|Kindred Spirits: One
by Lillian Wolfe
This story is lovingly based on the characters in the Davis-Panzer Productions "Highlander The Series". The characters of Methos, Duncan MacLeod, Joe Dawson and Amanda all slipped away to do a little moonlighting and we beg their bosses to be understanding. None of us are profiting from this, but Methos just keeps telling me stories. They are returning to their regular jobs (assuming their bosses have jobs for them) with no permanent damage. Dr. Miles Montgomery, aka Rory, and the rest of the characters are my own creation and those who are still living will also be returning to their regular jobs. Niam is mentioned in this story and more about her can be found in "No Fool" which is currently in Dianne Smith's fanzine, Potpourri. It will eventually make its way to the web pages.
Although this story begins right at the end of "Not To Be," it assumes the "Demons" trilogy occurred. While it is complete in itself, a few references make more sense if you have read the trilogy. My thanks to my alpha reader, Tiffany and to my great beta readers Juanita, Kelly, The Laundress and Cheryl for proofing, critiquing and encouraging. The final result would not be as good as it is without their help and input, although a portion of this is posted without their excellent feedback. If there are mistakes, they are entirely my own.
Please do not copy, publish or repost without permission from the author. I don't want any legal problems.
A few warnings are in effect! This story contains violence and adult themes so if you're not of legal age, please come back when you are. You have been WARNED!
Time: Immediately after the end of "Not To Be"
"You know, I don't know who or what you are, Methos. And I know you don't want to hear this. But you did teach me something. You taught me that life is about change, about learning to accept who you are -- good or bad -- and I thank you for that."
Methos wasn't sure how he managed to continue opening the champagne bottle so calmly. How he managed to pour it and share the bottle amiably with MacLeod, Amanda and Joe after that statement. It was so -- so inadequate for the situation. Maybe it was supposed to make him feel good, feel appreciated, but it was a sideways compliment and it still wasn't what he wanted to hear.
Even MacLeod's posture seemed to label it as a partial truth, an uncertainty to it... or a denial. Methos wasn't much better, finding it hard to face MacLeod right now. God, he'd gone through the wringer again for the Highlander and where was it getting him? The Scot couldn't even say thank you and mean it. He had to cloud it, say it for something that was only half the issue. Change? Sure people change, lives change, situations change. He supposed he should be glad MacLeod finally realized that much. But it still wasn't saying that he accepted that Methos had changed, that he acknowledged that Methos had a past that would scare the crap out of most sane men, that he was willing to accept that past as part of who his friend was. He wasn't even saying thank for you saving my life... again.
//I'm expecting too much,// Methos told himself as he sipped at the effervescent brew. //I'm expecting MacLeod to go against his very nature. I should just let it go.// Truth to tell, he would be glad to let it go if MacLeod would let it lie. But in spite of all the lip service, there was still that distance between them, that invisible wall that MacLeod had erected after he'd learned about the Horseman. If Mac couldn't get past that, how the hell could he ever get beyond any of the rest of his past? How could he ever tell him about the ancient history, let alone the more modern stuff like the Roman legions, the Huns, the Spanish Inquisition? Each little distasteful piece of his past that Mac learned equaled another brick in that mental wall.
//I should have stayed Adam Pierson,// Methos reflected. //I should never have gotten involved in the Highlander's life. I should have relocated after he showed up at my door. I should--// He stopped himself. Shit! He was wallowing in it, and he knew better. It didn't help that he had to listen to MacLeod tell Amanda that he loved her, amazing the beautiful Immortal with that admission. It vindicated his choice to end that brief relationship with her, but he'd known it couldn't happen anyway. In the several times that he and Amanda had met in the past, there had always been an obstacle between them--frequently his own attitude, but this time he'd known MacLeod was there.
And there was that warm and affectionate hug for Joe. Not that he begrudged the Watcher that bond, but it hurt nonetheless that MacLeod never seemed to touch him, to offer him even a small measure of that affection. Oh, but there was a clap on the shoulder once, the closest Mac had come to actually showing any fondness for him, unless you counted dabbing paint on his nose or wiping an unexpected tear from his cheek.
In some ways, he was still astounded that MacLeod had asked Cassandra not to take his head. He'd been pretty certain that he was about the join the rest of the Horsemen in oblivion and, truthfully, hadn't much cared at that particular moment. Although if he'd had his preferences, he would have chosen the Scot to take his Quickening, not the witch. On the other hand, Cassandra might not have been able to handle it. And if Mac had taken it, he could very well be troubling the Highlander's sleep with the nightmares he'd endured most of his life. At least MacLeod might have had a better understanding of him.
//Why are you letting this upstart control your life?// an ancient voice asked. //You don't need him. You don't need his understanding. And you don't need to protect him. Let him go, Methos.// Easier said than done. He really did love the Highlander, honestly thought he was the best of all the Immortals, and had unconsciously sworn an allegiance to him, the nature of which Mac had no awareness or understanding. Methos wasn't sure if even he fully understood the intensity of it. He could liken it to the sworn oath a knight gave his king or a priest his god, but it was still more than that. Much more.
