"It's So Beautiful Over There".

Paula Stiles


Summary: Methos' therapy hits a snag.

Characters: Joe, Methos, Alexa, Kronos, Amy Thomas, Stephen Keane, OCs.

Rating: PG-13.

Disclaimer: Rysher/Davis own Methos and Joe and the Highlander universe. I don't own any of the songs. This is just an experiment. I'm having a little fun and am not getting paid for it.

Archive: Ask, and ye shall probably receive permission.

Note: This is the third story in the Joe and Methos "Armed Intervention" series. You will find it with others in the series (as well as my other stories), at: http:www.geocities.com/RainForest/Andes/3071/arch.html .

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


He lives in the mist, in the fog. I meet him under the bridge at night. We fight. I win. I don't remember him, or what he means. I haven't yet told Joe.

What does he want?




René stares at me over his coffee cup. "Really?" he says.

"Really," I say.

He shrugs. "Okay. Black."

I hesitate. "Ex-friends." Kronos, for example. My personal guardian angel. I haven't seen him in almost a month, which must be good.

"Any particular ones?"

"No," I reply firmly. He lets it go.




"You don't look surprised," I say.

"Should I be?" He smirks at me. Fair enough. "Love."

"Alexa." I'm startled by the jolt of sadness at that word. I thought I had got some distance.

"Your wife," he says gently. "The one who died?" I nod. "Do you want to talk about her today?"

"No...maybe another day, when I feel ready for it."

"Okay. Death."

"The past." That was easier.

"The future."

Whoo. Total blank. "Um...thesis defense? Bookstore?"

"Now you're thinking about it. What leapt to mind first?"

I shake my head. "Nothing, really."

He stares at me. "Nothing at all?"


"Hmm." He scribbles. I hate when he does that. "Seacouver."

Aww, that was low, René. "Flying monkeys," I say, to our mutual astonishment.

"Flying monkeys?" He looks flabbergasted. "Where did that come from?"

"I have absolutely no idea." This is the truth. "Hey, you were the one who asked the loaded question. I thought we'd agreed not to discuss Seacouver."

"Did we?" He looks confused. Come to think of it, he is right. We made no such agreement. "Do you remember the hospital?"


"How was your stay?"

"My *stay*? What stay? It wasn't a country club. They wouldn't let me leave."

"Well, consider their reasons. Was it unpleasant, otherwise?"

I grimace. "Oh, it was nice enough as prisons go. The staff were kind to me. They had a theory that I was some ordinary family guy who'd just snapped one day and wandered off. Pretty entertaining, listening to them gossip about me in the hallways." Pretty naked, too. "They'd ask me my name; I'd pretend not to understand. We got along okay."

"But isn't that what happened? Were they not right?"

I blink. "About what?"

René puts his elbows on the table, folds his hands, leans his chin on them and gives me a disgusted look. This is what he does when he thinks I am giving him the runaround, I have discovered. I am not doing that at this moment. I do not understand the question.

"You leave town after Duncan MacLeod murders his own student in front of you. Over a year later, you are picked up in Seacouver, drunk, confused and homeless. What do *you* call that?"

"Ah," I say. Well, he has got me there.

"Do you remember your arrest?"

"Not really," I admit.

"Not really? What does that mean?"

I glare at him. He is beginning to piss me off. "No, René. I do not remember my arrest."

"Do you remember your psych evaluation at the police station?" I shake my head again. He frowns. "No? That is odd."

"What is so odd about it? I was drugged to the hairline. It is a wonder I remember being there at all."

"You had periods when you were apparently conscious in that first week. Your eyes were open. You responded to some verbal stimuli, though what you said made no apparent sense. I think this is where the flying monkeys are."

"Not to mention the wild things," I snap. "But that does not explain why it is so important that we have to talk about it."

"Doesn't it?" He looks innocent. Ha. I don't buy it. I invented that look.

"No," I say, in an end-of-discussion tone.

"Hmm." More scribbling, on a big, yellow steno pad that doesn't look like Joe's journal, but reminds me of it nonetheless.

"What is this 'hmm' thing with you? And what is it with all the scribbling? I didn't agree to your taking any notes."

He looks disgusted, though he does stop writing. He does the chin-on- hands thing. Oh, here we go. The lecture.

"You do not want me to take notes of our meetings?" he says.

"No, I do not."

"Adam, do you think I am your friend?"

"Ye-es," I say, after a pause that even I think is long. "But my other friends don't take notes." This is not quite true, which may be the problem. I don't know. I just know it disturbs me when René does it. Or Joe, for that matter.

"Your other friends, they are not les psychiatres, je crois?" Bastard.

"No," I admit. "What does that have to do with the big, yellow steno pad?"

"Me, I have a skill, a service. It is a service that you need. I give you this service because I am your friend. If you don't want the service, ça va. We will stop now and go for a beer, yes? Get drunk, talk about girls? I will still be your friend, but I cannot do this service for you sans...ah," he mutters to himself, "qu'est-ce que c'est le mot? La séparation. When I am just your friend, I do not ask you uncomfortable questions. I do not push. When I am le psychiatre, I must, or I will do a bad job. Separation. You understand?"

"I suppose," I say. Not that I am happy about it.

"Bon. Do you want to stop?"

"What?" The question startles me. Right out of left field.

"Do you want to stop this?" He indicates the steno pad with his pen. "Go for a beer? Cherchez la femme? Just be friends?"

Damn, he is good, leaving that padded door open a crack. Make the patient think he can leave at any time. Well, you can, can't you, Old Man? You can stop anytime. So easy. Just slip out the back door--and maybe end up in a place a lot worse than Seacouver this time. I look down at my still untouched coffee. "No," I say. "I don't want to stop."

"Bon," he says, as if he already knew what I would say--though I suspect he is too smart to make these kinds of conclusions about me. "But perhaps it is enough for today, yes?" When do you want to meet again? Wednesday?"

"It's only Monday," I protest. "We seem to be meeting a lot, right now. Twice this week? Twice last week? Twice the week before?" This was not how I planned on spending my October.

"Is it too much?" He is watching me too closely. It's another bloody psychological test, I can tell.

I sigh. Ah, bugger it. "No, René. It is fine. I love your company. Let's do the Time Warp again on Wednesday." He does smile at that.

"Should we meet more?" he asks. He is pushing and I bet he knows that. "Is it enough?"

"It is fine," I say, irritated. I have got other things to do besides this. Really. "To be honest, this is...a little rough on me." And the grilling that Joe will give me after I go to the Bar is going to be equally rough. I don't think Joe trusts René--or maybe he is jealous. Joe, old buddy, you have no fears there.

"Rough," René muses. "The therapy. Is it helping?" Ooh, he said the Word.

"I don't know yet." This is absolutely true. "I have heard that it takes a little getting used to. Let's just see what happens."

He nods. "Bon. Wednesday, then." More scribbling. At least this is only appointment-making. He glances up at me. "Two o'clock?"

"Make it four. I want to do some things in the bookshop, first." I would like to get it up and running by mid-November, but that could be too optimistic. My stomach is better than it was after my poisoning, but I still feel tired too much of the time.

"Bon. I will see you then. If something happens," --his codename for a flying monkey moment, I think-- "call me." He folds up the pad and puts it into his backpack before standing up. Before he leaves, he leans across the table and pats me on the shoulder, startling me. "You are doing fine," he says. Bemused, I watch him go out the door into the street. He always leaves first--to give me space, I think. Or maybe to leave me wanting more, expecting more. He is too smart for my own good, but I suspect he really could help me. Do I need help? I don't know yet. I stand up and leave, my coffee untouched. As usual, René has paid for it.


Le Blues Bar should be quiet about this time of day, but it is not. Joe and his bassman are practising. I love watching him play. Talk about throwing your heart over the fence before the horse. Joe is an amazing bluesman. People come to practise with him from all over Europe. I don't think he quite realises how large his reputation is in the local Blues community. And he is in complete denial about his reputation with the Watchers. It's better than mine at this point, I am sure. Though I was an obscure personality until the very end, which was deliberate, of course. The Methos Project was right up there with chasing unicorns. Wish it had stayed that way. I did not need that kind of fame again.

"Everybody's got a million questions. Everybody wants to know the score. What you went through is something you should be over now. Everybody wants to hear the secrets that you never told a soul before. And it's not that strange, 'cause it wouldn't change what happened anyhow. But you swore to yourself a long time ago, There were some things that people never needed to know. This is one that you keep that you bury so deep no one can tear it out."

I take a chair at a table, trying to be unobtrusive. I don't want to screw them up. Marie gets me a beer without my having to ask. What service. No wonder I keep coming here.

The bass player, who is from Senegal, joins in on the chorus. He is also doubling on harmonica. The song sounds familiar, but Joe and the bassman are jamming on it so that I can't quite place it. They play with the melody, speeding up a bit for emphasis here and there.

"My, he's good, isn't he?" I stop in mid-sip and look up, startled. For a moment, I could have sworn.... But no. The voice is female, not male, though low in the throat. And the woman pulling up a chair beside me is most certainly not Kronos. I don't recall ever seeing Kronos' bare legs in all the centuries I knew him. Even if I had, I would bet that Amy's are much nicer.

"Hi, Amy," I say. " Yes, he is. How is the Watcher game?"

She smirks at me as Marie comes over with a White Russian. "Now, Ben. You know I'm not supposed to discuss that with the likes of you." I don't take offense. There's no sting in it; she is only teasing. "Besides, I'm not here on business. I just came to watch Joe play." It is a pity that she cannot call him "Dad", but the way she smiles up at him on stage makes that almost irrelevant. I do believe she loves him.

Joe and the bassman haven't seen us yet, as far as I can tell. They have got their heads together; Joe's eyes are closed. They roll through the song looking like two drunks belting out karaoke in a Country-Western bar-- except that Joe and his bassman can carry a tune much better.

"But you can't talk about it 'Cause you're following a code of silence. You're never gonna lose the anger. You just deal with it a different way. And you can't talk about it. And isn't that a kind of madness To be living by a code of silence, when you really got a lot to say?"

