Please note this is a slash story; that means there is a male/male sexual relationship depicted. If this is not your cup of tea or if you are under 18, please leave now.

Voyagers
by Laura Mason

 Adam Pierson followed behind Daniel and the others. He really had no interest in motorcycle races, but having chosen to bury himself in the Watchers again, he'd agreed to this outing. Even Don was there, with Christine along and looking happy for a change. They were sitting higher in the stands, under the shade of the canopy. He smiled and returned Don's wave, then adjusted his sunglasses and slumped into his seat. Geiger was talking excitedly about the Saracen team and making side bets with some of the others.

Adam declared himself too broke to participate in any betting, and since they all knew about his tuition being due, no one questioned it. Left alone, he watched the track and enjoyed the sun in his face. And his treacherous thoughts immediately wandered back six months, to the crossing.

The QE2 was just the kind of luxurious crowd he enjoyed losing himself in. Adam Pierson was left far behind as he temporarily became Michael Delon, en route to North America and yet another identity. It was time. Ten years in the Watchers was long enough. There were credentials waiting for him in New York, ones that should get him a university job within a year's time.

But for now, Delon's wealth and Platinum credit cards meant he could ensconce himself in a suite with a private balcony and enjoy getting there. He'd ordered custom-made clothing for the trip, which arrived later in trunks, including a new tux. The only thing missing, he decided, was some lovely young thing as a traveling companion. Too bad he hadn't ordered one along with the clothes. Well, there were certainly plenty of people on the boat to choose from. Maybe someone not too young, a little more worldly, someone who'd understand a shipboard romance wasn't life-altering.

Adam snorted, pulling his mind back to the sunny racetrack. Too bad he hadn't listened to himself. Instead, he was the one who'd gotten carried away with someone he met on the ship. So carried away, in fact, that he'd almost let his true identity slip for the first time in hundreds of years. Just as well things ended so quickly. Sure, it hurt. Enough that he'd run straight back to Don Salzer, the comfort of the Watchers and his shabby grad student identity. Michael Delon had been obliterated, almost as easily.

Don seemed genuinely delighted when Adam actually returned, as if he knew the absence had started as more than a vacation. Adam wondered, not for the first time, how much Don had pieced together in his clever mind. Well, it didn't matter. Don could be trusted, he'd proved that again and again. He was a true friend.

It didn't even matter that his heart was still somewhere off the coast of New York, where Duncan MacLeod had cut it out and tossed it overboard. Who needed a heart, anyway? Better to use your head and survive. Banishing all thoughts of the past, he concentrated on the race that was just starting.

 Richie Ryan adjusted his gloves one final time and prepared for the starting signal. He was determined that this time, he wouldn't let Basil taunt or trick him into losing the race. When they began, his only determination was to win, at any cost.

Instead, Richie found himself dying alongside Basil in a rather spectacularly public fashion. Just as his life flickered away, he sensed Presence nearby. His panic ended with his last breath.

Adam joined the crowd at the edge of the smashed bike, watching as medics worked on the obviously dead rider. An Immortal. Must be a young one to risk such public injury. Why hadn't his teacher warned him about such stupid choices? Not that Adam had any intention of getting involved. No, let the idiot escape out of the morgue himself, teach him a lesson. Assuming he was smart enough to do that. And not be seen, not reveal immortals to the world and start a witch hunt...

Adam scanned the crowd, looking for any familiar faces that weren't part of Geiger's outing. He finally spotted the kid's watcher across the way, his eyes trained on the body and his tattoo peeking out of his coat sleeve. Adam crossed to him, casually pushing up his own sleeve.

"Pierson. Research."

"Murphy. How'd you.."

"There's a group of us here today for the racing. I noticed you were watching the racer. He's your assignment?"

"Yeah. Richie Ryan. I guess I should go pack, looks like he'll have to leave France now."

Adam glanced at the packed stands and the television cameras and laughed shortly. "I'd say so, it's a very public death. Think he'll manage to disappear discreetly?"

"Well, he's young. As far as I know, this is only his second death, and the first without his teacher nearby."

"His teacher was there for his first death? Isn't that unusual?"

"Long story. I'll have to refer you to Joe Dawson to hear the whole thing. His immortal took in the kid, and Dawson guessed that he might be one of them. As soon as the kid had his first death, we were there." Murphy smiled at him, then watched the ambulance pull away with his assignment. "I'd better go along to the hospital and wait."

"Yeah. Thanks." Joe Dawson. Two years ago that name first came to his attention when Don mentioned him as a poker buddy. Adam had never met him. Dawson only spent a few months in Paris every year. Whenever his assignment, Duncan MacLeod, brought his lover, Tessa Noel, to visit her family.

The same Joe Dawson who'd effectively torpedoed his own budding relationship with said Duncan MacLeod.

Joe was no fool. Adam realized that on the ship, and now it was even more apparent. Identifying a pre-immortal, getting a watcher on him right away. Joe could go far in the watchers, if he wished. If he'd stop associating so closely with his assignment.