Methos forced a smile as Joe cracked a joke, not even catching the punch line, he was so absorbed with his own thoughts at the moment. The room seemed overly warm, stuffy. A scent of melted candle wax seemed to hang in the air, reminding him of hundreds of nights of smelling it after he'd snuffed out the wicks and gone to bed. Back to a time when candles were a precious commodity, not a romantic touch. Then Mac wrapped his arms around Amanda and pulled her into a tight embrace, kissing the back of her neck. Methos turned his eyes away, finished the rest of his champagne in one gulp.
"Well, I think I'll leave you two to your own celebration," he said, reaching for his coat. "Do you need a lift, Joe?"
With a lop-sided grin, Dawson shook his head, "No, thanks. Amy is picking me up here in about fifteen. We're going to a late dinner."
Methos brushed his hand against Joe's shoulder and his warm look was genuine. "Good. I'm glad she came back." He didn't need to say the "I told you she would." There was never a doubt in his mind that Joe's daughter would want to know her father better.
Joe responded with a firm handclasp to Methos' arm. "Yeah. You take it easy, man."
The delinquently spoken "good nights" from Mac and Amanda followed him out the door of the barge, as if they'd barely noticed he was leaving. That didn't help the mood any either. Couple that with the light, misty rain that was falling and he was contemplating the idea of losing himself in the Andes for a decade or two. Not that any of his friends would care. Well, maybe Rory.
As he slammed the door on his Range Rover, he really wished the psychologist was in town. He could use an understanding friend right now, but Rory was in Chicago with Kyra, his long-time girlfriend...a big modeling job for her. Shit! he reflected, My two best friends are in that barge and I can't talk to either of them about how I feel.
With Mac, there was the trust issue. Even unspoken, it was still there and probably would be forever now. It seemed to have been made worse by that vision or dream or whatever it was the Highlander had while he was dead. Was that just a hallucination of how the world would be without him or was there more to it? God, he couldn't believe that his life would have changed that much without MacLeod, but maybe it would have taken that bizarre twist if the Watcher renegades had gotten out of control. Still, he'd turned away from the insane killing a long time ago and the idea of returning to that relationship with Kronos made him shudder.
With no real plan in mind, he started the car and pulled away from the river, away from the one place he would really like to be. For a while, he drove aimlessly around the Paris streets, going past the Arc De Triomphe three times, seeing it in his mind's eye as it was when it was first built and trying hard not to remember any of the details that went with that image. He was feeling more depressed by the minute and finally decided that drowning his misery was the best solution for it. But he couldn't go to any of the usual places...not tonight.
So it was that he ended up with his vehicle parked on a grungy street just off the Boulevard de Clichy in Pigalle where no one of any respectability would venture. Street walkers lined the road, their heavy make-up giving them a grotesque painted mannequin appearance while their clothing resembled poor taste Barbie-doll outfits with an abundance of leather and feathers. Deep down, the world's oldest profession remained the same--only the accouterments had changed through the centuries.
Methos hesitated before getting out, then made a decision and slipped off his long duster, leaving his sword in it. He carefully tucked it under the seat behind the driver's seat, out of sight and out of temptation's way for any passers-by. He reached back to the seat and extracted a leather jacket, patting the pocket to check for his thirty-eight, then slipped it on. He'd fit into this crowd better wearing leather and he was more likely to need the gun than a sword. Even Immortals didn't frequent this section of Paris.
He didn't exactly rush by the ladies of the night, but neither did he slow when a few of them made blatant offers as he passed. One raked her eyes over him speculatively and offered a free encounter. Methos shook his head and continued on into Le Chapeau Rouge, a garishly decorated and shabby bar that was bathed in red lights. A few more of the trick-seekers hung around inside, sliding up to likely looking drunks and cajoling them to buy them a drink while they discussed other possibilities.
Shoving his way through, Methos ordered a double Metaxa straight up and found a comfortable place to lean on the bar. As he steadily sipped the Greek liquor, he reflected that it didn't remind him of any special moments with anyone in particular, but it did transport him to some fairly happy memories in the Greek Isles a few centuries back. But he didn't want to linger too long on those thoughts either, because the happy memories usually led to less pleasant ones and he didn't want to go there.
Finding his glass empty way too soon, he dropped a large bill on the bar and advised the bartender to keep bringing the drinks until the money was gone. Picking up the bill, the man raised his eyebrows and asked if monsieur was positive. Methos nodded. With an "it's-your-headache-in-the-morning" shrug, the Frenchman refilled the glass to the top, set the rest of the bottle on the counter and turned to another customer.
//So now what?// Methos asked himself. //A new place to go? God, is there any place that I haven't been, except space? Where haven't I been in the past few centuries that I actually want to go to again?// Fact was, he liked the big cities--London, Paris, San Francisco, Dallas, New York, Rome, Madrid--liked what they had to offer, liked being anonymous in them. Then again, there were places like Seacover and Galway where life had a different pace. He could go back into medicine or teach or maybe he'd consider screenwriting. I've got a few stories to tell, he thought with an amused smile on his face.
