All Your Immortality, Part Eight

Celtic Angel

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Richie felt his insides grow numb at the realization that Michaelis was so close. His mind, unlike his heart, seemed to be working and was shouting for him to run. He could actually see himself running, but it wouldn't change the outcome. Michaelis would catch up to him soon enough and he would just be a dead coward. This fight was going to happen here and now and there was nothing he could do about it. He was going to die.

They studied each other for a moment- Richie realizing Michaelis had already drawn his sword. He stood a little straighter and reached over his shoulder, pulling his rapier from the back of his coat. He forced himself to show no fear- only resolve. Now that he was in it he might as well make the best of it. He wouldn't cower, wouldn't beg. He couldn't stand the thought of Connor thinking he was a coward.

"Are you looking for me, Richie?" Michaelis grinned.

"Yes, actually."

"What did you want?"

"Your head."

Michaelis laughed. "So did you finally get your second set of teeth? Oh, that's right. You've been wanting to play, but Daddy wouldn't let you."

"Are these the same crappy lines you've used on your other victims? I can't imagine why no one else hasn't managed to take your head yet."

"It's not for the lack of trying, and crying and begging. And you're right. Victims are exactly what they were- what you are."

Richie gave a short cool laugh. "I really don't know where you get the idea I don't know how to fight just because I don't go around taking heads like you do."

"Well, let's say we see what you've got," Michaelis moved a little closer.

"Fine, cause personally I think you're all talk." Richie also stepped forward.

The first time the swords collided, Richie realized he had made a mistake in judging this man. Mac was right. Just because Michaelis liked fighting the young, didn't mean he couldn't fight. He was just as strong as Connor if not stronger. He moved with Adam's grace, something totally unexpected when considering his size. Richie surprised himself in that he was able to keep up with him as long as he did.

If he had only been able to lure Michaelis back to the clearing where he practiced daily, he might have stood a chance. Here on unfamiliar ground he was having trouble staying on his feet, but so was Michaelis. One of the many tree limbs that littered the path since the last storm finally tripped the older immortal. The sword Richie sunk into his side as he fell did not withdraw easily and gave Michaelis the opportunity to return the blow. They froze for a moment as both quickly tried to assess the damage they would inflict upon themselves if they tried to withdraw their swords before the other had a chance to move. The only other option was to leave the swords in place and torture each other as much as possible. Richie's pain wracked mind likened it to a twisted game of rocks, paper, scissors. Their moves would have to be made together and counter matched instantly or they could both end up dead.

Both looked up at the sensation of other immortals. Connor and Duncan stood on the path, each frozen in place at the sight of their student so near death.

For just a moment Richie allowed himself to feel a sense of relief and rescue. Connor and MacLeod were both here. Surely they would save him.

"It's too late to interfere, MacLeod!" Michaelis shouted still on his back.

Michaelis' words brought back the reality that there was no way out of this fight. Richie realized he either finished or he died. So how was he to get out of this? Michaelis was strong enough to lift him bodily with the sword. Just the wrong movement and he could easily be severed like the fetal pigs in his high school biology class. The image of his classroom and the unlucky test subjects filled his mind.

A memory. He had a memory. Good Lord, why now and what a stupid little thing to remember, but it was all at once beautiful.

"Go ahead, you bastard and I'll take your head as you do it."

Michaelis could tell Richie had the move already worked out. Neither of them wanted the obvious outcome of making the first move. He nodded at the younger Immortal and both slowly began to pull their swords free. Richie held his breath and tried not to scream out as the hot, painful blade was finally removed from his side. Adrenaline forced him to take a swing at Michaelis, but he was knocked off his feet.

"Richie! Move!"

Richie heard Adam scream and rolled clear of the sword that buried itself into the ground next to his head. He took a slice at the back of Michaelis' leg, forcing the immortal back to the ground. Michaelis swung his sword around and into Richie's left kidney.

Out of the corner of his eye, Richie saw Connor holding Adam back. Joe and Mac were silent and still, faces pale with anguish. He had never seen Connor look so helpless or Adam so distressed.

"Stay on your feet, Richie!" Adam shouted.

Richie pulled his sword from Michaelis and made a swipe at his head, but was stopped as his enemy's sword sank into his stomach.

The young immortal fell to his knees for the last time. His limp head barely lifted enough to see the sword as it was pulled from him.

Duncan's heart turned to ice. He watched as fate cruelly stole back his few moments of happiness- his last grain of sanity dissolving with the last glimpse at his child. He was suddenly transported back to that dreadful night at the racetrack. He'd rather have left things the way they were. He'd rather have had Richie dead at his own hands than to have to witness the death of his son again. How could he stand there and let this happen? In the name of everything he'd ever believed in, how could any God ever allow this tragedy?

Michaelis grabbed a handful of Richie's curls and pulled him back to his knees. Richie was half-dead, but he gritted his teeth, and tried to hold his head proudly. He could barely hold onto his sword, much less lift his arm to fight.

Joe shakily raised his gun. Could he do this? He had to. They couldn't interfere but he was a mortal. He was the only one there allowed to interfere. But he was a Watcher sworn to observe only. He'd saved Richie before, though. He'd saved him from Duncan MacLeod. But this was different. This wasn't Richie terrified and confused that his teacher had lost his mind. This was a fight the young immortal had pursued. If he did this, he destroyed his career as a Watcher. He destroyed everything the Watchers stood for.

Richie closed his eyes for a brief second, trying to tighten his grip on his sword. Michaelis ran his blade across the biceps of his upper arm, severing the muscles and causing Richie to drop the weapon.

Methos stood trance like, terrified. His brother was about to die. For the first time in two thousand years he had dared to think of anyone as his brother and now he was about to lose him for eternity. How could this have possibly happened? How did this whole macabre twisted event come out like this? How did someone as evil as Kronos or himself live so long and someone as good as Richie die so young? He began to shake and inwardly rock. He felt his mind withdrawing inside itself. He saw himself plunge the knife into the boy's heart to keep Kronos from hurting him any further. His breathing grew rapid and he closed his eyes.

