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Chapter 8

I walk back into the bar and call MacLeod from my office phone. "Mac? We're back." I settle down into the office chair with relief. "No...yeah...no...hell, I don't know." I rest my cane against the desk. "Listen, he's walking back. Give me a call when he gets in safe?" I boot up the computer. “Thanks. You too.” Hanging up the phone, I hold on to the conviction that talking about it must have helped Jean-Pierre. Nothing’s worse than bottling it up inside.

I pull up the form for “Suggested Additions to a Third-Party Immortal’s Chronicles” on the computer and sit there staring at it until the screensaver pops up. I’m not sure how much of what Jean-Pierre told me belongs in his Chronicle. If it were Mac, I’d leave out all but the bare dates and events. But Jean-Pierre asked me to tell his story to the Watchers, and there’s much more to it than “April 1994 - Rwanda - Subject witnesses several massacres of civilians and kills one of the Mortals responsible.”

When there’s a knock on the office door, I’m glad for the interruption. “Come in.”

Alexa comes in and closes the door behind her. She’s looking flushed but determined. “Joe, I need to talk to you.”

“What is it Alexa? Are you still okay working this long shift on Wednesdays?”

“Oh, that’s fine, I’ll let you know when I need to cut down.”

When, not if. If Duncan MacLeod makes me feel my mortality, Alexa reminds me that it’s possible to live gracefully with it. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer earlier this year. Alexa works here to make some money and stay involved with things, while she gets treated at the hospital and ties up her loose ends.

Alexa overcomes her hesitation. “I wanted to talk to you about Jean-Pierre.” If she asks me if I’m sleeping with him, I am kicking her out of my office.

“Joe - is he sick?” That’s not what I expected.

“Jean-Pierre sick? No, why?”

She sighs. “Joe, I know several men at the hospital that are thin like that. Two are going through chemo. The rest have AIDS. I know this is none of my business, but … he seemed really freaked out this morning. I thought maybe he got some bad news.”

Well, that explains her concern. “Alexa, Jean-Pierre is perfectly healthy. He lost someone close to him, and he’s been going through some rough times. But he’s not sick.”

Alexa leans back against the door. “All right, Joe, that’s good to hear. Just make sure he eats. He’s not going to stay healthy if he doesn’t eat right.”

For a Mortal that would be a real concern, but Jean-Pierre could starve to death and revive with no ill effects, from what I’ve read. “I’ll try. Anything else, Alexa?”

Alexa blushes a bit. “No. Sorry, Joe, I was just worried. About him and about you. You ignored everybody when you got back. Normally you at least say hi on the way to your office. I thought you might be upset.”

Thinking back, I realize she’s right. “Sorry about that, I was just a little preoccupied. So … Hi Alexa.”

She smiles at me, eyes twinkling. “Hi Joe. Bye Joe.” Alexa stands up, opens the door, and slips out, closing it firmly behind her.

Alexa comes across as shy, but she’s bold as brass when it comes to taking care of someone. I confess; I like the way she looks after me. I’m glad I hired her. I’d rather have a waitress with a kind smile who occasionally needs to ask a customer to repeat their order than one who can clear a table in 30 seconds flat but leaves a trail of frayed tempers behind her.

I focus back on the computer. Calling up the scent of the sea with a hint of creosote, I replay in my mind what Jean-Pierre told me today. He named me a bard. That’s a sacred trust. I’ll try to write his story so that any Watcher who reads it will feel the anguish of what Jean-Pierre went through in Rwanda. They can choose to include it in his Chronicles or not. At least there will be some record beyond our two memories.

Six hours later I’m up in my apartment. I’m exhausted, but I don’t dare close my eyes. I can feel that damn nightmare nibbling at the edges of my mind, just waiting for me to fall asleep. Yeah, my nightmares do encores.

I head down to put in an hour behind the bar. I’m distracted and cranky. The bar’s too loud, too bright, and even the music is getting on my nerves. Alexa finally tells me to go catch a movie, before my staff quits just to get me out of their hair.

I walk out the front door of the bar into a wet night. I huddle against the wall, watching the rain misting through the streetlights, listening to the shushing of cars driving through puddles in the street. This is ridiculous.

I’m worried about Jean-Pierre. He walked off without a word. I’ve called Mac three times this afternoon, and Jean-Pierre still isn’t back. For all I know he just kept walking, and is 30 miles out of Seacouver by now, with no clothes, no money, and no sword.

I give in, and call Maria’s cell phone. She picks up on the 3rd ring. I manage a good 2 minutes of small talk before casually inquiring how Gerard’s doing with his new assignment. I can feel the look she’s giving me right through the phone.

“He was fine as of his check-in an hour ago.”

Come on Maria; don’t make me beg for it. She sighs. “Of course, I don’t think six hours of surveillance on an Immortal sitting in church praying was quite what he had in mind when he signed up with the Watchers.”

Yes! “Thanks, Maria. I owe you one.”

“Don’t worry about it, Joe. You’ve got a good heart. Not enough sense to come in out of the rain, but a good heart.” She hangs up. Standing outside my bar in the rain, I have to admit that Maria has a point.