"Something must have struck you funny," a deep-throated, raspy female voice said near his ear. He turned his head to meet a pair of gray eyes that were surrounded by eyeliner, gold powder and thick clumps of mascara over false lashes. Piled up blonde hair streaked with purple capped off the over-done make-up giving the woman a comic appearance, but he didn't laugh. Under all that subterfuge was a human trying to find an identity. He'd seen it before, many times, and tonight it wasn't particularly amusing, not when he was on the verge of trying to reinvent himself again.
"Funny in a perverse way," he agreed amiably. He turned his drink glass slowly in his hand as he spoke. The women--no, girl...she could be scarcely more than twenty--gazed past him to the bar and the now one-third empty bottle of alcohol. For a reason he couldn't begin to identify, nor explain, Methos offered the girl a drink. The Greek liquor was new to her -- not surprising, that. She hardly looked the fine brandy type, more like the beer and occasional vodka.
She sipped the Metaxa tentatively, then shifted her gaze to his face. "So, what are you trying to escape?" Her French was slightly slurred, but definitely Parisian.
"What d'ya mean?" Was he that easy to read?
"Has to be something, drowning yourself in this stuff."
He laughed. "Maybe I just like it."
She shook her head slowly, a hint of a smile teasing at the full, red lips. "No, I think not. Is it a lover? Or a wife? Or maybe your job? It's not your health...you look well to me." She took a step in closer and her left hand alighted on his hip.
"None of the above."
The wandering hand moved south and worked toward the inside of his thigh. Without a blink, Methos dropped his hand against her, diverted it firmly from its course. A devilish smile blossomed on her mouth. Abruptly, she leaned in and planted a kiss fully against his lips as her hand slipped free of his and wound itself around his neck, pulling him into the kiss. At the same time, she pressed her body closer, fitting a leg between his. He hesitated a moment, enough time for her tongue to press its way forward, trying for that particular lip merge for which the French were famous.
What the hell? he thought and wrapped his arms loosely around her slim body as he allowed her entrance. It wasn't unpleasant although the lipstick had an oily, waxy feel and a similar taste. But the body pressed against him was warm and affectionate and he was just drunk enough to allow it.
Unexpectedly, a heavy hand clamped down on his shoulder from his other side, and it didn't feel friendly. He pulled back only a moment before the girl stepped back from him, her eyes going wide. With a dark premonition clouding his mind, Methos turned to face the owner of the hand and forced a wry smile. The man was definitely Trouble, with a capital t. He was big, broad-shouldered and had muscles whose definition etched through the heavy knit shirt he wore under a leather vest.
"That's my girl!" he growled.
//Shit! Why are they always bigger than me?// Methos moaned to himself. //And they're always unreasonable.// He distinctly felt set up. "My mistake. I didn't know she was attached." No point in trying to say the girl started it.
He didn't even see the fist coming, but it landed in his midriff hard enough to shove him back against the bar. The edge of the counter jabbed painfully into his back. Moments later, Methos rebounded with a well-placed smack of his own that landed on the man's jaw and sent him reeling.
After that, the brawl was on in earnest. The man may have been bigger, but Methos was faster and had a no-holds-barred style of fighting. Anything was fair; punching, kicking, even biting and he got a chance to do that. As Methos went tumbling over a table, he realized he was almost enjoying this. Gods, he hadn't been in a bar room brawl in several decades. He picked himself up and flung himself back at his opponent. Some customers were cheering and shouting and he swore he briefly spotted money changing hands during the fifteen or so seconds that his adversary had him pinned to the floor with his fingers wrapped around his throat.
Even though the big bruiser was a decent fighter and had a lot of strength, Methos had one distinct advantage over him -- he was Immortal, with more strength and stamina than any ordinary human could possibly have, not to mention a catalog of fighting techniques to choose from. Over the millennia, Methos had been in more drunken melees than this man could possibly imagine. It was fairly easy for him to apply a particularly nasty knee thrust that resulted with a loud, painful grunt. The hands at his throat suddenly released as they shifted protectively to another part of the man's body. Methos was back on his feet quickly, catching his breath as he watched in satisfaction as the other man wriggled on the floor. By all rights, this fight should be over.
He staggered back to bar, found the bottle untouched although the glass had gone flying. He swallowed a good mouth full that burned his dry throat as it went down. He'd barely set it down when strong, angry hands landed on his shoulders, spun him around and a huge fist smashed into his face. Methos reeled back, his lip bleeding and jaw feeling like it had been broken, and collided with a body behind him. //Great, now there are two,// he thought as a big bruiser punched him in the gut. Air knocked out of him, Methos collapsed forward, head dropping. The grip holding him loosened as the man felt Methos go limp. That was all the wily Immortal needed to propel himself head first into the facing man before he could wind up another punch.
The upper hand was only a temporary situation though and was nearly as disabling to Methos as it was to his opponent. Once again, the strong arms wrapped across his shoulders and chest to hold him, tightening to an even tighter grip this time. He felt him body being pulled in and a leg stepped across his to make movement difficult. As he struggled against the man, he had a brief glimpse of a hardwood chair flying his way just as the obnoxious whining of a French siren could be heard in the distance. As his head met with the on-coming chair, he retained consciousness long enough to see the chair swinging around for another blow.
