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We have a total of 23 episodes, and they're all available if you follow the HFS link.




Part 1

Scene 1


"Mac! What are you doing?" Richie Ryan squawked, as Duncan lunged for Richie's feet with the katana. Richie jumped above the blade, and glared at his friend, then regained his balance, raising his sword to en guard again.

"Just checking your footwork," Duncan said cheerfully. It wasn't often he felt this light hearted, but somehow, everything was right with his world. This Christmas had been his happiest since Tessa. Everyone he cared about was safe and well, and even Anne had finally forgiven him, partially. She and Mary had left from Charles de Gaulle a couple of days back, with an open invitation to visit.

He grinned and swiped at the younger man's ankles again. This time Richie took two hasty steps backwards, which on the narrow deck of the barge was one step too many. The moment was perfect. Richie, arms flailing, mouth open; the crashing splash as he broke through the thin layer of ice on the Seine, the sunlight glittering off of the droplets thrown up in a great wave. Duncan dropped to his heels and crowed helplessly with laughter.

"Yeah right, real funny Mac," Richie spluttered as he swam back to the barge, his hair plastered to his scalp. "I'm turning into a popsicle here, and what do you do? Laugh." He reached a hand up to Duncan to be helped up.

"It's no' that cold," MacLeod chuckled, and leaned out to grab Richie's hand. At the last minute he wondered if that had been a good idea, even as he caught the glint in Richie's eyes. But it was too late - braced against the barge Richie yanked on Duncan's hand, and let out a guffaw as he tumbled off into the water, then surfaced swearing and sputtering.

Richie clambered quickly up the side of the barge to lie on the deck still laughing, then reached a hand down to Duncan. Just as Duncan was about to grab hold of him he snatched it away, turning awkwardly to scramble to his feet, eyes flickering around to locate the Immortal whose presence approached.

"Hey!" Duncan began, then stopped, sensing what Richie had already felt. He grasped the edge of the barge and started to haul himself up out of the chilly January water.

"Hello MacLeod," a voice said brightly. "Is this some macho Scottish thing?" A dark head peered down at him, an unmistakable smirk in his voice.

"Hello Methos." Duncan growled as he pulled himself onto the deck where he stood dripping in a growing puddle of river water. "What do you want?"

"Oh, nothing in particular. Tell you what, I'd hate to interrupt your Epiphany bonding ritual. Let me know when you're done, and I'll let you in, " he grinned, heading for the door, one hand on his sword hilt in expectation. He wasn't disappointed. The brush of air on his neck warned him of Richie and Duncan close behind him, and he whirled, sword out. Their gleeful expressions wiped instantly into pure innocence.

"Children," Methos sighed, "So predictable. Now now boys. No dunking guests." He backed into the warmth of the barge, holding them off with his sword.

"Ah, you're no fun at all old timer," Richie said disgustedly, trying to edge round to one side of Methos. "C'm on, live a little."

"I think that's my objection right there. I rather prefer staying alive and warm than dying of hypothermia or from whatever gunk is in the Seine this week," he replied to Richie, his eyes momentarily off of MacLeod as he spoke to the younger Immortal.

It was enough.

Scene 2

It was perhaps an hour before they were all dry again. Richie and Methos had borrowed some of Duncan's clothes, and they hung baggily on both men, Richie had had to turn up the legs of the borrowed jeans to be able to walk without tripping up, and Methos was constantly rolling the sweater sleeves up as they slid down over his hands.

"So, what did you want," Richie asked Methos, as he sipped carefully from one of the steaming mugs of hot chocolate Duncan had made for them.

"Apart from a chance to teach you some respect for your elders and betters, you mean," Methos stretched out his long legs and examined his bare feet. Richie nodded. "None of your business, kid."

Richie snorted, "And we were getting on so well," he mourned with gentle mockery. He drank the last of his cocoa and got to his feet. "Hey, Mac, if we're not finishing up with the..." he flapped his hand with a strange whip-whip sound that Mac was used to as Richie's description of their sword play, "then I'd better move it. I'm supposed to be meeting Al at eleven, as usual and I'd kind of like to be in clothes that fit, instead of looking like this when I get there." He smiled, "She's not too good at the forgiveness for being late bit yet, but I'm working on it."

