All Your Immortality

Part Five

Richie had forced himself to return downstairs, though he would probably be better off going to bed. Upon his return, he found that the others had moved into the living room. He wanted to work up the nerve to ask Scott if he was actually Duncan, but thought better of it, realizing how silly it would sound. This had been one puzzling evening. He found himself especially irritated with Adam. He had understood that no one had known where Duncan MacLeod was for a long time. He understood that they had been reluctant to find him in some ways because no one was really sure what had happened between the two of them. But now that Joe Dawson was here, he couldn't understand why Adam had kept the fact that he was alive from this harmless, kindly mortal.

When Richie disappeared into the kitchen for another round of beers, Adam followed him.

"Can I help you with those?" Adam pulled the refrigerator door open wider, startling Richie and causing him to bump his head on the freezer door.

"Damn it, Adam!"

"Sorry." Adam grinned. "Here, give me some of those. You'll be okay in a minute."

"Maybe I hit my head hard enough to get my memory back."

"Yeah and the professor and the movie star lived happily ever after."

"Who?" Richie looked puzzled.

"I'm sorry, that was B.A."

"Before Amnesia." Richie nodded as he and Adam both repeated their code they had established to indicate a certain memory or notion was something Richie would have normally known.

"So how you doing with all of this?" Adam opened his beer and hopped up on the kitchen counter.

Richie followed his lead sitting on the other side of the sink.

"Okay, I guess."

"What's bothering you?"

"Why didn't you tell Joe that I was alive? Why did he think I was dead to begin with?"

"Do you remember the nightmares? The nightmares that we used to have? You saw a man named Horton, I saw a beast named Kronos? They controlled our every movements."

"Yes, sort of. They're very vague now. Little bits here and there."

"Well, I remember them very clearly. Every time I wanted to tell Joe, every time I picked up the phone to call him, Kronos would appear. Then later Connor and I thought it best not to tell Joe, until the mystery about what happened to you was solved."

"So, how did they do that anyway? I'd almost forgotten it. How could they show up like that? Was it some sort of a trick? I thought they were nightmares. In some ways it seems like it has been so long ago."

"To this day, Richie, I don't know. But I couldn't risk Joe's life like that. And the priority has been to keep you safe." Adam gave him a lopsided grin.

"So this Kronos? Who was he?"

Adam leaned his head back on the cabinet and closed his eyes from regret. "The essence of evil."

"Garcon! Where's the beer?" Connor called from the living room.

"I better take that in there. Tell me about Kronos?" Richie asked with quiet concern. He had seldom seen his friend this down. Adam had always been the strong one, keeping them both going.

"Not tonight. Why spoil tonight?"

"You okay?"

Adam forced an encouraging grin. "I'm fantastic! Just tired. We'll talk more about it another time."

Richie nodded and carried another six pack into the living room.

Adam rolled his eyes up to the kitchen light. "The essence of evil." He swallowed hard. "And so was I to become."

_____________________________________

Methos looked up at the blinding sun as a strange noise suddenly filled his ears vibrating through his entire being. He looked around at the burning homes of his neighbors. The bodies of his friends, and his master. Everyone he'd ever known lay dead around him. He was glad now that his parents and his woman had died in the plagues sometime ago. He would have hated to witness their deaths as he had all of his tribesmen.

Why was he still alive?

What further cruelty left him here to awaken when no one else did? The swarm of bees in his head grew louder, and then out of the glare stepped the monster who'd killed him once today already. Seeing the scarred man reminded him that he had been stabbed several times earlier. His hands and eyes went quickly to his blood soaked clothes, but his exploring fingers could no longer find the gashes.

"Well, look at you. My prize catch of the day." The man leaned over Methos, blocking the sun. As his eyes became adjusted he could better see the hideous scar that ran from his captors forehead, down his eye and cheek. He smiled revealing a sickening grin that terrified Methos.

"You killed me!"

"Yes, I did. And now you live, because I will it."

Methos studied the man carefully. He was a maniac. "Why?"

"Ahh, you'll do well. Those terrified eyes, night after night. You now live to serve me, young one. Only to serve me."

"You kill me now then, you demon. I'll not serve you." Methos tried to break free, but his captor held him down.

"You'll serve me in anyway I ask. Or I will kill you, over and over again."

Methos screamed as a dagger was plunged into his heart. His eyes could not block out the bright sun, and as he felt his clothing ripped from him, his life drained slowly away. He could feel the slowly fading beat of his own heart, and the intense pain of the violation he was powerless to stop. His head rolled over to the side, his open eyes focused on the bodies around him, and he was dead once more.

Night after night, day upon day, this ritual was played out. Every time Kronos came to him he ended by killing him. Methos began to wait for the death. If he could just hang on until death. Death was his release. He welcomed it. He looked forward to it. But many nights, Kronos was in the mood to play, and to be satisfied in ways he very much needed his young slave alive for.

