Heart's Desire

Mary Ellen

Email me!

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.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"So, whereíre we goiní, Mac?"

Duncan finished putting his luggage in the trunk of his car before turning to face his friend and student, Richie. The younger Immortal had been in a deep funk since being unceremoniously dumped by his latest girlfriend and Duncan decided to include him in his Christmas plans.

"Itís a surprise. Just follow me, Richie."

"But youíve closed the dojo and havenít said anything about where weíre going."

"Richie, --"

"I know, I know. Just follow you."

Duncan got into the car. He had tried to convince Richie to leave his bike behind, but the young man insisted on having his own wheels. When he heard Richie start up his bike, they pulled away together. Just after dark, Duncan drove into a motel parking lot. Richie pulled up next to him.

"Weíre stopping?"

"For the night."

"Youíre still not going to tell me where weíre going, are you?"

Laughing, Duncan shook his head before going into the rental office and getting them a room. They checked out the next morning and had a leisurely breakfast before hitting the road again. That afternoon, Richie sensed another Immortal. He was certain it wasnít MacLeod in the car in front of him. He saw no reaction from MacLeod, but the sensation made Richie uncomfortable.

After Mac turned off onto a side road, Richie stopped his bike and looked around carefully. Although he could still sense someone nearby, he didnít see anyone. Richie decided heíd better catch up with Mac. Whoever was out there was laying low.

****

Harris Waverly crawled out of his hiding place to watch the vehicles that had just past him. The drivers were definitely Immortal. He knew they had sensed him because he had sensed them. It puzzled him that only one of them stopped and did not look for him, but it was better this way. He wanted Fiona MacDonaldís head badly. He wanted Connor MacLeodís head even more. He was certain that neither of the Immortals who had just driven by was MacLeod. Harris and Cassie Waverly had been married for over two centuries. It had been nearly a hundred years since Connor MacLeod had taken Cassieís Quickening.

Harris had not been able to catch up with the elusive MacLeod, but realized he could torture the man the same way he had been tortured all these years. Of course, he had to wait until Fionaís most recent mortal husband died. She had disappeared for a while after that, but he finally tracked her to this house on Holy Ground. He had it on good authority that MacLeod had been to the house numerous times. MacLeod appeared to care for Fiona MacDonald. That was enough for Waverly. He would kill the woman. Connor MacLeod would come to the house eventually and Harris Waverly would be waiting for him. Once he had Connor MacLeod, he would recover Cassieís Quickening. He wouldnít let these two Immortals delay him. He wanted Fiona MacDonald as soon as possible.

Waverly slunk back down into hiding. He had to get Fiona off Holy Ground somehow. He frowned. It would be harder now that she had company. He remembered seeing a cemetery close by. Two could play at being on Holy Ground. It would protect him from these intruders while he plotted his next move. Waverly found a place where the view of the cemetery fence was obstructed. Climbing the fence, he slipped behind a tree. Fiona MacDonald would leave her property eventually and then she would die.

****

Fiona peeked out the window as soon as the dogs started barking. They could hear an approaching car long before she could. She didnít see anything yet. Suddenly, she got the vague sensation of another Immortal. It might be that Adam Pierson she had met some time ago. He had been fishing for an invitation. It certainly wasnít Connor MacLeod. She had recently gotten a letter from him postmarked London. He didnít play games like that.

The sensation got stronger. It was possibly more than one of her kind coming. She wasnít expecting anyone, but wasnít really worried. She was on Holy Ground. She went to the front of the house to await her unexpected guest. The dogs were still barking excitedly. Suddenly, a black Thunderbird followed by a red motorcycle came into view. Fiona fumbled with the lock in her hurry to open the front door.

****

Richie could see an imposing house not too far away. Duncan pulled into the driveway with Richie close behind him. Richie saw the door of the house swing open. Fiona MacDonald stepped out onto the porch, smiling broadly. She was soon joined by four German Shepherds who were all barking at the newcomers. Duncan took his bags out of the trunk along with some groceries he had purchased on the way. He ran up the stairs to Fiona, carrying as much as he could. He dropped everything on the porch and hugged her. Lugging the remaining luggage and groceries, Richie followed him slowly. The dogs bothered him.

The two older dogs wagged their tails as they sniffed Duncan. They recognized him from his last visit. Accepting the judgment of the two older dogs, the younger dogs sniffed Duncan briefly to get his scent. They growled at Richie as he tried to come up the stairs.

"Stop that," Fiona said firmly. "Theyíre okay."

Tails wagging, the dogs ran down the stairs past Richie. He completed his journey onto the porch where he received a warm hug from Fiona.

"I wish you had called first. I would have gone grocery shopping."

"Here," Duncan said, shoving two large bags into Fionaís arms. She oohed and aahed as she tried to see the contents. She led them into the house. As Fiona headed toward the back of the house, Duncan and Richie dropped their bags at the bottom of a large staircase. Richie followed Duncan into a large room from which the soft glow of a Christmas tree spilled into the hall. Richie noticed an emblem hanging on one wall and moved closer to examine it. Duncan came up beside him.

"Fionaís Clan crest," he explained. When Duncan turned around, he saw the MacLeod crest hanging on the opposite wall. He crossed the room towards it. It brought back memories of life as a Chieftainís son.

"Those were a gift from Connor," Fiona said from the doorway. "I came back one day and they were hanging just where you see them."

Richie saw Duncanís expression darken momentarily at the mention of Connorís name. Fiona went over and stood next to Duncan.

"You werenít here with him?" Duncan asked.

Fiona shook her head.

"He has a key and knows heís welcome to come here whenever he wants, even if Iím not here," Fiona sighed softly before continuing. "I should have been a MacLeod."

Richie wondered what she meant. When Duncan put his arm around Fiona, Richie considered leaving them alone, but he was unfamiliar with the house and had no idea where else he could go. The four dogs bounded into the room, surrounding Richie. They sniffed him intently.

"I told you heís okay," Fiona said. "Knock it off."

The dogs ran to her with their ears flat to their heads. She petted each of them. They gradually found places to lay down where they could watch the roomís inhabitants.

"Richie," she called, slipping her hand into her jeans pocket and throwing something to him. He caught it easily with one hand. Richie opened his hand. Duncan frowned when he saw the key in Richieís outstretched palm.

