The End of Time
When Adam returned to the scene of the crime he found that Richie had been moved back into the grass and was beginning to revive. The damage had been enough to kill him, but did not require a great deal of healing. Duncan was helping him sit up. The kid still looked dazed and confused, but when Adam approached he became fully alert.
"Hey, Richie. I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to kill you, I swear." Adam's tone became more panicked when he saw the look on Richie's face grow angry.
"You stupid son of a?"
"Hey, it's not all my fault. If you had been just a little quicker."
"You mean if you were concentrating on what you were supposed to be doing. Where was your mind anyway?" Richie threw back unexpectedly.
Adam knew he was nailed. He really hadn't meant to kill the kid. He was more focused on Knight at the moment and got a bit carried away.
"Richie- I'm sorry. Really. I wouldn't intentionally hurt you."
Richie suddenly felt like the bad guy. He was being pretty ungracious. Mac looked mad at them both and Connor was about to go off on him. "I know. I know."
Adam put a hand out, and Richie took it pulling himself to his feet with a helpful shove from the other two immortals. "So are we done practicing yet?"
"Sure, I think we've all had enough for today." Connor agreed. "Let's get back to work."
"Jeeze Connor, you're a slave driver." Richie groaned stumbling slightly. Duncan helped him walk up the path.
"Mattie brought you a pizza while you were dead." Adam offered encouragement. "Maybe it will help you get your strength back.
"Oh my God! She didn't see me, did she?"
"No, Connor threw you in the weeds." Duncan tried not to laugh when he got the expected reaction as Richie turned around and glared at Connor.
"Gee, I'm touched by your concern."
"Would you rather we have let her seen you?"
The rest of the afternoon was spent working on the cottage, which was really starting to take shape. Duncan began to wonder when painting the main house had lost priority over the caretaker's cottage, but realized that both Connor and Richie had only been trying to make Adam feel more comfortable. Right now they all suspected that it wouldn't take much for the ancient to bolt and run. If they only knew about the scene with the Knights this morning they would really worry. Bringing that up, though, would mean that someone would have to tell Connor that Angelique was married. Duncan did not want to be that someone.
By early evening the painting crew had moved indoors. Connor had left to get ready for his date with Angelique, and Duncan eventually went to the main house to fix dinner for his starving crew. Richie and Adam had managed to paint the entire living room and were working on the kitchen and dining area.
"Hey we might just get this finished if we don't get attacked by anymore stupid crows."
"Don't tempt fate, Richie." Adam said grimly from his ladder above. "That crow was like a possessed demon. He really didn't like you."
"I guess not."
"What gods did you piss off anyway?"
"I don't know, man. How many are there? If I knew it's all forgotten."
"Well, there's God. You know the God accepted by Christians, Jews and Islams. There's several other major religions with their variations, but I was thinking of gods. You know- Zeus, Poseidon, sons of the Titan, Cronus?" Adam almost fell off the ladder as the words came out of his mouth and the thought registered in his head. He balanced himself and froze for a moment.
"Adam! Hey man are you alright?"
"Yeah, fine. Must have got a little dizzy."
"Come on down for a few minutes."
"Yeah." Adam slowly descended the ladder, his mind concentrating only on Kronos. Could that be what he meant? Could the lunatic have possibly thought he was Cronus? A Titan? Father of Zeus, Poseidon, Hades and the gang? Adam sat on the bottom rung of the ladder and put his head in his lap.
"Adam, can I get you anything? You want some water?"
Adam slowly raised his head and nodded. He folded his hands over his face. But this was all his imagination. He was the lunatic. Kronos died in Bordeaux. He was only an immortal. All it took was for him to lose his head.
Then suddenly he remembered the dream. He remembered lying on the ground after his first quickening, Kronos' bloody sword against his neck.
"What about you? If someone takes your head?"
"I am the beginning and the end. You can kill my body by removing my head, but that will only unleash a hell you can't imagine."
"So you can't be killed like me or him?"
"No, young one. I am the end of time."
Adam pushed tightly on his head trying to stop the memory.
