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Part 2

Scene 1 0

Altea checked her watch again. It was gone eleven and he still hadn't appeared.

"Bastard," she muttered. "Where the hell are you?" Suddenly her face lifted from its fierce contemplation of the sugar lumps and she glanced quickly around. {There he is,} she thought with a faint relaxation of the tension in her back and shoulders. She didn't consciously worry about Richie, or her other friends in the Game, but the memory of Darius' death was never far, the way that she had not been there, and he had died. It added a certain edge to waiting.

She smiled and waved at Richie, who waved back and wove his way between the white plastic chairs and tables. He leaned down for a quick kiss, then pulled up a chair, turning it around to rest his arms on the back.

"Sorry I'm late, babe," Richie apologised hastily, trying to forestall her wrath. "It's not that late is it?"

"Twenty past. You promised Richie." She sighed. "Maybe I should just give up on you."

He reached over the table and grabbed her hand. "Don't you dare Altea Werner. Don't you dare." He rubbed a gentle thumb along the back of her hand and smiled at her, and her breath caught at the sheer affection in his eyes, which even now could take her by surprise. "I couldn't do without you Allie, so don't even think it."

She turned her hand in his, squeezed, and smiled back at him. "I was only teasing, teknon. But..."

"Next time! I promise!" he said hastily, then caught her sceptical look and laughed. "Well, I'll try to remember."

"Where were you anyway?" she asked curiously.

"Oh, nowhere. I was thinking."

"Thinking. Ha. Well that would explain why it took you so long to get here. Walking and thinking are still a bit beyond you aren't they, kalos?"

He grinned ruefully. "Guess I walked into that one. No, I met one of Mac's old friends this morning. She was over at his barge. I went over for our workout, but.." He paused, thinking. "Mac was in a really weird mood again. I..." he trailed off, frowning.

Altea sighed. She pulled her chair round to sit next to him, and leaned against him comfortingly. {MacLeod always does this to him, and he is so open and uncomplicated that he is always surprised by it.} They sat in silence. {He's so easily hurt,} she found herself thinking. {For all that he calls him tough guy. Grow up Richie- love.} she thought sadly, but all she said was "Perhaps I'll forgive you then. Just this once." She was pleased to see him smile briefly.

He stood abruptly and said, "Come on, let's go find food."

"What? You can't possibly be hungry, it's barely eleven!"

"Oh, so now it's 'barely' eleven is it," he said in mock indignation. Well by the time we've found a place to eat that they haven't thrown you out of yet it should be just about lunch time," he went on slyly, and was rewarded with a swat across his backside.

"Ow!" he squawked, rubbing at the seat of his jeans. He pulled her to her feet and slipped his arm around her waist.

"I'm not kissing it better," she warned hastily, recognising the glint in his eye. But her hand tucked itself into his jeans back pocket as they moved off.

"Later?" he said meaningfully, one eyebrow raised.

She glanced at him, then away again, and grinned. "Maybe," she said breezily.

"Tease," he growled without rancour.

She just grinned even more widely at him, showing every one of her perfect white teeth.

"Am I supposed to like that or be terrified?" he said, laughing softly.

"Why choose?" she replied, and kissed him.

"Altea." And some moments later, "If this is terror, I like it..."

Scene 1 1

Some two hundred yards away a student, blue jeans, fisherman's sweater, unlaced trainers, leaned against a wall. Drawing pad in one hand, pencil in the other, Walkman plugged into his ears, he seemed oblivious of the world going by. If anyone even noticed him his hands, busily sketching, were enough to deflect interest - artists were ten a sou in Paris these days. But the only thing he was hearing on the Walkman was the distant conversation of the two Immortals. As they stood to go he casually folded his sketch pad and ambled after them, vanishing in the crowds.

When, some time later, they disappeared into an old red brick house on the outskirts of Paris, he found a perch on a large metal bin, and hauled out his drawings once again. He glanced around him and shrugged. {At least here there's something to sketch.}

The house was at one end of a long, mostly residential street. Towards the further end, small shops spilled out onto the pavement and Parisians busily flitted in and out, chatting, shopping. Some die hard tourists, wrapped in furred anoraks against the January air, were sipping at steaming drinks, the lone occupants of the pavement cafe. Inside the clink of china and cutlery filled the dimly lit restaurant, the locals gazing out at the tourists with expressions of amused superiority on their thin patrician faces. Somewhere a clock chimed once, and the crowds began to thin again.

