Mother's Day

Mary Ellen

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DISCLAIMER : Connor MacLeod and Duncan MacLeod belong to Davis-Panzer Productions. Richie Ryan used to belong to them. He belongs to his fans now. Fiona MacDonald belongs 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 Kristine Larsen and Tia Darrow for beta-reading this story. MOTHER'S DAY is the twelfth in the series.

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

Richie frowned at the display in the store window. Even before he knew about Immortality, the concept of Mother's Day had always made him slightly uneasy. The only mother he had ever really known had been dead long before he was old enough to give Emily Ryan any more than a homemade card. Although some of his other foster mothers had been good to him, very few of them had inspired him to be an active participant in the festivities surrounding the celebration of motherhood.

Two young girls stopped in front of the store and stood counting crumpled bills and assorted small change. Peering into the store window, they giggled over the displayed items and argued briefly over which gift to buy. As they entered the store, Richie sighed deeply. Some woman would be very happy - or at least would pretend to be very happy - with whatever the two girls gave her.

Richie turned away from the store window. He didn't know why this holiday would bother him so much at this particular time. Watching a woman walk by holding a young boy with curly reddish hair by the hand, Richie suddenly remembered being about that age and walking with Emily Ryan. He pushed the thought away. There was nothing he could do about it so long after the fact and Mac was waiting for him.

Richie walked the short distance to the dojo. He was glad Mac was back from Paris. It had been a pretty odd trip, but he enjoyed seeing Scotland with the three Highlanders. Although he had been there numerous times with Mac, even Paris had seemed different this time.

As he expected, he sensed Mac even before he stepped inside. He didn't expect to hear his mentor whistling happily. Moving around the office, Mac glanced up at him briefly before turning his attention back to something Richie couldn't see. It seemed to him that Mac was straightening up. That wasn't totally unheard of, but the dojo office was rarely the neatest spot on the planet. Richie paused a moment in the office doorway watching the other man shuffle papers and place some in a file drawer.

"What's up, Mac?"

The older man grinned at him as he sprayed furniture polish on the now empty desktop.

"You'd know if you were on time for work," he said good-naturedly.

Richie shrugged.

"I overslept and my bike wouldn't start."

MacLeod frowned slightly. The bike was important to Richie on multiple levels. It was his only means of transportation and had been a gift from Fiona. The younger man would certainly be handicapped without it. Richie's old bike was still in the garage at Fiona's house on Holy Ground.

"Can you fix it?"

"I'll look at it when I get home. I didn't wanna be later than I already was."

Nodding, MacLeod finished shining the desktop. Once he was done cleaning the office, he could run some errands he wanted to do. Richie was more than capable of taking care of the dojo.

Watching Mac, Richie wondered if his mentor was planning another trip. It would be pretty strange for Mac to leave town again so soon after returning from Paris, but it was pretty strange that the Scot was whistling and cleaning the office.

"Are you going somewhere?"

Mac stopped and looked at Richie with a bewildered expression.

"No, why?"

"Just wondered," Richie replied with a shrug before he took the broom and began sweeping the dojo floor in preparation for opening for the day.

As he worked in the dojo itself, Richie could hear snatches of the tunes Mac was whistling in the office. He recognized some of them as songs the Scots sometimes sang when they were together. He didn't know the names of all of them, but the tunes were definitely familiar. He found himself humming along now and then. Mac's mood seemed to be lifting his own spirits.

Richie started pulling the exercise equipment into position. It was nearly time for the dojo to open. Wishing he had come to work earlier, Richie sighed. He would enjoy a workout about now. Maybe he would have time for one later in the day. If Mac was still in a good mood, they might workout together. He'd enjoy sparring with his teacher. Richie smiled at the thought. He didn't really think of Mac as his teacher anymore, but the other man could teach him many things. Richie looked up when Mac rushed out of the office.

"I have to go out for a while, Richie. Open the place, will you?"

"Sure, Mac. Where you going?"

Mac grinned at him and left the dojo. Shaking his head, Richie wondered what Mac was being so mysterious about. Whatever it was, it seemed to make the older man very happy, so it was probably something good.

Richie stepped out of Mac's shower and wrapped a towel around himself. Although he called a few times to check in and had stopped in once with groceries, Mac had been gone the entire day. During the older man's absence, Richie had gotten caught up with the paperwork. The dojo had been quiet and it was easy to close a bit early. His reward was a workout in the silent dojo followed by a hot shower in Mac's apartment. He refused to shower in the locker room after he spent time cleaning it.

Richie sensed another Immortal enter the dojo downstairs. Pulling clean clothes from his bag, Richie dressed quickly. He was getting really hungry. The sandwich he'd gobbled down earlier in the day was just a memory. Maybe Mac would want to go out for something to eat or they could make a meal out of the food the Scot had bought. Afterward, they could go to Joe's for a while. It sounded like a great idea. He might even be able to get Mac to tell him what was going on.

Richie frowned. The elevator hadn't moved. There was more than enough time for Mac to check the dojo and come up to his apartment. Taking his sword, Richie headed towards the elevator. He had to see who was downstairs.

As the dojo came into his view, Richie smiled. Mac's earlier mysterious good mood made perfect sense now. The elder man was leaning against the wall watching Fiona MacDonald demonstrating a technique with her sword.

As the elevator came to a stop, MacLeod glanced at its occupant before straightening up.

"I don't think that'll work, Fiona," MacLeod said shaking his head.

Through the slats of the elevator gate, Richie could see the impatience on the Immortal woman's face as she waved her sword at Mac.

"Why not, Duncan?"

Mac stepped forward with his katana just as Richie pulled the gate up. Both Immortals turned towards him.

"Hi, Richie," Fiona said as if she were truly pleased to see him.

Handing her Claymore to MacLeod, she walked quickly towards Richie. When she gave him a warm hug and kiss in greeting, Mac tilted his head curiously.

"Where are you headed, Richie?" Mac asked.

Richie thought carefully about what he should say. With Fiona here, it was unlikely Mac would want to go anywhere, so he could probably forget about the two men going out to eat before going to Joe's.

"I'm hungry. I think I'll pick up something to eat and head home."

Duncan and Fiona exchanged a glance as he returned her Claymore to her hand. Fiona smiled warmly at him before turning the same smile on Richie.

"Duncan's persuaded me to cook for him, Richie. Why don't you stay, too?"

MacLeod frowned slightly. When Fiona called to ask him to pick her up at the airport, he had visions of soft music and a romantic dinner for two by candlelight. He'd quickly straightened up his loft and the dojo in anticipation of her arrival. He'd gone shopping for food and made certain he'd bought as many of their favorite foods as he could. He'd even found one of her favorite dessert wines.

Although he had planned to prepare a meal for her, he had found himself commenting that he would enjoy tasting her cooking. In response, she had asked if he had certain foods. When he acknowledged that he did, she agreed to cook once they returned to the loft. It wasn't what he had in mind, but he wasn't about to turn her down.

As he had hoped, Fiona was willing to stay with him for a while before moving to her own apartment or leaving for her house on Holy Ground. He'd enjoyed their time together in Scotland and Paris, but Connor had engineered the trip so that he got the lion's share of her attention. Duncan wanted some time on his own with his oldest friend. He sighed. It wasn't fair to Richie to punish him for Fiona's invitation and it would only anger Fiona. Duncan grinned. He could turn the invitation into an opportunity to tease the Immortal woman.

"Good idea. He can help me carry the ton of luggage you brought. I think I hurt myself carrying it to the car."

Fiona swatted Duncan with the blade of her sword.

"You'll heal."

Laughing, he raised his katana and challenged her. The two Highlanders were soon involved in a lively sword fight.

Richie stood watching them for a while. He was beginning to understand how he could learn simply by watching. Fiona lunged at Mac who moved out of the way at the very last moment.

"I almost had you there, Duncan."

"No, you didn't!"

"Yes, I did!"



Shaking his head at the childish argument, Richie picked up some of the bags piled against the far wall and dragged them onto the elevator. As he loaded the last of Fiona's bags, the couple in the dojo was still bickering, but had raised their swords once again.

Richie pulled down the elevator gate as the other Immortals resumed their exercise. He'd take Fiona's things up to Mac's loft. He didn't think the others would be long. They were still bickering between sword clashes. Richie started the elevator on its noisy ascent. At the moment, he couldn't think of anything better than one of Fiona's home-cooked meals.

After dinner, Richie helped Mac clean up. It was their part of a bargain with Fiona. She cooked; they cleared the table and did the dishes. When they were done, Mac produced a huge box from his favorite local bakery. He shooed Richie out of the kitchen as he began making coffee.

Richie sat on the couch watching Fiona unpacking some of her belongings. It seemed to him that she was leaving the majority of her luggage untouched, but he smiled as she rearranged Mac's belongings to make room for her things in the drawers and closets. That was likely to drive the older man crazy for a while.

"Are you staying long, Fiona?"

Fiona turned towards Richie and smiled.

"I haven't decided yet. We'll see how things work out."

Duncan frowned. He didn't want Richie's question to cause Fiona to reach a decision quickly. He assumed the longer she took to decide what she wanted to do next, the longer she would be with him. Although it was a good sign that she was making herself at home, he wished he had taken the time to rearrange his own things to make room for her. She was probably seriously disturbing the order he was comfortable with. It would take him weeks to get everything back to normal.

