Highlander: Time and Again - 12 - We'll Always Have Paris by Emby Quinn
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HIGHLANDER
We'll Always Have Paris

Fanfiction by Emby Quinn


Disclaimer: I do not own Highlander or any of the characters therein, nor do I own any characters based on actual historical personages. All original characters are my own creation.--eq

***

Le Blues Bar
Paris, France
4 April, Present Day


Damn, I'm getting old.

Joe Dawson winced a bit as he straightened up from behind the bar. He'd done something to his back that morning--twisted the wrong way, trying to keep from falling over and embarrassing the hell out of himself--and it was starting to give him hell. By morning he'd probably have to start gulping Advil or Aleve to get him through the day.

He groaned as he sat down on a barstool, setting his cane to one side. He'd been walking on artificial legs for thirty years now--over half his life--but he'd never really gotten used to them. I guess nobody ever really does. The damn things got heavy after a full day of walking around on them. At least I don't have to go to the gym to keep in shape, he mused wryly. Every step is a full-body workout for me.

And at least he wasn't in a wheelchair like some of the poor guys who came home from Viet Nam. Even if his two feet were prostheses these days, he was still standing up and walking around on them. I came home with parts missing, sure, but I managed. My brain didn't get scrambled, either--I guess I have the Watchers to thank for that. They gave me a reason to keep on going when I felt like I had nothing left to live for.

In a way, he owed his life to the society, and up until about ten years ago he'd devoted himself totally to the "cause". Then he'd met the Immortal he was responsible for keeping track of--Duncan MacLeod--and from there, he was drawn inextricably into the world of the Game. He and Mac had been through the fire together more than once, and they'd become as close as brothers.

The Watchers still frowned upon open association between Watchers and Immortals, but since the Sanctuary travesty they'd become a lot more lenient. Dawson had even managed to convince the Tribunal to reinstate Adam Pierson, and to keep his true identity--that of the world's oldest Immortal, the legendary Methos--a secret from the society at large.

The door opened, and a tall, lean figure entered the bar. A familiar figure at that. Dawson's bearded face broke into a wide grin and he stood up. "Hey, Adam, good to see you, buddy!"

Methos smiled and held the door open behind him. A tall, well-dressed blonde appeared at his side. "I'm sure you remember Lucinda," he said, and the woman smiled and gave him a small wave.

"How can I forget a knockout like her?" Dawson took Lucinda's hand and kissed it in true Continental fashion. "Enchante."

"Comment ça va?" she responded with a small smile. "Il est bon de vous revoir."

"Vous avez une belle voix, chere Lucinda. Aimez-vous chanter?"

"Mais oui, J'aime chanter."

"Peut-être vous m'obligerez tandis que vous êtes ici?"

"Flatteur!"

Methos cleared his throat. "Joe, vieux copain, flirtez-vous avec mon épouse?"

Dawson chuckled. "Maybe a little." He winked at Lucinda. "Seriously, though, we're having open mic on Friday, and if you guys are still in town then...?"

Lucinda smiled brightly. Dawson remembered meeting her back in New Orleans, and thinking how cool and distant she'd seemed--polite, but very remote. Her demeanor was much warmer now, and she looked amazingly young without the carefully-applied makeup. She could pass for a college sophomore, or maybe even a girl fresh out of high school on her first trip to France. "I'd like that a lot," she said.

"Grab a table, you two," Dawson said, grinning. "Your usual, buddy?"

Methos pulled a chair out for Lucinda. "Yeah, that'll be fine."

"And for the lady?"

"Cinzano," he said before Lucinda could speak. "On the rocks."

"Comin' up." With a friendly nod, Dawson made his way towards the bar.

Methos smiled, taking in the familiar surroundings of the bar. Dawson had done a bit of remodeling, but it was still substantially unaltered from the time--had it really been almost a year ago?--when he'd stopped by on a semi-weekly basis, usually whenever he was in the city.

"You're happy to be back," Lucinda observed with an affectionate smile.

"Mm." Her hand was resting on the table, and he reached out and took it. "I'm glad you're here," he told her. "I spent most of my last trip to Paris missing you terribly."

She glowed at this rare open admission. "I had to fight the constant urge to jump on the next flight from New Orleans and show up on your doorstep."

"I wouldn't have minded."

"No, but..." She chuckled a bit at herself. "I have to at least pretend--once in a while--that you're not my whole world, right?"

He grinned at that. "No one should build their life around anyone else. Particularly people like us. You're stronger than that, Lucinda."

"I know, I know. I'm perfectly aware that I can live without you." She smiled at him fondly. "I just don't want to."

He winked back at her. "That makes two of us."

The server, a chocolate-skinned girl with a bright smile and numerous long braids falling down her back, brought their drinks on a tray. "Voici vos boissons. Voulez-vous quelque choses à manger?"

"Non, merci." Methos took his beer and winked at the server. "Nous pensez-vous pourriez-vous laisser ensemble sans mon communication préalable d'épouse?"

