The phone drew Duncan out of
a very deep sleep and it took him a while to realise what had
woken him. He disentangled himself from Amanda as gently as possible,
but with the urgency of someone who knew they had something to
do. He managed to reach the hand set without waking his bed partner,
although, only just.
"Hello," he said as
coherently as possible.
"Didn't wake you did I,
MacLeod?" the voice on the other end said with a total lack
of sincerity. "Thought I'd ring and see if you were ready
for me yet."
"Anytime," the Highlander
said calmly, "just name the place."
"Oh, I don't think so,"
Jackson replied with a sneer in his voice, "not so soon.
I just wanted to check on you. I've been watching you and your
friends you know, quite a crowd you have over at your place. Haven't
been close enough to check exactly who they are, of course, but
I'll give you a little more time with your playmates. Give my
love to the beautiful lady sharing your bed, won't you."
"You don't scare me, Peters,"
Mac returned without the slightest hint of emotion, "we may
as well just get on with this."
"Don't be impatient, Highlander,"
the other responded quickly, "our battle will come around
later. Bye, bye, Mac, see you about town."
Then the line went dead and the
contact was over. Maybe a few months ago Peters' tactics might
have rattled MacLeod's chain, but this morning it just woke him
"Your games are not original,"
the Scotsman said quietly to himself, "you have no hold over
me, Jackson. See you on the field of war."
It was early, and today, Richie
was not really awake: he was walking around, he'd made it to the
dojo, but he was definitely not fully out of sleep mode. The previous
evening Chris had stayed well into the small hours, and all three
young people had drunk a little too much wine. Hangovers didn't
last too long where Immortal's were concerned, since their systems
cleaned themselves out with practised efficiency, but lack of
shut eye hit them just as hard as mortals. As it was, the young
Immortal's twin hadn't turned up at all for the morning work out,
and since Duncan was practising with Craven, that left Richie
with Amanda. At least their female companion was in a good mood,
which meant she wouldn't be going for the jugular. It still did
not bode well for the number of bruises with which the sleepy
young Immortal would come out of their sparing. Wooden swords
were the order of the day: they never used their own blades in
the gym for fear that they would be disturbed and not be able
to explain away any wounds.
"Open your eyes, Richie,"
his opponent said mercilessly as they readied themselves for combat,
"it helps when you're trying to parry."
"They are open," the
young Immortal returned, "just not very far. It's a new technique
to infuse over confidence in my enemies."
Amanda just snorted her amusement.
"Well you're not quite asleep,
I see," she said lightly and brought her sword up. "Defend
They exchanged a few blows before
the young looking woman slipped a blow under her companion's guard
and gave him a hearty slap to the ribs.
"Okay, I deserved that,"
Richie said as he backed off and finally began to wake up.
"You can do better than
that," his opponent said jubilantly and launched into her
At last Richie's mind decided
to enter into the entertainment of living and much to Amanda's
surprise he came to life and actually forced her backwards. The
dark haired woman was in no way an inferior swordswoman, but the
sudden change caught her a little of guard. With an opportune
strike the younger Immortal pushed Amanda's weapon out of the
way, passed her on the left side and brought his own wooden sword
round to hit her squarely on the behind.
"Pay back," he said
with a mischievous grin.
His female companion's eyes flared
and they were suddenly joined in earnest conflict. The sounds
of wood hitting wood, and wood hitting flesh was soon so distracting
that the other two Immortals stopped to watch.
"Ooh, that looks painful,"
Duncan commented as Amanda landed a particularly heavy blow on
Very shortly, however she was
rewarded with a jab to the right arm and both their friends winced.
"Do you think we should
break it up?" Craven said quietly to his sparing partner.
"Looks like they're quite
enjoying themselves to me," the Highlander responded as he
watched the two combatants grin at each other evilly. "It's
not as if they can do each other any permanent damage."
Both Immortals were digging deep
for every dirty trick they knew and it was like watching a dance
of intrigues. No sooner was one move countered than the real aim
of the blow was revealed as one or the other went for another
hit. Finally, Richie managed to duck under his opponent's attack
and hooked her feet out from under her. Amanda fell to the floor
with a loud thump, and yet her sword was still moving. It caught
the back of her attacker's knees and unceremoniously dumped him
on his rear end.
"Pax," he yelled breathlessly,
as both weapons, once again met, even though their holders were
"D'you think they've finished?"
Craven asked in a loud voice fully of mock curiosity.
"Can't quite say,"
Mac returned in kind as both fighters flopped back onto the floor,
"better leave them a while just to make sure there are no
"If you don't come over
here and help me up, Highlander," Amanda said as she stared
at the ceiling, "I'll publish your sexual habits in the National
Duncan looked at Manheim in mock
"Maybe I should give her
a hand," the Scotsman said with a perfectly straight face.