So death came slower and more painfully. The slower it came the more anxious Methos was for it. He should be used to the pain by now but he wasn't. Kronos never failed to find ways to inflict even more pain.

Methos could not remember a time when he wasn't hurting now. When he looked back at his life as a slave he could only remember the beatings, the starvation. Even his own parents had been cruel to him. Now with Kronos he had reached a new plateau. So, this was what life was truly about?

Then he chose death.

Kronos had quit tying him up at night. If he tried to escape there would be no place for him to go out here in the wastelands. He would die and Kronos would find him. Methos lay on the blankets in the tent he'd been forced to set up earlier in the day. His stomach growled fiercely. He hadn't eaten since yesterday. Kronos only allowed him to eat after he had reawakened from his death. He only allowed him the release of death after Methos had satisfied him. Tonight would be different, tonight he would fix the monster.

"Where is my young slave?" Kronos came in smiling, carrying more food than Methos had seen in months. His terrified eyes grew large and his mouth began to water. "Ah! Not so fast. You know what you must do for this."

Methos studied the blankets below him. He wanted to eat, but more so he just wanted to die, as quickly and painlessly as possible. When he was dead he could feel no pain, no torture. He moved to Kronos and set about the task at hand. He started to move the monster's clothing aside and noticed his dagger was still in it's sheath. He suddenly pulled it and backed away. Kronos quickly produced a sword.

For the first time in months, Methos laughed as he plunged the dagger into his own heart. When he fell over to his side, Kronos leaned down and whispered to him. "You're going to pay for that."

And pay for it he did. When he woke up, Kronos had beaten him until he died again. For a week he was allowed no food and no water. Instead of taking him physically each night, Kronos would begin with the beatings and then finally the torture, but he would never let him die. Then slowly his body would recover. He would watch as the little surges of power healed him. Kronos claimed he was the source of the healing and Methos believed him.

Eventually Kronos held back some of the torture and abuse, preferring to enjoy his time with Methos and allow him occasional pleasures as rewards for good behavior. Methos began to respond to this new treatment, his body desperate for any sensation other than pain, his soul starved for companionship, but he never doubted he still had much to fear. The slightest mistake never failed to elicit new forms of pain, and he would find himself again praying for death.

___________________________________

Methos found himself brought back to reality by the sounds of laughter in the gathering room of the lodge. He shook himself up and slid off the counter. He raided the refrigerator for leftovers and a couple of beers, then quietly slipped up the kitchen stairs to his room. He was tired of this clan reunion and wanted some peace. After all, he wasn't a part of the clan. He knew he wasn't really wanted. He'd not belonged to anyone or anything since he had left the Horsemen. And that was just the way he wanted it.

"Why?" MacLeod had demanded to know? He couldn't understand how Methos could have been such a cold-blooded butcher. Methos had tried to make him understand, but his excuses had sounded weak and meaningless even to him.

"Because that's all I knew!" He had finally shouted. It's all I knew. The words repeated themselves in his head again and again as he tossed and turned in his sleep. He was in the abandoned factory. Kronos was twisting a knife into his chest, to get his attention.

"Methos!" Kronos had seethed with all his anger as he realized his former student's betrayal when he saw him fighting with Silas.

"We're through," MacLeod had assured him, then walked away.

"It's all I knew!"

______________________________________

Methos wandered into the tent one afternoon to find Kronos once more torturing a new captive. He was a young fair-haired boy, sold ten times over in slavery and now taken at sword point. He looked pleadingly at Methos for help.

Methos knew the pain he was in. He knew the hell he was going through. He wondered how long Kronos would keep him alive. Just a little longer, boy, and the pain will be over. You'll be released. Unlike me who will never know such peace.

But it wasn't just a little longer. When Kronos realized he had an audience he took new interest in his cruelty, enjoying the helpless feeling Methos wore so obviously on his face.

Methos would have killed Kronos if he only knew how. He'd tried many times, but it was always he who suffered, and died and came back for even more. Kronos had told him there was a way, but he would, of course, never tell him what that way was. So there was nothing he could do, but stand there and know just what the boy was going through. Nothing he could do but feel his pain with him. Wait for his death, his release.

Methos would never remember picking up the dagger, but there it was in his hand and then suddenly Kronos' most recent victim crumpled to the floor dead. Methos had released him. He had done for him what he could never do for himself. When Kronos had first stood, Methos was aware that he was about to take the boy's place, but Kronos threw his head back in laughter.

"Envious are you?" He was completely amazed. "I'm sorry. Was I neglecting you?"

Envious?

