Jane Carnall & Julie Kramer
MacGyver stood in the doorway of the cabin, looking round. The place was deserted, and had been deserted at least since last spring; the glass in one of the windows had broken, and ivy was climbing healthily in through the gap.
The cabin wasn't far from the nearest town -- half an hour's drive, most of that on a good road -- but the evening was silent around him. It was a prickling of hair on the back of his neck that made him turn.
Murdoc was scarred. He hadn't been, the last time. Somehow the scars -- when he had them -- were what MacGyver noticed first whenever they met. Even when, as now, Murdoc was holding a gun on him.
"All right," Mac said. His voice didn't tremble. "What do you want?"
The noise filled his world. The impact only registered as a stunning blow to his chest, and he was lying on his back, staring up at the swiftly-darkening sky, with no clear memory of how it had happened. It was cold. He was lying in a puddle. He was wet and cold and dark was falling.
Murdoc knelt down, watching in fascination as MacGyver died. One bullet, straight through the heart, tearing a larger hole on the way out. If he'd been in a hurry, a second bullet through the brain would have finished the man off nicely, but this wasn't a professional kill.
"Only your death, my darling," he said softly in belated response. "I couldn't let you talk me out of it this time."
MacGyver had a way with him that he would take with him to the grave. Murdoc planned to dig one under the floor of the cabin. The cabin would fall down in a couple of years, and no one would investigate. MacGyver would have vanished. At last, an end to the one man who could talk Murdoc down from a kill.
Murdoc never doubted his own abilities as a killer, but he checked three times to make certain MacGyver was dead. It was almost dusk. He lugged the body by the heels into the cabin, and rifled the pockets for keys and ID. With the last light, he drove Mac's car just off the track up to the cabin. Tomorrow, sufficiently disguised as MacGyver to fool anyone who knew neither of them, Murdoc would drive the car across three state lines and abandon it where it would be picked up by the local police and impounded.
And then gone. Back to Switzerland and another contract. Or somewhere else. Anywhere else. Murdoc had stashed some basic equipment here a couple of months ago, well out of sight. No one had discovered it since. Murdoc went back into the cabin. He switched on the battery lamp, putting it where it would cast a strong light on the boards he was levering up, and set about digging MacGyver's last home. He didn't let himself wonder why winning felt so bleak.
Darkness came swiftly this far south. Murdoc was digging more in shadows than in light. Much of the corpse was shrouded in blackness, and the spade's movements made the shadows shift and change.
That didn't bother Murdoc. But when the corpse inhaled sharply, like an inward sneeze, and jerked up as if kicked awake, eyes wide open and gleaming in the ribbon of lamplight, that was another matter entirely.
Murdoc stared at his long-time adversary. "You're one of them." The spade in his hand was solid, and the edge of the blade fairly sharp; if Murdoc slammed it down now, while MacGyver was shocked silly, that should put an end to it.
Oh yes. He could do that.
MacGyver fell back, as if unable to keep himself upright, still staring at Murdoc with wide, shocky eyes. He said something, but his voice was too dry and raspy to be understood. He'd died with his mouth open.
"Disconcerting," Murdoc said. He was conscious of emotions he did not care to examine at the moment. "I have a water-bottle in my rucksack; would you care for a drink?"
He was lying on his back, in a dark cold room on hard dusty boards. There was someone at work beside him. The only light came from that direction. He tried to turn his head and found his muscles wouldn't obey. It was a dream. Make it different; turn the dream back and begin again.
He wasn't breathing. He didn't need to breathe.
Then he did, abruptly and suddenly, but it was a moment before his lungs would work. The air felt hot as he drank it in.
That was Murdoc, standing over him, staring at him. Murdoc had shot him.
MacGyver tried to sit up. He couldn't. "What do you want?" he repeated, but it came out wrong. His mouth and tongue felt horribly dry.
"Disconcerting," Murdoc said. He smiled faintly. "I have a water-bottle in my rucksack; would you care for a drink?"
MacGyver tried to swallow, and nodded jerkily. Murdoc turned away. He was holding a shovel, MacGyver saw. It added to the surreality. Murdoc had drugged him with something and moved him somewhere. He'd fallen in a puddle. The back of his shirt still felt stickily damp.
Murdoc came back without the shovel, but with a bottle. He knelt down beside MacGyver, and, without comment, helped Mac to sit up. It was easier to move now; whatever the drug was, it was wearing off pretty fast. It was probably stupid to drink the water Murdoc gave him.
It had been stupid to come up to the cabin in the first place. He'd known the only person likely to send that kind of message was Murdoc. MacGyver was probably one of the few people alive who knew exactly how dangerous Murdoc was. But if Murdoc had truly wanted him dead, Murdoc could have killed him long ago. Mac took a mouthful of the proffered water, rinsed his mouth out, spat carefully to one side, and -- when he felt no odd reaction -- drank again and handed the bottle back. "Thanks," he said, a little wryly.
"You're welcome," Murdoc said, and grinned. "You'll be fine in a few minutes. I can guarantee that."
"What did you do to me?"
There was an odd, cheerful lilt in Murdoc's voice. "I hardly know how to tell you this, my darling, but I seem to have made you immortal."
"What?" MacGyver shook his head as if to banish the words, and ploughed onward. "What did you do to me? Why did you do it? Where are we?"
"We're exactly where we were. I just moved you into the cabin. And you're immortal, MacGyver. How often am I going to have to repeat that?"
"You expect me to believe it?"
Murdoc's sigh held a note of exasperation. "Think a minute, my darling. What did I do to you?"
"What did -- ?" Renewed anger flashed in Mac's eyes. "You shot me."
"Are you sure?" his tormentor persisted.
"Of course I'm sure! I felt the impact; I felt the pain. I was bleeding, and then everything went cold and dark and still...." MacGyver's voice trailed off. If an illusion, it had been a very realistic one.
Murdoc seemed to agree. "Where's the wound?"
Automatically, MacGyver glanced down at himself. There was a blood stain on his shirt, and a small hole in the centre. Beneath, his chest was undamaged, unscarred. "Okay, then, it was a trick."
Another sigh. "Give me your hand."
"What?" Mac glared at him suspiciously. "Why?"
"What happened to all that scientific curiosity, MacGyver?" Unreadable midnight eyes held Mac's. "I don't plan to do anything drastic. Give me your hand."
Slowly, reluctantly, MacGyver extended one hand. Murdoc flashed him a smile as he caught that hand in his own -- and then struck without warning, the knife which appeared in his free hand slicing neatly through Mac's shirt and deeply into the arm beneath.
With a wordless yelp of pain, MacGyver pulled free, clutching at the wound, and Murdoc let him go. "You were going to have to get rid of that shirt anyway," the assassin remarked in bland tones.
The oddest thing was that the pain was fading. If this was a side-effect of the drug Murdoc had obviously given him, it was an extraordinary one. That cut was deep enough to need a couple of stitches. But he could barely feel it now, and he seemed to have stopped bleeding.
Cautiously, MacGyver loosened his grip on his arm. The cut didn't start bleeding again. He could hardly see it in the shadowy light. Obligingly, Murdoc picked up the lamp and shone the beam full onto MacGyver's arm.
There was no cut. There was very little blood. There was a very old scar, faint and fading, exactly where Murdoc had sliced with his knife. There had been no scar there before.
A moment later, there was no mark at all. "I'm still dreaming...." MacGyver wasn't even aware he had said it out loud, until he heard Murdoc snort with exasperation. The knife flashed again, still seemingly out of nowhere, to leave a small cut just where the scar had been.
A small, stinging cut. MacGyver watched in disbelief as the tiny wound healed before his eyes, the pain fading like an echo. Stunned, he glanced up at Murdoc, to catch an oddly sympathetic expression. "But how...?"
"I told you, MacGyver -- you're immortal."
MacGyver shook his head, dazed but stubborn. "I've never healed like this."
"Only because you'd never died."
Impact against his chest, through his heart, impact and a sound that filled the world. That had been real. Too real. MacGyver stared at Murdoc, finding no words. He shook his head. No. None of this could be real.
Now Murdoc looked more than a little annoyed. "I've already killed you once, MacGyver. Do I have to do it again?"
"No!" MacGyver edged away from him warily. He felt recovered, he felt more than able to run, but he doubted if this spring of well-being was anything but illusion. If any of this was real.
"We should get out of here. Are you willing to take my word?"
MacGyver hesitated. The obvious answer was no, not in a million years, but Murdoc was actually rather meticulous about keeping his word, when he gave it. Of course, he also had a thousand ways of keeping to the meticulous letter of what he had promised, rather than what he'd led MacGyver to expect.
Mac knew he had hesitated too long when Murdoc sighed. "Fine. We'll do this the hard way." Once again, the knife flashed.
Death didn't get any better the second time around.
It would probably take a good ten minutes, maybe longer, for MacGyver to come round again. By the simple expedient of leaving the knife in his heart, Murdoc could have kept him as he was for as long as he liked, but evidently MacGyver was finding life hallucinatory enough. No need to add to his problems.
Murdoc took the time to clear up and pack. When he heard MacGyver's first frantic gasp for air, he returned to stand over him.
MacGyver's eyes flashed open, ablaze with anger and fear. His first words -- through a throat not quite ready for them -- were "Will you stop doing that?"
Murdoc smiled, reaching down to offer MacGyver a hand to his feet. "I'm trying to make a point."
Still shaken, MacGyver glared at him. "You've made it." He shrank from Murdoc's hand, getting to his feet unassisted. Murdoc had never been quite so close to someone who was still recovering from having died, but it looked as if it got easier the more often the immortal did it. Of course, he hadn't planned for MacGyver to recover....
But I could have killed him, when I knew what he was, and I didn't. I don't want him to die.
Suppressing another sigh, Murdoc regarded his companion. "You have a genius for disrupting my plans."
Silence. Then his heart had begun to beat, stubbornly waking him from the stillness of death. It was eerily convincing. And Murdoc was standing over him. MacGyver scrambled to his feet without the offered help.
"You have a genius for disrupting my plans," Murdoc told him. The arch of one eyebrow held a clear note of irony. "Shall we go?"
"I'm not going anywhere with you!"
"We need to talk. Preferably in a church."
"A church?" MacGyver stared at him blankly.
"There happens to be a church in that town down there."
"I know," Mac agreed, bewildered. "But why there?"
"That's one of the things I have to explain." Murdoc gestured to the door. "After you."
MacGyver's car had vanished. Murdoc's was parked right outside. "It's a rental," Murdoc said. "You'd better take your shirt off. I took your jacket out of the car."
"Where is my car?"
"I'll get to that later."
"Murdoc...." MacGyver pulled his shirt off, only realising then why the back had felt sticky. It was soaked in blood. "Oh, god." He turned away from the car, and found the place where he'd been standing when... Murdoc had shot him. Nothing marked it now except some freshly-turned earth.
"I got you through the heart, with a flat-nosed bullet," Murdoc told him abstractly. "If I'd missed your heart, you would have bled to death soon enough. I wanted to be quick and I wanted to be certain."
"And you expect me to trust you?" MacGyver said. He wrapped his arms round himself, determined not to shiver in the cold night air. "Why?"
Murdoc had leaned briefly into his car, as though reaching for something; now he came towards MacGyver holding whatever it was in his hand.
MacGyver tensed automatically. "Why should I trust you?" he demanded.
Something oddly like pain touched those haunted midnight eyes. "Actually, I don't expect you to. Though it might have been nice. Turn around."
"You're limber, MacGyver, but you're not double-jointed. I'm offering to scrub your back." Murdoc flashed what he held: a couple of moist towellettes, standard airline issue, in sealed packets. "Oh, and put your shirt in this." 'This' was a plastic bag, self-sealing. "We'll leave it in a trash bin somewhere once we're across a state line or two."
"What?" Having turned as instructed, MacGyver flinched when the cold tissue touched his spine. Murdoc was quick and thorough. Experienced. Oh, god. "Do you really expect me to go anywhere with you?" When he turned round to face his enemy, he found Murdoc was once again holding a knife.
"I'm afraid I must insist," the assassin said quietly. "At least as far as the church. If you don't come willingly, I'll kill you and leave the knife in your heart; you won't come round till I remove it, and that will most likely be sometime tomorrow. I can think of a lot of places we could talk -- most of them more convenient than the one down the road, but none nearer. Your choice, MacGyver."
I don't want to die again. MacGyver stood there and looked at Murdoc. Always before, he'd known that the worst Murdoc could do to him was to kill him. The worst anyone could do was to kill him. There was now a worse alternative. He could be killed again and again. At the speed he seemed to heal, he could be tortured, horribly, and an hour later his torturer could repeat it all over again. Endlessly.
He'd hardly noticed how cold he was until Murdoc sighed, slid the knife out of sight (once again, invisibly fast) and went back to the car. He returned a moment later to hand MacGyver his jacket. "Put it on and get in the car. You'll freeze."
MacGyver obeyed. He felt as if he'd been stunned. Murdoc slid into the driver's seat and turned to look at him. MacGyver met his eyes and tried hard to seem impassive. He didn't want to look as defenceless as he felt.
Murdoc leaned in more closely, and kissed him -- exquisitely, thoroughly -- leaving MacGyver decidedly short of breath. He didn't say a word as Murdoc guided the rental car down the track and on to the road. He couldn't think of anything to say.
"Why the church?" he asked finally, as Murdoc turned the car up the driveway.
"It's neutral ground for immortals," Murdoc replied absently. "The graveyard might be, as well, but I'm not taking any chances."
"It'll be locked."
Murdoc grinned. It was sudden, uncalculated, amusement. "Oh, I think between us we can manage to open a church door."
It was easy. Mac was sure he could have jiggered the lock in short order, but Murdoc slid through it like... a knife. MacGyver shivered and rubbed his arm.
"Take a pew," Murdoc said, gesturing lavishly. The church was full of shadows.
MacGyver sat down on the nearest bench, too numb to shrink away when Murdoc joined him. "All right. Why did you do this to me?"
"I didn't," Murdoc leaned back, as bonelessly relaxed as any cat. "I killed you, but I meant you to stay dead; your resurrection was as much a surprise to me as it was to you. Not that this actually changed anything. You could have died in a road accident tomorrow, or been shot by a mugger next week, but sooner or later, it would have happened. It was inevitable, MacGyver. It's part of you. Your kind appear to be normal until they die for the first time. After that, you're... immortal. You'll never look any older than you do now. Any injuries will heal in minutes. Unless your throat's cut, you won't even scar. You can't die of old age or illness. Only one thing will truly kill you."
"And what's that?" MacGyver simply didn't believe any of it. He'd decided that.
"If your head is completely severed from your body," Murdoc said clinically, "you die."
"Right." MacGyver nodded. "Seems reasonable." He felt light-headed, and wondered if he were about to faint. "Sure. And all of this was inevitable?"
"Inevitable, and entirely beyond my control. Or yours." Murdoc shrugged and offered him a faint smile. "You are what you were born to be."
"You're saying it's in the genes."
MacGyver shook his head. "If this is true, why weren't my parents... what I am?"
"Genetically speaking, they weren't your parents. You must have been adopted."
"No." MacGyver stared at him, taken aback. "If I were, my folks would have told me."
MacGyver decided not to argue that point for the moment. "Why assume that I'm adopted? Just because -- "
"Immortals are foundlings. Always. You have no parents. No siblings. No offspring."
"Come on, Murdoc -- that doesn't make any sense! Just where do you think immortals come from?"
The assassin half-smiled. "We're not sure."
"Look, everyone has parents -- "
Mac glared at him. "You're telling me immortals just show up out of nowhere?"
"As far as we can tell."
"I don't believe this! And what about kids? If two immortals have a child -- "
"Immortals don't have children," Murdoc countered matter-of-factly. "You're sterile. All of you."
"Sterile?" For a moment, Mac was nonplussed. "But I have a son."
"Do you really?" The irony was silken. "Are you sure?"
"Yeah, I'm sure! His mother...." Mac's words faltered as the implications became clear. "His mother said...."
"Is she sure?"
"I...." Mac swallowed hard. "I don't know. We were close for a while. I don't know who she might have seen after we... that is, after...."
"I see. Were there blood tests?"
Reluctantly, MacGyver shook his head. "I suppose we could still have them run."
"I wouldn't advise it," Murdoc told him dryly. "Give some ambitious technician a look at your genes, and you'll spend the next few centuries undergoing vivisection. He'll probably be awarded the Nobel prize."
MacGyver wanted, quite desperately, to be somewhere else. He wanted, he realised, to have turned his car back the moment he saw the deserted cabin. Rewind this dream. It isn't real. "Where's my car?" he asked.
Murdoc sounded truly startled. "What?"
"You said you'd tell me where it was. Well?"
"I've just told you that you're immortal, and you want to know about your car?"
You also told me I'm a foundling and my son isn't mine. You've told me my parents lied to me. I think you drugged me. I know you shot me. I wish I wasn't here.
"Where's my car?" MacGyver repeated.
"In a gully," Murdoc said. "I doubt if anyone will find it, unless there's a search for you around here. But you know, my darling, you usually don't tell people when you accept one of my little messages."
"I didn't know it was you," MacGyver said baldly, not expecting to be believed.
Murdoc laughed. "No, of course not."
"Oh, you don't imagine I left it in a fit state for you to drive away? You're coming with me. At the moment, you're not safe to be let out on your own."
"You're not the only immortal living. And your kind are very dangerous."
MacGyver stared at him in disbelief. He tried to say something, but his throat was constricted and he was finding it hard to breathe. He started to laugh, and it hurt his chest. He bent his head over, burying his face in his hands, laughing so hard it must have sounded like sobbing.
Murdoc didn't try to touch him. MacGyver could feel him sitting as still as any predator, but he made no move to attack, even though MacGyver could almost feel this man's awareness of his vulnerability.
"Oh, god," MacGyver said at last, and sat up, wiping at his face with his hands. "Dangerous? You're trying to tell me I'm dangerous?"
"Immortals are dangerous," Murdoc said. "Any immortal is dangerous to you."
"If I'm immortal, I can't die."
"If someone cuts your head off," Murdoc reminded him patiently, "you'll die. And any immortal who meets you is likely to want to do just that."
Take one fantasy about living forever, mix in a dose of paranoia and stir well. Add a psychopath. Stand well back. "Why?"
"We call it the Game," Murdoc said. He stressed the last word. "When one immortal meets another, they fight to the death with swords. The winner takes the other's head, and with it..." he shrugged, as if trying to find the right words, "...power."
MacGyver nodded. "Right." He had veered back to complete disbelief. This was all some obscure and obsessive plan of Murdoc's, and sooner or later he'd find out what Murdoc really wanted. Despite that kiss, he doubted if it was as simple as sex. "Well, I guess it explains some things."
Murdoc arched one quizzical eyebrow. "Such as?"
"Such as how you kept turning up after everyone was sure you were dead."
The midnight eyes widened with surprise and amusement. "Oh, I'm not immortal, MacGyver."
