|Kindred Spirits: Four
by Lillian Wolfe
Methos wasn't exactly certain why he chose to go to Maurice's restaurant again. There were certainly many other places in Paris to eat, but he felt a kind of responsibility to check in on Josette. Logically, he knew she was doing okay. Maude would see that she had anything she needed and since the biggest need the girl had was to be working, the rest would be simple. But he wanted to see for himself.
He wasn't disappointed. The change in the petite young woman was remarkable. As he glanced across at her, he noted she was freshly scrubbed, her long, shiny brown hair pulled into a barrette and the heart-shaped face glowed with youth and freshness. The short black skirt, revealing slim, shapely legs, and the white blouse she wore under the bibb apron gave her a more mature look than the jeans of the previous days and he found he wasn't thinking of her as a girl anymore. She caught his look, then smiled shyly at him so he caught the most significant change in her. Her eyes shone with pride and confidence, part of the impact of having a job and knowing she was self-sufficient.
Stopping briefly to hand him a menu, as if he needed one, Maude grinned at his look. "She is a gem, Adam. Already she has done more work here than the last boy I hired. She even scrubbed the floors this morning -- not just mopped, scrubbed. You certainly know how to spot a jewel in a rubbish heap, don't you?"
He smiled, no words were necessary. He understood the young Breton woman, understood where she came from and what she had left behind. With a wink, Maude left him and Methos slouched back into the chair and opened the menu. Pretty much the same choices, he noted. //Maybe there was something enticing in the daily special...//
A gleam of pleasure sparkled in the mist blue eyes as Josette gazed across the restaurant to where the solitary man sat at a window table. Her glance shifted to the water glass she was filling then she dropped the requisite lemon slice into it and hastened to take it to Adam. He smiled at her and her breath caught in the glow of his greeting.
"You look wonderful," he told her. "You clean up very nicely. Are you happy with your room?"
"Oh, yes," she bubbled like a child. "It's very lovely. I have a bit of a view of the park from my room and Madame is so helpful. You are my good luck charm, Adam. My whole life has turned since meeting you."
He laughed, "Uhmm, I suspect it was ready to change without me. But if I guided you to the right spot at the right time, then you're welcome."
Maude came to take Adam's order then, so she hurried away to clean up a just-vacated table, but she glanced toward him as she picked up dishes. He was very cute, this man. //This Immortal,// she corrected. //Her Protector.// Once her grandmama had told her that the legends all had truth in them, no matter how impossible they might sound. As a small child, she'd believed, but as she grew older and had seen the bitterness of the world and the anger and cruelty in people, she'd discarded those worlds of fantasy, seeing them only as wishful stories of what might be. But to find one hero from those tales was real, to know the Protector was a real person and that there were more of them. God had blessed her. In her darkest hour, He had sent her a Protector.
Carefully, she carried the load of dishes to the kitchen, mindful of her appearance as he watched her. And she was aware that he watched, that those marvelous forest-colored eyes followed her as she worked. As she dumped the scraps and loaded the dishes into the washer, she formed a plan to spend more time with her myth.
//Was it wrong to want him?// she asked herself in a moment of honesty. //No! The legends tell of the Protector living with his wife. Other stories speak of gods and half-gods who took human mates. Surely they also felt the need for love and companionship. And Adam likes me! I can tell.// It was settled just like that. She would make the first move, confident he would agree.
//A movie? She's talked me into going to a movie with her?// Methos mused as he left the restaurant. He certainly hadn't planned on taking Josette out, but she'd been so charming as she cajoled him into meeting her after she was done for the night that he just couldn't say no. MacLeod would laugh if he discovered just how much of a pushover he could be. Smiling, he shook his head in amusement. //Death is a pussy cat.//
Just as quickly as it had arrived, the smile disappeared from his face and the hair on the back of his neck bristled as he felt the ghost of another Immortal. There it was again, just barely within detection range-taunting him. He turned slowly, eyes darting swiftly around the area in the hopes of spotting the source, then it was gone.
Undeniably apprehensive, he hunched down and slipped across the street, moving into what he considered the more protected side, then made his way down the road to his car. His hand slipped inside his coat, his fingers resting on the hilt of his sword, seeking a bit of reassurance. The stalking was unnerving and he couldn't keep his mind from imagining the possibilities - how easy it might be to put a crossbow bolt in him, then come remove his head while he was dead. Not a comforting thought.
The sense of relief as he got into his car was tinged with the certain knowledge that he wasn't exactly safe. He took a deep breath. Okay, logically, whoever the stalker was, she didn't want to just kill him. She wanted to have him on edge, jumpy, nervous - looking over his shoulder at every corner. She wanted him at a disadvantage when - or if - they finally met. At this rate, she was likely to get exactly that. Time to talk to Joe to see if he'd come up with any information.
Even though it was fairly early in the evening, the blues club was not as busy as it had been the previous night. Methos recognized a few of the regulars who often stopped by in the evening for a couple of drinks and a bit of music with their conversation. Joe was on stage, tinkering with his guitar - just Joe, playing the blues. Methos sat at the bar, ordered a beer and turned his attention to his friend. Sometimes he wished he could control time, could permanently lock himself in 1996 at the moment when Joe Dawson and Duncan MacLeod simply accepted him, when their friendship hadn't been stretched to the limits. But Joe... For all the madness, all the shock of his past mistakes and indiscretions, Joe had never judged him. Bluntly expressed his opinions, yes, but never judged. Automatically, his fingers tapped along with the music and he relaxed a little, feeling relatively safe for the moment.
After another tune, Joe set the guitar down and made his way to the bar, settling on the seat next to Methos. "New song?" Methos asked as an opener.
"Yeah. A buddy sent it to me. Thought it might be something I'd like," Joe said cheerfully. "Has all those sweet riffs in it. Nice tune, eh?." Joe picked up the beer that had automatically appeared on the bar.
Methos nodded his agreement. "I'm not trying to get pushy, but I was wondering if you'd found out anything?"
Lowering his voice a shade, Joe replied, "Not a lot. But this may help narrow it down anyway. Neti is in Australia. Her Watcher has been tagging along with her on a trek across the country. She's not sure what she's up to, but she's managed to stick with her, so that's a definite. Ceirdwyn left Paris after her husband was killed and is now living in Quebec, Canada. Rafaella, on the other hand, is here in Paris. She actually lives in Italy with her latest husband... one Marco Lanzoni..."
