kissed the back of Methos' neck and he froze. "I sent them," a familiar
voice said calmly.
Methos felt the blood drain from his face, pooling sickly in his gut.
Allessandro. Where the hell had he come from? He'd probably hidden in
one of the empty weapons lockers that lined one side of the ex-army
aircraft as they'd come on board, the slimy little prick. Methos
flicked a glance at Duncan, seeing the rage darkening his face,
frustrated movement in the tightening of his body. Methos shook
his head minutely and felt the blade move against his skin.
"The doctor is right, MacLeod. Don't try anything. I may decide I don't
really need three prisoners after all." Allessandro's voice never rose
above a steady, satisfied purr, like a lion over a kill.
Just do what he says, Duncan,
Methos tried to tell him without speaking. But the anger in Duncan's
eyes didn't ease.
"What do you want, Allessandro?" Duncan spat. Crouching on the floor
had never looked so defiant. Or so menacing.
A laugh barked out, completely without humor. "You know what I want.
The doctor here has something of mine. He will give it to me, or you
will all die."
It was on the tip of Methos' tongue to tell him again that they didn't
have the damn diamonds, that they'd never had the bloody things and he
wasn't convinced they'd ever bloody well existed, but something held
him back. Denying what this lunatic believed to be true would only
inflame him, and Methos could probably do without enraging the man who
had a blade at his neck.
"I don't have them," Methos began and felt Allessandro tense behind
him, the blade pressing harder. "But I might know where they are," he
added quickly. It wasn't even entirely a lie, and the pressure on his
neck eased a fraction.
"Now we are getting somewhere. You will take me to them," he ordered.
"Just me," Methos blurted, shocked at himself. "Leave them behind. You
"No!" Duncan yelled.
"Yes," Methos whispered.
"No," Allessandro snapped. The blade slid around Methos' neck until it
rested just under his larynx. "You will all come with me." That laugh
again, chillingly mirthless. "Who knows? Perhaps I will be so pleased
with what the doctor finds for me I will let you all live."
Methos had seldom believed anything less.
The larger of the two thugs stirred and moaned. Allessandro kicked him.
"Enough rest! Get up – it is time we left." The second thug was lying
silent and still and Allessandro didn't bother with him. It was
entirely possible, Methos thought, that the man was dead. No great loss.
The big man groaned, but didn't rise; blood trickled from one ear and
his eyes were bloodshot and glazed when he opened them. He wasn't
flying anyone anywhere. Duncan had done quite a job on him.
Allessandro kicked him again, harder this time. "Get up, fazer boquete viado!"
Cock-sucking faggot. How tired.
The thug moaned and made it as far as his knees, swaying for a moment
before he collapsed bonelessly onto the floor again. Allessandro kicked
him viciously once more, but the man didn't react; he was completely
unconscious. Breath gurgled between his lips, blood spurting out with
the exhalation. Allessandro slammed another boot into him, utter fury
in his contorted face. "Get up!" he screamed.
The man's eyes rolled open blankly as the force of the blow drove him
back. He didn't move. Quick as a cobra, Allessandro drew the pistol at
his hip and shot the thug through the temple. The report banged and
echoed in the small space and Methos heard Duncan gasp beside him. Just
as quickly Allessandro turned on him. "Get this rubbish out of here
before it starts to stink," he ordered, gesturing with the pistol.
Methos caught Duncan's eye and nodded, willing him to do as the captain
said. The bodies would be found sooner or later; a signpost to what had
happened. Methos only hoped it would be enough. It could be hours
before anyone traveled the half-kilometer from the camp to the
airstrip. Duncan rose and grasped the bigger man under the arms,
dragging him back towards the cargo bay door at the rear of the plane.
Allessandro went with him, holding the gun on him all the way.
Methos glanced across the plane to where Mpande had lain silently since
Allessandro's appearance. His eyes were closed and he was very still.
Was he unconscious? Dead? He edged over to him to find out. Mpande
didn't move as Methos crouched beside him, pressing two fingers just
below his ear. The pulse bounded strongly beneath the dark skin, but
Mpande's eyes didn't flicker. It was, Methos recalled, an old Zulu
battlefield ruse to lie as if dead only to spring back to life as the
enemy came near. Then finish them.
With one eye on Allessandro, Methos slipped his hand down to where
Mpande's hand lay motionless on the floor by his hip. He pressed
Mpande's fingers quickly, stifling a relieved smile at the answering
squeeze. He was conscious all right. But he wasn't sticking around to
slay this enemy. Nice try though.
He looked back over his shoulder towards where Allessandro and Duncan
were at the back of the plane. "This one's dead too," he called. He
felt Mpande's reaction and bent close, whispering in his ear, "Not this
time, my friend. You'll be more help to us on the ground. Mpande's
fingers tightened around his once more, then the movement melted away
into utter stillness. "Hamba kahle," Methos breathed. Go well.
