By Invitation Only

Celedon

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Disclaimer: All characters are fictional and belong to Panzer/Davis. No copyright infringement is intended or inferred, so be kind. I'm only borrowing them for a small jaunt... copyright 1998

Prologue

The kiss was long, slow and inviting as each slowly savored the other's taste and the sensations that were aroused in the midst of the kiss. They broke free and each hungrily touched the other.

His fingers swept over the bridge of her nose, traced the eyelids, caressed the cheeks, and cradled the chin. His eyes marveled at her perfection as his eyes swept over her face and his hands down her body encompassing every inch of her in his hands.

She in turn, ran her hands over the early evening stubble on his chin, twined her fingers through the dark hair, traced the outlines of his ears, felt the pure masculinity of him in his neck and shoulders. She sighed in utter contentment, softly smiling at him as she ran the back of her hand over his cheek. She pulled him toward her and their mouths met, opening hungrily to feed off the other's ever deepening kiss.

He grabbed her, entwining a hand around the back of her head; she succumbed as he bent her backwards, following her descent downward to lie on the pillow. Once more, he kissed her passionately, as their tongues rolled and licked at the other. The silken sheets slipped away, falling into a heap upon the floor revealing the bed beneath their tangeled limbs.

Sweet music filled the air as an aria began on the CD player that beat in sycopated time to their bodies' inner wants and needs as, piece by piece, clothing was removed, revealing the flesh underneath.

His hands played over her breasts, her back, and the warmth of her flesh between her legs as she pulled his shirt over his head and ran her hands down his back.

"Oh, Tessa," he gently whispered as his eyes filled with tears.

-1-

Duncan sat bolt upright, startled awake by the presence of another immortal as well as the insistent knocking on the door. The knocking sounded like gunshots in the night and it tore at him. The dream of his making love to Tessa dissipated before his eyes and the hollow, empty feeling came back once more.

Hanging his head momentarily, he collected his wits then reached over as he grabbed his robe and sword which lay beside the bed on its' whetstone. He cautiously approached the door, with sword upraised. The knocking ceased and a familiar voice said, "Mac?"

He dropped his sword and unlocked the door, glancing at his late night visitor as he walked away from the door. "Do you have any idea what time it is, Richie?"

Richie came throughout he door almost apologetically, but yet still walked like a bundle of nerves on edge. "Sorry, Mac. But I heard some stuff I thought that you should know."

Duncan went over to the refrigerator and poured himself a glass of orange juice. He looked at Richie and offered it but Richie shook his head "no". He walked over to the coffee table, looked at the chess set there, contemplated a move and completed it, whispering, "checkmate" to himself. He waited patiently for Richie to speak; it wouldn't be long he knew, before whatever Richie had to say would come bursting out.

True to form, Richie as he followed Duncan into what would be considered the living room of the loft, said after a moment's pause, "I think you should know that someone has been asking questions." He sat on the edge of the couch only to bounce back up moments later, pacing, unconciously wringing his hands as he paced.

Duncan noticed it but didn't say anything as he sat on the leather armchair, closing his robe against the night air. "So? Someone always asks questions sometime or another if you aren't careful, Richie." He pulled his hair out from the back of his robe, flipping it over his collar, letting it cascade down his back, just past his shoulders.

Richie sat back down, leaning forward as he did so, in order to make a point. "No, Mac. They weren't asking about you. They were asking about Tessa."

At the mention of her name, Duncan's head flew sharply up. "Tessa? Why would anyone want to know about her?" He walked over to his sea chest, pulling out his clothes--a black pair of jeans, black turtleneck with his black cable-knit sweater and dressed quickly and then pulled on his crepe-soled shoes and stood up. "Is the person one of us?"

"I dunno. I think so, but it's only word from the street." He went over to the kitchen and grabbed an apple, biting into it. "I guess that they haven't heard that she--" He gulped, suddenly feeling very ill at ease in Duncan's presence.

"That she was dead?" Duncan finished the sentence for Richie and frowned as he turned away. "When did you hear this, Richie? And where?"

"I was clubbing with some friends and we stopped in at Joe's. Just wanted to say hi, you know? " He glanced up as Duncan grabbed his long black coat and sheathed the katana inside under the arm. "You going somewhere?"

Duncan nodded then went to the door. "I want some answers and I want them now. Good night, Richie."

"But--!"

"Good night!"

Richie followed him out the door and down the back stairs to the black T-bird sitting in the alley. "Mac, I'm coming along."

Duncan unlocked the car door. Looking at Richie, he shook his head. "No. Go home. This doesn't concern you."

Richie scowled at him. "Like hell it doesn't! Mac, I was there, remember? You make it sound as if it was only you who lost her. Well, you are wrong 'cause I lost her too! Maybe I could have done more; maybe I could have stopped it from happening. But I was THERE and you weren't--"

He stopped in mid-sentence as Duncan came over the hood of the car at him, grabbed him roughly by the lapels of his coat and threw him up against the side of the building.

Duncan's eyes blazed like fire as he said in a coldly furious voice, "Don't go there, Richie. Don't even say it!" His face darkened with the fury of his anger, but he then he released Richie. He turned, walked away, then got in the car after a final look at Richie, and drove off.

Richie shivered as he watched him drive away. He knew that perhaps he shouldn't have said what he did, but it was too late now to take it back. The words had been said.

He prepared to go himself, pulling on his gloves and dusting off his helmet. That final look that Mac had given him before Duncan drove off haunted him. It was so full of pain and anger!

Mac had looked like hell too; as if he hadn't been sleeping since Tessa's death. Richie felt that he was walking on eggshells around Duncan these days; Duncan just wasn't "right" without her. Something definitely went out of him when she died.

Richie was very worried. Someone could easily whack Mac if he wasn't careful. He jumped on the starter, popped the clutch and took off, pulling a wheelie in the alley as he did so.

-2-

As he waited for the light to change, Duncan popped in a CD into the player. Strains of Chopin's "Moonlight Sonata" filled the air. He closed his eyes, listening to the sweet sultriness of the music, remembering Paris and dancing with Tessa to the same music....

______________________________________________________________________

Paris, 1983

"Duncan, will you zip me up?" Tessa held up her hair and faced the full-length mirror. She smiled at Duncan's reflection in the mirror as he got up and came up behind her.

He had been watching her get dressed; he was finished, already in his tux. He could never get over the very beauty of her in soul, mind and body. It almost took his breath away just to see her, hold her, love her as he did. "I think I rather leave it unzipped."

Smiling, he bent down to kiss a bare shoulder. "And then I could do this-" he continued as he brushed soft, light kisses across the tops of her shoulder blades. "And this..." Again, he kissed her, but this time focused his attention on an upraised arm holding her hair, following it upwards, lingering at her elbow and wrist, feeling the goosebumps rise on her skin as he kissed her. He turned her to him, his eyes warm and teasing. "And then, we could follow up with--"

Tessa smiled as she protested."We'll be late, Duncan!" She looked divine in the dress, which matched perfect with her eyes and brought out the gold in her hair.

Duncan nuzzled her neck as he said in return, "But this is Paris! You could be fashionably late to your own funeral here and get away with it. You know that, Tessa. As for your reception--" He pulled her tightly to him. "I think that I have something that you might be interested in receiving!" His eyes twinkled and he laughed deep down in his chest, which caused her to smile and her skin to turn a slight shade of pink instead of the normal porcelain.

"Mmmmmmm...I think that I can feel what it is that you want me to receive too!" she crooned as she wrapped her arms about his waist and softly laughed.

"I sure hope so." He brushed his lips across her hair, breathing in the scent of her and of the perfume she always wore, then traced her forehead and her jawline with kisses, ending at her lips.

She didn't resist--in all her life she had never met a man so passionate, so gentle, so willing and able to take the time to please her like she wanted. She swore that she could almost touch heaven each time they made love--and that was often.

Despite her willingness, her inner voice nagged at her and she pulled back reluctantly and said, "No, not now." She straightened his tux, feeling the firmness of his body underneath. She turned back to the mirror and held her hair up once more.

Duncan, seeing the set of her jaw, understood that she meant it without having to ask and promptly zipped up her dress. Both stood there, just looking at one another in the mirror, each involved in their own thoughts, when Tessa reached up behind her and pinched Duncan's cheeks together with one hand.

"Don't pout, Duncan. You knew that we had to go tonight. It's my first public showing of my work and it could be good exposure for me to different galleries and art patrons. This is important to me!" She quickly turned back to him and gave him a long, promising kiss. "There is later, Duncan."

"Maybe I won't feel like I do now, later," he pouted, sticking out his lower lip.

"Oh, I 'll make sure that you do. And," she said with a wink, "even better, I think."

As they walked out the door, he cocked an eyebrow at her. "Even better?"

She just laughed.

The reception was held at one of Paris' most prestigious art galleries which had been built about the same time as the Louvre and was made to be airy, light and above all else, beautiful. The floors were made of the finest Italian marble, as were the supporting columns. Tessa's sculptures were arranged throughout the room and onto the patio that led out to a formal garden. Above the room,the ceilings were frescoed with gilded cherubs watching the multi-colored throng below from their vantagepoints from all the corners of the rooms. In one corner, a grand piano was set up with a pianist accompanied by a string quartet.

Waiters carried cocktails on platters to the guests and Duncan captured two champagnes as they went by; he kept one for himself and gave the other to Tessa. He glanced about the room at all of the people who had come to see her works. "Looks like you are a success!"

Tessa glowed, blushing at the compliment, and raised her glass in tribute to him. Someone stopped to speak to her; Duncan took the opportunity to go to the caterer's table,loaded up some plates for the two of them and headed back, only to be stopped by an old friend.

As the friend spoke, Duncan kept looking over in the direction of Tessa, watching her as she spoke to one person then another with such ease. One wouldn't have know how nervous she really had been before they entered the gallery tonight by looking at her now. She was in her element.

A small crowd had gathered about her, but still his friend talked on. He answered in one-syllable answers as he could, nodding now and then to show that he was still with his friend even when he wasn't listening.

"Duncan?" his friend said but got no response. "Duncan?" He waved a hand in front of Duncan's face then looked in the direction that Duncan had been looking at.

"Hmm-wha-oh, sorry, Pierre." he said, a bit sheepishly. "I wasn't trying to ignore you."

"Oh, but of course you were, my friend and I can see why too!" He nodded in the direction of Tessa. "Your wife, perhaps?"

"My wife? No. But she is very special to me. We are--involved, you could say." His eyes swept around the room. "All of these are her works."

"You sound very proud--and very much in love, my friend." Pierre chuckled to himself. "Ah, yes, why didn't I see it before?"

The pianist began to play Chopin and Duncan shoved the plates at Pierre. "Take care of these for me Pierre, please? I think she needs rescuing from the mob."

"But of course, my friend. But of course!" H e chuckled to himself as he watched his friend make his way through the throng to her side.

He pushed his way to her as he grabbed her hand, pulling her outside to the gardens. The full moon lit them up in shades of darkness and silver and he pulled her close to him as he began to dance with her. "I believe that this dance is mine, fair lady." he whispered into her ear.

The sweet strains of Chopin's sonata carried onto the night air and they swirled and floated through the gardens past the ornamented bushes and shrubbery. He smiled happily at her as they danced. "Have I told you how proud I am of you, how beautiful and how very much I love you recently?"

Smiling, she said, "No, not recently. At least, not since this morning." She laughed and Duncan joined her. "Do you love me?"

"You know I do," he crooned to her quietly. "You have made my life have a meaning, Tessa. It's like we were meant to be together forever but I had to wait for you to come. And you," he paused from dancing, "were worth the wait." He cradled her face in his hands and kissed her slowly, taking his time as she did, both reveling in it.

She broke free first. "Let's go home, Duncan." she said huskily. "I think we can make both of us feel better, don't you?"

Duncan just smiled, guided her to the valets and the two of them went home.

-3-

The car's horn from behind him broke his reverie and he glanced in the rearview mirror. The driver of the car screamed and hollered at him while making obscene gestures to him . Finally, they impatiently drove around him yelling out the window as they went by, "Move it, old man!"

Duncan laughed to himself. "If they only knew." He turned the corner and parked the car by the bar. He looked about; the outside lights had been turned off and he got out, hoping that Joe was still inside. He wanted answers that perhaps Joe could supply. He tried the door--it was still unlocked; he entered.

"Bar's closed." Joe's tired voice said from behind the counter.

"Joe? It's me." He came down the stairs into the lone light left on in the bar.

"Mac? What the hell are you doing here?" Joe asked as he came out from behind the bar. "God, you look terrible! You OK?"

"I'm looking for some answers, Joe. Richie came by and said that someone's asking questions about Tessa. He seemed to think it might be one of us. Know anything about it?" Duncan pulled out a chair from the table and sat down.

"Yeah, Richie was here earlier tonight with some friends."

"And?"

"Well, Mac it's like this--" Joe took a deep breath and motioned for Duncan to stay where he was as he brought a bottle and two glasses to the table, then sat himself. "Seems like someone's been asking around about her." Joe conceded. "And I think that whoever it is, they're immortal as both of you suspect." He sat down in the chair besides Duncan.

"You have a name?"

"Nothing definite--just a rumor that's floating about and is totally unreliable." Joe threw his hands up in the air. "I really don't know much about it, Mac. But I'll see what I can dig up for you." He poured up the shots for Duncan and himself.

"Thanks, Joe." Duncan sat back and rubbed his eyes, then looked back at Joe and said, "Whoever it is, they haven't heard what happened to her."

"So that means that they've been out of touch for a little while."

"Something like that. They could have been locked up, out of the country, dead but just recently revived--"

Joe interrupted. "That's a thought."

"Or just out of touch, period." Duncan finished then frowned. "Any information would help, Joe. I want to find him or her."

"And then?" Joe asked with raised eyebrows.

"And then, we'll see." Duncan scooted back his chair,stood, then picked up the shot and drank it down. "I'll see you tomorrow. And thanks again, Joe."

He turned and left, leaving Joe shaking his head at him once the door had closed. Duncan had taken Tessa's death very hard and still did. He probably blamed himself for her death too, Joe thought to himself. He sighed as he shut off the last light, locked up and made a mental note to start calling around tomorrow.

After he arrived home, Duncan went to bed where he laid with one arm thrown over his eyes, in an attempt to sleep. He was exhausted, but sleep continued to elude him except in ragged bits and pieces and then he was haunted by images of Tessa and of the funeral--as well of that night. The images seared his brain and refused to go away not that he wanted them to. Memories were almost all he had left of Tessa except a few small items. Her family had either collected the rest or it had been sold when the shop was sold.

He missed Tessa more than words could ever express and more than any other mortal woman he had ever loved before. Even more than Little Deer, when Kern murdered her, that sense of loss was nothing compared to the vast loneliness he had felt since he had pulled Tessa's lifeless body into his embrace as the warmth left it.

He reached out to stroke the pillow beside him as tears welled up in his eyes. "God above, how I miss you, Tess." he softly whispered as he closed his eyes one last time and finally fell into an exhausted oblivion of sleep.

-4-

The next morning, Richie went back to the old neighborhood where Mac and Tessa had had their antique shop and started asking around if anyone had been asking questions about the shop or it's previous owners.

Most of the shop's adjoining business owners remembered him and they welcomed him back. They were more than happy to answer any of his questions and supplied him with small tidbits of information regarding a stranger who had worn a scarf about his neck even though it had recently been hot for Seacouver. Whoever the stranger had been--they had seemed surprised to discover the shop closed--and more than normally disappointed.

Richie tried to press the shop owners for more information but when it came down to trying to describe him they all agreed to disagree about the stranger's appearance. Some said that he had been tall while others said that he had been short and his coloring had wildly varied from person to person when asked about it.

He wound up, a bit more frustrated than when he started, but despite this, he had managed to glean at least a few grains of information to give to both Joe and Mac about who was asking all those bothersome questions.

He pulled on his helmet and headed out to his place to grab a bite to eat and then let the two of them know what he knew. ______________________________________________________________________

Paris 1983

They had purchased a barge for their new home since Duncan's apartment had become a magnet for other immortals out headhunting long before he had met Tessa. They had moored the barge,christened, "Amadeus", near the same spot that Duncan had jumped aboard the tour boat that Tessa was leading down the Seine, when they had met four years ago, while she was still a student at the Sorbonne.

It provided them with a magnificent view of Notre Dame cathedral across the river, whose spires rose heavenwards and often was lit up at night as well as the rest of the Parisian skyline.

Tessa had undertaken the task of re-furbishing the barge and turning it into a home. The results were well worth it, as Duncan and Tessa settled into a quiet,comfortable life on the river.

As Tessa became more recognized in the art world and commissions had begun to pour in for her work, they soon rented an old warehouse to keep her sculptures and to temporarily serve as her studios.

In the early mornings, Duncan would ease himself out of bed so as to not wake her and go topsides to stretch before beginning his daily routine of katas with or without weapons.

Occasionally, Tessa would sneak up and watch him; her legs tightly drawn up against her chest as he started the fluid, gliding motions of the kata. In many ways, it looked to her like poetry must look like if one was able to put the words of a poem into a physical reality such as Duncan.