"The hotel magnate?"
Joe nodded. "The very same. They're both in Paris, doing some shopping, it seems. Agnetha, I can't tell you anything about. No Watcher on her, no one's even spotted her in the last two centuries. Her last recorded Watcher thought she was beheaded in the French Revolution, but he never saw the body. Or to be more accurate, he didn't see the head."
"She wasn't killed there," Methos said with certainty. Joe raised an eyebrow. "I've seen her since then, Joe. A couple of times."
"Oh, and by the way, Cassandra is in New York... just to eliminate that worry," Joe added with a nod, and a look Methos recognized that told him Joe was making a mental note to amend the Chronciles on Agnetha.
"Thanks. Joe. At least that narrows it down some."
"Narrows what down?" Joe asked.
"The guest list," Methos replied cheerfully, then ordered another beer. He could tell Joe was anxious to know what was going on, but he needed to keep both Joe and Mac out of it.
"Guest list?" Joe repeated with pure disbelief in his voice. "What the hell are you talking about?"
Methos shook his head. "Just my perverted sense of humor, Joe."
Frowning, Joe leaned toward him. "Methos, are you in trouble? What's with these women?"
"I always have trouble when it comes to women. Part of my charm. So, what band are you bringing in next weekend? You keep bring in these hot blues bands and this little club is going to become the only place to be in town."
"Whaddaya mean 'going to become?' It already is. Hell, I think we set a new record for the number of people squeezed in here last night."
With that Joe let Methos side step the subject, but Methos knew it. Joe would have a Watcher even tighter on him now, so he'd have to make contingency plans for that. Sooner or later, he was going to have to disappear again. At least, thanks to Joe, the Watchers were keeping his identity low-key. Quite a few knew "Adam Pierson" was an Immortal, but only the most senior knew he was Methos. Joe had argued, successfully, that it was too dangerous for everyone to have that information. For that matter, Joe had tried to keep it out of the Chronicles altogether, but he hadn't been able to convince the organization of that.
Methos glanced at his watch, then grinned at Joe. "Gotta go. I have a date." At Joe's startled look, he laughed. "Seriously. The girl I told you about last night... we're going to a movie."
"Isn't she a little young for you?"
"Everyone is a little young for me. But it's just a movie, Joe. Nothing else is going to happen."
Concerned, Dawson nodded his head. "You make sure it doesn't. And you be careful, buddy."
Methos paused a moment, cast an affectionate look at Joe. "Thanks for everything, Joe. I mean it."
"Yeah. You just watch your head." Joe growled, but the fondness in his voice was obvious.
This was a situation he didn't need. //She's just grateful for my help,// he'd told himself up to that point, but there was no denying now that Josette wanted their friendship to be more. While he liked her and enjoyed talking to her, he had no intention of getting involved with anyone right now, not even if she knew what he was and accepted it. She was tough under the delicate exterior and he liked that in a woman. But Josette was too young and major trouble by modern standards. She had her own romantic vision, based on heroic myth, no less, of what he was. She didn't really have any idea what an Immortal really was and that made her too vulnerable. With time-- and a little education, she could come to understand, really accepting that Immortals were not gods, not even super-humans, but a race with all the failings and glories of humans. Yet with all these reasons to not get involved, he didn't move her hand away.
After the movie, they stopped for coffee on that way back to her place. It was a well-lighted expresso café filled with college students. Methos had known hundreds of places like this throughout centuries. It seemed the students of a city always tended to gather together to discuss philosophy, art, music, poetry... or the school's sporting events. A young man plucked at a guitar in the corner, not quite accomplished enough to be playing the classical style he was attempting, but it wasn't displeasing either. Methos recalled dozens of similar moments when an intermediate musician fumbled with a lute or a lyre or a harp. Only the instrument of choice had changed over the years. Guitars were in vogue in this century. Josette was inquisitive, drinking in the atmosphere like a camel that had just crossed the Sahara. Her eyes sparkled with the realization of the world that was now open to her
Methos added a little cream to his coffee and loaded it up with sugar. He studied the girl who sipped at her bowl of mostly-cream-coffee and impulsively asked, "If you could be anything, Josette... if you could do anything with your life, what would it be?"
She returned his look, taking her time. "There are so many things I would like to do, Adam. I would like to see more than the rocks of Brittany and the lights of Paris. I would like to see the pyramids, travel across Russia and meet cowboys. And I would like to create."
An eyebrow crept up in a questioning arc. "Create? As in...?"
Her face tinged a delicate pink and she smiled shyly. "I like to write poetry and songs. I'm not real good, but I'm working at it."
"Poetry... Yeah, I can see that."
Encouraged, she leaned forward as if to share a secret. "I've started a poem about us. Would you like to hear it?"
"Us?" he echoed, his mouth feeling suddenly dry, fearing what kind of romantic nonsense she might have composed.
She nodded. "It's not completed, but I think you can get the idea from what I've done. Just listen..." She paused, closed her eyes, then recited in French with her soft, clear voice tinged with a Celtic lisp. "Nous ons pareil espirit, vous et moi..."
As she spoke, the words flowed over him like a quiet stream over a pebbled bed, the surface hiding the strong character of the bottom. It was not at all what he'd expected.
"We're kindred spirits, you and I...finding life like unwanted kittens here, though many fleeting years elapsed between the moments of your birth and mine. Alike our hearts beat wildly to the drums, as raging storms of passion soar, with flowing memory of distant time. We're kindred spirits, you and I...
"In the sound of swiftly pounding surf, or in the forest-soft blanket damp, speak the patterns of life's rhyme. Gentle touch to soothe the raging flames where anger, hurt and distrust grow, and to crush it down to robust wine. We're kindred spirits, you and I..."
"That's beautiful, Josette. There's a lot of depth in it. You have talent." He meant it. Her talent was raw, untrained, but it flowed with a rhythm of its own and spoke volumes of the girl's spirit.
Embarrassed by the compliment, she glanced down at the table, but he could interpret the expression of pleasure. He sighed. //Why do so many people require the opinions of others to validate their talents and skills? There was such low self-worth there, especially in an abused child.// Josette was strong, but she still had this insecurity, this need for validation. Unfortunately, he was not the person to help her, not the person she needed in her life and that was what she was wanting from him. He couldn't give it to her.
