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AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place before the episodes Archangel
& Avatar*. Any error in historical reference, language, culture, or characterization is strictly the authors.

Disclaimer: All characters who happen to belong to the recognizable Highlander universe are borrowed, not mine. No money was made in this endeavor. I am grateful for the opportunity to play in the Highlander universe.

Warning: Only partially betad

 

Lethes Story

By RonneeM

 

This means war-and the battle's still raging

War-and though both sides are waging

The Victor is sure and the victory secure.

Petra 'This means war'

 

That's why I fight fire with fire

Oh I'm burning inside and my heart is a cryin'

Fire with fire

'Cause I'm, never gonna lose this flamin' desire.

Kansas "Fight Fire with Fire"

 

 

Lethe reread the missive silently. The fine-grained paper was soft in her hands, teasing her senses with memories. Thick heavy paper, it reminded her of old vellum, costly and beautiful, fit for important documents, its contents burned into her mind and heart. Her callused fingers delicately traced the imprinted symbols on the letterhead. She frowned, gathering her thoughts. One hand reluctantly left the paper to dive into her pocket and withdraw a folded bill. Without looking at the denomination, she handed it to the messenger.

 

"Thank you." she murmured, her voice low and husky.

 

"But, this is too. . ." the young man froze, his words unspoken as he saw the stark desolation clouding her eyes. Instincts far older than the teenager's meager years made him back away from her. His face was pale as he turned, stuffing the one hundred dollar bill in his pocket and hurried out the door.

 

Her fingers stroked the paper, feeling the silky texture, trying to grip the meaning of the words that had just changed her life so drastically. The date on the paper was from several years ago, it had taken too long to catch up with her. She carefully lifted the second sheaf of papers. Wrapped in oilcloth and sealed with an ancient crest it sang to her, ancient songs of war and love and loyalty. Her eyes closed, she raised the packet to her nose, inhaling the scent of linseed oil. Her fingers told her that no one had broken the seals, the wax was old but unmarred. A tear ran down her pale cheek as she carefully inserted a fine bladed knife under the seals and broke them. The scent of incense wafted to her nostrils and from her memory old Latin chants rose and crossed her mind. She knew she didn't want to read the old vellum sheets. She knew only one person who would write her in this manner and she knew what he would say. Mentally bracing herself, she opened her eyes to read his letter, knowing it would destroy her world.

 

The handmade vellum was covered with fine ink, delicately etched in the form of words. The language, long dead, stirred long hidden memories. The sheets filled with the last decade of the writer's life and friendships, brought a smile of joy and a choked laugh to her lips. Then the writer announced his own impending end and advised her to be wary. She gasped as she read and bowed her head, eyes closed as she took in the words.

 

Eyes staring vacantly at the pages, she no longer saw the beribboned vellum she held. The multi-colored silk ribbons spilled like colored streams across her wrist. The heavy vellum was as pale as her skin, making the rich, red wax of the seals stand out like bloody wounds. Her eyes tried to focus on the handwritten message, but the ink words danced in front of her eyes. Part of her wanted to scream and rage at message. Part of her wanted to sink to floor in tears. Her body quivered as she held herself still, re-reading yet again the cover letter, trying to make sense of the French words. She never noticed the quiet murmur of denial that poured from her lips in a language few people remembered had ever existed.

 

She dropped the letter and the vellum, placing both hands on her desk for stability. Her entire body shook with the force of the sobs she was denying, her eyes frozen as they stared into the past, searching for the face of the man who'd written her. Tears tracked her cheeks, streaking them with salt. A low-pitched keen rose from her lips as she tried to deny what had happened. With all of her will she reached out, trying to control her breathing. From there she began weaving her emotions into a semblance of order, gathering them and storing them for another time. Once she had regained control of the emotions that she didn't dare release, she dashed the tears from her face. When she had finally the tremors under control, she lifted the phone.

 

"Dori, cancel everything for the next 30 days. Apologize to my colleagues and advise them that I will be completely unavailable." She waited for a moment and continued. "Of course. Tell payroll that I am going on emergency leave. . . the emergency? My husband just died."

 

Without glancing up from her lap-top, she dialed the next number from memory. While waiting for it to be answered she began typing away at her pc, rapidly making her plans and changing previous schedules. The sound of the voice mail startled her back to the phone. Rapidly she regathered her self-control, and began speaking.

 

"He's dead." Her voice was barely a whisper, husky with the unshed tears and the caged fury. "Someone broke the rules and took him on Holy Ground. I need you now." She hung up the phone and waited patiently for it to ring. Death would ride in the answer when it came, until then she could make plans and issue instructions from here.

 

 

 

Rain fell quietly, pit-pattering musically on the cobblestones. The gray stones of the courtyard reflected the low gray clouds. Misty wisps of fog drifted slowly about the cold street, dimming the streetlights and muting the colors of the city. The wind's mournful sigh echoed eerily through the dusk, bringing chills to the few passers-by.

 

A pair of ancient motorcycles pulled up to the even old churchyard. Two gray clad figures stood, parking their machines. As one, they straightened, dismounted and removed their helmets. Like a pair of well-choreographed ballet dancers, they turned, shrugged their coats into place and crossed the street. They moved across the courtyard toward the church doors, their boots silent on the flagstone path. The mist made them seem to vanish like specters.

 

Inside the church, wooden chairs stood in rows, leaving them barely enough room to walk along side each other to the altar. Vaulted ceilings made the soft sound of water dripping from their coats echo and resound loudly. The flickering light from the many candles their shadows change and shift with each step they took. Both figures glanced around the quiet room before kneeling gracefully and bowing their heads to pray. No sound escaped their silently moving lips as the hands gripping the railing paled from the pressure of their exertions.

 

The soft sound of footsteps sent the two figures spinning apart. Hand darting under their coats, they stopped in the shadows as they scanned the church for the intruder. The monk froze, allowing them time to locate him and decide their next course of action. As one their hand came up, empty, and were folded behind their backs as they regained their composure.

 

"Can I help you, my children?" The monk was young, his face relatively unlined. The contrast of his youth and the age of the stone about them made the two glance at each other. "I am Brother Anselm."

 

"We have an appointment with you, sir. The bishop wrote to us that something happened to our uncle, Brother Darius." The voice was soft and cool, almost toneless. It reached its destination and faded into nothing. One figure stepped forward slightly and bowed to him in greeting.

 

"How much information has the bishop given you?" The monk kept his voice even, trying not to startle the two figures. If he went too quickly, he feared they would flee. He'd been advised that Brother Darius' only living relatives would be arriving this afternoon. The bishop had warned him that they were barely past childhood, newly orphaned and now, with the news of Darius' death, seemed poised on the edge of flight when they'd met him.

 

"We were advised that he disappeared and has now been missing so long that the police have declared him. . ." the second voice wavered and broke. Her figure stepped forward into the light, revealing tears running down pale, bloodless cheeks. The first figure reached out and grabbed her arm. She shuddered and silently stepped back into the shadow of a stone column.

 

"Please, come with me to my office." Anselm's voice was firm but gentle, coaxing. He was confident he could deal with his shy visitors, maybe even set them at ease. "I have chairs there and we could talk this over."

 

The silence of the two following him was disturbing. He glanced back at them, just to confirm they were still there. Side-by-side, like two gray wraiths, their every move was graceful as they padded after him. Inwardly he wondered at their precision. Somehow the light from the high windows continually missed their faces, leaving them in constant shadow. If he were superstitious, he'd be praying right now, wondering if they could actually be ghosts. He shivered as a chill ran up his spine and led them into the office.

 

"It has changed." One of the voices sounded quietly behind him, as its owner looked around. "Darius had it set up differently. His books are gone."

 

"Yes, his things have been distributed throughout the monastery. A few of his things, manuscripts and monologues have been sent to the university medieval collection. Would you like some tea?"

 

Both figures turned to him and he felt his jaw drop. The two young women were very young, far younger than he had earlier estimated, barely out of their teens. Red-rimmed eyes stared from pale cream faces. Warm golden hair was pulled tightly back and tucked into their gray dusters. As they stepped forward and unbuttoned their coats, he realized that the dusters were split and tied to their legs, which had contributed to the odd shadows he'd seen in the hall. The perfection of their faces was marred by the emotions he saw in their eyes. One pair of blue eyes was filled with so much pain and desolation that he felt the chill of it in his own bones. The leaping fury and rage in the other pair made him glad for the coolness of the fall air.

 

"Do you share Darius' fondness for lichen and moss teas?" The furious eyes met his and caught his instinctive recoil. Her voice continued coolly, calmly, "My apologies, it has been a hard week."

 

"No, my tea is ordinary black tea and there is no need to apologize." His voice was calm, much calmer than his thoughts.

 

"No, thank you." The other woman spoke softly, trying to soothe him. "The room shocked us, we were half hoping that when we arrived here we would find it to be an error. Until we took in the changes, it did not seem real. If you will excuse us for a moment."

 

"Of course." Anselm stepped over to his desk and glanced briefly at the Bible sitting there. He needed more help than he had thought. He watched as the two stepped close to each other, leaning on each other briefly. The murmured whispers that came to his ears were unrecognizable, the pattern of the speech unknown to him. Brother Darius had been a noted scholar, speaking many languages, and it seemed his nieces had learned well from him.

 

"Forgive us, Brother Anselm." Both women were firmly in control of themselves, their eyes flat and emotionless, their voices low and measured. "We neglected to introduce ourselves, I am Diana Fontaine-Montrose."

 

"And I am Abigail Fontaine-Montrose." They silently sat in the chairs he offered them. "Could you please explain what happened to our uncle? The papers our lawyer forwarded to us, did not say."

 

 

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~One Year Later.~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Joe Dawson stared at the paper printout before him. Something did not add up. First a break-in at the main headquarters of the Watchers in Paris. All the information on Darius and Methos had been stolen. Priceless chronicles and artifacts were gone. Irreplaceable data was missing, perhaps never to be recovered. Other items had been moved, inspected, and shifted. It would take months to list everything that was missing due to the deliberate disarray that had been left. To the thieves' credit nothing was broken or destroyed, just mislaid or shuffled.

 

The job had been professional. No evidence had been left behind. All the objects so far examined were clean, no finger or palm prints left on their surfaces. None of the surveillance cameras had gotten a single picture. All of the security videos were blank. Not a single alarm had gone off, not a single lock had stood in their path or slowed them down, not a single item seemed to have been damaged. Only the computers had not been tampered with, their codes and defenses having apparently stopped the thieves cold. The only serious thief among the Immortals, Amanda, had been on another continent that night. That left him with no idea at all as to who pulled off this job, or why.

 

Starting the next day, every single computer system used by the Watchers had begun receiving hits. Someone wanted their information badly and was rich enough to hire the best of hackers to get it. The cost of hiring that many code crackers was prohibitive.

 

When the Watcher who had watched Darius had vanished Joe had really begun to worry. The man's wife had reported that he had been snatched by a van as he left his home for work. That had been yesterday.

 

He checked his files, everything centered around Darius. The old Immortal had been a monk for centuries, protected by the sacred ground of his monastery. He tried cross-referencing among the immortals to see he could match the pattern. Only a few had been in Paris the past week, and all had known that Darius died shortly after his murder. He doubted if any of them knew the true story and would therefore have no reason to go after the Watchers. He checked for immortals who had just arrived in France and still found no connection.

 

He pulled up Methos' name. The files about him were largely incomplete. The oldest living immortal, he was a myth among his own kind. Only a handful knew of his existence, most disbelieved or thought he had died long ago. Joe smiled to himself, knowing the real Methos had changed his viewpoints about Immortals as much as knowing Duncan MacLeod. Not being able to write about him hurt his historian's ethics, but it was the only way to protect both his friendship and keep the oldest Immortal alive. He wondered briefly if there was any connection.

 

A fast query to Paris answered him. All physical files relating to the older immortals had been removed. Not a single complete chronicle remained of any Immortal over 700 years old. The younger ones had been taken fairly randomly. At this point they could only say for certain that all chronicles and artifacts dealing with Darius or Methos were missing. Other things were gone too, but at this point there was no established pattern to the thefts. Joe stared at the computer screen thoughtfully.

 

The phone rang.

 

"He's been found." The line was full of static, buzzing and crackling madly, but the voice was recognizable. "He's alive and being checked over in the hospital now."

 

"Who had him?"

 

"He said he never saw their faces." The man on the other end paused before continuing. "Dawson, they asked about Darius, the Methos Myth, Horton, the Hunters, and you."

 

"Me?" Joe's pulse sped up as he considered this new tidbit of information.

 

"Yes. They knew there was a connection between you and Horton." For a moment the static covered the man's words. "...be very careful, we don't know if they were Immortal or not. We're sending someone there to keep an eye on you. You should be safe until they arrive, there are no connecting flights right now."

 

Joe hung up the phone and stared at it. He'd thought that MacLeod had closed that chapter of history when he'd killed Horton. He closed his eyes wearily and slumped in his chair. He probably should call MacLeod and warn him that someone was hunting people who had known Darius. Without looking around, he reached for the bottle of scotch.

 

"Let me help you with that." The voice was soft and cool. Fingers gently but firmly gripped his shoulders. "No, do not turn around. I just want to ask you some questions. My friend will not hurt you if you answer nicely."

 

The lights in the house went out. He was hauled from his seat and taken into the living room. There he was seated in his recliner, straps firmly being wrapped around him, pinning him in place. A bright light flared in his face, blinding him. He heard the sound of scotch being poured into a glass. The glass was lifted to his lips.

 

"It's safe, no drugs." The voice paused, "Here, let me taste it for you." A silhouette appeared, cast in shadows by the light behind it. The hands on his shoulders tightened their grip as the hand with the glass retreated slightly. The glass was placed in his hand and one arm was released. The gloved hand lifted his hand and the shot glass to the full lips of the silhouette. His hand was forced to tilt the glass as the mouth delicately sipped the scotch. Then his hand was turned and the scotch brought to his lips. He felt the warmth on the glass from the other's mouth as he sipped.

 

"It's much better for your health to drink with a friend." The voice was conversational. "Will you talk to us now?"

 

Joe didn't move. He stared at the figure. Before he could carry out his thought and toss the scotch at its eyes, he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder. The person had pinched a nerve. The gloved hand reached out and removed his glass, carefully placing it on the table. His arm was forced to the arm of the chair and taped in place.

 

"It would be easier if you cooperate with us."

 

Silence.

 

"Who killed Darius?"

 

Silence.

 

"You know who killed him. You are a Watcher. Not only that, but you a highly placed Watcher." The voice hissed, menacingly at him. The figure turned away and then turned back, something in its hand. "Talk to me. You don't really want me upset with you."

 

Behind him fingers dug firmly into his trapezius muscles. They stopped at the edge of pain. Whoever it was holding him down, wanted to control him, not to harm him. At least not yet. He swallowed convulsively, and remained silent. He wondered how long he could last if they decided to break him.

 

"Do you have any drug allergies, Mr. Dawson?" The voice was gentle, the threat was ugly. "Unfortunately, if you will not cooperate, we will have to use force."

 

"Penicillin." Joe did not want to die anytime soon. Shock was not too painful a way to go, but he did not want to take the chance.

 

"You have a voice, good. Where can we find Methos?"

 

He licked his lips. The light was hot, drying his skin. The figure stepped back and picked up a tall glass of water, sipped and swallowed letting the light define its movements. The bulky clothes hid its build, conveying only a sense of guarded strength. The glass was held near him.

 

"Do you want some water, Mr. Dawson? Answer the question and I'll give you water."

 