"Put some music on, would you, Richie? Dessert's almost ready."

"Sure, Mac."

Although MacLeod expected the younger man to select a CD from his vast collection, Richie snapped on the radio and quickly tuned in an oldies station. The younger man had recently become fascinated with the era. The sound of Jerry Lee Lewis singing Great Balls of Fire filled the loft. MacLeod rolled his eyes. This was as far from the romantic evening he had planned as he could possibly get.

"Could you turn that down a bit, Richie?" MacLeod asked as cheerfully as possible.

As Richie fiddled with the controls on the complicated audio system, Fiona walked across the room giggling. The music brought back memories. She wrapped her arms around the Highland man and grinned at him.

"You made an impressive greaser, Duncan. I must have a picture somewhere."

Richie laughed at the thought of Mac with his hair slicked back and wearing a leather jacket. He kept picturing Mac as The Fonz from the old television show Happy Days. It only made matters worse when Richie imagined Mac combing his hair back and saying, "I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod".

MacLeod made a face registering his displeasure that Fiona had revealed that tidbit. By the sound of the younger man's laughter, he was certain Richie would ask lots of questions when he got the chance. He hoped she didn't really have a photograph of him. She let her arms slip from around him and walked across the loft to Richie.

He watched Fiona as he put out cookies and coffee. The Highland woman was avidly studying his music collection. Because they weren't teenagers, neither of them had worn such fashions very often, but they had sometimes worn the popular clothes of the era in which they were living. The 1950s were no exception. He remembered one of her outfits involved a sweater, a flared skirt and bobby socks. She would look silly in it now, but at the time, it was the latest thing.

"Well, you looked very cute in a poodle skirt," he said teasingly, hoping the memory of that particular garment would embarrass her as much as he felt embarrassed and she would let the matter drop.

Fiona grinned.

"I did, didn't I?"

MacLeod laughed. He had failed to embarrass her, but making her smile was worth it.

As the three Immortals sat eating dessert, Richie realized how much he was enjoying himself even though they hadn't done anything special. It wasn't the first time he'd had a sense of belonging while with the other two Immortals. He watched Mac and Fiona sitting very close together on the sofa across from him. It gave him an idea.

"How about I make dinner for both of you on Sunday?"

"You?" Mac asked with a laugh. He had an instant vision of burgers and fries... and that was if Richie fussed.

"Richie can cook, Duncan. I should know. I taught him," Fiona said with a warm smile. "It sounds very nice, Richie. We'd love to, wouldn't we, Duncan?"

MacLeod shrugged. He hoped he'd get some time alone with the Immortal woman during her stay. Another dinner with Richie didn't seem to be the way.

"Of course we'll come, Richie," Duncan said, feigning pain after Fiona punched his upper arm playfully.

Richie glanced at his watch. He enjoyed the company of the other Immortals and didn't want to leave, but it was getting pretty late and he still had to see if he could fix his bike. He didn't want to be late for work again.

"I should go. I'll see you two tomorrow?"

"Of course, Richie," Fiona replied with a grin as she rose from her seat on the couch next to Duncan. "Good night."

MacLeod watched her hug and kiss Richie affectionately. The younger man blushed as a result. After walking Richie across the loft to the elevator, Duncan breathed a sigh of relief. It was time to light the candles and select some soft music before surprising Fiona with a glass of wine. He finally had her all to himself for a few hours. He planned to make the most of it.

"I have to use your phone, Duncan."

Before he could respond, Fiona was making a call. She spoke briefly into the receiver. Duncan sighed. She had called his kinsman to inform the elder MacLeod of her safe arrival. He wondered if he would ever be alone with her. Duncan turned as Fiona's arms snaked around him. Peeking around his arm at him, she grinned impishly.

"There. That's done. Now what shall we do?"

He returned her smile.

"You go sit on the couch. I have a few ideas."

Although he was early, Mac and Fiona were already working out when Richie arrived at the dojo the next morning. Richie watched their graceful movements as he quietly crossed the dojo to the office. He knew better than to address either of them and break their concentration.

He passed their swords as he entered the office. Somehow it was fitting that they always leaned their swords side by side against the wall when they weren't using them. Perhaps he would arrange to join their exercise the following morning. He liked practicing with Fiona. She was usually able to surprise him.

As Richie took his seat behind the desk, he wondered if the Immortal couple planned to spar after their workout. He would enjoy watching their swordplay without the previous day's bickering. Richie was distracted when Mac came into the office. He glanced out into the dojo and saw Fiona wielding a quarterstaff. Although Richie hadn't seen her use that particular weapon before, she seemed to be skilled with it. He wondered which of the MacLeods had trained her in its use.

"Fiona and I are planning to go out to dinner tonight and then to Joe's for drinks. Want to come along?"

Richie studied the older man a moment. The invitation was completely unexpected. The previous evening he had gotten the feeling that Mac wanted to be alone with Fiona.

"I won't be in the way?"

Mac gave him a look of exasperation.

"I wouldn't ask if I thought you were."

Richie watched Fiona's exercises with the quarterstaff. An evening with Mac and Fiona at Joe's would probably be fun. It was something the trio hadn't done in a while.

"Sure, Mac."

"Suit and tie, Richie."

"Awwww... Mac," Richie whined in response.

"I want this to be special. Don't spoil it for me."

Glancing at Fiona in the outer room, Richie nodded. He could go home after work to shower and change. It was probably a small price to pay for a night out with the other Immortals. Richie got up to get the papers he needed from the filing cabinet and stood with his back to his mentor.

"So where should I meet you?"

Richie turned around quickly when Mac yelped. Grinning broadly, Fiona was jabbing Mac with the quarterstaff.

"Ow! Fiona, stop poking me with that!" MacLeod protested.

Laughing as he dodged to avoid her next jab, MacLeod grabbed the quarterstaff and tried to pull it from her hands.

"Come out in the dojo and finish our workout, Duncan. You've been annoying Richie long enough. He has work to do."

MacLeod shook his head. Her expression was much too mischievous for her to be trusted. She was liable to attack him before he had time to arm himself.

"Give me the quarterstaff first," he said slowly without letting go of it.

Shaking her head, Fiona pulled the stick towards her and began backing out of the office, pulling the Highlander with her just as the phone rang.

"Get that, Richie," MacLeod said as he was pulled through the door.

Richie sighed. If the other Immortals continued to behave this way, he'd never get any work done. He was beginning to feel like he was baby-sitting for a badly behaved pair of brats. He hoped they would go up to Mac's loft or leave the building entirely once the dojo opened. Watching the couple continue their battle over the quarterstaff while Mac tried to maneuver himself closer to where he could pick up one for himself, Richie answered the phone on the next ring.


The voice that answered him was unmistakable.

"Hello, Richie. Is Fiona there?"

Richie glanced out into the dojo. Mac had managed to get hold of a quarterstaff and was sparring with Fiona. They appeared to be bickering between blows.

"Sure, Connor. I'll get her."

After putting the phone down gently, Richie stepped out into the dojo where Fiona and Mac were vigorously exchanging blows. Fiona managed a blow to the back of Mac's knee that sent the Highlander to the floor with a thud. When she began poking at the fallen man with her quarterstaff, Richie cleared his throat. The elder Immortals stopped their horseplay and looked at him.

"Fiona, Connor's on the phone for you."

With a nod, Fiona tossed her staff to MacLeod and went into the office. She closed the door as soon as Richie stepped out of the way.

Drawing his knees up, MacLeod sat on the floor holding both quarterstaffs. He appeared to be studying them intently.

"Need a hand up, Mac?"

Roused from his thoughts, MacLeod turned towards Richie. He'd been so deep in thought he'd forgotten the younger man was there.

Richie frowned. Mac seemed startled. The elder man shook his head as he got up from where he sat on the floor. With a sigh, MacLeod replaced the quarterstaffs in the rack.

"C'mon, Richie. I'll help you get set up to open."

The men worked quietly, clearing away the equipment the elder Immortals had used during their workout. MacLeod stood with his back to the office door while Richie moved the last bench into position. Unexpectedly, Fiona slipped herself between his right arm and his body before putting her arms around him and hugging him tightly. He put his arms around her when he felt her trembling.

"Fiona?" Richie asked in confusion. Connor had sounded fine to him. He couldn't think of anything the elder MacLeod could say that would upset her so. It wasn't Connor's style.

When Richie took a step towards the couple, Mac shook his head. Richie stopped and watched Mac pick up the swords as he guided Fiona to the elevator. She seemed to keep her face buried in his shirt the entire time.

"We'll be upstairs, Richie, but don't disturb us unless absolutely necessary."

Richie nodded as the elevator started up. Mac's tone was extremely serious, so he must already know what has bothering Fiona. When a couple of the regulars wandered into the dojo and began their workouts, Richie retreated to the office to allow them use of the room.

Richie frowned when the phone rang. It was the intercom that Mac had set up so they could communicate from the dojo to the loft. Richie picked it up reluctantly. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what had upset Fiona.

"I just wanted you to know we're still on for dinner and drinks, Rich. I'll be down later so you can go home and change," Mac said and hung up.

Richie put down the receiver and stared at the phone. Eventually the elder Immortals would tell him what was wrong. If they were still planning an evening out, it must not be horrific despite Fiona's earlier behavior.

After talking to Richie, Duncan turned his attention back to Fiona who was currently sitting very quietly on his couch. He poured two large glasses of orange juice and brought them with him to the couch. He offered one to Fiona. She took a sip and put the glass on the table.

