My Immortal Valentine
by Lisa Hughes

 

continued from part one...


PART TWO

Scene Five

They were dancing again. Their bodies moved in harmony, Kaia's fitted to Duncan's. Every now and then one would whisper in the other's ear, or seek the other's lips for a soft kiss. As time went on, they whispered less and kissed more.

Duncan moved Kaia's hair back, and bent his head to place a kiss at the juncture of her neck and shoulder. Kaia murmured contentedly, a sound almost like a purr, and ran her hands up Duncan's back.

They kissed, each seeking to explore the other's mouth more thoroughly now. Duncan began dancing them toward the bed. Kaia reached between them to unbutton his jacket, and then pushed it off his shoulders. She took the opportunity to run her hands over his arms, appreciating anew the strength of him.

They neared the bed, and Duncan's hands began to explore, trying to discover the secret of unfastening her gown. Kaia stepped away from him, silencing his protest with a brief touch of a fingertip to his lips, then reached a hand toward the dress's shoulder knot.

Duncan's face broke into a delighted smile when, with a deft flick of her fingers, the dress shimmered to the floor.


Scene Six

Joe leaned back and breathed a heavy sigh. It'd taken hours, but he'd finally managed to correlate the last bits of information. He had gone through and tucked the relevant pages into Duncan's chronicles at the corresponding rendezvous entry. The evidence was disturbing, damning even, especially the bit about Connor, but Joe doubted MacLeod would believe him. This was a woman he had a long-standing relationship with, or at least that's how Mac would see things.

He picked up the entry about the meeting with Methos and began to read without much hope. Most Methos "sightings" turned out to be as reliable as reports of UFOs. This one was different, however. The physical description was eerily accurate, and even his actions had a familiar feel.

But it was Kaia's actions that propelled him out of his chair. He put the relevant chronicles into a small box, put the Methos entry in with them, tucked the box under his arm and grabbed his cane.


Scene Seven

Methos went from deeply asleep to fully awake in the space between two heartbeats. It was a skill he'd perfected over the long years. He did not sense another Immortal so he remained tucked under his blankets a moment longer while his mind identified the noise: banging. Someone was banging on his door. With a stick, by the sound of it.

Wearily he sat up and swung his legs around to subject his feet to the cold floor. He glanced at the clock and saw, with a surge of irritation, that it was just after 4 am. He'd been asleep for some time, his date had been, well, just a date, not a hot date.

"Meth- Adam! Adam it's Joe!" More banging. "Adam!!"

Methos' eyes strayed to his sword leaning against the wall. Too bad it couldn't double as a baseball bat. He abruptly launched himself from the bed, not bothering with a robe to cover his boxer-clad frame.

"If there isn't a fire," he muttered as he started across the room. "No, if this building is not on fire," he said, louder this time, as he passed the chair. "No, if you are not on fire," he snarled as he jerked open the door.

Joe brushed past him the moment the door was open, talking all the way. "Methos, we have a big problem. I need to know..." He glanced back and saw Methos still standing by the open door looking out. "Methos! Come on, we don't have time to mess around." Joe set the box down on the bar.

"Won't you come in?" Methos asked the empty air in front of his door, and then slammed it shut. "Make yourself at home," he said softly, no humor at all in his eyes.

"We've got a problem. If what I think is true, we don't have much time," Joe said, his words crowding each other to get out of his mouth.

Methos sighed heavily and made an effort to leash his temper. "Joe, I haven't killed anyone for waking me in the middle of the night in more than a thousand years, but if you do not make your point quickly..."

Joe's face registered only irritation. He retrieved the pages about Kaia and Methos from the box, and brandished them at Methos as if making an accusation. "Did you know her?"

Methos' hand flashed out and snatched the sheets from Joe. He strode briskly to the high-backed chair, settled himself into it, and began to read.


FLASHBACK: 485 AD, NORTHWESTERN GAUL

Methos made his way up the hill, deep in thought. He was living in a small village on the other side of the hill. He'd been moving steadily west and north ever since the Emperor Constantine moved the imperial seat east to Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople. Always one to sense change in the winds, this seemed an omen to Methos, and the subsequent chaos caused by the "barbarian" invasions proved his suspicions correct. Now, with rumors of new trouble brewing near the Rhine and moving west, he was seriously considering moving on to Britain. Soon, he thought, perhaps after his current student's training was finished. He didn't mind taking on the occasional student, but he preferred to travel alone. Neil should be ready to be on his own in two years, three at the outside. He could afford to wait that long.