Joe shook his head. He wasn't going to betray his oath or his friends. He braced himself for a blow and felt a needle prick instead.

~~~~~

 

Methos struggled awake. The phone rang shrilly. Cursing his caller in a language dead for millennia, he crawled out from under the comforter. His pale body shone in the moonlight, finely honed muscles stretching and pulling as he moved. Finally he reached his objective.

 

"Hullo?" his voice was rough from his interrupted sleep.

 

"Adam! Wake up! Dawson's in trouble." His friend was shrill with panic. Brian's voice close to tears. "You have to get to him fast."

 

He shook himself, shrugging away his exhaustion, forcing himself awake. "Slow down and tell me what's going on."

 

"Listen to me. Someone is hunting Watchers. His phone is out of order. You have to help him."

 

"Brian, slow down. Who is hunting Watchers? There are thousands of reasons for Dawson's phone to be out of order." Even as he tried to calm the panicked young man, Methos was grabbing for his pants. Pulling them on with one hand, he listened intently to the other man. His sweater was harder, forcing him to switch the phone from one hand to the other.

 

"No. I talked to him a few minutes ago, about the people who raided the Paris office. When we realized there was a way for them to reach him tonight I called back. The operator says the line is out of order, Adam. I think they have him." Brian's voice was rushed. "You have to hurry."

 

"I'm on my way." Methos shoved his feet into loafers, mentally straining to make sense of the problem. He was going to need help if what he heard was right. "Brian, who else is in town?"

 

"The only Immortal is MacLeod. You and Dawson are the only Watchers in Seacouver." he paused and spoke to someone else. "We have other people on the way, but they can't get there for another eight to ten hours at the earliest."

 

"Okay." Methos hung up and began dialing MacLeod's home number.

 

"What?" a very tired voice answered. MacLeod did not always wake in a good mood.

 

"Dawson's in trouble."

 

"Adam?" the voice was rapidly gaining coherency. "What's going on?"

 

"Meet me at his place. I'll explain there."

 

 

Joe rested his head on the back of the chair. Being questioned was exhausting. The drugs they had given him were just kicking in and he was having trouble resisting. These people were relentless in their questioning, but they still seemed reluctant to hurt him. The questions were random, patternless. For some reason that reminded him of something. A gentle caress on his arm jerked him awake.

 

"Mr. Dawson, please tell me where Methos is." the voice was still calm and cool.

 

He licked his lips. They were cracked from the questions and from the harsh lights. He squinted at them as the voice held the water glass to his lips. He sipped gratefully.

 

"Answer the question."

 

"I don't know." It was the truth, Methos had a tendency to wander off on his own. He could be anywhere.

 

"Do you believe in Methos?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Who killed Darius?"

 

"Horton, but James is dead now."

 

"Why did he kill Darius?"

 

"Thought he was an abomination, he lost it. Decided to kill all Immortals."

 

"Do any other Watchers feel that way?"

 

"Not sure."

 

"Who killed Horton?"

 

"Mac."

 

"Who is Mac?" the voice was still so calm.

 

He resisted. Mac was his friend. He didn't want to betray him, who knew what they would ... "Duncan MacLeod."

 

"Where did they bury Darius?"

 

"I don't know." There was a soft murmur. He felt a thin hand reach for his throat and take his pulse. It retreated after a moment.

 

"Who took the body?"

 

"MacLeod and Fitzhugh and Tessa and Ritchie." his head drooped.

 

"Who are Tessa and Ritchie?"

 

"Tessa . . ." He felt awful, he had to stop himself from talking. The drugs moved through him, taking away his will. "Noel. Ritchie Ryan."

 

"According to the files MacLeod is your assignment. Where can we find him?"

 

Joe fought the answer. He did not want to betray MacLeod. Once was enough. He would not accept it again and he did not want to lose him. The thought of incurring MacLeod's disdain. . .

 

"Stop. His heartbeat's become irregular."

 

Instantly the light was dimmed and someone new was at his side. A very faint perfume touched his nostrils. Cool fingers found the pulse at the base of his throat and measured it. Another needle pricked his arm. Fingers tapped his cheeks, with not quite enough force to call it a slap.

 

"Come on, Joseph. You can do it. Rally for me. We won't be bothering you anymore." The soft voice was familiar. He had spoken to her before, if he could just remember her name.

 

"We won't?" the other voice was sharply edged.

 

"He is very loyal to his friends. Any questions about them cause him to resist the drugs." The silhouette turned to the dimmer shadow. "Every question about MacLeod and Methos will stress his heart as he tries to fight the drugs. You. Will. Not. Hurt. Him." The voice acquired a hard, demanding edge as it spoke, and the silhouette straightened, became a shield between him and the men in the shadows.

 

"Harasho, menina."

 

A glass of water was lifted to his lips and he drank greedily. It was withdrawn rapidly. He was entreated to slow down for his own good. The voices argued softly, segueing from one language to another as they debated their next step. After several minutes he began to drift into sleep.

 

"Joseph," The voice was soft, gentler than before. He heard an exasperated sigh from the other. A hand raised his head. A mouth was gently pressed to his. Against his drugged but still struggling will, he responded. The mouth withdrew slightly, its tongue teased, tracing his lips. "Sleep well, my friend."

 

He felt the tape and straps being removed. Then his arms were gripped tightly and he was pulled up and draped across two pairs of shoulders. They hoisted him to his bedroom and set him on his bed. The gentle hands removed his clothes, pressed him down on his stomach, and began massaging his neck. The woman's voice urged him to sleep off the rest of the drug. A sudden gasp sounded loud in the room and the fingers withdrew. The sound of swords being drawn shook his sense of pleasant well-being.

 

"I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod." The voice cut through the shadows. Mac sounded annoyed, if not actually furious. He wondered idly what had angered him so much.

 

"We are not here for you, Highlander. Leave us in peace." It was the voice that had questioned him.

 

"When you attack me friends, you ha' best be prepared to fight." A burr had crept into his voice. Joe knew from experience that this meant Mac was on the edge of losing his temper. He wondered if they knew that. The utter darkness hid the Immortal as he scanned the room trying to locate him.

 

Joe could hear the quiet sounds of movement. His blurry eyes caught sight of a shoulder and he reached out, pulling himself up. He grunted as he lost his balance and fell towards the person. A sword glittered momentarily as it was shifted away from him. Strong arms caught him. Wiry forearms tensed and pulled him to safety. He landed roughly against the woman's chest. With one hand she covered his mouth, trying to silence him. Her other hand gripped his wrists. She peered past him trying to see through the darkness. Joe slammed his head into her. A sword swung toward the sound.

 

"NO!" The woman threw Joe to the floor, placing her body between the blade and her captive. With a thick wet noise it sank deep in her side, cutting through and continuing. She whimpered, trying to shove Joe farther away. Joe grunted in pain as his side was grazed by the blade protruding from her side.

 

Steel loudly rang upon steel on the other side of the room. The fury of both weapons echoing in the heavy breathing of the two fighting shadows. A voice was raised in a harsh series of syllables. One shadow danced backwards in shock. A sudden flurry of shots froze the combatants. Someone shouted, cursing as the shadows melted back against the walls.

 

"Find and kill the Immortal!" came a loud voice in the darkness.

 

Instantly, a shadow tore the curtain from the window and dove through it, shattering the glass. In the instant that it fled, the pair of long curved swords in its hands glittered in the moonlight. A second swordsman raced after the fleeing figure. They were rapidly followed by a pair of men holding guns. Moonlight flooded the room, turning the dim shadowy forms into gray furniture and bodies. Only one man still stood.

 

Silvery gray in the moonlight, the woman's side was rapidly turning black from blood loss. Joe rolled her off his body and struggled to sit up. She shuddered from the pain, her face pale and lined, before reaching out and grabbing his arm.

 

"Are you all right, Joseph?" Her voice was a soft whisper. Joe pulled her into his arms as Duncan leaned over them. "No one was supposed to get hurt, especially not you."

 

Duncan crouched at their side. The rapidly diminishing buzz at the edge of his senses told him that both Methos and the other Immortal were out of reach. He looked at the wound in her side. It was very ragged and bled freely. It was a mortal wound and she was a mortal. He saw her acceptance of her death in the sad eyes.

 

"I'm fine." Joe assured her in a daze. The drugs were still confusing him. She had helped them question him, but she had been so gentle with him. She had protected him with her own life. He knew he should know her but he could not find her name in his memories of her face.

 

"Good." She smiled and turned her attention to the Highlander's unsmiling face. "Oh, you must be Duncan ... MacLeod... of the Clan MacLeod... I'm. . ." Her voice faltered suddenly and her eyes began to glaze. She whimpered in pain, her hand vainly trying to stem the flow of blood from the wound. "...sorry. I tried to help,. . .didn't want him . . .hurt . . ." A slow trickle of blood crept down from her mouth as her eyes froze in place.

 

"Damn." he muttered savagely before leaning forward to close the staring eyes. The sound of Joe sagging to the floor made him turn. His dark eyes widened as he noticed the dark stain on the older man's shirt. "Yer bleedin' man!"

 

"She didn't even have a sword Mac." His eyes were unfocused from the drugs still coursing through his blood as he turned his pale face to look up at the other man. "She was trying to protect me and she's such a little thing."

 

Duncan's face tensed as he took in the other man's words. He lifted Joe from the floor and placed on the bed, tearing his shirt from his side. A slash marked his ribs, bleeding freely. Wadding up the shirt, he pressed it firmly to the wound. As he held it in place, he watched the bleeding slow, the stain slowing in its spread. He quickly tied the pad of cloth to the wound and began looking closely at his friend. Although covered in blood, most of it seemed to be the woman's, which both relieved him and grieved him. He had never struck down an unarmed innocent before.

 

"Joe, are you hurt anywhere else?" He tried getting the other man's eyes to focus on him. "Answer me."

 

"No, she only pinched me once." Joe's words slurred as the drugs claimed him and he began to snore.

 

Duncan turned back to the body. He crouched beside her, staring at the fine features. A quick search of the area confirmed that she had been unarmed when his sword had cut her down. He traced her cheek with one thick finger, noting the growing pallor of her skin as her body cooled. He gently pulled her shirt closed over the gaping wound. When he went to straighten her arm he noted absently the Watcher tattoo on her wrist. Then the mark made an impression on him and his eyes returned to it. His thumb stroked the wrist, rubbing the tattoo before he carefully straightened her arms and crossed them on her chest. Part of him winced as he thought of the reaction her death at his hands would cause among that community.

 

He sighed and looked at his sleeping friend. He wondered how close the girl had been to him. He gritted his teeth as he noted again her youth. He muttered darkly in Gaelic, the girl couldn't be much more than twenty, too young for Joe's tastes. She was probably just a friend of his, a new trainee in the Watchers. She was too young and pretty to have died trying to protect a friend from an attack. She should have been able live longer, fall in love and get married, have children, grow old. He had killed her, thinking he was protecting Joe from an immortal. He'd thrust through her, thinking to separate his friend from his captor, and instead thrust into his side. He was very lucky he hadn't killed both mortals, instead of killing one and wounding the other.

 

He went to broken window and stared out. He mentally measured the area before pulling the curtain shut. It was too big a project for tonight. He'd have to get it replaced in the morning. He checked Joe again, drawing a blanket over his sleeping form. Then he went to the closet and found a sheet. Carefully, for all that she could no longer feel anything, he lifted her onto it and wrapped it tightly around her, saying a brief prayer as did so. When he lowered her back onto the floor he didn't notice that the tattooed arm had escaped to lay in the shadow of the dresser.

 

The buzz of an approaching Immortal jerked him to his feet, sword slipping from the dresser into his hand and at ready. He quietly stepped over the body and slipped out the door. As he slowly walked down the hall, lights came on throughout the apartment. He stepped into the living room to find Methos poised and waiting, sword in hand.

 

"It's just me," Methos' eyes measured Duncan warily. "I lost the one who went through the back. He outran me. The other men took off in a waiting car when I tried to get to them." He watched him as he spoke. The Highlander's lack of reaction raised his hackles. Then comprehension dawned in his eyes, "Joe?"

 

"No, there was another Watcher in the room. She must have gotten here about the same time as we did. She was trying to get Joe out. She gave her life protecting him." His voice was hoarse, filled with pain. "I attacked an unarmed mortal. She died."

 

Methos bowed his head, eyes closed as he lowered his sword to his side. Pain creased his face as he calculated the reaction in the organization to this news. "That's not good. How's Joe?"

 

"He has a scrape across his ribs. It's not too bad, but could stand some stitches to hold it together." His eyes were bleak as he looked at his old friend. "She was child, Methos. I don't think she was old enough for her first glass of wine."

 

"It was dark in there, MacLeod. You heard Joe cry out and tried to rescue him." Methos's voice was calm as crossed the room. One hand reach out and gripped the other man's shoulder. "It was an accident. She should not have been there, confronting an Immortal. You cannot blame yourself for it."

 

"Can I no?" Duncan shrugged, refusing to relinquish his guilt for killing an unarmed mortal. He turned, changing the subject. "We need to get Joe out of here, those shots are going to bring the police."

 

"Your place or mine?"

 

"Mine."

 

The two Immortals went back into the bedroom. There, Duncan lifted the sleeping man into his arms like a sleeping child and carried him out to his car. Methos paused as he gathered things the man would need to turn to the body. Although the face was covered, one arm was stretched out, as if she been reaching for Joe even in death. Tattooed lightly on one wrist was the curved "V" inscribed in a circle, mark of the Watchers. He thrust the arm under the sheet and noted that the skin, while cool, was warmer than he expected. She must have been a longer time dying than he would have estimated from the size of the pool of blood she lay in. In the distance he heard sirens. Time to leave.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pain shot through her body and she gasped as her lungs filled with air. She sat up pushing the sheet away from her as she did so. Frantically her mind raced, trying to remember everything from the last few minutes before her death. MacLeod had arrived, challenging them for Dawson. A sword ...Joseph. Where was he? In the distance, but rapidly, approaching she heard sirens. The lights in the room revealed that someone had hastily gone through the room.

 

Had it been searched or had someone hastily packed for the mortal? MacLeod must have grabbed Dawson and gotten him out of here. If he would challenge for him, then Joseph must mean something to him. Therefore he'd be protected. She wondered were she had left her bag. She thought it was in the main room. She staggered there and began searching for it, finally finding it behind a chair.

 

She didn't have much time. She heard the arrival of the police cars on the street. She went back to Joseph's room. Rapidly she stripped, hissing as the movements pulled her healing side. From the looks of it, this wound would be a while before it was gone. She really had to talk to this Highlander about his first mentality. Then again, if he was always that touchy she did not want to meet up with him again.

 

She rolled up the ruined rug, sheet and clothes, stuffing them firmly in the back of the closet. She grabbed another throw rug and covered the stain on the floorboards. Well, that would have to do for now. It was unfortunate, but she did not have time to work on the rest of the mess right now.

 

The doorbell rang. She firmly closed the door behind her before slipping into the bathroom. There, she turned on the bathwater, tossing in some bath salts from her duffel. The bag was tossed into the spare room, landing on the bed.

 

Loosening her hair, she grabbed Dawson's bathrobe and hurriedly pulled it on. Her hair fell free of its braid to her waist as she raced down the hallway. A heavy fist pounded on the door. The sound of police radios crackled ominously.

 

"Hold on, I'm coming." she called.

 

She peered out the window beside the door. Three police cars were pulled up to the yard. Several uniformed men were on the porch, hands on their weapons. She flipped on the porch light and pulled the door cautiously open. Behind her, the soft strains of classical music poured from the tape deck she'd turned on as she'd passed.

 

"Umm, is there a problem?" she bit her lower lip with worry. Her fingers curled around the chain as she looked up and up at the man at the door. His hand raised to knock again, he paused and looked down at her.

 

"Ma'am, I'm officer Jenkins. May we come in?" The man spoke quietly, trying not to startle her.

 

"Why? I haven't done anything." she let her lip tremble. "At least I don't think I did."

 

"Miss, if you would please let us come in. There was a report of gunfire from this house."

 

"You mean, someone is in here with me?" her voice cracked and she fumbled for the chain. As soon as it was unlatched she scampered out the door and into the chest of one of the policemen. The officer reflexively grabbed and kept her from falling.

"I . . . I . .."

 

"Davis, you stay here with her while we check out the house." The big police officer spoke into his radio for a moment and they carefully entered the house.

 

"It'll be all right, ma'am." his voice was soft and soothing as the gently patted her back. Brown eyes peered down at her before looking around watchfully.

 

It was several minutes before the officers came back out to where they waited. She looked up anxiously, forcing her lips to quiver. Thankfully, she would still be pale from bloodloss, and it would be a while before she had time to recover completely.

 

Officer Davis released her as the other man stared at him with a frown. She tightened the belt of the robe and wrapped her arms around herself as she watched them converse softly. The big officer walked over to her. He leaned forward, so she did not have to tilt her head back to look at him.

 

"Miss, do you live here?" his voice was deep, bearlike in its resonance. His eyes watched her, looking for something.

 

"No. It's my godfather's house. He said I could stay here for a couple of nights while I was in town." she licked her lips. "What's wrong?"

 

"Where is he?"

 

"I don't know. He left the key under the mat so I could get in. I knocked on his door, but the lights were off and no one answered so I let myself in the house." she shivered from the cold and reaction to her death. The bathrobe was not much protection from the wind. "He might be at his bar, but I don't know exactly where it is. He said he'd take me there this year since I'm finally old enough."

 

He ushered her into the house. The other policemen followed. In the living room they stopped.

 

"Someone broke into the house, it looks like they probably left when you knocked. Would you know if anything was missing?"

 

"Nnno. Are you ssure they left?" she shuddered delicately. "Is it safe for me to sstay?"

 

"Miss, I think you need to stay at a hotel tonight. The entire back window is gone. Until it's fixed you can't keep a mouse out."

 

Tears began to run down her cheeks. "Joe's gonna be ffurious with me. My first night here, and this hhappens." she stuttered helplessly. "Wwill you stay while I get dressed?"

 

"Yes ma'am." The officer's eyes had softened when he took in her distress. He spoke to Officer Davis, who followed her down the hall to the spare room. There, the young officer leaned against the wall and waited patiently for the distraught looking young woman.

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Once he was certain that Methos could care for Joe without any help, Duncan went to the bar and poured himself a stiff glass of scotch. He tossed it back swiftly, using the rich taste of the expensive scotch to force memories of another day and time. It did not last long enough. He set the glass down, went to the couch and sat wearily. Running his hands through his short hair, as he thought of all the things he had taken from the girl at Joe's house. He sighed wondering if he'd ever know her name. He glanced up at a movement to see Methos settling into a chair.

 

He'd have to remind himself to ask Joe when he woke up. The girl needed to be remembered and he'd make certain she was. He thought back to that smooth cheek, so pale and cool against his fingers. Damn, maybe if she hadn't been be in the Watchers she would have lived long enough to have a real life. He wondered what the Watchers would tell her family, her friends. He wondered briefly if she had left any children behind. If she had, young as she had been, they'd be small, maybe even babies. He'd have to get that information from Joe too. If she had, he'd have to make arrangements to provide for them. He sighed, remembering her eyes clouding over with pain and regret. He was going to remember this for a very long time.

 

"So are you going to be guilt-stricken for the rest of the night?" The wry comment grated on his nerves as it broke into his reverie.

 

"Maybe."

 

"It wasn't your fault."

 

"I know the dangers of fighting blind. It was my mistake, I'll pay for it in my own way."

 

"Even a boy scout is allowed to make mistakes."

 

"Not if they kill someone." he answered.

 

"Duncan. . ." his words trailed off as they heard the arrival of someone.

 

A small light began blinking, warning them that someone was trying to force the lock of dojo. The two men stood, each reaching for a sword. Duncan pointed towards the stairs and at Methos' nod of understanding went to the elevator.

 

The elevator stopped and he quietly opened the gate. He heard the doors to the dojo open, they must have picked the lock. He paused, hearing voices arguing loudly. Whoever it was, the argument was furious and getting hotter by the moment.

 

"No! I will not do it." the voice was female, firm in its refusal. "I will not go after a good Immortal. My father was right. We observe, we do not try to get involved."

 

The man's voice was far less clear, almost blurred. "MacLeod is dangerous to us. He has killed our people. He probably killed Dawson."

 

"I don't believe that." The woman's voice was accented slightly. She moved closer to him. In the darkness, all he could see was her silhouette. A bulky jacket reached to her thighs, not quite long enough to hide her shape. She paused and turned to the man. "I don't think anyone would have been hurt if you hadn't started shooting. You could have hit Dawson or me."

 

"He's an oathbreaker."

 

"I don't care. You do not hurt Watchers. The oath is that we support each other." Her voice cracked at his movements. "What are you doing?"

 

"If you won't join us, you must be an enemy." The male silhouette had pulled out a silenced gun. "This time there won't be any noise to attract the police. They'll find you dead here and MacLeod and Dawson upstairs. How awful that you killed them and yourself."

 

"Simon, please, I won't get in the way. . ." she staggered backwards as the quiet gun spat fire.

 

Duncan charged out of the elevator and Methos came racing out of the stairwell. The man fired on them, then noting the swords at ready, turned and ran. They heard a yell and then the squeal of tires. The two Immortals stood in the door, watching the van disappear.

 

"Did you get the tag number?" he asked his old friend.

 

"No." Methos shook his head and walked to the body laying on the floor. He checked for a pulse and shook his head. Then he turned her over and stiffened. Leaning close he examined the face and then straightened. "Duncan... we've got big problems."

 

"What?" He went to join him and was waved off.

 

"Go check on Joe. Make sure they didn't send someone down from the roof." Methos rarely used that tone to his friend. Usually he just seemed to drift through life, not bothering to interact. Duncan paused before slipping up the stairs quietly.

 

Once he was gone, the oldest Immortal lifted the body into his arms, cradling it gently. Dropping a kiss onto its forehead, he stood. A soft whisper filled the dojo. "Oh, sweetheart, what are you mixed up in this time?"

 

 

The sound of the elevator arriving made him turn around. There stood Methos, the body in his arms. He opened the gate to let him in and froze. The lights caught on a long braid, the hair a burnished golden brown, neither truly blond nor truly brown. The pale face was young, but without the youth of childhood. Fine skin stretched gently over high cheekbones, fetching without being too fine boned for beauty. The face was the same one he had looked down on in Joe's room.

 

