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 2: Finale
by Laura Mason

 Methos, currently known as Adam Pierson, wandered the stalls of the Lido marketplace absently inspecting vegetables. His mind was far away, running over the phone conversation he'd had with Christine Salzer earlier.

Since Don's death, he'd been checking in on Christine a few times each week. She had forgiven Adam for not being at the bookstore that day when Kalas arrived, for not saving Don somehow. He supposed someday he would forgive himself, he was good at that after all. He'd testified against Kalas, sitting with Christine in the courtroom. But Kalas' conviction didn't mean Christine had forgiven or forgotten her husband's murder.

Don had never explained the Watchers to his wife, but after his death some idiot decided to give her the full story "so she'd know the reason her husband died." Was it supposed to comfort her? Or were they hoping to recruit her into the organization? It didn't matter; all they'd done was to assure her ongoing obsession with Don's killer.

"That... thing ... deserves to die, Adam. You people shouldn't be watching him, you know what he is and how to kill him. If you truly cared about Don, you'd be hunting."

"Christine, Kalas is in prison. He'll be there for a long, long time."

"And that makes everything alright?"

"No. But we can't bring Don back, whether Kalas lives or dies." His only answer was a choked sob. "Christine, my uncle offered to let you use his villa. I'll travel there with you, we'll get you out of Paris..."

"Adam, wherever I go, my husband will be dead."

And that was the truth. Don Salzer, a man who never hurt anyone and simply loved books and history, was dead. A wonderful husband, a good friend, a clever and insightful mind. Dead. While Kalas went on. Adam Pierson went on. Duncan MacLeod...

Concentrate on the fruit, old man.

The buzz of presence cut over him and he froze, controlling his body and refusing to lift his head to catch anyone's eyes. The market was crowded, and so few Immortals knew him by sight. Just a little luck, and he could vanish without any challenge.

He smelled the Chanel No. 5 just before he was grabbed in strong, slender arms.

"Mike! You old fraud."

"Amanda!" He turned and hugged her right back. "Oh, it's good to see you."

"I tried to contact you last year, I thought you'd left France."

"Let's go have a coffee."

"Oh, well..." She looked a little sheepish. "I really can't, not today." He realized she was lugging bags full of groceries, more food than he usually bought in a month.

"Better offer, eh? Fine. How about some help with those, then?"

Her smile was dazzling as she passed bags to him. "We can meet tomorrow to catch up. Maybe lunch?"

"I think I can guess what's new with you. Hmm. Lots of supplies. Truffles. Pate. Since I last saw you, you've become Directress of a luxury orphanage."

Amanda's laughter was just as wonderful as he remembered. "Beast. Nope, this is just a little dinner for a friend."

"A very good friend, I take it."

"It's a bribe, really. He's going to be upset with me." Her confidential voice still gave him goose bumps.

"Someone who doesn't like you liberating jewels?"

"Well, yes, that's true. But it's worse than that this time."

"You ran off with his son? Daughter? Oh, wait, I know. You ran off with his chauffeur and the best car!" Giggling, Amanda punched his arm. He managed not to drop her bag. "Worse than that? You got him arrested for one of your jobs."

"You can't tell a soul. I broke someone out of jail last night."

"One of us?"

"Yes."

"Well, he'll understand, Amanda. It's not safe to leave one of us in jail too long, they'd notice..."

"But they're enemies. I was trying to take the bastard's head for Mac, but he brought a friend along and ..."

"For who?" Methos stopped walking. "Amanda, did you say 'Mac'?"

"Duncan MacLeod. You've heard me talk about him, Mike. I owe him one. Actually, I owe him several..."

"Please tell me you didn't let Kalas out of jail last night, Amanda."

"You know him?"

"I know him, they both know me, and they both probably want my head right now." Methos frowned, remembering how he'd snuck out of the Highlander's bed and immediately arranged to vanish. He lingered a little too long on the memories of the body in said bed and stopped the stupid grin forming on his face. "We need to talk. Now. Today. Wait, first buy more wine for your dinner with MacLeod. You'll need it."

***

Amanda had avoided MacLeod's pre-dinner questions with her usual skill, bolstered by the idea that in another hour, Methos would be here to help her deflect Mac's anger and plan their strategy to rid the world of Kalas. Methos hadn't been excited about the idea of seeing MacLeod again, but she'd insisted. Mac always respected older immortals, even she could use her age in an argument with him. Methos' authority would be invaluable.

So she went in, the first wave of the attack, and Methos had asked her to make the dinner wonderful, get Duncan relaxed with lots of wine and even sex, if possible. If possible?! That hurt. Just because he'd preferred Rebecca didn't mean she couldn't seduce anyone and anything alive...

Well, it looked like they were just a romantic song away from dancing their way into bed. Thirty minutes for sex, twenty minutes for afterglow (nap for MacLeod), and ten for a quick tandem shower. Then Methos would arrive, they'd tell Mac the news about Kalas, and everything would be fine. Methos wouldn't let Mac take her head, after all.

The knock on the door startled them both. Damn, why was he here this early? But no, there was no presence...

"Mac? It's Joe, let me in."

"Dawson?" MacLeod hustled to the door of the barge as Amanda settled provocatively on the sofa with their wine glasses. She thought Joe would take the hint. "Joe, what's wrong? You just got in yesterday, I didn't expect to see you."

"Mac, I've got news for you. Bad news. Kalas broke out of jail last night."

"What?"

"And he had help, that's the worst thing, Mac..."

"Hi, Joe!" Amanda was feeling the panic rise in her chest. He couldn't know, could he? No, she'd dumped her watcher. But still, Joe was ruining her plan. Now Mac would take off, leaving her here, running off half-cocked to find Kalas the Evil. She couldn't let that happen. Well, she was woman enough to handle two men instead of one. "Join us, have some wine." She smiled her best, most seductive smile at both men.

Joe blushed and stammered "Amanda... I didn't expect to see you... Well, then, you already know." Amanda's jaw dropped open at his words. " I'll be going, three's a crowd and all."

"Wait, Joe. I already know what?" MacLeod's honest confusion and Amanda's narrowing eyes told Dawson that he'd truly stepped in it this time.

"Well, Mac. Maybe Amanda should tell you." He smiled at her, but her look became even more deadly.

"Tell me what? Amanda..." MacLeod could be awfully threatening for such a nice guy. Amanda stopped herself from backing away, deliberately taking a drink before answering.

"I was planning to tell you tonight, Mac. After dinner."

"Oh, I knew there was a reason for this little impromptu party. What did you do, Amanda?"

"I was trying to do you a favor. But that slimy bastard brought another psycho out with him. He knifed me in the back before I could take Kalas' head." Oh, now the dam had burst and Duncan was raving. You can't fight my battles, you shouldn't have been involved, blah, blah. Joe showed him the newspaper report, and when he saw that two guards had been killed, MacLeod went even more ballistic.

"You can't fight for me. I don't want you to die for me, either, and I can't be protecting you now! You've put everyone in danger, not just me, not just you -- Kalas is a killer, he'll kill mortals, anyone, without a second thought!"

"I didn't intend for anyone to get killed, Duncan. I just wanted to take Kalas' head. I know he hurt you, but Fitz was my friend, too."

"Amanda... oh, hell. I can't discuss this with you, I'm too angry. Just leave. Please. And promise me that you will stay away from Kalas."

Three minutes later, tears in her eyes and a false promise burning her throat, Amanda found herself on the quay. She moved away from the barge, out of buzz range, and waited for Methos to arrive. Their plan would need to change, but she knew he'd help her work out a way to protect MacLeod.

***

Joe Dawson watched his immortal storm around the barge, slamming dishes into the tiny galley and muttering under his breath. When he couldn't take it any longer, he followed him to the sink and put a hand on his arm.

"Mac, please. Go sit. I'll make us some coffee and we can discuss everything."

"What is there to discuss, Joe? Kalas will be coming after me now. You shouldn't be here, no one should be seen with me. You're in danger, just like Fitz and Richie were before. Kalas always tries to hurt me through my friends." He slammed a goblet down and it broke, cutting his hand. Joe swore and tried to help him. "Don't. I won't die." MacLeod removed a shard of glass from his palm and they watched the healing for a moment.

"Mac, please. What's really wrong?"

"I'm afraid, Joe. No, not of Kalas killing me. He might, but anyone might. That's the Game, it's what we do. But to know I'm putting my friends at risk..."

Joe nodded, then looked more closely at the other man's face. "It's Methos, isn't it?"

"What do you mean?" MacLeod wouldn't even look at him.

"You're worried about Amanda and me, sure. But you know where we are, you know you can protect us, check up on us." Joe nodded to himself, his voice stronger as he reasoned it out. "But you haven't seen or heard from Methos. You can't know if he's safe."

"Joe, for all I know, Kalas may be on his trail already. He could be dead." MacLeod's head dropped. "I know there's nothing between us anymore, it's over. But I can't help wondering..."

Dawson felt, not for the first time, that for someone who professed to be a "watcher," he was truly blind. MacLeod had fallen hard for the immortal he'd met as Michael Delon. And evidently he was still hurting over their estrangement, or at least mourning the friendship MacLeod had hoped to build after his re-introduction to Methos, alias Adam Pierson, Watcher. Dawson suspected there was more to their reunion than MacLeod had told him.

Well, he'd gotten off to a bad start in this whole situation. His suspicions about 'Delon' had led Mac to instigate their initial separation. Then Richie returned with glowing stories about his new friend, Adam, who'd been so generous and helpful -- and MacLeod revealed that 'Adam' was 'Delon.' Despite Richie's praise, Dawson still believed it was an act, a way for Delon/Pierson to get back in Mac's good graces.

