Thrown Into The Game

Mia Feliz Sena

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Copyright, June 1997

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Author's Notes--

This story came about for two reasons. First, I wasn't entirely happy with the way the show deal with the aftermath of the Dark Quickening on Duncan. I was disappointed that he didn't admit to Warren Cochrane that he "almost killed his student" and that's why he understood the grief that Warren was feeling. I also wished he had said something to Methos about it near the end of the episode. So, part of this story deals with that. And second, it's also a story about what happens when my character, Pilar, reunites with the child she gave up 17 years earlier.

It's not a sequel to any of the stories I've written previously, so you don't even have to be familiar with my character to read or follow this story. Of course, you're always welcome to check out my web page where all my fiction is archived. And for those of you who are familiar with Pilar and are wondering when I'll resolve that Methos problem from "The Haunting of Pilar," a short story titled "Sunshine and Shade" will be coming out soon to tie up those loose ends.

Okay, onto the obligatory disclaimer. The characters of Duncan MacLeod, Connor MacLeod and my gratuitous use of Methos, belong to Panzer/Davis, Rysher, Highlander, et al. They won't be harmed and I won't make money with their characters. Pilar, Liam, Margaret and the other minor characters are mine.

Well, that's it, onto the story and I hope you enjoy. Please send comments to me at the email addy below. My other fiction is archived at the url listed in my sig below.

Also, please do not repost or archive this story to a web site without my permission or knowledge. Feel free to distribute this story, but keep this disclaimer in tact along with my name.

Maria

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Prologue: Dublin, Ireland 1979.

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Duncan MacLeod stood beside his friend, Pilar Avila, as she placed the tulips on her young husband's casket. Duncan handed Pilar a handkerchief to wipe away her tears and then took her hand and slowly led her away from the grave.

"You did all that you could," he said, knowing that was of little comfort to her at this moment.

"Sometimes, that's all we can do. We can't keep them from dying. Just knowing it's going to happen one day, doesn't make it any easier."

"No," Duncan said. "It never is easy letting them go."

"You know, Duncan," Pilar said, slowing down her pace, "I will always be grateful to you for being with me when things seemed their worst. I wouldn't have gotten through any of this without you."

"You don't have thank me. You've been there for me lots of times, and I know what you were going through."

"Yes, you do," Pilar said, drifting off in thought.

She should have been used to saying good-bye, but she wasn't. Patrick Brennan had been her husband for only 5 years and that day she buried him. One moment he was young and so alive and the next, he was sick and frail. He battled the illness that took his life heroically at first, but then he just gave up. Though he was only 31, he'd aged a lifetime in his last year of life-- Pilar didn't recognize the young, idealistic man she'd fallen in love with.

Pilar sighed, trying to put her grief in order. Finally, she looked at Duncan and smiled. "Did you know you are truly my best friend?"

"Oh, no, really? You mean I've been waiting all these years for you to fall in love with me, and now you're saying it's not going to happen?" Duncan teased, trying to make her laugh. He hadn't heard Pilar laugh in a long time.

"Well, you may have to wait till the next lifetime, because it's not going to happen in this one," Pilar said. "As much as I love you, I don't think I could ever fall with you."

"No?" he asked pouting. "Oh well."

"Don't pout, you feel the same way, you know it. You just don't want to say it-- you're too worried about my feelings getting hurt at the moment."

They laughed quietly. They were both content in their friendship being platonic. They shared a deep, meaningful relationship without the complications of romance added to it.

Duncan helped Pilar through her grief but most especially, he had helped her with Liam, Patrick's young son, the past few weeks. He kept the boy occupied while Pilar tended to Patrick, who hadn't been conscious of much those last few days. Pilar didn't think that Liam was old enough to comprehend any of this and she really hadn't wanted the boy to watch his father dying.

"It's time for me to face Liam," she said to Duncan, before leaving him to go to the boy.

"I'll go with you," Duncan offered, squeezing her hand to reassure her.

"No. I have to do this alone," Pilar muttered.

Pilar walked up to Liam and smiled, though he was 10, she still thought of him as a little boy-- so young and so innocent. He was so confused and lost at the funeral. As they walked to the cemetery after the Funeral Mass, he clung to Pilar, afraid to let go of her hand. He'd only let it go for a few minutes while she said a private good-bye to his father.

He his father had died and would never come back to him, but he didn't know that Pilar, his mother, was going to leave him too. Liam watched Pilar as she walked over and knelt down before him. She had tears in her eyes, and she tried to smile as she took his hands into hers, but this wasn't a day to smile.

Liam wrapped his arms around her and wept, "he's never coming back to us, is he?"

"No, <>," Pilar said sadly. "He won't come home to us."

She stroked the boy's sandy blond hair, stood up and walked past Duncan and Patrick's parents until they sat down at a bench about twenty feet away.

Pilar wasn't quite sure what she was going to say next.

"When are we going home?" he asked.

"We're not. Liam, before your father died he made me make a promise," Pilar said, fighting the tears.

"What kind of promise?"

A cruel and mean-spirited one, she wanted to say, but she didn't. Patrick's words stung then and they were still fresh in her mind.

*Pilar, yours is not the kind of life to expose my child to and I don't want you to raise him,* he told her one night before he died. *What if another Immortal comes for you and you don't survive? Have you thought about that? What will happen to my son? He'll be orphaned. After I die, you must leave him with my parents in Ireland. You must tell me that you'll do that.*

She didn't say anything at first, she didn't want to make that promise, but it was what he wanted. *I'll do what you ask,* she said reluctantly, but she meant it. It was a promise she made and would keep.

"Mommy," Liam's voice disrupted Pilar's thoughts. "What promise?" he asked again.

"He asked me to leave you here in Ireland with your grandparents. He wants them to take care of you," she said somberly.

"Why? You told him no, right? You're not going to leave me here are you?"

Pilar shook her head, shrugged as she took a deep breath and answered him. "Yes, Liam, I am going to leave you here, not because I don't want you or because I don't love you. I want you to be with me more than anything, but I promised your da that I'd let your grandparents raise you."

"You can't-- I won't stay here," he cried.

Pilar held back her emotions, she did not allow herself to show her feelings at this moment. "In time you'll see this is the best thing," she said, hating to lie to him. "You'll grow up around your cousins, you'll make wonderful new friends and you'll have a good life here, you'll see..."

"Please don't leave me here," the boy begged.

Pilar closed her eyes, thinking about what she was going to say next. This hurt too much. "I have to," she said, by way of a real reason. "I can't be your mother anymore," she whispered, more to herself than to Liam.

"You're lying to me. You said that no matter what, you would always be my mother and now you're going to leave me here with them," he said bitterly.

"They can give you things I can't: stability and safety. They are your family and having a family is so wonderful," she said, trying to sound convincing, but she knew she wasn't.

Liam didn't care about that. Pilar was the only mother he'd known and now she was dumping him with people, she called his family. "I don't want another family, I want you!" he cried.

Pilar reached out for his hand, but he pulled away and went to hide behind a tree. Out of anger and frustration, he kicked the tree and when that didn't help, he began to cry. At first, he tried to hide his tears, but he couldn't. Finally, he started to sob and Pilar went to him to try to console him, but he wouldn't let her-- he pushed her away.

"Go away," he told her, then curled up on the ground and just cried.

His grandparents were still standing near Patrick's grave, but they were close enough to see that Liam was upset. His grandmother decided it was time to go to the boy and take him home. She rushed over to Liam, hoping he'd allow her to comfort him. But as his grandmother leaned down to hug him, he pulled away. There was no one who could comfort him now.

A minute or so later, Liam's grandfather walked over and stood beside his wife and looked down at the young boy. "It's time to go," Mr. Brennan said, bending down holding his hand out to Liam.

"No!" Liam declared, as he stood up to face the older man. "I don't want to live with you. I want to go home to California, I want to be with my dogs, and be with my friends. I want to be with Pilar-- she's my mother!"

"Liam, we are your grandparents. We're your family. Your father asked us to take care of you and we promised him we would. Pilar can't take care of you," Liam's grandfather said, without any consideration to Pilar's feelings. All he knew was that his son didn't want her to take care of Liam, and he was honoring Patrick's wishes.

"It's for the best," Pilar said, knowing that was a lie. The boy needed to be with her. But Patrick made his parents Liam's guardians, not her. It didn't matter that Liam didn't know his grandparents, and that Patrick hadn't been back to Ireland in 13 years, he didn't want Pilar to raise his child-- she knew that and she hated him for that.

"No, it's not. I want to live with you!" Liam exclaimed.

"I wish you could be with me, but it just can't be," Pilar said, still not able to say everything she wished she could. She looked up at them, knowing this wasn't right but also knowing she couldn't do anything else.

"You'll have a good life here," Liam's grandmother said. "You're going to love Ireland and you'll make lots of friends here. And we have a dog too."

"Let's go, son," his grandfather said. "Say one last good-bye to Pilar."

Liam didn't say anything as the older man walked him away and he didn't turn back to look at Pilar. He wiped away his tears with the back of his hands realizing Pilar was leaving him, but not really knowing why.

"Promise me you'll take care of him," Pilar said to Mrs. Brennan. "I'm only doing this because Patrick made me promise to leave him with you and I don't break promises."

"He'll be fine," Patrick's mother said, before walking away.

Pilar returned to the bench and sat down. She slumped her head into her hands, took a deep breath and looked up in time to see Liam walk away with his grandparents. She wept silently to herself, knowing she'd made the most difficult choice of her life: breaking one promise to honor another. It wasn't fair. Patrick was dead and she was alone.

Duncan waited a few minutes before he went to her. He hated to see his friend in so much pain. He'd felt this pain before and knew that time didn't always make it go away.

"Are you all right?" Duncan asked, sitting down beside Pilar.

"No. I don't think I'll be okay for a long time," she said, leaning her head on Duncan's shoulder. "You want to know what's ironic? I promised Liam we'd always be together and here I am breaking that promise because his father didn't want me to raise him. I've lived my life knowing I can't have children, and suddenly I'm blessed with a wonderful little boy who loves me and his father makes me give him up because of my immortality. He made me feel like I was some sort of monster."

He closed his eyes, hearing the anguish in Pilar's voice when she said Patrick made her feel like a monster. How many times had he been labeled that? Too many, and he didn't want to think about it. He wrapped his arm around her, stroked her hair and sighed, feeling empathy for her.

"He didn't understand, Pilar! Maybe he couldn't. If one thing I've noticed in my long life is people don't like things they can't explain or understand. They either kill it or ignore it. So he chose to ignore it, until he knew he was dying and then he realized that he wasn't going to live to see Liam grow up and you would-- of course he resented that. He knew what your life was like and it scared him. He was thinking about Liam more than anything else."

"I know that. But he knew how much I loved Liam, and how much it would hurt to give him up."

"I know that you've always wanted a child and for a moment you had your dream. Our world is too dangerous and sometimes we can't always protect the ones we love. How would you feel if someone used Liam to get to you? How would you explain it to him? Could you tell him the truth?" Duncan squeezed her shoulder tighter. "Yeah, it isn't fair, but in our world it's inevitable. Sooner or later the Game finds us. Though I know it's painful, I think Patrick was right to ask you to leave Liam, even though we know you're the best thing for him."

Pilar sighed, deep down inside she knew this was for the best but it was still too soon to accept. She'd just buried her husband and given up her son in the same day. All she felt was pain and heartache. Yet she knew one day she would come back for Liam and she hoped he would forgive her for abandoning him.

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Dublin, Ireland. 1996.

The white tulips were starting to wilt despite the overcast day in Dublin that spring. Pilar knelt down on the wet grass beside Patrick's grave. She carefully leaned the tulips against a moss-covered rock by the headstone. Someone had come to Patrick's grave and left an arrangement of yellow roses for him. She ran her fingers over the name carved into the old-fashioned looking Celtic cross: "Patrick William Brennan, March 28, 1947- March 20, 1979."

"You never made it to your 32nd birthday. You've been dead longer than we were together. You know how much I hated you, not for dying-- I you would die one day-- I hated you for taking your son away from me. He's had a good life, Patrick. Your parents cherish him; they've raised him like he was their own child. He's married and I've stayed out of his life just like I promised you..."

She stood up, the wet earth was soaking into her old jeans. "I can't keep my promise to you anymore. He's a grown man and I'm going to see him again. One day he'll need me and I have to be there for him. Patrick, I loved you and I've spent the last 17 years regretting what I did. Now, it's time for me to let go of the anger and bitterness. I can't live with your ghost anymore."

Pilar sighed, as she walked away. Her trip to Ireland had been brief, once every few years, on the anniversary of Patrick's death, she managed to bring white tulips to his grave. She didn't know why she still continued with this tradition but it gave her peace and it reminded her of the promise she made to herself that one day she would seek out Liam and try to make peace with him.

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Translation: <> Spanish, my son, or my little boy.

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Part One.

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William Brennan tossed the unopened letter in the waste basket in his study and walked away without wanting to read it. He recognized the handwriting, every year on his birthday and every Christmas he got a card addressed to him in the very same handwriting, but it always came through a lawyer. The cards always came with a nice gift or some money inside, but the money or gifts couldn't make up for what was missing, what he lost. He didn't want the gifts or presents anymore. He wasn't a child who depended on her-- he was a grown man, with a wife and a life of his own. She left him when he was a little boy, when he needed her most. He didn't understand any of it. He thought she was his mother and he thought she would always take care of him. But she never came back for him and he couldn't forgive her.

"What's this?" Margaret Brennan asked her husband curiously.

"It's nothing. Just a letter." William grabbed the letter from his wife's hand, and was about to tear it up when she stopped him.

"Then why was it tossed away like garbage? You didn't even bother to open it," she said. "Who sent it to you?"

"It's from my mother... well, she really isn't my mother, is she now?" he said bitterly, thinking about the day Pilar Avila left him in Ireland. "If she was my mother, she wouldn't have abandoned me, would she?"

Margaret and Liam had known each other since they were kids and she knew how much it hurt him to think about his childhood. She couldn't believe that someone could leave a young boy behind with strangers. His mother must have had her reasons-- maybe that was why she'd written the letter, Margaret thought as she took it away from Liam and began to slowly open it. She thought Liam would try to stop her, but he didn't.

"Read it," he told her quietly.

"Okay, here goes," Margaret paused, taking a breath. "*Dear Liam,*" Margaret said aloud as she started reading the letter. "*I know I have no right sending this to you or asking you for anything now after all this time. Though 17 years have passed, there hasn't been one day that I haven't thought about you or hoped for a day where we could meet again. You've had a good life-- probably a much better life than I could have given you. I wish you could know how much I regretted leaving you in Ireland. Liam, I had my reasons and one day, I hope you will understand and perhaps one day I can give you all the answers you've wanted all these years...* There's more. Do you want me to finish?" Margaret paused, looking at Liam. He nodded and so she continued to read the letter to him.

"She goes on to say: *I was hoping that day could come soon. I've enclosed two airline tickets to London. You don't have to use them and you don't have to come see me-- that is your choice. But I'd like to try to make up for lost time with the time we have here and now...* It sounds like something is wrong with her," Margaret said, trying to read Liam's face. She touched Liam's hand, then said, "She signed it, with just her name... Pilar."

"So. It doesn't matter. It's too late for her reasons, her excuses. My life is with you. I don't need her," Liam said stubbornly.

"All she wants is to see you-- she's sent us two plane tickets to London. I wonder what that's all about?"

"I don't care," Liam grunted. "I don't want to see her, and I can't go to London. I didn't even know she was in Europe. Besides she doesn't have a right to come back into my life-- she gave up that right on the day she left me," Liam said somberly.

Margaret's curiosity was piqued and she wasn't willing to dismiss Pilar's letter so easily. She wanted answers. "Maybe something is wrong. She didn't say, but you aren't the least bit interested in why she wants to see you after all this time?" Margaret touched his face softly, she hated to see him hurt.

"No," Liam said, taking the letter from his wife. He plopped down in the overstuffed chair by the window and read the letter silently to himself. He stared at the words on the paper he held in his hands. These were Pilar's words, and she was trying to make up for lost time, but it was too late. Why did Pilar want to see him now? He didn't need her now like he needed her then.