Drinking from his glass, Duncan watched her. He could see her dreams from the previous night were still bothering her. They weren't as bad as the nightmares she had before defeating Romero Carsini, but they were still disturbing. Although she had repeatedly called for him and his kinsman while sleeping, she would say very little about the dreams once awake. He could guess that her behavior while under the influence of Carsini's Quickening was the cause. Some of the things he had done after receiving a Dark Quickening still haunted him. When he put his arms around Fiona, she leaned into him.

"Fiona, you know Connor loves you as much as I do."

Duncan smiled slightly at his own words. Not too long ago, he wouldn't have been able to admit that to himself and the words would have been sour in his mouth. He now knew it to be true and saying it wasn't a problem. His kinsman loved this Highland woman as much as he did. Although he still felt a rivalry with his kinsman for Fiona's attention and affection, Duncan no longer felt threatened by Connor's relationship with Fiona. Fiona never seemed to let her feelings for one of them interfere with her feelings for the other.

"You shouldn't... I don't deserve it," she said quietly.

MacLeod sighed. The first kiss he had ever received from a female who was not related to him was from Fiona MacDonald. As children, they had tried to imitate the passion of a couple they had observed. At the time, they had agreed that kissing was nice but nothing to get too excited over and was simply one more adult behavior they couldn't quite fathom. They decided climbing a tree would be much more rewarding then any further experiments with kissing. Once they were sitting on their favorite branch, Duncan had boasted about the battles he would win and what he would do once he became Chieftain. Fiona had unexpectedly interrupted him by kissing him gently on the cheek. To this day, he considered it to be his first real kiss. It had been honest and affectionate in a way no one else had ever quite duplicated. The kiss had also given him the slimmest of insights into why men pursued women.

Placing his hand under her chin, he gently lifted her face towards his. She was his oldest friend and one of his earliest lovers. He paused a moment to admire her before kissing her. She smiled when their lips parted. Duncan thought she seemed more content as she rested her head against his chest again.

"How about some breakfast?" Duncan asked cheerfully.

Fiona lifted her head from his chest and looked at him. Her impish smile confirmed his suspicion the he had temporarily broken the darkness of her mood. He hoped the change would last more than a few moments.

"How about a shower first?"

MacLeod made an elaborate show of sniffing himself.

"Are you saying that I stink?" he asked trying to sound indignant.

"Only a little," Fiona said with a giggle. "Honestly, Duncan, sometimes you are as thick as porridge."

MacLeod hugged her while laughing at her minor insult. He knew exactly what she was suggesting. Soon, Fiona was laughing with him and telling him she wanted to shower before eating. He agreed by challenging her to a race to the bathroom. It didn't matter which one of them won.

The phone rang again. Richie frowned. It was an outside call. With a sigh, Richie answered it, hoping he hadn't forgotten to pay a bill. Mac really didn't appreciate it when he did that.


"Hello again, Richie. Is Duncan still in the dojo?"

"No, Connor, he's up in the loft with Fiona. Want me to tell him you're on the phone?"

There was a brief silence. Richie could almost feel the elder MacLeod thinking.

"No," the other man said thoughtfully. "I'll speak to him another time."

Richie couldn't help but wonder what the MacLeods needed to discuss. Obviously it was about Fiona or Connor would speak to Mac right away. Richie debated silently for a moment before asking the elder MacLeod a question.

"Connor, can I ask your advice on something?"

Richie heard the elder man chuckle.

"Woman trouble, Richie?"

"Not exactly."

Richie found himself explaining his entire plan to the elder MacLeod. It wasn't what he had in mind, but once he started talking about it, he found he couldn't stop and Connor asked enough questions to encourage the conversation. When Richie was done, the elder man chuckled again.

"I like it, Richie. Roses are always good, but there are so many other types of flowers." The elder man paused. "Why don't you let me handle that? I'll have them delivered directly to your place. Would you like me to order a gourmet meal as well?"

"No. I wanna do this myself."

The elder MacLeod chuckled to himself. This could be a very interesting meal.

"Fine, just the flowers then," Connor said, ignoring the implication of what the younger man had just said. "What are you planning to make for dinner?"

Richie frowned. He hadn't really thought that far ahead. He realized what a huge mistake that was now that Connor had asked him about it. He tried to think of something that he could actually cook without too much chance of ruining it.

"Steak, I guess."

"Good idea. Easy to prepare and serve. There are some simple side dishes you can make to go with it."

Richie grabbed a pen and started jotting down the elder man's suggestions for what to serve with the meat and the list of ingredients involved. He had no idea how he would ever make the dishes Connor was describing, but a couple of them sounded simple enough for him to try.

Connor started explaining various cuts of meat to Richie. Looking at the information he had already written down, Richie wondered how the elder man had learned all these things. He knew both MacLeods were capable of preparing wonderful meals. Although Fiona had started teaching him how to cook, he rarely attempted to make anything more complex than hot dogs and burgers. It hardly seemed worth the effort when he was by himself, but he was beginning to think he should practice more often. Fiona appeared to enjoy meals prepared for her by one of the MacLeods. She'd even been happy with the chili Richie had once made for her. Mac always seemed to have a good time preparing and serving meals to female companions. It was something to consider.

After hanging up the phone, Richie considered the list of flowers and foods that Connor had suggested. The elder MacLeod was beginning to sound like the Immortal equivalent of Martha Stewart. Richie could almost believe the two were somehow related. He'd seen the woman on television a few times. Richie shuddered at the thought of Martha Stewart as an Immortal wondering if whoever took her head would feel compelled to bake cookies and gild pine cones. He laughed. Fiona made wonderful meals, but he had known her to serve pizza and beer when the mood struck her. He decided she was as close to Martha Stewart as he wanted an Immortal to get.

The couple in the loft was so quiet, Richie nearly forgot they were there. Only the vaguest sense of their presence reminded him that they were still in the building. He assumed they had stopped bickering and Fiona had settled down. Fiona came down very briefly. He thought she was going out, but she came into the office and put a plate of food on the desk for him before returning quickly to the loft. Although Richie thought she seemed in a better mood, she wasn't in the office long enough for him to really tell. It was probably a good sign that she wanted to go back upstairs to Mac.

As he had promised, Mac came down to let Richie go home earlier than usual. The men in the dojo greeted him as he crossed from the elevator to the office.

"Okay, Rich. You can go. Be back here by seven."

Richie hesitated. If there was something seriously wrong, he wanted to find out about it now instead of while the trio was out together. He didn't want any surprises like finding out that another Immortal was trying to kill or kidnap one of them. He'd had enough of those for a while. An evening out without any mention of The Game would be an enjoyable change.

"Is Fiona okay?"

MacLeod studied Richie a moment. The younger man was clearly concerned. He didn't think it was up to him to tell Richie what was bothering Fiona.

"She's fine, Richie. Parts of the trip were... difficult... for Fiona. It's just going to take some time."

Richie nodded. Some of the things that had happened were outright weird. He still didn't know what to make of her claim that she had seen her entire Clan when they were in Scotland. Others seemed typical of the dangers of being Immortal. He didn't know which events troubled him more and wondered what was bothering Fiona.

Richie put down the phone. He hadn't known the elder MacLeod knew his phone number until the phone rang and Connor was on the other end. Although the older man claimed he had called to confirm what they had discussed during their conversation at the dojo, he had managed to include himself in Richie's plans. It wasn't clear to Richie just why the elder MacLeod wanted to come all that way to have dinner with them.

Richie sighed. He didn't have time to think about Connor MacLeod at the moment. He wanted to finish dressing and head back to the dojo. Although he wasn't sure why Mac had included him in his plans for the evening, Richie wasn't about to argue. He liked being around Fiona. It was possible that someone was after her and the MacLeods were counting on keeping her safe through numbers.

He was slipping on a shirt when he sensed another Immortal. When he heard the front door open, he became less cautious and more curious. It was either Fiona or Mac, but he didn't see any reason for either of them to come to the house. It was barely six o'clock and Mac had told him to be back at the dojo by seven. He had plenty of time.

"You decent, Richie?"

"Sure, Fiona, c'mon in."

Fiona smiled at him as she came into his apartment.

"I thought I'd stop by and see how you've been taking care of things."

Richie quickly made a mental list of all the things he'd been putting off doing. There were far too many minor repairs he'd neglected recently.

"And?" he asked uncertainly.

"Looks great, Richie."

Richie quickly cleared the pile of motorcycle magazines from his couch and invited Fiona to sit down. He watched as she picked up one of the magazines and began flipping through it.

"Would you like something to drink?"

Fiona shook her head.

"No, I'm fine, Richie."

Richie perched on the arm of the couch. Fiona was still looking through the magazine, stopping occasionally to study a picture. Unless she had slipped away from Mac, he had to assume that her arrival meant she wasn't in danger from another Immortal.

"Why are you really here, Fiona? Was Mac worried I'd be late?"

Fiona shook her head again.

"I... I just needed to get out."

Fiona sighed. She wanted to be with Duncan but found it difficult to look at him. Every time he smiled at her, a chill would come over her as she remembered the events in Paris after she took Carsini's Quickening. She had experienced the same problem when she was with Connor. It had prompted her to leave him and return to the United States and Duncan in hopes that the memory would fade. She was disappointed that the plan had been unsuccessful so far. Fiona looked up when she felt Richie put his hand gently on her arm.

