Confidence

Mary Ellen

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DISCLAIMER : Joe Dawson, Duncan MacLeod and Methos belong to Davis-Panzer Productions. Richie Ryan used to belong to them. He belongs to his fans now. Fiona MacDonald belongs to me. All characters are free to return to their original owners, but they refuse to go, so I guess Iím stuck with them for now. Please do not repost this story without asking me first. Direct all comments to me.

Absolutely no permission is granted to use this story in whole or in part in another piece of writing.


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Duncan MacLeod sensed another Immortal enter the dojo. He glanced up, expecting to see Richie. The young Immortal had the day off but it wasnít unusual for him to stop in if he was nearby. Instead, he saw Fiona MacDonald smiling broadly at him.

"Fiona! When did you get into town?"

He was pleased to see her until he heard the freight elevator start on its way down from his loft. After kissing her briefly, Duncan tried to walk Fiona toward the door.

"Can we meet later somewhere?"

"If you want to," Fiona said slowly.

She could tell he was anxious for her to leave, so she was equally anxious to stay. When the freight elevator reached the dojo, Amanda stepped out. Sensing another Immortal, Fiona stopped and turned around.

"Amanda. How nice to see you again."

The sarcasm was not lost on Amanda. The last time the Immortal women had seen each other, Amanda was trying to steal some of Fionaís better jewelry. Fiona had been less than pleased to catch the other woman in the act and there had been a short sword fight before Amanda managed to flee with a few of her purloined trinkets. Amanda was now less than pleased to see Fiona in MacLeodís dojo. She knew there was a connection between them, but couldnít wheedle the details out of MacLeod. He could be infuriatingly close-mouthed when he wanted to be.

"Hello, Fiona. Itís been a long time," Amanda said as she walked over to Duncan and put her arms around him possessively. "What are you doing here?"

"Iím meeting Richie."

"Richie?," Duncan and Amanda said in unison.

Richie entered the dojo. He wasnít surprised to sense other Immortals inside. Duncan and Amanda were in the loft and he planned to meet Fiona. She had called him unexpectedly. All three Immortals standing in the dojo was not a good sign. He could feel the tension, which he could cut with a knife. He shook his head. To cut tension like this, you needed a sword. Amanda seemed to be trying to wrap herself around Mac like a boa constrictor. Mac had a stupid grin on his face.

Richie greeted everyone, hoping to change the mood of the others. Fiona smiled at him. Amanda tilted her head slightly.

"Isnít Richie a little young for you, Fiona?"

Fiona whirled around. Duncan winced. This was not going to be pleasant.

"Isnít Duncan a little young for you?"

"Whereís my sword?"

Amanda was running toward the elevator with Mac in pursuit. He caught her before she got to it.

"Let me go, MacLeod. I want her head. My swordís up in the loft."

"Richie, get Fiona out of here."

When Fiona laughed, it only seemed to make Amanda angrier. She was struggling in Duncanís arms, sputtering about her sword.

"Why donít we all meet at Joeís later?," Fiona asked.

"Bring your sword!," Amanda shouted as Fiona and Richie left the dojo.

As soon as the others left, Duncan let go of Amanda. She strolled away from him. He thought "miffed" described her mood perfectly.

"How dare she say that to me?"

"You just said the same thing to her!"

Amanda shrugged.

"Yes, but I meant it positively."

"Sure you did. Amanda, donít challenge Fiona like that. Sheís a much better fighter than you."

"Thanks, MacLeod. I can take care of myself."

Duncan returned to his paperwork. It needed to be done and watching Amanda sulk was getting him nowhere. A few moments later, Amanda slipped into the office and draped herself around him, whispering seductively. He whispered back that he had to finish what he was doing or she might have to get a job.

****

Tired from a whirlwind shopping spree with Fiona, Richie walked into Macís office and flopped into a chair. Mac looked up from his paperwork.

"Everything okay, Richie?"

"Fiona insisted on buying me some new clothes. When we went back to my place, she hated it. She wants to help me look for a new apartment."

"I hate your place, too, Richie."

Richie rolled his eyes.

"Thanks, Mac. I needed that. I like Fiona, but sheís driving me crazy."

"The one thing you have to remember about Fiona is that sheís a Chieftainís daughter. Sheís used to getting her way. Where is she now?"

"Back at her hotel."

MacLeod was relieved. At least she didnít expect to stay with him and she wasnít moving in with Richie. He didnít really want another confrontation between Amanda and Fiona. One a day -- or a century -- was more than enough.

"Were you or Amanda downtown today?"

"Nope. Why do you ask?"

"I thought I sensed one of us nearby. Not close enough to identify, but close enough to notice."

"What did Fiona say?"

"Nothing," Richie said with a shrug.

Amanda sauntered into the office. She was in a much better mood since MacLeod had treated her to an expensive lunch. She smiled at Richie.

"Fiona said to tell you to meet us at Joeís tonight about eight. I gotta get back to shower and change. She wants to take me out to dinner."

Amanda frowned at MacLeod. The last thing she wanted was to spend the evening with Fiona. He grinned at her. Amanda sighed. When he looked at her like that, she couldnít say no to him.

****

After leaving Richieís dingy apartment, Fiona had cruised around the city until she found a real estate agency that she liked the looks of. Going inside, she asked numerous questions about apartments in the area. The man behind the desk seemed disinterested. His female partner emerged from the back of the office. Throwing him an annoyed glance, the woman joined the conversation. Fiona soon focused her attention on the female agent.

The two women discussed various apartments. Fiona frowned. Richie would not be able to afford to rent any of them on his own and he would never allow her to help him with the rent. It might be amusing to suggest it. Duncanís reaction alone would be entertaining.

Fiona continued to ask questions about various properties. She examined the pictures presented by the other woman. They agreed to go look at some of the places the agent suggested. During their various stops, Fiona would get the vague sense of another Immortal. It was the same sensation she and Richie had noticed during their shopping expedition.

Finally, she saw him. For more than 10 years, she had hoped that someone had taken his head. Because they were in public, there was nothing she could do, so she ignored him. If James Hamilton wanted a confrontation, she would accommodate him as soon as the opportunity presented itself. She had no doubt she would be able to defeat him.