The girl giggled. "Joe m'a averti au sujet de vous," she said, nodding towards the bar before moving away.

"Look at you," Lucinda scolded--or pretended to--as she took a sip of the Cinzano. "Flirting with barmaids. You're a shameless reprobate."

"Hey!" Methos gave her an affronted look. "Some of my best wives have been barmaids--or at least they were when I met them."

"Well, there's no need to audition her," she sniffed. "You've already got a wife."

Methos made a sound under his breath like a yowling cat, just loud enough for Lucinda to hear, and she scoffed at him.

The next moment, they both stiffened and exchanged looks of wary alarm. Too late, Methos realized he was sitting with his back to the door. Bloody hell. A year in New Orleans has definitely affected my habits. He fought the urge to turn around, hoping that not making eye contact would be enough to keep the approaching Immortal from noticing him. "Are they coming in?" he murmured over his glass, his stomach sinking when Lucinda gave the barest affirmative nod. "Well, I hope they look friendly."

"I don't know. This one could be trouble." Lucinda fixed her gaze past Methos, no doubt on the Immortal who's just entered the bar, alerting their senses. She raised her chin a bit, an unmistakable expression of defiance on her features.

"Oh, Lucinda, don't stare at them. We can slip out the back--"

"Too late, he's heading this way."

"Damn!" Methos set his beer down. "Whatever you do, Lucinda, let me deal with this." Maybe I can talk us out of it, he thought furiously. It's a public place, Darius' church isn't far, and maybe--

"They'll let anybody in here nowadays, won't they?" said a familiar voice, still carrying faint traces of a Scottish burr, even after four hundred years. Lucinda broke into a wicked grin.

"MacLeod?!" Methos turned and gaped up at the Highlander, who stood directly behind his chair. "What--you--Lucinda!" he glared at her as she dissolved into giggles. "You let me think that--that he was--"

"Oh, that was classic!" she sputtered. "I couldn't help it, you make the cutest faces when you're scared."

"I wasn't scared," he growled. Then, in a more or less normal tone: "Afternoon, Mac, why don't you join us?"

"Don't mind if I do." Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod pulled a chair from another table and sat between the two of them. "So what brings you to Paris? Business or pleasure?"

"Neither. The gallery's undergoing some renovations."

"Unexpected ones," Lucinda muttered into her glass.

MacLeod's eyebrows hitched up. 'Trouble?" he asked Methos.

"Nothing I couldn't handle," the elder Immortal replied with an air of I ain't talking about this. "Anyway, it's over and done. So while the place is being set right, I thought it was high time we came back for a visit--since Lucinda hasn't set foot out of New Orleans since the 1920s."

"Once I find somewhere I like I tend to put down pretty deep roots," Lucinda explained to MacLeod. "It gets a bit awkward after twenty or thirty years, but so far all I've had to do is change my name and wear my hair differently and nobody so much as blinks."

"She's as much a chameleon as I am, in her way," Methos said with an affectionate glance at her. "She hides in plain sight and to date no one's caught her out."

"Well, I don't exactly blend in, do I? I don't have your gift for being unobtrusive, darling."

"Which is something you and the Highlander have in common."

MacLeod snorted softly, then smiled at the pretty server who brought him his beer. "Merci, Michelle."

"Bon revoir, Duncan," she replied with a saucy grin before heading back to the bar.

"Michelle," Methos murmured. "Pretty name for a pretty girl."

"Down, boy," warned Lucinda. "You're a married man, remember?"

"I can look," he protested. "I'm married, not dead."

"Oh, you can look? But if someone flirts with me, you bare your teeth and growl."

Methos did exactly that, adding a snap of his teeth for good measure, and MacLeod chuckled at his clowning. "You two sound like an old married couple--oh, wait, you are an old married couple. Emphasis on the 'old' bit."

"Oh, you're so funny," Methos drawled at him.

"Will Amanda be joining us?" Lucinda asked. "Or did she change her mind about that 'playing house for a century or two' idea?"

"No, she didn't change her mind. She's taking classes at the Cordon Bleu."

"Classes? Amanda?" Lucinda was stunned.

"Cooking lessons," Methos said, smirking. "Well, you can't say she doesn't need them."

"Be nice," Lucinda scolded lightly.

"What for?"

"Why don't you two come over for dinner tonight?" MacLeod suggested. "Amanda could use the practice."

"I'm not so sure I'd want to be practiced on--ow!" Methos winced as Lucinda kicked his ankle under the table.

"We'd love to," Lucinda assured MacLeod. "What time?"

"Is seven good for you?"

"Perfect," Lucinda said before Methos could speak.

"It's settled, then. I'll ring Amanda and let her know to set two extra places." He took out a cellphone and dialed, pretending not to notice the glare Methos gave Lucinda as he left the message on Amanda's voice mail.

"You're going to pay the hospital bill if I have to get my stomach pumped," the elder Immortal growled.

"Oh, don't be such a wuss," Lucinda hissed at him. "It's not like she can actually poison us. Besides, maybe she's actually serious about learning some real domestic skills."