"Are you okay?"

Richie's concerned question made Fiona realize that she was crying. She struggled to control herself enough to explain her feelings to the young Immortal.

"I almost killed Connor, Richie," Fiona paused and sighed deeply hoping to maintain her composure. "If you hadn't stopped me, I might have killed both of them."

Richie shook his head. There was no way Fiona would ever willingly hurt either of the MacLeods.

"Don't blame yourself, Fiona. It was a Dark Quickening."

"It wouldn't have made them any less dead."

Richie frowned. He couldn't argue with her logic. If Joe hadn't shot Mac during his Dark Quickening, Richie would be dead. He knew Mac regretted what he had done during that period. Richie also knew there was probably a number of things Mac hadn't even been able to tell him about that the older man was still coping with.

"Mac nearly killed me once... if Joe hadn't shot him, I would have died in the dojo."

Fiona looked up at Richie in surprise. Duncan had told her about the Dark Quickening he'd received and had hinted at a dangerous confrontation with Richie, but she had no idea he had actually threatened the younger man.

"And you forgave him?"

Fiona could see the troubled emotions in the Richie's eyes. He seemed to be considering his answer carefully.

Richie bit his lip. After the incident with Mac, he'd taken off and gone on a headhunting spree that eventually led him back to his teacher and mentor. His anger had seemed boundless at the time. Although he didn't think it would ever be possible, they had been able to rebuild their friendship. It had been worth the effort as far as Richie was concerned. Mac was one of the best friends he'd ever had. At the moment, he couldn't imagine what his life would be like without Mac or the other people he'd met because of Mac, like Amanda, Joe Dawson, Methos, Connor and Fiona.

"Yeah, I did."

Fiona wondered if the MacLeods would ever find it in their hearts to forgive her actions. She was having a very difficult time forgiving herself, but listening to Richie convinced her that her mother had certainly been right. She was surrounded by love.

"I'm gonna finish getting dressed."

Richie returned to his bedroom to get his tie and suit jacket. Fiona's tearful admission had made it clear what was troubling her. Richie didn't blame her. It had to be difficult to cope with nearly killing someone you cared about as much as Fiona appeared to care about the MacLeods. He knew it had been difficult for the MacLeods to discuss killing her to put an end to the influence of Carsini's Dark Quickening. He was very glad they'd been able to bring her back and not have to resort to taking her head. He didn't think he'd ever be able to look at Connor MacLeod again if the elder man had taken her Quickening.

When Richie returned to the other room, Fiona made a face. Richie looked down at himself making certain that everything that should be buttoned and zipped was buttoned and zipped. Satisfied with the quick check of his clothing, he looked at Fiona again. She tilted her head to one side.

"Don't you have any other ties?"

"A couple," Richie replied uncertainly.

"Let me see them."

Richie obediently retrieved the rest of his meager collection of ties - both of them - and brought them to Fiona. She shook her head.

"You have boring ties, Richie. You need something new."

Richie shrugged.

"They're just ties, Fiona. I don't wear them very often."

"That doesn't mean you have to be boring when you do. There's a men's shop on the way back to the dojo. We'll see what they have."

Richie sighed. It was pointless to object to Fiona's suggestion. She would very likely buy him a tie, if not an entire wardrobe. He didn't need new clothes. He had plenty of jeans and t-shirts. He probably needed more dress clothes, but didn't see any reason to get them right away.

Richie followed Fiona out of the house. They'd stop on the way back to the dojo as Fiona had suggested.

MacLeod felt another Immortal enter the dojo. He hoped it was Richie and Fiona. They had just enough time for Fiona to change before they left for the restaurant. He couldn't imagine what had kept the pair, but it couldn't have been anything too serious. He adjusted the jacket of his silk suit until it fit just the way he wanted it.

MacLeod sighed. He wanted this evening to be a pleasant one for her because he knew Fiona was still troubled by the events in Paris after her defeat of Romero Carsini. He hoped Richie could help him reassure and cheer her. He'd invited the younger man along because Fiona had clearly enjoyed Richie's company the previous evening. Richie seemed to have a way of distracting Fiona and making her laugh.

He glanced at the bouquet of roses he'd had delivered after she left for Richie's. He could already smell them from across the room. He hoped the entire loft would be filled with the fragrance when they returned from their evening out. Fiona was certain to enjoy the sensuous treat.

He watched the elevator arrive in the loft. When Richie lifted the gate to let Fiona out, she smiled at Duncan before walking to the fragrant bouquet to enjoy the lovely aroma at the source. The Highlander managed to take his eyes off the tie Richie wore when Fiona wrapped her arms around him.

"They're lovely, Duncan. Thank you," she said with a beaming smile.

After kissing him briefly, Fiona disappeared into the bathroom to change for the evening. Duncan turned his attention back to Richie. He was pleased to see that the younger man had obeyed his instructions and dressed for their evening out with the Highland woman. The resigned expression on the younger man's face made MacLeod take another look at the tie Richie wore.

"Where'd you get that tie, Richie?" he asked with a chuckle. He could easily imagine Fiona insisting on buying it for the younger man.

Richie rolled his eyes.

"Fiona bought it for me on the way back. She said all my ties are boring."

MacLeod studied the red tie with a pattern of swords. It looked fine with Richie's suit, but it wasn't something he would have selected for the younger man to wear. He usually encouraged Richie to dress more conservatively. Richie had enough flair of his own. The green leather jacket he insisted on wearing when he first came to live with Duncan and Tessa was proof of that.

MacLeod smiled. The tie was pure Fiona. If she had been able to find a tartan tie on such short notice, he was certain she would have purchased that instead and then proceeded to buy one for him, too.

"Well, that one certainly isn't boring."

Richie shrugged. Fiona had picked it out because the swords amused her. When she started discussing suits with the salesman, Richie had reminded her that they'd promised to meet Mac by 7. It was the only way he could get out of the store without more clothes than he'd know what to do with.

When Fiona emerged from the bathroom, Richie thought she looked happier than when she arrived at his apartment. She was humming as she transferred small items from one handbag to another. She stopped to look at herself in a small mirror she held in her hand. Richie smiled. She was wearing the necklace he'd bought her in Scotland for her birthday. As she put on the earrings that matched the necklace, the crystals seemed to sparkle brightly.

"You look nice, Fiona," Richie said, hoping she would hear the compliment as sincerely as he meant it.

"Thanks, Richie, so do you," she replied, crossing the loft to him. She straightened his tie before stroking his hair affectionately. "Nice tie."

Laughing, Richie rolled his eyes.

"So how do I look?"

"You look fine, Duncan," Fiona replied without turning to look at her oldest friend. "Don't we have to go now?"

Shaking his head, MacLeod came forward to take her arm. When she smiled up at him charmingly, he was more than willing to forget her teasing and moodiness. The teasing had been part of their relationship since childhood. He was willing to pamper and reassure her until the moodiness passed. He didn't think it would take very long, but he would enjoy her company while he could despite the way she was blaming herself for events beyond her control.

The trio ate at an Italian restaurant that Mac and Richie went to occasionally. The atmosphere in the family run eatery gave the impression that the patrons were being entertained in the family dining room. Most of the other diners were dressed casually, but a nicely dressed woman in the company of two men in suits wasn't out of place. They were greeted warmly when they entered and were shown to a table in one of the more secluded areas of the restaurant. All three Immortals spoke to the staff in Italian. As usual, the waitresses flirted with Richie and Duncan. The male staff seemed to delight in flirting with Fiona and making a fuss over her. Fiona appeared to be enjoying every moment. Richie wondered if the employees were making a contest out of it. They certainly seemed to be trying to outdo each other.

Fiona listened to Richie converse with the staff in Italian. The young Immortal would benefit from spending some time in Italy to improve his accent and pronunciation. If she felt the urge to move on, perhaps Duncan would let her take Richie back to Europe with her. There were far too many things she had left unsaid and undone when she parted from Connor. She wished she had spent just a little more time with the elder MacLeod and given just a little more thought to her departure and the important things she had left unfinished. She would have to call him soon and apologize for her thoughtlessness. She felt an urge to hear the sound of his voice again.

The food was excellent as always and Mac had ordered wine with the meal. Richie was just developing a taste for wine and figured Mac was the best one to teach him about it. Every time Richie asked, Mac had happily explained why he would order a particular wine with particular foods. Richie did his best to remember the lessons. Certain he would instantly forget everything he'd learned, he dreaded the day Mac would expect him to select the wine for a meal.

Richie rolled his eyes as Mac and Fiona began to bicker about the last piece of garlic bread. To settle the latest in a string of childish arguments between the two Immortals, Richie snatched the bread from the basket and bit into it.

"Richie! I wanted that!" Fiona complained.

Richie was surprised when Mac laughed. He thought he'd get a brief lecture - or at least a disapproving look - from the elder man.

"You do that all the time to me and Connor, Fiona. You always eat the last piece of shortbread on us!"

Fiona shook her head.

"But it's funny when I do it," she protested. "Besides, if I made the shortbread, I should be entitled to eat the last piece."

"But you didn't make the garlic bread," Richie said around the last mouthful of bread.

"Have some more wine, Fiona," Duncan said quickly when he saw she was about to pursue the silly argument. She'd been picking childish arguments with him since her arrival and he assumed she was only teasing the younger man, but it was time to end this particular dispute. She turned to him wide-eyed as he refilled her glass.

