The back story for this one was inspired by Loreena McKennit's song "Bonny Portmore", which, coincidentally, was featured in the episode _Homeland_. (Great album by the way--very haunting and takes my soul to places Celtic.) The song is about the Portmore Oak in Ireland, which, along with most of Ireland's old growth forests, was cut down by the English to make houses and boats for war.
Mostly though, it was inspired by a speculation about what would happen if an immie broke a rule.
As for the "history" of the clans herein, it's take from my limited knowledge base and from Fitzroy Maclean's most excellent history text _Highlanders_. (A bit expensive, but if you have highland roots, as I do, it's worth every penny.) Of course, I have fudged here and there...this is *fiction* after all. It might interest you to know that, despite the very real clan wars between the MacGreggors and the Campbells, Rob Roy MacGreggor's mother was, in fact a Campbell, and he took her name for a while, while living in hiding from the English.
Glen Strae is a real place on the shores of Loch Lomand, and is "MacGreggor terroritory" though I don't think it's the clan seat. I truncated the name to make it obvious that I was taking liberties. To the best of my knowledge, there is no Glenstrae Oak
Disclaimer: With the notable exceptions of Sarah, Donald, and Ethan MacGreggor, the characters in the following story are the sole property of Rysher Entertainment, as is the concept of immortality used in the Highlander genre. (this plot, however, is mine) I've merely borrowed them for a while, and promise to return them unharmed, as soon as I'm done. No copyright interloping was intended...this is all in good fun.
"Well? Was that what it was really like?" Richie asked, as the closing credits began to roll on the TV screen.
Duncan got up to rewind the tape and Sarah flicked on the light next to the chair she was reclining in. They were in her apartment, on the fourth floor of an old Victorian mansion that stood in the hills surrounding Seacouver.
"Close enough," Mac said.
"Not even!" Sarah countered. "Robby Roy was nothing like that."
"You knew Rob Roy?" Richie asked, slightly astounded.
"I'm a MacGreggor, aren't I?" She responded, thunking her feet up onto the coffee table.
"Wait, wasn't his wife named Sarah? That wasn't *you*, was it?" Richie asked.
She shook her head, "Her name was Mary."
Adam chuckled. "What were you doing in Scotland during the Jacobite rebellion, Sarie?"
"What do you think?"
"Your clan were outlaws."
Sarah got up and picked up an arm full of empty beer bottles, taking the three stairs up out of the living room in a long stride and heading for the kitchen. "Only because we supported the true king."
"And how many times did they hang you, Sarah MacGreggor of the clan MacGreggor?" Adam raised his voice slightly, so it would carry through the room and into the kitchen.
Sarah leaned out the archway that acted as a window between the two rooms. "Just once."
Adam laughed, only she could be so nonchalant about a hanging.
Duncan, however, was not so relaxed. The day Sarah was hung was shortly after the day they met and he remembered it well.
He had been sitting in an inn, weary from a long ride up from London when the buzz hit. A few moments later, she had entered the room in the company of a tall man carrying a sword and wearing the MacGreggor tartan. At first, Duncan thought the man was the source of the buzz, but he quickly realized that the sense of a very powerful quickening was coming from Sarah. She was one of the few female immortals he had encountered.
The man headed for the bar, but Sarah excused herself from his company and approached Duncan's table.
"You must be Duncan MacLeod," she said.
"And 'oo are you to ask?"
"Sarah MacGreggor, yer clansman Connor is a friend."
He eyed her skeptically.
"Aren't you gonnar ask me to join ye?" she said, sitting down. "Didn't yer ma ever tell you tis rude to refuse the company uf a lady?"
Duncan continued to watch her, not knowing what to think.
"Relax man, I've no sword under me skirts," she smiled.
It wasn't the smile of someone who was after his head; though he was only a hundred some odd years old, Mac knew that. He looked up as the man arrived at the table, carrying three pints of ale.
"Duncan MacLeod, meet Robby Roy MacGreggor," she said.
"Your 'usband?" Mac asked.
The man laughed and sat down, "Don't let me wife 'ear you say that, man. She'll 'ave me head."
Duncan wondered if that was a veiled reference to their immortality, but he didn't have time to fish for more clues about this Sarah MacGreggor. Moments later, armed guards stormed into the inn and seized both Sarah and Rob.
"What is their crime?" Mac demanded.
"Stay out of it, Duncan," Sarah said, struggling against the pull of the man holding her.
"These two outlaws are charged with thieving Lord Montrose's rents," the guard, an Englishman, said haughtily. "And the woman with treason to the crown."
Sarah spat at him, "Bloody crown indeed."
The man smacked her hard across the face with the back of his hand, leaving a red welt on her cheek. Mac reached for his sword, only to have several more drawn on him.
"Tis not your fight, Duncan MacLeod," Sarah said evenly. "Don't make it so."
Mac put up his sword, raising his arms to show he had no intention of drawing it again and Sarah and Rob were dragged off.
"They hung you?" Richie's voice drew him back into the present. "Ow, you know that hurt."
Sarah came back into the room and shrugged. "There are worse ways to go, believe me. At least a hanging is quick."
The next day, while sitting around a table at an outdoor cafe with Duncan, Richie, and Adam, Sarah was approached by a young woman in a Federal Express uniform. It was mid March and unseasonably warm; vendors all over Seacouver had been taking advantage of everyone's Spring Fever with outdoor sales and dining.
"I was asked to deliver this to you," she said.
"And how do you know you have the right person?" Sarah answered, examining the envelope.
"You're Sarah MacGreggor, right?"
Sarah nodded, engrossed in the handwriting on the envelope.
"Then you're the right person," the woman smiled and walked away, slipping into an alley.
Adam made the excuse of looking for the waiter and followed her, catching her by the arm before she ducked into a doorway. "That was pretty risky, don't you think?"
"And you having lunch with them isn't? Come on Pierson, you're not the only one allowed to break rules," she answered, pulling away calmly.
He narrowed his eye at her. "You're Ryan's Watcher, right?"
The young woman nodded.
"Then what are you doing with a letter for MacGreggor, and who was it from?"
"I was doing someone a favor," she gave him a half smile. "Now why don't you forget your delusions of grandeur and get back to the library and the Methos file?" She ducked through the doorway without looking back.
"I'm closer to Methos than you think," he responded, spinning on his heel and heading back to the table.
"I can't believe they are doing this!" Sarah said emphatically.
"Doing what?" Adam sat down, "We should get our check soon, the waiter was scoping out the girls on the sidewalk instead of writing it up. All taken care of though," he smiled and returned to picking the slices of cucumber out of what was left of his salad.
Richie looked over at the small group of women standing nearby and grinned. "Not a bad view."
"Fire and the miniskirt are without doubt the greatest inventions of the past five millennia," Adam said without looking up from his plate.
Duncan shook his head and chuckled.
"Hello?" Sarah drummed the table to get their attention. "They're cutting down the Glenstrae Oak, doesn't anyone care?"
"The what?" Richie asked.
"The Glenstrae Oak. Glenstrae is one of the few places left in Scotland that the MacGreggors can still claim," she explained. "The Oak stands outside the clan seat...it's nearly four hundred years old."
"What does that have to do with this lovely view we have here?" Adam asked. He was done with his food and had joined Richie in staring --not so subtly -- at the group of women.
Sarah waved the letter in front of his face. "This is from Donald MacGreggor in Glenstrae, he wants me to come to the Gathering they're having about the Oak."
"Why you?" Duncan asked.
Sarah looked down for a moment, avoiding his gaze. "He somehow linked me to the same MacGreggors that were massacred in Glenstrae in 1068...says that since I'm the only living descendant of that clan, I should be at the gathering to represent them."
"Are you going to go?" Mac asked.
She nodded, "He wouldn't have asked if it wasn't important. And besides, I planted that bloody tree!"
"Can I come?" Richie asked suddenly.
"To Scotland? Why?" Sarah responded, tucking the letter into her inside coat pocket.
