"Both Sides of the Story".

Paula Stiles


Summary: It's a week from Hell, even by Methos' exacting standards, when Joe finds out why the Old Man joined the Watchers.

Characters: Joe, Methos, Duncan MacLeod, Kate MacLeod, Amy Thomas, Stephen Keane, Kronos, Caspian, OCs.

Rating: R.

Disclaimer: Davis/Panzer Productions, Rysher Entertainment, and Gaumont Television own the Highlander universe. I don't own Kipling's Just So Stories or any of the songs herein. God, and the copyright laws, forbid that I should make any money off of this. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is very real and can be found at: http://www.doj.gov.za/trc/index.html

Archive: Ask, and ye shall probably receive permission.

Note: This is a sequel to "Armed Intervention", and begins a couple of weeks after that story. This story, and the rest of this Joe and Methos series (along with my other stories), can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Andes/3071/arch.html

Many thanks to Judith Hill for betareading this story for me.



I was born an original sinner. I was born from Original Sin. And if I had a dollar bill for all the things I've done, There'd be a mountain of money piled up to my chin.


Mouth on mouth. Hands pulling frantically at clothing--jacket, dress, shirt, jeans, bra. Fingers stroking skin too long untouched. A sword dropped carelessly on the floor in a tangle of clothing--hers and mine. Her dark hair hanging over me like a curtain, then spilled out on the pillow as she moves underneath me. Our breathing deepening and accelerating to near synchronisation at a moment of truth.

"Hey. Wake up."

I wake up naked, under a white sheet, no idea who I am, where I am, whether I am alive or dead, animal, vegetable or mineral. I am disconcerted, to say the very least.

"Hey, um, what's your name again? Wake up."

I pull the sheet off of my face and roll over in bed, finding out simultaneously that I am alone in it, and that it is not my bed. I open my eyes to see a dark-haired young woman standing next to the bed in a towel, drying her hair.

"Look," she says. "I hate to rush you, but I have to leave for work in half an hour. Can you be out of here in 20 minutes?"

Fifteen minutes later, the world's oldest known Immortal (more or less) stands on the street corner outside at six am, shivering in his jacket and hastily flung-on clothes from the night before. Ohh, do I feel like shit. I am teetering on the watershed between a wild drunk and a miserable hangover. Please, somebody, just shoot me and take my head. My sword feels twice as unwieldy as usual, and drags my coat down on one side. Of course it is pouring down rain.

The girl does not want to continue our acquaintance. She was drunk enough to be keen on a one-night stand with an even drunker Adam Pierson last night, but morning sobriety has made her far less keen on anything longer term with his alter ego, Methos. Ow.

As I slink down the street to the Metro (Abbesses? How the Hell did I end up in Montmartre?), I realise that I don't even know her name. This is a much more romantic concept in pop songs than it is in real life. In pop songs, it means that you engage in a lifelong dance with said mystery woman, finding her in one verse, losing her in the next. In real life, it effectively ends the relationship--unless one is a stalker. I just don't have that kind of commitment to a one-night stand. Ow.

Try as I might, I cannot get the night before out of my head. The girl might have turned out a coyote date in the end, but the sex, at least, was great. I would have strongly preferred to wake up to a cuddle between the sheets rather than a boot out the door. I haven't had a long-term relationship since Alexa died, and my few other attempts have also been disastrous, involving too much alcohol and unrealistic hopes on my side. Ow.

You have got to stop being such a cheap date, Old Man. Six pints of bitter with four shots of vodka and you are anyone's for the night. The real problem, I suppose, is how to be someone's for longer than one night. It is a trick I've never quite mastered, and Heaven knows I have practised at it.

The Buzz creeps up on me. Takes some time to separate it from the hangover headache. Some Immortal is spying on me. Okay. I take it back. I do not want to get shot today, and I like my head just where it is. I look around, as sneakily as I can. Too many hiding places nearby. The Immortal could be anywhere. The presence retreats. Perfect. Now, I am being stalked.

Half an hour later, I slink into my apartment building, cold, wet, and desperately needing a shower. I step through the door to my apartment without bothering to turn on any lights. I don't think my head could bear the shock just now, and I pity the home intruder who would try to burgle me this morning. I cannot see how my mood could get much worse. I should know better.

As I stumble into the kitchen, I automatically head to the refrigerator to check for any opened cat food cans. It does not matter that I usually get up several hours later; Silas will want to be fed. As far as Silas is concerned, when I get up, it is breakfast time. Typical cat logic-- I use it on Joe and MacLeod all the time. I don't think either of them has caught on yet, being both dog lovers. I like dogs, but cats take care of themselves better.

I pick a can at random and open it. No cat appears. Silas is not shy about showing up for food. This is very strange.

"Si-las," I call quietly (even that makes my head throb). "Ki-ki- ki...C'mon, Silas. Have a little pity, eh? It has been a bad night." No response, I come back out into the living room/bedroom. "Silas? Silas, where the Hell are you?"

The cry is faint. It comes from my bed and makes my blood chill. I hurry over to the bed.

"Silas?" I venture. The cry comes again, much louder, but muffled. I drop to my knees and peer around the back of the bed, where I stick in the nightlight. Silas is there, crammed up against the wall. He is covered in vomit, and panting in agony and terror.

"Oh," I say, in a small voice that I would never, ever use in front of a human being. In fact, I sound almost like Silas. "Silas, what have you done?"


Four years and you haven't found out yet. That's pretty good. I know you like to snoop through my files whenever you think I'm not looking. I had to write this down on paper, the old fashioned-way, which is kinda risky. Or maybe you found out already, Old Man.

No. I think you'd bring it up if you had.

Pull back, Dawson. Get with the program. This is a chronicle, not a letter. Stop hoping you'll get into his chronicles through the back door. You drew the line, remember?

"Look, let's make this real simple: I'm a Watcher. You're an Immortal. It's not my job to make your life easier."

I still can't believe I said that; no wonder you called me a hypocrite! Talk about drawing a line in the sand. I am so lucky you did not knock me on my ass. Mac would have. Jesus, what a horrible day that was: fighting with you, nearly losing Amy, nearly losing you, having to choose between you, not being able to.

You ever regret saying something so much it feels like somebody else saying it while it's coming out of your mouth? Of course you have. How about, "I did it because I liked it"? That one's a classic. Remember that conversation? Mac told me all about that--with colour commentary from Cassandra.

"What do you want from me, Joe? Oh, now you need my help. I'm an Immortal, you're a Watcher, but we're in league together? Sounds a lot like 'interference' to me!" Of course you would throw my own words back in my face.

My mom used to say, "Be careful what you spit out in anger. You may have to eat it later."

"Who'd ever have thought I'd end up with a Watcher as my best friend?" That one came out of left field. Most of your home truths do. I have to ask you about that. Did you really mean it? I have to know, Old Man. You owe me that much. Don't tell me who my friends are. You can stop reading this any time, you know. By the time anybody else reads this, I'll be dead, so I really don't give a rat's ass what they think. Maybe you'll be dead, too. Five thousand years or five decades--doesn't make you any less mortal. You know that.

Methos, if you ever read this journal...I'd better already be dead. You never talk about that Watcher six centuries ago. Did you know he kept a journal on you? Did he give it to you at the end? Or did you write it yourself, as a little joke on us? When you mention me to the next guy, six centuries from now, speak well, okay?

Forget it, Dawson. He's never gonna read this. Amy will find it with my things and turn it in to the Watchers after my funeral. Twenty years later, it'll get filed under 'Adam Pierson's sick jokes'. Get on with the chronicle:

I went down to Mac's this morning. I'd had a late night, but we were supposed to go out somewhere for breakfast, catch up on things while his wife Kate is in Zurich for a week. Was, I should say. I got down to the barge and there was his car, no sign of Mac. Great. Either he'd overslept, which he doesn't generally do, or he'd gone out on some quickie errands, or maybe something had happened to him. On the off-chance that I'd caught Mr. Morning Person in bed, I went up the gangplank and knocked on the door. It was weird, but I could have sworn I heard two voices in there. I waited, didn't hear much. Just as I was fishing out my cell phone to call him up, the door opened and Mac appeared, pulling on a bathrobe.

"Joe!" he said.

"Uh, Hi," I said. I barely restrained myself from saying, *Amanda back in town?* That would have gone over well, even if this was the way he used to look during one of her visits. Kate must have gotten back early.

"Oh, God," Mac said, echoing my thought. "Joe, I'm so sorry. Kate came back from Zurich late last night and I forgot all about breakfast."

"I see." This woman was turning into a real pain in the ass. She had a way of showing up just when Mac and I were supposed to go do something. I could have slept in. Then again, it's not as if Mac ever really needed a reason to blow me off before. I stomped on that little thought. Mac and I are friends, but we've never been pals. I'm finally dealing with the fact that we never will be. Mac was doing his distancing thing again, and I was just gonna have to live with it.

"I'll make it up to you," Mac said. "I'll come by later. I'll buy you lunch, someplace nice."

"Yeah, sure," I conceded. I listened to him give me the whole song and dance, but I knew when I'd been dismissed. He went on a lot longer than he needed to, trying to make it look honest. Why do newlyweds do that? They think the rest of us have got nothing better to do than hang around listening to them beg off a meal? I let him run on for a few minutes, then wrapped it up and said my goodbyes. At least he had the decency to watch me go back down the gangplank and over to my truck before he waved to me and closed the door. Score one for Kate, Joe nothing. I went over to the bar.

"My head hurts, my feet stink and I don't love Jesus. "It's that kind of mornin', "really was that kind of night. "Tryin' to tell myself that my "condition is improvin' and if I don't "die by Thursday I'll be roarin' Friday night."

My first clue that you were gonna be a pain in the ass today came with the music. Nothing more appropriate for a hangover morning than Jimmy Buffett at top volume. You'll never be what I'd call 'clingy' or 'dependent', but 'high-maintenance'? You have your moments. And man, were you ready for your close-up this morning.

*Uh, oh,* thinks I, as I stumped in through the door. The jukebox tune dominated the empty bar. My morning bartender, a Scottish college student due back up in Edinburgh next week, gave me a harassed look before disappearing into the back storeroom. You sat at one of the tables in the back, leaning far back in your chair with your feet propped up on the table, my only customer so far.

"Hey! Get your feet off my table!" I yelled. "You know better than that!" You responded with a shrug and a dismissive snort, but you did put your feet down, letting the chair plonk back onto the floor. Old Man in a mood at twelve o'clock.

"Something tells me your date didn't go so hot last night." I approached the table cautiously, the way I would any snake pit. The last time I saw you, you were disappearing into a taxi with a Monica Lewinsky look-alike at midnight. Maybe she turned into a pumpkin halfway home. I hadn't seen you that drunk in over a year.

"Yeah?" You drained your beer. I hoped it was the first one of the day. "What makes you say that?"

"Oh, I dunno. The choice of music, maybe? Jimmy Buffett has a bad effect on you."

"Give it a rest, Joe," you growled. "I had about two hours of sleep last night and my cat's at the vet. It is--" you turned your wrist to look at your watch, "--10:30 in the morning and my day is already in the bog, all right?" Great. This would be the morning after I'd stayed up until two a.m. teaching some new talent the ropes.

"Uh, okay," I sat down across from you. You stared at the table. "What's wrong with your cat?" I tried to come up with some vital stats on said cat. No dice. Not even a name.

You sniffed. "The vet thinks he ate something poisonous...probably while he was outside. He hadn't got into anything in the apartment."

"Well, he's gonna be okay, though, right?" I felt stupid about showing concern over a cat. Then again, I suppose it wasn't really the cat I was worried about.

You looked me in the eye. "No, Joe. He's probably gonna die."

"Oh. God, Methos. I'm sorry." The dead look on your face hurt. I hoped you weren't gonna start crying again, the way you did a few weeks ago. The last time you did that, I couldn't get you to stop for over an hour. Had to put on a Monty Python video to cheer you up. You didn't break down this time, though--just shrugged, and sucked down more beer. I admit that worried me more. I decided to change the subject. "So...how did it go with the girl last night?"

Your face turned even grimmer. "Oh. That. The night before was lovely. It was the morning after that wasn't so wonderful."

I snickered, considering the possibilities behind that statement. "What, did her boyfriend get out of jail?"

"Huh." You smiled sadly. "You always can find a worse scenario, eh, Joe? Are you speaking from experience? No. She just had to go to work early, so she booted me out at six a.m. Guess she didn't trust me in the house alone. Can't blame her, I suppose. And on top of that, some Immortal is stalking me."

That *bitch*. I knew I should have got her off you. "Jesus. Methos, it's only Monday."

You snorted. "I know. I keep telling myself that it *could* be worse-- although I'm still trying to work out how, exactly. I don't want to tempt any of the gods who might be listening in and enjoying all this." I could see you sinking into the tarpit of yet another marathon depression. Godammit. We just went through this three weeks ago! Don't they have some kind of Immortal Prozac? Don't keep doing this to me, Methos.

"Life's vindictive," I reassured you, "not God." Which is a big, fat lie, but we all gotta tell our friends some porkies from time to time.

"Maybe in your lifetime, Joe. And since when did you get religion?"

I picked up an ashtray and set it on end, twirling it on the table. "I didn't. I just had to come to terms with a few things after I lost my legs." You know, it's the funniest thing, but after Ahriman offered me back my legs for betraying MacLeod--and I told him to go screw himself--I felt as though I'd passed some kind of test. I mean, this was Ahriman, Bad Guy of the Ages. Killed all these people, had Mac running scared, drove you right out of your tree, and when it came right down to it, he couldn't kill one old Blues musician with no legs for telling him where to go. Weird, huh?

"Augh." You hung your head and rubbed the back of your neck. "I really hate when you do that. I could do with a little less perspective today, okay?"

Ow. I dunno, Dawson. Was that a little too much angst, maybe? "Sorry. I don't mean to kick you while you're down. Have you seen this Immortal? Gotten any challenges?"

You shook your head. "Whoever it is has not shown up. I've just felt a presence, and then it goes fast, as if the person wants to keep me in sight, but stay out of range."

I scratched my beard. "Shit. Why can't your life be simple?" Whoever it was, I sure hoped it wasn't Cassandra. I decided I'd better check out who was in town.

You snickered. "What, like MacLeod's?"

"Mac's life *is* simple compared to yours. You're just more quiet about it." Mac has a lot more people after him than you do, but that's because most of your enemies are dead. The few left would give Ahriman a run for his money. I decided not to mention this morning's abortive meeting with Mac. You don't like Kate, either; I didn't need you egging me on. "Look, I'll check into this phantom Immortal of yours, see who's in town. I'm sure your cat will be fine and as for the girl...she's not worth it. To be honest, she looked like a total idiot. I don't know what you were thinking. Then again," I added slyly. "I guess you weren't exactly *thinking* last night."

Were you ever not thinking. I was up on stage most of the evening, so I missed most of the courtship, such as it was. I think she made the first move, since you started the night sitting alone, drinking yourself half- blind. At one point, when I asked for requests, you yelled out "Copa Cabana". Smart ass. We played it anyway. I thought my bass player was gonna hurt himself.

'Monica' came in around ten with some friends, all of them young, rich and loud. About ten thirty, I saw her at your table, whispering sweet nothings in your ear. You were laughing. Looked like she had some kind of bet going with her friends, and you were it. By eleven thirty, she was in your lap, with her tongue halfway down your throat. It seemed a little crude for you. I mean, you've been romping in the fields with the ladies since the Stone Age, but still.... It's just not your style. I got busy with the new band, though, and I let it go. Next thing I knew, you were headed out the door with her, desperately in need of a hotel room before you got yourselves arrested. You seemed happy, so I let you go.

"Oh, I was thinking," you said now. "I just wasn't doing it with my head. But it's not that. I...I don't know. I don't seem to have any luck in that, anymore." Ahh. Suddenly, the epic hangover made a whole lot of sense.

"You're still missing Alexa." You didn't reply; you looked ashamed. Why didn't I see it sooner? "There's no set timetable for grief, Old Man. You yourself said you couldn't find a woman like her in ten lifetimes, so getting over her in six years might be a little premature." Alexa. You must be more messed up than I realised if you thought 'Monica' could help you forget her, even for one night. Jesus, what a mess.

"We didn't have enough time," you said softly, after a moment.

I sighed. "No. You didn't." No one ever does. Poor Old Man.

"We should have had more."

"Yeah. You should have, but you didn't." I studied you. You looked depressed and too thin. Why didn't I notice that before? "Look, there are other ways to not be lonely than to get into one stupid relationship after another. I should know. You're obviously still on the rebound. Give it some more time."

You made a face. "Six years is already a long time." Hey, I hear that.

"Methos," I said frankly, "I know you can do celibacy. And your heart needs a good, long rest. Try giving your johnson a rest, too. It's not gonna drop off." This got a chuckle out of you, which was a pretty good sign. "If necessary, you can always renew your acquaintance with Mr. Hand, or you could go to one of those massage parlours, or something."

You rolled your eyes. "With all due respect, Joe, I got that last night for free. Paying for it tonight is not going to improve my mood. Besides, I hate that...look they get. If you're paying any attention to them at all, you can always spot that glazed look in the eye, the one that says she'd be looking at her watch if she were wearing one. Paying a woman so I can bore the shit out of her does not appeal to my ego--or my 'johnson'."

"I'm just laying out your options here." Fair enough. You had a point. Not that I've had the guts to try a prostitute since 'Nam. Unlike you, I can get me a social disease from that kind of fun.

You rubbed your face. You've been looking tired lately. Old Man, what am I gonna do with you? "I hear what you're saying, Joe. I just wish I didn't keep buggering things up every time." You sighed. "Maybe it's old, bad karma."

I snorted. "Oh, knock it off." Self pity, now, I can handle with my eyes closed.

"I'm trying to understand what I did wrong, Joe," you whined.

"Don't bother." Time for a reality check, harsh as it was. "I'll be the first to admit that you're not perfect. And you can be a real pain in the ass. But in this case, I don't think you did anything wrong. It wasn't you; it was her. She came in here last night, obviously on the make. You were already drunk, and I guess you fit her profile for the night. I thought about getting her off you, but then it occurred to me that you've been around the block a few hundred times more than I have. You're a big boy; you can take care of yourself. And you sure didn't look unwilling, even allowing for all the booze on your already bloated bar tab. I'm sure she had a very good time. I sure hope *you* did, because I don't think you're ever going to see her again. There are plenty of nice women out there, Methos. You know that. Forget her and move on."

"Yeah. Yeah, I know." Which meant, as it always does, "Get off my case."

"Well, if you *know* already, quit moping and get on with it." I pushed myself up out of the chair. "I've got a bar to run, and you're scaring the shit out of that poor Scottish kid I got on the morning shift. The last thing you need to be doing is drinking all day on top of last night. Here." I dug into my pocket and pulled out some money. "Here's twenty Euros. Go see a movie, take a nap. Just get out of here and do something different for a couple of hours." I tried to hand the money to you, but you only stared at it. I set it on the table. I wasn't about to let you keep doing this to yourself.

"I don't know," you muttered. "The vet was supposed to call...."

"So? You've got an answering machine. You can check it once you get home."

You raised an eyebrow. "I gave them this number." Great. I've become your second home.

I shook my head, more amused than annoyed, to be honest. "You would. Fine. I'll take a message, okay? Just get out there. It's a nice fall day. The rain's cleared up. Go do something non-depressing."

"Yeah...yeah, all right." You took the money and got up slowly. Rubbing your face and looking most of your five thousand years, you headed for the door.

"Try getting some sleep, first, before you do anything else," I called after you. The door closed behind you before I heard any kind of response.


Coming out of Joe's, I consider taking my truck. Mmm, maybe not the best of ideas. I hop on the Metro, instead, get off at Cite and go over to Notre Dame. The visit is a colossal mistake. I have mixed feelings about that old Gothic monster on my best days. I can never shake the memory that once it wasn't there, that it has not always been holy ground. Today, the incense laden gloom that even a bright day cannot dispel and the mutterings of the ubiquitous old women in the central pews, rattling through their rosaries and their prayers, oblivious to the equally ubiquitous tourists who wander the inside perimeter of the dark walls, oppress me. The fact that Shakespeare & Co. is just around the corner does not help my mood. I really do not need to brood over Don's death today. I'll go wander through the Louvre, instead.

The Louvre is crowded with loud Germans and shrieking children of various linguistic persuasions. Why can't they all bloody well go home? Today, it is indeed a small world after all, and the museum is as bad as the Parc Zoologique de Paris in summertime. I like zoos, but not when the weather is hot. The animals look listless and harassed. I always feel a nearly irresistible urge to even the odds for the large predators by tossing some incorrigible brat into the lions' enclosure. Pity that the only large predators at the Louvre are bored university students on the make. Maybe I should drive out to the safari park in Thoiry and watch tourists deselect themselves from the gene pool by rolling down their windows in front of the lions. But that would involve driving. Ugh. Maybe not.

I am really too tired to be out in public. What if I ran into a challenge? I am not in any shape for that. But if I go back to the apartment, I would have to spend the next half hour behind my bed, trying to clean up cat blood and vomit before I could consider being able to sleep on top of it.

I don't want to face losing Silas, not yet. Silas is the last of the three cats that I brought back from my sojourn in Cameroon in the winter of 1991. Kronos died of a liver tumour only eight months after his namesake lost his head at Bordeaux in 1997. Caspian died of kidney failure three months after I came back from that Ahriman-induced walkabout in '98. I still remember how Silas sat in the kitchen and yowled every night for several months after I had Caspian put to sleep. I did everything I could-- both kind and unkind--to make Silas stop, but nothing worked.

Then, he turned clingy. He was constantly underfoot, or on my lap, or sitting on my head whenever I tried to sleep. Some nights, even when I had essays to correct or a thesis chapter to write, I would leave the house just to get away from that damned cat. I'd either go down to Joe's or walk the streets. I didn't have a lot of friends that I felt I could just drop in on, and MacLeod was hardly ever around anymore. I had hoped to keep all three cats for at least 10-15 years, but it was not meant to be. Poor Silas is only 11.

It is a stupid idea to keep pets, anyway. Their lives are so brief that the moment that I become attached to them, it seems, they are gone. Bad enough to befriend Mortal humans. Yet, the apartment is so empty without animals in it. Humans and beasts shouldn't live apart. It's one of the things that I can tolerate least about modern life, this complete separation from the natural world. With all the light pollution, you can scarcely see the moon now in Paris, let alone the stars. And with all the new climate changes, the seasons seem to be running together more and more. Not that it matters. With central heating for winter and air conditioning for summer, I can no longer tell what season it is unless I go outside--and who the Hell does that anymore?

I decide to take a walk, crossing the Seine and heading west towards the Champs de Mars, which also brings up unpleasant memories. I really should leave Paris for a few decades, until I forget a bit more. As I wander down a street not far from the Eiffel Tower (may you rot in Hell, Kalas), I notice a temporary exhibition set up in a gallery. It is for the Committee of Truth and Reconciliation. I have heard of them; they're from South Africa. They engage in bringing the racial crimes of the Apartheid era to light, but their focus is healing the rifts in South African society, rather than punishment. Their mission is controversial, to say the least. There are many, many people in South Africa who do not wish to be cheated of their revenge.

I shouldn't go in. I should not go in. I know that I will regret it. And yet...I go in. It is like picking at an old scab, one that keeps rehealing wrong.

Just inside the door, there is a visitors' book. On impulse, I sign it, 'Adam Pierson, University of the Sorbonne', just to leave a mark. I never did leave a mark when I was there.... My head aches. I shouldn't be in here, not today. I am not up for a panicked flight down memory lane. I turn to look at the room. It is a simple gallery set-up, with photos hung on the wall and on dividers set up lengthwise along the rectangular room. Harmless enough. Drawn by the ordinariness of the room, I move closer to the photos, start to examine them. They are, as you would expect, pretty grim. The less harrowing ones (but only if you had never lived there) detail conditions under which many South Africans lived--the checkpoints, the sad, rundown houses of the townships, the trash heaps, the beaten-up old cars and trucks and the even more battered roads. The rain, the mud and the dust. I remember the dust....


South Africa, 1984

Another long day of teaching done, I trudge home through the township to my house--a tin roof, flaking cement walls and floor. One room, and a latrine in the backyard that I share with my neighbours. No water, no electricity. My home. There are no paved roads in the township, so I wade through dust when it's dry, sticky mud when it rains. Why waste money on the Blacks, or on the few Whites who work for them?

It is not so bad as all that for someone like me. When you spend forty- nine centuries without something, it is difficult to see it as a necessity-- especially in a warm place like Africa, where it isn't. I still do not know why I came down here. I was looking for a sanctuary, I think, tired of being hunted like some rare predator, trying to make my trail even colder than before. It certainly was not for my love of humankind. I ache just thinking about who might be after me.

The sun is setting. I need to get inside. Creatures that I do not want to meet come out in the dark--scorpions and snakes, 'domesticated' animals like pigs. I trudge past a dusty old truck. It would be nice to have a truck, but I cannot afford one on my teaching salary. If the school did not provide me with housing, I couldn't afford that, either.

I walk up the porch steps and go to unlock the padlock on my door. People in town tell me that, in the old days, you didn't need to lock your door. These are not 'the old days'. These are the days when the Government is cracking down on all political protest--and there is plenty of that. Crime and gangs are rising like a thermometer's mercury in boiling water. We hear about demonstrations, the destruction of entire shanty towns and mass arrests, all the time. The students are restless and angry, looking for a vent. These are the days when well-meaning people all over the world are pulling out their investments in South Africa, in order to force the government to abolish Apartheid. They do know, don't they, whom the Government will make pay first as the economy nosedives? And they do know what people at the bottom of a bad economy are forced to do in the end, don't they? No. Of course they don't. Bloody humanitarians. It all has to be black and white for them.

The padlock is what alerts me first to trouble; it is broken. The corrugated tin door hangs almost open. I pause outside, hearing the movements of at least three men waiting inside my house.

They are not Immortals. I cannot feel a Buzz. It would be wisest not to go in. I know that whatever these men are here to do, it won't be pleasant for me. A gang has moved into the township in the past month--four young men whose fortunes did not fare well in the crime community of Johannesburg. Having failed in the city they have returned home to their township--to find a White man teaching at the local school. I knew I should have taken my chances in Johannesburg, but I was completely skint and Jacob, the local headmaster, assured me that it would be all right. I would have been sleeping rough on the streets, probably arrested and in jail by now, if he hadn't taken me in. Why can there never be any simple solutions in life?

Those three boys have been giving me dark looks all week. The only person in the township who has been acting colder towards me is the young girl in my English class whom I flunked. She is very angry with me, and has been harassing me after school, trying to get me to change my mind. She does have some raw talent. If she had put half the effort into her classwork that she is now putting into trying to talk me round to giving her a passing mark, she would have done so well. But no. It is never the ones who work hard who complain the most about bad grades. She is young and pretty, and she has the role of Victim down to an art. The conscious part of her undoubtedly thinks that she will become a movie star or a model in America. The unconscious part knows that she will be lucky to leave this village, so why bother? Might as well get down to the business of getting pregnant with the first of nine children and becoming old and fat as soon as possible. At 14, she might even be starting late.

It is difficult for me to call this 'bad' and not sound like a raving hypocrite, considering my own past history with women. I have murdered every age from old crones to babies. I've enslaved girls younger than she, who were dead by her age. Yet...to see so many women go from cradle to grave with so little joy in between makes me sad. With so few opportunities for pleasure, they are geniuses at squeezing out what they can. Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on the girl. If only she would just take her own road to Hell without trying to drag me along with her, I'd be happy to let it be.

I shouldn't go in. I should not go in. I know that I will regret it. I go in. It is my house, damn it.

"Look, boys, it is Mr. Adamson, our schoolteacher," the ringleader, Eli (I think), says. He is lounging in one of my chairs, next to my coffee table. His three mates slouch in my other chairs (I have four for visitors). They snicker. I would like to know where my dogs have gone off to. Then, I see that one of Eli's mates has a long piece of pipe. No. Maybe I do not want to know where my dogs are, after all.

"Hello," I say, as colourlessly as I can. "What a surprise to see you in my home. What can I do for you this evening?"

"Mr. Adamson, we been hearing bad bad things about you." Johansen smirks at me, with the lidless glare of a bully. "We been hearing you mess around with your girls."

"'You've been hearing'?" I keep my face blank. "You seem unsure of your information, Mr...Eli, is it? Perhaps your source is not so reliable?"

"You got a big mouth." Which means that he has nothing better than a rumour or two, at best. "We been watching you some time, White boy. You like our women much much."

I chuckle. "What, I let Mary Sobukwe give me free beer a few times a month and that's being familiar?" I like Mary, who runs the local shebeen, the township's inevitable illegal bar. She has a hard life. Thirty-five years old, three hundred pounds, two husbands killed by the diamond mines, ten kids--six of them still living--breathing and heart problems that will probably kill her before she turns forty. She has a big heart, and ohhh, did she pick the black marble in life.

And you know what? Two nights after her five-year-old daughter died of an asthma attack, I walked into her bar. Mary was sitting there, all alone, crying quietly. I went up to her and hugged her and told her it would get better in the end, if she let it. Well...Mary's body may be worn out, but her heart's not dead. She deserved a little joy, and anyway, she was damned good in bed.

But Eli is not interested in Mary. She is over twice his age and much too fat for his tastes, I'm sure. He has just confirmed a suspicion of mine. He has hated me since he first saw me in this township. Tonight, he is going to do something about it.

"Little boy," I say pleasantly, "are you threatening me?" I see his face turn hard.

"What do you think?" he snarls. Force the situation now, while I still have any control over it.

"I think," I say, "that you should get the Hell out of my house." His face twisted with rage, the boy with the pipe club leaps out of his chair and throws himself at me. I step to one side and let him stumble out through the door. But the other three come close behind him, crashing into me before I can block or sidestep. I am knocked back out onto the porch, like a water buffalo being brought down by lions. I trip and fall off the edge, landing on the ground hard, with three of them on top. In the mad scramble, I can feel them going for my arms, to pin me down. Eli has a knee in my stomach, grinning down at me. Bastard. You little bastard! I wrench my arms free, reach up, grab his head and twist that vicious smile sharply to one side. The snap of his neck breaking is audible, even above the fight. Eli's smile disappears and his body drops on top of me, smothering me. The other two let go, as if I had turned into a spider. Small surprise. A woman screams from down the road. The voice sounds familiar, but I am busy trying to get loose of Eli's body. If I can keep the other two at bay, keep them afraid, maybe I can get to the shebeen and safety.

Then...a blur to the side before my sight explodes in black stars. The fourth boy comes in hard with the piece of pipe. I flip onto my side, stunned. Another blow, and my vision flattens to black.


Paris, Present Day

"It is you. I knew it! Benjamin Adamson. It *is* you!" A woman's voice, oddly familiar, jolts me out of my reverie. I turn to see a black woman in her early 30s, tall and anorexically thin, approaching me as if I were the worst nightmare she has ever had. A stocky, teenaged girl with a club-foot limps after her.

"Mother," she says, pulling at the woman's arm. "Leave him alone. Please. It's not him." The woman stops her advance, but she does not stop staring at me, eyes wide with horror.

"It is. It is him, Mary! He's come back. He killed your father. He killed my Eli! He's finally come to kill me!" She puts her hands over her open mouth and begins to cry, loudly and theatrically. And yet, her grief and madness seem very real.

"No, Mother," the girl soothes her. "That man died 18 years ago. You know that. You saw it." 18 years? No. It can't be. It has to be some horrible coincidence.

"No! No! He's a witch! He came back from the dead! I saw him! He can live forever!" The woman's wail, muffled by one hand over her mouth, sounds clear enough to me as she points at me.

I cannot seem to get my breath. It is too hot in here, too dusty. Now, I remember the voice. She was 14 years old, at the time, and a terrible student, but I remember her. I didn't know she was stepping out with that bastard Eli. That explains a few things. I back away towards the door, knocking a display awry in my haste.

"Please." The girl--Mary? Is her name really Mary? She obviously wants to reassure me. There must be something in my face.... "Don't go," Mary pleads. "My mother, she has these spells. She's not dangerous. Don't leave. Please!" There is a desperate tone to her voice as I keep backing away, as if this is how she meets, and loses acquaintance with, an entire host of strangers. Too bad. She will just have to live with losing this one, too.

"Stay. Away. From me." My voice comes out thick and congealed as blood drying in the sun. "Just stay away from me!" I crash against the door, the impact startling me. I scrabble for the doorknob. As it turns in my hand, I think that I understand what is going on behind that woman's eyes, because I feel the same thing, watching her daughter limp after me, dragging her foot. The damned door won't open! My body is blocking the way. I twist around, feeling Eli's head in my hands, the dust choking me. I yank at the knob. The door opens a few inches, and I slip through, barely ahead of Mary and her dragging walk. Once outside, I run like Hell.


I was setting up the bar for the afternoon when the last man I ever wanted to see walked in. David Gabrieli, the new European Section Head of the Watchers, was a tall, dark-skinned man with a soft, American Tidewater accent and a reputation for being a major hardass. His predecessor, Jason Anders got demoted a few weeks ago, after his wife found out he'd promoted his mistress to a supervisory position over her. Whoops. One Hell of a mess, but it made it real easy to cover your tracks--until now. I'd been hoping to avoid any direct encounters with this new guy while he cleaned house, but with rumours floating around that the mysterious Methos was back in town, I knew it would only be a matter of time before Gabrieli called me in. I didn't expect him to come to me. Not sure I liked that at all.

