Wounded

Mary Ellen

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DISCLAIMER : Joe Dawson, Duncan MacLeod and Methos belong to Davis-Panzer Productions. Richie Ryan used to belong to them. He belongs to his fans now. Fiona MacDonald belongs to me. All characters are free to return to their original owners, but they refuse to go, so I guess I’m stuck with them for now. Please do not repost this story without asking me first. Direct all comments to me.

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


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Richie Ryan awoke in a field, staring up at the night sky. He had no idea where he was. Everything seemed fuzzy. He tried to move, but couldn’t. It was as if his brain and body were no longer on speaking terms. His brain and body didn’t seem to care either. It was an interesting sensation. Something warm and wet was being dragged across his face. It occurred to him that a dog was licking him, but he wasn’t certain what that meant.

There was another sensation. He knew there was danger and he should have a weapon. He still didn’t seem able to move. A gentle voice said words that were meaningless to Richie. He felt a soft hand on his forehead. Pulled to his feet, he was helped away from the place he had been lying. He remembered warmth and light followed by a slightly chill feeling. Then there was warmth and softness and darkness.

****

Duncan MacLeod was asleep in his loft when the phone rang. He grunted. It had been a long day. Richie didn’t show up for work, the dojo was crowded and the plumbing backed-up. Then Amanda called to announce her imminent return. She made him promise to pick her up at the airport. The machine could pick up this call. Duncan MacLeod was too busy getting back to sleep.

“Duncan . . . Duncan, it’s Fiona. You must come immediately. I just found Richie . . .”

Duncan was out of bed and across the room before Fiona got much further. He almost disconnected her in his rush to shut off the answering machine. He asked a barrage of questions, listening impatiently to the answers. With a promise to get there as soon as possible, he hung up the phone. He hurriedly put on the clothes he had been wearing the previous day before throwing some clean clothes into a suitcase.

Going down to the empty dojo, he posted a notice that the place would be closed for a few days prior to going to his car and throwing the suitcase in the trunk. He sped off in the direction of Richie’s place. He would get some of the young Immortal’s things before driving to Fiona’s.

Duncan had to admit the tenant/landlord arrangement between Richie and Fiona was working out better than he expected. Fortunately, Fiona insisted that Duncan also have a key to the house, so he would have no trouble getting inside. When he got there, MacLeod took a look in the garage. Richie’s bike was inside. He puzzled over Richie’s arrival at Fiona’s without his usual means of transportation. On his way out of the garage, MacLeod noticed the saddle bag on the bike looked full. Opening it, he saw Richie’s sword. This was very bad. Richie knew better than to go anywhere without his sword. Hiding the sword under his coat, Duncan locked the garage and went into the house.

Grabbing jeans, T-shirts and underwear, he shoved them into Richie’s gym bag. MacLeod returned to the car and put the gym bag in the trunk with his own bag. Looking around carefully, Duncan hid Richie’s sword in the trunk. He got into the driver’s seat and sped off.

****

Fiona sat in the kitchen sipping a mug of tea and petting Champion, the dog she had found guarding Richie Ryan. She had been reading in her library the previous night when she heard the dogs barking. The disturbance was unusual even for them. She went downstairs to investigate. Three of the dogs were charging excitedly through the doggie door in the kitchen. Surrounding her, they yelped and barked urgently.

The dogs darted toward the door, but instead of going out, they turned and looked at her. Pulling on a coat, she followed them out behind the house. She couldn’t see very far in the darkness. The dogs were guiding her carefully in one direction. Eventually, she saw Champ standing over something. When she got closer, she realized the dog was standing over a person. It wasn’t until she got very close that she recognized the man on the ground as Richie Ryan, Duncan MacLeod’s student. He wasn’t dead, but he wasn’t moving either.

When she spoke to him, he did not respond in any way. She wanted to put him in her bed so she would have use of the couch for herself, but getting him into the house alone had been difficult enough. She decided to put him in the room he had used on his previous visit. It might help him to find himself in familiar surroundings.

His clothes were dirty and wet. She thought she saw blood on his shirt, but wasn’t sure with all the dirt. She had to assume that Richie had died at some point during the time he spent behind her house. She undressed him, checking his body for wounds. An Immortal as young as Richie should have some indication of recently healed wounds. She found nothing. Gently, she put him to bed and pulled the covers over him. It worried her that Richie did not appear to have his sword. She went downstairs and called Duncan. He had to come. Something strange had happened to Richie.

She spent the night sleeping on the floor next to his bed in case he woke up. The dogs joined her vigil. Richie had been restless, but slept through the night.

Now she was waiting for Duncan to arrive. He should be pulling into the driveway in a few hours. She needed something to do and decided to begin cooking. Richie would awaken eventually. He would probably be hungry when he did. Duncan would also need something to eat. She decided on soup. It would be easy for Richie to handle and she could heat it up whenever it was needed. A good, coarse bread would go well with it, she decided. She set about making the dough.

****

Tired from the long drive, Duncan pulled into Fiona’s driveway. Normally, he would have stopped along the way for a rest, but he wanted to get to Richie as soon as possible. Using his key to open the front door, he burst into the house, calling Fiona and Richie as he did. Fiona came out of the kitchen and gestured him to come inside.

When he sat down at the table, Fiona placed a cup of coffee in front of him. He could smell the freshly-baked bread cooling on the counter. She patiently answered all of his questions again. Duncan shook his head. The story made no sense.

They were interrupted by Richie. He staggered into the kitchen wearing only a pair of briefs.

“I’m hungry,” he announced.

His speech was slurred and slow. Duncan had to catch him before he hit the floor. Helped to a chair, Richie struggled to sit up. As Fiona put a bowl of soup in front of Richie, Duncan left the room.

Richie picked up a spoon and began eating slowly. Fiona cut him a piece of bread. Returning with a robe, MacLeod coaxed Richie into it. Puzzled, Fiona watched the action.

“He shouldn’t be sitting around like that.”

“Who do you think undressed him, Duncan?”

MacLeod sat at the table, not wanting to think about the answer to Fiona’s question. Richie fumbled with the spoon and bread. Fiona put a bowl of soup in front of Duncan. He ate it, watching Richie closely.

Champ came into the room and sniffed at Richie. Licking the young Immortal’s ankle, the dog laid down next to him protectively. Richie drooped in his chair. Duncan had to move quickly to keep him from falling to the floor.

“Mac, what are we doin’ at Fiona’s? How’d I get here?”

“We were hoping you could tell us that, Richie.”

Richie frowned. He couldn’t think straight. When he woke up, he couldn’t figure out where he was right away. He finally recognized the room. He smelled food and wanted something to eat. It had been a struggle to get out of bed and go down the stairs.

He didn’t remember much before that except running away from someone. It had been hard. He’d fallen repeatedly. Finally, the landscape looked familiar, but he wasn’t sure why. When the large house appeared in the distance, he forced himself toward it. He didn’t know why he wanted to go there, but he knew it meant safety.

“Aren’t you hungry, Richie?”

“Yeah, I am, but . . .”

Richie’s voice trailed off. He stared helplessly at the dish of soup. Fiona gently began feeding him. Richie accepted her actions readily. Duncan was worried. This was not the Richie Ryan he knew. Under normal circumstances, Richie would have put up a fight against being fed like a baby. Now, he was allowing Fiona to spoon soup into his mouth.

“Okay, Richie, I think that’s enough for now.”

Richie said nothing. Duncan watched Fiona take the remains of Richie’s meal away. She was behaving like a Highland woman caring for a fallen Clansman. Fiona had done it many times. She had dressed wounds and tended the dying before becoming Immortal. Duncan knew she had been a nurse and a doctor many times in her long existence. He had met her more than once when he had served in the military.

