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Part 2

Scene 9

ACROSS FROM DUNCAN'S DOJO - the next day

They had rented the vacant apartment across the street from the DeSalvo school of martial arts for just this purpose. When he had become their leader he somehow had known that eventually MacLeod's dojo and apartment would become a sort of central headquarters for the enemy. He put his binoculars up to his eyes and watched the new arrival hobble over to the building and enter. Then, he changed his focus to the window of the apartment. If only he could hear what was going on as well as see.


Scene 1 0

DUNCAN'S FLAT, SEACOUVER - that moment

Joe rode the elevator up to Duncan's loft. He strained to hear anything from the assembled Immortals. There was silence, which meant either Patrick and Rebecca weren't there yet, or they were and the bad blood still gushed between Patrick and Aria.

The elevator stopped and he saw that the latter was true. Duncan and Aria were sitting on one end of the kitchen, Rebecca and Patrick on the other. No one was talking.

"Sorry to interrupt the fun," Joe said as he got off the elevator. "I've got news."

At that he had everyone's undivided attention.

"A Watcher named Todd Clemmens turned up decapitated this morning. He was assigned to Galan Janek."

Aria gasped. "Dammit."

Joe concurred. "It's not much of a connection, but it's a start."

"Aria," Duncan said, "you knew Janek the best. Did he know his Watcher?"

"He knew."

"She's right," Joe said, tossing a small notebook to the Immortal nearest to him, Patrick.

Patrick looked at the notebook. "What's this?"

"Clemmens' unofficial 'chronicle.' It was mailed to me and arrived this morning. Apparently, Clemmens figured he was getting into trouble, so he got rid of the evidence."

Patrick looked puzzled. "Why send it to you?"

"Because my 'transgression' isn't exactly secret anymore. Besides, he confided in me when Janek began suspecting him and things were coming to a head. Just like Bernard."

"Did anyone else know about Clemmens' breaking of his oath?" Rebecca asked.

"Not that I know of." Joe walked across the loft and sat down.

"Who knows about yours?" Patrick asked.

"Shapiro," Duncan hissed.

"Shapiro," realization dawned on Joe then. "Shapiro tried me for the crime of breaking my oath. He also tried Bernard as a way of getting at me, but he failed and was kicked out of the Watchers."

"So this is all revenge?" Rebecca said.

"No, there has to be something more to it," Joe said. "If it were just revenge, he'd go after Bernard, me, and Duncan. But he hasn't made a move against me yet, and has against Clemmens and Janek."

"Why exactly did he try the two of you?" Patrick said.

"Because he felt we had betrayed the Watcher organization by revealing ourselves."

"So he's cleaning house," Aria offered.

"How could he be cleaning house if he hasn't got access to any of the Watcher data?"

"You were the one who locked up Horton's files and didn't execute his people," Aria said. "He could easily have a computer expert unlock them, then contact the Hunter organization when he got all their names. With the Hunters back in place, he'd have a hit-squad that not only has no problems killing Immortals but actually look on it as a holy war."

Patrick nodded in agreement. "Shapiro, himself, doesn't need to believe in the Hunters dogma in order to use them for his own ends. It wouldn't be the first time a megalomaniac has taken advantage of the gullibility of fanatics. He needs people to do the dirty work for him, they've probably wanted to start up again ever since Horton died."

"They capture Watchers," Rebecca said, "as bait to lure their Immortal to them. Then they kill them both."

"They kill the Immortal first and probably force the Watcher to watch the Immortal die, so that they would know the full extent of their 'crime' before dying themselves," Joe said. "Then they dump the bodies where other Watchers would find them, which is why you found Janek, Aria."

"So they punish both sides for the supposed crime," Duncan added.

"Which means Rebecca and I are next," Patrick said.

"Absolutely," Duncan said.

"How long after Clemmens disappeared was Janek killed?"

"Four days," Joe said.

"That gives us two more," Rebecca continued, "before they make their move."

"They're probably moving on other Watchers as well," Aria said.

"All right," Joe said. "Let's meet at the bar tonight before doors open, and I'll come up with a list of Watchers who I think may be targeted."


Scene 1 1

UNKNOWN LOCATION - soon after

The unseen voice chuckled.

"What's so amusing?" Bernard said.

"I've been reading the O'Brien Chronicle. Fascinating stuff, really, especially the section about him and La Mora. Congratulations on piecing together the times he disappeared. Oh, that's right. He told you that he was 'Hejan Sheng' and the gaijin samurai."

"That's right."

"And you don't feel you betrayed your oath?"

"No, I didn't. I preserved it."

"That's enough," a second voice said.

Bernard recognized it instantly, and frankly wasn't surprised at hearing it. "Hello, Jack. Long time no see."

Jack Shapiro stepped out of the shadows. He looked at Bernard but addressed his unseen companion. "That's all you'll get out of him. He'll tell you about how the streets are a far cry from my desk and that a field operative considers himself lucky if he can go his entire assignment without his Immortal seeing him. Then he'll tell you that at headquarters, we sit back in our plush office chairs writing up all the rules and regulations, and that out on the street, you rely on your nose and your brain. He'll finish up by saying the Immortal game isn't all black-and-white, good versus evil, and watching in the field isn't all black-and-white, either."

Bernard smirked. "You remembered."

"I taped the proceedings and listen to both yours and Dawson's trials each night. So what does your nose and your brain tell you this time?"

"That you're nothing but a bunch of thugs who enjoy picking on overweight old men who can't fight back."

Shapiro punched Bernard in the stomach, sending the older Watcher tumbling backwards against the wall. Then he turned to his companion. "Leave us."

When the door closed, Shapiro waited for Bernard to regain his composure. "Actually, Bernard," he hissed, "we do enjoy this. Immensely."

"I never thought you were a bigot like Horton. Misguided and a power-hungry son of a bitch, but not a bigot."

