Disclaimer: Allison Benton and Sarah MacGreggor belong to me. The rest are Rysher's. I promise to give them back when this latest obsession fades.
Re Methos: cucumbers, spiders, seasickness not cannon....just me having some fun with the old dude.
Oh...one more thing. This story takes place after my other two (Long Lost and Cardinal Rules). I think it'll stand alone, but the history of the characters and their relationships start there. I can mail them to you if you want...or they're on my HL web site. Comments encouraged and welcome--no need to be gentle...but do try to be polite.
Allison Benton sat quietly by the bedside of her husband, listening to the erratic beeping of the heart monitor and trying to block the image of their daughter lying on a slab in the morgue. They had called her to identify the body of the nine year old, but Mandy was barely recognizable from the burns and cuts of the car wreck that she and her father had been pulled out of. Matthew's ex-wife would need to be notified, but that could wait until later. Right now, she had to concentrate on getting Matthew through this. If only she could take some of that mysterious power that healed her when she was injured and pass it into his body. She'd gladly give her head if it would save him.
He stirred in his bed and she leaned close. The doctors had told her that he would probably wake up briefly, but that the internal bleeding would most likely kill him before morning.
He groaned and opened his eyes slowly. "Allie. How's Mandy?"
"She's okay," Allison lied. There was no point in telling him the truth. He'd be with his Mandy soon. And she would live on, alone.
"What about the other woman?"
"What other woman?"
"There was a woman. A brunette. I remember seeing her crawl from the car, before I passed out."
Allison frowned. Anyone that made it out of that wreck would have to make it to the hospital, or they'd die for certain. She shuddered at the thought of a woman lying, wounded and dying, on the side of the mountain where the two cars had crashed head on.
"I'm sure she'll be fine," she lied again. "You just get some sleep. You'll feel better in the morning."
"Allie, I love you," he said softly.
"I love you too Matt," she kissed him on the forehead and sat back.
Six hours later, at 10:14 am, Matthew Benton died of a massive hemorrhage of the spleen. Allison sat in his empty room for two hours before she worked up the courage to leave the hospital.
She thought nothing more of the woman who had killed her husband and daughter. She was busy making funeral arrangements and trying to keep from falling apart. This was the first mortal lover she had lost in her brief seventy five years. She thought the dull ache in her heart would drive her insane.
Then, at the cemetery, after all the other mourners had left and she was standing alone by the graves, she felt the distinct ringing in her ears that meant another of her kind was in close proximity. At least this was Holy Ground.
She looked up to see a tall brunette standing a few yards away. Suddenly, what Matthew had said in the hospital made sense. Of course the ambulance crews hadn't been able to find the other driver. She was long healed and gone by the time they arrived. And now, she had the gall to show up at the funeral. Something snapped inside the small woman.
"Get out of here," she said.
The other woman took two steps closer and halted.
"Get out of here, or I'll take you head now. Holy ground or not."
The brunette sighed. "I just came to pay my respects and tell you how sorry I am."
Allison glared at her for a moment, wishing she had her sword. She clenched her fists and looked away. Several minutes later, the other immortal left quietly.
Duncan was having a quiet dinner with Richie and Sarah when Amanda breezed back into his life. It was late May and the loft windows were open, letting in early summer breezes and sounds from the street below. Both he and Sarah had just finished up teaching for the Summer and were having their first meal in weeks that didn't come with papers to correct for dessert. It had promised to be a relaxing evening.
All three stopped eating suddenly as the buzz hit and Sarah reached instinctively for her sword; an elegant swept hilt rapier.
"Don't bother," Duncan said, recognizing the feel of it. "It's an old friend."
Moments later, Amanda arrived via the lift. She was wearing a vibrant red cat suit and carrying shopping bags from the most expensive boutiques in town. Instead of offering Mac a greeting, she wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him passionately.
"Who's the sex kitten?" Sarah asked Richie, not as quietly as she had intended.
"I'm Amanda," the other woman released Duncan and crossed the room, obviously sizing up Sarah. "And you are?"
Sarah stood up and stared her in the eye for a moment. They were of equal height and similar build, though Amanda appeared to be far more voluptuous. "Sarah MacGreggor."
"Of the clan MacGreggor, no doubt."
Sarah nodded curtly.
"Highlanders," Amanda sighed. "So many Highlanders among us. Why do you suppose that is?"
Duncan was watching the expressions shift on Sarah's face and decided to jump in before harsh words were exchanged. "Amanda, we were just sitting down to dinner, would you like some?"
"I'm starved! What are we having?"
Richie leapt up to help Mac clear a place for Amanda. "Beef Stroganoff, it's really good," he said.
He started to follow Mac into the kitchen, but stopped dead in his tracks at the look Duncan flashed him. Don't leave those two alone, it said. Reluctant to step back into the almost tangible tension, he returned to his seat between the two women.
"So, what brings you to Seacouver, Sarah?" Amanda asked.
"I came to see Duncan and decided to stay," Sarah responded enigmatically.
Amanda frowned. "And just where do you stay?"
Sarah flashed her a look that Richie found to be incredibly out of character for his friend. Cocked eyebrow, small smirk...smoky eyes. It was almost as if she was goading Amanda into believing there was something going on between her and Mac.
"Sarah has an apartment out on the edge of the city," he jumped in. "She teaches at the university."
"With Duncan? How nice."
"Actually," Duncan set down a plate and a glass of wine for Amanda "Sarah teaches Literature."
"And just how much literature do you remember from when it was still in draft form?" Amanda asked.
"More than Duncan does," she replied. "If you want to know how old I am, just ask."
"Okay, how old are you?"
Amanda frowned again. This woman wasn't going to be easy to deal with. They might have to take things up with swords if Sarah MacGreggor didn't lighten up a bit.
"A true lady never tells her age," she said.
Sarah raised both eyebrows at her, then went back to calmly eating her meal. "So, what do you do for a living?"
Amanda paused, thinking of the perfect way to phrase her occupation. "I...I am an aquirer of antiquities."
"Archeologist, or Thief?" Sarah asked, reaching for the wine bottle.
Duncan kicked her sharply in the shin under the table.
"Oh ho, I would have loved to have seen that," Adam chuckled into his coffee the next morning. "Sarie and Amanda...now that would be a fight to put money on."
"I'd rather it didn't come to that," Duncan scowled.
"Who do you think would win?" Richie asked.
"Tough call," Adam said. "Sarie's probably better with a sword, but I bet Amanda has a few surprises in her."
"I'd like to see them spar sometime," Richie continued, dunking his donut into the cup to sop up the remaining dregs of coffee.
Duncan shook his head. "It wouldn't be a sparring match for long. They're both too hot tempered."
"Sarie would have challenged her outright if she were interested in taking her head. I think she was just playing with her," Adam drained his mug and took it to Duncan's sink.
"Not a very smart thing to do," Duncan mused.
They all paused for a moment as they sensed another immortal arriving in the dojo downstairs.
"That would be Sarah, she's teaching a Tai Chi class this morning," Duncan said, adding his mug to the small pile in the sink.
They piled into the lift and arrived downstairs to find Sarah stretching against the wall. She grinned a hello and crossed over to them.
"You should have been here last night, Petey. I finally got to meet the infamous Amanda."
"I heard all about it," he smiled. "Surprised you both still have your heads."
"Why don't you like Amanda?" Richie asked.
"I don't dislike her, I just think she's a little...well...over the top. She's kind of comical actually, like someone who thinks life is a beauty pageant or something. I mean, who dresses like that in real life?"
Duncan chuckled, over the top was a good way to describe Amanda. "Still, do us all a favor, Sarah, and don't get on her bad side. I can't deal with having to keep you two from killing each other."
"She's obviously got the hots for you, Mac," Sarah grinned again. "Worried that she'd challenge me to duel for your hand?"
As if she had known they were talking about her, Amanda waltzed into the dojo at that very moment. She crossed the floor, her heels clicking loudly, and approached their group.
"Duncan! I thought you might like to go out to breakfast with me," she said. "You too, Adam."
Sarah looked up at her, trying not to scowl. The other woman was dressed to the hilt again, and stood a good three inches over Sarah, who was bare foot. Heels. Nice tactic. Did that woman have her own makeup crew?
"You can come too, of course," Amanda turned to her, looking down her nose at the tank top and drawstring pants Sarah was wearing. "But do please change out of your pajamas first."
Adam barked a cough to cover his giggle, but Richie lacked the sophistication to attempt to hide his own laugh. Somehow, Duncan managed to keep a straight face, quietly thanking the powers that be that there were no swords within reach.
"I have a class to teach," Sarah growled. "Martial arts...you know...fighting... where those heels of yours would last all of about three seconds, like your head."
Amanda looked down at her, "Is that a challenge?"
"Unless you're afraid you'll break a nail."
