Likely Suspect

Mary Ellen

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DISCLAIMER : Joe Dawson, Connor MacLeod and Duncan MacLeod belong to Davis-Panzer Productions. Richie Ryan used to belong to them. He belongs to his fans now. We tend to treat him better. Fiona MacDonald and anyone else you find in here belong to me. All characters are free to return to their original owners, but they refuse to go, so I guess I'm stuck with them for now. Please do not repost this story without asking me first. Direct all comments to me. I want to thank Richard Ruth and Kristine Larsen for being long suffering and encouraging beta-readers for the Fiona stories. LIKELY SUSPECT is the ninth in the series.


Absolutely no permission is granted to use this story in whole or in part in another piece of writing.


Duncan MacLeod sensed another Immortal as soon as he started up the steps to the dojo. Richie had probably arrived for work while MacLeod was out running errands. When he entered the dojo itself, he saw Richie in the office. That was not unusual in itself, but the younger man appeared to have barricaded himself inside using most of the furniture in the room. Another Immortal was pacing in front of the office, stopping occasionally to pound on the office door with his sword. When Richie saw Mac, he immediately started screaming his friend's name. Putting down the bag of groceries, Duncan drew his sword from under his coat.

"I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod."

"I know that, lad. Put the sword down before you hurt yourself. This isn't your fight."

Duncan was astonished. The Immortal menacing Richie was Connor MacLeod. Connor kicked the office door repeatedly. When Duncan moved closer to his kinsman, Connor threw a warning glance in his direction. From the safety of the office, Richie was waving his sword and yelling that Connor was crazy. The elder MacLeod punched the door hard enough to rattle the adjacent windows.

Mac ordered Richie to sit down and shut up. Looking angry and unhappy, Richie sat down behind the recently relocated desk. Duncan attempted to get Connor away from the office. His kinsman resisted. When Connor struck out at him, Duncan tried to duck quickly. Connor's fist delivered only a glancing blow, but it was enough to temporarily stun Duncan. He shook his head to clear it.

"What's going on, Connor?"

"This bastard killed Fiona. I want his head."

The idea that Fiona was dead brought back the devastating feelings of abandonment and loneliness Duncan experienced after being banished from Glenfinnan. He had grown up with her. For over 400 years, she was simply always there. Life without her was an impossible concept just like life without his Clan had seemed. He might not see her for decades, but he would hear from or about her. Often, Connor was their only link. Connor loved Fiona in his own way and would stop at nothing to avenge her death. Without Fiona both Highlanders would be bereft.

He watched his kinsman and Richie glare at each other through the office windows. Duncan couldn't imagine what would lead Connor to believe that Richie would harm Fiona. The two were friends. Fiona usually treated Richie as a combination son and little brother. For his part, Richie seemed to enjoy making the Immortal woman laugh.

When Richie jumped up from behind the desk to protest his innocence, Connor went back to pounding on the door. Duncan winced. He'd have to refinish the door when Connor was finished with it. He asked his kinsman a series of questions trying to determine what led him to believe that Fiona was dead. Connor ignored him until the endless queries exasperated him. He stopped abusing the door and whirled angrily in Duncan's direction. The younger Highlander took a step back.

"She was supposed to meet me in Scotland nearly a week ago. You know the rule, Duncan."

The younger MacLeod nodded. Since telephones became common items, the trio had a firm rule about any pre-arranged meeting. Anyone who was going to be delayed had to call within 24 hours. If Fiona had been missing for more than a day or two, Connor had every reason to be concerned.

"Rule?" Richie called from behind the desk.

Hearing the concern in the younger man's voice, Duncan looked at Richie. It had never been necessary to use that particular rule with Richie. Duncan started to tell Richie what Connor meant, but was interrupted when the elder MacLeod punched the door angrily.

"I can't find her, but I see this bastard come out of her house!"

"He rents an apartment there, Connor."

When Connor's expression changed slightly, Duncan tried to explain to him that Richie had recently returned from visiting Fiona at her house on Holy Ground. A few days after Richie's return, Fiona called the dojo and spoke to both Richie and Duncan. She even mentioned her intention to meet the elder Highlander in their homeland.

Connor knew about Richie's visit. He had called Fiona and spoken to both of them during Richie's stay. Connor insisted that Duncan's account of the events left Richie plenty of time to kill Fiona. When Duncan suggested the three of them go up to his loft to discuss it, Richie and Connor both objected.

It took Duncan nearly an hour to negotiate an agreement that would allow Richie to leave the office and keep his head. The brief ride up to the loft was quiet and tense. Mac busied himself in the kitchen putting away the groceries he just bought. He noticed Richie made certain to keep his mentor between himself and Connor MacLeod.

From the safety of the kitchen, Richie watched the elder MacLeod stride around the apartment examining his kinsman's possessions. Some items he picked up for closer inspection. He replaced each article carefully. Connor appeared to linger over a photo of Mac and Tessa. When he reached the stereo, the elder man sorted through the CDs shaking his head occasionally at his kinsman's taste in music. Richie noticed that Mac was watching Connor as well. Duncan glanced at Richie before speaking.

"I have an idea."

When he was certain he had the attention of the other two men, Duncan suggested he might be able to get information from Joe Dawson. Joe knew and liked Fiona. A report of her disappearance or death would attract his attention. The Watcher might have information about Fiona's whereabouts.

Richie agreed. Connor consented reluctantly. Although she expressed reservations about the Watchers, Fiona liked the mortal Duncan mentioned. He had been to her house on Holy Ground. Fiona didn't allow just anyone to visit her there.

Satisfied, Duncan moved on to the hard part of his idea. He wanted the other two men to wait for him at the dojo. He thought Joe might be more willing to talk without an audience. Richie immediately objected to being left alone with a man who was trying to kill him. The young Immortal's distress made Connor agree to the idea with a wolfish grin. Exasperated, Duncan made both of them promise to refrain from fighting. In fact, they weren't even allowed to talk to each other while he wasn't there. He would wait until Richie opened the dojo. After that, it would be too public for a fight.

****

Richie sat in the dojo's office again. Earlier, his work on the books had been interrupted by the sudden appearance of Connor MacLeod. Richie had gone into the dojo to greet the elder MacLeod. Drawing his sword, the man shouted his insane accusations. Retreating quickly into the office, Richie had frantically piled everything he could move against the door. Only Mac's return to the dojo had brought normalcy to the situation.

Richie reorganized his papers and resumed working. Through the office windows he could see the activity in the dojo itself. Only one person was actually working out. Everyone else had eventually come to a stop to watch Connor MacLeod's graceful and intricate actions. For his part, MacLeod seemed oblivious to the attention. Richie always admired Mac's workouts, but the elder MacLeod's intensity was impressive. Nothing seemed to distract the man, not even the occasional train whistle from the nearby freight yard.

Richie hoped Joe Dawson would be able to provide the proof of his innocence. He didn't want to meet the elder Highlander in battle. He'd trained with the man and knew exactly how skilled Connor MacLeod really was.