"The famous Joe Dawson, I presume?" Gabrieli said, sliding onto a stool with a grace that I envied bitterly the moment I saw it. I never envy your grace, any more than I would envy a great cat being hunted in the wild or caged in a zoo. You paid for it in blood. Gabrieli acts like it's his birthright. Those guys always do.

Man, I'll just bet Gabrieli would love to get hold of the above paragraph. Real professional, Joe. Why don't we just cut to the chase? My boss is a complete son of a bitch. Stop laughing, Old Man.

"You must be David Gabrieli, my new boss," I said. Might as well start off polite. "What's your poison?"

"Oh, a little early for the strong stuff, I think," Gabrieli said, with clear regret. Maybe he wasn't such a jerk, after all. Hey, I could dream. "I'll take a Coke."

"Sure thing." I got myself one, too, since I never drink on duty. Gabrieli's drink was on the house, of course, but it did torque me off a little that Gabrieli just seemed to assume that. After I filled up both glasses, I set them out and got down to business.

"So, what brings you to my humble bar, Mr. Gabrieli?" I asked, and smiled ingratiatingly, in case it worked.

Gabrieli rested his forearms on the bar. "Mr. Dawson, you have quite a reputation in our organisation, did you know that?"

"Yeah, I've had my share of adventures." Better tread warily here. "Why? Am I in some kind of trouble?"

"Not exactly." Gabrieli rested his chin on his hands. "I'm told that you just recruited a new Watcher, Jerry Merrick."

Dammit, I knew that kid would blab. "He saw a Quickening and he'd been friends with a very old Immortal. Seemed a waste to just shoot the poor kid."

"We prefer the term 'liquidate', Mr. Dawson," Gabrieli said coolly.

"Only if you've never had to do it." I have. "Me, I prefer to call an execution an execution, if that's what I'm talking about."

"I see." Gabrieli probably did. I've heard he was a field agent for 15 years. The guy's no tyro. That's the problem. "Well, I'm sure that he'll fit in just fine, once he's done his training in the Academy. Saw a Quickening, did he?"

I knew where this line of questioning was going. "Yeah. Marcus Atticus. The guy they figured for Spartacus."

"Umhmm. Except that when I phoned our new friend Jerry up the other day, he said that Spartacus is alive and well. In fact, he said that Spartacus was the Immortal who took Atticus' head."

"Really. He never told me that." Jerry, we need to have a chat about your big mouth.

"Now, that is funny--considering that, according to Jerry, the other Immortal was a friend of yours."

I drank my Coke, playing for time and silently swearing to wring Jerry's neck, the first chance I got. "Jerry's a little confused," I said. Definitely a chat--a quiet chat, preferably with some hired muscle dangling Jerry out of a window by his feet while I told him how it was gonna be. Maybe I could get you to help.

"That's understandable, I suppose," Gabrieli conceded. He played with the lemon in his Coke. "Rumour has it that Adam Pierson is in town."

*Whoops. Here we go,* thinks I. "Yeah? I'm surprised. Didn't he quit?"

"Watchers don't quit, Mr. Dawson, you know that." Gabrieli squeezed the lemon into the glass, crushing it. "Dawson, let me tell you a little bedtime story: once upon a time, there was an Immortal, a very, very old Immortal. One day, he decided to join the Watchers. Let's assume that it was just to avoid other Immortals, since no great hunting spree followed his entry into the organisation. He masqueraded as a young researcher, researching himself, as it turned out. And he hid very well for a decade, or so. Then, one day, he quit, burned off his tattoo and vanished. With him went, of course, a lot of valuable research. He made fools of the very people who were supposed to observe him, but he got away with it. You would think that he would have cut his losses and run, but no. He kept coming back. Why do you think that is?"

"I wouldn't know, Mr. Gabrieli," I said as neutrally as I could. "It's your bedtime story."

Gabrieli leaned forward. All that mid-Atlantic hominess evaporated like fog on a cold breeze. "You tell your friend Pierson, when you see him, that we would have put a bullet in his head years ago, if we thought it would do any good. You tell him that he's damned fortunate that he's an Immortal--that he's such a very *old* Immortal--and that he comes under the Non-Interference Rule. You tell him that he is still a Watcher, whatever he may have done to his tattoo and that he is still subject to our laws. He may think that he can mock us and leave us behind in the dust, but he is wrong. The non-interference goes both ways, Dawson. If he flouts that, he is a dead man. Now, I do not want to be the Section Head responsible for Hunting Methos, but if he pushes me far enough, if he threatens us, I will do it."

"It's gonna be pretty hard for me to tell him that if I'm not supposed to have any contact with him," I replied coldly. What I thought was a lot less printable. I don't think I'll write it here.

Gabrieli smiled, just as coldly. "I am not going to bother to threaten a man who survived a death sentence from the Watcher Council. I know that you and your daughter have frequent contact with Pierson. You used to be friends when he still carried our tattoo, especially after Donald Salzer was killed. It's hardly surprising that you would feel a little protective of him. I have no problem with your maintaining your acquaintance." He leaned further across the bar. "All I am saying is: do not take it any further than that."

I leaned forward, too, until I was nose to nose with my new boss. "Don't tell me who I get to be friends with, asshole," I said, emphasising each word. "Like you said--the Council's already done its worst to me. Unless you're here with a gun and some seriously bad intentions, there is not a thing you can do to me."

Gabrieli broke the staring contest first, leaning back on his stool. "Not you, perhaps, but your old friend Pierson is a different story."

"What the Hell are you talking about?" My head felt pumped up with too much adrenaline and anger, my voice coming out cartoon-like, the way it does when you've been sucking on a helium balloon at the Circus. "According to you, he's an Immortal. He's off-limits. 'Sides, whether you like it or not, he quit."

"Nobody quits the Watchers, Joe. They might 'retire', like you tried to do a few years back, but they never quit." Gabrieli took his sweet time drinking from his glass. If I didn't know better, I'd have thought the man was trying to lower the tension in the room. "Pierson is a renegade. If he pushes it, we could put him on trial for desertion. He is a Watcher. We do have the authority." So much for a nice, quiet drink with my new boss.

You chose that really unfortunate moment to stagger into the bar. You were panting, like you'd been running for your life. Hard to blame you for the timing. Gabrieli is Mortal. You don't get any early warning from his kind of threat. Didn't make it any better, though. You looked...hunted, more dishevelled and miserable than when you'd left--which was *not* part of the plan, by the way. I started hoping Bossman would make this short so I could get you off to a corner and beat whatever story you had out of you. I tried to wave you off as you came in, but Gabrieli jumped in before I could get your attention.

"Adam Pierson," he said, sounding almost glad to see you. That was a neat trick. "Why, Dawson and I were just talking about you."

"Really." The look you turned on me seemed neutral enough. You didn't think I'd give you up to a slime like Gabrieli, did you? I hope not.

You coughed, then leaned against the bar and pulled yourself up onto a stool. "Company business?" you said, glaring at me. Yep. You did think I was selling you out. Thanks a whole lot, buddy.

"Something like that," Gabrieli said cheerily. He held out his hand, which you ignored. Smart you may be, but diplomatic, never. "I'm David Gabrieli, your new boss. Dawson was just telling me that you were out of town. He said he hadn't seen you in weeks."

"No. We've not been in touch." You smiled, looking very insincere and still more than slightly out of breath. You kept eye contact with me. I shook my head, very slightly. You needed to tread real carefully on this one. I hoped you'd take the hint.

"And yet, you were trying to get a job at Shakespeare & Company in August, and now I hear that you've bought yourself a bookstore." Gabrieli's grin had turned downright predatory. He let his hand drop.

"You know how we renegade types are, Gabrieli. We like to keep people guessing, go with our momentary impulses. We're funny that way. Joe, I could use a beer." So much for taking a hint. Now that you were getting your breath back, I could see you getting into it. A sword fight you can walk away from, but a good old-fashioned mud-slinging contest? Forget it.

"Coming up," I said, and began drawing one of my experimental drafts of the week. I didn't know if you were helping yourself by twitting Gabrieli or not (probably not), but I wanted a front row seat. I just hoped you wouldn't do something dumb and slip up. I didn't think Gabrieli had anything concrete on you--yet. That could change.

"Speaking of renegades," Gabrieli continued, unfazed, "You never did render an account to the Watchers of your conduct, either during your initial disappearance or now." He clucked his tongue disapprovingly. "And then there are all those rumours that you're an Immortal." I nearly dropped your pint.

You sniggered. "I've heard those. People seem to think that the only way I could have survived all that I have in the past ten years is because I am Immortal. Joe has been through just as much, if not more. Do you consider *him* an Immortal?" Hey! You leave me out of your fights next time. I'm just an innocent bystander. And while we're at it, stop discussing me in the third person. I don't do it to you, do I?

Giving you a dirty look (completely lost on you), I handed you your beer.

"Now, that is an interesting question," Gabrieli was saying, discussing me like a bug. "But the general consensus seems to be that he's not. After all, he does age, and he has suffered a permanent injury. It's not conclusive proof, since the injury wasn't fatal, but we tend to take it as proof that he is Mortal."

"Well, it seems to me that you don't have any more evidence to indicate that I am an Immortal than you do for Joe."

"Yes, you certainly do *seem* to have aged a little," Gabrieli sniped. Oooh. Catty. "Then again, it could just be that the past few years haven't been very kind to you. Being on the run from both the Watchers and any Immortal looking for your old research subject, Methos, must be wearing on you. Must have been a shock to find out he'd been one of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And to think we'd thought of him as the archetypal wallflower scholar." I thought I was gonna throw up right there, but you didn't even twitch at that. "By the way, I've heard another rumour about you--that you knew that Watcher from Seacouver who was found without his head last month. You were the one that the police asked to identify the body, after all. It seems a shame that Amy Thomas forgot to mention that in her report, since she gave you a ride home from the station. But I guess she was just trying to shield you from Watcher discipline."

"I've known many other Watchers," you replied, leaning your head on your hand. "Some of them have died. Are you accusing me of killing this guy?" Have you got a patent on that Adam Pierson act, or something?

"No, but I am wondering if you knew that he was Immortal."

"How do you know that he was Immortal?" I asked, trying to look innocent. The disgusted smirk on your face told me I wasn't doing a very good job of it. Too damned bad. You do worse when your blood's up.

"Aside from his headless condition?" Gabrieli smirked. "Oh, only the fact that several of the cars in the parking lot looked as though they'd been struck by lightning, and that much of the electrical power in the nearby buildings had been knocked out. There was a Quickening there, and the prime candidate for the person who provided that Quickening is our deceased Watcher." Shit. I hate observant bosses.

"I see," you said calmly, but not too convincingly. "And this has what to do with me? How was I supposed to know that he was an Immortal?"

"An interesting question. Several members of the Watcher Council have been pondering it themselves. I'm sure they would love to talk to you about it."

"Oh, I'll just bet!" I burst out. That would be some conversation, all right. Talk about wanting to have your lawyer present!

You batted your eyes at Gabrieli over the top of your pint glass; I choked down a laugh. I hate it when you do that. It's embarassing to watch. "Did you have any other bits of Watcher gossip to impart to either Joe or me," you asked blandly, "or have you pretty much finished with this little intimidation game?"

Gabrieli stood up to go. "Oh, I am finished, for now. I just wanted to bring you and Joe up to speed on where you stand with the organisation, Mr. Pierson--to clarify your position with us, so to speak. We'll talk again." I believed him. Gabrieli is a problem not likely to go away anytime soon. You need to start taking him seriously.

You shrugged off his threat. "You know where I live--and where I work, it seems--if you ever want to actually do anything about that."

We both watched Gabrieli retreat out the door. "That was some fishing expedition," you said brightly, as soon as he was gone. "Wonder if he thought he caught anything?"

I sighed in exasperation. "Do you have to alienate every Watcher you meet these days?"

You snickered. "Look who's talking."

"Yeah, yeah, okay." I waved that off. "I have my moments. I've been known to punch out a boss or two. You would know; you picked me up off the floor afterwards. The question is, what are we gonna do about this guy?"

Now, you looked unsure. "For now? I don't know. He's your boss, not mine. Wait until his next move, I suppose. I don't think he'll do anything for the moment. He's too cagey to just come in and warn us ahead of time if he had anything hostile planned. I'm sure I can handle him, though, if I have to." I didn't like the sound of that at all. You don't need to fall back on old, bad habits. "If I were you, I wouldn't get involved in this at all. You've got a bad enough reputation with the Watchers, already."

I picked up a glass and started polishing it so hard it nearly broke. This day was going downhill fast. "Oh, yeah? Well, I'm not you, and while we're at it, I think you're full of shit. If he'd been after my ass instead of yours and you could get him off me, you'd do it. And don't tell me you wouldn't, or that MacLeod talked you into it the last time blah, blah, blah. You always end up saving my ass in the end, when you have to."

You blinked at me. I think I flabbergasted you, for once. I don't usually admit to that kind of thing. "Um...okay," you said. "I would get involved, I guess."

"But you're right," I added, thinking out loud, mostly. "He's probably not gonna do anything for now. He was fishing all right, trying to get a hook into you, I think, and maybe anybody who knows you. Bastard."

"That he is." You nodded. "But for now, he's also your boss. It might be best if I make myself scarce for a few months."

"No!" You looked startled. "Please," I said, carefully putting down the glass so I wouldn't shatter it in my hand. "I don't have that many years left, Old Man. I can cover for you, really, if you'll let me." Jesus, Methos. Don't leave. Mac's done that enough to me already, and I get used to having you around.

The weirdest look came over your face. I'd swear in open court that it was the same look you got when I told you about Amy. Almost...protective. True to form, the moment didn't last. You looked down at your beer, picked it up and took a long swallow. What an obvious way to cover a feeling. I don't know why I never noticed that before.

"So, how come you just came in here lookin' like you had the other three Horsemen of the Apocalypse on your tail?" I said, anxious to change the subject. You glanced up at me, clearly startled. We never discussed the Horsemen, by mutual and unspoken agreement. I always suspected that you're still pissed off at me for positively identifying the surviving Horseman as Methos in my report. It's not like I had much choice. Cassandra has a big mouth, and her Watcher is no fool. I had to give a little to hide a lot in plain sight.

"Oh, that," you said. "I um...ran into someone unexpected."

"Your stalker with a Buzz?" I asked neutrally. You shook your head and I was relieved. With Gabrieli sniffing around, you really need to swear off the Game for a few months, at least. Not that you're the most active guy out there, but still....

"It was a Mortal," you said. "I didn't recognise her at first. She's grown up a bit."

*Shit.* "Did she recognise *you*?" I couldn't keep the edge out of my voice.

"Yeah, but as she seems to be barking mad, and nobody believed her, I think I'm okay." I let out a quiet breath of relief. "More or less," you added. God, I hate when you do that. Add a little more grey to my beard while you're at it.

"What do you mean, 'more or less'?" I snapped, more worried than I could admit out loud (sorry). "Is everything okay or not?"

You sighed. "You remember that bit of trouble I got into before I first came up here? She was mixed up in that."

I laughed in disbelief. "You're kidding. And here I always thought you were handing me a line of bull about that."


Paris, 1984

The cars pass by. I don't mind the ones that go by fast. They don't care. The ones that slow, they worry me. Not a good thing, since I'm hitchhiking. Too bad this uniform is proving such an asshole-magnet. Never thought of that the first time I ever put it on.


"Baby killer!"

"Fucking pig! Oink! Oink! Oink! Sooooooooweeeeeee!"

One van slows down, gravel crunching as it pulls over onto the shoulder. For a moment, I let myself think that it'll be okay. Just two girls, dressed like typical flower children, young and pretty. Couldn't be that bad, right?

Then, I see the eyes of the girl in the passenger seat as the van cruises by--red-rimmed and implacably blank. I can see what she's about to do, right before she does it. I cannot believe it, though, not even as she clears her throat. I just sit there stunned. She wouldn't do that to a guy in a wheelchair, would she? The gob of spit lands right on top of my medals. Yeah. Guess she would.

"Bullseye!" shouts the driver. Trailing shrieks of laughter, the van peels back out onto the road in a shower of gravel.

I lost my legs for this?


I blinked, yanked out of my reverie by one of the summer interns. Hadn't had a 'Nam dream in years. The one that woke me up this morning refused to go away. It just lay there, like a bad stain on the floor of my brain.

*Fugedaboudit, Dawson,* I told myself. *Ain't worth the time and hassle.* "Yeah?" I said.

"Somebody here to see you," the kid told me.

"Who is it?" The bookstore co-manager, Don Salzer, and I had been working on the bookstore's yearly audit for two days now. I hate doing the damned thing and I was getting real tired of being interrupted all the time.

"He wouldn't say. Just said he needed to see you."

I swore to myself in French and English. "Yeah, yeah. Okay. I'll be right there." I could use a break, anyway. I needed to get out of this office, clear the cobwebs from my brain. If I'd wanted to sit in a room all day for the rest of my life, I'd be living in a VA Hospital. I hate audits.

The intern went out ahead of me into the main reading area of the store. I saw him approach this kid sprawled in a chair by the door and shake him awake. I'd rarely seen a less remarkable human being in my life. As the guy yawned, stretched and stood up, I got a good look at him...and revised my first opinion downwards. He wore grey pants that used to be some other colour, a faded, ratty t-shirt that read "Anything a Man Can Do, A Woman Can Do Better" in big black letters, black, rubber sneakers holier than St Francis and a green fatigue jacket straight out of Goodwill. Not much for looks, either--short, dark, spikey hair (looked like he'd cut it himself), pasty face, five o'clock shadow, hound-dog eyes. He was a big boy, but badly underfed. This guy had 'homeless chic' written all over him. Shit. I don't like beggars. At all.

"The sign out front says 'No Panhandlers'," I told the guy sharply, "in English *and* French."

The guy gave me an odd look, then held out his hand. It was calloused and dirty, stained with what looked like oil or grease. He smelled not-so- faintly of rotten meat.

"Joe Dawson?" he asked, smiling like a kid trying to get the priest to let him acolyte the Christmas Eve midnight service.

"Yeah?" I said, ignoring the hand. This kid looked the type of acolyte that liked to swing the incense fit to fumigate the whole congregation.

"I'm Adam Pierson," he said. "Jacob in South Africa sent you a letter about me?"

I scowled at him. *This* was Adam Pierson? "That was five months ago. What the Hell did you do? Take a slow boat to China?"

Pierson smiled wryly. "I drove a caravan for a group of backpackers up through Central Africa. Then, I hitchhiked up here to Paris. I didn't have the money for a plane ticket, I'm afraid." His voice was a soft growl, British. Didn't quite fit his little-boy attitude.

An image from this morning's dream flashed through my head. I smothered it. I didn't need to adopt any strays. "I'm surprised your folks didn't cough up the dough for you--or are you not speaking to them?"

Pierson shrugged. "I'm an orphan."

"Oh." Nice going, Dawson. "Sorry. I didn't know."

"It's okay," Pierson said. "It was a long time ago." He peered hopefully at me. "Um, Jacob said you and he worked for the same international organisation? He said that you could use a good historical researcher."

Was this guy for real? "What did Jacob tell you about us?"

Pierson looked bewildered. Christ, how did these kids live long enough to breed? "He just said that you were a philanthropic organisation, that you had a lot of interest in various areas of history. Why? Is there something wrong?"

I sighed. "No. Nothing's wrong. What's your field of expertise?"

"Oh, you know. The usual." Pierson rubbed his eyes and yawned. "Ancient Near-Eastern History. Pre-Roman, mostly."

"Uhhuh." Figured. The kid was a total geek. A brilliant geek, too, from the sounds of the subject matter. Probably a complete innocent. I wondered how Pierson had managed to get all the way up through Zaire and the Central African Republic, let alone across the Sahara. Come to think of it, I wondered what Pierson had been doing in South Africa in the first place. Better not to ask.

Suddenly, Pierson turned even paler than he already was and swayed. Alarmed, I stepped forward and grabbed him, steadying him. I guided him back to the chair by the door.

"Hey, are you okay?" I said, as Pierson sank into the chair. He leaned forward, his head between his legs. Anxious, I patted his back. I sure didn't want him passing out in my bookstore.

"Yeah, yeah," Pierson said shakily. "I'm fine. I just--I haven't been eating very well, lately."

"When's the last time you ate?" I said, already kicking myself for getting involved.

"Um, yesterday...I think," Pierson said, panting a little. "Didn't have any money. That's why I was hitchhiking."

"Damn. Max!" The intern popped his head out from behind a bookcase. "Go get me a candybar. I know you got a stash." Max, bless him, didn't argue--just nodded and disappeared. He reappeared with several Mars bars. I handed one to Pierson.

"Eat it," I said. "You'll feel better." Pierson nodded wearily and fumbled at the wrapper. I grabbed it out of his hand, opened the wrapper and handed him back the candybar. Pierson bit into it. I watched it disappear faster than a rabbit into a magician's hat. After a few minutes, the kid got some colour back.

"Bet you could use some water, too, huh?" I said gently. Pierson nodded, looking too bewildered by the kindness to be grateful. So much for not taking in any strays. "Okay, look. You need to get some real food into you. Nothing challenging, just some soup or something, to start off with. There's a bar down the street that sells stuff. I'll take you down there. Get you a beer while you're at it."

Pierson coughed. "I can't pay for it," he said. No. They never can.

"Never mind that. Jacob offered you a job with us. I'll put it on the company tab, okay?" Pierson nodded. "Good. Can you walk?"

"Yeah, I think I'm okay, now." I held out a hand to help Pierson up, but the kid waved it off. He was tougher than he looked. Before he got up, Pierson reached around the chair and pulled up a faded black knapsack, a pair of sunglasses (mirror shades, no less!) and the strangest hat I'd ever seen. It was woven from what looked like dried-out palm leaves, round and pointy like a wizard's hat. Most of it was a yellowish white, except for faded, red leather trimmings and a chin strap--and a big, red leather bulb on top.

"What the Hell is that?" I exclaimed.

"This?" Pierson looked down at the hat in his hands and fingered the bulb. "It is a Fulani hat. I picked it up in Cameroon. Very good for keeping the sun off." And damned if he didn't put the thing on, cinch up the chin strap, shoulder the pack and put on those wicked, mirror shades. Then, he gave me another choirboy smile, which looked downright sinister with the shades. I just shook my head and laughed. Don was gonna love this kid. Pierson was even more eccentric than he was!

"Let's go, kid,"I said. I opened the shop door and led the way out into the street.


Joe Dawson. A straightforward name; a straightforward guy. He did not like me at all, initially. Thought I was a bum. He is right, of course, but why tell him that? There is a soft spot under that hard line, though. That near-faint did the trick. Wish I could say that I faked it. I try not to wolf down the soup and beer that he orders for me. I have starved to death enough times to know the drill. I do not want to vomit my first meal in days all over the bar. He sits and watches me while I carefully soak bread in the soup before eating it, grimacing and shaking his head at me when he thinks I am not looking.

Take it easy, Old Man. There will be other meals. Only one beer and I already feel light-headed. I must be more tired than I thought. Certainly, I am hungrier.

Surreptitiously, I look Dawson over in glances, as curious about him as he must be about me. Mid-thirties from the looks of things, but already turning grey. Bet he's had an interesting life. That cane.... There's something wrong with his legs; should I ask him about it? Maybe later. The clothes are a total cliche--casual chic. They look good on him, though. He looks like a man who enjoys a spot of Blues. I wonder if he plays at all?

I don't know. I don't know if I want to get to know this one. He is dangerous. Silly as it may sound, I still meet every person hoping that all will go well. That we will be friends. Some, though--it is almost irresistible, the urge to connect. There is a part of me that wants to look Dawson in the eye and blurt out, "Hello. My name is Methos and I'm an Immortal. I am 5000 years old and--will you quit scribbling and *listen* to me?"

Of course I cannot say that. He is a Watcher. His job is to Watch me, to record everything I say as if it were some oracular pronouncement, not to be my friend. The only way he can be my friend is if I lie to him. But if I lie to him, he can never really be my friend. This sounded like a much better idea when I was lying on the floor of Mary's shebeen in South Africa. Jacob had it all worked out. I still do not know why he is helping an Immortal infiltrate the Watchers.

As one of my young charges put it a month ago, while we pushed our stalled truck out of a two-foot-deep puddle, "This *sucks*!"

So far, Dawson seems to have bought my 'backpacking college student in over his head' act. Having just spent three months playing the Wise Old Git to twenty kids who fit that description exactly, it was not that difficult. Surreptitiously, I shift my ebony-handled Fulani shortsword to a place deeper inside my jacket. Wouldn't do for Dawson to see *that*. Not the right image at all. The sword sufficed for Africa, where the locals are not enthusiastic about headhunting, but it is a bit light-weight for this far north. I will need to get another blade very soon. Damn the Game. I wish I could find a way out of it for good.

"Feeling better?" Dawson asks as I finish the soup.

I nod. "Much. Thank you." I had thought Africa was bad, but at least there, the food was cheap, and when you couldn't pay for it, people might still feed you. Here, you cannot make currency on the curiosity value of a White face.

"Jesus Christ, kid," Dawson says. "You look like Sid Vicious playing back-up for the Clash. What did you get yourself into down there in Africa?"

"I was teaching in a little township near Johannesburg," I explain. "A gang moved in and they beat me up pretty badly. One of my students put them up to it because I had flunked her. Jacob sent me away before they could kill me." Well...not quite before, but I cannot tell Dawson that.

"Africa wasn't really the problem," I admit. "I ran out of money in Marseilles." Once there, I skipped out on the backpackers and their over- grateful parents, spent all my remaining money on a visa, and hitched a ride up the Rhone Valley on a truck. Most of my 'rides' didn't know about their stowaway. One suspicious bastard nearly caught me but I managed to get underneath the chassis and hang on until he got bored and went off to take a piss. Refrigerated pork bodies? Ugh. Cold and bloody. But, his was the only truck going in the right direction, so....

Dawson shakes his head and laughs a little. "Please tell me you're here on a valid passport and visa, at least." A practical man. I like that. So nice to get one after three months with the Lost Girls and Boys. I think Dawson and I will get along just fine. The difficult part will be maintaining my distance, I think.

I pull out my passport and hand it over. I had it altered to 'Adam Pierson' down in South Africa, so all the stamps are pretty much right. He flips through it carefully--more, I think, to make sure that the visa hasn't expired than to catch me out. My luck is holding. That is good. For a moment, back in the bookstore, I'd thought he was a bit suspicious of me. I am not in any shape to run again.

Danny's daddy will be right pissed if he ever finds out I was the one who nicked his wallet, but I am sure the little shit will talk him round. Danny wants to see the back of me as much as I wanted to be shot of him, I am sure. I had no money left and the little bastard never would have paid me for all that driving, otherwise. Heaven forbid that I mention to Daddy how I kept his precious boy from getting thrown *en prison* in Zaire for assaulting a gendarme. Or Danny's great affection for African grass--and I am not talking about the Savannah vegetation. Not that I minded sampling a bit, myself. When you can get a large bundle of reefers for the equivalent of a French franc, why not? I have smoked, eaten and drunk worse things. Take Haa, for example. Palm wine moonshine. Maybe you'll get a really solid drunk out of it. Or maybe it will drive you blind or barking mad. One pill makes you smaller....

Joe slaps my passport down on the bar in front of me. I start. "Hey, don't fall asleep at the bar," he says. Had I fallen asleep? It's so easy right now.

"Sorry," I say. I drain the beer.

"We got hotels in this town, you know," he says, then grins. He was just having me on. I grin back. I can live with that. I don't think he means anything by it.

"Are you sure you're okay?" he says, looking concerned. Ohh, Dawson, why couldn't you be a bastard? It would make this process so much easier. This is supposed to be a temporary hiding place, that's all, a small respite from the Game. I am not looking to get comfortable.

"Fine," I assure him. Define "okay", Dawson. I just spent five months driving drunk up the rutted, red roads of Africa, on a steady diet of boiled peanuts and Gordon's Gin mixed with grapefruit soda. My definition of 'okay' is a bit fuzzy these days.

So odd to play the Kid. I haven't in some time. When Danny hired me as a driver, the first thing he did when he met me was look me up and down and ask, "Where's your whip?" 'Indiana Ben' the kids called me. They oohhed over the sword when I first got it (before that, I made do with a machete). When we got to Cameroon, they bought me the Fulani hat as a joke. They were completely unprepared for Africa. They needed me.

By the end, I suppose some of them honestly did want to introduce me to their parents, but I had had enough. They'll be hurt by my desertion but they will get over it. Danny will not miss me at all. Accused me of sleeping with some of the girls, the little git. I am not that stupid. The only action I got in Africa after Mary was that prostitute in Bertoua. She was lovely--funny and brassy, so tough. Cameroonian women don't have pimps. Maybe that's why they seem so much happier than the "respectable" women.

"I'd better get you home to bed," Dawson says. "I got a couchbed for visitors. I can put you up for a week or two, until we find you a place."

I open my mouth to protest, but the truth is, I don't have any other options. "Okay," I say in a small voice. "I don't want to put you out, Mr. Dawson."

"Joe," he says firmly. "Just call me Joe. That's what my friends call me."


Paris, Present Day

You're worrying me, Old Man. You've been in lousy shape lately, and you do not need this crap so soon after whacking Atticus. You'd have to get into some sort of recovery period before you could have a relapse. I wish Sean Burns' former associates at the hospital were more helpful. They promised to send somebody down to at least talk to you, but I haven't heard anything from them in almost two weeks. As usual with you, I'm flying blind with no landing gear.

And don't tell me to quit "obsessing". You quit walking around with "Whack me" stencilled across your forehead in Immortal dayglo and I'll quit obsessing. Deal?

"You're sure this woman, this former student of yours, recognised you?" I asked you after Gabrieli left. I'm starting to agree with you--you are having one Hell of a week.

You rubbed your stomach as if it hurt. You looked like shit. "Yeah, Joe. I'm pretty sure, though I left there in kind of a hurry." That had the ring of epic understatement. "I suppose I had better call the vet about my cat." Gotta love your non sequiturs--right-brain thinking all the way down the line.

"No. Methos, stay with me here." I tried to make eye contact; you looked at the liquor rack behind my head instead. "What did this girl see? Did she have any grudges against you? Anything that would make her want to set you up or rat you out to anybody?"

"You could say that," you admitted. "I did kill her boyfriend."

"Really." This was bad. "How did that happen?"

"He came after me. He got too close. I snapped his neck." Your eyes were clear and bleak.

"Great. Perfect." I leaned against the liquor shelf and ran a hand through my hair. No wonder I'm turning completely white at 54. Look at my friends. "Please tell me that she wasn't there," I sighed.

"Oh, she was there all right." You drained your beer, then set it down, looking thoughtful. "You could say that she put him up to it."

"And then what?" I asked, because I knew there was more. There is always more with you.

"And then his friends beat me to death," you said. "Can I have another pint now?"

It got real quiet. "What?"

"I'd like another pint," you said. "Please."

"You told me when we first met that they just beat you up." I didn't want that image. I didn't *need* that image. And I thought you were some sort of innocent when you first walked into my bookstore. I thought I could protect you and Don from the big, bad world. How wrong I was.

You raised your eyebrows. "Well, I couldn't tell you the truth, now could I? Can I have the pint, now? I asked politely."

I really hate being right so much of the time. "No. I want you completely sober as you explain to me that there is no problem here. That this girl did not actually see you die. For sure."

"For sure?" You grimaced. "They whacked me in the head with a piece of lead pipe, Joe. Twice. How would I know what she saw after that? I'd really like a pint now, please. I'll even pay for it." I felt sick. How could human beings treat each other like that? It made me want to kill the little bastards. It made me want to pat you on the back and tell you it was gonna be okay, even if you laughed at me for it.

The door to the bar slammed open. So much for compassionate gestures. I went for the gun I've got stashed under the cash register. You jumped and half-turned, only relaxing when Mac stormed in. I took a very deep breath, let it out and slipped the gun back in place.

"Son of a bitch!" Mac was saying. "I can't believe the son of a bitch came back."

"Sorry?" you said, looking bemused, your hand still held out for the pint I wouldn't give you. I didn't blame you. I really did not need Mac barging in like this all the time. You're already screwed up enough, and dammit, Mac knows it. Your blood is still all over his barge. Gee, I hope poor little Kate can deal with that.

"Mac," I said. "You mind not busting in like that? I could have had customers." You rolled your eyes. I shot you an exasperated look. "Besides Methos, I mean." You are not 'a customer'. Don't you know that by now?

"Stephen Keane's in town," Mac said as he stomped up to the bar and dropped onto the stool Gabrieli had vacated a few minutes before. So much for preamble.

"Yeah?" I said, folding my arms. "That's nice." I figured this ought to be good.

You groaned and covered your eyes. "Not *again*. What is it with you and your penpals from history, MacLeod?" Your last and only encounter with Keane didn't turn out so hot, as I recall. I haven't heard a thing about Keane since the guy blew into town back in '97, looking to kill Mac. None of the principles involved bothered to tell me what was going on at the time--which really left me out in the cold, but what am I gonna do? I'm just supposed to be Watching you all, anyway. Mac mentioned the incident a few years later, but didn't supply a whole lot of details. I didn't push it. It's best not to with Mac. It's not as though I was Mac's official Watcher anymore by then, though my 'retirement' from his beat still seems to be news to Mac. Amanda gave me a more colourful account when she blew into town for the Millennium, but I can't say that was high in useful detail.