Methos stood and grabbed him under the arms, dragging him as Duncan had
dragged the other two men. Mpande did his job well; he was a deadweight
as Methos took him to the cargo bay door where Duncan and Allessandro
The machete was back at Duncan's throat again, the pistol still pointed
at Methos. So much for any thought of taking on Allessandro now. Too
much of a risk. But that was all right; he could bide his time. He took
Mpande to the edge of the ramp, the African lying so still Methos
didn't even see him breathe.
Allessandro waved the gun at him impatiently. "Hurry up! Get him out of
here – we must go."
Methos let Mpande go at the top of the cargo ramp, shoving him so his
body rolled bonelessly to the ground below, sprawling on top of the
"Get the door closed!" Allessandro barked as he holstered his pistol,
transferring the machete back to his right hand. "Get it closed now!"
Methos hit the button on the wall behind him and watched as the ramp
inched slowly upwards, Mpande and the other bodies disappearing from
view. Duncan chose that moment to strike. He shoved Allessandro
sideways with a lunge of his hips, throwing him off balance. The
captain staggered for a moment and there was a sharp crack as the gun
went off and Duncan went down. Methos flew at him, brought up short by
the point of the blade. He spread his hands in surrender and looked
down at Duncan, who was down on one knee, clutching at his thigh with
blood seeping through between his fingers.
He hadn't lost any of his defiance though. "I hope you can fly this
crate, Allessandro, otherwise we aren't going anywhere," Duncan sneered.
It was a mistake. Allessandro leapt at him, driving a knee into his gut
as he tumbled them to the floor. Goddamn he was fast.
"No!" Methos yelled, aware it was futile.
Duncan was thrown back – he hit out desperately – but the blade whipped
towards his throat, stopping an inch from his skin. Methos' heart
hammered in his chest and his gut heaved. Then Allessandro was drawing
the machete back as if preparing to strike.
"He can fly!" The blade stilled and the captain looked back over his
shoulder at Methos. "You need him. He can fly the plane." Methos was
trying hard to keep the panic out of his voice but he could hear it
there all the same.
Allessandro turned back to Duncan. "Is this true?"
"Yes," Duncan ground out, hatred thick in his voice.
"Well, come along then," Allessandro said brightly, the rage suddenly
and frighteningly absent. "Get us out of here."
"Let me see to his leg, at least." The words were out of Methos' mouth
before he could stop them.
Allessandro grunted and gestured impatiently with the pistol.
Apparently that meant yes and Methos knelt down beside Duncan on the
floor. The wound was already healing, fortunately concealed inside
Duncan's trousers. Methos' examination was nothing more than an excuse
to lean in close to Duncan and whisper urgently, "Please. Just go along
with him," as he tore a strip from his own t-shirt to wrap and used it
to cover the wound.
Duncan lifted his eyebrows questioningly and Methos gave a mute shrug
in reply. There was no way to let Duncan know the suspicion that was
growing steadily in his mind. "It's only superficial," he said for
Allessandro's benefit. "He'll be all right."
"Get moving then!" Allessandro ordered.
Duncan struggled awkwardly to his feet and, with the machete still
pressed against his throat, he limped to the cockpit and sat down.
Allessandro didn't even glance at Methos as he passed. Methos watched
him though, imagining a bloody and fittingly gruesome death for the
little prick. His time would come. But right now, with a machete at
Duncan's throat, Methos would have to bide his time and wait.
It had to be a machete, the bastard couldn't come after them with a gun
like any other sensible psychopath – no, he had to use a machete. Of
course being a psychopath didn't mean he was a complete idiot; a blade
was silent, effective and more reliable than any gun. Not to mention
safer on an aircraft. Perhaps it was just unfortunate coincidence that
a blade was the one weapon which, applied correctly, could instill fear
in an Immortal like no other.
But Methos had stopped believing in coincidence a long time ago....
"Now, Doctor," Allessandro said as he braced himself behind Duncan.
"Where are we going? Where are my diamonds?"
Images passed through Methos' mind, a memory he'd never even thought of
until now: a dark night in a tiny hut, a woman's figure caught by
moonlight bent over the prone body of a man, a gazelle horn in her
hand, her gasp of surprise as she worked it into his body, ostensibly
to administer one of her potions, but more likely to poison him some
more. That had to be it. The Sangoma. "The airfield," Methos said
flatly, "outside Chiume."
Allessandro cursed vividly, then clouted Duncan on the shoulder. "Come
on, then, MacLeod. Get us in the air. I believe you know the way."
Duncan got the plane into the air with difficulty. Allessandro's blade
at his throat was damned distracting – a constant reminder of how close
to death they were. He was just leveling the plane out when a small
pocket of turbulence made the blade's edge bump against his skin for
the fifth time. Blood trickled down to his collar.
"You wanna move that damn thing – or you want us to crash?" he snapped.
Crashing the plane was an option – albeit a damned risky one. No, too
risky, he decided. They'd probably survive, but probably wasn't good
enough where Methos was concerned. If Allessandro would just get the
damn blade off his throat.... "I can't fly like this," he blurted. Too
late he recognized how reckless it was to let his anger show.
