Disclaimer: Highlander belongs to Panzer/Davis. I'm just playing in their sandbox!
With a muffled curse, Duncan threw himself into an armchair and glared at trembling immortal hunched on the couch across from him. Life would have been so much easier if he’d managed to take Tribeau’s head before he’d opened his mouth. But he didn’t, and now he found himself in a dilemma.
If even a fraction of what Tribeau had said was true, every immortal’s life could be in jeopardy, and Tribeau was possibly the only one who had the knowledge to stop it, what a depressing thought. Drumming his fingers on the chair’s arm, Duncan glowered in frustration at the cowering immortal. “If I find that you’ve lied to me, Tribeau, your head will be mine,” he threatened, watching the other immortal’s reaction to his words.
“I’m telling you the truth, MacLeod,” the other immortal insisted. “Believe me, I wish I was lying.”
Duncan didn’t know what to think, everything about Tribeau’s body language told him that he was telling him the truth. Duncan examined the other immortal’s face yet again; to say that Tribeau was a shell of his former self was putting it mildly. The man looked liked he had been on the run for months. Of course, if what Tribeau had told him was true, that is exactly what he’d been doing. “How could you have done it?” he roared, frustration colouring his voice. “Of all the foolish god damn things to do…”
“Believe me, Highlander, if I had known then what I know now, there would have been no way I would have agreed to it. The man may have been my teacher, but my loyalty does not stretch to certain suicide.”
“Oh nooo,” sneered Duncan. “Of course it doesn’t stretch to that - homicide, yes; psychotic tendencies, definitely; but never suicide…oh no, never that!”
A spark of Tribeau’s old arrogance resurfaced. “Listen, boy, you may not like what I am, you may not understand who I am, but that is beside the point. This may not be the gathering, but if my teacher gets his way, it might as well be. Like it or not, you need me alive. Without me, our kind is as good as dead – so get used to having me around.”
Wordlessly, Duncan got to his feet and headed for the door, only stopping when his hand was on the handle. Without turning around, he spoke, his voice flat with barely repressed rage. “I only need you for as long as you are useful, Tribeau,” he warned. “The very moment I suspect that you’re lying to me, you will loose your head – oh, and I wouldn’t advise you to take any strolls while I’m gone. I may need you alive, Tribeau, but it will be on a very short leash.”
“Having me ‘watched’, are you, McLeod?” Tribeau asked mockingly.
Duncan threw him a level look as he pulled the door ajar. “Always, Tribeau, always.”
The warmth of the pub was a welcome change to the weather outside and Methos took an appreciative sip of his beer, ignoring the covert glances Lee gave as he played with the stem of his brandy glass. Having a quiet drink with another immortal didn’t seem to be a common occurrence for Lee, and his uneasiness was almost palpable. “So, Mr Lee, have you lived in London long?”
“Not long, just a couple of years, and you?”
“I’ve just moved here. It was time for a change of venue, if you know what I mean,” replied Methos.
Lee nodded in understanding and relaxed into his chair. “After the events of the week, I’m thinking of moving on myself,” he commented. “I don’t know about you, but I prefer the quiet life and London seems to be getting a little crowded.”
“Tell me about it,” Methos drawled, lifting his glass in salute. “Which reminds me, have they started following you home yet?”
“No, why do you ask?” Lee asked suspiciously, stiffening in his chair.
“I noticed the wedding ring,” Methos admitted, gesturing at his hand. “It might be best if you move your family to another abode for a while, Mr Lee. I’ve already had one unexpected ‘visitor’, and I’ve a funny feeling that there are more to come.”
“You seem to very certain that there is a pattern, Mr Pierson. Has it occurred to you that there may not be one?”
“You mean; have I considered the possibility that this might be a random sequence of unfortunate occurrences? Yes, I did, for about two minutes. Then I came to the conclusion I was better off paranoid, than dead.”
“Plan for the worse, hope for the best,” Lee agreed reluctantly. “So, what is it you want of me, Mr Pierson?”
“Information,” Methos replied succinctly. “Did they give a name, had you met any of them before, did you get any indication of their age…you know, the usual”
“Name, rank and serial number, in other words,” Lee said dryly. “They were both strangers to me, I’m afraid, and only one of them gave a name; he called himself Eoin McGovern. If I had to guess their age, I’d say that neither of them was old enough to have seen their second century.”