"You're going to kill him!" a woman's panicked voice screamed just before the chair made contact. Then everything went black.
The roaring of the sea coursed through his ears, a steady, pounding of the surf against his brain. The sound was so intense it hurt and his head throbbed in rhythm with it. He thought his cheek and ear must be laying against a shell that was echoing it into his head. But it was rough, so rough -- and wet. Was he lying where the tide touched the shore? His head ached more with each breaking wave and he slowly realized the sound was the beating of his heart. He groaned as consciousness and memory returned. Damn! The fight had almost been fun until the big guy had taken the chair to his head. As he started to elbow up to a sitting position, he groaned again, louder this time and heard the startled intake of breath near him.
Methos forced his eyes open, tried to focus as he realized it was dark and he was not in the club anymore. There was movement to his right and his vision finally settled on the wide, frightened eyes of the young girl who crouched back against the wall. "What happened? Where am I?" he asked, uncertain. The eyes stared blankly at him, uncomprehending. It took a moment, then he realized he'd spoken in English. He repeated the question in French.
The girl swallowed nervously, tried to slip further back from him. "In...in an alley, monsieur."
An alley? They'd dumped him in a wet alley? He sat up slowly, adjusting to the poor light from the street light several yards away and patted his pockets for his wallet. Gone. Then he remembered the gun and searched his jacket for that, heaving a sigh of relief to find it still in its little pouch. Thank heavens for that. Judging from the way he felt, the band of cutthroats hadn't managed to kill him. But he had enough of a headache to suggest they'd come damn close to doing it. He reached a hand to his head and his fingers met the sticky, thick feel of partially coagulated blood. He followed the stickiness down the side of his face and his throat realizing he'd bled a lot. No wonder the girl appeared frightened. He must look like quite a mess.
"What's your name?" he asked the girl who, at least if she wasn't moving closer, hadn't bolted away.
Methos studied the pale, little form that stared wide-eyed at him. "Good, Josette. Where do you come from?" Her accent was familiar, but he wasn't positive.
"Carnac...on the coast." She seemed a little less nervous.
"Ah, you've come a long way from home," he commented, switching to Breton. She was from a region that would speak the older language more comfortably than French. "How long have you been in Paris?"
At the change of language, the girl moved forward, out of the darker shadows and was a little more visible and less scared now. "Four months, give or take. And you, what is your name?"
"Adam. Where do you live, Josette?" Now that he could see her more clearly, he noted that she was very small, maybe not even five feet and very young. What was she, about sixteen?
Now that she'd gained a bit of confidence, she stepped closer to stare at him. Her face looked a little pale and she was still nervous.
"It's a lot of blood, but I'm all right. Do you live near here?"
She nodded. "I think you need help...Adam. You need a doctor? I can call for one."
He shook his head slightly, then winced at the lance of pain that shot through his head. Not quite healed yet, he cautioned himself. "No. Can you take me to your place? Please?"
She hesitated, clearly not eager to do that. Methos understood, gave the girl credit for just hanging around when her instinct was probably to run as far away from him as possible. "I won't hurt you, Josette. I just need to get cleaned up."
The girl looked away, then mumbled, "I can't help you that much, Adam. My place is not fancy..."
"That's okay," he said gently, trying to reassure her. "It will do."
As she nodded, he got to his feet, still feeling the soreness from the fight. Unexpectedly, Josette moved forward to help him, sliding her arms around his waist as if she might really be able to support his weight. Methos was touched by it although the girl barely came to his armpit. As he let her guide him to her place, his slight limp was genuine.
Josette pointed them down another alley, then into a storm drain that widened out below ground. She paused a moment, searching in a niche along the wall and withdrew an electric torch which she flicked on. Dismayed, Methos realized the young girl lived in an underground tunnel and it was confirmed as she pointed the torch to a side tunnel that angled upward slightly.
"It is dry, at least drier than the main tunnel," she informed him. She led the way in, the light from the torch barely making a dent in the darkness ahead. He followed, having to get to his knees to crawl the final few feet into the cave-like tunnel end. Dry was a relative term, he thought. The floor felt damp and there was a strong mustiness that bordered on the odor of stagnant water.
Josette turned the torch on a nest of blankets that was shoved back against the wall. At the edge of light, he noted a small camp stove and a few one-gallon plastic jugs lined up next to it. "Sit there," she ordered, then slipped around him to fire up the stove. As she poured water into the small pot and put it on, Methos settled on the blankets and stretched a leg out.
"I know it doesn't look like much, but it's a place to sleep," Josette said nervously.
"It's fine," Methos murmured. "I've lived in worse."
"Really?" she asked, her head whipping around as she gaped at him as if she frankly found that hard to believe.
He laughed. "It was a long time ago. How long have you lived here?"
"A little over three months... when my money ran out." She opened a box, pulled a tea bag out and put it in a cracked mug, then added the boiling water. "I can't afford to get a flat or even a room."
"I see. What are you doing to earn money?"