My own status in the organisation is a little fuzzy these days. I've been in an unofficial sort of middle management ever since Amy started under me in '98--the guy that everybody checks in with whenever they're in northern France. I'd miss fieldwork more if I didn't have so many Immortal friends bouncing in and out of my life. Hanging out with you and Mac ain't exactly boring. I still see more action than most any two field agents.

"Are you sure it was Keane?" I said.

"Yes," Mac snapped, agitated.

"And? Did he challenge you?"

"No." Mac looked bewildered. "I've seen him near the barge the past two nights, now. Whenever he sees me, he just leaves. It's unnerving. Kate's back in town on Saturday. What if he goes after her?" He put his head in his hands. "I do not *need* this. "

"And you said he would never come back," you snickered. Mac glowered at you. Yeah. Like it was your fault. As usual, you'd nailed it on the head. Mac had misestimated yet another person in his life and he was freaking out about it. Well, tough shit.

"I dunno, Mac," I said. "Doesn't sound like you've got a real problem here. I mean, if Keane were still after you, he would've challenged you by now. Maybe he's after somebody else. Maybe he's just here to see Paris. Maybe he's got a lady friend here. Who knows? Since I got yanked off Watching you, I don't get field assignments anymore. I don't automatically know who's in town." This is not exactly true, but I'm damned if I'm gonna give Mac any more ammunition than he's already got.

"So, find out," MacLeod growled.

"Excuse me?" I leaned forward, hands on the bar, suddenly feeling a little more light-headed than was maybe safe for either of us. I know Mac was upset, but Jesus.... I hate it when he just assumes that I will open all my files right up for him. And in front of you, too, of all people. You giggled, obviously getting a kick out of the whole thing.

"Are you asking me to help you hunt Stephen Keane?" I said, keeping my voice level, though it cracked a little bit. Your inappropriate sense of humour was beginning to get under my skin. I don't get off on baiting Mac the way you do.

Mac looked thunderstruck. "What? No!"

"Really? That's news to me, 'cause lately, the only time I hear from you is when you want something from me. Doesn't sound like you're here just to hear the Blues these days." You had some crazy woman from your checkered past after your head; Mac was in a tailspin about some old enemy.... Another ordinary day in Le Blues Bar. I figured I'd see Amanda bust in any minute now with half of Interpol on her cute little ass. Not that you'd mind. I heard she broke up with that Nick loser. With Mac married off, you might have a chance with her finally.

"Joe, he could hurt Kate," Mac pleaded. "After Kell, I think she's suffered enough, don't you?" Oh, please. Not the Kate Defense. He always brings her up. I barely know this woman and she already gets on my nerves.

"He doesn't even know Kate. Try again." Keane's never gone after any of Mac's other friends; why would he go after her? Keane's never struck me as a guy who's into collateral damage.

Mac looked confused. "Joe, what's going on? You've never turned me down when I've asked you for help before."

The Hell I haven't. Mac and I have had plenty of bust-ups over this issue. "I got shot by my own people for helping you out once, remember?" Trying to distract myself from losing my fraying temper (talk about a losing battle), I drew you that pint you'd asked for and shoved it across the bar at you to keep you busy. You almost didn't catch it. I turned on Mac, who seemed to have lost the power of speech, for once. "What's the deal here, Mac? Keane's obviously not after you. Even if he were, he's not breaking any of the rules as far as I can tell. He is not the type. So, why should I help you cheat? The way I heard it from Amanda, he had a pretty good reason to come after you when he first blew into town. And when Amanda got Methos to get him off you, you told the Old Man to fuck off." I glanced at you. "Did I get that right? Is that what happened?"

Your mouth dropped open. "Uh...more or less," you said after a moment.

Mac glared at me. I glared back, teeth clenched. My jaw was probably sticking out in what you like to call my "Neanderthal Look". With all the practice I've been getting today in eyeballing, I'm becoming an expert at it.

"What has got into you?" Mac exclaimed.

I snorted. "Hey, my new boss came in here not half an hour ago and started threatening Methos--*really* threatening Methos--because after all my years of helping you, the Watchers have finally figured out that I've also been helping the old goat, which means that they've also pretty much figured out who the 'old goat' is." You started. I ignored it. "And then Methos came in, and the guy had a go at him, too. He went away--this time. But what about next time? What about when you go after Keane with information that I gave you and whack him? I'm on probation, here, Mac. And my boss made it pretty clear that Methos is walking a real thin line with the Watchers right now. I screw up, he gets it in the neck." Goddamnit. Why can't Mac try a little subtlety, sometimes? Better not mention your other issues of the day. Mac would either try to solve all your problems in five easy steps or get on your case. Usually depends on whether Mac blames you for them or not.

"Um," you interjected hesitantly, "that isn't exactly what Gabrieli meant, Joe, I don't think." You looked like a duck caught in anti-aircraft fire.

"You weren't here for the first part, Old Man," I shot back. You subsided, eyes wide. I rounded on Mac again. "You're a big boy, Mac. You can take care of yourself. For Christ's sake, start doing it. Methos and I really need to keep a low profile right now. Helping you settle old scores is not gonna help us do that. If Keane is bugging you that much, go hang out on holy ground until he leaves Paris. Call Kate and have her meet you there. In fact, I'll tell you what. I'll let you know when he leaves, okay?"

Mac looked furious, but I just glared back at him some more. He'd either back down or he'd leave my bar. "Fine," Mac said tightly. He stomped out, slamming the bar door behind him.

"Joe, what has got into you?" you blurted out, echoing Mac.

"I am tired of being used, that's what." I picked up a glass and polished it, cursing myself over having just sent a good friend packing. "And it occurred to me that it ain't any better to let Mac pump me for info than it is to let you romp through my files unasked." I stopped. "Oh, shit."

"What?" You looked confused. Guess I'm picking up your talent for right-brain thinking.

"Come with me." I went to lock the door and put up the Closed sign, then headed for the back room. I had part of it walled off from the storeroom and converted into a heated office three years ago. Much nicer in the winter.

"*What* Joe?" You trailed behind me through the curtain like a lost puppy. Some puppy.

"I think I know who your stalker might be," I said.

You sounded bemused. "Who?"

"Stephen Keane."

You laughed. "You're joking."

"I wish I were." I opened my laptop and punched up the database, trying not to think about the time I caught you snooping through my files and kicked you out. Or that I had to go crawling to you for help finding Amy a few hours later. I'm sure you haven't forgotten. I could have been so screwed if you'd found my private journals, but fortunately, you were too busy looking for Morgan Walker's vital stats, at the time.

"It doesn't sound like he's after Mac, and Amanda's nowhere near Paris, so you're the next best candidate." I wonder if Mac'll take off for good this time. Not much I can do about it if he does. If he goes, he goes. This latest bust-up had been coming since at least last winter. I suppose I could have been more diplomatic about speaking my piece, but at the end of the day, I still don't regret saying it.

On the other hand, if he goes, it'll still hurt. And you could take off at any time--assuming you don't get yourself whacked during one of your bad moods. For people who live forever, you guys don't stick around for long.

You peered over my shoulder. "Cassius Polonius is in town?" you said brightly. "Brilliant. He still owes me sixty denarii for that chariot race. Sixth century Anno Domini in Constantinople. He bet on the Blues." Jesus, are you the master of the Shaggy Dog story, or what?

"Shoo!" I waved you off. "Stop breathing down my neck and go sit on the couch, or something."

"But, Mom," you whined, backing up, "we saw all this when we had sex education in school. We put the condom on the banana and everything." I glowered over my shoulder at you. "Oh, all right. I'm going." You went over to the couch, making a big, huffy show, and pulled off the blanket cover. I refused to laugh. Taking off your coat, you pulled out the Bastard and laid it on the floor. Jesus, you never let go of that thing now. I don't remember you being that obsessed with the Ivanhoe. You sat down, then sprawled out, making yourself all comfy, as usual.

"I don't see why you get so excited about me seeing anything in there, anyway," you grouched. "I designed the damned thing, you know. I should have some ownership rights."

I shook my head, turning back to the laptop. I can't believe you still like to worry that old bone. "Methos, the way you make it sound, the original Watcher chronicles were some ancient Immortal's address book. Or hit list."

"How do you know that they weren't?" you said, yawning. I looked back again. You'd lain down on the couch and pulled both the blanket and your jacket over yourself.

"Yours, maybe?" I fished.

"Wouldn't you like to know." Figures. You wouldn't give up anything that important on a whim.

"Gonna take a nap?" Good plan. You looked like you needed one.

"Only if you keep dragging this out." You closed your eyes, snuggling deeper into the couch. I chuckled and went back to work.

"Five thousand years old with the attention span of a five year old," I muttered to myself. If you heard, you didn't answer. "Hang on," I added in a louder voice for your benefit. "He should be right here. We've got a new regional search that calls up all the Immortals in an area and puts them on a map."

"Created it."

"Show off." I called up all of the Immortals known to be in the area around Paris. These days, I don't kid myself that I have a complete list. After all, you're not on it, are you?

"Okay. I've got Mac here." Until he blew town, anyway. I called up the area map. "Cassius Polonius is still in town, but he hasn't taken a recorded head in over fifty years and he's got a plane ticket to Brazil for tomorrow anyway. And...ah, damn. Here he is. Stephen Keane. Just got in three days ago."

"Figures," you mumbled from the couch.

"His Watcher doesn't seem to know where he's staying. She should have checked in with me when she got in yesterday, but it looks like she's taking a little unscheduled vacation. Gonna have a chat with her about that. He led her a merry dance all over Asia--worked with an NGO in Cambodia, hung out in a monastery in Nepal for awhile, wandered all over India. Huh. Sounds a bit like you. Hasn't taken a recorded head since he left here in '97. That's reassuring. Nothing in here that says why he's back, though. I think you might be okay, Old Man, at least with Keane...Methos?"

I turned around. You lay on the couch, eyes closed, your hand hanging down onto the floor. I limped over to the couch and tugged the edge of the blanket down until it covered your feet. Don't tell me I shouldn't get involved. I know that, already. It's just that you're my friend, that's all. You were my friend long before I knew you were Methos. And yeah, that is more important to me than my Watcher Oath, as a matter of fact. Sue me.

"I'll get up in a minute, Joe, I promise," you mumbled. "Just give me a few more minutes." Your eyes stayed closed, and I was pretty sure that you were sound asleep, but your hand rested firmly on that sword. That's the Old Man--sleeps with his sword in hand. That would explain the 5000 birthdays and counting.

"Whatever you say, buddy," I said without irony. Gently, even tenderly, I tucked the blanket around your shoulders and feet. Then, I limped back out into the bar to order pizza.


Jerry wasn't having the best of days as he rushed, fifteen minutes late for work, into Le Blues Bar. His dog, Bubba, had decided to take off and explore the neighbourhood. Jerry was really glad that his concierge liked dogs and knew how to lure errant ones back inside.

"Sorry, Joe," he said, as he entered the bar and saw Joe wiping tables. "My dog got out."

"Don't worry about it, kid. Shit happens." Joe was a surprisingly lenient boss. "Just don't go in the back office. Adam's taking a nap on the couch."

*Oh, f--*. Jerry felt the same stab of fear that he always did when the name 'Adam Pierson' came up. Methos. The baddest bastard on the planet, as far as Jerry was concerned. At least, his best friend Mark had thought so. And now, Mark was very dead.

"Is he okay?" Jerry asked.

"Yeah, he's fine, kid. Just a little hungover. Happens to the best of us. He's not having the best of weeks, though. His cat's at the vet." Joe finished up with the tables and went to dump the bucket in the sink.

"Really? Why?" Jerry asked--casually, he hoped. Inside, he felt like screaming.

"Got poisoned somehow. They're not sure." Joe was testing the different taps. "C'mere for a minute. We need to talk."

Wiping his palms on his jeans, Jerry approached the bar. "Yeah?"

"I had a visit from our regional boss, David Gabrieli," Joe said, still apparently concentrating on the taps. "He says he had a little chat with you about joining us."

"Um, yeah. He seemed like a nice guy." Jerry licked his dry lips. "What about him?"

Joe looked Jerry in the eye. "He said you told him a few things about Adam. Like that name that your friend Mark called him during their fight. That's not public information, kid. Not even in the organisation. Don't discuss it with anybody again. Ever. Got it?"

Jerry nodded. "Absolutely," he squeaked. Joe's threat, normally masked by gruff humour, came through loud and clear.

Joe went back to checking the taps. "If that needs to change, I'll let you know. Somebody brings it up again, you come to me, understand? Adam's not on the best of terms with the organisation bosses right now. Don't make it worse for him."

"Okay," Jerry choked out.

"Good," Joe said. And that seemed to do it. Jerry was forgiven--for now.

Jerry watched Joe finish with the taps and go out back. He yanked off his coat and stowed it behind the bar. *Shit, shit, shit.* If Joe ever found out....

*Relax, Jerry. It was an accident. He's not gonna find out and the cat will be fine. Right? Right.*

Despite his little self-peptalk, Jerry did not muster the courage to go out into the back storeroom for another two hours.


I feel like shit, and this is only my first beer for the night since I woke up from my nap in Joe's office. Don't know why Joe let me do that. Surely, he knows that I could break his password inside of five minutes and read whatever I wanted in the Chronicles database--but I didn't. My stomach, admittedly, has not quite recovered from the morning hangover. I've tried the 'hair of the dog' cure before, though, and have survived well enough.

This feels different. I don't notice, at first. I am too busy worrying about Silas and brooding over my colossal mistake from the previous evening. The vet said we'd just have to wait and see. He would not give me many details, so it must be bad. As for the one-night-stand, Joe is right, of course; the girl is not worth all this angst. It is definitely time to move on. Oh, if only it were that easy to do. Maybe I should leave Paris for awhile. I glance over at Joe, who is serving a middle-aged Spanish couple. Then again, maybe not.

I raise the bottle of Guiness to my lips, take a sip, grimace and set the bottle back down. There is a bitter, acid aftertaste to the beer that I cannot quite ascribe to my hangover. I sit at the bar, morosely picking the label off of my beer. A table would be more comfortable, but it is harder to talk to Joe from there. After a few moments, I set the bottle aside and rub my face. I am beginning to feel really queasy.

Joe stumps over. "Adam, are you okay?" he asks, using my alias since there is a comfortable crowd for a Monday night. "You look a bit green."

I shrug apathetically. "Define 'okay.'" His concern irritates me.

"Well, unless somebody has come up with some superbug, I guess you won't die. But you don't look so good. Maybe you should switch to water, take a little Pepto Bismol. You wanna lie down for awhile? You can use the couch in my office again."

Lying down seems suddenly like a good idea, almost as good as moving seems bad--very, very bad. I grip the bar and try to figure out how to transport myself, without moving, to Joe's office. As I find myself salivating uncontrollably, it all becomes moot.

"Methos?" Joe says, quietly and anxiously.

I shake my head, waving him off. "Be right back," I grit out. With that, I fall off my stool and stagger over to the Men's Room. I make it to the loo in time. That is my last bit of luck for the evening. I lose everything in my stomach in a short, but interminable, time. Then, I start dry heaving--something far down my list of favourite activities. By the time my stomach muscles have eased, I am shivering and clinging to the toilet, making small, child-like whimpers of pain. The smell does not do wonders for my nausea, but lying down is not an option. Whoever cleaned Joe's bathroom this morning hasn't mopped the floor in the past couple of days. Even kneeling on it makes me feel unclean. I consider telling Joe that his custodial help is incompetent, then decide that I just do not give a damn.

"Adam? Adam, the ambulance is here," Joe says from behind me.

"What?" I whimper. "Oh, no. No no no no no."

"Yeah, I think you'd better go with them, Adam," Joe insists.

How humiliating. Do I really look that bad? My question is answered when one of the ambulance attendants edges into the stall beside me and gently pries me off of the toilet. As the two attendants walk me out to the ambulance--Joe stumping anxiously alongside--I make an ineffectual effort to wipe off my face with my hands. Fortunately, I am too miserable to really notice the other patrons in the bar. Once at the ambulance, the first attendant hands me a towel. When I wipe my face, the towel comes away covered with blood--bright red, my old physician's training makes me notice. The two attendants help me crawl into the ambulance and lie down.

"I'll call Mac and be right up," Joe calls as the doors close. Perfect, just perfect. That is all I need--MacLeod, the Perfect Immortal, come to visit me at my moment of worst weakness with a bouquet of flowers. Bloody Hell.

The pain does not increase exponentially; it just feels that way as my tolerance to it decreases at the same rate. Halfway to the hospital, I decide that I have had enough. It doesn't help. The pain does not abate, and I know, with the dread of having too much experience with the other side of the stretcher, that relief will have to follow evaluation. That will take far longer than I am willing to wait. Why the Hell am I not healing already?

By the time the ambulance reaches the hospital, I have thrown up again, twice, and twisted completely around on the stretcher until I've jammed my face against the shelving. I am clutching the chrome railing on the stretcher like a lifeline. Finding a comfortable position seems as likely a goal as winning the Prize without getting all of my friends killed. I would settle for "merely excruciating", at this point, but the gods are not feeling kind, today. Kronos was right. I have gone soft.

I feel distantly sorry for the attendant who sits at my head. I told the man, early on in the trip, that I have been a medic. Partly to distract me from my agony, and partly, I suspect, out of curiosity, the man later asks me about my training. I am short with him--the effort to make conversation takes away from my desperate measures against the pain. I feel bad about that. I would like to chat a bit about my more recent medical experiences, suitably edited of course, but the regret is as pale as the humiliation I should have felt when Joe and the attendants led me past the gaping bar patrons out to the ambulance. My stomach hurts too much for me to care.

My condition does not improve with my arrival at the hospital. The attendants get me into a wheelchair and roll me into the emergency room. The doctor asks me a lot of questions, mostly about what I have eaten and drunk in the past few days. I wish he would just leave me alone. I am slowly discovering a way to deal with the agony, but I cannot do it unless I divorce my mind from my body and the rest of the outside world.

"ca n'est pas bon," the doctor observes as I vomit again into a cardboard kidney basin. At least now I am vomiting up coffee grounds--old blood--which means that my body is finally healing itself.

"I know...it's not good for me," I gasp. "Believe me, I wouldn't do it unless I had to." This is not quite true. Even dry-heaving brings a little relief, probably because it distracts my mind from the pain. I also keep panting like a woman in labour. I try to stop, to take slow, deep breaths, lest I hyperventilate until I pass out. It occurs to me that fainting might not be such a bad idea.

I wish they'd just leave me alone. The worst thing is, when I finally find an almost bearable position, sitting up on the edge of the gurney, the nurses keep trying to get me to lie down, which isn't bearable at all. I nearly claw the sheets off the gurney before they put me in another wheelchair and whisk me up to a surgical ward, where they take blood and check my vital signs. There, they give me some morphine. It is not as pleasant, initially, as I'd expect. My scalp begins to tingle. The sensation quickly spreads down along my skin to my toes. Anaphylaxis. Some idiot son of Horton's has found a way to poison Immortals and I'm the bloody guinea pig!

"Oh," I say, trying to sit up. "I don't like that. That feels just...wrong."

"Sois calm, M. Pierson," the nurse assures me. "How is the pain? Is it going?"

And it is, just like that. "Um, yes," I say, as the tingling and the pain faded together.

"Bon. You will be fine. You will stay here tonight while we do tests to find out what is wrong with your health."

I lie back and resign myself to a few days in the hospital. Unlike MacLeod, I am not very paranoid about having medics look me over (even though my last hospital stay, in Seacouver, was a disaster of biblical proportions). As a former medic, myself, I know there are limits to diagnostic testing. If I had been shot, I would have some problems explaining my quick recovery. Since my 'deaths' from trauma usually only last half a minute or so at most, though, I've had little trouble in avoiding medical attention on that score. It is one of the few advantages of having a vintage Quickening.

Poisoning is a different thing. People often have a wide range of reactions to even one poison. I could be a 'miracle patient' without too much of a stretch. Obviously, the poison isn't strong enough to be immediately fatal to even a Mortal, so the dosage probably wasn't too outrageous. Unfortunately, it seems to be the type that likes to linger in the system--something lipid based, maybe, that would linger in a Mortal's body for months, even years. I will need a couple of days to detox, at least. What better place to do it in than a hospital? No Immortal is going to challenge me here, in front of so many witnesses. And Joe can always bring me my sword before I check out. He has been following me around like a sheepdog for weeks. He'll do it.

Got to find that silver lining inside every dark cloud, eh, Old Man? Make lemonade out of lemons, and all that? Well, what the Hell--it has worked for 5000 years, so far. Why not now?

In truth, though, this is a strong contender for the worst day in my long life. It would not be *the* worst--having both Cassandra and Kronos track me down within the same 24 hours made that day worse than this one quite easily. The first day I ever spent as a slave (or remember being one, anyway) was also worse. Being crucified was definitely worse. And being chased through the frozen streets of beseiged Leningrad by black market cannibals was one corker of a mad, bad, and dangerous few hours of my life (Oh, how Caspian would have laughed!). That wasn't quite as bad, in retrospect, as the day, a few years later, when an old friend and I found ourselves on a one-way train to the Gulag for the next 14 years, but it had still been a terrifying scramble of an escape. Those bloody meat merchants would have ended five millennia of living for the sake of a few haunches of mystery meat over a charcoal fire. All in all, though, this is still one crap day.

I finally drift off to sleep, surrounded by the intermittent murmur of a public ward at night. I hope my cat's okay.



Every time I sleep at night, I can only see in red. The outside world is black and white, With only one colour dead.

"Adam?" A familiar Buzz wakes me up. Groggy, I feel for my sword and my gun. Finding an IV tube instead, I sit straight up in bed.

"OW!" I grab my abdomen, which flares up with pain.

"Hey, take it easy!" Joe says, patting me on the shoulder. "It's just Mac," he continues in a quieter voice. "He stayed back to park the car. 'Sides, the hospital's on holy ground. I made sure."

"Oh. Right. Of course." The pain fades a bit, leaving some room for sensible thought. Struggling for dignity for the first time in several hours, I push back my greasy hair with a shaking hand that smells not so faintly of blood-laced vomit and cat-sick. I am sweaty, itchy, and not at all ready for a Challenge. That Buzz had damned well *better* be MacLeod.

Sure enough, Mac soon strides into view. I suddenly wish that the Buzz had signalled a strange Immortal. Mac, as ever, looks elegant. I bet that he would look elegant sitting in a heap of cow pats. Hell, he'd probably look elegant if he were the one sitting in this bloody hospital bed. I, on the other hand, am sure that I look just like any other poison victim wearing an unflattering hospital gown in the middle of a public hospital ward--pasty, grubby, greasy, and dishevelled.

"Come for a laugh?" I snarl at him.

"What?" He looks startled. Can't blame him, I suppose. I am not feeling sociable today.

"Nothing," Joe says firmly. They exchange an unfriendly look; are they still doing that? Turning away from MacLeod, Joe lowers himself into the chair next to me and leans forward to pat my hand, the one without the IV in it.

"How do you feel?" he says.

"Like shit," I reply. This gets a chuckle out of him, at least. Nothing like a little honesty to start the day. My stomach hurts, my head hurts and I'd really like to know where the loo is, because my bladder is *very* full.

"You gave us a scare," Mac says, sitting down on the other side of the bed. I hate when people do that to me. I cannot keep them both in sight at the same time, now.

"Can't you both sit on the same side of the bed?" I snap, rubbing my belly and hiccoughing, very unflattering. "And what were you two worried about? I wasn't about to die."

"Hey! Keep it down, willya?" Joe says, looking alarmed.

"Give it a rest, Joe. I'm tired and I feel like microwaved llama dung. Mac, go sit next to Joe or something. You are making me nervous."

With clear reluctance, MacLeod stands up and drags his chair over next to Joe. Hmm. I can see their both showing up here today was a marriage of convenience.

"What is it with you two?" I say. "Don't tell me that you're still fighting over that bloody idiot Keane?"

Joe's jaw clenches. He pushed himself to his feet. "I think I'm gonna go call Amy and see if she can give me a ride home in a little while." He glances sideways at Mac. Mac stares stonily ahead.

"Uh, Joe?" I say, as he pushes himself to his feet. Damn. I didn't mean- -

"Relax," he says, patting me on the shoulder. "I'll be right back."

"I'd better go, myself," Mac says, as soon as Joe disappears around the corner. Mac looks after Joe, his eyes hard and cold. I stare at him. I don't think this has anything to do with me, come to think of it.

"Mac, wait." I reach out to grab his arm as he stands up. Startled by the action (how often do I reach out to people?), he stops. I try to catch his eye. He looks away. "You cannot play these kinds of games with Mortals. They do not live long enough. If you leave again, he might not be here the next time you come back."

Mac glares at the wall. "I don't know, Adam. I'll have to think about it."

I let go. Okay. I have done my bit. I can see where pushing it would be useless. "I am just saying--don't think about it for too long, or he might not be there once you've worked it out. Think how much you would have lost if you'd gone off in a rage every time you had a spat with Tessa."

He looks shaken. I do believe I have hit a nerve. "It's different for you," he says. What does that mean? "I have to go. I'll see you later. Be careful." With typical Mac abruptness, he picks up his jacket and strides off down the hallway in the opposite direction from Joe. I watch him go, rubbing my belly. It hurts. Gods, my friends can give me such indigestion.

Joe returns just as I'm getting back into bed from an overdue trip to the little boy's room. How can I be more sore than before I hobbled over there with my little IV stand? It's supposed to get better, isn't it? I am new to this hospital thing, except for the psychiatric variety.

"Did Mac leave?" Joe asks with false casualness.

"Yeah." And I will just bet that you are not going to tell me why, either, are you, Joe? "He had some things to do. You get hold of Amy?"

Joe shakes his head. "I'll try again in a little while."

"I can call you a taxi, if you like," I say hesitantly. "I've got some money."

"Nah, that's fine. It was just getting a little too cold in here before. It's fine, now. I'll hang out with you for a couple of hours. Unless you want me to take a hike, or something." He looks at me hopefully.

"Today, Joe Dawson, I am your captive audience." Of course I want him here. Who else would stay with me? "They didn't tell you anything about how long I would be stuck in here, did they?"

"Couple of days, they said." Joe looks unhappy. I don't blame him. I don't want to stay here that long, either. "They want to do more tests. I don't think it's anything you need to worry about." We have got so used to talking in code, haven't we? "The ones they took last night were better than they expected, but they're worried that your cat got sick at the same time. I had a hell of a time keeping the cops out of it."

"You're saying I was poisoned?" I hiccough. How embarrassing. I hate hiccoughs.

"You had some other idea?" He smiles wryly at me.

I cough and pat my chest. "No. Funnily enough, I spent yet another night not thinking. Pain has that effect on me. Can you hand me that water glass?" Joe grabs the glass, pours me some water from the carafe by the bed, then hands it to me. Ooh. Room service. I drink some of it. "Thanks." After a few minutes, the hiccoughs recede. Bloody nuisance. "So. You are saying that I'm stuck here, is that it?"

"For a couple of days," he says. "Anything I can do for you in the meantime?"

I consider it. "You got a deck of cards?"

He laughs and pulls a deck out of his jacket pocket. "Thought you'd never ask."


Joe left a few hours ago, claiming that my yawning was driving him mad. I fell asleep right after he left and didn't wake up until six. There must have been more internal damage than I thought because I am knackered. No food cravings yet, but once my digestive system gets more on track, I will be eating like a racehorse on amphetamines. I would like to go for a walk, but I could barely stand when I tried it, more tired than before my nap. Think I'll wait.

Joe said he would be back around seven, but has not yet returned. He left me the deck of cards. Neither of the guys on either side of me want to play. This is a hospital; they are sick. They are not interested in anything else. One guy has had his family gathered by his bedside all day, the curtain pulled competely round his bed. The other man ignores all conversational overtures and has slept all day. He snores, too. I am dispiritedly laying out a game of solitaire when I feel the Buzz.

Oh, please let that be Mac. Please, please, *please* let that be Mac. I recognise the guy immediately as he strides into view. Stephen Keane. So much for the power of prayer.

Maybe he is here for someone else. Maybe he will just pass on by, not recognise me. I am not at my best today; I cannot even get out of bed! He spots me and heads directly for me. I start to panic. Damn. Do the new security protocols for hospitals include a weapons search? I sincerely hope so.

As he stops next to my bed like some malignant vulture, I glare back at him. The effect is ruined by my rubbing my belly and burping like some sick old man--which, come to think of it, I am.

"This is holy ground, Keane," I say. "I can stay on it indefinitely. Stay the Hell away from me." My heart is pounding so hard I can scarcely hear my own words. I feel dizzy and even more nauseous than ever. My throat is raw.

Keane puts up his hands in a peace gesture, looking conciliatory. "I know our last meeting was not friendly," he insists, "but I'm not--I don't have anything on me. I don't want to hurt you." Is the idiot seriously not armed? Why do I attract so many puppy dogs? "I'm only here to talk."

"Why?" Why, yes, I am a suspicious old goat.

He hesitates. "I just...want to get to know you."

I gape at him. "You want to *what*?" I reach out for the IV stand. I do not care how much I would like to vomit on his shoes right now. If the son of a bitch comes after me, he gets it in the face. I will not go down like some sick water buffalo.

He looks down and actually scuffs the floor, like some shy schoolboy! "I want--I mean, I would like for you to consider taking me on as your student."

Oh, he has got to be kidding. It is the wrong response, of course, but I can't help it. I laugh. He looks hurt.

"I think you have the wrong person," I say. "I've just barely left Duncan MacLeod's tutelage. I'm not going to take on someone his age as my student. It would be silly."

Keane snorts. "You're not serious."

"About which thing?" I say lightly.

"Any of it! You're no student of Duncan MacLeod. You are just as strong a fighter as he is, but you don't fight anything like him. And you have a stronger aura than any other Immortal I have ever encountered, including him! And I once fought a Viking!"

"Good for you," I say, as he seems very proud of this.

"And the truth is that MacLeod acted as though you were an equal, after you left me for dead. He wouldn't have done that for a young Immortal."

"Keane, I hate to break this to you, but you don't know anything about either me or Duncan MacLeod."

He hangs his head. "I'm willing to be a student in peace alongside him if he is," he says. "I understand that you wouldn't give him up as a student just because we are enemies." Who the Hell does this guy think I am, some Immortal finishing school? I am nothing of the kind. I want nothing to do with this!

"He's not my student, Keane," I insist. "At least, not in the traditional sense. I don't take on students."

"Why not?" he asks, looking confused.

"Because I outlive them all, you git!" I blurt out, before I can catch myself. If I want him to go away, this is exactly the wrong thing. I watch in horror as the revelation comes over him. What the Hell is wrong with me? I didn't think I was feeling suicidal today. And I certainly don't want any of the nurses to hear that. That would change my diagnosis of 'accidental' poisoning very quickly!

"You're--you're *him*," he gasps. He doesn't have to say the name, but I am almost contrary enough to make him.

"I don't know what you're talking about." I grab the kidney basin from the nightstand and spit into it. Who cares what he thinks about it? I am not bloody Yoda and this guy is giving me indigestion.

"No. No, of course not," he says hastily. Oh, yeah. He has found the Immortal Grail, the Second Prize, and he is just stupid enough to want to keep it safe. That is all I need, another bloody keeper.

"Listen, kid," I say quietly, so that I won't get myself transferred to the psych ward, "I don't know who or what you think you have just found, but I am no saint. I am not even a good man. I've done things far worse than MacLeod has ever done, and I have done them for longer than either you or he have been alive. So, don't get it into your head that I am some sort of sage or holy man. I am not."

He shakes his head. "That's not why I'm here."

"Excuse me?" He is after my head. I thought so! Grab that IV stand, Old Man!

Keane gets that faraway, rapt look that the young ones adopt when they are reminiscing. "Do you know what MacLeod said when I asked him what had happened to you? He said, 'It's Tuesday. He doesn't take heads on Tuesdays.' And when I saw you later at his barge, you as much as told me to bugger off--with a sword at your throat!"

"I am happy to hear that you were impressed." I have no idea why he would be. "What does that have to do with you becoming my student?"

"You know how to live." The answer is so simple, I cannot grasp it, at first.

"I know how to live?" I say blankly. "If you want to follow somebody who knows how to live, why don't you go find Amanda again? I think she might be free. Take her out to a nice restaurant, make some interesting conversation, show her a little creative foreplay in bed and swear to stay far, far away from Duncan MacLeod and I am sure she'd at least consider it." I push down a flash of jealous wistfulness at that. Just because I have always had a thing for Amanda, doesn't mean that she will ever see me as more than a friend and partner in crime.

He shakes his head. "You're fearless," he explains. I laugh. "You are," he insists. "And you're strong. And you...you do as you please, not as you think you ought to do. I have spent three hundred years chasing a man around the world because I felt obligated to hate him. Now that I would like to let that go, to do something with my life...I don't know how."

"And you think I could teach you?" I say, flabbergasted.

"You taught MacLeod," he says. "I know you could teach me."

"Actually, Mac sort of taught himself." He looks skeptical. I laugh again. I can't help it, even though it makes my stomach hurt. It is not every day that somebody insists on favouring me over Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod as a moral standard. "Besides, I really don't understand how you came to the conclusion that I have some sort of unique joie de vivre."