He shrugged, "I've never been and it's where you and Mac are from. I'd like to see it. You know, Rob Roy and all..."
"Sure," she said, whacking Adam on the arm as he waved to one of the women. "But you won't be finding any girls dressed like that in Glenstrae."
"What was that for? Now they think you're my girlfriend, or worse, my wife!" Adam exclaimed.
Sarah laughed. "Do the words cradle robbing mean anything to you, Petey?"
"It's not like it's never been done before," he answered.
"Ah, there you are," Duncan said as the elusive waiter finally brought the check. "I'll take that."
"I'll get it, Mac," Sarah said, reaching for it.
"When's the Gathering in Glenstrae?" Mac asked, snatching the check from the waiter.
"Then we won't be able to take you out for your birthday, so I'll buy you lunch," he handed the waiter his credit card and waved him off.
Adam scratched his chin and looked at Sarah, his eyes full of mischief, "Nine hundred and fifty four...that's a big one, Sarie."
"Nothing out of you Petey, I swear, if you do anything like you did back in Ireland, I'll..."
"You'll what? Kill me?"
Sarah inhaled deeply and let it out with a huff, then grinned at him wickedly. "Spiders, Petey. Big, hairy, long legged spiders."
Adam shuddered and held up a hand, " Okay, you win."
The waiter returned with Duncan's bill and Mac signed it quickly, pocketing his wallet.
"You're afraid of spiders?" Richie laughed, softly at first, then harder.
"See if you don't pick up a few phobias over the centuries," Adam muttered as he stood. He helped Sarah on with her coat and the letter caught his eye again.
Mac stood also, "I think the more interesting story here would be what happened in Ireland."
Adam opened his mouth, but a sharp glare from Sarah shut it again.
"So, when do we leave for Scotland?" Richie asked.
"Tomorrow morning if we can catch a flight," Sarah said over her shoulder as they threaded their way through the tables and toward the exit. "Oh," she stopped suddenly and turned, crashing into Adam.
"Easy there," he steadied her, taking advantage of the sudden opportunity to lift the letter.
"Sorry. I almost forgot, Richie, you'll need a kilt," Sarah said.
She laughed, "Gatherings are formal, Richie. You'll have to wear a kilt."
"A kilt? I mean....couldn't I just wear a tux or something? Kilts are so..." He trailed off, looking for the right word.
"Skirt-like?" Adam offered, pretending to fumble for something in his pocket. "Gum anyone?"
Mac smirked, "I'd like to see you say that to Connor's face."
The next morning, Richie and Sarah took the redeye to New York, where, after a layover, they caught a night flight into Glasgow on British Airways. Sarah was more fun to travel with than Mac and actually indulged him in his thousands of questions about Scotland. They arrived mid-morning and rented a car, heading for Glenstrae; a small hamlet located on Loch Lomand, about thirty minutes north west of Glasgow. The scenery was breathtaking. Rolling hills that mysteriously turned craggy--all the most verdant color green he had ever experienced-- and pocked with rocky stream beds and small farms. It was a huge contrast to the dirt and grime of the city they had landed in and unlike anything he had ever seen before.
"Okay," Sarah said as they pulled through a set of iron gates set in giant stone pillars. "Now, you'll have to change into the kilt before we meet the Chieftain, do you remember how to put it on?"
Richie nodded. Mac had spent the better part of two hours showing him the proper way to wear the MacLeod tartans that he had loaned him. "Which one do I have to wear? Please tell me it's the one with the buttons."
She laughed, imagining the discussion that had occurred when Mac and Adam had tried to explain how to don the complicated belted tartan that was to be used for formal wear. "Yes, the one with the buttons, but put on a nice shirt and the waist coat, okay? And don't forget the sporran."
He was going to answer, but found himself speechless as they rounded a corner and an ancient stone castle came into view. It was built in a similar style to the one Mac had showed him pictures of--Glenfinnan was it?--and sprawled across a giant lawn set near the shores of the loch. As Sarah pulled up through the circular drive, a guard, dressed in the tradition highland manner came to escort them inside. Once there, Richie stood gaping in the entry way, while Sarah conversed quietly with the man. She motioned for him to follow as a butler lead them through a winding hallway and up several flights of stone stairs.
"For the young master," the butler paused, motioning to a doorway off of the long hall they had been walking down. "You'll find fresh linens on the bed. And if Lady MacGreggor would follow me, I'll show you to your rooms."
"I'll meet you back here in an hour, okay?" Sarah asked.
He nodded and wandered into the room, closing the door behind him. Richie had expected this trip to be something out of a movie and so far everything he had seen was just that. A great four posted bed dominated the room, ornately carved with images of animals and birds. There were thick rugs on the floor and tapestries hung on the walls. A small fire was burning in the flagstone hearth and the drapes were a heavy crimson material. He was mildly, yet pleasantly, surprised to find a most modern bathroom tucked into one of the corners. He showered off the grime of the trip, shaved, and got dressed; spending the remaining few minutes before Sarah's arrival looking out the window. His view was out the back side of the castle, looking over an expansive garden that was centered around the biggest tree he had ever seen. In the distance, wild hills rose into the foggy March sky.
When she arrived Sarah inspected him closely, straightening his shirt and giving the waistcoat a good tug. She was wearing a kilted skirt in the reds and greens of the MacGreggor tartan and a white blouse, with a waist coat similar to his own. This is how he envisioned her that first night at Mac's apartment; with cheeks ruddy from the cold wind and sparkling eyes. This, he knew without a doubt, was where she truly belonged.
"Are you sure it's okay that I have on Mac's plaid?" He asked as they made their way through the hall. "I mean, the MacLeods and the MacGreggors are friends, right?"
She nodded, "Unless Mac has been stealing cattle again."
Sarah lead him through the back stairways in the castle and they came out on the second floor, near a set of wooden doors that were guarded by men with swords. Above the door was a wolf pelt, acting as a backdrop for two crossed spears.
"Is that a real wolf pelt?" He asked quietly.
"That is the pelt of the last wolf in Scotland," one of the guards answered.
"Bloody Camerons," Sarah muttered. (see author's note)
Moments later, they were allowed into the room. It was smaller than he expected, and far darker, considering that it was broad daylight outside. A small fire was lit in a stone hearth and a very elderly man sat quietly on a raised seat opposite the door.
As they entered, Richie had a strange sensation; almost akin to the buzz, but not quite and not nearly as strong. He looked over to see if Sarah had felt it too, but her eyes were locked on the old man.
"Welcome back to Glenstrae, Sarah MacGreggor," he said. "And 'oo is this young lad you've brought with ye?"
"This, sir, is my friend, Richard Ryan," Sarah nudged Richie forward and crossed the room after him.
"Of the clan MacLeod?" The Chieftain chuckled.
"Richard is the adopted son of a MacLeod," Sarah fudged a bit...they were close enough to be father and son.
"Nice to meet you sir," Richie said. "You have a lovely castle here."
At a closer look, Richie guessed the man to be nearly ninety. The Chieftain was wrapped in a tartan that differed from Sarah's, but Mac had told him that different groups within the clans had different plaids. He looked like the Scotsmen on the whiskey bottles in Joe's bar, thinning reddish hair, bulbous nose and all.
"Ye should make yerself at home, Richard," the old man said. "I'll have someone show you around," he made a barely perceptible motion with his left hand and a girl, about Richie's age appeared from the shadows. "This is me gran-daughter Heather, she can give you the grand tour."
Richie found himself flushing. The girl was wearing street clothes and sneakers and she had the reddest hair he had ever seen. If there was anyone that looked more Scottish than Sarah, it was this young woman standing before him with a crooked grin.
"Come on then, Richard Ryan of the Clan MacLeod," she said with a lilting brogue. "Me gran-da needs to speak with Miss Sarah."
He grinned at Sarah and allowed himself to be lead out of the room. Once they were gone, Sarah exhaled a deep breath and slouched a bit.
"What do they want my tree for, Donald?" She asked.
"You can relax, yer tree's in no danger, my bonny Sarah."
[end pt 1.]