{Lunch almost over,} the young man thought, just as his own stomach rumbled noisily. He lowered the pad for a moment and looked over at the building speculatively. {Lunch time Jamie- boy.} His face brightened and he unhooked the mobile phone from where it hung on his belt, and dialled.

"Hi Marie, 's Jamie. .....Nah, Jamie Driscoll....Oh very funny. Look, I'm halfway out of town, Rue St Jeanne. It's just out in zone 2, north side...That's the one. Well, the guy's gone in and he's got some woman with him....Oh gee, thanks Marie, make me feel good why don't you. No seriously, they went in an hour ago, and I'm freezing and I haven't even had lunch yet....Yeah sure. Er...details..." He flipped back through the sketchpad, which had scribbled remarks all round the margins of the pictures.

"Okaaay. I think it's his place. She's got an appointment at three - anyway, she said she couldn't stay long, had to go see someone or other, I've got the name if you're... Okay. No, didn't sound like he'd be going....'Altea' Couldn't get a surname, but it's a start....Well, I guess that's her than....If you knew all this already why am I hanging around here freezing my derriere off?.... Thankyou! You are an angel, a genuine ministering angel. Who will it be? Oh. Seeya later then. Au 'voir."

He only had to wait another fifteen minutes before someone came. He had only ever seen her from a distance as she hurried along, surrounded by anxious people waiting to run the moment she demanded it. Now she was walking briskly towards him, heels clicking sharply on the paving stones, bobbed hair swinging in time with her steps, orange suit lighting a beacon through the cloudy Parisian street. She was perhaps three or four yards away, about to walk past him, when her eyes slid incuriously over to the student artist perched a couple of feet above her. Her face lit up and she stopped dead, then scurried forwards, crying "Jacques!", tugging at his ankle till he slid to the ground. Once there she placed a hand on each shoulder and dusted a kiss onto each cheek.

"Remember, I'm your cousin Vittoria, now say hello!" she whispered rapidly.

He mumbled something, and hugged her quickly, backing the moment his hands were free again.

"I haven't seen you for so long, Jacques, come let me buy you lunch. Your hands are freezing - mon vieux, you shall come with me, and we will hear all the things you have been doing with yourself lately."

She slipped one small hand through his arm and led him into the nearby restaurant. They spoke softly as they ate, a close observer would have seen the flickering glances both bestowed on the room and on the house a couple of hundred yards away. Around ten past two, as they were waiting for dessert, a young red headed woman left the building.

Vittoria tapped Jamie on the shoulder. "That's Altea isn't it? I haven't seen her in years."

Confused, Jamie nodded, and said, "But I thought you didn't..." He shut himself up at her look of impatience. {Oh, of course.} He hurriedly tried to redeem his blunder.

"I don't know if she lives there. She could be going back to her place. I'm sure I could find out where... " He subsided as he caught her eyes glaring at him.

"Excuse me a moment." She turned away from him and took a mobile phone from her small clutch bag. He stared into the restaurant trying not to hear, then realised she was speaking in a language he didn't understand anyway.

A few moments of staccato conversation later she folded the phone up, then smiled sweetly at him, gracefully changing the subject. For the rest of the meal they discussed the recent holidays. When the meal was over she thanked her 'cousin' for a wonderful time, and bade him go and enjoy himself. A couple of two hundred franc notes in his pocket went some way towards convincing him he hadn't completely screwed up, and he left the restaurant happy.

Once he was safely gone she headed over to look over the house. The faint ache in the back of her skull told her that her target was still there. A neighbour stared in an unfriendly fashion but made no effort to stop her as she opened the mailbox, flipping through the piles of junk mail.

'Mr R. Redstone'

{Well that settles it, you're the one I'm looking for. That name sticks out a mile, my little American. You are most definitely MacLeod's protege.} It was not a compliment. She smiled at the envelope, lightly tapping one peach painted nail on it.

Scene 1 2

Richie was washing up. The hall and living room had junk on every last surface, and the kitchen still showed the remnants of Richie's efforts at cooking pasta the evening before last. He grinned as he remembered Altea's reaction as she had looked inside the ongoing disaster area that was Richie's idea of good cooking style. As always, she'd refused to take one step further, resorting to epithets in her native Scythian to enumerate the full enormity of the mess he had created. As always, he had pleaded, cajoled, and finally, promised to wash up, and even tidy the rest of it - just for her.

{Of course,} he mused cheerfully, {It wasn't really my fault we didn't actually get around to the tidying.} But Altea had put her foot down about it when she left, so Richie was washing up, in his own, inimitable style.