"You laughed throughout our entire fight," Keane says, as if the answer is obvious. "Admit it, you were having fun. It wasn't because you wanted my head all that badly. You gave me a chance to walk away. You went in there solely because you felt like it that day."

"No, I challenged you because Amanda woke me up in the middle of the night and talked me into getting involved, and then MacLeod refused to back off. Sorry." Silly boy, I am not that impulsive, even when I'm drunk. "It took two cups of coffee to make me 'feel like it' at that time of day. Don't mistake the wonders of caffeine for some irrepressible love of life." Should I mention my little bout with depression and my botched attempt at Suicide-by-Immortal last month? No. I think that is far more personal information than I am willing to offer to Stephen Keane, Mysterious Immortal Methos Groupie.

"I thought Amanda had something to do with it," Keane says. "It explained the spontaneity of your appearance quite well, I thought." So much for getting him off this track. He is damned and determined to see me as some Immortal mayfly wafting through life. Kronos would laugh himself sick. In fact, I sincerely hope that Kronos does not make an appearance right at this moment. My reaction would get me transferred to the hospital psych ward. I am already eager to see the back of this place, thank you very much. I don't want to sample the French selection of restraints and drugs. Being committed in the United States was quite enough for one decade.

"You'll excuse me if I have reservations about going anywhere with you off holy ground," I say. "The last time we met, you had a sword at my throat, remember? I think I'll stay in here for few more days, if it's all the same to you."

He looks distressed. "Please," he says. "At least give me a chance."

I think about it. We are already on holy ground. Is it worth it to insist that the next meeting be on it as well? Everything that I've seen Keane do so far indicates that he is neither a liar nor an oath-breaker (unlike, say, yours sincerely). And as he certainly wasn't making any effort to impress me before today, I probably did not see him at his best.

"Le Blues Bar," I venture. "You heard of it?" Might as well meet him on home territory. If he goes after me, Joe is bound to shoot him. Comforting thought.

"Um...no," Keane admits.

"If you can find it," I say, "then you'll find me there Friday, seven pm--if you really want to talk, that is." I do not bother to add that MacLeod will be there, as well, or that I might still be stuck in here. I like to hedge all of my bets, and if either of them doesn't like it, hard luck. MacLeod deserves far worse from Keane than sharing a drink with him and if Keane really wants to move on, his first step should be being able to sit in the same room with Mac.

"All right," he says. He looks as though I just asked him to extract his own large intestine with a pair of pliers, but as it feels as though that is what is happening to my own digestive system, I am not sympathetic. "Is there anything else I can do?"

I consider the offer while scratching the back of my neck with a joker card. "There is something...." If I do it, Mac will be pissed and Joe won't be thrilled, either. On the other hand, I am bored and something tells me that I should. "You know how to play Gin/Rummy?"

His face lights up. "Yes! Yes, I do." As he pulls up the chair that Mac sat in a few hours earlier, I see that I have made the right call. Always go with your gut, I say, even when it's giving you Hell.


As soon as Marie, my evening bar manager, came on shift at three, I called up the Paris Tourist Office on the Champs-elysees.

"'Allo?" a woman's voice responded pleasantly.

"Hi, I'm looking for an exhibition, but I don't know where it is. I think it's temporary." I didn't bother with French. They always recognised my accent and switched to English, anyway.

"What is the subject please?"

"The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission."

"One moment, please." A couple of minutes later, she came back on the phone with the address. You were right. The exhibit was near the Eiffel Tower. The organisers were named Pieter Willemse and Annie Lembede. Was Lembede your stalker/poisoner? I'd check up on her, though if she wasn't famous and she wasn't an Immortal, I wouldn't get too far. I wrote down the address, hung up and said "Sayonara" to Marie. I didn't have to be back until nine, and I wanted to spend an hour or two with you at the hospital before I went back to the bar. I thought I might as well get this over with first. Funny. I've always figured it would be you visiting me in the hospital.

It was the usual Paris traffic jam out there, but it didn't take as long as I thought it might. I parked my car on a little side street, right across from the gallery, and went in.

Didn't look too bad, at first; but then, land mines never do. I should know. I stepped on one once. There were two people inside. One was a white guy in his forties; the other, a teenaged black girl. Neither of them looked right for your mystery witness. They didn't seem to notice me when I came in, so I checked out the exhibit. The pictures were pretty wild. People used to live like this? You used to live like this? It's one thing to know that you used to live in a tent, but to have it shoved in my face.... Man, and I thought 'Nam was bad. I sure hoped I was doing the right thing this time. I am getting a little gun-shy about sticking my nose in your business these days, but what else do I do? You're in the hospital and for all I know, this Annie Lembede woman may have put you there.

Africa is personal to you; always has been. You're real funny about discussing it. Sometimes, you'd go all moody and taciturn if Don or I asked you about your trip. Other times, a muzzle couldn't shut you up. I think you need help to get this out of your system.

As I neared the back, I found out why the girl and the man were ignoring me. They were arguing, very quietly, in English. The man sounded angry, and the girl sounded scared, but not of him. Their accents sounded funny, real hard to follow. Guess they were both South African. Seemed the girl's mother had taken off that morning and the girl was worried about her. The man (the girl called him "Mr. Willemse") was telling her not to get too excited about it; "Annie" had bugged out before. Christ. Annie Lembede. Just the woman I was looking for, only she'd already gone AWOL. Then, the girl started talking about you--not by name, but more by her mother's reaction, which sounded pretty bad. Annie had recognised you, all right.

For a second, I thought I was gonna throw up. Shit. *Shit*. Not just one witness, but two, and one of them didn't sound crazy at all. As quietly as I could, I started looking around the pictures in my aisle.

The man said he thought it was maybe possible you'd been a victim of the Apartheid thing and Mom had just latched onto you. The girl (Mary, I think her name was) said she didn't think so; said that her mother had shown her a photo of you here in the gallery from '84, and you didn't look any older now than in the picture.

"He is standing behind the children and his face is blurry," she admitted. "I suppose it could be somebody else."

"Standing behind the children". A class photo? I edged down the aisle. Not in this one. Not in the other one, either. Oh, Hell, there it was on the wall. Three rows of children stood and knelt next to the wall of some battered old building (probably their school). You stood behind them and off to the left, in shadow, standing uncomfortably in black pants and a white shirt with a tie, arms hanging at your side. The picture was small, your hair was slicked back and your face wasn't much more than a white oval. It was you, though. I recognised the slouch.

The picture came off the wall real easy. Ya gotta love temporary exhibits. I felt kinda guilty about stealing it, but I was not gonna leave this little gem behind. Friend or no friend, no Watcher would. I slipped it into my jacket, just as somebody came busting in. She was tall, way too thin, mid-30s. I had a feeling this was the lady I was looking for.

"Mother!' the girl yelped. "Where have you been?" She ran off into some African language, lots of gutteral stuff. They started shouting at each other. Obviously, a quiet conversation with this woman was not on the cards. I decided it was my cue to leave. I already had some ideas about this lady and none of them were good.

"Oh! Thank you for coming!" the man called at my back and I headed out the door. So much for sneaking out unseen. I hurried out to my truck and got in. Nobody followed me. Great. I called Amy on my cell phone. This lady was gonna bug out again anytime now, I could just feel it. I wanted her followed, and Amy can run a lot faster than I can.

I tried not to think about what I was gonna do when I tracked down where this woman lived. If she did what I thought she'd done, she wouldn't live long enough for you to get your hands on her. I'd kill her myself.


I hurried into the hospital, cursing myself for being so late. I couldn't leave my surveillance until Amy showed up. As I came into the ward, I saw you sitting up in bed (a good sign), playing cards with some guy who had his back to me. You looked up at my approach and smiled. Then, the other guy turned around. My jaw dropped. Jesus Christ Almighty. It was Stephen Keane.

"Hey, Joe." You sounded genuine. Hell, if I didn't know how old you are and how good at acting, I'd believe you every time. Does that make me a suspicious old man or just cautious?

"Hi...Adam," I said, feeling you out. You didn't look upset so I kept going. "Didn't think you'd have any other visitors this time of night. Who's this?"

"This?" Your grin turned a little nutty. "This is Stephen Keane. He showed up for a chat." Keane waved and gave me a weak smile. "I invited him over to the bar on Friday. You don't mind, do you?"

Son of a bitch. "I thought you two weren't on such good terms," I said. Keane stared at me, looking puzzled. Beyond him, out of his sight, you shrugged and smiled wryly, as if to say, *Yeah, yeah, Joe. I know. Me, too.*

"Keane seems to think that I have some things I could teach him," you said.

"You?" I thought it might be better if I didn't laugh. "Well, that's a switch."

Keane looked uneasy. "I should go," he said, standing up. "It is getting late and I'm certain that you two would like to talk."

You smiled at him. "Okay. See you on Friday, then." Keane edged past me. I watched him leave. When he looked back and spotted me staring after him, he jumped. Good. Maybe it would keep him honest. He scurried out of the ward.

When I turned back to the bed, you were shaking your head and chuckling to yourself.

"What?" I said, easing myself down into Keane's chair.

"You're such a watchdog, Dawson," you said. We were both keeping our voices down. Maybe I could get you switched to a private room. It would make things easier for both of us.

"Right now, you need it." Your flip attitude annoyed me, but I wasn't surprised by it. You're not big on bodyguards. "What the Hell was he doing here, anyway?"

"Apparently, he wants to become my student." Your mouth twisted a little in pain.

"Your student?" I leaned forward, putting out a hand to--what? Pat you on the back? You waved me off. I hate watching strong people in pain. "Does he know who you are?"

"He took a big guess." You grabbed a glass of water off your tray, slopping some on the pack of cards I gave you, and drank from it. "He was very excited about it." You paused, took another sip. "I dunno. You think he might be playing it straight?"

I scratched my head, considering the problem. "Well, as far as we can tell, he's spent the past five years finding himself. He's in the right mood to be somebody's student, I guess. You could have gotten lucky."

"If you can call it that," you grumbled. "At least Mac is in denial about the hero-worship thing. I think Keane has been watching the latest Star Wars film too much."

"Could be. But if that means he's no longer a threat to you, I'm all for it. We've got another problem."

You went still. "You found her."

"Yeah, something like that. Does the name 'Annie Lembede' ring a bell?"

"Not really, to be honest. I've been trying to forget all about the whole thing for the past eighteen years." You paused, looking strange. "Wait. Oh, yeah. I remember her now. Yeah. That was her."

I nodded. I thought so. "You met her daughter, Mary, at the exhibit. Annie spilled the beans to Mary, but I don't think Mary's too sure about what's going on, so we might be safe with her. It's Annie we need to, um...." 'Silence', 'terminate' and 'kill' were all words that I didn't want to use on a public hospital ward. You nodded, looking grim. You knew what I meant. We're both ruthless in our own way. Maybe that's why we get along so well.

"Do you think that will be necessary?" you said. Damn, you were so different from Mac. You were actually discussing options with me, instead of telling me how you were gonna take care of the situation. "That could create problems. Maybe I should leave town for awhile."

"If you leave town, you're not doing it without me."

You looked amused. "I suppose you could always say that you're Watching me." Nobody else in earshot could hear that capital W, I hoped.

"Let's try to find another way first," I said. "What is it with you? Why do you always want to walk away? I'd think the other way would be easier--quicker, anyway."

You looked down at your hands, spread out palms up, on the blanket. "Yeah, it would be." There was nothing special about your tone, but I still let the subject drop. I couldn't go there, and you wouldn't. I couldn't blame you. I've got similar patches of scorched earth--more similar than I'd like, maybe, but not the same. There are times when I wish it had been someone like you who'd saved my ass in 'Nam instead of Cord. Let's face it, Cord didn't give a shit about himself, let alone me. Doesn't seem fair that he and I share so much charred real estate when you and I don't. We're just neighbours.

"You're saying you want to take a little vacation until she goes her merry way?" This solution seemed kind of messy to me, to be honest. "What if she doesn't?"

You rolled your eyes. "She will. What else can she do?" You were right, of course, so I let it go.



Spring is here, ah spring is here. Life is skittles and life is beer.

Jerry was polishing glasses in the bar when an older guy walked in. He looked like the French version of a drug smuggler--greying beard and dark sunglasses. He took them off as he ambled up the bar.

"Bonsoir," he said to Jerry.

"Hi," Jerry replied, glancing at the man, even as he continued to polish glasses. He had a lot of them to do before Joe showed up. "No French, sorry." He was still working his way through the glossary in the back of his Rough Guide to Paris.

The man smiled. "ca va," he said. "I am looking for Adam Pierson. I understand he comes here often."

"Um...." What to say? Should he mention that the Old Bastard was in the hospital? "He's not here right now. Can I take a message for him?"

"Yes, that would be good." The man pulled a pen and small pad of paper out of his coat pocket. "I am a friend of his, Rene Galbon." He wrote down a message. "He and Joe Dawson and I have worked in the same company for years. I am sure that Adam will want to hear from me."

The phone rang. "Hang on," Jerry said, going to answer it. "Hello?"

"'Allo. Is M. Pierson there?"

"Not right now." What was he supposed to be, Methos' goddamned secretary? "Can I take a message?"

"Oui, merci. It is about his cat."

"His cat?" Jerry felt his stomach hit bedrock somewhere in the wine cellar. Fuck. Oh, *fuck*. If that cat died, Methos was gonna go on the warpath. And Jerry knew just who would be right in his way if he ever went looking for whoever was responsible. It would be like a Mack truck running over a Barbie doll.

"Oui. His cat, Silas. I am afraid that Silas is not improving at all. I think that M. Pierson will need to consider putting him to sleep."

"I see. Gee, poor Silas. Can't you do anything?" Jerry could sympathise with 'poor Silas' a little too well. If that cat died, he was screwed.

"I do not think so. Is there any way that we can contact M. Pierson immediately?"

"No, I'm afraid not. He's in the hospital." Jerry didn't like admitting that, especially in front of Pierson's long lost 'friend', but he didn't see any reason to tapdance around the truth with the vet.

"He is in hospital?" The vet sounded uneasy. "Why?"

"He got sick on Monday night. They think it might have been something he ate." Christ, this was getting worse and worse. "I can give you his friend, Joe Dawson's, cellphone number, if you really need to get in touch with him."

"That is a very good idea. Thank you." The vet now sounded completely spooked as Jerry gave him the number of the hospital, which Joe had made him memorise, just in case. So, the connection was not just in Jerry's paranoid imagination. Shit, what if they called the cops? What if they told Methos? Getting deported or arrested could be the least of Jerry's worries, if Methos found out what he'd done. Jerry couldn't believe his bad luck, which was getting worse by the minute. Methos was some malign presence in his life.

"I'll pass the message on," he told the vet.

"Perhaps I may call the hospital?" the vet suggested.

"Sure. That sounds like a great idea, thanks. I'll tell Joe, just in case you miss him." And good riddance, as far as Jerry was concerned. As he hung up the phone, he was surprised to see Methos' old Watcher buddy (at least, he assumed that was what the guy meant by being "in the same company") still sitting there. "Aren't you all set?"

The guy looked concerned. "Adam's cat is sick?"

"Yeah. Silas went into the vet's on Monday. Some kind of stomach thing."

"Silas." The guy seemed very interested in that name, for some reason. Jerry wondered why, and filed it away as something to look up if he lived long enough to get a peek at the Watcher database. "I see. And Adam, too?"

Jerry's uneasiness increased, making his own stomach clutch up. Who was this guy? "Yeah. He got sick when he was here at the bar on Monday night. Some kind of stomach flu."

"I see." The man's eyes were bright. They saw too much. "Stomach flu? Wouldn't he be ill for a few days, only?"

"He hasn't really been taking care of himself, lately." Jerry didn't see any harm in admitting this. It wasn't his problem if Methos came out sounding like the wacko he was and lost another friend. It didn't sound as if this guy had kept in touch much, anyway.

"He did that sometimes," the guy mused. "He has had some bad times. It upset him, I think. You know that he is a widower?"

"No." Jerry was surprised, not that he gave a shit. Wow. Methos had been with a girl recently? Jerry had been longing to get into the Watcher files ever since he'd found out about them, but Joe wouldn't let him in yet, and might not until after Jerry got out of the Watcher Academy. Jerry was beginning to think that Adam Pierson wouldn't be in the database, even if he looked (he was pretty sure that Methos was the Closet Hacker from Hell). He also wasn't too sure about the info the Watchers had on the Methos legends. The Old Bastard seemed to have messed with their heads pretty well, too. Jerry knew how that felt. Boy, did he know.

"How did she die?" he asked, and shuddered. *Gun, knife, poison?* he didn't add.

"Cancer. Very unpleasant. Adam met her in her last months, but continued the relationship anyway. I think he loved her very much." Jerry found that tough to believe, but didn't say so. It might get back to Joe, or worse, to the Old Bastard.

"That's too bad," he said, lying baldfaced, of course.

"Yes, it is. He has lost many friends in the past few years." the guy was giving him that look, again--that 'I know what you did last week' look. Jerry sure hoped it wasn't accurate. He hadn't moved all the way from Savannah, Georgia to get whacked by the Parisian version of the Men in Black. "Our work can be hazardous, sometimes." That was the understatement of the millennium!

"That's what I've heard." Jerry began to wonder how much this guy knew about his own situation. He hadn't thought about that. What if he was in the Watcher database, himself? This wasn't nearly as much fun as it had seemed when he and his roommate back in Savannah used to laugh at that Lone Gunmen spin-off to the X-Files. This was real life and Jerry had something of an allergy to that concept. If Methos and Joe were 'real life', he'd stick to playing Diablo, thank you very much.

"Maybe you should try the hospital," he suggested. The guy nodded and did that Gallic shrug thing that always reminded Jerry where he was. Paris had the kind of timewarp holes that you were more likely to see in Savannah than in Atlanta--not that Atlanta didn't have its own weird moments.

"Perhaps I will," the guy said. "Meanwhile, I will leave my card and my message so that Adam will know I came." The guy pulled out a business card and wrote something down on it before handing it over to Jerry. Jerry gritted his teeth. This 'friend' of Methos was really getting on his nerves.

"Yeah, you do that," Jerry muttered as the guy left. He glanced down at the card. It just had the guy's name and a phone number in print. On the back, Galbon had written, "Call me." Typical, mystery Watcher bullshit. Jerry remembered when he used to get all excited at the idea of alien-made crop circles and black helicopters ferrying God-knew-what all over the U.S of A. Now that he lived in the thick of a world conspiracy, it all seemed radically mundane. Jeez, why couldn't people just come out and say what they meant, already? It would save so much time.

The phone rang. Irritated, he yanked it out of the cradle. "Le Blues Bar," he said in his most uninviting voice. "May I help you?"

"I am looking for Adam Pierson," a woman said in (surprise, surprise) a heavily-accented voice. "Is he there?"

*Of course you are,* Jerry griped to himself. *Why would you be looking for anybody else?* "He's at the hospital. Is this the vet again?"

"Which hospital, please?" Jerry gave her the name. She hung up on him before he could say anything else. Puzzled, he put the phone back down. That had seemed strange, even by Joe Dawson establishment standards. Maybe she wasn't the vet at all, but some psycho ex-girlfriend of the Old Bastard, looking for payback. What a perfect week for it. Well, fuck it. Jerry wasn't Methos' keeper. He was sure the son of a bitch could take care of himself. Jerry had other concerns. What to do about the mess in the back room, for example. And oh, what a mess it was.

Jerry finished polishing glasses and headed out back. He went straight to the cabinet against the back wall and examined the floor beneath it. This was where he had put the cases of beer that Joe had set aside for Methos late last month. Methos hadn't been having a good time then, apparently. Hey, at least he still had his head, which was more than Jerry could say about his friend Mark. Hard to believe Mark had only been dead a month.

There was still one case left; it had a large stain on it. That looked pretty bad. Jerry went to the bathroom for some paper towels, soaked them, and came back. He started wiping down the case. The stuff came off, but there was still a big stain in the cardboard. Shit. He stood up and opened the cabinet. He knew he shouldn't have put the cases right under there, but he'd been in such a hurry trying to learn the ropes from Amy and Joe that he hadn't bothered to pay much attention to where he'd put Methos' precious care packages. It was just his luck something had leaked out of the cabinet, but why couldn't it have been something non-toxic, or just liable to cause a mild stomach ache? Not like the Old Bastard would have noticed a little diarrhea. He supposed he was lucky it wasn't Pine Sol--that would have knocked the poor cat off right away. He really did feel sorry for the cat. It wasn't as though he was a serial killer, or anything. He didn't get off on making anybody, especially animals, suffer. He'd honestly forgotten.

Inside the cabinet, the bottom shelf was a mess. As far as Jerry could tell, it was the drain cleaner that had spilled out onto the cases. He'd set the bottle upright again, as soon as he found out what had happened, but the damage was already done. God, was that the story of his life, or what? He took out all of the bottles and began wiping down the inside of the cabinet. He was just starting to put everything back when he heard the outside door slam.

"Jerry? Where the Hell are you?" Joe's irritation carried right out into the storeroom.

"I'm back here in the storeroom," Jerry called over his shoulder. Sweating, he jammed the drain cleaner back into the cabinet and stuffed the other bottles in on top of it. It didn't look good, but it would just have to do. Hopefully, Joe wouldn't think to check the cabinet any time soon. Jerry closed the door (he remembered, at the last minute, to do it quietly) right as he heard Joe passing the bar to come out back. He was hurrying up to the curtain by the office, wiping his hands on his pants, when Joe pushed back the curtain.

Joe's eyes narrowed. "Kid, what were you doing back here, sleeping on the job?"

"I had to get something and I had a little trouble finding it," Jerry said.

"I don't like it when my people leave the bar unattended, kid," Joe said. "It encourages thieves. Don't stay out back here so long when you're on alone."

Jerry nodded, feeling relieved. The phone out in the bar rang. Looking annoyed, Joe started to turn. "I'll get it," Jerry offered, grateful for the distraction, and hurried out into the bar. He picked up the phone.

"Hello?" he said.

"'Allo? May I speak to M. Joseph Dawson, please?" a woman's voice said. At least it wasn't for Methos, this time.

"Yeah, sure. Hang on." He put the phone on his shoulder to muffle the receiver. "Joe? It's for you." And thank God for that. With luck, five minutes from now, Joe wouldn't remember catching Jerry out back 'napping'-- but only if Jerry's luck improved.


As soon as I took the phone from Jerry, he scurried off, looking like I'd just caught him with his hand in the till. I knew I'd have to look into that. He's inoffensive enough, but I don't like leaving him too long unsupervised. With Amy Watching this Annie Lembede bitch, though, and Marie out at her other job, I didn't have much choice today. I was already late going to pick you up at the hospital. But you know...I just don't like that terrorised-rabbit look he gets whenever your name gets mentioned. People that scared...sometimes they do dumb, dangerous things. I don't need to tell you that, or I wouldn't if you didn't have your head up your ass these days.

"Hello?" I said.

"Is this Joseph Dawson?" It was a woman--pleasant voice, Middle Eastern accent of some type.

"Yes. May I ask who's calling?" I can clean it up when I have to, you know, especially when I'm talking to a lady, and I knew, right off the bat, this was a Lady.

"My name is Azar Davani. Adam Pierson gave me this number? I am his academic advisor."

"Oh!" Some vague memory surfaced of you telling me about this woman. You got assigned to her after you came crawling back to the Sorbonne this past spring to beg them to let you finish your thesis. From what you said, she sounded nice enough, too good for you, I'm sure. You'd have found a way to lose her as your advisor if she'd been a bitch. "How can I help you, Ms. Davani? I'm afraid Adam Pierson isn't here right now. You know he's in the hospital, right?"

"What? No! No, I didn't." She sounded shocked, which made me feel a little guilty. I filled her in on the details, though I fudged them. You hadn't called her recently--of course you hadn't. There was no reason. You weren't due to see her for another couple of weeks, and we both know why you were playing down your hospital stay. The fewer people who knew about it (and I sure as Hell hadn't told Gabrieli) the better. If I managed to shock her, though, what she told me was ten times worse. Some woman had called up her office, looking for contact information for you, and the department secretary had given her the number to Le Blues Bar. Afterwards, the secretary had second thoughts and told your advisor. Something about the woman had been off. She'd seemed a little "hysterique", the secretary had said. I had a damned good idea who the secretary meant. I just had to find her before she found you.

By this time, I was beginning to enjoy Ms. Davani's voice, so I made it a little project to get her office number (just in case) and to get her to call me "Joe" by the end of the conversation. And you know what? I pulled it off. Nice lady; sharp, too, picking up second-hand on Lembede's fishing expedition. I like that in a woman. And don't go getting territorial on me; she's your advisor and you're not about to ask her out to dinner any time soon. You don't own her, buddy.

I got off the phone with mixed feelings, to say the least. Ms. Davani's nice delivery didn't mask the problem that somehow Annie Lembede had figured out your name, and that you were at the University of the Sorbonne. I didn't know how she'd managed that, but I was gonna find out. First, though, I had to find out what she'd done with the information.

"Hey, Jerry," I said, as the kid crept past me with a case of Archer's bottles. "Adam get any calls today?"

Jerry set the case up on the counter, then wiped is hands as he seemed to think about it. Uh oh. "Uh, yeah. He got a couple. The vet called to say that Silas is real sick. Said he might have to be put down. They wanted Adam to call back to tell them what he wanted them to do about it. Then, this guy came in looking for him--he left his card over there." He pointed at the till. I searched around it, found a business card and picked it up. Dr. Rene Galbon. That name sounded familiar, but I couldn't place it. Maybe he was a Watcher. But first things first; Jerry was still talking.

"Yeah, and the vet called back, looking for Adam--well...I think she was the vet." He paused, looking confused. "She sounded kind of funny. I just told her he was at the hospital and gave her the number there."

"What?" I stared at him. "What did she sound like? Did she have an accent? A South African accent?"

Jerry looked confused. Man this kid is dumb. "Well...yeah, she had an accent. They've all got accents, here. Why?"

"Never mind." I put the card in my pocket and headed for the door. "If anybody else calls, I'm picking up Adam at the hospital." I left him there. No customers were in and he could take care of himself for a little while. This was more important. The last thing I needed in my day was Annie Lembede running you down with a car the minute you stepped off hospital grounds, or something worse. God only knew what she could come up with. She'd only had 18 years to think about it.


Two weeks after Adamson murdered your Eli, Mary let you out of the shed behind her bar. The only reason she spared you from the mob, she said, was because of the baby you carried. That baby's life was more important than yours. You hated the child from then onwards.

You never discovered what happened to Eli's mates. When you asked Mary, she slapped you and told you never to mention it again. Whether they were dead or merely driven away, you knew you would never see them again. You'd wept all your tears in that shed--or so you thought. Now, you wept again. Eli wasn't a bad boy. He didn't deserve that kind of death. He was only a little wild and he was good to you, most of the time.

You knew whom to blame. Just because the witch had escaped you into death did not mean that you could not take your revenge. You went to the cemetery in the night, when no one was watching you. You could not find poor Eli's resting place but Adamson's grave was not that difficult to find. Some of your fellow students had left flowers on it, and little gifts. That only made you hate him more. Didn't they know what he was really like?

You dug up the grave, fear gripping you throughout. What if someone discovered you? But you had to know. It took you a long time, not because the body was buried so deep, but because there was no body. None. In the end, you knelt in the hole, scooping up handfuls of dirt with your hands, in a sweat of terror. Adamson *was* a witch! You had known all along, but could not prove it until then. You swore then, weeping in his empty grave, that you would find him and destroy him, as he had destroyed you.

After you gave birth, Mary threw you into the street and took your baby for her own, even giving it her own name. It no longer mattered to you. The child was a girl; useless and, born with a club foot, worse than useless to you. Without Mary's protection, Jacob and the others would no longer tolerate you in the township. You had to leave. You drifted to Cape Town, where you sold your body on the street to feed yourself. A church group took you in and taught you how to read and write properly. You did not believe in their message of love and forgiveness, but you were willing to say what they wanted to hear for a meal and a roof over your head. Anything was better than the streets.

The one thing you never missed over the years was a necklacing. You had a sense for when one would happen in your neighbourhood and you were always in the front of the mob that dragged the witch into the street. It never mattered to you what they were accused of--witchcraft, murder, rape or collaboration--they were all witches and deserved to be burned, needed to be burned. You even denounced some of them yourself, helped throw the tires over their heads, doused them with kerosene and set it alight. For a moment, their death moment, you felt alive. Each time, you saw Adamson's face burning and rejoiced. But you were never caught--oh, no.

Eventually, after Apartheid lifted in 1994, you dared to come back to the township, where you found that Mary had died in '89 and Jacob in '92. You pestered the family that had taken your daughter in for money. They gave it to you to make you go away. Only years later, when she was a teenager, did Mary seek you out. She has proven of some use to you, after all. It was she who found Adamson's new name in the book, who noticed when he signed it. Your church learning came to some use as well, because you could show the people who hired you for the exhibit in Paris the right face, just the right level of education for a Black woman. Or perhaps they felt sorry for you because you are wasting away. You have heard rumours about what that means. To think, if you didn't have this position in Paris, you would never have found Adamson in time. To think that he once flunked you in English and now you excel at it. It truly is the will of God.

Now, you stand across from the hospital where the witch is hiding. He is pretending illness, but you know that is not possible. You are the one dying, ever since he murdered your poor Eli. Poor, poor Eli. He never meant any harm, even when he hit you. If only he had never challenged the witch in his own lair....

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live, sayeth the Bible. You long to impose the traditional punishment upon Adamson, but you cannot, not today, here in Paris. A knife must do. You have it hidden in your dress. This time, his grave will contain a real body, just as Eli's does. He will die, if it is the last thing you do.


I feel much better today. Not quite up to speed, but getting there. Nobody wants me to leave the hospital, of course, except for me. Even Joe still thinks I should stay in. He thinks it's safer. Tough. I have had enough. They don't exactly coddle you here, but it is too close for my comfort.

I am all packed and ready to go. Joe brought me clean clothes yesterday, bless him. I was losing patience with that hospital johnny. Since my usual sleepware is boxer shorts, boxer shorts and, um, boxer shorts (and maybe a t-shirt), bringing my own pj's from home was not an option.

One of the nurses comes in--to make sure I haven't snuck off before time, I will wager. They can tell when you don't want to be in here; the counselors in Seacouver were like that, too. "You look ready to go home," the nurse tells me in French, smiling.

I smile back. "Oh, yes."

"How do you feel?" she asks. Everyone keeps asking me that. Do I still look that bad?

"Fine." I shrug. "I want to go home and sleep in my own bed."

"That is understandable. Do you need anything?"

"Not right now, thank you." I stand up. "I'm going to take a walk. My friend, Joe Dawson, is coming to pick me up in a few minutes. Could you please ask him to wait here for me?"

"Of course." Like everyone else, she is all sympathy. Can I do 'cute' or what? She goes back to her rounds, satisfied, it seems, that I am settled until Joe arrives. The staff seem to think that I wouldn't abandon Joe. In this case, they are right. I leave my pack on the bed and wander out onto the ward. What has always fascinated me about buildings is how people create new topography, simply for the purpose of having a roof over their heads. I suppose if you have never lived in a cave, you wouldn't notice the irony. Is the concept of the labyrinth so ancient that only I remember why it was built? Now, that does make me feel old. I push away the feeling. Just because the most strenuous thing I'll be doing once I get home is taking a nap doesn't mean I have to let myself fall into another depression. It would annoy Joe. Musn't do that.

I sneak out of the ward and down one of those hospital hallways that always seem deserted. There are too many people on a public ward at all hours of the day and night. I only want some quiet. It is not until I reach the blank end of the hallway that I realise this was a mistake, as I hear someone follow me out of the ward. I am definitely not up to speed yet if I cannot spot a tail. I turn and, just like that, she is there.

Heaven knows she has aged. Not in a way that other Mortals would think excessive, but I notice. I see right away that she notices, too--I haven't aged. I may look rough, but I don't look as old as I should. She knows.

"Witch!" she hisses. Cassandra would find this amusing.

"Stay away from me," I snarl. I back away. She follows, fumbling in her dress for something. She pulls out a knife. When she raises it, the flourescent lighting glitters on the blade. It's not long enough to take my head easily, by I have no doubt that she will experiment until she gets it right, if I let her. And me with no weapons--not that using one would be such a good idea in here.

"I will finish it this time," she promises me with deadly passion, "one way or another." Of that, I have no doubt. This is one Hell of a place for a showdown, not the ground that I would pick at all, though she gave me no choice. Where is Joe when I could use him?

"Go to Hell." I retreat. Much as I would love to wring her neck, I cannot kill her here. No amount of 'cute' would get me out of that. I don't dare turn my back on her, either; she'd be on me in a second. I glance to my left. The door reads, "Fire Exit". Going for the wall, I shove against the door and shoulder out into the stairwell. I try to slam the door in her face, but it's one of those pneumatic doors that close quietly and slowly. She comes after me, knocking me back against the safety rail and raising the knife. I sucker-punch her in the face to get her off me, the force limited because she's too close. She staggers back, but doesn't fall or drop the knife. When she attacks me again, I sidestep. She smacks into the railing and overbalances, flailing at the air with the knife. Brilliant. She can drop right into the basement, for all I care. But as she goes over, she grabs my shirt with her free hand.