But Allessandro just cackled that short humorless laugh again.
"Certainly." The blade was whipped away. "Doctor?" he called smoothly.
"Will you come to the cockpit?"
Duncan dared a glance over his shoulder. Methos was walking up from the
cargo area where he'd been sitting since take-off. For a split second
Duncan managed to catch his eye, but Methos was giving nothing away,
not even to him. Duncan turned back to the instruments, hyper-aware of
Methos coming closer behind him.
"Have a seat, Doctor," Allessandro said, as easily as a maitre-d.
Fear clenched painfully at Duncan's gut; he almost preferred the rage
to this urbane facade. This was the calm before the storm and Duncan
knew just how violent Allessandro's storm could be. He didn't have to
The second Methos' backside hit the co-pilot's chair Allessandro had
the machete at his throat, grabbing a handful of hair to hold him in
place. "There now, MacLeod. That should help your concentration."
Duncan heard Methos hiss sharply, but otherwise he said nothing. Which
was probably a very good idea. Duncan's hands clenched around the
controls and fear rose in his throat, but he forced himself not to
react. It was what Allessandro wanted, to force him to show how seeing
Methos like this was affecting him. And to show even a fraction of how
much he cared for Methos would be deadly for them both. So Duncan
breathed in and out, very slowly, centering himself the way he always
did before a battle.
And this was a battle, there was no mistaking that. Someone was going
to die today. It wasn't going to be him – or Methos. Mpande – and all
others Allessandro had killed – would have the vengeance they deserved.
Grief speared through him again with thoughts of yet another friend
he'd been unable to save. But Methos...Methos, he could still bring
through this alive.
"If you kill him," Duncan growled, "you'll never find your damned
"Oh, I don't intend to kill him, just yet." Allessandro's voice was a
silky hiss. "But you give me any trouble and we will see how he enjoys
being a doctor with only one hand."
The mental image was all too clear. So was the tone of the captain's
voice; he meant every word. Duncan tamped down hard on the urge to flay
Allessandro and glanced down at the radio – not for the first time –
well aware that he wasn't going to get the chance to use it. The return
flight plan had already been filed, fake as it was, but without radar
or air traffic control there was no way anyone would know that they
weren't following it. They were on their own.
And if they had to play this out, then he wouldn't have it any other
way. All rules were void – all bets were off.
He felt the cold settle inside him, cold and hard as the black
ironstone ridges below, unforgiving as the wide, red-gold land.
Whatever restraint or mercy had been left in him had been torn away the
first time he'd seen Allessandro's blade at Methos' throat. Another
grunted order had him pulling out of the flat turn and leveling out
over the winding snake of the Zambezi. They were back in Angola now.
The scarred sprawl of Chiume came and went beneath them; it wouldn't be
long now. Easing back on the throttle, he shot a glance at Methos,
sitting frozen in his seat with Allessandro's blade still pressing
against his pale skin.
Methos' eyes were unreadable, his face gone completely blank as he
looked straight out ahead at the cloudless blue sky. Lines of strain
were etched either side of his mouth and his lips were pressed together
thinly. Duncan wanted, more than anything at that very moment, to rip
the blade from Allessandro's hand and gut him with it. He looked away
before Allessandro could read the hate in his eyes. Methos' expression
Whatever Methos had expected to find when they landed, it wasn't this.
The airfield was much as it had been the day before yesterday, a little
drier, perhaps, but the simple buildings were as deserted as they had
been when they had left. Even the bodies of the pilot and the others
still lay where they had died. With one important exception: the
woman's body was gone from where it had fallen. Oh shit.
He wondered if Allessandro had noticed the weapons had been stripped
from the dead bodies.
Methos looked around, fear spiking in his gut. The blade was back at
Duncan's throat now, all the better to control Methos with, he
supposed. Suspicion snaked through the back of Methos' mind again that
somehow Allessandro knew just how much of a threat the blade was to
"Well, Doctor?" Allessandro prompted, impatience showing in his thin
and taut voice. "My diamonds?"
Off-balance for a moment, Methos could only stammer, "The Sangoma –
where is she?"
"Food for the jackals for all I know," Allessandro shrugged. Then his
eyes narrowed at Methos over Duncan's shoulder. "Why?"
"Find the woman and you'll find your stones," Methos answered, meeting
the cold, dark eyes defiantly and steeled himself for the outburst of
rage that was sure to follow.
It didn't come. Allessandro merely tightened the machete at Duncan's
throat until bright blood flowed down to join the stains on Duncan's
shirt. Methos saw the fear and anger sparking in his lover's eyes.
Allessandro was pushing him too far and any moment now that Highland
temper would snap. And it did.
Duncan drove an elbow back into the captain's gut, spinning immediately
to face him and snap his head back with a lightning-fast backhander to
the edge of his jaw. Allessandro flew backwards and Duncan went with
him, crashing him to the ground and grabbing for the machete. Methos
ran to them, his heart hammering as adrenaline flooded his body, but
there was nothing he could do with Duncan's body covering the smaller
man's as they struggled.