Michaelis raised his sword high above Richie's head.

Connor turned away releasing Adam, to grip a low hanging limb so hard that it cracked beneath his strong hands, and the tears streamed down his face. Why did he let himself get involved with children? Mortal or immortal this is the way it always ended. They always died. Yet like a fool, he continually took them in. The swoosh the sword made as it whirled through the air sent him to his knees. Richie was gone.

The heavy clank of metal against metal jarred him. Duncan had already gone after Michaelis. He prayed silently that Duncan would take the bastard's head before the boy's quickening could be absorbed. As unethical as it seemed, he was glad Duncan hadn't given Michaelis a chance to recover. But if Duncan was going to break the rules, why hadn't he interfered earlier? There wasn't really a rule that said how long one should give another immortal to recover from a quickening and that's how Duncan would justify it to himself- self-righteous son of a bitch.

Connor forced himself back on his feet. As he turned around he saw Adam take Joe's gun from his trembling hand. He saw Duncan and Michaelis standing, swords locked together in petrified violence.

"I knew you couldn't be trusted not to interfere." Michaelis seethed. "Any of you. If I had taken his head you would have killed me during the quickening, wouldn't you?"

Connor's terrified eyes finally managed to look at Richie. Tears, laughter and happiness, locked in his throat nearly choking him, but he somehow managed to breath. Yes, Richie was a crumpled heap, but he still had his head.

"Yes. I can't let you kill him. I'd break every rule there is to keep him alive."

"So now what? You and I fight and one of them kills me during the quickening?"

"They won't interfere, but you won't win."

"I think we best continue this another time." Michaelis slowly nodded. "If you want me so bad, it'll just be me and you."

"You aren't leaving here you son of a bitch." Duncan seethed.

Michaelis looked around at the others. "This is against all of the rules."

"And your killing of innocent young immortals is against my rules. This isn't a fight. This is your execution." Duncan's cold dark eyes penetrated Michaelis' soul and found nothing salvageable.

Michaelis backed up just slightly, but left his sword locked against Duncan's. "You don't have the right to judge me."

"Oh, you're big on rights, aren't you?" Duncan spoke through gritted teeth and raw emotion never taking his eyes from Michaelis. "Fine, if you want to play by the rules at this late date we will. Connor, Adam, Joe! No matter what the outcome is, do not interfere. Promise me he walks if he wins."

"I'm not promising that bastard anything!" Adam shouted back.

"Yes you will," Connor ordered. "We'll give him an hour's head start. No more. You have my word on it."

"How can I trust any of you?"

"Because I didn't kill you in New York, you sorry son of a bitch. But I'm more than ready to now. One hour. But you won't be using it. Kill the bastard, Duncan."

Duncan whirled completely around, before Michaelis even realized their swords were disengaged. His would be victim managed to dodge just slightly.

"This isn't right. It's one on one, you know that. I haven't had time?" Michaelis tried backing away a bit.

"Take all the time you need." Duncan stepped back almost tripping over Richie who lay dying at his feet. Looking at the battered, mutilated body of his young student sent a wave of anger through him that almost caused him to rescind his offer. Michaelis saw his attention was diverted and lunged forward, catching Duncan in the side with his blade.

From the ground and half dead eyes, Richie watched the two immortals battling over his fading body. He had to stay alive long enough to see the outcome. Mac had to win. Mac always won. He was the best. Some faint part of his mind or soul echoed these thoughts. Semi-conscious reason wondered how he knew what Mac always did.

Michaelis made the mistake of withdrawing his sword as Duncan countered his move with an attack to the middle that didn't quite find flesh enough to count. Michaelis moved back a moment, but Duncan advanced. The ancient metals sang out as the two immortals began a fast and furious battle through the dense wooded area. Leaves, limbs, and bark flew in bit's and pieces, severed by the clashing swords. Both immortals were at a disadvantage in the tangled underbrush of the forest floor, eventually pushing each other back to the path where Michaelis tripped over Richie's barely conscious body.

"Sorry," Duncan smiled. "It was suppose to be one on one." He brought his sword down swiftly, Michaelis' shock barely registering before he died.

When the Quickening began Duncan realized Richie could feel the onset as well. Connor and Adam backed away quickly as the massive transfer of energy began. Duncan felt every nerve, every hair on his body stand on end. Richie moaned on the ground below. The electrical surges began dancing around both their bodies, from one to the other, torturing, searching for a final destiny. Duncan almost suffocated holding back the screams that finally emitted in a low guttural cry. Richie gave a blood-curling scream before he went limp with death as the quickening ended.

 

 

Connor and Adam had taken care of Michaelis' body before Duncan could even think about standing again. The younger MacLeod was exhausted. He hadn't felt this bad after a quickening since that horrible night at the racetrack. He sat there exhausted waiting for Richie to recover. He asked Joe to bring the SUV as close to the wooded path as possible. "We don?t want anyone seeing either of us like this." When Joe returned Duncan pulled Richie's limp body upward and over his shoulder then carried him to the vehicle.

By the time they arrived at the lodge Richie was beginning to awaken. When he realized where he was and who he was with, he got out of the vehicle and stormed into the woods, obviously heading to the practice clearing. Duncan followed, totally disregarding Connor and Adam as they pulled onto the crumbling brick driveway of the old lodge. The other immortals followed with frantic concern.

When Richie showed no signs of stopping in the clearing, Duncan finally took hold of his arm and pulled him to a halt. "Richie, please listen to me for just a minute."

"You had no right! Let go of me! You're not my teacher! You're not my father!"

The after effects of the quickening left Duncan unable to control the anger that burst forth. He grabbed Richie with a hard shake, almost shouting. "Then who has been all these years?"