"Hey!" I yell. That is all the protest I have time for as we both topple over the railing. She grins up at me, in the sickening lurch of gravity turning wrong. My last thought, right before I hit the railing on the next floor down is that Annie Lembede is in for one Hell of a surprise on the other side. I am almost disappointed that I won't be there to see it.


South Africa, 1984

I hate the muzzy return to consciousness after a head injury, but at least I have a head. I feel very confused, at first. I find myself lying on a cement floor, but someone has wrapped me in one blanket and placed me on another. There is care, here. It is not a shroud. When I open my eyes, I have to close them again immediately because of the nausea. I must still be healing.

"How do you feel?" The voice sounds familiar, but I cannot quite place it. Shivering, I open my eyes again and look to my right, towards the voice. Two people crouch near me, a man and a woman. I blink, doing what I can to focus on them. It is Jacob the headmaster and Mary Sobukwe and, now I see it, I am in Mary's shebeen.

"What happened?" I ask, since telling them how I feel is too complex to explain, at the moment.

"You died." Jacob's response is startlingly frank.

"What?" How could he know that? He couldn't be a Watcher, could he? I thought I'd lost all trace they had of me years ago. This could be bad, I realise muzzily. Very bad. The Watchers must think I'm nothing but a legend, by now, and I am very happy to let them keep thinking that.

"You died. And now you have come back. But you knew that you would, didn't you?" I cannot hear any hostility in Jacob's voice, but maybe it is because my ears are still ringing from that pipe. "How do you feel?"

"I don't know what you're talking about." Pretending ignorance usually works.

"You are an Immortal," Jacob explains patiently. Then again, there are those times when it does not work. "Be easy. No one will hurt you--those young men are dead. We saved you from the fire for a reason. We are Watchers." He pulls up the left-hand sleeve of his jacket and shirt to show me an all-too-familiar circular tattoo. And here I thought he always wore that suit because he was a conservative old man treading water while his world fell to pieces around him. "I saw you talking with my assignment in Johannesburg. He is very old; he knows all of the old ways, the old signals. But you knew ways that even he did not know. I watched you teach him instead of challenge him. And then you both walked away. That was how I knew."

I don't trust them, of course. How can I? I am so alone, so alone.... Why are they telling me this? "My dogs?" I ask quietly, because I have to know.

"They are fine," Mary says, speaking for the first time. Oh, I so hope she is not lying to me; I liked those dogs. I know that she has no tattoo, but I suppose even Watchers need an irregular force of spies. "They escaped those boys and came here. I have them out back. I will take care of them for you."

"You must leave, of course," Jacob says. "We want to help you. If we could find you, others of your kind will find you also. The Gathering is coming, and you are very vulnerable. You need a hiding place."

That gang kid must have given me a harder crack in the head than I thought. I could swear that he is asking me to join the Watchers. I could do it, too. Real friends, a safe harbour for a short while, a chance to rest--what's not to like? But, the last time I joined them, I had to sneak in and out like a thief. The body count was high. Do I want to go through all that one more time?

On the other hand, my other options are no better. I sit up with care, wrap my arms around my knees and smile back at them, putting as much charm into it as I can make my aching head do.

"So," I say, "what did you have in mind?"


Paris, Present Day

"Adam?" I know this voice, but it is not Jacob's or Mary's. "Adam, can you hear me? Talk to me, man."

"Joe." It hurts too much to open my eyes. Haven't I already been through this?

"Yeah, it's me. Just take your time, buddy." He's patting my shoulder. I can feel my body, now. This is not a good thing, since I can also feel my head. Heal faster, dammit! I open my eyes. Joe leans over me. If I concentrate, he comes into focus.

"Ow," I say.

He looks sympathetic. "How do you feel?"

"Like shit." Might as well be honest.

He chuckles at that. "No kidding. Do you remember where you are?"

"I...." I'm in another bloody hospital bed. How did that happen? I try to sit up. "That bitch! She tried to kill me!" Oh, it is coming back in technicolour, now.

Joe grabs my shoulders. "Take it easy. You don't have to worry about her anymore. She's dead."

"Thank Heaven for small favours." I settle back, still angry, but still hurting, too. I am beginning to notice all the other half-healed bruises and contusions besides my head. I ache all over and I feel sick. I am also covered in blood. That must have been some fall.

"What happened?" Joe asks, after a moment.

"I took a walk," I say. It is not like it's a crime. "She followed me. I got lost; she came after me. When I tried to get away from her by taking the stairs, she attacked me with a knife. She grabbed me and we fell over the railing."

He nods. "Yeah, they found the knife. I'm sorry I didn't come sooner, but it took me awhile to track her down."

"Okay." I sincerely hope that she is truly dead. Otherwise, I will have to take a risk and kill her. I am tired of playing a sitting duck. "I'm not in any trouble, am I?"

Joe shakes his head. "The cops don't seem to think you're at fault. I explained that she'd been stalking you. They got mad that we hadn't reported it, but they settled down when I pointed out that we couldn't go to them because we didn't really have any proof. You're gonna be stuck in here another night for observation, though."

I groan. "Joe," I whine.

"Hey, you were pushing it already with the poisoning thing. No way they're gonna let you out now until they're sure your head's still screwed on straight. You landed on top of her, so they're saying she must have broken your fall, but they're still calling you one lucky son of a bitch."

"Yeah, right. I'm so lucky." Job had better weeks than this one.

Joe rubs his face. "They found you halfway down the stairwell. What the Hell do you expect them to think? Besides, another night in here won't kill you."

"Perfect. So, you just go your merry way and I'm stuck in here until tomorrow?" I wish my head would hurry up and heal so that it will stop aching.

"No. I'm gonna sit here until Visiting Hours are over and give you a chance to get your head out of your ass and back together." Since he's a Watcher, he must mean this literally. "Then, I'm gonna go over to the bar and do a couple of sets with the band. And tomorrow, around noon, I'll come back here, pick you up and bring you back home. They said noon was the earliest time they'd consider letting you go." His tone is much more patient than I deserve.

"Ah, Joe. I'm sorry." Great, now I feel guilty. I thought I had got over that bad habit.

He pats me on the shoulder. "S'okay. I wanna be here. I just don't want you to cut yourself off from everybody again."

"I can't help it," I admit.

"Yes, you can. It's just that when you're hurting, you seem to forget. Hey, by the way, I talked to your academic advisor. I told her you were in the hospital."

I forgot all about her. "Thanks. Was she okay about it?"

"She was pretty concerned...." He looks as though he wants to continue, but isn't sure if it is wise.

"What?" I say.

"She was the one who warned me Annie Lembede might have tracked you here. Lembede called up your department's secretary and got the number of the bar out of her. Then, that idiot Jerry told her you were here." Idiot, my ass. I will bet young Jerry knew exactly what he was doing. "What I don't understand is how she found out your name and your department. I mean, you weren't going by Adam Pierson when she knew you before, were you?"

"No, I changed it after that...ohh." Now, I remember. "I think I know how that happened."

Joe's mouth tightens. "Care to explain that?" Heaven only knows what he's thinking.

I lean my head back against the pillow and close my eyes. "When I visited the exhibit, I wrote my name and the name of the University in the guestbook."

"What?" Joe's mouth drops open. "Me--Adam, why?"

"It was before I knew she was there," I try to explain. It doesn't come out well. Either way you look at it, it was a stupid move. I am as confused by it as he is. "I suppose I wanted to leave a mark. They tried to bury me, Joe. I didn't want to let them forget."

He looks very sad. "Okay. I can see your point. Now, at least, we know how she found out." After that, he changes the subject. Do I want to see a movie this weekend? I go along with it, and we start discussing what we'll go see, or rent if I'm still not feeling well. He sticks to his word and stays until they kick him out. After he leaves, I try to sleep. This doesn't work out well, since the nurses wake me every two hours to check my orientation and vital signs. When I do sleep, all I dream about is tumbling over that railing, over and over and over again.



But the cat came back the very next day. The cat came back. They thought he was a goner. But the cat came back. He just wouldn't go away....[meow]

"Did they say anything about his condition, how he's been doing?" I am grumpy from lack of sleep and nervous about my cat. And I really do not appreciate the fact that Joe won't let me drive. Now that I am (mostly) out of danger, I find myself focussing obsessively on Silas.

"They just said that he was real sick," Joe says, keeping his eyes on the road. He is holding something back, but I am not sure what it is. I suspect that "real sick" is an understatement of Silas' condition. Poor Silas. I should have done something about him sooner. I am not sure how, but I should have. He deserves better. I think I am going to have to have them put him down. Poor, poor Silas. "Look, stop gnawing on it. We're almost there. You can ask the vet in about five minutes how your cat is."

"Fine." I settle down into my seat, close me eyes and try to meditate. Anything to get the sensation of falling out of my head. Damn that bitch.


It's like watching a guy go down for the third time. Goddamnit, Old Man, just grab the rope. I glanced over at you (you were sleeping or meditating, or something) then concentrated on the road. Traffic was Hell. Wouldn't have done either of us any good, my getting us smeared all over the freeway.

I pulled into the vet's and parked. You took a minute or two to wake up, uncoiling in the seat and punching the door open. Your face was blank, almost slack. You staggered a little once you got out.

"You okay?" I said sharply.

"I'm fine." You waved it off. "Let it be, Joe." You sighed, lifting your shoulders and letting them drop. "Let's get this over with." Letting it go for now, I followed you into the vet's.

The receptionist turned solicitous at first sight of you. You really did look like shit. She called the vet to the desk. When he came out, he ushered us right into one of the examination rooms.

"I am sorry," he explained in French. "Silas has fought very hard all week, but he is not improving. I recommend that you put him to sleep."

"What will happen if I don't?" you asked, a little too calm.

The vet spread his hands. "He will linger for a few days, perhaps a week, but the result will be the same. He will die. He should not have lived this long. How much he will suffer before the end is up to you."

You rubbed your face. "I'm sorry I didn't come sooner." Ah, shit, Methos. Don't start getting back into guilt now.

"I understand that you were in the hospital, as well." The vet seemed sympathetic, always a good sign. "There is no reason to blame yourself. You are very fortunate that you did not get a larger dose of what poisoned your cat. What do you wish to do now?"

"I would like to see him, please." Your voice was soft and toneless.

"If you like," the vet said, looking at you oddly. He led the way into the back and showed us a cage. As you stepped through the pneumatic door, you got a funny look, as though you'd been through this scene before. Guess you had; Silas wasn't your first pet. The whole place stank of antiseptic. A whole variety of animals added their chirps, barks and meows to the cacophony of vet noises. You opened the cage without asking first. Silas lay inside. I didn't recognise him. From a robust beast from Hell that liked to jump on my lap and dig his claws in to give me an impromptu circumcision whenever I was sitting watching TV at your house, he'd shrunk to a bedraggled scarecrow. He didn't lift his head, but when you pulled him out, very gently, he whined in pain. You cradled him in your arms, your face as serene as a Madonna's. I could hear him purring from several feet away. It sounded desperate.

"I'd like to be alone with him for a few minutes," you said. You looked up at me. "You can stay if you like, Joe."

The vet tugged on my arm. "I'll be right back," I said. You nodded and settled into a metal, folding chair, stroking Silas. The vet led me back to the examination room.

"Is M. Pierson well?" he asked.

"He's having a rough week," I admitted.

The vet shook his head. "I am very concerned. M. Pierson loves this cat. He has brought him here regularly for years. He is much too calm about this."

"I know," I admitted. "But there ain't a whole lot we can do about it right now. He won't let us help; trust me, I know. He's kinda funny that way." The vet looked spooked. "Don't worry," I told him. "I'll watch him; I've been doing it for weeks. A little while longer shouldn't be too tough." Yeah, right. "I just have to get him through the initial part. It'll be fine."

My cellphone rang. Christ, what now? I fished it out and turned it on. "Yeah, what?" I snapped.

"Joe? Is this a bad time?" Mac. Great. Could this day get any better? I sure hoped not.

"Yeah, it is, Mac. I'm sorry. I'm kinda in the middle of something. Can I call you back?"

"I wanted to know if you were going to be playing tomorrow night." Mac sounded contrite. He's real good at that boy scout act, isn't he? "I thought I'd bring Kate down to hear you; maybe talk about old times."

"Sure, sure. Sounds fine. I'll see you then." It wasn't until I'd hung up that I remembered about Keane. He was coming over to the bar tomorrow night, too. I cursed, scaring the vet, and dialed Mac's number. He'd turned his phone off. Perfect. Just perfect.

Okay. One thing at a time. You and the cat. Deal with that and get it over with. "We'd better go back and see what Adam's thinking of doing next," I told the vet. I didn't get into gory detail about what I meant, but as we came back through the door, I heard a wishbone snap, even over the yaps and squeaks which had died down anyway. I knew right away what the sound meant, and you know what scared me? I wasn't surprised.


I cannot lose you a second time. You look worse than Kronos, or even Caspian, at the end. They died miserably, fighting the whole way, because I didn't have the courage to give them the final mercy. I will not fail you. If I do have one talent, it is this one. I still remember the old slaves from the Horsemen camp--worn out, begging me to end their pain. And I always did. It was the one way in which they could count on me. It was my one, great talent.

I stretch you out on my lap and grasp your head. You stare out into the lab, panting, claws digging into my thigh, eyes fixed on some distant vision of escape from the agony. With a quick turn of my wrist, I snap your neck, wrenching your head around so that your eyes start up at me. You convulse and piss on my leg. It doesn't last long, never does. After your body slackens, I gently turn back your head so that you lie in my lap almost as if you were sleeping. My hands are shaking. I am much better at this with people.

Joe comes up beside me. He doesn't say anything, only puts a hand on my shoulder. I hope I won't ever have to do this for him. "I didn't want him to suffer anymore," I say. It was the only gift I had left for you.

The vet tries to withhold the body, citing health regulations. In the end, I don't give him any choice but to let me take you home, though Joe's presence keeps the confrontation mostly non-violent. Once he accepts defeat, the vet does have the grace to give me a box to put you in. He is not a bad man, really; he just isn't used to dealing with one. We put you in the box and take you out to Joe's SUV, where we strap it into the back seat. There are so many rituals of death, yet once I knew them all. Where will I go from here? I feel so numb, concentrated onto a single point--my cat is dead. What do I do now, get a housemate? That will go down well with Joe.


Now, I was really beginning to worry. You'd just killed your own cat. We had the body in a box in the backseat, and you were as calm as a femme fatale after sex. All you needed was a cigarette.

"I'll stay until you're settled, once we get back," I said.

"With all due respect, Joe, I'd rather be alone for the evening." You slouched in your seat, playing with the radio controls. You took your time settling on some loud Europop number.

"Well, that is just too bad." I wasn't gonna let you drive me away this time with some sarcastic remark. There wasn't much you could do about it, either, over and above sarcasm. Not today. "We'll rent a movie, order a pizza, maybe even get some beer as long as you promise not to get too maudlin. We'll toast your cat and tomorrow, we'll give him a nice burial someplace." That sounded like a plan.

"I cannot wait." You played it indifferent. I knew for a fact that you weren't (it was all you could do not to break down at the vet's), but there you were, serene. No, not serene--blank. I felt like I was seeing you full- on the way I've glimpsed you from time to time out of the corner of my eye. Just out of earshot. I didn't want to think about that, so I tried to think about dealing with the body instead. We'd have to put it someplace for the night. If we were gonna be having pizza and beer, the fridge was a bad idea. I'm not up for eating pizza saturated with eau de dead cat, not even for you. But the body would smell if we left it out in the apartment. Maybe we could sneak it outside and hide it out behind the apartment complex. I glanced over at you. You were staring out the window, in your own little land. Prozac time. Fat lot of use you were gonna be tonight.

"You know, with all the shit that's been going on, maybe you should consider checking yourself into someplace on holy ground for a month or two, get a little peace and quiet." I can't tell now if I was seriously suggesting this or if I was just trying to get a rise out of you, but I was willing to try anything at that point. I was pretty much at the end of my rope.

"I am not going into hospital again," you said. "I just got out of one." You didn't look up, as if you didn't think my suggestion was worth your time.

"Goddamnit, Methos, you gotta do something." This, I felt sure about. "'Cause you are in one hell of a tailspin, the ground is rushing up at you and you are not pulling out of it. Maybe it's time to hit the eject button, you know?"

"No." That sounded final as Hell.

I sighed, totally exasperated. "Look, I'm not gonna be around forever. You have got to get your head out of your ass, somehow, because you are not okay, and I do not see you getting any better without some help."

"I am not checking into hospital." I couldn't hear any compromise in your voice.

"What are you gonna do, then?"

"I don't know." You sounded tired beyond tired.

You sat up so quickly that you banged your elbow on your side window. "What?" I said, hitting the brake by mistake and making the car behind me blare his horn, pull out beside me and blaze past. Screw him. He shouldn't have been tailgaiting me. "What is it, Methos?"

You were looking around, eyes wide. "There's someone here." I knew right away you meant another Immortal. We were out on the freeway, surrounded by speeding cars, but you seemed sure of yourself. How could anybody possibly challenge you in this situation? Where could this guy be?

The woozy cry from the back seat answered my question.

I kept my hands on the wheel and my brakes, and my eyes on the road. I glanced at you once. Your eyes were as wide as mine felt. "Did you hear that?" I said.

"Oh, yes. Keep driving. I'll check him out." You undid your seatbelt and crawled halfway into the backseat. I tried to watch you in the rearview mirror; I really had to see this. When you opened the box, I saw one dopey, but very much alive, cat. I heard him sneeze, then meow. You pulled him into the front seat and onto your lap. When I looked over at you, you were stroking his fur while he rubbed his face with one paw. Obviously, he didn't have a clue what was going on. One minute he was in screaming agony, the next everything was fine? Made sense he'd be confused. He sat up on your knee, blinking, wobbly as a new kitten. In a way, he was a new kitten.

I had a real hard time taking it all in while keeping us all on the road. "Shit! He's alive! That cat is really alive!"

"Bravo," you snapped. "Would you mind taking us home before you get us all killed?"

"Okay! Fine!" I have to admit, I was seriously unnerved. I mean, if cats could become Immortals, what did that mean about the Game? "But what are gonna do with him when we get there?"

"Feed him first, I think. I can feel his ribs. Poor moggie. He couldn't have been able to keep anything down since Sunday night, at least. After that...I don't know. I've never had a cat as a student before." You smiled down at him with real affection. Damned if it wasn't the first genuinely happy look you'd gotten all week.


Joe still seems stunned as he follows me into my apartment. I am trying not to think about it, trying to just enjoy the unexpected miracle. I am not feeling very successful about it. Silas is more awake now and huddles in my arms. As soon as I set him on the floor he scampers off to hide behind my stereo system. Ah. Now we pay the piper.

Joe stares after him. "What's the matter with him?"

"He can feel me now. He couldn't before." I was afraid of that. I sit down on the couch. The apartment still stinks of cat vomit and disinfectant, even though Amy apparently cleaned up under the bed last night. I will just bet she enjoyed getting that job. "It must be overwhelming for him."

"I guess I can see that. Do you think he'll eat?"

"I hope so. Maybe if I leave the room...." I look down at my jeans, and the big splotch of cat piss on one leg. "I need a shower."

"That sounds good. I'll go get some beer and a video." Joe heads for the door. He always says such beautiful things. "Get cleaned up. Feed your cat. We'll order some pizza if your stomach is up for it."

I rub my belly. "I'll try, at least. Pizza sounds good after hospital food." I am a bit less enthusiastic about the beer, and I don't know if that is a good sign or a bad one. I watch Joe go out then get up and turn my attention to the cat. Oh, Silas. What am I going to do with you? I have a feeling that you are not going to want to live here anymore.

I try to coax the cat out from behind the stereo, but he hisses and tries to scratch me. Poor kitten. My Quickening must be overwhelming to him. After a moment, I give up and go make him some food instead. It is the best I can do. I cannot wrap my mind around the fact that he is still alive. How can an animal be an Immortal? Why didn't I notice that before? Come to think of it, there was a time when I thought that all Immortals were male. And young. It would not be the first time I have seen Ecclesiastes proved wrong. I may be observant, but I am scarcely omniscient. So much for the Game.

I should make this as quick and painless as I can. It worked a few hours ago, it can work again. I go to the outside door and open it a few inches, then approach the stereo and crouch down in front of it. "Do what you want," I tell Silas, who peers at me through a gap between the stereo and the speaker. "I won't hurt you." I go take my shower. Halfway through it, I feel his tiny Quickening recede.

When I come back out, Joe has come in and shut the door. "Is he gone?" I say.

"Yeah," Joe says. "I didn't see him go, but he's not behind the stereo anymore." To make certain, I look there and behind the bed. No, there is no Silas, but I am relieved to see the food half-gone. At least he accepted that much of a parting gift from me. I didn't want him to leave my house hungry.

"Do you think he'll come back?" Joe asks as we settle down on the couch for the movie, which turns out to be 'Batman Returns'.

"No." Though I desperately wish Silas would come back, I have had enough ambiguity in my life today. I cannot stand anymore. He is gone, and that is that. I have to accept it.

This philosophy works fine until about two am. I wake up on the couch (I insisted that Joe take the bed) missing my cat. Joe is snoring in bed, flat on his back. I sit up, throwing off the covers, pick up my boots, my jacket and the Bastard, and slip my keys out of my jeans. I wait until I'm out the door before I put on my boots and head down into the back garden. The sound of Joe's snoring follows me out across the lawn. It is rather comforting.

I start calling the cat, softly so as not wake Joe. "Silas. Here, ki- ki-kitty. Silas, come here!" I cannot sense him, but that means nothing. Surely, my voice carries further to a cat's ears than his little Buzz can to me. I wander around, poking at the bushes, wondering where the silly bugger could have gone. Surely, cats don't have that wide a territory. Maybe I should go out onto the street.

Just as I am passing my window, the snoring stops. "Methos!" Joe calls out the window a moment later. "Get your ass back in here!"

I glare up at the window. "I am retrieving my cat."

Joe's face appears. "Yeah? Is he out there."

I roll my eyes. "I don't know. I'm trying to find him."

"In other words, no. Get back in here before you get yourself arrested."

"I'll come back in a few minutes. I think he might have wandered off a bit further than usual."

"You mean, he ran away, which you already knew. You're not gonna find him wandering around in your boxer shorts. You're just gonna get yourself arrested."

I draw myself up with dignity. "I am wearing a t-shirt and shoes, and I have my coat. I will not get arrested." I sense something. "I'll be right back." I head towards the elusive sense, out into the street, ignoring Joe's irritated protests. Once out there, the Buzz recedes. I follow it down the street until it grows stronger, all at once. Not Silas at all, but a human being. What am I doing? I stop dead.

I suck in my breath, but make no other visible reaction (I hope) when the Immortal steps out from behind a building. He passes under a streetlight. Keane.

"What the bloody Hell are you doing here?" I hiss. I really do not want Joe to hear this conversation.

"Protecting you." He seems to find this funny, or perhaps it is my wardrobe.

"Do I look like I need protection?" It's difficult not to huff, considering the time of night and my attire.

He looks me up and down. I can almost hear a snicker. "Why are you dressed like that?"

I let my shoulders slump. "Because it is two o'clock in the morning and only a few minutes ago, I was asleep."

"I see. But why are you out here?"

"My cat ran away. I was looking for him. What's your excuse?"

"I told you; I was protecting you." Now, he is the one who sounds huffy. It will do him good.

"Fat lot of good you were doing me out here." He looks crestfallen. How I wish he would stop that. I fondle the Bastard, considering. Finding the cat is a lost cause at this point; Joe is right about that. But what to do about Keane? What do they say? Keep your friends close and your enemies closer?

"How long have you been out here? And how do you know where I live?"

He looks sheepish. "I followed you home on Monday morning." Perfect. He was a witness to my disaster of a one night stand. Come to think of it, he does look haggard.

"Come with me," I say, backing up. Thankfully, he does not argue with me, but trots up to me instead. I do not turn around until I have him at left hand. I lead him back to the house. Inside, Joe is sitting up on the bed struggling with his prostheses.

"What the Hell is going on now?" he says, summing up the situation with his usual pithiness. He spots Keane. "Are you out of your mind?"

I redo introductions with brevity. "Joe, you've met Keane; Keane, Joe. Keane, the couch is right there, all made up. Joe, move over."

Keane looks confused. Joe looks incredulous. "You have got to be kidding me," he says.

Hmm. Good point. I turn back to Keane and hold out my hand. "All right, hand it over."

"What?" Definitely confused.

"You know what. Hand it over, scabbard and all. Joe's gonna stick it under his pillow for the night." I wait. I figure he'll leave at this point, but Joe is right. It is too dangerous otherwise. After a momentary hesitation, Keane opens his coat, pulls out his sword and hands it to me. It takes me an effort not to show my astonishment. This guy is serious! He really wants to be my student. I hand the sword to Joe, take off my coat and put my own sword under my own pillow. Keane watches all of this with bemusement, then warily beds down on the couch.

"Move over, bud," I tell Joe.

Joe opens his mouth, closes it, shrugs and rolls over. I hear his prosthetics clunk on the floor as I turn off the light. Maybe this will work out after all. Now, if only Silas would come back home....

Oh, for Heaven's sake. Keane snores worse than Joe.



I see your hair is burning. Hills are filled with fire. If they say I never loved you, you know they are a liar. Driving down your freeway; midnight alleys roam. Cops and cars, the topless bars. Never saw a woman so alone.

I slept pretty well for a guy with a crazy buddy. I couldn't believe it when you came back last night with Keane in tow. Mac'd have a fit--not that I'll ever tell him about it. I've got enough problems of my own with him right now. I don't need to get into the middle of yours. Keane was polite enough this morning. He got himself up when I did, wouldn't take any of my offers of breakfast or a shower, accepted his sword by the door at gunpoint and left, promising to come by tonight. I didn't stop him. He's comatose in some nice hotel room by now, I'll bet, but I could swear he was smiling to himself as he went out the door. The Wise One had let him sleep on his couch. You got some way of defusing your fellow Immortals, Old Man.

You rolled over in bed about an hour later, yawned, grumbled under your breath, pulled the pillow over your face. Your usual routine. "Keane left?" you said, though of course, you knew better than I did.

"Yeah, about an hour ago." I was sitting at your kitchen table, helping myself to microwaved pizza and coffee. I like pilfering your coffee supply. Lots of flavours and combinations, better than a coffee house.

You pulled the pillow off your face. "Is he still coming to the bar tonight?"

"Yep." I munched pizza, looking over an old copy of Paris Match. Should I tell you about Mac coming? I still hadn't been able to get hold of him.

Rolling off the bed, you pulled on your jacket and shuffled over to the table. You flopped down in a chair, scratching your chest, then grabbed a piece of pizza from my plate. "Any sign of Silas?"

"Nope." I turned a page. Maybe I should at least warn you. "About Keane...." I raised my head. You were watching me, pizza held in mid-air. "Mac called me and said he was gonna come over to hear me play tonight. I think he's trying to make some kind of peace gesture."

"Oooh." You stared at the microwave behind my shoulder. "Bad timing. And you said yes?"

I shrugged. "Sorry. I forgot. He called me at the vet's. I tried to call him right back, but he'd turned off his phone."

"Ah." You yawned again and gazed longingly at my coffee. "Joe, maybe we are going about this all the wrong way."

I picked up another piece of pizza. "Oh, yeah? How's that?"

You got up to pour yourself a cup of java. Good thing I made enough for three. "We're not their keepers, you know. I've already warned Keane and he is determined to make peace with Mac."

"Yeah, but Mac doesn't know that. He thinks Keane is still after him. And anyway, Keane is only playing nice to get in the door with you."

You waved that off. "Are you going to tell Mac?" you asked. You sipped coffee, grunting in annoyance. Must be too hot.

"Are you kidding?" I laughed. "That would make it worse."

You shrugged. "What's the problem, then?"

I thought about it. Come to think of it, what was the problem? Mac could take care of himself. It wasn't as though he's ever wanted to kill Keane, anyway, just avoid him.

"I say we sit back and watch the fur fly." Your grin was definitely evil. "I'll wager that after the initial hissing and spitting and pissing on strategic bushes, they will settle down on opposite sides of your establishment and ignore each other."

Now, I was grinning, too. I liked that word picture. "You're a sick man."

You accepted the back-handed compliment with a modest smile and nod. "I try."


Good thing this was a slow day in the comics shop, Al thought. The latest shipment had come in and it was pretty wild. "This latest by Gibbon will sell better than X-Men this month, I bet," Al told Manny as they unpacked the new magazines. "This cover is wonderful."

"I dunno, man." Manny was a reflex sceptic. "I think he peaked with the Babylon issue. Or maybe the Odyssey one. This one's kinda--well, he just sounds pissed off all the time. Not that it won't sell even faster than any of the others." Neither of them paid much attention to the big guy in the raincoat who slipped in the door under the jangling bells.

"It is about the sack of Rome in 394 BC. The barbarians destroyed most early Roman culture. How should he sound?" Al started to get kind of pissed off, himself. Manny always had to disagree with whatever you said. Al wished he would get off the soapbox, sometimes.

"Hey, it's a comic book. It's not supposed to be deep. The guy sounds like he was there and had an axe to grind." Manny flung his arms out, almost whacking the customer, who was coming up to the counter. "Oh, sorry, man. My bad." He stepped to one side to let the guy past. The man looked familiar. He was a regular, bought a lot of X-Men, Dark Horse and Vertigo, some DC and independents. Liked classic Batman and Cerebus, though he'd gone off The Maxx real fast, lately.

"Thank you." Ducking his head, the guy moved up to the counter. He only had one comic today, the issue under discussion, as it turned out.

"C'est bon you are getting that today," Al told him as he rang up the sale. "We expect to be sold out by the end of the week."

"You know, that's all there is, too," Manny said, tapping the cover. "They found that artist dead here in Paris not too long ago." The customer looked unimpressed. "Found him on a construction site, burned to a crisp. Had to identify him from his dental records." Egged on by the customer's blank look, Al thought, Manny leaned forward and lowered his voice. "The funny thing was, they say it wasn't the fire that killed him. Somebody cut off his head." He drew his finger across his throat. "They say the sword that killed him was lying next to him, snapped in half. Guess he was lucky they left the head behind, huh?" He leaned back, waiting for a reaction. "What do you think of that, huh? Like something out of 'Lord of the Rings'!" The customer just stood there, not even blinking. Looking disappointed, Manny retreated behind the counter.

"How very odd," the customer murmured at last, in a tone that Al thought was a little creepy. With some of the guys that came here, the less you knew about them, the better. The guy stirred, coming out of his daze, and looked at Al. "How much do I owe you?" Al told him. The customer nodded, paid and walked out.

"That was kind of strange," Al said, after the doorbells stopped jangling.

Manny wandered over to the shelves to tidy up the comics. "What?" he asked, yawning. Real people didn't seem to interest him much.

"That guy who was just in here...well, I mean, look at this 'Barbaros' cover. You think he knew Mark Gibbon? He looked like the guy on the cover, close enough to be the model. Maybe they were friends or something." Remembering the customer's face, Al shivered.

Manny laughed. "Al, you been smoking way too much pot. That guy the model for 'Barbaros'? Give me a break!"


When I got to the bar, I got a surprise. A woman was sitting at a table, sipping a lemonade. She looked up at me and smiled as I stumped in. She stood up to greet me.

"Hello, you must be Joe. I am Mr. Pierson's academic supervisor." Not exactly what I'd thought she'd be like, but somehow, I liked her more for that. Short, dark, quiet. She looked shy, but I didn't believe it.

"Oh! Right!" I shook her hand. "I'd offer you something, but it looks like Ewan here has already fixed you up." Ewan nodded at me and headed out back. Bet he couldn't wait to get back to Edinburgh.

"Yes. I'm sorry if it sounds insulting, but I am not supposed to drink alcohol. My religion forbids it." She looked mischievous. "Of course, I should not be in a bar at all, talking to a strange man. But then, I should not be educated, either, so we shall leave it at that." She indicated for me to sit. I decided to risk it, even though it made me look clumsy.

"You're here about Adam, I guess," I said.

She nodded, leaning forward. "Oh, yes. How is he? Did that woman appear, after all?"

"I'm afraid she did." I put up a hand to forestall her. "He's okay. She came after him at the hospital, but he's okay. She's dead, though."

"Oh, dear," she said. She seemed remarkably calm about it. A cool customer, though the concern about you seemed genuine. "How terrible. Is he out of hospital now?"

"Oh, yeah. He's resting at home today." I got an inspirational thought. "Say, you know, he's coming in tonight. If you come by, then you can see him yourself."

"Oh, I don't know." Her brows drew down. It looked cute on her. "I was going to leave him be, but I am going away for three weeks on Monday and I should see him before I leave."

"Well, come see him here. It'll be fine; no problem."

She looked at me from under those brows. I bet she knew exactly what I was trying here, but I wasn't sure if she minded.

"Well, perhaps I will try." I could tell she'd like to be persuaded. Maybe she likes me. She did kinda look amused.

"What do you specialise in, Ma'am? Adam never told me." I wanted to find out more about her before she disappeared out the door. It ain't a crime. Not like you were gonna fill me in.

"Ancient near-Eastern Studies," she explained. "Northern Asia Minor from 1500 BCE onwards."

"Ah, so you're right up Adam's alley."

She nodded. "More or less, though he extends his studies further into Asia than I do."

"Oh, yeah. What's his thesis? He never told me." You always got cagey about it whenever I asked you.