Mac frowned. "But...." Surely that was the point of all this?
"Trust me, my darling. My survival was based on skill, luck and a great deal of determination."
"You keep saying 'We know this', and 'We know that'," MacGyver said doggedly. No matter how obsessive Murdoc was, there had to be a chink in the fantasy structure somewhere. It would comfort MacGyver a good deal to find it. "Who are you talking about when you say 'we'?"
As though in answer, Murdoc stretched out his left arm to give MacGyver a close look at the scar on the inside of his wrist.
Mac studied it for a moment. "I never noticed that."
"I usually keep it hidden -- either with clothing or with make-up. Not that most people could begin to guess at the significance, but it's always best to be cautious."
"What significance am I supposed to be guessing at?"
"I had a tattoo removed. A tattoo which, at one time, symbolized my membership in an organization known as the Watchers. And that, incidentally, should prove to you that I'm not immortal. If I were, I wouldn't scar." Murdoc was watching MacGyver intently.
"Unless someone cut your throat," Mac murmured.
Midnight eyes narrowed, something dangerous burning in their depths. "This is not a joke, my darling."
"Did I say it was?"
"Immortals are killers," Murdoc said flatly. "They kill each other. You don't know how to survive. If you walk out of here stubbornly determined that this is some kind of trick, you'll lose your head to the first immortal you meet."
"How would these immortals know I'm immortal?" Mac asked, suspecting he'd discovered the argument's fatal flaw.
Murdoc's gaze was still dangerous, but he answered soberly and quietly. "Immortals can perceive each other. I don't know what they... you... sense. It's possible that it can't be described to a mortal. But it's directional. It's for tracking other immortals,˙for hunting them down. The only way to hide from another immortal is to be dead."
"What...?" For an instant, MacGyver was startled. "Oh, you mean temporarily."
Murdoc's cold smile flashed. "Of course."
Silence fell. MacGyver sat where he was, rubbing his hands together in the chill cast by the shadows of the church. Murdoc let him be silent. After a while, when MacGyver went on saying nothing, Murdoc stretched luxuriously and moved a little way down the pew, once again settling himself into a comfortable position. After that, he never moved at all.
At first, MacGyver's mind plodded round in circles, trying to find a flaw in these stories of death and immortality that Murdoc seemed determined he should believe. The problem was that -- while, rationally, he could convince himself that Murdoc had somehow fooled him into believing he was dead, twice, with the wounds in his arm yet another illusion -- whenever he thought back to those moments, his gut-feelings were exactly the reverse.
There were two arguments for this being a drug-induced hallucination: the sheer unlikelihood of the fantasy Murdoc was spinning, and the unnatural intensity and clarity of MacGyver's memories. Mac had always had a good memory, but this was different: since awakening in that cabin, he'd felt as if he could almost replay his memories like a tape.
The argument against wasn't really an argument. Just a stubborn conviction: it felt real. The whole story sounded like nonsense, but it felt real.
Almost inaudibly, MacGyver sighed. This wasn't getting him anywhere. Try it from another direction, then: what would Murdoc have to do to convince him that all of this was real? What would be definite proof, one way or another?
Mac had dropped his head onto his hands while thinking it through. Now he lifted his head abruptly, and Murdoc sat upright, poised in an instant. He said nothing, but watched MacGyver attentively.
"I don't suppose you'd consider just letting me go?" MacGyver asked.
Murdoc shook his head, giving Mac a faint smile.
"All right, then. I want to go to Minnesota. Mission City. I want to check my birth records. If you're right and I am adopted, there's bound to be some kind of evidence. If I find that evidence, I'll believe you." The trip would take two or three days, and during that time MacGyver intended to eat and drink only what he could be certain Murdoc hadn't tampered with. There were a few other tests he intended to run on the way, but the less Murdoc knew about them, the better.
At the very least, this bought him some time. Time during which he would be in control of their destination. There might even be a chance to get a message out to Pete.
Murdoc hesitated a moment. "All right. Once we've established that you're adopted, you'll come with me."
"We haven't discussed that. I said I'd believe you."
"Your life will change," Murdoc told him. "You can't expect to go home to Thornton and the Foundation and carry on as you were. You'll need help, and I'm the only one who can give it to you."
"Why don't we leave that for later?"
"I see." Murdoc smiled; a smile like a shield. MacGyver managed not to flinch. The other man didn't move, just stared at MacGyver with cold blue eyes that seared. "Really, my darling, I'm charmed that you think I would go to this much trouble to possess you." His voice was light. "Very well. Disbelieve me as long as you can; we have a bargain, at least, until you reach your home town." He held out his hand, formally, and they shook on it, sealing the agreement. MacGyver took his hand back and hoped he wasn't going to regret this. Bargains with Murdoc usually ended in a bloody mess.
"Incidentally," Murdoc added, "do tell me if you feel anything unusual. We should try to avoid immortals. You can probably avoid challenges by keeping on the move and staying in public places, but I would rather the Watchers didn't catch sight of me, or find out about you."
MacGyver's frown deepened. "What about these 'Watchers'? Who are they?"
"Mortals who know of the existence of immortals -- who observe you in secret, and chronicle what you do." Murdoc stood up. "We should go."
Murdoc drove in silence. Being so patently disbelieved when he happened to be telling the exact truth was rather irritating. MacGyver sat beside him, his eyes on the road. For a long time he, too, was silent, though Murdoc, out of the corner of his eye, saw his lips part as if about to speak and then close sharply as if he had thought better of it.
When Mac finally spoke, his choice of subject took Murdoc by surprise. "So these Watchers spy on...us? Why?"
"It's history, MacGyver." The memories were almost tangible, and Murdoc found himself reminiscing. "An aspect of history which would be lost forever, were it not for the Watchers."
MacGyver scowled briefly, but finally, grudgingly, nodded. "And you were one of them."
"For a time."
"I was assigned to an immortal named Thomas Selby." Murdoc smiled wryly. "For over two centuries, he'd earned his living as an assassin. You might say he taught me the trade."
MacGyver stared at him, clearly horrified. "That's why you...?"
"Well, not until after the Watchers had dispensed with my services."
"They fired you?" Brown eyes narrowed. "Why?"
"Selby was challenged by another immortal. Selby lost, and died. I took exception."
"Meaning?" Mac demanded warily.
"I killed his challenger. The organization considers that sort of interference grounds for dismissal."
"You killed a man, and all they did was fire you?"
"Actually, they condemned me to death. I took exception to that, too."
"Figured you'd be used to that," MacGyver muttered.
Murdoc smiled. "Even a professional of my standing has to start somewhere. The Watchers were the first organisation to put me on a death-list; I've kept track of them ever since. Sentiment, I suppose."
He was conscious of brown eyes watching him. MacGyver said finally, "Caution, I'd have guessed. Or was it really only the Watchers you were checking up on? Seems to me an immortal is the one opponent even you would... feel cautious about."
"Fear is the word you're looking for," Murdoc answered. He was pleased and a little surprised that MacGyver should have thought things through so professionally. "Yes, you're quite right. Most immortals are distressingly headlong in their way of doing things. But Selby was one of the very few people whom I'm not sure I could have taken. Combine immortality with intelligence and ruthlessness, and you have something very close to the perfect assassin."
MacGyver frowned, looking thoughtful, but said nothing more.
They drove for hours. Mac sat quietly, watching the road as it was brought into existence by their headlights, to be whirled back into darkness beneath the wheels of the car. With midnight past, it was Sunday. No one would miss him, at the earliest, until Monday, and even then, no one would worry for a while. Or so he hoped. He was only freelancing for the Foundation now; Pete couldn't expect him to be on call all the time. And Murdoc was certainly heading in the right direction. It really seemed that he believed...all this.
At dawn, well past the Utah border, they stopped for gas. Leaving Murdoc to handle it, Mac headed inside and found he'd guessed right: the food mart carried souvenir t-shirts designed to bolster the claim that it had once been a stop on the Pony Express. Mac picked up one of the t-shirts, some sandwiches and granola bars, a few bottles of water and -- in a moment of impulse -- some chocolate. Oddly, Murdoc had made no objection to his walking in alone; as Mac took his purchases up to the clerk, he glanced at the phone behind the counter and thought about asking to use it.
He had just realized his wallet was missing when Murdoc joined him, paid cash, and led the way back to the car, now waiting in the parking area. As they reached it, Mac halted to glare at his companion, briefly and without heat. "My wallet?" Wordlessly, Murdoc produced it and Mac offered him a sandwich in exchange, wondering vaguely why he couldn't seem to summon any anger.
He was still wondering when Murdoc finished the sandwich, smiled wryly and rubbed his eyes. "Did they have any coffee?"
"Sure, but I think you should get some rest. Can you sleep while I'm driving?" Murdoc raised his eyebrows, but MacGyver cut off any objections. "Come on, Murdoc -- you can't go the whole way without sleep. Either you trust me to stick to our bargain, or you don't. I want to get to Minnesota as fast as you do."
"I don't particularly want to go there at all," Murdoc said mildly. His eyes, though, were fastened on MacGyver's face. There was an odd look of interest and wonder in their depths. "Very well." He smiled, but it wasn't his usual mockery. "Let's go."
Rounding the car to put it between them, Mac peeled off his jacket and pulled on the t-shirt. They'd have to stop somewhere for more supplies.
The keys were in the ignition. In the passenger's seat, Murdoc was utterly relaxed. MacGyver started the car and Murdoc smiled at him, looking as if he'd like to laugh but had forgotten how, except in mockery.
"I do wonder one thing," Mac said.
"If you were already out of the Watchers, why keep hunting me?"
Murdoc's eyes gleamed with silent laughter. "I had no idea you were immortal, MacGyver; my interest in you was personal. You're difficult to resist... and quite impossible to ignore."
Abruptly, MacGyver looked away. He started the car and pulled out of the parking lot, still carefully not looking at Murdoc, not wanting to see that sardonic grin. He kept his eyes on the road instead, and the other man was quiet enough that he might have gone instantly to sleep.
An hour later, MacGyver glanced over to find Murdoc had indeed fallen asleep, and the realization sent an odd tremor through him. Murdoc was always so guarded, so perfectly in control. When had he last allowed himself to be vulnerable... to sleep in the presence of an enemy?
Then again, were they still enemies? Or had they somehow become something else, something more?
Troubled, MacGyver forced himself to concentrate on the road. It was late morning before he stopped again, pulling into the parking lot of a shopping-mall on the fringes of Green River. Murdoc's eyes flickered open as the car came to a halt. "Where are we?"
"I just want to pick up some clothes." MacGyver tried to sound as if he expected Murdoc to let him walk in the mall by himself.
Murdoc grinned at him and got out of the car. "Of course, my darling. My treat."
"You don't have to -- "
"I insist." Murdoc's smile was cold. Very softly, he added, "Believe me."
MacGyver sighed and gave in. He'd known it was unlikely Murdoc would let him use his own credit card, but it had been worth a try.
As his travelling companion paid for the carry-on bag and the clothing and other items, Mac realised that Murdoc had picked out enough things for a far longer trip than the one they'd set out on, from California to Minnesota. Murdoc expected the evidence in Mission City to back him up. Where was he planning to take MacGyver after that?
I don't like this. MacGyver followed Murdoc back to the car. I really don't like this.
When Murdoc slid behind the wheel, MacGyver didn't protest. He was weary but sleep didn't come at once; for miles, he rode in silence as his thoughts grew darker. Eventually, he slept, but fitfully. He was always half-conscious of Murdoc at his side, as if the other man had a presence he could actually feel.
At last, Murdoc shook him awake. It was dusk, and the car was parked by a roadside diner. "I thought we were overdue for a hot meal. Come on."
MacGyver got out of the car, stretched and yawned in the cool evening air. He pulled his jacket out of the car and shrugged it on. "Men's room?"
"Inside," Murdoc said. "I'll order supper. What would you like?"
Mac grinned, a bit maliciously. "I'm surprised you don't know."
His companion smiled. "Fish, baked or grilled -- or, if they have it, vegetarian lasagna. I thought, instead of milk, I might order you coffee; I suspect you gave it up for reasons of health, and I guarantee it won't do you any harm." His smile widened, just a bit. "Or are you still worried I might have arranged to drug the food?"
Mac didn't bother to answer. He strode into the diner with Murdoc at his heels. Murdoc stopped at one of the tables; Mac headed straight for the men's room, glancing back over his shoulder to make doubly sure that he wasn't being followed. Looking up from the menu as though to meet MacGyver's gaze, Murdoc gave him a small, self-satisfied grin.
MacGyver turned away, seeking refuge from that smug assurance. He used the restroom, washed his hands and -- after a glance at the towel -- dried them on his jacket.
Enough stalling. Roughly twenty-four hours had passed since... whatever it was had happened. He'd drunk bottled water and eaten granola bars. The vivid, terrible memories were still with him. A long car trip like this should have left him with an aching back, but he had no aches and pains at all.
I don't believe this. I can't believe this.
MacGyver kept the large blade on his Swiss Army knife sharp. You never knew when you might need it. He had a momentary, lunatic inspiration to cut his wrists, but set the blade against the ball of his thumb, denting the flesh. Then he pressed down.
It hurt, a small transitory pain, and bled. Beautifully normal. MacGyver held his thumb under the cold tap to stop the bleeding, and was fishing one-handed in the inside pocket of his jacket for a band-aid when he noticed something.
The bleeding had stopped. There was no cut on his thumb.
"No," he said out loud. He slashed again at his left hand, this time gashing a long cut across his palm. It bled into the sink, large red splashes on the white porcelain, but the bleeding stopped, and MacGyver, aghast, watched himself heal. He could see the skin knitting itself back together, before the blood was even dry. "No."
After a while he pulled himself together. He had to walk back into the diner and sit down across from Murdoc and look normal. He couldn't afford to give anything away. He couldn't afford to trust Murdoc.
The food was just arriving as MacGyver rejoined his companion. Mac ate without tasting anything. When Murdoc held his cup out for a refill, MacGyver did the same. He watched the waitress pouring coffee, and knew that in a day or a year (or a hundred years -- oh, god) he could call back his memory of this, could describe exactly what she was wearing, the shape of her fingers on the coffee pot, the curve of the black liquid pouring into his mug. He could move his hand suddenly and the coffee would splash across his fingers and burn him, it was hot enough; but he would heal. He almost did it, just to find out what it would feel like, but the waitress stopped pouring and moved away with a smile and an absent, "Have a nice evening, now," and MacGyver realised that Murdoc was staring at him.
MacGyver looked back for an instant, absorbing every detail: the scar on Murdoc's face, both dramatic and unnerving (how could other people look at him and not see what he was?), the shape of him against the light, the colour of his hair, the look in his eyes, even the faintly exotic scent of his skin.
I'll remember this, too. For the rest of my life. I'll remember this.
MacGyver looked away, and drank his coffee. He didn't look back.
When they left the diner, MacGyver let Murdoc drive while he stared blindly out the window into the dark. He didn't look at the other man even when Murdoc stopped to chuck the bloody shirt, sealed bag and all, into a trash can.
It was well after midnight when they stopped at a motel. MacGyver wasn't sure where, nor could he bring himself to wonder. There was no phone in their room. Mac sat on the bed and stared at his hands, wondering if he had gone mad.
Murdoc came out of the shower, a towel wrapped around his waist. "Your turn."
Alone in the bathroom, MacGyver tried again, monomaniacally slicing his fingers, one after the other. Each time, the cuts healed, leaving no mark. At a loss, he finally shrugged out of his clothes and stepped into the shower.
The water seemed to wake him up. Mac realised, standing in the tiny cubicle, that he'd been in a daze for hours. Shock. Maybe. Could someone who had been physiologically changed to heal any injury in moments suffer shock?
His mind was still playing with that problem when he switched off the shower. Drying himself roughly, he wrapped the towel round himself and walked out into the room. Murdoc had settled into one of the chairs -- the one facing the television, though the set wasn't switched on. He seemed half-asleep. Pausing beside him, Mac gazed down at the assassin, losing himself in the contemplation of lethal, irresistible beauty. Without thinking, he found himself lightly tracing the new and still-vivid scar. Dark eyes opened at his touch, and MacGyver pulled away, his own face burning. "Sorry."
"Does it bother you?"
Mac opened his mouth to say...something...and instead told the literal truth. "I like it." One eyebrow arched. "Do you?"
Again, MacGyver blushed. "It makes you look... interesting."
"As opposed to boring?"
Reluctantly, Mac grinned. "You were never boring. But the scar makes you look...."
Awkwardly, Mac shrugged, no longer meeting Murdoc's eyes. "Exciting. Dangerous. Like a pirate straight out of Errol Flynn."
His companion laughed softly. "I'm flattered."
Mac responded with another self-conscious grin. "I was wondering...." His astonishing new memory replayed his encounter with a jeep driven by a uniformed Murdoc. "Did it happen going over the cliff?"
The assassin smiled and shook his head. "It came later -- the result of a slight difference of opinion with a former colleague. I assure you he received a decent burial."
"But...." MacGyver caught himself, not quite certain why he was so shocked. Nor so very dismayed.
Murdoc was watching him, his gaze intent with more than laughter. "What's the matter, my darling? Jealous? Are you the only one allowed to give me scars?"
Mac recoiled a single step and then stiffened, holding his ground, telling himself that -- whatever he felt -- it was certainly nothing of the kind.
Murdoc smiled again, rather smugly. "At least you're awake," he observed. "I was beginning to wonder if that fog you were in would last all the way to Minnesota."
"Murdoc -- "
"Not that you weren't perfectly cooperative, my darling. But awake you're much more fun."
Wordlessly, MacGyver glared at him. He'd begun to feel uneasy, though he honestly could not have said why. It wasn't just Murdoc's presence, or even this situation; there was something more, something... else. Something. Mac felt an odd, distant sense of disquiet he couldn't begin to explain.
Hoping to distract himself, he pulled up a chair of his own and began to question Murdoc at length about immortals and Watchers, only to find he was paying less attention to the answers than to the sound of Murdoc's voice. Murdoc was cooperative enough, though he sometimes seemed amused, and Mac wondered a bit guiltily if the other man had guessed. Maybe it was time to shift the conversation.
"Suppose," he said abruptly, cutting into a description of the Watcher's main reference library in Northern Europe, "you do convince me, after Mission City, to go with you. Where'd you have in mind?"
Murdoc leaned back in his chair, regarding him with an unexpected air of benevolence. "Paris."
Mac frowned quizzically. "What's in Paris?"
"Not what." Murdoc smiled at him. "Who." He didn't seem inclined to explain further. "Any more questions?"
"Just one." Mac met that compelling gaze with difficulty. "Why did you kiss me?"
Murdoc's eyes widened momentarily, but his expression remained serene. "You didn't object at the time." Slowly, deliberately, he leaned closer. "Are you objecting now?"
Although he shivered, MacGyver didn't move away. "That depends on the reason."