Methos stared at the dead body. "Yes." Yes he was envious. Envious that he too couldn't lie there so peaceful and free of pain. No matter what anyone might do to that body, the boy would never feel pain again. He would sleep for eternity with no monster like Kronos to bring him back from the dead and begin the torture anew. Envious? Oh yes.

"What if I bring him back, like you?"

"You won't. You never bring anyone back but me."

"That makes you very special doesn't it?" Kronos continued when Methos only nodded. "Very special indeed! You've done well! You've learned quite well. Perhaps I'll take you with me on our next raid. Maybe it's time for you to have a little fun."

Methos crumpled to the ground unconscious.

_________________________

Methos awoke disoriented and drenched in sweat. It took him a moment to remember he was in Connor's lodge. He lay there panting for air, trying to force the memories away. The dream had been so realistic. He'd remembered more this time than ever before. The horrifying memories of his first kill had finally surfaced. He'd wanted to release the boy. He'd wanted to give him what he could not have. He had wanted to save him. How had that desire to save a life from pain and suffering been so twisted in his mind? He had spent the next two thousand years or more as a vicious monster, enjoying every kill.

Richie was starting to become unnerved with the strange looks he was receiving from Scott MacLeod and Joe Dawson. He tried to tell himself that they had both believed he was probably dead and of course it would be a shock to anyone. Just how certain that he was dead had they been?

Scott had said that Duncan feared Richie had been killed, but that was the first indication that Richie had had that Adam and Connor had been deceiving everyone. Now he was starting to doubt whether or not Duncan only thought he might be dead or truly believed he was. Is this why he had never come looking for him?

What kind of a relationship had they had anyway? Maybe it wasn't much of one at all. Maybe Duncan had only been his teacher out of duty rather than actually caring. Why had Adam even bothered telling him about his former mentor if he didn't want them to meet? How had he and Adam ever come into contact with the demons from their nightmares? Why would such demons, if they were demons at all, care about two young immortals?

Duncan somehow had to be the connection.

When he excused himself for the night, Joe had stood and gave him another long hug. Richie felt somewhat embarrassed; not knowing why he should care about this man enough to keep accepting hugs, but it seemed to help the older man.

Connor only smiled.

"Kid, I know you don't know me from him," Joe motioned to Duncan. "But let me tell you, seeing you alive and well has done this old heart a lot of good."

"So, why did you think I was dead?" Richie asked, hoping for some bit of truth.

Joe looked at both Duncan and Connor for help. Connor shook his head indicating that Joe should not tell him the truth. "Well, you've just been missing for so long. We had no idea where you were. Neither Duncan nor I. I guess we figured someone had taken this head." Joe ran a hand through Richie's short curls.

Richie noticed Scott physically tense all over and grow suddenly distant.

"Well, as you can see, I?m alive and well." Richie grinned and worked free of Joe. "And I'm sure glad."

"We are too, son. We are too."

"Goodnight. It was nice to meet you both--again."

"Goodnight," came warmly from both Joe and Connor. Richie realized Scott was in another world and decided to leave without saying anything more.

Joe tapped Duncan with his cane.

"Hmm? What?" Duncan was suddenly brought back to the present. "Oh, goodnight, Rich." He smiled warmly. "I'll see you in the morning." Duncan nodded through the tears as he realized that he truly would see Richie in the morning. He stood suddenly and pulled him into a fierce hug, nearly squeezing the life out of the boy. "Don't you ever put us through this again, do you hear me? Never!"

Richie nodded and gave up trying to breathe or be free. "Scott" wasn't letting go until he was ready.

"I'm sorry." Duncan finally released him, struggling not to cry.

"Oh, hey don't worry about it. It's good to know people cared, you know? Even if I can't remember it." Richie shyly left the room.

Duncan turned on Connor and stared him into the ground, not speaking again until he was sure the boy had gone.

"I will never forgive you for this."

"Geeze, MacLeod," Dawson shook his head. "Just be thankful he's alive."

Duncan retreated to the kitchen.

___________________________________

He was exhausted, but Duncan MacLeod couldn't sleep. The bed was comfortable. The room temperature was perfect. The décor was sparse and antique. He'd just been relieved of the biggest burden he'd ever held onto in more than 400 years. He'd been given the ultimate gift from God.

He had Richie back.

His very being bristled with all the possibilities their future could hold. He had to remind himself that Richie was no longer a real teenager, but surely the lost years of his life and his youthful appearance would buy him some extra time to hang out with the "old man."

Duncan wanted to leave with him right this very moment. He had such a strong desire to get away from Connor and Methos. How were he and Richie ever going to get a chance to rebuild what they had, with those two watching him like guard dogs?

Rebuild? He questioned himself. How could they possibly rebuild? Again the debate raged in his head as to whether or not he wanted Richie to remember their past. But come on Duncan, it hadn't all been so bad. Sure they had more than their share of problems-- immortality usually at the root of most, but there were such good times, especially the first year with Tessa.