“I wanna go home, Mac.”

“I know, Richie. We’ll go soon.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Duncan,” Fiona said doubtfully. “Leave him here with me. He’ll be safe and I can take care of him.”

Duncan shook his head. He planned on taking Richie back to the loft, so he could keep an eye on the young Immortal. He would also be able to find out what happened to his protégé. He made a mental note to call Joe Dawson when they got back to the dojo.

“You can’t watch him and look for whoever did this at the same time. This is Holy Ground, Duncan. I won’t have to be trying to defend my head as well as his.”

“What if this wasn’t one of us?”

Duncan watched as Fiona went to her pantry and began moving things around. She kept some amazing things in that pantry. He had once found a sword in there and playfully threatened her with it. When Tessa objected because they were on Holy Ground, Fiona was relieved. Connor and his mortal girlfriend, Diana, had just spent two weeks with her. She had to watch what she said around Diana because Connor hadn’t told her about his Immortality. She was delighted Tessa already knew about them.

Fiona returned to the table with a case. Duncan was stunned to see it contained a high-powered rifle.

“Connor bought it for me. He insisted I needed something more for protection than the dogs.”

“Do you know how to use it?”

Fiona looked at him as if he was unbelievably stupid.

“Of course. Connor made me take target practice until he was satisfied that I could shoot someone.”

The annoyance on Fiona’s face and in her voice made Duncan laugh.

“Sounds like you wanted to beat him over the head with it.”

“The thought did occur to me . . . many times.”

Richie Ryan sat listening to the adults whispering. He might only be six, but he knew what it meant when adults whispered when he was around. He was either going to another foster home or back to the orphanage. He remembered sneaking out of bed and coming down the stairs. He only wanted cookies and milk, but he had heard the adults whispering and stopped to listen.

“Mom?”

Duncan and Fiona looked at each other before turning toward Richie. His voice was plaintive and childlike.

“Mom, do I have to go back to the orphanage? Why can’t I stay here with you and Dad?”

Fiona was at Richie’s side in an instant. She stroked his hair gently. Richie relaxed into her like a child. Fiona glanced at Duncan.

“You can stay here as long as you like, Richie. It’s your home. You’re always welcome here.”

Richie smiled slightly. This foster mom was always nice to him. She had even painted his room blue when he asked. He wanted to believe her.

“I don’t have to go back to the orphanage?”

“Never.”

“I’m sleepy, Mom. Can I go back to bed now?”

“I’ll take him up. I’m going to sit up with him,” Duncan said.

Fiona let Duncan take Richie from her.

“Put him on the couch in my room. He’ll be comfortable there and we can both sleep as well.”

Duncan nodded. He was very tired. Sleep sounded like an excellent idea. Fiona was glad he agreed. She had barely slept the previous night.

With Richie settled on the couch, Duncan and Fiona laid down fully dressed on her bed. Both wanted to be ready to go to Richie’s side at any moment. They lay in bed talking quietly. Fiona fell asleep first. Duncan just started to doze off when Richie screamed.

Fiona raced across the room and was already cradling Richie when Duncan got there. Richie woke up and looked at the two other Immortals. The jumbled images from his dream were still racing through his head.

Richie was on his way to work at the dojo when he was jumped from behind. He had been beaten and dumped into the trunk of a car. Dragged out of the trunk, he had been locked in a room. There were lots of questions about people he knew. He had resisted answering most of them. His captors rewarded his smart remarks with punches. He knew who these people were, but the faces weren’t clear to him now. Although he remembered being uncomfortable about not having his sword, he was glad they hadn’t found it. It would have led to more questions and possibly been even more dangerous for him. After another beating, he had been drugged and thrown back into the trunk of the car. Then there had been a long ride to somewhere. Something became clear to him. Something dangerous and frightening.

“Mac, you gotta call Joe.”

Fiona tried to quiet him. He fought against her. Richie was obviously improving. He sat up quickly and had to wait until the room stopped spinning before he could speak again.

“I can’t remember everything, but I know Joe’s in danger. You gotta call him, Mac. Right now.”

“It’s late, Richie. Go back to sleep. We’ll call Joe in the morning.”

Richie looked dissatisfied with MacLeod’s answer. He glanced around the room. It seemed familiar. Slowly, he realized he was in Fiona’s bedroom. This had been one very strange day.

“Mac, what are we doin’ at Fiona’s? How’d I get here?”

“We’re not sure, Richie,” Fiona said softly, “but you . . . um . . . weren’t feeling well. Do you want to go back to your room now?”

Richie nodded. He didn’t question Fiona’s comment about not feeling well because he really didn’t. Richie got up and went down the hall. Fiona followed him. Richie just went to bed as if everything were normal. Fiona resisted the impulse to tuck him in. She couldn’t forget the wounded little boy he had been in the kitchen. She could tell he had been a street kid. It was obvious from his actions and attitude. She had not realized how tough growing-up had been for him. Unlike her own early years and those of Duncan and Connor, Richie evidently had no one who really cared about him.

Fiona had always thought herself fortunate. Both Duncan and Connor had been banished from their villages. Connor had been brutally beaten before being driven from the only life he knew. She had never been treated that way. She awoke after being killed in a raid on her village to find everyone else dead and the village destroyed. Losing everyone and everything had been almost too much to bear, but she had never been rejected or reviled by those she loved.

Champ padded up the stairs and into Richie’s room. The dog sniffed at Richie briefly before settling down next to the bed. Fiona smiled. Champ had adopted Richie and would not leave his side. She could not tuck Richie in, but nothing could stop Champ from showing his affection for the young Immortal.

She returned down the hall to her own bedroom. Duncan sat on the couch with his head down. The darkness of his mood was obvious.

“What happened to him, Fiona?”

Fiona shook her head. She had her theories. She could say nothing definite without a series of tests. Those would be impossible without checking Richie into a hospital. If her thoughts were correct, the test results would raise more questions from doctors than the answers she would get were worth.

“I think he was drugged. Possibly repeatedly. The drugs may have included hallucinogens. He was probably given more than enough to kill a mortal and then left for dead. He’ll be okay, but the drugs are still in his system and that’s why he can’t remember much.”

“Why Richie?”

“Maybe to get to you.”

Duncan frowned. Anyone who wanted him should come directly after him. It didn’t make sense to go after Richie.

It took some time, but Fiona finally convinced Duncan to get some sleep. He got into her bed and held her close. He was grateful for her gentleness to Richie. Richie didn’t talk about his childhood much. It had obviously been unpleasant being bounced from home to home. Duncan had been stunned when Richie asked about going back to the orphanage. Fiona handled it well, comforting the distraught child Richie had become. Just before he fell asleep, Duncan wondered vaguely what it would have been like if he and Fiona had been mortals and married so long ago on the Highlands.

****

When Richie got up the next morning, the first thing he wanted was a shower. He still couldn’t figure out what he was doing at Fiona’s house. After showering, he looked around for some clothes. He was surprised to find his own things in the drawers. He came across the shirt he had been wearing when he left for work. Fiona must have washed it because he remembered it as being wet and dirty. Why he thought that wasn’t clear to him.

When he stepped into the hall, he could hear Mac and Fiona downstairs in the kitchen. Fiona must be making breakfast. Richie felt as if he hadn’t eaten in days. He hurried down the stairs. One of Fiona’s dogs followed close behind him. The young Immortal had the vague sense that he had spent a lot of time with this dog recently. Fiona beamed at him when he came into the kitchen. As he sat down at the table, Fiona placed a large glass of orange juice and a plate of pancakes in front of him. Dousing the pancakes in butter and syrup, Richie began to eat.

