This Thing Which Builds Our Dreams
by Vonda

 

HIGHLANDER is the property of Rysher Productions and Davis/Panzer Productions. No infringement is intended here. No profit is made for this endeavor, I just wanted to take a few of their characters out to play along with some of my own creations. If you are a devout fan of the show you will be able to distinguish theirs from mine. Just in case Stephanie Nickopolous and all her aliases belong to me, as do Eden Lane, Debako Kiihnak and most minor characters surrounding them. The KIA XIO sect are my creation as well and are totally fiction to my knowledge. Other important original characters will be claimed as they are introduced in part.

Special Note: When I first came up with this idea Richie was still in the picture and Season Five had not quite ended. After giving it a lot of thought I have decided to make this story before that Season Five finale and to pretend that none of Season Six has taken place. (Sorry if that makes this a spoiler)


Joe Dawson relaxed in the privacy of his new apartment next to his Seacouver blues bar Joe's. It was good to be back on North American soil again. Europe had been grand for a time. Paris had its lights and other attractions but it wasn't home. For a short time he had enjoyed the pleasure of managing Le BLUES CLUB, but it made him miss the old place more. Now the old place was his new place, with the warehouse unit that had once been next door converted into his own lavish living quarters. The decorator he had hired had surely outdone herself, turning the one time storage area into a livable space. He felt good here, comfortable and at ease. He liked the idea of going directly from the club to his home. It suited him, though the amount of space seemed to bother him. He had been spending far too much time alone it seemed and it would be pleasant to have a female companion to share with occasionally. He took a drink of Scotch. He wondered why the notion of companionship came to him. He had been a loner for some time now and out of the blue had longed for a woman in his life. He smiled. He knew what made him think about getting involved again after so many years. Susan the interior decorator. He had yet to meet the remarkable woman who had transformed his club and home into this special new place. Her voice had been so sensuous, so smooth. He longed to meet her, find out if her looks matched her voice. Even her e-mail had been stimulating. On many occasions she had written him personal messages suggesting they get together for some wild times after his homecoming. He wondered now how soon they would meet. He pulled himself from the comfort of his new overstuffed chair and got himself ready for the grand reopening of Joe's. He had sent out a special invitation to Macleod in hopes his good friend would make his way in to see the new place. Joe had his reasons for purposely staying away so that his reopening would coincide with his homecoming. He hoped for a full house, but it wouldn't matter if his best friend did not attend. He had not, to Dawson's knowledge anyway, acknowledged the invitation. The musician was afraid his friend was too busy to come to the club at all. He knew Mac had taken on a full time teaching position at the university. His time had to be precious these days. He wondered why the immortal even bothered teaching. The DOJO still kept him quite busy. The idea of the Highlander teaching Art history seemed so boring. Then again what did a guy from the south side of Chicago know about art through the ages? It had to be the excitement of the coming events that made Dawson so critical. Already old and new fans crowded the bar. He wanted so much to please them musically. Sure he was happy for Duncan and hoped that the man shared in his current joy as well. He had heard reports of a new romance with another immortal, one more reminder of how empty his own heart was. For the Highlander romance came easily. Dawson only wished he could be half as frivolous when it came to relationships with the opposite sex.

A knock came at the door. He made his way to answer it. Methos stood on the other side of the entrance. The look on Joe's face alerted the aged immortal who made his way past his friend to check out the new quarters.

"I take it you were expecting someone else, sorry to disappoint you Joe." He handed the man a cold beer, opening one for himself. "I like what I see downstairs. You really spared no expense on the place." He guzzled some beer then spoke again. "I've been waiting to for you to make your grand appearance, are you waiting for someone?"

"Yeah, I guess I was waiting for Mac to drop by before the first set. Not that I'm not happy to see you old guy. What brings you here anyway? I've been trying to get in touch with you for days. You never returned my calls. Where you been?"

"I've resigned from the Watchers, Joe. I'm taking a position at the university in Paris, in the fall, teaching Ancient Civilization. Don't worry, I got your messages. I'm here for your opening and some Watcher business."


Richie ascended the stairs to the loft slowly, with caution. He had sensed the presence of another immortal and couldn't be sure who it was. It couldn't be his mentor. Duncan had called him in a panic from across town begging him to rush over to his place and straighten up the mess he had left behind after a night of heavy passion with his current flame. Apparently he and the immortal knockout had left for work in a hurry and left everything in disarray He wondered if Mac was playing some kind of joke on him just to get him there. The redhead had been keeping himself scarce these days. He didn't want to interfere in the man's new romance. Richie still managed the DOJO part-time, but their paths seldom seemed to cross with Mac's teaching schedule and all. The loft appeared immaculate, cleaner than he had seen it in sometime. Whoever the immortal, male or female, the place looked great and the smells coming from the kitchen were incredible. The combined scent of cheese, garlic, shrimp, and spinach surrounded him. The aroma reminded Richie of a small restaurant in Greece he had frequented one summer while traveling with Duncan. But whom? The only one he knew who could cook like that was Methos, and he was busy in Paris getting his teaching credentials together. He wondered if the man was daring enough to show up and surprise Mac. The smells intoxicated him. He kept his sword high over his head, careful not to let the aroma of the fine cooking lure him into a false sense of safety. It didn't prove much good. Whoever it was snuck up behind him, managing to use the blade of his own sword to keep him at bay, their sword resting between his legs ready to take whatever treasure lay between them.

"Oh Richie, you disappoint me, I thought the Highlander would have taught you better defense than that. Never, ever put your back to the enemy." The voice was that of a woman he didn't recognize. She loosened the grip she had on him, returning his sword, still restraining him with her own.

He turned to face the one who had managed to subdue him. She was a beautiful brunette with a crowning highlight of red that adorned her long curly mass of hair. Deep blue green eyes stared back at him. A smile crossed her full bronze lips as reassurance he was in no real grave danger from his company. Her skin took on a pale olive tone and a slight patch of freckles seemed to dance magically across her nose. Still holding her sword steadily in one hand, she extended the other to greet him.

"How rude of me, I am at a disadvantage aren't I? I know you and you don't know me. I'm Susan Nichols. At least for the moment I am. Most commonly known as Stephanie Nickopolous; and depending on whom you ask, one of the oldest living female immortals." She spoke in a friendly familiar manner, unafraid of losing her head.

Rich noticed that she held her weapon firmly, ready to strike if the need be.

"How did you get in here anyway, or should I ask? You age old immortals have ways of doing things that cannot be explained."

"Oh you've come across others my age as of late?" She inquired.

"Never mind, maybe I should be asking what you are doing here."

"Can't a woman visit and old friend out of the blue?"

"I'm not so sure he'll be happy to see you. He's expecting his girlfriend. He sent me here to tidy up the place for him, but I see you've already done that. Now unless she is in into threesomes consider yourself warned." His eyes seemed to burn a hole right through to her soul. His tone had been threatening and his gaze proved he meant business. "How did you know my name?" He followed her to the kitchen, annoyed she would walk away after the words he had just spoken.

"Oh Richard, when you make it to 3000 you know a lot and you can do a lot ." She shoved a spoon to his mouth. "Do you like Greek? Come taste." She pulled him closer to the stove area, forcing something with Feta cheese and spinach into his mouth.

He liked the taste. Even more he liked the woman who had effectively made him try it. She had a conservative way about the way she dressed, unlike other female immortals whom he had met. It was a familiar trait that had attracted him to many a mortal woman, including his current girlfriend of six months who happened to be out of town. The woman before him now, did not dress in some wildly short mini as Amanda would wear, or the trendy tight fashions that Mac's current girlfriend chose. She wore a long flowing skirt in a neutral color with a matching sweater that managed to hide any shape beneath it. It was truly interesting and refreshing. Her reserved manner of dress contrasted her bold manners, and Richie found himself wanting her. He wished Mac would hurry and arrive. His body stirred with a rush of desire and he didn't know how long he could hide that from her. Relief came in the familiar sense of Mac's buzz. The Scotsman swung into the room from the lift, sword high over his head. He surveyed the pair in his kitchen, dropped the sword, then scooped the elder immortal up into his arms. He kissed her long and hard on the lips. He held her tight to his body, as if trying to decide if she was really in his presence.

"I don't believe it, is it really you?" His Scottish burr came across slightly and his voice took on a high pitch, as if he was afraid to be the first to speak. "Stephanie please tell me I'm not dreaming will you?"

"No, Mac it's me alive and well in the flesh. I've come for a visit, but Richie tells me I came at a bad time. You are expecting a guest and I don't think it will be that easy to explain me away. I made you some Greek food. Enjoy it. Share it with your friends. I'll come back when it's more convenient for you." She picked up her sword and attempted to leave. Mac pulled her back to him.

"No, I want you to stay. Eden is very understanding. Besides she is a very young one of us and I know she would love to meet someone with your background." He motioned for her to make herself comfortable on the couch or in a chair. She chose instead to go back to her cooking. "Rich keep her company while I shower will you."

"So how far back do you go with Mac?" The young man asked as soon as his mentor was out of earshot. He, shared an interest in someone with that much past to share, as well.

"Not enough I am afraid. We only encountered each other three times in the last 180 years. Paris 1810, Seattle 1879, and Hollywood 1925. When our paths did cross we shared some good times and some mutual friends. My relationship with Duncan is a very special and rare one indeed." She offered between sips of the beer she had been nursing since her discovery in the loft. He went to the refrigerator and took one for himself. It was going to waste anyway. Mac didn't drink it and it probably belonged to Methos.

"Rare how?" He asked flipping the top from the beer smoothly into the trash can from where he stood. The old guy would be pleased.

"Just say she is the one who got away and leave it at that, okay." The Highlander came from the shower wearing a long flowing Terry robe, toweling his long hair dry.

"Now Mac, you're not still mad at me about Valentino are you?" She referred to the last time they had seen each other. In 1925 Hollywood, she had been working as a seamstress on the set of one of the legendary actors last films. Duncan had been an extra. "I thought you would be over that by now." He had never gotten over it completely. He had fallen madly in love in with her the first time he laid eyes on her. The last and final rejection had been heartbreaking. "I thought I finally had my chance with you and you stood me up for some actor." He pretended to pout playing her to see how she would respond. "Macleod, I did not stand you up! You made an indecent proposal to me and I chose to spend my time with Rudolph over you. Enough said." He knew she was right, one day he was proposing marriage to her, the next day she caught him flirting with the script girl.

"Oh!? Before that you chose that traveling preacher immortal Lincoln Rhodes over me, and before that you chose Brian Cullen. You married my best friend and then dumped him after only three months. That, my dear was indecent!"

"That, my dear Duncan was common sense." They both knew that Brian was not the marrying kind. At least he meant it when he proposed marriage, and he did try to settle down for a while. "You, my fickle friend have remained single for over 400 years and probably bedded thousands more than I dare compute. I can count the number of men I've been with in my lifetime. Not only that, I can boast that I married nearly all of them , and every one was an immortal." She caught the man off guard, cornering him with a Wang Chung move, then pinned him helplessly against the wall. "Now if you expect me to change the rules for you, laddie, I would if I could, but I can't and I won't." She teased him with a soft sexy purring Scottish burr, before pushing her lips to his to deliver a wet sloppy kiss that seemed to go on forever. She slipped a hand into his robe, resting it firmly on one hip, the other she planted around his neck. She wrapped her legs around his waist. "Go ahead Highlander take me. You know you've always wanted to, so have your way." She teased him again, mocking his Scottish roots. He held her close for a moment, making no sound or movement.

"Stephanie, quit playing with me, I get the point." He peeled her from his body, then headed back to dress for his date.

"So how many?" Richie waited again for Mac's exit to address her.

"Wha...? Oh husbands. I've married a total of five times. I married my first husband before I knew I was immortal. I was only twenty when we met. I spent the better part of my early years with him. I despised him and I don't care to talk about him. I married my second husband on three separate occasions in the last 2000 years." She opened up another beer then continued. "Number three gave up the game, had he not, I would have stayed with him forever. Brian Cullen was number four and one big mistake. We remained friends until his death. Someday I'll have to thank Macleod for putting him out of his misery. I know I could never bring myself to do it. I loved the lousy bastard too much I guess. Then there was Lincoln Rhodes, good old number five. I joined up with him for sanctuary. I ended up taking his head after I found him doing more than just baptizing some pretty young thing on the banks of the Snake River one day. That was one of the best quickenings I ever had." A look of pure satisfaction came over her face. It was enough to convince Richie she was not someone you wanted to cross.

"I see." He commented raising an eyebrow. "So where have you been since you saw Mac last?" He was indeed curious, but hoped it sounded more as if he just wanted some polite conversation.

"I've spent most of my time in and out of sanctuary, traveling through China, Southeast Asia, Greece mostly. Then there is Paris. It surprises me, how our paths never crossed." She waited for him to respond. When he failed, she walked over to him and asked very seductively, "Ever been to China Richie?"

He wondered if the question was rhetorical or what. The smooth soft silky tone of her voice captured him taking control of his every thought. He was embarrassed by the effect it was having on his hormones.

"Give the boy a break, will you. He's hardly seen the Americas." Duncan joined them dressed for his date.

"Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, Highlander you sure do look good." Her words came out like a song, so seductive and inviting. She walked to him to get a closer look. Richie could hardly contain himself. Something about her made him so horny. He excused himself, then retreated to the back of the loft, out of sight. "Now where were we?" She moved in closer to him.

"Don't start that stuff with me Stephanie." The Scotsman scolded her walking to his kitchen.

"What stuff?" She walked over to where he stood getting dishes out for dinner. She took him in her arms waiting for him to take her into his. Without out a word he pushed her away, continuing to set things up for the meal she had prepared. "Mac, what stuff?" She played it cool. Richie had come back into the room. She had to be careful. She could tell he was easier to seduce than Duncan.

"That game of seduction you play to sucker men into your lair, so you can take their head. I'm not playing, okay."

He thought that after 70 years on and off Holy ground she would have found a way to tame that wild side in her. He had managed to walk away from her with his head. He understood her better than she could imagine. Yes, he wanted her very much, but he knew better than to let her know that. There was no telling how she would react or what she would do to him. She was not maniacal like Kristin. She wanted respect before the commitment of a relationship, and she would kill if she did not get it. Poor Richie, he was feeling the pain and effect of her seductive style. Duncan had chosen long ago to hear beyond the arousing tone of voice and listen to what she had to say. It had not been easy for him, but it had kept his head in place.

"Not fair Duncan!" He was giving his protégé the wrong impression of her. "I never took the head of anyone who didn't deserve it, you know that!"

"Oh, do I?" He could recall stories about the heads she'd taken. Like a black widow spider, luring them into her web with suggestive comments and flirtatious ways. "I know to stay away from you, I do." The manly Scot in him came out loud and proud.

"Macleod I only beheaded the ones who didn't behave like gentleman. I admit I like to flirt. It's a bad habit I picked up from my second husband. That doesn't make me a seductress! I married the gentleman and killed the jerks, Mac. I'm infamous for taking the head of many a male immortal who wouldn't take no for answer." In actuality she killed the ones who took an unfair advantage of her. Those who saw her as weaker and an easy quickening at the end of some crazy one sided sex feast. "My reputation seems a bit exaggerated, I guess."

Mac made his way to her, playfully taking her into his arms. "So you are saying that I am lucky to have my head, because I took no for an answer?" She nodded her head yes. He pulled her closer, held tight for a moment, then let her fall flat on the floor. "Well thanks for the favor."

The three of them felt the hum of another immortal and before they could respond in defense Eden emerged from the lift. Stephanie stood out of sight with Richie pretending to playfully study the date. Richie found her behavior quite amusing, she had a thing for Duncan and the lucky stud was too afraid of losing his head to notice. A devilish grin and a thumb up assured Richie she approved of the 25 year old red head with the girlish face and figure.

"Mac I thought you said we were going out to eat." She addressed the smells that were coming from his kitchen. "Whatever you've cooked smells divine. I could smell it clear down the block." She hadn't sensed the presence of the other immortals. It startled her when Stephanie and Richie stepped into view. "Oh hi there. I should have known that Mac couldn't create something so deliciously intoxicating. At least he hasn't yet." She put out a hand to Stephanie. "I'm Eden Lane, and you are?"

"Susan Nichols, I'm an old friend of Mac's, pleased to meet you." She made her way to the exit. Her purpose for seeing Mac would have to wait. "You three enjoy the dinner and the date. Scotsman I'll be in touch."

"Please don't go, stay, eat with us." Eden pleaded pulling her back to the loft. "I'm sure Mac won't mind. You're welcome to join us this evening as well. We're going to surprise a friend at the opening of his blues club. You can be Richie's date, we'll make it a foursome." The girl tried hard, she was too perky. Susan obliged the young immortal. They sat down to dinner and much to Duncan's surprise got, along just fine.

They talked openly in front of him and Richie about the ins and outs of being female immortals. Eden seemed to reveal more about herself than Stephanie. She was not as careful as the older immortal, who chose to only speak of herself within the time of the younger immortal's life span. Much as Methos did when things about his long life came up, he switched to the more recent times; rather than dwell on his past


Joe's was packed more than usual now that the space had been expanded. Joe would surely do well whenever he opened his stage for live performances. Especially when he joined the band to jam and sing. Mac was glad he had seen fit to arrange for a table for four instead of a cozy one for two. The waiter showed them to their table, careful to explain that the 'other' member of their party had already arrived. The ladies had quickly left to do whatever it was that women did in pairs in the lady's room. Duncan knew that somewhere in the room lurked Methos. The 'other party' had a pile of beer bottles stacked neatly to one side of the table. He was supposed to be in Paris. Perhaps he had come to see Joe play, then again it could be Watcher business. He hoped it was the music that had brought him to Seacouver. A thought crossed his mind, could Methos know Stephanie or Susan whatever she was calling herself these days? It was possible. They had lived in Greece about the same era. Duncan recalled how on separate occasions Stephanie and Methos shared the same opinion with him about Helen of Troy not being quite as lovely as history implied. There had to be some interesting tales to tell if indeed the two of them were acquaintances. Mac sensed the sudden strong and familiar presence of the immortal and turned to see Methos and Joe entering the club from the new apartment next door. Duncan hoped Joe liked his new quarters. Macleod had worked very hard to make the new space distinct, befitting the man's lifestyle and needs. The Highlander had been the one to get the bank to approve the loan. He hoped Joe never found out how or why things had come out so perfect, so proper. As the two men came to the table, it became obvious that the conversation was not a pleasant one. He had a hunch it concerned Watcher stuff. Methos had mentioned in passing something about thinking of quitting for good. Possibly, Joe wasn't taking the news very well.