"Adam, have some water. Here- have a drink."
Adam shakily took the bottle and took a drink. "Thanks, Richie."
"I'm going to get Mac."
"No, I'll be alright in a minute. Just a little vertigo. Don't leave. Just stay here." He looked around the room. If Richie left, Kronos would come. His eyes froze on the French Doors. For just a moment he thought he saw someone in the doorway, but it must have been his imagination. "Really, I'm fine, Richie. There's no point in bothering Mac. Just too many paint fumes, sword fights, and ladder climbing. We're immortals, right? It will go away."
"Sure." Richie nodded. "But you've seemed wigged ever since you came home today. Did you and Mac get into it again?"
"No, not really."
"Not really? So that means you did to a point, right?"
Adam took a deep breath. Maybe if he talked about something else he could get his mind off of Kronos. "Yeah, okay. Something has been bothering me."
"What is it?" Richie pulled up a crate and sat on it.
"Connor. I met Angelique's husband today."
"Her husband?" Richie's eyes grew wide.
"Yeah. Supposedly they're separated, but it didn't look that way when I saw them. You know that little kiss she gave Connor?" Adam continued in a quiet worried voice when Richie nodded. "Well she practices a lot. They didn't exactly look broken up to me. He says they separate every once in awhile."
"How long have they been married?"
"About 250 years."
"Oh man. So don't you think Connor would know that by now? Hasn't he known her longer than that?"
"Well even if he does, he might think they're divorced. He doesn't strike me as the type to break up a marriage. I make it a practice not to."
"So what's this guy like? Could Connor take him if he had to?"
"Possibly, but I doubt it. I know this guy from way back. I don't like him. As a matter of fact the only thing keeping me from going after him is the fact that I'd like to continue to live. Even if I could take him, Mac would kill me for it."
"When I knew this guy he wasn't a very pleasant person. I spent five years as a slave because of him."
"You've been a slave?"
"Many times. It used to be a pretty common practice when I was young. Kronos told me I had always been a slave. The dreams I have support that."
"So why do you hate this guy? Did he make you build pyramids or something else stupid?"
"Not that time around. I'd rather not get into the details. Among other things I was a scribe. I learned to write several languages there. I read a lot."
"This sounds like the highlight of your life. You can be the nerdiest guy I know sometimes."
"Thanks. Sorry, it's just hard to quit learning after you've been doing it for five thousand years."
"I'm surprised your brain hasn't exploded."
Adam looked up at Richie and burst into hysterical laughter. "It has a time or two." Once the laughter slowed a bit he looked at Richie grinning. "I used to make Caspian so mad he'd threaten to cook me for dinner. They would be arguing over the loot and I would be reading whatever volumes of anything I found. Scrolls, books, those were my treasures." Adam looked reflective. "The written word had a lot to do with my realizing there was a whole different world out there. Of course it took a couple thousand more years before I found the right words- the right information to really get me thinking, but had I never learned to read I would probably still be with Kronos. When I finally did escape from him, I was able to support myself as a scribe for awhile."
"Yeah, sounds like you've got a lot of reasons to hate this guy, Adam."
"Oh, there was more to it than that. But that was something good that came out of it. Kronos didn't mind at first. He knew a lot of languages, mostly spoken though. But when he realized I was using it for more than knowing the best place to plan the next raid, he started having the books and scrolls destroyed first. He didn't want me learning anything else." Adam looked lost again.
"Hey, come on. Let's go see if dinner is ready yet. You look like you need food." Richie was determined not to let his friend sink back into his mood again.
"Yeah, maybe you're right."
Dinner began as a quiet affair for Duncan, Richie and Adam. Duncan was worrying about Connor and how he would take the news that Angelique was married. Surely she would tell him the truth now that she knew he and Adam knew about her husband. She couldn't expect them to cover for her.
Adam was doing his silent best to convince himself that Kronos' visits were only his imagination. He shouldn't be letting himself act like this. He knew better. Kronos was dead and buried. Why was he even entertaining the idea that Kronos had believed he was the mythological god? What difference did it make what Kronos believed other than somewhere he had implanted that suggestion in Methos' mind and he was now hallucinating about it? He hated thinking of himself in the third person- with a whole different identity, but after so many years, so many identities, he'd adapted to it.
