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Part 1

Scene 1 3

FLASHBACK: SPAIN 1724

These were interesting times, what with King Phillip abdicating, but the problems for a beautiful woman on the road alone were the same as they ever had been in any number of countries. Mairi had become accustomed to her own company on these long journeys; she hadn't really ever settled anywhere for more than a year or so. Now was no different, only it was the Inquisition which had usurped her from her comfortable farm. The stake had been erected over the pyre for a witch woman who had healed herself with the devil's blue flame, and only a good friend risking his own hide to smuggle her out of the jail had saved her life.

In short, Mairi was not in a good mood and all that she needed was another Immortal. Yet, sure enough, trouble seemed to have followed her, at least that was her immediate instinct as first horse hooves alerted her to another's approach and then her skull sung with the more unique warning system. The woman spun round, drawing her sword, she would not be cut down by this rider; yet the figure hidden deep in a cloak against the harsh wind, slowed the approach, reigning in a feisty midnight stallion with ease. Mairi hovered a few yards away from the mount, blade raised in ready defense if need be--she was not in the mood for playing games.

"Hold," the voice surprised Mairi, both in the warmth of its tone and the feminine silkiness to the word.

She lowered her sword a little, still wary, but less defensive, as one gloved hand moved up to the cloak hood and pushed it back. Long, dark hair fell in rivulets around an exotic face and startlingly dark eyes examined Mairi. The woman seemed vaguely amused by Mairi's reaction to her, and made it clear she was waiting for a verbal response.

"Mairi MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," the foot-traveler introduced, still unsure if she was issuing a challenge or not.

"Claire Lavinia," the rider returned and showed no signs of drawing a blade. "You seem a little tested."

"It has been a bad week," Mairi nodded back and finally lowered her sword.

"The Inquisition has made life difficult for us," Claire obviously understood more than Mairi had meant her to infer, but she was glad for the look of sympathy she received. The well-dressed rider paused a moment, her eyes running up and down her new acquaintance; a strange feeling ran through the subject of the scrutiny, but she was too tired to interpret it. This strange, self-assured creature surprised the Scot again as she finally decided on something. "I offer the hospitality of a Lavinia to you, Mairi MacLeod of The Clan MacLeod. Rest with me a while."

A hand was held out to the weary traveler and for a moment, the woman just stared at the leather-clad fingers. She did not know this Immortal, neither did she trust the look she had been given, but she could detect no hostility in the manner of the offer. Mairi thought herself a good judge of character, but there were depths in this woman she could not read so quickly. Still, she was so tired, of walking and fighting; the offer, whatever the motives, was attractive. Deciding that she'd fought her way out of worse situations than a woman's house, Mairi chose to take hold of the hand of friendship.


Scene 1 4

TWO HOURS LATER

Mairi walked out from behind the wash screen, reluctant to leave the warm bath water behind, but knowing that she had to dress sometime. She look around the room as she gathered up the beautiful dress Claire had provided for her on the equally luxurious bed. The walls were hung with rich tapestries, none of them Spanish; Mairi judged them to be Flemish, good workmanship, very expensive. Captivated by the intricate scene on one, the woman absently dropped her towel and began pulling on the heavy finery. The soft lining felt good against her skin after the coarse peasant cloth she had been using as a disguise in her flight. Mairi MacLeod had been a rich woman too only a few short days ago, and she envied Claire a little for the luxury she still had.

"Let me help you with that," those same soft tones floated over to Mairi and she jumped as she felt an Immortal visitor to her chamber at the same time.

Claire stood in the door way, a magnificent sight in jeweled gown of superb quality. On some it may have seemed gaudy, but as Mairi took in the impressive figure, she somehow felt that no less would have done for the self-possessed woman. Her host had been referring to the dress ties with which Mairi had been struggling, and barely managing to hold the dress around her in her surprise, the woman flushed.

"Thank you," the Scot murmured nervously, uncertain why the presence of another woman in her chamber made her face so hot.

Claire's smile held a depth that turned Mairi's mouth dry and she suddenly found herself thinking of Connor's steamy body close to her. Flushing further, she turned her back on the confident strides of her approaching companion, and focused on the tapestry. She'd dabbled in arts on a brief visit to Paris one summer, and the drapery provided a useful diversion from the confusing messages her body was sending her.