"Just as well," Duncan teased him. "Does she know you're calling her Al?"

"She hasn't complained yet," Richie grinned widely. "Of course, she hasn't caught me yet..."

"I'd love to be a fly on the wall for that fight," Methos murmured, thinking of Altea's red-headed temper.

"Bite it grandpa," Richie put the mug down, picked up his jacket and sword, and opened the door. "Seeya."

"Take care, Rich," Duncan said quietly, but the door had already closed.

Methos glanced at his friend, and lapsed into a thoughtful silence. It seemed that Mac still worried about the kid. Methos sighed. {One way and another, he's a lot of trouble.} He twisted the mug backwards and forwards in his hands and thought back to times MacLeod had thought Richie dead or in danger. The times that Duncan had dived into unnecessary danger, usually to the total annoyance of Ryan, who would rather fight his own battles, without his erstwhile teacher getting in his way. The wreck that the man had become after he had been tricked into believing he had killed Richie. Back then, for a while, it seemed that they might have to kill Richie anyway, to destroy the demon possessing him, and MacLeod had been paralysed by his guilt, almost to the point that the demon won.

{It doesn't help that they're as reckless as each other. Neck deep in the Game, both of them, and each constantly half expecting the other to turn on him. Frankly I'm amazed the kid has stuck around this long without going for MacLeod.} He shrugged mentally and dropped his gaze from MacLeod to the sluggish dregs of his drink. {They'll have to work it out for themselves.}

"Penny for 'em." Duncan interrupted his musings, rather unnerved by the thoughtful regard that had been bearing down on him. Methos focused on him again, and for a moment Duncan felt rather like a bug on a plate, then Methos shook his head.

"Oh, believe me. Not worth so much as a sou."

"You never did answer Richie you know. What did you want?"

"You mean apart from staying dry?"

"Okay, apart from staying dry."

"It wasn't much, really. I'd've been long gone if you two children had managed to grow up a little."

Duncan stayed silent, waiting for him to stop being clever.

"My date's dropped out on me, and I have two tickets to the Scarlatti Charity function tomorrow night. I thought you might be interested."

"That's it? All that build up for a pair of tickets?"

"If you not interested..."

"No, I'll take them if you really don't want them. What time tonight?"

"Good, here you go." Methos pushed a pair of rather bedraggled gold edged tickets across the coffee table. "I'm sure you'll find someone willing to use the other one. It starts seven for seven thirty."

"Aren't you going to go at all?" Duncan said in surprise, "These are like gold dust. You must have really pulled some strings to get hold of them."

Methos shrugged, "I only got the tickets to impress my date. Turns out she'd've been more impressed by front row tickets to the BeeGees." He shook his head. "The Beegees. A lucky escape I reckon."

"Who are the Beegees?"

Methos looked at him quizzically, then said, "No, you probably wouldn't know at that, would you? Trust me, it's a part of popular culture you should be grateful you missed. Rather like Mozart." And they were off again, wrangling good-naturedly about the merits of Van Halen versus Verdi.

Scene 3

Duncan propped his shoulders against a pillar and glowered at the room at large. While the concert had been wonderful, and the food delicious, the Highlander was in a foul mood as he watched the glitterati twitter as they mingled. Amanda, the only person he could find in time for the evening, had leapt at the opportunity. He'd been quite gratified until she started telling him the guest list - and their more valuable movable properties. Nonetheless, he had been enjoying the music, Swenson, conducting in place of the late Solti, had produced a masterpiece of style and execution, until it was spoilt for him by Amanda's ogling of a stray European prince three rows down from them.

To give her her due, she had at least waited until the charity auction was over before cornering the man at the buffet table. Now she was picking oh-so-delicately at a plate of food, sitting between his serene highness and some stray lordling or other whose family should have been exterminated some centuries ago. She was having a wonderful time. Peals of mirth exploded from her table, and Duncan's scowl deepened.

