A Glass Gouse Revisited

The Private Journal of Joe Dawson

May 1st, 1997
It has been three days since the events in Cassandra's apartment, when Methos finished his recitation of the events some three thousand years ago, effectively destroying the last of any sympathy or liking any of us may have still had for him. Adam Pierson, who never truly existed, is dead to us and Methos as good as dead. How he managed to escape from his bonds or even that he had never concerned any of us...when Duncan returned to Cassandra's apartment, Methos was gone; the bindings, cut by some means or another, were bloody, a fact that didn't raise an iota of sympathy from any of us. And that, I suspected at the time, would be the last we ever heard of Methos until, perhaps, the Gathering.

But Richie brought up today a valid concern. Methos, using the persona of Adam Pierson, was still a Watcher and, as such, has access to the Chronicles and whereabouts of every known Immortals. Adam Pierson would never have used that information for his own ends but Adam Pierson never truly existed and it is Methos we must deal with. And it is the overwhelming opinion of all concerned that Methos would use that information for his own means.

A dozen different plans are offered and discarded, leaving us with one iffy proposal that had a very good possibility of going bad on us. If I were to reveal Adam Pierson as an Immortal, then it is very possibility that the Watchers would see him as a threat and kill him and while none of us could honestly say that would cause us any great grief, it is very possible that, as the eldest of the Immortals, Methos is critical to the Gathering and to the Prize. How many Quickenings does the Ancient One carry and what effect would it have to have those Quickenings lost to the Immortals? We will have to carry out this plan very carefully.

May 3rd, 1997
We are in luck. The new Division head of the Watchers is an intelligent woman and I believe she will cooperate, albeit unknowingly, with our plan. Richie has checked out Methos' apartment and discovered that Methos is still in town, single-mindedly packing up his possessions. He seemed to take no notice of Richie's ~Presence~ or perhaps didn't care. Now it's my turn. . .

May 4th, 1997
Today I went to Watchers Headquarters and requested a private meeting with the new head, a woman named Alice Harrison. Once the niceties were done, I brought up my suspicions about Adam Pierson, about an event I "saw" not two days ago when Adam fell wrong and, I was certain, broke his arm but when the excitement died down, no break could be found. Yes, I was certain it broke...I heard it snap and I know that sound. (I should get an Oscar, the performance was brilliant.) I hastened to bring up the "fact" that seven months ago, Adam cut his hand open on a broken glass while helping clean up and not only did I have to take him in for stitches but also to have them removed. He must have "died" the last time he was out of town. . .maybe four months ago. No, Duncan never mentioned that he was an Immortal but then they hadn't meet face-to-face for the past several months. No, I didn't think Adam would betray the Watchers but he never was a physical person. . .he may just use the Watchers to keep himself away from other Immortals. No, I didn't think he knew how to use a sword and MacLeod would not take him as a student. In fact, I think Pierson's on his way out of town. . .someone had seen him packing up everything in his apartment. . .personally I think he's going to run.

Harrison heard me out, thanked me politely and showed me to the door. Now all we can hope is that she would not simply have him killed. That would screw up Cassandra's revenge.

May 5th, 1997
I received a call from Harrison ordering me to Adam's apartment. I called MacLeod hurriedly and he agreed to sneak as close to the building as he could without being seen. If Methos is killed, then he may be able to get the Quickening. Not that he truly wanted it but someone had to get it.

Once there...about 11:00 at night. . .I found Adam "dead" on the floor and four Watchers...Harrison among them. . .there. We waited for Adam to revive, just minutes after I arrived. He was on his feet within seconds of reviving though very disorientated. The look of utter despair on his face when he saw the Watchers was very real, as was the fear when he saw me but he's a survivor and when he realized that they did not know he was Methos but thought he was a new Immortal, he played along, claiming that he was first "killed" some months ago in Los Angles, a victim of a mugging. He'd been amazed to find himself alive and then terrified, uncertain as to what the Watchers would think. He claimed to have been planning to turn in his resignation and leave, maybe find himself a teacher and try to survive.

Much to the relief of both of us, Harrison agrees with him leaving. She would take his resignation, effective immediately. She would notify all the Watcher Divisions and tell them he was now an Immortal, that he would be treated accordingly. The Watchers themselves would kill him if he tried to enter a Watcher building, attempted to contact a Watcher or if he should prove to be a danger to them.

Adam agreed eagerly with everything she demanded of him, seemingly just happy to escape alive, though his eyes were haunted. Apparently he had already returned everything he had borrowed from the Watchers to the headquarters and now only wanted to finished packing his stuff and get out of town. He insisted he had no idea where he was going to go. Just that he was leaving.