"Move, Highlander." Methos' voice was harsh. He carried her over to the couch and laid her down checking again for a pulse. "Pour a couple of glasses of whiskey, she's going to need one when she wakes up. I need one now."

 

He held himself in check, waiting for an explanation, but the old Immortal seemed to have forgotten where he was and who was there. Duncan watched him curiously as he poured the drinks. The other Immortal glared down at the young woman, unfamiliar words pouring from his lips. Then he gently smoothed her hair, tracing her forehead. After a moment he looked up and smiled wryly.

 

"She's an Immortal, Duncan." He looked down at her again. "The only question is which one this is."

 

"I guessed that. Who is she?" He handed the two glasses over and watched as Methos swiftly downed one whiskey. The other he placed on the table.

 

"It's been a very long time since I've seen her, I thought she'd died."

 

"Who is she?"

 

"You really don't want to know the answer to your question."

 

"Actually, I think I do. Who is she? What is she doing here?"

 

"She's an old friend of mine, a good friend. She's one of the ones who don't believe in the game. I don't know why she's here, but I know that whenever she comes out of hiding it's because someone is in trouble. She's as loyal as you are, maybe more." Hazel eyes looked up at him, begging for understanding. "I trust her with my life."

 

"She's out of here as soon as she's awake." Duncan glared back. He was angry that the older Immortal hadn't told him that she was immortal at Dawson's. He clenched his jaw tightly. He did not want to vent his fury on Methos, just on the woman in his arms. He watched the light dawn in his friend's eyes.

 

"Is she the woman you cut down at Joe's house?" The other man didn't even wait for an answer. He swiftly unbuttoned her cardigan and pushed her blouse up. There against the pale skin was a bandage. He gently peeled the adhesive from her side and examined the wound. Barely half healed, it was red and slightly swollen. Mac frowned, on an ancient immortal that should already be healed.

 

 

Methos grimaced and replaced the bandage. "MacLeod, you didn't tell me you'd cut her in half! No wonder you were upset. Even for one of us that's a bad wound."

"What is her name, Methos?" He growled menacingly. "You owe me that much at least."

"I don't know what she's going by these days, she used to be Lethe. At least, I hope this is Lethe. I can deal with her, even if she's angry. The other one might just take our heads before we get a word in edgewise." Worried eyes met his. "She should be up soon."

As he spoke, she stirred, her lungs gulping for air, her heart beating again. Instantly a loud, insistent presence announced itself in their buzz zone, then it disappeared, leaving the muted sense of a preimmortal.

"Methos! What is going on?" Duncan's voice was strained by the shock. She was obviously an Immortal but did not register to his senses like a normal Immortal. "What is she?"

"Not now, Highlander!" Methos was watching the woman on the couch, waiting for her to regain consciousness. His tense attitude warned of the possibility for trouble. Duncan placed his hand on his sword's hilt and waited.

She opened her eyes and lunged up, into Methos' restraining arms. Her hands strained, trying to reach for something hidden in her coat.

The old immortal had his hands full keeping her from getting loose while trying to break into and capture her panicked attention. His voice was rough, whispering close to her ear as he spoke rapidly in another language. Even with his ear for languages, Duncan could not place it.

Blue eyes the same dark shade as a sapphire gazed blankly about the room. Finally they focused on him and stopped, trying to place him as she listened to Methos' words. He heard his name mentioned as the other man tried to calm her and advise her of where she was. Her eyes narrowed as she placed him and her memory of the recent past returned. She stopped trying to escape Methos' grasp.

"Methos-rai." She spoke quietly, without taking her eyes from him. At the return of coherence, Methos sat back slightly but he didn't quite relax. The quiet syllables that rolled off her tongue made him sigh in relief and loosen his tight grip on her forarms.

Methos reached out with one hand and picked up the whiskey, bringing it into her view. She looked at it and turned to him for the first time. He grinned and raised an eloquent eyebrow, mischief lighting his face, daring her to take it from him. She reached out and folded her fingers around the offered hand as he lifted the glass to her lips. At its smell her nostrils quivered, but before she could pull away, the long fingers tilted it at her lips. She swallowed and then gasped for breath as it burned its way down her throat.

"Hello, Lethe. How are my ladies?" Methos kept his voice low as he spoke to her. She smiled slightly, one arm hugging him tightly. He kissed her cheek. When she released him, Methos sat her up and released her. "Duncan MacLeod, I would like you to meet Lethe. Lethe, this is my friend, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."

Lethe inclined her head at him, relaxing back against the couch. Her free arm cradled her side as the nearly healed wounds from earlier that evening announced their presence painfully. Her jaw locked, holding in a hiss of displeasure, she did not need to be weak right now. "Joseph?"

"Sleeping off the drugs." Methos spoke quietly, watching her as warily as mouse watching a cat. "Where is she?"

The young looking immortal frowned at him and glanced over at the other man. Methos glared at her and tapped her forhead. With a sigh she closed her eyes and focused outward, feeling the presence of the two immortals with her mind. Carefully assigning them places in her subconscious, she searched, reaching and finding nothing. Her eyes flew open and she sat up. Struggling to regain her balance, she allowed Methos to support her.

"Phone." Her voice was tense with pain.

"Here." Duncan's voice made her look up. He held out a small cellular phone. She just looked at him. "I'm safe."

Nodding slightly, she took it in her free hand. With one slim finger, she dialed. "Pick it up." she murmured. The phone beeped annoyingly. "Diana! Lethe! Nyet, eto nyelzya!" She hung up and dialed another number. When it was also answered by a machine she began crooning a low pitched, odd song to it. Methos turned to her, his eyes wide as she hung up the line.

She waited impatiently, pushing Methos away. He moved to sit on the table and she slowly sat back. She smiled weakly at him and held her side in pain. After several minutes she frowned. With a soft sigh she picked up the phone again and dialed. This time the message on the machine was different. Her face, which had been pale before, lost all of its color. She hung up after leaving a brief message.

"My message missed her. She's gone hunting." She slowly stood, leaning heavily on Methos.

The words that poured from Methos' mouth caused her eyebrow to rise. She slowly shook her head, declining his offer.

"That's all we need, she wouldn't believe it if you did."

"Where will she go?" Duncan's voice was cool.

"After someone to get vengeance for me." Lethe looked up at the man supporting her with a sad smile. She turned to Duncan, "Do you have anyone she can get to easily? Anyone in town?"

His dark eyes flared. Stiffening he stalked to her and drew himself up to stare down at her. His face was forbidding. "No. Does she intend to start a feud?"

"I am of her clan. She knows you took me down. She probably thinks you've taken my head by now." She firmly pushed Methos away and forced herself to stand without assistance. Staring back into the Highlander's brown eyes, she stood still under his perusal. "If you can get me to the airport before she goes after the only other MacLeod we know of, Conor MacLeod, maybe we can stop her."

"I'll nae have her harming my kinsman."

"An I'll nae ha' ye afightin' my sister." The woman hissed at him. Her stance shifted, balancing out as she instinctively readied for battle. She glanced at the door behind him. "Let me pass."

"I'll coom with ye." He grabbed her arm as she walked past him.

"Fine, can you ride?" With a shrug she tried to get free of the big man's grip. It tightened like a vice.

"I'll drive." Even with all his anger at her, he didn't want her pushing too hard. The weary look in her eyes and the pale skin bothered him far more than he wanted to admit. In her current state, she was more likely to have an accident than to get to the airport safely.

"I'll stay here and keep an eye on Joe." Methos' voice was soft. He wanted to go with them but he couldn't let his mortal friend down. With all the people wandering around lately, he needed someone to watch out for him while he recovered.

The two immortals glared at each other, realizing that he was the only one either would trust to care for the mortal. With a sigh, Methos motioned for them to leave. Both nodded to him, almost in sync. As they headed for the elevator, a shrill ringing came from her a coat.

Both Methos and the woman grinned at each other like giddy children. Without a word the woman reached for and pulled out a small phone. She spoke into it softly, still smiling at Methos as he flinched at the terse Sumerian words she spoke. Several times she stopped abruptly. The names "Joseph" and "MacLeod" were repeated several times. Finally all the softness left her voice. A firm series of commands rang out, the force of them startling the two men. She listened for a moment before turning off the phone.

"She'll be here soon. She's happy she doesn't have to hunt you or Conor."

"She should be." Duncan's voice was harsh. "Why did she leave you at the house alone and unarmed?"

Lethe shrugged. "I tossed her my sword when the fighting got too close to Joseph. I couldn't hold it and drag him to safety at the same time. She didn't know I was hurt until it was too late. Her job was trying to find out who wanted Joseph dead. We owe him too much to leave a loose end like that."

"And just what do you call what you did to Joe?" MacLeod's voice was furious. "You could have killed him."

She ignored him and turned to Methos, speaking softly. The old Immortal turned her to face the angry Highlander. He spoke softly to her in the language they had spoken before. She listened silently before nodding shortly to his comment.

"We never were a threat to him." Her voice was calm and soft again, but there was a slight ring of steel in it. She swayed slightly and her voice faltered. "He would have been fine if neither you nor the extra men had arrived. We knew there was a chance that the one man would come and were prepared for it. You two were the surprise."

"Lethe, what's going on?" Methos interrupted them, his arms going around her protectively.

"The Hunters are active again." she leaned against him with a sigh.

"What?" Methos stared in shock. "Is that why you're back in the Watchers?"

"It gets worse." Her voice was toneless and cold.

"How?" Duncan stood leaning above her. The young woman was dwarfed between the two men. She leaned heavily back on Methos to watch the Highlander.

"This time, anyone who disagrees with them or gets in their way dies. Watcher, Immortal or innocent civilian, it doesn't matter to them." She looked up at Methos. Her eyes were sad and filled with pain. "They killed Diana's husband, Henry, because he would not join their crusade."

"That makes it personal." Methos cursed to himself. "How long ago?"

"Two months." She did not resist as Methos lead them back to the couch and settled on it with her.

"Why question Joe?" MacLeod cut in.

"He must have heard the rumors that the Hunters were back. Or maybe he just didn't trust his fellow Watchers. He had not entered all of MacLeod's information into the Chronicles. He made it look like you no longer lived above the dojo. He went back and erased some entries that could be used to track you. He refused to put any information in that could be used to Hunt you or your friends." She watched the man as spoke. "It seems his friendship to this Highlander means more to him than anything else. When I was approached about monitoring the questioning of an oathbreaker, I had no idea who or what they meant. I did everything I could to protect him without getting them suspicious of me."

"Oh, and where did that leave Joe?"

"As safe as I could make him."

"And when they tried to kill him so they couldn't be identified, would you have allowed him to die to protect your identity then?." MacLeod grabbed her arm and turned her to face him as he roared.

"As long as I am alive I protect my own."

"He didn't look protected from where I was."

In her fury, she pushed herself out of Methos' arms and faced the angry Immortal. "Really? And I take it that being nearly cut in half by an impulsive, undisciplined Scot rather than risk Joe is nothing? If you hadn't shown up in a dark room, waving a sword, everything would have worked out. I had convinced them to let Joe alone at that point."

"And that was supposed to protect him?"

"I may look like a baby-faced teenager, but I've been around long enough to be able to protect Joe." Her voice was flinty in anger, but still soft and quiet. Standing toe to toe with the taller man, she glared into the burning eyes that raged at her. "They need me. At this point I'm a valuable asset. To keep me happy, they are willing to pretend that they don't kill their own, not even one who has betrayed the Watcher oath. Joe was safe from them. They were trying to get you not him."

"And what do you get out of this?"

"I want their leader."

"They think you're dead."

"That's easily remedied." She smiled very grimly. "I will show up, none the worse for wear with a bullet proof vest and a very bad attitude at the main office tomorrow morning. Between my story and the rumors already beginning to circulate through South America, the Hunters will soon become the hunted. Or I can go to the hunters and scream and rage about their one undisciplined man, hiding my true feelings until I know each and every one of their names. Then I can destroy the whole group."

"And what makes you so important?"

"My wonderful personality."

The sound of the dojo door slamming loudly, followed by footsteps racing up his stairs stopped their argument. MacLeod reached for his sword as a piercing whistle attacked his ears. The woman before him grinned at his reaction and trilled out a matching whistle. He grimly held onto his sword.

Behind the woman, the elevator slowly began rising. The sudden presence of a very strong Immortal resounded through their senses, causing MacLeod to reel a step backwards. Another woman entered, a pair of swords in her hands. Honey colored hair was plastered to her head, held in place by a thin leather band. A second pair of sapphire blue eyes took in the current setting before settling steadily on him.

The woman stared at him as she stalked over to the group. Her face perfectly impassive, she reached one sword out toward Lethe. Without looking away from him, she reached unerringly for the hilt. One woman kept her sword en garde and the other rested hers, point down.

"MacLeod, would you rather meet my sister or fight her?" Lethe asked silkily.

"Sister? Since when do Immortals have close relatives?" Macleod stared at them, his shock blatant. The two women looked identical, only their clothing and hairstyles of any real difference. "Methos, what in God's name is going on here?"

"He does not sound happy to meet me." The woman's voice was throaty and cool.

"Why should I be upset at uninvited guests bearing swords?" He growled as he laid the katana on the table. He spread out his hands and shrugged. "I'm Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. I'd say it was a pleasure to meet you, but it isn't."

The woman laughed, her voice slightly deeper than her sister's. Each woman sheathed her sword with the same economical move, tucking them away in their coats. "At least you're truthful. I like that. Nowadays I go by Diana. How's Joseph doing?"

"He's sleeping."

She shot a quick glance to Lethe, keeping her attention on the Highlander. "Give, whatever happened hurt."

"Simon shot me. I died. I came back a little while ago." As the other woman spun to face her, Lethe reached out and grabbed her arm. "Easy, he didn't see me die. MacLeod and Methos chased him off. Now, we have reason to raise a stink in Central."

"That was not what I mean and you know it."

"Drop it, it's not worth the trouble."

"Not likely." The two women squared away, glaring at each other. Blue eyes blazed at each other. Suddenly they grinned and hugged each other fiercely.

"Would you believe that these two have been behaving like this for a couple of millennia?" Methos asked rhetorically. He looked at the confused Highlander. "Never been able understand why they haven't torn each other apart or taken each other's head."

The shorter haired woman turned to Methos, noticing him for the first time. Her eyes widened, and with a happy laugh she threw herself on the old Immortal. Even braced for her assault, he flew backwards, flattening on the couch. She crouched over him, linking her hands about his neck.

"You live! Do you know how long we've been searching for you? The last we heard from you was back in the 1800's. Then there was that impostor, but he just didn't measure up." With a smile she leaned down and kissed him thoroughly. Methos' hands went from fending her off to encircling her shoulder in less than a minute. As they forgot their audience, Lethe sighed quietly and moved to an armchair.

"May as well sit, Highlander." Her words were soft, barely reaching his ears. "This may take a while."

He stared at them as the two on the couch began whispering quietly to each other. "I take it you've known him for a long time?"

"You could say that." Pain flickered briefly in her eyes. "Our oldest memories are of Methos."

"I've never met an Immortal with real family." His words were bitter.

She snorted. "As far as we've ever been able to find out we're the only ones. It has its price, though." she faced him. "Want to start over?"

"My name is Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. It is my pleasure to meet you." His voice was thick with his old brogue.

"I'm Lethe, lately called Abigail Fontaine-Montrose." She smiled, but he noticed that it did not reach her eyes. "I'm very glad to meet you. I have heard much about you."

"Good or bad?" One dark eyebrow arched inquisitively.

"I've read wonderful things about you and your prospects." her voice was flat, having lost all emotion. A bitter smile crossed her face and was gone. He almost missed it, it was so brief. "I think you may actually live up to our expectations."

"Methos wrote you about me?" Duncan was mystified by both her vague reference and the sudden pain he saw in her eyes.

"No. Someone else wrote often about the great MacLeod Clansmen."

"Who else do we know in common?" He was genuinely curious.

She shook her head, refusing to answer. To break the conversation off, she reached out one foot to kick her sister. "Hey, break it up. Methos, you should be ashamed of yourself."

The couple disengaged rapidly and Methos blushed as he caught the amused look Duncan sent him. The woman grinned and settled herself more comfortably next to the ancient Immortal. One hand clasped hers, their fingers still intertwined, as Methos wrapped an arm around her familiarly.

"Why should I be ashamed?" He asked with a smile.

"Behaving like a satyr at your age!" Lethe shot at him.

"You're calling me old?"

The two sisters looked at each other and began laughing. In unison they chanted pompously at him. Methos closed his eyes and held his breath. At Duncan's look of incomprehension, they switched languages and continued their words, "and since I am the eldest Immortal, I naturally get the title of leader. The fact that you are my students also places you under my leadership... Should we continue, oh Lord and Master Methos?"

Duncan watched as the blush crept back up Methos' neck and covered his face. The older man was thoroughly embarrassed by the two women who chided him mercilessly. The thought of them treating him like this for millennia brought out a chuckle. As Methos' eyes flashed open, he caught the guarded laughter there and completely lost his composure. In moments, the entire group was laughing.

"Lethe, I thought you were the nice one." Methos finally managed to get the words past his laughter.

Pain crossed her face fleetingly. "That was then, old friend. I've missed you."

Methos looked at her, focusing on the changes in the woman sitting before him. His eyebrow quirked up as the other woman lifted a finger to his lips and silenced the words forming there. He turned to catch her eye and she shook her head briefly. These two women had always been open with him, he did not know what to make of the hidden silence and the not so well hidden pain. The look in her eyes promised an explanation later. He was very good at waiting patiently.

Uncaring of the scrutiny from her sister and their old friend, Lethe stood carefully wrapping her arm around the still healing wound. She paced the floor, taking in all the things in sight. Her gaze was rapid, fleeting and measuring. MacLeod frowned as she passed him deep in thought.

"Can I get you something?" He asked quietly, watching her movements. He wondered if he should lock up the silver until he caught the worry in the other woman's eyes.

"No, thank you." The reply was soft at his ear as she paced past him again.

"Lethe . . ." Methos began to speak, only to be silenced at her gesture.

"This might just work after all." She mused, thinking furiously. She turned to the owner of the loft. "How would you like to become an hero?"

"I. . ." the delighted grin on her face froze his words. A sad light danced in her eyes. Her hair sliding from its tight braid, it coiled about her face, framing it in golden highlights. For a moment he was speechless as he took in the transformation from pale, tense girl to sensuous woman.

"Great." She took his hesitation as permission to include him in her plans. "May I have the use some paper? I have plans to make."

"MacLeod, you might . . ." Methos tried to speak but a hand covered his mouth and soft lips began whispering into his ear. He shuddered at the sensation and forgot what he was going to say.

"Don't worry. We promise to take care of MacLeod." The woman at his side spoke louder.

"I don't need to be taken care of!"

"Around these two you do." Methos gripped Diana's hands tightly. "Lethe is someone who gets the most unlikely things to work."

"Thank you." Both women spoke in concert. They grinned, a harsh cast to their features. "We have to stop the latest group of Hunters. Otherwise, the Watchers will be completely destroyed."

"What do you mean?" The voice made them all turn to see Joe Dawson leaning heavily against a wall. He turned pale as he recognized the women. "Abigail, but I saw you die."

"Uncle Joe." The voice Lethe used was soft, younger than her normal voice. "I think you need to sit down."

"I think you need to explain." The mortal's voice was harsh, biting.

"After you sit down and I check you out." Though soft, the commanding edge in her voice stung.

"She's right, Joe." Duncan stood and went to his Watcher. "This might be better if you were sitting down. You've have a very rough night."

"Please, Joseph." Lethe stood at his side. "I promise to explain."

Leaning heavily on Duncan the distraut man walked slowly to the couch. Methos and Diana rapidly moved, allowing the pale mortal to sit. The men watched as the women worked in concert, unspeaking.

Diana quickly unbuttoned Joe's shirt while Lethe pulled a miniature medical kit from her bulky purse. One sister took Joe's vital signs and the other uncovered his wound. One pair of hands cleaned and disinfected the area while the other prepared butterfly bandages to hold the wound closed. A tiny vial of a topical anesthesia was applied and then the wound was rapidly but expertly closed and covered. In mere minutes the wound had been evaluated, treated and covered, without a single word being said.

Diana knelt at his side, watching his eyes, one hand still holding an unused medical vial. Lethe stood behind her and after a moment, took the vial and returned it to her med-kit. With a smile both women sat down near him.

"This will be the short version," Diana began.

Lethe continued her words, "you need to rest and finish recovering from everything."

"I'm fine."

"They are right, Joe." Duncan spoke up. "You lost a lot of blood and you've been heavily drugged. You don't recover as fast or as well as we do."

"Please, Joseph."

Methos watched quietly as the two women rapidly gained control. Joe disappeared momentarily as one tucked the blanket Duncan handed her around his pale form. The other propped a pillow under his head. Once they were certain he was comfortable, they sat at his feet, ready to talk. He hid a grin as both women instinctively took up the positions of storytellers. He listened to their quiet murmurs, the show was about to begin. Catching Duncan's eye, he slid a long finger to his lips, eyes alight with memories.

"The Watchers organization has split, Uncle Joe," Lethe's voice was full and gently melodic, The words were cadenced, following another language's pattern. "No longer is it just a group mortals, trying to observe and record the movements of those Immortals it knows about. It has become far more and at the same time it has become less."

"Now, it encompasses those mortals who would never break their vows of passive observance, as well as those who want to participate in the Immortals' lives." Diana's voice was slightly warmer than her sister's, more passionate, more alive. "These people believe that their place is that of the Hunter. They wish to Hunt those Immortals who they feel they can kill without being killed themselves. These Hunters kill only those Immortals they do not fear. Among those they kill are the young, the newly become Immortal, the untrained, those too honorable to fear mortals."

"To become a Hunter, you must be a Watcher and be invited by a Hunter of more than three kills," Lethe's voice took over at Diana's pause. It's cool fury and soft tones made the men wince. "It is an invitation you cannot refuse. To do so is to die. All those Watchers who have refused or have spoken against the Hunters have died. But it is very hard to prove that they are killing their own. They make it look like the work of Immortals whenever possible."