Margaret wandered over, put her hand on his shoulder and smiled at Liam. "Maybe she's dying and she wants to make amends with you to ease her guilt."

"I don't care if she's dying, nothing she can say or do will ever make up for what she did to me. You don't know what it was like for me. Everyone was abandoning me. First, my real mother died, then my da, and finally Pilar left me. You don't know how much I hated her, yet I cried hoping she'd come back. That Christmas, I thought she would come for me, but she didn't. For my 11th birthday, I prayed she'd pick me up, but she hadn't and by the summer when she still hadn't come for me, I she never would. So, what do I owe her? Nothing. I can't forgive her and I won't see her."

"Okay, but what are we going to do with these tickets? They are paid for, we didn't have a honeymoon. We can go and you don't have to see her."

"I can't take her money. I want nothing to do with her," Liam said.

"You can be so obstinate sometimes, but the money is spent whether or not we use the tickets," Margaret reminded him. "So, if you're not going to go see her, I will-- just to give her a piece of my mind."

Liam grinned at that thought and he knew that she would do it-- she was always defending him when they were kids. She even stopped the neighborhood bully from beating him up once and now she was ready to take on Pilar-- the one person who'd hurt him the most.

"Well, I suppose we're going to London," Liam said, "someone has to warn Pilar my wife is coming after her."

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London. Spring 1996.

Duncan MacLeod arrived in London on business. He wanted to put the events of the past few weeks into perspective. He needed to get away from Paris and his thoughts of Warren Cochrane killing his student and ultimately, his own thoughts of Richie. He knew he couldn't hide from Richie forever, and he thought he'd avoided him far too long already, but he still wasn't ready to face him. He had been set to take the young Immortal's head-- he knew that Richie couldn't forgive him with a simple apology and a promise that it would never happen again. Duncan had done that already after he attacked Richie, thinking the boy was the hooded Immortal, Garrick planted in his mind. He would have to earn Richie's trust and friendship again-- if he could.

On the day he arrived, he spent it wandering through London and found himself in the city's art district, and he finally stopped at a small art gallery. The young clerk smiled at him and asked him if she could show him anything.

"No, thank you. I'm looking for the owner," he said, as he felt the presence of another Immortal.

"There she is sir," the clerk said, picking up a stack of mail to give to her employer.

Duncan turned around and noticed Pilar Avila was carrying several big packages, so he went to meet her and help her with her things. But he stood there, staring at her, dumbstruck.

"Look at you," Duncan observed. "What happened to all your hair?"

"Duncan, will you help me? These boxes are heavy," she said, not having time to discuss the trivial matter of her new hair cut.

"I thought you hated it when I got chivalrous, Pilar."

Pilar smiled, thrilled to see him again. "Sometimes, I don't mind," she said.

Duncan took the biggest of the boxes she carried in her arms and walked over to the desk and put his box down. Then Pilar followed, setting the box she was carrying down beside the other box.

"I don't think I've ever seen you with such short hair. It's shorter than mine."

Pilar noticed he wore his hair down that day. It looked curlier than usual and she figured it was because of the London humidity.

"I got tired of it and whacked it off. So, Highlander, what are you doing in London?" she asked, changing the subject. He was more interesting than her hair cut.

"Business, I guess. I had to get away from Paris and I'm not ready to go back to the States."

"And you came looking for me?"

"I wanted to be with a friend for a change."

Pilar was flattered. "Well then, let me go through the mail and I'll take you out to dinner," Pilar said, sitting behind her desk for a few moments. Duncan walked around the gallery while she sorted through her mail and returned one phone call.

"Miss Avila, is it all right if we close up now?" Melissa, the clerk, asked, after Pilar hung up the phone. Pilar nodded, so the young woman started locking up the shop.

"This is a nice gallery," Duncan said, finishing up his tour. "You have some great things."

"No Picasso though," she said regretfully. "I don't deal in high end stuff-- mostly up and coming young artists."

"Some of it's very good," Duncan said, stopping to get a closer look at a painting, "and some of it... not."

Pilar chuckled, looking at the painting Duncan was talking about. "That's one of mine," she said jokingly and waited for Duncan's reaction. He flashed his sad and sorry puppy dog look and Pilar laughed. "Well, not really. He's a young temperamental artist. He's talented, but stubborn. He only paints if the mood hits him. Fortunately, he doesn't need the money."

*That's good,* Duncan said to himself, *he probably won't make a living off his art.* Duncan grinned as he plopped down in an old leather chair by the side of Pilar's desk. "Where are you going to take me to dinner?" he asked.

But Pilar didn't answer. She was suddenly very quiet and started to tremble. She held an envelope tightly in her hand, it was addressed to her in a woman's delicate handwriting, and the postmark read: Dublin, Ireland.

She had gone to Dublin a few weeks earlier, hoping to see Liam and ask for his forgiveness. She walked around the university looking at all the young men with dark blond hair and hazel eyes, wondering which could be Liam. No one caught her eye and she would have known him if she'd seen him. So before leaving Ireland, she left a letter for him at his office at the university.

Now she stared at this letter, paralyzed by her fears of being rejected. She wasn't ready to open it, all sorts of horrible thoughts ran through her mind: what if it was a response from Liam's wife, threatening her and telling her to stay away from them? Or what if it was her own letter-- returned-- unopened?

"What's that?" Duncan asked, breaking her concentration.

"A letter," Pilar said plainly, "from Liam's wife."

"He has a wife?"

"Yes. They've been married about a year. She's a medical student and he's a graduate student. I decided it was time I contacted him. Suddenly, I'm afraid I made a mistake."

"I didn't realize it had been that long. He's a grown man now," Duncan said, remembering the young boy Pilar thought about as her son.

"Will you open it for me?" She was too nervous and she didn't want to read the words that said they weren't coming. Pilar handed him the letter and carefully he ripped open the peach envelope and began to read the letter, first silently to himself, then to her.

"...*we'll arrive Thursday at 11 am. We're both looking forward to the visit and I'm dying to meet you,*" Duncan paused, handing the letter to Pilar. "It's signed Margaret Brennan," he told her.

"They're coming?" Pilar asked, dumbstuck. She couldn't believe that they were coming to see her. "That's tomorrow... Duncan, will you go with me to meet them?"

"Yes. I'd be happy to go to with you tomorrow," Duncan said, then smiled. Surely, her reunion with Liam would be a happy one.

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Knowing Liam was coming to visit brought back so many memories that Pilar had wanted to forget. To Pilar, Liam, was her child, but, she'd given him up.

Duncan held Pilar's hand-- trying to keep her calm while they waited.

When Liam stepped off the plane, Pilar didn't see a grown man at first, but a 10-year-old boy-- who didn't understand why she left him all those years ago. He was so handsome. He was 27 now and didn't look like his father. She wished he could, but she knew otherwise.

Liam knew her face-- she hadn't changed much in 17 years. Her hair was short and tousled but her face was exactly the same. She should be 49... but she looked his age, and that couldn't be possible. Somehow

Pilar was holding the hand of a handsome man, in his early to mid-thirties-- maybe. His face felt familiar too, but Liam didn't recall where he'd seen it before. He was staring at Pilar, even though he knew it was rude. He didn't want to come here, but Margaret had asked him to come see his 'mother.'

However, after seeing Pilar that afternoon, Liam felt this woman could not be 'his mother.'

Liam clutched his wife's hand as he walked to meet Pilar and her companion. Liam took a deep breath and finally said hello.

"Liam, it's so good to see you," she told him, reaching out to take his hand.

"It's William now," he corrected her, instantly taking the defensive.

A few minutes later, Margaret introduced herself when she realized her husband wasn't going to.

Margaret was a pretty woman, with short wavy red hair, she had a fresh face that didn't need an ounce of makeup to enhance it. She had ruby red lips and a beautiful smile.

Pilar noticed she was wearing the wedding band Patrick had given Pilar on their wedding day. When Pilar left Liam with his grandparents, she gave his grandmother her wedding ring to give to Liam for his future wife. She was happy to see that he had done so.

But Pilar was stunned by Liam. He was a grown man and he was so beautiful. His blond hair had darkened to a warm, sandy brown-- it was long and curly and he wore it loose, just above his shoulders. His hazel eyes were soulful and intense, but his dimples reminded her of the little boy he once was. He was so angelic then, and now he was a grown man.

Pilar looked to Duncan and felt she should introduce him properly. "This is an old friend of mine, Li..ah... William, you might remember Duncan MacLeod."

Liam offered his hand to Duncan. "Vaguely," Liam said, recalling his name. "You were there when my father died?"

Duncan nodded. "Yes. I've known Pilar a time."

"I guess so," Liam remarked, then glared at Pilar. He wasn't going to forgive her so easily.

Pilar sighed and wondered if she'd made a mistake. Maybe it was too soon for her to try to reunite with Liam. Maybe it would never happen. Duncan put his hand on her shoulder and whispered to give it time. Clinging onto what hope she had left, she smiled.

"What do you say we go back to my flat? I'll make some lunch and then we can tour London," she suggested, hoping for a response from Liam.

"I've been in London," he snapped.

Margaret glared at him. "That would be nice, Pilar. Besides, I've never been to London," Margaret said nicely, and she smiled politely at Pilar, sizing her up in the meantime. Pilar seemed anxious and terribly nervous and she kept her distance from Liam. Margaret realized that she was even more scared of the situation than they were. In fact, Pilar didn't seem so terrible-- and she didn't appear to be the monster Liam made her out to be, but first impressions could be deceiving.

"Then you go. I'll check into the hotel. I'm sure Pilar will entertain you," Liam said bitterly.

"Don't do this-- not now," Margaret begged, looking directly into her husband's eyes.

"Liam, I promised your father I would leave you in Dublin after he died. I was respecting his wishes when I left you." Pilar looked at the boy. *The boy was a young man now,* she reminded herself. His hazel eyes were cold and showed no emotion toward her. It was obvious he had nothing to say to her. She reached for his hand but he pulled back. "I didn't want to leave you."

"You did. It doesn't matter now," he said. Liam was bitter and he felt he had every right to be.

Duncan looked at Pilar and he could see the frustration in her eyes. This reunion wasn't going to go smoothly. He felt sorry for her because he knew how much she wanted Liam back in her life and so far, Liam was making it difficult for her. He decided it was time for him to interrupt and ease the tension between mother and child.

"William, let's go get the bags. We'll take them to the hotel while Pilar and Margaret head back to her place. We'll meet them later," he suggested.

"That's fine," Liam agreed. He kissed his wife, barely looked at Pilar and then followed Duncan to the baggage claim.

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Part Two.

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Once they arrived at Pilar's flat, she dropped the keys on the table by the front door. Dented and scarred through the years, the table was still one of her favorite pieces. She turned on a few lights, kicked off her boots and sighed.

Margaret wandered around the flat but stopped, mesmerized by Pilar's books. She didn't really look at anything else but the old books. She didn't notice the art hanging on the walls or the other antiques Pilar displayed.

"I'm going to change my clothes, make yourself at home," Pilar said and wandered off to be alone. She really didn't want to change-- she liked what she was wearing, but she was frustrated. Could anything else go more wrong? She wanted to hit something... or someone... this day could only get worse.

She sat on her bed and clutched a pillow. As she tried to compose herself, she wondered what Liam and Duncan were talking about. She hoped that Duncan could help smooth things over between them, but she knew that it wasn't fair to put Duncan in that position. She sat in the dark a few minutes longer when she realized it wasn't very polite to leave Margaret alone.

"I thought you were going to change?" Margaret said, as Pilar came back into the living room wearing the same outfit she had on earlier.

"I decided I liked what I was wearing," Pilar replied. "May I fix you something to eat or drink?"

"No, thank you. I'm fine," Margaret said and thought about what she'd say next.

She decided to start with something simple, something she knew about Pilar. "Liam tells me you taught school," Margaret said. "Do you still?"

"No, not now. I actually have a small art gallery. It's a change but I love it," she said, thinking about her failed attempts at being a great artist only to be ridiculed by her peers and the great artists themselves.

"Oh?" Margaret smiled and thought she was going to like Pilar. She then looked up at her and decided to say what Pilar was too afraid to ask. "You know, he doesn't hate you," Margaret said, trying to put Pilar at ease.

"He has every right to hate me," Pilar said. "I made decisions for him without asking him what he wanted."

Just then Pilar felt an Immortal's presence. She looked around out of habit and Margaret noticed the distant look in her eyes. The door opened and Duncan and Liam entered.

"What's wrong?" Liam asked, "you're as pale as a ghost."

"I'm all right," she said, looking at Duncan.

While they made themselves comfortable, Pilar went into the kitchen to get some <> and a hot pot of tea she'd made.

"I'll work on lunch, but I brought you something to munch on while you wait," Pilar said, setting down an unusual silver platter she'd bought in New Mexico covered with her special cookies. She knew that Liam liked biscochitos, so after coming home from dinner with Duncan the night before, she stayed up until three that morning making a batch for

Duncan brought a bottle of wine into the kitchen where Pilar was attempting to make lunch. "I meant to give you this earlier," Duncan said, putting the wine down on the counter. He snickered seeing Pilar searching her cupboards looking for a pan to use to boil water for pasta. She could cook Mexican and Spanish food quite well and sometimes Italian but that was a stretch for her and she didn't attempt much else. She recalled that Liam loved her grilled-cheese sandwiches.

"Use this pot, it's bigger," Duncan suggested, taking charge in the kitchen. "Do something useful, like chill the wine."

Pilar chuckled and decided to look out to see how were doing. Liam had loosened up slightly-- the trip with Duncan must have helped.

"Duncan, I wonder if this is what it's like for mortals, when their kids come home from college or something?"

"No, I doubt it. Most kids generally like their parents, and I'm not certain if he likes you yet," Duncan teased. "Be patient, don't try to rush things."

"Yeah, I'm trying too hard, huh?" Pilar said, picking up a broken biscochito and taking a bite. "He loved these when he was a kid," she said, picking up another cookie.

"He still does," Duncan said, peeking out of the kitchen to see Liam eating cookie after cookie. Then he hugged Pilar to reassure her that things would get better.

While Duncan started a luncheon feast of pasta topped with a delicious pesto sauce, Pilar managed to make an Italian salad.

"I'll do the rest, go in there and open the wine," she said to Duncan, as she started getting everything ready to set out on the table. "I'll bring it out when it's ready."

Earlier that day, when Liam entered the flat, he was in awe of it all. Now while Pilar and Duncan were in the kitchen, he was going to examine and explore every inch of this place. It wasn't like her small farm house in Northern California. This place had an old European feel. There were antiques throughout the place. The massive furniture had come from Spain, the wooden floors were covered with impressive Persian rugs and she had a great collection of eclectic art on the walls. As he walked around the living room, he looked at the delicate objects, but didn't dare pick anything up-- he didn't want to break anything.

This wasn't the kind of place to raise a child. Liam couldn't imagine plopping down on the sofa in front of the television, with a soda in one hand and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the other. He'd be afraid to spill something and ruin the rug on the floor. He noticed that Pilar didn't have any pets, but this wasn't the place for a pet... a puppy would probably chew up the expensive antique furniture and ruin it.

Also, this place didn't feel homey to him. It was well decorated and furnished-- all very tastefully done, but very uncomfortable. He couldn't even imagine resting his feet on the coffee table. On the other hand, some of the things were familiar to him: the old wooden armoire, the rocking chair in the corner of the room, the massive hand-carved dining room table and chairs-- these were all things she had in their home in California. Then a few things on the fireplace mantle caught his eye and he ended up standing by the fireplace looking through pictures and knickknacks Pilar had saved as the years went by.

He couldn't believe she still kept a picture of her with him and his father on display. There were faces of people he didn't know and one of her with her friend Duncan and another man. It looked old... but he figured it was supposed to look old... as if they posed in costume for it.

"She has a nice home, doesn't she?" Duncan said, walking over to Liam.