A question from the real estate agent snapped Fiona back to reality. The woman made a very interesting suggestion. Fiona agreed and the two women got back in the agentís car. Fiona shot a warning look at Hamilton. She did not want to see him again.

****

James Hamilton pulled up in front of the small hotel. They had booked rooms in this hotel to be inconspicuous. It had worked well. He was excited to have found Fiona MacDonald again. He couldnít wait to tell Carlotta. He finally had a chance for revenge. He went to Carlottaís room first to tell her his news. She seemed unimpressed.

"Forget it, James. Weíre after a more profitable target."

"I want her head."

"Stay clear of her. Youíll ruin everything."

James stormed out and returned to his own room. He would finish off Fiona MacDonald no matter what Carlotta said. He should have had her Quickening years ago. Once he accomplished that, he would be ready to continue following Carlottaís current plans.

****

Later that evening, Fiona picked Richie up at his place. She had told him to decide where he wanted to eat. He had pondered that question for a while before selecting an up-scale pizza place. He was happy to see she hadnít gotten dressed up. She was wearing jeans and a very pretty sweater with a metallic thread through the design. It almost felt like they were out on a date.

She loved the restaurant and the food. She asked him many questions about himself and his life with Mac. He answered her honestly, telling her things about his life on the road he had not even told his mentor. He finally found an opening to ask a question of his own.

"What do you do, Fiona?"

"Do?"

"Well, Macís got the dojo and I manage it for him. Do you have a job or something?"

"I write childrenís books."

Richie thought she was joking at first, but could tell from her expression that she was serious. Somehow he couldnít picture it. She began reciting titles to him. He remembered reading some of them as a kid. Many of them were still in bookstores. The name Fiona MacDonald did not appear on any of the books. Fiona shrugged when he asked about it.

"Usually, I just use a pseudonym. Sometimes I get a mortal friend to front for me. I split the proceeds with them and they make the public appearances."

After a brief argument about the check, which Fiona won, the two Immortals left the restaurant to meet the others at Joe Dawsonís bar. Fiona wanted to get there a little early to have some time to visit with the owner. She found him interesting even though the idea of the Watchers disturbed her.

****

When Amanda and Duncan arrived at Joeís, Fiona and Richie were already standing at the bar. Fiona had been reaching around and taking maraschino cherries when Joe wasnít looking. He would always just catch her putting it in her mouth. Joe knew she was flirting with him. She didnít expect anything more than flirting in return. Joe obliged. He had read her chronicles and was still trying to figure her out. The actual woman wasnít necessarily what the records suggested. Fiona was more fun than her chronicle implied.

Richie was talking to Fiona, oblivious to what was going on. Subtle as it was, Joe wondered how Richie could miss Fionaís flirting. The younger man might be Immortal, but in some regards he was still a kid.

The Immortals found a table and sat talking and drinking together. Joe stood behind the bar watching them. Alluringly dressed, Amanda made it quite obvious that she was with MacLeod. Fiona did not seem to notice or care. Unlike Amanda, Fiona was casually dressed. However, the difference in clothing styles between the two women didnít make Fiona less attractive. Joe couldnít honestly say he would turn down a date with either of them.

When he got a break from the bar, Joe joined the Immortals, placing a glass filled with cherries in front of Fiona. Smiling at him, she ate one immediately. Joe could tell from MacLeodís expression that the Highlander wondered what was going on between his Watcher and another Immortal.

Amanda also watched the exchange. Quickly assessing the situation, she pulled another chair up to the table and placed it next to her. Joe sat down. To make more room, MacLeod moved his chair closer to Fiona. Amanda was annoyed with herself. She had wanted to outdo Fiona by having Joe next to her, but she only succeeded in pushing MacLeod closer to the woman she considered a rival.

Fiona held a cherry out to MacLeod as if she expected him to eat it as she held it. Instead he took it from her. Fiona was neither surprised nor annoyed by Duncanís actions. She had only offered him the cherry to further exasperate Amanda. She was pleased to see how well it worked. Fiona realized she could now stir up more trouble.

"I found you a place to live, Richie."

From behind Fiona, Richie made a face at his mentor. Duncan saw the slight smile on Fionaís face. She had not been looking at Richie, but she sensed his reaction just the same. MacLeod shook his head.

"Fiona, you have to stop. Youíre spoiling Richie."

Fiona frowned. It was true she had bought some clothes for the young Immortal, but she had been teasing him about the T-shirt she had borrowed. It had been ruined when she was shot and temporarily killed by her former Watcher. When Richie admired some things in a store window, she suggested going inside. She insisted on buying some of the items he liked as well as a few she selected for him. The bill had been just under $200. It seemed like a huge amount to Richie. They had bought only practical clothes that went with Richieís existing wardrobe. She resisted the temptation to buy him a suit, although he needed one.

"Richie has to earn and save money like the rest of us. I had to do it, so did you."

"I married well, Richie," Fiona said, turning toward Richie. "I highly recommend it."

Laughing, Joe excused himself to go back behind the bar. Amanda was laughing as well. Duncan scowled at them.

"Itís true. Charles was wealthy. I managed to get land and money in my own name before he died. Of course, I got to keep my jewelry. Well, at least most of it," Fiona said, looking daggers at Amanda. Softly she added, "I still own some of that land."

"Fiona, be serious."

"I am serious, Duncan. There werenít many career opportunities for women in the 1700s."

Amanda nodded. She had never tried marriage herself, but she could see where it could work. Fiona might be brighter than Amanda originally thought. MacLeod frowned. Fiona was changing the subject.

"Fiona, you canít pay Richieís rent. Not even part of it."

"Pay his rent? Heíll be paying me rent. I bought a house this afternoon and I need a tenant. Same rent you pay now, Richie, but youíll be responsible for the minor repairs."

Duncan frowned. This amounted to the same thing as paying Richieís rent. Whatever money Richie could afford to give her would only pay part of the mortgage. Duncan glanced at the younger man. He seemed shell-shocked.