"You decorate your home beautifully," she observed, breathing in rapidly as delicate fingers brushed her skin as they took hold of lowest pair of ties. "Not Spanish taste, though."

"I was not born in Spain," Claire breathed close to her ear, "I am Dutch by birth, my father was a trader, my mother originally one of his purchases. I married a Spaniard some years ago and fell in love with his country. I have kept his name since and made this place my own."

"It is a great country," Mairi agreed, "but I miss Scotland."

"I had placed you for a Scot before you spoke." Claire took delicate hold of the second set of ties. "You have an exquisite complexion, so pure you had to have Gaelic blood in your veins."

Mairi was not used to compliments, especially not ones whispered into her ear so that the giver's breath played over her neck. She trembled reactively and knew without a doubt that Claire's lips had broken into a smile just beyond her field of view. If it had been a man, Mairi knew she would have felt manipulated, since Connor, she had liked to keep the seduction under her own control. Yet the woman found herself unwilling to stifle the shiver, letting it run its course through her body, setting off other sensations as her flesh moved against the cloth around it. She tensed in surprise as she felt a hand laid on the skin of her shoulder blades.

"You have the muscles of a fighter," Claire continued more obviously, her fingers stroking lightly, a delicious, but conflicting titillation.

Mairi could not stand the tease any longer, and she turned rapidly, holding the dress close to her body, since the ties were still largely unattended.

"Don't you?" Mairi shuddered a defensive breath, staring wildly at the composed seductress.

However, what was meant to be defense, left the quandried woman with a flush on her face and a tightness in her chest as she received a smile whose intent was anything but hidden.

"Do you wish to find out?" Claire finished.


Scene 1 5

MADRID, THREE MONTHS LATER

Mairi kissed the taut figure on the cheek, a light peck all she could offer now. Then she backed up, apology on her face as she recognized Claire's hurt and anger.

"I'm sorry," she breathed, "we fight too much, we've done nothing but hurt each other for the last few weeks."

There was no response, only silent, statuesque rage from the, as usual, captivating woman. Claire was indeed beautiful, but then she always was, but it could not draw Mairi from her chosen course. With that haughty beauty came a vicious temper which had mixed with the Scot's own fiery blood on one too many occasions. They were both proud women, and their curses had become too strong, dangerously strong. Mairi had seen blades being drawn in their near future, something which she had no wish to do, but knew that too many arguments and her temper might lead her. She had decided it was time to leave.

"I'm sorry," she repeated earnestly, and then turned to walk out of the town-house.

The sound of steel on leather as one was drawn from the other was a sound Mairi had hoped to avoid, but she reacted instantaneously as she recognized it. Claire's scream joined the ring of metal clashing as one Immortal blocked a deadly blow from the other.


Scene 1 6

PRESENT: A PARIS BAR

Richie had slipped back into his seat as Mac continued with his explanation of Mairi's first encounter with Claire. He'd listened silently, it was not part of their tale for flippant comments.

"...They fought, Mairi won, but she couldn't bring herself to kill Claire," Duncan told them. "Claire didn't give up so easily though, and she'd hunted Mairi since then. Up until Paris, Mairi had just moved on, trying not to let her catch up, because she hurt others when she did, but after nearly three hundred years, Mairi had decided that it was time to stand and fight, and she'd found Claire's base."

Richie recalled how exciting he'd thought it was, Immortal pitched against Immortal, when the mystique of their life had still held for him, the mortal outsider. That felt so strange, the old vague jealously of the gallant fighters and exotic pasts, before his ignorance had been quite literally blown away. He hid the thought from the others, but his comment as Mac finished came out of it.

"Y'know, considering the mortal danger she thought she was in, Mairi was amazingly calm. I had no idea then what being Immortal was like, living with that all the time."

The disclosure wasn't meant as morbidly as it came out, and as his friends looked at him a little askance, Richie shrugged.

"Okay," he grinned, "that was a downer." Another tack came easily to him and he laughed, "Hey, Mac, what is it with women? All it takes for us to trust someone is a story. It takes a shopping spree for women to trust other women though."

Altea's quizzical expression just begged for a reason behind that little gem of observation.