"Begging, mostly. Sometimes I manage to sell a few souvenirs to tourists." She switched the tea bag from the mug to a smaller cup with a broken handle and poured in more hot water. She handed the first cup to Methos. "When I can, I look for work."
"I take it you haven't found any." He glanced briefly at the cup, tried not to think about what might have crawled through it and sipped at the hot tea. It tasted of oranges and clove with a touch of sweetness, a spiced tea reminiscent of Spain or the Middle East. More importantly, it was warming. He hadn't realized how chilled he'd felt until then.
Josette lit a couple of candles and shifted around the small area to get more comfortable. He looked up to find the girl watching him intently, a concerned look on her face. "What?" Methos asked as the gaze began to make him feel like a bug under a microscope.
"Mon dieu, you look terrible. You should lie down, Adam." She began rummaging through a stack of clothes until she found a cotton scarf, which she tore in two. She dipped the cloth in the remainder of the hot water, then turned her attention to Methos.
"You heard me, lie back. I'm going to try to get some of the blood off." Her voice didn't sound so young now and held an authority that was unexpected.
"It looks worse than it is," he objected as she pushed him down onto the stack of blankets. Carefully, she turned his face toward her, positioned the candle for better light and began daubing at the blood down his throat.
Methos closed his eyes and let her work at cleaning his face. He'd hoped to find a shower or at least a wash basin at her place to do it himself, but it appeared this was the only option at the moment. He didn't want to go too far on the streets covered in blood, especially not in Pigalle where he was likely to run into more trouble.
As she worked the wet cloth up the side of his face, he tried to find out a little more about this street waif. "Why haven't you returned to Carnac? I mean, if you can't find work, it has to be better than living in a drain."
"Do you think so? I left there for a reason, Adam. Besides I don't have the money to return." There was a trace of bitterness in her voice and as she turned to rewet the cloth, Methos pushed up on an elbow to watch her.
"If you had the cost of the train fare, would you go back?"
"No," she replied quickly, then turned back to him. Her eyes met his and she gave him a brief smile. "You are very handsome under all that blood. Why did someone try to kill you?"
"Robbery," he said briefly, then added. "I'm not an easy victim."
Encouraging him to lie down again, she shook her head and began carefully probing at where she expected the wound to be. "It seems it would have been easier to just give them what they wanted."
"They wanted a fight and I was set up for it. You're pretty good at this, by the way."
"Except I can't seem to find the source of the blood. It seems very thick right through here..." She scrubbed a little at a spot a few inches above his ear and found a still sore place that made him gasp and twitch with the unexpected pain.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. It didn't look that bad." She laid the wet cloth on the lump of blood.
If it still hurt to touch, Methos realized how severe the wound must have been. One of those blows with the chair had to have cracked his skull, opening a deep gash. Maybe the fight had gotten out of hand when the assailants realized their victim wasn't very cooperative and the simple robbery had turned to attempted murder. No matter, he had a different problem at the moment. Josette would be looking for an open wound that was no longer there. He reached up to take the cloth from her. "Let me do it."
She pushed his hand away. "You won't be able to see how bad it is. I've softened the blood and it will wash away easier now. It's all right. I've seen quite a few barroom injuries."
"Your father?" he guessed.
She nodded. "And an older brother. It was a frequent occurrence in my house. I had quite a bit of experience treating minor injuries. That's odd...there doesn't seem to be a break in the skin, but there's a slight lump under it, like a bit of swelling."
"I heal...really easily, Josette. The injury is not as bad as it looks from the blood. Mostly a surface abrasion and the skin seals quickly on me."
She gave him a look that seemed to question that assertion. "Then you're an extraordinary man. I've never seen anyone heal that easily."
"Not in your whole sixteen years, huh?" Methos tossed the age out to see if she'd bite.
"Seventeen," she corrected quickly. "And I've seen quite a number of wounds." Her voice was subdued as if the words brought horrible memories with them.
"Abuse?" Methos asked gently, watching her face as he did. Her eyes looked distant and her mouth formed a thin line of bitterness.
"I'd rather not talk about it." She rinsed the cloth and resumed washing his face.
He closed his eyes, relaxing to the gentle stroking of the cloth against his face, and felt himself drifting off. It had been a long, stressful day and while the fight had been distracting, it did little to alter the root of the problem. He told himself firmly he was not going to think about that now. Somewhere in the middle of trying not to think about it, he fell asleep.
A familiar and unwelcome alarm in his mind woke Methos. His eyes opened to the nearly back gloom of the culvert. A single candle still burned and the girl was curled up next to him, her body both offering and seeking warmth against his. A coverlet was spread across the pair of them, barely covering the length of his body. As Methos pushed the cover away, his fingers felt the irregular threads of the fabric's quilting--homemade and probably several years old from the feel of the batting.
Outside the scant warmth, Methos shivered. It was even colder now, but he was more concerned about the proximity of another Immortal. He reached for the torch, switched it on and shifted it further to the back of the passage they were in. It cut only a few feet into the inkiness, but the opening appeared to go back a little further. Cautiously, he began to explore that direction, still crawling on his knees. The surface was rough, uneven and it was damp.
"Adam? What is it?"