****

Joe Dawson frowned at Mac's request. He didn't like the idea of using the Watcher Chronicles as an information source for Immortals. MacLeod would have to find his own way to locate Fiona MacDonald.

Duncan tried to find a way to explain the situation to Joe without telling him that Connor was involved. The Watcher would certainly want to meet the elder Highlander, but that would only further enrage Connor. It was not a pleasant thought. He rephrased his request. There was a rumor that Fiona had been killed by Richie. Joe laughed.

"Richie? Get real, Mac. Richie wouldn't hurt Fiona. He was full of stories about her when he got back."

"Please, Joe, I just want to make sure she's okay."

Joe nodded. He had a soft spot for the Immortal woman who could tend bar like a pro. Leaving MacLeod at the bar, Joe retreated to his office. Easing himself into the chair behind his desk, Joe regretted that Fiona had no permanent Watcher. He just didn't have enough personnel to assign someone to an Immortal who rarely left Holy Ground. When she did, she was often in the company of an Immortal who did have a Watcher. He'd written reports on her himself. The arrangement seemed adequate until now.

Accessing the Watcher database, Joe checked Fiona's files. There was no indication she had been involved in any altercation with another Immortal. The last entry in her file was a note from Richie's Watcher indicating that Richie had been with Fiona at her house on Holy Ground. There was no evidence that there had been a battle between the two in Richie's records. Joe quickly cross-referenced Fiona's name against all the available files. The only matches the system found were those of battles won by the Immortal woman. She had an impressive record.

Joe returned to the bar. Mac sat on a stool staring into his empty glass. The man's mood seemed darker than usual. If Fiona MacDonald was really dead, Duncan MacLeod might be inconsolable. Joe poured each of them another drink before recounting what he had found out about Richie's visit with Fiona. The reports sounded like the pair had fun. They were even seen riding Richie's motorcycle together. There was no indication of a challenge between them.

Mac smiled at the image of Fiona on Richie's motorcycle. Richie loved the bike and Fiona loved adventure. He wished he had been there. He had turned Richie down when the younger man suggested accompanying him.

Joe took a sip of his drink and placed the glass carefully on the bar before stating his conclusion.

"As far as we know, she's alive, Mac. There's no record of her meeting with any of you after Richie left her."

Duncan drained the contents of his glass. Thanking Joe, the younger Highlander got ready to return to the dojo. He didn't want to leave Richie and Connor alone any longer than he had to. Joe shouted some questions at MacLeod's back. The Immortal only shook his head. The Watcher already knew too much.

****

Duncan found the dojo empty except for Richie and Connor. Connor sat on an exercise bench in the dojo with his katana across his lap. Richie sat in the office cleaning his sword. The two men were involved in a staring contest. It would have been funny if Duncan didn't know that Connor would kill Richie without a second thought. He sat down next to his kinsman.

"How would you feel if you killed him and then found out that Fiona's alive?"

The older Highlander shrugged. He'd get over it. Of course, he knew that the man next to him wouldn't be happy about it, but he'd get over it, too. On the other hand, Fiona would probably never forgive him. He could imagine her turning her back on him forever.

Connor frowned. Over a century earlier, Fiona had kept Connor from financial ruin by warning him against an investment. When questioned, Fiona would only say she couldn't read the man who proposed the deal. She was adamant about her distrust. Uneasy about her words, Connor refused to invest. Shortly afterward, Connor's prospective partner fled the country with all the money from his investors. Since that time, Connor tried to keep an open mind when Fiona expressed an opinion about someone. He never again trusted someone Fiona did not trust. He should probably temper his mistrust of Richie Ryan with Fiona's faith in him. He would allow the younger man's head to remain attached to his body for the time being. Connor shook his head. The boy still needed watching.

"I didn't kill her," Richie shouted from the office.

"I know that, Richie. Joe confirmed it. The Watchers say she's alive."

Connor turned to look at Duncan. Richie came out of the office slowly. Without looking at him, Connor raised his sword. Richie froze in the doorway. Duncan sighed. The situation was going to be close to impossible until they found Fiona. He suggested they search for her. They could start by going to her house on Holy Ground. To his surprise, the other two men agreed immediately.

****

The trio rode in a silence broken only by Connor and Duncan arguing about who should drive. For the moment, the elder MacLeod was behind the wheel of Mac's Thunderbird. When the car's occupants sensed another Immortal, Connor pulled over to the shoulder of the road. They emerged from the car cautiously. After searching for the source of the sensation, the Immortals agreed it seemed to be coming from below the level of the road. Connor found an old footpath that led down into a ravine. It was badly overgrown with weeds. Using their swords, they started cutting a path through the foliage.

****

After Fiona's car went off the road and tumbled into the ravine, she managed to get part way out of the car, but remained trapped in the wreckage. She groaned. She was dying again. She wasn't certain how many times she had died since the accident. Now, she could sense the approach of another Immortal. The sensation was strong. There could be more than one. The sound of footsteps confirmed her impression that a group of Immortals was coming. She didn't want to lose her head, but it was preferable to being trapped indefinitely. She closed her eyes. She didn't need to see her executioner.

****

Duncan raced to Fiona. Her eyes were closed, but she was alive. He could see she was badly injured. A mortal would never have survived the accident. Richie stopped just short of them. Mac looked like he needed a moment alone with Fiona.

"Just do it and get it over with. Can't you see I'm suffering?"

Kneeling next to her, Duncan held her hand. It was cold. She was probably bleeding internally. Tangled in the wreckage, she wouldn't have been able to heal. He didn't like the large beads of perspiration on her forehead. She must be in a great deal of pain. He whispered softly to her, promising to help her.

Fiona opened her eyes slowly. It sounded like Duncan, but that was impossible. If this was another dream, she would enjoy it. Most of the others had been unpleasant. Many of them were filled with images of the destruction of her village in the Highlands. Others were memories of the accident that had killed Phillip, her most recent mortal husband.

"Fallen out of that tree again, have you, Fiona?"

Duncan watched her try to smile at the memory from their childhood. They'd both been scolded repeatedly for trying to climb the same impossible tree. He could see the dullness in her eyes. She was dying. He wished he could make this death easy.

Pushing Richie out of the way, Connor knelt on the other side of Fiona and kissed her hand.

"You stood me up."

Fiona turned her head in his direction. She could tell their emotions were high. Their accents were thicker then usual. She hoped this wasn't a dream. It seemed too much to ask that they were both there.

Duncan watched Fiona's eyes overflow with tears. The two men spoke softly to her until the light left her eyes completely. Just before she died, she said a single word. The Highlanders looked at each other across her body.

"What'd she say, Mac?"

Duncan looked up at Richie. In his concern for Fiona, he'd completely forgotten about the young Immortal. Richie repeated his question.

"Clan."

Richie nodded. He'd heard Fiona say that the two MacLeods were her Clan. She'd included him on her list. He wondered if Mac remembered that. He wished the elder Highlander had been there when she said it.