"Don't you beat all!" Joe was shouting at the immortal just loud enough to be barely heard above the roar of the crowd gathering for the night's entertainment. "You claim you want to quit the Watchers, but you flew all the way here to tell me you checked out Duncan's new flame and that she could be after his head! You could have phoned, Faxed or even emailed me with the information. What are you hiding?" He didn't wait for an answer. He pushed his way past the man into the host of blues fans.

"Damn Joe he's here! Either you tell him or I will. Eden Lane is dangerous he deserves fair warning." There was a desperation in his voice. Joe could tell Methos was in fear of Mac's life. It wasn't as if the Scot couldn't defend himself, more as he wouldn't concerning a female immortal. Something about her alerted Methos to be more concerned, and cautious. Joe had simply left him a message asking if he knew anything about Mac's beautiful new immortal girlfriend. Methos had turned it into a road trip. Why? What could he have possibly found on her where Dawson had failed. Joe turned to face the man trailing behind him.

"Do me a favor, let's wait until tomorrow. You present the evidence to the both of us and see what he decides from there. All this crap about assassins and ancient this and that, is too much for me to handle right now. Promise me you'll wait. Have a nice evening, enjoy the music." "Fine, but you promise me you'll listen with an open mind. This is my last effort at Watcher anything. Had I left when I proposed to I would have never run across this information. Now I'm stuck with seeing it through, if for no other reason, I owe it to Mac." He looked over his shoulder to the Highlander and waved. He was in real fear in for Mac's life right now. "I don't have all the facts but I'm sure things are going to start falling into place quickly, please be ready."

"Ready for what, Is there something you aren't telling me?" Joe was getting pissed at Methos' evasiveness. He got up close in his face. "What is it?!"

"I'll explain it all tomorrow. All I can say is she is here to take his head or set him up for something." Methos' search on the young woman had revealed one thing, she seduced her targets then took their head or used them to get someone else's. Right now he had no clue as to which. "You are a Watcher so do what Watchers do."

Joe made his way to the stage midst a din of thunderous applause. He acknowledged his fans and friends with a quick nod of thanks then signaled the band to start off the set. They began with an instrumental tune he had written for Macleod entitled "HIGHLAND HUE" The Scotsman tipped his glass to the musician in approval, then turned to Methos who had reclaimed his spot at the end of the table.

"Is everything okay? You and Joe seemed to be having some words there."

"I'll tell you about it tomorrow, Macleod. Enjoy the music. Where is this lady friend of yours? What's her name Eve?" Methos took a long hard drink of his beer, savoring the taste as he awaited a response. He hated having to hide what he had discovered from his friend.

"It's Eden." Duncan corrected. "Powdering her nose I guess. I can't wait for you to meet her. Ah here she is." Duncan stood to greet his lover. Eden moved in close to him, clinging tight to the man who towered over her. She flirted with him in a wicked manner, giving no heed to present company or the public forum.

"Duncan darling," she cooed, in a gentle polite perky voice," promise me that this night of blues won't effect our lovemaking later." She brushed her lips in a circular motion around Duncan's face. Parting her lips just slightly in the end to plant a wet kiss to his mouth. It left him and the other two men speechless. Susan stepped up to join them. The old gal had gone through a kind of transformation. Her appearance was slightly hipper, showing off the curvy full figure once hidden from view. A short tight mini, replaced the long skirt, with the oversized sweater belted around her waist. Her clothes had been hiding quite a bit of her. Richie understood why Mac had been so reluctant to get close to her. The Highlander knew what she had been hiding. He was able to hear past her seductive tone, but you couldn't ignore the shape of this woman before them. Even Joe noticed from the stage. He rarely looked out at the audience when he played, but in the brief moment he had glanced at the table before him, he had noticed her. Compared to the other woman, whom he assumed was Eden. This one was all grown up, the kind of woman boys and men dreamed about, but never brought home to mom. 'Wow what a knockout!' He thought. He made a mental note to himself to make his way over to meet her after this set.

"Care to introduce me to your lady friends Mac?" Methos too had taken notice, he would take things slowly, let the two ladies play out what was to come next. He stood and offered a hand first to the redhead. "You must be Eden. Mac described you quite well." He nobly kissed her hand, batted his eyes and added, "I'm Adam Pierson. Have we ever met?"

"Your face isn't familiar Mr. Pierson, but it's possible. We've all been many people, seen many places you know."

"Adam surely you remember me, Susan Nichols." Stephanie interrupted putting her hand out to greet the oldest immortal. They had often used aliases and she wanted to present him with her new one before things got complicated. Susan knew he would be shocked to see her, and that he was sure to realize soon that Eden and Duncan's romance was no coincidence.

"My Gosh, how long has it been?" He feigned a memory loss curious to see how far back she would go.

"Salem Witch Trials I do believe. You left me to drown, you worm! I had to save myself from that murky lake."

"Chivalry is not one of his strong suits." Duncan interrupted the little reunion. "I was wondering if you two knew each other?"

"We've had our encounters. I'll have to share them with you sometime, that is if the lady doesn't mind?" Methos smiled sharing a slight nod only Susan could see.

"Me, mind? Just be kind my friend." She knew he would say nothing to betray her trust. He was her second husband. She knew he had gone into hiding and taken on the persona of Adam Pierson. In reality they always kept in touch, and had met several times since Darius' death. She came to Paris at his bidding, they had wept in the others' arms over the loss of their friend.

"Shall we dance?" Her former husband whisked her to the dance floor. "Be careful what you say darling. I haven't given up much of my past to my friends." At the moment he resented having her around, any sense of privacy he had was in danger of exposure.

"Afraid something I say will end up in some Watcher Chronicle somewhere? Really dearie. Trust me, your secrets are safe with me." She batted her green eyes at him. Teasing him in the flirtatious, manipulative way he had taught her. He may have felt some disfavor at her presence, but he had missed her kindred ways.

He had forgotten the way she always seemed to know everything. How could she know about the Watchers? He had not told her, but who then?

"How do you know about the Watchers?"

"Don't worry Darius told me about the Watchers, after you took your job as a researcher for them. He worried about you. I knew In Paris when we got together after he died, but I promised I would never bring it up unless you chose to tell me. Are you mad at me?"

"No, it just shows me how well you can keep a secret." He pulled her closer and kissed her hair. He liked the way she felt next to him. So much had passed between them, he wondered if she was the same as always. She rarely came out in the open without reason. The last three times had been at his insistence. Apart from Darius' death, she had agreed to come see to Alexa for him twice. It had been Stephanie who had stayed with her when he had come to Duncan's aid following the Dark Quickening and again when she lay dying in Switzerland, while he went after the Methuselah Stone. "What brings you out of hiding?" He had suddenly realized her appearance coincided with his findings about Eden.

"My KIA XIO promise." She answered. "Debako Kiihnak has come to collect his debt and I intend to stop him."

He should have known. The only thing that could draw her out into the open was the ancient Chinese sect she had been a part of over most of her life. Everything was beginning to make sense to him. She needed help to fulfill her promise. She could have come right out and asked Mac for his assistance, but she needed to be certain he would say yes. Eden's job was to lure Mac into helping to protect Susan. Methos remembered her now. They had met once in the past in San Francisco. She had been a brunette then, posing as 'Katherine Nichols' younger sister Eve, not quite as worldly or wild as she appeared now. Now he could understand why he felt the urgency to protect Mac. Eden wasn't really dangerous, her involvement with Susan made her appear that way,

"Were you going to ask me to play? I can help you defeat Debako you know. Let me take his head for you." He pleaded with her. He knew the man's obsession with her, his weaknesses for her, his passion. He was gung ho for a moment then let down. Her look told him he knew better than to interfere. He had tried to take her rightful place as the one to behead the evil immortal from her past. "You still need me, Macleod is not going to rest easy knowing you sent Eden to seduce him. I don't know all that you have planned, but I suggest you share what you can ." If he'd been paying better attention he would have known everything from the start. He would have expected to see Susan as a player in all this.

"If I do agree to let you help it will be on my terms." She scolded, reminding him how overpowering she could be. He had to let her have her way, if he didn't she was likely to take his head. Right now he favored keeping it.

"Can you take his head? Are you up to it?" He questioned her ability to fight. She had spent the last 70 years in secluded sanctuary as far as he knew. She was bound to be a bit out of practice.

"I've kept in shape, sweetheart. I'm sure that with you and Macleod to train me I'll do just fine. Let's discuss this later." The music had stopped and they made their way back to the table. Joe, too, had made his way to sit with his friends. "You are one great blues guitarist." Susan offered as Methos helped her to her chair. "If you make love the same way you play and sing, then your wife is one lucky woman."

"Joe Dawson," He took her hand in his, politely kissing it gently to introduce himself to her favor, " there is no Mrs. Dawson, but if we were to get better acquainted, I'm sure that could be arranged." Something about her seemed familiar. He couldn't place it. Her voice perhaps, the accent? She was Susan the interior decorator! "Bout time we met little lady. Maybe later we can get together at my place and discuss your work."

"I'd like that." Her response was cool, refreshingly gentle and soft Mac's and Methos' eyes met. They both knew her well. Methos more than he cared to admit. She had a charming way with mortal men. She reeled them in the same way she did the immortals. The only difference was she let the mortals live. It wasn't as if she went looking for trouble. It found her. The male immortals sought her out, hoping to take her head, hoping to gain her strength and knowledge. She would use her gift to seduce them into giving up their quest, only to take their head in the end. Stupid bastards they never learned. The mortals found her alluring. They lauded her with affection, gifts and promises, getting nothing but friendship in return. Eden must have been an apt pupil. Right now she made all the right moves to keep Mac occupied, while Susan did the same with Joe.

Methos observed Susan in action. Her attentions centered solely on Joe, with all her energy focused in his direction alone.

"I'm going to hold you to that promise of a nightcap lady." Joe took her hands in his, kissing them tenderly before rising to return to the stage. He had never believed in love at first sight until now.

"You will tell him won't you?" Methos asked her directly, but quietly so the others could not hear. "He has a right to know he has a hard on for an immortal." He was beginning to understand her intentions and had to make it clear to her without giving her plan away before it was time, to the others.

"Must you be so vulgar? I can take care of myself. Do you think you are the only one allowed to fall in love with a mortal?" She could read the look on his face. He didn't have to say a thing. Though she wasn't as capricious as her one time mate or the Scotsman, there was a time for everything. She was ready for a change, and this certainly fit part of the purpose of her current mission.

Mac was loving every minute of this. He could see the relationship between the two had been intense, just from the way they looked at each other and the manner in which they spoke. He wasn't sure if Methos was jealous of her impending relationship with Joe or just concerned. It was obvious, at least to the Highlander, they were still special to one another. He hoped the opportunity would come to explore the history the two seemed to share. It was fun to watch them bantering back and forth wildly like an old divorced couple. Even Eden found herself caught up in their patter. Though they talked in whispers, their body language gave them away. Joe took notice from the stage as well. It made him smile. He had not only figured out she was an immortal, but who she was as well. She was a reclusive female immortal, rumored to be alive almost as long as the very old guy himself. In her many incarnations she had taken on many personas, but one thing had prevailed. Her aliases. She had been Stephanie Nickopolous, Anie Polous, Nicole Paul, Nicole Stevens, Katerine Kopolous, and many more he was sure in between. Now she was Susan Nichols. The name had given her away. Each time she had taken on a new identity she had curiously included a part of her original name somewhere. Not much was recorded on her over the last century. He hoped she would open up to him about where she had been in that time. He had some idea, but he would let that go for now, concentrate on the music. He could get to know her better later. He had fallen for a female immortal, he had never been attracted to a woman so alluring so enchanting. This would be interesting.

Richie had been preoccupied all evening. Seemingly enchanted by the music more than the company and oblivious to the old pair who put on a show beside him. He had left early with the excuse he needed to call his girl in San Francisco. Methos followed bidding them all good night and mumbling something about finding better company in a circus of flying monkeys. Mac seized the opportunity to address the old girl.

"Are you okay?" He asked moving to the chair Methos had vacated. "Will you be all right?"

"Not you too! Geez give me space will you? I'm here for a purpose. I'm sure you figured that out by now. When I can, I'll tell you all the details. Until then, remember, I am a big girl and I can take care of myself." She put her arms around his neck, then ordered, "Macloed right now try having some fun while you still can. Go dance dirty with your friend or something!"

Eden took the hint and pulled Mac to the dance floor. They found themselves lost in the music doing just as Susan suggested. It wasn't long before the crowd surrounded the pair to watch them dance in a magic rhythm to the music. Susan smiled to herself in approval. Eden was so young, so willing to serve and such a good pupil. She had jumped at the chance to help to bait Duncan Macleod into helping her teacher get revenge. Eden had no idea how special she was to the woman she called friend, sister and mother. She did a great job keeping Macleod's attentions on her. The pair returned to the table exhausted. Mac tried to start up another conversation with Susan.

She turned her attention to Joe's music. Mac knew better than to pursue the matter. It had gotten Methos nowhere and he was sure the man knew more about her plan than anyone. They obviously had not been fighting about her attraction to Joe, but her reason for being in Seacouver. Her appearance had not been all that recent. She had been in town at least three months, that he knew. He too had been dealing with her over the phone, through e-mail, and FAX for that time. Susan Nichols I.D. INC. , that was her. The firm he had hired to take on the task of renovating and redecorating Joe's. She was as cunning and clever as always. She had been here all this time and waited for Joe's homecoming to reveal herself. He was eager to know what had truly brought her around and how it involved him.

The bar had closed and all the patrons had left except Mac, Susan and Eden. Joe wanted so desperately to be alone with the immortal belle, but he knew he couldn't be rude to his friend.

"So, Macleod, what do you think of the place now? Did all your money go to good use or not?" He poured a round of coffee topping them off with Kamora and cream.

"How did you know I helped you get the financing for this little venture?" Mac felt disappointment, his gesture of kindness was in the open before he was ready.

"A bank clerk let it slip. I was questioning him about some of the expenses and he says so innocently-- mind you now--." Joe cleared his throat before doing an impression of the man. 'OHHH...... don't worry, Mr. Macleod said that money was no object Mr. Dawson.' He laughed gruffly then turned to the Scot. "Thanks for the gift, man, I tried not take advantage of your generosity." He hoped there was no offense taken at his revealing the secret. He had chosen not to take advantage of him either and hoped that choice did not seem bothersome.

"Well I for one, think the place is just so perfect. You can feel the blues, see them in the decor, I love it." Eden commented. She straddled Duncan's barstool, pushing herself into her lover's space. "Promise me we'll come here often. The blues really do turn me on and make me feel naughty inside." Mac turned a pale shade of red and tried to gather his wits. He and Eden wouldn't be staying much longer. He took a sip of the coffee, then spoke.

"I too, am impressed. I assume it had something to do with Susan's talents as a decorator as well." He turned to the immortal woman smiling. "I had no idea you were the owner of the firm I hired." She acknowledged him with her own addictive smile and then turned to Joe.

"You don't hate me do you? I,... oh shit!" She stumbled over her choice of words. She took a deep breath and spoke again "I took this job to get close to Macleod, but when you and I started communicating by phone, all I wanted out of this job was to meet you. Your voice intoxicated me. Your smooth laid back style enveloped me. I envisioned our first meeting in person to be much more special than this." "I could never hate someone I don't know." Joe's soothing voice reassured her. "I do know some of who you are and what you've been. It fascinates and flatters me that you didn't let our differences get in the way of our getting to know one another. I look forward to becoming better acquainted." Joe boldly moved in close to her, kissing his fingertips, then brushing them across her lips and chin. It was a cue for the other immortals to leave.

"Tomorrow, Joe. You'll have to show me that great new apartment of yours huh?" The Highlander guided Eden out the door not waiting for the man to respond. The young redhead wrapped her legs around Mac's back and ordered him to get her home. He liked her spunkiness. Something tonight had made her more frisky than usual. Out side they found Methos perched against Mac's car watching the place. "Need a ride somewhere old man?" Mac wondered if he had intended on staking out the club all night.

"I could use a lift." He climbed into the back seat of Macleod's Landrover. Eden took her place in the front. A weak grin came over her lips as her eyes caught the old man's. He smiled back with a full closed mouth gesture, and a nod, assuring her things were okay. She was doing just fine. "Everything okay inside?" He addressed Macleod as he entered vehicle.

"Just fine. Our ever observant friend knew what she was before she got a chance to tell him. Trust him, this is Joe our friend, she's safe from harm. He won't take advantage of her. What are you afraid of anyway? Neither one of them seems like the kiss and tell type." Mac tried to reassure the sullen faced man in his back seat that nothing bad was going to happen, though he himself was not assured,

"As you wish Macleod, as you wish." He nodded his head, batted his eyes, then motioned for the man to drive. He was mentally and emotionally tired by all this. He would have to deal with it in the morning. The ancient man had made sense of the things to come. Eventually he would have to sort them out for Mac and Joe as well.


Inside Dawson and Susan finished off the pot of liquor laced coffee. They talked about things from immortality to different Blues Styles. She recounted the time she had seen Howling Wolf perform in a small Chicago Blues Club. She started singing 'Little Red Rooster' He played a few licks on the guitar for her. She could sing and move. She was truly into the Blues. He played a bit of Muddy Waters' "I Just Want to Make Love to You." She smiled her approval of his choice, then sat down beside him. He continued playing for her, pleased with her eager appreciation of his meager talent. They sat close, carefully touching one another before it got too personal or intimate. It seemed to be her way of getting to know someone and he liked it. It reminded him of the way a cat would come to you purring, caressing your legs first, enticing you to pet it to see how far it would let you go. It was a refreshing and sensational way of expressing desire, something he feared would soon end. He closed his eyes to enjoy the moment. He put his acoustic guitar aside and pulled her close beside him. He whispered to her in a soft sexy tone. "I may be out line Susan, but just how special did you want our first meeting to be?"

"Do you have something in mind Joseph?" She came back with her own question for an answer. "Well some of the email you sent me was quite interesting............" Her hand covered his mouth. Gentle fingertips moved across his lips, in a gesture to silence him. Without a word she had chosen to take it to the next level making it personal, more intimate than he expected, exactly as she had described. "Sing to me." She ordered in a hushed mild moan.

