Lessons in Mercy

Part 4 of the New Beginning cycle

by Jennifer Campbell

For disclaimers and credits, please see part 1.

This story is the fourth in a cycle. The previous three are: Life is all about change, The Hitchhiker and A Life in Progress. But this story stands on its own. Rating: PG-13 for mild violence.

"Oh, you foolish, Alice!" she answered herself. "How can you learn lessons in here? Why there's hardly any room for you and no room at all for any lesson-books!"
-- Lewis Carroll, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"

part 3

Present day

Methos never put much faith in Fate, for she proved a fickle mistress. Sometimes Fate chose you as the winner of an immortal encounter; sometimes Fate chose you as the loser. Methos had lost count how of many times he'd heard the justification: "Perhaps it was his time to go." So long ago, Methos learned to put his faith in his own wits and sword. He chose to survive, not leaving that decision to a force as random as Fate.

Perhaps, he thought, that explained the inexplicable connection he felt to Father Mark. Even though he had dedicated his immortal life to God, the good father seemed the type to determine his own course. He reminded Methos of another immortal priest in so many ways: independent and decisive, yet compassionate. Yes, Methos thought, Father Mark and Darius were cut from the same material.

"Come in, Adam," Father Mark said as he opened the door to his study. The hinges creaked, and the priest winced. "It started doing that sometime in the 1920s. Someday, I suppose I'll have to get it fixed."

Methos sauntered in, both hands stuck deep in his coat pockets, and looked about the small, dimly lit room. Shelves, packed with beautifully bound books, lined every wall to the ceiling, and in the far corner stood an worn oak desk, piled high with papers. Methos took a deep breath, savoring the familiar, musty scent, and he felt a sudden yearning to return Shakespeare & Co. Those days were gone, though, he knew. No use dwelling on the past.

"You admire my books," Father Mark said, following Methos into the study and shutting the door behind him. "You're looking at one of the most extensive collections of first editions by 19th century American authors anywhere in the world."

"Very impressive," Methos responded with admiration.

"Perhaps you'd like to take a closer look?"

Methos smiled wistfully. "Some other time. Today, Father, I come on business."

Father Mark nodded thoughtfully and sat behind his desk, his face barely visible over the massive jumble of papers. He gestured to another chair, but Methos remained standing. "What can I help you with, then?"

"I'll come straight to the point," Methos said. "I am looking for a home for an immortal baby. She's no more than a few months old."

Father Mark leaned back in his chair and watched Methos carefully. "An interesting choice you made, not to kill the child outright."

Not my choice, Methos thought. Careful to keep his expression passive, he asked, "Will you take the baby?"

Father Mark stood, smoothed his pants and headed for the door. "Come with me, Adam. There is something I want you to see."

He lead Methos down several deserted hallways until finally they came to a brightly lit room with several large, open windows. Someone had painted the walls with jewel-colored balloons, all pointed in the same direction, creating the illusion they were flying in endless circles. Half a dozen children, none older than a few months, lay in cribs against the walls. It seemed a normal nursery to Methos, with one exception: One of the children was immortal.

Father Mark led Methos to the far corner and stopped at the crib of perhaps the oldest-seeming child in the room. The baby looked about six months old with a head of curly, thick brown hair. He smiled as he saw Father Mark and waved his chubby arms in welcome.

"This is Joseph. He's been with us for more than twenty years." The priest lifted the baby to his shoulder. "Joseph, this is Adam Reynolds."

The baby twisted around, and Methos caught his breath as he met Joseph's wide eyes. He barely suppressed a shudder. Not for thousands of years, not since Baba, had he come face to face with the awareness he found in this child's expression.

"Unnerving, isn't it, the first time you see it?" Father Mark sounded almost sympathetic. "This is not a child I hold."

"Yes, quite unnerving," Methos murmured. "Does he understand what we're saying?"

Father Mark shrugged. "Who knows? In all the time I have cared for immortal babies, I have never discovered that answer."

"So, Joseph is not the first."

"Oh, no. There have been others."

