This story is intended for adult audiences and is slash. If you are under age or don't want to contemplate a sexual relationship between two male characters, please excuse yourself and find something else to read. Thanks to Tarsh for beta-reading assistance.

Voyagers 7: Midnight
by Laura Mason

Methos moved swiftly through the barge, gathering his things and expertly stowing them in his duffel bag. *There's the one skill I've acquired over five thousand years,* he thought. Then he snorted in disgust. *No wonder I haven't taken a student in years.*

Leaving he was good at. Being cast out, that was harder. Being cast out yet again by the man he'd tried to befriend, after breaking another of his rules, that was... Oh, hell, most people would be offended if you arranged to keep them dead so someone could kill their friend. He understood MacLeod's anger. What bothered him was how quickly MacLeod had placed the primary blame on him -- even without knowing exactly what had happened. MacLeod didn't know for a fact that Methos was the one who'd decided to keep him out of commission so Gina could challenge Keogh without interference. MacLeod held him responsible anyway; that was plain.

"I thought you'd changed, but I see that you'd rather kill someone than try to help them. 'Problem solved,' Adam?" MacLeod's angry words were still buzzing in his brain. He hadn't realized how upset MacLeod had been at his assessment of Cochrane's situation. Or how wrong he'd been when he believed MacLeod had accepted him, including the dark past he'd only hinted at. Well, it just confirmed that he'd been doing the right thing, not talking to MacLeod about his past in more detail. Though it felt like a lie...

MacLeod couldn't accept what little he knew of Methos' evil. MacLeod had never really accepted his own, for that matter. MacLeod repressed his dark side so thoroughly that Methos was afraid for him, worried that he wouldn't be able to take a challenge successfully. MacLeod seemed determined to be a "good" person -- more loving, more forgiving, more trusting.

Except, perhaps, of Methos.

He finished zipping the duffel with a sigh and moved to the computer bag. His laptop had been hastily packed by MacLeod and he opened the case to re-secure it correctly. Then the buzz of presence swept over him, and he barely had time to draw his sword. Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod stormed through the door and stopped, red-faced, breathing heavily. Just staring at him. Methos stared back, his own face completely expressionless.

"MacLeod." The Highlander didn't make any move for his own weapon, so Methos casually returned his blade to his coat sheath and resumed his packing.

"Joe's in trouble." MacLeod gasped it out, and Methos couldn't read what he meant.

"If you mean that Joe sent you back here, hoping you'd find me," Methos began as he strapped in the computer.

"No, no... Though I was coming back here, anyway. Joe..."

"You were?" Methos stopped and turned to face him. "He told you I was here?"

"Joe told me off, said I was a fool. He's right, and Methos I'm so sorry but..." He moved toward Methos, who caught his arms and moved him toward the armchair, gently pushing him down.

"MacLeod, calm down. Sit. Finish a sentence." Methos moved to the galley as he spoke. "Now where's Joe?"

"Watchers took him. When he left the restaurant. They... he seemed to know one of them, but then the guy pulled a gun."

"Here, drink some of this." Methos handed him a glass and sat across from him.

"Thanks." MacLeod chugged down the juice gratefully.

"Watchers. You're sure?"

"I saw the tattoo. Just on the one guy."

"Okay. Let me see what I can find out. I'll stop at headquarters this afternoon, see if there's any gossip."

"You warned me..." MacLeod sounded broody now that he was no longer breathless.

"Joe knew the risks. Don't worry, we'll find some way to help him. Or to break him out, if necessary." Methos stood and began to pace. "Maybe you should be thinking about investing in some out-of-the-way property. Something that can't be traced to you."

"Do you really think that will be necessary?"

"There's aren't many ex-Watchers. If these aren't renegades, if it's an official tribunal, almost any charges against Joe would carry a death penalty."

"Ruthless bastards."

"Yep." Methos picked up his duffel and computer bag, and MacLeod jumped to his feet.

"Methos, please. I didn't... I want to apologize."

"MacLeod, you don't have to..."

"David was my friend, but after everything he did..."

"Duncan, there's no need. You were trying to save your friend, I understand your feelings. But I didn't share them. Gina and Robert both had a right to challenge him. After what he did to you, I was ready to fight him myself."

"I couldn't hate him, even when David wanted to hurt me. He was sick, not evil. I've lost so many friends, I've had to kill so many people. It never ends." Methos didn't need to hear MacLeod say it, he'd seen how heartsick challenges made him. Sean Burns' death was still haunting his dreams.

Knowing his feelings was the reason Methos had kept MacLeod dead, so he wouldn't be involved in his friend's death. But how could he explain that without angering MacLeod even more? The Highlander wasn't a child and didn't want Methos' protection. Given the choice, MacLeod might have allowed the challenge to proceed. He certainly knew why Gina felt compelled to fight Keogh. But if MacLeod had simply wanted to talk to Keogh a last time, just to let him know he was forgiven by one person, Methos had destroyed the opportunity.

"It's a part of our lives. I'm truly sorry that I hurt you." Methos still couldn't say he was sorry Keogh was dead.

"And I'm truly sorry for what I said, for not understanding. I know you don't kill casually, that you try to avoid fighting." MacLeod leaned forward in his chair, eyes intense as he looked up at Methos.

Methos' face still looked bleak. "We are all killers, MacLeod. It's how we survive."

"But you don't enjoy killing, and I know you'd never take it lightly." MacLeod stood and moved closer as he spoke, and put a gentle hand on Methos' shoulder.

"You don't really know me well enough to say that." The warm hand crept up his neck until it was cupping the side of his face.

"I know you." Then MacLeod moved even closer and Methos felt warm lips against his own mouth. He forgot about leaving, forgot about Joe Dawson, forgot that the Watchers existed. There was only the warm skin against his own, the solid strength supporting him, and the overwhelming relief of being forgiven again. For now. There were still so many specters from the past, waiting around every corner, it seemed. But for right now, he could revel in the Highlander's wonderful presence, the comfort of him. Until... Methos felt tears behind his eyes, which he kept tightly closed even when their kiss ended.

"Are we alright, then?" MacLeod spoke gently, still resting both hands on his shoulders, gently caressing his neck. Methos nodded, then tried to turn. But MacLeod saw the tears. "Oh, love, I'm so sorry. Please,"

"I'm fine, Mac. Just... it's nothing." He brushed the moisture off his face and moved to his bags again.

"You're still leaving?"

"If the Watchers are on the warpath about Joe's friendship with you, what will they think about Adam Pierson living with you?"

"I know, but..." MacLeod smiled sheepishly. "I've missed you."

"And I you." Methos smiled back. "We can't trust the phones, either. If I need to see you, I'll call and ask for Monsieur Delon. Then we'll meet in half an hour, say under the Tournelle bridge?" Methos smirked at him, knowing that location would remind him of their first meeting there, that night two years ago.