She loved to watch as the muscles rippled across his back and chest as the sweat trickled in gleaming rivulets over the undulating muscles of his body. The whole of the kata almost was balletic in movement and she would sit, mesmerized, as she watched him go through the different positions of hand, arm, body and kicks, which made it up.

Duncan would be oblivious to her while he exercised, focusing on his breathing and his inner force or "chi", which provided peace and harmony from within; it allowed him to concentrate so that he could try to better himself mentally, spiritually and physically.

He would swing arms, and hands, kicking with a one-two staccato only to land gracefully on the deck in the centuries old practice of positions as he continued to work on it, unmindful of the sweat, which ran down his face, plastering his hair to his face.

When he finally finished the last of the positions, slowly coming back to the awareness of the world about him, he would look about to make sure that all was safe.

On the days that he would see Tessa sitting quietly watching him like today, he would smile warmly at her once he was finished. He reached down for a towel, and wiped himself down with it as he asked her in a concerned voice, "What are you doing up so early, sweetheart? Did I wake you?"

She smiled and stood up, shaking her head "no". "The bed was cold without you, Duncan." She put an arm about him as the two of them began to walk downside.

He looked at her with softened eyes and said, "You know what they say, don't you?"

"What?"

"Early to bed and early to rise, make a man healthy, wealthy and wise." He winked at her as he chuckled.

"And I suppose living a long life doesn't hurt either, does it?" she countered with a laugh, eyes glittering with surpressed mirth.

He nodded as they went inside. "I do suppose you have a valid point there." He gave her a light tap on her buttocks. "Get inside before you catch cold." He grinned then headed off to the shower after grabbing some clean clothes.

As Duncan showered, Tessa made a light breakfast of fruit, juice, toast and poached eggs for the two of them. She smiled when she heard him start to sing off-key from the bathroom. As beautiful as Duncan was inside and out, a good singing voice was not one of his many blessings. She teased him about it too when given the chance. Now, as she listened to him, was as good a time as any to do so.

She wiped her hands and went into the bathroom. Breakfast could wait.

Steam billowed out the door when it opened and she smiled as he continued to sing off-key. She quickly shed her clothes and joined him in the shower, wrapping her arms about him from behind.

"Well!" he began then stopped as she began to kiss his back, nibbling here and there on it.

"I had to find a way to make you stop singing before the neighbors complained again to the police!" she said, giggling.

He turned to face her, grabbing her by the arms and shoved her playfully under the showerhead as she screamed and sputtered in delight. "You have such a nice way of telling me to be quiet, Tess!", he said,leering. He released her and she slipped and almost fell; he caught and raised her back up to her feet. He chuckled, kissing the tip of her nose. "I love you, Tess. Always will."

"OHHHHH, you! I'm all wet!" she cried out, as she wiped the water from her eyes and he laughed again.

"I thought that was the whole purpose of the shower or bath!" He thought back to his time in Japan with Hideo and the first Japanese bath that they had tried to introduce him to. It caused him to grin at the memory.

"It is, but-but, Duncan!" she started to say, but then gave up. "OK, let me wash you then since this is a shower and we are sharing it. On your knees, if you please." She poured out some shampoo into her hand.

He looked at her and complied as he wrapped his arms about her waist and then began to lightly nuzzle and kiss at her. "Do you want to do the front or back first?"

She slapped him lightly. "Hair first. Then the rest." Valiently, she tried to ignore what he was doing to her as the kisses sent little shivers throughout her body which all seemed to end between her legs.

"You're the boss, boss.," he said with a mischievous grin, eyes glittering. He then went back to nibbling at her, parting the golden triangle of curls which hid her center. He slipped his tongue and lips over the exposed tissue of her clitoris and deftly began to lick at her He picked up her leg and held it in place for better access and was rewarded by hearing her moan ever so slightly.

Gasping in surprise and pleasure, while leaning her head back as her body arched forwards towards him and her breath came faster she forced herself to look at him and say, "Later, Duncan.You aren't finished yet." Gently, she pried his fingers off her leg and attempted to continue what she had started with him but she was dizzy from his unexpected advances and longed for more. But two could play this little game.

Duncan paused, disappointed that his shower was more important than what he had in mind for the two of them. He sighed, giving her a wry look and then allowed her to continue with him. He held his arms out to the side, "I'm all yours!"

She smoothed the shampoo through his hair and began to lather it up. It was so thick and beautiful that she was almost envious of it.

As she scrubbed his head, he closed his eyes at the sheer erotic feeling of it wishing that she wouldn't stop, but before long, she ordered him to rinse. He did, spitting out the water that ran into his mouth and wiping his face with a massive hand.

"Stand, please." Tessa ordered as she began to use a natural sponge on him, full of lathered soap. She ran it over his body; it slipped slid and glided over the muscles and tight abdomen, past his buttocks and down his legs then back up onto his chest then over to his back.

After a few moments, she dropped it and began using her hands to soap him up,deliberately coming in close contact with him with herself, as her breasts swung lightly upon him, teasing and taunting him; it delighted her to hear him catch his breath each and every time she touched him momentarily as if a jolt of electricity had hit him.

She made sure that she paid special attention to his groin area as she slid her soapy hand along the shaft of his penis, smiling seductively at him as she felt it begin to harden and swell, twitching now and then as it stirred to life under the attention she paid to it.

He had closed his eyes in concentrated rapture, feeling like he was not going to last through this shower without doing something about her tender ministrations if he had to be the victim of this beautiful torture another minute. "Aw, Tess, you're killing me!"

He bent down, wrapped his hands around her face and kissed her long, hard and tenderly as he wrapped one of her legs about his waist and supported his weight on one hand behind her on the wall. He traced her neck with kisses downwards, followed with his hand, cupping her breasts one by one as he licked and sucked at them, then his hand traced a quiet path further downward.

"And I thought you were Immortal! Why would I want to kill you, mon couer? Why would I want to do that? Do the other Immortals know about this?" She gazed at him, with the awe and love she had always held for him, tinged with lust.

The two of them gazed at one another, each knowing where this would lead to eventually. She ran a finger down his chest, watching it's track then looked back up him as he spoke.

"Depends on which Immortal you're talking about." Duncan replied with a deep laugh. "And, they don't have such a beautiful killer such as you."

Removing the sponge from the floor of the shower, he began to wash her also, as she had him and then her hair. But after a few moments, he threw it to one side as he wrapped his other arm about her and thrust himself deep inside of her.

She groaned softly in pleasure as he did. After a few moments, both locked eyes with one another as they moved together in rhythm with both crying out in pleasure.

-5-

Duncan slept later than his normal early rising time, uninterrupted by dreams of Tessa. It was his first true sleep since her funeral and it had been sorely needed. The jangling of the phone woke him finally. He glanced at the clock beside the bed, groaning as he sat up. The phone continued to ring, setting his teeth on edge. "MacLeod." He blearily rubbed at his eyes.

"Mac? Hey, man, I've been trying to call you for an hour! You OK?" Richie's concern was evident.

"Yeah, Richie, I'm fine. What's up?" Duncan stretched, and walked over to the kitchen area, cradling the cordless phone on his shoulder, as he pulled food out for his breakfast from the refrigerator then began to prepare it

"I went over to the old neighborhood--where the shop had been, you know?" he began.

"Bad idea, Richie. You know better. We've discussed as to the whys, if you recall.," Duncan interrupted, frowning as he looked around the loft, still listening attentively to his student.

"No, Mac, listen to me. The shop owners around the old place saw someone lurking around the old store asking a bunch of questions about Tessa and you!" Richie's eyes searched around in his room, looking for his keys.

Duncan paused. "What did they look like?"

"See, that's the thing, they can't agree on what the guy looked like. I mean, it's like, he was wearing different disguises or something!"

"Or it was more than one person." Duncan frowned, thinking. "If they are an immortal, then they aren't playing by the rules."

"What do you mean?" Keys spotted, Richie walked over and retrieved them from the table.

"Mortals aren't supposed to be involved when it comes to one of us searching for another." Duncan walked over to the antique wardrobe, pulled out some new clothes and donned them.

"But that sort of thing happens often, doesn't it?" Richie asked in a perplexed tone of voice.

"It happens." Duncan conceded.

"And one more strange thing, Mac, about the guy."

"What?"

"They all agreed on the fact that the guy wore a scarf about his neck--even when we had that hot spell recently. They thought it was kinda weird, you know?"

Duncan paused in mid-motion of pulling on his sweater. "A scarf?"

"Yeah, a scarf! You know who this guy is, Mac?"

"Maybe." He thought for a moment. It couldn't have been Fitzcairn--he had never met her until just before her death and Duncan hadn't seen him before then in a couple of years. But who? "Richie, meet me at Joe's in a half hour. I want to see what information he's been able to find out."

"Gotcha! See you in a half hour! I'm outta here!"

"Bye. And Richie--I'm sorry about the other night." Richie smiled on the other end of the phone. "It's hard on everyone. Me included. No sweat."

He hung up. Duncan sat down by the chessboard, staring at it as a thought curled into his consciousness causing him to straighten rigidly in his chair immediately.

Could this be who he thought it was and were they out on a vendetta against a dead woman?

_________________________________________________________

Paris, 1984 New Year's Day, 12:01 a.m.

The cathedral bells all over Paris rang in the New Year as Tessa and Duncan danced by candlelight belowdecks. The remains of an elegant meal and two wine stems sat on the sideboard to one side of the room with a magnum of champagne, iced down in a silver bucket sitting nearby.

"Mmmm...Happy New Year, mon coeur, (my heart)." Tessa crooned to Duncan as she laid her head upon his shoulder. Languidly, she reached an arm about him.

"Happy New Years to you too, sweetheart." he replied softly. Reaching up, he swept his fingers through her hair, marveling at how happy she had made him. He felt thrice blessed; she loved him, accepted him as he was, immortality and all, and had stayed with him despite it.

Tessa, meanwhile, couldn't imagine life without him and if she could have asked for more, she wouldn't. She had all that she had ever wanted; she had found it in his arms and in the satisfaction that her work provided her.

Duncan looked at her, silently at war with himself as he debated telling her the whole truth about what being immortal really consisted of. "Tell her everything." a voice deep inside him, said. "Tell her about what can happen, what will happen when others come looking for you."

Another said, "No. Leave it alone. It'd frighten her, she might leave you. No, tell her nothing!" His face clouded up with the conflict that he felt inside. "You must tell her something more than what she knows!" another voice chimed in and he agreed, but he didn't want to tell her everything in regards to his immortality, unsure of what her reaction would be if she knew the whole of it.

The annual fireworks display that brought the New Year in began outside, and it interrupted his thoughts.

Tessa lifted her head at the sound, smiling, and took his hand. The two of them went topside to watch the display which boomed, glittered and spiraled near the Bastille and Notre Dame. They sat on deck, holding hands, quietly whispering among themselves as they pointed and remarked upon the many colors; their favorites which lit up the night sky as well as what they wished for in the year to come.

Finally, the display was over; yet they continued to sit on the deck, Duncan wrapping his arms protectively about her to keep her warm.

They listened in the night to the revelers one could still hear and the occasional displays of fireworks, if you looked for them. "Tessa?" Duncan took a deep breath and asked her, "What would you think about leaving Paris and going back to the States with me?"

She frowned, turning in his arms to get a better look at him. "Leave Paris?" But why?" She turned her face away from him as she thought furiously about his leaving Paris and how it would affect her.

"I have to leave." Duncan never had lied to her before and wasn't about to lie to her now. He took a finger and traced a path down her jaw to her chin, pulling her face towards him so that she was looking at him again.

"But why must you leave? All my work is here, all my friends, my family!" she said, trying to understand.

He sighed, looking at Notre Dame, as he gathered his thoughts. He wanted to explain things without frightening her, but how did one do that? Taking another deep breath, he said, "You know about me, my immortality." He searched her eyes, looking to gauge her reaction to what he was attempting to say.

"Yes." She waited, knowing that he would provide an explanation for this sudden change of plans.

"We Immortals, have an instinct of sorts that will draw all of them back to one place at one time."

"Yes, they have an instinct. All right. Go on, but I will tell you that I don't understand, but do go on." she encouraged him but accepting what he had to say without question even as she tried to comprehend what he was trying to say.

"I need to go back there. That feeling, that instinct, is drawing me back. I can't help it, it's a part of what I am. I want you to come with me, Tess. I don't want to leave you behind; you are much too important to me. Say yes, Tess." He pulled her close to him, closed his eyes, and waited for an answer.

"How long, when, when did you start to feel this urge, Duncan?" she asked in a hushed tone as confusion battled with her common sense.

He shrugged. "Not long ago." Inwardly, he knew exactly what that feeling was. The time of the Gathering was drawing near. And he had to be at least close by when it happened. He had never told her of what he really knew of it. The time was never right and he was reluctant to disclose everything. "As far as your work and all, we can keep the barge and find a place for your work and studio. I know how much it means to you. We can work it out, Tess. I swear, I'd do anything for you to make things like you want. Just don't say no.," he whispered, almost pleading, into the gold of her hair.

She closed her eyes as she thought. "Try to imagine life without him," she told herself. But try as she might, she could not do it. And she loved him so. She began to think on more practical terms. The States might be a good change for her and open up a new world to her art and sculptures. "Duncan?" she said softly.

"Yes?" He held his breath.

"Yes, mon couer, oh, yes!" She smiled, grabbed him about the neck and kissed him.

The kiss which began tenderly, slowly evolved into a kiss into which both their souls spoke. Then he put an arm under her legs, lifting her up in his arms and carried her below the deck and quickly to their bed.

_________________________________________________________

The T-bird tooled up to the front of Joe's. Duncan parked it near the entrance and got out, looking up and down the street to see if anyone else was watching. Satisfied that he wasn't seen, he entered the building.

Richie turned towards the door as he felt another's immortal's buzz. He breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that it was Duncan. He looked closer as Duncan came closer to the two of them--it looked as if he had finally gotten some sleep, thank God. "Mac!"

Duncan glanced at the two of them as he came in. "Richie, Joe."

Joe turned and smiled at him, reaching for a shot glass behind the bar. He paused when Duncan shook his head "no" and put it back.

"Heard anything, Joe?" Duncan began, right to the heart of the matter.

Joe grinned to himself. "Just like that!" he noted silently to himself. Mac did it everytime. You couldn't beat around the bushes with him, that's for sure. Clearing his throat, he replied, "It's an Immortal, all right. You both were right in that regard." He glanced up at his friends.

They nodded and waited.

He looked over at his notes he had pulled from his pocket. "Hmmm. Name's Jean-Paul Belclaire. That name mean anything to either of you?"

Richie thought for a moment and shook his head no; Duncan meanwhile, clenched his jaw as he made a tight fist on the tabletop. Through tightly clenched teeth he said, "Belclaire? Where's he been all these years?"

Richie and Joe exchanged looks at Duncan's response. Joe raised his eyebrows up as he asked,"Is there something that I have missed somehow in all the time I've been your Watcher, Mac? If there is, would you mind telling me what the hell it is?"

Duncan sat down at the table nearest the bar. He thought for a moment before he replied. "It was the winter of 1984 in New York City. Tessa and I had opened up the antique shop earlier in the year in Seacouver. We needed a new shipment of early American antiques for the shop so I headed back to the East Coast on a buying trip."

"I had previously contacted Connor and he had agreed to sell to me some of the items that weren't selling as well as he had hoped and I'd agreed to take them off his hands. It'd been years since we had seen each other last so I was looking forward to the trip."

Joe nodded. "I remember reading about you leaving on that trip too."

Duncan frowned a bit annoyed to be reminded that he had been watched all those years and still was. Continuing, he said, "When I arrived in New York at La Guardia, I rented a car and drove out to Connor's Hudson Street address only to find it locked up tight."

Richie frowned as he looked back and forth between Joe and Duncan. "Will someone please tell me who this Connor is?"

Joe grinned, shooting a glance off at Duncan, eyebrows raised. "You mean to tell me you don't know who Connor MacLeod is?"

"No."

"Richie, remember how we first met?" Duncan said, as he sat up in his chair and folded his hands in front of him.

"How can I forget it?" Richie sheepishly smiled, then took a drink from his beer.

"There were two men--the big one and then another one who fought with a katana too."

Richie brightened. "Oh yeah! Sir Lancelot!"

Duncan hung his head as he smiled. He looked back up at Richie. "That man was Connor MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. My teacher."

Richie raised his eyebrows until it looked as if they were going to meet his hairline. "Whoa! Your teacher? You two related or something?"

"Something like that. We're clansmen and as Connor likes to say- we're a different vintage. He's older."

Richie nodded as he began to understand the relationship. "So, like, what happened in New York?"

_________________________________________________________

New York

Duncan waited for the door to be answered he hoped--and soon. The wind was biting in its' coldness and it promised to bring snow. There were still patches and drifts from the last snowfall here and there. He looked around the neighborhood but didn't detect Connor's presence anywhere nearby.

He looked at the fine lettering on the windowpane above the door proclaiming the place to be "Russell Nash Antiques 1182 Hudson Street". He smiled. Connor never had been one to use any garish aliases.

A small blue car came up and parked by the curb in front of the store from which a woman who looked to be in her late 40's to early 50's emerged. "Mr. MacLeod?" she said with a trace of an accent. "Duncan MacLeod?"

