When Megan awoke, the grey light of dawn was filtering through the window. Cocooned in the blankets, she tried to remember all she had experienced on her journey to the spirit world. Had Diandra really been alive in Ancient Greece? Or did the Companion's comment about her having an "old soul" mean she had been reincarnated? The answers she had been given only led to more questions. What she really wanted was to talk to Dee, to lay all the pieces she had on the table and have her show Megan how they all fit together.
Yawning, she pushed the covers down and sat up, letting out a startled squeak as she spied Jim sitting in a chair at the end of the bed. "Glad you've returned to the land of the living, Connor," he said with a slight grin. "I was beginning to worry."
Megan curled her arms around her knees and raised one eyebrow. "Really? Why?"
"You were having some kind of a nightmare last night, screaming and crying, and I couldn't wake you." The sentinel's gaze was concerned.
She ran a hand through her tangled curls. "I had a vision," she said finally, her voice raw with emotion. "It was... disturbing to say the least."
"Any thing I should know about?" Jim asked.
Megan nodded. Forewarned was forearmed. "You killed Sandy." At his shocked gasp, Megan elaborated. "Or, rather, the jaguar killed the wolf and was slain by the black mare, who then laid down and died. The Companion told me it was a vision of the future, and it was my responsibility to prevent it from coming true."
Jim leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees, his hands dangling loosely. Memories of the vision he'd had of shooting the wolf during Alex's reign of terror flashed through his mind. It was happening all over again, he thought, and he said as much.
Scooting down to the end of the bed, Megan took his hand. "Jim, this time is different, this time we know what the vision means."
"Do we?" he asked. "I thought I knew before, so I sent Blair away, right into Alex's clutches."
"There is no Alex this time, only the four of us, and the jag wouldn't have attacked the wolf if he hadn't come between the cat and the mare."
Shaking his head, Jim straightened and clenched his jaw. "It always comes back to her, doesn't it? When she moved back to Seacouver, I thought she was out of our lives forever, and now she's right in the middle again, coming between Blair and me."
The Aussie was shocked at the anger and bitterness that colored his voice, along with more than a hint of fear. How could she reassure him that this was not what the vision meant? She seized on the Companion's words. "Jim, the Companion said I had the ability to stop that from happening, and I will do everything in my power to make sure it doesn't. She told me it was my duty to protect the 'three who are one'. Do you know what she meant by that?"
Jim immediately thought of the connection he shared with his guide, and the blue-white ribbon of energy woven through the gold band. That connection had been strong enough to transport the effects of a Quickening over 50 miles. He rubbed his hand over his face wearily. "The three of us are connected, our life forces intertwined. Dee is connected to me through Blair, or at least that's what she told me. I don't know how much stock I can put in what she says."
Megan frowned at him. "Jim, Dee seems like a pretty honest person to me. Has she ever lied to you?"
The detective considered her question for a long time, then said, "No, not really. She just... I don't know... I just don't trust her."
Megan snorted. "Jim, you have a hard time trusting anyone, myself and Sandy included. It's part of your nature and it's what makes you a good cop, but it plays havoc with the rest of your life. Maybe, just this once, your suspicions are unfounded. Sure, Dee is a difficult person to get to know, but so are you, and for much the same reason. You're both wary of letting anyone too close for fear of being hurt again."
Slouching in the chair, Jim gave a short mirthless laugh. "And where did you get your psychology degree, Connor?"
Her answer followed an exasperated sigh. "Sandy doesn't seem to have any problem trusting her."
Ellison rolled his eyes. "He's blinded by love, or lust, take your pick."
Megan chucked a pillow at him, smacking him square in the face. "You are bloody insufferable, Ellison. I don't know how Sandy puts up with you. Would it kill you to just -believe- for once? To just take someone at face value and quit looking below the surface for some reason to justify your own insecurities?"
Jim got to his feet, his jaw muscles working overtime. "Are we finished?"