Adam returned to his seat, made his excuses to Daniel and the others, and left. Probably St. Theresa's, that was the closest hospital to the track. He'd see if Duncan MacLeod's student would accept his help. Not that he owed MacLeod anything. The dumb kid would probably just botch things up on his own.

*************

Richie peered out of the window of Adam's apartment, waiting for him to return. And laughed to think how cleverly the guy had tricked his watcher into believing he'd already left the country. Which he knew he should do, soon. He just had no money, no idea of where to go. Again, he thought about contacting MacLeod for advice. And again, he rejected the idea, wanting to handle this on his own, without listening to hours of told-you-so's from his teacher.

Well, maybe handling it on his own wasn't the right term. Thank heaven for Adam. Pierson had helped him sneak out of the hospital morgue, tucking him in the trunk of his car. Much better than trying to run naked through the streets of Paris. Then he'd called the police, reporting that he saw "an escaped mental patient" outside the hospital, and created a trail of false evidence leading to the docks. Well, anyone smart enough to infiltrate the Watchers was surely smart enough to fool them.

Pierson had driven them straight to Richie's apartment, retrieving his sword, passport, and a change of clothing. All of which he tossed on top of him while he huddled in the tiny trunk of Adam's Volvo. "Get dressed."

"In here?"

"I suppose you'd like to step out and flash your neighbors one last time? At least right now I'm blocking you a bit."

Richie blushed and started awkwardly pulling on his jeans. "Just this? You couldn't grab the rest of my clothes?"

"You've got the essentials. Anyway, you need to hide your identity. Dressing in your old clothes won't help you do that. It's time for a make over. I think we'll color your hair, too."

Richie had laughed at the suggestion, but this morning Pierson had gone out to buy him new clothing, get work started on new identification, and told him to get ready for a haircut and colorful experience. "I've been a barber, you know..."

"Why are you doing this? I mean, why are you helping me?"

"Let's just say I'm repaying a debt." Adam's smile was not entirely pleasant.

"You mean, someone did this for you once?"

"Rich, many people have helped me out. And many more have tried to take my head."

"I wouldn't do that!" Richie seemed shocked at his words, and Adam smiled again. Just like Duncan. The apple doesn't fall...

"We're trusting each other for the moment. Don't make it out to be some eternal friendship."

"But you've done so much, you're doing so much for me."

"It's painless. I have nothing better to do." And Adam left on his errands, leaving Richie pondering the idea of trusting another immortal. He knew what MacLeod would say about trusting a stranger, though he'd met enough friends of Mac's to know his teacher didn't always practice the suspicion he'd preached to Richie.

But here, with Adam, Richie was relying on his own judgement. And he felt safe with Adam, who'd agreed that Richie could stay on his sofa until he was ready to leave France. Adam was smart, smart enough to be devious, but if he were plotting to take Richie's head, he could have done it already -- without bringing Richie his sword.

Richie had grown up on the streets, so he was always suspicious when a stranger offered help. Guys like Mac were few and far between. He tried to think of ulterior motives. Adam wasn't showing any sexual interest in him. Richie knew he wasn't terribly powerful or old among immortals. Maybe Adam only took heads of really old ones? Mac had mentioned something Xavier said about not sleeping with virgins. He might be earning his trust now, planning to betray him in 100 years. But that seemed like a truly odd way to hunt.

Or was it possible that Adam was using Richie to get to his teacher? Mac had mentioned there were immortals who did that, too. Richie thought about it, but didn't believe it. If he'd wanted Richie to contact MacLeod, he'd have left him helpless and defenseless. Adam could have followed him without much trouble, and Richie's first action after stealing some clothes would have been a collect call to MacLeod. Instead, Adam had made it unnecessary to contact Mac at all.

He caught sight of Adam in the street below, returning with a shopping bag.

Richie decided that going home to the States would be his best bet. After all, his language skills sucked, no one would believe he was anything other than American. It was a big country, and few people would have followed his European racing career. He could drop in on Mac, too, and let him know he was okay.

Until then, he'd trust Adam's friendship.

***********

MacLeod swore and slammed down the phone. Dawson had just called to let him know about Richie's very public death, but the next plane to Paris wasn't for four hours. He threw things into a duffel, grabbing the papers that would expedite his sword through Customs, then called for a cab. Good thing he'd been in New York for the last month. From Seacouver the trip would take even longer. Well, he'd wait at the airport. No point in hanging around here.

Nearly two days. Where would Richie have gone to? The Watchers weren't sure. The initial reports were that he'd left for Germany, but now it was apparent his watcher had lost him. He wasn't foolish enough to stay in Paris, was he? Or had someone else found him while he was wandering around without his sword?

MacLeod sat back in the taxi and growled at the slow pace of the traffic to LaGuardia. Worry about Richie was better than what he'd been thinking about for the last month, anyway. But now that he was on his way, thoughts of Michael came flooding back.

Six months earlier...

MacLeod decided to cross back to the U.S. on the Queen Elizabeth 2, just for the fun of it. Dawson had never been on a ship, and MacLeod was happy to show him what travel had been like in the days he so fondly remembered. They shared a suite of rooms, quite an expense but well worth it when he saw the look on Joe's face as they left Southhampton. They were on their private balcony, watching the dock slip away in the dusk. And then MacLeod had felt it -- presence. There was another immortal on the ship, damn it all. He couldn't believe that even a simple five day trip would involve meeting up with a strange immortal.

