The call from America came in the early hours of the morning, and for a
while, between her dreams and the drowsy awareness which was not quite
sleep, Alexa thought it must have been the alarm clock, waking her for
school. Then the phone stopped ringing: she heard Adam's quiet voice
whispering, and reality set in. School was many years ago and a
continent away. She opened her eyes and saw that the dawn had not come.
Who would call them at this hour, and why? She contacted her friends
and what little family she had left at regular intervals, the last time
only a week ago, but she hadn't given anyone the number of the convent
outside of Athens where she and Adam were staying at the moment. So the
call must be for Adam. Her eyes adjusted to the dark, and she saw the
tenseness in his face while he spoke with the unknown caller. She
couldn't make anything out of the short, cryptic answers.
"No... are you sure? Yes, I know... No... Well, then I'll just have to
improvise, right? No... okay." He turned his head and looked at her.
"Joe, I'll call you back," he said, and hung up.
So it had been Joe Dawson, her former employer, and one of her best
friends. During their journey around the world, they had always found
the time to talk to Joe, write to him, or send him postcards, and the
fact that Adam had not even attempted to share this particular phone
call told her it must have been about something bad. Something straight
out of a nightmare, to judge by Adam's expression. She had never seen
him look like this before. Worried, certainly, when he thought she
didn't notice while she was taking her medicine. But not like this,
shocked, and torn, as if he had to choose between two awful
"What happened, Adam?" she asked and sat up. "Is Joe..."
"Joe's fine", he reassured her, and then shook his head. "No. No, he
isn't. Alexa, you remember Duncan MacLeod, don't you?"
Of course she did. Even had he not been one of Joe Dawson's friends, the
dark Scot would have been too handsome a man not to remember, though she
had found him a bit too intimidating to befriend him herself. After all,
he was an immortal. Alexa had started to train as a Watcher before her
sickness was discovered; Joe Dawson was to have been her sponsor.
However, while Watchers with physical handicaps like Joe's were rare,
but not impossible, the organization wouldn't accept someone who would
not even complete her academy years. Which left her with fragments of
knowledge about immortals and their strange world with all its violence
and beauty and no one except Joe with whom to talk about it, until she
discovered the tattoo on Adam's wrist, shortly after they had left
He had been a bit startled about the coincidence, but asking him about
his work as a researcher had helped her overcome the shyness she still
felt about this mystery man who had dropped into her life when she had
been sure that it was, for all practical purposes, already over. So he
had encouraged her curiosity, and told her more and more stories that
were certainly not to be found in any history book. Back then, before
she found out about other things, she had wondered whether it had been
all research or whether Adam had used his friendship with Joe's immortal
to get some first-hand stories from him. It was what she would have
done, if she had not felt so awkward around MacLeod. Certainly, it was
more than unusual for a Watcher and an immortal to be friends, but Adam
was a researcher, not in the field, and she supposed if the organization
overlooked Joe's bending of the rules, Adam's transgression would be
seen as minor in comparison.
All of which didn't matter now that she thought she had figured out the
"He died, didn't he?" she whispered. No wonder Joe had called. She knew
he had thought the world of MacLeod; if another immortal had taken the
man's head, Joe would be in need of comfort from someone like Adam who
was - had been - a friend to both. She reached out to embrace her lover.
"I'm so sorry", Alexa said. "I know he was your friend, too. Adam, I'm
But he didn't relax the taut, tense posture, and she felt his head
moving against her hair in denial.
"No, he didn't die. He's alive, but..." He put his hands on her
shoulders and looked into her eyes. There it was still, the deeply
disturbed, foreign expression on his face. He sighed. "Well, the short
version is, he had a kind of nervous breakdown, something to do with
taking too many quickenings, and unless he gets help soon, it will be
incurable." He hesitated for a moment, then he continued, speaking
faster as if to ensure she couldn't interrupt: "Alexa, I have to go and
For a moment, she didn't believe what she had heard. She was naive in
some ways, but not in this. Even had everything else been right, she
would still have been horrified by this pronouncement, because she knew
that "nervous breakdown" for an immortal was a euphemism for "going on a
killing spree." But everything else was not... right. These last months
had been a wonder to her. Coming alive again, discovering the world,
discovering Adam and the person she could be for him; not someone to be
pitied or fussed over, not a victim, the way her friends and her aunt
and uncle at home regarded her, something she had started to hate, no, a
woman who loved and could be loved. And when the shadow of her death did
catch up with her, sometimes at night, in a dream which left her crying
and trembling, when all her determination to live in the present could
not hold the future at bay, he was there, and he always helped her to
fight the desperation off until she could find her way back to the
present again. Only now, when he spoke of leaving her, she realized how
completely she had come to depend on him.