On the second verse, Joe and the bassman start switching off stanzas, some sort of antiphony and response thing, obviously experimenting. I wonder, sometimes, if Joe does not enjoy the practices more than his performances at night. In the practices, he can do different things, some that work, some that don't, and not worry about an audience complaining that, "it ain't what they call 'rock and roll'."

"How does he do it, do you think?" Amy says.

I drink more beer. "Do what?"

"His music. How do you think he does it?"

I shrug. "I wouldn't know. I don't have that kind of talent." That is what I have told myself for two thousand years, that I had no talent for creation, and that is true. Destruction is a very different story.

"You were unique, Methos," Kronos once told me, shortly before I got him killed. "Of course, we all were," he added quickly. The man never gave me a straight compliment, ever.

I don't want to think about Kronos.

I rub the back of my neck, looking up at Joe, trying to find an answer to Amy's question. "Joe is very gifted," I say. "He hears patterns in the world that you and I can't, and then he converts them into something we can hear, that we can enjoy." In a dizzying flash, I see myself looking across a great, ancient plain, seeing the many thousands of people scattered across it, playing them all in my mind the way Joe plucks the strings on his guitar. I swallow. This is what I hate about therapy. Arguing with René opens boxes inside my head and things spill out. Post-therapy afternoons feel like picking up after a lazy toddler.

"You don't want to lose a friendship. There's nothing that you have to hide. And a little dirt couldn't hurt no one anyhow. And you still have a rage inside you that you carry with a certain pride In the only part of the broken heart that you could ever save."

Whoo. That verse hit closer than I would have liked. Why is Joe singing this song, I wonder? It is angrier than his usual songlist. The way he bounces back and forth on his chair when he really gets into a song makes me laugh. It is a wonder he can hold his guitar steady.

"You're drinking early today," Amy says. "What have you been doing?"

"Therapy," I say absently. I glance over at her nearly-empty glass and raise an eyebrow. "What's your excuse?"

She frowns. "Academy starts next week. I'm babysitting Jerry for Joe until we've placed him safely in the care of the Academy instructors. Since when did you start therapy?" Ah, Watcher Academy. That brings back memories. Some of them are even pleasant.

"Jerry?" I grope for the blaze of anger that should accompany that name, but cannot find it. Just as well. Let it go. "Is he behaving?"

"Oh, yes." She has the loveliest predatory grin. "He is almost as intimidated by me as he is by you."

"You like that," I suggest.

She chuckles. "I cultivate it. So...therapy?"

"Ah. That." I am all out of beer, which is not good when I am on this line of questioning. "One of the Watchers working with Sean Burns' people has decided to take me on board as a sort of charity project."

"I see." She swirls the remaining Kahlua in her glass, looking thoughtful. "Ben, can I offer you a piece of unsolicited, and possibly very unwanted, advice?"

I lean my chin on one hand. "Why, Amy, you can tell me anything."

She doesn't laugh. "If people want to help you, maybe you should start letting them do it. They're not all out to get you."

I will admit to being surprised by this, but not to her. "Even paranoids have enemies, little girl."

"Even cynical old men can take advice from a little girl from time to time," she retorts. That sets me back on my heels.

"But you been through it once; you know how it ends. You don't see the point of going through it again. And this ain't the place; and this ain't the time; And neither's any other day."

Joe is really throwing himself into the song as they sail into the second chorus. He must be pissed off about something. Considering that the verses of the song could apply to us both, I suspect it has something to do with me--and maybe with the Watchers, too. Perfect. Just what I need.

"I don't see why you care," I say, more harshly than I intend.

"You saved my life," Amy replies. "Consider it an obligation of mine to look after your welfare in my own small fashion."

I shake my head, irritation shading to anger. "You do not have to feel obligated to me in any way."

She looks amused. "Since it's not your obligation, you don't get to make that decision. Sorry."

"I know you well enough to tell you've got your reasons. That's not the kind of code you're inclined to break. Some things are known and best left alone forever. And if a vow is what it takes, haven't you paid for your mistakes?"

The last verse is quieter, with Joe singing into the mike, just above the music, eyes closed. The bassman joins in on the second half of each line. I have to lower my voice to keep from being heard onstage.

"I don't need any help," I say.

"Right. That would be why you're in therapy." I glare at her. She seems unfazed. "Has it never occurred to you that you might have lived so long because some of us care about you and not some legend?"

I feel sick. It is all I can do not to show it. Tell me she is not saying what I think she is saying. "Not everyone feels the way you do."

"I'm not Immortal," she says. "And I really don't give a damn what you did three thousand years ago."

I want to scream and curse. I want to get up and run. I want violent action but instinct tells me to stay in my seat and calmly fold my hands on the table. It all comes out in the conversation, instead. "I did not kill Walker for you, little girl."

"No. You did it for Joe." She doesn't elaborate; she doesn't need to. She is talking about loyalty, here, about family. She is making me an offer. I am just not sure that I want to accept it.

"After the moment passes And the impulse disappears, You can still hold back, 'cause you don't crack very easily. It's a time-honoured resolution, 'cause the danger is always near. It's with you now, but that ain't how it was supposed to be. And it's hard to believe after all these years, It still gives you pain and it still brings tears. And you feel like a fool, 'cause in spite of your rules You got a memory."

Joe, and the bassman, blast through the last chorus and then kick into a riff that lasts for several minutes. At the end of it, Joe spots Amy with me and grins.

"Let's take a break, Jean," he says, loud enough that I can hear him. "I think we've done enough for today." The bassman follows his line-of- sight to our table, nods and starts packing up. So much for being unobtrusive. I do so love being baby-sat by an entire bar.

Joe packs it up. Amy and I go to help him get off-stage. After we get him set up back at our table, Amy says her goodbyes.

"I have to go check up on Jerry, get him ready for the Academy," she says.

"Okay, honey. You take care." Joe hugs her. She leans down to kiss the top of his head. We both watch her walk out the door. I decide not to mention our conversation to Joe. Amy knows who I am. I need time to figure out what to do about that without worrying about Joe hating me afterwards.

"That was a fun song," I say. "Who was it?"

"Billy Joel," he replies. "'Code of Silence'. Not in my usual repertoire, but I guess we were in the mood." He looks annoyed. "That prick, Gabrieli, paid me another visit today."

Ah. Not him again. "And?" I say cautiously.

"And not much. Except he asked me if you were getting counselling." Shit. "He didn't seem too sure about it; it was pretty easy to get him off it. I dunno, maybe somebody spotted you and René and put two and two together."

"Great. Just perfect." I'm beginning to wonder if I need to get rid of Gabrieli.

"Come on, Old Man. You knew he was after you. He's just looking for an excuse to do things the easy way, as he sees it. Don't let him get to you. I can play interference if I have to. Speaking of therapy, how'd the latest brain-shrink go?"

"Okay. I think. Not sure."

"Not sure?" He frowns at me. "That's not 'okay'. What happened?"

I wave it off. "Oh, we were just playing one of those stupid shrink games and something odd came up."

He peers at me suspiciously. "Which game?"

"You know. That one where somebody says a word and you say the first thing that comes into your head. Word association."

"Sounds harmless enough."

"Yeah, that's what I thought. It is not as though he can make all the wrong connections. Then he said, 'Seacouver' and I said, um...'flying monkeys'."

"'Flying monkeys'?!" He looks incredulous.

I smile wryly. "Funny, that is the same thing that René said, and in exactly the same tone, too."

"You were expecting something different?" He chortles. "Jesus, Methos. Where the Hell did that come from?"

I shake my head. "I honestly do not know."

"And that scares you?"

"In response to the word 'Seacouver'? Yes. Anything that does not make any sense in connection with that word scares me."

He scratches his beard and chews on his lip. "How much do you remember about Seacouver? Aside from visiting Mac, and stuff? Do you remember about being in the hospital?"

"Sure." I nod. "Absolutely."

"Even that first week?" I stare at the table. "Well? Do you?"

"No," I admit. "Not that first week."

"Do you remember getting arrested?" I shake my head. "What do you remember?"

"I remember lying down on the tracks, wanting to die. Then I remember waking up in five point restraints."

"Ow." Joe grimaces in sympathy. "And you don't remember anything in between?"

"Nope." I shake my head. "I remember talking to Kronos before and after, but nothing in between."

"You were talking to Kronos?" He looks horrified. "No wonder you were so screwed up. You didn't see him the entire time you were there, did you?"

"No, he buggered off once I awoke to my situation--which is about the way he always was, come to think of it." I suck down more beer. Maybe I should eat something before I have another one.

"That sounds like Kronos, though I have to say, I never had the dubious pleasure of meeting the guy." Joe sits down next to me.

"Believe me, there was never anything 'pleasurable' about meeting Kronos, dubious or otherwise, particularly if you were Mortal. The shorter the life, the more pleasure the man took in snuffing it out."

"You, too, once upon a time." No, Joe does not pull his punches.

"Me, too. Yes. Once. I grew out of it, or maybe I got tired. He did not." If Kronos had come after Joe, what would I have done? Run? Maybe. If he had gone after Alexa? Maybe not. How did I get tied up in Mortals' lives again? I swore I'd stop.

Joe shrugs. "I don't know what to tell you, buddy. Flying monkeys? That is way outta my league." He snickers. I glare at him. He just gets louder.

"What?" I say, trying not to sound as prissy as Adam Pierson. Ever since Stargate SG1 started airing over here, Joe keeps making cracks about my mild-mannered Watcher alter ego, particularly when I forget to use English in front of him. As if that is my fault. Thank you, Daniel Jackson, you little bastard.

"Sorry," Joe says. "I just got an image."

"What is so funny about that?"

Joe waves me off. "Never mind. It wasn't you. It was, um...I just got this image of how Mac would have reacted to it."

I don't know if it is the same image as Joe's but suddenly, I can see MacLeod running over the top of the barge, waving his sword in the air and screaming in Scots Gaelic at two flying monkeys as they flap off slowly, ignoring him. I throw back my head and laugh. Joe joins in.

When I get enough breath, I say, "I can just see it. 'Quick, Joe! Get the Flying Monkey Net! Throw it over 'em, quick!'" Joe laughs harder. It takes a few minutes for us to get it together again.