Richie watched Connor MacLeod investigate the overturned car. He seemed to be trying to crawl into the smashed ruin. Duncan joined his kinsman. It would be easier to get her out while she was dead. After a few minutes, they pulled her from the wreck. Her clothes and body were torn and bloody. Richie turned away. He couldn't bear to see Fiona in that condition.

A loud snap attracted his attention. He watched Duncan set Fiona's broken left leg using her sword as a splint. Connor ran his hand along her right leg. Finding that her hip was dislocated, Connor calmly pushed the bone back into its socket. As they worked, Duncan explained their actions to Richie. There were many times Immortals had to tend injuries without involving a doctor. Richie looked a little green. Duncan shook his head. The younger man would have to get used to it. Bones and joints could heal incorrectly and leave an Immortal at a disadvantage.

Connor gently gathered Fiona's limp body into his arms. It reminded Duncan of another time when they faced each other over Fiona's body. That time she had been unconscious, not dead.

****

Arriving to visit the elder Highlander, Duncan found him battling Fiona. Both were bruised and bloodied. Knowing he shouldn't interfere, he ran towards the combatants. He couldn't just stand by and let her die. Sensing another Immortal's approach, Connor turned quickly, accidentally hitting Fiona in the head and knocking her to the ground. Her sword lay just beyond her outstretched hand. Horrified, Duncan attacked Connor.

"What have you done to Fiona? She's all bloody."

The men fought until Connor pinned Duncan to the ground by sitting on him. Connor slapped the younger Highlander hard across the face.

"I'm her teacher. I've bloodied you more than once."

Connor told him that Fiona had been confronted by a male Immortal for the first time. Badly outmatched, she fled with the man in pursuit. She had been fortunate enough to be able to take refuge in a convent and get word to Connor. Frightened, Fiona asked him to teach her how to defend herself against a male Immortal. At first, he refused because the training would be strenuous and he didn't want to hurt her. She finally convinced him that she'd rather suffer some pain in training than die from lack of it.

They started slowly. Connor was gentle with her until she seemed ready to handle the force of a real attack. Connor went after her as he would an opponent. He was pleased by her ability to counter his assault. She fought well. That was what Duncan had interrupted.

Angry, Connor stabbed his sword into the ground next to Duncan's head. The blade rested less than a hair's breadth from the young Highlander's ear.

"She fights better than you."

After delivering that final insult, Connor MacLeod got up and walked back toward where Fiona lay. Duncan watched his kinsman cautiously. When Connor picked her up, Duncan bounded up behind them and offered to carry her. Connor fixed a cold stare on him. The younger man took a step back. Trailing behind his elder kinsman, Duncan entered the house. He protested again when he found Connor placing Fiona in his own bed. The expression on Connor's face brought Duncan to silence.

"It's the best bed, Duncan."

Connor left the room for a moment, returning with a mug of scotch. He drank some before sitting next to Fiona. Putting one arm around Fiona's shoulders, Connor pulled her into a sitting position and poured some of the alcohol into her mouth. She sputtered back to consciousness.

"My head hurts," she said leaning against Connor's shoulder. "What happened, Connor?"

He kissed her forehead gently, ignoring the disapproval that flickered across his kinsman's face.

"It was an accident, Fiona. I never meant to hurt you."

****

When they pulled into the driveway of Fiona's house, she was still dead. Singing softly, Connor had cradled Fiona during the entire ride. Richie could hear Mac still humming the vaguely familiar tune. He thought he remembered Fiona singing the same song to Connor when they had found him drunk and distraught in this house.

Connor carried Fiona inside and disappeared up the stairs despite Mac's suggestion that he use the elevator. Duncan followed him into Fiona's bedroom to assist in gently cleaning the blood from her body. Removing the splint from her leg, Duncan found it was healed. She had an enormous bruise where her hip had been dislocated. Duncan watched the edges of the bruise turn yellow and disappear. Many of her smaller wounds were nearly gone. Some of the larger ones had small streaks of blue lightning running across them. Blood still seeped from her remaining injuries. It was obvious she'd been suffering. If she'd remained in the wreck much longer, she probably would have gone into stasis. She would have remained in that odd nothing state until someone found her.

While the older men were upstairs, Richie checked the kitchen. There was very little food available. Apparently, Fiona was preparing to meet Connor in Scotland when she had the accident. He went to the living room to wait. When they were done, the elder Immortals would come downstairs.

Connor came down first. He glanced at Richie before going into the kitchen. A few minutes later, the elder Highlander walked out the front door. Richie heard him go into the garage. Richie went to the window and watched Connor drive away in Fiona's four-by-four. He knew it was ridiculous, but he hoped the man was leaving. Mac called his name softly from the doorway.

"Is she back?"

Duncan shook his head. He explained that her injuries were serious and the healing process long delayed. She might not be back right away. After she came back to life, she could be in a great deal of pain. Her massive internal injuries had been kept open by the weight of the wreck. At the very least, her legs would trouble her for a few days. Richie nodded. He assumed as much. Her body had been twisted awkwardly in the wreckage.

Richie followed Mac upstairs to Fiona's bedroom. The two Highlanders had cleaned all the blood and dirt from her face and body. One of them had even washed her hair. She appeared to be sleeping peacefully, but it was obvious that she wasn't breathing.

Mac sat down on the bed and held her hand. He wanted to be there when she came back to life. He invited Richie to sit on the other side of her. After a traumatic death, the return to life could be rough.

****

Fiona gasped. Although she wasn't in pain, her entire body ached. Forcing her eyes open, she found she had trouble focusing them. She wondered if she was going into stasis. Her thirst was tremendous. Fiona wished it would rain again, so she could open her mouth and catch some precious drops of water. Fiona tried to pull herself out of the wreckage, but something besides the overturned car held her down.

"Settle down, Fiona. You'll be okay now."

Duncan tried to get her to lie still. He explained what had happened and where she was. She stopped struggling and reached up to touch his face. She seemed to be trying to reassure herself that he was real. Her hand was like ice. He gently pulled it to his mouth and kissed the palm.

"I fell out of the tree again."

Richie saw a smile cross Mac's face. He had heard Mac say that to her at the accident scene. He could only guess that it was something that happened when they were children.

"Aye, Fiona, that you did."

Fiona's vision improved. She could see Duncan's concerned brown eyes. She felt the presence of someone else and ran her hand along the blanket until she found another hand. Gripping it, she turned toward its owner. It surprised her to see Richie. She seemed to remember talking to Connor. She smiled at the young man. Although he smiled back, he looked troubled.

"What's the matter, Richie?"

She saw Richie and Duncan exchange a glance. Duncan shook his head. She didn't like the expression on Duncan's face. There was something wrong.

"We were worried about you, Fiona."

Fiona frowned. Although he wasn't lying, he wasn't telling her the whole truth. She was about to pursue it with him when pain seared through the lower part of her body. She screamed.

The sound made Richie shudder. He now knew exactly what blood-curdling meant. As Mac tried to calm her, Richie slipped off the bed and ran from the room. He heard Mac calling him, but didn't turn around. He returned a few moments later with Fiona's medical bag.