"And maybe I'm the Pope."

"God, when did you become so cynical?"

"I've always been cynical, where have you been?" He reached out and tweaked her nose playfully, making her yelp and swat at his hand. Quick as thought he trapped her fingers in his, and pulled her close for a kiss. She only pretended to resist for a moment.

MacLeod snapped his phone shut and cleared his throat significantly. He smothered a smirk at how the two of them jumped apart like a couple of kids caught necking on the porch. "So how long are the two of you going to be in town?" he asked.

"Not sure," Methos replied with his habitual careless air. "I sold my old place here years ago, of course--we're set up at the Ritz for the moment."

MacLeod whistled. "Traveling in style, are you? You did say once you wouldn't stay in any hotel 'Adam Pierson' could afford, but I didn't think the--being a college student paid that well these days," he amended quickly at a warning glare from the other man. He'd almost said "Watchers" before catching himself.

"He's not paying for it, I am," Lucinda said. "I insisted, I can afford it, and I'm not going to stay at a Sofitel, not in Paris. I'm picky that way."

"She is." Methos nodded enthusiastic agreement. "Honestly, sometimes there's no living with her."

She scoffed at him. "There's some old property in Bordeaux we're looking to re-acquire, if we can. Even if the house has fallen to absolute ruin--which it probably has--we can always rebuild if the foundation is sound."

"Are you planning on moving back to France?" MacLeod asked, genuinely curious now.

"I like to keep my options open, MacLeod," Methos said. "You should know that by now."

"And you?" MacLeod turned his attention to Lucinda. "What about those 'deep roots' of yours?"

Lucinda shrugged. "It's a compromise. Adam likes to keep on the move, I like to settle down--we do our best to accommodate each other." She leaned closer and lowered her voice. "Anyway, I've been 'Lucinda Drake' for a long time now, and after two and a half decades...?"

"People are going to be clamoring for the name of your plastic surgeon," MacLeod finished for her.

"Or looking for aging paintings in your closet," Methos added. He glanced at his watch. "Well, if we're going to make it for dinner tonight, we'd better get going, hadn't we?"

MacLeod checked the time. "It's barely two o'clock!"

"Adam wanted to give me a bit of a walking tour," Lucinda explained as she stood up. "I haven't been to Paris in a very long time, and he's eager to show me how things have changed."

MacLeod watched Methos toss a handful of francs on the table and guessed, correctly, that he wasn't invited along. "Well, the barge is where it's always been. I'm sure you can find it, old man."

"If I can't, you'll know I've gone suddenly senile." Methos nodded to Dawson, and Lucinda waved brightly as they left.

MacLeod gave Michelle a wink and a nod as he left the table, carrying his drink to the bar where Dawson was counting receipts. "It's good to see him back, isn't it?" he said, perching on a barstool.

"Yeah, and it's good to see the old guy so happy. She's good for him, I think."

"They're good for each other." MacLeod smiled wistfully and finished off his beer. "You know, he told me once that he'd never consider marrying one of us--too much of a commitment, he said."

"Man's got a right to change his mind, Mac."

"I thought that was a woman's prerogative."

"Nah, women just say that so they can claim an unfair advantage." Dawson put a fresh beer in front of MacLeod. "So when're you and Amanda gonna tie the knot?"

MacLeod scoffed aloud. "Don't get carried away, Joe. I don't think the world could take another Robert and Gina di Valicourt. Amanda and I are fine just the way we are. How's that saying go? 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'"

"Yeah, whatever." Dawson grinned. "But this time I want an invitation, dammit."

***

Cimetiere de Montparnasse
Paris, France
4 April, Present Day


"...I've never seen the like. Gondeliers in Venice are insufferably arrogant, intolerably self-assured, they're worse than the Mafia, very close-knit and absolutely contemptuous of foreigners, particularly tourists...but by the end of the evening, Alexa had him in the palm of her hand. He'd've jumped naked into the canal if she'd asked him to." Methos sat cross-legged on a faded army blanket on the ground, an open scrapbook in his lap. Lucinda knelt beside him, looking over the contents of the book with avid interest. They were sitting beside a simple gravestone bearing only two lines: Alexa Bond - Beloved. No date of birth or death, no ornamentation, only who she'd been, and what she'd been to the man who had loved her with all his heart.

A red necktie, formerly belonging to the gondolier in question, was carefully pinned to the thick rag-cotton page of the book. When Methos turned to the next page, Lucinda pointed at a particular photograph which showed the head of a marble statue in profile. "That's you, isn't it?"

He chuckled wryly. "That was me, yes. Olympia, a few thousand years ago. I won a couple of footraces and they insisted on carving a likeness of me. Bit embarrassing, really, but they didn't have video feeds or webcasts back then." He carefully lifted the photo from its mount, studying his own visage carved in marble and crowned with laurel leaves. "Alexa took this," he said wistfully. "She visited the museum at Olympia while I was in Paris trying to see MacLeod through a--particularly difficult experience. She thought this had to be an ancestor of mine and she took the snap because she thought it would amuse me." He looked at Lucinda and held the photograph up beside his own face. "She showed it to me when I got back, and of course the moment she saw me with it she knew the resemblance was too perfect to be hereditary."