"We are bad. We are very, very bad," I say finally. "It'll be the cornfield for us."

"Or the woodshed," Joe says.

"Yeah," I sigh. "More wood-chopping. Yeeha. And yet, I feel better."

"Good." Joe nods. "You are always way too tense after these chats with René. Are you sure you want to keep up with them?"

"Yes." I am surprised at my own certainty. Joe looks surprised. "Joe, I have to do something. I cannot retreat to some cave and mutter to myself for the next twenty years. Even if I could find a cave that isolated in this century, I cannot just leave y--I mean, I am not quite ready to leave Adam Pierson behind." Or the people who love him. Joe smirks. He caught the slip, of course. Oh, well. If I am going to make mistakes, it might as well be with a guy who will like me better for it. "I don't see what harm it could do. It doesn't require any more self-editing than the Confessional did. I rather liked Confession."

Joe looks disgusted. "Jeez, don't tell me you lied to a priest. Next you'll tell me you stole Communion wine."

"I did not." I mime outrage. This is fun. "And don't you get into some holier-than-thou act with me. I know you've been to Confession within the past twenty years, and I am damned sure that you did not mention any Watcher stuff."

He looks guilty. Hah. "That is different."


"Well, it--it just is."

"Uh huh. Sure."

He stands up, visibly clinging to his dignity. "Unlike some lazy graduate students, I have work to do," he announces and stumps off back to his office. I snicker and finish my beer. He'll be back.


"Is he dead?"

"I hope not. I am really not in the mood for a DOA tonight."

I open my eyes. Two flying monkeys hover over me, their wings waving as they scratch their heads.

"Oh, look," says the one on the left. "He opened his eyes."

"Great! Maybe he can walk." The second monkey leans down. "Hey! Hey, can you hear me?"

"Of course," I say. They both look confused. Did I use the right language for this place? What is this place?

"You'd better come with us," the first monkey says. I understand them well enough. The problem is with me. How do I explain to them that I want to die, so there is no need to go with them?

"I don't want to go," I say. Again, they look confused and shake their heads. They retreat to consult with each other before coming back to pick me up. They sink to earth. Both bend over, each taking an arm, and try to pull me off the tracks. Magna Mater. When did killing oneself get so hard? Annoyed, I go limp, making it harder for them.

"Oh, for Christ's sake, buddy," the second monkey complains. "If you're trying to kill yourself, you picked the wrong day. They closed this track for maintenance this afternoon."

There are no trains running? How can I kill myself if there are no trains running? Maybe the monkeys will take me where I can do it right. Maybe I could persuade them to kill me, but I do not think they know how. If only I could find...if only I could find one of my own kind. But what is that? Je ne me souviens pas.

The monkeys try to pick me up again. This time, I let them. Let it all burn.... I smell smoke. They speak to me again. No l'entenc. Semper paratus, I let them take me to their Batmobile. It has wings, but why is there white on it? Is it a cow? They put me in the back after a discussion, I think, whether to put me in irons. Have I done something wrong? Hurt anybody else? I am disappointed when the Batmobile does not fly, and it is very noisy. The back stinks of antiseptic overlaying vomit. Horses. Why didn't we stay with horses? I don't miss camels--disgusting beasts, perpetually angry with the god who made them. Don't remember which god that was now. Animaux ne faitent pas le chagrin. C'est tout le monde qui a des problemes. Tu n'es pas unique; tu n'es pas le seul. C'est tout le monde qui- -Ah, we have arrived someplace. This is flat ground for a fortress. Don't they worry about attack? An assault on Precinct 13, I saw that once. One of the women survived. She deserved it. I would have married her. Strong women breed strong children. But I cannot breed.

They are guiding me up the steps like an old man. Why must I never tell them that? And in through the castle doors, which slam shut with the force of doom. As they should. It is their job.

The flying monkeys are talking at me. What is there left to discuss? I wanted to die today; I still want to die. Why won't they let me? Why do they care? It has nothing to do with them.

We sit in a room with a mirror on one side. I sit with my hands folded on the table in front of me. One monkey stays in the room. How annoying. If they were indifferent, I could escape through the mirror. I stare straight ahead. They probably think that I am looking at them hiding behind it, but I'm not. I am looking into the mirror itself. The drink, that demon rum, is wearing off. Not yet. Not yet! Can't do this sober. My head aches.

A young man comes in with the other monkey. He smiles at me, sits down and begins to speak to me. I understand that he is asking questions, but I don't know what they are. Go away, infant. He talks and talks. I get out of the chair and wander around the table. Will they stop me? No, they only watch. The young man turns to follow my progress. I go past him. He doesn't matter. The mirror is right there. My escape. Where is the latch? The mirror fogs up when I put my hands on it, mist flowing across it, cold and seductive. I can hear Alexa calling. I have to get through. They are still talking to me. Don't they understand that I have to break through? There is only one way. My hands cannot break the glass. They will never let me grab a chair. I suck in a deep breath against the hangover pain and smash my head into the mirror.

I slump down against the wall, still caught by a thread. It is so unfair. I did try. The others grab me, dragging me away from the mirror. No! Don't they understand that I have to go through? I struggle with them, making no noise. The thread stretches. It hurts so much, so much blood sacrifice for nothing. Then, another sharp pain and I snap free. I vanish through, sucked up into the shards of glass. A neat trick, and none of them noticed it. Goodbye.

The mist drifts around my boots, huddling on the ground like a flock of sheep. I disturb it as I walk forward, away from the barrier, drawing my sword. "Who is there?" I call.

He is waiting for me under the bridge, but not hiding like a troll. "Who are you?" I say. He doesn't respond. He never speaks, only draws his sword and waits for my attack. The fog clears; I see his face. He looks like MacLeod when we first met, right down to the clothes. But he is not Duncan MacLeod. Even my dream-addled mind can tell that. I strike. I am better than I was. He falls back. He does not gasp or pant. He never turns pale with fear or red with anger. His expression remains the same--calm, serene. The opposite of mine. His peace enrages me. It is not my fault! I leap forward, striking, on the offensive. He would beat me if I let him, I think, but I never dare let him off the defensive. In the end, I disarm him with a circular parry. He falls to his knees, the customary position for the defeated of our kind. I raise my sword.

"Who are you?" I shout. As ever, he does not answer. I decapitate him with a backhand swing. His body falls forward, disappearing into the fog, which rises up to smother me, to drag me down. I struggle and cry out, to no effect. Joe, where are you? Help me! The trolls chatter at me from the bridge above.

"He's still not rational? Look at this dosage!"

"He's just not snapping out of it. It looks as though he could persist in this state for days."

"Maybe there's some stressor that we overlooked. Keep him on the Haldol for now, but watch the dosage. We may have to try something else if he doesn't respond within the next couple of days. We can't just leave him like this."

"Poor bastard. I wonder what put him over the edge?"

Joe, help me. Get me out of this place. Please.



"Who is this?"

"Who the Hell do you think it is? It's me."

"Methos? What the f--Do you know what time it is?" He sounds a bit pissed off. Must've been a late night. I wouldn't know. I turned in early.

"Yeah, did I wake you? I'm sorry; I tried to wait."

"Jesus, it's only eight o'clock. I thought you didn't do mornings unless you were pulling an all-nighter."

"Yeah, yeah." I wave it off, even though he cannot see it. "I had this dream. Couldn't sleep. They're the cops who arrested me."

"Who are?"

"The flying monkeys. I thought they were flying monkeys when they arrested--well, they didn't 'arrest' me, exactly. Took me into protective custody, whatever."

"Wait," Joe says. "Are you telling me that you just remembered being arrested in Seacouver?"

"Yep." I nod, even though he cannot see it. Doesn't matter. He'll know.

"I thought you said you couldn't remember any of that?"

"I couldn't--but last night, I had this dream and when I woke up, I remembered it." Why does that not sound quite as rational as I expected it to?

Silence. "Give me an hour," Joe says. "I'll call you back in an hour."

"Okay," I say, a little surprised. I had expected him to not give a damn. "It's not that big a deal--"

"Yes! It is!" Sounding embarrassed by his outburst, he says, "Just give me an hour, Old Man. Don't do anything. Don't take anything. Don't go anywhere. Don't talk to anybody else. Just...watch Teletubbies or something until I get there."


"Fine! Put in a tape, then. Just don't go anywhere, okay?" He sounds desperate. Uh oh.

"Okay," I say, worried now. I have overstepped some line. Maybe I shouldn't have told him. So much for that 'friends forever' crap.

"I'll see you there." He hangs up.

Teletubbies are definitely out. I choose "Leaving Harmony" out of my collection of The Prisoner tapes. A fractured, paranoid Western suits my mood. I flop down on the couch with the remote.

"Do you think it was wise to just call up Joe like that?" The voice, coming from my left, makes me jump. Kronos is sitting on the arm of my couch, hands folded on one bent knee. He looks very amused.

"Go away," I snarl. I feel sick.

"You know it doesn't work that way, Brother," he says in that voice that the hospital attendants in Seacouver used to use. I am being unreasonable.

"What doesn't work that way?" Maybe I can talk him into oblivion, figure out what the Hell he is doing here, find out his real name. Then, like Rumpelstiltskin, he will disappear.

He waves his hand between us. "You and I. I have to help you, Brother, whether you want me to, or not."

Now that I think about it, I am not nearly as sanguine about my discovery as I had thought. It was a violent dream and I know how it ended in real life, at least on the outside. No wonder Joe was freaked out. I haven't even told him about the mirror, yet. This is something of a disaster, come to think of it. The man has the power to get me locked up, for Heaven's sake. Now what? Do I casually mention that I am seeing my dead brother from the Bronze Age, again? Oh, that will go down so well. What was I thinking?

I toss the remote on the couch and go pack. Silas follows me across the room, confused and upset. He would be. He knows what it means when I pull out a backpack. He won't be seeing me for a while, maybe a long while. He will do okay, land on his own four feet. He doesn't need nine lives, anymore. He has got more than enough of one. Too bad Joe is not so flexible.