Then his chance came as Duncan wrapped both hands on Allessandro's
right hand, forcing it out above their heads, trying desperately to
peel the fingers from the hilt. Methos couldn't see Allessandro's other
hand; it had to be trapped between them. He darted forward, stamping
down on the blade and pinning it to the ground.
He had his hand wrapped around Allessandro's wrist, frantically tugging
it away when Duncan's body spasmed – jerking with the sharp bang of the
pistol going off. Shit, the bastard had shot him. Panicking, Methos
wrenched the machete away as Allessandro threw Duncan off and sprang
from the ground, gun in hand.
"Drop it, Doctor." Allessandro's voice was even and poisonous,
betraying nothing of the struggle.
Methos stared down in shock to where Duncan lay spread-eagled on the
bare ground. Blood bloomed in a spreading stain over the center of his
chest, staining the t-shirt he wore dark red. It was all too clear he
was dead. Methos drew a deep breath and hauled himself under control.
It wasn't the worst thing that could have happened, he told himself,
plucking the idea from the white noise roaring in his head; in fact he
could turn this to their advantage if only he could get Allessandro
away before Duncan came back. He dropped the machete and spread his
Allessandro nodded tersely in acknowledgement. "Come, let us find her."
He stepped over Duncan's body without a glance and pushed Methos in the
direction of the surrounding bush. Methos went, and forced himself not
to look back. His legs felt like rubber and he stumbled once over the
uneven ground at the edge of the field, but he kept his eyes firmly in
front and never once turned back to see where his lover lay bleeding in
the dust. Duncan would be all right.
"You're a – what is the American phrase? – a cool customer, Doctor,"
Allessandro said from behind him. "I think we're more alike than you
Methos felt the rage bubbling up inside him, but he forced it down,
saving it for later. "If you say so," he answered, managing to keep the
rage out of his voice by sheer force of will. "Where are we going?"
"You're going to find the Sangoma for me."
Methos' heart sank. He'd thought that was what he was going to say.
Sure, he could find her; he'd done plenty of impossible things before
today. Finding one supposedly dead woman in the midst of the Angolan
bush shouldn't be that hard. Yeah, right.
He stopped, feeling the gun's muzzle bump up against his back
ominously. "Did you move her?"
"Did you move her?" he repeated as calmly as he could. "She fell just
over there." He pointed to the spot where Kumari had fallen after she'd
run from the bush. "You'll notice she isn't there now. Did. You. Move.
Her?" he asked again, not bothering to hide his irritation. Let
Allessandro shoot him, then he could find the damned stones by himself.
"No, I didn't move her carcass. I left her where she died."
"Then your guess is as good as mine where she is now." Methos didn't
mention that it was pure assumption that the woman was dead at all. Let
Allessandro come to that conclusion on his own, he thought.
"Let us look then." The captain shoved him forward roughly and Methos
checked another stumble as he went towards the spot where he'd last
seen Kumari. The rain had stopped not long after she'd been shot and
the clay ground should have preserved any tracks that were there.
Methos bent and stared at the ground, using the cover of his hair
falling across his eyes to dart a look in Duncan's direction. He was
still; if he'd come back already he was hiding it well. More than
likely he was still out to it. Healing from a bullet to the heart took
time and it had only been a few minutes. He turned his attention back
to the tracks molded into the dried mud.
There was the hollow where her body had lain, at the center a darkening
that might have been her blood – that was easy enough to spot. He
straightened and let his eyes move over the rest of the scene, reading
the ground as best he could. It had been a long time since he'd had to
track anyone. He picked out the narrow wedge-shapes of bare footprints,
flattened and splayed in the manner of feet unused to shoes. Meaning
began to resolve, though how it had happened he wasn't quite sure.
Methos looked at Allessandro; he was squinting at the ground too.
"She lay here," Allessandro said.
"But her tracks lead away," Allessandro pointed south, "over there. She
Methos nodded. As far as he could tell the 'dead' woman had got up and
walked away. Nothing unusual for an Immortal, but Kumari wasn't
Immortal – not unless he'd missed something quite significant. No,
there was something else going on here. Without waiting for Allessandro
to shove him again, Methos took off after the tracks.
Life came back with pain searing through him as it always did, the
movement of blood and oxygen lighting white-hot fire along nerve and
muscle. Duncan gasped and arched as he forced the breath back into his
starved lungs and felt his head clear. He sat up, knowing at that
moment that he was all alone. Methos' presence was gone – Methos was
And Allessandro was with him. The bastard had him again. Fear made
Duncan's throat tight, almost strangling him until he fought it down.
Pushing up from the ground, there was only one thing he knew for sure:
he had to find them and fast.
The woman's tracks led past the hangar and into the bush behind the
airfield. Methos followed them slowly, not wanting to get too far ahead
of Duncan. He would come; Methos was betting his life on it. He didn't
even need a great deal of subterfuge to slow down the hunt, the bush
was thick and getting thicker as they moved further into it, acacia and
liana tangled together across the overgrown game trails. But the spoor
was clear enough.