Amanda took a step forward, but Adam threw himself between the two women. He was facing Amanda, but with a hand stretched behind him against Sarah's shoulder.
"Now ladies, let's not fight. You're both far lovelier with your heads."
Duncan took Amanda's arm, "And you'll get my floor dirty...I'm sure Richie isn't in the mood to mop."
Amanda glanced at him, then looked down over Adam's shoulder at Sarah and smiled thinly. "Well, we'll miss you at breakfast then, some other time. Are you boys coming?"
Sarah stalked off, clenching her fists repeatedly and swearing softly.
"Hold on a minute," Adam said, following Sarah across the room. "You have to admit, the pajama crack was funny," he said as she squatted down into a stretch.
Sarah glared up at him.
"You started the war last night, from what I heard," he added. "Amanda's not the kind of person who likes to be toyed with, especially when there is a man involved."
"So I've discovered," she grunted, switching to stretch the other leg.
"Just promise me you won't let her get to you? I think you guys would get along if you gave it a shot."
Sarah collapsed back into a sitting position and looked up at him. "How about this, I won't *start* a fight with her."
"Good enough," he smiled, knowing that she would keep her word. "Are we still on for dinner tonight?"
She nodded. "Just remember that it's your turn to buy."
Outside the dojo, Allison Benton sunk low in her car seat and pulled the baseball cap down to shade most of her face. She had been tracking Amanda for months, and had no desire to be discovered until she was ready. Allison said a silent prayer as the three immortals crossed the street. If they came much closer, she'd be found. Maybe if she concentrated very hard, she could hide her buzz from them. Not likely. Maybe they would think it was coming from Sarah MacGreggor.
Luck was with her though, and she sighed in relief as the tallest of the three held open the door to a black Thunderbird and waited while Amanda climbed in. The one Allison recognized to be Duncan MacLeod said something that made them all laugh and crossed to the driver's side. Was that tall one MacLeod's latest student? What was his name? Ryan? Vaguely, she remembered Ryan being described as having reddish hair.
As the car roared off down the street she finally relaxed. She didn't have her plan formulated yet, but she knew that Amanda and MacLeod had a history together and that Amanda would most likely stay in the city for a while. That would give her time to think. All she really wanted to do was take the woman's head and get it over with. In a dark part of her heart, Allison somehow believed that it would ease her pain.
She toyed with the idea of bringing her dilemma to Sarah. The older woman had helped her in the past. But, something in her gut told her that, this time, her old friend wouldn't want to get involved. Sarah was nothing if not adamant about fighting your own battles.
[end pt 1]
"Sarie, do you believe in fate?"
Sarah looked up from the soil she was turning over. "What kind of fate? Fate like Oedipus' fate? Or fate in the cosmic sense?"
"Is there a difference?" Adam asked, up-ending a bag of peatmoss into the trough she had just completed.
It was late evening, almost dark, on a warm day later in the week. Sarah and Amanda had crossed paths and fired verbal assaults at each other twice since that day in the dojo, but it was beginning to look like things were going to blow over, though Duncan wasn't convinced of that. The Highlander always was a bit of a worry wart.
Adam was looking forward to having Sarah all to himself for the summer. He had hoped to convince her to travel with him--for old time's sake-- but the very fact that she was putting in a garden suggested that her intentions were to remain in Seacouver until term started again.
"Oh, sure. Oedipus' fate was written in stone. Cosmic fate is more of a nebulous thing...where the end is clear, but you can take many roads to get there," she said.
"Cosmic fate then, do you believe in it?" He kicked the remaining chunks of peat out of the bag and tossed it aside.
She nodded, leaning on her shovel to rest a moment. "I have to, to make sense out of existence. Especially our existence."
Adam looked at her. She was slightly disheveled, sweaty, and had smears of dirt across her forehead from her soil encrusted gloves. Not exactly a very glamorous look for her. "For example?"
"You and I are the perfect example," she stomped on the shovel to force it through the sod. "Make sure you mix that in well, this soil really stinks...we need all the organic material we can get."
Adam grabbed the spading fork and began to follow her down the row. "You and I?" He prompted.
"The very fact that we went for six hundred years thinking the other dead...the world was a small place back then, Petey. We must have crossed paths a million times, but we never saw each other."
"And what does that have to do with Cosmic fate?"
"Everything. Obviously, for whatever reason, we simply were not meant to meet up again until last year," she reached down and pulled out a softball sized stone, tossing it onto the pile that had formed just to the left of where her garden was going to be.
"I know what that reason was," he said as she turned and started a new row.
She paused and looked up at him expectantly.
"You needed someone to do manual labor," he grunted, heaving a new bag of peat onto his shoulders. "They have machines that do this sort of thing now, Sarie. They're called Rototillers."
She stuck her tongue out at him. "You volunteered to help. Richie was going to do it, but you said you wanted to. I believe you said that agriculture was always a pursuit that brought solace, or some other such bullshit."
She had him there. He *had* volunteered. It wasn't swashbuckling through Europe, as they had done in their relative youth, but it was spending time with her. "Yes, well...do I get anything for my labors?"
"You can have all the cucumbers you can eat."
Adam screwed his face into a scowl. "You know I hate cucumbers."
She glanced up at him and grinned. "Okay, beer then. You can have all the beer-- all the beer that's in my fridge." Sarah caught herself just in time, had she said all the beer he could drink, she'd be in debt until the end of time.
"And it's real beer? Not that watered down piss that Richie drinks?"
Sarah laughed. "It's Bass. And there might be a Guinness or two in there, I forget."
They worked on in silence for a few minutes, finishing the row and turning back to start another. Adam was watching her dig and trying not to look too closely at the same time. This was all very frustrating, this sexual attraction to her. Falling in love with her was one thing, that he could keep quiet, and had been doing so since she had arrived in Seacouver the previous Summer. Alexa had provided a nice distraction and he had genuinely cared for her, but seeing Sarie standing in the middle of Duncan's dojo that night last year had brought back six centuries of emotions he had thought he'd lost for good.
Lust though, that was harder to keep under wraps. The mistake had been when he helped her get dressed for the Gathering in Glenstrae. Having an idea of what someone looked like undressed was one thing, knowing it was quite another. And he had taken so many cold showers in the past few weeks that he was beginning to think he'd have permanent goose bumps.
"Too bad you're so young," he said.
"Why's that?" Sarah tossed her shovel aside and squatted in the dirt, trying to get her hands under a large rock to leverage it out.
"You would have loved the hanging gardens at Babylon."
"Is there anywhere you haven't been?" She grunted, losing her grip and falling backwards into the dirt.
Adam offered her a hand up, then thought a minute. "New Jersey. Come on, you push, I'll pull," he squatted down in front of the rock and gripped its' edge.
Sarah wedged her fingers under the same edge and shoved with all her might, while he pulled against it. After a few moments of grunting and swearing, they finally rocked it free and, together, rolled it over to the pile.
"Jersey, huh?" She said, flopping to the ground to rest.
Adam nodded and sat down next to her, wiping sweat from his forehead with the back of his arm. "Always meant to go. But somehow, I just never got around to it."
"The shore is nice, or was, before we started dumping our trash into the oceans," she said, glancing at her watch. "Oh shit, Mac and Richie are going to be here within the hour. We had better hit the showers. You did bring clean clothes, right?"
Adam scowled, still caught up in the shower image. "Why, it's one of those Grungy Clubs, isn't it?"
Sarah rolled her eyes. "It's a *Grunge* club, Petey, not a grungy club."
"Whatever. I still don't understand why we are going to this club, when we could be going to the symphony, or the museum, or even just sitting at home and watching TV."
Sarah heaved herself to her feet and pulled him up. "Because we are always dragging Richie to all these cultural things...but we are ignoring his culture. Who knows, five hundred years from now, the whole world could be one giant mosh pit. It's important to him. Roll with it, Petey."
"Mosh pits," he sighed, shouldering the spading fork and following her toward the house, "remind me of the Huns."
"There will be plenty of scantily glad young ladies there to watch, I'm sure you'll forget all about the Huns," she said over her shoulder.
"Not bloody likely," he muttered.
Close to forty minutes later, Richie roared up on his bike, followed shortly by Duncan in the T-bird. Sarah and Adam had each had time to shower and change and were sitting on the steps of the Victorian house that she rented the fourth floor apartment in, sharing a beer and waiting.
"You're wearing that?" Richie asked Adam, not bothering with a standard greeting.
The older immortal looked down at his beige chinos and rugby shirt. "Yes."
"I tried to tell him," Sarah said. "But he wouldn't listen."
"These are perfectly respectable clothes," Adam huffed.
"You look like you just stepped out of a J Crew catalog," she countered.
"And you, Sarie, look like something out of the Wild West," he tugged the fringe on her sleeve.
She frowned. "I *like* this jacket, thank you very much. Fringed leather is very hip right now, even Eddie Vedder wears it."