Kronos strolls in behind me. I don't look at him. I don't need to. He is my hallucination, after all. "What are you thinking?" he says. "You can't abandon Joe again. You promised."

I stop in mid-pack, breathing too fast. "So, what? C'est la vie. That's just the way it goes." No. No, I promised. How can I expect these Mortals to help me when I break my promises to them? I can't do this. I cannot leave; I cannot stay. I drop onto the bed. Silas takes the opportunity to jump in my lap. Typical cat.

"You need to go away," I tell Kronos, glaring up at him as I stroke the cat. Silas butts his head against my stomach. He is frightened. I can understand that. I am, too.

"I'm here for a reason, Brother," Kronos says. "You can't just wish me away. It's starting again; can't you feel it? You can't forget it this time. You have to face it, or it will destroy you; they will lock you away in a dark place just like Caspian and you will never get out." He fades, in pieces. "You cannot run from this," he whispers. "You know what you have to do. Now, you have to decide to do it." Isn't that so like him, to disappear right when he might be useful?

I am still sitting there when I hear the knock on the door. Where did the time go? I turn my wrist to look at my watch. An hour fifteen. Pretty damned good for Joe. Wonder if he called somebody to help him? Traffic must have been excellent. I feel bad for making him come all the way out here. It really wasn't necessary. The knock sounds again.

"Methos?" Joe says anxiously. Get up and go answer the door, Old Man.

I yank the door open. "I take it back," I say, trying to explain. The tape is still playing in my VCR. Damn, that looks bad. "It really isn't that big a deal. Just a funny, little dream."

"Uh huh." He stumps in past me. "How long were you up before you called me?"

"I dunno. Couple of hours, I suppose. I sacked out early last night."

Joe goes right over to the couch, picks up the remote and turns off the TV. "Okay," he says. "Tell me the whole thing, every detail you can remember, from start to finish."

I shrug and start with the tracks, waking up to the monkeys. I continue through the trip to the police station. Joe winces when I talk about smashing my head into the mirror.

"Jesus Christ, Methos. Can't you do anything the easy way?"

"What way would that be?" I grin nervously. He doesn't respond. Never does. Don't know why I do that with him if it never works. "It is not a problem, Joe, really. I'm sorry I got you up early. I'll make it up to you."

He looks behind me, to the cat and the half-stuffed pack on the bed. Damn. "'Make it up to me?'" he says, his face twisting into a sour expression. "How were planning on doing that? By shipping me some prayer wheel from Tibet?"

There is nothing that I can say that will make this look any better, so I say nothing. Joe glares at me. I fold my arms and look at the floor.

"If you are looking for me to give you an excuse to leave," Joe says, "forget it. You wanna leave? Fine. But you do it the hard way--with no excuses and no convenient fights with your 'best friend'."

"I refuse to give you any reason to use that little piece of paper on me."

"What little piece of--ohh." Joe's a quick one. I will always give him that. "Having second thoughts about that, are we?" I refuse to look at him. "Methos, come on. You are gonna have to get way more out of it before I even consider that option."

"I was, before. I could be again. I dreamed about it, didn't I?"

"Maybe you can handle whatever it was you forgot, now. Maybe it's important for you to remember it now." He sounds like Kronos! "This doesn't have to be a bad sign, you know. You sounded happy when you called me before."

"I did?" I think about it. I suppose I was. "So, what?"

"So, maybe you should stick around and find out why your subconscious is throwing you a flying monkey curve or two."

I stare at him. "Are you telling me that you think I should pursue this? Are you crazy? I don't want to go back to being that way!"

"If that's true, why are you leaving?" That rattles me. I hadn't thought of that. "You're settled here in Paris, at least for a little while. You have friends who will help you out. You have a business. You have a cat. Why not explore it, find out where you want to go? Where's the harm in that?" Aside from me getting so crazy that Joe will have to call Mac back to Paris to put me down like a mad dog? Gee, I dunno, Joe. Where is the harm, indeed? And to whom?

I sit down on the edge of the couch. "Joe, I could lose it again. Badly."

"So what? It's not as though it would be anything new. You can handle it."

"You're serious!" I try to laugh, but I cannot think of any reason to do it. He is beginning to make sense.

"About this subject? You bet your ass I'm serious." He gazes at me solemnly. I think he got the look from Mac. "You asked me to take on a big responsibility for you. Are you gonna start trusting me enough to do the job I signed on to do or not?"

"Yeah...yeah, I guess. I just didn't expect you to be so...so...rational about it."

He grins. "I'm full of surprises. Next time, though, do me a big favour."

"What?" I say uneasily.

"Next time, wait until after noon to hit me with these little epiphanies of yours. At this rate, I'm gonna end up sleeping on your couch permanently."

Now, I do laugh. "Joe, Joe. Don't be such a silly git. I always let you have the bed. You know that."


I cannot stop rubbing my wrists. My ankles itch, too, but are harder to reach. I can still feel those damned restraints, even though they removed them over an hour ago. One of the counsellors is standing right outside while I take a shower. I am filthy. I suppose it is difficult to wash a patient in restraints, or keep him clean at all. They tell me that I was suffering from something called Acute Mania. They mean that whenever I was not drugged into a coma, I was fighting the restraints and screaming the ward down. Always good to know how one has been making oneself popular in one's mental absence. I do not remember any of it, save for a few frenetic scraps that I do not think I want to pursue.

The hot shower feels good. I have always appreciated that particular invention. I do not linger, but it takes time to get my hair clean, the lint out of my navel and the wax out of my ears. The counsellor, who calls himself Max, makes no objections. When I do finish, he hands me a towel through the door, then a set of green hospital pyjamas. Happiness and joy. I suppose I should be grateful that they are not prison stripes or a hospital johnny with that drafty hole in the back. After I get dressed, he leads me to a room--not the one that I was in. That room, he explains to me, is "the quiet room"--pleasant euphemism--where violent or out-of- control patients are kept until they calm down, as I suppose they must, at some point. Nobody can keep up that high an energy level forever. I should know. My entire body aches. Beatings that killed me have hurt less.

Max sits me down on a simple bed with sheets and a blanket. There is a nightstand. No TV, of course. That would be in (what do they call it?) the "Day Room". Another staff member comes in with a tray. On the tray I see a glass of water and some pills. I feel a whimper in the back of my throat. What do they want from me? I cannot take any more of that. How much more can I cooperate before I disappear? I push myself back against the wall, wrapping my arms around my knees. How did I get myself into this mess?

"It's okay," Max says. "We've readjusted the dosage. You'll be fine, just calm. We can't take you right off the Haloperidol. You'd have a really bad reaction to that."

"I don't like pills," I say through my teeth.

"We can give you a shot again, if you want." It is offered as an option, not a threat, which somehow makes it much worse.

"I'll take the pills, then." The shot is definitely out of the question. They have been shooting me up with dope all week. At least the pills give a false sense of choice, very false. Max takes the pills and hands them to me with the cup. I stare at them. Okay, how do I do this? I have tossed back the occasional aspirin for a hangover or after driving all day. Just throw them in, then, I guess. I pop them into my mouth, all at once, and suck down a huge swallow of water from the cup. They do not slide down. Instead, they stick in the back of my throat, making me cough, choke and foam at the mouth like a rabid dog. Max and the other staffer watch me in anxious amazement.

Max pats me on the shoulder. "Are you okay?"

I nod, coughing, and wave him off. "I *really* don't like pills," I say, once my oesophagus calms down.

"Hmm, we may need to consider the shot, then, because you'll need the Haldol on a daily basis for a little while."

"No!" I surprise even myself with my vehemence. "I'll...learn."

"We'll talk about it in the morning," Max says. The staffer leaves while Max pulls his chair closer. "How do you feel now? Do you want to sleep or would you like to talk for awhile?" I shrug. "What's your name? You never gave it to the cops. We can't keep calling you 'John Doe', you know."

"Why not?" I start picking at my toenails. "What are you doing here, anyway? I thought I didn't need a watchdog, now that I'm out of restraints."

"'John' doesn't quite suit you and you're still on Suicide Watch, bud. Will be a couple days more, at least, until we've got you stabilised." He grins at me engagingly. I hate the nice ones. They are harder to fend off than the bastards. Joe was like that. He could always get under my skin, though I have led him a merry dance or two. I miss him.

"You got any family we should contact?" Max asks. Is he still here? "They must be pretty worried about you."

"No. There's nobody." Get off it, Max. Should I ask him to contact Joe? No. Absolutely not. I need to stay far away from Joe. It is so odd; it is so very hard, to realise in this place that he is my best friend, and that if I want to keep from hurting him, I can never see him again.

"Oh, come on. Somebody out there cares. You had some pretty well-worn photos of a woman and some older guy. Your wife and brother, maybe?"

"She was." What does it matter anymore? She is dead. Nobody can touch her now. It is Joe I have to worry about betraying.

"She's dead now?" He sounds sympathetic, damn him. It is his job.

"Yes. She is. Couple of years now." Admitting that seems safe enough.

"This guy in the pictures, is he 'Joe'? Should we contact him?"

"What?" I lift my head off my knees.

"Before, you were calling for somebody named 'Joe'. I figured he was probably the guy in the picture."

What have I done? What have I done? I open my mouth, but what do I say? This is betrayal. I cannot simply take it all back. "I..." What do I do? "He's nobody. I'm Joe."

"*You're* Joe?" He looks sceptical. I nod. "You were calling out to yourself?" I nod again. "That seems kinda odd."

"I wouldn't know," I say. "I wasn't exactly there at the time, so I don't remember what I said."

"Do you remember any of the past week?" he asks.

"No," I say, and hope that he will leave it at that.


The problem with digging up old bones is that if you haven't waited long enough, they stink.

It takes an hour or two for Joe to persuade me to stay in Paris, and another hour for me to convince him that I am not lying to him when I say I won't leave. You have got to love the trust that we have for each other. We know each other too damned well. After Joe leaves, I get my mail. There is a package from the Seacouver General Hospital. It is one of those large, padded envelopes. Hah. Nice irony. René must have given them the address. He did say he called them. Perfect. That is all I need.

