All Your Immortality
Duncan pulled the SUV into the dirt drive that led up to the large cabin. He should have known Connor would come here. He had owned this place for years. It was his retreat from the world just as the island in Washington was Duncan's. He wished now he hadn't wasted so much time going to New York.
Both he and Methos reacted instantly to the sensation of another immortal.
"It's Connor." Duncan informed Methos."How can you be sure?" "I know."
"Okay, but where is Richie?"
"We'll find out soon enough. But just as soon as we see Connor I want you out of here." Duncan found himself unconsciously turning on Methos again. It was a feeling he couldn't control. Even though there were moments when he felt very guilty for the way he was treating his traveling companion, he just couldn't stop it. Methos had quit trying to get back in his good graces, and had instead grown quiet and brooding. His mind had been somewhere else for hours now. Even when Duncan had stopped for lunch, Methos showed very little interest in eating. He'd gone into a convenience store at the gas station where they filled up, and immerged stuffing his pockets full of candy bars.
"Well no wonder, you didn't eat your lunch." Duncan had chided. Methos ignored the remark and climbed into the SUV. "So, would you say chocolate is your favorite invention in five thousand years?"
The mood had continued the rest of the afternoon. Duncan let him quietly sulk. He was in no humor to play games with deceptively young looking immortals. Once they had arrived at Connor's cabin he seemed to perk up a bit, and Duncan realized that Methos wasn't about to let him cast him aside.
"We'll see." Methos gritted his teeth. "I haven't seen them for awhile. I might want to visit. Besides, I've got a few questions for Connor myself."
"Anyone could have followed the clues he left."
"Well, I've never been anyone."
Duncan wasn't sure if Methos was referring to his obviously unique personality, or if he truly felt a sense of worthlessness after 5,000 years. Whatever the case, he did not have time to psychoanalyze some one as messed up this ancient. He got out of the vehicle as he felt Connor growing even closer to him. Connor suddenly appeared at the front of the house though he hadn't come out the front door.
"Long time no see." Connor gave the short half laugh Duncan was so familiar with. Any other time it would have filled him with a sense of being at home, but not this time.
Duncan refused to return the sentiment, and stared Connor into the ground.
"Adam, good to see you."
"You too." Adam shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged into a lean against the SUV, waiting to see the outcome of this unavoidable confrontation.
"I knew you'd figure out where we went." Connor almost smiled.
"Was it suppose to be a test?" Adam let the sarcasm ring. "Cause if it was, I failed. I had to find Duncan first."
"I see." Connor narrowed his brow. Adam seemed edgy and perhaps angry. "We'll discuss that later. He knows, I take it?"
"Yes, you son of a bitch, I know." Duncan took a swing at his former mentor and knocked him on the ground. "Where is he?"
"Not so fast." Connor got to his feet and returned Duncan's punch landing the younger Highlander in the grass. "I can understand how you feel, but there will be some ground rules. One, give me your sword."
"You want my sword?" Duncan pulled himself to his feet. "Take it!" He threw the katana at Connor like a javelin, purposely missing him. The sword embedded itself in the cabin.
Connor glanced at Adam with mocking amusement. "He's pissed."
Adam rubbed his imaginary bruised jaw. "Tell me about it."
Connor continued, completely unruffled. "Two, we do this on my terms." Connor nodded. "Adam told you, didn't he?"
"Richie has complete amnesia. It's not just that he blocked you out. He remembers nothing from his past. That demon was supplying his memories and apparently when it died it even took most of the bad ones."
"Can that happen?"
"Well, that's just a theory. While he was still controlling them, Richie had all kinds of nightmares. By the time they came to me, he could remember very little. When the haunting quit, he was left with very vague recollections. He doesn't remember what you look like. He knows only what we've told him about you and about Tessa."
Duncan took a deep breath.