Harrison agreed that he should leave immediately but before he left, his tattoo had to be dealt with. Adam said...more like stammered that he would have it removed in the morning but Harrison was firm in saying that Adam would not have that tattoo a second longer then she could help it. Now I know why she had brought two of the strongest male Watchers with her. Before Adam could react...and he had to suspect what was going to happen...they grabbed him, holding him down and muffling his screams while the third man burnt off the tattoo. They could have easily done it while he was dead or even killed him again but this too was part of his punishment. At least that's what I told myself over and over again while I watched, the stench of burnt flesh thick in the air.

Once the forearm had been reduced to just so much charred flesh, the men let him go, not bothering to hide their contempt. Harrison rose from where she sat on the bed and walked out, the others following. I stared down at the weeping man, bothered more by my total lack of feeling than with what had just happened before walking out myself. As I left, I heard the sound of running water and knew that he would survive. Methos was very good at surviving.

May 7th, 1997
Harrison has notified me that Adam Pierson was assigned a Watcher immediately; a man named Bruce "Buzz" Cooper. Cooper is an old hand at Watching, having had three assignments before Adam. As an afterthought, she informed me that Adam had left town, heading southward.

September 29th, 1997
I received a letter from Pierson's Watcher today, despite the fact that I had told him I was not interested in Pierson's fate. This, however, had to do with something odd that happened and he asked for my opinion on it. More to the point, he hinted that I ask my Immortal friends about it and get their input. To record these events accurately, I will simply copy Cooper's letter to me.

If Pierson weren't Immortal he would be dead by now. For the past three months, he has been literally holed up in a fleabag hotel, drinking himself into a steady stupor. It's only been pure luck that no Immortal has passed by or his head would have been taken weeks ago. He leaves his room only long enough to get more liqueur and, on occasion, food. He's shown no inclination to learn how to use a sword or even to own one. I was beginning to wonder if this would turn out to be my shortest assignment yet when *she* arrived.

I was doing my usual duty. . .lounging on the street corner near the hotel playing a bum and watching for Pierson when a girl walked by me. Not a girl from *this* neighborhood. At first I thought perhaps she was a spoiled rich girl come down slumming but then she *looked* at me and I just knew that she had to be an Immortal. Her eyes were old. Very old though, physically, she was perhaps in her late teens. She looked at me in considerable amusement and I felt that she knew who and what I was then she turned and walked quite boldly into the hotel. I had a suspicion then that my assignment was about to end but then I realized the woman did not wear the long coat popular to Immortals and there was nowhere for her to carry a sword.

Description: Five-foot tall, approx. 100 pounds, short silvery hair, mismatched eyes. . .left eye gold, right eye silver. Not a plain woman but not truly pretty either. What could be called "cute". A crooked tooth in the very center of the bottom row of her teeth. Lean, small breasted. Could possibly pass as a boy. Wearing black dancer tights, short jacket with, perhaps?, a tee-shirt underneath, calf-high Native American-style boots. The jacket had a wolf embroidered on the back; a snarling wolf holding a bloody hand in its mouth. What appeared to be a solid silver collar. No rings, two earrings in the left ear, both of which appeared to be dogs or maybe wolves, a broad, smooth silver wristlet on each wrist.

I followed her into the hotel and to the second floor where Pierson's room was. She was pounding on the door when I arrived then, apparently impatient when Pierson didn't answer, stepped back and quite casually kicked the door in. She looked in, said, in a lightly accented voice, "Hello, ashke. Herself would like a word with you." and stepped in, shutting the door behind her. Since she had pretty much shattered the door, she must have used a chair to keep it shut.

She was in there for several hours. I couldn't hear anything that was said or done but more then once Pierson raised his voice and twice there was the sound of shattering glass. It was well past midnight when the woman walked back out, past me and out of the hotel. On the way by, she smiled quite brightly at me and said "Don't you ever get bored? Even just a little?" and then she was gone. I managed to follow her in time to see her get on a motorcycle and drive off.

Description: The motorcycle was like none I'd ever seen before and had no brand name. The expert I spoke with said that the bike must have been custom-made, especially after I described it fully to him. The bike was black with silver trim and had a carved life-sized wolf's head mounted on the front fender. The license plate simply read Wolf. The helmet she put on had a wolf's head stenciled on each side.

The next morning, about eight-o'clock, Pierson left his room. For the first time in a very long time, he was clean, though the clothes he wore were rumpled. He stopped first at a barber's, getting a haircut. . .actually more of a trim. . .and shave. He kept a goatee and his hair still reached his shoulders. He spent the rest of the day shopping, getting new clothes mostly. Despite his haircut, he almost didn't get into the first shop but he waved a handful of cash and was suddenly their best friend. (Note: he must have gotten the cash from the woman. He'd been using a credit card for the past three months.) He then packed everything up in his car and drove away. Only then did I think to check with the desk clerk of the hotel and found out Pierson had already checked out, telling the clerk that anything left in his room could be tossed or kept by whoever wanted it.