Well, this is good news. At the very least, Jean-Pierre is willing to take refuge on Holy Ground now. At best, maybe he can find some peace tonight. He could use it.

A customer bangs out the door of the bar. The loud swirl of music and conversation makes me flinch. I don’t want to go back in there. The image of Jean-Pierre sitting a solitary vigil in a church is curiously appealing. Hey, if he can do it, so can I.

I’ve never been to Mass in Seacouver, but as MacLeod’s Watcher it’s my job to know every scrap of Holy Ground within an hour’s drive. I walk to my car. Fifteen minutes later I’m pulling into the parking lot for St. James. There are other Roman Catholic churches closer to home, but this one reminds me of St. Bride’s, the parish I grew up in.

I push my way through the wooden doors and pause by the font out of pure habit. God and I haven’t been on speaking terms since Lauren died. I’m not really sure why I’m here, but the silence is soothing.

The church is deserted, with only a faint whiff of incense to mark the evening prayer service that ended an hour ago. The nave has the echoing emptiness of a school during the summer, or a stadium in the off-season. I’m drawn to a small shrine near the confessionals – a stand of votive candles by a statue of Mary.

When I shot James, I promised that I would light a candle for him. I never have. Now might be a good time. I pull a few dollars out of my wallet and push them into the offering box, then light a taper. I touch the taper to the wick of a candle in the center of the top row. I whisper my prayer, as I light it.

“James Horton – my friend, my enemy, my brother. Father of Lynn, killer of Darius, Robert, and others. You were a good man, once. May God have mercy on your soul.” I blow out the taper.

It’s not enough. James deserved a candle, but there are other ghosts with me tonight. I start another taper burning, and use it to light candles across the bottom row as I say their names.

“Robert Tucker, Josh King, Lauren Gale, Ian Bancroft, Don Salzer, Christine Salzer, Charlie DeSalvo, Andrew Cord.” Nine candles flicker as I extinguish the taper. Nine men and women close to me are dead, and all of them are on my shoulders in some way.

Suddenly it all crashes in on me, makes me dizzy. I back up to the nearest pew and sit down before I fall down. My brain takes off on a little tangent. NPR had a special last month about mass extinctions. It seems that a few times in Earth’s history large numbers of species have suddenly become extinct. Scientists are left puzzling over the fossil record, trying to figure out why. Some call these time periods “die-offs.”

I’m looking at my own personal die-off. People die, and Watching can be dangerous. But I’ve been a Watcher for 25 years, and this has all happened in the last two. Robert was the first, and I know the exact day he died. September 27, 1993. The day I first spoke to Duncan MacLeod.

Is it that simple? No. I’m not being punished for breaking my Oath. God wouldn’t do that, any more than He would take Darius because Jean-Pierre killed a mass-murderer. So what is the reason, the connection? Jean-Pierre would say it’s a pattern. I force myself to look at the candles.

MacLeod killed two of them. Not that I blame him. He made the right call, did what he had to do. Five of these people were killed by other Immortals. Watchers who were interfering in the Game killed two more. I tried to shoot James and Christine myself, to protect Immortals from them. James was just too damn ornery to die, and Christine … MacLeod saved me from having her death on my conscience. What is the pattern here?

All of them were walking the razor edge where Mortal and Immortal worlds meet. Sailors lose friends to the sea. Soldiers lose people to war. This is where I live. It doesn’t mean anything.

I shift in my seat so I can see the crucifix in the front of the church. Okay, God. Here I am, in Your house. My grandmother said that you never gave anyone a burden wider than his shoulders could carry. She said You answered every prayer, somehow. Well, I’m here to tell you that this load’s getting too damn heavy for me. I could use a little help. I find myself glaring at Christ like He’s some new waitress who’s not doing her share. Yeah, like that’s gonna work. I look back at the candles.

If their deaths don’t have any pattern, what about their lives? What would they want from me? Robert and Josh were both young Watchers who were trying to follow their orders, their Oaths, and their hearts all at the same time. They both put a lot of faith in me. Robert and Josh trusted me to do the right thing.

Lauren. Our time together was so short. The sweetness of it is overwhelmed by the bitter grief of her murder, and the loneliness I’ve felt since. There was no reason why an art historian should just happen to get on the wrong side of an Immortal. It’s too cruel to be a coincidence. If that was part of God’s Plan, He’s an asshole. Lauren … she would just want me to be happy.

Ian, my mentor. He was so angry the last time we spoke. First James betrayed him by killing Darius, and then I betrayed him by becoming friends with MacLeod. Ian wanted me to follow my Oath.

My friend Don. He was a funny guy. Don couldn’t tell you what he ate for lunch, but he knew every detail of political intrigues in the court of Venice 500 years ago. Don had a gift for finding the real human drama in even the driest Chronicle. He died protecting Methos’s secret. Don would want me to make sure the knowledge of the Watchers isn’t used to harm Immortals.