"Okay, fine. let's set a time to meet tonight, to hear what you find out from the Watchers?"

"Eleven?"

"I'll see you then." Methos started up the stairs toward the door, but MacLeod's teasing voice stopped him and he turned. "Adam, come ready for anything. I've really, really missed you."

MacLeod was delighted to see Methos' face take on color even as he frowned and turned away. The Scot's relieved laughter followed him as he moved onto the quay, headed for his car.

*****

Linda Engman motioned Adam Pierson into a cubby behind the copier. There was a locked door leading into a tiny storage closet for the Director of European Operations' office. Linda was secretary to Roberta Cragin, the woman who'd assumed control following Jacques Vemas' heart attack.

"I was worried about you. I tried to see you but our personnel files don't have your new address." Linda had a definite soft spot for Adam, who constantly stopped by to gossip, drink her coffee, and generally be a buddy.

"I don't have a place yet. My building got sold out from under me and I've been staying with friends."

"You poor man." Linda clucked and yanked paper and pen out of her voluminous sweater pocket. "Here, call Madame Verstadt. She's an old friend of mine, she always has an apartment available in one of her buildings."

"Linda, I really appreciate your help, but what's going on with Dawson? You said it's the Tribunal..."

"Yes." Linda looked around the tiny closet dramatically. "You know there's always been talk about how friendly Dawson is with his subject. That's how it started."

"But that's been going on for years."

"So have the murders."

"Murders? What murders?"

"Watchers have been killed all over Europe. No one put them together until Bertie looked at the latest reports." Linda's voice dropped even lower, and Methos bent to hear her. "They're in Paris now."

"But Dawson..."

"They know it isn't Joe. They know it can't be MacLeod; he hasn't been in some of those cities in years. But they say it's Joe's fault for revealing us to the immortals."

"But that's crazy."

Linda just gave him a disbelieving look. "And you thought the place was being run by... ?"

"There's got to be a way to prove that Joe isn't responsible. Can you get me the details? Who, when, where?"

"That really isn't the best way to do this, Adam. I'll send what information I have to you tonight, but you can't backdoor Joe out of this. You'll have to make a formal request, through your supervisor, for permission to research Dawson's involvement. Then you can approach Bertie and the rest of the Tribunal if you find anything."

"You are a queen among women, Linda." Methos kissed her hand in an old-fashioned manner and turned to leave.

"Adam?" He paused at the door and looked down at her. "Please be careful. You're going to call attention to yourself. That's something you've avoided for most of the years I've known you."

"I'll draw as little as possible. But you've already said it -- I'm known to be a friend of Dawson's. They won't be surprised that I want to help him."

"No, but they may be surprised you know he's on trial. Or that a lowly researcher isn't afraid to hunt a known killer."

"I promise to not volunteer for any in-person hunting. Okay?" Methos gave her his best 'innocent Adam' look.

"Oh, get out of here, you beast." Linda laughed as he carefully opened the door and exited the closet. She waited a few minutes before leaving herself, carrying a box of disks and some pens she retrieved from the shelves to cover her absence.

*****

"MacLeod!" Methos was unsuccessfully trying to hold off a very horny Highlander. "I thought you wanted information about Joe?"

"You said he's not in immediate danger. Right?"

"Yes, but–"

"Later." Their mouths met, MacLeod's hands roaming the slender body beneath all those *damn* layers of clothes. Before Methos could draw enough breath to speak again, he felt his jeans being unbuttoned. He decided Joe was safe enough for the moment as MacLeod knelt before him and put his warm mouth over Methos' rapidly-hardening flesh.

"Oh, gods, Mac."

The soft moans and gasps from above just drove MacLeod to suck Methos deeper, fondling his balls as he did. He continued licking and swallowing, but then MacLeod felt hands tugging at his hair, and he rose, letting out a moan of his own as he left the succulent cock.

"Let's do this right," Methos breathed as he kissed MacLeod, then led him even deeper into the shadows. The older immortal removed his trench and spread it on the concrete, then lowered MacLeod to the ground. When he moved into position and unzipped MacLeod's slacks, he heard a soft sigh. Then he was sucking and tonguing MacLeod's beautiful penis, and being sucked himself, and soon all thought was lost to the wonderful sensations building between them.

Several heart-shattering minutes later, Methos' beautiful voice drifted over to MacLeod. "Do you think we can stay here all night?"

"Nope," came the hoarse reply. "Your bony ass will be cold in five minutes. And you'll complain the cement's too hard."

"I wish..." Methos didn't try to finish the statement.

"Me, too." MacLeod sat up, checking to see if his brains were splattered on Methos' coat. "Well, if we clear up Joe's situation and head back to Seacouver, we can be together."

"Easier said than done." Methos, too, sat up, then stood, adjusting his clothes. "Besides, Pierson is based in Paris. I have classes, too."

"You can't stay much longer. You've been here more than ten years."

"Yeah." Methos looked pensive. "I was ready to move on two years ago, but I came back. And so much has happened, I forget that my time's running out."

"Pierson's time. Not yours." MacLeod smiled and rose, gave Methos one last quick kiss, then moved away to get down to business. Being close to Methos was always distracting, but even more so after their estrangement. "So, why was Joe taken by Watchers? Is it really about his involvement with me?"

"It's more complicated than I thought. There have been a series of Watcher murders, starting in late '94 near Bucharest. In the two years since, 25 Watchers have been killed in various cities. And now, Watchers in Paris are being hunted. Three have been killed here in the last month."

"That's terrible. But Joe isn't responsible, they must see that."

"Joe Dawson broke his oath and told you about the Watchers in 1993. Since the murders started after that time, they're claiming that he's the original leak -- that some evil immortal learned about Watchers because Joe told you." Methos pulled on his coat as he spoke.

"That's crazy. Kalas learned about Watchers without talking to me or Joe. For that matter, so did you. Anyone could have spotted someone following them, and investigated."

"I know." They stood silently for a few minutes, thinking about their options. Then MacLeod spoke.

"Where are they holding him?"

"I don't know. Probably still in France, but he could be at any of half a dozen safehouses the Watchers own."

"Do you know exactly what charges they're bringing against him?"

"Treason. Before you ask, the penalty is death."

"I've got to see Joe. And talk to whoever is in charge."

"MacLeod, that's not wise."

"Joe's our friend. He kept your secret."

"That was his choice. I'm not in a position to..."

"Methos, you owe him!"

Methos moved uncomfortably, pulling his coat tighter, grimacing when he realized just how soiled it was from their little romp. The damn Scot could make him do anything!