"Perhaps you can earn his trust before he remembers the past. Before he remembers that you tried to kill him. Not once, but three times. Or before he remembers all the rough times between you two. Tell me something Duncan, why have you even bothered coming for a visit? From what I understand, you two have been separated by trouble more than you were together."
Duncan closed his eyes for a long thoughtful moment. "You should have never left him with me. I was a lousy teacher. But I didn't just come for a visit. I came to take him back with me."
"Not unless I agree to it. He is not to know who you are, until I say so."
"Give it some thought. You've always been bright."
"Where is he?"
"He's down at the lake." Connor finally ceded. "He's fishing."
"And studying. He's starting college next term."
"He's that well?"
"Yes. He's doing much better. When he and Adam came to me, he had just gotten past the catatonic stage."
"That was shortly after I defeated Ahriman. You could have a least told me by then- that's the part that really? I can understand everything to that point." Duncan started down a path into the woods.
"Wait." Connor ordered.
"What?" Duncan didn't bother turning around.
"Don't tell him who you are. Let him get to know you first. For his sake?"
Duncan nodded and went into the woods. Once free of his old mentor he found himself rushing to the lake to find Richie. He'd almost savored the last few moments with Connor. It was good to hold onto the sweet possibility that Richie was alive. Now came that moment between dreams and reality. Now he would wake up to find it all a deception or just a cruel nightmare.
Then suddenly there was that familiar buzz.
"Connor, come quick!" A young man's voice shouted excitedly.
Duncan began smiling broadly as suddenly he accepted that this story had all been true. Richie really was alive. He stepped out of the woods and there he was. A young reddish blond man stood on the shore of the lake fighting with a fishing rod. He never bothered turning to see who really stood behind him.
"Come on Connor! Grab the net! I've got him!"
He froze. Try as he might, Duncan MacLeod was powerless. No death, no quickening, no great love, had ever stopped his heart and paralyzed his body as this shock had. He couldn't swallow or breathe. If he moved he would grab the boy in an enormous hug and never let go. He would end up scaring the hell out of him. But Richie was still calling for help. Still expecting to find Connor there, not some stranger. He had to pull himself together for Richie's sake alone.
"Connor, come on. This isn't the time for one of your lessons!"
Duncan's mind and body seemed to react magically without much conscience thought. He grabbed the nearby fishing net and ran over to stand beside Richie. "Here you go."
Richie turned suddenly, startled by a voice different than the one he was expecting. "Oh damn. Who are you?"
"Don't be frightened." Duncan offered the net with a friendly smile. He wanted to reach out and hug him. Again there was the urge to grab hold of him and never let him go. He couldn't though. He just couldn't. What if Richie thought he was crazy? What if his memories came flooding back too quickly? This hurt almost as much as losing him had. He was barely able to stand there, but somehow he managed to maintain control. This was too wonderful, too much beyond his comprehension.
"Do I need my sword?" Richie didn't blink as he waited for the answer. Duncan was overpowered with the memories of those last seconds before his world collapsed into hell. Did Richie remember him? Could seeing the mentor who betrayed him have brought the boy's memory back that quickly? Duncan forced himself to look deep into those intense blue eyes. In the past he always knew just what the boy was thinking by studying those eyes. But now, there was nothing there but caution. No fear, no hate. Perhaps some worry and regret. Or was the worry there because Duncan had yet to respond? He forced himself to take a deep breath and swallow the lump in his throat and tears in his soul.
"Well if you did, it would be too late, wouldn't it?"
Richie dropped the fishing pole and somersaulted out of the way. As he stood up his hand reached under a blanket and produced a sword.
"Wow. Good move, but put that down. I'm not armed. I left my sword with Connor."
"Who are you?" Richie moved threateningly closer.
"I'm Connor's cousin- Scott- Scott MacLeod."
"How do I know that?" Richie held his sword even closer to Duncan.
"You don't." One quick move from Duncan disarmed Richie and landed the kid on his back. Duncan knelt beside him. "The time to be cautious was as I approached. Trying to make up for that now is a little past the fact. If I meant you harm, you'd be dead. Got it?"