Discovering that Adam's true identity was Methos, the oldest living immortal, didn't allay Dawson's suspicions. He questioned why Methos seemed to be protecting MacLeod. Was Methos planning to use MacLeod as a shield, a hiding place? Or was he waiting to get Mac off guard, then ensure his own secret by taking the Highlander's head? It was just too hard to believe that a 5000 year old man was motivated by love. Someone who'd survived that long couldn't be susceptible to big brown eyes and innate nobility. Could he?

Maybe none of it really mattered right now. His friend was hurting, and he could help him a little. Time to worry about Methos' motives later.

"Mac, why didn't you ask me before? You know I can check on Adam Pierson's whereabouts through the Watchers."

"Would you do that for me?"

"Well, hell. I know you're not hunting the guy. It's bending the rules, but ... Yeah, I'll do it for you."

"But if you had to go to headquarters... would you mind seeing him again?"

"Mac, he's Methos, an incredibly mysterious and fascinating immortal. The best any Watcher could do was read a chronicle about him. Now I have a chance to actually talk to him, hear about history... I'd like to spend a month or two just making him answer questions. I'm only afraid he'll run off when he sees me. That's the reason I haven't inquired about Pierson since I decided to come to Paris."

"Joe, it would be such a help. That, and any information about Kalas you can pass on."

"Speaking of Kalas, he does seem to be on his way to the city. An immortal was killed last night near Vincennes by someone matching Kalas' description. It wasn't a fair fight; the Watcher reported his guy was run down by two men in a car, and then the passenger took him out with his own sword. And robbed him, of course." Joe handed MacLeod a cup of coffee and then took his own to the arm chair.

"So Kalas is armed. What about the driver -- is he the guy Amanda says escaped with him?"

"Probably. The police reports are sketchy right now. Kalas doesn't seem interested in following the rules or working alone, though, so you keep your eyes open. I'll check our contacts to see what information is out there. Don't worry, Mac. You'll get your chance at the guy."

"Just so he doesn't get anyone else involved." He paced for a moment, again seeing Kalas taking Fitz's head. "I can't believe I sent Amanda off like that, alone. Kalas has seen her and knows she's a friend of mine. Why would she do something so risky, Joe?"

"I don't know, but I do know she cares about you. You should know it, too. Don't be fooled by her games, and don't keep punishing her. She's trying to help you, however misguided the attempt was."

MacLeod took a long sip of coffee. "I know. I was so happy to see her tonight, I didn't really care what the reason was for her surprise visit. She's a comfort to me. I mean, since Richie can't be here."

Dawson added the words "since Methos vanished" in his own mind, knowing they were in MacLeod's thoughts as well.

***

Methos reluctantly took a sobbing Amanda back to his apartment, wishing Pierson could afford a cleaning woman. Or at least a decent apartment. As he boiled water for tea, Amanda collected herself on the sofa.

"God, Mike, this place is awful."

"It's part of my cover. And thank you."

"For what?"

"For continuing to call me Mike, not Methos. I appreciate it. But I'm Adam Pierson now, you'd better get used to that name."

"Now I know why I couldn't find you when Rebecca died." Amanda sniffed again, dabbing her eyes with a tissue. "Duncan has never thrown me out before. At least, not in front of anyone. Oh, he's been angry..."

"I've no doubt." He measured tea into the pot, then carefully rinsed out two cups and saucers. Living alone, the extra cups always seemed to get dusty. "As I told you earlier, I've seen the wrath of MacLeod myself."

Amanda looked up at his tone of voice. "But you said... It is all over between you two, right?" She tried to smile. "We aren't rivals or something dreary like that?"

"Oh, Amanda, he's all yours. I'd just like to see his wonderfully righteous head stay attached to his gorgeous body. And I assume you feel the same way."

His words were what she wanted to hear, but the pain in her old friend's eyes tore at Amanda. She wondered if Duncan cared as much as Methos evidently did. If so, she was in trouble. She'd lost Mac to mortal lovers a few times, but that was different. She could wait for the inevitable, and then they'd resume their relationship. But another immortal...

"So Dawson is staying in Paris now?"

"I don't know for how long, but Mac said he arrived yesterday. Why?"

"You're forgetting what I explained about my new life, dear. He's my compatriot." Methos flashed his Watcher tattoo at her as he filled the teapot. "Sugar, lemon, milk?"

"Just milk, please. So you're planning to see Joe again? That seems kind of risky with him knowing you've infiltrated the Watchers."

"He hasn't given me away yet, and I'm fairly sure MacLeod didn't keep my secret for long. Joe is a good man, despite him ruining your evening." He grinned at her and Amanda found herself feeling so much better. Methos could always do that, he was a wonderful friend. "I think I'll have to take the Watcher road, and you take the Highlander road..." He hummed as he carried a tray to the coffee table.

"Don't! I'm never going to Scotland again, the one time I did that with Duncan and Fitzcairn, I froze even in what they call summer. And all we did was play golf!"

"You don't have to go to Scotland, lass, just go back to Duncan. I need you to stay close to him. I can't, and we'll need you inside to hear if Kalas calls to challenge him."

"Do you intend to interfere in a challenge?"

"It's not a challenge until they start fighting. With any luck, we can keep that from happening. Distract Kalas, tie up MacLeod. Whatever it takes. Until the police can come and lock that bastard up again. I have it on good authority that a certain party won't be helping him over the wall again."

"At least we can level the field. I don't trust Kalas to fight fair."

"He won't. But that means you'll be in the line of fire, being with MacLeod. Kalas has used Mac's friends and lovers against him before."

"And you know this how?" He merely showed his tatoo again. "Damn. You and those Watcher chronicles... I guess I can see why you like hiding out there."

"But I'm only using my powers for good. So you'll go back to the barge? Apologize, grovel, beg -- whatever it takes."

"I can grovel. I really do owe him. He avenged Rebecca for me, you know." She daintily sipped at her tea. "But I don't want to go back there tonight, Mike. Adam." Her smile melted him. " It's too soon to grovel, he won't believe I'm repentant until tomorrow. Besides, let him stew a little tonight and worry about me. That should make the apologies mutual."

Methos smiled at her devilish look. "But you don't have a hotel room for tonight, do you?" He couldn't help it, his lips twitched.

"Do I need one?" He knew she wasn't really hurt, but the wounded puppy eyes were excellent.

"You know you're welcome here, Amanda. My dump is your dump. I'll flip you for the bed." He sat back with his tea, watching her face out of the corner of his eye. Surprise, confusion, outrage...

"Are you serious? You won't share a bed with me?"

"You're involved with someone else. The only reason you're here with me is to get help protecting him. Of course, I realize that you mean just sleeping in the same bed, not sex. But would he understand the distinction? What do you tell him if he asks where you stayed tonight?"

Amanda's mouth opened and closed twice before she could speak. Methos bit his cheek to keep from laughing. "That's none of... I can't believe you... Just sleeping?" She finally calmed down enough to form a full sentence. "Since when have either of us been concerned about being 'involved' or not?"

The combination of flustered anger and confusion was priceless, and Methos finally laughed aloud. "But I had you going for a minute there. Did you think Highland morals had rubbed off on me?" He rose and set his cup down. "I *will* flip you for who uses the bathroom first."

Amanda's smile was wicked. "Here, use my coin."

He laughed and motioned "Ladies first."

As Amanda grabbed her shoulderbag, she assumed a thoughtful look. "I have to say, Adam, I think you might have been right about that 'just sleeping' business after all." She smirked at his dismayed face as she sashayed past him.

***

Amanda was safely back at the barge. He'd gone with her, staying out of range but making sure Kalas wasn't already there. He trusted her to hold up her end of the bargain. He only hoped he'd really convinced her that challenging Kalas herself wasn't the smart way to handle things. She still seemed ready to throw herself between MacLeod and Kalas, and he'd never forgive himself if Amanda got her fool head cut off.

Now for his own part. Seeking out Joe Dawson without seeming to, without arousing his suspicions. That was truly the trickier part, but Methos had to admit to himself that it was much easier for him than seeing MacLeod again would have been. Better to be his friend from a distance, help Dawson instead.

There was no way Joe could know he'd hacked into Dawson's e-mail this morning from his apartment. So Pierson showing up at headquarters at the same time Joe would be coming in for his meeting with Jacques Vemas should seem completely coincidental. He figured that he'd be flirting at the reception desk for less than ten minutes, if he was finally starting to know Joe Dawson.

He wondered how accurate the impressions he'd put together from reading MacLeod's chronicles were. It could be interesting, getting to know Joe. Don always said Joe was one of the best Watchers he'd met, and not just because he could beat him at poker. Methos knew Joe was smart, and also that Joe didn't trust him. He'd have to play up the Adam persona, try to keep Joe appeased or he'd never get any information. Of course, Amanda was his backup. Joe didn't know they were in touch, and he wouldn't find out. Amanda was too good at espionage for any normal Watcher. Heck, he was pretty good at it himself.

 Joe Dawson arrived at Watcher Headquarters in a cab and paid the driver. He paused for a moment, gathering himself. He'd requested the appointment with Vemas, but the man certainly rubbed him the wrong way. But Kalas was too dangerous, the organization needed to be warned and alert. By sharing what he knew about how Kalas operated, he'd be helping them prepare for the worst.

Vemas would be angry that Dawson was still so close to his immortal; the man had practically threatened his life when he told MacLeod about the organization in the first place. The decision had proven a good one, but Joe knew it could have gone either way. He was very fortunate to be assigned to one of the most honorable men in the world, someone who could understand evil individuals didn't taint an entire organization.

As Dawson entered the building, he heard laughter from the receptionist. He walked toward her, seeing a tall young man leaning over the desk flirtatiously. And then his heart lurched as he recognized the voice and profile of Methos. He felt a moment of fear -- he knew this man's secret, this very dangerous immortal's real name. Then Joe brushed it aside. Methos wouldn't kill him in the lobby of the Watchers' building. When they both stopped talking and looked at him, he felt himself blush.

