Beginning One

Cassandra followed Duncan MacLeod to the barge, feeling smugly happy. Despite the fact that the Highlander was still friends with Methos, he had said the ancient Immortal was not in Paris. In fact, he had said he didn't know where he was; that Methos had abruptly left Paris without notice and hadn't yet returned.

So when Cassandra had "accidentally" run into Duncan on his arrival from Seacouvor, he had been free of Methos' influence for at least two weeks. So now she could work her wiles and get Duncan to do what she wanted. Not for her, of course but for his own good. The last thing he needed was Methos worming his way deeper into his life. No telling how long the game would amuse the Old Man before he decided to take Duncan's head.

Then the buzz hit them.

A powerful, oddly elongated buzz, deep and brassy with something quite close to a series of children's laughter toward the end. Duncan's head shot up and Cassandra cursed mentally at the joy on his face.

"Methos." He murmured then threw her a sharp, apologetic look.

"Did you know he was here?" She asked.

"No, no. He probably picked the lock." MacLeod smiled faintly, his expression belaying his next words. "It pisses me off when he does that." He said fondly as he walked up the gangplank.

The door suddenly burst open and the man in question stood tensely in the doorway, a sword in his hands. He stared at them for a long moment, his face fierce with challenge then he abruptly relaxed.

"MacLeod! What the hell are you doing here?"

"I live here." MacLeod said, surprised not at the bared sword but at the challenge. Methos was famous among his friends as avoiding challenges. And then there was the Old Man's appearance. Haggard was a good word for it. His face was too thin, his eyes hollow with lack of sleep. "What are you doing here?"

"I. . .ahhhh. . ." Methos flicked a look over his shoulder. "I needed a place to stay. Why bother paying for a place when you weren't using this one."

"Oh?" Duncan hide a smile. "Who is she?"

"Nobody!" He snapped, startling both Immortals with his fierceness. He caught himself and smiled sheepishly, pulling his Adam Pierson persona on like a cloak. "I mean. . .look MacLeod, I can't go into it. Would you mind going to a hotel? I'll even pay. . ."

"You? Separating from money?" MacLeod couldn't help but tease the ancient Immortal. His stinginess was almost as legendary as he was. "She must be something special."

"Or he." Cassandra said coolly, walking with obvious intent toward the door. Methos' sword blocked her way though his eyes never left MacLeod.

"Please, Duncan?" Methos asked quietly, staring at the Highlander with pleading eyes.

MacLeod blinked in surprise. "Sure. You'll have to introduce us later."

Methos smiled in relief, lowering his sword. "And chance you stealing her away? Never. Now go away, children."

"Not without an introduction." Cassandra snapped, darting forward before either man could stop her.

"Cassandra! Dammit, don't!" Methos literally howled, leaping forward but he was too late. Cassandra threw him a triumphant look before turning to smile at the barely seen figure on the other side of the door.

"Hello. I'm. . ." was all she managed to say before the figure launched itself at the Immortal. She got a bare glimpse of short, brown hair and feral hazel eyes before she was falling back from the attack. The next thing she knew she was tumbling over the railing and into the frigid waters of the river.

Snarling curses, Methos grabbed the figure, manhandling her back into the barge and wrestling the knife from her, leaving MacLeod to fish the sputtering woman from the water. By the time both of them were once more on dry land and entered the barge, Methos had gotten the knife away from the woman and her settled on the couch. He threw them both a tight-lipped disgusted look as he threw the knife across the room, sinking it into a kitchen cupboard, keeping one hand tightly on the woman's arm to stop her from leaping at Cassandra again.

Which seemed to be a very good possibility. She kept glaring at the Immortal witch, teeth bared, giving the impression that, given half a chance, she's be more than happy to use them to take off her head if she couldn't get her hands on a knife.

Methos spoke to her in low, soothing tones, patting her back gently. MacLeod eyed them both as he almost shoved Cassandra into the bathroom, digging out and tossing one of his jogging suits in with her before closing it firmly on her protests. He started toward the pair on the couch only to freeze as the woman turned her snarl on him.

"Back away, MacLeod. I just managed to get her use to Joe. And he's a lot less threatening then you are."

"Who is she?"

"The end result of a promise made millennia ago." He caught the look on MacLeod's face and sighed. "It's a very long story, MacLeod. Don't press for it. Not now. I've too many irons in the fire as it is. Just...could you get Cassandra away as soon as possible? Please?"

"I'll try."

The door swung open and Joe stepped in, a bag in one arm and a look of dismay on his face. "What are you doing here?" He asked MacLeod peevishly.

"It's my place!" He snapped then looked apologetic. "Sorry, Joe."

"It's all right. There's a couple more bags in the car. You mind?"