She sat on the floor between his legs her head resting in his crotch as he sang a soft blues tune to her. She rubbed her head slowly too and fro in rhythmic motions that only seemed to make the music more suggestively alluring than he had ever imagined it. She pulled herself up to face him. One hand held on to his to his erect penis through his pants gently caressing it with her long fingers. She stroked it from top to bottom daring him to come. The other hand cupped his chin. She pulled him closer to her. She licked her lips, then kissed his, long and hard. She pressed against him firmly with the rest of her body until he came without ever having removed a single stitch of clothing. She had promised him this in one of her more suggestive emails and had followed through. He knew this meant a quick end to their first night together, but didn't care. He knew it would not be their last. Something told him she wanted him as much as he wanted her, but she wanted to take it slow. He tried to recall something she had told him in another erotic email 'Slow beginnings make a sizzling middle and everything that follows an everlasting memory.'

"Do you have to go?" He asked her. His face was so sincere. It wasn't just the clothed sex that had intrigued him, taking him back to his glory days, when he was a whole man. The engaging conversation about the Blues and everything else had been an added bonus. They held on tight to each other as if they never wanted to let go. "I have the spare room, you could sleep there and we could talk more over breakfast. Unless you think we could continue this, take it further maybe?"

She wanted to stay, but she knew better, it was too soon. She wanted him, her body told her so, but she couldn't rush things. It could scare him away before things ever got started. She had mixed feelings as well. She had never had intercourse with anyone but her husbands. What message would it send to Joe if she slept with him too soon?

"Joe I'd love to stay, but you need your rest and I really want to sleep in my own bed tonight." She pulled him toward the door. "Will you drive me home blues boy?"

The man said nothing. He was a mess. She had to know that. He could clean up first, but feared that would kill the moment.

"Uh, yeah sure but......" He held up his hands suddenly embarrassed by the result of their erotic behavior. She stood across the room, silently calling him to follow her. Nodding her head in the direction of his apartment. She entered ahead of him, allowing Joe to pace himself in his pursuit of her. He heard water running for a bath. He wondered if he was ready for this. A glimpse of his wheelchair, with a change of clothes draped over the back assured him it didn't matter, Susan was. He sat in the chair. First removing his shoes, the love stained pants, then his boxer shorts. Next he pulled his shirt over his head. Trembling hands fumbled to unfasten the buckles that held his artificial limbs in place. Susan came from out of nowhere, her long smooth slender hands guiding his through the task before him. He wheeled himself to the bath, rushing to hide the recent evidence of her touch. Candles lit the room, and the fragrant scent of Pear and Almond filled the air. He pulled himself from the chair to the tub of warm water. Again Susan was there, this time sponging his body in short, precise strokes. She broke the spell of the steam and the scent with a quick buss to his lips.

"I really do want to stay, but we've had enough fun for one night, don't you agree?" The sultry sound of her voice seemed to come from another place. He dressed by candlelight, to faint strains of his lover singing a chorus from "I Just Want to Make love to You. He hoped he could be alone with her like this again as early as tomorrow.

They drove the distance to her place in silence while the strains of St. Louis Blues played from Joe's car stereo. She sat close to him and it felt good. It was more than the music that set the mood for them. She really liked him, he could tell. He walked her to the door. The school boy feeling in his gut wouldn't go away and he wondered if she didn't feel something similar. She put two fingers to her lips, kissed them, then pressed them to his lips. She took his hand, put two fingers to his lips, then pressed them to hers. She spoke. For the first time since they had left the club her smooth silky smoky voice came forth as a blues lick played slow and deliberate.

"Tomorrow Dawson. We'll take this to new heights, I promise." She closed the door behind her, forcing him to walk away.

Behind closed doors Susan felt the presence of another immortal. She had no fear. Her home was on Holy Ground. She had restored an old church and turned it into her office as well as her living quarters. The feeling had been strong enough for her to sense it from where she had stood with Joe. Had it not been there she may have changed her mind, invited him to stay. She had no idea who it was but hoped it was Methos. She was not altogether satiated from her little foreplay with Joe and was ready and willing to gratify her own desire with the immortal intruder. Her hope turned to disappointment when she saw the face of the one who had come into her space. Debako Kiihnak, her first husband came, forward his look serene and cold. She hid her feelings from him. She was good at that, especially when she needed sexual satisfaction. If she couldn't take his head, the pretense of gratification would suffice. Though she dreaded the next few moments, she made no effort to get away. She would pretend to be under his spell, mislead him into believing she was considering keeping her promise to return to him and not take his head like she really wanted. The best thing for her to do was to go to him willingly. Use him as he had always used her, to feed his craving despite her hate for him. She knew things would get ugly in the end and she didn't want to push them in that direction too early. He held out a hand to her motioning for her to come closer. She did his bidding. She fell to the floor at his feet. She had not come face to face with him in over 600 years, though his presence always known. This age old immortal who towered over her by six inches, a mixture of both Eastern and Western blood, evident by the slanted pale green eyes that stared through her. He had shadowed her for centuries, moving in and out of her life, and interfering in her affairs.

The destruction of Brian had been a reminder of what he could do and she had lived with it for too long. Brian had suffered because he dared to love her. His life destroyed over his inability to protect them both from harm. A courageous man, turned cowardly to save her life and his, only to lose it to drugs and alcohol. It had been Debako Kiihnak who traced the master swordsman's every move. He had been the one to send other immortals Brian's way for a challenge. He had been the one to introduce him to the falsehood one found through drink and drugs.

In between there had been the curse of her power over all men with whom she came into contact. That which had possessed her very being and been the legend that had followed her forever. Some special thing she did that took control of the senses of the opposite sex and made them do her bidding, just as she did Debako Kiihnak. They would speak to each other in soft passive tones and be driven to do as the other asked. Passion became the only ground rule. Nothing else seemed to matter whenever he came around. This time she was ready for him. Though she hated him, loathed him for all he had put her through in her early years, and the latter time that he had held her captive; she knew that if they were to ever connect again she would be sure it was the last. No matter how much authority he believed he had over her, she had the upper hand. She had acquired the ability to deceive him at his own game and had practiced it quite well on the many immortal men she had killed over the centuries. The cunning skill of redirecting all of their energy back to them, so that they believed they were in control. Clouding the minds of men mortal and immortal into a sense of sexual supremacy that made them believe anything was possible, even when nothing happened. It had become her tool of survival and she had honed it well beyond the mastery of the teacher before her. He wanted her back with him as she once promised, or accept the challenge to lose her head. She knew she could beat him, but pretended that she could not. She trembled feigning fear of the evil ancient immortal who held her in his arms. He stroked her hair with one hand, holding her close and firm with the other. She detached herself from the time and place of the moment if only for a little while. She had him where she wanted him. She had deceived him into thinking she wanted him, showing her approval through some semblance of lovemaking. It took little effort to trick him, he was so easily aroused. So easily fooled into believing something was happening, when nothing did. It was so pathetic and a total waste of time. It had come to this too many times.. It could be a perfect waste of energy or one enjoyable ride. She would imitate the emotions that accompanied climax, faking as always an orgasm that would stay with him for a while to come.

"Oh my pretty pet, why do you continue to please me? I'm here to let you know that the time has come. You must make a decision soon my dear. Choose life with me, or take my head and live without me." His voice was threatening and menacing. His intent was to frighten her with his words, his tone; to force her to give in and do his will. He knew she wanted to fight him, she would have never called Eden into the game had she resolved anything else. "You know how to play well, my dear. Using your dear friend to seduce Macleod and Methos into the game, and that unsuspecting Mr. Dawson, bravo Miijai." He taunted her letting her head drop to his lap as he clapped. "You think I don't recognize your challenge my western beauty? An ancient KIA XIO prophecy that says : You will be protected by a stranger, accept all that he offers, and nothing less. You must love him in return, but share nothing of your past with him. A familiar face will be allowed to interfere, and help you to your goal, but not without a fight and some opposition from a friend. "Did you really think I would forget the writings of our own people, my queen?" He put his lips to hers kissing them firmly, pressing his body fast and hard against her. "Be careful of those you trust." He laughed wickedly in her ear, then ripped her clothes from her.

In what seemed to her as time suspended he became one with her. In his mind forcing her to succumb to his sudden whim of dominance over her. Willingly, effortlessly she let him violate her, through mind and spirit. She used her gift to deceive him into believing he had won the first round. Passion had overtaken him and he felt some assurance(though false) that she would give up and come with him just as he wanted. He was fulfilled by the excitement of the moment just as she hoped he would be. She sighed with him, duping him into believing his pleasure cumulated with hers. She cried out for him to stop as the tears came. Memories of the years of the torture and rape he had put her through, made her act of desire more than just a passing amusement. It was the rage that fueled her. Allowed her to fool him into thinking he had a chance with her. Poor fool, he was so enamored with her, so intent on having her he had no idea he was being conned. He let go of her, allowing her limp body to fall to the floor. Satisfied he left her alone in the darkness. She awoke with a start. She had channeled so much of her energy into deceiving him to delight she had lost consciousness. Now she found herself wanting more, but less than she had longed for before he had tried to take her.

The thought that he knew her plans to draw in Dawson, Macleod, and Methos, made things easier for her. His dependence on her predictability would be what would get her his head in the end. Mac would not like being dragged into this, but with Methos' help he would understand. She did not like deceiving the three friends either, but for now it necessary in order for her to carry out her plan to outwit her relentless first husband. Only Methos knew how important this quest was to her. He would do anything he could to help her see it through. He could be a calculating ally when he wanted to be. It was good to have him on her side. He would be his usual self she was sure, taking matters into his own hands knowing that in the end his every move would serve her purpose.. She hadn't expected him to be drawn in this early in the game, something had alerted him. The conversation at the table that evening had proven fruitful and given her the assurance of his faithful assistance. Now if she could only hope for the same from the others when they learned the truth. She needed sleep, morning was near and she had a long day ahead. She undressed by the pale moonlight, removing what remained of her clothing, before crawling into bed. She rarely slept in her bed, settling instead for the floor or the couch. Tonight she wanted something different. She sprawled out in the bed, pushing all the covers to one side leaving a single sheet to cover her naked body. She hoped sleep would come soon, sound rest with no dreams no nightmares.


1200 BC

She did dream to a time before immortality, in her home in ancient Turkey. She lived amongst the poor, handicapped, elderly and orphaned in a tented community outside the city of TROY. She played in the dirt with the other children. She lead them all, banding together to shelter the young who seemed to multiply around her. She tried to be strong for all of them, taking charge at 14 of over 40 orphans ranging in age from newborn to their teens. She did a good job of it. She employed young boys to steal from the ships that sailed in and out of the port nearby. As time passed and she grew older, she became weary of her chosen task. She longed to say good-bye to the low life and filth of the small village she called home. The sea beckoned. Calling her to a better life she felt, far beyond what she could see. She had listened with content to the stories that the sea men and the nomads would tell the children as they waited for a turn with some of the prostitutes. The men talked of civilizations far away from them. Someday she would stowaway on one of the ships and go as far as the ocean would take her. Her dream turned to a night when she awoke to voices outside the large group of tents she shared with her charges. She found one of them, a young boy of 12 bartering for some cloth with two strange looking men. When she moved in closer she realized she was what the young man offered up in return.

"Kesa, I can provide well enough for mine thank you." She turned to the men. "I'm sorry but my youthful friend is mistaken, my body is not a part of any deal he may have attempted to strike up with you. Is there something else I can offer you gentleman for this cloth?" She stood up straight for the men to show that she was not afraid of them. She was all of 16, 5'7 and full figured for her age. She was cleaner than most of the whores and much prettier.

"You're just a girl," the larger of the two men scowled, "I'll wait my turn with a real woman." He grabbed the cloth from the smaller man and started to walk away.

"Silas, come back here." The man called after his friend. "It is part mine." The bigger man obediently complied.

"And so sir," She focused on the smaller man, "what do I owe you for a piece of that cloth?"

He turned to her, offering a pleasant smile in her direction. He was so handsome, obvious even under the strange paint he wore on his face. His hair was long and dark, with eyes to match. His high cheekbones framed his perfect nose. She wanted to reach out and kiss his lips, his mouth. She had never felt that way before, her knees went weak, she was faint.

"I said your smile in return is enough." He handed her the bolt of cloth Kesa had been trying to buy with the promise of her company.

"Methos! You can't give it away for a smile." His friend scolded him. The one called Methos pulled his sword from his side and held it to the man's throat.

"Brother, I like her. I won't let you or anyone else take her innocence from her." He pushed the man away, cut the cloth in half and sent him on his way to his whores.

"You didn't have to do that." She said piling the remaining cloth up in her arms. "It's so soft and shiny, silk from the east?" She caressed it lovingly, like a woman would a man, not really seeking an answer. He said nothing, nodding his in reply. Again the pleasant smile crossed his lips, and remained there. "I do thank you Methos. I'll make good use of it." She tried to balance the cloth in her arms and extended her hand to him. "Everyone calls me Anie, but my real name is Stephanie."

"Crowned one of the homeless are you?" He gestured for her to look over her shoulder. Forty young faces peered wide eyed from the tents. "And why aren't you all asleep? Shoo get back in there all of you." She ushered them all back to bed then turned to the handsome man before her. "Sorry, someone has to care for them. Sometimes I think families abandon them just so they won't have to be bothered." "Were you ever like them?" He asked taking a seat on the ground, removing his cloak so she could sit beside him. 'What a gentleman.' She thought to herself then answered his question. "Not always. I ran away from my family to avoid being sold into prostitution or slavery. I won't let that happen to anyone in my care if I can help it. Eventually it will come to that, it is the way it is here. At least for a short time I can give them some love and some comfort."

"And a home." He moved in closer to her, pulling her into his lean but firm body to shelter her from the cold night air that had suddenly come on them.

For the next two weeks, Methos came to see her and the children as much as he could. He would bring them food and clothing. He helped them get supplies to build a more suitable and bigger shelter for their mass. Each night they would talk about all the places he had been. His stories about other cultures fascinated her. She told him about her dreams to go to the East someday and he promised to take her there. They would fall asleep in each other's arms exhausted from the day's work and conversation, trying to keep each other warm while the children slept around them. She loved him for not taking advantage of her innocence, defending her honor to those who commended him for thinking he had. He loved her too in a special way and had promised to return and marry her someday........ ,............................Methos shared the same dream as his one time mate and lover. For him the memory wasn't very pleasant. If he had stayed behind, failed to meet back up with Silas and the rest of the Horseman for those last days, her life would have turned out differently.............. .........."You will be back won't you?" She had followed him to the edge of town eager to see him off on his journey, wishing, she was going along. "Of course I will." He lied, she was young and pre immortal. He had sensed that from the beginning, but did not know why. If he could stay he would, but he had to convince himself he was no good for her. "Wait for me my Anie, when I return, you will be older and then we can marry. I promise. Now you do as I asked and have Shaso teach you to write. I want you to document everything so that we can share our stories at my homecoming." He took her face in his hands and kissed her good bye. It was her first kiss and the last one she would receive from him for 700 years. She had savored it for days after, falling asleep to the dim memory of his touch and his feel.


She shifted under the bed sheet that covered her body, whispering his name as she always did when the thought of her first western lover entered her mind. She realized she wasn't alone, the sheet was weighted down on one side. Someone was asleep beside her! She pulled herself out of the bed careful not to disturb her intruder. She didn't care who it was they weren't going to see her in her nakedness. She recognized Methos sprawled fully clothed on top of the bed covers. Damn him, slipping in unnoticed while she lay at rest and in a weakened state from the ordeal with Debako. She didn't have to say a word to wake him. The radio alarm went off and the strains of HOLD ME THRILL ME KISS ME filled the room. He awoke with a start and fell to the floor.

"Arrrrrrgh!! If I didn't know any better I'd say you planned this." He stood to find her standing naked across the room arms held out inviting him to dance to whatever was left of the song.

He took her in his arms following each command as the song dictated. He held her tight and close to him. Kissing every accessible inch, caressing her warm silky flesh as she had the cloth the night they met. He couldn't help himself. Of all the partners he had been with male or female, she had been the most remarkable, as well as the most insatiable. When on fire ready to make love, nothing got in her way until she was content. He wondered if her wiles worked as effectively with her other husbands. He could not be sure with Debako, but what had kept Brian close to her for over two centuries, and Darius? Had her third husband's religious vows kept him pure through the years? Had their meetings been virtuous and chaste? Somehow and not by coincidence Methos always found his way back to her, and it always lead back to this point. They found themselves pulsating as one on the floor, rocking, slowly magically if not to some melodic blast from the past whatever rhythm suited the time and place. Right now it didn't matter to her that she loved someone else, he would do for the moment. He indulged her. His own want for her took control of his senses. It always did. Memories of the teenage girl he had left behind in Troy, of the grown woman he had rescued from China and his three time bride fired up his passion. Any chance he got to be with her was a treasured moment. Passion just seemed to fall in line and she would give herself over to him willingly. She took charge, but he didn't care. It was what made it special with her like no one else he had ever loved. He held her in his arms and made love with her as they did in the old days, so young, and in love. Two people who had no sense of anything but the moment, lost hopelessly in the heat of desire and the longing it created. He clung to her, delicately massaging the tight muscular body that rested close to his flesh. He pressed in close to her pulling her hips to his. Together they sat up again swaying to the cadence their affection created. She moaned in satisfaction. He came with her. Like clockwork as always he saved the best for last. He pulled her to him, clinging hopelessly to some semblance of his one true love, her first love, left over from the past. She shivered at his touch. He pulled the comforter from her bed and wrapped it around the two of them. His long fingers found their way to her shoulders. He gently stroked her with his fingertips, feeling his way to her breasts, her hips her thighs. She touched him back. Her arms open in a full embrace that told him she needed him. Desire swept through them, leaving as quickly, it seemed as it had started. She pulled herself up from the floor her body wet with the reminder of their lovemaking, her hair damp, dripping with sweat. He knew he had truly pleased her, but she still longed for more.

"So what are you doing here, Methos?" She headed for the shower, teasing him shamelessly with her state of undress. She glanced over her shoulder her green eyes flashing an invitation for him to come closer. He followed behind stopping at the door where he could speak and be heard. "I encountered one of Debako's warriors last night it was a tough battle, but I won obviously. I came by to see if you were all right and I fell asleep next to you. Old habits you know."