She was very, very tempted to say no, but the thought of spending an entire weekend getting the silent treatment was rather unappealing. "For now," she finally replied.
Grumbling, he stomped off to the kitchen to presumably start breakfast. Shooting one last irritated glare at his back, Megan headed for the shower.
Dee slid out from under the quilt, trying not to wake Blair. Shivering in the cold air, she tossed on her flannel shirt, and padded into the other room. She threw a couple logs on the fire, stirring up the embers of the old and adding enough kindling so that it began to blaze again. She did the same for the stove, setting a pot of water on for coffee, then she headed back to the bedroom, and got back into the still warm bed.
Blair stirred, mumbling something about freezing. Dee moved closer to him, wrapping an arm over his chest, and intertwining her leg with his. His breathing evened out, and he slept again. She kept watch over him, listening to the sound of water beginning to boil in the kitchen. An indeterminate time later, the world came rushing back to her, Blair's anxious eyes peering into hers.
"Dee, follow my voice back, come back... " he was saying in an almost frantic voice.
Taking a deep breath, she blinked, then said, "It's okay, Lobo, I'm here." Raising up on her elbows, she shook her head. "Shit, I zoned, didn't I?"
Blair nodded. "Big time, though what on, I don't know." He ran a forefinger down her cheek. "You scared the crap out of me."
"Sorry," she answered sheepishly. "Guess I was still pretty tired." A noise from the kitchen drew her attention. "And I think I zoned on the coffeepot." Rising, she walked into the other room, added more water to the pot, and put it back on the stove.
After pulling on his sweats, Blair followed her. She looked up from breaking eggs into a bowl. "How are you feeling this morning?"
He ran both hands through his disheveled hair. "My knee's okay, and the rest is just minor aches and pains."
Dee set a skillet on one of the burners and added a pat of butter. "How are you otherwise?"
Pausing in his search for coffee cups, he gave her a curious look. "Otherwise?"
She didn't know quite how to approach this. "Yeah, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically. You know, we really didn't talk much about what you went through last night. Are you having any side effects from the Quickening, any questions you want to ask me, that kind of thing."
At her words, Blair was transported to that moment in the alley. He remembered her urging him to run, but his injured leg had betrayed him once again, and he'd fallen, her hands grabbing his upper arms in an instinctual move he could see she regretted as soon as the first surge of Quickening energy struck her.
It had flowed from her to him following the path of least resistance, carrying with it indescribable agony, and at the same time, overwhelming pleasure. Hitching a ride with the physical sensations had been mental ones, visions or memories of a life long past. He would have expected them to be Hale's, but instead he found the Quickening opened up the doorways to Diandra's mind, and scenes from her life flashed by like slides in an out of control projector.
Most of the scenes he'd been unable to absorb, so quickly had they passed, but he could recall a body-strewn field at sunset, and the turquoise eyes of her dying companion. Images whizzed by, slowing to a vision of Dee dressed in sequins and tights, astride a large horse in a circus setting, watching a dark-haired woman perform on the trapeze.
The memories shuffled, and he caught a glimpse of Diandra sitting on a bench in Victorian dress, a large mansion visible behind her. A small blond girl raced across the lawn, leaping into Dee's arms for a hug. Blair could see her face clearly, and though she was smiling and laughing, the child's eyes were hard and cold and familiar. Before he had time to wonder about that, the idyllic setting became a jungle and a fatigue-clad Dee crept through the underbrush toward a World War II Japanese stronghold.
Once more the scene changed, flipping past images of the Australian Outback to pause on a recent event, set in MacLeod's dojo. Methos was on his knees, bleeding from a fatal wound to the chest, Dee poised to take his head when the Immortal Blair knew only by reputation, Duncan MacLeod, deflected her blow with his own sword. Diandra's face contorted in rage, and she raised her right hand toward him, palm out. Energy exploded across the short distance between them, hurling MacLeod the full length of the dojo, shorting out the lights, and breaking all the windows.