"You're on your own for this. I can't pursue this, and you didn't get this from me." He fished a slip of paper from his pocket. "The Watchers' real estate holdings in France are under these two names. A little investigation and then a wealthy man like you can express his interest in the correct properties. Some nice agent will bend over backwards to show you around."

MacLeod accepted the paper, then waved it between two fingers. "You knew I'd ask. So why all the hesitation?"

"I can't go with you or watch your back. Pierson has to stay within official channels."

"You were worried about me?" MacLeod smiled -- no, grinned at him.

"Not worried. Just holding out for more hot sex under the bridge." Methos snapped.

"Sure you were." The Highlander tucked away the names in his shirt pocket, still smiling.

"Hey, if you're off looking for Joe, who'll buy me beer?"

"Cheap bastard." MacLeod said it with so much affection that Methos took a minute to process the actual words. He tossed his reply back over his shoulder as he headed for Madam Verstadt's building and his new apartment.

"Part of my charm, Mac. All part of my charm."

*****

Two weeks later, Methos sat in his cubicle at Watcher Headquarters, bent over a computer screen.

"Pierson."

"Yes, sir?" Methos turned from his work to face Nathan Stern, the head of the Research Department. Stern didn't usually visit the cubicles where his underlings did their work, but this project of Pierson's was putting a spotlight on the department, and Stern evidently wanted to make sure they looked very, very good. Amazing what the threat of a tribunal could do to people.

"How confident are you about these results?"

"All six immortals were in the vicinity at the time the murders occurred -- though some of them were gone before the bodies were discovered."

"D'Estaing and Avery are the only ones known to be dangerous."

"Yes, D'Estaing has killed mortals before and is ruthless." Methos closed his eyes to fight the memories of Xavier proudly introducing his new student. Xavier was dead and gone, and whatever remained of him resided in MacLeod. "Avery is known to carry weapons and use them on anyone in his way."

"Our people will have to be very cautious approaching them."

"We probably shouldn't approach anyone until our new surveillance narrows the suspects." Methos realized he'd jumped the bounds of mild-mannered Pierson again. This whole project had him nervous and wishing he'd infiltrated the Watchers as a 50-year-old bureaucrat who could order everyone around.

Stern looked down at him reproachfully. "Stick to your areas of expertise, Pierson. You've narrowed the field for us; let the Field Coordinators do their job now." Stern paged through the report. "I think you started this to clear your friend Dawson, but it really doesn't look good for him. A number of these immortals are known associates of Duncan MacLeod. He might have told them about us."

"The Galatis associated with MacLeod in the past, but not recently."

"They've been very elusive, which is unusual behavior for them according to your research."

"Yes, sir. Until three years ago, they were very stable. Often they lived with a group of people for a generation. Now Irena has vanished, and Jacob's only been spotted occasionally by Watchers assigned to other immortals. Their regular Watcher was one of the first killed."

"Hmm. Two working together would be able to take out our people very easily. And I seem to remember that Jacob has murdered mortals before."

"Just once, and that was a unique circumstance. The man had raped his wife. Irena Galati has always been a very peaceful, calming influence on him. And MacLeod's never met Vincent Bricker." Methos realized he'd stood up during his defense of Galati. He sat back down sheepishly as he said, "There's really no reason to believe Joe Dawson was responsible for any of this. Kalas found out about Watchers without any help from Dawson or MacLeod. Even the most careful field Watcher knows there's a risk of detection."

Stern didn't answer that, but moved away as he continued to read Adam's report. "Sometimes it seems that all immortals go crazy eventually."

"Yes." Methos' eyes drifted far away, thinking about MacLeod, out hunting for Joe. Would he ever give in to the boredom, the anger, the insanity of their long lives in the stupid Game? He'd seen so many good men change, the weight of the years breaking their ability to hope.

 Stern spoke and Methos quickly came back to the present. "Which brings up Cochrane."

"Yes, sir. Very unusual case. Until recently he was a very normal, stable man. Married. A student."

"Then four months ago he murdered his own student and abandoned his wife."

"Also, he's left the job he held for years, writing travel books. Since he quit traveling so much, we're seeing more people murdered in each city during a shorter time frame."

Stern shook his head. "I'd say that he's our number one suspect."

"I'm not sure of that, sir. We can't narrow the list any further until we have further reports on their movements and activities." Methos hated that he had no control over how this information would be used. He didn't want more Watchers getting killed. Nor did he want to see innocent immortals hunted. He hoped his fears weren't justified. "We aren't really going to send people to make contact, are we sir?"

"That's none of your business, Pierson, unless you want to become a field agent and track a murderer yourself."

"No, sir."

"Then go back to your original assignment. Find Methos."

"What about Joe Dawson?"

"His situation will be resolved in a few days, once we have this wrapped up." Stern frowned at him as he added, "It's really not your place to be inquiring about Dawson, but I know he's your friend. I believe he'll be released once we find the murderer."

"Thank you, sir."

"Dawson's lucky to have you on his side, defending him." Stern smiled at last. "And you've reminded everyone in the organization of how valuable our research can be. Good show, Pierson."

"Thank you." Stern left the room and Methos slumped over his desk. *Good show. Then why do I feel so wrong about this whole thing?*

***

While Stern was speaking with Methos, MacLeod was in Lyon, driving up to the Watcher installation with his usual frontal approach to a challenge. After all, he was here to talk to the Watchers, not to really break Joe out of prison, no matter what Methos said. They would have to see reason. Joe had nothing to do with these murders. They could prove it.

MacLeod's investigations over the past two weeks had narrowed Watcher holdings down to two sites, both gated estates. This one was guarded more heavily and thus, more likely to be Joe's 'prison.' The guard at the gate took his name impassively and spent several minutes in the gatehouse on the phone. When he returned, he allowed MacLeod to drive through without comment.

MacLeod pulled onto the circular drive and was met by two men who indicated where he should park his car, then led him inside. They brought him to an office where a grey-haired man waited. The man he'd seen abduct Joe, he realized, as they motioned him inside, then closed the door.

The man spoke as soon as they were alone. "Duncan MacLeod. I'm Jack Shapiro, an old friend of Joe's."

"You know why I'm here."

"Mr. MacLeod, Joe is not being helped by your presence here. It only makes our case stronger, you must understand -- that you'd come chasing after him. That you could find this place so easily."

"Anyone with a good detective and a real estate agent could find this place. Your security isn't that good." MacLeod had carefully chosen his words, but it was close enough to a lie that he had to move as he spoke. He wound up at the window, and turned back to face Shapiro with the light behind him. "If you know Joe, then you know he is not involved in these murders."

"I'm very impressed with your sources, MacLeod." Shapiro moved to the door and opened it, then spoke to the two men waiting just outside. "Bring Dawson here." They nodded and moved off, and he closed the door again. "You'll see we aren't mistreating him. We're simply securing him while we conduct our investigation."