"So you told her?" Lucinda's voice was very gentle.

"I did. I told her everything." With utmost care he tucked the photograph back in its place. "Well, not everything, obviously--five thousand years is a lot of history to try and compress down into a single conversation--but I told her about my immortality." He gave her a sad smile. "I even told her a bit about you. Oh, not about the Great Fire," he hastened to add at her look of dismay. "We'd gotten on the subject of witchcraft, and the European witch-hunts--bit morbid, really--and I told her about what happened in Salem."

Lucinda rolled her eyes. "Oh, God, I'd almost forgotten that. Nasty business."

Methos shook his head. "Do you know, they've been looking into that, and they've discovered that the hysteria of 1692 was most likely caused by a fungus infecting the grain supply? That the symptoms of the 'hexed' colonists--hallucinations, fits, convulsions, delerium--were brought about by eating bread and meal made from the tainted harvest?"

Lucinda sniffed. "Just as you'd tried to tell those fanatics at the time. Not that they listened."

"No, they killed me and hanged you as a witch." Methos rubbed his midsection ruefully. "Nothing says 'heretic' like a pitchfork in the belly."

"It's no fun being hanged in your nightdress, either."

"Hey, I cut you down after they left!"

"For which I thank you." Lucinda sat back and drew her knees up to her chest. "After Athens, where did you go?"

"Ahh. Santorini." Methos flipped to the next page, which held a menu printed in Greek and a snapshot of a glorious sunset. "Alexa loved it there. The food, the people, the water, the beaches, the architecture, the sunsets...she fell completely in love with it." His finger traced the border of the photograph. "She said she would have liked to live there. We spent a whole night talking about what kind of house we'd buy, what kind of flowers we'd have in the garden, the parties we'd throw for no good reason, the lies we'd tell people about the wild adventures we'd had..." He blinked hard, took a deep, steadying breath. "A fortnight later she was lying in a hospital in Geneva, breathing through a tube." He shut his eyes tight and let the scrapbook fall and buried his face in his hands. It landed on the grass and fell open. Lucinda saw that there was only one item affixed to the last page: a death certificate. She closed it carefully and put an arm lightly around Methos' shoulders.

She looked over at the tombstone and smiled a little. I should be jealous of you, Alexa, she said inside her heart to the spirit of the woman buried there. You touched Methos in a place I never could, and even now you own a part of him that can never belong to anyone else. If you were still alive, he would still be with you, and not with me. Maybe he'd even trade my life for yours if he could. I'd never ask him, and he'd never tell me. I should be jealous of you, Alexa, but I'm not. I'm glad you were part of his life. You gave him a reason to keep living, even after you were gone. So long as he remains alive, you'll never be forgotten. That is your immortality.

I wish I could have known you. I think we would have been friends. We certa/inly had one very important thing in common--this man who loves us both, who loves you even now, and always will. And somehow I'm glad of that, too.


"I was with her when she died." Methos' voice was muffled against his palms, thick and choked and strange. "She slipped into a coma some time before the end, but I kept talking to her, hoping that somehow she could still hear me. I don't remember a fraction of what I said to her, I'm not even sure I was speaking English half the time...but I didn't stop. I couldn't, somehow. They'd taken the tube out--it wasn't helping her anymore, not really. A couple of times she gave this funny hitch, and I was sure it was over, then she'd drag in another breath. She fought every inch of the way. Even unconscious, she wouldn't give up." His voice broke, and he threw his arms around Lucinda, pressing his face against her shoulder.

She didn't say anything. She held him and rested her chin on top of his head and let him silently weep, feeling tears spring to her own eyes. Tears for him, and for her, the friend and sister she'd never know.

He started speaking again, hoarsely, in a breathless rush. "When they came to take her away I wanted to scream at them. I wanted to curse them all for not being able to save her. Curse myself as well. There was nothing I could do." He dragged in breath, a painful sound. "Nothing anyone could do. She was dead. My Alexa. Dying from the moment I met her, and I knew it, and accepted it, or fooled myself into thinking I had. Six months, twenty years, what difference does it make? They always die. Always. Not like us. If we're smart, if we're lucky, if we're good enough we can live forever, theoretically. Not them. Never them. No matter how smart or lucky or good they are, they always die."

A dozen responses sprang in turn to Lucinda's tongue, but she held herself in check. Nothing she said could do him any good, or would hold any wisdom or enlightenment for him now. Let him talk. He needs it, more than he needs anything else.

Even me.


After a few minutes, his breathing steadied, and he disentangled himself from her and sat up. He wiped the back of his hand across his tear-streaked face. "That's what decided me, I think," he said, sniffing hard. "More than anything else."

Lucinda drew her knees up again, wrapping her arms around them. "What did you decide?" she asked, as gently as she could.

