Standard disclaimer: the concept of Immortality and the characters of Connor MacLeod and Duncan MacLeod belong to Rysher and are owned by them. This story is for fun, not for profit. For legal types, this means the authors don't make a dime off of it.
This story universe resides in a no-demon zone. Thus, in this story universe, Richie was not killed by Duncan. In fact, he lives a prosperous, happy Immortal life--insofar as Immortals can be happy. Due to circumstances beyond our control, this arc has also become a no-Endgame story.
Any comments/questions, do please let the authors know.
January 7, 2002
Connor MacLeod was looking for a kill. His nostrils were flared, quivering--a wolf scenting an enemy. He breathed raggedly but deeply--filling his lungs with oxygen, trying to counteract the effects of the alcohol he'd been drinking for hours ... for days. The sculptured grooves on the handle of his katana fit perfectly in the calluses on his palm; and he held the sword blade up, ready. He crossed the floor of his antique shop, his blood racing as he looked for the Immortal he had sensed from his upstairs loft apartment--the Immortal who had surely sensed him, too. Connor was grimly pleased, because he wanted--needed--a Quickening's agony and pleasure to leach the pain and loss and grief from his soul.
The dim, after-hours lighting cast deep shadows across the floor, and the baubles on display glittered like the eyes of small carnivores. Broken, distorted, distracting images--slivers and slices of himself--reflected back at him from the crystal and heavy silver and gold objets d'art. Not one of the images was a reflection of a whole man. But he ignored the fractured replicas, concentrating on his enemy.
There he was! Connor froze as he came face-to-face with the other Immortal. His stomach lurched, and bile rose in his throat. Connor swallowed hard. Dammit! He didn't want to fight this man. Not now ... not ever.
But using his bare hands to beat this man into a senseless pulp sounded like a fucking fantastic idea. Connor's fingers twitched at the thought.
The two men faced each other: legs spread, knees bent, swords raised ... waiting ... until Duncan MacLeod said calmly and evenly, "Expecting somebody?"
Connor growled softly, "Maybe."
Duncan frowned, examining Connor closely, wrinkling his nose. "Good thing it's only me. You look like hell, and you smell like a distillery. You're in no shape to fight."
Connor shrugged again, snorted. His eyes narrowed. Duncan, of course, never looked "like hell." And right now he looked disgustingly calm and rested, despite his long flight from Argentina to New York. Long dark shining hair pulled back in an oh-so-trendy pony-tail. Brown eyes alert and ready, as always, to melt a woman's heart. His black leather duster naturally matched his black leather boots.
Then Connor looked down at himself. Duncan was right. Connor did look like hell. His ancient tee-shirt, faded to an indeterminate grayish shade and ripped across the right shoulder, hung half-in, half-out of his ill-fitting jeans--ill-fitting because Connor's diet had been mostly liquid for the last week or two. His tennis shoes, which he'd rarely taken off even for sleep on those nights when he actually did sleep, were filthy, too; and spattered with mud and dirt. And he probably did smell like a distillery--and worse. The thing was, Connor didn't care. But, from Duncan's concerned stare, Connor could tell that Duncan did. So what, Connor thought. Duncan's concern was misplaced--and late. Too damned late. Duncan should have been concerned in Argentina. Duncan should have been concerned about John.
Connor said nothing, playing the old game between them--the game he always won.
Duncan took a deep breath. "Well?" he demanded.
First round to Connor--as usual. But Connor lifted his eyebrows. Duncan was giving up too easily. And obviously, Duncan was waiting for some sign. Slowly, Connor tucked the katana at rest behind his arm. He would give Duncan that, at least.
Duncan sighed slowly, then slipped his blade into its sheath hidden in his duster. He took two steps towards Connor, bringing the two men together, within arm's length.
This was his cue, Connor knew, to clap his arms around his clansman, his cousin--to give Duncan his brotherly embrace. But Connor refused. He was furious with Duncan, and he didn't feel the least bit brotherly. So he stood there, unmoving, unsmiling, unforgiving.