I managed to pick up Pierson's trail by pure luck and am currently following him. I have sent a copy of this letter to Watchers Headquarters but thought you, having known Pierson for so long, may know the answers to the following questions:

Who is the woman who visited him? Does she sound familiar to you? And why would she have such an effect on Pierson?
What does the term "ashke" mean and what language is it?
And, more importantly, who is this "Herself" and why does she want to speak to Pierson?

I have talked with both Duncan and Richie. . .Amanda and Cassandra have both vanished. . .and none of us have any answers to these questions. The Immortal Cooper describes is unfamiliar to any of us and even to Conner, whom Duncan sent a message off to in inquiry. She is apparently one of those mystery Immortals that crop up occasionally and who manage to stay out of the way of the Watchers. From the letter, I'd say she knows who the Watchers are and probably knows how to avoid us as well. As for "ashke", well that is probably just one of those dead languages that only Methos knows and the one referred to as Herself. . ..who knows? She could have been referring to. . .well, herself. I sent a message to Cooper's contact stating the above.

September 30th, 1997
On the off chance that I may be interested, Cooper sent me a copy of the reply he received from Watchers Headquarters. No one there knew the female Immortal or knew what her interest may be in Pierson. Or what the word "ashke" meant or who Herself may be. A new series of mysteries, then, to be added to the many others surrounding Immortals.

July 7th, 1998
Cassandra has returned for a visit with Duncan. She seems much more relaxed...not surprising considering that her past demons have been dealt with. When I first saw her, it reminded me of the odd events some two years ago and I pulled out my old journal, asking her opinion of the unknown Immortal and what she said. The mystery word was cleared up. . ."ashke" means "beloved" in a very old language long dead. As for the Immortal, Cassandra could only say that, perhaps 1700 years ago, one of her students had spotted Methos in the company of a woman fitting that general description. From what her student had told her, Cassandra had assumed that the woman was one of Methos' wives and the student hadn't said anything about her being Immortal. As for Herself. . .Cassandra had gone thoughtful on that inquiry and soon afterwards left both the bar and the city.

February 9th, 2000
The buzz alerted Duncan MacLeod long before the Immortal actually appeared. he straightened, sword already in hand, watching the door as the newcomer entered. No, not a newcomer. He relaxed and smiled slightly.

"Hello, Cassandra. Haven't seen you for a couple of years." Then he saw her face and his smile vanished. "What's wrong?"

"Do you know what Methos has been up to?" She asked without preamble.

MacLeod felt an unexpected twinge at the ancient Immortal's name. "No. I haven't kept track of him. Why?"

"Three of my students have turned up dead in the last six months. I think it's Methos who's doing the killing." She said grimly.

"Why?" MacLeod asked and Cassandra threw him a scornful look.

"Revenge! Why else?"

"After nearly three years?"

She snorted. "He's been known to wait longer then that for revenge. He's hunting my students, Duncan. Killing them in revenge for what happened three years ago. He needs to be stopped."

MacLeod felt a twinge of warning, a reminder about her Voice but her words were making sense. He frowned thoughtfully. "Let me give Joe a call and see what their Watcher reports say. . ." He half-turned only to pause as Cassandra gripped his shoulder.

"Why bother Joe? It's Immortal business. I know who killed them and why. And where he might be going next. My newest student is in New York and I just found out Methos is there as well. I've a detective following him, in fact."

MacLeod hesitated. "So you want to go there and talk to him?"

Cassandra smiled, a rather unpleasant smile. "Yes, talk with him. And, if necessary, deal with him. I'm not strong enough to challenge him, Duncan, but you are." She choose not to mention her suspicion that Methos wouldn't kill the Highlander, that the ancient Immortal still cared more about the other man then MacLeod ever would have suspected.

"I don't want to challenge him!" MacLeod snapped and Cassandra realized that, despite everything revealed about Methos three years ago, the Highlander cared about him as well. It looked like she'd have to work her wiles and powers both to get MacLeod into the state of mind she needed him in. In just the right state of mind for him to do what she could not, take Methos' head. But for now she just needed to get him to New York. Cassandra changed her plan slightly.

"You might not have to." She said soothingly. "Maybe we can just talk to him."

MacLeod looked at her suspiciously. "All right." He said grudgingly. "Let me get some things together."

"The plane leaves in three hours." Cassandra said, watching MacLeod walked up the stairs and into the loft. She smiled. So far, so good. If everything went according to her plan, Methos would be dead within 24 hours and if it didn't then that bitch of his would be dead within 24 hours later. Either way, she won.

When MacLeod returned, Cassandra was once again wearing a worried frown. "I hope you don't mind, Duncan but I saw Richie in New York before I came here and asked him to keep an eye on Trish. . .that's my newest student. The one I think Methos is after."

MacLeod frowned but nodded. "He should be able to keep her hidden."