"Yes, that's me." Duncan replied as he turned to watch her approach with careful elegance in her walk and mannerisms. "I'm sorry that I hadn't met you as planned but traffic was in a snarl coming over. I do hope you'll forgive me." She extended her hand. "I'm Rachel Ellenstein, Mr. Nash's assistant."

Duncan took her hand and brought it to his lips. "It's nice to meet you at last."

She blushed and pulled away awkwardly from his grasp, then turned and unlocked the door. Once inside, she pulled off her gloves as she walked over to turn on the lights and the security system off. She then came back and handed Duncan a note and the keys. "Mr. Nash wanted me to give you these and to tell you to make yourself at home."

Duncan put down his luggage and took both objects. He turned the note over to see if there were any markings on the outside but didn't open it. He frowned but played the charade with her. "Just where is Mr. Nash?"

"He had some business to take care of. I'm sure you'll find a full explanation in the note." She looked outside where it had begun to snow. "I need to go before the weather gets too bad. Everything is well stocked and should you need anything--"

Duncan laid a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sure everything will be just fine. You'd better go." He smiled at her and she returned it in kind.

She pulled on her gloves once more and moved towards the door but paused once she reached it. She turned and asked,"Just how long have you known Mr. Nash, Mr. MacLeod?"

He half-smiled. "Ages. We are very old friends and you could say that he help get me started in this business--he taught me a lot."

She nodded, satisfied, then went out the door, throwing a "good night" over her shoulder at him.

"Night!" He watched her go then turned his attention to the note. Upon opening it, he quickly read it then reread it to understand what wasn't said.

The note read:

Duncan,

Sorry to have missed our meeting but I had the opportunity to go hunting and couldn't pass it up. I hope to see you before you leave. If not, take what you want and we'll work out the details later.

Connor

Connor was out hunting another Immortal--that's why he wasn't here, Duncan thought to himself. He was out playing the Game as he always had. Connor had tried to teach Duncan to do as he did--to only minor success in some areas, but in others, Duncan followed Connor's teaching to the letter tempered by his own experiences.

He picked up his luggage and headed to the elevator which led to Connor's private residence. It stopped abruptly, jarring Duncan so that he had to brace himself on the wall. He glanced about the room, a habit that had saved his life on more than one occasion throughout the centuries, just to make sure it was safe.

Having found no surprises waiting, Duncan got off looking around at the place Connor had called home on and off for almost three centuries. He found the spare bedroom and dropped off his bags, then came back out to look out towards the Hudson River. The skyline of New York glimmered with multi-colored lights as they reflected in the river and in the skyline.

Once more, he felt a pang as he had in Paris earlier in the year but stronger still, as he looked at the sights. How soon, he wondered, will it happen? How soon to the time of the Gathering? Shaking his head, he walked away from the window past the two matching angels that sheltered and protected the place and its' contents.

He noticed the pieces of sculpture that were placed here and there about the bi-leveled residence. He ran a hand over a piece and got the uncanny feeling that he had seen the piece before. He looked in all the nooks and crannies for the sculptor's name to no avail. Frowning, he walked around it searching with his eyes and his memory for the sculptor's name. Finally, his eyes locked onto a small inscription at the base of the piece and he read it. "T.Noel, UNNAMED". It clicked and he smiled.

How like Connor to buy a piece to make a statement that only a select few would understand the meaning of it! Duncan was one of the select few and knew immediately that Connor had been keeping tabs on him.

He would have to have a long talk to him when and if he saw him on this trip!

Still shaking his head over the sculpture, he walked over to a small wet bar that was secreted in a corner of the room. He poured himself a drink; single malt on the rocks, then looked at the bottle. It was an original bottle from the first batch that the Glenmorangie brewery had brewed in the 1700's. He whistled as he thought of what it would bring on the open market.

But, why pay the price when you had it from the original source? He took a sip, then walked over to the phone and dialed home.

"Hello?" a sleepy female voice said.

"Hello, sexy." Duncan softly smiled as he heard the rustling of the linens through the phone lines, imagining her lying their in bed with her hair all askew and in her favorite gown.

"Duncan!" Tessa rubbed the sleep from her eyes. "You must have arrived late on your flight!" She propped the pillows behind her as she sat up in the bed.

"No, I arrived on time. I changed my plans as to where I'm staying so if you have pen and paper, I'll give it to you." Papers rustled and crackled; then she said, "Yes, I'm ready."

He dictated to her all the information on Connor's place.

"I have it. How long will you be staying?" She looked over at the emptiness on his side of the bed as she ran a hand over the cold spot where he normally lay.

"Not long, sweetheart, I hope. It's started to snow here and it depends on the weather. Russell isn't here right now; my business is with him. I promise, I'll be home as soon as I can." He tried to soothe her with his words but both felt the same longing for the other so there wasn't much comfort in the words.

She sighed; on Duncan's end of the phone the sound made his heart clutch at itself. "I know, Tess. I feel it too. I love you." He imagined her sitting there in bed and closed his eyes, aching to be with her.

"I love you too. Hurry home, Duncan."

"I will, I promise." The line clicked dead.

He sat there, looking at the phone for a few minutes after the call ended. It was good to not be in the Game anymore--at least, not for now. Maybe not for a lifetime or two, for that matter. "Just give me time with her," he silently prayed. "Let me be with her until her death; just leave me in peace." But he knew that the life immortals lived was never normal and that chances were against him that his prayers would be answered in this matter.

He took another drink, then stood, stretching his legs. He walked to the window once more and watched the snow falling silently down. He sighed, feeling the feeling of "aloneness" that Connor had described long ago, when he was teaching him, which all immortals felt at one time or another.

Some, like Connor, chose the aloneness rather than risk getting hurt by getting involved with another relationship; although Connor did break his own rules in this regards when he wanted or needed to. But that didn't happen often.

Knowing he couldn't allow himself to fall into one of the black moods the Scots were known for, he moved away from the window and climbed the stairs to the secondary floor of the apartment.

A catwalk ran around on the outside perimeter of the area; inside of this was a rotunda. He walked over to, pausing outside its' doors. Pushing open the doors to the rotunda, he paused as he looked inside in a state of awe somewhat, at what he was seeing. This was Connor's sanctor santoirum, his storeroom of memories.

Duncan walked about looking carefully at everything--some things he recognized, many others he didn't. He had never seen much of this, in fact, almost never in the all the three centuries plus he'd known Connor had he been shown these things. For someone who kept a very low profile and, by choice, to himself much of the time, Connor had led a very colorful life, forever playing the Game.

He stopped dead in front of a piece on display, knowing exactly what it was: the lower part of a claymore that Duncan had broken the night he had bested Connor in Florence in 1632. He reached out to take it, to hold it once more when he felt another Immortal's presence.

Quickly, he replaced it, then looked about him and withdrew a sword from a magnificent display of swords which were multi-cultural and multi-aged. He held it at the "at ready, en garde" position and eased his way out of the room.

The other immortal cackled a familiar laugh and said in Gaelic,"Come out, come out, wherever ye are!"

Duncan smiled at the voice and replied in Gaelic, "You first, haggis!" as he made his way down the staircase, listening and eyeing the dark shadows which permeated the corners of the lower level.

Once again the laugh was heard, and Duncan homed in on where he thought Connor was. "Been hunting again, have you?" he again asked in Gaelic. "Aye, that I ha'." Connor answered in English in his original brogue. He was weary from the fight earlier and it's aftermath and sounded like it, reverting back to his original accent and speech patterns he had grown up with.

Duncan swung his sword at the shadows where he thought Connor was only to find empty air instead of Connor.

Connor watched the whole thing as he made his way through the shadows to the bar and poured himself a drink. "You know, Duncan, you really need to work on getting that down right. Didn't I teach you anything?" he said with a wry grin. He shook his head. "Tsk, tsk, tsk!"

Duncan whirled; he broke out into a wide smile, which quickly faded when he took in Connor's torn and blood-soaked clothing. "Yours or theirs?" he asked as Connor limped badly out from behind the bar.

"Both." He threw an arm about Duncan's broad shoulders as Duncan helped him to the couch.

To Duncan's eye, it looked as if it had been a close call tonight for Connor. That Connor was alive meant that the other was dead and he wasn't going to ask questions. They both had been in that position where only one came back and it had been them, numerous times, far too many to count for both of them. So he said nothing, even when he was quite certain that Connor probably had, in his longer lifespan, experienced more quickenings then he himself had.

Duncan had taken himself out of the Game on several occasions including the time now, so it allowed Connor more time to take the heads and the ensuing quickenings. But that part of it didn't matter now. His face mirrored his concern over Connor's conditon as they drank their drinks.

Connor slapped Duncan on the shoulder and winced. "Nothing a little time won't heal," he said with a sly smile then added in a dry tone of voice, "Or immortality!"

Duncan shook his head and laughed. "It's good to see you Connor." He got up and grabbed the bottle from the bar, pouring liberal refills for the both of them and toasted Connor. "To immortality!"

The two glasses clinked together.

"To immortality!" Connor replied with a wink and sly grin.

-6-

Tessa looked at the man's resume carefuly, quite impressed with the man's credentials. She glanced up at the man who was so non-descript that no matter what, one couldn't absolutely describe him. She smiled and extended her hand. "Thank you Mr. Belclaire for coming in and applying for the position."

He stood and took her hand; he kept staring at her as he shook it, making her feel a bit unnerved and uncomfortable.

"Does this I didn't get the job?" he asked point blank.

Direct and to the point. Duncan shall get along with him just fine, Tessa noted. She smiled brightly. "No, it means that you do have the job. We have been looking for someone with your credentials for some time."

Her smile and beauty dazzled Belclaire. Most women hadn't given him a second glance let alone a chance and yet, this golden haired woman whose dark eyes seemed to speak to his very old soul, did. He smiled back and shook her hand again then turned to go; he walked a couple of steps then paused.

Turning back around, he looked at Tessa. "I forgot to ask, when do I start?"

Tessa laughed. "How about tomorrow, say, nine o'clock?"

He nodded, thanked her for the job and left.

What a strange man, Tessa thought after he left. Still, she was relieved to have hired him so that she could now go back to concentrating on her art. Duncan would be happy to hear that someone was hired finally. She'd have to call to let him know tonight. And let him know other things as well. She smiled softly to herself as she thought of the other things she would tell him tonight...

Belclaire drove back to the seedy pierside hotel that had been his home the past few months. Once he was inside his room, he re-lived his afternoon with Tessa Noel. Repeatedly, he saw her smile at him and felt her touch, unwilling and unable to stop himself from doing so. He closed his eyes at the memory as his mouth curled upwards lasciviously.

"Tessa", he told himself. "My sweet Tessa..."

_________________________________________________________

New York

Connor looked out at the heavy blanket of snow that covered everything as he listened to the weather on the radio. More snow was expected as well as ice. Duncan wasn't going to be flying back to Seacouver today in this weather, that much was certain. He sipped on his coffee as he sifted through the mail from the past few months, scowling as he did so. Rachel was supposed to take care of all of this and she knew it too! She must be slipping. He was going to have to talk to her and find out what was going on.

He stiffened as Duncan entered the room; without turning about, he told him about the weather reports and to plan on staying a while longer. "La Guardia is going to locked up tight, you know, if we get what they say we're going to get."

Duncan didn't say anything as he pulled on his black leather vest over his pullover. He walked over to look outside, pulling his hair out of his collar and rapidly tying it back as he did so. Silently, he swore at the snow. He had planned on returning today back to Tessa with the antiques he had bought from Connor; Mother Nature had made other plans for both him and other travelers.

He turned back to Connor. "How long will it last?" He walked back over to where Connor's coffeemaker was, poured himself a cup of coffee, took a drink, and grimaced."UGH! This is awful! What's in that stuff, anyway?" He poured the coffee down the sink then turned in search of something more suitable to drink. He didn't care what--just as long as it wasn't that stuff Connor called coffee.

Connor laughed. "Puts a spring in your step, Duncan," he said referring to the coffee, then shrugged. "As far as the weather is concerned, it could last a week. Maybe not. It's hard to tell." He threw down the bills, grabbed his coat and headed for the elevator. "I've got some errands to run before it gets bad. Want to come?"

Duncan shook his head. "No, it's almost Christmas, so I thought I'd do some early shopping."

Connor nodded and waited as Duncan got on his coat then joined him on the elevator. As it was going to the showroom, Connor glanced at Duncan and asked in a nonchalant tone of voice, "So, what's she like?"

Duncan was caught off-guard. "Who?" He looked at his mentor and friend with a confused look.

The elevator stopped and they got off. "Do you remember who you are talking to, Duncan? I can see that there's someone in your life, and that you are crazy for her. You can't hide that from me--never have been able to, remember?" Connor said in a slightly irritated tone of voice as he rebuked him mildly.

Duncan looked sheepishly at Connor. "You never were one to mince words, Connor MacLeod." He took a deep breath. "She's beautiful in every sense of the word, talented, passionate, intelligent, funny--she's everything that I have ever wanted in a woman." He chuckled then said, "That obvious, huh?"

Connor nodded then added, in a tone that made Duncan pay close attention to what was being said, "But you forgot to say one thing, Duncan."

"What's that?"

"She's mortal." Connor said softly. "She'll die, Duncan, just like Little Deer and all the rest. She'll die and you won't be able to stop it no matter what you do. And when she does, what then? What will you do?" He paused as he watched Duncan's temper rise which he knew didn't happen very often, unless you hit a very sore spot. And he must have hit a bulleye with his observation about Tessa with Duncan.

Duncan glared at Connor then left the store into the cold night air, slamming the door behind him.

Connor sighed. Hadn't Duncan learned anything? He closed his eyes and heard Heather's voice again and then Rameriz's admonishment to leave her. He shook his head to clear the memories away. Duncan was well aware of the fragility of mortals but when it came to women, mortal women, he had always loved and cherished them, even if they caused him great pain.

Duncan had chosen the life he led as he chose his. Who was he to tell him how to live it, after all these years? He just didn't want to see history repeated and Duncan's heart broken again at the death of someone he loved.

________________________________________________________

The glare of the neon lights blinked incessantly in Belclaire's eyes in his bedroom. He closed his eyes, licking his lips as he did so, fantasizing once more of his sweet Tessa, touching him, caressing him in places no woman have ever touched or been to unless it was by force.

He began to moan slightly as the fantasy became more intensely erotic as he began to masturbate faster and harder and his breath came in labored gasps until finally he ejaculated upon himself, fully spent, yet his mind wandered to an inkling of a plan creeping through the recesses of his Tessa-obsessed mind.

Beginning tomorrow, he thought to himself, he was going to make all of these fantasies come true--with Tessa.

_________________________________________________________

New York

Duncan pulled out his platinum AMEX card out to pay for the Versache dress that he had chosen for Tessa for her Christmas present. He smiled at the salesclerk as she rang up the purchase, bagged it, and checked his ID before handing him the receipt to sign.

As she thanked him, he smiled once more at her. "Come again, Mr. MacLeod!" she said as he left.

He nodded and opened the door into the night.

She watched and sighed. "Oh please come again, " she said as she fanned herself.

On the way back to the car he passed by a small store where, hanging gaily in the window, were brightly colored baby clothes, as well as an exquisite christening gown, all linen, satin and lace. He turned his face away from the store so that he would not see what was on display, but then paused. It was too late, he'd already noticed what was in the window, despite his trying to avoid doing so. He turned back towards the store as if drawn like a moth to a flame.

His eyes passed over the delicate and sometimes whimsical articles of clothing lining the window, as a lump formed in his throat because of a dream that, for him, would never come true. He entered the store and went over to the different displays of children's clothes. Glancing up, he saw the clerk watching him carefully. He smiled at her, despite the pain and intensity of his longing for a child of his own. It was something he was feeling and had felt for centuries. Preferably, now more than ever, a child of both his and Tessa's.

If it could only happen just once... He ran a hand over the christening gown that hung in the window as he silently cursed his immortality, then left.

Snow was falling once more, accompanied by sleet, when he got back to his car. He pulled his collar up against it as well as the biting wind as he unlocked the trunk and began to place packages in it. He was re-arranging some of the more fragile ones when he felt a small jab at his kidneys and a voice that demanded money. He slowly straightened and closed the trunk lid. "Whatever happened to peace and goodwill towards men?" he asked his unseen assailant.

"Shut up, man, just shut up and give me what you have!" screamed the thief.

Duncan slowly turned to face him; it was a kid wearing gang colors and was no more than sixteen years old. "You don't want to do this, do you?" he said calmly to the boy.

"Shut the hell up, man!" The boy came closer and Duncan raised his arms as he was patted down and his wallet removed. He pocketed the wallet and waved a knife in Duncan's face.

"I don't want to hurt you; just give me back my wallet and we'll let bygones be bygones. OK?" Duncan said in a reasonable tone of voice. The boy could easily be taken but he wanted to give him an easy way out of this.

The boy scowled. "You can't do anything to me!" With this, he quickly came in close and cut Duncan's cheek open. Duncan flinched only slightly; he rapidly grabbed the arm that held the knife, pinning it under and to the back of the boy with one hand while grabbing the front of the boy's jacket with the other.

He brought his face in close so that he was eye to eye to the boy; he felt the tingling that preceded the healing once he was hurt. "Look carefully at what you have done, because you will never want to do this again, when all this is over!" he snarled, trying to scare the kid enough so that he would think twice about doing this sort of thing again.