Richie stared, stunned into silence. Connor held onto him with a vice like grip and pulled him away from Duncan. "He might not be your teacher anymore, but you will never stop him from being your father. It's all he has left."

Connor's words fought for space with Duncan's in Richie's mind. What were they saying? Scott was his father? That couldn?t be. Immortals didn't have children- only students. So he was Duncan MacLeod after all. He continued to stare blankly. His mind was about to explode. Connor must have sensed this so he lessened his grip a bit.

"It's alright, lad. It's all right. Don't let those dreams frighten you. This is the real Duncan. He's not going to hurt you." Connor turned the boy around and gently pushed him closer to Duncan.

Richie was hesitant to say anything. He didn't really know where to begin.

Duncan MacLeod's anger was receding as he watched the scared, shocked, ragged, blood covered young man trying to comprehend a life he couldn't remember. "I'm sorry," Duncan offered quickly pulling his extended hand back when Richie flinched. "To hear you say that- after all this time thinking you were dead, and having you suddenly back, just to be told I couldn't tell you who I was- it's pretty much undid me. I know this isn't making any sense."

Duncan reached out and pulled Richie into his arms. He embraced the young man in a suffocating bear hug. He kissed the reddish blond hair as he buried his face into it every moment or two. Tears began streaming down his cheeks. A large hand engulfed the back of Richie's head. Duncan began sobbing and laughing, so overwhelmed with joy and redemption. "You have no real memory of me do you?"

Richie only shook his head.

"It's okay. I'll tell you everything. I promise, I'll tell you everything."

"Right now. I want to know now. Why have you been gone so long? What happened? Why did they keep us apart all this time?"

"Richie," Connor began sternly. "This isn't the place?"

"I'm not leaving until I get answers." Richie pulled away from Duncan's arms.

"Fine," Duncan agreed.

"No." Connor ordered. "It won't do him any good to know everything at once. The effects could be damaging."

Richie turned betrayed eyes on the only one he felt he could trust besides Adam. He didn't want to argue with his teacher, but it was time he stood his ground. "No, Connor! You have controlled my every move for a year now and before that it was Adam! I've put up with it because I didn't have a choice. Let me have my way for once. I need to know everything now!"

"You don?t know what you're asking for." Connor nodded and put his hands up in surrender. Richie turned demanding eyes back at Duncan.

"Okay, the reason they kept us apart for so long is that I've been an absolute jerk to you over the years. You met Connor and me when you were seventeen and you came to live with me and Tessa. You and Tessa got along great, but a year later she died and?"

"I know, I know. I became immortal. They told me all of that. What is the problem between you and me?" Richie demanded loudly.

"There's been a number of them Richie. It will take some time." Duncan's voice shook. He was still weak and felt as though the quickening had ravaged his mind. The judge was now to be judged and he didn't know if he was prepared for this. He'd rehearsed this so many times in the last few days. He had so many things to explain to Richie. He didn't know where to begin, but somehow he had to explain everything so that he would understand the good and the bad between them.

"Well it couldn't have been too bad. You came back. You took this guy's head cause you didn't think I could. Why were you trying to help me?"

"Because, Richie, you were more than a student. A friend? "

"He is what all of your immortality will never give you, Duncan. Just tell him."

"You were my son." Duncan finally spoke the words. The strain in his ancient husky voice echoed in his heart. The wondrous joy that suddenly filled him as he finally spoke the words aloud almost made Duncan collapse. It was out.

Joe and Methos exchanged grins.

Richie just looked confused. "Immortals can't have children."

"Not that kind of a son, Richie. You were the closest thing to a son an immortal can have."

Duncan and Connor both tossed a giggling Methos a warning glare.

"I'm sorry. It's just that it's taken you so damn long." Methos grinned gleefully.

"I don?t understand how this was a problem." Richie shook his head in confusion. He found nothing funny or difficult in the situation.

"Neither did any of us, kid." Methos laughed.

"Richie, because I feared you would someday die, I pushed you out of my life every chance I had. I was so afraid of losing you. I didn't think I could stand it. Any way we had all sorts of problems. We disagreed- a lot. We argued. I sent you away after your first quickening. Thank God you had the good sense to come back when you needed help. But then there were times when I should have never let you out on your own. And then there were the times I tried to kill you."

Richie stared incredulously before beginning a rapid fire questioning. "You did what? And that's just okay with you? You want what? I'm just suppose to accept that? Deal with it? Why would you do such a thing and then stand here and act so concerned? How many times?" His arms flung excitedly in the air.

"Three."

"What the hell for? So now you think you can just come back, and I'm suppose to forgive you cause you were having some kind of identity crisis over feeling fatherly? What the hell kind of a father is that?"

Methos let a sudden burst of laughter escape.

"Methos!" Duncan warned. "If you find this so humorous, leave."

"His name is Adam." Richie reminded him with total disgust in his voice.

Connor shot Methos an odd look.

"Told you so." Adam grinned.

"How do you know he's Methos?" Connor turned on Duncan.

"Cause I know him."

"Who is Methos?" Richie demanded. "This is Adam! And excuse me, but I think we've got a serious discussion going here!"

"What proof is that? You are only 408 years old." Connor pointed to the obvious fact that Duncan couldn't have known Methos for even a tenth of the years the oldest immortal spent on earth.

"Let's say I've met some of his old friends." Duncan was obviously frustrated and aggravated.

"No. He's lying. There is no way he could be Methos."

"Fine Connor, he's lying. He has illusions of grandeur. I try to humor him. He's a nice kid, leave him alone. Can we get back to the subject at hand, please?"

"You!" Connor pointed his sword at Methos. "Whoever, you think you are, come with me."

"Why?"

"Cause I'm about to beat the truth out of you. And if you want to keep your head, you'll be convincing."

"Connor, go easy. Remember his fragile state of mind." Joe grinned his response to Methos' pleas for help.

"MacLeod? Stop him."