He teased her. They had not made love like this in 200 years. Would she remember? He had wanted her for so long, but the timing had never been right. At least not for her. First she had turned him down following Darius' death, choosing instead to just let him hold her through the night. She had returned the favor when Alexa died.

"Liar! You were outside waiting for me when Joe dropped me off last night. I know when you are near, old man. You must have killed Debako's immortal bodyguard. I felt a part of the quickening last night when he was here."

"Are you mad at me for coming by to check on you? I didn't mean to take advantage of your weakened state?" He didn't want her to think he was spying on her or looking out for her. He was never sure what condition she would be in after a run in with Debako. More than that, he didn't want her to resent him for still being in love with her in some ways.

Her hand came from behind the partially closed bathroom door.

"Methos c'mere, you talk too much." She pulled him into the shower with her.

Yes, old habits. He thought.


Mac rolled over in his bed to find that Eden had already gone. A note pinned to her pillow expressed her regrets. She reminded him that she had already missed one day of work and school and she could not afford another. It was a disappointment for him. He had been looking forward to waking up to her warm smile, and sharing part of the day with her. There was something special about her and the way she made him feel. Not just in bed but whenever they were together. He found himself in a hypnotic state of wonder at times. Her beauty was amazing. Even her intellect, just everything about her was special. It was more than great sex. She had become a good friend and partner in many aspects as well. She deserved more from him yet expected very little in return, only his faithfulness. Unlike Amanda who always seemed to hint at some kind of commitment from him. Sometimes relying on him to help her keep her head. Eden was content to just please him. Again his mind wondered back to the sexual part of the relationship. Ideally she managed to please in several other things. One thing did stand out, her ability to survive in a world dominated by immortal men who could take her head at any time. She could fight her way out of any situation if she wanted. It was the same trait that had attracted him to Susan in the past. A quality few immortal women possessed and a challenge he welcomed.

The phone rang. He let the machine get it while he prepared to shower. He had a lot to get done today and hoped nothing would get in the way too early. Joe's voice came over the machine. Mac cocked an ear to hear the message.

"MAC IT'S JOE, LOOK I KNOW YOU ARE THERE IF YOU GET THIS MESSAGE COME BY THE CLUB, WE'VE GOT TO TALK. IT'S IMPORTANT. SEE YOU WHEN YOU GET HERE."

He had planned on going to see the man anyway. He wanted to check out the new apartment and find out how things had gone with Susan.


JOE'S BAR

"He didn't answer, but I know he was there. He'll be by soon I'm sure." Joe poured coffee for himself and Methos. The old guy sure looked as if he needed it. Joe wondered what could have kept him from sleep. The ancient immortal was good at finding an excuse to fall asleep anywhere, anytime. Dawson had half hoped to find the man sprawled out somewhere in his new apartment that morning. "Something bothering you this morning Methos?" Joe had to ask, get things out in the open before Mac got there.

"Nothing, really, I'm putting the pieces together in my mind. I don't want to piss Duncan off with what I have to tell him, or discourage you my friend." He took a sip of coffee, peering out over the brim of the cup, to await a response.

"Discourage me from what, am I in for a surprise?" Joe didn't care really. He was able to discern for himself how involved he wanted to be in this. He would determine that once the old man filled him in on what he didn't already know. "Lay it on me man"

"I'm not sure what you are expecting to hear Joe, it's not going to be pleasant. None of this is coincidence. When you asked about Eden and I agreed to do research on her, I should have seen the signs that pointed back to Anie.I was wrong about Eden meaning Duncan harm. She is no assassin. Anie sent her to lure him into a game of revenge."

"Against who?" If she wasn't after Mac's head, it was important he knew what immortal it involved, and what her intentions were. Joe didn't want to believe anything bad about the alluring immortal he had fallen for the instant he had laid eyes on her. "I tried searching our records for information on her. She claims to be as old you, yet her chronicle is almost as vague as yours." Only a few documents about her early years existed. Methos had mentioned something about the ancient Chinese KIA XIO to him the evening before. Yet he found no mention of her in their file. Joe had spent a better part of the time after he had dropped her off trying to find more about her, but nothing had pointed to before 500 BC.

"Ever hear stories about Debako Kiihnak, Joe?" The old guy fixed a glare in his friend's direction. He knew he had run across the name if he had referenced files on the KIA XIO.

"Yeah sure, but he hasn't been heard from in centuries, not since the KIA XIO died out in the time of the Shang dynasty. He and his followers disappeared around 700 BC, then resurfaced for a short time in 700 ad. Not much is recorded about them after that." Joe had done his homework. Debako was a megalomaniac who set himself up as the High Priest who could not die, the sole leader in their version of ancestor worship. Then he was the leader of a band of immortals who terrorized China's river basin. If he was still alive he was as old as Methos. Where, he wondered did Susan fit into all of this? Methos' response came from nowhere as if he had known what Joe was thinking. "She was his wife from 1180 BC -- 700 BC, the period that he reigned over China's Shadow people. She was the high priestess Mijai, the mother goddess. She was the true leader of the people. When he saw how political changes would challenge his culture and destroy the secret empire of immortals he had built, he sent her away to protect her from harm. She promised to one day return to him, but never did. He's come after her and she's bent on taking his head to see that it doesn't happen."

"Just fuckin great!" Joe mumbled. His little romance was taking a complicated direction. He spoke up. "What else do I need to know?"

"Right now all you need to know is that she has a purpose for all she says and does and that you are a part of it. I may not be around during all this. I need your promise that you will stick by her no matter what. You'll understand soon enough."

"Can you tell me how old she is? My guess is somewhere between 3000 and 2500?" Joe had to know how ancient this lady enchantress was.

"When we first met she was 20 maybe younger. I ran across her again 500 years later she was 32. I estimate that makes her 3200 years old in centuries Joe, and 32 chronologically." "You rescued her from Debako didn't you? Somehow you were there and you took her away so that no harm came to her." Methos smiled, then nodded his head at the man, a double acknowledgment that he had gleaned something from the conversation that was worthwhile. "Care to elaborate?"

"Joe I can't." He knew that wasn't the answer the man wanted, but in due course he would have all the answers, at least some anyway.

"Can't or won't? Dammit I've fallen for an immortal woman! I'd like to know what I'm up against." An angry fear showed in Joe's tone of voice. What little he had pieced together about her in recent times wasn't what bothered him, it was what he didn't know.

"Joe you are not in any danger. Go for it. If she interests you then of course my friend feel free to pursue her. If she did anything to encourage you in any way, then don't worry she wants you just as badly as you want her. If it's genuine she'll do everything she can to hold on to you. That includes risking her own life to get rid of Debako. I don't think she intended to drag you into this." Methos paused for a moment. He was lying. He knew the ancient prophecy that dictated her to enlist the aid of a stranger to help her in her fight. She may have fallen for the stranger without intending to. "She fell in love with the man she came to know through this club, the voice and the laugh over the phone, and the willing heart that wrote her love letters through email. Most of all she fell for the man who didn't walk away when he learned she was an immortal. Excepting of a few loyal mortal descendents who follow the ancient KIA XIO ways, she has never ever revealed her immortality to another mortal." He felt the coming of another immortal. He was expecting Susan, but he fingered his sword that lay hidden behind his barstool. She could have cloaked her coming from him. It was a part of the power of being KIA XIO. Shadow people had mastered the gift of hiding from one another. She had taught it to him, and he had used it well through the years. He had used it that morning to sneak into her bed. Susan entered the room. She looked even more radiant than she had when he had left her an hour ago. He tried not to convey pleasure at seeing her. He left that privilege to Joe.

Dawson made his way from behind the bar to her, welcoming her with a well-rounded hug, then a kiss to the lips. To Methos it seemed way too familiar for a couple who had only set eyes on each other within the past 18 hours. They must have shared some hot email.

"Joseph," She scolded, "I do believe you have a very lovely home with a full sized kitchen just a few feet from here, I wish you would take advantage of it." Her scowl turned to a pout. "I worked so hard to make it special for you when do you plan on using it?" She pulled him tight to her body, caressing him playfully and seductively touching his face with her fingertips.

Joe was wishing he was with her in the spacious kitchen right now, but it wasn't drinking coffee that filled his thoughts. "There will be plenty of time for that later sweetheart. Do you want to fill me in on your plans or do I have to force it out of you?"

"Damn, I was hoping to avoid this, guess I can't, huh?" She had to be careful in how she chose her words. She couldn't reveal too much, but didn't want to expose too little." What do you know?" She looked to the pair for an answer.

Methos took the honors letting her know up front what he had shared with Joe.

He let her know that he had brought Joe up to half speed on the purpose for her presence, carefully alerting her without revealing anymore than what had already been said. Then he nodded his head signaling for her to add her own slant to things. A snide grin on his face dared her to disclose any more than he already had.

"Let me just say that everything is under control, it's all gone according to plan so far. Debako thinks he has the upper hand and he doesn't. Don't let anything that happens deceive you into thinking the worse. I know exactly what we need to do. All I need right now are your promises not to interfere in or declare my plans to anyone. I can trust Methos to carry things out for me behind the scenes without my telling him what to do. Joe I need you to lean on, to love and care for me...................."

Another immortal approached. Joe knew by the look on their faces, company was on the way.

"And where do I fit into all of this." Mac entered the room. The look on his face was not a happy one. "Would it have anything to do with this?" He put a package on the bar, removing a small Chinese vase. "It came for me this morning along with this." He shoved a note to Methos, who looked it over then directed it to Susan.

She read it to herself, then turned to Methos for advice. His gestures encouraged her translate it.

"So what does it say?" Macleod was eager, the piece of pottery was from the very beginning of the Shang Dynasty, and very valuable . As far as he knew only three existed. A fourth it would be priceless.

"Mac it's from Debako Kiihnak, he wants you to watch your head, just as closely as you would this work of art." "Why is some legendary immortal asking me to watch my head, am I being challenged?" He knew of the evil immortal. His face took on an angry scowl, evidence that this development did not please him. . He would be angrier when he learned that Susan had been planning this for some time now. "Have you any idea what this is? Eden must have dropped it this morning when she left my place. I think she' s been kidnapped." The thought didn't please him but he had to express it. "Her car was still outside when I went to leave."

"She's safe Duncan. You have nothing to fear. She was taken for her own safety." She fingered the charm for a moment then tossed it to Methos.

"You brought ZHUZAWA here?" He inquired, with a slight hint of surprise and anger mixed, in his voice.

"ZHUZAWA?" Mac and Joe asked in unison.

"A KIA XIO version of the Watchers I guess. They know something we don't. Unlike you, they will interfere if they fear things aren't going as planned. Trust me Mac, they only want to see to it that she comes to no harm. She was to lead Debako here through you for me and she has. You will see her again, for now all we can do is wait." She turned her focus to the elder immortal.

He still fingered the charm. Things were moving to quickly. He'd had no time to plan any strategies. As usual Susan called all the shots. She took charge, using her influences to manipulate them all into protecting her head; until the time came for her to take the head of the ancient immortal who had waited centuries to reunite with her. It upset Methos, as in the past she used her piers to her advantage, it was what she did best and he knew it. "OM," She addressed him by an endearment from the past, "you took the head of Debako's bodyguard last night. I'm positive the ZHUZAWA took Eden to make certain he didn't retaliate for that loss. He will try to step things up a bit , but the end is far from near. You know how he likes to play. All he wants is to feel as though he is in charge. So let him think that, will you? I can't have you brooding and angry with me, because I'm the one in charge. I need you sober in mind, so get a grip,okay?" The 5000 year faked a sardonic grin, cocking his head sideways to present it to her, before turning to share it with his two friends. He wanted to scream out at her, but he knew it would do no good. He had known what to expect from the moment he had invited himself into this little game. He would have to play it her way or not at all. Now Mac and Joe were sucked up into the mess that always seemed to follow her. He had to stick around for the sake of those he loved. Damn her, she was so bloody good at this. Too good, and he knew it would either be the life or death of her yet. He wondered how he would share this with his two friends? Later in private when she wasn't around, he would attempt to explain her ways to them. How could he explain something he didn't understand himself? The gift she used to get her way. The hypnotic state she was able to weave to manipulate any one who got into her path. She had learned it from Debako way before she became immortal. She had willingly used her gift to lure male immortals his way so that he could take their heads. She had perfected it through the years, far beyond what her first mentor had taught her. Methos suspected, she had taught it to Eden. It explained Macleod 's concern for some lovely little thing he had known for only a few months. He was jealous of Eden and he shouldn't be. He missed what he and the Duncan had started, and envied any one who had shared his bed since. One thought comforted him, Mac had yet to take another man to his bed, at least as far as Methos knew. He could see Anie working her ways on Joe. OOOh she was a cold one. Joe had better watch out, lest he fall and fast. She had probably done something to reel Joe in the night before, some perverted sexual act that had satisfied him for a while but only wetted her appetite for pleasure. Debako had come to her and she had willingly given him a false sense of want and desire, used him to feed the fire of emotion lit by her game of excitement with Joe. Methos himself had given in to her invitation twice already, first on the floor of her room after his discovery, and then again in the shower. Methos understood but one of the secrets of her gift . She didn't share her ability with the men in her life. She took it from them. Every little thing she could use that would steal a man's heart she mastered. The flirting, the sensual moves, the way she talked,walked, dressed, her very essence and being were her secret. She became the man she was in love with, a carbon of her lover in femnine clothing. She turned them inside out, giving them back the same thing they gave her. The truth is they fell in love with their own qualities in her.

Joe's raised voice brought him back into the present realm.

"Hey Methos get with it huh? You know this ZHUZAWA, do you think she should go see them alone or take one of you for protection?" Obviously she had annoyed Joe by insisting on going out to contact them unsupervised.

"Actually Joseph, it's you it's you who should go along, ZHUZAWA are mortals whose job it is to protect their High Priestess , from a distance. They don't usually show themselves in public, and they don't trust other immortals. They would accept a mortal outsider of her choosing before they would Mac or me."

"Yeah Right." He wasn't really giving himself much credit here. She was heading for the door, sneaking out of sight, and he wasn't even aware of it.

"Joe,go with her. There is a KIA XIO prophecy that says : A familiar face can interfere and help you toward your goal, but not without some interference from a friend. Then there is there is the stranger who will protect you, take all he has to offer you and no less." He had hadn't quoted it exactly but well enough." I'm the familiar, Mac is the friend, you are the stranger she has chosen, so go." He scooted the man out of the bar. "She's gotten a head start, but I'm sure if you head to her home you'll find her there.

Now Methos had to face the ire Mac. His red face served only to prove that the Scotsman was angry because he had not been the one allowed to go with Susan to help find out about Eden. That damn chivalry of his, those Boy Scout rules, spiking up as always concerning the ladies. Would he be like this if a male friend was kidnapped. The thought did capture his mind in a fantasy, as he envisioned the man rescuing him from his captors, taking him in his arms and laying a hard wet kiss to his lips.

"I said, do you want to tell me what that was all about?" Mac's voice kicked up into a deep angry tone.

"I've suspected something was up for three days. Joe asked me what I knew about Eden. I knew she was here to set you up and force you into something I just didn't know what. I didn't know about Debako's involvement, not until I saw Anie. She planted Eden as bait to get you to help her get Debako's head. He was at her place last night. He gave me the option to either plot with him to get her back or fight him to keep her from him. He quoted the prophecy to me to remind me of my choices." He took a beer from Joe's cooler not offering any refreshment to Macleod. "There was this KIA XIO legend about a gentle soul who would be the saving grace of all the shadow people, a female who would never die. One who despite all the amoral things done to her would rise repeatedly, until one day she forces the elimination of the evil for good. She would then turn the rule of the people over to one of her choice. For centuries she has been preparing herself for this day. I guess I just hoped it would never come." He took a long hard sip of the beer waiting for the Highlander to respond.

"You are sure that he won't take her head and kill Joe?"

"He likes the idea of a challenge, but he's not after any mortal. He needs his audience. I'm sure he has a few tricks up his sleeve. He is probably convinced that he will be able to take our heads after he takes hers. He can't kill Joe, not while she is alive anyway. That would defeat his purpose. He thinks he can get her to return to his little mythical Chinese Camelot in the river basin and she wants no part of it. To him we are just easy targets she's set up for him like the old days. Follow her lead and everything will be just fine."

Macleod was getting restless. He didn't want to ask any more questions. He wouldn't get any specific answers to them anyway. He worried about Joe's safety as well as Eden's. He didn't really know Debako well enough to have all the confidence that his old friend did. Methos was all too familiar with the minds involved in this little game and how they worked. Duncan was uncomfortable with the whole thing, but understood that his part in all of this was to protest , the interfering friend. He was to throw things off with his temperamental ways, his code of honor and ethics. He questioned Eden's part in this. She had shared his bed for months and now it turned out that she was sent to seduce him and lead him right into the path of Susan and her little game. He prayed the coed was safe. If anything happened to her he would take the closest head without asking questions. He would hate to lose her to the battle. It was always hard when you lost someone you loved to the game. He had no bond to Eden, not like he shared with Methos or Joe. He thought of Joe as a brother a kinsman, one of his clan. The ancient one was all things, every emotion that stirred in a man came to mind when he thought of him and the special relationship they shared. It was unlike any other he had experienced or shared with anyone in all his years. He wondered if he would ever get it back again. He trusted the aged eternal being sipping beer nonchalantly, while two friends' lives could be in danger. If this man trusted Susan with Joe's life he would as well. He had to trust everything would go as planned, that Susan was good at keeping things under control, and in order. Some special quality kept Methos loyal to this woman from his past. How endearing to have a friend who stuck so close. It wasn't like what he shared with Amanda, it was a closeness based more on time and not emotion. Something else told the Highlander that Methos had confidence in her skills as well. He would rest easy. Joe was safe.

Methos' voice of reasoning broke the silence that had dominated the last few minutes.

"You know she has nothing to gain out of all of this Macleod. It's purely for revenge and piece of mind. She has no desire to continue on as the leader of the KIA XIO people. She's lived under their watchful eyes for years but she longs for a life uninfluenced by their ways. The only way she can do that is to destroy Debako." A big grin crossed his face, self approval for his revelation.