Murdoc smiled, dropping his voice to a blatantly seductive purr. "All the usual reasons, my darling. Must I enumerate them?" Another heartbeat and that mouth had captured MacGyver's, and Mac lost himself to something far beyond his control. He moaned low in his throat as Murdoc kissed him. He shouldn't allow this. He shouldn't want this....
And all the while he melted under the blazing joy of that touch, wondering vaguely if the heat of it would set the room aflame.
He was never certain, afterwards, how far he would have gone; it was Murdoc who reluctantly pulled away. Mac stared at him, speechless.
And then the lurking unease suddenly exploded in a rush of something not like sound, not like touch, but as unstoppable and intimate as both. He was on his feet, staring wildly round the room, looking for his enemy.
Murdoc seized his arms and shook him. "MacGyver!"
"What?" The sensation was fading, and Mac shuddered and broke free. "What the hell was that?"
"We have to get out of here," Murdoc said. "Now. Come on. And for Christ's sake tell me if you feel that again!"
They were on the road and had been driving for half an hour before MacGyver could relax. Murdoc glanced at him. "Is it gone?"
"Yes," Mac said with certainty.
"Tell me if you feel it again." Murdoc sighed. "We don't have time for this. And you aren't convinced yet?"
He sounded exasperated. Not murderous, not mocking, just honestly irritated. MacGyver leaned back in the passenger seat with a wistful sigh of his own. He'd been looking forward to sleeping in a bed tonight. "I think... I don't know what to think. Something's happened. That... I've never felt anything like that."
"What was it like?" There was honest curiosity in the question, and MacGyver shook his head regretfully.
"I... I don't think I can put it in words. It was..." His voice trailed off. It was real. It is real. Oh god.
Murdoc was silent for a few minutes. When he spoke, his voice was brisk and unemotional. "I think we'd better not stop till we get there. With luck, that was just another immortal passing through -- someone who's no more interested in head-hunting than you are. But it would be stupid to take the risk."
Head-hunting. MacGyver turned the phrase over in his mind. Someone hunting a head. You can die if someone cuts off your head. This might be real, but it was insane.
No more insane than Murdoc kissing me....
Murdoc glanced over and saw MacGyver sleeping, turned so that his head had fallen against the side window. Even in sleep he turned away from Murdoc.
But he's mine now. He doesn't have a choice. He may not realise it yet, but there's no way back to his old life.
Thomas Selby's sword was in one of Murdoc's hiding places in Europe, fairly near where Selby had lost his head and Murdoc had lost the Watchers. Murdoc intended to give the sword to MacGyver. They would have to fly to the Netherlands to pick the sword up before they reached Paris. In any case, Murdoc had never been certain just how immortals managed to get their swords past the security scanners at airports. Safer to steer clear of immortals until they left the United States.
I wonder what it feels like...
Whatever the sense of another immortal's presence was to another immortal, it had made MacGyver look utterly alive, burning with sudden fire. It had done more for MacGyver than a single kiss.
But he's mine now. Mine.
They had hardly stopped at all since their abortive stay at the motel. They took turns to drive and sleep, all through the night and the following day. MacGyver never felt even that prickling unease again. It was half past one in the morning when they finally reached Mission City, and it didn't even occur to MacGyver to protest when Murdoc broke into the records office. Maybe he was immortal, but Murdoc had to be lying about the rest. Had to be. He had a son, he had once had loving parents, and he had work to do. No matter what, MacGyver was going to find the truth about his birth, show it to Murdoc, and get away. He could deal with whatever changes had happened to his body. He could ask Pete for help. He wasn't going to stay with Murdoc. Once he had the clerk's terminal up and running, locating his birth certificate was child's play.
With unsteady hands, Mac pulled out the piece of paper he'd come halfway across the country to find. He scanned it carefully and turned to Murdoc, who was watching him from a seat at one of the desks.
"What'd I tell you?" Relief washed through MacGyver, along with a surge of triumph. "If I'd been adopted, my parents' names wouldn't be on the birth certificate."
"Let me see that." Murdoc took the document from him, frowning. "They shouldn't be...unless, of course, this was drawn up with the express intention of hiding the truth."
"Oh, come off it, Murdoc! Whatever your game is, it's over." Mac grinned at him, forgetting the need for caution. "And our deal is over. I can find my own way home."
"Wait." A hand closed on Mac's wrist with nearly bruising force. "There's no time of birth listed."
MacGyver stared at him, his sudden anger mixed with disbelief. "Time of birth? You can't be serious."
"Completely." Midnight eyes held no trace of laughter. "According to this, the attending physician was someone named Robert Larkin. Was he your family doctor?"
"He was then, but he retired more than twenty years back. He's been dead for over ten." Mac hesitated, torn between resentment and a spark of unwilling curiosity. "Why?"
"I think we should have a look at his records. Who took over the practice?"
"Larkin's nephew," MacGyver admitted reluctantly, "but if you think he'll let us go through medical records, even old ones -- "
"I wasn't actually proposing to ask him," Murdoc countered dryly. "Where's his office?"
It was past two in the morning now, and the streets were deserted. MacGyver stopped to lock up the records office, leaving it properly secured. Murdoc watched him with an air of detached approval. "Well done," he remarked coolly once MacGyver had finished. "Covers our tracks. Where's this doctor's office?"
It was three blocks down the street. Once again, Murdoc broke in, but this time, he did the investigating. MacGyver moved round the familiar office, absently reading the posters and certificates on the walls. The younger Doctor Larkin kept a couple of stuffed animals for children to hold during medical examinations, and there was a picture of him in multi-coloured ink, obviously drawn by his daughter, taped to the wall behind his chair.
I missed all that with Sam. I'm not going to believe it. He is my son.
"All right," Murdoc said finally. "Sit down, MacGyver, and let me show you a few things."
MacGyver sat down, reluctantly. He didn't want to hear this. He wasn't sure he had a choice.
"Your Doctor Larkin's patient records haven't been cleared out in far too long," Murdoc said gravely. "He still has Ellen Jackson MacGyver on his books, despite the fact she died some time back."
MacGyver shrugged. "Get on with it."
"Your records are still here, too, of course. Along with those of John James MacGyver -- another patient long deceased."
"Go on," Mac repeated, tonelessly.
"Your parents' records make it clear that they were both undergoing fertility tests for quite a while. The last such test for either of them was in November 1950." Murdoc didn't smile. "If you take a quick look at the first page of your medical records, you'll see they begin on January 24th, 1951, with a rather thorough physical on your infant self."
"What?" MacGyver glanced at the pages Murdoc had pushed in front of him, feeling uncomfortable at prying into his parents' private lives before he had even been born. In November 1950, both his parents had come to Doctor Larkin's office for what seemed to have been the last in a series of recurring checkups, all focused on the issue of fertility. MacGyver had been born January 23rd, the following year. Why would his mother have been trying to find out why she couldn't have a baby when she was already pregnant?
Unless she wasn't.
"And there's this," Murdoc said, his voice utterly neutral, putting a half-sheet of paper on top of the medical record. "I found it in your file, tucked in behind your earliest records."
It was in old Doctor Larkin's handwriting. MacGyver frowned, trying to decipher it. He was out of practice, and the ink was old. The note was dated 1/24/51. The doctor seemed to be saying that with the unusual circumstances, he felt he was justified in allowing the child to appear to be -- biologically as well as legally and morally -- the son of James and Ellen MacGyver. A mother who would abandon her newborn infant deserved to lose any claim on the child.
MacGyver stared at that piece of paper, feeling old certainties crumble around him. His entire life had been a lie. And it had taken Murdoc to show him the truth.
"Why didn't they tell me?"
He didn't realise he'd spoken aloud until Murdoc said, with surprising gentleness, "They believed what they were doing was best for you." He plucked Doctor Larkin's note out of MacGyver's hands, and glanced down at it. "Sanctimonious old bastard," he muttered, and tucked it back into the folder. "I'll get cleared up here, and we'll go."
"Go -- where?" MacGyver was numb.
"To the Minneapolis airport," Murdoc replied. "We're going to Paris, remember? You agreed."
"Paris... Texas?" MacGyver hardly believed what he was asking.
Murdoc was putting the records back exactly where he'd found them. "No, my darling, the one in France."
"Are you kidding? I don't even have my passport."
"Oh, I can arrange for one. You'll just have to answer to another name."
"You want to sneak me out of the country on a forged passport?"
"You'll need to get used to that."
"I am," Mac muttered, more than half to himself. "I'm just not used to doing it with you."
Twenty-four hours before, while MacGyver slept in the car, Murdoc had called ahead to a small and very efficient business in Minneapolis-St. Paul. A U.S. passport in the name of Alan Martin was ready, all but the photograph. MacGyver accepted these arrangements, or at least didn't argue. He went along with it all, expressionless, very nearly unreadable, though Murdoc had the feeling that his eyes were quietly recording everything, from the personnel and address of the illegal passport bureau to the location of the safe house where Murdoc deposited his more expensive weapons before dropping off the rental car and hailing a cab to the airport.
It was irritating to have given so much away, but it was unavoidable. The only way Murdoc could have risked leaving him alone (a pacifist, for Christ's sake, whose most lethal weapon was a Swiss army knife) would have been to kill him. And though he toyed with that idea, he couldn't bring himself to do it.
Besides, Murdoc had no idea how far away another immortal would be able to sense MacGyver. The thought of someone tracking MacGyver down to a hiding place, pulling out the knife from his chest, waiting for him to revive and then taking his head...
Even the idea enraged and terrified Murdoc. He couldn't recall feeling like this since his sister had died. He sat in the cab beside MacGyver, not looking at the other man.
Mac tapped his arm. Murdoc nearly swung on him, restraining himself barely in time. "What?"
"Relax," MacGyver said. He sounded amused. "We're nearly there."
The next flight to the Netherlands was in four hours. Murdoc paid for both of them, using one of his most sincere credit cards. MacGyver had gone quiet again. Not until they had found somewhere to sit, reasonably far from anyone likely to worry about what they were overhearing, did he ask, "Why the Netherlands? I thought we were going to Paris."
"We are, but first there's something we have to pick up."
Mac frowned. "Why do I get the feeling I'm not going to like this?"
Murdoc was running short of patience. "It's not a question of what you'll like," he said curtly. "It's a question of what you'll need."
MacGyver shrugged, looking a little puzzled. Murdoc found this amusing; MacGyver wouldn't have looked confused if Murdoc had tried to kill him, yet he clearly did not expect to be snapped at. So Murdoc grinned at the other man and said, with utmost sincerity, "I don't like aeroplanes."
MacGyver nodded sympathetically. "Why don't I get you a drink?" He stood up, and Murdoc was on his feet an instant later. He'd already reacquired MacGyver's wallet.
There was a cluster of pay phones nearby. MacGyver headed straight for them. "I wouldn't do that, my darling," Murdoc said, close at his heels, the words cold with warning.
MacGyver had stopped at the nearest phone; now he turned to face Murdoc. "I can't just leave without letting someone know I'm all right."
"Yes," Murdoc said flatly, "you can." He hadn't gone to all this trouble for nothing. There was no trace at all of MacGyver between here and a dirt road in California, not unless some particularly keen local policeman noticed a bloody shirt in a sealed bag in a trash can in a small town in Colorado.
MacGyver let out a long breath. "You know," he said quietly, "I really don't see how you can stop me. Not here."
After a moment, with an effort, Murdoc laughed. "You're quite right, of course, my darling. I can't stop you. But it will only make things harder for you."
"Thank you," MacGyver said. His voice had gone flat and cold. "I'm touched by your concern for my welfare. You can stand over there and watch me. I won't try to run."
Murdoc frowned. "Whom were you planning to call?"
"Not your son?"
There had been no irony in Murdoc's tone, but the look Mac shot him was dark. "He's... out of the country. Pete can leave word for him."
Murdoc shrugged. He didn't move. After a moment, MacGyver punched the operator's number and asked for a collect call. There was a minute's delay.
"Pete? It's me." MacGyver's voice warmed, though to Murdoc's ears he still sounded awkward, hesitant. Talking to a friend to whom he was afraid to say too much. "Yeah, I'm fine."
I wouldn't believe you. I wonder if Thornton will?
"Something's come up... it's personal. No, nothing you can help with."
That, at least, is true.
"I might be out of touch for a while. Sam...." MacGyver hesitated on the name, the faintest stress indicating his tension. "Sam was expecting to be back in the country by the end of the month." Mac faltered again, briefly, glancing sideways at Murdoc. "You still have the number I gave you? Good. Can you leave word that I won't be there?"
No, you won't.
"Yes, I'd let you know if there was any way you could help. Thanks, Pete. Yeah, I'll be in touch. Yeah." MacGyver was sounding more and more awkward. "Thanks. Bye."
They went back to the same seats they'd occupied before. MacGyver looked tired, almost drained. Murdoc decided not to congratulate him on a good lie well told. He said nothing.
After a while, Murdoc heard a tiny snore from beside him, and realised that MacGyver had gone to sleep, his head tilted into an impossibly awkward position. Murdoc tugged him a little, and Mac slid sideways and ended up draped half over him, still soundly asleep. Murdoc suppressed a sigh. He could have appreciated it more if they'd had some measure of privacy.
Murdoc woke MacGyver just fifteen minutes before they had to go into the passenger area, past the security scanners. "Come on."
Smothering a yawn, Mac trailed him into the men's room. Murdoc dropped a package in with the trash, washed his hands and turned, ready to go. Mac looked at him, realising what that oddly shaped package must be, and suddenly, weirdly amused. For the first time in his life, he was looking at an unarmed Murdoc.
"Your last one?" he said, and grinned.
Murdoc glowered. "Yes. I told you I don't like aeroplanes."
"I suppose you'd feel safer if everyone aboard was armed?"
"No, but I'd feel safer if I were." Murdoc caught him by the wrist and tugged. "Let's go, MacGyver. And if you feel anything, let me know."
Once they were aboard the plane, MacGyver expected Murdoc to calm down, but -- though Murdoc was sitting quietly in his seat, and no one else seemed to notice him at all -- to MacGyver, he looked like a tiger in a cramped, brittle cage: tense, unhappy and terribly dangerous. At length, hoping to ease that tension, MacGyver leaned closer, using the drone of the engines to cover his lowered voice. "Are you always like this on a plane?"
Murdoc stared at him in apparent surprise. "I'm not always sitting beside a blazing target, MacGyver."
Mac blinked. He'd assured Murdoc that he felt no other immortals in the boarding lounge, and had repeated the assurance the moment they boarded the plane. He didn't even have that prickly unease. He was just worried about Murdoc -- a revelation which surprised him. "But there aren't any -- "
"Not aboard, no, but we'll be landing in a few hours, and I can't conjure weapons out of thin air. If we meet another of your kind before I've had a chance to pick up what I need...."
Mac shrugged. "It won't help to tie yourself up in knots."
The dark eyes pierced him. "MacGyver, any immortal we run across will very likely try for your head. And, at the moment, I have no way to protect you."
A slow grin crossed Mac's face. For the first time since discovering the truth in Larkin's office, he felt a glow of genuine warmth. "So all this worry is for me?" Murdoc flashed him a quick glare, but it didn't dispel the warmth. MacGyver smiled at his companion, feeling oddly proprietary. "Have you slept at all?"
The smile faded. "Well, we won't be landing for quite a while. You could get some rest now -- "
This time, Murdoc barely glanced at him. "No."
"Damn it, Murdoc, you can't stay awake the whole flight just to guard the plane!" And, more quietly, "Look, if you promise me you'll get some rest, I'll keep an eye on it for you. Deal?"
Murdoc exhaled sharply, as though his temper were running short. "Fine," he growled, and closed his eyes. Surprisingly, in minutes, he seemed to be asleep. He didn't wake for the meal or the film. He slept with his head just touching MacGyver's shoulder, and his hand on MacGyver's arm. MacGyver sat as still as if the tiger had curled up on his lap and begun to purr. Murdoc didn't wake until, long after the plane had caught up with the dawn, they were landing in the early morning.
The lines for Immigration and Customs were long. It was a big airport. MacGyver had a moment of sheer disbelief as the immigration officer opened the passport Murdoc had supplied. It wasn't fear. Murdoc wouldn't have gone to all this trouble just to set him up; MacGyver was quite certain the document would pass scrutiny as well as any the DXS had ever provided. It was disbelief. Here he was, in the company of the man who had killed him -- a man sought by the police in half the nations of the world -- attempting to enter a friendly country illegally for reasons which bordered on the insane.
It didn't help to realise he was about to succeed.
Impassively, the officer nodded and said in perfect English, "Welcome to the Netherlands. Is this your first visit?"
"Yes," Mac replied. It was...at least, as 'Alan Martin.'
"Enjoy yourself." The man stamped MacGyver's passport and handed it back.
MacGyver nodded and went through to rejoin Murdoc on the other side of the barrier. Murdoc barely glanced at him, but MacGyver was conscious of being gathered up again. Murdoc knew exactly where he was going and what he was doing. At this moment, MacGyver was feeling so lost that Murdoc's swift efficiency was like a blessing. They were out of the airport and into what was presumably another rented car within an hour. Recalling that hour, MacGyver realised he knew exactly when Murdoc had picked up another gun: the assassin had relaxed for the first time since waking up.
"How do you do that?" Mac asked.
Murdoc was driving; he glanced at MacGyver and away again, keeping his eyes on the road. "I don't know what you mean." His voice was flat.
"You had a gun and a car waiting for you."
"Yes." Murdoc didn't so much as smile. After a moment, he added, "You have enough to learn without my profession, as well. Does it matter?"
"That depends," Mac said. "Who arranged this for you?"
"I'm not involved with HIT any more," Murdoc answered the implied question. "I have contacts." He seemed to think this was all the answer MacGyver would need. "We'll have breakfast in a couple of hours. I want to pick up something else first."
The 'something' was a heavy bag, from a cache that had obviously not been disturbed in years. Murdoc handed it to MacGyver, took out another, smaller bag, and headed back to the car. MacGyver followed, slinging the bag over one shoulder. It was uncomfortable.
In a hotel not far from the cache, Murdoc spoke to the receptionist in fluent Dutch, and shortly afterwards, MacGyver was dumping the heavy bag on the floor of a comfortable double bedroom and heading towards the shower.
Once showered, his next question was, "Can we sleep here?" He was trying to remember the last time he'd actually had eight hours uninterrupted sleep, or slept in a bed. Murdoc didn't answer until he, too, had had a turn at the shower and finished towelling himself off.
"Sleeping here is probably a good idea. I've got something for you." Murdoc was brusque and impatient, and MacGyver eyed him more closely.
Murdoc's laughter was short and harsh, and abruptly cut off. He reached into the big bag and brought out a long, wrapped bundle. "This is for you."
It was a sword.
MacGyver stared at it. It looked old -- a museum piece, perhaps. It had been well taken care of; no rust, no stains. But it wasn't a showpiece. It looked battered and hacked and used.