But the presence had faded, and no immediate confrontation seemed necessary. Not that they could fight on board the ship, but things could get unpleasant. MacLeod tried to behave normally and not let Joe see his concern. Still, he was tense as they toured the ship, constantly on the alert for the tell-tale buzz.

At dinner, as he and Joe were being seated at the Captain's table, the presence he'd felt appeared before him and he looked up into the eyes of an impeccably dressed young man.

"Mr. MacLeod, this is Michael Delon, another of our passengers. Mr. Delon, Duncan MacLeod and Joseph Dawson." MacLeod shook hands with the man, still staring stupidly into his eyes. What color were they, anyway? And why was he even thinking about that? Delon smiled at him and lowered his eyes almost shyly, then seemed to catch himself and looked back up.

"Pleasure to meet you both." He lowered his voice and continued, " I'm not looking for trouble, just a pleasant journey to New York."

Joe was watching the two men, wondering exactly what was going on, until Delon's words clicked everything into place. Now he understood why Mac had been so jumpy.

"That's just what we're looking for, Mr. Delon. Absolutely nothing else." Joe gave him his best threatening look as he spoke, but it didn't have the intended effect. Delon burst into delighted laughter as he shook Joe's hand. And that laughter was what clinched it for MacLeod.

Duncan sat across from the man through the interminable dinner, unable to stop watching as he conversed with the ladies on either side of him. He was traveling alone, he'd learned that much. But it didn't appear that he'd stay alone for long. Not that MacLeod and Dawson were exactly being ignored. But MacLeod was short with the people around him, not being his usual charming self. Instead, he stupidly watched Michael Delon being charming -- to other people.

And watched and waited late into the night as Delon danced and socialized. Joe gave up on him at midnight and took himself to bed, shaking his head. MacLeod drank scotch and stared at the other immortal, who didn't seem to notice him at all. But somehow, when the band announced their last song and the room began to clear out, Delon was next to him, sipping cognac and smiling at him. Delon suggested a walk on the deck to see the stars and cool off after so much dancing. Duncan, who hadn't danced more than twice all evening, agreed. Cooling off was definitely needed.

They were still together hours later, watching the sun come up. They'd been talking, and even now Duncan couldn't understand how that much conversation had not given him any real information on who Delon was. He didn't know the man's age or nationality. Delon hadn't dropped any names, mentioned any other immortals he might know. Could he be new to the Game? He certainly looked young, but that was meaningless.

Despite the lack of useful information, Michael had certainly shown his intelligence and wit. Duncan realized he was being outrageous himself, hoping to hear that laughter again, and it felt amazingly good when he succeeded. They discussed current events, the ship and its passengers, London and New York and his friendship with Joe. Later Duncan found himself talking about Tessa, their time together and her death. When his voice grew hoarse and he found himself close to tears, Michael took over the conversation and talked about silly things -- beer and soccer, Chinese carry-out food and country music. Listening to his beautiful voice, MacLeod admitted he was fascinated with the man.

He was not at all surprised when Michael leaned over and gently ghosted a kiss over his lips before smiling and wishing him goodnight.

Dawson wasn't precisely waiting up for him, but he certainly seemed aware of what time MacLeod had finally returned to their room. Over coffee late the next morning, Joe started asking the questions that revealed to MacLeod how little he'd actually learned about the man.

"Do you think he's a new immortal?" Joe looked concerned. "I could place a call and see if anyone's heard of him. Or if there's another watcher on board."

"No, I don't think there's any danger, Joe." MacLeod wasn't sure why he believed he was safe around Delon. The closest he could come to describing how he felt was "giddy." And Joe seemed to be picking up on it.

"Look, Mac, I don't want to tell you how to live your life or who to love...."

"Joe, " he tried to interrupt.

"Though I have to say that usually you get this goofy over people with a lot more curves."

"You know there have been men in my life."

"But this is an immortal. A guy you just met. There can be only one, remember? You're acting about sixteen and spoony, he hasn't told you anything about himself except that he likes Szechuan chicken. This is one of those guys who carries a sword and aims for the neck."

"Joe, you know I have immortal friends I trust. Amanda, Connor, Fitzcairn, Richie."

"Mac, you've either known those people a long time, or frankly, you're better than they are. We don't know how old this Delon is, how good he is with a sword. Maybe he makes eyes at everyone he meets, then takes their head in bed."

"Joe! I'm not going to bed with anyone." Yet, his mind added, even as it filed away Joe's warning.

That afternoon was spent on deck with Delon, talking and noticing how good he looked in shorts and a tee shirt. Of course, they were designer shorts and his sunglasses alone cost more than Duncan's entire outfit. Usually MacLeod didn't trust immortals who flaunted their wealth. A part of his brain noted these things, questions that should have slowed the attraction. But didn't. It was perfectly obvious, even to Duncan, that he was crazy about Michael.