For that was what he had meant. Leaving her to go and help his friend,
which could easily get him killed. The ugly, cynical voice in her head,
the one which had made her push him away when she had first met him,
murmured: *Well, what did you expect? Did you think he doesn't notice
how quickly you're losing weight now? And all those hairs in your brush
each morning, he's so observant, of course he noticed. He knows it's
going to be soon now, and he's afraid, he doesn't want to see it, just
as you always knew. Here is his golden opportunity to leave without
seeming to do so.*
With an effort, she silenced the thought. It wasn't fair, and it wasn't
true. Perhaps Adam *was* afraid, but he wouldn't leave her for this
reason; she knew he wouldn't. They had been strangers when they started
their journey, true, strangers who had fallen in love, but now she knew
him, trusted him, believed in him and in his love for her. He who was
worried when they had lost each other in the crowd at the Piazza
d'Espagna for ten minutes would not leave her for a second if he thought
there was another way. Still, the idea of being alone again scared her,
and imagining him confronting an out-of-control immortal frightened her
even more. She wanted to ask why, of all the people, Adam should be the
one to "cure" Duncan MacLeod. Wouldn't Joe Dawson, who, after all, had
watched the man for God knew how many years, be a much better choice? Or
the red-haired kid who hung around MacLeod, Ricky, Richie or something
like that? These were good arguments, but in her heart she knew what she
really would be asking was: *How can you leave me when you know I'm
This, she vowed to herself, she would never do. What she and Adam had
was so precious because it was entirely voluntary. She could get duty
and pity at home, and it had smothered her. If she asked him to stay, to
ignore one friend's request and another's need, because they, after all,
were not running on borrowed time, if she begged, he probably would stay
with her. But it would not be a gift anymore; it would be an obligation:
she would start to wonder whether he wasn't secretly waiting for the day
she wouldn't be a burden anymore, and in the end perhaps despise both
herself and him.
"Then you must go," Alexa said, meeting his eyes and summoning all the
faith she had in him. He touched her cheek, tentatively, as if to
reassure himself of her reality.
"Alexa Bond", he whispered, "do you know what a miracle you are to me?"
Which was ironic, for to most people, he would be the living miracle.
For of course, she had known about his immortality for months. If you
lived with someone, it was hard not to notice that he carried a sword
with him all the time. If you knew about immortals, it was impossible
not to realize what exactly the sword meant. Still, she had not spoken
about it, waiting for him to tell her, which he had done shortly before
they had left the United States. By that time, they had opened enough to
each other for him to tell her as well about his fear that she'd resent
the unfairness of it all.
Alexa was no saint. There were moments when she couldn't watch the
average person on the street without wondering why she had to die, while
they went on living. But for the most part, she took both comfort and
joy from the force of life she felt everywhere, knowing so much would
continue even when her own body failed her. Certainly, the knowledge of
Adam's immortality made sense of the fact that she felt this life force
in a particularly strong way when she was with him. However, when he had
mentioned his fear about resentment, she hadn't dived into these
deliberations; instead, she had laughed and replied something which was
the truth as well - that she had always known he'd survive her for many
years. Mortal, immortal, from where she stood it made no difference; it
was Adam himself who was important to her.
Except now his immortality could take him away from her. During their
travels, they had never met another immortal, at least to Alexa's
knowledge, and she believed Adam would have told her. Now he was going
after one who was not only not in his right mind, but also, according to
Joe Dawson, one of the best sword fighters who ever lived.
"Promise me," she said fiercely, not caring anymore whether this showed
any of the ugly doubts which had risen only moments before, "promise me
Answering to what she had meant, not to the words, he said: "I'll come
back. I will, Alexa."
Helping Adam pack his things and driving him to the airport, looking for
stand-by-flights to London or Edinburgh while getting the schedules for
both ferry and air planes from England to France: these chores enabled
Alexa to take her mind off anything which wasn't an immediate problem.