Methos licked his dry lips. "What happened to them?"

"They gave up hope," he answered quietly. "As they realized they were trapped forever in their little prisons, they began to despair. Soon after, they stopped eating and drinking."

Methos looked sharply at Father Mark. "You mean they committed suicide."

"Just so," the priest responded, nodding. "But, of course, they came back from the dead, only to kill themselves again. When that happens, I call a friend of mine, who takes them off holy ground and kills them. Sometimes it takes a few months, sometimes a few decades, but, in the end, they all yearn for death."

Methos nodded sadly and silently watched Father Mark return Joseph to his bed. So Baba had not been a fluke, he thought. Silas' pet had followed the normal course for an immortal baby, if infant immortality was normal at all.

He deliberately turned from the crib, unwilling to look any longer on its occupant. His eyes were drawn to the walls. Hundreds of balloons, all flying in neat little circles but going nowhere. Just like these children.

"The baby you found will follow the same course as the others," Father Mark said matter-of-factly. "However, if you can live with that, bring her here. We'll keep her for a few days, and if she adjusts well to the nursery, we'll keep her permanently, or at least until she chooses to die."

Methos nodded and forced a smile, pulling his eyes from the rather hypnotic balloons. The offer was exactly what he had hoped for, but now came the difficult part: Convincing his stubborn student that this arrangement would prove the best solution. Though one way or another, with or without Lindsey's approval, he would bring the baby here.

"Thank you, Father," Methos said. "I'll bring her tomorrow."

A day passed, and then another, and another. An entire week had slipped by, but still Adam had not called or written or even answered his cell phone. For a few hours Wednesday afternoon, his phone had been out of contact range, but he'd returned by sunset.

On Thursday, Lindsey only called him twice. By Friday night, she had resigned herself to the fact that Adam would return when he was ready and not a moment before. She also prepared herself for the possibility that he might not return at all. The thought saddened her, but Adam had taught her to consider all possible outcomes, which, he said, would give her an extra edge in the Game.

It also was Adam's teachings that caused Lindsey to distrust her new friend. Although Alice dispensed child-care advice without restraint, she maintained her contrived, overly polite manner. Every time Lindsey began to visibly mistrust her, the woman would throw Johnny Sumter in her face: "How can you be so suspicious. I saved your life, after all."

Lindsey also had discovered that Alice suffered from a mild tick in her left eye, which seemed to come and go randomly, much like her congenial attitude. One moment, Alice acted like a close friend, and the next moment she became the Ice Queen. Taken as a whole, Alice set Lindsey on her guard. Although the redheaded enigma had never hinted that she might try for anyone's head, Lindsey kept her sword nearby at all times.

On a lazy Sunday morning, ten days after Adam's midnight departure, Lindsey woke late and fed Elizabeth before putting the baby in her crib in the bedroom. She was listening to the radio and reading the morning paper when she felt an immortal buzz. Grabbing her sword, she looked through the peephole, only to see a familiar face staring back. She opened the door, and Alice raised her eyebrows as she noticed the weapon in Lindsey's hand.

"I didn't expect you this morning," Lindsey muttered, "and you can't be too cautious."

"Adam taught you well." Alice swept into the apartment and headed for Lindsey's bedroom. She emerged moments later with Elizabeth sleeping in her arms. "Did you realize that sound carries from your apartment to the back alley very clearly? I could hear the radio playing as though it were in my own car."

"That's strange," Lindsey said absently.

"Although I don't especially like your choice of music."

"Hey. There's nothing wrong with Madonna." Lindsey went into the kitchen to pour herself another cup of coffee. "What some?" she offered. Alice shook her head, and they both settled at the kitchen table. Lindsey propped her sword against her chair, within easy reach.

"I was wondering," Alice said, "if you would let me borrow Elizabeth for a while this afternoon. For research, of course. I want to take her to the hospital and run some tests."

Lindsey shook her head. "I have errands to run, and I want to keep her with me."

"As you wish."