"Yes, she does." He paused and looked directly at Duncan. "I know she means well, but I don't think I can forgive her yet."

Duncan nodded back to him, as if saying he understood, then said, "give her a chance, Liam. That's all she's asking for."

"I'll try," Liam said, taking a deep breath. Then a small blue star covered with glitter caught his eye. He carefully picked up a bread-dough Christmas ornament he made in kindergarten for Pilar. He couldn't believe she displayed it on the mantle with her other things and called to her while she was setting the table. "You still have this?"

"Yes," she smiled, remembering that Christmas he asked if he could call her Mommy. She'd been so happy then. "I have a lot of memories of the days I was with you and your father."

Liam didn't say anything at first. He looked at Pilar and saw the pain in her eyes, but he wasn't ready to reach out to her. He couldn't. Thinking about the past and the day she left him hurt too much, and just being here was almost more than he could take.

He put the ornament back and went to sit beside his wife. "I wish I did," he said quietly.

"I know," Pilar said, giving him a sad smile. "I'm going to finish with lunch, I won't be long."

Pilar returned to the kitchen, mainly to compose herself, but she checked the food on the stove. The pasta was nearly ready and the pesto sauce looked and smelled delicious. She heated a loaf of French bread and then realized she needed a serving bowl for the linguini, so she grabbed a step stool to reach the top cabinet and searched her cupboards. Just as she grabbed a bowl for the pasta, the phone rang and then the pasta started to boil over. She jumped down from the stool, somehow managed to put the bowl down without breaking it, and grabbed the phone, but the caller had hung up. She then rushed to the stove, and quickly shut off the burner. Yet she still managed to rub her forearm against the hot stock-pot with the boiling linguini.

She screamed, "Damn it! How can I be so stupid?!" She quickly moved her arm out of the way, but Duncan, Margaret and Liam rushed in. Her forearm was severely burned. Duncan rushed to her as if he was worried and she rolled her eyes at him.

"That burn looks terrible," Margaret, who had finished her first year of medical training, said. "I'll bet it's a third degree burn."

"It's not bad, I'll run some cold water over it-- it be fine," Pilar said, trying to push the girl away.

"No, you have to take care of it," Margaret insisted.

"I'll find something to treat it," Liam said to his young wife, as he left the kitchen. He rushed off to the bathroom to look for a first-aid kit or something.

"Duncan and I can take care of it. Go find Liam-- he took off in a hurry," Pilar said to Margaret.

There was no more pain and Pilar felt it starting to heal. Soon, there would be no evidence she'd burned her arm and she didn't want either Liam or Margaret to see that.

"Okay," Margaret said hesitantly.

"Looks like you're in trouble," Duncan said, after the young woman left the room. He started looking for something to wrap her arm up in to hide the lack of a wound on her forearm.

"It would figure the kid I raised the first 10 years of his life would marry someone studying to be a doctor," she said, shaking away the last of the pain in her arm.

"Yeah." Duncan started cutting up a white flour-sack dish towel for a make-shift bandage.

She looked at him and managed a slight smile. Her arm had healed.

"Wrap this around it," Duncan laughed. "I knew I should have finished doing the cooking."

<*>

Margaret dashed up the stairs looking for Liam. The flat was bigger than she thought and she kept ending up in the wrong room. Finally, she saw the bathroom light on at the end of the hall and sighed as she went inside.

"What's taking so long?" Margaret asked, finding Liam in a state of bewilderment.

He'd been searching frantically through the bathroom looking for something to treat Pilar's burn. He'd gone through her medicine chest and found nothing.

"Did you find her first-aid kit?" Margaret asked.

"No. I can't find anything."

"Liam, you've got to be kidding, surely she has bandages and some sort of ointments."

Margaret opened the cabinet completely surprised to see nothing in it but some makeup, perfume, toothpaste and a pair of scissors. She went through the drawers and didn't find anything used for medical emergencies. There was no aspirin, cold or cough medication, no vitamins, no rubbing alcohol and no ointments or bandages.

Surely Pilar had to keep something handy, Margaret thought, deciding to look in her bedroom. She checked her bedside table and in the drawer found a box of tissue, some hand cream, a few photographs, the remote control to the television and several old books.

"This is weird," she remarked.

"Maybe she keeps that kind of stuff in the kitchen," Liam suggested.

"She doesn't even have condoms in here," Margaret was sitting on the edge of the bed looking through an old book. It was an old leather bound original edition of _Much Ado About Nothing_. There was some writing in the inside cover which Margaret read to herself.

*Pilar, I love you. I always will, and you know how much I love to argue with you, but I can't take it anymore. If we have one more argument I may do something I may regret, and I know it's better to leave before one of us loses our head. Thanks for meeting me on the island, it meant a lot to me-- maybe we'll do it again. Love always, Archie.*

"What are you doing going through her drawer?" Liam asked, sitting beside her and looked through the pictures. Again these were people and places he'd never seen before. He tossed them back into the drawer, then he took the book from Margaret's hand and shut the drawer.

"It's just weird, Liam, that's all."

<*>

Duncan was sitting on the floor next to Pilar. He was wrapping the so-called bandage on her forearm and laughing at her when the kids returned.

"We're back, we didn't find any bandages... " Margaret said, "not even aspirin."

"It's okay. Duncan took care of it. I'll be all right," Pilar said.

Margaret was still concerned. "Maybe I should look at that burn," she offered.

"No, it's going to be fine. It will heal sooner than you think," Pilar said lightly and quickly changed the subject. "Why don't we eat and then we can go out and have some fun."

"Okay," Liam said hesitantly. "But you really should let Maggie get a look at it."

Pilar nodded and then said she'd be all right. "Go relax, lunch will be ready soon. Duncan will help me get it ready."

Margaret was certain Pilar was hiding something, but she wasn't going to pry. Feeling out of place, Margaret and Liam went to the dining room and waited for the others.

"I can't believe you don't have any aspirin in your bathroom?" Duncan whispered, after the kids left the kitchen.

"I've been in London over a year, and I haven't had a mortal lover in 17 years. Why do I need aspirin?" she asked. "Do you happen to have all those goodies in your bathroom?"

"Usually," he muttered, "at least I have bandages."

"Well, I'll pick up some on my next trip to the pharmacy when I pick up my birth control pills," she said flippantly.

He laughed, thinking, if only our lives could be so normal.

Duncan was finished with the bandage and helped her up off the floor. "Funny, but you're going to have to walk around with your arm bandaged while they're here."

"I know."

After all was said and done, lunch turned out wonderfully. Liam was thawing and was actually starting to open up to Pilar.

She reminded him of things they did when he was little-- the camping trips, the Christmases they spent together and the traveling they did when Patrick was sick. She taught him to speak Spanish and he was learning Catalan while they were in Barcelona, but then Patrick died and Pilar left him. Then they lapsed into awkward silence.

She would always feel guilty for leaving Liam.

He would never forget how he felt that day. He lost his father and then he lost his mother... it was the most pain he'd ever felt.

<*><*><*><*><*>

Translation: <> A shortbread-like cookie, made with anise, topped with cinnamon sugar. Popular during the holidays and other festive occasions.

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Part Three

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They had eaten a hearty lunch, they had talked about the past, but there tension lingered in the air. Pilar looked at Duncan, who squeezed her hand for moral support. "Okay, I don't like this," she started, "Liam, ask me what you want to know, right now. Let's end all this awkward silence. If we're going to get past it, we need to talk about it."

"You're very direct," Margaret said.

"She is. And she's right, we need to talk. You'll tell me the truth?" Liam asked.

"Yes," she said. As much of it as I can, Pilar thought to herself.

"I don't understand any of this, Pilar, why now? Why didn't you come back?"

"Your father asked me to stay away from you," she said, knowing he'd heard that before.

"I know about the promise you made him, but I don't understand why you made such a promise."

"He said I wasn't your mother and that I had no right to take you away from your grandparents. He asked me to leave you in Ireland. I loved your father with all my heart, but I couldn't break my word to him, so I honored his wishes."

"You vanished. I thought you didn't love me anymore."

"I never stopped loving you. I made sure you had a good life."

"I know about the money. My grandmother told me you paid for my education. That they were grateful for all you did, but why didn't you see me every now and then?"

"Liam, I saw you, it was just from afar. I saw your first school play, I wanted to go to your wedding, but I couldn't be there. Liam, I always knew what you were doing and how you were. I just couldn't see you. I can't expect you to understand, but it hurt me too deeply to see you. I loved your father, and all we had together. Giving you up was just as painful as when your father died. I always wanted to be your mother," she said, wondering if she should tell him that she was going to adopt him.

Pilar was crying. Liam was upset too. And they sat and stared at each other.

"I told everyone you were my mother. How I wished you were. I don't remember her at all, then my father died, and you left me."

"I know, Liam. In retrospect, I should have never honored your father's wishes, but I think you had a good life. The thing is, I want to be part of your life now, will you let me?"

"I want to. But I still don't think I'm ready," he said, managing a weak smile. "Perhaps in time."

"That's good enough, for now," Pilar said, smiling back.

Duncan opened another bottle of wine-- something special Pilar had been saving. In the meantime, she brought over a big package, wrapped in gold foil paper, with lots of ribbons and bows. She gave it to Liam and smiled at Margaret.

He hesitated to take it at first. He didn't want to hurt her any more, but he wasn't sure if he wanted a gift.

"It's a wedding present. I know it's a little late, but I want you both to have it."

Margaret ripped open the package and Liam helped his young wife open the box and pull away the tissue paper. Margaret gasped when she saw the candle sticks.

Liam remembered seeing them as a child. He hadn't been allowed to touch them, Liam recalled. His father had told him when he was little, he would tarnish the silver with his finger prints. And now seeing the candle sticks in his wife's hands, Liam began to cry. He looked at Pilar and tried to hold back the emotion he was feeling.

"Why give these to us?"

"Every married couple needs some candle sticks for quiet, romantic dinners," Pilar said, thinking of Patrick. She kept a candle burning in his room every night while he was dying.

An old friend had made them for her long ago and she'd always cherished them. She also remembered how much Liam loved them when he was little, and Pilar couldn't think of anyone who deserved these candlesticks more than Liam.

"But these are so old," he protested, "they mean so much to you."

"So do you. One day you will know just how much. And I hope that day you'll understand why I left you." She wiped away a tear that was forming. "Now please excuse me."

Pilar left Liam and Margaret holding the antique, silver candle sticks and went into the bedroom to compose herself. She didn't like showing emotion. She thought after 538 years she would know how to control it, but she couldn't.

<*>

Duncan left them alone while he went to look in on Pilar. She was sitting on the edge of her bed clutching a pillow, sobbing. Duncan sat beside her, and put his arm around her. "You know, it's going to work out," he said.

"He's a good kid, isn't he?" Pilar asked, wiping her tears away, then smiled at Duncan.

Duncan didn't reply. Again, he was lost in his own thoughts-- Richie always managed to invade his mind.

Earlier that day, Pilar noticed he looked a bit sullen, and she hoped one day he would tell her what was troubling him, he always did.

"Who is?" he asked a few minutes later.

"MacLeod-- where are you?"

"Thinking about Richie," he said. "And yes, Liam is a good kid."

"Do you think he'll forgive me?"

Duncan asked the very same question to himself regarding Richie-- could he forgive him?

"I hope so," Duncan said, kissing her cheek softly.

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Early the next morning Pilar woke up hopeful that Liam was going to forgive her. She was going to meet Duncan for an early morning run, they would probably work out a bit and then she'd meet Liam and Margaret for lunch at their hotel.

Again, Pilar thought Duncan was acting strange. He was distant and when they were working out, she managed to disarm him several times and knocked him down a few more. She hadn't spent the last year training so hard that she could beat Duncan MacLeod with one simple move. Something was on his mind and he wasn't ready to tell her about it.

"I guess you're not in the mood to knock me on my butt today," she said. "Why don't we call it a morning?"

He looked up at her and laughed. He realized he hadn't been good company that morning. Duncan raised his hand for her to help him up and said that he wasn't into working out lately.

"Well, go back to your hotel, shower, and I'll pick you up for lunch in two hours."

"I'm not up for lunch today," he said.

"Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod is moody," she said, in a very bad Scottish burr. "I think you need to come to lunch with me and the kids, and I'll do everything I can to cheer you up."

Duncan laughed. Pilar knew him pretty well. "So, you think you're the person who can cheer me up?"

Pilar shook her head, "You know, I'm here if there is anything you need to talk about?"

Duncan nodded. He knew she'd listen to him if he wanted to talk. He smiled at Pilar, grateful that she was such a good friend to him.

He had a lot of good friends. He really hadn't said much to Methos and he was the one who saved his life. He was torn up by his guilt and he couldn't face it yet. When he told Warren that he would have to live with his guilt for killing his student, he also meant that he'd have to live with himself after the Dark Quickening and what'd he'd done. He would feel guilty the rest of his life. He beat up the sailor and slept with his wife, he killed his friend, Sean Burns, and he nearly killed Richie-- who'd been more than just a friend to him. Sometimes he thought of Richie as a son and he was so ashamed of what he'd done.

Of all the people to talk about this to, he figured he would talk to Methos, but he still hadn't sought his advice. They continued their friendship as if nothing really happened. He'd talked to Amanda about it, but he really didn't tell her much either-- just bits and pieces really. Maybe he could tell Pilar what happened, she was a good listener and she'd be objective.

"There is, but I'm not ready to talk about it yet."

"Okay," she said, knowing that what ever was bothering him, he would tell her-- so for now, she wouldn't pry.

Duncan smiled and they parted company.

"Duncan," Pilar called as he walked away. "I'll pick you up for lunch in two hours."

"Actually, let's skip lunch, and I'll pick you and the kids up for the auction this afternoon."

"Okay, then I'll see you later," she said, walking away. "I'll call the kids when I get home."

Duncan figured Pilar would like to go with him and so he suggested they go to the estate sale and auction instead. A few months earlier, he received a catalog for a large estate sale. There was also going to be an auction of antique weapons, and other items, and that was what interested him. He saw a particular sword in the catalog he wanted-- it had belonged to his friend, Segur. After Martin Hyde killed him, he must have taken Segur's sword because Duncan never found it. Now, he had to have it and he would pay any price for it.

Neither Liam nor Margaret had ever been to an estate sale or an auction and they were enjoying themselves that day. They lingered behind Pilar and Duncan and watched them look at antiques.

Both Pilar and Duncan seemed to be mesmerized by everything they saw. "I had a music box like this," Pilar said, carefully handling the old wooden box. She gently raised the lid so it would play the tune.

"You did huh?" Duncan said.

"Amanda gave me one for my birthday a long time ago, but it got stolen from my house in Spain after..." she quickly stopped herself from finishing her thought. She couldn't say after the civil war-- they wouldn't understand that she'd lived through the Spanish Civil War or any war for that matter.

"After what?" Liam asked.

"I moved to America and met your father," she added.

Meanwhile, Margaret had wandered off and Liam followed her into the other room, leaving Pilar and Duncan alone. Pilar put the music box down and said she'd think about buying it. She went with Duncan into the auction area and looked through the items on display. He immediately sought out the sword he wanted to buy; Pilar found herself caught up in a display of medieval weapons.

"Think the kids would think it would be odd for me to spend several thousand dollars on a dagger?" she asked Duncan, holding up a particularly beautiful dagger. It was made especially for a woman, it had a floral design on the handle.

Duncan walked to her and grinned. "Perhaps," he said. "You can always tell them the truth."

"One day I will have to. But for now, I want to keep what I am a secret."

"It's nice," he said, taking the dagger out of her hands to examine it. Then he gave it back to her. "Bid for it, if you want it."

"It's not like I need one," she muttered and put the dagger back on its display and went back into the main room. Liam and Margaret were hunched together, in the middle of an argument. Pilar decided to stay away. She went back to where she'd seen the music box and since it wasn't part of the auction, she decided to buy it. It was at least two hundred years old, in perfect condition and she did miss the one that got stolen.

Liam strode over to her while she was paying for the music box. She pulled out a credit card and waited for her purchase. She noticed seemed upset. It was obvious he'd gotten into a fight with Margaret.