It was only after he was truly gone that the double demons of fear and
loneliness showed their ugly heads again. She decided to visit the town
anyway, strolling through Athens at a leisurely pace, not in the hectic,
driven way the tourist groups did. But when she wanted to buy some
grapes at the market, without Adam to translate, she felt her alienness
for the first time since they had arrived in this ancient, lovely
country. Still, in the end she got along, using her hands and arms, and
gesticulating like a mad fishwife. It was funny, in a way, and cheered
her up a bit.
She probably should wash the grapes, but what the hell, she thought, it
wouldn't matter one way or the other. Instead, she ate them, sitting in
the shade of a tree between the steps of what was left of an ancient
theatre. Down in the middle of the ruins, yet another tourist guide
demonstrated the acoustics to his group, the members all promptly
feeling that they had to recite something worthy. Alexa smiled,
There had been the choice between seeing a play performed in the ancient
way, in Ostia, masks, Latin language and all, or a Gianna Nannini
concert. Adam went for the Gianna Nannini concert, and persuaded her
with a mixture of bad jokes and what she secretly called his "little boy
"And you call yourself a scholar and a historian," she had teased.
"Oh, I am. Do you think the Romans went to see Plautus for cultural
enhancement? Back then, you went for the fun of it, and made the actors'
lives living hell when they didn't deliver. Believe me, the crowd at a
rock concert is much more in tune with that experience than those
worthies in Ostia could ever be."
So Gianna Nannini it was, and he was right, it was fun, screaming her
lungs out with hundreds of other fans, jumping up and down like a
teenager again; it was one of those occasions when she could live
utterly in the present, with no thought of past or future.
But he had promised her a play in the ancient way sooner or later, and
at Epidauros, he had finally delivered. This had been an incredible
experience as well, watching the actors move in an alien, slow, but very
graceful way, more chanting than speaking, with Adam whispering the
translation of their words in her ear. Now and then, he couldn't resist
trying her gullibility by inventing things like Menelaos asking Hecuba
whether she didn't want to act as a marriage guidance counselor, and
each time she found him out she pinched him, which resulted in a little
tussle until they had both found their seriousness again.
Thinking of the play, *The Trojan Women*, now, Alexa remembered there
had been a scene when he had seemed not only very serious and
attentive, but also sad in a way which went beyond being moved by the
story. It was the scene where Cassandra appeared, Cassandra the prophet,
who was to be taken by Agamemnon as his slave and concubine. First she
had thought that this was because of all the death Cassandra prophesied,
including her own, that this reminded him again of their situation.
Then, she had wondered whether he had seen this play all those centuries
ago, when it was first written, on an occasion which was sad to remember
now. It was one of the few moments when she felt she could actually see
Adam not as a young man of her generation but as someone burdened with
the weight of no one knew how much time. He even looked slightly
different on these occasions; there was sadness, yes, but nothing of the
vulnerability which had drawn her to him when they first met. Instead,
he had seemed to withdraw from anyone and anything, his mobile features
becoming drawn like one of those Roman portrait busts he had shown her.
It didn't last, somewhat to her relief; soon after the Cassandra scene
was over, he became her Adam again, translating the Hecuba-Helena-fight
with gusto and giving Helena lines like "And who do you think you are -
Miss Ellie?" till she pinched him again.
"Well, it was what Euripides *meant* - he just didn't live long enough
for the joyful experience of American soap operas, he had to draw his
comparisons from dull Greek ones..."
Remembering this, Alexa's smile faded as she felt her loneliness in the
present once more. Don't be ridiculous, she admonished herself. It
hasn't even been a full day. You lived without him before; you can do so
again, even if it is difficult. And that's "live", not sit around,
feeling sorry for yourself.
*He should be here*, the cynical voice in her head countered. *Here with
you. Then you wouldn't have to moon about him. Let's face it, my dear,
he chose being with his friend MacLeod over being with you. And why not?
MacLeod, nervous breakdown or no nervous breakdown, isn't going to fall
apart before his eyes in the very near future.*
*No*, Alexa argued back, hating herself for the thoughts, yet being
unable to ignore them. *Sickness of the mind is no less real and
dangerous than sickness of the body. More dangerous, if it's an
immortal. There are other people who could suffer; with me, it's only
one person, and I'm not that sick. Not yet. He knows I'm strong enough
to be on my own.*
*That doesn't mean he has to test it.*
*That means he trusts me. He doesn't regard me as someone without any
strength who cannot live without people to support her. And I trust him.