Lindsey thought she saw Alice's eyes flicker dangerously, but the spark vanished, leaving her to wonder if she'd imagined it. She looked at the newspaper's lead story and back at Alice. A disturbing thought began to form.

"Did you see the newspaper this morning?" Lindsey turned the front page toward her guest. "The police found the body of that 3-year-old girl who disappeared from the hospital morgue last week. She was near the river, where she drowned. But the police, um, couldn't find her head. After finding Johnny, the authorities are wondering if they have a serial killer on the loose."

Alice looked up sharply from her contemplation of Elizabeth. "Do you think the girl was one of us?"

"Perhaps." Lindsey laid the newspaper on the table. "What I can't figure out is what sort of immortal would steal a helpless child, take her to the river and kill her."

Alice shrugged, and her left eye began to jump. "Obviously, the killer is a sick person." She gingerly checked Elizabeth's diaper and grimaced. "Changing time."

Lindsey blinked. She hadn't seriously considered that Alice might have something to do with the headless toddler, but the woman had been quick to change the subject. Too quick. And what did Lindsey really know about her?

As Lindsey sat deep in thought, the silence between them grew almost tangible. Alice watched her expectantly. Elizabeth whimpered in her sleep. The kitchen suddenly felt too stuffy, too confining. Lindsey was having trouble breathing. She had to get out ...

"I'll take Elizabeth," she quickly offered. She settled the baby against her shoulder, grabbed her sword and almost ran to her bedroom. Attempting to collect herself, she laid Elizabeth in her crib, gave the child her favorite pacifier and ran a hand over her own eyes. Why had she even brought up that dead girl? Alice would never do such a horrible thing.

Or would she? Alice worked in the hospital, giving her easy access to the morgue. And something about her just didn't seem right, although Lindsey couldn't quite pinpoint the problem. Maybe it'd just be best to break with Alice -- safer that way. But what if she took offense and attacked? Or worse, what if she kidnapped Elizabeth?

Lindsey shook herself. This whole paranoia thing was silly. Alice probably had nothing to do with the dead girl. As Lindsey changed Elizabeth's diaper, she repeatedly told herself to act less suspicious, that not everyone was out for her head.

She didn't believe the thought for a second.

As Methos mounted the second flight of stairs to the apartment, the familiar presence of his student washed over him, but he felt something more. He stopped, closed his eyes in concentration and began cursing under his breath. Three signatures. Three immortals in the apartment. So much for believing Lindsey could keep out of trouble for a few days.

He drew his sword as he raced up the last few steps, various scenarios racing through his mind: Lindsey in the midst of a sword fight in the living room; Lindsey and Elizabeth held hostage against his own return. He didn't expect what he found upon bursting into the apartment, every muscle tensed for action: a redheaded woman sitting at the table, calmly reading the newspaper, and his student nowhere in sight.

The woman glanced up at him with icy green eyes and returned to reading the newspaper. "You must be Adam," she said blandly.

What the hell, Methos thought. Who was this immortal sitting at his kitchen table? What had she done with Lindsey? Methos felt his temper flare, felt cold-hearted Death pushing against the walls of his mind. If anything had happened to his student ...

Within seconds, he had his blade pressed against the woman's neck. She tensed, her hand moving slowly behind her chair, under her coat.

"Don't even try," he growled. "Where is she?"

The woman narrowed her eyes and opened her mouth, but before she could speak, they were interrupted by a squeal of delight originating from one of the bedrooms. "Adam!"

Methos watched wide-eyed as Lindsey ran into the living room, her long, brown hair flying behind her. She stopped abruptly and her smile dropped as she saw the two immortals in the kitchen. "Adam, no. Don't hurt her."

As Lindsey's eyes silently pleaded with him, he wondered what this immortal meant to her. For a moment, he considered taking the woman's head simply to stop Lindsey from continuing any blossoming friendship, but he quickly rejected the thought. No one was dead, after all, so no point in prolonging the confrontation.