"They approached Henry Fontaine-Montrose about four months ago. They told him that they wanted to speak to him about new developments within the Watcher hierarchy in South America. His family was to be trained in a new field, after all very few families had as many members in the organization." Diana's voice was bitter. "He was a field agent. His wife and daughters were researchers. He came back from the meeting very pale and agitated. He tried to hide his feelings, but the family asked anyway."

"His family was unsettled by his refusal to tell them what the problem was. They asked but he refused to tell them, trying to protect his family." Lethe took over when Diana's voice began to shake with fury. "He knew he could not accept the bargain the Hunters offered. When the Hunters heard his reponse, a month later, they spoke to his wife. The two worked as fast as they could, trying to get out, but were too late. Two months ago, Henry Fontaine-Montrose and his wife were killed. Before they could be beheaded, his daughter Abigail came home. She shot and killed one of the Hunters, but could not rescue her parents. The two daughters have been sent to live in Seacouver with their godfather, Joseph Dawson. They were scheduled to arrive next week, but the Hunters changed that and brought them in this afternoon, trying to force them into the group.."

Diana picked up the recitation, her voice now as low pitched as her sister's, husky with emotion. "The Hunters made a few very bad mistakes. The first was not knowing that Henry's wife was an Immortal, so she lives. The second was not knowing that his "daughter" in research was his wife's Immortal twin. The two are working together to find out who runs the Hunters and root the entire group out of existence."

"There you have the short version of the story, Joe. I'm sorry that we didn't tell you, but we didn't know if we could trust you." Lethe spoke directly to him, sitting upright and unmoving, waiting for his reaction.

"Did Henry know about Diana and you being Immortal?" Joe asked, his voice husky from the realization that they were speaking about his friend.

"Of course, he did. With him working for the Watchers, there was no way to hide what we were. He helped make all the arrangements so I could be his 'daughter' when the time was right. He was my friend and my sister's husband." Her voice was tinged with regret. Beside her Diana had laid her head on her knees. "It would have been too hard to hide from him."

"But he never. . ."

"So? There are things that you probably never wrote in the chronicles either. Like the fact that you've befriended your Immortal assignment." Her voice went flat and emotionless as she spoke. "There are things that it would be best that never got added to the chronicles."

"Easy, Lethe." Duncan soothed, catching the tension in her words. "Joe wouldn't endanger you."

She nodded warily and stretched. "It's very late and we need to get back to our hotel."

"No." Diana raised her head wearily. "Already checked us out. Too much trouble. Besides, they might be looking for me since they think you're dead."

"My place has enough room, if you don't mind the mess. I wasn't expecting you this soon." Joe spoke softly.

"No. The police are watching it and they told me to stay away until morning and the window gets fixed." Lethe spoke wearily, jet-lag, pain and exhaustion catching up to her.

"Window? Police?"

"I'll explain later, Uncle Joe."

"Joe can stay here." Duncan's words were wry. "But I don't think there's quite enough room for everyone."

Methos stood. He grabbed Diana's hand and pulled her to her feet. Lethe stood and wavered slightly. Her sister grabbed her arm and held her steady. He smiled and picked the tired woman up, cradling her in his arms. "They can stay at my place. We'll talk in the morning, Mac."

"I'll be over there early." His voice was sarcastic. The look he gave Methos promised retribution for the long sleepless night. He grinned. "I'll make the coffee so you can wake up."

Methos groaned. Diana's eyebrow rose, but she smiled at the wink she received.

 

 

The sun was barely up, causing the frost on the autumn grass to sparkle. The chill was shocking, far colder than one would normally expect for October. Duncan paused, looking up at the window of Methos' apartment. He thought he'd seen movement in the window. He knew from experience that Methos would not be up yet, but maybe one of the women was awake.

A shadow drifted across the window curtain, dancing back and forth to an unheard song. As he watched, it bowed and dipped, flowing like a leaf in a gentle spring breeze. It swayed and glided, bending and dipping gracefully. The form stretched up, beyond the view of the curtain and returned. Joe looked up and grinned, shaking his head as he saw the shadow. Leaning on his cane, he joined the Scot, enjoying the display. For a moment a slim, graceful figure was perfectly outlined. Then it danced away with soft, gentle movements.

"What do you make of that?" Duncan asked the quiet mortal.

"Not a bad view of the apartment." He quiped, still mulling over the fact that his "god-daughters" were Immortals.

"Well, at least one of them is an early riser."

"Which one?"

"If Methos has trouble identifying them, do you expect me to know one of their shadows from the other?"

"You have a point there." Duncan responded, continuing towards the apartment building.

"It's hard to believe that I've known them for nearly twenty years and never knew that they were...Damnit Mac! I was best man at Diana's wedding!" He growled as he manipulated the cracked sidewalk. The dim early morning light contributed to his troubles by distorting the shadows. He paused momentarily to watch the graceful movements of the shadow on the curtain enviously. "I'm her children's godfather! I wonder if I still am, or if she even has children."

"Don't take it personally, Joe." The immortal commented softly as they watched the dancing shadow above them. "My guess is that they're old enough that caution is endemic to them."

"Yeah, right."

"Joe, very few Immortals tell their friends about their Immortality. Some never even tell tell their lovers." He frowned thoughtfully. "If you hadn't been my Watcher, I would never have told you about my Immortality."

"I do understand, Mac, but it's hard to comprehend the distrust that goes hand in hand with being an Immortal."

The two men turned their faces toward the sun and headed for the building. As they drew close to the apartment, the window flew open, curtain billowing out. A head popped out, followed by pale shoulders. As she shook her head, long hair tumbled loosely from her shoulders, catching on the brickwork. She glared, strong enough to be seen and recognised from a distance, staring at them. Then a sudden, brief, smile bloomed rapidly as she recognized them.

"Good morning! You're bright and early. Are you going to stay there, gawking? Or are you coming up for breakfast?" Her quiet voice, pitched to reach their ears and no farther, drifted down to them.

"That depends." Duncan smiled up at the pale face. "Did Methos cook?"

"Good God! No!" Horror flickered over her features and the head retreated momentarily. She smiled regretfully. "I think he'll never quite learn to make a decent breakfast. Why do you think he sleeps 'til noon if you let him? It's so he can start with lunch!"

"We're eating here." Duncan's voice was merry, bringing another fleeting grin to her face. The two men smiled at the sight. "We'll be up in a minute."

"Have coffee and breakfast ready for the starving hordes." Joe teased her softly.

"Runny eggs and hard coffee! Yes, sir!" She smiled again and disappeared into the window.

"Oh, great! She remembers." Joe muttered to himself. At Duncan's odd look, he paused. "It's an old joke."

"Maybe you need a watcher to record your life, Joe. It seems far more active and intriguing than mine." Duncan smiled at the embarrassment that flashed across his friend's face.

The door to the apartment swung open as they approached. Instantly, the smell of coffee reached them. It was followed by the scent of something baking and the rich, heavy scent of cooking meat. Spices, cardamon and cloves, tingled their noses. Tantalized they quickly entered and were met by a small table set in the entranceway. It held a silver turkish coffee pot and a pair of tiny porcelin coffee cups. Cream and sugar were in matching silver decanters.

"Come in, serve yourselves coffee. The food will be ready shortly." The soft voice called.

Duncan closed the door and looked at Joe. Raising an eyebrow he poured the coffee and handed one to him. They cautiously sipped the coffee and were pleasantly surprised by its taste. It was hot and strong with a delicate tracery of spices.

"Good coffee." Joe commented as he savoured the unusual blend of flavors. "If she cooks as well as she makes coffee, we'll be in heaven, Mac."

The two men looked up as she turned the corner. Duncan began to speak and froze, staring. She was wearing a pale blue, silk cutaway shirt. It left her midrift bare, exposing the red line of the nearly healed wound on her side. A matching silk skirt wrapped about her hips, flaring out at her thighs and forming a flowing bell at her ankles. Her hair was loose, flowing down her sides, curling and rippling to her hips. The total effect was stunning. For the first time, neither man looked at her as if she was the teen-ager she appeared to be.

"You liked the coffee?" Mirth edged her voice. Another fleeting smile chased its way across her face. "Is something wrong?"

"Nothing, nothing at all." Joe's voice was choked. "I have a question for you, though."

"Ask away, Joseph." Her voice rippled as she spoke. Her blue eyes met his with asking to share his bemusement.

"Exactly how old are you?"

Laughter rang out, floating into their senses. The men looked at each other. Duncan shoved his free hand into his jeans' pocket as he sipped at his coffee. Joe bowed his head, looking into his cup.

"I was about eighteen when I died, Joseph." The sound of his name spoke with her accent tilted his head up. "But that was a very long time ago."

"About? You don't know?" Duncan's voice was amazed. How could another Immortal not know when she first died? Even now, nearly four hundred years later, he could remember his first death. He wondered how old she was. If she had known Methos for a long time, she could be very old indeed.

"No one kept real good track of age back then, Duncan." she turned away and headed back into the kitchen. "Breakfast should be ready."

"Where are Methos and Diana?"

At that moment, the bathroom door opened and Diana stepped out. Duncan took a step back as the heavy, loud feel of their joint presence struck his senses. Dressed in only a towel, she held a sword at ready, peering around warily.

"Lethe!" Lethe cried out rapidly. The words pouring from her lips were harsh gutterals but somehow sounded musical from her. The only words they understood were their names. At the words she spoke, her sister lowered the sword and smiled sheepishly.

"Sorry. I didn't expect you this early." she grinned and bowed. "If you'll excuse me a moment?"

"Well, that answers part of the question." Joe's voice was amused. He grinned at Duncan as they watched her walk away, the bath towel hiding and teasing them with her figure.

"Methos is sleeping." Her voice at his side made Duncan turn around. She looked up at him and raised an eyebrow. "Problems?"

"You called her Lethe?" He made himself think quickly. For some reason he didn't want this cool, collected Immortal to catch his thoughts. He saw the glitter in her eyes and wondered if she was laughing at them.

"When we were young, all twins shared everything, names, clothes, spouses, life. After all, they are halves of the same person." Her voice was calm, accepting, not a hint of bitterness. "Therefore, both of us are Lethe."

"Oh." He watched as she turned away and re-entered the kitchen. She quickly pulled a fragrant pan from the oven. He wondered what it must be like to have someone else share everything. Someone to share Immortality and life with from the beginning to the end.

"Interesting." Joe murmurred. "You know that there are no hints of any Immortal twins in the chronicles. I want to research them, but I'm afraid that if I do, someone will catch on to their identities."

"Why don't you just ask them. All they can do is refuse to answer." Duncan chuckled at the frustrated look on his friend's face.

Lethe stepped up to them and handed him a large mug. "Please, fill this." she requested. She turned to Joe, saying, "You never know, we might just answer if you want to know from simple personal curiousity. We like you, Joseph. We always have."

Before the gray haired man could respond, she retrieved the full mug from Duncan's hand and walked toward the far end of the apartment. They silently watched the smooth sway of her hips as she walked through the door to Methos' bedroom.

Through the open door, they saw her kneel gracefully beside the bed and wave the mug gently over the rumpled covers. A low groan came faintly to them and the lump in the bed moved slightly. Her lips were quirked in a smile as she continued to wave the coffee above the bed.

After a moment, a slim, pale arm reached up and caught her wrist. As her hand was gently pulled down, Methos levered himself out of the covers. His eyes closed, he smiled as he inhaled the scent of the spiced coffee. Once she was certain he was awake, Lethe transferred the mug into his hands. With another graceful move, she stood and returned to main room.

"I think that they like watching us." Diana's throaty laugh caught them unawares. Duncan turned to see her leaning against the doorframe of the bathroom. No longer dressed in a towel, she wore a pale green outfit that matched her sister's. He swallowed at the sight of the two of them standing side by side. They looked too young for their obvious enjoyment of their sensuality.

"So I've noticed." Lethe's voice was as still as deep water. Shall we go sit down?" A series of evil sounding comments came from the bed. "Rai, really? No, thank you."

Diana burst out laughing at his terse comment as she preceeded them to the table. She quickly snatched a muffin from the table and lobbed it to her sister. The other woman caught it and turned abruptly, causing her skirt to swirl up to her thighs. She threw it into to the bedroom, causing a muffled roar. With a smile she bowed, turning back to the men. She bowed to them, the light of her smile reaching her eyes for the first time since Duncan had met her. That light was abruptly quenched and the quiet sadness returned.

Behind her, Methos came out of the bedroom, barely awake. His bare feet made little sound as he stopped just behind the woman. His hands full with his coffee and muffin, he brought his arms around her and kissed her head. She leaned back against his bare chest, giving them the impression that she was supporting him as he took a sip of the coffee.

"Good morning, little one. Joe, Macleod. I take it breakfast is ready?" He looked at them, still more asleep than awake.

"Come on, slow poke. You're wasting daylight." Lethe's words had no bite.

"It's not morning yet, this is only a delusion." He grumbled, letting her go.

"How she puts up with you is beyond me!" Lethe grumbled back, smiling as she stepped away from him.

"With more patience than you obviously have." He bowed her ahead of him.

Duncan shook his head in wonder as the two squabbled quietly. He caught Joe's eye and they both chuckled.

 

"That was great." Duncan sat back, looking over the remains of their food. Little remained except crumbs. Both women were looking slightly amused at the sight. With an evil grin, Diana threw a dagger at her sister, causing the three men the jerk in shock. Lethe reached out and snagged it in midair as Duncan shoved her sideways, away from its path.

The moment he touched her, her free hand came up, grabbing his arm and pulling him with her as she toppled from her chair. Blurring in his sight, the dagger rapidly reversed its position, coming to rest, lightly kissing his throat. Large blue eyes stared at him, startled and apologetic. The dagger disappeared even as she blushed.

"She was paying me for a bet I just won, Highlander." Lethe's voice was soft, echoing slightly in the room's silence.

"Well, I think we're all awake now." Methos' voice was mocking. "The two of you can get up off the floor. I think it's safe."

Duncan rolled off the slim Immortal and stood. Mischief danced in his eyes and he smiled at her. The wary look in her eyes only increased his smile. In a sudden move, he bowed deeply to her, offering her his left hand.

She studied it as if it would attack before lightly placing her palm on his. He wrapped his fingers around her hand and gently pulled her to her feet. With a flourish, he bowed again, bringing her trapped hand to his lips. Her blush deepened and her eyes lit up in amusement at his antics. Behind him, he could hear the chuckles from Methos and Joe.

"I think you may be worse than Methos." She commented coolly.

He grinned, eyebrow raised. "Would you like to find out?"

Her eyes flickered briefly and then clouded. "I believe I must pass."

She turned to the table and picked up a bowl, closing the conversation. Diana gently bullied Joseph into allowing her to check his wound while the others rapidly cleared the table. The essentials taken care of, they scattered about Methos' main room, each seeking out a perch or chair.

"So, what is your plan?" Duncan broke the ice. Lethe lifted her chin, pointing to Diana.

"Joseph and Adam escort us to HQ at 10. There we confront the Director with Simon's perfidy, his attacks of both Joseph and Abigail. We can get him without endangering our investigation into the Hunters."

"Why only target Simon?" Dawson leaned forward.

"At this point he's the only one who's threatened us or one of ours directly. He's also the only one we've met here and as far as your goddaughters are conserned, he's an isolated nut." Lethe answered for her. They glanced at each other grimly as she continued, "Even if *we* know better."

"Do you think you can pull it off? Ben's good at spotting fakes."

Lethe's face softened, her eyes widening. Her voice trembled and became years younger. Even though they knew she was older, she became a young teenager before their very eyes. "Uncle Joseph! Please, I want to go back into research. I'm just not cut out for fieldwork. My first venture into it and Simon suckers me right in. You could have been hurt and I fell for it! When he met me at the airport, I. . . " her voice broke off abruptly as tears began forming in her eyes. She straightened, blinked and became herself. Although she was smiling mischieviously, they noted that her eyes were hard. "Good enough?"

Joe's stunned face was proof of her artistry. Methos began chuckling at the mortal's dazed look. Duncan watched her speculatively and then nodded in agreement. She nodded to her sister.

Diana, her eyes dancing, stood and stretched. Instantly, their eyes went to her, watching the material of her blouse as it tightened across her breasts. All three men, mortal and immortal, responded to the supple, senuous movements. With a studied nonchalance, she shook her hair foreward until it hung messily about her face. Then she changed before their eyes.

Her upper lip disappeared as she began worrying it. Her eyes became huge and frightened as she placed large lensed glasses on her nose. She slumped, her posture bashful, shy. Without saying a word, the confident Immortal appeared to become a young teenager. The way she held her body made her seem unskilled, uncordinated. Her face was no longer held still, it seemed softer, younger, hinting at a soon to blosom beauty. She walked with an uncoordinated slouch that told of a recent growth spurt, one to which she hadn't become accustomed.

"Jailbait." Duncan murmurred as transfixed by the change as Joseph.

"I could have told you they were good at what they do." Methos spoke softly.

"And just what is that?" Duncan's words were touched with awe. He had seen actors with less ability. He blinked as they both resumed their normal stances, Diana draped against Methos and Lethe sitting alertly apart. While one was obviously relaxed, the other was subtly vigilent. It was an interesting juxtaposition. He silently mused at the significance. He knew that he was still missing something about them.

"Corporate espionage, high-tech security investigations." Lethe answered. "People will talk to naive teenagers where they will clam up to normal corporate investigators."

"MacLeod," Diana took over, "we are telling the Watchers that both Joseph's and Abigail's lives were saved by your intervention. Although the Hunters may be curious as to the odd number of Immortals involved, they won't be able to question us or you about it. After all, you are infamous for your unusual number of friends, both mortal and immortal."

"That leaves him vulnerable to their attention." Methos pointed out quietly.

"That is one problem with the plan." She admitted.

"I've survived their attention before."

"I can warn the Watchers I trust to keep their eyes open for renegades." Joe commented.

"NO!" Both women responded rapidly.

"If they're already members of or have been contacted by the Hunters you'll tip our hand. And if they're not, they may interfere and then they'd be hunted. We will not have any mortals killed on our behalf." She shook her head emphatically, her hair skittering across her lap.

"Lethe, it's not your job to protect the world." Methos' voice was bitter, past memories clouding his face. He looked down at the woman at his side, turning his profile towards the others. Peering down his long acquiline nose at her he frowned at the way she tensed.

"It always has been, love, and you well know it!" Diana's voice was arch and so was her look. She began to move away from him, glaring.

"Now it not the time to revive old arguments. Shelve it, please." Lethe's calm voice broke between them. Reflexively, they turned, uniting fronts against her. "We've survived this long, Methos-rai, we'll manage for a while longer. He does have the right to his opinion about your lifestyle, Lele." Both of them glowered silently and shrugged before settling back on the sofa.

"It will be at least two to three weeks before the Hunters move against anyone here in Seacover after the uproar we cause today." she continued smoothly. "That means we need to establish lives here. We'll register at the college as we had previously planned. If we are careful not be in classes together, no one will be able to sense that we are Immortal. MacLeod, may we join your dojo for *self-defense* lessons? Joseph would have arranged them for us if we'd been mortals."

"Yeah, I'd already planned on talking to him about them once you'd arrived." Joe grinned. A sudden thought clouded his face. "Where will you live?"

"Do you mind us staying at your place?" She frowned. "We'd stay out of your way and try to keep from cramping your style. Unfortunately, everyone thinks we're minors and that means we have to stay with our guardian."

"We'll manage somehow." Joe smiled. "Only, I want you to take over cooking breakfast."

"Deal." Both women spoke at once.

"I'm not sure about the college, though. There are too many risks. It would be too easy for someone to grab one of you there." he thought furiously. "We could arrange for you to be tutored at the HQ for a while. It wouldn't surprise anyone, you two are already legendary for your learning skills."

Methos began to laugh. "Joe, anyone who tried to grab one of them had best have a mob with him or else he'll lose a limb. For all that they look young, innocent and fragile, you're facing two of the most dangerous immortals *I've* ever met."

"Come on, Methos, you're exagerating." Joe's voice was smoky with laughter. He could not picture the truth of his friend's words.

"They backed the Horsemen down, Joe. Stratigically, physically and mentally." The ancient Immortal's face was passive as he spoke, his eyes turned inward as he saw the tent walls shake from the desert winds.

"You'll not come here again, Cronos." The soft voice spoke eeriely. Somehow it came from all around them. "You and the Horsemen will not attack our valley."

"Once we're free, we'll hunt you down and skewer you!" Caspian's face was flushed with fury as he struggled with his bonds.

Methos tugged lightly on his ropes. Tight without being constricting, the ropes refused to yeild. He relaxed against the soft rug beneath him. Silk brushed his face as a person glided past him on silent feet. A hand gently touched his brow in passing.

The shadow wore dark bloused trousers and kept disappearing as it walked around the tent. It knelt briefly beside Silas, its hands gently touching his chest and listening to his breathing. It nodded to itself, reassuring him that his friend was all right. Still silent, it dodged Caspian's ineffectual kick. Finally, it stopped beside Cronos.

The leader of the Horsemen glared silently. His face partially hidden behind his webbed paint, the shadow alternately hid and revealed his expression. The shadow leaned down, avoiding his attempt at head butting with ease. Testing the ropes that held the most dangerous Horseman, the shadow backed away, signalling the waiting voice.

"Your word, Cronos. And your vow. Then we'll let you go."

"What makes you believe my word?" he growled bitterly.

"We've watched you. We'll bargain. We pay you to stay away from our people and you let us be. That way we honor our debt to your brother." The voice spoke so silkily, its menace was nearly hidden.

"And if we break it?"

"Then our debt is void and we hunt you down like the monster you are." The voice purred and suddenly the buzz of a powerful Immortal jerked through their awarenesses. "We get to collect four heads and four quickenings for our friend."

"Do you want us to bargain over the terms of the argreement?" Laughter danced briefly in the voice and then it became as cold as steel. "Or do we take your heads now?"

"We bargain. Methos will make the arrangments." Cronos forcibly relaxed his tense muscles.

The shadow moved to Methos' side and drew a knife. With swift movements, it slit rope that was connected to his bonds and stepped away. The knife had been left at his side.

"A sign of good faith." The voice purred. Methos grabbed the cold steel to part the rope at his wrists. "Let the bargaining begin."

 

 

"You had the chance at Cronos' head and let him go?" Duncan's voice was strained with incredulity.

"Twice." She admitted.