"Thatís a key to this house. Youíre welcome whenever you need a rest from the Game. I donít have to be here. Just donít take anything without my knowledge and donít leave me a mess."

Richie didnít know what to say. He glanced at Mac who seemed more angry than anything else.

"What are you playing at, Fiona?"

"There are some things you canít teach the boy."

Fiona saw confused anger flit across Duncanís face. She tried to keep from laughing. It wasnít easy when he looked like that. Duncanís expression changed when he saw the glimmer of laughter in her eyes.

"Fi-o-naa!"

Fiona laughed. Duncan only said her name that way when she had exasperated him. He struggled to stay angry, but began laughing.

"Now look what youíve done. You made Richie blush."

Fiona looked across the room at Richie. He was an adorable shade of pink. It deepened when he saw them looking at him. Tilting her head to one side, Fiona smiled at him.

"Richie, if anything happens to me, the house is yours."

Richieís mouth dropped open. He looked down at the key again.

"Fiona, nothingís going to happen to you," Duncan said softly.

"Maybe not. I could live to be a thousand and by then Richie might not care, but right now heís just starting out. This house would be great for him."

"Thanks, Fiona, but I canít accept this."

"There are two conditions," Fiona said, ignoring Richie. "One, both Connor and Duncan have keys to this house. You must allow them to come and go as they please."

Richie grinned at Mac. He could picture MacLeod showing up at his place for a change.

"The second condition is that you avenge my death."

"Richieís young, Fiona. You canít put such a burden on him."

"One of you will have to do it. I knew what your reaction would be -- the same as Connorís. Both of you insist nothing is going to happen to me."

"I really canít accept this," Richie said, trying to return the key to Fiona.

"He is your student, isnít he? Just take him upstairs and get yourselves settled."

Fiona stormed out of the room. Richie tucked the key into his pocket. Fiona had given it to him and maybe he was wrong to try to return it. Richie followed a sullen MacLeod upstairs. After a few moments thought, Mac opened a door and told Richie to put his stuff inside. Richie watched him continue down the hall and enter another room.

Richie went into the room Mac indicated. The walls were painted blue, reminding Richie of a bedroom he had once had in one of the nicer foster homes he had been in. He didnít have much to unpack. He sat idly on the bed for a moment staring at the blue rug before deciding to go downstairs.

When he got to the bottom of the stairs, Richie realized he still did not know the layout of the house. He frowned. There was another bag of groceries at the bottom of the stairs. Picking up the bag, he followed vague noises from the back of the house. Richie entered the kitchen.

Fiona stood at the counter putting away some of the groceries Duncan had purchased. He bought the ingredients for his favorite Highland dishes. She half turned toward the door as Richie came in. He put the third bag of groceries on the counter.

"Can I help?"

Fiona directed him on where to put things while she continued putting other items away. They heard water running. To Richie, it merely meant that Duncan was taking a shower. Fiona knew all the sounds of this house. She knew Duncan had settled himself in her bedroom.

When the groceries had been put away, Fiona gave Richie potatoes to peel while he sat at the table. Richie and Fiona chatted lightly as they worked, making very little progress with the food they were preparing.

"What did you mean about being a MacLeod?" Richie asked hesitantly.

"Itís a long story. I donít feel like talking about it now."

Richie paused a moment. There were too many things he did not know about Fiona.

"Why does Mac get so angry when you mention Connor?"

"Richie," Duncan said firmly from the doorway of the kitchen. Neither of them had heard him come downstairs.

"Richie can ask all the questions he wants, Duncan. It doesnít mean I have to answer them."

Richie grinned. Scowling, Duncan sat across from him and began peeling a potato. Fiona and Connor was a topic he did not want discussed.

"Iím really not sure, Richie. What is your problem, Duncan?"

"Stop, Fiona."

"No, Duncan, I wonít stop. When I met Connor, I was a grown woman. A few months later I became Immortal. The next time I saw him I was with you. After that, I didnít see him for almost a decade. I donít remember when I didnít know you."

Duncan stopped peeling the potato. She was right. He didnít remember a time when he didnít know her. Of course, he didnít remember their first meeting either. He had been a toddler. She was an infant. The Clans had gathered to celebrate her birth.

"Did you feel the same way about Tessa that you feel about me? What about Amanda? I loved Phillip, but it was nothing like the way I think about you."

The door bell rang. Duncan was relieved. He might not have to answer the question. At Fionaís request, Richie answered the door. Wondering what was being discussed in the kitchen, he signed for the package the mailman presented.

"Itís a package for you, Fiona," Richie called from the front door. "The label says itís from Harrods."

"Put it under the tree, Richie."

Richie returned to a strangely silent kitchen. Fiona was standing at the counter cutting up the vegetables the men had peeled. Duncan was peeling another potato. Richie joined him at the table.

"Is Connor in London?"

Fiona swung around at Duncanís question. From the look on her face, Richie was glad they were on Holy Ground and she did not have a sword. The knife she held looked dangerous enough combined with her expression.

"Yes, Connorís in London. He sent me a Christmas present. Anything else?"

Duncan shrugged. He had found something special to give her for Christmas. He was certain she would remember it.

****

Fiona awoke in the cool grass. She looked at the boy asleep next to her. Duncan MacLeod was nearly eleven. She was nine and a half. They had decided to investigate the legends about the witch and the white wolf in Donan woods while their fathers discussed Clan business. When they got tired, they lay down in the grass and watched the shapes in the clouds for a time. Eventually, they fell asleep warmed by the sun. Something told Fiona they would be in trouble when the adults found them. Being children, they would be mystified by the fuss, but the adults would be very angry.

Fiona woke with a start. She had been dreaming of the Highlands and her childhood. She looked at the man asleep next to her. This Duncan MacLeod was not much different than the boy she had known, except that he was now over 400 years old. Duncan snored loudly. Fiona surpressed a giggle. Grabbing her robe, she went downstairs. She wouldnít be able to get back to sleep right away.

There was a soft glow from downstairs. Richie sat at the kitchen table frowning into a cup of coffee.

"I didnít wake you, did I?"