The slides changed again, and Blair saw three black clad figures burst through a doorway to find a man holding a sword to the neck of what Blair assumed was an Immortal. Again energy sprang from Dee's hands, fueled from the combined power of herself and the Immortals on either side of her, MacLeod and Methos. The man with the sword was lifted into the air and ripped apart, releasing a Quickening that brought the walls down around them.
The vision shifted to dark, storm-tossed woods. Diandra stood in the center of a clearing, then whirled to find a blond haired boy of no more than 11 or 12 standing over a fallen man, a sword clutched in his grasp. She chased the child through the forest, taking him down with a kick to the head, then severing his neck with his own sword.
Another change, and Dee was battling an Immortal female in a parking garage, while a wounded Dana Scully leaned against a post in the background. Dee disarmed the female, then turned her attention toward her student, sheathing her sword inside her coat. The other woman continued to verbally bait Diandra, though Blair couldn't make out the words. Something she said must have pushed her over the edge, because Dee drew her katana and whirled, taking the other Immortal's head in one smooth movement.
The next picture was more recent still, Diandra kneeling on the pavement, scattered books around her, looking up at a chestnut haired, blue eyed grad student. Moments from their friendship flew by, training together, sharing lunch, dancing at Joe's, the battle at the lighthouse, Diandra leaving, finding Megan, the talk on the stairway, the Cherokee exploding, and finally her arms around him as the Quickening finished.
"Lobo, Blair!" Dee's hands were on his shoulders, shaking him gently. "Blair, are you okay?"
Blinking slowly, he looked up at her. She pulled a chair out from the table and pushed him into it. "What just happened, Lobo? You were a million miles away."
He swallowed with difficulty, not sure how to explain. "I was... remembering the Quickening. I... everything was you... all these images, these visions of you, from your life. The closer they came to now, the stronger they were." Leaning his elbows on the table, he buried his hands in his hair. "God, Dee, how do you do it? So much violence, so much death... "
Taking a deep breath, Dee sat down next to him. This was not what she had expected, but then nothing about the previous night had been normal. She reached out to him, her hand hesitating over his. Goddess, how do I comfort him? She withdrew her hand, placing it in her lap. Physical contact from her might not be welcome at this moment. "How do I do what?" she finally asked, her voice shaky.
Blair lifted his head to look at her. "Survive. How do you not go crazy knowing you'll outlive everyone you've ever loved... " He frowned as a thought crossed his mind. "I'm sorry," he said suddenly, "I'm sorry I can't be with you forever, that I have to leave you... "
Tears stung her eyes, and Dee slid off her chair to kneel beside him, gazing up into his tormented face. "Oh, baby," she breathed, "Lobo, it's okay. You will always be with me, in my mind, in my heart. I will never forget you, forget how much you care. That's how I survive, how I stay sane, by remembering the people I've loved and knowing they wouldn't want me to give up, that they would want me to go on."
He caught her face in his hands, leaning down to kiss her fiercely. Her hands tangled in his hair, and she deepened the kiss, pulling him off the chair to join her on the floor. The smell of something burning, and the trilling of Blair's cell phone interrupted any further activity.
Breaking away from her, Blair scrambled to the living area, pulling his phone from his backpack. Smiling at his eagerness, Dee got to her feet, taking the skillet off the burner and waiting until it cooled a bit before she wiped out the burned butter. Blair walked back into the kitchen the phone pressed to his ear.
"Yeah, Jim, we made it here okay. It was just pretty late." He tucked the phone between his shoulder and his ear and poured two cups of coffee, adding milk to them both, then glanced at Dee, who mouthed, "No honey, use sugar," at him. "So how did the two of you manage last night?"
Jim leaned against the kitchen counter, one ear listening to Megan talking to herself in the other room. "We managed okay, except for the little incident with the Bronco. Next time you're going to get in the middle of a Quickening, give me a little notice, okay?"