"Connor, leave him alone."

"You tend to your own business. I'll tend to mine." Connor advanced on Methos forcing him by sword point to move forward.

"Okay, if you insist. But I'm not holding back this time. I've managed to keep my head for five thousand years so far."

"I think you've got a couple extra zeros there, kid."

"Are they going to fight?"

"Don't worry, Richie." Connor assured him. "I won't kill him- permanently."

Richie watched as Connor, Adam and Joe left him standing there alone with the monster of his nightmares. He knew he should be frightened, but instead he was just angry. He turned slowly back to Duncan. "So why did you lie to me?" He demanded quietly.

"I just couldn't think of a real good way to tell you. Connor insisted I let you get to know the real me. There were a lot of good times between us, Richie. But there were enough problems that if that's all you remember, I doubt you'll give me the time of day."

"Look I understand the pushing me away part." Richie ran a tense hand through the short blond curls. "Getting attached and all. But why did you try to kill me three times?"

"Richie, those instances had nothing to do with how I felt about you. I didn't try to kill you of my own free will." Duncan almost stammered as he rubbed his face in confusion. "I'm screwing this up terribly. These are two separate issues. The basic problem was that I always had to deal with knowing that someday you would be immortal. That you would enter the game."

"You mean that you would have to kill me?"

"No! Not under the circumstances as they were then. Just that I could lose you so quickly. I guess no matter how much I accepted you, there was always part of me that held back. Trying not to get too close, knowing it would hurt all that much more. But I couldn't fight it. You became the son that Tessa and I couldn't have. She and I had just decided to get married. Then came the night that you and she were killed. You awoke as immortal and she didn't."

"Did you resent me for that?"

"No, of course not. But I never got over her. I latched onto you then. You were the only reason I had to go on. I had to train you, teach you to protect yourself in case anything happened to me. Then all too soon came your first Quickening. We didn't exactly agree on the circumstances, and I used that as an excuse to send you away. I was really terrified I'd lose you, and unconsciously I guess I couldn't separate myself from you fast enough. I guess I thought that would make losing you easier. I was kidding myself."

"But that doesn't explain how I lost my memory, or why you tried to kill me."

"Oh, Richie, I'm trying to explain so much. So many things I've wanted to say to you. When you died- when I thought you were gone?" Duncan took a deep breath.

"It's okay," Richie reached out and gave him an encouraging pat on the arm. "Take your time. I don't mean to confuse you. It's just that I have so many questions. Everything is such a blank and I can't take much more."

"Don't worry, I can fill in a lot of those blanks, Richie." Duncan pulled him into another hug and held him there for a long moment. When Richie didn't resist he continued slowly.

"You and I eventually found our way back together. There were other circumstances that forced us to separate temporarily now and again, but we always found our way back together. No matter what." Duncan took a deep breath and tried to force himself to continue. Richie pulled back just slightly, but not completely away. It took all the will power Duncan could summon to look in those betrayed blue eyes. But now was the time to either fix them or break it off completely. "You have to understand that, before I tell you anything else. You have to know what there was between us."

"It sounds like it was a pretty strong bond." Richie bit his lip timidly. "I mean if we kept overcoming all that stuff."

Duncan smiled thoughtfully. "Yes it was."

"So, you tried to kill me because?" Richie encouraged almost in good nature.

"These were circumstances out of my control." Duncan nodded.

"Were you drunk or something?"

"No. I wish it was that simple. There were situations that -"

"Drugs?"

"No. Sit down and I'll explain."

Richie allowed Duncan to lead him to a large old tree trunk where they sat down.

"What I'm talking about, Richie, are situations where I've been -well, basically off my rocker. The first time, I really never understood what happened. It all seems bizarre now, but then again so does being immortal. There are some things we can't explain and never will be able to. I was under some sort of hypnotic trance or influence. Maybe he had drugged me. I don't know how he did it. I was fighting with what I believed to be an evil monster. It turns out that he was an old friend of mine who somehow mistakenly believed I had betrayed him. I'm not sure how he made me hallucinate when he wasn't always there, but he did. You got too close during one of those times. Your screams, begging me to realize who you were, finally got through to me."

"That seems kind of weird."

"Unbelievable?"

"Yeah, but like you said, so does being immortal. What happened after that?"

"I took what was called a dark quickening."

"Adam explained those to me once."

"Well, good. At least you know I'm not just making it up. When I came home, you were there. I remember how you were practicing with your sword. You looked so young and trusting. You didn't understand what I was doing to you. If it hadn't been for Joe Dawson shooting me, I would have killed you. I'm so sorry."

"I didn't think watchers could interfere?"

"They can't, but you've always been more to Joe than just another immortal. You have that affect on people, you know?" Duncan tossled his hair.

"How did you get over the dark quickening? Is that where you've been? In a psycho ward or something?"

"No," Duncan tried not to laugh. "Though I probably should have been. I'll explain that to you another time. It isn't important right now."

"Okay, so when was the third time?

"Well this is where it gets real complicated. But the quick version is that there are some forms of unexplained evil that we will never understand. This particular demon expected me to go quietly. I didn't. It knew that the only way to destroy me was to hurt you. We were set up. It made me hallucinate." Duncan hesitated nervously. "I accidentally killed you. Or what I thought was you. I lost my mind completely then. I couldn't deal with it. I went to a monastery, where I stayed for a year. On the anniversary of your death, I realized it was time to go back and destroy the demon."

Richie's confused stare grew worse, as he turned away from Duncan. He closed his eyes firmly trying to remember something. "We were fighting. You had longer hair. You were swinging blindly. There was nothing there. Then suddenly I felt the sword go through my neck. But then, it was you, lying on the floor. Not me. There wasn't any blood. But you were?" Richie couldn't finish.

"Dead? Did you have a quickening?"

