All Your Immortality

Part Two

Just as MacLeod settled into his window seat on the airplane, he felt the unmistakable buzz of another immortal. This buzz was familiar. It was that same laughing, mocking presence of Methos. He didn't even bother removing his headphones or opening his eyes. He had half expected something like this.

"Is this seat taken?" Methos threw his carryon bag into the overhead compartment.

"I'm sure if it was you'd take it anyway."

Methos nodded, tongue in cheek, and sat down with a thud.

"What are you doing here, Adam?"

"I don't trust you."

"Excuse me?"

"The third time was almost the charm for you and the kid, wasn't it?"

"What?"

"I have spent the last two years of my life devoted to the task of keeping Richie Ryan safe and sound. If you think for one moment that either Connor or I will let you within a mile of him alone, you really are crazy."

It took Duncan a moment to understand what to him was a totally ludicrous comment. "You bastard."

"Yeah, probably was. I don't remember much about my parents. My earliest memory was being found by Kronos when I wasn't much older than Richie. Explains a lot, huh?"

"Look, if you don't want me to have you thrown off this plane-"

"How would you do that?"

"I'll tell the pilot you keep propositioning me."

"And I'll tell him that you dumped me for a younger man."

"That wouldn't be hard to do." Mac shook his head and put his headphones on. He relaxed back into his seat with his eyes closed until Methos' words sunk in. He suddenly sat back up, removing his headphones. "I thought you were the oldest?"

"I never claimed that. Just the oldest they have record of. Though, now I probably am, thanks to you. It's really hard to say. I often wondered about the other Methos, especially after I met him. What if I was just named after him? He might have been 5,050."

"Adam?"

"Yeah?" Methos looked curious for a moment, but MacLeod's expression told him everything. "I know, shut up. I'm just trying to share a bit."

"Well don't."

Methos shrugged and put his own headphones on. Within a moment the blaring sounds of Queen's, "Friends Will Be Friends", could be heard from his headphones. MacLeod reached over and turned the volume down, much to Adam's disgust.

 

Duncan's mind could not keep up with all the possibilities. How could this be? He was torn between hating the younger looking man beside him and being grateful to him for this wonderful news. The pain still ran too deep. He had suffered greatly after Richie's death. He had loved and lost many people in his life, but no one had ever effected him as deeply as Richie. Richie had been his son. A son who stuck by him no matter what mistakes he made. When Tessa died Richie was the only thing that enabled him to continue. When he lost the boy there was no one left and he had fallen apart. The tragedy had been made worse with the knowledge that he himself had killed the one he loved most. It mattered little to him that it had been an accident. His final mistake with Richie had cost him the boy himself.

It was even more painful to know that they had just worked through their problems. It had taken months for Richie to readjust to him after the second time he had tried to kill him. The kid had even found a new teacher in the mysterious second Methos. Though their time together had been short, the mere fact that he had accepted another teacher had changed so many things for MacLeod and Richie. It forced Duncan to realize how important the boy still was to him as a student and a son. A little jealousy never hurt anyone. It also made him realize just how young and vulnerable the kid was. But then Richie had decided to leave for awhile in an attempt to right his own mind and think about his life as an immortal. The younger man had tried so hard to deal with the guilt he felt for having played the game after Duncan's dark quickening had forced him into a situation and mindset of self preservation. For Richie, Duncan's betrayal had made it clear that there was no one he should trust or care for again. He didn't recover from that completely until Methos II had reawakened his true kind and loving spirit.

Once Richie had worked through his own pain he became comfortable with the idea of being with Duncan again. And like Richie always managed to do, he found a way to rejoin his mentor. Duncan had easily assumed his paternal role the minute he realized Richie, in true form, had somehow ended up in trouble- again. He didn't hesitate a moment to go in search of the happily kidnapped youth. Though it had turned out that he was in no real danger, MacLeod's resumption of his role had healed their broken relationship completely.

Duncan's frantic thoughts were interrupted as their dinner was served. Methos had sat up ready to eat- as usual. It amazed MacLeod that this "graduate student" with the ravenous appetite and college dorm manners was actually five thousand years old. He couldn't pass for his own son as Richie could, but he certainly fit the part of younger brother or student.