The boy's eyes widened as he watched Duncan's cheek knit and regenerate back together before his eyes. He struggled to break free but Duncan held him tight. "What are you, man!!!" he screamed. "Some kind of freak?"

"No." Duncan firmly replied. "Immortal."

The tingling stopped and Duncan slowly released the boy, after knocking the knife from his hand and kicking it into the gutter. "If you're going to play with knives--I suggest you learn how to do it properly as a surgeon or a vet. Until that time--" Duncan reached into his wool duster and pulled out the katana so that it caught the light of the streetlamps which were coming on slowly,their lights glittering down its' silvery length.

The boy's mouth dropped open and he turned, running in the opposite direction of Duncan, silently saying a prayer as he ran.

Duncan watched him go as he resheathed the sword. Glancing quickly about, he got into the car and drove back to the store, smiling broadly at the memory of the boy's face when he had seen the katana.

-7-

New York The phone rang and Connor picked it up. "Nash antiques." Tessa paused listening to the unfamiliar voice on the other end of the line which carried a tinge of an accent. "Yes, I'm trying to reach Duncan MacLeod."

Connor smiled as he heard her accent. "You didn't tell me she was French, haggis!," he thought to himself. "I'm sorry, Duncan's not here right now; he's gone shopping." He spoke in flawless French. "I'm his friend Russell, and you must be his Tessa. I admire your work. I have a piece of yours here," he said in his most charming voice.

"Thank you. It's nice to meet you--even if it is by phone." She laughed. "You surprise me-your French is perfect!"

"I lived in the country on and off for many years." He paused."Duncan should be returning soon I hope. Listen,Tessa, -is it all right to call you that?--don't expect him to return to Seacouver for a few days--the weather is very bad here and is expected to get worse. There's no way out of town for now if you are traveling. I'm sorry to have to tell you this. May I give him a message for you?"

"Yes, please tell him that I filled the position that we had open and the man starts tomorrow. He's very qualified. And I've seen the weather reports too, Russell."

"I'll tell him. Anything else?"

"Tell him--" she hesitated. "Tell him that I love and miss him."

"I'll tell him, I promise." Connor grew distant as he listened to her. It was very obvious that she loved him with all her heart and Duncan recipricated it. He shook his head at the one thought which continued to bother him about it. She's mortal. "Thanks, and goodbye Russell."

"Bye." The line went dead. Connor sat back in thought, drumming his fingers on the receiver once he hung up. He stood, knowing that it did no good to talk to Duncan about it--it was his life and his choice. Let him have his happiness as long as it lasted. In the end, what mattered in life most may count for nothing and what mattered least in life counted for everything.

The door opened downstairs; Connor grabbed his katana as he replaced the phone in its' nook.

Duncan met him at the elevator door as it came upsrairs, arms laden with packages. "Seems that you have me at a disadvantage." he said as he smiled. He walked over to the bedroom trailing small puddles of water on the floor as he walked and put up his purchases. Once finished, he came back out to see Connor pulling things out for dinner.

"Hungry?" Connor took out some scallions and onions from the refrigerator, then turned to stir some meat on the stove.

"I'm starving!" Duncan searched in the cupboards for a glass; once found, he poured up a cup of juice.

"Oh, Tessa just called." Connor stopped dicing the vegetables and glanced over at Duncan. "You didn't tell me she was French!"

"Did she leave me any messages? And, you aren't my mother Connor, I don't need to tell you everything!" Duncan was satisfied when Connor smirked at his remark and laughed softly.

"She wanted you to know that she filled the position at the store with someone very qualified and that they will be starting tomorrow."

Duncan nodded. "Good, we've been looking for some time for someone. Anything else?" He began to pull dishes down and set the table.

"Just that she loves and misses you." Connor grew silent.

"Regarding her being French-you always did like the French women! Don't get any ideas!" Duncan said as he pointed a tableknife at Connor.

"Me? I never get ideas like that! What made you say something like that to me?" Connor wore his most innocent expression and acted as if he had been maligned.

"Experience--long experience!" Duncan laughed long and hard.

______________________________________________________________________

Belclaire was very good at what he did in the shop--he knew many of the stories regarding the uses of the antiques they had on display but his specialty seemed to be arms and armor.

Tessa was very impressed with his knowledge on the subject--it was if it came from first hand experience with the items themselves! She watched and listened as he talked to a young couple who had come in wanting some information regarding a painting they had seen in the window. Listening to him was like listening to a history lesson or to Duncan.

She moved about the shop humming an old French lullabye, straightening and re-arranging things as she went. The lighting needed to be adjusted too and she did that also. She sighed, as she wished that Duncan were here to help out, then sighed again wistfully. But he wasn't, so she would and could manage on her own.

Belclaire discretely watched her as she moved from place to place, noting the curves of her body, the way she walked, the way she dressed, the way she wore her hair. He licked his lips as he watched; he wanted to reach out and touch her--his fingers just itched to do so. He wanted to have her in his arms, touching him, caressing him as she did in his fantasy which to him was becoming more real than actual reality. He had to touch her, to make contact somehow, make her see him, make her touch him again.

He walked over to her once the couple left; she had her back to him busily setting up a new display. Deliberately bumping into her so that she was caught off balance, he grabbed her about the waist to keep her from falling as his hips and groin area molded into hers. The feeling of her pressed that tightly against him for only a moment, sent a shockwave of pleasure which went coursing through his body,if only momentarily, and he felt himself jump to life. "Oh, I'm so sorry, Miss Noel! I wasn't watching where I was going! Are you all right?" He smiled and showed concern to cover up the true erotic feelings that he held in regards to her, as well as the motive behind his touching her.

Tessa turned, frowning but when she saw that he seemed to mean what he said, dropped the frown. "Yes, I'm fine, but please do be more careful!" She smoothed her dress and smiled but noted that something had felt "wrong" about the whole incident; she wasn't able to determine exactly what it was. They had only touched for a few seconds but it was enough to make her skin want to be scrubbed clean.

"Oh, I will!" he lied, smiling to cover up the erotic feelings that threatened to come to the surface as he looked at her, feeling himself throbbing with an overwhelming desire for her. "I will."

Tessa moved away from him, glancing back at him for an instant,went over to the entrance of the living quarters then entered.

Hungrily, Belclaire followed her with his eyes as he smiled broadly. "So, my sweet. This is where you live!"

-8-

New York

The snow and the ice battered the East Coast and New York,effectively shutting it down its entire length. Snow fell in record amounts and the temperature plummeted. If it didn't snow, there would be an ice storm. Duncan sighed as he stood looking out the window hands thrust deep into his jeans' pockets. He was beginning to wish that he hadn't come after all. If he were home now then he could be in Tessa's arms, making love to her at this very moment. If only he was home!

"It should break soon and you can go back home." Connor's voice and presence interrupted his thoughts.

Duncan turned as Connor joined him at the window. "Kind of reminds me of the Highlands in a way." He peered out at the silently drifting snow then went over to the door and opened it to check the temperature. "I'd say it's certainly cold enough!" He shivered involuntarily and shut the door.

"Will the snowplows come down here?" Duncan asked, impatient to be going home.

"Eventually. I'm afraid that we aren't very high priority here. Connor grabbed Duncan's arm and led him to a door at the back of the showroom and paused in front of it. "After you, Highlander!"

Upon opening it, Duncan found a small gym. He cocked an eyebrow at Connor who shoved him inside. "Go take your frustrations out on the equipment and later we'll play." He turned to go.

Duncan knew that when Connor referred to playing, he meant a no holds barred swordfight. He nodded as he smiled, saying, "All right Connor! I'd like to see if there's anything you could possibly teach me now!"

______________________________________________________________________

"I'm going out for a bit, Jean-Paul. Please watch after the shop for me." Tessa smiled at him then left.

As soon as she was gone, Belclaire went over to the display window and turned the sign over so that it read "closed". He walked over to the living quarters' entrance and went inside. Looking at the inside, he noticed the simple elegance of the furnishings, the rectangular fireplace that sat upraised from the floor in the center of the living room, the couch and chair. His fingers traced a path across the furniture and accessories as he made his way from room to room until he came to the bedroom. He looked in then softly said as his eyes closed in ecstasy, "Holy ground!"

He entered, noting the large queen sized canopied bed with white sheer curtains draped about it, the oriental rug on the floor, accented with a smaller Navaho rug on one side. A matching cherrywood wardrobe and chifferobe stood up against the wall nearest the door while a pair of modernistic nightstands stood on either side of the bed. On one, a large stone sat on the second shelf; on the other, a picture sat in a silver frame, a phone and a small lamp were situated.

Taking a deep breath, he walked over to the wardrobe and opened one side of it. Inside, were Tessa's dresses and other articles of clothing. He ran his hands over them, occasionally pulling out a piece to look at and feel as he fantasized as he touched, feeling the clothes as he thought of what his Tessa looked like when she dressed and undressed in them.

His breathing quickened as his excitement grew, and his arousal became apparant. He slowly rubbed them on him as he felt his excitement building. Turning his attention to the chifferobe once he had exhausted himself with the dresses. he pulled open the top drawer.

The scent of lavender and roses escaped as he peered inside at the contents. He breathed in the scent deeply and began pawing through Tessa's lingerie, bringing pieces to his face to smell and rub against him. The feel of the satin and silk excited him even more than what he had been before. If she were to only touch him, he knew that he would climax and be able to get his release, if only for a short while. A small groan escaped his lips, as the fantasies became almost tangible and his breathing more rapid. He grabbed a few select pieces for trophies--and for his use later when his time came, when the fantasies would overtake him.

All he wanted was her; all he needed was her.The thought of her had become an obsession which permeated his days and nights in the short time that he had known and been around her. He had to have her.

He stumbled to the bed next, once he was tired of the drawer's contents and sat down. "I wonder which side is hers?," he thought to himself. He bent down and began to sniff at the linens and pillows, breathing in the scents that had become embedded in them. He was in heaven to his way of thinking, as he found her scent-laden pillow and held it to his face then put it back in place.

Picking one more pillow up, he smelled it. He pulled it away quickly-- the scent was more musky, deeper, more masculine. He frowned as the thought ran through his warped mind that there was another man vying for her affections, trying to take her away from him! At this, he became enraged and searched the room for more evidence of the man. His eyes landed on the picture--it was a picture of Duncan and Tessa in front of the barge. He screamed out his rage he threw it against the far wall, where it shattered into what seemed to be a thousand small pieces.

He walked back over to the wardrobe and opened the other side and saw Duncan's clothes there and began pulling them out, shredding them as he could, scattering the pieces all over the floor in his jealous rage. He then returned to the chifferobe, began to reach for another drawer when he heard the shop's door open and Tessa call out, "Jean-Paul? Where are you?"

Quickly, he regained his composure as he put on a mask of smiles, willing himself to lose any indications of his arousal. He closed his eyes for a moment prior to seeing her as he collected hiself, then came out.

Tessa frowned,eyeing him suspiciously, as she saw him emerge from her home. "What are you doing back there?" she demanded to know. "It's not to be gone into!"

He smiled apologetically and shrugged. "I saw a mouse run back there so, I chased it." He hoped that she would believe him. God, she was so beautiful when angry!

"A mouse?" she said doubtfully looking about to see if anything looked amiss. All was in it's place but still--she made a quick decision. The way he was looking at her caused her to shiver involutarily. "Why don't you take the afternoon off since it's not busy, Jean-Paul?"

He hesitated,but then acquiesced. "Are you sure that it is all right?"

Tessa nodded and watched him as he got his things and left. Looking at him go, a shiver went up her spine. The more he was around, the more uncomfortable she was. Silently wishing once again for Duncan to get home soon,she turned to go inside the living quarters but stopped when he unexpectedly came back in.

"Shall I come in then tomorrow?" he asked in earnest.

"Yes." Tessa slowly said and waited once more until he left before entering her home. After a few moments, she screamed.

______________________________________________________________________

Duncan paused in telling the story.

Joe and Richie exchanged glances when after a few moments, nothing more was said.

Richie piped up. "Uh, Mac, what happened then?" He was anxious to know what happened next, as was Joe.

Duncan was quiet; then he abruptly stood. "Then-" he said, as he headed for the bar, "I need a drink."

Joe poured another shot for himself while Richie stood and got himself another beer. He frowned as he was trying to remember where he was in '84- and why didn't any of what Duncan was telling them show up in the Chronicles? He made a mental note to cross-reference the date and Connor MacLeod. Who was Connor's watcher then anyways? he wondered. Dammit, this story should be in the Chronicles for sure!

Duncan sat quietly, nursing the drink he had poured. Talking about Tessa made it hurt in agonizing intensity all over again and brought up memories that were better left alone. "If I get my hands on him", Duncan thought, "he'd better hope that it ends quickly!" He looked up towards the ceiling, feeling like she was watching him somewhere. "This one's for you, sweetheart. It'll finally be over for good," he whispered into his glass then took another swig.

Richie came back over and rejoined them at the table. His eyes darted from Joe to Duncan and back again to Joe. He decided the best thing for him to be was quiet; if Duncan was going to say anything more, then he would do it on his own terms. Richie took a drink and began to peel the label off the bottle.

Joe finally couldn't stand it and broke the silence which hung in the air. "The blizzard of '84 really hit the East Coast bad, didn't it? As I recall, it knocked down power lines, stopped all transportation, everything came to a standstill. You couldn't get in or out of the East Coast very easily if at all!"

Duncan slowly nodded. "That's true. We lost power a few times ourselves when the power lines outside the house broke from the weight of the snow and ice. Connor had a back up generator so we never went without heat or electricity."

Richie exclaimed, "A back-up generator? Man, that's thinking ahead!"

"I have to give him that!" Joe grudgingly agreed.

Duncan eyed the two of them. "You don't know Connor."

Richie shifted in his chair. "Mac, what happened to Tessa? And how'd you get back here, if there was a blizzard back there? One more thing- how does Belclaire fit into all of this then and now?"

Duncan ignored Richie's questions, asking Joe again where Belclaire was.

Joe shrugged. "Finish your story, Mac, then I'll tell you."

Duncan's eyes flashed fire,as well as with his weariness, and a not so hidden anguish reflecting on his face. "Where's Belclaire?," he demanded again.

Joe reminded himself that here was a man who had recently lost the love of his 400 plus year old life and that the man was walking on edge. Mac was a man who was angry and in immense pain; talking about someone who has died was supposed to help but perhaps not in MacLeod's case. Besides, the man carried a wicked blade and knew how to use it!

Best to tread carefully from here on in.

He said gently, "Mac, this needs to go into the Chronicles. Hey, I'm sorry that it hurts to talk about Tessa but what is happening now--I need to understand that relationship between then and now. I want to get it right. It's important! What do you say?"

Duncan stared at him a few moments then hung his head as he collected himself. Nodding, he said, "All right, Joe."

______________________________________________________________________

New York, 1984

Storm after storm pummeled the city and both of the immortals were beginning to feel the walls closing in on them. They finally needed to get out and decided to take a walk in one of the momentary lulls between storms to see if anything was open.

As they walked, they talked of old, shared memories, of people and places long gone, of the future. Each spoke in the archaic Gaelic they grew up with so that other passerbyers would not understand what was said.

"So you feel it too?" Duncan said as he dug his hands furthur into his pockets against the cold. He swept his eyes over the bleak whiteness of the landscape and shook his head, thinking as he did, that it might be a good while longer before he could get back to home and Tessa.

"Of course I do." Connor said, nodding. "We all do."

"How soon then will it be to the Gathering?" Duncan again surveyed the white landscape as he tried to pinpoint a sound he thought he had heard.

Connor shrugged. "Who can tell? Rameriz told me that when the time of the Gathering was near, you would feel the pull to a faraway land. There wasn't a time frame given." Connor had a idea that Duncan was up to something but he was willing to wait and find out. There was a point to all of this conversation and he didn't think he was going to like it when it came down to it. They continued to walk as Duncan thought about it.

After a few minutes, he said, "What if the Gathering came and not everyone participated in it? What do you think would happen?" He glanced at his teacher, trying to gauge what he was thinking.

Connor took a deep breath and blew it out, watching it steam in the cold air. "Are you thinking about not being there?"

"I'm not in the Game anymore, Connor. I'm at peace."'

"You're always in the Game whether you want to be or not!" Connor said angrily. "If you don't participate, then the Prize can't be won, can it? All the blood, all the pain, all the fighting and killing that we do to each other will have been for nothing! Nothing!"

Glaring at Duncan, he continued. "Don't you think that I want peace sometimes too? I've been doing this since before you were even around!" He paused and calmed down. "You've taken yourself out before Duncan, on several occasions. But they always found you, didn't they? If you take yourself out of the Game again they will find you again and there won't be the cabin always to protect you. You'll have to fight!"

"No. I won't fight anymore, Connor. It's over." Duncan's face became set in stony stubborness.

Connor narrowed his eyes as he looked at his clansmen, then swung a fist. It connected with Duncan's jaw and Duncan fell like a rock."You will fight eventually, Duncan. One way or another. End of conversation." With that, he spun on his heel and headed back to his home.