They spent the day together. They avoided the formal meal sittings, eating in the bar instead. Duncan felt a moment of guilt over Joe, who he was supposed to be showing a good time. But then he saw Joe at the pool bar with a lovely lady, looking pleased with himself and the world. Obviously not pining for MacLeod's company. When they met up for dinner, Joe introduced him to Liz, who joined their table. Duncan watched for Michael, but didn't see him or feel him until after dinner when he found him lounging at the rail, holding two glasses of wine.

"Miss me?" He handed MacLeod a glass.

"Don't you eat?"

"Thought I'd give you some time alone with your friend."

"But I want Joe to get to know you. Anyway, he's met someone, too, a very charming lady.

"Elizabeth Markussen. I thought they'd hit it off." He smiled and sipped his wine. MacLeod pondered for a moment, then raised horrified eyes to the other man.

"Do you mean..."

"Nothing so terrible as you're thinking. I met Liz at breakfast this morning and just happened to point out Mr. Dawson, the well-known restauranteur who is traveling in the Astoria Suite."

"You made her think Joe's a millionaire?" MacLeod was torn between laughter at Michael's cleverness and anger at his interference.

"She's no fortune-hunter, MacLeod. Lizzie's rich enough in her own right, not that you'd ever guess. She'll enjoy Joe's company, he'll enjoy hers, and I'll enjoy yours. After all, you're the one who tried to impress me by telling me about Joe's bar and your dojo..."

MacLeod gave up and laughed as he sipped his glass of wine, ridiculously happy just to be with Michael again.

The evening of their fourth day traveling, as they dressed for dinner, Dawson confessed to MacLeod that he'd sent an inquiry to the Watchers.

"I don't want to hear it or see it, Joe. It's not important."

"Mac, this guy is hiding something." Joe had done his own investigation, starting with trying to get a photo of Delon to fax to Paris with his query. He discovered that Delon had paid the ship's photographers in advance to NOT take his photo, claiming he valued his privacy. A bribe to his steward and cleaning staff brought Joe the information that all his clothing was brand new, he'd arrived empty-handed with his luggage following. The last straw was when he and Liz saw Delon with MacLeod on deck. Liz then remarked that a conversation with Michael had prompted her to introduce herself. Joe didn't like being manipulated. He didn't trust Delon, period.

"Joe, let it go. I'm being careful."

"I'll have a response tomorrow. If there's anything..."

"There won't be, Joe. I'm sure of it."

Much later that evening, Duncan found himself nodding when Michael invited him back to his room for a drink. They stood on the balcony, watching the darkness glide by and drinking brandy. Their conversation had petered out, but the silence was comfortable. Michael broke it to invite him to stay for the rest of the night. Again, Duncan silently nodded.

It wasn't the unknown that caused Duncan to accept Joe's proffered reports the following morning -- it was what became known in those hours of passion. Michael took him into his bed and into his body with an abandon that left Duncan shaken. Michael whispered to him how beautiful he was, how much he loved him. And he couldn't properly respond, could only moan and sob and pound his release into the man's wonderful body.

He was in love, damn it. With an immortal. Not the kind of love he shared with Amanda, allowing each their own space. The kind that made him crazy to think of Michael with anyone else, ever. Love that demanded knowing all there was to know, touching and tasting every inch of him inside and out, and offering his own body to be Michael's playground. Love that made Duncan certain he'd take his own head before he'd attempt to take Michael's.

The kind of love that scared him to death.

Joe handed over the faxes from the Paris headquarters. He was glad Mac had finally seen reason. There wasn't anything totally damning in the reports, but he knew Duncan MacLeod. The honorable immortal he watched didn't want to become involved with a man like Michael Delon. MacLeod read in silence, his face ghastly, and Dawson felt uncomfortably sure that his information had come too late. Surely he wasn't feeling guilty? He'd tried to warn MacLeod away from this guy since their first day on the ship.

When he saw MacLeod's eyes fill with angry tears, Dawson left the room to give him his privacy.

The Watcher report stated that there was no record of any immortal named Michael Delon. If, indeed, he was an immortal, he was new or using a false name. Without a photo, there wasn't much else they could tell Dawson. A second, longer fax from a private detective agency revealed Delon's ownership of a company which had flourished by selling munitions to both sides of most wars in the last fifty years. While it appeared he was not involved in running the business, spending most of his time traveling, Delon was the majority shareholder. The investigator further reported rumors of involvement in other concerns, shady to unsavory, including drug dealing and smuggling of antiquities.

MacLeod was too angry and hurt to keep the reports to himself as he'd planned. Instead, he confronted Delon that evening. Michael remained silent, a mocking smile on his face, until MacLeod finally ran out of words.

"You and Dawson had no right to go prying into my business affairs. If you don't like what you've learned, it's your own fault. Do you always have private investigators on retainer for your conquests, MacLeod? Of course, you could have just asked me these questions."

 "I'm asking you now, Michael. Is this true?"

"Surely you trust your own investigators, MacLeod. But shouldn't they have reported on me sooner? I'm amazed you even spoke to me without knowing whether I was virtuous enough for you."

"It's true then -- you don't deny any of this." MacLeod was so angry his hand was shaking as he waved the report. "Can you at least tell me why?"