"Shit, Jim! What happened?" Blair's worried eyes caught Dee's.
"I felt it. Connor said it was like a zone out at first, and I nearly drove us off a cliff. Fortunately, she managed to save our asses, at the expense of the truck. Then she said I had a seizure."
Blair bit his lip, considering the events. "The energy must have traveled down our connection. Did you get any images with that?"
Jim started to shake his head, then realized Blair couldn't see that. "No, no images, just pain. Lots and lots of pain, enough that I started to like it." He shuddered involuntarily. "I would rather not go through it again." He could hear Dee's voice in the background.
"Dee thinks it was just a freak incident, since she was in physical contact with me when the Quickening happened. I don't plan on being anywhere in the vicinity next time she has to take a head." He felt the Immortal give his shoulder a reassuring squeeze.
"Look, Chief, I don't know how good the cell phone reception is going to stay up here, but I want to let you know you're not so far away that I can't hear you. Dee can probably hear us too. So if anything happens, and the cell phone is unavailable, just give a shout. I'll be keeping an ear open."
Blair looked over at Dee, who had her eyes closed, and her head cocked toward the west. After a few moments, she opened her eyes and nodded. "She's got you, Jim. We'll do the same thing on our end. Listen, I have about a million things I want to talk to you about, but I have no way to recharge my phone here, since MacLeod seems to be a fan of the rustic life. We'll have to do it once we're back in Cascade on Monday." He lowered his voice. "I miss you, man. Us being apart just doesn't feel right."
Jim was surprised at how much his guide's words warmed his heart. "I miss you too, buddy. Stay safe."
Blair clicked off his phone, staring silently out the window across the dark expanse of water. He felt Dee's arms slide around his waist from behind, and she rested her chin on his shoulder, not saying anything, but her silent presence letting him know she understood. Finally he turned toward her, and asked, "What's for breakfast?"
Jim paced back and forth across the living room of Simon's cabin, waiting for his call to go through. He'd waited until lunchtime to contact his superior, feeling better knowing most of the PD would be away from their desks. He glanced over at Megan, who was sitting in front of the large picture window, an artist's sketch pad in her lap, a box of pastels on the table next to her. She'd discovered the art supplies on a search of the cabin that morning, a leftover reminder of the time Simon had tried taking up painting as a stress reducer. She had finished the rough outline of her drawing in pencil, and was now contentedly, almost obsessively, filling in the colors. From his position, he couldn't see enough of the work to know what it was, but if it kept Connor busy, and her mind off of psychoanalyzing him, then he was happy.
Jim tore his attention from the Aussie. "Simon, it's Jim. Just thought I would update you on what's going on here."
"I was beginning to worry there, Ellison. Did you make it to the cabin okay?"
"Yes and no, sir. We're fine, but the truck is not. I'm afraid you'll have to send someone to get us late Sunday night. We managed to get it stuck pretty good." He pinched the bridge of his nose, waiting for the Captain's response.
"Ellison! Can't you manage a simple babysitting job without wrecking a vehicle? Brown is going to be pissed. You get to be the one to tell him about it."
Jim sighed. "Sorry, Simon, it's a long story, one I don't have time to go into now. What's the situation there?"
"Seems to be normal. We've been keeping an eye on Cristo, and he hasn't given us any reason to think he doesn't believe the four of you are dead. Let me tell you, though, the phones have been ringing off the hook here. You'd be amazed at how many people are upset about what happened. There are a lot of folks who care a great deal about you and Sandburg, and Connor, too."
Jim felt his stomach knot. He hadn't thought of how others would be affected by his plan, especially his father and brother. "Have you heard from any of my family?"
"No, no, we tried to contact them, to let them know what was up, but both your father and Steven are out of the country at the moment. Hopefully they won't hear about it until you get back on Monday," Simon said. "Look, Jim, if there's anything you need, you call me, okay? Do you know how Sandburg and Pallas are doing?"