"The whole idea of putting Joe Dawson on trial is wrong. Let Joe work with your people to stop whoever is doing this. If you'd like, I'll help if you discover whether the killer is an immortal."

The door opened and Dawson walked in. The men closed the door once he was in and again remained outside, on guard.

"Mac! How did you get here? Jack, you didn't..."

"No, Joe. Mr. MacLeod found us all by himself. And he's very well informed, too. In fact, he was just making an interesting offer."

"I can stop whoever is killing your people. Release Joe and I'll cooperate with you."

"See, Joe? Interesting. I guess he really is your friend." Shapiro didn't seem pleased by this. "There are those who don't believe immortals really care what happens to mortals, that they just want to dominate us."

"Jack," Dawson began.

"No, no, we're all impressed." Shapiro picked up a file. "Fortunately, Mr. MacLeod, the Watchers don't require an immortal warrior to clean up our messes. Our own people will handle this. We've narrowed the suspects down and we know how to kill your kind."

"But it's against your oath..." MacLeod protested.

"Allowing our people to be slaughtered isn't part of the oath, either," Shapiro hissed.

"Jack," Dawson softly asked. "Who do you suspect, and why? Are you talking about killing dozens of immortals? Is what James Horton did to us about to happen all over again?" MacLeod looked appalled at the thought.

"Our Research people went to work on this problem, led by another friend of yours, Joe."

"Who?" Both men demanded. Shapiro looked surprised, but he answered anyway.

"Pierson. He's gone through the reports and collated the movements of known immortals over the last three years. Seeing who could have been in the area to commit the murders. So unless this killer is someone we've never watched, never identified as an immortal, tracking down the immortals Pierson has shown were in the vicinity will solve our problem."

"Who decides who's guilty and who's innocent?" MacLeod asked. "Are you putting them on trial here, too?"

"We aren't going to discuss our plans or decisions with you. How is protecting our own people any different from your Game, MacLeod? How many people have you judged and killed?"

"That's different. It's how we live. I don't like it, I'd change it if I could, but it's the way things are."

"More Watchers have died in the last two years than in the 50 preceding. Like it or not, this is the way things are for us now. We will survive."

Joe sadly asked, "At what cost, Jack? How many suspects are you chasing?"

"Four. And no, I'm not giving you names. Pierson's saved your life for now, Joe, but we aren't sure of you yet. When the killing stops, you'll be released. Until then, you stay here where we can watch you."

"And Mac?"

"Is free to go -- as long as he gives his much-vaunted word that he won't interfere." Shapiro's face was hard. "If not, he can be our guest as well."

MacLeod looked at Dawson and sighed. "I don't agree with what you're doing. It's too dangerous for your people to talk to these immortals. But I don't think you need to keep me here."

"Good." Shapiro moved towards the door, but MacLeod stopped him.

"I don't see why you still need to keep Joe under house arrest."

"Simple precaution. We already know he's friendly with one immortal. We can't risk him being in contact with any others. Issuing untimely warnings, for instance."

Dawson had to protest that. "Jack, you've known me for years. You can't believe I'd put Watchers in danger. A lot of the people killed were my friends! I want to stop whoever is doing this just as much as you do."

"Joe, you were brought to trial because we don't know what you'll do or where your loyalties really are. Once this threat is past, we'll re-evaluate your assignment. Now, Mr. MacLeod, I believe you were leaving?" Shapiro had MacLeod escorted back to his car and Dawson back to his room. Then he sat at his desk and put his head down on his hands.

"Four lives. In return for so many innocent lives. It shouldn't bother me." He looked at a framed photo atop the desk of a young, curly-haired man. "To protect you, David, I'd kill more."

*****

MacLeod headed home, still concerned about Joe and determined to find out what the hell Methos was doing, what the Watchers thought they were doing about this 'list of suspects.' When he pulled into his usual parking spot near the barge, he saw several police cars. Before he really knew what was happening, MacLeod was being led off to the police station.

Once he saw Renee Delaney, MacLeod's only thought was that he really wished he'd gone back to Seacouver sooner. The adventures of Renee started with her questioning him about Xavier, continued with Morgan D'Estaing almost taking his head in an abandoned building near the barge, and almost ended with a glass of poisoned wine.

Two days later MacLeod tracked Morgan D'Estaing to his family estate.

"Duncan MacLeod. Come in, please. Have a drink." D'Estaing smiled at him as MacLeod shook his head, remembering Inspector Dufay's horrible death. "Well, if you won't drink with me perhaps you'll tell me why you're here?"

"I don't drink with vermin, I exterminate them. That's why I'm here."

"So you want to kill me as you killed my teacher." D'Estaing's false smile faded at last and his eyes were hard. "To repay you for that I would have killed your own teacher, if that lumbering coward were not so elusive. Once you are dead I will kill your students, kill anyone who remembers you on the face of the earth."

"Come outside and fight me, D'Estaing. You'll have your chance."

"Outside? Why not fight right here? Destroy my possessions as easily as you've destroyed my family."

"We won't fight anywhere unless there's plenty of fresh air. I know about your tricks with gas canisters, all learned from your sainted teacher. Outside, now."

"My pleasure." The two men stepped out of the house and moved onto the grounds. They'd just reached a clearing when MacLeod saw a number of men moving, all dressed in camouflage. He thought for a moment that Delaney must have followed him. Then he heard a whistle and immediately there were semi-automatic weapons firing at them both. He felt the bullets rip into him, and then there was nothing.

When MacLeod revived, he was on the ground and two men with guns were standing over him.

"Just stay down and no harm will come to you," one man growled, pointing his weapon at MacLeod's head.

"What's going on?" he asked, before he saw the tattoos on their wrists. "What are you doing?" MacLeod tried to rise, but a muddy boot came down on his chest and held him there.

"Looks like you'll be getting an easy quickening, MacLeod." The Watcher who spoke had nothing but contempt for immortals in his voice.

Then MacLeod heard D'Estaing shouting at him. "Very honorable, MacLeod! Since when does the noble Highlander fight with mortal assistants?" MacLeod twisted enough to see D'Estaing, hands bound behind him, being dragged to a tree stump on the edge of the clearing. "MacLeod! Fight me fairly, you bastard!"

"Shut up!" There was the sound of a blow as the men dragging D'Estaing struggled with the helpless immortal.

"But how do you know he's the one?" MacLeod asked. "Maybe he isn't your killer. Do you have proof?"

"This scum kills mortals all the time, MacLeod. He's not going to kill any more of us." The men standing over him looked serene, unconcerned. MacLeod felt like he was reliving the Horton nightmare.