"Duncan MacLeod! You're trying to get me drunk!"

"Is that a problem?" he asked with a wink.

She giggled in response. He hoped the evening would keep her spirits up. He knew first hand what could happen after a Dark Quickening. Fortunately, Fiona had only been affected for a short period and had done no actual harm to anyone. He thought with the support and acceptance of those around her, she would come to realize that her actions and threats were not as bad as she currently believed.

Joe Dawson looked up at the new customers entering his bar. It was fairly quiet for a Friday night and he had begun to think that there was a massive party somewhere that someone had neglected to invite him to. He was glad to see some familiar faces. He'd at least be able to have an interesting conversation with this trio even if he wasn't going to make much money.

"My, my, if it isn't Fiona MacDonald," he said with a smile as the Immortals sat down at the bar. "Hey, Richie, wanna turn down the volume on that tie?"

Fiona reached over and straightened the tie in question.

"It's a perfectly nice tie. I bought it for him."

"Oh, then that explains everything," Joe said as he placed their drinks on the bar.

Fiona's objections to Joe's remark ended when the Watcher put a glass of cherries in front of her prior to moving down the bar to serve drinks to other customers. Fiona ate a cherry before feeding one to Duncan.

Richie followed Mac's example when the elder man took off his tie and shoved it into the pocket of his jacket. Fiona reached up and unbuttoned the first few buttons of Mac's shirt. Richie quickly unbuttoned his own before Fiona decided to help him, too. He was relieved when she seemed preoccupied with Mac.

The Immortals turned towards the door in unison when they sensed another of their kind. Richie expected to see Methos saunter down the stairs into the bar, but there was a stranger staring at them from the entrance. Well-built, he never took his eyes off the Immortals at the bar as he came down the stairs and crossed the room to them.

"Are you MacLeod?" he asked ignoring Richie and Fiona to focus on Duncan.

"Depends on who's asking," MacLeod replied coolly.

The Immortal paused to eye Richie and Fiona. Deciding they were unimportant, he turned his attention back to the man he suspected of being younger Highlander.

"My name would mean nothing to you."

"Why don't you tell me anyway?" Duncan asked, looking the stranger in the eyes.

Although he found MacLeod's confident gaze disconcerting, the other man shrugged. He had no reason to tell these Immortals anything. He wanted a Quickening and had heard that one of the MacLeods lived in this area. This man fit the description of the younger one. He'd been headhunting for nearly a decade and had gotten very good at selecting and defeating other Immortals. It was about time he went after someone like Duncan MacLeod. The man couldn't possibly be as good as his reputation.

"I suggest you either tell us who you are and what you want or you find somewhere far away from us to sit down and order yourself a drink," Fiona said. She paused a moment for effect. "I hear the bar on the next block is nice."

The man turned his attention to the woman who had spoken. She sat between MacLeod and another male Immortal. He wondered which of the men she was with, but none of that mattered. If he had his way, at least one member of the trio would be dead before the evening was out.

Standing up, Duncan reached into his pocket and took out his car keys. Fiona shook her head as he handed them to Richie.

"Take her home when she's ready."

Uncertain what Mac meant by "home", Richie nodded. Fiona was currently living in the dojo, but she had the apartment above his plus her house on Holy Ground. He thought the dojo was the most logical place for them to go. If Mac didn't survive this encounter, he expected Fiona would want to retreat to Holy Ground as soon as possible. Although he would go with her if she needed him, Connor MacLeod was certain to be at her side quickly. Richie frowned. That was something he really didn't want to think about.

Duncan turned to his would-be opponent.

"We don't have to do this, you know."

The stranger shrugged again. He'd formulated a plan for coming after this man and challenged other Immortals during the journey. Needless to say, he'd been the victor in every battle and was confident that this would be no different.

Duncan paused and kissed Fiona's forehead gently.

"Don't try to follow us," he said softly. "I'll meet you at the dojo later."

With a deep sigh, Fiona nodded her agreement. It bothered her that Duncan had somehow guessed that she was thinking of trying to find where the pair would eventually fight. She'd obey his instructions and stay in the bar with Richie. Later, they would return to the dojo to wait for him.

Joe watched MacLeod leave the bar with the other man. He seemed to remember seeing the stranger in the Watcher files, but didn't remember much about him except that he'd taken to headhunting in recent years. When they were gone, Joe moved back down the bar to Fiona and Richie.

"Is that what I think it was?"

Joe was sorry he had asked the question when he saw Fiona's expression. She was obviously worried about MacLeod.

"He'll be fine, Fiona. You know that."

Fiona nodded uncertainly. She hoped Joe was right and that Duncan would be the winner in this latest fight.

"Do you know who he is, Joe?" Richie asked. "He wouldn't tell us his name."

"David Williams... William Davis... something like that," Joe replied, shaking his head. "I don't really remember."

Fiona took the last cherry from the glass and put it in her mouth. The sweet treat wasn't quite so enjoyable without Duncan beside her. The dim, quiet bar suddenly seemed bright and noisy to her. She desperately needed to be elsewhere.

"I think I'd like to go now, Richie."

"Are you sure, Fiona? We just got here."

"How about another drink? On the house," Joe offered. Somehow letting the Immortal woman out of his sight didn't feel right.

"Please, Richie, take me back to the dojo."

Duncan and his opponent walked in silence until they reached the site the other man had selected for his confrontation with the younger MacLeod. He felt optimistic about this challenge. Once he defeated this MacLeod, he'd consider going after the other one. Perhaps he'd seek out the two Immortals who had been in the bar with MacLeod. Unlike some Immortals who sought to settle vendettas with their opponents, he was simply taking heads.

MacLeod looked around the burned out building the other Immortal had brought him to. It was an acceptable location for a sword fight. There would be no witnesses to the clash of swords or the eventual beheading of an Immortal and the Quickening that followed. He followed his opponent's example and shed his duster. His opponent held a rapier similar to the one Richie had once used. Duncan twirled his katana confidently.

"Nice place you've got here. Decorate it yourself?"

As Duncan expected, the other Immortal slashed at him humorlessly. The action gave Duncan a tiny preview of his opponent's skills. MacLeod moved out of the path of the blade quickly. Although the other man appeared more skilled than Duncan had believed, he thought he could defeat the stranger.

"Is that the best you can do?" Duncan asked raising his katana.

"I'd heard you could fight, MacLeod. You seem to be much better with your mouth than with your sword."

Duncan smiled and gestured for the man to attack him again. This time he wouldn't move out of the way or comment. This was a fight to the death and Duncan MacLeod had no intention of losing.

Richie watched Fiona pace around the loft. He wasn't certain which was worse: the restless pacing or the sullen silence when she stopped pacing and sat on the couch. There was something he really wanted to discuss with her, but this was the worst possible time. He'd stopped trying to make conversation with her on the way back from Joe's because she had no reaction to anything he said. When they arrived at the dojo, she had walked quickly to the elevator and barely waited for him to close the gate before she started it on its journey up to the loft. After pouring and drinking two large scotches, she had started pacing. Richie frowned. He had no idea what would happen if Mac lost. Fiona might lose control completely and he would be the only one with her. He didn't know if he could hit her the way Connor had after she took Carsini's Quickening. At the time, he had been able to tell from the elder MacLeod's reaction that striking her had been one of the most difficult things the other man had ever done.

Fiona stopped pacing long enough to pour and drink more scotch.

"Fiona, don't you think you should go easy on that stuff?"

Fiona scowled at Richie before downing the contents of her glass. She knew he meant well, but she was fully in control of herself. Staring at the crystal tumbler she held, Fiona thought of the man it belonged to. She had no idea if she would ever see him again.

"I'm fine, Richie," she said putting the empty glass back by the decanter and resuming her pacing.

Richie sighed. It was the most she had said since they left the bar. Their eyes locked when they sensed an Immortal enter the building. Fiona picked up her Claymore and walked towards the elevator.

"Wait, Fiona."

She shook her head as she entered the elevator.

"I'll take care of this. You stay up here, Richie."

Watching the elevator descend, Richie tried to decide what he should do. Although he probably wouldn't be able to hear a sword fight in the dojo, a Quickening was pretty hard to miss. Richie bit his lip. Maybe all the talk about Fiona's Dark Quickening had made him paranoid, but he was worried about Fiona. She'd been drinking and her affection for Mac might further cloud her judgment. If it wasn't Mac in the dojo, the alcohol Fiona had consumed might compromise her fighting ability. Grabbing his sword, Richie ran down the stairs. He'd better go down to the dojo and see who was there with Fiona. If there was one thing Mac had taught him, it was that caution was never out of place.

When he opened the door that led to the dojo, Richie could hear Mac whistling again. This time the other man was providing the music to dance with Fiona MacDonald. Mac's duster was thrown over one of the benches. His katana rested against the wall next to Fiona's Claymore. Richie could see slight traces of blood on the blade. Mac's clothes were torn and bloody, but otherwise he appeared to be fine. He seemed completely focused on the woman in his arms.

"You've been drinking, Fiona," MacLeod said with humor in his voice.

The smell of scotch was clear on her breath and he had tasted it when he kissed her. He wanted to kiss her again, but Richie had come into the dojo. He didn't want the after-effects of the Quickening to be any more obvious to the younger man than necessary.

"Only a wee dram," she replied with a wink.