"Yeah, I talked to them this morning. They seem to be fine."
"Seem to be? What does that mean, Jim?"
"It means they're fine. I'm just uneasy about us being separated. We can hear each other though, so it's not so bad." He opened up his hearing to check on them, then swiftly closed it down again, feeling a blush warm his cheeks. Jesus, they were worse than rabbits.
"Okay, Jim, I'll take your word for it. Check in with me again in about 12 hours, and I'll give you the latest from here."
"Okay, Simon, and thanks for your help." Disconnecting the call, Jim walked over to where Megan sat, glancing over her shoulder at the half-finished artwork. He found it extremely disturbing. A jaguar crouched over the body of a wolf, as a horse reared back in anger. A chill ran down his spine, and he turned away without saying a word, his mind reeling over the strength of her vision. What could possibly cause him to turn on his guide? Needing some space, he grabbed his jacket, and headed outside.
Dee and Blair had dozed off on the sofa after supper. Raising herself up on her elbow, Dee turned her hearing outward, unsure of what had woken her. The sharp crack came again, and she sat up swiftly, dumping Blair on the floor.
"Hey, what the... " he exclaimed.
Diandra was already on her feet, yanking on her boots and fastening her sword across her back. "Get your stuff on, Lobo. Jim and Megan are in trouble. Someone's found them, someone with a gun."
Megan laid her cards on the table. "Gin," she announced, unable to keep a satisfied smirk off her face. "You're going to end up owing me your next paycheck the way you're playing."
Jim shook his head, and tossed his hand onto the discard pile. "Sorry, Connor. My mind's not on the game."
Squaring the cards up, she gave them a shuffle. "Worried about Sandy?" she asked.
Closing his eyes, the sentinel rubbed the knot at the back of his neck with one hand. "Yes and no," he finally said. "I know Diandra won't let anything happen to him. Hell, she's better equipped to take care of him than I am; she doesn't have to worry about the location of the nearest hospital whenever he gets into trouble. It's just that I feel it should be me watching his back." He shrugged.
Megan began to deal the cards, realizing that conversely, Jim probably would feel better with Sandy looking out for him. She suddenly wished that Dee and Sandy, or Simon, or anyone were here with them to ease the growing tension in the room. "Sorry, Jimbo," she finally said lightly, "you're stuck with me."
He glanced up from his hand, seeing the self-doubt in her eyes immediately. "I'm sorry, Connor. I didn't mean that the way it sounded. You are a good guide; you proved that last night. The problem is you're just not -my- guide." He gave her what he hoped was a reassuring grin.
"I promise I won't let anything happen to you, not like what happened to Lydia," she vowed, regretting mentioning the Companion as soon as the words left her mouth.
"Who's Lydia?" Jim asked, sensing there was something the Aussie was keeping from him.
Sighing, Megan answered him, knowing he would keep prodding her until he got the story out of her. "Lydia is the Companion, the woman I see in my visions."
"And what happened to her?" Jim laid his cards down, and crossed his arms over his chest.
"She died." She was going to make him work for it.
"I know she died. But what does that have to do with us?"
Megan pushed the ace of spades around in a little circle on the table with her forefinger. "She died because she and Diandra were separated. For what it's worth, Diandra died too, though that part has me puzzled."
Jim knew he was going to regret asking, but he did anyway. "Why are you puzzled?"
"Well, she had a spear go clear through her. Nobody could have survived that kind of injury especially during that era."
"And what era would that be?"
Megan looked around the room, pointedly avoiding meeting Jim's eyes. "This is going to sound really weird, but Ancient Greece, a couple thousand years ago."
It was Jim's turn to wish Blair and Dee were present. Why did he end up having to answer all the hard questions? He tried a trick from the Sandburg book of obfuscation. "Oh, come on, Connor. Are you trying to tell me Diandra is thousands of years old?"