After a moment, Connor wrinkled his own nose, mimicking Duncan's earlier action. But he wasn't checking for the scent of whisky. He was sniffing for the smell of a woman--one particular woman--whose arms Duncan had surely rolled out of before his flight this morning. But Connor smelled only soap and sweat and leather. Nevertheless-- "Not wearing Eau d'Elena, Duncan? What'd you do--scrub it off before you tiptoed away from La Senorita?"
Duncan frowned, his jaw clenching, obviously insulted.
Tough shit, Connor thought. If Duncan was going to hang around with a bitch like Elena Duran, he'd have to get used to those kinds of comments. Then Connor started thinking about Elena Duran: Argentine bitch ... whore ... slut. Connor's blood began to race again--to boil, actually. Why hadn't Duran come instead of Duncan? Connor would have been glad to welcome her to New York--and to three feet of burnished steel, whetted to an edge so sharp that it would cut through bone and flesh the way scissors cut through silk.
"I didn't come to talk about Elena," Duncan said, a shade of impatience there. But still his brown eyes--the lines radiating just so from the corners in that way Connor knew very well--openly divulged his concern about his clansman, his cousin, his brother, his one-time teacher.
Connor didn't care about that, either. In fact, there wasn't a lot Connor did care about at the moment. But Duncan was standing there, expectant. Worried. About Connor. So Connor said gruffly, "You'll want to come up."
Duncan sighed once more. The aura of concern he radiated had shaded slightly--towards exasperation.
Connor thinned his lips into a small smile that never touched his eyes. Perfect. Without waiting for an answer, he turned and led the way to the elevator that would take them up to his loft.
When they reached the spacious apartment, Connor stepped out and Duncan followed. Connor looked at his apartment and the rubble that remained of his furniture. Then he turned to Duncan, waiting for Duncan's reaction. And there it was: the widened eyes, the gasp, the sharp turn to Connor, the mouth opened to speak. But then Duncan snapped his mouth closed again. Connor was mildly surprised--but then again, he and Duncan had been through this before. Connor waited to hear what Duncan would say this time.
Slowly, Duncan picked his way through the litter of glass and wood, past what was left of a few hundred thousand dollars' worth of antique furniture--now no more than kindling wood--and on to the naked, dried-out, dead Christmas tree standing lopsided in front of the floor-length windows. Duncan looked at it; and from across the room, Connor looked, too. Connor had purchased the tree, expecting that he and John would decorate it together. Beneath the barren branches, the gifts he had purchased for John and Rachel still lay on the floor. They seemed lonely and out of place on this cold January day. There were even a few items under the tree for him--Rachel and Connor always exchanged Christmas presents, even though he had done everything he could to raise her properly in her Jewish faith. But there was nothing from John under the tree. Only the things Connor had wanted to give his son. Things that John might never see. Ever.
Duncan turned slowly around, gazing at the debris, until at last he faced Connor. "Where's John?" he demanded.
That, Connor thought, was the $64,000 question.
Connor crossed the room to the liquor cabinet--the only intact piece of furniture left in the room--leaned his sword against it, and pulled out his last bottle of Glenmorangie. He looked at it closely; it was three-quarters gone. Without asking Duncan, who had followed him to the cabinet, he poured them each a glass--a double for himself--then drank it down and re-filled his glass with another double.
Duncan set his glass down untouched on one of the liquor cabinet shelves and stared at Connor. "Where is he?"
"Gone," Connor replied, then tossed down the second double and poured himself a third. He lifted the glass to his lips, but Duncan's hand was suddenly on his wrist.
"You don't need that, Connor," Duncan said. "I think you've had plenty to drink."
Connor simply stared at Duncan, letting his fury show in his eyes. He clenched his teeth and allowed his expression to go cold and deadly--a face he'd rarely, if ever, shown to Duncan. And Connor gripped the glass in his hand all the more tightly, ignoring the few drops of whisky that spilled.
For a moment, the two men stood in frozen combat, each one straining to overcome the other.
Finally, Duncan dropped his hand from Connor's and stepped back, surrendering wordlessly.
Connor casually accepted the surrender with his chilly smile; then he raised the glass in a mock toast and drank down the whisky, staring at Duncan, daring him to say anything.
For the moment, Duncan was silent, but Connor knew that the words would start sooner or later. The words, the inevitable, endless, meaningless stream of words. He didn't know where Duncan got them all, but the supply never seemed to run out. No matter that they accomplished nothing. Duncan would still spray words everywhere.