"So is she capable of taking his head or not?" He let go of his anger, but there was a desperation in the mans voice, an uncertainty whether everything was okay.

"Mac she is as much the warrior as you are. Despite her age and the probability that she may be a bit out of Shape after years in sanctuary, she still has what it takes my friend. Her skills are comparable if not better than your own. If I was in a fight I'd let her take over for me. She has a very protective nature. I am sure she won't let any harm come to Joe. Stop worrying."

Despite the explanation and the plea Duncan still paced the floor. The old man wanted to reach out to him pull him to his chest and say everything was going to be all right. Strains of the Beach Boys, 'Don't Worry Baby,' filled his head and he tried his best not to burst into laughter. This was a serious issue and he wanted to get cozy with the warrior, kiss and hug all his fears away. He chose instead to speak them away. "Macleod we are talking about an immortal who has lived this long based on skill and technique. Though notorious for the cunning innocent pretense, which she's used to lure male immortals into believing she can't overtake them, she is far more capable than she lets on, I give credence to that. It's the only good thing she ever learned from Debako. It will surprise him when he sees how well she's perfected those skills. Apart from Debako she's had many great teachers." He held up a hand and began to count off the most infamous. "May-Ling Shen, Brian Cullen, Darius, yourself and yours truly. There are more than that who have taught her and learned from her as well. It's not her ability that's gotten you riled what is it?" It was obvious that there was more to the Highlander's edginess, it had little to do with the topic at hand. All this talk seemed to be leading to something.

"I'm afraid Joe might try to interfere, what then?" Ever loyal Boy Scout Macleod had spoken, ever ready to come to the defense of his friends even from a distance.

"This is Joe we are talking about isn't it? Don't worry he won't get in the way. He knows more about her than you do and he only officially met and found out about her last night." Methos was relying on the fact that Joe had indeed browsed any information in the Watcher files on her.

"What could he possibly know that I don't know?" Anger rose in his voice. It was just what Methos had wanted to get the attention off Joe and Eden's safety and on another topic.

"Her succession of husbands maybe, who, when, where and the ongoing loyalty to each of them after they parted." There was always one way to detour the Scot's thoughts, pique his curiosity.

"Okay so you want to tell me." He was only half interested in what the older man had to share. What he really hoped for was to learn where exactly Methos fell into line in all this mess.

"She was around 20 when she met and married Debako, much against her will. 12 years later she became immortal. He knew what she was when he took her into his little tribe of Shadow people. He tricked her into fulfilling the legend about a divine mother Goddess who serves to educate. He never thought she would choose to leave him. When he did give her permission to leave it was with the promise that he would come after her someday and she would return with him willfully or take his head to gain her freedom. I'm afraid she has chosen the latter." Methos let go a deep sigh waiting for Mac to reply. He took another beer from Joe's cooler, this time fetching one for his company as well. When he thought the man wasn't looking he slipped a twenty dollar bill into a crack of the drawer of the cash register.

"So how did you manage to steal her away from her adopted culture?" A curious grin covered Duncan's face as he took a sip of his beer.

"You don't know what you are talking about." Methos tried to hide his face from Mac, so that he would not be able to tell he was lying.

"I do know, now give it up. You obviously didn't take Debako's head, so how did you get the girl?" Mac teased him using the neck of the beer bottle as a reporter would a microphone, shoving it as close to the man's lips as he could.

"Must you be so melodramatic?" The Scot tried not to burst out laughing. He continued to hold the bottle close to Methos' lips, waiting for his reply. "All right then!" Methos pushed the bottle away then leaned in close to the man before him. "If you must know it took me fifty years to get her away from them. The wars had influenced the people of China so much that to be poor meant no place in society. The KIA XIO ways did not quite mesh with the upper middle class ways. The few who remained prevailed. For the fifty years I was with them we learned from one another. They taught me their language, I taught them mine. I tried to teach them how to write and encouraged them to keep journals of all that went on around them. In all that time I was never allowed in their temple. Though offered many privileges, to worship with them was not one of my choices. It didn't bother me really. It was like taking sanctuary in a monastery without having to adhere to religious traditions around me. I could have left any time during that period but chose to stay. I felt compelled to stay as long as I was welcome. Then one day I was invited to witness what I had been missing. What little I did know about their religion pointed to a Cretin like worship of a mother goddess. This was quite odd considering the entire population of the tribe as I far knew, was male."

For the first time since Duncan had met him the the old man was opening up about something from his ancient past without any goading he just kept talking.


CHINA AROUND 700 BC KIA XIO VILLAGE ALONG YELLOW RIVER BASIN

Methos ate the dinner his ZHUZAWA had prepared for him with vigor. It was good. For once they had cooked him something spicy and to his liking. He savored every bite. For the fifty years he had been living among them it had been the rare occasion when they had duplicated the recipes he had shared with them, He had begun to miss the taste of the Mediterranean culture he had left behind for sanctuary in the lost Chinese village, far away from the wars that populated the surrounding areas. Things seemed festive in the village for some reason, as if they were preparing for some celebration. Ten of the other 12 immortals living peacefully in the midst of the people known as KIA XIO- the shadow people joined him. The people also began to gather and soon the entire populous surrounded him. All eyes turned to focus on the temple steps. The high priest Debako ventured close to them. He rarely mingled with his subjects. He usually stayed in the confines of the house of worship. He ordinarily bellowed to them in humbled tones in the ancient dialect passed to them through the centuries. Tonight he spoke in the Greek tongue of the teacher from the West NYN NXYA, Methos.

"One of our warriors has defiled the temple and crossed your chieftain by violating the chamber of our mother goddess Mijai. He has conspired against me, and coveted my place with her. I have decreed according to our laws that the head of this offender be severed so that he may live no more. Our high priestess and mother goddess shall do the honor." The man clapped his hands and the secret of the temple emerged.

Whispering and murmuring filled the air. She had never come to them from this side of the structure. She had only shown herself from the opposite side where all life began and ended with her. Methos knew she was an immortal. He could sense her presence strong and powerful. A new feeling that hadn't ever come over him when the others came near. At first glance he thought it to be a man dressed in a costume of the mother goddess, but a second look assured him she was all woman. The hum that alerted him to her immortal being signaled a more enlightened acquaintance than time spent had allowed him. Did he know her?

At the foot of the temple steps, Debako drew an open ended circle. The missing immortal who along with Debako made up the rest of the 12 immortals of the village was brought to the high priest by a ZHUZAWA. His hands tied behind his back. More undertones dispersed as the people questioned what could have caused this strange punishment to come. The woman raised her hands above her head to silence them. She spoke first in KIA XIO, then in Greek.

"Tyan has violated the trust of the ancient elders and coveted the treasured secrets of the chambers of the mother goddess. Tonight he will lose his head. I choose to share my victory with my husband and your high priest Debako Kiihnak, he in turn has chosen the one we call NYN NXYA to share as well."

Methos' heart dropped he wasn't exactly sure what he was volunteered to do. The only fighting he had done in the past fifty years was the skills training he had shared with the KIA XIO. He had been happy living a passive life among them. He shared knowledge with them in exchange for the chance to learn their fighting techniques and they had obliged. Now they were forcing him to participate in a battle of judgment, because one of them had violated the temple. He didn't like the fighting part of being an immortal. He had already killed too many immortals and mortals in his lifetime. He had tired of the game. Teaching in this peaceful village had been his way out of the game for a time. So much for sanctuary. He was lead to the large circle Debako had traced in the dirt. The priestess transcended to join them. She motioned for two ZHUZAWA to stand inside the circle to the left and right of the open triangle. Methos followed Debako's lead and took a place at the pointed end of the angle next to him. Tyan stood in the middle. Mijai came forward to face the violator. She kissed his lips, backed away, then let out a cry to signal the battle was to begin. Methos had heard the cry from the other side of the temple, where evidence of a quickening always followed. Each of them was handed a sword, and instructed to learn and observe while she dominated the battle to take the head of the accused. She put up a good fight. The young immortal was no match for her strength. He was unable to stay within the confines of the circle. Every time he ventured to close to the edge the ZHUZAWA stabbed at him with the tip of their sword, to force him back into position. The priestess kept offering him a chance at life if he would return what he had stolen, but he refused. He fell to his knees begging her to take his head. She mocked him, driving him to make efforts to defend himself. She swung her sword high over his head, tormenting him with his known fears of her well-honed skills.

"Tonight you die traitor, the secrets you stole lost with you."

With a single swing of her blade the young mans head fell to the ground. The two ZHUZAWA stepped from the circle quickly ushering all those present into the temple away from the consequences of the quickening. Debako and Mijai held their swords high over the body of the slain immortal, encouraging Methos to do the same, just as the quickening began. The three of them shared in the aftermath.

"You take orders well Methos." The woman addressed him in an Arabic language he had not heard in some time. He had never heard any of the KIA XIO speak it, though he had taught them some of the key phrases from his native tongue. Now this stranger before him spoke in the dialect from his mortal youth.

"And you mistress speak excellent Lugal." He bowed out of respect. "I do not believe I've had the pleasure." He took her hand in his.

Debako stepped up beside him.

"This is my wife Mijai. She told me the two of you have already met. Until this evening there had been no need for you to come into her presence. Tonight you proved to be loyal by agreeing without hesitation to be a part of the judgment ritual. We have heard stories of the immortal from the West who was Death. We welcomed you among us so that you could teach us your ways. We needed you to help the few of us left to survive the ages. Your reward will be the gift of our mother goddess who came from the West as you do."

He the spoke the words with authority and assurance that the westerner would accept his gift.

"After 50 years you are asking me to leave and take your wife with me?" He wasn't sure he wanted toÝleave and if he did, how long would he keep his head with a female immortal at his side?

"You worry too much my friend. For many years Mijai has protected us from harm. She has taught us her ways and we have taught her ours. She has served us well and for that we are grateful. She has fulfilled her part of the KIA XIO prophecy. She will know when the time is right to return and so will you. She must leave us now. He handed Methos two pieces of Jade cut to the shape of the circle where the fight had taken place. "This is the symbol of our people. The circle is the existence of all mankind. The open triangle on the inside is the man who cannot die. Keep one with you always, the other give to Mijai. She is your wife now."

Debako left them alone inside the circle. Methos wasn't sure what to think. He knew why the priestess had seemed so familiar to him. So much time had passed since he had last seen the pre-immortal teen from Greece. She was a woman now, close to his age. She had grown into a magnificent beauty and though he wanted her, had always wanted her, from the moment he had first laid eyes on her, he wasn't comfortable. Everything confused him. For years she had hidden herself from him, never making her presence known. Now that she had revealed herself to him, he was to make her his wife? He looked around to see that she had disappeared. Two ZHUZAWA approached speaking in perfect Greek, ordering him to follow them. They led him into the temple. The inside appeared amazingly elegant but in a simple way. Writings in Chinese housed some of the walls, while others stood veiled behind thin gauzy curtains, their inscriptions hidden from view. Some of them appeared to be in Greek and Arabic. They ushered him through the massive hallways quickly, not allowing him the luxury to read them. The servants left him alone at the entrance of one of the chambers. Reluctantly he took a step into the dark room unsure what he would find there.

"I always knew you would come for me Methos." Her voice came to him from the blackness. He followed it, stumbling at her feet before she lit a torch. In its flame, he could see the true marvel of her beauty. The pale moonlight from the outdoors had masked her appearance. Every feature was just as he had imagined it and more. She had matured well.

"I went back to Greece to find you. They told me you had been kidnapped is that true?" He moved closer to her. His heart raced energetically. No woman had ever made him feel this way. He didn't know if it was the intoxicating smells of the incense that burned around them or her.

"I told the children to tell you that, so that you would never stop searching for me. I stowed away on a ship going east and found my way here." She cuddled him tightly, as she had when they had first met centuries ago.

"I'm sorry I didn't come back for you sooner. I wanted to be with you when you found out you were immortal. I am glad you found a place with others like you." He felt the need to apologize.

"I was fortunate to find this place. Only Debako knew I was an immortal before I died the first time." Her tone was hushed and low. She pulled him into her body even tighter as if she would lose him again. She hesitated for a moment. What should she tell him about her time here? Did she tell it all? Or be vague and fill in the rest later? She blinked back tears saved for a moment like this for five centuries, then told him of her life.

There had always been at least a dozen or so immortals including Debako around her. From the beginning they took her in and sheltered her. They had a legend and a prophecy about a goddess from the western world who comes to them from the sea. She would teach them how to farm the land, and to read and write. She fulfilled their myth, especially after they learned she was an immortal. The villagers as well as the immortals who governed over them insisted she be made the high priestess, and the wife of their leader Debako Kiihnak. "From the moment I found out I was an immortal I hoped that you were as well. I prayed that you would come for me just as you promised me. I was so unhappy after learning my fate. It wasn't until after I mentioned your name aloud in my dreams that I learned you were." She sighed in relief. He had confessed all his ugly deeds to her. The stories he had told her about himself had never mentioned time, only the hideous things he had done. Debako told her the truth about him and the Four Horseman. He told her stories of the chaos he, Silas, Caspian, and Kronos had done years before she had existed. She did not judge him then or now. Debako was no better than Methos. He and his immortal followers had created their own share of havoc across China and she forgave them. "Debako promised me that if I ever found you or you found me he would give me my freedom. I believe he thought it would never happen."

Methos could feel the tear's stream from her eyes. Gently he wiped them away with his fingertips. She put them to her lips kissing away her tears, then pressing his open palm to her cheek. He longed to kiss her back, be with her as he had dreamed of so many nights.

"Were you enslaved here, or held against your will? To be given one's freedom implies you were in bondage or something." Her body began to quiver nervously, again there were tears, but no sounds of sobbing. She whispered to him in a tender subdued manner the tale of her fateful life as a KIA XIO priestess.

Everything she had hoped to avoid in her mortal life happened when she became immortal. She was the wife of high priest, and his sex Slave. Night after night he raped her repeatedly while the villagers watched. He beat her until she died in his arms, declaring himself a god when he breathed life back into her. He thought that it would drive Methos out of her heart, but nothing could.

It was Methos' turn to hold on tight. He never wanted to let go. He understood how she felt, and why she felt the way she did. She had kept all her true feelings in side for all this time and would have forever if he hadn't come when he did. She did not love Debako, but had served as his lover to keep her head and gain the trust of the people.

She wrapped her arms around him, looked into his deep dark eyes, speaking softly, barely above a whisper, again in the tongue of his mortal youth.

"I have never loved anyone but you. I was not given the choice to wait for you as I would have liked, but live as I willed. I gave up of myself to Debako obediently if only to stay alive. It was the image of you that kept me sane.." She kissed his chest, he could feel not only her warm trembling lips, but the wet rain of her tears as well. "Forgive me please, I did what I had to do. I served Debako as he bade me and the villagers served me in return, loyally through the generations. Prophecies dictate that I am free to go now and take a handful of ZHUZAWA with me. They will protect and serve me as long as I live. Don't ask me to explain further or I would be violating the trust of the people. Just agree to take me away." They felt the coming of another immortal. She pressed in even tighter to him, every inch of her fully grown, developed body against his like a second skin. She said nothing, teasing him with tender kisses to his neck, face, shoulders, his hands. Her hands stroked the rest of his body until he could stand it no longer. He wanted her, to be a part of her at last. Let a thousand years of dreams and expectations come together with her own, before whoever lurked in the shadows made themselves known. He moaned quietly in her ear whispering his desire to take her like the rushing wind. She put a finger to his lips and spoke, this time in Chinese breaking the spell that passion's silence had created. "What is it going to be my love? If you say yes I am yours now and for how ever long you will have me. Say no and your head is mine!" She stood over him, her sword ready to end his life with the utterance of a single word.

"This is crazy, we haven't seen each other in centuries, your husband all but hands you over to me and you threaten to take my head? I'd be a fool to say no." He managed to roll himself up to a standing position over her. "Believe me I really want to take you away from here, but I'm not sure what kind of life you expect. There are other evil immortals out there, who would take your head for the sheer pleasure of it. Others may say they are your friend, but turn on you in the end. I can't guarantee you much of a life, but if that is what you want my answer is yes. Be warned darling that not even my love or the ZHUZAWA can protect you from all harm. It's not that easy."

Debako stepped out of the shadows. "It is not her choice. Either you prove your love for her by taking her with you or you lose your head. Never underestimate her power. She has traveled all of China with me and she has managed to take as many lives mortal and immortal as she is old, if not more. She has achieved skills that even I have not mastered. Those who put up a fight or resisted soon wished they had not. Take her, let her serve you well, as she has served me." The man mumbled some words over them before leaving as swiftly as he had appeared.

"I take it we are married now?" Methos asked sarcastically, a slight laugh in his tone.

"Only if that is what you wish. I am to serve you in may ways Methos. Some would require a commitment, yes." She bowed before him in submission. "I believe you have a gift for me?" She took the smaller of the two charms, fastened it to a gold chain then put it around her neck. She took the other and attached it to a similar chain. She teased him with it before putting it around his neck. "I would rather take my own head than yours my love, remember that. Next to the joys that the benefit of a monogamous marriage brings, there is nothing more invigorating than the taking of heads, wouldn't you agree?" She pinned him to the ground straddling his body to keep it in place. Magically every hormone in his body suddenly responding with the same enthusiasm as they had before Debako's intrusion. She rubbed her body into his, setting every muscle in motion, writhing with want and passion for her.

"We leave first thing in the morning." He whispered. From that moment on technically by her standards they were married for life.


"That's it! You just walked out with no fuss?" "What did you want Macleod, centuries of detail? I agreed to take her because I didn't want to lose my head over it. Did I love her? Yes! We've traveled together off and on throughout our lives as husband and wife, brother and sister and as friends. I do not care to elaborate on it any further. Do you mind?"

Mac could see he had struck a nerve with the old guy. He had shared something about himself for once and now he backed away as always, ruining things by shutting down just when it would be easy to get to know him better. "Do you still have this symbol of your marriage?" He wondered if the ancient would hold on to something that valuable all this time. To his surprise he pulled out a key ring. There among his keys and a small bottle opener was the piece of jade he had described. Two inches in diameter, it seemed out of place with its neighbors. Duncan carefully examined it in his fingers. Through the years Methos must have taken great pride in keeping the charm safe to still have it. "What about the other one?" Methos pulled the cord he always wore from around his neck. Macleod had thought it carried his Watcher symbol. Right alongside it was the other charm half the size of its mate. "How did you end up with both?" This really interested the Scot.