Music blared from the cd player, the window was wide open, and the dishwater steamed in the chill air. Richie bobbed about cheerfully, whirling cloth, plates and cups alike with blithe abandon. By the bin a plastic bag held the remains of an earlier victim of his washing up technique, and the linoleum was liberally bespattered with suds.

He was just considering whether to change his sopping tank and shorts or to just let them dry on him when he felt the indefinable presence of another Immortal.

"Altea? Allie, is that you?" he called back into the living room. His hand was already on the hilt of his sword when the first knock on the door came. With a flick he turned off the music. Sword at the ready he called "It's open."

"Richard Redstone? Richie?" He lowered the point of the sword as he recognised the voice from that morning. {Well, she's a friend of Mac's. How bad can it be?} He thought that over, and a corner of his mouth quirked ruefully, {Well, there's always the window...}

"Vittoria. Come in." he offered cautiously. Then, an awful thought, "It's not Mac?"

"No! No, he's fine. No, hard as it may be to believe, I came to Paris looking for you - only I didn't know this morning it was you." She stepped through the door, picking her way fastidiously past the clothes and magazines that littered the floor. "I could have saved us both some trouble," she added, looking him straight in the eye.

{You want something, and I don't think I'm gonna like it, whatever it is,} Richie thought, but said, "What can I do for you?"

"Just to talk."

"Let me get dressed," he indicated his tatty outfit with a vague hand.

"Certainly." Vittoria wandered around the living area while she waited for him to return, picking up photos and flipping through magazines. "Perhaps we could go for a walk, along the river," she suggested finally, eyeing the mess distastefully.

"Sure, just give me a mo, I'll be right there," Richie called from upstairs, voice rather muffled by the turtleneck he was pulling on. A moment later he appeared arrayed in sweater, dark jeans and leather jacket. Vittoria surveyed him appreciatively and he flushed uncomfortably.

"Shall we go?" she said.

Scene 1 3

Methos thumped his pillow. The moment MacLeod had gotten out of range he'd stripped and dived back into the soft comfort of his bed. He'd managed a few more hours of uncomfortable sleep, but it just wasn't working. {Damn MacLeod. Damn bloody legends and a plague of curses on all story-tellers.} He spent an enjoyable five minutes imagining all the things he would do to Homer if he ever caught up with him. {Damn everything.} He gave the pillow one last thump then threw it. It landed with a satisfying crash, knocking over at least one vase. Unfortunately it also dragged one of the curtains partially open, and sunlight poured in, right across the oldest Immortal's face. {Could at least one of us not get up today,} he thought irritably at it , and muttered darkly into the sheets, trying to bury his face in the mattress.

"I hate you Highlander. I hate you hate you hate you. Guilt, conscience, responsibility, fellow feeling. Do you have any idea how hard I worked to ignore them? To do what I wanted? And all it takes is one - wretched - Scot." The words were filled with more venom than one would have thought possible.

"Damn. Damn, damn, damn." One hand swatted blindly at the bedside cabinet. Failing to find its object it patted around on the floor.

{Where'd I put it?}

The phone, it seemed, was one of the things the pillow had knocked over.

Eventually he found it, and made the call he despised himself for making.

"Joe. And a good morning to you too. Yes, I am aware that it's seven am where you are."

"Because I wasn't allowed to sleep either, and misery loves company."

"Of course it's our large Scot."

Methos grinned, "I said Scot, not scotch, but that's not a bad idea." Holding the phone between cheek and shoulder unscrewed the cap on the bottle of Bells sitting conveniently near the bed.

"Neat I think," he murmured, and knocked it back.

"Who is it now?" Joe's distant voice asked resignedly.

"Her name's Vittoria Ursini, among others. Italian, around 5'5"..." he repeated the description MacLeod had given him.

"Let me boot the system up. " Joe sounded a little more awake, but Methos could clearly hear the yawns over the clatter as Joe moved around, carrying the phone from the bedroom into the office.

"Okay, I've got her." Joe's voice returned. "Yeah, she's down under several pseudonyms. Let's see, around since 1279, not much of a swordster..."

"Swordster? You've been hanging around Richie too much," Methos commented dryly.

"You want this info or not?" Joe said defensively. "Okay, makes a lot of money running wars and executing inconvenient people."

"Anything on her whereabouts?"

"In Paris, surely?" Joe said dryly.

"Well, yes, but any particular hotel, or do we just wander around Paris till we hear her coming?"

"Oh very funny. Ummm, no, not... Oh. That's interesting."