She'd been here all right. Methos spotted a smear of blood on the pale
trunk of an elephant-tusk tree. Even wounded, she'd managed a fair
pace; her tracks were far apart as if she'd been striding along easily.
He still wanted to know how she'd managed it, though. She'd taken at
least two shots to the body that should have been fatal, or
incapacitating at the very least.
Suddenly the footprints left the track and veered right. Methos
hesitated and waited to see if Allessandro noticed. The tracks were a
day old or more, flattened by the rain, but still clear enough, molded
into the clay soil like crude pottery. She'd made no effort to hide the
evidence of her passing. Methos flinched reflexively as Allessandro
brushed past, stopping near him to crouch over the tracks. The man was
seriously starting to piss him off.
"She went this way," Allessandro announced.
Methos suppressed the urge to blurt, 'No, really?' There really was no
point in irritating an armed lunatic. He waited silently until the
captain straightened and, before he could be shoved again, strode off
in the direction the tracks had taken with Allessandro close behind
him. Methos forced back his annoyance and made himself concentrate on
The bush was still thick around them, almost claustrophobic now. The
sun was high above them, heating the shadowed forest until he could all
but see the steam rising from the ground. Sweat poured down his back
and made his hair itch. Methos ran an impatient hand through it. Any
time around now would be good, Duncan.
There was still no hint of Duncan's presence, but he had to be up and
on the trail by now. It wouldn't be long.
With his eyes fixed on the ground in front and his senses searching
constantly for the first sign of Duncan's Quickening, Methos didn't
notice the vine stretched tightly across a narrow part of the trail
until his foot was on it. Shit. There was a small snick – an alien
sound – and the rush of air like a bird in flight. His heart leapt and
Methos dived to one side, crashing hard to the baked earth. Behind him,
Allessandro yelled and hit the ground.
What the hell? Cautiously, Methos raised his head and looked around,
listening intently. Around them, the bush was quiet again, a damp,
gentle breeze shifting the trees, the harsh squawk of a francolin in
the distance. He levered himself up from the ground and dusted himself
"Idiot!" Allessandro yelled behind him suddenly. "Jumping at shadows.
Do you take me for a fool?"
Methos rolled his eyes and turned to face him. He had his mouth open to
reply when he caught sight of something speared into the acacia trunk
just behind Allessandro's head. "Shadows?" he said with a shrugged
gesture at the tree.
Keeping the gun still pointed at Methos, Allessandro looked back at the
tree, plucking out the object with thumb and forefinger. From where
Methos stood it looked like a small bone dart, of the kind the Bushmen
used to hunt their game. Small and fragile as a child's toy, but needle
sharp and he was betting it was poisoned too. Fired, he was sure, from
a simple bow attached to the vine he'd stepped on. Clever girl.
Methos stifled a smirk; Allessandro looked as if he was going to pop a
vein as he threw the dart to the ground and crushed it underfoot. As
delaying tactics went, he couldn't have asked for better. And the
crushed and broken grass where they had hit the ground would be an easy
marker for Duncan to spot.
Allessandro recovered himself faster than Methos would have given him
credit for, brushing down his uniform and taking a pair of mirrored
sunglasses from his pocket and putting them on nonchalantly. Another
arrogant gesture with the pistol clearly meant that Methos was to
continue on. With a mental shrug, Methos complied, more cautiously this
time, keeping his thoughts very much to himself.
In the middle distance, the francolin called again. Odd to hear them
here, Methos thought absently, he'd thought the great volume of
refugees coming through this area had all but cleared the small
chicken-like birds out, though they'd once been as common throughout
the continent as pigeons were in London. A split-second later he could
have kicked himself for his denseness. Not a bird at all, just Duncan
MacLeod riding to the rescue. He almost smiled. Not long now, you little pissant....
The woman's tracks were still clear ahead, though he could see here and
there where she had paused or stumbled. A patch of flattened grass
showed where she'd rested, further along a cloud of flies buzzed over
where she'd squatted. She'd started to slow down after that; Methos
could see it in the shortening of her footsteps as he followed them.
Where the hell was she going? He couldn't see any rhyme or reason to
this meandering path she had taken. Certainly she was still bearing
south, but why? There was nothing but more bush, more insurgency and
eventually an immense and mostly impassible desert. Madness. But then
Kumari had never been a poster-girl for rational behavior, he reminded
Her tracks jinked again, veering right yet again, so now they were
heading back the way they'd come. What the hell was she playing at now?
Methos was just turning off to follow them, trying to make sense of the
woman's actions when Duncan's presence slid across his senses. A tiny
fraction of his tension eased.
Duncan ran as quickly as he dared, the pounding of his feet on the
baked ground shuddering through his body with every step as he followed
the three sets of tracks along the game trail through the forest. His
heart hammered out of all proportion to the effort. If that bastard did
anything to Methos he'd find himself in very small pieces very quickly.