I rip open the envelope. Out fall a set of house keys, a wallet, a few old credit cards, four pictures and a note. One photo is of Alexa and me in Santorini. One is of Joe playing the Blues. One is of Don Salzer and me, years before Kalas murdered him. The last one is of Joe and me. Happy pictures. They are worn around the edges, stained, cracked. I have copies, but these were the only possessions I could not leave behind when I fled Paris.

The note is short: "Dear 'Joe', I was glad to hear that you made it back home in one piece. Here are the things you left behind in Seacouver. I thought you might want them back, especially the photos. Max."

I want to be angry. How dare he bring it all back? I cannot muster it, though. Max is right. These photos were--are--important, and I am glad to have them back. They kept me alive when I was in a dark place.

Kronos does not reappear, but I am still jittery. Unable to shake the Seacouver memories, I drive over to the bookshop. Considering my epic lack of concentration in the past two months, I am doing well. I have all the bookshelves up and the storage downstairs is all laid out. I have started filling the shelves. I am doing inventory as I go along. I am amazed at what sells. "The Mists of Avalon" is a surefire hit. Try selling Alfred Bester stories, though. "The Stars My Destination" or "The Demolished Man"? Oooh. Too much reality. Soft-core fantasy? Yes. Rampaging mutant ants? Sure. I suppose that makes me bitter. And old.

Will anybody care about this place or will I end up like Bernard Black in "Black Books": drunk, hostile and Irish? The first two I can already manage, but the third sounds tricky. I want this business venture to work.

I do well for awhile, putting out books. Then, I go out back and settle down, cross-legged, in the middle of the garden for a lunch break. The grass still smells nice, even in autumn. I have brought my photos from the hospital with me. I stare at Alexa's for a long, long time. If I close my eyes, I can bring back her smell, her laugh, her voice, the feel of her breasts pressed against my back as I lie in her arms.

"Penny for your thoughts," she says.

I open my eyes and look up at her. "Oh, they're worth at least a guinea." She smiles at me. How would I love to make her laugh.

"You should come inside," she says as I stand up and brush off my jeans, then offer her a hand up. "It's getting cold out."

"Oh, I don't want to impose." Of course I do, but you cannot say that kind of thing to a woman when you are wooing her--especially when, like Alexa, she doesn't have much time left to waste.

"It seems the least I could do after what you're offering me." 'Offering?' Well, that is encouraging, but the coercive possibilities bother me.

"I don't want you to think...I--of course, I would like that kind of relationship with you, but don't feel that you have to *do* anything for those plane tickets. They were a gift. Really. No strings attached. You can even go without me, or with someone else, all of the dwarves, if you like-- " I stop when she puts her fingers over my lips. It is all I can do not to go with the gesture. Control, Old Man. Control is essential, here. Very. Be nice.

"Adam," she says, "Don't choke in the homestretch. I'm not going to throw you back." With her fingers she traces my lips, my nose, over the bridge of my eyes to my ears and down to the back of my neck. After that, it only seems logical to kiss her.

"We'd better go inside," she says, after a moment. "We don't want to wake the neighbours." I have no objections to doing this myself, but whatever Alexa wants, she gets, as far as I am concerned. I do not protest when she opens the door and pulls me inside.

"Dwarves' night off, is it?" I say, trying to stay in the spirit of our previous joke. Why yes, I would take on her husband, lover and all seven dwarves--and at the same time, too. But she is not interested in jesting. She slides my jacket off, not even commenting on the sword in its sheath. She stops my next attempt at humour with a kiss of her own. I like the way she does it, slow and exploratory, not those slobbery, loud smacks you will see two twits in temporary love give each other at the train station. Get a motel room! But of course, showing off is the point. Such love is meaningless unless publically declared. Give me a couple of forty years giving each other a solid liplock and seeing the travelling one off with a pat on the shoulder, any day. Not that Alexa and I will have that. We'll be lucky to get six months.

"You're wandering," Alexa says, then bites me gently on the lip.

"I was appreciating the way you kiss," I assure her. "It is very relaxed." She snorts at that, then leans her head against my shoulder.

"I don't know if I can do this," she moans.

I glance around. I like her housekeeping--efficient, vermin-free but not obsessive. I need a couch, but not a bed. Far too much meaning. Need something flexible...there it is--big, unthreatening, lots of cushions. I move over to it, tugging at her hands to come with me. I sit down and look up at her.

"A couch?" She raises an eyebrow at me. "Why not just go straight to the bed?"

"Couches have more options than beds. People sometimes even just sit on them. Hey, it's been known to happen." I hate when I babble. I can never stop myself.

She smirks at me. Humour. This is a good sign. "You're choking, again," she says.

"Oh, dear." I will *not* explore any possible implications of her statement. "We should do something about that." It is not until she presses me back onto the couch and lays her body on top of mine that I find out what her solution is.


He comes, but I do not fight him this time, only watch and wait. He watches me, too, making no move to attack. Eventually, I walk away. I am not getting this right at all, and I do not know why.

I wake, curled up on the grass next to the bench behind the bookshop. I get up, shaking badly, go back into the shop, go downstairs where I have a cot set up and lie down on it. My first impulse is to call Joe. That impulse fades with the shakes. I have imposed enough on Joe's goodwill for one week. I will be fine. I am a big boy and I can handle this. I will be fine.


"You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, Know when to walk away and know when to run. You never count your money when you're sitting at the table. There'll be time enough for counting when the dealing's done."

Joe and a couple of new kids are ranting through a revved-up version of Kenny Roger's "The Gambler" when I walk into the bar. I've had a good night's sleep. No bad dreams of note. No new visits from Kronos. I doubt I will embarass myself.

Damn, it's good to watch Joe work. Just because he is having fun doesn't make his music any less hard to play. This is some preliminary session, where they are getting down the basic song and their general approach to it--at least today. It is not the nearly finished version of that Joel song that Joe and his bassman were doing the other day. Joe keeps stopping them to adjust something. Then, they run through the whole thing, warts and all, to keep from getting hung up on some difficult part.

I repeat my routine from Monday. This time, I go with a Coke. Beer when I am not really feeling in control may not be a good idea. I close my eyes and listen to the music. Should I tell Joe about yesterday? No. Better not. He has enough on his plate. I need to back off.

"Life is bare, Gloom and misery everywhere. Stormy weather, Just can't get my poor old self together. I'm weary all the time. All the time."

Joe is playing a sad tune when I walk into the bar. Many a suicide has been scored to music. I drop into a chair. He glances over at me, shakes his head and finishes up. "Did MacLeod find you?"

"Yeah," I say. I don't elaborate.

"I'm sorry I sicked him on you, but you needed protection and I didn't know who else to call."

I laugh, but it does not make it past my lips. "It didn't exactly turn out the way either of us might have hoped." I get up to help him offstage.

"Jesus Christ!" Joe says. "You're soaking wet!"

"Kalas found me, too."

"Oh. I see." Do you, Joe? Do you really understand? Don was trying to be my mentor; I was trying to protect him. We both failed pretty fucking miserably, as far as I can tell.

"Maybe you should leave town for a couple of months," Joe says. "Go someplace quiet and remote. I'll figure out a way to cover your tracks."

"Not until I have taken care of that son of a bitch." Kalas killed Don. Don was my friend. I want Kalas dead, but I cannot do it right now and I cannot trust MacLeod to manage the job. Rage and hate. I need more of that. Until then, I need Kalas put on ice. I look at Joe. "Where's your phone?" I say.

He frowns at me. "Why?"

"I gotta call the cops."

The trolls laugh at me from the bridge overhead as he and I circle each other. MacLeod's face. MacLeod's sword--that goddamned dragonhead katana--but not MacLeod. Experimentally, I lower my guard. I snap my sword back up as he lunges forward. He stops, begins to circle again. I spread my arms, opening my guard. He lunges again, halting when I bring my sword back in a block.

"Do you think he can hear us?"

"His eyes are open. Maybe."

"Nah. Forget it. He's in Oz with Dorothy."

"Why doesn't he snap out of it? What are we doing wrong?"

Those trolls are really beginning to irritate me.

"Methos? Methos, can you hear me? Come on, man. Don't do this to me. Look at me. Yeah, that's it. There you go."

I blink, and there is Joe, sitting right in front of me, squeezing my elbow. How did I not notice him before? "What?" I say. My voice sounds harsh, unused.

Joe smiles anxiously. "Whoo, you were way out in space for a minute there, somewhere around Pluto. You okay now?"

"Sure." What the Hell just happened? "Absolutely fine."

"Great." He thrusts a double shot of whisky--the good stuff--into my hand. "Then you'd better drink this."

I stare down at the glass. "Isn't it a little early for the hard stuff?"

"Not when you are having panoramic, surroundsound flashbacks--and it looks like you just had a doozy."

"It wasn't like that," I mutter.

"Uh huh. Yeah, sure. So, drink up and tell me all about it. While you're at it, tell me if you've had any others."

I narrow my eyes. "What makes you think this isn't my first flashback, assuming I just had one?"

"'Cause you didn't seem very surprised when you came out of this one-- which tells me that you've got a certain familiarity with the genre."

"Not a flashback virgin then, am I?" I say, fishing for a laugh.

"Nope." He doesn't smile. "Drink up."

I knock back the double all at once. It is a nasty shock, but it does clear my head. "Gah." I set the glass back down. "What makes you think I wasn't with it? Got some personal acquaintance with the subject?"

"Nope." He ignores the low blow. Joe knows how to keep his emotional priorities straight these days, damn his eyes. "And stop changing the subject. We're talking about you, not me."

"It really was not that serious." I know that I am in slow retreat, but there is not much I can do about that at this point.

"You and reality were not on speaking terms for several minutes, Old Man. That is about as serious as you can get. Maybe we should call René."

"NO." Joe looks at me, clearly startled. "I just...I don't want to call him...yet," I explain lamely. This is not going well.

"When was your last one, Methos?" Joe keeps his voice soft and non- aggressive--the kind of tone that you use with frightened children.

"I do not know what you are talking about." Maybe if I stall....