______________________________________________________________________

Tessa tried to make minimal contact with Belclaire in the next few days-she had called the police to report the damages but didn't report Belclaire to the police. Instead, she continued to have him work at the store while she put all of her uneasiness into a new piece of work as well as all her energies.

Everywhere she went, he always seemed to be there; he knew her schedule inside and out. Flowers also began to arrive without notes; Tessa called Duncan to thank him but was told by him that he hadn't sent them in very emphatic words. She was growing more frightened and unsure of what to do about the situation.

Duncan had asked what was happening; she told him in a very halting voice and begain to cry. She also began to tell him how frightened and confused she was as to what to do; she was not used to this kind of attention. Belclaire made her skin crawl every time she was around him and she heard Duncan, on the other end of the phone in New York, swear to take matters into his own hands as soon as he got back. He was going to settle the matter once and for all and get the bastard out of their lives.

Duncan hung up the phone, slammed a hand on the phone and then started throwing things together in the suitcase as Connor silently watched. Duncan's face reflected his anger at how this Belclaire fellow was treating Tessa and to have broken into their home--he was going home no matter what it took. He was going home even if it killed him. If it did, he'd live another life. But he was going home, no matter what the cost to himself might be.

"Trouble?" Connor said, after watching a few minutes.

"Yes. Tessa's in trouble-someone's stalking her."

"So let the police handle it." Connor said nonchalantly but silently agreeing that Duncan needed to go, judging by Duncan's reaction to the call. Besides, he had been crawling the walls at his place so anxious was he to go back to Seacouver and to Tessa.

"It's my job to protect Tessa. They won't or can't help her. But I can!" Duncan spun around, ready to go.

In silence, they walked to the elevator and outside. Connor stood, with his hands shoved in his pockets, and laughed as he looked away then back at Duncan, slowly rocking on his heels. "I'll ship the items that you want to you."

"Thanks. If Tessa calls-" Duncan began, as always, feeling a little saddened from his leaving Connor. But Connor could take care of himself and always had been able to. There was no need to worry about that, he reassured himself.

"I'll tell her that you're on your way." Connor finished.

They looked at one another, then nodded. "Connor, come visit sometime." He reached out an arm as Connor wrapped him in a bear hug and patted his back, then stepped away.

Connor smiled. "Maybe I will. Duncan--" he hesitated. "Be safe."

Duncan nodded as he turned and walked off into the night, heading home at last to his beloved Tessa.

-9-

The wind had died down and Duncan headed for the river in the hope that it had frozen over enough to snowshoe, or skate on. It was the least congested way to get out of the city; if it wasn't frozen hard enough, then he could always think of something else. He looked around, searching for a place to stow his luggage as it was slowing him down; he spotted a public locker facility and headed over to it.

The facility was locked up tight; Duncan pounded on the door, knowing full well that someone lived onsite. No response was forthcoming, so again he pounded. He was rewarded as an older man came to the door and pointed to the "closed" sign. Duncan shook his head as he refused to go away; the man mouthed the words, "We're closed."

Duncan stood there, waiting, and the man threw up his hands. He opened the door a crack and Duncan jammed his foot in the opening, barring it from being closed again. "I need a locker. I have an emergency that I have to take care of." Duncan said as politly as possible, but the words held a tinge of force behind them.

The man said,"You crazy? Can't you read? We're closed!" and tried to shut the door but found he couldn't. Glancing down, he saw exactly why; he looked back up at Duncan only to see a crisp one hundred dollar bill flashed in his face.

"Please. I think you could open it for me for just a few minutes, couldn't you?" Duncan oozed charm for the man, which underlined the faint trace of desperation from him.

The man eyed the bill hungrily then grabbed it out of Duncan's hand. He tossed the paperwork to Duncan to fill out and threw in a lock. When Duncan finished with the paperwork he pointed. "Through those doors, and on the left, lower level."

Duncan thanked him and headed off in that direction. Once he found it, he placed his things inside, and changed into clothes that were more suitable for the type of traveling he needed to do; hiking boots, heavy Shetland wool sweater over a mock turtlenck tee and a down-filled jacket. He locked up the locker, and walked back out in the night, thanking the man again and adjusted his sword's case over his shoulder. He surveyed the landscape, glancing at the stars in order to get his bearings, then looked around one last time as he headed west, repeating the word, "home" to himself.

After a while he paused, after noticing a small patch of birch trees which had fallen under the weight of the snow and ice. He walked over to look at them, then drew out his sword after a moment's thought as an idea came to him.

Glancing around, he began to fashion a set of skis from the trees, hacking the trees with the katana to get the right length of wood needed for each individual ski. The work was hard and tedious, causing him to breath steam heavily in the chilly night. Ever so often, he would pause and check on the edge to his blade. It hadn't been made for this sort of work and he didn't want to damage it.

Once the work with the trees was accomplished, he used it again as a lathe, to smooth each piece and shave away any bumps or knots. Before long, his task was finshed and he turned his attention to getting poles made.

Spotting some willows over by a frozen pond, he hacked off two limbs and trimmed them appropriatly. Willows were strong yet supple and he would need both qualities in order to be good poles. He tore strips of cloth from his clothing to use as bindings; as one by one, each ski was placed on his feet and he headed off at a faster pace. Time was of the essence; he was very well aware of it.

___________________________________________________________________

Belclaire sat in a small cafe which was located opposite the antique store. He sipped at coffee as he pretended to read the newspaper. Occasionally, he would lift his head and stare at the shop now and then, hoping to catch a glimpse of his sweet Tessa if only for a moment.

Tessa, meanwhile, had let him go finally from the shop rather than to have him about the place any longer. He was too--too, she couldn't find the right word to explain about him, but unnerving came to mind as well as eerie. After she had given him his severence pay and he left, she went into her home and collapsed in nervous exhaustion; happy and relieved that he was no longer around.

He took it well, despite not being able to have the closenes to her on a day to day basis; it allowed him more time to sit, watch and dream of what it was going to be like, just the two of them, together. His fantasies included a multitude of scenarios of the times they would have, the touching, the lovemaking, the smiles and looks. He longed for her touch even now, as he did every waking moment. "Soon, Tessa. We will be together soon enough and then we will have all the time in the world to make love the way I want you to...." he would whisper, sotto voce, as he watched the shop.

Late at night, in the privacy of his room, he would pull out some of the lingerie that he had pocketed while in her bedroom, dreaming his dreams as he slowly touched himself then with much haste; his arousal came shortly afterwards as well as his orgasm.

Belclaire's breathing quickened at the thought of the late nights spent alone yet not alone, for she was always in his thoughts; it was she who touched him in his mind, and not himself as he masturbated. He looked around the restaurant and forced himself to become unobtrusive. He was going to talk to her, touch her again, he plotted.

He would tell her about everything and she would willingly join him. As for the other man--let him try to take her from him! He would wind up just like all the other rivals over the centuries. Dead.

The thought made his thin mouth curl wickedly upwards in cruel, madness-tinged glee.

_________________________________________________________

She hung up the phone slowly, a smile crossing her face, which reflected in her eyes. Duncan was coming home! She got up from the bed, clasping her hands in front of her, delighted with the news, very relieved, as she danced in joy about the bed. She only wished she knew how soon. Russell had called to tell her the news but was unable to tell her how Duncan planned to arrive, as he didn't know himself. He had assured her that he would be there as quickly as possible; Duncan was known for that.

She thanked him and they hung up. She headed out to the shop and began to don the clothes necessary to begin to work on her sculpture: welder's mask, gloves and apron. But the thought of him coming home kept running through her head; before the first stroke of metal sander was even placed on the metal, she had thrown the protective gear back off and headed back to the shower.

Duncan was coming home; she wanted to surprise him with a few new things for a welcome home present she had in store for him. The thought curled the corners of her mouth into a sexy wickedness.

___________________________________________________________________

Belclaire looked up from his newspaper to see her pull out of the alley in her car. Hurriedly, he threw money on the table to pay for his tab. He jumped into his vehicle and began to follow her. Today was going to be the day, he decided as he drove. Today she was going to hear about everything from him and come away with him!

___________________________________________________________________

Just outside of New York City

Morning came, and Duncan was exhausted from the cross country skiing which he had been doing all night. He had made comparatively good time considering; the bindings had broken a few times and had to be replaced with more strips of cloth torn from his clothes and he was finally on the edge of the city. He had gone to the river but the river still flowed in some areas, making it hazardous to try and cross or to get on, so he had followed the straightest line west as possible.

Homewards to Tessa.

He envisioned her as he skiied; it was almost as if he were on a vision quest. The vision of her in all her incarnations pushed him onwards, encouraging him to continue when he thought his muscles couldn't take more abuse. Soon, the endorphins kicked in and he didn't feel a thing from that point on.

The cold numbed him, but he no longer felt it; in looking around, he saw that there was less snow here. He pulled off the skis and threw them to one side. He desperately needed to sleep and to eat. He was near a highway so that meant traffic he hoped, as he began to walk west. The sun shone on the rolling hills, glaring on the snow, and hard on the eyes. Duncan pulled out his sunglasses--there wasn't a need for snow blindness as he ran a chance of it happening out in the open as he was with no protection.

A semi-tractor trailer truck came up behind him and Duncan stuck out his thumb, hoping to catch a ride so that he could sleep until the nearest town or city. The truck passed him by and Duncan sighed.

Shortly after though, another one was heard and Duncan turned around to look at it; it had slowed down and was pulling off to the shoulder. Duncan jogged over to the cab and was surprised when a younger woman opened it up and grinned at him. "You in some kind of trouble, mister?"

Duncan smiled at her. "Something like that. You heading west? I'm looking to get to the nearest town or city, somewhere that has an airport."

The woman jumped down from the cab to size him up, walking around him to make sure that he didn't carry anything like a weapon or anything. Satisfied that nothing was hidden that she could see, she asked him what he carried in the case over his shoulder.

"A sword. I'm an antique dealer."

"A--sword?" she asked in a disbelieving voice. "Let me see this sword of yours, if it is a real sword."

Duncan unzipped the case without looking, withdrew the sword in it's scabbard and held it. "See? It's real, all right."

"Can I hold it?" she asked, fascinated.

"I'd rather you not. It's very old and rare; it was given to me as a gift." He carefully replaced it in the case and slung it back over his shoulder.

She nodded in acceptance of his wishes and decided that he could be trusted. She stuck out her hand. "I'm Jamee Stewart. I am heading west, as a matter of fact, at least I hope so, if I don't run into any more bad weather. I can take you into the nearest town. Will that be all right?"

Duncan shook her hand. "Duncan MacLeod. That sounds fine with me."

"Well, hop in the cab, Duncan. Time's money, you know. Need to get back on the road."

Duncan grinned. He liked her already; she was direct and to the point. He opened the passenger side door and climbed in, adjusting the case between his legs and settled back into the seat as the truck pulled back onto the highway.

Jamee glanced in the rearview mirror for traffic, as she picked up speed. "Tell me Duncan, just what are you doing out here anyway?" She heard a slight sound and glanced over at him.

He was fast asleep.

______________________________________________________________________

Tessa held two new negligees in her hands, holding them up to the light to see which one was better. Duncan was definatly going to like it when he got home--she was going to make sure of it and she was pretty sure that she was going to enjoy it herself.

She always did.

"Do I want the blue one or the black one?," she mused. She flipped them around to take another look at them from that angle. Frowning, she slowly walked towards the dressing room once more and entered.

Belclaire watched her from a distance, unable to take his eyes off her. He could almost taste her and his mouth watered as he watched. Someone walked by and he broke his eyes away to look at the ties he was fingering. Guiltily, he moved on, so as to not invoke suspicion; as soon as the person left he went back to where he had been and waited again for her to emerge.

He had patience, learned long ago during the seige of Jerusalem in the Crusades with Richard the Lionheart. He waited, watched and was totally unaware of his surroundings and so was taken by surprise when security came up to him and cuffed him.

It caught him off guard, and he became violent, swearing and thrashing at them, and threw a kick that came straight from the French art of savate, a form of defensive fighting where legs and feet were used instead of hands. It was a very deadly form of combat; done correctly, one blow could decapitate a person. Belclaire was an expert at it.

He kicked at one of the officers, sending him crashing to the ground in agony as he grasped his shattered kneecap. The other security guard bent down to help his friend, while keeping an eye on their prisoner.

But Belclaire was too fast for him and he kicked out once again, knocking the guard cold. He stood over them, gasping deeply, from the effort, as he pulled at the cuffs about his wrists. Slowly, the skin began to give way to the metal and bled; the blood ran down his hands to pool on the carpet.

Fraction by fraction of inches done, he forced them to slip over the hands, the knuckles, and finally the fingers until they dropped, useless, to the floor.

Tessa came out of the dressing room when she heard the commotion and saw Belclaire. Her eyes widened in horror as she saw him shatter the guard's kneecap and knock unconcious the other. As more security arrived, Tessa dropped her things and ran out of the store, turning to look behind her as she fumbled with her car keys, trying to get the key in the lock and saw Belclaire come out in search of her.

"Oh dear God, help me!" She pounded on the door in frustration and panic until at last, the key went in and turned in the lock. Her eyes constantly scanned for his whereabouts as her breath came quicker from her fright.

He looked up and down the corridor of cars, looking for his Tessa. She wasn't supposed to run away--she was supposed to go with him and this was the day! He heard the people and guards come bursting of the doors behind him; he turned at the sound.

Tessa took the opportunity to get the car started and she smoked the tires as she pulled away from the lot. She looked in the rearview mirror for a moment to see if he was following her; he was encircled by security and he was using savate to decimate them. She drove directly home, ran inside and bolted the door as tears came bursting from her. "Duncan," she cried out, "Where in God's earth are you? I need you here-and I need you now!"

______________________________________________________________________

Duncan slept deeply, dreaming of Tessa, of Paris, of their times together. He bent down to kiss the mouth which was like honey to him, always and forever drawing him back. She looked at him, eyes smouldering, as she-- He woke up abruptly, as he was shaken once again.

"Duncan? We're here. The airport is just a hop, skip and a jump over that hill from my understanding." Jamee said, smiling. "I sure hope you feel better, you were out like a light! I've never seen someone sleep like you did--kinda like you had been up all night."

He half-smiled. "Maybe I was." He held out his hand. "Thanks for the ride, Jamee. If there's anything I can ever do for you--" he handed her a business card. "-and you're in Seacouver, just call."

Jamee took his hand and they shook. "If you're hungry, there's a small restaurant on your way to the airport. I hear they have good food, decent prices too." She glanced at the card and placed it in her visor. "I'll call if I ever make it to Seacouver. You can count on it!"

Duncan grabbed the case and got out. He gave her one last look before he shut the door; he patted the cab,then walked off in the direction that the airport and food was supposed to be located. Upon finding the restaurant, he grabbed something to go, and inquired about the airport.

The owner told him that he thought they had some Cessna private planes to rent there, just ask at the control tower. The town was small, but it had an airport and that's all that Duncan cared about.

"Home", he said once again, under his breath. "Tess, I'm coming."

Shortly afterwards, he was in the air, flying a small private plane that he had rented from the traffic controller for a few days. All the others had been rented out-which wasn't saying much, Duncan thought to himself, considering that there was only one to rent out at the airport.

But he had reasoned with the controller using the same way of reasoning he had with the man at the public locker facilty. Money.

I'm coming, Tess. Soon. Hang on!

______________________________________________________________________

Belclaire had managed to get away from all of the security guards but in the process, had lost Tessa. He was furious at himself for doing that. He tried to think as she thought--where would she disappear to? Where would she go, how long would she stay there? Then it clicked. Home. She would go home, where she would be safe, she'd think. Home...

He turned the car around and headed back in that direction. I'm coming, my sweet Tessa. Soon. We'll be together. Sit tight and wait for me.

He smiled as the fantasies swirled through his head once more and laughed out loud. Belclaire screeched the tires on the car as he pulled around the corner but slowed as he heard a tire blow. Slapping the steering wheel in frustration he cursed loudly outloud; he didn't want to lose the opportunity to go to her, to be with her alone, to get her so that she would come away with him as he had planned. He brought the car to a slow halt alongside the curb and got out, slamming the door in the process. He walked around to the passenger side of the car and looked at the tire. He swore loudly at fate as he glanced about him, then spotted a cab sitting idle in front of a hotel across the street.

Jogging over to it, he got in and gave the store's address to the driver. The driver turned about and shook his head. "Sorry, guy, but I'm off duty."

Belclaire's face became livid and he screamed at the driver to take him there immediately.

Nothing happened.

The driver rudely told Belclaire to get out of his car, and turned back around. Moments later, he began to gag on his own blood as the keen edge of a knife held by Belclaire, slit his throat from one side to another.

Belclaire then wiped his hand off on the seat and got out. There would be a way to get to her and he would find it. Today would be the day!

They would finally be together! Sweet Tessa....

______________________________________________________________________

Duncan checked the maps and then looked below on the landscape as he was nearing the Cascade mountain range. He was almost home and had been in contact as far as the weather was concerned with Boise; all was clear the rest of the way.

He had run into some snow over the plains and furthur west into the Tetons and Wind River ranges but it died out so the news that it was clear the rest of the way, came as a relief to him.

Putting the plane on auto-pilot, he folded the maps back up and removed the katana from its' case. Holding it up so that his practiced eye could see down the length of it as it was balanced on edge, he looked for any nicks or gouges in the metal.