Cassandra allowed herself a smug smile as she followed the Highlander from the building.

Five Hours Later
Joe Dawson mumbled curses as he made his way into his office, cursing that increased in intensity when he spotted the blinking light of the answering machine. He'd spent most of the morning dealing with suppliers and it had not been a good morning. His mood was absolutely foul as he hit the play button and he suspected it wouldn't get any better.

He was right.

The first two message were routine but the third almost made him choke on the beer he had pulled from the refrigerator.

"Joe, this is Mac." As if that voice and accent could belong to anyone else. "Cassandra's in town. . ." Joe barely managed to grab the bottle before it hit the floor. ". . .she's says our old friend is up to his past tricks. . ."

"And you believe her?" Joe snarled at the machine, feeling a year's worth of careful planning slip through his fingers. "Of course you do, damn her."

"I'm heading to New York to help her with it. I'll give you a call once we're there." The message ended.

"Of course you will." Joe snapped, reaching for the phone. The first call he made booked a seat on the next plane headed for New York, the next call was to a now familiar number in the Midwest where a very irritating voice informed him that the lines were down due to winter storms and could he try again later?

Joe resisted the urge to throw the phone across the room and stood, reaching for the bag he kept ready for such emergencies. He'd have to try again once he reached New York. He played briefly with the idea of having the Watchers try and track down Methos but no. That would be too dangerous and just might turn their attention to peoples who most definitely didn't want their attentions.

He hurried from the room as quickly as he could manage.

The Next Morning, New York City
Adam Pierson looked down at the necklace resting on black velvet and imagined it around her neck. . .silver and white gold resting on skin the color of warm cocoa. Beautiful. A fitting gift for the woman he loved. Gently he ran a finger over the metal, ignoring the offended looks the jeweler was giving him. Not used to such scruffy-looking customers, eh? Well, this customer had a gold card. . .actually more then one. . .and he meant to use it.

He straightened, drawing one of the cards from his wallet. He took a quick glance at the name. . .Andrej op Owen. A Welshman. Good. He wouldn't have to fake the accent.

"I'll take it please." He offered the hovering man the card, grinning at the disbelieving look the man gave him. He took the card like he thought it might bite and stepped to the register. His look grew even more disbelieving. . .obviously he just saw the credit limit. . .and then he was back, now all charm.

"Can I interest you in anything else, sir?"

"No, you cannot. The neckl. . ." Adam froze as a ~Presence~ flooded his mind. An Immortal and he cursed his luck. He carried his sword, of course, hidden under his long coat and a few surprises besides but the last thing he wanted was to get into a fight now.

"Sir? Are you all right?"

"Yes. Yes I am. Do you have a pen and paper? Thank you." Ignoring the jeweler's puzzlement, he scribbled a hasty message to Ben and then a short but heart-felt one to Sable. Folding them, he slipped the notes into the box with the necklace. "Have you rung this up? Good. Let me sign. . .all right." He handed the box back to the man. "Could you keep this here for a couple hours while I tend to some things? If, for some reason, I haven't picked it up by, say, four o'clock tonight, could you have it delivered to Ben Phoenix at the Ramada Inn? Here, I'll write that down. He'll pay for the delivery charges. Thank you."

Adam stepped out of the store, looking around. He couldn't see anyone who looked to be the bearer of that ~Presence~. In fact, it felt like the unseen Immortal was moving away, staying just close enough for him to register on Adam's senses. Leading him somewhere. Fine. They couldn't very well fight here anyway.

Since the hotel had been so close to the store and it was such a nice day, he hadn't bothered to drive. Now he began to follow the ~Presence~, wishing that he had brought Nightstorm with him. The massive wolf, while totally uncouth and given to social foopahs that had long since become legendary, could be a comfort. For one thing, no one would even think of double-teaming him with Nightstorm at his back. And then, too, maybe the wolf could have helped him figure out why this Immortal's signature seemed so familiar. In an odd way.

The oddness came in from that rather spectacular double Quickening he and Nightstorm experienced some two and a half years ago. The one that blew out the electricity in not only the school but pretty much the entire town. Among other things, they seemed to be able to share senses now and Adam tended to experience ~Presence~ not only as he normally did. . .a feeling in his mind. . .but also as Nightstorm did. As a result, not only did he "feel" this Immortal but he also scented and even tasted him. If he'd been close enough, he would have seen and heard the ~Presence~ as well. But he had a hard time evaluating what his senses were telling him without Nightstorm to help him.

The feeling of ~Presence~ was being drowned out by smell and taste. . .wild heather and ale. Sweat and musk and the odd taste of wildness carefully controlled and the sharp tang of metal. Definitely male -- alpha male -- and he wasn't surprised to find a surge of rage and challenge flow through him. He found himself peeling his lips back in a soundless snarl, flexing his fingers, and. . .