He was just debating how soon he could leave, and whether Amanda would even notice, when he felt an Immortal close by. His eyes cast quickly around the room, finally lighting on a small dark- haired woman, whose eyes met his. She smiled at him, and he walked quickly towards her.

"Vittoria! How good to see you," he said sincerely.

She laughed up at him, "Oh, I'm glad to see it wasn't all that bad after all. You looked like you were about to kill someone, lourring at everyone like that."

"I've been abandoned," he said tragically, eliciting another laugh. "You're looking wonderful." She was too, in a deep red and gold dress that brought out the golden flecks in her eyes and made her short deep brown hair look even darker.

"Not a day older, you might say," she replied whimsically. "I'm going by Tori da Rimini these days, and of course, you're still charging about in the brilliant disguise of Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. Or... go on, surprise me, Mac, tell me you've finally done it and changed your name." He shook his head. "I might have known," she said, shaking her head reproachfully at him, but smiling withal. The dance band came to the end, and paused, then when the scattered applause stopped they struck up again with a waltz. She smiled and held out a hand, "Shall we?"

"How could I refuse a lady?" He stepped closer, placed one arm about her waist, and they began to move to the music.

"So, what are you up to these days?"

"Oh, pretty much what I ever was," she said sweetly.

"Same old Tori, never a straight answer to a straight question."

"Same old MacLeod, so naive he actually thinks he's going to get one." she retaliated. "No, really Duncan, things haven't changed much for me."

"Conspiracy still paying well I see," he said, twirling them briskly back the way they had come, and noting the rich jewels at her ears, throat and wrists.

"So-so," she replied deprecatingly. "No, I'm doing something much more exciting now. Do you remember my legend? Well, I think I've found it." She smiled dazzlingly up at him, then dropped her eyes to conceal her glee as she felt him tense.

"You remember, don't you Duncan? All those stories about the oldest Immortal?" She stopped dancing and looked seriously up at him, then began to lead him from the dance floor. "They were true Mac. All of them."

Her hand gripped his wrist as they stepped through the heavy curtains and out of the ballroom, and a fanatical look transformed her face. "Imagine it Mac - Methos! The stories, the history. The power. Don't you just drool at the thought?" She caught herself up hastily, then went on, "Oh, the things he'd know, the places, the people - and can you imagine what a five thousand year old lover would be like," she added with a broad wink. Her lips curved into an excited smile, "And he's here Duncan! In this very city!"

They stopped by the ornamental pools that glittered and rippled as the water from the fountains arced down in silver cascades. He looked at her seriously, trying to decide on her expression. The evening was illuminated only by the stars and the candles floating in the lakes, and he could not decipher her real thoughts. "Vittoria, he's a myth, someone some ancient immortal made up to give ourselves hope. There's no such person. You know that better than anyone - how long have you been looking?"

"Since the day my teacher told me, seven hundred years ago, as a three week old Immortal...

Scene 4


Georg was at his wits end. He'd gotten the girl to his house outside Avignon, on the French side of the border, well away from anyone who might recognise her as the dead Ursini girl. He'd tried everything. Ignoring her, talking to her. Feeding her, starving her. If he tried to comfort her with a touch, she screamed rape. If he left her alone she wept and moaned hysterically, calling on the saints, on her family, even her husband - the man who had caused her to die and enter what was clearly, to her, a living nightmare. His attempts to explain her situation had calmed her for a while, and he thought she had understood that to survive she must learn the sword. But when he told her to put on boy's clothes for her lessons she protested that they were immodest, and refused. When he forcibly dressed her in them and dragged her to the salle, she crumpled into a little heap, wailing piteously for her mother.

Georg swore, long and vividly. He glared down at the pathetic puddle of an Immortal at his feet, and wondered whether to save them both the trouble, and take her head right now.

"Very well, Vittoria. Go back to your room." She sniffled, and he winced, thinking of the marks she would be leaving on his beautifully polished wooden floor. "Get out!" She scrambled to her feet, and fled.