_________________________

Duncan walked into the kitchen sleepily, stunned by the tense silence between Tessa and Richie. The teen sat at the kitchen table nervously wiggling one leg and crunching down cereal as noisily as possible. Tessa stood at the counter with a cup of coffee and a croissant. Several cigarettes were crushed in the ashtray.

This was not a good sign.

Richie looked exhausted.

"Okay, who want's to go first?" Duncan smiled from first one then the other. "Richie?"

Richie only glared at him and renewed his interest in the classifieds.

"What are you looking at?" Duncan plucked the paper away from him. "Apartments?"

"What!" Tessa burst out. "You aren't going anywhere mister! You are grounded for the next five years!"

"You can't ground me!"

"I just did! Besides you are not going to go all pathetic on us and worm your way out of this one. You broke your curfew for the last time. Tell him! Tell him what time you came home last night! Oh, excuse me. I mean this morning."

Richie sucked in a deep breath when he saw Duncan assume the angry paternal look he was so good at.

"Why were you out so late? You know the rules."

"I was with some friends. We lost track of time."

"Until three o'clock in the morning?" Tessa reminded him.

"It was a party--kind of."

"Richie, you agreed to follow the rules around here." Duncan looked sternly at him. Right now he was just as angry at himself for falling asleep so soundly. How had he not realized Richie wasn't home? He could have been in serious danger. What if he'd ran into another immortal?

"So now what? You toss me out? Fine, cause I don't have to stay here anymore if I don't want to."

"Oh, and why is that? Did the rules suddenly change?"

"Yeah, cause now I'm playing by my rules." Richie got up and stormed out of the kitchen and into his bedroom.

"Why didn't you wake me up, Tessa?"

"Don't you start, Duncan MacLeod!" Tessa lit another cigarette. "I couldn't sleep, so I got up to work on my sculpture, and guess who had just snuck in the back door, running right into my sculpture and sending it crashing to the floor?"

"Oh, no. Was he drunk?"

"Not that I can tell, but the sculpture is ruined just the same. Don't you dare let him off the hook for this one." Tessa looked as though she was issuing a "him or me" ultimatum that made Duncan nervous. So far they had been able to avoid that.

"Don't worry, I won't. I'll go talk to him right now."

"You should do more than talk." Tessa glared.

"Tessa, you don't mean that. Besides, you know what his life was like." Duncan reminded her.

Tessa threw up her hands in frustration. "I'll start breakfast. You go talk to him."

Duncan found Richie in his room packing a bag. The teen looked angry and upset as he shoved his few possessions into the worn backpack.

"So where do you think you're going?"

"It doesn't matter, does it? I'll be out of your hair. It's what she's been hoping for."

"I think she told you that you couldn't go anywhere."

"She's not my mother."

"The point is, she told you that you're grounded. If she doesn't want you here, why would she do that?"

Richie hesitated for a minute. Duncan could tell he was mulling it over. "Who knows? Too make me miserable?"

"Well, you can just unpack and get to work. You aren't leaving and we're not playing these games."

"I can go where I damn well want to. You can't tell me what to do, anymore!"

"Why is that?"

"Because I'm 18 now! I can do what I want."

"You're not 18 until Friday." Duncan issued the futile warning. What was he suppose to accomplish with that, considering it was already Tuesday?

"I was 18 yesterday!"

"No you weren't." Duncan scoffed at what he considered to be a weak attempt to dodge trouble. Surely the kid knew his own birthday. "According to your records, you will be 18 on Friday."

"Then the records are wrong." Richie was now on the brink of tears, a bundle of conflicting emotions.

"Oh, my! Oh, Rich. I'm sorry. We--thought it was Friday. We've got reservations for dinner and everything! Why didn't you say something?" Duncan felt about two inches tall. How could this have happened? He and Tessa had been planning this for days. The cake was ordered. His present was to be delivered in three days.

"Like what?"

"Well most people are excited when it's their birthday. Especially one like this." Duncan didn't want to sound sarcastic, but he was so frustrated. They had so wanted to make this a special occasion.

"Why, because I'm 18 and now you don't have to put up with me?" Richie's voice grew shaky and he turned back to his bag.

"You thought we would kick you out on your birthday?" Duncan was truly astonished. He put a caring hand on the boy's shoulder.

"Not exactly the very day." Richie admitted but moved away, not wanting affection.

Duncan wasn't sure how to handle this. He felt terrible. He almost wanted to cry. This kid's life had been so sad. He hadn't reminded them of his birthday because he was afraid it would mean he wouldn't have a place to live again. How did things get so screwed up that a teenager couldn't enjoy his eighteenth birthday? It wouldn't do any good to try to convince Richie he was still wanted. The boy had received nothing but empty promises all of his life. He would have to prove it.

