing in his ears the Highlander drew a ragged breathe, "Where did they say they were taking the young men?"

pShe shrugged, "They didn't say. But I have a terrible feeling that they won't ever be the same. The President made some sort of announcement. I didn't really understand it, but I think that they plan on doing some kind of surgery on the young men, to change them."

pThe dryness in his mouth choked MacLeod and he coughed, "Oh, dear God."

p"No, Mr. MacLeod, God has nothing to do with this."

pBut MacLeod could not hear her. He slammed out the glass doors shattering one of the panes in his haste to exit the building. Pounding down the concrete ramp he hurled himself over the guardrail and across the street. The car engine roared into life and MacLeod pulled the vehicle out of the parking space, tires squealing on the warm asphalt. But the convoy was nowhere to be seen. MacLeod cruised the streets for hours. Crossing and re-crossing the side streets near the hospital, he searched for the trucks, but found nothing. It was as if Methos and the young mortal men had disappeared without a trace.

pbMilitary Hospital Base 100. /b

pMethos swam through the gauzy haze of drugs toward consciousness. The crisp hiss of compressed oxygen whirled over his mouth and nose and the ancient immortal pushed the plastic mask away. A burly male nurse trotted to his side, readjusting the mask. "You have to leave that on," he said. Methos tiredly brushed his hand aside; "No they're going to take me to surgery." He whispered through cracked lips.

pThe nurse frowned rolling his eyes. "They already did. You're done."

p"Done," the anesthetic tugged at him again and Methos felt his mind drifting. He let the nurse settle the mask over his nose so that the oxygen could do its duty and clear his head. Sighing the ancient immortal tried to move and felt a stabbing pain in his lower abdomen. Raising his head he slowly pushed the white cotton sheet down so that he could see his skin. Across his belly just below the navel was a red incision stapled closed with bright surgical staples. The incision was still fresh as if his immortal healing had not kicked in. Grunting he ran a fingertip over the wound and flinched pain.

pThe nurse glanced up at him again, "Don't do that. Look if you can't behave, I'll have to restrain you."

p"What did they do to me?" Methos asked, but the nurse shifted nervously.

p"That's something that you'll have to ask the doctors. Although being a doctor yourself you'd probably understand it better than the others."

p"Others?" Methos struggled, still dazed from the drugs, and turn ignoring the stabbing pain in his gut. Row upon row of hospital beds was line up neatly in a huge dormitory like room. Although he was still too druggy to count the ancient immortal guessed that there was at least fifty other men in the room. Shifting his legs a pain stabbed through his groin. Carefully he tucked a hand under the sheet trailing his fingers down his thigh to touch his genitals, and stopped eyes widening. "What the hell?" he shouted coughing as the sudden exhalation of sound strained his dry throat, "You cut off my balls you bastard."

pAnother voice captured his attention, "No we didn't exactly cut them off. We relocated them to inside your abdominal cavity. We had to make a choice and moving the testicles made more sense than removing them all together. We didn't castrate you. Just gave you some additional equipment."

p"Additional equipment?" Methos eyes narrowed in anger. "And just what additional equipment would that be?"

p"An ovary, uterus and vagina. So that you can bear children. You and the other young men here have been re-assigned as third gender beings. "

p"Who gave you that right? No one asked me about this." Methos watched as the thin, middle-aged mortal shoved a chart onto a hook on the end of the immortal's bed.

p"No, no one asked. Saving humanity seemed a bit more important that a few people's individual rights."

p"Every despot in every back water little dictatorship has said that at one time or another. Well, this will pass."

p"No, doctor, it won't. You see I know what you are. I have friends who make it a habit to study your kind. Your immortal healing won't change the alterations I made. There is enough synthetic skin used in the transplanting that your immortal body will treat the new organs as foreign objects and not absorb them. But there is enough if your own skin cells also used and the anti-rejection drugs work on immortals as well to keep the transplanted organs healthy and functional. Your immortality can't spare you, and if necessary I know how to relieve myself of your presence permanently, so Dr. MacLeod if you want to get back to your husband you will take part in the program. Learn to live with this change and I'll see that you are returned to Duncan MacLeod. If you cause me any problems I'll see you shipped off to some wealthy foreign dignitary who's looking for a young healthy spouse."

pThe weeks passed quickly and Methos learned just how adaptable he really was, but even five thousand years of adapt and survive wore thin after he was forced to spend thirty minutes listening to an elderly nun explain the proper way to insert a tampon.

pThe daily counseling sessions and group therapy were a tremendous strain as well, not only for the ancient immortal but all the young men in the center. They had been deprived of their wives and girlfriends, and in some case even their mothers now they were deprived of their basic sense of identity as well. Although the staff at the center did their best to keep it quiet Methos knew that several of the young men had committed suicide. He though about trying it himself, but knew that Dr. Baines would figure out that Methos was not permanently dead.

pLike many of the other Methos also suffered from nightmares. He had diagnosed himself as having PTSD, and asked for Valium to help him sleep. The same burly, sour faced nurse carried the white paper cups of tablets to the patients every night. For the past three weeks since he had been released from recovery to rehab Methos had taken the pills to ease him into sleep.

pThe dim lights of the hallway fell through the open doorway into the room and Methos rolled over grumbling under his breath. Tugging the blanket up to his shoulder he sighed. It was cold in the room. While he knew that the medical clinic was kept cold for a reason it still didn't help. He wasn't prone to infection anyway. Reaching out he pressed the call button on the night table. The nurse's voice answered, "Can you please bring me another blanket. I'm bloody freezing in here."

p"Sure, I'll send one down." The nurse motioned the orderly over. The younger man nodded, pushing his ponytail over his shoulder. "Hey, Donald, take this blanket down to 105."

pMcQueen nodded carefully picking up the crisp blue blanket he tucked it under one arm and headed down the corridor to room 105. As he entered the room he gasped. Lying on the bed was the same slender, dark haired young man he had seen through the window at the Medical Center downtown before Dr. Baines had him transferred here. The young man raised his head squinting through the drugged haze of the Valium. "Duncan?" he said smiling. Donald grinned back licking his lips, "Sure," he said. "I brought you another blanket."

pMethos smiled, "You always do take good care of me." Tucking his chin onto his hand the ancient immortal motioned the other man over. "Duncan?"

p"I'm just going to close the door, okay?" Donald quickly glanced up and down the hallway. Seeing no one the orderly closed the door and moved quickly back to the bed. He raised a hand running his fingertips along the deeply etched cheekbone. Carefully he climbed onto the narrow hospital bed, and the man lying down rolled over listlessly. "What are you doing?"

p"It's okay. Don't you want me too?" Donald pushed the hospital gown up bunching it around the other man's chest baring the now healed abdomen, "Here." he whispered, "just spread your legs."

p"I don't really feel like this now."

p"They said you were all healed up. Come on it's been a long time hasn't it?" Donald fumbled with the drawstring of his white cotton pants, tugging them down baring the hard, length of flesh that leapt free of the constraining clothes.' He pushed Methos down on the bed quickly slipping a hand between his legs. Methos grunted in pain as the smooth palms flicked over his incision site, and then the blunt fingers pushed inside him. "Don't," he said quietly fighting the waves of dizziness threatening to overwhelm him. "Duncan, please, I don't want to do this not yet."

p"Sure you do." Donald said lowering himself and thrusting inward quickly. Methos hissed in pain, "Duncan, please." He pushed against the so familiar broad shoulders then paused. In all the time that Duncan had been here not once had Methos felt the tingle of immortal presence. "Who are you?" he gasped struggling violently. The other man slapped his palm over the ancient immortal's mouth.

p "Be quiet, baby. Come on."

pGrunting he thrust twice more then spilled himself inside Methos. Methos groaned sinking his teeth into the orderly's hand. But the brief struggle and the drugs wiped out his remaining strength and Methos collapsed on the bed, unconscious.

pSunlight streaming in the window awakened the ancient immortal and he gasped rolling over onto his back. Both blue hospital blankets were tucked neatly around him, and the bed seemed neatly made. Carefully his fingers crept to his groin, and Methos gently touched the warm cleft where his balls used to be. He had become as accustomed to it as he had any other part of his body. He was clean, well, as least as clean as he always was in the morning, and there was no physical pain. Of course, immortal healing would have taken care of that. Confused he sat up as the nurse delivered his breakfast, "Excuse me was there anyone in my room last night?"

p"One of the orderlies brought you another blanket."

p"What did he look like?" Methos asked casually.

pThe nurse smiled, "He's about your height, dark hair, brown eyes. A big guy, but not too bright."

pIf the situation had not been so terrifying the ancient immortal might have found that comment funny. He nodded, "I'm not very hungry," he said glancing down at the food with a shudder.

pThe nurse touched Methos' arm. "Is something wrong?"

p"No, I don't' think so. I just want to go home."

p"Well, I think that I can arrange that." A familiar voice from the door caused Methos to jerk around. The Highlander strode into the room under full sail, brushing the nurse aside as so much waste of space. Settling on the bed MacLeod smiled at the ancient immortal, tears in his eyes. Methos gulped then flung himself into the Highlander's arms.

p"Oh god, Duncan, I thought I'd never see you again."

p"Hush, it's all right. I'm here to take you home, baby."

pMethos jerked back shoving against MacLeod's chest, "Don't call me that. Don't ever call me baby again."

pMacLeod frowned but nodded, "Okay, what's wrong? I'm so sorry that I didn't find you sooner. I've been looking for the last six months. Please, Adam, don't be angry with me."

p"I'm sorry, Mac. I just had a really troubling dream last night, and I just want to forget it and get out of here." The Highlander nodded handing his spouse a gym bag.

p"I brought you some clothes. I'll wait in the hall while you dress if you want."

p"No you might as well see it now." Methos drew a deep breath and kicked off the covers. Slowly he rose then turned to face his husband. Quickly Methos discarded the hospital gown.

pTo MacLeod's eyes older man had never been more beautiful a sight. His long lean body was still muscular and strong. The clean lines of hard flesh were mostly unchanged. Perhaps a bit more flesh on his hips, and breasts, but nothing that anyone else would notice. Of course, there were some obvious changes, although his penis still lay against his thigh Methos' testicles were missing. MacLeod had already talked to the doctors and knew what to expect. "Is it as bad as that?" Methos asked bitterly. MacLeod walked across the room taking his spouse in his arms.

p "I love you, Methos. You as a whole person, not the individual parts of you. I know this is extremely difficult for you, and I'll never be able to understand what you feel, but please believe that I love you. We will survive this."

pFighting back the hot tears that threatened to spill the ancient immortal buried his face in his husband's strong chest holding on, "Take me home, Duncan."

pThe familiar sight of the house in the quiet residential area that Methos had come to call home soothed him. He climbed out of the car, and casually walked into the door. Gladys stood in the kitchen wringing a soft dishtowel in her hands. "Adam," she said brushing a hand over her eyes to hide the tears. MacLeod smiled as Methos stepped forward suddenly catching the elderly lady in a quick hug. She sniffed brushing a hand over his back, and Methos suddenly burst into tears. She quickly glanced at MacLeod startled and overwrought. The Highlander gently tugged his spouse into his arms, steering them into the hallway to the bedroom.

pSlowly MacLeod lowered Methos onto the bed, stroking his back as the older man sobbed brokenly. "I'm sorry, Mac," he sniffed quieting. MacLeod brushed the tears off his spouse's slender cheeks, and then laid back Methos' head resting on his chest. Methos stroked the solid flesh under his cheek, "Make love to me."

pMacLeod shifted around until he could press a deep kiss onto Methos' slightly parted lips. Methos rose up to meet him, as MacLeod struggled to pull the sweater over the older man's head. Methos' trembling hands worked desperately at the buttons on the Highlander's silk shirt.

pHe rolled over letting MacLeod settle above him, and MacLeod tugged Methos jeans over his hips, pulling the boxers down with them. Methos kicked the jeans free squirming around to pull off his socks as MacLeod unfastened his own pants tossing them over his head. Naked MacLeod rose above the slender form of his mate. "How do you want this?" He asked uncertainly.

pMethos glanced up, "Whatever you want."

pSlowly MacLeod let his fingers trail downward over the crisp curls at Methos groin and the hard flesh arching up over the ancient immortal's taut belly. Stroking the pulsing vein that ran the length of Methos' penis MacLeod let his fingers drift lower to the warm, moist cleft below. Sliding his fingers into the warm heat of his spouse's body MacLeod thrust his tongue into Methos' mouth. Methos stretched upwards, stroking MacLeod's tongue with his own as the Highlander blunt fingers thrust into Methos' body.

pSuddenly Methos cried out, a small spurt of creamy fluid jettisoned out of the ancient immortal' penis as he came. MacLeod pressed his hips between Methos legs, sliding into the warm, wet flesh. He thrust in time to the thrusting of his tongue in Methos' mouth and the length of flesh lying half-hard between them firmed again. Growling Methos thrust his hips up, wrapping his long legs around the Highlander's waist. Pulling his head back the ancient immortal ground out, "Ride me, Highlander! Ride me like you mean it."

pWith an answering growl MacLeod shoved his hands beneath the slim hips, tugging the ancient immoral off the bed. Grunting he shook his head and Methos felt the drops of sweat splattering his chest. Duncan's thrusts became almost violent as he pistoned in and out of Methos' hot body. With a shouted obscenity the Highlander came pouring himself deep inside his spouse. Methos cried out back arching off the bed, and came again, his seed fountaining out of him as his vagina contracted, the double orgasm almost causing him to loose consciousness. They lay tangled together hearts still pounding, as the sweat cooled their heated flesh.

pMacLeod rolled off his spouse, holding the ancient immortal close, "Methos, I love you so much. When I thought that I might never find you I almost went insane."

p"Nothing could ever come between me and you, Duncan."

pbPeyton/MacLeod Residence. Six weeks later. /b

pMethos sat huddle over the toilet retching miserably. He stomach roiled and lurched and he gagged. In fact, Methos was sure that he was vomiting up things that he had never eaten. MacLeod was waiting outside the door and helped his spouse to the bed. "That's it, Methos. When you can stand up I'm taking you to the doctor."

p"I am a doctor, Mac." Methos sniped, "And I am an immortal. I should not be sick."

p"Well, doctor. I hate to tell you, but you are." Carefully MacLeod dressed his spouse in a warm sweater and loose fitting jeans. Methos slowly made his way down the hallway to the garage. They made the familiar drive from the house to St. Mary Margaret's in a short time due to the lack of traffic and Methos was ensconced in a waiting room chair in the ER. The doctor on call, someone new that the ancient immortal had never met smiled at the two of them as he led them in the room. MacLeod held Methos hand as the doctor asked questions and consulted his notes. "Well, you don't have the flu or a fever. There is one more test I want to run. I'll just need a blood sample."

pThe blood was extracted quickly and the tube of blood sent to lab for testing. "It'll take about fifteen minutes. I'll call you when we get the results."

pThey settled in the waiting area Methos watched the stream of patients milling around the room. MacLeod touched his shoulder as the doctor called Methos' name, and the two once again found themselves seated in the small examination room. The doctor beamed over at Methos then nodded at MacLeod, "Well congratulations are in order," he said, and Methos glared over at the desk at him.

p "What?"

p"Adam, you're pregnant." Methos felt the world slipping away from him as the doctor prattled on and on about the pregnancy, handing him a prescription for nausea medication and vitamins. MacLeod took the paper when Methos just sat staring at it. "Of course," the doctor continued, "You'll need to set up a schedule of appointments with the Ob/Gyn department."

pMacLeod nodded, "Adam come on. Let's get this prescription filled, and get you home." Methos rose automatically, following the broad back of his husband out the door.

pNumbly he settled into the car, "It wasn't a dream. But it was you." He turned to MacLeod frowning, "it was you, Duncan."

p"It was me what, Methos?"

p"In the hospital I couldn't sleep so they gave me Valium. One night someone came into my room. I thought it was you, He looked like you, but I remember that I couldn't feel any buzz. He had sex with me."

p"You were raped, and you didn't tell me." MacLeod said quietly. "Is that why you told me not to call you baby?"

p"I guess so. He said it, called me that. But I swear I thought it was you." Laying his head back against the headrest Methos turned to stare out the window. "I'll leave if you want me too. I don't expect you to care for another man's child."

pSlamming the car into park MacLeod seized the ancient immortal's face in his hand. Slowly he stroked his fingers over the smooth hairless cheeks, and dry cracked lips. Pale drawn and still trembling Methos was the most beautiful thing the Highlander had ever seen. With tears in his eyes he said, "I'm only going to tell you this once so listen up. I am not giving up my spouse and my child for anyone. Not even you. So never let me hear you say that ever again."

pbJune 15, 2022. /b

pDr. Frank Allen glanced at his watch as he rushed through the hallway hurrying back to his office for his one o'clock appointment. Dr. Allen had been an OB/GYN doctor for fifteen years and in the past few weeks everything that he had learned in school had been thrown out on its ear. He had seven new patients, all six to eight weeks pregnant, all male. Or rather 3rd gender persons as the government had dubbed them. The seven young men, the youngest nineteen and the eldest twenty-six seemed to be adjusting to their new bodies reasonably well.

pDr. Allen was a bit uncomfortable with the new patients, as a doctor and as a man. The lack of females had thrown sexual relationships into vast disarray. There were few choices in partners and men were just beginning to explore the possibilities. Dr. Allen himself was dating a woman thirteen years his senior. Some younger women had survived the plague although they were all infertile and no one could understand why they had been spared.

pThe gender reassigned persons he had met were an odd mix of male and female. Some of the men had reasserted their masculinity with intensive exercise regimens bulking up, and refusing to marry the men selected for them by the government, but they were in the minority, most of the men accepted their new identity and continued on the same as before, still essentially the same people, just making their lives as similar as possible. These men had accepted the surgery, coped and even learned to accept their new husbands. The vague rumors that he had heard that all of the reassigned gender males had been married to wealthy politically connected men troubled Dr. Allen, but he kept quiet preferring to tend to his new patients and let politics tend themselves.

pFour of the seven new patients in Dr. Allen's care were homosexual men who had adjusted as well as their straight counterparts, and maintained their relationships with their partners. His next patient was one of these. Adam Peyton-MacLeod, Dr. Allen paused certain that he had heard the name before remembering that Dr. Peyton-MacLeod had been a first year resident at the hospital until his abduction and surgery. He had resigned his position, and Dr. Allen didn't blame him. Duncan MacLeod, Adam's husband, was extremely wealthy and Adam didn't need the stress of a new medical career along with the stress of a new sexual identity and a pregnancy.

pMethos walked into the examination room and settled on the cold metal table while Frank Allen placed a blood pressure cuff on his arm, and took his readings. Allen smiled up at Methos, "Textbook perfect as always."

pMethos grunted and frowned down his nose at the doctor causing the Highlander to stir in his chair, "Adam behave yourself," he said dryly The ancient immortal cocked an eyebrow at his spouse leaning back as the doctor pulled on a pair of latex gloves and picked up a small monitor. Turning, he smiled at Methos, "Okay, Adam, lift your shirt so I can get a good look at your belly."

p"Why? I haven't gained any weight," the ancient immortal said. MacLeod coughed.

p"Actually you've put on a couple of pounds."

pDoctor Allen smiled at the icy glare directed at the other man, "Well, Adam runs a bit on the thin side, it's not noticeable," he said squirting a clear gel onto Methos abdomen.

p"God, that's cold!" Methos grumbled. "What the hell is that?"

p"I thought I give you a little treat today," the doctor began, but Methos sneered rudely.

p"Well, I hope that wasn't it."

pGlancing blandly at his patient the doctor sighed, "No, I'm going to let you hear the baby's heartbeat." He laid the monitor on the gel coated skin moving it in slow circles as he adjusted the volume."

pMacLeod rose from his chair leaning over the end of the exam table fallowing the doctor's movements with rapt attention. Methos smiled at the utter concentration in the Highlander's face then stilled as the faint, rapid flutter of sound began to emerge from the microphone. "What's that?" MacLeod asked his voice barely audible.

pThe doctor turned and smiled at the other man, "That's the baby's heartbeat."

p"Is it supposed to sound that fast?" MacLeod asked staring wistfully at his spouse's flat belly, and the doctor nodded.

p "Oh yes, that's perfectly normal."

pCarefully Dr. Allen wiped the gel from the Methos' skin and motioned for him to sit up. "Well, everything looks great, based on the dates you gave me I'd say that you're eight weeks along. Let's see," he pulled a small calculator from his pocket, "I'll put you due in February of next year. Is the anti-nausea medication the ER doctor prescribed working okay for you?"

pWhen Methos nodded he continued, "Good, you're taking the vitamins as well, avoiding caffeine and alcohol?" Again he looked up as Methos nodded, glaring at the Highlander, "It's not like I really have a choice, do I Mac?"

pMacLeod smiled sweetly, "Yeah and I'm making sure he eats a healthy well balanced diet."

p"Healthy well balanced Idiet?/I" Methos snorted, "If I lived to be six thousand years old I couldn't eat as much food as Mac tries to shove down my throat."

p"The books I bought said multiple, small meals through out the day are better for you and well help with the nausea." MacLeod appealed to the doctor as the other source of reason in the room, "Isn't that true Dr. Allen?"

p"Well, uhmm, yes I suppose it is, but you really shouldn't force him to eat too much, just a normal reasonable diet. He's not eating for two adults." At Methos' victory crow the doctor backpedaled "Well, just remember to watch your intake, make sure you're getting the most nutritional value out of the foods you do eat. I'll have the desk schedule you for an appointment for next month. I see no reason to continue with bi-monthly appointments since you are doing so well."

pThe day was warm, but not nearly as hot as June had been known to be. "Hey, let's drive over to the pier and eat at that little Cuban restaurant you like," MacLeod said brightly, and Methos nodded listlessly. He glanced up at his husband's troubled face then squeezed MacLeod's hand. When he tried to pull away the Highlander laced his fingers through the other man's pulling both their hands onto his thigh. "I love you," he said quietly.

pMethos smiled faintly turning away to stare out the window, "I know."

pThe Highlander glanced over at the still form huddled against the seat, "I know that you're upset about how the baby was made, I'll understand if you don't want to keep it. But please believe me when I say that this is our baby, yours and mine. He'll never know that I'm not his father. I love you and him so much, Methos. Please don't shut me out."

p"You keep saying he and him are you so sure that it's a boy? A little flash of foresight or something?" Methos asked.

pBlushing MacLeod shrugged, "No just wishful thinking on my part. I guess I've never gotten over wanting a son to carry on the name, you know."

p"Yeah, did I ever tell you that I had nine sons, and twelve daughters?" Methos sighed, "Well, not all at once. I married their mothers or made arrangements with friends. You have to be careful with that one. It can turn ugly really quick."

p"I love it when you tell me these little things about your past. Did you get to watch many of them grow up?"

pWith a shake of his head the ancient immortal said, "Another of the problems of first death occurring at an early age. I had to make a hasty exit when people started questioning why the kids started to look too old to be my children. They started noticing as well. Once I did tell the boy and we moved after his mother died, began telling people he was my brother and eventually we told people he was my father, but things weren't really the same between us as time went by, so I never did that again." He signed, "I guess that knowing that this baby is mortal is bothering me. It's going to be hard watching him or her grow old and die. I'm not sure that I can do it again."

pReaching over MacLeod took Methos' hand gently squeezing the slender fingers, "You don't have to do it alone this time. Hey, why don't we drive over to San Clemente and see Joe. You know that you enjoy visiting with him, and he's been driving me crazy asking when I was going to bring you down since he found out about the baby. In fact, let's make a night of it, I'll rent us a room at the Radisson and we'll spend tonight and tomorrow with Joe." He smiled so hopefully that the ancient immortal felt his heart melting. Giving his husband a quick grin he slid across the seat and snuggled against the Highlander's shoulder.

pJoe Dawson had been MacLeod's Watcher for decades, through some of the Highlander's most difficult years, although he had retired from the Watchers just a few years ago. In fact it was Dawson who had brought the two together when an immortal name Kalas had begun killing Watchers while looking for the ancient immortal legend known as Methos. Joe had been one of the few Watchers to even be familiar with the myth known by that name. He and a friend, Don Salzar, had been working on a database of all the immortals currently known to the Watchers and Don had been studying the Methos chronicles on the side. They had also hired a young med student Adam Peyton as an assistant and a new Watcher. In fact, Joe had virtually adopted the young, med school student and most people assumed that they were somehow related.

pKalas had killed Don Salzar and, as his assistant, the younger man became a target. Joe went to the man he had watched, Duncan MacLeod, to ask for protection for his "adopted" son. MacLeod had killed Kalas but in the process he had also discovered that young Adam Peyton was Methos himself.

pThe shock of that revelation had almost killed Joe Dawson, but slowly his friendship with "Adam" had reasserted itself. Even Adam's own "first death" and "new immortality" a few months later had not shaken it. Of course, Adam could no longer be a Watcher.

pWhen MacLeod had married Methos then moved to Los Angeles the previous year they had almost demanded that the elderly mortal pack up and move with them. He had sold his bar in Seacouver and bought a condo in the sunny San Clemente area and the three had remained close friends.

pThe events that had happened since the asteroids impact and the resulting plague plus Methos' abduction had meant that the two immortals had not spent much time with their elderly mortal friend, and it troubled MacLeod. Joe was past seventy now, and time was catching up with him. Although he was healthy it seemed that every time the two immortals saw him Joe looked just a little more elderly and frail.

pThe restaurant was small but festive and Methos genuinely seemed to like the mildly spicy Cuban dishes that they specialized in. While the waiter was taking their orders MacLeod glanced over at the kitchen doors. The double metal doors swung inward and he caught a glimpse of a blond boy about eighteen years old. The boy's slender face seemed vaguely familiar and he glanced blandly at the Highlander.

pSuddenly MacLeod sat upright in his seat. Jack Singleton, the boy looked exactly like Jack Singleton. But MacLeod knew that it couldn't be, for one thing other than he and Methos there was no sense of immortal presence in the place and for the second MacLeod himself had taken Singleton's head. In fact he had banged Methos all night long to settle the unruly child's quickening.

pAfter lunch MacLeod hustled his slender spouse into the car, pleased that he had managed to get most of the grilled salmon, black bean salad and fried plantains into him.

pThe traffic was beginning to get heavy on the freeway and Methos leaned back against the headrest, dropping off to sleep.

pThe drive to Joe's condo was remarkably easy. Methos napped in the front seat the entire time, and only woke as MacLeod was pulling the car into the driveway. The curtains flicked back from the great room window then the door banged open. Joe walked as quickly as he could out the door. "Mac," he said shaking the Highlander's hand. Then he turned to the other immortal, with a muffled growl he pulled Methos into a hug. "God, Adam. Come on in and sit down. I don't want you to get too tired."

pMethos smiled gently linking his arm through the elderly mortal's "Joe, I'm eight weeks pregnant not eight months."

p"Yeah, ain't that something. So how's it going? I mean you're okay, aren't you?"

p"I'm fine. We just checked in with the doctor this morning. I'm fine, the baby's fine. Mac on the other hand is a nutcase."

p"I'm not a nutcase. I'm new at this daddy thing. Let me enjoy it."

pJoe grunted grinning broadly, "I still hope you enjoy it when he's sending you to the grocery store at two o'clock in the morning for pickles and ice cream."

pMethos looked appalled, "Pickles and ice cream; nothing so gauche, I assure you."

p"Yeah," Joe said grinning. "He'll probably send you out for deep-fried eel or something."

p"Peasant," Methos sniffed, "You don't deep fry eel. You bake it in the oven with prunes and radishes." Joe and MacLeod glanced at each other.

p "Eww," they both said in unison.

pWith Methos ensconced on the sofa with a glass of fruit juice and the television remote, MacLeod motioned Joe into the den. Glancing into the other room he motioned the retired Watcher into a chair. Joe settled in the rolling chair behind his computer desk. "I wanted to ask you if you still had any contacts in the Watchers."

p"Some," Joe said softly. "But not like I used to. Why?" He watched the Highlander pace around the room a few steps then lean against the back of the sofa facing the fireplace.

p"When Methos was in the hospital after they did the surgery on him he was raped. That's how he got pregnant. But he swears that he thought the man having sex with him was me, except that he didn't feel any immortal presence. He once mentioned that he thought he saw me in the hospital he worked at before this even started, and he mentioned not sensing any immortal presence then too. And today at the restaurant where we had lunch I swear that I saw Jack Singleton. But we both know he's dead. I've been thinking about that. What about the Watchers? I know that they have people everywhere. Could there be a connection between this Dr. Ronald Baines, the genetics expert, and the Watchers?"

p"Why do you think that this genetics guy is doing something strange with immortals?"

p"He did something strange with twenty-five percent of the human beings on Earth. I have never liked the way that these young men were just rounded up and had their bodies altered without their permission. It feels a little too much like Hitler for me."

pJoe nodded, "I'll look into it for you. I just happen to have access to a few databases, a couple of files here and there. I'll do some scrounging around and see what I come up with."

p"Thanks, Joe. I reserved a room at the Radisson for Methos and me. We'll come by in the morning if you don't have any plans. I have a few tickets to that special exhibit at the Westlake Museum. I thought we'd all go."

p"Why not? I keep my schedule sort of free now. Do what I want to do. It'll be fun. Are you sure that Methos is up to it he looks a little worn out."

p"I'm going to get him to the hotel."

p"You could have stayed here, you know. I've got plenty of room." Joe grasped the edge of the desk to help him rise. MacLeod winced slightly, torn between wanting to reach for the man, and not wanting to insult him. Joe pretended to not notice the flinch or the pained expression of his friend. Smiling they walked into the other room.

pStanding at the door he waved briefly as the two immortals disappeared into the car. He watched the headlights fade onto the road then moved back into his den. Switching on the computer he clicked an icon and settled back. The Watcher symbol flickered on the screen and Joe typed in the named Ronald Baines.

pWith a disappointed grunt he watched at the screen faded from the Watcher database to the Genetech Labs web site. A picture of a tall, thin man with brown hair appeared in the upper right corner of the screen, below it another larger picture appeared, Dr. Baines and two other men standing in front of the doors to the Reproductive Health Clinic in Los Angeles. One of the men in the picture tugged at Joe's memory and he clicked on the photo enlarging it. A name floated on the edge of Joe's memory and he closed the Genetech site pulling up the Watcher database again.

pQuickly Joe pulled up the screen listing employee identification files. He clicked on photo i.d. section and began the long slow process of reviewing the photos from the past ten years, one at a time.

pGroaning at the sheer number of i.d. photos listed he began feeding in information for approximate height, weight and age based upon the man's appearance in the photo he had seen on the genetics lab site. A screen bearing about forty thumbnails appeared and Joe settled back clicking on each thumbnail until he stopped, "Well, I'll be damned" he quickly scanned the name and identification number under the photo. "Nick Ralston. Looks like we've got a winner folks," he crowed to himself. Quickly he pulled up Ralston's file and began printing it off.

pbRadisson Hotel, San Clemente California./b

p"Come on let's go up to the room," the Highlander said wagging the paper bag at his slender mate, "I brought you a present."

pMethos turned waving a similar bag at his husband, "Well, I brought you a present, too. I know how much you're going to love using it."

pThey smiled at each other then turned diving into the elevator laughing madly. Methos wrestled the key away from his mate swiping it through the reader located on the side of the door. Both men tumbled inside MacLeod already stripping his clothes off. Methos clucked disapprovingly, "I wanted to do that..." he said then shivered as the Highlander tossed the shirt away, thrusting his hips suggestively, "come on then get a move on."

p"Looks like you've got enough moves for the both of us," Methos hissed pulling his sweater over his head. He tossed the garment over his head and dropped his jeans. Quickly he divested himself of the rest of his clothing pulling a small glass bottle from the bag at his feet. Quickly he climbed onto the king sized bed, grinning over at his mate.

pMethos lay back on the green brocade coverlet waving the glistening bottle of flavored warming oil at the Highlander. MacLeod dropped the small paper bag he held on the floor beside the bed and then crawled across the covers grinning ferally at his slightly smaller mate. Methos stroked his hand down his own chest, stopping briefly to twist and tug a plump, dusky pink nipple. The Highlander's rapt gaze brought a slight smile to the ancient immortal's face. Quickly Methos' pink tongue flicked out moistening his parted lips.

pAdjusting his grip on the bottle Methos spread his legs wantonly running his fingers down his abdomen lightly, then over the erection pressing his taut belly to the moist folds of flesh behind it. Carefully he worked the lid off the warming oil drizzling a thin line down his chest as MacLeod watched the glistening liquid drip down the sleek muscles and pool in his mate's shallow navel.

pLeaning down the Highlander flicked his tongue over the stream of liquid, lapping at the oil and the salty skin beneath it, "Uhmm chocolate," he hissed gutturally. Methos chuckled as a shiver crawled along his spine.

p"Yes, chocolate because I know how you love your sweets, Mac."

pThe slim, elegant fingers tipped the bottle once more between the wide spread legs, drizzling the oil into the deep pink cleft, "Don't you want to eat it, Mac? Like a good boy, eat it.... all up."

pMacLeod leaned forward running his tongue across the firm rippled muscles of Methos' still flat belly, licking the shimmering pool of fluid; gently he flicked his tongue over the hard penis pausing to work the oil over the glistening purple head. Methos grunted as the Highlander sucked his rigid length all the way to the hilt, running his lips up and down. Quickly the ancient immortal twisted his fingers into Macleod's hair guiding the other man down where he wanted him to be.

pThe warm wet tongue flashed out again as the Highlander spread the oil and his saliva onto and then into Methos' vagina. He thrust his tongue in deep and Methos groaned approvingly. Closing his legs Methos grasped MacLeod's head between his thighs as MacLeod nibbled and licked Methos' warm, moist flesh.

pGently MacLeod pushed his spouse away leaning over the side of the bed for the bag on the floor. Methos moaned in frustration, but MacLeod merely waggled his eyebrows at the ancient immortal. Quickly pulling a thin white box from the bag MacLeod opened the package. Methos glanced up and froze, grinning lasciviously, "I can't believe that you actually went to a shop and bought that."