He'll manage to help his friend, and then he'll come back for me.*
*Then let's hope he won't find you in the Athens hospital.*
She rose and joined the newest bunch of sweating tourists down in the
arena, English, to judge by their accents, and cursed with a guide who
obviously did not speak more than a few phrases. Presenting herself with
a bright smile, she asked whether they needed help and offered to show
them around since she had been staying in Athens for some time now. The
guide glowered at her, but the group of Midland housewives and early
pensioners gratefully accepted. It was an impulsive action, but playing
the wise guide actually turned out to be fun, and by the evening she had
even been propositioned by a retired major who seemed to her like
something out of an Agatha Christie novel. And it was a wonderful
Only after she'd returned to the convent did she realize she had not
taken her pills during the day. She considered doubling the evening
dosage, but decided this would probably do more harm than good. She had
already eaten in the town, but asked and received some bread together
with her usual water for the night. The nun who gave it to her told her
Adam had called and would again at 11 p.m. She frowned while delivering
her message; Adam's sudden disappearance probably puzzled her. This was
one of the few Catholic convents in a country of Greek orthodoxy, not
wealthy, which was the reason why they rented some of their rooms.
Still, they took more interest in their guests then your average hotel
manager, and probably feared they had a potential teary breakup on their
"It's a family emergency, sister," Alexa said reassuringly, feeling
herself reassured that Adam was obviously still alive. Later, she
wondered whether this was not indeed the best way to describe it.
According to Joe, the Watchers had theories about the origins of the
immortals, but no proof. Certainly, those who didn't kill each other on
sight formed strong attachments, perhaps creating the family they never
had. Was this how Adam saw MacLeod? As a brother?
She wanted to ask him, but when he called he sounded incredibly worried
and tired at the same time. He had been in Glenfinnan, he told her,
getting the ancient sword of the MacLeod clan since the Scot might need
something like that to ground himself to his past. Then, he'd had an
update from Joe, about the ship MacLeod was presently working on, which
had arrived a day earlier in Le Havre than expected. Adam had literally
managed to catch the last boat from Dover, but was, for the moment,
without a clue where to look. Tomorrow he could, of course, visit the
local office of the ship's company, but he doubted MacLeod had given
them a real address.
"Perhaps he said something to one of the people he worked with," Alexa
suggested, not sure whether primarily she felt relief because Adam
wasn't in danger yet, sadness for his sake, or frustration because the
longer he had to search for MacLeod, the longer he was going to stay
away from her.
"Probably not, but it's worth a try. I'll certainly get their addresses.
Thank you, Alexa." He sighed, then added: "I wish you could be here."
"I don't", she replied lightly, wanting to make him smile as he had so
often done with her. "You sound terribly gloomy, and today I've met the
most adorable, cheerful Major - and he has an even better British accent
than you do!"
"Can't let you out of my sight, can I?" he said, and the banter they
started comforted them both. After she had hung up, she took one of the
sweaters he had left behind, pressed her cheek against it and found that
she could, indeed, go to sleep.
The next day, Alexa decided to take a walk in the area surrounding the
convent. She had loved the gigantic trees in Yellowstone Park, but there
was something about those small olive trees with their half-burned
leaves... Perhaps it was their very oddness, looking so dry and crooked
with their torn roots long exposed to the sun, but still flourishing,
still giving birth to new twigs and fruit. And the bizarre shapes; she
wished she had the talent to draw. There was her camera, but photos just
weren't the same. Sometimes she could understand all those myths about
gods changing humans into those trees, about dryads living in them,
about Oedipus disappearing from the face of the earth right here, in
Colonos. There was certainly something eerie and timeless about the
Later, she drove into Athens again, for she had suddenly remembered
there was one museum she still had not visited. It was one of the more
modern ones, about the Greek war of independence against the Turks, not
something she was very interested in, but still, no newly acquired
knowledge was ever wasted, and it would pass the time.