"Uh, I'm Joe Dawson. I have an appointment to see Mr. Vemas." The receptionist smiled and picked up her phone. Leaving him staring at Methos with absolutely nothing to say.

"Hi, Joe. How're you doing?" Methos evidently wasn't bothered by any sense of awkwardness.

"Uh. Fine. You?"

"Fine, thanks. We should get together, I'd love to hear your poker stories about Don. Maybe lunch?" Methos' eyes were wide and his whole body as non-threatening as possible.

"Umm." Dawson couldn't believe this, it was too much. A moment ago his only worry had been his meeting with Vemas. Oh, in the back of his mind he'd been wondering how he could get information for Mac about Pierson. Now Methos was standing in front of him, smiling and offering to go to lunch with him? "That would be great. Really."

"Are you free today? Could we meet at 12:30? I'll be in the library until then, just have Marie page me when you're ready." And with another smile, Methos left him.

"Mr. Dawson, sir." He realized that the girl had said his name more than once.

"Yes? I'm sorry, I must have jet lag."

"Mr. Vemas is ready for you. Please go to the third floor, then..."

"I know the way. Thank you."

 Methos smiled as he took himself to his favorite carrel in the back of the research library. He'd managed it so far, and Dawson seemed – well, maybe amazed was the word. But not threatening, not frightened, and not angry. All very good signs. Hopefully, being even more Adam-ish at lunch would relax Joe further. Enough so he would share information with Methos about MacLeod and Kalas, to trust that he didn't want Kalas fighting MacLeod.

Joe hadn't trusted him from the start, and he wondered why. True, his Michael Delon persona wasn't as bland as Adam Pierson. Maybe Dawson just didn't trust immortals -- except MacLeod. Or maybe Joe Dawson simply had excellent instincts about people. Methos didn't consider himself evil. He'd changed. But he wasn't a hero like MacLeod. Still, that didn't mean he couldn't appreciate the man. If Dawson thought he had ulterior motives, well, maybe now Dawson was right. But back when he fell in love with Duncan MacLeod, he wasn't thinking past the next time he could be with Mac, just talking to him.

Which proved to Methos, yet again, that he needed to keep his head and his heart separate. At least, if he wanted to keep his head.

When Marie found him, Methos had forgotten all about Joe Dawson. He was immersed in an old chronicle about MacLeod, something he'd been doing far too much of lately. He was so besotted that even when he couldn't be with the man, he wanted to feel close to him. Reading about his friendship with Hugh Fitzcairn was a lot of fun. It also made him realize how angry MacLeod must be, how badly he'd want Kalas.

At Marie's summons, Methos shook himself out of his reverie and went to the hallway. Joe was waiting, and they headed to a nearby café for food. Joe was wary, but Methos Adam-ed him with small talk and Watcher gossip until the wine arrived, careful not to let the centuries show at all. He was a young grad student, a Watcher. Period.

As their lunch progressed, good wine and a fine meal helped them both relax more, and once the subject turned to Don Salzer, they lost track of time. They swapped stories and shared many laughs as they mourned their mutual friend. When they finally paid the check and left, Adam offered to give Joe a ride back to his hotel. Once they were in the car, he opened the conversation again.

"Joe, I appreciate that you didn't tell the Watchers about me. Thanks."

"MacLeod told me in confidence, and I promised him I'd keep your secret. He worried that you wouldn't be safe."

"He's right. I read that Kalas broke out of jail. Is that why you're here?"

"My meeting with Vemas was about that, yes. I'm here to watch MacLeod, you know that."

"I really don't keep up with the assignments, Joe. I'm strictly a researcher."

"Yeah, Adam, and I'm strictly a bartender." Joe's smile was truly amused, and Methos returned it.

"Okay, you got me. I do pay attention to MacLeod's reports. I hope you'll believe that I just want him safe, that's the only reason. I don't want to see him again, I'm not looking to repeat any past mistakes."

"I'm glad to hear that. Mac's been worried about you, though. Do you mind if I tell him you're okay?"

"That's fine. I suppose I should have known he'd worry." Methos made sure his knowing smile included Joe as a co-conspirator. "After all, it's not like I have thousands of years of experience taking care of myself, right?" They drove in silence for a while longer. "It was wonderful to remember Don with you. Thanks."

"Thank you. I needed it, too." Joe seemed to be lost in thought, but then he continued. "Adam, would you mind... I know this will sound silly, but I love my work as a Watcher. I've always been so interested in immortals, and knowing Mac has enriched my life. I'd like to hear about your life, learn what you know about civilizations you've lived in."

"Joe, despite the age, I'm not a fount of wisdom. I'm just a guy, good at surviving."

"Yeah, well, I'd like to hear what this guy did while he was surviving all those years. I'm not looking for wit and wisdom, just the truth. Your truth, how it seemed to you." Joe's face was earnest as Adam pulled his car to the curb.

"It would be my pleasure, Mr. Dawson. Particularly if you're buying the beer."

Joe's smile was genuine as he got out of the car. "I'll leave word for you at the bookshop. Maybe we can go for a drink tomorrow."

Joe had just closed the door when Methos saw a familiar figure approach the car, shouting at both men. It was Dan Geiger, one of the few field Watchers Adam knew. He put the car into park and jumped out.

"Daniel. What's wrong?"

"Adam, thank heavens I found you both. I need to get you both to Don's house, Christine is raving and she has the whole organization hopping. Take your car; I'll follow."

*****

Joe Dawson knocked on the door of MacLeod's barge and was not surprised to hear Amanda's voice call for him to enter. Good, things were back to normal for these two. That reassured Joe; MacLeod wouldn't be heading to Methos' apartment as soon as he knew the man was in town. While Joe was starting to believe that Methos wasn't a danger to MacLeod, he was sure that both men would be better off living separate lives.

"Joe. Lovely to see you." Amanda breezed over and gave him a kiss. "I was just heading out to get some errands done. See you later." She grabbed her coat and purse, kissed the air in Duncan's direction, and was gone.

A few minutes later Amanda was on the bridge and calling Methos on her cell phone. "Dawson's there, I'll be listening. Yes, I bugged the room, did you think I'd just be inconspicuously hanging around while they talked?" She pulled the phone away from her left ear and adjusted the earpiece on the right. "Adam, shut up and hang up. Ethical or not, I've got to listen to them."

Inside the barge, MacLeod was handing Dawson a cup of coffee. "Some new Watcher business has come up, Mac. I might not be around for the next few days. I just wanted to let you know I've seen Adam."

"Where?"

"At headquarters. We had lunch yesterday. He's fine, Mac. And now that I've talked with him, I'm sure you're right about keeping his identity quiet."

MacLeod looked like he wanted to ask more questions about Methos, what they'd discussed or at least if they'd mentioned him. But he didn't; Dawson watched him pull his attention in another direction. "That's great, Joe. Did you get any news on Kalas?"

"Nothing on his location. We've decided not to assign a watcher to him if he's found, either. He's too dangerous. He knows we exist and he's already killed several of us." Dawson pulled some papers out of his pocket. "This is the information we were able to get from our police contacts about the other inmate, Nino Carsens. If Kalas is planning on working with mortals, this guy will have contacts with the worst criminal elements in the city. You've got to be extra careful, and not just on the alert for another immortal, Mac."

"Kalas won't let them permanently kill me. He wants me himself."

"Well, I don't suppose he'd have any problem with them bringing you to him."

"Joe, you shouldn't be coming here anymore. Kalas knows where I live, he could have people watching the barge."

"Mac, he's only been out for 48 hours."

"Still. Let me walk you back to your car, and promise me you'll stay away. Call me if you need to see me, I'll come someplace public where we can meet. It'll be safer."

"Okay, okay." Dawson left the barge with MacLeod, and in the bright sunlight he saw the stress lining his immortal's face. "Listen, I'll be seeing Adam again this afternoon. Do you have any message for him?" Unfortunately, his question didn't ease any of the stress. If anything, MacLeod looked worse.

"Thanks, Joe, but it's better for Adam if he doesn't even know me. Remember, Kalas was after him six months ago. He's safer just staying in the Watchers, keeping away from this whole situation." MacLeod held Joe's car door as he settled himself in the seat. His voice was soft, but Dawson heard every word. "It's hard enough to be watching out for Amanda's head, Joe. If anything happens..." The door was lightly slammed, and MacLeod left for his barge again, casually looking around at the other pedestrians.

Dawson watched for a moment before he drove off, sighing. Until this Kalas affair was finished, MacLeod would be miserable. But Joe's worry was about Christine Salzer's threats to the Watcher organization. Vemas had called him and Adam in at 7 this morning to discuss the situation.

Joe almost snickered, remembering how disgruntled Adam had looked during what he'd called their "dawn patrol" meeting. Vemas and a half-dozen others were in the conference room, anxious to hear if Pierson or Dawson had been able to calm Mrs. Salzer.

The entire situation had started yesterday during lunch. While Dawson had been swapping stories with Methos, Christine kept a lunch engagement with Lisa Breux, another researcher Don had mentored. The news of Kalas' escape was all over the front pages, and Lisa was not surprised that Christine seemed so upset. But her offers to postpone the lunch were met with angry demands that Lisa take her to headquarters. Christine was blaming the Watcher organization for Don's death. Well, according to Adam, that was nothing new. But now she thought that somehow they'd engineered Kalas' escape. Which was absurd, but Christine kept shouting "you know where he is."