pThe pink jelly dildo lay in MacLeod's broad palm and he grinned at Methos in return, "Hey, I can be spontaneous too."

pWith gentle movements Macleod pressed his hand against Methos' belly forcing the other man to lie down. Quickly, he raked his fingers through the remaining warming oil still slathered on the ancient immortal's chest. Coating the dildo MacLeod slid it into his mate's body. Methos groaned panting shallowly fighting the urge to come. "Roll over," MacLeod hissed and Methos scrambled to roll onto his belly, trailing his fingers over Methos' hip MacLeod used one hand to press the dildo deep inside Methos' vagina. Then he quickly raked more of the oil onto his fingers and gently thrust two fingers into the other man's anus.

p"Now, Mac. Oh god, please now." Methos panted stretching his back, arching into his husband's touch. Macleod thrust one knee between Methos' thighs forcing his legs apart. Quickly he rubbed his oily fingers over his aching penis and thrust forward, working his way past the tight ring of muscle guarding the entrance to Methos' body.

pGroaning Methos thrust back forcing MacLeod deep inside him. The double penetration felt incredible. Grunting Methos slid one hand between his legs thrusting the dildo up into his vagina, the pressure on the thin wall of flesh between his vagina and anus as both the dildo and MacLeod's hard cock thrust deeply into him overloading his senses. MacLeod suddenly jerked his mate up to his knees angling his thrusts upwards striking Methos' prostate. Methos cried out, as everything seemed to clench at once. His anus clenched around Macleod's cock, his vagina throbbing and his own cock jerking as spurt after spurt of silky fluid erupted out of his body. With a muffled shout the Highlander thrust once, twice and then poured his essence into the hot body shivering beneath him. Methos flung his head back against MacLeod's shoulder his eyes rolling up and collapsed limply against his husband's broad chest.

pLowering his unconscious mate to the bed the Highlander muttered with a satisfied grin, "I don't give myself nearly enough credit sometimes."

pMethos rolled over in the bed. Bright sunlight stabbed mercilessly at his eyes and he shuddered trying to hide behind the pillow he was curled around. From across the room he could hear vague undefined sounds coming from the bathroom. It sounded like..."Oh, no," he thought, "it can't be..."

pBut the tuneless wavering sounds rose and fell and Methos groaned trying to cover his head with the pillows. Duncan was singing. He sighed it was going to be one of those days. Suddenly the bathroom door swung open and the Highlander cha-chaed out, grinning for all he was worth. The ancient immortal winced.

pStruggling to sit up, Methos tossed the covers aside then moaned as his stomach lurched. "Shit," he said making a mad dash for the bathroom. He huddled on the condensation slicked tile elbows resting on the toilet seat retching. He brought up a considerable amount of bile, flinching at the metallic taste coating the back of his throat and mouth.

pWith a concerned look on his face, MacLeod knelt beside his retching mate and said, "Hey, come on my singing isn't that bad."

pMethos cringed again, retching before looking over his shoulder at the gently smiling man seated on the floor behind him. He managed a brief smile, "I forgot my pills last night."

p"I'm sorry," MacLeod rose quickly searching for the small vial in Methos' shaving kit. "Come on a lay back down. I'll get you some water for these or would you prefer some soda; maybe ginger ale?"

p"Just water," Methos moaned fighting the rising nausea, "Oh god. Please, Duncan, do me a favor, punch me right in face and knock me out. It couldn't be any worse than this."

p"I think not," MacLeod shook two of the small yellow tablets out into the palm of his hand, and gave them to his spouse. Carefully he raised the water glass to Methos lips, and Methos sipped the cool liquid. He lay back counting from one to a hundred then looked up as he heard the sound of plastic wrap tearing. MacLeod handed his mate two crackers, "The book I've been reading said dry crackers help with morning sickness."

pWith a skeptical look Methos accepted the crackers and chewed them slowly. After about a quarter of an hour the rolling and lurching of his stomach ceased and he glanced up at the Highlander wide eyed. "Hey!" he said. "It does work."

p"Good, just lay there a little longer until the medicine kicks in. You haven't been having too much morning sickness. I'm sorry about forgetting your pills last night. God, I hope that I wasn't too rough on you."

pMethos sat up waiting to see if he was going be sick again. When nothing happened he rose to his knees crawling across the bed to rest his head between Macleod's shoulders.

p"You weren't too rough with me. Believe me I loved last night, enough that I'm going to expect to pass out from pleasure every time we make love."

p"Oh, you don't ask for much, do you?"

p"Just your heart and soul," Methos said pressing a kiss on the warm soft flesh beneath his cheek. MacLeod turned around pulling Methos into his lap.

p "You can't ask for that," he whispered, and at Methos' pout quickly added, "Because you already have them."

pMethos glanced up from under his eyelashes, grinning slightly then moved to straddle the Highlander's lap. Swiftly running his fingers down the hard muscled chest Methos shifted back so that MacLeod had to grasp his hips to keep him from falling off. Sliding his hand between their bodies Methos stroked MacLeod's awakening flesh, but the Highlander grunted, "Are you sure you feel up to this right now..."

p"Uhmm, what do you think?" Methos purred grinding his erection against the other man's firming penis. Rising to his knees Methos used his fingers to guide MacLeod's erection to the moist cleft between the ancient immortal's legs. Lowering himself down Methos groaned as MacLeod filled him, stretching his already sensitive flesh. He rose up letting MacLeod grip his buttocks and flexed his thighs, setting a quick steady rhythm. MacLeod slipped one finger between the rounded globes of Methos' ass teasing the throbbing opening. Carefully the Highlander slid the finger inside and Methos hissed in pleasure as the single digit pressed against his prostate. He jerked squeezing himself around the thick column of flesh plunged deeply inside his body, rising and falling on MacLeod's hard flesh

pWith a gasp MacLeod pulled Methos close letting his hard penis glide between their sweat streaked bellies. Grunting and panting the Highlander thrust his hips up as much as possible with a six foot tall man sitting on his lap until he cried out. Methos felt the other man come, and the warm rush of fluid triggered his own orgasm. Head thrown back, he cried out, "Oh god yes, Duncan!"

pPanting Methos leaned forward letting his head rest on MacLeod's shoulder. As he closed his eyes a knock sounded on the door. Grumbling under his breath the older man slid off his husband's lap, grabbing the robe the Highlander had dropped when he emerged from the bathroom. Quickly Methos scurried into the bathroom leaving the sputtering Highlander to answer the door. "Hey, I need a shower again too you know, "he said.

pMethos grinned unrepentantly from the half closed doorway, "Too slow, you lose. You must be slipping in your old age, Mac."

p"My old age? This coming from a five thousand year old adolescent." MacLeod stormed over to the bathroom door only to find it slammed in his face. "At least give me back my robe so I don't have to answer the door naked."

pThe door opened a crack and the robe was tossed out. Quickly the door slammed shut again and MacLeod could hear the water coming on. He sighed knowing he was in for a cold shower later. Pulling the heavy brocade robe on, the Highlander answered the door to their hotel room.

pJoe was standing in the hall whistling to himself when MacLeod opened the door. "Took you long enough, but then considering the noise coming from the room when I arrived, I guess I should have expected that."

p"Oh shut up, Dawson." The Highlander snapped then moved back so that the elderly mortal could enter the room. Belatedly MacLeod wished that he had straightened the bed before he had let the other man in. But Joe merely glanced at the bed then settled into a chair as MacLeod began tugging the blankets and pillows into shape. Suddenly the bright pink dildo popped out of the sheets, bounced once, then rolled across the rug.

pJoe's jaw dropped and he coughed as MacLeod scrambled to retrieve the fallen item and quickly tuck it away in the box sitting in the floor beside the bed. The Highlander could feel his face getting hotter and knew he was blushing furiously, yet he was absolutely helpless to stop. "Uh, this is going into my chronicle isn't it?"

p"Well it certainly seems appropriate for it to go in something..." Joe said grinning, his own face flaming at the thought of what he had just said. The Highlander snickered, then Joe chuckled and both men completely cracked up. Joe leaned back grasping his side, "Please Mac, don't make me laugh anymore." He groaned closing his eyes as MacLeod began snickering again.

pThe bathroom door opened and Methos sauntered out wrapped in a towel. He glanced at Joe then the still snickering Highlander and sighed, "Do I even want to know?"

pShaking his head Joe brushed his hand over his eyes. Methos pulled jeans, a tee shirt and under clothes out of his bag and disappeared back into the bathroom to dress. He reappeared a few minutes later shooing the Highlander inside, "Come on shower and dress I'm starving."

p"I can't believe that you can go from puking your guts out to starving in under an hour. Not to mention what we did in between."

p"Yes, well don't mention it. I'm pretty sure that Joe doesn't want to hear it."

p"That's okay. I've already got a pretty good idea after Mac's little visual aide." Joe grinned at Methos and they could hear MacLeod snickering in the bathroom as he shut the door.

pMethos settled into a chair beside his friend pulling on his boots and lacing them, "I'm not sure that I want to be seen in public with the two of you. Particularly if the day goes like I think it will."

pJoe leaned over gently touching the other man's arm. "Mac said you were puking your guts out. Are you all right? The baby's okay and all?"

pMethos smiled "Yes, Dad, I'm fine. We're fine. It was just a little morning sickness. I forgot to take my pills last night. Once I get them I'm much better."

p"Well you better be. I've got a vested interest in the kid you know. I've never been a Grandpa before." He cleared his throat and Methos was sure he saw tears in the blue eyes.

p"I mean it, both of us are fine."

pHe rose and knelt down beside the elderly mortal and Joe tugged Methos into a hug. They sat quietly while Joe stroked Methos' back, and the immortal sighed snuggling into the other man's embrace.

pThey were still sitting like that when MacLeod came out of the bathroom. Tossing the robe on the bed unmindful of the mortal's presence he drew his clothes on quickly, and the three of them walked out the door.

pJoe and Methos waited outside the main entrance to the hotel while MacLeod pulled the car around, "So what did Mac ask you to do for him?" Methos ask idly. Joe pretended not to hear him, and the ancient immortal nudged him in the ribs with an elbow.

p"Okay, sheesh. Mac just asked about Ronald Baines and if he had any ties to the Watchers."

p"And does he?" Methos stared at his friend, "And don't say no because I can tell by the way you're acting he does. So give."

p"God you're bossy..."

p"Yeah, bossy and hormonal so don't piss me off," Methos said and grinned as Joe snorted. Finally the car pulled up and Joe opened the front door to usher the other man in, but Methos motioned his friend in the front seat beside MacLeod slipping into the back. He sprawled across the seat tugging a pillow from the floor and propping himself up.

pJoe settled beside MacLeod. "How do put up with him?"

p"I ask myself that sometimes, but then there are the fringe benefits." MacLeod said and Joe blushed again.

p"Don't start." he warned wagging a finger at the Highlander. MacLeod glanced in the rearview mirror then pulled out into traffic.

pMethos popped his head over the back of the seat, "You were saying about Ronald Baines."

p"Oh, yeah." Joe started then noticed the pained glance he was getting from MacLeod,

p"Hey, you try keeping information from him." He glared over his shoulder at Methos then said, "I did a little research on the doctor last night. It seems that Baines himself has never been a Watcher but he does have one known associate who is a Watcher. A guy named Nick Ralston who works at that Reproductive Health Clinic in Los Angeles. I pulled Ralston's file and printed a copy off for you, but I left it in my car. I'll make sure that you get it when we get back to the hotel."

pMacLeod nodded, "So this Nick Ralston is a Watcher. What about Felize Martine for breakfast, Methos?"

p"Yeah I can go for some fried plantains this morning." Methos said rolling his eyes. "Are you hoping to see that young man you thought looked like Jack Singleton there? You know you really ought to learn to be a little more subtle, Mac."

pThe Highlander nodded ignoring the exasperated tone in his spouse's voice. "I think that something is going on with Doctor Baines, and it's more than him using this world tragedy to his benefit. And if Jack Singleton is somehow alive again then I'm sure that Ronald Baines has something to do with it."

pJoe frowned, "Mac, how can he make Jack Singleton alive again. That's just... well it's impossible."

p"Well, when we were married if you told me that Methos would be pregnant today I'd have said that it was impossible. Now he's pregnant. And I know that Ronald Baines was involved in that. Well, not directly involved, but it was his research and work on cloning that made it possible for them to perform the surgery on Methos that allowed him to become pregnant."

p"So you think that Baines is doing more than just cloning internal organs for transplantation?" Methos asked from behind them. MacLeod glanced at him in the rearview mirror then shrugged, "I don't know, but I'm going to do everything I can to find out."

pTraffic was not too heavy and they made good time to the Felize Martine. The Cuban restaurant was a smallish pink walled structure on the business loop to downtown San Clemente.

pMacLeod parked the car and the three men walked the short distance down the street to the building. The interior of the restaurant was softly lit with deep rich burgundy carpet and buttery soft leather chairs arranged around highly polished cherry tables. The host led them to a small table in the corner and took their order for drinks. The coffee arrived smelling rich and hearty and they sipped at it while the waiter took their breakfast order.

pJoe settled back and asked, "So, Mac, where did you say we were going to day?"

pMacLeod sipped his coffee blowing the steam off the cup with a satisfied sigh, "Oh, the Westlake Museum of Natural History. They have a special exhibit of deep water marine life. Some things like giant squid and other animals very rarely seen on exhibit."

p"We came out this morning to see dead fish?" Methos asked with a groan. He took a sip of water then glanced at the Highlander. MacLeod glared at him but said nothing and the ancient immortal grinned. It was nice to know he could harass and intimidate the Highlander with impunity. Being pregnant did have some advantages after all it seemed.

p"These are extremely rare biological specimens, Meth....Adam," MacLeod said frowning, but the older immortal would not be mollified.

p"Dead fish," Methos hissed, chuckling to himself, casting a glance at the Highlander that dared him to oppose him. But MacLeod surprised him by growling, "You are not immune to a spanking, my lad."

p"Ooooh, is that so?" Methos snickered, but the arrival of the food preempted further MacLeod baiting for the moment. The three men sat about clearing their plates and Joe was gratified to see Methos attacking his food with relish. Finally they sat nursing a final cup of coffee when MacLeod noticed a young blond man clearing dishes off a table at the rear of the room.

pQuickly the Highlander stood moving toward the young man. From the angle he was walking it was difficult to get a good look at the young man's face and as he neared MacLeod decided to try the direct approach. "Jack," he said pulling the katana into position beneath the folds of his jacket until he realized that he was not getting any sense of immortal presence from anyone but Methos. "Jack," he repeated louder and the young man finally looked up. He smiled with absolutely no recognition of MacLeod on his face.

"I'm sorry, sir." he said. "My name is Michael. You must have me confused with someone else."

pWhen Michael moved the cart toward the kitchen MacLeod got a good look at him, enough to see that the young man was obviously pregnant. The Highlander stepped aside frowning, "That cart isn't too heavy for you is it? I mean in your condition."

pThe younger man blushed, "Oh no. It moves quite easily, but thank you for asking."

pThe Highlander stood in the isle watching the young man push the cart into the kitchen. Quickly he made his way back to the table and sat down. Joe glanced at the immortal cocking his head, "Well?"

pMacLeod nodded, "It's Jack Singleton all right. Or at least it looks like his body, but no obvious scars on the neck where I.... you know." He paused making a slashing motion across his throat. "And he doesn't recognize me at all. I think that if he remembered our last encounter he would have been a little more concerned at my presence. And that's another thing. He has no immortal buzz; in fact, I saw a bandage on his finger where he had cut himself."

pMethos interrupted, "That doesn't mean anything necessarily. When I was with Alexa I had to wear a bandage on my arm for a week or so because she saw me get cut one day. We've all done that to cover our little accidents from mortal friends and spouses. Still that doesn't account for the lack of immortal presence."

pJoe nodded, "You know years ago when they first cloned that sheep there was a big fuss about human cloning. Do you think that Baines has been able to clone a whole human being not just some organs for transplanting?"

p"I guess he might have, but why clone immortals. Obviously Jack didn't turn out immortal so what would be the point." "What happened to Singleton's body after," Methos glanced around, "you know..."

pMacLeod sighed, "I buried it, but the Watcher's had taken his sword and some other personal effects that I missed when I got back to the alley, and I did cut off the tip of one of his fingers and I couldn't find it when I took the body out to the park to bury it. Maybe the Watchers took the finger. Joe, can you see who made the closing report on Singleton and find out who took his sword. For that matter find out what two Watchers took Matt Croft's body and sword from the alley beside St. Mary Margaret Medical Center last June. Croft caught my hair on his sword and ripped off a piece of scalp and whoever took Croft's body took his sword and my hair."

p"You're thinking that Baines may have cloned more than Jack Singleton?" Joe asked. MacLeod nodded and Joe continued, "Okay. I'll go through the closing reports for those cases tonight."

p"Let's worry about that tonight. The museum is about to open, let's go."

pThe Westlake Museum was a sprawling multi-storied building on the opposite side of town from the restaurant. The mid-day traffic had built up while they were eating so that the BMW crept along the freeway in bumper to bumper traffic. Methos pulled his head phones and cd case out of the floor but frowned when the battery light flashed on the cd player, "Mac, I forgot to change the batteries in my walkman put the cd in the dash player."

pMacLeod grunted but accepted the neon green cd with a cringe. He blinked when the music poured out all screaming electric guitars and pounding drums. The Highlander glared at his mate in the rearview mirror, "I hope that you aren't playing that stuff loud enough for the baby to hear it."

pMethos leaned over the seatback, "The baby can't hear it, well, that's not exactly true, but at this point in time I don't think that the baby really is cognizant of the music. You're not going to be one of those people who talks to my belly are you?" MacLeod flushed and the ancient immortal collapsed back against his pillow, "You are! Oh god, I don't think that I can stand it. I swear, Mac, if you kiss my belly and tell it bedtime stories, I'll have you committed."

pJoe noticed the look on the Highlander's face and turned glaring at the immortal sprawled on the backseat, "Hey, be nice. Mac is doing a damned good job of taking care of your mean, sarcastic, scrawny ass, so you just take it easy on him."

pTrying to look contrite Methos leaned forward pouting a little, "I'm sorry, Daddy."

p"Yeah you'd better be. If your husband doesn't paddle your ass, Daddy just might." Joe tugged his cane off the seat and used it to gently push the button on the cd player. "That's enough of that crap."

p"It's Garbage," Methos said sighing, and Joe turned to look over his shoulder at the other man.

p"Yeah, it certainly is."

pSnickering Methos said, "No, I mean that the name of the band is Garbage."

pThe Highlander chimed in, "Oh and by your reaction can we also assume that there is band you listen to called Crap?"

pMethos blew a raspberry at him then snorted, "Philistines! I am alone in a cultural wasteland among philistines." He settled into the back seat for a world class sulk, but the BMW turned off the freeway and onto the road leading into the museum parking lot. The Highlander turned into the parking lot handing the parking attendant his parking pass and pulled into his assigned parking slot. Quickly he opened the car door moving around to open the door for his pouting mate.

pStill grumbling Methos hauled himself out of the back seat stretching his back until it cracked. Joe flinched, "I really wish that you wouldn't do that." he sighed and Methos flashed him a grin.

pMacLeod handed the guard the tickets at the door and followed his mate and friend inside the cool, dimly lit building. The cool fluorescent lights glinted off the highly polished while marble floors and the crystal clear display cases. Instead of the usual exhibits of stuffed dead animals the museum was filled with huge aquariums displaying a multitude of rare and exotic marine creatures.

pThe tour guide marched smartly to the center of the isle motioning for the Highlander and his small group to join the few others gathered around the first aquarium. She was a tall, slender woman a bit past fifty with neatly coiffed blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. As she turned to address her tour group her eyes settled on the Highlander and she smiled warmly at him.

pQuickly MacLeod moved to the other immortal's side slipping an arm around his waist. She looked a little miffed and Methos smirked triumphantly, "Another one bites the dust," he thought. Sighing he shook his head, and mentally added, "Oh great now I get to spend the next four hours with Freddie Mercury singing in my head."

pThe tour guide turned crisply motioning her small select group into a close knot, "I'm Karen and I'll be your guide into the Mysterious World of the Deep." she said with a bland geniality that really irked the ancient immortal. He stiffened noticeably and MacLeod leaned forward hissing in his ear, "You behave yourself."

p"I wouldn't think of it, "Methos murmured in return and smartly marched off after Karen leaving the Highlander to consider whether or not his spouse had actually heard him. With a pained glance at each other Joe and MacLeod trailed after Methos as he strolled casually into the center of the group.

pKaren was just finishing her spiel about the Lantern Fish in the darkened tank lining the left hand wall and turned to another slightly lighter tank. She took a deep breath and pointed out a neon glowing streak flashing through the depths of the tank, "And these are..."

pMethos leaned against the tank straining to see into the murky depths, "Do you have any Squeel?" he asked glancing at her from under his lashes.

pShe blinked and paused, "I beg your pardon?"

pGrinning Methos drew a deep breath, not pausing even when he felt the Highlander's big hand settle on his arm. MacLeod couldn't very well do anything to him in public and wouldn't do too much in private given his delicate condition.

p"Squeel?" he queried again. "You have heard of them haven't you? They're genetically engineered hybrids of squid and eel. They were produced at USC, but they had trouble breeding them in captivity so they set them free off the coast of southern California."

p"Squeel?" Karen said pursing her lips, a troubled frown creasing her forehead.

pMethos nodded vigorously, "Squeel or the Elusive Squeel as they have been known."

pShe tried yet again to jar her memory of the information that the museum had required she memorize for this specific exhibit, "I'm sorry, young man, but I don't recall anything about Squeel in the info packet I studied."

p"Elusive Squeel," the ancient immortal persisted until he felt MacLeod squeeze his arm. Deftly he trod upon the Highlander's foot and coughed to cover the muffled curse the other man emitted. Joe stepped forward and brushed against Methos' other arm, "We've delayed the tour enough right now, he said. Smiling helpfully at the guide he motioned her forward. Gratefully she moved toward the next tank. Disgruntled Methos leaned forward and hissed, "What's the matter, Dad, trying to get laid?"

pAn elderly woman in the group turned on Methos and hissed, "You should be more respectful to your father, young man! When I was your age we were taught to have a little more respect for our elders than that."

pGiving her his best Adam Peyton, wide eyed innocent smile Methos said, "I'm sorry, Ma'am."

pShe glared at him then turned to Joe, "He's certainly a handful."

p"Yeah, well his mother and I did everything we could but sometimes they just turn out bad." Joe said sighing theatrically.

pWhen she had moved back to join her husband Methos grinned at the elderly mortal. MacLeod swatted the ancient immortal on the seat of the pants hissing, "Just wait until I get you back to the hotel. I'm going to paddle you until you can't sit down."

p"Ooooh, I didn't see that item on the itinerary this morning."

pHowever once Methos has settled down, the tour proved to be surprisingly entertaining and interesting. Although MacLeod couldn't see the actual value of having these wonderful animals in aquariums he did appreciate the effort that the museum had gone to in making the habitats as natural as possible including taking into consideration the amount of light that each species could be subjected to comfortably and still be visible.

pSome of the sea creatures on display were bizarre and the Highlander had never heard of many of them. By eleven the tour had finished and the three men stopped at a small cafe nearby for a light lunch. Methos was more tired that he had expected, but they had read that it was normal for him to suffer from reduced energy levels in this early stage of his pregnancy so MacLeod decided to drive them back to the hotel so that his spouse could nap while he and Joe went through Nick Ralston's Watcher records.

pThe older immortal lay curled in the center of the bed wrapped around a pillow. He snored softly mouth slightly agape. MacLeod sat on the end of the bed watching his spouse with a silly grin plastered over his face. Joe harrumphed noisily, "Oh brother, Mac, you've got it bad."

p"What can I say, Joe. I love him desperately. And this baby is a miracle that I never even dared hope for. He is... they are...everything that is important in my life. I want to know if Baines did clone Jack Singleton or..." he paused. Smiling Joe settled more comfortably in his chair pushing the documents he had been reading closer to the Highlander.

p"You think that Baines cloned you don't you Mac?"

p"I don't know. It would explain why Methos thought that the man in the hospital was me. And if he did clone me, and the clone is mortal like Jack Singleton that would mean he was fertile, but has my genetic make-up; passed my genes on to the baby Methos is carrying. Not that I don't feel that the baby will always be mine regardless of whether or not I did physically father it, but if the clone is a mortal version of me then the baby is mine in every aspect. "

p"Yeah, I guess that would be important to anyone. So what do you plan to do?" Joe flipped through the papers in front of him. "Nick Ralston is a Watcher. He joined in 2000 and has a pretty normal file. Normal except that ten years ago he began taking a more active role in cleaning up after fights between immortals. I also did some research on Ronald Baines and he also founded the Reproductive Health Center about ten years ago. I'm willing to bet that Baines started trying to clone immortals about that time. I don't have a final disposition report on some of the immortal's bodies that Ralston collected for burial. Most of the time the opponent disposes of the body first anyway. It's really rare that the Watchers actually take care of the remains. It seems that Ralston actually intervened and took possession of the immortal's remains from the opponent. I know that he did that in L.A. when you fought Matt Croft, Mac."

p"Yeah, he and another Watcher actually asked me to give them Croft's body. I think that tomorrow I'm going to drive down to the Medical Clinic in Los Angeles and see if I can find any records on what Ralston did with Croft's body."

pSighing Joe shifted in the chair stretching out his leg, "You know that Methos is going to want to go with you."

p"Yeah, I was hoping that you would help me distract him," MacLeod said softly, but the other immortal rolled over grinning at his husband. The Highlander winced.

p"No way, Macleod. If you go down there I'm going too. Someone has to watch your back."

p"Methos you're pregnant. I don't want you in a potentially dangerous situation." MacLeod said rising form his chair and settling on the edge of the bed beside his sleep rumpled spouse.

pMethos sighed heavily, "I'm pregnant, not helpless. It'll be better if I go with you than just follow along after you. Either way I'm going."

p"Well, boys," Joe said coughing gently to draw both immortals' attention, "I'm going to call it an afternoon. I want to get on the freeway home before rush hour begins. Let me know when you leave in the morning just so I can keep an eye out for you. Make sure that you don't end up missing."

pThe Highlander walked the elderly mortal down to the lobby and waited with him while the parking attendant pulled his car around. "You're sure you won't stay and have dinner with us?" he asked. "I can get you a room here at the hotel."

p"Naw, I'm going to go home. It'll give you and 'Adam' a chance to argue in private about him going with you tomorrow."

pMacLeod grinned, "When have I ever won an argument with him?"

p"Just keep in contact with me okay. You know I'll worry about you both."

pRiding the elevator back to the fourth floor Macleod hummed tunelessly to himself. He had run through a number of superb arguments against Methos going to Los Angeles with him and sighed knowing full well that he was doomed.

pMethos was lounging on the bed when the Highlander walked in the room. MacLeod turned and locked the door behind him smiling at his mate. Methos rose off the bed strolling casually toward the door, "So did you see Joe off all right?"

p"Yep. Look Methos I know that there is absolutely no point in me asking you not to go tomorrow so just promise me that you'll stay behind me if anyone with weapons shows up."

p"No," the ancient immortal said shaking his head. MacLeod growled angrily but Methos held up a hand, "No, you shouldn't concede so quickly. I had a world class seduction lined up and you're ruining it."

p"Well, far be it from me to ruin a world class seduction," MacLeod said wrapping his arms around his spouse's slim waist. Carefully Methos maneuvered them to the bed gently tugging the Highlander's shirt free from the waistband of his jeans. Quickly his nimble fingers tugged the small pearl buttons from the crisp cotton dress shirt and he slipped the shirt off MacLeod's broad shoulders letting it fall to the floor.

pMacLeod leaned back slightly allowing the slightly smaller man to divest himself of his ivory cotton sweater then ran his hands over the warm smooth cream colored skin beneath.

p"This is my seduction, Highlander, let me do the work. This afternoon you belong to me..."

p"Ah Methos, I belong to you this afternoon and always."

p"I don't know; you were giving Karen the once over," Methos growled in return. "And you know how I feel about that."

pWith a sudden swiftness that still startled MacLeod Methos shoved the younger man against the edge of the bed. MacLeod hit the soft mattress bounced once and barely settled on his back before the older man was straddling his hips. Methos reached down tugging the fastener free on the Highlander's slacks, and then lowered the zipper. MacLeod wiggled a bit, allowing Methos to tug the slacks down and then off.

pRising to his knees Methos pulled MacLeod's briefs off tossing them over his shoulder. Quickly he pulled his own jeans and boxers off then settled on MacLeod's muscular thighs. The Highlander grinned lasciviously as the ancient immortal climbed his body reaching into the drawer of the night table beside the bed. Quickly Methos pulled a bottle of lube out of the drawer.

pRising to his knees he carefully squirted the lube onto his fingers then reached around to prepare himself for his husband. Early on in their relationship Methos learned that MacLeod found it incredibly erotic watching Methos' long, elegant fingers breach his own body, preparing himself for the joining of their bodies and he indulged the Highlander whenever MacLeod surrender control to the ancient immortal.

pMethos wrapped his still slick hand around the hot, swollen penis jutting out from MacLeod's body. The Highlander moaned softly and Methos ran his fingers up the quivering shaft flicking the tip of his finger over the glisten head, stroking the tiny slit that already wept pearly drops of fluid.

pCarefully Methos lowered himself on the Highlander's hard flesh flexing his thighs and groaning at the feeling of being filled and completed this way. With a sigh he dropped his hands on either side of MacLeod's head and lowered himself for a kiss. MacLeod rose off the bed as far as he could pressing his tongue deeply inside his spouse's mouth. Teeth and tongue clashed as the two men fought for dominance, Methos rising and falling on the hard flesh filling him so deeply. He set a steady rhythm designed to bring them both to climax quickly. MacLeod pushed back slightly, "God Methos slow down."

pMethos shook his head groaning in delight, "No I want this hard and fast. I want drive your cock so far up my ass that I'll taste it when you come."

p"Oh god yes! Ride that cock, baby!" MacLeod seized Methos hips but the ancient immortal slammed him back on the bed holding his wrists down and snarling, "Take it, lay there and just take what I'm doing to you!"

pGrunting Methos slammed himself down on the hard body beneath him. Sweat droplets broke on his creamy pale skin and dripped down on the Highlander as Methos rose to slam himself down again. He gaped, lips glistening with sweat and still swollen from their kisses. Grasping MacLeod's shoulders with both hands Methos rose and fell faster and faster until he threw his head back, crying out. Milky fluid spurted from his body streaking MacLeod's chest and even his face. With a rumbling growl the Highlander thrust his hips up as much as he could and came. Methos felt the warmth seeping into his bowels and collapsed on MacLeod's chest panting from his efforts.

pFinally MacLeod gently clasped the spasming body close to his chest and rolled them over as his soften member slipped from its warm home. With a sigh Methos snuggled close into his husband's side, "Well how was the seduction?"

p"World class, but I already told you that I was going to let you go tomorrow."

p"Damn, guess I went to all that trouble for nothing." Methos could feel the Highlander grinning against the back of his neck. He stretched languidly and smiled, "Well, I think I used up a whole days worth of calories. How about a shower and dinner?"

p"Okay, shower and dinner." MacLeod said snuggling closer to his mate. Methos tried to wriggle free and found himself well and truly caught. "Uhmm, Mac. In order to shower we have to get out of the bed."

p"Uh huh," the Highlander said squeezing the other man tighter. Methos managed to wriggle one arm free and tug the telephone into the bed. MacLeod pried open eye, casting a sideways glance at his mate. "What are you doing?"

p"Calling room service."

p"Good idea." the Highlander snuggled down in the thick warm comforter holding his mate's warm slender body close, and drifted off to sleep.

pSome time during the evening MacLeod was vaguely aware of the arrival of their dinner. Sleepily he staggered to the door tugging on a robe. Methos was seated naked at the table in the chair that Joe had vacated earlier reading the thick file that their elderly friend had left. He quickly wrapped a towel around his waist as the server wheeled the serving cart into the room. He rose ambling to the bathroom and returned with the small vial holding his anti-nausea medication. Quickly Methos swallowed two tablets and settled back while MacLeod placed a plate heaped with steaming food before him.

pThe two immortals read through portions of the paper work while eating and MacLeod pushed a page toward his mate, "Here's the address of the clinic. I'm planning on going early in the morning before anyone who works there shows up. That way all we'll have to worry about might be a couple of security guards."

pMethos nodded, "What are we looking for?" he asked sipping at his fruit juice and wincing at the dead canned flavor. MacLeod shrugged, "Files something that shows what material Baines used for the clones he made..."

p"If he did in fact clone anyone, Mac. We don't know for sure that this boy at the restaurant is a clone of Jack Singleton it could just be a coincidence." Methos began but the Highlander interrupted him.

p"You once told me yourself that there is no such thing as a coincidence. I'm sure that the boy at Felize Martine is Jack Singleton. I'm sure that Baines cloned him. And I'm reasonably sure that Baines cloned me as well."

p Methos gasped, "The orderly at the hospital, you believe that he was your clone don't you. Does it bother you that much that I'm carrying another man's baby?"

p"No! Methos don't think that. I told you before that the baby is ours, yours and mine even if the man who raped you doesn't share my genes. But if Baines did clone me without my permission I want to know it, and I want to know why he did it."

p"We'd better get some sleep then if we're leaving that early in the morning. I'll call Joe and tell him what time we plan on leaving." MacLeod picked up the phone and punched in the elderly mortal's number. He spoke quietly to Joe for a few moments then moved toward the bathroom.

pMacLeod quickly showered before coming back into the bedroom and climbing into the bed. Methos was already curled up in the center of the bed, and MacLeod shoved him gently to one side. Grumbling about a damp spot the ancient immortal rolled over draping himself over his husband's solid form drifting back to sleep.

pIt was still dark outside when Methos was shaken gently awake. He rolled over grunting at the dark silhouette standing over him. MacLeod hissed softly, "Come on, get up if you're going with me."

p"Couldn't we go on this little fact finding mission a bit later in the day?"

p"People will be in the building a bit later in the day. We're breaking and entering, you know."