The museum held a surprise for her. There was a corner devoted to Lord
Byron, who had died during that war, as she recalled. The small
exposition consisted mostly of letters, some miniatures and the odd
manuscript. One of the letters looked strangely familiar, which was
ridiculous, but after a while, she realized the cause for this feeling
of déja vue. It wasn't the letter; it was the hand-writing. Not Byron's
hand-writing, one could see that in a glance; this letter had been
dictated to someone else. The Greek letters on the small shield beneath
the manuscript probably said to whom. Adam had taught her the Greek
alphabet, but in this case, it wasn't even necessary. He must have
written that letter. These were his T's, his B's, and the always drawn
out e's. She stood a long time next to the shelf, pondering. The reality
of Adam's immortality hit her once again. He had been there to write
this letter, about 170 years ago. Had been another person, had had
another life with friends and lovers long gone now. In another 170
years, he would still be there, provided nothing happened to him.
Visiting Athens again, perhaps, and not alone. She wondered whether she
was jealous. No, she decided, neither of the past nor of the future, for
sometimes she imagined Adam alone, after her death, when they could
comfort each other no longer, and the thought hurt. She had made a
secret phone call to Joe on her own, making him promise to be there for
Adam when the time came. It was the present she begrudged.
*Why*, the dark side she fought against asked spitefully, *couldn't
MacLeod wait with his breakdown until you were dead? Why must he come
between you now, for that is what he has done, isn't it? And Adam chose
him, not you.*
*This is ridiculous. Illness doesn't wait for a convenient time, as I
know only too well. And Adam didn't choose between us. Do I want him to
feel for no one else but for me, to abandon all others for my sake?*
*Yes*, her tormentor said, but the Alexa who replied *No* was stronger.
*What kind of love would that be? And if he did something like that,
would he be the man I fell in love with?
While she sat in a cafè, watching the people passing by, a ball some
children played with nearly hit her. Alexa caught it, reacting by the
instinct honed not only in school but in Joe's bar where one had to
evade all sorts of sudden obstacles with glasses intact. She threw it
back, and a game evolved between her and the children. She ended up
running with them and laughing so hard it left her breathless. They
hardly understood a word she said, for the few Greek phrases she had
memorized were hardly appropriate here, but it wasn't necessary. That's
what "having a ball" means, she thought happily, returning to her chair
in order to pay the bill, still fighting for breath.
*I wish I could have a child.*
The thought stopped her cold. There it was again, the invasive future.
Years ago, she had hardly ever thought about having children. Sometimes,
yes, but not often. Not long out of her own childhood then, she had
still had so many plans for herself. Besides, in her opinion, you had to
settle down with someone you really wanted to spend the rest of your
life with before conceiving a child. By the time children became a real
option, it had been too late.
*I do, though. I wish I could have a child. A child who is a part of me
and of Adam. Both of us living on. That's real immortality. But even if
I was healthy, even if I had another fifty years, Adam and I still could
never have children. We could adopt someone, but it wouldn't be the
same. Would it? Perhaps it would. Months ago, I left all of my family
behind in order to go away with a stranger I fell in love with. It can't
be so difficult to fall in love with a strange child as well.*
*Stop it*, Alexa ordered herself. She had to stop thinking about what
could never be; that was the best road to despair.
*Beats thinking about Adam finding a crazy MacLeod and getting beheaded
this very moment.*
Taking a deep breath, she decided she had to find some tourists again,
This time, she returned to the convent early, but the evening dragged
out, and still Adam did not call. She tried to read, but it did not
help; she thought of calling Joe, or even her aunt and uncle, but the
fear of doing so in the very moment Adam tried to reach her, thus
blocking his call, held her back. Finally, she decided to write him a
letter. If he was dead, she'd burn it. If - when - he returned to her,
she'd hide it. He could read it after her death, for she tried to write
down all that he meant to her. But her fears crept in again, and she
tore up letter after letter, until Adam did call, and she realized with
a start that it was past midnight.
"You are alive," she said, stunned and too relieved to be angry.
"I'll always be alive. I promise you."
"Yes, I found him. He...'Bad' doesn't begin to describe it. Sometimes I
felt the man I knew wasn't even there anymore. And then I felt the
opposite. Something terrible happened, but maybe some good will come out
of it. He's more in control now, so there's a chance. And he surrendered
his sword to me. Tomorrow... tomorrow we'll see whether he can
reintegrate again. We're on the way to a place I know that might be
helpful, but we had to stop for the night. I've got the swords locked,
don't worry, but I've been running on empty for 48 hours now; I need
some sleep. So does he. We're staying at an inn. If this thing tomorrow
works, I'll call you from here before we return to Paris."