Author's note: The Camerons are credited with, among other rather dubious
honors, killing the last wolf in Scotland. How do I know this? Simple. That C
in my name....it stands for Cameron. We're one of the oldest highland clans,
but that doesn't mean we were all noble souls.
Author's note: The Camerons are credited with, among other rather dubious honors, killing the last wolf in Scotland. How do I know this? Simple. That C in my name....it stands for Cameron. We're one of the oldest highland clans, but that doesn't mean we were all noble souls.
Back in Seacouver, Adam held Sarah's letter up to the light over Joe's bar, hoping to see hidden watermarks, secret code, or anything that gave it more weight than the congenial note it appeared to be. He had read it so many times he had it memorized, but it still didn't make any sense.
"What's that?" Mac asked, sipping on a beer.
"The letter Sarah got the other day."
"Why do you have it?"
"I'm trying to figure out what this is all about."
Mac shook his head, not even beginning to understand what Adam was so preoccupied with. "What's the big deal?"
"The *big deal*," Adam echoed, "is that the woman who gave it to her is a Watcher. Richie's actually."
"So that means that whomever gave this letter to her to give to Sarie knew about the Watchers."
"Let me see it," Mac took the letter from him and read aloud. "Dear Miss Sarah MacGreggor, I regret that my correspondence brings the grave news of the loss of the Glenstrae Oak. Local Government wishes to cut down the tree and use its wood to make a series of curios and boxes, with the hope that they will sell as souvenirs and bring more funds for the restoration of ruins along Loch Lomand. In response, the MacGreggors are calling a gathering to determine if our tree can be saved. As the only living descendant of the band of MacGreggors massacred in 1068 by Norman raiders, we would be honored with your presence and feel you have the right to speak for your people." Mac skimmed the closing lines. "Yada yada...so on so on...yours sincerely, Donald MacGreggor Chieftain Clan MacGreggor. Seems pretty harmless to me," he handed it back.
"Harmless? Mac, that tree is a historical landmark...they wouldn't cut it down to make souvenirs! And how does this guy know that Sarie's clan was massacred? And, more importantly, how does he know to use a Watcher as a courier?"
"What was that name again?" Joe asked, setting down the glass he had been wiping.
"Donald MacGreggor, do you know it?"
Joe shook his head, "But I can look it up."
They followed him back to his office and Duncan took a seat across from the desk. Adam hovered over Joe's shoulder as he turned on the computer and waited for it to boot.
"I would have thought you guys learned your lesson about keeping files on disc," Mac said as Joe grabbed a CD-Rom and slid it into the drive.
Joe glanced up at him, "These are records of Watchers, not Immortals." He keyed in Donald MacGreggor and sat back while the disc whirred. Moments later, the screen filled with a personnel file.
"So he was a Watcher, I knew it," Adam said.
"So? All that means is that he knew how to contact Sarah," Mac leaned back in the chair and glanced around the cluttered room.
"Hold on," Joe said, skimming the file. "Donald MacGreggor, born Glasgow 1906, Oxford educated, joined the UK branch in 1929, first assignment, Sarah MacGreggor."
Mac's attention snapped back to the matter at hand and Adam leaned closer to the screen.
"He followed Sarah through the US until 1935," Joe paused, "and then we kicked him out."
"Why?" Mac asked.
"He broke the cardinal rule...he got involved with her."
Mac chuckled at the irony of those words coming from Joe. "Well, that explains how he knows so much about her."
"But not why he called her back to Glenstrae..." Adam muttered, pacing away from the computer.
"Maybe he just wanted to see his old lover one more time before he dies," Joe offered. "He is ninety."
"Why not just call her then?" Adam asked, still pacing.
"Maybe he didn't think she would come if he just called," Joe said.
Mac frowned, he fully recognized Adam's potential to overreact when Sarah was concerned, but something about this was a little fishy. "Let's give it a day or two and see what happens," he said, making a mental note of where his kilt was, in case he needed to attend the Gathering.
"Why did you call me here then, Donald? You know that if the Watchers see us together..." Sarah trailed off and paced to the fireplace, trying to avoid looking at him directly. The last time she had seen him he was twenty eight, dashingly handsome, and about to have a bullet put in him by a fellow Watcher.
"I know what'll bloody well happen, but I 'ad to call ye," the old man paused. She looked exactly the same as she did the day he first laid eyes on her and though he had loved his wife dearly, Sarah was still the great love of his life.
"There's another one of yer kind here, and 'e needs yer help."
Sarah had felt the very faint buzz as she and Richie had entered the room, but dismissed it as nerves. It had been very weak, just barely on the edge of her perception, and she was better than most at sensing quickenings.
Donald nodded. "Last week. He's my daughter's son, a foundling."
Sarah nodded. "But what's so crucial about it? Why bring me here in such a flurry?"
Donald frowned, "I think there's someone after 'is head already."
Sarah's thought were racing. Why hadn't she asked Mac along? He was a much better mentor than she could be. And here she was, back in Glenstrae, standing in front of a man who nearly got himself killed for her almost seventy years ago. He looked so old. She knew he was not much longer for this world. She also that she knew owed him the protection of his grandson; if only because he had risked his life to love her once.
"Then there's no Gathering?" She asked.
"No, there'll be a Gathering."
"For the three hundred and ninety sixth birthday of the Oak, and for your nine hundred and fifty fourth, my bonny Sarah."
Joe was loathe to tell Adam and Duncan the news he had just received, knowing it would send them to Scotland--most likely too late. He sighed and got onto the lift, heading up to Duncan's loft, expecting Adam to be the one that would accost him immediately. Joe was shocked that it was Duncan.
"Joe, I've gotten word from Connor that something's up in the Highlands, what do you know?" Mac asked, before Joe even had the gate fully lifted.
Adam was on the telephone across the room, taking notes and swearing softly.
"Give a man a break, MacLeod," Joe said wearily.
"I'm sorry, here, let me take your coat. Want something to drink?"
Joe sighed. "Better get out something hard, Mac."
Adam looked up at that, then hung up the phone. "The earliest we can get out is tomorrow afternoon, which will put us in Glasgow late Tuesday," he said.
Joe couldn't believe he was doing this again. All his training as a Watcher...out the window. All the rules....gone. Seventy years ago they were going to assassinate Donald MacGreggor for his involvement with a Highlander and that had only been a love affair. If the powers that be ever found out how much help he had given Duncan and the other immortals he had become so close to...well, they'd have his head.
But, he had picked Mac to win the Prize and learned along the way that these immortals had the same emotions as everyone else, letting his own get entangled in their Game in the process. When he had joined the watchers, Joe had harbored a secret desire to be an immortal. Now, he realized that he wouldn't trade the relative simplicity of his mortality, not even for the Prize. Still, he was resigned to do whatever he could to help them in their ever present dramas.
He sighed, thinking of all the friends Mac had introduced him to in immortal circles: Connor MacLeod--once thought to be the best shot at the Prize-now beginning to feel the weight of his age, Amanda, who was so busy running from her own emotions that she never thought about anyone else's, Sarah, who had breezed into Seacouver not a year ago and brought a quiet dignity to the group of men Joe knew so well, and Methos, made cynical by his years, but still managing to find humor in life...
Mac handed him a glass of Scotch and sat down on the couch, waiting. Adam, still sitting at the table, looked a bit harried, but, for once, was silent.
"There's a new immortal in Glenstrae," Joe began, "his name is Ethan MacGreggor and he is the adopted grandson of Donald MacGreggor."
"What is it about those damn highlands?" Adam asked, looking up at the ceiling.
Mac chuckled, "Must be something in the water."
"We thought that Donald had called Sarah there to train him..."
"But?" Mac prompted.
"But now one of my men reports that Campbell is in the area. Hunting...the kid... we hope."
"If this man loved Sarah, why would he bring her into a trap?" Mac asked.
Joe shrugged. "Maybe he didn't, I don't know. I just know that Campbell is there and so is Sarah."
Duncan nodded. "So is Richie."