Joseph leaned forward, taking in every detail. It was another conversation he'd never be able to record, but he didn't want to miss a single word. The idea that an Immortal had backed Cronos down and then been allowed to live was intriging. He'd have to check his records, there had to be some mention of these two.

"Why didn't you take him?"

"The first time, I let him keep his head for a debt I owed one of his brothers." Her voice was mildly amused as she watched the Highlander's expression change from shock to anger.

"And the second time?"

"Caspian had me in chains and traded my life for Cronos'." Diana answered quietly. "That was the last time we saw him."

"They bargained him into disbanding the Horseman and releasing me as well." Methos growled, defending them.

"No. We bargained with Silas. We threatened Caspian. We simply convinced Cronos that it was time for the Horsemen to disband." Lethe moved, leaning against the wall. Her eyes were curiously flat, watching them. "It's over and done. The past cannot be changed."

Duncan stared at her momentarily, one eyebrow raised in question as he considered her closed expression. HIs eyes flickered over to Diana, whose face was calm and emotionless. He glanced at Methos' sullen expression and then back to Lethe. Her eyes were cold, as cold as the frozen blue skies that had seared his soul in the Himalayas after a blizzard. He wondered briefly what it had cost her to bargain with Cronos. The ice in the blue eyes was testament that the cost had been high. He wasn't sure he liked the thought that she had been scarred enough to produce that much ice.

His upbringing had included protecting women. The look in her eyes promised instant retaliation if he jumped to her defense. There was a curious stillness about her, like the stillness before an earthquake, that warned against any false move. He saw the same emotion flicker in her eyes that often plagued Amanda just before she did something she knew would be regretted.

There was also an edge to her stillness that was absent in Amanda. Even at her best, the younger Immortal didn't have the lethal danger to her eyes. For once, he was glad that Amanda had so often acquired a protector. He needed to defuse the situation before it escalated out of hand.

"Well, Joe, from the sounds of it, they can handle just about anything the Hunters dish out. And if they need any back up, we'll be there." He spoke quietly, breaking the tense silence.

Lethe's head tilted slightly in acknowledgment. Slowly she straightened. "We need to change. If you'll excuse me?"

She walked away, her skirt swirling at her abrupt movements. Joe watched her pass regretfully. She paused for a moment and smiled at him. "I apologize for placing you in the middle of an old dispute."

"For a chance to hear about your history, I'd put up with a lot." The neatly trimmed mustache couldn't hide his smile. His eyes caught hers with dismay as she noted where his gaze had rested.

"I can see that. Thank you." She leaned down and kissed his cheek and contiued walking away.

"Lover, you really know how to pick fights with her, don't you?" Diana's voice was rueful and her face amused. With a single graceful movement she rose and stood, leaning over Methos. Ignoring the other two men, she kept her eyes on his and gently grabbed his chin, lifting his head. Her head dipped low until her mouth touched his.

Her lips brushed his once, twice and then were fiercly grabbed by his. Her hand reflexively gripped his shoulders as his hands grabbed her waist and pulled her towards him. After a moment, they parted, breathless.

"Go, get changed. And remember, from now until this is finished, you are off-limits." Methos' voice was husky, his eyes soft and liquid as his fingers traced her face. The woman in his arms was flushed, her lips wet and swollen. With a sad smile, she leaned foreward and her lips parted over his, her kiss demanding and receiving a hard, hungry response. She pulled away.

"I don't like that part of this. I hate being underage." With a last quick kiss she turned and walked away.

"How long did you say you've known them?" Joe's voice was interested.

Methos shot him a hard look. He glanced at Duncan and met a blank look from the Highlander. "I didn't."

"He won't answer your questions about them Joe." Duncan's voice was cool. "At least, he refused to answer mine."

"All right, all right. I've known them most of their lives. I think they were about three or four when I first met them." Methos' voice was resigned. "Diana and I are close. Lethe is the closest thing I have to a sister. Good enough?"

"No, but it'll do for now." Brown eyes met hazel, unspoken questions brimming. "Why do both the Watchers and the Hunters want them?"

Joe answered quietly. "I can answer that one. Henry's 'daughters' are almost a bit of Watcher myth. About three or four years ago, word got out that they have eidetic memories. Abigail read an old chronicle. It was lost on its way back to France. As a gift to Ian, she reproduced it.

"When it was found again, he discovered that it was a perfect reproduction. That's when they were recruited into the Watchers. Any chronicle they read they can reproduce perfectly. They've salvaged a lot of very old, very badly damaged or decaying chronicles."

"It makes a lot of sense for them to be recruited by the Hunters. The girls read the chronicles and then they can give pertinent information to the Hunters." Methos explained. "Only, neither Lethe ever played by the rules."

"You live, you learn, you survive. You taught us that, Methos." Lethe's voice came from the doorway. The change in her was surprising. Her clothes were plain, a muted brown shirt and skirt. Her long legs were bare, discreetly hidden by the calf lenght skirt. Her hair was pulled away from her face with silver barrettes, hanging loosely down her back. The color of the clothes darkened her hair, muting the highlights. Her walk was loose and gangly, that of a girl, not fully adjusted to her coming maturity. "Sometimes to do that you have to break the rules."

"What about honor?" Duncan asked.

"Your medieval code of honor? Or my people's code of honor?" The startling blue eyes met deep brown ones. "If my being honorable means many innocent mortals die, where is the honor? Is it in the fact that I was honorable? Or is it lost because of the deaths of innocents?"

"If you become what you are fighting, you become your own enemy." His words were soft but his gaze had hardened.

"That is true. So you walk a fine balance. Getting done what is necessary without crossing the line into barbarism." She winced slightly at memory. "And sometimes you regret your choices for a very long time."

"We have work to do." Diana cut in. "If we're going to get our stuff to Joe's and fix his window before 10 we need to get moving."

"Methos, can you make arrangments for the bikes?" Lethe spoke up. "I don't want anything to happen to them. They're collector's items."

He grinned at Duncan. "I have a friend who would love keeping an eye on your Indians. I'll have him pick them up this afternoon."

 

 

 

 

Adam Pierson entered the office first. He carefully checked the office and the ducked out briefly. He re-entered, followed by two young teenagers and Joseph Dawson. The girls shifted nervously until he led them to chairs in front of the big desk. The man behind the desk frowned as he took in the strange tableau.

"Are you going to explain why you demanded this meeting. And who are the girls?" His voice barked roughly. His craggy face matched his voice, both rough and aged. Dark brown eyes glared at them from under bushy grey eyebrows.

"They're my wards, Abigail and Diana Fontaine-Montrose. They're the reason we asked for this meeting." Dawson's voice was tired and soft. His face showed the signs of the rough night.

"I've heard of them, in fact, everyone here has heard of them." The man looked non-plussed. "So why the emergency meeting? And please tell me it is not just to introduce them to me."

"Simon Carides tried to kill me and Abigail last night."

"Sit down, Joseph. This sounds like it'll a long story." The big man's voice was calm, but his face was not. He picked up his phone and dialed his secretary. "Cancel all of my appointments for this morning, I'll be busy for a while. Could you please bring some refreshments for my guests?"

The two teenagers held onto each other, watching him nervously. When his secretary entered the room, they both startled, nearly leaping to their feet. Adam whispered to them, one slim hand gripping their joined hands gently. The big man watched them slowly calm under his attentions. Once Bethany had left, he turned back to the problem before him.

"How are you involved, Peirson?" he asked.

"I've been a friend of these two for a long time. We've been working together on some projects over the internet." The graduate student turned his attention back to them.

"I asked him to help." Dawson interupted.

"Fine, tell me everything. And tell the girls they can get out of that body armor. It has to be uncomfortable for them."

"No!" the color had fled the girls faces. One of them spoke forcefully. Her accent was startling, he'd forgotten where they were from, they looked so much like his own granddaughters. "Its the only reason I'm alive."

"Nothing will happen to you here." the man softened his voice. The blue eyes that met his were soft and lost. The girl's lip trembled and was instantly held still with obvious effort. He turned to Dawson. "I'll guarantee their safety."

"I think Simon's trying to resurrect Horton's Hunters. He tried to get the girls to join him. When they refused, he shot Abigail." The grey-haired man had fully caught his superior's attention. "If MacLeod hadn't interfered, he might have noticed the body armor had protected her."

"I take it your friendship with him has finally paid off." the man knew his voice was bitter. He hated being reminded that Dawson was friendly with his assignment.

"Leave our uncle Joe alone!" Both girls bristled at him. Fury livened their features. Behind them, Pierson covered his mouth as he fought a chuckle. "Simon hurt him and we'll not let you hurt him too."

"Hurt? Joe didn't say..." The older man turned back to the girls for information. "How was he hurt?"

"First he drugged him and then he tried to use a sword on him, and pretend an immortal killed him!" One of the girls was sitting forward, glaring at him. If looks could kill, he'd be sprouting bullet wounds.

"Diana, calm down." Dawson spoke softly, but the girl reacted as if he had yelled. She sat back instantly and bowed her head, meekly, her entire body trembling. "I'm fine, Ben."

"What kinds of drugs?" The thought of using drugs or swords on another Watcher bothered him. What could Simon have been doing, thinking, when he'd attacked them? There was no way that it would go unnoticed.

"Truth serum. He wanted information, lots of it." Dawson's voice was thoughtful, introspective. "Most of the questions were ones I couldn't answer."

"I'll have him brought in immediately." He turned to the girls again. "We will make sure nothing happens to the two of you. Right now, I know things are hard. All of your previous research is in the process of being transferred here. When the two of you are ready to return to the archives, it'll be waiting for you. I'm very sorry this happened on top your recent. . ."

"Thank you." Both girls interupted him before he could mention their parents. He could see the reason for their unusual reputation. Hand in hand, they stared up at him, their eyes bright with unshed tears. There was something not normal in the deeply etched pain he saw there. He remembered the reports of their survival and realized that again an Immortal had saved one of them from a Watcher. He wondered what it was that made them special or it was just coincidence? After all, their parents had also befriended their Immortal assignment. Whichever it was, he'd have to have an eye kept on them.

"This is the list of questions that Simon asked me and the ones he didn't get to before MacLeod interrupted him. He left them behind when he ran. It also has the plans he had for the twins."

"Get them home and keep an eye on them." Ben spoke softly, keeping an eye on the two teenagers whispering quietly to each other. "I'll have Simon picked up and questioned."

Dawson nodded, laying a file down on the desk and stood. The two girls followed him, glancing around them nervously. Pierson smiled faintly and nodded on his way out the door.

They were halfway down the hallway when Simon entered it. He looked at them, his glance skimming the group. He froze. His eyes widened as he realized that both girls were alive. As he heard their piercing screams, he reacted and a hand dove into his coat, pulling out a snub nosed pistol.

"Joseph!" Lethe's voice was sharp. Joe half turned, catching the panic in her tone. A movement danced in the corner of his eye as she launched herself at him. One leg swept his prostethics legs, tumbling him to the floor. As he fell she caught his arms, controlling his fall. His position gave him the best view of the ensuing chaos.

Diana screamed as only a young teen-aged girl could. Heads turned and people began running to office doors. Adam reached for her and missed as she ducked. The sudden loud sound of a baretta rang in the enclosed space. Her head flew back as the first bullet found her torso. The speed and force of the bullets tossed her backwards into Adam's arms. Pain and shock claimed her face. The last bullet creased her forehead and ricocheted off the wall into Adam's side.

Lethe was up and moving fast as the sound of the cylinder hitting empty came down the hall. In her hand was a lethal looking knife. The dead calm on her face warned Dawson of the coming danger. He vaguely remembered Methos telling him that the two women often felt each other's pain and deaths. That meant that Lethe could well be out of control. He tried to pull himself to his feet.

Her vision had narrowed to her target. Simon's pale face stared at her as he dropped the useless pistol. Her hand flickered and the knife caught him as he turned away, trying to run. The back of her head reverberated with Diana's pain. One bullet had penetrated the armor, breaking her ribs and she hurt. The crease on her head had taken her consciousness and that kept her from controlling the pain that passed like lightning between the two of them. She knew she was losing control, but for the moment could care less.

The sound of the knife hitting Simon's side was low, his scream of terror was not. She leapt at him, landing heavily on him, bringing both of them to the floor. Struggling with her rage at her sister's pain, Lethe forced herself not to kill the man.

She began pounding at him with her fists, her blows strong but ineffectual as he protected himself with his arms. She heard others heading for her and inside her head felt Diana's control reasserting itself. With a grim smile, she got her hands past his and grabbed his hair. His eyes met hers as she began beating his head into the tile. He read the barely contained fury and paled. She mercilessly dug her knee into his wounded side, the knife sinking deeper at her movement.

"Let him go, kid." A deep voice was directly behind her. She ignored it as she continued pounding on him. Large hands gripped her arms, forcing her to stop. She shifted her knee, driving the knife further into his side and felt his shudder of pain. His eyes took on a wide shocked expression as the new pain hit him.

"He killed my sister!" She screamed, fighting the grip. Tears raced down her cheeks. More hands grabbed her, forcing her to be still.

"She's alive. The body armor protected her just like it protected you last night." Joseph's voice was soft, entreating her to calmness. With one last shuddering sob, she turned her face to his. At his quiet nod she released the hair between her fingers.

His head dropped and hit the tile with a hard thud. Joseph's lips twitched but he didn't say a word, just spread his arms wide. The man behind her said something and everyone released her, but their hands hovered, waiting for her move. Instantly she bolted right into the waiting arms. His head bent over her ears and whispered so softly she almost missed it, "You did real good. Hell, I almost believed it."

Her silent chuckles shook them both, but the Watchers all around them thought she was still crying. She took a deep breath and turned to face the hallway. Adam crouched beside Diana, a medic beside them. Joseph wrapped his arm around her shoulders and leaning heavily on his cane ushered her down the corridor.

"Are you okay? I took you down pretty hard." she spoke quietly. Her eyes measured his limp and his face critically.

"I'll live. You cushioned my landing." he grinned at her and then frowned. "You're hurt. There's blood all over your leg. When did he get you?"

"It's all his blood." Her voice was cold even to her ears. She glanced back briefly at the fluent curses that came to them from behind them. "It'll take a miracle for him to survive that wound. Maybe if there is a full service medical station here or an ambulance within a minute's arrival."

"What are you talking about?"

The smile she gave Dawson was cold and full of her unvented fury. "Unless I am mistaken, he is currently bleeding to death. When they helpfully removed the knife just now, they did more damage. From the angle that it hit him, it probably sliced through his stomach. Peritonitis is such a nasty thing to die from without even adding all the damage I did by shift the thing." She glanced at the pale man beside her. "He'll never threaten you or Diana again."

"Abby?" Diana's voice was soft and shaking. "Are you okay?"

"Sim. Estoy ben. Como estas, chiquita?" Diana looked shocky as she lay quietly in Adam's arms. A slight movement of his arm bared their bloody sides. They couldn't move in front of the medic who was checking her eyes or they'd have to explain blood without wounds.

"Asutao, quiero retornar na Brasil." Her voice was frail, but her eyes danced as she thought furiously.

"Na, na. We'll stay right here, with Uncle Joseph." She knelt close to them, her blood covered leg against their sides. Her knee firmly held his shirt to the floor. The wounds hadn't bleed much, so she might be able to convince the medic that it all came from Simon, transferred by her. She gathered her sister into her arms, and held her tightly. Under her breath, she whispered her idea. The Akkadian syllables sounded similar enough to the Portuguese they'd been speaking. Adam watched her moves and a knowing look filled his eyes. His raised eyebrow the only comment he made to her rapid speach. Phase one of their plan was complete.

 

 

 

Six weeks later

 

Lethe stretched as she danced down the steps. Around her gaily clad students poured out of the building and joined her race for the freedom. In the back of her head she could feel the gathering murmur of an approaching Immortal and knew that MacLeod was right on time. She turned slightly to see the approach of his Thunderbird, top down to catch the warm fall breeze.

"Abbie, don't forget to study for the test! I'll call you later!" One of her new friends called.

She waved in acknowledgement. As the "youngest" student in the class, she was viewed with amazement for her ability to explain their anthropology text to her study group. It had been a while since she'd attended a university but she found that the past several weeks had been enjoyable. Her only regret was that she had to keep everyone at a distance lest they turn out to be Hunters.

"Good afternoon." MacLeod smiled past his sunglasses at her. He took in her plain clothes that stood out among the student's more colorful attire. "You still look like a lost wren among the flowers."

"So, take me shopping at the mall. Or you could just surprise me with something bright." She paused as she tossed her bag into the back seat and made a moue of her mouth. He frowned at her as she blithely jumped into the seat beside him. "On second thought, that could be dangerous, I think I'll pass. I might end up in a nun's habit of silk."

"Would I do something like that?" his brief smile was contagious and she returned it without thinking. "So how was your day?"

"Interesting. Some of the kids have decided that they need to take us under their wings. They feel that egghead teenagers don't stand a chance on their own." Her brief smile was matched by her escort. In the past weeks the two of them had finally worked out a quiet detante.

The squeal of tires caught their attention. A dark gray van slammed into the front of the Thunderbird. As the front end crumpled, Lethe folded over her seatbelt, hitting the dashboard. Colored lights flashed across her vision as pain blosomed sharply from the impact. She dimly felt MacLeod fumble with her seatbelt as he tried to get her out of the car. The report of a gun almost drowned his cry of pain. She shook her head, forcing her eyes to focus. The blurred figure of a man grabbed her and pulled her away from the car and the Highlander. Reacting blindly, she stiff armed him, breaking his grip. Her balance was off as she tried to keep the other men off them.

From the distance she heard cries of outrage from her fellow students. Even as she thought they might be able to help, arms closed around her from behind. Headbutting the man earned her a rough shake. A chemical smelling cloth was pressed to her face. She struggled to hold her breath only to receive a heavy fist to her gut. Her lungs emptied with an explosive whoosh. Before she could stop herself, she reflexively gulped for air to replace that which she'd lost. Dimly she mourned the fact that Immortality did not make a person immune to drugs as she slipped into unconsciousness.

Within moments, both Immortals were bundled into the gray vans and they were gone. Behind them, students and professors stood in shock at the violence they had just witnessed. Several of the more level-headed were busy talking on cellular phones, calling in the license plate of the van.

 

 

"What the Hell did you think you were playing at Joe?" Ritchie raged. "Duncan may be good at being an Immortal, but at playing bodyguard? Come on, you know he's not up to handling the thugs you find on the street! You should have come to me."

"He wasn't her bodyguard. He was just picking her up from class for me. I was running late today." Joe was yelling right back. "Do you think I set him up?"

"He's not thinking at all." The calm voice of the ancient Immortal was cruel. "If neither of you can stay calm enough to help us find them, both of you need to shut up."

The still figure coiled on the floor beside him stirred. Blue eyes, lined with fatigue opened and focused far away. "She's awake. I can't make out any impressions. She must be fairly heavily drugged. It's no use, I can't locate her right now."

"Can you give us a direction?" Methos' voice was husky, his face pinched with worry. "Can you tell if Duncan's still alive and with her?"

She focused, leaning back against his leg. His hand unconsciously crept to her shoulder, curling about her neck and supporting her head. After a long pause, she shook her head. "No. She can't project anything except that she's out there. I can't get anything specific from her. She seems to be north of us."

"What is this, some kind of psychic game? If the Hunters have Mac, why would they want a girl?" Ritchie's voice was confused and angry.

"Ritchie, my god-daughter is more important to the Hunters than Duncan MacLeod." Joe sounded resigned. "If they can make her talk, they can access every living Immortal known to the Watchers."

"What?" Disbelief crossed the young Immortal's face.

"She has a photographic memory and has been working in the archives for the past six years." Methos glanced down at the tense body leaning against him. "If they can get her to talk, the Hunters will know how to get at all of us without going through Watcher files for the information."

"How could she get that much power?"

"It wasn't power she wanted. My sister started out simply helping repair and catalog old chronicles. Then she helped with the binding of newer chronicles. The next thing anyone knew, she could quote any of them verbatim." The long hours between Lethe and MacLeod's kidnapping and this meeting showed plainly on her face. Her eyes reflected her weariness. Only the presence of the Immortal beside her kept the young man from realizing that she was more than she seemed. She sighed. "Our plans seem to have back fired, adon."

"We'll get her back." Methos rubbed her shoulders gently.

 

 

 

Cold was burning her feet. She jerked awake. The dim light didn't give her much of a view of her surroundings. When she moved, chains clinked softly. Tethered by her ankle to the wall with prison chains, it reminded her of the inquistion.

She was not amused by the memory. She rubbed her head, remembering the dull ache from the accident. She sniffed at the air, noting the musty wetness of mold and rancid water. She moved cautiously, reaching the end of her chain and peering at the door. Nowhere did she sense the Highlander's presence. Her thoughts turned inward. No there was no new quickening, so they hadn't beheaded him in her presence. She wondered what had happened after she'd been drugged. From the distance came footsteps.

They approached slowly, several men from the sound she heard. Voices joined the footsteps. Three disctinct ones that she carefully added to memory. Another voice was possible, but it was too quiet to make out at this distance. She closed her eyes and tried to reach Diana, but the combination of the drugs and the distance baffled her abilities. She began to feel the first splinters of fear and doubt creep into her consciousness. Firmly she pushed them away, refusing to acknowledge the tremor running up her back.

"I see you're awake." the voice was rich and mellow. It's accent was smooth and polished, cultured. "I apologize for the inconvenience and the fear we must have caused, but it was the only way to get past your protectors."

"Who are you?" her voice cracked with cold and dryness.

"Unchain her and bring her to the other room." The dim figure turned away as two of his underlings entered her chamber.

They were firm but gentle. They quickly unchained her ankles and lifted her to her feet. When she wobbled, trying to become steady, they gripped her arms softly and kept her from falling. Once she was firmly standing, they led her out the door and down the hallway. Never did they face her or release her arms. As they approached a brightly lit doorway, the Highlander's presence loomed in her senses. She didn't falter or stumble but only because she had almost expected the jolt.