"Your last flashback, Methos. When was it?" His tone does not change. That must take great self-control. I am surely trying his patience today.

"Yesterday," I croak.


"At the bookshop."

"What was it about?"

I balk. "That is personal. I don't want to talk about it."

"Alexa? Were you remembering her?" I shrug. "What was it about today? It wasn't Alexa, I could tell that. What was it about?"

I sigh. "It was about you and me in a bar the day Don died, with you telling me to take a vacation someplace."

He looks confused. "I told you that?"

I nod. "It is what I remember."

"I was in Seacouver, Old Man. You were in Paris. That was why I sent Mac to your place; if I'd been in Paris, I would have warned you myself. Hell, I tried to call you but you'd left your phone off the hook. It didn't happen the way you said. Couldn't have."

I grit my teeth. "That is not the point. If it didn't happen that way, fine. I am telling you what I saw just now."

Joe sighs. "Yeah. Okay, okay. But why would you remember it that way? It doesn't make any sense. It's not a traumatic memory or anything." Not traumatic, my ass! "What else? Is there anything else?"

"There's...this guy," I admit. "He looks like MacLeod when I tried to get him to take my head after we first met, but he isn't Mac."

"What does he do?" Joe looks seriously unnerved.

"Nothing, unless I let him." I run a hand through my hair.

"What does he want?"

"I don't know."

"Have you asked him?"


Joe puts up his hands in conciliation and sits back. "Okay! Take it easy." He leans forward again. "Was that the first time you saw him?"

I shake my head. "No. I've been dreaming about him for a couple of weeks."

"Like that flying monkey dream?" I nod. "Do you think there's a connection? It sounds as though there is. Have you told René?"

"That was three questions," I point out.

He looks annoyed. "You haven't told René." I shake my head. "Why not?" I shrug. "Don't give me that, Methos. Why haven't you told your shrink about this? What's the point of retaining the guy if you don't give him anything to work with?"

"I don't trust him. He wants to put me in hospital."

"I'm not gonna let him put you in the hospital, not for this kind of stuff. Unlike René, I'm sure you've been a lot crazier than right now. But you need professional help to deal with this. You need to start telling this guy some things or get rid of him and find a different way to deal with it. Either way, you still gotta deal with it."

I glare at him. "You are such a pain in the ass."

He grins back. "Part of my charm." Yeah, I backed right into that one. "Besides, I'm right. I know you're scared." I scowl at him. "Seriously, man. Hell, I'm scared just watching you go through this. But you still need to work through it. I do know enough about this kind of shit to know that it won't just go away. Talk to René."

I run a hand through my hair. It is growing out; I need to cut it soon. It has been almost a decade since I have worn my hair longer than a few inches. I much prefer the Roman cut. I am wandering again, feeling mellower. That double shot must be kicking in.

"That's your solution?" I say. "Go talk to my shrink?"

"Yep." He grins. "Hey, I'll listen to you all you want--especially when you want to talk about 'the old days', but if you want to work this through, you need somebody who knows which questions to ask, and that just ain't me, babe. I don't have that kind of training. Do yourself a favour. Use the pro you got."

So much for bartenders being good for free therapy.


I am beginning to dread coming to this bookshop. I had hoped it would be a peaceful place, what with the back garden and the bench, but I see bad things whenever I am here. And I don't know why. I am considering selling it all and having done with it. I have just enough saved here and there that I could pull it off for a couple of decades and still have an escape. I am still thinking about it. I rather liked this idea when I first came up with it. I don't want to abandon it without a fight.

I need someone to help with this thing--no, not Joe. He has done enough, in more ways than one. I know he meant well with what he said yesterday. And he does have a point. But I am still not very eager to see René for our session today. Telling him what is going on will make it very real, somehow.

I know. I'll call Stephen Keane. What the Hell. He's always eager to have a reason to worship at the feet of the Master. He will jump at the chance to work here. If he is any good, I may even pay him. I go use the phone I had put on the wall near the back.

"Hullo?" He sounds bored. This is promising.

"Hi, Keane? It's, um, it's Adam Pierson."

"Oh! Yes!" Dropping Rosemary Roger's latest work like a hot potato, no doubt, he is now clearly giving me his full attention. Better and better. "How are you doing?"

My, he has a talent for loaded questions. "Oh, fair enough," I hedge, rubbing my belly. "Stomach's better than it was, anyway." Which is about as well as can be expected, since I seem to have suffered from chronic dysentery before my long-forgotten first death. Amanda and I got together and compared tummy troubles once. It was highly entertaining until Mac walked in. He told us to act our respective ages and stop being disgusting. Children. "Look, I've started a bookshop over on the Left Bank and I was wondering if you would like to get involved at all."

"You mean, working there? Of course. Anything you like." I squelch a sudden, hideous impulse to take him up on it. Down, Old Man. Be nice. He is trying. Very hard. "When did you want me to come over?"

"Today would be nice if you could. Now, even." Sure, let's push this one as far as we can go.

"That's fine. Just tell me where it is and I'll be right over." And yet, one could always push it a little further. I squelch that thought, too and give him the directions. As I hang up the phone, I wonder, for the five thousandth time, what the attraction really is. I insult them. I piss them off. I tell them things that they definitely do not want to hear, that make them stomp off in varieties of snits. Yet, they keep coming back for more. I do not get it. What am I doing wrong? I should ask Joe.

Keane arrives promptly in a nice, new Jag. His Buzz precedes him like a war tocsin. Magic traffic for everyone but me these days, or so it seems. He gets out and bounces in through the door, nattily dressed as usual--or at least, as the four previous times I have seen him. I really know nothing about the man, even though Joe, bless him, coughed up Keane's file without being asked. It is nice to be able to use the thing after putting so much work into it.

Keane comes across as straightforward beyond belief. I think he may be telling me the truth about not having much experience with life--or at least, not as much as, and not the kind, that he would like to have, or should have for his age. Welcome to the club, kid. I show him around the shop, which always seems small when I give people the guided tour. He absorbs my chatter as if I am inventing new Holy Writ. Perhaps this is his preferred version of it. Never quite got the god complex thing, myself. I've played god a few times--literally. Been the focus of a saint's cult or three. When you've been Death, you can get used to being a god. I have walked through fire, too, and found that to be a much safer option. Playing the Devil saves one from certain temptations.

"So, what do you think?" I say at the end of it, as we stand in the cellar.

Keane looks around. I try to see it through his eyes, this Mickey- Mouse operation, the sad vanity project of an old man who really needs to get a life. "I like it," he says, surprising me. "It has potential."

"You think so?"

"Yes, it's very well set up. I saw upstairs that you're on the Internet. That is an excellent way to pull in customers from outside your usual area. Of course, if you become successful, Amazon.com will probably buy you out."

"Really," I say, taken aback. "I hadn't considered that." Most likely that's because I thought I had about as much chance of doing it as fighting a dragon anytime soon. Keane seems to think differently. We go back upstairs, Keane nattering on about my "potential". I will bet he is one of these quiet millionaires that we Immortals accumulate after the first century or so. Me, I think it is little bits of paper and metal that get you the things that you really want and need, but that doesn't make me care about the little bits of paper and metal. If clamshells were the currency, I would use them. Oh, sure, I have an emergency fund. I would be very stupid not to have one, but when Mac and Amanda told me once what their respective net worths were, I was shocked. When they asked me what I was worth, I changed the subject.

Little bits of barter will not bring back Alexa. They will not bring back Don. I wish that they could. I would scrape the clamshells together somehow. "More precious than rubies," as they say, are the few people in my life.

"What's wrong, Adam?" Alexa is still in bed as I tiptoe around the hotel room, trying not to wake her. Her sleep is as broken and painful as her waking hours now, despite all the drugs. I think that she has been staying in bed longer to compensate for it. "Adam, tell me."

"Nothing, love. Just thought I would go out for an early run." This is not true. I simply cannot stop moving. If I stop, I will have to think. About how ill Alexa looks now. About how she seems to be moving more slowly and doing less. About how the time that I have with her is shrinking. How I hate the medication that I have to dole out to her several times per day because she has grown too confused to remember what she has taken and when. The damned drugs hide her away from me so that I have to unearth her over and over again. If I don't give them to her, she will die in agony. She probably will in the end, anyway.

"Stop lying." She coughs, eyes closed. "It's a waste of time. Tell me what's wrong."

"Nothing, Alexa. I told you." I cannot help it, though I try so hard. The tension still comes out as irritability. "Do you want me to bring you any breakfast?"

She opens her eyes. They seem to have sunk into her skull. "No. I want you to come over here and lie down. You barely slept all night."

"I slept enough." I spent the night watching her breathe. Every second I sleep is a waste. Someday, very soon, she will stop breathing and I won't be able to watch her do it anymore.

"Come here," she says. "Come lie down." The tone is gentle, but this is not a request. Smiling half to myself, I obey her. "Under the covers," she insists. Pulling them back and sliding under them, I put my arms around her. She shivers. Her skin is cold and too dry. I often wish for my old, warm, vibrant Alexa back and I feel guilty. This *is* Alexa, for better or worse. I am too old to pretend otherwise.

"Now that you have me where you want me, what do you want me to do?" I try to keep my tone light, but my voice cracks on the last few words. I am so tired. Why do we have to do this in fast-forward? I know that Alexa is the one dying, but it still is agony watching her do it. I am tempted to take some of those drugs, myself, but we only have so much medication left. She needs it all.

Alexa's answer is unexpected. "I want you to close your eyes and breathe."

"What?" I laugh nervously.

"Close your eyes," she says. She waits until I do it. "Now, breathe."

"I don't understand--" She stops me by putting her fingers on my lips. She has that sickroom smell to her, the smell of death. Yet, I don't mind anymore, as long as I can be in her arms. We have not made love in over a week. She is too tired. I miss it.

"Just breathe," she says. "God, you are stubborn." She laughs at this and I smile. She does have my number there. I feel myself relax as she strokes my hair. I drift. Oh. Now, this kind of meditation I like. I have been so wound up trying to do everything for both of us that I have had no rest. I felt so trapped. I guess all I needed was a little comfort.