Scene 1 7

FLASHBACK : PARIS 1992

The next afternoon Mairi and Tessa went shopping. Mairi had explained that she suspected another Immortal was hunting her; her name could wait a while, for now she knew she could call on Duncan for brushing up her technique. It felt good to be with a MacLeod again, and she recognized Connor's influence on their Clansman. If a challenge was made, she would be ready.

However, for now, there was plenty to take her mind off battle. A good spar with MacLeod that morning had settled the itch in her sword arm, and the afternoon was for leisure. She had asked Tessa to go shopping with her, so that she and Tessa could become friends. She wanted to get along with her, but Mairi sensed that MacLeod's lovely artist didn't like her. She wanted to address this away from Duncan and Richie. Shopping was somewhere that no man dared venture if they were sensible, and it was easy for two women to talk honestly.

"I appreciate you coming along Tessa."

"Sure. I needed to get a few things anyway."

"Tessa, do you know any places that are renting apartments or flats? I don't feel comfortable staying with other people for too long. I mean I'm thankful that you and Duncan put me up last night, but I can't stay with you for ever."

"Yes, I have a friend who owns a complex and it so happens that she has a flat for rent. The lease is for six months though. It's just one room, a kitchen and bathroom. If you would like to see it we could go by tomorrow."

"O.K. Let's do that." They walked in silence for a long moment. "Tessa, can I ask you a question?"

"What is it?"

"Why don't you like me? What did I do to make you not like me? I mean we've only known each other for a day."

"It's not that I don't like you, Mairi. It's just that I don't know you and, well, being around Duncan, it makes you wary about Immortals."

Mairi smiled "I understand--for a moment I thought you hated me. I hope trust will come when you get to know me. That's why I asked you along. In order for you to trust me, you have to know me. In order for you to know me, we have to 'bond'. In order to 'bond', we have to shop." Mairi said her smile widening to a big grin.

"I do like your thinking, Mairi MacLeod." Tessa grinned back.

"By the way, I was thinking about asking Richie to a night club tonight, you and Duncan wanna come along?"

"It's very kind of you, but no thank you, Duncan and I have plans of our own. Besides, the last thing I think Richie would want is for Duncan and I to tag along on his big chance." Tessa and Mairi were laughing by the time she had finished her observation.


Scene 1 8

Later Tessa braided Mairi's hair in an upside-down plat. The Immortal was wearing an outfit that she had bought earlier. Mairi had been traveling light as usual and Tessa had generously offered to do the woman's makeup for her, picking out colors from her own collection which matched Mairi's new clothes.

"You know, this is the first time that I've worn make up. I don't even know how to put it on."

"Well then I'll help you," Tessa offered brightly, "This reminds me of being a teenager. Close your eyes. Why don't you wear make-up?"

"Because I don't want to be noticed. The wrong person may take an interest in me."

"I can identify with that. Open. Keep still and keep your eyes open. If another Immortal is around, can't they sense you?"

"Yeah, but if in a crowed room, you don't know who you're sensing ."

"Blink. We'll make you look stunning, and then any man, including Richie, will fall at your feet. OK now keep your head straight, but move your eyes up. I'm going to put this under your eyes, but you have to be perfectly still."

"OK," Mairi said nervously.

"Open your mouth. Rub your lips together. Suck in your checks. Now for the powder. You might want to close your eyes. I'm just going to pat this all over your face. It might sting if it gets in your yes."

Richie walked into the living room just as Tessa finished, and stopped. "You look beautiful!"

"Thanks, Richie," Mairi said and smiled. "Tessa has worked her magic."

"You two have fun." Tessa said, a little worried for Richie, but not yet willing to do anything about it.


Scene 1 9

Richie and Mairi managed to get a booth at the night club and they sat down in the private corner. "It seems like I've known you all my life," Richie mused aloud.

The youth was a subtle as ever, and it didn't take much to know where the conversation was going. Yet, Mairi wanted to keep things light for a while at least, and joked, "I've been around all your life."

"I know. I know." Richie mentally kicked himself for leaving the way open for that one. Then he continued with, "So answer me this, 'Why do you need Duncan?'"

Mairi got a serious look on her face. "What do you know about we Immortals?"

"There can be only one, anything but," he waved his hand in the air, "swt! swt! in the neck area isn't fatal. There's the good guys and the bad guys and a few centuries puts a new meaning on the word 'psychotic'."