Poor Lisa had put Christine in her car and driven them back to Salzer's home, then called her superiors. Andre Nilsen, the head of the research department and also the man who'd told Christine about the Watchers after Don's death, was the first on the scene. Christine was pacing around and demanding to know where Kalas was. Andre called a doctor -- one of their own, of course. Once they had her sedated, they'd begun looking for Pierson.

By the time Joe and Adam reached Christine, she was much calmer. But still making threats, saying that if the Watchers wouldn't help her kill Kalas, she'd destroy the organization. Adam spent hours talking to her, soothing her. And then spent a few more hours soothing Lisa and Andre, and on the phone with others. Adam reasoned that while Christine had been told the truth, she had no proof to back it up. He even double-checked Don's home computer with the others, showing them Don kept no Watcher files at home. And he said he'd destroyed all the bookstore files immediately after Don's death.

This morning's shouting festival kicked off with Vemas demoting Nilsen for his role in informing Christine Salzer about their organization. When he'd said "that's how we handle oathbreakers," he'd shot a look at Dawson that convinced Joe he had no bright future with the Watchers. Everyone had voiced conflicting opinions, they called the doctor and nurse who'd spent the night with Mrs. Salzer, and finally the meeting had adjourned. Adam was on his way to Christine. Dawson was freed to his duties with MacLeod.

Except that Vemas had called him aside, made him wait until the others vanished, and then asked him to assess the situation and keep a closer eye on Christine. He said Dawson was less emotionally involved than Pierson or Breux, that he'd be able to do whatever was necessary. Joe understood immediately that Vemas wanted Christine killed if she posed a real danger to the Watchers.

As Joe drove to Salzer's house, thinking over the situation, he never noticed the car following him.

***

Amanda did notice the men following her as she walked back to the barge with a bag of food. She knew they'd been behind her all morning, probably even when she'd been bugging Joe's conversation with MacLeod. That had been one of her better ideas, she thought. She knew they might have discussed Kalas in front of her, but that Joe probably wouldn't have brought up Methos. Wasn't it interesting that Duncan let that subject drop so quickly? She wished she could have dropped a bug on Dawson, she could tell they were still talking at the car. Oh well.

"Mac? It's just me!"

"Amanda. I was just about to go out."

"What is it? Did Kalas call you?"

"No." He smiled warmly at her worried face. "I decided not to wait for him. There was a club he owned last year, I thought I'd go check it out. Someone there may have seen him, or know where he's at."

"Great. I'll come with you."

"Amanda, please." He grabbed her shopping bag and started to empty it onto the counter. "You wait here, I'll be back soon. Then I'll cook dinner for you. What did you buy us?"

"MacLeod, this is ridiculous. To hell with dinner, I'll toss this junk in the river and we'll eat out." Amanda tried to pull the bag away from him, torn between scowling at his paternal attitude or laughing at his astonished face. "You're taking me along."

"This is my fight, Amanda. You can't interfere."

"Listen, there's two of us and only one Kalas, right? He doesn't have other immortals on his side, does he? So of course, when it come to a challenge, it will be you and him. I won't interfere." She smiled at him from the bed where she was rapidly changing into more practical shoes. "But we both know Kalas doesn't always play fair. So until you're fighting him, one on one, I'd like to be along to watch your lovely backside."

"I'd really rather do this on my own." Mac had his stubborn face on, but Amanda could beat it.

"Either I go with you or I follow you." MacLeod threw his hands up, and five minutes later the two of them took off across town. Amanda fidgeted next to him in the car, wishing she'd had time to call Methos before they left. She felt uneasy. *By the pricking of my thumbs...* She didn't expect to find Kalas sitting at the club; neither did MacLeod. But she couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. She touched her sword and glanced around again, wondering if it was a bad sign that she couldn't spot the men who'd been tailing her.

***

Kalas sat back, listening to the report of the man who'd been watching MacLeod's barge.

"The woman went out this morning when some old guy came. She's up to something, she was on a bridge watching the boat until the guy left. I had Dave follow him, and Rick is still with the woman. She came back to the barge, then a few minutes later she left with the hair guy."

"MacLeod"

"Yeah, whatever. So Rick and Ed are following them now."

"And you are here because?"

"You said we should report."

"Have you heard of the telephone? It's a marvelous invention..."

"Yeah, yeah. There's more. Dave called to say the old crip is meeting with a woman who's talking about you. He got in close and was listening to a bunch of junk about people who can't die. And this bitch was saying you were part of the gang and should be killed."

"A woman? Did he get a name?"

"Salzer. Christine Salzer. The crip met with her and another guy, skinny with a big nose. He was spouting off about being "one of them" when she talked about these immortals." He abruptly stopped talking when Kalas rose to his feet.

"Enough. Nino, go with him. Get the rest and go after this Salzer woman and the people with her. I want them, all of them, brought to me. Immediately. Alive." Nino rushed forward, stroking his knife, but the other man stopped him.

"Should I pull Rick and Ed off the woman?"

"No. Have them bring her to me, without MacLeod. I'll have use for her soon. They should follow until they can catch her apart from MacLeod. He's very dangerous, I've told you, don't try anything in front of him. Be patient." He stroked his throat with one hand as the men left. "I've been patient all these years. Now I'll have my revenge."

***

Christine Salzer had thrown Methos out of her home once he'd admitted to being one of the immortals she despised so much. She was still threatening to meet with the editor of the Times, but Methos still didn't see a problem for the Watchers. Nevertheless, when Dawson insisted on waiting to keep an eye on her, Methos joined him. It wasn't what he'd signed up for; he wanted to be helping Joe locate Kalas for MacLeod. But he was truly starting to like Joe very much, and he didn't want to leave him alone. Christine had never seemed like the type to become violent, but she was certainly talking a bloodthirsty game now. He began to wonder if Vemas had asked Joe to watch Christine when he kept him after the meeting that morning.

So Methos bought them carryout coffee and settled in Joe's car with him to watch the house. When Christine left half an hour later, they carefully followed her to Don's bookshop, Shakespeare and Company. The store was already closed for the afternoon, but of course both Christine and Adam had keys. They let her enter first, and when she stayed for more than five minutes, they followed her into the dark store.

Christine was sitting at Don's desk, his computer screen glowing on her intent face. Methos saw the broken frame on the floor, an old snapshot of him with Don. He hated having pictures of himself in circulation; he'd always planned to dispose of that one but somehow never did. Evidently Christine was still angry with him, angry enough to take care of that for him. He bent and picked up the photo, and saw a note on the back as he bent it to put it in a pocket.

"Adam, I did pay attention. When you taught me about computers, and even when you said you'd steal this picture someday. D"

Joe's sad voice from behind Christine brought Methos' head up just in time to see Dawson level a gun at her.

"I really wish you hadn't seen that, Christine. Give me the disk, now."

"Never." She popped the CD and tucked it against her chest with the ratty old sweater of Don's she was still holding. "This has all the information I need to prove my claims when I meet with Clancy tomorrow."

"The database? But Don didn't have another..." Methos paused as he realized just what the note on the photo meant. "Christine, where did you find that disk?"

"It fell out of that picture of my husband with a lying bastard."

"Adam, what the hell is it?"

"It's an interactive Watcher database. Don and I were working on it, I thought it was destroyed when I wiped his computer."

"God. Christine, I can't let you take that, it belongs to the Watchers." Christine only laughed.

"Joe..."

"Stay out of this, Adam. Vemas thought you were too close, and I agree. Christine, I can't let you compromise the safety of our people. You wouldn't just be harming immortals. The truly evil ones like Kalas, I wouldn't care. But the good ones, those who just want to live in peace. And our own people, Watchers, their faces are in those files. Names, addresses -- I can't let you expose them to more danger."

"Then you'll have to shoot me, Joe. That's what you mean, isn't it?" Christine stood up, still clutching the CD. Her face was twisted with hatred as she looked at both men. "If Don had known what either of you really are, he'd never have stayed in your damned Watchers."

Methos was about to speak when he heard a noise from the front of the store. Lifting his hand, he signaled Joe for silence as he started forward to investigate. Then he heard Christine scream behind him as a gun butt came down on his head. Dazed, he felt someone grab him, and he instinctively started kicking in self-defense while his brain harped that he should have brought his gun. He had his sword, but what if these were Watchers? He struggled with his assailant, blood streaming into his face, and heard Dawson's gun fire. He shoved the man away and glanced back for Joe, but only saw Christine being carried off, still clutching the CD and sweater. She was gagged, he realized, as he saw Joe was down and another man was moving over him. *Who are these guys?*

Enough. He quickly took out his adversary, no longer concerned with behaving like Adam. Two sure blows and the man was dead. Watchers might come for Christine, but they had no reason to take Joe. He drew his sword as the remaining man came after him with a knife, giggling maniacally and waving it. Methos ducked behind the nearest shelf, quickly backtracked to get behind the idiot, and threw a paperback down another aisle to distract him. When the man spun around, Methos knocked him out with the hilt of his sword. No sense in leaving mysterious sword wounds for the police if it wasn't necessary. Much as it went against his instincts, a shelfload of books was a good way to ensure the guy didn't go anywhere. He only hoped there weren't any rare books in the load as he tipped the heavy wooden shelf.

Running out the front door, he was in time to see Dawson being dragged to a waiting car. He hit the thug in a flying tackle, wincing as he heard Joe's head thump to the pavement. The guy kicked him in the face and scrambled into the car, and they took off with Christine. He picked himself up, checking Joe's pulse even as he grabbed his car keys, then opened his cell phone as he ran for Joe's car.

Following the thugs wasn't hard, evidently they didn't expect pursuit. Once they were a few blocks from the shop, they slowed to a sedate pace and he remained at a safe distance. Definitely not Watchers, they were headed to a different part of town altogether. He called the police while he drove, requesting an ambulance for Joe. He felt guilty about leaving Dawson practically bleeding in the gutter, but he knew that Joe would agree with his decision. If not for Christine's sake, then because of the information she was still carrying.