“My first three challengers fitted that same profile; I was beginning to think that I’d stumbled across the pattern until the last one showed up. He was older, had at least three or four centuries under his belt.” Methos told him glumly. “There has to be some connection, some reason. Something other than…well…you know…”
The unspoken possibility loomed large in the air as they contemplated their drinks. “I’d rather consider the alternatives first,” Lee admitted. “I’m not tired of life, just yet.”
“That makes two of us,” Methos admitted. “Oh shit…”
“What?” asked Lee, sitting up straight, his eyes scanning the room.
“Oh, nothing,” muttered Methos as he watched Amy storm in through the pub door and make her way, unerringly, toward their table. “Just an unexpected addition to our little party.”
“Why, Adam, fancy bumping into you here, of all places,” Amy announced cheerfully as she pulled out a chair and sat down with a sigh of pleasure.
“Yes, it’s a small world, isn’t it,” He replied testily. “What brings you here, Amy?”
“Well, what can I say? I was in the neighbourhood on… business, and I decided to take shelter from the rain. It’s not the kind of weather a girl likes to stand in, for hours on end” Amy replied with a false, bright smile.
“Subtlety, thy name is not Amy, ” Methos thought ruefully as he noticed the questioning expression on Lee’s face.
“So, Adam, are you going to introduce me to your delightful friend,” Lee asked softly, leaning forward in his chair.
Amy, meet Tsi Tsung Lee. Tsi Tsung, this is Amy…a work colleague,” Methos muttered, hoping that Amy wouldn’t say anything to contradict him.
“Greek antiquities,” Amy supplied with a saccharine smile. “And how do know our little Adam, Mr Lee?” It was all Methos could do to prevent himself from grinding his teeth.
“Adam and I are new acquaintances, we have…mutual friends,” Lee replied, prevaricating.
Oh, that’s nice,” Amy chirped sweetly, and Methos seethed helplessly inside as her smile widened across her face. “It’s always nice to make new friends, isn’t that right, Adam.”
“Oh, indeed,” Methos muttered, not trusting himself to say any more, the girl was going to get herself killed, one of these days.
“Of course, it’s not as nice as bumping into old friend after not seeing him for a while,” Amy continued. “Why, just today my father was telling me he’d just met an old friend he hadn’t seen in ages, he and Mr Tribeau had so much to catch up on…”
“Is that so?” Methos asked tightly, his mind racing with the possibilities as he studied her face.
“It is,” Amy told him, flatly.
“Okay, that’s it,” drawled Lee. “Will somebody tell me what the hell is going on?”
“Oh, wonderful, why is it that I can never find him when I need one? If I was planning a heist, he’d be here, ” Amanda thought sourly as she approached the barge. “He’d be up on deck, hands on hips, a big disapproving look on his face as his big brown eyes…aw heck, why isn’t he here.”
With a disgruntled snort, she dropped her luggage on the deck before turning once again to examine the riverbank. She had spent the best part of the morning hopping in and out of taxis in order to shake her tail, but she couldn’t assume, even for a moment, that whoever was following her wasn’t aware of her friendship with the Highlander.
Pulling her coat close, she perched on the corner of her suitcase. It was bitterly cold, but she didn’t want to risk going down below. With only one entrance, there was also only one exit and, with mortals on her trail, she couldn’t be certain of what might jump out of the shadows. She felt safer on deck.
An hour later, Amanda was on the verge of abandoning the barge and find herself a hotel, when she felt the touch of another immortal’s hum dancing along the edges of her senses. Jumping to her feet, she sighed with relief as she spotted Duncan’s familiar form approaching before bounding down the walkway. “Duncan, darling,” she purred, throwing her arms around his neck.
“Amanda, love, what are you doing here?” he asked, surprised.
“What? No kiss?” she countered. “Aren’t you happy to see me…” Her protestations were soundly silenced by Duncan’s mouth as he caught her in a deep, lingering kiss. “I’m glad to see you, Amanda,” he eventually murmured, when they came up for air. “But I really need to know why you’re here.”
“Someone is following me, Duncan. Well, actually, some people are finding me.”
“One that I know of, yes, but there is also at least one mortal following me too.”
“I don’t suppose there could be some reasonable explanation for your sudden popularity?” he asked, linking arms with her as he led her back up the walkway.
“If you’re asking me if I’ve been a naughty girl recently, I assure you, Duncan, I’ve been a model citizen of late,” Amanda told him, half torn between annoyance and amusement as she stepped onto the barge’s deck. “There has been…” Turning to face him, she forgot what she was going to say as she examined the expression on Duncan’s face. “What’s wrong,” she asked softly.