A sudden thought occurred to him. "Did Connor really believe you were one of my students?"

"He didn't seem to have a problem with it. It was easier for him to believe that than the truth."

"How do you know?"

Adam shook his head as though it was a memory he'd rather forget.

 

Connor watched as Adam and Richie sparred with the katanas he had thrown them moments before. Neither appeared to be used to the weapons, though Richie had instinctively held the sword more comfortably. General experience quickly proved to be to Adam's advantage and Richie soon found himself disarmed. Adam playfully tripped him, and Richie fell to the floor laughing.

A grinning Adam held his hand out to help his "brother". Connor's quick eyes caught the Watchers tattoo as Adam's sleeve rose slightly above his wrist. Richie pretended to accept Adam's offer of help, but instead used a move Connor had shown him earlier. Adam landed in a heap, face first, then rolled over onto his back practically giggling.

The young immortals had slept soundly the night of their arrival and well into the next day. Connor had wondered how long it had been since they felt safe enough to get a good night's sleep. Now, their second morning with him, he was determined to find out what they were made of. Both were too well rested and in too good of humor to take this test too seriously.

"Losing isn't a laughing matter, boys." Connor crossed the spacious basement gym and hauled Richie to his feet. "Ten laps up and down five flights of stairs ought to put you in a more serious mood."

"What?" Richie whined. "He's laughing, too."

"He'll join you soon," Connor ordered sternly.

"Man!"

"Now!" Connor suddenly barked. "Or it will be miles outside in the rain." The Scot sent Richie off with a hard smack on the jogging pants.

"I'm sorry," Adam tried not to grin. "We'll get serious. It's been so long since we could relax."

"I'm glad you feel comfortable here."

"I really don't want him going outside without me."

"Are you being noble? Or is it just harder to watch him when you're apart?" Connor grabbed Adam's arm and shoved his sleeve up his wrist.

"Oh, that," Adam made a guilty glance at his wrist, just as Connor hit a pressure point in his arm that dropped him to his knees, gasping in pain. Of course, he should have known that if one MacLeod knew about Watchers, the other one would.

"Who are you?"

"I told you- Adam Pierson. Yes, I am a watcher, but probably not for the reasons you think."

"What do I think, Adam?" Connor increased the pressure.

Adam grimaced and squirmed slightly until Connor let up a bit. "That I'm Richie's watcher."

"Try again," Connor sent him reeling with pain again.

"That I hide from other immortals? That's closer to the truth. It's a great way to avoid a fight."

"How about to locate your victims?"

"What?" Adam looked so truly shocked Connor could almost believe the idea was new to him.

"I've never done that. If anything I avoid fighting. As a watcher I only do research, computers and that sort of thing."

"Convince me." Connor added yet more pressure.

"Only once have I ever used the Watchers to help someone. That's not exactly true, cause MacLeod made me do it a few times. But only for good, I promise. Like when Richie met up with Kristen. I went to warn Mac that she had lured him into her web."

"Kristen? The one who caused Duncan so much trouble 3-4 centuries ago?"

"Yes, she set her sites on Richie a couple of years ago."

"You said he made you help?"

"Yes," the back of Connor's hand silenced Adam.

"Duncan would never do such a thing."

"Only for good," Adam risked a few words as he licked the blood from the corner of his mouth. "I swear."

"How old are you, boy?"

"I was about twenty-five the first time I- ahhh. I could think better if you quit doing that."

"That's not what I asked you."

"Please, why do you need to know?" Adam searched Connor's eyes, pleading for mercy, but he only found a hint of betrayal there. If he wanted to regain Connor's trust he would have to tell him. He had only trusted a few people with his secret besides those who knew him from his past life. Duncan, Joe, Richie and Amanda knew who he really was. So if they knew, one of them would eventually tell Connor. There was no immediate danger that Richie would remember, but still ...

"Alright," Adam nodded through the pain. "My name is Methos." He saw a hint of understanding in Connor's eyes. "I'm five thousand years old, at least."

"At least," Connor grinned. "That's real cute, kid."

"You don't believe me?" Adam was incredulous.

"No," Connor shook his head and released Adam as he gave way to near hysterical laughter.

Adam rubbed his wrist and studied Connor for a minute. "But I am Methos." He remained on his knees.