But Duncan only asked, "Where has John gone?"
"Good question," Connor answered, pouring himself the last of the whisky and drinking it. Gesturing to Duncan's glass with the empty bottle, he said, "What's the matter, Duncan? Forgot how to drink your whisky, too? I guess Elena Duran has got you pretty well pussy-whipped, doesn't she?"
Duncan's eyes narrowed with the first flash of anger he'd shown, and Connor smiled to himself. First impatience, then exasperation, now anger. Connor always won this game. He would win again today. Was winning. Duncan wanted to placate. But Connor didn't feel like being placated.
Then Duncan took another deep breath--calming himself, Connor could see--and tried again. His tone was soft, reasonable, brotherly. "Connor, I know you're angry with me ... and with Elena, but I came to help."
Connor gritted his teeth and leaned close to Duncan, in Duncan's face. The killing fury was back at Duncan's mention of the Argentine whore who had cost Connor his son. "You came to *help*?" Connor hissed, not caring about the spittle flying in Duncan's face. "You--"
"Yes, I came to help," Duncan interrupted, not moving, enduring Connor's spit. Still he kept his tone soft, reasonable, brotherly. "We can go look for John, if you like. I'll help you find him."
Connor sneered. "Where do you think we should start?"
"I don't know," Duncan replied cautiously. "Did he go back to school?"
Connor snorted. He bent to pick up a crumpled piece of paper from the bottom shelf of the liquor cabinet and tossed it to Duncan.
"What's this?" Duncan said.
"Read it," Connor ordered, pulling out another liquor bottle. He was out of the good Scottish whisky, and this was some cheap stuff a customer had once given him, but it didn't matter. Connor opened it and took a swig, not even bothering with a glass now.
Duncan glanced at the bottle, at Connor, sighed, began unfolding the ball of paper. While he read, Connor drank.
After a moment, Duncan looked up. "John withdrew from university, just like that?"
"Very good, Duncan," Connor replied. "I see that religious education wasn't wasted on you. You *can* read."
Duncan did not react to the insult. Instead, he replied, "I thought the school was supposed to have some control over--"
Connor shook his head. "School control over students ended in the sixties. And John is old enough to do what he wants. Go where he wants." Then Connor realized something--Duncan was only bothered by insults to his 'woman,' so that's where Connor would concentrate his fire. "And he has--thanks to your South American whore."
Connor watched Duncan's dark skin darken more, saw the flash of anger in his eyes. Good, Connor thought. Perfect.
Duncan said firmly, "Elena is no whore, Connor. And it wasn't her fault--"
"Not a whore? When she's slept with nearly every man--and most women--on the planet?"
Duncan blew out his breath, his face just a shade darker. "This is not about Elena, it's about--"
"Not about Elena?" Connor said, leaning into Duncan's face again. "The bitch, the whore, the slut who I have to thank for showing my son the first and only beheading he'd ever seen in his life?"
"CONNOR! John was caught by surprise because he didn't know what was going on! And he didn't know because *you* didn't tell him. That was not Elena's fault--"
"The hell it wasn't," Connor said softly, in the frozen, brutal tones he had last used to speak to Elena--to threaten her life. "It was her fault--and what wasn't her fault was yours."
"And just how was it my fault?" Duncan replied evenly, carefully, calmly.
Connor pointed the bottle of rotgut at Duncan. "It is your fault," he said, enunciating clearly, slowly--his head was starting to spin--"because I sent him so you could watch over him, take care of him. Get him *away* from an Immortal duel. And instead--"
"Goddammit, Connor, did you expect me to stay with John every moment he was there? Babysit him? He's nineteen years old! How could I--how could anybody know--"
"Elena Duran is a fucking target for every Immortal in South America! You know that! She knows that! You'd think she'd be more careful, have a plan of some kind. But no--the stupid bitch allowed herself to get separated from her sword and surprised by an Immortal in her own home!"
"Whereas you've never been surprised, or separated from your sword," Duncan said, a strictly controlled edge to his voice.
"It wasn't me who almost got the boy killed!" Connor exclaimed.