"Well, Tessa just told you you're grounded and grounded you are. And personally I should add time to that because you're being such an airhead. You aren't moving out until you are ready, and we all agree it's the best thing for you, is that clear? Just because you turn 18 doesn't mean you leave home. Look at all the 18-year-olds in high school. Do they suddenly leave home?"

Richie was quiet a moment, shuffling through his bag, obviously confused about what to do. "Okay," his voice shook slightly.

"What?"

"Okay, now if you'll excuse me, I'll shower and change. My employers get a little testy if I'm late for work."

"Do that. I'm going to go rescue breakfast. You have fifteen minutes. Your family gets a little mystified when you're late for a meal." Duncan started to leave the room but turned back and pulled the boy around into a quick hug. "Happy belated birthday."

"Thanks." Richie accepted the hug for only a moment then nervously pulled away.

"I'm sorry this happened. Truly."

"Thanks. But it's about average as far as birthdays go." Richie escaped into the bathroom and shut the door.

Duncan hurried to the kitchen, grabbed up the phone and began waking people up, in order to speed up delivery of Richie's present. Tessa called and bribed the bakery into rush ordering the cake, and had set about hanging streamers and birthday balloons. When Richie walked into the kitchen astonished at what she had done, she immediately scolded him for not informing them about his birthday. Richie was shy about it, but they could tell he was relieved and understood they had not meant for this to happen.

Duncan remembered the fun they had that day. Instead of rescheduling their reservations at the expensive restaurant, they had closed the shop and gone to a nearby amusement park. When they returned in the early evening, Richie was shocked to find a motorcycle sitting in the alley with a large ribbon on it. He had been so happy that he actually started to cry, but managed to cover up by putting his helmet on.

When he returned from a test drive he found Tessa in the kitchen decorating his cake. He leaned on the counter watching her with the most amazed smile on his face. For a few moments he held onto the small fantasy that she was his mother and he'd watched her like this every year of his life.

"How did you guys arrange all of this so quickly?"

"Quickly?" Tessa laughed. "We've been planning this for weeks. "Duncan must have looked at seven thousand bikes. When he found out about the mix up he arranged to have it delivered today."

Richie took a taste of the icing on the cake. "This is the best birthday I've ever had, Tessa."

Tessa held back from smacking his hand. Right then she would have let him eat the whole cake with his fingers if he wanted to. "I'm sorry about yesterday. If we had known?"

"No, Tess. Don't worry about it. This was well worth the wait."

"Duncan told me why you didn't tell us. I'm sorry you felt that way. It was my fault. I'm truly sorry, Richie."

"No, you guys have been great. It's just that, without trying to sound pathetic--I've never had a birthday that went well. And I usually don't stay one place very long."

"Well, you just try to leave." Tessa pulled him into a hug. "Not until you go to college, mister."

"Oh, I'm sure I'll screw something up, that'll make you change your mind." Richie laughed.

________________________________

Duncan stretched out on his bed. Connor always gave him this room at the cabin. "Oh, Tessa, thank you for helping bring him back. Thank you, so much." He allowed his eyes to close on the image of his lost love.

A loud scream and a massive thud suddenly shattered his near pleasant slumber. Jumping to his feet, he was the first to reach Richie's room. The boy was struggling to get off the floor by the time Duncan found the light switch.

"Richie, it's me. Richie, calm down." Duncan tried to control the struggling arms.

Richie only panicked more, and worriedly tried to back away. "No, No!"

Connor and Adam reached the door, already prepared for the site of Richie transported into one of his nightmares. "Move, Duncan!" Connor ordered as he sat down next to him. "I'll take care of him."

"No. Let me, please?"

"Duncan, you are his nightmare!" Connor insisted. "Leave the room now."

Duncan was too shocked to protest. He stood and slowly backed to the doorway.

"I was afraid something like this would happen." Adam knelt down next to Richie also. "It's okay, Richie, it's just a dream. How long since the last one, Connor?"

"Months ago. He's been fine." Connor pulled Richie close. "It's okay, kiddo. It's okay."

"I killed him. I killed him." Richie moaned into Connor's chest.

"No, it was just a nightmare, that's all. Just a nightmare."

"No, I took his head."

"Who? Who's head, Richie?" Adam demanded.

"I don't know. I don't know who he was," his voice was so desperate.

"It was just a nightmare, that's all," Adam reassured him, rubbing a comforting hand on his shoulder.

Duncan retreated into the hallway where Joe stood watching. He should be in there, but Connor had thrown him out like some stranger, or some evil monster. You are his nightmare, Duncan. So that's all he was to Richie? The evil monster of his nightmares?

Even now, a year after he had defeated Ahriman, the demon still controlled his life. He leaned against the wall for a moment, trying to recover from the blow of reality.