"What exactly do you want to know? Why I'm not a good guy? Why I make money? Why we fucked?" When Duncan punched him he didn't seem surprised. He pulled himself back to his feet and stood with his back to MacLeod, his hands clenched into fists and his voice harsh and ugly. "Just leave, MacLeod. It was fun."

"Fun." MacLeod felt like he was the one who'd been punched. "No, last night wasn't fun. Laughable, maybe, how easily I got in your bed." He left the room and didn't see Michael again.

MacLeod went back to Seacouver, licking his wounds and getting involved in the usual stream of old friends and new enemies. Then Richie left for France, and MacLeod found himself planning a trip to New York City. It had been years since he'd spent any time on the East Coast. He could see some live theater, maybe visit Connor.

He spent the month looking for Michael in every crowd. Despite telling himself that selling munitions was wrong, even if it was the stupid mortals themselves who started the damn wars, he wanted to see the man again. Just to apologize. He'd realized, far too late, that frequent sword-transporting embroiled him and every immortal he knew in smuggling investigations. Why hadn't he thought of that when he was reading the damn investigator's report? Was he so afraid of loving Michael that he'd looked for an excuse to stop seeing him?

None of his intentions mattered. Delon had vanished, as if he'd never existed. A New York private investigator could only tell MacLeod that there was no record of Michael Delon owning the munitions company any longer. In fact, it seemed that most computer records of Delon's life had been destroyed somehow. If not for Joe's report, there would be no information at all.

Well, enough. It was time to locate Richie and get back to living. To hell with Michael Delon, anyway.

By the time he reached Paris, MacLeod was glad he'd called Fitz for a ride from the airport. Seeing his old friend so happy helped him forget his own heartache. But then they were run off the road, and by the time Joe called to alert him that Kalas was rumored to be in town, Fitzcairn was dead by Kalas' hand. It had happened right before his eyes. Richie was still missing, the Watchers weren't able to locate him, and MacLeod was afraid to go looking while Kalas was threatening his friends. He just prayed that Richie was being smart.

******

Richie Ryan, now known as Brian Hanson and with the passport to prove it, was sitting at his favorite café, waiting for Adam. Adam was still trying to convince him to leave France, to go back to the states as he'd originally planned. But he was having so much fun. His new identity as planned by Adam was bringing out a previously unsuspected talent for acting. He was a businessman, down to the leather briefcase and cell phone he carried. Adam had cut his hair into a very fashionable style, far nicer than Adam's own student look. Dying it a dark reddish brown hadn't been pleasant, but it looked terrific and natural. Adam had supplied him with cash and his papers and told him to take off.

And Richie had, going exploring in France rather than returning home. His business supposedly imported and exported weapons -- Adam's way of insuring he'd be able to travel with his sword. So he'd gone to Lyon, to an estate sale. The rich young American businessman, flirting with women, staying in the best hotels. Enjoying himself.

And pissing Adam off. The call on his cell phone had been from a noisy pay phone. "What in the hell do you think you're doing? Get the fuck out of France, now."

"Adam, I wanted to buy a nice sword for you -- pay you back a little for all your help."

"Richie, sweet as that thought is, you're buying it with my money. And Adam Pierson can't collect swords!"

"Adam, listen, why don't you meet me outside Ariel's tomorrow and we'll talk."

"Fine. But after you finish your coffee, you're getting on a plane. Or I'll be putting your dead body on one."

***

Richie felt a wash of presence and stood up, smiling and looking for Adam. He heard a low voice behind him state " I'm Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," even as he spotted Adam down the street. He would have turned to MacLeod, but a large blond man was grabbing at Adam's arm, and Adam was trying to pull away. Adam's face was totally blank, yet Richie knew he was scared.

"Mac..."

"Richie? What on earth..." MacLeod's face was a combination of relief and anger. "You shouldn't still be here." But Adam and his assailant had vanished, and Richie's attention was split.

"I've got to go ... my friend... I'll be in touch, okay?" And Richie ran toward the place he'd last seen Adam.

MacLeod stood in amazement. He honestly hadn't recognized Richie until he'd said his name. But why had he run off? MacLeod started to follow him, then he heard the swords and ran.

Richie was fighting – Kalas, dammit! He couldn't interfere, could he? But he'd stood and watched while Kalas took Fitzcairn's head, and he wasn't going to do it again. Richie was doing a good job, holding his own so far. But he looked upset. And the fools weren't staying in the narrow alleys, they'd moved onto the quay. Then Kalas' blade cut deep into Richie's arm and MacLeod sprang forward, his own sword already out as Richie cried out and retreated a step.

"Now, now, Highlander. You can't interfere. This punk doesn't know that lesson. He just tried to interfere in a battle with someone I want even more than I want you. It would be only fair to take his head for his meddling."

"Where is Adam?" Richie was panting but had his blade back up, ready to continue. MacLeod backed off for a moment, looking around. Was there another immortal involved?

Kalas laughed. "Adam? That's rich. Your great friend didn't tell you his real name, boy. Well, I'll show you exactly what happened to Adam." As he spoke, Kalas climbed the rail of the bridge behind him. "I'll see you when the odds are better." He jumped into the water as they both watched.