"Who is this Campbell?" Adam asked. "Does Sarie know him?"
"I don't think so," Joe answered, draining his glass. "Our files don't indicate that they have ever crossed paths. But he's only marginally more polite than the Kurgan was."
"But he's not very old," Mac said. "Two hundred or so..."
"That just means he's still cocky with youth," Adam said.
"There is another problem in that he fights dirty, everything short of on Holy Ground," Joe added.
"Why would he be interested in a new immortal though?" Adam asked, still looking at the ceiling.
Joe shrugged, but Duncan knew the answer.
"The Campbells and the MacGreggors have been feuding for centuries...dating back to the Jacobites...maybe even longer than that. Between the English actively hunting MacGreggors and the expansion of the Campbells, it's really amazing the clan survived at all," he said.
"You know," Adam looked at Mac suddenly, "it's a wonder any of you survived between all those idiotic blood feuds and the like. It ridiculous. Some MacGreggor stole a Campbell cow and now, centuries later, this nut case is still pissed off."
"There is one more little snag in the silk," Joe said.
Adam rolled his eyes. "What, the gods are taking sides? Like they did in Troy?" He remembered Troy, in one of those flashes that came sometimes when the mists of memory parted and left him wondering where he was in time. Great wooden horses, men dying everywhere he looked...all over a woman's face. Nasty business, that.
Despite himself, Joe chuckled. "No, I did some more checking into Donald MacGreggor...and he's a MacGreggor by marriage...but a Campbell by blood."
Mac frowned. Looks like he'd be needing that kilt after all.
[end part 2]
Donald MacGreggor paced slowly through his study. It was long after midnight and everyone else in the castle was asleep. He was running the day's events through his mind, trying to stay focused on what lay ahead. Like Sarah, he knew that he wasn't long for this world.
But there was young Ethan to think of. The boy had had an easy first death, compared to some that he had learned of while still a Watcher. Though the boy was not blood-kin, he was without doubt Donald's favorite grandchild, which was why they had been out walking alone together in the garden when the snake had bitten Ethan. It was, Donald thought, probably the last adder in all of Scotland, and he had saved it's skin.
He had explained to Ethan as best he could about immortality and the Game and the boy had understood, despite his seventeen years. Donald knew that age would put Ethan at risk in the Game, where so many were fully grown men with hundreds of years of training. What he hadn't counted on was the arrival of Campbell so soon--only two days after Ethan had learned of what he was. To save the boys life, Donald had struck a bargain with the immortal who was bent on spilling MacGreggor blood.
Donald sighed, thinking of Sarah in the twenties, wearing white kid gloves and flowered frocks when the rest of the girls were flappers. He had pulled a lot of strings to be assigned to her, having read some of her files while in training. The fact that she was a kinswoman, the only MacGreggor to survive the massacre in 1068 and the one who convinced Rob Roy that freedom was worth fighting for were what had peaked his interest. But, he had never counted on falling in love.
"Can you ever forgive me, my Sarah?" He asked the walls. "I have to be sure that Ethan takes my seat."
Sarah would fight Campbell for him, he knew that. And, despite what he told the burly hulk of a man that had Ethan's neck at sword point, Donald was counting on her winning. Then, when she was still weak from the fight--and there was no way she would come out without being wounded--Ethan would take her head and gain the power and knowledge that she had assessed over her many years; preparing him for the Chieftain's Chair.
Donald eased himself into his chair. It would mean losing her forever, but that would happen when he died anyway. And she would live on in Ethan. As a clansman, Donald believed in the sanctity of royal blood. Immortals, he suspected, were somehow linked to this and the Highlanders among them--both Connor and Duncan MacLeod, Sarah, and now his Ethan--were no doubt the remnants of the true beginnings of their clans. With Sarah's quickening in him, Ethan would have the ability to bring the MacGreggors back to the glory they once had.
Richie awoke the next day to Sarah shaking him softly. She was leaning over him and he had been dreaming of Heather. Richie reached for her, thinking he was still dreaming.
"Kid," Sarah shook him harder. "Wake up!"
This was not what Heather had said in the dream. Richie sat up suddenly, drawing the covers across his chest. "I need your help," Sarah said.
"Look, there's another immortal here. He's Donald's grandson and we need to train him--fast."
So he had been right, it was a buzz.
"I'll explain later," she said. "Meet me in the games room in twenty minutes, and bring your sword." Sarah stood up and crossed to the door. "Oh, and Richie?"
"Yeah?" He scratched his head, still sleep fogged.
"You be nice to Heather, she's a kinswoman of mine." With that and a smile, Sarah was gone, leaving him to dress and grab some food off of the plate she had left before finding his way down to meet her.
As Richie stood outside the door of the room that, for centuries, MacGreggors had used to practice their fighting skills in, he felt Sarah's powerful buzz, followed shortly by that barely perceptible flutter. He entered the room to find Sarah kneeling over the figure of a boy who looked to be close to the age he was when he took that bullet in Paris.
"It's okay Ethan, that's just what happens when we sense another one of us is present. It's an asset really, so no one can sneak up on you."
The boy looked up at Richie and smiled weakly. He looks like Sarah, Richie thought. They could pass for brother and sister.
"Richie Ryan," he stuck out his hand.
"Ethan MacGreggor," the younger boy got to his feet and his color returned.
"Richie is a friend of mine," Sarah said. "He's going to help you train. We've been sparring a bit all ready," she turned to Richie, "nothing fancy, but I thought it might help if I could watch and coach."
"Sure," Richie drew his sword. "You make the first move, Kid."
Sarah shot him an amused look, but backed away and sat down on the edge of a nearby table."
"I...I don't want to hurt ye," Ethan said.
"Go ahead Ethan, charge him, like I showed you," Sarah said, chewing on a roll from a nearby plate.
Before Richie had the chance to truly ready himself, Ethan struck a blow that glanced off his sword, but jarred him none the less. Richie countered back, slowly, like Mac had --and still did when teaching him a new move. Ethan blocked it and looked at Sarah uncertainly.
She gave him the thumbs up and motioned with her hands to continue.
They traded a few more slow blows and Richie relaxed. This kid was pretty good; picking it up quickly. He turned to tell Sarah that and crumpled to the ground, victim of a punch to the temple that had surprising force and was compounded by the weight and mass of the hilt of Ethan's sword.
"Way to go!" Sarah yelled.
Richie rubbed his temple and looked up at her. "Way to go? You're teaching the kid to fight dirty."
She shrugged. "Not everyone can be as noble as Duncan. I'm *teaching him* how to survive."
Duncan sat staring out the window of the 747, thinking about his last trip to the Highlands. Maybe he'd get the chance to swing through Glenfinnan and see Rachel when this was all taken care of. He could see Adam's reflection in the glass, nose buried in a book.
"What are you reading?"
Adam looked up. "Sarie's file. Did you know that she was a prospector in California during the Gold Rush?"
"No, but can't you just see her running off claim jumpers?" He laughed.
"Says here that you two have crossed paths several times."
Mac nodded. They had met in Scotland in the 18th century, but that was not the last he saw of her throughout the years.
"You knew Rob Roy as well."
It was a statement that Mac knew was open ended, giving him the chance to accept or decline the request for more information. It was still a long way to Glasgow and he never could sleep on planes...
The guards dragged Sarah and Rob off, leaving Mac alone in a room full of staring people. He knew he had two choices, risk death himself to rescue them, or wait for them to hang Sarah and make sure he was there to cut her down before she was drawn and quartered. As for Robert Roy, Mac shrugged, he wouldn't be the first Scot to spend some time in an English prison. He threw some coin on the table and left the inn to bide his time.
The execution was two days later and there was a near riot. Mac was lost in a sea of MacGreggor tartan as a mob of nearly a hundred of her clansmen came to try to stop her hanging. They were silenced by gunshots fired over the crowd by Montrose's men. Still, there was a communal wail when the gallows dropped out from under Sarah's legs.
Mac knew that the body would be left on public display, as a warning to all her fellow outlaw MacGreggors, and late that night he cut her down; taking her inert form out into the hills where they would be safe.