Richie shrugged nonchalantly and took a drink.

"Don't joke about it, Richie," Mairi warned. "Duncan's working with me so that I can practice my technique, my killing technique."

The woman's tone was low, but the emphasis was none the less obvious.

The youth made a face and countered, "I've been there, Mairi, I've seen what you guys do to survive, I've even been piggy-in-the-middle, it doesn't bother me."

There was silence, Mairi looked down into her drink. It was Richie who eventually continued, "Look, do we have to do the Immortal bit now? You told Mac about Claire, and she's definitely on the wacko side of the fence, but she's not here now, else you'd be twitching like Mac does. So can we just have a few drinks and a dance and enjoy ourselves--huh-- please?"

Richie was giving Mairi one of his best innocent, butter-wouldn't-melt gazes, and she had to admit he was right. She'd invited him out to get away from the challenge she was about to finish after three centuries. She nodded and smiled.

"I'm sorry, Richie, you're right--no Immortal within a mile."

"Great!" Ryan clapped his hands together and then climbed to his feet. "Let's dance."


Scene 2 0

When the happy pair returned home, they found Duncan and Tessa snuggled up on the couch. Tessa was asleep, but Duncan had been woken up by the internal warning system announcing an Immortal's arrival.

"Well, I see you made it home alright. I think Tessa and I will go on to bed." Duncan said as he gently woke Tessa up.

She smiled at the couple standing in the middle of the room, but was still only half awake when Duncan led her towards the partitioned end of the barge. Mairi and Richie headed for the door of the young man's room.

"Thank-you for letting me use your bed." The third Immortal member of the MacLeod clan, said as they hovered in the open doorway.

"Well I've always been a big believer in sharing," Richie commented-- subtlety had never been his strong point.

That move was almost as old as Mairi herself, but it was as good a motive for a little seduction as any. She knew this was just lust, but maybe something more would come out of it later. Right now she had a warm glow from alcohol and good company. Richie had not been averse to dancing up close and real personal and now she had sexual energy in abundance. Laying a hand on his hip and moving a little closer, she replied with a wicked smile on her face, "So am I." After a brief pause she added, "Is your bed big enough to hold the both of us?"

Richie with his 18 year old libido going wild responded, "I don't know. But we could find out." He led in to his room, holding her hand as he walked backwards. The moment the door closed behind them, Mairi wrapped herself around him and with a laugh they fell back onto the bed.


Scene 2 1

PRESENT: A PARIS BAR

"Rich was never anything if not vocal," Mac teased, but refrained from going into further detail.

Altea laughed and the Scot was almost sure he saw her nodding as she leant over to try and wipe the scowl off Richie's face.

"Shall we just get on with the story?" Ryan suggested heavily.

His partner turned back to Duncan to encourage more information out of him, but she winked at him at the same time. MacLeod chuckled and sat back a moment, considering where to go next.

"Okay, so now its time for enter stage left, one Claire Lavinia. This next bit came out of a conversation I had with Joe years later, Watchers are useful for filling in the blanks sometimes, and there was one particularly close to her at the time, his name was Jacques..."


Scene 2 2

FLASHBACK : PARIS 1992

Outside of Paris, a lone sports car sped up the drive of an elegant chateaux. After the car skidded to a stop, Claire Lavinia hopped out of the drivers side. Even though she wore the conservative business suit of a highly successful woman, her hair fell around her shoulders in glossy curls and the heavy style of make-up she wore could have been carried by very few women. As she walked up the steps, her attach‚ case and carry on bag in hand, the door to the chateaux opened for her. Her butler, Pierre, was waiting for her arrival.

"How is everything on the home front, Pierre?" Claire asked very tired.

"Business as usual, Madame." Pierre replied. "And how was your trip to America?"

"Not too bad, Pierre. I would say I'd made a killing, but some men over there fight really well." she answered while she rubbed the place where another had almost cost her her head. "But the majority of them lost their heads when they saw me."

"If you say so, Madame." Pierre said. He knew nothing about Immortals and found her sense of humor sick. 'It's just a paycheck.' he thought to himself. "And If I may say, you look like you are ready for a break. Perhaps I should draw your bath?" It was more of a statement than a question.