"Okay look." Richie broke the silence. "You two can't be mad at each other all night because you don't agree about Angie being married and no one having the guts to tell Connor."
Duncan dropped his fork on his plate and stared at Adam.
Adam looked up breaking his trance enough to respond to the cold glare. "What?"
"You told Richie about Angie and Aaron?"
"Well it's not like I'm not old enough to know." Richie laughed sarcastically.
"I did? Oh yeah, I did." Adam finally let Richie's words register. "Richie, when I killed you today I retroactively meant it."
"I'm sorry, it's just that this tension is getting to me."
"Maybe I severed some connection between your mouth and brain and now it's just all spewing out like a fountain or something. What tension?"
"I think he's referring to the unbearable silence." Duncan offered tersely.
"Oh, I hadn't noticed. I just assumed everyone was busy thinking."
"Like I have anything to think of." Richie grinned. Then he remembered the memory he had earlier in the day. Or perhaps the ghost? That would certainly liven up the conversation. Tell them you saw a ghost. No don't. Save that one.
"Don't worry, Richie. It will come back." Duncan smiled kindly.
Richie returned the smile and thought of telling Duncan about the memory, but it just wasn't a happy one. How much did Mac know about his past? He had told him they had first met when he was seventeen. He probably didn't know that Richie had been an abused child.
Duncan took a bite of baked chicken. He wanted Richie to recover, but there were just a few things he'd give anything for if Richie never remembered. Anything but settling for total amnesia at least. He wasn't supposed to be worrying about Richie, he reminded himself. He was supposed to be dealing with Adam. How do you "deal with" and ancient immortal, he wondered? Same as always- forget his age.
"MacLeod you have got to stop calling me that."
"Fine, Adam. I would have thought there were some things you could keep to yourself. You can't let your personal feelings toward Aaron interfere."
"I feel nothing for him but hatred, Mac. I'm sure I'll get over it just as soon as I kill him."
"Why are you acting like this? You haven't been in more than a handful of fights since I've known you. Adam Pierson avoids fights. Forgives and forgets the past. When I met you a few years ago, you hadn't taken a head in 200 years."
"Well maybe you're just a bad influence after all."
"Oh, very funny. Why are you being such a hypocritical son of a- ?"
"Well if that isn't the pot calling the kettle charred, burnt and buried. You know, I think I've had enough dinner, thank you." Adam stood up and threw his napkin in his plate. "Richie, I'm going to go finish painting the kitchen."
"Okay, I'll be out in bit."
"Thanks." Adam glared at Duncan and left through the back door.
Duncan gritted his teeth and took a deep breath. When he finally let it out he realized Richie was watching him with concern. He smiled. "Sorry about that. He's a bit of a pain sometimes, or hadn't you noticed?"
"Yeah, I've noticed. How long have you known him?"
"About five years now. Of course there's been a couple of long absences."
Duncan took a drink and thought about it. "Oh, six months- a year and a half. That's when he was with you and I was away."
"How long have you known me?"
"Since you were seventeen."
"What do you know about me? When I was a kid? Did I ever tell you things? What did I know about my past?"
"You were an orphan. You spent a lot of time in orphanages and foster care. You weren't in one place very long." Duncan's gaze traveled from his beer to his young student's eyes frequently. He'd tried avoiding giving Richie the more depressing parts of his life. Something was on the boy's mind. "When you were four, you were living with Emily Ryan. She wasn't your real mother, but you had been with her since infancy, so they gave you her name. She was going to adopt you, but I think the process slowed down due to her divorce."
"What happened to her?"
"You told Tessa and I that she died. You were in a store and she suddenly grabbed her head and fell to the ground dead. She had a brain hemorrhage according to your file."
"You saw a file on me?"
"No, but your caseworker told me a few things."
"Richie, what is it that you want to know?"