When Christine lost Don, she lost everything. She really did love him. Christine felt cheated. It wasn’t just that Kalas murdered Don. It was also the way that the Watchers had consumed so much of his energy and attention over the years. Christine wanted revenge. I hope she’s satisfied now that Kalas is dead. Maybe she would want me to make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Charlie DeSalvo was ex-Special Forces, trying to use wartime skills in peacetime by running a dojo. He never was very good at peace. He threw himself into battle at MacLeod’s side, went to war for his lover, and died trying to revenge her. I wish Mac and I had kept that from happening. But to be honest, Charlie was never going to die in bed. Charlie would want me to watch MacLeod’s back.

Andrew Cord saved my life in ‘Nam. He wasn’t necessarily a good man. I knew that, even then. But he was good to me. Sergeant Cord and I were the last two men left alive, from our platoon. What would the Immortal want from me? I think he’d just want me to survive.

Who’s left? Just James. I know exactly what James wanted. He wanted every Immortal dead. And I would have killed him to keep it from happening.

So, is there a pattern here? Do the right thing. Be happy. Follow my Oath. Protect Immortals from the Watchers. Protect Watchers from the Immortals. Watch MacLeod’s back. Keep myself alive. I feel my ghosts’ desires pulling me in different directions, a cacophony of sound. Then with an internal shift, they resolve into a single orchestral chord. Oh yeah. Stop the Hunters.

I’ve been slacking. When the Tribunal demoted me back down to Area Supervisor and gave the US Northwest to that bureaucrat Peterson; I backed down. I should have known better. These are my people. They can take the title, but they can’t take away the responsibility. The Watchers are my home, and James tried to bring it down around our ears. He’s gone, but the rot might still be eating away at us.

So – Adam and I will look into it. Hopefully it’s not too serious. Worst-case scenario: it goes right to the top, and the Tribunal is involved. If that’s true, then I guess I’ll be doing some recruiting of my own.

I stand and walk back to the shrine. The candles are burning steadily, one in the top row and eight across the bottom. I sweep my hand over the bottom row of candles, feeling the heat of them. “I hear you. James started this, but I’ll finish it. Rest easy.”

There’s a message on my answering machine when I get back from practicing at the firing range the next morning. It’s MacLeod. “Joe, I just wanted to let you know that Jean-Pierre showed up on the dojo steps this morning. He wants to try a spar.”

I immediately give Mac a ring. He picks up with a mellow, “MacLeod.”

“Morning, Mac, thanks for calling me. How did the spar go?”

Mac pauses for a moment. “Not too bad. Jean-Pierre definitely needs to work on his strength and endurance. But he’s fast, and has an unconventional mix of styles that would confuse most opponents. He’s much better than I expected, actually.”

“Did you use live blades?”

“Of course. Jean-Pierre finally picked one out from my collection. Not quite what he’s used to, but I think this length will work well for him.”

In the background I hear Jean-Pierre’s voice. “Is that Joe? Hello Joe! Bonjour Joe! Hola Joe!” Jean-Pierre runs through a dozen greetings in a variety of languages and silly voices. Judging by the rustling noises and varying volume I’d guess he’s trying to grab the phone from MacLeod.

I wish I could see what’s going on, because Mac starts whooping with laughter. I haven’t heard quite that note of outraged enjoyment in his voice since Fitzcairn died last year. Jean-Pierre addresses me with prim and proper dignity in a heavy Irish brogue. “Joseph. What an honor it is to speak to you this fine morning.”

“Morning, Jean-Pierre. I take it you won the wrestling match?”

“Not at all. I simply traded my towel for the phone.” MacLeod’s sputtering now. “Oops, I think Duncan wants to speak to you!”

It’s been a while since I was in a boy’s locker room, but I still recognize the distinctive crack of a towel against human flesh. “Mac? You there?”

“Joe, swear to me none of that is going in my Chronicle.” He’s joking around, but I answer him seriously.

“Not a word of it, Mac. Sounds like he’s in a good mood, anyway.”

Mac’s rumbling chuckle puts a smile on my face. “That he is. Joe, would you be free for dinner tonight? I’m cooking for Grace and Jean-Pierre. One more helping of pasta would be no trouble.”

I bask in the warm feeling for a moment. Things are really back to normal between us, if Mac is inviting me over for dinner again. I do a quick mental check of the shift schedule. “Make it an early dinner? I’ll need to be back at the bar by 8pm.”

“Sure, Joe. See you at 5:30?”

“I wouldn’t miss it, Mac.” I hang up the phone and start humming to myself. Things are looking up. Jean-Pierre’s okay, I’m okay, Mac’s okay, and the two of them are starting to get along better. I’m glad. MacLeod needs more friends who can make him laugh like that.

It’s a great dinner: terrific food, fun people, intriguing conversation. Grace fills us in on her work in Caracas, studying the physical and psychological causes of addiction. Jean-Pierre insists there’s a spiritual side to it, and tells us about the destruction he’s seen alcohol cause in Ireland and on tribal reservations. MacLeod makes a few quiet comments about addiction among Immortals. Watching the three of them enjoy each other’s company, I wish that more Immortals met over a glass of wine instead of a sword. The conversation shifts, and I barely suppress a groan. They’re arguing again.