"'The Origins of Dualistic Thought in Old Avestan Literature'. Mostly Zoroastrianism, though I believe he is still writing a chapter comparing the concept of Death as a deity in Iranian and Indian thought." Why, Methos, you son of a bitch. I couldn't believe you were actually doing your PhD thesis on Ahriman, himself.

"Really? When did he start that?" I tried to keep my voice casual, which was tough, considering how person the subject was.

She frowned. "As you may know, Adam disappeared for nearly two years in 1997. When he returned, I had replaced his old advisor, who had died. We talked and he changed his thesis then. It was originally on the transmission of ideas between Asia Minor and the Indian subcontinent prior to the invasion of Alexander the Great."

Hmm, that sounded reasonable enough, all things considered. I relaxed. So, Ahriman did hit you out of the blue, just like me and Mac. Good. I'm not sure I could handle you knowing something like that beforehand and not warning me. Not that I believe you did. I used to wonder, but not anymore.

In the end, I talked Azar into coming tonight. Seems she's curious about the Blues. I would've picked another night, but with her going away for a few weeks, I wasn't sure when I'd get another chance. I sure hoped I knew what I was doing. Unless a miracle occurred, this was gonna be one Hell of a night.


Someone is knocking at my door. Do I answer it? Of course not. A key turns in the lock. Must be Joe. I roll away from the door as it opens. I hear Joe limp in and shut the door carefully. He approaches until I can hear him breathing right beside the bed.

"You gonna drink that all yourself, or are you in a mood to share?" he says, over the sound of 'LA Woman'. It is not the jibe or accusation that I expected. I roll over, making space on the bed for him to sit. He does so, wincing.

"Ohh," he says. "That feels good. I've been standing all day."

"This'll help," I say, handing him the bottle. "You want to take 'em off?" I mean the legs.

He shakes his head. "Maybe later." He takes a large swig of gin without quite choking. "Christ, Old Man, this stuff is rotgut. Couldn't you get drunk on something a little smoother?"

"You're not supposed to enjoy yourself whenever you're doing the sackcloth and ashes routine, Joe. You know that." Not that I have been drinking enough to achieve any kind of oblivion.

"Oh." Joe belches sagely. "So that's what this is? Penance?"

"Something like that. Maybe I just feel like being miserable." As though I am not miserable enough. "You do realise that 'The End' is coming up a song or two after this."

"Yeah." Joe sighs. Ever since he saw 'Apocalypse Now', he's really hated that song. "I can handle it. Is it the one with or without Morrison's faked orgasm?"

"Not sure. The long version, I think. And who's saying it was faked?"

"Ah." Joe nods sagely. "Missing Byron, huh?"

Should I bother to deny it? Oh, why bother? "Something like that," I admit.

"So." Joe asks the next question that I know will come. "Was Byron Jim Morrison?"

I shrug. "Could be, I suppose. We weren't in touch, at the time."

Joe chuckles. "God, you're cagey sometimes."

"Only when I am very, very miserable. And missing my cat."

"Do you want me to leave?" He asks gently. | "Strangely enough, no." I look up at him, sitting there with his cane beside him and the bottle in his lap. He has nearly gone all white now. Soon, in a few decades, at best, I will lose him, just as I have lost all the others. "Misery loves company, they do say."

"Now I'm replacing your cat?" Joe smirks.

I laugh. "Joe, you do not resemble a cat in any way. You are a dog person. Didn't you know that?"

He changes the subject, getting to the heart of his visit. "Come on, man. Don't do this to me. You can't leave me alone with those guys. You gotta come in tonight."

No, I really cannot do that. He is right about that. "I know that. I'll get up in a minute."

"What's wrong?" he asks as I sit up. "Is it the cat?"

"Yes...no. Not the cat. Old business. It came back and bit me on the ass today. They're selling the last issue of 'Barbaros' at the comic book store."

"Oh." His voice is quiet, but I still hear the sympathy. "Christ, I'm sorry, Methos."

"It's okay. I just...I walked into the comic book store and they were talking about it. Talking about him. Speculating about his death. It felt strange. It is not as though I liked Crixus very much, and I couldn't stand Atticus. I didn't expect to grieve for either of them."

At first, Joe looks speechless. After a moment, he says, "You shouldn't have gone out today. Can you handle things tonight?"

"I'll be fine, Joe." I roll over and reach over the edge of the bed to pick up one of my boots, then let it drop. What an unsatisfying thump. Never mind. I think about the expected floor show tonight and I perk up a bit. Mac and Keane in one room; now, that should be interesting. If only Amanda were here. I can't help it; I grin in anticipation. Payback, however slow, is a beautiful thing, and those two both owe me. "Yeah, I'll be fine. I wouldn't want to miss this night for the world."


Oh, dear. There is a young woman coming to my table. At first, I don't have a clue who she is--then, the memory slots into place. I went home with her last Sunday night.

"Hel-lo, Sailor." I have to admit, as she sits down across from me, that she does have a charming leer. "Didn't expect to see you around here. Like the Blues, do you?"

"I'm a regular." Might as well be blunt. I jerk my chin towards the stage, where Joe is setting up to play. He hasn't spotted her yet. "I know the owner."

"Oh?" She glances over at Joe with brief interest. How did I end up in bed with a girl possessing the attention span of a mayfly? I thought my taste in women had improved. No. Best not to answer that.

She pulls her chair around so that her thigh is pressing against mine. Don't even think about leaning against her, Old Man; behave. When she takes one of my hands in her two, though, it is difficult. I let her do it--slave to the touch. She strokes the inside of my palm. Uh oh. She has such tiny hands; I remember now what she did with them. I shiver. Now is not the time.

"I had a lot of fun the other night," she says. I'll bet she did-- bedding an older man, then booting him out the door come morning, must have given her a great sense of power over men. Classic ladette behaviour.

"Oh," I say. She doesn't have to know how my body is responding to her (it certainly is!). Since I'm sober, it is my head that is in control. My head is firmly on my shoulders this evening and, with two Immortals who hate each other about to arrive at any moment, I intend to keep it there.

"I thought we could try a rematch," she says, sticking out the tip of her tongue in what she must think is an endearing manner. Either she is too bold or too young to catch on to my cool tone.

Joe looks up and sees us. He frowns. I raise my eyebrows. His frown deepens. Don't worry, buddy. I can get myself out of this one.

I fold my own fingers around hers before putting her hands on the table in front of her. "I think it's best if we make last Sunday night a one-time thing," I say. She does not like that. She pouts, though there is real anger under the outthrust lower lip, not just petulance. I have one- upped her. No doubt she wanted the rematch so that she could dump me again.

"I just thought we could have a little fun," she huffs.

"We did, but it has been a hard week for me and I'm sure you have to work in the morning. It wouldn't be convenient for either of us." That hits home. Now, she does look angry. Good. Time to get a learning curve, Old Man. You have been around the mulberry bush too many times to waste a sober night on a girl like this. You cannot be so desperate as to give her another shot at booting you out into the rain in le grand matin.

"Well," she says, "I guess I'll see you around."

"I guess you will," I say as she gets up and marches over to a group of college-age girls at a nearby table. The bar is filling up now with regulars. Joe has many of those on Fridays. Weekend nights are when he does most of his business. The ladies are looking a bit overwhelmed by all the Blues enthusiasts. My rejected suitress flops down into a chair and an animated conference ensues. Her mates lean forward, asking questions of course, which she answers with arms folded across her chest and a martyred look. The mates keep glancing over at me. I raise my glass to them in a salute, which creates a stir and a few gasps. It is difficult to tell whether they are enjoying her failure or are sympathetic to her being taken advantage of by such an old rotter. Maybe it is both. She'll get over it. As for me, nobody does it better for salvaging dignity out of the mud. Game over. I am content to call it a draw.

I glance over at Joe, who is having a hard time biting down on a smile. See, Joe? I can still keep it in my pants. And I can do sobriety, too. He shakes his head and goes back to setting up. Some of the band have shown up by now, to help him out.

He comes over to my table. "That was quick," he says, easing himself down onto a chair.

"It seemed best to keep it short for the sake of our respective senses of dignity." I don't mention the surreptitious breathing exercises I am doing to calm myself down. My body doesn't mind that she is trash; it's not as though I have always been this particular. I watch the group of ladies (I am trying to be generous) leave. I wait until they are out the door before I let myself rub my stomach. I wouldn't want to show weakness.

Joe notices, of course. "That still bothering you?" he says. I shrug and slouch back in my chair, staring at the ceiling. "Yeah, yeah. Okay. I know when to take a hint."

"It's not like it's gonna kill me."

"So, what? Flu won't kill you, either. That doesn't mean you shouldn't take it easy for a week or two."

"Fine. Point taken." I rub my eyes, then fold my arms and lay my head on the table, looking up at Joe. He reaches over and pats me on the shoulder.

"Been a real shitty week for you, huh?" he says, smiling ruefully.

"That is an impressive understatement." Not that Joe hasn't had his share of trouble. "I'm sorry you got caught up in it all. I don't remember life being quite this exciting back when I was working with you and Don."

"It's been a rough decade, that's for sure," Joe admits, letting his hand fall back to his side. "At least we're still here."

"And whose fault is that?" I am thinking of Kronos and Silas. I wish my cat had not run away. I feel a Buzz and lift my head. Catching my movement, Joe glances at the door. His face tightens.

"Look what the cat dragged in," he mutters.


Kate watched her husband with bemused concern. "Duncan, what is wrong?"

"Nothing, love. It's fine." Duncan stared at the road, palming the steering wheel in visible agitation. She had to admit that traffic was heavy. Perhaps that was why he wouldn't look at her. "I'm just nervous about introducing you to Joe and Adam."

"I'm sure that we'll all get along." She wasn't sure of this at all, but saw no reason to borrow trouble. Joe sounded a bit of a grouch, but if she handled him right, she felt sure that she would have him eating out of her hand in short order. Pierson (she had no doubt that 'Adam' was not his true name) was almost certainly an Immortal, though Duncan was being coy about telling her that. He could be a problem, but, with Immortals, there was always that one, straightforward solution. It would be difficult reconciling it with Duncan afterwards, but she could do it. She was good at persuasion.

"I hope so," Duncan said, not sounding his usual, confident self. "They can both be difficult, and Joe and I just had a fight a few days ago. Adam will probably be nice enough--as long as he doesn't get too sarcastic about being in hospital all week."

"He was in hospital?" It was always good to show concern for one's husband's friends, though this did imply that Adam was Mortal, after all. "What happened? Is he all right?"

"He's fine--physically, anyway. I don't know about his mood, though. He's been distracted. Someone poisoned him on Monday. That was how he ended up in hospital."

"I see." She filed the fact away, in case of needed use. Duncan seemed to acquire troublesome friends. She would never tell him, but she was rather glad that Connor was dead, though not as glad as she was about Kell's death. She did not think that Duncan's beloved older kinsman would ever have accepted her.

Duncan's fidgeting increased as they approached the bar. By the time they pulled up down the street (there being no spaces left, either in front of the bar or across from it), she was having difficulty refraining from laughing at him.

"Duncan," she said, laying a hand on his arm as he cursed over setting the car alarm system, "stop worrying. It will be fine."

He smiled at her, looking strained. "I know, but--"

"It will be *fine*, Duncan." She had survived Kell, for God's sake. How difficult could they be? As they entered the bar, she felt the Buzz of another Immortal. Duncan strolled right in ahead of her. It must be Pierson. But if Pierson was Immortal, how had he ended up in hospital for half the week? Then, she saw him--no, them. They were certainly a pair. They were sitting near the bar. While everyone else in the place (and it was crowded) ignored their entrance, Pierson and Dawson were staring right at Duncan and Kate--at her mostly, she thought. One of them had raised his head from the table and watched them with the alertness of a startled wolf-- an Immortal. That must be Pierson, since she knew that Dawson was Mortal. Dawson sat across from Pierson, hunched in his chair, a cane leaning against the table. His gaze wasn't as intense as Pierson's, but it was unfriendly. Come to think of it, Pierson did not look welcoming, either. Belatedly, Kate remembered that her best hold on Kell had been through sex. Neither of these men seemed to fancy her in the least, which was just as well. Seducing Duncan's friends would surely backfire.

This might be harder than she'd thought.


Mac comes in, opening the door for a woman. This must be Kate, or Faith, or whatever she is calling herself this week. She looks like one of those walking skeletons that populate modeling runways. For heaven's sake! Why can't the man find a woman with meat on her bones? At least Amanda had the excuse of a slender frame. As they approach, I catch her eye and reassess. I do not trust this woman. She is a survivor, and I do not mean that in a complimentary sense. I shall have to watch my step.

"Hullo, Joe, Adam," Mac says. Ah, so he has not told sweet Kate my name, yet. Commendable. Well, Mac has not survived four centuries by being a complete fool. Telling Kate my name would give her leverage over me and make me very angry. I do hope Mac knows better than that. He introduces us to the wife. She puts on an uncertain air, sucking in her cheeks, and I trust her even less. She is trying to play us. Does Joe get it? I glance at him. His face is set. Oh, he sees through her. Not bad for a kid.

I will give her credit. She does not push the charm once it becomes clear that neither Joe nor I are buying it. Mac gets her seated then sits down himself. The small talk that follows is uninspired; all of us holding our respective cards to ourselves.

"Are you two staying in Paris long?" I ask brightly. I wouldn't bother with the chit-chat, but Joe won't talk much, sitting at the table stone- faced and fussing with his cane. Mac looks unhappy about Joe's attitude. You'll live, Mac.


I shouldn't have let you pull all the weight in the conversation, but I honestly didn't know what to say. *This* was the love of Mac's life? Yowza. Here was Mac talking about how Kate had risked her life to save his ass from Kell, and she was sitting there, looking all cute and modest about it. Not like we had anything to do with it--huh, Old Man?

Mac was such a sucker when it came to women. Take that Katya he ran into a while back, for example. I got suspicious when he told me her first death had been stoning for witchcraft. Witchcraft was still a pretty rare offense in merry old England back in the 14th century. Nobody got stoned to death for anything in Europe back then, anyway. And 'Frederick' wasn't much of an Anglo-Norman name, either. Surprise, surprise. When I looked Katya up in the database, I found out she'd got her first death from being hung as a thief, and there wasn't any noble fiance in sight. She made the whole thing up. Figures.

After Mac told me the whole sad story of how she'd let the father of her adoptive granddaughter go free for murdering her daughter, I checked Katya out. Turned out she whacked Baptista after all. When she disappeared, she took the granddaughter with her and he turned up dead a few weeks later, floating face down in a river. They never did catch her. Can't say that I blame her. I'd have whacked the guy, too. Nobody kills my family and gets away with it, and screw him being the little girl's father. What was gonna happen when Daddy's Little Girl grew up and fell in love herself? Or what if he'd gotten the idea that the kid wasn't really his? I'll bet that would have gone over real well.

Hell, you'd have whacked him. You whacked Walker just for threatening my daughter, and Kristen just 'cause you thought she was a bitch (which she was). You don't mess around with that stuff. Mac needs to get a learning curve with women or he's gonna lose his head to one some fine day. Maybe it'll even be Kate.


Jerry strained to hear the conversation over the crowd while tending the bar. Though Joe had mostly kept him on days while he got up to speed, Jerry still found himself helping out Friday nights. Marie didn't like him. She regarded him with a sullen, Gallic contempt most of the time and was constantly on his case when they worked together. At least Amy had a sense of humour--not to mention great legs.

Marie was really riding him hard tonight, but at least she'd given him as much of an earful as he could use. Joe and Methos had found themselves a guilty party, after all. Some crazy woman from South Africa had attacked Methos in the hospital on Wednesday; that was why he'd stayed in an extra day. They were figuring her for the poisoner. Now that she was dead, she couldn't deny it, so that was good. Well, not good, exactly. Jerry did feel bad that somebody had gotten killed in all this crazy mess, but he was still glad that somebody had not turned out to be him. And it sounded as though the cat was gonna be okay. What a relief. He would have felt really bad if that cat had died. At least now he could relax, or as much as he could relax with Methos in town.


Joe puts up with playing Happy Friends until he gets the call for the first set. Then, he leaves us all to it. I give him a hurt look. He ignores it. Guess he figures I can take care of myself, not that he was helping me out much in the conversational arena. Thank you so much, buddy. Leave me to field the two of them all by myself? I'm old, not superhuman.

Mac is playing with his drink. Abruptly, he drains it, then turns to Kate. "Kate, love, could you get us some more drinks?"

"A pint of bitter for me, please," I pipe up. Might as well.

Kate raises an eyebrow at Mac, playing it cool, but I can see that she is insulted. Like Joe, Mac ignores it. "Certainly," she says. "Perhaps I'll freshen up a bit while I'm up there." She stands up.

"That's wonderful, love. Thank you," Mac says to her back and she strolls away, head high, towards the little girl's room. She knows something about holding on to her dignity, does that one. Mac turns back to me, apparently not noticing that his wife has just snubbed him as effectively as he had snubbed her.

"Methos, what the Hell is going on with Joe?" At least he is keeping his voice down, though I still do not like him using my name here. He pulls the chair around towards me and leans over the table. "He looks really pissed off."

"Any reason he shouldn't be?" I drain my drink. Why not? It is a Coke and sweet Kate is coming back with a pint of bitter. I can always nurse that one.

"What do you mean?" Mac looks blank. He didn't visit me in the hospital after Tuesday. Maybe he is not up to speed, after all. I didn't exactly encourage him to come back and I suppose he was afraid of running into Joe. How much has Joe told him? Does he even know about Annie Lembede or my cat? Over by the stage, Joe is discussing something about the lighting with one of his crew, pointing up at the fixtures. I try to catch his eye. He turns away. Such a pain in the ass. I guess, since they both still seem to be on the outs with each other, that I should assume Joe hasn't told Mac anything, or at least, not much.

"I didn't get out of hospital until yesterday, Mac. Joe's been covering for me all week. He's been running himself ragged. Didn't you know?" I should feel irritation but I am too tired.

"You were in the hospital until yesterday?" Mac looks incredulous. "What for?"

"And then I had to go get my cat," I continue, not wanting to explain Annie Lembede after all. Come to think of it, the cat is an even bigger minefield.

And Mac notices that. "Wasn't he sick?"

"He had a rough couple of days, but he's doing okay, now." That sounds like total bollocks, but I cannot come up with better right on the spot.

"And you're here now? Tonight?" It is hard to tell whether Mac looks skeptical or disgusted. I think I will push for the latter, since admitting that Silas ran away will sound suspicious.

I shrug. "He's only a cat. I left him at home, all tucked into a box. He has food and water. I am sure he'll be fine." Now, Mac does look disgusted. Mission accomplished. "I thought we were talking about Joe."

I can see that Mac does not want to let this go, but knows it will be fruitless to press me on it. "You're saying he's angry with me because he's been distracted helping you out with your bad week?"

"Honestly? No. I'm saying that you might have picked a better week to snub him than this one. He has a short temper right now."

"Yeah, but does he have to take it out on Kate?"

I make wet rings on the table with my glass. "I don't think he likes Kate, Mac. I don't think he trusts her." I refrain from adding that I don't trust her, either, since that is a given. I glance around; Kate is at the bar. Good. "You must admit that she was less than clear about her motivations during your troubles with Kell. Not having any history with her, Joe has no reason to trust her in spite of his instincts."

"He could at least give her the benefit of the doubt," Mac growls.

"Oh, as you've done with him in the past?" He pales. "Joe has unilaterally rebuilt too many bridges with you over too much bad blood for you to lecture him--or me--about forgiveness. Or have you forgotten Jacob Galati so soon?" I can almost hear Mac grinding his teeth. I hope it hurts because I have not forgotten his bitter words about my playing Watchers against Immortals. I deserved better.

"Did you miss me?" Kate says right over my shoulder. I'll admit it; I jump.

"Maybe you could do that over *his* shoulder?" I snap, still keeping my eyes on MacLeod.

"Sorry," Kate pouts, as she plunks down a pint of bitter in front of me. At least she is good for something. She crosses over to sit next to Mac. He makes it complicated by moving his chair away from me. Not a good sign, but Kate worries me more. How much did she hear just now? I have a bad feeling that it was more than either Mac or I wanted her to hear. She is very good at this. She manages to look like a virgin and a whore at the same time. No mean feat. Though Britney Spears appears to have managed it, Kate is a great deal older than Britney.

When I feel the Buzz, what I think, uncharitably, is that Stephen Keane must have the worst timing of any Immortal on the planet. As Mac turns in his chair, a look of guilty panic crosses his face. He must think it is Amanda. Kate only looks panicked. Heaven knows who she thinks is coming through the door. When Keane steps through, she sags in clear relief. Mac, of course, reacts quite differently. "What the Hell is he doing here?"

So much for the benefit of the doubt. Might as well get this out and on the table. "I invited him."

Mac gapes at me. "You *what*?"

I stand up and wave at Keane, who is scanning the room for me, or whoever else might have that telltale Buzz. "I invited him. Joe said it was okay." This will create more problems with Joe, but I don't see why he would deny it, not after last night. I finally get Keane's attention. He spots me and waves back, smiling like a idiot. The smile freezes when he sees Mac, but he comes over anyway.

"Is this a bad time?" he says when he gets close enough. I shake my head. Once Joe starts up, none of us will be able to hear ourselves think. That should make any touchy conversation impossible.

"Have a seat." I point at the chair next to me, on the other side from Mac. He did promise.

For a moment, I think he will run right back out the door, but he swallows and comes forward, edging past Mac, to claim the chair. Mac watches his every move, like a dog ready to attack, but does nothing else. Kate keeps glancing from Mac to Keane. She must sense the tension, but is wise enough to keep her mouth shut.

"I believe you two have met," I tell Mac as I sit down myself. I look at Kate. "Kate, this is Mr. Keane. He and your husband met briefly some time ago. Keane, this is Kate, Mac's wife."

"Pleased to meet you," Keane chokes out, barely above the chatter rising around us. At least he remembers his manners. Am I the only male Immortal willing to be rude to women--or to give them credit for being as dangerous as men? "Have you been in Paris long?"

"We've been back and forth." Kate decides to take up the conversational gauntlet, since Mac is still silent and glaring. "It's a wonderful old city, but a bit exhausting."

"Peace and quiet can be a rare commodity these days," I say. Especially at Le Blues Bar on Friday night, with four Immortals--two of whom badly want to kill each other--sitting at the same table. An uncomfortable silence follows. I glance over at the stage, in front of which Joe is settling into his chair. He happens to look up and spot us. He looks alarmed. He starts to pick up the mike, which one of his crew has just turned on, then seems to think better of it and lays it back down. He tilts his head to one side. I shrug and spread my hands. I'll do my best, Joe, but I can't guarantee anything. He slumps, nods, then goes back to what he was doing, which appears to be messing around with his chair. Gee, this seemed much more like a good bit of fun when we were plotting it this morning.

"What are you doing here, Keane?" Mac says into a lull in the surrounding conversation.

"As...Pierson said, he invited me." Keane's tone is equally hostile. Nope. These two will never be friends. I will settle for keeping them in one room for the next few hours without their challenging each other.

"No. What are you doing in town?" Mac, of course, assumes that Keane would only come for him. Hate to disappoint you, Mac.

"I came to see Pierson." Keane, if possible, is even more brutally honest than Mac. "Our previous acquaintance was sadly all too brief. I wanted to get to know him better. Pierson has been kind enough to accommodate me in that wish." Heaven only knows what Mac thinks of all that. I don't think I am his favourite muppet today.

"Considering that you were trying to kill each other the last time you met, I'm surprised to hear that," Mac says, "or that Adam was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt." There is that bloody phrase again.

"Pierson seems very good about that. I thought he might teach me something of his philosophy on it." Nope. Keane will never have any love for Mac, but I guess he was serious about trying to break bread with him tonight. He is making an effort.

Too bad Mac is not interested in reciprocating the olive branch. "He does have a certain talent for meddling." Oh, that is it.

I lean forward across the table so fast that Mac recoils and Kate puts a hand under her coat. A warning glance from me and she slowly removes said hand from said coat. I turn back to Mac. "This is not about you. Not everything is about you. He is just here to talk with me. I told him that you would be here and he was willing to come anyway."

Mac shifts uneasily in his chair. "He should have known better."

"Why? He's not the one who created this situation in the first place. You did. You created all that bad blood all by yourself."

"If I could take it all back--"

"You wouldn't." I see no reason to be gentle. "You'd kill them all over again and you know it." Next to Mac, Kate looks thoughtful. If she were my wife, I would be taking my sword with me to bed and staying awake all night. That may be why she is not my wife.

"That's not fair," Mac says.

"Considering the company," I snarl, "perhaps we should leave the concept of 'fairness' out of any future conversation, for the sake of harmony."

"You would kill them all over again, wouldn't you?" Keane wades in. Ah, damn it, boy. Let it go for just one night.

"Didn't you slaughter our countrymen as if they were cattle?" Mac snarls back. "What were we supposed to do, stand by as you murdered our women and children?" Kate's dangerous look deepens. Watch your step, Mac. Your wife is not behind you 100% on this topic.

"And do you think that every Englishman you killed was a monster? How very convenient for you." At least the Friday night crowd is noisy. Maybe if the bad blood flows a bit, these two will get it out of their systems. I only hope that being in public will force them to keep their tempers in check.

So much for that idea. Mac stands up suddenly. "I dinna have to listen to this from a sassenach!"

"Duncan." Kate lays a hand on his arm. He shakes her off. Ooh. Now, she looks more than a bit murderous. He doesn't seem to notice, and that only makes her look angrier.

Unlike Kate, I don't attempt to touch Mac, or get up. "Sit down, Mac."

"How dare you do this to me?" His anger turns on me, now, as I knew it would. In a moment, it will turn on Joe. Right, Mac. Let's have a big, family blow-up in public. That will really fix things with Joe.

I look up at Mac, not caring if he can hear me above the crowd or not. "First of all, Keane's coming to Paris has nothing to do with you. If it did, he would have challenged you already. Second, as I said before, you created this situation. You don't like it? Fine. You fix it. In the meantime, I am going to have a drink and some quiet conversation with Mr. Keane. You can join in, or not, as you please."

"Unless, of course, you can't handle a 'quiet' conversation," Keane taunts, most unwisely. Next thing I know, the table has upended and my beer is flying through the air. A good half of it goes on me before the glass smashes on the floor. I go for my sword.

"HEY!" The command, amplified by a mike, blasts over the speakers. I freeze. Conversation in the place peeters off as everyone, most importantly Mac and Keane, turn to stare at Joe. He is standing by the stage, holding the mike, looking fairly pissed off. I ease my hand away from the Bastard, my rage short-circuited.

"Knock it off or I'm calling the cops." I believe him. "In fact, you can either clean that up now, or you can get the Hell out of my bar." Jerry hurries up with a bar towel, a broom, a dustpan and a mop. He starts to sweep up the glass. Around us, conversation starts up again.

I put out a hand to stop Jerry. He jumps. Nice to know I'm still feared by someone. "No," I tell him, taking the bar towel out of his hand. "They made the mess. Let them clean it up." Jerry looks from me to Mac, like a trapped animal. Too bad. Mac glares at me; I stare back, letting my face go slack. "Go on. Give him the mop and broom." Hesitantly, Jerry gives Mac the broom. I jerk my chin at Keane. "Give him the dustpan." Jerry obeys this time with more alacrity. I sit back. "Don't worry about the rest. They'll put it all away when they've finished." Jerry scurries off. He, at least, can sense when the level in a barometer drops.

Mac grips the broom handle until his knuckles turn white. He'd probably like to use it on my head. "Methos--" he blurts out, not quite stopping himself in time. He looks horrified. He should. It is an indiscretion, at the very least, but I ignore it. Only sweet Kate, who unfortunately looks all too enlightened at the moment, might benefit from it at my expense. And I can handle Kate. I sleep with my sword.

"You want a teacher, but you only listen to what you want to hear," I tell him, still keeping my expression as blank as I ever did with Kronos. Beer is soaking into my jeans. I focus on sopping it up with the bar towel.

"Darius never told me what I wanted to hear," Mac snaps, visibly stung.

"Didn't he?" Darius was a child to me. Invoking him will not cow me. "Maybe it was because you never dumped beer all over him." He flushes and makes a move to clean me up. I stop him dead with a warning look that would have given even Kronos pause. "I agree that you have a problem that is making your life miserable, but it is not my problem. You need to stop making it my responsibility." I don't bother to say what will happen if he does not stop. I am too old to make threats.

"What do you want from me?" He doesn't quite say my name this time. He learns. Good.

"I want you to clean up your own mess." I finish sopping up beer and glare up at him until he looks away. Reluctantly, he starts to sweep. Even more reluctantly, Keane crouches down with the dustpan so that Mac can sweep the pile into it. I watch them, slouched in my chair in the middle of the floor while people stare at us. I stare back at them until they turn away. If I look like some minor god sitting on his wooden throne, I can live with that. Wouldn't be my first time. I catch Joe's eye as he and the band finish setting up. He shakes his head at me, smiling wryly, as he pulls his guitar strap over his head.

"I think I'll go get some more drinks," Kate suggests from the sidelines.

"You do that." I don't see any reason for false courtesy at this point. "And why don't you get me another towel while you're at it?" She goes away, which is all I can ask for.

As Keane rights the table while Mac mops, the crackling of the mike distracts me from my cold brooding over their activities. Joe is starting the evening's festivities. Thank Heaven for that. I sit up and turn to watch him, ignoring my erstwhile students. Joe has the mike set up on a stand and he leans over it, tapping on his guitar as he goes through the introductions of the band.

He starts strumming a tune on the guitar. "I'd like to dedicate this first song to a friend of mine." At first, I assume he means Mac. "He's been having a bad week." Uh oh. Not Mac. "Adam, this one's for you." He grins at me, the cheeky bastard, right before he lets me have it:

"I really do appreciate the fact you're sittin' here. "Your voice sounds so wonderful "But your face don't look too clear. "So, Barmaid, bring a pitcher, another round of brew. "Honey, why don't we get drunk and screw?"

For the first time in what seems like too damned long, I laugh out loud. Mac and Keane pull up chairs and sit down, staring at me as if I have gone mad (I suppose I have). I grip the table and shake it as Joe launches into the chorus:

"Why don't we get drunk and screw? "I just bought a waterbed filled up for me and you. "They say you are a snuff queen, Honey, I don't think that's true. "So, why don't we get drunk and screw?"

"Please. Don't. Sing along," Mac says through his teeth while Joe and the band wail through the bridge. Keane looks too spooked to contribute his opinion. Welcome to real life, Keane. It's messy.

"Why not?" What I really want to do is wolf-howl along, but that would not go down well. Wet blankets, all of them--literally, considering my jeans. Taverns used to be so much more fun. "Never mind. Here comes the beer." And here comes Kate, with Marie following with a tray. I guess Kate doesn't carry her own water these days. Mac insists on paying for them all. She puts on a show of letting him mollify her. I put on a show of letting him mollify me with a new pint. Joe and the band move on to 'Take This Job and Shove It'. David Allan Coe has always been a crowd pleaser.

A few minutes later, I spot a familiar-looking woman coming through the door. At first, I cannot place her. Then, I realise why--it is my academic advisor, Azar Davani.

"Be right back," I say to no one in particular and push myself out of my chair. Mac and Keane continue to ignore each other and Kate continues to pretend that everything is fine. Kell must have given her good practice at that.

"Dr. Davani," I say, intercepting her near the door, "I wasn't expecting you here."

"I came to see how you were doing. How do you feel?"

I shrug, not wanting to alarm her. "It's been a rough week, but I'm all right now. Joe said he talked to you."

She smiles at me, doesn't look a bit fazed, doesn't even seem to notice the huge beer blotch down my front. I have always found her calm impressive. "Oh, yes. He invited me over for the evening." She peers past me at the band. "Is that him in front of the stage?"

"Yep." I gesture back at Mac and Keane and Kate. "I'm sitting with some friends over there. Great view. Why don't you come sit with us?" Joe doesn't seem to have noticed her arrival, yet. Hmm. Joe, buddy, what are you doing?

"All right." She follows me back to the table. As we approach it, I hear Mac ask Keane tentatively if he likes the Blues. Will wonders never cease? Maybe there is something to this Wise Old Git gig after all.



You're lucky I'm a civilised man.

What the Hell was I thinking, starting a book store? What a pain in the ass! I am not in any shape for this kind of venture. I am wearily making up my financial books on a shipment that I've just received when a customer wanders in through the open front door.

"Rene!" I say, surprised. "I wasn't expecting to see you here." Rene is an old Watcher field operative buddy of mine. His short beard looks greyer than I remember, but not as white as Joe's. He reminds me of some of the Belgians that I worked with in Uganda back in the '60s, though he is a few years too young to be one. There is that air of bonhomie that can evaporate in an instant if one persists in asking the wrong questions. As I have never been in the habit of doing that, Rene and I have always got along fine. He's much like Joe, but Gallic.

I stand up to greet him. Rene envelops me in a hug and gives me a kiss on each cheek. "Bonsoir, Pierson. I heard you were in town. Comment ca va?"

"Been better," I admit. "I was in hospital for a day or two. Poisoning of some type. It's not been the best of weeks." I rub my stomach surreptitiously. "What are you doing here? I thought Gabrieli would have told every Watcher in Europe to stay away from me."