"Take it," Murdoc said, pushing the hilt at him.
MacGyver raised his hands and stepped back. "No."
"I know you don't know how to use this," Murdoc said. As if whatever he had been anticipating was over and done with, he sounded much less tense. "But you'll need it. Going around without a sword is a simple invitation to death. And you'll learn how to use it. You might as well get used to carrying it."
"What for?" MacGyver almost tucked his hands behind his back. He didn't even want to touch the lethal thing.
"You'll need a sword if we meet any other immortals between here and Paris."
MacGyver looked at the sword again. He'd seen swords like it in museums, hanging in glass cases, burnished and bright. This sword was not of that kind. It was, quite clearly, for one thing alone. "I can't just kill people!"
He was hardly aware he'd protested aloud until Murdoc sighed, sounding exasperated. "Listen to me, MacGyver. You can't expect to survive the Game armed with pacifist ethics and a Swiss Army knife."
"I'm not going to touch that."
"Yes," Murdoc said with finality, "you are."
Murdoc had slept longer than he'd expected to on the plane. MacGyver looked tired, though. They had another long drive ahead of them, from Amsterdam to Paris, and probably the safest place for MacGyver to catch up with his sleep would be in a room on the first floor of a busy hotel in a crowded city.
Once MacGyver was solidly asleep, Murdoc put Selby's sword down on the bed beside him, and retreated to the most comfortable chair. MacGyver, it seemed, had sat awake all through the transatlantic night to guard Murdoc's rest, though what he could have done had anything happened remained an open question. Still, there was a curious feeling of warmth deep inside Murdoc. It had been a long time since anyone had wanted to protect him. More than twenty years....
Selby had spotted him, almost immediately. Murdoc wasn't altogether surprised, thinking back: at twenty-one, he'd been confident he knew it all.
The odd thing was that Selby had seemed to like him. That kind of spontaneous liking, as far Murdoc was concerned, was rare. Having had the Watchers explained to him, Selby had laughed -- as a wolf would laugh -- and proposed a bargain: if Murdoc refrained from reporting anything that Selby didn't want this ancient and secret organisation to know, Selby would let Murdoc stay and report all the many details that Selby didn't give a damn about.
It was a bargain Selby had never broken. He'd been killed inside a year, but that year had been, simply, one of the happiest of Murdoc's life. Selby had enjoyed his company -- though they'd had to take care over that, since Selby wasn't even supposed to know Murdoc existed -- and had taught him, casually and quietly, much that Murdoc had found useful in the following years.
Murdoc still treasured the memory of Selby; the one person who'd known exactly what he was like, and had liked him. As a child, Ashton had loved him, but she'd never truly known him. MacGyver....
Murdoc stood up and went over to the bed. MacGyver was still asleep. He'd flung an arm out across the bed, as if to hold a lover, and that arm now embraced Selby's sword.
MacGyver seemed so young, so defenceless. Only three years younger than I am, Murdoc reminded himself. Not young, even, except among immortals. Selby had once referred to a youngster who, at one time, had been his student -- an immortal who had first died at the age of thirty-two and had recently turned seventy-five... and yet, as far as Selby was concerned, that former student was still a kid. ("What does that make me?" Murdoc remembered asking, amused, and Selby had chuckled. "You? You were born old.")
I could have had this before, if I'd killed him earlier.
Would he have been ready? Would he have come with me?
He has to learn how to kill, and he's never killed before. What I learned at twenty-two, he has to learn at forty-one. He will because he must.
MacGyver woke. There was something hard under his arm. When he pressed down on it, there was a slicing pain. He sat up with a grunt of pain and found Murdoc, sitting nearby, watching him.
MacGyver grabbed at his arm to stop the bleeding until it healed, and snapped "What did you do that for?"
"Asleep or awake, you should never leave your sword outside arm's reach. You'll learn." Murdoc spoke slowly, patiently. "You've slept nearly twenty hours."
"You slept all through the day and it's tomorrow," Murdoc elaborated. "Are you hungry?"
"Room service here is good, but I've had enough of it. We can be out of here as soon as we're packed, and have breakfast on the way."
"All right," Mac nodded. He was beginning to feel swept up again, and though he was now rested, almost limp with so much sleep, the familiar whirlwind still seemed impossible to resist. He glanced again at the blade beside him. "But I'm not touching that."
"You already have," Murdoc observed. He picked the sword up, and felt in the bag for a polishing cloth. "I'll get this clean while you shower."
"You don't want me to take it into the bath with me?" Mac inquired sarcastically.
Murdoc held the sword out to him, hilt first. "Of course, my darling, if you'd prefer."
MacGyver retreated. He heard Murdoc laugh.
Murdoc wrapped the sword up into an anonymous bundle before they left the hotel, but he insisted it go in the back seat of the car, within easy reach, and not in the trunk, where MacGyver would have put it.
They had breakfast in a small cafe on the outskirts of Amsterdam. Murdoc had acquired guilders while MacGyver slept, and paid cash. Uneasily, Mac realised that even if Murdoc let him keep his wallet, he only had about fifty dollars cash, and a passport that didn't match his credit cards. Outside the U.S. on an illegal passport, with neither the DXS nor the Foundation to swear he was there on official business, he could hardly fling himself at the U.S. Embassy as a citizen in distress.
For quite a while, MacGyver thought the feeling of increasing unease was attributable to his situation, and they were nearing Antwerp, just over the Belgian border, before he was certain. "I can feel..." he said cautiously, and was startled by Murdoc's instant attention.
"It's not like that. It's not..." MacGyver shrugged helplessly. "It isn't close, exactly, but it's been with me for a while. Since Utrecht, I think. Maybe."
"All right," Murdoc said softly. "We'll see if we can shake him off."
At the next junction Murdoc turned the car. For over an hour, he navigated -- either from memory, or on instinct -- a complicated route through a series of roads that got narrower, more twisted, and less well-maintained. After about twenty minutes, the nagging unease let up, and MacGyver sighed with relief.
Murdoc cast him a swift grin. "Better?"
"Yes," MacGyver said with emphasis.
"Good." Three-quarters of an hour later, they were back on the Bruxelles road, having missed Antwerp entirely. An hour after that, the unease was back. MacGyver wasn't even aware of it at first; he was staring gloomily out of the window at the passing flatlands, feeling alien and alone and increasingly worried about what would happen.
Murdoc turned off the road and parked. They were on the outskirts of Brussels now, and MacGyver looked at him, puzzled at the anger in Murdoc's eyes.
"I told you to tell me when you could sense another immortal."
"I -- " MacGyver began, and then realised. "Oh."
"You belong to me, and you are damned well not going to commit suicide!"
"What?" The nagging unease was still with him. "I didn't realise -- I think it's getting closer -- "
"You didn't realise...?" Murdoc stared at him, frowning, and then shook his head. "Fine. If he's been tracking us since Utrecht, he's serious. We need to find somewhere."
What Murdoc meant by 'somewhere', apparently, was a disused warehouse. It had once held machinery of some kind; there were still oilstains on the floor, but the dust hung, undisturbed. Murdoc guided Mac out to the centre of the main floor, and held the sword out to him.
MacGyver shook his head. "No."
"Yes. You'll need it."
"No." Suddenly, the feeling intensified, battering at him, and faded briefly. He shook his head. "I -- that was -- "
"Fine." Murdoc stopped trying to force the sword on him. "Just stand there. Don't move." And he was gone, vanished into the shadows.
The feeling returned, swallowing MacGyver up and absorbing him, and he shuddered with it, barely hearing the door they'd used swing open. Then, as suddenly, it all went away, and MacGyver realised that someone else had come in.
The stranger was about Mac's height, and well-muscled, with strong features now set in a cold, expressionless mask. He glanced round the warehouse and walked directly across to MacGyver, pausing a few yards away. His eyes swept briefly over Mac, as though cataloguing him. "American?"
Mac nodded, a bit warily. "Name's MacGyver -- "
"I am Tommaso de'Cavalieri. Draw your sword and prepare to die." From nowhere, apparently, a sword appeared in the other man's hands: a weapon, like the one Murdoc had tried to force on him earlier, meant for killing.
Mac's jaw dropped. "Uh, couldn't we talk this over?" The question didn't seem to register; the other man simply walked toward him, sword ominously ready in his hands. MacGyver retreated a few steps; granted, Murdoc had told him to stay put, but Murdoc seemed to have disappeared, and Mac wasn't at all sure what his ostensible ally had in mind. Frantically, he glanced around, but there seemed to be nothing in the vicinity he could use to ward off a madman with a fetish for oversized blades. Struggling to stay calm, he tried again. "I don't actually carry a sword -- "
"Your master sent you out alone, unprotected, without a sword?" For a moment, de'Cavalieri seemed startled, and then he half-smiled and shrugged. "Still, if he values your life so little, should I value it more? In the end, there can be only one."
Damn it, Murdoc, where are you? "This isn't exactly sporting...."
"I did not come for sport."
The stranger was nearly upon him, and Mac nerved himself to hold his ground. Murdoc, I hope you have a plan.
Then he heard the muffled shot and remembered -- too late -- that Murdoc always had a plan.
With a look of utter astonishment and something like betrayal, de'Cavalieri fell to his knees, clutching at the wound in his chest. "You -- " He began to swear in Italian.
Murdoc reappeared. MacGyver hadn't even been looking for him. With a swift kick, the assassin knocked the sword flying out of the dying man's hand, and brought the blade he carried down in one neat stroke.
Tommaso de'Cavalieri's head went rolling across the dusty floor. MacGyver stared, aghast. Murdoc turned and looked him over, and then ran, disappearing once more into the shadows and leaving MacGyver alone.
From nowhere, from out of the air, glowing lines of fire began to form, their focus point himself. MacGyver stood still, unable to run.
The fire struck, and MacGyver screamed.
Murdoc slipped away as soon as the quickening had begun. He'd never known a Watcher who wasn't fascinated by the phenomenon; with any luck, the diversion it offered would be perfect for his needs.
And luck was with him: his current target seemed oblivious to his approach. At a distance which offered comparative safety from the violence of the quickening itself, the nameless Watcher gazed raptly at the savage electrical display. No doubt the telescopic sight on his camera had allowed him to capture every detail. No doubt he'd taken enough shots of the proceedings to cause an endless amount of trouble; no doubt the journal in his pocket held more than enough to finish the job.
Murdoc took care of it, swiftly and surely. The quickening was a dying fire as Murdoc shoved journal and film into his pockets, and collected the dead Watcher's identification. MacGyver was huddled on the ground where the quickening had left him, not far from the other immortal's corpse. It had all gone according to plan, and quite well, given the haste in which that plan had been conceived.
MacGyver didn't look up, or move, as Murdoc approached him. He was shuddering. Murdoc crouched down beside him. "MacGyver?"
No response. They had to get out of here. Murdoc laid a hand on the other man's shoulder. "MacGyver...?"
He'd never thought to wonder what it might feel like to be struck by sentient lightning.
Now he knew.
Razor-edged shards of memory sliced through him, few of them understandable and none of them his. Existence had become a nightmare battle to regain his identity, searching desperately for the eye of this inner storm. And into that chaos came a voice he remembered, saying his name.
He pushed himself to his knees and stared at a man he knew, a man who knew his name. He had never been immune to the lure of this man's beauty, but never had he felt it as intensely as he did now. Wordlessly, beyond anything as complex as speech, he pulled the smaller man close. "Murdoc," he said, finding the name at last. "Murdoc. You're Murdoc." He couldn't seem to say another word, or do anything but cling to this man who knew him, whose name he knew. "Murdoc."
After an unmeasurable time, he realised the man was saying something. "I won't lose you to this! Do you hear me, MacGyver? Now, concentrate. Focus. Because I damned well will not let you go."
There was some reason this shouldn't be happening, but Mac couldn't seem to remember what it was. He focused on that voice -- hypnotic, demanding -- and clung to the lifeline it offered. Slowly, the storm subsided, his earlier fears now unimportant; all that mattered were the words wrapped tightly about him, keeping him warm and safe. He turned his head to meet the other's mouth and kissed him, hard and thoroughly, focusing on this fire to drive away the other, still burning along his nerves.
Then Murdoc broke away, his breathing harsh. "Not here."
"But -- "
With something less than his usual grace, Murdoc climbed to his feet. "We are not doing this here, MacGyver. Quite aside from the potential for legal complications, I draw the line at performing for the dead." He reached down and MacGyver took the offered help. Blankly, he stared around at the vast dusty room. The body on the floor, the head a few feet away. There was surprisingly little blood.
"You... killed him...."
"And if I hadn't, he would have killed you. Come on."
Still in a daze, MacGyver went with Murdoc, letting himself be shoved into the car. When Murdoc got in on the other side, MacGyver took hold of his hands and tugged him round to kiss him again, absorbing him, wanting him.
Again, Murdoc's breath caught. "MacGyver, I have to drive!"
"Murdoc, please. I need...." Mac shuddered.
"Soon." Murdoc's voice wasn't steady. "Soon. I promise. Just let me drive."
Murdoc was beautiful. He'd always been beautiful, even with the scars. For years, MacGyver had surreptitiously admired the sculpted features, the feline grace. And more nights than he cared to remember, he'd dreamed of those glowing midnight eyes.
A total stranger had tried to kill him tonight and been murdered before his eyes. MacGyver knew he ought to be furious with Murdoc, but he couldn't deny he was grateful; the most dangerous man he knew had become his one point of safety in an increasingly chaotic and frightening world.
He didn't understand it. He couldn't quite believe it. And he'd never wanted anyone so badly in his life.
On the surface, old discipline held; but inside, Murdoc was shaking. He somehow managed to drive, to pay attention to his surroundings, but MacGyver was holding on to his arm and looking at him as if Murdoc were the only man in the world. No -- more than that. MacGyver looked as if he were in love.
Selby had never reacted like this. Or not that Murdoc had ever seen, and he'd been with Selby once after the older immortal had taken a head.
All right. Do the next thing. The obvious things.
The car, first. It was improbable that anyone had seen it either going to or coming from the warehouse, but the chances were strong that the Watcher had reported his position to the local HQ before he went inside. Which meant that when he didn't call back, the Watchers would be on the scene, quite possibly faster than the local police.
That was good, in the short term: the Watchers would be deeply reluctant to interfere with anything an immortal had done. They'd discuss it, and unless they'd changed much in twenty years, it would take them several days to make the decision -- and that decision was just as likely to be a refusal to involve the police.
On the other hand, they'd want to assign someone to the unWatched immortal responsible, and they'd start searching as soon as they'd established that whoever had done this was not in their records.
The question was, how long would it take them to find that out?
The best thing to do was to cross the border into France. Get to Lille, or even Amiens, before they found somewhere to hole up. Murdoc glanced at MacGyver again. He was trembling.
Murdoc waited until they had stopped at a set of traffic lights. "MacGyver?"
"Yes?" Sudden, instant attention. Murdoc swallowed.
"It would be best if we drove for another couple of hours," he said. "If you can stand it. If you can't, we'll find somewhere to stay around here."
MacGyver glanced from Murdoc's face to his own hand clutching at Murdoc's arm. With conscious, visible control, he let go of Murdoc and put his hands in his lap. "Let's go."
Murdoc suppressed a grin of pure admiration. "Right. And -- "
"I know," MacGyver interrupted. "If I feel anything, I'll let you know."
This time Murdoc let himself grin. "Right."
Sitting still beside Murdoc in the car was one of the hardest things MacGyver had ever done. He wanted to move -- he felt as if he were burning up from the inside, his muscles, his whole body aching for action. Sex was only part of the longing. Mac wanted to leap from the car and run, run hard and fast. He felt as though, with this energy blazing inside him, he could run forever. He wanted to pull Murdoc to him and never let him go.
And it went on. They crossed another border -- MacGyver produced his passport without even a twinge, concentrating hard on looking calm, looking ordinary. He was burning. He couldn't believe it wasn't visible.
They reached Lille not long after. MacGyver followed Murdoc, carrying most of their luggage. He was barely aware of their surroundings. Only Murdoc seemed clear to him.
Another hotel room. Murdoc shut the door and locked it. MacGyver dropped the bags he was carrying and, in two steps, had Murdoc in his arms.
Mac's earlier reservations had burned away. All he wanted was this man, here and now -- this predator in human form with the frightening beauty of a fallen angel. The feel of Murdoc's skin, the scent of his hair, the taste of his mouth -- all of it swept through MacGyver, dizzying in its intensity. Blindly, Mac nuzzled at the other man's throat, his mouth caressing tender skin until Murdoc shuddered under his touch.
Still in his arms, the smaller man turned him like a dancer and tipped him back onto the bed. Then he was on top of MacGyver, looking down into his face, smiling, his hands unbuttoning Mac's shirt. "Relax, MacGyver. I've been looking forward to this for a long time. We're going to take the time this deserves."
Almost casually, Murdoc ran a fingertip across one of Mac's nipples, and MacGyver gasped at the sensation, an electric jolt reaching clear to his groin. "You like that, MacGyver?" Murdoc whispered. "There's more." His hands wandered lower, teasing and caressing, until he'd reduced MacGyver to whimpers. "You're lovely like this. Vulnerability suits you."
Yearning flooded Mac's senses. The sheer intoxication of that scent had left him dizzy; now the rough silk of Murdoc's voice surrounded him, and he was spellbound by the magic of those eyes. He could no longer be certain what Murdoc was saying to him. Murdoc was stripping him -- of clothing, of dignity, of everything but desire -- and he no longer cared.
Naked, he wrapped himself around the smaller man, pulling at his clothes. Murdoc was laughing, cooperating, stealing kisses as MacGyver stripped him. "I love you," Mac said suddenly, in between kisses, and was startled when Murdoc's mouth fastened on his, shutting him up. There was no more laughter. They were both naked, and Murdoc was on him. Eyes darker than midnight held him rapt and still. Murdoc pinned him down and kissed him, almost devouring him, heightening the arousal until Mac's own heartbeat deafened him. He needed desperately to breathe, but he would have died before pulling away.
And then Murdoc was turning him, gently, inexorably, and MacGyver understood what was going to happen, and wanted it. He felt one finger, then two, enter him, easing him open, and spread his legs, thrusting upwards, trying wordlessly to signal all he wanted.
There was a moment's pause. Murdoc slid into him with exquisite care, and somehow the burning within him eased. MacGyver sobbed and said something he didn't understand, feeling the flame begin to die a little. He needed so much more. Murdoc's hands urged him to his knees and he obeyed blindly, caught up in a new form of madness. Murdoc was inside him -- a man he knew, a man he'd once feared. Better, far better, than the insistent burning of the stranger he had seen killed.
He felt it when Murdoc came, felt Murdoc suddenly relax against him, and Murdoc's hands on him, coaxing him to orgasm. Mac fought it as long as he could, each instant of control somehow bringing him back to himself, but when he came it was the more intense for waiting, like another fire exploding in his vitals.