He had just gotten a small fire lit when she awoke, gasping for air.
"Tis all right Sarah," he said, rubbing her shoulders.
She was a bit wild eyed, but came back to her senses quickly. "Robby?"
"He's in prison."
"We have to get 'im out," she tried to stand, but lost her balance and landed in his lap.
"He'll be fine. We need to get you outa 'ere."
Sarah shook her head. "You don't understand, Robby's got to be free to lead the clan. 'is father died in an English prison...they're letting all the chieftains rot in there...Robby 'as to get out."
"So you two broke Rob Roy out of prison and into the movies," Adam said with a soft chuckle.
Mac nodded. "The next time I saw here it was 1918. And after that, in Paris in the 40s. That lady can swing dance, let me tell you."
Adam smiled, "That doesn't surprise me at all."
A comfortable silence fell between them and Mac almost resumed his gaze out the window, but he sensed Adam had another question and he had a pretty good idea of what it was. Why hadn't the idiot told her how he felt yet? Mac had figured on them getting together months ago--once the whole deal with Martin had blown over. But instead, he had watched as they slipped back into the friendship that had been lost to them for so long.
Methos had been quietly in love with her for centuries and Sarah loved him too, Mac knew. It was just a matter of something happening that lead her to admit it. Being reunited after six centuries of thinking each other dead hadn't done the trick. The woman was stubborn, Scottish to her core.
"Look, Duncan, it's none of my business really...and you can tell me to take a hike if you want," he started.
"Yes." There was no point in lying and he knew Adam wouldn't hold a grudge.
"The answer to your question is Yes. We were lovers, once."
Adam hung his head for a second and chewed his lower lip, then looked back up at Mac, "Once?"
"Once. Just once."
"Why? Look at her...that's why."
Adam twisted his face into a sardonic scowl, "No, why only once?"
Mac sighed. Truth was, they had been drunk in Paris after the war had ended. He knew that Sarah had no real interest in him and he harbored none for her. What had happened simply, had happened. But that was too complicated to tell, so he changed the subject.
"What about you two?"
Adam shook his head. "Can you believe it? Three hundred years I traveled with that girl and never once."
"Not for lack of trying, I hope."
"No...it wasn't like that. She's my best friend. We were partners...like you and Tessa were."
"Tessa and I had great sex, all the time," Mac teased.
Adam smirked, closed his eyes and shook his head, sighing slowly, obviously amused.
[end part 3]
Ethan sighed as he stepped into his grandfather's study. This was all so sudden...he didn't want to be talking about the future of the Clan...he wanted to take some time and think about what he was. Lord knows he had plenty of that...time.
It was appealing to him, the idea of dueling with swords to survive. It harkened back to the old days, when Scotland was wild and everyone lived by their swords. He was getting pretty good at it, though he knew there was a long road to travel before he would be good enough to travel without a more experienced immortal as his protector. Richie had mentioned a Duncan MacLeod, maybe a fellow Highlander would take him in and show him the ropes. Sarah MacGreggor was an excellent swordswoman and a good teacher, but Ethan was not really willing to accept the fact that he would be trapped in his seventeen year old body forever. He didn't want to fight with veiled punches and kicks...there was a much more noble way to do it and the MacGreggors were nothing, if not noble.
"Is rioghal mo dhream," he said to himself softly. The clan motto. "My blood is royal."
"Wake up!" Mac shook Adam, who had been softly snoring in the seat next time him.
"Huh? What? Are we there?" Adam forced his eyes open, then shut them quickly. He had been dreaming of a rough water crossing he and Sarah had made in 1245 on their way to Crete and his stomach was a little queasy.
"No, they're re-routing us to Edinburgh," Mac said as the plane rolled to one side and lurched upwards a bit.
Mac frowned, "Massive electrical storms over Glasgow."
Adam bolted upright and looked out the window. Lightning was flashing like mad in the clouds below.
"It's too big to be a quickening," Mac said, trying to reassure him.
Sarah and Ethan had been sitting under the great Oak in silence for a few moments. It was growing dark and across the garden, the castle lights were blazing as the servants prepared for tomorrow's Gathering. He had asked her if she would mind introducing him to MacLeod, explaining that he was very grateful for her help, but wanted to learn from a man.
She laughed suddenly, "You know Ethan, in the ancient days, the women used to fight along side the men in war."
"I know. And I know that it was the women who used to rule the clans," he paused, not wishing to offend her. "But I'm a MacGreggor and I willnae fight like a coward."
"You think I'm a coward?" She asked calmly.
"No, but yer a woman. You 'ave to fight like you do to survive. I'm a man..."
"Yer a boy. You may live to be a thousand, but it will be in that boy's body. Do ye understand me, Ethan MacGreggor?" Sarah heard the brogue slip back into her voice; it always happened when she spent any time within ear shot of fellow Scots. "You're never going to grow...the Game isn't about nobility, it's about survival."
"Still," he said, "if it's all the same to ye, I'd like to meet MacLeod."
She shrugged and leaned back against the tree. "Sure."
"Me gran-da told me it's yer birthday tomorrow."
Sarah nodded, "Nine hundred and fifty four."
Ethan was about to respond, but clutched his head and paled instead. Sarah felt the buzz as well and reached for her sword, knowing instinctively that it wasn't Richie. She motioned for Ethan to stay put, and stalked a wary path away from the tree.
"MacGreggor!" A surly voice boomed from behind.
Sarah spun and her jaw dropped open. The man that was standing before her was straight out of her nightmares...huge and muscled, dressed in traditional highland attire with wild hair and a face streaked with blue woad. He carried a huge Claymore and there was an axe strapped across his back. It was no wonder everyone thought Highlanders were barbarians, she thought.
Sarah's thoughts raced and her pulse quickened. Chances were she was faster than this man, but one or two hits with that Claymore of his and she'd be out for the count...and that would leave Ethan unprotected. She sighed inwardly, wishing she hadn't been so adamant through the years about fighting her own battles...this would be one she'd much rather watch from the sidelines.
"Still fighting the old wars?" She asked, stalling for time and hoping to figure out how old he was.
The man sneered. "Scourge of the earth, ye MacGreggors are."
>From his window, Richie saw a flash of steel on steel. He grabbed his sword
and ran for the garden. He knew he couldn't interfere, but it was instinct. Besides, if Sarah lost, he'd be there to avenge it.
Midway there, Ethan MacGreggor stepped in front of him.
"I 'ope yer not going to interfere," the boy said. "That's a rule, isn't it?"
"What's going on?" Richie panted.
"It's Campbell," the younger boy said.
"Get yourself to holy ground! The chapel by the loch! Go!"
But Ethan stood his ground.
"Get out of here. You don't stand a chance against that guy."
"He's not who I want," Ethan said.
Something in his tone alerted Richie to the fact that all was not right. "What are you talking about?"
Behind him, Donald MacGreggor shuffled up. "You cannae interfere boy."
"I know. But what's going on here?" In the distance he could hear swords clashing.
"When it's over, tis Ethan 'oo will take the spoils."
"What?" He shook his head, the old man wasn't making sense. "Look, I gotta be there," Richie turned to sprint past Ethan, but fell to the ground with a bullet in his back.
"You do-na understand," said Donald MacGreggor. "I cannae let you interfere."
Before he lost consciousness, Richie began to get a hint of what was going on. The whole trip had been a set up. Where was Mac? Shouldn't he be charging in to save the day right about now?
Ethan and his grandfather arrived near the tree to see Sarah was backed against it, exhausted and covered in blood. Donald looked at her with alarm, this was not supposed to be what happened. But he saw, with some satisfaction, that she had gotten a few good cuts in on the man who had his hands to her throat.
"A MacGreggor doesn't deserve to die quickly," her opponent said, reaching for his battle axe.