"She gave it to me for safekeeping, I've never taken the opportunity to return it to her. We sold the chains separately and years apart. They brought in a small fortune for us both to share, quite a legacy."

Joe bursting through the door interrupted the history lesson. The man appeared panicked. The two friends ran to his side and helped him to the bar. He reached for a bottle of Scotch, pouring some into his empty coffee mug from the morning. He drank it down before speaking.

"You should have seen her. These two guys were across the street from her place staking it out, waiting for her. She felt them before they felt her I guess, because she sent me ahead to distract them. She caught them by total surprise. I mean no sword play, just feet and fists flying everywhere. Bam, pow, swish, swish! Next thing I know she's taken both their heads just a block away from Holy Ground. It was like nothing I ever witnessed. Mac you got to see her fight. Her martial arts form is like nothing I've ever seen." The man refilled his cup with more Scotch, and awaited a response.

"Did you find out anything about Eden?" Mac felt relief that Joe was safe, but needed reassurance about Eden as well. "She's fine Mac. The ZHUZAWA took her into safekeeping we are to catch up with her later. Susan has all the details. I thought she would be right behind me. You guys don't feel her?" Joe's panic from before returned. She had passed out in his car from the double quickening. He had assumed she would be okay. The three of them turned to the entrance of the bar just in time to see her stumble in, struggling to get to them. Several stab wounds covered her chest and abdomen.

She managed to outwit and kill 2 KIA XIO immortals with a few punches and a single fell swoop of her sword, only to fall victim to a mugging by two mortals at Joe's front door. She let out a gasp for air, then fell still into Joe's arms. Duncan ran to the door to see if he could catch the ones who had harmed her. He returned with an angry perplexed look on his face.

"Whomever did this to her left a calling card." Mac handed his find over to Methos. A bloody dagger along with a note that read 'Give us Mijai, and our legends, otherwise you all die. Sorry, no rules!!'

Methos found no signiture, could only mean one thing and he knew it. Susan was now an open target. She needed refuge until the challenge took place later that evening. Debako wanted one thing and if he didn't get it he would stop at nothing to make sure no one else did either. He and Mac had been called into the game, to protect her and shelter her so that she could exact her final revenge on Debako. This current threat was his way of telling them there would be plenty of company when the challenge took place later that evening.

"I don't like this, Methos. Your ex-wife has gotten us involved in some stupid game that doesn't seem to play itself out by any set rules. Tell me just, how far we are expected to go with this, and how safe are we?" Mac was in the man's face. He was pushed to the limit.

"MacLeod he's running scared. She took down two of his immortal followers. He knows that she has what it takes to draw this battle to a close, but he isn't going to give up too easily. He's trying to up the ante some and unless she comes across with what he's asking for, there will be no bloodshed, not tonight anyway. Don't worry about your precious bed toy. No harm will come to her. There is no benefit in that. Keep your cool MacLeod, and we all keep our heads." A big grin passed the mans lips as he stroked his neck to illustrate his assurance. He knew that Mac would be angered by the remark he had made about Eden. Duncan deserved it, he was being such an ass about someone who really meant very little to him.

"I can hardly wait!" The elder man's thought was correct. The Scot's anger was riled, stirred up and brewing, all because he worried about the lady.

"Are you two gonna bicker all day?" Joe interrupted the little love spat. "Could you please give me a hand getting her to bed or something, she's badly hurt." Joe was not pleased with the way the two of them were handling this.

"Joe she's an immortal, she'll recover okay." Mac went to pick her up, but Methos pushed him aside. He took the ailing woman up in his arms and over to Joe's apartment, a few feet away. Mac looked at Joe, he questioned Methos' grand concern, considering the chastisement for his own. "He couldn't still be in love with her could, he?"

"Could be. A remarkable thing about her, Mac, all her husbands remained loyal to her and she to them, even after they parted ways. All she wants is to see this thing through with Debako and for some reason so is Methos. Did you know that she spent a better part of the 70's trying to get Brian Cullen off of drugs? For the past 700 years she has supported the orphanage and convent at St. Julian le Paurve in Paris." Joe felt free to throw in a few facts with his response.

"How well did she know Darius?" Methos had mentioned that they shared this mutual friend, was there more?

"She was married to him for over 30 years, Mac. I was sure you knew. Didn't he ever mention Katerine Kopolous to you?"

"He may have, I don't really recall right now. Does Methos know?"

"Does he know?" Joe couldn't believe how little he knew about his friend's past. "Mac, she and Methos were married by Darius for the third and last time in Paris in the early 1600's. When the old guy returned to the continent without her, Darius nearly came out of sanctuary to take his head. He was so angry at him for losing track of her. From that time he has kept in touch with her at Darius' request."

"And you learned all this from her Watcher file?" Mac was curious about Joe's source, which somehow included two of his favorite friends.

"Yes and no. Her file is just as vague as Methos'. The two of them are really good at reinventing themselves. I found mention of her as Katerine Kopolous in Darius' file and so much more fell into place. Methos even filled me in a bit this morning. He cut me off, when I got too close."

"I'm not too comfortable with this, Joe, are you suspicious at all?" MacLeod needed to know that he was not the only one who had doubts about this little ordeal. He wanted some answers soon.

Joe shook his head in agreement. He had reservations about many things.Only little bits of information on the KIA XIO appeared in the Watcher files, and it was mostly speculative. There was no mention of Susan or any women in what was available, either. Her recollection of them pointed to a time before they were even known to exist. Then there was the age thing. Her name didn't appear anywhere in the Chronicles before 400 BC, making her age much younger. She stayed in Greece during most of her early years. She managed to take good care of herself content, to help the poor and the orphaned. If Methos was a part of her life then, he wasn't using a common name. Through the years she drifted in and out of sanctuary to stay clear of Debako.

"Mac the part that bothers me is the ZHUZAWA, loyal mortal followers, from generations of Chinese families who have followed and protected her for centuries, why, when she's not even one of them?" Joe shrugged his shoulders and threw up his hands in despair. It was odd behavior to him. It had to be one of the reasons why her relationships never lasted. Why were Chinese bodyguards around at every turn, watching out for her night and day, willing to lose their heads? Why risk their lives for a woman from the West who is not one of them? An outsider who never wanted to be a part of them. Their culture was not her culture, yet they loyally stuck close to her generation after generation. Watching and observing her just as the Watchers did, the only difference is they assisted, and they served her. They did interfere. Joe let go a deep a sigh along with a subtle shake of his head to acknowledge his frustration.

"According to Methos, she was the Mother of all mankind. If they were into ancient ancestor worship back then as most Chinese cultures were, she is the only link they have to that past. Imagine all their relatives kept alive by one single immortal being. She is the representation of all that is good, while Debako and his immortal few are the evil. It seems to me that they have some understanding of the rules of the game. They didn't interfere this afternoon, did they?"

"She took them both by surprise, it was as they never saw her coming." He wondered if Mac had a point or if he was just rambling, trying make sense of everything. They sat in silence. Drinking coffee pondering, the mess they may be getting themselves into both wondering why.

Next door, Methos watched her rest. She was weak and it was understandable. Debako had tried to boost his chances of taking her head by daring her to take two of his men. She rarely took a quickening on her own and he had forced her to take two of them at once. He had taught her early to split the effects of the experience with another immortal whenever possible. It was something she had always practiced. It was one of the reasons she needed Mac and him to be there when she took Debako's head. They would share his quickening with her. The intense power and energy split into thirds, maybe fourths if Eden managed to step in just in time, would lessen the profound aftermath of the event. It was the KIA XIO way, and it had always worked for her. Methos cursed Debako under his breath. The son of bitch was more than aware that she had no intentions of keeping her promise to return to him after all this time. Her defenses were down and she needed assistance to get her ready for what was to come. It would be Methos' job to make sure she made it through this round at least. After that he would carefully manipulate the terms of the game from the sidelines, playing the way he knew best. Play it on both sides. One step ahead of the one he knew would win in the end. It had worked with MacLeod when Kronos had reentered his life. This ride wasn't going to be quite as bumpy.

Susan awoke in the bed with a start. She was naked, but carefully covered by a sheet. Methos reached over, smoothing her hair away from her face with a soothing touch. He smiled at her shyly, eyes downcast in humble submission to her. He sat on the bed close beside her, saying nothing. All he needed was the assurance from her that all was well and he would go about other business. He handed her a glass of beer , she gulped it down with ease.

"Ahhh, that's my girl, all better are we?" Methos teased her. She wasn't as weak as he thought. Pity, at times a little sexual stimulation was necessary to bring her around. It didn't seem to be essential in this case. She grabbed his neck and pulled him to her. She planted a lengthy kiss to his lips, playfully daring him to resist her, share more with her than a prolonged peck. The temptation was great. Making love with her was always a treat. She never held back, she felt the need and she filled it. If a husband wasn't around to squash her craving, she always found some way to fill the hunger inside her. He pulled away from her. He wasn't going to let her get to him. He put her little whim on hold for now. He had Joe to consider and MacLeod. "Put these on for now." He handed her a sweater, and a pair of jeans. "I don't want you going back to your place until all this is over, it's not safe." You stick close to MacLeod or me until then." He searched her pockets for her keys. He headed for the back way out of Joe's apartment stopping briefly to warn her, "Joe is my friend darling, he's crazy about you and I don't want to hurt him. If you continually insist on playing your silly love-making games, I would prefer you put Joe's boxers in a bind all right?" He walked away from her. It had been hard, but it sure felt good.

Susan dressed in his clothes. They smelled like him.The faint combined scent of almond, earth musk and sandalwood lingered. They felt like him, soft, warm and gentle to the touch. She walked toward the bar to join Joe and Mac. MacLeod's big voice boomed forth, stopping her before she got too close.

"Joe, how certain can we be that she isn't setting up Methos and me to take our heads or let Debako take them?" He paced the floor nervously. She could fend for herself. He had seen her in action, and now so had Joe. It was hard for the Scot to fathom any reason why she needed help. It was obvious that she had the strength and skill to take Debako's head on her own.

"Mac I think he's the one she is trying to deceive, if he believes her defenses are down and that she needs other immortals around as he does, he might be easier to defeat."

"Dawson, her fight isn't our fight. The rules are different, the consequences. I don't like being invited to participate in something I know very little about." He turned to see her standing in the middle of the room.

She had veiled her entrance. One of her many survival talents he remembered. He tried to hold back a laugh. She looked better in the old guys' clothes than he did. The denim hugged her like a second skin, despite the too long legs. The sweater covered her well, hiding her muscular curves delicately out of sight. Since she had managed to enter the room undetected he wondered how much of the conversation she had heard. Her response gave him his answer. She padded across the floor closer to the bar in her bare feet

"It's not safe for me to go home right now. Methos has gone for some of my things." She sat on a barstool, in a curled up position. She peered out over her folded arms at the two gentlemen. "How safe am I if those I've chosen to trust, don't trust me?"

She walked behind the bar and took a beer for her self. 'She's so much like Methos,' Joe thought, 'or was he like her?' She focused a stare directly at Duncan, her eyes fixed on his, coldly piercing and dark as the mood the uneasiness of the situation had set. Their eyes met in a hollow gaze, fixed on one another, bodies not moving, eyes not blinking. A perfect game of stare down prevailed for a few minutes that seemed like an eternity. "DAMMIT! It's not that I don't trust you!" Mac's voice broke the silence, resounding across the empty barroom like thunder. "Where do I fit in the scheme of things, it's not even my fight."

His anger had surely gotten the best of him. He forgot he was dealing with a woman. He balled up a fist ready to hit her. Joe, ever the peacemaker wrestled himself between them.

"Mac, it's obvious she trusts you. She needed some help and she sought out one of the best, is that so bad? Why do you need to know all the facts anyway?" The Duncan had gotten involved plenty of times in the past without knowing everything up front. Joe held the man at bay with his cane to make his point clear. "Is it because you don't have a past with her, if it was Amanda coming to you with the same story would you be so reluctant to step in and get involved?"

Mac was glad Joe had stepped in forcing him to see another viewpoint. He was letting his emotions get in the way. Susan sat on the bar, her legs dangling over the edge. Her eyes clouded with tears. Her head hung low, her chin to her chest. The pain of a thousand years evident in her voice when she spoke.

"Duncan, all I want to do is preserve the history and dignity of a tribe who adopted me into their culture and made me special."

She explained herself to them the best she could. She was an outsider who came among them and taught them how to survive. She cared for them and loved them with truth and sincerity. She was kind, gentle and innocent. She gave them hope when they had lost sight of a meaningful future. She put a stop to the hate of a ruler they feared by agreeing to become his wife, when she had no love or desire for him and they loved her for that. She lived a lie to keep her head and they flourished. Debako let them live as long she remained his wife. She pulled a napkin from a tray on the bar and wiped her eyes dry. "The mortal descendents who follow after me are loyal to me by their own choosing, the immortals who follow Debako are not even true KIA XIO. They are selfish, foolish, greedy men bound by the promises of a power that has no right to be. All of them deserve to die until the only one who exists is Debako." Her voice faltered as she swung onto the floor to face the chieftain's son. "After I eliminate him every thing will be as it should. I will be free, the people will be free and we will live our lives as we see fit. Darius always told me if I needed help, to seek you out, that you would understand my desire to rid the world of someone like Debako. I don't think he was wrong do you?"

"I'm not so sure this is the way Darius would have wanted things, Susan." It did not please him that she had brought his name into this. It put a different perspective on things. A view he didn't want to explore. "This cause of yours seems bent on destroying itself and each other. Isn't there a more peaceful way to settle this? The man I knew as Darius would not have fought this hard!"

"That's not fair, Duncan. You never knew him as a warrior, I did." The man Katerine Kopolous married never walked away from a battle that he knew would destroy him or those he loved. After he chose to quit the game, he counseled others to choose their battles carefully, with no thoughts to self but for the good and betterment of others. He understood her reasons for wanting to take Debako's head. "I beg of you, for Darius' sake try to understand for now. I know you will in the end." She spoke in sobs. This wasn't easy for her. She usually came across as such a strong character. She was pleading with him. "Duncan please. I promise you will."

He walked away from her then back again. "Why did you have to include someone like Eden in this?"

"Duncan, she's a friend. She chose to help lure Debako into the open through you, and it worked. Let it go. She's safe and that is all that matters. I doubt I'll get to take Debako's head tonight, but I'll be one step closer. He won't get what he wants, and he'll lie low for a while."

She knew the decision, breaking her promise to him would not be pleasing. Debako would take time to plan his own revenge on her before coming for her again. All would be well and every one would have their answers. She sank to the floor in humility at the Highlander's feet, wiping her eyes on the sleeve of the sweater. She gathered her thoughts, returning to her feet with a double back flip. She stood poised in front of Duncan offering him a hand to show her gratitude for his participation and for trusting her to her word. Reluctantly he offered a hand to her in return. In a split moment he was flat on his back with Susan straddling his chest.

"Don't under estimate the strength and ability of those you choose to play with Macleod. Your every weakness is at stake from here on out, be on your toes."


Susan helped the embarrassed man to his feet. He should have known she would test him somehow. She could trust him. She knew that now.

"Joe don't say it, I know I've met my match." He joined the pair at a table. "What is this about returning you along with some legends tonight?" He asked handing her the note and dagger from the stabbing.

"I'm not sure, but Debako may want you to think I am not ready for this evening, I am, believe me." It was not as if everything was in writing and she had a single copy of it. Susan kept her knowledge of the KIA XIO people in her head. She kept their secrets for centuries, passing down only that which was necessary to the mortals who practiced some of the ancient ways.This threat was Debako's way of forcing her to keep the ancient promise, the legend he wanted was Susan herself. Something told her he was biding for more time. Though Susan's wanted to end it all tonight she would oblige him, but only once.

"Are you sure there are no writings?" Joe's Watcher mentality kicked in gear. If it were possible that there was an existing written Chronicle of the Shadow people, it sure would be beneficial to the organization.

"Joe there is no written KIA XIO language, everything has always been passed down word of mouth. The only documentation ever written I wrote on the temple walls in Chinese, Greek and Arabic. She sighed and sipped on her beer. "Debako killed every immortal or mortal who ever stepped anywhere near those writings, there is no way any one wrote down what they saw."

"Methos saw them and he lives." Mac hinted that he knew of her rescue.

"He didn't have time to memorize those walls, besides it was dark and he didn't see them all."

"He may have documented his stay with them, written down his experiences." Joe hoped she would open up some more.

"Sorry Joe, he couldn't have recorded anything truly significant. He didn't participate in our rituals and KIA XIO laws forbid the people to share it with strangers. Even if he did know I wouldn't believe what he says. He has a tendency to forget those things he doesn't write in his journals. What he can't remember, he embellishes to make up for his lack of memory." She provided more information on the character of the worlds oldest living immortal. Both Duncan's and Joe's eyes widened with curiosity.

"So he lies?" Macleod leaned in closer to her. "Do you know how many wives he's had?"

"Close to a hundred I guess, maybe more. I'm not the only immortal he ever married either. He claims to have never married one of us, but I'm sure there were others." She smiled at the pair who leaned in close waiting for more dirt on her ex husband. "Did you know he married Alexa? She died in his arms 1 week short of their 2 month wedding anniversary. It made him happy to share that time with her. He regrets he didn't have more." There was a moment of silence then Mac spoke again.

"He told me he had 68 wives." Susan choked on a sip of beer. "What?" Mac knew there was a joke in there somewhere.

 

"It's a joke Mac, 68 is one number shy of sexual perfection. Freud told Methos that he used it because he thought himself to be sexually inadequate and unable to commit to a relationship. Methos quit seeing him shortly after that." She burst into a laughter, the memory fresh in her mind.

"He was in analysis?" This really interested Macleod. He made a mental note to ask the man about it sometime when the two of them were alone.

"Hey do you think we can get to the topic?" Joe interrupted Mac's line of questioning for one of his own. This was going to be up front and sincere. He called her by her favorite pet name to assure that. "Anie did you ever tell anyone more than they really needed to know about your times with the KIA XIO? You know, confide everything to a single person you trusted with your secrets?"