Fiona was glad to see that Richie had showered and dressed himself. He was eating the way he usually did. She wasn’t sure just how much he would recover during the night. It appeared he had partially recuperated physically. She doubted his mental improvement was as advanced.

She felt guilty as she watched Richie eating. During her marriage to Phillip, they had discussed adopting a child, but Fiona had been reluctant. At various times in her life, she worked as a governess, helping raise mortal children only to watch them grow old and die. It never occurred to her that someone like Richie would be caught up in the foster care system. He would have been very young then, about the age they had considered adopting. She would have sensed his pending Immortality and insisted on taking him as their son. Of course, the scenario contained many ifs: if they decided to adopt; if they met Richie; if Phillip agreed to taking a boy who resembled neither of them. The list went on.

Then again, Richie could have become Immortal at a much earlier age. He might have been killed in the accident that took Phillip from her. Sighing, she turned away from Richie and poured more batter on the griddle. The specter of pre-Immortal children would continue to haunt her.

Duncan had noticed the way Fiona was looking at Richie. He could tell she was thinking about Richie’s child-like questions about the orphanage from the previous night. The scene had replayed itself in his dreams. He had felt helpless in the face of Richie’s emotions, but thought Fiona dealt with it well and calmed Richie’s fears. Duncan walked up behind Fiona and slipped his arms around her waist. Kissing her hair, he could feel her relax.

Having Duncan close to her made Fiona feel better. Richie had Duncan to take care of him now. It didn’t ease the pain she had heard in Richie’s voice, but it made her feel less haunted.

Richie watched the two elder Immortals. He remembered having a really weird dream about Mac and Fiona being his foster parents when he was a kid. Fiona told him he would never go back to the orphanage because this was his home. It was a really nice dream. It would have been great to grow up with parents like Mac and Fiona in a big house like this.

The dream seemed to overlap a foster family Richie had stayed with for a while. They had been nice to him, but the couple had many fights over a man Richie had been told to call “Uncle Tony”. Much later, Richie realized that his foster mother had been having an affair with “Uncle Tony”. When his foster dad lost his job, the couple decided to move away and start over somewhere else. Richie went back to the orphanage soon after that decision had been made. His dream turned out much better. He had gotten to stay with Mac and Fiona. The memory of the dream confused him. It seemed awfully real. He would have sworn it actually happened that way.

“Want more pancakes, Richie?”

“Sure.”

Laughing, Mac let go of Fiona and returned to the table, grinning at Richie. Fiona refilled both their plates.

“So, when do we leave, Mac?,” Richie asked between mouthfuls.

Duncan glanced at Fiona.

“I’m leaving in a little while. You’re staying here.”

Richie put his fork down. He knew this decision had been made without consulting him.

“Why? I’m fine and I want to go home.”

Fiona came over and put her hand on his shoulder. Richie looked up at her. Her expression was very serious.

“Richie, do you remember how you got here?”

Richie shook his head. The last thing he remembered was getting ready to go to work at the dojo. He didn’t know how he got here instead.

“Until we know what happened to you, it’s probably better to stay on Holy Ground.”

“What’s to stop me getting on my bike and leaving?”

“Your bike’s at home,” Mac said.

Richie stared across the table at MacLeod. If he didn’t ride his bike, how did he get here? He didn’t remember riding up in Mac’s car.

“You’d better get ready to go, Duncan.”

Richie thought she sounded sad. MacLeod looked at his watch and got up from the table. Richie jumped up as well.

“I’m going with you, Mac.”

The older Immortal frowned at him. Although he wanted the younger man with him, he saw the wisdom of Fiona’s suggestion. He shook his head. Richie began to protest again.

“Richie, sit down,” Fiona said firmly.

Everyone who was in the kitchen with her -- Richie, Duncan and the dogs -- all sat down. Fiona almost laughed, but managed to keep her composure. Richie was frowning now. He wanted to go back to his own place, but the tone of Fiona’s voice told him that he should resign himself to staying with her. A thought nagged at the back of his mind.

“Did you call Joe?”

Richie wasn’t certain why he wanted Mac to call Joe Dawson, but it seemed really important. It had something to do with how Richie got to Fiona’s.

****

MacLeod went into another room to call Joe. The Watcher was surprised and confused to hear from Mac.

“Joe, do you have your gun?”

“Yeah, Mac, why?”

“I’m not sure. Just keep your eyes open and your gun close at hand. I’ll try to explain when I see you.”

Dawson frowned as he hung up the phone. The cryptic conversation was unlike MacLeod. He decided to check his weapon. If Duncan MacLeod wanted him to be armed, he must have a very, very good reason.

MacLeod made one more phone call. He wanted to alert Methos to the possibility of danger. It would be safer for Joe if someone was watching his back.

****

When Duncan returned to the kitchen, Fiona and Richie were deep in conversation. She was trying to explain what had happened to him. Richie had trouble believing anything she was saying. He insisted on going home with MacLeod.

“Richie, if it was one of us, you’re much better off on Holy Ground,” Fiona argued.

“It wasn’t one of us,” Richie said firmly.

The older Immortals stared at Richie. He didn’t know why he said that, but he was certain it was true. He told them his jumbled memories of the incident. He couldn’t see how being on Holy Ground would make any difference. To prove that he would be safe with her, Fiona showed Richie her rifle. He immediately wanted to know if she would teach him how to use it.

“I’d better hit the road. Joe’s waiting for me.”

Fiona embraced Duncan. He kissed her lovingly. Richie again thought about having the couple as parents. Fiona walked Duncan to the front door.

“I’ll be back for him as soon as this is straightened out.”

“Stay for a few days?”

MacLeod nodded. He would find a way to spend some time with her after they had discovered the truth about what had happened to Richie.

****

Sid Davis thought about recent events. He wasn’t much for reflection, but he did like to gloat. He had finally caught up with Richie Ryan. Ryan screwed up too many times on jobs Sid planned. Six years earlier, he had been arrested as a result of Ryan’s bungling on their last job together. Ryan managed to disappear for a while, but Sid found him just the same. Sid wanted to pull a heist at a bar and as he was staking out the joint, who should come out but one Richie Ryan. The next night one of Davis’ associates had gone into the bar and saw Ryan talking to the owner. It was too perfect. Ryan knew about the workings of the bar and he owed Sid.

The same accomplice tailed Ryan, finding out where he lived and worked. Ryan’s job also interested Sid. There might be some good money there, too. They grabbed him the next day. He had put up a good fight, but they managed to get him into the trunk of the car. Ryan had been his typical, smart-mouthed self. He wouldn’t give Davis the information he wanted about the bar or the gym. He didn’t even seem frightened by the automatic weapons the gang had acquired for the jobs.

Once it became clear that Ryan wasn’t going to help them, Sid decided to give Ryan an overdose and dump his body somewhere. The last thing Sid needed was a loose end to blab to the police. The death of a street kid like Richie Ryan would go unnoticed, especially if a mixture of drugs was found in his system. Guys who owned bars and gyms were usually not too concerned about their employees.

Sid grinned. His plans were moving forward. They would hit Joe’s Bar first. A day or two later, they would go after Desalvo’s Gym.

****

Fiona stood at the window watching Richie chop wood. She thought the physical exercise would help clear the drugs from his body, although she doubted it would help him remember what had happened. Careful to stay clear of the ax he was swinging, the dogs milled around Richie, alternately sniffing him and the wood. He shooed them from time to time and they would busy themselves elsewhere, but they always returned to check on him again. Fiona smiled. Whether he knew it or not, he was being babysat.