During his recent visit with her, Richie expressed an interest in medicine. Fiona willingly taught him some basic procedures. She concentrated on things that would be most helpful to Immortals. He never thought he would need the information for her.

"I've got your medical bag, Fiona."

Fiona managed to gasp out the name of a medication and the dosage. Richie carefully removed a vial from the bag and repeated her instructions. She nodded. He tried to hand her the hypodermic, but she refused. He would have to administer the injection. Richie frowned. The thought made him nervous. He slipped the needle into her arm. It was true drugs might slow the healing process for an Immortal, but she was in a great deal of pain.

Fiona drifted off to sleep as the medication took effect. Watching Mac study the bloody bandages across her abdomen, Richie wondered what was wrong. Mac had told him she was healing. Telling Richie to stay with her, the older man went into the bathroom to get fresh bandages.

Duncan heard a thud in the bedroom. He rushed back to find Richie pinned to the wall staring into the eyes of the elder Highlander. Both men were obviously angry. Connor pounded Richie's hand against the wall in an attempt to make him drop the hypodermic. Mac quickly came over and pulled Connor back. Pushing Duncan away, Connor slammed Richie into the wall again.

"Fiona's still dead. This bastard did something to her. Why weren't you watching him?"

"She's asleep, Connor. Try not to wake her."

Connor scowled as his younger kinsman told him that Fiona had come back to life but had been in terrible pain. She selected the medication and dosage herself before asking Richie to administer it to her. His explanation was interrupted by a moan from the bed. After taking the syringe from Richie, Mac crossed the room. Fiona was trying to get up. He spoke reassuringly to her. She seemed annoyed by the bandages the younger MacLeod held in his hand.

"I'm not a slow healer, Duncan."

"Lie still. You're still bleeding."

Richie suddenly found himself thrown to the floor. Connor MacLeod stepped over him and sat on the bed. When Richie stood up, the Highlanders were replacing the bloodied bandages despite Fiona's repeated objections. Richie wanted to retaliate against Connor, but knew it wasn't the right moment. It would only upset Fiona.

Richie watched weak streaks of lightning slowly cross the open wounds. He wondered if it was a result of the medication or if Mac was correct about the effects of delayed healing. When he took a step towards the bed, Mac gave him a warning look. Richie decided to go downstairs and keep as much of the house between himself and Connor as possible. He hesitated when Fiona spoke again.

"I'm so thirsty."

There was something in her tone that bothered Richie. He hurried from the room and bolted down the stairs. The front door was open, but Richie didn't have time to investigate. He ran back into the kitchen. He had seen a nearly full bottle of spring water in the refrigerator. Grabbing it, he returned to her bedroom. Taking it from him, Mac thanked him softly while Connor glared at them from the bed. Richie watched Mac offer the water to Fiona. She drank some greedily. When Duncan took it from her, she protested weakly. Noticing that Connor was still staring at him, Richie retreated back to the first floor. If he went to see why the front door was open, he could put some distance between himself and the elder MacLeod.

Going outside, Richie saw Fiona's dogs playing on the lawn. Her four-by-four appeared to be stuffed with groceries. When he ran down the steps toward the car, the dogs came over to greet him. After quickly losing interest in him, they went back to their own game. Richie started carrying the groceries into the house and putting them away.

While he was working, Mac came down. Richie could see a fading bruise on Mac's face.

"A little disagreement with Connor?"

Duncan frowned at him. Connor insisted on sitting with Fiona alone. The man was definitely not himself. His teacher was not particularly gentle, but his recent behavior was out of control. Mac tried explaining Connor's conduct to Richie. The elder Highlander had been searching for someone he had known over 360 years. He believed she was dead. Understandably, he blamed the last Immortal known to be with her.

"Look, Richie, Connor likes you. If he didn't, he would have killed you without confronting you."

Richie shrugged. The man needed to get a grip. The conversation about the elder MacLeod reminded Richie of something he'd heard earlier in the dojo.

"What rule was Connor talking about, Mac?"

As Duncan explained the agreement they had to call about a delay within 24 hours, the two men finished bringing in the supplies Connor bought. Richie agreed the plan was reasonable, but still spoke bitterly about Connor's attempt on his life.

Duncan always thought Fiona exaggerated when she fussed over the enormous amount of food Connor purchased. Apparently, Connor expected them to stay at the house for a while. The younger MacLeod grinned. Along with the standard fare, his kinsman had purchased some of Fiona's favorite treats, including caviar, champagne and strawberries. He remembered getting very drunk on champagne with Fiona while they fed each other strawberries. After licking strawberry juice from Fiona's skin, he had kissed her strawberry flavored mouth. Just thinking about it now, he could nearly taste the berries and wine. They ended up wet and sticky. It had seemed wonderfully decadent at the time. His smile broadened. It still did. He would have to reenact the event with her someday.

As they put away the food, the two men prepared a simple meal. By the time they sat down to eat, Connor joined them with the news that Fiona had fallen asleep. Helping himself to food, he sat at the table with them.

****

When Fiona awoke, she was alone. She knew she hadn't slept long. Sitting up slowly, she found the pain was manageable. She slipped off her nightgown to exam her wounds. Tearing off the carefully placed bandages, she watched blue lightning move across the remaining large gashes. The bleeding had stopped completely and the wounds would probably be gone the next day. She touched her midsection gingerly. Her internal injuries would be slower to heal. She turned her attention to her hip. Connor told her it was dislocated when they pulled her from the wreck. Although the edges continued to fade, she couldn't cover the large bruise with both her hands.

From time to time during her self-examination, she heard voices in the kitchen. The men must have prepared food for themselves. She put the nightgown back on and grabbed her robe. Although she wasn't hungry, she wanted to see her rescuers. Trapped in the wreck, she hoped Connor would come looking for her when she failed to meet him. It puzzled her why he brought Richie and Duncan.

Finding walking difficult, she took the elevator down. There was a strained silence in the room when she entered the kitchen. The men seemed startled to see her. Both Highlanders immediately began lecturing her about getting out of bed by herself. When Connor got up and took his plate from the table, Fiona sat down in his chair and smiled at Richie across the table. The younger man still seemed troubled. She shook her head at Connor as he placed a plate of food in front of her.

"I'm not hungry, Connor."

Forcing a fork into Fiona's hand, Connor frowned at her. Earlier, he had waited until she fell asleep hoping she would sleep for a few hours. Instead, she was sitting at the table refusing to eat. He worried she would be unable to defend herself if this went on much longer. It was fortunate she was on Holy Ground.

"Eat or I will feed you."

Fiona grimaced. Although she hadn't eaten in days, she didn't want the food, but she knew Connor meant what he said. She ate some of it to satisfy him.

"Don't talk to her like that. Fiona, how can you stand this guy?"

"Be quiet, Richie."

Richie glanced at Mac. His mentor didn't seem angry, but there was a definite warning in his voice. Richie shook his head. He really didn't see what attracted Fiona to Connor MacLeod.