"I never said I was a bigot. There was a time when I believed in the Watchers and Immortals, more than anything in the world. Then it all came crashing down due to people like yourself, Dawson, and Adam Pierson. Once I was forced out of the Organization, I had to think fast. I had to save it from what it was becoming and return it to what it was."

"What it was becoming was a group of mortals that Immortals could open up to and be themselves with no reservations. In the two and a half years since O'Brien found out I was a Watcher, I've learned more about him than any of his other Watchers could ever dream."

"That's the problem, isn't it? You know. He knows. He will be on the lookout for his next Watcher when you're gone. He'll tell his friends and Students, they'll tell their friends and Students, and so on. You can already see it happening. Duncan MacLeod finds Dawson, MacLeod tells Connor MacLeod, Connor MacLeod tells Rebecca O'Brien, Rebecca tells Patrick. How many has O'Brien told? And how many more has Duncan MacLeod told, or Connor MacLeod? The damage has been done, Bernard, and I'm repairing it. Punish the Watcher for being exposed, exterminate the Immortal before he spreads his knowledge of us."

"And that's how the Hunters fit in."

"Exactly. I couldn't contact my allies within the organization, so I contacted the Hunters who were still alive. They have no problems killing members of a race that they see as a cancer on the face of the Earth. It works out extremely well, actually. I needed someone to kill Immortals and not get my hands dirty, they needed a leader and a purpose. If they have to kill their own kind, they look upon it as divine retribution for breaking the Golden Rule."

"Jack, this is insane!"

"Is it? Tell me, if an Immortal broke their Golden Rule, killed on Holy Ground, what do you think the other Immortals would do?"

"Probably band together and hunt..." Bernard broke off, a chill shooting down his spine.

"...hunt him down and kill him," Shapiro finished. How is this any different?"

Bernard, for once, didn't have an answer.


Scene 1 2

JOE'S BAR, SEACOUVER - that evening

Duncan thought that with at least part of what happened between Aria and Patrick out in the open the tension between the two would have dissipated. After all, the past was the past, Aria wasn't proud of hers, and he was sure O'Brien had done some things he wasn't proud of. He had yet to meet a "good" Immortal who didn't have things in their past they wanted to forget.

He couldn't have been more wrong.

If anything, the tension seemed almost visible now, crackling in the air like static electricity. Patrick and Aria sat at opposite ends of the room, not looking at each other, much like prize-fighters at opposite corners of the ring. And quite frankly, Duncan was worried. Joe had told him as an aside that Patrick had tracked Kurdt VonHoffer for nearly five centuries after VonHoffer had killed his third wife. And Aria... Aria was closer to falling back on her past persona than even she wanted to admit. If O'Brien decided to actively hunt her down, La Mora was close to the surface. Too close.

Rebecca broke the more-than awkward silence. "So... did you find anything, Joe?"

"Yeah." Joe walked over to the table that Duncan and Rebecca were sitting at. "It's not much of a list, but it's a start. There's five Watchers I'm suspicious of, and two who I know Shapiro will be going after."

"Let's start with the two," Patrick said from his corner. "Who are they?"

"One's Mike, who works here. Shapiro knows that Mike works here, that Mike knows about my 'crime,' and that he did nothing about it. I'm sure that's pissing him off. The other one is..."

"Martin Gibson?" Aria guessed.

"Yup." He addressed the other Immortals. "Gib is Aria's Watcher. He saved her life a couple of times, and I'm sure Shapiro knows about that."

"And the five suspects?" Duncan said.

"Sarah Greenwood, Steven Mallon, Jeffrey Fargo, Irene Wallace, and George Killman. They've all gotten close to their assignments, but I'm not sure how close. Shapiro will have his people on them waiting for them to slip up."

"So what do we do?" Duncan said.

"Watch the Watchers," Joe said.

"I'm not so sure about that," Rebecca said.

"Why not?"

"If Shapiro follows his pattern, we'll be targeted tomorrow."

Duncan looked about the room. The atmosphere was still heavy with things not of Shapiro's making. He sighed. "I've had just about enough of this."

"Of what, Mac?" Joe asked confused.

"This. Them. Those two. Either you two come to an understanding in the next hour or none of this is gonna matter. It'll be impossible to rescue Bernard with this hanging in the air, and it'll be impossible to protect the other Watchers. And if one of you gets captured, it'll be impossible for you to be at a hundred percent when in the back of your mind you'll be hoping they'll turn up dead. I think we all should leave the room and let them sort this out one way or the other. If a friend of mine dies because you two aren't acting your age, then I'll take both your heads." Duncan stormed out of the bar. Several seconds later, a car started up and pulled away.

Joe shrugged. Mac was absolutely right. O'Brien and Aria, hell most Immortals, had both lost enough people due to inaction, that frankly their behavior towards each other surprised him to say the least. Friends' lives were at stake here, and they were content to bicker like children. He turned towards Rebecca. "Why don't we go grab a bite?" He tossed a set of keys to Patrick. "Help yourself to the bar. Mike'll be here in an hour to open for tonight. If you leave before he gets here, lock up for me." He and Rebecca walked out.

Patrick sighed and walked over to the jukebox. "Nothing but blues. No rock."

"What do you expect? This is a blues club after all."

"I know that." He dropped a quarter into the jukebox and selected some BB King.

It was Aria's turn to sigh. "They're right, you know."

"About what?"

"Us."

"Probably."

"Did you tell Rebecca?"

"Not everything. Not about how you turned me."

"So what do we do?"

"I am more than willing to treat you civilly, so long as when this business is done we finish our fight."

"Why?"

Patrick looked insulted. "Why do you think?"

"It's ancient history, O'Brien. We're not the same people we were five hundred years ago. Can you honestly say you're the same man now as you were even fifty years ago?"

Patrick walked behind the bar and took out two glasses, poured two drinks and handed one to Aria.