"I love you," Alexa said, not wanting to sound trite and yet needing to
say it, as she knew that the danger of losing him was still very real.
"And I believe in you," she added. Trying for her natural optimism,
though it was hard, she added: "So I know it will work."
He was silent for a moment, then he said, again speaking quickly as if
he feared she would interrupt: "There has never been someone like you -
who accepted me so completely - who believed in me like you do. And this
is why you give me more then I ever could give you."
Silence once again returned, but neither of them was able to let go yet.
Finally, Alexa whispered: "Adam, I know you are tired, but could you -
could you just tell me a story - until I sleep?" So that I can hold on
to the sound of your voice, she thought, but didn't say it aloud. He
"I've been told many things, but not that I put people to sleep," he
answered. "I must be losing my touch. This is a challenge, Alexa. Don't
complain if I keep you awake for hours now!"
"I never did," she returned, and to hear him laugh lifted something of
the sorrowful weight from her, just like it always did. He started to
tell her what he called "the true story behind that bore Beowulf," and
she curled up on the bed, not caring that she was still dressed,
receiver in hand, listening to that voice which had captivated her from
the start, clinging to the reality of it. It kept away the shadows and
the loneliness, and after a while, she didn't distinguish between words
anymore, letting the sound cover her like a warm, soft coat.
When she awoke in the morning, the receiver was still in her hand.
Hastily, she replaced it. There was still enough water for her morning
pills, and she wasn't hungry anyway, so she skipped breakfast, waiting,
instead, as she had done the previous evening. Waiting for the phone to
ring. Walking up and down in the room, she found one of those Greek sets
of "worry beads" the men in the cafés carried with them, not rosaries
but looking similar. She had seen them finger them endlessly, and tried
it for herself. Indeed, it had a calming effect, but the calm was
limited. It didn't prevent her imagination from showing her all kinds of
deathly scenarios. When someone knocked on her door, she flinched,
having forgotten for the moment that there were other people in the
"Miss Bond," said Sister Sophia, who spoke the best English in the
convent, "you're so thin, you really should eat something. Mother
Superior is worried about you."
"I'm fine," Alexa replied and found a passable smile, "it's just - I'm
not hungry, and I'm waiting for a phone call."
Sister Sophia clicked disapprovingly with her tongue.
"This modern obsession with phone calls - we never should have installed
separate phones in the guest quarters. But people insisted. Well, if you
won't come to breakfast, breakfast will come to you!"
She disappeared, and after a while returned with a full tray. Alexa did
not want to be ungrateful, so she tried some of the fruits, which were
the easiest thing to swallow. She had just made up her mind to pack
something of the bread away for later, when the phone finally rang.
"It worked! Everything is alright now - well, as much as it can be - my
love, it worked!"
She had never heard such unrestrained relief and joy in Adam's voice,
never but once, when she had agreed to come with him.
"I'll try to get a plane from Paris this afternoon," he said, still
slightly breathless. "You can't imagine how glad I am that this is
"I'm a little relieved myself," she replied between laughter and tears.
Now that there was no danger anymore, she felt generous enough to
embrace the whole world, so she added: "But are you sure your friend
should be alone now? If you want to stay with him for a while longer..."
"No," he interrupted. "You're right, he shouldn't be alone, but there is
someone waiting for him who'll take care of his recovery. Right now, all
I want is to come back to you."
It was night again, and some of the people who waited with Alexa for the
late flights dozed, but she was wide awake. Not with worry, not with
fears. Even all taunting doubts that had haunted her these last days had
disappeared, leaving nothing but anticipation. But when she saw Adam
behind the barriers, together with a dozen other tired travelers, what
she felt wasn't as much joy as it was, strangely enough, peace. His
absence had brought all her fears out in the open. It had been horrible,
but she had dealt with them, had defeated them. Maybe the future brought
further troubles, and as the day of her death drew closer, it would
certainly bring back the fear again. Not now, though. The future might
be hostile, but there had always been a time for Adam and her, and now
it was theirs again - the present. And right now, this very moment, Adam
crossing the barrier, then breaking into a run to meet her, seemed to