After an appropriately dramatic pause, he withdrew his blade, and the woman visibly relaxed. Death slunk back into some dark corner of his consciousness -- but refused to vanish completely. "Get out of here," he ordered the unwelcome visitor.

"Listen, Adam --" Lindsey began.

"No!" He glared at his student, who frowned but pursed her lips shut.

The redhead gathered her coat into her arms. "It is all right, Lindsey. I will go. You and Adam have some catching up to do, I'm sure." With a small smile for Lindsey and a dirty look for Methos, she swept out of the apartment, slamming the door behind her.

"What the hell was that about?" Lindsey asked angrily. She stomped around the couch to approach her teacher. "Don't you trust anyone?"

"I don't even trust myself." Methos glared at her. "How do you expect me to trust that woman?"

"Alice," Lindsey muttered.

"What?"

"Alice," she repeated. "Her name is Alice Young."

Methos shook his head and leaned against the kitchen counter. "I don't care if she calls herself Cleopatra. I ... don't ... trust ... her," he said, slowly enunciating every word. "Do you?"

"Well, no. Not exactly."

He snorted. "Then stop complaining."

Lindsey sat dejectedly on the couch and frowned. "She was helping me take care of Elizabeth. You had left for who knows how long, and I needed help, Adam. I didn't know where you were. I didn't know if you were coming back. And now you've run her off without even giving her a chance ..."

The last traces of anger drained from Methos. She looked so disappointed, so upset -- and so very innocent. Still, after all she'd been through in the past year, she clung to her ideals of searching for the good in everyone.

Methos joined her on the couch and pulled her into his arms, this naive girl, his student, whom he'd come dangerously close to regarding as his daughter. Who am I kidding, he thought. She's wormed her way farther into my heart than anyone in centuries. She's reminded me that I have a heart.

"I didn't trust her, Adam," Lindsey mumbled against his shoulder. "But I was willing to give her a chance to prove herself. I was so sure you were gone for good. I thought I might never see you again ..."

She hung her arms around his neck, and Methos tightened his embrace. "I'm not going to abandon you. I promise."

Fifteen months ago

Methos awoke slowly, as if pushing through a dense fog to the surface of his consciousness. He sensed that somehow, some way, something was wrong. With a massive yawn, he lazily rolled over to face Lindsey's bed, his own motel mattress squeaking in protest. The bed was empty, its sheets and covers neatly tucked in. Lindsey was gone.

Bloody hell, Methos thought. Why did I agree to teach this ... this teen-ager? If she's not going to listen to a word I say, she can damn well fend for herself.

He rolled over again, hoping that if he fell asleep quickly, he might return to his beautiful dream about Alexa. They had been walking barefoot along the beach at sunset, hands clasped, sand between their toes ...

Then a unwelcome thought intruded, forcing Methos to jerk awake and begin searching for his shoes under the bed. If Lindsey were caught, she'd be recognized as a corpse vanished from the morgue, and she might lead the police to the motel. Then there'd be hell to pay. Methos knew he had to find her first.

He left the motel with dark thoughts. If they both survived this night, he was leaving. No way was he going to saddle himself with new immortal who refused to hear reason. What had he been thinking when he'd agreed to teach her, anyway? Had he learned nothing from watching MacLeod or that idiot Scot who had killed his student and suppressed his memory? Warren Cochran. That was his name. Had he not learned from Mac and Cochran that students only lead to trouble?

But under all his chaotic, angry questions, one thought kept returning, despite his best attempts to distance himself from the situation: I hope she's OK.

He flashed his name tag -- stolen from an unconscious doctor earlier that evening -- to a security guard at the hospital entrance and hurried past, keeping his face down. The guard waved him in without looking up from his sports magazine, and Methos slipped into the building with no problems. Now, where to start looking for the wayward immortal? Assuming she wasn't recognized, Lindsey would end up in her grandmother's room.

Methos walked randomly through mostly deserted, whitewashed halls, occasionally standing aside for doctors and nurses pushing patients in wheelchairs or on beds. He carefully kept his face down when he passed under security cameras, and he twice had to duck into a supply closet or bathroom when he spotted a guard coming in his direction.