p"Ah, wonderful, I always loved a little larceny early in the morning." The ancient immortal said rolling out of the bed and struggling into the black sweater and jeans MacLeod held out to him. MacLeod rolled his eyes. "Don't forget your medication this morning. I don't want you puking your guts while we're breaking into this place."

p"I took them last night so I'm feeling okay." None the less he accepted the tablets MacLeod held out then took a sip of water from the plastic bottle thrust into his hands. They left the room walking down the silent hall to the elevator. The lobby was deserted when the two immortals walked out of the elevator and Methos stood in front of the hotel's main entrance as MacLeod wandered out into the parking lot in search of the car. The black BMW pulled up to the waiting man and Methos settled beside his husband.

pThe drive to Los Angeles was surprisingly traffic free, considering that the California freeways always seemed busy. MacLeod followed the map that Joe had printed off his computer the day before, and they found themselves driving past the Genetech Labs building about an hour later. The low white buildings looked benign and harmless surrounded by the deep, lush green trees and simple chain link fences. Methos had almost expected to see a windowless building surrounded by brick walls with armed guards walking the perimeter. Instead there was a single guard house occupied by a lone figure sitting on a chair beside the door. The gate was closed and MacLeod drove passed the parking lot to the Sports Park a little farther up the road.

pParking the car the Highlander slipped out from behind the wheel. "Are you sure that I can't talk you into waiting here for me?"

p"I got out of bed at three a.m. Do you really think I'm going to sit in the car?" Methos hissed and MacLeod grunted. "All right, but stay behind me at all times."

p"Yes, oh lord and master of subterfuge." Methos fell into step behind his husband as they walked silently down the jogging path that ran the circumference of the park and along the property line of the clinic grounds. Finally they found the chain link fence separating the two properties and MacLeod pulled a small tool kit from beneath his jacket. He slipped the wire cutters into the first link clipping it. Glancing over his shoulder he said, "This is going to take a while, why don't you... Methos?"

pMethos was gone. "Shit," the Highlander cursed, "Methos," he hissed louder then cringed as his mate's voice came from behind him. On the other side of the fence. "Here." it said. Whirling the Highlander gaped, "How the hell did you get over there?"

pSmirking Methos said, "There's a drainage ditch just below the path. The fence is off the ground by about a foot I just wiggled under. It's down there about ten feet."

pCasting a harsh glance at Methos the Highlander put the wire cutters back into his jacket and followed his erstwhile mate to the gap in the fence. "I don't know, I'm a little heavier than you. I may not fit."

p"Suck it in, Mac." Methos offered helpfully and snickered as MacLeod cursed at him from beneath the fence. It was a tight fit but with some grunting and cursing the Highlander finally made it through.

pThe parking lot was only partially lit and they made their way across the damp asphalt to the ramp leading into a rear door. The glass and metal door was cold under MacLeod's hands as he fumbled with a lock pick. Methos bumped his arm hissing softly, "Wait! I'd be really surprised if there was no alarm system."

pQuickly Methos ran his hands along the edges of the door leaning in to carefully examine the sills and cornice. Dragging a box over to the door he stood on it to inspect the upper frame. Finally he found a small sensor lodged on the top sill of the door matching a second sensor embedded in the frame. "I told you so," he said to his partner in crime. "Give me your pocket knife. There's an alarm sensor on the top of the door. I think I can slip the knife blade into the crack between the door and the frame it's pretty wide, relatively speaking."

pMacLeod handed the pocket knife to his spouse and watched as Methos slowly and carefully slid the knife blade under the sensor. With a little prying the small disc came up. Without moving the disc from beneath the matching sensor in the door frame he waved a hand at the Highlander, "You don't happen to have any tape do you?"

p"No, I didn't bring tape." MacLeod offered apologetically as Methos sneered at him over his shoulder.

p"What about chewing gum?"

p"What? I don't chew gum. Wait I think there is some in my pocket. It belongs to my secretary. She handed it to me the other day and I forgot to give it back."

p"Well, give it to me before my arm goes numb." Methos glared down at his mate as the Highlander shoved a wrapped stick of gum at him. "Unwrap it first, my hands are sort of occupied at the moment, and chew it too."

p"That's disgusting," MacLeod snapped but he shoved the gum in his mouth chewing vigorously a moment then handed the sticky mass to his spouse. Methos glanced down at the viscous mass sighing, "While I hold the two sensor discs together you open the door and I'll take care of the rest."

p"How can I open the door while you're standing in front of it?" MacLeod asked. Methos shifted to the side, and nodded down to the small space beside him. "There you can slide it under my arm. But hurry."

pMacLeod quickly picked the lock on the door. Methos lifted the knife careful to keep the sensor discs aligned as the Highlander slipped the door open about a foot. He stepped inside and watched as Methos wrapped the chewing gum under the disc then adhered the bottom sensor to the door frame with the chewing gum. Dropping to his feet from his perch on the box he smiled at his husband, "Okay what next?"

p"We search for Baines' office and try to find some files on the cloning project."

pMethos nodded looking at the directory on the wall, "Baines' office is right up the hall here." he said and MacLeod followed him to the door. The interior doors were frosted glass and easily opened. The office inside was clean, neatly decorated and oddly bland. A large wooden desk sat against one wall in front of a row of wooden filing cabinet. On the side leg of the desk was a computer neatly covered with a plastic drape. MacLeod hustled to the filing cabinets and Methos began searching the desk. He pried one of the drawers opened with the knife and found a metal box. Carefully he used the knife to open the box and pulled a gold colored cd-rom disc."

pThe ancient immortal switched on the computer and inserted the disc. A plain blue screen irrupted and then a series of numbers and symbols, "Its encrypted." he signed motioning MacLeod over to the desk. The Highlander appeared with a plain manila folder in his hand, "Well, Baines did have Matt Croft's body," he said offering Methos a few photographs of a young man's body, head neatly perched above the shoulders, on a metal exam table. There were a few sheets of paper in the file, but nothing more. Then MacLeod offered Methos a second folder containing a plastic bag with a few strands of hair in it. "See it has my photograph and our address in Brentwood."

p"So we know that he had your genetic material. That still doesn't prove that the actually used it to make a clone."

pMethos flipped the lid shut on the metal storage box sliding the disc into his pocket. "We need to find someone to break the encryption code on this disc. Let's look through the other drawers. Suddenly he flipped the second drawer open and froze staring down inside the desk. MacLeod noticed his spouse's frozen stance and paused in his searching, "did you find something?"

p"Oh yeah," Methos said swallowing. MacLeod paused glancing over his spouse's shoulder at the small black plastic box with a digital clock fitted into the smooth featureless face. "Oh shit," he hissed.

pMethos nodded "Yep that's what I thought. Can you disarm it?"

p"I'll try," the Highlander said carefully lifting the box onto the surface of the desk. "You know I've never done this before."

pGently he lifted the lid off the box staring down into the jumble of wires and the large chunk of plastic explosive they led too. MacLeod pressed the wire cutters against the thin rubber coated wires. Methos glared balefully at the Highlander then snapped; "You do have a vague idea what you're doing? MacLeod?"

pThe other man smiled and Methos uttered a short, descriptive curse. "I am not real fond of being blown up."

p"You seemed real fond of being blown…"


p"Okay, okay," with a sharp gasp of indrawn breath the Highlander picked up the red colored wire, but paused. "Aren't we supposed to argue if whether it's the red wire or the blue wire, or something like that?"

p"Just pick one, MacLeod." Methos said with an audible tremor in his voice. A wicked grin spread over the other man's face as MacLeod clipped the red wire. Both men froze staring down at the digital timer on the face of the black plastic box. The numbers trembled slightly then began flashing down even more quickly than before.

p"Shit," MacLeod expounded. "I think that this is where discretion is the better part of valor."

p"What? What did you do?" Methos stammered scowling at his partner.

p"I screwed up." MacLeod answered snippily. "And, um, Methos..."



pBoth men launched themselves for the door. Methos proved to be the faster, and clawed the door open with MacLeod almost on his back. Scrambling into the corridor both men raced around the corner, and dashed down the hall to the double glass doors leading into the parking lot. At last they reached the door and shot through just as the rumble of the blast was heard.

pA warm wave of air pushed its way down the corridor knocking the two men down. Somehow MacLeod managed to land part way on top of the other man, and Methos grunted as the air was crushed from his body. With a groan MacLeod rolled off his smaller partner, pulling Methos to his knees. Gasping he smiled at the other man, "You're pretty quick. Did you ever run in the Olympics?"

pShaking his head Methos managed to gasp out, "No, they didn't have my event."

p"Oh, and what event would that be?"

p"Mad dash in blind panic."

pTaking Methos' hand MacLeod tugged him towards the field surrounding the building. Slipping silently through the trees the two men circled around the edge of the field and came out in the Sports Park just a few miles from the Clinic. MacLeod pulled the BMW out of the parking lot just as the first firetrucks screeched through the intersection and squealed off towards the now, probably gutted, research facility. Methos grunted as he slumped down in the passenger side seat.

pSuddenly he sat up glancing around in the familiar gesture that meant he has sensed another immortal. MacLeod also paused knowing that Methos' ability to catch the glimmer of immortal presence was greater than his own then he too felt the faint tremble of presence.

pAs they pulled out of the parking lot, a shadowy figure emerged from the trees in the park watching the car drive away. Methos turned catching sight of the figure as it disappeared back into the shadows. Frowning he tried to place the faintly familiar tingle of presence, a presence that was as well known to him as MacLeod's yet much older.

pRonald Baines stood surveying the burned out wreckage of the building he had invested so much of his life in. With a sigh he picked his way carefully through the twisted lumps of wood and metal to an area were his office might have once stood. Most of this part of the building was unrecognizable. With another sigh the doctor bent down examining the bits and pieces of flotsam that littered the cracked marble floor.

pA largish piece of hollow wood and metal frame that might have once been his desk lay somewhere in the vicinity of the labs, and he began searching the floors nearby for the metal strongbox he had kept locked in the desk. Inside was one of many discs carrying information on the cloning project. If that disc was given to the wrong people the secret of immortality would be revealed, and the identity of the three immortals he had cloned would also be known. Two of the immortal donors were dead, so that left only one immortal who might take exception to the fact that his genetic material had been used for the experiment without his knowledge and consent.

pBaines motioned the workmen that had been hired to clear the wreckage over, "There is a metal box about the size of a shoe box that was in my desk. It is very important that I have it back. I am willing to pay a sizeable amount for the recovery of that box. If you find, it bring it to me immediately."

pBaines really didn't expect to find the box intact; even though it was designed to withstand a fire he wasn't sure it could survive a bombing. Making his way carefully back to his car the doctor pulled his cell phone out and punched in a number. Standing against the side of his SUV Baines swallowed nervously. He had always been nervous around his associate. For one thing the man was an immortal, and it had been his money that had funded the cloning project. For another thing the man didn't seem to be the kind that would tolerate failure in his business partners.

pThe slightly accented voice that gruffly responded to his call sent a chill down Baines spine, "Yes."

p"There was a bombing at the facility last night." the doctor ventured blandly. And the answering chuckle on the other end gave him reason to pause. Finally, the voice responded just as blandly, "Yes, I saw it on the news this morning. The fire was quite...spectacular."

p"I'm not sure but I believe that I know someone who was involved in the bombing last night. An immortal whose genetic material I used for the third clone. A man named Duncan MacLeod."

p"The Highlander, I doubt that he was involved in the bombing. He's far too honorable for that. But if he does find out about the clone it could cause some problems. Do you know where to find him?"

p"Yes, I have his address in Brentwood. He has a young spouse who lives with him, as well, who is pregnant. I think that my clone is the father."

p"Good if the Highlander has something to lose it will make him all the more pliable."

p"Well, yes. What do you intend to do? At this point I don't think that he is reasonably aware of the existence of the clone or the project. I don't want to prompt him into any action if we can avoid it."

p"Send your clone to the house in Brentwood. Let him have a look around maybe see if he can find out about the spouse. If anyone sees him they'll just think that it's MacLeod."

p"All right, I'll do that. I'll send Donald over to the house tomorrow." Baines snapped his cell phone shut and tucked it into the pocket of his suit jacket. Opening the door to his vehicle he slid into the seat pulling out into traffic.

pbSt. Mary Margaret Medical Center, Los Angles, California. /b

pDonald McQueen pushed his janitor's cart through the emergency room into the elevator. His job at the hospital had started out as an enjoyable occupation, but as time went by he felt trapped and angry. Slowly he wheeled the cart around carefully wiping his hands on the clean towel he kept hanging over the handle. Lifting the window cleaner he meticulously cleaned the smudges on the lower windows. The sounds of footsteps behind him caused Donald to pause.

pDoctor Baines stood in the hallway staring at Donald. Self-consciously the younger man straightened his coat and cleared his throat. "Good afternoon, Dr. Baines."

p"Good afternoon Donald. The hospital supervisor tells me that you haven't been doing your job well lately. Is there a problem?"

p"No, no sir. I really appreciate you getting me this job. It just seems as if I could do something more important. I mean, I get this feeling sometimes that I was meant to be something else. You know that I have been something better than I am."

p"Really, how odd, when did you first get this feeling?"

pDonald leaned back against the window, feeling the cold glass through the thin cover of his white jacket, and shivered. He paused, face deeply etched by concentration, "I don't know. I mean, I think it was when I first saw that young doctor; the really pretty one with the hazel eyes. I feel like I should know him, know about him sometimes. I followed him once before the army took him away, and then I saw him at the military base hospital when they did that operation on him."

p"I need to know something Donald. When he was at the hospital did you do anything to him? Something that no one else knows about."

pWith a guilty start Donald glanced wildly around trying to locate the elevators, but Baines stepped up to him holding out a hand and soothing the younger man, "I don't want to get you in trouble. But I need to know; it's really important. That young doctor might need your help. You do love him, don't you?"

p"Yeah I think so." Finally with a deep sigh Donald slumped down into one of the molded plastic chairs littering the ICU waiting room. A deep frown creased his brows, and he turned troubled brown eyes up to the other man, "Yeah, I did something to him. I didn't know that it was illegal. I didn't want to hurt him; it was just when I looked at him he was so beautiful. It seemed as if I knew him for a long time, and I just wanted to touch him; to love him. I made him let me...you know, have sex with him."

p"I thought as much. You know that I told you that you can't remember anything because you were in a car accident? Well, that's not the truth. Your name isn't really McQueen, its MacLeod, Donald MacLeod and you have a brother Duncan. He tried to kill you. I wasn't sure at first and I can't prove it, but I'm reasonably certain that it's true. The young doctor is named Adam and he was going to marry you, but Duncan fell in love with him and tried to kill you to get you out of the way so he could marry Adam."

p"Yeah, I remember when he was in the hospital Adam kept calling me Duncan. So he was supposed to marry me?"

p"Yes, but he thinks that you're dead so he married Duncan in your place. But he really truly loved you. And when he saw you in the hospital he was too drugged to understand who you were. There's another thing as well. Adam is going to have a baby, Donald. He is going to have your baby."

p"A baby? You mean I'm going to be a father?" Donald smiled happily. Suddenly he frowned, "But he's living with my brother. Do they think that my brother is the baby's father?"

p"Oh yes Donald. Duncan is making Adam believe that he is the baby's father, but it's really your baby; yours and Adam's baby. Duncan took your life, he took your young lover, and now he's taking your child. I have the address of the house where Adam lives with Duncan. I want you to do something for me, so I can help you get your family back.

pI need you to go to the house and look around. I need you to find out if there is a security alarm in the house and I need you to bring me a photograph of Adam. I have a friend who can help you win Adam's love back and get your brother away from Adam. If I give you the address can you go there tomorrow?"

p"Yeah, I guess I can. I mean I have tomorrow off. If you give me that address I can drive over there and look around the house. But what do I do if my brother is still there?"

p"Just wait outside until you see him leave, and if anyone sees you just say that you are Duncan."

pDonald smiled and nodded, "Okay, I can do that. I'll wait outside until they leave and then go in the house. If anyone asks I'll say that I am Duncan. Are you sure that Adam loves me?"

p"Of course I am." Baines smiled and gently patted the other man on the shoulder, "Adam loves you very much, and he loves your baby. He'd do anything to make sure that the baby is safe and sound."

pbBrentwood, California. /b

pThe black BMW pulled into the drive of their house. Duncan stepped out of the car and moved quickly around the front to open the door for Methos. The ancient immortal was still sleeping, his head titled to one side, a faint trace of liquid seeping at the corner of his slightly opened mouth.

pDuncan signed carefully running his finger across the deeply etched cheek. Methos started coughing to clear the dryness of his throat and sat up wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand, "Are we home?"

p"Yeah, come on inside. I'm sure that Gladys has been worried about you. You know she doesn't think that anyone can feed you properly but her."

pMethos smiled, "You know I've never understood why all the motherly types feel so hell bent on "mothering" me." He stretched his back sighing as the cracking and popping of vertebra made MacLeod wince.

p"Maybe it's because you were so young when died the first time." The Highlander urged gently. Methos grinned holding up a hand. "Oh no you don't; I've already told you I don't remember how old I was when I died. I don't remember anything that far back. I mean most immortals have a very clear memory of their entire lives, but none of them have so much to remember. If I didn't shed older memories I think I'd go insane." He paused scowling in concentration, "although sometimes I do have a sort of memory of wearing animal hides, buckskin like garments. I can make a working blade out of obsidian, but I ended up with about five hundred superficial cuts on my hands."

pPulling the door open MacLeod followed the ancient immortal through the kitchen and into the den. On his huge mahogany desk MacLeod found a stack of mail and messages. Quickly he settled behind the desk and watched Methos sprawl over the leather sofa, "Anything for me?" Methos asked kicking one of the overstuffed pillows off the sofa into the floor. MacLeod frowned at his mate then huffed, "Maybe, maybe not."

pPicking up the first message he sighed, "Conner and his wife are coming for a few weeks, on a buying trip. They'll be here in a week. There's a message from your doctor about your next appointment. Three weeks," he said making the message into a paper airplane and sailing it across the room. It hit Methos squarely in the forehead. Grumbling Methos crumbled it and tossed it into the fireplace. "They always call a couple of times," he mumbled to the now frowning Highlander. "Besides Gladys always writes them in my day timer for me. What do we have around here for lunch, I'm starving."

p"You're always starving. You know I think that you're beginning to show already."

pWith a panicked look Methos rose to his feet glancing down at his belly, carefully he rubbed his hand over the very slight swell of his abdomen, "Its gas," he pronounced authoritatively, then glared at his husband daring MacLeod to contradict him. The Highlander grinned and Methos sneered at him, "You know that's the kind of thing that'll get you moved into the guest room."

pShuffling across the wooden floor Methos toed off his sneakers and tossed them into the kitchen beside the door to the garage. Quickly he moved to the refrigerator pulling open the door. A clear Plexiglas dish covered with plastic wrap caught his attention and he grinned victoriously, "She made it for me!"

pCarrying the dish to the breakfast table Methos scurried to a cabinet and returned with a couple of plates and spoons. Carefully scooping out a huge portion he dropped what appeared to lime jello filled with small white squares of something inside on the plate. Spooning some into his mouth the ancient immortal closed his eyes in ecstasy. "Ahhh," he said around the amorphous blob spilling over the side of his mouth.

pWith a frown MacLeod pulled a napkin out of the holder on the table, "Don't be such a slob. I didn't know you liked jello." The Highlander tugged the serving dish over scooping some of the concoction onto a second plate Methos had set on the table. He studied the still quivering mass as if it might get up off the plate and walk away then spooned a bit up. "When did you ask Gladys to make this?"

p"The morning we left to visit Joe. It was a sort of craving I guess. Uhmm, it's divine." With a gleeful look Methos spooned up some more of the mass making sure to scoop up a portion with numerous little suspended objects. Noting his spouse's obvious delight in the sticky treat MacLeod shoved a spoonful into his mouth then gagged. Quickly he hurried to the sink spitting the green mess out and washing it down the drain.

p"What the hell is in that? I thought it was pears or some kind of fruit."

p"You should have asked. It's great. Better than I thought it would be."

p"What is it?" the Highlander repeated and Methos grinned.

p"Jello and onions. Are you going to finish that?"

p"Not if you paid me."

pSliding the plate over Methos scraped the jello onto his own plate, "More for me."

pWith a sigh MacLeod pulled a loaf of French bread and some salad greens out of the fridge. In a short time he had a nice green salad dressed in vinaigrette and garlic toast on the table.

pMethos slid his jello and onions over allowing MacLeod to load his plate with half of the salad and a large slice of garlic bread. He dug into the salad then scooped up some of the jello smearing it on the bread and ate it happily. MacLeod looked on appalled. He rose from the table and at Methos glance said, "I'm going to get the luggage out of the car and put it the bedroom. I'll be back in a few minutes."

pThe ancient immortal continued eating as the Highlander trekked across the kitchen and disappeared down the hallway presumably to deposit the two suitcases in the bedroom. Finally he settled in his chair watching in amazement as Methos scooped up the last of the jello and ate it. Fumbling in the cabinet MacLeod pulled a second vial of Methos anti-nausea medication out and handed two tablets to his spouse. Methos swallowed them down, "Afraid of a little jello, Mac?"

p"I was afraid of it when you were eating it. I sure as hell don't want to see it coming back up again."

pThe sound of a car pulling into the garage drew their attention and both men settled back waiting for the door to open smiled brightly as she walked in, "I saw that you were home. I hope you had a pleasant trip. Oh, good Adam I see you found it. I wasn't sure if you'd still want it, but ..." she said but Methos held up a spoon smiling broadly.

p"It's great, just wonderful."

p"Good, I see that you already took care of lunch," She quickly pulled her apron from the rack beside the door and handed MacLeod a stack of mail, "the postman just delivered these."

pNodding the Highlander glanced through the stack and noted an envelope bearing the return address of De Valincourt's home in Paris. Quickly he tore the letter open and shook out a crisp folded sheet of stiff ivory velum.

p"Gina and Robert De Valincourt are renewing their wedding vows, yet again. We're invited to the wedding, next month. I'll give them call later. Have you ever met Robert and Gina?"

pMethos cocked his head to one side and then responded negatively, "I don't think so," he paused glancing around to make sure that Gladys was not close enough to hear then added, "I sort of remember attending a ball at the Chateau De Valincourt in the late eighteen hundreds maybe with Byron."

p"Byron.... you mean Lord Byron?"

p"Yeah, that would be the man." Methos said with a sigh and MacLeod narrowed his eyes glancing at the older man, "You don't seem to have a fond memory of him."

p"Actually I do have many fond memories of him, but I'd just as soon not reacquaint myself with him all the same"

pQuickly the ancient immortal settled onto his mate's lap running his fingers through MacLeod's tangled locks. The larger man grunted in annoyance, "Don't try to evade the issue. If you think you can distract me with cheap mindless sex it won't work. We are finally going to have a conversation about a part of your past...."

pThe Highlander paused as Methos snuggled himself more firmly in his husband's lap then dipped down and tickled the inside of MacLeod's ear with his tongue. With quick feather light movements he traced the whorls of the ear darting the tip of his tongue into the channel. Grinning he leaned closer puffing his breath over the slightly wet flesh enjoying the other man's shivers, "Will you forget it for some earth shattering mind blowing sex?"

p"Is my mind the only thing that'll get blown?"

pTugging the younger immortal from his chair Methos let a lecherous grin play over his features as he wandered backwards toward the hall to their bedroom. They passed the housekeeper on the way out of the room with a hamper of bed linen. She smiled, "All fresh and tidy."

pSuddenly she paused watching them disappear inside and quickly close the door. With a shrug and a sigh she muttered to herself, "For all of two minutes. I swear that Mr. MacLeod should just buy a bed linen factory as many times as I change the sheets around here." She stood glaring at the closed door until the sound of a throaty whoop and the bouncing of the bed springs sent her scurrying down the hall to the laundry room.

pWith one eye on the closed bathroom door and an ear cocked toward the hall Methos climbed to his feet and dropped squarely on the seat of his jeans making the bed springs creak and moan, "Oh baby..." he hissed loudly giggling to himself as MacLeod emerged from the bathroom frowning at the childish antics of his mate.

p"That is not nice." He snapped glaring at the unrepentant elder immortal. Methos gave him the one finger salute, "Hey not all of us can be good guys, Mac."

p"You know you've been cruising for a spanking for a couple of days now," MacLeod said with a warning growl. Quickly he knelt tugging the black leather bound box from under the bed. Methos scrambled to all fours on the bed leaning over, "You wouldn't dare not in my delicate condition, "he said grinning. MacLeod snorted lifting the lid and drawing out a slender leather bound paddle. Quickly he smacked the paddle against his palm and the resulting crack sent a shiver crawling along his mate's spine.

pMethos crawled across the bed nuzzling against his husband's neck. Slowly he tongued the golden skin just above MacLeod's shirt watching the other man's hands as they unfastened the buttons and slipped the shirt off. Slowly MacLeod rose turning as his spouse rose up on his knees shedding his tee shirt then working the buttons loose on his jeans. With a few economical movements the eldest immortal divested himself of his garments then settled back on his hands and knees.

pOnce the Highlander has stripped he settled on the edge of the bed and continued to peruse the contents of the box, choosing another item and setting a bottle of lubricant on the night table. Methos once again crawled across the bed raising himself up to raked his fingers down the Highlander's back and shoulders, "I don't think that I was naughty, Mac."

p"You never do. I mean that thing at the Museum, Squeel indeed."

pMethos giggled, "Yeah, that was a good one. Oh you mean I should be sorry about that? Well, guess what, Mac? Good old Karen had it coming."

p"So do you!" Without warning the Highlander seized his mate by the shoulders and dragged him across his lap. Methos struggled very briefly until the paddle connected solidly with his buttocks. Grunting he moaned, "The dildo, Mac."

p"Oh yeah...sorry." Quickly MacLeod leaned back picking up a flesh colored dildo with veins running the length. Holding Methos in place over his lap with one hand he tipped the open bottle of lubricant up and drizzled a large amount over the head of the rubber cock. Using his slick fingers he teased the tightly curled entrance to Methos' body open inserting two fingers to stretch and relax the muscles. The ancient immortal took a deep breath and nodded, "Put it in me."

p"I don't want to hurt you."

p"Oh and you think that the paddle really doesn't hurt me, Mac?" Methos asked with a glint in his eyes. MacLeod hesitated and Methos kicked him in the shin, "Do it, Kiltboy!"

pWith a growl the Highlander carefully pressed the large dildo deep inside his spouse, hearing Methos' hiss of pleasure, "Oh yeah!"

pRaising the paddle MacLeod whacked the smooth rounded buttocks in front of him until they were rosy red in color and Methos groaned in delight. The dildo rocked against his prostate with each subsequent smack of the leather on his flesh sending shocks of electricity directly to his groin. He wriggled gleefully sliding his erection between MacLeod's thighs, his cock leaking a steady stream of fluid that streaked the golden skin of his husband's legs.

pOne more whack and he was finished.

pSuddenly the Highlander dropped the paddle and gently launched the ancient onto the bed. Quickly he scrambled around tugging Methos until he was laying flat on his back head over the end of the bed at waist level. Methos opened his eyes and MacLeod could see that his pupils were dilated with arousal. "Mac?" he moaned.

p"Open your mouth. Let's see if you can use it for more than smart assed remarks."

pMethos obliged and MacLeod slid his hard flesh between the swollen lips. Quickly he thrust forward bending at the waist until he could reach the crimson length of flesh riding the other man's belly. Carefully he wrapped his lips around the purple head and sucked the tip. Methos gasped around the cock plundering his mouth and came. A few more thrusts and MacLeod shot a stream of warm fluid into his spouse's throat.

pIt took all of the Highlander's will power not to collapse onto his spouse's flushed body. Carefully he pulled the dildo out and dropped it onto the nightstand to be cleaned and stored. With a sigh Methos rolled onto his belly letting his head rest on the back of his arms. He purred as MacLeod stoked his back then rolled over, "Well, Gladys will be happy we didn't mess up the sheets."

pbBrentwood, California, the following morning. /b

pGladys carefully cleared the breakfast dishes away humming to herself. Tugging the bread machine over she checked the progress of the loaves rising nicely for dinner that evening. She could hear MacLeod on the telephone in the den his deep voice rising in inflection in amusement although she could not speak French. From the rear of the house she could also hear Adam's melodious voice as he also chimed in on the telephone in their bedroom. Finally the two men uttered their goodbyes and met in the hall way on their way into the kitchen.

pWrapping his arm around Methos' waist the Highlander gave him a quick squeeze, "I told you you'd like them. God I so disappointed when Gina married him, but Robert has been a good friend all these years. Ah boy, time really has gone by so fast." He smiled at Gladys' snort. She just couldn't understand how a man of MacLeod's thirty-five years could sound as if he had lived hundreds of years. And lately she had noticed that even Adam, as young as he was, had picked up the habit. She turned smiling fondly at the two men, "Well, when you get to my age gentleman it'll seem all the faster."

pMethos grinned picking up a last piece of bacon from the serving tray and popping it into his mouth. MacLeod shook his head, "As much as you've been eating you should have at least put on a little weight."

p"Well, when I'm big as a whale just remember you said that."

p"I have to drive into L.A. this morning, Russell has a shipment coming in today and he absolutely insisted that I be there." MacLeod sighed, "I think that it's the things from the MacLeod ancestral home." Methos shivered at the look on the Highlander's face. The rapt gaze directed at the ancient immortal unnerved him.

pIn fact Methos had been told that when Conner had heard that "Adam" was pregnant he had spent a considerable amount of time searching through several warehouses he owned in Scotland looking for the antique, but immaculately preserved, nursery furniture that had graced the Keep of Ian and Mary MacLeod .

pThe heavy cherry wood pieces, cradle and crib, dresser, armoire and an old fashioned rocking chair perfectly matched the antique pieces in Mac and Methos' bedroom. In fact they had cleared out the small sitting room across the hall from their room for a nursery. MacLeod had spent that last two weeks re-papering it in lighter colors and Alexandra had told them she had sent a package with matching drapes and bedding for the crib.

p"I'll drive down with you," Methos said. Carefully he tucked his medication into his jeans pocket and grabbed a sweater off the coat rack beside the garage door. MacLeod nodded at the housekeeper, "We'll be back at supper time."

"Have a good day," she said smiling. As the garage door swung closed she turned back to the dishes then moved into the great room to vacuum the floors.

pThe BMW backed out of the garage and swung slowly around the circular drive and out onto the street. Neither man seated inside noticed the dusty dark blue sedan parked across the street.

pWaiting until the black car had disappeared the lone occupant of the vehicle exited and walked swiftly across the street. Quickly he slipped inside the gate and moved to the control panel locating the button that stopped the gate from closing. He pressed it then moved up the driveway to the front steps. The front door was locked and he didn't want to ring the bell since Duncan would use his keys so Donald moved around the house to the side door finally locating the small door that lead into the garage. It was not closed all the way and he pushed hard against it, and it swung inward. Quickly he moved into the garage looking at the neatly ordered shelves and drawers containing tools or lawn supplies.

pIn the semi-darkness he managed to find the door into the kitchen and went in. In the rear of the house he could hear the sounds of someone cleaning the floors. As silently as possible Donald moved across the kitchen and into the den looking for photographs of Adam as Dr. Baines had requested. He rummaged through the desk and found nothing, then moved to the shelves, still nothing. Finally he moved to the living room. On the mantle above the fireplace was a set of small books bound in cloth matching the drapes and furniture upholstery.

pWalking quickly across the room Donald picked up the small books and was rewarded with a set of colorful photographs. The first book contained professionally done shots of Duncan and Adam's wedding. Most of the photographs showed the couple from a distance, at the altar, dancing at the reception, cutting the cake or drinking champagne.

pAs Donald looked at one after another of the photographs his anger and hatred of his brother grew. It should have been him in the pictures, him kissing Adam. All this, the house, the baby, all this rightfully belonged to Donald. Duncan had stolen all this from Donald and had even stolen his memories. Memories of the time before Donald had awakened in the hospital with Dr. Baines standing over him, helping him.

pSuddenly Donald was aware that the noise of the vacuum cleaner had stopped and that footsteps were approaching the living room. Quickly Donald flipped through the pages of the second album until he found a good picture of Adam's head, a slightly blurred image but still clear enough to see well.

pTucking the picture into his trouser pocket Donald scurried through the living room and into the kitchen. Just as he had reached the door to the garage a soft voice stopped him, "Mr. MacLeod? I thought you and Adam had left."

pTaking a deep breath he turned smiling, "I forgot my jacket," he said lifting the black leather jacket off the coat tree and slipping it on. "I'll see you later."

p"Okay." she smiled and turned back to the bread machine, "Oh, by the way..." But when Gladys turned again Macleod had left and the garage door was swinging shut.

pTrembling Donald opened the car door and slid behind the wheel. Quickly he tugged the black leather jacket off dropping it in the back seat and pulled Adam's picture out of his trouser pocket. He glanced down at the slender face smiling. Tucking the picture into the glove box he started the car and drove back to L.A. where Dr. Baines was waiting.

pbLos Angeles, California. 1:00 p.m. /b

pThe dark blue sedan pulled off the road and into the driveway leading into the parking lot of the Reproductive Medical Facility. He recognized Dr. Baines' dark green SUV parked beside a black pick-up truck that he had never seen before. Quickly he parked his car and picked up Adam's picture. Drawing a deep breath Donald walked across the parking lot and up the concrete ramp leading into the wreckage of this end of the clinic.

pDr. Baines and another man were standing in the now cleared end of the building. Most of the offices and the research lab had been destroyed in the bombing, but the roof had remained mostly intact and the men were sitting around a make-shift table casually looking over the burnt and twisted objects salvaged from the building.

pClearing his throat Donald waited until the doctor and the other man turned toward him. If he expected to be introduced he was disappointed, but Baines smiled tightly at him. He stepped forward holding out the single photograph as if it were an offering.

pBaines half rose in the chair, "You got the picture of Adam."

pDonald nodded and stepped forward letting the picture slip from his fingers as he turned his attention to the second man in the room. He was slightly shorter than Donald but well built with broad shoulders and neatly clipped brown hair. With his back turned Donald couldn't get a good look at his face. Quickly he slid his chair around holding out a hand to Baines, taking the photograph. Suddenly he bolted upright in his chair and whirled to face Donald, "Are you sure this is MacLeod's spouse?"

pDonald backed away nodding, and his stomach lurched at the other man's rapt grin as an unholy glee seemed to light the man's scruffy face. Maybe it was the unshaven, scruffy beard or the icy pale blue eyes that sent the shiver down Donald's spine as his gaze fastened on the man's face; or maybe it was the evil glint that burned so brightly in the pale eyes or simply the deep scar that bisected the right side of the man's face cleaving the eyebrow and crossing the lid to climb down the rough cheek. Donald scrambled back as the man let out a sharp bark of laughter. "Well, well, how illuminating."

pbKTLA Television Studios, Los Angeles, California. /b

PMacLeod shrugged as he walked down the stairs out of the television studios and into the parking lot. Methos ambled along behind him, a row of spectators and contestants for the television game show standing beside the staircase cheering the ancient immortal. As he walked behind the Highlander the row of mostly elderly people called to Methos and smiling he wandered up and down the line shaking hands. MacLeod turned for the fourth time exasperated as his spouse slowly made his way over to the Highlander, "Will you come on."