If Fiona was right about the amount of drugs in Richie’s system, the dogs might have been able to smell them. Regardless, they had taken care of him and come to her for help. He would have survived in any event. He was Immortal and on Holy Ground, but it made her feel better that she had been able to help him instead of leaving him outdoors indefinitely.

She suspected the drugs had killed Richie repeatedly while he lay on her property. It would explain his inability to remember much of what had happened to him. If those memories were going to return, she hoped it would be during his stay with her. She thought he might need more love and attention than Duncan would know how to give. Fiona wondered how long Richie would be willing to stay with her, although the question might actually be how long Duncan would leave him with her.

****

Duncan MacLeod arrived back at the dojo. He had checked in with Joe Dawson periodically during his drive back. Nothing seemed to be wrong. If MacLeod didn’t know Richie better, he might have thought Richie had gone on a tear and messed up.

He sensed another Immortal. He groaned. In all the excitement over Richie, he had forgotten about Amanda. She must have gotten angry waiting for him at the airport and taken a cab. He would have to explain about Richie and hope that her feelings for the young Immortal would keep her from yelling too much.

When he got up to the loft, he found Methos laying on the couch drinking a beer as Amanda paced back and forth like a caged tiger. Promising to answer their questions later, he called Dawson. After speaking briefly to his Watcher, MacLeod turned his attention to the other Immortals.

“This better be good, MacLeod,” Amanda said angrily. “I waited two hours before he showed up.”

Methos grinned. He’d gotten to the airport as quickly as he could after receiving Amanda’s enraged phone call. She had complained about MacLeod all the way to the loft even after Methos told her that MacLeod had been called out of town.

MacLeod quickly told them about Richie’s unexplained arrival at Fiona’s. Methos asked many questions while Amanda sat wide-eyed. Duncan answered the questions as best he could. He wished Fiona was with him. She could answer Methos’ medical questions better than he could.

Amanda finally found her voice and asked if Richie was okay. MacLeod reassured her. She wanted to talk to Richie, but Mac insisted they discuss the possibility that Dawson was in serious danger. Richie was safe for the time being.

****

Richie pulled the four wheel drive into Fiona’s driveway. Fiona had been entertained by his excitement when she suggested they go for a ride. She knew he wanted to drive the four-by-four and thought he had recovered enough to do so. Besides, they both needed a break from staying at the house.

Now, they sat in the car looking at the strange car already parked in the driveway. Richie frowned at the rental car.

“Relax, Richie. No one knows you’re here.”

Richie nodded uncertainly. When they got out of the car, they felt the vague sense of another Immortal. Fiona and Richie exchanged a glance. Richie began searching for his sword.

“We’re on Holy Ground, Richie. You don’t need that.”

Richie knew she was right, but he felt better with his sword in hand. The dogs came happily to greet them.

“Who’s here?,” Fiona asked them.

The dogs barked excitedly in response. Fiona wondered if it was someone the dogs knew or if she was going to find they had attacked an Immortal. As they approached the house, the sense of another of their kind became stronger. Fiona glanced back at the car. If Duncan had come to reclaim Richie, why did he rent a car instead of driving the Thunderbird?

Fiona opened the door carefully. She could feel Richie waiting tensely behind her. She wanted to calm the young Immortal, so he wouldn’t do anything stupid on Holy Ground. The dogs thundered past them and disappeared into the house. Fiona went inside slowly with Richie close behind her. A slight noise attracted their attention to the living room.

Connor MacLeod sat on the couch holding a nearly empty bottle of scotch. Richie stared at the man. He had only met the elder Highlander once shortly after meeting Duncan MacLeod. Richie wanted to say something, but the man’s disheveled appearance made him hesitate.

“Richie,” Fiona said softly, “go wait in the kitchen. I’ll call you if I need you.”

Richie did as he was told. Although they were on Holy Ground, he felt uneasy about leaving Fiona alone with a man in that condition. He had seen too many of his foster fathers get drunk and beat up on their wives to believe Connor MacLeod could be trusted. He had to rely on Fiona’s judgment.

After Richie disappeared into the kitchen, Fiona stepped into the living room and called Connor’s name. When she got no response, she moved closer and called him again. He looked up slowly. The pain in his eyes nearly overwhelmed her. Quickly, she crossed the room and sat beside him. As soon as she put her arms around him comfortingly, he began to sob. Fiona held the crying man, crooning songs she had learned as a child on the Highlands. She stroked his hair as if he were a boy. When he tried to drink from the bottle he held, Fiona took it from him gently.

“No. No more, Connor. Tell me.”

Connor sat up. When he tried to speak, his eyes filled with tears. Shaking his head, he looked away from Fiona’s face and focused his gaze on the doorway. Startled, he jumped up from the couch.

“Who the hell are you?”

Fiona turned around in time to see Richie disappear from the doorway. Connor started after him. She grabbed Connor’s arm, pulling him back down on the couch.

“It’s Duncan’s student.”

Connor frowned in concentration. Slowly, a name came to him through the mental haze formed by anguish and alcohol.

“Richie?”

“Aye, Richie. He’s staying with me. A break from the Game. What happened, Connor?”

Richie reappeared carrying a pot of coffee and two cups. He put the coffee things down near Fiona and deftly picked up the bottle of scotch. He left as quietly as he had come. Fiona turned her attention back to Connor. Slowly and quietly, he told her what had happened. She thought her heart would break.

Although Connor refused both coffee and food, Fiona was finally able to convince him that he needed to sleep. She coaxed him up to her room and helped him into bed. She waited until he fell asleep before leaving the room. She would return to him as soon as she spoke to Richie.

She found Richie sitting dejectedly at the kitchen table. It looked like the boy had been crying. He barely moved when she sat down next to him.

“It’s Mac, isn’t it? Mac’s dead.”

Fiona was startled. She had never imagined that Richie would think that. She was sorry she had not found a way to speak to him sooner.

“Duncan’s fine, Richie. Call him, if you don’t believe me. Just don’t tell him that Connor’s here. Not yet.”

Richie looked at her in disbelief. He was certain that Mac was dead and Connor had come to break the news to Fiona.

“Richie, if Duncan were dead, Connor would be hunting his killer, not sitting in my living room drinking. Call Duncan.”

Richie dialed the phone. Methos picked it up on the second ring. Richie could hear Amanda’s voice in the background. After a short conversation with Richie, Methos tried to hand the phone to MacLeod. Amanda grabbed it instead. Richie answered her questions even though he didn’t really understand all of them.

Finally, he convinced her to give the phone to Mac. Richie was relieved to hear the Highlander’s voice. Mac sounded busy. After they spoke for a while, MacLeod asked for Fiona. She spoke to him briefly and then hung up. Richie’s relief was obvious. Fiona hugged him, happy that he cared so much for Duncan.

“What’s going on, Fiona?”

Fiona shook her head. She didn’t want to talk to him about Connor just now. He had been through enough already.

“Later, Richie.”

Richie helped Fiona make dinner. He had been convinced that Mac was dead and Fiona was trying to shelter him. He wondered what could drive a man like Connor MacLeod to behave that way. It had to be pretty serious.

After dinner, Fiona retreated to her room with Connor. It bothered Richie that she could talk to Mac one minute and return to Connor the next. Richie and the dogs watched television together until he could no longer find something to hold his interest. Richie glanced down the hall at Fiona’s room before entering his own.

****

The next morning, Fiona awoke on the couch. She had kept watch over the man in her care during the night as she had so often on the Highlands. Over the centuries, she found that wounded bodies healed much quicker than wounded spirits. She glanced at the man in her bed.