Everything he and Richie had ever been together, no matter how good or how bad was gone. He was nothing to the kid. Nothing. Just a nightmare at most.

"I'm sorry, Mac." Joe offered weakly, reading his thoughts.

Somehow Joe's acknowledgement of his own unspoken fear, brought Duncan's fighting spirit back. It was bad enough to fall into such a depression on his own, but to have someone else agree was too much. Just because Richie didn't remember him, didn't mean that what they had was dead. He could still remember Richie. The good times, the bad times, the fear and the laughter.

The laughter.

That's probably what he had missed the most about Richie, his incredible outlook on life and his unstoppable ability to make Duncan laugh. He'd been much too serious about his life in the 20th century, until Richie had come along. It hadn't taken the teen more than a few weeks to loosen Duncan up. Tessa had often said that if she wasn't yelling at him she was laughing with him. She had loved them both so much. They were a family, and Duncan was not about to lose him again.

"No," Duncan wandered down the hall. "He'll be fine. It's going to take some time, but he'll be fine."

Joe Dawson watched. It was his job to watch immortals. Watching was his life. He was good at it and quite honestly he never wanted to do anything different than that--except maybe tour as a jazz guitarist. But then, who would watch MacLeod? Or Richie? Who would report about the daily adventures in the life and times of Duncan MacLeod?

As he leaned against a large rock at the edge of this beautifully sunlit clearing, he vowed this day would go unreported. This day was just for him. No one else would ever need to know the fun he was having watching this group of immortals train, laugh, and generally goof around with each other. No one would ever need to know the euphoric wonderful feeling he'd been overcome with since he got over the initial shock that Richie was still alive.

Sure as a watcher he wasn't suppose to be relieved that one of his favorite young immortals was still alive. He certainly shouldn't have stood over what he believed to be his headless body and mourned. He shouldn't have buried him, or picked out the stone, or waited for his teacher to return to the scene of the accident for exactly one year.

But how could he have left Paris?

How could he have left Richie, buried there all alone, with no one else who even knew where his grave was? And of course, he had waited for Duncan to come back. The truth was, that with Richie dead, Methos gone, and Duncan completely missing in action, he just didn't have any reason to go back to the States. Well, there was the bar, and a few distant relatives, but he knew that both Duncan and Methos would eventually come back to Paris.

So he waited.

Obviously, he'd grown too close to this particular group of immortals, but he had decided he just didn't care. Even if it cost him his life someday, it would be worth it to be friends with these men. He had debated this point with MacLeod too many times. They had argued, threatened each other, damn near killed each other, and quite often saved each other's lives. Yeah, it was worth it. Even if it was just for this morning, this beautiful, sunny, pleasant, moment, full of laughter and life. It was worth it.

He watched as Adam and Richie sparred. How alike and how different their new relationship was. Of course Richie couldn't remember that Adam was really the oldest living immortal. As far as he was concerned, Adam was just another fairly young immortal who had pretended to be his brother when they were traveling. A doctor who'd cared for him during his long illness. A truly great friend.

Joe recalled how Adam had ran out in the storm to stop him from barging in and ruining this ridiculous ruse they had going, all in the name of supposedly protecting Richie. He'd stood there sopping wet as the rain had beat down on them both, sweater clinging to his too lean body, rain washing away his tears of guilt and fear, speaking faster than the speed of light.

At that moment, it would have been difficult to believe he was thirty, let alone five thousand, even if one did know all about immortals.

"Joe, listen, you have to understand. Connor, Duncan and Richie are all in there!"

"Richie!?"

"Yes, as it turns out he really is alive. The dead Richie was just a fake, a trick by Arhiman to destroy MacLeod. Richie's just fine. I know it's hard to believe, but it's true."

"A trick? You mean he wasn't dead this whole time?" Joe wasn't sure where logical questioning was coming from. His brain was actually whirling with the information.

"My God, where has he been? Why didn't he come back?"

"He has amnesia."

"How did you find him?"

"Well," Adam had hesitated. "I've known all along, actually. I took him away with me. I was afraid MacLeod would kill him. Joe I know you're angry--"

Joe had stopped him with his fist, landing Adam in the soggy grass and mud. "Angry! Why didn't you tell me? Me, Methos? Do you have any idea what it was like that whole year? You left me there to bury a body that wasn't his. You disappeared, MacLeod disappeared."

"Joe, have you ever met a real demon? Well, I have. So has MacLeod and so has Richie." Adam pulled himself to his feet. "You just pretty much do what you're told until they go away or you find a way out of it." He followed after Joe.

"You've got to understand before you go in there that Richie thinks Duncan is actually Scott MacLeod."

"What! There is no Scott MacLeod, what are you talking about?"

"Connor wants Richie to get to know Duncan before he finds out he's good old Mac, the source of all his nightmares."