P"Oh come on the guy gave me a ticket. It was a selfless act in the name of historical accuracy." Grinning Methos snorted, "I can't help it if they love me."

PMacLeod grunted, "Oh and an over inflated ego had nothing to do with it." Turning the corner he paused glaring at the other man. "You know that was a stupid thing to do. Somebody could have recognized you."

PSmiling again as he waved Methos shrugged, "I don't think so. Besides what was I supposed to do? It doesn't matter anyway since I never made to the finals."

P"Yeah, because you lost."

P"Well, so I'm a little weak on pop culture." Methos said expansively, "I mean who the hell is Chubby Checker in the grand scheme of things? I know how tall Nero was and what Caesar's favorite food was, and I know that Helen of Troy didn't have all that great a face and that it only launched a hundred ships not a thousand..."

P"Blah, blah, blah, "MacLeod snapped, "Oh well if your so smart name an animal, four legs, carries heavy burdens..."

PPausing Methos thought. "Donkey," he said smiling with a "Got ya!" look on his face but MacLeod merely sneered.

P"No, try three letters."

PFinally the answer came to the ancient immortal and he grimaced but before he could reply both men froze as the shiver of immortal presence raced over their bodies. Turning in a complete circle MacLeod nodded at the far end of the alley.

P"Okay, there is another way back, it's a little longer but I like the view a lot better." Methos said nervously looking around.

MacLeod turned to look at him, "You're going home, aren't you?"

P"Aren't you?"

P"No, I want you out of here though."

P"Yeah, well I'll meet you back at the house," Methos said stiffly with an annoyed look on his face. MacLeod leaned in for a kiss, but the other man pushed his hands against the Highlanders chest. "You don't have to do this. We've talked about it."

P"Well, I like to know who's around. Go home, Methos. Take the car; I'll get a cab."

P"All right. I'm out of here."

PThe Highlander watched his mate walk quickly across the alleyway and disappear around the corner of the building before drawing his sword. Carefully he crept down the alley toward the rear of the brick building. When he reached the corner he swung the katana up to chest level and jerked around the end of the building. Across a small space a pipe leaked steam causing a white mist to obscure the end of the alley. Suddenly a fission of energy crept up MacLeod's spine. A figure emerged from the mist sword held at ready. A smile crept across his scarred face, and MacLeod paused as a series of memories raced through his mind. "Koren, he hissed.

PThe pale blue eyes danced, "Adios, Highlander. Now you see me and now you don't..." Koren's voice carried through the thickening mist as MacLeod jumped through the steam. But no one was in sight. Creeping further along the side of the alley MacLeod once again was assailed by the jangle of immortal presence.

PA slender figure darted out of the shadows sword draw. MacLeod swung the katana barely halting his swing as he saw the face and form of a small slender woman with long dark hair and green eyes. "Cassandra." he hissed.

PLowering her own weapon the woman caught her breath, "Duncan! Damn it I almost had him."

P"What are you doing here?"

P"Trying to kill someone."

PMacLeod dropped the katana before turning on the slender form, "Well, you could have gotten killed or killed me in the process." Tucking the sword back into the sheath in the lining of his black leather duster the Highlander watched as his friend also sheathed her sword.

Pacing Cassandra turned on him, "I almost had him, Duncan. I was this close."

P"What do you have to do with Koren?" MacLeod asked leading Cassandra back up the alley toward the parking lot. She trudged along beside him still shaking. "Is that what he's calling himself now?"

P"The last I saw of him it was, Koren... Melvin Koren."

P"The last I saw of him he went by a different name." Shuddering Cassandra turned to him, walking into his embrace. Lifting her eyes she pressed a kiss on his lips, but he gently pushed her away. "I'm married now."

P"Oh I'm sorry. Married, to whom? With all this plague business who is left? Is she one of us?"

PLaughing MacLeod dropped an arm over her shoulders propelling her along, "Yes he is one of us. His name is Adam and he's made me happier than I have ever been. I love him so much, and..." He turned looking fondly down at her, "He's pregnant."

PA brief shadow fell on her face but Cassandra smiled back, "I'm glad Duncan. You deserve happiness."

P"What about you? How have you been, Cassandra." MacLeod paused pulling a cell phone out of his pocket. "I need to call a cab. I sent him home in the car before I went after Koren."

P"Don't bother I have my car. Why don't I drive you?"

P"Are you sure you wouldn't mind. It's a long drive from here." MacLeod said but Cassandra merely shrugged, "It'll give us a chance to catch up, and I'll get to meet this wonderful man who's captured your heart."

PbBurrows Street, Nash and MacLeod's Antiques. /b

PAngrily Methos slammed another carton into the back of the green SUV he and MacLeod had been driving. Another shipment from Connor had arrived and he and MacLeod had been coming down to the shop to pick it up when he had been side tracked by the stupid game show. Now that he had driven downtown only two of the boxes were actually here. Grunting he paused to wipe the sweat off his face. The Highlander would be pissed if he knew that Methos was hauling boxes anyway, but Methos felt a grim satisfaction in ignoring his husband's overbearing edict that the ancient not "over stress" himself.

PA shiver of presence along his spine jerked the ancient from his thoughts. Glancing around Methos fumbled in the pocket of his jacket for the Glock he carried. The gun felt reassuringly cool in his palm. Before he could even pull the weapon free of his clothes a hot pain blossomed in his chest and Methos looked down. The yellow tip of a tranquilizer dart sprouted from the middle of his chest. His eyes widened as a familiar face emerged from the shadows. Grinning the scarred visage blurred and Methos crumbled with a whispered, "Kronos."

PbAbandoned Power Station, Burrows Street, Los Angeles. /b

PHis head was pounding and his mouth tasted like the bad end of a long all night drinking binge, not that he'd been allowed to drink since MacLeod had found out he was pregnant. Methos rolled over groaning grabbing his head then retching as his stomach lurched. The sounds of metal chains rattling caught his attention and he drew a sharp breath.

PAcross the room strode a figure out his deepest nightmares. The man who still left him trembling and weak kneed. Kronos rattled the chains suggestively, "Well old friend you were the last person in the world I thought I'd run across." Ducking under a low hanging pipe the other man swaggered toward the low platform upon which Methos knelt. The ancient immortal stared up at the pale blue eyes. "For a long time I thought you were dead. But then I started hearing rumors-Methos, the oldest man alive. You slipped up there my old friend. But you know I shouldn't have been surprised. You were the one I always counted on. Oh, you weren't the toughest or the strongest, but you were a survivor. It's what you do best."

PGrunting Methos pulled the dart out of his chest letting it fall to the floor where it rolled away. "Wasn't that a bit of overkill, Kronos?"

P"It's what I do best." Kronos grinned again settling on the platform beside his former brother. He rattled the chains again just to watch Methos squirm. With a feral grin Kronos licked his lips, "Bring back some good memories, Brother?"

P"Not nearly as good as yours are I'm sure."

P"Ah yes, well I'll understand if you're not up to fun and games beyond the most basic in your delicate condition." Kronos smoothed his hands over the other man shoulders then ran his fingertips over Methos' still flat belly. "Why do you think that I used the dart instead of a knife? That would have invoked a few really strong memories, but while you would have recovered from the knife I wasn't sure of your little passenger."

PMethos trembled then murmured, "How do you know that I'm pregnant."

P"Let's just say that we have a mutual acquaintance. Did you tell the Highlander about that? Well, I'm sure that he knew that someone had it in for him?" Kronos laughed at his own joke, the raucous sound jarring Methos to the bone. Eyes narrowed in annoyance Methos rose stumbling a few steps as his stomach lurched again. Kronos bounced to his feet following along leaning over Methos' shoulder. "I tried to take up the old ways a dozen times since we parted, but the ones that I took up with were scum. Not like we were. There never was anything like us, never has been. But now that I have you back it'll be different."

P"Well it's good to be wanted," Methos offered dryly shaking. Kronos whirled tugging his former brother's arm.

P"Not want-need!" Kronos said slyly.

P"Kronos, I can't do that. I'm not like that anymore. I've changed. The whole bloody world has changed."

PJerking Methos' arm until their bodies touched Kronos smiled, "You haven't changed as much as you'd like to think. I know deep inside you miss it."

P"Miss it! The blood, the killing..."

PWaving an arm Kronos grinned, "The freedom, the power! And you'll do exactly as I ask. After all we wouldn't want anything to happen to the baby would we?" Kronos stroked Methos' belly again then looked into his eyes. "You know at one time you wouldn't have cared. After all what was one more insignificant mortal life? You wouldn't have thought twice..."

P"Well that should tell you how much I've changed." Methos stammered, ""Please, Kronos, I can't; not anymore."

P"Oh, but you are going to. Everything is going to be just like it was between us before. And if you want that little bastard inside you, you're going to do exactly as I say. Because a knife, or a gun or even the chains might not kill you but it most certainly would kill it." Kronos reached out for his brother pushing Methos back until he lay down on the platform. Methos watched as the ceiling seemed to slip away as Kronos rose up over him. The metal of the platform was cold against Methos back and the air swirling around him was even colder, but a comforting mist seeped over Methos' body and he watched the proceedings as if he were far away. Kronos guttural grunting close to his ear faded until Methos could hear nothing but a faint buzzing and the soft white mist cushioned and enveloped him carrying him far away.

PKronos was sitting on the edge of the platform holding the chains in his hands again when Methos glanced up. He rose walking away purposely turning his back to the ancient immortal. Methos rose staggering tugging the sword the other man had so causally discarded from the ground. Rushing forward the ancient immortal swung; for Duncan and for his baby he couldn't let this man go on regardless of what the quickening might do to him, to them both.

PBut Kronos whirled jerking Methos' own gun up aiming it squarely at his chest, a fatal shot for both him and the baby. Methos wavered letting the sword fall on Kronos' shoulder but not striking the killing blow to the throat. "Well," Kronos smiled gleefully, "I had to be sure of you, and now I am. I think we understand each other perfectly. You can't have the Highlander, but I'll let you keep the baby. I've always wondered what kind of daddy I'd make. You dispense with your husband. I don't care how, but I want you to kill him. And don't think of running because I have people who know where you live, after all I found you in the first place, and remember I knew about the baby. I want you back here tomorrow."

PStaggering Methos left the abandoned power station. He knew that Kronos had not taken him far from the shop on Burrows Street. He managed to make it a few more feet before his stomach lurched and he leaned over vomiting up everything he had eaten that day. When he was finished retching through the dry heaves he managed to shuffle up the alley and down the sidewalk. It took him a lot longer than it should have but he finally made it to the car. Sliding behind the wheel he laid his head on the steering wheel and cried.

PMacLeod was frantic when he got home and Methos wasn't there. Cassandra had driven him home from the television studios and he had expected the ancient immortal to be there. Gladys had left a note on the bulletin board in the kitchen that she had gone to her daughter's and would be back the following week. MacLeod vaguely remembered her asking for the time off and he had been glad to give it to her. He was beginning to panic when he heard Methos' SUV pulling into the garage. With a sigh he hurried from the living room into the kitchen intercepting his spouse. Methos looked pale and drawn and seemed to be staggering on his last legs. Macleod was appalled that their argument about the challenge had put so much stress on his vulnerable mate and was immediately apologetic.

P"Mac," Methos said holding on to his arm.

PThe Highlander steered his exhausted mate toward a chair at the table. "Baby, I'm sorry."

P"No, Duncan please I have to tell you something. It's really important..."

PA suddenly flurry of movement caught Methos attention and he tiredly looked up. A tall slender dark hair woman moved around the kitchen island. She focused on Methos then pulled sword from her black coat, "You," she screamed. "Horseman, draw your sword!"

PEyes wide Methos edged out of his chair keeping his hands level in front of him, "Mac who's this?"

P"You bastard!" Cassandra shrieked, "He was one of them. He rode with Kronos."

PShaking his head Methos backed away, "You don't know me."

PCassandra lunged at him but MacLeod intercepted her before she could reach his mate. "Cassandra, you're mistaken. He doesn't know you."

P"This bastard was one of the Horseman just like Kronos; he raped and killed right beside him!" She whirled looking at Duncan earnestly, "Duncan, listen to me. Hear me. He was one of the Four Horseman, the one they called Death. He gloried in killing; he murdered my entire tribe and raped me. You could never love someone like him; never want him or the baby he's carrying."

PMacLeod turned toward the ancient immortal and Methos could see the cold hard set to his face, "I could never love anyone like you." he leaned back pulling the katana from where is rested on the table, "I should not suffer someone like you to live. Get out Methos, I'll give you one chance for the sake of the baby you're carrying, but if I ever see you again I'll kill you. You and that little bastard inside you--both."

PMethos fled the room, slamming the kitchen door behind him. He could hear Cassandra screaming at MacLeod and the Highlanders fumbling reply. The tears coursing down his cheeks blurred his vision and he stumbled into the side of the SUV but managed to fumble the door open and back out of the garage. Turning in the drive way the SUV barreled out of the gate and down the street. Methos let the sobs overtake him as he drove, weaving across the lines in the street. Only the fact that he might kill the baby even kept the ancient immortal half way in control.

PAfter hours on the freeway in bumper to bumper traffic Methos found himself on Burrows street. He had thought about running, but now that Kronos knew he was alive he would never let Methos get away. It had taken a century of pain and misery for Methos to even get up the courage to flee the Horseman and he had entombed Kronos alive to do that. He didn't have the strength to run, and he had the baby to think about. Kronos would make good on his threats to kill Methos and thereby kill the baby. And if Methos couldn't have Duncan at least he could have his baby. Drawing a deep breath the ancient immortal turned his SUV to the alley off Burrows Street, and bock to the abandoned power station, and whatever fate had in store for him.

PbPeyton/MacLeod Residence 5:15 a.m. /b

PAn insistent banging on the front door drug MacLeod from a deep, troubled sleep. He glanced at the pillow beside his and pressed and hand to the cold, crisp sheets. It seemed as if something was missing. Shouldn't those sheets have held some warmth, some residual body heat from...someone? The pounding on the door grew in intensity until he could no longer ignore it. Rolling out of bed MacLeod met Cassandra in the hall, coming out of the guest room.

PShe was carrying her sword but the Highlander shrugged. Belting his robe at the waist he hurried through the darkened house to the living room and the front door. A tall slender form was standing in the partially shadowed porch and MacLeod felt his heart leap in his chest, "Methos."

PA chuckle and soft lilting brogue answered him, "I'm not quite that old lad. Did you forget you were supposed to pick me up?" The blue eyes sparkled with mirth letting Duncan know that all was forgiven. "Of course married to that little wildcat, it's no wonder. I can't forget all trouble Alex and I had getting the two of you out of bed when you came to visit us."

PThrowing the door open wide MacLeod caught the other man in a hard embrace, "Connor!"

PHis kinsman dropped his bag and grasped the younger man by the shoulders, "Where is Adam? How has he been and how's the baby."

PConnor MacLeod hurried inside halting as he caught sight of the woman standing behind Duncan sword drawn, "Is this how all your guests greet your kin?"

P"Cassandra, put that down. Come in, Conner. I did forget, I'm sorry."

PTaking in his cousin's drawn and pained face Conner turned, "Where is Adam?"

P"He isn't here." MacLeod heaved a sigh, breath catching, and Connor felt his knees give slightly, "Oh, god not a challenge...."

P"No" Cassandra hissed through clenched teeth, "I just taught Duncan the error of his ways and he threw the bastard out."

PTurning to face Duncan Conner seized his shoulders in a fierce grip causing the Highlander to wince, "You threw him out. He's alone and pregnant. You have got to be kidding me. How could you do such a thing? Haven't I taught you any better than that?"

PShaking the other man off MacLeod griped his own arms shaking with effort, "It's not like you think. He wasn't what you think."

P"I know how much he loved you, and I know he was giving you a child. A child you have always wanted so desperately."

PCassandra threw Connor a hateful glare, "Don't listen to him, Duncan. I told you what he was. Three thousand years ago he was a monster."

PConnor scoffed, "And I am not the same man I was four hundred years ago. Are you saying that a man can not change?"

PDesperate to maintain her control over the Highlander, Cassandra pushed Connor aside, "Don't listen to him, Duncan listen to me, hear me...."

P"Shut your mouth witch or I'll cut your throat. Who can you believe her or me? When you were banished all those long years ago; when you staggered out of the wilderness after taking the hermit's head who was there?"

PHead spinning Duncan clutched at his temple looking from Cassandra to Connor, and his kinsman continued, "Was it she? For all time you spent alone in the wilderness, where was she? In all this long time since you've been immortal who taught you, you has stood beside you; was it she?"

PShaking his head Duncan could feel the dark ropes of power dropping off him, he felt lighter than he had since seeing Cassandra pull her sword on Methos. She groaned raising her hands, but Connor whirled on her, "Don't listen to her spite, her hate Duncan."

PMoving down the hall Connor pulled his kinsman along behind him and the witch followed eyes wide with fear. The elder highlander moved swiftly silently past the guest room, past the bedroom he knew Duncan had shared with Adam to the small room that had been a reading room.

PThe dark oak shelves where gone replaced by a light and airy paper. Duncan could barely remember spending a weekend with Methos crabbing at him while he worked to strip the walls and hang the paper.

PKneeling beside the rocking chair Duncan had a flash of memory, of warm soft hands and gentle arms. He remembered a fevered little boy caught in those arms, as a voice whispered. He staggered back settling into the chair. He could feel the rumbling laugh, and deep voice telling tales to a frightened little boy, driving the fear away. He could smell the deep rich scent of pipe tobacco and feel the rough wool garments under his cheek.

PTears welled in Duncan's eyes as his past came alive in the memories held in these antique things. The feel of the rocker shifting under him became the rolling gait of his father as he carried his son home from hunting. The warm dark wood reminded him of a pair of dark, warm brown eyes that danced or flashed like embers when fanned by anger.

PSuddenly his father's eyes changed in Duncan's memory- faded, transformed to another pair of eyes the color of the forest, first green then gold. Eyes that became a warm rich whiskey color in the soft amber light of the bedside table, eyes that had smiled up at him from the bed they shared. Duncan gasped his shoulders jerking with the sobs that wracked his body. Connor caught him then holding him close, and Duncan felt the cold hard chains that held him break. Leaning into his kinsman's shoulder Duncan sobbed, "Oh god! Connor, what have I done?"

PDuncan sat huddled on the floor hearing the distant chiming of the grandfather clock in the hallway striking six. Could it be six o'clock? It seemed as if he had been sitting with his head resting against Connor's thigh for most of the night yet it had only been a little less than an hour. The faint tinkling of the chimes faded away leaving the Highlander feeling enervated and strung out. Connor had said nothing for the longest time letting Duncan spill his grief in a hot wash of tears as he wept for his lost love and child that had become hearth and home to him.

PFrom the pale, gray light that trickled through the closed blinds the Highlander knew that the sun was rising. He could feel the house settling around them as neither man moved. Connor, his brother and surrogate father-the only family Duncan had known for centuries, until Methos had come into his life, held him steady patting soothing circles on his back. Duncan felt the bitter rush of anger flood his body, "Where's Cassandra?" he hissed. Shoulders tense he rose from the floor wincing as his over stressed muscles flared with bright pain.

PPain was good though Duncan decided, it centered him. Pain drove out the lassitude that Cassandra's magic had woven around him, and it focused him. Just as the anger drove him. Racing out of the nursery Duncan thundered down the hall to the guestroom but the woman was long gone. Her things hastily gathered as she fled the house. All that remained was one silk scarf and the thin silver chain that he had torn from her neck when Connor pulled him into the nursery, pulled Duncan away from Cassandra and destroyed the spell her Voice had woven around him.

PStooping the Highlander lifted the scrap of silk from the carpeted floor, turning back to his kinsman. "Oh God, Connor, what did I let her do? How will I ever make this right?"

PDuncan staggered back to the nursery door leaning against the doorframe, staring at the dark cherry wood of the crib as it gleamed gently in the ever brightening light. "Ah Methos," he whispered. Connor stalked to the door grasping Duncan by the shoulder, "That is the second time that you have said that name. What has a myth got to do with this terrible situation?"

P"Come to the kitchen. I need to make some coffee and I'll tell you."

PConnor followed Duncan to the warm, well kept kitchen settling in a chair at the breakfast table. He watched as Duncan measured out the coffee then poured water into the coffee maker. As the dark liquid began to bubble into the carafe Duncan settled in a chair beside his kinsman. "Meth....Adam and I were at a taping of a game show yesterday. You know how he loves to show off his knowledge of history."

P"Ay, that boy does seem to have a good head for history." Connor nodded smiling. His eyes strayed to Duncan's face. The misery etched in long lines around the younger man's eyes and mouth nearly unmanned him. Then Duncan smiled, softly murmuring to himself.

"Boy? He'd really be pissed if he heard you say that. Adam is not a boy, I mean; I think he was very young when he experienced first death. Physically yes his body is very young, but he is over 5000 years old. Adam is Methos."

P"No!" Connor said quietly, then paused sighing, "I do suppose that explains the depth and richness of his quickening. When you first brought him home I thought he might be a head hunter because he felt so much older than he looks. But he seemed so quiet and shy. He's one hell of an actor. But he seemed so good for you. You smiled more when he was around that I had seen smile in years."

PDuncan closed his eyes, pain washing over him in waves. With a half sob he nodded, "He annoys me more than anyone I have ever met, but when I'm with him everything else in the world fades to nothingness. He shelters my soul." He laughed but the sound was brittle and hollow in his own ears. "When I first met him I thought I was protecting a mortal from an immortal murderer. I walked into his tiny apartment, and felt presence. I thought that I had failed, that Kalas had found him first, and then I came upon this young man sitting on the floor-doors unlocked, headphones on with this god-awful rock-n-roll music pouring out loud enough to deafening you. And I though to myself this kid needs a keeper. He looked up at me and I swear it was as if the whole of humankind was looking at me. I could actually feel the passing of time, he sang with it. And I knew he was Methos."

PConnor cleared his throat bringing Duncan back to him. Tears he didn't even know he had shed coursed down his cheeks and Duncan wiped them away. Rising Connor quickly went to the coffee maker, picking one of the mugs Duncan had left on the counter he poured it to the brim taking his time to let Duncan compose himself. When he went back to the table he nudged Duncan gently and his kinsman accepted the mug sipping at the black liquid as the steam gently curled around his face. Once Connor had settled at the table Duncan was calm again.

P"How did Cassandra come to be here? And why did she set you upon Adam, Methos, like that? Was she after his quickening?"

P"No, like I said we were at the taping of some game show downtown. We were supposed to go to the shop to pick up those boxes you sent. When we were walking back to the car we felt the presence of another immortal. Methos and I had an argument and I told him to take the car and come home. I ran into someone, Koren. I'm not sure you know him- Melvin Koren. He's a monster, raider, murderer and rapist. He got away and I found out that Cassandra had been after him. She wanted his head and told me he was named Kronos. And that he was one of the Four Horsemen. She drove me home but Methos wasn't here. We talked fro a while and I went to make dinner. She wanted to know what "Adam" looked like so I told her our wedding album was on the mantle over the fireplace in the living room. I heard her scream and rushed in. I don't really understand how but the next thing I remember was her telling me that Methos was one of the Horsemen, that he had ridden with Kronos killed and raped with him. She said something to me some words in a strange tone of voice, and all I wanted to do was obey her."

PConnor nodded, "I've heard of it. You know she was called the witch of Donan Woods. I think she does have some measure of power. All the old ones do. They aren't like us younger immortals. They come from a time before magic was a myth, and they all carry some magic with them."

PDuncan snorted smiling ruefully, "Methos doesn't."

PConnor grunted frowning, "You know better than that. You felt it. You said it yourself, you felt like you were looking at all of humankind. Can you imagine what it must be like to predate human history? Methos is his own magic." Connor drew a deep breath then raised his cup to his lips. "Duncan, there is one thing that I have never asked; I don't want to be indelicate..."

P"Since when? Connor you have always spoken your mind." Duncan smiled and Connor chuckled.

P "That's true, cousin. I know that Adam had that terrible operation performed on him against his will, but who..."

p"Its weird, Connor, but I'm sure that I am the baby's father. This Doctor, Ronald Baines, he's the one who invented this surgical procedure. He's also been known to associate with the Watchers and I think that he is experimenting with immortals. I think that he invented a way to clone immortals. Methos was raped in the hospital. And I think that he was raped by a clone of me and that's how he got pregnant."

P"If the clone was of you wouldn't it be sterile too?"

P"I don't know for sure maybe not if it, he, was mortal." Duncan patiently explained the encounter he had with Jack Singleton's clone at the restaurant in San Clemente. Leaning back in the chair he rubbed a hand tiredly over his eyes. "Maybe the clones were meant to be mortal, so they could have children."


P"I don't know," Duncan snapped angrily then winced.

PConnor merely glanced at him. "Cassandra was searching for Kronos and she said that Methos rode with him. You said that Cassandra figured out that Adam was Methos by looking at your wedding album. Bring it here."

PObediently Duncan rose and wandered into the living room where Cassandra had dropped the photograph album earlier that morning. Quickly scooping it up he returned to the kitchen handing the album to Connor. Quickly the elder Highlander flipped through the pages until he came to a blank spot, "there is a photograph missing."

P"What?" Duncan accepted the album then fingered the blank page. "It was a picture of Methos I took at the airport on our honeymoon. He doesn't like close up shots so it was kind of blurred, but still clear enough to be recognizable. Someone took it."

PConnor nodded taking the album once again. "So Koren shows up at the television studio and someone has been in your house. A clone could get in and out without being noticed."

PDuncan nodded. "I am going to find this other me. I'll start looking at the hospital where Methos used to work and go back to that clinic that was bombed."

P"We'll start at the hospital. And we'll find him, we'll find them both. And when we do I'll bet Koren will there too." Connor added.

PbReproductive Health Clinic, Los Angeles, California. Three weeks later. /b

PMethos sat huddled in the front seat of the black pick-up truck that Kronos had driven from the power station that morning. His stomach lurched violently as they rounded a corner much too quickly and he retched. Kronos glared at him, "Don't you puke in my car."

P"Maybe if you'd slow down a little. God, Kronos, there is no value in coming charging over the hill anymore. Terror doesn't come on horseback or in a pick-up truck. There are worse things than the Horsemen out there now."

P"Now, but not soon." Kronos said trying to sink his fingers in Methos short spikes of hair. The silken strands escaped his grasp and the Horseman snarled, "I liked your hair better when it was longer. Its easier to get a handful and it makes you look so much younger..."

PMethos pulled away frowning, "That's just the pedophile in you talking."

PGrinning Kronos slapped him, not too hard, but still hard enough to make it sting. Methos grunted retching again. "It would serve him right if I puked all over him," he thought sullenly.

P"I have a little business to attend to at the good doctor's. You wait in his office. I just need to rectify a mistake that I made."

PMethos staggered from the car and into the cool, dim interior of the partially rebuilt building. Kronos waved him down a side corridor and he quickly marched to the frosted glass door. Quietly he locked the door and leaned against the wall. Slowly the tumbling of his stomach had subsided. He was doing better without the nausea medication, but then he was almost three months pregnant now. His doctor had told him that the sickness and reduced energy levels would fade away in the second trimester. Carefully Methos splashed some cool water on his face then dried his hand and face on paper towels. He settled against the door again hoping it would be some time before his "Brother" came looking for him again.

PKronos marched purposely down a second corridor to a metal re-enforced door pad-locked closed. It was a shame really that this part of the building had survived the bombing and fire. It would have saved him some trouble. But now that he had his Methos back. Well, this one was so much excess baggage.

PQuickly pulling the keys out of his pocket Kronos unlocked the heavy metal pad-lock and pushed the door open. It was stifling hot inside the room, the air thick and humid. The smell almost made him gag, and he had stomached a lot in his long life. Apparently it was still not eating the all of the food left for it.

pWith a grimace he closed the door fishing Methos' Glock out of his jacket pocket. He paused at the small table beside the door. A water pitcher and plastic tumbler was sitting on the table along with the remains of a meal. Some of the food had been eaten some of it was decorating the walls along with the smears left by countless other meals half consumed then tossed away. On the table beside the water was a glass locket on a leather thong; at least the remains of the glass locket. The small hand blown bottle had been hanging from that leather thong for almost three thousand years. The glass was half broken now, shattered for the greater cause. A few strands of dark brown hair still remained in the unbroken half of the locket. Strands of hair tugged intact from the owner's head. Kronos fingered the dark brown strands. They were dry now, not as luxurious as they had been at the source. He could still remember the day he had tugged those locks out. It was on a dry and dusty battlefield so far away and long ago.

PThe four of them had ridden into a village, a prosperous place by the looks of it. And it wasn't as prosperous when they were done. He had come upon his brother hot from battle. Methos' bloodlust had always run high. The dark hair had come undone from the braid that his Brother had taken to wearing that ancient summer, and flew wide and free around that slender face. Kronos stood entranced by the sight of Death weaving his way among the mortals, dancing to a tune only he could hear. His blade had flashed in an almost hypnotic rhythm, sweat sheeting his translucent skin, running through the drying blood painting his lower arms, and the First Horseman was transfixed. Methos turned grinning at him as the last man fell.

PStriding forward Kronos grasped his Brother by the shoulders, and the dancing blade fell to the ground. The heat flushed skin burned beneath Kronos' fingertips as he loosened the blood drenched garments, and pressed his Brother to the hard, dry earth. Kronos dropped to the ground feeling the hard packed clay and small pebbles grinding into his knees as he tugged the laces free on his own leather trousers lowering them, and he knew that Methos face must be burning from the hard sun baked clay.

PThe First Horseman's hands found purchase on the lean hips and he growled in triumph grunting out the battle lust as his blood soaked armor creaked in unison with his Brother's own blood drenched coverings. His leather bracers caught in the long dark strands of hair and he yanked hard, pulling the long neck taut feeling the tension stiff muscles go even tighter, pulling harder he freed his arm and the long tress jerked back stinging his face like a whip and Kronos howled in pleasure.

PA howling noise brought him back to the present and Kronos growled his displeasure. He stepped forward feeling the tightness of his jeans dissipate as he got a good look at it. How could he have ever thought that this thing could take the place of his Brother?

PThe creature was chained hand and foot to the wall with only enough length in the chain for it to lay down upon the filthy bedding. Long dark hair fell over its slender face, and it raised blazing green-gold eyes to him. With a grimace the thing shuffled away tugging the chains until it winced in pain. Although pain was something it understood too well. Kronos had made certain of that.

PBut, alas, the mortal version had neither the strength nor resiliency of his immortal Brother and what little wits it had been born with had deserted it early on. It did share his Brother's love for sexual pleasure, but the steady decline in its mental state had robbed Kronos of even that pale shadow of his former relationship.

PKronos moved forward although he was sickened by the odor that emanated from the thing. It hadn't really learned the fine art of bathing any better than it had eating with utensils and dried food clung to the long slim fingers. "Well, I don't seem to have need of you any longer. It's a pity that things didn't work out, but you're no good to me. Even fucking you wasn't worth the trouble. And now I don't have to bother. Besides you're mortal, in time even your beauty would fade, not like my ageless Brother." He reached a fond hand out to stroke the dark tresses, but the creature snapped at him strong white teeth coming close but not finding their mark. "Ah ah, bad boy."

PKronos raised the gun, and the sound of the shot echoed through the tiny room.

PMethos heard the sound of gun fire and he rose quickly to his feet, Maybe Duncan had found him. He had suspected that Baines was cloning immortals. And he had been right. Little had Methos known that Kronos was behind the cloning, among other things. Baines didn't just reproduce human beings it seemed.

PQuickly Methos opened the bathroom door. A face as familiar as his own stopped him as he rushed into the hall. Relief flooded the ancient immortal as he hurried forward clasping the other man to him, "Oh god, Duncan. I thought you were with Cassandra. Oh I'm so sorry that I never told you about...Duncan?"

PStepping back Methos stared into the warm brown eyes then froze as he realized that there was no immortal presence emanating from this man. That's why Kronos didn't come out of the room at the end of the hall. He frowned, "You're not Duncan, are you?"

P"No, I'm Donald. Don't you remember me?"

PStaring at the face that was so precious to him the ancient immortal swallowed, "I've never met you before." Methos tried to move back away from the other man but Donald seized his shoulders.

PDesperately he shook Methos, "Sure you have. All you have to do is remember. Doctor Baines told me that my brother tried to kill me to take you away from me. Did he do something to you to make you forget me too?"

P"Please, Donald, you're hurting me and you're going to hurt my baby."

P"Our baby. I put the baby inside you in the hospital. I'm sorry I didn't mean to force you really. You're so beautiful and I love you so much. I know that the man with the scar on his face is a bad man. He made me bring the picture of you here. He made Doctor Baines send me to your house and get the picture so he could see you. I didn't know he was going to hurt you. I came to get you out of here. I'll even take you back to Duncan if you don't love me any more. Come on while he's in there."