After the second narrow escape from detection, he finally found what he had been hunting for: an unattended computer. Licking his lips nervously, Methos slipped behind the counter and punched the "return" key, which erased the screen saver and pulled up a long menu. He muttered his thanks to a higher power that some sloppy employee had neglected to log out.

Quickly scanning the list, he found the patient registry and clicked on it. The computer asked him for a name; Methos cursed silently. Lindsey had called the old woman "grandmother," which certainly wouldn't get him far in the database. He selected the box that said "female" and typed in Lindsey's last name, Allen. Three entries popped up.

Methos clicked on the first name. Annabel Allen, 16 years old, recovering from a drug overdose. Next. Barbara Allen, 35 years old, had just given birth to a healthy boy. Next. Elizabeth Allen, 64 years old, admitted for advanced cancer. Bingo.

Room 303. Methos committed the number to memory, clicked back to the main menu and disappeared around the corner just before a security guard walked by on his rounds.

Finding room 303 proved difficult, however. The hallways wound and twisted like a maze, and just when Methos thought he was getting close, he found himself in a completely new section of the hospital. He even passed rooms 301 and 302, walked through an intersection and found himself at room 314.

As he was backtracking to room 302, wondering whether room 303 even existed, he sensed another immortal. He slowly peered around a corner, only to find Lindsey half-collapsed against the wall, clutching her head in pain. Methos touched her shoulder lightly, and she jumped.

"Geez! Adam you scared me." She visibly attempted to catch her breath. "What are you doing here? I suddenly got this awful headache ..."

Methos shifted his hand to her arm, lifting her to her feet. "I'll explain later. Right now, we have to leave."

"No, I'm not going anywhere." Lindsey jerked back and folded her arms across her chest.

"Yes, you are." Methos tugged on her arm, almost pulling her off balance.

She stumbled a few feet after him and roughly pulled back. She pointed behind her. "Grandmother's room is right there, and I'm going in."

Methos took a deep breath. Gods, save me from stubborn children, he thought. "I am older than you; I am wiser than you; I am bigger than you. And I say we go. Now."

Without waiting for Lindsey to raise more objections, Methos grabbed her arm and began tugging her down the hall. She resisted every step; he refused to let go. They neared the corner leading to room 302 when Methos froze and cocked his head to one side. Someone was coming down the adjoining hall in squeaky shoes.

Lindsey hesitantly moved closer. "What--"

"Quiet," Methos hissed.

There it was again. Louder this time. The person definitely was walking toward them.

Methos turned and, with Lindsey in tow, hurried in the opposite direction. The hall bended around a 90 degree turn, and he stopped to peer around the corner. A security guard, whistling softly and typing at a hospital computer, stood only feet away. Methos smirked as he recognized the guard's whistling tune: Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. This guy and MacLeod would get along famously.

The tune died off in a long, fading note. The guard looked up from the computer, and Methos jerked back around the corner. Dammit! If the guard had seen him ...

Lindsey smiled at her new teacher in satisfaction as the distinct sound of footsteps headed toward them. The squeaky man at the other exit sounded as though he were very close. They were trapped.

"Fine," Methos snapped. "You win."

With a little joyous hop, Lindsey quietly opened the door to room 303, and Methos forced them both inside, shutting the door behind them. The guard walked by, and the squeaky shoes slowly died into silence.

With a sigh of relief, Methos turned to face the room, already knowing exactly what he would see. His student sat by the bed, gently holding the hand of an elderly woman who lay sleeping. Machines lined the back of the bed, most of them unfamiliar to Methos and all of them sporting tubes and wires that attached to Lindsey's grandmother. It amazed Methos how quickly technology had made his own medical knowledge obsolete.

He turned his attention to Elizabeth Allen and noted she wasn't so old, after all. Her hair, a soft fuzz around her head that reminded Methos of an infant, was still mostly black. And her face lacked the lines etched by old age. She was frail, though, beyond her years, and her face seemed pale in the lamplight.