"So, what's wrong? I've seen that look before," she said.

"I told her we couldn't afford a bracelet she saw in the other room," he said. "She got upset and said we had the money in savings. But I told her it was for our future."

Under other circumstances, Pilar would have offered to give Liam the money for the bracelet, but she didn't think he'd take it, even if she offered. She sighed. The clerk brought over her package and credit card.

"That bracelet could be an investment for your future," Pilar said. "I'm not telling you to buy it for her, but there are worse things you could spend that kind of money on."

"True," he said, as he walked away.

<*>

Duncan was in a mood to celebrate after he bought Segur's sword and he offered to take all of them out to dinner. There was a restaurant across the street from the hotel where Liam and Margaret were staying and they decided to eat there. It was an unusually warm evening for London, especially in the early spring, so they decided to sit on the patio. The host looked at them like they were a bit crazy, but he sat them outside anyway. It was partially enclosed and they had the area to themselves.

Duncan put the sword case down on a chair beside him, told the waiter to bring a bottle of champagne to the table.

"I still can't believe you paid so much for that sword Duncan," Margaret said.

"It must really be worth it," Liam chimed in.

"It is," Duncan said, thinking about Segur. Of course, he really couldn't tell Liam or Margaret why the sword was worth so much to him.

Pilar knew, and she was happy Duncan had reclaimed something of Segur's, it was like having a part of him.

"May I look at it?" Liam asked, curious to see what was worth so much money.

Duncan nodded at Pilar, as if he was asking her permission to let Liam handle the sword. She shook her head, watching him carefully pull the sword out of its case and hand it to Liam. Duncan left it in his sheath, thinking it was still very sharp.

Pilar looked at Duncan strangely. Seeing Liam handle a sword made her uncomfortable.

"What are you going to do with it, Duncan?" Margaret asked. "Will you sell it?"

"No. I'm not sure what I'll do with it," Duncan told her, reaching for Pilar's hand under the table. "I have a collection at my home in the States."

Liam was mesmerized by the sword. "I can't imagine fencing with a weapon like this," he said.

"This isn't the sort of weapon used for fencing," Duncan remarked.

"I wonder what kind of battles this sword has seen," Liam said, handing the sword back to Duncan. He was fascinated by it and noticed Pilar had detached herself from the conversation.

"It's hard to say. I'm sure it's had an interesting history." Duncan replied.

"I used to fence at university," Liam said, matter of factly.

"Really?" Pilar perked up. "Duncan is an excellent swordsman, maybe one day you could practice together."

Duncan smirked at the irony of Pilar's words.

"Maybe," Liam said. "Would you mind?"

"Uh...no," Duncan said, just as the waiter brought over their drinks. He didn't say anything else.

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Part Four

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Dinner was uneventful, but it had been a wonderful day. Pilar felt certain that Liam would let her back into his life and that was all that really mattered. She sat back quietly and watched him. She still felt guilty for breaking her promise to him and leaving him with his grandparents, but she knew he had a good life.

"If we have children one day-- Maggie wants dozens, you will be their grandmother, right?" Liam asked, obviously excited about his future and the prospect of having Pilar in his life again.

"Of course," Pilar responded.

Duncan smiled at her. Just that one moment of time was all she needed. Liam finally smiled and that brought peace to her.

She touched Liam's hand and said that would be wonderful for her.

"Liam says all I talk about is children." Margaret said, as she kissed him softly on the cheek.

"It's true. I thought you wanted to be doctor first before we had children," Liam said.

"Well, I don't see why I can't do both, right Pilar?"

"Margaret, you can do what ever you want," Pilar said, trying to look excited for Maggie's sake.

"I want to believe that, and maybe it will happen," Margaret replied. "Did you ever want to have a child of your own?"

Pilar shrugged before she answered. "Well, I had Liam for almost 10 years, but motherhood is not something meant for me," Pilar said sadly.

"Margaret, you're shivering," Duncan observed, deciding it was best to change the subject.

"I'll go to the hotel to get you a sweater." Liam stood up, "I'll be right back."

"While you're gone, I'll take care of the bill," Duncan said.

"Well in the meantime, Pilar and I will finish talking about babies," Margaret said. "Right Pilar?"

"Sure. We'll talk about babies," Pilar replied, not overly excited by the discussion topic, but happy to be sharing in Margaret's dreams.

Duncan returned to the table several minutes later. "Are you ladies ready to go?"

"Yes," Margaret said, reaching for her backpack.

Pilar nodded. "Let's wait for Liam in front of the restaurant," she suggested.

"Fine. We'll go to the theater when he gets back," Duncan replied.

Pilar collected her leather bag and handed Duncan the sword. Margaret grabbed Pilar's arm and walked out of the restaurant thinking pleasant thoughts-- this trip was just the beginning of a lifetime of happiness.

"Here he comes," Margaret's eyes lit up as she saw her beloved standing in the hotel doorway.

And then all hell broke loose. Just as Liam walked out of the building-- it exploded. Rubble and debris flew everywhere.

Margaret screamed... Duncan pulled her down to the ground and Pilar looked to see Liam thrown across the street.

"Liam!" someone yelled.

Duncan and Pilar tried to protect Margaret from the fallout. Pilar threw her body across Margaret and remembered the young woman's screams and then Pilar finally blacked out and died.

<*>

It was a disaster-- wreckage, strewn everywhere, the buildings had crumbled to the ground and the hotel was nothing but rubble. Duncan looked to see both Pilar and Margaret were down, so he first moved them away from the street and then he ran to check on the wounded.

When Pilar looked up after reviving, she saw so many bodies laying about in the street. When she saw Margaret unconscious and barely breathing, Pilar panicked. Margaret was badly hurt and Pilar worried that that she wouldn't make it. "We need help over here!" Pilar called, cradling Margaret in her arms.

The police had started to arrive, and look for survivors, which there had been a few and then stumbled upon Pilar with Margaret. Pilar looked terrible, she had cuts and bruises on her arms and face, but she didn't seem too critical. Margaret, on the other hand was barely clinging to life.

"Miss, you should seek treatment, that wound looks pretty severe," the young officer said to Pilar, noticing the laceration across her forehead.

"It's fine. I'll survive," she said adamantly. "Get someone over here to take care of her."

Two medics arrived to tend to Margaret. They checked her pulse, covered her with a blanket and carefully put her on a stretcher. Margaret hadn't regained consciousness and Pilar feared she would die if they didn't rush her to a hospital. This couldn't be happening, she thought. Not now when things were just starting to fall into place.

Once Margaret was safely on her way to the hospital, Pilar realized she did not know what happened to Liam. She grabbed the sword laying on the ground and made her way through the rubble as she tried to find Duncan and Liam.

Duncan had found Liam across the street and had taken him to an alley behind the theater, which was directly across from the hotel.

Pilar felt a strong presence. She ran across the street and saw Duncan with Liam.

<<"Ay, Dios Mio>>!" she cried as went to Duncan and saw that her son was dead. "Oh, Liam... not now! No, this can't be happening!"

"We have to get him out of here, Pilar."

They took Liam's body out of the public's eye. They didn't want to have to explain why they were taking a dead body away from the scene of the explosion.

They carried Liam through the alley and stopped behind an old department store. Pilar took off Liam's wedding ring and the other jewelry he was wearing, she also grabbed his passport and wallet out of his jacket before he revived. She would need his personal belongings if she was going to prove to Margaret and his family that he was dead-- but she had to leave something behind, so she tossed the wallet near a smoldering fire.

Liam started to gasp for air and then felt an overwhelming sensation-- his head throbbed in a way it never had before. He screamed from the pain and terror of what happened.

Duncan and Pilar looked at each other and then Liam. Pilar had known this day would come, she always did, but she wasn't going to tell him what lie ahead.

<*><*><*><*><*>

Northern California. Spring, 1971.

Pilar thought Patrick wasn't going to show up for dinner that night-- he was more than an hour late. It didn't occur to her that he could be lost. He'd never been to her home, they always met in town. So while Pilar waited, she chilled the salad, put the food to warm and blew out the candles. She poured herself a glass of wine and sat on the front porch of her house, waiting. It was a private place to hide away, and that's what she wanted: a quiet life, as far away from The Game as possible. Life here seemed idyllic. Her dog, Dulcinea, sat beside her and slept while she watched for Patrick's car.

She knew that she could fall in love with Patrick, but his having a child complicated things, loving a mortal was hard enough, especially when she had to protect him from The Game-- would she be able to protect him and the child from her world? She wasn't used to being around children and suddenly the thought of meeting a small child terrified her. She had no idea what to expect, but if she was going to get involved with Patrick, that meant getting to know his child.

"He's not going to come," she said to herself as it was starting to get dark. She waited a few more minutes before deciding to call it a night. She finished the last of her wine and stood up to head indoors, when she heard a car heading down her long-windy driveway. Then she saw headlights and started walking toward the VW Bug.

"Sorry we're late, we got lost," Patrick said, stepping out of the car. "I took the wrong turn off and ended up heading toward San Francisco instead of your place."

"Sorry, I probably gave you bad directions," Pilar said, smiling at the handsome young man standing before her.

Patrick walked over to open the passenger door to get his son. The boy was groggy because he had slept on the ride in from town. He yawned and rubbed his eyes. He looked up at his father and then stared at the woman, who was staring back at him.

Pilar looked into the boy's hazel eyes and smiled. He was no more than two years old, and was an adorable child even though his shaggy blond hair needed to be combed, and his clothes were rumpled. It was a shame to wake him, Pilar thought. But that wasn't what struck her at first-- even at his young age, she felt his latent immortality and from the minute she saw him she knew what was destined to be. He was just a little boy and would have no idea what he was until the day came when he died his first death and woke up immortal.

"Liam," Patrick called. "Say hi to my friend, Pilar."

The little boy remained silent and hid behind his father's leg. Patrick sighed, then whispered to the child, "Why are you being so shy? You're never shy."

Pilar knelt down and smiled at the boy. "Hi Liam. It's nice to meet you," she said, offering her hand. "I'm sure we're going to be good friends."

<*><*><*><*><*>

Pilar stared into Liam's hazel eyes. Every time she looked at him, she still saw the little boy he once was and it was hard to believe the little boy was a grown man. Was he ready to face this fate?

Liam called out for Margaret but she wasn't nearby. He didn't know where he was. What happened? He wanted his wife. "Maggie!" he cried.

"Margaret was taken to the hospital; she'll be all right," Pilar said.

"Then I have to be with her." He started to regain his composure and was going to try to find his wife, but he couldn't understand why was Pilar holding him back? He needed to be with his wife.

"You can't," Duncan said.

They started to walk back to the scene of the explosion. They were going to go back to Pilar's flat.

"Margaret, I can't just leave her there."

Liam started to run back to the scene again, but Duncan held him off for a few seconds. "She's on her way to the hospital. Pilar and I won't let anything happen to her," Duncan promised.

"She'll be fine. I'll take care of her," Pilar added, taking his hand in hers.

But, Liam bolted as soon as he could break free of Pilar's grasp. He ran to the restaurant where they had been sitting moments earlier, and Margaret was gone. It was nothing but rubble. He didn't know what had happened or why it was possible for him to be alive. He looked at his arms and legs and noticed the wounds on his body were closing up and healing before his eyes.

"He's dead Pilar. He can't go back." Duncan said. "You've got to make him understand that now."

Pilar ran to Liam, grabbed his hand and asked him to come with her and Duncan. She assured him that Margaret would be okay. "This isn't the time to explain it, we should find a quiet place where we can talk."

"Okay," Liam said quietly. Confused, he just followed Pilar and Duncan. Surely they knew what happened.

Duncan helped Pilar get Liam safely away from the site of the explosion.

"What's wrong with me?" Liam asked, realizing he had died and yet, he was still a living, breathing and feeling being. "What happened to me?" He was covered with dried blood, his shirt was tattered but there were no wounds, no lacerations, no cuts-- nothing.

"You're fine," Duncan said. "We need to talk."

"But didn't I die?" He looked at Pilar. Despite the blood on her clothes-- her wounds had healed, too. And Duncan, it was the same for him.

"Yes, you did," Pilar said.

Duncan led them away quietly, careful to avoid the police, reporters and other busy-bodies lurking around at the scene.

Liam couldn't grasp any of this, and he was going to be so angry and upset for quite a while yet. He was lucky, he wasn't alone when it happened to him. Both Pilar and Duncan had been. There was no one to help them after they died their first deaths.

"But I have to be with Margaret," Liam said, looking helplessly at Pilar and Duncan.

Pilar sighed. In essence, she had to tell him he was dead and unable to return to his other world.

"I have to be with her," Liam repeated.

"You can't. She saw you die. You're dead to her and you must leave her," Pilar said bluntly. "They are going to mourn your death. But Liam, you will never die, you won't get old, you won't ever be who you were. You are immortal. It's who you are now. And you have to accept you cannot be what you were. You're life as a mortal-human being is over."

"Immortal? What are you talking about?"

"Yes, Liam-- you are immortal. Now we must go. I promise I will tell you everything you want to know."

Liam looked at Duncan. Surely, he didn't believe this too? Pilar was crazy. She had to be.

"Come Liam, it's best if we discuss this at Pilar's," Duncan said, putting his hand on Liam's shoulder.

Liam nodded and agreed to go, even though he did not understand any of this.

<*>

When they got back to the flat, Pilar rummaged through one of her drawers and pulled out some sweats for Liam to wear. She left them in the bathroom so he could change later.

She met Liam in the hallway and held him while he cried. Stunned, he didn't know what to do or say. All he could do was cry. Finally, he pulled out of Pilar's embrace and walked outside onto the balcony.

Pilar wanted to reach out to him and promise him that it would be okay, but she couldn't do that. His life would be different and there was nothing she could do to change his fate. "Liam, do you want to talk about it?" Pilar asked, following him outside.

"No. I want to be alone," he muttered, staring into the night sky.

Pilar wrapped her arms around him and kissed him tenderly on the cheek before she left him. "We'll talk later then."

She shuffled into the living room, head hung low, understanding the pain Liam felt, which would only get worse, she thought. Pilar looked at Duncan, grateful he'd been with her that night.

"I'm going to see how Margaret is doing. Don't leave him, we'll have a long talk when I get back," she told Duncan, as she picked up her keys and started to walk out the door.

"I'm sure we will. You're going to tell her he's dead aren't you," Duncan said, somberly.

"Duncan, you know I have to," Pilar said.

After Pilar left Duncan flipped on the television wondering what the news would say and if anyone had claimed responsibility for it yet. "No word yet," he said to himself and sighed thinking about all the pain and heartache he'd seen in his life. This was just another tragedy, this was another tragedy that took human lives... another cause-- another reason to kill and it didn't matter who was to blame.

<*>

A while later, Liam went upstairs to clean up. He stared at himself in the bathroom mirror looking for wounds that had healed up long ago. The blood had dried and he didn't know why he was alive. He looked down at his hand to twist his wedding band like he always did when he was nervous or thinking of Margaret-- it was gone.

He screamed out her name, over and over, the pain was just too difficult to bear. "Maggie..." he muttered, unable to comprehend any of this.

Finally, Liam showered and washed away the blood. He couldn't believe that merely an hour or so ago, they were together-- happy and laughing and now he didn't know what was going on. Pilar said Margaret saw him die... he had to let her know he wasn't dead.

Suddenly his head began pounding... he couldn't take the pressure. He grasped it and stumbled down the stairs.

<*><*><*><*><*>

Translation: <> Spanish-- Oh my God.

<*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*>

Part Five

<*><*><*><*><*>

Pilar opened the door and looked at Duncan sitting at the kitchen table, nursing a drink. The TV was on in the living room and he had listened to the news reports while he waited for Liam to come downstairs.

Liam stood at the end of the hall, wearing the sweat clothes Pilar left for him. "My head hurts. I've never had a headache like this," he said.

"It's me, Liam," she said.

Duncan went to the liquor cabinet and poured out three strong drinks. It was time to tell Liam the truth of what he was and what it meant to be immortal.