"Regardless of what's on the fashion channel, we're going to be late," Richie said. "The band starts in half an hour."
"Can I hop a ride with you, Richie?" Sarah asked, having spotted Amanda in the passenger seat of the car.
"Sure," he said.
"Great," Sarah smiled and headed for the bike.
Adam heaved a sigh of relief. He was in no mood to play referee.
Two hours later, he leaned close to Sarah's ear and shouted over the pounding music. "Are we enjoying the culture yet?"
She shook her head, not wanting to contribute to the already painful noise level in the dark and crowded bar. Sarah fished around in her coat pocket for a pen, then scrawled "No, get me out of here" on a napkin, shoving it under his nose.
He took her by the elbow and guided her through the room and out the door. Once outside, they both leaned against the brick building and sighed.
"I'm too old for music that loud," Sarah said.
"You and me both, Sarie."
Moments later, Duncan joined them, rubbing his temples and frowning deeply.
"Welcome to the old folks home," Sarah joked.
"I don't care what Richie says, that is NOT music," Duncan sighed.
"That's what people said about Rock and Roll in the 50's, Mac," Sarah said. "It's music, it's just damn loud music."
"If that is what the world will be like in five hundred years, you can take my head now, Sarie." Adam said.
"Huh..." Sarah muttered, staring across the street at the opposite corner.
"What?" Duncan asked.
"That car, the VW," she pointed. "I could swear it was parked outside the dojo several times this week."
Adam followed her glance to a nondescript blue car parked under a street lamp. "There are probably nine hundred of those in the city," he said.
Sarah shrugged, making a mental note of the license plate number.
Allison ducked low again as she noticed her old friend pointing toward the car. She was just beginning to formulate a plan and had even gone so far as to hire a mortal to help her execute it, it wouldn't be good for Sarah to recognize her now. This was all very risky.
She knew that Amanda was under the protection of MacLeod and, from what she had heard about him, that was nothing to be trifled with. The man had a reputation among immortals, but she had done extra research and used her connections with a certain Watcher named Mike to find out all she could about both Amanda and MacLeod. In the past, the Highlander had been unable to bring himself to take a woman's head, but that was before a woman had come hunting Amanda. Who knows what he would do to Allison if he caught her once Amanda was dead.
Now that Sarah was in the picture, things got even more complicated. It really all depended on what she thought of Amanda. If the Scot and Amanda got along, Allison didn't stand a chance. But, nothing she had seen so far indicated that Amanda and Sarah were chummy. In fact, it appeared that they didn't like each other very much. If that was indeed the case, Allison was golden.
The only real question that remained was the identity of the tall man standing next to Sarah. It was obvious that they knew each other very well, but Allison didn't recognize him. He must be from Sarah's early days as an immortal, or maybe from after she and Allison had parted ways. Regardless, he was the unknown factor.
She had two things left to do before she could put things in motion: find out who the guy with the cute nose was, and figure out how to get Amanda alone. The first day she saw Amanda in Seacouver, it had been all Allison could do to keep herself from challenging her right there on the street. But she had forced herself to remain calm. Amanda was over ten times her age and Allison was sure that she was no slouch with a sword.
Sarah had taught her much of the skill that had allowed her to survive in the Game, but Allison lacked the fire to truly get involved. She had spent the last seventy years laying low and learning all she could about her fellow immortals, with the hope of being able to avoid them, should one come looking. This was the first time she intentionally went gunning for a fight and it would likely be the last. Once Amanda was dead, her pain would be eased and she could try to pick up the pieces.
Amanda arrived at the dojo amidst the clanging of swords. She entered, expecting to find Mac and Richie sparring, but was slightly shocked to find Duncan's opponent to be a very sweaty Sarah MacGreggor. This was not the same light hearted practice Duncan indulged Richie with. These two wore grim resolve on their faces and were pacing to and fro across the room with lethal quickness. If Richie wasn't sitting idly in a corner watching, she might have mistook the scene for a real confrontation.
She watched with fascination as Sarah met Mac's katana blow for blow, always ending with a twist or flick that kept him slightly off balance. Maybe provoking Sarah hadn't been such a good idea after all; as fun as it was. Amanda had survived her eleven some odd centuries through her wit and guile, but it was obvious that Sarah had made her way with her sword.
Amanda inhaled sharply as Duncan's katana locked against the quillions of Sarah's rapier, close to the woman's neck. Frankly, she wasn't sure who to root for. There was her emotional attachment to Duncan to consider. But that was tempered with a desire to see him beaten, just once, especially by a woman.
The tension in the room dissolved quite suddenly as Sarah grinned and took a step back. Duncan checked his blade and smiled back at her. They half bowed at each other and lowered their swords.
"Aw! C'mon! Sarah and Adam duke it out to the end when they spar!" Richie complained.
Duncan set down his sword and picked up a towel. "I imagine he trusts her a whole lot more than I do," he said.
"You don't trust her, Mac?"
Sarah took up a towel of her own and chugged from a nearby bottle of water. "You really shouldn't trust anybody in the Game, Richie. Mac and I have made a promise not to fight for real for as long as we can, but that doesn't mean that someday we won't find ourselves at the wrong end of each other's swords."
"It's better not to know which one of us would win a spar. That would weigh heavy in a real fight," Mac added.
"Well, Mac would, of course." Richie said. "I mean, no offense Sarah, but he is stronger than you are."
She laughed. "Strength isn't everything in a fight. I imagine Amanda can vouch for that. I'm sure we've both beaten enemies that were stronger than we are."
Both Richie and Duncan turned suddenly toward where Amanda was standing, having been too engrossed in the proceedings of the match to sense her arrival.
She flushed slightly, not knowing if the other woman had sensed her, or just happened to notice her in the shadows.
"Its true," Amanda recovered quickly. "Guile and speed can make up for strength. Look at Kenny."
Sarah frowned. "Hasn't someone killed that little creep yet?"
"He's just a kid," Amanda said.
"An eight hundred year old kid, who likes to take people's heads in their sleep."
"You don't know what he's been through," Amanda walked over and sat down next to Richie.
"I know he killed two of my friends, after convincing them he was as innocent as a lamb," Sarah threw down her towel. "I suppose you're the one who taught him all he knows."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Amanda stood up, reaching for her sword.
Duncan grabbed her elbow.
"Can't you two just play nice?" Adam said from the doorway. "MacLeod and I are getting pretty tired of having to keep you from killing each other."
"Look Amanda, I didn't mean anything by it," Sarah said with a sigh. "That kid just makes my blood boil."
"Fine," Amanda said, pulling away from Duncan.
The two women locked gazes for a moment.
"Come on Sarie, we'll be late," Adam said.
"Where are you two going?" Richie asked.
"To buy me a new stereo," Sarah threw her towel into the duffel and zipped it. "Petey here says my woofers need tweeters or something."
"Can I come? I know all about stereos," Richie hopped down from his seat.
Sarah shrugged and was about to say sure, but Adam spoke first.
"I think I can handle it, thanks."
[end pt. 2]
Roger ducked behind a lamp post and said a silent prayer. Sarah MacGreggor was stooped over not thirty feet away, tightening down the straps on a pair of roller blades. She might have seen him when she glanced over her shoulder just now. That wouldn't bode well for his status as her anonymous Watcher. As far as he knew, she had never seen his face, though she must know she had a Watcher, from all her dealings with Adam Pierson. He doubted that the young man assigned to the elusive Methos Chronicle could keep his mouth shut about that tattoo. He was also a bit of an elitist; a direct result of his promotion to field agent right out of training and being assigned to an immortal as old as MacGreggor. Pierson was just a researcher and a boring one at that...hunting a myth.
Nearby, Sarah chuckled softly to herself. That kid was good, but she had spotted him months ago, in Glenstrae. He looked to be about the age she was when she died her mortal death--twenty six or so. But the Watcher took himself far too seriously. She straightened and stretched a moment, then took off at top speed. If the boy was insistent on following her everywhere, she'd give him a run for his money.
"Damn," Roger swore, wishing he had a pair of blades of his own. There was no way he would be able to keep up with her on foot.
Sarah lost him in a matter of minutes. She sped through the winding paths of the park for another mile or so, then slowed to an easier pace, confident that her Watcher was far enough behind to give her a moment to catch her breath. When he found her again, and she knew he would, they'd have another chase. It beat skating alone anyway.
She had asked Richie to come along, but Mac had commandeered the young immortal for the evening to strip the floors of the dojo for re-waxing. Poor kid, he was always being recruited for the nasty jobs. Adam had been her second choice, be he had declined, muttering something about if immortals were meant to skate, they would have been born with wheels on their feet. Then he chastised her for not carrying her sword along. He'd been awfully cranky lately.
She supposed it had something to do with this notion that the men insisted upon entertaining about having to keep her and Amanda from killing one another. Sarah shook her head and lifted her left foot to avoid a fallen branch on the path. There was no threat of her trying to fight Amanda. She found the other woman amusing, despite the fact that she felt distinctly *plain* in her presence.