"No, Richie. I was dreaming about something that happened when I was a child. I thought Iíd better get up for a while. Is that fresh?"

Richie nodded. Fiona poured herself a cup and joined him at the table. Richie had to admit he didnít understand the relationship between Fiona and Duncan. He had long ago stopped trying to figure out the relationship between Duncan and Amanda. It always seemed they only drove each other crazy.

Fiona sipped her coffee. Richie studied her. She was more attractive than he originally thought. Fiona smiled at him. Richie got the strange feeling that she knew what he was thinking.

"What was it like when you first became Immortal?"

Fiona frowned. Richie was sorry he had asked. He didnít want to upset her.

"Thatís okay, Richie. I was killed during a raid on my village. When I woke up, the smell of death was everywhere. I was sure I had been dead. It didnít make any sense that I was alive. I got this really strange sensation. It made me dizzy and nauseous."

"Another Immortal?"

Fiona nodded. She could remember his smile and the gentleness in his voice.

"Connor MacLeod. I had met him shortly after Duncan became Immortal. I didnít know at the time that Connor was his teacher. Connor explained to me what and who we are. Duncan was still his student, so Connor brought me to an Immortal couple. They took me in. Taught me to fight. Taught me the Rules. I learned to read and write with them -- well, a little. After I left them, I met Duncan again."

Fiona fell silent. She got that funny look in her eyes that Duncan got when he was remembering something long past. Richie would ask no more questions about the subject. Anything else she might want to tell him, she would.

Fiona remembered meeting Duncan again. It had been about 20 years since he became Immortal. Pleased to see each other, they lied to Duncanís landlord, telling him that they were married, so she could move in with him. Posing as husband and wife had been better than they expected. Both of them were happy and beginning to consider actually marrying as had almost been arranged on the Highlands. That was when Connor showed up.

He was happy to see both of them, but as soon as they told him of their plans, Connor became serious. He pointed out the hardships of staying together for centuries and the danger of two Immortals being a tempting target for those of their kind who preferred to hunt. They refuted his arguments at the time, but delayed their plans as they moved from Duncanís rented rooms to a small cottage. A few years later, a war began and Duncan went off to fight. Frightened and alone, Fiona left their isolated home. She lost track of Duncan for a while. They did live together a few times after that, but they never discussed marriage again. The years had shown them that there was wisdom in Connorís advice.

Nearly a century later, she was at a party in London. Sensing another of her kind, Fiona was glad she was able to design her own dresses and had found a dressmaker who did not ask why she needed to hide a sword in her skirt. When she sought the other Immortal, she was surprised to see Connor MacLeod crossing the room towards her. He kissed her hand gallantly. They spent the rest of the evening talking, dancing and dining together.

Connor insisted on seeing her home that evening. During the ride in his stunning carriage, Connor informed her of the deaths of Hamish and Ruth at the hands of another Immortal. Fionaís tears began immediately. She cried for her mentors and because their deaths proved that Connor had been correct about the marriage plans she had made with Duncan. Connor held her comfortingly. When she calmed down, Connor kissed her. The kiss was gentle at first, but she felt an ardor she had not expected and it frightened her. Connor apologized profusely. She saw him occasionally after that night and the next time he kissed her, she returned the kiss. That began the long relationship between them which continued all these years. She could not verbalize her feelings for Connor. He was her teacher. He was her friend. He was her lover. He was more than the sum of those things.

On the other hand, Duncan MacLeod was part of her. They had grown up together. Duncan was someone she had always known and she did not remember a time when she did not love him. He was the closest thing to family she had left. She thought of Duncan asleep in her bed upstairs and suddenly ached to be next to him. She knew he would probably never understand or accept her relationship with his kinsman.

Fiona put her dirty coffee cup in the sink and said good night to Richie. On her way out of the room, Richie grabbed her by the hand. He wanted to ask her advice about the girl who had broken up with him. He saw her eyes open wide. Something told him she was not seeing him.

Fiona was stunned by Richieís unexpected touch. He was more like Duncan than she had anticipated. That was why she could sometimes tell exactly what he was thinking. It was also why Duncan had taken him in, although Duncan didnít know it. When Connor had told her that Duncan had taken in a young man who would one day discover he was one of them, she knew there was a connection between them that went beyond their Immortality. Richie would be a recurring relationship in Duncanís life. She smiled at Richie. He figured in her own future as well. They would share a great affection for one another.

"Forget Janet," she said. "There will be others. Never abandon Duncan. Always forgive him."

Richieís face registered shock. He had not mentioned his ex-girlfriend. Well, not yet anyway. He wondered if Mac had. And what did she mean about forgiving Mac? He heard Fiona go upstairs and return to her bedroom. One of the dogs came to the kitchen doorway and stood staring at him. Maybe the dog was right. Maybe it was time to go to bed.

****

After breakfast the next morning, Richie insisted on washing the dishes, despite Fionaís objections. Suggesting to Richie that they use this opportunity on Holy Ground to practice, Mac asked Fiona about any swords she might have in the house. He wanted Richie to work out with something different. He hoped to keep her from pouting about Richie standing at the sink. It worked. The two elder Immortals went upstairs, leaving Richie alone in the kitchen.

Richie finished the dishes and waited in the kitchen for Macís return. Restless, he noticed a doorway at the rear of the kitchen and walked toward it. He stepped out of the kitchen into an enormous dining room. It stretched almost completely across the back of the house. Beyond it he could see a screened-in porch. A huge table dominated the room. Richie counted twelve chairs, but there were additional chairs pushed against the far wall.

Richie tried to imagine himself serving a meal in this room, but somehow chili dogs didnít go with the decor. He retreated to the kitchen. He could hear the china jingling softly in the hutches as he walked by. The sound made him nervous as if something might break.

He walked through the kitchen and went out into the hall. He considered going upstairs to look for Mac and Fiona. Instead, Richie walked across the wide hallway and into the room to the right of the staircase. The room was larger than he expected. He estimated it occupied nearly the same amount of space as the living room and kitchen combined.