Duncan's anger was a living thing inside him – it twisted his stomach
and sped his feet as his heart clattered unevenly.
And then, at last, Methos' presence thrummed through him, such a
welcome shock that he faltered and almost fell. He stopped and squinted
through the bush to try to spot them. There. Almost fifty yards ahead,
a flicker of movement amid the trees that had to be them. Methos'
strong Quickening touched his own, connecting like a key in a lock,
completing him, and the rage simmered down to diamond-hard resolve.
More carefully now, he went forward again, weaving through the trees
with his eyes firmly fixed on the figures in front. They were turning,
tracking the woman's steps as they looped back towards him. The growth
was so thick he could only catch glimpses, but it was enough. Methos
walked in front, head bent over the trail and a certain stiffness to
the set of his back – due no doubt to the gun pointed straight at it.
But he was alive and looked unharmed, at least for now.
And Allessandro...he was a dead man – he just didn't know it yet.
They were definitely heading back to the airfield, Methos realized as
the tracks shifted course again. In fact if he craned his neck a little
he could even see the top of the hangar in the distance. She'd been
leading them on the whole time. But why? The trail they were following
now was fresh, fainter than the rest on the dry, hard ground, but he
could still read it. As could Allessandro, who was becoming more and
more agitated with every step.
He muttered incoherently under his breath constantly now. Methos could
make out the occasional word in Portuguese, Umbundu, or English. None
of it was terribly flattering. More worrying was the simmering violence
he could hear in the captain's tone. Fear slithered down Methos' spine
one more and he shivered a little despite the heat.
He could feel Duncan coming closer with every step and it was all he
could do not to turn around and look for him. But he kept his eyes
fixed firmly in front.
Then they were coming up on the airfield, the pale buildings revealed
slowly by the thinning bush. It was hotter here with the shadows
receding and the sun beating down on his prickling skin. Methos dragged
a hand through his damp hair and rolled his stiff shoulders. And almost
stopped in his tracks, but didn't. Hang on.
Something was glinting on the widening track just ahead. Just a tiny
pinprick of very white light flaring as the sun caught it. Odd, to say
the least. Suspicion grew; he had pretty good idea what it was and who
put it there, and he wasn't touching it with a fucking barge pole.
He wasn't above mentioning it to Allessandro though. Stopping short, he
said: "Hey!" as if he'd just seen it. "Isn't that one of your
diamonds?" And he pointed to where he'd seen the light. Definitely a
diamond, placed dead center in the track. As traps went, it was a
bloody obvious one, but hey, it seemed to be working.
Allessandro shoved him aside and ran, snapping off a quick shot that
caught Methos low in the belly. Fuck. He crumpled where he stood, the
strength leeching out of him all at once and felt hot blood spill out.
Goddamn, that hurt. Then, two things happened simultaneously: gunfire
clattered from the direction of the airfield and Duncan materialized
from the bush behind him, dragging him under the cover of a tangle of
Methos kept his eyes on the action in front. "What took you so long?'
he gasped, bleeding over his fingers as he held tight to the wound.
"Sorry." Duncan wrapped his arms tighter around Methos' shivering body.
"Had a little death to recover from." He wiped the sweat from Methos'
face, the tenderness of the gesture at odds with his matter-of-fact
tone. "Who's shooting at us?"
"Three guesses," Methos rasped. Fuck, he hated being gutshot.
"That'd be my first thought." He was healing but bloody Allessandro had
to be using hollow tipped ammo; it felt like he had a hole the size of
Kilimanjaro in his gut
"Think she's after us or him?"
"Oh, him, definitely."
More shots went wild, ripping into the trees above them. "I thought you
said she was dead," Duncan rumbled, close by Methos' ear.
Methos sighed. "Anyone can have an off day; besides, I was in kind of a
hurry at the time. If you recall...you were laying about being dead
that time too."
Duncan made an unamused grumbling sound.
Allessandro was returning the incoming fire, but it wasn't making a
dent in the barrage. "She's a terrible shot."
"More's the pity," Duncan said with an edge to his voice that hadn't
been there before. "Come on, I think it's time we gave her a hand. Are
you healed yet?"
"Give me a minute." Duncan's hand slipped into his and Methos gripped
it hard, bracing himself as the wound continued to heal. The only thing
worse than the pain of healing would be not having it at all, he
thought. Methos breathed through the burn of the healing as it finished
rejoining organs, muscles and skin. There...it was done at last. He
heaved a deep breath. "Yeah, I think that's it."
"Let's go then." Duncan stood, but didn't release Methos' hand until
he'd pulled him to his feet as well.
They stayed behind the cover of the trees as they moved forward, edging
out of the field of fire. What cover there was wasn't much good and
Methos knew it wouldn't take a lot for Allessandro to start pointing a
few shots their way. Although....
"We could take him. He can't have too much ammunition left," Duncan
said, echoing Methos' thoughts.
They were close enough now to hear the sharp click as Allessandro
reloaded. Well, that answered that question. They looked at each other
for a moment.