"Please, let me up," MacLeod begged. "Let us fight fairly, this is wrong. It's against your oaths, your rules..."

"It doesn't matter," snarled the second man, who shoved a gun into MacLeod's neck. "Now stay put unless you want to find out if I can take your head off with this." MacLeod heard the ringing noise of a sword being drawn.

D'Estaing screamed in terror, and then there was the sound of a blade passing through flesh, followed by the horrible sound of a head falling. Then another whistle.

"Move out now, quickly!"

The Watchers left MacLeod lying on the ground as they ran for cover before the quickening could start. Though he'd been ready to take the man's head, MacLeod was horrified that he'd be receiving his quickening this way. He tensed, and the pain was even more excruciating because of it. The power storm moved over him and into him, filled with D'Estaing's hatred and terror and confusion. MacLeod moaned and tried to stand, to move. It was impossible.

Long minutes later, he was still gasping, trying to recover, to see where the murdering Watchers had gone. It was useless; they'd dispersed while he was helpless. MacLeod pulled himself to his feet and stumbled to his own car. He had to find Methos and talk to him about this.

Methos had given him his phone number and told him to only use it in an emergency. MacLeod thought this day qualified. He'd been shot by Watchers and made to take another man's quickening without combat. He was also frightened about how many other names were on the Watchers' hit list of possible suspects. D'Estaing was a killer, MacLeod knew that. But he wasn't sure the Watchers were capable of distinguishing between good and evil immortals at this point. Of course, they'd let him go free when they could have taken his head as well. Still...

It was too close to the events that had almost killed Fitz, the renegade Watchers who *had* killed Darius, on holy ground. The Watchers shouldn't be doing this. They didn't *know* D'Estaing was their murderer. They couldn't be allowed to just kill randomly in hopes of stopping one killer.

"Damn it, Methos, answer the phone." But he heard the click of the answering machine instead, and so he steered his car toward the Watchers' building in Paris instead of the barge.

***

"What the hell did you think you were doing?" Methos slammed MacLeod into the car. He'd been called out of the library by a frightened fellow-watcher who reported that he was needed at the front desk. When he felt presence, he'd almost run the other way. Then when he saw it was MacLeod, fury had replaced the panic. He'd managed to control himself until they were at the barge, parking the car. "Walking into Watcher headquarters and asking for Adam Pierson? And wearing a bloody, shot up shirt? Why didn't you just print 'I'm an immortal' on your forehead? Not that you'd need to -- your face is well-known among the Watchers!"

"I needed to talk to you!" MacLeod was trying to keep his temper in control, but after this day it was difficult. "The Watchers interfered in a challenge today."

"You were challenged?" Methos was instantly calm and focused. "Who was it? Is that how you got shot?"

"No." MacLeod shoved the other man away from him, balling his fists. "Your damn Watchers shot us both, then executed him. I took the quickening."

Methos' face paled and his eyes went wide. He stuttered, "Mac, I--"

"Shut up and listen to me! I know this is your fault, Shapiro told me about some list you gave them. They're killing us, no trial, no justice. Just killing anyone you told them might be involved!" MacLeod was shaking in his anger. "I can't believe you would do this. Is this how you narrow the field so you'll survive another thousand years?"

"But I didn't--"

"No, I don't want to hear your excuses." MacLeod knew he was being unreasonable, and he could feel the burn of D'Estaing's unwanted quickening burning through him, driving him on. He tried to take a deep breath. "Morgan D'Estaing is dead. Now tell me who else was on your hit list, Methos." Neither man noticed the young, curly-haired man observing the fight from atop the quai. But another pair of eyes watched, too, and noted the observer.

"There were five more immortals." Methos closed his eyes, knowing that MacLeod would never forgive him. He'd been aware of their connections to the Highlander. "Cochrane and the Galatis among them."

"What!" MacLeod's mouth dropped and he couldn't think of anything to say. He moved toward Methos, then shoved him into the car, snarling "Where did this list come from? One of my chronicles?"

"They're logical suspects--" Methos tried to resist the urge to push MacLeod away, tried to make his body submit. It wasn't easy.

"They're good people. How could you think any of them were involved in these murders?"

"I could think it because I'm not blinded by friendship! All of them were known to be in the countries, even the cities where the murders occurred. You don't know that any of them aren't guilty! Cochrane has changed, you told me that. Who can say what's going on in his mind? Killing his own student is hardly sane."

"He didn't mean to kill him!" MacLeod backed away from him and Methos felt his body relax.

"I'm sure that's a comfort as your head is flying off, MacLeod, but it doesn't change the facts. The Galatis--"

"Don't say another word." MacLeod turned on his lover and was appalled to find his own hand near the hilt of his sword. If they continued this discussion, he'd lose control and fight Methos right here. "Just walk away, Methos. Now. If anything happens to my friends..."

Never one to need to be told twice, Methos backed away. The rage in MacLeod's eyes was as frightening as anything he'd seen there during the dark quickening. This was MacLeod in his right mind, still angry enough to take Methos' head. He didn't turn his back on the Highlander until he reached the steps to the street.

Methos headed back to the Watcher building without noticing the young Watcher moving down the steps toward the barge. He never moved into sensing range of the man stalking the Watcher, either.

*****

"Adam?"

Methos looked up in surprise at the familiar voice. He was in the Watcher library again, so deeply involved in his reading that he hadn't even recognized Joe's familiar gait as he entered the room. "Joe!"

"Yeah, I've been sprung."

"It's good to see you." Methos moved to embrace Dawson, not caring who else saw them. The other Watchers in the room didn't know about the tribunal or Dawson's peril. Hopefully they'd just see two old friends.

"Are you okay, buddy? You look worse than I feel." Dawson was laughing, but his eyes were serious.

"Yeah, well, I was just reading..." Methos led Dawson into the corridor and toward Linda's office. He matched his gait to Dawson's slower pace, and spoke in a low voice beside his ear. "They killed Cochrane, Joe. And D'Estaing. They weren't trying to talk to them, to find out if they were the murderers. They just shot them and took their heads."

"Oh my god. It's like Horton all over again."

"Yeah. Only this time I'm responsible."

"But you didn't know--"

"Think that means anything to them? Or to MacLeod?" Methos' face was twisted with pain.

"I'm sorry, Adam. I never meant for any of this to happen."

"No, Joe, I'm sorry. I'm not blaming you. I'm just worried, and upset." They reached the office and Methos straightened up, knocking lightly on the door even as they entered the room. Linda rose behind her desk. "Linda, this is Joe Dawson. Joe, this is Linda Engman. She's Bertie's secretary. She's partly responsible for your new freedom. I thought you two should meet."

"My pleasure, mademoiselle." Dawson's courtly handshake had Methos smiling and Linda melting.