P"No, I can't go back to Duncan. He doesn't want me anymore."

P"I want you." Donald slowly dropped to his knees in front of Methos. "You're starting to get a little bit bigger. I can see where the baby is inside you." Donald's blunt fingers spread over the immortal's slightly rounded belly seeking the curves and the shallow indent of Methos navel.

PClosing his eyes Methos let his fingers rake through the thick curls of warm, dark hair. The weight of the dark tresses oddly soothing as the ancient immortal stroked the man kneeling in rapt adoration before him. Donald raised his eyes smiling, leaning forward he kissed Methos' belly and the ancient immortal bit back a sob. So much alike, a yet in his heart he knew it would be another betrayal in his long list of many.

PThe door swung open and Kronos stormed out. "Highlander?" he shouted then drew up short, no immortal signature jarred his nerves only the deep rich thrum of his brother, a presence he had felt so long now it was like a shadow of his own. "Get you hands off him. Did you really think I brought him here for you? You're not man enough for him; you're not even really a man."

P"I won't let you hurt him." Donald said pushing Methos behind him. The immortal tugged the man's arm trying to pull him out of the way. "Don't Donald; you don't understand what you're up against. Go now, please."

P"Oh, little man you want to play," Kronos smiled, and Donald felt his knees go weak. The Horseman stepped forward shoving Methos out of the way. Donald swung at the back of Kronos' head, but the immortal whirled around cat-quick grasping the mortal's arm wrenching it until the bone snapped. Donald cried out. Tugging the mortal by his broken arm the first Horseman pulled into the once pad-locked room. Throwing on the light Kronos shoved Donald forward, "You dare to believe that you are worthy of love?

PYou aren't even a real human being. You're nothing but DNA a lab tech scraped off a sword blade. Like this thing."

PHe pushed Donald forward the mortal fell on his knees before the naked thing, chained to the wall, now dripping blood from a gaping chest wound. Donald gasped. The man was limp and still in death his green-gold eyes unfocused. The long dark hair falling around his shoulders partially obscured his slender face but not enough. And Donald cringed.

P"What is this?" He turned to Methos as the ancient immortal stood frozen in the doorway, "You have a brother too?"

P"I am his only brother. This thing is a pale imitation of my Pale Rider. Flawed; an imperfect creation scraped off a lock of hair. Grown in the body of a woman and raised up for me."

PStriding forward Kronos pulled Donald to his knees and shoved him into the lab beyond another door at the rear of the room. The metal re-enforced door slammed against the wall with a resounding boom as Kronos kicked it in.

PSeveral metal tables were scattered around the room. In the center of the lab was a tall clear plastic tube filled with blue fluid, inside the tube stood a small thin young man with short redish colored hair. Methos flinched when he recognized Matt Croft. Kronos tugged Donald over to the tube. "He's a clone, like you are a clone of Duncan MacLeod. Just as that thing was a clone of my Brother."

P"It's not true," Donald stammered. But the First Horseman merely sneered. Grabbing Donald's arm he tugged the mortal to the double metal door set into the far wall. Unlatching the door Kronos pulled a long metal gurney out. On the gurney was a sheet draped form. Pulling the sheet away Kronos dropped it to the floor then lifted something from between the corpse's knees. Although the slack face was pale and blue from the loss of its blood Donald was still able to recognize the features as being identical to the young man in the clear tube. Suddenly he launched himself from the floor, "No!"

PScreaming the mortal seized a metal tray from the nearest table and slammed it against Kronos head. The Horseman staggered back, but Donald had aimed badly and the hit was just a glancing blow. Pulling the Glock out of his pocket Kronos fired once. The bullet stuck Donald mid chest.

P"No." Methos had been stunned into immobility by Kronos' disclosures, now he shook himself out of his lethargy, running to kneel at the mortal's side. Donald lay on the floor blood slowly seeping out his chest wound. He drew a ragged breath and touched the wound glancing down at his blood smeared fingers. Methos had been a doctor too long not to know that the wound was a fatal if not treated immediately. Donald's innate strength would keep him alive for a while but he would die unless they could get him to a hospital. Methos glanced at his Brother, "Please, Kronos, I need to call an ambulance for him."

P"You...need... to get in the truck." Kronos paced to the cold storage vault and seized a small metal cylinder. He quickly read the label then tossed it at Methos. The other immortal caught it staring uncomprehendingly at the object. Kronos chose another cylinder and smiling held it aloft. Methos stared at the metal object in his hands. Kronos nodded, "This is a reengineered virus based on the plague virus that came from those asteroids. It will work on both genders not just females, and there is no cure. There is going to be a whole new world order."

P"It's been tried before." the ancient immortal snarled.

P"Let's go." Kronos pointed the gun at his brother and Methos rose unsteadily to his feet. Clutching the cylinder he was holding close to his chest Methos closed his eyes as he turned and walked away from Donald.

PThe black pick-up truck roared to life as Kronos slammed it into gear and backed up. He clipped the fence as he pulled out of the parking lot. A black BMW was racing toward the clinic as Kronos pulled out and he swerved to avoid it, still managing to clip the rear fender.

PCursing MacLeod tugged hard on the steering wheel to keep the BMW form spinning. He jerked the car into a hard turn and screeched to a halt in front of the clinic's open door.

PConnor bounced off the door then glared at his kinsman before opening the door to tumble out. Duncan was already racing up the steps and into the building. The open door at the end of the corridor caught his attention and the Highlander charged down the hall. Connor caught up to his kinsman just as the younger immortal sank to his knees in the center of the floor.

PIn the pale overhead light Connor could make out the slender form hanging limply in chains against the far wall. He sank to his knees beside the younger man. "It's not him, Donnechaid. It's not him."

PConnor rose moving purposefully to the still man. Carefully he lifted the slender face. The pale green-gold eyes were glazed in death, the pale skin already going blue and cold. Closing the eyes Connor gently lowered the dark head. "This one has been dead for a while."

PA soft coughing drew their attention and both immortals raced into the inner room. Duncan gasped as he got a good look at the man lying on the floor. It was him or rather his clone. Conner stopped moving frozen in place as his kinsman dropped to his knees beside a duplicate of himself. It was as if Duncan had been born one of a pair of identical twins. "Heaven help us," Connor said, and Duncan frowned at him.

PDonald moaned softly and Duncan pulled his cell phone out, "Don't worry I'll get an ambulance for you." But Donald raised his hand gripping Duncan's arm weakly shaking his head. "Don't. I shouldn't be here. I'm not a real person."

p"Of course you are," Duncan whispered, "You're me. I mean we are the same, and I'm a real person."

p"Doctor Baines lied to me. He told me I was your brother, and that Adam loved me. But he doesn't; it's you he loves. The man with the scar on his face took him. And he took the canister with the germs in it."

pConnor leaned forward, "Virus, Koren took a virus?"

pDonald nodded, "Yeah, a virus." he said proudly mouthing the word. "It came from the rocks that fell out of space only Doctor Baines did something to it. Made it stronger or different so that it won't only kill the girls. It'll kill everyone."

p"Do you know where they went?" the Highlander asked. Connor looked at his kinsman. But Donald shook his head. Groaning he collapsed back to the floor, but as Duncan pulled out his cell phone Donald touched his arm, "No don't. And the new one in the tank, please take him out. Don't let this happen to him too." He settled back eyes closing and as Duncan and Connor watched he drew his last breath and was still. Conner touched his kinsman's arm. "Well go back to the house. There can't be many places Kronos can hide. You still have that Watcher friend."

pDuncan nodded, "Joe yeah. If anyone can find Kronos Joe can."

pbReproductive Health Clinic, Los Angeles, California./b

pRonald Baines stood behind the desk in his reconstructed office staring at the computer screen. Sighing the scientist waited patiently as Nick Ralston paced across the carpeted floor the turned to the door pacing back again. He had been pacing for half an hour. Finally the Watcher glanced up, "I'm telling you, doc. Melvin Koren is an immortal named Kronos. Joe Dawson has been accessing the Watcher database even though he's retired and we put a tracer on his computer. He began accessing information on old immortal males who don't have first death info, and this Koren was called Kronos. He the oldest immortal on record except Methos, and as far as I can tell Methos is just a myth."

pBaines grunted eyes widening, "Maybe not. I'm not sure but when Koren came to me ten years ago to start this cloning project the first clone we made was the one with the long dark hair her referred to as Methos. The one that we actually implanted in a female volunteer and then used the growth inducer to speed his maturity. The one we found dead yesterday, along with Donald."

p"Yeah, but he had that lock of hair in that glass bottle. Maybe Koren knew Methos a long time ago when he got the hair sample and then Methos died which was why Koren or Kronos wanted the clone to replace him."

p"That is what I had assumed as well," Baines nodded, "But when Donald brought us a photo of Duncan MacLeod's young spouse Koren got really excited. He lost all interest in the clone and when I saw the photo I could see the similarities between the clone and Adam MacLeod."

pRalston settled on the edge of the desk pulling the photograph over shrugging, "Maybe it's just the physical similarities. The clone could just resemble Adam MacLeod. When are you meeting with Koren again?"

p"I don't know. After he killed the Methos clone and Donald he disappeared. I think he has Adam with him. I know that Adam did see his obstetrician but Koren accompanied him, not MacLeod. Something is going on there." Baines bent down to retrieve his briefcase from the floor. "I'm going over to San Clemente to check on Michael and his child." At the other man's shocked expression Baines smiled, "Yes the baby was born three weeks ago. I thought you might go by since you are the father."

pRalston grunted, "Look I just made a contribution to a paper cup. I never asked for you to use it to knock the kid up, although he ain't bad looking. He's a little young. Why did you take him out at eighteen? Jack Singleton was twenty-five."

p"He was becoming physically stressed from the growth inducer. I decided to let him grow up the rest of the way on his own. I didn't want to risk the kind of extreme mental damage we experienced with the Methos clone."

pSnorting indelicately Ralston grimaced, "Your growth inducer didn't cause as much of that damage as Koren did. The way he treated the kid it's no wonder he went postal."

p"Without Koren there wouldn't have even been a project. I made that clone for him; he could do with it as he pleased."

p"Yeah well he thought sex was a spectator sport. I walked into the lab and he had the kid strapped down going at him seven ways to Sunday. And the kid screaming and kicking all the time."

pBaines glared, "Why do you keep calling him a kid? He was the clone of a supposedly five thousand year old immortal. The clone looked young because this Methos died for the first time at a young age."

p"The clone wasn't immortal. He looked twenty years old because he was twenty years old."

p"What brought this tiresome attack of morals on Nick?" Baines asked as he leaned back in the high-backed, leather chair rotating slowly toward the other man. The scientist's eyes narrowed as he glared up at his partner. "Because I can assure you that it's very annoying. So get over it."

p"I've been doing some reading on this Koren that Joe Dawson had been researching. He was a pretty bad dude. I mean this Koren has been a bastard since the first records of him appeared, and he's at least three thousand years old. And now he's got Adam MacLeod. He kills this Methos clone it took you ten long years to create and grow and kidnaps a new immortal. Why?"

p"He took Adam MacLeod to be used as a bargaining tool if Duncan MacLeod gets in our way." The scientist glared at Ralston again lips pressed into a grim line drawing the skin even tighter over his deeply etched cheeks. Ralston grinned snidely, "Our way?"

pBaines lips compressed to the point of disappearing altogether, "His way..." he amended grimly. He shrugged, "So Joe Dawson has been tracking this Koren's movements. Maybe he's trying to help MacLeod get his spouse back. I mean he watched MacLeod for years and they are friends. You know MacLeod did take Jack Singleton's head. Do you think MacLeod might approach Michael?"

p"I'll check the computer and see if Dawson pulled his address."

pBaines surrendered his seat as the Watcher began typing in code words on the computer. A few screens flashed by and then a diary type log appeared, "This is the tracer I put on Dawson's computer it tracks all the research he does on various key worded activities. He did pull Michael Singletary's address in San Clemente."

pBaines shrugged again, "Michael never met Melvin Koren so there is not much information they can get from him, but I do want to know why Dawson and MacLeod want to talk to Michael."

pbMichael Singletary's residence. San Clemente, California. /b

pThe black BMW parked in front of the metal gates to the Beachside Apartments was decidedly too upscale for the neighborhood. The two tall men who exited the car were also decidedly out of place. Both men walked with an easy almost arrogant stride, and although the taller of the two men was slimmer he looked ever bit as dangerous as his broad shouldered companion.

pConnor MacLeod paused waiting for his kinsman to join him as they approached the wrought iron fence surrounding the multi-storied building. Duncan jerked his black leather duster over his arm straightening the katana in its folds. Smiling grimly at his kinsman Duncan motioned the other man forward. Joe had spent most of the night researching addresses for the Highlanders and Michael Singletary was only the first name on the list. Both men had decided that Ronald Baines was not exempt from receiving a less than friendly visit from them if things got desperate enough.

pBoth Highlanders stalked through the gate like predators on a hunt. The few occupants of the building that were scattered through the courtyard stayed well away from the two men. Across the cobblestone courtyard in the shadows of the Pepper trees stood a tall, cadaverous figure dressed in a well cut gray suit. He waited until the two immortals disappeared inside the building before crossing the courtyard and following them inside.

pThe elevator deposited the two men on the fourth floor and they read the numbered doorways as they moved down the hall. Duncan stopped in front of a door and nodded, "This is the place." Schooling his features in a bland smile he pressed the bell. Neither man noticed the elevator opening once again or Ronald Baines stepping out to slide around the bend of the corridor. Pressing himself against the wall Baines leaned around the corner watching the two Highlanders intently.

pDuncan rang the bell again and the door slowly opened revealing the slender blond young man he remembered from Felize Martine. The young man glanced up sleepily looking ruffled, "Yes, can I help you?"

pAssuming what he hoped was an air of dignified authority Duncan nodded, "Yes Mr. Singletary. My name is Duncan MacLeod and this Russell Nash and I would like to ask you a couple of questions regarding a possible suspect in the bombing of the clinic you used to work at."

pDuncan waited hoping he was correct in his bluff. He had no evidence that Singletary has ever worked for Ronald Baines at the Reproductive Clinic, but Donald had and Duncan was hoping that Baines might have used all the clones as employees at one time of another. Apparently his assumption was correct because Singletary nodded.

p"You're with the police. I really can't help you. I haven't worked there in a long time. Once I got pregnant I left because I didn't want to be exposed to any of the chemicals and things used there."

pConnor glanced at his kinsman then pulled the photograph of Melvin Koren Joe had managed to pull off the Watcher database out of his pocket. "Have you ever seen this man before, perhaps at the clinic before you left?"

pThe mewling of an infant caught Singletary's attention and he turned away. "Excuse me for a minute." Quickly he walked across the immaculate room to a wicker bassinet sitting beside the sofa. Gently he picked up the squalling baby settling it over his shoulder. pCarefully the young man carried the baby over to the door. Connor smiled, "How old is the little one?"

p"She's three weeks old. She's a little fussy I need to feed her."

p"Can you please just take a quick look at the picture." Duncan moved closer holding out the photograph of Kronos. Suddenly he stiffened glancing back at Connor. Singletary didn't notice as both Highlanders glanced at each other as the faint buzz of pre-immortal presence hit them both at the same time. The young man shook his head, "I'm sorry, but I've never seen him before."

p"We're sorry to have troubled you." Duncan quickly handed the younger man a folded slip of paper. "This is my cell phone number if you recall seeing him or if he shows up please call me. He's a very dangerous man."

pSingletary nodded as he carefully closed the door. Quickly Conner and Duncan walked down the hall to the elevator. They stood patiently waiting as the numbers on the elevator flashed up from the basement. Conner turned toward his cousin, "I thought you said these clones were mortal"

p"They are," Duncan said stiffly, "It was the baby that was pre-immortal."

p"So your mortal clone fathered the baby that Adam is carrying. Do you suppose that the child will be immortal?"

p"I don't know, Conner."

pAs the door closed on the two Highlanders Ronald Baines stepped out of the corridor. So his clones themselves were not immortal but their children were. Smiling Baines pressed the button to call up the elevator. Although Duncan MacLeod's clone was dead young Adam MacLeod was carrying his child. Was it possible that Adam's child would be immortal as well? He considered this interesting development as he rode the elevator down to the bottom floor. Baines was so absorbed in his thoughts that he didn't notice a familiar face edging past him toward the elevator to the upper floors.

pFor the third time that afternoon the elevator opened and deposited a tall, broad shouldered form into the corridor. The man checked the address he had scribbled on a piece of paper at the Clinic earlier that afternoon after Baines left. He paused at the door bearing the number then knocked tentatively. A pretty blond boy answered the door carrying a blanket wrapped bundle in his arms. He stepped back a slight smile on his face. "Oh, hello uhmm, Mr. Ralston, isn't it, from Dr. Baines office?"

pClearing this throat Nick Ralston nodded, "Uh yeah, Michael. Can I come in?"

p"Sure." Michael stepped back allowing the bigger man to enter the apartment. Ralston looked around then settled on the chair beside the sliding glass door to the balcony. "Uh I, uhmm, look I don't know if Baines ever told you but he used my sperm to inseminate you."

p"What?" Michael said frowning. Ralston sighed, "That means he used my sperm to make you pregnant. I'm the baby's father, and I wanted to know if maybe I could see it. I mean I just wanted to see how you and the baby were getting on, you know."

pMichael blushed then rose settling the swaddled infant in Ralston arms. The bigger man gulped looking like Michael had handed him a ticking bomb. "I never held one before maybe this ain't a good idea. I might break it or something."

p"Her. The baby is a-her-not an it and her name is Eileen."

pLooking up at the slender, fair skinned face Ralston smiled, "Eileen huh? She looks good and all. Hey she even has fingernails. Look how little they are." Flushing crimson Ralston said, "Uhmm, you hungry?"

pMichael shrugged, "I hadn't really thought about it. I was just trying to get lunch when those cops came by. I guess they thought I still worked at the clinic, but I told them I hadn't been there in a while. I guess they have a suspect in the bombing. A man named Koren."

pJerking his head up Ralston winced as the baby began snuffling. He settled back watching her squirm then fall back to sleep. With a sigh he smiled at Michael again. "Koren, huh. Did Doctor Baines come by here today?" he asked quietly then sighed when Singletary shook his head. "Good, you stay away from that guy; he's creepy. Would you like to go get some lunch with me?"

pBlushing Singletary nodded, "Okay let me get the baby's things together."

p"Sure I got her just take your time." As Ralston cuddled the infant close to his chest he watched the younger man gathering the baby's clothing and diapers into a white and pink stripped bag. "You said the cops came by today. We're they from the LAPD?"

p"Actually I didn't ask for their i.d. I just assumed they were cops. They felt like it. I mean you know powerful men when they're around, and these guys felt powerful. They asked if I had seen that guy Koren. But he was never around the clinic when I was there."

p"Oh, that's good, I guess. Did they leave a card? I mean you should be careful about letting strange men in your apartment, look at me."

p"You're not so strange. And yeah one of them left me his cell phone number. It's on the table."

pWaiting until Singletary disappeared into the bedroom Ralston carefully rose and gently placed the baby into the bassinet. He quickly went to the table and picked up the slip of paper folded in half. Pulling his own cell phone out he dialed the number. A deep, slightly accented voice answered. "MacLeod."

p"MacLeod," he said slowly. "You don't know me but I'm a Watcher, and a friend of Michael Singletary and I think I know where you can find Koren."

pbAbandoned Power Station, Burrows Street, Los Angeles, California. /b

pA figure moved in the darkness, solitary, small she crowded close to the wall trying to remain hidden. Cassandra moved toward the central room of the ugly concrete and cinderblock building. She could hear voices, male, muffled by the walls but still distinct enough to be followed. Turning the corner of the wall she found herself in a large dimly lit room crowded with the amorphous shapes of shadow clad machinery.

pKronos stood in the center of the room tossing a sneering insult at the retreating back of his partner. Cassandra winced at the loss of her former master but settled for the leader of the Horsemen instead. Bracing herself she drew her sword. The rasping of the metal blade on the material of her jacket sheath caught Kronos' attention and the Horseman turned grinning as he caught sight of her, "I didn't recognize you at first; standing on your feet and not on your back. Did you come to play, little mouse? "

p"You'll find out soon enough I'm not playing Kronos," she snapped lunging at him. Kronos barely stepped aside as he pulled his own sword. Still grinning he casually knocked her blade aside. The so very unhurried movement was meant to shake her confidence, and for a moment Cassandra was shaken. She knew she was a pitiful swordswoman only her voice had kept her alive all these long years. She cocked her head grinning back at the man. A few more lunging blows had Cassandra retreating toward the far wall. She dodged a blow circling around slowly, "Kronos," she whispered then drew a deeper breather, "Kronos hear me. You are getting sleepy, Kronos, your blade is growing heavy too heavy to hold. You want to close your eyes, Kronos."

pCocking his head he glared down at her, "Why, so you can kiss me? Make love to me before you die. And cut out the feeble tricks they won't work with me witch. I know all about you and that takes your power away you see. You can't fool me." Lunging, his blade rang against her sword and Cassandra staggered under the blow. "I shall have to kill you. It's a pity though. Kneel down for me and I'll think about letting you live."

p"I wouldn't do it before and I won't do it now."

p"Then you'll die."

pA second figure stepped out of the shadows moving forward lightly blade drawn, "Not today Kronos." Duncan smiled tightly as Cassandra whirled on the Highlander. Kronos sprang forward the pummel of the huge bronze blade striking her on the temple. She sagged to the ground and Connor moved around the Horseman to seize the woman's limp body and pull her into his arms.

pCarefully the elder Highlander carried the still body out of the room and back along the corridor. He had to get the woman out of the way so that Duncan could finish Koren and find his mate.

pHurriedly Connor dragged Cassandra to the Los Angeles River overpass. The water below was shallow, churning sluggishly, but still deep enough that it would drag her away from the abandoned power station. Hefting her limp form over the guard rail he tossed her unceremoniously over the fence watching her drop the few feet into the brackish river below. The belt of her black trench coat caught on his arm and Connor jerked it free dropping it off the overpass as well.

pAfter watching Cassandra's body tumble under the surface then emerge a bit farther downstream the elder Highlander turned running back down the street toward the building. Duncan and Kronos were still engaged in battle when Connor appeared at the door of the room. Across the floor he could just make out the shadowed form of Adam standing in the far hall gazing at his husband and Brother fighting. Cocking his head he glanced at Connor, a deep penetrating gaze, and then slowly he raised a glass bottle filled with fluid and pulled a lighter from the pocket of his jeans.

pConnor followed his "brother-in-law's" gaze to the floor and his eyes widened at the streams of glistening liquid pooled around the other man's feet. He raised a hand but couldn't call out to either Adam or Duncan for fear of distracting his kinsman in the sword battle with the leader of the Horsemen. Shaking his head Conner motioned to Adam but the older immortal flinched then a small sad smile crossed his face and he tossed the bottle. The glass erupted against the concrete floor igniting the pools of gasoline. Blue flame crept over the floor spreading as the gas had spread over the rough surface. The flames crept high between the two combatants and they parted. Duncan gave ground dodging the flickering flames trying to lean across the fire but the searing heat drove him back toward Connor.

pFlicking a glance at his mate the Highlander heaved a sigh, Adam had turned away as Kronos leapt aside twisting his fingers roughly in the disreputable brown sweater that Methos wore. Angrily Kronos shook Methos thrusting him back down the corridor.

pUttering an ancient Gaelic curse Duncan tried to fling himself over the raging flames, but Connor pulled him away and back down the corridor to the parking lot in front of the building.

p"We found them once we'll find them again!" Connor shouted to the younger man as they scrambled down the corridor and out the door. The fresh cool air cleared Duncan's head and he shook his kinsman's hand off as he stalked across the parking lot. "Why did Adam stay with Kronos? He could have made it across the room to me but he stayed with that bastard. Have I been so blind that I could not see the real Methos?"

p"That's just Cassandra talking Duncan. In case you've forgotten you told Methos that if you ever saw him again you'd kill him and the baby. He's afraid now, trapped, and trying to protect himself and the child anyway he can."

pDuncan sagged against the side of the car numb with pain. Drawing a ragged breath he tried to smile at his teacher and friend, but failed miserably. Tears flooded his eyes and the Highlander angrily brushed them away. "I guess I deserve that. I never thought that Methos would be afraid of me, but so be it. I'll just have to work twice as hard to earn his trust and forgiveness. I should never have listened to Cassandra. She hates them both with such passion. Where do you think Kronos will go now?"

pConnor leaned against the side of the car with his kinsman, "I don't know, but Methos intervened in that fight between the two of you and if Kronos thinks that it was to protect you Methos might be in a world of trouble. In any case Cassandra seems to be able to keep close tabs on Kronos. I think we look for her to find him."

pbSixth Street Shelter, Los Angeles, California. /b

pKronos jerked Methos into the darken alley behind the Homeless Shelter filling one end of a converted warehouse not far from the power station. The two immortals watched as the fire trucks raced passed the entrance of the alley toward the faint blaze that was till visible from their hiding place. Whirling with a snarl on his lips the leader of the Horseman turned to his second in command and laid the enormous bronze blade heavily on Methos' slender shoulder, drawing the razor sharp blade along the tender skin of his neck just enough to leave a shallow cut. Methos winced as Kronos grinned ferally watching the still sluggishly bleeding cut leave a crimson trail on the smooth ivory colored skin.

p"You stopped the fight, why? Still pining for your husband?"

p"It could have gone either way. I couldn't take the chance."

pLeaning forward so that more of his weight rested on the bronze blade Kronos sneered as Methos squirmed under the sword's kiss, "Were you afraid that he'd kill me or that I'd kill him? Uhmm, Brother. Just what game are you playing now?"

p"No games Kronos. The fight could have gone either way. I couldn't be sure."

p"Well I need to be sure of you, Brother. If I can't be you're better off dead," he pressed the edge of the blade into Methos neck again watching as a few crimson droplets wells around the metal. "Maybe I should kill you now and be certain."

"If you do that you'll never have the Four Horsemen again. Silas and Caspian are still alive."

p"You're lying, Methos."

p"No! I can take you to them. I know where they are." Methos gasped backing away. Kronos didn't pursue him instead letting the blade fall. "If this is a game Methos you don't even want to know the ways you're going to die." Digging the point of the blade into the soft soil clogging the concrete storm drain on the alley's floor Kronos bent forward leaning on the pommel catching Methos by one of the belt loops on his jeans, "Convince me this is not a game, Brother. After all you were always good with your mouth."

pHe tugged the belt loop and Methos staggered forward a step then dropped to his knees. The cold wet soil ground against his knees stinging the flesh beneath the worn denim and Methos raised his trembling fingers to the button on Kronos jeans. As he leaned forward Methos could feel his Brother shift awkwardly, dragging the heavy metal blade through the sand and grit. The crunching sound caused Methos to cringe and then the cold metal touched his cheek, the blade resting so very casually on his shoulder, "Convince me quickly, Brother, we have oh so much to do."

pbLos Angeles Hilton Hotel. /b

pDuncan was slowly going out of his mind. Two weeks had passed since the fight and flight from the abandoned power station on Burrows Street. Kronos had been impossible to find and even Cassandra was keeping a low profile. As each day passed Duncan was sure that Methos and the baby were dead. Connor had been a steady presence for him easing his fears with kind words. They had abandoned the house in Brentwood in favor of a hotel near the L.A. International airport thinking that if Kronos left the states for Europe he would pick a flight leaving from LAX.

pDuncan's cell phone pulled him from his silent brood at the small table in the living area of the two bedroom suite they had rented. Connor rose from his half asleep sprawl on the sofa and stood behind his kinsman. "Joe!" Duncan said wearily, "You have information yes. I'll write it down." he half turned to Connor who quickly produced a note pad and pen from the writing desk beside the window. Duncan stooped over the pad hastily scrawling the name and address Joe gave him. Clicking off the phone he turned to Conner smiling; the first real smile his kinsman had seen since his arrival.

PDropping the telephone Duncan motioned Connor into a chair on the opposite side of the table, "Cassandra was at Joe Dawson's house last night. Apparently she bullied her watcher into giving her his address. She kept Joe up all last night searching the Watcher database, and he came up with a name. At least one of the two other remaining Horsemen is alive. Caspian is in a Hungarian mental institution, going under the name Evan Caspari. I think that Kronos is trying to get them all together again, and Methos will know how. Adam Peyton was a Watcher before being hit by a drunk driver a becoming a "new" immortal. I can guarantee that Methos had known where he was for a long time. And if the other one, what was his name..."

pConnor sighed, "Silas."

pNodding Duncan tapped the pen against the table, "Yes if Silas is still alive Methos will know where he is too."

p"So, "Connor asked, "What do we do?"

p"We go to Bucharest. Methos and Kronos will show up there before too long."

pbThe Ukraine Mountains. /b

pTwo figures on horseback slipped quietly through the mist shrouded hillside. The lead figure sat stiffly head cocked as if he was listening to some sound that was only audible to him. After a few moments he relaxed slumping down over the horse's back, leaning in the saddle. After him the other man moved his horse forward catching up to his partner. Suddenly the sound of an axe head slamming into wood carried over the quiet chirping and twittering of the birds. The sounds of wings beating drowned out the chopping noise for a moment then silence followed by another tremendous thud of axe and wood.

pMethos paused turning in the saddle to look at Kronos, "That's Silas." he said quietly nodding in the direction the sounds had come. Kronos urged his horse forward but the older immortal held back frowning, "It's been over a thousand years he may not remember us."

pThe black leather clad shoulders shrugged, "What we were you don't forget." Kronos kicked his horse into a trot as both men rounded a bend in the path. Quickly he slipped out of the saddle catching the horse's reins. Methos dismounted as well, staring at the small log cabin nestled in the cleft of a valley, between the twin sweeps of the alluvial fan down the hillside. Methos followed suit tugging his mounts reins.

pA giant of a man dressed in dark colored jeans and a gray sweatshirt whirled focusing his attention on the two silent figures standing beside a thick evergreen tree. Suddenly the axe rose in the air, flashing end over end and thudded deeply into the tree trunk. Kronos ducked slightly but the big axe was embedded just above the top of his head, not in it. He smiled over at Methos, "I guess he does remember."

pThe thundering roar of the deep booming voice cried out, "Brothers!" and a smile broke the broad simple face. Methos grinned in return quickly leading his horse over to the other man. "It's good to see you too Silas." he said ending the sentence with a grunt and a wince as Silas caught him up in a hug that swept Methos off his feet. Suddenly the big man gently placed his Brother on the ground blunt fingers seeking out the faintly rounded curve of Methos' belly under the thick, loose gray sweater. "I have felt this on nanny goats and ewes, maybe even a woman or two, but Brother what is this, you have a life inside your body?"

p"Yes, I'm going to have a baby."

p"Kronos this is your doing?"

p"'Fraid not Brother," Kronos said, "Some mortal doctor did this to our Brother, but he wants to keep it. There is another reason we came to see you."

pCocking his head the big man smiled, "We ride?" he asked Methos. Nodding the older man said, "We ride!"

pbInstitute for the Criminally Insane, Bucharest, Hungary./b

pThe corridor was dimly lit and crowded with shuffling figures. A single door stood open as the three men walked down the hallway to a glass window set into the far end of the hall. As they passed Silas glanced into the door spying a woman with short dark hair scribbling notes on a clip board. When she noticed the men walking passed she quickly slammed the door shut. Methos leaned over the small ledge outside the glass partition so that he could look at the small balding man carrying a manila folder in his hand. "Yes I spoke to you by telephone regarding Evan Caspari," he said wearily. The doctor grunted, "I can't really talk about this now I'm very busy. You'll have to come back tomorrow."

p"Well, we would like to take him today." Methos said annoyed that the man was changing the terms of their agreement. He had been on a plane for most of the night and he was aching and bone tired. Kronos pulled an envelope from his pocket sauntering into the small office. The doctor turned to object but the immortal tossed the envelope on the desk on top of the manila folder. "This is twenty-five thousand dollars U.S." he hissed. "Let's just say that you forget your impeccable paperwork and give us Caspari now. And that is yours. Keep us waiting and you lose everything."

pFingering the stack of cash the doctor finally conceded. Quickly he slipped the envelope in his pocket and motioned the other three men to follow. They walked down the corridor toward a frosted glass door set in one wall, as they walked a single figure shuffled toward them trembling finger held aloft pointing at Kronos, "The dark man is here..." he shrieked cringing away huddling his arms around himself.

pThe doctor scoffed, "Don't mind him. He's been saying that for thirty years..."

pSmiling Kronos stared at the man, "Well, one day he might be right."

pMethos glanced at the huddled form, and as they passed Silas raised his big hand, stroking the quivering head. The doctor opened the door and led them down a cramped staircase, "What did Caspari do to be brought to this place?" Kronos asked.

pThe doctor shrugged, "Nobody knows how many people he killed. We found pieces in his garden, his garage and his freezer."

p"Why wasn't he executed?" Silas boomed out frowning. The doctor turned slightly. "In the past a man like Caspari would have been executed, but we live in much more humane times."

pThe corridor at the end of the steps was dank, foul smelling and cold. Methos shivered as the cool air seeped into his overcoat. The three Horsemen followed the doctor to a huge, heavy wooden door reinforced with metal strapping. The doctor pulled a set of keys out of his pocket fumbled with the lock then pushed the door open.

pAgainst the far wall a figure sat huddled in the dark. His long dark hair fell over his face and the heavy shackles around his wrist clanked against the dirty floor. Methos flinched at the smell praying that he would not vomit. He glared at the mortal, "Oh yes, this is so much more humane."

pAt the sound of a familiar voice the huddled figure unwound himself, slinging his hair back twisting in the chains that bound him. A deep maniacal laugh bubbled up from his chest, and the man reared back.

pKronos jerked his arm at the chained figure on the floor, "Release him."

p"Perhaps I should call security..." the doctor mumbled at last sensing the error of his actions. Quickly Silas drew his axe slamming it down on the chains. The metal links parted sheared away and Caspian leapt to his feet swinging the chain around to catch the doctor by the neck. Grunting he wrapped the chain around the mortal's neck pulling it tight. The doctor gasped, and Methos flinched withdrawing to the back of the room as Caspian strangled the life out of the man.