Whilst he walked over to his
lover, his companion wandered across to where Richie was trying
to decide what hurt most.
"I think I cracked a rib,"
he said painfully as Craven looked down at him.
"Then learn to avoid being
hit," his friend said unsympathetically and smiled broadly.
Both combatants groaned loudly
as their companions helped them to their feet and then looked
at each other with wicked smiles.
"I love it when you play
rough," Amanda said unashamedly.
Richie chuckled and then wished
"Don't make me laugh,"
he said helplessly, "it hurts."
His opponent thought that was
Five minutes later Chris appeared
in the doorway looking wide awake.
"Amanda," he said pointedly,
"would you mind not beating up my brother whilst I'm trying
to get some sleep, it's distracting."
"Serves you right for not
turning up," Richie shot back, as he gingerly prodded his
ribs to see if anything was really broken.
His twin winced when he reached
the fourth one down.
"That's definitely cracked,"
Chris supplied helpfully. "For both our sakes, don't move
for the next few minutes."
"This is fun," their
female companion said evilly, "I can torture both of them
for the price of one."
She herself was nursing a beauty
of a bruise down her right leg. It was amazing what Immortals
could put each other through and still remain friends.
Joe had called a meeting of all
the significant Watchers in town: it was time to assess what was
going on and gauge what their general feelings were. Sooner or
later the members of the order were going to start asking questions,
and Dawson had found, in the past, that a group meeting often
headed off any problems.
he greeted and took a seat at the circle of tables that had been
laid out for the purpose, "everyone's well I hope."
"Can't complain," Jurgan
said with a smile and several others nodded companionably.
"This isn't a formal gathering,"
the bearded Watcher told them all calmly, "it's just an opening
to swap our observations and comments. If there weren't so many
of us, I'd get the cards out."
Several grinned, Joe's card games
were an institution. There were eleven present in all, seven of
whom were in town specifically because of the twins.
"Before we start,"
their chairman asked cheerfully, "can I get anyone a coffee
It took a few more minutes to
sort the orders out, but by the time they were settled, all were
at ease, just as Dawson had intended.
"Does anyone feel they would
like to start?" the grey haired man asked evenly.
It was Ben, a man of thirty who
had been Richie's Watcher now for several months, who chose to
"Well I don't know about
anybody else," he said in what was a deep mellow voice, "but
I've been following Ryan for a while and these past few weeks,
my job has become one hell of a lot harder. Ever since his twin
turned up he always seems to know when I'm around, it's like he
gained another pair of eyes."
"I agree," Julie put
in. "We've been trying a round robin trailing system, because
of the amount of surveillance we were told to keep up, but it's
like trying to keep tabs on a ghost."
After a powerful quickening,
a more observant Immortal would have been accepted quickly, but
none of these people knew that one had occurred, and Joe had to
head off their anxiety.
"Maybe Chris has just woken
him up a bit," the older Watcher suggested calmly, "he
was always a little careless. He has a woman to think about now,
as well, remember, and I've seen more than one Immortal change
the same way where a partner is involved. Richie already knows
about us, he's just looking harder now."
"Possibly," Dave gave
the idea some credit, "but sometimes it's uncanny."
"Of course," Graham
added with a smile, "I'd be edgy if there were suddenly any
number of people following me. I know that the twins are a phenomenon
we've never seen before, and therefore deserve some careful attention,
but I think we may be over doing it people."
At last, someone who agreed with
"I happen to share the same
opinion," the bar owner put his two pennies in, "it's
always been one on one before. The bug idea was a complete disaster,
and a cockup I do not wish to repeat. I'm going to recommend that
this extra Watching be suspended, in my next report. We'll probably
learn more if we go back to how it was and our Immortals begin
to relax again."
Several heads nodded in agreement.
"There's only one thing
that bothers me," Dave still had a problem with the situation,
"and that's the number of Immortals there are in one place,
and not even a hint of friction. I've been Watching for a long
time, and I've never seen this many live in each others pockets
for so long. In six weeks only one of them has left, and she's
coming back. Sure, occasionally a group of them will get together
for a little while, but they always get jumpy and move on. Then
there's Craven Manheim, he's been torturing and killing Immortals
for centuries and suddenly he's not anymore, in fact he seems
to have become a completely different person."
This was a good point, and again
a Quickening would have explained at least Craven's change of
heart, but that truth wasn't an option.
"They're probably all still
here for the same reason you are," Graham spoke up and saved
Joe the trouble. "The twins are as much a shock to them as
they are to us, and they're, most likely, trying to find out as
much as they can as well. There's enough speculation about Ryan
and Seaton's significance in our camp and we're just observing.
The pair may actually have some importance for Immortals that
we can't even begin to fathom, yet."
This was a little too close to
the correct answer for Joe's taste, but he had to roll with it.