"I'm glad to see you healthy and back in the fold, Mr. Dawson." Joe noticed the baggy sweater, the conservative clothes, the thick glasses. Then she smiled at him and he saw the warmth and intelligence in her eyes. Adam knew how to pick his friends.

"Well, that might not be accurate. They're still deciding if I'm a Watcher anymore," Dawson said. "But I might not be alive if it weren't for you two. Thanks. And please, call me Joe."

"You're very welcome, Joe. Adam, I'm afraid there's bad news." Linda watched the color drain out of the young man's face.

"The Galatis?"

"No, another murder. David Shapiro."

"No!" Dawson almost fell down. "Not David, too." He could remember Jack's proud face as he passed around the boy's baby pictures.

"Yes, I'm afraid it's true. He was assigned to Duncan MacLeod in your absence, Mr. Dawson. His body was found just an hour ago, along the river."

"Is Jack alright?"

"He collapsed and had to be taken to the hospital." Linda looked back at Pierson. "Adam, are you alright? Sit down, quick." She pushed him into her guest chair and tucked his head down. "Just breathe."

"Adam? What's wrong?" Dawson saw Methos' hands shaking as he sat there.

"I'll get him some water." Linda moved away, and Dawson touched the bent head.

"I'm fine, Joe. Just more blood on my hands." Methos' voice was bitter with self-loathing. "Two dead, another Watcher dead. He was right..."

Dawson didn't need to ask who was right, he'd already heard enough to figure that MacLeod's contempt was feeding Methos' own doubts. "You didn't know this would happen. I'm sure you didn't suggest that the Watchers start killing immortals."

"But I led them to those men, Joe." Linda, who'd entered during this, handed him a paper cup of water.

"Drink that and stop this wallowing. There's more you need to know. Jacob Galati was seen in Paris yesterday."

"Where?" Adam's eyes were glowing in his pale face.

"Actually, he was seen near Notre Dame. All staff in Paris are going to be sent out to look for him." Linda shook her head. "Adam, he could be the murderer. He's here and another Watcher died."

"We don't know who else is here, though, do we?" Methos tried to keep his voice level, not to spew all his guilt and self-loathing at his friend. He looked down, then over to Dawson.

Dawson saw the pleading in his eyes. "Well, until I'm officially back among the staff, I'm going to head for my apartment." Methos' eyes closed, then opened again full of gratitude. "Nice meeting you, Miss Engman. Thanks again for your help."

"I'll walk you out, Joe." Methos waited until they were outside the building to speak again. "You'll warn him? I don't want more innocent people dying."

"Sure. Get back in there." Dawson moved to the curb and hailed a taxi. "Quai de la Tournelle, s'il vous plait."

***

"I don't want to hear anything you have to say, Watcher." MacLeod was in full righteous indignation mode, stalking away from Dawson even as he tried to climb onto the barge.

"Mac, please! Adam sent me to warn you; he can't leave headquarters."

"I don't want to hear anything he has to say, either." MacLeod started down the steps, intending to close the door in Dawson's face, but the next words his Watcher spoke stopped him.

"Jacob Galati is in Paris. You've got to find him and warn him."

"What?" MacLeod spun around. "You're telling me to warn him against your own people?"

"We don't want any more innocent people killed. Another Watcher was killed yesterday, so we know that Cochrane and D'Estaing weren't--"

"Warren is dead?" MacLeod asked in a small voice, sinking down to sit on the side of the deck.

*Shit!* "I'm sorry, Mac. Yes, Cochrane was killed. Adam told me, I don't know the details." Dawson shook his head. Would the Watchers ever get back to normal, to being an organization dedicated to history, to observing without causing more damage?

MacLeod looked up at Dawson. "Adam sent you here?"

"They've spotted Galati near here, and Adam wanted you to know. Maybe you can find him, get him and his wife to safety."

MacLeod was speechless again. The man who'd given the damn Watchers Jacob's name was now trying to save him? "I don't believe this." MacLeod felt a buzz and turned, expecting to see Methos.

"He's sick over what's been happening, Mac. So am I," Dawson pleaded. "If you can't believe that, believe that Galati is here and he's in danger."

"Indeed," said a new voice. A dark haired young man moved toward them.

"Jacob," MacLeod breathed. "Thank God."

"So I'm in danger? Could it be because you're one of those damned hunters?" Galati grabbed Dawson's wrist and exposed his tattoo.

"No, Jacob, this is Joe Dawson, he's a friend of mine." MacLeod moved between the men, forcing Galati to release Dawson.

"Oh, a friend. Do you trust this man, MacLeod? Do you know what he is?"

"Yes, I know all about the Watchers, Jacob. They observe us, record but never interfere."

Galati's laughter was harsh. "Is that what he told you? I can tell you another story."

***

MacLeod and Dawson listened in horror to Galati's grim recital of his wife's death. MacLeod was crying; he'd been close to Irena for many years. When Jacob spoke of being forced to take her quickening, MacLeod shivered and Dawson had to look away from both men. By the time Galati finished his tale, the room was dark and his voice was hoarse. MacLeod moved around, turning on lights.

"I'm so sorry, Jacob. Those Watchers who killed Irena, they were renegades. Their leader, Horton, is dead now." MacLeod shared a look with Dawson as he spoke. "The other Watchers do just what I said. Observe,--"

"No, they're all killers, just like the ones who murdered Irena. They all deserve to die."

MacLeod turned to his friend in horror. "Please tell me you haven't been stalking and killing Watchers, Jacob."

"Hunting them like the animals they are and killing whoever I could find. It's my right. Blood for blood, MacLeod."

"You bastard." Dawson spoke without thinking. "You've killed my friends, innocent men and women--"

"No one is innocent! You are all guilty!" Galati was incensed. "Duncan, I thought you'd help with my quest for justice. You loved her, too..." Galati began to weep. "My beautiful Irena..."

"Joe, you'd better leave now." Dawson obeyed as MacLeod moved to soothe his friend. "Jacob, it's all over now. The men who killed Irena are gone. There's no need for revenge, it's over, my friend."

Dawson moved onto the quai and pulled out his cellphone. The Watchers had to be warned, had to be told that Jacob Galati was the killer. Dawson knew MacLeod wouldn't approve, but he also knew MacLeod couldn't stop his friend. Particularly when his friend had been sent on his killing spree by the renegade Watchers. Galati was full of anger and sorrow, justified in his own eyes. MacLeod might not agree, but he would never challenge Galati over it.

"Adam? I'm leaving MacLeod's now, and Galati is here." Dawson couldn't listen to Methos' relief; he cut him off mid-sentence. "Galati is the killer, his wife was murdered by Horton three years ago. He--" A blow from behind cut off anything Dawson was about to say and he fell heavily to the pavement, his phone spinning off into the darkness.