Murmuring something to Connor, Duncan left the kitchen. Connor went to the sink and filled the teapot. After putting the pot on the stove, he pulled the canister of sugar from a shelf. He looked at it thoughtfully a moment before putting it back and searching the cabinets quickly until he found the bottles of honey he had bought. He tooked one from the shelf and opened it quickly.

While unpacking the groceries, Richie couldn't imagine why Connor had bought so much honey. Seeing the elder Highlander with it in his hand didn't help him figure out the reason. When Duncan returned with a bottle of brandy, the elder Highlander snatched it from his hand.

Watching them, Richie suddenly remembered the mixture Mac had made for Fiona after her battle with Harris Waverly. Mac had used sugar, not honey. Fiona had complained about it being too sweet, but Mac said it would help counteract the blood loss. Considering what Fiona had just been through, the actions of the Highlanders made sense.

Connor placed a mug in front of Fiona. Tasting it, she grimaced and complained that his version of the concoction was even sweeter than Duncan's. Connor offered her a choice of the drink or the food. She kept the drink. Connor removed her plate as she drank from the mug. Fiona frowned. She still thought it was too sweet, but she was enjoying the taste of the honey. Her thirst reawakened by the liquid Fiona drank most of the mixture without realizing it. Connor quickly refilled the mug as soon as she emptied it. As she finished another long drink, Connor again moved in to replenish the mug's contents. When Connor was done, Duncan touched Fiona's hand gently to get her attention.

"Do you remember much about the accident?"

Fiona frowned. She had been frightened by the events and the aftermath. The pain had been more than she thought she could endure. During her long imprisonment in the wreckage, she had time to think about the incident and had come to many conclusions. Someone had wanted to see her suffer.

"It wasn't an accident. I was run off the road by someone on a motorcycle."

Roaring, Connor lunged at Richie. Duncan managed to keep Connor from the younger man. He received a few blows for his efforts. Fiona could see bruises forming and fading on Duncan's face. Richie alternated between angrily telling Mac to get out of the way and daring Connor to come after him.

"Someone tell me what's going on."

Fiona's request halted the action. She looked and sounded like a Chieftain's angry daughter. Remaining silent, the three men looked at each other guiltily. Fiona frowned as Richie sank back into his chair. She asked him what was wrong. He shook his head without looking at her. When she looked at Duncan, he smiled innocently. Connor stood with his back to them.

The elder MacLeod spoke softly of his distress when she didn't meet him as planned. After repeated attempts to contact her, he started searching for her. He thought he would check her house near Duncan before going to his younger kinsman for help. Knowing Richie had visited her recently, he immediately became suspicious when he saw the young Immortal come out of the house. It appeared to him that the younger man must have been responsible for her disappearance. He had followed Richie to the dojo and tried to behead him.

"Come with me, Fiona."

Richie looked at the Immortal woman as Mac helped her from her chair. Tears streamed down her face. When Richie started to get up, Mac stopped him with a nearly imperceptible shake of his head as he took Fiona's cup from the table. Pulling the Highland woman close to him, Duncan spoke reassuringly to her as he walked her from the room. Connor said her name so softly it was barely audible. Duncan looked back over his shoulder at the elder man.

"Not . . . now . . . Connor," Fiona said haltingly.

Fiona couldn't truly be angry with Connor. She heard the pain in his voice as he related the events that led to her rescue. Her failure to meet him frightened and worried him. His conviction that only death would keep her from him reawakened the Highland warrior within him. That part of Connor was always much closer to the surface than it was in Duncan, although the younger MacLeod was capable of the same reaction. That was one thing that Richie would never understand about either MacLeod. Both had been raised to be Chieftains and warriors. Any time they felt threatened, they were likely to react as their earliest training dictated.

She could also imagine Richie's terror when confronted by the elder Highlander. Richie was an excellent fighter, but Connor was strong and cunning. The man sometimes terrified her when they practiced. She hoped she would never have to face a real challenge from either Highlander.

****

Once in her bedroom, Fiona refused to let go of Duncan. She persisted in asking him questions about the events between Connor and Richie. Sitting next to her, he wrapped his arms around her. Emphasizing the elements he found comical, he told her about finding Richie and Connor in the dojo. It was good to hear her laughter. She slipped her hand over his. He was unhappy to find it was cold. She must be bleeding internally again. Duncan offered her the mug Connor had prepared for her. Taking it readily, Fiona gulped the contents while Duncan continued to talk.

Trying to distract her, he turned the conversation to a time when the Highland trio had been nearly inseparable. Fiona missed those days. When she mentioned it, Duncan agreed. There were times he missed them himself. He had a similar conversation with Connor when the two men sat with her earlier. They had agreed that the couple would catch up with Duncan in Paris. It was to be a surprise for Fiona.

She relaxed slowly as they talked until she fell asleep in his arms. She slept fitfully until her skin felt warmer. When he thought she would sleep for a few hours, Duncan carefully got up and moved to the couch to sleep. If she needed him, he would be nearby.

****

Shortly after Mac and Fiona left the kitchen, Connor wandered out of the room. Richie cleaned up before going up to bed. It had been a long couple of days since the appearance of Connor MacLeod in the dojo. Holy Ground was the ideal place to rest.

On his way to the stairs, Richie noticed something different about the large room next to the stairway. Fiona had once described the room as a ballroom. He peeked inside. Connor MacLeod had moved an armchair to a position in front of the fireplace. A decanter of scotch sat on the floor next to the chair. MacLeod was sipping from a glass and looking up at the painting of Fiona that hung over the fireplace. Richie sensed it was better to continue quietly up the stairs. Connor MacLeod did not need to be disturbed.

****

Late that night, Connor went to Fiona's bedroom to check on her. She was asleep. His kinsman slept on the couch across the room. Connor considered pulling Duncan from the couch so he could sleep there, but decided against it. The noise would probably wake Fiona and she would not be pleased. Sitting on the floor, Connor leaned his back against the bed. He would sleep there.

****

In the dim light, Fiona could see Duncan sleeping on the couch across the room. She was disappointed that Connor hadn't come to talk to her. She rolled over on her side and saw Connor next to her bed. Reaching out, she touched his hair. He stirred. When she called his name softly, he got up. She could see he was stiff from sleeping in that awkward position. Although he refused to get under the covers with her, Connor stretched out next to her on the bed and put his arm around her. She curled up into him. It reassured her that her Clan was nearby.

He promised they would travel to Scotland as soon as she was rested. Fiona's face brightened as he spoke lovingly of walking on the Highlands with her. Perhaps, they could visit their villages just to see how many MacLeods and MacDonalds remained in the area. There was a condition to their travels. She must accompany him as Mrs. Connor MacLeod. She hadn't posed as his wife in decades. After Scotland, she could pick any destination she desired. When she sighed, he kissed her forehead. He wanted to make certain she was safe and protected.

From his place on the couch, Duncan listened to the hushed conversation. For centuries, he had refused to think about the relationship between Fiona and his kinsman. Now that he was confronted by it, he saw that the two Immortals cared about each other as much as he cared about them. Perhaps Fiona had been correct when she called the two MacLeods her Clan.