Galvanized by his thoughts, Methos encouraged Josette to finish her coffee, pushed to his feet and offered her a hand up. As they walked, Josette talked about the film, about her desire to travel and just about anything else that came to mind. He listened in silence, only half-hearing what she said. He needed to end this between them before it grew more difficult.
Outside the back entrance to Maude's house, he paused, searching for the best way to tell her without hurting her. "Josette... uh..."
"Merci, Adam, for the movie and the coffee...and the company." She smiled brightly, eyes sparkling with happiness.
"About that... about the two of us seeing each other..."
His words trailed off as Josette threw her arms around him and squeezed him in a tight hug. As he reached down to remove her arms, she moved them up to encircle his neck, pulling him closer until she was able to press her lips against his in an impulsive display of her affection.
At first, he tried to break it off subtly, then a sensation of emotion shot through him, a rage of desire such as he hadn't felt in a very long time. He shifted his body into an aggressive stance, his arms dropping to pull the girl closer, his mouth locking against hers, tasting the hint of vanilla on her lips.
//Desire... Passion... Need. Strawberries in her hair... vanilla on her lips... the heady scent of a woman.// His blood surged and desire overwhelmed him. He wanted her... wanted to take her, to enter her and take his pleasure...
"Adam...please..." A choked cry in the soft voice seemed to echo from a distance.
The child-like whimper registered slowly in his mind above the throbbing in his mouth from pressing viciously against the edge of her mouth, his teeth digging into her tender flesh with the pressure. Vaguely, he felt her hands hitting against his chest, trying to shove him away. Gaining his senses, he jerked his head back, shocked to find his knee shoved possessively between her legs and pressed tightly against her left thigh. Her skirt crinkled up, draping unevenly against his leg. His hand - Dear God! - his hand was inside her torn blouse, squeezing the rounded mound under it.
He jerked back, horrified and disbelieving, at what he was doing. "Josette! I'm - I'm sorry - I-" Words failed him as he stared at the scared, tear-stained face. Already a bruise was forming on her cheek and mouth where he'd abused her. He felt ill. What the hell was happening to him? "I'm sorry," he repeated lamely, stepped back from her. One... two... three unsteady steps away. The full impact hit him as the girl cowered against the wall, tears streaming down her face as her shaking hands tugged at her blouse to pull it over her exposed breasts. Methos shook his head slowly, wanting to wake from this awful dream, but the girl still huddled there, hurt and - worse-betrayal in her eyes.
He turned and ran from her, ran from what he'd done. Ran from something he'd been once and didn't believe he could ever be again. He got to his Range Rover, threw himself behind the wheel, shoved his foot down on the gas pedal and threw the vehicle into gear. It lurched forward as he drove blindly away.
Hands shaking and sobs stifled, Josette fumbled with the door key, let herself in and crept up the stairway in the dark. She was shocked, hurt and frightened. He had not seemed like Adam, not like the man she'd known for the past few days. She thought he would protect her, not hurt her. But his eyes had gone dark and distant and his face had changed. He seemed like a different man altogether.
Once in her room, she turned the light on and turned to stare at her tear-stained face in the mirror. As her hand touched her mouth gingerly, she winced at the pain. Her blouse was torn beyond repair. She rubbed a hand against her thigh, gazed down to see the blue-purple bruise where his knee had shoved into her.
She dropped to the bed, sitting on the edge and considered what had happened. Could she call the police, have him arrested? For what? For him touching her when it was what she had wanted, when she'd been the one to initiate it? She'd started this, kissing him as if in offering, and he'd responded. So in this respect, he was no different from any other man she'd known. He was still a god, a Protector, and if he had the sexual roughness of mortal men, then it was his due. At least he wanted her. She had been afraid he would reject her.
Thankfully, he'd stopped when she'd cried out, that was more than some men did. No, she would not tell anyone. But it didn't help the disappointment she felt. She had hoped it would be different with Adam. He had seemed gentle and caring...
Tears rolling down her cheeks, she rolled her face into the pillow. She had hoped...
Methos pulled the Rover to the side of the dark road and cruised to a stop. He'd driven out of the city, not thinking about where he was going, only knowing that he wanted to get some distance between himself and Josette. He trembled slightly as he turned the ignition off and gazed vacantly at the steering wheel. The memory of his position as he'd attacked her was now firmly etched in his mind. God knows, it wasn't the first time in his very long life he'd abused a woman, but it was the first time in over ten centuries that he'd done anything like that. Even then, even being the brutal bastard that he was while he was with Kronos, he still treated his lovers gently unless they demanded rougher play. But not with a girl like Josette. Not ever with someone that fragile. She was like Dari, like Alexa -- delicate, gentle.
He'd reinvented himself completely after he'd left the Horsemen. He'd discovered a whole different side of life that didn't include murder, torture and abuse. He had learned about humanity, about the joy of life-- the music, the songs, the stories and poems-- about love and passion. He'd discovered new values, new morals and he had come to terms with the violence of being Immortal and different. What humans had, he would never have completely, but he could appreciate it. And he'd learned that humans and Immortals were not so different, either, as you could find the same kind of bitterness and rage in them that he'd known. He also learned that one didn't get what one wanted by forcing another person to do it, that what was freely given was much sweeter than what was coerced.
So what, exactly, had happened back there? How had those dreadful urges from the past slipped out, slipped past his consciousness to do things he didn't even know he was doing? He swallowed hard as the bile of distaste-- and fear-- formed a choking lump in his throat. Fear had nothing to do with the consequences of this night's blunder, even though he fully expected some retribution, but came totally from the lack of control. That he could do something, anything, without being aware of it scared him at the deepest level.
Hesitation evident in the slow reach, Methos picked up his cellular phone and pressed a speed dial number. After three rings, Rory's voice came on the line, a smooth, professional message to patients and friends alike. "This is Miles Montgomery. I'm out of the country for six weeks from April 18th. If this is urgent, you can call my pager at 1-888..." Methos reached for the notepad and pen he kept in the car, scribbled the number on it. He started to dial the pager, got halfway through before he stopped. He stared at the phone. //What am I gonna tell him? I'm having memory farts? Better yet, what's he gonna do about it from Chicago? For that matter, what could he do if he was here?// He flipped the phone closed, leaned back and closed his eyes.