When he could no longer hear her, he slumped against the wall, head in hands. "I've had students before, but she is impossible." He groaned as a horrible thought struck, "Oh gods, she'll want to go to Mass, and she'll confess to the priest, I know she will, and we'll both be run out of Avignon for witchcraft and heresy. Oh gods."

He wandered out of the French doors, and around the building until he reached the stable.

"Mon seigneur, what is it?" Jean-Marie frowned at his lord. The stables were his domain, and he had grown up knowing the strange lord of the manor. Von Witt had never explained his agelessness, and Jean-Marie in turn never mentioned the odd blue tattoo on his wrist. Instead they mutually ignored the obvious, Jean-Marie's family lived extremely well, far better than most servants, and in return, they told their fellows of the other family home, where the sons had always grown up, and how the young master looked so wonderfully like the old master. With an average life span of only forty years, Georg's servants were rarely around long enough to become a problem.

Jean-Marie had heard from his wife of the silly female Lord Georg had brought home this time - far different to the usual run of girl that accompanied his master. Now he was concerned to see the expression of frustrated irritation.

"The young lady?" he asked cautiously.

"Jean-Marie," Georg sighed, and decided to ask for help. It couldn't make things any worse. "The Lady Vittoria is a gently bred girl, of Italian family. And I have brought her here, to teach her to fight and survive in a quite different kind of life. She is not - adjusting - well."

Jean-Marie nodded, noting mentally to check that there was a Watcher assigned to the child. {Not that it'll be for long at this rate,} he thought pragmatically. He was surprised to hear his thoughts echoed a moment later.

"I can't fight her battles for her, and if she won't learn, she'll fall to the first one to come along. What can I do Jean? I mean well by her, but..."

"There are limits to your lordship's patience." Jean-Marie suggested. When Georg nodded he said, "Let me think a little, see if we can't come up with something."

"You'd better be quick. She's acting like a baby, and I'm going to treat her like one and give her a good hiding if she doesn't pull herself together. And that wouldn't help in the slightest. Did I say that her husband beat her to death?" Georg rubbed a hand over his eyes wearily.

Jean-Marie shrugged, "It happens, lord. But you've given me a thought. It was you saying how young she is. How about telling her stories?"

"What good will that do?" he said sceptically.

"Hear me out, lord. Tell her all the pretty, romantic stories - knights in armour, adventures, excitement - tell her about the things she could do, the places she could go, if only she learns to behave like a proper Immortal."

"That's not a bad idea." Georg thought about it for a moment. "I don't think we'll start with the battles though." They grinned at each other, then Georg jumped to his feet and patted Jean-Marie on the back. "Thanks youngling. I always could rely on you."

"Sir." Jean-Marie nodded politely, and went back into the stables as Georg walked towards the house.

Later that evening, after persuading Vittoria to eat with him, they were sat before the fire in the solar. "The last time I was in this room, Vittoria, I had another young lady with me. She was like you. Immortal."

Vittoria looked up, interested. "What was her name?"

"Rebecca. You'd like her, she is a very great lady, but godly and kind." He paused as if a sudden thought struck him. "You know, I think she was in that very chair when she told me about Methos."

"What's that?"

"He, my dear child," he said as impressively as he could, "is the very history of Immortals. Imagine a man who lived for five thousand years," he said, lowering his voice dramatically.

"Why, he must have seen the flood, he'd be older than Methuselah." she said sceptically, but leaned forward a little.

He smiled at her, "Perhaps he was Methuselah? There are stories of him you know." He paused strategically again. "But I don't suppose you'd want to hear more. You'd just have to listen to me talking about Immortals, and the things they do, the places they've been, the people they've seen." Georg waited for her to bite. It didn't take long.

"Oh please?" she said quickly, then blushed. "If you don't mind that is?"

"Not at all. Well, this is the story my teacher was told as true.

"Long long ago, before the gods left the world, and when civilisation was young, there was a boy. He was born an Akkadian, who became Greeks and Turks many centuries later, but his family abandoned him, and he was brought up by the Temple women. When he was twenty five..." Georg glanced at his pupil, taking in her rapt expression, all wide eyes and wonder, and smiled. She would listen now, and perhaps she would learn a little.