Richie nodded. Duncan pulled him to his feet.
"Damn you! I just lost a great pole."
"I'll buy you a new one." Duncan laughed. He had to force himself to remember that Richie didn't know him from Adam. Okay, so in this case he did know Adam better. He couldn't begin to describe how good and natural it felt standing here lecturing the kid.
"You don't understand, it was a special pole."
"It wasn't mine. Connor said it belonged to an old student of his. Another MacLeod."
Duncan quickly described the fishing rod.
"Yeah, how did you know?"
"It was mine."
"No, Connor said it belonged to Duncan MacLeod."
"Connor's mistaken, so don't worry about it."
"Look! It's floating out there." Richie waded out into the lake after the rod. When he returned to shore he was soaking wet up to his neck.
"You're going to be sick. Well, you know what I mean." Duncan couldn't stop grinning at him. Other than the fact that Richie had no idea whom he was, he was just the same old stubborn Richie.
Several times over the past few years Duncan had found himself wishing he could erase Richie's memory of the things he'd done to him. He thought of how even four hundred years ago his mother had always warned him to watch what he wished for. Was he feeling guilty because his wish had come true or because Connor had stirred the memories of the several times Duncan had hurt Richie?
He found himself repeatedly thanking God for this miracle that stood before him. He could barely keep the prayer quiet. At the same time he was thankful that Richie could not remember the last horrible mistake Duncan had made. Richie had taken a lot from him over the years, but when he could take no more he simply wiped Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod from his own young mind.
"Our kind don't really get sick." Richie reminded him.
"Sure we do. But the physical illnesses go away on their own."
"How about the mental?"
"Well, that seems to be the part that keeps us human." Duncan smiled understandingly, suddenly realizing he was trembling.
"Have we met before?" Richie looked curiously at him.
"Why?" Duncan hesitated, trying to control the shakiness of his voice. Connor was right. Richie needed to trust him before he realized who he was. "Do I seem familiar?
"No, it's just that- I have amnesia. If I should know you, I'm sorry."
"I understand, don't worry about it."
"So we have met?"
Duncan nodded his head. He couldn't bring himself to lie to the boy.
"Then you know Duncan MacLeod?"
Again he could only nod. He had almost forgotten how easy it was to fall into the trap of those penetrating blue eyes.
"What's he like?"
"Why do you want to know?" Duncan set about picking up Richie's fishing gear.
"Well, it's kind of a long story. He was my first teacher. I only know what Adam and Connor tell me. Something happened. They weren't there to see it, but whatever it was it made him leave me."
"They told you that?"
"No, but that's what it boils down to. I just don't know what it was. They keep telling me he'll come back, but I don't think so."
"I don't think he can."
"I don't know," Richie gathered up his book and blanket. "Sometimes I wonder if he's dead. Or maybe I did something so horrible that I can't remember it, and he doesn't ever want to see me again."
Duncan stopped gathering the fishing lures that Richie had knocked over during his somersault escape. You have to go now. The words still burned in his soul and God help him, he prayed that Richie never remembered the moment he had sent him away after killing Mako. "That's not true."
"How do you know?" Richie demanded eagerly.
"Because he could never do that to you. I saw him recently." Duncan busied himself with the lures again. "He's quite well now."
"Did he mention me?"
"Of course. He was wondering how you were. He's been trying to find you for the longest time. The two of you became separated before you lost your memory. He didn't know what happened to you. I think he worried that you were dead."
"Then they were lying." Richie looked incredulous.
"Connor and Adam. They said they had talked to him and that he was away on business. They said he would come soon."
"Well, they just didn't want you to worry, I'm sure. Don't be too hard on them. They didn't know either. They didn't want you to feel as though you had done anything wrong. Because you didn't."
"He told you that?"
"Richie, he thinks the world of you. He would have never left you in this condition had he known, I can assure you of that. No matter how important the business was. If anyone is responsible for what happened, it was Duncan MacLeod."