//C'mon, Methos, pull yourself together. You're blowing this way out of proportion. So you're having a few problems from that last Quickening, that's all. It's not the first time. You just need to sort it out.// He took a few deep breaths, then switched the engine on and turned the Rover back around toward the city.
With a light touch for such large fingers, Duncan MacLeod gently traced a curving line over the nude shoulder lying on the bed beside him. Amanda barely stirred, just rolling her head a bit on the pillow. By all rights, he should be as lost to the world as she was. They'd had a splendid dinner, way too much wine and brandy and enough bouncing the bed and rocking the boat to exhaust anyone. When Amanda had snuggled in after the last passionate round, he'd poured them both another brandy only to find she'd already drifted off.
He gazed affectionately at the slumbering woman, seeing the classic beauty in her face and recalling the raven-haired spitfire he'd first meet. She was always beautiful, but she seemed to have grown even more so through the years. Part of that was, no doubt, due to his deep love for her growing as their paths crossed through the centuries and he discovered more about her. She'd changed somewhat from the woman he'd first met, but he believed the goodness was always in Amanda. She just needed someone to point her in the right direction now and then.
He'd told her he loved her and he meant it. There was a bond with Amanda that would always be there, but even as he'd said the words, he knew that there was no commitment attached. As pleased as she was that he would say it, he also knew she would expect nothing more than the words. She was like a wayward breeze, arriving and leaving unpredictably, unfettered by any man. Even if he'd ever thought about seriously settling down with her, he knew she wasn't wanting that kind of life. She was a "free spirit" long before Isadora Duncan, long before it was vogue. He couldn't tell her how much he had feared losing her when O'Roarke had her captive, yet it was enough that he would have sacrificed his life for her... almost did. If not for Methos...
With these tender feelings tugging at him, Duncan leaned down to pull her earlobe into his mouth and gently scrape his teeth against it. She mewled softly, sounding almost like a kitten, and arced her neck to one side. Accepting the invitation, he moved his moist lips down her neck, planting delicate kisses as he went. In response, Amanda sighed and mumbled, "Oh, God! Methos..."
Mac's lips halted instantly in their progression as it registered in his mind. //Methos!?? What?!!// He sat up and stared hard at the still-sleeping woman. She breathed deeply, squeaked pleasurably and shifted the blanket over her shoulders.
//Methos and Amanda--?// Mac shook his head in disbelief. //That isn't possible. They're always like water and oil together... quibbling, teasing. He never seemed interested in her and she certainly didn't--//
"Honestly, MacLeod, I thought I would be helping you." Amanda's dark eyes looked truly contrite as she stared at the newspaper article detailing Kalas' escape and read. "'While it was clear the murderer had an accomplice on the outside, police had no clues at this time as to who that might be...' Well, thank heavens for that, at least. I just really underestimated Kalas."
"That's quite an understatement, Amanda," Mac replied sharply.
"Okay, so what do we do now?"
"We do nothing. You stay out of this."
Her face screwed up in a truly apologetic expression. "Duncan, I feel so guilty. I have to do something to help..." Her voice faded as the presence of another Immortal set off that particular sensor in their brains at about the same time.
Mac turned, grabbing up his sword in anticipation. "Go out the back." He barely glimpsed the hesitation in her as he moved toward the barge's main entry. There was a quick pair of raps on the door, then a newly familiar, but unmistakable baritone called out his name. Instantly, Mac relaxed and lowered the sword before opening the door.
"Is this a bad time?" Methos asked, obviously sensing Mac wasn't alone.
"No, come on in," Mac replied, stepping aside to welcome the world's oldest Immortal. Looking at the man who appeared to be a quiet University student, he found it difficult to see him as a five-thousand-year-old man, yet he had to admire his survival ability. Tall, slender and not particularly aggressive, it was obvious Methos survived by being intelligent rather than by being a powerful swordsman. Mac was reasonably sure he was better with a sword than he'd demonstrated the first time they'd met, but his build didn't lend itself to prolonged fighting.
"Amanda, this is --"
"Methos!" Amanda blurted out, surprise evident in her voice. "I haven't seen you in quite a while."
"So what hole did you crawl out of this time?" Amanda asked with a charmingly vicious smile. Mac noted she didn't exactly welcome him with open arms, but they had obviously met a couple of times. The remark peaked his curiosity. Methos hardly seemed the type to crawl out of anywhere.
Methos shook his head slightly, "Jealous, Amanda? I'm leading the quiet life these days. No wheeling or dealing."
"I see you two know each other," Mac interjected, offering Methos a beer and refreshing Amanda's wine glass. "So, what brings you by?"
"Kalas," Methos answered simply. "He was after my head at one point. I just wanted to see if you had any ideas."
"We were just discussing that," Amanda interrupted.
Mac frowned. "We're not discussing that. It's already settled. You stay out of it, Amanda."
Annoyed, Amanda shook her head and started for the door. "Talk to him, Methos. He thinks he's the only one who can handle it!"
An amused smile played across the slender man's lips as he watched Amanda leave. Then Methos turned back toward Mac and lifted an eyebrow. "So, about Kalas?"
Eyes still gazing at the tucked shoulder and long, ivory-toned neck of the woman in his bed, Mac saw that moment with a different eye now. What he thought was casual acquaintance could possibly have been something much deeper. He'd just supposed that their lives had crossed paths a few times, but there was nothing more than that between them. Now, he wasn't so sure. Or this could have been more recent. Either way, he wished he had asked more questions then.
He took a deep breath. //So what if Amanda and Methos had... slept together?// The thought stumbled even in his mind. He had never seriously considered it. //Does it matter really? It isn't like we have a commitment or an exclusive relationship.// So why did it bother him so much? Was it just that it was Methos? That Amanda had mumbled Methos' name? He didn't have any answers, only an ache in his soul that hadn't been there before.
Bone-weary, Methos shoved the Rover's door closed and started up the front stoop to his flat. He was calmer now and very tired, the evening's mishap had taken a chunk of energy out of him. His only plan now was to sleep late in the morning. His hand was on the front entry's doorknob when he felt the presence again. Reacting automatically, he pulled his sword and whirled around into a defensive position, his back to the locked door.