"Thank you, Pierre, a nice warm, relaxing bath sounds perfect. Start it up for me. I'll be in my office looking at some files Jacques provided for me."

"Yes, Madame," Pierre said as he started up the stairs to the bathroom.

Jacques was her lover-cum-gopher. Pierre placed a too high value on life, so she had to get someone else to do her dirty work. Pierre would turn his own mother in if she had broken a law. She couldn't count on his secrecy even if she could count on his loyalty.

Her boyfriend on the other hand, didn't care. Even Pierre had made a comment or two about his disregard for life. Jacques knew about Immortals. Claire had no idea where he got his information, but she knew that it was thorough. He seamed to know things about her that she hadn't told him yet, which was a concern, but one for later. For now she truly loved Jacques.

As she walked into the room, she put her attach‚ case on her desk. Opening it, she took out two files. One was on Duncan MacLeod, he was in town and it was good to know one's potential adversaries. She scanned the details, his home, his companions, his Quickenings, all could be useful. He was a MacLeod as well, that was a lead she was going to follow up--anything that could lead her to the treacherous little bitch!

The second file was on Darius, a possible easy target if she could ever get him off Holy Ground. The link to Duncan MacLeod was another lead to follow as well.

"Madame, your bath is ready. I took the liberty of adding some of your favorite oils to it." a voice boomed over the intercom.

"Thank you, Pierre. I'll be there in just a minute." Claire answered.


Scene 2 3

PRESENT: A PARIS BAR

Altea held her tongue as MacLeod explained about Jacques; Watchers still weren't her favorite people and one as callous as this man sounded too much like a Hunter for her to be comfortable about him. She glanced across at Richie as she felt his fingers tighten around hers in a reassuring squeeze. She hadn't meant to be that obvious, but maybe he was getting better at reading her than she had thought. The young man offered her a smile and she turned back to Duncan as he fell silent. She shrugged apologetically at the dark man for having interrupted his flow and felt a little awkward as she saw understanding in his eyes.

"Anyway," Richie launched as the silence became more than a pause, "that was halfway across town, back at the barge, everything was going just great."

For a reason known only to himself, at that moment, MacLeod chuckled. Richie raised an eyebrow and Mac looked at him. For a moment, Altea felt like an outsider again, as the man told his young protege, "I was just remembering the morning after. Tessa was in one of those moods."

The blond young man grinned and nodded as he agreed, "I remember." Then he addressed his lover. "Tess was a bit, y'know, schizophrenic, about thinking she was my Mom. She was more like a big sister, most of the time, but when she got a bee in her bonnet, she had a unique way of dealing with it. She was a bit worried about me and Mairi-"

"Well, your track record was 0 for X," MacLeod teased; Ryan made a face at him and pressed on, "Okay, so my choice in women, especially Immortal women was a little flaky, but Tessa was a real tease when she wanted to be."

"And the next morning..."Duncan took up the discourse.


Scene 2 4

FLASHBACK : PARIS 1992

It was 5:30 a.m. and Duncan was wearing only black spandex shorts. He was cooking breakfast for Tessa. He had just finished his workout so he was hungry and Tessa would be up soon. When Tessa did emerge from the couple's end of the barge, she was wearing a bathrobe loosely over a very sexy negligee and after inspecting the empty couch she asked, "Where's Richie?"

"Guess." Duncan said with a big grin on his face.

"You sent him to the store?" She asked with an obviously fake, innocent smile. Richie was an 18 year old male who had no control of his hormones, she knew exactly where he was. After all the trouble he had gotten into sleeping with women he barely knew, he should have learned his lesson. Then again that was like asking a priest not to pray.

"It's much too early for him. He's still in bed--with Mairi."

Tessa was in a very mischievous mood, and coupled with the fact that she wasn't sure that Mairi was the woman for Richie, her maternal instincts came out. For a moment she chose to forget that the young man was not her son and yelled, "RICHARD!"

Duncan winced and decided to at least put up a show of defense, "It's not like she's going to get pregnant. Besides it was probably her idea to begin with."

"But he barely knows anything about her."

"Tessa, we have to let him make his own mistakes. How else is he going to learn?"

Richie poked his head out of the bedroom door, and in a half asleep voice said, "Yes, Tessa?"