"Did he tell you what happened?" Richie risked, hoping he didn't sound pleading or stupid.
Duncan almost caved at that point, standing there looking into the innocent blue eyes, so worried yet so childlike. What a nightmare to have such worries, but not the memories from which they arose. "No, I don't think he understands that himself. I just meant he seemed to think it was his fault you were separated."
"Oh. I wish I could remember anything about him or what happened."
"I'm sure he'll explain it all soon enough." Duncan's voice grew husky and obviously nervous as he turned back to picking up the fishing gear before he lost control.
"Yeah." Richie forced himself out of his serious mood. "Say, do you have any candy on you?"
"M&M's? Snickers? I haven't had candy forever. I'm a chocoholic."
Duncan laughed inwardly. Richie must not have the slightest memory of him if he was asking him for candy. He had struggled for years to get the kid to lay off junk food. The usual compromise was that junk food came in addition to the nutritious foods Duncan had insisted on. "I'll see what I can do."
"Why did you bring him here?" Conner demanded as Adam backed up nervously.
"That's why I left here. You told me to find him again. He found me instead."
"I told you to find him. I did not tell you to come looking for me and the boy with Duncan in tow." Connor opened the front door and led the way into the house. Methos was impressed at the size of the cabin, which had at one time been a hunting lodge. The walls were covered with furs and antiques.
"So were you trying to give me the slip?" Adam threw his arms up in frustration.
"Don't be stupid. We left New York due to problems of the usual kind."
"You expect me to believe that you ran from a fight?"
"No. He wouldn't fight me. It's Richie he wants. He's one of those cowards who prey on the young. Richie wanted to accept his challenge, but he is not ready. When I wouldn't allow it, he was going to defy me and do it anyway."
"So what happened?"
"He woke up on the way here." Conner laughed softly.
"I see." Adam studied the floor. He should have known better. Connor was not one of the bad guys. He wasn't Kronos. "I'm sorry, Conner. I thought you wanted Duncan here."
"I know how he feels about the boy, but I don't trust him. Why has he tried to kill him several times?"
"Well, there were extenuating circumstances each time. Richie just has a habit of getting in the way." Adam felt a funny sense of relief to suddenly be back on someone's side, to be a part of something.
Conner sighed heavily. "We will watch them both for now. Then I will decide."
"What if Richie remembers?"
"Then we deal with that. But as the oldest clan chieftain of the MacLeods, it will be my decision."
Both immortals felt the sensations of Duncan and Richie coming closer to the house. The back door opened and Richie stepped into the kitchen sopping wet.
"Here, I'll take that stuff up to my room." Richie took a few of his belongings from Duncan. "I'm going to run up and change. I'll be right back."
"I'll just hang out." Duncan smiled after the boy long after Richie had vanished from the top of the back stairs. He fought back the tears of relief once again. Brushing at his eyes and thanking God one more time, he felt two pair of eyes watching him from the living room. He turned to see Connor and Methos staring at him.
"How did it go?"
"You were right, Connor. He doesn't know me from- him." Duncan nodded at "Adam." "What are you still doing here?"
"Connor invited me to stay."
"So what did you tell him?" Connor demanded.
"I'm Scott MacLeod, another one of your students and clansmen. I know Duncan and I will try to find him. I've seen him recently. He's looking for Richie. He was afraid he was dead. Sorry to make liars out of the two of you, but you've had a lot of practice lately."
"You can hate us for eternity, if you need to Duncan, but if Adam hadn't hid Richie from you, you would have lost him for good. You would have killed the boy thinking he was one of Horton's demons."
"And that wasn't a chance I was willing to take," Methos chimed in.
"That wasn't you're decision, Adam."
"Considering your history with Richie, it wasn't yours either."
"You know I never intended to harm him."
"Any of the three times you tried to kill him?" Connor goaded sarcastically.