"Man, look at my suit!" Richie looked at his still-bloody arm with disgust. "Mac, do you know any tailors who do repairs?"

Two hours later, cleaned up and sitting in MacLeod's barge, Richie was finishing the story of his death and Adam's assistance in creating his new identity. "He even showed me how to change my posture and walk, Mac. He's very good at this stuff."

"Rich, I'm so glad to see you're okay. But you have to leave France. First of all, because you're dead here. Even in disguise, it's not safe. And second, because Kalas is after me and he'll use you against me. Now he's seen us together..."

"Mac, I'll go -- I *was* going. But first I have to get in touch with Adam, make sure he's okay. I don't know why Kalas is after him, but he's one of the good guys, Mac."

"You don't know much about him, Rich." MacLeod shook his head, realizing how much he sounded like Dawson had when he met Michael. "I'll admit, I'm favorably inclined toward anyone Kalas doesn't like..." The phone rang and he paused to answer it.

Fifteen minutes later, they were driving toward the university. "According to Dawson, Kalas has killed two Watchers. His, and another who wasn't even a field agent. He was a researcher, investigating old myths about immortals."

"Why? I mean, if you don't know about the watchers, I can see being upset that someone is following you..."

"But researchers? Dawson thinks Kalas is looking for old, powerful immortals so he can take their heads and become stronger." They pulled up to a familiar apartment building.

"This is the address Joe gave you?"

"Yeah, some research guy named Pierson lives here. Joe thinks Kalas may come after him next."

"Mac, he already did. That's Adam's apartment. Knowing him, he's long gone by now."

Their search of the building was fruitless. MacLeod and Richie went back to the barge, arguing.

"So you're telling me this Pierson infiltrated the Watchers, and no one knows he's one of us. I can't believe you thought that was an acceptable thing to do!"

"Well, it's a great place to hide. Adam doesn't hunt, Mac. You know what he did for me. I've never seen him fight. Even today he ran rather than take Kalas' challenge."

"That just proves he's cowardly enough to use the Watchers to trap others."

"Mac. He uses their information to avoid immortals, not to seek them out." Richie was beginning to feel the way he always did around MacLeod. The man just didn't listen to him, didn't trust his judgement. Being younger sucked.

"He's got to be doing the same thing Kalas did. Joe said Pierson is working on the Methos chronicle. Why would he investigate the oldest immortal if he's not trying to get power?"

"Adam wouldn't do that. He likes history, he reads stuff..."

"I'm going to call Joe."

"Mac, you can't! I told you in confidence, I never thought you'd rat him out to the Watchers. And now he needs them to hide from Kalas."

"It's the Game, Richie. He can't just hide away."

"Why not, Mac? When Darius parked himself on holy ground for hundreds of years, did you tell him it was wrong?"

"That's different." MacLeod went to the refrigerator for more juice. Darius *was* different.

"Darius was *your* friend, you mean." Duncan turned on him, but Richie shook his head. "Mac, I don't want to fight with you. I've got to go, anyway. I've got reservations on Air France at 10 p.m., right?"

"Your ticket will be at the counter. Richie, watch your head, okay? I'll be back in the States as soon as I take care of Kalas."

"Sure, big guy. You be careful, too." They shared an awkward hug and Richie left the barge and headed back to his hotel. He was a little warm in the sweater Mac had loaned him to cover the blood on his shirt. The suit jacket had been trashed. Well, once he was back in the states, he didn't need to remain Brian Hanson or ever wear a tie again unless he felt like it. Remembering how people had bowed and scraped in Lyon, he thought he might feel like it occasionally.

He walked from the elevator toward his room and felt presence. He carefully drew his sword and kicked open the door to the room, his blade up and immediately engaged with Adam's.

"Adam. Man, am I glad to see you." He lowered his sword and quickly closed the door behind him.

"I'm glad it's you and not Mr. Gravel-Voice. I was afraid you'd get tangled up with him."

"I did. I wanted to make sure you were alright. I caught up with him on the quay, and you were gone."

"Oh, please tell me you didn't challenge him..."

"It didn't matter. He wasn't interested, we only fought briefly."

"Great, I feel so much better. Why would you go after a strange immortal like that? Didn't anyone teach you you'll live longer if you don't go around tossing out rash challenges?"

"I thought he'd done something to you -- I didn't see or feel you, hadn't seen a quickening --"

"Exactly. So why would you jump in to fight him?"

"Jeeze, Adam. I've heard about Hunters and Immortals working together, okay? For all I knew, he'd just bundled you into a car and was going to be dealing with you later. I'm fine, relax. And tell me why Kalas challenged you."

"That's his name? I didn't recognize him." Adam dropped to the bed wearily and closed his eyes. "I just got the hell out of there. I had to jump in the river to get away from him. I hate smelling like that, so I came here to get cleaned up. Oh, and I borrowed these clothes."

"Adam, as you usually point out to me, I'm paying for the hotel with your money. You bought these clothes. It's fine. But what did Kalas say?"

"The gist of it was 'there can be only one.'"

"Funny. Listen, I've got to get out of here. Mac made me a reservation for tonight's flight to Chicago."