"You haven't answered my question," Aria said. Are you the same man today as you were in 1947? I doubt it."

"Aside from a name-change, I'd like to think that I have a stronger sense of self than that."

Aria laughed.

Patrick wasn't amused. "You find that funny?"

"Yes, actually. If you had such an unbreakable sense of self, wouldn't you be running around in a kilt and firs with a sword strapped to your side? None of us are that secure in our persona. At least not the honorable ones."

"I suppose you're right." Patrick took a drink and poured himself another. "So what exactly do you want from me? Forgiveness? There's none to give. You made me into something I didn't want to be. I didn't like being blackmailed with the lives of my friends into betraying my teacher, and I didn't like being forced into doing evil."

Aria poured herself another drink. "As far as forcing you to do what you did, yes I blackmailed you, but you could have killed me in my sleep and left any time you wanted. But you didn't, and I've been wondering exactly why that was ever since you walked through that door two days ago."

"I did, I honestly thought of it many times in the early days. But I couldn't kill you in your sleep, that would have made me no better than you were."

"And later?"

"Later?"

"Yes," Aria said. "Later. You said you thought of it in the early days. What about later?"

Patrick was silent.

Aria rubbed her finger against the lip of her glass, making a sustained note. "I'll tell you why, when you turned to my ways you enjoyed it too much."

Patrick nearly choked on his drink. "What?!"

"You heard me. You enjoyed being evil. It wasn't like Duncan's dark Quickening where he was overwhelmed by evil and wasn't in control of himself. Forced to or not, you made a choice to become evil, just as I did. And you found it liberating, being able to ignore your guilty conscious for two decades. You may as well admit that if things hadn't worked out the way they did, we'd still be together and still be evil."

Patrick stared at the bartop. "You're great at making broad-based assumptions, Aria, but you're wrong."

Aria stopped playing with the glass. "Go ahead. Look into my eyes and tell me I'm wrong."

Patrick looked into her eyes and opened his mouth. And found he couldn't tell her.

"Admit it, O'Brien, we had a great time."

Patrick poured himself another drink and gulped it down. Then he poured one more. "Yes. We did. And I've had to live with that every day for five hundred years. I tried to escape it by going to China and Japan and becoming someone else, but it didn't work, not entirely. Finally, I'd gotten to the point where I could actually live with my actions, forget what I'd done. And then when I saw you here, with the kinsman of my best friend, and he didn't have his sword at your neck, it all came back, every last detail, everything you made me do and everything we did together, and everything I did myself afterwards. I'll admit I enjoyed being your 'creation,' but I'll never forgive you."

"Then don't. I'm not sorry for what I did. It's not something that I'm proud of, but I can live without your forgiveness, probably better than I could with it. I did what I did. It happened. But that's all in the past now, and I suggest that's where you leave it as well. And I hate to break it to you, but I never actually made you do anything, so stop blaming me for your own actions. You made your own choices, just like I did, and you have to live with them, just like I do. The only thing I did was force you to put aside so- called 'civilized' behavior. Look at it this way, you're lucky."

"That I find hard to believe. How am I lucky?"

"You've got a reputation for saying you don't want the Prize, but you're in the Game to keep it from an evil Immortal. You do know what the Patrick O'Brien from five hundred years ago would have done with the Prize, don't you?"

"That's one of the reasons I don't want it."

"You and I know more about evil Immortals than a lot of us do, with a very few exceptions, because we were evil. We were the enemy, so we know what the enemy thinks, what they feel, and what motivates them. We know how to defeat them. Look at the time we spent together that way and stop feeling so damn guilty about it."

Patrick nodded. He'd probably never feel comfortable around Aria, but at least he didn't feel like killing her just yet. It was a start, at least.


Scene 1 3

JOE'S RESIDENCE, SEACOUVER - the next day

"Hold your damn horses, I'm coming!" Joe said as he walked towards his front door. "I can't exactly run you know."

The pounding on the door grew more insistent.

"At least you could calm the hell down." Joe wondered who it was at the door. Patrick and Rebecca were going to pick him up and the three were going to drive to Mac's to discuss strategy. However, they weren't due for another two hours, and besides they knew how slow Joe was and would be patient.

Joe reached the door just as it was kicked in.

"What the hell?"

A man stepped inside. He was dressed in black from head to toe. Even his face was covered. He put his hand out and shoved Joe to the floor.

"What are you doing?" The fact was, though, Joe knew all too well what they were doing. Somehow the Hunters were watching them, and knew what was being planned both at the bar and at Mac's. Although it wasn't the first time that he'd been roughed up by renegade and not-so-renegade Watchers, part of his mind was afraid that it would be the last. The first man continued on into the house. Two others entered, grabbed Joe, and dragged him outside. They passed three others. Joe was roughly tossed into a van. The last thing he remembered was feeling a club or the butt of a gun come down on the back of his skull...

"Joe?" Rebecca said.

"I don't like it," Patrick said. "Look." He pointed to the doorjamb.

The door had obviously been kicked in.

"Maybe he's inside."

"I doubt it."

Both Immortals took their swords out and entered the silent house.

"You take this floor, I'll look upstairs," Patrick said.

"OK." Patrick went up the stairs two at a time and entered a bedroom. The mattress had been sliced, the closet had been emptied, and all the contents were on the floor. The same was true for the bureau. He walked into the study to find much of the same. The computer was on, and was at a C prompt. The previous commands were still on the screen:

A:\>FORMAT C:

WARNING!!! All data on fixed drive C

WILL BE ERASED. Do you wish to continue

with format? (Y/N) Y

Format complete

A:\>WIPE C:

Wipe complete.