He tried to reach Amanda, too, but she wasn't answering her phone. What the hell was going on, anyway? He only hoped that Amanda and MacLeod were well away from it, fucking each other's brains out on the barge and unwilling to answer the phone, not ass deep in the same kind of trouble he was headed into.

***

Amanda ignored the phone in her pocket as she kicked out at the goons, wishing she hadn't split off from MacLeod to investigate the men following them. She hadn't mentioned them to Mac earlier, after her return to the barge, because she'd been so upset he was running off without her. Then she spotted them following again, and when she pointed them out to Mac, he'd insisted on pursuing them as leads to Kalas. Now Amanda realized that Kalas had been two steps ahead of them. Evidently the guy MacLeod chased had eluded him and come right back to help grab her. *Bait,* she thought. *You know Kalas likes to have leverage.* When the second thug injected her in the neck, Amanda swore before darkness took her.

Duncan MacLeod ran down an alley and stopped as he felt presence. Then he saw it, a car driving off with Amanda's unconscious face held up to taunt him. *Damn it!* He'd let Kalas outsmart him again. He wasn't thinking first and reacting with caution. No, he'd gone running off to corner the bad guy. Completely forgetting that these bad guys had a clever immortal calling the shots, scheming and thinking ahead. And totally unemotional about the whole game, unlike MacLeod.

He quickly headed back to the barge to wait for Kalas to contact him. He'd never forgive himself if anything happened to Amanda. But he knew there was a good possibility that she was simply being taken to assure his cooperation. Kalas had always wanted more than a simple challenge; he wanted to make MacLeod suffer.

When he arrived at his home the phone was already ringing. He ran to it, expecting to hear Kalas' gloating voice. Instead, it was Joe Dawson, sounding weak and sick.

"Mac, I have some bad news."

"Joe, what's wrong? Where are you, I can't come..."

"Don't. I'm at the hospital, the Watchers are here trying to get me discharged. Mac, we were taking care of some Watcher business, Adam and I. Evidently someone followed me from your barge."

"Are you okay? What happened?"

"I'm fine. Mild concussion, I got knocked on the head. Mac, I'm trying to tell you, four guys ambushed us at the bookstore, Don's bookstore. They grabbed Christine Salzer, Don's wife. And she had a disk with Watcher information on it."

"Oh God, Joe, he took Amanda, too. Just half an hour ago, they were following us..."

"Kalas had us outmaneuvered, Mac."

"It's okay, Joe, you couldn't fight off four men alone. Kalas is going to call me, I'm sure. Let me get off the phone and I'll call you back when I hear anything."

"Mac, I wasn't alone, at the bookstore. Adam was there. They got him, too." There was silence on the other end of the phone. Then a small voice that didn't sound like MacLeod.

"How could Kalas have known?"

"I'm not sure, Mac. We were probably talking too openly with Christine, if they were following someone could have overheard... It might be a coincidence. I'm just not sure."

"I'll be in touch, Joe. Get some rest." The phone clicked in Dawson's ear. He put his aching head down on his arm as he closed his eyes and rested his head back against the pillows. Kalas had deliberately taken Christine, he was sure of it. And Adam. It was too much, as if the man were psychic. But his head hurt too much to wonder right now, and he let the blackness take him once again.

***

Methos was kicking himself for not having taken Joe's gun when he had the chance. Kalas evidently had a whole little gang rounded up already, and he wasn't feeling like Superman today. He still had a headache from the already-healed blows to his skull, and when he saw a car pull up and Amanda being dragged into the hideout by two more men, he wanted to scream. That explains everything, he thought bitterly. He couldn't get any closer for more reconnaissance without Kalas sensing his presence. There were at least four mortals in there, maybe more. Christine was also inside, in the line of fire, making him reluctant to do anything fatal like running an exhaust pipe into a window.

He knew Christine needed help, probably would need to be institutionalized. She was having a breakdown. But he didn't want to kill her, Watcher oath be damned. He didn't think Joe would have done it, either. Vemas was a bastard to expect it. The woman was grieving, everyone could understand that. It was the Watchers' own fault that she knew the truth, not Don's, and certainly not Christine's. She was an innocent bystander, and now she was yet another pawn in Kalas' game.

Would Kalas recognize what he had besides Christine? That damned database, he wished now that he'd never helped Don assemble it. It had seemed harmless enough, but now he was responsible for giving one of the worst immortals still around an invaluable weapon for headhunting. The only way he'd feel worse was if Kronos was in there with them. But Kronos had to be dead by now, someone must have taken him out. The Watcher records didn't show anything since the 1890's...

Two hours later, bitter thoughts his only company, Methos finally saw Kalas leaving his lair with two of his goons. He waited until they'd been gone 15 minutes before making his move inside, sword drawn and caution in every step. When he located the staircase, he stopped to listen and heard voices. He'd just started silently down when all hell broke loose below him and he ran unthinkingly down. In time to see Amanda, hands still tied behind her back, barely pausing at the feel of his presence before kicking the man beneath her into unconsciousness.

"Adam! I'm glad to see you. Let's get the hell out of here."

"I saw them bring you in and thought you'd need help, but evidently I was wrong." He carefully used his blade to release her hands.

"These idiots didn't even know how to tie knots. C'mon."

"I can't, Kalas has Christine Salzer, too. They grabbed her right in front of me and Joe. You haven't seen her?"

Amanda shook her head. "There's no one here but me. Do you suppose he's got another hideout?"

"I've got to search. Listen, you get out right now. Watch for Kalas, he could have come back. But get to MacLeod and let him know you're okay. He's probably ready to give up his head for your safety."

"You're right." Amanda ran lightly up the stairs, pausing at the top to feel for presence. "Be careful, Adam."

"Always." He heard her steps overhead and waited until she left the building before killing the second guard. She'd done a neat job on the first, but he didn't want this guy waking up while he was still searching. Besides, Kalas didn't need any more helpers.

Once he could concentrate, he focused his senses on the room. It was large, but there were no other rooms or alcoves. Just a large closet to one side. The door was closed, but he thought he smelled something familiar. Blood. He rushed to the closet and opened it, already suspecting what he'd see. Christine was cold and dead, a sword wound to her throat and several more to her body, as if she'd infuriated Kalas. At least it had been fast. Don's sweater was on the floor of the closet, soaked in blood. The CD was nowhere to be seen.

There was no time for sentiment, he had to get out of this place before anyone else returned. Hoping Don and Christine were someplace that gave them understanding, he left her body in the closet, closed the door and ran up the stairs. As he approached the door, he felt a wash of presence that stopped him in his tracks.

***

"Mac, I'm fine. Rue de Passy, behind the Marmottan museum. No, don't come here, I'll make my way back to the barge. I don't have any cash, though, so be ready to pay for my cab." Amanda was breathing heavily into the public phone she'd run to. Adam was right, MacLeod had been frantic with fear. No doubt part of Kalas' cat-and-mouse game, making him wait for news until his nerves were shot. "Kalas is gone for the time being, I don't know if he'll be coming back here. Duncan..."

Amanda swore softly. MacLeod had hung up the phone and would no doubt be flying here in his car. She wished she'd had time to think up some lie to keep him away. He'd be furious that she'd killed that mortal. And if Kalas really did come back, she might have just caused the confrontation she and Methos had been trying to prevent.

She wondered if Methos had found the Salzer woman. Maybe she should go back and make sure he was okay. While she'd never thought of him as the sentimental type, she's recognized the name as that of the widow of his friend, a friend who'd died protecting him. That kind of obligation could produce guilt, even in 5000-year-olds who should know better.

Amanda pulled her coat closer, wishing she had her sword, as she headed back toward Kalas' lair.

***

"Amanda, darling. Have you been misbehaving?" Kalas' gravelly voice grated on Methos' ears. Trapped like a stupid idiot on Kalas' own turf. Damn. He couldn't tell if Kalas had any of his goons along, either.

"Wrong again, Kalas." It was foolish to talk, but equally foolish to stay silent. The man knew he was here, after all. Maybe he could turn Kalas' eagerness against him.

"Highlander? Come out and play, I have some news for you" he gloated.

"Still wrong. It's quite the habit, isn't it?" Methos stepped through the doorway, head swiveling to look for traps. Kalas was standing in the open street, but he probably wasn't alone.

"Methos." The satisfaction evident in his voice turned Methos' stomach. "This is an unexpected pleasure." Kalas' sword rang slightly as he drew it, raising his voice. "This one is mine, boys. You go look for the woman, she can't have gone far." Two men moved from the shadows on either side of the street. Methos could see the confidence in Kalas' eyes; he remembered their short fight six months ago and wasn't expecting any difficulty.

"Perhaps we should take this someplace more private?"

"Don't expect me to set a time and place, Methos. I know you'll just run. There's a nice dark alley right here. After you." Methos cautiously backed into the alley, senses alert for any trap. He had just a moment to prepare before Kalas engaged him, the clatter of their swords ringing out and echoing against the bricks of the buildings around them.

Amanda swore as she heard the fighting start. She'd seen Kalas' men head in the opposite direction to look for her, heading back toward Notre Dame and the barge. No one expected her to be making her way back to where she'd been held captive. That was a good thing. But she needed a weapon. She thought for a moment about going after the men, but decided instead to reenter the building and search quickly for some kind of weapon.

She could still faintly hear the swords as she ransacked the place, finally finding her sword in a chest with some guns. She grabbed the blade, then helped herself to a semi-automatic with several clips of ammunition. Feeling much better, she sprinted out the door and back toward the alley where swords were still ringing.