"Yes, I did." Richie closed his eyes again, concentrating only on his memories. "For so long, this was my nightmare. I could never see your face, but that's what I've been dreaming about. That's what Horton was always trying to make me believe. It was just a nightmare like Adam said."

"Yes, one horrible, long, cruel nightmare." Duncan pulled Richie into his arms and held him tightly.

 

Connor looked up from his coffee when he saw Adam land at the bottom of the stairs with his duffel bag. "Where do you think you're going?"

"I think it's time I move on."

"I don't think so."

"Why not?" Adam looked somewhat puzzled. "Mac and Richie are okay. All is right in the world and the bad guy is dead."

Duncan entered the room to see what was going on. Richie sat up from the slump he was in and removed his head phones to watch something far more entertaining than listening to music.

"You haven't completed your training."

"My training for what?"

"The Connor MacLeod young immortal training program, remember?"

Adam looked to Duncan for help. "Mac, tell him how old I am. He refuses to believe me."

"Adam, you're not still trying to convince Connor that you're Methos, too, are you?"

"Very funny MacLeod."

"He has this on going fantasy that he's 5,000 years old. It was cute at first, but after awhile?"

"MacLeod." Adam gritted his teeth in a warning tone.

"I don't care if he's 10,000, he needs more training. His technique is sloppy. He's scrawny. He's lazy and he's going back to medical school." Connor stood up from the couch.

"I'm what?" Adam exploded in disbelief sounding more like a teenager who just found out he was being sent off to military school.

"You're going to quit feeling sorry for yourself and enroll in an up to date medical program. There was nothing you could have done for Alexa, but you have the talent to prevent further deaths. This fall when Duncan and Richie return from Scotland so that the boy can go back to school, you'll be there in the medical department."

"When we do what?" Richie spoke up over his coffee just as shocked as Adam.

"Duncan is taking you to Scotland for the summer. We want you to see the land of our ancestors. When you return he'll be teaching at the university you'll be attending. There's a medical school there, which Adam will attend. In the meantime he stays put."

"You are unbelievable." Methos shook his head.

"Who says I want to go to Scotland?" Richie asked nervously, eyeing Duncan carefully. He didn't want to upset the man, but after everything he had told him, why would he go anywhere alone with him?

"What, you'd rather run and hide as a failure?" Connor ignored Richie and continued to focus on Adam.

"Screw you!"

"Come closer and say that to me." Connor smiled.

Adam looked disgusted for a moment then slammed his duffel bag on the floor.

"This is absurd. I don't have to do anything of the kind. And what do you mean sending Richie off with MacLeod before he even has a chance to know him?"

Richie and Duncan regarded each other nervously. "No offense, Mac."

"Yeah, right." Duncan nodded in astonishment and sipped his coffee.

"Yes you are, and they'll be fine. I'm the clan chieftain. My word is law."

"Talk about delusional. It may interest you to know that I'm not part of your clan. I was born about 5000 years ago no where near Scotland. I knew Julius Caesar and a whole bunch of other ancient dead guys. I've lived damn near everywhere on earth there is to go, but I don't remember ever being a member of the Clan MacLeod."

"Adam, I think Connor meant that as an honor. You've been adopted into our clan." Duncan gave Methos a severely reproachful look. "Of course, if you want to throw all that away?"

"I thought you wanted to go back to medical school, Adam?" Richie interjected.

"From the mouths of babes." Adam shook his head. "Yes, Richie, I do, but I was going to do it away from here."

"Why?"

"It's been thirty years?" Adam faltered worriedly.

"We can help each other study."

Methos studied Richie for a moment. He had yet to show any reaction to his revelation. "You don't believe me either, do you?"

"Frankly, I just don?t care, but believing that you are 5,000 years old is a bit tough on the imagination."

"That's because you don't have a mind left, let alone an imagination."

"Screw you!"

"Gee, where have I heard that before?"

"Why are you such a jerk all of a sudden? I appreciate every thing you've done for me, but if you're sick of me just say so. And thanks for lying to me all this time, Pal. I bet you got a real laugh out of me. Oh, and by the way, thanks for lying to all my friends and letting them all believe I was dead for years." Richie suddenly landed a fist into Methos jaw. Instead of hitting the ground Methos managed to land on the couch, but suddenly jumped back up practically in Richie's face.

"I never said I was sick of you. I haven't exactly been lying to you, and I was trying to keep you alive, idiot!"

"Oh, well thank you!" Richie dove at Methos as the older immortal lunged toward him.

Both quickly found themselves plucked up and away from each other. Duncan wrapped strong arms around Richie's chest, locking the kid's arms in place, and carried him a few steps backward. Connor flung Methos around the other direction. Methos turned quickly back, but Connor stopped him in his tracks. "Don't even think about it."

"He started it!"

"No! He did! You saw him, he's being a real jerk!"

"Would you two act your ages!" Connor shouted.

"I would if I knew how old I was, but you guys have probably lied about that too!" Richie struggled against Duncan.

"Fine! I'm five thousand so how about I just die?"

"Could you?" Richie gave his snottiest grin.

"You first!"

"That's enough!" Duncan interrupted forcibly. "You both are acting like brats and I have half a mind to send you to your rooms. Be still!" Duncan gave Richie a shake, effectively stopping his squirming. "Methos, you owe Richie and apology."

"I don't think so. This is all his fault!" Methos pointed at Connor. "Let him apologize."

"You've needed to hear that for some time. Now you can whine about it, or you can do something with it. The choice is yours."

"I'm sick of not being believed!"

"Then quit hiding from the world and act like a five thousand year old man." Duncan almost shouted.

"Absolutely not!" Methos stalked out of the lodge.

Duncan and Connor exchanged bewildered looks. Richie rolled his eyes and suddenly they all started laughing.

"Should we stop him?" Connor laughed.

"No. Let him chill out. His bag is still here, so he'll be back."


"Mac?" Richie proceeded carefully.

"Yeah?"

"You can let me go now." Richie disengaged himself from Duncan and went to the kitchen.