"No, but how else can I explain what Lydia showed me?"
Go for the simple explanation, Ellison, Jim told himself. "Spirit visions are notoriously inaccurate, Megan. I'm not saying that what you saw didn't happen, I'm just saying the way in which it was presented is a little suspect. Those kinds of visions, in my experience, are open to a lot of interpretation. So maybe what you saw actually happened, but not in that particular setting. The vision may have been drawn from your own subconscious, from the way you see Diandra." Sandburg would have been proud of him.
"Well, maybe," Megan admitted. "I do have Amazons on the brain because of Sandy. He gave me Dee's book, 'Daughters of Artemis', to read. And Dee does remind me a lot of one of the main characters, Dreena, who is the Queen's consort and leader of their warriors."
"I believe that's called a Mary Sue," Jim said, trying very hard not to laugh.
"A Mary Sue. That's when the author writes himself or herself into the book as a character. So it would only be natural for you to have a vision in which Dee is an Amazon, based on what you just told me." He gave her a smile.
She pondered that for a few moments, then said, "You don't think there's any way Dee could be that old, then?"
Jim shook his head. "Think about what you're saying, Connor. The only way she could be that old would be if she were an... an alien, or immortal. And I don't think you believe in aliens, do you?"
"No," she said slowly, "but what about reincarnation? What if she's the reincarnated soul of an Amazon? Lydia did say she had an old soul."
Sensing control of the conversation was slipping out of his grasp, Jim rose and headed for the kitchen for a glass of water. "I'm no expert in that area. Sandburg's the person to talk to there."
Megan gave a frustrated sigh. "I guess I'll just have to wait until this weekend's over to get the answers to my questions. " She grabbed the sketchpad she had been working with earlier, and turning to an unfinished drawing, began to add color to it.
Coming back into the living room, Jim paused behind her, admiring her work. The drawing was of two Amazon warriors, their backs to each other, swords drawn against an invisible enemy. The taller of the two figures was immediately recognizable to Jim as Diandra, but he couldn't place the smaller one. "Is that Lydia?" he asked.
Megan glanced up at him. "Hmm, I think so, I'm not entirely sure; it's not done yet, you see."
Okaaaay, Jim thought. Connor was getting just a little too weird for him. Still, he supposed her sudden interest in drawing spirit visions wasn't harmful. Crossing to the sofa, he sat down, suppressing a yawn, and gazed into the fire.
Laying down the pastel she had been working with, Megan stretched, and glanced at the clock on the roughhewn mantelpiece over the fireplace. It showed a quarter past ten. Yawning, she started to rise when the faint sound of a car engine reached her ears. She looked at the sentinel still seated on the couch. How come Jim hadn't heard it? Was he asleep?
Rapidly she crossed the small space between them, and looked into his face. Damn it, he'd zoned on something, probably the fire. She shook him urgently. "Jim! Come on, Jim, snap out of it! Someone's headed this way!" Listening again, she heard the engine shut off, and a muffled door slam. They didn't have time for her to finesse Jim out of the zone. "Sorry, Jim," she whispered, then slapped him across the face as hard as she could.
He leapt to his feet, and Megan jumped back to avoid his instinctive swing. "Connor! What the hell... "
"We've got trouble, Jim. Someone just drove up." She was moving across the cabin, grabbing their weapons from kitchen table, and stuffing extra clips in her pockets.
Jim listened for a moment, then joined her in the kitchen. "Out the back door, now!" Into the frigid night they ran, unable to spare the few seconds it would have taken to grab their coats. They wasted no time in crossing the small clearing and heading into the woods. Once inside the tree line, Jim paused, getting a fix on the intruders. "Damn it," he cursed softly. "It's Cristo, and what sounds like four or five of his goons. I don't think they're here for a social visit.
Handing him his gun and a couple clips, Megan said, "How do you want to play it? Think we can take them?"