They watched in horror as he plunged the axe into her chest and stepped back to admire his work, leaving her impaled on the tree. Donald turned his head, but Ethan was morbidly transfixed by the image of Sarah's blood on the blade. Her blood. His blood. MacGreggor blood. Is rioghal mo dhream. My blood is royal. Suddenly he realized the true nature of the Game. He had been dreaming, playing at being immortal. But this was not a child's dream, this was real. And it was horrific. She did not deserve to die that way. She was a kinswoman.
Without thinking, he rushed the bigger man and sliced him across the hamstrings. When Campbell fell to his knees, Ethan took his head from behind. There was no time to consider the consequences of his actions before the quickening rose out of Campbell's body.
But, instead of slamming into him, it hovered there a moment. Lightning flashed in the skies and a strong wind came out of nowhere, howling through the Oak. He stood, watching and wondering what would happen next. Sarah had described the quickening as an elemental force that rocketed through your body bringing both delight and pain. But he was feeling nothing. Then, quite suddenly, it started. He was in exquisite pain, his body shaking, but Campbell's essence still hung in the air.
He glanced over at Sarah to see a bluish white cloud rising slowly out of her chest. That wasn't supposed to happen, he thought vaguely. She was still alive. Ethan heard his grandfather gasp and looked down to see his own meager quickening leave his body. Before he fell to the ground unconscious, he saw it join Sarah's and Campbell's swirling in a writhing wave above them all.
The three quickenings danced above Donald's head, bringing more wind and thunder. What had he done? What had Ethan done? Now all was lost. He had heard stories, in his Watcher days, of quickenings that dispersed if left to do so. Would that happen here?
The answer came with the force of an avalanche. Elemental in their own right, the three quickenings sought to return to a similar place...a place where they could blend with an ancient life source and establish a symbiotic relationship. The tree. With Sarah dead, it was the oldest living thing for miles. Donald watched in awe as the silvery cloud went into the great oak, leaving it's branches twitching and sparking with a blue light.
Richie awoke to an eerie silence. His chest ached where the bullet had passed through him, but he was healing rapidly. Sarah. He scrambled to his feet and sprinted toward the tree, coming to a skittering halt at the sight of what lay there.
Donald MacGreggor was sitting quietly on a stone bench, staring off into space. Nearby, the three bodies were motionless. He took it all in with a shuddering gasp. There was no buzz. This close to Sarah, he should feel her. Nothing.
Campbell lay face down, beheaded from behind. The bloody sword in Ethan's limp hand told his what had occurred. A rule. Broken. He advanced to within a foot of Sarah's lifeless form, praying for her buzz to hit as it usually did. But she was dead, her quickening gone, her chest cloven nearly in two by the great axe. Stunned by the realization of what occurred, Richie leaned against a low branch to steady himself. That's when the buzz hit.
It was a hundred times more powerful than Sarah's alone. He reeled forward, trying not to fall.Some part of him, a racial memeory perhaps, understood what had transpired and knew that the Glenstrae Oak held the collective energy that had once been Sarah's life. Gruesome as it was, he had to get her off of that tree. Mac would be there soon--too late to save the day--and would most likely have Adam with him. This was not a sight they should have to see. Grimly determined, Richie braced his foot against the tree and heaved at the handle of the axe.
The elements hadn't settled yet. Some of the three mixed quickenings had already blended with the tree's own life force, but most were still circulating freely. When Richie made contact with the axe handle, the power of his own quickening acted like a fuse on a powder keg. Lightning flashed from the sky and he was thrown backwards several yards as the tree exploded into thousands of pieces. Fire rained from the sky as the branches fell to the ground in shards.
Sheltering his head with his arm, Richie watched as the swirling mass of light rose again, hovering uncertainly above Sarah's body. Then, suddenly, the cloud split in two. The larger mass forced it's way back into Sarah, while the smaller brought Richie to his knees in both agony and delight. Nearby, Donald MacGreggor noticed that his grandson was lying exactly as he had before. No licks of lightening touched the boy's frame, no flickers of life force danced their way into his soul. Ethan simply lay there, unconscious but alive. Mortal once more.
[end part 4]
"Well?" Mac asked as Adam came out of the bedchamber and shut the door softly.
They had arrived about an hour after the fireworks--Adam had driven like the proverbial bat out of hell from Edinburgh-- to find the castle in an uproar and the local fire company pumping water from the loch onto the remains of the tree. Donald MacGreggor, in an attempt to atone for his sins, had approached them and related the story of what he had seen, taking them to the rooms they were in now. Guilt ridden, Ethan had filled in the gaps in his grandfather's story and confirmed that their fears had been just. Behind the door Adam had just closed was a bed and on that bed Sarah's body was laid out.
Adam shook his head. "I just don't know. Her body is still warm and there is a very faint pulse...but I've never heard of anything like this before," he sighed and sat down on the hearth. "If she were a mortal, I'd say she was in a coma. Brain dead."
"Maybe it'll just take a long time to heal," Mac offered. It had already been a long time...nearly twelve hours in fact. "You're sure her quickening actually left her?"
"That's what Donald said," Adam answered.
"She was dead when I found her," Richie added. "No buzz. Really dead."
Many religions believed that, once the soul had separated from the body, the two could never be reunited. Mac wondered if the same held true for an immortal and their quickening.
"Will they still have the Gathering?" Richie asked from his chair in the corner.
"I really don't feel much like a party," Adam sighed, leaning back against the cold stone.
Duncan motioned for Richie to leave the room with him.
"There has to be something we can do," Richie said as the door closed behind them and they began to walk down the hall.
"I wish there were."
"But, she's got her quickening back, right? She's gonna be okay, right?"
"I just don't know." Duncan didn't want to think about what would happen if Sarah's quickening was really gone. Would she be mortal? Would she even survive at all?
"I swear, is she dies, I'll have that kid's head as a trophy on my mantle," Richie said hotly.
"There's no point in that," Mac said. "He paid his price for breaking the rule."
The penalty had never been clear to any of them involved in the Game. Breaking rules just *wasn't done*. That, Mac would admit in public, left room for temptation, even among the most noble immortals. But Ethan had paid the greatest price an immortal could pay. Not death. Life. Mortal life, which Mac knew would ring hollow after a shot at eternity.
Hours later, as the guests were arriving in the great hall down stairs, Sarah awoke from a pain fogged sleep. She was extremely confused, unsure of where she was, dizzy, and could barely suck in a breath. An anvil of pain was sitting on her chest, but she was alive.
The sound of faint bagpipes provided a clue as to her location. Glenstrae. Things were coming back to her now. Ethan. The fight with Campbell. The tree. Why was she alive?
A soft snore sounded close to her left ear and she realized that she was not alone in the bed. She couldn't turn to face whomever it was...that hurt too much. Instead, she looked down at the arm that was draped around her waist. It was dark in the room, but enough light came in through the windows for her to make out the shape of the long fingers that were curled near her hip. A waft of familiar cologne cemented her guess. Petey.
With great effort, she rolled onto her back, guessing that her movement would wake him. Again, she was right.
"Well, welcome back to the land of the living," he said, smiling at her. "We thought we'd lost you this time, Sarie." Inwardly, Adam was thrilled to feel her buzz again. When they had first arrived, it had been incredibly weak and spotty, fluttering on the edge of disappearing all together.
"The Gathering?" She croaked.
Adam looked at his watch. "There's still time, if you want to go."
Sarah nodded. Now that she was awake, she could feel the Healing glow flowing through her body. Soon, she knew, the pain would be gone.
Adam knew better than to argue with her about needing more rest. He threw back the covers and padded across the room to the armoire, pulling out two dresses that were hanging inside.
"Blue?" He switched on the light and held it up for her to see. "I think so. The red would be overkill with the tartan, don't you think?"
Sarah nodded, trying to get to her feet. She lurched forward and thought she was going to hit the floor face first. But Adam was there in two long strides to catch her. He sat her gently back on the edge of the bed and squatted in front of her, his hands on her knees.
"Like it or not, Sarie, you'll need my help with this."
What she really wanted to do was curl up and sleep for a thousand years. If he were there with her, even better. She was so tired. Tired of the Game, of being in pain, tired of waking from the dead. She nodded assent and leaned forward, resting her forehead on the top of his head.