"I trusted Darius with my entire life history he wouldn't betray me and share it with anyone else." She panicked. She had also told Sean Burns. He helped heal the scars, but he couldn't erase the memories. Or stop Debako from shadowing her every time he got the whim. Whatever notes the Doctor kept had hopefully gone with him. She could only hope the same for Darius' writings as well. She told the pair things she had never told any one else. They knew the real reason she left Greece and how she survived before she became an immortal. They knew how she met Debako and why she agreed to become his wife. Her eyes flooded with tears. "Tell me it isn't so, tell me my secrets died with him, he knew things about me that not even Methos knows." Her tone wavered with true despair.

This wasn't happening. If the only two, true confidants of her life had written on paper what she shared from her heart, the truth about her times in China, then she had lived her life in vain. Debako would have written proof of her promise to him. He would expect her to honor her word. Joe held on to her. She was shivering, her vulnerabilities, her every weakness on display before them. It had to be something extremely shocking and very personal for her to react in this manner. Joe rocked her gently in his arms, comforting her the best he could.

"Shhhhhhh, it's okay. If he did write anything down it went with him or whomever he left ........." Joe lifted his head to the direction of the Highlander. "...things." Mac finished Joe's sentence for him. "I'm one step ahead of you, I'll be in touch." Mac headed for the door leaving the pair to sort things out alone.

"So that is who got Darius' personal belongings, not that he really had much,being the humble man that he was." Susan pulled away from Joe, stretched her arms in the air and sprawled her legs out under the table. "He told me all about the Watchers you know, often comparing them to my ZHUZAWA, I must admit, they are nowhere near as organized as you Watchers are. Or as thorough." She flashed him a lazy Cheshire cat smile, her head dipping just slightly to one side, her eyes batting at him in a dainty rhythm. She and the old one had similar mannerisms he noted.

"Why are you so set against anybody finding out about you, don't you know how vital information like that is?" Joe was boldly inquisitive.

"You want vital information Joseph, note this!" She paced around the barroom floor, weaving a tale her new lover could spin into his Watcher Chronicles. She learned to write shortly after Methos left her in Troy. She was a fast learner and in a short time she had mastered, Greek, Arabic, and Chinese. She wrote everything in a journal to share with Methos upon his return, as he had requested. Her journals were her most prized possessions. She kept encrypted documents on papyrus at first, and later she wrote everything down on thin rice paper. Debako found and destroyed them. He punished her by beating her to death, thus, her introduction to the world of immortality. She took out her revenge by writing her history on the temple walls. "I haven't kept a written record of my life since." A wicked resonance in her speech, warned for Joe to be careful with what he knew and learned about her. "Think about it Joe, I was born around 1200 BC, that is a lot of years to cover. If you as a mortal can't remember your infant stages, why do you expect us ancient immortals to remember? Some things from my past are haunting, and I'd rather forget them. It should be obvious to you that this nightmare won't end for me until I take Debako's head."

Joe swallowed hard and tried to explain himself. He knew she was right. He got her point, but he didn't want her to take his view the wrong way. Sure he was nosy, more curious than most. How could she blame him? She had lived through some things that people only read about in books. He wanted his side heard and to still remain in her favor. If given the chance to get to know her better in the future, he didn't want to give her the impression his sole interest was in her past. She smiled in approval, leaning her body into the bar to get closer to him.

"I do understand Joe, really I do. It is a part of the awe that comes with being an immortal, especially in our relationships with mortals." She had been there too many times. He was the first mortal outside ZHUZAWA who knew what she really was. She made friends with other mortals, never revealing her secret to them. She always took great caution to keep her immortality private. Many of her friends over the years died never knowing the truth about her. "I'm surprised Methos has remained friends with you all this time. It is equally amazing that he is comfortable around Mac. He used to be quite a loner, always sticking to his scholarly ways, taking jobs as a teacher or private tutor. Some times he practiced medicine. He stayed when he fell in love and believe me, until 200 years ago that happened quite often." She had taken the focus and attention from herself. Joe wondered if it had been intentional. She and Methos were one of a kind. Just as the old man did, she turned the topic around and off herself. Joe wasn't going to let her do that to him. He wanted to see just how much she would choose to share with him.

"Tell me something,will you? You married Methos four or five times, was it always for love?" It was a touchy subject, but he had to know.

"Don't answer that, darling. Plead the fifth." Methos kissed her on the forehead, dropping a huge duffel bag at her feet. "Joe, I am ashamed of you, pumping an ex-wife about me, really. I promise you that when all this is over and I'm grateful to still have my head, I may share some of the more tender moments with you." He rubbed his neck all around, then sighed. Joe knew him well, Mr. Live, grow stronger, fight another day. He was not looking forward to the coming battle one little bit, the sooner it was over the better.

"Trepidation about our little quest dearie?" Susan purred, perching herself on all fours on top of the bar, nuzzling his face with hers just as a cat would. "Come now, you knew this would come about sooner or later. It's not as if you have to fight him, it's my fight, my battle remember?" She pressed her lips to his with a short breathy quick peck, arching her back, as she pulled away. One more attempt at imitating a cat, her act was giving Joe a hard one. He was glad for the protection from sight behind the bar. This woman made his body do things he had forgotten it could do. As long as she was around, his life would be near impossible.

"Hey you two, I got a bar to open." Joe fidgeted for a while behind the bar, checking the liquor and other supplies before he spoke. "Susan, you are welcome to stay with me if you would like, I know this isn't Holy ground, but I'll do my best to keep you safe." He made the offer with sincere hopes that she would say yes and stay for as long as she saw fit. He had plenty of room for both her and the old guy. If she chose to share his bed, the seasoned one was welcome to the spare room. He turned to Methos. "You may want to head over to Macleod's, he went home to sort through some of the things he got from Darius. He thought he might find a clue to the book of legends that Debako seems to want so badly."

"Like letters from her, or entries into his journals and diaries about things she might have shared with him over the years?" There was a sense of caution in his voice. "I have all that sort of stuff in storage back at the book store in Paris, Ian gave it to Don for safe keeping. None of us could ever bring ourselves to sort through it or read it. Do you think it might come in helpful?" Methos knew it would and that Joe would not react kindly to his keeping it from the Watchers all this time. The truth was he had read it, all of it and wished he hadn't. He would also get a berating from Susan as well, it would get ugly if she ever found out he knew all her secrets.

"It might! I can't believe you've had it all time. Do you know what a valuable asset something like that would be in our archives?" Joe had switched into a definite Watcher mental state. He hoped that Methos could too, if only for a moment. The 5,000 year old said nothing, merely raising his eye brows and shrugging his shoulders in response. It was Susan who replied to Joe's words.

"Do you hear yourself Joe? How could you? If Darius did keep a diary or any of the letters I may have written him, I can't believe you would want to read them! Would you like it if I asked to read the letter's you wrote to your family while you were in Viet Nam?" She hoped to have fallen for a better man than that. She liked him more than she dared to admit. She knew he liked her too, but she didn't want to get to know him better if their relationship became a personal research project for the Watchers.

Joe knew she was right. He didn't want to spoil things between them before they got started. It was obvious he had stepped on her toes, hurt her feelings, and that was the last thing he wanted to do.

"You are right, Anie forgive me for thinking of this situation as a way to amass a detailed Chronicle on you." He apologized sincerely, pouting his lips and cocking his head for approval.

The enchanting femme` moved in closer, slinking her body between him and the edge of the bar where he stood hiding the evidence of his attraction from her. Damn she was lithe for someone her size. Susans body pressed comfortably into Joe's, she felt the passion, throbbing, growing between his legs. She pulled him to her, as close as the space would allow. He tried not to moan aloud, though he would have, if they were alone. 'God,' he thought to himself, 'if we were alone I'd take her right now.' She kissed him hard and long with no regard for the others present. She let her lips linger on his for a few brief seconds, long enough to him remind of the aching bulge in his trousers. 'This better not be some sick game she's playing with me.' He pleaded. 'Mac couldn't be right, she did like him. She wasn't playing him for an old fool.'

"Forgiveness is an easy task, forgetting is another matter. Dinner, your place tonight, just the two of us, be ready for fun and fireworks." She growled,licking his neck and face as a wild cat would its prey after the kill. "I'm going to make you forget who and what I am." She continued the feline act. Curling her face into a cat like snarl she cupped his face in her hands kissing him with more desire than the last time.

Over her shoulder Joe spied Methos covering his face under his sweater to hide his laughter. He stopped long enough to mouth: "SHE'S GOOD AT THIS, DAMN GOOD."


The Loft

MacLeod had gone through the box of things left to him by Darius. So far he hadn't found anything relating back to Susan. It was mostly personal things that the man must have thought Duncan would like to have. Some artwork, a chess set, and some volumes of Greek poetry, no diaries or journals that might point to her all. He started sorting through all the books again, one by one, perusing the pages for some clues. On the second book he found what he was looking for. Taped to the inside back cover he found an envelope addressed to him. He tore it open and began to read the handwritten letter.

Duncan Old Man,

If you are reading this my darling Katerine has reentered your life, after I've gone. You probably know her best as Stephanie Nikopolous. She is one radiant beauty, most able to take care of her self. Please stand by her side now in her time of need. If I were still alive, dear friend I would be asking your forgiveness right now along with your assistance in this important matter. Please do all you can to help Katerine in all she asks of you.

All of us have lead hard lives, MacLeod. Few of us have been able to walk away from the shroud of darkness that surrounds us as immortal beings, as you and I have. Katerine has walked this earth for centuries with the truth as her burden and constant companion. She has endured the suffering of a culture that should have died out long ago, just so she could see another day. She has her reasons for what she does and believe me, though they may seem so, none of them is selfish or evil. That certainly is not her intention or her way. Watch over her while she is in your midst. She can be very manipulative. She likes getting her own way. She does have a charming side to her and it proves very effective. She won't harm you unless she thinks you are after her head. One of the things I miss most when she is away is the chance to practice with her. She is a swordsman who could put many to shame, including you my friend. She has insight into some things that we take for granted. She has answers to things that most of us fail to question about ourselves, or the world around us. In our short times together we shared so much. I promised her that her secrets would die with me and perhaps indeed they have. Right now I implore you to indulge, protect, and obey her. In due time she will choose to share her knowledge with you all and it will not be easy. There will be others she will turn to help her. Trust them for my sake. Do not share this letter with her. I know her well and it would only anger her to know I reached out from my grave to help her in her triumphant hour of need. I do believe that if allowed to do what she's called to do, Katerine will be free at last. It is her choice to see this ordeal through. Help her pick up the pieces in the aftermath.

Take Care,

Darius

MacLeod stuffed the letter into the drawer of his desk. It had revealed some things, but not as much as he expected. Later, before they went out too full fill this obligation, he might share the letter with Methos. Something told him the ancient one knew quite a bit more than he shared. Duncan was willing to share anything at all with him to get some answers. He felt the presence of other immortals approaching. The familiar lilting laugh- like buzz that sometimes accompanied Methos, coupled with an unusual quickening of thunderous roaring. Susan? Joe had called to tell him Methos was on his way to check his progress. She had probably coerced him into letting her come as well. Part of the gift of persuasive manipulation that Darius alluded to in his letter. It really worked to her advantage, especially concerning men. Mac picked up his sword and held it to his side, just in case it was not his friends whose approach he felt. Methos and Susan came through the door leading from the stairs to the loft. Mac put his sword away. Methos swiftly made his way to where MacLeod stood. It was obvious he was up to something. Instead of heading directly to the refrigerator for a beer he, converged on the space that surrounded his friend.

"You didn't find any thing did you, MacLeod?" Methos questioned, curiously looking over all that lay scattered about the desktop before him. "Darius wasn't much of a collector of things. I'm sure all of Anie's secrets are safe, aren't you?"

"Oh I agree. I found nothing really worthwhile. I guess we'll play by her rules and let the game run its course." Mac was certain that his suspicion about what the man knew was right, and played along with him.

"MacLeod, I need to prepare for tonight. Would you mind if I worked out in your DOJO?" Susan inquired in a humble tone, then added in a more commanding voice, "Afterward I'll come back upstairs and share the terms of tonight's game with you." She turned away before he could reply, running the length of the stairs out of site to the DOJO below.

Methos settled into his regular routine with her departure. He stood at the refrigerator looking for beer. Mac called out to him.

"Is she always so imposing, so sure of herself like that?" Methos joined his friend, continuing his ritual before replying, settling comfortably in a relaxed position in a chair.

"Oh this is tame in comparison to her usual self when facing a challenge." He took a sip of beer, then continued waving the bottle in the air as if it were an extension of his hand. "It's part of her alluring charm, she has moves that make Amanda look like an amateur." He took another sip of beer, repositioning himself to the couch to lounge more loosely. Such a creature of habit Mac observed. The old man didn't stay down long. He walked to the desk again. "Sorry about that spiel when we came in the door, my friend. I had to make sure she didn't focus on anything you may have been looking through. I let her know I had several things of Darius' in storage in Paris, and she nearly took my head over it. I promised to leave for Paris tomorrow to get it for her." He drained the beer and headed to get another. Back at MacLeod's 's side he fished again this time for real answers. "So did you find anything?" The seasoned man picked up one of the books.

"As I said, nothing useful." Mac pretended not to notice the way Methos handled the volume in his hands. "What do you expect to find in Paris?" Mac knew the man knew more than he divulged.

"I'm not sure." He lied to the Scot.

He had read every letter, journal and diary entry pertaining to Stephanie. He knew the secrets she had shared with the one man she trusted. It was the reason he wanted to stick so close now, protect her the way he knew she deserved. The way the holy man would have wanted it. There was another reason for his loyalty as well. He had learned through reading about her in Darius' many documents of her association with Sean Burns. Following the good doctor's death, he had seen fit to scavenge his files for any reference to his ex -wives many personas He felt like a man who knew too much and then some. He understood her better than she could ever imagine. The book fell from his hands to the floor, startling him back to present thoughts.

"Are you all right?" MacLeod asked handing Methos the book. Methos seemed dazed, proof to Duncan that his friend was hiding something.

"Do you read ancient Greek, MacLeod?" He held all four volumes for the man to see in sequence. "Have you any idea what these are?"

"No. Why don't you tell me, smarty?" Mac was truly annoyed.

"This is a typed and bound translation of a series of poems written around 30 BC by a Greek philosopher who found himself in the company of one Katerine Kopolous. I was never convinced that he wrote about Anie, but Darius was. It was a part of what drew him to her."

"Fine. So geh un, I duna red Grek." Duncan played up his annoyance using a burr to exaggerate.

"It is all about life and love, MacLeod. It is entitled THAT WHICH BUILDS OUR DREAMS. In truth it could very well be some of the KIAXIO philosophies from the Greek scholar's point of view." Methos held the volumes up to the light, fingering the lettering carefully as he read. "BIRTH - Where we come from, LOVE / HATE - Why we kill, TRIUMPH - What we achieve, and DEATH - How it all ends." He put all the volumes on the table but one. Thumbing through it page by page, until he came to the passage he wanted. He took a long hard sip of beer, a deep breath, then began reading:

From out of the sea she walked like a dream,
Her head is crowned with the horns of a bull, her rod is
that of a snake.
She spreads her magic over the land, soothing, healing,
comforting,
Where once there was sorrow, pain and suffering there is
none. She is the mother of all, a child forever in our eyes whose beauty never
fades.
Through her the sun will come at day break, and the moon and
stars as night falls.
She rules the world with her golden sword.
Her words are truth and through her come the wisdom of all
mankind.
She is beauty, beware, be faithful, be warned.

"It's marked isn't it? You saw the titles and you knew what Darius wanted me to find." Duncan handed the next book to Methos, who chose to nod his head yes in response. Again he searched for what he needed, then read aloud:

Her heart is warm like the sun, generous and giving, The closer you get the more you feel, passions' embers engulf you,
caution fades. She takes you like a shadow to her side, all sense of self lost, you lose
time, you lose face. The mother of all who has the key to your souls opens the window to
your mind, She entraps you, snares you, takes you for a ride to where you've never
been before. Please her, she saves you, loves you, gives of herself forever, over and
over. Cross her, the flames of Hades come to seize you, passion fire dies, your
shadow disappears

MacLeod handed him the next volume, opened to the marked passage and Methos read aloud again. Duncan realized that the man barely glanced at the words. He wasn't reading them. He was reciting them.

Who says her crown is a burden, her victory not divine? Her sword so mighty has captured you, freedom lost, you cannot
hide. She'll find you in the best of times, curse you for the worse, hunt you,
haunt you. She is a bad dream you cannot overcome, the charmer the enchantress,
The queen of all, the mother of all, all woman, all child, all man,
everything evil, every thing good. Her sting is like the venom of the snake around her neck, life comes, life
goes.
We are free to decide, some battles we win, some we lose.
She lives to remind us in the end we choose .

Methos took a long hard chug of beer then spoke.

"The KIAXIO believed that she had the answer to all things, MacLeod. Darius believed she did too, he is trying to forewarn you of what lies ahead." He didn't wait for a response. He found the next passage and read.

The mere shadow that was life exists no more, the light
was lost at first glance,
What once was close has gone astray, there is no returning to the
past. Your heart pierced, your soul ripped from its place, leaving nothing but emptiness, loneliness, darkness.
One thought lingers, one word stays on the lips of those eager to
rule to the end. What is the value, what is the price of the ultimate goal, the result
when all has passed away?
Love, this thing that builds our dreams is but a memory.
It is over the battle has been won, things as we know them are all
undone.
In the end there can be only one.

"How lovely, some Greek philosopher writes his version of the game, and you believe it has something to do with Stephanie. Could this possibly be the Legend for which our enemy is looking?" MacLeod took the volumes from Methos, putting them away out of sight should Susan return suddenly.