When Murdoc slid out of him it felt again like a loss, but one he could endure. Dazedly, he lay there and watched Murdoc remove a condom and knot it up before tossing it into the wastebasket. Murdoc lay down again, his arms round MacGyver, and started to laugh, almost giggling.
"Wha' is it?"
"Never mind." Murdoc kissed him again, more gently. "Sleep if you like. I'll be here."
So easy to relax, to close his eyes and do nothing. So easy to trust himself to Murdoc's strength. Strange, to feel so utterly safe in a ruthless killer's arms.
For a while MacGyver drifted on the edge of sleep, floating in and out of consciousness, never quite dreaming nor quite awake. Murdoc's hands moved gently on him, stroking him in a rhythm which seemed almost hypnotic. Curious, that the same hands which had roused him to such frenzy could soothe him so effortlessly now.
He couldn't seem to fall deeply asleep, and after a while he intercepted one of Murdoc's hands with both his own. The hand was very much like Murdoc himself: fine-boned and elegant, deft and sure. Murdoc tugged lightly against Mac's hold for a moment, as if seeking to reclaim the captured hand, and then, with an amused sound, let MacGyver keep it.
Running his tongue along the delicate pads of the fingers, Mac noted an odd collection of calluses, but refused to wonder how Murdoc had acquired them. Instead, he lapped at Murdoc's palm, tasting his way from the centre to the scarred skin on the wrist. "I love you," he whispered at last, and realised an instant later that Murdoc's free hand had stilled.
"You know, I can think of other things you can do with your mouth."
MacGyver grinned, and fastened his teeth delicately on the back of the wrist. He let go. "So can I... but only if I don't have to move."
"Oh, really?" Murdoc sat up abruptly, but it didn't break MacGyver's mood: he thought again of the tiger. The tiger let out of the cage would pounce like that, swift and certain. "Is that an offer?"
"Mmm." MacGyver stretched luxuriously. He felt buoyant, alive and sharply aware of Murdoc. Nothing else seemed quite real. He was aware of other things outside the temporary refuge, but none of them mattered. "Come here."
Murdoc moved, kneeling over MacGyver, his hands on MacGyver's head, his groin thrust against MacGyver's face. Mac inhaled sharply, feeling another kick of arousal. He wanted more.
"I hope you have a soft mouth," Murdoc said deliberately.
Instead of answering, MacGyver mouthed the half-hard cock, feeling it stiffen, feeling Murdoc shudder. When he'd taken in what he could of the velvet-skinned length, Mac reached up to slide his arms round Murdoc's waist, holding him and controlling him, feeling every pulse of pleasure, bringing Murdoc to a plateau of desire that went on, and on, and on. MacGyver had never felt so close to anyone, holding Murdoc inside him, breathing in the scent of Murdoc's desire. I love you, he thought again, so intensely it seemed Murdoc should have been able to hear him, I love you, I love you, I love you.
Murdoc was gasping for air when he pulled himself away, and some level of control seemed to have snapped. He slid down MacGyver's supine body and rubbed his face against MacGyver's, not kissing Mac but tasting him, marking him. Murdoc's eyes were no longer quite focused: they were dark with yearning, blind with need.
"Anything." The reply was a breathless gasp, sending a thrill along Mac's nerves. "Please, MacGyver. Anything." Abruptly, he rolled off Mac, onto his stomach, pressing his face into the bed, spreading his legs as Mac had done earlier. Muffled, he said into the bedcovers, "Anything -- "
Still, Mac hesitated, self-control balanced on a knife's edge. "I don't want to hurt you."
Murdoc turned his head. The beautiful eyes opened, now nearly black with need. "I've hurt you. Make us even." And, through a catch in his throat, "Make me yours."
"Where did you put the condoms -- "
"You don't need any fucking condoms!" Murdoc's voice caught again, with something near hysteria. "Shall I beg, MacGyver? Shall I crawl?" The words were harsh with bitter mockery. "Must I grovel at your feet?"
Mac's heart twisted. "No -- " He moved, only enough to lie down over Murdoc, shivering, curling himself more tightly around the smaller man. "You don't have to be afraid."
"I'm not afraid of you," Murdoc's voice broke on the last word, and he thrust upward, apparently trying without much leverage to get himself into position for MacGyver to enter him.
"Not of me. Of gentleness, of caring." MacGyver's tone was very soft. "What you're afraid of is love."
Murdoc seemed to shrink from the words.
"I love you," MacGyver whispered.
"Shut up and fuck me." Murdoc's voice was a frantic snarl.
MacGyver tried to be as careful with Murdoc as Murdoc had been with him, easing his way with one finger and then another, but Murdoc only writhed under him, speechlessly begging for more. It suddenly occurred to MacGyver why Murdoc had said he didn't need condoms; and he understood, with helpless amusement, exactly why Murdoc had laughed. (Sterile and immune to all diseases. The realisation seemed oddly detached from everything else Mac was feeling. I never need to wear those damn things again....)
When MacGyver entered his lover, Murdoc arched back against him, savagely driving Mac's initial thrust home. The smaller man cried out, but there was rapture in the sound, defying mere physical pain. Mac responded by thrusting more fiercely, ablaze with a mixture of love and lust and the last of a dead man's rage. Too often he'd felt the strength hidden in Murdoc's slender frame; now that strength surged wildly against him -- not in battle, but in passion -- and the danger was equally real.
Murdoc came with a long yowl, muffled by the bedcover. MacGyver climaxed a moment later. This time his orgasm seemed to have burnt out all the fire in him, and all he wanted to do was rest.
He slid free of Murdoc's body, and lay down beside him, rolling them both up in the tangled covers. He wrapped arms and legs around Murdoc, hugging him close, and sank almost immediately into a deep sleep.
Murdoc waited until he was sure MacGyver was safely asleep before he tried to move. He didn't want to be free of Mac's embrace; he simply wanted to find a more comfortable position in which to savour this warmth.
What he'd shared with MacGyver had been... astonishing. Heartstopping. If it never happened again, the memory would haunt him until he died.
And that might well be the case. All of this had happened because of the quickening. It might never happen again, even after another quickening, if this explosive reaction had been nothing more than some pent-up desire which had once belonged to the immortal Murdoc had killed.
Even if this turned out to be MacGyver's own reaction to a quickening, there wasn't a chance -- Murdoc's mouth quirked in a grin -- that MacGyver would ever become a headhunter. Not in Murdoc's lifetime. If Murdoc could just get the man to defend himself properly, that was probably the most he could hope for.
Hoping for something like this, for MacGyver holding him as if he loved him -- that was dangerous. They would survive and they would stay together; Murdoc had made up his mind to accomplish that, standing over MacGyver in the cabin, after he'd killed him the second time.
But survival was one thing; happiness was another.
Survival was an art at which Murdoc had long excelled. Happiness was something he had never quite mastered. Yet here he was, snuggled close to a sleeping MacGyver -- something he'd long dreamed of but never truly dared hope for. Knowing Mac wouldn't hear him, Murdoc sighed, rather wistfully. "You do have a talent for achieving the impossible."
It had been six days since Murdoc had slept in a bed. He was used to that when he was working, but this had originally been planned as a vacation. Some holiday...
Not safe to sleep. But after a while, helplessly, Murdoc felt himself drifting away.
MacGyver yawned and stretched, newly aware of the luxury of a comfortable bed and reluctant to leave it any sooner than he had to. Judging by the light, it was late afternoon; he'd only slept a couple of hours. With a small sigh of contentment, he curled warmly about his lover, careful not to disturb his rest. Murdoc honestly needed the sleep -- not only after their journey, but after their lovemaking. Mac flushed a little at the thought, but it was true: he had never felt anything like that. Shivering briefly at the memories, he buried his face against Murdoc's shoulder.
It occurred to him, abruptly and unbidden, that he could leave now; there might never be a clearer opportunity. His exhausted companion quite likely wouldn't wake. He could get dressed, sneak out and... go where?
It was no use trying to convince himself that this couldn't be real. De'Cavalieri had taken the last of that hope away from him.
Could he really go back to Pete Thornton, who would neither understand what had happened to him nor believe a word of it? Back to Sam, who'd abandoned him for a chance at a promising assignment? (Not fair, a voice pointed out at the back of MacGyver's head. Haven't you done exactly the same? You were overseas when your mom died. And how often did you visit Harry?) Back to Jack and Penny and the others, all quite happily living their own lives?
Lifting his head, he gazed down at Murdoc. Murdoc, the ex-Watcher, who'd made himself a target by travelling with an immortal. Murdoc, who had been willing to accept all the consequences of making MacGyver a part of his life. He wants me. Maybe he always has. And...I want him. The thought of leaving Murdoc now seemed nothing less than unforgivable betrayal.
Biting his lip to hold back sudden, stinging tears, Mac burrowed closer, needing the reassurance of that warmth. I won't leave you, ever. I promise. Without warning, the old terror swept through him, congealing the marrow of his bones. Murdoc was mortal. Someday Murdoc would leave him.
Mac hadn't realized he was crying until a drowsy, worried voice reached his ears. "MacGyver, what's wrong?"
How to explain the fears of a lifetime? Somehow MacGyver found his voice. "Everyone dies. My parents, my grandparents. Friends. Someday my s...someday Sam. And Pete and Penny and Jack." He took a deep breath and looked up. "And someday you."
"I'm not all that easy to kill."
"But someday -- "
"Yes," his lover said softly. He slid his arms round MacGyver, cradling him close, running his hands down the taller man's back. "Someday. But no sooner than I can help, MacGyver. No sooner than I can help."
"But if another immortal -- " With a shudder, Mac remembered the cold desire in de'Cavalieri's eyes, and a new rush of horror went through him. "If you hadn't caught him by surprise...."
"I wasn't the one he came for."
Shaken, MacGyver nodded. "He would have killed me," he admitted huskily. "I could see it in his eyes. He didn't even know me, and he'd have killed me, just like that."
Something flickered in Murdoc's eyes, but he only nodded. "Yes."
"But why?" MacGyver was almost pleading. "Just because I'm immortal?"
"For many of them, it's reason enough."
"I can't live like this."
"No one is going to kill you, MacGyver -- not while I'm alive. Ashton is gone; I have no intention of losing you."
Guilt struck Mac with unexpected force. "God, I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking -- I forgot about your sister and your folks...."
"I lost Ashton," Murdoc said, very quietly. "Only Ashton. Our parents didn't count as a loss."
Taken aback, MacGyver sat up, though he didn't entirely pull away. "You can't mean that. They were your parents. They raised you, they loved you -- "
"No." The response was flat. "Whatever they chose not to tell you, MacGyver, you did have parents who wanted you. I didn't."
Oh, god. Curling closer, Mac stroked the side of Murdoc's face in wordless apology, desperately wishing he could change the past. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I survived." With a faint, shadowed smile, Murdoc pulled Mac into his arms. "I had Ashton. And now I have you."
MacGyver held him tight. I love you, he repeated silently. Whether they did or not, I do. And, aloud, "I don't want to lose you."
"I can't promise you forever, MacGyver. But I'll be here as long as I can."
Murdoc's hands echoed his promise, and the touch was gentle and soothing; bit by bit, MacGyver felt himself relax. This wasn't like before, when the desperation had burned inside him. This was peaceful, slow and sure.
When MacGyver woke again, it was evening. Murdoc was still asleep, but when Mac got out of bed, his eyes opened, a brief flash of blue. "I'm just going for a shower," MacGyver said hastily.
Murdoc nodded, closed his eyes again, and appeared to have gone back to sleep, reassured. Belatedly, Mac realised how unlikely it was he could ever have slipped away unnoticed, no matter how exhausted Murdoc might seem. It was a relief to be under the steaming hot water in the shower.
It had never seriously occurred to MacGyver that anything like this could happen. He had always been aware of his illicit and unacknowledged attraction to Murdoc, but he'd never been sure whether Murdoc returned his feelings or whether he just liked to tease.
'I've been looking forward to this for a long time,' Murdoc had said.
How long? How long has he been planning this?
He was sitting with Sam in a coffee-house in Taos, caught up in one of their long, life-exchanging conversations.
"Let me get this straight." Sam held his father's gaze intently. "The guy's a professional killer."
"And he's good at what he does."
"So it would be unusual for him to blow an assignment? Leave one of his targets alive?"
"Unusual?" MacGyver's tone was grim. "More like unheard of."
"Yet you say the guy wants you dead -- that he's tried to kill you, more than once."
Mac hesitated, frowning and suddenly uncertain. "Yeah...."
"So why are you still alive?"
Stunned silence stretched out between them until Sam broke it in exasperation. "Come on, Dad -- I know you can handle yourself, but you're not indestructible, and he's always had the advantage of surprise. It makes sense in only one of two ways. Either he isn't as good as you say he is, or he doesn't really want you dead."
"So which is it?"
"Sam, I'm not the only one who knows Murdoc's reputation -- and I'm not the only one who's seen his work. Ask anyone at the DXS, Interpol, the Foundation... anywhere. I'm not sure Murdoc is sane, but I am sure he's one of the best."
"Second possibility, then. He doesn't want you dead."
"Why else come after me?"
The younger man shrugged. "Maybe he just wants your attention."
MacGyver shook himself. He was still standing in the shower, the hot water coursing down his body. Yet for an instant he had been there, Sam just across the table from him, just after he'd told Sam about Murdoc. He remembered that conversation as vividly as he could remember anything, but -- for that instant -- it had seemed as if he were actually back in time.
It had been, to put it mildly, a thought-provoking discussion. More and more often, Mac had found himself turning possibilities over in his mind. He'd tried -- once -- to ask Thornton's opinion; the resulting outburst had left him in no hurry to bring the subject up again.
Then Murdoc had killed him.
And dragged him here, across half the world, and murdered a man in front of him. That appalling, lightning-struck moment... it had all changed then. MacGyver's whole world had changed.
Murdoc hadn't been surprised by the lightning. Murdoc had known what would happen.
How long has he been planning this?
Drowsily, Murdoc blinked up at him, caught the stormy expression and came instantly awake. "What is it? Another immortal?"
"Why? Were you hoping for a rematch?"
The bitter tone took Murdoc by surprise. "I beg your pardon?"
"It's a little late for that." MacGyver glared at him. "You set it up, didn't you? You knew what would happen. Do you always make a habit of seducing immortals in heat?"
Murdoc stiffened, his own temper flaring to drown the unexpected hurt. "I don't recall having to seduce you."
Angrily, wordlessly, MacGyver flushed.
Murdoc sat up, a little disconcerted by his lack of clothing when MacGyver was fully dressed, but determined not to show it. Instead, he went on the offensive, jabbing a finger at the taller man. "He was trailing you, MacGyver. Hunting you. And I could hardly let him follow us all the way to Paris. What did you expect me to do?"
"You didn't leave much to chance!"
"No, I didn't," Murdoc snapped. "He came for your head. How much of a chance did you want him to get?"
For an instant, MacGyver was silenced again. Murdoc fixed him with a deadly stare, trying to remember where they'd left Selby's sword. A knife and a gun were tucked away in hidden pockets in his jacket, and Murdoc could see the jacket; it was lying on the floor, where it had been dropped earlier, and MacGyver was standing on one sleeve.
"You didn't tell me what was going to happen," Mac growled. "The lightning -- you knew about it. You could have warned me. You didn't."
"It's called a quickening," Murdoc corrected him automatically. "And when did you expect me to explain it all to you? While you were suicidally insisting that you weren't going to touch the sword?"
MacGyver shuddered. For an instant, his eyes flicked downward away from Murdoc's. "You just -- " His voice caught. "You slaughtered him!"
"And you'll have to learn to do the same," Murdoc said mercilessly. "I can't do your killing for you forever."
MacGyver looked as if he were on the edge, very close to losing all self-control. "I don't kill!" He leaned forward, not shouting, but hurling the words in a voice gone hard with intensity. "I won't kill!"
Deliberately, Murdoc leaned back and laughed. "You really expect to survive the Game armed with righteousness and a penknife?"
MacGyver breathed out, hard, straightening to gaze down at Murdoc. His normally all-too-readable face had gone still. Finally he said, quietly, "So far, I've done pretty well against you."
Murdoc grinned, startled into angry amusement. "Until I decided it was time to stop playing and get serious. Or had you forgotten, my darling? The remains of that cabin might well have been your tomb."
Mac coloured again and looked away. "Yeah," he said sarcastically. "Guess I'm lucky you'd left your guillotine at home."
"Oh, I wouldn't have needed one." Murdoc shrugged. "A sword or an axe would have been better, but the spade would have done."
Now Mac was staring at him, belatedly horrified. "Then why...?"
"Why not finish the job?" Murdoc smiled and said lightly, "I suppose I was out of the mood."
"Why?" MacGyver asked. He sat down on the edge of the bed, looking calmer, as if something had happened to reassure him.
Murdoc eyed him suspiciously. "Why what?"
"Why have you been trying and failing to kill me for the past twelve years?" MacGyver's voice was almost level. "Why did you finally decide to finish me off? Why didn't you go through with it? Why did you kill de'Cavalieri?"
Who? Murdoc nearly asked aloud, but bit the question back. The other immortal. He hadn't yet found a chance to dispose of the Watcher's notebook and film. "Must I repeat myself?" Murdoc asked instead, his response couched in dangerously precise, brittle tones. "Perhaps it's escaped your notice, but I was trying to save your life."
"Maybe," Mac countered sceptically, "but you were pretty quick to take advantage of the results."
"What should I have done? Sent you out to proposition strangers who might be susceptible to your charms?" Murdoc's anger coiled inside him, demanding an outlet, and soon. "You needed this, MacGyver."
"And you were willing to make the sacrifice." Mac's drawl was now laced with sarcasm. "Somehow, I never thought of you as the altruistic type."
Hiding behind the flash of a brilliant smile, Murdoc reminded himself that he didn't really want MacGyver dead. "I've never bothered with altruism, my darling, but I'm also far from desperate. I didn't bring you all this way just to get you into bed."
"You haven't answered my other questions," Mac observed, his expression turning thoughtful.
You could always talk me down from a kill.
Murdoc didn't say it. "What I have or haven't done in the past twelve years is my concern. You're going to survive -- on that point, there is no compromise. And for you, as an immortal, survival means learning to kill."
The words scored a direct hit, and MacGyver shot to his feet. For a moment, the only thought in his mind was getting away from Murdoc. Before he could reach the door, however, Murdoc was blocking his path. The smaller man was still naked, but he didn't seem in the least disconcerted by the fact. "Where do you think you're going?"
"Away from here," Mac growled, leaving the rest unspoken, though it seemed to echo through the room: Away from you.
"And, even assuming I were willing to allow it, just how long do you think you'd survive on your own?" Murdoc's voice was low and harsh. "You've already faced one immortal, MacGyver, and he'd have killed you where you stood. Do you think the others will be any different?"