Liam sat down in a chair by the fireplace. Still overwhelmed by the constant throbbing in his head he took the drink Duncan handed him and quickly took a sip.

"We all feel this headache," Pilar said, taking her drink from Duncan. "It's how you recognize another Immortal. You get used to it."

"This makes no sense. I've never felt this way before, not even when we met," he looked at Duncan, "I couldn't feel you like I can now. And Pilar, you were there with me most of my childhood, and you never felt like this."

"Because you were still living your mortal life. You couldn't know this would happen to you," Pilar said as simply as possible.

"You sensed me. Just like you'll sense other Immortals," Pilar told him, taking his hand and guiding him to a chair. "You felt us earlier tonight, but you were too overwhelmed by everything else to really notice it."

"You said I'm immortal, tell me why?

He looked first at Pilar and then at Duncan realizing he was like them, though he didn't know what he was or what they were. He didn't think he could understand it. Before she left to see Margaret earlier that night, she said he was immortal but it wasn't possible. Now she was talking about other Immortals-- feeling them and getting used to all this. This was ludicrous.

"We don't really know why," Duncan said, "or how. But it's true, we're all immortal."

"It's hard to explain, but that's just a small part of what we are," she said, wondering where to begin.

It was always difficult telling a new Immortal what he or she was. Though, Pilar had done it many times, she was never sure what to say. How was she going to make him understand his mortal life was over, but on the other hand, his life was just beginning? At the scene of the bombing, she told him he was dead... but did he really understand what she meant?

"No one knows why-- not really. There are many Immortals in the world. Many have lived for thousands of years. I was born in 1458 just outside of Barcelona, Spain. I've lived 538 years. If you're lucky, you can live as long as I have, if not longer."

"What does luck have to do with it?" he asked, looking at both of them. Pilar was over 500 years old... it seemed impossible.

"Liam, you will never grow old, you can't be killed..." Pilar's voice trailed off.

"Unless your head is taken from your body," Duncan finished Pilar's sentence.

Liam looked at them both like they were crazy. He was astonished by all this.

"That is the price for our immortality," Pilar added.

"Wait, you're saying I'll live forever but only if I keep my head. That's ludicrous. How do I lose my head?"

"By the deadly stroke of another Immortal's sword," Duncan said somberly.

"What? Are you kidding?"

"No. You, like all Immortals, are part of the Game. It's a game of survival. That pressure you feel alerts you to the presence of another Immortal-- who may want to challenge you to fight to the death," Duncan started.

Liam reached for his drink and took another swallow. Pilar picked up the bottle and poured him another drink. "Are there are others?" Liam asked curiously.

"Many," Pilar said.

Duncan continued to tell Liam about the Gathering, fighting for survival and the power of the Quickening. He also told him about Holy Ground, the only place where an Immortal could be safe-- ideally anyway.

Seeing the fear on his face, Pilar reached for Liam's hand. "You will be okay. I won't let anything happen to you but..." Pilar paused, walking over to get her sword, "you'll have to learn to use a sword."

Pilar stopping talking. This was so hard for her. Again Duncan finished her thought, "... you need the sword to kill another Immortal for the Quickening."

Liam's eyes opened wide with terror, as she put her sword in his hands.

"What? Quickening?" Liam was confused. "It's so unreal," Liam said, then looked at Pilar. "Is that why I found a sword under your bed when I was a kid?"

He found her sword? She was stunned. She had always kept it hidden. She wasn't comfortable keeping her sword in a place where a small child could find it. Pilar nodded her head.

"I'll teach you all that I can to get you ready for the Game," Pilar said.

"You will need to fight and I don't mean like fencing at university," Duncan said.

"And you're saying that in order to live, I have to kill?"

"Not always, Liam. Sometimes it doesn't have to be that way. I have friendships that have lasted a lifetime and it can be like that for you," Duncan said to him, trying to tell him some positive aspects of immortality.

"But you have to give up your mortal life. You cannot return to Dublin. You have to let Margaret go. She, and the others, must think you're dead."

"Pilar, why do I have to live like this? It's not right to kill," Liam said, terrified of all that he just learned.

"You must be able to do it-- if you want to live. One day, you will meet another Immortal who will want your head, and you will have to fight-- confront your fears, or you will die," Pilar said plainly-- simply.

Dumbfounded, Liam looked at Pilar as if this was an evil dream and that he would never wake again. At that moment, she couldn't show him any of the positive aspects of immortality, and he wasn't willing to accept any of it.

"But, it's ludicrous," he continued.

"It is a fact of our life, our existence-- simply, our survival." Duncan said.

Liam didn't want to hear anymore. None of this could be real. This was just a big mistake.

"I need to be alone," Liam said, looking at Pilar and Duncan.

"Okay." Pilar smiled, hoping he would smile back but he didn't.

<*>

That was so comforting, Liam thought sarcastically as he walked out of the living room. He wanted to see his wife, let her know he was okay and that things between them would be fine. They'd go home to Dublin, have a life together and things would be all right-- when he woke up from this nightmare.

That was what it was-- just a horrible nightmare.

Duncan and Pilar were sitting downstairs quietly. Liam sat at the top of the stairs watching them. They were immortal-- he was immortal and somehow he knew this wasn't a nightmare. His life had changed forever and he wasn't sure he could handle it.

He looked at Pilar, even though he wanted to he hadn't completely forgiven her-- and now she was all he had.

Duncan wrapped his arms around Pilar. She felt sad-- for Liam and all that he would lose. She didn't want to tell Margaret her young husband was dead. She didn't want to break the young girl's heart, but she had to. Liam that day and he could never return to that life. Pilar knew the pain he was feeling but it was better. He would have to protect and guard his immortality.

"He'll be all right, won't he?" Pilar looked at Duncan.

He shrugged not knowing the answer to her question. Suddenly he was lost in his thoughts and wasn't thinking about Liam or Pilar, but Richie. Would Richie be all right?

"Yes," Duncan finally said.

"Earth to Duncan," Pilar said, interrupting his thoughts. "What is it?"

"It's nothing. Liam's very lucky-- he has you to watch over and guide him. In time, he'll be okay."

"I'd like to believe that-- I really would," she said.

Duncan stood up and started collecting his things. He was going to leave. "I'll be by in the morning and if you need me, I can stay a few extra days."

"You don't have to leave. You can stay here," Pilar offered.

"No. I should get back to my hotel. You should be with Liam tonight. It will be okay," Duncan said. He also wanted to be alone that night. "It's hard to accept, but he will. He's strong and he'll survive."

"I just don't know right now. I'd like to have your faith."

So would I, Duncan thought to himself, as he reached out to hug Pilar one last time before he left.

"I'll see you tomorrow," she told him and kissed him good-bye.

"Yes, I'll see you in the morning. Now, go get some sleep," Duncan told her and then walked away.

"Oh, Liam," Pilar said quietly to herself , wondering how he would survive this.

Pilar picked up and hugged a pillow as she sat down on the sofa. She knew this day would come but she wished that she and Liam had time to repair their relationship before he faced his immortality and was thrown into the Game like the rest of them. As things were now, she wondered if they would be able to find a way back to each other.

<*>

About an hour later, Liam wandered into the living room and smiled at her. "Pilar," he said quietly. "Will I always feel so alone?"

"Come here," she motioned for him to sit down. "I'm not going to lie to you and say that the loneliness and the pain ever go away-- they don't. But you will learn to be strong and you will learn to survive."

"So, I'm supposed to let her believe I'm dead? She's all I have. My life is in Ireland, it's all I know."

"That life ended for you tonight," Pilar said plainly. She needed to make him understand that his mortal life was over. "You cannot go back to Margaret and your family, and you can't return to Ireland for a long time."

Liam stood up and walked to the window. "It's not fair. You can't take it all away from me. I have to go back to them. They have to know."

"They won't understand. What are you going to tell Margaret? She saw you killed for god's sake. Liam, you cannot go back to her because you can't protect yourself and you won't be able to protect her."

"Pilar, you talk about this thing called immortality-- this endless living and in the same breath you talk about losing my head-- dying. You're still alive, obviously you've survived."

"Because I protect myself," she said. "If I told you to pick up a sword, could you fight me off and survive?"

He looked at her and shrugged, "I don't know."

"You couldn't Liam." She wasn't going to demonstrate-- she didn't want to.

"But why do I have to give her up?"

Pilar wished she could tell him that he could be with Margaret. She his wife. But now he dead.

"Did my father know about you?"

"Yes," she said quietly.

"Then I can tell Margaret," Liam said excited.

"No. You must never see her again," Pilar said coldly. "I never should have told your father what I was," she said quietly.

She didn't like to think about those days. It still hurt her.

<*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*>

Part Six

<*><*><*><*><*>

Northern California. 1977

"You don't have one gray hair in that mass of wavy hair, you don't have one wrinkle, and your skin is so perfect," Patrick said one morning, after making passionate love.

"I know. And I see about ten gray hairs here, one here, and a few here," she teased him, smiling. "And would you believe I'm older than you?" Pilar asked.

"Three years, they're not a big deal," he said.

Pilar smiled, knowing otherwise. "You've got a great imagination," she said. "What if I told you something that sounded so extraordinary, and it seemed so unreal, would you give me a chance to prove to you that it's true? You would wait to laugh at me, at least for a little while?"

"You have a big secret, what secret could you be keeping from me?" Patrick asked, wondering what he didn't know about his young wife.

"You could hate me for keeping this from you all these years."

"I could never hate you," he said, kissing her. "Why would you say that? I love you," he said, stroking her check softly and thinking, She is so beautiful.

"Patrick," Pilar said seriously, then took a deep breath, it was time. It was going to be hard to be honest, knowing the truth could hurt him. She didn't tell her mortal lovers often-- it was too hard for them to comprehend. Yet, she worried that one day she wouldn't come back to him and he'd wonder why. She was far from being out of the Game. An Immortal intent on taking her head and her Quickening could find her and possibly use her loved ones to get to her.

Finally, she sat up and wrapped a blanket around her body. She sighed, wondering how to start. "What if I told you that I was really old, super old?

"Oh, so you're not 33?" Patrick sat up beside her, smiled and kissed her softly on her forehead, humoring her.

"No, around 500 years or so," Pilar said seriously.

He grinned. Patrick always enjoyed her stories. On weekend mornings, Liam would crawl into bed with them and they would make up stories. Liam thought hers were better than his da's, but she was retelling her life mostly. So, this didn't seem so unusual.

"That's old... you don't even look a day over 30," he said, looking at her, wondering why she wasn't laughing. Her face tightened up and she looked serious. Suddenly, he worried about her, knowing this couldn't be true-- Pilar couldn't be 500 years old.

I'm being serious," Pilar said. "It's all true, Patrick. I know you think I'm full of it, but it's true. I am immortal. I can't die."

Patrick looked at her incredulously, knowing this couldn't be possible. "Pilar, you really expect me to believe something like this? I may be a bit gullible, but really?"

"I don't expect you to believe me, and even if you did, I wouldn't expect you to understand. I just hit you with something implausible, irrational and how can I expect you to take me seriously?" Pilar asked, looking at him hoping he would believe her words, yet she knew she would have to prove it to him. "But it's true."

"If you can't die, then I'm a jolly little leprechaun," he said flippantly.

"Patrick, I don't want to have to prove it to you by doing something drastic and hideous." She touched his hand.

"Pilar, there is no such thing as someone who can't die. I've read books about vampires and other so-called immortal beings. I've studied mythology. None of it is real."

"I don't know, maybe there are such things, Patrick, I exist. I am alive, maybe it's possible there are other immortal beings, but I'm real."

"You honestly believe this, don't you, Love," he said, touching her face, wishing he could believe her.

"How do you want me to prove it?" asked Pilar with a wide-eyed expression on her face.

"Pilar, be serious. You talk like you're going to kill yourself," he said half-seriously.

"Maybe I am," she said calmly and rationally. She didn't know what to do but she knew he wouldn't believe her without proof. So she would prove it to him. Pilar walked to the armoire and pulled out an old chest, which she always kept locked.

Patrick always wondered what she kept inside of the old chest. He didn't know where she kept the key and he wasn't going to pry it open to satisfy his curiosity, so he left it alone. Pilar grabbed a set of keys and began to unlock the small chest. He watched as she opened it and pulled out a dagger and held it up for him to see. He couldn't believe she kept something like that in their home and he was afraid of what she was going to do next.

She then held the dagger up against her chest, and Patrick looked at Pilar as if she was insane. He didn't think she was emotionally distraught, and she didn't seem depressed. She was fine, but she believed that she was not going to die. Suddenly, he panicked and tried to grab the dagger out of Pilar's hand, but stopped him. "Don't! If you think you're going to kill yourself, you're crazy."

"I won't really die," she insisted. But he will, she told herself as she pierced a dagger into her body to prove that she was immortal. She pulled it out while she was still conscious-- then she gasped, taking one last breath before she

In a panic and quite hysterical, Patrick leaped from the bed and paced the room. He had just witnessed the woman he loved kill herself. He felt her blood on his hands and when he touched her face, he saw that she stopped breathing. She was dead. He did not know what to do.

It took Pilar a few moments to recover, she gasped for her first breath and her eyes shot open. Patrick looked at her, horrified. He didn't know what to do or say. She touched his hand and placed it on her chest. Where she'd plunged the knife the wound had nearly healed. He was mesmerized and terrified at the same time.

"I can't change anything, but this is who I am," she told him, then touched his face.

"You killed yourself with that thing. You weren't breathing, you had no pulse. And now, you're sitting here talking to me. What are you?" he asked, terrified of what he'd just witnessed.

"I'm immortal," she said. "I exist and I don't know why. But, I've lived over 500 years. I've lived many lifetimes and seen many things. And if I'm lucky, I'll live many more."

He pulled away almost in disgust. Yet, he loved her so much. But this was not right, he thought, then said, "This can't be. You're unreal. How can God let someone like you exist?"

Pilar was shaken by Patrick's reaction. "I don't know what God has to do with it," she said, "but I believe that there is one."

Pilar took a deep breath before speaking again, "Patrick, I'm not an evil person. I've been alive for centuries, and I know what you are thinking." She tried to touch him but he pulled away from her again.

"Don't," Patrick said, walking away from her. He went to the window and wouldn't look at her.

"Patrick, look at me! Please try to understand," she said desperately. "All the things that hurt you can hurt me. I bleed, it's human blood, but I heal. I have to live in this world like any other human being. I feel like you do, I think like you do and I love, like you do."

"But you don't die," he muttered as he walked out of the room.

<*><*><*><*><*>

Pilar wiped away her tears and took Liam's hand. "I never should have told your father. As much as I loved him, I should have continued to keep my secret. Shortly after I told him, he got sick. He lived for two years after that, but near the end, the sicker he got the more he hated me."

"Pilar, my da loved you."

"Yes, he did, but he resented my immortality," she paused, "one day she will resent you too."

"No, it wouldn't be that way. Margaret is young, and she'd understand."

"Your father was 31 when he died," she said, reminding him how young his father was when she buried him. "He was just 4 years older than you are now. He couldn't understand and I don't want to see you go through that either."

For Liam it would be the same. It wouldn't matter, one day, Margaret would grow old-- she'd watch him stay young while she grew older and she would never have a brood of children like she wanted. These were things Liam did not understand. He was too young and Pilar knew that he would have to lose her one day. She was trying to spare the heartache now.

"If you tell Margaret, you will put her life in danger. If you choose to live with her, she will get old, she may get sick and she may grow to hate you too. You will have to make up stories and you would have to constantly keep moving on and then you would watch her die."

"I promised to be with her until our dying day," he said as he fought back his tears.

"Liam, you're dead," she reminded him. "To the mortal world you are dead."

"Why?"

"I wish I could tell you," she said and then embraced him. They sat back down on the sofa and she took his hand into hers, "because I don't know why myself."

He started to sob. He rested his head in her lap and she caressed his cheek like she used to when he was a little boy. He felt safe with her while he cried.