Richie studied Mac. No, he couldn't tell him about the memory. Mac would probably not like it. Would he be angry with Richie, or the person who hurt him? Or both. "Nothing really. Just curious." Richie got up and took his and Adam's plates to the sink.
"Yeah, sure." Duncan sighed. "Richie, what did you remember?"
"Nothing. Nothing at all." Richie swallowed. "I'm going to go help Adam, okay?
"No." Duncan said quietly but firmly.
Richie looked over at him in shock. "No? What do you mean, no? I told Adam I would help him."
"I mean no." Duncan tried not to laugh. Now that was his Richie. No was a difficult concept. "You and I need to talk first. Then you can paint all night if you want. Come and sit down."
Richie walked reluctantly back to the table, eyeing Duncan suspiciously. "What?" He sat down when Duncan nodded at the chair he'd just vacated.
Adam knew coming out to the cottage by himself was going to be a mistake even as he announced what he was going to do, but he was going to have to get over this. Kronos had been dead several years. Why was he bothering him now? Of course there had been all that nonsense with Arhiman and Duncan and Richie a couple of years ago. Kronos had put in appearances then too. Could this be demon related? Could Kronos have been a demon also? He knew demons existed, but ghosts? Mythological gods? Fine questions from an immortal. No. Arhiman pretended to be Kronos. Kronos had just been your basic every day run of the mill psychopath. Okay so that was stretching things a bit. There was nothing basic or every day about Kronos. How could there be anything basic about a maniac who had controlled him for three thousand years?
Circa 3000 BCE
Kronos looked across the campfire at Methos who was quietly cleaning his knife. He'd just been recently given the weapon and was quite proud of it. Kronos must trust him. He had to take good care of it to prove he'd earned the trust. Methos looked up when he felt Kronos' intense stare. Kronos had an amused smile on his face.
"You take good care of that. Perhaps I'll let you have another one sometime. Would you like that?"
Methos nodded with a pleased expression.
"Good." Kronos smiled. "You've been doing quite well. Would you like to hear more about the gods?"
Methos nodded as he yawned. Kronos was rarely in an entertaining mood. This probably meant he was too tired to bring any harm to Methos tonight. He stretched his long form out near the fire and wrapped himself in his blankets. Nights like this were scarce and he had learned to enjoy them. In his own clever mind he had decided that he could manipulate just as easily as Kronos. Whenever Kronos rewarded him with a peaceful night, he exchanged the favor by being especially cooperative. He wasn't sure if it was working yet, but he felt like it gave him the slightest bit of control. Besides Kronos loved to talk and always told interesting stories.
"You were going to tell me where they came from." Methos reminded him sleepily.
"Ah yes." Kronos smiled knowingly at his young slave. "Well, it's quite simple actually. They were children of the most powerful Titan."
"Who was he?"
"In the beginning Chaos gave birth to Gaia, she was the mother of Uranus who was the sky, and Pontus who was the sea. Uranus became every thing you see above you." Kronos paused as Methos' curious eyes searched the night sky trying to comprehend how this could be. "Gaia and Uranus were married. They had many children and equal number of sons and daughters. Uranus was a very unpleasant sort of god. He forced Gaia to keep her children inside of her. This caused her much pain and suffering."
Methos noticed the distant look Kronos wore on his face. Those crazed eyes were always a sign of impending pain for Methos, but just now it was Kronos who appeared to be in pain. "What could she do?"
"Nothing, nothing but suffer. She begged all of her sons for help, but they were too frightened of their father- all but the youngest that was. Gaia gave him a special sickle made of adamantine. He waited for his father to come to his mother one evening. He was terrified- no doubt- he shook so. But he knew how his mother suffered and that there was but little hope for her if he did not help her. He emasculated his father in one swift stroke. He threw his genitals into the sea, from which eventually grew Aphrodite. The sky and the earth separated and Cronus, the son, became the king of all the gods."
"You have his name?" Methos rolled onto his side and propped his head on one hand.
"Why do you think that is?" Kronos had asked him.
"Because you are a powerful ruler?" Methos stated more than he asked.
