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Back on Track

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Everyone slips up now and then. They do. What's important is that they get back on track again as well.

It sounded like something McLeod would have said. She could hear his voice in her head as she studied the flyer for the exhibition that was coming to town.

Oh, it was time for her to travel again, and some pocket change to help with that surely wouldn't hurt.

She scrutinized the folded piece of paper some more. Yes, there was that one piece – a pendant that was beautiful to her eyes, incredibly valuable and yet, to anyone but those with a very trained eye, would look rather unobtrusive, almost plain.

She knew where she could sell it, if she got her hands on it. She knew that she could get it, too. It didn't stand out, it wouldn't draw a lot of attention. With some very small additions that were easy to remove again without leaving traces on the original piece she would most likely even be able to wear it openly on the way there, to add that little extra spice to the kind of chase that she used to love so much.

Used to?

The craving was still there. Was this how a clean addict would feel, faced with an offer of the drug of her choice?

Her excitement did not show to the outside. Her hands were not trembling, her breath had not sped up in the least, her heart was beating as calmly as ever. No one looking at her could have told that she was anything other than a random woman interested in an exhibition leaflet.

They didn't know that she had been carrying it on her person for three days.

She'd gone to see Joe, for the sake of old times, and because she needed to see a friendly face, someone she knew had never judged her – at least not to her face.

"Do you believe that I've gone straight?" she had asked him about half an hour into their conversation, she sitting on a stool by the counter, he perched against another one behind it, carefully balancing as he chopped olives and prepared drinks.

Joe had looked up at her with raised eyebrows and smiled a wordless smile that told her everything and nothing at once. "You're Amanda Darieux," he had said. "I believe you can do anything you want."

Amanda Darieux, a former master thief gone over to the right side of the law. Not because anyone had forced her into it, but because of her own, free decision. Because it had felt right at the time.

Was she going to go back on her decision just for the rush of excitement promised by a heist?

She had lingered in Joe's bar, unwilling to leave. She liked it there. A bartender – a good one like Joe Dawson, that was, was as good as any shrink to unburden yourself to – even if you weren't really doing any active unburdening as it was.

Around the time she had her fourth or fifth drink, the buzz of another immortal intruded into their conversation. She looked up, and around, her body tensing, then relaxing as a familiar figure strolled through the doorway, ambled over to the bar and positioned himself on the stool next to her, slouching backwards against the bar so that he faced the room at large rather than Joe or Amanda.

"Hey," he said vaguely. "Long time no see."

She studied his face, which looked much too young for his years.

"I heard you've gone straight," Methos said after they had sat in silence for a minute or two.

A nod from her.

"How's it going with your detective, or whatever he is?"

"It's not, as things are, going at all," she replied. That was the truth. He'd walked out on her, mad at her for making sure he could claim his immortal life. She still didn't quite understand his reasoning. "He, however, is quite gone."

Until the day they'd meet again, on opposite ends of a sword or other sharp weapon, she assumed.

"Methos… do you think we can change what we are? I mean, really?"

He considered that. "McLeod went bad once."

"That was different," she claimed. She knew the story. "Too much bad energy and all. You know that was different. I'm not talking about being changed. I mean changing. Making ourselves be something different from what we are."

The ancient immortal shrugged. "Habits become ingrained," he said. "We get a lot of practice at ingraining them further." He turned as far as he could without taking his elbows off of the counter to look at her. "Having second thoughts about the going straight business?"

Amanda shook her head violently. "No," she claimed. "No second thoughts."

Third and fourth thoughts was more like it, really!

Methos' smile was only a hair's breadth away from a smirk. "Are you telling me you haven't thought once about going back to the old life?"

She said nothing to that. She could lie, and maybe he would believe it. If he did not, he might pretend to, or call her out on it, but no matter what, she did not want to lie to him.

Joe pushed a filled stein of beer against Methos' elbow, causing the man to finally turn around and sit facing the bar properly.

"Amanda, everyone slips up now and then. They do. What's important is that they get back on track again as well."

It had been Methos, not Duncan, who had said it.

That made all the difference because unlike McLeod, Methos understood.

And that was why she was now looking out into the night, dressed entirely in figure-hugging black, her hair hidden under a close-fitting cap, an arsenal of weapons and tools on her body, ready to slip out into the night. Ready to embrace the rush of adrenalin, the excitement, the exhilarating feeling of testing her skills against those of whoever had designed the protections that she was going to outsmart.

Yes, she may have slipped up.

But she was back on track again now.

She was going to reclaim her life and her reputation, starting tonight.

And come morning, that pendant would have a new home.

Illustration by Rebekah