Joe watched the Immortals arguing at the table. They stopped suddenly and turned toward the door. A tall, thin man had entered the bar. The reaction from those at the table told Joe that he was another Immortal. Joe let his bartender wait on the newest customer, knowing that a Watcher was probably close behind. A few minutes later, another man came in and ordered a drink from Joe. Of course, Dawson had been right. They passed a few minutes discussing Watcher business in veiled terms.

Duncan watched the Immortal at the bar. He was openly staring at the occupants of the table. MacLeod glanced at the others.

"Anyone know him?"

Richie and Amanda shook their heads. Fiona remained silent. Duncan looked at her. He was certain she knew him. His suspicions were confirmed when the stranger approached their table. The man stood silently a moment as if deciding what to say. Fiona broke the silence.

"Leave now."

The iciness in her voice made Richie cringe. He couldnít believe this was the woman he had been joking and laughing with most of the day. He glanced at her. Her expression had hardened into an unreadable mask. He understood what Mac had said about Fiona being a Chieftainís daughter. She fully expected the man to leave.

The man stood hesitantly by the chair Joe had just occupied. He reached for it as if to pull the chair out for himself.

"I said you should leave now. I meant it. I suggest you escape before the bar empties out."

The man froze. He seemed more angry than frightened. Duncan stood up. Although the two Immortals were nearly the same height, MacLeod was slightly taller and much more muscular. The stranger frowned at him.

"I think you should listen to the lady. Be a good boy and run along now."

The man glanced at the others still seated at the table. His gaze finally settled on Fiona. Her expression never changed. Richie stood up slowly. If this Immortal had any ideas about coming at Fiona, he would have to get past either Richie or Duncan -- possibly both. It wouldnít be easy.

Amanda watched wide-eyed. To her, this type of confrontation was almost as exciting as good sex or a good heist. Almost.

Joe came out from behind the bar and walked toward the table. He didnít want the situation to turn into a fist fight.

"There a problem here?"

"No," MacLeod said, "he was just leaving."

After staring intently at Fiona for a moment, the stranger turned around and walked toward the door. As he was leaving, a large, noisy group got up. The unidentified Immortalís Watcher mixed in with the crowd and left the bar. Richie sat down again, playing nervously with his glass. Fiona smiled at him. Richie was amazed at the way her expression had warmed. When Duncan sat down, he glared at her.

"Who was that, Fiona?"

Joe watched as Fiona calmly ate another cherry, ignoring MacLeodís question. MacLeod frowned deeply at her.

"An old boyfriend, maybe?," Amanda offered.

Fiona shot her a withering glance. Amanda remained unwithered.

"His nameís James Hamilton."

Everyone at the table turned to look at Joe as he sat down. He could tell by the look in Fionaís eyes that she knew that information already. He tilted his head questioningly at her.

"Heís a liar and a thief," Fiona responded. "If we hadnít been in public, Iíd have taken his head."

Joe was amazed. That was not quite the reaction he expected from her. Duncan turned back in her direction. Fiona rarely spoke with such venom, but when she did, she meant every word. This time Fiona met his gaze. She sighed. She knew Duncan MacLeod would not leave her alone until she told him about James.

"He was my student."

Richie had been tipping his chair back. He now sat forward suddenly and the chair banged against the floor. Richie never thought about Fiona having a student. He wondered what kind of teacher she would be. Mac shot him an annoyed glance before asking Fiona to continue.

****

Shortly after the death of her husband Phillip, Fiona had come across James Hamilton. As a young Immortal whose teacher had been killed, he was badly in need of guidance. She had taken him in and began training him. Uncoordinated and lazy, he was a disappointing student.

About six months after James moved in with her, Connor returned. After Phillipís funeral, Connor promised to check on her and help her pack up the house she and Phillip had shared. As soon as Connor embraced her, Fiona began to cry. The loss of Phillip was still fresh. Connor took her into the living room to comfort her. He held her for a long time, allowing her to cry. She was exhausted when her crying came to an end. Connor suggested she go to bed.

Later, she was awakened by a loud argument. She found Connor and James fighting over a glass of scotch Connor had poured for himself. When James tried to convince her that Connor was stealing from her, she slapped James hard across the face. Connor pulled her back when she tried to slap James again. James retreated to his room, locking the door.

Later that night, James slipped into the room where Connor and Fiona were asleep. Fiona woke up to see James standing over her with his sword raised above his head. Before she could scream, Connor was out of bed, holding his sword between Fionaís neck and Jamesí weapon. Challenged, James fled.

Unable to go back to sleep, Fiona went to Jamesí room. She found many small, valuable items she had packed away hidden there. James had been removing things she would not miss. Connorís arrival must have seemed like an opportunity to cover his theft. Shortly after that incident, Connor had helped her move to her house on Holy Ground. Fiona had not seen James again until tonight.

****

Richie pondered Fionaís story. Although he originally met Duncan MacLeod during a foiled burglary, he could not imagine stealing anything from Mac, let alone trying to kill him while he slept. Across the table, MacLeod was thinking the same thing. The relationship between an Immortal student and teacher was based on trust. James had seriously betrayed that trust.

Richie frowned. Fiona had freely given him a key to her house on Holy Ground and told him if she was beheaded, the house was his. He suddenly saw her generosity as an enormous risk. She hardly knew him and yet she trusted him. He could have lured her off of Holy Ground, killed her and taken possession of the house. Of course, he would have both Highlanders after him. That was not a pleasant thought.

Her story about James Hamilton made him wonder why she trusted him. He wasnít used to the idea that someone would believe in him. He assumed it was his association with Mac.

"Carlotta," Amanda said suddenly.

She looked up to see everyone at the table looking at her with puzzled expressions. She smirked. She had information no one else knew.

"Of course. I thought the name was familiar. You were being set up, Fiona. He wasnít your student. You were his victim."

Joe went on to explain that Carlotta would have one of her students target a vulnerable, wealthy Immortal. Usually the Immortal had just lost a spouse or student. After gaining the Immortalís sympathy and confidence, they would steal as much as they could without the Immortal noticing. When that was no longer possible, the Immortal would be beheaded and the rest of his or her possessions taken.