Spotting some, he shook out the small whetstone he kept in a small pocket of the case and began to sharpen the sword once more in a practiced, flowing moment, which spoke of years of repetitiveness in the task.

He continued to sharpen and check for the deformities in the blade as slowly it became as it was before; razor sharp and could cut paper in half just by laying it on the blade. Hideo had taught him well on the fine art of caring for it before his death.

The radio squaked at him, giving him landing instructions for Seacouver's airport as he put the katana back in its' case.

"Charlie, Tango, Bravo, 987. Repeat directions for landing." Duncan listened carefully and wrote down weather conditions, wind flow conditions, and runway instructions into Seacouver's municipal airport.

"Roger that, tower. Changing course and speed now." The plane dipped lower in the sky as he made a final descent course change and headed in.

Tessa, I'm home. Soon, just a little longer, sweetheart. Soon...

______________________________________________________________________

Tessa contacted the company that handled the security system for the store and had them set the sensors to handle even the slightest disturbance. Once the man had left, she began to feel a little more at ease, though not completely. She went over and checked and rechecked the switches to see if they were indeed on. She punched at one of the buttons then turned away before she saw the green "on" light change to the red "off" light.

She paced about waiting and wondering where the police were; she had called them an half hour ago about Belclaire. They had said they would send someone out. No one had showed up as of yet and it made her uneasy.

"Where are you, Duncan?," she asked him as she wrung her hands, if only in her imagination. She checked and made sure the store was closed; she didn't want someone to just walk in on her.

She walked about looking at the displays as she felt an acute need to be able to defend herself. Time and again, she passed by the display cases which held some of the finest examples of Toledo swords from the late 16th century one could purchase for a nice hefty price. Her eyes kept straying to the display and she would pause; she assessed how useful they might be if she were caught off guard and attacked.

Each time she did, she would decide that, in this day and age, a sword would be useless against more modern forms of arms.

A bottle broke outside and she jumped. Here, she felt pretty safe, the police were on their way and if need be, she could defend herself with something. Not guns; she didn't believe in having them in the house. And with Duncan around--she smiled as she thought of him, then completed her train of thought. With Duncan here, no guns were necessary, that much she was certain.

"But Duncan wasn't here, was he?," a tiny voice was heard to say inside her head. "Where were the police?," she thought once more as she looked out the front window. They should have been here by now. She went back to the phone and anxiously redialed the police station, only to get a busy signal.

______________________________________________________________________

Belclaire watched as Tessa looked out of the front window anxiously. He sat across and down the street just a little ways, in a police cruiser he had intercepted on its' way to a call at MacLeod and Noel Antiques.

He smiled, then looked at the two bodies on the floor of the cruiser. "Nothing will stop me, Tessa, from you being together with me. Nothing," he thought again as he licked his lips in anticipation.

He glanced around him and at all the passers-by. It slowly dawned on him that they were seeing right through him as if he wasn't there. "I don't exist to them!" he remarked in awed wonder to himself and slowly exited the car then jogged over and down to right across the street from the store. He stood watching and waiting for a sign from Tessa to come whisk her away to her new life with him.

Duncan looked around at the terminal at the small airport as he headed for a Hertz Rent-a-Car booth. Smiling to himself as he walked, he knew that he was happy to be back home. The T-bird had been left at the international airport when he left for New York and was still there; he would have to drive a rental car home, surprising Tess when he arrived.

And he would have a few other surprises for her too!

Once the rental was secured and he was on his way home, he decided to stop to get some flowers for her. He made sure that they were with a card; he didn't want a mistake made as to who it was that sent them. Paying them extra, he arranged for them to be delivered immediatly so that he didn't have to wait as the arrangement was made.

The florist assured him that no extra money was necessary from him for that service then made them up so Duncan watched and waited patiently.

The arrangement consisted of white lilies with sprigs of heather interspersed. There would be no mistaken who they came from by the choice in flowers that he had made. Of that he was certain, because she would know to associate the heather with his heritage and family. Hopping back into the car, he watched the traffic and pulled back into the early afternoon flow heading towards the bay area and home.

"Thirty more minutes, Tessa. I'm home!" he nearly sang then stopped when he thought of what had been happening in his absence. "This was going to end,once I get back to the shop," he vowed. He'd make sure of it.

-10-

The florist van pulled up to stop in front of the store. Its' brakes squeaked as it came to a complete stop, startling Tessa who had been in the back of the house, but was still able to hear what was happening outside. Nervously, she came outside to the showroom, her eyes darting this way and that to make sure that she was alone. Satisfied, she went over as the florist deliveryman came up to the door with a beautiful arrangement.

"I'm looking for Tessa Noel. Would that be you?" the deliveryman asked as he placed the flowers down on one of the glass display cases, and got out his pad to sign for the delivery.

Tessa fingered the flowers as she nodded her head. "Yes, I'm Tessa Noel." She took the offered pad, signing for the flowers.

The man touched the brim of his hat to her as he was leaving. Tessa smiled softly to herself as she searched for a card in the flower's foliage. Upon finding it, she quickly opened it after taking a quick sniff of the fragrant lillies. The note made her smile all the more as she read:

Tess,

Here's to our forevers, sweetheart.

Duncan

Tears of relief sprang to her eyes as she read and she wiped them away. She looked at the flowers again; humming, she picked them up and took them in back to get some water on them immediately.

Belclaire watched as the van left. Looking left and right, he crossed the street. He stood in front of the store for a moment, gathering his thoughts of what he would say to her, laughing softly to himself as he heard her answer in his head, "Yes, Jean-Paul, I'll go anywhere with you." He licked his lips once more, then entered the shop.

Duncan wheeled the car into the neighborhood. He was whistling softly as he thought of how much he had missed this place and Tess. "No more fighting, Connor. I'm out of the Game." he said outloud to no one but himself. He rubbed his jaw where Connor had connected; it no longer hurt, but his pride did. He should have seen it coming; he knew how Connor was about such things only too well.

In the distance, Duncan could occasionally spot the bay peeking blue between the buildings. He heaved a sigh of contentment. "I'm home!" he cried outloud to the world. As much as he enjoyed traveling to see Connor, he preferred to stay in one place now. He'd seen too many places and been on too many travels in his lifetime. He just wanted to settle down and be left alone in peace with Tessa.

"Almost home, sweetheart!" he whispered as he turned into a side street that he knew would slice the travel time back to the store in half.

Two blocks from home, he stiffened as the familar pang hit him fully, almost taking his breath away in its' strength and intensity.

Immortal!

______________________________________________________________________

Belclaire entered the store quietly, smiling as he surveyed the store, making sure that there wasn't any noise. He looked once more at the paintings which hung in the small gallery off to one side of the store then turned his attention to some new displays of Early American folk art that had just come in.

Stepping around boxes and packing crates with sawdust strewn about on the floor, his foot hit a wooden crate and sent it sliding across it. It crashed into one of the legs of a display case, splintering both it and the case into a thousand pieces.

Tessa came running out from in back, and stopped in her tracks as she saw him look up, his face contorted wildly. "You! Get out of my shop!" She looked both left and right trying desparately to remain calm and yet keep her bearings. "Oh where were the police!" she thought silently. She slowly circled about away from the entrance of the living quarters.

"Tessa, my sweet! Today's the day, don't you remember?" Belclaire said as sweetly as he could manage. He took a step towards her as he held out his hand. "Come we must go. It's time."

"Go? Go where? What am I supposed to do? Go with you?" Tessa pulled up a hand in a defensive gesture. "Stop, don't come any closer to me." She backed up and he followed her slowly. "No. I've called the police. Jean-Paul, stop!" She continued to back up towards the display cases while he continued to follow her.

"Tessa, we are meant to be together! Have you forgotten the nights we have spent together? The touching, the kisses?" He shook his head. "I'm disappointed in you,Tessa. Don't you know how much I love you?"

She bumped into a wall and began to creep along its' length as he talked. "What are you talking about? There havn't been nights, Jean- Paul. You need help. Let me help you." She smiled as she played along with his madness, not knowing what else to do. She was certain that he was quite insane, and that frightened her because he might try anything without worrying about the consequenses.

"I need no help, Tessa. Only you. It was fate." He shrugged. Holding out his hand once more, he looked at her then growled as she shook her head at him in fear.

"No!" Tessa pushed herself from the wall and headed back out to the showroom floor.

He ran after her, and caught the hem of her jacket.

She screamed and pulled her arms out of it as he held onto it tightly. It fell to the floor, unneeded any longer and ran away just beyond his reach.

Again, he roared his anger and frustration and leapt at her; he managed to tackle her and they both fell to the floor.

Tessa cried out as she hit; a nail from one of the packing crates caught itself on the palm of her hand and ran a jagged path the length and depth of it. Blood welled and spilled onto the floor, coloring the sawdust crimsom. She kicked him in the face as he tried to climb upon her to pin her.

He screamed as he held his face as the pain shot through him.

She stood and ran over to the case which held the swords. Reaching in, she grabbed one and held it awkwardly as it swayed in the air. It was so heavy to her and it took a great deal of strength to lift it. "Maybe this will scare him." she prayed to herself. She was breathing heavily from fright, from the adreneline and from just trying to stay alive. She was amazed that he showed no ill effects from his efforts to get her; she had no explanation for it.

Belclaire quickly recovered and laughed as he saw Tessa with the sword. "So, you are playing hard to get, hmmm?" He took a step forward and stopped.

Sobbing, she raised it to shoulder level as she had seen Duncan do. It grew heavy; the pain in her hand was tremendous and it caused it to waver. Slowly, ever so alowly, it lowered to rest on her shoulder.

He watched, waited, then made a move to disarm her but hadn't counted on her quick reflexes.

Grimacing, she closed her eyes and swung the blade which knocked her to the floor when it was stopped by something solid. Upon opening her eyes, she was horrified to see the sound and sight of Belclaire screaming yet gurgling blood as it spewed in great, warm arcs over everything, including Tessa.

She scarambled about the floor in terror and into the shattered glass from the display case Belclaire had broken with the crate earlier. She too began to bleed from her wounds but removed herself from it as quickly as possible.

He removed the blade from where it had embedded itself in his neck from where it had skipped off his shoulder blade and collar bone. As he did, another larger arc of crimson blood spewed on the walls and floor.

Tessa was blood drenched from head to toe; in looking at herself and the amount of blood splattered on the walls, the floor and herself as well as him, she began to scream hysterically, unable to stop.

Belclaire meanwhile, tried to stop the flow of the blood with his hands acting as a tourniquet about his neck. Turning about in search of a quick way out, he left a trail of blood whichever way he looked. He felt the strong presence of another immortal and he decided to run rather than face him. He swiftly ran to the back of the store to the door that led to the alley and disappeared.

Tessa continued to scream as she sat in a pool of now congealing blood.

Duncan drove in front of the street and parked the car half on the curb and jumped out, stiffening, as his eyes searched about the area for the other Immortal, whomever it was but saw nothing. He looked about inside through the window and saw great arcs of blood on the walls, as well as the pools of blood on the floor. He pulled out his sword, not caring who saw him as he broke through the glass with the pommel and was greeted by Tessa's screams. "Tessa? Tessa?" he said with urgency.

Doing a quick survey he found no one else around. Then he saw the Toledo thrown to one side; he approached the sword and caught his breath as he spotted Tessa crouched her clothes, skin and hair now rust and crimson colored from the drying blood. "Oh God, no!"

He wrapped his hands about her face as he stroked it, his eyes searching her for obvious wounds but it was hard for him to determine if and where they were with the amount of blood covering her as well as everything else. He quickly scooped her up into his arms and ran her into the shower as he tried to get her to calm down and to see how badly she was hurt. "Shhhhh..I'm here, sweetheart, I'm here."

Tearing the dress off her, he kissed her, reassuring her that he would take care of everything, that she was safe, that he was there. He turned her this way and that under the water's spray and was relieved to find that it was only her hands that were damaged and that she had other minor scratches and gashes elsewhere on her. It looked only minimal but he would call a doctor he knew to come over and look at her all the same.

She also had other bruises and possible a strain; but it was hard to tell. Once she had calmed down to realize that it was him, she began to sob uncontrollably, "Oh my God, Duncan! Duncan! He tried--" She began to scram once more at the memory of what had just happened.

Duncan tenderly dried her off and bandaged her hand then slipped her into bed. His thoughts ran cold at the thought of what could have happened. He stripped, got into bed with her pulling her to him skin to skin, stroking her hair, and constantly telling her that everything was going to be alright and that she was safe, that he would handle things from then on and not to worry. It was over. "Was this Belclaire, Tess?"

At the sound of his name, she began to cry harder again, but nodded."I killed him, Duncan, I know I did! The blood--I killed him!"

Duncan's temper flared and he struggled to keep his voice calm when he said,"He won't bother you again, sweetheart. I'll make sure of it." He reached for the phone beside the bed and dialed up an old friend. "I need to talk to Dr. Sean Burns, s'il vous plait, immediament. Tell him it's Duncan MacLeod and it's an emergency."

While waiting, he silently vowed to kill Belclaire if he was ever given the chance for what he'd done to her. Someday he was going to find the son of a bitch and kill him, no matter how long it took, he promised himself.

And he had never broken a promise.

-11-

"Whoa, that's out there, man!," Richie said as Duncan finished. "She grabs a sword and nearly whacks the dude? Way to go, Tessa!" He slapped the table in appreciation of her deed, causing Duncan to shoot him a quick glance and he instantly quieted. "OK, I'm cool, Mac." "Whoa, that's out there, man!," Richie said as Duncan finished. "She grabs a sword and nearly whacks the dude? Way to go, Tessa!" He slapped the table in appreciation of her deed, causing Duncan to shoot him a quick glance and he instantly quieted. "OK, I'm cool, Mac."

Duncan stood and slowly began to pace the floor as his fists clenched and unclenched. Glancing up at Joe he asked for a final time, "Where is he? I need an address and a picture of him if you have one." He frowned as he waited for an answer.

Joe rubbed his jawline and asked, "You never saw him at all?"

"No, he left moments before I got there. We didn't have security cameras; Tessa was the only person who could have accurately described him and she was too traumatized at the time to do so correctly. She thought that she had killed him."

Joe raised his eyebrows at Duncan's last statement, then scratched his head. "There's a couple of things I don't understand." He shifted in his chair. "If Belclaire got into the shop after the florist left, then why did you have to break the glass to get inside the place first of all and second, what happened to Tessa later?"

Duncan went over and perched on the edge of one of the barstools. He looked at the both of them before answering. "My first thought was of Tessa. With the amount of blood I saw, I wasn't sure if she was dead or alive." He paused as he took another drink. "I had tried the door, but found it locked. Belclaire must have locked it behind him."

The other two nodded as they listened and understood the situation.

Richie urged Duncan to tell about Tessa-"What happened to her?"

"Tessa--" Duncan began but then stopped. He looked away from them, cleared his throat, and continued. "I called Sean Burns to come and see her. Sean owed me a favor so he rescheduled his appointments at his clinic in France and was on the next flight over. He's had centuries of practice dealing with cases of trauma and he wanted to help out."

"Did Tessa know he was immortal?" Richie asked, as he took a sip from his beer.

"No, it never came up. While he was steadying and healing her mind, I taught her some basic survivial techniques and tactics. It served her well and she vowed to never let something like what happened, happen again. She is--" he paused, then corrected the tense, "-was strong-in mind, body, and spirit."

All three grew silent as they each thought about people they had loved and lost. After a few minutes, Duncan asked Joe, "Just what can you give me?"

Joe sighed and pushed himself upright, walked over to the bar and shook his head. "'Fraid not much, Mac. There aren't any pictures of him." He pulled the notes out of his pockets and referred back to them. "Seems he got caught a couple years later and locked up in an experimental sexual predator program through the prison system. He was released just a few months ago on the basis that he was cured of his so-called "tendencies"." He snorted. "In layman's terms it means that they needed the bed. As far as an address, we only know that he is the owner of one of the city's newest strip bars. Joint's very exclusive."

Duncan remained impassive as he heard the news. "Doesn't surprise me. Where's it at?"

As Joe started to tell Duncan, Richie interrupted. "You mean this guy's been in prison for some reprogramming on his sex drive and he's an owner of a strip joint on the outside? Am I missing something here? I mean, this guy is a real perverted piece of dog meat man, and he's just looking to bring trouble to his doorstep. I don't get it!"

"Richie, he's probably been that way for centuries. No program in the world is going to change him unless he wants to change. He's probably been feeding off women and what they can get or can do for him." Duncan patiently explained. However, Duncan's revulsion showed through for what Belclaire had done and was doing now, all the way through his explanation. Glancing back at Joe, he inquired as to where it was and how exclusive it really was.

He pushed himself upright and came back to the table where Joe was sitting as he sat down his shot glass.

Joe poured a new drink and shrugged. "The joint is in the mid-cities area near the bay. There was a big protest over the zoning of the place since it was going to sit so close to an elementary school. You remember hearing about that?"

Duncan nodded. "And the rest?"

Joe continued, "You can only get in the club by invitation only. It's that exclusive!" He shook his head in amazement. "Can you imagine it?"

Duncan stood without replying and headed for the door, Richie right behind.

"Hey! Where you going?" Joe called after them.