"Well, this has gone really well." Connor shook his head.

"I've always found it easier to make them think an idea was theirs, rather than force them."

"You're too soft." Connor complained. "They're both too stubborn. They'll come around."

"I hope so. I was expecting some reluctance from Richie, but that was just plain fear."

"Yes, and he'll get over it." Connor went into the kitchen where Richie was busy fashioning sandwiches from scrambled eggs and toast, a dangling strip of bacon was sucked into his mouth. He watched both MacLeods warily as they proceeded to talk as though he wasn't there. "He should understand that I would never send him off with you if I thought there were any risks involved. He should trust me, after all."

Richie shrugged his shoulders and rolled his eyes in total disbelief and tried to finish his mouthful of bacon.

"I just hope he accepts the past is the past. Those were extremely different circumstances. I would never hurt him." Duncan followed Connor's lead.

Richie downed a glass of orange juice, refilled his and poured a second glass, then headed for the back door sandwiches in hand. Joe entered at the same time.

"Where are you headed?" Dawson smiled.

"Oh good, you can see me! I was beginning to think I was invisible."

Dawson held the door open and rapped Richie on the head as he went by.

 

I took a walk around the world to ease my troubled mind, I left my body lying somewhere in the sands of time, I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon, I feel there is nothing I can do, Yeah, I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon, After all I knew it had to be something to do with you, I really don't mind what happens now and then, As long as you'll be my friend at the end, Kryptonite, Three Doors Down

Richie found Adam in the clearing, perched up on his favorite rock and quietly brooding. Adam had obviously sensed him and chose to ignore him. Richie walked over and handed him one of the sandwiches and a glass of juice. Adam accepted it without saying a word and hungrily began to chow down. Richie leaned against the rock doing likewise. Music was playing from his headphones. "Hey catch this part." He handed the headphones to Adam.

"You called me strong you called me weak, but still your secrets I will keep, You took for granted all the times I never let you down, You stumbled in and bumped your head, If not for me then you'd be dead, I picked you up and put you back on solid ground"

Adam almost smiled as he recognized the song and Richie's shy attempt to apologize.

"So, I was an idiot." The eternal teen offered.

"Me too," confessed the ancient.

"So, you're really old, huh? What's that like?"

"It sucks." Adam chugged his juice completely down.

"Yeah, I can imagine." Richie took another bite. "So you want me to like take your head and put you out of your misery?"

"And let my quickening spend eternity in your slightly post adolescent, poor excuse for hell, body? You didn't lose your memory, you lost your mind."

"Did I know about this? I mean B.A.?"

"Most of it, yes. We didn't tell you for awhile, but then you met some guy claiming to be me."

"Why would he do that?" Richie cocked his head in confusion.

"He was trying to get immortals to lay down their swords and quit fighting. He figured people would listen to a myth. He made sense. It's just that it could get you killed quick. It got him killed, actually."

"Did I fall for it?"

"Oh, yeah. So that's when I told you who I was. You weren't impressed to say the least."

"Man, I did some dumb stuff. Walking into swords, laying mine down. What an idiot."

"Trust me, you aren't anywhere near catching up to me."

They were quiet for a moment as they continued to eat then Richie finally broke the silence. "So would you do it?" He asked with great concern.

Adam took a deep breath. "Yeah, in your situation. You've got me and Connor telling you what a great guy he is. And he is. Don't ever tell him, but he's one of my favorite heroes." Adam brushed crumbs from his sweater casually.

"Cool. It just seems risky."

"It is, but just remember, if he starts acting weird, get the hell out of there."

"Why do you think he gets caught up in those situations?"

"Because of his level of involvement. The more you risk, the greater the risks. If he wasn't such a hero- more like me, you know, the quiet type- he probably would have been fine. If you are with him, you have to accept those risks and learn to protect yourself. Don't walk into the middle of his fights."

"Trust me, just listening to his explanations, cured me of that notion."

"Good." Adam nodded. "So tell me, would you?"

"Oh, yeah. I mean think about how talented you are. It's what you should be doing. I know it's got to be tough starting over all the time, but think of what you get out of it. Besides, it's not like medicine doesn't change all the time."

"True." Adam agreed thoughtfully.

"So in 5,000 years did you ever get like me?"

"Crazy or memory loss? You bet. A few times."

"How long did it take you to remember?"

"It's been about 5,000 years for some things."

"What caused you to lose it?"

"Kronos- if these dreams I'm having lately are accurate. I didn't realize what he did to me. Hell until lately, I couldn't even remember who I was before I met him. My life just began one day in his camp."

"He was a pretty vicious bastard, huh?"

"That doesn't even begin to describe it. Kronos was all about control, though. Once he had you under his control, once he broke you and made you what he wanted, he could treat you pretty decently. As long as you obeyed his every whim, kept him happy, and never dared questioned him- he gave you anything you wanted. Money, horses, women, food, drink, drugs. You could have anything as long as you didn't get attached. You could only be attached to him. Actually he insisted on it."

"And this is the guy who trained you?"

"As far as I can remember. I remembered more about my first quickening yesterday. He was there."

"So even though Mac has freaked out on me a few times, you don't think he's like that jerk?" Richie asked hopefully.

"No." Methos shook his head laughing. "Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod could never be that crazy. He'll be fine, Richie. You'll be safe. He'll see to it."

Richie smiled nervously and nodded.

 

 

Joe Dawson looked curiously from first Connor and then Duncan. "So what's going on now?"

"Oh just the usual." Duncan smiled sarcastically. "Connor refuses to believe Adam is Methos. Adam refuses to go back to medical school or stay here with Connor. Adam and Richie were arguing. Richie is terrified of going to Scotland with me. Now he's mad at me and Connor. The list goes on."

"First of all," Connor interjected. "Richie isn't terrified he's cautious, and it's your own damn fault because you told him everything like a moron. That's the last thing you do to someone in his condition."