"Yeah, sure. Look, if it means that much to you to keep your little private life a secret, go ahead. It doesn't matter who you are."

"Why don't you believe me?"

"You just don't fit the part."

"Why? The age I look?"

"Well maybe, but the real Methos spent a big part of his life as a warrior, a thief and a butcher. You, young Adam, you have never been those things. Yes, I believe you are a watcher. You do research and play with your computers. You could never follow another immortal. It would be too dangerous for you, Bookworm."

"What?" Adam shot to his feet.

"Oh, don't get me wrong. You are a good fighter, but you would never live 5,000 years without some help. The odds are against you."

"I don't believe you. I spill my guts and tell you who I am and you don't even have the decency to pretend to believe it could be true?"

"You are one of several who have claimed to be Methos, young one." Connor put a hand on Adam's shoulder. "It doesn't matter who you are. It's good enough for me that you have kept Richie alive this past year. What you were before you met Duncan matters little to me. Clear?"

Adam just stared and shook his head.

Richie landed at the bottom of the steps with a loud thud. "You're a lap behind, Pierson. Move it!"

Adam looked back at Connor who motioned for him to take off. As Adam bounded up the steps past Richie, Connor stared after him thoughtfully.

"Everything cool?" Richie asked Connor.

"Fine Richie, just fine."

"If we're in the way- "

"Nonsense! We're going to have a lot of fun." Connor smiled. "Now get busy!"

 

Duncan was grinning at Methos' frustration. "So he didn't believe you?"

"No, he never did. I stuck to my story, but he just laughs at me. Treats me like some- some- " Adam couldn't think of an accurate description.

"Graduate student?"

"Exactly. Old enough to be responsible for everything that goes wrong and too young to be taken seriously."

"But you survived boot camp? How did Richie hold up?"

"Pretty good. But I swear Connor was never as rough on him as he was me. For the first time in my life, I knew what it was like to be the "older brother." For the longest time I thought he hated me- for being a watcher."

"What changed your mind?"

"I'm not sure really. I started seeing that he had a bit more respect for me than he let me know about, I think. One evening Richie was telling him about the first time he saw a quickening."

"You mean Slan? After Connor and I- "

"No, sorry, he doesn't remember that. It was me."

"What happened?"

Several months after leaving Paris, Methos and Richie had settled comfortably in Greece. Methos, as Dr. Adam Pierson, had a charming beachfront home on a secluded Greek Isle. It had been a couple of years since he had brought anyone here. The last had been his most recent love, Alexa. It had been difficult returning here, but he needed a place where he could feel safe and be away from the game. And old friend of his, Michael Constansa, lived in the home as his butler/ caretaker. Michael knew the truth about Methos, one of the few rare mortals he had ever trusted. He was the only person he could count on to look after Richie. He at least he wouldn't be shocked by some of the things that would come out of the young immortal's mouth.

In Greece Adam Pierson could write prescriptions as doctor and psychologist. After several months of medications and therapy he had finally coaxed Richie from his catatonic stage on more than one occasion. Each success was short lived but it was a start.

One evening after dinner Methos had led Richie out onto the beach. They walked through the white sand allowing the waves to lap at their feet and knees. Richie stopped to feel the sand wash out from under his feet. He loved the sensation that he was practically soaring through the water out into the sea.

Methos stopped to watch the funny smile that crept upon the kid's face. He grinned back at his young friend. This was one of those rare moments that he could enjoy Richie rather than feel only the burden of responsibility he usually associated with his near invalid charge.

The pleasant evening came to an abrupt halt a few moments later when they both felt the unmistakable presence of another immortal. Methos grabbed Richie by the arm and ran up to the house. Bursting through the French doors, he shouted for Michael until he remembered that he had gone out for the evening.

"Richie, what am I going to do with you?" Methos covered his mouth in thought. He grabbed his young friend by the shoulders. "Richie, listen to me. You have to leave. Run as far as you can. Run up the beach- " Methos stopped as a look of fear registered in Richie's eyes. He followed the boy's stare over his shoulder, catching a glimpse of a sword crashing near him, just as Richie shoved him out of the way, intercepting the blade with his chest. Methos watched in horror as the eternal teenager fell to his knees.