"Ah, pfff." Rene waves a hand, looking disgusted. "Parle a mon cul parce que ma tate est malade, you know?" I laugh. "Gabrieli is a suit. I don't like a suit, unless she has great legs. Me, I don't like his 'big plans' for the European section."

"Yeah, well it still might not be safe hanging around with the likes of me." Rene is tough, but I don't want him getting caught in the middle of what looks to be a nasty fight coming up between me and the Watchers. I don't want Joe in the middle, either, but Joe won't listen to me on that subject. What are they going to do, I guess he figures, shoot him? They already did. If I didn't know any better, I'd think he was pre-Immortal. Oh, how I wish he was. I'd shoot him myself tomorrow. He'd be in the Game, then, but he wouldn't be the first Immortal I've protected. I used to do that for money; I can do it for friendship.

Gods how MacLeod does pontificate to Joe. He is so young, and he tells Joe such total bollocks. Friends and foes spiralling together into one great killing frenzy at the end of time? What the Hell would he know about it? We have had alliances and groupings, beyond just a few Horsemen. Even had a government of sorts for a few decades once. That was fun; nearly lost my head over that. We have lives untouched by the Game. Or we did once, I think. How did we change? How did we grow so small? The young ones don't remember and they don't care. Who wants to listen to an old man who won't tell them what they want to hear? Only the Game and the Gathering and taking head after bloody head are important to them. A great monument gutted by ignorant fire--that is Immortal culture now. Except in Africa. But none of the young ones know about that. Go find Shangri-La on your own, you murderous little munchkins. Some of 'em are, too. I remember this little bastard in the baggage train at Agincourt who tried to take my head. Looked like a cherub. What was his name? Kirk...Corin...Kenny! Yeah, that was it. Kenny. Haven't seen him since; that's why he's still alive, I will wager.

"When do I play it safe?" Rene is saying cheerfully, reminding me that he was the one who tracked down Silas and Caspian for me back in 1995. I drag my attention back to the conversation; I am drifting too much for my liking. It has been a tough week. Rene liked Silas, I think, though he must have been tempted to turn Hunter with Caspian. Hard to blame him, there. I have long since lost count of how many times I almost took Caspian's head. Ah, it doesn't matter anymore. Five years now, so odd. How can they all be dead? I am still looking over my shoulder for Kronos. I wish he would leave me alone. I still have not figured that one out. Why does he bother? Oh, come on, Old Man. It is the inside of your own head. He's not real. You can make him go away any time you want if you can just figure it out. But why Kronos? And why is he almost...benevolent? I don't understand--

"Adam?" Rene touches my arm. I jump.

"Sorry," I say. "It has been a very long week. I'm a bit tired." I shake it off. "So. What have you been up to lately?" I pull out a chair for him. Got plenty of those, of the folding metal kind.

"Oh, me." Rene sits down. "I work for Sean Burns' old hospital, now."

"Oh? Did they keep that going after he died?" I know they did, but I am not sure if Adam Pierson would know that. Got to play Adam Pierson here, and play him well. Rene is not a man one can fool easily.

Rene nods. "Sean was a bonhomme--a good man. People talked to him-- Mortals and Immortals. It seemed too bad for that all to go to waste because he failed once." He cocks his head to one side. "You were there when he died, n'est-ce pas?"

"Uh, yeah. Yeah I was." Have to do something right now. I get up and go to the fridge. "You want a beer?"

"What, no wine?" Rene puts on a face of mock outrage. "Pierson, you are in Paris!"

"And yet, I'm a Brit." I smile winningly. "Beer?"

"How should I refuse?" I come back with beers for both of us and open them in front of him. He takes his and swigs it.

"That was a bad day for you, yes?" he says after a few minutes.

I chuckle. "Bloody Hell. You sound like Sean. What, are you a shrink, too?"

"Yes," he admits. He seems to be studying me for a reaction. "Does that bother you?"

"Why would it?" Control, Old Man. Keep it together. This isn't what you think it is. "Treating Immortals, I take it? Must be a great position for Watching." I sit back, watching Rene watch me.

"I treat both," he says. "And no, I don't make reports on the Immortals I treat. It would violate my medical oath. You know that."

I swig my beer. "You treat both? Why? I'd think you'd pick one or the other."

"I specialise in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I suppose I have more Immortal patients than the usual doctor; they have many traumatic events in their lives, yes? But you know, I have treated many Watchers, too. And Mortals with no connection to the Game." He stops, as if waiting for me to say something. I do not take the bait. "I am worried about you, Adam."

"I don't need a nanny, Rene." Joe. Joe called him. I should have known. Shit! Why didn't I just leave Paris after whacking Atticus? I couldn't have been that depressed!

"I don't think you need a nanny, either," Rene says. "You are a very tough man. But you have lost some people who were close to you, and the Watchers failed you. You seem lonely."

"I'm fine." Just smile, thank him for his concern and shoo him out the door. "It was years ago."

"If you are so fine, why is this the first time in years that you have settled somewhere for more than a month?" Is it? Haven't thought about it much.

"Why? Is that a problem?" I say lightly. "Some people are just nomads. Guess I am, too." Joe, Joe. You have been screwing me over, buddy. Telling tales out of school.

Rene smiles ruefully and shakes his head. I have that effect on people. He pulls out a pen and a notepad and writes on it. "My phone number," he says. "I will be in town for a few months. If you need to talk about 'company business'--even if it is old--I promise you that this Watcher, at least, will listen. I will even serve you beer."

I snicker at that. He holds out the paper. Is this some sort of a test? Should I take it? Ah, well. What is the harm? I can always throw it away, later. I take the paper. He smiles and stands up, patting my shoulder as he heads for the door.

"Why are you really here, Rene?" I say, as he pauses at the doorway.

"Because I am your friend." The door closes behind him.

Joe, you son of a bitch, we need to talk.


I blow into the bar like a hurricane past Jerry, who doesn't even try to stop me, and back into Joe's office.

Where would it be? In the database? Look there first.

My, things have got more interesting since I logged on here four months ago. Nice graphics, though they do load up rather slowly. No hints of me on the database; I don't suppose he'd be that stupid. He knows I can get in here. Nothing on the laptop harddrive either, that I can see. None of the files that are big enough to have anything on me. We are talking a hard copy, here. Doing things the old-fashioned way, are we, Dawson?

Anything below waist level that Joe cannot reach from a chair seems unlikely. No surprise that those shelves are empty, then. I look higher, pulling out papers and dropping them on the desk, the floor. Let the bastard catch me playing merry Hell with his filing system. I can feel bridges burning at my back.

I pull out a stack of magazines and start shaking them out. It falls out of a Paris Match (was it the one he was reading yesterday in my kitchen?), a palm-sized notebook with a pen stuck in the rings. Nothing on the cover. No, there wouldn't be, would there? I stare down at it, this unlooked-for grenade lobbed into my life. Pick it up, Old Man. Waiting will not make it any better.

I pick it up. I open it. The very first words are: "I think you're losing it, Old Man." After that, it gets ugly. I sit down on the floor, hard.

I am not sure what is more frightening, the candour or the fear. Is this just Joe or does everyone I meet these days believe that I am balanced on a sword's edge? There are little stories about Amy and the other Watchers under Joe's management, but the central, relentless focus is on me and what Joe sees as my mental disintegration. I shiver. He does not think I'm losing it; he thinks I have already lost it. The notebook only goes back a few weeks; he must have many others. In this one, he talks about starting a chronicle right after I killed Walker. Four years. He has been doing this for four years. I knew he wrote things down about me, but this is obsessive. Does he hand in these reports each time he finishes a notebook? He talks about his visits when I was hiding out in my apartment last month, the videos we watched, the things we said, how I looked, how he felt about it. I did not get that low, did I? I don't remember. It didn't seem as bad as that. I got through it, didn't I?

My eyes ache. He called them. The son of a bitch called Sean Burn's people. Trying to get me locked up. I could kill him. Maybe I will kill him. I have to get out of here.


"Methos is what?" I said, feeling sick.

"He's out back," Jerry said. "He just said something about needing to use your office." I brushed past him and humped it out to the office.

Jesus. You'd ripped it completely apart. Papers and files were scattered all over the place. You were getting to your feet, my latest chronicle in your hand. The look on your face was.... Too late. Too late and a whole lot more than a dollar short.

You threw the notebook at me, hitting me in the chest. It stung. "You rat bastard son of a bitch!" you spat.

"Methos," I pleaded. "I'm sorry. I was worried about you. You were--"

"Yes, I know what you thought I was! That came through very clearly! What were you thinking, that you could have some shrink come down and get me committed, no questions asked? You bastard! I'll bet you and Mac had a good laugh planning that!"

"Methos, I don't know what you're talking about. It wasn't like that. I only called them to find out if there was any way that I could help you. They never got back to me. You gotta believe me!"

"Oh, I believe you. I just don't care." You shouldered past me; I put out a hand to stop you. You halted, shaking.

"Methos, don't," I pleaded. "Please. Just...don't go do anything stupid."

You stared rigidly ahead, past my shoulder. "I am not going to let you, or anyone else, lock me up the way they did in Seacouver." You turned your head and looked me in the eye. "You read the report. I spent a week on a Level Three Suicide Watch in five point restraints--a week! What makes you think that I would *ever* let anyone do that to me again?"

I tried to reassure you, for all the good it did. "Nobody is trying to lock you up. I just wanted to get some advice on how to help you out, that is all. Come on, Old Man, what harm would it do to just talk to somebody?"

Your breath huffed out in near amusement. You ran a hand through your hair. "I can't take this anymore! If I stay here, I *will* go crazy!" You pushed past me, shrugging off my hand. I heard the door slam a moment later. Shit. Ah, shit.

Jerry came out back, looking like a snail coming out of its shell after a cat's been at it. "Is everything okay?"

I sighed. "No, Jerry. Everything is not okay." I looked around the wrecked office. "Help me clean this up, will you?"


Of all the people to betray me, I never thought it would be you, Joe. You were the one friend I could depend on for that. If you couldn't give me up to Walker, not even for your own daughter, I figured you'd never do it. But you don't consider this a betrayal, do you? This if for my own good, right? I am supposed to lie down and take my medicine like a good nutter, aren't I?

No...no, that's not fair. I know he cares. He cares too much. Oh, Joe, what have you done to me? What have I done to myself? There is a mourning tune in my head, the song of my own funeral.

"Pierson, stop!" Someone grabs my sword arm. I swing round, yanking my other hand out of my pocket, but he ducks, then pulls himself in close so that I cannot hit him. It is Rene.

"No!" he whispers fiercely. "Do you want people to see?" I stop struggling, panting. "ca va," he says more calmly. "Sois calm. ca va. Let's go for that drink, yes?"

"I don't want a drink," I say, trying to shrug him off. He doesn't let go.

"I do," he says. "And you need one." He drags me down the street. Can't the man take 'no' for an answer?

He finds a cafe with a table in a corner in the back, and sits me down with my back to the wall. He sits down across from me, blocking my escape. I slouch in the chair, as if it is no matter to me.

"I don't want a beer," I insist.

"Bon," he replies, and orders us coffee, instead.

We sit in silence until the coffee comes. Rene does a little ritual that I remember from a lunch we had a few months before Don died--milk, stirred in slowly, no sugar. I leave mine black and untouched. Rene makes no remark on that. He is waiting for me to break down and tell him everything, I can tell. As if. Does he have three days?

Rene sips at his cup as I watch the minute hand on the cafe clock crawl up the wall. "Did you have a fight with Joe Dawson?" he asks.

"What makes you say that?" I reply casually. I feel lightheaded. If I drank that coffee, I would be bouncing off the ceiling.

"The bartender left the door open. I heard shouting."

"Just a small dispute over my bill." I shrug. "It's a perennial thing."

"And over me, yes?" He watches me over his cup.

"Why would we be fighting over you?" Fuck you, Rene.

"You think that I am here because he asked me to come."

"Aren't you?" I put one boot up on a chair. Let him think that is a challenge.

"No," he says. Yeah, right.

"He called you, didn't he?" I say acidly.

Rene sets the cup in its saucer, the coffee half gone. "No. He called a colleague, whom he asked for advice. He said that a friend of his (he did not name you) was depressed. He was worried that the way he was helping his friend was making it worse. My colleague assured him that was not true. He said that he would contact Joe again, to see how this 'friend' was. Then, he called me. It was I who decided to come see you."

"You knew it was me? I thought you said Joe didn't give you my name?"

"He didn't. He said you were a Watcher, that you had lost some friends, one recently, and that you were a widower. Joe does not have many close friends. I know you both. It was not difficult to guess. Joe would never betray you, Adam."

I glare at him. "You're here, aren't you?"

He doesn't smile, or get angry. Nothing I can use to make a scene and storm out. "Is that a bad thing?"


"Why?" I play with my spoon. Maybe I should drink this stuff after all. I dump some sugar in. "Why is that bad, Adam?"

"There's nothing wrong with me," I say. "I just need to get out of town for a few months."

"A few months, or a few years?" I don't answer. It is an unsafe question. "Would you like my professional opinion?"

"No." This coffee isn't that bad, after all, if you pile in a mound of sugar.

"Tant pis." He leans forward, folding his hands. "You are clinically depressed. You are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brought on by multiple traumatic events. You suffered a psychotic breakdown in May 1998, when you were hospitalised with acute mania after a suicide attempt. I contacted the hospital in Seacouver. They were very happy to hear that you are still alive. Are you happy to still be alive? Do I need to continue?"

"No," I say thickly. I don't explain which question I am answering. "So, I'm destined for Bedlam, am I?" Funny, I don't feel like running anymore. Or fighting. I am so tired.

"No. Not if you stay here." He seems to be examining me for cracks. "Your illness is curable. You do not have to suffer for the rest of your life."

"And you can help me? Why would you help me? Why should I trust you?"

"If you run," he continues, as if he hadn't heard me, "you will eventually collapse in a place where you have no friends, and you will end up in another hospital like Seacouver General. Do you want that?"

"Are you kidding?" I laugh. I stop. This isn't funny. "I don't trust you."

"You don't have to trust me. You don't have to accept me as your therapist, either. That is up to you. Do you trust Joe?"

"What?" Shaken, I stare into my coffee. "I don't know."

"Adam, look at me." I stare at the table. "Look at me, Adam." Fine. Whatever. I look up into his eyes. How can these Mortal children still scare me? He holds my life in his hands. "Joe is your friend. I know you worry. What if he dies, too? What if he betrays you? Then, you lose him, maybe. But if you run, you will lose him. Sans doute. Here is my advice: go back and talk to him. Listen to him. Him, you need. Me..." Rene shakes his head. "Maybe not. But he is your friend. I am your friend, too; I think you forget that. If you remember, you have my number. Did you keep it?"

I nod. "I thought the paper might make a halfway decent paper airplane."

Rene snorts. At least he has a sense of humour about it. He drains his coffee and stands up, throwing a few Euros on the table. "Take my advice, Adam. Go see Joe. The rest you can think about--when you are not so worried, yes? Bonne chance." He nods to me and turns away, going straight the door and out into the street. He doesn't look back.

He is a smart bastard, to leave me hanging. I'll give him that. The question is, I suppose, can I trust him?

Or maybe it's: can I trust Joe? I don't know. Is that even an option? I want to trust him. I want that option. I'm so tired, so tired of being afraid. The bank is so close. Will it crumble under me if I try to climb up it? But if I don't, I'll drown, so I don't have much choice. I need to trust somebody; I'd prefer it be Joe. I guess that will have to be enough.

I am still there, my coffee gone stone cold in front of me, when the cafe staff throw me out at closing time.


Amy sensed something was wrong the moment she stepped into the bar. It was late afternoon, yet the sign outside said "Closed". Inside, Joe sat near the stage, playing his guitar alone. He stared at the floor and didn't seem to notice her.

"Joe?" She stepped forward, unsure of his mood. He had never given her cause to fear his temper, but she had seen him tear a strip off an obstreperous customer or two. He did not suffer fools at all, let alone gladly. "Joe," she called more loudly when he did not respond. He looked up and stopped playing. Now that she was close enough, she saw that his eyes were red, as though he had been crying. "What's wrong?"

"Hi, Amy. I didn't hear you come in." His American accent always startled her a bit. He had not turned out to be what she had either hoped or feared her biological father would be. She was getting used to that.

"What's wrong, Joe?" she asked gently.

"Nothing." Joe wiped his face with his sleeve, giving the lie to his denial.

"What happened? Are you still upset over MacLeod being such a horse's arse last night?" Joe blinked. He needed a second opinion on that. Being friends with your assignment was one thing--Joe was the king of Watcher rule-breakers--but being his doormat was a different story. "I thought you handled it perfectly well, all the way down the line. If MacLeod wants to run off in a snit, that is his problem. He will almost certainly be back."

"It's not Mac," Joe said, surprising her, both with the admission and the information that something else was wrong. "It's Ben. I--we had a fight. Sort of. Mostly, he screamed at me. Then he peeled rubber out of here. I don't know where he is or what he's doing or if he's even on the same planet as the rest of us." He sniffed.

"You and Ben had a fight?" Amy repeated this half to herself. "But you two never fight." It seemed unbelievable. Those two loved each other.

Joe looked startled. "But, we always fight."

"No. You squabble. You bicker. You even snipe. You never fight." Of this, she was quite certain. "Could this be some sort of misunderstanding?"

Joe hung his head. "Oh, there was no misunderstanding. I don't think he's coming back."

"What did you do?" She couldn't imagine either of them letting anything get in their way. Siamese twins were further apart.

"Um...I'd rather not say; it would make things worse. Let's just say that I screwed up. Well, technically, I didn't screw up, but he saw it that way, and I can't blame him." Joe ran a hand through his hair. "He's probably halfway to Kathmandu by now."

Amy hugged him. "He will come back, Joe. I promise that he will. There is no way that he will simply leave things like this. He will come back, if only to yell at you some more."

Joe put an arm around her waist and leaned his head against her. "That's not his style, honey, trust me. The last sound you hear from him in a fight is the sound of the door slamming. That's if your lucky."

"Well, maybe if you're really lucky, he'll have forgotten his car keys." That got a laugh out of him.

"Yeah, maybe," he admitted. "You never know."


Mary sat in the small chapel, staring past the closed coffin at the crucifix above the altar. She wasn't even sure it was really her mother in there. Annie had cursed her many times, saying, "You are no child of mine! I never bore you! I could never bear a cripple!" Perhaps this was simply another lying stranger. No one had asked her to identify the body, No one wanted her to look in the coffin.

"Try to remember your mother as she was when she was alive," the undertaker told her. Whyever would she want to do that? As soon as they all left her alone with the coffin, she opened it. It was not as bad as she had imagined, but her mother was certainly dead. The undertaker could not hide that. All Mary felt was relief. She would go to Hell for it, but she was glad her mother was dead. She had no idea where she would go or what she would do now, but whatever lay ahead of her, it had to be better than living with Annie Lembede. Uncle Jacob had died before she could properly get to know him. She had loved her Auntie Mary, but after Auntie had died, her mother had come to demand her back. For a long time, Mary resented her foster family for turning Annie Lembede away. The woman was her mother, after all. That was before she found out that living with her mother was a long series of tantrums and tears. As soon as she was old enough, Mary went looking for her mother. She had regretted it ever since.

Mary had loved her auntie, who took her in at birth, gave her her own name after her mother had abandoned her, and treated her as one of her own children. She did not know what she felt for her 'real' mother but it was not love. She stood up, went to the casket, and opened it, just to make sure. Yes, her mother was still dead. No more screaming. No more rages. No more insults.

The door opening in the chapel behind her startled her, making her let fall the coffin and turn to see who it was. The man who entered the room was tall, black, in his forties and dressed elegantly in a suit and coat. He walked right up to her and held out his hand. She noticed that he wore a tattoo on his wrist like Uncle Jacob.

"Mary Lembede?" he asked. His accent was soft, American.

"Yes?" Forcing down hesitation, she reached out to shake his hand. He had a firm grip. She would like to learn how to do that. "Who are you?"

He smiled, with no apparent offense. Her mother would have slapped her for the impertinence. "My name is David Gabrieli. I am a colleague of your Uncle Jacob and Aunt Mary."

"You knew them?" What was this man? Was he like Uncle Jacob and Auntie Mary? "But, you are American. How could you know them? They never left South Africa in their entire lives."

"Our group is old, Mary. It spans many borders." Gabrieli pulled up his sleeve, showing her a dark purple tattoo. "Do you recognise this symbol?"

"No," Mary lied. It was just like Uncle Jacob's. The man made her nervous--but she still wanted to know more.

"Your Uncle Jacob wore one as well. I doubt he showed it in public." He put a hand on her shoulder. "Why don't we go someplace and talk about this over a meal," he said kindly, as she flinched at the rare human touch. "I have a job offer to discuss with you."

She left the chapel with him. In truth, she had nowhere else to go.


The bar is not picky about its clientele, but the bouncers are willing to make an exception for me. Each one getting a grip on one of my elbows, they haul me to the door and boot me out into the alleyway. I crawl over to the wall and pull myself to my feet. The wall stinks of piss and vomit.

"Allez vous faire foutre! Et vos meres, aussi!" I shout back into the hole of a bar. Content with my parting shot, I stagger out into the street. It is darker than it was when I started drinking. No fear. I have money and my sword, enough to get me home.

Joe hates flying. He shouts at me to slow down as we strafe fields and hills and rivers in the jet. This is the way to raid. Horses are much too slow. Joe thinks we are flying too low, despite the excitement of trees and grass flitting past. He is frightened. Impatient with his nagging, I yank on the joystick. For once, he falls silent--out of fear or wonder, I don't know or care. The plane glides straight up into the sky, higher and higher, until we seem to balance on its fins, suspended in the blue. And then we fall back into a flat spin. The joystick won't respond. Joe is screaming and as the ground comes up at us, I see that I have killed us both.

The sun is blinding, beating down on the red mud. I suck down warm beer. The bottle of Trent-Trois seems always almost empty, yet never runs dry. It is really too hot to stay in the truck, but I feel no urge to leave. I am in the driver's seat and there I will stay.

Over six solid feet of muscle and madness, he appears at my elbow, grinning over the door--the local fou. Every town needs a resident drunk or nutter, I suppose, especially Batouri, with its uneasy mix of mud brick and neon.

"Je te connais!" he shouts happily, grabbing my arm. "Tu es le Roi des Bandits!"

I glance at him sidelong, before taking another spit-warm swig of beer. "C'est vrai, mon frere," I agree solemnly. "Tu es vraiment sage de voir ca." As I watch him caper down the street, joyful at his discovery, I wonder why I feel so lost.

"Caspian wishes to have a word, Brother." Kronos peers over my shoulder at the designs on the hospital wall: maps of terrain, projections of enemy movements, concentric circles of increasingly elaborate raids. It is difficult to write precise lines on the leather without piercing it or smearing the pencil all over the panel. I have to concentrate, my head pressed against the padded wall as I etch out the designs inside my head. The images hang before my eyes, flickering across a transparent screen superimposed on the world. It is harder since Caspian broke my Walkman. I need my music to smooth out the flow.

"Did you hear me, Brother?" I stay silent. He often leaves me be if I do not respond. Thwarted, he goes away. The designs absorb me once more until he returns with Caspian. I turn, sighing to myself. I cannot concentrate with that fool in the room; he gibbers. He spits in defiance but doesn't approach me, at first, too afraid of me. Kronos nudges him forward.

"Go ahead," he tells Caspian. "Tell him what you told me." Caspian cringes, shrinking from the small walls of the cell. Then, he sucks in a breath, inhaling courage with air, and stares me in the face.

"You shouldn't be in charge anymore," he declares. "Only lunatics can run this asylum and I'm madder than all of you." He draws himself up until he is nearly as tall as I am. "I eat babies for breakfast, with ketchup. I should be in charge."

I consider him, my face blank. He is a little man with little dreams. He is nothing. Calmly, I lift my hand to my mouth and bite down hard on my fingers. As Kronos and Caspian watch, open-mouthed, I eat my own fingers.

When I reach the second knuckle, I stop eating and turn back to my designs. The blood is easier to use than the pencil, though it does drip. I ignore the pain. I do not hear Caspian leave, but at my back Kronos sighs.

"You win, Brother," he whispers. "Again."

I wake up fighting my quilt, in which I have cocooned myself. Sunlight shines in my eyes. I roll over, groaning. I have the worst headache. Where have I got myself to? I see a map of Tibet on the wall, an alarm clock on the night stand. I am in my apartment. How did I get here? Did I call a taxi? Did someone carry me home? Where is my cat? My cat. Right. I remember now. Silas ran away. Couldn't stand me anymore. Joe? Oh, no. Oh, Joe. We had that fight over his journal. I got him killed in my dream; it was so vivid. And my hand.... I yank my right hand out from under the quilt and hold it up in front of my face, staring at it, feeling it. I cannot shake the feeling of biting into it, the taste of my own blood and bone. How could I have been that insane?

*Joe is your friend.* Shut up, Rene. *If you run, you will lose him. Sans doute.* No. Nonono. I have to talk to Joe. Joe wouldn't let me eat my own fingers. He wouldn't let me hurt myself. I don't want to lose him over that bloody chronicle. I sit up. I have to...I have to throw up. I lie back down and hold my head.

After the sunlight has left the bed, I try again. This time, I can get up--if I'm careful. I am still fully clothed, sword and all. I reek of alcohol, which makes the nausea worse. I need a shower. Then I will call Joe.

As I stagger for the bathroom, I notice the door. It has been closed and locked; anyone could have done that. But only one person could have shoved the chair up under the doorknob. That is my subconscious telling me that I did this all to myself.



The Devil went down to Georgia. He was lookin' for a soul to steal. He was in a bind, 'cause he was way behind, And he was willing to make a deal....

I blame myself for what happened next. When Mac walked in I was ready for every Immortal I had ever known to walk back out. You'd been gone since yesterday by then. It's safe to say that you'd left skidmarks on your way out the door. I couldn't blame you--not after you read this chronicle, and found out about that shrink. I'm sorry, okay? I did not know that they were gonna send down some guy to spy on you, on both of us. Give me a break, here. You're one step ahead of me; I haven't even met the guy yet!

I was scared. I was angry. For all I knew, you'd already found some helpful Immortal to whack you. Then, Mac walked in. I'd better tell you the rest.

I'll give him credit; Mac tried to make it look natural as he got himself a stool and pulled it up to the bar. He leaned his arms on the counter, tried on a smile. It looked thin. I didn't smile back.

"Hey," he said.

"Hey." My reply was as neutral as I could make it, so it came out a little cold. "Scotch?"

Mac nodded. "Yeah, sure." I got him the scotch and handed it over. After that, I backed up against the liquor rack and waited. Call it entrenching my position.

Mac stayed quiet for a few minutes, sipping the scotch and licking his lips. I could tell he was trying to figure out some diplomatic way to start the conversation. I wish I could say that I was sympathetic, but I wasn't. I was still too raw from you screaming in my face. I don't blame you. I know how freaked out you were, but it didn't stop my gut getting all twisted up over it. I just wanted Mac to go home and try again another day.

"How's it going?" he said finally. Stop laughing. Quirky conversation ain't his thing, and you know it.

"It's been a busy week," I replied, still shooting for neutral.

"I suppose that's one way of putting it," Mac admitted. He sipped more scotch. "How's Methos?"

I shrugged. "He's had better weeks, too, but his cat's home from the vet and Keane hasn't tried to whack him, yet. Considering the past couple of months, I guess he's doing okay."

"Yeah, um, about Keane." He swallowed. "I'm sorry about that. I can pay for the damages."

"Ah. Don't worry about it." I waved it off. "It was just a table and a few glasses. I don't think anybody really expected you to be happy about seeing Keane again." This, I had to admit, was true. "Must have been a shock to see him walk in."

He laughed, though he didn't sound too amused. "Yeah, you could say that."

"I'm sorry about that." And I was, too. "That didn't exactly go according to plan. I thought you'd be out of town, or something. I did try to call you."

He sighed. "I just thought you should meet Kate. I suppose I should have given you more warning. Do you have any idea what Keane wants with Methos, anyway?"

"As far as I can tell, Mac, he wants pretty much the same thing you wanted." A teacher. Not that Mac would ever admit that.

He grinned. "What, an arrogant pain in the ass who takes over your house and drinks all your beer?"

I smiled back and relaxed a little. Maybe it would turn out okay, after all. I should have known better.

"Something like that," I said. "Let's just say that he's on a not-so- shallow learning curve regarding all things Methosian right now." You don't mess around. You may be cagey, but you're not a liar and you're no cheat. Keane asked for an education and by God, that's what you've been giving him. "Keane may be a son of a bitch, but he's as honest as you, as far as I can tell. Besides, he actually seems to like the Old Man. I think it'll be okay. Screwball, but okay."

"So, Keane was his stalker after all?"

The question seemed casual but there was a hook in it. It took me by surprise. "Uh, no. That person turned out to be some Mortal he'd met in South Africa. She got him lynched a few years back. Seems she was a little surprised to find him alive and well and living in Paris. That's probably why she put him in the hospital trying to poison him."

"I see." Mac stared into his scotch. "That's not good."

"No. It's not. But since it's all over now and both Methos and the cat are fine, that doesn't matter." I folded my arms and glowered at him. The conversation was going somewhere real bad real fast, and I wanted to know what that destination was.

Mac looked up at me. "I heard on the news this morning that a young woman from South Africa was killed at St Genevieve Hospital in a fall."

"Yeah? So?" I didn't like this game. "And you thought Methos was involved in some way?"

"I've been keeping an eye out for any suspicious deaths, lately, just in case," Mac said.

"'Just in case'?! What are you talking about?" I couldn't believe it-- he was talking as though you were some kind of serial killer.

"Methos is sick, Joe," Mac said gently, damn him. "And you just said that this woman was a threat to him. We both know what happens to anybody who threatens Methos."

"Well, if he can walk away, he does, even when it makes him look like a coward. Doesn't sound like a cold-blooded killer to me." I wished Mac would walk away more often. I could think of a few people who would still be alive.

"He didn't walk away from Atticus." Mac had that sad, conflicted look he got before he killed Ingrid. I could see him working himself up for another mercy head-whacking. He didn't seriously think I was gonna just stand by and let him do it, did he?

"He didn't get a chance to walk away from Atticus," I said. "Not this time. Stop throwing that in his face. So he's crazy right now. You've been crazy, too. Nobody took your head."

"He's dangerous like this, Joe." Jesus wept. That is just what you told me.

I set my jaw. "Where do you get off judging whether he has the right to get his own back when somebody hurts him? Anyway, she didn't 'fall' Mac, she jumped, and she took Methos with her."

He looked skeptical. "Are you sure about that?"

"I was standing right there when they found the two of them at the bottom of that stairwell, Mac. Yeah, I am very sure."

Mac picked up his glass, considered the remaining contents and then drank them down. "Well, then, I guess it must be true." Of course he'd assume that I was protecting you.

I grabbed my cane and came around the bar. This was the kind of conversation that you have face to face. "Are you trying to say that Methos pushed her? He didn't. When we found them, she still had a deathgrip on his shirt and the knife they found nearby had her fingerprints all over it. She wanted him dead and she did a whole lot to make sure it happened." We were eye to eye by then. Mac was holding his own, but I could see I was making him uncomfortable. Good.

"Joe, you can't keep defending people when they've done something like this--even when they're your friends." I really hate when he tries to be "reasonable".

"'People?'" I snarled back. "Are we talking about Methos here, or Cord?" He turned pale at that. I kept going. "I noticed that we sure got to hear Charlie's side of it all the way down the line, but Cord?" I shook my head. "Nah. He was just a bad guy who needed to get taken out, right? Is that what you're thinking with Methos? You looking for a good reason to make him the bad guy, too?"

Mac tried to scramble for higher moral ground. "Joe, he's sick. If he's going around killing--"

"He's not! I just told you; she tried to kill him, not the other way around!"

He shook his head, like I was a stupid, little kid. "Joe, you don't get involved, you know that. Watch and record, but never interfe--"

Okay. Now, I know you're laughing. Stop it. I know I shouldn't have hit him, but you should've heard him standing there, quoting the Watcher Oath at me, of all people. As it was, I didn't get in a good whack upside his head, the way I intended, though I did connect. If he'd just stood there and let me hit him, it might not have turned out so bad. Unfortunately, guys with centuries of martial arts training don't "just let" you do anything to them. Though maybe you'd have let me, but then, you know better. Mac was startled, he reacted. He stepped to one side, grabbed the cane, and down I went, flat on my back. That's when it got ugly, because just as Mac grabbed the cane, I heard you say from the door, "Hey, Joe! I'm back."

After that, it was like a time glitch, some science fiction thing. I was lying on the floor looking up at Mac, who was standing with his back against the bar. And there you were, the Bastard shoved up under Mac's chin. Mac's head was pressed up, his back arched over the counter, a little blood trickling down his neck. No transition.

"Methos," he wheezed. He stopped when you raised the Bastard.

"No," you said firmly. You sounded like a dad telling his kids to stop bugging the monkeys at the zoo. You were shivering, and your breathing was almost as fast and shallow as Mac's. If I didn't do something real quick, you'd take his head.

I pushed myself up onto my elbows. "Methos, stop!" You didn't let up, but you didn't press any harder. You were doing just what I said. "It's okay, Old Man," I forged on. "It was just a misunderstanding. Put the sword down. Come on."