Duncan gave her a very stern look. "I just wanted to see if you're awake--Breakfast is almost ready."

"Well, I'm still asleep. Thanks but I'll fix my own breakfast. I'll see you guys in a min...later." Richie said as he shut the door. There was little doubt as to what was going on behind the closed entrance.

Duncan kissed Tessa and said "Thank - you"

"I'm just worried about him, Duncan. She might just leave him. Richie's jumped in with both feet before, and I don't want to see him hurt again."

"Like I said earlier, Richie has to make his own mistakes. As for Mairi, she's definitely old enough to make her own decisions. We can't stop either of them. And this is something that the both of them have to workout." Duncan said as he put his arms around her. "Breakfast will be late today."

"Why?" Tessa asked, leaning into him.

"Because you and I have something to do. You might say that you and your negligee have excited me. Not that you need a negligee to do that." Duncan hinted.

It could never be said that Tessa didn't catch on fast, "I'll be waiting," she said and disappeared back the way she had come.

It didn't take the Highlander more than a couple of seconds to abandon the eggs on a rapidly cooling hob.

Outside the barge, Claire was checking things out. She made sure that no one could sense her. She'd seen and identified Duncan MacLeod, but it would not be wise to announce her presence too early. No she would wait until she was ready and sure that he could be useful in her search.

After breakfast, Mairi and Tessa went to look at the flat that was for rent. On the way there Tessa forgot that she was not Richie's mother and was going to find out what he meant to Mairi.

"I'm not going to pretend," she said suddenly, "you worry me a little, in fact all Immortal's worry me a little, but I have to know. Are you just playing with Richie, or does he mean something to you. I've seen him hurt too many times before."

Mairi just looked at the French woman a moment, and then she spoke.

"I admit at first it was looks. But after last night...I don't know. I do know that I want to pursue this relationship and see what happens. I consider him more than a friend but less than a lover. There is no comment yet. Richie has a lot of growing up to do before I even consider taking a commitment from him. I know I won't be with anyone else, but I don't want Richie to make that commitment yet. Maybe in a year or so, he can commit, but not right now. He needs to know for sure that I'm what he wants. You and I both know what it's like loving an Immortal. I also know what it's like to be married to a mortal. It's a lot less worry. Mortals don't have people trying to cut their heads off."

"Sounds like you've given this a lot of thought."

"Richie isn't the first guy I've been confused about. If I live long enough, he won't be the last either."

"For you to be confused, you have to be in love with someone."

"I can't trust the man I'm in love with."

"Is he Immortal?"

"Yeah."

"Let me guess, from the other night's story, Connor?"

"I just can't trust him to tell the truth. I think he lied to me for some time. He hadn't been in love with me for at lest two months before I caught him another woman."

"How do you know that Connor didn't still love you?"

"I could tell by the way he looked at me, touched me, kissed me, and when he made love to me I could tell he wasn't thinking of me. His feelings towards me changed that's all. Once I caught him starting to make love to a waitress. She had red hair like me, and he was drunk. I thought that he had gotten confused in his drunken state. So I let it pass. But then when I saw him with that other barmaid, it just confirmed my suspicions.

"Maybe."

"Well, in any case, I haven't been with or even wanted to be with any man for any length of time since my last husband died in 1876." Mairi said as tears came to her eyes. She was able to push them back--this time. "I guess I still haven't gotten over his murder. Maybe I'll tell you about it later."


Scene 2 5

PRESENT: A PARIS BAR

"Tessa got on much better with Mairi than she did Amanda," Richie observed with a grin, it was time to get his own back on Mac.

The Highlander merely raised an eyebrow however, and countered, "It's not Tessa's relationships with Immortal women that are so fascinating, Rich. Y'know, out of all of the Immortal women you've met, there is only a handful that didn't want to kill you or me."

"Claire wasn't my fault," Richie picked up the hint on where his comrade was going with the conversation, "I was just stuck in the middle again."

"I wasn't talking about Claire. I was talking about Annie, Felicia, Kristin..."

"No fair, Mac!" Ryan protested, he was determined that Duncan would not have a chance to embarrass him again, so he turned directly to Altea and continued, "This time it was definitely not my fault, Mairi and I were out walking in the park..."


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