Connor had had a rough night, calling out repeatedly in his sleep. She spoke gently to him each time, hoping he would hear her and it would ease his suffering. She didn’t think it had worked, but he seemed to be sleeping peacefully now. That was probably why she had dozed off herself. She dressed quickly. She desperately wanted a cup of coffee. On her way downstairs, she noticed Richie’s room was empty.

She looked for him on the first floor. In the kitchen, there was no fresh coffee and no evidence that any food had been prepared recently. Fiona started a pot of coffee. Looking out the window, she saw Richie standing almost in the exact spot where she had originally found him laying. The dogs roamed around near him. She would go out and talk to him in a moment.

****

Connor MacLeod awoke alone in Fiona’s bedroom. His head hurt and his stomach felt like it wanted to leave his body. He sat up slowly, trying not to make himself feel any worse. The room spun anyway. He closed his eyes until it stopped.

He barely remembered how he got here. Seeing the blanket on the sofa, he knew Fiona had kept watch over him during the night. She had done that countless times over the centuries. He felt guilty about allowing her to find him drunk and distraught. He had come to this house to get away from recent events in his life. All he wanted was to be alone and drink himself into a stupor until the pain went away. Because Fiona was here, that wouldn’t be possible.

He wouldn’t stay in this room. He couldn’t bring himself to sleep with Fiona just yet. If he stayed in her bedroom, she would stay up keeping watch every night. There was no other way to deal with this situation. After a shower, he would move some of his things out of this room before going downstairs to look for her. They had to talk.

****

Fiona left the house and walked over to where the young Immortal stood. Richie didn’t acknowledge her presence.

“Can I interest you in breakfast?”

Richie turned on her angrily.

“How can you do that? How can you sleep with him when Mac just left? I thought you loved Mac.”

Fiona slapped Richie. Stunned, he put his hand to his face. Feeling something warm and wet, he looked at his hand. She struck him so hard his nose was bleeding. He could see the fury in her eyes. The dogs barked at them furiously. Champ forced his way in between the two Immortals.

“How dare you ask me that! Did you ask Duncan about Amanda when he was here?”

Richie was ashamed of himself. He had been reacting the same way Mac reacted to Fiona and Connor. He tried to apologize to her. She only glared at him. He couldn’t find the right words.

She turned her back on him and stood staring at the house. She should go back inside. She didn’t want Connor to awake alone.

“Fiona, please. I’m sorry.”

Fiona turned her gaze on him. Richie wished he could start this day over again.

“I will tell you something now, but only if you promise not to say anything to Connor.”

Richie would have promised her anything at that moment. He felt like getting on his knees and begging her to forget everything he had said in the past few minutes. He nodded. Fiona sighed.

“The greatest chance an Immortal takes is telling a mortal who and what we are.”

Mac had said that to Richie many times. He had even told Richie about how he told Tessa. Richie knew first-hand about Mac and Doctor Lindsey. That had been rough. She had seen Mac killed.

“So Connor’s girlfriend left him?”

Richie knew what that felt like. Fiona glanced at the house. When she turned back to Richie, he could see the pain in her eyes.

“After he told her, she jumped out a tenth story window to get away from him.”

Richie shuddered. He could imagine the horror of the moment. Fiona turned and walked back to the house, leaving a stunned Richie behind her. Slowly, he trailed after her.

When they got back to the kitchen, Connor was sitting at the table drinking a cup of coffee. He studied Duncan’s student. Noticing a trace of blood beneath the boy’s nose, he wondered what the boy had done that caused Fiona to take that action against him. He instantly dismissed the idea of an attempted sexual advance by the boy. He wouldn’t be that stupid with Connor in the house. He wouldn’t be that stupid period. Duncan would certainly not tolerate that behavior. Forget what Fiona would do to him before either of them found out.

Whatever the boy had done, he would not do it again. Connor could still remember a punch to the jaw even though it happened more than 300 years ago.

Connor smiled slightly at the memory. He was visiting Duncan and Fiona who were posing as man and wife. After many drinks at a local pub, a man made advances toward Fiona. After telling him in no uncertain terms that she was not interested in him, Fiona returned to the company of Duncan and Connor. The man persisted. She introduced her husband and his brother to discourage the stranger. Finally, Duncan stood up, loudly demanding that the man leave his wife alone. A brawl broke out. Never one to shrink from a fight, Fiona was in the thick of it. She threw a punch at someone who managed to duck. The punch landed on Connor’s jaw instead. He had been stunned that she could hit that hard. When her intended victim joked that he had made her strike her own kin, Fiona threw another punch which met its mark and knocked the man to the floor.

After that, Duncan grabbed Fiona from behind trying to drag her out of the pub. Thinking she was being attacked, she punched the younger MacLeod. Although dazed, Duncan managed to physically remove her from the melee.

Fiona noticed the expression on Connor’s face and wondered what he was thinking. He appeared almost happy. Showered and shaved, he looked like himself again. She kissed him gently before beginning to make breakfast. Although Connor insisted he wasn’t hungry, Fiona put a plate of food in front of him. He picked at it. She noticed Richie ate with less enthusiasm than usual. Fiona tried making conversation with Connor, but got little response.

“I’ve moved out of your bedroom. I’ll sleep in the beige one.”

Fiona frowned. He had chosen the room furthest from hers.

“I don’t really want company right now, but I don't want to be alone.”

Fiona nodded. She remembered how she felt after Phillip’s death. She needed companionship, but when Connor embraced her, she could only think of Phillip. She would let Connor heal in his own way.

Connor played with the food in front of him. As usual, Fiona’s cooking was excellent. He really wanted a drink. It was unlikely Fiona would allow it. He had come here for the isolation. In a way, he was glad she was here because he needed her warmth and friendship. He had to accept everything else that went along with that. She would be watching everything he did. He looked across the table at Duncan’s student and wondered why the boy was here.

“Take Richie outside and work with him.”

Connor shook his head. Every time he closed his eyes, he could still see the look of horror and loathing on Lise’s face just before she jumped. He had gotten to Holy Ground as fast as he possibly could to avoid other Immortals. Now he just wanted to forget about his Immortality for a while. The last thing he wanted to do was handle a sword.

Fiona saw Connor’s eyes filling with tears. Richie was amazed at how quickly she was at Connor’s side. When she put her arms around him, he leaned into her. Something told Richie she had recently held him the same way. He couldn’t imagine where the thought came from. Fiona gestured to Richie to leave the room.

Richie took the remains of his breakfast and wandered off into the dining room. The contents of the china cabinet jingled in welcome. He finished his breakfast while looking out through the porch to the outside. He could hear the soft murmur of voices in the kitchen. Suddenly, he heard Fiona calling his name.

When he stepped back into the kitchen, he saw that Connor MacLeod had regained his composure and was picking at his food again. He seemed to be actually eating some of it. Fiona calmly sipped a cup of coffee. She smiled when Richie helped himself to seconds.

“Get your sword, Richie. Connor will be your teacher today.”

Richie hesitated. He didn’t remember having his sword. In fact, he sort of remembered that he was glad he didn’t have it. That was a concept that he couldn’t understand. Fiona mistook his hesitation for an attempted refusal.

“Don’t you want to be able to back Duncan against the wall?,” she asked with a wicked grin.

She saw the expression on Richie’s face brighten. He glanced at Connor and then turned back to Fiona. She had told him that the elder Highlander could teach him the moves that had helped her defeat Harris Waverly. He never expected to have the opportunity.

“I don’t have my sword.”