Mac is trying to convince Jean-Pierre to make some serious cash, and save it up in case he needs it. He’s got ideas where someone who is eloquent in 8 languages could make their first million within two years. I listen to his suggestions. Watcher funds come from three sources: unintended bequests from heirless Immortals lost to the Game, profits from Watcher-owned front businesses like my bar, and investment strategies culled from careful surveillance of the world’s most successful long-term investors. Mac’s no slouch even by Immortal standards, so when he talks about money, I take notes.

Unfortunately, Jean-Pierre doesn’t seem as appreciative. He’s using all of that eloquence to entertain Grace and I while declining and subtly mocking Mac’s ideas. I remember something Jean-Pierre said in the car the yesterday. ‘Duncan reminds me of Carlo, sometimes. Oh, they are very different men. I know that. But they were both with Grace, and both very dominant. Carlo liked to control people for his own benefit. Duncan just wants to help. But it still feels the same.’

Things are definitely getting tense between the two of them. Jean-Pierre has a sharp-edged tongue when he’s backed into a corner, and Mac is getting pissed off. So I decide to break in with a story. “Hey guys, you remind me of the ant and the grasshopper. You know the fable?” Grace looks relieved at my interruption.

You can tell all three Immortals were raised in times where storytelling was the major form of entertainment, instead of the boob tube. They immediately settle back in their chairs to listen, even though I’m sure they have heard it before. I tell them the story like I heard it from my grandfather, starting with a description of the ant’s backbreaking work to prepare for winter while the grasshopper sings and plays, and ending with the grasshopper dying of cold and hunger in the middle of a blizzard.

After a beat’s silence, Jean-Pierre glances at me and tilts his head, asking for permission. I’m not sure what he has in mind, but I nod.

He sits up in his seat, drawing all of our eyes, and continues the fable. “And so the grasshopper lay dead through all the cold and hungry months. The snow covered his still form. Then spring came in all of her glory. Her gentle rays melted the snow. Her warm breezes brought life to the trees, to the grass, and to the grasshopper. He revived with a shout of joy and began to sing and dance again.”

Jean-Pierre and MacLeod are sharing a look. I realize that both of them have done this at some point – died during a hard winter from hunger or cold, and revived in the spring. That’s not in any of Mac’s Chronicles. Maybe if I pour enough Scotch into him he’ll tell me about it, sometime. I guess this fable has a slightly different moral, if you’re an Immortal.

MacLeod chuckles and looks away. “All right, Jean-Pierre, have it your way. I was just trying to help. It’s not cheap creating new identities these days!”

Jean-Pierre smiles warmly. “I know, and I thank you for caring. But it’s not what I need, not right now. Perhaps in a few years.”

He stands up and moves to the center of the room. “Actually, I’ve decided what I would like to do with myself next. Grace, you are going back to the hospital in Caracas tomorrow?”

She nods, looking a bit confused.

“Then I’ll head down the coast and meet you there. If you could help me set up a good identity … I would like to train as a nurse.” Jean-Pierre looks to me, as if waiting for a verdict.

With a glad cry Grace is out of her seat and hugging him. Grace has been a doctor for at least four hundred years. Having her favorite student go into medicine must be a dream come true.

I glance over at MacLeod. He’s looking at Jean-Pierre like a proud papa, and I recall that Mac’s put in plenty of time as a field medic, paramedic, and ambulance driver. Then his forehead creases, and he leans forward to speak. “Jean-Pierre, by the time you’re certified, you won’t have much time to practice before you need to move on.”

It’s good to know that, whether Mac’s talked to Richie about it yet or not, he realizes what life is like for an Immortal who died young.

Jean-Pierre gives a little half-smile and shrugs. “I know. But I’ll always have the knowledge and experience. If I go where I’m needed most, no one’s too picky about checking the references of the person helping out.”

Where a nurse is needed most … images dance through my mind. War zones. Disaster areas. Orphanages. Refugee camps. Disease hot zones. I guess Jean-Pierre has changed his mind about walking away from human suffering. That’s one hell of a way to atone.

When Duncan and Grace adjourn to the couch for a technical discussion of the best possible identity for Jean-Pierre and how to set it up, Jean-Pierre sits down next to me. “So, Joe. What do you think?” He looks concerned. When did my approval start mattering so much?

“About your plans to become a nurse?” He nods. “I think it’s a hard road you’re setting out on. But you’ll help a lot of people. I think Darius would be proud. And I know Grace is.”

Jean-Pierre smiles. Then he reaches out, picks up some salad greens off my plate with his right hand, and starts munching on them thoughtfully. I’m still trying to think of a culture in the world where that would be polite table manners when he speaks up. “Grace will be flying back to Caracas tomorrow afternoon. I will probably start walking south then.”

He’s leaving tomorrow. It’s strange. I’ve only known Jean-Pierre a few days, but I’m going to miss him. Who can say if he’ll be back to the Northwest within my lifetime? Jean-Pierre is studying the remnants of my salad as if there might be buried treasure in there. He looks up at me.