When the buzz hit, she missed seeing another fallen branch and crashed to the ground knees and wrists first. Swearing softly at the blood running down her leg, Sarah looked around for the other immortal she knew was nearby. The sound of clanging swords off to her left, behind a stand of bushes, brought the hair up on the back of her neck. Okay, maybe Petey was right, she shouldn't travel without her rapier. But one could hardly roller blade in a trench coat.
Sarah was about to skate away at top speed to avoid a swordless confrontation with the victor, but a familiar voice made her stop.
"Allie?" She unstrapped her skates and took them off, leaving them on the side of the path and crawling into the bushes for a better look.
What Sarah saw made her jaw drop open. In a small clearing Allison Benton and Amanda were circling each other warily. There was a good sized cut over Allison's left eye, but Amanda appeared to be unscathed.
"I'm telling you, it was an accident," Amanda said. "Someone screwed with my brakes!"
"I don't care. You killed them both and now I'm going to kill you," Allison charged her and disarmed the other immortal with a move that Sarah recognized as one of her own. She brought her sword to Amanda's neck.
"Shit," Sarah muttered, scrambling closer.
Both Amanda and Allison looked in her direction, having felt her buzz. Sarah sighed, knowing her position was compromised. She got to her feet and waded out of the bushes.
"Allie, what are you doing?"
The young immortal glared at her old mentor. "You can't interfere, Sarah."
"Oh yes you can," Amanda said, edging away from the sword at her throat.
Allison dealt her a kick to the knee that brought the taller woman to the ground, groaning in agony.
"I won't interfere. But what's your beef with Amanda?" Sarah took a step closer, hoping to talk her former student out of killing the brunette. This was not something she wanted to explain to Mac.
"None of your business," Allison snapped. "Rick!"
Sarah glanced across the clearing to see a large man step out from behind a tree.
"Shoot them both. We'll sort this out later."
Sarah's last conscious thought was that this was very unlike her young friend.
Roger stood at the door for a few moments before he knocked. Going to Pierson was not his first choice. But it was the only one that didn't involve telling a superior that he had lost Sarah MacGreggor in a game of cat and mouse. Besides, she and Pierson were friends, maybe he knew something. Maybe she would be sitting on the couch drinking a beer and he wouldn't have to worry any more. He tucked her roller blades under his left arm and knocked hesitantly.
Moments later, Adam opened the door with a spatula in his hand. The scent of stir fry wafted out into the hallway, followed by the sound of Van Morrison singing about Crazy Love.
"Miller? What brings you here?"
"I uh...can I come in?"
Adam nodded and stepped aside to let the young man pass. He noted Sarah's roller blades with some alarm, but decided it was better to let Miller tell his story.
"I...I was following MacGreggor in the park, but I lost her. Then I heard swords clanging, so I ran. There were two gunshots. I found these on the path," he blurted out, waving her roller blades.
"And by the time I got through the bushes, there was no one there. Just some blood on the ground and scuff marks."
Adam frowned. "Was there a quickening?"
Roger shook his head.
"And you didn't see anything?"
"No...but she didn't have her sword with her."
Adam resisted the urge to slam down the spatula. "Okay, what do you want me to do?"
"I don't know. I just...I just can't stand the thought of her being killed without a fight. I mean, I know we're not supposed to get involved, but I *like* Sarah. I don't want to be re-assigned."
"Well, there isn't anything we can do. We'll just have to wait it out and see what happens," Adam sighed. "Don't worry, Sarah MacGreggor has been around a long time, she can take care of herself."
"But, there has to be something we can do," his voice rose in desperation. How could Pierson not see the importance of this? Too much time in the library.
"Ask around. There were other immortals in the area, somebody's Watcher must have seen something."
The young Watcher nodded, suddenly realizing that he could do just that. "Okay, I will. Thanks," he handed Adam the roller blades and left the apartment, rushing for Joe's bar.
Adam threw the skates on the couch and kicked the coffee table viciously. Like hell there was nothing he could do. He had to beat Miller to Dawson.
But Joe wasn't at the bar. He was at the dojo, leaning against a window sill watching Duncan and Richie spread a new coat of wax on the area of the floor that saw the most use.
"I wouldn't worry, Mac," Richie said. "I'm sure Amanda just got caught up shopping or something."
"It's not like her to be this late without calling," Duncan answered, methodically pushing his towel in circles on the hardwood.
Joe debated inwardly on whether to share his knowledge of Amanda's whereabouts. He didn't know much really, just that she had received a note and left with her sword. Her Watcher hadn't reported back yet on the outcome of the fight, or who the opponent was. There was no point in worrying MacLeod.
"I'm sure she's fine," Richie continued.
Both immortals looked up suddenly and Joe knew that a third was about to make an appearance. He looked to the door, expecting to see Amanda stroll though. Instead, Adam walked in, sporting a very serious scowl.
"What's up?" Richie asked. "Grab a towel and help."
"Joe, do you know anything about a sword fight in the park tonight?" Adam ignored Richie and crossed the floor.
Joe shook his head. "Why?"
"Roger Miller just showed up at my house waving Sarie's roller blades and babbling about gunshots, a sword fight, and how he lost her in the shuffle. He has no idea where she is, or who was fighting."
Joe frowned, hoping that Amanda and Sarah hadn't come to blows. He heaved himself to his feet and leaned heavily on his cane. Gunshots. That was neither Amanda's or Sarah's style.
"Sarie didn't have her sword."
Now *that* might be Amanda's style, if she were pushed hard enough. He sighed. There was no getting out of this one. If he didn't tell them what he suspected, both MacLeod and Methos would be after *his* head when they found out.
He looked from Methos to Duncan and back.
"Out with it Joe," Duncan stood suddenly. "You think Amanda was involved, don't you?"
"What?" Adam's jaw dropped.
"All I know is that Amanda left here with her sword at about six o'clock. I haven't heard back from her Watcher on anything since."
"I don't think Amanda would do something like that," Richie said, already attuned to the tension forming between Duncan and Adam.
"Miller said he heard swords ringing before the gun shots," Adam said. "So if it was Amanda and Sarie, at least she didn't try to kill her without a fight. And there wasn't a quickening... yet."
Duncan threw his towel to the floor and headed for the door.
"Where are you going?" Adam asked.
"To the park. Maybe we can figure out what happened."
Adam followed, right on Duncan's heels. Richie threw down his towel as well, but waited for Joe to limp across to the door.
"Should we go too?"
"I'm going back to the bar to see if any news has come in."
Richie paused for a moment, then sighed as the Thunderbird roared away from the curb. "I think I'll come with you. I don't exactly want to be in the middle if those two go at it."
Sarah awoke with a buzzing in her head and a stiff neck. She blinked up at the ceiling, wondering where she was.
"Well, good morning Sleeping Beauty," Amanda said from nearby.
She groaned and sat up, looking around the small room they were in. It was poorly lit and smelled like a basement. There was a small kitchenette set up in one corner that looked like it hadn't been used for decades. No windows. No air. Too small. She gulped and forced back a wave of panic.
"Don't bother to try the door. It's Oak or something, solid as a rock."
Sarah stood and stretched, looking down at Amanda, who was sprawled on a moderately filthy mattress, thumbing through an issue of Cosmopolitan that looked like it dated back to the late seventies. How could she be so relaxed when the room was obviously getting smaller by the minute?
"How long was I out?"
Amanda looked up. "About an hour. Don't worry," she said cheerfully. "The boys will be here soon to rescue us from that psycho bitch upstairs."
"Allie is not a psycho, and the *boys* don't even know where we are," Sarah frowned. "Why was she after your head anyway?"
Amanda closed the magazine and rolled to a sitting position. "She thinks I killed her husband and daughter on purpose."
"And it was an accident? You killed two people by *accident*?"
Amanda sighed. "Yes. Someone screwed with the brakes on my car. I lost control of it and slammed into them head first on a curve," she lowered her head. "It was awful."
It was Sarah's turn to sigh. Allie was only seventy five years old. This was very likely the first lover she had lost. And the girl had always been a bit emotionally fragile.
"Who screwed with your brakes?"
Amanda shrugged. "The wife of some mortal I was involved with. She was mad because he gave me her emeralds."
Sarah rolled her eyes. She supposed that men were forever giving Amanda their wife's jewelry. The woman had a raw sexuality about her that Sarah was sure no man could resist.
"How do you know her?" Amanda asked, jerking a thumb at the ceiling.
Sarah sat down, cross-legged, on the floor. "I met her in New York in 1941. She had just died her first death, drowned. She was my student for about fifteen years. That was probably her first lover that you killed."
"No wonder she's a bit whacko."
"This is not good," Adam mumbled as they wandered through the park, looking for the clearing Roger Miller had told him about.