Connor frowned. Why would the boy go anywhere without his sword? Duncan must have taught him better than that. He would have to speak to his former student. He glanced at Fiona. She seemed deep in thought.

Fiona knew Duncan had brought Richie’s sword along with some of his clothes after she called him. She remembered they had put his clothes in his room, but couldn’t recall what they had done with the boy’s sword. She got up from the table and opened the pantry door. Connor smiled. Fiona kept the oddest things in that pantry. Sometimes, he used it as a hiding place. If he succeeded in coming to terms with recent events, he would be tempted to surprise her that way again. It always made for an interesting sword fight and usually led to something more interesting afterward.

Fiona emerged from the pantry with Richie’s sword. Richie grinned. He was beginning to believe that he had lost it. Eagerly, he took it from Fiona’s hand.

Connor got up from the table slowly. He really didn’t want to do this, but he had promised Fiona he would work with the boy. He went upstairs to get his sword, leaving Richie and Fiona alone in the kitchen.

“I’m sorry, Fiona. I was way out of line.”

“That you were,” she said grimly.

She took the remains of Connor’s breakfast and scraped it into the dogs’ bowls. They came to sniff the treat before devouring it. Richie frowned. The last thing he wanted was for Fiona to hate him. Fiona saw the look on the young man’s face. She was still angry about his earlier remark, but she understood the reasons behind it.

“I don’t hate you, Richie. I know you were . . . looking out for Duncan. I do love Duncan, but I would never refuse to take care of Connor . . . or you . . . because of him.”

Richie suddenly remembered waking up on the couch in Fiona’s bedroom. Fiona and Mac had been at his side quickly. It was almost like they had been sitting up with him. He wondered if she had been taking care of Connor in the same way.

She looked into Richie’s face. The boy was blushing again. He could really melt her heart when he looked like that. She kissed him full on the mouth, startling Richie. He hadn’t expected the softness of the kiss or the love he felt in it. The last one to kiss him like that was one of his foster mothers.

Connor had seen the kiss from the doorway. He wondered about it. It seemed innocent enough, but he couldn’t be certain.

“Come, boy. Let’s see what you can do.”

“The name’s Richie. Richie Ryan.”

Fiona heard the edge in Richie’s voice. The pugnacious part of his personality was reemerging. Connor reacted to it, too. He stared at the boy. Richie met his gaze. The young Immortal’s attitude satisfied something in Connor.

“I will call you by your name after I see what you can do,” Connor said, walking toward the door.

“I have a good teacher.”

Fiona saw the half-smile on Connor’s face as he led Richie from the house. Fiona decided she would clean up in the kitchen and leave the two men alone. She watched them from the house for a few minutes. The dogs had accompanied them and were observing the activity from a safe distance. They were trained to stay away from swinging swords.

Richie never fully believed the stories Mac told about Connor MacLeod. Now, he knew they were all true. Connor MacLeod was aggressive and unforgiving. He attacked Richie relentlessly. Richie felt battered and bruised. He was fighting and healing at the same time. That never happened with Mac.

Richie understood what Mac meant when he said that Fiona fought like Connor. Mac’s technique was much smoother than Connor’s, but both styles were effective. He wondered how Fiona coped with the man. Already feeling sore, Richie defended himself as best he could.

Although he wouldn’t let the boy know it just yet, Connor MacLeod was impressed. His student had become a good teacher. He noticed the boy needed to improve his concentration.

Movement near the house drew Richie’s attention. Fiona was approaching them, carrying her sword. Richie grinned. He would love to watch Fiona and Connor practice. Richie suddenly found himself flat on his back staring up into Connor MacLeod’s face. Connor had used Richie’s lapse to punch the younger Immortal with his sword hand knocking him to the ground. There was blood on the younger man’s face. Being punched with the hilt of a sword usually broke bones. The elder Immortal suspected he had broken the boy’s cheek bone. Connor kicked Richie in the ribs before putting his foot on Richie’s chest to keep the boy down.

“Stay focused. Stay alive,” Connor said, placing the blade of his sword against Richie’s neck.

Richie wondered if Connor had forgotten that they were on Holy Ground.

Walking toward them, Fiona watched Connor standing over Richie. The elder Highlander had knocked her down once because she wasn’t paying attention during a lesson. Unlike the way he had struck Richie, he had knocked her feet from under her. The effect was the same. Terrified, she was flat on her back with Connor’s sword at her neck. They weren’t on Holy Ground. It was the first time she realized how easily Duncan or Connor could take her head. Seeing the terror in her eyes, Connor threw his sword aside and helped her up from the ground. Holding her close, he murmured apologetically to her, but she never forgot the lesson. She should never fully trust another Immortal.

When she reached the two men, Fiona stood next to Connor, smiling down at Richie.

“You did very well, Richie,” she said. She touched MacLeod’s arm gently. “Don’t hurt him, Connor. Well, not too much.”

Unexpectedly, Connor wrapped his arm around her waist and kissed her. Fiona was surprised. Perhaps the workout with Richie was more beneficial than she expected. She never thought it would help him forget the reason he had come to her. Connor let go of her and walked away. He stood with his back to them. Fiona understood what he was going through. He needed time more than anything else.

Richie lay on his back, staring at the sky. He was sore and uncomfortable. The ground felt cold and hard beneath him. One of the dogs sniffed him before licking his face.

Glancing at Richie, Fiona saw he had not moved. She chased Champ away and crouched down next to the boy.

“Richie, are you okay?,” she asked.

Placing her hand gently on his forehead, she stroked his hair. Richie sat up suddenly.

“I remember. Fiona, I remember everything. I gotta call Mac. I gotta tell him.”

Richie jumped up and ran toward the house. The dogs raced after him. Fiona followed Richie. She wanted to hear what he was going to say to Duncan.

The boy’s outburst had pulled Connor out of his memories. He watched the others. The boy was running. Fiona was walking after him quickly. MacLeod made certain he caught up with Fiona. He wanted to know why the boy was staying with her and what it was that he remembered.

When the elder Immortals entered the house, Connor was frowning. Fiona’s story about the boy made very little sense. They found Richie sitting dejectedly at the kitchen table.

“Mac’s not home. I had to leave him a message.”

Connor put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder.

“Come back outside, Richie. There’s a few moves I’d like to teach you.”

Richie looked up at the elder Immortal. There was a gentleness in his voice and eyes that Richie hadn’t expected after the beating he had just received from the man. This must be the side of himself Connor usually showed Fiona. He frowned. Still sore from the first go-round, he was about to refuse until he realized the older man had called him by name.

“Go ahead, Richie. I’ll call you if Duncan phones.”

Richie got up from the table slowly. Gingerly, he rubbed his side where Connor had kicked him. Although whatever damage Connor had done was healed, the area was still sore. Richie thought it might be a result of the beating he had previously received from Sid and the others.

“Okay, but go easier on me this time.”

Quickly and without warning, Connor slammed Richie into the wall, pinning him there. The elder Highlander’s sword was at Richie’s neck again. Fiona could see the anger in Richie’s eyes, but she knew exactly what Connor was doing. Richie struggled without result. Connor MacLeod was in complete control of the situation.

“Opponents won’t go easy on you. Neither should your teacher. Not if he wants you to survive.”

Richie saw the same coldness in Connor’s face that he sometimes saw in Mac’s. This wasn’t personal. It was a lesson.

“Richie’s already fought and won, Connor. He’s not a novice.”

Nodding, Connor released Richie and turned toward Fiona. Before he could say anything to her, the younger man attacked him from behind. Taking advantage of his own element of surprise, Richie punched the older man repeatedly. Connor wiped blood away from his temple and mouth. The pain in his side indicated the boy had probably cracked some ribs. He could feel them snapping back into place.