Amanda pouted. Joe had ruined her moment. MacLeod could see the anger in Fionaís eyes. He hoped James Hamilton kept going until he was as far away from Fiona as he could get. If she saw him again, she would surely challenge him. MacLeod watched as she unconsciously formed her hands into fists. She had a wicked right. Duncan remembered being stunned by it once. He hoped never to relive the experience.

"Whoís this Carlotta?," Richie asked.

"Oh, just someone who got me killed . . . twice."

Duncan glanced at Amanda. She was just as angry as Fiona. This might not be a fun evening after all. Fiona fidgeted with the glass of cherries.

"I think Iíll head back to my hotel. Want a lift, Richie?"

"Come and stay at the loft, Fiona. It would be safer."

"No, it wouldnít," Amanda said quickly.

Duncan shot Amanda an annoyed look. She feigned innocence. Fiona was tempted to accept, if only to irk Amanda. Instead, she shook her head. She was in no mood to deal with Amandaís verbal barbs.

"Then Richie will stay with you."

"Me?"

Mac scowled at him. Richie sighed. The last thing he wanted to do was babysit a 400 year old woman. He agreed, if only to keep from having to listen to one of Macís lectures. When Fiona got up to leave, MacLeod grabbed her by the hand.

"Be careful."

She bent down and kissed him goodbye. Amanda frowned at MacLeod. It seemed to her the kiss lasted a little too long. He tried not to enjoy the feeling that the two women were competing for him. Fiona gave Joe a brief kiss while Richie said his good nights. Fionaís affection toward Joe surprised Amanda. She was not aware that the two knew each other that well.

MacLeod watched the two Immortals leave the bar. Fiona was making Richie laugh. She seemed unconcerned with the sudden appearance of a man who had tried to kill her. MacLeod was uneasy about the presence of James Hamilton, but short of running after them and insisting on staying with Fiona himself, there was nothing he could do.

The ride to Fionaís hotel was uneventful. Richie was surprised to find she had booked herself a suite at one of the finest hotels in the city. It was no wonder she hated his apartment. When they got to her room, Fiona seemed annoyed with herself.

"Do me a favor, Richie. I left one of my cases in the car. Please go down and get it for me."

She gave Richie the keys to the car and the room. On the way to the garage, Richie decided this might not be such a bad idea. The surroundings were luxurious and Fiona had been talking about watching some old movies on television. It sounded like fun to him.

As Richie opened the trunk of the car, he sensed another Immortal. He turned quickly. James Hamilton stood next to a black sedan smiling grimly. Richie shook his head. He did not want to fight this guy, but what he tried to do to Fiona made Richie angry. He was glad Mac had insisted that someone accompany Fiona. This must be the Immortal they had sensed while shopping earlier in the day. He had shown up at Joe Dawsonís place and at the hotel. There was a strong possibility he was stalking Fiona.

"Are you Fionaís student?"

Richie didnít bother to answer the question. He wanted to get Fionaís bag and go back to the room. He wished the guy would just go away and leave all of them alone. Instead, Hamilton took a few steps toward Richie.

"Her lover?," Hamilton asked with a sneer.

"Look, buddy, whatís your problem?"

"I donít know what room sheís in and I donít have a key. I only have this."

Hamilton drew his sword from beneath his coat. Richie responded quickly. Hamilton fought better than Fiona had described. He managed to stab Richie in the stomach and back. Wounded, Richie fought back. MacLeod had trained him well. Richie was able to adjust his thinking the way Mac taught him. He went on the offensive, driving Hamilton back toward the black sedan.

Hamilton lunged at his opponent. Richie felt the sharpness of Hamiltonís blade against his side. He could feel blood seeping from the wound. Fiona was right when she said Hamilton was uncoordinated. It was his downfall. The thrust at Richie left him off-balance and he nearly fell. Richie saw the opening and slashed at James. His momentum and the attack brought James Hamilton to his knees. Richie didnít hesitate to kill his adversary.

As the Quickening subsided, Richie sensed another Immortal. He groaned, remembering what Amanda and Joe had said about an Immortal named Carlotta. She had something to do with James Hamilton. The last thing he needed was another fight.

"Richie, are you okay? I was worried when you didnít come back."

Glad to hear Fionaís voice, Richie nodded. Rushing to his side, she helped him to his feet. She fingered the bloody cuts in his clothes.

"I seemed to be very bad for your wardrobe."

Richie smiled tiredly. A small flash of blue lightening moved across one of his wounds. Richie could see the concern in Fionaís eyes.

"Iím fine. Heís not."

Fiona glanced at James Hamiltonís body. He had finally gotten what he deserved. She was only sorry Richie had to be involved. Searching Hamiltonís pockets, Fiona found car keys. Richie pointed out the black sedan. When Fiona discovered that the keys fit the sedan, Richie helped her put Hamiltonís body into the trunk of his car. They would deal with it at some other time. If they were lucky, the body would disintegrate before long.

Back in Fionaís room, Richie couldnít understand the fuss she was making over him. Although the Quickening had been fairly strong, he felt fine. His wounds had nearly healed.

"Tomorrow, weíll go see the house. I think youíll like it."

"I donít know, Fiona. Maybe itís not such a good idea. I can stay where I am."

Fiona studied Richie a moment. He was obviously Duncanís student. He had Duncanís sense of self-reliance. She could understand that. She was independent herself, but you also had to learn when to accept help from others. Living 400 years had taught her that. Connor and Duncan had both helped her. So had countless others, both mortal and Immortal.

When Fiona smiled at him, Richie couldnít help but think she looked sad.

"Richie, I canít live on Holy Ground forever. I bought the house so I would have somewhere else to go. In the meantime, Iíd like you to live there."

Richie tried to think of ways to argue with her about the house. She refuted him consistently. It occurred to Richie that he had discovered the basic difference between Fiona and Amanda. Once she decided something, Amanda would instantly reject any argument against it. Fiona would consider the suggestion a moment before disqualifying it.

He did manage to argue with her about which of them was going to sleep in the bedroom. She insisted he take it to recover from the Quickeningís draining aftereffects. There was a perfectly comfortable couch in the other room. Richie was quickly discovering that it was easier to agree with Fiona than resist her.