Pausing with one hand on the door, Duncan half-turned towards Joe. "To get an invitation, of course." He pulled the door open and the two of them disappeared into the day.

And, he said to himself, to fulfill a promise to myself.

Once they were outside, Duncan turned to Richie. "Don't get any ideas about coming along to find Belclaire. This is personal!"

Richie looked hurt as he protested, "But Mac--!"

Duncan quickly jabbed a finger in to Richie's chest. "Stay out of this!" He turned back towards the Thunderbird but paused when he heard Richie's voice.

Richie rubbed the spot where he had been jabbed. "Mac!" he called out, "what are you going to do if you find him?"

Duncan's mouth thinned in anger and his eyebrows knitted together on his forehead. "I'm going to kill him." he replied softly.

Richie didn't say anything for a moment; then suddenly all his thoughts spilled out of his mouth. "Look, I know I'm probably being obnoxious and all that but I'm asking you to consider one thing for a moment."

"What?"

Richie took a deep breath and said, "The guy's immortal, right? Doesn't it stand to reason that if both of us go looking for him, we'll have twice as much chance of finding him?"

Duncan hesitated, thinking about it. If they both went, then Belclaire would feel the combined buzz. Could he possibly mistake it as being only from one person? It was highly unlikely and shook his head. "Stay here or go home Richie. It's a private fight." With a final look at Richie, he got in the car and took off.

Richie watched him go, angry at Duncan's response. "Stay here or go home, " he mocked. "Like hell I will!" He jumped on his cycle, pulled the helmet on and said, "I'll find him for you, Mac. Just you wait and see."

______________________________________________________________________

Duncan drove home as thoughts and memories of Tessa flashed through his head. His body, heart and soul ached sharply as he remembered her as she had been and what she had meant to him. He glanced over to where she would have sat if she were with him now. "Oh Tess, sweetheart," he said, sighing deeply.

He pulled in behind Charlie's car and ascended the back stairs to the loft rapidly, unlocked the door and entered. Once inside, he headed straight for the shelves, removing a small inlaid box and took it to his desk. Sitting down, he closed his eyes momentarily before opening it.

Inside, were his tangible memories of times and people in his past. A pocket watch which he still used on occasion, his medicine bag from when he was with the Lakota, his kilt pin which held the kilt to his shoulder; so many things, so many memories. Each piece, he took out one by one until he found what he was searching for: a picture of the two of them together, his arms wrapped protectively around her, the wind blowing their hair as they gazed at each other, so obviously in love. He laid it to one side as he replaced the other items back into the box then set the box off to one side.

Picking the picture back up, he stared at it. Slowly, tears began to well up as he let the memories overtake him.

______________________________________________________________________

Marseilles, France 1987 Tessa pointed a finger at him. "Don't you dare, don't you even dare!"

He raised the pillow even higher above his head. "What's the matter, Tess? Afraid of a little pillow?" He grinned wickedly and feinted a throw, causing her to duck.

Grabbing a nearby pillow, she wrinkled he nose at him. "Don't you know you shouldn't hit a woman? What would your mother have said?" Smiling, she shook her head at him in amusement, as she raised it in her defense above her head .

Duncan took a step towards her and she retreated. "My mother would have whipped me alive if she had caught me doing that--or she would have left it to my father to do--and he was a lot harder to deal with than her!" he replied, chuckling.

They were on the way home from an exhibition of Tessa's work and had stopped over in Marseilles to spend the night. Duncan had treated her to a night of wine, roses, dancing and an elegant dinner by the bay. After dinner, they had come back to the hotel where they had watched the evening sunset from their balconey; Duncan then had decided it was time to play.

He lunged and Tessa turned about as quickly as a deer, shreiking and giggling as she tried to get away from him. He gave chase about the room as both laughed at the sheer joy of each other and of life.

Carefully taking aim, he threw the pillow, hitting her in the face as she stopped long enough to see where he was. It made her giggle like a schoolgirl and she attacked him with hers in retaliation, striking him about the head and body.

He covered himself up as best as he could with his arms and hands as he grabbed at her, pulling her with him by the ties on her gown. She continued on the offense as he slowly retreated towards the bed with her in tow.

He feinted and stepped towards her again, quickly grabbing her about the waist. She continued to giggle, with eyes overflowing of love for him and him alone.

He stopped laughing, searching her eyes then reached up and held her face between his hands. "I love you, Tess," he softly and tenderly whispered to her. He reached down, brushed his lips against hers in a light kiss, then he kissed her deeper with more passion.

She pressed her body up against his and said, "You are so bad!" then paused as he ran his mouth down her neck and nuzzled on her ear.

"Mmmm, but you like it when I'm bad," he replied huskily in her ear. She returned the kiss with fervor and passion as she wrapped her arms about him, tracing little lines all up and down the muscles of his spine and back. Her hands stopped at his ribs and her eyes crinkled at the corners as she smiled at him. "Duncan?" she sweetly said.

"Mmmm-mmmm?" he said as he unbuttoned her blouse and licked and kissed along her collarbones and the base of her neck. "What?"

"Take this!!!" With a quick movement she brought her hands to his ribs and began to tickle him.

He squirmed out of her grasp with a shout of "No fair!" and a chuckle that rumbled deep in his chest. He jumped over to the opposite side of the bed from her.

Again she advanced on him, giggling all the while. "Maybe you shouldn't have told me your secrets after all!" she said as she came closer to him.

"Tessa, you will live to regret this, I promise!" He retreated as she advanced, enjoying every challenging minute of it.

She stopped, placing her hands on her hips and flipped her hair out of her face. "Make me regret it, Duncan. I dare you!" Her eyes carried a challenge which had to be met, while her smile was wickedly inviting and sexy beyond anything to him.

Duncan stood half smiling, looking at her, arms across his chest, and laughed. Step by step, he came closer to where she stood her ground. He grabbed her around the waist once more, picked her up over his shoulder, and headed for bed. "You'll see what regret truly is now!" hereplied with a wink.

_________________________________________________________

Duncan rubbed his face, drying off the tears and slowly, regretfully, put the picture away. Forcing himself upright, he walked over to put the box in its' place on the shelf, then went downstairs to do his routine of katas, to cleanse his mind, body and spirit in order to face Belclaire when he found him.

-12-

Richie felt like he had ridden up and down the mid-cities area streets all day long and felt like it. His arms and legs felt like rubber from being jarred for hours on the cycle and his brain was definitly mush, he had decided. "The joint has to be here", he thought to himself as he rode endlessly up and down the streets. The more he looked for it, the more frustrated he became.

He passed by a coffee shop and slowed down to turn around and go inside. If the place was as controversial as Joe said, then it was likely that someone inside the coffee shop would know where it was. Besides, coffee sounded mighty appealing right now. He entered the shop and sat down in a booth. The waitress came over promptly; he ordered and smiled at her in the hopes that maybe he'd get lucky. Instead of a date though, he wound up with coffee. He began to drink it as he looked around the shop and spotted a rolled up newspaper in the next booth.

He got up to get it, bringing it back to his table to read, then sat back down and opened it to the front page and blinked; he closely scanned a photograph with an accompanying article with interest. "Belclaire!" he hissed, as he slapped the photo.

______________________________________________________________________

Joe stood outside the door silently watching MacLeod as he twisted in mid-air kicking at an imaginary opponent. He kind of felt a bit sorry for MacLeod's opponents because he had watched him for years and knew exactly what kind of lethal killer he could be when he wanted to be or necessity made it imperative to be.

Duncan slowed his pace down as he concentrated on his breathing which purified and cleansed all aspects of oneself as you did them. After a few slow arm, hand, and finger movements he slowly ended his kata.

Joe entered, clearing his throat as he did so.

Duncan turned as he finished toweling himself off."Joe! What are you doing here?"

"I kinda thought that you might be interested in knowing that we got an address on Belclaire." He held out a piece of paper as Duncan took a long swallow from his water bottle, then looked at him hard.

"Where?"

"I wrote it down so that there wouldn't be any mistakes made about the location."

Duncan took the paper, glancing at the address as he did so. "Down near the pier. Thanks, Joe."

"Don't mention it. I kinda think that I'd feel the same way you do if it had been someone I had loved, Mac." He turned to go.

"Dawson?"

Joe looked back over his shoulder at Duncan, only to see him half smile and nod, then go upstairs.

Duncan changed clothes after a quick shower and was almost ready to leave when he felt another immortal near. He grabbed the katana, crossing the room and slowly opened the door.

"Hey, Mac!" Richie paused, raising his hands in surrender as Duncan lowered his weapon and let him pass. "I think I learned something that you have been trying to teach me for some time!" He went over and grabbed a piece of fruit.

"What might that be?" Duncan replied, with a more thana litle saracastic tone tinging his voice.

"Reading. Now, mind you I used to think that reading was boring stuff, you know--Shakespeare and all that stuff but today I found out that it really could be useful to know!"

Impatiently, Duncan asked him, "Is there a point to this?"

Richie slapped the newspaper into Duncan's hands.

Duncan unrolled it and looked at the picture then at Richie with a questioning look.

"That," said Richie triumphantly, "is Belclaire!"

Duncan reread the article and scanned the picture again, locking Belclaire into his memory. He looked grim and Richie was glad it wasn't him that Duncan was after.

"Well, did I do good?" Richie asked expectantly.

Duncan nodded, then said, "But you still aren't coming along."

Richie's face fell and Duncan said gently, "It's something that I have to do on my own. But thanks for the thought."

He walked out the door and patted Richie on the back as he went by. "Stay here."

______________________________________________________________________

The T-bird pulled to a stop outside a rundown house that may have been a boarding house at the turn of the century for travelers going up to the Yukon for the gold rush. It stood now, all delapidated, and in desperate need of a paint job.

Duncan got out and opened the rusty gate eyeing the neighborhood as he walked up to the door of the house. He tried the knob and it opened with a creak. He entered.

Richie had followed Duncan, despite Duncan's admonition; he stood watching him from across the street and down the block out of site and he hoped far enough away that he wouldn't be able to detect his buzz.

He watched as Duncan went inside the house and then he jogged over to where the T-bird sat parked, to wait for Duncan to come out. Knowing Mac, it could be a long wait, so he hopped up on the hood and leaned back for a nap.

As Duncan climbed the stairs, they creaked under his weight. He turned back around, his eyes scouring the area as he got to the landing feeling another Immortal's presence nearby somewhere. He glanced about to see if he could see anyone, but he was alone.

Pulling out the sword just in case, he continued to climb until he reached Belclaire's floor and went to his room to try the door--only to find that it was locked. Crouching, he pulled out a set of lock picks from his pocket and proceeded to insert the correct two in the lock, twisting and turning them, until he heard the tumblers fall in correct sequence. He tried the knob again and it swung open as he entered.

He quickly searched the area for Belclaire but found the place empty. He went from room to room in the small, cramped apartment until he came to the final door. Slowly opening it, he looked inside only to say, after a moment of horrified silence, "Oh my sweet Jesu! What have you done?"

He entered the room and stopped in the center, slowly turning around as he looked at the walls which were wallpapered in pictures of Tessa from ceiling to floor. He was horrified; yet he couldn't look away at the pictures of her.

She was there in black and white, in color, large and small, close up and from a distance, so clear that Duncan reached out to touch her, then pulled his hand away, balling his hand into a fist. Other pictures were blurry but you could still discern that the object being pictured was Tessa.

He walked closer and looked at each picture hungrily yet shocked at the fact that Belclaire had violated her--their privacy even long past the incident in 1984. There were pictures of vacations together, of her exhibitons, newspaper articles with her picture, of him and her together--he looked closer and discovered that his face had been obliterated from the pictures and the word "Die" was scribbled where the face had been.

He walked from wall to wall, mute at the twisted workings of Belclaire's mind and in agony from the images. Candles lit the room and provided the only light; when they flickered it made the pictures seem to move as in an old silent film. He closed his eyes at the sight of it all then reopened them as he looked over in the corner and saw a small shelf. The shelf held two votive candles smelling of lavendar and roses--Tessa's favorite scents.

Between them on the shelf, a large framed picture of Tessa stood and a few pieces of lingerie that he instantly recognized as being hers, were placed on the shelf also. He picked it up and ran his hands over them, as the memories of Tessa and their lives together began to creep in on him again.

On the far side of the shelf, half hidden, sat a small tape recorder. He took it out and looked at it, then punched the "play" button. The room resonated loudly with the sounds of Tessa making love.

Duncan slowly fell to his knees in the middle of the room as the tape continued to play; the person that Tessa was making love to on the tape was himself. He recognized with revulsion and sickness his own voice. Jabbing the sword into the floor, point downward, he leaned his head against his hands and the pommel. He closed his eyes as he listened to their lovemaking and relived it; the sounds came quicker and faster until finally near the end of the tape, he heard her half whisper, half say, breathlessly, "Duncan, mon couer."

When he heard this, his shoulders sagged; they began to shake violently as he finally began to release all the pain and sorrow of losing her that he had never allowed himself to do. He sobbed and called out to her, not caring who heard him. "Ah, Tess, sweetheart!!" he cried over and over, as one fist beat the floor.

Richie had become bored waitng outside-Mac had been upstairs for some time and hadn't come out yet; it wasn't like him to dawdle around usually; it worried him.

Hopping off the car he went inside; he was slapped by the power of Duncan's buzz, something he had always taken for granted until now. He checked the mailboxes, found the one which was Belclaire's apartmant and went on up. Midway up, he heard a noise and he raced up the stairs the rest of the way, as he realized that it was Duncan. He ran into the apartment following the sound and searched from room to room, following the agonizing sound from Mac. Duncan was crying; something he couldn't remember seeing or hearing him do, even at Tessa's funeral.

Finally, he came to the room where Duncan was at and saw him on the floor, crouched, one hand bruised and swollen, but as he watched, it healed in front of his eyes.

Duncan made no move to defend himself; if he had been someone else, he could have easily taken his head.

Richie looked about the room, looking closer at the wallpaper on the room's walls and then became ill as he recognized who it was.

Duncan turned, lifting his head, at the sound of Richie retching and stood up, resolute to end this once and for all. Composing himself,in a steely willpower, he grabbed Richie about the waist and stood him up once he was finished retching. "You ok?" he asked in a concerned voice.

"I was going to ask the same about you" Richie replied in a half laugh as he clutched his stomach, averting his eyes away from the walls.

"Come on, let's get out of here." Duncan wiped at his face and looked at Richie, his eyes iron hard then swept over the walls a final time. "We have an invitation to keep."

"We?" Richie asked in wonder. "I thought you said-"

"Never mind that. I said we."

Richie nodded and the two headed back downstairs together after Duncan closed the door on the room and its' contents a final time. As they were going downstairs, Duncan turned to Richie. "I thought I told you to stay out of this."

Richie shrugged. "When did I ever listen? Besides, I must've thought you were talking to someone else. You were, weren't you?"

Duncan just rolled his eyes, shaking his head at his impertinent student.

Richie looked at MacLeod once they were downstairs and outside. "Did you know about that?" indicating Belclaire's room behind them.

"No, and Tessa probably didn't either." Duncan's face became a grim mixture of pain, anger, and revulsion. "He also did recordings which meant that somehow, he gained access to the place and bugged it. Some of those pictures were of things we did or that she did alone up to two years after the incident at the shop with Belclaire."

He paused as he thought. "The pictures--Joe said that two years after Belclaire tried to attack Tessa, he was picked up and put into prison. Her pictures in there must have ended about the same time he was picked up."

Richie frowned as they stopped by the car. "You said that there were recordings. What kind of recordings were they and what of?"

Duncan didn't say anything but Richie felt liked he had been burned from the look that Duncan gave him. "Hey, I only asked. OK?"

"Where's the cycle?" Duncan looked around, as did Richie.

"It's right over--hey, it's gone!" He ran over to where he had parked it, then looked up and down the street. "My cycle! And my sword!"

"You left it out in the open? What have I told you about that?" Duncan angrily said.

"I know, I know, all right already!" Richie said as he looked around a final time then did a double-take. The cycle was parked furthur back on the street but on the opposite side of the street than where he had been looking.

Quickly running over, he checked it over; he was relieved to find that it was intact, sword and all. He let out a huge sigh of relief as he pushed it back over to Duncan and the car.

Duncan looked it over then looked back at Richie. "Let's go--you follow me to Joe's, drop off the bike there then come with me to Belclaire's club. But I go inside alone, understand?" Duncan looked hard at Richie when he didn't respond. "Understand?"

Richie gulped and nodded silently; he hopped onto the cycle and did as he was told for once. The two of them headed out into traffic and a rendezvous with Belclaire.

______________________________________________________________________

Belclaire watched through a two-way mirror at all the well-heeled patrons of his establishment as they ogled his women with their eyes and fondled and caressed them with thier hands when the women got close enough. He smiled as he saw one man begin to squirm as he sat through a pretty red-haired woman's undulations and gyarations on his lap using her hips instead of her hands to silmulate having sex with him.

The man began to sweat; Belclaire said to the him throught the pane of glass, "Take it like a man!" then laughed as he saw the man give into the temptation of touching her as he leaned his face into her breasts as the hidden cameras clicked merrily away as they caught it all on film for blackmail purposes later.