"I knew you weren't to be trusted, no matter what MacLeod said." Galati pulled a dagger and stabbed the prone man, then moved back to where he'd left his motorcycle. He vanished into the darkness.

*****

Methos hung over the hospital bed, watching Dawson breathe. He was stable at last, and Methos knew he should leave, tell the other Watchers gathered in the waiting room the news. Then find MacLeod and tell him, too.

His frantic phone call to MacLeod had saved Dawson's life. MacLeod was just reviving from the blow Galati had inflicted, and though he was still groggy, Methos' urgency about Dawson had sent him running out onto the quai with a flashlight. He found Dawson at the same time he heard the ambulance arriving. Thanks to their quick actions, Dawson hadn't bled to death along the riverbank like David Shapiro had.

Methos' hand shook as he brushed it lightly over Dawson's forehead. He'd been trying to save this man from execution, and he'd managed to send him into danger again. *And you dared to accuse MacLeod of thoughtlessness!*

Methos wanted to vanish, to be able to leave right now without worrying about Dawson, the Watchers, or MacLeod. But he couldn't do that. He stood up, stretched, then walked to the waiting room to give his news to the others. Once they'd left the hospital, he phoned MacLeod and let him know of Dawson's progress.

The call was awkward and they didn't talk about anything else. The obvious anger in MacLeod's voice kept Methos from telling him about Cochrane. He'd be a coward and let Dawson tell MacLeod. Guilt over Galati's attack on Joe should reconcile those two soon enough.

Methos stumbled home in the dawn light, but he didn't go to bed. Instead, he pulled out his computer and began searching for places that Jacob Galati might be hiding near Paris. Despite their gypsy lifestyle, the Galatis had investments and owned land. He pulled up Jacob's credit record as well, hoping for some lead on where the immortal was staying.

Galati was a killer. It didn't matter what his reasons were, though Irena's murder was a terrible tragedy. What mattered was that hundreds of mortal lives were in danger until Galati stopped killing. MacLeod wouldn't be able to stop him, to kill yet another friend. He'd try to convince Galati to willingly stop killing. Methos didn't believe reasoning would stop his vengance.

Methos, on the other hand, could and would kill Galati, just as soon as he found him. Unfortunately, it would mean the death of his friendship with Duncan MacLeod as well.

*****

Despite taking measures to ensure he could meet Galati without a team of Watchers tagging along, Methos felt he was being observed. Even if it hadn't been standard procedure when someone left the organization, his impassioned resignation would have earned him his own team. Methos decided to take the chance anyway. He wasn't going to let Galati live another day.

Adam Pierson had arrived at Watcher Headquarters two days ago with a bandage on his wrist and a letter of resignation in his hand. In a heated meeting held in the Director's office, Nathan Stern had insisted that Pierson was their only Methos expert and couldn't be allowed to resign. Jack Shapiro then insisted that Pierson was needed to help them find Galati "and kill that murdering son of a bitch." Joe Dawson joined the meeting via speaker phone from his hospital bed to insist that the organization owed Pierson his freedom since he'd helped them identify the killer.

Pierson himself merely stated that his research had been used to murder immortals and that he wanted nothing more to do with the organization. And somehow, Pierson won. Roberta Cragin accepted his resignation, shook his hand and wished him luck.

Then he faced the gauntlet of friends and colleagues who'd somehow heard what was going on in the Director's office that morning. Linda was among them, red-eyed as he packed up his cubical. After handshakes and hugs, he left the Watcher building and took a deep breath. Adam Pierson would soon vanish and Methos was free.

Free to pursue Galati, who owned a cottage outside Amiens where one of his credit cards had been used at a motorcycle shop two weeks ago. But instead of chasing north to find Galati, Methos called the number listed for that address and left a message stating that if Galati wanted information on the hunters who'd killed his wife, he should be at the east gate of the Luxembourg Gardens at 5 a.m.

So Methos waited, pacing around a bench in the chill, damp morning air. Late October and it was very cold already. Once this was over, he'd go someplace warmer. Someplace where there wouldn't be a Scot and several hundred mortals after his head. The Watchers were in the area and once they saw the challenge, he'd be exposed as an immortal.

The wash of presence announced Galati's arrival, but Methos was dismayed to realize that there was a second immortal hiding in the fog.

"Looking for me?" Galati asked, stepping forward.

"No, I think you're looking for me." Methos lifted his sleeve and showed the blue tattoo to the younger immortal. "Who's your friend?"

"What are you talking about?" Galati looked honestly confused, and Methos wondered if his range was that much greater than the younger man's. Galati didn't seem to sense the other. Well, there was no time now to worry about it.

"I believe you killed my colleagues. Let's see how you do with one who can fight back." Methos drew his sword and so did Galati.

"You really work with those bastards?" Galati asked. "You're a coward and a traitor to your own kind. It will be a pleasure to kill you, too."

Methos feinted and their fight began. They were well-matched, but Galati had been fighting only mortals for too long. He began to tire and reached for his gun, intending to shoot this crazy immortal and leave. Instead, as he drew it, he heard the click of another gun being cocked. His opponent also was armed with a revolver.

"Go ahead. I'll take your head while you're down." The feral look on Methos' face made Galati stop, then carefully toss his weapon aside. "Oh, goody." Methos followed suit, dropping his gun then kicking it away from them both.

They re-engaged blades, and both men were quickly wet with sweat as they panted and dodged. Finally Methos saw an opening when Galati was a little slow in recovering from a strike. He cleanly stabbed the other man, then with a swift turn took his head before Galati even dropped his own sword.

The quickening rose into the air and Methos suddenly felt the other immortal approaching. "Damn it!" he snarled as he whirled. Duncan MacLeod rushed at him and tackled him to the ground. Methos heard a gunshot, and then the quickening hit them both. Methos writhed and screamed, but MacLeod held on to him, covering him with his own body.

When it finally ended, MacLeod fell back and pushed him away, shoving a gun into Methos' hand. MacLeod stayed down, even when Methos rose still holding both weapons. Then Methos heard the gasps from around him, and realized they had an audience of three Watchers, all known to him personally.

"Adam? Did you kill Galati?" Cecilia asked, pointing to the gun and the bloody blade he held. At his nod, she smiled -- incredibly -- and said "Good."

The others were also smiling, even as they gathered the body and Methos watched in confusion. They weren't trying to restrain him, to question him...

"Mr. MacLeod? Are you alright?" Cece was smiling shyly at MacLeod, obviously smitten by the Highlander's charm. "It was very noble of you to protect Adam from the quickening the way you did."