Scene 5

Duncan nodded reminiscently. "And then, one day you met a stubborn Scot, in a small village in the Tyrol, and you told me those stories."

"It was very boring being snowed into that inn with you," she murmured provocatively.

He merely chuckled. "That doesn't make it real, Vittoria. You've been looking for him for more than seven hundred years without success. You're so obsessed you want it to be real. Accept it, he's a myth."

"You're right, Duncan, a myth isn't real. But this is. I have proof. The man called himself Methos in public."

"Anyone could do that," Duncan said, wondering what insanity had possessed his friend.

"No, it's real all right. A legend maybe, with that grain of ancient truth hidden in the stories, but no myth. He's finally stepped out of the shadows - perhaps it's because it's the time of the Gathering," her hands waved excitedly as she spoke. "He's alive!" Her lips curved with excitement. "Imagine, the myth no more, walking out of the stories and the lies, into the light of day!" She took a couple of hasty steps away from Duncan, and ran a hand carelessly through her hair, unable to curb her delight, then turned to face him again. "He's really alive! It's all true! Oh Duncan, isn't it just amazing?"

"That's... remarkable Vittoria," he said slowly. "Tell me, do you know where he actually is?"

She shook her head, a slight frown marring the smooth forehead. "But I do have a lead." She smiled brightly, and Duncan eyed her with increasing unease.

"What... what are you going to do now?"

"Oh, I don't know. I'm almost too excited to think. Look at my hands - they're shaking," she laughed breathlessly up at him, and he tried to smile back. "Find my lead, find him, then. Oh I don't know. I think... I think I'd talk to him. I want to know what he knows."

"You've changed," Duncan observed. "Last I heard you wanted his head."

"Well, it would be some Quickening wouldn't it?" she agreed cheerfully. "Duncan, no, seriously, I've changed. I've grown up since then. What a waste it would be, to kill the oldest of us."

He looked at her sceptically, and she met his gaze steadily.

"And aren't I allowed to change, Duncan?" He didn't see the calculating glance she darted at him through her eyelashes. She sat gracefully by the side of one of the fountains, and dipped her hand in, dragging it through the water to watch the ripples rock the floating candles.

"You made me see what a waste it could be, killing people." She smiled gently at MacLeod, who looked at her warily, remembering the last time he had seen her, when he had thrown her out of his cell of the French Resistance, because she had not learned that lesson.

"I did change, really. Give me another chance? Please?" she asked plaintively, eyes wide and innocent. Despite himself he crumbled at the anxious look in her eyes, and against his better judgement wrapped an arm about her shoulders.

"I'm sorry, Tori. I just didn't expect... I'm sorry." He dropped a kiss on her soft dark hair, and so missed the satisfied smirk that crossed her face.

She turned her face up towards him. "You're forgiven," she said softly. "Am I?"

In answer he brushed another kiss on her forehead. She sighed, and turned into his body, her arms wrapping around his waist, his closing in a warm embrace.

"I missed you Duncan MacLeod." She pulled back to look at him with a grin. "Just a bit, of course."

"Of course," he bent his head to kiss her. After a moment he broke the kiss, "I missed you too. Just a little bit."

She leaned back further and glanced comprehensively down his body. "Mmm, I can tell," she said blandly.

He chuckled and pulled her close again. "Shall we leave?"

"Why not?"

Minutes later they had retrieved her wrap and found a taxi.

They barely made it through the door of the barge before Vittoria swiftly disposed of Duncan's jacket and shirt. His hands slipped under the neckline of her dress, sliding it from her shoulders. He paused a moment to admire her warm perfection, then lowered his lips to caress her face again. One of her hands lifted to caress his face, while the other worked quickly at his shirt buttons.

Scene 6

Tori snuggled the comforter closer around her shoulders, savouring the warmth and the company. Her eyes still closed she wondered whether to try to doze off again, or just wake MacLeod. {Either way would be good,} she grinned sleepily. She rolled her shoulders, stretching cat-like with satisfaction. One arm brushed across Mac's chest, and his arm tightened reflexively around her.