pTossing the dead body to the floor, Caspian settled back on his haunches grinning up at the other three men. Methos took a step forward but Caspian cried out, "Stop."

pMethos jerked to a halt, eyes wide. Caspian reached beneath the sole of Methos' shoe picking up a large cockroach. He grinned at the other man, "These are better alive."

pFighting down his nausea, Methos ground out, "Bon appetite."

pSilas picked up the doctor's corpse as Kronos searched through its pockets. Finally he came up with the keys to the shackles freeing their Brother. Finally, the Four Horsemen stood together. Kronos turned stalking out the door followed by Silas and Caspian. Methos tagged along at the rear pulling a matchbook from the hotel in Bordeaux, France that he and Kronos had stayed in on their way to the Ukraine. Kronos had told him that he had a base in Bordeaux and they would be returning there after finding Silas and Caspian.

pThe Police officers were arguing yet again with the chief nurse when the MacLeods arrived. She pushed passed the annoying office then whirled on Duncan when he questioned her as well. "I have already told the officers that Caspari had no visitors at all. She stormed passed the speechless men and disappeared into a small office slamming the door.

pConnor pushed into doorway that the police had arrived from motioning Duncan to follow. The two men walked quickly down the staircase to the lower floor searching for empty cells. A single doorway was slightly ajar at the far end of the hallway. The dim light revealed a dank, grimy room still reeking with the smell of decay and human body odor. On the floor mid center of the room was a pale, blue paper. Duncan stooped to retrieve it. Holding it up to the feeble flicker of the overhead incandescent light he made out the name of a large hotel in Bordeaux, France. Turning quickly to Connor he offered the matchbook. "Look the Hotel Savoy, Bordeaux."

pNodding the elder Highlander took the matchbook, "Do you think Methos left this as a clue."

p"I hope so." Duncan said quietly.

pbAbandoned Submarine Base, Bordeaux, France /b

pMethos sat at the small table which was settled squarely in the center of the dank, moldy smelling room. The thin golden glow of a small lamp providing what little light there was in the room. Squinting at his book he glanced at Silas as the big immortal watched Caspian lurk in the shadows. Clutched in Caspian's slim, strong, fingers was a metal cage, and inside the cage was a large white rat. He grinned at the big man sitting at the table with Methos, "Looks like I'm having a friend for dinner. Tell me Methos what goes better with rodent red or white?"

pGrowling deep in his chest Silas half rose from his seat, "You eat him and I'll kill you."

p"That's your problem idiot..." Caspian hissed dropping the cage on the table and picking up his sword, Silas jumped to his feet hefting the huge battle axe. The clash of blade and axe rang throughout the room. Methos barely glanced up.

pStriding into the room Kronos slammed his sword between the two, "We never raise a blade against each other..." Glancing over at his second in command the leader of the Horsemen waited for Methos' response. The other man glanced over his book looking into Kronos' eyes, "You said it." he replied with a slight smile.

p"What's your plan?" Caspian said sneering at Silas as he subsided into a chair beside the table.

pKronos dropped his sword onto the battered table pacing to the side wall. He leaned back grinning at Methos. "Caspian were you in London during the plague?"

p"Well," Kronos continued, "I was, too. Aids, Ebola and this plague from those asteroids all very nasty indeed, but apparently if one knows where to look there are ways of making them even nastier. And I knew where to look. I have the virus, and I have a few dollars enough to make a start anyway and now that I have Methos I'll have a plan."

pA vague grimace twisted Methos' face into the semblance of a smile.

p"So Methos what do you think?" Kronos leaned back against the wall crossing his arms over his chest glaring at his strategist.

pClearing his throat Methos leaned forward, "A bomb in a public fountain should get their attention."

pCaspian sneered, "A fountain? How many will that kill?"

pExasperated Methos glared at him, "Have you ever read Aristotle, no of course not, you've never even seen Casablanca. What's the first rule of drama, start small and build. A bomb in a fountain to kill a few, then a public pool to kill a hundred, and then one drop of the virus in the city's water supply. You give them a choice..."

p"The Horsemen rule or they die!"

pMethos nodded, "the Horsemen rule or the world dies."

pbHotel Savoy, Bordeaux, France. /b

pConnor MacLeod leaned against the settee watching Duncan leaning over the registration desk. Finally, the clerk shook her head adamantly and Duncan nodded turning away. Sighing Duncan marched over to his kinsman raising empty hands, "No messages, and no reservations. I don't know what to do except wait." Sighing he settled into the settee rubbing a hand tiredly over his eyes. "I really want to believe that Methos is leading us along."

p"Aye," Connor said brushing his hand over Duncan's back. "He's in a hard place, lad."

p"How can I, Connor?" Duncan almost moaned, "You heard what Cassandra said. He rode with Kronos; killed, raped and stole right beside him. How could I have been so wrong about him?"

p"You're not wrong, lad. The man you fell in love with would never do such a thing. These terrible things happened three thousand years ago. That's almost ten times as long as we've been alive. I know that I am not the same as I was four hundred years ago. How much longer has he lived, how much longer has he had time to change?"

pSuddenly Duncan gasped nodding over at the shadowy corner of the room. He rose silently motioning Connor to move in the other direction. The two men walked quickly around the room coming together along side a deep green side chair facing the window. In the chair Cassandra sat staring bitterly at the Highlanders. She pulled back, "I'm not here to bother you."

pDuncan frowned down at her, "I will not let you kill him. I love him and I want him and our baby. Cassandra killing him will not take away what happened to you and your village. Revenge won't take away the memories."

pBitterly she grimaced at him, "Nothing will do that."

pConnor frowned as more people gathered around the registration desk, "Why don't we go up to our suite. I think that we should take her with us. If Kronos and the others do show up we don't want to be here in plain sight."

pWith an impatient gesture Cassandra walked behind the elder Highlander to the elevators followed by Duncan. The suite that Duncan and Connor had rented was at the head of the corridor just beside the elevators. Connor opened the door switching on the lights. "I'm going to take a walk," he said. The others watched as he disappeared back out the door. Cassandra sank into a chair staring up at the younger Highlander, "Please, Duncan, you don't understand."

p"I understand everything that I need to understand." The telephone ringing caught his attention and Duncan turned his back to her. "Yes," he hissed. Methos' voice on the other end of the phone brought a surprised gasp from him.

p"Duncan, meet me at the Elysian Church in twenty minutes."

pCassandra noticed his distress, but he quickly covered it, "Was that him?"

p"No there's something wrong with my credit card. I just need to go down to the desk. If you feel an immortal presence remember Connor is coming back." Tucking his katana into the sheath in the lining of his black leather duster the Highlander walked out the door.

pThe Elysian Church was only a few minutes walk from the hotel and Duncan had no trouble finding it even thought the light was failing quickly. He stormed across the cemetery as the shiver of immortal presence crawled across his flesh. Shaking off the feeling he turned scanning the street between the hotel and church but could see nothing. Probably Connor he shrugged mentally. Duncan pulled the door open not noticing the three shadowy figures that crept through the evening haze to the hotel entrance.

p"I'm here. Methos please come with me back to the hotel."

p"Is Cassandra still there?"

p"Yes, and Connor, too. Please don't be afraid."

pA hollow laugh shuddered through Methos' body, "It's a little too late for that, Duncan. I've been afraid for weeks now. And we don't have time for this. The first step toward Kronos' brave new world starts tonight. He's had a nasty little virus engineered and a vial of it is attached a bomb in a fountain. It'll infect anyone who comes into contact with it, and there is no cure."

p"Okay, let's go." Duncan motioned Methos to follow him, but the other man pulled away.

pMethos staggered a few steps backward, "No. I'm not going."

p"You're going back to him? What still going with the winner?" Duncan hissed angrily.

pHurt flashed in the whiskey-hued eyes, "No, I'm going where I can protect my baby. And you have twenty minutes, Place de Quincecons. Red then white then black."

pWhirling Duncan charged down the corridor and out into the night air. The fountain was a vague shape far down the boulevard the bright lights of the Carnival leaving the lower level field and fountain in deep shadow. Running the Highlander barreled past the carnival goers diving for the fountain. He plunged into the cold water shouting over his shoulder, "Everybody get out there's a bomb."

pThe few bystanders wandering near the fountain fled some shrieking in fear. Duncan splashed through the green summed water toward the statue of spraying nymphs and spitting fish. Quickly he felt along the ledge of the statue pulling a small plastic box with a flashing digital counter out.

pTugging a knife from his pocket the Highlander clipped the wires just as the flashing numbers entered single digits. The clock on the bomb faded into lifelessness just as the timer on the fountain went off and the water sprayed over Duncan leaving him soaked. Grunting Duncan clenched his jaw, "If he wasn't pregnant I'd kill him just for the entertainment value."

pbHotel Savoy, Suite 411. /b

pCassandra settled her bag on the Highlander's bed shuffling through its contents before zipping it again. The buzz of immortal presence caught her attention and she reached for her sword before remembering it was probably Duncan or Connor. Moving quickly to the door she swung it open then hissed in surprise as Silas laid a huge arm across the door slamming it open even as Cassandra tried vainly to close it again. She shoved against the door in vain and Silas grabbed her arm dragging her out into the corridor.

pbAbandoned submarine Base /b

pMethos stood in the center of the room glaring over at Kronos as the other immortal paced the confines of the small entryway. The leader of the Horsemen whirled eyes narrowed grinning slightly at the other man. "I wasn't expecting you back so soon after going to meet with MacLeod."

pCringing Methos raised a hand, "I didn't..."

p"Oh, don't worry. We found Cassandra at the hotel in MacLeod's room and brought her here just like you planned. I knew that's why you lured the Highlander out of the room. I know the way you think..."

p"Which is why the plan worked perfectly."

pStill grinning manically Kronos leaned forward, "You see I know you so well. We think alike you and I."

p"I doubt that, Kronos, nobody thinks quite like you do."

p"Oh, and I wouldn't worry about MacLeod, very soon he'll be dead."

pWith a breathless gasp Methos' eyes widened, "Who did you send Silas or Caspian?"

p"Both." Kronos turned and walked away not bothering to wait for the agonized look that he knew crossed his second in command's face. Shoulders slumped in uttered defeat Methos wandered toward the staircase that lead to the lower level of the base. Taking the steps two at a time he found himself in a dank, foul smelling cavernous room that took up the entire lower level of the base. Water from the Mergrete River had leached through the cement walls covering the floors in shallow, stagnant pools. Wading through the knee deep water on the lowest end of the room Methos found himself standing beside a cage made of rusted iron bars. Cassandra sat huddled in the center of the cage on a damp concrete slab block.

pLeaning against the bars Methos rested his forehead on the cool metal praying it would calm the racing of his mind. She snarled up at him, "What do you want?"

p"Nothing," he whispered. Closing his eyes for a moment he felt rather than saw her lunging for the bars. Jerking back Methos glanced at her as if observing some exotic animal at a zoo. She glared baring her teeth almost like an animal. "I'll take your head with my bare hands."

p"It's called Stockholm Syndrome. Hostages rely on their captors for food and approval. In time they come to believe that they love them."

p"I never loved you."

p"You thought you did. You just forgot what I was." He sighed, "If we want to stay alive we'll keep him happy."

p"Never, I've said it before, I wouldn't do it then and I won't do it now." she subsided back against the bars head bowed. Methos glanced down at her then sighed, "I wouldn't count on MacLeod coming to save you. He's dead."

pHe could feel her shock even though he turned to leave; walking away from the cage, never turning to look back.

pbMergrete River Bridge. /b

pDuncan MacLeod stood on the overpass leading from the downtown Bordeaux area toward an abandoned submarine base left over from World War II. The base was a huge partially submerged structure half sunken in the bay. The Mergrete River flowed sluggishly down from the wine country pouring itself out into the small ocean outlet. The throbbing hum of immortal presence captured Duncan's attention and he paused on the pedestrian walkway looking at the far end of the bridge.

pSilas ambled across the empty road battleaxe perched on one hip. Spotting MacLeod he roared, "Welcome home, boy!"

pCaspian rose from the shadows on the opposite side of the street chuckling like a hyena. "You take one of us; the other one takes your head while your down."

pGrinning himself MacLeod launched himself at Caspian keeping an eye on the giant at the end of the bridge. Caspian moved forward parrying MacLeod's opening thrust smirking, "You're going to taste so good."

p"Yeah, well you're going to go hungry." The Highlander lunged forward sweeping the katana from side to side. The other immortal blocked the forward blow, but side stepped too slowly to parry the backhanded blow that took his head. Oddly enough Caspian thought as he died Methos favored a backhanded swing; MacLeod must have learned it from him.

pStaggering backward MacLeod felt the first waves of the Quickening hit him as the blue electricity arched across the metal infrastructure of the bridge. Silas leapt forward dragging the huge battleaxe up readying himself for the killing strike. The Highlander grunted in pain fighting the Quickening long enough to fling himself off the bridge. Reaching over the side rail the giant vainly tried to grab MacLeod's coat then watched as the Highlander disappeared into the brackish water below.

pbAbandoned Submarine Base. /b

pWith an angry snarl Kronos slammed Caspian's blade down on the table. "And you just let him get away?" Jerking around he forced the bigger man back a step. Silas growled a low rumbling sound deep in his chest then said, "I searched the riverbanks for hours."

p"We will never be four again," Kronos said. Then glanced sharply upward as the buzz of immortal presence caught him off guard. MacLeod stood on the catwalk above the room glaring down at Kronos and then casting his glance at Methos. Kronos stalked to the staircase waiting for the highlander to move and grinning as the other man moved down the metal catwalk toward them.

pGazing upward Kronos offered, "I have Cassandra down below. Her life is in your hands. Give up and she lives, fight and she dies. Your choice Highlander."

p"Maybe she'd rather be dead."

p"As you wish," Kronos jerked around pulling his sword from the table beside the steps, launching himself up the stairs forcing MacLeod to retreat a few steps. The big man quickly picked up his axe and disappeared down the steps to the half submerged room of the lower level. Methos quickly followed along after him, but Silas hurrying to do his master's bidding never noticed.

pSilas waded through the slimy water to the cage, jerking the keys from a hook on the wall and opening the ancient padlock. Methos crowded him, causing Silas to turn. Just as the big man began to tug Cassandra out of the cage Methos raised his sword. Silas jerked around surprise written on his broad face, "Brother, you challenge me for the girl's head?"

pSlamming the Ivanhoe against the huge axe head Methos snarled, "I am not your Brother!"

pSensing then Methos' change of heart the big immortal swung the axe. It was a half hearted blow badly executed from an awkward angle but it was all but a knock out blow sending Methos staggering back. Wildly Methos swung the Ivanhoe catching the axe with an arm numbing blow. He scrambled backwards splashing through the water seeking more sound footing. Silas followed along.

pFinally the two of them burst out of the doorway leading toward the staircase Silas' ringing blow with the axe sending Methos sprawling down the stairs. From his position on the cat walk MacLeod watched Methos fall breath catching in his chest, "Methos!" he hissed.

pHearing his name the ancient immortal huddled on the floor eyes locked on those of his mate as the fight hung suspended then Kronos whirled eyes widening in fury as he slashed out at the Highlander. Duncan parried the blow swinging the katana in a wide arc blocking the other man's blow.

pFar over his head MacLeod watched as Methos dispatched the bigger man. Already the faint vibrations of the Quickening were rattling the room. Kronos must have sensed the change in the air because he failed to completely block the Highlander's forward swing, hissing in pain. Then MacLeod too pulled the katana into the backhanded stroke that caught Kronos by surprise his eyes widened even as his head left his shoulders.

pMethos was on his knees on the floor of the lower level when the white mist of Silas' Quickening first hit him. Back arched he moaned in agony as the lightening doubled him over. MacLeod was sprawled on the cat walk as Kronos' Quickening struck. The white hot bolts of energy sparked around him driving into him pulling a groan from his lips. Panting the Highlander tried to pull himself to his feet, tried to reach his suffering mate, protect his unborn child, but Kronos' Quickening was twisting into him driving MacLeod to the ground in death the way he had never be able to in life.

pSuddenly the Quickening energies of both Horsemen roiled springing up from the bodies of the victors arching across the room spearing both Methos and the Highlander. Both immortals hung suspended as the lightening sparked between them joining their bodies together in a grim imitation of copulation. Methos felt himself speared yet again by Silas' restless energy commingled with the hotter fury of Kronos' Quickening and a third more steady presence that he recognized as that of the Highlander. Hissing in pain Methos clutched at Duncan's Quickening like a lifeline.

pWhen the final bolts of Quickening energy died down Methos was left crumpled on the ground on his hands and knees sobbing, "I killed Silas. I liked Silas!" The harsh indrawn breaths rattled as he sobbed broken heartedly.

p"And I'm supposed to forgive you because of that..." Cassandra snarled as she struggled to raise the huge axe above the ancient immortal's head. Duncan raised his head from his hands staring at the slim figure standing above his helpless mate. "Cassandra!" he screamed, "No!"

pStaggering under the weight of the axe she glared at him, "You want him to live?"

pDrawing a deep breath MacLeod hissed, "Cassandra, I want him to live!" He panted not knowing if he was going to watch Methos die but apparently she felt bound by their shared past enough to honor his wishes. Tossing the axe down Cassandra stalked away.

pSomehow Duncan managed to stagger toward Methos gathering his weeping mate into his arms. Staggering under their combined weight the Highlander steered them both up the stairs and out of the door.

pbHotel Savoy, Suite 411. /b

pMacLeod sat on the tile floor of the bathroom watching as Methos tiredly bathed. The huge sunken tub was filled with steaming water although MacLeod had been careful that the water was not too hot for his pregnant spouse. The dark circles under Methos' eyes troubled him, but older immortal seemed to be recovering from the Quickening. MacLeod had insisted on taking Methos to the Emergency Room to be examined; giving the doctor on call a phony story about the ancient immortal accidentally touching a downed power line. But both Methos and the baby had survived the Quickening physically unharmed. Now the only thing troubling MacLeod was his mate's mental condition.

pConnor had come back to the suite both surprised and concerned to find Duncan and Methos ensconced in the bathroom. Quietly he had spoken to Duncan very briefly, offered to go for food and had been declined then sequestered himself in his own bedroom.

pSo Duncan sat watching Methos uncertain of how to go about apologizing for the horrible things he had said and done under Cassandra's spell. Finally, the ancient immortal let his head fall back against the bath pillow Duncan had produced from his bag, staring at his silent, brooding mate. "I guess I should have told this long ago, I just couldn't even think about how to begin."

pAccepting the whispered words for the peace offering they were the Highlander sighed, "I guess it might have been a very difficult topic to broach. I can only say I am truly ashamed of how I treated you at the house..."

p"That wasn't your fault Cassandra has a very old and powerful magic. Her voice has kept her alive. It's a tremendous power. And to be caught unawares you had no chance to fight it. I knew that you had met her before; it's in your chronicles. And I guess that I always thought I might face her someday. I've tried to avoid her. I truly didn't recognize her at first. And I hoped she had forgiven, if not forgotten. But what I did is unforgivable."

p"There is nothing that you have done that I cannot forgive...not that I feel I even have a right to presume. Connor pointed out to me that there are enough glass walls in my life that I have no right to be casting any stones." Slowly the Highlander rose stripping off the terry cloth robe he was wearing he slipped into the tub. Gently he tugged Methos into his arms. The older man went willingly if a bit hesitantly. Sighing Duncan closed his eyes pressing his cheek against the soft silky strands of dark hair falling over Methos' forehead in wet curls. "God, I have missed you so much. I thought I might never see you again. Please, please believe me I would never hurt you or the baby."

pMethos looked up into the tear filled eyes, and something inside him broke, "Oh, Duncan, I love you so much. I was so afraid. I had to do things, Kronos made me..."

p"You had to protect yourself and the baby, I understand. If I could kill him all over again I would just for that alone." Leaning over the edge of the tub MacLeod tugged a small wicker basket over searching for a plastic bottle of bath oil. He drizzled the oil over his fingers stroking the sweet smelling stuff over Methos' back and shoulder gently massaging the oil into the tense shoulders. Methos moaned in pleasure. Closing his eyes he leaned against the Highlander's chest snuggling into his husband's warmth.

pRaising himself up Methos stroked his lips over MacLeod's mouth feeling the Highlander's own lips part. Their tongues stroked together dueling for dominance then Methos surrendered letting his head roll back baring his throat to the other man's caress. MacLeod pressed tiny kisses along his mate's jaw and down his neck to the well formed shoulders. Then MacLeod pulled back gently pressing Methos hands to his side, "I'm not sure this is the right time for this."

p"I am," Methos whispered, "Please, Duncan, I need you. I need to feel your love for me."

pMacLeod nodded stroking his fingertips lightly over the sharply etched cheeks and around his wonderful mouth. Methos grinned leaning over to lightly nip at the fingers. But MacLeod wagged the bitten finger at his mate, "Ah, ah, be a good boy."

p"Good boy! Mac I really think you've lost it." But MacLeod glared at him tapping the tip of Methos' nose with his index finger. Carefully the Highlander dribbled oil on his fingers and plunged them under the water seeking the entrance to his mate's body. Methos rose up onto his knees on the bottom of the tub straddling his husband's body. MacLeod pressed two fingers against the moist puckered opening and they slipped easily inside. Methos moaned thrusting his hips back impaling himself even more, grunting as the questing digits pressed his prostate. Quickly pulling himself off MacLeod's fingers he moved forward fingers dropping into the soapy water and finding MacLeod's hard penis. Sudden Methos grasped the hard length of flesh and lowered himself on it until he was sitting in the Highlander's lap.

p"Ah, god yes!" MacLeod grunted out. Raising and lowering himself with fierce determination Methos tightened his hold on MacLeod's shoulder in a bruising grip, panting harshly. MacLeod grunted in pain as he was forced harder and harder into the hot tight channel. "Methos," he said suddenly grasping Methos' shoulders shaking him, "Baby, stop you're hurting me so I know you're hurting yourself. I don't need to punish you, and you have nothing to feel guilty about."

pBursting into tears Methos sagged down settling on MacLeod's lap. Gently disentangling himself from Methos' grasp the Highlander lifted his mate out of the tub and half carried him to the bed. Quickly drying them both with a towel he tucked Methos into the warm blankets turning off all but one of the lights. After a few moments of shuffling through his suitcase MacLeod returned to the bed bearing a small silver wrapped box festooned with a curl of white ribbon. Methos looked at the small package. And MacLeod smiled at him, "I know when we got married you said that the certificate was all that mattered you didn't need symbols, but after all I found I wanted the symbols, as old fashioned as they were. This was for our anniversary, and I never got to give it to you."

pThe ancient immortal sat up taking to gift with trembling fingers. Quickly he tugged the ribbon free and stripped away the paper. Inside was a black velvet box bearing the name of an exclusive Brentwood jeweler. Inside the box nestled on the same black velvet were two platinum wedding bands. The highly polished rings were slightly wider than the average men's wedding band ornately carved in a Celtic knot. Turning his band over in his hand Methos noticed a flowing script gracing the interior of the ring. Carefully he read the inscription, in Gaelic it said "Immortal Beloved."

pRising up on his knees MacLeod took the ring, "I know we wrote our own vows and I've never begrudged you that, but there is something to be said for the more traditional ones." Carefully taking the band from Methos' fingers he took the other man's left hand slipping the ring on MacLeod intoned, "With this ring I thee wed, with my body I thee worship, with all my worldly goods I thee endow."

p"Oh god, Duncan." Methos whispered, gently he accepted MacLeod's ring and carefully he slipped the ring on his husband's finger, "En fidelitasVenerius ingredion concipio adamo."

pLeaning forward the ancient immortal pressed his lips to his husband's. Pushing MacLeod back against the pillows, "That was beautiful, Methos but my idiomatic Latin is a little off. What did it mean?"

p"It's what the priestesses at the Temple of Venus used to say to the worshipers that came for service," He straddled MacLeod's hips once again leaning forward to kiss him. "It means in honor of the goddess Venus..." he said rocking gently forcing their cocks together savoring the slide of flesh against flesh until both were achingly erect again murmuring softly. Then Methos rose up and pressed MacLeod's hard flesh to his still slick entrance. Ever so slowly he lowered himself until MacLeod was fully sheathed inside. With a final kiss he whispered, "Enter here and take your pleasure."

pMoaning MacLeod watched Methos rise and fall savoring the flex and glide of the hard muscles in Methos' thighs as his mate rode him. Grasping Methos' sweat soaked body MacLeod guided the other man thrusting up to meet Methos' downward strokes. Panting softly, flushed with pleasure Methos ground himself down hard enough to make MacLeod gasp as he climaxed. The surge of hot fluid deep in his bowels triggered Methos' own orgasm and he cried out, back arched. Trembling with aftershocks Methos sent a multitude of sweat droplets showering down on his mates' chest and face. MacLeod leaned back, eyes closed, soaking up the shimmering cascade like a parched field drinking in a warm summer rain.

pbPeyton/MacLeod residence, Brentwood California. 2 Months Later/b

pEver so slowly the gauzy veil of sleep fell away, leaving Methos feeling warm, and none too inclined to move. As he came more fully awake he also became aware of several sensations coursing through his body at once. The first sensation was that of a heavy, warm weight lying across his left leg, pressing gently against his lower abdomen.

pThe second sensation was of the warm, wet, heat of the lips suckling the tiny protrusion of his navel. Now into his sixth month of pregnancy Methos' belly had swelled enough that the gentle curve was noticeable. Glancing up at his spouse, MacLeod sighed. "Good morning, love," he said nuzzling the warm belly then he kissed the taut skin, "And good morning to daddy's little angel."

pRolling his eyes Methos coughed dramatically, "Daddy, I haven't been nauseous in the morning for almost two months now, please don't cause a relapse."

pThe Highlander returned to his morning ritual, just the slow sweep of the warm, wet tongue laving the taut skin, and the insistent lips suckling that protruding belly button. Sighing Methos settled back weaving his fingers through the long curls falling around his husband's broad, smiling, face. "Uhmm, Duncan, you have such a smart mouth."

pA rumbling laugh vibrated Methos' belly and the Highlander dipped a thumb under the waistband of the ivory silk boxers his mate was wearing. Carefully he scraped a thumbnail over the tip of the blushing cock that bumped against his chin. Easing the boxers down he teased the length of the persistent erection now lying against the curved belly with his lips nibbling along the length to the weeping tip. Taking a deep breath he swallowed Methos to the hilt. Methos' body jerked in response and he hissed eagerly urging MacLeod to suck harder, damn it. Releasing Methos' cock with a pop MacLeod smirked; "You're the one with the smart mouth, Old Man. And you give pretty good head, too."

pWith a pout Methos smacked MacLeod on top of his head, "I give great head. In fact I clearly remember you saying it was the best you'd ever had; just as you melted into a puddle in the floor by the bed."

pGrinning the Highlander sighed, "Oh yeah. It was great." Wiggling around he moved into position so that Methos could take in the meaty cock jutting out from MacLeod's body. With a deep indrawn breath Methos nuzzled the dark curls at the base of the blood red member then devoured MacLeod in one swoop. As MacLeod's cock butted against the back of Methos' throat the Highlander howled slapping the bed clothes with the flat of his hand. Methos relaxed his throat more taking MacLeod in all the way then curled his tongue upwards around the rigid cock, undulating it along the length.

p"Jesus wept!" MacLeod howled sweat springing up on his brow. Methos grinned and released MacLeod with an audible smack.

p"I don't quite think the good fathers of the church had this particular activity in mind when they asked the faithful to utter that phrase."

p"Maybe they would have been a lot happier bunch if they had." MacLeod growled attacking his mate with vigor, inhaling Methos' cock and flicking his tongue into the slit at the tip licking up the pearly drops of his mate's essence. He grasped the base of Methos' cock with one hand and tugged in rhythm to the tiny flicking motions his tongue made along the head.

pWhimpering Methos seized MacLeod's organ, sucking it all the way into his throat again and humming against the hard length of flesh. With a shudder the Highlander came, flooding Methos' mouth with hot, salty fluid. Releasing the now limp flesh Methos groaned, "Oh yes, Duncan, suck me."

pAlthough the verbal urging proved unnecessary as the Highlander redoubled his efforts and soon Methos was writhing, squirming on the rumpled sheets gasping for air, and pleading for release. Grunting MacLeod opened his mouth as wide as he could swallowing Methos rigid, purple organ then thrust three fingers into the warm wet cleft between his legs. Methos arched up off the bed uttering a brief, vulgar word then spread his legs.

pScooping the tube of lubricant up from the bedside table the Highlander quickly pulled his fingers out of Methos' body, and coated them with the clear gel. Slicking the thick coat of lube over the warm, wet hole the Highlander squeezed more lube onto his fingers and returned to sliding them in and out of his mate's warm body. Methos whimpered in pleasure.

pWorking his fingers into the now relaxed opening MacLeod stretched the slick flesh, thrusting his fingers in and out gently. More lube and the Highlander thrust the four fingers inside, as Methos rolled his head groaning continuously. Finally, MacLeod leaned down inhaling Methos' cock again.

pMacLeod grinned around his mouthful of cock, working his thumb into the relaxed opening at his mate's center. A little more twisting and he added his little finger with his fingers and thumb forming a beak-like wedge he thrust into the now stretched hole easing off Methos' cock so that he wouldn't come too soon. Methos rolled his head back on the pillows groaning almost continuously, "Yes, Duncan, do it. Do it now."

pTaking a deep breath the Highlander eased his hand forward watching in fascination as his wrist glided smoothly into Methos' body. Moving his arm in small gentle thrusts MacLeod curved his fingers into a fist and pushed forward slowly. Glancing MacLeod stopped moving long enough to be sure he wasn't hurting Methos or the baby. A whisper urged MacLeod to continue as Methos spread his legs as wide as he could. Sweat coursing down his body, moaning again Methos gasped, "Fuck me with your fist, Duncan."

pKeeping the movement shallow and slow MacLeod thrust forward again, feeling the tension running through his mate's body. As Methos grunted pushing up with his hips MacLeod seized his cock again, swallowing it down to the base, and Methos howled bucking up with as much movement as he could with MacLeod's fist partially encased in his body. Finally he shuddered out his release, shooting into MacLeod's willing mouth.

pWith a final swallow MacLeod pulled the last of his orgasm from his mate, sucking until Methos was empty and limp. Carefully he pulled his hand free, wiping it on the towel Methos had laid on the night table. pWith a sigh Methos lay back casually stroking his belly, the Highlander narrowed his eyes in amusement, "If you think that you're going to con me into letting you have the shower first forget it."

pMournfully Methos flicked his fingers over his belly drawing MacLeod's attention to the delicate curve then sighed pitifully, "Oh well, little one, I don't think he loves us any more."

p"Oh, please, don't even try it," the Highlander sniffed disdainfully, "you know that won't work on me, you lazy brat. I don't feel the least bit sorry for you..."

pHeaving himself off the bed Methos dashed for the bathroom door gloating as he slammed the door, "I just needed a distraction; really, Mac, you've got to learn not to be so gullible."

pListening to the gleeful chortling, coming from behind the closed door, MacLeod settled back on the bed smiling to himself. If Methos was half as clever as he thought he was the Highlander would be truly afraid.

pHumming to himself MacLeod drifted in hazy contentment until the bathroom door swung open and Methos appeared shrouded in a towel and trailed by billowing clouds of steam. With a muttered curse MacLeod smacked the other man on the butt and disappeared into the bathroom.

pWhen MacLeod appeared in the kitchen Gladys was humming cheerfully to herself as she neatly dished his poached eggs and sausages, placing the plate on the table along side a small platter of French toast. MacLeod inhaled the homey smells as he picked up his coffee mug and sipped at the rich, dark brew. Quickly settling into a chair along side his spouse MacLeod glared at the other man's plate, "What the hell are you eating now?"

pAround a mouthful of food Methos snorted, "Peanut butter and potato chip sandwich, on French toast."

pGlancing at their housekeeper the Highlander sighed, "Please don't tell me he put maple syrup on it too."

p"Okay Mr. MacLeod," she said brightly, "I won't tell you that."

pWith a shake of his head MacLeod winced, wisely choosing to ignore the second sandwich Gladys unloaded onto the other man's plate. Grinning up at her Methos smacked his lips, "Uhmm delicious."

pWhen the last of the food had been eaten and the dishes loaded into the washer Gladys headed to the rear of the house to finish her chores. MacLeod poured himself another cup of coffee then reclaimed his seat at the table watching while Methos wrote checks out of the household account for the monthly bills. Carefully tucking the last slip of paper into the envelope he tossed the small packet at his husband, "Could you please go by the post office on the way to the store, and post these."

p"Mail them," MacLeod said mildly, "Even after five years in America you still sound too British. If you're going to live in this county you should at least learn to speak the language."

p"I will not bother to dignify that with a response," Methos said dryly, "Besides I don't sound British. I sound Welsh."