"I didn't want him suddenly waking up one morning, remembering I'm the guy who frequently tries to take his head- and then he freaks out on me. Believe me, it was very tempting not to tell him anything that happened, but I don't want to start this out on lies. I want him to understand and trust me."

"Well," Joe grinned. "He might learn to trust you?"

"But no one will ever understand you, Duncan." Connor laughed at the very idea.

"So what is your problem with believing Adam is Methos?" Duncan threw back at him.

"Did I say I didn't believe him?"

"Yes!" Joe and Duncan echoed each other.

"Well that's not exactly true." Connor grinned. "I know exactly who he is."

 

Connor held Heather in his arms as they sat next to the hearth. Ramierez stared into the fire watching some reflection of a thousand years ago dance with the shadows of his memory. He made jabs at the red-hot logs, occasionally dissecting away a piece of the white charred wood.

"So how old can you live to be, Jaun?" Heather asked innocently, still trying to comprehend all she had heard over the past few days.

"Humph." Ramierez smiled. "I can live forever, I suppose. Unless someone decides to remove my head from my body."

"Are you the oldest then?"

"No," He shook his head just slightly. "There are others even older than I am. Fortunately for them, they don't look quite so old."

"How old is the oldest?" Connor asked.

"Well, that's hard to say. I met a young man recently who didn't look all that old. Probably in his twenties."

"Recently? How recently is recently for you?" Connor teased.

"Well, I'd say it's been about- well, it was around the time of all that fuss in Jerusalem. Just after the crucifixion."

"You knew Christ?" Connor sat up more alert.

"We met once- briefly."

Connor and Heather immediately crossed themselves in prayer. Rameirez smiled. "Well, back to the story. He was about three thousand years old then."

"You liar." Connor laughed. "How could he be that old?"

"We've been here since the beginning, Connor."

"Is he still alive?"

"I don't know. Unfortunately, I made a regrettable decision. One that taught me too well the damage of words spoken in anger."

"What did you do?"

"When he first came to me, I assumed he was a new immortal. It seems no matter how old we get, we easily forget that looks are deceptive. Because he looked so young, I guessed him to be a new immortal. He tried to explain that he was older, but I didn't believe him. That was until his old friends came looking for him."

"How old were they?" Heather asked, her eyes bright warming Ramierez's soul.

"I really don?t know. Kronos seemed even older- very old. Methos seemed to believe he was as old as time and invincible. I really don't know how that could be."

"So he left with his friends? What was it that you said to him that causes you regret?" Heather asked patiently as Rameriez tapped the stick in the fire several times.

"Methos had once rode with Kronos. They along with the other two were known as the Four Horsemen. They murdered, raped and pillaged across the known world, killing and butchering thousands in their wake."

"And this monster pretended to be a young immortal?" Connor asked.

"No. He tried to tell me the truth, but I didn't listen to him. I thought he was making it up. A silly fantasy to seem more courageous- his defense against the world. He knew little of actual sword fighting. He only knew what Kronos had taught him- the butchering of innocents."

"And you worry that you hurt this beast?"

"He tried to tell me the truth. He was making changes- trying to reform himself. Somehow he had caught a glimpse of his earlier soul perhaps. He had discovered on his own that there was more to life than killing. Every time he managed to escape from Kronos, the monster would find him.

"I realize now that he didn't try harder to convince me of the truth because he was desperate to begin a new life with a new teacher, a new name. He wanted a chance to forget the past, just as he had forgotten who he was before he met Kronos."

"You met this Kronos as well?" Connor asked.

"Oh, yes. He was quite proud of the fact that he had made Methos what he was. He looked upon him as a work of art- a treasure he would never let go of. He wanted him back."

"So you sent him back?" Heather was astonished.

"Once Methos had convinced me of the truth, I sent him away. I told him to never step within my gaze again or I would take his head. As he was leaving Kronos and the others came. I could immediately see how different he was from them. Kronos would have killed me, but Methos bargained for my life. He promised to go willingly if Kronos let me live."

"What happened?"

"Kronos killed me. He was quite good and talented about it. Very slow and agonizing, but I kept my head. The torture was a lesson to Methos. A harsh reminder that he should have never become friends with anyone but his brothers."

"So they killed him?" Heather almost gasped.

"Probably. Eventually. Methos swore to me he would never stay with them. Kronos probably tired of chasing after him. He was a most unpleasant man. I never saw them again. Once I revived, I tried to find him. I had no idea where they went or how to help him. I prayed for years he would somehow escape. After that I visited every young immortal I heard of. He gave up his freedom for my life. All he wanted was a chance to start over. A chance at redemption. I vowed he would have that chance if I ever found him."

"What does he look like?" Connor asked.

"Young, thin, tall. Long dark hair. He could be any young villager or slave."

"How would I know him? Or this Kronos?"

"Methos had dark eyes that hold the truth of his past. Haunted, terrified eyes."

"Terrified of Kronos?" Heather shivered.

"Terrified of Kronos, yes." Ramierez nodded and stood up from his seat near the hearth to add more wood. "But I rather think he is even more terrified of what death holds for him. Terrified of hell, I suppose."

"But if he only knew death and killing, and still found it in his heart that these things were wrong, don't you think he will be forgiven in Heaven?"

"The question, dear Heather, isn't what I believe, it's what he believes."

 

 

"And I thought Methos was the conniving son of a bitch around here." Joe laughed. "How long have you known who he was?"

"Since he told me."

"How did you know?" Duncan asked. "There are a lot of young immortals with similar descriptions."

"The eyes. Just as Ramierez said. Haunted. Terrified to live and even more terrified to die. His own personal Hell right here on earth."

"He's been having a lot of old memories lately." Joe spoke thoughtfully. "I wonder what that's all about?"