The two momentarily froze as they felt her presence, then Kalas croaked "Lovely to see you, my dear." Both men looked exhausted, the fight had gone too long. Their hair was sweat-soaked, their clothing bloody, and neither was bantering any longer, simply using all their strength to keep lifting their swords.

"How kind of you to say so. Since I'm holding this gun on you, and will take your head as soon as I shoot you, I don't believe you're sincere." Amanda's eyes were deadly. "Adam is a friend of mine. So's MacLeod. You're going down, Kalas." She raised the gun, but Kalas was already diving for shelter before the first bullets spit out.

"Amanda!" Methos' voice was aggravated and she shook her head. Surely he'd been around long enough to know that rule about not interfering was more of a suggestion. "Make a little more noise."

"C'mon, Adam, let's get out of here now." She motioned him behind her, and he moved just in time to avoid being shot by Kalas' men, who'd returned in time to hear gunfire and come to his assistance.

"Get down, Amanda." She'd whirled and was shooting at the mortals, so Methos turned to track Kalas' movements before he could get to them. Kalas was sheltered in his corner of the alley, and his men were on either side of the opposite entryway. Perfect; they were ducks in a shooting gallery, under fire from both directions. He prayed Kalas didn't have a gun.

Kalas' delighted laughter showed his full awareness of their vulnerability. "If you think I won't take both your heads while you're dead, you're confusing me with some noble Scot."

Amanda was halfway behind a garbage can, trying to get a shot at one of the men. Methos, behind her, whispered "I'll run to draw him out. Get them, don't worry about me. Then keep reloading and shoot Kalas, too. The mortals don't know how to permanently kill us, so just keep Kalas down." She nodded her agreement and he made his move.

He was halfway to a fire escape ladder when two bullets ripped into him, knocking him back. He saw Amanda take out one man, and as he died he saw the other fall to the ground, too.

 Duncan MacLeod had arrived at the street Amanda named and was carefully walking along, feeling for presence and watching for any suspicious people. Then he heard the gun shots, and ran toward the sound. He saw two men with guns at the mouth of an alley, and heard familiar laughter from within. Kalas, and these were two of his men, no doubt. He carefully made his way toward them, keeping to the lengthening shadows on the far side of the street where he wouldn't be sensed or seen.

When he finally got into position to see what was going on, he was stunned to see Amanda and Methos crouching together. At that moment, Methos darted out, drawing fire from both men. Amanda was able to fire at the one closest to him, but her position was vulnerable to the other, who was now aiming at Amanda's exposed head. Without a moment's hesitation, MacLeod picked up the gun the man at his feet had dropped and shot the other, then called to her.

"Amanda, are you all right?"

"Duncan?"

"MacLeod. Ah, the gang's all here now." Kalas rose from his position, as did Amanda. She still had her gun aimed, but Kalas was quite right in assuming she wouldn't be able to shoot him and take his head in front of Duncan. "Good, I've been wanting to speak to you. Interesting friends you have, MacLeod. They have the most wonderful database, full of names and addresses -- even pictures -- of all of us."

MacLeod remembered what Dawson had been trying to tell him. That the Watchers had a computer database, and Christine Salzer had been captured while she had a disk of information. "I don't see how that concerns me, Kalas. It's time to finish this."

"Oh, I agree, MacLeod." Kalas paused as Methos gasped back to life and sat up. "It's definitely time to end this. But think about this before we fight. I have that disk in my computer. If I don't return, the computer is set to automatically send the information to several major media sources. You won't be able to stop it, and no one will be able to contain it." Kalas laughed at the look on all three faces. "I'm going to leave now. I'll call you about this challenge you've issued. But know this, MacLeod. If I die, your lives are over, too. But if you let me take your head, maybe I'll destroy that disk. You just never know. At the very least, I'll keep it for my own use."

Methos and Amanda both twitched as Kalas walked away, casually sheathing his blade and laughing. Both wanted to kill the man on the spot, but MacLeod simply said "No," and they waited. Both hoping that Duncan MacLeod had some kind of plan, knew something they hadn't considered. Because surely he didn't expect them to let him give Kalas his head.

They all remained frozen until Kalas' buzz had faded completely. Then Methos hauled himself to his feet, re-securing his sword inside his coat and keeping his eyes down. Amanda quickly tucked her gun away, smiling up at Duncan. Who was still staring at both of them with wide eyes, as if he'd never expected to see either again. Amanda shifted nervously, wondering why none of them were speaking. Hell, Methos wasn't even looking at either of them, the dirt in the alley must be fascinating. Only when police sirens became audible in the distance did all three move.

"My car's down the block, come with me, quickly." MacLeod motioned to both of them, and while Methos thought of disobeying, he couldn't quite force himself out of MacLeod's presence this quickly. It was amazing how comforting he found it, even knowing that MacLeod probably would be offering his head to Kalas within 24 hours. He'd call a Watcher clean-up crew, get them to recover Joe's car, too. He was planning his story, Pierson having followed Christine and waited nearby until Amanda and MacLeod came riding to the rescue -- but Amanda's voice broke into his thoughts.

"Are you alright?" There was real concern in her eyes, making him wonder what his face was showing.

"Fine. Just thinking." They climbed into MacLeod's car and let him drive them back to the barge. Mac was already on his phone to Joe's hospital bed, and somewhere in the conversation Methos suddenly realized that Dawson thought Kalas had taken him as well as Christine. *Shit!* He hadn't meant to worry Joe, and he knew what head injuries were like. He should have known the man wouldn't remember things clearly.

"MacLeod, may I talk to Joe?" He took the offered phone, ignoring the surprise in both faces. He didn't realize how silent he'd been. "Joe, it's Adam. Listen, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to worry you. I took your car and followed Kalas. I was too late, Christine's dead." There was a longer pause, then he continued quietly "Thanks, Joe. Kalas has the database now, and that's my fault as well. I'll talk to Vemas, but not until I have a plan to recover it. You need to get word for a cleanup crew to that building, 87 Rue de Passy. Here's MacLeod." He passed the phone over and sank back into his seat, remaining silent for the rest of the drive and not really hearing anything Mac or Amanda said.

Amanda, usually perfectly at home on the barge, felt like the walls were in her way. Maybe the damn boat was just too small for three people. She tried to remember times when Richie was there, or Joe's visits. No, this wasn't 'three's a crowd,' it was something in the air between the three of them in particular. She opened wine and changed her clothes, wishing she could just leave for a few hours. But Duncan was too relieved to have her back, he wouldn't let her out of his sight just yet.

That was it. Duncan didn't want to let either of them out of his sight until he heard from Kalas. There was no real reason to keep Methos here, though. Why wasn't he trying to go? But he just sat in a corner of the sofa, curled in on himself and silent, seemingly unwilling to leave. This was ridiculous, but she figured someone had better start talking.

"I was never so surprised in my life as when you came barreling down the stairs to rescue me, Adam. Not your style at all." He looked up but said nothing, and she wondered if he'd even understood her. Perhaps she should try Old English?

"How long have you known Adam, Amanda?" MacLeod seemed relieved she was talking, though, and willing to keep the conversation afloat.

"He's an old friend of Rebecca's, I met him while I was her student. We've seen each other on and off over the years." Amanda settled into the opposite corner of the sofa with her wine and tucked her feet up under her. "Right?" She saw the effort in his eyes as he shook himself and smiled back at her.

"Yes, that's right."

"Anyway, to have you behaving like a knight was new in my experience." She laughed, but it sounded just as forced as it truly was. A shadow crossed Methos' face, and she wondered how she'd hurt him with those careless words.

"Don't get used to it. We all know that's not my style." He still couldn't meet MacLeod's eyes, but he felt them on him and so he rose impatiently. "You're a lousy host, MacLeod. I don't suppose you have any beer in this excuse for a galley?" He'd moved into the kitchen so quickly he had the door open before the question was out of his mouth.

"Help yourself. Adam, can I ask you a question?" MacLeod saw the tension dial up in the already edgy man. "It's just about that Watcher database. What exactly is it?" Methos didn't exactly relax, but he didn't look like he would immediately run out the door, either.

"Do you remember Don Salzer, the researcher Kalas killed six months ago?" MacLeod nodded and he continued, "Don had an idea about creating a resource for field Watchers, an interactive database. Christine found a copy of it in the bookstore this morning."

MacLeod interrupted him. "You mean copies of this thing were just lying around? How many are there?"

Methos flinched but went on. "I hope to God that's the only one, MacLeod. Don made a backup without telling me. He hid it in a picture frame; it was meant to be a joke, I think." He pulled the bent and tattered photo from his pocket as he spoke. "You can understand, I don't like people to take my picture. Christine took this one, and Don insisted on prominently displaying it. I always said I was going to steal it." A fond smile softened his face. "I think he left the backup for me. So I'd have my own copy. He knew who I was, I'm sure of it. And that's why he knew I wouldn't leave the photo behind when I left this identity."

"You mean he wanted you to have information on other immortals? He wanted to help you win the Game?" Amanda sounded outraged, so he knew MacLeod's anger wouldn't be far behind.

"No, Don knew I don't hunt. I haven't challenged anyone in two hundred years, Amanda."

"Until today." She wished she could bite her tongue even as she said it. MacLeod's face was incredible, she'd never seen it that pink before.

"You challenged Kalas?"

"It wasn't a challenge, MacLeod, I just didn't get out of his way quickly enough."

"Are you alright?" Mac's quiet question was not what either Methos or Amanda expected, and they exchanged a baffled glance before Methos replied.

"I'm fine, Amanda came back with her pistol and then you rode in to save the day." He smiled. "Now I think it's my turn. Can I ask you something?"

"Of course."

"Are you going to fight Kalas? Or are you planning to let him have your head?"

"You've said the disk he has is the real thing. It has information on immortals, pictures of us? He wasn't bluffing?"