The other immortal stood tall and powerful above him raising his sword.

"Don't!" Methos shouted as he swung an antique vase upward blocking the sword from hitting Richie.

The strange immortal staggered backward as part of the debris flew at his face. Methos grabbed a sword off the wall and advanced on his opponent. "Who are you?"

"Patrick Kelley," he almost bowed gracefully.

"What do you want here?"

"The two of you, of course."

"Why?"

"Don't you know what you are?" Kelly laughed in good humor. "I wonder, two young immortals- could it be that you don't know?"

"Looks can be deceiving. Why us? Why now? What did we do to you?"

"You are naive. I assure you, it's nothing personal, lad. I just have a hankering for a good double quickening."

"I'm afraid the bar is closed."

"No matter. I'm going to start with you."

"You can try." Methos almost smiled. "You kill me, and he'll take your head."

"He might, if he only had a brain." Kelly shook his head then lunged at Adam.

The swords banged and clanged against each other continually as Adam expertly drew his opponent from the house and out onto the beach. His still bare feet were better suited for the sand than Kelly's heavy boots.

"So lad, what's your name?"

"Shut up and fight." Adam plunged forward at Kelly sinking his sword into his leg. The older looking man grew angrier and took a sudden swing at Adam slicing through his right shoulder. Adam almost fell in pain as his left hand instinctively reached for the sword and took up the fight.

"Ambidextrous." He grinned.

"Good for you." Kelly winced and ran Adam through the side as his opponent's sword was pulled from his own leg.

The fight continued for some time as both men advanced and attacked and collected more battle scars. Had it not been for the unexpected hum of another immortal Adam would have lost his head. Fortunately he was used to Richie's sensation and Kelly wasn't. Just as Kelly looked up to see the staggering younger immortal approaching with a sword in hand, Adam took his head.

Richie's large blue eyes widened as the electrical surges of the quickening took over Adam's body, twisting and bending his lean frame violently. As he watched his friend, memories of other similar incidents bombarded his mind. A man beheaded another man on a bridge. He watched another man lay down on a railroad track. A large painting with two terrified blue eyes hung on a wall covered in splatters of paint. Outside of a house an electrical storm raged. The tall longhaired figure from his nightmares was swinging a sword at him. He lay crying over the body of a headless man.

Finally the flashes of light, the memories, and Adam's agonized screams all came to a sudden stop. He drug himself over to the crumpled heap he knew only as his brother.

"Adam? Adam?"

"Hey, Richie." Adam reached out and cuffed his chin. "How's it going?"

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, how about you?"

"I'm good."

"Liar." Adam laughed. It occurred to him as they both faded off into death that Richie appeared more alert than ever before.

Adam had been the first to awaken. It took him a moment to realize what had happened. Waking to the headless body of his opponent wasn't a real familiar sight for him over the last couple of hundred years, but it was one he remembered well from long ago. Back in the days so far removed that it was like he was looking back at someone else's life.

Luckily he was able to dispose of Kelly's body before Richie awoke. It was going to be hard enough explaining what had happened and what they were. Of course, unless that moment of alertness had been real in Richie's eyes, he wouldn't have to bother explaining anything to him. What if witnessing another beheading and subsequent quickening had put Richie even further into a catatonic state?

They would have to eventually move to Holy Ground. Tonight had proved too dangerous. His total concentration had been focused on saving Richie, yet it was Richie who saved him.

He waited anxiously for the boy to awaken. It seemed to take forever. He amused himself by building a sandcastle. An hour or so later Richie finally came to with the suddenness of a seizure as his lungs sucked in air.

"Welcome back," Adam said with a cocky grin as he put the final touches on a tower.

"Where have I been?" Richie asked with such an unprecedented alertness that it startled Adam. Hell, if this is all it took he'd have killed him himself.

"Well that will take some explaining. How much do you remember?"

"I remember being stabbed. Was I dreaming?"

"Not really, no."

"Then why am I okay? I mean it hurts, but I'm alive." Richie tried to sit up, but found he couldn't just yet.

"Take it easy for a few minutes. You'll be as good as new."

"How?" He kept patting at his chest trying to determine how much blood he lost.

"You are immortal."

"What does that mean?"

"You can't die."