"I thought he had amnesia?"

"He does, but some things come to him in bits and pieces. So far, he doesn't remember his face. So just be cool and play it by ear. Will you do that?"

"I'll do whatever it takes for Richie's sake." By that time, Joe had burst into the door as a bolt of lightening had flashed behind him.

What an entrance he must have made, Joe laughed to himself now and focused his concentration back to the immortals in front of him. Duncan and Connor had just finished. Connor had won, though Dawson half suspected Duncan might not have been giving it his fullest.

Connor had sauntered over to Adam, where the younger looking immortals had collapsed on the ground. "Come on, kid. Let's see how soft you've gotten, while you were away."

"Me? Soft? Never." Adam drug himself to his feet.

"Good luck, you're going to need it," Richie laughed.

Duncan fell down beside Richie and watched Connor torment Adam. He was surprised to see that the ancient had actually improved his technique.

Had Connor taught him these moves?

"So how long have you two been training with him?"

"Well, it's been about a year or more. Adam left a few months after we met up with Connor."

"Why?"

"He went to see if he could find Duncan MacLeod. He called a few times, but hadn't had any luck. He went to Seattle and a couple of other places, then finally to Paris."

"He didn't find him there?"

"Apparently not. I heard Connor say he'd tracked his charge cards and things to Paris. So Adam left Seattle and went on to France. That's when we started having some problems with Michaelis. Connor wouldn't let me fight him. We left and Adam had no way of contacting us. Connor said he was going to buy him a cell phone." Richie laughed. "So we've been here ever since."

"Doesn't it get boring, for a city boy like you?"

"Nah, I can't remember being in the city, other than when I lived in New York with Connor. This is nicer. It's so peaceful. I'm getting more focused, thinking more clearly. Learning to fight the bad guys." Richie bounced to his feet and poked at Duncan with his sword. "Come on, I'll show you."

"I don't think so." Duncan smiled.

"Come on, please?" Richie grinned that sweet, please, please, please Mac, just this once you wont regret it I promise you, grin.

"Okay." Duncan caved, just enjoying the opportunity to give in to the boy once more. He hoisted himself to his feet.

Richie stood there with his sword ready. Duncan lifted his katana, but when their blades touched he froze. A vision of his sword swinging, and Richie falling to the ground headless and dead, invaded his mind.

"Come on, Scott, wake up." Richie tormented, swinging his blade at Duncan's once more.

"Richie, this isn't such a good idea."

"Why?"

"Haven't you ever heard of age before beauty?" Adam had left his fight with Connor and joined Richie and Duncan. He enveloped Richie's blade, knocking it out of his hand, then turned on MacLeod.

Duncan quickly took up the challenge and moved out into the clearing with the world's oldest graduate student.

"Damn it, Adam. Yeah, you're so much older." Richie leaned over to pick up his sword, not realizing Connor had came up behind him. The Highlander smacked him on the jeans with the flat of his sword. "Damn, it! Connor!"

"Ah, ah. Such language. Come on, Ryan, you're getting sloppy. You let that bookworm disarm you. Get over here and practice some more."

"I practice with you all the time."

"Quit whining!" Connor smacked him again riling Richie's anger even more.

Joe laughed as he realized how effortlessly Methos and Connor had saved Duncan from the possibility of facing his young student at swords length. He may never be able to do that again.

By the time Connor had finished with Richie, the youngest immortal was too exhausted to challenge anyone else. Duncan found the perfect opportunity to take his hostilities out on Methos and had unmercifully beaten him into the ground.

The ancient returned blow for blow, also obviously venting his frustration with MacLeod. The Scot finally claimed victory over the pincushion they called Adam. The younger looking immortal collapsed near Richie.

"Maybe, I'm glad I didn't fight him. Are you two mad at each other?"

"Yep, that was a little bit more than practice."

"It's over me, isn't it?" Richie glared at MacLeod.

"It's over a lot of crap." Adam closed his eyes and groaned comically.

Duncan caught Richie's disapproving glare. He knew that glare well. Sometimes he'd found it funny and other times it bothered him. This was one of the times it bothered him. Way to make the kid think you're a good guy. Beat the crap out of his best friend.

"Okay, jogging time." Connor rubbed his hands briskly together.

I don't think so!" Adam managed to shout.

Duncan was ready to join in just to get out from under the glare.

"I'm staying with him." Richie nodded at Adam. "What if another immortal shows up?"

"Out here?" Connor scoffed. "Not likely."

"You say that, but two immortals and one watcher have arrived in the last twenty four hours."

"Joe will shoot him. Come on, lazy," Connor teased.

"Cut them some slack, Connor," Duncan encouraged. "Let's go."

Connor could see that Duncan really wanted away from Adam and Richie at the moment. "You're too soft." He laughed. "Fine, you two stay here and lick your wounds."