"It is possible MacLeod. Persilius was a better philosopher than he was poet. He was a mortal who fell madly in love with Stephanie. He pursued her relentlessly. Rumor has it she dictated this fable to him in rhyme to keep him at bay. He gave her the only copy, handwritten in Greek. She gave it to Darius, who over time had it typed and bound into those volumes. It was a constant reminder to him of the one woman who stole his heart and managed to take his mind off the game and war for a time in his life." Methos paused for a moment to let the Scotsman reflect on what he had heard. "Darius wants you to know her the way he knew her, because he knew you would be unable to back away from the challenge to protect her. The choice is ours. We have fair warning, we have to face whatever happens." The two men spoke no more. Both of them understood the circumstances. They certainly weren't going into this blindly. It was a compelling silent oath of loyalty to take on a task that did not concern them, and take on an enemy who meant them no harm. Neither one would interfere in the battle, or savor the victory of whoever won. Everything would run its course, and eventually, in the end all the questions answered. The pair made their way downstairs to the DOJO, they found Richie and Susan engaged in a contest of Martial Arts skills. The patrons gathered around them in a circle to watch. The young mans face was red with anger. With every move he made, the Susan was able to come back with a counterstrike. Richie seemed embarrassed that many of the men he had been able to overtake in the past watched as this woman matched him with precision skill. MacLeod stepped in his place to save him further chagrin. He knew her style he had recognized it right away. It was true they had shared many of the same teachers, or perhaps she had taught them. The Scotsman faired no better than Richie. He was no equal for the way she moved about the floor in a graceful flow, willing to throw a punch or a kick to counteract each one of his. She was good. Pure and excellent in her form, and able to foresee his every move before hand, she was a true master at this craft. Daring Duncan, to strike her in a way he would a man. She knew he would hold back, just a little, because she was a woman. He sensed she was this intense in her fighting and longed to try her in other areas as well. It reminded him of Eden's fighting prowess and how she used her gender as an advantage over him. Challenging him to forget she was the oppisite sex, forcing him to focus on the labor of the workout, not with he person he fought. The young woman's trainer had to be Susan. In a single movement Duncan and Susan struck the other, falling to the floor in unison marking the end of the demonstration. First on her feet, Susan put out a hand to Duncan, pulling him from where he lay flat on his back. They bowed to their audience in appreciation to the attention. The gym was loud with the roar of praise for what they had witnessed in the last few moments each one took time to comment to 'Sensai' MacLeod and Susan before leaving. Susan tried to compose herself. She usually did not perform for others. Her usual workouts were private ones with students who could not take her into the highest intensity of her craft. When pushed to the limit the adrenaline proved intoxicating and enveloped her senses, leaving her full of ravenous sexual passion she sometimes could not control. She missed this kind of workout that life alone or hiding safely in sanctuary could not afford. In the past when she had taken on one of her husbands, Debako, Methos, Darius, or Brian, they would end things with long lively sessions of lovemaking. The last time she had a powerful rush of excitement following a workout had been two months before Brian lost his head. She tried to block the memory from her head. Sober sex with Brian always proved to be special and meaningful especially following a playfully vigorous workout with swords. She tried to focus on other things, just as May Ling Shin had taught her. Eyes closed, she imagined her pupil, teacher and friend before her, coaching her to relax.

"Release the energy. That's it. Channel it through breathing, don't waste it idly. Focus, focus on the positive, use it to strengthen the mind, the body and the soul." She paced herself backward through each form of her art as if in a hypnotic trance. It was the reason that martial artists chose to yell with each strike of the fist or hand, with each kick of the foot. A way to take back the energy they had given away. Susan finished her meditation, opening her eyes to face the present. She took deep controlled breaths, concentrating on the energy inside her, trying to let it go moderate and steady.

"I'll kiss you if you like, darling, but nothing else." Methos had picked up on her difficulty to channel the energy with ease.

"You are evil incarnate, Methopolous! I will take care of this myself thank you!" Susan sneered back at him. He threw her a towel, then carefully guided her in the direction of the showers. She pushed him away. "I said back off, you little worm, I will take care of this on my own!"

The old man walked away from her grinning closed mouthed. He burst into a roar of laughter when she was out of sight.

"I CAN HEAR YOU!!!" She shouted from the other room. It only made him laugh harder and louder.

"I don't get it, what's so funny? Richie asked.

"It's an inside joke kid, some other time." Methos responded walking away from him still chuckling.

"Oh." Richie accepted the explanation. He knew that for now he wouldn't get a better one. He went about his business straightening up the gym. "Mac I almost forgot, this came for you while you were out this morning. Some oriental guy brought it. He said to tell you it was further instructions for tonight." The young man handed over an envelope. "Is there something going down I should know about?"

"No Rich, not this time. Watch the DOJO for me and send Susan up when she's through, will you?" Duncan instructed, ushering Methos back upstairs to the Loft.


"Another clue, oh how I love a mystery, don't you?" Methos tried to make light of the events of the day.

"This isn't a joke, Methos, I think you know that! Read it." Mac shoved the note from the envelope into the man's hands.

Highlander,

I know your ways. Do not interfere in our little game this evening and all will go well. As for the other little helpers, do your best to keep them at bay. One head lost in the evening light is plenty. I'd hate for there to be more. You have been warned, The enemy at hand.

"That's Eden's handwriting. Do you think she wrote this note under duress or is she working against us?" MacLeod grabbed the paper from Methos.

"Don't let this get to you, MacLeod. How many times do I have to assure you,Eden is safe. This is her way of letting us know that she won't lose her head. She is also letting us know that things may not go as planned tonight. It is possible Susan doesn't have everything under control just yet." Methos stood behind the Highlander, rubbing the man's neck and shoulders to ease some of the tension.

Duncan welcomed the touch of the warm strong hands. He wanted very much to believe that Eden was safe and out of danger. He was beginning to understand that he and Methos were to act as witnesses, nothing else. As long as they kept the area safe and did not interfere, Eden would return unharmed.

"Okay Methos, I'll do as I'm told. Just know one thing. I'm in this for Darius. He knew Susan would come to me for help, and I'm honoring his request, not hers."

The pair felt the approach of another immortal coupled with the sound of the coming lift. Susan exited all refreshed, looking remarkably beautiful.

"You know darlings, you look as if you've eaten sour grapes. If you are having second thoughts, I understand. If you want to back out, say so. I can fight my own battles, it's just that I have specific instructions and prefer to continue as planned."

Methos teased her, resting his head on her shoulder, batting his eyes playfully upward. "No old gal, we're just getting nervous sitting around waiting for you to call the next shot. What is it?"

"Eden set up a meeting on MacLeod's little island hideaway for 10:30. I understand a portion is Holy Ground. I promise to obey all the rules of the game." She walked away from Methos, suggesting by her gesture she found his leaning into her repulsive. The old man rolled his eyes, in MacLeod's direction, shaking his head playfully in make believe heart ache. Susan headed back in his direction.

"Knock it off, it's time for serious thought, enough playing around Methos, I mean it!" She was in his face showing her anger over his disdain for what was to come. He continued his contempt of her, mocking her actions by moving his lips as she spoke.

"Lighten up, Anie!" He shouted at her. She needed to settle down some. Her ex husband could tell when she was nervous about things. He didn't want the Highlander to pick up on that. "I'm just having fun testing you to make sure you are up to this evening." She knew what he was doing. He picked a fight to keep her ready for the fight to come.

MacLeod did not find the little exercise amusing. He interrupted the little game, drawing his sword, then swinging it in their direction.

"If you two don't mind. I have a question. Whose side is Eden on anyway?" He held his sword on them awaiting a reply. Susan grabbed the blade with her bare hand, cutting herself in her effort to disarm him.

"My God MacLeod, are you still worried about her safety?" She gasped, waiting for her hand to heal. She tossed him his sword. "Trust me, I taught her well. Debako uses mind control to get his way. Fortunately he has such an ego he forgets it works both ways. She knows what she is doing and how to keep her head. Just keep your distance and your cool tonight. The lass will be back in your arms and your bed soon enough." She stood at the entrance to the lift, stopping for a moment before she spoke again. Her smooth, lilting, smoky drawl of authority echoed across the room soft, and sexy. "Meet the Real Old Guy and I at Joe's 9 p.m. sharp. Bring the kid along, okay." She flashed a wicked grin at a very comfortable Methos. "You coming?" She asked. He acknowledged her, getting up from his lazy position to join her.

"Guess we'll see you later MacLeod." Methos kidded as the elevator moved downward.


Joe's Bar Later That Evening

MacLeod and Methos waited at Joe's bar. The time, the place, every element of the battle right down to the last detail was ready to go whenever Susan said so. In an hour they would all be on their way to the island. MacLeod admired Susan's style. She had seen many battles and been through many wars. She learned how to plan her strategies carefully, with pride and caution. Duncan figured she had acquired most of these skills from Darius, who at the time of their union had been a General of great triumph in the Roman Legions. She didn't kill on a whim as he thought, or even because it was a part of the game. She chose her battles well, choosing not to fight unless she had to, to survive. Like Darius, she stayed close to Holy Ground, most of her ventures out of sanctuary or hiding kept to a minimum, until now. Tonight's battle had been in the works for nearly four years. Since Brian's death, she divided her time between Paris, Korfu, Seacouver, and San Francisco. She took refuge on and off Holy Ground, sometimes right under Debako's nose. Things were beginning to play out in Duncans mind. He finally understood his place in this game of hers.

Duncan sipped on a mineral water. Methos sat beside him nursing a beer. Surely something troubled his friend. He was still on his first bottle of brew. Most nights,Methos would have drunk a six pack already. Duncan didn't dare ask what vexed the man. He suspected it was Susan's growing interest in Joe Dawson. She had made it clear to them both that her dinner plans with the bar owner did not include them. It hadn't phased the Scotsman much, but Methos didn't seem happy about it at all. It was hard to tell if he was hurt, jealous or just concerned. He had a way of hiding and not sharing his true feelings. Too many years of shared emotions, lost loves and colleagues had to take a toll on his heart. Methos was not much company, and MacLeod wished that Richie was with him to engage in conversation. Instead, Richie sat in on drums for Joe's house band. Mac had reluctantly brought him along as Susan requested. He looked back in the direction of the oldest immortal. Methos had not changed his routine since sitting down. When he wasn't checking his watch, he picked at the label on his beer, or glanced over to the door of Joe's new apartment next door. It was none of Methos' business what went on behind the closed door, yet nervously he kept watch.


Joe's Apartment

Dim light filled the room. Soft blues played on the stereo. Joe sipped on a glass of Chablis as sweet as the angel who poured it for him. Joe could not remember the last time a woman made him feel this good or wanted. Susan did something to him that was new to him. Every moment with her was stimulating, refreshing and revealing. He did not want their time together to end. If they never left his apartment again, he could live with that. She made him feel that special. He wanted to hold her in his arms forever making mad passionate love with her. She sat up beside him in the bed, leaning her head into his bare chest. She ran her hand in a circular motion around his shoulders, slowly moving to his nipples. Gently, she continued the circular massage with the velvet touch of her fingertips, as if she was discovering each part of a man for the first time. She carried on her search, adding her lips and tongue to explore and rediscover where her fingertips had been. She found her way to his stomach, then his groin. Joe flinched, afraid of how she would react to what she found. He didn't do this often. Women were easily turned off when they detected he had no legs. He knew she had been prepared for it last evening in the bath, somehow this seemed different. Betsey had accepted it, but she was never in his life to stay. This, right now was far from a one night stand with an old flame. It was the beginning of his future with a woman he wanted in his life for some time to come.

Susan's lips kissed every inch below his waist. First with small close mouthed pecks, then with her mouth wide open, gently biting at his flesh with warm wet lips. She moved her lips down the length of his erect penis, moaning a tender approval of the gift before her. She passed her mouth over his cock delicately, caressing it, savoring what would come next. Playfully, she darted her tongue vigorously up the length of his shaft. Both hands lingered for a brief moment, guarding the gorging muscle that would soon gratify and pleasure her. She pulled herself up to face her lover, slowly, magically managing to bring him inside her with the same motion. They rocked together, shivering in the cold chilly sweat of passion and lustful abandon. Joe was in a daze, totally out of control, loving every minute of his detachment from the outside world. He could get used to a little bit or too much of this on a daily basis. They lay uncovered in one anothers arms, exhausted from the lovemaking. Susan snuggled close to him, her body sizzling and sticky from their coupling. She spoke, breaking the silence with the same composed smoky tone that had thrown him for a loop the first time she had spoken to him over the phone.

"Joseph, I've never made love with a mortal, you knew that didn't you? I've only had one other lover outside of my five husbands and he is an immortal. I feel safe with you, as if you would protect me from all harm without question." Her tone hypnotized him. If what she said wasn't already true, it was now.

"Susan, I've wanted you from the moment I first heard your voice on the phone. Please don't think badly of me. Right now, beautiful lady there is no end to what I will do you for you." He pulled himself out of the bed into his wheelchair, motioning for her to join him. She sat in his lap, legs dangling in the air, arms holding him tightly as he raced toward the bath.

In a warm tub of water fragrant with the scent of Night Jasmine, Sandalwood and Clove, the pair sat face to face, bathing the other between kisses. "This is the life." Joe murmured under his breath as Susan shampooed his hair and beard. She rinsed the soap from his head and face carefully under the faucet. Joe followed suit, graciously bathing her from head to toe. He covered her mouth with his, pressing hard against her lips with a long, steamy kiss.

"Promise me every minute with you will be this special." He gasped between kisses. She put her fingers to his lips, stopping him from speaking. She licked her lips seductively, delivering the message he needed to hear.

"Dawson, all I guarantee are many happy repeats." She took her fingers from his lips, pushing her mouth to his in a burning seal of total agreement.

They dressed in separate rooms. Joe relived the evening, his mind clouded with the memory of her body clinging to his. He couldn't wait for the next time. The sooner she got her business out of the way, the more time they had for new business. She peaked through his door, signaling she was ready. He stepped up to her side, escorting her out to the parking lot where the others waited.

Not a word was said as the five of them headed to the island destination on Seacouver's northeastern coastal shores. Joe likened it to a late night reconnaissance mission back in Viet Nam. No talking should the enemy hear you, and take you captive. They sat in total silence, the only sound the quiet hum of MacLeod's motorboat engine. The three older immortals debarked first, keeping a deliberate distance from Joe and Richie. It was quiet, too quiet for Methos, who broke the silence with harsh angry whispers directed at his ex-wife.

"So, are you sure everything will go as planned, darling? Have you checked every detail down to the precise letter of the prophecies and legends you cherish so?" He circled in around her close so that only she heard his cruel calm susurration.

"You better shut up, or I'll take your head. I'm sure Richie would gladly take your place." She grumbled back at him.

"Oh dearie, don't spoil my fun." He pulled his sword, just in case she meant what she said. He broadened his distance from her, still circling around her. He toyed with her, pointing his sword at her, gracefully rubbing the point up, down and around her body. "You know how excited I get just thinking of you going into battle." He spoke louder for them all to hear. Methos grabbed her, and held her close to his side. One hand planted firmly around her middle, the other held his sword to her throat. He appeared evil, cruel and out of character to the rest of them, yet no one dared to stop him. "Will he be here? Are you ready to take his head at last, try to get back something that isn't rightfully yours to claim?"

Susan swung her sword at him in a blind rage. "You are mad! I won't let anything stand in my way this time, not even you!" Methos let go of her, pushing her away with his sword.

"Oh Sugar, surely you wouldn't defy Debako and take my head? Tsk, tsk. I'm no fool. I know he's here watching, waiting, wanting you to do just that. Is that what you really want? To take my head and spare his, forcing yourself back into sanctuary for the rest of your life? Don't disappoint me sweetie, do the right thing. You must destroy the evil that has always stood in the way of your freedom."

" I said stop this madness at once! I am capable and I will take your head." She disarmed him, keeping a safe range between them with both weapons. "WORM! I should have taken your head long ago. God, how I despise you right now." She threw his sword at his feet, then walked away from him just inches over to where Holy Ground began.

Methos let out an evil laugh that echoed throughout the island. He had accomplished his task, pushed her into the fight. He made her face the reality of what lay ahead along with the circumstance. Susan had told Sean Burns that her biggest fear was that no one would comply with her desire to take Debako's head on her own. Methos had done just what Sean's notes suggested. 'It is my personal opinion that Stephanie cannot completely act on this alone she needs the support of others to push her to a boiling point where all her energy and attention focus on her ability and capability to accomplish this one single task that haunts her.'

The immortals felt the approach of another. They set their swords in a ready position, preparing to do battle without breaking any rules. They saw nothing but a mist and a blue light centered in Susan's direction. A voice, haunting and foreign came from beyond the light.

"You are such a purist, Miijai, so precise, so pristine. Tell me, do you ever waver from what you've been told? Just once wouldn't you like to be free from the past that haunts you?"

The blade of a sword gleamed out from the shadows of the blue light. Susan took a swing in its direction. The figure of a man came out of the light, coaxing her further away from Holy Ground, goading her to fight. The adrenaline pumped through the immortals. They moved in closer to observe and protect, but the swords remained at their sides. Methos had recognized the voice of Debako Kiihnak taunting her as usual with the same evil desire to rule her life from every angle. Debako relished in destroying her pride and taking her down in front of her friends. He was trying to change the rules, just as he always did. Always hoping to catch her off guard, so that he could win in the end. It had been Debako's voice but it was not his face that stared back at him from the shadows.

Susan knew what he was doing. She always seemed to be one step ahead of him. Subtly she winked at Methos. Good for her, no matter what the ancient Eastern immortal had planned, she would not let him win. She had no desire to live with a sick man who refused to believe she had never loved him. She never could. She never would, his actions had seen to that. Her voice screamed out in the darkness.

"You will not win! You cannot win! I won't let you continue to betray the ancestors forever. You are evil and no matter where you hide, I will take your head some day!" She swung her sword high above her head, ready to take the head before. The tingle of a new immortal filled the air, felt, but unseen.

"No, Susan, don't its not................." Eden's voice came out of nowhere in the blackness. It was too late. The blade came down the head was gone.

Mac sighed and sobbed within, fearing Eden had interfered, losing her head by mistake.

Methos and Joe stood at Susan's side. Weak and powerless, her senses drained, on her knees sobbing, cursing under her breath, she knew the would be no quickening. Debako had tricked her into taking the head of a mortal, a loyal ZHUZAWA who willingly gave his life for his masters.

"I wanted it to end here dammit, tonight!" Her anger surged in her body until she could hold it no longer. "I'LL KILL YOU, YOU SON OF A BITCH! I'M THE ONE IN CHARGE. YOU BETRAYED ME FOR THE LAST TIME AND YOU WILL DIE BECAUSE OF IT!"

Joe looked to Methos for an explanation. "He's out for revenge and he betrayed her trust to get it. She has to redeem herself now. Every moment from her on out is about her saving face with the KIA XIO for failing to take his head as planned. The end is near. She won't lose next time. I'll see to that." Methos walked away from them. Joe called out after him.

"How near? Methos!" There was no answer.

 


The End