"Perhaps he's worried more, or perhaps the opposite." Connor suggested. "Maybe he realizes he has new friends and a new life and he is comfortable enough to deal with the past. Maybe all the studying of Richie's condition is bringing about his own therapy."

"They both have a long way to go, don't they?" Duncan smiled worriedly.

"Yes, but they won't be doing it alone." Connor promised.

 

 

Duncan threw his bags in the back of the SUV. Richie and Adam walked up with a couple more well packed bags. Adam appeared to be almost dragging the one he carried, using his leg to push it along. Richie was trying to sort out a stack of CD's and pack away his headphones in his carrying case. "How much more stuff do you have, Richie?" Duncan took a bag from his shoulder and threw it in the back with his.

"That's about it- and this one." Richie nodded at the bag Adam carried.

Duncan waited for Adam to hand it to him, but when the younger appearing immortal only grinned stupidly he reached for it and lifted much too quickly. "Oh my - What the hell is in that bag?" Duncan grabbed his back after he dropped the bag in the back of the SUV.

"Books- and you can blame it on Connor. He's making me review everything, since there's so much I can't remember. I tried to tell him it probably has nothing to do with amnesia."

"It doesn't," Duncan smiled and tried to stretch his back. "You had an allergy to school," he grimaced as pulled the bag back out. "We can't take these where we're going."

"Yes!" Richie raised a triumphant fist. "Did you know me when I was in school?"

"You had just graduated high school when we met. I never quite got you talked into college. How did Connor manage?" Duncan tried to stand completely upright.

"Connor just told him he was going," the old Scottish French blend chimed in from around the front of the vehicle where he was checking everything out under the hood.

"Connor, I've already done all that, we're only driving back to New York where I'm turning it back into the rental agency."

"Yeah, that's what you said that time you went on that trip to the Grand Canyon with Amanda during the border war. Who had to come and get you when you blew the engine?"

"Connor, that was ninety years ago, give it a rest. Besides my mind was preoccupied." Duncan smiled and raised his eyebrows.

"Who's Amanda?"

Adam grinned. "Oh, just let her be a surprise- but hang onto your wallet real close. And I've got dibs after MacLeod."

Duncan laughed. "She's going to kill us all when she finds out you're alive and well and we haven't told her."

"I'll get my iron jaw ready." Adam rubbed an imaginary ache in his chin.

Connor shut the hood and walked around the side of the vehicle. "Have you got everything?"

"Clothes, books, CD's, you name it."

"Your video game?"

"Already pilfered it from your desk drawer, teach."

Connor smiled warmly at his young student. "This never gets any easier, you know?"

Adam and Duncan busied themselves in the back of the SUV.

"I guess not." Richie smiled shyly.

Connor plucked him into a hug. "Stay out of trouble, okay?"

"Not a problem."

"You mean not possible." Connor patted his back affectionately.

"Do I have to go?" Richie whispered.

Connor pulled him back and looked directly into his eyes. "No," he shook his head. "You don't have to, but you need to, and you want to. It's only going to be six weeks, Richie. Just till the end of summer."

"I know." Richie leaned against Connor again. "Thanks for everything, you know?"

"Yeah, I know." Connor stood him up straight. "Do you have your cell phone?"

"Yes, with your number, Joe's, Mac's, and Adam's new number programmed into it."

"Good."

Joe Dawson walked up just then. "You've got my number in your?"

"Cell phone. Yes, I do." Richie put a hand out to Joe. "Thank you for all your help."

Joe shook his hand and pulled him into a hug. "My pleasure kid. Now stay out of trouble this time. And- stay out of the way." Joe smiled.

Richie grinned, raising his eyebrows. "Yeah, definitely."

"Hey, Kid." Adam left Duncan to straighten out the back of the SUV since he was being more of a hindrance than help.

"Hey, Old Timer."

"That's what you used to call me."

"Humm. Well, some things are obvious." Richie grinned and Adam shook his head. "Here, this is for you." Richie handed Adam his Three Doors Down CD.

Adam almost giggled. "Thanks. You sure you won't need it? He has no taste in our kind of music."

"I've got a lot of others. Maybe he'll get used to it."

"Just a B.A. reminder, you and I have tried for years. It won't happen. The best you can do is get him to Joe's to listen to the Blues."

"Okay, we're packed." Duncan shut the door on the SUV. "Let's roll." He turned around to face the group in front of him. "Joe, will we be seeing you soon?"

"I doubt it. You usually don?t. No, seriously, I'm on vacation. I'm staying here and going fishing for awhile."

"Well, good for you." Duncan smiled. "Enjoy yourself." His mood took the slightest dive as he realized his fail-safe Richie protector wouldn't be close behind. Joe seemed to sense the change and gave him an unexpected hug.

"You two will be just fine, MacLeod." He spoke quietly. " I'm going to see what I can do to keep these two from killing each other."

Duncan smiled again. Joe's opinion had always meant so much more to him than he would ever let the Watcher know. He turned to Methos. "Well, Adam or Methos, or Dr. Pierson, I'll see you in a couple of months."

Adam smiled quietly. "Take care, okay?"

Duncan grabbed him by the front of his shirt and pulled him into a hug. "Thank you, so much. You have no idea what you've done for me." His voice choked a bit. "You watch your head, okay?"

"So, I'm all forgiven?"

Duncan pushed him back. "What do you think? Was there ever a question? You may have screwed up a lot, but you have more than made up for it."

Adam smiled shyly and took a deep breath wondering if MacLeod was trying to imply some deeper meaning.

Duncan turned into an expected hug from Connor. "See you in the fall?"

"Of course. I'll be the one dragging the screaming med-student along."

Duncan laughed and climbed into the SUV where Richie already had a Bon Jovi CD blasting. "Fasten your seat belt." Duncan turned the radio off. "We'll find some decent music once we're on the road."

"Oh man! You're a Connor clone." Richie grimaced in horror and turned the music back on.

 

To the sequel of All My Immortality, "The End of Time, part one"

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