“Let’s go down below, first,” he suggested quietly, picking up her luggage as he did so. “I think you may need a seat to hear this.”
Watching the Highlander trot silently down the steps into the cabin, Amanda didn’t even try to suppress the shiver of foreboding creeping down her spine. Suddenly, Paris didn’t feel so safe anymore.
Grumbling under his breath, Joe sucked his stinging thumb. He had just broken yet another guitar string and, this time, he hadn’t been quick enough to get his hand out of the way. Serves him right, he supposed, for taking his frustrations out on his guitar.
Propping the guitar against his stool, he made his way off the stage and slipped behind the counter, giving Mike a nod as he poured himself a drink. Damn it, he hated it when he felt he was out of the loop, he felt so helpless.
“Good-day, Mr Dawson.” It was the smooth voice of Mac’s watcher, Wilkins. “I thought I should inform you that Amanda Darieux is in town. She and MacLeod have been closeted in the barge for the last hour, and have just emerged.” Well, that explained why Duncan hadn’t been answering his phone, Joe supposed.
His phone had rung only twice since Amy had hung up on him; Duncan’s and Tribeau’s watchers reporting in. Apparently, Duncan had left Tribeau’s flat a few hours ago but, beyond that, they had little information. The only thing they could say, with any certainty, was that there had been no quickening. On top of that, Amy had yet to call back. This, more than anything, worried him. He’d had gotten to know his estranged daughter rather well over the last few years, and he was more than familiar with the mischievous lilt that coloured her voice when he’d last spoken to her, it usually spelt trouble. The phone rang and he pounced on it, earning a puzzled look from Mike as he did so. “Joe Dawson,” he barked.
“Thanks, Wilkins, keep me posted,” he muttered, hanging up the phone and ignoring Mike’s enquiring gaze as he took another sip of his drink. He had barely placed the glass to his lips when his mobile, tucked into his shirt pocket, began to ring. Pulling it out, he breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the registered number, it was Methos.
“Hey, Joe,” drawled the ancient immortals voice in his ear. “I’ve heard that you’ve been having an interesting day.”
“That is one way of putting it,” Joe muttered back. “Is Amy with you? She’s had her phone turned off all evening.”
“She’s here, all safe and sound. Actually, we’re about to board a flight for Paris. We should arrive at Charles De Gaulle in about an hour,” came the laconic reply. “We’ll make our way directly to the bar from there; any word from Mac, by the way? He’s not answering his phone.”
“Yeah, there is a lot of that going around, today,” grumbled Joe. “I haven’t heard from Duncan directly, but his watcher has kept me up to date. He visited Tribeau earlier on, but didn’t take his head. Why, I don’t know. He’s apparently at the barge at the moment; Amanda has just arrived in town.”
“Interesting, well, its all for the best, I suppose.”
Was it his imagination, or was there something a little off in Methos’ voice? “Um, Adam, are you okay?”
“Oh, there is nothing wrong, if that is what you’re asking. Just a few unexpected twists to the day, I’ll explain everything when I arrive. Talk to you later, Joe.” The phone went dead, and Joe resisted the urge to phone him back, he’d probably already turned it off, anyway.
Unconsciously, he began to hum a little tune under his breath as he picked up a rag and started cleaning down the counter. Soon, he would have some answers.
The phone rang…
Peering around the car rental lot, Methos eventually spotted the SUV he had rented inside the terminal and stalked over to it, not bothering to check if the others were following him. “If only Amy had kept her mouth shut until Lee had left, ” Methos fretted inwardly, as he pulled out the keys. “As if this day hadn’t had enough surprises to begin with, now I have to deal with another immortal tagging along. ” Lee didn’t seem a bad sort, Methos admitted to himself, but he was an unknown, and that never boded well, in Methos’ opinion.
He had ended up having to fill Lee in on the events of the previous year - well, the official version of it anyway. The one which stated that the Methuselah stone was destroyed in a volcano in Russia, not buried under the patio of his holiday home in Bora Bora. He had avoided mentioning the watchers by name as well, though that had been more difficult. Lee had raised an eyebrow on more than one occasion, especially when he asked how a bunch of mysterious ‘historians’ got themselves involved in the whole fiasco. He didn’t look too impressed with Methos’ skimpy explanation, either. But, satisfied or not, once Lee realised the implications of their story, he declared he was coming along. “I want to meet this immortal,” he’d told them, an ominous note in his voice. “I want to see what such a man would look like.”