Duncan was taking long strides and frowning furiously. "I knew it would come to this. We should have kept them apart."
"Sarie gave me her word that she wouldn't start a fight with Amanda."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Duncan glared up at him.
"It *means* Amanda left your loft with her sword and Sarie went roller blading *without* hers. You do the math."
"Miller said he heard swords clashing," Duncan grunted.
"Well then, at least Amanda gave her a fair shot." Adam quipped back.
Duncan stopped suddenly. "Look, Amanda isn't perfect, but she wouldn't set a trap for Sarah. She doesn't start fights."
"I *told you*, MacLeod, Sarie promised she wouldn't start anything with Amanda."
"And I told you, Methos, Amanda doesn't start fights, not like that anyway. Maybe you don't know Sarah as well as you think."
What he really wanted to do was nail MacLeod in the jaw for that comment, but Adam sighed instead. "Look, we can argue about this all night, but it's not going to help matters any. Miller said there wasn't a quickening. That means that they were both still alive at 7pm."
Duncan nodded, Methos was right. They could take it to swords, but it wouldn't change the situation. He looked around the spot that they were standing on. Behind Adam's shoulder and to the left there looked to be a break in the trees. Closer examination showed the bushes to have several snapped branches. Duncan forced his way through and came into a small clearing of packed dirt. Adam followed and squatted down, examining the ground with his flashlight.
"Bare feet," he pointed to a set of footprints. "Sarie must have been standing here."
Duncan moved around the clearing, calling on the tracking skills he had learned so long ago.
"There are four sets of footprints here," he said, circling back to stand next to Adam. "It looks like Sarah walked in on a fight between two other women."
"Who's are the fourth set of prints?"
"A man's. See the scuff marks next to the blood?" Mac pointed to a spot near Adam's left foot. "I would say the guy shot her and carried her off. The same thing with one of the two other women. The third walked away of her own accord."
"The only two female immortals that are in town, as far as I know, are Sarah and Amanda." Joe said.
"There must be someone else," Adam leaned forward and looked over Joe's shoulder at the notebook. "Look again."
"I'm telling you, that's all I know. Here, look for yourself." He handed Adam the notebook and sighed.
"What about Amanda's Watcher? Have you heard anything from him?" Duncan asked, pacing around the small, cluttered office.
"Her. And no. Nothing since the phone call about Amanda leaving your dojo."
"What do we do now?" Richie asked from his seat on the couch. He had been relieved to hear about the third set of female footprints, knowing that Mac and Adam would have eventually come to swords if Sarah and Amanda had fought and only one came home.
Adam threw the notebook down onto the desk and heaved a sigh. "We wait. There is nothing else *to* do."
"So," Amanda said. "What's with you and Adam Pierson?"
Sarah glanced over at the other woman, wishing she could knock her out, if only to shut her up. But that was likely to start a fight. "Petey and I are old friends."
Sarah looked at her again, but made no response. The size of the room was beginning to get to her and Amanda was sucking up valuable oxygen.
"Come on," Amanda prodded. "It's not like we are going anywhere. Tell me."
Sarah heaved a sigh of capitulation. "Okay, fine. We met in 1068, in Scotland."
"And how long were you lovers?"
Sarah was taken aback by Amanda's boldness. She was so startled, in fact, that she could respond with nothing but the truth. "We were never lovers."
Amanda narrowed her eyes at the Scot. "You might as well tell me the truth, I'll get it out of Duncan eventually."
"That is the truth. We were never lovers."
"Well, why not? You have to admit, he's not so bad to look at. And I bet he knows a thing or two about the female body, having lived so long."
Sarah scowled at her. "He is my best friend, thank you very much."
Amanda shook her head. She paced slowly around the room, coming back to stand in front of Sarah. "So?"
"So, just because you are friends doesn't mean you can't be lovers too."
Sarah closed her eyes and fought back her temper. The walls were closing in. But she had to think of something else, or she'd dive into panic attack. This was annoying. Amanda was annoying. How did Duncan ever put up with her?
"So...what...you two hung out together for how long?"
"Oh hell," Sarah muttered. "Three hundred some odd years."
"And in all that time, not once were you ever thinking about crawling into bed with him?"
"Do you enjoy this?" Sarah asked suddenly.
"Making other people uncomfortable."
"I'm just making conversation."
Sarah scrambled to her feet and paced around the room, examining every corner, opening the drawers, feeling in the recesses of each cabinet.
"What are you doing?" Amanda asked.
"Looking for something...anything...anything sharp enough to take your head off with. A corkscrew would do at this point."
Amanda huffed. "If you kill me, Duncan will hunt you."
"It would be worth it just to get you to shut up."
"Why don't you like me?" Amanda asked.
"Fine," Amanda sat down on the floor. "I won't say another word. We could be trapped here until lord knows when, but I won't open my mouth again. Not even if that psychotic loony comes down here with a sword."
"Allie is *not* a loony."
Sarah jumped up onto the counter and tucked her legs underneath her. Sooner or later, Allison would make the move that she had brought them there for. Until then, she'd just relish the silence and try not to think about how cramped it was.
Her peace lasted all of thirty minutes.
"What would you say if I told you that Adam and I were lovers?" Amanda asked suddenly.
Sarah opened one eye and rolled her head so she could see the other woman. "I'd say it was none of my business."
"But admit it, the thought of it is killing you, isn't it?" Amanda got up and walked over to her, leaning on the counter by Sarah's right knee.
"No," she lied. "Petey does what he wants."
"And what's with that Petey thing anyway? Why don't you just call him Adam?"
Sarah closed her eyes again, praying for death to come. Suffocation. Starvation. A sword even. It didn't matter, just as long as it brought a respite from this woman. "I call him that because it was his name when we first met."
"And what does he call you again? Surly?"
Sarah bristled. "Sarie."
Amanda smiled, pleased that she had gotten a rise out of her. "Pet names and everything. You sure you two aren't lovers?"
"Look, I *told* you. We're not, we never were."
"Maybe you should be."
Sarah waved a hand at Amanda, dismissing her.
"Look, all I'm saying is that you two seem to have a great relationship. Why not take advantage of it? I'm sure he'd enjoy it."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"It means," Amanda leaned forward, "that you're an attractive woman. I would bet that Adam has thought about sleeping with you many times."
Sarah cocked an eyebrow at her, but said nothing. A moment of precious silence fell.
"Boy, are you stupid." Amanda said, breaking it.
"Excuse me?" If she could get her hands around Amanda's throat, maybe she could just yank her head off.
"You really don't see it, do you?"
"Hello! He's in love with you. Probably has been for centuries."
Sarah cocked an incredulous eyebrow Amanda's way. "Why do people keep telling me that?"
"Because it's true. It's so obvious. I can't believe you don't see it. He practically melts when you walk in the room."
Amanda nodded. "You're just too stubborn to see it. And I bet you love him too, you just won't admit it."
Sarah sighed, at least the conversation distracted her from thoughts of claustrophobia. "Of course I love him."
"Now we're getting somewhere!" Amanda hopped up next to her. "Tell me all about it. Just between us girls."
"You and I are *not* girls. Not by a long shot."
Amanda shrugged. "It's all relevant. Compared to Adam, we're both babies."
"Just how old are you, anyway?" Sarah hoped to change the subject.
Amanda shifted uncomfortably. "Nine hundred and fifty."
Sarah smirked at her. "That's not what I heard."
"A girl has a right to fudge about her age. Don't you think?"
"I never lie about mine."
"That's your damned Highland honor. Besides," she knocked her shoulder against Sarah's. "You're just a sweet young thing in old Petey's eyes."
Sarah rolled her eyes. "How did you possibly make it through all these years? I'm surprised someone hasn't taken your head just because you pissed them off."
"I'm not that easy to kill, I assure you. But you're avoiding the subject at hand."
"You love Adam. Why haven't you told him?"
Sarah shook her head. This whole situation was ridiculous. She couldn't believe that she was having this conversation, with Amanda of all people. They should be thinking about how to get out of there, not talking about her love life. She got up and paced over to the end of the counter, then turned back and sighed.
"Come on, you can tell me."
"Why would I want to?"
"Because you need a woman to talk to. You spend all your time hanging out with Mac and the boys...when was the last time you had a heart to heart with a girlfriend?"
She did have a bit of a point, Sarah thought, but she'd be damned before she admitted it. "We are not girlfriends."
"We could be, I mean...you're not so bad really. I..." Amanda shifted uncomfortably. "Okay, truth is, I could use a female friend too. Let's call a truce, at least until they get us out of here."
Sarah sighed. It could be hours until they were found. Days maybe. One or both of them would be dead soon. And the boys weren't going to come riding to the rescue. "They don't even know where we are, Amanda. They don't know we're together. They're not coming."
"Damn, you're stubborn. Mac will find me. I was supposed to have dinner with him last night. He'll come looking and he'll find us."