****

Early the next morning, Richie woke up when he heard someone in the hall. After he showered and dressed, he left his room intending to get some breakfast. Muffled voices came from Fiona's bedroom. He heard Fiona mention his name and decided to see how she was feeling.

Fiona sat up in bed with Connor perched next to her. A bed tray containing a teapot, cups and a plate of toast stood across her lap. She insisted Richie help himself to some of the breakfast Connor had made. He regretted accepting her offer when Connor gave him a disapproving look. Richie refused Fiona's invitation to sit at the foot of the bed. He thought it might be safer on the couch.

Richie watched Connor take a bite of toast and then tear off a piece and offer it to Fiona. She refused it. He persisted until she ate it. Richie remembered the other man's threat to feed her. At least it sounded like a threat when he said it. Now it looked more like coaxing. When MacLeod slipped his arm around her, Richie could almost see the child Fiona had been centuries earlier.

"Tell me again, Connor."

A smile crossed the elder MacLeod's face. After pouring more tea into her mug and lacing it generously with honey, he offered her a slice of toast.

"Only if you eat this."

The Immortal woman grimaced but took the toast. He nudged her hand until she took a bite. Fiona reflexively reached for the mug of tea and drank most of its contents. Connor refilled it immediately. The MacLeods were convinced Fiona was badly dehydrated and wanted to encourage her to drink to speed her healing. While Connor added honey to the tea, he saw Fiona take another bite of toast. She accepted the tea when he offered it to her. Satisfied, he started the tale of their trip to Scotland again. He embellished his tale with the thought that he might buy property there. He smiled at the wonder in her eyes. It pleased Connor when she continued to eat without his encouragement. Parts of the tale he whispered to her. The words were not meant for the boy's ears.

Mesmerized by Connor MacLeod's words, Richie would have sworn it was Duncan MacLeod speaking. The elder MacLeod always seemed better with weapons than women. Grinning, Fiona fed the older Immortal a bit of toast. Richie got the feeling he might be in the way.

Mac came in from his morning run. Helping himself to a piece of toast, he sat down on the bed next to Fiona and asked a series of concerned questions. Satisfied, he kissed her briefly before joining Richie on the couch.

Announcing her intention to get out of bed and get dressed, Fiona asked the men to leave. Richie understood why she would want him to go, but the two other men had cared for her the previous day. He didn't see what difference it made.

Unexpectedly, both Highlanders offered to join her in the shower and help her dress. Making suggestions, they pulled various articles of clothing from drawers and closets. Many of their suggestions had more to do with her being undressed than dressed. Fiona laughed at their antics. Richie suddenly saw the trio as friends. He had always thought only of Fiona's romantic involvement with the two men. Now he saw the relationship was much more complex.

Fiona got out of bed. She was wearing the silk nightgown Connor had sent her from Harrods one Christmas. Apparently, Connor was impressed. He swept the Immortal woman into a dance. Mac crossed the room quickly and tried to cut in. The two Highlanders began a mock argument over her which seemed to be an excuse for both of them to kiss her repeatedly. Fiona was laughing again.

Feeling like a complete outsider, Richie slipped from the room unnoticed. He wished he had his bike. He could put some distance between himself and the others.

Fiona turned to ask Richie to help her. She was disappointed to see he had gone. She suddenly felt guilty. She had ignored the young man when he most needed her attention. Noticing the change in her expression, Duncan volunteered to go after Richie. Connor kissed her before following his kinsman. Early that morning, he had promised her he would make amends with the young Immortal.

As the men descended the stairs, the doorbell rang. Duncan answered it as Connor went to look for Richie. Joe Dawson stood on the porch holding a bouquet of flowers.

"How's Fiona?"

"Healing. You shouldn't be here."

Mac sounded hostile. This wasn't the greeting the Watcher expected. Dawson felt awkward. He couldn't imagine why Mac was making him wait on the doorstep.

"Who is it, Duncan?"

Fiona appeared behind Mac. Even though he knew she was an Immortal, the Watcher was concerned by her pale appearance. Smiling at Joe, she graciously accepted the flowers and invited him in. Joe saw someone retreat into the kitchen, but couldn't see who it was. It didn't look like Richie. Fiona suggested Duncan take Joe into the dining room while she made coffee.

Puzzled by Fiona's insistence that he sit in the dining room instead of the less formal kitchen, Joe tried to see into the kitchen as he passed it, but the room appeared empty. He looked around. There seemed to be swords scattered everywhere. It was as if Immortals put weapons down as casually as others put down keys. He followed Mac into the large dining room at the back of the house.

When Fiona entered the kitchen, Connor stepped out from the pantry. Fiona knew Joe's arrival bothered Connor. The man was a Watcher, a stranger and a mortal. Any of those would make the always wary elder Highlander even more cautious. A movement at the other end of the room caught her attention. Richie stood near the back door. It appeared he wanted to keep his distance from the older man.

Mac came in to get the coffee Joe had been promised. Joe had disturbing news, but from the expressions of the other Immortals, this was not the time for him to say anything. Taking the coffee, he returned to the dining room.

"I have to go, Fiona. Duncan will care for you."

This was not what she expected. She didn't want him to leave, but she understood his reasons. She knew he wouldn't go far. She sighed. Either she let Connor leave or she asked Joe to go.

"So, that's it. You're just going to go. No 'sorry for trying to take your head, Richie' or anything. That doesn't cut it, pal."

"I'm not your pal."

Fiona watched Richie and Connor glare at each other. Richie needed to resolve his feelings about Connor's willingness to kill him before finding out if she really was dead. Although Connor promised to talk to the young man, Fiona knew Richie's demand for an apology angered him. If Connor regretted his treatment of Richie, he would probably never admit it now. Fiona picked up Connor's katana and handed it to him. Both men looked at her.

"Take it outside."

One corner of Connor's mouth curled up in a crooked smile. He turned back towards Richie. Grinning, the younger man ran to retrieve his own sword before the two men raced out the door. Fiona heard the clash of swords as soon as the door closed behind them. She moved to the dining room to get a better view of the action. Attracted by the noise, Duncan and Joe were already standing by the windows.

"Is that who I think it is?"

Duncan nodded in response to Joe's question. Joe was impressed. He had never seen the elder Highlander in the flesh before. Obviously, Connor was the shadowy figure he had seen when he arrived. The Watchers had trouble keeping up with the elusive elder Highlander. The man seemed to be able to disappear at will. He wished he could read the man's Chronicles again.

The two men fought hard for a long time. At times, Richie appeared to be attacking Connor wildly. In reality, he wasn't. Duncan and Fiona exchanged a glance. Richie was doing very well against a superior opponent.

"What the hell is going on out there?"

"Connor's apologizing to Richie."

MacLeod swallowed quickly to keep from spraying coffee on the windows when he laughed at Fiona's accurate description. Connor had apologized to him with a sword fight many times. One look at Joe's astonished face made him laugh even harder. The Watcher didn't know Connor MacLeod.

The spectators winced when Connor punched Richie with the hilt of his sword. Duncan rubbed his jaw. He knew exactly how the hilt of Connor's katana felt against his face.