“Joe, I’d… like to write to you. Postcards, and letters. A very wise man once told me that I need a pen pal. Either that, or to fall in love. And somehow I think I’ve a better chance of getting you to respond to my letters.” Jean-Pierre’s tone is playful, but the wistful smile and shadowed eyes tell a different story.

I carefully answer the words, not the eyes. “Jean-Pierre, I’ll look forward to hearing from you. And as soon as you have a steady address, I’ll write back. I’ve always been a good letter-writer.”

I check my watch. “I’d better get going. I need to get back to the bar before I turn into a pumpkin.” I could stay another half-hour and still make it by 8, but I can’t take another half-hour of Jean-Pierre looking at me like that. Retreat is definitely the better part of valor.

I manage polite goodbyes and promise to see Grace and Jean-Pierre off from the airport tomorrow. MacLeod will drive. Parking at the airport is always tight. Mac probably bought the T-bird because it has great trunk space for disposing of bodies after Challenges, but it works equally well for luggage.

Chapter 9

Friday is glorious, with bright blue skies and crisp air. I wait outside the bar. When MacLeod pulls up, Grace immediately gets out and hops into the back seat. That leaves me to ride shotgun while Jean-Pierre sits next to her. I slide into the front seat and say hello to everyone. I let the others carry the conversation for a while. They talk about places they’ve visited on the West Coast, that Jean-Pierre might want to see on the way down to Caracas.

This may be the last time I’ll ever see him, and there’s something I have to know. “Jean-Pierre, where did you get the idea that you shouldn’t interfere in Mortal affairs? It sounds a lot like the Watcher Oath.” I turn so I can watch Jean-Pierre while he answers.

Jean-Pierre taps his lips and then throws his hand into an open-palm shrug. “Some of it was the bad example of Carlo, some the teachings of Grace and Darius, and some came from my own beliefs. Free will is the most precious gift given to us by God, Joe. Mortals or Immortals, we create ourselves every day in the choices we make.”

Jean-Pierre leans forward towards me. “Carlo set himself up as a god to the Pecino people. He defeated their enemies for them, forced them to work on his plantation, and made himself judge of their conflicts. And within a decade, I watched them dwindle from a proud and vigorous people to shadows. They lost even their language. Carlo liked them to speak Portuguese, said it was more civilized.”

MacLeod curses under his breath, and I recall that the English almost wiped out the Scots Gaelic language in his lifetime.

Grace inhales audibly, and Jean-Pierre sits back to look at her. “Jean-Pierre, it took me almost a hundred years to see the damage Carlo was doing to the Pecinos. I was so busy with my research, and I was a doctor. They were living longer, healthier lives. The children were surviving. The men were no longer dying in pointless raids against the other tribes. I knew you were unhappy on the plantation, so I helped you get to Europe. But I didn’t really listen to what you were telling me about Carlo and the Pecinos. I should have.” Mac’s hands are clenched tightly on the steering wheel.

Jean-Pierre picks up Grace’s hand and kisses it. “Grace, Carlo could only teach me how to kill. You taught me how to live as an Immortal. You have always helped Mortals in any way that you could, and your compassion is an inspiration to me. Carlo treated them with care when you were near. It’s not your fault that you didn’t see what he was hiding from you.”

Jean-Pierre unbuckles his seatbelt and slides closer to Grace. He puts his arm around her and then faces front towards me. “So – this is something I swore to myself I would not do, Joe. This world belongs to Mortals. Immortals are just allowed to play in it for a time. Mortals shape it, change it, and so they should. We should not be the gods, the sages, the great generals or teachers.”

MacLeod interrupts. “Jean-Pierre, I understand why you say Immortals shouldn’t act as gods, but why not teachers? Darius was a great man, and he brought a lot of good into this world through his students, both Mortal and Immortal.”

The delighted spark in Jean-Pierre’s eyes reminds me of the way Mac looks during a really good spar. “Darius tried to warp the Mortal world to suit him through war, once. He realized that it was wrong, but he never quite lost his taste for it. Darius believed that if Mortals did what he wished, the world would be a better place. Perhaps he was right. But it was never our decision to make.”

“I can be very persuasive, Duncan. I've learned from Jesuits and griots, bards and rabbis, truth-singers and law-speakers. If I use these skills to help a family mourn their child, or convince an audience to lay down their cares for a night, there's no harm in it. But to persuade a man to change the path of his life - that is wrong. I've stolen the choice from him, just as if I'd used force of arms. I have stolen his life away, almost as if I murdered him.”

Mac humphs. “You and Darius must have had some grand philosophical debates. Darius wanted me to stop fighting for what was right, and you think that I shouldn’t even persuade Mortals to do the right thing. But you won’t convince me of it!” MacLeod’s declaration, pitched to an audience in the back of the car, makes my ears ring.

Jean-Pierre grins. “Duncan, I wouldn’t even attempt it. I have enough trouble deciding what’s the right thing for myself, without making other people’s moral choices for them. You should follow your own heart. Besides, I doubt I’d get very far if I did try to convince you. Sometimes, when Darius was very exasperated, he would mutter under his breath, ‘Stubborn as a Highlander.’” Grace bursts out into a suspicious coughing fit. MacLeod smiles fondly and shakes his head.