Kronos gave a pleased laugh. "You are a clever one aren't you?"
"But what happened to Cronus? I thought Zeus was the king of the Gods."
The look on Kronos' face was one of hatred, but Methos knew it wasn't directed at him for once. "Zeus is a despicable urchin unfit to rule anyone."
"How did he become the ruler?"
Kronos grew so quiet Methos thought he might have angered him. Finally he rolled slowly onto his back watching the stars. Just as he was about to drift into sleep, Kronos began to talk.
"Cronus made the same mistake as his father. He had been told that one of his children would try to slay him just as he had his father. He swallowed the children and kept them safe inside him for their protection and his."
Methos noted the softened tone in his master's voice when he spoke of the children of Cronus. He sounded almost as though he was talking about children of his own, but anger soon returned.
"But his wife Rhea hid Zeus and deceived Cronus into swallowing rocks wrapped in a blanket. Zeus was taken away and raised by a goat!" Kronos scoffed bitterly at this. "When he grew to manhood he came back. With some help he fashioned a poison that made Cronus expel the others. There was a great revolt. Cronus and his brothers and sisters, the Titans, were overthrown. Zeus had them sent to Tartarus- the lowest part of the world."
"Are they still there?"
"Most are. It was eventually realized that Cronus could not be contained. He can not be stopped. He will always be here. He couldn't die if he wanted to. The gods know that he has tried. His very existence is time itself. His life measures that of all others. He measures the passage of time, the harvests. It was his curse. To never die. He will be on earth until the end of time."
"Much like me." Methos yawned quietly.
"Yes, much like you." Kronos was contemplating something more.
"Can he not just refuse to move?"
"He tried. He refused to move at first, but the gods cursed him yet again. They trapped him within a body. A body very much like mortals so that time would have to keep moving. What Zeus didn't realize was that Cronus enjoyed this. He is free to do whatever he wants and he can not die."
"Are you Cronus?" Methos asked as he drifted to sleep. Kronos only smiled his amused smile.
"I think you should sleep before your cleverness brings you trouble."
"Bravo! Bravo!" Kronos sat on the back of the sofa watching Methos paint the kitchen. Methos dropped the paint roller and turned around to face him.
"You aren't here. Even if you were I don't care. Ignore the crazy lunatic and he will go away." Methos waved him off and picked the paint roller back up and deliberately went back to painting.
"But you've remembered. You remembered the night I told you who I was." Kronos was smiling, very pleased with himself.
"But how did you know?" Methos turned back around.
"Because I allowed it." Kronos flashed him a cold evil stare.
"What- what do you mean?" Methos stammered backing up just slightly.
"I lifted the veil of time for you." He spoke as though he had granted a great gift.
Methos considered this for a moment then shook his head. "You're crazy."
"Me?" Kronos laughed again. "You're the one talking to a dead man claiming to be the end of time."
"I'm going back to the house."
"And tell them what? You might not want to interrupt things. You know MacLeod is having a little man to man chat with the boy."
"Among other things. The boy is fun. He's too stupid to use fear as a warning. Reminds me a lot of someone else I know."
"Leave him alone."
"I assure you, I've let no harm come to him that he didn't deserve."
"I swear, if you hurt him-"
"You'll what?" Kronos stood up.
"Alright look. Let just play your game for a minute. What do you want from me? Why are you suddenly here trying to scare the hell out of me?"
"I think you just answered your own question."
"What? Why do you want to scare the hell out of me?"
"Let's just say that I've missed you. I'm bored." Kronos smiled.
"Find another hobby. I have a life that doesn't include you."
"I'm hurt." Kronos looked offended, then smiled and suddenly vanished in the blink of an eye.
Methos looked bewildered and turned in circles. "Where did I get this imagination after all these years? I've got to be losing it." He took another look around the room, seeing no signs of Kronos. He nodded nervously. "Right then, back to work. I can't let my mind ruin this for me. Everything is going too well to screw it up now."
"So what do we have to talk about, Mac?"
Duncan almost melted under the distressed blue eyes. Had he made a mistake? How was he supposed to explain this to Richie? How do you tell someone his childhood sucked?
"I never was able to get many details about your life from your caseworker. Honestly, you were so close to eighteen that she didn't bat an eye when I talked to her about you living with Tessa and me. She knew that you could do what you wanted very soon anyway. She just sort of let you drift off to avoid the paperwork and having to investigate us. She cared about you. She really did, but you were one of many cases and I think she thought you were a good judge of character. I don't know where she got that idea?" Duncan tried to lighten the conversation.
Richie just studied him, waiting for more. "Oh, funny." He finally acknowledged when Duncan looked uncomfortable.
"Anyway, she really couldn't give us a lot of details. She did hint that you had been a victim of abuse."
"What do mean abuse?"
"I mean neglect, physical abuse, -sexual abuse. Just about every kind was the way she put it."
Richie's mouth trembled open just slightly as he tried to catch his breath. "Wonderful. So, what did I say? Did I ever talk about it?"
"Don't you think it would be better to remember it on your own?"
"Not if it was like today I don't."
"So you did have a memory?" Duncan took hold of Richie's forearm that lay on the table and gave it a bit of a shake. "What did you remember?"
"It was okay at first. I was in a classroom, listening to a teacher read a story about a ghost. I couldn't sit still because I was in pain. Then suddenly I remembered being in the hospital. There was a policeman there. It didn't make a lot of sense. I don't know how the two are connected unless it was at school that they found out someone had hurt me."
"That's all you can remember?" Duncan encouraged.
"Yeah, that's it." Richie nodded worriedly.
Duncan took a deep breath. "Well that doesn't surprise me. You didn't like to talk about it, but you did tell Tessa and I something similar."
When Duncan came through the living room he noticed Richie was sitting on the couch reading the newspaper. He seemed absorbed.
"Yeah." Richie mumbled.
Duncan grinned. "I was beginning to wonder if you could read."
"Yeah." Richie concentrated on the paper.
"Yeah." Duncan tousled the reddish blond curls and made a quick exit to the kitchen when he noticed the teen's minor irritation. "So what's Einstein reading that has him so totally enthralled?"
Tessa shook her head and sipped her coffee. "You've got me."
"Why yes I do." Duncan grabbed her by surprise and kissed her for a long moment.
"And you can keep me." She grinned, teasing his lips with light kisses.
The smoke alarm went off.
"Tessa, the eggs."
"I thought it was us."
Duncan broke free and pulled the skillet off of the burner.
"Now why does that always happen when I cook?" Tessa ran to the kitchen door and opened it. Duncan picked up a dishtowel and fanned it wildly in front of the smoke alarm until it shut off.
"It's okay, Rich. Just the eggs!" He hollered into the living room jokingly.
"Yeah, okay." Came the grumbled reply.
"Yeah okay?" Duncan looked over at Tessa for some clue, but she only shrugged her shoulders.
Duncan made a quick dart into the living room and peeked over Richie's shoulder, sitting on the back of the couch. "What are you reading, Sport?" He snatched the paper from Richie.
"Damn it, give it back!" Richie reached for the paper, but Duncan stood up and walked around with it.
"Now let's see what is so interesting you would sit through a house on fire. Watch your mouth by the way."
"She sets off the smoke alarm at every meal. Sorry Tessa, but its true." Richie rose to his feet just as Tessa entered the room.
"Oui, I am an artist- not a cook. That's the only reason I keep Duncan around. And you make good hot chocolate- so I'll keep you, too."
Richie couldn't help but blush under Tessa's warm smile.
"Duncan give him his paper." Tessa and Richie both noticed Duncan's serious expression as he perused the article Richie had been reading. Richie squirmed uncomfortably.
"I'm done. I- I was just putting it back in order. The sports section was really good."
"Yeah, sure. Interesting article here though. They locked this guy up for thirty years on fifteen counts of child abuse and molestation."
"Good. They should throw away the key." Tessa looked worriedly from Duncan to Richie. They both knew the paper was still on the page he had been reading.
"They could. I'm sure there were more." Duncan said gravely. "There are always more than actually report the crimes, which is why they get by with it for so long."
Richie took a deep breath. "Excuse me." He left the room in a hurry.
Tessa and Duncan both watched as he left then turned back to each other their shared concern clear in their expressions. "Duncan, I think one of us should talk to him."
"Maybe we should just let him tell us when he's ready." Duncan tapped the newspaper nervously on the back of the couch.
"If you won't then I will. He should at least know that we're willing to listen when he is ready."
"Okay. You give this one a go. I have a hunch I just stuck my foot in my mouth."
"Are you alright, Duncan?" Tessa wrapped her arms around him for a quickly returned hug.
"I'm just having a real hard time staying out of warrior mode, right now, Tess. If this bastard wasn't locked up he'd probably be dead."
"Okay, you fix breakfast. I'll talk to Richie."
Tessa took a deep breath and went to Richie's room before she lost her nerve. Duncan gave her about a ten-second head start before following her. The situation could become pretty tense. She knew Tessa could handle Richie, but his curiosity was getting the best of him.
She had already gained entrance to his room when Duncan stood outside the door. He could hear her soft-spoken French accent.
"Hey, Richie. May I talk to you?"
"If it's about out there I'd rather not." Richie sat on his bed with his legs drawn up to his chest, his back against the headboard.
"Okay, that's fine. May I sit down?"
"Sure. Your house."
"But this is your bed, your room. Your personal space."
"Then how come you make me clean it up?"
"So the Board of Health doesn't condemn the whole house."
"Right," Richie rolled his eyes up at her though his head remained down.
"Then because it is your responsibility?"
"Okay, I'll buy that." Richie sighed deeply. "Tess, I'm sorry I was so- so- "
"Grumpy? Touchy? Nervous?"
"Yeah, all that."
"It's okay. Should you ever decide you want to talk about it, I want you to understand that both Duncan and I are willing to listen, okay?"
Richie nodded. "That guy was one of many."
His words should have shocked Tessa, but somehow they didn't. She had already seen the pain in his eyes and knew what was there. "Richie- I'm so sorry."
The teen shook his head, bit his lip and cast his eyes toward the ceiling. "That was always the worst part, you know? When you were sent to a new home- you always- you never knew how long it would take before they started knocking you around. What they would hit you with. How many meals you'd miss before you learned to keep your mouth shut. Who would end up sneaking in to your room at night? Luckily that was the least likely thing to happen- but it did a couple of places." Richie nodded.
"The man in the paper?"
Richie nodded. "A couple of times. His wife left him over it- but she didn't press any charges. If she had just turned him in- if I had- all those other kids- "
"How old were you Richie?"
"I was ten. I thought she took care of it." Richie wiggled a leg nervously and fought back tears. "She said she was sending me back- so he couldn't hurt me anymore. She would make sure he couldn't have any more foster kids because she was going to divorce him and they only gave kids to couples. The article said that she admitted to that. That she did divorce him. He promised her he would get help. She didn't turn him in. So then he started finding kids elsewhere. He coached. He hung out with friends who had kids- he picked them up in parks. He remarried and had other foster kids. Damn it, Tessa, I should have reported him." Richie finally let the tears start flowing and rocked nervously. "She told me what he did was wrong and she'd take care of it and I should never let anyone else hurt me again. So I didn't. When I was fourteen the same thing happened somewhere else. I screamed so loud I woke the neighborhood. Somebody called the cops and the guy went to jail. So why did this have to happen? Why didn't I ??" Richie's tears turned to sobs as Tessa pulled him into her arms.
"Richie, you were just a child. You thought you did what you were supposed to do. You thought she had taken care of it. You didn't know any better. You were only a small child. You trusted her, which you should have been able to do. This is not your fault. She should have reported him- had him arrested. He should have sought help, when he realized his problem. He should have been investigated more completely." Tessa lifted Richie's head with both hands and trapped his tearful gaze with her intense watery stare. "There are probably a half dozen people who should be blamed for this, Richie, but you are not one of them. Do I make myself understood? You have nothing to do with this. You are just another one of his victims. And I think you chose not to live as a victim a long time ago, did you not?"
Richie nodded and Tessa pulled him back into her arms.
"Then don't you let him do this to you now. You celebrate that he is in jail and that you telling his wife helped put him there. It's not your fault that it took her seven years to testify against him. We should all celebrate. I'll fix you your favorite dinner. What would you like, pizza?"
"No, Tessa, really. I don't want to celebrate anything. I don't want to remember any of this again."
"But you will, Richie. You can never forget this type of thing. But it is over and you must put it behind you where it belongs. The Richie Ryan I have learned to love in the last few weeks, is not someone to let others ruin his life. They may hurt you, but you continue to move forward with a very wonderful attitude."
"Thank you, Tessa." Richie clung to her again.
Duncan tried to read Richie's expression, but found it almost impossible. He just sat there listening to the story intently but without reaction. It must be like listening to something that had happened to someone else, MacLeod wondered. "Anyway, that's when you and Tess started getting really close. You and she had had a few difficulties before then, but it always just seemed to bring you closer."
"She must have been so incredible." Richie closed his eyes. "I have a picture of her. Sometimes I think I can hear her voice. When I imagine I do, she just sounds like me talking to me. When I dream, she sounds French. A beautiful French accent."
"I have real pictures of her if you would like to see them. I have one in my wallet of the two of you."
They both pulled out their wallets. Duncan produced a trimmed photograph almost identical to Richie's. "These were taken the same day. We were in Paris. Goofing around. Yours used to have me in it." Duncan turned it over and read the back then frowned at Richie.
"Hey, don't look at me. I've been trying to figure out what happened to it myself. I wonder if Adam did it, so I wouldn't recognize you?"
"I wonder if you did, when you were mad at me?" Duncan laughed.
"Sounds like you gave me plenty of reason." Richie grinned almost shyly.
Duncan nodded. "Yeah, on more than one occasion. So are you okay with this?"
"Sure. I can't remember it, Mac. It makes me crazy not to be able to, but it makes me mad just thinking about the crap. Honestly, though,and it's like hearing that it happened to someone else. My life must have really sucked."
"Pretty much, yeah." Duncan nodded with an encouraging grin. "But Tessa was right. You never let yourself be a victim, Richie. You always kept going no matter what. You would just pick yourself up, brush yourself off and get back on."
"Until the last time, huh? Then I really wimped out."
"I'd hardly say that. You went through a hell of a lot of trauma and confusion. You can't blame yourself for trying to forget it."
"Forget it I did." Richie bit his lip. His voice was growing shaky. "I just don't know if I want it to come back, Mac. I don?t think I want to see Dr. Knight. I think Adam is right. Sometimes it's better to forget the past and move on."
Duncan took Richie into his arms and held him silently resting his chin on top the kid's curls. There was plenty he didn't know if he wanted Richie to remember either. Maybe they were right. Maybe they should just forget the past and get on with their lives. You have to go. Duncan closed his eyes tighter trying to block the memory of Richie leaving his loft after killing Mako. Visions of his sword about to take Richie's head just as Dawson shot him mingled with the tragic night at the racetrack.
Duncan took another deep breath as he felt Methos' presence growing closer. He nodded slightly. "It's okay, Rich. There's no hurry. We don't have to decide right away." He patted his back as Richie drew back just before Adam came in the back door.
"Are you okay, Adam?" Duncan noted the pale shaken appearance of the ancient immortal.
"Yeah, fine. I'm an immortal remember?" came the expected sarcastic reply. Adam went to the pantry and opened the spare refrigerator. "Am I going to get any help out here?" He pulled out several bottles of beer.
"Yeah, I'm coming." Richie volunteered.
"Me too, just as soon as I get the kitchen cleaned up." Duncan motioned to the table.
"Good." Methos made his way to the back door and managed to open it with his finger tips. "Bring your own beer."
Duncan and Richie looked at each other curiously. Richie went to the beer stash. "I think I better get out there and keep an eye on the lush."
To Part Five