"Yeah, sure."

Adam grinned excitedly. "Look, I've got to know something. How much can you remember? Do you know who you are?"

"I'm Richie, remember?"

"What's my name?"

Richie thought about it for a moment. Suddenly a name and face connected. "You're Adam."

"Oh, well good." Adam couldn't disguise his disappointment. It seemed immediately obvious that Richie's memories were going to be limited to the last few months. "Do you remember where you were born? Do you remember your parents?"

Richie fell silent as he tried to remember any details about himself. Nothing came to mind. His frustration was soon obvious. "I can't remember."

"It's okay. You've just got amnesia. It will go away in time."

Methos leaned back in his seat and looked over at Duncan. "But that's been close to a year and he still hasn't remembered anything. Or at least he hadn't the last time I saw them. Maybe by now he has. Maybe that's why they left."

"Maybe." Duncan nodded. He could tell that Methos was genuinely worried about both Connor and Richie. Once again he felt that guilty feeling that he should try to forgive Methos, but he just wasn't ready to yet. Methos must have known how badly this would hurt him. The pain of the last two years was still too raw. Taking the life of one's own son was just too much for him to bear. He'd nearly lost his mind. Now he truly understood why immortals could never have children. Yet from the moment he'd met Richie that seemed to have been the path that opened to them.

Duncan remembered a day, several years ago, when he first went in search of the youngster who had broken into his store and had later witnessed the fight between he, Connor, and Slan Quince on Soldier's Bridge. Tessa had agreed it would be the best thing for the young immortal if he had come to work for them. She had found the boy quite intriguing the night he broke into their store. Sympathy overwhelmed her logic and she had encouraged Duncan to at least offer him a job. There were times of course she would later regret that decision but only temporarily. She had grown to love the boy as if he had been her own child. Obviously she would have had to have been a very young mother when she had him, but it never ceased to amaze Duncan how much Richie looked like Tessa.

It was early evening when Duncan returned home from his search for the young delinquent who had broken into his store a few days earlier. He hated that Tessa was out of town. He so badly needed to complain to someone about his second day of unsuccessful searching.

Just as he was about to put his key in the door, he was distracted by the faint hum of a young pre-immortal. As he turned around he caught a glimpse of reddish blonde curls ducking behind the alley trash dumpster.

"I have spent two days trying to find you." Duncan spoke loud enough to be heard. "Ah, come on in and have a coke or something. We need to talk." As he spoke he moved closer to the dumpster.

The curly head suddenly bounced into view and shot out of the alley. It only took MacLeod a few seconds to snatch him up by the back of his shirt and pull him around. The boy fought with all his might as Duncan drug him kicking and screaming. Finally he grabbed him up and tossed him over his shoulder, landing a resounding smack on the youngster's jeans.

"Be quiet, you'll wake the dead." Duncan withstood the rein of blows as Richie's fists pounded his back, while feet and legs squirmed to be released. Finally inside the house, Duncan dropped Richie on the couch. "Now be still."

Richie responded with a notorious catch phrase that earned him a very stern look from Duncan.

"Not in this house, ever again. Especially around Tessa, got it?"

Richie nodded. He appeared to settle just a bit. After all he was bright enough to realize that if this guy was going to kill him he wouldn't be telling him how to act in front of a lady. "What do you want, MacLeod?"

"Your cooperation."

"I haven't said nothing to nobody."

"Good, that's a start. Now, I just want to talk to you, so I want you to just relax a bit."

"I'm sitting in a room with a guy who can get stabbed and instantly heal, jump off a bridge and live, and oh, he likes to chop off heads. And all you want is for me to relax? Yes sir, no problem, sir."

"I'm not going to take your head- as adorable a trophy for the living room wall as it might be."

Richie's adorable, intact head darted a quick look around the walls.

"Made you look." Duncan grinned.

"What do you want?" Richie asked in disgust, looking a bit nauseous all of a sudden.

"I just want to explain to you, who and what I am. I want to tell you what you saw."

"Why?"

"Because you have a right to know. Because you want to know, which is why you came back. Because somehow it might make it a little easier to forget what you saw, and get a decent night's sleep, and maybe hold down a meal."