Methos jumped at the first word and caught his breath sharply. Josette's voice was soft, but unexpected. "Just exploring. Is there another way out of here?"
"No. This dead-ends in another few meters. Why?"
Great. This could be a really effective trap. And, he recalled unhappily, his sword was back in the Range Rover. Stupid move, that. What on earth was he thinking? It was definitely time to leave...and fast. "Josette, we need to get out of here and you need to get away from me."
"I don't understand. Why?"
"Because someone is coming and he's not bringing milk and eggs. Look, just point me toward the nearest exit from here then disappear for about an hour. After that it'll be safe for you to return." He was already urging her to move back out. He didn't know how much time they had or from which direction the immortal was coming, but he definitely knew he didn't want to be caught in this situation.
The girl scurried in front of him, hips bouncing up and down as she wriggled through the low section of the passage. She dropped into the main drain and started toward the nearest exit. Methos landed beside her, still feeling the strong throbbing of the Immortal. A sharp scraping sound brought him up short. It came from the direction they were going, which meant the other Immortal had figured out he was below the street. He caught Josette's arm. "Not that way. Is there another exit back this way?"
She nodded, thankfully didn't argue, but turned and led them back the way they'd come. "It's about three blocks away."
She broke into a run, reacting to the urgency in his voice. Methos easily kept up with her, holding the torch low to cast a pale beam along the path they were going. The light reflected off pools of water, bouncing and rippling with each jogging step...
The lantern's glow danced along the ground, its light duplicated in the small pools of water that gathered all along the way. The passageway smelled earthy, the rich smell of damp dirt, plant roots and decaying vegetation filling the confined corridors of the manmade cavern. Methos followed the shift boss down to the next level of the mine, to the new section they'd just opened up two days ago. It promised to be a rich strike of coal, broader veins of it to bring up. Behind him, Tom and Eddie kept pace and chatted about the dance in the village next Saturday night. In the stillness, the cracking rang like a cannon shot. All four men froze as the earth began to rumble...
Methos shook his head sharply, pulled his thoughts back to the present. It sometimes bothered him how easily he could slip off into a memory, particularly when he couldn't afford the time. He forced his eyes away from the hypnotic lights and gazed ahead to where Josette made a sharp turn to the left, following a side passageway. Catching up with her, he grabbed her arm to stop her.
"Does this lead to an opening?"
"Yes, just a little bit ahead. It comes up near the Place des Abbesses."
"And the other way, where does it go?"
She glanced back to where they'd turned. "It goes toward the river, Adam. The nearest storm drain is at Place Blanche, near Montmarte."
He caught her hands, slipped the torch in them. "Go that way, then. Quickly. You need to get away from me now."
"Now!" he repeated firmly. "I haven't got time to explain. Just do it."
As she turned away and started sprinting back toward the opening, he watched her, and the light, fade away, then resumed going toward the drain. He almost missed it in the black of the tunnel, barely glimpsed a bit of light filtering in and headed toward it. He groped along the wall, feeling for a foothold or a ladder, if he was lucky, to climb up to it.
//Luck? What made me think I'd have any luck?// he thought irritably. //I came to this area of town because I thought I wasn't likely to run into any Immortals. All I wanted was to get rip-roaring drunk to forget my latest disappointments for a while. But no, not only did I find a fight, but I also got robbed and dumped half-dead in a wet alley. On top of that, a bloody Immortal shows up and I can be positive it isn't MacLeod. Damn! What are the odds?//
But maybe there was a bit of luck. Not a ladder, but thick spikes in the wall giving a way to climb to the grate. A splashing sound echoed behind him, probably from a foot stepping into one of the puddles. Methos placed a foot on the spikes and started up the wall to the grate. He shoved his hand against it, trying to push it out. It was stuck fast. He tried again, felt it give just a little. As he shifted his position to give him a little more leverage against the iron bars, a voice called out.
"Running away? But we haven't had time to play yet! Come down and face me."
Methos sighed, shoved once more at the grate but still couldn't pop it loose. There wasn't time to do it before the man was on him. Shit! He twisted against the wall and squinted back toward the darkness where the other Immortal was just stepping into the dim light.
The man appeared to be about his height, maybe a little heavier build. He advanced slowly, sword readied. Methos chewed at his lip, snaked a hand into his jacket , resting it on the handle of the gun. "Do I know you?" he asked, uncertain if this was an old issue or a random choice.
"Not really," the man answered. He raised the sword toward his forehead in a mock salute. "Belvedere, at your service." He chuckled. "Just an expression, of course."
"Then why? I have no quarrel with you and you really don't want to fight me."
A chilling laugh reverberated through the underground tunnels. "Oh, but I do! I've been looking for you for several months and it was only chance that I heard about a fight in this area."
//Looking for me?// Methos thought nervously. //Is it becoming so obvious that I'm still around?// He wet his lips, "I think you've made a mistake, friend. I'm not who you think I am."
"Oh, yes. My client described you clearly. She particularly described your nose and your eyes-- quite distinct, both of them. This is nothing personal, you understand. I'm simply doing my job. So, come down from there and fight."
//What the -- ? Client?// "She who?" Methos sputtered, consternation showing. "Who sent you? Does she want me dead?"