Stubbornly, Mac set his jaw. "They can't all be like that."
"Not all, no. But enough. You're clever; you might actually improvise your way out of a challenge or two. But, sooner or later, it will come down to a question of whether you're willing to kill."
"And just how do you plan to keep me from walking out?" Mac demanded. "How many times are you willing to kill me?"
Murdoc was impossible to read through that effortless poise. "As many times as I must to keep your head safe."
"Fine." Murdoc wasn't even armed. MacGyver pushed him out of the way and reached the door. He felt a hard thud in his back, and suddenly the room went dark.
Without apparent transition, he was lying on the floor, face up, and the ceiling was swimming above him. It was the strangest thing of all, to recognise the feeling of having died. When he was breathing again, Mac pushed himself up and found Murdoc sitting on the edge of the bed, fully dressed, unrumpled and apparently unmoved.
"I trust you're feeling as rested as I am, my darling." The assassin's tone was cool and distantly amused. "I left the knife in your heart while I caught up on my sleep. And, if you're interested, you started breathing ten minutes after I pulled it out."
MacGyver shook his head. "I'd say that kind of knowledge has a limited value."
Murdoc grinned. "Possibly." He leaned forward a little. "It's past four in the morning. I plan to reach Paris about six-thirty. We're packed and I've already eaten, but if you're hungry, we do have a little time."
"I -- " Feeling like an idiot, MacGyver awkwardly reached to run a hand over his back, but his shirt wasn't torn. Nor was it the one he'd put on earlier.
"I changed your clothes while you were... unconscious," Murdoc told him. "And scrubbed your back." He grinned again. "The temptation to pack you in the boot of the car and drive was very nearly irresistible. You don't argue so much when you're dead."
MacGyver glared at him. "Is this your only way of winning arguments?"
"It usually works. Are you ready to listen to me now?" Without waiting for an answer, Murdoc went on, "I want you to think about this. Think of the good you could do -- the people you could help, the injustice you could right. You can fight evil for centuries, MacGyver. But only if you survive."
It took MacGyver aback. He sat and stared at Murdoc for a long moment. But he couldn't avoid it forever. "Murdoc, I can't do it."
"Yes, you can."
"I can't." MacGyver knew it with certainty. "I can't just hack someone's head off. I can't kill. I don't want to."
"Were you planning to join a religious order?"
"What?" MacGyver frowned at him.
"You're safe on holy ground.... if you're determined not to fight."
"I'm an atheist." MacGyver found himself a little shocked at the thought of pretending religious belief. "You must know that -- "
"I know that you have three choices. You can die. I don't intend to let you, but -- as you pointed out earlier -- I'm mortal: I have only thirty years or so left. You can wait till I'm dead and then find an immortal to kill you. You can become a monk and live the rest of your long, long life on holy ground. Or you can accept what's happened to you and learn how to live."
"You mean learn how to kill."
"For you, it's the same thing."
MacGyver stood up and walked over to the window, looking out over the unfamiliar city. Just like that, Murdoc had dedicated the rest of his life to MacGyver, and expected Mac to accept him. Thirty years. He hadn't expected to hear Murdoc define it so bluntly.
I can't do it. I can't bear to lose him. Not after all that's happened, not after everyone else I've lost.
"Thirty years is a long time to plan ahead," he said aloud, already half afraid of Murdoc's response.
"Time is relative. Especially when viewed by your kind."
Oh, god. "So why...?"
"I was twelve when Ashton was born. She was...someone to care for, someone who needed me. She became the only certainty in my life." Murdoc sounded oddly distant, as though he and MacGyver had suddenly been separated by a span of lost years. "Even after she'd forgotten me, I did what I could to protect her. When she died...." Murdoc fell silent, briefly, before adding, "Everyone needs stability, MacGyver. I've decided you're going to be mine."
Mac swallowed, almost perfectly balanced between resentment and pain. "Don't I get a say in it?"
"You need me."
The hell of it was, he did. MacGyver took a deep breath and tried for a noncommittal tone. "Why Paris?" Somehow he knew Murdoc was right behind him, and swung round.
The assassin looked faintly startled, but his voice didn't change. "Someone lives there...someone who can be your teacher."
"I thought you were planning to teach me," Mac protested. Wasn't that the point?
Murdoc smiled, a little wryly. "I can answer most of your questions, but swords are a bit out of my line."
The last thing MacGyver wanted at the moment was to go anywhere near another immortal. "Well, yeah, but if immortals kill each other -- "
"Immortals also take students. This isn't a free-for-all, MacGyver. Even the Game has rules."
Reluctantly, Mac nodded, clearing his throat. "So you've already picked someone out?"
"Of course. His name is Pierson."
"Is he expecting us?"
Murdoc grinned. "I hope not."
"He's a friend of yours?" MacGyver asked cautiously.
"He's never noticed me in his life. I've only seen him once or twice. Though, if it makes you feel any better, he and Selby were acquainted. Of course, that was five centuries ago."
"Oh, great." Mac didn't try to hide his lack of enthusiasm. "So you're planning to walk up to a total stranger and tell him to teach me?"
"He's in a rather delicate position. It makes him -- vulnerable. And, I trust, amenable to reason."
"I think the word you want is 'blackmail.'" MacGyver's tone had turned harsh, but Murdoc only smiled. "So what's the 'delicate position'?"
"He's a member of the Watchers."
MacGyver's eyes widened. "The Watchers? But I thought -- "
"That the Watchers keep their existence a secret from immortals? They do. Hence his vulnerability. He's been a Watcher for about seven years now, and I imagine that he thinks himself quite safe." Murdoc waited, as if expecting some response from MacGyver.
Mac couldn't think of anything to say. Except, again, "I can't do this," and he knew Murdoc wouldn't accept that as an answer.
Murdoc nodded, as if he'd taken MacGyver's silence as acquiescence. "Shall we go?"
In the car, MacGyver avoided looking at Murdoc. His own accusations echoed painfully in his ears, and he was trying hard not to recall that they had fled the first time he'd sensed an immortal, and attempted to flee the second. He told himself, repeatedly, that he hadn't been unfair.
Then, without warning, tactile memories cascaded through him: Murdoc's touch, Murdoc's taste, Murdoc's whisper in his ear. The rapture of being buried deep inside the other man, and of welcoming his lover deep inside.
I love you. He'd said it again and again, and the thought of it burned him to the bone. Yet even now -- struggling with anger, hurt and shame -- he couldn't quite convince himself those words had been untrue.
Murdoc planned to arrive in Paris at dawn. He would have preferred, ordinarily, to stake out Pierson's apartment, work out what his routine was and who his visitors were, for several days before making a move. But MacGyver's presence made that impossible, and leaving MacGyver to his own devices in Paris -- a city with at least four immortals in permanent residence and God knew how many passing through -- was just as impossible.
So Murdoc intended to arrive at Pierson's apartment not long after dawn, well before Pierson would have left for the day -- whether he was working at the English bookshop or in the Watchers' main reference library. It was unlikely that he was away from Paris; he hadn't taken a holiday in seven years. From what Murdoc knew of him, he was a born academic who had taken more doctorates than heads, beginning in fifteenth-century Heidelberg where he had, briefly, taught the newly immortal Selby.
MacGyver had gone quiet again. He sat still, his head slightly turned as if he were looking out of the window. He wasn't asleep: Murdoc was aware of the tension in that long-limbed body as if it were his own.
MacGyver had looked so hurt, as though devastated by the realization that total strangers might want to kill him simply for being what he was. And that hurt had stirred feelings Murdoc was trying very hard to ignore.
To want MacGyver -- that was permissible. To want MacGyver's love was dangerous for them both.
There would be no more protestations of love. Murdoc told himself -- again -- that he felt no hurt, no anger or betrayal. He required MacGyver's presence; Mac's affection he did not need. Murdoc repeated that, silently, like a mantra.
And knew again, with every breath, that he lied.
Paris at dawn. The baker's shops were open, and a few early cafes, as well as the bars that never closed. But the streets were quiet. MacGyver wished he were twenty years younger, just out of college and eager to learn the city; he could almost see himself sitting at one of the outdoor tables, drinking an early morning coffee with plenty of hot milk, eating a croissant warm from the oven. It was a small, nostalgic fantasy that occupied him until he looked across the imagined table and realised that his companion was a fine-boned assassin with a rakish scar and a brilliant, biting smile.
Murdoc parked the car in a residential street in an inexpensive area. It all looked quite normal. A few people were strolling with long loaves of bread poking out of their shopping bags, having obviously gone out to buy bread for breakfast. MacGyver glanced at Murdoc.
"Remember this," Murdoc said. He reached into the back of the car to fish out the anonymous bundle, and handed it to MacGyver.
"I told you -- "
"Just take it," Murdoc said, sounding wearily exasperated. "And this."
It was a gun. MacGyver looked at it, without moving. "No."
"The sword," Murdoc said, "not because I expect you to use it, but because if you don't carry it, you look like a walking target. We're going in from two sides. You use the front door; I use the back. In all probability, Pierson will sense you coming and run. But if he runs in your direction, you'll need a gun."
"I'm not going to kill."
This time the look Murdoc gave him was almost murderous. "You can't kill him with a gun," he bit out. "He's immortal, remember, MacGyver? Like you. Think of it as using trank darts."
"You expect him to run?" MacGyver frowned at Murdoc. "I thought immortals hunted?"
"This one," Murdoc told him, "has made a life out of running. Pierson hasn't taken a head in two centuries. I've traced him back six hundred years and he avoids fights like the plague." Murdoc grinned suddenly. "Well, he didn't bother avoiding the plague."
"You mean you found another pacifist immortal?" Unwillingly, MacGyver found that almost funny.
Murdoc sighed. "No. He may not like fighting, but he can do it. He hasn't taken many heads, but he has killed. Don't get any ideas that he isn't dangerous. He's just the least dangerous option you have." Murdoc shoved the gun into MacGyver's hand. "Use it if you have to. Don't worry about the consequences; I can deal with them. Just remember -- if you have to shoot him, you're not really killing him. He'll come round in ten minutes or so, just as you would."
"Is this where he lives?" MacGyver glanced out at the quiet street.
"No," Murdoc said. "Next street along. Here." He gave MacGyver the car keys. "If there's trouble, get back to the car."
Even wrapped as it was, the sword proved to be extremely awkward to carry. Murdoc watched him fumbling with it for a minute, and then sighed, impatient and annoyed. "We don't have time for this, MacGyver. Just tuck it under your arm."
Murdoc left him at the entrance to an apartment block just like any other. The concierge glanced up from her knitting but paid no other attention to him. MacGyver stood restlessly, hugging the sword under his arm, feeling the unfamiliar weight of the gun in his jacket pocket, checking the seconds on his wrist watch to give Murdoc time to get round to the back door he'd spoken of.
What am I doing? I could run. I have the car keys, I have my wallet, I have a reliable fake passport... and Murdoc wants me to break into some complete stranger's apartment and help him blackmail the guy?
After a moment, MacGyver recognised the odd, prickly unease for what it was. He was quite sure that when he started up the stairs it would get stronger. There's an immortal up there. I can't let Murdoc face him alone. I can't run out on him.
He glanced down at his watch again, and started up the stairs. It was the first time he had tried to walk through the presence licking at him like cold flames, and it was easier than he'd imagined.
It grew and swallowed him on the fourth floor, and he jolted to a halt. The name on the door was Dr. Adam Pierson. Break the door down? The lock was one of the trickier sort -- getting it open would mean kneeling down and really concentrating for a good five minutes. Murdoc's instructions hadn't covered this part.
The door opened. A gawky, dark-haired young man stood just inside. "Adam Pierson," he said, and -- with the faintest hint of sarcasm -- "You must be the 'friend' he mentioned."
Murdoc had calculated that Pierson probably wouldn't get worried enough to run until MacGyver actually started climbing the stairs. He glanced at his watch when the window below him began to open, and nodded, pleased to have this guess confirmed.
A tall young-looking man pulled himself deftly out of the window and on to the fire-escape. An instant before Murdoc called out to him, Pierson looked up, right into Murdoc's eyes and the mouth of Murdoc's gun.
Murdoc was smiling. He'd always liked this moment -- the tense, clean sharpness when he first encountered his opponent face to face.
For all Pierson's age, he reacted exactly like a nervous academic with a gun pointed at him. He stood still, looking shocked and white. Of course, if he were killed publicly, he'd lose this cushy niche he'd made for himself.
"Doctor Pierson," Murdoc said smoothly. "Possibly you don't remember me."
"I'm...." Pierson swallowed, his voice shaking. "I'm afraid not. What do you want?"
"My name is Edward Baring."
This time, Pierson looked really shocked. Murdoc had expected that. The story was current among Watchers as recently as three years ago, the last time Murdoc had infiltrated the Watcher HQ. There were many Watchers who became a little more attached to their assigned immortals than the oath they had sworn allowed. There had been none who had broken their oath quite as thoroughly and bloodily as Edward Baring.
"What do you want?" Pierson was shivering, even in his heavy overcoat. "I'm just a researcher. Really."
"Go back inside," Murdoc said coldly. "You're a little bit more than just a researcher, and a friend of mine needs your help."
Pierson cast one desperate look at the street below. Murdoc had expected that, and gestured with his gun. "Inside."
At the moment, Pierson must be seriously off-balance. He couldn't be certain that Murdoc knew he was immortal; or even that Murdoc knew his own companion was immortal. Pierson's only real route of escape was to jump and die on the street below, and that kind of public death meant losing the life he wanted, the life he'd worked for. Murdoc was betting that -- so long as Pierson could still hope the secret of his immortality was safe -- the man wouldn't make any move that might expose him.
Pierson glanced at Murdoc again, and obeyed, scrambling through the window with more haste than agility. Still smiling to himself, Murdoc followed.
"Take your coat off: you're not going anywhere."
With a nervous shrug, Pierson tugged it off and hung it carefully over the back of a chair.
"My friend should be just outside," Murdoc told him. "Open the door."
The young man moved aside, allowing MacGyver to enter. Murdoc was standing in the middle of the room, gun in hand. That gun was pointed at Adam Pierson, and Murdoc wore a tiger's smile. MacGyver shut the door behind himself, realising he was both relieved to see Murdoc was all right, and outraged at the situation Murdoc had put him in. Doctor Pierson wasn't another de'Cavalieri; there was no threat in his stance or his voice.
Pierson had backed off from both of them, stopping two or three yards away. "All right," he said. "What do you two want with me?"
"My name's MacGyver," Mac said, abruptly sick of Murdoc's manoeuvres. He set the still-wrapped sword down on the nearest chair, shrugged off his jacket and added it to the pile -- careful not to disturb the coat already flung over the back -- and took a step towards Pierson, holding out his hand. Pierson took another step backwards, eyeing him strangely. MacGyver stood still, feeling like an idiot.
"Allow me," Murdoc said. He was still smiling. "Since 1979, you've been using the name Adam Pierson. We can stick to that if you like, or we can use any of your other names. John Polidari? Ben Adams?"
"No," Pierson said. "Thank you very much. What do you want?"
This was the first immortal MacGyver had met who hadn't tried to kill him. Tentatively, he cleared his throat. "I'd like to ask you some questions."
"Stop playing games," Murdoc said softly. "You're immortal. You faked your way into the Watchers. I want you to teach him how to use a sword." That dangerous smile widened. "I'll take care of the rest."
"You can't be serious." Pierson looked aghast. "What makes you think I know anything about swords?"
"You're still alive," Murdoc said. All the while, his gun hadn't wavered. "And you're immortal, and you're a Watcher. I didn't come here to cost you your job or take your head -- but you know I could do either. You're coming with us. You can call Watcher HQ and give them whatever excuse you like. You must be due a year's furlough by this time. You've got a year to teach MacGyver how to take care of himself in a sword fight."
Pierson glanced, briefly, at MacGyver. His face had gone still. He didn't look very young any more. After a moment, he said, "Fine. I'll take him as my student. But I can't concentrate on training him with someone breathing down my neck. Leave him with me now, and you can pick him up this time next year."
Murdoc's reply was soft and cold. "That's unacceptable."
Pierson shrugged. "You could always find someone else to teach him."
"Perhaps I haven't made myself clear," Murdoc observed icily. "You're in no position to bargain. A word of this to the Watchers, and killing you will become a priority." He flashed Pierson a brilliant smile. "Do you like living on the run?"
"You have no idea," Pierson said. His voice was just as soft, just as cold.
"I want nothing to do with this," MacGyver said abruptly. "Doctor Pierson, I'm very sorry about this. All I want is for you to answer some questions. I'm not interested in swords, and I don't practice extortion. I wouldn't be here at all if I'd been given any choice." He almost spat the last few words, his eyes on Murdoc.
Murdoc glared at him. "Shut up."
"I'm not going to help you blackmail anyone." MacGyver glared back.
"You're not," Murdoc said sharply, "I'm doing it. Shut up, MacGyver."
Unexpectedly, Pierson laughed. "When you kids make up your minds what you want me to do, perhaps you'd let me know?" He sounded genuinely amused.
Murdoc's attention had never entirely left Pierson. He snapped, "I've told you what you're going to do."
"Fine," Pierson said again. "Where am I going to train him? We need somewhere fairly isolated, with good access to holy ground. And you'll need to find him a sword."
"I already have," said Murdoc. He cast a quick, frowning glance at MacGyver. "Get it."
"I told you," MacGyver shot back angrily, "I want nothing to do with this."
"Perhaps we should tackle one problem at a time," Pierson suggested mildly. "Do you have anywhere in mind for us to go?"
"You own a ruined church in the Pyr‚n‚es," Murdoc said. "Is there any reason why we shouldn't go there?"
"None, except I'd rather hoped you didn't know about it," Pierson sounded resigned. "I really do need to know how he handles a sword, though. It's not the kind of weapon where one size fits all."
"Get the sword," Murdoc told MacGyver, his voice deadly.
But it was Pierson's shrug of acquiescence that freed MacGyver to obey. There were questions he wanted to ask another immortal, and it seemed practical to keep Murdoc from turning actively murderous. MacGyver unwrapped the weapon, taking care with the cutting edges, and picked it up gingerly by the hilt. It was heavy and awkward, and he still didn't like the look of it. He doubted he ever would.
Pierson was already shaking his head. "You're holding it wrong. One parry and you'd break your wrist."
"What?" MacGyver stared.
"Start with the basics." Pierson moved across the room, ignoring Murdoc's gun, adding casually to the assassin, "Make yourself useful and draw the curtains. Long-range cameras are a pest. Now -- " he was standing next to MacGyver, and put his hand over MacGyver's on the sword hilt, "see how I have my fingers? Shift your hand down the hilt a little bit. That's it."
Pierson stepped back, leaving MacGyver holding the sword. It felt a little easier, but still heavy. Murdoc was drawing the curtains, muting the light in the apartment. He came back, glancing at MacGyver with approval.