"I know. It hurts. Come on. You're a MacGreggor and there is plenty of whiskey downstairs to numb the pain."
How many times had he done this? Brought her back to life. Been there when she woke up dazed and disoriented. Always with a quick bit of humor. Always with that same look of genuine relief on his face.
He helped her dress, then left her sitting in a chair and dashed down to his own room to change. He was standing in front of the mirror, struggling with one of the folds in his kilt --like Richie, he much preferred the ones with buttons--when her buzz hit, followed by a soft knock at the door.
Sarah entered, moving slowly, but her color had returned. She had arranged a swath of the MacGreggor tartan across her left shoulder and pinned it at her right hip with an ancient broach that he recognized to be her mother's. The sash contrasted beautifully with the midnight blue scoop-necked dress and he knew that a part of her would always be in the highlands.
"Methos MacGreggor?" She asked with a raised eyebrow, her voice catching on the "g".
He looked down at the folds of his kilt, "I found this in a trunk at your house."
Sarah crossed the room and smoothed the problematic fold, then pulled up the drape and arranged it on his shoulder, pinning it with a broach that had been in her hand. "This is the pin I gave my Alan on our handfast day," she said, still not able to speak in normal tones.
"And the kilt?"
"A replica of the one me da used to wear," she smiled. "It suits you."
"And they'll not hang me for wearing a MacGreggor tartan?"
She shook her head and leaned against him, still gathering her strength and beginning to realize the depth of what she felt for him. It transcended time and friendship. Rose above romantic love...it just was. If immortals had soul mates, she thought, Petey was hers.
Adam looked at their reflection in the mirror. They had worn many fashions over the years they spent traveling together...everything from mismatched bits of armor, to medieval court wear, but never had she leaned so readily on him and never had they been so suitably matched. He had spent lifetimes adjusting his appearance to blend in with mortals. A beard in Russia, long hair in ancient Greece...he'd even worn a kilt before, but not the MacGreggor tartan. Twice in the last year he had almost lost her to the Game, maybe now was the time to tell her how he felt.
"Sarie," he began.
She looked up at him and he saw how weak she was still. His urge was to sweep her into his arms and take care of her, but he knew she'd rebel at that. Besides, that was straight out of those corny romance novels he sometimes indulged in when no one was looking. (Even the ancients needed mind candy now and then.) This was real life. It was more important that he not lose her friendship...not after just finding it again.
Sarah blinked at him, expecting a gush of emotion, but none came.
Instead, he smiled slowly. "Let's get you to your birthday party."
Duncan was lost in a sea of MacGreggor tartan again as the great hall swayed under the energy of about a hundred of Sarah's kinsmen. At first, the party had been a bit somber, everyone quite upset by the devastation to the great Oak. But, as Mac had expected, once the whiskey began to flow, the people--Highlanders everyone of them--had forgotten about their woe and begun to revel in each other's company. It was precisely this ability to bounce back from hardship that had enabled them, and all the clans, to survive throughout the centuries.
He looked up sharply as the collective force of their buzz hit him. Across the room, Richie glanced up from his conversation with Heather as well. Mac smiled as Adam maneuvered Sarah through the crowd deftly, his hand on her waist.
"You're looking better than the last time I saw you," he said as they approached.
Sarah chuckled, "I feel like I've got a bus parked on my chest."
"At least your sense of humor hasn't suffered," he smiled.
"Nice knees, MacLeod," Adam quipped.
"You're one to talk."
Richie appeared at Sarah's elbow, his arm around Heather's waist. "How you doing, Sarah?"
"'appy birthday, Miss Sarah," Heather added, having only heard that her kinswoman was struck by a branch from the tree during the lightening storm. "Tis lucky the whole tree didn't fall on ye."
Sarah smiled at her, but was looking at Richie. Perhaps their quickenings had mixed a little out there...she felt a strange kinship to him...and he looked far more comfortable in the kilt than he had previously. "Aye, tis lucky young Richie was there to save me."
"And 'oo's this handsome fellow?" Heather asked, glancing at Adam. "Your 'usband?"
"Her eldest and most dear friend," Adam took her hand and bowed over it. "Pierson, Adam Pierson, at your service, miss."
"James Bond, are ye?"
"Close." Sarah laughed.
Adam awoke the next morning with a shaft of light streaming into his eyes. He groaned and pulled the covers over his head. Maybe it had all been a dream. Maybe he was still in Seacouver. This was normal for him...waking with a sense of confusion over time and place.
No, this bed was not his own, and there was the unmistakable dampness of a Highland Spring lingering in the air. He cracked one eye open and looked around the room. Glenstrae. A glance at his watch told him it was nearly noon.
They had stayed late at the Gathering. Sarah recuperated nicely once she had food and a few glasses of whiskey in her to ease the pain. By midnight she was nearly fully healed and teaching Richie a traditional dance, laughing gaily and speaking in a heavy brogue. Adam chuckled to himself, drink and being around her clansmen had always brought back her accent. She had even spoken to him in Gaelic last night. He wished he had understood what she was saying, it sounded lovely. Dragging himself out of bed, he made his way over to the window and wrapped the blankets around his shoulders against the chill.
Sarah was where he expected; standing in what used to be a shady spot under the tree, but was now a vast, rubble strewn cleaning-- surveying the damage to the great Oak. There were dozens of workers cleaning up the garden, piling the pieces of wood onto wagons and wheelbarrows that were being taken around to the front of the castle. It looked like a war zone.
"Looks like they may get their souvenirs after all," he said a few minutes later, coming up behind her.
She spun, reaching for a sword that wasn't at her hip. He had startled her. That was odd. Sarah's shoulders slumped forward in a very atypical sign of defeat, "My tree..." she said softly.
He held out an arm and Sarah ducked under it, burying her head in his shoulder. Adam was surprised to see Richie among those picking up. Talk about atypical. He had expected the lad to still be in bed, most likely with Heather MacGreggor. Lord knows that would be more pleasant than standing around in the damp.
"My tree," she said again and began to sob quietly.
Adam rubbed her back and hugged her, all the while watching Richie pile some bigger branches onto a horse drawn cart. Those two had come together in a very strange way, he thought, wondering if their quickenings had indeed mixed. There was no way of knowing for sure and it was a miracle that either survived. In the five thousand some odd years he had walked the earth, Methos had never known anyone who had first hand experience in what occurs when a rule was broken. And this boy, this baby really, had righted that great wrong without a thought. MacLeod was right, there must be hidden potential in there somewhere. If he could manage to keep his head for a few centuries, Richie would undoubtedly grow into an interesting individual.
The sight of Ethan MacGreggor making his way through the rubble towards them brought Adam out of thought for a moment. *That one* had gotten precisely what he deserved. If there was one thing Methos had learned over his many years, it was that, despite the obvious drawbacks, immortality was a very great gift. If you could stay alive in the Game, the world was yours to experience. True, people came and went from your life, but you carried them with you always and sometimes you were lucky enough to have something precious returned for your troubles.
"Lady Sarah," the boy said, eyeing Adam nervously. His ability to sense immortals was gone and he felt vaguely naked without it. But he didn't need the buzz to tell him what Adam was and the look on the immortal's face conveyed such obvious caring for Sarah and contempt for him that Ethan found himself wondering if Adam would try for his head.
"Ethan," she answered, turning to face him, but still in the circle of Adam's arm.
"Me Gran-da would like to see you."
Sarah shook her head, "I don't have anything to say to Donald."
"The stress of this all, it's done 'im no good. I think 'e's dying, Sarah," the boy said.
Sarah sniffled and wiped her eyes on the back of her sleeve. "Mortals do that. Please tell him that I will be leaving Glenstrae this afternoon and do not plan to return until both he and you are long gone from this world."
"But...'e wants to apologize to ye. 'E was only trying to do what was best for the clan."
Sarah held her hand up in a silencing gesture. "I don't care. I don't care about any of this anymore. He got what he wanted, you'll live to take his seat."