The man hunched over, bringing the sword closer as he took careful, steady steps toward his prey. His eyes glistened with the thrill of the hunt as a broad grin split his face. "Right now, I do. It's time to face eternity, bright boy."
Methos dropped off the spike to the ground and straightened to face Belvedere who was now about eight feet away. "Let's do this some other time. I seem to be without a sword at the moment."
Belvedere grinned, the huge white smile cutting his face in half. His voice was like a satisfied cat when he spoke. "Your problem. It's a stupid thing for one of our kind to do. But this will make this much easier for me."
Very stupid, Methos nodded in agreement, then braced himself against the wall. With two quick lunging steps, Belvedere launched his attack. Almost as quick, the not-so-easy-prey whipped out the thirty-eight and fired as the sword reached nearly to his nose. Eyes widening in surprise, Belvedere gazed down at the hole in his chest, tried to muster enough strength for a swing at Methos, then crashed to the ground.
With deliberate care, Methos pointed the gun at Belvedere's head and fired again. It would buy him a little time and he needed it. He spun around and went back up the spikes in the wall, then used his full strength against the grate. It gave way a bit, but not quite enough. Methos rubbed at his shoulder, feeling the strain against it. He repositioned for more leverage and propelled himself at it the best he could, which meant shoving the sore shoulder straight against the iron. The impact hurt like hell and he gasped once with the pain, but the grate rattled free and slid partially onto the street above him.
He glanced back for a moment at the still-motionless man, said a silent little prayer and levered himself out the opening. There was a hint of dawn in the sky, just the slightest of pinks, but not much other light except for the weak street lamp that was near the grate. Methos took a deep breath, glanced around the street trying to get his bearings. No familiar landmarks here, just unknown buildings. He ran toward the street corner, hoping to identify the streets and get an idea of where he was in relation to the Pigalle.
He was staring at the signs, sniffing the air for the river direction, when Belvedere hauled himself out the opening. //That was it//, Methos decided, //Go with your instincts.// He started running to what he hoped was the south, cut through another alley that was piled high with garbage and other refuse. He could hear the pounding of feet behind him, but focused on just getting through the maze to the next street.
Once through that, he thought he recognized a sign another block down the street, turned that way and raced toward the next corner. Yes! The street intersected the Boulevard de Clichy, which meant the Range Rover should be another block or so up, unless he'd gotten totally turned around. He glanced over his shoulder to spot Belvedere just coming through the alley. The man couldn't have recovered fast enough from the gunshots to actually see where he'd gone. Lucky guess, he told himself, and ran up to the next block. A quick glance confirmed that this was not the right street and he sprinted on. Behind him, he heard the rapid thud of running steps as the other Immortal pursued him.
At the next block, his survey took in the lonely vehicle parked against the curb on the near deserted street. A few of the neon lights still burned, declaring the tantalizing delights offered within as if they were still available. Methos poured on the speed to his truck, noted with a quick glance that the hubcaps were missing, then fished out his keys. His hand shook a little unsteadily as he shoved the key into the lock, barely sparing a glance over his shoulder to see how close Belvedere was.
Although he was approaching shooting distance, the other Immortal was being more cautious, keeping to the sidewalk and shadows, looking for cover so Methos would be less likely to get a killing shot on him. "Coward," the man called, voice booming with his anger. "You have no honor. She warned me of that, too!"
//And you do?// Methos thought. //You, who would take my head without giving me a chance to defend myself.// But he said nothing out loud, not letting the man bait him. He yanked the door open, grabbed his coat and, withdrawing the sword, he swung around to face Belvedere.
"We don't have to do this," he said reasonably as he stepped into the middle of the street. "But if you insist, at least tell me who sent you."
Apparently satisfied that Methos wasn't going to shoot him again, Belvedere stepped out to meet him. He glared at the oldest Immortal. "I can't tell you that. Client confidentiality, you know."
"Wait a minute. You're gonna kill me for someone and you can't even tell me who?" Methos raised an eyebrow in disbelief. "I think I have a right to know who hasn't got the guts to face me!"
Shaking his head, the other Immortal raised his sword in readiness. "Sorry. Company policy, but I will tell you my client is a beautiful and powerful woman. Figure it out yourself...if you have time." With that he attacked.
Within the first few parries, Methos knew the man was good -- not as good as he was, but better than a recent Immortal. He'd been around a while and apparently, he made his living doing this. Gods, an Immortal hit man! And sent by a powerful and beautiful woman who wanted him dead. Unfortunately, there might be a few of those on his list and he couldn't waste the concentration right now to try to guess which one it might be.
Methos blocked one swipe, tried to return and was blocked, then the blade cut into his side. His breath hissed out sharply and he jumped back. The fighting style was too similar and he was being too predictable. He couldn't afford that with this opponent. Belvedere was reading his actions too well. Okay, then. He flipped his sword in his hand, changed to the Japanese style and deliberately altered his movements. It took concentration to throw himself off balance to go the way least expected, but it kept the on-coming blade away from him more than a few times as Belvedere increased his swings, trying to get a lucky opening.