"He needs another sword," Pierson said. "A longer one. This one was made for someone about three or four inches shorter than he is. Better he doesn't get used to a sword this length."
"It feels long enough," MacGyver said, startled.
"No, let me show you," Pierson said, and moved, again standing beside him, one arm round him holding his right arm just above the elbow, and the other across his body holding the same arm above the wrist. It was a curiously intimate grip, but Pierson only grinned at him. "Think of it as learning how to dance."
Agony lanced into arm and wrist and MacGyver felt his grip on the sword suddenly, involuntarily, slacken. Pierson was no longer holding him.
There was a crack of steel smashing bone, followed a bare instant later by the wheet of a silenced gun and a horrible ripping crunch.
It was a moment before MacGyver could interpret what he had seen. With unbelievable swiftness, the sword in his left hand, Pierson had lunged at Murdoc, smashing the steel down on the wrist of the hand that held the gun. The gun had gone off, but Murdoc was no longer holding it. In one stroke, Pierson had thrust the sword upwards through Murdoc's stomach, and in pulling it out again had ripped him open. Murdoc collapsed to the floor in a welter of blood and guts; the room stank of it.
Murdoc might not have been dead before he hit the floor. But before MacGyver could say or think anything, Pierson kicked Murdoc over and thrust the sword into him again, hard and deep, breaking ribs and piercing his heart. The immortal leaped back, leaving the sword where it was, and whipped open the coat lying over the chair, pulling another sword out of the garment's concealing folds.
"Run." Pierson's voice rang with sudden authority, as if a mouse had unexpectedly become a lion, but MacGyver was too numbed with horror and shock to care. It all seemed so clear now, so terribly clear. He never wanted me dead. He just wasn't ready to face what he did want. It wasn't hatred -- it was fear. His and mine. Remorse flooded MacGyver, pulling him under, drowning him in grief and regret. He was here because of me; now he's dead because of me. God, I never even thanked him for saving my life....
"Run, kid. I don't have a quarrel with you. Get out of here."
MacGyver didn't move. His world had gone cold and grey and still. "Why not finish me, too?" He did not flinch when Pierson drew nearer, sword in hand. "If you're waiting for a fight, don't bother. I don't have anything to lose."
"You have your head." Pierson was staring at him. "The door is that way. Go."
MacGyver shook his head. He couldn't take his eyes off Murdoc, motionless and bloody on the floor. "Thirty years," he whispered.
He wasn't even aware he'd said it aloud until Pierson said, "What?"
"Nothing." MacGyver wrenched his gaze away from Murdoc. "Do you want me to say something? I don't know the rules. Just finish it."
For an endless moment, his executioner studied him, and the blade did not swing. "How long have you been immortal?"
MacGyver didn't want to think, but some odd, abstract section of his brain still seemed to function. "What day is it?"
Pierson frowned. "Saturday."
There was a moment's silence. "And how long had you known... that?"
Mac's voice was hushed, the ache inside him almost too much to bear. "Twelve years. On and off." "And you love him so much you don't want to live without him." Pierson's tone was faintly sarcastic. "No doubt it's that endearing personality."
"I don't want to live like this," Mac said hoarsely. "I don't want to live forever, alone. And yes, I think I love him. Not that it matters now." He met Pierson's eyes. "Get it over with."
"And if you didn't have to be alone?"
"If that's a proposition, I'm not interested."
"That wasn't what I was offering," Pierson shrugged, his tone off-handed and casual, half-annoyed and half-amused. "This isn't exactly the Saturday morning I had planned. You break in here, try to blackmail me, and then your friend ruins one of my favourite rugs. I think the least you owe me is a civil answer. Do you want to die?"
MacGyver swallowed. The cheerful inhumanity in the voice -- the swift and utterly deadly reaction to the threat Murdoc had posed -- "I don't want to live to be like you."
For an instant, Pierson looked disconcerted. Then he laughed. "I don't think you're likely to survive that long. Do you want to live?"
"Not alone," MacGyver said steadily. He expected at any moment to feel the sword slice through his neck. A part of him welcomed the coming oblivion.
"Alone," Pierson echoed ironically, shaking his head. "I can't believe you haven't noticed. Look."
What was there to see? Murdoc was still dead.
The horrible ruining wound... wasn't there. It was hard to see because of all the blood and mess, but underneath the filth Murdoc's body was quite whole. Except for the sword stuck through his chest.
Pierson grinned, clearly enjoying MacGyver's blank astonishment. "He'll be back soon enough -- if I let him. He's no more mortal than you are."
Pure shock blanked out all MacGyver's senses for an instant. When he was aware of himself again, he was standing over Murdoc, his hands on the sword-hilt.
"What do you think you're doing?" Pierson's tone had sharpened dangerously, and MacGyver glanced up.
"I have to get this thing out of him!"
"I stuck that sword through him for a reason, if you remember." Pierson's eyes held Mac's with frightening ease.
"But -- "
"That sword comes out only after you've convinced me -- if you can -- to let your blackmailing friend live. Reach for it before then, and I take his head. Clear enough?"
MacGyver swallowed hard and nodded.
"Now move back."
One step and then another. MacGyver was almost at the chair where he had dropped his jacket. He retreated another pace and clutched at the chair's back, letting it hold him upright. Pierson was eyeing him impatiently. "I've got a few questions to ask you, but I'd like to get this place cleaned up. Are you capable of helping me, or are you just going to faint?"
"Can -- " MacGyver heard his voice shake " -- can immortals faint?" Pierson's eyebrows went up. "Immortals can do anything," he said with a kind of sedate humour. "It's just that we really do live to regret it." Almost casually, he kicked Murdoc's gun out of sight beneath the couch, and then stepped across to reach for a box on one of the bookshelves that lined the room. "Here."
The box landed neatly in Mac's hands. It was a carton of moist towellettes.
"Clean your friend up, and I'll get the rug."
It was, in some ways, one of the most horrible things MacGyver had ever done; he knelt on the carpet by Murdoc's dead body and cleaned the cooling flesh. He could tell himself -- he knew, by the evidence of his eyes and hands -- that Murdoc had healed and would live. But meantime the sword Mac had hated from the moment he'd laid eyes on it was stuck jaggedly through Murdoc's flesh, and Murdoc's eyes gazed fixedly at nothing, one half-closed so that Murdoc seemed to wink at a brutal joke, his mouth open as if he were laughing.
The used tissues vanished, one by one, into the garbage bag Pierson had produced. Meanwhile, neatly, the sword never far from his hand and never within MacGyver's reach, Pierson had rolled up the filthy rug on which Murdoc had fallen and slid it into another garbage bag, which he sealed with tape. They had, between them, half-slid and half-lifted Murdoc's body onto a third garbage bag. As they did so, the sword shifted in its resting place. It was the only time MacGyver was nearly sick.
"Right," Pierson said at last. The room did smell better, and all the traces seemed to have been cleared away. "MacGyver. What did he tell you about me?"
MacGyver retreated again to the chair and sank into it, clutching at his jacket as if for security. His eyes still on Murdoc's motionless form, he said shakily, "That you were dangerous, but the least dangerous option I had."
"I see." Pierson remained standing, sword in hand, a bare couple of feet from Murdoc's new resting place. "And how far back did he manage to trace me?"
The faint edge in Pierson's tone left Mac hesitant to answer the question, but -- with Murdoc's life so clearly in the balance -- he was even more reluctant to risk a lie. "Six hundred years."
"Ah." The edge was sharper. "I hadn't realised I'd left such a visible trail. Still, it does explain things."
A reply seemed called for. "What things?"
"I've spent most of the last six centuries hiding. I've taken a few heads, but only when I had to, and none at all for two hundred years. It's not surprising your friend saw me as an easy mark."
MacGyver lifted his gaze to Pierson, and -- as if for the first time -- really looked. How old are you?"
Pierson grinned. "It's an immortal's prerogative to lie about his age. How old are you?"
"Forty-one," Mac said automatically.
"I'm rather more than thirty times your age."
It was a moment before MacGyver could shake free of his daze long enough to manage the arithmetic. "You're twelve hundred years old?"
Pierson tilted his head. "It's a knack," he said pleasantly. "Was it Baring who killed you?"
"Your friend," Pierson explained. "His real name is Edward Baring. What name has he been going by with you?"
"Murdoc," MacGyver said blankly.
"Did he kill you?" Pierson's voice held only light curiosity.
"Did he know what would happen?"
"No. How could he?"
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," MacGyver said. "What difference does it make? When I -- when I woke up, he was digging a grave for me. He thought I was dead. Anyway," he repeated, "what difference does it make to you?"
Pierson didn't answer the question. "When did he first mention that he was bringing you to me?"
"Uh -- " MacGyver's initial answer was "A few hours ago," but when he thought about it, he realised that the first mention of Paris had come during their abortive stay at the anonymous motel. "Not long after it happened. About six days ago. It wasn't till this morning he told me your name."
Pierson smiled, a mere twitch of the lips. "Are you sure he didn't plan this?"
"No. I mean, he didn't. He didn't know I was immortal: he was surprised when I woke up."
"What happened then?" Pierson was holding his sword not far from Murdoc's throat, in an easy grip. When MacGyver didn't answer immediately, he gestured with the sword, close enough to shave the scar on Murdoc's face. "Please remember, he doesn't necessarily have to wake up. If that's what you want, we don't have to talk at all." He spoke quite gently.
For an instant, MacGyver froze. Then, as if something had finally turned a switch inside him, his mind woke up. Very carefully, he began to describe the past week, going into more detail whenever Pierson required it. As he talked, he moved his hands in nervous gestures, shivering visibly whenever Pierson's sword brushed too close to Murdoc's throat.
He had reached their arrival at the Amsterdam airport and had managed to shift his jacket far enough left that he thought the hard lump in the pocket was reachable. But he'd seen how fast Pierson could move. The other immortal was looking interested, but not distracted.
MacGyver started to talk about how he'd felt when he realised that the odd prickly discomfort was another immortal, and Pierson raised a hand, stopping him. "I know this part," he said mildly. "You met Tommaso de'Cavalieri, and after Baring had shot him, you managed to chop his head off."
"That's not what happened!" Despite himself, MacGyver was outraged. "I didn't kill him."
"No?" Suddenly, unexpectedly, Pierson seemed amused. "Baring did it again, did he?"
"Given what I know of his history, I suppose I should have guessed. Baring shot de'Cavalieri and cut his head off, and then -- while you were taking the quickening˙? ˙he killed Steuben Gerard."
"De'Cavalieri's Watcher." Pierson stared. "Are you trying to tell me you didn't know?"
"Murdoc -- killed -- " MacGyver stared back, utterly aghast. "No. I -- I didn't -- " With crawling shame, he remembered how he had clung to Murdoc, desperate for comfort from the very assassin who had just killed, not once but twice. Only with an effort was he able to pick up the thread of his narrative. "It felt as if de'Cavalieri was tracking me...."
"He probably was. How many quickenings have you taken?"
"You don't think I'd let Murdoc do that twice?" MacGyver muttered, torn by conflicting emotions, with anger now predominant. "He set me up perfectly. I actually stood there and let him kill the guy! I'd never have done it if I'd known -- "
Pierson looked at him oddly. "Possibly you're missing the point here. You're alive. Tommaso de'Cavalieri is dead. It was de'Cavalieri he set up, not you."
Mac shook his head stubbornly, trying not to blush. "I mean my reaction. We... we wound up in bed, all because -- "
"Oh, that." Pierson's tone held casual familiarity. "It's a fairly common impulse, but the intensity can vary quite a lot. In your case, the urge might be difficult to resist, but I doubt Baring would have known to expect that." The older immortal shrugged, an easy, fluid movement. "He wasn't with the Watchers long -- only had one assignment, and that was to a man named Thomas Selby." Surprisingly, Pierson grinned. "Selby was over five hundred years old; I doubt the effect on him would have been anything like it was on you."
He didn't plan it. A quick rush of relief went through MacGyver, followed almost instantly by guilt and self-reproach. "But why kill the Watcher?"
"Because the moment Gerard described the mortal who'd killed de'Cavalieri, Edward Baring's name would have come up. Twenty years ago, he was condemned to death by a Watcher tribunal. Once they'd realised he was back, they wouldn't even have bothered to re-try him; they'd just have shot him on sight. When I heard about Gerard and de'Cavalieri, I thought it was probably Baring, but then I had an advantage: I knew he was still alive. Or, at least, that he had been three years ago." For a moment, Pierson's eyes rested on Murdoc rather than on MacGyver. "Ironic. A pre-immortal sneaking around Watcher Headquarters in disguise, and I couldn't afford to call him on it, because I couldn't have explained how I knew." Pierson's teeth flashed in a grin. "So he conveniently forgot to tell you about Gerard. What happened then?"
Instead of answering, MacGyver rose to his feet, gun in hand. It had slipped neatly out of the pocket into his grasp while Pierson was talking. "Back off. Now. You're not touching him again."
Pierson studied him for a long and thoughtful moment. "So you're willing to fight when it's his life on the line."
"I won't let you kill him," Mac growled, raising the automatic. "You've already done enough."
"You can't kill me with that."
"No, but I can keep you out long enough for Murdoc to recover. And he might not be as willing to forget all this as I am."
"It seems he's a good influence on you, after all," Pierson murmured, and stepped forward. "Go ahead. If you can. Shoot."
Trank darts, MacGyver told himself, desperately, and fired as Pierson lunged. At this range, he couldn't miss. The bullet must have gone right through Pierson's heart; he collapsed, his sword barely grazing Mac's arm.
MacGyver dropped the gun, still shaken by the fact that he'd fired it and fervently hoping he wouldn't have to do it again. Ten minutes. He had to get the sword out of Murdoc's chest.
That was harder than it sounded. It would have been easier if he could have borne to brace a foot on Murdoc's body: as it was, his hands ached before he wrenched the blade free.
And behind him, a cool voice said "Put that back."
MacGyver swung round. Pierson was on his feet, sword out. There was a small red stain in the thick white jersey he was wearing, but nothing more to show he had ever been injured.
"I warned you," Pierson said, each word a quiet threat, "if you touched that before I'd agreed to let your friend live, he'd lose his head. This is the last chance he gets. Put it back in, or I will." There was sudden, savage amusement in his voice. "And next time you try to kill an older immortal, remember how much faster we heal, and cut clean."
MacGyver shivered, the sword heavy in his hands, but desperation offered a strength all its own. Awkwardly, he raised the blade, trying to copy Pierson's easy stance. "Look, I don't want to fight -- we both know I couldn't win -- but I can't just stand by and watch while you kill him. So either leave him alone or finish us both." Somehow, he managed a shaky grin. "It's a package deal."
The exasperation in Pierson's eyes reminded Mac painfully of Murdoc. "You do realise it wouldn't take me more than three seconds to end this?"
"Yeah," Mac admitted, a tiny hope dawning as the other man only stood there, glaring at him. "But I'm sort of hoping you aren't all that anxious to ruin another rug."
Pierson's glare vanished in a flash of dark humour. "Not especially, no. Though you do make it tempting." He studied Mac for a moment, and sighed. "Oh, well, if you insist." With a movement like a dancer's, he struck.
MacGyver was never sure how it had happened. The other man's blade never touched him: it seemed to weave round the sword he held and suddenly his hands were full of nothing but an agonising pain.
Pierson stood a yard away, a sword in either hand. His smile reminded MacGyver, momentarily, of Murdoc at his most tigerish. "I gave up drowning kittens a long time ago. I'd hate to start again˙now -- it's a hell of a habit to kick." He glanced at the sword he had taken from MacGyver. "I take it this was Selby's?"
The hurt in Mac's hands was already fading, but he was keenly aware of the vulnerable body on the floor. Maybe he could keep Pierson talking.... "I don't know. All he said was that I'd have to learn to use it. And of course he wouldn't listen when I told him I couldn't kill."
Pierson snorted, more with amusement than irritation. Almost absently, he thrust the captured sword back into the half-healed wound in Murdoc's chest, and went on, quite evenly, "It was a nice effort, MacGyver. But wasted. Assuming your story was accurate, Baring simply didn't have time to prepare any insurance. Besides, from all accounts, Baring's just damned arrogant enough to think he could match his abilities against an immortal's and win." Pierson's voice held finality.
MacGyver glanced down, unobtrusively, trying to remember where he'd dropped the gun. How many bullets did it have left?
Pierson followed his gaze. With another lightning-quick movement, he kicked the fallen gun; it skidded across the carpet, well out of either man's reach... and Pierson's sword, as he moved, all but nicked Murdoc's throat. At that instant, MacGyver was terribly certain both he and Murdoc were dead. It was just a matter of whose head Pierson would take first. At least we'll die together.
"So," Pierson said thoughtfully, "how do I arrange protection for you?"
MacGyver blinked at him, taken completely aback. "Protect me -- ? I killed you -- " The protest wasn't thought out.
"It's one way of winning an argument." Pierson shrugged, clearly untroubled by the notion, and glanced down at Murdoc again. His voice held a note of impersonal inquiry. "How far would you trust him?"
The question wasn't much to build hope on; nonetheless, MacGyver could feel hope all but choking him. He had to swallow twice before he could speak. "With my life."
"Once he wakes up, he'll be immortal. Like you. And you will be the fastest way he could find out what a quickening feels like."
Mac hesitated for a moment. "No," he said at last. "No, he won't hurt me."
"He's already killed you without knowing you'd come back. That shows a real concern for your welfare, doesn't it?"
"You don't understand." Mac sought a way to put what he'd only just realised into words. "That was before -- "
"Before what? Tell me you're not trusting a killer with your life just because he's good in bed."
"Not that...." Colouring slightly, MacGyver shook his head. "He killed me because he thought he wanted me dead. He's been protecting me ever since." Mac tried hard to project his own certainty. "Now he knows he wants me alive."
Pierson's expression was one of disbelief. "You do realise Baring's insane?"
Mac hesitated, choosing his words with care. "I'll admit he can be...obsessive."
"He's more than obsessive, MacGyver. He's mad." Ignoring MacGyver's wince, Pierson added, "Trust me -- I'm familiar with more than just his history with the Watchers. And I hate to be the one to break it to you, but love does not conquer all."
"What do you know about him?" MacGyver's words were a challenge.
Pierson smiled and said blandly, "More than you do."
"I doubt that."
"Most of it's in his Watcher records, if you read between the lines. He was adopted, of course, but he wasn't quite what his newfound parents were expecting. When young Edward was twelve, the Barings had a daughter of their own, and lost all remaining interest in their brilliant but less-than-stable son. The boy joined the Watchers when he was eighteen, and he was lucky, in a way: the immortal they assigned him to when he turned twenty-one was looking for a student. Tom Selby was a very charming man, and Baring was rather attractive -- to one of us -- when he was younger."
"Selby seduced him?" MacGyver supposed he shouldn't be shocked. "How do you know all this?"
"I researched the Watchers for seven or eight years before I became Adam Pierson. I've been a Watcher before -- it's a good place to hide, but your background has to be very well set up, and that takes time."