Then the woman stirred and opened her eyelids. She smiled softly and lifted a trembling hand to Lindsey's cheek. Neither spoke. Methos knew, at that moment, he was forgotten; no one else existed for these two woman besides each other.

Lindsey sniffled as she met Grandmother's tired eyes, and she couldn't hold back the tears. The old woman looked so pale, so weak.

"Don't cry, child," Grandmother said, her voice reduced to a harsh whisper. "I'm not worth your tears." She smiled. "I'm glad you came."

Lindsey softly squeezed Grandmother's hand. "How could I not?"

"I will miss you when I'm gone."

"Don't talk like that," Lindsey sniffled. "You're going to be fine, and you're going to live for another thirty years."

Grandmother's raspy laugh shook her whole body, but the amused sound abruptly became a violent coughing fit. Lindsey sat helpless, unsure what to do. She pulled a tissue from the bedside Kleenex box and handed it to Grandmother, who held it against her mouth until the spasms passed. She passed the tissue back to Lindsey; it was covered in blood.

"You see," Grandmother whispered. "I know my time is drawing near, and I welcome it. I weary of this life: Living in the hospital, wracked by coughing fits and losing more strength every day. For me, child, death is not a punishment. It is an escape from the pain. Death is a mercy. Remember that."

Lindsey could not speak; if she opened her mouth she'd start sobbing again, she knew. She simply watched Grandmother, attempting to let all her love and concern show through her brave smile.

"On the night stand," Grandmother murmured, "is my cross. Give it to me."

The small gold pendant hung on a short chain, dangling from the lamp. Lindsey lifted it reverently. Never had she seen Grandmother without it, from the time Lindsey had been adopted at age 3 until the day she had left for college. The cross was Grandmother's most prized possession, a symbol of the God to whom she had devoted her life.

Lindsey placed the pendant in the woman's trembling hands. Grandmother held it to her chest for a moment, closing her eyes in what Lindsey supposed was a prayer. Then she reached for Lindsey's hand and placed the cross firmly in her palm.

"It's yours now," Grandmother said quietly. "Think of me when you look at it, and remember that I'm watching over you. Always."

Lindsey nodded and closed her fingers tightly over the gift. "I will."

Grandmother smiled, her eyes crinkling at their corners. "Good. Then I know I will never truly die."

The old woman closed her eyes. Lindsey simply held her hand and let the tears flow unheeded down her cheeks. Grandmother's breathing became regular as she fell asleep, the only sound in the room, but each gasp for air gurgled in the back of her throat. Then, the breaths ceased. Grandmother's hand stopped trembling and went limp in Lindsey's grasp.

Lindsey shook her head and sobbed.

She felt a hand close firmly over her shoulder. Adam. She had forgotten all about him, and she didn't want him here now. She wanted time to grieve, time to cry over the empty body that had been her grandmother, friend and savior. She wanted to stay here, at least for a few more minutes.

"We must go," Adam said quietly.

"I ... can't leave. ... Not yet," Lindsey managed to say between sobs.

Adam grabbed her shoulders and twisted her around to face him, yet his eyes remained gentle and understanding. "I'm sorry to tell you this, but she is dead. You can do nothing more for her, and it would be foolish to stay. We must leave before the doctors arrive."

We must leave, Lindsey thought dimly. Yes. Adam must be right. I can't believe she's dead.

"I can't believe she's left me alone," Lindsey murmured to herself.

"You're not alone," Adam replied. Lindsey looked up at him, and he smiled comfortingly. "You're not alone."

Lindsey nodded, breathed deep and wiped the tears from her cheeks. She drew strength from Adam's words. It might be enough to get her through the night.

She reached out to fold Grandmother's hands across her still chest, but Adam quickly grabbed her wrist. "Don't touch the body. No one must know we were here."

Lindsey nodded sadly and stood. "Let's go."