Patrick looked in the floppy disk drive. Nothing. The Hunters had cleaned out everything Joe had, and without knowing what wipe program they had used, it would be nearly impossible to recover any of Joe's data. Still, it would be worse to leave the computer here and never know than to try and fail. He unplugged the monitor, keyboard, mouse, and power from the CPU, placed the CPU under his arm, and went downstairs. He found Rebecca in the kitchen in the midst of a mess. The Hunters had emptied the refrigerator and left all the food and drinks to fester on the floor.

"Nice," he said.

"Yeah. They did a real thorough job. What's that?"

"Joe's computer. They deleted all his data."

"So what do you think we'll accomplish by taking it with us?"

"Maybe nothing. But it can't hurt. Let's go to MacLeod's and see what we can come up with."


Scene 1 4

DUNCAN'S LOFT, SEACOUVER - that moment

Aria sat in the leather sofa, her legs were drawn to her chest, her face rested on her knees, her hands wrapped around her legs. She gazed at nothing in particular as she contemplated the events of the past few days. Galan was dead. And O'Brien wanted her head. Two Immortals at two very different times of her life. Galan had been there when she sought peace for her tormented soul. And O'Brien had been part of her less than stellar past--a past filled with death and betrayal. A past she no longer liked to be reminded of, and his presence brought it all back.

Should she ask his forgiveness? Why? She hadn't made him do anything he didn't want to. In the beginning, yes, but later... he'd done it all out of his own free will. She sensed Duncan behind her, but she didn't move. His strong arms engulfed her and his face caressed hers. Aria smiled. Duncan MacLeod. Even after she'd told him about part of her past with Patrick, he still loved her. But would he after he knew the rest? Could she handle his scorn? He was the consummate boy scout, and damn proud of it.

"Where are you, Aria?" he murmured in her damp hair, his lips grazing her ear.

"Just thinking of my life," she sighed whimsically. "My past life."

"Don't beat yourself up about O'Brien. If he's as smart as his reputation, he'll see you've changed and then he'll move on."

"Maybe."

Duncan squeezed her and she patted his arms.

"And then there's Galan. He didn't deserve to die like that, Duncan. A man who's lived for over thirteen hundred years doesn't die at the hands of scavengers!"

Duncan drew a deep breath. In the melee of Aria and Patrick's animosity, Aria hadn't talked much about the ancient Immortal. He himself was angry and wanted, no, needed to have some retribution. Duncan would be lying to himself if he said that he hadn't enjoyed killing the man who terminated Darius' life. What gave those Hunters the right to decide what Immortal lived and what Immortal died? They weren't a part of their world, a violent one, and they weren't and shouldn't be involved. But how to stop them short of killing them all?

Aria's sobbing reached his conscious and Duncan climbed into the sofa behind her. He hugged her close, and kissed the top of her head. He let her cry for her slain friend. Galan had travelled to Holy Ground, seeking refuge, as Aria had. They'd helped each other heal wounds too deep for the mortal world to understand. Though she still hadn't told him what had caused her to flee to Holy Ground, she had told him that had ended her evil days. After restoring her soul over a century, she had ceased to be La Mora, and hadn't regretted it. And especially after hearing her history with Patrick, and the things she did to him, Duncan was more than curious to know what had changed Aria. Listening to her cry for her fallen friend, Duncan couldn't imagine her as what she used to be. And he was glad for that. Duncan closed his eyes when he felt her hands travel up and down his legs. She pressed further into him and he heard her breath quicken. She turned around to face him and her dark eyes were smouldering, the look that always promised hours filled with intense passion. Wasting no time, both kissed feverishly, each trying to creep into each other's skin. Aria was still crying and Duncan held her face in his hands.

"It's okay, Love," he whispered, "we don't have to."

"I know," she responded, but she kissed him again.

Duncan and Aria were lost in each other's bodies, then Duncan stood suddenly and swooped her up in his arms and headed for his bed. He placed her gently on it, and slowly removed her thin silk robe. Aria gazed up at him, her mouth slightly parted, her eyes locked with his. Her hands snaked up his powerful legs. Duncan drew in a sharp breath and closed his eyes. Her hands continued their course undeterred toward his buttocks, his muscled back, his strong neck. Duncan knelt and was about to kiss her when he cursed. Aria did too.

Both had sensed the presence of one of their own. A strong presence. Duncan retrieved his katana, stepped back into a pair of sweats, and headed for the side door. Aria stood, fastened her robe, and sought her own sword. A loud knocking echoed through the quiet loft, and before Duncan could ask anything, he recognized O'Brien's voice. This had better be good, thought Duncan, the O'Briens and Joe weren't supposed to be here for another hour.

An angry Irishman stormed past Duncan, followed by a sullen faced Rebecca. What now? Duncan asked himself. Patrick wasted no time. "They've got Dawson!"

"What?!" Duncan and Aria said in unison.

"You heard me! They have Joe!" Patrick paced the length of the living area. "We were to meet at his place and we were going to grab something to eat before heading over here When we got there, the door was wide open and the place was mess. Signs of struggles were everywhere."

"Great! Just what we needed," Duncan groused.

"The gloves are off now," Aria said. Three pairs of eyes turned in her direction, but she walked toward the wall phone and placed a call.

"Who in the world is she calling?" Patrick asked exasperated. They were no closer to rescuing Bernard and now Dawson, the brains of the operation, was gone!

"Look, Patrick," Rebecca began, "ranting and raving is not going to get us anywhere."

Patrick ignored her and continued to pace the loft like a caged circus tiger.

Aria finished her call and returned to the heart of the loft. "I just talked to Gibson and told him to watch himself. We can't afford having him nabbed too."

"Quick thinking, Aria." Duncan patted her shoulder when she came to stand next to him.

"What now?" Rebecca asked. She honestly didn't know where to start.

"If these idiots stick to their pattern, then you two will get a visit from them tomorrow," Aria said. "Only we'll be prepared for them and we'll get all the answers to our questions."

"That's for damn sure," Patrick added.