Turning away from the mirror when he tired of the spectacle, he glanced over to one side of the room. A young woman sat in the darkened corner, softly crying and it was to her that Belclaire turned his attention to. "You will stay and work for me, won't you dear?" he said as he came closer to her. "We will be together like we were supposed to be all those years ago, my sweet Tessa."

The girl straightened a bit and wiped at her eyes. "My name's not Tessa." She stiffened as he began to stroke her hair and lifted her chin to brush his lips against hers. She turned her face away in revulsion and his lips scraped against her cheek instead.

He pulled away, struggling to control his temper. He took a deep breath, closing his eyes before replying. "My sweet Tessa, you know I- -" He paused and turned around; he took two long strides back to the mirror and looked out as he felt a strong ping of another of his kind close by. His eyes darted all around the room trying to see who it was that had come calling but saw nothing.

Outside the club, Duncan turned to Richie as they sat in the car. "Stay here." He got out after giving him a cold glare which Richie knew only too well, then proceeded to walk up to the entrance of the club.

The doors were flanked on either side by two burly bodyguard type men. As Duncan tried to enter, the man on the left put a hand on Duncan's chest to prevent him from entering.

"May I help you?"

Duncan smiled at the man as he fingered the man's suit collar. "Nice suit! I'm here to see Mr. Belclaire."

"I'm sorry, he doesn't see visitors," the guard on the left replied as he pulled away from Duncan's reach.

"That's too bad, " Duncan said as he took another step closer to the man. "I heard that he does if you have an invitation." He continued to smile but his tone reflected an unspoken threat.

Both of the bodyguards exchanged looks and the one on the right asked him, "You have an invitation? Huh? Let's see it." He held out his hand.

Duncan looked at him and saracastically said, "You think that I would be here if I didn't?" He glanced back at the other man to make sure that he wasn't trying to come at him unexpectedly. Slowly reaching into his coat with his right hand, he took his time as he assessed the weaknesses as well as the strengths of both of them. "Let's see, I know it's here..."

With a quick movement, he lashed out with the back of his fisted right hand he pulled out of his coat, into the face of the man on the right while he extended a leg to one side of himself in a kick, which made contact on the other man's chest, sending him crashing.

The guard on the right came at Duncan with a flurry of blows which Duncan easily blocked, ducked and dodged. "Can't you do better than that?" He chuckled as the man began to splutter, red-faced at the insult. He raised his hands in an apologetic motion, as if to say, "Oh well, sorry!"

The guard on Duncan's left came up from behind him as he was laughing at his compatriot and pinned his arms.

Duncan reared his head back into the man's face, smashing the man's nose in the process. He took his elbow and propelled it into the man's diaphragm, which made him release his grip.

He whirled around and smashed his forehead into his opponent's and the man fell to the ground with a resounding crash, knocked cold, blood and phlegm running from his broken nose. Turning his attention back to the last man he said, "You sure you want to take me on?" He smiled coldly as did the other man. "C'mon, fight me, I dare you!" he said as he motioned the guard towards himself.

The man rushed him, tackling him, as they both fell to the ground; both were momentarily stunned. Staggering, Duncan shook it off first, then saw that his man was standing back up preparing to charge at him again. He twisted about with coattails flying as his heel clipped the man on his chin, felling him; for good measure he slammed the heel of his palm into the man's face, knocking him unconsious as well.

He stood and looked at both men as he smoothed out his clothes and hair. "I think you can call that my invitation, boys." He turned his attention back to the door of the club; pausing to look back at the car to make sure that Richie was keeping his word.

Half-smiling in anticipation of what lay ahead, he turned back to the door and what was behind it. He could sense Belclaire behind the door; he pushed them open as he said out loud, "All right, Belclaire. This is for Tessa."

Silently he told himself, "And for me also," then entered the club.

-13-

In the shadows Joe sat in his car, sipping at some coffee as he watched the action by the front doors with interest. He occasionally took notes on the notepad he carried for times like these, for reference when it came time to record in the Chronicles what had transpired here tonight or on other nights.

He had always secretly rooted for MacLeod; he admired and respected his honor, his sense of justice, and the basic goodness of the man. No matter what the circumstances were, he always hoped for the best when it came down to the fights between the Immortals and Mac. And Mac hadn't lost--yet. God knows what would happen if he ever did!

As the last man dropped to the ground, his attention was drawn to the T-bird as the door opened and Richie emerged. "Now what?" he muttered. He put down his cup as he got out to stop the young Immortal from doing something foolish. He walked over to the T-bird as Richie started for the club. "Richie?" he called out.

Richie stopped cold as he looked about for the owner of the voice then spotted Joe as he came out into the light. "Hey, Joe!"

Joe glanced at the club then looked back at Richie. "You planning to go inside?"

Richie looked and sounded a bit unsure of himself as he answered, "Yeah."

Joe grinned despite himself. "Did Mac tell you to stay outside?" then chuckled as Richie nodded petulantly. He looked about the area, then said gently, "He doesn't need you in there. What he has to do, he has to do alone." He threw an arm about the young man's shoulders. "I have a thermos full of coffee in my car. Want to have a cup?"

Richie sheepeishly grinned. "Yeah. I guess you're right about Mac. It'll make the waiting go faster maybe. You going in?"

As the two of them headed over to Joe's car, Joe shook his head. "Nope. I'll get all the details from him when he's ready to tell me."

______________________________________________________________________

"Can you tell me where I might find your boss?" Duncan asked one of the girls carrying drinks. He paused as he gazed at her face-it reminded him of Tessa's somewhat--she had Tessa's eyes. He pulled out a fifty dollar bill and flashed it in her face.

Nervously, she bit her lip as she eyed the money, looked around, then glanced backwards over her shoulder. "He's over there, behind that window." She grabbed the money and skittered off.

Duncan watched her go then turned his attention to the window, staring at the pane of glass which separated him from the person he had come to meet--and to kill. He also knew that the girl wasn't lying; he could feel Belclaire's emanation coming from that direction.

Standing very quietly he stared at the window, crossing his hands in front of him. He could wait. He'd waited this long to find him and he had plenty of time.

Belclaire, on the other side of the window, began swearing loudly as he watched Duncan; he realized that this was the man who had come to challenge him. He turned and buzzed for security, then grabbed the girl roughly by the wrist. His lead security man hesitated before asking, "Are you sure you want to do that?"

Belclaire became livid, his face becoming red as the veins at his temples throbbed. "Do it now!"

The guards looked at one another then nodded in unison taking the screaming girl along with them. Belclaire rubbed his temples at the feel of Duncan's buzz. It's been a while since he had felt an immortal. The last time was--yes, that was it, 1984. With Tessa.

He turned and withdrew a broadsword from a hidden compartment from the wall and swung it to test its' feel. He went back to the mirror and watched Duncan but Duncan hadn't moved a muscle or an inch.

Duncan watched as the people were herded outside; the music ended and before long the place was devoid of all people except for Belclaire and himself. He watched and waited; Belclaire would have to come out sometime.

Finally, Belclaire emerged. He was tall, pale and thin. They began to circle each other like a lion and a panther on the prowl: one dark, one light. He finally spoke. "Do I know you?"

Duncan's face and voice were emotionless as he said, "Depends on who you ask." He watched carefully the tell-tale mannerisms that bespoke of Belclaire being right-handed, that the strength was in his left leg for pushing off a thrust on.

He watched and waited, ever wary. "Word has it that you've been asking around about Tessa Noel."

Belclaire's face brightened at the sound of her name but continued at the charade. "My dear sir, I don't think that you've introduced yourself properly and," he shrugged, "neither have I. I am Jean-Paul Belclaire, at your service." He gave a small bow then waited for the response from Duncan.

Instead, Duncan responded not with a name but an insult. "I know who you are and exactly what you are. By the time tonight is over, you shall be begging for service in hell from the devil himself."

Belclaire drew himself up in indignation. "You mentioned my sweet Tessa, then insult me. You have shown no proper courtesy to me at all!"

Duncan pulled out the katana and raised it over his head. "Awww, too bad.You don't deserve courtesy from me, Belclaire," he said in an icy tone. "Tessa was never yours and she belonged to no one but herself. You want to know who I am?" He took a step forward and said in a menacing tone, "I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod. And tonight, you're history!"

Belclaire licked his lips as he asked, "Where is she? Where is Tessa? I can't find her!"

Duncan took a deep breath before answering, flexing his hands about the grip of his sword in order to maintain a tight hold on it. "She's dead." He blinked back the images of that horrible night as well as the memory of hearing the gunshots from inside of the house, his running outside too late to save her, too late for Richie. Richie had revived. Tessa never would nor never could have.

"That can't be!" Belclaire howled and attacked, swinging his sword in a sharp arc which whizzed by Duncan, missing him by just a few feet.

Duncan dodged the blow by rolling on the floor to get away from the great sword that Belclaire used. It was longer and heavier than the katana so one didn't need to be in close for a kill. "It's the truth, Belclaire." He threw a quick thrust and lunge combo at Belclaire who parried the blow.

Sparks flew as the swords connected as each man retreated. "What were you going to do with her if she had come with you? I have seen your home and that room--" He paused again as the images of the wall papered with Tessa's face and body as well as his own flashed in front of him. The katana wavered for a moment as he thought once more of her, but then raised back up into place as he watched Belclaire, ever wary of the next blow.

Belclaire looked closer at Duncan. "I know who you are! You are the one she had in the pictures." He circled as he spoke to Duncan."Ahhh, I see! MacLeod--her business partner! And her lover perhaps?" He snarled, his face becoming a ferocious mask. "You are going to die!" He swung again at Duncan and narrowly missed him.

Duncan twisted away at the last minute and heard the sing of the blade as it sliced a bit too close for comfort near him. He rolled out of Belclaire's reach as he heard Belclaire scream, "She's mine! No one interferes with my woman and myself. Tessa touched me, MacLeod. She made love to me! And she liked it!"

Duncan's face darkened in rage. "She was frightened of you, Belclaire. She wasn't in love with you. She loved me. Me!" He struck out in a blurred series of blows that seemed almost to quick for the mind to see, drawing first blood, then stepped back, gasping.

"She touched me, MacLeod," Belclaire taunted. "Her pelvis was just the perfect fit for--"

With a roar, Duncan launched himself at Belclaire; the two of them rolled over and over, each losing their swords in the melee. Fists and punches rained upon one another until finally, Duncan broke free, tripping and stumbling over the knocked over chairs and tables.

He ran over to where his sword lay. "No! You are wrong Belclaire! How many others have there been through the ages, how many lives have you ruined, how many women have you violated? You stripped Tessa of all that was private and a part of her. You raped her as you took all the pictures and recorded us, then tried to destroy us." He raised his sword in front of his face. "No, I won't be the one to die here tonight, Belclaire. You will." His voice held the icy chill of a promise he meant to keep.

Belclaire rolled to where his sword lay, throwing a chair at Duncan as he began to advance at a run on him, in hopes that MacLeod would be impeded long enough so he could reach it.

Duncan knocked the chair away with an arm and still came on, undeterred at nearly a full run.

Grabbing his sword, Belclaire raised it as he rolled over onto his back.

The force of Duncan's momentum caused him to be unable to stop himself; he impaled himself on the broadsword. He screamed and writhed in agony as Belclaire slowly withdrew it on purpose, so that Duncan felt every last inch of it as it came out.

Belclaire crouched down, looked at him eye to eye and laughed. The madness in him was apparent in his eyes as well in his laughter and Duncan spit in his face.

With that, he slapped Duncan then finished withdrawing the sword with a quick jerk.

Duncan slipped to the ground as the blood flowed from him like a river, landing on all fours. He looked up and saw the killing blow readied for him; grimacing and wincing in agony, he dropped down, rolled then scissored a kick at Belclaire's legs, knocking him off balance before picking himself up by sheer willpower. He stood in place swaying, as he raised his katana above Belclaire. "For Tessa," he said, then plunged it deeply into Belclaire's chest.

Belclaire groaned in agony as it went in; blood bubbled at his lips and ran down his chin; he tried to pull it out but failed, so with a quick jerk, Duncan removed it, half turning away in the process. He began to weave on his feet as he felt himself begin to lose conciousness.

Glancing down at Belclaire, he said, "You aren't getting off that easy, you son of a bitch." He lifted up the katana for the final, ultimate blow and swung. "For me!" He staggered away as Belclaire's head bounced and rolled from its' body before he collapsed in death.

______________________________________________________________________

Joe and Richie were talking when they heard an tremendous explosion. They both looked up, startled, and saw the windows of the club blow out, and sparks flying from the transformers on the telephone poles. "Jesus Christ!" Joe swore as he watched and Richie's mouth hung open.

Cracks appeared in the stucco of the building and the front doors blew off their hinges as well. They exchanged looks.

Who had won?

Richie was the first to speak. "You don't think--?"

Joe answered as he shook his head, "I don't know, Richie. I just don't know."

After a few minutes, all had quieted and a lone figure came staggering out.

Duncan leaned up against the doorframe for support, gasping for air. He looked up at the night sky, in search of the wishing star that was his and Tessa's. Closing his eyes for a moment, he gathered strength then pushed himself away when he spotted the star.

Smiling sadly, he spoke to it. "For the tomorrows we will never have, sweetheart. It's finally over. Rest in peace, Tessa. Rest in peace. I love you."

-14-

The bar's door opened and closed. Joe looked up from the sports section to see Richie, sporting a concerned look on his face. "Hey, Richie! What's up?"

Richie came up to the table and sat down, shrugging as he did so. "Have you seen Mac? I was just over at his place and he's not there. I thought that you might know where he is."

Joe folded up the paper, pulling out the front page. He threw it at Richie. "Read this morning's front page?"

Richie opened it up and scanned the lead article then did a double-take as he looked at the accompanying photograph. Frowning, he looked up at Joe. "Those girls all look like Tessa in one way or another!"

Joe nodded. "Belclaire was keeping them in an old warehouse to replenish his supply of girls at the club. When they were finished with their shift, Belclaire would get them." He looked away in disgust then looked back. "He was so obsessed with Tessa that he surrounded himself with women he kidnapped off the street who resembled her in one way or another."

Richie's face grew grim. "How many were there?"

Joe slapped the paper. "Police said there were twenty-five girls but at one time there were probably more. Some of the girls are saying that he killed when he realized that they weren't the real Tessa." He shook his head. "I for one, am glad that Mac took that bastard out! If I had a daughter, I certainly would be more watchful of her with guys like that around."

Richie nodded and shuddered. "I know what you mean, Joe, I know what you mean. About Mac--"

Joe heaved a big sigh. "I don't know where he is--haven't a clue. And I'm not going to go and look for him either!"

"But you're supposed to know!"

Joe eyed him in annoyance. "I'm his Watcher, not his mama. He doesn't tell me everything. After Belclaire's death, he vanished into thin air. Kinda guess he needed to be alone."

Richie slowly nodded even though he wasn't completely satisfied with the answer. He stood up and turned to go. "Thanks, Joe."

Joe grinned. "Anytime!"

______________________________________________________________________

The oar dipped silently into the river's pristine water. Pull, lift, change sides, pull back. Each stroke propelled Duncan closer to his destination.

The thick forest which lined the river rustled in the wind as it picked up his unbound hair and threw wisps of it into his face. He looked around, noting the serenity and beauty that had remained unchanged for one hundred and twenty-five years. He closed his eyes, as he listened to the wind, the lapping of the water as it rushed past the canoe, the wolf howling in the distance, and the lonely cry of the loons, who nested on it further down the river but whose voices carried on the wind.

A fish jumped from the water near the boat and Duncan looked in that direction. Smiling for just a moment, he made a silent vow to not return to civilization until he was ready to go back to it--and to the Game. He'd had enough of the killing and Belclaire had taken a very large toll on him.

He was a haunted man; haunted by images of Tessa, haunted of images of the madness that fueled Belclaire. He needed time to heal, to regroup, to think. Up ahead, he saw his cabin looming out of the river on his island. He sighed, relieved to be back where no Immortal could fight, and yet dreading the forced isolation yet to come.

He slowed the craft down and jumped out at the shoreline, pulling the canoe up out of the river onto shore, grabbed his gear and headed up to the cabin, pausing at the boulder etched with the Old Ones' ancient petroglyphs, and asked permission to be there again and for peace.

Most of all, he prayed for peace.

Later, in the night, he came to watch out the window as rain began to fall. A kerosene lamp lit the room and he stood, backlit by the golden glow, at the window, glass of wine in his hand. He kept thinkng of all the deaths of people he had loved and lost, people he had known and had died, while he lived on. His face reflected all his sorrows in great, haggard detail in the window. Sighing, he turned and walked away again from the window to face his memories once more.

Outside, in the trees, a hand drew back the branches. A tall, lean man with a thatch of dark hair, an aquiline nose and a face made of angles and sharp planes, watched Duncan at the window. "Live, MacLeod, it's one of the things you do best," he whispered to the figure in the window. "Grow strong from this and when you are ready, you will fight another day." He paused as he thought rapidly about MacLeod. "And, when I decide that it's time, we will meet."

He let go of the branches, flipping up his collar against the rain as he glanced upwards as the lightning flashed overhead. "God, how I despise the water!" he said to himself as he headed back to his hidden boat on the other side of the island. "Another day, MacLeod. Another day..."

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