"Thank God. You're finally leaving France. Guess it's good your teacher wants to see you, at least you listen to him."

"Mac's already seen me. He's here, I ran into him at the café." Adam sat up at that, but Richie was pulling out clothes and his luggage, not paying attention to him. "He's the one who identified Kalas, evidently they have some history. Then last week, Kalas killed his old friend Fitzcairn."

"Hey, can I use your phone to call Headquarters? Maybe they can send someone to secure my apartment, I can't go back there. This Kalas may have found it already."

"You shouldn't get them involved, Adam, he's killing Watchers, too."

"What?"

"I'm sorry, man, I forgot to tell you. Yeah, Kalas killed his Watcher and some research guy. Mac heard about it from Dawson. Dawson thinks Kalas is trying to find someone or something to make him stronger, give him an edge in the Game."

Richie looked at Adam, who was staring into space. "Hey, wake up. I'll be leaving once I take a quick shower. Do you want to keep the room? I won't check out, you can hide here for a while."

"Yeah, that'd be great, Rich. Thanks."

"It's nothing. I still owe you."

An hour later, waiting to board his plane, Richie was still thinking about Adam. He did owe him a favor, and he didn't think the Watchers could protect him from Kalas. He picked up his cell phone and called MacLeod.

*******

Don was dead. Methos had carried the fear since Richie's comments. Now he stood at the hospital, Christine's slap still burning on his cheek and the image of Don's bloody body burned into his memory. If he'd only been at the bookstore today...

"She didn't mean that, Adam. Come on, let's get you home." The voice didn't register in his mind.

"No, Kalas was following him. He can't go home. Let's get him into a hotel." Cecilia sounded unhappy. "Adam, please." He looked up at her, his eyes distant. "We're taking you to a hotel for the night, Adam. Someone will stay with you..."

As they led him down the corridor, he shook his head. "I have a room at the Parkview. A friend checked me in, it's perfectly safe." Don is dead. He died trying to protect me from Kalas. "If you'd just get me to a cab, I'll be fine." Neither of his fellow Watchers looked happy about letting him go alone. As if they could protect him from an immortal! As if he deserved protection...

Half an hour later he was carrying a case of beer and a bottle of Three Generations into his hotel room. His best friend, the man who'd brought him into the Watchers, was dead. Tortured to death by one of the worst of his kind, put into danger because of him. He was ready to drink and mourn.

And a part of his brain was still mourning MacLeod, damn it. The man was in Paris, no doubt at that barge of his. Nobly sending Richie home so he could deal with Kalas alone. It would be funny if it weren't so true. MacLeod protected his friends, while Methos hid behind them and they were killed. Just as well he and MacLeod were through, just as well.

He opened a beer and poured tequila into the hotel-supplied glass. Ah, that's better. "To you, Don Salzer, thanks for being my friend. I didn't deserve you." He tossed back the drink and followed it with beer, settling onto the bed and pulling off his sweater.

Since his return to Paris, his free time had been spent poring over the chronicles, obsessing over Ryan's teacher, Duncan MacLeod. Seeing Richie's big-heartedness and ability to trust only reinforced what he'd been reading. The man was a hero, noble and loving and caring. He protected mortals, cherished many immortal friends, and though he seemed to fight far too often, he rarely issued challenges. He was one of the good guys, maybe the best hope for the Game.

No wonder he'd been so appalled by Michael Delon. And if Delon's life was that reprehensible, what would he think of Methos' thousands of years? Nothing heroic about any of his lives. Years spent hiding, years spent getting by, years spent as one of the great evils of the world. Nothing in common with the Highlander. Just as well.

Now Kalas had found him. Oh, the man had no proof, but he'd immediately guessed that the immortal Methos Researcher was Methos himself. He'd thrown out the name during his challenge, watching for a reaction. Methos had retreated as far into Adam as he could, then run for the water. He was too rusty to face anyone. Kalas was good if he took Fitzcairn. And he'd be challenging MacLeod sooner or later, whether he found Methos again or not.

He had to think of a way to stop Kalas from killing more Watchers, from killing MacLeod. From getting his 5000 years of quickening. But for tonight, he had to drink.

***

Duncan MacLeod exited the elevator on the seventh floor, looking for Richie's room. He had refused Richie's request, then stewed for hours over what he owed to someone who had selflessly helped his student. MacLeod was torn between gratitude and anger. Richie should have come to him for help, for money. *Well, that's twisted. Don't be happy Richie made a friend of his own. Do you want him dependent on you forever?*

He felt the presence at the door and put his hand over the hilt of his blade. After all, Kalas might have found Adam, unlikely as it was. The door was locked, and there was no answer to his knocking. Hotel security -- he didn't even need the tools from Amanda's latest birthday gift, he opened the lock with his credit card. Only to be stopped by a flimsy "security" chain, easily broken with one quick blow.

MacLeod found himself facing the last immortal he'd expected to see, dead drunk and swaying on his feet, sword in hand.

"Michael?"

"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Have a beer...oops, none left. Sorry." An uncontrolled swing of the hand holding his sword as he indicated the room, continuing "Mi casa es su casa." Propelled by his arm's momentum, he fell in a heap by the bed.