As he walked into the room he noticed the bar against one wall. It reminded him of the bar in Joe Dawsonís place. This one was a little smaller, but not much. At the far end of the room, a doorway opened into the dining room. Like the living room, this room had a large fireplace. Above the fireplace hung a portrait of Fiona. Richie walked around looking at the other antiques and pieces of art in the room. He recognized some items from the shop Duncan and Tessa had owned. He couldnít figure out how they came into Fionaís possession. He didnít remember ever seeing Fiona in the store. He thought Connor might have bought a few of them.

Richie was surprised to see one of Tessaís sculptures. He touched it briefly, remembering the beautiful blonde who died the night he became Immortal. He knew her death left a big hole in Macís life. He doubted Mac knew about the hole she left in Richieís life.

In some ways, Fiona reminded him of Tessa. For most of his life, he had been ignored by the adults around him. Both women treated him as if he were someone special. They made him feel comfortable. He still missed Tessaís friendship and wondered if he would come anywhere close to being friends with Fiona. Both women obviously loved Mac as well. It reminded Richie of a family.

Richie went back to study the portrait of Fiona. She was wearing a simple, dark dress adorned with a tartan sash. Richie had seen that knowing expression on Fionaís face. He wondered what she was thinking when it was painted.

"Duncan commissioned that portrait."

The sound of Fionaís voice made Richie jump. It was as if the portrait had spoken. He turned around. Walking toward Richie and the portrait, Fiona smiled. She remembered sitting for it over 200 years earlier. It was the last time she lived with Duncan for any length of time. The artist had been very handsome. Duncan had been equally jealous. He insisted on being present whenever the artist was working.

The portrait hung over their fireplace for many years. Fiona tried unsuccessfully to get Duncan to pose for a companion portrait. Duncan kept the portrait for about 100 years. When he no longer had a place to display it, he presented it to Fiona. Connor asked her for it repeatedly, but she always refused. Perhaps she would try again to convince Duncan to pose for a companion portrait.

"This room was designed as a ballroom. It hasnít been used for that in ages."

Richie grinned. He could imagine her wearing the dress from the portrait and dancing with Mac.

"Ready, Richie?"

Mac came into the room carrying two swords. He handed one to Richie, who studied it carefully. It was different from any other sword he had handled. Fiona took it from his hand. She tested the weight and balance before issuing a silent challenge to MacLeod. Duncan shook his head.

"Not in the house, Fiona," he said teasingly.

Laughing, Fiona returned the sword to Richie. While Richie was testing the sword, Duncan crossed the room to where Tessaís sculpture stood. He touched it the same way Richie had.

"That arrived about a week before Tessa was killed. It must have been one of the last pieces she did."

Duncan nodded without turning around. He remembered her working on it. She had said she wanted to send it to Fiona. He had never been certain that she actually had done so. There were times he still missed Tessa terribly. Fiona walked up behind him and touched his arm gently.

"I know," she said softly. "Phillip built that bar himself. I think of him every time I walk past it."

MacLeod turned and embraced her. Richie wondered if life ever stopped hurting.

"Címon, Richie. Coming, Fiona?"

Fiona shook her head.

"You boys play nice outside."

Laughing, Duncan and Richie went back through the kitchen and out the back door of the house. The two men practiced for a while. Richie didnít like this sword as much as his own. Mac gave Richie pointers and suggestions. Mac smiled broadly when Fiona joined them. Insisting that Richie practice with Fiona, MacLeod stood to one side shouting instructions and advice to Richie. Occasionally, Fiona would make irreverent comments on Duncanís commands low enough for only Richie to hear. Richie tried not to laugh. When Mac objected to Fionaís commentary, they began to bicker. Richie never thought training could be entertaining.

From a safe distance, Harris Waverly watched the group of Immortals. He had finally found a spot that overlooked Fionaís property and was far enough away to keep her from sensing his presence. Her dogs were equally unaware of him. Putting down his powerful binoculars, he wondered who the two Immortal men were. The shorter one must be young, possibly still a student. He pondered the possibility of taking all three of them. Fiona and the student should not be too much of a problem. He wasnít certain about the taller man with the ponytail. He seemed more experienced and polished. Harris reasoned if he could take the other two first, he could deal with the dark-haired man.

****

Methos stood frowning at the ermine coat. He was ignoring the huge price on the tag and trying to imagine how Fiona MacDonald would look wearing ermine. As hard as he tried, he kept seeing Amanda wearing the coat -- and very little else. When he did manage to get an image of Fiona with the coat, it was only to see her flinging it back at him. Dejected, he returned the coat to the disappointed saleswoman. Evidently, this was not something he could give Fiona without risking making her angry.

He left the furrierís and wandered down the street back to his car. MacLeod, Dawson and Richie had disappeared. Methos thought that might be a good sign. He would take Fiona up on her invitation to visit her house on Holy Ground without interference from the others, but he didní want to show up empty-handed. Something in a shop window caught his eye. It seemed to be screaming Fionaís name at him. He went inside and bought it immediately.

****

Later that afternoon, Richie set out on his bike to see some of the surrounding countryside. Richie pulled over at a point with a beautiful view of a valley below. He could see a waterfall in the distance. Munching one of the sandwiches Fiona had given him, Richie watched two chipmunks racing through the leaves. The sudden sense of another Immortal made Richie turn around. A strange man stood nearby.

"Sorry, pal, I donít think I know you. I donít want any trouble."

"Youíre a friend of Fiona MacDonald."

"That against the law?"

"It is to me," Waverly said pulling his sword.

He slashed at the young Immortal. The tip of his sword caught Richie across the face. Dropping the sandwich, Richie quickly retrieved his sword from his saddlebag. Waverly was surprised by this young Immortalís skill. Uncertain of his chances of defeating the young man, Waverly jumped over the railing and scrambled into the valley below.

Considering following the man, Richie leaned over the railing, watching him go. This had to be the Immortal he sensed during the ride to Fionaís. He had nearly forgotten about the incident. The man knew about Fiona. He had to get back to the house and warn her.

When he arrived back at the house, Richie could sense Duncan and Fiona inside. He thought better of looking for them. The dogs came thundering down the stairs to greet him. They still made Richie a little nervous, but he was getting used to them. They seemed to like him.

Richie went into the kitchen. After getting himself a glass of milk, he sat at the table to eat another of the sandwiches Fiona had prepared for him. Fiona appeared in the doorway. She seemed to be covered in paint. Richie decided he didnít want to know what had been going on while he was out.