Duncan had no ready answer for this. And that meant that John's life had been in even more danger than Connor had thought. This made Connor's rage run cold again, and he paused, took a breath, then said carefully, "I can understand why you want to fuck her, Duncan--any man could understand that. What I can't understand is how you could stand to spend any time outside of bed with a woman who is such a stupid goddammned cunt--"
"That is enough about Elena!" Duncan ground out.
But Connor continued without pause. "She was even on her own territory, with an army of mortals around that she can hide behind. And knowing that she is a goddamned stupid cunt, why you could think for one minute that John would be safe with her when you weren't around."
"You're doing a great job of deflecting the blame, Connor. Elena did the best she could with John."
Duncan was angry now. Connor could see that, even through his blurry double vision. Good. If he could push Duncan just a little more. "If that's her best, I shudder to think what her worst could be," Connor replied. "Elena Duran is a bitch, a whore, a slut, a cunt with all the brains of a mosquito, and she's grabbed your cock and led you--"
"Enough!" Duncan shouted. His jaw working, he grabbed Connor's ratty tee-shirt in his fists and pulled Connor so close that his spittle sprayed in Connor's face as he said, "This is about you, Connor! You fucked up, not Elena or me! And you know it!" Duncan's face had gone dark and his brown eyes had turned almost black.
Connor's ears were buzzing, and he didn't know or care what excuses Duncan came up with. What he did know was that he had nearly pushed Duncan to the breaking point. All it would take--Connor broke Duncan's hold, shoving him hard in the process.
And Duncan shoved back.
Connor smiled coldly and aimed his fist at his kinsman.
Duncan ducked, raised his own fist, then looked at it, took a step back, opened his hand, flexed it, dropped it to his side. He stared at Connor.
"What's the matter, Duncan?" Connor taunted. "Afraid you'll bruise your knuckles?"
"No," Duncan said, with exquisite calmness. His eyes had returned to their normal brown color. "Connor, I didn't come here to fight, I came to help--"
"I don't want your help," Connor answered, licking his lips. He wasn't going to fight Duncan, after all. He was going to be sick instead, and he wanted Duncan gone before that happened.
"Just get out, Duncan," Connor said, shaking his head, then regretting it. The room swam in front on him. Gulping, he said, "Go back to your whore."
Duncan took a step forward, then another, getting very close. "Connor--"
"Get out. You know where the door is."
Duncan shook his head. "No. I don't think so." And before Connor really saw it--or believed that Duncan would do it--Duncan's right fist shot out and hit Connor squarely in the left jaw.
Connor's feet left the floor, and then he slammed against the wall next to the liquor cabinet. Plaster and wallboard shattered in a cloud of debris, and he grunted painfully. He slid to the floor. Then, unable to hold it any longer, Connor rolled to his knees and was violently and humiliatingly sick.
Duncan made no move to help. Instead, he simply waited until Connor stopped vomiting. Then Duncan leaned over Connor and said evenly, "When you're finished with your nasty little bout of self-pity and are ready to crawl out of that bottle, Connor, you might think about this. John didn't leave because he stopped loving you. He left because you lied to him. How did you think he was going to react when he found out you--we--cut off people's heads? And think about this too. The *only* reason you can ever see him again is because Elena Duran--and Richie Ryan, too--both risked their heads to save him." He straightened up, took a deep breath and added, "Now. Do you want my help in finding him?"
Connor lay on his belly, knowing he was going to be sick again any moment now. But who the hell did Duncan-- Gritting his teeth with the effort, he said, "No. I don't want your help. Just get--" Connor swallowed, coughed, clamped his mouth closed. Dimly, he heard Duncan move away, come back. Something soft landed on his head. He reached up, snatched it--it was a towel.
"That's for your face," Duncan said, sounding bored. "When you want my help, you know how to reach me." Then he walked out and slammed the door behind him. More plaster dust rained down on Connor's head.
Connor waited while the bootsteps receded and the Immortal thrum faded and died. Then he was very sick, again. Afterwards, when his Immortal physiology had recovered and he had cleaned up himself and his mess, he sat on the floor of his ruined living room and drank some more, watching the empty lights of New York. He drank himself to death--the shards of glass among his ruined furniture reflecting only the bits and pieces of a man--as the sun began to rise.