Duncan laughed. Depending on her mood, Fiona's definition of "a wee dram" ranged from a mouthful to an entire bottle. He laughed to himself. He could probably determine the definition of the day if he kissed her again.

"Then I'll have to have one, too."

Knowing that the couple would probably prefer to be alone, Richie headed for the door. He'd go home and get some sleep. He could retrieve anything he'd left up in the loft in the morning.

"Need a lift home, Rich?"

"Nah, I'll be fine, Mac. Are you okay?"

Nodding, the elder man resumed his whistling and swept Fiona along with him in a dance.

"Richie," Fiona said from Mac's arms, "why don't you stay tonight? There's room on the couch."

Duncan groaned inwardly. He wanted to be alone with the Immortal woman this soon after a Quickening. He grinned. He had a wonderful idea.

"Take tomorrow off, Richie. Dojo's closed."

Richie turned in surprise. Mac rarely closed the dojo on Saturdays unless they were away and he couldn't get anyone to cover for them. Richie watched the couple dance together. He didn't think they'd leave the loft once they went up for the night. There was no need to close the dojo. He could manage by himself. He'd done it many times before.

"I can open up, Mac. No problem."

Duncan shook his head. He wanted to ensure that he would have some time alone with Fiona. Closing the dojo and giving Richie the day off was the best plan he had thought of so far.

"Take the day off," he said seriously before winking at Richie. "Now, weren't you saying something about going home?"

Laughing, Richie pushed through the swinging doors at the other end of the room. He heard Fiona giggling behind him. Before he reached the front door, he heard the elevator start noisily up to the loft.

Richie rolled over and looked at the clock. It was late, but this was a rare Saturday when there was nowhere he had to be. He sighed. He really should get out of bed. He had to clean his apartment before going grocery shopping to prepare for the dinner he had promised Mac and Fiona. Sitting up, Richie wondered what the Immortal couple planned to do with the day completely to themselves. He grinned. He was probably much better off not knowing.

"What's this, Duncan?" Fiona asked as he put a tray next to her on the bed.

"Breakfast in bed, of course," he replied with a grin.

Fiona shook her head. Duncan was being much too kind to her. After they managed to stumble to Duncan's bed after all the scotch they'd consumed together, he'd been a gentle, insistent, if slightly uncoordinated, lover. Nestled safely in his arms, she'd slept soundly without the terrible dreams of Carsini's Quickening. Evidently, she'd slept so well that Duncan had been able to get out of bed without disturbing her. He'd been busy while she slept. There were freshly baked cinnamon buns on the tray. She could smell the evidence of their baking in the room. He broke off a piece and fed it to her.

"Very nice, but they need sugar, Duncan," she said as she fed him a piece of his own creation. "What are we going to do today?"

"Do? I thought we'd stay here."

Fiona glanced around the loft. Spending the entire day alone with Duncan sounded pleasant. He offered her another piece of cinnamon bun.

"I have an idea. Let's stay around here all day and later we can go out for a fancy meal. If you have nothing to wear," Duncan paused long enough to grin suggestively before kissing her bare shoulder, "I could be persuaded to buy you something new and expensive to wear."

Giggling, she pushed him away playfully.

"You're spoiling me, Duncan."

He shook his head.

"I have an ulterior motive," he whispered conspiratorially. "I'm trying to get you into bed."

Fiona laughed. She could see it coming, but it was too good to pass up. She kissed him while breaking off another piece of bun. After popping it into her mouth, she licked the sugar slowly from her fingers, making certain the man next to her was watching her actions.

"We're already in bed."

"See?" he said, grinning triumphantly. "It worked!"

Richie was sorting through his motorcycle magazines when the doorbell rang. He didn't sense another Immortal and he knew Duncan and Fiona would probably be holed up in the loft the entire day. Richie opened the door to find a delivery man holding a large arrangement of flowers.

"Mr. Ryan?"

"Yeah," Richie said slowly. He hoped the other man wouldn't say what he expected him to say.

"There's a delivery of flowers from a Mr. MacLeod."

Nodding, Richie let the man into his apartment. He could see another man with an equally large bouquet coming towards the house. He'd only wanted some flowers to put on the table during dinner and let Fiona take them back to the loft afterward. He had been hoping Connor would forget his promise to order flowers, but the elder MacLeod seemed to have emptied an entire flower shop into his apartment.

Just as Richie closed the door behind the delivery men, the phone rang. Richie answered it hoping that Mac remembered giving him the day off and wasn't calling to demand an explanation of why the dojo was closed.

"Hello, Richie. I was just wondering if the flowers arrived."

"Ummmm... yeah, Connor. There's kinda a lot."

"Good. Fiona will love it. Have you gone shopping yet? I can still order a meal."

"No, Connor. I'm taking care of dinner. This was my idea, remember?"

Richie heard the familiar chuckle.

"Fine. See you tomorrow. If I'm not there in time, start dinner without me. Don't keep everyone waiting. I'll bring dessert."

Before Richie could respond, the other man hung up. With a sigh, Richie returned to sorting through the magazines. He had too much to do before dinner the next day to worry about Connor MacLeod's peculiarities. The elder MacLeod had far too many of those for Richie to even try to think about.

He returned to the large stack of magazines that had to be sorted into the ones that needed to be thrown away and which he wanted to keep. The throwaways already amounted to a large pile. He should be done here in an hour or so. Then he had to go shopping for the food he'd need for dinner the following day.

Duncan kissed Fiona's forehead gently. He was enjoying simply having her next to him. There might have been more of these times if they had been mortals and had married so long ago on the Highlands. He could imagine himself as Chieftain of his Clan with Fiona as the capable mother of his strong sons and spirited daughters. He smiled slightly. Knowing Fiona, spirited was probably an understatement. For some reason, her father could never agree to terms that would allow the pair to marry.

"Fiona, why did your father hate me?"

Fiona lifted her head from Duncan's chest slowly. After all this time, it was a very strange question to ask.

"It was nothing personal, Duncan. He simply didn't trust MacLeods."

Duncan frowned. There was certainly enough history between their Clans to cause suspicion and mistrust, but those were exactly the reasons marriages were arranged. He felt her shrug.

"My father wanted me to marry back into my mother's Clan."

Duncan nodded. It made perfect sense that Fiona's father would want an alliance with the Stewarts. His thoughts were interrupted when she kissed his neck.

"Of course, I always thought the MacLeods were a fine, handsome Clan."

Duncan braced himself. He could tell from her impish expression that Fiona was about to insult him and his entire Clan in some way.

"Even if they tend to be a bit doltish."

Richie trudged around the supermarket. Grocery shopping was usually simple for him. He bought a few basics and filled in the rest with fast foods and snacks... or whatever he could scrounge from Mac. More of his time in supermarkets was spent waiting to pay for his purchases than actually shopping.

Although he was beginning to have his doubts about the whole idea, the recipes Connor had given him seemed easy to make and difficult to ruin. He had already gotten the ingredients for the salad and the dressing Connor had encouraged him to prepare. He'd managed to get potatoes and what he needed for the sauce Connor described. Richie knew all about peeling potatoes from helping Fiona in the kitchen from time to time. Both the salad and the potatoes should merely be a matter of preparation. He thought he could manage. He'd helped Fiona and Mac prepare meals. It didn't seem that hard.

Richie frowned at the steaks in the meat case. All he had left to do was select the meat. Richie decided on some thick pieces of steak. From what Connor had told him, this was an excellent cut of meat. He hoped the elder man was right. He wanted this to be a special meal.

"Okay, which one, Fiona?" Duncan asked patiently.

He watched her examine the bracelets again. She'd decided that instead of a new outfit, she'd rather have jewelry. After visiting various jewelers, he'd taken her to an acquaintance from his days as an antiques dealer. The man seemed to have exactly what she wanted. She was looking at crystal jewelry similar to the earrings and necklace Richie had given to her in Scotland. Duncan noticed she wore the crystal jewelry often and it made sense to him that she would want to add another piece to the set.

"This one," she said finally.

Duncan took out his credit card. The man had agreed to give Duncan the dealer's price as a courtesy, but even at that, it was nearly triple what Richie had paid for the set he bought in Scotland, confirming Duncan's suspicion that the set had been a phenomenal bargain. Fiona had allowed him to examine the crystals with his loupe and they were absolutely perfect as far as he could tell, although he wasn't quite certain what type of crystals they were.

Fiona smiled brightly as Duncan put the bracelet around her wrist and fastened the clasp.

"Duncan," she said slowly, "remember that silk outfit we saw?"

"The floral print? Yeah, it was very pretty. Looked great on you."

"Can I have that, too?"

Laughing, Duncan nodded. The combined price of the outfit and bracelet would still be far less than he had paid for some of the things Amanda had convinced him to buy for her. He'd buy the outfit for Fiona on the way to the restaurant she'd selected earlier.

He grinned at her. They'd spent a pleasant day together doing absolutely nothing before he'd lured her into the idea of shopping and the meal of her choice. He thought he'd be bored by the shopping, but he'd been amused by her reactions to the places they'd gone. In earlier times, he'd accompanied her to the marketplace where she'd bought food and admired the trinkets available for sale. Although the times were different, this short shopping spree had reminded him of those days.

Duncan sat in the office while a few men worked out in the dojo. After returning to the loft after dinner the previous evening, he'd called Richie and given him the morning off because Fiona had convinced him that the younger man would need time to prepare the meal he'd promised them.