The familiar sensation heralding the approach of another Immortal swept through his head, and he heard hoofbeats behind him a moment later. Methos turned and drew his sword in one motion, facing the approaching rider warily.

A woman, Methos noted with some surprise, as the rider dismounted. He hadn't met many female Immortals over the years, they didn't seem to last long. Memories of Cassandra niggled at the edges of his thoughts for a moment and he swept them away, needing to concentrate on this female. She approached warily, her sword in her hand, but held in an unthreatening manner. She was quite lovely, his mind noted, and he ruthlessly banished that thought as well.

"Kaia Doran."

"Methos."

Her eyes widened almost imperceptibly. "I am traveling, sir, and have no wish for battle," she said breathlessly, a hesitant smile on her lips.

"Where are you going?" Methos asked, not really interested, merely trying to prolong the conversation, needing time to assess her as a threat.

"I go to Rome, sir," she answered with wide-eyed enthusiasm. "I've always wanted to see the Basilica of St. Peter."

Young, his mind reported, picking up the nuance, and foolish, given the uncertainty there. Still, she was no threat to him, and he did not kill unnecessarily any longer. Again, disturbing thoughts threatened to surface, and his eyes narrowed.

"Will you permit me to pass, sir?" she asked, concern clouding her features.

Methos smiled a little to reassure the girl and shook off the past. "I will not hinder you. It would be best for you to avoid the village yonder," he said, gesturing toward the hill. "There is another Immortal there, my student. And under my protection," he added seriously.

Kaia nodded her head. "I will do as you say, sir, and thank you. Go with God, Methos."

Methos smiled again at that. "And you." This Christian god was pervasive. He watched as she mounted and rode off, taking a path which would avoid the village.

The next morning Methos rose reluctantly from his bed. Neil would already be at their practice field beyond the hill, he knew. Methos grimaced. Neil was so... eager. Getting intolerant in your old age, he chided himself, and then laughed at his own absurdity. He strode out of his hut considerably lighter of heart.

He heard/felt it then, and broke into a run, knowing it was already too late. A quickening. He reached the top of the hill and stopped, staring in disbelief at the scene below. Neil lay dead, beheaded, and his killer hurriedly mounted her horse. Kaia. She looked up at him for one brief moment, triumph and scorn written clearly on her face, and then galloped away.

Methos hunted her for months after that. Not trying to avenge his student, he wouldn't waste his time on that kind of foolishness. But she'd fooled him right proper, and that he couldn't let pass. The long, cold nights on the road, and the difficult search were his way of punishing himself, driving home the lesson.

Finally her trail went cold, and he gave it up. He set off for Britain and a new life.


THE PRESENT

Methos' eyes moved from the sheets of faxed material to Joe where he sat on the couch. "You got me up in the middle of the night to confirm a 'Methos sighting'?" His voice was incredulous.

"Of course not. Just answer the question, is the report accurate? Did you meet Kaia?"

"All right, yes, I've met her. What of it?"

"She's in town."

"What? How do you know?"

"Because I saw her at MacLeod's barge last night."

"What the hell is she doing with MacLeod?"

"He has a standing date with her." Joe explained on about their meetings every fifty years.

"He trusts her?!" Methos nearly shouted, launching himself from the chair.

Joe struggled off of the couch. "Hold on a minute, Methos, there's more."

Methos stopped abruptly and turned. "What do you mean, 'more'?"

A half hour later found Methos at his desk poring over the chronicles, with Joe seated nearby. Methos had thrown on a robe to ward off the chill.

"Do you see? Here. MacLeod meets Benat Mateo, who is a new Immortal, in Toulouse. October, 1697. Then, the Valentine's Day meeting with Kaia in Paris, 1698. Kaia then goes directly to Toulouse, finds Mateo, and kills him."

Methos was skeptical. "Coincidence."