MacGyver fumbled for a detached and scientific curiosity. There were hundreds of questions for which he wanted answers, and it was beginning to be clear that Pierson didn't want to kill Murdoc -- though Mac suspected he still might, if he thought it was necessary. Distraction might be the answer; the longer Pierson let Murdoc live, the better chance Murdoc had of surviving this. "So he was adopted," Mac ventured cautiously, hopefully. "Until this, I didn't realise I'd been adopted. Was he right? Are we really all...foundlings?"
Pierson blinked. "Yes. Every immortal whose infant circumstances are known has been a foundling. That doesn't actually prove that every immortal is a foundling, but it's a sound basis for the hypothesis."
"And -- sterile?" MacGyver swallowed. "I have -- I had -- a son."
Something in Pierson's face changed. He still looked distant and faintly amused, but there was something sympathetic behind it. "I've been married sixty-five times -- no, sixty-six. Most of my wives had children."
"Then -- " Murdoc lied to me? MacGyver nearly choked on it, in surprise and relief and joy and disbelieving outrage. Murdoc lied to me?
"We are sterile," Pierson assured him. "What does that have to do with having children? My children were mine because I acknowledged them as mine. Your son is yours, if you want him."
MacGyver nodded slowly, filing the thought away for later. In the meantime, he had to ask. "Murdoc -- I mean Baring -- were he and Selby -- ?"
Pierson eyed him thoughtfully. "I don't know if Selby seduced Baring in the physical sense, and it hardly seems to matter -- though perhaps it does to you. Selby meant to take Baring as his student. He would have waited till Baring was twenty-five or so, and then killed him. But someone else showed up first. Erythras took Selby's head, and Baring took his, just the way he took de'Cavalieri's head for you." Pierson smiled.
"It's all... ancient history now. But I liked Tom Selby," he added, looking past MacGyver as if he saw something invisible. "Never turned my back on him, but I liked him." His attention swung back to Murdoc. "I'd take his head, but you won't survive a day without someone to protect you. I don't want the job. And you trust him." His voice held dry irony.
Mac took a deep breath and nodded, meeting the other man's eyes. "It's my life. Trusting Murdoc is a risk I'm willing to take."
Pierson shrugged and sighed. "Fine. Do you have any suggestions about how to keep Baring from trying to kill me the moment he wakes up? Because if he does, MacGyver, I will take his head."
"Yes." MacGyver swallowed, aware of the thin line he was treading. "We'll have to disarm him. Then, after he comes around, you...." Despite everything, the words caught a little in Mac's throat. I'm trying to keep him alive. This isn't betrayal.
Pierson was still waiting. "Then I...?"
"You threaten me."
He was lying on his back in a dark cold room. There was someone beside him and someone else standing over him. His eyes weren't working: he only realised it when light began to swim back into the room. He couldn't see the other two people in the room, or feel them or hear them. He just knew they were there, as certainly as he knew anything.
He didn't know he wasn't breathing until suddenly his lungs were dying for air, hot in his cold body. His heart was thumping. Someone kneeling beside him slid an arm around his shoulders and eased him up, cradling him. That was MacGyver.
Murdoc shuddered violently, trying to focus on MacGyver's face. There was another man standing over them both -- a man who looked like a harmless scholar. I have been stupid, I have been so stupid --
MacGyver was saying something. "It's okay. Just give it a minute. Don't try to move."
Murdoc's throat hurt. He rasped, "Get out of here."
MacGyver frowned. "Murdoc...."
"Get out, MacGyver. He'll kill you. Run." Murdoc's gaze slid past Mac to fix on Pierson. Pierson had struck him with Selby's sword, but it couldn't be as bad as he'd thought. If MacGyver would run, Murdoc could handle Pierson.
That's what you thought before, a cool voice said mockingly in his head. Murdoc ignored it. Hoarsely, urgently, he insisted, "Run."
"There's something I think I should explain," Pierson said. He was smiling. He looked smug and dangerous. But he didn't explain anything. The sword he held came crashing down and the world went dark again.
Pierson struck without warning. MacGyver felt Murdoc shudder in his arms, and even more horribly, felt the sense of Murdoc's presence disappear, like a blown-out candle-flame. "You didn't have to do that!"
When Pierson didn't answer, only stood there with blood from the sword dripping gently on to Murdoc's torn shirt, Mac demanded anxiously, "What's it going to do to him, killing him like that when he was barely alive?"
"Nothing," Pierson said. He looked, if such a thing were possible, intensely indifferent. "Immortals have died and been buried and then died a hundred deaths, a thousand, before they could escape from their tombs. Besides, I've neither the time nor the inclination for lengthy explanations. Killing him the moment he was alive enough to understand should speed things up." He shrugged, and added, matter-of-factly, "It's his second death; it'll probably take him ten to fifteen minutes to come round. You don't need to sit there hugging him all that time."
MacGyver didn't move. Pierson shrugged again. He reached into another box on the bookshelves, and produced a couple of oily-looking rags. Settling into a chair, he began rubbing at the blade. "Mineral oil is best for sword-blades," he said casually. "I can let you have some to take with you. And one of my own swords. We're about the same height."
MacGyver closed his eyes briefly. The words echoed inside his mind: I don't kill. I won't kill. I can't do this. There seemed no point in uttering them. Neither Pierson nor Murdoc (nor, it seemed, anyone else) was going to pay the slightest attention.
"You know, there's still time to change your mind," Pierson said, as if oblivious to the fact that MacGyver was still holding Murdoc protectively close. "I know an immortal, a priest, who never leaves holy ground. He'd give you sanctuary, if you want time to think things over."
"I'm an atheist," MacGyver retorted sharply.
"But are you a Catholic atheist or a Protestant atheist?"
MacGyver felt a bubble of hysteria that was nearly a sob rising up inside him. He was crying with laughter, unable to stop for over a minute. When he could, his head was bent on Murdoc's shoulder, and the shoulder of Murdoc's jacket was wet.
When Pierson spoke, his voice was reflective. "My friend the priest would say that it hardly matters if you don't believe in God, only that God should continue to believe in you. In any case, you'll find that you can sense holy ground. It's a quietness. Don't try to explain it away. The first law is that we never kill on holy ground. Don't break it."
"I'm not going to kill," MacGyver said flatly.
Pierson stood up. "Then you'd better become the greatest swordsman in the world," he said, just as flatly. "But I've never -- " MacGyver swallowed and shook his head, his eyes on the blade Pierson held. "I've never handled anything like that."
"I was a peasant," Pierson said. "I never so much as saw a sword, far less handled one, until I was much older than you are now. If I could learn, you can. I'll give you a sword, and I'll lend you the use of a place where you can stay out of sight for the next fifty years or so. That should give you a chance to begin."
As MacGyver was still searching for an appropriate response, Pierson left the room, to return in a couple of minutes with a long bag. MacGyver sat still, holding Murdoc, watching Pierson move round the room opening drawers and adding things to the bag; boxes, a plastic bottle, an envelope stuffed with papers.
"You'll need to become an antique dealer," Pierson added offhandedly, dropping the bag by the door and coming back to stand over Murdoc. "It's the only way to get swords on a plane these days. I'm sure Baring remembers how to forge a new identity."
As if he could see the tide coming in, MacGyver realised he could feel the surge of Murdoc's presence returning to him. Involuntarily, he grinned. "Oh, yeah, I'm sure he can."
Pierson handed him a bit of paper. "Here. I meant to sit out the last world war there."
MacGyver glanced at it and tucked it away in his wallet, a bit awkwardly, but he didn't want to let go of Murdoc. "What happened?"
Pierson smiled, and said, as if it were a joke, "I'm circumcised."
Murdoc had come close to death more times than he cared to remember. Those times had been nothing like this.
He was dead. He wasn't brushing close by the darkness -- he was in it and of it and only aware that darkness was darkness until he slid out again and felt his heart begin to beat, his lungs demand breath, his eyes focus light.
MacGyver was still holding him in his arms. He ought to have run. Murdoc wanted to tell him that, but his mouth was moving stiffly and it was very dry.
Pierson held out a glass. MacGyver took it from him and held it to Murdoc's lips, and Murdoc swallowed involuntarily. Poison?
It was water. It was also the best drink he'd ever had in his life.
"Something I think I should explain," Pierson said, again. "Baring or Murdoc or whatever your name is. I could have taken your head."
It came into Murdoc's mind and he didn't believe it.
Pierson killed me. Twice. And I'm alive.
"I'm going to let you go," Pierson told him. "With MacGyver. And I'll promise you one thing: no matter how long we both live, no matter how skilled you become, if I ever see you before I see MacGyver, I'll hunt down MacGyver and take his head. If I find he's dead, I'll take yours."
"I'm... immortal?" Murdoc knew he sounded dazed. With an effort, he wrenched away from MacGyver and struggled to his feet. Standing seemed to clear his head. The gun that should have weighted the left side of his jacket was gone. So was the knife on the right side. Selby's sword was out of reach. The gun he'd held on Pierson was nowhere in sight.
And Pierson had a sword he held as easily as if it were an extension of his body. His eyes were focused on Murdoc, and his gaze was very cold. "Stay away from me, and you can keep MacGyver alive. Come near me, and he dies. Do you understand?"
Murdoc met those eyes levelly, keeping his hands in sight, holding his rage under tight control. "I understand."
"Good." Pierson smiled. "The door is that way. You'll excuse me if I show you out."
"Wait a minute," MacGyver said. Murdoc glanced at him, startled. The man didn't seem to realise exactly how real the danger was. "You might as well get rid of his shirt and jacket."
Pierson's eyebrows went up. "And just when did I volunteer to do that?"
"Well, you have everything else to get rid of," MacGyver pointed out.
Murdoc's shirt was ripped to pieces and stuck to his back with dried-on blood. His jacket was in slightly better condition, but still badly stained; even his jeans had been spattered. At Mac's insistence, Murdoc yanked off both jacket and shirt, replacing them with MacGyver's jacket, which was far too big for him. No gun weighted either pocket; evidently MacGyver had already managed to misplace the weapon Murdoc had given him. At least the jacket covered the worst of the blood on his jeans. Murdoc let the torn shirt fall, but rolled his own jacket up into a bundle and tucked it under his arm. There were a few things still in it that he saw no reason to give to Pierson.
"Let's go," he said to MacGyver. As he moved towards the door, he stooped neatly and picked up Selby's sword. He expected Pierson to object, but the other immortal said nothing.
MacGyver picked up a bag by the door. Murdoc glanced at it sideways, noting that it was long enough to hold a sword, and decided to save his questions till they were back in the car.
Pierson watched them from the top of the stairs. Murdoc could feel him standing there, just as he could feel MacGyver.
Immortal. For an instant, Murdoc felt a pang of loss. Ashton. She'd still been a child when he had vanished from her life, but she had loved him. Now....
Murdoc shook his head, once, banishing the thought. Ashton had been his only family; that much he had decided a long time ago. They had not been tied by blood, or -- it seemed--˙even by species. Yet Murdoc had been willing to die to protect his sister, and it was that willingness which had made Ashton his.
Just as MacGyver was his.
They were almost at the car when Murdoc asked, tonelessly, "What is that?"
Wondered how long you'd wait. MacGyver grinned. "Some stuff Pierson gave me."
Murdoc swung round and glared at him. "Such as?"
"Well, while you were... out of it, we made a deal."
"A deal." Murdoc's eyes were wide and dark. "Do you realise how dangerous he is?"
"Yes," MacGyver said. He didn't need to hear a threat to know how risky this moment was. "From the instant he killed you."
Murdoc grimaced. "That was an exceptionally stupid mistake."
"I promise not to remind you of it more often than once a century." They had reached the car.
"I meant," Murdoc said, "his mistake."
MacGyver slid in on the driver's side. Murdoc glanced at him a little oddly, but took the other side. "Where are we going?" he asked dryly.
"Once we're safely out of Paris, we'll find a hotel room and get you into a good, hot shower." MacGyver's tone was light. "And then I plan to get you into bed and keep you way too busy to think about Adam Pierson."
Midnight eyes widened. "Do you?"
"Yep." Irrepressibly, MacGyver grinned. "Any objections?"
Murdoc opened his mouth, closed it again, and then -- slowly -- began to smile. "None at all."
"Good. We'll head for Le Bourget." It was on the way to the transatlantic airport, and MacGyver had visited it half a dozen times in the past twenty years, though he'd never seen much more of it than the Air and Space museum. Murdoc was silent for the entire drive. He sat staring out of the window, seeming to absorb everything they passed.
It was only after they'd arrived and MacGyver had parked the car that Murdoc spoke. "Here." He handed Mac a substantial amount of cash. French francs. "Get a room on the first floor, if you can."
"You're going to let me pay?"
Murdoc's smile was not exactly friendly. "Of the two of us, you look slightly less disreputable."
A room was available on the first floor. Once the door was closed behind them, MacGyver turned to pull Murdoc into an embrace. Murdoc smiled, caught him by the arms and kicked his feet out from under him. Mac landed on the bed with Murdoc on top of him.
"Now," the assassin growled, his face very close to MacGyver's, "what's going on?"
You are the fastest way he can find out what a quickening feels like.
"Are you going to kill me?" MacGyver asked, keeping his voice calm, ignoring the quick thrill of fear.
"If I have to," Murdoc said, grimly. "That man killed me, and kept me dead for well over an hour -- what did he do to you in that time?"
"What did he do to me?" MacGyver glared back at Murdoc, angry now. "He answered a few of my questions and he asked me a lot more. He would have killed you, taken your head, if I hadn't talked him out of it."
"You talked him out of it?" Murdoc started to laugh. "My darling, I know you're persuasive, but you're not a miracle worker."
"He let us go." Mac swallowed. "Leave him alone. I don't want you to try to kill him."
"Does his life mean that much to you?" Murdoc pushed himself up a little, his eyes cold.
Mac was startled at the clear note of jealousy, but he kept his reply soft and level. "Your life means that much."
Murdoc's tone was icily implacable. "I don't let anyone threaten you. Or me."
"You told me I belonged to you, remember? Well, that's a two-way street. You belong to me." MacGyver tugged his arms free and reached up, pulling Murdoc's head down to his, and kissed him, slowly and thoroughly, leaving the smaller man breathless. "Stay away from him. You're not allowed to commit suicide, either. Fair enough?"
The answering grin was wild and deadly -- less a smile than a baring of sharp, white teeth. "You don't think I could take him?"
"No," MacGyver said. "If you tried, I think you'd be dead."
"Don't be so sure," the assassin purred. "I've considered the possibilities. A long-range rifle to take him down before I move in for his head. Or -- though admittedly lacking in finesse -- I could get him through the neck with a machine gun. You can cut off someone's head like that, if you're accurate enough."
"Isn't that against the rules?" And besides, you'd have to move a lot faster than you know....
"I don't have to play by your rules," Murdoc snapped. "I'm not one of...." His voice trailed off. For the first time in their long acquaintance, Mac saw his old adversary utterly disconcerted. Abruptly, Murdoc left him to stalk over to the window, rigid in the taut silence as he stood there staring outside. When Mac followed, Murdoc swung round to face him, his expression cold and deadly.
MacGyver didn't react to the almost tangible threat. "There's another thing," he murmured, now very close to Murdoc but not quite touching him. "I won't kill, but I think I can learn to cope with this." Mac put his hand on Murdoc's arm, cautiously stroking the tiger. "At least, I can if you're willing to help."
To all appearances, Murdoc remained unresponsive to his touch...but he hadn't rejected it. "And just what do you have in mind?"
"We need a safe place to hide," Mac said with quiet certainty. "Pierson owns some land on an island in the Pacific Ocean, closer to New Zealand than anywhere else. He said we could use it for the next fifty years."
"Fifty years?" Murdoc stared at him.
MacGyver took a deep breath. "Pierson told me about Steuben Gerard," he said. "I know why you killed him. I can't say I like it, but I do understand. But if they don't know you're immortal, and they don't see you for fifty years, they'll assume Edward Baring is dead."
"He is," Murdoc said dryly, his eyes never leaving MacGyver. "Baring was killed in a car accident, not long after he left the Watchers. I don't want that assumption questioned."
"If we do this right, it won't be. And fifty years is long enough to take you off the wanted lists," Mac observed. "Not just the Watchers' list, but everyone's. Interpol, the DXS.... No one would be hunting you. Those years would set you free."
Those years would free them both.
"So you've decided -- unilaterally -- that this is what we're going to do?"
MacGyver ignored the hint of irony. "It makes sense. And there was something Pierson pointed out while you were...out of it, the second time. It got me thinking."
"Oh?" Suspicion sharpened Murdoc's tone. "What, exactly, did he say?"
"That to survive without killing, I'd have to be the greatest swordsman in the world." MacGyver held his companion's gaze. "And I figured, to get that good, I'm going to need some help."
Murdoc snorted with brief, sardonic amusement, but said nothing.
"You were willing to spend the next thirty years with me," Mac reminded Murdoc softly. "I was kind of hoping I could talk you into making that forever."
"You want a sparring partner."
"I want you." And, more softly but no less intensely, "I love you."
Murdoc went terribly still. "MacGyver, don't -- "
"Damn it, it's true! Okay, I was shaken up the last time, but it wasn't just the... the quickening. I meant what I said. And I'll prove that if it takes me a hundred years." A bit crookedly, MacGyver grinned. "I'll prove it if it takes me a thousand."
There was a brief silence before Murdoc said huskily, "It might make for an interesting way to pass the time. But -- proven or not, MacGyver -- I'm never going to let you go."
Mac's grin widened. "I'll hold you to that."
It took a moment -- an eternity to MacGyver -- but slowly Murdoc's gaze softened, and at length he nodded. "It seems we have a deal."
"There is...one more condition." It took a good deal of strength for MacGyver to say it when he longed to fall into those midnight eyes, but he had to get it said. "You killed Gerard. I can't change that, but I can damn well make sure his death is the last. If you ever kill another mortal, it's over between us. You're not an assassin any more."
"I see." The words were low. "So there are limits to your love?"
MacGyver kept his gaze level with Murdoc's. "There are limits to what I can live with. There are no limits to love."
For a long moment, they studied each other, and then Murdoc's knife flashed, catching MacGyver by surprise. He got it out of the car while I was paying for the room.... It took all MacGyver's self-control not to flinch away.
This time, however, Mac wasn't the target. Knife in his right hand, Murdoc sliced across the palm of his left, opening a red gash that bled, and healed. Head bowed, the smaller man watched as his flesh knit together seamlessly, without scars. He raised his head then and met MacGyver's eyes. "There's no way back to the old life," he murmured, and slid the knife away as smoothly as a cat might sheathe its claws, and -- this time -- slowly enough to let Mac see where he had hidden the blade. Solemnly, wordlessly, Murdoc held out his hand.
They shook on it. Somehow MacGyver knew this was one deal he'd never regret.
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