"I had no control over myself then. I do now."
"How about the times you sent him away? Allowing him to be chased by the likes of Martin Hyde? Or how about letting him leave Paris alone right after- "
"Look, I made a lot of mistakes. I tried so hard to push him away."
"Because I knew eventually I would lose him." Duncan finally confessed. The idea wasn't new to him. He'd figured that out one night in a drunken stupor. He hated himself for constantly pushing Richie away. He couldn?t understand how he possibly thought driving him out of his life would make it that much easier to lose the boy.
"So you thought you would speed it up a bit?"
"Damn it, Connor, that's not what I meant and you know it."
"Duncan, there is no doubt in my mind how you feel about him. But something goes incredibly wrong with the two of you on a regular basis. You can't expect us to let that happen again. We happen to be a bit fond of the boy ourselves."
Duncan didn't respond. He knew they were right. Maybe Richie would be better off without him. He would certainly be a lot safer.
"So what's your plan, Mac?" Methos asked curiously.
"My plan? I don't think I've had time for a plan. I've been a little busy getting used to the fact that one of the most important people in my life didn't really die. Nor has he been dead these last two years. I don't think either of you have any idea of what I've been through. You have no idea what it's like to kill your own student- accident or not."
"Here he comes." Methos straightened out of the lean he had with the wall.
"Adam!" Richie bounced excitedly across the room and fell into the mutual hug Methos immediately offered. "I thought you'd gone for good."
"Hah, and leave you here forever with the likes of Connor?"
Duncan watched the two interact. Gone was the tension between the "old-timer" and the kid. Richie had never hated Methos for killing Kristen, but it had been an uncomfortable point in their relationship. After Kristen tried to drown Richie's foster sister, Maria, it hadn't been difficult for the younger man to let go. It just seemed that any interaction between Methos and Richie always included the oldest immortal's attempts to save the boy's neck- usually much to his chagrin.
Duncan noticed "Adam" slip what had to be a Snickers candy bar out of his pocket and into Richie's hand, where it vanished up a sleeve.
"You just chickened out." Richie teased.
"That's right, I couldn't keep up with the drill sergeant."
"Well Richie's passing with flying colors," Connor smiled proudly.
"Did you have any luck?" Only one topic excited Richie more than receiving praise from Connor.
"I just found this ugly lout," Adam nodded over at Duncan. When all eyes followed his, he stuck another candy bar in Richie's pocket. It was so difficult to keep this lie going. He so wanted to see a happy ending. He was so tempted just to introduce them to each other and tell them to get on with their lives. In his five thousand years he'd never been involved with anything like this.
"Yeah, we've already met. He said he's seen Duncan MacLeod recently."
"Yeah, that's why I brought him here. Perhaps he can help." Methos smiled at them both.
The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing around and talking. Connor took his sudden frustration out in the kitchen rather than on his fellow immortals. It was good to see Duncan again. Duncan was like family. Actually they didn't come any closer. Connor was nearly a hundred years older than Duncan was. Even though their physical appearances weren't so much different in age, it was sometimes easy to think of Duncan as a son. He laughed at himself as he caught a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror. Would that make Richie like a grandson? He had to be the youngest looking grandfather of a teenage boy he had ever seen. That was one definite advantage of being immortal.
Connor couldn't be sure how it started, but somehow he was appointed chief storyteller for the evening. Both Richie and Adam listened with great interest to the Highlander recounting his days in bonny Scotland. After several rounds of whiskey and beer had been passed around Adam was just tipsy enough to be mischievous.
"So how did you and the famous Duncan MacLeod meet?"
Connor wasn't sure if he wanted to laugh or backhand the boy. This could prove to be fun. He could tell all sorts of outrageous lies about Duncan, and the younger Scot wouldn't be in any position to defend himself. Aye, Connor thought, this could be quite interesting.
"Well, it was a dark and stormy night--" Connor began with one drink too many already in his system. Just about that time a sudden crack of lightening illuminated the dining room.