MacLeod's eyes took in the empty tequila bottle, the cans of beer, and the giggling form on the floor. "I'm looking for Adam Pierson. Do you know where he is?" His annoyance grew as the laughter continued. "Delon, did you kill Pierson?"

He snorted "Are you challenging me if I did, MacLeod?"

"When you're sober enough to understand a challenge, yes. Pierson is a friend." MacLeod's eyes were hard. "Did you kill him?"

"Even drunk, I understand that this isn't the place for a challenge, MacLeod. Give me two hours, and meet me under the bridge at Tournelle. That should be late enough for some privacy." He waved his hand at MacLeod. "Shoo. I'll be along later."

"Fine."

"Good." MacLeod slammed the door as he left the room. Methos' demeanor instantly changed to thoughtfulness. It might work. Get MacLeod angry and in a fight, and it would work. Finding his ex-lover instead of that mysterious good guy, Adam, had certainly been a good start. Let him keep believing that nasty old Michael had taken Adam's head.

It was a fair plan. MacLeod would challenge Kalas, and he'd definitely have the power to defeat him. The Watchers would be safe. MacLeod might even make it to the end, win the Prize. Of course, Methos would be dead. Well, all plans have some flaw.

***

MacLeod spent the next two hours walking the streets of Paris, upset and angry. He knew Delon wasn't a saint, but he'd never suspected that Joe was right when he'd accused him of seducing and killing other immortals. It seemed that being trapped on a ship with no privacy for a quickening was all that had saved him. Poor Richie would be so devastated that he hadn't saved Adam, and his anger at himself only grew. If he'd just gone to him immediately when Rich called...

When he arrived at the bridge, he felt presence. Before he could pull his own blade, Delon was on him, swinging.

"Why?" *Why me, why Pierson? Why aren't you the person I thought I loved?*

"Because there can be only one." Delon was competent, but not a real threat. A few more blows exchanged, and MacLeod disarmed him. He held Delon's wrist with one hand while the other pressed his katana to the long throat.

"Well, MacLeod, what are you waiting for? Finish it!"

"No." He moved his blade down and swore he saw disappointment in Delon's eyes, quickly masked by ridicule.

"I'd have taken your head."

"No, you'd have made a mistake and let me..." MacLeod stood, watching the glowing eyes that had so mesmerized him from the beginning. "You wanted me to take your head. Why? What game is this? Who are you.." His voice trailed off as he stared at the man. "You didn't kill Adam Pierson. You are Adam."

Damn. The Highlander was good, in more ways than one. "At the moment."

"Then why did you let me think..." The tumblers clicked into place as he looked into the depths of those eyes, for the first time understanding the ages they hid. "Kalas was looking for powerful immortals. And he found..." He shook his head, backing away and lowering his sword. "Methos."

Methos smiled and lowered his head. "I cannot defeat Kalas, MacLeod. He would take me, as easily as you did. Even without my power, he might beat you. But he cannot beat both of us."

"After five thousand years, the best idea you can come up with is for me to take your head?"

"I don't have the fire anymore, MacLeod. It's for the best." He took MacLeod's hand and raised the katana to his own neck. "You have the passion, you want Kalas." He stretched his neck. "Live, Highlander. Grow stronger. Fight another day."

They stood frozen for a minute, then MacLeod again said "No" in a strangled voice. He moved his sword down, grabbing Methos with his free arm. "Not this way, not ever." And he lowered his mouth over the other man's to stop the argument.

*****

MacLeod chuckled on the other end of the phone. Joe Dawson swore, then whined, "You mean to tell me that Richie's Adam Pierson is your Michael Delon -- and that he's really Methos? He was right there, under our eyes all the time." And if he'd ever taken Don Salzer up on his invitation to meet his buddy Adam, Joe would have had the chance to become his friend, too. And maybe to have known the truth, had a chance talk to Methos about what he'd seen. Five thousand years... It was too much.

"Well, Joe, you kept saying that Delon was hiding something. But neither of us guessed the real secret."

"Look, I'll be on the next plane..."

"Joe, forget it. He's gone. He broke up my fight with Kalas, turned him in to the police and now he's vanished." MacLeod looked around the empty apartment once again. "Your chronicles went with him."

"Maybe someone at headquarters will know..."

"Joe, you can't tell the Watchers. I promised Richie. Oh, hell, I'm asking you as a favor to me. It would be so dangerous for him if other immortals found out..."

"Okay, Mac." Dawson paused, hearing something more in MacLeod's voice. "Listen, are you alright? Are you coming back here soon? Richie and I were expecting you."

"Yeah, Joe. Just a few things to clear up and I'll be there." He sighed as he hung up, then picked up the book Methos had left, the only object in the stripped room. His book, taken from his barge and left on the windowsill here with a single sheet of notepaper as a bookmark. Scrawled on the page was one word: Remember.

He spoke the words aloud. "Live. Grow stronger. Fight another day." He turned to leave, then paused at the door to take one last look around the room. "But where does love fit in that equation, Methos?"

 End of part 1 -- go to part 2

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