"Once, maybe. But go to the next place I marked. 1747. MacLeod meets Tibalt Hirsch in Zurich, trains him for a while. Again, he's very young. MacLeod leaves abruptly, goes to Augsburg, leaving Hirsch behind for some reason. His Watcher wasn't sure why. Then the 1748 rendezvous. Kaia then travels to Zurich, and kills Hirsch."

"This happens every time?"

"Every time."

"Show me. And start from the beginning."

Methos was dressing rapidly. They'd gone through the entries in MacLeod's chronicles one by one, and the corresponding entries from Kaia's. The evidence was overwhelming. Kaia hunted down and killed a new Immortal that MacLeod had met recently after each Valentine's Day rendezvous. Presumably acting on information MacLeod had unwittingly given her. Another disturbing fact was that she had been following Connor MacLeod for months when he met up with Duncan the day before his and Kaia's first meeting. That coupled with her penchant for hunting only young Immortals suggested rather strongly that she had been after him that day.

"Well, at least there's no student for her to go after this time..." Joe stopped, his face clouding as something tugged at his thoughts.

"I don't care," Methos said, hurriedly tying his shoes. "I want to get there before she leaves, and it's almost dawn now." He looked up at Joe, who was now wearing a stricken expression. "What is it?"

"Richie."

"What about him? He's no student."

"He said something about MacLeod teaching him when he introduced himself. And Kaia said, 'Always glad to meet a student of Duncan's.'"

Methos picked up his sword and walked to where his overcoat was hanging by the door without saying a word. He put it on and secreted his sword within it. He looked back at Joe expectantly.

"Coming?"


Scene Eight

A faint, cold light was just visible on the eastern horizon, heralding the dawn to come, when Kaia rose and dressed quickly. She could see MacLeod watching her from the bed, looking positively adorable. His hair was rumpled, his eyes still smoky in the afterglow of their passion. She paused to smile at him fondly. She felt pleasantly relaxed and deliciously sated. All she needed now to complete her feeling of satisfaction was a good quickening.

"You could stay," MacLeod ventured from the bed.

Kaia walked to the bed, sat on the edge, and cupped his cheek with a hand. His expression was so sweet that for a moment she was tempted. But only for a moment. It was time she was on her way.

"And give you time to grow tired of me?" she teased softly.

"I could never get tired of you." He took her hand from his cheek and kissed the palm.

She leaned forward and pressed a soft, regretful kiss to his lips. "I wish I could, my darling Duncan, I truly do. But I must be off. I have things to do.


FLASHBACK: VALENTINE'S DAY 1698, PARIS

Kaia strolled past the Palais Luxembourg on her way to the gardens. She bundled her fur wrap closer about her shoulders. What idiot planned a garden party for the middle of February? It had to have been the King, of course. All kings thought they could order anything by royal decree, even the weather. Half of his court would be ill by week's end, and it would serve him right. Kings!

Kaia grimaced, and then carefully schooled her features into a polite and smiling mask. She nodded pleasantly to a pair of ladies as she passed them. She found her way to the hospitality tent, and procured a cup of hot, spiced wine for herself. She looked about, trying to locate a group of people whose conversation might be worth the bother.

A little tickle in the back of her mind alerted her to an Immortal presence. That quiet warning -- a gift, an advantage that meant the Immortal could not yet sense her as well, so quiet she could miss it if she were preoccupied or sleeping -- had saved her head more times than she cared to count. She set down her cup and scrutinized those on the far side of the tent, looking for anyone she might recognize.

Ahh... Segur. The wily old fox was still alive, then. Kaia was about to turn and make her exit before he came within range, when she saw the man with whom he was deep in conversation. It couldn't be... and yet it was. Duncan MacLeod. And looking very much the gentleman, too.

Kaia thought swiftly. It was a risk to join them, to be sure, but Duncan would leap to protect her, certainly. In any event, old Segur had never known he was being followed, and hadn't actually seen her that day she'd taken his student. And then the day's date occurred to her and she simply couldn't resist. It was too perfect.

Walking outside and around the tent so that she would approach them from behind, Kaia made her way slowly up to the point where they would sense her as well. When that tingling, not quite nauseating feeling swept through her, she moved more quickly, and when Duncan turned in her direction she flashed him a brilliant smile.

"Happy St. Valentine's Day, Duncan darling," she said, her eyes locked on his, not acknowledging Segur's presence.