Duncan and Rebecca didn't like the way Patrick said that. He made it sound like he planned on giving them no choice.

"If these people are as fanatic as they seemed to be, Patrick," Rebecca interjected, "then no matter what we ask them, they won't give up their comrades."

Patrick gave a predatory smile. "Oh, there are ways to make people talk."

"Yes, there are." Aria concurred with him. Both locked eyes and quickly looked away.

"Short of killing them!" Duncan protested. Though he wanted the vermin exterminated from his life, he wasn't sure he wanted their blood on his hands.

"What else do you think we'll have to do, Duncan?" Aria insisted. "These damned Hunters expect us to act honorably and not hunt them down and kill them, yet they hunt and kills us!"

"Aria, there are other ways to deal with this!" Duncan walked up to her and gazed into her eyes, searching. "What? Are you planning on killing all of them?"

"If we have to."

Duncan's eyes grew wide.

"I will not participate in the mass murdering of mortals!" Rebecca walked toward one of the windows and looked out into the night. Patrick exhaled a sharp breath. He went to Rebecca and tried to wrap his arms around her but she shrugged him off. He sighed and folded his arms. "Rebecca, you've gotta understand! If they had us, they wouldn't hesitate to kill us! They don't care! And now they are killing their own too! Can't you see the only way to send a strong message to these Hunters is if blood is spilt? Theirs? And a lot of it? The only way to be really sure that they're out of our lives completely is to hunt the Hunters. You of all people should feel that way after all that Daruis was to you."

Rebecca said nothing, furious at such a low blow, and even angrier that he was partly right. Patrick tried to touch her again, but again she shrugged him off. He sighed and walked back toward Duncan and Aria.

"Patrick is right," Aria said. Rebecca turned around startled. She couldn't believe her ears. "The Hunters need to be taught a lesson. One that will make them think twice before hunting another Immortal again."

"I'm listening," Patrick said, taking a seat on the leather couch. Aria sat next to him. Duncan leaned against the kitchen island and Rebecca remained at the window.

"Good. When they come for you two tomorrow, Duncan and I will be there also. Of course they won't know we are there. And since we don't know how many of them there will be, we have to be cautious."

"Nice idea, Aria," Patrick sneered, "but we are staying at a high- profile hotel."

Aria glared at him. "And what makes you think that they won't attack you there? It's a damn unlikely spot and they'd expect you to think that way. Dammit, Patrick, you know better than that! The best way of attacking someone is in the place they feel the safest," Aria said angrily.

Patrick gave her a cross look and she rolled her eyes. "Give me a layout of the hotel." She stopped and cocked her head to one side. "I expect you have checked the place out for fast escape routes?"

"Of course!" he said indignantly. "You know me better than that."

As Aria and Patrick planned their best route of attack on the Hunters, Duncan and Rebecca watched them amazed. Something didn't add up. They were supposed to be mortal enemies. Patrick tried to kill her on sight just a few days ago and now they were sitting next to each other like old chums. Something didn't add up!

Both bickered back and forth like old friends who couldn't agree on what movie to go see. Then they'd find one they both could agree on and then, just as quickly, argue about that choice again. Duncan scratched his head as he thought about everything Aria had mentioned about her past with O'Brien, and none of it suggested they had worked together, but what he witnessed seemed like they'd fallen into an old routine. Something both were accustomed to. Oh, yeah, Duncan thought to himself. Something didn't add up. And the prospects didn't sit well with him, especially with what happened next.

"That sounds like a plan, Patrick," Aria said excited. "Just like old times, huh?"

Patrick's head snapped up and he gazed at Aria. His mouth opened, then closed. He glanced, first at Rebecca, then at Duncan--both had curious looks on their faces. He then looked away, crossed his leg, and drummed his fingers on his sneaker. He hated to admit this, and he knew more questions would come from their audience, but he had to tell the truth. "Yes," he finally said, "it does."

"What the hell are you talking about, Patrick?" Rebecca said, walking over to him. Her lips were curled in anger.

"That's what I'd like to know, Aria," Duncan agreed too, stepping closer to the pair on the sofa. Aria and Patrick gazed at each other, both sighing heavily at the grave slip they made. They thought they could avoid this, but now the two glowering Immortals would not let this rest.

Rebecca spoke first. "You told me she tortured you! How can planning this be like 'old times!'"

Silence.

"Dammit, Patrick! I know I wasn't planning on pressuring to tell me the 'other half' but you damn well better explain yourself! NOW!"

Duncan joined the interrogation. "Just yesterday you wanted to kill her on sight, O'Brien, and now you two sit down here talking like old scheming buddies. Something doesn't add up, and I think we both deserve an answer."

Aria stood and walked toward the window and looked out into the darkness. Patrick on the other hand, sank into the chair and ran his fingers through his hair. Where to start? he asked himself.


Scene 1 5

1498, SMALL VILLAGE, NORTHERN SPAIN

The man's body shook violently as he stared into the darkest pair of eyes he'd ever seen. "Please! I have no more to give. We have nothing!" "Nothing? Nothing!" Aria pulled him closer, she could smell the fear on him and smiled. "You have your home. You have your business. You have two beautiful daughters, and wife too!" Aria's smile turned into a bestial grin. "How can you tell me you have nothing, Marcello?"

"You have taken all my gold and silver. We barely have food enough to eat, and my business was burned down. I have nothing!"

Aria drew a deep breath. "How much do you want to bet that you can come up with more gold in the next two seconds, Marcello?"

The old man looked at her incredulously.

"There are many motherless children in this town, Marcello. I'm surprised you'd want to add yours to the list."

Marcello's eyes grew wide. He glanced at his wife, who had shrank into a corner, huddled with his two children. He turned his head back toward Aria. Her teeth were bare, grinning insanely at him.

"Please," he begged one more time.