I find myself wishing I could have met Darius, and gotten to know the man who touched all of their lives. But James made sure that would never happen. “I’m sorry.” I didn’t mean to say that out loud.

There is a moment of silence. MacLeod breaks it with a quiet, “Joe, it wasn’t your fault.” Maybe not, but if it ever happens again, it will be.

Jean-Pierre leans forward and puts a hand on my shoulder. “Your presence in our lives is Darius’s final gift to us, Joe.” He squeezes my shoulder and then leans back and stretches extravagantly. “Grace – how is the food in Caracas?” We chat about Central and South American food until Mac pulls into short-term parking at Sea-Tac airport.

There’s no way Jean-Pierre is carrying a sword under that jacket, so if he’s got one, it must be in his bags. I hurry to the back of the car, where MacLeod is unloading a set of matched leather luggage. I peer into the trunk – the GI-style rucksack must be Jean-Pierre’s.

I turn to Grace. “Before I forget, Grace, I got you a little something for trip back.” I pull a tiny and ornate box of Dilettante chocolate truffles out of my coat pocket and hand them to her. “I guessed you were a dark chocolate fan – was I right?”

Grace takes the box and teases, “Joe, are you sure you didn’t cheat and look it up?”

Grace and Jean-Pierre both seem to take being Watched much more calmly than Mac does. I don’t think I’d be quite so cheerful about it, myself.

“Nah, those files never include any of the really important stuff like people’s chocolate preference.”

Grace smiles. “Well, your guess was correct. I adore dark chocolate.” She neatly opens the plastic wrapper around the box, and takes a voluptuous sniff. “These are lovely, thank you, Joe.” She places the chocolates carefully in her purse.

I pull a large Ziploc bag of cookies out of the same pocket. My bulging coat must have made me look like a deformed chipmunk. “Now, Jean-Pierre, Alexa made these for you.” I reach into the trunk and zip open one of the rucksack’s side pockets to tuck the cookies in, feeling for a sword in the pack. I raise my voice so he can hear me. “They’re oatmeal chocolate chunk, and she says to eat them before they get stale.”

Nothing on that side, so I open the other side pocket and transfer bars and bags into it from my other coat pocket. “The Power Bars and dried fruit are from me.” Ah, there it is. Long, hard, right length for a sword. Well, that’s a relief. I make sure everything is zipped up tight, and then pull the rucksack out of the trunk. Jean-Pierre takes it from my hands and swings it onto his back. “Eat something whenever you feel hungry. Got it?” I pin him with my eyes, to show I mean it.

Jean-Pierre intones, “Yes, Mother.”

“… hen?” MacLeod suggests helpfully, from the other side of the car. I flip him off, and Mac chuckles as he closes the trunk and locks up.

We head towards the terminal. I’m walking next to Jean-Pierre, behind Grace and Mac, when a child screams on the other side of the lot. Jean-Pierre’s steps falter for a moment. When I look over at him, his face is serene, but I can see the pulse pounding in his throat.

“Jean-Pierre,” I ask quietly, “are you all right?”

He responds softly, “Is it obvious that I’m not?”

“Only to me.”

He smiles a little. “Good. I wouldn’t want Grace to worry. We heal wounds of the body immediately, Joe. Wounds of the spirit take a bit longer. It’s much better than it was. I just need some time.”

We reach the terminal and Grace checks-in. We say our goodbyes on the concourse, typical for Immortals who don’t want their swords setting off a metal detector. Grace hugs all three of us. When she hugs me, she whispers, “Joseph, thank you for being such a good friend to them both. You will always be welcome in my home.”

As she hurries towards her gate, I catch sight of Maria and Gerard in the crowd. I bet that as soon as Maria clears Customs in Caracas, I’ll be getting a phone call chewing my ass over being seen in public with yet another Immortal.

Jean-Pierre shakes Duncan’s hand with a smile. It’s nice to see them parting on good terms. He approaches and hugs me nervously, like he’s not sure it’s allowed. I balance myself, put my arms around him and pull him towards me, hand on the nape of his neck. Jean-Pierre relaxes against me with a sigh. We stand there for a minute.

Jean-Pierre finally pulls away a bit to look up at my face. He speaks with quick intensity. “Joe, I have to warn you. I think James Horton might return again.”

I snort. “Jean-Pierre, he’s really dead this time. Believe me, I checked.” I didn’t call for the Watchers to pick up his body until it was cold, just in case.

He shakes his head, frustrated. “Joe, that doesn’t matter. I know James Horton, through your story. He wasn’t done with Duncan MacLeod. He wasn’t done with you. It’s as if you are still battling him, even now. James had a terrifying strong will. If there is any way back, he will take it.”

I realize that this isn’t Jean-Pierre acting crazy. This is just Jean-Pierre being himself. He was born into a world where people could rise from the dead, and he still lives in that world. In his own bizarre way, he’s trying to look after me. “Don’t worry about it, Jean-Pierre. MacLeod and I will watch each other’s backs.”