****

After breakfast the next morning, Fiona dropped Richie at his apartment to get ready for work. Trying to cover Richieís torn, bloody clothing for the trip had been interesting. The two of them had been laughing so hard, Richie would have to hurry to keep from being late. Before he went upstairs, they arranged to meet at Joeís later in the day. Fiona wanted to take him to see the house she had bought.

She suggested that he invite MacLeod and Amanda along. Although he agreed to tell them of the plans, he doubted Amanda would want to come. She would probably try to keep Mac from seeing Fiona again so soon.

Richie opened the dojo as usual. When Mac came down from the loft, Richie filled him in on the events of the previous evening. MacLeod was glad he had insisted that Richie accompany Fiona to her hotel. He had suspected that Hamilton might try to finish what he had started during his time with Fiona. If Amanda wasnít around, he would have insisted that Fiona stay with him.

Richie watched Mac work very hard to convince Amanda to come with them. She only relented when he made it clear he would go with or without her.

Because of MacLeodís attitude, Amanda decided she had to get to the bottom of his relationship with Fiona. He had the nerve to invite the woman to stay with them in the loft. When that didnít work, he had insisted that Richie go with her. There was more there than met the eye and sweet, little Richie seemed to know about the relationship. If the woman had come all this way to visit Richie, they must know each other fairly well. Given the opportunity, Amanda knew she could coax him to tell her anything she wanted to know.

Later that afternoon, MacLeod was alone. He had sent Richie and Amanda ahead to meet Fiona at Joe Dawsonís while he stayed at the dojo to close up. He promised to catch up with them later either at Joeís or at Fionaís new house. MacLeod knew that when Fiona didnít see him, she would call the dojo and give him directions. He was glad Fiona liked Richie, but wondered why she seemed intent on spoiling him as if he were a child.

****

Amanda and Richie entered Joe Dawsonís bar. The bar was much busier than usual given the time of day. Joe seemed swamped. They sensed another Immortalís presence, but could not see Fiona. They finally spotted her behind the bar serving drinks and chatting easily with the customers. She grinned at the new arrivals. When she whispered something to Joe, he glanced in their direction.

Amanda made herself comfortable at a table while Richie went to the bar to get their drinks. Just as Amanda had hoped, Fiona waited on him. She had purposely asked for an exotic concoction in an attempt to perplex Fiona. She failed. Fiona mixed the drink perfectly. Richie saw Joe watching her with undisguised admiration.

Mike, Joeís usual bartender, burst into the bar. He was two hours late for work because of car trouble. Joe grumbled at him. Fionaís unexpected expertise had saved Joe from an impossible situation. Dawson gave Fiona a drink and told her to join the others at the table.

When the bar calmed down a little, Joe took a break and came over to talk to Fiona. She grinned at him.

"You saved my bacon, lady. Howíd you know how to do all that?"

"Iíve done lots of things. Barmaid was only one of them."

Richie stared at her in awe. He would have never guessed that a woman who wrote childrenís books could tend bar.

Fiona smiled at Richie. It occurred to her that he should learn bartending. He could always make money that way and most bar owners didnít bother with background checks. She had managed that way over the centuries when she was between other careers.

"Any time you want a job, just come see me."

"Iíll keep it in mind," Fiona said with a wink.

Richie wondered how the Watchers would react to one of their own hiring an Immortal to work for him. Joe was already under suspicion for his friendship with Mac. An open involvement with Fiona might jeopardize his position further. Fiona whispered something to Joe. He laughed.

When another group of customers entered the bar, Joe had to go back to work. Joe kissed Fionaís hand before leaving the table. After a phone call to MacLeod, the Immortals headed for Fionaís new house, planning to return to the bar later.

Richie was surprised when Fiona pulled up in front of a two-family house. The house needed some work before he could move in. Fiona let them in, explaining that the downstairs was Richieís apartment. She would fix the upstairs for herself later. Richie thought he could handle most of it if Mac helped him. It might be fun for the two men to fix the upstairs for her as a surprise.

When Fiona went back outside to get some things from her car, Amanda stayed with Richie, hoping to persuade him to tell her about MacLeodís relationship with Fiona. The young Immortal had to know about the two and she wanted all the information she could get. He had wandered off and Amanda went looking for him.

Richie was standing in the room which would become his bedroom, imagining how he would like it to look. He was leaning toward the same shade of blue as the room he stayed in at Fionaís. He liked the color. It reminded him of one of the few happy times during his childhood. Like all the others, it had been temporary. Everything he associated with Fiona seemed much more permanent. He didnít quite trust the feeling yet, but he wanted to.

Lost in thought, Richie didnít notice that Amanda was suddenly standing very close to him. When he looked at her, she wrinkled her nose. Richie wished Fiona would come back. Although he didnít think it possible, Amanda moved closer.

"Richard, what do you think of Fiona?," she purred.

Richie braced himself. Amanda was up to something and he had very few defenses against her. She put her arm around his shoulders. Richie felt his pulse quicken. His few defenses abandoned him. Amanda made him very nervous when she behaved this way. He attempted a smile. Maybe if he said something she would stop.

"I like Fiona. Sheís . . . fun."

"Does MacLeod thinks sheís fun?"

Richie gulped. He tried to answer evasively. Amanda persisted, running her hand across his chest. He really didnít want to tell her about the time they had spent at Fionaís house. With Amandaís lips only inches from his ear, Richie was dangerously close to telling her anything she might want to know.

"And you said Richie was too young for me."

Amanda turned around quickly. Fiona and MacLeod stood in the doorway. Amanda wondered just how much they had heard and seen. Neither of them looked pleased. MacLeod appeared angry, but Amanda could handle him. Fiona seemed merely annoyed.

Richie was relieved that the two other Immortals had saved him from Amandaís questions until Fiona stepped into the room. He had seen that look on her face before. It meant trouble. Fiona eyed Amanda coolly. She disliked the way the woman was trying to manipulate Richie.

"If you had a question about me, why didnít you ask me?"

Amanda smiled sweetly. She had to figure a way out of this. Richie hadnít told her anything and she should be able to convince everyone of that. Nothing happened, so it didnít matter. She moved away from Richie. The young Immortal sighed with relief.