He rubbed his forehead and sighed deeply, then smiled at her. His dark eyelashes were still wet. "When I found you alive--after the initial shock--I finally understood something I never had before. Not in all the years I've lived."

She nodded encouragement. "And that was...?"

"Death is certain--for mortals," he said gravely, slowly regaining his composure. "But life isn't certain for any of us, mortal or Immortal. Anything could happen at any time. Immortals die, even the best of us--or the worst of us. Ramirez, the Kurgan, Darius, Kronos, Rebecca, Kerrigan, Marcus Constantine--"

"Constantine's dead?" Lucinda said, shocked out of her careful patience. "When?"

"I'll tell you later. The point is--any of us could die. That's why it's so important to spend what time we've got--whatever time we've got--living. As much as we can, for as long as we can." Methos had mastered himself again, once more completely in control of himself. He turned, sat on his heels, and took Lucinda's face in both his hands. "When I found you again, I knew--I still know--that there's always the chance that I could lose you. This time for good. Immortality is no guarantee of eternity, but I'm not looking for guarantees anymore." He licked his lips and made the most honest confession he'd given to anyone since Alexa. "I always married mortal women because I knew that, someday, there'd be an end to it. I avoided commitment to any Immortal woman--to you--because the end isn't certain, isn't foreseeable. In ten years, a hundred, a thousand, we might tire of one another. Chances are, we will tire of one another, soon or late. What then? Do we part friends and go our separate ways, or do we try to kill each other? Don't answer that," he cautioned, putting a thumb over her opening lips, "it was a rhetorical question. Your answer now might not be your answer then, anyway. That's not the point. I don't care what's going to happen in ten years, or a hundred, or a thousand. It hardly matters now, does it? Now, at this moment, I'm fully prepared to spend the next five thousand years with you. More, if it's given to us. Forever. If I feel differently tomorrow, I'll worry about it then." He smiled, looking at her with unconcealed, uncalculated adoration. "Do you understand?"

She smiled and touched his face in turn. "Better than I ever have before," she admitted. "Darling man."

He stood up and helped her to her feet. While she shook out the blanket and folded it, he picked up the scrapbook and tucked it securely under his arm. He stood beside the tombstone for a few minutes, his hand resting on the cool granite. He said nothing, and Lucinda waited a respectful distance off until he patted the stone a final time and walked over to her. "Thank you," he said.

She shook her head. "For what?"

"For being you." He put his free arm around her and they walked out of the cemetery together.

***

Old Port Waterfront
Paris, France
April 4, Present Day


"Don't talk to me now," Amanda snapped as she stood at the cutting-board slicing small, barely-ripe tomatoes. "I've got to concentrate."

MacLeod leaned against the door-frame, watching her with increasing amusement. "Amanda, for the love of God, you're making fish soup, not defusing a bomb!""

"It's bouillabaisse," she hissed over her shoulder at him. "And it's practically a religion in France. Escudier called it 'the magical synthesis'--it's not the fish that makes it special, but the ingredients all together, added at just the right time after being prepared in just the right way." She attacked a potato with the same ferocity suffered by the tomatoes. "I hope I'm cutting these small enough, but if I cut them too thin they'll evaporate," she muttered, mostly to herself. "Damn, isn't the water boiling yet?..."

"There's still time for me to give Maurice a call," MacLeod suggested. "If you--"

He stopped when the knife suddenly flashed under his nose. "Don't you dare, Duncan MacLeod!" Amanda snarled, her dark eyes flashing dangerously. "I'm going to do this myself, and I'm going to make that five-thousand-year-old fogey eat his words for dessert!" She returned to the cutting-board and resumed her labors. "Not sure he wants to be practiced on, is he?" she growled as she reached for the fillets of fresh Mediterranean rock fish. "Thinks he'll need his stomach pumped, eh? Well, we'll just see about that!"

MacLeod wisely swallowed his observation that working herself into a lather would hardly improve her culinary expertise. He beat a hasty retreat to the deck while her attention--and that very sharp knife--was turned elsewhere.

***

"Amanda, this is fantastic." Lucinda was visibly amazed. "You've definitely improved from the last time you tried bouillabaisse."

The brunette tossed her head affably. "Well, 1814 was a long time ago. When I set my mind to something, I tend to do it right, or not at all."

"I guess miracles do happen," MacLeod grinned. He chuckled at the vitriolic glare Amanda shot him. "Seriously, love, this really is good. Maurice couldn't have done better--I'm not sure he could have done as well, even."

She brightened. "Really?"

"Scout's honor." He winked at her.

Lucinda glanced sideways at Methos and gave his ankle a kick under the table. "Ow," he hissed at her.

"Say something," she muttered out of the side of her mouth. "Something nice."

He blinked and looked over at Amanda, who was gazing at him with a steady, expectant air. "Uhm...best fish stew I ever had?"

Lucinda dropped her forehead on the table with a faint but audible thunk. MacLeod sniggered, and Amanda's scowl melted into giggles at Methos' playfully hopeful expression. "You're impossible, old man," she teased.