P"Ah, one Sassenach is the same as another."

p"Well, how ethnocentric of you, Kiltboy." Methos said airily and MacLeod growled at him.

p"Don't call me that. Hey, why don't you come to the shop with me? I'll put your lazy butt to work for a while, and then we'll drive over to San Clemente and pick Joe up for dinner."

p"You expect me to work in my delicate condition?"

p"Why should I; you didn't work when you weren't in so delicate a condition. You know when I was growing up I saw women work in the fields herding sheep all day then waddle home to drop a baby, and go back to the fields the next day."

pMethos rolled his eyes and said, "Yes, well, I'm sure you and Connor also saw the south end of a north bound sheep every time you had a romantic inclination in the good old days, but your little stroll down memory lane hardly convinces me of the need to tote that barge and lift that bale. As I've said oh so many times before 'get someone in' MacLeod." But one look at the Highlander's sultry pout had the older man sighing heavily then nodding in surrender, "Okay, okay I'll go."

pThe black BMW backed out of the garage and out the driveway heading toward the 101 freeway to Los Angeles. Gladys paused in her work to watch the car pull away, just to make sure that Adam was carrying his mid-morning snack of yet another peanut butter and potato chip sandwich which seemed to be his most recent craving. And which, she had to admit to herself, was considerably better than lime jello and onions and infinitely better than cream cheese and liverwurst on jalapeno bagels. Of course, she still hadn't tackled the sea anemones in the refrigerator. Gladys shuddered and sighed, just looking at the things gave her the willies.

pbNash and MacLeod Antiques, Los Angeles. /b

pMethos had slept in the car on the trip down to the Antique shop, and was just rousing himself as MacLeod pulled his car into the private spot designated for him. He climbed out of the car in a considerable hurry and Methos craned his neck to see why. "Oh shit," he hissed to himself. Harold Jenkins had one of his asphalt trucks in the customer parking lot they shared, something that royally pissed the Highlander off. Hauling himself out of the low seat in the black car Methos puffed as he rubbed a cramped muscle in his abdomen. Soon he would be too big to get in and out of the car himself, and made a mental note to tell MacLeod to take the Jimmy when they went out in the future.

pQuickly he detoured toward the blue mailbox on the corner of the street. Just as he had deposited the mail a shadowy figure disengaged itself from the deeper shadows at the mouth of the alley behind the shop. Cassandra stood sword held at her side just out of the line of sight of the mortals in the parking lot. Methos jerked to a halt trying to back away from her but she held up a hand. "Stop, Horseman..."

p"I am not a Horseman any longer." Methos mumbled his throat suddenly dry. A harsh whispered laugh caused an involuntary shiver to crawl along his spine. Somehow Methos was aware that MacLeod had seen the both of them standing on the edge of the parking lot. With a final imprecation tossed at Jenkins' office window the Highlander charged across the asphalt pulling the katana from his coat.

pCassandra turned toward MacLeod as he slowed his charge then paced to the ancient immortal's side, "I told you Cassandra I will not let you take his head..."

p"I did not come here for a challenge, Duncan." She turned slowly to face Methos raising a slim hand, "I curse you, Horseman. You will bear this child, your body will ripen and in due time you will give birth, but you will never hold this child to your breast. You will never watch it grow to adulthood. In the name of Ianna, by the blood of all immortals, I take from you to give to the child. Tell me, Horseman, would you die for him?"

pMouth dry Methos nodded, "You know that I would."

pSmiling Cassandra made the sign of the evil eye at him, "So be it. On the day that your son comes into this world you will die true death without losing your head."

p"No!" MacLeod screamed, "I told you I wanted him to live!" He seized Cassandra by the arms shaking her but she merely laughed.

p"Perhaps you should have specified which him you wanted to live. You can not have them both unless you figure out the one true way to defeat this curse." Cocking her head she smiled patting MacLeod on the cheek, "I don't blame you Duncan. He has used his body to control more powerful men for thousands of years. Kronos fucked him more than he fucked me."

pRaising his katana MacLeod stepped forward drawing the blade just under her chin, "Undo it now. Whatever you did make it stop. I will kill you Cassandra. If you have to take one take the baby, not Methos."

p"Duncan! No, you cannot mean that. I have lived a long time, and I will not see you make a choice like that. She will not do anything to harm this child. After I'm gone he will still be a comfort to you. Don't kill her either, you can't do that. I won't let you do that not for me."

pAs the Highlander turned to pull his spouse into his arms the Witch slipped away. Methos clung to him refusing to let MacLeod follow after her. "She only wins if we give up hope. I'll hope if you will, Duncan. She did give us a way out. All we have to figure out is what the true way to break the curse is."

pCarefully MacLeod tucked the sword back into the sheath in the lining of his coat. Turning back to the other man he forced a brief smile, "All right I'll try for you. We will beat the curse. I'll talk to Connor, he's known Cassandra longer than I have and he was immune to her Voice to begin with like you and Kronos."

pbRonald Baines Office, Los Angeles, California /b

pNick Ralston paced the floor of the office casting glances at the man huddled over the desk scribbling notes on the legal pad in front of him. Finally Baines looked up, "Oh for god's sake, Nick sit down. You'll drive me crazy."

pSettling into a chair, Ralston muttered, "Yeah, well, it'll be a short trip."

p"Hum? Did you say something, Nick?" Baines asked glaring coolly at the other man. Ralston shrugged.

p"De nada, boss."

p"That's what I thought. I have been going through all my notes on the cloning process I used with the immortals. All of the donor tissue was from dead immortals except Duncan MacLeod. I thought that might have made a difference in the clones being immortal versus mortal, yet it wasn't; Donald was mortal as well as Jack Singleton's clone, and the Methos clone. Even the newest clone I created from Matt Croft's body is mortal. However, the baby that Michael had is a pre-immortal."

p"How do you figure that, Doc?" Ralston asked nervously. Baines was unaware of the fact that Nick had been seeing Michael Singletary for two months now. He had grown considerably attached to the young man, and their daughter. He shifted in the seat waiting for Baines to look up from his notes. When the scientist did the look in his eyes chilled Ralston to the bone.

p"I was at Singletary's apartment the day Duncan and Connor MacLeod went by looking for Melvin Koren. I heard them talking. The only other pregnancy that resulted from one of my clones is the baby that Adam MacLeod is carrying which was fathered by Donald. I don't know if having an immortal mother makes a difference but I'm going to find out. I intend to retrieve the infant after birth, and I'm going to take Michael's baby as well. I'm going to try to create immortal clones by using the offspring of my clones as genetic donors."

p"What the hell are you talking about, I don't get it."

p"I'll use genetic material from the infants of the immortals' clones to impregnate other immortal clones to see if I can produce cloned immortals."

p"But why?"

p"Then there will never be just one, there can never be an end to the game as long as I can produce more immortals, as soon as the Gathering comes. I'll just bring more immortal clones into the world. And it would be very useful to be the surrogate parent to four or five very power immortal beings. Properly raised they could conceivably take over the world. I still have the lock of hair that Melvin Koren brought to me in the beginning. I intend to start all over again, from the very beginning." Baines leaned back in his chair glancing shrewdly up at the younger man, "You will see to Michael's baby won't you. I know he trusts you, Nick. Believe me I know a lot more than you think."

pBacking away from the desk Ralston let a smile touch his lips, "Yeah I'll take care of the baby all right."

p"Oh, and Nick, I think that you should see to Michael as well. Just in case he decides to make a fuss."

pQuickly Nick Ralston strode down the corridor to the double glass doors leading out into the parking lot. His car was close to the entrance and he hurried inside leaning over the steering wheel, gasping in a huge lungful of air. Once his hands had stopped shaking he put the car into drive. Fortunately traffic on the freeway was not too heavy and he made the drive to San Clemente in a short time. Michael's car was parked in the usual spot and Ralston clipped the parking permit he kept in the glove compartment onto the rearview mirror.

pWalking through the courtyard he ignored the friendly greetings from Michael's neighbors, the small number of people who actually noticed his frequent visits and recognized him. Candy Peterson the assistant manager waved, 'Hi, Nick you want me to buzz Michael's apartment to let you in?"

p"Nah, I have a key." He said moving away from her. She smiled and bounded back to the pool to harangue the teen aged boys who were using the picnic tables to leap over the fence and into the pool.

pThe corridor was empty as Nick let himself into the apartment. The bassinet was beside the computer desk in the living room, which made since because Michael had been working doing medical billing, a job he could telecommute to the office he worked for.

pA quiet bubbling sound emerged from the bassinet and Nick bent over lifting the infant and cradling her in his arms. Eileen was almost three months old now, and she craned her head looking up at him with rapt attention, huge blue eyes fastening on her father's face.

pThe sound of the bathroom door opening drew Ralston's attention, and Michael smiled at the other man as he came into the room. "I didn't know you were planning on dropping by today," he said.

pRalston shifted the infant to one arm as he leaned over to kiss the younger man's cheek, "Uhmm, yeah. My boss sent me over."

pFrowning Michael moved to take Eileen, "It's almost time for her feeding."

pRalston shifted so that the infant was out the other man's reach. "In a minute... You have a bottle don't you. I mean I know you pump milk to save. Why don't you bring me a bottle for her. I need you to do something for me okay. It's really important."

pDisappearing into the kitchen Michael returned in a few minutes with a warmed bottle of thin, bluish looking fluid. Ralston took the bottle carefully holding it for the baby. She rooted briefly before seizing the nipple sucking vigorously. "Hey, she was hungry. She's such a quiet baby. Almost never cries." Nick looked at the small, slender young man standing hesitantly in the center of the floor watching as Ralston's big hand cradled the small infant.

pFinally, he took a deep breath, "I need you to pack up as much of the baby's stuff as you can fit into my SUV. What ever you can't take we'll get later. I've got some money put away. Not a lot but enough to keep us going for awhile, and my dad owns a little place up near Vancouver. We need get out, to leave today, now, Michael."

p"Okay, why is it something to do with Doctor Baines?"

p"Yeah, he sent me over here to kill you and take the baby. He wants to use her for some weird scientific experiment."

pAlthough he looked completely lost Ralston was gratified when Michael began moving around the room, gathering his and Eileen's belongings. It took almost three hours but everything in the apartment had been culled through and either packed into the truck or rejected as unnecessary. Michael fastened the baby's car seat into the bench seat between Ralston and himself, popping her pacifier into her mouth as she drifted off to sleep again. Fastening his own seat belt he glanced at the blue junker parked in his parking spot, and then he looked up at the big man sitting behind the wheel.

PAt the gas station they stopped for fuel Ralston appeared at the window with a bottle of soda and a map. Once the car was gassed up, they drove up the street and onto the highway. Michael unfolded the map, and Ralston grinned at him, "You can navigate. Don't worry Michael. We'll be okay. I have friends who can help us get new i.d. I'm going to make sure that Baines never finds us."

pbNash and MacLeod antiques, Los Angeles./b

pMethos sat huddled in one of the over stuffed and highly uncomfortable chairs in front of MacLeod's desk at the antique shop. He had been on the telephone with Connor for almost an hour. Finally, the Highlander hung up the telephone turning back to his mate. "He says that he has some books of ancient lore he found at the old homestead. We're going visit Connor. He wasn't always a part of my mortal life because he was afraid of what he would bring upon us, because of what he was. But when I truly needed him after I was cast out he stood by me, teacher, brother and friend. I believe that he can help us, Methos. I have to believe that."

pNodding Methos closed his eyes, deep in his heart he couldn't hold on to hope. He had seen too much, knew what hate like Cassandra's was capable of doing. The gods knew that hate had taken a simple solider and made him a Horseman of the Apocalypse. But for Duncan he mustered a small smile, gripping the other man's hand. "All right we'll go to Scotland."

p"Not just to Scotland, Methos. We're going home."

pbLos Angeles Hilton Hotel /b

pMethos stood in the small bathroom water dripping off his body. Carefully he wiped the mirror with a towel looking at his reflection. His body was still slim, long muscular thighs, narrow hips, broad shoulders then his eyes dipped lower to the curve of his belly. The skin was still flushed pink from the warm water, sweat clinging to his body in dewy pearls. With a sigh the ancient immortal slowly stroked his hand over his abdomen, following the tiny ripple of movement beneath his flesh.

pMacLeod pushed the door opened and stood transfixed. He never grew tired of looking at his mate's body, but now the swell of life contained inside sent a warm rush of emotions rising inside him. Without a sound the Highlander slipped inside the room dropping his robe to stand naked behind the other man. Methos turned his head slightly, a smiling tugging at his lips.

pQuickly MacLeod pulled Methos to him, sliding his hands around the other man's waist, one palm stroking the swollen belly, the other hand at Methos' long neck, fingertips touching the pulse point there. Gently he pulled Methos until the other man was arched back, body taut. Shivering Methos moaned as his cock filled and rose, pointing straight out from his body. He could feel MacLeod's erection digging into his hip, and shifted his body imperceptibly so that the hard length of flesh rested between his buttocks.

pBending and stretching Methos stroked himself up and down on the heated member until MacLeod reached around snagging a bottle of mineral oil from the counter. Carefully drizzling the oil over his fingers he slipped them between Methos' ass cheeks. Tickling the entrance to the other man's body MacLeod teased it open, slipping a finger inside. Methos rose on the balls of his feet, and then lowered himself gently riding the finger squirming up his ass.

pPulling his finger free the Highlander pressed the other man forward slightly until he could slide his cock inside. Pressing forward in one smooth stroke he sheathed himself in the trembling body then soothed Methos with murmured endearments. When Methos' trembling had ceased MacLeod rose to his full height, pulling Methos along until once again he was arched slightly backwards with one of his husband's hand's resting on the gentle swell of his belly the other stroking the pulse throbbing in his throat.

p"Open your eyes," MacLeod whispered nudging his cock forward as the other man gasped. Methos slowly opened his eyes gazing at their reflection in the mirror. He moaned at the sight of his long, wiry body, enfolded in the dark, broad body of his Highland warrior. MacLeod bent his knees to withdraw then stretched to his full height and thrust inward again. The feel of the hard flesh sliding in and out of his body shook Methos to the center of his being. His cock throbbed leaking a small stream of clear pre-come. "I love you, Methos. Whatever else you believe, you have to believe that."

p"I love you too, Duncan." Moaning again Methos pressed himself back against the solid warm body. MacLeod tightened his grip on Methos' belly ever so slightly caressing the taut skin.

p"I love looking at you like this your body flushed pink from the heat and from passion, sweat beading on your skin. You told me once that you lack fire, but I see the fire burning in you now. I see life in you here," MacLeod's fingers caressed Methos belly, then the other hand caressed his throat, "And life in you here... And my life in you," he thrust deep inside pulling a shivering sigh from the other man.

pSuddenly Methos arched back even farther thrusting his hips out and up as his cock jerked shooting spurt after spurt of creamy fluid across the surface of the counter to splatter against the mirror. His buttocks clenched as the muscles in his abdomen tightened and MacLeod hissed thrusting harder and faster until he spilled his release deep in the tight, hot body in front of him.

pSighing Methos pulled away turning to snuggle into MacLeod's arms. The Highlander rocked him gently for a few moments then gently Methos disengaged himself from his husband's arms. "We'd better get dressed. Our flight leaves in a little over an hour and we have to check in at the airport."

pNodding the Highlander drew a deep breath and replied, "Yeah, and with extra security it'll be impossible to get our swords in the luggage. I'll have to check them through in a lock box. At least I have papers proving I'm an antiques dealer transporting two valuable antique weapons. What about you, I know you'll be armed. How are you going to get past the metal detectors?"

pGrinning wickedly the older man pulled what appeared to be a water gun from the drawer in the bathroom. Turning it over in his hands he began a quickly spiel, almost like a sales pitch, "It's a .38 revolver made from high density plastics, strong enough to drive a tank over. It shoots a hollow tip round that I load with mercury for just that extra punch. And the shell casings are a brass and nickel alloy that the metal detectors shouldn't pick up, at least not in the small amount that is loaded in the gun itself. The rest of the ammunition is concealed, in a single line so it looks like metal re-enforcement, in the upper lining of my carry on bag, the one that also has the huge metal buckles. I've often thought about enrolling in some law enforcement training program just to get the i.d to carry a gun on planes. Well, not any more since only an air marshal can carry a gun on a plane now."

pFrowning Macleod relieved his mate of the hand-gun, "Where'd you get this thing?"

p"Oh, I have my sources," the other man said airily, "Okay, okay; I had it made by a mercenary who knows guns really well. I've had it for about three years actually. Before I ever met you."

p"How much did you have to pay for it?"

p"I sort of worked it out in trade."


pGrowling the older man said, "God, Duncan, get your mind out of the gutter. It wasn't that kind of trade. I was in med school and I merely gave some friends of his medical care when it might not have been wise for them to go to a hospital or clinic. Mostly gun shot wounds."

p"That's almost as bad." MacLeod grumbled, but followed the other man out of the bathroom and into their suite. Methos gathered up the garments he had laid out on the bed frowning at the drawstring trousers and pleated polo shirt. He was just big enough that he could no longer fit into his own jeans yet a larger size would have been sufficient, but no, as soon as it became apparent that he could not fit into his old clothes the Highlander had dashed down to the mall to a trendy boutique, and bought a entire wardrobe of fashionable, and expensive, maternity clothes.

pSighing he drew on the trousers tying them, and then pulled the shirt over his head. It was pale blue broadcloth, pleated just at the breast with a fold that would accommodate his expanding abdomen. Carefully he buttoned the few buttons at the neck leaving the top one undone. Staring at his profile in the mirrored closet door Methos cringed, the clothes made it more than obvious that he was pregnant.

pPicking up his jacket he waited while MacLeod packed his shaving kit, and Methos toiletries sans razor, since the influx of female hormones had temporarily stopped his facial hair from growing. Checking the bathroom one final time both immortals walked out of the room.

pTheir flight was on time, and both immortals settled into the wide comfortable chairs in First Class. MacLeod sighed, Methos always insisted on flying First Class. Smiling MacLeod took the long, elegant fingers in his hand, squeezing gently until the other man turned to look at him. "I'm fine, Mac. I took some anti-nausea medication just in case. Is Connor going to be meeting use at the airport?"

p"Aye, he and Alex should be there, but we have a ten hour flight, so you might as well get settled in."

p"Where are you planning on staying when we get to Glenfinnan? I don't think you and Conner can survive living in the same house for an extended period of time."

p"Well, that depends on if you don't mind roughing it a little."

pMethos made a little moue of displeasure, "Duncan you know how I am about great outdoor experiences. I think staying in a hotel without room service is roughing it. Besides I'm not sleeping on the ground, I happen to be six months pregnant in case it slipped your mind."

pGrinning MacLeod slipped his hand palm down over the older man's waist, "Nope I don't think I'll be forgetting it anytime soon..."

p"You know I'm sure that Connor and Alex have more than one guest room, and if not, as I recall, that big overstuffed sofa in the den is more than comfortable."

p"Yeah, but that was when I was fucking your brains out on it. We never actually tried to sleep on the thing."

pTouch my tummy one more time, and you'll get to see how well it sleeps."

P"Tummy?" MacLeod said, grin growing even wider, "I don't think that I've ever heard you say the word tummy before."

PMuttering under his breath in a language that MacLeod was sure had been dead for at least a millennium Methos leaned back, closing his eyes. MacLeod patted his arm as the flight attendant approached the two immortals with a pink foam object slotted so that the seat belt would fit through. Leaning over she touched Methos gently on the shoulder. He looked up.

PThe woman was tall, almost six feet, and a bit overweight but muscular. She had light auburn hair streaked with gray and there were fine lines around her eyes and mouth. Still she was beautiful, even though the ancient immortal guessed her age to be around sixty. He smiled glad that she was still working, especial since she was one of the women who would have been looked over or forced out of work in favor of younger colleges before the plague.

PMotioning to the seat belt she said, "I noticed that you were pregnant, dear. I need for you to wear this padded belt liner. If we go into a rapid descent or hit turbulence the seat belt might be pulled tightly across your abdomen. This will pad the strap and keep it from injuring you or the baby."

PThe Highlander winced Methos could be acerbic when annoyed, but to his shock the other immortal simply smiled at the attendant, "Sure," he said as she helped him straighten out the belt and slip the pad into place checking to be sure it was not too snug, and adjusting the length of the belt. She glanced wistfully at the rounded curve of his abdomen and Methos sighed, "Go ahead..."

PWith a twinkle in her eyes she touched the tips of her fingers to his belly smiling widely when a little foot or hand punched out. Methos grunted and MacLeod touched his arm, "Are you okay, Adam?"

P"Yeah, he's just trying to kick my insides out."

PThe plane soared into the red, sky just as dawn broke. Methos pushed his seat back to recline as soon as the seat-belt light was off. MacLeod had the flight attendant bring him a blanket and he was asleep before the morning coffee was served. MacLeod accepted a cup of the steaming liquid, and sat a fond, and if he admitted it to himself, slight dopey grin on his face as he stared down at his sleeping spouse.

PbVancouver, British Columbia./b

PNick Ralston rolled over not knowing exactly what had pulled him from a deep sleep. Michael was lying facing away from the larger man, the baby tucked against his side as if he had been nursing her and fallen asleep. Ralston rose form the bed. It was dawn, the bright yellow sunlight leaking through the dark blue draperies making a warm patch on the carpeted floor beside the bed.

PYawning widely the former Watcher padded silently to the bathroom, emptied his bladder then stretched. He smiled at the small, pink clad form snuggled close beside the younger man. Gently he collected Eileen, checked her diaper and was grateful to find it dry, then tucked her back into the portable crib they had set up in the master bedroom until they could finish furnishing the nursery.

PQuickly Ralston pulled the blankets up around the smaller man's sleeping form and walked out of the room heading toward the kitchen. The coffee maker had been set on the timer and the smell of rich, French roast coffee perked him right up. Pouring a cup the big man pulled bacon and eggs out of the refrigerator and started cooking breakfast.

PThe sound of movement in the hall caught his attention and Ralston whirled around, exhaling loudly as Michael stumbled into the warm, brightly lit room. "God, Michael don't do that. You almost gave me a heart attack. Look my uncle needs some help in his garage today. I thought I'd go down and help him out this week. I'll need to start looking for another job pretty quick."

P"Okay, look I can work here at the house once we get the computer set up. I did medical billing in San Clemente. I just telecommute. I'll bet at least a few medical offices might be willing to let me do that here too."

P"I don't know this is a pretty small town, out in the middle of nowhere. Besides I kind of wanted you to stay here you know do the Mommy thing with Eileen for awhile. She's getting a little older now and she probably will notice if you're not around."

PFrowning Michael poured a cup of coffee and took a deep breath. "I can look after Eileen and work. I did it before." he frowned and Ralston held up a hand.

P"I know, I know..."the bigger man winced, "I didn't mean that you couldn't. It's just...."

P"Nick, what? Are you still worried that Ronald Baines might do something?"

P"Oh, no," Ralston said patting the smaller man's arm. "Don't worry about that. I don't think that he has enough information on me to find us here. Unless...."

PCarefully Michael intercepted the skillet from Ralston transferring the cooked bacon to a serving plate. Cocking his head he signed urging the other man to finish his sentence. "Unless what, Nick?"

P"Nothing, don't worry about it. It won't happen."

PAfter breakfast Michael watched the other man pull out of the drive and disappear down the street. After nursing, bathing and changing Eileen Michael left her lying in center of her portable baby corral, as Nick had named the wood frame and plastic mesh fencing, that they used as a playpen. She cooed cheerfully as she batted at the baby gym animals hanging from the brightly colored plastic frame.

PHoping her good mood wouldn't dissolve the young man busied himself with the household chores. At regular intervals he would peek into the living room, but she hadn't learned to turn herself over yet so she was still occupied with the gym, now chewing enthusiastically on the plastic frame. He smiled bumping the screen door leading to the back yard open with a hip and hauling a load of freshly washed bed linen to the umbrella clothes line behind the house.

PWith the laundry under control Michael hurried back to the bedroom to make the bed. Cocking his head the young man listened intently hearing the faint wail of the baby in the living room. Quickly he scurried down the hall, she was crying whole heartedly now and Michael felt his stomach lurch. Dropping the towels he had bee carrying he hurried down the hall and through the door to the living room. The baby was lying on her tummy under the baby gym, her faced bunched up and red from howling angrily. Quickly he walked over to her, cooing softly as he scooped her up. What's the matter did you lose your toy?"

PSmiling he carried the now sniffling baby to the bedroom for a change. As he placed her on the changing table Michael jumped as the floorboards in the hall squeaked. Whirling around Michael held his breath when the house was silent he quickly diapered the baby and carried her out to the kitchen for lunch. Chuckling to himself Michael put Eileen in her bouncy chair and began pulling leftovers from last night's roast into the microwave to heat. Smiling as she began to nod off Michael used his foot to bounce the seat gently while he sat at the kitchen table eating his lunch.

PThe phone ringing almost woke the baby and Michael hurriedly answered before it could ring again. Michael was relieved to hear Nick's voice on the other end, "How's it going?"

P"Good, I guess I'll have to get used to the quiet country life. It almost seems too still after being in southern California. Guess what, Eileen turned over today all by herself." Michael smiled to himself as he could hear Nick lean away from the telephone to convey that news to his Uncle Jeb. Jeb's rough voice cackled with pleasure and Michael felt a warm rush of love for this new family he had discovered.

P"I'll be home by suppertime," Nick said clearing his throat then muttered, "Uhmm, love you."

PGasping Michael muttered a quick goodbye, and then hung up the phone glowing. Quickly he fed and bathed Eileen then finished the household chores so that he could work on making a gourmet meal.

PNick arrived right on time exactly as Michael finished pulling the game hens out of the oven. The warm rich aromas of the sauce for the hens, and the seasoned rice filled the kitchen. Michael met the older man at the door with a glass of wine. Nick grinned, "Hey it smells great, Michael. What's the occasion?"

P"Oh I don't know. I guess we can celebrate Eileen being able to turn over on her own. Michael said flushing under the other man's keen gaze. They both jerked toward the doorway when the floorboards in the hallway squeaked softly. Michael smiled nervously.

P"It's been doing that all ay. I think the floors must have a little moisture in them from the rain." Motioning to the table he watched as the bigger man wandered around the room. "Have a seat. I'll go check on Eileen. She's really up and moving now. I'll bet she walks early."

PNodding Nick said, "Yeah she'll be under foot then. Speaking of which where is Daddy's girl?" He moved through the room, and then paused as the floor boards in the hall squealed again. Michael flinched glancing up at Nick's frowning face.

P"Maybe the house is settling," he offered, but came to an abrupt halt in the door way. In fact he stopped so suddenly that the larger man plowed into him sending him sprawling in the hall floor.

PSuddenly Nick rose to his full height stepping over his the sprawled form on the carpeted floor. In the dim light of the bedroom doorway stood a tall slender form. The shape disengaged itself from the doorway, and the fading sunlight glinted off the gun held at the larger man's waist.

PHissing in anger Nick pulled to a sudden halt as Ronald Baines motioned Michel to get up out of the floor. "Go get your daughter, Michael." he said softly. Face pale the young man stumbled to the bedroom, quickly scooping the baby up from the crib. Cradling the infant close Michael walked into the hall as Baines turned to confront the other man.

P"You know I should have guessed that you'd betray me, Nick. You just didn't have the guts fort his job. I could tell when you kept making excuses for not bringing me the baby sooner. You just had to get involved with him didn't you." Turning he raked the gun toward the younger man, "Get her things together Michael. I'll be taking her now."

P"No!" Michael said, stepping back. Suddenly Nick lunged forward screaming, "Get out of the house Michael. Take Eileen and run!"

PThrowing himself on the scientist the big man tried to wrestle the gun away. Suddenly the sound of gun shot echoed in the room. Eileen began screaming and Michael quickly tied to hush her, his own voice shaking with fear. "Nick," he whispered, "Nick, please."

PRalston turned taking one halting step forward before collapsing on the floor, a bright crimson stain spreading across the front of his shirt. Shaking his head Michael stumbled forward only to be caught by the arm. Baines jerked the younger man, shaking him hard, "Shut her up and get her ready to leave or you'll be joining him. I don't need you except for the fact that you're breastfeeding the baby. I only want some blood, and cell samples from her. I'll try to keep her alive if you cooperate, but remember I can get what I need from a corpse as well as living donor."

PHurrying to the bedroom the sobbing young man quickly settled the baby on the bed, and then collected her diaper bag cramming it full of clothes and diapers. He scooped the baby up and carried her to the doctor's side. Baines grasped Michael's arm pulling him out of the house, and pushing him to the thick row of hedges on the other side of the street. Behind the foliage was a black SUV nearly invisible against the dark underbrush of the forest behind the house. As the car drove away from the house Michael cradled the baby, numb with grief.

PNight had fallen and the katydids were chirping when Jeb Ralston finished washing the dishes from his solitary meal. His wife had died many years before this last plague had stricken the Earth, and Jeb had lived alone for a long time. He had kept in contact with his only relative his sister's son, Nick although he rarely got to see much of the younger man, since he lived in Southern California. When Nick had arrived the week before along with the pretty, young boy and baby Jeb had been ecstatic. Now he settled on the front porch drinking iced tea from a glass mug, rocking on the porch swing, listening to the night sounds.

PCrackling bushes drew his attention and Jeb sighed. It was probably just those raccoons who came to eat the dogs' food. But the dogs were lying on the porch asleep, and if it was the raccoons they would be making more of a fuss.

PJeb rose picking up the baseball bat he kept on the front porch in case of trouble and moved quietly around to the stairs. A figure lurched into view and he swung the bat barely up, barely able to pull the swing when Nick staggered onto the porch. Jeb dropped the bat grabbing the younger man by the arm. Nick groaned in pain limping into the house. The older man gasped at the dark fluid soaking his nephew's shirt front. "God, Nick what happened?"

P"Jeb, I've been shot. I need you to fix me up."

P"What I need to get you to a doctor, Nick."

PTaking the older man by the arm Nick shook his head, "No! I don't want to go to the hospital. I've got to get to the airport. Baines took them."

PEasing the other man into a chair Jeb hurried to the back room retuning with a first aid kit. Carefully he cut the blood soaked shirt from Nick's shoulder then bent to inspect the wound. Glancing up at his pale still face, the older man asked," Who is this Baines character and why did he take Michael and the baby?"

P"Baines is the man I used to work for. He's the scientist who came up with this operation to make the young men able to have babies. He also came up with a way to clone people..."

P"And," Unrolling a length of gauze Jeb carefully daubed antiseptic on the wound then tugged Nick into the light. "Damn it went right through the shoulder, but it's not bleeding anymore so I don't think that it hit a major artery or anything. I'm going to have to stitch it up. It's been awhile, I sure wish you'd go to the doctor."

P"I trust you, Jeb. Besides as soon as you finish I'm going after him." Nick winced as Jeb finished cleaning the wound and began stitching it. Grunting in pain the big man bit his lip hissing, "I let Baines go once when he had threatened Michael and Eileen. And I know he's going after someone else, too. I should have killed him."

P"Yeah, you probably should have, but it's easier said than done. I know... How can I help you son?"

P"Get my cell phone out of my pocket. I need to call someone in California. And go out to the kitchen and get your address book. The number of a friend of mine is in there. the one I told you to call in an emergency if you couldn't reach me."

PJeb nodded rising he moved quickly into the kitchen, pulling a battered brown leather binder from the table beside the door, "Who you looking for Nick, that Dawson fella?"

P"Yeah that's him, Joe Dawson."

PA tall thin middle-aged man walked up to the ticket counter of the Vancouver Air Port. He tugged a pale, slim young man carrying a baby along in his wake. Michael didn't look at the ticket agent as Baines handed him a credit card. The other man looked at the baby with a vague interest, but kept his remarks directed at the older man as he typed out the man's request on the computer in front of him.