"Methos? Are you all right?" The voice is male, nothing like Alexa's huskiness.

"What?" The bookshop lenses back into view. I am sitting in a chair, one of my comfortable ones, while Keane hovers over me with a coffee mug full of water. For a moment, I cannot tell if he is trying to get me to drink it or is preparing to throw it in my face. Drink it, I think.

"I said, 'Are you all right?'" Keane says anxiously. "You were talking to someone named Alexa. I don't think you were quite here."

"I wasn't." My own admission startles me--and to Keane, of all people. It is time to face the music and dance. I am not 'all right' and I am not 'fine'. There is no point in saying that I am. Joe is right. I have a problem and I need to deal with it, sooner rather than later.

"Oh, shit," I say, realising something. "What time is it?" No. This is far more serious. "What day is it?"

"Thursday. Why?" He looks puzzled, as he should. I have neglected to tell him about René and our bi-weekly sessions.

The phone rings. I can bet who that might be. I answer it. To my surprise, it is Joe.

"Where the Hell have you been?" he says, with no apparent preamble. "I've got your buddy, René, in my bar and he is bullshit. He said you blew off your meeting with him yesterday. I thought you told me you were seeing him today."

"I thought today was Wednesday," I try to explain. It sounds lame, even to me. Madre de Dios, what have I done? Ce n'est pas bon.

"Right." Joe sounds very neutral. I don't think he is buying my story either. "Well, I think you'd better come down here and explain that to René in person. Somehow, I don't think he's gonna buy that story coming from me, and I don't think he's gonna leave here until he hears it from you."

"Yeah, yeah, okay. I'll be right down, Joe. Sorry. Tell him I'm sorry."

"Just get your butt down here." Joe hangs up. It is not as though there is much else to say--not over the phone. In person will, I suspect, be a very different story.

"Something's come up," I tell Keane as I hang up the phone, trying not to remember the apocalyptic events that always seem to follow that phrase for me. "I have to go over to Joe's."

"Maybe I should drive you," he says, looking at me strangely. I am getting so very tired of having people look at me like that.

"It's okay." I grab my keys before he can do something like snatch them away from me. "My car is right outside." One of the things I like about this place is the great parking.

"I really think I should drive you," Mr. Puppy Dog insists.

"Hey, I have an idea," I say, groping for a semblance of compromise. "Why don't you ride over with me?" He looks alarmed. "Oh, come on, Keane. You're Immortal. You won't suffer anything permanent if we crack up. Live a little."

"All right," he concedes. "But if you're going to be putting us both into this kind of danger, you really should start calling me 'Stephen'."

I laugh at that. I like his sense of humour, when he shows it. "Allons- y, then," I say cheerily and go to lock up before heading out to the car.

I stop laughing on the road. Paris traffic is not magic for me. I get a bit tense. Keane--sorry, Stephen--spends most of the trip clinging to the doorframe. For a guy who drives a Jag, he is a wuss. I only got into the breakdown lane that one time.

"I don't normally drive like this, really," I assure him as I kick up gravel for a quarter of a mile and dodge through a construction site. "It's just that it is really important that I get to Joe's and explain things to Re--to, um, this guy I had the appointment with yesterday."

"Uh huh," he says through his teeth. "Could you please keep your eyes on the road?"

The upshot of it all is that I arrive at Joe's with absolutely nobody in my corner. I leave Keane, who looks paler than usual, to crawl out of the passenger seat while I slam my own door and bounce into the bar. "Just come along in," I call over my shoulder.

Joe and René are sitting at a table near the back. This does not look good. I take a deep breath, let it out and proceed to their table. They both look up at my approach. Joe looks neutral, which is alarming. Joe is not a neutral kind of guy. René looks really pissed off. Ooh, hoedown time. I had better do cute rather than defensive. It might buy me some time.

"Hey, Joe...René." The expressions don't change. When I look at Joe, he stares back without reaction. Hmm. I turn to René. "Uh, look, René. I'm really sorry about yesterday. I got my days mixed up. A lot has been happening this week, you know?" I grin nervously and giggle a little. Though it is an automatic reaction, it generally works. See? I'm harmless.

"No, I do not know," René says coldly, "because you have not been telling me anything significant in our sessions." In the dead silence that follows, I hear the bar door open and shut as Keane's Buzz intensifies behind me.

"Is everything okay?" he says. I wonder if he misses how Joe and René simultaneously scope him out. They are Watchers, after all.

"Sure. Absolutely fine." I assure him. It's not, but how can I explain that?

"I think you should come up to the clinic for a few days," René says.

"Absolutely not." I drop the grin and the innocence. I don't give a damn what they think of me now. If these two are planning on locking me up, the gloves are off. "A few days", my ass. It would be months before they even considered letting me out.

René scowls. "Adam, if you are having flashbacks with complete dissociation from reality, you need to be in a safe place. Your current situation is not appropriate for the level of treatment that you need." Hah. I knew it.

I sit down across from him, fold my arms and slouch. Enough with the conciliation. "Fine. Lock me up then."

If anything, he looks even angrier. "Joe refuses to give his consent." Ooh, what kind of good day is René not having? I glance at Joe, who shrugs. Thanks, buddy. "Besides, it would never work without your cooperation. These sessions of ours are not mind games, Adam. I do not wish to trick you, only help you."

All right, Old Man. He has a point. Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. I sigh. "René, I have no problem with accepting your help, but what I said before goes--no drugs and no hospitalisation."

René shakes his head, clearly exasperated with me. "Adam, this is not a safe situation for you."

"Are you saying that I might hurt someone? Joe, maybe?" I will admit that is my one, great fear.

"No," he replies, after appearing to consider the question. "You are more likely to harm yourself, or let yourself be exposed to harm, than to do harm at this point."

"Then, I will take that chance." I am a survivor, but I will not do it at the longterm price of my freedom. Holy ground is prison, and so is hospital. I have been a slave and a prisoner enough times in my life that I will never willingly enter such a state again.

"Um, what is going on?" Keane comes up behind me, but to my left so that I can see him. Both Joe and René spare him another glance. It is a classic gesture of non-aggression in an Immortal. See? I won't attack you from behind. Being trained Watchers, they have just pegged us both as Immortals--even though Joe already knows that, of course, and I am fairly certain that René at least suspects my Immortality.

I should answer Keane's question. "René is my shrink," I tell him without taking my eyes off René. "He works for the people who took over after Sean Burns died." Yeah, Keane's pretty clued-up on that one. He was one of Sean's patients, in a manner of speaking. "René thinks I should check into his psychiatric facility until I stop having vacations from reality like the one you saw at the bookshop today."

"Christ, you had another one?" Joe exclaims. I wave him down. I'm not done.

"René, Joe," I say, hooking a thumb in Keane's direction, "this is Stephen Keane. He was a friend of Sean Burns."

"I see," René says. Joe frowns, but adds no commentary.

"You're in therapy?" Keane says, sounding confused. Joe rolls his eyes.

"Yep," I say.

"Why?" he says, a question, which from an Immortal point-of-view, is actually a good one. We live through centuries of trauma. We hunt each other down and whack each other's heads off. What is the point of therapy in that crazy a worldview? If aliens from Betelgeuse landed tomorrow, Immortals and Watchers might be the only humans who would be unimpressed. And since I'm so very old, I suppose I must be very successful at negotiating this crazy life, even when I'm nuts.

"Let's just say that you are not the only one who could benefit from some new survival strategies," I explain.

"Ah," says Keane, in a voice that indicates that he does get it. Joe shifts uneasily in his chair. René looks downright alarmed. I suppose even veteran Watchers find the more extreme aspects of our survivalist natures alarming. For most Immortals, if something keeps you alive (within certain rules) then it is good and that is all there is to it.

"You need to be in a safe place," René persists. "At the clinic, you will be on holy ground. No one can harm you there."

"Like Darius?" I retort. René looks taken aback. Joe stares at the table.

"We are not Hunters," René insists, but he sounds shaken.

"Listen to me. I am not going into hospital and I am not going to hide on holy ground. And since when did you peg me for an Immortal, René? I thought I was just a confused ex-Watcher research guy who saw a little too much action in the field."

"You are that, as well." René looks grim. "I can understand that discovering yourself to be an Immortal during the Ahriman crisis, after studying them for so many years was a great shock, but you need to get beyond it."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"It makes sense, no? Your disappearance during the Ahriman crisis? Quite a shock to find out about your Immortality that way."

"That is not what happened." Joe, tell him what happened. Tell him!

MacLeod has fled, leaving his sword behind. I cannot believe he wanted me to take his head. Joe cries on my shoulder, gut wrenching sobs. I have never seen him like this before. It hurts to watch. I didn't always like Mac's brand of morality, but I never thought he was crazy. I hug Joe, but I am not certain that he notices. Poor, poor Joe.

I glance down at Richie's body. I cannot believe that Mac killed his own student. I'm old, not cynical. I just can't...and what am I supposed to do now? I can scarcely take care of myself, let alone Joe. I suppose I should stand here and wait for him to cry himself out. Maybe I can get him to sit down somewhere, but the question is where. I--

What? What is that? The sword glowed. No. It couldn't have done that. Swords don't glow. Mac was wrong. There are no demons. There are no gods. No. Richie, don't get up. You don't have a head. You cannot hold a sword anymore, let alone smile like that. Oh, God. God, no. It is not Richie Ryan, at all; it is Sean Burns. Joe, we have to go. Joe, let go of me. Stop it! Let go! Sean, put the sword down! OW!

"Easy, man. Take it easy. That's it. It's all right. You're right here. Come on. Just breathe, Adam. Take a deep breath for me. That's it...."

"Joe," I choke out. He stops talking in my ear. He's got his arms wrapped around me from behind, pinning my arms against my body. I must have been fighting him. Sean turns into René, who is quietly putting a small syringe back into a case. I though he was Sean. I thought he stabbed me in the leg with a sword. I strain to sit up and look at my leg, but my vision is too blurry. I can't see any holes in my jeans.

"I'm sorry," René says. "I had to give you something to bring you back down. You weren't responding to anything else."