"Forget it, Fiona. Letís see the rest of the house," MacLeod said with forced cheerfulness, gesturing to Amanda to keep quiet.

Fiona glanced at him as if anything he said was unimportant. He smiled at her. She ignored him. When she looked away, he tried to get Richieís attention. Together they might be able to keep the situation from deteriorating further. Richie knew Mac was probably thinking the same thing he was thinking, but he didnít have a clue how to stop what was happening.

Fiona turned her attention back to Amanda. Fiona folded her arms firmly across her chest. Richie recognized the gesture. It was not a good sign.

"Not that I would tell you anything. I owe no explanations to a thief. When you stole my jewelry, you couldnít even tell the good pieces from the cheap stuff."

"She stole from you?," MacLeod asked.

He glared at Amanda. She was ignoring him just as Fiona had. The two women were completely focused on each other.

"Now just a minute. Iím a very good thief. One of the best," Amanda said angrily.

"Ha!"

MacLeod stepped between them. He smiled at both of them.

"Ladies, letís just forget all this and go back to Joeís."

"Stay out of my way, MacLeod," Amanda shouted, pulling her sword. "Sheís mine."

When Fiona drew her sword, Mac looked helplessly at Richie. Richie looked from one woman to the other. If nothing Mac said made a difference, what could he do?

"Címon. Put your swords away. Thereís no need for this."

"Donít interfere, Richie," Fiona said as Amanda started toward her.

Fiona had only expected a hair-pulling match with Amanda, but she would not back down from a challenge. She didnít mind the sniping. She almost expected it. It was obvious both women had a relationship with Duncan and jealousy had to be expected. Using Richie was another matter entirely. That was something she could not allow.

Richie backed away from them as their swords clashed, feeling as if he were responsible for the fight. He looked at Mac expectantly. The elder man made a gesture indicating helplessness. Richie frowned. He didnít want to watch this fight.

Fiona drove Amanda backward across the room. Amanda fought back, but quickly discovered that MacLeod had been right. She had badly underestimated her adversary. Fiona was an aggressive fighter. She fought like MacLeod only not as smooth and polished. Amanda wished the house was already furnished. She could use something to distract Fiona. Or at least something to hide behind.

Richie watched the two women fighting. He cared about each of them too much to see one of them killed.

"Hey, Iím supposed to live here."

Richieís statement startled the two opponents. They looked at each other over crossed swords.

"Beheadings are so messy," Amanda observed.

"A Quickening can do a lot of damage," Fiona agreed.

The women lowered their blades. MacLeod took the opportunity to step between them, focusing his attention on Amanda. Fiona poked MacLeod with her sword from behind. It made him jump and Amanda giggle. Winking at Amanda, Fiona took Richie by the arm and started to leave the room.

"Richie told me what happened last night."

Fiona shrugged in response to Duncanís statement. Richie had been challenged and won. It had very little to do with her. If Richie had not been there, she would have handled the situation herself. She was grateful to Richie, but did not feel it warranted further discussion with Duncan. MacLeod didnít agree.

"Youíve got to be more careful, Fiona. Richie could have been killed."

"Heís one of us, Duncan. He can be challenged and killed at any time."

Duncan frowned. Fiona seemed to be missing the point. She led Richie from the room to show him the rest of the house. MacLeod and Amanda tagged along behind them. At every opportunity, MacLeod scolded Amanda for her behavior with Richie while trying not to let the others hear him.

****

When they finished touring the house, the group returned to Joeís. Once again, the bar was busy. Without hesitation, Fiona joined the men behind the bar and began waiting on customers. Joe looked relieved. The other Immortals found a table filled with glasses. Richie and Duncan began clearing it off. Standing behind the bar, Fiona accepted the empty glasses and bottles from them. She handed Richie a tray of drinks to take back with him.

After delivering the drinks, Richie took a gulp of his before heading toward another dirty table. He used the tray Fiona had given him to return the tableís contents back to the bar. Joe was shaking his head in disbelief at the extra help the Immortals were giving him.

MacLeod watched Fiona behind the bar. Over 250 years earlier, he wandered into a pub and met her unexpectedly. She was a saucy barmaid and stole his heart all over again. He eventually convinced her to move in with him. He grinned. All his memories from those days were happy ones.

Entering the bar, Methos immediately sensed another Immortal. He saw MacLeod and Amanda sitting at a table. They were looking towards the bar. He started in their direction, glancing at the bar. Richie stood there talking to someone. Methos headed for the bar. Fiona was behind it serving drinks and joking with Richie.

"Well, well, looks like Joe finally hired someone attractive."

"I donít work here, Adam. Iím doing a favor for a friend."

Dawson wondered about being referred to as Fionaís friend. He didnít think they knew each other well enough to be friends, but felt honored by her acceptance. He winked at her. She winked back.

Methos wondered what he had to do to get a response like that from Fiona. He thought ordering a beer would be a good start. Fiona served him, still joking with Richie. The young Immortal laughed. Methos felt strangely jealous.

"Stop drooling. Youíre getting my bar all wet."

Methos turned to see Dawsonís grinning face.

"That obvious?"

"Oh, yeah."

Methos wondered if Fiona noticed it. She didnít seem to, but he couldnít tell. She was busy serving drinks and chatting with customers. Occasionally, Richie would leave the bar and return with empty glasses and bottles. Fiona would take them from him and then trade barbs with him.

Eventually, Joe insisted that Fiona get herself a drink and go back to the others. He also chased Richie away from the bar. The two Immortals laughed as they returned to the table. Fiona surprised the two men by sitting next to Amanda. Fiona whispered something to the other woman. Amanda looked at MacLeod and laughed. She whispered something in response. Fiona smiled. MacLeod thought it might be better for him if they were still crossing swords.

The crowd seemed to settle down just in time for Joe and his band to take the stage. He was bone-tired, but once he started playing, all the tiredness fell away and he felt more alive than he had all day. He watched MacLeod get up and start dancing with Amanda. Methos instantly made his way to the table. He spoke earnestly to Fiona. She finally relented and got up to dance with him. Joe watched their movements. There was something undeniably sensual about the couple, but something seemed to be missing. Dawson couldnít put his finger on it.