Jean-Pierre’s eyes search mine. “All right. Thank you, Joe, for everything.” With one hand resting on my shoulder, Jean-Pierre stands on tiptoe to kiss my forehead.

He steps back, out of my arms. Jean-Pierre raises his voice enough for Mac and any nearby Watchers to hear. “And if you ever change your mind about letting me crawl under the covers with you, send word. I’ll be up here in a flash!”

With a saucy little smile, Jean-Pierre shrugs into his rucksack and saunters out the front doors of the concourse. Things seem a little quiet with him gone, but I know that won’t last for long. MacLeod steps up next to me.

“Think we’ll ever see him again, Mac?”

“Of course. Any Immortal that irritating is bound to show up on my door-step regularly.” MacLeod is grinning. Yeah, he had fun with Jean-Pierre around, too. “Come on, Joe.”

He immediately starts clearing a path through the crowd for me. Duncan MacLeod, Grace Chandel, and Jean-Pierre Bastien are good people. Extraordinary people. And James wanted them dead. I know James Horton isn’t coming back, but his Hunters might. And I’ll be here to stop them.


In the sequel, The Secret War, Joe and Methos take on the Hunters.


( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 20th, 2006 02:35 pm (UTC)
I've stayed up way too late reading this, but I just had to let you know how much I enjoyed it. It's really well done and I hope you'll write some more HL for us soon.

I'll try to concoct some more coherent comments later on. But, thank you, it was a great read.
Mar. 21st, 2006 02:20 am (UTC)
I agree, this is a wonderful story. Loved the ending comment by Mac about irritatin immortals showing up on his door-step. Jean-Pierre is a complex and interest OC. I hope that you continue to write Highlander.

Mar. 21st, 2006 06:31 am (UTC)
Mac does seem to attract a certain class of exasperating yet entertaining Immortals. As loudly as he disapproves, he gets this little twinckle in his eye when they appear.

At this point, I couldn't stop writing Highlander if I tried!

I'm working on a sequel, "The Secret War", about Joe and Methos taking on a group of Hunters. Slow-going, but I'm popping out the ficlets in the meantime.
Mar. 21st, 2006 04:41 am (UTC)
I am so glad I found this story. It's rich and wonderfully written. This is Joe - a touchstone in the HL universe. Jean-Pierre is one of the best OC I've read and you "use" him so well. A friend of mine worked in Rwanda so that part of the story hits home. Thank you so much for sharing.
Mar. 21st, 2006 06:26 am (UTC)
Thank you, Ivadel. As much as I love Jean-Pierre, this was always a story about Joe Dawson.

And that's 3 comments TODAY on a story I posted months ago. Phases of the moon, or was I rec'd somewhere? Whatever the reason, I feel like the birthday girl!
Mar. 21st, 2006 12:54 pm (UTC)
I gread teh rec on the crackvan and it intrigued me enough to try this story, even if I am more interested in Methos centric stuff and I cannot say that I regret my choice, not in the least. Absolurtely great! Your original char is so real, he could have appeared easily in the show but what glued me to the screen was Joe's voice and his thoughts. The whole Horton thing was always bugging me, especially how he could get away with it. It was clear, at least for little me, that he was not the head of the hunter movement, that there must be some higher up involvement. Your Joe and how he, during his retelling the incident, realised it was marvelous to follow. At the one hand it is a pity that we never get to see those looks inside in the show but on the other hand.... there wouldn't be stories like this one if we didn't have to speculate. Thank you for this great read.
Mar. 21st, 2006 02:54 pm (UTC)
So glad to hear that you enjoyed it, Sayan!

The sequel I'm working on now has Joe and Methos investigating the Hunters still operating inside the Watchers, trying to figure out how high up the chain it goes.
Mar. 21st, 2006 03:13 pm (UTC)
Beautiful, beautiful job, Keerawa. I'll be rereading it later to catch more of the nuances, but I love the Joe/James thread, and the way Joe's finally *looking* at that whole mess. I also loved the 'he's not entirely dead' warning. The voodoo aspects of this were great, and fit perfectly. Jean-Pierre is a great OC; I very much hope to see more of him. ::grinning:: Nice of him to both clear Joe's reputation in public while simultaneously embarrassing him, flirting with him, and driving Duncan nuts. This was wonderful!

(oh, and I should have squee'd earlier -- Grace! You wrote fic with Grace! Thank you!!)
Mar. 22nd, 2006 05:24 am (UTC)
I'm so glad that you enjoyed it.

Jean-Pierre was born because I needed someone that Joe would open up to about his personal history with Horton. But he certainly took on a life of his own.

The perspective on Vodoun is as authentic and respectful as you can get from books and the Internet.

I'm delighted that you caught the fun layers of Jean-Pierre's final words to Joe!

Grace is a subtle character, which makes her rather tricky to write. Someday I need to look into her relationship with her unintuitive student, Kristin Gilles.
Mar. 23rd, 2006 04:40 pm (UTC)
And GryphonRhi is the reason I spent so long today reading this instead of working. I didn't realise how long it was and once I had started I was hooked. That was wonderful. I loved the intricate interplay and subtlety of all the characters. Very delicate and beautifully written.