Realizing that he was rapidly getting lost in the sensations, Adam paused, taking a deep breath, forcing his senses back under control. He was getting better at this. His senses returned reluctantly to human norm and now all he could feel was the buzz of ~Presence~. He smiled slightly and opened his eyes, looking around just in time to see a figure step into a building still under construction. For some reason, it looked like construction had been stopped some months ago. Warily he stepped closer. . .

. . .and froze as a second ~Presence~ swept over him.

A woman this time. He hesitated then cautiously let his borrowed senses extend to this new Immortal. The smell of the desert and taste of bitter almonds. Then the scent of. . .of. . .something. . .flooded his senses and he clamped down on them, shoving them carefully away where they wouldn't distract him, reflecting once again that Nightstorm saw things in a very odd manner.

Slowly he walked forward, not too surprised to feel a third then a fourth ~Presence~ invaded his mind. Disappointed, yes but not surprised. What is the younger generation coming to. . ?

No, not younger. He paused, eyes narrowing. Yes, the last two were young but the other two. . .one *tasted* old, the other powerful. Suspicion nagged at him as he slipped into the building.

Nightstorm suddenly surged to his feet, knocking over the bottle of nail polish and startling the girl intent on painting his claws.

"Hey! Wait a minute! I'm not done!" Bethany Faye wound her fingers in the wolf's ruff and tried to pull him back but he shook her off easily, pacing to the door.

Ben Phoenix looked at the wolf, his eyes narrowing as the huge beast started to whine urgently and clawing at the door. "Damn." He muttered. "Trouble." He stood, hand slipping into his jacket to settle the gun holstered there. "Stay here, kids. . ."

"Not bloody likely!" The oldest of the children was already standing. "Beth, Skrye, Merry. You come. Everyone else, stay!"

Ben shook his head but didn't argue as he opened the door and the wolf darted out.

Adam paused just inside the door, giving his eyes a change to adjust. He wasn't surprised to find himself in the lowest level of a parking ramp. . .they always did make good fighting areas. He wondered briefly why this one was only half-built then shrugged it away. Resisting the urge to chant "Come out, come out, where ever you are!", he walked forward, his Chachokee-made hide boots making no sound on the concrete floor.

The buzz of ~Presence~ told him that the Immortals were up at least one more ramp and he paused, realizing suddenly that they did not know that he knew there was more then one Immortal here. He was still outside of their range. But that double-Quickening that gave him the ability to share Nightstorm's unique view of the world had also expanded both of their ranges of sensing Immortals. He hesitated then stepped back to where a stack of building material rested, settling on it gingerly.

Reaching into a coat pocket, he pulled out Sable's engagement gift to him and looked them over before pulling them on. Just like Sable, to give him something so lovely, so practical. . .so deadly.

He smiled and flexed his fingers, waiting.

Joe got off the plane still muttering curses. At Cassandra and at that thick-headed Highlander as well. And at the flying industry and maintenance trouble and everything else he could think of.

They had come in hours later then was scheduled. Making his way to the nearest phones, he punched in a number, almost falling over in relief when it went through and was answered by a familiar voice.

"Where is he?" Richie hissed when the ancient Immortal did not appear as they expected.

Cassandra stood nearby, her eyes slightly unfocused. She frowned. "He's downstairs. Waiting."

"Figuring the Immortal would come back down when he didn't come up here." MacLeod scowled.

"Planning an ambush, maybe?" Trish said tentatively.

Cassandra shook her head, obviously puzzled. "No. He's just sitting there. Waiting."

The group looked at each other. The plan had been fairly simple. . .lure Methos to an out-of-the-way area and confront him then, if need be, challenge him. Cassandra was smugly confident that she could control Methos. . .that his guilt of three thousand years ago would once again undo him. After all, three years ago he had begged her to take his head. Now she planned to fulfill that request. One way or another.

"So are we going to stay here all day or should we go down there?" Richie asked.

"We go down there." MacLeod said. Holding his sword in his hand, he made his way cautiously down the ramp, the others following. He paused, blinking, at the sight of Methos casually sitting on a stack of building supplies reading a book.

"We meet again, Highlander." The ancient Immortal said without looked up. "Cassandra. Richie. And someone new." Now he looked up, running a practiced eye over young Trish then dismissing her as inconsequential. "My, my. . .the gang's all here. Except for Amanda. And Joe." He raised an eyebrow questioningly at MacLeod.

"Joe isn't involved. And Amanda's in London." MacLeod said automatically, thrown off-balance by the other's casual attitude.

"Ahhhhh. Planning on stealing the Crown Jewels no doubt. Too bad they're fake." He slipped the book into a pocket of his coat and stood. "And to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit? I assume that I am the reason you are here."

"You are." Cassandra stepped closer, smug insolence in her very stance. She searched the other's gold-green eyes for the cowed, broken man of three years ago but saw only the self-assured arrogance of the eldest Immortal. She frowned. "There is a matter of the young Immortals you've murdered over the last six months."