"I'd rather lick the foam off a ice cold mug of beer right now." Adam shot up the minute Connor and Duncan vanished into the woods. "Come on gentlemen, I'm buying."

"Buying what?" Joe asked.

"The pizza and beer they serve at that little restaurant in town."

"But what if they come back?" Richie stood up.

"We can shower, change, order the pizza and get plastered long before MacLeod runs off his guilt trip for beating me to a pulp."

"Pearson, you are so devious. Come on Joe."

"Alright," Joe grinned knowing Methos was right. "Somebody needs to watch you two."

"But be warned, Adam. Katie is mine."

"Who's Katie?"

"The waitress." Richie grinned. "Nineteen, blond, and as sweet as they come."

"Sounds like kid's stuff to me."

"Being nineteen forever, has it's advantages."

"Does she have an older sister?"

"Who do you think serves the beer?"

"Now I see why you haven't gone stark raving crazy out here."

"Been there, done that."

Joe laughed as he followed the two immortals back to the cabin. He had missed this so much.

Richie soon remembered the disadvantages of being nineteen forever, when Katie's sister, Jennifer, refused to serve him any beer. Adam slid him a mug now and then, but stopped when Jennifer commented that he seemed to be drinking an awful lot. Getting plastered was not exactly the way to make a good impression, and Jennifer was definitely someone he wanted to impress.

"Come on, one more drink." Richie pleaded already disappointed that Katie wasn't working today.

"No way. She thinks I'm drinking it all. She'll think I'm a lush."

Joe laughed at Adam's choice of words. In his bar, he had served Richie even before he was of legal age. It was different for him. Richie mostly ordered Cokes anyway, but he knew the kid had been allowed to drink occasionally in Paris, and he knew Duncan had allowed him a drink now and then at home. So he just treated the kid like a nephew and carefully monitored what and how much he consumed.

He found himself still doing that once he had finally reached twenty-one. Of course, knowing that he had to put up with all the crap immortals did, Joe had been even more generous. At least by keeping him in his bar, he could keep an eye on him.

They had almost finished their pizza when Joe noticed that both Richie and Adam looked up in that all too familiar way. They looked around and then at each other, both sensing the hum of another immortal.

"We're busted." Richie smirked.

"Big time," Methos answered worriedly. "But, I don't think it's--"

A tall strongly built man in his late thirties entered the bar. He also appeared to be looking to make a connection. When his eyes locked with Richie and Adam, he smiled and headed to their booth.

Richie sighed deeply, trying to cover a sense of impending doom. "Great, just great."

"You know him?" Adam asked looking back at Richie.

"Yeah, that's Michealis."

The tall blond man stood at the end of their table, smiling in a friendly manner. "Hello, Richie. I thought I'd lost track of you." He spoke with the lightest trace of an east European accent.

"Well, here I am."

"Where have you been hiding?"

Adam leaned back nonchalantly as though he hadn't any interest in the matter whatsoever. The look he wore was just mysterious enough to shout unpredictable.

"Just vacationing, man. Just vacationing." Richie showed remarkable nerve for someone who didn't even really know who he was.

"So, Daddy lets you play with the likes of him, but not me?" Michaelis grinned again as he looked Adam over. "I can certainly see why. He doesn't look like much of a threat."

Adam's eyes lit up with a grin. "It's my best defense."

"Yeah, I bet, but it's not you I want."

"Richie, I didn't know you had chosen an alternative lifestyle." Adam mocked surprise.

"You're a real funny one, aren't you?" Michaelis grinned at Adam.

"It's part of my charm." Adam smiled warmly.

"Well, maybe when I get done with him, we will have our turn?"

"Well, when you get done with him, you won't be in a position to meet me. He's actually gone a few more rounds than I have--in the recent past. So how about you start with me and work you're way up?"

"Very noble." Michaelis stared a hole in Adam. "And very transparent. I'll be around, boys."

"How did you know I was here?" Richie asked as Michaelis turned to walk away.

"He and the Highlander led me right to you." Michaelis gave a short laugh, then turned away. Joe, Adam and Richie watched until he went outside.

"Is that true?" Richie turned back excitedly. "Have I really had more fights than you?"

Methos looked at Joe for help. Why had he said that in front of Richie?

"In the last five years, yes." Joe picked up where Adam faltered. "Adam's been laying low for awhile. But all in all, not a chance." The watcher winked at "Adam."

Adam looked guilty as he took another drink of his beer. "Maybe we had better get back to the lodge, before they realize we're gone."

"You two amaze me," Joe smiled in exasperation. "You sit here and face down, one of the craziest sons of bitches on the planet, and you're afraid of the MacLeods?"

"Wouldn't you be?" Adam took the last gulp of his beer.

Joe shook his head slightly and gave a short laugh.

To Part Six