From their position slightly above the cabin, Jim could see the men fan out with military precision. "No, not in a face to face fight. They look like mercenaries. They've got body armor, night vision scopes, and automatic rifles. We're outnumbered and outgunned. Come on, let's see if we can lose them, then maybe circle back for their vehicle." He headed toward the west, away from the cabin, carefully keeping to the bare ground under the thick trees, wanting to leave as few tracks as possible in the snow.
Megan followed, latching onto his belt to keep them together, since he was the only one who could see where they were going. "What about Blair and Dee?" she whispered. "Do you think Cristo knows they're alive?"
Jim gave her a hand over a rocky outcropping. "No, I heard him say something about you being the last loose end."
The sound of a gunshot made them both duck, but they quickly realized it hadn't been fired in their direction. A second shot followed the first. "He's pissed they didn't surprise us at the cabin," Jim said, "and he's taking it out on the driver for getting too close before stopping. Let's get some miles between us and them before they start hunting in earnest."
They had only gone a short distance before Jim pulled up again. "Now what?" Megan asked.
"It's Dee," Jim said. He listened for a moment, then said, "Damn it, no. We can handle this." He paused. "I said no, Dee. Your job is to protect Blair not... " He was silent for almost a minute. Even in the filtered moonlight, Megan could see his jaw clenching. Sighing in resignation, he finally said, "Fine, okay, forty-five minutes."
Sensing the conversation was over, Megan asked, "What did she want?"
"She thinks she's coming to save our asses." He shook his head. "She and Blair will meet us in a small cove northeast of here in three quarters of an hour. Shit, that means we have to go back past the cabin. Come on." Taking her hand, he headed off through the trees again.
Shoving the canoe into the water, Diandra leapt into the stern, grabbing her paddle and digging it into the black water. Blair glanced back over his shoulder at her, taking in the combined emotions of concern and cold fury blazing in her eyes. Fear writhed in the pit of his stomach at her expression. Whatever she was hearing must be bad, very bad. She swore in a language only she understood, and increased her strokes. Blair did the same.
They had covered what the guide estimated to be roughly half the distance to the western shore of the lake when they both heard the rapid staccato of an automatic weapon. Giving a sharp cry, Blair nearly dropped his paddle as stinging pain shot through his left bicep. He looked back at Dee, seeing his agony reflected in her eyes. "Jim's been shot," she told him calmly, confirming his worst fear. "Keep paddling, Lobo."
Blair bent himself to the task again, the ache in his arm fading. At least he knew the injury wasn't life threatening. "Have they been captured?" he asked.
"No, they're still heading for the cove, but Cristo's men are on their trail. They're making for rougher ground to try and lose them."
"You got all that from their movements?"
A small smile crossed Dee's face. "No, Megan's giving me the play-by-play."
Her words reassured Blair that everything was okay, and in a short time, the bottom of the canoe was scraping against the beach. Both of them jumped out, dragging the boat higher onto the sand, then Dee paused to get a fix on the two parties, Blair's hand on her back grounding her. "There," she said finally, pointing toward a stand of thick pines, as Jim and Megan broke through the cover, crossing the distance between the trees and the water at a jog.
Coming to a stop in front of the Champion and Guide, both Jim and Megan struggled to catch their breath. Slipping out of her parka, Dee wrapped it around Megan's shoulders, while Blair went immediately to his sentinel's side, examining his injury. Jim swiped half-heartedly at his partner's hand. "Don't worry about it, Chief. It went through clean." Blair continued to fuss, yanking a strip from his shirt to use to redress the wound. Shaking his head with a grin, Jim turned his attention to Dee. "We don't have much time," he said. "They're maybe ten minutes behind us. How do you wanna do this?"
Turning toward him, Dee gave him a grim smile. "The three of you get in the canoe, and start paddling. The island is due east of here; you can't miss it."
"Dee, you can't stay here!" Megan's voice was almost frantic.