Both Adam and Richie fell over onto the table giggling drunkenly.
"Oh, brother." Duncan shook his head. As Scott MacLeod he was going to have to just sit there and take in the nonsense. He cast a glance at the large windows as the rain began beating down. Another crack of lightening provided a silhouette of a tall man supporting himself with a cane, standing in the shadows next to the woods.
"Oh, my God!" He heard Richie shout.
"Oh for Pete's sake!" Adam bounded to his feet.
"What is it?" Connor demanded. His back was to the window and he had not been able to see what had shaken his clan in such odd ways.
"My boss!" Adam declared as he ran to the door.
"Adam! What are you doing?" Connor hollered after him.
Within a moment the front door had opened and Adam had disappeared into the night. By the time the next bolt of lightening had lit up the back yard, Adam could be seen talking to the man.
"Why don't they just come in?" Richie wondered.
Both Connor and Duncan suspected Adam was trying to fill Joe Dawson in on the fact that Richie was alive but had amnesia and that Duncan was pretending to be Scott MacLeod. Their suspicions were confirmed when yet more lightening revealed Joe sending a hard right punch that landed Adam in the soggy muddy grass. Duncan tried to cover a laugh but couldn't.
"That tears it!" Richie shouted and tried to run out to help his friend. Duncan quickly snatched him up and pulled him around.
"No! Let them work it out."
"Work what out?"
"That man out there is a good friend of yours and Duncan MacLeod's. He also believes that you are dead. I suspect he's a bit upset to find out that Adam kept that bit of premature news a secret this long."
"Oh, so will Duncan react that way too?"
"Oh, he will. I'm sure he will." "Scott" nodded.
"But why would Adam do that?" When Duncan couldn't answer, Richie turned to Connor.
"He felt it was best to give you time to recover. Duncan will be able to tell us more of what happened when he arrives. As we've told you, none of us know what happened"
"He'll come here?"
"Eventually, yes." Connor turned to see Joe Dawson fill the door way. He stood there for a moment staring at the whole group, but seeing only Richie. He was drenched from the sudden onslaught of rain. Droplets of water ran down his face mixing with the tears in his eyes. He crossed suddenly to Richie, and pulled the eternal teenager into a hug. Richie quietly accepted the unsolicited affection, but was able to turn his smooshed up face to see Duncan.
Duncan, laughed and went to rescue the boy, pulling him free and slipping in for a supportive hug of his own. With his back to everyone, Duncan brushed away his own tears, before releasing Richie.
"Joe Dawson, this is Richie Ryan."
"I know who he is." Joe suddenly punched Duncan and knocked him on the floor.
"What the hell was that for? I just found out myself. If you want to punch someone, punch him." Duncan motioned to a sopping wet Adam who came into the house.
"I already did."
"Then punch him." Duncan motioned to Connor.
"Fine!" Joe turned and decked Connor so hard he also hit the floor as Duncan got up.
"Now just a minute." Richie moved into action. "You can't come in here and start hitting everybody."
Connor got to his feet. "It okay, Richie, I would have done more." Connor offered a hand to Joe. "You look like you could use a drink."
"I sure could." Joe sat down at the table after shaking out of his wet raincoat. Duncan took the coat to a hall tree, grinning at a muddy Methos as he passed by.
"Why don't you go change, Adam?" Duncan laughed as the younger looking immortal stomped off to the stairs, grumbling something about the good old days before he had a conscience.
Connor served Joe a plate of leftovers and poured him several drinks as he brought the watcher up to speed. Richie sat and listened intently, hoping for some bit of information that Adam had left out previously, but nothing came. The Scot offered cryptic messages throughout the story that he felt the mortal would understand, but could not be discerned by the eternal teen across the table. Joe shakily accepted each drink and the dinner Connor offered. When at last a freshly showered Adam returned in clean jeans and another sweater Joe stood to meet him. Any one who assumed he was going to offer his hand in an apology couldn't have been more wrong.