MacLeod was also watching the other couple dancing. He had seen Fiona dance with Connor many times. Her movements were much more fluid somehow. Her body language seemed wrong now. He couldnít explain why he thought that. It was simply true.

When the song ended, both couples returned to the table. Methos pulled up an extra chair, placing it between the two women.

Dawsonís band started playing again. Dawson saw Fiona trying to get Richie out of his chair. The young Immortal finally relented. They danced for a few moments. MacLeod thought Fiona looked more relaxed dancing with Richie. The couple started laughing and acting silly on the dance floor. When they started laughing too hard to dance, they returned to the table.

It seemed to Dawson that the Immortals applauded louder than anyone else in the place when he came off the small stage. Methos went to the bar to get himself another drink. He stopped briefly to speak to Joe. When he returned to the table, Fiona was gone. He asked Richie about her. The younger man shrugged.

"She said she was tired and wanted to go back to her hotel."

Methos frowned. He had been enjoying her company and was hoping to lure her away from the group.

"Whereís she staying?"

MacLeod shook his head at Richie.

"If she wanted you to know, Methos, you would know."

****

Fiona drove back to her hotel thinking about the sudden appearance of Adam Pierson and his insistence on dancing with her. She had to get away from the man to think. He was moving much too fast while she was content to stand still. She didnít want to hurt him, but she couldnít get involved with a man she didnít trust.

When Fiona arrived at the hotel, Hamiltonís car was gone. She had nearly forgotten about it. She wondered when Richie had the time to move the vehicle. She must remember to ask the young Immortal about it the next time she saw him.

****

The next afternoon, Fiona arrived at the dojo looking for Richie. She found him in the middle of working out. He glanced at her, but didnít stop. She was reminded of the first time she saw him. He had not stopped his workout despite sensing her approach. She had been so frightened at the time that all she could think about was seeing Duncan. She realized later what a chance the boy had taken.

She watched Richie. Duncan had said she fought like Connor. She could see Duncanís touch in Richieís movements. When Richie finished, he grinned at her.

"Duncanís taught you well."

Richie shrugged. Mac was tough on him. Richie understood why. His life depended on it.

"What did you do with Jamesí car?"

"Car? Nothing. I havenít been back to the hotel since you dropped me off at my place."

Fiona frowned. Something was very wrong. Joe and Amanda had mentioned that James Hamilton had an accomplice. The woman might be looking for Richie. She would speak to Duncan. The young Immortal should not be left alone. Richie would not like the idea. He could stay at the hotel with her for now.

Richie started gathering his stuff. He had intended to go back to his place to shower, but with Fiona here, he thought he might use Macís shower. Mac and Amanda had gone out somewhere and the loft was empty. Richie invited Fiona upstairs to wait for him.

Up in the loft, Fiona helped herself to a glass of wine. She sat on the couch to wait and turned on the television. Sensing another Immortal, she watched the freight elevator rising into the loft. She could see Duncan through the slats. He seemed confused to see her in his apartment until she explained about Richie taking a shower. MacLeod poured himself some wine and joined her. She told him about the missing car. He frowned.

"You think Richieís in danger."

"Itís a possibility, Duncan. I think he should stay with me at the hotel for now."

"Heís an Immortal. We canít protect him."

Richie came into the room and got himself a bottle of water from the refrigerator. He could tell the elder Immortals had been talking about him. He frowned. He got the feeling he wasnít going to like what they had to say.

Richie sat down opposite the two elder Immortals. He shook his head when Fiona finished expressing her concerns. He was right. He didnít want to be constantly stuck with one of them.

Amanda returned to the loft to find Richie in the midst of an argument with MacLeod and Fiona. More correctly, the three of them were involved in a shouting match. From what she could make out, Fiona and Richie were yelling at each other and MacLeod was bellowing at both of them.

Managing to make herself heard over the others, Amanda demanded to know what was going on. MacLeod and Richie stared sullenly at each other. Fiona gestured toward the kitchen area. Amanda joined her there.

"Whatís that about?"

Fiona decided to ignore the accusatory tone in Amandaís voice. This was not a time for them to start bickering. As she poured herself more wine, Fiona told Amanda about the disappearance of James Hamiltonís car from the hotel garage. Amanda suddenly seemed angrier than Richie had been. Fiona wondered if she needed her sword.

"Richie, youíre staying with me."

The two men riveted their attention on Amanda. Richie thought she was starting to sound like Fiona.

"Either Hamilton had a friend or Carlottaís here. Iíll deal with her."

Richie angrily gathered up his things. He resented being treated like a kid. So what if he wasnít centuries old? He could take care of himself. Heíd been doing it a long time. He headed toward the elevator only to come face to face with Fiona. She put her hand on his chest to stop him.

"Iím going home," he said impatiently. "I have my sword."

"Aye, lad, you have your sword."

Richie fidgeted. Like Mac, Fionaís speech was sometimes colored by the accent of her homeland. Fiona stared at the sullen boy until he met her gaze. She smiled at him. She felt him relax slightly.

"Richie, you said you were going out to the house with me today."

Richie stepped back from her.

"Sorry."

"I know, Richie, I know. Do you want to ride with me or take your bike?"

"Iíll take my bike."

Fiona nodded. She could understand why he would want his own vehicle after being berated by everyone around him.

"Youíll have to take me for a ride sometime."

Richie smiled. He would take her with him whenever she wanted. She would probably enjoy the ride. Fiona paused and looked at Amanda.

"Want to come with us, Amanda?"

"Iíll just get my sword."

MacLeod frowned. Heíd be stuck closing up the dojo again. Shortly after the others left, he sensed another Immortal in the dojo. Wondering if one of them had returned for some reason, MacLeod headed down to the dojo. On impulse, he grabbed his katana before stepping into the elevator.

MacLeod stepped out into the dojo carefully. Although he could still sense the presence of another, he didnít see anyone.

"I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," he announced, holding the katana defensively in front of him.

He took a few tentative steps. An attractive, well-dressed woman stepped out of the shadows. She looked him up and down. He was good-looking, but not the right type to replace James. Besides, she had other things on her mind.

"Iím looking for Fiona MacDonald. I was told I might find her here."