{Alternatively...} she sighed in resignation, and propped herself up onto both elbows to watch him as he drifted deeper into sleep. Once his breathing was once more deep and even she carefully turned over to slip out of the bed. When his arm around her stomach tried to pull her back she murmured "Bathroom. I'll be right back," and he let go.

Quietly gathering her underwear from where it was scattered on the floor from the previous evening, she moved into the living area.

{Why can't you have rooms like normal people,} she thought irritably as she froze in response to him sprawling into the space she had left in the bed. She found a shirt, a pair of jeans, and a belt. She rolled up the legs, but they were still ridiculously baggy on her, and she was reduced to drilling a hole in the leather belt with a corkscrew filched from the kitchen to keep the jeans up.

She perched by the phone and quickly and silently emptied her bag, until a small gun appeared. She tucked it into the waistband of the trousers, concealed inside the shirt. Everything else went back into the bag, except for a small notepad. Still moving nearly soundlessly she began to flip through MacLeod's address book which was lying by the phone. Nothing under 'M', but she hadn't really expected that. 'R'... {Ah, there it was,} she gave a small sound of satisfaction.

Richie: Seac 1-407-555-7854 Paris

She scribbled the numbers down. {It's more than enough to find the little brat. How dare he take my legend away from me?} she thought indignantly. {Still, once I have his head, I'll have Methos' too.} She shivered in anticipation, and bit her lip. Behind her she could hear the first signs of movement.

The address book closed and put back in place, she dived for the kitchen. Kettle, coffee, croissants... the man must have some somewhere... ah yes.

"Vittoria?" came a mumble from the bed.

By the time Mac made it out of the bed, some twenty minutes later, robe wrapped carelessly about him, she had breakfast well underway.

"Did anyone ever tell you," Mac yawned, sipping at the hot coffee, "That you're an absolute angel, Tori da Rimini?"

"One or two. Why do you think it took me so long to work back round to you?" she said outrageously, batting her eyelashes at him.

Mac choked on the coffee. "God, you haven't changed, or at least, only for the better."

"Why, thank you milord," she bobbed a curtsey, then squawked in dismay, "The croissants!"

Scene 7

"Mac? Ya there?" There was a thud above them and the barge rocked slightly. "I dunno, I get here, it's not even six thirty, and where is he? Still in bed I expect," he grumbled loudly, "Hey! Mac!" He shoved the door open with his hip, one hand occupied by a bag of pastries, the other carrying two coffees. He closed the door and turned.

Duncan's face managed to look both threatening and embarrassed, the woman beside him on the other hand was coming towards him with perfect sangfroid, right hand out-stretched.

"Good morning. We have a friend in common it seems," she smiled sunnily at him. Duncan coughed and covered his mouth to hide the grin. "My name is Vittoria Maria Ursini da Rimini von Witt. And you are?"

Richie moved to take her hand, remembered the bag of pastries, looked wildly around to find something to do with them, and dropped them on the floor. He wiped his hand on his jeans and extended it to her.

"Ryan, Richie - Richard Ryan," he said, clearing his throat.

"Can I take that?" She gestured towards the dripping cups of coffee.

"Er, yeah, sure. Um, it's a bad time, yes? Sorry Mac. Ah, I'll just go, um. Yeah." He was backing towards the door. "Later Mac."

"No, Richie? Please stay. We have eaten, but I'm sure Mac could cope with a little more. And I really should be going. I was planning. I meant to..." For the first time she seemed flustered, and a slow flush crept into her cheeks. "I really should get home. My people will be worrying about me."

"Your people?" Duncan asked curiously.

"Oh, I'm staying with some business associates. Naturally they know nothing about the real me, but that doesn't mean they won't care if I go missing."

She scooped up her possessions, and pushed past Richie to the door.

"Tori, wait!" Duncan hurried after her. "At least tell me where you're staying."

"At the Forouchon's," she flashed him a quick smile. "You'll be able to find it I'm sure. Nice meeting you Richie, see you around."

"Yeah. Sure," Richie's eyes followed her as she hurried off the barge. Silently they stepped onto the deck of the boat, staring after the small figure scurrying into the pre-dawn dark.