"What happened, Richie?"

Richie was puzzled by the question until he realized there was probably still a slight mark across his face.

"One of us. He was looking for you."

"Who was he?" Mac asked, appearing suddenly behind Fiona.

Richie shrugged. He gave them a quick description of the Immortal who had challenged him. Fiona looked at Duncan and shook her head.

"I thought I sensed someone on the way up here, Mac. I stopped, but you didnít."

MacLeod frowned. He had gotten the vague sense of another of their kind. He had ignored it thinking it might be Fiona. He watched her at the sink preparing to make tea for them.

"Stay on Holy Ground, Fiona."

"Donít be stupid, Duncan. If someoneís after me, Iíll just have to face him."

MacLeod quickly crossed the room toward her. Turning to face him, Fiona folded her arms across her chest. Richie could see she had no intention of staying on Holy Ground just because Mac wanted her to.

"Iíll face him. Youíll stay on Holy Ground."

"Iím an Immortal, Duncan. Iím in the Game. You cannot interfere. If heís here for me, I have to fight him."

Mac frowned. He couldnít argue with her, but he wanted her safe.

"Well, youíre not going anywhere alone. One of us will go with you."

Fiona glanced at Richie. The younger man had obviously learned to stay well away of discussions like this. She nodded. She would accept their company.

****

"Iím going to Holy Ground, Duncan. You donít have to come."

MacLeod frowned at her. After Richieís recent run-in with another Immortal, he didnít want her to leave the house without an escort. Fiona began looking for her car keys. She was certain she had left them on the table in the hall.

"Richie, weíre going out!," Duncan shouted.

Fiona looked at Duncan impatiently as she pulled on her coat. He grinned, dangling her car keys just beyond her reach. Richie came down the stairs, followed by the dogs. Mac tossed the younger man his jacket before following Fiona outside. Richie hurried after them.

After a short argument, Fiona got into the Thunderbird and sat sulking in the front seat. After Richie climbed into the back, Mac slid in behind the steering wheel. He flashed a grin at Fiona as he turned the key in the ignition.

They rode along quietly. Richie wondered where they were going. Mac had insisted at least one of them accompany Fiona everywhere. Richie decided to sit back and enjoy the ride. He was surprised when Mac pulled into a cemetery. Mac drove along slowly. He finally pulled over closer to the curb. Fiona stepped out of the car and walked away. Richie stood waiting for Mac beside the car.

"She wanted to come to Phillipís grave today."

Richie nodded. She had mentioned her late mortal husband. He had died in a car crash. Richie slowly followed Mac to the spot where Fiona stood.

Duncan stood next to Fiona to pay his respects. He knew Phillip as a quiet, intelligent man. He remembered their wedding day. Duncan had given Fiona away. He was never certain exactly how Fiona explained him to Phillip. It didnít matter. She had been happy with Phillip. Duncan knew she felt his loss deeply. Duncan touched Fionaís shoulder gently before retreating to where Richie stood.

Fiona thought about the man she had married 25 years earlier. Phillip had been a successful writer of historical novels. He always came to her for insight about people and events. He had even used some of her memories in his works. They always laughed when he was praised for his accuracy.

She got the impression he had never really believed she was an Immortal until he realized she wasnít aging. He had occasionally seen her healing abilities, but she had managed to keep him away from the Game. He had known she might not return at some point.

Harris Waverly slipped through the trees behind where the other Immortals stood. He had a vague sense of them. He saw the two men standing away from Fiona MacDonald. It was obvious the men sensed him. They were looking around. The young Immortal he had challenged the previous day seemed especially intent. The woman appeared unaware of him. The tall, dark-haired man moved closer to her. She looked around. Waverly made certain he was hidden by the trees. He didnít want her to see him and spoil the surprise.

Glancing around, the tall Immortal escorted Fiona back to the car. They sped off. Waverly wondered if they knew he had been hiding in the cemetery or if it was just a coincidence. He knew he would get an opportunity to challenge Fiona MacDonald soon. The men couldnít go everywhere with her. Although he had abandoned the fight with the younger Immortal, he didnít think the man would be a problem. It was the taller man that bothered him. He had seen them practicing. The dark-haired man seemed to have the superior skills.

****

The next day, Fiona promised Richie the Christmas dinner of his choice. The catch was that he had to go grocery shopping with her. He wandered through the store with her, selecting whatever he wanted. Fiona didnít object to anything. Fiona and Richie sensed another Immortal as soon as they returned to the car. Richie turned, expecting to see Mac walking down the street after them. The Immortal he met previously stood about six feet away.

"You again? Ready to finish what you started? Thereís no railing for you to jump over this time."

"Not you, boy. Her."

Richie immediately placed himself between Fiona and the stranger. Fiona gently put her hand on Richieís shoulder to stop him. Richie glanced at her over his shoulder.

"Harris," Fiona said from behind Richie, "what do you want?"

"I think you know that."

"Connorís not here. What do you want, Harris?"

"He killed my wife. Iíll take your head in exchange."

"Donít be foolish. She challenged Connor. It was a fair fight."

"So is this."

"Wait a minute . . ."

"Donít interfere, Richie," Fiona said warningly. She reached past the groceries in the trunk and retrieved her sword. "Wait here for me."

"Or me."

Richie started to protest again, but Fiona hushed him. He wished she had not left Holy Ground. He wanted to turn back the clock and agree with Mac. He doubted it would have changed her mind.

After handing Richie her car keys, Fiona walked away without looking back. Waverly smirked at the young Immortal before slinking away after Fiona. Richie stood dejectedly next to the car. Putting his hands in his jacket pockets, he felt the key to Fionaís house. She had asked him to avenge her death. Richie got his sword from the trunk of the car.

He followed the sound of their fight to a clearing. Fiona appeared to be losing. She was bleeding badly from her wounded left leg. There was blood on her shirt from cuts on her arms, abdomen and back. Richie braced himself. If she lost her head, he would behead the man Fiona called Harris.