“One thing Mac taught me was never to turn my back on an opponent.”

Richie braced himself for retaliation. He would not back down even though this was Mac’s kinsman and teacher. He was tired of Connor MacLeod’s attitude toward him. Richie wondered why Fiona stood calmly while all this happened. They were in her house and on Holy Ground. He thought she would have objected long ago.

Grinning, Connor clapped Richie on the back and repeated his offer to return outside for a lesson. It surprised Richie. He expected to be slammed into the wall again.

As much as she hated to see Richie abused, Fiona knew the working over Connor had given the boy was just to see how he would react. Richie had passed the test. Satisfied, Connor would train the young Immortal. She had seen that the younger man was going to lunge at Connor, but decided not to warn him. Richie needed revenge and Connor needed to be taught a lesson himself.

The two men went back outside. Realizing Duncan would not call immediately, Fiona picked up her sword and followed them. Both men turned when they heard the back door slam. Richie grinned. This might be his opportunity to see the two elder Immortals fight against each other. Connor looked at her curiously.

“I saw some flaws in your technique earlier, Connor. I’d like a chance to capitalize on them. What am I saying? I want a chance to kick your butt.”

Her remarks had the desired effect. She saw a flicker of anger in the elder Highlander’s eyes. He quickly assumed a fighting stance. Without waiting for her to do the same, he attacked.

Richie stepped back from them, trying to keep clear of wildly swinging swords. He was surprised by Fiona’s ability to match her opponent blow for blow. Both drew blood quickly and repeatedly. Richie was shocked that they fought so seriously on Holy Ground. If he didn’t know better, he would have thought they were fighting for real.

Fiona had been serious about seeing some flaws in Connor’s earlier activity with Richie. She’d taken advantage of them, but Connor caught on quickly and returned to his normal level of ability. They parried until Fiona managed to bring her sword to Connor’s neck. The Highlander signaled defeat.

“I’ve got things to do inside. I’ll call you when Duncan phones.”

Before she walked away, Connor kissed her. He was grateful for the distraction she provided. She was a skilled fighter and it was always interesting to practice with her. When she turned to leave, Connor swatted her gently with his sword. Laughing, she turned and winked at him.

Fiona heard the two men talking as she walked back to the house. Richie was asking questions about the fight he’d just witnessed. Connor’s explanations were amusing, especially the one about why he lost. She wished she could stay outside and listen, but she didn’t want to interfere. Glancing back at them briefly, she entered the house.

Fiona observed the two men from the window. Connor was actually teaching Richie some of his technique. She saw Connor demonstrating and explaining the moves before Richie tried to emulate them. The older man patiently corrected the younger man’s mistakes. Fiona could see that Richie was a quick learner. Connor’s body language told her he approved of the boy’s abilities. Occasionally, the elder Immortal would even smile.

She watched them thoughtfully. Neither Connor nor Duncan were ever easy on her. They were keenly aware that she would be confronted by male Immortals. An opponent wouldn’t make allowances for her gender, so neither did they. They always made it up to her later by pampering her somehow. She remembered bruises and broken bones followed by flowers and gourmet dinners.

Later, she did summon the men, but only because she had errands to run and didn’t want Duncan to get her answering machine when he called. Richie looked tired and happy when he came in, talking enthusiastically about what Connor had shown him. Connor listened patiently to the boy’s prattling. Fiona saw a glimmer in the older man’s eyes that she hadn’t expected to see again for a long time. Richie was helping him cope with his girlfriend’s suicide.

Fiona smiled as the two men raided the refrigerator. She needed groceries anyway. Any doubts she had about leaving them alone together were gone. Telling the dogs to watch her guests, Fiona went out to her car and drove away.

****

After hearing Richie’s message, Mac called him back immediately. If Richie had details, he needed them. He couldn’t plan any defense for Dawson unless he knew what was going to happen.

Duncan was startled when his kinsman answered the phone. Connor wouldn’t tell Duncan why he was at Fiona’s, but managed to let Duncan know they were not sleeping together. Mac didn’t know if he was more confused by Connor’s presence or his move into the beige bedroom. Certainly, Connor wouldn’t let Richie’s presence intimidate him. Connor MacLeod wasn’t that easily discouraged. Neither was Fiona, for that matter.

When he asked for Fiona, Connor said she had gone to town. Richie was in the shower, but should be done shortly. Connor related some of what had passed between himself and Duncan’s student. Duncan was interested in his kinsman’s analysis of Richie’s capabilities.

Hearing the younger man running down the stairs, Connor shouted for him. Richie eagerly snatched the phone from the elder Highlander.

The older man listened to Richie side of the conversation. Someone from Richie’s past was planning to rob a bar. According to the young Immortal, the crime could take place within a few hours. It didn’t sound too important until Richie mentioned the bar owner’s name. It was familiar. Duncan had mentioned Joe Dawson before. Connor frowned. Richie claimed the criminals had automatic weapons and didn’t plan on leaving any witnesses.

MacLeod was disturbed by Richie’s information. The younger man rarely mentioned anyone from his checkered past, but Sid Davis was a name MacLeod recognized. He was a local hoodlum, not very bright and not very good at criminal activity. He was usually one of the first ones picked up by the police for questioning after nearly every robbery. The fact that this thug had help and weapons wasn’t good news. Mac believed that Davis was intent on murder as well as robbery. He thanked Richie and gave him a message for Fiona before hanging up.

When MacLeod put down the phone, Amanda looked at him expectantly. She had been listening to his side of the conversation with Richie. He seemed deep in thought. Suddenly his expression changed. She knew that look usually meant trouble. Grinning, Mac made a call to Methos, summoning him to the dojo.

****

When Fiona returned from town, Connor told her about the conversation between Richie and Duncan. She immediately made Richie tell her everything he remembered. Although she suspected he had been beaten and drugged, it bothered her to hear the words from Richie. He had endured a great deal at the hands of his captors. When they grabbed him, they didn’t check the saddle bag on his bike. If they found his sword, they might have really killed him.

Richie had refused to give Sid Davis and his pals any information about Joe Dawson or Duncan MacLeod. Because of the sign over the dojo’s door, they thought Mac’s name was Desalvo, but he wouldn’t even confirm or deny that for them. After drugging him, they had thrown him in the trunk of the car to dump him somewhere. He wasn’t certain if he passed out or died during the ride. Although she was fairly certain he had died, Fiona kept silent. It wouldn’t help him to know that.

When he came to, he was out of the trunk. Instinct made him start running. He had no idea where he was going. He just went. He collapsed repeatedly during his flight. Again he wasn’t certain if he had died or just passed out. He remembered getting up wet and dirty. Every time, he would start running again, driven by some very basic survival instinct.

Eventually, his surroundings seemed familiar, but he didn’t really know why. When he saw the big house, he knew it meant safety, despite his confusion.

Fiona smiled. The young Immortal had unconsciously sought out her help. She wanted him to think of this as his home. Perhaps he was beginning to.

****

It was business as usual in Joe Dawson’s bar. The Immortals had given the owner only sketchy details about their plan. He believed them when they said his life might be at stake. He had his gun and explicit instructions from Mac to be ready to take cover once the action started.

Joe brought Amanda another drink. Her outrageously sexy outfit had the attention of every man in the place. Dawson could tell from her expression that she was enjoying every moment as the center of attention. The only thing keeping her from drawing a crowd was the presence of MacLeod and Methos. Dressed in dark suits, the two men stayed close to her.