Adam peered out the door, walked into the hall and waved for Lindsey to follow. For the second time that night, they carefully wound their way through the catacomb of Carolinas Medical Center and back into the city. As they climbed the stairs to their motel room, the sun slowly rose over the trees into a cloudless sky, promising a beautiful day. But Lindsey didn't care. She collapsed onto her bed and, with one hand clutched tightly around Grandmother's cross, fell into a fitful sleep.

Present day

A hungry cry from Lindsey's bedroom roused both immortals from their thoughts. Lindsey sighed and smiled apologetically. "I should probably go find out what's wrong with her."

Methos nodded, but as she stood from the couch, he reached for her hand. She turned to face him.

"I found a place for the child," he said.

Lindsey's eyes widened as she sat back down. "Where?"

"It's a children's home about three hours from here. The man who runs it, Father Mark, has handled immortal babies before, so he knows what he's doing. And it's on holy ground."

"That's what you've been doing all this time," Lindsey said, amazed as she realized the truth. "You've been looking for a place that would take Elizabeth. Why didn't you tell me? Why the secrecy?"

Methos looked down at his hands. "Right now, I couldn't explain it if I tried. At the time, it seemed a wise choice to go alone."

An amused smile twitched at her lips. "Well, it's past now. I suppose I can just chalk it up to your mysterious, closed-off personality."

Methos half-smiled. He knew she was baiting him, but he owed it to her to play along. "You think I'm mysterious? You don't know the half of it."

She sighed. "And I never will, I know. You trust me, but not that much." Lindsey glanced up at him. "Did you trust MacLeod enough to tell him about your past? Or Joe?"

He snorted. "Joe was a Watcher. I wouldn't tell him anything I didn't want him to write down for future generations."

Lindsey's eyes narrowed. "That's not what I'm asking, and you know it. Adam, why won't you open up to me? It's like your reaction when you first saw Elizabeth. You must have had a reason for wanting her dead, but you wouldn't tell me why. What are you hiding?"

Methos said not a word. Instead, he watched her carefully, his eyes almost glowing with intensity yet impossible to decipher. It was an argument they'd had many times before, yet he refused to open up to her. He simply stared at her with those expressionless eyes until she looked away.

This time was no different, Lindsey realized, as she suddenly became interested in the carpet. "You're impossible to talk to," she muttered.

An awkward silence descended between them as Methos looked away, an almost regretful gesture, Lindsey thought. She finally licked her lips nervously and cleared her throat. "So, um, when are we going to take Elizabeth to meet Father Mark?"

"Tomorrow morning," Methos said softly. "Assuming you haven't made plans with Alice."

"No plans. You've probably run her off for good anyway."

"So much the better."

Lindsey shook her head sadly. "Alice never did anything to make me think she might be one of the bad guys. It was only my own paranoia that made me distrust her. I don't understand why you always assume the worst about everyone."

"Safer that way. How do you think I've lived this long?"

When Lindsey couldn't think of a response, she left Methos sitting on the couch and went to her bedroom to deal with Elizabeth, who was still crying. She slipped the pacifier in the baby's mouth and held her, bouncing her softly until Elizabeth went back to sleep. Just wait until tomorrow, sweetie, Lindsey thought. Tomorrow, we'll take you to a better place. You'll be happier there. I promise.

In the alley below, a redheaded immortal leaned against her car and thought about what she'd overheard between Lindsey and her meddlesome teacher. Their conversation had drifted through an open window and into the alley, and with each word, Alice clenched her fists a little tighter.

That idiotic excuse for an immortal who'd attacked them several days ago had been a happy mistake, seamlessly playing into her quest to gain Lindsey's trust. She had gotten so close. Then Adam Reynolds had returned. If he'd stayed away for a few more days, Alice might have taken the heads of both the baby and Lindsey with little hassle.

Still, all her effort might not be a complete loss. She would follow the immortal trio tomorrow on their trip to meet this Father Mark, who might even have other immortal children in his care. They were such easy targets, every tiny head another pinch of power that might make the difference between life and death in the Gathering.

Yes, tomorrow she would follow them. With a little luck, she might send them all to a better place.

End of part 3

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