Duncan gaped at her a moment, and then, "Kaia!" He took her hand, bowing over it and brushing his lips across her knuckles in a manner that made her shiver with anticipation. Oh yes, she was glad she hadn't killed this one. He did not release her hand, his fingertips caressing her palm.

Segur cleared his throat. Duncan seemed to start, and then looked embarrassed. "Kaia, this is Segur. Segur, Kaia Doran. She is..." Duncan faltered.

"I am his special Valentine," Kaia put in.

Segur chuckled. "I am very pleased to meet you, Mademoiselle Doran." He took her hand from Duncan, and, bowing over it, kissed the air above her fingers. Kaia smiled pleasantly at Segur, and then made her eyes drift back to Duncan as if she were powerless to stop herself.

Segur chuckled again, indulgently. "Duncan, I see someone with whom I simply must speak. I will talk to you tomorrow," he said, deftly excusing himself. "A pleasure, my lady." And he moved off.

Duncan continued to gaze raptly at her, and Kaia waited patiently for him to speak.

"I thought perhaps you'd been a dream," he finally said quietly.

Kaia stretched out a hand and stroked the line of his jaw lightly with her fingertip. Duncan shivered at the touch, acknowledging her reality.

"I simply despise these parties," she said. "Perhaps we could go elsewhere?"

Duncan smiled. "Where would the lady care to go?" he asked, feigning innocence.

Kaia moved closer to him and whispered in his ear. "Is there no place you'd care to take me?"

Duncan took her arm and propelled her out of the tent with almost unseemly haste, her low delighted laughter urging him onward.

They'd made love in his room at a nearby inn, and now were sipping wine lounging on the bed. Duncan was speaking of the things he'd done and the people he'd met in the fifty years since he'd seen her. Kaia was not really listening to him, although her expression was attentive. She was trying to decide whether or not to kill him while he slept. Probably too dangerous. Segur had seen them together, he'd be bound to suspect. And then Duncan's words snagged her attention.

"I met an Immortal named Benat Mateo in Toulouse just a few months ago. He was new."

"How new?" Kaia asked, her voice casual.

"New. He didn't even know what he was. I offered to bring him with me to Paris to study with Segur, but he refused. Said he didn't want to leave his home."

"Why not take him on yourself?" She was curious.

"I'm still learning myself. And he would not have accepted me in any case."

"Oh?"

"He was too frightened of me. He very nearly wilted every time I came near. He just wanted me to leave him alone."

"Then you're better off without him," Kaia said decisively, and turned to put her arms around him. "You have better things to do." She pulled his mouth down to hers.

He was awake when she left him this time, asking her to stay. She refused, of course, but gently. She liked this lad from the Highlands. And he had just gifted her with a young one, telling her where to find him.

"I'll see you again in fifty years, Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod." She paused at the door to smile fondly at him, and then she was gone.

It hadn't even taken an entire month for Kaia to travel to Toulouse and track down Benat Mateo. His body was never found.


THE PRESENT

"Fifty years, Duncan. Don't forget." Kaia smiled at him.

"I won't forget," he answered softly. She walked away, and smiled when he blew her a kiss when she stopped to look back at him from the door.


PART THREE

Scene Nine

Kaia had been gone less than twenty minutes, and Duncan was just preparing to go on a short run, when an Immortal presence struck him like a blow. Moments later Methos burst through the door, sword in hand. Duncan took an involuntary step backward when he saw Methos' eyes. There was murder in their gold-green depths.

But Methos pushed past him like he wasn't even there. He gave the main living area a cursory glance, then ducked into the barge's small galley.

"Methos..." MacLeod was baffled by his behavior.

Methos checked the bathroom and then the other small rooms without a word.

"Methos?!" He looked as if he was searching for something. Someone.

Joe came through the open door just as Methos returned to the entry. Neither man looked at MacLeod.

"She's not here. Try Richie again," Methos instructed tersely.

"What are you talking about?" MacLeod demanded.

Joe merely withdrew his cell phone from a pocket and dialed. He listened for several seconds and then shook his head.

"Will someone please tell me what the hell is going on here? What are you trying to get Richie for, and why are you," he pointed at Methos, "tearing around here with your sword drawn?"