All those years he needed a mother and she wasn't there. Now, she was there for him-- she was all he had, but Liam didn't want a mother. He wanted his wife.

<*><*><*><*><*>

Liam was up early the next morning struggling to eat a bowl of cereal, and wasn't thinking of anything but finding his wife when he that damn headache again.

Pilar knew it was Duncan and she didn't come out of her room. Liam opened the door for Duncan clutching his head, wondering if the discomfort of being around other Immortals would ever go away.

"I have fresh biscuits," Duncan announced, setting the bag on the table and looking at Liam. "How are you doing?"

"Fine," Liam grumbled. He didn't look at the biscuits nor did he look at Duncan.

Pilar came out dressed and smiled when she saw Duncan reading the morning paper. She smelled the biscuits and unable to fight off the hunger any longer, grabbed one.

"Thanks for the breakfast," she thanked Duncan.

"I figured you wouldn't cook again," Duncan said, then smiled.

Pilar rolled her eyes. She wandered into the kitchen to grab a plate for the biscuits. Duncan followed her into the kitchen and started to pour himself a cup of coffee. They ended up sitting at the kitchen table, munching on biscuits and drinking coffee.

"How was his first night?" Duncan asked.

"Shaky. I'm worried about him," Pilar said.

Liam had gotten up and was going to take his bowl into the kitchen, but stopped at the doorway, when he realized they were talking about him.

"Would you stay with him today? I have to go into the gallery, make a few calls and then I'm going to see Margaret."

Liam's ears perked up hearing his wife's name.

"You want me to baby-sit this one?"

"Duncan," she lowered her voice to a whisper, "I'm afraid he's going to go to her. You know as well as I do, he can't."

"I know," he said.

Pilar shrugged, "tell me this will get easier."

"I hope so," Duncan responded.

<*>

"She's going to see my wife, isn't she?" Liam asked Duncan after Pilar had left.

"I don't know. Probably."

"So, what's all that about baby-sitting me. I won't do anything stupid," Liam snapped.

"I didn't come to baby-sit you," Duncan announced.

Liam was going to be difficult. He was nothing like Richie. Pilar was going to have her hands full. Then again, when Richie was shot and he knew about Immortals and the Game. Duncan's biggest fear with Richie was that he would die too soon and not have a chance at a normal life. As it was, Richie was still very young when he but Duncan couldn't change Richie's fate-- nor could he change his own.

"Maybe we should start training," Duncan suggested. "It's never too early to start learning to defend your head."

"No. I don't feel up for it today."

Duncan wasn't going to pressure the kid and he was Pilar's responsibility-- not his, but he wanted to help. If Liam said he wasn't ready-- then he wasn't ready. Duncan wondered if Liam would let Pilar get close enough to help him. He was angry and bitter and slowly building up a wall around himself. Duncan feared if Liam didn't let Pilar back into his life, the wall may never come down and they would never find their way back to each other.

After seeing what Pilar was going through with Liam, Duncan knew that he had to reach out to Richie-- he was the one who had to take that step, but he couldn't. He wasn't ready.

The pain and guilt were swallowing him up. He'd been so busy since coming back to Paris that he didn't let himself think about Richie. Amanda was always a great distraction and the circus was fun while it lasted. The last scuffle with the Watchers and the Methuselah's stone allowed him to think of Methos' pain rather than his own. Then it all came crashing back a few weeks ago when he met up with Warren Cochrane. Since spending time with Warren, Duncan couldn't get Richie out of his mind. No one knew the agony welling up inside of him because he couldn't talk about it.

He couldn't excuse his behavior by blaming it entirely on the Dark Quickening but he knew he never would have tried to kill Richie otherwise. He also knew Richie wouldn't come running to him-- even if he was in trouble. Fortunately, Richie was skilled in the Game and he could probably survive on his own. At least that was what Duncan hoped. For all he knew, Richie could be dead.

"Don't think that way, MacLeod," Duncan said quietly to himself as he wandered into the kitchen to pour himself another cup of coffee.

Liam flipped through the paper and picked on the biscuits Duncan had brought. Duncan watched Liam for a few minutes, knowing the boy had yet to realize how drastically his life was going to change. Pilar really loved him-- she felt as strongly about this kid as he did about Richie. Duncan hoped that she wouldn't feel any of the heartache he was feeling at the moment and that she would never do anything to drive away her son.

"Duncan, do you agree with Pilar?" Liam asked.

Duncan looked at Liam curiously. He had been lost in his thoughts and wasn't sure what Liam had asked. "What?"

"Do you think she's right-- you know, making them believe I'm dead."

"She thinks she's right. I know it hurts you, but it is for the better. I was shunned and cast out of my clan. It's a new era, but Liam, we're far from being safe."

"Margaret wouldn't hurt me. She loves me."

"I know she loves you, but there are others far more dangerous than your wife," Duncan said.

"Yeah, I know. People will come-- hunting me down for my head. Without her, my life is worthless and they can have it," he said, walking out of the room.

<*><*><*><*><*>

Pilar sat by Margaret's bedside for most of the afternoon. The doctors told her that Margaret's condition was still critical, but stable. Not exactly comforting words, she thought.

Pilar wasn't exactly comfortable around hospitals and doctors, but she understood what they told her. She held Margaret's hand, told her stories and waited for her to regain consciousness.

There wasn't much Pilar could do for the girl, but wait and watch. She paced around the hospital, talked to the doctors every chance she got and she even went into the chapel to pray. Sitting in a chapel should have given her peace, but it didn't. When she left, she was angry and bitter-- she didn't understand how this could happen.

She went into one of the waiting rooms, sat down on the lumpy couch and watched television by herself. She started watching a comedy on the BBC but fell asleep instead. When she woke up a couple hours later, someone had changed the channel to the world news report on CNN and it kept airing clips of the bombing the night before.

Why did people have to hate so much that they had to kill? Those were questions to which she had no answers. These were human beings that were killed so senselessly and randomly. It was ludicrous. Pilar had seen it so many times before. Feeling the approach of another Immortal, she realized she didn't have time to dwell on those questions or thoughts. She collected her things and found Duncan in the hallway.

"Have you see him?" Duncan said. "I went out to get some lunch, and when I got back, Liam was gone. I assumed he came here."

"No," Pilar scurried to Margaret's room. Duncan followed her, quickening his pace to catch her. If Liam was with his wife, Duncan wanted to be there to smooth things over between Pilar and Liam.

<*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*>

Part Seven.

<*><*><*><*><*>

Liam sat on the chair beside the bed and held Margaret's hand. He clasped an old mother-of-pearl rosary in his other. He silently prayed to God for Margaret's life. He sat quietly hoping not to disturb anyone. He knew he shouldn't be here, he kept hearing Pilar's words over and over in his head-- You're dead to her and you must leave her. But Liam couldn't leave her. She was his wife and he couldn't live without her.

Liam did not know how he could be immortal. There couldn't be such a thing, yet he was. He was something he could not fathom and he didn't understand why. In the last few days, Pilar had told him about living forever and yet having to kill others to survive.

Duncan called it a however, it didn't sound like a game to Liam. A game was something kids played for fun-- enjoyment and then it was over. No one played games about killing-- not really. Sure, when he was a kid he played war, he played cops and robbers and other childhood games involving toy guns and pretend killing. Usually, the other children said, "bang-bang, you're dead" and that was it-- they fell to the ground and waited until the game ended and then they started over. To Liam, that was a game-- it was make-believe, but this immortality was for real. And Duncan said this was about survival-- and solely that.

All of what Pilar and Duncan had told him, started to sink in and it terrified him. He was going to have to kill someone-- chop off another person's head, just so he could stay in the Liam couldn't comprehend it. How could he live that kind of life and in the meantime, could he give up this life?

He softly caressed his young wife's cheek. Margaret stirred briefly. Liam smiled, certain she squeezed his hand, but then her grip loosened. He sat back and watched her. She was so gentle-- so fragile. She was mortal-- he was not, and yet he knew he would lose her. If not then, one day death would take her from him. He clutched the rosary in his hand and thought about the life he would lose.

Pilar felt the young Immortal and dashed into the room. Margaret had not regained consciousness, and Pilar was thankful for that. She grabbed Liam by his arm and the rosary he held got caught on the bed rail and broke. Liam twisted free of her grip and glared at her. He picked up the rosary and placed it on the table beside the bed. Pilar saw the pain in his eyes, but it wasn't going to stop her from dragging him out of the room, and shutting the door behind her.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, trying to keep her voice down.

"I came to see my wife," he said.

"You can't. You are dead to her," Pilar declared.

"I need to be with her," he groaned.

They continued to argue about his presence at the hospital in hushed tones. A few minutes later a nurse came over and asked them to either control their tempers or leave.

When Duncan found them bickering in the hallway, he grabbed Liam's arm, pulled him aside and dragged the boy into the hospital chapel. Pilar grabbed her bag from the room and joined them.

"I'll sit with her, call me if you need me," Duncan said, touching Pilar's hand. Then before he walked away, he looked at Liam, then said, "Listen to her, please."

Liam didn't respond to Duncan. He sat in the pew closest to the altar and wouldn't look at Pilar while he said was on his mind.

"I just wanted to see her one last time. Can't you understand that or do you have no feelings inside of you? Are you so bitter and cold, you don't feel anything?"

Pilar had never been accused of being cold and unfeeling. Maybe she was. In the last few years, she'd lost so much-- maybe she had forgotten how to feel. She sat down beside Liam and reached for his hand, but he didn't take it.

"Do you honestly think that, Liam? Do you believe I'm so cold and unfeeling?"

"I don't know what to believe anymore and now you're taking away the only person I believed in and ever loved."

"I'm not taking her away from you-- fate is. Liam, you are immortal-- your responsibility is to learn the rules of the Game, to learn to fight so you can hold onto your head and live."

"Don't say it's fate, Pilar. It's a nightmare. And because of you, I don't have a life to go back to."

He got up and walked out of the chapel.

<*><*><*><*><*>

A few days later, Pilar went to the gallery where Liam and Duncan had started training in the unpacking and storage room. She hadn't seen Liam train and she was curious to see how he'd been progressing.

She arrived at the gallery to find Duncan frowning. "He won't train-- he wants to die," he said loud enough for Liam to hear.

"Maybe it's too soon," she replied, trying to stay objective.

"And he could lose his head," Duncan said.

Liam had come into the room and was staring at both of them. He was getting tired of listening to them make his decisions. They were telling him what to do, how to fight, and how to live. They weren't his parents-- he wasn't a child anymore.

"Maybe it's better than living like this," Liam said, grabbing his coat and heading for the door.

"Don't leave like this. Don't go out there-- alone." Pilar yelled and grabbed his arm. He fought against her and knocked her down.

"Leave me alone. You're not my mother and you never were," Liam said, storming out of the gallery.

Liam needed time to vent but she was right, he wasn't ready to go out into the world unprotected.

Duncan dashed out the door and asked him not to leave.

"I'm just going for a walk. I'll come back soon."

"Be careful, " Duncan advised.

Pilar was furious. "He has no business being out there alone. He can't defend himself yet," Pilar cried, trying to maintain her composure.

Taking her hand and squeezing it tenderly, Duncan tried to console his friend. "No, maybe not, but he's smart and he'll be okay."

"He's right, you know, I'm not his mother, but I thought he'd forgive me."

"No, you're not his mother. It's his life and you have to let him make his choices."

"He's defenseless," she cried.

"You have to let him go."

Pilar knew Duncan was right. She'd been trying too hard and she had been smothering him. No wonder he was still angry and bitter. She'd been the one to push, the one to try too hard and she never once considered his feelings.

"I never should have honored Patrick's wishes. This wouldn't have happened. It was a stupid vow and I regret the day I made it."

"Don't blame yourself. That boy had a normal life. If he'd been with you, how would you have explained your life?"

"Because of me, he has a wife laying in a hospital bed that he can never be with again. He can't see his family. It's my fault this happened to him."

"No. It's not. Did you learn how to change fate all of a sudden?" he asked facetiously. "You couldn't have changed a thing. A bomb is to blame for destroying his life and you know as well as I do, he was destined for this life."

Duncan didn't want her to blame herself nor did he want her to carry all that guilt. However, he knew Pilar couldn't accept it and she just wasn't ready to let go of the guilt she was feeling.

<*>

An hour later, Duncan found Liam sitting in front of Pilar's flat. He sat beside the new Immortal, hoping he would talk to him. They sat in silence for a while, watching people pass by and finally Duncan spoke, "you have to understand Pilar. She loves you-- she always has."

"Duncan, I don't want to hear it. She left me when I was 10-- barely a kid. She didn't love me then, and she doesn't love me now."

"She agonized over that decision and she only did it because it was what your father wanted."

Liam rolled his eyes, tired of hearing that... it was what his father wanted. It was just an excuse, something she said to console him and a weak attempt to ease her guilt.

Pilar saw them sitting by themselves and she started to walk over to them. When he saw her, Liam stood up and began to walk away.

"Don't do this," Duncan told him, as he reached for Liam's arm. "Don't shut her out of your life now."

"It's too late, Duncan. I don't want her to be in my life, I don't want immortality and I don't want anything from her."

"Liam," Pilar called to him, after hearing the last of Liam's words. "Please don't say that. If you don't want me in your life, I understand, but please let Duncan help you."

Pilar looked at her friend and then Liam.

"Why should I? He's friend," Liam snapped.

"That doesn't mean he can't be yours," Pilar said. "I can handle you resenting me, I can handle you leaving, but I don't want you to go out in the world on your own, not yet. Let Duncan work with you-- for a while. Please." Pilar was begging.

Duncan saw the desperation in her eyes. For Pilar's sake, Duncan would do all that he could to help her-- and Liam. The boy needed someone to teach him to fight. Since he wouldn't allow Pilar into his life, and there was no one else who could help, Duncan offered. "But for the short term. Until we can find a more suitable teacher."

"I'll think about it," Liam said, walking away.

Pilar walked over to Duncan and she fell into his chest and he wrapped his arms around her. "Take him away from here, take him with you to Paris. He hates me and I guess I can't blame him, but he'll listen to you, he likes you."

"He like me, but he tolerates me because I'm not . If he agrees, you know I will do all I can for him. But honestly, Pilar, I am in no position to take on a new student," Duncan said. He knew that working with Liam would be very hard and that emotionally he couldn't commit to it-- not for the long haul. Everything that he went through with Richie was fresh in his mind and he knew he couldn't devote the time or energy to preparing Liam for the Game.

Pilar couldn't stir Duncan away from his thoughts-- she assumed what ever was troubling him earlier, had crept back into his mind again. She didn't want Duncan to become his teacher but she needed his help. Ultimately, she felt that it was her responsibility to teach Liam how to survive. Yet, for the time being, Liam didn't want to be around her-- so how could she teach him if he wasn't willing to listen and learn?

"But if he doesn't want my help, I can't force him to take it," Duncan said to her, snapping out of the memories of

"I know, I have to be the one to teach Liam how to fight, but he's not ready to accept me into his life. I don't want him going out into the world on his own, not yet."

<*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*>

Part Eight

The next afternoon, Liam went to see Duncan at his hotel. Pilar had gotten up early and left him alone. Duncan had finished packing his things and was ready to head back to Paris.

"Liam," Duncan said, opening up the door. "Come in."

Liam was quiet. "You're leaving?"

"I have to get back to Paris. I left in the middle of things, so it's time for me to go."

"I see." Liam almost sounded disappointed.

"You're welcome to come with me, you to start training," Duncan said honestly.

"Yeah, maybe I should," the young Immortal said, thinking about what he would rather do. Did he want to stay with Pilar or leave with Duncan? He wasn't crazy about Duncan, but if he went to Paris he wouldn't have to see Pilar and he could somehow try to get Margaret off his mind-- until the day he could see her again. "Okay. When do we leave?"

"This afternoon."

"I'm ready," Liam announced.

"Okay, I'm going to say good-bye to Pilar. You can join me if you want," Duncan asked Liam, who had sat down in a tufted leather chair and had turned on the television.

"No. I'll wait."