//Damn! This is really beginning to make me mad!// Eyes flicking from shadow to shadow in the residential area, he looked for anything that seemed out of place, any movement. "Come on, you bloody coward," he muttered angrily. "Let's just get it over. I'm tired of this shit."
But the other Immortal was gone again, delivering one last reminder before he went to bed. Methos took a deep breath and sheathed the sword. //Okay,// he thought, //I need to end this. Whatever it takes... Tomorrow... Tomorrow, I'll get some answers.// He quickly made his way upstairs to his flat, opened it and secured the three locks on the door, then checked the locks on the windows before he headed for his bed.
Methos rolled restlessly, sleep eluding him as his mind worked overtime. He kept going back to the events of the night, to his uncontrolled actions. The idea of a sexual relation with the girl was as far from his mind as sleeping with the Queen of England. He was going to tell her there was nothing, but what had changed? He had no recollection of touching her until she had cried out and he found himself in that horribly compromising position.
At last, exhausted, he finally dropped off to sleep.
Thick, marshy grasses barely cushioning knees as they crash to the ground. Hands grabbing at the face and dark, contemptuous eyes leering down. The cruel, angry mouth is moving, making unintelligible sounds. Hands-- young, strong hands-- pounding into the despised face... The man's large, rough fingers grabbing for them. Slap... slap... fighting at the grasping. Struggling, trying to break free, to get away. His hand balled up into fist, coming straight in, a hard punch... Pain bursting in jaw... Blackness...
Moist grass...lying in moist grass... wetness seeping through thin clothing. Hands tied, feet tied, spread-eagled, unable to move. Ropes chaffing at wrists, rough and harsh. He's looming down, haughty, short Roman haircut framing a face that could be handsome if it were not so despised. Struggling against the bonds as he sheds leather armor, sets it on the ground, but keeps his knife handy.
Hate. Hate rages through every inch, longing to take the knife and cut him to shreds painfully. Hate for all the foreign bastards had done, would do. Bile rising. The Roman kneels and leans forward. Spit! Urgent need to spit! Ha! In the eye! He wipes at it, glaring. The big hand comes around and explodes into face. One strong hand grabs behind the neck, the mouth closes against tight lips, shoving and bruising... indifferent to the pain. Teeth bite, cutting through flesh. Metallic taste of blood.
Cloth ripping, the sweep of air over now bare skin. A hot hand covers the breast and squeezes, first one then the other. His mouth moves down, biting at the base of the throat, then further down. Sharp bites to the nipples, painful, then sucking like a pig on a teat as if he would find mother's milk flowing. Stomach muscles tighten in revulsion, trying to twist away from the unwanted touch.
A pair of thick, muscled legs join them, naked as far as the eye can see. Booming laughter as the men share some rude joke. Fight harder... The first man stops suckling, rises and strips his trews off, stands naked now, his penis gorged and eager. It seeps liquid as he runs his hand over it, leans forward to display it. He milks it some, getting his fingers moist, then kneels between the spread legs, lifts the buttocks. The ropes pull on the ankles, burning where they chafe as they're strained.
A finger shoves up the anus, spreading the aperture, moistening it and a second finger plunges in, pushing and stretching. He separates the fingers testing and buttocks tighten with the unwelome intrustion. He's talking and laughing to the other man, indifferent to the pain he causes. Hurts... not enough lubricant to ease the friction. Won't scream, won't cry! Ropes at the ankles loosening, not released though. His shifts his shoulders under the thighs, lifting hips in the air. Fingers still shoved in deep up the butt, rolling and pushing inside..
Other man steps into view... Huge cock equally engorged, purple veins pulsing as he struts in display. Fear shakes the body. Too big!! He gets to one knee, pinches flesh at the hips, bruising it with sharp twists to evoke a shriek or a cry. No! Won't! Grins nastily, dark uneven teeth making him even uglier than he is.
Body yanked higher, the big man slides under, strong arms wrapping tightly around the waist, legs straddling, as the other lowers the hips onto the huge rod. Pain! Burning, tearing pain! Gasping for air, trying to endure... not cry out! Tearing as he withdraws back then plunges in again. Repeats again, setting an uneven rhythm.
Then first man leans forward, bringing his rigid penis into position and shoves in... ripping into tense muscles and delicate flesh like a jagged knife. Scream now! Scream as they take their pleasure in tandem, no relief from the push and pull, from the tearing of flesh. Nothing but pain. They rock faster... building toward release... Cold metal at the breast, cutting...slicing... plunging into the flesh... No! Kill... Scream...!!!
... His own voice woke him, not the scream he thought, but a deep, strangled moan. He was covered in sweat, his breath coming unevenly. His hands moved down his body to run searchingly over his chest, then slid down to his genitals, acknowledging the spontaneous arousal, but confirming he was okay. Shaking, he reached for the light, switched it on.
Damn! He sat up, gasped for air. Damn, damn, damn! He hated this. Hated what was happening to him. Shit! He didn't even get this memory when he took her Quickening. Why now? He didn't have to guess who gave him that horrible vision; he knew. Niam.
Methos put his hand over his face, tried to ward off the feeling of nausea. No wonder she'd hated him. But even if he'd stayed, he couldn't have stopped what happened to the tribe nor, he consoled himself, could he have saved her. Niam had told him she'd been taken and raped by a Roman soldier. She hadn't expounded on the details, just giving the barest facts. After he'd killed her, he'd dumped her in a pit with other dead from her Welsh tribe. When she'd come back to life, she'd found a sword, followed the soldiers and killed the bastard while he was sleeping. Of course, she'd been murdered again, but she had her revenge.
And now, it seemed, she also had found a way to take her vengeance on him. The dream was so vivid he still hurt from it, still ached where his own body had reacted to what his mind had told him was real. Gods, wouldn't Cassandra get a satisfied laugh out of this if she knew? //Okay, no more impalements when taking Quickenings,// he advised himself. //You obviously don't handle them well anymore, old man.// Not that he'd planned on doing it, and he would do it again if the circumstances were the same, but the side effects were getting nastier.