"You go right on believing that. I'm not holding my breath for the cavalry."
"You just can't let anyone take care of you, can you?"
"It's not Mac's job to take care of me. Nor is it Petey's. It's mine."
"You should let them do it, it makes them feel important."
Sarah looked at her and laughed suddenly.
"I had you all wrong. I thought you were the typical female. But you're not. You just know how to play Mac like a fiddle."
Amanda grinned. "He has a weakness for women. Why not exploit that? It keeps me from worrying about people after my head and it makes him feel good."
"Okay," Sarah stuck out her hand. Maybe Amanda wasn't so bad after all. "Truce."
Amanda shook it and smiled. "Now, let's get back to you and Adam. Why haven't you told him how you feel?"
Sarah hopped back up on the counter and sighed. "Simple really. What if he doesn't feel the same way? Petey and I have a really great bond, I don't want to mess it up."
"Of course he feels the same way. You should tell him. You guys are perfect for each other."
"I don't like this. I have to do something," Mac turned from the window suddenly and paced across the loft.
Adam looked up from the book he was trying to read, but said nothing. He returned his gaze to the same sentence he had been staring at for the past twenty minutes. An open, but full, bottle of beer sat near his elbow.
>From behind the desk, Richie chuckled.
"What's so funny?" Duncan growled.
"This is an ironic twist, don't you think? I mean, usually it's the women who sit at home, waiting and wondering if and when the hero will return. And here you two are, climbing the walls like a couple of hens."
Duncan glared at him, but Adam snickered quietly. That was Sarie's sense of irony shining through. And it was Richie's youthful zeal that had brought her--and him by default-- to that awful club the week before. Interesting. He wondered how much else the kid had in him that had once belonged to Sarie, before their quickenings had mixed in Glenstrae. Maybe Richie could give him some insight on how she felt about him. Argh. Like he was really going to ask for romantic advise from a child.
"Maybe it's Hunters," Duncan said, continuing to pace.
"I don't think so," Adam offered. "There wouldn't have been a sword fight if there were Hunters involved."
"Look at it this way guys," Richie said. "If they are together, there is no way in the world they're not going to get out of there. Between the two of them they could probably take over a small country without too much effort."
"He's right you know," Adam added. "If they are together and collaborating, the bad guy doesn't stand a chance."
"You, blondie, Mrs. Benton wants to see you."
Sarah glared at the man waving a pistol in her face. "Call me that again and I'll break every bone in your body."
She glanced at Amanda, then followed him out and up a rickety flight of stairs. Allison was waiting for her in a mercifully large room. Plenty of air. Sarah squinted against the light streaming in through the windows and sat where Rick told her to, filling her lungs repeatedly.
"Is this really necessary?" She asked Allison, as the man shackled her left ankle to the nearby radiator.
"I can't take any chances. You might escape and bring MacLeod to my door."
Sarah sighed as Rick left them alone. "Allie, what happened to you?"
"She did. She killed Matthew and Mandy and then had the gall to show up at the funeral."
"Killing her won't bring them back. It was an accident. A cruel twist of fate. Someone tampered with her brakes. Accidents happen, Allie."
There was no point in telling her about the wife who had fixed Amanda's brakes. It was likely that Allison had the same opinion of Amanda as she had when they first met: reckless, pretentious, campy. No sense in compounding that.
The younger woman shook her head. "I've been following her for months. I can't tell you how many mortals she's almost killed with her recklessness. She needs to be killed before another innocent person dies. Besides, like you taught me, Sarah, there can be only one."
"So you're going to kill me too then?"
"No, I could never kill you. You're the only reason I'm still alive." Allison sank down in a chair and clutched her hair.
"And what about Rick? He obviously knows about us. What are you going to do with him? Kill him when this is all over?"
Allison looked over at her, an expression of horror evident on her young face. "I...I...hadn't really thought about that."
"Well, you'd better. And then you had better start worrying about MacLeod, because he will come after you if you kill Amanda."
"I was counting on you to take care of him for me."
Sarah shook her head and held up her hands, as if warding off the very thought. "Not my fight. And if you are going to take blood for blood, then Mac has the right to as well."
"MacLeod won't kill me. He can't kill a woman, he's already proven that."
Allison tried to push that thought out of her head, but failed. Maybe it would be okay if MacLeod killed her. At least then the pain would stop.
"Who's the tall guy, with the nose?" She changed the subject.
"You two know each other." Maybe now she'd get some answers about the man. None of her connections had brought up even a trace of information about him.
"From another lifetime, yes."
Allison searched her memory, looking for a man that Sarah had told her about that fit Pierson's description. Suddenly it came to her. "*Petey*?"
Sarah nodded. "Petey."
The younger woman giggled, she had heard all kinds of Petey stories while traveling with Sarah. And she knew, despite the fact that they had never discussed it openly, how the older immortal felt about him.
"This is not the high school cafeteria, Allie. You had better make your decision and act on it. Soon."
Sarah was right. She was losing her resolve. And Amanda was better with a sword than she had planned on. She wished she had taken her head when she had the chance. Now, in the light of day, Allison was beginning to realize that kidnapping and murder were just not her style. She wanted to confide in Sarah, but the look on the other woman's face told her that she had crossed a line when she ordered Rick to shoot. Sarah wouldn't come after her head, but she wasn't very happy about being locked in a basement.
"I'll do it later tonight, when it's dark. Then you can go home. Are you okay down there? I know how you feel about enclosed areas."
Sarah frowned. "If you're so sympathetic, then let me go now."
"No way, you'd go straight to MacLeod," Allison got up and crossed to the doorway, motioning for Rick to come back in.
Sarah sighed as the man unlocked her ankle, then got to her feet, shoving the gun he was waving aside. "Don't do this, Allie. It won't solve anything."
"Take her back downstairs," Allison responded. "And Sarah?"
The older woman turned.
"Hold on to your Petey. It'll rip your heart in two if you lose him."
Sarah set her jaw for a moment, then turned back around and let Rick shove her toward the door. She sighed as he drew the bolt on the Oak door. Allison was right. She'd likely go just as nuts if someone killed her Petey, accident or not.
"Well?" Amanda asked as Sarah was shoved through the door.
Sarah took a moment to try to stop the walls from collapsing in on her.
"You're sweating. Are you okay?"
She shook her head and sank to the floor, barely keeping herself from hysterics. "I'm claustrophobic."
"Okay, just don't panic. You'll be fine. Mac and Adam will be here soon," Amanda knelt next to her and rubbed her shoulder supportively.
"They're *not* coming Amanda, get that through your head," Sarah snapped. "And Allie is going to kill you tonight."
"What about you?"
"I get to go home."
"Well, that's hardly fair."
Sarah glanced over at her. "I'm not the one who killed her husband and daughter."
"It was an accident!"
"Accidents follow you wherever you go, Amanda. I thought you left Mac to get your head on straight."
"You're gonna start hyperventilating if you don't calm down. Just relax."
Sarah took a deep breath and heaved it out. She just wanted this to be over.
The young woman lying on his bed roll would come back to life soon. Her body would heal, though that wound on her throat would likely leave a scar, and she would wake to the horror of knowing that her entire clan had been massacred by one like herself. Like himself.
His urge was to get her cleaned up before she awoke, to try to erase some of the evidence of what had happened to her. But he knew that she would be frightened to awake to a man touching her; it was patently obvious that the man who had slit her throat had raped her previously. So, Peter sat by the small fire and waited, looking up into the starry Highland sky.
He was traveling through Glenstrae by chance really, having finally tired of the decadence of Rome. The acrid plumes of smoke billowing on the shores of the otherwise pristine loch had attracted his attention earlier that evening, drawing him into the remains of the small village to find a horrific scene: bodies everywhere, blood soaking into the ground. All the men had been decapitated, even the small boys. And the women...it nearly flipped his stomach. He had just been ready to give up hope that anyone remained alive when he sensed the presence of another immortal. Faint, but there. He followed the buzzing in his head to the body of a young woman lying face down near a water trough.
Her light hair was thick with blood and a dark pool on the grass near her throat told him she had bled to death. Her skirts were flipped over her back, exposing bloody legs. Peter scowled deeply, never having understood this urge to rape that so many men had. This woman was a child really. She looked to be in her mid twenties. Nothing compared to his great age. He looked around, undoubtedly her husband was one of those headless bodies lying in the yard. They'd deal with that pain later. He scooped her up onto his horse and headed for the woods.
Now, some three hours later, a small stirring from behind him told Peter that she was finally awake. He turned in time to see her scramble to his pack and draw the dagger that was in the front pocket.
"Easy now. I'm not going to hurt you," he said, holding out his hands in what he hoped was a non-threatening gesture. This woman was of the clans, he had no doubt she knew how to use that knife with some skill.
She glared at him warily with moss green eyes that were flashing with both fear and anger. "Ye dunnae look like a Norman."