Suddenly, Fiona began a series of moves Richie recognized. Months ago, she had used them on him in the dojo. Waverly was better at defending himself against them than Richie had been, but it did not change the outcome. Waverly suddenly had Fionaís blade at his throat. Fearing defeat, he attacked her again. Fiona did not flinch when Waverlyí blade pierced her right leg. Richie could see the point of the blade protruding from the back of her leg. Richie thought she was chanting something, but the words werenít clear. She used the sword she held to kill Waverly.

The Quickening was one of the most intense Richie had ever seen. Lightening seemed to fill the air. Fionaís body jerked with the power. She crumpled to the ground when it was over. Richie picked up Harrisí sword before going to Fiona. She looked at him dazedly. Her jeans were blood-soaked and she was still bleeding badly. Her opponent had obviously severed so many blood vessels that she was taking a long time to heal. Taking her sword, Richie ran back to the car and threw the weapons into the trunk with their assorted purchases.

He grabbed the blanket Fiona had used earlier to cover their swords, slammed the trunk, and returned to her side. He helped her up from the ground, wrapping the blanket around her legs. She leaned against him heavily as she walked unsteadily back to the car. She slumped against the car while he opened the passengerís door. Fiona collapsed into the seat. Richie had to help her get her legs into the car.

Richie got into the driverís seat and sped back to Fionaís house. He wanted to get back to Holy Ground before anyone else had the chance to challenge them. Richie glanced at Fiona. The blanket was quickly becoming bloodied. Her breathing was very irregular. He thought she would be dead before they reached Holy Ground.

Duncan heard the car speeding down the road and screech into the driveway. The dogs barked and whimpered as they ran in circles in front of the house. Opening the front door, he saw Richie trying to get Fiona out of the car. Richie was surprised to find her still alive, but she was fading quickly. Duncan thought he would never get to them. Fionaís pants were bloodstained and she was wrapped in a bloody blanket. When Duncan picked her up, she was nearly dead. Her vacant eyes were open. He was certain she could not see anything, but she murmured his name before she died. He carried her body into the house and up to her bedroom.

After a momentís debate, he placed her in the bathtub. She would never forgive him if he got blood on the sheets. He started removing her clothing while Richie filled him in on the fight. Her jeans were so heavy with blood, Duncan had to cut them off her. Most of her wounds had healed. A few still sizzled with small blue flashes of lightening. It was taking her a long time to come back to life. That was doubtless a combination of her wounds, the heavy blood loss and the intense Quickening.

MacLeod barked orders at Richie. Richie ran down to the kitchen trying to remember what Mac had wanted. He wondered what the boiling water was for. He had only heard that mentioned in movies when women were having babies. As he searched the kitchen for the things he needed, the dogs surrounded Richie expectantly. They seemed to want news about their owner.

"Sheíll be okay," he said, feeling stupid.

The dogs seemed satisfied with his statement. They watched him assemble the items MacLeod demanded. The dogs eventually wandered out of the room, leaving him to wait for the water to boil on his own.

Duncan rummaged through Fionaís things until he found a suitable nightgown. After washing the blood from her skin, he dressed her and placed her in her bed. She gasped as Richie returned carrying the things Duncan had wanted on a tray. Duncan carefully mixed the brandy, sugar and boiling water in a mug. Fiona coughed violently. Cradling her gently, Duncan made her drink the mixture. Looking up at him, Fiona could see the concern in his dark eyes.

Between sips, she glanced at Richie. Richie and Duncan looked so worried, Fiona wanted to laugh, but laughing only caused more coughing. Duncan smiled slightly at her attempt to laugh. He was glad she had survived.

"Who was that guy?"

"Harris Waverly," Fiona whispered.

Duncan tried to quiet her. She grabbed the cup he held and gulped the contents. He didnít like the way her hands shook. He took the cup back from her and made more of the mixture.

Fiona frowned. Her legs felt like lead. She could feel the itching and burning of muscles knitting themselves together. She vaguely remembered Waverlyís sword slicing through her leg. When it happened, she could hear Connorís voice telling her "Stay focused, stay alive" over and over. The pain and the memory of Connorís teachings had helped her defeat Waverly. Duncan offered her the cup again.

"Itís too sweet, Duncan."

"You lost most of your blood. You need the sugar and the water."

"And the brandy?"

"I thought Iíd get you drunk," he said with a wink.

Fiona started to laugh. She knew as well as he did that the alcohol would help deaden the pain and augment the sugar he was dissolving in the boiling water. Her laughter turned into coughing. She pushed the cup away.

"I didnít realize Harris was so old. That bastard. He killed Hamish and Ruth."

"Who?" Richie asked.

Her answer was interrupted by the dogs bounding into the room and leaping up on the bed. Fiona petted them, murmuring reassuringly. Satisfied, they left. The dogs could be heard clattering down the stairs.

"Hamish and Ruth were my mentors. They taught me so much. It was like I was their daughter, not their student."

Fiona paused. She thought longingly of the time she had spent with them. Smiling at Richie, she patted the bed next to her. When Richie sat down, Fiona took his hand between both of hers. He was surprised at the way her cold hands trembled.

"Thank you, Richie. This would have been much more difficult if you hadnít been there."

"It was nothing."

Fiona searched the young Immortalís face.

"You were going to kill him if I lost, werenít you?"

Richie nodded guiltily. He noticed Mac smiling at him. MacLeod knew he would have done the same thing. As Duncan tried to coax Fiona into drinking more from the cup, Richie left them and started down the stairs. Suddenly, he remembered the groceries in the car. He carried the contents of the trunk into the house, including the three swords. As he was putting the food away, Duncan came into the kitchen.

"Sheís asleep."

"Will she be okay, Mac?"

"Sheís one of us, Richie. Sheíll be fine. When she wakes up, sheíll be down here checking on where you put everything."

Richie laughed and went back to his work. Duncan stopped to study the swords leaning haphazardly against the counter. He recognized Richieís sword immediately. Hesitantly, he picked up Fionaís sword. It was a Claymore, an unusual sword for a woman to carry. The blade was bloody. He would clean it for her. Replacing Fionaís sword, Duncan picked up Waverlyís. Connor had mentioned Waverly from time to time. Apparently, Connor had fought and killed Waverlyís Immortal wife. Connor didnít like to talk about the incident. Duncan frowned. The blood on this sword was Fionaís.