Richie sprawled on the ground from the blow. His sword flew from his hand. Connor walked toward him menacingly. When Connor tried to kick the younger man, Richie grabbed his leg and pulled him down, knocking the elder man's sword away in the process. The two quickly became involved in a fist fight. They rolled around pummeling each other.

"Aren't you two going to do something about that?"

Fiona shook her head. If anyone interfered, the combatants would be angry. She pointed out that the fight was over. Both men lay panting on the ground. Connor appeared to be talking. He was waving his arms in the air. Richie sat up laughing. The two men picked up their swords and headed back to the house.

They were laughing when they came into the dining room. Connor's expression changed as soon as he saw Joe. The elder Highlander eyed Joe with an expression that gave the Watcher a chill. It was like being watched by a predator. Connor quickly ducked into the hall with Fiona behind him. Richie frowned. In contrast to his earlier feelings, he didn't want the elder Highlander to leave.

Connor and Fiona spent a few minutes upstairs. When they reappeared, the elder Highlander carried a backpack. He picked up his katana as the couple disappeared out the front door. Mac kept Richie from following them too soon. Once Richie went out, Duncan watched from inside the house as Richie and Connor shook hands. Telling Joe to stay inside, Mac prepared to join the others. The Watcher was clearly unhappy about being excluded from Connor MacLeod's company.

Fiona was in Connor's arms again. Connor grinned wickedly at his kinsman over her shoulder. Admonishing the others to look after Fiona, Connor went to the garage and emerged behind the wheel of his red sports car. Richie was surprised when Mac ran after Connor. The two men spoke briefly. Even from a distance, Connor seemed angry. Mac shook his head repeatedly. Eventually, Connor continued down the driveway.

Returning to the porch, Mac stood behind Fiona and slipped his arm around her waist. Richie remembered seeing Connor hold Fiona the same way. He wasn't certain what the gesture meant, but it appeared protective. Something about it made him feel like an outsider again. He was considering moving away from the Immortal couple when he felt Fiona's hand on his shoulder. He glanced at her. Although she smiled at him, there was a sadness to her expression.

Connor honked the horn and waved. The others waved back. Richie heard Mac whispering to Fiona. She wouldn't consent to going inside until she could no longer see the small red car. Richie tried to make her laugh. She stroked his hair affectionately.

Inside, Joe stood in the ballroom studying the portrait of Fiona. It reminded Richie of Connor's behavior the previous evening. The Watcher turned when he heard them come in.

"Duncan tells me you have news."

Joe nodded. It wouldn't be easy to tell her now. She was obviously unhappy over the departure of Connor MacLeod. He didn't want to add to her gloom, but he felt her life was definitely in danger.

"Bob Walsh is out of prison."

Fiona's anger was stunning. Mac grabbed her. Holding her close to him, he spoke gently to her. She tried to push him away, but he wouldn't let go. MacLeod frowned. Her skin felt cold through her clothing. The emotional distress must have increased her internal bleeding. The time she had spent trapped in the wreckage without food or water must have weakened her more than he anticipated. When she had awakened in pain, she had been given medication which sometimes slowed an Immortal's healing process. He hoped Connor was right that a few days of normal eating was all she needed.

Still trying to get away, Fiona begged him to go after Connor. Duncan assured her that he had warned his kinsman. Connor MacLeod hadn't lived nearly 500 years without being able to take care of himself.

"Let go of me, Duncan. I must end this."

To Richie's surprise, Mac picked Fiona up. Struggling angrily in his arms, she wasn't easy to carry. Shouting over her protests, Mac asked Richie to help him. Richie followed his mentor. He couldn't imagine what Mac wanted him to do. Fiona was protesting less loudly when Richie opened the door to the elevator. The younger man could see the pain in her eyes. He asked if she wanted her medical bag. She shook her head.

"I'm putting you in bed, Fiona. You're going to stay there even if I have to tie you to it."

Fiona argued that she must go after her former Watcher. After murdering Fiona's mortal friend, he had tried to kill her in Joe's bar. They had allowed the mortals to deal with him that time. It was obvious to her that he had caused the accident that resulted in torture for her. She would still be pinned in the wreck if they hadn't found her. Besides, Richie had nearly lost his head because of the man.

Joe reacted to her last statement. He wanted to know about the Immortal who had challenged Richie. Mac glared at him. Richie's expression was guarded. Joe realized he had crossed some invisible line. He didn't know what to say to them.

Fiona whimpered in Mac's arms. He stepped into the elevator quickly. While Mac was upstairs, Joe tried to make conversation with an uncooperative Richie. Joe was frustrated by the young man's grunts and one word answers. They were interrupted when the phone rang. Richie answered it. He was quickly involved in a one-sided conversation being conducted by the person on the other end of the line. Richie looked grim when he hung up the phone and was even less talkative than he had been before the call.

****

Connor MacLeod stood motionless in the shadows. He located the mortal Duncan told him about. His kinsman described the man well and the Watcher tattoo was easy to spot in spite of the man's efforts to hide it. The mortal was unaware of being watched. MacLeod's mouth twisted into a grin. The irony of watching a Watcher was not lost on the elder MacLeod.

MacLeod slipped silently through the shadows. His quarry was on the move. The best thing the mortal could do was leave without threatening Fiona. Anything else would cost him his life.

****

Although Fiona was very quiet the next day, her color was much better. Duncan thought the worst of her internal injuries might be nearly healed. When he asked her about it, she agreed with him. She seemed happier after a brief phone call from the elder MacLeod, but the only one she really spoke to was Duncan. He tried to pamper her at every opportunity. After watching her staring forlornly out the window, Duncan suggested that she go outside for a while. She agreed half-heartedly.

Shortly after she left the house, Richie started rummaging in the pantry. Suddenly, he was gone. When Joe asked MacLeod about where Richie had disappeared to, the Highlander shrugged. He was more concerned about Fiona than Richie. Connor had reported that her former Watcher was on the move. He was keeping the man under surveillance, but wanted Duncan and Richie to be on their guard. Duncan wasn't certain what instructions Connor had given Richie. Richie had refused to tell him. The younger man's disappearance was probably related to his earlier conversation with the elder MacLeod.

Joe felt oddly guilty. He assumed Connor MacLeod left because of his presence. The dangerous actions of another Watcher only added to his self-reproach. He saw Fiona standing outside by herself and decided to go after her. She turned slightly when she heard his approach.

"I'm sorry, Fiona. Walsh is one of mine. I thought we could handle him."

Appearing disinterested, Fiona shrugged. Joe wondered about her remoteness. She was usually much more attentive to her guests. Her mind was definitely elsewhere. He surmised she was thinking about Connor MacLeod.

"Did MacLeod leave because of me?"

Joe was instantly sorry he had asked. Tears ran down Fiona's cheeks. Joe wanted to comfort her, but was uncertain about what to do. He was distracted by a movement in the woods. Bob Walsh stepped out into the open. First, Joe noticed the gun in Walsh's hand. Then he saw the sword Walsh held at his side. Glancing at the Immortal woman, Joe immediately stepped in front of Fiona. This was not going to happen again.