"That's really odd."

"What? Tell me before I reach down the phone and pull your tonsils out."

"According to this her Watcher's just been reassigned. It was Lara Brophy - she's one of my local people. This Immortal of yours must have been in Seacouver." Joe hummed softly as he scrolled down the Chronicle.

"Seacouver? I don't believe in coincidences," Methos commented.

"That wasn't a coincidence." Joe sounded fully awake now, and not a little concerned. "She broke into Richie's place last week, was in there with someone else - one of her operatives we assume - for about forty minutes, then they took the next flight to Paris. You'd better tell Duncan to warn Richie, Adam."

There was no reply, just the distant thump as the handset hit the floor.

"Adam? Goddam." Joe hung up and glared at the phone on his desk. He was still in his pyjamas, and felt far more like going back to bed. {Hell.}

He dialled Richie's number, but got the answer phone.

"Rich, it's Joe. Call me as soon as you get this."

{MacLeod! The kid could be over at the barge.} The phone was busy and he swore. Nothing he could do for now. Nothing except worry about the kid.

Scene 1 4

"So, what did you want to talk about," Richie asked again as they strolled along the banks of the Seine a little while later.

"Methos," she said bluntly.

"Uh...sorry? Meth-what?" Richie said, stalling.

"Methos. The oldest living Immortal. Or rather, the ex oldest living Immortal." She was watching the boy closely and could have sworn his shoulders relaxed suddenly.

"Sorry, I don't think I know..."

"Oh, of a certainty you do. You may recall. Seacouver, summer before last. An Immortal who taught peace. Another, his student. Now, they are both dead. And you, his last student. His last living student that is."

"Oh. Yes, him." Richie was relieved. The fake Methos, for a moment there he'd thought... "Well, you know, that was a while back now. I've done a lot since then."

"Oh, so taking a five thousand year Quickening was an event of no moment. Here, gone, on to the next thing, si?" Her face was flushed and she was starting to lose her grip on her English.

"Hey, you've got it wrong. I didn't kill him! That was the other guy - Culbraith. I went to speak to er... Methos, and he was already dead when I got there. I didn't even have my sword with me when he - Culbraith attacked me."

"How wonderful, a miracle," she said sarcastically. "Your 'other guy' lost his head with the powers of your mind alone."

"No! Mac came, he brought me my sword. We fought: me and Culbraith. I took his head, but he'd already gotten to Methos before I even got there," he said desperately, trying to convince her. {I could tell her who the real Methos is...} But that thought was cut short by her next words.

"How convenient for you. MacLeod 'just happening' to come along. Oh, and with a spare sword too. How dare you," she hissed. "How dare you lie to me and think you can get away with what is mine. I have hunted him for seven hundred years. You can't even imagine that, can you? I have been to places and done things in this search that you couldn't even begin to understand, ignorant brat that you are. And you have the audacity, the gall to take the head that I worked so long and hard to find."

"But worse than that, you don't even seem to realise the enormity of your crime." She was gesticulating wildly with one hand, the other keeping a death grip on Richie's right arm. "You just took another head. It wasn't even important enough to remember." She took a breath and went on with a forced calm. "I could stand it if you had worked for this prize, but you!" She looked him up and down scathingly, "You didn't work for it, you didn't spend years tracking him. You barely even knew who he was." She gripped his arm harder, "Well, my pathetic excuse for an Immortal, you don't deserve to keep that Quickening."

Richie tried to yank his arm away from her but her nails dug in painfully and he gave up the effort. He glanced around them, seeing the people walking past, slowing as they wondered whether to intervene. He thought of calling for help, but who would believe him?

"Not here," he said desperately, torn between saving himself and keeping her away from the real Methos, hoping he could sort this out once they were out of public sight.

An insane smile lit her face. "So. You admit it. I know a place. We shall go. Right now."

"No!" he said urgently, but she wasn't listening to anything but the stories inside her head now. She tugged him along, and when he resisted too strongly, stopped in her tracks and turned to face him.

"Well, we can do it this way if you'd rather." A flick of her wrist, and a thin stiletto appeared, the edges smeared with something oily. Richie began struggling in earnest, but he was much too late. With a twist of her hand the knife went through him. Seconds later he collapsed, the poison on the blade killing him, while the knife itself remained in his chest, ensuring he stayed that way. She waved off a couple of concerned passers-by, who had seen the collapse, though not the weapon, and waited for her backup team to arrive. In minutes they were all heading for a derelict factory site, one she kept for times like this. It would be perfect for what she needed.

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