"In a hurry isn't she?" Richie observed neutrally.

"Mmm," Duncan nodded abstractedly, still looking after her.

"Maybe she doesn't like strangers. Understandable."

"Mmm," Duncan was jolted out of his thoughts by Richie's hand on his arm, blue eyes frowning with concern. "That's probably it. So. What do you want to do?"

"Mac? We've been doing this for years on and off. You okay?"

"Yes." Duncan replied shortly.

"Okay! I know when to keep my nose out. So, you up for some exercise or not?" The two men began warming up. "Run or fight?" Richie asked casually.

Duncan looked at him sharply, but the question had been asked in all innocence. {Unfortunate turn of phrase there though,} he thought sadly, reflecting on how often those were the only choices offered to Immortals. "Oh, run I guess. Or maybe..."

Richie was starting to look really worried now, "Is anything the matter? Can I help?"

"Hmm? Oh, no. No, I don't think so. Look Rich, I'm not really..."

"In the mood. Look, I'm sorry I interrupted you two. Y'know, you coulda just told me to push off." Richie said tiredly.


"You go do whatever it is you have to," Richie shrugged as though it didn't matter, as though Mac had ever let anything put off his work outs. He scooped up his sword, turned on his heel, walking off the barge.

{Damn. Damn, damn, damn.} Duncan swore to himself as Richie stumped away along the quai. {But, he's not in trouble right now, and Methos might be,} he told himself, aware he was letting the problem slide yet again.

Scene 8

Half an hour later he was at Methos' apartment, pounding on the door.

"Adam? Adam! It's me. Duncan."

"As if anyone else would bother trying to get me up at this ungodly hour," Methos growled, sword in one hand while the other rubbed blearily at his eyes. "Whaddya want?"

"Do you know Vittoria Ursini?" Mac jumped straight in with the question he'd been turning over since the previous night.

"Good morning Methos. Good morning Duncan." he parodied, "And how are you today? Oh, fine, fine. So, what brings you out so bright and early. Oh this and that. Does no one bother with the amenities any more? Those little details that let a person wake up? Or the phone. Have you heard about the phone, MacLeod?"

Methos walked yawning back to his bed, tumbled onto it and disappeared under the covers. His voice emerged, muffled by the pillow he pulled over his head. "It's a wonderful invention. You could have phoned ahead. And then I wouldn't have had to get up to tell you to get lost."

"I did. You wouldn't pick up."

"Didn't that tell you something?" Methos rolled over, head re- emerging, tousled and sweaty from the covers. "Why do I bother?" he sighed, propping himself up on the battered pillows. "Why do you think that I know every Immortal you run into? I assume she is Immortal?"

"Yes, she is. She's about so high," he indicated a point mid- chest, "dark hair, brown eyes, looks around seventeen, really around seven hundred."

"Why? I mean, I may have been in the Watchers once, but that doesn't mean I know every tuppenny ha'penny Immortal that comes along." He yawned widely. "Now can I go back to sleep?"

"Don't give me that, Methos. She's obsessed with you, everyone knows that. Of course you know her."

"Everybody? Look, so maybe I've heard of her, but I don't know her. Happy, MacLeod? Why?" he added, almost sure he would rather not know.

"She's an old friend. I ran into her last night and..." Mac coloured slightly.

"Translation: Mac got some," Methos remarked to the ceiling. "Go on."

MacLeod's lips tightened. He took a deep breath and went on through gritted teeth. "She was full of a new story about an Immortal named Methos, who had revealed himself. You. She thinks she knows who you are and where you are."

"Oh great. First you wake me up at - " he glanced at the clock on the bedside cabinet, " - seven in the morning. Then you lead some wacko straight here. I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude. Now if you'll excuse me?"

Mac hovered by the door, unsure what to do next. "I thought I should warn you. Find out why."

"What for? Going to fight my battles for me too?" Then the Highlander's last comment registered with him, and he looked over at him with slow anger flaring in his eyes. "What do you mean, 'find out why'?"

Duncan ploughed on, "Why does she really want your head? Is she another of those 'thousand regrets' of yours?"