He glanced out the window, noted the pale light as the first touch of the morning sun bathed Paris with a day that hinted to be clear. Sleep totally out of the question now, Methos staggered to the kitchen, poured an extra handful of grounds into the coffeepot. As he added water, he made a mental list and included dealing with the nightmares after he finished dealing with the daylight demons. Then he retreated to the shower and, he hoped, a clearer head.
Not far away and just a few hours later, Duncan MacLeod also brewed coffee and made toasted muffins as Amanda finished up in the bathroom. He glanced up as she emerged, dark hair combed tightly against her face, eyes sparkling with renewed vigor.
"I love Paris in the spring, don't you, Duncan? You can hear bird chirping and singing and I swear I hear the flap of the umbrellas being raised along the boulevard in anticipation of shoppers. Sure you don't want to come along?"
"No, I have a few things to do. Coffee?"
She took the offered cup, paid with a quick kiss on the lips that left Mac tasting roses and wax, then she snatched up a piece of dry toast. She leaned against the counter to eat, her face not far from his. It was difficult for him to ask her about the night, but he had to know.
He faltered a bit, his voice deserting him mid-word, then started again. "Amanda... last night..."
"Last night was fabulous, darling."
"Last night you said something in your sleep..." He went on determinedly.
"Oh? What?" Amanda semi-shrugged, ready to brush off whatever was bothering him.
"You said 'Methos'... when I kissed you." He tried to keep his voice neutral. Not to make it sound like an accusation or a question, even through it was.
She arched an eyebrow in surprise, then shrugged dismissively. "Hmmm, I must have been thinking about the old man. I've known him a long time, Duncan. You know that. I must have been dreaming about something in the past."
"Uh huh," Mac agreed, tried to press gently. "Just how well do you know him?"
"You mean, do I know him in the Biblical sense? That's really none of your business, MacLeod." she retorted sharply, eyes afire with annoyance, resenting this personal invasion in her life.
Mouth dry, Mac recognized the red flag waved in his face and, like a challenged bull, pursued anyway. "What happened while I was gone? What happened with you and Methos?"
"You know, you shouldn't ask things that you really don't want to know." Her voice was low and tight as she answered. The glare rested on him as she dropped the half-eaten toast, then turned to snatch up her purse and jacket. "See you later, MacLeod!"
He let her go, knowing that now was not the time to try to discuss this or apologize for prying. Not when he was understanding that the answer was already there and the details were probably something that he really didn't want to know. Methos and Amanda... Why hadn't he seen it before?
The garment district of Paris was one of the most extensive in the world, covering a good chunk of real estate in the city. Like all major metropolises, the city had a first rate "jobber" section where buyers for large companies found the best bargains on items. Paris was noted for its fashion houses, but it had other items to offer as well.
Methos caught up with Rafaella Cortese, now Lanzoni, on the street between linen dealers. Actually, he'd spotted her going in and had decided to wait until she came out to confront her. He leaned against the wall, idly noting the types and quality of items the bargain store offered. The linens were a good quality, a high thread count, but most had tiny flaws. Nothing that would be readily noticeable but enough that they couldn't be offered at any of the top stores. However, they were ideal for hotels and restaurants where the quality needed to be good, but the flaws were easily overlooked.
Rafaella stepped out of the door, pausing on the low stoop to look back into the shop where she still talked to someone. She was as beautiful as he remembered, her figure a perfect hour glass on a tall, long-legged body. Her silky chestnut hair was worn in an elegant twist, calling attention to her olive-toned neck. He noted the sudden rise of the shoulders and tilt of her head as she sensed another Immortal.
"Still looking for a bargain, I see."
She turned to see who spoke, then light gray-green eyes went wide and her mouth opened in a startled exclamation that slipped quickly to a huge smile. "'Tonio! What a surprise, darling! I thought you were dead."
"Really? Why is that?" He wasn't surprised that she immediately used the shortened name she'd called him in the fifteenth century. Antonio was always too much work for her tongue.
Slinking-- and there was no other word for the sexy walk -- down the steps, she sashayed over to where he still leaned, then stood next to him, her eyes almost level with his. "I would have thought someone would have taken extreme displeasure with your services and perhaps demanded his pound of flesh off your neck."
Methos half-smiled, "Holding a grudge, are we?"
She laughed. "Me? No. Although I could have cheerfully ripped your head off when I was arrested. Doublecross tends to leave such a bitter taste, 'Tonio. But that was long ago and I don't dwell on old problems. Revenge and bitterness take too much energy."
"Very sensible," he said agreeably. "So, Rafi, I can safely say that you wouldn't stoop to Mafioso tactics?"
She blinked, the question in her face asking if she'd heard him correctly. "You mean hiring someone to make your life miserable? Don't overrate yourself, my dear. If I wanted retribution, I would do it myself. It's much more satisfying that way and I am much better now than when I first met you."
She gazed beyond him, joy touching her eyes. "Ah, my husband is coming. We're looking for new tablecloths and sheets for a new hotel we are opening soon. Let me introduce you."
With a shrug of his shoulders, he turned to accompany her up the street a few yards where a short, stocky, but very striking man approached them. In spite of the small stature, he looked tough, but his face softened at the sight of the tall woman.
"Marco! Darling, this is an old acquaintance, 'Tonio. I just ran into him. Isn't it a small world?"
Marco Lanzoni offered a hand, and a smile, which Methos returned easily. This was a dead end. Not totally dead, he corrected. At least he could scratch Rafaella off the list of suspects. She was a woman in love and he believed that she really didn't realize he was still alive.
"Join us for a coffee?" Marco asked. "I know a little café just a couple of blocks away that makes the best eclairs and the thickest coffee in the world."
"Thanks, but I have plans," Methos replied smoothly as he caught the warning glance from Rafaella. "It was pleasure to meet you... and most rewarding to see you again, Rafi."
"Ciao, 'Tonio," she replied easily, catching her husband's arm. The hourglass resumed that seductive walk as they left him.
Amused, Methos shook his head. He was really glad his stalker wasn't Rafaella. But that did leave him back at square one. Just as he turned to return to the Range Rover, the sense of an Immortal slipped back into his mind. Quickly pivoting, he gazed back toward Rafaella, but she and her husband were well away already. Without thinking about it, he stepped into the doorway of the nearest shop as his eyes scanned the area. The streets were packed with people, but there was no one he recognized and no one who seemed to belong to the faint signature. A moment or two more, then it was gone again. Annoyed, he chewed at his lip wondering if he was wrong about the Italian bombshell.