"I'm not," he smiled. "I found you, in your village. You're safe here."
He saw the memories flash on her face and watched her color drain.
"I was...I was *dead*," she muttered, clutching at the red seam that ran from under her chin diagonally down across her left collar bone.
"Yes, well, you're not anymore. I'll explain that later. Right now, there are some of my clothes in that pack and a stream nearby. Why don't you go clean yourself up? You can take the dagger with you if you want, but I won't move."
The young woman looked down at herself and her color drained again. She looked to be slightly nauseated and he wondered if she might faint. Instead, a look of grim determination crossed her brow and she got to her feet, picking up the pack and backing away from him.
Several minutes later she returned, tying her hair behind her neck and wearing his green tunic and a pair of trews that she had cuffed at the bottom. He looked up at her and smiled, having suspected that there was an attractive woman under all that blood. She was tall, almost his height, and looked to be pretty strong. The question was, did she have the resolve to learn to fight with a sword?
She stopped at the edge of the firelight and frowned a moment, then dropped the pack and took two steps forward. "Who are ye then?"
"My name is Peter Lenahaughn. And yours?"
"Sarah MacGreggor," she sat down a few feet away from him and stuck the dagger into the ground between them; a visible line he knew better than to cross. "Well then, Petey Lenahaughn, 'ow about ye tell me why it is I get this funny ringing in me head when I get close to ye. I dunnae think it's yer good looks."
"Do you think Mac will find them?"
Richie's words brought him back to the present with a jolt. Adam turned from the window he had been staring out of. It was late evening, Sarah and Amanda had been gone for nearly twenty four hours. Something must have happened by now.
"I don't know. I doubt it."
"Why didn't you go with him?" Richie asked.
"What would be the point in that? Besides, the last time I tried to interfere, Sarie clocked me one with the hilt of her sword."
Richie chuckled, then got very serious. Ordinarily, he wouldn't presume to offer unsolicited conversation to the older man, but even since the incident in Glenstrae, Richie had felt a new affection toward him. He supposed that was due to the part of Sarah he carried inside.
"You should tell her how you feel."
"You're giving me advice?" Adam turned to face the window again, the image of Sarah by the fire back in 1068 still lingering on the edge of his mind.
"Look, I know you know her better than I do, but I have part of her inside me. You guys are just going to go around and around until one of you says something. Or maybe you'll just go around until one of you gets killed."
Adam sighed, he had a point. This had gone on long enough. Too long, really. If and when Sarie came home, he'd tell her. They'd sort things out from there.
He didn't want to admit it, but he was slightly envious of this intimacy that Richie had with Sarah. They had traveled together for centuries and were the best of friends, but Adam had never experienced anything like Richie had. There was a bond between those two that transcended what he had with her, despite their great friendship.
"Where are you going?" Richie asked as he stood suddenly and headed for the door.
"I need some air," Adam grabbed his coat and sword and left the young immortal standing in the middle of Duncan's loft.
"I need air," Sarah moaned, slamming her forehead into the door.
Rick had taken Amanda upstairs about five minutes earlier. At first, Sarah was relieved that this whole mess would be over with soon. Then, she realized that Amanda's chatter had been distracting her from her phobia and the walls had started undulating again.
The sound of the bolt sliding on the other side of the door brought hope and despair at the same time. It was over. But who had won?
Instead of Amanda or Allison, Rick poked his head through the door. "Mrs. Benton told me to open the door, but not to let you upstairs. She said you were afraid of closed rooms."
Sarah gulped at the cool air flowing into the room and nodded.
He propped the door open and sat down on the bottom step. "Are you really a thousand years old?"
"Nine hundred and fifty four."
"Wow," he whistled through his teeth.
She frowned at him. He couldn't walk away with this knowledge. Too many people knew about immortals as it was.
"What's going on upstairs?"
"They're fighting with swords again. Is it true that you guys can only die if someone cuts off your head?"
She heaved a sigh. "You're the one who put a bullet in my gut, you tell me."
"How many people have you killed?"
"More than you want to know," she got up and stood near him, looking down at the crown of his slightly balding head.
"No funny business," he patted the pistol sitting next to his thigh on the stair.
"Of course not," Sarah said quietly, kicking him in the jaw with the ball of her foot. It was a move she had practiced at least a million times against walls and enemies alike.
The man's head snapped backwards, making an audible pop that told her she had used too much force. She'd really only meant to knock him out. Sarah reached down and felt for a pulse, but his neck was skewed at a very unnatural angle and there was none.
"Sorry, Rick." She grabbed the pistol and took the stairs two at a time.
Amanda and Allison had taken their fight to the back yard. Sarah nearly collapsed with relief as the fresh air hit her lungs. Then she leveled the gun at Allison's back and pulled the trigger.
"Don't even think about it," she said when Amanda raised her sword to strike a death blow. "I'll pick up Allie's sword and then we'll see what Mac and Petey were so worried about."
Amanda looked down at the young woman lying prone at her feet. "It really was just an accident," she said. "I'm sorry you lost your family."
"Come on, help me get her inside. Then let's get the hell out of here," Sarah grabbed Allison's arms and started to drag her across the lawn.
"What makes you think she won't do this again?" Amanda asked, taking the girls legs.
"She won't. She just needs some time to grieve."
Duncan never would have found them. Allison had taken her prisoners to a house nearly a hundred miles up the coast. After leaving Rick's body at the base of the stairs--hoping it would look like he had simply fallen--Amanda hot-wired the VW and they were on their way home.
"So," Amanda said as they sped down the dark highway, "tell me a Petey story."
Sarah pulled her head in from the open window and looked at the other immortal. Their was an unlikely alliance, but not without potential. "What do you want to know?"
Amanda shrugged. "Richie told me you guys used to fight for money, is that true?"
"I envy you."
"Why, because Petey and I used to beat the hell out of each other so we could eat?"
"No. Because you have this way of getting along with men that escapes me. I mean, they treat you like an equal. Even Duncan."
Sarah shrugged. "But nobody ever gave *me* his wife's emeralds. I'd rather have that kind of power than have to use my sword to prove I'm worthy...that gets a bit old."
"It's all in the way you carry yourself. You could dress like I do and wrap men around your fingers too. You just choose not to."
Sarah shrugged again and a comfortable silence fell between them.
"Thanks," she said suddenly, "for what you did for me back there. I would have lost it if you hadn't been there."
"No big deal. We all have our weaknesses."
Another silence fell. This time Amanda was the one to break it.
"So...tell me a Petey story."
"There are so many of them," Sarah smiled and thought a moment, flashes of their escapades racing through her mind.
"How did you two meet?"
"He was the one who found me in Glenstrae, after the Normans--after Martin--destroyed my clan."
"Sounds depressing. Tell me something about him that no one else knows. No. Wait. Tell me about the time you first realized that you loved him."
"He's afraid of spiders. He gets motion sickness--especially on boats--and he was a *terrible* rider when we first met. Had this mare that must have been about a hundred and fifty and could barely canter."
Amanda looked over at her and raised her eyebrows. "Out with it."
"Okay, okay. But if you say anything to him before I work up the nerve to, I swear I'll take your head off with my bare hands."
Amanda held up her right hand. "Scout's honor."
Sarah propped her feet up on the dash and rested her chin on her left knee. "I walked in on him with another woman once. We were in France. She was the Earl's daughter and absolutely beautiful. Refined, elegant, no scars, no calluses from a sword hilt. She wore silk, head to foot. And I was perpetually grimy from the road and sweaty from teaching her incipid little brother how to ride. Petey and I were supposed to be sparring, but he was late. So, I went up to his room and just walked in without knocking."
"And there they were," Amanda said, shaking her head slowly. She knew what that felt like.
Sarah nodded. "I don't know why I got so mad. I mean, we never had a *relationship* or anything. I'd never even *thought* about him that way. But I just lost it."
"What did he do?"
"Nothing. I don't even think he knew I was there," Sarah paused.
"What happened then?"
"He showed up in the practice yard a couple of hours later--saying he had been discussing military strategy with the Earl."
"Men!" Amanda exclaimed sympathetically.
"Then I beat the crap out of him. I mean, we've always sparred hard but..." Sarah sighed and looked out the window, lost in the memory.
Peter panted and watched as Sarah stalked a circle around him, breathing hard herself. She noted with great satisfaction that his lip was bleeding where she had split it open not moments before. See if that tart would want to kiss him now.
"Take it easy, Sarie," he said.
She swung at his knees, forcing him to engage her. She was using a lighter sword than usual and it felt far more comfortable in her hands than the long sword he had given her two hundred and ninety years prior. Of course, this increased his weight and strength advantage, but she was faster and he was tired from previous activities.
He swung at her chest, but she ducked and jabbed him in the thigh.
"Christ! Knock it off!" He swore, glancing down at the blood welling on his leg.