"No, he wasn't. And it's not just immortals, there's information on all the Watchers as well."

"Then I don't see how I can fight him. If that information becomes public, our lives will be over. People will hunt us, governments and individuals who want to learn the secrets of immortality."

Amanda jumped to her feet. "I don't believe this. You're going to give that bastard your head because of his threats? It's a bluff, MacLeod. He couldn't have left that alley alive without it. But you can't let him kill you."

"I agree. Even if Kalas isn't bluffing, so what? We've all survived witch hunts before." Methos shrugged. "Times are changing and keeping our secret becomes harder all the time. This will be a momentary glitch, until the next war or upheaval causes the information to be lost again."

MacLeod was practically sputtering as he replied "And until that time, we all live in constant fear? What about those they manage to capture? How many will be enslaved, or killed? Good people, friends like Grace and Richie..."

"Some of us have been enslaved before, MacLeod. You get over it." Methos' face was hard, and when MacLeod paused to consider what Methos had revealed, Amanda jumped into the fray again.

"We can warn our friends, there are always things we can do. But you can't give Kalas your power. If he wins the Prize, what kind of darkness will there be?" There was a gasp from Methos, and she turned to see what was wrong. His face was lit up, he was actually smiling.

"Amanda, you're a clever, clever girl." Methos paced around the room. "Maybe there's a way around Kalas' threat that we haven't considered. But I need to do some research." He grabbed his coat and paused at the door. "If Kalas calls you, stall him. Put off the challenge, demand one last night together, whatever you have to do. Give me time to find out if this will work." He was out the door, leaving Amanda staring at Duncan's equally-startled face. Then she giggled.

"That's the closest I've ever come to seeing a light bulb turn on over someone's head." She threw back her head and laughed, relieved that this endless day was almost over, that Methos was working on a plan for them. Duncan would somehow be safe. And when he joined in her laughter, coming over to take her in his arms, she effortlessly switched to tears instead.

*****

Methos spent the night on his computer, finding his way into systems he'd never expected to explore. It might work; it would have to work. They'd need to be in communication, though, and that would be Amanda's department. He remembered how quickly she'd managed to bug the barge, and smiled. Piece of cake, but he'd better call her now, even if it was early.

It was a grouchy Amanda he roused, but she immediately brightened when she heard his voice. "Adam, is everything still okay? No, Kalas didn't call, but I'm sure he will today." She listened to his plan, then added her own ideas. "You'll call Joe? Good. I can get everything I need in a few hours, but you'd better come here to set up. Yes, bring the whole damn computer. You'll need to be close, and I don't think Kalas will agree to a challenge on the roof of your apartment. But if Mac picks someplace near the barge, he'll agree to it." When she hung up, Amanda was still smiling. She quickly dressed and started dialing business contacts.

MacLeod was on deck, doing kata. He couldn't seem to clear his mind as much as he wished. He knew he would be fighting Kalas today, could feel it in his blood. And it was still a grudge match, but one that was much less emotional than it would have been yesterday afternoon. He grimaced to remember his weak-kneed reaction when he saw Methos and Amanda, both alive, in that alleyway. He'd been paralyzed by his relief, wanting to grab both of them and never let go.

He still hated Kalas, still burned to avenge Fitz, Paul, and Timon. But his heart was much lighter, knowing that now it was a straightforward battle. Even if he failed, he wouldn't cause any other friends to die.

Friends. The term seemed to fit both Amanda and Methos now, and it confused MacLeod that this thought simultaneously made him happy and sad. He cherished his longstanding friendship with Amanda, and he wanted a friendship with Methos. But he thought they could have had more, once. Now it seemed that Methos had moved on and forgotten the love they'd shared over a year ago. His vivid immortal memory was a torment sometimes, and remembering the feel and taste of Methos' body was almost as distressing as his memories of Tessa could be.

He shook himself and breathed deeply, concentrating again on his form. Methos wasn't mortal, he wasn't dead and lost to him forever. No point in wishing for what he couldn't have, he'd learn to be happy with simple friendship.

MacLeod suddenly realized he was thinking of the future without a second thought. Confident that he'd fight Kalas and win. Not worried about needing to give up his head to save his friends. He smiled to himself, wondering when he'd learned to trust Methos and Amanda so much.

Amanda breezed up on deck, fully dressed. He smiled at her. "Kind of early for you, isn't it?" She kissed him quickly as she crossed to the gangplank.

"I need to run an errand. I'll be right back, and Methos is coming over, too. He has a plan, but I'll let him explain it to you." She started down the quay, pausing to turn, wave, and call "Oh, and watch for Joe, too." He admired her as she walked away, the swish of her hips showing she knew the view was being enjoyed.

MacLeod was drying off from his shower when he sensed presence, then heard a knock. He grabbed a robe and his sword, not taking any chances while Kalas was still out there. Then he heard Dawson's voice.

"Mac? It's me and Adam." He let them in, doing a double take when he saw how much equipment was in Methos' arms.

"Planning to stay a while?"

"Put on some pants and help with this, MacLeod. You're the one who wants to save the world, not me. And Joe was just released from hospital, remember." Methos walked in and began stacking boxes on the table. They'd just finished bringing in everything when Amanda returned.

"Joe, Adam. Isn't it a lovely day?" She waltzed into the kitchen to kiss Joe, then made him sit down while she made coffee, making a thumbs-up gesture to Methos. "No breakfast?"

"We've been a little busy. Why didn't you bring croissants?" Methos was hooking together cables under the table and definitely sounded crabby.

"I'll cook. Amanda can help you. But could someone please tell me what's going on?"

"I'll second that." Dawson was already up and pulling food out of the refrigerator. "I can even make a batch of my special pancakes, but I'm only doing it to bribe you into talking."

MacLeod pulled the eggs out of his hand. "Sit, Joe. Your head looks terrible, you must still be in pain. Just relax."

"Yeah, Joe, rest while you can. I've got plans for you later. Go ahead, Amanda, tell them. I'll jump in." Methos kept digging through boxes, pulling his computer setup together. "First, give me the surveillance equipment, though." She complied, then began outlining the plan.

"Kalas will call to challenge you, Duncan. You'll agree to meet him, but make it someplace nearby. The tunnels at Sacre Coeur, or under the bridge. We'll put a listening device on your coat, and give you an earpiece so I can talk to you. I'll follow you, and Methos will be here, at his computer. We'll be in communication, too."

"But why do I need to be wired for communication?"

"So we can let you know when it's safe to take Kalas' head. You'll need to get him to talk. I know he won't tell us where the disk is at, but what we really need to know is what time he's set the computer to transmit the information. That's what's crucial." She nodded to Methos, and he picked up the narration.

"We've already narrowed down the area of how far Kalas could have gone between the time he left Amanda and the time he returned. Joe and I will alert the Watchers to start searching for the disk. But even though it's not a huge area, they can't safely search until Kalas is with you. They might not get to it in time. So this," his hands indicated the computer setup, "is our backup plan."

"Do I want to know what you're planning?" Dawson's face was a study in incredulity, but Duncan looked amused.

"A blackout of that half of the city, hopefully about five minutes before the disk is set to transmit. We'll only be able to keep the power out for about 15 minutes, but it will take longer to restore full service. Especially if I keep interfering. Hopefully Kalas isn't anticipating this and his computer's clock will be incapacitated. Just in case, I'm disrupting phone service, too. The Watchers will be expecting the blackout and have flashlights with them," he smiled at Joe again, "so they can continue searching. By the time the power's fully back, we should be in business."

"Or rather, Kalas should be permanently out of business." Amanda looked pleased, but Methos still had an edge of worry in his eyes.

"Do you see any flaws in my reasoning, either of you? I don't think I'm overlooking anything, but I haven't had any sleep, either."

Dawson shook his head. "It's incredible."

"Brilliant, honestly. Thank you both for this. Now I can fight my best fight and not worry that I'm destroying our world." Amanda's face fell at MacLeod's words, and Methos realized she'd missed the flaw in the plan. Duncan still had to face Kalas, had to put his neck at risk. There were no guarantees.

***

Joe Dawson, holding his cell phone, was at the center of a hive of Watcher activity. Headquarters was not located in the soon-to-be-powerless section of Paris, so they were able to use it as their base of operations. Almost a hundred of them -- everyone who could be gathered from field staff, research, and even the secretaries -- were involved in this operation to make sure that Watcher records remained private.

Vemas had been furious when he learned about the database, and ready to shoot Dawson when he learned Kalas had it. But practicality made him overcome his anger long enough to listen to Pierson's plan and get busy plotting the logistics of their own operation.

Their searchers were in teams of two, each assigned an area to cover. Fortunately there were few newer sections in the radius Adam had marked, since new areas tended to have large apartment buildings. Searching new areas required two teams.

MacLeod set his meeting with Kalas for 11 PM, and despite misgivings about the danger most teams were on the streets by nine to master the layout of their territory and determine which buildings were vacant. While Kalas could be living in a luxury apartment somewhere, odds were that this soon after his escape he'd be hiding in some unoccupied building. They were hoping a team would spot Kalas as he made his way to the challenge, just to narrow the search field. Their attempt to trace his call to MacLeod had been futile.

Joe suggested giving the teams phones, and keeping staff at headquarters to answer. Adam suggested keeping a team of computer specialists there as well. If a team found the disk before the blackout, they could call in the news. With luck, they could avert the blackout, then call the rest of their people in and make sure no one got arrested for housebreaking after the disk was found.

Dawson found himself wondering yet again if they could believe anything Kalas said. His people were looking for a computer, but if Kalas had just hidden the disk in a book or under a floorboard, they might search for years and never find it. If he'd been lying, it would mean that there wasn't any immediate danger of exposure. But he couldn't imagine going on with this threat hanging over their heads for the next twenty years.