"I agree," Jim said. "Either we all go, or we all stay."
"Ellison, don't argue with me. There's not enough room, and I'm the logical choice to stay behind. Get the two of them out of here. That's what's important. Protect the companions." The warrior drew herself up to her full height, and Jim could feel the energy pouring off her.
"No, goddamn it, I'm not going to let you stay here. You're outnumbered... " He shrugged off Blair's placating hand and took a step toward her, drawing his weapon. "If I have to shoot you to get you in the damn boat, I will."
"Jim, man, you don't mean that!" Blair said, staring at the Sentinel and Champion in shock. "This is not the time for you two to have a head butting contest."
Megan's head came up at Blair's words, an alarm going off inside her, the Companion's voice urging her to move, MOVE!
"Try it!" the Immortal snarled, her hand reaching over her shoulder, her fingers closing around the hilt of her katana.
Jim pointed his gun at her, his finger tightening on the trigger. Too late he realized his guide now stood between himself and Dee. The sound of the gunshot bounced off the mountains, and echoed across the still lake.
His legs suddenly unable to support his weight, Jim sagged to the ground, his weapon falling from limp fingers. What had he done? Oh, god, what had he done?
"Jim, what in the bloody hell were you thinking? You nearly killed Sandy!" Megan picked up his gun from where it had fallen and stuck it in the pocket of Dee's parka. "Damn it, Jimbo, we don't have time for this!"
Dee unwrapped her arms from around a shell-shocked Blair. "You've got to be the luckiest man alive, Ellison. If Megan hadn't bumped your hand, you would have killed your guide." Grabbing him by the shirtfront she hauled him to his feet, her words pitched too low for the others to hear. "And you would have followed him in a matter of seconds. Now get in the fucking canoe and get them the hell away from here."
Managing to pull himself together, Jim asked, "What are you going to do?"
Dee's eyes flashed in the light of the full moon. "I'm going to see how Cristo likes fighting under the Amazon rules of war."
Jim moved past her to where his soulmate stood, his arms wrapped tightly around his torso, his face white with fear. "I'm sorry, Blair," he said softly, unable to meet the other man's eyes.
The color came rushing back to the anthropologist's cheeks as he spit out, "This has got to end, Jim. It has to end tonight." The sentinel nodded slowly then went to stand next to the canoe with a still shaking Megan.
Blair moved to Dee's side, his hand automatically reaching for hers. Clasping it in both her own, she raised it to her lips and kissed the back of his fingers. "It'll be okay, Lobo," she said quietly, her eyes meeting and holding his.
"I know what you're going to do," he told her.
"And I want you to know I love you... and I want you to promise me you'll come back to me." His free hand caressed her face, feeling the warmth of her tears against his skin.
"I promise," she whispered, leaning down to kiss him tenderly. Then she stepped back, drawing her knife from its sheath on her wrist. She paused, the tip of the blade held over her forefinger.
Blair held out his hand to her, knowing she wasn't asking for his participation in the ritual, but needing to give her something of himself to take with her into battle. He could hear the gasps from both Megan and Jim as the knife pricked his finger, blood rising from the small cut. Diandra guided his hand in drawing the ancient symbols, the sign for Athena, the Goddess of Righteous War on her forehead, and Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt on her right cheek. He moved his hand to her left cheek, but she stopped him with a small shake of her head.
"That one's mine, Lobo," she told him, slicing her finger and drawing the symbol for Death. "Now go."
Blair hugged her once more, then walked over to join Jim and Megan, grabbing the bow of the canoe and dragging it into the water. Megan climbed into the center seat and Jim into the rear, Blair turning toward the shore one last time, watching as Dee drew her katana with her right hand, and her wakizashi with her left. Crossing them above her head, an Amazon battle cry poured from her throat, then she headed for the trees.
Blair hopped the front of the canoe, picked up his paddle, and didn't look back.