"No, MacLeod, shocking as this may be to you not everyone in the world falls into that category," Methos retorted sharply. "Look, since you ask, yes, I do know who she is - I make a point of avoiding the headhunters, particularly the Methos-hunters, and she's both. Call me peculiar, but I have this odd dislike of being a target."

"Are you sure you didn't. . ." he dropped his gaze and the question in the face of Methos' flat stare.

"Didn't what Mac? Haven't we had this conversation before? No, I know what you want me to say, but you're no father confessor - and I'm no sinner. Not on this. Hard as it may be for you to believe, I didn't do anything to her." He was dragging on his clothes hastily. "Do you have any idea how long I have spent not being Methos? Hiding from everyone - Immortals, mortals, Watchers. Millennia. If others want the 'glory' of being the eldest, then let them have it. Me, I'm going somewhere she can't find me." He hooked his jacket over his shoulder, stuffing his feet into his black leather shoes. He turned back to look at the silent Scot and sighed. Controlling his impatience visibly, he went on. "If you set yourself up on a pedestal, there's always someone wanting to knock you down, find out if you can be pushed off that pedestal fate has placed you on. Nobody's perfect Mac," he added more kindly, "Everyone has a fatal flaw that attracts the hunters: in me it's who I am. My very existence is a challenge, and there are some Immortals, quite a few actually, who would really like to make me a target. She's a headhunter MacLeod, a headhunter after a very particular head - mine.

"Now if you'll excuse me, I have a plane to catch."

"Where to?" Duncan asked bemusedly.

Methos looked at him incredulously. "You think I'm going to tell you? Have you heard one word I've been saying? Goodbye Mac, nice knowing you, I'll see you in a century or two."

He walked briskly for the door. Duncan took three quick steps after him and grabbed his sleeve, pulling him to an urgent halt.

"What if she comes after you?"

"Who are you asking for? Her or me?" He paused a moment watching Mac's eyes for his answer, then his face twisted. He nodded, a cynical half-smile on his lips. "As I thought. Go away and grow up, Duncan."

He shook Duncan's hand off of his arm, and walked away, leaving Mac staring after him, his expression confused and dismayed. By the time Duncan roused himself to follow, Methos had gone out of range of sight or sense.

Scene 9

Duncan marched back to the barge, furious, though not quite certain who he was furious with. "Stubborn, temperamental idiot. All I do is try to help the man. Well, dammed if I try to help you again Adam Bloody Methos bloody Pierson."

As he got closer to home his temper began to cool, as he reviewed the conversation. "Thrice damn the man. Bloody sais. Takes everything I say and twists it till I'm in the wrong," he muttered, barely admitting to himself that maybe he'd been less than honest with himself, both now, and in his motives for going to Methos. He kicked at a stray burger carton, the wind picked it up and blew it back almost to its feet and he growled at it. "Even the goddamn boxes won't do what I want them to," he muttered irrationally, and felt better. "Well, I've told him. That's all I really wanted. And it wasn't really interfering." He walked some more. "Damn the man. I didn't mean to . . . Oh hell." He stalked over to a phone box, rummaging in his pockets. Inside the booth he pushed a couple of francs into the payphone and dialled. It rang and rang. {Maybe he really did go, right there and then,} he thought uncomfortably. {Maybe I won't be able to find him.}

"MacLeod, if that's you, I really am going to come for your head."

"Don't hang up! You're right, it's none of my business if you and Vittoria have a past, and I'm sorry I even thought it. She always was a headhunter before. I just... I wanted for her to have changed."

There was a long pause.

"Well, I can't blame you I suppose. Have you thought that she's probably following that other Methos' trail? He was much more indiscreet about his identity than I ever am. She probably wants to pump you about him."

"Why me?"

"Do you have a brain in there, or is it all tartan fluff between your ears? Because you were the last to see him. Look, you're endangering me, she's probably got a tag on you. I'll be seeing you."

There was a click and the dial tone.

Mac replaced the handset. He took a few paces and slowly said, "But I wasn't the last to see him alive, Richie was. Richie!"

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