P"Ah, yes, Dr. Baines. I can get on the next flight it leaves in two hours, but you'll under stand that the seat are first class and quite expensive."

p"No problem," Baines said smiling thinly. He pushed Michael toward the counter as the agent nodded toward Eileen. "You'll have to purchase a seat for the baby as well. Airline regulations state that she must travel belted into a car seat."

p"Fine," Baines said with a slight trace of annoyance in his voice, "We really must be on that flight, family emergency."

pThe agent looked at the pale, still face of the young man, offering him a sympathetic little smile, "Some one pass?"

p"Yes, my spouse's father, so you see he's not really feeling quite right."

p"I'm so sorry to hear that. Well here you are. Flight 1541, direct to Glasgow International Airport, Scotland. You can pick up your rental car at the airport; it's not that far to


pbGlenfinnan, Scotland/b

pConnor MacLeod sat on the veranda to his home, cradling a cup of coffee in one hand, while clutching the newspaper in the other. He was dressed in a thick, blue bathrobe and was, still, unshaven. Running a hand through his hair he glanced up at the second story window to the larger of the two guestrooms in the gray stone house. Thin wisps of steam were still emerging from the partially opened window, a faint undulating sound like a tomcat calling to its mate rolled out into the pale morning. At first Connor had been disturbed by that sound, especially since he had realized that it was his cousin who made that sound, and particularly since Connor had realized exactly why Duncan was making it. Well, he had heard it enough in the past two months, but at least it meant that there would be hot water again soon, since it also meant that Duncan and Adam would be vacating the shower, finally.

pAlex wandered out of the sliding glass doors leading to the den and kitchen with a tray bearing two plates loaded with food. Connor took his breakfast smiling at his wife gratefully and she glanced up at the window.

p"You should be ashamed of yourself for listening," Alex chided gently, but Connor merely grinned.

p"Hey, the lads put it out there for anyone to hear. I mean, my God, Adam is nine months gone and they still go at it like there's no tomorrow." Connor said flushing pinkly. Alex settled into her chair pouring herself a cup of coffee from the silver carafe on the table.

pShe picked up a section of the newspaper and looked up as the broad shouldered form of her husband's cousin pushed through the door, bearing a plate from the buffet she had set out on the kitchen counter. Adam followed behind with his own overflowing plate, and then settled into a chair on Connor's left hand side. Connor glanced over the top of his paper at his cousin's gravid mate. "It's a wonder you don't weight three hundred pounds," he said.

pMethos smiled at him, picking up a strip of bacon and gobbling it down, "I have an excellent metabolism besides I'm eating for two." he smirked. Duncan chuckled then tossed a piece of wadded up note paper at him.

p"Don't worry about him, Connor," he said winking at Alex, "Beside Adam is so skinny that he looks like a toothpick with an olive stuck around the middle."

pAlex gasped, "That's just plain mean, "she snapped at the Highlander, but Methos soothed her with a glance and a shrug.

p"What can I say, I'm used to being used and abused."

pConnor snorted, "Well, I don't know about abuse, but Duncan sure uses you enough. It's a wonder that it hasn't broken off by now." turning to MacLeod the elder Highlander smirked, "I mean lad, the boy is knocked up. You've done your job."

pMacLeod smiled warmly at his mate, "What can I say. I love him so much." he said grinning.

pRolling his eyes Methos drawled, "Please Mac, not while I'm eating." he settled back, taking a deep breath and sipped the herbal tea that Duncan was making him drink in the place of his usual Irish Breakfast tea. Alex gulped down her coffee trying not to laugh at their antics then rose clearing her place at the table. She paused at the door, turning.

p"I have some errands to run this morning can I interest anyone in coming along?" she asked. But the three men just shook their heads and she surrendered, "Okay, I'll see you later."

pConnor finished with his breakfast and drained the dregs of coffee from his mug, rising he hurried after his wife. Turning back he smiled at MacLeod, "Just to prove that you two aren't the only ones who know how to properly utilize a shower."

pMethos snorted, "You'd think that no one ever got any action around here, until we showed up anyway."

p"Well this is Connor we're talking about," the Highlander offered, "he's the fighter, I'm the lover, remember."

pSuddenly a breathy female voice moaned and both men jumped, startled, turning to stare at the upper floor windows, especially the one that was partially opened to allow the steam to drift out. The voice moaned again, catching a little before issuing a breathy sigh. Methos glared at his mate across the table, "You don't suppose that they heard us do you? I mean, my god, you do get a little vocal."

p"Me vocal, excuse me, but I don't think the 'Fuck me, Duncan, fuck me now' I heard this morning was me talking to myself." MacLeod said frowning. He shuffled the newspaper around picking up one of the massive volumes of the Encyclopedia Magica that Connor had pulled out of a warehouse of antiques belonging to Duncan's parents. Frowning he flipped through the index again. He, Connor and Methos had been studying the books of ancient lore and several other books on magic trying to find a way to lift the curse that Cassandra had placed on Methos. So far they had not found anything on the specific curse she had used, although they had found some information on the Voice and the power of the Voice used in magic.

pMethos reached across the table taking MacLeod's hand in his, closing his eyes against the sunlight just rising above the tops of the trees surrounding the house. "I will do whatever I can to break the curse."

pGrowling under his breath the Highlander rubbed his fingers over Methos' palm feeling the long, elegant fingers curl around his, "I don't understand Methos. You are a rational man. Surely you don't believe in magic. Everything we have read leads me to believe that the power she wields is only an illusion, shadow and no substance."

pTugging his hand out of MacLeod's grasp Methos rose from the table pacing a few steps, "You don't understand, Mac. Just because you were born in a time when magic no longer existed. I was born long before the age of reason. I lived for millennia when magic ruled our daily lives. If we wanted a good harvest we sacrificed to the gods. We let the village shaman name our children. A midwife put a knife under the bed when my wife gave birth, to cut the pain. Our dead carried the implements of life into the grave with them so that they would be prepared for their journey to the netherworld. I may look like a modern man, but so much of who I am was formed in a time that you cannot comprehend. I believe in magic, Mac. I was raised on it, and lived my whole mortal life surrounded by it. A big part of my immortal life too."

p"Methos I am trying to understand," Macleod offered chagrinned, "I just believe that we control our destinies, that nothing is pre-ordained. If you lose hope, give up the will to fight then you will be lost."

pDrawing a ragged breath Methos slumped down into the chair, hands resting on the rounded curve of his belly, "Whatever happens, Duncan, our son will live. Promise me that you will teach him good things about me."

p"I will not have to teach anything about you because you will be there with us, always."

pBoth men paused looking up as the door opened again. Connor sauntered to the table then settled into the chair beside Methos. Suddenly he reached out stroking a hand over the swollen abdomen; Methos sat upright in his chair startled into motionlessness. Duncan also stilled as well almost feeling the exchange of energy between his spouse and his cousin. Connor was not, by nature, a physically demonstrative man, and this small gesture was curiously compelling to the younger Highlander.

p"It will be well with you," Connor said gently and a shudder ran the length of Methos' body. He closed his eyes. Suddenly the flesh under Connor's fingers writhed and Methos winced as a tiny hand or foot poked up. Carefully the elder Highlander grasped the protruding appendage between the thumb and fore-finger of his left hand, "Aye it shall be well with you also, little one."

pMethos drew a deep shuddering breath as Connor released the tiny limb and ran his thumb over the white shirt, along the dark brown line of demarcation that bisected pMethos' belly. Hazel eyes wide Methos stared at the lean face of Duncan's kinsman a brief smile tugging his lips, "Thank you, seer, for your blessing."

pDuncan glanced down almost painfully aware of the cool breeze caressing his skin; the air around him seemed charged with static electricity. He drew a deep breath himself feeling that some indefinable thing had passed between these two men, two of the most important people in his life.

pWith trembling hands he raised the book, and the moment passed. Connor was just Connor sitting in the cool early morning air, leaning his face back to let the sunlight wash over him. And Methos seemed more ephemeral than ever, pale and quiet, but peaceful with a tiny smile playing over his lips.

pFrom far away MacLeod heard the doorbell ring, and a few minutes later Connor's son, John, brought a stack of letters to the table. "Mail's here," he announced unnecessarily. Connor accepted a stack of envelopes, and then Johnny turned to Macleod, "Here Uncle Duncan, this one's for you."

p"Who knows we're here?" Duncan asked then turned the ivory envelope over, "Ah Gladys reposted it." Quickly he opened the letter, "Robert and Gina De Valincourt's wedding. I almost forgot. They had to postpone it, but now it's back on." He turned to Methos smiling, "Feel like a little side trip to Paris?"

pFrowning Methos sighed, "I look like the Goodyear blimp, what'll I wear?"

p"I'm sure that Alex can help you find something appropriate at the mall in Glencoe."

Connor offered. Methos glared at him. Connor ignored him, "When she comes home, we'll talk to her about driving over tomorrow."

pbGlencoe Mall/b

pMethos settled back in the wicker chair in front of the trendy coffee shop he had hidden out in while the Highlander became thoroughly lost in the huge mall. Breathing deeply he inhaled the rich, warm scent of the cafe au lait that sat on the table. Caffeine had been banned by both MacLeod and his doctor but every once in a while he would sneak a cup of coffee. His fifty-third wife had drunk pots of coffee when she was pregnant, and the baby had been just fine, so he couldn't see how one small cup would hurt him. Of course his over-protective spouse would probably give him a fit. Carefully Methos straightened the plastic bag holding the ridiculous looking black silk maternity suit he was going to wear to the De Valincourt's wedding. Grimacing as his abdomen contracted he tiredly rubbed his eyes.

pThe teenaged boy attending the counter noticed Methos' wince and scrambled around the counter, "Are you okay? You're not going to have your baby are you?"

p"No, just false labor,' Methos said then noticing the boy's panicky look he smiled, "its common, believe me I'm okay."

p"There you are!" the booming voice caused his would-be rescuer to flee behind the counter once again, and Methos turned to find his irate spouse prowling up the isle toward him with a deepening glare on his face. Suddenly nine months of hormones caught up to the older immortal and he rose to his feet, head back, eyes glittering. MacLeod had the good sense to stop dead in his tracks. He had gotten only a few glimpses of Methos as his Bronze Age incarnation during the shared Quicken in Boudreaux but those few moments let him know that Adam Peyton had left the building.

p"Yes and here is where I intend to stay," Methos growled. MacLeod smiled edging closer as though he were dealing with a wild animal. Finally, he flicked the plastic wrapped suit over his arm then settled into the empty chair.

p"Take your time; we're not in any hurry."

pSettling into his own chair Methos sipped at the hot liquid eyes dropping closed in utter delight. "Ahhh," he said. "That's absolutely heavenly. You should try it, Mac."

p"I thought we'd grab a bite to eat. Alex says there is a great Moroccan restaurant around the corner. Whenever you're ready, of course."

p"Uhmm, sounds great. I haven't had Moroccan food in ages."

p"Uh, do you mean that literally or figuratively?" MacLeod asked. Methos graced him with a smirk then grasped the edge of the table to haul himself to his feet.

pAs they wandered across the food court to the escalators Methos smiled, "I don't think I've been to Morocco since the Third Crusade. There was this nasty little Turkish warlord who had a vacancy in his harem, and I was really tired of that whole sex-slave routine so I just took off for England, and before I knew it a thousand years had gone by."

pAs the two men disappeared into the crowd a tall, thin figure detached itself from the shadows following along. Ronald Baines stared after the retreating backs of his targets with a dull glare. He had been trailing Adam Peyton-MacLeod since arriving in Scotland two months ago, and was still no closer to being able to grab him. Baines was tired, of the chase, of the sniveling and whining of the boy he had taken, and of the failure of his medical experiments.

pMichael Singeltary's infant was pre-immortal. Of that Baines was absolutely certain, he had both Duncan and Connor MacLeod's testimony on that, yet the blood samples that Baines took from the infant were appallingly normal. There was absolutely nothing irregular about the pre-immortal's physiology. He had begun performing some cloning experiments using cells taken from the infant, but Baines wanted the child that Adam was carrying.

pHe had spent that last three weeks following the young immortal around to no avail. MacLeod would not let his spouse get out of sight. Not that they spent all that much time in public anyway. For the most part MacLeod and his young mate were staying at MacLeod's cousin's home. Now it appeared that the two were planning on going on to yet another location for some event. With a grunt of annoyed displeasure Baines stalked out of the mall hurrying to the dark sedan parked near the exit.

pbHilton Hotel,/b


pThe suite was elegant, decorated in soothing colors, and subtly lit. Methos groaned tossing his suitcase on the wooden framed Empire chaise beside the bed. He toddled to the bathroom, slamming the door shut behind him. He and Duncan had had another one of their discussions regarding Cassandra on the train from Loudon and the elder immortal was disgruntled to say the least. Macleod's answer to the curse so far was to kill Cassandra. And Methos refused to accept that. He had never wanted her dead, and truthfully he didn't believe that the Highlander wanted it either. In fact, Methos was almost certain that if the Scot gave in to his over-protective instincts and killed the witch it would doom their marriage. He washed his hands, and face then went back into the room, surveying the interior, before collapsing on a large overstuffed chair.

pWith a sigh Methos rose from his seat smoothing his shirt down wincing as another contraction tightened his abdomen. Taking a deep breath he absently rubbed a hand over his swollen belly. The hallway to the elevator was empty, and he impatiently waited for the Highlander so that they could go to dinner. A sudden movement behind him caused Methos to start, and he turned prepared to verbally eviscerate his spouse for scaring him, when the cold sting of a hypodermic needle pricked his arm just below the sleeve. Eyes widening Methos staggered back, "You..." he gasped as he sagged against the wall.

pThe hall was empty when MacLeod stepped off the elevator. Glancing at the keycard in his hand he turned left and walked down the passageway to the door of their suite. The door was slightly opened and he frowned as he stepped inside, "Methos," he said, then glanced down the hallway, "Methos," he repeated louder, but the room was empty. Methos' bags were on the chaise, but his spouse was not inside. Turning quickly MacLeod hurried to the elevator.

pOne of the housekeepers was pushing a cart of cleaning supplies out of the elevator as he approached; she turned as he hurried to her side. "Excuse me; did you see a young pregnant man pass this way a few minutes earlier?"

pShe nodded, "Yes, he seemed to be feeling ill because the man he was with had to hold him up as they walked. They took the elevator to the lobby."

p"He was with another man?"

p"Yes, a tall unpleasant looking middle aged man, thin with dark hair. I though it must be his husband although what such a good looking young man would do marrying a prune like that I can't imagine."

p"Oh god," MacLeod hissed pushing past her. He cast an apologetic glance at her over his shoulder, "Thank you."

pBy the time the elevator hit the front lobby MacLeod was running. He loped across the lobby floor taking the stair two at a time, and burst out the doors. The traffic was hectic, like usual for Paris, but there was no thrum of immortal presence on the streets.

pPanting the Highlander leaned back against the wall his heart thudding painfully in his chest. He turned, pulling his cell phone out of a pocket, dialing the De Valincourt's' number from memory. As he walked back into the hotel lobby MacLeod failed to notice a tall, broad shouldered form lurking in the shadowy entrance of the building across the streets.

pbRonald Baines' house,/b

pbParis /b

pMethos coughed as he swam through the dark haze of drugs toward consciousness. A soft, damp cloth was pressed over his eyes and he jerked fully awake flinging it aside. A small, slender blonde boy winced drawing away from him, as the immortal struggled to sit up. Hitching a sigh Methos raised a hand trying to calm the young mortal when the snuffling whine of an infant caused both of them to turn.

pThe blonde boy slid across the sofa picking a baby up from the infant carrier on the floor. Methos glanced down at the infant, a little girl he guessed from the pink clothes and satin ribbons adorning the thin wisps of blond hair on the small head. Methos sighed, "Who are you?"

p"Michael Singletary," the young man said distractedly, "this is my daughter, Eileen. Do you know why Baines brought you here?"

p"Yes, I'm fairly certain." Wincing Methos rubbed his swollen belly as yet another contraction seized him. "Damn it all, Braxton-Hicks." he muttered and the mortal nodded. "He intends to use us as lab rats for some more of his twisted little science projects."

p"Yeah," A faint tremor ran through Michel's body, and Methos could tell he was barely hanging on to his emotions, if not for the baby he might very well have broken completely down. "You know about that, the cloning. Did he do it to you too, are you like me. One of those things...In the lab he has these tubes of fluid with people inside. I've seen them. He told me about me a body, a dead guy who had his head cut off. He said..."

p"Oh god, he didn't show you; did he?" Methos stammered, and at Michael's nod he cursed, "Listen Michael, you are not Jack Singleton. He's dead...you're alive. Just because you came from his DNA grown in a tube, it doesn't make you any less a human being. Just because you're different, we all have things about that are less than perfect, genetically, physically, mentally and maybe even morally. It doesn't make us wrong, it just makes us human."

P"But I'm not a real person..."

p"Bullshit, you are as real as I am..." Methos held his breath, maybe that isn't saying much, he thought, "You are her mother, someone's friend, maybe someone's lover...Just think about that right now. We'll worry about semantics later, when we've gotten out of here."

pThe shuffling of feet caught both men's attention, Baines stood leaning against the door frame, "How very touching, fast friends already..." he sneered. "I need both of you in the lab, and bring the baby, Michael."

pbHilton Hotel,/b


pDuncan MacLeod settled into a seat at the hotel restaurant, he head spinning. He had called Robert and Gina told them Adam was missing and of course they had half of Paris out looking. He had also called Conner who said he was catching the next train over.

pA tall, blond man in his early forties settled into a chair across the room from the Highlander opposite the hallway to the restrooms. MacLeod frowned, the man's face seemed very familiar, and he glanced surreptitiously at the man idly fumbling with the heavy glass in his hands. Suddenly it came to him; the blonde man was one of the Watchers who had taken Matt Croft's body from him, in Los Angeles, one of the men working for Ronald Baines.

pSpringing to his feet the Highlander stalked across the room. The big man glanced up, and paled. Quickly he scrambled to his feet tipping his chair over in his haste to escape and ran into the hall to the restrooms. MacLeod rushed past the over turned chair, loping easily to intercept the Watcher.

pHe grabbed the man's sleeve jerking him around and landing a solid right to his mid section. The man folded over grunting in pain, then gasped as MacLeod grabbed his throat slamming him against the wall. Grinning nastily MacLeod edged closer, twisting his hand tightly around the bulky neck, his fingers slipping on the thin layer of sweat that sprang up on the other man's skin.

p"I know that you work for Baines, where is he?" MacLeod said shoving the other man back deeper into the shadows.

pGasping, he clawed at the hand gripping his neck, "Let go." When MacLeod showed no sign of lessening his hold the man gasped again, "I can't talk if I can't breathe."

p"If you have anything to do with my spouse and baby being taken by Ronald Baines you won't have to worry about breathing ever again."

p"Look, I did work for Baines, but not anymore. I'm in the same situation that you are. Baines has my partner and our little girl."

p"What are you talking about."

p"The blond boy you spoke to in San Clemente with the little girl that's pre-immortal. Michael Singletary, the one that's the clone of Jack Singleton. Michael is my partner, and Eileen is my daughter."

p"You are one of the Watchers that took Matt Croft's body in L.A."

p"Yeah, I am. My name is Nick Ralston, and I just want to get my partner and baby back, alive."

pMacLeod drew a deep shuddering breath, but let his grip on Ralston neck loosen. The big man coughed rubbing his abused throat with a shaking hand before following the immortal back into the hotel lobby. The Highlander motioned the other man into a chair and Ralston sat heavily, leaning on the table. A crimson stain was beginning to show through the blue broadcloth material of his shirt, and MacLeod frowned, "You're bleeding."

p"Yeah, Baines shot me. I think he thinks I'm dead."

p"Good..." MacLeod began, and the other man flinched.

p"I'm glad my injury amuses you, MacLeod."

pGrimacing the Highlander replied, "No I mean it's good he thinks that you're dead. He won't be expecting you. The only problem is finding him."

p"Actually that's not as much of a problem. I know where he is. I followed them this morning when he took Adam."

p"You watched him take Adam, and you didn't do anything to stop him?" MacLeod snarled, "What the hell were you thinking letting him get away with that?"

p"I was thinking I want Michael and Eileen back. I'm sorry about Adam, but if I stopped Baines I would never have been able to follow him, find out where they are being held. It's a house just out side of Paris, on the highway south. He has some men; I guess some he uses as lab assistants, and the clone he made of Matt Croft."

p"How many, and are they mortal or immortal?"

p"I'm assuming all mortal. I can't think of any other immortals that worked with Baines but Melvin Koren, and I hear that he's no longer a problem."

p"Look Ralston I'll try not to kill the mortals, but if it comes down to it, well I'll do what I have too. Can I count on you not getting squeamish in the end?"

p"They have the man I love and my child. What do you think?"

pSuddenly the Highlander sat up in the chair, glancing at the door. He sighed shoulders relaxing as the tall, slender form of the elder Highlander stalked in to the room. Connor settled into a chair on the opposite side of the table from Duncan glancing at the other man. Duncan motioned to the Watcher, "This is Nick Ralston, a friend of Joe's..."

p"That Watcher fellow? Is he one of them too?"

p"Not anymore," Nick said, "And I used to work for Ronald Baines too."

pWith a glare Connor half rose from his seat, but Duncan motioned him to be still, "Nick knows where Baines is, he has Nick's partner and his daughter. Nick's been following Baines."

p"Well then he can tell us where Baines is..." Connor said, but Ralston held up a hand interrupting the elder Highlander.

p"I won't tell you anything."

p"I can guarantee you will. You'll tell me anything I want to know."

pWith a sigh Ralston shrugged, "What I meant was that I'll take you to the house. I want to be there when we find him."

p"It's better for Duncan and me to go alone. You're in more danger from Baines' hired thugs than we are."

p"No, I'm going. Besides Baines thinks that he killed me. He won't be looking for three of us, but I'm willing to bet that he's expecting you two to show up, probably all ready told his men to look out for you."

p "All right then you're with us, but" Connor said, "You stay behind us in the event of gunfire. We can recover a lot more quickly than you. What kind of weapon can you use?

Duncan and I use swords, but you knew that."

PNick reached into the pocket of his coat and pulled out a Browning Semi-Automatic, and two extra clips. He turned it over carefully, watching the metal gleam blue under the hotel lights. Quickly he tucked the tucked the gun back into his pocket. "I was going to teach Michael how to use it, but I never got the chance."

PThe three men walked out of the hotel lobby and moved toward the parking garage. the black SUV MacLeod had rented was parked in the lower level and Duncan and Conner got into the front while Nick Ralston climbed into the rear seat.

PThe late afternoon sun was just dipping behind the hills laying to the west of the Highway when the car reached the turn off to the farm house that Ronald Baines had purchased a few years earlier. The road was gravel, and the car skidded around the curve in the road as Duncan pulled to a halt just out of sight of the two story white wooden building.

PRalston leaned against the side of the car, carefully checking the gun over and clicking off the safety. He nodded to the two Highlanders, and the three men quietly crept through the knee high grass toward the split rail fence bordering the property.

PThe house was a typical mid-nineteenth century farm house. The white-washed building was tow stories with a large double wooden door in the front leading to a wide stone porch with steps down to the circular driveway. A huge red brick chimney adorned each end of the building which would have provided heat for the bedrooms and possibly the living room. That meant that the rear entry lead into the kitchen and probably was fronted by a small garden area. There would almost certainly be a large subterranean cellar as well.

PDuncan shrugged turning to his kinsman, "I'd have guards on the front door, at least."

P"Aye," Connor said nodded, pulling his katana from the sheath in his coat. "But how many, and where are the hostages?"

PNick cleared his throat, "I think that Baines uses the basemen as a laboratory. I remember him saying that he had all kinds of equipment that he didn't want anyone getting a good look at. And if he has clones gestating in the tanks he'd want to keep them someplace where no one could see them. All the other labs he used were windowless. He doesn't like the clones to get too much visual stimulation if they open their eyes. Not that they process much anyway."

P"Okay so the lab is un the cellar," Duncan said, "That means we need to go in through the back. Most of these old houses have stairs that go down to the cellar. Some of them even have an outside door to the cellar."

pThey skirted the outer edge of the property keeping low. From their position behind the house Connor was the first to make out the double wooden door set into the ground at Pan angle just beside the rear porch. "Look," he said tapping Duncan on the arm, "Cellar doors."

P"There are three cars behind the house. Six maybe eight men, including Baines. I say we just hit the door, and take out as many as we can as fast as possible." Duncan said. Connor and Nick nodded.

PSilently the three men slipped across the field to the edge of the fence. Duncan ducked under the fence looking both ways but no one appeared on the grounds. Suddenly Connor tugged at the other immortals sleeve and Duncan froze. They settled low on the ground as a tall, dark hair man walked around the edge of the house. He casually settled on the porch one foot resting on the cellar doors.

pDuncan motioned for the two other men to stay still, and then slipped toward the still figure. With an ease born of long use Duncan swiftly raised the katana, striking the mortal across the temple before he could turn around. Pulling the limp figure over to the cellar doors the Highlander found a roll of duct tape beside the porch and quickly bound the man's hands, and feet. When he was finished he ripped a short strip of tape off and covered the man's mouth taking time to be sure that his breathing was not obstructed.

PConnor pushed Nick Ralston ahead of him, and quickly moved to join Duncan beside the low porch. From their position they could just make out the shadowy forms of two more people inside the kitchen. Duncan crept up the stairs, with Nick in the middle and Connor bringing up the rear.

PLeaning back Duncan glancing inside the window that formed the upper half of the door. He could see one of the men was loading plates of food onto a wooden tray, probable for the two captives. His back was turned to the door, but the second guard was facing it. That man had a gun holstered on his shoulders, and if Duncan was not quick enough might be able to draw the weapon.

PPausing for a moment Duncan did the calculations of the distance between the door and the armed man, if it were only Conner and himself the Highlander would have been willing to take the chance they would get inside, but with the mortal along, he hesitated. The risk was acceptable he decided, and motioning to the other two men he kicked the door open.

PThe door flew inward with a bang, and the tinkling of broken glass. The man holding the tray whirled, knocking everything off the table with a loud crash. The second guard tugged his gun from the holster but with his partner in the line of fire hesitated a moment too long, Connor was on him in a second. The gun discharged with a loud bang, and the elder Highlander jerked back as the bullet hit his shoulder. His katana swung up in a deadly, glittering arc and slashed the man across the chest. He cried out then sagged to the floor.

PThe second guard scrambled back from Duncan's blade then also sagged forward, dropping as Ralston brought the butt of the handgun]un down against his temple. The three men moved quickly to the hall way, loping down to the doors trying to find the stairs leading down into the basement.

pFrom below the kitchen Methos and Michael Singletary were huddled together on the sofa in the dimly lit area that Baines had set aside for their living quarters. The sound of gunfire from above caught their attention and Methos jerked to his feet, "I think that is our ticket out of here."

pMichael jumped to his feet hurrying to the other man's side as Methos winced. "Are you all right Adam?" he asked taking Methos' arm, and trying to steer him to the sofa again. Methos shrugged him off.

P"I'm fine. Its Braxton-Hicks contractions. I've been having them for two months. That one was a bit rough..." he moaned, then doubled over as another stronger contraction rippled through him, "Oh god."

PMichael glanced down with horror at the spreading stain growing on Methos' trousers, "Its not false labor, your water just broke."

pQuickly glancing around the younger man grabbed a throw off the sofa and draped it around his companion's shoulders, "I have to get Eileen. Can you stand here for just a minute?"

PMethos nodded gripping the edges of the blanket tightly. He drew a deep breath then followed the younger man to the basement door. The door was always locked unless Baines or one of the guards came. Just at the two men made it the door jarred open banging against the wall, and Ronald Baines strode into the room.

p"None of you is leaving. There's a second doorway out to the garage just on the other side of the lab," he pulled a gun from his jacket; "you're coming with me."

p "The hell they are," Nick Ralston said leveling his own gun at the older man. But Baines whirled slamming his gun against the crimson stain on Ralston's shoulder. Nick cried out in pain, the Browning flying from his hand, to clatter against the floor behind the doctor.

p "I should have made sure you were finished in Vancouver, Nick. I won't make the same mistake." Baines raised the gun, finger skimming over the trigger. The sound of the gunshot was terribly loud in the same underground room. Nick winced grasping his bleeding shoulder, as Baines turned toward Michael before staggering back.

pSagging against the table Baines turned towards the group of figures in the door, gasping as he sagged forward. His hands groped over the surface of the table, searching blindly. Gasping he raked his hands through the tubes and beakers scattering them aimlessly. One large glass beakers rattled to the floor striking the power cable to the gestation tube set in the floor. The cable sparked sending a wave of blue flame over the floor. The tube ruptures spilling its occupant on the floor, and causing the flames to shoot widely into the air as the chemical infused in the fluid caught fire.

p The young man stood arms extended the browning still leaking wisps of smoke. Macleod hurried to the young man's side, "Michael, give me the gun. It's okay. You had to do it." Surrendering the gun to the immortal Michael collapsed into Nick's arms shaking.

pSuddenly Methos cried out, grasping his abdomen and falling to his knees on the floor. Duncan rounded the banister of the staircase, and ran to his spouse's side. Panting Methos gasped out, "Oh god, Duncan. I'm having the baby."

p"Connor, help me get him to the car. Nick bring Michael and the baby, we have to get out of here now."

pbSt. Mary Magdalene Hospital,/b

pbParis /b

pMethos moaned as another contraction racked his body. Doubling over he tried to raise himself off the exam table, but the nurse on one side and Connor on the other forced him prone again. The Highlander was positioned at the foot of the table beside Doctor Rosier and the doctor motioned for MacLeod to move closer, "The head is crowning. See there."

p Nodding MacLeod bent down moving into position to catch the baby. Connor glanced back and the doctor nodded, "Just a little push, Adam the head is almost out, slowly there. Don't push now just let your body ease him out. That's it, the head is out!"

pHe turned smiling, "Quickly Duncan, put your hands here. All right Adam I'm turning the body, one shoulder is almost out, there, okay give me a nice big push, now."

p Drawing a ragged breath Methos felt Connor ease his hands behind the older immortal's back helping him lean forward and then Methos pushed. He felt the baby slide forward and the heavy feeling lifted, "He's out!" MacLeod said raising the bloody, red skinned infant up for his mate to see, "Oh god! He's so beautiful, gradhach, so beautiful. Just like you."

pConnor moved away so that Duncan could ease into place beside the prone form of his exhausted mate. Methos looked far too pale and drawn and the elder Highlander was worried. A sudden commotion at the foot of the bed drew his attention and the doctor caught his eye. He moved silently to the doctor's side, "What's wrong, doctor?"

p "Adam is still bleeding quite heavily. If it doesn't stop I'm going to move him to surgery."

p "Wait for just a moment." Connor said then walked purposefully to the ancient immortal's side. Leaning over so that only Duncan and Methos could hear Connor said,

"Methos you're bleeding too heavily. The doctor thinks you might bleed to death."

p Duncan backed away handing his son to the nurse who had come to clean and weight the baby. When she had gone he edged closer to the bed looking at the pale face on the white sheets. "Why hasn't his immortal healing kicked in?"

p Gasping weakly Methos said, "Cassandra's curse. She said I would die on the day he was born. She asked me if I would die for him, and I said yes."

p "You are not going to die. A curse is nonsense. We researched this all very thoroughly, and didn't find any thing in thousands of years of chronicles about magic. I don't believe in magic. It's just talk." Duncan turned to his kinsman as a voice of reason, "Tell him Connor, magic is foolish."

p Sighing Conner looked from Duncan to Methos, "Cassandra's magic is in her Voice. She can make people do things because they believe what she tells them. If Methos believes that he will die; he will die. But Methos that's her power-just talk. She made you believe in her power to do harm, you have to believe in yourself not her. I know you would die for him, but the real question is would you live for him? Listen to me, Methos, would you live for him?"

pNodding tiredly Methos locked his eyes on Duncan's, nodding he whispered, "Yes, oh yes, I will live for him."

pSuddenly he hissed in pain coughing. Duncan stepped back yelling for the doctor. He hurried over pressing his hand to Methos' abdomen, pushing down. Methos cringed as he felt a large clot pass. Suddenly the doctor smiled.

p "That was it. A large piece of placenta was still attached, it passed. That should slow the bleeding."

p Duncan crouched on the edge of the bed smiling as he raised Methos' hand to his lips. The other immortal wriggled on the bed, "I can feel it, "he whispered. Duncan looked up as the nurse brought the baby back into the room.

p "Feel what?" he asked quietly still holding his mate's hand. Methos shivered then sat up as much as he could to take the swaddled infant in his arms. When the nurse had moved far enough away he sighed, "My immortal healing, it's working again."

p Carefully the ancient immortal raised the baby touching the tiny nose, "Well, he has your nose, thank god."

p Smiling MacLeod leaned forward kissing the cheek, "There's nothing wrong with your nose, and I happen to be very fond of the body it's attached to."

p The baby snuffled then howled loudly, signaling his displeasure at all the fuss. Methos shifted the swaddled infant only enough to slip the sleeve of his hospital gown off his shoulder baring one breast. With an easy movement his raised the baby brushing the tiny lips over his nipple. Duncan watched in amazement as the baby turned his head snuffling against the pale skin before seizing the whole nipple in his tiny mouth like a piranha. Methos' eyes widened and he winced, "That's going to hurt later."

p"I'll kiss it all better," the Highlander said with a smirk, but Methos glared at him. Backing away from the bed the Highlander laughed holding up his hands in surrender. "I think I'll call Joe and let him know the baby arrived. I'll wire him airline tickets so he can come over and see his grandson."

pbHilton Hotel,/b


pJoe Dawson sat at the head of the table as befitted the Patriarch of the little family gathered around him. Duncan and Methos were cuddled together on one side while Connor and Alex sat on the other side. Nick Ralston rocked Eileen gently to sleep at the other end of the table while Michael looked on.

pCarefully Joe cradled the small infant in his arms, "Well," he said glancing over at the elder Highlander, "Joseph Connor MacLeod, yep, I'd say he's a real good looking kid. But then he would have to be wouldn't he, Connor."

p "Yes, I'd say so, Joseph."

pFrowning Methos waved in the general direction of both men, "I told they'd be insufferable." Conner and Joe smiled smugly at each other, as the others laughed.


p A huge crane rumbled its way over the patches of frost-crisped grass toward the river. The Mergrete River roiled sluggishly in its banks; the thin skin of ice cracked and broken by the warmer temperatures. Spring was just around the corner and this part of the park would soon be filled with bathers. Someone might stumble upon the three bodies weighted and sunken in the deepest part of the river just below the small, bubbling falls.

p The construction worker driving the crane bore a familiar blue tattoo on his left wrist. The man dressed in a dark suit standing beside the green, brackish waters did not, at least not that the driver could see since the man's hands were covered with black leather gloves. The tall, cadaverously thin figure motioned the crane driver to move the heavy machine toward the bend in the river and the crane crept forward on its treads.

p The clawed arm of the crane dropped into the water with a small splash, a testament to the driver's skills with the equipment. The claw came up empty, and the driver adjusted the arm and dropped it once again. This time the chain pulled taut as the driver pressed the button to raise it. Then the metal claw appeared clutching a lumpish moss covered form. The driver retched as the smell hit him and he knew that it was a human body. This figure might have once been a big man, except for the lack of a head. Swiftly he dropped the chain wrapped form on the ground. The body thumped once and settled into an ugly formless mass, limbs sprawled.

p Twice more the claw dropped and twice more the driver pulled up chained wrapped bundles that were vaguely human shaped although these two were also minus a portion of their anatomy. Once the three bodies had been "disinterred" from their final resting places the driver moved the crane away to help the scientist load the bloated corpses into black body bags. The coldness of the water had prevented too much decomposition although from the looks of them something had been gnawing on the remains. Still the doctor seemed to be pleased with the condition of his find.

p As the crane driver settled behind the wheel of the machine he watched the doctor fuss over the placement of the bodies into the large white van. Slowly the other man closed the van's rear doors and moved around to the front sliding behind the wheel.

p As the doctor pulled the van out of the parking lot he watched the heavy equipment operator move the crane to its place at the construction site beside the park. Flicking on the tape recorder he used for making note to himself he rambled tonelessly as he drove. "The new project has begun. After three years of searching the river I was able to locate the remains of Melvin Koren, Evan Caspari and the unnamed immortal killed by Duncan MacLeod and Adam MacLeod. I still have the remains of the Methos clone I made for Koren and can use that body to remove DNA for cloning. I have that clone in utero in my new facility and will have these three in the tank before the week's end. Using the growth inducer I plan for all four clones to achieve maturity in roughly four weeks."

p Smiling Baines turned off the road onto a small dirt path that had recently been graded and cleared of snow and ice. He flicked the tape recorder on again clearing his throat, "Of course the clones themselves will not be immortal. However, Michael Singletary's child was pre-immortal and I have discovered that Duncan and Adam MacLeod's child is also a pre-immortal. I will perform my sexual reassignment surgery on these four clones immediately after de-tanking them so they will become self aware as third gender persons. I have already cloned the female organs for transplant. I have selected females with genetic materials that I assume approximate the original immortal donors' birth mothers. Not actually knowing their true ages and ethnic types I have had to make some educated guesses, however, I feel certain that I selected well. Once the clones are fully self sufficient I will inseminate them with their own sperm and the four children they carry should be immortal. And I will be their surrogate parent. I intend to teach them well, and someday my children will take their rightful place in a brave new world."

pbThe End/b