It was going to cause problems when they got to Joe’s, he mused. With Lee in their midst, it will be hard to talk openly about their plans. This could get extremely messy, extremely fast.
Popping the boot, he threw the carryall into it and grumbled under his breath as Amy threw her luggage on top, earning him a scowl from the pretty watcher. All of them were travelling light, Lee most of all. When he had learned that they were leaving for Paris on the next flight, he phoned his wife and told her he was leaving town for a few days, he also told her to go and stay with her sister while he was gone, Methos noted. He suspected that Lee thought he would have tried to ditch him if he’d gone home to pack – and he was right, Methos admitted silently to himself.
“So, this Joe, he is a historian?” asked Lee again, when they had all piled into the car.
“Yes,” Methos replied shortly.
“But he also runs a bar?”
“A blues bar?”
The conversation had followed this vein all through the flight. Lee wasn’t happy with their story, he knew that they holding something back, but Methos didn’t want to tell him more until he’d run a background check on him, and he hadn’t had enough time to log onto the watcher database before he left London. He didn’t think he was going to find any nasty surprises, but he had been fooled before and it never hurt to be cautious. Better paranoid, than dead, as he had told Lee, earlier on.
Paris traffic was light, they had taken the last flight out of London and it was nearly midnight. He had tried Mac’s number, yet again, when he landed, but he still had his answering machine turned on. If he wasn’t at Joe’s he’d have to go looking for him, and he wasn’t too happy with the idea that Lee would probably insist coming along while he did so.
It wasn’t long before they pulled into the alley beside Joe’s bar, and Methos’ heart sank when he noted the absence of another immortal’s buzz; where the hell were Duncan and Amanda?
The bar was quiet when he entered, and the chairs were already overturned and propped on the tables. Joe had obviously decided to close early. Not that surprising, all things considered, but Methos couldn’t help but feel uneasy as he eyed the empty room.
As Lee and Amy tumbled in through the door behind him, Methos scanned the room in puzzlement. Joe was nowhere to be seen. He had to be around here somewhere, he reasoned, or else the door would have been locked. “Joe?” he called out. Quickly, he descended the steps and looked around.
“He might be in his office,” Amy suggested.
Nodding, Methos headed for the door beside the stage.
The door opened before he reached it, however, and a relieved looking Joe poked his head out. “Hey, old man, am I glad to see you…” The grizzled old watcher stiffened as he noticed Lee’s presence. “You brought a friend,” he stated grimly, giving Methos a hostile look as he stopped in his footsteps.
“Joe Dawson, I want you to meet Tsi Tsung Lee,” Methos said.
“Pleased to meet you, Mr Dawson,” Lee said softly. “Mr Pierson speaks highly of you.”
“Charmed, I’m sure,” Joe dryly replied, but Methos noticed how some of the tension had gone out of his shoulders as he heard Lee’s name. His name had obviously rung a bell, and whatever Joe knew about Lee, it didn’t alarm him. It didn’t clear the annoyance from Joe’s face, however.
“Where are Duncan and Amanda?” Amy asked, breaking into the lingering silence. “Neither of them are answering their phones.”
“They’re on their way here,” Dawson said quietly, glancing at Lee uncomfortably. Methos knew how he felt; he wasn’t looking forward to this, either.
Tired of the growing uneasiness in the room, Methos strolled over to the bar and stepped behind the counter. “I think we all need a drink, what is everybody having?” For a moment, he thought that Joe was going to argue, but the blues man just shrugged instead. “Well, that doesn’t bode well, ” Methos thought wryly as he watched Joe perch himself on one of the barstools. It was almost a ritual for Joe and him to squabble over his cavalier appropriation of Joe’s beer taps. Obviously, something had happened since they’d last spoken.
I’ll have a scotch on the rocks,” he volunteered, and Amy will have…”
“A gin and tonic,” she piped up, snagging the stool beside her father.
“What will you have, Lee,” Methos asked, managing to keep his voice genial. Damn it, why couldn’t the man take the hint and go to the toilet, or something? He needed to talk to Joe, and fast. The usually chipper watcher looked like he’d been run over by the ten tonne truck. What the hell was going on?
“A cognac, if there is any,” Tsi Tsung replied. He was still standing, Methos noticed.
“Its Paris, Lee,” Methos pointed out. “There is always cognac.”
“True,” Lee admitted, a small smile hovering on his lips as he gently sat on one of the barstools.