Aria lost her patience and dropped the man. He scrambled away from her. Aria didn't go to him, but she went to the three women. Marcello grabbed Aria's legs and caused her to fall, screaming to his wife and daughters to get out of here. They stood and ran for the door, but they ran smack dab into a large man. His eyes were cold. Green eyes. Strange eyes. Deadly eyes.

The women backed into the room, their arms interlaced around each other.

"Which one?" questioned the man with the green eyes.

Aria laughed. She untangled herself from Marcello and said, "The mother, Patrick."

Patrick O'Brien walked toward the woman and snatched her from her daughters arms. Aria held Marcello in place.

"You are right. You are right! I do have some gold. I will give you all. All of it!" he shrieked.

Aria gazed at him lazily. "See? I told you you would have it."

She turned back to Patrick and nodded her head. Patrick in turn broke the woman's neck. It was quick and effortless. She crumpled lifeless to the ground. Her daughter's flocked to her, and grabbed her dead body. They rocked her in their arms, screaming for their mother, and praying to their Gods, to take care of them.

Aria and Patrick walked out of the house. There was a crowd of people just outside the door, the loud murmuring ceased when they stepped closer.

"Okay," Aria began, Patrick standing to her side. "Who wants to join the list?" She looked at the crowd levelly. "Believe me, people! I am in control! Don't think for one second that you can hold out on me and I won't know."

Without hesitation, one by one, they came and deposited whatever they had into the sack that Patrick held.

"You were right, Patrick," Aria said, as they moved through the swarm of villagers. "Attack them when they feel the safest, and you get the best results. I think I'm going to keep you around for a while. I love your ideas and plans."

Patrick smiled. He knew it would work and he liked the feeling of power it gave him. It made him feel ten feet tall and invincible. Like he could do anything, and have anything. Why it had taken him so long to see things Aria's way, he wasn't sure, but he wasn't about to turn his back on it any time soon.

Several years had gone by since they first started searching for him. Ramirez was an Immortal who made himself hard to find. At first, Patrick had been elated that they kept missing him. Every town they'd travelled to--that Ramirez had connections with--insisted that they hadn't seen the exotic Spaniard, not that he'd be hard to miss. Aria was enraged. Her obsession of revenge toward Ramirez caused her to think of nothing else and she searched--dragging Patrick around-- unceasingly for over a two year period. Patrick had grown tired of her, and escaped one night. He'd regretted that tremendously, as Aria proceeded to ravage town after town, until he came back to her side. She promised him that she'd level every village to ashes if he ever ran away from her again. He was hers until she claimed her prize: Ramirez's head!

O'Brien never again thought of leaving. What would be the point? He had told himself that he would never be able to take the weight of the dead on his Immortal conscience. Then he thought that killing her would be the best course of action. Take her head one night as she slept. He could do it. She deserved no better death--she had no honor to speak off. Then one night, he had the chance. A clear shot at her head. But as he stood behind her, his sword raised only a few inches away from forever death, Patrick couldn't. Not that it went against his honor. No, he couldn't because he didn't want to. He slipped back to his sleeping cot, and went to a fitful sleep, wondering when he'd taken the wrong turn in his life.

Unbeknownst to Patrick, Aria had been fully awake that night. She didn't want to die, and if he did go for her head, she had plenty of room to roll away from him, but she forced herself to lay still. She didn't even bother to turn around when he left, she simply smiled and went to a restful slumber. She'd one a major victory and she would not let it slip through her fingers.

Aria had a habit of talking about whatever was on her mind. She didn't care if he listened or not. But she used him, because he was like her.

"We are Immortals, O'Brien!" She liked to say. "Rulers of this world and the worlds yet to come. We can do anything we want! Take anything we want. The world is our footstool."

She talked about the insanity of the mortal world. How they needed chaos and discipline in order to have meaning to their lives. And she planned on given them both.

She talked about her life. Her mortal life. How she detested the Spanish, and what they'd done to her. And no amount of lives would repair the damage they'd done to her heart. She would keep cutting out their hearts, as they'd done to her, so many centuries ago. Little by little, Aria kept worming her thoughts into his. He fought it at first, arguing with her that she was just bitter! That her reasons for revenge didn't hold anymore. It had been centuries ago, and the people of this current world shouldn't be blamed for the sins of their ancestors. Aria would simply laugh at him, then one day she'd turned the tables on him. She questioned him about his own life. About his beliefs. About his precious honor. What had all that gotten him? Nothing! If he left her today, did he have anyone waiting for him? Of course not! He had nobody, and she had nobody, so they made the perfect match. He had hated her for that, but what he hated the most was, she was right.

He was alone. Except for her. Aria. La Mora. The only constant in Patrick O'Brien's life. He didn't want to admit it to himself, but he'd rather be with her than go back to a life of loneliness. A life of aloneness. He couldn't face that again.

Gradually, over the years, he didn't protest anymore when she hurt someone, he didn't challenged her to a fight--which she always refused--when she killed someone. Patrick remembered vividly, the night he knew he'd turned to her camp, to her ways.

An old man was sneaking up behind Aria, a sharp metal shard in his grubby hands, heading for her head. The old man only managed to graze her arm, after Patrick had stabbed him in the back. Aria had smiled at him, and it made him feel accepted. Like he belonged. And he felt no guilt. After that night, he didn't look back.


Scene 1 6

DUNCAN'S LOFT - SEACOUVER, OCTOBER 1997

"And how long did you two stay together, doing..." Rebecca trailed off, not sure she wanted to know anymore. She always knew there was a dark side to Patrick, the simple fact that just this past spring he had beaten a snivelling, bratty Immortal named Steven Kowalski and let him live for no other reason than it was fun would convince anyone. More than that, she'd known since he came back from Japan and perhaps before, but never in her long life would she have imagined he'd kill innocent women, or level villages.