"What?" I try to sit up again, but Joe won't let me. I am on his couch, in his office. They must have carried me in here--fighting or not, I don't remember. "I didn't...Where's my jacket?" Where the Hell is my sword?

"Keane is keeping your sword safe in the bar. You tried to take it out. It caused some alarm." René won't look at me directly.

"Safe." I can feel whatever he gave me starting to drag me down. "I said 'no drugs'."

"And I said fine, as long as you did not become a danger to yourself or others. We have passed that point. You need to be in the hospital."

"No. No, I won't go." I try to look up at Joe, but his head is right behind me. I cannot see his face. "Joe, please. Don't let him put me in hospital." I feel so tired. That shit René gave me works fast. Must be Haldol.

Joe is silent. René glares past my head at him. Even half-stoned, I cannot miss that interaction. "Dawson," René warns.

Joe sighs. "Okay, Adam. We'll work something out."

"No hospital," I insist.

"No hospital," he agrees. I think I hear René curse in French, so Joe must not be lying. Oh, thank Heaven. Thank you, Joe. Thank you so much. I don't know if I say it out loud or not, before I slip away. I hope so.


The river far below glitters in the moonlight. I stand on the edge of the trees and breathe in the warm, night air. Then, I shoulder my pack and walk further out of the jungle. Alexa pads up beside me. I reach down to stroke her head. Her coat changes under my hand, now short and rough, now soft, now long and smooth--orange and black stripes, tawny, black on black, white with spots. She growls and rubs her head against my leg, her tail flicking back and forth. She led me through the jungle all night long, a mad race over roots and under tree branches, with me chasing her tail.

She will not follow me down to the river. This makes me sad. Whenever she is with me, I know that all will be well. She will not take the long path that winds down into the valley no matter how I try to convince her. As I watch, she brushes past me and leaps down the rocks, one by one, to the river far below. I want to follow her, even if it means death, but I cannot. It is as though a sword bars my way. She pauses at the river to look up at me, before disappearing into the water. Alexa, I miss you so much. I trudge down the path.

I have not seen Kronos in a long time.

As I walk, the hillside around me changes, levelling out to a tiled floor. I find myself in a museum room full of odd things large and small-- skeletons of dragons and fossilised footprints. I cannot see its walls in the distance. In the centre of the room rests an enormous ball of string, some giant cat's toy. It nearly reaches the ceiling, and rotates slowly, bright as the sun in some parts, light-sucking black in others. It is tangled and filthy, but compelling to watch.

Around it pace the Fates. I approach them, following the whorls of a giant seashell embedded in the slate floor. Their long hair flows like black water over their grey dresses, their fierce, identical faces. All three look like Cassandra. One spins at the very bottom of the ball, circling it over and over. Another follows her sister and measures the string, stretching it between her hands before she tosses it onto the ball. A third stands patiently by, a sword sheathed at her side.

"It's so beautiful," Alexa says from beside me, her head cocked to one side. "But how will you ever unravel it?"

"I know a way," I say, and draw my sword to cut the ball in half. Alexa puts a hand on my wrist.

"No," she says, pointing at the Fates. "See? They're not done." As she speaks, the measuring Fate casts down her skein. The string rolls out along the floor, glowing white-hot, until it reaches a door at the end of the room. Above the doorway, a sign reads, "Joe's".

"Go see where it ends up. Don't worry. Everything will be fine." Alexa puts a hand on my back and pushes me toward the door.

I look back at her. "Come with me," I say.

She shakes her head. "I live here now." She turns and walks back out along the seashell's whorls, her shadow growing larger and more indistinct as the whorls spiral out. I cannot tell when she disappears. I turn back to the string path. Fearful, I edge forward along the string to the door. The knob is warm. I hear the sounds of laughter and happy conversation from the other side. I turn the knob and open the door.

Inside the door, the bar stretches off into the darkness behind the stage. I still hear people laughing and talking, yet the bar is empty except for a man working at the counter. He looks up.

"Come in," he says. It is not Joe; it is Kronos. I look back at the door. Through the glass, I see, not a museum, but fog curling up the street. Since I have no choice, I approach the counter.

"Drink?" Kronos says, holding up a pint glass. I nod. He draws me a pint and hands it over.

The beer is excellent, but I cannot place it. "Since when did you become a bartender?"

He smiles. "People tell bartenders all sorts of things, all their secrets. You used to tell me your secrets."

"Not all of them." I remember that much, if not everything.

"You told me enough. I was your brother. You trusted me, as much as you ever trusted anyone. I thought I could control you that way."

I don't want to talk about this. "Where is Joe?"

"Where he belongs." Kronos cocks his head to one side. "Where you belong. You have to go back out there, you know. You haven't faced him yet."

I stare at him, confused. "Who? Joe?"

He laughs at me. "Of course not. You know whom I mean."

He knows. How does he know? About the fog, the bridge. Why do I keep ending up back here? "Why is he trying to kill me?"

"Who said he's trying to kill you?" He leans across the bar and puts his hands on my shoulders. "Finish your beer and go find him. I promise you, it will be all right."

"You're not Kronos."

He draws back, shaking his head, clearly amused. "People change when they die, Brother. Otherwise, what would be the point of Hell? Go and find out for yourself. You only need to go a little further."

What utter rot. Nevertheless, I finish my pint. It does make me feel stronger. I slide off my stool and head back out to the door. At the doorway, I almost look back. Instead, I turn the knob and go out into the foggy street.

The fog rises about my legs as I pass under the bridge. Above me, the trolls chatter endlessly. Why do they keep wondering why I won't wake up? Wake up from what? He comes out of the mist, raising the katana. I am so tired. One way or the other, I want this to end.

"Who are you?" I say. "What are you?" My voice echoes back at me from the fog, "Who are you? Who are you?"

There is only one option that I have not yet tried. I am afraid. Why? I have been trying to die for months. Why back down now? What is the point? I crouch to lay my sword on the ground. He does not move. I back away a little, then kneel. He steps forward and raises his sword. I can feel my heart beating in my head--it will stop beating soon enough. I lower my head. I thought I wanted this.

"Just get it over with." I scarcely recognise my own voice. I shut my eyes; I don't want to see my own death. As I hear the sword cut through the air, the weight of years that have suffocated me for so long like grave slabs falls away and all I want, all I want, is just one more day. Is that too much to ask for?

I wake in the dark. Silas is a warm bulk curled up against my side. Next to me, Joe snores. I feel the Buzz of another Immortal. Keane. It is Keane. I remember now. Joe and Keane are staying with me. Keane has the couch and I don't have another bed.

I have been waiting for this for two weeks. Somehow I knew, when I began to dream again, the flashbacks would stop. I have reached a crossroads.

Joe had to fight hard to keep me out of hospital. I slept through most of his fight with René; that Haldol really knocks you for six. I think he almost threw René into the street at one point. Keane says it was all rather exciting. Keane thinks that watching paint dry is exciting. My mini- excursions from reality are better than a good book to him. He hangs out with Joe and me. They follow me around when I go outside. Joe told René no meds. Who'd have thought he would? Some days, it is fine. Some days...it's not good. Clinical depression is such a pain in the ass. I taught Keane how to clean the catbox and feed the cat, just in case. He might as well make himself useful.

I slipped away from them both once at the zoo--had an hour or two to myself watching birds from behind some trees. I don't know; maybe I fell asleep or maybe I simply went away. I don't remember. When I strolled back out, they found me. Joe screamed at me for a good five minutes, until they kicked him out for scaring the Hell out of the zebras. To be honest, he scared me. I thought he was going to have some sort of attack in the parking lot. He was so angry and frustrated that he nearly burst into tears. I felt guilty, which is a rare emotion for me. He was trying so hard, and I was playing head games with him. It wasn't smart and it wasn't fair, for either of us. After that, I behaved, as far as I can remember.

It is so quiet here, so peaceful, almost like being on holy ground. It won't last, of course, and yet.... I remember staying at MacLeod's barge a few years back, while I was puttering about, finding a new apartment. I let myself be lulled, even though the man was an Immortal-magnet from Hell. It was pleasant being with another Immortal in friendship. I thought for a time that Mac and I could even be brothers, before Kronos disabused us both of that fantasy. Joe, now, he is my brother. Why do I have to care so much about Mortals?

I miss Alexa so much. I couldn't help but love her, from the moment I saw her. I wish...but there is no point in wishing. Losing that damned forever stone off a bridge taught me that. What am I doing with Joe? At least with Alexa I could say I'd fallen; I couldn't help myself. I saw her and I was gone. You don't "fall" with brothers. Maybe you get pushed, but you don't fall. No. They cover your back and you get used to it. One day, they are no longer there and you feel lost. You shouldn't have to cover your own back. Kronos did teach me that.

I feel so blessedly clear. I know it won't last. I will wake in the morning and the day will begin in tears, I can tell. René tells me that I might as well put a half-loaded gun to my head and start pulling the trigger unless I go on medication. Bugger him. Stoned out of my mind the way Alexa was at the end? I don't think so. He says that the medication would only make me groggy for a few weeks, while he adjusts the dosage. I ask him if he's ever tried it himself. He gets angry. He says that this "process" will only take longer if I don't do the medication. Well, I have been crazy before and I got over it without any little white pills. I say, if the meds are the real cure, why is he coming around every day for therapy sessions? That is usually when he shuts up. As long as something works, that is one less voice in my head. I only talk to him because it helps. I don't trust him, not after he shot me up with Haldol. I don't care that he was only trying to help. I don't want that kind of help.

I turn my head to watch Joe sleep--no, to watch him breathe. Didn't know he snored. He sleeps like a rock. I was surprised when he told me that he normally sleeps with one eye open. Who is watching whose back now? Beside me, Silas stretches and yawns. I stroke his belly. As I do, I realise where I am, what I am doing. I am going through a hard time, yes. And yet, on each side, I find people who care. I don't know why they do. I suppose I will never know why. Maybe this time, it doesn't matter. Maybe this time, they will bear me up when my legs grow heavy and I will not have to crawl down this path alone, as I have had to do so many times before. This time.you know, I might be okay.


For now, but Joe and Methos will return in "Bring Out Your Dead".