"We should cut around, get to the girl," Methos said. She was armed and
they weren't, and they'd have a far better chance of finishing that
bastard if they could convince her –one way or another – to share.
Duncan nodded. "Let's go."
Duncan flattened himself against the dirty white wall of the hut and
signaled to Methos that the coast was clear. They'd needed to make a
wide circle through the bush to come up behind where Kumari had hidden
herself. But they had found her at last where she'd set herself up in a
little sniper's nest on top of one of the flat-roofed out-buildings.
She was still firing at Allessandro, and he was still firing back,
though Methos thought he'd perhaps he'd changed position in the last
Neither seemed all that interested in firing at them. Which was right
about to change.
Methos dragged the old wooden crate up against the wall. The roof was
only about ten feet up, but if they were both going to get up there
they were going to need it. The noise was deafening up close. Whatever
she was firing had plenty of power, and she wasn't short of ammunition
either. This wasn't going to be easy.
"Ready?" he mouthed at Duncan.
Duncan nodded and jumped up onto the crate, crouching and steadying
himself against the wall as the crate teetered under his feet. Methos
held it steady for him. Even with the shattering noise of the gunfire
he could still hear his own heart pounding in his ears. Duncan had
argued for doing it this way, now Methos just hoped he'd been right. He
watched as Duncan took one deep breath, in and out, and then he curled
his fingers over the top of the wall and with a single push, boosted
himself up and over the edge, landing with a thud. Methos scrambled up
The woman was there, lying flat, half hidden by a canvas tarpaulin as
she endlessly fired an automatic out into the bush. She looked over her
shoulder at them, unsurprised, as they crouched on the edge of the
roof. Duncan threw himself flat as a volley of rounds flew over their
heads, too close for comfort. Methos landed next to him, pressing
himself as flat to the roof as he possibly could. The little prick had
already shot him once today; he wasn't going to give him another
opportunity. When he looked up at her again, she was still
staring, right at him now, the rifle silent in her hands.
"You've come then," she said, her tone strangely flat.
"Were you expecting us?" Methos asked, though he wasn't sure why. There
was something really very odd going on here. A single shot whizzed by,
just above his head and he ducked.
"Your destiny is here," he heard her say.
It was on the tip of his tongue to scoff, make some cutting jibe about
the idiocy of proclaiming anyone's destiny, but another volley of shots
rang out, closer this time. Methos felt them smacking into the shed.
Allessandro was getting closer and there was no more time for
chit-chat. He was oddly grateful to put the moment aside.
Duncan was looking at him strangely. Methos shook him off and wriggled
forward on his belly until he was close by her. He could feel Duncan
going with him, familiar heat pressed reassuringly all along his side.
"Do you have another weapon?" Duncan asked her.
She flicked a glance at him for a moment, but it was Methos she turned
to, looking into his eyes searchingly, seemingly oblivious to the shots
still ringing out from the forest. He could see the thoughts running
through her head and as much as he wanted to hurry her decision, he
could not make himself speak. Beside him, Duncan shifted impatiently, a
sound rumbling in his chest. Methos put a hand on his arm to hush him.
Kumari, without taking her eyes from them for a moment, slowly reached
out her free hand and pulled an AK from under the canvas that covered
her. And handed it to him, muzzle first, the cold stillness of her gaze
never wavering. Then the gun was in his hand and the moment was gone.
Duncan put his hand on the barrel as if to take it from him. "Let me—"
Methos shook his head. "My fight, Highlander." It was on the tip of
Duncan's tongue to argue; Methos could see it in the spark of heat in
his lover's eyes. He shook his head again. "Trust me."
It was enough and more. Methos unfolded the rifle's distinctive curved
stock and it clicked into place. He quickly checked over the rifle;
there was a full clip inside and he needed nothing else. Just for a
second as Methos started to shimmy back across the roof, Duncan caught
his eye. Stunning how much Duncan could put into one look from those
beautiful, expressive eyes: love and faith, a fine edge of fear, hope,
need.... Methos nodded once, hoped Duncan could see the reflection in
his own eyes, and slipped down over the side of the roof.
"Cover me," he called as Duncan disappeared from sight.
He was running from the second his boots hit the ground. Behind him he
could hear the renewed rifle fire coming from the rooftop, Duncan's
finger on the trigger, he hoped. The woman really was a terrible shot.
With the AK tucked securely in against his right side, Methos made for
the cover of the bush.
Gunfire spat from the bush up ahead, the source moving slowly towards
him. For a few moments he was out in the open between the cover of the
hangar and the trees. He crouched as he ran, making himself as small a
target as he could without sacrificing too much speed.
Then he was in the bush again, grateful for the dense growth enveloping
him. He had a pretty good idea where Allessandro was, now all he had to
do was find him.
And kill him.
More gunfire – how many rounds does
that bastard have anyway? – and Methos was zigzagging from tree
to tree, working his way through to where he could hear it. His head
rang with the echoes of the shots and the deep, hot, killing rage was
welling up in him once again. The rifle would be a poor substitute for
what he'd like to do to Allessandro.