The room was silent; the unease growing by the second as he quietly prepared the drinks. If MacLeod didn’t arrive soon, Methos irritably thought, he just might end up taking Lee’s head just to break the tension.
Catching his eye, Amy leaned forward, a determined look on her face. “I don’t know about you,” she muttered softly into his ear as bent his head to listen. “But I’ve had as much of this as I can take. We either trust him, or we don’t. Either way, I think the decision has to be made now.”
“Duncan isn’t here yet. We’ll wait,” Methos whispered back, placing her drink in front of her. “Now, drink up, there’s a good little watcher.” Amy’s lips tightened into a thin line as she glared at through narrowed eyes, and Methos braced himself for angry words. The argument never came, however. Giving him an abrupt nod, she took a sip of her gin and tonic. “Well, that was…too easy. What the blazes is she up to.”
That puzzle fell to the wayside, however, as the approach of another immortal brushed along his senses. Taking out two extra glasses, he pulled the bottle of scotch off the shelf. Company was coming.
As one, Lee’s and Methos’ heads jerked up, and Amy looked expectantly at the door. Sure enough, it swung open, and a cold breeze ushered in Duncan and Amanda.
“About bloody time,” her father called out, as the two descended the steps. “I was beginning to think we might have to send out a search party.”
“Sorry, Honey, Amanda said breathlessly, eyeing Lee uncertainly as she neared the counter. “We were unavoidably detained.”
By now, Duncan had also spotted the new immortal, and casually sauntered over to Amanda’s side. “Duncan MacLeod,” he said levelly, ignoring the chuckle that came from behind the bar.
“I’ve heard of you Mr MacLeod,” Lee replied easily. “My name is Tsi Tsung Lee, and I haven’t come looking for a fight. Well, not with you, anyway.”
“Well, now that you two have squared off,” interrupted Methos, leaning his weight on the bar. “Perhaps we could move on to the subject at Hand – Tribeau.”
Amy eyed her ‘assignment’ warily, his manner was jovial, but his eyes gave him away. She had seen that look before; she’d had the dubious honour of seeing it on more than one occasion in the last few weeks - when he had taken the heads of those who had hunted him.
“Tribeau?” asked Duncan, throwing a questioning look in Lee’s direction.”
plate without having an unknown in our midst.”
“Tsi Tsung knows about our present situation,” Methos explained wryly. “He wants to lend a hand.” Joe stiffened in his chair
beside her and, in a flash; Amy knew what he was worried about. Tapping his arm, she caught his eye and shook her head
slightly, smiling as he relaxed into his seat. Inwardly, though, she worried about the days ahead. Lee was not stupid, and
she sincerely doubted that they could keep the watcher’s secret from him for much longer.
A small frown appeared on Amanda’s face. “I see,” she murmured as she sat. “Well, many hands make light work, I suppose.”
“I don’t suppose any such thing,” Duncan pronounced, scowling. “We have enough on our
Methos eyed the Highlander warily as he took a sip of his beer. “Okay, Mac, spit it out. I know Tribeau is in town, but his presence is hardly a world-shattering event. His power base was effectively neutralised when we destroyed the stone.”
Wearily, Duncan threw himself into an empty chair. “It’s a bit more complicated that that,” he said softly. “Apparently, Tribeau wasn’t working alone. He had – has – a boss.”
“Interesting,” drawled Methos. “And does this boss have a name.”
“Tribeau calls him Patrick Wren, but I doubt it’s the name he was born with. Tribeau intimated he was extremely old – and extremely psychotic.”
“Oh, I see, and is that your professional opinion, Doc,” Methos asked, a slight smile growing on his face. “Really old, and not the full shilling?”
put it this way. Not only does this guy want to rule the world, he also has a step by step plan...”
“Which ended in a heap of volcanic ash,” Methos pointed out.
“…And so, he’s moved onto plan B.”
A small hush fell in the room as Duncan’s words sunk in. Eventually, Amy couldn’t take it anymore. “Oh for crying out loud,” she blurted out. “Just tell us what he said”
“It’s quite simple, really,” Duncan said, sighing. “Once he’d learned that the Methuselah stone had been destroyed, he decided to make a bid for only other thing he knows of, which promises that kind of power. He’s going after the prize.”
“I hate to break it to you, Duncan,” Methos muttered. “But we’re all after the prize; it’s the whole point of the game, after all.”
“True,” Duncan conceded. “But I think that even you’ll admit we’re not all trying to deliberately jump-start the gathering…”
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