The brightly lit room was large, painted a stark, unrelieved white that hurt the eyes. She easily recognised the man chained spread-eagle to the wall. Along another wall, steel and glass fixtures made an eerie display. In the cases were instruments she recognised from earlier centuries as well as grisly trophies. She shuddered and turned her face away.

Against the third wall was a chair, restraints and a pair of IV stands. A free standing light faced the chair, as did a table and chair. The top of the table held steno pads, writing instruments, a tape recorder and several tapes. Two video cameras also faced the chair, their purpose ominously clear.

The man was sitting, calmly waiting for her in a cushioned armchair in the middle of the room. He waved the men away and she was released. They stepped back and she heard the door close. From the sound of their breathing she knew they were inside the room. She stepped meekly forward.

"Why?" she asked, her voice still cracked and hoarse.

"Dawson and Pierson had you too well covered, Abigail. There was no way for me to get to talk to you." The man motioned her towards him. She froze like a scared rabbit, even her breathing slowing, hiding from him. "After what that renegade, Carsides, did, I knew that getting close to you would be hard, but I didn't quite expect it to be this hard."

His voice was gentle and soft. The lack of discernable accent intrigued her. For a brief moment she considered the lure. The stark lighting and the arrangement of the room placed him in the one area that seemed safe. His words, the cadence of his speech, the tone of voice...he was trying to hypnotize her. Inside her mind, walls and defenses came alive. Her eyes avoided his as she slowly turned to face the man on the wall.

"What have you done to him? He's my friend."

"He's an Immortal, he cannot be your friend because of what he is, child." The voice coaxed, urging her to turn around. "As long as he has his head, he'll always be fine. As observers, we rarely get a chance to really examine an Immortal. This will be our chance."

"What do you want from me?"

"Quote me the chronicles. All of them."

"No. I cannot." her words were soft, but firm. MacLeod openned his eyes and looked at her wearily.

"If you don't your friend will suffer." There was steel in the voice now. "Come over here and tell me about the chronicles."

She ignored his command and stepped closer to the pale immortal. Icy hands grabbed her arms. Instantly she whirled, forcing the man to the floor with a vicious kick to the knee. Her free hand dipped into his jacket and withdrew his weapon. She drew it level with his chest and froze.

A sword rested on Macleod's exposed throat. His eyes met hers and he deliberately leaned forward. The sword withdrew and a man's fist slammed into his jaw. His head hit the wall hard. The hand then grabbed his hair, pulling his head back and exposing the throat again. The bleak look in the immortal's eyes burned her. With a gentle sigh she glanced at the man under her pistol and reversed the grips, returning it to him. His punch caught her chin, lifting her and tossing her to the floor.

The man towered over her, glaring hostilely. He motioned her to stand with the pistol. She gingerly returned to her feet, one hand holding her jaw. She moved it and carefully felt the bruise. As she slowly stepped forward, he grabbed the nape of her neck. She wimpered softly as his fingers tangled painfully in her hair.

"That was not a smart thing to do child." The steel in the leader's voice was icy. "I would prefer your cooperation, but it really is not necessary. Do you understand me?"

She stood on her toes, trying to relieve the pressure of the hand digging into her neck. Tears of pain began to form in her eyes. Mentally she began closing herself off from her body. If she could just hold on long enough, Diana would locate her presence. A part of her wondered how long she would last.

Coming to a regretful decision, her eyes flickered to the man on the wall. She worried her lip as she stared at the man in front of her. She committed his face, his stance, his voice, even the scent of his aftershave to memory. She wouldn't betray the hidden ones. She had to let him die if necessary. And his death would mean her own as soon as the Hunters realized that she was Immortal. She spoke softly. "I won't do it. I cannot give in to your demands."

"Tie her to the chair, Matthew." The man stood and walked over to MacLeod. "How does it feel to know that she just signed your death warrant?"

"I knew you would eventually kill me no matter what she did." His voice was calm. Only his eyes reflected the bitter knowledge of his fate. "Go ahead, take my head."

"Oh, no, we won't do that. We'll just kill you and let her watch."

At the first cut of the blade, both Immortals screamed. As the blood ran down his side, she vomited all over the men trying to hold her down. When he finally passed out from the pain, he still heard the woman's screams as she fought against her restraints.

The sudden jarring awakening of an Immortal waded past her drugged senses. She tried to roll her head back but was too restrained to move. Finally she gave up and slowly opened her eyes. Across the room she met the painfilled eyes. She thought of the rich, dark chocolate color they should be as she watched them become fully aware of their situation.

He straightened, taking in the equipment hooked to her body. The barely restrained fury in his face was like a slap, reminding her groggy mind of how she had misjudged the Hunters. IV tubes ran into both of her arms. Multiple restraints held her firmly immobile. Electrodes were clamped to her temples, throat, wrists and chest. One of the men was carefully studying the electronic readouts, while another prepared the recording devices. The third man measured her pupil response and nodded to the others.

"What is your name?" The leader's voice was calm again, soft and gentle as he questioned her.

"Abigail Fontaine-Montrose." her voice was cracked and broken from her screams. The immortal on the wall winced as her heard it.

"How old are you?"

"I don't know."

"What do you mean?" the man leaned closer.

"What is today?"

"The seventh."

"I'm sixteen in three days." her voice slurred. Inside her brain whirled answers, too many answers for the questions being asked. Deep in her subconscious alarms were sounding, dropping her metabolism further. "Maybe."

"Let her alone." MacLeod called out hoarsely. The man standing near him backhanded him roughly.

"Tell me about the Chronicles."

"Okay. Ab futurum . . ." her words rolled out in fluent Latin.

The men around her watched and listened, trying to understand her accent and slang. Her words rolled out faster and faster, getting more and more slurred. The stenographer set his pen down in frustration and looked at the few words he'd been able to write. The men were anxious for her information but could not understand the words.

"In English." Finally, the leader barked at her. At his words she paused and then began again in Latin.

"Her pulse and respiration are dropping." the medic looked worried.

"Stabilize her."

"Yes, sir." He administered more drugs. Her voice ceased altogether. After a moments, he nodded, satisfied.

Every question they posed to her brought more foreign languages to her lips. Her efforts to refuse answering their questions made them increase the dosage of her drugs. The Immortal watched as she groggily dodged their questions and kept her secrets hidden.

He knew that they were far from the original plan and wondered how long either of them would last. The memory of the knife cutting through his flesh and the burrowing fingers in the wound made him tense. When they figured out that she was immortal, the kid gloves they'd used so far would come off. Sooner or later she would yeild and then the Hunters would get all of her memorized history.

 

 

"Translate the oldest chronicle you've memorized."

She hesitated, and then for the first time in hours spoke in in English, her voice faint and rasping. Her eyes closed as her head sagged within its restraints. "Methos led us to the Tombs today. I know from legend that these tombs have been cursed by the gods themselves.

"In the past century that we have protected the mountain, no one has gotten past the first challenge. It has taken three long ... to reach this mountain. Somewhere near here is the place where they say Immortals first learned the Law. Methos is no longer speaking to anyone. Except for the words of power which he gave the guardian of the pass, he has been silent since the beginning of the quest.

"The guardian was fierce and silent. A fleshly copy of the statues that line the entrance, she appeared behind him and laid her sword on his neck. The Immortal stopped and spoke words that I could not hear. Immediately another statue came to life and another.

"One guardian approached us, flail and dagger flashing like the sun. Methos spoke one word, a word which I could not hear or understand and the guardian stopped. Then the guardians vanished, as if they had never been. Only their stone statues remained. Methos told us to touch nothing here, lest we die. "Inside the gates was a mosaic floor and on the floor was the symbol of our organization. Inside were beings of a kind I have never seen. Their faces were covered to protect us from the their heavenly beauty, but their perfect forms were bare or clothed in rich samite.

"The lust for the form of one of the godlings came upon Nasirim and he grabbed the passing form of one of the young gods. The cry of the young god roused the entire valley. The guardians of the valley struck him from the their positions in the walls and his body never struck the ground. The child god was taken back by the godlings and we were banished from the valley.

"Before we left the valley, one of the guardians touched Andros' heart and was promised that he would be brought back to this shore after his death. Methos was given the talisman for which he sought and now I follow him into Babylon."

She stopped, breathless. MacLeod watched as a man blotted away the fine sweat the hot lights had formed on her body. Lethe's body tensed and the quivered. A small light began flashing on one of the consoles. It was followed by a shrill electronic noise. The medic raced from his equipment to her side. Within moments the IV bags were removed and replaced with another solution. After several tense minutes the alarm was silenced.

"Sir, we cannot continue questioning her. She has been given too much already and any more of the drug could kill her." he spoke softly. "There are other methods which can get the information."

"When can she go again?"

"With our current equipment? Under the drugs no sooner than 48 hours but it would be better if it were 72 hours. Under conventional methods, 24 - 48 hours. Psychological methods, she'll be sober enough for them tomorrow."

"Put them back in their cells."

"Sir, the cell she's in occassionally floods. They can be chained separately in the larger cell." One of the men spoke up.

"No. We don't want the abomination to get to speak to her. If you need to, chain her to the wall in here. We don't want her getting too comfortable." The man stood to leave. "Take good care of them both. I'm looking forward to finding out what the limits are to the immortal's healing gift."

After the big man left, the other men slowly began to release Lethe from the chair. The muttered words that he could hear made him tense. They left her there to approach him.

"If you give us any trouble, we'll take it out on Abigail." His personal guard advised. "Any trouble at all. Do you understand?"

"You would rather take it out on a defenseless girl than take your chances that I could fight you off." He growled, earning another blow.

"We can always take your head and claim self-defense."

MacLeod clenched his jaw and turned over his options rapidly. He was facing four men, all of them brawlers. He was chained. Lethe was too drugged to fight them. He allowed himself to sag in the chains and nodded his acquiesence.

She sat limply, trying to pull herself together. She knew that now was the time to act. Her movements were blurred to her eyes. The drugs in her bloodstream were far more powerful than she had hoped they would be. She tasted cooper and bile and something else in her mouth and knew it was time to move. One move blending into another she called up a long memorized kata. The medic didn't stand a chance and fell to the floor.

She let the smooth fluid steps of the dance take her body to the table. There she grabbed a knife, covered with dried blood from the now unchained immortal. It was badly weighted but very sharp. Her eyes met his and she smiled. His slight shake of the head brought laughter to her throat. She bit her tongue to silence herself.

The knife point entered the back of the man in front of her. Angled up and laying flat it bypassed his ribs, slicing through lungs and heart. As she withdrew it from him, blood flooded over her hand. The corpse fell forward, hitting the men in front of it. They turned with looks of horror.

The Immortal kicked out at the man nearest him. The man fell towards her. Her knife lashed out, gashing his face as he ducked. She leapt past him to MacLeod's side. He took in the blood seeping from her lip and the blood on her hands and whinced. His eyes reflected her madness back to her. Then they began fighting in ernest.

The immortal at her side moved rapidly and smoothly, blocking and attacking. The mortals flowed around them, trying to get blows in without getting close to her blade. The movements of fight reminded her of a dance. She shook her head dizzily and forced herself to stay near the immortal.

She remembered that she had to stay with him. The sound of a rifle load being chambered whirled her around. The medic fired and she felt the projectile pass her arm. Behind her came a pained grunt. She turned her head to see a tranquilizer dart embedded in his side. The big man fell. She caught his weight and crumpled under his weight.

"Go! Run Abigail!" MacLeod whispered into her neck as they landed.

"No. I can't leave you!" Her voice was still painful. She watched the men approach, stroking his forhead. His eyes closed. She rolled him to the floor and stood, swaying.

"Easy, girl." The medic's word were soft. His eyes measured hers, counting on the effects of the drugs running through her system. He had laid the weapon down, approaching cautiously. The other three men backed away at his motions. "We won't hurt him. Listen to me, it's all a misunderstanding."

She crouched above MacLeod's body, shaking her head. Away, they needed to get away. She couldn't lift him. She couldn't leave him here either, they might take his head. Her mind ran in circles. She pointed her knife at the medic. He froze. She reached out for her sister's presence and called frantically.

Arms wrapped around her, pinning them in place. The knife was pried from her fingers. She tossed her head back, another hand grabbed it, holding her still. She barely felt the prick of the needle.

 

"Lethe!" Diana jolted from the couch. Her eyes were unseeing, focused on the picture forming in her mind. She crouched, arm outstretched, holding an invisible weapon.

"NO! Don't touch her!"

She heard Methos' voice, but he wasn't there. She knew he wasn't. She had to figure a way to get them out of their prison. Her thoughts kept running away. Where was she? Why was MacLeod laying at her feet? Hands grabbed her shoulders.

Mortal hands! She turned, barely conscious. Her hand rose, forming a knife edge, preparing to strike. She was grabbed from behind and tossed to the ground. Immortal flesh tingled against hers. An immortal was fighting her! Her eyes closed and she went into an attack. After getting a blow in on the immortal she danced away. She listened for his movements and breathing, distinguishing two immortals and one mortal. Where was MacLeod? Where were the other mortals? She opened her eyes in confusion.

She saw the underground room. Arms held her/them down, controlling the arching convulsions of her/their body. Faces peered down at her, mortal faces. MacLeod was close to her/them, unconscious and heavily bound. The medic's face approached, his eyes staring into her eyes. She forced her/their teeth to clamp down on the hand trying to pry her/their mouth open. Silent words poured from his open mouth. She tried to read his lips.

"She's reacting to the mix of drugs! Get me my kit, fast!" Another needle was slid into her arm. Everything went black. She could feel the abuse that had been poured out upon her/their body. Bruises were forming sluggishly from hard grips, manacles and blows. Two ribs ached, not even beginning to heal. Her/their metabolism was low, far too low for any normal healings. The combination of drugs was bringing it even lower. Too much of this and it would kill even her/their immortal body.

Then the Hunters would definitely know what she was. She tried to raise it, but found herself helpless to do anything. It wasn't her body and she couldn't control it like she could her own.

She opened her eyes to see bright blue eyes and red-blond curls. The pale face backed away rapidly. It was replaced by a more familiar face. Methos pulled her into his arms and rocked her as she cried out her anger and fear.

"She's overdosing on the drugs they used. I can't reach her anymore." Her voice was soft as she spoke into his shoulder. "Duncan's alive but unconscious and heavily tied down. They're in an underground complex. It's cold and damp but heavily fortified. It's stocked like one of the war playrooms of Mengele. She heard them mention that it floods regularly when it rains."

"Where is it?"

"She didn't see. She unconscious when they brought her in."

"Will they see her die?"

"Probably not. The medic is fairly competent. He might just save her life. Especially if we help. Adon, mejai." She stood, turning away from him. "Please, I'll lose it if she dies."

"Under these conditions it's dangerous."

"If I can't force her metabolism to speed up, she dies! It's worth the risk." Her face set in a grimace. "One of the drugs they gave her is affecting me, too. That means I can affect her. But it has to be now."

"Not here. We'd do too much damage." Methos turned to Ritchie. "We'll need the key to the dojo and your bike. Take my jeep and meet us there."

Ritchie handed over the keys without question at the terse commands. He wasn't really sure what was going on, but he knew enough to know that this was not the time to ask. Methos and the girl raced out the door before he could even think of any to ask. He turned to Dawson, jingling the other man's key ring.

"Want a ride?"

"Sure."

 

 

The lights were on when they arrived. The door unlocked and wide open. They could hear the clash of blades and grunts of effort as the two inside dueled. Both men stepped inside and froze at the sight that met them.

Diana was diving off one of the weight machines, avoiding Methos' sword by inches. The ancient immortal was attacking her with a sword in one hand and a long-bladed knife in the other. The girl held a sword in each hand, tucking them out of her way as she rolled. She spun, one sword going high to be deflected by Methos' blade. The second sword lashed out low, glanced off his knife and slid across his arm. The wound began to bleed freely, sparking with his Quickening.

"Shit!" Methos' was breathing hard. He danced backwards. The silent woman stepped back and tossed one sword on a pile of mats. Both of her hands cradled the hilt of her sword. He began talking quickly. "Lethe, mejai. Snap out of it. You really don't want to try for my head. It's just the reaction to the connection."

She snarled, her lips curling viciously. Methos back-pedaled furiously to get out of range of her attack. She thrust and twisted her sword tip, catching the knife and tossing it across the dojo floor. She swept the sword forward, forming a block across her body. Methos attacked warily.

"She won't really take his head, will she Joe?" Ritchie's voice was quiet. "I mean, she's mortal, isn't she?"

"I don't think she would, kid. They go way back." Joe's answer was just as quiet.

A sudden flury of sparks caught their attention. Diana was attacking again, driving Methos back with the speed of her blows. She ended with her sword at his neck, held at bay by his block. His eyes were wide as he measured the growing madness in hers.

"Fight it, love. Don't give in to the fury." He pleaded. If she didn't let up soon he'd have to hurt her to stop her and that could well kill both women. "Mejai, you can do it. Just listen to my voice and come back. Please."

The second sword hit the floor as she fought the impulses flooding her system. The link between them was getting stronger. She felt her heart begin to race and the accompanying jolt that hit her sister. The muted fury that was her sister hit her harder. She crouched, hands coming to her head as she fought the pain. She sensed the coming blow and rolled away.

"Adam!" Ritchie cried out as he watched the older Immortal attack the crouching woman. He and Joe froze as she exploded into action. The pure fury of her moves shocked them both. They watched as Methos backed away.

"Ritchie! Get the swords and my knife out of here. Fast!" the man yelled. He barely was able to keep the blows from hitting their targets. Her blow were fast and vicious as she vented the emotions racing through her body.

Her moves were smooth and even. Every one flowed into the next. She was focused on Methos. He could keep up with her for now. She felt the changes within herself as the adrenaline flow stimulated Lethe's. She felt the power of Methos' quickening as well as her own. Close behind that was the feel of the young Immortal who was carefully removing all the swords from the area. She returned her attention to her opponent. Just when she thought there was a chance, the connection snapped. She dropped like a puppet without strings.

 

 

"Hand me that vial, quickly." the voice rang in her head. It was rapidly followed by a needle being inserted below her sterum. "Damn, she's not responding. Give me that one, too."

Another needle. She thought about the sensation. Distantly she noted that all of the men surrounding her were mortals. The only Immortal near her was MacLeod and he was tied down. She heard the sound of racing footsteps as more people came in the room. A jolt hit her system as another needle was applied. She decided that dying by drug overdose was not fun. Her arm was burning. So was her chest. Someone was slapping her face. She opened her eyes, dazedly.

"Come on, sweetheart." The medic leaned close to her, peering at her eyes.

Silent rage at what they'd done to her flared in her eyes. He backed away slightly. She saw a hand holding up an IV bag. The medic approached again, laid his fingers on her neck and cursed again. Yet another needle in her arm. She felt her heart skip a beat, then skip two. Cardiac arrest was coming, she saw it in his face.

"Try this." A commanding voice from above her. A new face appeared. The man wore hospital scrubs. "Someone hold down her arm!"

She watched as a large needle was carefully inserted in her vein. The fire in her arm became a raging wildfire. A moment later, she felt her twin's adrenaline rush hit her through their shared connection. The pain was incredible. It stripped her of her carefully acquired civility and beyond. The fury she'd held back so carefully was freed as the drugs broke past all of her restraints.

Duncan woke to find someone petting his face. He opened his eyes slowly. Saphire blue eyes stared at him. Her face was nearly touching his as she slowly stroked his jaw. The eyes caught his and he nearly recoiled in horror. Her eyes were blank. Fully dilated, there was no consciousness in them at all. They studied him frankly, with no sense of understanding. They had done something and broken her, the shell he was looking at was no longer Lethe. She finally stood and walked away.

The remains of her clothes were coated in blood. What had been a white blouse was now dull rust colored shreds. The skin that he could see was also covered in dried blood. The scent of the room was a mixture of cordite, blood and chemicals. He gagged and she whirled, bringing up a pistol. She stared at him and lowered it before turning away again. She walked away, heading back toward the cabinets. He heard the crash of broken glass and wondered what she'd broken.

A pile of bodies lay next to the door. He counted eight and shuddered. As he watched the door slowly began to open. The muzzle of a veternary rifle slipped through the openning. It was followed by a silent, grim faced mortal. The man looked around, taking in the chains holding him down and dismissed him. He was looking for Lethe and couldn't find her.

Suddenly, she shrieked and bounded past his vision, coming from a different direction than expected. One hand grabbed the rifle, pushing it away from him. The other whipped a knife across the man's face and then his neck. The door slammed shut as she raced for it. The Hunter fell gurgling to the ground. She ignored him and studied the door, trying to get it open. Above her a video camera blinked at the doorway, its motor jammed so it could not move from its position. She bared her teeth at it and growled before turning to the body.

She picked up the rifle and carefully carried it to the pile of weapons she had made. It was just beyond his reach. When he thought about crawling to it she looked up. Her lips curled away from her teeth in a snarl. He froze and watched her as she slowly dragged it farther from him.

He experimented and discovered that she had no objection to his sitting up. He was not allowed to move from his space on the floor. Any attempts to move in any direction were firmly curbed. Her mad, drug crazed eyes would peer at him and the knife would be brandished threateningly. She knocked his feet out from under him the one time he attempted to stand. He settled down for a long wait.

She paced incessantly through the hours. Back and forth in front of the door. Occassionally she would dart over to the cabinets and he'd hear the sound of more breaking glass. Most of what she found was left there. She had found another knife and gently, almost revently cradled it in her hands as she carried it to the corner to place in her stockpile.