He'd told Fiona to sleep in, but he was certain that when he closed the dojo and returned to the loft, he would find she had food waiting for him. They would have a few hours alone together before they had to go to Richie's. MacLeod smiled, picturing the younger man trying to clean his apartment and prepare a meal for them. He wondered what Richie had in mind with the invitation and the meal. It was still a complete mystery to the younger MacLeod, but the plan amused Fiona, so Duncan was content to just go along with it.

Wearing her new silk outfit, Fiona was ready to have dinner at Richie's apartment. She thought it was very sweet of the younger man to offer to cook for them. He'd cooked for her on occasion and she'd enjoyed each meal even when she thought he hadn't done his best. She took the jewelry Richie had given her from the special case she kept it in and put it on. She thought the bracelet Duncan had bought her the previous evening completed the set perfectly.

Across the loft, Duncan sipped a glass of wine and watched Fiona put the finishing touches on her outfit. As she slipped the necklace around her neck, Duncan remembered Connor's observation that the crystals seemed to glimmer against her skin. He had to admit his kinsman might just be right.

"Can you help me with this, Duncan?" Fiona asked crossing the room to where he sat.

Smiling, Duncan once again put the crystal bracelet around her wrist and fastened the clasp. It seemed to glitter as brightly as the jewelry Richie had given her. He kissed her hand.

"You're a bonnie lassie, Fiona MacDonald."

Fiona giggled. The Highland compliment made her feel special for some reason.

"I bet you say that to all the girls."

"No, you're the only Fiona MacDonald I know," Duncan replied with a wink.

He leaned over and kissed her deeply. At the moment, he wished they hadn't accepted Richie's dinner invitation. He'd much rather prepare a meal and share it with her here in the loft.

"Not now, Duncan. We have to leave or we'll be late. Richie's waiting. Oh, wait! I have something for you!"

Duncan watched as Fiona retrieved a small bag and brought it to him. When he opened it, he grimaced slightly. It was the same tie she'd bought Richie only the color was different. He pulled the tie from the bag.

"Fiona, it's purple!"

"Of course, it's purple. It'll be perfect with one of your suits. I'll show you later. We'd better go. I'm hungry."

Richie pulled the blue cashmere sweater over his head just as the doorbell rang. The sweater had been a gift from Fiona and he didn't find very many occasions to wear it, but this seemed to be an appropriate time. Hoping it was okay to wear the sweater with jeans, Richie headed to the door. He hoped there wasn't another surprise from Connor MacLeod on the other side.

Richie sensed another Immortal when he approached the door and grabbed his sword as he stepped into the hall. Fiona and Mac were waiting outside when he opened the door.

"Hi," he said with a grin. "Why didn't you use your key?"

Fiona shrugged.

"We're guests. Didn't seem right to just come in."

"Well... ummmmm... everything's almost ready. C'mon in."

When the couple followed Richie into his apartment, Fiona was surprised and pleased to find that the piles of motorcycle magazines had disappeared from the couch.

"I hope you don't mind, Fiona. I borrowed some of your glasses and dishes."

"No problem, Richie," she replied absentmindedly as she approached the large bouquet of flowers displayed in the room. Their perfume was heavenly. She could almost believe that Connor MacLeod was responsible for the stunning floral display. She had to call him in the morning. He'd been on her mind almost constantly since she'd spoken to him and she needed to hear his voice again.

Fiona turned when she heard Duncan and Richie talking softly. She watched as Richie smacked his forehead with the palm of his hand.

"I can't believe I forgot the wine!"

The thought and effort the younger man had obviously put into the evening impressed MacLeod. He had a bottle of wine at home -- possibly two -- that would add the right accent to the meal Richie had so carefully prepared.

"Don't worry, Richie," Duncan said, amused by the younger man's reaction. "I have some back at the loft that'll be perfect. It'll only take me a few minutes to get it. I can trust you two not to get into any trouble while I'm gone, can't I?"

"Oh, I don't know, Duncan. It might be difficult for us," Fiona said, as seriously as she could. When Richie blushed, she laughed. "I guess we can manage somehow."

MacLeod kissed her quickly before leaving the house and returning to his car.

After Mac left, Richie took a deep breath. There was something he wanted to discuss with Fiona while they were alone, but he didn't know how she would react. He reasoned this might be the only time he was really alone with her and decided to go ahead with it.

"I'm thinking of going back to school, Fiona," Richie said uncertainly.

Fiona tilted her head at the young Immortal curiously. There had to be more to his announcement, but he didn't seem inclined to say anything else.

"What were you planning on studying?"

Richie sighed deeply. Now that he had started, he was certain Fiona would laugh at him once he told her. He could lie and tell her he hadn't decided, but she could usually tell when he wasn't being truthful and knew she wouldn't accept the answer.

"I was thinking of medical school, actually."

Fiona considered the young man in front of her. He was certainly intelligent enough for medicine. More importantly, he was caring and compassionate. He would make a fine doctor and she had the connections to help get him admitted. The only thing she thought he lacked was the maturity to commit himself to a very demanding profession. It would probably be better for him to get some experience in the field before making a decision about medical school.

Richie sighed. Although he expected her to laugh or make a joke about his idea, Fiona's silence was worse than anything she could possibly say to him.

"You don't think I can do it."

Richie frowned. He hated the hurt, angry tone in his voice. He never meant to sound that way to Fiona and he was sorry he had ever mentioned the idea. He was better off working for Mac until the older man decided to move on. After that, there was always bartending and he was a decent mechanic.

"It's not that, Richie."

Fiona paused. He looked so hurt and vulnerable. His tone clearly reflected a lack of adult encouragement when he was younger. He'd been called stupid or worse far too many times and it still colored his thinking, although it was far from the truth. Fiona smiled at him. She needed to start at the beginning, so he would understand what she was about to propose.

"Richie, medicine was a natural for me. I've been tending the sick since I was old enough to follow my mother's instructions. I knew exactly what to expect when I became a doctor."

Fiona saw the anger rise in Richie's face.

"So everyone in medical school is 400 years old and has centuries of experience treating people."

Fiona shook her head.

"Of course not, Richie," she said gently. "I just think you could benefit from some experience first. Test the waters so to speak. You certainly have the time."

Fiona smiled at the puzzled expression on Richie's face.

"Like what? A nurse?"

"I was thinking paramedic. There are some very fine programs and you'd have a good foundation for when you decide to start medical school."

The sense of another Immortal announced Duncan's return. Fiona could see Richie wanted to continue the discussion, but not in Duncan's presence. She understood his reluctance. If he'd wanted Duncan to know about his idea, Richie would have mentioned it over dinner at the Italian restaurant or at Duncan's loft. She'd given him an option to think about for now. When he was ready to pursue the subject, he would come to her again.

MacLeod used his key to let himself in. Richie and Fiona were talking quietly near one of the floral arrangements that currently adorned the young Immortal's apartment. The flowers Richie had selected were beautiful. He couldn't imagine where the younger man had learned about flowers. Perhaps Fiona had shown him at some point. MacLeod was certain he had never discussed the topic with the Richie. Duncan knew Fiona was pleased even if she didn't say anything. Just the way she looked at the flowers showed her great pleasure in them. Apparently, Richie was learning more from the Highlanders than sword fighting techniques.

MacLeod kissed Fiona before giving the bottles of wine to Richie and going into the eat-in kitchen with the younger man.

"Expecting someone else?" Mac asked seeing the four place settings on the table.

Standing behind Duncan, Fiona watched Richie while waiting for his answer. She was curious about who would be joining them for the dinner Richie planned. She wondered if he had met a special someone he wanted to introduce to the older couple. The last time he'd done that had nearly led to disaster for the Immortal trio.

Richie nodded absentmindedly while looking for his corkscrew. With a triumphant grin, he recovered it from the drawer of tangled kitchen implements.

"Oh? Someone... special?"

"No," Richie replied quickly, hearing the suggestive tone in Mac's voice. "At least, not the way you mean it."

Frowning, MacLeod turned to Fiona. She shrugged. He couldn't imagine who Richie expected for dinner. Evidently, Fiona didn't know either. Seeing the fourth placesetting on the table, he thought the younger man might be planning to introduce the couple to his latest love interest, although there hadn't been any indication Richie was seeing anyone. From Richie's reply, that wasn't the case. He didn't think the younger man would invite Methos. He wasn't even certain where the oldest Immortal was at the moment. Joe seemed to be an unlikely guest as well. MacLeod hoped Amanda hadn't wheedled an invitation out of the younger man. He thought Fiona would be less than pleased to find herself in the other woman's company.

Duncan watched Richie struggle with the corkscrew for a few minutes before showing the younger man how to open the bottle. Richie took the open bottle to the table and poured wine into three of the glasses.

"When does your other guest arrive, Richie?"

Richie shrugged.

"I'm not sure. Sit down. Everything's ready."

"You don't want to wait?" MacLeod asked, drawing Fiona's chair out for her.

Shaking his head, Richie put the salad on the table. He'd been told not to keep the others waiting.

After taking a taste of her salad, Fiona looked at Richie suspiciously. The flavor was unmistakable. It brought back far too many memories to be anything else.

"Okay, where is he?" she demanded, poking in her salad as if she expected to find someone hiding in it.