As he got out of his car and came around to meet Joe, MacLeod cast a quick glance at the restaurant, noting the new awnings and paint. It was doing well, he guessed. "I haven't been here in months, Joe. I thought Maurice had sold it."
"Naw. He's just let Maude run it... wise idea on his part." Joe was slowly catching up to the robust Scot.
Mac paused to look back at the Watcher. He got that suspicious look in his eyes. "So, why did you suggest this place for lunch, today?"
Dawson shook his head in annoyance. "I just thought it would be a nice change since I haven't been here in over a year. Maurice said it had been renovated. Any problem with the choice, Mac?"
"Fine." Dawson followed him inside.
The café had changed quite a bit since Maude had taken over, Mac decided. It was more airy, with lighter colors, and had been rearranged to give it a larger appearance. He followed Joe to a window table, settling easily with his long legs out in the walkway. A young girl brought water and a quickly spoken welcome. Her voice was cheery, but she kept her head down, not looking at them. Joe was watching the girl a bit intently, Mac thought.
Curious, his eyes followed her as she walked away. She seemed to be limping a bit... or at least favoring her left leg. She was petite, a girl blossoming quickly into womanhood. She was quite pretty, but what was Joe's interest? He turned his attention back to the Watcher who was now studying the menu. "So, Joe, what exactly happened between Amanda and Methos while I was gone last year?"
"What did Amanda tell you?" Joe countered.
"Not that much... Just something she said made me think--"
"Nu-uh! I ain't goin' down that path. You want to know what happened, you ask Amanda or Methos. Did you notice the girl?"
"Notice the bruises on her face and her arm?"
"No," Mac admitted. He hadn't caught those. "What's this about, Joe?"
The gray-haired man shrugged. "I'm not sure. Actually, Maude called me this morning, asked me to stop by. She said there was something I should see. I suspect that the girl is what she's referring to."
Mac was clearly puzzled, the question mark in his eyes as clear as if it was written on his face. Joe shook his head, a clear indication that he didn't have an answer.
A few moments later, the stately figure of the manager approached. Maude smiled at them both, a warm welcome that made Mac feel slightly guilty for taking so long between visits. "Duncan, Joseph-- so good to see you both. Thank you for coming. The quiche today is magnificent... fresh crab and asparagus. And the soup is my specialty."
"Sounds great," Mac replied easily.
Cutting to the chase, Joe softly asked, "What's this about? The girl?"
Maude nodded. "Did you notice the bruises? I asked her about them this morning and she said she bumped into the door frame going to her room last night. Door frame? Ha! It would take more than a door frame to create those bruises. They look like fingers on her arms and the mouth is cut. Someone did that to her."
"And you think it was..." Joe prompted.
"She was out with Adam last night. I find it hard to believe, but--"
"Adam?" Mac questioned. "Adam Pierson?"
"Adam!" Joe exclaimed. "No way." Their voices merged with the reactions.
"I know it's hard to think that Adam would do it. He brought her here to start with and wanted to make sure she was safe. Why would he hurt her? She adores him."
"Damn," Mac muttered. "Listen, Maude. If it's okay, I'll talk to her, try to find out what happened." Mac wanted to believe Methos wasn't responsible, that someone else caused those nasty bruises. Yet he knew Methos was capable of it, had done it before.
"I'll have the soup and sandwich special," Joe said, obviously wanting to shift the conversation for the moment. "How 'bout you, Mac?"
The Highlander nodded, his focus directed back at the girl who was clearing another table nearby. Even though she still kept her head tucked, the bruise along the side of her mouth and face was visible once you knew it was there.
After Maude left to see to their order, Joe leaned forward. "You're leaping to conclusions, Mac. It could have been someone else."
"Yeah, it could have been... or not."
Joe shook his head, "All right, let's say it was. If Methos did that to her, then something is seriously wrong. He's not like that--"
"He's exactly like that!" Mac's eyes darkened, his mind already racing down the path. "How much do we know about him -- about how he is with women? I know what he did to Cassandra, that she wasn't the only one."
"And I know Adam Pierson wouldn't do this," Joe retorted heatedly. ""I know what Alexa wrote in her letters. She would talk of her dear, gentle Adam who treated her like porcelain. I know he isn't a monster."
"Maybe... I'm going to see what the girl says."
"Her name's Josette," Joe supplied, irritation showing.
Mac had just gotten to his feet, paused now to frown at him. "How do you know?" "Methos told me about her. Thought she might be good Watcher material."
With a bad taste in his mouth at the thought that Joe was holding back on him, that he knew more than he was saying, MacLeod approached the girl. She was tiny next to his bulk, her still-bent head, below his shoulders. "Josette, I'm Duncan MacLeod, a friend of Maude's. She's concerned... we're concerned about the bruises."
She looked up at him then, her blue-gray eyes not showing hurt or fear, but something akin to defiance. "It's nothing, monsieur. I told Madame, I smashed into the door in the dark."
He caught her arm, turned it to see the think streaks of bruises that retained the shape of fingers. "And those? Did the door grab you as you walked in?" He waited, but she didn't answer. "Was it Adam? If he hurt you, don't protect him. It's not all right."
She looked down, seemed to consider a moment, then met Mac's eyes evenly. "It was an accident. He is passionate and didn't mean to press so hard. I don't hold it against him."
"Did he do anything else?" Mac pressed. He was angry with Methos and disappointed as well. He had believed Methos was a changed man, that he wouldn't force himself on a woman. Woman, hell. A child! She was a minor. It would serve the old man right if they turned him over to the police, but he would deal with this himself.
The girl shook her head. "No. He stopped when I asked. Please, do not concern yourself."
Mac nodded, then returned to the table. "Can you get a cab, Joe? I'm going to see Methos."
"Mac, you're over-reacting here. Sit down and have lunch and let's discuss it."
"Can you get a cab?" he repeated, not listening to reason at all. The anger and the need for action was building. That he was already upset with Methos because of Amanda was an unconscious agitator in his need to confront him now.