"...doing evil?" Patrick finished for her when she didn't continue.

"The last time I saw Aria was in 1510 when I left her."

"Twenty-three years, Patrick!" Rebecca gasped.

Patrick didn't dare meet her eyes. He felt ashamed and soiled. He always asked himself about that. Why had he stayed with her? And for so long? He knew what he was doing was wrong, but he just didn't care. Duncan was shocked to learn that the squeaky clean O'Brien, wasn't so clean after all. He guessed many Immortals had things they didn't want brought to light--himself included. But that's not what had caught Duncan's attention. It was the year that Patrick had last seen Aria. "Now let me see if I get this? The last time you saw Aria she was still evil?" Patrick narrowed his eyes, wondering what Duncan meant by that. Duncan continued, "No wonder you attacked her on sight at Joe's." Duncan paused, pensive a moment. "Aria?" he called to her, "isn't that the year you fled to Holy Ground?"

Aria didn't answer. She remained at the window, her back to the other Immortals, her fists clenched.

"Fled to Holy Ground?" Patrick asked, interest peaking his curiosity.

"What are you talking about, MacLeod?"

"Close to a hundred years," Duncan responded.

Patrick's eyebrows shot up, surprised. He hadn't known that. Rebecca wasn't surprised by Duncan's last statement. Darius had told her one night that simply because they were Immortal didn't mean that traumatic experiences didn't affect them as it did mortals. Rebecca hadn't argued with Darius, because her own traumatic experience-- thanks to VanHoffer--had landed her at Darius church, where she lost herself as a nun for a century. According to Duncan and Dawson, Aria wasn't even a shadow of her former self, and Rebecca was more than curious to find out what caused the change. Could Patrick's absence have done it?

"Why did you leave her, Patrick?" Rebecca asked.

Patrick turned to look at his wife. "For years, I thought her obsession with Ramirez was over, then we heard about Methos."

"Methos?" Duncan asked, his brown eyes darkening. "And?"

Patrick sighed and turned to look at Aria's back again. "She told me that if she had the quickening of the oldest living Immortal, taking Ramirez's head would be a piece of cake. We argued about it and then I left."

"You left her? Just like that?" Rebecca questioned, her brow knitted, her mouth set in a scowl.

"Yes, Rebecca. I left," he snapped. "Just like that!"


Scene 1 7

ACROSS FROM DUNCAN'S DOJO - that moment

He watched the window. He had grown to know the silhouettes intimately over the course of the last couple of days. MacLeod's imposing figure, O'Brien's wiry build, Aria's powerful presence, and Rebecca's slightness. Aria was simply looking out the window at nothing in particular. She hadn't seen him. O'Brien and Rebecca were arguing, fairly viciously, with MacLeod in the middle. He picked up his cell-phone, dialled a number, and reported in.

"Keep watching," said his superior. "If either O'Brien or Rebecca leave, get them."

"And MacLeod and al Haban?"

"Leave them for now."

"Roger."


Scene 1 8

DUNCAN'S LOFT - that moment

"And when you left her? What then? Did you go back to being nice- guy Patrick O'Brien again!"

O'Brien spun around and glared at his wife. "What? Do you want to know every deep dark secret I have, Rebecca? I suppose you tell everyone you meet that you stole through half of Europe with Amanda!"

"That's a low blow, Patrick," she snapped back, hurt in her eyes.

Patrick had instantly regretted the words as soon as they'd left his mouth.

"I'm not the one with the dark secrets!" There had to be something more, she thought, wondering what he was keeping from her. "So what else?"

"What else, what?" Patrick asked irritated.

"You went from being her prisoner, to her partner in crime! What else were you to her?!"

"Enough!" Duncan said. "I've had about enough of this." He walked over to Aria, who still kept her back to them.

Rebecca and Patrick, avoiding eye contact with each other, watched them from their current positions.

"Aria? I know you don't like talking about this, but maybe you should," he said in a low voice. "It won't make the pain go away, but there'll be a cleaner wound. And who knows, maybe one day it will go away."

Aria shook her head. Even after all this time, Aria still couldn't think about what drove her to Holy Ground without breaking out into a fevered sweat. Galan Janek had been there for her during that anguished period of her life.

Methos.

The name alone made her shiver.

Oh, she'd found him all right, but what he'd done to her would be with her until the day she died, and if he was still alive, she prayed she never again crossed paths with the ancient Immortal.

"Aria?"

"Duncan, please... I can't," she said in a low voice only he could hear. Duncan embraced her and felt the tension in her body. He pulled her close and decided not to push. She would tell him when she was good and ready. Right now, they had other matters to discuss. Namely, Dawson's kidnapping and what to do about the Hunters.

An awkward silence ensued until Rebecca broke it.

"Coffee sounds good about now," she suggested, standing and walking to the kitchenette. Patrick was off somewhere in his own thoughts and she chose to leave him there.

Aria disentangled herself from Duncan's arms and went back to the window. She leaned against the wall and gazed out at the sky. Duncan stared at her for a moment wishing there was a way he could help her, but he knew she'd have to work it out on her own. Duncan gently squeezed Aria's shoulder, then went to assist Rebecca in the kitchen. Patrick sat in silence on the couch trying to figure Aria out. He had no idea if she'd found Methos, but what if she had, then challenged him? He didn't know that either, and Patrick would have to ask Aria since both she and Methos were still alive. But he had to admit to himself that the Aria of today and the Aria he left five hundred years ago were two very different individuals.

Duncan busied himself with setting up mugs for coffee on the kitchen island. Rebecca had found some fruits and decided to slice them up for snacking. The distracted Immortals didn't realize each where in each other's path until they collided together, sending fruit scattering from Rebecca's arms.

"Oh, oh," she said, chuckling. "Is this what it means to get forgetful in your old age?"

Duncan laughed. "Something like that I suppose."