"There's no time," Methos said impatiently, and moved to leave. MacLeod stood his ground, blocking his path.

"Explain. Now."

They were sitting on the couch. MacLeod was shaking his head in sharp denial.

"No. She's not like that. She wouldn't hunt young ones and..."

"She is like that," Methos interrupted.

"Mac, that's her M.O. She's been doing it for thousands of years," Joe asserted.

"Thousands? Come on, she's not much older than I am. She told me herself."

"I'm sure she did, that's part of it too," Methos insisted.

"The Watcher records on Kaia go back almost 2500 years," Joe said. Duncan stared at him in shock. "Methos here ran into her about 1500 years ago. She killed a student of his. I'm telling you, Mac, she's not the person you think she is."

MacLeod turned his eyes to Methos, who nodded and explained briefly. When he finished, MacLeod again shook his head in denial.

"I can't believe it."

"Believe it, MacLeod!" Joe was angry. "1698, Benat Mateo. 1748, Tibalt Hirsch. 1798, Angelique Montreau. Do you want me to go on? I know them all. There's one for every time you saw her. In fact, 1848 must have been a banner year for your sweet Kaia, because that time she got two, Lucio Donatelli and David Reis!" Joe was shouting by this time. Methos put a hand on his arm to stop him.

MacLeod listened in shock. Dead? All of them? He could see each face clearly...

"If we're going to catch her we'll have to move fast. She's probably already on her way to Richie's." Methos' voice was all business, wanting to get on with it.

"Richie?"

"Yes, Richie," Joe said forcefully. "I'm sure she thinks he's a student. She said as much when he introduced himself."

"How could she find him?"

"By calling information, that's how I got his address last week," Methos said, exasperated. "We're wasting time, we've got to hurry," he said urgently. Something in his voice set MacLeod's teeth on edge.

"Why are you so hot to save Richie?" he asked suspiciously. "You never gave a damn about him before."

Methos' eyes flashed. "I'm not trying to save Richie, he can take care of himself. I have my own reasons for wanting her head."

"What? Some student she killed 1500 years ago? Come on, Methos, tell me another," he scoffed.

"Not for my student," Methos said, his voice low, deadly. "No, I have much more personal reasons." The murder was back in his eyes.


FLASHBACK: 1528, PYRENEES MOUNTAINS

Methos had been living just outside a small village in the western Pyrenees Mountains for ten years. It was Basque country, and he loved the land and the people. He thought he could probably spend ten, or maybe even fifteen more years there before he had to move on. He'd found out long ago that he could vary his apparent age widely by changing the length of his hair.

The people in the village were finally starting to accept him a little, mostly because he was generous with his money without flaunting it, and because he spoke the language like a native. He should, all told he'd spent more than a hundred years among the Basque over the centuries. He'd married a local girl five years before, and was enjoying his quiet life. As a sheep farmer with no sheep, he had plenty of time to pursue his studies. Most of what he had in his house were books. He even had a secret place on his land, a hideaway, where he'd been able to store his journals.

He'd come in from his farm because traders, on their way to the pass, were in the village. He was curious to see if they had any books with them. There was quite a crowd around one of the wagons, and he moved to stand on the fringes. He was taller than most of the villagers, so he could easily see the traders' wares from the back.

The distinctive sensation of another Immortal impinged upon his mind, and he forced himself to be still, not looking around. He was in a crowd, there was some chance he could blend in and escape the Immortal's notice if he made no sudden moves. As the direction clarified, he slowly moved his eyes, and turned his head casually.

Methos saw her then, boldly standing in the middle of the street some thirty feet away staring defiantly at him. His eyes narrowed as he recognized her. Kaia.

He moved away from the crowd, walking slowly toward her, and stopped with fifteen feet still between them. He was thinking rapidly, for he could not afford a fight here. So focused was he upon her, that he failed to hear the approach of the out of control team of horses and wagon until it was far too late. They ran him down, and his last thought before death took him was that she had fooled him again.

When he revived, he was surrounded by people. The priest was administering last rites, and his wife was holding his hand and weeping. His first gasp of breath started most of them screaming.