By the time he reached Methos' flat, MacLeod was about to burst with rage at the oldest Immortal. //What did I expect? Leopards don't change their spots,// the rash part of his mind informed him indignantly, his fury not allowing him to hear the rational side asking more important questions. He took the stairs two at a time, bounding up them like a longhorn sheep cresting a mountain. As he sensed the Immortal just ahead, he readied himself for a physical battle, if necessary. He thoroughly wanted to thrash the old man, hurt him for what he'd done.
He pounded on the door and shouted, "Methos! Methos, open this door or I'll break it!" He hit the door again, ready to carry through on his words.
He heard the locks being released, remotely registering that there was more than one, then shoved the door as soon as he saw the handle move. The momentum nearly knocked the door into Methos who was forced to jump back out of its path. It took a moment for Mac to note the gleam of the steel extension from his hands. With a look of uncertainty, Methos stared at him, not lowering the weapon.
Mac stopped short, barely a foot from the tip of the blade. "You son-of-a-bitch!" he growled, his anger fueling the words. "Don't stand there and tell me you've changed when you still can do that to a woman!"
The questioning look in the hazel eyes cleared as Methos realized what was upsetting the Highlander. "Well, that piece of news traveled fast," he replied mildly, gradually lowered the sword as if he wasn't sure how far Mac would go. "It was a mistake, Mac--"
"Damned right it was a mistake!"
"I never meant to touch her. I --"
"Like hell! I guarantee you won't touch her again." He made a menacing move toward Methos. Instantly, the sword as up again and his eyes narrowed. A less emotionally-charged man might have noticed how tense Methos was, how dangerously close he was to losing his temper.
"Will you listen to me?" Methos asked, voice tight with attempted control. He slowly lowered his sword again, leaning on it a bit.
"There's nothing you can say to make this right. No excuse for what you've done, Methos. You hurt her-- you hurt a seventeen-year-old girl!"
"I'm aware of that! If you'd just let me--"
"Tell me what? A lie?"
"What do you want to hear, MacLeod? That I wanted to hurt her? That I intentionally set out to do that. Is that what you think?" His hands trembled on the sword hilt as the rage built in him.
"Well, is that the truth? Or are you going to tell me that the times are different and this is acceptable?"
As if something had snapped, Methos' eyes turned to ice, his body tensing angrily. The glare sent a chill through MacLeod as the older man spoke with scarcely controlled venom. "Get out, MacLeod. Now!"
He hesitated, shocked to see someone who was suddenly a stranger confronting him. It was as if he saw that person who'd appeared briefly when Methos had told him about the horsemen, only this one was even colder. A small, sane voice in his mind tried to tell him, "This isn't Methos. Don't push it," but his sense of honor overrode all sane thoughts.
"We're going to settle this, Methos. I'm going--"
The bigger man never saw the punch coming. Methos' balled up fist was suddenly just there, smashing into his jaw with all the power that wiry frame held. Mac staggered, nearly going down. He sagged against the wall, rubbing at his jaw. His anger demanded that he respond. All he could think was, //I'm going to beat the crap out of the old man and then-- and then, I may take his lying head!// He pulled himself up, ready to launch into the fight, his hand starting into his coat for his sword. Until the tip of a blade poked him in the chest, resting there with enough pressure to tell him it would be nothing to pierce his heart.
He brought his eyes up to the cold fury that glared at him. He'd never seen such anger in Methos, never seen such an icy expression on his face. The hair on the back of Mac's neck tingled. Methos spoke lowly, his voice intense with the emotions he was barely controlling. "I said 'get out' -- now! Or I swear I'll use this."
Emotions urging him to take Methos on, to shove the sword aside and call his bluff were strong, but the chill that crept up his spine at the tone in the tight voice warned him to back away. //Sometimes, MacLeod,// it said, //...sometimes discretion is the better part of valor and this is one of those times.// His hand groped blindly for the doorknob, turned it behind his back. Carefully, MacLeod nodded at his opponent and eased the door open, sliding to the side to slip through it.
Almost out now, he paused. "You win this one, Methos. But if you value your head, stay away from the girl!" He yanked the door shut behind him and bounded down the stairs, still a bit shaken by the encounter.
Hands trembling with the force of his emotions, Methos slammed the door locks into place, then leaned with his back to the wall, breathing hard. Anger controlled him completely. "How dare he!" he muttered, teeth clenching. "Who the hell does he think he is? Duncan MacLeod of the fucking Clan MacLeod! Fuck him!" His hand rammed against the wall with enough force to dislodge chunks of plaster, but he was oblivious to the pain.
Abruptly, he straightened, lashing out with an arcing swing of the sword that connected with a floor lamp. Steel smashed into ceramic with a loud crash shattering the hapless light. Methos stood frozen, arm extended with the completion of the swing. Time seemed to halt for a few heartbeats as the lamp fell apart on its stalk before the pieces tumbled down, followed by the bent pole. His fingers grew numb, lost their grip and let the sword drop. Wide-eyed, he followed its path and winced as it clunked against the floor.
Released from the uncontrolled anger, Methos fell to his knees, barely feeling the jarring burn as he landed on them. He doubled over, his arms wrapping tightly across his stomach, pain and nausea cramping his body. He gasped for air as he struggled to get a grip on the fear that suddenly dominated him. //Oh, God! What the hell just happened? I just took a sword to Mac!// He was horrified by it. Horrified by the realization that he could have killed the Scot. Horrified that he hadn't been able to control it. He crumpled on his side and rolled into a tight ball as he fought against the anxiety.
It took nearly fifteen minutes before he managed to restrain the overwhelming emotions. Slowly, he uncurled, feeling the pain in his muscles as they stretched. His head dropped to his arm and he closed his eyes, desperately trying to sort through what had just happened, to find an explanation.
He'd been trying to talk to Mac, to explain what had happened with Josette, but the Highlander wouldn't listen. Then - he swallowed hard - then he'd simply snapped, lost control completely. Gingerly he sat up, his still shaky hands rubbing at his shoulders where they ached. God, he felt so old right now, so weary. He needed help and it was clear he wouldn't get it from MacLeod. Again.
"Get a grip," he murmured, just to hear his voice. "I just need sleep. I'm just exhausted, that's all." He forced his body to move, got to the bed and dropped onto it. He closed his eyes and tried to shut out all thoughts, refusing to even attempt to analyze anything else until he'd rested, until he could think rationally once more.