Methos blinked in surprise. "Excuse me?"

"Three of my students have been killed over the past six months."

Methos' eyes narrowed. "I hate to disappoint you, midear, but I haven't taken any heads over the last six months. Been too damn busy." He smiled slightly, a smile that faded at the look of pure rage Cassandra gave him. He shook his head. "You're barking up the wrong tree, Cassandra. I have no reason to kill any of your students."

"Revenge is a powerful motiva. . ." She stopped in mid-word, watching in disbelief as Methos literally doubled over laughing.

"Ahhhh, but you are a funny lady, Cassandra." He gasped, wiping his eyes. "What do I care for revenge?" He shook his head again. "No, look elsewhere, witch. I've no need for revenge." He half-turned toward MacLeod.

"Liar." Cassandra said coldly.

Methos froze then turned slowly. Cassandra took an involuntarily step backwards at the look in the man's eyes.

"You've absolved me of my crimes, remember?" He said softly. "You forgave me three years ago and I. . .well, lets just say that since then I've forgiven myself. Our time is done."

"Then what are you doing here?" She demanded.

He blinked. "I am escorting a dozen kids on a tour of New York museums and to a Broadway play, among other things. What else would I be doing?" Then he glanced at Trish, realization flaring in his eyes. "Ahhhh. . .don't tell me. A student of yours?"

"As if you didn't know."

"Don't sneer. It doesn't look good on you. No, I didn't. Nor, as I said before, do I care." He sighed. "Look, we can argue about this until the day the Gathering arrives but I've things to do. Kids to escort, Ben to rescue from said kids, a wolf to walk. . ." He turned away once again.

Cassandra's sword blocked his way.

Methos looked down at the sharp blade then slowly raised his eyes to stare at the woman.

"Liar." She said softly and Methos heard the Voice weaving through her words. A rage not entirely his own surged through him. How dare this. . .this beta female. . .challenge him!

Cassandra literally felt herself blanch as a cold rage filled Methos' eyes, turning them a hard, brilliant gold. His lips peeled back in an inhuman snarl and she stepped back, fear filling her. Her response was automatic as she raised her sword and swung it down, issuing a challenge she never meant to make, barely hearing MacLeod's shout to stop, that Methos didn't have time to draw his sword.

For a moment, she thought she had done it, had gotten the jump on the ancient Immortal and that her sword would take his head but then Methos threw up his hands, crossed at the wrists, and the sword clanged loudly on the metal and ivory braces covering his hands. He pushed the sword away then swept it to one side with the back of one hand. There was a sharp "snikt" sound and Cassandra flinched back as pain flared through her cheek. She reached up and drew back a hand covered with blood. Only then did she see the long claws protruding from the bracer; three sharp, articulating claws that extended a good foot from Methos' knuckles.

"Wolverine claws." Methos said pleasantly. "A gift from my fiancée. Along with. . ." He did something unseen and a new set of claws appeared, directly from the region of the fingertips this time; sharp cat-like claws. "This, on the other hand. . ." He thrust a hand into his pocket and drew out what appeared to be nothing more than the hilt of a sword. ". . .is a gift from the best man-to-be." He tossed it casually into the air. In mid-air, the hilt separated and a blade articulated from it. When Methos once again caught the now-closed hilt, he held a katana. He smiled at Cassandra. "I've been wanting to give it a trial run."

"Fiancée." She snarled. "She doesn't know a thing about you, does she?"

Methos' eyes narrowed. "Actually, she does. And you know about her, do you? That's explains what this is really about."

"What?" MacLeod stepped closer, his eyes narrowing. "What does this explain?"

"Wise up, Mac! This isn't about dead students. This is about the fact that I've managed to achieve some happiness. That little sham Cassandra perpetrated three years back was just that. . .a sham! She hasn't forgiven me. . .no. She plans on turning up every time I have a moment of happiness and destroying it. Or rather she wants you to!"

"You don't deserve to be happy!" Cassandra spat.

"Screw you, lady!" Methos snarled and swung his sword. Cassandra barely managed to parry it.

"Duncan. . !" she cried out but Methos blocked any chance of her getting away.

"Oh no. You challenged me and I accept. MacLeod cannot interfere!" He moved toward her in something akin to a dancer's movement, feet seeking sure purchase on the concrete floor. "I suspect you can screw with his mind in many matters, Cassandra, but not where honor is concerned."

Cassandra found herself fighting for her life; caught, she couldn't help but think for some reason, in the jaws of the wolf. For there was indeed a wolf in Methos' eyes. A really pissed-off wolf who wanted not her head but her throat.

"You are weak, Methos.' She said between clenched teeth, using the Voice to convince Methos that he was indeed weak. "Weak and soooooo tired. . ."