"He's in league with the devil," an hysterical voice cried. Methos turned his head. It was Kaia, standing next to one of the traders, probably the one who spooked the horses, he thought grimly. This had happened to him once before, and he'd barely escaped. He got to his feet, hoping to find a way out of this mess, but the priest ordered several of the village men to hold him.

They burned him, of course. The priest had always had a fanatical bent, and with Kaia to incite the crowd, Methos hadn't really had much of a chance. He'd revived hours later in the forest where they'd dumped his charred body. He had made his way back his secret place on his property. The healing was slower than anything he'd ever experienced, and the pain greater. Finally, when it was over, he washed and dressed in old clothes he'd left in his hideaway. Then he gathered his things and quit the area. There was nothing left for him there.

By the time Methos had caught up with the traders' caravan, Kaia was no longer traveling with them.


THE PRESENT

"So, am I going by myself, or are you coming along?"

MacLeod rose, and Joe began to get to his feet.

"No, Joe. You stay here." Methos' voice left no room for argument.

"Fine, but there's one more thing. The Watchers believe that Kaia may be able to sense other Immortals at almost double the usual range."

"Is that possible?" MacLeod asked, looking at Methos. Methos shrugged.

"Well, just watch yourselves," Joe cautioned.

As they walked to MacLeod's car, Duncan struggled to phrase his request to Methos. "I know you want to take her head because she had you burned, but..."

"Being burned has got nothing to do with it," Methos interrupted. "I mean, yes, it hurt, like nothing you could imagine, but I'm an Immortal. I lived. I got over it. No, I want her head because she took away one of the best lives I'd ever had. And because she fooled me. Twice."

"But all those young Immortals she killed... they're dead because of me. I need to do this, Methos," Duncan said earnestly.

"No. I'm not giving way to you just to salve your guilty conscience."

"But..."

"No. And if you're trying to tell me that's why you want her dead, save your breath. We both know that's not true."

MacLeod opened his mouth to insist that was his reason, but the words stuck in his throat when he met Methos' eyes. They seemed to be looking right through him.

They both got into the car without another word.


Scene Ten

Richie stepped out the back door of the house he rented just outside Paris, paused to lock the door, and continued down the steps. He checked his hands, wondering if he'd gotten off all the grease.

He'd been out in the shed working on his bike since 3 am when he'd finally admitted he really wasn't going to get any sleep. He'd been trying to decide whether to stick it out for the remaining week that Altea would be in Marseilles with Amanda, and do the research he was supposed to be doing, or just bag everything and go down there.

After he'd decided to go (never do the work today that you can put off 'till tomorrow), the question became how? If he just flew down, she could decide he was checking up on her, or worse, feel like he was suffocating her. It was at this point he'd hit upon the idea of the motorcycle. If he fixed it up, he could ride all the way down there, and she might just see it as a grand romantic gesture.

So he'd worked on it the rest of the night, getting it ready for a long ride, and now he was finally ready to go.

He stopped suddenly, feeling the presence of another Immortal. He reached toward his sword, head turning, eyes searching.

"Mac?" he called out.

He sensed rather than heard something behind him and dove to his left, narrowly escaping what would have been a killing stroke. He rolled back up onto his feet and pulled his sword as he rose. His face grew puzzled as he realized who had attacked him.

"Kaia?" he said incredulously. "What the hell?" Then his mouth went dry as he took in her appearance.

She looked completely different from the way she had the night before. She was dressed in a turtleneck and light cotton pants pegged at the ankles, light shoes with good traction, her hair pulled back away from her face. Fighting attire. But the biggest difference was in her eyes. They were cold, hard... lethal.

They had driven to Richie's in silence, Methos using the time to prepare mentally for the coming fight. He knew that he outclassed Kaia as a swordsman, but he wasn't going to underestimate her again.

MacLeod parked the car and they both got out. They could see no sign of either Kaia or Richie.

"Must be 'round the back," Methos commented, and started off in that direction.

"Methos, wait."

"What?!" Methos was impatient now, and his eyes narrowed as he turned to see MacLeod coming around the car.

"You're right," Duncan said quietly, his face working as if the words themselves had a bitter taste.

"Right about what?"

"You're right about me. About why I want her dead."

"How so?" Methos was not willing to let him off the hook. He needed to say it.