Richie studied him for a moment, then looked thoughtfully at the floor. How did MacLeod know how it had affected him? "I came back because I heard you were looking for me. I figured I'd find you first."

"Then what?"

"Well, I don't know. I just wanted to know why you were looking for me, if you're not planning to off me."

"If I wanted you dead, I would have taken your head on the bridge."

"Right, that's the way I figured it. So, you having second thoughts?"

"If you exasperate me any further I might."

Richie could sense it was an attempt at humor for MacLeod rather than an actual threat, but that made him even more uncomfortable. "Look, I've got to get going," he rose to his feet. " I've got work to do. I'll keep your secret. It was pretty obvious the guy you offed was a bad guy."

"I'm 400 years old, or at least I will be in a few months. Sounds better than 399."

"Oh, yeah, much better." Richie nodded his astonishment.

"I was born in the Highlands of Scotland to a warrior people."

"Lucky you. Do you know Sean Connery?"

"I am immortal."

Richie grew very tense. "I've got to get to work." As he started to leave Duncan took hold of his shoulders and refused to release him. Duncan stared directly into his eyes, but Richie cast his glance downward. He took the boys chin in his hand and forced him to look at him. "I cannot die unless you take my head, and with it the power of my quickening. That was the light show you saw on the bridge the other night."

The boy stood there, sucking in deep breaths, trying to comprehend it all. "You're serious?"

"You know I am." Duncan slowly let go of his chin.

"How? How many are there? The blond guy?"

"My clansman, Connor MacLeod. He was also my teacher when I became immortal. He's closer to 500."

"Slan?"

"I'm not sure how old. Probably very old."

"He was going to kill me. I'm not immortal, I'm only seventeen."

"You were a witness."

"Do you do that? Kill the witnesses?"

Duncan released one hand from Richie's arms and ruffled his hair. "You still have this, don't you?"

The teenager nodded. "So why do you kill each other?"

"It's part of the game, so we're told. We only know, that in the end, there can be only one."

"I don't want to play."

Duncan smiled kindly. "Me either, but I don't have a choice."

"Your lady?"

"She's away on a business trip."

"No, is she, im- immortal?"

"No, she's mortal." Duncan released him completely and looked uncomfortable.

"Oh." Richie absorbed the situation. "That has to be rough."

 

"So, are you ready for that coke? I know Tessa has some stashed in here." Duncan turned to the kitchen ready to change the subject. "Or, how about some juice?"

"Coke is good." Richie nodded staring after the immortal.

"You coming?" Duncan turned back and waited for him to catch up.

"So were you always immortal? Or did you like get bit by a vampire?"

"No," Duncan laughed gently, preparing himself for the onslaught of questions he knew would soon follow. In 400 hundred years he'd learned a lot about curious teenagers. It had been too long since he'd enjoyed the company of children. He knew why he avoided it, but this would be inevitable. After all, Connor had commanded it. 

Duncan ordered an extra large pizza with the works and he and Richie had sprawled out in the living room to eat it. Duncan turned on a Sonics game and discovered it was Richie's favorite team. But even pizza and basketball couldn't stop the incessant questions. Just when Duncan thought he had answered everything, Richie would come up with another theory on the "invention" of immortals.

"I really don't think we're from another planet, Richie. We've been on earth since the beginning."

"But how do you know? How old is the oldest?"

"Hard to say. I have friends who are over a thousand, over two thousand. One young lady is closer to 3,000."

"Wow, can you imagine?"

"No, actually. I've heard a myth about an immortal who is at least 5,000, if no one's taken his head yet."

"He must be ancient looking."

"No, we don?t' age, remember? I was in my thirties when I died in battle."

"What about your wife? Was it hard on her back then? Did you tell her?"

"I never married. The woman I wanted to marry died tragically. There was no one after her for the longest time."

"Bummer. Sorry."

"That was a long time ago, Richie."

"Yeah," Richie yawned. "I guess I should be going. Past my bed time." He looked over at a clock.

"Well, it's raining. I'll take you home. Where is home, by the way? Your current foster parents haven't seen you in weeks."

"Yeah, well they kicked me out."

"Why?"

"Cause I called the cops when he started beating her up again. Course she denied it and after the cops left, I got the rest of it. So, I left. I'll be 18 soon anyway."

"So where are you staying?"