"I do my humble best."

***

"You are such a brat sometimes."

"Who, me? I'm too old to be a brat."

"Five thousand year old men can still be brats. You're living proof."

It was past midnight, and the air was brisk, but not terribly cold. It was only a couple of miles back to the hotel, and rather than waste time trying to hail a cab or trying to talk MacLeod into giving them a ride back, Methos had decided they might as well walk.

He would come to regret that choice.

They were walking through the tunnel under the river when the presence-sense hit them both. Methos froze only for a moment, then out of pure blind instinct ducked into a culvert, pressing his back against the cold concrete wall and doing his best to merge with the shadows. After a brief hesitation, Lucinda darted quickly into a similar alcove opposite his own, and Methos was glad of it. Good girl. I know it galls you to hide, but believe me, it's for the best. Now is not the time and this is not the place for a confrontation. They were still within shouting distance of the dock, and it was all too likely that Amanda's Watcher--whoever it was this week--was still in the vicinity. A Quickening here would draw far too much unwanted attention. He listened to the sound of approaching footsteps. Just walk on by, mate. Better for all of us, particularly you.

But the footsteps stopped about ten feet away. Methos gritted his teeth and reached slowly inside his coat, his hand closing around the hilt of his Flemish broadsword. He listened intently, waiting for the Immortal's next move. At least presence-sense doesn't give a feel for direction, he told himself, seeking comfort in that scrap of knowledge. It could always be worse.

As if to oblige him, it promptly got worse.

"Who's there?" It was a man's voice, and Methos had to bite back a groan of frustration. He had an excellent memory, despite five thousand years of mileage, and he immediately matched the voice to a face. Steven Keane, British military officer from the sixteenth century, sworn enemy of Duncan MacLeod after the Battle of Culloden. I knew I should have killed you when I had the chance, he thought wryly. But of course he hadn't really been able to, had he? He hadn't been allowed to, thanks to MacLeod's narrow-minded sense of fair play.

"Come out where I can see you." Methos heard the other Immortal take a step forward, and he got ready to draw his sword. "I'm Steven Keane. Who are you?"

"Steven?!" Methos barely kept himself from shouting No! as Lucinda came out of hiding. "Steven Keane? It's really you?"

"What--Lulu?" Keane sounded equally surprised--and equally delighted. Mouthing Lulu?! soundlessly, Methos leaned forward and chanced a risky glance out into the tunnel proper. Lucinda had rushed forward and been caught up in a fond embrace by the ginger-haired Englishman. "Dear God, it's been--how long?"

"Let's see--1935, wasn't it? That would make it--"

"Seventy years."

"Seventy, yes." Lucinda laughed as Keane set her on her feet. "Damn, it's good to see you, Steven. How have you been?"

"I'm doing well. You look fantastic. What's your secret?"

"Clean living?" She grinned. "Lots of green vegetables?"

Keane chuckled. "Are you still living in New Orleans?"

"Of course. I run a gallery now, the Clair de Lune. It's being renovated at the moment--long story--so my husband and I decided to visit Paris."

"You're married? Not to that brute Kerrigan?"

Lucinda winced. "No. Aidan's dead. Some psycho redneck took his head."

"Oh. God, Lulu, I'm so sorry. I never liked the man, but--I know he was your friend."

"He was," she said softly.

Keane searched for another line of conversation to take the painful look of sorrow out of his old friend's eyes. "But you're married? That's incredible news. Anyone I know?"

It worked; Lucinda brightened immediately. "Doubtful. He's a rather private man, really. He's a bit shy of other Immortals."

"Ahh, one of us, then?"

"Yes. Here, let me get him over here--Adam, darling, come meet an old friend of mine." Her eyes searched the shadowed recesses of the tunnel for movement. "Oh, don't be so standoffish, Steven isn't a headhunter, you're perfectly safe." When no response came, she gave Keane an apologetic smile. "Give me a minute. Adam..." She marched over to the alcove and looked in, then searched the others in turn. "He's...he's gone." She came back to Keane, looking puzzled and a bit hurt.

"He sounds like a real charmer," Keane remarked wryly.

"Oh, he's just--he's a bit paranoid. We had a nasty bit of business back home, and that's probably got him on the jump." She patted Keane's arm. "Never mind, I'm sure we'll get another chance. I'll have a talk with him. Anyway, where are you headed to this late at night?"

"To my dance club, actually. I own a little place not far from here. Would you like to see it?"

"That would be lovely, but I really should be getting back to the hotel. Why don't you give me a card and I'll bring Adam by when he's feeling more sociable? I'm sure he'd love to meet you."

He dutifully handed over one of his business cards. "Shall I walk you?"

"No, it's all right, Steven. Really." She gave him a fond kiss on the cheek and headed out into the Parisian night.

***

She was about two blocks from the hotel when she felt another Immortal near. She stopped on the corner and waited without looking around. "That was extraordinarily rude," she said, folding her arms crossly. "I was so embarrassed."