As they picked up the fallen fruits, Rebecca noticed his lack of dress for the first time. He wore only a pair of sweat pants. Amanda was right. Not a bad sight, if she said so herself.

"Did we interrupt something?" she said with a grin. When Duncan looked up confused at her, she gestured with her head towards his shirtless torso.

He looked down, digested what she'd said, then stood up. His face turned a soft shade of red. "Well... um..." He walked quickly toward the island and deposited the fruits there, then he excused himself and disappeared inside the bathroom.

Rebecca laughed. She'd heard many stories about Duncan and his female conquests from Amanda. Mortal and Immortal. It didn't matter to the chivalrous Immortal from the Highlands. Rebecca smiled as she remembered her own share of conquests, and she had no doubt that Patrick had his too. Rebecca lazily glanced toward him. He was looking intently at Aria's back and a thought struck her again. They'd made a pact never to talk about such things, knowing how insanely jealous each could get, but if one placed the question, they always answered in truth.

Rebecca grabbed two mugs of coffee and went to where Patrick sat. When he didn't respond to her second call, she was tempted to dump the hot contents on him to gain his attention. "Patrick Colm O'Brien!"

Patrick snapped out of his fog and took the coffee from her. His attention went back to the CPU setting on the coffee table. They had to be a way to access the information that used to be on there, he thought.

"Aria would you like some coffee?" Rebecca asked.

Aria turned around and nodded. Rebecca went to get it as Aria walked back toward the living area of the loft and sat opposite Patrick in the leather couch. "Colm?"

"Well since all my other secrets are out..."

Her eyes fell on the CPU on the table. "Where'd that come from?"

"Dawson's," he answered without looking up. He took a sip of the coffee then rested the cup on the table. "It was wiped clean but I'm hoping there's a way we can retrieve some of its information somehow."

"There probably is," she answered. Rebecca handed Aria the mug of coffee and set a bowl of fruit on the table.

Duncan walked back into the loft, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, and sat next to Aria. Rebecca smiled at him. He returned it and got to the business at hand. "What is that?" he asked pointing at the CPU.

"Dawson's computer," Aria answered him. "O'Brien thought we'd be able to get whatever information was on it."

"How is that going to help us find them?"

"I don't know, MacLeod," Patrick said, "but we have to do something. Joe was supposed to come up with possible leads as to where the Hunters could be operating from. We are running out of time and for all we know, Bernard could be dead!"

"Patrick," Rebecca began, resting a hand on his shoulder. He was tense. "We'll find him."

"How can you be sure of that, Rebecca? You saw what they did to Dawson's place!"

"What?" Duncan asked. It hadn't occurred to him how they'd taken Joe.

"The place was a mess, MacLeod. Trashed, is the better word to use."

"The door was forcibly opened," Rebecca added. "I imagine that Joe gave them a tough fight, but he was..." she trailed off, not sure what she wanted to say.

"The computer being wiped clean means that they are on to us," Duncan said, relieved that they were in at least a semblance of civilized behavior. All agreed with him. "Where was Gibson when you called him?"

"In his apartment."

Duncan pursed his lips. "If it's four days in between kidnapping the watcher and the Immortal, then you two will definitely be hit tomorrow."

Patrick nodded.

"I think we should go ahead with the plan you two came up with and also have Gibson watch our backs," Duncan stated. There was consent among the other Immortals. "Rebecca, see if you can get another room close to yours at the hotel. Aria, I think you better get Lucia and Emily to a safe house. One that the Watchers wouldn't know about."

"Who are they?" Patrick asked, looking at Aria as she stood.

"Lucia takes care of my daughter Emily," Aria said without much thought.

"You have a daughter!"

Aria studied Patrick for a few seconds. Did she hear scorn in his voice. "Yes. What about it?" she asked in defiance.

"Nothing... I'm just... surprised," he said, offering a smile. "Then again I shouldn't be. You always wanted children."

Aria gasped at the response. "You remember that?!"

"I remember a lot of things, Aria," Patrick said gently.

"Oh." Aria felt her cheeks flush by how intimately he'd said that, remembering her strange relationship with him: from prisoner, to partner, to lover.

Patrick gazed at her. Sometimes he wanted to rip her head off, but other times, like now, he just wanted to hold her and shelter her from the world. He'd learned through their strange relationship that Aria's bitterness and disappointment with the world caused her to lash out at it violently. But he remembered the nights when she would let her mask down and he would see the raw grief in her eyes. She craved love, but would never admit it or ask for it. Aria only needed someone to see beyond that and love her, and although that hadn't changed her much, he'd loved her once. Rebecca cleared her throat. "Something else you forgot to tell me!"

"Rebecca," Patrick said, running his hands through his hair.

"You're a lying son of a bitch, Patrick O'Brien!"

Patrick was stunned by those choice of words coming from his wife.

"We come into town, and the first thing you do when you see her is go for her head." Rebecca walked up to him. "What? Were you ashamed of her or yourself. What is it you didn't want us to find out, Patrick? You tell me that she forced you into something you were not, and that she made you do things you didn't want to do, but I don't think that's why, Patrick. I don't think that's why you wanted her head. No. I think you saw a part of your past that you were ashamed of and she was just a reminder of it. Kill her and no one would know that the honorable, man of his word, clean cut, Patrick O'Brien, was a cold blooded killer, who thought selfishly and hurt innocent people." Rebecca poked him hard in the chest. "That is why you wanted her head!" She poked him again harder, causing him to back up. "That is why you needed time to work it out in your head. You want to condemn her for what she used to be, you better put yourself on that list too, O'Brien!" Rebecca pushed by him, grabbed her coat and stormed out the loft.


Scene 1 9

ACROSS FROM DUNCAN'S DOJO - that moment

He picked up his two-way radio, who's mate was in the car out front, and pressed the "talk" button. "Rebecca is leaving, alone. We move now."


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