"As soon as I get back, we can leave," Duncan left, wondering what sort of trouble he was getting himself into. He wasn't going to put up with Liam's crap for too long-- especially in Paris.

<*><*><*><*><*>

Pilar paced the hallway, while the doctors examined Margaret. She had regained consciousness early that morning, but as soon as she did, the doctors chased Pilar out of the room.

So, while the doctors examined Margaret, Pilar decided to call Liam's grandparents with the good news. When she hung up the phone, she went back into Margaret's room and the nursed chased her out again.

"What are you doing in the hall?" Duncan asked, finding her doing a dance back and forth outside Margaret's room.

"She's awake but they won't let me see her," Pilar said loudly, trying to get the doctor's attention.

"Liam is going with me to Paris," Duncan said, matter of factly.

"You don't look too thrilled about it," she said, recognizing the look on Duncan's face.

"I know he's upset, but he has to take this seriously. I don't think he is."

"No. Once he's away from me, I'm sure he'll come around. I've made arrangements to go to Ireland for the funeral. Liam's grandparents are devastated but I convinced them to stay in Ireland now that Margaret's awake. I'll take a plane from Dublin to Paris as soon as I can."

"I don't envy you."

"Nor I you," she said, not sure if she would ever be able to thank him properly.

Pilar went into the room and grabbed her leather bag sitting on a chair. One of the doctors glared at her, chasing her away with his eyes.

"You'll need this," Pilar said, pulling out Liam's passport. "It should be okay to get him out of the country-- for now. But, he's going to have to become someone completely different." She put the passport in Duncan's hand. He smiled, as he squeezed her hand.

"Watch his head for me," she asked.

"I'll try." Duncan grinned sheepishly, then hugged Pilar. They said good-bye at the hospital.

As Duncan left, the doctor came out to see Pilar and brief her on Margaret's condition. Then he allowed her to go in to visit they young woman.

"You look so much better; it's good to see you wide awake," Pilar said, coming into the room. "The doctor told me you will be able to leave the hospital in a day or two."

"I guess. Where's Liam?" Margaret asked, holding the rosary in her hand. "He was here the other day, wasn't he?"

Pilar recognized the rosary. It had belonged to Patrick.

"It's broken, do you know how that happened?" Margaret asked, curiously.

"No. Margaret, I need to tell you something." Pilar sat down on the chair next to the bed. "Liam couldn't have been here the other night because he died the night of the explosion."

"He died? No, Pilar. He was here with me the other night-- I felt him. How else did this get here?" Margaret fought her tears and put the rosary in Pilar's hand.

Pilar hated to lie but she had to. Pilar grabbed her leather bag and pulled out a manila envelope. "Liam is gone. He is dead," Pilar said, handing Margaret Liam's wedding band, his wallet and other jewelry he always wore-- a gold watch, a gold hoop earring and a gold cross Pilar sent him for his confirmation. And lastly, Pilar pulled the blue topaz and diamond bracelet out of the envelope and gave it to the young woman. Liam spent their future savings to buy it for Margaret.

"No-- this can't be true," she wailed. Pilar took the young woman's hand, and squeezed it.

"I'm so sorry." Pilar was crying. "I wish I could tell you otherwise, but Margaret, you must learn to live without him."

"I can't live without him and I won't accept this." She sobbed and fell back into Pilar's embrace. Pilar brushed her hair off her face. "I'll never believe he's gone. I'd feel it," Margaret said, adamantly.

Pilar didn't know what else to say. She just stayed with Margaret while she cried and let out her grief. Late that afternoon, the nurse brought in a sedative for Margaret and after she fell asleep, Pilar went home.

When Pilar walked into her empty flat, she felt miserable for lying to Maggie, but it had to be done, for her sake as well as Liam's. Sometimes immortality wasn't fair-- to live in this world, the mortal world, meant lying to friends, living secret lives and moving on every few years. It meant watching loved ones die and it meant having to learn to kill to survive. It wasn't an easy thing to understand or accept, especially for someone like Liam, who didn't grow up a warrior or in a warrior society. Pilar had a hard time accepting her own immortality. He would have to learn to defend himself like she had learned, but it wasn't going to be easy.

Finally, she turned on the stereo, poured herself a stiff drink and cried. Pilar dreaded going to Ireland to see Liam's grandparents, and she wasn't sure she could handle the funeral. If Duncan had stayed, she she could get through the charade of the funeral and manage to make them understand that he was dead-- even though there was no body.

<*><*><*><*><*>

Paris.

Liam Brennan had no intention of moving from Duncan's sofa. From the day they arrived in Paris, he sat around the barge and did nothing but gripe and complain. He didn't want to start training and he didn't seem to care about anything.

Tired of Liam's attitude and his constant attacks on Pilar, Duncan left the barge and tried to go about his own life one afternoon. He wasn't going to put his life on hold for Liam when he had more important things to take care of.

It seemed like everyone he knew was going through some sort of personal crisis at the moment. He thought about Pilar in Dublin, going through with a funeral, which was nothing more than a facade. Then there was Methos who had just buried Alexa. He had said good-bye to Amanda, who had concerns of her own and he hadn't talked to Dawson in quite some time and finally, there was his own mess with Richie.

Duncan ended up at the old bookstore, looking for a friend to talk to, but Methos wasn't there when he arrived. Duncan waited for the old Immortal to show up and while he waited he tried not to think of his troubles. Life was not simple and being immortal just added to its complexities. He tried to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders far too often, and he knew that he couldn't put aside the needs of others just to satisfy his own.

It wasn't a long wait. A few minutes later, Methos shuffled in with his head hung low and his hands stuffed in the pockets of his coat. The old Immortal acted surprised to see Duncan, although he wasn't much in the mood for company. He was still cleaning out the basement and putting his papers and things in order.

"What is it? You don't come by here much," Methos asked, with uncertainty in his voice, "unless you're looking for something."

"No, just thought I'd see how you were doing."

"I'm fine. They all die, MacLeod," he said, trying hard to convince Duncan he was over Alexa's death. "So, how are you doing?"

"Fine," Duncan grumbled.

"Where did you go?"

"London-- business-- and I saw Pilar."

Methos frowned. He hadn't thought about Pilar much lately. She was furious and she had a right to be, but he didn't want to think about her-- not now when he was dealing with so much grief himself.

"Her son... well, the boy she raised-- Liam," Duncan said, wondering if Methos knew about him, "he's immortal now."

Methos listened to his friend, but he pretended to be more interested in his books than Pilar and her dilemmas. Even though, Duncan told him everything that had happened recently, Methos only offered him one piece of advice and that was it. Methos didn't want to know any more about Pilar and he didn't really seem interested in chit-chatting. So, the Highlander shrugged and left.

Nevertheless, walking out of the Shakespeare and Company bookstore that afternoon, Methos' words of advice were fresh in Duncan's mind.

You've tried MacLeod, just get rid of the boy. It's obvious he doesn't care about anyone but himself-- much less Pilar-- let him learn the rules the hard way.

Duncan knew that Methos was right. He didn't have any obligations to Liam, but he couldn't break his word to Pilar.

As Duncan walked back to the barge, he wondered if he could get rid of the boy, like Methos suggested. He knew he had to do something to help, so when he got back to his car he picked up the phone and made one call-- hoping he'd find a solution.

<*><*><*><*><*>

When Liam felt an Immortal coming toward the barge he came up on deck and was relieved to see Duncan.

"Liam, I think it's time you leave," Duncan said adamantly.

"What? You promised her that you'd train me," Liam said.

"And you haven't shown any interest in wanting to keep your head. You can blame her all you want, but that doesn't change the fact that you are in the Game now and you can't survive on your own, if you don't learn to fight."

"I know how to fight," Liam said, stepping off the boat onto the pavement.

"Sure you do," Duncan taunted him. "Then why don't you want to start training? Do you really want to lose your head?"

"Maybe it would be better than living without Maggie," Liam said.

"Then it can be arranged," Duncan said, pulling out his katana. Liam was weaponless as Duncan stood ready to teach the boy a lesson.

"You couldn't kill me," Liam said, shoved Duncan away and then punched him, taking the Highlander by surprise. "When it comes down to it, you wouldn't hurt and if you killed me that's what you'd do."

Duncan quickly countered Liam's move and forced him down to the ground with a good, steady kick to his chest-- knocking the wind out of him. Next he put the sword against his neck, and looked the boy in the eyes, then said, "I haven't hurt her nearly as much as you have."

"How dare you say that, Duncan? Pilar doesn't care about me, if she did, she wouldn't have taken my life away from me. She made decisions for me and didn't even ask me if this was what I wanted."

"Liam, you are immortal, it's not a choice. She did those things for you," Duncan said candidly. "Pilar didn't make you immortal, God knows who did, but you have to accept it and learn to live with it, or else you will die." Duncan put away his katana and helped Liam off the ground.

Liam was still angry and bitter. He didn't want to hear Duncan defend Pilar's actions. He didn't care why she did what she did, he was too angry with her and he was angry that Duncan defended her. As Duncan started to walk away, Liam stood his ground and lunged at him, but Duncan stopped his punch, avoiding another fight.

"I don't want to hear about what she's doing for me, she's ruined my life. I can't go back-- not because I'm immortal, because she told them I was dead. She took away my life and everything that I loved. I can't forgive her."

"Don't forgive her, that's your right, but don't take it out on me. I offered to help," Duncan said, sounding angry. "It's obvious you don't want anyone's help, so go out on your own, and get yourself killed. I don't care. I have too many things to worry about and I don't need a temperamental brat on top of that."

Liam was seething. He made a fist and hit Duncan as hard as he could. They ended up fighting on the pavement, each landing a few good blows against the other, but it was clear that Liam was not going to win the fight. Duncan finally pinned him on the ground and ended the fight. "Enough," he said, standing up and then he held out his hand for Liam.

Though, they were both pretty well beaten up, they knew the bruises and cuts would heal, but would Liam's mental wounds ever heal?

Would Duncan's?

After they got tired of fighting, they headed back to the barge. Duncan went to change his clothes and clean up a bit. Coming from the bathroom, Duncan tossed Liam a towel, as the young immortal paced around the living area.

"Thanks for the lesson," Liam said, going into the kitchen to get a glass of water.

Duncan smirked. "I didn't know I was teaching you a lesson. Are you ready to start training?"

Liam shook his head. "Yes," he muttered.

"Good," Duncan paused, "I have a clansman, his name is Connor MacLeod. He was my first teacher... I talked to him today, he's willing to take you in and teach you how to survive."

"I thought you were going to teach me?" Liam looked disappointed.

Duncan thought about what he was going to say to Liam first. He didn't want to piss him off or hurt the boy any more. "It's complicated. I want to help you and I want to help Pilar but in all honesty, I don't think I'm the best person to teach you."

"I see," Liam said.

"I'm dealing with a lot right now, and it has nothing to do with you, but maybe it's better if someone a little more objective trains you. I'm too close to Pilar and she wants to teach you, but I don't think that Pilar would be a good teacher for you either."

"We can't even have a civil conversation, Duncan. How can she teach me?"

"That's why I called Connor. He'll work with you-- if you're serious, but he won't take any bullshit."

"When do I leave?"

"Anytime after Pilar gets here. I promised I'd work with you until she gets here and then we can tell her about Connor."

Much to Liam's chagrin, he agreed to wait until after Pilar arrived in Paris. He felt badly that he had put Duncan in the middle of his problems with Pilar.

"It's not easy-- this living forever, is it?"

"No," Duncan said, honestly. "But we have a chance to do and see things that others can only dream about."

"I'm looking forward to that," Liam said. "Thanks."

Duncan smiled, knowing that it was settled-- Liam would train with Connor, which would be for the best.

<*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*>

Part Nine

<*><*><*><*><*>

Paris. A week later.

Pilar hated airports. She always felt nervous walking around without her sword. The flight from Ireland had been bumpy and she was glad to be on solid ground again. Once she cleared customs and claimed her sword, she grabbed her bags, hopped in the first free cab and ended up at Duncan's barge. Since she had taken an earlier flight, she didn't want to call Duncan in the middle of the day to have him drop everything to pick her up, and she didn't want to sit at the airport for the next 5 hours waiting for him to get her.

No one was home when Pilar arrived, so she plopped down on one of her suit cases and wrapped her coat around her. It may have been Spring in Paris, but there was a chill running through her body. Maybe it had nothing to do with the weather-- but she felt cold inside.

Duncan approached about a half-hour later, slightly surprised to see Pilar that afternoon; he and Liam had planned to meet her at the airport later that night. "Pilar," he called, seeing her on the deck of his barge. "I wasn't expecting you."

"I got an earlier flight," she said, as she glanced around trying to find Liam. She wondered why he wasn't with Duncan.

"Where's Liam?" she asked, concerned. "Everything is okay, right?"

"Everything is fine, don't worry about him. He'll be back soon."

"So, you're getting along okay?"

"Yes." Duncan said, taking Pilar's hand.

"So how did you do it-- get him to like you, I mean?"

"We got into a fight. After a good beating, he came around."

"Duncan?" Pilar cocked an eyebrow looking at him. "You didn't hit him, did you?" Pilar asked, concerned about Liam.

"He started it. He landed a few good blows before I taught him a lesson in humility."

"Sounds more like a big dose of male bonding to me: beat the hell out of each other, and then laugh about it later," Pilar said, chuckling. "Think it would work for me?"

"No. He is still angry and hurt. He will come around, but you have to give him time."

"I wonder how mortals do it? They have children all the time-- and they manage."

"Some of them do. Others don't. You're all he has and one day, he'll realize it," Duncan said, "but for now, keep your distance."

Pilar scowled at Duncan. She didn't like him telling her to stay away from Liam-- but she also knew he was right. If she stayed away, maybe Liam would come around and let her into his life.

"I know why we're not destined to be parents. We're too busy worrying about keeping our heads that we'd just produce screwed up kids."

"No. You'd have been a good mother, but you're right, maybe it's better we don't have children."

"Yeah," she nodded and decided to change the subject. "Have I thanked you for helping me out with him?"

"You don't have to," he said, then got serious. "Pilar, we've decided that Liam is going to train with Connor."

"What? Connor?" she asked, dumbstruck. "When did this happen?

"A few days ago. Connor has agreed to take him on as a student-- for you as well as me. Pilar, you're too emotionally involved to train him. You can't be objective and I'm in no position to do it right now," Duncan said.

Pilar sighed and smirked at Duncan. Then she stood up and paced along the deck of the barge.

"I don't want to send him away. I hate to admit it, but I think you're right. Maybe it's for the best that Connor teaches him," Pilar said, then changed the subject. "How is Connor doing these days?"

"The store keeps him busy, but he's well," Duncan said. "Honestly, I can't think of anyone better suited to teach Liam."

"Neither can I." Pilar wrapped her arms around her shoulders, took a deep breath and managed a slight smile. "Can we go inside? It's cold out here."

Duncan wrapped his arms around her and led her into the barge. He took Pilar's coat and she looked around, noticing the changes.

"Make yourself at home, I'm going to change clothes," Duncan said, tossing his bag on the floor by the sofa as he walked to his bedroom.

Pilar sat down on his big over-stuffed chair. "What happened to this place?" she asked.

"A little fire... like it?" Duncan called from the back. He had taken off his sweats, put on a pair of clean jeans and a sweater.

"I do," she said, though it seemed a little too dark for her tastes. But it still looked like Duncan's home. "So, how is he with a sword?" Pilar finally asked when Duncan came back into the living room. It was a question that had been lingering in her mind for days.

"Fine. He's a quick learner, a real natural. He's got the moves-- he'll hang on to his head awhile," he paused, wandering over to the window. "Fencing at the university helped. And he and Connor are getting along. It's going to be all right," Duncan muttered as he stared blankly out the window.

"Duncan, what has been troubling you so much lately? I know I probably don't have a right to ask..." Pilar's voice trailed off.

Duncan wandered over to his liquor cabinet, he brought over a bottle of single malt, two glasses and smiled, and finished her sentence, "but you're going to ask."