MacLeod shook his head, watching her carefully. The woman glanced around the dojo. He wasnít about to tell her where the others had gone.

"You must be Carlotta."

Surprised, she looked at him again. He lowered his sword slightly. This was James Hamiltonís partner.

"She killed someone I . . . cared about. Where is she?"

"How do you know she killed Hamilton?"

The woman frowned. This Duncan MacLeod knew too much. James had called her and said he had seen Fiona MacDonald with three other Immortals. He must be one of them. It was possible he had been Jamesí opponent. This was only one of the places James had followed Fiona MacDonald to. There was a house the woman had apparently bought, the hotel she was staying at and a bar. Carlotta had found Jamesí car in the hotelís garage, but didnít want to confront the other woman there. She would pick the time and place of Fiona MacDonaldís beheading.

Drawing her sword, Carlotta engaged a reluctant MacLeod. He never liked fighting women. It went against everything he believed. He was hoping to convince her he had killed James and discourage her from pursuing Fiona.

Finding MacLeod to be a strong adversary, Carlotta decided to make a quick exit. She fled out the door of the dojo. She would search out the MacDonald woman first and consider finishing this fight another time.

MacLeod watched her retreat to her car. Not wanting to prolong the fight, he didnít follow her. He wondered how much she knew about Fiona. MacLeod decided to close up the dojo before anyone came in to workout, so he could catch up with the others before Carlotta found them. He could at least warn them of her search for Fiona. He was glad she didnít know about Richieís involvement. She was a strong fighter and if Richie hesitated, she would kill him.

The phone rang. Cursing to himself, MacLeod answered it. It was Joe Dawson, reporting that Carlotta had been sighted in the city. MacLeod told him that she had been at the dojo and he was on his way to meet the others. He hung up quickly. The phone rang again. Hoping that it would be someone calling from a phone near Fionaís new house, MacLeod answered it again. Methos wanted to know if they were going to Joeís later. He tried to get rid of the man, but it wasnít easy. Finally, he hung up the phone and rushed out the door. He had to get to the house.

****

Sensing another Immortal, Richie glanced out the window. Fiona had gone to get drinks and snacks for them. The car and its female driver were unfamiliar to the young Immortal.

"Amanda," he called.

Amanda joined him in time to see Carlotta stroll through the front door. Carlotta didnít even look in the womanís direction. She was more interested in the male Immortal. Young and attractive, he might be an excellent replacement for James. She was certain he could make himself appear distraught and helpless.

"Iím looking for Fiona MacDonald," she said smiling at Richie.

The way she said Fionaís name made Richieís skin crawl. He backed away from her slightly. He didnít think she would challenge him, but he was close enough to the window to get away if she did. His bike wasnít that far from where he stood. He could see it. Suddenly, Amanda stepped between them.

"Hello, Carlotta. Remember me?"

Carlotta frowned. She had barely looked at the woman. Long ago, Carlotta and Amanda had been partners in crime. Amanda was a talented thief and burglar, but had been stupid enough to get herself killed and then blame Carlotta for it. Carlotta waved her hand dismissively. Amanda drew her sword.

"Letís go outside, Carlotta."

Carlotta shook her head. She had no interest in Amanda. She would take the MacDonald womanís head and then try to coax the attractive young man to join her in her next escapade. He didnít look as if he had any ready cash. She thought he might like the money and the easy Quickenings.

"Youíve been challenged. Outside. Now."

Amanda moved toward Carlotta. Drawing her sword, Carlotta backed out the door. Once outside, the two women began to fight. Grabbing his own weapon, Richie ran after them. He didnít know if he could bring himself to behead Carlotta, but he didnít trust her and wanted to be prepared to defend himself.

As she pulled into the driveway, Fiona heard the clash of swords. Worried for Richie, she immediately got out of the car. When she looked up, Richie was running toward her excitedly. She listened to his explanation as they walked around to the other side of the house to watch the continuing battle.

From experience, Fiona knew Amanda was good with a sword. Careful not to distract the competitors, Richie and Fiona turned the corner. They watched the fight tensely. Carlotta seemed to be competent as well, but Carlotta had been preying on defenseless Immortals for too long and appeared to be losing. She picked up the pace of her fighting, backing Amanda toward the spectators.

The lightning started as Duncan MacLeod turned the corner. In the driveway, he saw Richieís bike and Fionaís car. Parking the Thunderbird quickly, MacLeod pulled his sword from beneath the front seat. If Carlotta had taken the trioís Quickenings, he would forget his principles and kill her.

Coming around the corner of the house, MacLeod saw Amanda kneeling on the ground. Fiona and Richie were helping her up. He ran to help her. She smiled at him as he caught her up in his arms.

"I donít know about anyone else, but I need a drink," Fiona said.

The others agreed. MacLeod insisted that Amanda ride with him. Alone in her car, Fiona thought it might be time to return to Holy Ground.

****

The subdued group of Immortals returned to Joeís bar. Joe was relieved to see them. After talking to MacLeod, he received word that Carlotta had been seen in another part of town. Joe thought it might be where Fionaís house was located. Everything he had been told was vague. Heíd been worried about his friends. Carlotta had a nasty reputation.

Methos who had been hanging around the bar joined them at a table. Fiona barely glanced at him when he sat down. He knew as much as Joe did about the events of the evening.

Joe brought over a glass of cherries for Fiona. She smiled at him. It seemed to restore her usual behavior and she began teasing Richie. The mood at the table lightened.

"Anyone going to tell us what happened?"

Fiona looked at Adam appraisingly.

"As a friend or a Watcher?"

"Canít I be both?"

Fiona frowned. Amanda told the two men about her encounter with Carlotta at Fionaís house. Joe wondered how her account would match up with Watcher reports. It was Amandaís turn to frown when MacLeod took Fionaís hand.

"Youíre thinking about going home, arenít you?"

Fiona nodded, wondering if Duncan could read her as well as she could read him. She noticed a change in Adamís expression. He seemed unhappy with the mention of her departure.

"Itís time," she said simply.

Duncan squeezed her hand in agreement. There had been enough excitement for one visit.

To Part Four, "Wounded".

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