"She used me. She made a fool of me for centuries, and that's why I want her dead," Duncan said slowly. "We both have scores to settle. Let me settle them for both of us. Please."

Methos searched MacLeod's eyes for a long moment, and then nodded.

Duncan breathed a sigh of relief, and gripped Methos' arm briefly as he moved past the older Immortal. Methos turned to follow. They'd taken no more than a few steps when they heard the distinctive sounds of a sword fight coming from behind the house. They broke into a run.


Scene Eleven

"Kaia, why? What have I done to you?" Richie asked, circling warily.

"Nothing, little one, nothing at all." Her voice had changed. The warmth he'd heard in it at the barge was gone, replaced now with an oily hardness that made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end.

"Then, why come after me?"

"Because you exist, little one," she sneered, lunging at him. Richie parried and stepped back out of her reach.

"Does Mac know you're here?" He was totally on the defensive, warding off her blows, but not attacking himself.

"MacLeod?" she laughed disparagingly, voice full of contempt. "He hasn't a clue. He never did." She attacked again. Richie stepped away from her lunge and blocked, but did not take advantage when she left herself open. More than anything, he wanted to know what she was talking about.

"Never did?"

"Yes, little one, your precious teacher has a blind spot. A flaw." Kaia's laugh was totally without humor. "He's been leading me to young Immortals for centuries." She pressed her free hand to her heart dramatically, and said in a saccharine tone, "He pours out his heart, tells me all about the young ones he's met, all about his students," and her voice grew cold. "And then I go and kill them. Just like I'm going to kill you. A perfect arrangement, don't you think, little one?"

"Oh, absolutely," Richie responded, and with a flurry of blows, put her on the defensive. "There's just one problem..." he said as his sword sank deeply into her abdomen. Kaia fell to her knees, and looked up at him, shocked.

"I am not a student." He wrenched his sword free, brought it up and around, and swept her head from her shoulders.

In the lull which preceded the quickening, Richie felt an Immortal's approach, and turned to see MacLeod and Methos come around the corner of the house at a run. The shock on Duncan's face was evident, but he thought there was relief as well. Then the quickening began, sweeping everything else from his mind.

Methos turned away and led an unresisting MacLeod back to the car to wait.


Scene Twelve

"I should have known."

Joe and Methos glanced at each other, and Methos rolled his eyes. MacLeod had been wallowing in his guilt since they'd returned to the barge.

Methos rose to his feet. "There was no way you could have known." He picked up his glass and Joe's, and quirked an inquiring eyebrow at Richie, who shook his head. "From the records, it looks as if she was always careful to dispose of the bodies so they wouldn't be found." He took MacLeod's glass from him, moved to the bar, and began refilling their glasses with Duncan's excellent brandy. "She got rid of any evidence there'd been a fight so that it was very unlikely that you would ever find out."

"She was always so warm and generous... I still can't quite make myself believe that she would do that."

"You wouldn't have recognized her, Mac," Richie interjected. "It was like she was a completely different person from the one I met here yesterday. Her eyes..." he suppressed a shudder at the memory.

MacLeod shook his head, looking morose. Methos returned with their brandy, handing Mac his glass. He gave Joe a meaningful look as he handed over his drink and resumed his seat. They sat in silence for a few minutes, sipping at the brandy.

"All those young ones..." Duncan muttered.

Joe cleared his throat. "Let's not lose sight of one thing here," he said. "She'd been tracking Connor for months when he led her to you. She watched him knock you on your butt all that afternoon. She must've decided she could take you when she came after you the next day. If it weren't for a few lines of poetry, you might have been another young one she cut down."

"That, and your pretty face," Richie added with a grin.

Joe chuckled at that, and Methos' eyes danced merrily behind his glass.

"Well," Richie stood abruptly, putting his half-empty glass on the table. "I'm going home. I have a date with a pillow today, and a girlfriend to surprise tomorrow," he said with a grin. "See you oldtimers later." He touched Mac's shoulder briefly as he passed by on his way to the door.

Duncan looked up. "Safe trip, Rich."

"Always."

Duncan sighed heavily and took another sip of the brandy. "At least she was wrong about Richie," he said finally.

"And she won't be going after any others," Methos said softly. Duncan looked up for a moment, meeting his eyes, and nodded.


End