His sword struck hers so hard that Cassandra's hands went numb. He locked their swords together and lunged forward so that they were chest to chest, face to face.

"Wanna bet?" The eldest Immortal snarled, his voice guttural, his rage combined with Nightstorm's making him immune to her power. He shoved her away and resumed the battle.

MacLeod watched the fight, wishing fervently that he had a camera. What was occurring before them was quite literally a dance, a very deadly dance. There was the purest grace in Methos' movements and a barely restrained savagery that startled the Highlander. A combination that made Cassandra seem clumsy in comparison.

Cassandra parried a blow, all too aware that she was sweating profusely. She had always counted on her Voice making the difference in a fight but it didn't seemed to work here. If anything, it only seemed to make Methos sink even further into that wolf she saw in his eyes. He fought quietly, a snarl on his lips, marking her with sword and claws alike. He bled from only two shallow wounds, she from over a dozen. She was losing.

But she had a contingency plan, one she knew Duncan wouldn't approve of but she could ease his mind about it later. It wouldn't be the first time she'd changed his mind. Cassandra almost smirked at the thought but settled on sending a pre-arraigned signal to her student.

Methos jerked and fell to his knees as the throwing knife struck him in the back. He heard MacLeod's shout of anger, for all the good it would do either of them. With a look of triumph, Cassandra raised her sword, savoring the taste of long-awaited victory then it was her turn to jerk uncontrollably as shots rang out loudly in the room. Six of them; though only four hit Cassandra. The other two hit her student. Both were dead before they hit the ground.

A man appeared in the entranceway. Tall, broad-shouldered, attractive in a California beach boy-kind of way with shoulder-length blond hair, he kept his gun very carefully leveled at a point between MacLeod and Richie.

"I think it would be in your best interest to stay put, thank you kindly." The man dropped to one knee next to Methos, one hand reaching out to steady the dying man, not taking his eyes from the others.

Methos blinked up at him, his vision already fading. "Don't kill her, Ben." He rasped and the newcomer grinned.

"A little late for that."

"You know what I mean. Promise."

Ben shot a quick glance at Methos then sighed. "All right. Promise."

"And the others. . .don't let them kill her either."

Ben grimaced. "You never let them have any fun...all right, all right. I won't let them."

Methos smiled then his eyes rolled up into his head and he fell over, dead.

Ben's hand shot out to catch Methos' head before it could hit the ground. Still keeping the gun leveled, he eased his way down to a cross-legged position, shifting Methos' head to rest in his lap. With a casual jerk, he pulled the knife from the Immortal's back then reached over to pick up the man's sword, closing it with a flick of his wrist.

"Stay put." He said pleasantly to MacLeod, letting the gun waver slightly in his direction when the man made a move to approach. "I've no qualms about blowing your head off. Work just as good as a sword, I figure."

"Goes for you too, Ryan." A boy had appeared next to Trish's body, a gun held steady in his hands. "Back up."

Richie cautiously obeyed, staring at the kid in surprise. His surprise only deepened when another figure appeared, a girl even younger then the first kid. She stooped to pull Trish's sword from her coat then darted forward to stand over the fallen Cassandra.

"Bethany. . ." Ben said chidingly. "I promised."

"*You* promised." The girl said, her emphasis on *you*, the sword wavering near the woman's neck.


The girl scowled. "She lost! She cheated! Her head's forfeit!"

"To Methos." The boy walked over to stand next to her, stooping to pick up Cassandra's sword with both hands.

"He won't take it." The girl finally lowered the sword.

"His choice." Ben said, his answer melding with the boy's thoughtful "But Nightstorm might. Or Sable."

The girl grinned. "In that case, let's think happy thoughts."

"Beth. . . ." Ben said in the weary tones of someone who had said that one too many times. "Throwing knife, throwing knife, throwing knife. . ." Another girl was stooped over Trish, pulling knife after knife from under her coat. "Talk about overkill! Why didn't she just go with a. . .oh." She pulled a gun from under the coat. "Must have gone with what she reached first." She completed her search of Trish in silence, accumulating an impressive pile of knives, guns, holsters, and sheaths before she was done. She and yet another girl gathered up the weapons and retreated to where Ben sat.

"What about her?" One of them asked, pointing at Cassandra with her chin.

The boy was already searching the woman, pulling out a gun and a dagger. "Not much. My guess is she counted on *him*", he nodded at MacLeod. "to save her and if that failed, for her pet over there to do exactly what she did."

"Cheat, in other words." One of the girls was trying on a forearm sheath. "Oh, I like this."

"Binding. Gets in the way of the bracers." The other girl raised her hands and MacLeod saw that she wore the same bracers as Methos had. They all did, in fact.

"Let me see the other one." Beth joined the two girls in sorting out the weapons with a casual yet knowing air.