It was on the tip of MacLeod's tongue to say Methos could do it but then he had his hands full with the woman. He just nodded and walked from the barge to Joe's truck. Gathering together the bags, he walked back, shutting the door behind him with his heel and thumping the bags onto the counter. During his brief absence, Cassandra had emerged from the bathroom and Joe was gaping at her in dismay.

The witch was being careful to stay by the bathroom and hence across the room from the stranger but her eyes were locked on her, studying the woman intently. The woman studied her just as intently, a half-snarl on her lips.

"Telling stories about me, Methos?" The witch asked.

"Hardly." The man snapped, waving a finger in front of the woman's face to get her attention. She followed the moving finger with her eyes then darted suddenly forward to grab it gently in her teeth. She made an odd huffing sound that could be a laugh and Methos smiled at her. "Yes," he said fondly. "You got me. Now let go, dear. I need that finger." She opened her mouth, nipping the end of his finger as he withdrew it and he chuckled. "Come on, duck. We have to get some more clothes on you."

MacLeod blinked, realizing for the first time that the woman wore nothing more then one of Methos' oversized sweaters. Methos stood and walked to a pile of clothes on a nearby table.

"Wait a minute, Methos. I've been thinking. . .why does she wear that sweater of yours?" Joe was setting out groceries, moving around the kitchen with ease.

"Because I put it on her when she was unconscious." Methos frowned over the clothes. "She's had it on for three days, y'know."

"Think, Methos. About the clothes. Where she sleeps. How she eats. . ."

Methos froze, eyes narrowing. "Damn!" He spun and dove into a pile of his own clothing, yanking out jeans and a shirt. "Joe, you are brilliant!" He vanished into the bathroom, ignoring Cassandra as he passed her.

"I keep telling people that but they never seem to believe me." Joe muttered. Grabbing a package of Oreos, he hurried as best he could to the couch and sat down near the woman, just starting to get agitated at Methos' disappearance. She settled down as Joe offered her a cookie and then another. She even ate them properly, twisting them apart and eating the insides first.

"What's going on, Joe?" MacLeod asked, stepping forward only to pause at the woman's feral look. He moved back until he could sink into a chair.

"It's Methos' story. You'll have to ask him." Joe moved the package of cookies to one side, holding a stack that he patiently gave to the woman one by one.

"What's her name?" Cassandra asked, stepping closer. The woman froze and snarled at her, showing her teeth. Cassandra continued walking until she stood behind MacLeod and may have continued except for Methos' sharp voice behind her.

"Don't push it, Cassandra. There's knives missing from the kitchen and I don't know where she may have hidden them."

"Now you tell me!" Joe said plaintively, reaching for his cane and levering himself up, taking the Oreos with him. Methos walked over to stand over the woman.

He had changed into the jeans and shirt, carrying what he had been wearing in his hands. "Now, Evie, you have to get use to wearing clothes. More clothes. Here, these." He set the clothes next to her; a jogging suit. "I want you to put these on. I'll help you. All right?"

"Evie?" Cassandra said.

"Eve, actually." Joe made his way back into the kitchen. "Seemed appropriate."

Eve was poking lightly at the clothes Methos had offered her. Slowly, ignoring her audience, she spread them out on the couch, leaning close to sniff then, with a feline grace, literally rolled on them, much like the cat her gracefulness suggested. She smiled smugly, almost purring in delight.

Methos smiled. "Nice guess, Joe."

"Hey." Joe clanged a pan onto the stove. "She wears your sweater and won't wear any of the new clothes. Only uses a blanket you used. She's only just started eating food I give her...most times she only eats food you've handled. Why?" Joe grinned as he dropped hamburger into the pan. "Scent."

"Now let's see if I can get her into them." He looked crossly at MacLeod and Cassandra. "I don't think we need an audience. How about you two go find a hotel room?"

"I'd like to know what's going on here!" Cassandra snapped.

"It's none of your damn business!" Methos almost yelled. The woman shot straight into the air, coming down wild-eyed and on all fours, looking ready to attack. Methos took a deep breath, forcing himself into calmness. "It's all right, Eve. Calm down." He glanced at the other two Immortals then shrugged. "To hell with it."

He stepped closer to the woman. "Come on, Evie. Stand up. That's a gel." Taking the clothes in one hand, he took one of Eve's hands in the other. "Let's get you washed up and changed. Okay?"

With gentle words and a coaxing hand on her back, Methos lead Eve into the bathroom, carefully keeping himself between her and Cassandra. He closed the door firmly behind them. Soon they could hear hooting laughter as he presumably helped her clean up and change.

Duncan sat there, frowning. Now that he was sitting still without the distraction of the woman and Methos, he could feel an odd wrongness. Normally he could feel Methos quite clearly, mainly due to the double Quickening they had shared a year ago.

end beginning one

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