But it would do. Having him dead would have to be enough.
He leapt a small log in his path, barely checking his pace. Branches
whipped his face, making his eyes stream, but he was almost past
feeling it. He could feel himself moving into the dark place – beyond
the physical – where there was only the battle, where nothing else
And then Methos saw him.
He was still firing at the shed where Duncan and Kumari were sheltered,
too focused on his prey to notice.
"Allessandro!" Methos bellowed above the noise.
The captain turned to face him, dumbstruck.
Methos lifted the rifle and squeezed the trigger, aiming only waist
high. Nothing. What the fuck? Blindly he reached for the safety; it was
off. He squeezed the trigger again. Still nothing. Fuck! Fear prickled
his spine, underlying the rage. Too late to back off now. He ran at the
other man, hurling the useless piece of steel aside. Allessandro aimed
at him, but the pistol clicked dryly. He was out of ammunition.
"Come on, Allessandro!" he yelled. "Just us this time!"
Arrogant as ever, the captain tossed the pistol aside, and beckoned him
on. Distantly, Methos realized the incoming fire had gone silent. It
didn't matter, this was just between them, and this time only one would
walk away. Grinning wolfishly, Methos went as he was bid, closing the
last few feet between them in the space of a heartbeat.
Allessandro had his mouth open to speak, the taunting look back on his
face, but Methos didn't wait to hear it. His fist was flying towards
Allessandro's face, all the weight of his body behind it, wiping the
expression and the words from the bastard's face before he could make a
The captain fell back, blood splattering his face. He kept his feet
though, coming at Methos in a rush with murder in his eyes. "You think
you can take me?" he shouted, launching himself at Methos with his arms
spread wide. "I will beat you into the ground. And then I will take
your head. I know what you are."
He'd been right, Allessandro did know. No time to wonder how now.
Methos faked left, but Allessandro's arms caught him, knocking them
both to the ground. Fetid, sweaty presence enveloped him. Methos' hands
found the captain's neck, circling it and digging his thumbs deep into
the hollow at the base. Allessandro backhanded him across the face,
forcing his grip to loosen and tiny points of light to sparkle through
Methos bridged up, rolling them over so he lay on top of the other man.
Allessandro still taunted him, even as he struggled beneath Methos'
"I will finish you, fool," Allessandro hissed. "Then my men and I will
have you the way we had MacLeod. Will you be as much fun as he was?"
Methos hit him hard enough to feel the small bones cracking in his
fingers. "Oh very original," he growled, punching Allessandro again
with the other hand. "Save your fairytales for children."
Beneath him, Allessandro bucked his hips, throwing Methos forward. He
let the momentum take him, rolling with it and springing to his feet.
Allessandro leapt up and came at him again, swinging wildly.
Immortal presence washed through him and Methos' heart stopped for a
second. He couldn't take his eyes off the little prick in front of him,
but he didn't need to look to see that Duncan was coming. Then
Allessandro was on him again, slamming punches into his chest, his gut.
Methos stood his ground, trading him blow for blow, feeling the energy
slowly bleeding out of his opponent.
But not entirely. Allessandro's fist came out of nowhere to catch
Methos on the point of his chin, snapping his head back and sending him
staggering. He went with the momentum, needing a second's respite from
He looked towards the voice; Duncan of course, running and tossing
something to him that glinted in the sunlight filtering through the
trees. A machete. Methos caught it perfectly, the weight of it in his
hand like homecoming. Fear slid into the other man's eyes for the first
time. Methos advanced on him, swinging the blade to hear it sing.
"I am unarmed!" Allessandro called, backing off.
"That never stopped you," Methos said, matching every backward step
with a forward one of his own.
Triumph curled at Allessandro's mouth. "I told you we were more alike
than you knew."
Methos darted in for the first cut, hissing, "Oh no, you're wrong...I'm
Blood spurted with a hot, copper stink. Then the killing rage was on
him, black and red behind his eyes, on his hands, in the air that he
breathed, blood greasy-slick on his skin. The blade flashed again and
again, in and out of flesh that yielded all too easily. There were
screams, and then there was silence, but the rage had him now and would
not let him go so easily. He struck and struck until the blade snapped
off in his hands and exhaustion had him gasping for breath on his knees.
The scarlet haze faded, but slowly. And gradually Methos realized
strong arms had come around him, and a deep, gentle voice was calling
his name. The world came a little closer to righting itself and Duncan
was holding him, lifting him to his feet and leading him away.
"Methos?" Duncan said again and this time he managed to look up into
Duncan's face and saw the worry creasing Duncan's brow. "Methos, are
you all right?" He stroked the back of Methos' head, smoothing the
touch down his neck.
There were so many things he wanted to say, but all he could do was
drag breath into his burning lungs and lean his weary head on Duncan's
And somewhere, not too far away, he could hear the rhythmic, alien
stutter of an incoming helicopter.
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