Sarah sighed. "Get out of my sight Ethan MacGreggor," she said in an even tone that Adam recognized to be veiled anger. "If you cross my path again, immortal or not, kinsman or not, I'll take your head."
The boy backed away a few steps, "But I dinnae take yers when I had the chance. I broke a rule for you. I lost my immortality for you."
"And therein lies that sense of honor you were looking for," she turned on her heel and walked off slowly toward the loch, her back to the ruins.
Ethan turned his shocked face to Adam, who cocked an eyebrow at him in what he hoped was a mildly threatening look, then shrugged and followed Sarah.
"You're sure MacGreggor is on the plane?"
The young man nodded, then remembered that he was on the telephone. "Yes. She, Pierson, and MacLeod all boarded about an hour ago. They should be over the Atlantic by now."
A long silence came over the wire and he began to wonder if his superior was still there. This had been a hard week, Roger just wanted to get the hell out of Scotland.
"Do it then."
"How?" This was one part of his job that he had not counted on when he signed up. Roger was a Watcher, not an assassin.
Another long pause came over the line, followed by a heavy sigh. "Something quick and painless...no bullets, they can be traced. And he was one of us once, he deserves to die a painless death. Poison maybe."
He nodded again. "Sir?"
"What about Pierson? He's breaking the same rule Donald MacGreggor did."
"No, Pierson isn't assigned to her."
"I know, but we aren't supposed to get involved with them at all..."
"I'll deal with Pierson. You just take care of Donald and get back here before she pulls another disappearing act. She's good at those."
"Okay. I'll be on the first flight tomorrow," Roger hung up the phone and sighed. Sneaking back into Glenstrae would be easy. He had been right under Sarah MacGreggor's nose almost the whole time she was there, blending in with the castle staff.
Across an ocean, a medium sized continent, and several time zones, Joe hung up the phone with a sigh. He eased himself back in his chair and pulled the bottle of Scotch out from his desk drawer. This was the kind of night that would not require the ceremony of a glass.
[end part 5]
Sarah was erasing the notes from her lecture on Yeats' Chuhulain cycle from the blackboard in her classroom when the buzz hit. Her sword was across the room under her coat. She sighed, but made no move toward it. Whomever this was, Sarah hoped they weren't after her head...she just didn't have the energy to fight.
"You look tired," Mac said.
"I'm suddenly feeling my age," she answered, sitting on the corner of one of the student desks. "What brings you to the English Department, Professor MacLeod?"
Mac handed her a newspaper clipping and picked up where she had left off on the board.
"MacGreggor's Mourn Loss of Chieftain, Plant New Tree," she read the headline aloud. There was a picture of Ethan standing with a shovel. "Where did you get this?"
"Connor sent it, he was worried about you."
Sarah smiled and gave a soft chuckle, "Does he know *everything* that goes on in Scotland?"
"Pretty much," Mac set down the eraser. "He likes to keep track of what's going on in the homeland."
Sarah sighed and handed the clipping back to Mac. "I can't believe Donald set me up like that," she said. "I loved him once."
"Mortals sometimes have a strange way of thinking when it comes to us. I think that, in his heart, he believed he was doing what was best for the clan."
"The clan. Only you and I and Connor understand about the clan, Mac. The rest of these people are looking for a glory that is lost in history and maybe never even existed at all."
Mac knew that she would recover from the emotional trauma of recent events with time. A home cooked meal could only speed the process. "Can I make you dinner?"
Sarah nodded. "Petey and I were going to go to the movies, but he had to rush off somewhere for some secret Watcher meeting...I'd love to."
Duncan was a bit disappointed to hear that Methos would not be able to join them. Watching those two together gave him hope. In a world where he was constantly having to bury friends and lovers, it was good to see that fate could work in the favor of immortals and bring close friends back together. And Methos and Sarah had a friendship like no other he had seen.
Three days later, late at night, Adam was dawn from his notes by the sensation of another immortal in close proximity. He looked to the door of Sarah's apartment, waiting.
"It's Richie," she said, looking up from her book.
Moments later, a knock sounded at the door. Sarah closed her book gently and set it down on the coffee table, but made no move toward the door. The knock sounded again and Adam crossed the room, letting the young immortal in.
"Adam? I'm...I wasn't...is Sarah here?" Richie asked, setting down his duffel and looking around the apartment. He had spent an extra week in Glenstrae, helping to clean out the garden and attending the funeral of Donald MacGreggor, only just arriving home minutes ago.
Sarah stood up and motioned for him to come inside. Richie looked around the room, wondering if he had interrupted something. Adam's notes were strewn across the dining table, mixed with dinner plates that had been shoved to one end. A fire was blazing in the hearth--late winter had returned to Seacouver with a fierce cold snap--and Sarah was standing by the couch. There was no indication that they had been doing anything but enjoying the solace of each other's presence.
"I...I just flew in from Glasgow...I wanted to talk to you. I didn't get the chance while we were there," he said, hearing the nervous edge creep into his voice.
Adam hovered by the door, wondering if he should make himself scarce. A look from Sarah told him that she wanted to talk with Richie in private. "I um...it's late. I'll be going," he grabbed his coat and disappeared down the stairs.
"Come on in," Sarah said, flopping back onto the couch. "There's some dinner left on the stove if you want it."
"No thanks. They fed me on the plane," Richie crossed the room and sat down in the chair across from her. He didn't know where to begin.
"Thank you," she said suddenly.
Sarah looked at him, catching his glance and holding it. "For what you did in Glenstrae."
"Oh, it was nothing....they needed help cleaning up," he shrugged, knowing that she had been talking about something else. "I figured you just needed to get out of there."
"I meant what you did for me," Sarah said.
"I just did what my gut told me to," he said, looking over at her.
"That's where honor and nobility come from...your gut." Sarah squeezed his hand. "If this were ancient Scotland, I'd be in your debt for three generations."
"Do you believe Adam's theory? That our quickenings mixed?"
Sarah thought about that for a second, then nodded. "I think so."
"I...I think I understand a little bit about you and Mac now. There is something in me that knows what it's like to be so closely tied to the highlands...to your clans."
"And you're sure it's not Heather MacGreggor's red hair that sparks that stirring in your blood?" She grinned.
Richie flushed and chuckled softly. "No, it's more than a girl. It's history. And family. And a sense of who you are," he paused. "I didn't stay behind because of Heather, I stayed because you didn't. Because one of us had to see Donald MacGreggor put into the ground. One of us had to clean up the remnants of that tree. It was a beautiful tree Sarah, I'm sorry you lost it."
"Sometimes we hold on too tightly to what we once had," she said. "Immortality isn't about who you were once, it's about what you are now. We have our many lives to build on, to draw on when we need strength, but the only thing that really matters is the present. The tree...lovely as it was, was planted by a different Sarah MacGreggor. I think that part of me is in you now."
Richie thought about that for a moment and a brief silence fell between them.
He replayed the scene at the Oak in his head. For the first time, Richie had a sense of what his friends felt when they remembered lives long past. Maybe it was the part of Sarah that now resided inside, or maybe it was his own experiences, beginning to coalesce...regardless, he knew he was forever changed.
Sarah leaned back on the couch and sighed. "Next time you go to Scotland, you can wear the MacGreggor tartan if you like," she said.
Family. She had accepted him as family. More than the fact that immortals had to forge their own families over the years, never able to have true blood ties, Richie understood this to be a gesture from her that meant she had acknowledged the strange bond between them.
He ventured to test the waters of his new relationship with her. "What about you and Adam?"
She cocked an eyebrow at him. "Give the boy a bit of your quickening and suddenly he thinks he's the right to ask personal questions," she joked.
He watched as she got up again and paced across the room to the table. She leafed through the papers there for a moment, then turned to look out the window. Just when he thought she wasn't going to answer his question, she spoke.
"Petey and I have a long history between us, it's not over yet."
Richie smiled. "And what about you? Will you be going back to Glenstrae?"
She sighed, "Someday, but not any time soon."
To Part 5: Twists of Fate
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