Duncan frowned at Fiona. She'd seemed fine during the last day or so, but her current behavior concerned him. If she was having a breakdown of some sort, he'd have to find help for her. He tried to remember the name of the mental hospital run by a religious order on Holy Ground. Darius had been instrumental in founding the hospital. The staff was extremely discrete where Immortals were concerned. With great misgivings, he remembered that Sean Burns had once been a doctor there. Sean would have helped him find care for Fiona.

"What are you talking about, Fiona?" Duncan asked tentatively.

"Taste the salad, Duncan."

To humor her, Duncan ate a forkful of salad. He knew exactly what she meant as soon as the taste hit his tongue. This salad dressing was preferred by a certain Highland Immortal who happened to be his kinsman. When Connor mentioned that he had spoken to Richie several times recently, Duncan never imagined that the elder man was coaching Richie on preparing this meal. Connor's involvement explained many things about the flowers and food. Before he could comment, he felt the presence of another Immortal.

Fiona frowned when she heard the front door open. She knew Duncan would have locked it behind him when he returned. Like her house on Holy Ground, there were only four keys to this house. She shook her head vigorously at Richie. She didn't really want to see the man responsible for the salad dressing who also possessed the fourth key.

"Hello, everyone," Connor said as he breezed into the kitchen.

"Connor!" Duncan said in surprise. He had never suspected that the guest Richie expected was Connor MacLeod. He wondered what the elder man's arrival meant to his own time with Fiona.

The elder MacLeod kissed Fiona's temple gently before kneeling down next to her chair.

"Happy to see me, lass?"

Despite the tremendous guilt she felt Fiona forced herself to look at him. He smiled. She saw no hint of malice in his expression. She touched his face uncertainly.

"Always," she said softly.

Connor's smile broadened as he covered her hand with his and pressed it to his face. He knew about the guilt she felt over threatening to kill him after taking Carsini's head. He still hadn't forgiven himself for punching her as hard as he could. Although he was far from gentle with her during training, he had never knowingly struck her as hard as he did that day. The memory sickened him as much as the actual event. He hoped the things he had done since then would help both of them find the forgiveness they needed. He kissed her palm tenderly.

"I have something for you, lass, but it will wait until after dinner."

While Richie put a plate of salad on the table for him, the elder MacLeod left the room briefly. He returned with a box that he put into Richie's refrigerator among the bottled water, beer and leftover pizza.

"I brought dessert," he said as he sat down and ate some of the salad. "Excellent salad, Richie. You followed my directions."

Richie nodded. He still wasn't certain why the elder MacLeod had flown all this way to have dinner with them, but he had been insistent, saying he needed to see Fiona.

"How long are you staying, Connor?" Duncan asked trying to sound nonchalant.

Connor studied his kinsman across the table. He knew Fiona was with Duncan and the other man was concerned about his intentions towards the Immortal woman. Duncan should know better. Neither man would ever disrupt the other's relationship or interfere where Fiona was concerned.

"A day or two. I thought I'd stay here with Richie." Connor paused and waited for the young Immortal's expression to change before continuing. "Or upstairs, if Fiona will allow it."

Richie exhaled with relief. The prospect of spending a few days with Connor MacLeod lurking around his apartment was less than appealing. It was bad enough that the elder Highlander might stay in the apartment above him.

"I've been thinking, lass," Connor stopped when he heard his kinsman laugh. For some reason it always amused the younger MacLeod when he said he was thinking. "Anyway, I was thinking about Christmas on Holy Ground together this year... the four of us."

Richie grinned at the elder man's suggestion. He'd spent Christmas at Fiona's shortly after meeting the Immortal woman. Richie thought it was probably the best Christmas he had ever experienced. Fiona made a wonderful meal that she allowed him to select, the house was decorated with a huge tree and there were dozens of cookies and treats that she had made.

"Oh, I have a business proposition for you, Duncan. We'll discuss it later. I want to enjoy this fine meal Richie prepared for us first."

Fiona closed her eyes for a moment. She could almost believe she had been transported back in time. There had been many business discussions with the MacLeods when she and Duncan shared Connor's home and she kept house for the men.

Connor grinned at Richie when the younger man served the steaks with the potato side dish the elder man had recommended. Connor tasted the potatoes. Like the salad dressing, the flavor of the potatoes was exactly what Connor expected. Richie had followed his instructions precisely. He wondered how much Fiona had to do with the young Immortal's ability in the kitchen. He was certain she had put him to work whenever the young Immortal was in her company. Cooking was much like sword fighting in one respect. Practice was the best teacher.

As Richie cleared the table, Connor put his hand over Fiona's to get her attention.

"Let's wait for dessert, Richie. I have something to discuss with Fiona."

Without waiting for an answer, Connor led Fiona into Richie's living room. Fiona again admired the exquisite flowers displayed in the room. Wondering if the man currently seated on the couch was responsible for the flowers, she sat down next to the elder MacLeod.

Duncan followed them from the kitchen and took a seat on the other couch. If Connor had something to say to Fiona, he wanted to be present. His kinsman's expression told Duncan that his presence was insignificant. Connor showed no reaction at all when Richie joined them.

"I finished what you started, lass," the elder MacLeod said, as he produced some papers from a briefcase. Seeing the confusion on her face, he handed her several photographs.

Puzzled, Fiona looked at the pictures of women and children. They were strangers to her. A couple of the women appeared frightened. Others stared defiantly at the camera. The children all seemed to have the same expression of bewilderment. Almost all of the women and children seemed to be haphazardly dressed. She shook her head at Connor. She didn't understand what Connor was trying to tell her.

"Those are the residents of your home outside Paris for abused women and their children. Six women and eight children. More will move in shortly."

Fiona looked at the pictures again. She had most of the arrangements for this house completed before she left Europe. She had no idea that Connor had taken it upon himself to make certain the arrangements were completed in her absence. He showed her photographs of the rooms the women occupied and the classrooms where children attended school and the women attended classes designed to help them become independent and self-supporting.

She looked through the papers Connor gave her. He'd arranged for therapist to be on-call 24 hours a day for both the women and children. She knew from experience what kind of nightmares could follow the kinds of experiences the women and children had been through. He'd contacted local agencies, not only to refer women to the shelter, but also to help find permanent housing and work for them once they were ready to move on.

"Next month, a similar house will open outside London, but I wanted this one open in time for Mother's Day."

"Mother's Day?"

Connor chuckled.

"Oh, aye. Richie told me he wanted to make a special meal for you today because it's Mother's Day."

The way Fiona was staring at him made Richie uneasy. He could nearly believe that she didn't know who he was.

"Richie," Fiona said slowly, "I think it's time for dessert. We'll have it in here. I'll help you with it. Connor said he had business to discuss with Duncan."

As they pair left the room to serve the dessert Connor had provided, the elder Immortal grinned. He had succeeded in opening the shelter Fiona had been so determined to make available to women in need and their children. Richie had succeeded in preparing a wonderful meal that the other Immortals could share. He thought Fiona might be coping with the Dark Quickening and its aftermath with the help of Duncan and Richie. He had business to discuss with his kinsman. Everything seemed to be working out well.

Fiona and Richie worked silently in the kitchen. Richie could tell Fiona wanted to say something to him, but she seemed preoccupied with getting ready to serve dessert to the MacLeods. She was selecting certain pastries and placing them on separate plates. He assumed she was selecting favorites for the MacLeods. Finally, she turned to him with a concerned expression.

"I'm not your mother, Richie."

"I know," Richie replied with a shrug. "It just seemed right."

Fiona studied the young man before stroking his hair affectionately. For a very long time, she had considered the MacLeods her Clan. Although it was true there were many MacDonalds and she was related to all of them in one way or another, Duncan and Connor were like the men she had spent her pre-Immortal life with. Duncan was from exactly the same time and place. Connor was from a similar time and place. As she had gotten to know Duncan's latest student better, she'd accepted the young man as another member of her extended family. If he thought of them as his family, she shouldn't be the one to argue.

Hugging Richie, Fiona kissed his cheek lovingly. She smiled as he blushed slightly.

"Happy Mother's Day, Richie."


Author's notes

Richie and the others travel to Scotland in My Hope is Constant in Thee where Duncan refers to Fiona as a "bonnie lassie". Connor and Fiona arrive at Duncan's barge in Paris in Unforgiven. After Fiona defeats Romero Carsini in Unforgiven, she threatens the MacLeods.

Fiona first includes Richie in her Clan in Identities. She buys a two-family house and Richie becomes her tenant in the same story.

After Richie wrecks his old bike, Fiona arranges for its repair and gives Richie a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in Absolution.

Duncan comes under the influence of a Dark Quickening in Something Wicked (episode) and nearly kills Richie. Richie returns in End of Innocence (episode).

By "porridge", Fiona would mean oatmeal.

Richie prepares chili for Fiona in Parallels. Staying with her, he is attending college and studying languages.

Joe gives Fiona a glass of cherries from the bar in Confidence.

Richie introduces Duncan and Fiona to his treacherous new girlfriend in In Denial.

One account of Duncan accompanying Fiona to the marketplace is in Wanted. She experiences terrible nightmares after being abducted by Romero Carsini in this story.

Richie and Duncan go to Fiona's house on Holy Ground for Christmas in Heart's Desire.

During his Dark Quickening Duncan killed Sean Burns, an Immortal psychiatrist, in Deliverance (episode).

To Part Thirteen, "Home For The Holidays".

To the the Authors' Pages