Sarah swung again, but he brought his sword up to block and used brute strength to force her swing into the ground, thinking he would hold her there until her strength gave out. Sarah responded with a kick to the wounded leg and that just made him mad.
He lunged at her, but she ducked again and threw her shoulder into his chest. They tumbled to the ground, rolling, and Peter took the opportunity to elbow her in the gut.
"What's wrong with you, Sarie?" He asked, grabbing his sword and getting to his feet. He wiped the blood from his chin and looked down at her.
Sarah was doubled over, struggling for her breath, but she glared up at him.
"Are you okay?" He leaned over her and rested a hand on her shoulder.
She grabbed his elbow and planted a foot on his ribcage, pulling downward and flipping him over her head. He landed hard on his back and stared up at the sky, wondering what had gotten into her. Peter closed his eyes for a moment to catch his breath. They flew open again as her sword bit into his throat.
"Okay Sarie, you win."
She stood over him, sweat dripping into her eyes and fire burning in her lungs; her sword leveled for a stroke that would take his head. But, instead of swinging, Sarah slammed the tip into the ground near his cheek and walked away. Peter gave an audible sigh of relief and blinked up at the sky...
"What made you walk away?" Amanda asked, reminding her of the present.
Sarah shrugged. "He looked so damn vulnerable and cute. I couldn't. And then I realized that, if I killed him, I would be even more miserable than I already was."
Amanda nodded. "Then what?"
"The Earl found out about them two days later. We ran like hell. Didn't stop until we got to Germany. About six months later, I went off to fight and came back in time to see a quickening near the inn where we were staying."
"Duncan told me this part. You guys missed each other by minutes and then by six hundred years."
"And what did you think about Alexa?"
"Nothing really. I was happy that he was happy. It's not like I spent those six centuries pining away for him. I mean, I thought he was dead. I didn't realize until recently that I still felt that way at all."
Amanda pulled into Sarah's driveway and put the car in Park. "Well, are you going to wait another six hundred years to tell him how you feel now?"
"I don't know," Sarah got out of the car and shut the door, leaning in through the window. "I'm too tired to think about this right now. Go home to Duncan."
"Don't make the same mistake twice, Sarah," Amanda said, putting the car in gear again. "That's why we have so many years, so we can learn from our own stupidity."
Sarah watched as Amanda pulled out and sped off. Her thoughts went to the conversation she and Petey had in the garden. Maybe Amanda was right. Fate had brought them back together for some reason.
With a sigh, Sarah climbed the stairs to her door. She was exhausted, but showered until the hot water ran cold, scrubbing the grime and blood off until her skin was red. Then she opened every window in the apartment and brought a blanket out onto the balcony to sleep, not ready to be enclosed again just yet.
One more thing. Her sword. She wasn't going to let that out of her sight for a while.
Sarah turned back into the living room and looked to the empty spot above her mantle where the rapier usually hung. Even the scabbard was gone. She panicked for a moment. But the three empty beer bottles sitting on her coffee table gave her a good clue as to it's location.
Adam was sitting on the floor leaning his forehead on the hilt of Sarah's sword when the buzz came, followed shortly by a quiet knock.
This was not the sword he had given her on the shores of Loch Lomand in 1068. That one hung in her office at the university. He had been mildly surprised that she still had it. This rapier was far nicer; had a better balance to it, and was custom built for her hands. Long swords weren't her style anyway...too clunky...too heavy for the wrists that he had taught her to tape by tearing strips from his own cloak. This one was elegant, but lethal. Like Sarie. He groaned inwardly. He should have told her long ago. Back in the Middle Ages. Now it was probably too late.
His back was to the door, but he guessed that it was either Duncan or Richie, coming to tell him there was still no news. Or worse, that there *was* news.
Another knock sounded.
"It's open," he said loudly, not moving.
Sarah walked in and took in the scene, leaving the door ajar behind her. He was wearing the same clothes he had been when she had asked him to go skating. Half-cooked stir fry sat on the stove. A dirty spatula lay on the counter. Her skates sat on the couch and the coffee table was tilting precariously on three legs.
"Well? Anything?" He asked.
"I'd like my sword back, if you don't mind," she said. "Someone once told me never to go anywhere without it."
Adam leapt to his feet and spun around. The sword clattered to the floor.
"Alive and well," she bowed, sweeping her arm out to the side. "Worried?"
"Sarie, what happened? Never mind," he crossed the room in three strides and kissed her. Hard.
Sarah pulled back slightly to catch her breath, but Adam wrapped his arms around her waist tightly and pulled her into another kiss.
"Please don't hit me," he said a few moments later, still holding her tightly.
"Hit you?" Sarah grinned up at him. "Hell, do it again, Petey."
He grinned back and obliged. This time she kissed him back. Hard.
Adam kicked the door shut and thought about carrying her into the bedroom. But he couldn't wait that long. Perhaps that had something to do with the fact that she was already pulling his shirt over his head.
"So, do you think this Allison Benton will come after Amanda again?" Richie asked.
Sarah shook her head. "Allie's not a bad guy, Richie. She was just pushed over the edge. It'll happen to you someday. It happens to all of us."
He nodded and watched as she flipped a stone over her head into the pile nearby. "I've seen it happen to Mac."
Sarah grunted. She'd seen it happen to every immortal she knew. It had happened to her several times. Germany came to mind.
They were almost finished turning over the garden. By this time tomorrow she would be planting. Maybe once the garden was in, things would be normal. She had come to Seacouver to be with friends and live a quiet life. So far, it had been anything but that. Everything was pointing to the suggestion that the Gathering was nigh, and in Seacouver. At least she had the company of close friends to share the anxiety with.
"But good did come out of the whole thing," Richie continued. "I mean, you and Amanda are friends now. And you and Adam finally got together."
Sarah looked over at him with a raised eyebrow.
Richie blushed. "At least that's where I thought you were...I mean...you weren't here this morning when I stopped by and you came home wearing one of his shirts...and you're...well...all lit up."
She grinned, then forced her face into a mock scowl. "Just remember you're here to dig."
"Still, I think it's great. Where is he anyway?" Richie hefted the shovel and turned the sod into the trench.
"Sleeping I expect. I left before he woke up this morning."
"Why? Amanda told us not to expect to see either of you for a few days."
Sarah looked up at the sky for a minute, debating on whether or not she wanted to share such intimate details with him. "I just needed to be outside. He was sleeping on top of me and I couldn't breathe. I'm claustrophobic, you know. And being in that basement for so long didn't help me any. Besides, if I don't get this garden in soon, it'll be Fall."
He grinned at her. "I'm glad you two finally worked things out. It took you long enough."
Sarah squatted and pulled another rock out, tossing it over her shoulder.
"Richie, I'm going to pull a MacLeod here and give you unsolicited advise. If you ever find someone that you can have a relationship with like the one Petey and I have, grab her, tell her you love her, and never let go."
He smiled again. Somehow, coming from Sarah in a casual tone, unsolicited advise weighed pretty heavy and made a lot of sense.
"I'll go get that last bag of peat moss from the front porch," he said, sticking the shovel into the ground and heading for the house.
On his way back to the garden, he saw Adam pull into the driveway. Richie waved and waited for the older immortal to get out of the car.
"I see Sarie's conned you into manual labor as well," Adam said.
Richie laughed. "I don't mind. She's great to be around."
Adam dropped his eyes for a minute, then forced himself to look at the boy. "Is she okay? I mean..."
"She's fine," Richie smiled and chucked him on the shoulder. "She's out back. You should go talk to her."
Adam looked at Richie and couldn't help but feel the irony of the situation. Here he was, getting advice from a mere child again.
"I never got the chance to thank you for what you did in Glenstrae," he said.
Richie shrugged. "It was no big deal."
"If you hadn't been there, she'd be dead."
Richie shrugged again, slightly embarrassed.
"No, really. I owe you one."
Richie smiled. "I'll remember that," he paused. "I think I'll just go for a ride on my bike. Will you take this back to her?"
Adam took the bag of peat from him and smiled.
Sarah knew it wasn't Richie that was approaching from behind, but she didn't turn around. Instead, she straightened up and stomped the spading fork into the ground, looking out across the lawn. Moments later, she heard the sound of the peatmoss thunking to the ground and a pair of very familiar arms wrapped themselves around her waist.
"You know, Petey will kill you if he sees this," she said.
"Damn straight he would," Adam smiled and hugged her closer. "How are you this morning, my Sarie?"
"I'm fine. I'm more than fine. I hope I didn't worry you when I left...I just needed air."
"I panicked for a minute, thinking it was all a dream," he said. "But then I realized that the sheets smelled like you, so I knew it was real."
Sarah sighed contentedly and leaned back against him. "We should have done this a long time ago, Petey. What on earth were we thinking?"
"We weren't. That was the problem."
To Part 6: Nothing Gold Can Stay
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