"Well, I didn't want the lad injured. I was here to meet Jacob, but then I saw Adam talking with him. Jacob pulled a gun, but Adam had his own..." MacLeod continued whatever story he'd cooked up for the Watchers, but Methos was no longer listening. His quickening-confused brain was putting together what MacLeod had done. The tackle had been for his protection, to keep their audience from realizing Pierson was an immortal. Why Duncan MacLeod, who despised Methos, still felt compelled to protect his identity among the Watchers was a mystery.

Cars were pulling up full of Watcher personnel. Galati's body was removed in one of them, bundled into a bag after a quick examination. Top brass were there, talking quietly with MacLeod and the field personnel. Methos observed it all feeling strangely detached. He couldn't put away his sword without everyone wondering why he had a sewn-in sheathe in his coat, so he kept holding it even when one of the technicians came and carefully cleaned off Galati's blood. When Roberta Cragin came to shake his hand, Methos finally snapped out of his haze.

"Adam. We appreciate what you've done here today."

"I didn't do this for the Watchers."

"Nonetheless, we'd like to recognize your valor. For a research staffer to face down an immortal and take a head..."

"That's exactly why I left the Watchers, because no Watcher should be taking heads! It's wrong, all of it. Galati's death isn't some victory, and it doesn't put things right. He was killing us because we killed his wife. Next some friend of Cochrane or D'Estaing will come looking for their murderers. Where does it all stop?" Methos tried to bring himself back under control. "I'm sorry, I'm no hero. I just want to be left alone." And he walked away without a word to MacLeod, still carrying his sword.

*****

Duncan MacLeod wasn't usually timid, but that was the word for his demeanor today, Joe Dawson concluded. The Highlander walked into En Famille looking very, very tentative. Dawson was on stage, strumming his guitar softly for the few patrons scattered around the room. It was too early for the dinner crowd, and the advertised entertainment didn't start until 8. Maurice bustled up to MacLeod and seated him, calling for a waitress to bring Monsieur MacLeod some wine. Dawson smiled and nodded, but finished his song before moving over to the immortal's table.

"Hi, Joe." MacLeod sounded almost shy.

"Mac. Nice to see you here." Dawson motioned to an empty chair, asking "Mind if I join you?"

"Please do. I wasn't sure you'd want to see me. After what Jacob did," he admitted softly.

"It wasn't your fault. I don't blame you for your friend's actions." Dawson groaned softly as he settled in the chair. He was fine, glad to be released from the hospital -- but that didn't mean all his muscles were pain-free. "For that matter, I don't really have a grudge against Galati. I've made sure that the true story of the murders will go in the chronicles, Mac. That what Horton and his people did to Irena will be recorded and remembered, not just what Galati did to us."

"I appreciate that, Joe. He wasn't evil, he was just -- lost, I think, without Irena. The saddest part is that she would never have wanted him to seek revenge, to harm innocent people."

"Yeah. I read a little about them, mostly from your chronicle. She must have been a wonderful woman." Dawson accepted a glass of wine from MacLeod and they sat in silence for a few minutes. Then Dawson decided this was ridiculous. He knew what MacLeod wanted to hear about. He might as well make it easy on his friend. There was no point in playing games. "I don't know where he is, Mac. I think he left the country."

"Did he really quit the Watchers before he challenged Jacob?"

"Yes, though it was touch-and-go for a while there. They didn't want to let him go." Dawson sighed. "I have to ask -- are you looking for Adam to challenge him?"

MacLeod's startled face was his answer, but the Scot spoke anyway. "No, no! How could you..." He paused and swallowed, the continued, "I was angry about Warren and about Adam's involvement. But I've had time to think, and I believe what he said. Adam didn't intend for anyone to be killed."

"No, I don't think he did, Mac."

"It was just a mistake on his part, to give the Watchers that information. We could have tracked them down, found the killer..."

"Of course, then I'd still be in a Watcher prison." Dawson smiled at the look on MacLeod's face. "He did it for me, Mac. Not to hurt anyone, but to clear me."

"Yes." MacLeod looked almost ill with guilt. "We both wanted you released."

"Mac, I remember who came charging to Lyon to save me. Please. I treasure your friendship, both of you." Dawson sighed, "I just hope I see Adam again some day to tell him that."

"I can't believe he left without saying anything."

"Actually, he came to the hospital. I was still pretty drugged up, but I remember him talking, saying he'd stayed out of the Game for years, but now he seemed to be taking heads every other week. He was pretty shook up, Mac. Upset that he'd caused Cochrane's death; afraid the Watchers would figure out who he is; worried you wanted his head--"

"But doesn't he realize I'm not angry anymore? I made sure the Watchers didn't see Adam take Jacob's quickening. I would have challenged Jacob myself if Adam hadn't done it first!" MacLeod hit the table with his fist and all eyes in the room turned to him. Both men realized that the room was filling up with people ordering dinner.

"Let's go into the office, Mac. Free this table for someone." Dawson rose and MacLeod followed him into the back office he shared with Maurice. When they were both settled around the desk with their drinks, Dawson continued, "Mac, neither one of us thought you would kill your friend. Or should, for that matter."

"Jacob was killing mortals."

"Yes, and he thought he had a damn good reason to do it. Adam challenged him because Galati wouldn't stop killing. Hell, probably because of what he did to me, too. From what the other Watchers have told me, Adam was pretty shook up while I was in the hospital." Dawson took a sip of his drink and continued, "Adam felt responsible for Cochrane's death, and some of the murdered Watchers were his friends."

"I can understand why he challenged Jacob, Joe."

"Yeah, but understanding and being able to kill a friend are different things. Adam seemed to think it would have been impossible for you to kill Galati, especially after Keogh."

"Do you think Adam realizes how overprotective he is about me?" MacLeod smiled sadly. "What ever happened to the guy who only worried about himself?"

"Ya know, I don't think I ever met that guy." Dawson raised his glass and MacLeod clinked his against it. "So. Are we headed back to Seacouver?"

"Yeah. It's late enough in the year, I don't want to spend the holidays here. I'm worried about Richie, too. I don't suppose you've heard anything."

"To tell you the truth, Mac, I've been preoccupied. But I'll check over his Watcher's reports tomorrow, and let you know how he's been."

"Thanks." They stayed in the office and finished the bottle of wine, then brought sandwiches back to eat. When the music started, Dawson went out front and MacLeod slipped back to the barge to start packing and organizing.

Much later that night a car pulled up on the bridge overlooking the barge. A tall, slender figure climbed out for one last look before heading to the airport. The lights on the barge were out, except in the porthole closest to the bed where the reading light was twinkling. A hand started to reach for the light, then stopped and was pulled back against the man's body. A choked voice whispered "Goodbye," then returned to the car, which sped off into the darkness.

Duncan MacLeod, asleep over a book, tossed restlessly.

 End of Part 7 - Go to Part 8

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