"That out there was for me. This is for Duncan." Joe landed another punch into Adam's jaw that sent the oldest immortal flying to the floor.
"Fine! Why don't I just stay on the floor? Or I'll tell you what, why don't I just leave. Obviously everyone would be happy with that, right?"
"No!" Richie protested. "If you leave, I leave, and if one more person hits you we both leave." Richie looked at Scott and Joe warningly.
"Nobody's going anywhere." Connor commanded. "Adam sit down, now. You too, Richie." Connor waited for them both to take their seats, then he looked at both Joe and Duncan in a way that said he wouldn't order them to do it, but they should seriously consider his invitation. They accepted and also returned to the table.
"Good." Connor gave an approving nod and his funny half laugh. "Now I believe I was about to tell you all how I met Duncan MacLeod."
Duncan kept his mouth shut but could barely stop the groan. Joe grinned quickly catching on to the game.
"Okay, so it was a dark and stormy night." Richie grinned excitedly.
"Actually it was quite balmy. I lied." Connor laughed.
Duncan MacLeod sat near his campfire savagely eating the roasted meat straight from the stick he'd skewered it with. His mind was pretty much a blank at the moment, thinking only about filling his empty belly. His life these past few years had taken many strange turns of events.
"Oh, dear God." Duncan was suddenly seized with a dizzying buzzy feeling in his head. He didn't panic like he had the first couple of times. He knew the feeling would pass. Unpleasant memories of an old hermit in a cave surfaced momentarily. He allowed his head to drop forward hoping to get control of this weird sensation.
He felt the cold steel blade resting on the back of his neck, before he ever noticed someone else was standing behind him.
"You're careless." A Scottish brogue declared.
"I've been called worse." Duncan offered a flippant reply.
"Aye, but this could cost you your head."
"What is this thing everyone seems to have for my head?"
"Hah!" The man behind him laughed. "Do you not know what you are, boy?"
"I'm no boy. And I'm Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."
"The clan MacLeod? Well, you don't say." The man laughed good naturedly and suddenly appeared in front of Duncan, but the sword remained at his neck. "Let's have a look at you. Aye, a MacLeod, you are by your colors. But not by looks. You must have noticed."
"And who might you be?"
"I'm Connor MacLeod, of the same clan."
"You lie. You're not so old that I wouldn't remember you." Was this the same man the old hermit had told him about?
Connor laughed in his short choppy laugh, that Duncan instantly liked despite himself. "You might be surprised.
"You've no mark of a MacLeod about you. And would you mind moving the pig sticker away from ma' throat you filthy lout?"
"You died recently didn't you?"
"Are you not mad? I'm sitting right here talking to you."
"You died and then you came back to life. But you had the misfortune of the clan seein' it happen. You're an outcast. They drove you away as a witch," Connor's voice caressed the words and his eyes studied Duncan. "Aye, as a demon."
"How do you know so much? Did they send you to find me? To kill me?"
"No. They don't want you back and they don't care if you live or die. The same way they didn't care if I lived or died in your grandfather's time." Connor noticed the realization setting in and added the finishing blow. "And in case you still don't understand, you can't die." With that he ran his sword through Duncan's gut.
Duncan lost every bit of air as the intense pain forced him over. "Bastard!" He screamed in agony as Connor withdrew his sword. Duncan's blood covered hands flailed about for his own sword, but his loss of blood took conscious thought with it.
When he revived with a start later that evening it took him several moments to remember where he was. The sight of the stranger sitting across from him, eating his supper, and grinning at him brought the memories suddenly back.
"YOU KILLED ME!" Duncan roared.
Connor MacLeod only laughed and took another bite of the unidentified meat Duncan had roasted. "You don't look dead to me. And you scream like a rather alive lass."
"You son of a bitch!" Duncan winced at the pain in his stomach. He held his had up all bloody. "Why haven't you finished me off? What kind of a demon are you to torture me this way?"