"How long before he revives?" The boy asked as he cleaned Cassandra's sword, using her coat to wipe the blade free of blood.

"A few more minutes." Ben replied. "Find a perch, Frenchy, and stay out of the way. You too, gels."

MacLeod followed this exchange with growing disbelief. Methos had obviously told these people about the Immortals. How many others knew. . ?

The sense of ~Presence~ slammed into him like a sledgehammer and he took a step back before he could stop himself. The sheer power of the approaching Immortal almost overwhelmed him. A glance at Richie confirm that he too had felt it. His face had gone white and he looked ready to pass out.

"What the hell is that?" He gasped.

"Ahhhhh." Ben studied them for a moment. "Nightstorm must be coming. Let's all hope Methos wakes up before he tears Cassandra's head off."

"I thought we were supposed to hope the other way." Bethany looked up, a matched pair of throwing knives in her hands.

"Beth. Play nice." Ben tilted his head, listening intently. "Here he comes."

There was a click of claws and the new arrival appeared. He paused briefly to look over the others with a disdainful eye then stalked over to give Cassandra an intent once-over.

"Nightstorm. . ." Ben said. "Methos doesn't want her dead."

The wolf threw him a sharp look and a snarl, ignoring the other Immortals who were gaping at him.

"Impossible!" MacLeod breathed. "Animals cannot be Immortals!"

This brought laughter from all the children and a grin from Ben. "And what is man but an animal? Nightstorm. . ." The last was in warning tones and MacLeod looked back to see the huge beast with his jaws opened, hovering over Cassandra's neck. He snarled, a deep, reverberating sound that echoed in the huge room. He snapped his jaws a couple times, the long, sharp teeth mere centimeters from the slender neck then stepped back. With a raised leg, he expressed his opinion of the woman, an act that brought laughter from the children, before striding over to Methos and stretching out next to the man, rested his chin on the man's shoulder.

"That wasn't necessary." MacLeod growled.

"Fine. Explain it to *him*." Ben snapped.

"Explain what to whom?" Methos said in a groggy tone, his eyes blinking open. He focused on the wolf's paws. "Who's been painting 'Storm's claws? Beth?!"

"Nightstorm was just expressing his opinion of Cassandra." Ben said hastily and Methos slowly sat up to look at the 'opinion' in question. He burst out laughing.

"I just can't take you anywhere." He rumpled the wolf's ears and stood gingerly. "Well, that was stupid of me. . .trusting her to fight fair." He looked at MacLeod. "Guess I had too much faith in the boy scout."

"I doubt he's a boy scout any longer if he's been listening to her." Frenchy said.

"Hush, child. Who else is here? Ahhhh, Skrye, Merry, come on, gels." The two girls darted forward and into Methos' arms for a quick hug. "Go watch outside, midears. Beth, you too."

Beth lifted the sword, resting the flat of it on her shoulder as she turned to leave the building.

"Hey! That's Trish's sword!" Rich started after the girl only to skid to a halt when she spun, sword coming up to point at him.

"Not any more." Beth said. "My sword now. Bugger off." And she whirled, marching out the door.

"Bugger off? Who teaches her these things?" Methos asked, staring after the girls.

Ben looked at him.

"Oh. Right. I really have to learn to keep my voice down. Now where we. . .ahhhhh. Welcome back, Cassandra."

The woman sat up slowly, looking dazedly at the wet stream soaking her leg then at the snarling wolf now standing next to the ancient Immortal. Methos absently thumped the huge beast's side.

"You'll have to forgive him. I just can't seem to teach him any manners."

Cassandra stared at the wolf, her eyes wide. "No. . ." She breathed. Her eyes shifted to Methos. "Where did you find him?" She demanded.

"I didn't. He found me, bless his wild heart. He's my friend, Cassandra. Quite literally the other half of my soul. The one friend you could never influence." He looked directly at MacLeod. "In any way, shape or form."

"That's impossible!" The woman scrambled to her feet, hate making her ugly. "You weren't meant to find him!"

Methos smiled. "Wasn't I? Re-read the prophecies, Cassandra. And this time, translate them truly, not as you wish to see them."

"What are you talking about?" MacLeod demanded.

Methos looked at him almost sadly. "Ask your girlfriend, MacLeod." He said gently. "If she even lets you remember this conversation, that is."

MacLeod frowned, throwing Cassandra a suspicious look. Methos noticed and smiled.

"Ahhhhh. Maybe you're not as ensnared as she'd like to think. Maybe there's hope for you yet." He studied him, narrow-eyed then stooped, reaching down to tug hard on one of the disks dangling from the top of his boots. He tossed it to the Highlander, who caught it hurriedly. "Here, this'll help. Keep it close to your skin. It'll negate the effects of her Voice. Don't ask me how. It just works. And if you don't believe me," Methos looked directly at Cassandra. "Just ask Joe." And he smiled.

To be continued...

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