You lowered the sword to a defensive position and backed away towards me. Mac came down off his toes, gasping and rubbing his neck. "Methos, what the f--"

"Mac, go," I said, before he could get anything out that would set you off again. I was beginning to see why Kronos liked having you cover his back way back when. Mac hesitated. "*Go*, Mac."

He went--reluctantly, I hoped. I tried not to let myself think that he might never come back as he paused at the door, then opened it and left. I didn't relax until you did, slowly putting the Bastard back in its scabbard (whose tip hung a few inches under your jacket, almost to your knee--you need another coat, Old Man). I knew you wouldn't do that until Mac's Buzz was gone.

Your shoulders slumped and you let out a big sigh. When you turned around, you seemed fine. You crouched down next to me and helped me up into a chair. "Joe, what happened?"

"Nothing dramatic," I said. "I hit Mac and he knocked me on my ass, basically."

"I see." Your tone indicated that you didn't at all. "Is there something that I should know about? You two seem to have been a bit tense around each other all week."

I sighed. "Yeah. Yeah, I think maybe you should. Go get that bottle of bourbon I keep for special occasions out of the cabinet and a couple of glasses. This is a real long story and it doesn't have what I'd call a happy ending." It was time to tell you about Cord.


"Mac killed Cord even though you asked him not to?" I ask Joe. "After you told him all about how Cord had humped you 16 miles to a hospital after you lost your legs in Vietnam?" Damn. No wonder Joe hit him.

Joe nods. "I can see why he did it. I mean, Cord killed Charlie--"

"After Charlie shot Cord down in the street, wasn't it? Or did I get the timing wrong on that one?"

"It was at the airport," Joe says testily. "Do you ever listen to me?"

"Do you ever listen to me?" I can see him grinding his teeth. I grin and get him another beer, grabbing one for myself. I feel mellow for the first time in months, far, far better than this morning (I don't want to figure out why). I'm gonna need a taxi at the end of this bull session. Joe really needs to talk.

"Cord murdered Charlie's wife, Mara," Joe says. "I can see why he was angry."

"And our authority on this was...no, let me guess. Was it Charlie, by any chance?" Joe grimaces. "Ah." I slouch down in my chair and clasp my hands over my belly, which still hurts. "Would you like to know what I would have done?"

"Not really," Joe mutters into his beer.

"Too bad. First, I would have whacked Charlie. The guy sounds as though he was a loose gear and I figure he would have gone after you as soon as he found out you and Cord were buddies and he'd taken care of Cord. Best to nip that one at the root. Then, if Cord had continued the way he did, I would have whacked him."

Joe snorts. "That's just peachy, Old Man. That would have really improved things."

"Yes, it would have improved things. Cord was using you; you felt you owed him and he agreed with you. Bad. Very bad. He'd have got you killed, you know, covering his ass." To be honest, I agree with Joe. He did owe Cord. But I still think Cord pushed it too far, just like Kronos. I think I won't bring that up.

"It was my decision," Joe says defiantly.

"Yeah, and it was my decision to lie down on those train tracks out in Seacouver, but I wouldn't call it a good one. I am beginning to feel thankful to the good people of Seacouver General Hospital, even if I cursed them to Hell and beyond at the time. You are damned right I would have whacked Cord. And then I would have bought you a very good bottle of scotch, got you very drunk, and hoped that you'd forgive me someday. Which reminds me...." Before my good feeling can evaporate, I fish in my pocket for the pen and notebook that I bought at the little grocery near my house on my way over here and pull it out. Opening it up, I hand it over to Joe. I pull my hands back and hold them under the table, clenching and unclenching them to keep myself from shaking. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. I'm not sure I could have managed it without having a couple of beers, first.

"What is this?" he says, looking confused and exhausted. This hasn't been a very good week for him, either, I suppose.

"Just read it." When the shakes subside, I put my arms on the table and lean my chin on my fists. I can wait.

He reads through it slowly. Since he is thoroughly literate in English, I assume that he's reading it more than once. Or perhaps my handwriting is worse than I thought. I feel a momentary vertigo, as though I am tipping over a cliff, unsure if I will have a soft landing.

"Methos," he says, shaking his head, "this is what, some kind of will?"

"It is just what it says it is. I am naming you my Guardian Advocate, in case I end up on another planet again. I am not certain about what we have to do to make it legal, but I am sure that an advocate can help us out with that this week." There. All done. Can't go back now. The shakes come back; I clench my fists harder to stop them.

"I-I don't know what to say." Joe runs a shaking hand through his hair, which has turned so white now. I have almost made him speechless. "Do you realise what you're asking me to do, what you are letting me do?"

I rub the bridge of my nose. My eyes ache. "I am not 'letting' you do anything. I am asking you for a favour. I know that it is a big favour. I know that it is a favour which entails much risk for both of us, but I am still asking you."

"But why? Why me?" He looks bewildered. He moves restlessly in his chair, as if he wants to get up and run. Can't blame him there. I do, too.

"Because the alternative is unthinkable?" I look at him hopefully. "Please? I don't want this to fall to someone random. I want to know who it would be. I do not want to end up in some new version of Sanctuary--or worse."

"I thought you didn't trust me, Old Man." Bloody Hell, Joe. Don't cry.

I sit up, squelching a sudden urge to run screaming out the door. "I did trust you; that was why I was so mad at you. Anyway, I ran into that shrink again, the one from Sean Burn's place, after I left here and we had a little talk. He seems all right, but I certainly do not trust him. I would rather trust you--if I have to make a choice, that is. This way, I only have to trust one person. I can live with that. Maybe. I think." I cover my eyes with my hand. "Please, Joe. Just say yes before I lose my nerve."

He stares down at the paper and sniffs, rubbing his eyes. I have deliberately picked a notebook similar to his chronicle; does he notice? I couldn't resist the snipe. Now, I am beginning to regret it; he does deserve better. He picks up the pen and signs the paper. When he hands it to me, I sign and date it, then give it back to him before I can think of a way to torpedo the entire idea. I hope my parachute opens soon.

"We'll have to find a lawyer to make it legal," he says. His eyes are red. This is a good beginning. I've just made my best friend cry. At least it shows he cares.

"I know," I say. "But this was still the hardest part." What an understatement! Now that I've done it, I feel a strange sort of relief, even if my heart is pounding. It has been so long since I have had a brother to watch my back.


I can't take care of a 5000-year-old man; I can barely take care of myself! First Amy, now you. Or maybe it was the other way around.... God. Oh, God. I'm not ready for this kind of responsibility. I got through the paper-signing part before I started bawling like a little kid. With no expression on your face, you went and got the bar towel. You came back and handed it to me without a word. I wiped my face and blew my nose. Might as well. If it stank of stale beer, it needed a wash. I needed to talk to Jerry about bar hygiene.

It's like being handed a Living Will and being told, "You're in it". Mom said once, "Joe, when the time comes, you'll do the right thing, won't you?" Thank God that when she went, she went fast, like Dad. Dropped dead on her way out to get the paper. Uncle Frank called me in Paris and asked me what to do. I had to come home and arrange everything. I don't think I told you about that. It was right after Mac killed Horton and I wasn't doing much talking to anybody at the time. Horton. I can't call him 'James' anymore. I know you wouldn't. You were always nice about it, never said anything, but you never liked him, did you? You liked Cath, even when she stopped talking to me for a few years, but never him. Something about him put you off. Or maybe it was that she was family, my sister, and he wasn't. Boy, he really screwed us all in the end, didn't he?

I hope you'll understand, someday, why Don and I did what we did.

I folded up the paper. "Let's put this somewhere safe," I said. Yeah, like hiding it away was gonna make it disappear. Didn't work too well for my chronicle on you, did it? You know what? I'm switching to dictation from now on. I can always write it down later and meanwhile, you can't skip through it looking for the juicy stuff.

Not that you made any protest when I got up. You just followed me out back, still silent. Think you ran out of words for once. I hesitated in the door of the office, wondering how I was gonna hide it with you right there, but you just wandered out into the back storeroom, bless you. You understood. I hid the paper in the new hiding place for the chronicle (took Jerry and me an hour to clean the place up) then hurried out after you.

You were wandering around the boxes, your breath showing--it was a pretty cold day outside and the storeroom was unheated. I spotted the place for the "care packages" I'd made up for you when you were so sick. One case of beer was still there. I had Jerry make it up last week.

"Hey," I said, pointing at it. "You want that? I made it up for you."

You looked surprised. "Yeah? You sure?"

I nodded. "Keep it. It's no problem."

You shrugged and went over to crouch next to the case. You ran your hand over it. "What is this stuff?" you said. You held your fingers up to your face and sniffed. The next moment, you were spitting and coughing, backing away from the case as if you had touched some giant spider. I watched in amazement as you reached for the Bastard.

"What the Hell are you doing?" I said.

"That smell...that's what poisoned me." You stared at me accusingly. I could see us both on the edge of something real bad all of a sudden. "You said you made that case up."

"No," I said slowly. "Jerry made up the last few."

You cursed creatively. At least, I think it was creative since it wasn't anything I recognised. I got the gist, though. I approached the case with caution. There was a dark, shiny stain on it. It was smeared, as if somebody had wiped it off. It looked like it had soaked through onto at least some of the bottles. I stared at it, puzzled.

What is that?" I said.

You came up behind me. I shivered involuntarily when you put your chin on my shoulder. At least it wasn't your sword.

"The smoking gun?" you said, too brightly, in my ear.

"Stop that!" I snapped. "You're creeping me out." You backed off and came up beside me, leaning against the wall, arms folded. You'd gone with the 'no expression' look again.

I looked above the case. There was just a small cabinet on the wall. The same stain spilled out of it. I opened the cabinet. Inside, cleaning supplies were set up neatly on the shelf, nothing directly on the stain. Nothing that looked as though it had spilled, anyway.

Ah. And what was that in the back? I reached over the other bottles and pulled it out. It had a big stain down the label.

"It's drain cleaner. Is this what you smelled?" I held the bottle out in front of your face. You snorted and batted the bottle down, turning away. "I think Jerry's got some explaining to do." Drain cleaner. Amazing stuff--will unclog any drain in high doses, machine or human. You must have just gotten a diluted version of it off the bottles--or maybe your system heals so fast, it didn't get down that far.

"You gonna cover for him?" you asked, your back to me. You didn't ask if I meant with you or with the Watchers.

"Hell, no." Even if you weren't my friend, Jerry had blown his Oath big time. I flashed on him giving it to me in your van, after the showdown with Atticus. I felt sad, but that didn't mean I was gonna save the kid's ass if he was really behind this. He sure did look guilty. "I want to talk to him first, though, make sure this was just him, for a start."

You nodded. "Fair enough. You have a plan?"

"No. But I'll think of something. We've got until three when he shows up for his shift."

Poor, stupid bastard. Barring a miracle, this was gonna be Jerry's last shift, ever.


Jerry didn't see anybody at the bar when he walked in. "Joe?" he called.

"Back here, kid," Joe called from out in the storeroom. Jerry went out through the curtain. "Joe?" he said again, feeling uneasy. No big surprise there. He'd been feeling jumpy all week. Now, he felt guilty as well. He wished Methos hadn't whacked that poor woman, even if it did let Jerry off the hook with the poisoning stuff.

"Jer-ry." The low voice came from behind him. He turned to see Methos step from the shadows along the wall to block the exit back to the bar. He stood there, in his long, dark grey jacket, feet apart and arms hanging loosely at his side. He looked like Death personified. "You've been a very bad boy, Jerry."

"Wh-what?" It came out in a squeak. Jerry licked his lips with a tongue that felt coated with dry bone dust. "What do you mean?"

"You tried to kill me, you little bastard. You damned near killed my cat." Jerry backed away towards the office. Methos wandered after him.

Jerry heard a noise from the office. He half-turned. Joe stood in the doorway, leaning on his cane. "Joe, help me," Jerry pleaded. "Tell him I didn't do it."

Joe held up the bottle--that goddamned bottle of drain cleaner. Jerry wished he'd never seen the thing. "We found it, Jerry," Joe said. "You can stop bullshitting us anytime."

"I don't know what you're talking about." Jerry was afraid to retreat as Joe stumped up to him and Methos circled behind him, silent as a barracuda.

"This was all over the case I had you make up for Adam," Joe snarled. "And if there's anybody in this bar with the motive to do something that sick to him, you are it." Joe shoved the bottle in Jerry's face. The strange, peppery smell of the drain cleaner was overwhelming. Jerry recoiled, but stopped dead as Methos came up behind him and put his sword on Jerry's shoulder. Jerry jumped and, to his utter humiliation, peed his pants.

"You think we should make him drink it?" Methos purred. "They do say that drain cleaner helps unclog those pesky blockages."

"It's a thought at that," Joe said. He glared at Jerry and shook the bottle in his face. "You want a taste of your own medicine Jerry?"

"Oh, please," Jerry squeaked. "Please, it was just an accident, I swear. It just spilled. I wiped it off, but it must have soaked through."

"Bullshit," Joe said coldly. Methos grabbed Jerry by the shoulders and held the sword to his throat.

"I don't believe you either," Methos said.

"No! I swear! It was an accident. I had the cases all laid out and when I opened the cupboard to get something, the bottle fell out and spilled everywhere. I wiped it up right away, really!"

"But it still got all over the bottles, didn't it, Jerry?" Joe said, his face twisted with disgust. "You figured you'd just get yourself a little revenge on the guy who whacked your best friend is that it?"

Jerry shook his head, but stopped when Methos pressed the sword against his neck. The sharp pain terrified Jerry.

"Please," he sobbed. "I didn't mean for any of this to happen. I was in a hurry and I just let it go. I just thought you'd get a stomach ache at worst, that's all. I didn't want that woman to die. I didn't want to hurt Silas. I *like* cats. I wouldn't do that to a cat. I've got a dog. My ex- housemate tried to poison him with wood alcohol once. I had to take him to the vet. I know how it feels, really. You gotta believe me. If I'd known about the cat, I never would have let those cases go through." He knew he was babbling now, but he was too panicked to stop. He seemed to be outside his own body, watching it all go down, badly.

And then, miraculously, the sword went away and Death let go of him. Jerry reveled in the momentary feeling of being ignored by all present.

Joe's anger also seemed to evaporate. He sagged, reverting from Man in Black to plain, old Joe. "Are you okay?" he asked Methos over Jerry's shoulder.

"I'm fine." The answer was terse and hostile. "Just make him go away."

Joe looked down at Jerry's pants and shook his head. "Go home and get cleaned up, kid. I should report you--you blew your Watcher Oath right out of the water--but I won't. This time."

Jerry felt his face grow hot with shame. He opened his mouth but Joe cut him off. "You won the lottery, kid. Don't push it."

Jerry took the hint for the gift it was, and fled back out into the bar.


Amy was getting used to receiving text messages from Joe at this point. This one said, "Come to the bar when you can," which meant right away. Sighing to herself, she turned off the mobile and got ready to go out. And she had so been enjoying a quiet afternoon to herself. She pulled on her coat (Paris was getting cold and wet as it slid into winter), carefully sliding the Glock into its holster on one side, and a large hunting knife into its sheath on the other. The weight balanced out rather well, even if the weapons themselves had required some rethinking of her wardrobe. She knew that the Watcher hierarchy would never approve of her carrying protection against her assignments, but she'd been caught out once already by an Immortal. She would not allow it to happen again. She didn't know if Joe knew about her little armoury. He'd never asked.

When she got to the bar, Joe was waiting for her at a table, two glasses and a bottle of whisky in front of him. "Hey," he said. "Thanks for coming." He might be leaning more on her than usual, but he was courteous about it.

"I don't mind," she said, which was true. "What's the matter?"

Joe poured her a drink as she sat down. "A couple of things have come up and I need you to look into them."

"Do they involve Ben?" Trouble usually did these days.

"More or less." He handed her a glass. "You were right, as it turns out. He came back, we talked and we're okay again. I guess he just needed to go off and think things through overnight." Thank God for that. Being on the outs didn't do either of them any good and she had to admit she was fond of both of them. "But we still have some external stuff coming down the pike. First of all, it turns out our poisoner wasn't that woman from South Africa, after all. It was Jerry."

"You're joking." She took the glass and knocked back half of it. "Him? He's afraid of his own shadow. He wouldn't dare go after Ben."

"I don't think he did. Seems it was some sort of a cross between accidental and opportunistic. Something nasty got into Methos' beer care packages. Jerry noticed; he just didn't do anything about it."

"I see. Do we need to do something about him--or anyone else?" She felt a bit ill considering the thought. Jerry was an idiot, but she had borne him no ill will before now.

Joe shook his head, much to her relief. "Ben and I tag-teamed him and gave him a pretty good scare. I don't think he's gonna try anything else, but I need you to make sure. Can you ride herd on him until he goes off to Academy? It'll only be a couple of weeks."

"Of course." Joe didn't have to ask, being her supervisor. He could just give her an order, but he wouldn't do it that way, she knew. "What was the other thing?"

Joe narrowed his eyes. "This one is a little delicate, kind of an internal matter." And monitoring Jerry's movements wasn't? "There's this guy who's shown up in Paris--claims to be an old friend of Ben's. He's a Watcher named Rene Galbon. I want you to check him out and I want you to be real quiet about it. Nobody will talk to me these days, but they might to you."

"This man is a Watcher? Are you saying he knew Ben as Adam Pierson?" Joe nodded. "But why show up now?"

Joe shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "I called Sean Burns' place a few weeks back for advice about Ben. Galbon's with them."

"So, he's a psychiatrist." Joe nodded. "Ah. Could he really be an old friend of Ben's?"

"So Ben says. I haven't met him yet."

Perfect. What a mess. "You're saying that he contacted Ben on his own?"

"Yeah. Yesterday. I don't like it."

"Ow." No wonder Joe was unhappy about this. "All right, I'll see what I can dig up. What did you find out about him in the database?"

Joe pulled a folded piece of paper out of his jacket and handed it to her. "That he's exactly what he told Ben he was: Dr. Rene Galbon, born November 3, 1948 in Carcassone, France. Watcher since 1975 when he witnessed a Quickening in Marseilles. Clinical psychiatrist since 1985, specialising in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Been working at Sean's place since 1993. He treats both Watchers and Immortals."

She glanced through the paper. "You have a problem with that."

"Let's just say that his Watcher record seems a little blank for the late '80s and early '90s when he was supposed to be getting to know Ben. I want to know what he was up to during that period."

"All right. I'll get on it right away." She finished her drink and stood up. Joe stopped her with a hand on her arm.

"Honey, do me a favour--don't mention this to Ben, okay?"

She stared down at him, puzzled. "Why not? Shouldn't we warn him?"

Joe grimaced. "About what? If Galbon's on the level, he might help Ben. I don't want to blow Ben's trust in the guy without a reason. And if the guy's not on the level...well, Ben probably doesn't trust him, anyway."


Jerry tried ignoring the phone, but it kept ringing. The queue on his answering machine was choked with messages. He appreciated Gabrieli's concern and all, but he really did not want to talk to the guy.

"Hello, Jerry? Are you there? Call me back when you get in, please. I'm becoming a little concerned." The machine clicked off. Jerry turned up the TV and let Buford up on the couch. He needed a little boost and Buford, tail wagging at getting his way, was happy to oblige. At least neither Joe nor Methos had come by, much to Jerry's relief. They seemed to be finished with him, at least for now.

Gabrieli had seemed nice enough when he first contacted Jerry. At first, Jerry had assumed it was some kind of ritual for new Watchers, some post-acceptance interview. It had gotten a lot more sinister after Joe chewed him out. He didn't know why Joe's own boss was leaving him out of the loop, but he sure didn't want to get in the middle.

The phone rang again. The machine clicked on. This time, Gabrieli hung up before the beep. Jerry changed the channel as Buford settled into the cushions next to him. This Watcher stuff had sure not turned out the way he'd thought it would.


M. Gabrieli?" Clarisse knocked on the open door to the new Section Head's office. She knew that she was only a new intern and that he was busy and important, but he also claimed to be available to all who worked in Headquarters. She determined to test him.

Gabrieli glanced up from his computer. He frowned. "Yes?"

Clarisse swallowed and took a deep breath for courage. "May I speak to you, Sir? It is somewhat urgent."

"I see." A strange look came over his face as his glance fixed on her security badge. "Clarisse Mermet? You are with the Methos Chronicles team, aren't you?" She was impressed. The previous Head, Jason Anders, had barely remembered the names of his own wife and mistress, let alone anyone else's. She nodded. "Is this about your project?" She nodded again. He indicated a chair. "Well, now, please have a seat, Miss, and tell me all about it." He spread his hands on his desk and watched her as she settled into a chair across from his desk.

"Sir," she said hesitantly, "we would like your guidance on what we should do about the corruptions that we have found in some of our records."

"'Corruptions'? What kind of 'corruptions'?" He looked alarmed.

She stared at him in surprise. "Why, the alterations which Adam Pierson made in the records, of course."

He nodded. "Ah. You mean the glosses."

"Sir?" she asked, confused.

"The glosses, Miss. The additions. Not alterations, necessarily, from what I understand."

How could Gabrieli, of all people, not understand the irreparable damage that Pierson had done to the Methos archives? "But--he changed the records."

"Yes, he did. And I take that very seriously, Miss Mermet. I want your team to make up a list of those changes, where and when they have been made and what you believe those changes to be. Then, I want you to leave those records alone." He folded his hands and leaned forward. "I want to be very clear about this, Miss Mermet. I want those records to be studied, not 'cleaned up'. I do not want them to be 'corrected' further, or purged, in any way."

She stared at him, mouth open. "But, Sir, Pierson has corrupted some of these records almost beyond recognition."

Gabrieli cocked his head to one side. "Indeed he has. And I want those changes preserved for further study--*all* of those changes, do you understand?"

Stunned, Clarisse could only nod. "Yes, Sir."

"Good. I think that clarifies things sufficiently. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Miss Mermet." He turned back to his computer. "I am afraid that I'm a little busy at the moment. Do you have anything further?" He raised one eyebrow.

"Ah, no. No, Sir." Clarisse stood up. "Thank you, Sir."

"Please let me know if anything else comes up." He smiled. It was a pleasant smile, but Clarisse still left the Head's office more confused than when she had entered it.


Oh, I am so tired. Joe suggested I go home and sleep for a week. Think I will take him up on that. I am not so tired that I forget to close the door behind me as I slouch into my apartment. The light on the answering machine is blinking. I wonder who that could be? I press the button and wait.

"Hullo, Adam? It's Mac." He sounds awkward, rushed, on his way out of town. "Look, I don't understand what was going on today, but I wasn't trying to hurt Joe. I know it didn't look good but that's the truth." For once, I am willing to agree with him on that. He wasn't trying to hurt Joe; it has simply become habit.

"Kate and I are heading up to Glenfinnan for a few weeks. I don't think Joe wants to talk to me right now." This is the truth, as well, though personal experience has taught me that giving Joe space convinces him that you simply don't care.

"Nor do I want to have to meet you on holy ground when I get back, so I'll use you as the messenger, if you don't mind." I do mind, but that is the beauty of answering machines--you cannot talk back to them.

"Tell Joe I'll be back in a month or so. I'm not leaving forever. I hope you get some help, Methos. You need it. Don't let your pride get in the way of getting what you need." Look who's talking! "I'll talk to you soon."

Message and machine click off. You pompous son of a bitch. How dare you slap me in the face and run away? Ah, well. Perhaps it's best he go for now. He is beginning to understand me too well. I suppose he does have a point about my being off my game. I am beginning to frighten him. I should not have attacked him at the barge in September. That was a tactical error. Soon, he will stop seeing me as ill and start seeing me as a threat. Then, I will have to kill him. But how can I do that, yet stay near Joe? He would never forgive me for killing Mac.

Maybe it is better if Mac leaves. It gives me more space to breathe, and I so need space right now. I need to be where I don't fear to alarm people. No one wants to be friends with a threat, not except for the rare Alexa or Joe. It is so hard showing one's throat all the time, swallowing rage while the young ones trample my pride so thoughtlessly. One Immortal is simple enough to dispatch, but they always come in packs.

Why must I always behave? Why can no one follow my rules for a change? If my aged wisdom is so valuable, why does everyone ignore it? If Joe wants to keep me around, he is going to have to accept that I am not a civilised man. No more masks. What frightens me is that he might call my bluff.

And what about Rene? Should I accept his offer? I have never taken the mental breakdown ride with a tour guide before. I am not certain that I am ready to start, either. It has always been traditional to do 'Look, ma, no hands!' and not use any safety harness. Where is the fun in bucking tradition? Maybe I can avoid the entire thing. I have stopped the slide before. And maybe I am ready to let this all hang fire until tomorrow. A shower, some Chinese food and a good night's sleep. That is all I am ready for tonight.

The tiny Buzz teases the edge of my senses. Though I have been half- expecting it, I don't catch it at first. When it grows only a tiny bit, then stops, I start to realise who--what it is. A tiny, anxious meow and scratching at the door convince me that Silas has come back.

I go to the door and open it. Silas sits in the doorway. He stares up at me and mews. "Hello, O cat who walks by himself," I tell him, "So, if all places are alike to you, what brings you to my humble cave?" Disdaining Kipling for Little Friskies, Silas scoots past me straight for the feed dish, where he tucks into the dry food I put out yesterday in eternal hope. Shaking my head, I get him some canned food, then order my own. I consider trying a pat on the head. Mmm, no. Best to leave it. I retreat, turn on the TV, put in a movie, answer the door when the food comes and otherwise pretend not to notice the way the tiny Buzz of my cat moves across the room to the bed, over to the window, into the bathroom and back out. It is a good hour before I feel him at my shoulder, purring and kneading the arm of the couch. I could swear I smell ozone rising from his fur. What the Hell has he been up to? Never mind. I don't care. As soon as I put my dishes on the coffee table, he jumps into my lap and settles in. So, all is forgiven, after all.

It is not until Joe wakes me after midnight with some ridiculous phone call about leaving his toothbrush here, that it sinks in. This Hell week is finally over and I am in exactly the position I was in a week ago Saturday night. I was bored then. I am not bored now. I will take my cat, a takeaway, the couch and a senseless chat with Joe, thank you very much, and if that is the most excitement that I get in the next month of Saturday nights, I will be more than satisfied.



Patient notes of Dr. Rene Galbon:

Joseph (Joe) Dawson:

Age: 54

Current Location: Paris, France.

Nationality: European-American.

Religion: Catholic.

Marital Status: Single.

Children/Dependents: One daughter, Amy Thomas.

Other known family: One sister, one niece.

Current Occupation: Watcher, Bar owner, Blues musician.

Previous Occupations: Soldier--U.S. Marine, Vietnam vet, Historian, Book- store manager, field operative in longterm, covert surveillance for secret organisation.

Personality traits: Bilateral amputee (war wounds), probable Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "Tribal" in nature. Extremely loyal to family and friends over most other ethical considerations. Tendency towards insubordination and low respect for authority--values lateral over hierarchical relationships. Short temper--occasionally solves problems with violence. Secretive and taciturn. Good mediator in disputes, but responds badly to abandonment and betrayal. Presents no signs or symptoms in need of immediate or longterm treatment. No observed pathological or characterological disorders. No pets.

Other names: None.

Information sources: Reports, Watcher Council trial documents, personal Watcher file, independent observation of associated Immortals. (Note: Unreliable source of information for certain Immortals.)

Treatment options: Job-related counseling has been suggested and refused. Coping skills and relations with family and friends within normal parameters. Compulsory treatment or intervention contraindicated.

Recommendations: Has strong, beneficial relationship with patient. Include in treatment process.

Methos (current identity--Adam Pierson):

Age: 5000+ (unconfirmed).

Current Location: Paris, France.

Nationality: None. Possible Asiatic Celt in origin.

Religion: Unknown (Atheist?).

Marital Status: Married (and widowed?) 68 times.

Children/Dependents: None known.

Other known family: None. Current legal next-of-kin, Joe Dawson (possible problems involving hospitalisation?)

Current Occupation: PhD student in Ancient Iranian History at the University of Paris--Sorbonne, bookstore owner. Current Watcher status uncertain.

Previous Occupations: Watcher, researcher, physician, scribe?, slave?, raider?, god?, gladiator, rebel leader, pugil?, mercenary?, schoolteacher, monk?, farmer? (others unknown).

Personality traits: Strong survival instinct, occasionally resulting in amoral or even "immoral" behaviour, but also natural risk-taker. Playful nature with quick mood changes. Dry, often gallows sense of humour. Intensely tribal in nature, particularly regarding "familial" relationships. Dislikes unnecessary physical activity. Prone to use "quick" solutions involving extreme violence. Unusually tolerant of others but also extremely dangerous when threatened. Does not readily volunteer information about self. Controls social interactions by giving ambiguous answers when questioned about personal information. Owns one cat.

Issues to be addressed: Recent widower (grief process), possible problem drinker, problems with identity, recurring depression/suicidal impulses aggravated by occasional hallucinatory episodes and acute/delirious mania, PTSD, possible Stockholm Syndrome, history of longterm, situational psychosis punctuated by extreme violence, situational paranoia, feelings of persecution (justified by situation), brought on by repeated and varied longterm trauma. Problems with trusting others. No signs of learned helplessness (on the contrary, patient is intensely independent). No apparent characterological or organic disorders. No signs of bipolar tendencies, sociopathology, psychopathology or Multiple Personality Disorder. Recent deterioration in physical condition, loss of weight and muscle definition (problems with anorexia/bulimia?) indicates self-neglect, possible self-harming and wish to commit suicide-by-Immortal, a common form of self-destruction by depressed persons in patient's cultural context.

Tendency to engage in high-risk, short-term sexual relationships and to abuse alcohol (other drugs?) when under moderate stress. Under extreme stress, patient will withdraw from stressful situation entirely, either leaving the area and disappearing for months at a time, or alternatively, remaining isolated at home for weeks. Presents indifference and inappropriate humour when pressed on stressful topics. Can become agitated, hostile, and even violent under questioning. Patient experienced acute psychotic episode in Summer 1998, with acute/delirious mania for one week, after prolonged alcohol abuse ended in two suicide attempts and police protective custody. This resulted in a four-month-long hospitalisation that ended with patient's escape (note: contact hospital personnel in Seacouver). Patient presented signs and symptoms of acute (possibly psychotic) depression with self-harming and suicidal tendencies following murder of a friend six weeks ago.

Past Precipitating Events: Notable events--thousand year period during the Bronze Age spent in family situation with three sociopathic personalities (patient was possibly in a state of acute mania or psychotic depression for much of this period), murder of mentor in 1995 by man trying to find and kill patient, murder of woman in 1996 (possibly by patient, due to her being a perceived threat to patient's friends) which may have ended patient's 200-year-long hiatus from "The Game", murder of therapist in front of patient by friend suffering from acute psychosis in 1996, death of wife in 1996 from cancer, identity stolen by rival (who was subsequently murdered, possibly by patient?) in 1997, possible kidnap by Bronze Age family members resulting in their deaths in 1997 (possibly murdered by patient), murder of a friend by another friend in 1997, witness to the murder of friend's student by friend in 1997.

Current Precipitating Event: Murder of a friend six weeks ago.

Other names: Adam Pierson, Ben Adams, Benjamin Adamson, Methuselah?, Matheus Pugilus?, Death on a Horse, The Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse, Godfrey de Bouillon?, Spartacus, zi-Mezena Methos, Vercingetorix?, Ahriman? (others unknown).

Information sources: Reports (highly unreliable), personal Watcher file (also highly unreliable), patient files of Dr. Sean Burns, historical documents (uncertain provenance, may have been altered by patient), independent observation of associated Immortals (ambiguous information, multiple interpretations), medical file from St Genevieve Hospital in Paris, police arrest report from Seacouver, Washington, USA (original missing--summary available), medical file from Seacouver County General psychiatric ward (recently obtained).

Diagnosis: PTSD brought on by extreme, longterm, repeated stress. Presents as acute psychotic depression and acute mania (possibly circular type), acute anxiety and agitation, substance abuse, risk behaviours. This may be a longterm pattern. Grief and possible identity and trust problems.

Treatment options: Psychotherapy strongly recommended, but difficult to commence under current circumstances (efforts to introduce patient into a program of therapy are in progress). Drug therapy possibly beneficial but unlikely to be tolerated. Patient might benefit from hospitalisation, but is extremely resistant to anything resembling incarceration or anything which might limit his freedom. Compulsory commitment recommended only if patient becomes an unmanageable danger to himself or others outside of hospital, or attempts to leave area. Strongly recommended that any treatment or intervention include the participation of listed next-of-kin and be undertaken only with the knowledge and cooperation of patient, if at all possible.

Recommendations: Initiate psychotherapy immediately (prior relationship with patient will be useful). Build on previous survival behaviours and work on changing self-destructive habits and thought patterns. Should initiate contact with patient before contact with next-of-kin to remove any implication of "backstabbing". Concerns about possible recurrence of acute symptoms (suicidal tendencies and acute psychotic episodes, in particular) in near future make acquiring patient's trust paramount over all other considerations.

Prognosis: Good--if patient can be persuaded to accept treatment. Between acute episodes, patient shows extremely strong will to live, positive view of life and a continued need and willingness to form relationships with other people. Main danger is patient's self-destructive behaviours during acute periods of illness, which must be moderated (eliminated, if possible).

Note: Treatment may extend beyond current therapist's lifespan.


For now, but Joe and Methos will return in "It's So Beautiful Over There".