****

Upstairs, Fiona lay staring at the ceiling. She had been dreaming of Connor. After his battle with Cassie Waverly, they returned to his house in Paris. Settling into an armchair in front of the fireplace in the living room, he quickly finished two bottles of wine. When she spoke to him, he did not answer her, but she could tell from his bloody, torn clothes the fight had been brutal. She brought him food which he ignored. Much later he dozed off and she covered him with a blanket. He slept fitfully while she curled up on the couch. Finally, he spoke softly to her, apologizing for his behavior and the inconvenience. She allowed him to lead her to the bedroom. He had held her close that night. When she tried to question him, he silenced her with kisses. He never spoke about the battle or the Quickening that had followed, but she knew he felt badly about killing a woman.

Fiona sighed. She wanted Duncan. His presence always made her feel better. The pain in her legs would not allow her to get out of bed to find him. Struggling, she managed to get the bottle of brandy from the nightstand. She drank from it, hoping the alcohol would allow her to sleep. She drifted off again, remembering Richieís concerned expression and Duncanís gentle nursing.

****

Later, Duncan made dinner. Without much appetite, the two men ate in silence. The smell of food woke Fiona. Pulling on a robe, she let the smell lead her to the kitchen. She entered the room haltingly. Duncan nearly jumped out of his chair to help her to the table. She was entertained by the way her guests waited on her. When she patted his hand reassuringly, Richie noticed her hands still shook a little, but they were much warmer. She ate heartily. Her legs still felt funny. The muscles and tendons were healing.

"Tell me about Harris Waverly."

Fiona looked at Duncan. His expression was very serious. It occurred to her that Richie had asked her about her opponent. He had also taken Waverlyís sword. Duncan must have seen it. She sighed.

"You knew my husband David, didnít you, Duncan?"

Duncan nodded. He had gone to their wedding. That had to be at least a century ago.

"After Davidís death, I was depressed. Connor had business in Paris, so he took me with him. He introduced me to Darius."

Duncan expression changed at the mention of Darius. He never knew Fiona had met Darius.

"Darius was very comforting. Connor had to meet with business associates, so he left me with Darius, promising to pick me up later. Waverlyís wife, Cassie, was hunting me. I didnít know why at the time. Now I know they were both hunters. She followed me all the way to Dariusí monastery and challenged me, but Darius prevented me from leaving Holy Ground. When Connor arrived, she confronted him. Connor tried to dissuade her, but she drew her sword and came at him. I guess she thought it would draw me off Holy Ground, but Darius locked himself in a room with me. We could not see the fight, but I saw the flashes from the Quickening. Darius wouldnít let me leave the room until he heard Connor calling my name."

"But what did Harris Waverly want with you?"

"I guess he couldnít find Connor," Fiona said with a shrug. "Or was afraid to."

She felt better now that she had eaten. Her legs didnít feel so much like lead and the healing wasnít so noticeable anymore.

"Youíve got to teach me those moves."

Fiona grinned at Richie.

"I donít think so. Connor should teach you those. Heís much better at them than I am."

"Whoa!," Richie said in admiration.

Duncan was frowning again, but the other two Immortals ignored him. The doorbell rang. Duncan glanced at his watch and then at Fiona.

"Itís late. You expecting anyone?"

Fiona shook her head. She hadnít heard the dogs barking either. They always barked, sometimes even at her. It was possible they just didnít hear the dogs, but it worried her just the same. Duncan looked at Richie. Without speaking, the two men got up and went towards the front door.

"Stay here," Duncan said softly, as Fiona started to get up.

She sat down again slowly. Her legs were still stiff. When she moved, the vague itching and burning sensations became more noticeable. Fiona heard the front door open. Her dogs ran into the kitchen. It was obvious they had been outside. There was snow on their fur. It had looked like it was going to snow earlier.

She heard Duncan and Richie walking down the hall. There was another noise Fiona could not quite identify. Her Immortal guests returned grinning conspiratorially. Richie carried a large paper bag. She could see the shadow of someone behind them. Joe Dawson followed them into the kitchen. Joe kissed her on the cheek before presenting her with flowers. The bag in Richieís possession contained two large bottles of wine.

"A Watcher bearing gifts," Duncan joked. Joe looked at him ruefully before laughing.

Duncan took the flowers from Fiona and began searching for a vase. Fiona directed him to the pantry. When MacLeod opened the door, Joe noticed there were swords stored along with the food and kitchen items inside.

"I hope Iím not intruding."

"Not at all," Fiona replied. She had expected Dawsonís first visit to be a solo one, but this was fine. He would come again.

"Did you follow us here?" Richie asked.

Joe looked guilty for a moment. His expression turned serious.

"I got a call from Harris Waverlyís Watcher. He said Waverlyís dead."

"I fought him this afternoon," Fiona replied casually.

"You?"

Joe was genuinely surprised. Waverlyís Watcher had mentioned a badly wounded female Immortal, but Joe mostly remembered him talking about a young Immortal with short reddish hair.

"Yes, me. Want to see my bloody clothes? Theyíre still upstairs."

Joe declined that suggestion, but accepted the offer of a meal. While Joe ate, Duncan made coffee. Fiona directed Richie to some plastic containers on top of the refrigerator. She opened them, revealing an assortment of Christmas cookies. Richie was amazed that she had made the delicious treats. Fiona noticed that Duncan appeared to eat more than his share of shortbread.

Joe tossed Richie his car keys, telling the young Immortal to get the keg of beer from the trunk. Richie went happily to the car and returned carrying the keg with Methos. Fiona sighed. She still did not trust the man who called himself Adam Pierson, but she had invited him to visit her.

Methos had been annoyed to find MacLeodís car in the driveway along with Richieís bike and Joe Dawsonís car. He should have known better than to think he would have Fiona to himself. Methos proceeded to help himself to some food. He was disappointed to find it was MacLeodís cooking.

Fiona glanced up at the clock and then announced that they were going to Midnight Mass. After some general grumbling, the men agreed.

"I havenít been to Mass since the Crusades," Methos observed.