"Craven went mad centuries
ago," he added before anyone could delve into their companion's
point, "we have the events chronicled. It's possible his
psyche has been repairing itself all this time and he just needed
something to shock him back to the person he was. Richie and Chris
certainly made me sit up and take notice."
It was weak, and the Watcher
knew it, but no-one else had a better suggestion.
Adam was in on this discussion,
but he was sitting back and keeping his mouth firmly shut for
the time being. It was becoming obvious that sooner or later these
people were going to see something which would lead them to the
right conclusions, it was another thing to add to his collection
of reasons to steer clear of the group. It was at times like these
that he reminded himself of who he was and how he had stayed alive
so long, and yet, there was something very compelling about the
idea of being no-longer alone. He had to admit to himself that
he was torn: in one way being part of the Dividing would make
him a target: he wouldn't be able to hide forever; and on the
other hand, it would feel so good to have people around he didn't
have to lie to. Methos was a myth who existed as a holy grail
to Immortals: they wanted to kill him or be him, Adam on the other
hand really wanted a quiet life. The companionship he saw in his
friends was an almost irresistible pull after so many decades
of isolation. Musing now, however, would not help him learn anything
and he snapped back to the conversation quickly. In the end, he
needn't have bothered: the discourse went round in circles for
the next half hour, with only the addition of some things the
Watchers had observed.
"They're becoming very suspicious,"
Joe said as his colleagues left him and Adam alone.
"I don't blame them,"
the Immortal responded and started to put some of the chairs back
into their correct positions, "I was suspicious, which is
why I'm here."
"I'm not sure I can divert
them for much longer," it was an admission that Dawson didn't
want to make, but it was the truth. "I don't know what to
expect anymore. Once my life was simple: follow MacLeod and report
a few Quickenings, now I feel like a covert double agent."
"You are," Methos replied,
unhelpfully. "You're protecting your friends from your colleagues
and its difficult. I'm not accusing you of anything," he
added quickly with a smile, "but you're on the Immortal side
of the line for this event, not the Watchers. Until they do know
the truth that's exactly where you'll stay."
It wasn't particularly comforting.
"If it's any help, I'd have
done the same thing in your shoes," the ancient man said
"Huh," said his companion
with a wry grin, "you're Immortal, you haven't got a clue
what my shoes feel like."
Adam returned the expression,
Joe was probably right: it was difficult to remember the mortal
The dojo could run itself for
a little while as far as Richie was concerned, which was why he'd
offered to spar with Duncan for real. Mock combat in the gym was
one thing, hacking at each other with steel blades was quite another,
and the younger Immortal figured he could put up with a few holes
to help out his old friend. He was under no illusions as to who
was going to win every round of their combat, but what were a
couple of stab wounds between mentor and pupil? Richie had several
new tricks up his sleeve that might give him a chance to test
Duncan's skills, which was all he wanted to do.
"Well, I'm ready to get
my butt kicked," he announced as the pair looked out over
the bay from behind the tree line.
"Go into a fight with an
attitude like that and you'll never win," the Highlander
returned and proceeded to remove his jacket.
"Just trying to boost your
confidence," his companion replied with a grin.
"I didn't say you weren't
right," Mac shot back and held his Katana up as if to prove
The sound of steel hitting steel
was soon carrying across the sea of trees around them, as man
faced man in battle. They hadn't fought like this in a long time
and both found that the other had altered their styles slightly
from their experiences between. They attacked and parried, cut
and thrust, as blade crashed into blade and sparks showered the
"You have definitely improved,"
Duncan said genuinely as he pulled back for a moment's respite.
Richie smiled, he was holding
his own, but then again, Mac really hadn't wound himself into
warrior mode yet. So far it was plain and simple sword work, when
they both decided the warm up was over the fight would become
"Thank you, Lord and Master,"
the younger replied between strokes, "now shall we actually
start this battle?"
The Highlander's grin showed
The first to go down was Richie,
as expected, a cut to the abdomen sent him reeling to the floor.
"Sorry, Rich," his
sparring partner said quickly, he hadn't meant to hurt him quite
so badly, "are you okay?"
"I'll be fine," the
felled Immortal responded breathlessly. "Don't worry, I volunteered
for this, remember. Just give me a minute."
The cut wasn't deep, it just
hurt like hell, and very quickly it was almost healed. The two
men sat together in the sun, recovering from their exertions,
waiting for the wound to disappear.
"Okay," Richie announced
eventually, "I'm back, lets get on with this. Oh, and Chris
is pissed at both of us, by the way."
Duncan just laughed
The battle recommenced and the
younger Immortal had the satisfaction of putting his mentor down
twice during the entire three hours they continued their game.
By the time they finished they were both filthy and aching all
over, but Richie for one was a hell of a lot happier: now he was
sure Mac was definitely on form.
of Part 6