"MacLeod, you ask too many questions."

"Well, how can I take you home? Some kids told me they thought you were living in the old zoo."

"Right, in the lions den." Richie grinned sarcastically. "I'll take myself home. I've been doing it for years. I don't melt in the rain."

"Why don't you spend the night here?"

"I don't think so!"

"Come on, I won't hurt you."

"I'm not that kind of guy, MacLeod."

"Neither am I, Ryan. I'm suggesting the couch or the guest room."

"No- but thanks." Richie got to his feet and stretched. "Thanks for dinner. I haven't eaten in days. Well, I haven't kept it down, anyway."

"Yeah, sorry about that. I know it's not pretty, but you were in the wrong place at the wrong time."

"Yeah, but it's better now. You seem to be one of the good guys, so I can deal with it a little easier."

Duncan smiled at the boy, happy that he seemed to be earning his trust. Now he just had to find a way to make sure he came back. "Uh, listen, if you need a job, I've been looking for some help around here."

"You'd trust me, after what I did?"

"I think you know what would happen if you tried anything?"

"Yeah, I could try out for the part of the Headless Horseman."

"I was thinking of a lower target."

"Oh," Richie blushed remembering the way MacLeod had carried him into the house earlier in the evening.

"So, I'll see you tomorrow?"

"Well, I don't know, MacLeod. I've got a job."

"Yeah, well this one's legal. Besides, you owe me a window. One day's work should pay for that. We'll go from there, okay?"

"Okay, one day- just to pay for the window. I can do that."

"Eight sharp." 

Duncan watched from the alley as Richie made his way up the street in the pouring down rain. He told himself that Richie was right. He had looked after himself for years, and he would probably continue to do just fine. So why was he still following him? Was he just being nosey about where the kid lived? Okay, so he was being nosey.

It took Richie almost an hour to reach his destination. Just as Duncan expected he was indeed living in the old abandoned zoo. As it turned out it was the bear cave rather than the lion's den, as Richie had quipped earlier. This just wasn't going to do. He couldn't leave this kid here. Duncan knew he had seen a number of runaways in here earlier today. They were probably all inside due to the weather. He knew he couldn't help them all, but Richie was special. Most of these kids could work out their problem if they had a half a break. Richie didn't even know what most of his were yet. Nor was he aware that he projected an ever-present hum that could be detected by other immortals, though he himself could not yet sense another of their kind. Duncan's job would be to keep him alive long enough to grow up, increasing his chance of survival as an immortal.

Duncan waited awhile before moving any closer to the man made cave Richie had disappeared into. He carefully and quietly inched his way up to a better vantage point, clinging close to the cave walls. Peering around the corner he could see the campsite that the boy had set up. There was a small battery powered lantern dimly illuminating the area. Richie had just finished putting on dry clothes and had carefully laid the wet ones out to dry. He picked up a large sleeping bag and shook it out watching for any vermin that might fall out. Once satisfied that he would be the only one occupying the old down filled bag, he laid it out on a ledge and climbed in. He turned his lantern to a very dim setting and curled up inside the bag with a comic book.

Duncan's heart was doing battle with his head. Why was he doing this? Did he really want to bring this kid into their lives? Always before when he found a young pre-immortal he found homes for them. There was Michelle who had been adopted by a good friend of his. There was Claudia who was a gifted musician he'd supported all through music schools around the world. Both girls were still pre-immortals and would hopefully remain that way for some time to come.

So why not do that for Richie? Send him off to college, preferably on holy ground. Why not Notre Dame? No, that was too far away and the only immortal professor there had recently lost his head. Surely he could find a similar school in Seattle or nearby Vancouver, but Richie wasn't ready for school yet. He needed a bit of toning down and tutoring before he started college. He needed to understand right from wrong. He needed a home environment with discipline and love. He needed parents. If he tried to turn Richie over to another couple, he couldn't be sure they would be able to handle a street urchin.

Besides, the kid had spent his entire life in foster care and had never found anyone who wanted to adopt him. Now that he was nearly eighteen the system was already casting him aside. No one had cared that he was in jail, let alone that he was no longer living with his foster parents.

He watched as Richie tossed his comic onto the floor and sleepily turned out his light.

To Part 3