The men laughed. Fiona looked at Methos quizzically as she struggled out of her chair. Joe watched Fiona walked slowly from the room with Duncanís help. It was a far cry from the way she had previously run across his bar wielding his cane as a weapon. Obviously, she had been badly wounded in the fight. Joe made a mental note to read the report from Waverlyís Watcher. He must have missed something in the conversation. He noticed Methos looking at him questioningly. He would have to fill his fellow Watcher in later.

Joe heard Fiona call his name and he went out in the hall. Mac held Joeís suitcase. Fiona stood next to an open door that Joe had assumed was a closet. However, it was a small elevator. Richie was currently examining the interior. It was slightly larger than a closet and had a bench across the back. Fiona yanked Richie out of it and motioned for Joe to join her as she went inside.

"Blue and beige," she called to Duncan.

"Richieís in blue."

"Oh, right. Green then, I guess."

Fiona pulled the door closed, pressed a button and the small elevator started up.

"Itís okay that I came, isnít it?"

"I remember inviting you. It was an open invitation. Youíre welcome whenever you want to come, as long as Iím here."

"Or Iím with Mac?"

Fiona nodded. The elevator stopped and she opened the door. Duncan stood waiting for them outside a bedroom. He had already directed Methos into the beige bedroom next to the room Dawson would occupy. Joe could see the green wallpaper from the hallway. His suitcase sat at the foot of the bed. Fiona started down the hall toward her bedroom to change. Joe smiled wickedly as Duncan followed her. As they left for Mass, Fiona wanted to drive her car. After a short argument, Duncan prevailed and did the driving, but they took Fionaís four-wheel drive instead of any of the cars.

****

Fiona was back to her old self the next morning. She was making breakfast when everyone else came down. She laughed when she saw that Richie had ridden down in the elevator with Joe.

Fiona enlisted the menís help in moving the food into the dining room. She noticed that Adam stood a little too close to her when picking up something to take into the other room. She didnít want to say anything to him because she didnít want Duncan to overhear her. Finally, she nearly burned him with a hot frying pan. It seemed accidental to Methos, but had the effect Fiona wanted. Oddly enough, the next time Duncan came into the kitchen, he kissed Fiona unexpectedly. She wondered what he had seen.

Richie was uneasy about eating in the formal dining room. It wasnít his style. The jingling in the china cabinets still bothered him. He was much more comfortable in the kitchen, but that table would not accommodate all of them. Richie found it interesting that Fiona had put place cards on the table. Duncan was sitting at the head of the table with Fiona on his right and Joe on his left. Richie was to sit next to Fiona. Methos would be sitting next to Joe.

After breakfast, Fiona herded everyone into the large living room, insisting that they sit around the Christmas tree. To the surprise of everyone but Duncan, Fiona produced presents for each of them. Duncan had known her too long to be surprised by much of anything she did. Duncan did not open his present immediately. Instead, he watched the others open theirs. Joe received a silver hip flask which he promised to carry with him. For Richie, she had a leather coat. It fit him perfectly.

"I donít have anything for you," Richie said guiltily.

Fiona waved away his comment.

"Unimportant. You helped me yesterday. Thatís enough. Iíd probably still be in that field if you hadnít been there."

Methos opened his gift uncertainly. After all the indecision surrounding his purchase of something for her, he couldnít imagine what she had gotten him. The small box opened to reveal a pair of cufflinks engraved with the ancient Egyptian symbol of life, the Ankh. Methos wondered what she actually knew about him.

He paused to watch her open his offering. When he saw the translucent china box in her hand, he knew he had selected the correct gift. It seemed to belong to her. Fiona stared at the exquisite heart-shaped box. The top was decorated with delicate painted flowers. The box was obviously intended for a womanís vanity. It made Fiona feel as if she were holding Adamís heart in her hand. She wondered what possessed him to buy such an expensive, personal gift for her when he obviously knew she was involved with Duncan.

She glanced at Duncan. From the expression on his face, she could tell what he thought of the gift. She had no interest in Adam Pierson. She did not believe he was who he claimed to be.

"Itís beautiful, Adam. Thank you."

Methos smiled. He had chosen correctly, but now that he saw Fiona and MacLeod together, he wondered why he had bothered. Well, he could still hope. If she kept it in her bedroom, it would serve as a constant reminder of him. Besides, it might have been worth it just to see the look on MacLeodís face. Richie and Joe seemed to be confused by the gift. All in all, the porcelain heart was worth buying.

Fiona picked up the box from Harrods and held it thoughtfully. She unwrapped it carefully. It contained an elegant silk peignoir and negligee. She stroked the lingerie fondly. The burgandy-on-burgandy design was reminiscent of the interior of the coach Connor had owned when he first kissed her. It was just like Connor to find something to remind her of him every time she wore it. It made her wonder if he was planning to show up on her doorstep sometime soon.

Duncan pulled a small package from under the tree and handed it to Fiona. Surprised, she removed the wrapping and opened the box.

"Oh, Duncan," Fiona gasped.

Her hands shook so badly Richie thought she was going to drop it. Duncan steadied it in her hands. There were tears in her eyes. She tried blinking them back, but one escaped and trickled down her cheek. A few years earlier, Richie had been unimpressed by the small pin Mac had brought back to the antique shop after a meeting with one of his sources. The pin was never put in any of the shop cases and Richie had forgotten about it.

Richie had no way of knowing that the pin had been given to Fiona by Duncan when a marriage between them was being discussed by their fathers. He had intended it as a betrothal present. The marriage negotiations were halted, but Duncan refused to let her return the pin to him. She always wore it as a symbol of the love and friendship they felt for each other. When she had been killed during the raid on her village, the pin had been removed from her body. He had been waiting for the opportunity to return it to her. It seemed inappropriate to give it to her while he was with Tessa or Anne.

Duncan removed the pin from its box and fastened it to Fionaís blouse. She fingered it lovingly before kissing him. MacLeod seemed embarrassed by her reaction in front of the others. It may have just been their grinning faces that bothered him.

Duncan opened the box he held on his lap. It contained miniatures of the crests hanging on Fionaís walls. He would have to clear a space in the loft to display them.

"What would have happened if I had become the wife of the Chieftainís son?"

"You would have become the wife of the Chieftain."

She glanced up at the MacLeod crest on the wall.

"I should have been a MacLeod."

To Part Three, "Confidence".

To the Authors' Pages