DISCLAIMER - Highlander and its characters is the copyright of Rysher and Panzer/Davis Productions and no infringement is intended. The story, such as it is, is copyright Karen Colohan June 1999.

With thanks to Margaret for reading and commenting.

Goodbye. Whatever possessed me to say that out loud? It certainly stopped you in your tracks, didn't it. Not that it changed your decision, but it did make you think, for just a moment... Damn it, I can't believe how rattled this has got me! I don't see you at all for months on end, but give me ten minutes in your company and you've managed to turn my life on its head all over again. It's ironic really, I guess this must be what my disappearing acts did to you, but I don't think I ever crashed back into your life with anything this devastating on my heels.

Bloody hell, MacLeod, I know what you're planning. And now, thanks to my little slip up there, you know that I do. Oh, who am I kidding? We've been around one another too long now. We both knew from the second you found that beer mat from Joe's place... You're going to walk open eyed into a trap that's been specially baited for you and you're going to let O'Rourke take your head. You know that's what he wants; what he's set you up for. You won't even fight him, will you?

People die, MacLeod. Immortals - die.

Yeah, but not because of me. Not any more.

And that is what this is really about, isn't it? At least it is for you. It all comes back to Ahriman - and what happened to Richie. When you get right down to it, this has nothing to do with O'Rourke. He's just a convenient catalyst for that damned guilt of yours.

It's been a year and more, but nothing has really changed, has it? We could just as easily be back there at the old racetrack with you on your knees offering me your sword and your head. You still think you have a price to pay for what happened to Richie. I wouldn't let you pay it then, so now you're looking for someone else who will. You can't let it go...

Shit! There are times when I really despise that damned honour code of yours, MacLeod - even though without it, you wouldn't be you. Well, without your head you won't be you either, will you? So I suppose I have to make sure your head stays exactly where it is... Damn, so much for me thinking I didn't care any more! That was never true, though, was it? Not even at the blackest moments - even when you hated me and what I represented. I always cared...

Which means I know what I have to do now. Oh, maybe I'm not playing by the rules - your rules, anyway - but then neither is O'Rourke. He knows your buttons, Mac, and he's pushing them all - and loving it! That twisted bastard may be getting a real kick out of watching you set yourself up as the sacrificial lamb, but not for long. He's not going to have it all his own way. O'Rourke is not the only guy in town who's prepared to fight dirty.

I know you'll be angry with me, Mac, but I can handle that - as long as you're safe. It's having you around to be angry that matters, and somehow I think both Joe and Amanda would agree with me on that score.

Hero or martyr? Well, you can play either role with equal aplomb, Mac, but right now I'd rather settle for the former. As for me, well, I'm just a contrary old bastard who isn't ready to let the best friend he ever had walk knowingly to his death. Call me a sentimental fool if you like, but I've got kind of attached to you, Highlander! Watching you brood and wrestle with your moral dilemmas is the best spectator sport since the Christians versus the lions! Still, I'm no hero and I'm certainly not about to play the martyr. No, trickery and a total disregard for the rules is what will get us all out of this mess - and who better than me to employ those... skills?

Goodbye? No, I'm not ready to say that to you just yet, Mac, not ready for that at all. A world without Duncan MacLeod in it? That would be a poorer place, for all of us. It really doesn't bear thinking about...

The End

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