Twice more Hunters tried to enter the room, only to find her waiting. The first she simply shot the moment he was inside the door. The calmness she displayed as she striped his body and removed all of his weapons was eerie. She laid one of his knives just outside his reach and then kicked it lightly, so that it stopped just touching his hand.

The second man actually managed to hit her with a tranquilizer dart before she reached him. After ripping open his throat, she paused and peered at the dart. Casually she plucked it from her arm and scored the wound with her blood encrusted knife. Once it was bleeding freely she ignored it to return to her search of the cabinets. Her wound crackled with blue lightning as it healed.

He heard another crash and then an odd choked sound. He tried to peer over his shoulder but couldn't see what had happened. Suddenly, she appeared in front of him. She knelt down to his level. In her hand was a rosary. He stared hard at the worn wooden beads, his face going pale as he recognized them. Tears were streaming down her face. Her voice startled him as she began reciting the rosary.

The memory of Darius reciting the Latin words echoed in his ears. The sight of his fingers counting the beads burned in his memory. Tears filled his eyes as he joined her, his Latin rusty from disuse, hers fluent and oddly accented to his ears.

Her eyes held the edge of sanity, the edginess of the drugs wearing off. Her eyes met his, haunted by a sense of loss that he could feel like a punch. Another memory echoed in his mind.

"They're beautiful. Where did they come from?" the young Immortal asked. The beads in his hands glowed in the firelight. Each bead was carved differently. One was was a rose about to bloom, another a filigree oval. No two were quite alike. Even the woods they were made of were different. Sandalwood, beech, oak, cherry, apple, cedar, and more that he could not identify. The crucifix was a small masterpiece in itself, carved with intricate details.

"A friend made it for me. To commemorate my becoming a monk. It's the only thing I've kept with me." The old Immortal's face was pensive, his eyes distant. "Every bead is a prayer for my safety within the church. If I ever change my mind this would bring a sword and protection until I was able to fight again. I may once have had my doubts, but now I know I never will use it for that purpose."

"Now it's just a rosary?"

"It's a promise that neither of us can break."

 

"Darius was a great man." he whispered softly, understanding dawning in his eyes. The look that had been in his old friend's eyes was mirrored in hers. He watched as the madness fled her eyes.

At the name her head turned briefly towards the bodies. Her body began to shudder softly. She looked at him without fully comprehending his words. Her lips moved and she breathed, "Darius, mortus est."

"Darius. . ." her fingers closed his lips, blocking his words.

She kicked the knife away from him and tossed hers away. She then turned away from him and went to the pile of bodies. Methodically she searched them all. Tears continued to run down her face as she looked for and found a set of keys.

Her movements toward him were slow and gentle. The keys were held carefully, so that he could see them as she approached. Keeping her eyes on him she crouched at his feet and unlocked the manacles. Watching him for a reaction, she nervously unlocked the ones confining his wrists and the belt at his waist. As the chains fell to the ground she backed away. He sat stiffly watching the tear streaked face. Then he opened his arms and waited.

Her move was sudden and very smooth. Without telegraphing her intentions, she launched herself at him. Before he could do more than coil his muscles, she was settling softly at his chest. For all her speed, the control of her movements was unsettling. He wrapped his arms around her as she sobbed the remnants of the drug and adreline from her system. He rocked her silently, cradling her until she finally fell asleep. When the rosary fell from her hand, he picked it up and tucked it into his pocket.

 

"Ritchie, I want you to watch over her." Methos' words were soft. His face was tense. "When she wakes up, call me. No matter what, don't let her leave!"

"And how am I to stop her, Adam? I don't want to hurt her." The young Immortal looked at the woman resting on MacLeod's sofa. The faint buzz on his senses was unnerving. It flared and faded unpredictably, causing him to continually turn to look at her. "How does a preimmortal know about Immortals? I thought that was never told to them."

"I'll explain later. Please, just trust me." He sighed and looked out the window. His gaze was far away, tracing memories from the past. he knew there had to be a was to way to find the missing Immortals before the Hunters killed them. A cellular phone rang. He turned, looking at Dawson.

"Hey, it's not mine." The mortal spread his hands with a frown.

"Diana's coat!" Methos raced for the coat. Searching rapidly he pulled out several cellular phones. Finally finding the ringing phone, he answered. "Lethe ne zdes. Poshli otvichats?"

"Kto vi?" the man on the other line answered after a moment's deliberation.

"Methos." he spoke softly, but both Joe and Ritchie heard and stared at him in shock. He shrugged at them.

"Give me your id."

"I'm the original. There is no id." His voice was cold and hard. "If you want any more information, you'll have to come here."

"Where's the boss lady?"

"Out."

"Tell them Mel called. There's a problem."

"What kind of problem?"

"Our source in the Hunters is dead. He was killed trying to locate your missing friends."

"Did you get any information on them?"

"Tell the ladies to call." The line went dead.

He looked at the other men. "Diana's source just dried up. Unless the Hunter's make a mistake or Duncan and Abigail escape, we're out of options. When she wakes up, we have to force the link between them back. If they haven't already killed them."

"What made her pass out?" Joe's voice was harsh, his face lined.

"I don't know. I've seen them find each other in a blizzard with one down and out. I've never seen a reaction like the one we just saw."

 

 

 

Lethe stirred in his arms. The small whimper she made as she stretched brought his attention back to her. Her face was pale and smudged, heavy black circles under her bright eyes. She winced as the light hit them and looked at him through slitted lids.

"MacLeod?" Her voice was groggy. She shook her head and froze.

"How are you feeling?" he kept his voice soft, knowing her head had to be pounding. The shudder the swept through her body shook him.

"I feel like dirt under the highway. What did they give me?" Her voice was a mere whisper.

"If I had to guess, I'd say the wrong thing. What do you remember?" His eyes bored into hers as she watched him speak.

"The man with the red hair was putting manacles on you to lead you out to the cells. Then just bits and pieces. Who's Ritchie?"

"What? When did you meet Ritchie?" His voice and face reflected his surprise. To his knowledge they had yet to meet.

"I don't know. He was just yelling at us about endangering you. . ." her eyes widened and then closed. Her face closed in on itself, tensing and hardening. Shudders racked her body, shaking the two of them with their force. "Ashta! No! Please tell me I didn't do what I think I did."

"Abigail, look at me." MacLeod pulled her up, pressing her harder into his chest. With one hand, he tilted her head back, their faces nearly touching. "It was the drugs, not you. Come on, look at me."

Slowly her eyes opened. Still slightly dilated from the remnants of the drugs coursing through her system, they looked lost. She stared at his face, reading what she had become and what she'd done. His face was sad, mourning the violence she'd displayed. Traces of anguish shaded his eyes as he tried to assume her guilt. She dug her nails into his arm and tried to draw away. He tightened his grip, refusing to allow her to look and see what the destruction.

"You don't want to look. The drugs may not have taken all of the memories, but you don't need to make new ones either. Don't move, just relax, let the rest of the drugs work their way out. It'll be all right." He murmurred, keeping her eyes pinned with his.

She nodded, closed her eyes and turned to bury her face in his throat. His hand stroked her hair, keeping her still and quiet. His eyes were blank and full of unshed tears as he looked at the door. Standing there were men holding rifles pointed at them. Behind them stood men carrying machetes and long heavy bladed knives. One of them beckoned him. He stood slowly, cradling her body to his. She stirred slightly but relaxed at his quiet murmur.

The men warily led him out the metal door. The corridor was lined with armed men, ready for any move on their parts. They wanted vengance for their friends, but were orders to bring them unharmed. Their leader waited for them impatiently.

"If I hadn't seen the tapes, I would never believe that such a child could do so much damage." He spoke with a mild amusement. The loss of his men didn't seem to be bothering him. "Your lessons paid off, Highlander."

"What did you give her?" MacLeod replied coldly. The limp body in his arms stirred slightly.

"She killed the only men who could have answered that question. Put her down."

The Scot looked over the cold, damp cell. A small trickle of water coiled through the lower end of it. The walls were scarred with the marks of past floods. He turned towards the man.

"Put her in there. If you don't we shoot both of you and then behead you."

The smile on his face was cold. Behind him several men cocked their shotguns. MacLeod entered the cell and went down the steps. Coming to the far wall, he gently laid her on the floor. Alive, they had a chance. Dead, his Quickening would race to her and then she would lose her head too.

 

 

Cold was numbing her legs. Her toes had disappeared long ago. Stabbing pain pulsed through her thighs. Even if she curled in a ball, she wouldn't hold onto her body heat. Since she couldn't curl up, it was escaping like the vanishing mists under the morning sun.

She silently marvelled at her mental picture. Her mind drew upon the remembered warmth of the sun. She shivered convulsively, slipping under the cold water. With a gasp, she wrapped her fingers in the chains and pulled herself above the water.

The water wasn't deep, barely running ten inches at its deepest, but it was cold. Bitterly cold, it stole her body heat faster than she could produce it. The iron chains on her legs were attatched to the far wall, near the deepest water. The chain at her wrist kept her prone, barely able to keep her head above the water. Soon, hypothermia would claim her aching body and she wouldn't be able to wake herself. Drowning was easier when extreme cold was involved but she still wanted to avoid it.

Her head bobbed under water again. She raised it defiantly, shaking with muffled fury. The buzz of an approaching Immortal snapped her to full consciousness. It was strong, grabbing her attention, bringing all of her survival traits to the fore. Her heart sped up and muscle groups began quivering, trying to regain their warmth and flexibility. She tugged futilely at the chains, scraping her wrists in the process. They healed rapidly, the pale blue tracery of her Quickening covered by the murky waters.

With a wrenching moan the door to her cell opened. Several men entered dragging a man between them. She watched as the Immortal shook with fury upon seeing her. Her head dropped below the water again as she yeilded to the cold. She was almost too tired to care this time. Wearily she raised it to breathe.

"Yer going to kill the child!" his voice shook with fury. "Damn you mon! She's barely grown! First ye drug her into insanity and then ye try drown her!"

"Get her out of there!" The leader of the men roared at his minions. The cold anger in his voice sent them into the icy water at a run.

Hands released the manacle from her wrist. She dropped under the icy stream without its support. Hard fingers dug into her scalp and dragged her to the surface. Her eyes opened. Lazily they wandered, catching their faces and expressions. Their leader stood in the light, his face fully visable for the first time. His calm demeanor was instantly imprinted upon her memory. Her red-rimmed blue eyes found the Highlander's and focused weakly on his deep brown eyes. His fury lent her warmth, causing her eyes to light up briefly before they closed.

"Stand up!" The voice was hard, the word accompanied by a stinging slap. Her head rolled, pulling against the hand in her hair. "Damn it! She's out cold!"

A second set of hands grabbed her shoulders. They pulled her to her feet. Muttered curses reached her ears as the two men splashed deeper into the freezing water. The weight pulling at her ankles vanished as they released her. She leaned bonelessly against the man holding her shoulders, soaking his suit. The numbness of her body, joined with the cold pressing against her will, making her listless. She struggled, trying to force herself awake.

"She was your responsibility, Tobias. If she dies, you die." the cold voice spoke in her ear as someone pried her eyes open. Light burned her eyes, but she couldn't pull away. The grip on her shoulders tightened, but her body was too cold and tired to care. Then the fingers suddenly released her.

Firm, but oddly gentle fingers caught her. The tingling sensation of an Immortal reassured her. She knew she could trust MacLeod's hands. They held her upright and helped her walk up the steps into the hallway. The dim light seared her eyes through her eyelids and she shrank back. But the hands forced her up and out. Their warmth slowly sank into her, burning slowly through her skin.

"Och, lassie, hold yuir hed up. Keep yuir feet movin'. We ha' got ta get yuir blood running agin." The husky voice purred at her. He warmed her with his nearness, somehow doing it without bringing his body into contact with her wet one. He stayed close enough that the intervening air could not keep his bodyheat from her. "Yer supposed ta be a pink-cheeked lass, no the colour of ashes."

She stumbled again, lurching away from his grip. He shifted his hold, pulling her even closer. His hands and forarms were soaked and rapidly becoming numb. He turned to the man following them.

"She needs dry clothes, warm ones, and blankets." his accent was thick, almost as thick as when he first left Scotland. The worry on his face was clear. The woman he led stumbled and began coughing. "She'll need medicine to fight that, else she'll ha' pnuemonia."

The man turned and looked over his men. Finding what he wanted he pointed to one and said, "Jerry, strip. MacLeod, remove her wet things."

The young man looked at his leader incredulously. Catching the calm, impatient expression he blushed. With jerky movements he removed his bulky sweater and shirt, handing them to another man. At the raised eyebrow, he removed his shoes, socks and pants.

The immortal, made clumbsy by his chains, stripped the nearly frozen woman. The skin of her body was the color of chalk. Her lips were blue. The tattoo on her wrist was only a slightly deeper blue than the blue shade of her fingertips. The man holding her upright, gazed at her, his eyes hot. He stroked her side thoughtfully.

"Do na do that." The immortal's tone brought all of their attention.

"Wilson. Give her back to the Highlander." Cold grey eyes measured the barely controlled immortal. "He seems to put value on her innocence and she values his life. We don't want to destroy our only means of extracting information from the girl."

With the help of the blushing Jerry, MacLeod dressed Abigail in his clothes. Still warm from his body, Jerry's clothes bagged over her slim form. The convulsive shivers slowed as the warmth began to penetrate her skin. He pulled her back against his body and ran his hands down her arms. A blanket was thrust into her hands. Unresponding, she let it fall to the floor.

"She needs a hospital, mon. She's likely die here."

"Keep her alive, MacLeod. The only reason you still have your head is that girl. For some reason, you mean a lot to her. She begged and pleaded for your head." The cold gray eyes measured his reaction, slight though it was. His lips turned up in a smile. "Her life guarantees yours and yours her cooperation. Now, let the good doctor give her the antibotics she'll need."

Another man came running down the hallway. He stopped suddenly upon reaching them. He smiled ingratiatingly. "I have checked her medical records and there are no listed allergies. This is a simple broadspectrum antibotic. There should be no problems with her reacting to it."

The Highlander smiled, his eyes flat and deadly. His words made the man pale. "The last man who gave her a shot died from her reaction. Would you care to hold her down while she gets this one?"

"That would have been a stimulant, quite a heavy dosage since the two previous ones had failed. That was unwise on the part of that doctor since she had been under the influence of several different drugs while they questioned her." The doctor was speaking slowly, measuring his words. "It has also been nearly thirty hours since she came down from her drug induced frenzy. At this point, an antibotic will not cause a reaction unless it's an unknown allergy."

He looked into the man's eyes, measuring the competence there. Although, obviously frightened by the situation and the armed men about him, the man was certain of his medical facts. He nodded and gently gripped her arms. Gently her turned her and held her steady. The doctor dispassionately bared her buttock and jabbed her with the needle. He then took her vital signs, muttering to himself as he did so. She moaned slightly and leaned her head on his shoulder.

"Her body temperature is too low. The Immortal is correct that she needs a hospital. She must be warmed slowly and carefully, otherwise she could be damaged. Also, if she is not warmed soon, her body will shut down completely. Please, sir, let me take her in. No one would ask questions if I told them I found her while camping in the hills. I doubt she remembers enough to cause a problem. Even if she did, we could get her out of the hospital before she could talk."

"No. There has been too much activity on her disappearance. She'd be under police protection from the moment she was recognized." At his gesture a door was flung open and the cell inspected.

"It's dry. No signs of any flooding,sir." the man reported.

"Take her in there, MacLeod. Keep her alive."

All the men in corridor tensed, watching him. He raised his eyebrow. Twelve to one odds and he was holding a barely conscious young woman. He scooped her into his arms and grabbed the blankets thrust at him by the doctor. Smiling wryly at their leader he walked into the cell. Behind them the door slammed shut, its lock sounding a heavy dirge.

Her eyes opened and she turned her head to him. A very weak smile crossed her face. "I'm c-c-cold Duncan."

He laughed at the wry sound of her voice. "How much were you awake?"

"Nnot much. Not e-enough to care." she shivered again. Her breath rattled in her throat. "I wwant a warm sauna. Think you can arrange it?"

"I wish I could Abigail. I wish I could."

He draped the blankets around her shoulders. Her skin was still like pale ash. Her shivering, while less forceful than it had been, was constant now. Her lips were still the pale blue tinged purple that had aroused his anger before. He untied the thong holding her braid and freed the long tresses. He gently squeezed water from her hair, watching it puddle on the floor. She leaned against him, burrowing her face in his shoulder.

"Come on, theres a cot over here." He lead her. There he sat her down, adjusting the blankets to cocoon her body. After a moment of looking at her peaceful face he cursed under his breath. Her eyes flew open, but didn't quite focus on him. She watched passively as he unbuttoned his filthy silk shirt. He could not get it past the chains on his wrists, so he left it hanging open. When he removed his pants she closed her eyes again. The shallow breathing bothered him. He stripped the blankets from her, followed by her clothes.

"Sstripped ttwice in an hour. Tthhat's a record, Duncan."

He felt her voice more than heard it as he gathered her to him. He wrapped the blankets around them and settled down upon cot. Her cold body was a shock against him. Her instinctive response to his recoil was to shift and wind her arms around him, refusing to release him. His hands began stroking her sides and back, trying to force her blood to the surface.

"It's the best way to get you warm and back to normal."

"Tthhere is no normal." her voice was sad. It shook from both her bone deep cold and her sad resignation. "At lleast not for us, Duncan. You've been alive long enough to know that."

He looked down at her. Her eyes were open, staring at and through him. The pain and desolation there numbed him as much as her cold body did. With a sigh she closed her eyes and laid her head on his chest. Her breath was warm in contrast to her body. He took a deep breath, shuddering. Gathering his control her reached around her and pulled the rosary from his pocket. He nudged her with his fist closed. When she finally opened her eyes, he slowly unclenched his fist. Nestled in his palm, the wooden beads made his hands seem large and clumbsy.

"You saved them?" Her eyes were wide and luminous. The innocent shock in them shook him. "I thought they were gone forever. Thank you."

"You found them. I just put them in a safe place. I didna think they'd search me again."

Her eyes clouded again at the hazy memories. "Thank you again."

"How long did you know Darius?"

"Forever, or almost forever."

"You made these for him?" He watched her fingers play with the beads in his hand. They gently touched and spun the beads, trying to acknowledge their reality. He caught her nod. "He told me about them, and a little about you. He never told me who you were."

"He used to write me long letters. About two hundred years ago he started writing about his new Scots friend. You've done him proud, Duncan MacLeod. Very proud."

"Not everything I've done is . . ." Her fingers sealed his lips. Her eyes met his, and she shook her head.

"Dark quickenings and war aside, you are a good man. A good Immortal. One of the ones we hope earns the final Prize." Her smile, brief but reaching her eyes, dazzled him for a moment. "My husband was very proud of you. I agree with his aspirations for you."

The world spun around him. The thought of the woman in his arms being Darius' wife rocked him. He started to pull away but realized that she was still half frozen. Her calm blue eyes watched him patiently. She knew the response running through his mind. The sadness in her eyes was immistakable but finally made sense. His grip on her tightened until she winced.

"You were married to Darius?"

"Yes, for two hundred years before he became a monk."

"But, how could he be a monk when he was married?" he gasped, trying to understand.

"Papal dispensation. It allowed him to join a monastery. I was given the choice of joining an abbey or remaining his wife. I waited for him. Now, I am his widow."

"You've waited centuries?"

"I made a vow. I don't break my word." she smiled at his dumbstruck face. Her fingers pulled his head down to her shoulder. "I think we need to sleep. Sleep."

"You sleep, I'll keep watch." She smiled up at him. Even as his smile answered hers she felt the encroaching darkness close over her mind. Her body relaxed bonelessly against his.

Her feet were cold. The toes were numb, racing fingers of cold creeping up her shins. Her toes flexed convulsively, cracking inside her heavy boots. She shifted uncomfortably. The cold was not her own.

The weight of her coat dragged on her shoulders. Carrying her weapons in this manner was inconvenient. Only, the knives in her boots fit well. Swords hooked into the coat's inseams threw the balance off slightly and had to be compensated for carefully.

Her hand stroked the pommel of the left-hand sword. Cool metal teased her hingertips. The bold flowing griffin design intimately known by her fingers comforted and dismayed. The sword was old, its age evidenced by the worn grips, the silver wire nicked and smoothed by years of combat. Her twin's sword, it fit her hand well, but not quite perfectly.

The other sword rested gently in her hand. Its carved lion caressed her palm. Just as old as the other sword, she knew every stike, every parry it had ever made. Its weight conforted, encouraged and reassured her. Made expressly for her, it reflected her inner self's strength and her outward youth. Silver wire, untarnished by time, carefully repaired to hide the ravages of battle, molded to her grip, keeping her hand in place.

She stared at her reflection. Her pale skin was gone, hidden by woad and black camouflage. Her eyes disappeared in her face, seeming to float in the air without any support. The conflicting patterns of her cheekbones and the paints dizzied the eyes of the beholder, obscuring her features. The line of her jaw and the rise of her cheekbones were marred by false scars, further disguising her features.

Her hair was hidden from view under her dark gray cap. It's color darkened to a deep brown which matched her now bushy eyebrows. It was braided and tucked and sprayed firmly into place. It was a good thing she kept her hair shorter than her sister, she reflected grimly. Too much longer and it would never have fit or stayed. Even if she lost the cap, it would not be recognized.

She smiled to herself, her blackened teeth gleeming wetly. Her hands pale against the paint as she inserted her black contacts. Now even her eyes were different.

With another grim smile she checked her tight fitting black catsuit. If she had to lose the coat, she wanted to be prepared. She double checked her belt, lock picks and wires, thin stranded rope, a silencer in one pouch, a pistol in the other. Certain it was ready, she wrapped the belt around her waist, making sure it didn't catch on the swords.

A flash of movement in the mirror sent her spinning, knife in one hand, pistol in the other. The pale face of Duncan's Watcher froze her movements. With a nod to him, she made both items disappear.

"Jesus! I would never recognize you!"

"That's the idea, Joseph." her voice was cool and toneless. "Are you ready to go?"

"Yeah." the older man frowned at her. "Are you sure you don't want back up?"