"You're not going to do this, Bob."

Bob Walsh aimed the gun directly at Joe Dawson's chest. He was annoyed with himself for not killing Fiona MacDonald when he succeeded in running her car off the road. He had been fascinated by the Immortal woman's repeated deaths and reawakenings. Walsh frowned. After eating in a local diner, he had returned to the wreck to find her gone. He could tell from marks in the dirt that she had had help. He had quickly set up surveillance on her house. Although there had been a great deal of activity around the house and property, this was the first time he had seen her outside.

As Joe continued to try to talk him out of killing the Immortal woman, Walsh began to squeeze the trigger. This time he wouldn't let the senior Watcher stop him. Once Fiona MacDonald was dead, he didn't care what happened to him. He would gladly do time for the murder of Joe Dawson.

Fiona wasn't about to allow Joe to be killed or wounded because of her. She quickly came around him, so she was between him and her former Watcher. As Joe tried to pull her back, Walsh fired. He had a clear shot at his intended target. To Joe's horror, Fiona collapsed in front of him. She wasn't dead. He could see pain and fear clearly etched on her face. When she started crying, she closed her eyes and turned her face away from him.

Bob Walsh walked across the grass quickly. He was no longer holding the gun on Joe, but he had raised the sword he held in his other hand. Joe walked around the fallen Fiona to put himself between her and the other man. He ignored the weak tugging at his pants leg. He wasn't about to let Fiona distract him from the armed man standing in front of them.

"I won't let you do this, Bob."

Laughing, Bob Walsh shook his head.

"How are you going to stop me?"

Joe frowned. His cane was no match for the other man's weapons. Walsh leveled the gun at Joe. Dawson heard a shot, but felt no impact. It was unlikely the man could miss at such close range. Then, there was another shot. Joe watched Walsh crumple to the ground bleeding heavily from two well-placed wounds.

Dawson looked up from his wounded former colleague when he heard shouting. Richie was running towards him carrying an impressive looking rifle. Chasing Richie, Mac was yelling at the younger man to stop. Ignoring his mentor, Richie ran past the dying mortal and reached Fiona first. Throwing the rifle down, he knelt next to her. She moaned when he tried to move her.

MacLeod paused to look at Walsh before joining the others. He frowned at Richie who was fussing over Fiona. She tried to chase him away between moans of pain.

"What did you do, Richie?" the younger MacLeod demanded.

"He did as he was told."

The men turned in the direction of Connor MacLeod's voice. Passing the group as if they weren't there, he approached Walsh's motionless body. He poked at the lifeless form with his katana before kicking it. Satisfied, he returned to the others.

"You told him to kill a mortal?"

Duncan took a step back when he saw Connor's expression. The elder man was still able to punch his kinsman repeatedly.

"I told him the same thing I told you -- protect Fiona."

"Don't hurt him, Connor."

Duncan laughed despite the pain. Only Fiona MacDonald would dare speak to Connor MacLeod in that tone and expect to live. Supported by Richie, Fiona stood unsteadily. Grinning at her, Connor promptly swatted his kinsman across the posterior with his katana. Although in obvious pain, Fiona giggled. Duncan was angry and embarrassed, but challenging the elder Highlander would likely only cause him further humiliation. At the moment, he would be better off keeping his mouth shut. He'd even the score with Connor some other time.

"When are you leaving, Duncan?"

Surprised by his kinsman's question, MacLeod didn't know what to say. He glanced at Richie. The younger man seemed disappointed.

"They don't have to go, Connor."

Moving closer to Fiona, the elder MacLeod whispered to her. Duncan grinned. Richie was blushing. Pushing Connor away gently, Fiona giggled. Turning to the mortal next to her, Fiona kissed Joe briefly.

"That was very brave, Joe. Never do it again."

Joe laughed softly. He couldn't imagine himself letting harm come to Fiona without trying to help her. He noticed the elder MacLeod staring at him again. Although the man said nothing, there was less of the predator in his expression. Connor MacLeod nodded curtly. Dawson understood it was the closest to a thank you he was likely to get from the elder MacLeod.

Fiona fussed with her ruined clothing before shaking her head in disgust. Turning to walk towards the house, she winced.

"I hate getting shot. It hurts so damn much," she said. With a sigh, she added, "This outfit is a loss, too."

"Allow me to replace it," Connor said softly.

Fiona smiled slightly. He had said those words to her long before they became lovers. Eventually, he had replaced her ragged outfit with one of the most beautiful dresses she had ever owned. Pain from her slowly healing wound brought her back to the present. Fiona frowned. She had to force herself to eat and drink or she would never recover. When she began walking again, she nearly stumbled. Connor immediately tried to help her.

Ignoring her brief protest, Connor wrapped his arm around Fiona to help her back to the house. When he whistled sharply, Fiona's dogs bounded up to the house. She smiled at him. It was just like Connor to think of the safety of her dogs. Although she had wondered where they were, she was too pre-occupied with Connor's departure and Bob Walsh's release from prison to really care. She had assumed Duncan and Richie were caring for them.

She glanced at Connor. Petting the excited dogs, the elder Highlander was smiling mysteriously. He winked at her.

"Duncan, how about a trip to Scotland?"

The younger MacLeod hesitated. Connor had just suggested that the others leave. He knew Connor planned to travel to Scotland with Fiona. He was determined to complete the trip he had planned with the Immortal woman before her unexpected disappearance. The MacLeods had agreed that Connor would bring her to Paris to visit Duncan on the barge as a surprise for her. Because he thought Connor would want some time alone with her before leaving for their homeland, Duncan had no idea what Connor meant by the question.

"Scotland sounds good," he answered uncertainly.

Connor tightened his hold on Fiona hugging her to him. She looked up at him. There was a twinkle in his eyes to accompany his enigmatic smile.

"I think this lass needs to go home to recover," the elder MacLeod said. He glanced at Richie before turning to his kinsman again. "Bring the boy, too."

Fiona giggled. Richie's expression was somewhere between excitement about the trip and annoyance at being called "the boy". Duncan was smiling broadly.

"All of us, Connor? All of us are going to Scotland?"

"Aye, lass. Do you want to go home with your Clan?"

The pain of her gunshot wound nearly forgotten, Fiona nodded eagerly. She could think of nothing better than returning to Scotland with the MacLeods. It had been a long time since she was last in her homeland with both Highlanders. It would be great fun to show Richie the sights. She could barely wait.

****

AUTHOR'S NOTES

Fiona's former Watcher Robert Walsh made his first appearance in The Chieftain's Daughter.

Fiona fought and killed Harris Waverly in Heart's Desire. This story also marks Richie's first visit to her house on Holy Ground.

Richie has been renting an apartment in Fiona's house since she bought it in Confidence. The house is located somewhere near the dojo owned by Duncan MacLeod.

Richie and Fiona return to her house on Holy Ground to find a drunken Connor MacLeod in Wounded.

To Part Ten, "My Hope Is Constant In Thee".

To the Authors' Pages