Methos struck with an elbow as he got too close, only to find that Belvedere had no hesitation in using a knee to the groin to collapse the old man's legs out from under him. But it wasn't the first time for him and his instincts for survival were tantamount. His blade came up over his head automatically, blocking the downward stroke and catching the hand holding the weapon as well. Belvedere's sword went flying several feet away, clattering on the asphalt as it landed. Blocking out the pain and forcing his unwilling body to move, Methos rolled away from his opponent and dragged himself to his feet. Any advantage was lost in the time it took to regain his breath. The other man already had retrieved his sword and was back at him.
Each circled the other warily, Methos trying to stay loose and flexible as he gauged his opponent. He waited, letting the man initiate the series. As he came close enough, Methos whipped out his knife and, hooking the on-coming sword with his, he thrust at the man with his shorter blade. The weapon cut in, blocked partially by the heavy coat the man wore but finding its way in to inflict a bit of damage. Belvedere brought his elbow into Methos' face, forcing him to break his lock.
Instantly, the other Immortal was on him, forcing him back against the Range Rover. The blade slashed at him relentlessly, cutting him more than not and Methos was beginning to get weary. It had been a tough enough night without this. Belvedere was a tight fighter, not leaving him much opportunity. Methos saw the sword coming in and tried to shift to block it, but it slid deeply into his body, entering on the left side at an angle toward his spine. With a gasp of pain, he made a desperate grab for the weapon, holding it tightly even as the blade sliced into his left hand. With sheer determination, he drew his surprised opponent toward him, whipping his sword around to take his head. He'd only have time for one more attack. He was barely hanging onto consciousness now. The position was awkward, the sideways slice not the prettiest, but it was effective. Spewing blood like a fountain, the man fell forward, soaking Methos in the gruesome spray.
In the instant before the forces of the Quickening started, the blood-soaked and barely conscious Immortal heard a high-pitched shriek and somehow managed to turn his head toward the corner. Just for a moment he had a glimpse of the tiny, slim form that threw her hands to her face, then turned to run. //Dammit! Nothing I can do about that now,// he thought, gazed down wearily at the sword that still pieced his body. //Or that either,// he added dismally as the first waves of the storm hit him.
Blue-white lances of electricity cut through the air like a lightning storm come to ground and each focused on the human lightning rod in the middle of it, rushing to him as if Methos were a long-lost lover just found again. They rolled through his body, the energy intensified by the metal that still penetrated him. Methos cried out in torment and exhilaration, knowing again the odd mix of pain and pleasure that came with the Quickening. Glass exploded around him from store front windows. Neon tubes burst, sending shrapnel through the air in a barrage of deadly little missiles. Pieces hit him, cut him.
Through the burning agony in his side, he tried to focus on the memories of Belvedere, tried to get an image of who had hired him. The vision of the man's life was fuzzy, unfocused. He felt the number of Immortals the man had killed; heard their voices for a heartbeat and knew the man's indifference to killing. //It's my job.// He heard the whisper in his mind. //My job... my job... my job.// The words lingered and repeated, echoed, transmuted. //Killing's my job... killing Immortals... killing....killing...//
Fighting for his own identity Methos screamed and struggled to pull himself back. Then everything seemed to snap as the winds died. He was almost prone on his knees, hands still locked tightly around Belvedere's sword hilt as he leaned on it against the ground, horribly aware that the rest of it had gone through his body, thankfully missing his spine. Through the excruciating pain, he struggled to straighten enough to remove it, and with trembling hands, began extracting three feet of metal through his body. His agonized sob echoed down the deserted street as the sword pulled free. //More blood,// he acknowledged dimly as his life's fluid gushed out behind the sword. He felt the warm wetness down his back, soaking his shirt and slacks. //Good clothes, too.// It was a weak lament under the circumstances.
Slowly, with exaggeratedly deliberate movements that tried to minimize the agony movement brought, Methos levered himself to his feet. At that moment, he felt every minute of his plus five thousand years. Pain coursed through his body with each movement; even breathing brought sharp little lances of pain. He propped himself against the side of the Range Rover, sucking in shallow little gulps of air that didn't send waves of white-hot fire though him. It had been an exceedingly rough Quickening. Although Belvedere had only been a few centuries old, he'd taken quite a few heads. But the main problem was the damn sword through him when the full force of it hit. It felt like it had been multiplied by at least a factor of ten.
His breathing steadied and the pain eased somewhat. He realized he must look like one of the walking dead, a refugee from the firing squad and it was this vision that forced him to open the door and haul himself into the vehicle. He turned the ignition switch and...
The deafening sound of a loud explosion filled his ears and reverberated all around him. Assuming the worst, he went white, catching his breath painfully as he waited for the burst of fire and full impact of the concussion to hit him. It took a few more moments before he realized the car hadn't exploded. As his eyes came up to the rear view mirror, he spotted a ball of flame behind him, not more than twenty yards. "Gas main," he mumbled softly, then glimpsed a man scrambling away from the fire that was quickly spreading.
Methos snapped out of it then, started the Rover and laid down a fair amount of rubber in exiting from the area before all hell broke loose and the fire engines started arriving.