Now I am trying to resist going to find more you have written; and do some work!
Mar. 24th, 2006 02:47 am (UTC)
*chuckles* Perhaps I need to add that to the start of Chapter 1. Warning! This story is 9 chapters long. Do not begin reading if scheduled for work, food, or sleep.

Thank you letting me know that you enjoyed it. I hope you get your work done. And just so you know - all of the other pieces I've written are short!
Mar. 21st, 2006 04:32 pm (UTC)
I was supposed to take a nap, but instead I read this. *sigh* Am not regretting it in the least - this was a fabulous story. I love the insights you gave to Joe's character, and to Jean-Pierre, who was a lovely new aquaintance. I more than half hoped for Joe to take him up on his offer! *grin* The resolution of the Horton story (if it can be called a resolution) was really poignant, and I love the way you compare/contrast the characters with each other.
Mar. 22nd, 2006 05:29 am (UTC)
I've lost so much sleep to good authors. I'm honored to have cost you a nap! *smiles*

The Hunters story-arc becomes much richer if Horton is a man you can care about, lost and betrayed. Joe really thought he could save his friend, at first.
Mar. 26th, 2006 05:00 am (UTC)
I more than half hoped for Joe to take him up on his offer!

*laughs* Yeah, my beta's response at that point was something like, "Come one, Joe. Just a leetle manly man sex on the side? Pretty please?"
Mar. 25th, 2006 06:19 pm (UTC)
This is a wonderful story! Very moving and full of deep insights. And then, there's the fact that I think Joe is the sexiest thing ever... *g* Thanks!
Mar. 26th, 2006 04:56 am (UTC)
Thank you! Jean-Pierre would definitely agree with you about Joe.
Sep. 18th, 2006 03:24 am (UTC)
There I was, going to work on some story or nuther today, and there was this storylink winking at me, saying "Click me! Click me!" So, of course, I did. And reread this story again, because it's just a damn great story *g*.

And if this sounds like I'm dredging for a sequel, well....yeah!

Love Jean-Pierre. Love Joe and Jean-Pierre. Love Grace worrying about Joe and Jean-Pierre.

And want Joe to go kick the Hunters' collective asses, of course. Though I worry about Joe even being able to look Jean-Pierre in the eye after Galati!

You use the canon material so well. Love having stories like this around to enjoy again and again.
Sep. 18th, 2006 06:05 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks, Cath! I actually got caught just now and read these last few chapters again.

I seriously need to round up the Muses and get back to work on that sequel. The key scenes are all written, it's just the in-between bits that need to be built up out of raw imagination.

Joe is much harsher on himself than Jean-Pierre would ever be. Although Jean-Pierre would actually make him LOOK at the whole mess with Galati, instead of ignoring or explaining away. And that part is hard.
(Deleted comment)
Oct. 15th, 2006 12:36 am (UTC)
Thank you, ilyena!

I really appreciate you leaving feedback. I'm delighted to hear that you enjoyed my story and found it worth re-reading.

This story takes place during the 4th season, after "The Colonel". Joe found out that Adam Pierson was Methos during the 3rd season, before they went to see Christine Salzer in "Finale". Thanks for bringing it up, though. The more fact-checking my work gets, the better!
Oct. 15th, 2006 03:31 pm (UTC)
Well-rounded story, excellent Joe voice, and very much in character.
Oct. 15th, 2006 07:37 pm (UTC)
Re: *applauds*
Thank you, holde_maid! I'm glad to hear that you enojyed it, and thanks for the chapter comments as you read. It's always nice to hear what bits stand out in a reader's mind.

This was the first piece of fanfiction that I wrote. I was amazed at how Joe and Jean-Pierre Muses popped up and started telling me just how the story went.

I still tend to let my subconcious do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to voice, and spend my concious energy on plot.
Jan. 9th, 2010 04:34 am (UTC)
Adding to memories. And now I have to go to bed! Been up too late. Will there be more Joe and Jean Pierre?
Jan. 10th, 2010 01:40 am (UTC)
I'm honored that you took my story over sleep! There is indeed a sequal - The Secret War, in which Joe and Methos take on the Hunters.

Edited at 2010-01-10 01:40 am (UTC)
Apr. 19th, 2011 11:13 pm (UTC)
Oh, this was absolutely fantastic! (Clearly I need a Joe icon.) I really think you nailed Joe here -- his loyalty and stubbornness and damage, his desire to do the right thing, the way that he simply can't help being there for people who need him. I loved your OC and I thought their (kinda) mutual attraction and Joe's refusal was gracefully handled. I also really love how firmly rooted in canon this story is, particularly the way that, even though it takes place before quite a lot of the show's reveals, those threads of things that will come later are woven throughout -- Alexa's illness, Joe's daughter, the forthcoming Tribunal, the way that Joe and Duncan are still patching up their estrangement following Charlie's death. Loved, loved, loved it, and can't wait to read the sequel! :)
Apr. 20th, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! I love Joe. This story is, to my mind, very firmly a part of that moment in canon, so I'm glad that came across.
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )