Richie continued grumbling as he stalked his way through the garden to join Connor. He told himself to stop being in such a bad mood, but could life get any more frustrating? He felt bad for Adam, having to go and face Aaron. He was worried about his own sanity. After all, when had he started talking to ghosts on a regular basis? There was just so much going on. Classes were starting next week. They had all this work to do around the house and cottage. Now Adam was having bad dreams again.
Suddenly an overpowering image of himself kneeling on the floor invaded his mind. Duncan whirled around beside him, pulled him into a rough hug, and landed a "goodnight" style kiss on his short curls. A goodnight style kiss that Richie immediately understood was the kiss of death.
"The teacher kills the student? Is that it?"
"Something like that." Duncan held his sword high above Richie.
Richie dropped to his knees in the deep grass of the back yard, suddenly terrified, one hand extended behind him to support himself. He looked warily off to the side, when he realized he still had his head. His breathing was short and rapid as though he'd just been running or sparring.
Several gunshots echoed.
He looked all around him, but could see no one. An over powering memory of Joe Dawson pointing a gun in his direction played out in his mind. A few gasps for breath. He turned his head wearily, to see Duncan MacLeod laying dead next to him in the grass. Then it was a gym floor beneath them both. Joe lowered his gun.
Richie strained to remember more, but nothing came to him. He kneeled there, breathing hard, until he suddenly became aware of the grass he clutched tightly in his hand, followed by the strain and pressure on his arm. He glanced quickly around to see if anyone happened to see him acting so crazy. He sat up and pushed himself to his feet rather unsteadily. One hand absent mindedly clutched at his chest.
Well, it didn't take a rocket scientist, social worker, or therapist to figure out that little flashback. This was very similar to the nightmares he used to have about the long haired man he now knew as his teacher/ surrogate father, Duncan MacLeod.
It was just like the dream, Richie. Don't let it throw you. No it wasn't. It was worse than the dream. It was bloody awful. He could feel the fear still around him. He could smell the gym and the equipment, he could feel the hardwood floor. He could still imagine the pain around his skull from Duncan's vice like grip as his head was slammed against the other's ribcage. He had felt the kiss of death in his short blond curls.
Richie made his way unsteadily down the path and through the garden gates, trying to shake the thoughts.
"Well, it's about time." Connor called. "I was beginning to think I was doing this all alone today."
"I'm sure Adam would rather be helping than going where he's going any day," Richie shot out snidely before he thought about whom he was talking to.
"I expect so." Connor didn't act like it phased him.
"Then why did you guys make him go?"
"He needs to get his past in perspective, Richie. Sort out the good guys and the bad guys. If he want's to live life unbound by past mistakes, he needs to let others do the same."
"What if Aaron doesn't deserve it?"
"Why would he be any less deserving than Adam? Because Adam is your friend?"
"Sure, why not?" Richie challenged with open defiance.
"Not very fair, Richie. Besides, if Adam finds a way to forgive others, maybe he'll find a way to forgive himself." Connor smiled and raised his eyebrows when he realized he had silenced the boy for a moment.
"Oh, I see." Richie finally smiled.
"Bright, child. I've left the trim work in the bedroom for you."
Connor found Richie in the bedroom of the cottage, staring at the trim board that he was supposed to be painting. He stood there for a moment wondering just why the boy was so silent and still. When he didn't turn around or seem to notice that Connor was there, the older Immortal approached slowly.
"Hey, kid. What's the matter, don't you like the color?"
Richie turned around slowly and smiled weakly. "What?"
"Don't you like the color?"
He shook his head. "There isn't much color to it. It's white, isn't it?"
"What's the matter, Richie? Why are you staring at the wall? Are you having nightmares, too?"
Richie stared curiously at Connor. What was he talking about?
"Richie, is something on your mind? You were just sitting here staring. Why?"
"Nothing. I was just thinking, that's all." He was still rather confused.
"Are you still worried about Adam? I told you, he would be fine. Aaron will not fight with him, unless he pushes him to it."
"Yeah, but in his state of mind lately, you never know."
"I trust Aaron."
"Why? Don't you know by now, there isn't anyone you can trust?"
Methos wasn't really sure why he hung onto Aaron's business card. He should have torn it up or burned it. Evidence was his best idea. If Knight killed him, the police might find the card on his body. Or, if he found himself needing to prove to either of the MacLeod's that he had actually gone to see Aaron, he would have the card. Sometimes it was good to be too old to react in haste or anger.
He'd long ago learned that the best reaction was no reaction. He knew he had the furthest thing from a poker face, damn his expressive eyes anyway, but he tried hard to deny himself the luxury of erratic behavior unless he knew without a doubt that he was among friends. Okay, so maybe walking around talking to a dead man could be considered a bit erratic for him, but why not? Kronos obviously had something to say to him. Whether his old mentor was real or not made little difference. Kronos was there with a message and he knew from experience that he needed to listen.
When he climbed back in to the SUV he had borrowed from Connor, Kronos was studying him skeptically. Methos landed in his seat with a thud and threw his head back against the rest, closing his eyes, groaning in exasperation. "Why are you doing this? Why won't you just leave me the hell alone?"
Kronos shook his head, grinning. "You have no concept of time, do you?"
Methos slowly rolled his head around, staring at Kronos in sheer disbelief. "I'm. Five. Thousand Freaking. Years. Old."
"See, perfect example. You are not five thousand years old. You are 5, 126 years old." Kronos chided. "By modern standards, of course."
"Well, sorry. You see, all my early memories were scared the hell out of me by a raving lunatic. What has this got to do with why you are harassing me, Kronos? What good is it possibly going to do you, in your little nether world?"
"Like I told you the other day, I'm bored. But you can't understand that, can you? You are so young in the scheme of things. A child."
Methos laughed, head still against the rest. "Then what does that make Richie?"
"An embryo." Kronos grinned back warmly. "Really, Methos. I AM BORED!" He threw his arms up in the air as though he was pleading to his gods. "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW FREAKING LONG- as you would say- FOREVER IS? I CAN'T TAKE ANY MORE! I have existed in one form or another since the beginning of time. I will go on forever, and there is absolutely nothing, no one can do about it. I miss my body. I miss the feel of the wind. The feel of a good horse. A good lover. I'd give anything to live again, but I am doomed. I should have never hesitated. I should have never let MacLeod take my head, but at the time it seemed the best way to get revenge."
"Revenge?" Methos asked quietly. His nervous expression quite clear. "Against me?"
"You, MacLeod. Even those like Cassandra and Aaron. Anyone who ever took you away from me."
"Mac didn't take me away from you. He wasn't even born for another 1600 years."
"But he kept you away. If it wasn't for him, you would have rejoined me. You wouldn't have had a choice. But you wanted to go with your hero. You weren't just going with the winner. You were doing everything you could to make sure MacLeod won. If you hadn't interfered between Silas and Cassandra, MacLeod would have been dead, the minute her quickening distracted him. Or I might have killed him before that. But when I saw that you had clearly chosen sides, that was enough of life for me. It was a rash decision- one I will always regret. And here I am again, cursed to come back and watch from the sidelines."
"Ex-gods don't have anything better to do than terrorize their old victims/ students? So you come back and waste your time aggravating me?"
Kronos nodded with the most satisfied grin on his face. "I did so love the look of true terror in your eyes. I suppose that is why you were so good at using it as a weapon. You understood terror intimately. All you had to do was make your worst nightmares come true- for someone else, of course."
"This is your life, Methos! Our first guest was there when you first became an immortal, as a matter of fact, he killed you, thus initiating your mad descent into hell." Methos whined sarcastically and started the SUV, putting it into gear. "Let's get out of here before Aaron comes back."
"He's the one who taught you how to read, isn't he?" Kronos practically hissed. "It's all coming back to me. He's the one who made you think, and exposed you to all the dangers of knowledge."
Methos laughed. "Do you have any idea, how ridiculous that sounds? Danger in the knowledge that the world belongs to mortals? Danger in thinking? You really are a few millennia behind Bro- Kronos." Methos didn't miss the gleam in Kronos' eyes when he had almost called him brother.
"Why not? Knowledge is dangerous. You of all people should have realized that. After all you craved it like an addiction. Even the priest feared knowledge in the hands of the wrong people. Only the elite were allowed to read. When some men try to think on their own things go completely awry. I could have taught you anything you wanted to know, but I didn't quite trust what you would do with it, and my worry was justified. You were perfectly happy with me and your brothers until you met him."
"Happy? Where did you ever get the idea I was happy? Whose delusional here, me or you?"
"You were happy enough somewhere after the first couple of hundred years until just before you left us. You started learning about the world. You fell prey to the ideas and the notions of the mortals. You forsake the gods. You forgot everything I taught you about the Titans. About who we are."
"Who we are? You never told me who we were. Just yesterday you made me remember a time when you told me about the Titan Chronos. You tried to imply that you were Chronos. You never told me I was anything other than your slave, your right hand, your servant, your henchman, your lackey, your?"
"From what I've been remembering lately, it sure took long enough to reach that point."
"You had to be retooled first. You didn't have the heart for what you needed to be. So, I had to destroy you, then rebuild you. Nothing personal, you understand?"
"Oh, of course." Methos nodded sarcastically. "But if I didn't have the heart, why bother? Why not just take my head and be done with it? You found Silas. You found Caspian. Surely you would have found another more suited for the position."
"I didn't want another. You had potential. I did you a great favor. You were nothing but a slave when I found you. Besides, starting the way we did created a sense of loyalty. You knew who the master was. You always put up a fight, you always lied to me, but in the end you knew you had to obey."
"Like a dog?" Methos nodded in amusement. "Like a trained animal? I always knew that's how you felt, but hearing it just sounds absurd. You've got some real issues, Kronos."
"Then you met up with Aaron, and eventually others like him. After that you were spoiled. Damaged goods. Instead of spirited, you just became obnoxious."
"Why? Because I learned the difference in good and evil? Because I discovered we were evil and that I far more preferred good?"
"Well, see there you have it. It's all perspective isn't it? In the old days we ruled. Everyone feared us. Mortals were put here for our amusement and convenience. You never thought of it as wrong or cruel. It was just the way of life. Then somewhere along the way you developed the idea- the perspective- that mortals matter."
"Do you know what makes you so evil, Kronos?"
"Millennia of practice?" Kronos smiled fondly.
"The fact that you knew what we were doing was wrong. You knew and you still kept doing it. It didn't make any difference to you. You had to destroy me to make me over into another you."
"Hmm. Yes, I see your point. Tell me Methos, have you ever heard the saying, "What ever it is you wish to become, you already are?"
Methos studied him for a moment, forgetting that he was supposed to be driving. When the vehicle started to veer into oncoming, honking, traffic, Kronos grabbed the wheel and brought the car into the right lane. "You better pay attention, Methos. Or you'll be starting your life again somewhere else."
"What do you care?" Methos demanded, a little breathless from the close call.
"We'll talk more later. You just make it back in one piece."
Methos glanced over quickly then did a double take as he realized his passenger was now gone.
"I wish he would quit doing that!"
Connor studied Richie carefully. He didn't like the insolent tone in the boy's voice. He had never heard it quite so strongly before. Richie could be a real smart aleck, but this was different. It was as though he truly meant what he had said. Richie had done nothing but trust he and Adam and seemed to be trusting Duncan.
"What do you mean, Richie? Present company included?" He knelt next to the boy.
Richie looked suddenly regretful. Connor could sense it was more regret that he had said it out loud, not just that he had said it to begin with.
"Well, of course, Connor. I wasn't thinking of you." This spoken with just enough hesitation to reveal the dishonesty of the statement.
"What's bothering you, Richie? Spit it out."
"Nothing. I'm fine. Really."
Connor initiated the fact-extracting stare down, both Richie and Adam hated so well. Richie began to squirm uncomfortably. When he found he could take no more, he backed up just a bit and pushed himself to his feet. Connor stood up also. "What's going on, Richie?"
"Nothing." Richie started to move past him, but Connor blocked his path. "You don't make a statement like that and expect me to let it go."
"What, now I can't think on my own?"
"Don't play games with me, Richie." Connor warned sternly.
"Damn it, Connor, leave me alone." Richie tried to push his way through but Connor grabbed him by the arms. Richie squirmed enough to know that Connor wasn't going to give in. Suddenly he found himself sitting on the side of the bed. Connor slowly let go of him.
Richie pouted for about ten seconds before Connor began to make guesses as to what the problem was. "Is this about me not telling you where Duncan was before?"
"Connor, this has nothing to do with anything. I'm just talking crazy, that's all."
"You've had another memory, haven't you?"
Richie stared at him helplessly. How did he do that? How could he just stare at someone and know what he was thinking? Before he could deny it, before he could even begin to start a defense, Connor was at it again.
"You remembered something about you and Duncan, didn't you. What was it? Which time was it? Come on, Richie, talk to me at least."
"Me or Duncan." Connor found it difficult to threaten those large, frightened blue eyes.
Richie practically grimaced, took a slow deep breath, and rubbed at his face. "It was like the dreams- sort of. It was more real. We were in a gym of sorts. I was practicing. He came in acting all weird. I trusted him. I could feel that, because I wasn't scared until he took a swing at me with his sword. He cut me. Then he was like a mad man. I asked him why? He said I was a smart little boy, I could figure it out. He kept toying with me, like a cat with a mouse. Then he had me down on my knees,- then suddenly he grabbed me and he kissed me on the head. It was weird, because if he wasn't killing me, it would have been funny. It was like I was used to him hugging- being friendly. There were all these crazy mixed up feelings. Was it a joke? Was he testing me? All these questions in my head. But more than anything, Connor, I was terrified. When he released me, I knew with out a doubt, he was going to kill me. There was nothing I could do. I was shaking. I was going to die and Mac was going to kill me. He had the sword in the air. Then there were gunshots- and he was dead. Joe had killed him." Richie sat there quietly, a far away distant look that disturbed Connor.
Connor pulled him to his feet, and into his arms. Richie accepted the hug without his usual reluctance. "I think you should talk with Duncan."
"No. He already told me about this. We've talked about it before."
"But then it was just a story about someone else. Now it's a memory, with all the fear, and the betrayal fresh in your heart. You need to talk. Let him tell you how he felt. What was going on in his mind."
"I don't know that I care." Richie hesitantly whispered.
"Of course you do." Connor gave him an encouraging little shake. They both looked up as they felt Duncan's presence grow even closer. "Come on, chin up. Get working."
Richie nodded and turned back to his painting just as Duncan entered the room.
"Hey, guys. I thought you'd be done with this room by now." Duncan looked around surveying the work. He also noticed the sudden coldness Richie regarded him with. "Well, your carefulness is paying off. This room looks wonderful. Adam's going to be really pleased when he comes back. Practically all that's left is the decorating now. I bet that takes him awhile."
"Ah, he'll have lots of fun. You should bring the girls back here, Richie."
"He said no college girls?"
"I didn't mean for that. I meant to see the place. Then when you all go shopping Saturday they might have some ideas."
"I have a hunch Adam has more exquisite tastes than the rest of us poor students can afford. You should have seen his place in Greece. Very nice. Very Greek or old or something."
"Oh, did I mention your raise?" Duncan acted as though he'd been mulling this idea over.
"My raise for what?" Richie shook his head, still not very friendly.
"Being my assistant."
"I don't do anything."
"Oh, really?" Duncan nodded as he looked around the room. "What haven't you helped me with since we came back from vacation? When you get this done, I've got some computer work for you. I've got to have my final syllabi ready by Monday and I'm not near ready."
"Yeah, okay," Richie nodded hesitantly.
Duncan reacted a bit nervously to Richie's tension. He ran a hand along the tight muscles in his neck. "Connor, may I see you for a minute? It's about business. Something we both have established stock in."
"Sure, lets go out here so we don't bore Richie." Connor knew this had nothing to do with stocks and investments of the monetary kind. Besides, Richie could use some time alone. "Richie, come up for lunch in about a half an hour."
"Yeah, sure." Richie went back to his painting.
Duncan waited until they were half way through the garden before he finally confessed his real problem. "I just got off the phone with Aaron. Methos did show up there. They talked briefly in the cemetery. He didn't think they made much progress."
"Well, at least they met. It's a start."
"There always is." Connor sighed stopping to in hale deeply from an unattended rose bush.
"Aaron said when he was headed back to his office, he turned back and noticed Methos was still in the cemetery. He went back to make sure everything was alright."
"Was it?" Connor toyed with one of the flowers.
"No. He's one hundred percent positive, Methos was carrying on a conversation with himself."
"Just wonderful." The older Immortal turned around in a full circle, thinking, contemplating. "What does he recommend?"
"Somehow we've got to get him to go back to Aaron. Or at least Angie."
Connor nodded, plucked the rose from the bush and finally spoke in a voice that couldn't deny his nearly five hundred years. "Then he'll go."
Richie was startled, from his deep reflections over the troubled memory he had experienced earlier, by the cawing sound of the evil crow that attacked him a few days previous. He slowly stood up and made his way into the living room. There sat the crow, perching on the half wall again.
"Great. You again. Look, I don't know what your problem is, but this is Adam's house now, so take your cawing, whiny feathers on out of here or you're going to be the first crow I behead."
The crow screeched even louder.
"Fine. Tell you what, you stay right there. I'll just go back and finish my work- or maybe grab my sword." Richie backed his way into the bedroom just as the crow took flight. He slammed the door shut and heard the crow splat against it. He took a few deep and calming breaths, then slowly opened the door expecting to find an unconscious bird. Nothing was there.
He shut the door back, just in case, and went back to his painting.
Adam looked uneasy as he entered the kitchen and found both Duncan and Connor staring at him. He stopped and glanced back at first one and then the other. Finally he let loose with an exaggerated groan. "Look! I went, see?" He held up the business card he knew would come in handy for something.
"In the study now." Duncan motioned toward the hall.
"You heard me. Let's go. We want to have a little chat."
"Look, whatever it is, I haven't had time to do it. Good or bad."
"Come on, Adam." Connor smiled. "We just want to talk."
"Talk?" Adam started to follow Connor. "Then why can't we talk in the kitchen?"
"Because this is a more serious conversation, and I don't think any of us want Richie barging in."
"How serious?" Adam looked back over his shoulder at Duncan.
"Intervention, type serious." Connor said sternly.
"Inter- " Adam's eyes widened, and he suddenly turned away, only to be grabbed firmly around the waist by Duncan.
"I don't think so." Duncan spun him around and shoved him into the study, where the door was immediately shut. "Pick a chair."
"I have a choice?" Adam bit sarcastically.
"No, you don't. Sit in that one." Duncan pointed to one chair, as Connor took a seat on the front of the desk.
Adam took the opposite seat and gave Duncan a defiant look. Duncan plucked him out of the chair by the back of his shirt and dropped him into the one he had designated. "Just to start this out right." Duncan grinned.
"Whatever makes you happy, MacLeod. So what is this little show of machismo about?"
"Your mental health." Connor leaned forward just slightly, feet on the floor, hands on the desk behind him. "Aaron just called."
"Who would expect him to honor doctor- patient confidentiality?"
"According to him, you haven't agreed to become his patient. We're still doing intervention and diagnosis."
"I see. And what does the evil doctor think is wrong with me? Wouldn't he have fit perfectly in Germany around 1940?"
"He was there, as a spy for the resistance. What does your imaginary friend think is wrong with you?" Connor shot back.
Adam stared worriedly at Connor.
"Aaron saw you talking with your friend."
"Aaron will tell you anything, Connor. Why do you all want me to be insane? I don't know what he saw, but I'm perfectly fine. "
"No, you're not." Duncan loomed over him. "I know it, Connor, Aaron, Richie, we've all seen you acting differently. You know me well enough to know that I am not going to let this go on. You have been too good of a friend to all of us, to expect us to sit by helplessly when you are having trouble."
"I can deal with my problems myself. Just let me be." Adam tried to get up, but Duncan pushed him back down.
"Oh, like you did, when I had the dark quickening? Or like you left Richie alone when he went catatonic? Not happening, Methos. Sorry. You are stuck with our help, whether you want it or not."
"Aaron wants to see you again. You name the place." Connor spoke gently but stern.
"Not happening. Unless, I get to kill him. Now that would be therapy." Adam smiled overly sweetly.
"Tell me something, Methos,?"
"Tell me something, Adam. Did Aaron treat you any worse than you treated Cassandra? Or any of the others?"
Both Duncan and Connor noticed the anger rise quickly in Adam. The younger looking immortal began to almost shake.
1220 BCE Eygpt
Running deeper into the village had not been one of his better ideas. The Immortal soldier would find him soon enough. There was no place he could hide. He was going to have to stand and fight. He pulled his sword, suddenly feeling the strength of his brothers, in the solid grip of the weapon. Kronos had taught him how to fight with this sword. He was as skilled as any Immortal and better than others were. True they spent most of their time and practice butchering helpless mortals, but Methos could nearly defeat both Caspian and Silas. Whenever Kronos thought Methos was losing strength or allowing his skills to suffer he pitted him against his larger brothers for additional training.
Methos knew he could never beat Kronos, and his teacher didn't really expect him to. Kronos had been fighting with one form of weapon or another since the beginning of time, or so he claimed. Methos had never seen anyone who could even come close to comparing to Kronos. Surely this Immortal could be defeated as easily as his other brothers could. He was a big man, but certainly not as big as Silas. Perhaps he was as tall, but not nearly as round in girth or muscles.
Somehow, as the strange Immortal filled the narrow pathway, he looked so much bigger than Silas.
"Put down the sword, boy. I won't hurt you unless you make me." The large fair man continued toward him, despite the warning Methos offered with the point of his sword.
"Then why are you chasing me? Why not let me go?"
"Because I have better uses for you." He smiled. "You decide how much pain is involved."
Methos lunged forward recklessly, and Aaron brought both fist wrapped around the hilt of his sword upward against his jaw, blinding him with unconsciousness.
"Adam, are you listening?" Connor looked curiously at Adam, who had suddenly gone into his own world.
"Yes, Adam, be sure to pay attention." Kronos whispered in his ear.
"Yes, of course." Methos whispered quietly, obviously to someone else, then shook out of his trance. "I'm sorry, what?"
Connor stared at him in disbelief. Duncan walked around a bit until he was fully in front of Adam. "Who's your friend, Adam?"
"I don't know what you're talking about. I'm sorry if I talk to myself, okay? I've been doing it for years, and I'm really surprised you've never noticed it before."
"Adam, you have spent days at a time with me, crashed on my couch. You rarely even talk in your sleep. I have never seen you carry on a conversation with yourself when you're fully awake. Who is it that you are talking too?"
"No one. I promise, I'm just talking to myself."
"Oh, why not tell them it's me? You know that would make MacLeod's day."
"No." Adam insisted.
"No, what, Adam?" Connor asked patiently.
"No. What?" Adam asked innocently.
"No, what did you say no for?"
"No? I don't know. No, I'm not crazy. No, I don't need a psychiatrist. No, I'm not going back to see Aaron."
Connor picked up the phone and a card lying on his desk.
"What are you doing?" Adam insisted as Connor dialed.
"Making your next appointment."
"I'm not going." Adam gripped the arms of the chair.
"This afternoon or in the morning?" Connor held one hand over the mouthpiece.
"Aaron, its Connor. Adam reluctantly agrees to see you. This afternoon still good?"
"You son of a bitch!"
"In an hour? You're sure?"
"Damn you, Connor."
"Well, you know how it is when you get on the phone. They start whining. Okay, we'll see you then. Thank you." Connor hung up the phone and looked at Adam sarcastically. "That was very rude."
"It gets worse." Adam warned.
"Do I need to medicate you now, or would you like to eat lunch?"
"I'm not taking any medications."
"I'm not giving you any. I'm talking about battle field anesthesia."
"I don't believe this." Adam shook his head. "Since when did becoming friends with someone give you the right to run their life? I'm not part of your stupid clan, you know? You can't tell me what to do. Did it ever occur to you that I'm 5,000 years old?"
"Five thousand, one hundred and twenty six." Kronos reminded him.
"Whatever." Methos shook his head in frustration.
"Whatever, what?" Duncan grinned sympathetically.
"I can't believe you are doing this to me! Do you have any idea what will happen, if the medical department gets hold of this? Do you think they're going to let a suspected nut case practice medicine in their hospitals?"
"No, one is going to find out. Aaron has agreed to keep this confidential. Your appointment will be at his house- on holy ground. Do you think that we are going to let you practice medicine if you don't work this out?"
Adam bit his lip and closed his eyes. He obviously understood if not finally agreed to that point. "What if I just see someone else?"
"Who, Adam? What other psychologist is going to understand what you've been through?"
"How about his wife, Angelique?"
"No go." Duncan shook his head. "You'll spend the whole time giving her reasons to hate him, which will only annoy her, not sway her."
"Hey, where is everybody?" Richie called out.
"In here, Rich!" Duncan called back.
"Does Richie know?"
"No. It's up to you to tell him what you want."
"Gee, thanks for that much." Adam gave them a snotty smirk.
"Okay, sport- spill it." Duncan washed one set of French windows as Richie worked quietly on the other. The gathering room of the cottage was finally coming together. Duncan was anxious to get back to work on the main house. Anxious to get Methos back on track and very anxious about this sudden mood swing of Richie's. Connor- the traitor- probably knew something about it and wasn't telling. After all, they had both been acting rather odd just before lunch. Maybe it had slipped his mind when Aaron had called about Methos.
"I'm sorry?" Richie looked over slightly, eyes downcast.
"What's wrong, Rich?"
"Nothing. I'm fine."
"No. A fine Richie is happy, smiling, and inquisitive. This Richie isn't working."
"I'm going as fast as I can." The eternal youth gritted through his teeth.
"No, sport. I meant, you act like you're broken. You aren't smiling, happy or ?"
"So? There are more sides to me, you know? Or would you just rather trade me in on a new model? I didn't realize quiet wasn't allowed." Richie kept working on the window.
The old Richie would have been dangerously in his face. Dangerously? Well, once he had started trusting MacLeod, he didn't fear their altercations. Then Duncan had blown it. He'd hurt him too many times. Demons be damned.
Duncan went to Richie, gently stopping his nervous hands and turning him to face him. Was that trembling he felt in his grip? Nothing hurt him deeper than that. Richie was terrified of him. He took the boys chin in his hand and forced him to look at him. "Now you look at me, and tell me what you remembered?"
"Nothing." Richie tried to look away. "Please, let go of me."
"Sure." But not before he patted his shoulders. "I'm not that guy anymore. You don't have to be afraid of me. Please talk to me about it?"
"I'm okay, MacLeod. Can we just drop it?"
"Sure." Duncan nodded slowly. His Richie hadn't called him MacLeod since the first week or so that he had come to live with him. MacLeod was reserved for others. Joe and even Amanda called him MacLeod. Methos alternated between MacLeod and Mac depending upon his mood. Mac was a special name for Richie to use, though there again Methos was using it, too. He didn't know how to explain it. Everyone agreed Richie was his surrogate son. It wasn't right for him to call him Duncan. It certainly wasn't right for him to call him MacLeod. Dad, father, pops, - out of the question given the circumstances. Had Richie came to him earlier they would have adopted him of course. Then maybe there would have been other alternatives. So Mac worked. Surrogate sons and young students called him Mac. So where did that leave Methos? As usual- in a class of his own.
Richie turned around and continued washing the windowpanes. The figure was there again, standing in the yard, head cocked to the side, watching him. For the briefest second, Richie almost thought he saw a face. Then suddenly the image was gone. He closed his eyes and tried to refocus.
Instead of the shadow man, as he had started to call him, he saw Duncan throwing him a tape measure. They were standing next to an old house, measuring a piece of plywood. Richie opened his eyes, and turned back to Duncan.
"You look like you saw a ghost."
"I did." Richie almost gasped. "Did we ever do this before?"
"What? Wash windows?"
"No. Like remodel an old house?"
Duncan smiled. "Yeah, Rich, we sure did. Did you remember something?"
"We were measuring plywood. I don't recognize the house."
"It was a house in the country. We remodeled it for a friend of mine. Do you remember me telling you who I was sending that doll to this summer?"
"A little girl? The daughter of a friend?"
"Yes. Did I ever tell you about them?" When Richie shook his head, Duncan continued. "Anne was the first woman, besides Amanda, of course, who I got serious about after Tessa. She's an ER doctor in Seattle. She had the misfortune of seeing me die. You tried to convince me to tell her the truth, but I wasn't ready to pull her that far into our world, considering what happened to Tessa. I left for Paris. You eventually came over, too, racing. You had an accident and died in public. You were going to have to leave town. Why I didn't go with you, I don't know. It would have been easier that way, if I had gone back to Seattle with you. Instead I had her come to Paris. Before you left town you were kidnapped. Needless to say, Anne found out real quick what it was like to live as an immortal family. She didn't care for it at all. I thought she would get on the plane with you, once we had you back safe and sound."
"I'm sorry. I blew it for you?"
"No, no not at all. She stayed a couple of weeks. Long enough to witness a quickening. Long enough to see the man she loved, the man she wanted to help her raise her child, kill someone. She decided kidnappings and quickenings weren't for her baby. Probably a wise choice." Duncan looked reflective for a moment then smiled.
"Anyway, when it came closer to the time the baby was to be born, I bought an old house and began remodeling it. I never told you why, but you were right there helping me everyday. I didn't know until later that you were hoping it was a home for us- or at least a place to come home to. You were quite happy being independent at the time."
Richie looked down at his feet. Was that why they were redoing this house. For him?
"So, after Mary was born- which in itself is another story- we gave Anne the house."
"She liked it?"
"Oh, yeah. She and Mary still live there. Sort of our extended family. Girls on one side of the country- guys on the other." Duncan grinned and finally got a small smirk out of Richie.
"Joe?" Duncan shouted back. "Joe, we're in here! I figured he would be showing up pretty soon."
"MacLeod, why are we redecorating this estate?"
"This one's for us, Richie, I promise." Duncan smiled and threw the cloth in the kid's face. He moved threateningly closer. "And if you call me MacLeod one more time, I am going to take you out to the pond and throw you in. Got it?"
"So, you want me to call you??"
"Mac, works fine. It has since we met. It has all summer. Not Duncan and certainly not MacLeod. Understand?"
"Yeah, sure." Richie started to go looking for Joe, but turned back when Duncan landed a smack on his backside. "What was that for?"
"Reinforcement." Duncan tried to remain stern.
Richie regarded him with an odd expression. "You're in a seriously weird mood."
Duncan raised an eyebrow. "I am?"
"Yeah." Richie turned into Joe. "Hey! Good to see you."
"You too kid." Joe gave him a quick hug, which Richie reluctantly returned. He still did not remember Joe at all, but had immediately liked the man when they met earlier in the summer. "MacLeod is always in a seriously weird mood."
"You got that right." Richie smirked. Don't Richie. Don't let MacLeod win you over so easily. You don't have any reason to trust him after what you remembered.
"MacLeod. Good to see you."
"So what is it this time? Bookstore? Blues Bar?"
"What's what?" Richie asked curiously.
"His cover as a watcher."
"Be nice MacLeod. I left you alone all summer."
"You're always welcome here, Joe. As a watcher or a friend."
"Well, I hope so. You may not mean that when you find out what I'm doing here."
"Watching me? Right?"
"Actually not just you."
"Oh, no." Duncan shook his head. "Somebody recognized Richie?"
"Yep. Sorry kid, but you're back in the chronicles."
"Great." Richie popped his gum. "Whatever that means."
"Can you keep him low profile?"
"Well that's up to him. As one of your current students he can stay out of the limelight pretty easily. Unlike the other one."
"Other what?" Duncan turned very serious.
"Other current student."
"And who would that be?"
"One Adam Pierson."
"Seems he's been spotted with you one too many times. For years he's been suspected as a pre-immortal because of your and Connor's interest in him. After that stunt he pulled this morning, he confirmed all their suspicions."
"What did he do?"
"Pulled a sword on Aaron Knight."
Duncan rubbed at the tense muscles in his neck, looking from Joe to Richie. Richie obviously didn't understand the significance of the conversation, though he was starting to figure it out.
"When I get my hands on him?"
"Get in line, MacLeod. I haven't spent all this time covering for the eternal little imp, for him to blow it like this."
Duncan grinned at Joe's choice of words. He had never seen Joe regard Adam as Methos. He would always be nothing more than a graduate student with a knack for getting them into trouble, in the old Watcher's eyes. Joe never failed to let the ancient forget that.
To Part Seven