"Not half as embarrassed as you would have been if I'd had to kill your friend." Methos leaned against the streetlight, hands jammed deep in the pockets of his long coat.

She rolled her eyes at him. "Oh, God, don't tell me you're jealous. Honestly, Steven's just a friend. I--"

"Why does it always have to be all about you?" His eyes narrowed. "For your information, this has nothing to do with what you perceive as my rampant possessiveness."

"I didn't say--"

"In fact, it has nothing to do with you at all. My whole world doesn't revolve around you, you know."

"I never said--"

"You didn't have to." Methos reached out and took Lucinda's arm. "Come on. I'll tell you all about it--but let's go somewhere a bit more private, shall we?"

***

Back at the hotel, he told her the whole story. About Culloden, about MacLeod's bloody rampage against any Englishman he could find, about Amanda's middle-of-the-night appeal for help, about confronting Keane in Luxembourg Gardens with an ultimatum--leave MacLeod alone or else--and about nearly taking Keane's head in that confrontation.

"But Mac stopped me," he said. "He wanted to face Keane himself, and he did, and he won--and he chose to let Keane live. After that, he let MacLeod be. They both got on with their lives. Apparently Keane chose to stay in Paris, and if he and Mac have had any more encounters, I don't know about it and I don't want to know."

Lucinda listened until he was finished. She sat in a brocade-upholstered armchair across from him, the half-snifter of brandy in her hand barely touched. When he was done, she sighed quietly, shaking her head. "That sounds like typical Steven Keane behavior. You're right; he and MacLeod are quite a lot alike."

"Now you understand why I didn't hang about for introductions."

"Of course I do." She set down her glass, stood up and fished Keane's card out of her pocket. Methodically, she tore it into quarters, then dropped the bits in the gilded tissue bin near the vanity.

Methos watched her with impassive eyes. "How do you know Keane?"

"He was running a speakeasy on Bourbon Street when I returned to New Orleans." Lucinda sat back down. "He was there about ten years, then Kerrigan showed up, and Keane couldn't accept that a dedicated headhunter could want to leave the Game. Moreover, he was of the opinion that Kerrigan should be punished for all the innocent lives he'd taken. He wouldn't listen to reason, and Marie and I wouldn't let him take Kerrigan's head, so he left. He wrote me a few times over the years, but about ten years ago the letters stopped."

"That would have been about the time Sean Burns was killed."

"Yes, I heard about Sean. Did anyone ever find out who killed him?"

"Keane found out--but that's another story for another time."

"Mm." Lucinda picked up her glass, but didn't drink from it. She watched the play of light on the surface of the wine, running a finger lightly around the brim. "Methos?"

"What?"

"Do I really act as though...your world should revolve around me?"

He chuckled. "Sometimes, yes." He sat back in his chair, letting one long arm dangle over the armrest. "I love you, Leohtsenda, and you mean a great deal to me. In fact, you're probably the most important person in my life--after me, of course."

That made her smile. "Of course."

"I didn't mean to be quite so harsh with you earlier, but I'm afraid you're relying on me to supply all the joy and happiness in your life, and I'm concerned that I might fail you in that. I'm not the sort to put anyone's happiness before my own."

"I understand that. I always have." She got up and knelt beside his chair, looking up at him with frank admiration. "I have a lot of emotional investment in you, Methos, and I realize I can be a bit--well, clingy at times."

"Once in a while, yes."

"I've worked hard to build an independent life I can be proud of. My art, my gallery, my business, my investments, my circle of friends, Immortal and otherwise, the artistic careers I've helped launch, the scholarships I've funded--I'm proud of my achievements."

"And rightly so."

"My work--in and out of the studio--is half the joy and fulfillment in my life." She took his hand in both of hers and held it against her cheek. "But you're all the rest of it, Methos. That's just how it is for me."

He looked at her for a moment or two before speaking, his voice low and warm. "You know, you don't have to sever all ties with an old friend just on my account."

"We were never really that close. Besides, I can't very well visit him if we're leaving Paris tonight, can I?"

Methos blinked. "Leaving Paris? Who said we were leaving?"

She dropped his hand, sat back on her heels and gave him a look of mild exasperation. "Oh, come on. I'm not stupid. There's an Immortal out there with a grudge against you and I'm not going to force a confrontation. I made that mistake with Corvus back in 1795, and this time I'm not going to argue with you. We'll just go. Duncan and Amanda will understand."

"You'd be willing to do that?"

"For you, yes."

"Just pick up and go at a moment's notice?"

"Absolutely."

"Not even a word of goodbye?"

"Not so much as a whisper."

"Because it's what I want?"

"If you think it best, yes."

Methos blew out his cheeks and shook his head. "Damn. I've really done a number on you, haven't I?"

Her mouth fell open. "What...?"