"Yeah. You'd just slow me down. Besides, I can't sense you." her smile appeared again, cold and deadly. "Anything mortal that's in my way tonight, dies."

"What about Ritchie and Methos?"

"I've never worked with Ritchie, now's not the time to start. As for Methos, he's been out of the business for too long."

"Where are they?"

"Investigating something with Ivanov. He'll keep them occupied for a while. You know what to do if something goes wrong?"

He nodded grimly. "If you don't meet me in seven hours, I blow the whistle."

"Send my message to Rio first. You'll need their support on this." Her fingers lightly touched his cheek. "Keep yourself safe, old friend. We need you alive. She would be very upset if anything happened to you."

"You take care of yourself, kid." Dawson's eyes were moist as he lead her to the car. "I want all three of you back in one piece."

"I'll do my best, Joe." She took the keys and walked away, silently.

 

 

 

She was almost warm. Her slow movements burrowed her nose into warm flesh. Even with her eyes closed, she recognised this scent, this feel. The flesh she was curled up with was firm, corded with muscles. Her fingers carressed the chest softly, tracing ribs and scarless skin. She inhaled, savoring the scent of the masculine skin against her.

It was a warm scent that even after this long of a time brought memories the fore. Beyond the scent of male musk was the individual scent of this man. She thought fuzzily and tried to come up with his name, but couldn't think of any man with whom she'd be sharing a tent. Wait, she thought, this was definitely not a tent.

She felt hands stroking her back, stirring her hair. The long tresses were slowly and teasingly being freed from tangles. At the sensation she stirred, pressing closer to the warmth. Firm hands soothed her, while a deep voice murmurred foreign words into her ear. She felt a frown form between her eyesbrows. Gentle lips nudged the frown away. The hands moved, and began massaging her back and neck. She shivered more from the sensation than from the cold.

"Sleep, love. Ye need yer strength back. Ye need ta be warm." The acccent was Scots. Highland Scots to be exact. The memories blossomed in her mind and her eyes opened.

"Good morning." she whispered. Brown eyes peered at her, laughter creasing their corners.

"But it nae morning, lass. It be the middle of the night."

"Och, but I just woke, sae it mu' be mornin'" she parroted his accent back to him. The smile on his face was worth the effort.

"Nay. Ye need more sleep."

"I'm not tired. I'm just cold."

"And how am I ta fix that, lass?" His eyes were mischeivous as he waggled his eyebrows. She could fix his smug grin.

She stretched luxiouriating in the feel of skin against skin. His breath caught in his throat. She inhaled deeply. He gripped her back, digging his fingers deeply into her muscles. She looked up into his eyes. The brown irises had thinned, the pupils watching her every move. His eyelids drooped slightly and a wicked smile crept slowly across his lips. As her eyes focused on his lips, the smile changed. It wavered slowly and then the lips were pressed into a thin line. His fingers wrapped around her arms and he set her away from his body.

"I cannot do this. He was friend."

She frowned. "I have been his widow four years. Before that, I waited patiently for centuries. I honored my vows. I kept them and waited without trying to make him change his mind. How does that make this wrong?"

"I will not marry you. I'm not the marrying kind." his face was grim as painful memories crossed it.

"I would have refused you if you'd asked." Her blue eyes met his brown eyes. Her face was as serious as his. "I would like your comfort and warmth. I would also like to keep your friendship. If I can only have one or the other I'll take the friendship and let this drop."

He leaned forward and touched his lips to hers. The warmth of his lips pressed to hers made her sigh. His tongue traced her lips and then slowly slipped inside, tangling with hers. His fingers gentled and traced her sides. The feel of his tongue against hers, his body rocking against her, his warmth speading to her made her sigh. Closing her mind to all other sensations, Lethe gave herself to the feel of the Highlander.

 

Hours later, Lethe sat up with a jerk. At the edges of her senses was the reverberation of an approaching Immortal. Rapidly she threw off the blankets that she shared with Duncan. He awoke and watched her curiously. As she dressed and tossed him his pants, he frowned. At her frantic movements, he dressed his eyebrows raised.

"What's wrong?" His voice was low, cautious.

"Company's coming." Her whisper was so soft he almost missed it. Once he was dressed, she curled up in his lap, wrapping the blankets around them. Her blue eyes were wide and shocked. "I don't like the feel of this one, Duncan. I wish I hadn't gotten you involved."

"Shh. I would have joined this party no matter what you said." He spoke into her ear, his breath bringing a shudder. He smiled, and buried his nose in her ear to whisper something else and froze. The loud, insistant buzz of a strong Immortal hit his senses.

They stood, her arms wrapped around him. Her fingers tightened, digging into his sides as he tried to set her aside. The sound of the key in the old cell door sent her burrowing under the blankets and into his side. MacLeod had to remind himself not to smile at her actions. To any outsider, she was a frightened girl who had dealt with more than she could handle.

"So this is what you brought me? A bundle of cloth and the infamous Highland Immortal?" The man's voice was wry and amused. His face was florid and marred by a scar running across one cheek from nose to chin. His smile was slow and predatory. "Let me see the girl, MacLeod. Now."

At the man's words, her head slowly came up and she turned in his arms. He wrapped his arm around her and gently pulled her to the side. He could feel her peer around him, her fingers gripping his biceps painfully. The breath of her words warmed his arm, but the sound barely reached his ears. "His name is Andrew Teague. His original name was Marcus Andropos. He's old, Duncan. A thousand years."

"Come out, little girl. We won't hurt you, we only want answers." The man's face gave lie to his words. His eyes glittered menacingly. "Set her free, Highlander. Otherwise your blood will cover her pretty face."

"No." He growled.

"Shh." Her voice was soft, but loud enough for everyone to hear. With a smooth glide, she slipped around him. She turned and smiled dimly at him. As she spoke, her voice broke. "You cannot keep dieing for me, Duncan. Even an Immortal cannot die so often. Especially for a Watcher. Remember who and what you are. Survive, learn, grow stronger, is the way of life for you. Tell Joseph and Diana I love them."

"She's not part of this."

"All the Watchers are part of this." He held out his hand. When her hand touched his, his eyes widened. The dazed look on his face was enough. He felt her presense and judged her a preImmortal. "And her sister, MacLeod?"

"No." he willed his face to be impassive. "Abbigail is the one I've been keeping watch over."

"True, you let the other one stay with Dawson. Have you told. . . no you wouldn't have." He nodded to himself and then gestured. The man beside him raised his shotgun and fired.

Lethe dug her nails into his hand and kicked. The sound of his knee shattering came as the echoes of the blast rolled through the small room. She ducked under his arm and threw him to the ground. She froze as the doublebore shotgun tapped the nape of her neck. Being decapitated by a shotgun did not seem a good way to die. Handcuffs were painfully applied to her wrists and she was dragged away from Teague.

"You will never attack me again, little girl." he hissed and slapped her. The taste of blood filtered through her mouth. "You will learn to obey me without question. You will live when I command, you will die when I command and he will be your first Quickening."

Before she could try to move or fight the men holding her, he produced a knife. With a gentle smile he twisted it in front of her eyes and then shoved the knife through her breastbone. She didn't even have a chance to scream.

 

 

 

Diana scurried through the tunnels. Deep in her gut came the feeling that she had to rush, that disaster was on its way. Her footsteps were silent as she raced farther down, deeper into the maze of corridors. Lethe's sense was near and so was that of other Immortals. But whether they were close to her or to Lethe she was unsure. She came to a stop, hearing voices coming around the corner.

"When she comes back to life, behead MacLeod. She'll get his Quickening and we'll own her body and soul." the first voice purred.

"Just as long as you don't lose control of her." the second voice was odd, it didn't fit the situation. "Although, having an Immortal to experiment on would be quite interesting. I think I like the idea."

"Give me five minutes to get out of here and then you'll be sure that the Highlander's quickening goes to her." The man spoke again.

Diana backed away slowly. The banked rage that smoldered within her began burning fiercely. She breathed deeply, trying to regain control. She had to get to them and fast. She listened to the approaching footsteps and grinned. First, though, it seemed she had an Immortal to dispose of.

He barely survived the first strike. She had waited for him to turn the corner and attacked without warning. Only his reflexes had saved his head. Her sword swept up and towards his neck, only to be deflected by his arm. The sword penetrated his shirt and skin, breaking through the first bone it encountered. His movement and the weight of his ulna turned the blade. As he fumbled for his sword, Lethe's sword came up and pierced his chest. The wide surprised look in his eyes was well worth the effort it to hold him upright. She raised her own sword and struck. Dropping the headless body, she ignored it and headed for the lower dungeons at a run.

Several yards later, the first of the quickening struck. Lightning raced across her nerves, lifting her to her toes. She fell to her knees, swords poised above her head. The lights throughout the corridor exploded with the swirling cloud of energy. The memories and experiences of the other Immortal flooded throuhg her brain. With hard earned silence, she absorbed the assault and conquered the pain and rage it engendered.

When it was over she licked the blood off her bitten lip and struggled to her feet. They knew she was here now. Maybe they didn't know who she was, but they had to know what she was. She shook her head to clear it of the man's thoughts and carefully put away her sister's sword. She had a feeling she would need the pistol from now on.

A few corridors farther into the basement complex, her senses lit up like silent alarms. More than one Immortal, but no more than three. She raised her sword to a ready stance. This was a Hunter's lair, finding one loose Immortal was bad, but this many wes frightening. She warily turned the corner.

Her sword blocked and parried, striking rapidly. A familiar voice called out, "Diana!"

"What are you doing here?"

"We're here to help you get Mac and your sister." Ritchie spoke before Methos could.

She nodded. There was no time for discussion now. She would deal with Ivanov later. She headed down the corridor at a quiet run. Behind her, she heard and felt the two men following her. She sprinted, her breath coming in short quick gasps. Trying to use her sense of her sister to find her and MacLeod was hard in these tunnels. The turns of the corridors and the levels made it hard, painful to sort out the direction. She barely heard the conversation between the other immortals.

"What's she doing?"

"Trying to find Lethe." Methos' voice was hoarse and low, filled with foreboding. He knew the dangers of what she was doing. He also knew that she would only be doing it if she was sure it was the only way to save the others. "Now that she's accepted we're here, she's letting us guard her back. Neither of them would do this kind of stuff unless all hell was about to break loose."

She could feel Ritchie's dismay at the less than comprehensible explanation. She reapplied her attention to the senses she was trying to manipulate. There, her sister was starting to awaken, she felt the first beat of her heart. The sudden expansion of their Quickening shocked her conscious. For a split second she saw through her sister's eyes again.

Rage flew between them as they both saw the room. Duncan MacLeod was again chained to the wall. The red stains of his blood had turned his cream shirt an odd muddy brown. His head was tilted forward, hiding his face, but she could feel his anger and his acceptance of the situation. He slowly lifted his head and looked at her. His eyes were filled with eloquent words that he would not speak. She felt the tears running down her sister's face as she dropped her masks. She didn't know if their rescue would arrive in time, but she/they wanted him to see the truth. His eyes widened and then he nodded.

Diana blinked back into herself and without pausing the pistol was dropped into its holster. She broke out into a full run, making both Immortals behind her curse. Once, a long time ago, she had won prizes for her ability to race. Today the prize was another's life, someone whose life was important to them both. The footsteps behind her faded as did the curses. She didn't have the time to explain or to wait for them.

A mortal stood guard at the base of the stairs. This was the floor. This was the lowest level. Before he could turn to face her, her sword stabbed out and sliced between his ribs. She barely paused to withdraw its blade as she passed his falling corpse. Her hand moved on its own, drawing the pistol and removing the safety. Her sister's rising panic spurred her on.

This level was musty and damp, the floors slightly slick. She skidded to a halt in front of a scarred metal door. The scent of blood was strong here. She felt the presence of two Immortals coming from behind her, just barely in her range. She prayed they were Ritchi and Methos. If not this would be real ugly. Behind the door were two presences, MacLeod and Lethe. Lethe's presence was stronger than normal, odd tasting to her senses. She tranced to see through Lethe's eyes again.

There were several men there, two holding her, pinning her arms and controling her struggles. A third was firmly tieing her down to the metal chair. She felt the growing rage and the fear in her sister's mind. Across the room a man stood, MacLeod's katana in his hand. He was poised, waiting. The look in MacLeod's eyes was measuring, watching. Somehow he seemed to know what was happening inside Lethe's eyes. A wry, bitter smile crossed his face as the sword's edge was inspected. She measured the distance between the door and the sword. Then she carefully located the five men in the room. Lethe's head bowed and she smiled.

The door opened and Diana's dark figure entered. Her entrance made the men pause. Her hand came up, pistol firing. The fifth man in the room, armed with a shotgun, received the first three bullets, two of them headshots. The men holding Lethe's arms took the next shots as she darted for MacLeod, trying to beat the coming blow.

The man with the katana swung for MacLeod's neck. The bullets fired at him hit, absorbed by body armor. Her breathless rush and parry barely turned the blade. Her back pressed against MacLeod as she dropped the pistol to place all her strength behind her sword. Their attacker was strong, but knew little about swordfighting. She whipped her wrists around, twisting with all her strength and he lost the sword. She continued the move, cutting his throat with the edge of her blade.

Methos and Ritchie came into the room. The scent of old and new blood made the younger Immortal pause. He took in the destruction of the room with wide eyes. Methos and Lethe quickly and efficiently dispatched the Hunters who had survived Diana's attack. Diana turned to MacLeod and began picking the locks holding him in place. He watched warily and then his eyes cleared as he recognized her past the disguise.

"Thank you." he murmurred as she released one of his wrists. She shrugged at him. Ritchie handed him his katana as the other wrist sprang free.

She felt her sister's approach. A hand held a set of keys in front of her and she grabbed them. The hand ran under her coat and latched onto the griffin sword. It was gently removed from her side. A second later she felt the loss of one of the pistols and a knife. Her sister squeezed her shoulder silently before walking away. The brush of her thoughts was warm and welcome. She finished freeing MacLeod.

"Diana!" Lethe's voice was pained. She held a scabbarded knife and offered it to her. Without a word she took it. She didn't look at it, just put it in a pocket. The pain in the matching blue eyes was instantly hooded. The low buzz of an alarm began sounding. "Shit! Let's go!" Diana's voice was harsh.

"Did you really expect them not to notice us?" Methos quipped wryly as they raced for the door.

The group moved warily through the corridor and up the stairs. The passages were eeriely quiet, only their footsteps and the low buzz of the alarm to be heard. Disaster hit them as they came out of the basement levels. The first warning they had of the mortals was the blast of the shotgun. Diana staggered back, her chest blossoming crimson from the wounds. The second blast took MacLeod in the side as he tried to lift her.

Lethe reacted first, drawing and firing her pistol The man fell, shotgun firing into the floor. Another man fired his weapon, trying to pin them down. Methos charged, ignoring the bullets hitting his chest. Before he fell, his sword reached the gunman. He staggered up and pulled at his chest.

"You know, this stuff is very useful." he murmurred, tearing at the straps of his kevlar vest. He peered out the door. "I see two of them."

"There's probably more." Lethe's voice was cold. She checked the dead man's weapon and handed it to Ritchie. "Know how to use it?"

"Yeah, but " He began.

Her cold eyes stopped him. "At times like this, you fight to kill, you fight to survive."

"Mac doesn't believe that."

"His problem, not mine." She glanced down at the two unconsious Immortals. She looked around a corner and pulled back under fire. "Adon, any other way out?"

"No, we're trapped."

The words that flowed from her lips were fast and furious. Methos argued briefly. Finally he nodded, lips pressed together in a straight line. She leaned over and kissed his cheek. He pulled her into a rough hug and closed his eyes. She pulled away and with swift, economical moves began arming herself from her sister's weapons.

"Hey, kid, take care of her for me. She needs help keeping out of trouble." Her words were soft. Blue eyes wide, Ritchie nodded as she painted her face with the blood from the two Immortals. She pulled out a rosary and kissed it, praying briefly. Then she tucked it into MacLeod's pocket. "Get ready to run. I'll distract the Hunters."

"Be safe, Lethe." Methos grabbed her arm. "Don't take too many risks."

"Methos-rai, remember who I am. Remember what I am." Her voice was resigned. She pulled a pair of disks from another pocket and tucked them into her friend's shirt pocket. "Keep an eye on them? These should help you track the Hunters. Get them for me."

"I'll do my best. I'll see they survive." He grunted as he tossed MacLeod's body over his in a fireman's carry. The strain of his weight was almost more than he could handle, but he'd manage. "Don't be a sacrifical lamb. We need you alive."

She nodded to them and stepped to the doorway. With a smile, she chambered the shotgun. Waiting until each one had grabbed his charge, she stepped out, firing. The two burdened Immortals slipped out behind her and ran for the exit.

Ritchie followed Methos across empty lots. The sudden presence of two Immortals shot through them. They stopped and lowered the two bodies, watching as they began to breathe. Both opened their eyes and began to speak only to be hushed by the look on the faces above them.

Methos drew his sword and turned back towards the warehouse. He debated mentally whether he should go back for Lethe. The distance was almost too far for him to see well. A figure raced out, silhouetted by light, stopping abruptly as another figure appeared. Both drew swords. They fought, their shadows merging and emerging with the night. The lights of the warehouse showed the circle of armed men that formed around them. One of the men raised his weapon and fired. Both swords paused and then flickered as they crossed. One fell to the ground as the other completed its move, beheading its opponent.

"Lethe!" Diana sprang to her feet and tried to run. Ritchie grabbed her, pinning her to the ground under his weight.

Lightening gathered and flared. And then it began its coiling dance. Lights exploded overhead. It danced out to the circle of men, striking and killing, causing weapons to explode. A car near the door started, its lights turning on and bursting. Then its gas tank blew, flipping the car over on its side.

The swordsman raised his hands, dropping his sword. The energy of the Quickening raising his body to its toes. The beheaded body rose from the ground, sparks flying around it. Inside the warehouse a fire broke out. Windows shattered, sending broken glass into the men fleeing the lightening. Finally, the lightening centered on the Immortal and struck, bringing him to his knees, head bowed wearily.

The distant wail of sirens brought the few remaining men to their feet. They grabbed the dazed Immortal by the arms and helped him into a van that came around the corner. As they loaded him, the warehouse began exploding.

"Aw, Christ! Please tell me that wasn't who I think it was." Joe Dawson's voice made the assembled Immortals turn, weapons ready. The gray haired man leaned heavily on his cane, his face filled with sorrow.

"We have to get out of here before the cops find us." Was Methos' only comment.

 

 

The television news anchor stared at them from the screen. Behind him was a picture of a young woman and a set of dates. Below her picture was the photo of the burned remains of a warehouse.

"Among the bodies found at the burned warehouse last week, was one now tentatively identified as a missing University student, Abigail Fontaine-Montrose. Miss Fontaine-Montrose, who was kidnapped on campus in front of many witnesses, would have been sixteen on the day of her murder. There are no leads on the cult group that beheaded her and several other people at the warehouse. As one of the police officers at the scene said, this is one of those cases that makes you wish that Agents Scully and Mulder from the X-Files really could be called in for assistance. . ."

Duncan MacLeod hit the remote control, turning off the set. He leaned back on his couch and sipped his Scotch. He stared at the rosary in his hand, gently turning the hand-carved beads. His fingers slipped effortlessly across the smoothly worn beads, remembering the explanation of the beads. His eyes were dark, misted over as he thought of the gift that had arrived in the mail.

On the table stood a wooden crate, its top beside it. Packing straw, spilling out like a fountain, guarded the contents. Several bottles were revealed nestled carefully there. A small dagger was perched across the bottles, it wooden scabbard dark with age, carved in his family's crest. A letter of golden vellum lay beside the box, velvet ribbons draping gracefully from a wax seal. The carefully sculpted calligraphy reminded him of the way she had spoken to him so often on the way back from her classes or while they practiced in the dojo.

 

Duncan,

If you've gotten this, today must be the day! These are things I got in Scotland a long, long time ago. From back before your cousin was around. I hope you enjoy the Scotch and the wine. Have a happy birthday, Highlander!

L

 

 

He raised his glass high, toasting the ceiling. Tears glistened in his brown eyes before spilling down his cheeks. His words were soft, pained. "Happy Birthday to ye, Lethe! I'll ne'er forget ye."

 

 

 

 

 

"I'm sorry I got you involved."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Notes: Ideas bandied w/Mal

Lethe/Diana spar dojo:

dance more than kata, but many kata elements. gathering force of quickening as they spar, allusions to end fight; reaction of those who enter to witness; one in shadow and then gone only to reappear in light while second one disappears into shadows. neither one choreographed with other; only later notice that both are blindfolded- both fighting by means of feel of quickening and other senses, hearing, scenting, movements in the aircurrents,etc. .. check for old text on qatal dancers for reference see old history text for britany re:old fight style. possible cross regerence to karate book with special inference to original style and okinawan mixed with shaolin kung fu... staff usage from yoeman's reference if located try Pratt.

 

Ritchie comment to Methos:

you and her? but you're so old/ and how old do you think they are?

 

sore muscles: sore? (?) move?.. .. laughter.... you'll heal, be glad you're Immortal, you recover fast... at his expression "Who do you think she perfected it on?" and smirk.

 

Lethe - Methos confrontation about Diana:

"She seems to have gotten over me fairly quickly. She left faithfulness behind long ago."

"Back off, Methos. You don't want to go there."

"What do you call Henry? A husband or a concubine? What about Ritchie?"

"Alexa? Byron? Should I go on?" moves very very close to him and whispers, "I never lost track of you or your activities. Don't go where you can't protect yourself, isn't that what you taught us as children? I think you want to drop the conversation, Methos-rai."

Methos pales and backs away.

need to work on viciousness of voice when she protects her sister from her mentor's words. she will go to the ends of the earth for either of them, but conflict between them puts her at odds with both. duality needs to be explored here. flesh out idea.

 

Out takes:

I'm supposed to be the teenage daughter of a dead Watcher. I think an Immortal killed him and while I'm edging into the Hunters.

 

 

 

The presence resonated loudly, like the presence of the Immortal they had felt before. The Immortal was just within sensing range, probably in front of the dojo below them

 


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