He didn't know where to start-- it was a long story. He looked at her but sat quietly, thinking about what he wanted to say. Finally, he spoke. "You're right, something has been troubling me," Duncan paused, taking a deep breath, and then swallowed hard. His hand was shaking slightly.

Pilar didn't interrupt his thoughts because she knew whatever he had on his mind, he would tell her.

"Ah, I-- I nearly killed Richie," he said quietly. He was still horrified by what he'd nearly done. Telling Pilar this story wasn't going to be easy, but he had to tell her.

Pilar clutched her glass tightly and then she said, "Richie?"

She'd met Richie once, before he'd become immortal but she knew that Richie meant the world to Duncan. This news was tragic.

"Yes, Richie."

Sadness gripped her. Duncan loved Richie. Richie was more to him than just his "student." The boy was like a son to Duncan. Richie was a good boy-- man-- Pilar couldn't believe Duncan had a reason to try to kill him. Duncan prided honor above all else-- he would never try to kill his student. She was taken aback by his news and she suddenly realized why he'd been so distant these past weeks.

Duncan was in pain.

"What happened, why?"

"Richie did nothing. It was me," he said, fighting the tears. She took his hand and held it tightly. She wouldn't judge him-- she couldn't, but she was wondering why and how he could hurt Richie?

"You've heard about Dark Quickenings, right?" he asked, looking into her eyes.

If this wasn't such a serious moment, she would have scoffed at the notion of a Dark Quickening, but she also scoffed at the notion of Methos being for real, and the Watchers killing Immortals, so she didn't.

"Yes, but do they really happen? Are they real?" she asked, afraid of what he would say next.

"Very real," he said. "It happened to me."

"Duncan?" she asked, stunned. "How?"

"I had this friend, Jim Coltec... " he paused and looked at her wondering if she had heard the name. She shrugged, so he started the story. It took a lot out of Duncan to talk about the past few months. He told her about his friendship with Coltec and what he had done for him long ago after he spent months hunting down Kern for killing Little Deer, Kahani and their tribe.

"... Then a few months ago, he called to say he was in town and wanted to get together. But when we met something was different about him, and I didn't understand what was wrong with him. He'd devoted his life to ridding the world of evil, but somehow he reached his limit and the evil overpowered him," Duncan paused, looking at his friend, who sat quietly listening to him.

"I knew I had to help him, like he helped me. So, I took him to holy ground and told him that he wasn't evil, that there was good inside of him, but he didn't believe me. I told him he became what he fought, he looked up at me and said, as we all will in time."

Pilar shivered at those words. She couldn't fathom going through anything like that. It terrified her.

"I don't believe that," Pilar said, interrupting Duncan. She hadn't said anything before, she had been too mesmerized by the story to say anything.

"I still can hear him say those words to me." Duncan shook his head, knowing he would never forget what happened. "There was nothing I could do, he kept killing and I knew he would get worse. Finally, I realized that killing Coltec was the only way to stop him and the evil inside of him," Duncan said, then sat back down beside her. "So I took his head and the evil consumed me as well," he added.

Pilar cringed at that thought. In the past, she'd sought vengeance. Her motive for killing Cristobal was purely vengeance-- vengeance because he killed people she loved. Yet, she hated killing. Somehow she accepted it as part of her life and part of the Game-- this game of survival. However, she had never felt evil overtake her and control her, like it did with Duncan. That terrified her.

"What he had taken in, I'd taken in as well. I didn't know what I was doing," he paused. "I went back to the dojo where Richie was working out-- probably just waiting for me but I attacked him. I couldn't help what I'd become. It didn't matter he was my student, my friend-- he was another Immortal and I wanted his Quickening. I had become everything I feared."

"A killer," she said, wiping away the tears in her eyes.

"He would be dead-- if Joe Dawson hadn't interfered. He shot me, which gave Richie time to escape. I haven't seen Joe or Richie since that night." Duncan took a deep breath and tried to fight the tears.

Thank God for Joe, she thought.

"It was arrogant of me to think I could handle Coltec's Quickening."

"No. You didn't know what would happen. Duncan, you have to forgive yourself," Pilar interjected, then pulled out a wad of rolled up tissue out of her pocket, wiped her eyes and touched his cheek.

Duncan was still haunted by all of this. "I can't. The evil didn't stop that night. I hopped on a freighter bound for Le Harve, I hurt people and I even killed a friend who wanted to help me. But the worst of it was that I betrayed Richie," he finally couldn't fight his feelings. He needed to let go of the pain he'd been carrying around for months. "I was supposed to protect him and teach him how to survive, not try to kill him."

She held him and consoled him as best she could, finally rocking him in her arms.

<*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*>

Part Ten.

<*><*><*><*><*>

Meanwhile, Liam had returned from working out with Connor. He was surprised by what he saw. He was going to say hello but he realized they were in the middle of something and didn't interrupt them, even though he wondered what had upset Duncan so much. He didn't think Pilar and Duncan had noticed him, so he watched them for a while.

He didn't know why she was comforting Duncan. Suddenly Liam remembered he always ran to Pilar instead of his father when he needed consolation. She was always understanding and compassionate, but she was always patient-- his father wasn't. Until that moment, he didn't realize how much he missed her. He'd spent years trying to forget her and now could he open up his heart enough to forgive her?

He decided to leave them alone to finish their conversation. They didn't need him intruding on their privacy. So Liam went up to the deck to wait for Connor to return.

<*>

"If I had killed him-- I don't think I could have lived with myself." Duncan said somberly.

"You didn't kill him and that's what matters," Pilar said. "Have you talked to Richie?"

"No. I just don't think I'm ready to talk to him."

"I'm so sorry. Now I understand why being with me and Liam has been so hard for you. And why you can't teach him."

"No I can't. In time you'll work things out with Liam. He's just scared and he's uncertain. You're all he has and he you but he can't admit it. He'll come around, but I probably have lost Richie."

"No, don't say that. I can't believe that. Richie means the world to you and one day you'll find your way back to each other," Pilar said, then hugged him. "You two are a family. It will be okay."

There was nothing more she could say. He told her everything that had been troubling him and she knew that leaving Liam as a child seemed like nothing compared to what Duncan had done. She hoped he was right-- she and Liam would find a way back to each other, and she prayed that there would be a day when he and Richie were together again.

"Maybe you're right. I can only hope that day will come," Duncan said.

"I'd like to believe that Liam and I will have another chance."

"You know, he's up on deck, waiting-- maybe you should go talk to him."

"I'm sure he wants to talk to me," Pilar said facetiously.

"You never know," Duncan said and headed up on deck.

<*>

As Pilar came up on deck, she reached out for Liam's hand, but he pulled away. It wasn't a good way to start, considering he wanted to talk to her.

"Liam, I'm sorry I left you-- I never should have, it wasn't right. You belonged with me," Pilar said quietly and waited for a response. Liam didn't say anything, so she finished her thoughts. "I should have been there for you. I never should have done what your father wanted, but he knew what I was, and he was terrified something would happen to me and you'd be alone."

"I know, you've told me," he said, rolling his eyes, not wanting to talk about this again.

"Wait," Pilar said softly. "Maybe I was scared-- I don't know. I just knew that I wanted to protect you from this world for as long as I could. I couldn't hide from the Game, and I didn't want anyone to use you to get to me. I just knew that one day you'd be part of this world, and I wanted you to have a normal life for as long as you could."

"You knew?" Liam asked stunned.

"From the day I met you. I couldn't tell you, do you understand that?"

He nodded. He did understand. He wasn't going to be angry that she kept that knowledge from him-- he wouldn't have wanted to know he was destined for this life. There was no point in arguing anymore. They'd said so many hurtful words to each other lately, and there was nothing more he could say could make her feel worse and it wouldn't make him feel better.

"I'm beginning to understand why you did what you did, but it still hurts."

"I know," Pilar smiled sadly.

"I'm tired of fighting. That's all we do," Liam said sadly. " I think it's better I leave now before we do or say anything we'll regret. I don't want to hurt anymore." He could see the pain in Pilar's eyes. Perhaps she'd understand how he felt when he was a kid. However, he wasn't intentionally being cruel but he had to leave her.

"Then you must go," Pilar said, as a tear rolled down her cheek.

Liam nodded, started collecting his things, and he didn't say good-bye to Pilar as he left the barge.

"You're not leaving, are you, Liam?" Duncan asked, grabbing the young Immortal's arm as he walked by.

"It's time Duncan. We talked, but I can't deal with her right now. Maybe one day," Liam said to Duncan and then half-smiled.

"Wait here a minute," Duncan said as he touched Liam's shoulder.

"Okay."

<*>

"He's going to leave me now," Pilar said to Duncan as he returned to the barge.

"It's probably for the best," Duncan said. "You'll end up hurting each other if he stays."

Pilar chuckled. "I think I know how he felt all those years ago," she muttered and followed Duncan into the barge.

When she saw he was getting Liam a sword, she got upset and suddenly couldn't accept Liam's decision to leave. Though, it was for the best, and she said it was, Pilar really wasn't ready to let Liam go. She grabbed Duncan's hand, and fought the fears running through her mind. "Don't let him leave," she begged. "Duncan-- no Duncan, don't give that to him." She grabbed his arms and held him back. "Please don't. It's not time."

Duncan pulled away from her, surprised by her sudden outburst of emotion. He thought she had accepted Liam's decision to leave. "Yes. It's time. You know as well as I do, he needs a sword to protect himself. I can't let him leave without a sword."

Pilar remembered seeing Liam holding the sword at the restaurant and a chill surged through her body then, and now-- sheer terror enveloped her and it frightened her to think she may never see Liam again.

"He can't protect himself, you're sending him out there to die. Please don't let him go." Pilar followed Duncan back onto the deck of the barge, trying to stop him from going to Liam.

"Pilar, let go of me!" Duncan yelled, as he broke free of her grip. He felt terrible for yelling at her, but she wasn't thinking rationally.

Duncan looked at her before he walked away, "I'm not sending him out to die, and you know that I would never do that. He's going to be fine. He's going to be with Connor," he said to her as he left.

Duncan's words didn't offer Pilar any consolation. Pilar stayed on the barge while she watched Duncan speak to Liam one last time. Less than a month ago, she had hopes that she would have Liam in her life again, and now he was leaving her. It was all too tragic and too ironic. She wrapped her arms around her shoulders and went inside the barge. She couldn't watch anymore so she collapsed on the sofa and waited for Duncan to come back inside.

<*>

"Duncan," Pilar called, noticing the presence of an Immortal enter the barge.

"Wrong MacLeod," the voice said. Pilar bolted up to see Connor MacLeod standing in the doorway.

"Connor?!" Pilar exclaimed.

"Yep," he said, closing the door behind him.

Connor was not a man of many words and sometimes it drove Pilar crazy. She knew he was cautious about the people he let get close to him and she considered herself lucky he called her friend. She'd known Connor for years, but she didn't feel as close to him as she did with Duncan. She could tell Duncan anything, but with Connor, she was much more reserved and guarded with her words. Though she trusted him, he wasn't the keeper of her secrets and she rarely asked Connor for advice or help. But this time, it was going to be different, she was going to ask him for both.

"I take it I missed the family crisis," Connor said, as he plopped down on the sofa beside her.

"Oh, I think you're just in time."

"He's having a hard time accepting all this-- it's not easy you know."

"I think I've forgotten," Pilar muttered.

"Well you are old, you know," Connor said, light-heartedly, then laughed. "He'll be okay and he will accept his immortality."

"Why don't I believe you? Why do I feel like this is the last time I'll see him?"

"Because you're upset; because you're angry, and you feel helpless. But you know that's not true."

Connor took her hand, squeezed it and lifted her chin up with the back of his other hand. "He's young and he's scared. He thinks he lost everything. You know what that is like as well as I do. But I'm not going to let anything happen to him. You know that, don't you?"

"You promise? You'll take care of him and teach him how to survive?"

"Of course," Connor said. "I promise."

He leaned down and kissed Pilar tenderly on the cheek. She stood up and walked Connor to the door. He embraced her and grinned.

"You know, Liam can be a real handful," Pilar said wistfully.

Connor started to laugh, "Don't mince words, Pilar... he's a pain in the ass... but I'll cure him of that. He must get that from you," he said, grinning at her.

"Probably," Pilar smiled back, then said, "Connor, thank you."

"You're welcome," he said, walking out the door.

Pilar took a deep breath, followed Connor up to the deck and watched him walk away. He stopped behind Liam and Duncan and waited a few minutes while they talked and then he joined them. He put his left arm around Duncan's shoulder.

<*>

"I wish things had ended differently between you and Pilar," Duncan said, looking at Liam.

"Me too," Liam said sadly, as Connor joined them.

"We should go," Connor interjected. "We've got a plane to catch first thing in the morning." v "Okay," Liam said, looking back toward the barge. Pilar was standing on the deck of the barge and he could see the pain on her face. He stepped away from Connor and Duncan, and walked over to her.

"Hi," He stood about ten feet away from the barge. "I'm leaving now."

"I know," Pilar said, managing a slight smile.

"I'm not sure if this means anything right now, but thanks."

"For what?"

"Letting me go," he said, walking onto the barge. "Perhaps in time we can find a way to be friends. From what I've been told I'll have lots of it."

"Yes. Maybe one day, but for now, do me a favor," Pilar said somberly.

"Huh?" Liam asked.

"Learn to keep your head. Let Connor teach you how to survive and defend yourself before you consider going back to Ireland. Please," she said seriously, as she stared into his eyes.

She knew him better than he thought she did. He couldn't believe she figured out that he was thinking about going back to Ireland one day. He grinned and shook his head.

"Okay, now you're acting like a mother," he said. "I don't think we're ready for that. But I will stay away from her-- for now. I can't promise you that I won't go back there one day."

"Liam," Connor called, and interrupted the moment.

"I guess it's time to go," Liam said.

"Yes. Lesson one, make a MacLeod wait, especially the elder one," she said, pointing to Connor.

Pilar stepped off the barge onto the plank and met Liam half-way in an embrace. It was a start. Things between them were far from perfect and he had yet to forgive her, but in time maybe things would be okay between them.

"I'll walk with you," Pilar said, walking beside Liam to where Duncan and Connor were standing.

Connor reached out to hug Pilar. "I'll watch him," Connor whispered, as he pulled away.

"You better." Pilar stepped back, looking at Liam. It was time to let him go, she thought to herself. She reached out to touch his hand.

"Bye, Liam. Don't let him push you around too much," Pilar said, looking at Connor. "Take care of yourself," she said, but didn't wait for his answer, she started wandering back to the barge. She didn't want to watch Liam walk away. She also knew that Duncan was going to give him a sword and it was a scene she didn't think she could handle at that moment.

"I will. Bye Pilar," Liam called out to her but she didn't turn around. "Is she okay?" he asked the others after she left.

"She's all right," Duncan said, looking at the young Immortal. "She knew this day was coming, but I don't think she's ready to accept it."

Duncan opened the long narrow box, took a deep breath and pulled out a sword. Liam's hazel eyes fixated on the sword, Duncan had bought at that auction. He'd held it in his hands that night and now, Duncan was giving it to him. This was a defining moment in Liam's life.

Putting the sword in his hands, Duncan smiled warmly at Liam. "This is yours now. Live with it. Make it a part of you, it may be the only friend you have."

Connor smirked, listening to Duncan's words to the boy. He'd said those words to Duncan once upon a time.

"You learned well," Connor said to Duncan.

Duncan grinned sheepishly.

"Thank you again," Liam paused. "For everything... especially your friendship."

"If you need anything I'll be here. Remember Pilar did what she did because she loves you."

"I'll try to remember that," Liam said, holding back his emotions. "Bye, Duncan."

"Take care and watch your head," Duncan said, managing a slight smile. He didn't want to see the boy leave, but it was time. He also knew that Liam was in good hands-- Connor's.

"Duncan," Connor called, then leaned over to whisper something to him. "You owe me big time for this."

"I know," Duncan said, sighing. He watched Liam and Connor leave and then he returned to the barge to be with Pilar.

<*><*><*><*><*>The End<*><*><*><*><*>

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