"Lucinda." Methos slid out of the chair onto the carpeted floor. He took both of her hands in his and fixed her with an earnest, penetrating gaze. "When are you going to stop doing penance for the Great Fire? Yes, it was a terrible tragedy, and yes, losing you--thinking I'd lost you--hurt me more than I ever could have imagined...but it's over. You didn't do any of that on purpose. I've done worse--far worse--knowing exactly what I was doing and enjoying every minute of the suffering I caused." He squeezed her hands briefly. "Now listen to me very carefully. You don't owe me anything. You said it yourself--you can live without me, but you choose not to. Your independence and your strong will are part of who you are--part of what I love about you--and you don't have to strangle your own ego to cater to mine. I'm not that fragile."

Lucinda looked stunned. "Is that what I've been doing?"

"To an extent, yeah."

She blew her bangs out of her eyes. "Stone the crows..."

"Now then." He leaned forward slightly. "What is it you want to do? Answer me honestly. I'll know if you're lying."

"You always do." Lucinda smiled ruefully. "Do you really want to know what I want us to do?"

"That's why I'm asking."

She gave him a measuring look. "Okay, you asked for it..."

***

Le Blues Bar
Paris, France
8 April, Present Day


There's a nail in the door
And there's glass on the lawn
Tacks on the floor
And the TV is on
And I always sleep with my guns when you're gone

There's a blade by the bed
And a phone in my hand
A dog on the floor
And some cash on the nightstand
When I'm all alone the dreaming stops
And I just can't stand...

What should I do?
I'm just a little baby
What if the lights go out?
And maybe
And then the wind just starts to moan
Outside my door
He followed me home

Now goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No. it won't be too soon till I say
"Goodnight moon"...


Steven Keane sat at a table near the stage, listening appreciatively. Lulu--no, she was calling herself "Lucinda" now--still had that smoky velvet quality to her voice he'd always liked so much. He wondered idly if she'd ever bothered making any recordings and resolved to ask her later. The middle-aged man accompanying her on the guitar was a spectacular talent, too. Nice place he was running here, a lot more low-key and intimate than Transcendance. Always handy to check out the competition, he thought, although it didn't really apply since Le Blues Bar and Keane's dance club didn't really cater to the same crowd.

He realized the song had ended, and he clapped enthusiastically along with the rest of the patrons as Lucinda left the stage. He stood up as she reached his table, took her hands and gave her a kiss. "Beautiful as always. You've still got the magic, love."

She smiled a bit shyly, but he could tell she was pleased. "I haven't been behind a microphone in years."

"More's the pity."

She shook her head dismissively and gave him a steady look. "Steven, you have to promise me you're not going to freak out. Okay?"

He was taken aback. "What do you mean?"

"Just promise. Please?"

He chuckled. "I could never refuse you anything, Lulu. All right, I promise."

She turned towards the open stage door and nodded. The guitarist returned the nod and leaned inside to speak to someone. The next moment Keane went tense and alert. A tall, lean man sauntered out of the doorway and came to Lucinda's side.

"Steven, this is my husband, Adam." Lucinda's voice was relentlessly calm and held a hint of admonition; she'd felt him tense up. "I believe you two know each other?"

"You bastard," Keane hissed. How could he forget a man who'd tried to take his head?

"Oh, I think we remember our last meeting," the man called Adam said with an insolent smirk.

"Be nice." Lucinda let go of Keane's hands and put an arm around her husband's waist. "Steven, Adam's told me everything that happened. I don't expect the two of you to exchange Christmas cards, or to even pretend to like each other. What I do expect is for you to leave each other the hell alone. If either of you try to start anything, I promise I'll put a stop to it, and the Game be damned."

"I have no intention of 'starting anything'," the dark-haired man muttered.

"Well, that'll make a nice change," Keane snapped. He looked at Lucinda measuringly. "How long have you known this man?"

"Longer than I've known you," she answered. "And I know him a great deal better than you do, Steven. Believe me, you have nothing to fear from him. Or from me, so long as you let him be."

Keane looked at Lucinda for a long moment, assessing her sincerity. There was a steely determination he didn't remember from the old days back in the Quarter. Then she'd had a constant aura of sadness, some deep sorrow she never wanted to talk about. That was completely gone now. However much of a bastard this "Adam" character was, he made Lucinda happy, and she was willing to stand up to anyone to protect the man she loved.

Keane pulled out a handful of bills and tossed them on the table. "I hope you know how lucky you are," he grumbled at the pale, dark-haired man. "It was wonderful to see you again, Lulu."

"Goodbye, Steven," Lucinda said softly as the ginger-haired man turned and left without another word.

Joe Dawson watched until Keane left, then went to the table and cleared his throat discreetly. "Everything all right?"

Lucinda gave him a small, sad smile. "That...could have gone worse."

Methos dropped an arm over Lucinda's shoulders. "You understand he's probably quits with you now. Sorry about that."

Lucinda looked at Methos and lifted her chin defiantly. "His loss."

He smiled, proud of her resilience and grateful for her steadfast loyalty. "Very much so," he said, giving her a kiss.

***

Song lyrics are from "Goodnight Moon" by Shivaree. Used without permission.

***