"I'm not torturing. I've just got your attention."
"Will you listen to me know?"
"Well, I don't have much choice do I? You've stuck me clean through. I'll not recover from that."
"How did you die the first time?" Connor studied Duncan closely. Duncan wasn't about to admit it, just in case this man was some sort of a witch hunter. "Run through with a sword I would think. Sit up and look at your wounds."
"Just let me die in peace."
"You're getting stronger, not weaker you dolt. Sit up!" Connor held the tip of his sword under Duncan's chin.
"Are you daft? My head will come clean off."
"Raise slowly up." Connor pulled back on the sword just slightly and Duncan stiffly and straightly followed his lead until he was sitting up.
"Lift your shirt and look at your wounds."
"I don't need to lift it. You put a nice big hole in it, thank you. But..! Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Not again!" Duncan's mouth dropped open as his unfinished prayer drifted into the air. "Then it's true! I am possessed with a demon! I should be burned at the stake. Will you do it?"
Connor's face twisted with an ugly memory as he studied Duncan's earnest but terrified, wild-eyed plea.
"Why? You like pain? You would only live through it. And nothing reeks like the smell of burning flesh. Then eventually you will heal. But it takes long and painful days."
"Then how? How do we stop this madness?"
"There is no way then?" Duncan pleaded almost hysterically.
"Well, I could take your head."
"Off your shoulders, lad, have ye no sense about you?"
"And then what? I grow another? Or I carry this one around on a stick."
"Do ye mind? I'm eating?" Connor finished off the meat on his skewer. "That is the only way you can actually die."
Finally Duncan was quiet. Finally the answers. The fascination with his head. The old hermit decapitating himself at Duncan's hand. He had warned him that the legend he knew as Connor MacLeod would come for him. "What happens after that?"
"You're dead." Connor shrugged and shook his head. "For good."
"No, to the one who lives."
"There is a transfer of your knowledge and power. Like a lightening storm you somehow survive. The winner anyway."
"My God. That's what it was all about?"
"What?" Connor looked truly interested in what Duncan had to say for the first time since they'd met.
"It's called a Quickening?" Duncan had somehow remembered the words he'd heard before.
"Yes, it is. How did you know?"
"I've already had one." Duncan studied the ground intently. Connor stared into the fire wondering what he could possibly mean.
Duncan was glad when Methos interrupted the story with hysterical laughter, though he wondered if this would now be worse.
"I'm sorry," Methos almost giggled as he turned to a grinning Richie. "Grow a new one? Really, MacLeod!"
"Carry it on a stick!" Joe hooted also turning his gaze to Duncan.
Richie's grin faded slightly as Duncan looked to him for his reaction. He covered it with a bigger grin, but the image of both Adam and Joe Dawson looking at Scot as though he could be Duncan unnerved him.
Duncan seemed to catch Richie's confusion and played off a weak cover up. "Well, I'm sure if Duncan was here, he would have a slightly different story."
Richie studied Scott and then Connor.
"Well, it couldn't be too much different, or he'd be lying." Connor gave Duncan a funny grin.
"Excuse me." Richie suddenly stood up. "Nature calls." He hurried out of the room, to the flurry of comments on the inability of the young to hold their liquor. Upstairs he shut himself in his bedroom and locked the door. He leaned against the doorframe for a moment forcing the little bit of an image he could remember from his nightmares. But there was only a blur of a sword swinging and dark terrified eyes behind a flurry of long curly hair.
He pulled a large duffel bag out from under his bed and took his wallet apart until he found a picture that had long ago been torn in half. A beautiful blond woman smiled at him. He never told Connor or Adam he had this photo. He turned it over. On the back, it simply said "Tessa, Mac and me," but only he and Tessa remained in the photo. Why had Duncan MacLeod's face been torn away. Had he done it? Or had Adam done it to prevent him from finding MacLeod? Why would he want to?
To Part Five