10:30. In twenty minutes Adam would call, and they'd stay in constant contact. Amanda would relay Mac's conversation with Kalas. His hand was shaking and he set down the phone. Dawson had been a Watcher for years, but there were times when he felt it would be easier to face someone over a sword blade than wait and watch.

***

Amanda walked with MacLeod to her lookout spot, then paused to check all their equipment. When she was done, she kissed him fervently.

"Promise me you'll fight your best."

"You know I will. Amanda, these last few days..."

"Listen, I want you to carry this. For luck. I know Rebecca would approve." She pulled the crystal her teacher had given her from around her neck and placed it in Duncan's hand. "You're my knight, and now you have your lady's favor."

He squeezed the crystal and focused his beautiful eyes on her, his emotion easy to see. "Thank you. You know I love you, right?"

Amanda smiled up at him, tears welling in her eyes. "You always have." He squeezed her one last time, then walked off alone.

At the barge, Methos' hands were shaking. He shouldn't have been listening, eavesdroppers deserve to hear painful truths. Was it eavesdropping when they *knew* he was listening? It didn't matter, nothing mattered but paying attention to what he was doing. MacLeod could be with Amanda, that was fine, as long as he was alive. He had to make sure Kalas didn't win in the end, didn't destroy everyone.

He wondered if MacLeod realized that Amanda was waiting in position with her sword in case Kalas won. They'd discussed it, and agreed that she'd kill Kalas while he was still taking the Quickening. Their excuse about the range of the equipment was flimsy, but neither MacLeod nor Dawson had questioned it.

Amanda's voice was in his ear. "Adam. Everything okay?"

"Yeah, I was just calling Joe so I wasn't listening for a minute. He's gone?"

"Yep. I can't hear anything yet, but I'll let you know as soon as I do."

He hit the speed dial on his cell phone to contact Joe, and once he had the Watcher on the line, he put the phone down and plugged in the headset he'd jury rigged to use with it. One ear for Amanda, one ear for Joe, two microphones, and two hands free for the power company's main computer. He entered his commands, using the passwords he'd established last night after hacking his way in. This should make it a lot harder to stop him once they were aware of the problem.

Amanda stood still, hearing Kalas' voice in her ear. MacLeod was talking to him, just as they'd asked. Demanding to know where the disk was, leading Kalas to believe he wouldn't fight him. Kalas was laughing at him, telling him to kneel down and be quick about it, taunting him that if he wasn't home in half an hour, the information would be public.

"Adam, it's set for 11:30. Kalas just told him."

"Great. Tell Mac to go for the gusto."

Amanda wasn't sure what that meant, but she quickly adjusted the microphone she'd left switched off so their chatter wouldn't distract MacLeod. "That was terrific, Duncan. You can kill him now, we have the information."

She heard the clashing of their swords begin a few minutes later, and she edged closer to the fight. She didn't want to get within sensing range, but she wasn't going to let Kalas walk away. Kalas was still taunting Mac, who was silent. She didn't think that was a bad sign; Duncan considered his concentration part of his skill. He wouldn't get pulled into banter during a serious fight.

Methos passed Amanda's information on to Joe, letting him know the fight was on. Dawson's people had nothing to report. Joe cursed and listened to the keystrokes and quiet breathing on the phone.

At 11:20 the silence was broken by a call. Team Nine, searching only a few blocks from Kalas' abandoned hideout, found a new computer in an empty apartment. They couldn't get past the password protections to check the CD, which showed a fairly advanced level of programming skills. Vemas ordered a team of computer experts to their location, and told Joe to have Adam go ahead with the blackout as planned, since they had no conclusive proof that this was Kalas' computer.

Two minutes later with a skillful stroke, Duncan MacLeod took Kalas' head, ending a long and bloody battle. As the quickening began, Amanda ran to the fighters. Even as she breathlessly confirmed that MacLeod was the victor, Methos set the blackout in motion. Freak lightening storm; power outages. Logical. He passed the news along to Dawson, whose shaky "Thank God" seemed to sum it all up. As lights began winking out all over Paris, Amanda watched the night sky lit by unimaginable and untameable power.

 Thirty minutes later, MacLeod and Amanda returned to the barge in time to hear Methos saying "Thanks, Joe. I'll talk to you tomorrow."

"Adam."

"MacLeod. Good to see you." He was still entering commands into the computer, but it was apparent he was simply shutting it down. "Joe just confirmed that the Watchers have the disk, and they've destroyed the computer it was on. The electricity should be restored shortly, too." He rose and shut the powerstrip down, pulling earphones off.

"Thank you. I don't know what we would have done without your plan." MacLeod looked solemn and exhausted. Amanda was hanging on his arm, obviously relieved to have him alive and safe. Methos noted that she was clutching her crystal in her hand.

"Listen, I'd better go. It's been a long day, and I didn't sleep last night. I'll come back for this stuff as soon as I can, okay?" He gestured distractedly at the computer and boxes.

"Sure. Goodnight, Methos."

"'Night, Methos." Amanda's smile was still wonderful. He tried to return one to her.

"You kids be good." He was out the door and safe; it was dark and no one would see the tears on his face as he returned to his apartment.

*****

"Mac? You at home?" Two days later a much-recovered Joe Dawson stuck his head in the door of the barge, which was unlocked. But he didn't see Amanda or MacLeod. There were two strangers there, workmen, packing up Methos' computer equipment. "Hey, who are you guys and what are you doing with that?"

"Ici, monsieur." The workman handed Joe what looked like a legitimate work order, signed by Adam Pierson, for removal of the computer.

"Where's the man who lives here?" But shrugs were his only answer. Dawson dug out his cell phone and called Mac's number, not surprised when Amanda answered it.

"Joe. Where are you?"

"At the barge. What's going on, and how did these guys get in here if you're both out?"

"We let them in, but then Duncan insisted on running after him. I don't know why, if he knows Adam he should know he's long gone."

"What?" Joe sat down, hard. "Adam left again?"

"Yeah, Joe, he's vanished again. Nothing left here, the apartment door was wide open. He's always been a loner."

"I suppose you know him better than we do, Amanda." *I thought we were friends. Or at least, becoming friends. And I'll bet Mac thought so, too.*

"We'll be back soon, Joe. Just stay put. Oh, and see where they're taking that computer." But he'd already checked, the invoice showed the computer going back to a rental company.

When MacLeod and Amanda arrived, Dawson thought Mac looked worse than he did on the night he'd learned Kalas was free. About as bad as he'd looked at the end of their cruise. MacLeod never mentioned Adam; they discussed the recovered disk, the Watchers' gratitude to him for his help with Kalas, funeral arrangements for Christine Salzer, and finally, MacLeod's plans to return to Seacouver.

"I'll be glad to join you back home, Mac. I miss my band. Some day I'm going to have to bring them along for a Paris gig." MacLeod was silent. Amanda was moving quietly in the bedroom area, and Joe suddenly realized she was packing. "Is Amanda going with you to the States?"

"No, she's not." MacLeod's face stiffened even more, and Dawson wished he knew what the hell was going on. Had these two fought? Two days ago he'd have bet they'd be inseparable for the next month.

"Well, I'd better shove off. I've got things to do. Take care of yourself, Mac. I'll call you tomorrow." He moved toward the door and called a goodbye to Amanda, who looked up and came over to him.

"I'll walk you to your car, Joe." She took his arm.

As soon as they were outside, he whispered to her, "If you don't tell me what's going on, I'll tell Mac what your chronicle says about that ruby theft last summer."

Amanda laughed delightedly. "Joe, you are a terrible man. I like that." She stood with him at his car door, and her face became serious. "Duncan is going back to Seacouver, and I'm going home. I love Mac dearly and he'll always be my best friend, but I can't do what he's asked."

"What did he ask?" Dawson was imagining MacLeod demanding promises of 'going straight.'

"He got back in the car at Methos' apartment and asked me to marry him, Joe. And even if I wanted that with Duncan, if you'd seen his face ..." She looked off over the river, and the sadness in her eyes was heartbreaking. "Joe, I won't marry him just to spite Methos."

"Amanda, I know what an emotional week it's been for all of us. You can't really believe Mac proposed just because Adam vanished. He really loves you."

"And he knows me, Joe. We couldn't constantly stay together. Can you see me in a monogamous relationship for five months, let alone five years?" Joe smiled, then sighed, and she continued "I know he meant it, Joe, but he wasn't thinking clearly. Whatever Mac's feelings for me are, he only asked for a commitment today because he's hurt and vulnerable about being left alone again."

"You are one smart lady, Amanda."

Inside the barge, Duncan MacLeod rested his head in his hands. He knew he shouldn't have been so surprised, completely unprepared. Methos disappeared; it seemed to be what he was best at. Now that the shock was gone, he found himself with a belly full of anger. And that was wrong, too. Methos didn't love him, they were barely friends. But then why had Methos stayed when Kalas was loose, putting himself in danger? Why wait until MacLeod was safe to disappear? Had he done something wrong, said something that drove Methos away?

He heard Joe's car pull away and knew Amanda would be back. Time to stop wallowing in this, time to go back to Seacouver, spend time with his friends. Amanda would come visit him there, he was sure, once she got over the shock of his proposal. And he wouldn't bring that up again, he knew better now.

Duncan MacLeod squared his shoulders for the days ahead. To hell with Methos, anyway.

Several hundred miles away, Methos squirmed in his train seat, trying to get some sleep at last. He wasn't sure if his supervisors believed his story of a Methos lead, but no one at headquarters had questioned his travel plans. They knew of his closeness to Christine and Don, and were trying to be kind. He wouldn't feel guilty for that -- he *was* mourning them both -- and so much more.

 The end of part 2 -- go to part 3

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