As the bar quieted down, a trio of young punks came in. A signal from Mac let Joe know these were the ones he had been talking about. Trying to remain calm, Joe waited on the smirking, smart-mouthed gang. He noticed the two male Immortals gradually moved away from Amanda. She easily caught the eye of the leader of this group. Joe recognized him, but didn’t know the kid’s name. He watched Amanda openly flirting with the young thug. The kid was instantly enthralled.

Sid Davis bought the sexy woman a drink. Maybe this robbery deal could wait. This might be his lucky night. He quickly moved around the bar to chat up the dark-haired temptress. That was when the two guys in dark suits appeared. Standing directly behind him, they were cramping his style.

“You two got a problem?”

“No, we think you’ve got the problem,” MacLeod responded, speaking with a thick accent that was not his own.

Davis turned away from the jerk. He had better things to do. Whenever Davis tried to talk to the woman, the guy kept interrupting. He wouldn’t go away. Davis’ cronies stood up. MacLeod merely glanced in their direction.

“Mister Grinkov will be very unhappy when he hears you’ve been messing with his woman.”

At the mention of the local mobster, Davis and his associates froze. The two henchmen backed away from the bar slightly.

“Grinkov? Sam Grinkov?”

Smiling sweetly, Amanda nodded in response to Davis’ question. Suddenly nervous, Davis started to list the reasons he needed to make a quick exit. When he stood up, Joe got a glimpse of the gun shoved into the kid’s belt. It packed much more firepower than Joe’s own weapon.

The young thugs made a hurried exit from the bar they had planned to rob. After an unexpectedly close encounter with some of Sam Grinkov’s men, they were glad to get out with their lives. Discussing if they should leave town or just lay low, they didn’t notice the small army of police waiting for them.

The cops were acting on an anonymous tip about a gang with illegal weapons planning a robbery at a local watering hole. They had been unable to trace the call, but the story sounded legitimate. The bar was staked out and when Sid Davis and his crew appeared, backup was requested. The trio was quickly arrested. The cops were confused by the group’s apparent relief. If they were in jail, Sam Grinkov might not find out about Sid’s little encounter with the mobster’s girlfriend.

Inside Joe’s bar, there was a different kind of relief. MacLeod’s plan had worked perfectly down to the police cooperation. The only thing left to do was call Richie and tell him that everything was okay. That could wait until the morning. Just now it was time to celebrate.

****

With mixed feelings, Fiona watched Richie pack his things. She enjoyed the young man’s company. He had been good for Connor as well. The older Immortal was much more himself. He had offered to drive Richie home instead of making Duncan drive out to get him.

The offer had confused Richie. They had already returned the rental car that Connor had arrived in. He assumed they would take one of Fiona’s cars. He was hoping for the four-by-four. Maybe the older man would let him drive part of the way.

When he finished packing, Richie turned to Fiona. He didn’t know how to thank her. She had taken care of him without hesitation. He embraced her warmly. She kissed him again. He got the same feeling of love he experienced earlier when she kissed him while they were in the kitchen.

Once again, Connor witnessed the scene. This time he wasn’t surprised. She cared about the boy as if he were some extension of Duncan. Connor could appreciate that. He sometimes wondered if she loved him for the same reason.

Richie took his bag and followed the two older Immortals downstairs. The dogs seemed to be waiting for him near the front door. He played with them a few moments before leaving the house. Fiona was waiting for Connor to back the car out of the garage. Richie was amazed by the racy red vehicle Connor drove.

“Where’d that come from?”

“It’s Connor’s. He leaves it here. I drive it sometimes.”

Richie got into the car. Fiona frowned at him impatiently.

“In the back, Richie. I’m going along for the ride.”

Grinning, the young Immortal obeyed her. When Fiona slipped into the front seat, Connor leaned over and kissed her before gunning the motor and speeding off. Richie watched the couple in the front seat. Fiona’s relationship with Connor still puzzled Richie, but he would no longer question it. First of all, it was dangerous. Fiona hit hard. Secondly, he liked both of them. Whatever they did was none of his business.

****

Duncan looked out his office window when he heard the sound of a sports car pulling up outside the dojo. Richie was getting out of Connor’s car. Standing on the sidewalk in front of the dojo, Fiona embraced the young Immortal. Mac raced across the dojo and opened the front door.

He greeted Richie warmly, glad the young Immortal was himself again. After kissing Fiona, Duncan went around to the driver’s side of the car to talk to Connor. The two kinsmen had not seen each other in a long time. Bothered by the haunted look in Connor’s eyes, Duncan tried to convince his mentor to stay with him for a few days.

Connor shook his head. He wanted to return to Holy Ground, but promised to return for a visit. Fiona got back into the car with Connor. She waved as they sped away.

Duncan MacLeod watched the car disappear from sight. Connor still drove maniacally. Richie seemed thoughtful. Mac clapped the younger man on the back.

“Connor must like you. You’re still alive.”

Richie grimaced.

“The son of a bitch hit me with his sword.”

Mac laughed. Grabbing his bag, an angry Richie stormed into the dojo with MacLeod behind him. When Richie turned to look at him, the older man was trying to surpress a grin.

“You got distracted, didn’t you?”

The look of shock on Richie’s face made MacLeod laugh again.

“It’s Connor’s favorite way of focusing your attention. Unfortunately, I was a slow learner.”

Unconsciously, Mac rubbed his jaw. It had been centuries, but he could still feel the sting of Connor’s fist wrapped around the hilt of his sword. He had broken the younger MacLeod’s jaw that way once.

“Do you think Connor’s ever hit Fiona like that?”

Richie had watched them practice together. Neither one went easy on the other.

“Only if he was prepared to be hit.”

****

Duncan MacLeod walked into the dojo’s office. Richie Ryan sat at the desk working on the books. Recovered from his ordeal, the younger man had resumed his job almost immediately. He’d returned from his stay with Fiona about six months earlier. He looked up briefly at his friend and mentor. Mac smiled.

“Richie, you haven’t had a vacation in a while, have you?”

Richie shook his head in response to the question. Mac was a little too cheerful. He wondered what the older man was after.

“Why don’t you take a few days off ? You could go visit Fiona.”

Now Richie was convinced MacLeod was up to something. Although he’d like to see her, he talked to Fiona at least once or twice a week. A visit just wasn’t necessary. He put down his pencil and focused his attention on the older man.

“What’s going on, Mac?”

“Nothing,” MacLeod said, trying to look innocent. “I just thought you needed a break.”

Richie knew better, so he repeated his question. Mac grinned. He could see Richie wasn’t buying anything he said.

“Sid Davis is out of jail.”

Richie jumped up from his seat behind the desk. Sid Davis had kidnapped, beaten and drugged Richie. Even with his Immortality, he died several times during the ordeal.

“Son of a bitch!”

Richie started pulling on his jacket.

“Not smart, Richie. He knows where you live. He knows where you work. And he thinks you’re dead.”

“What’s he gonna do, Mac? Walk into a police station and tell them he just saw a man he murdered?”

MacLeod shook his head. He had been tempted to ask Fiona to come and get Richie. Fortunately before he did that, he realized he would have to tell her Sid Davis had been paroled. Once she heard that, she would be ready to kill Davis herself. It would be impossible for him to control both Fiona and Richie.

“Richie, sit down. Davis thinks your dead. Just get out of town until he leaves.”

“I’m gonna kill him, Mac. I’m not sure how many times I died after what he did to me. I still can’t remember all of it.”

“That’s probably for the best. Leave it alone.”

Richie stared at his friend and mentor. Sometimes Duncan MacLeod seemed to think very narrowly.

“I’m going after him, Mac. You can’t stop me.”

MacLeod frowned. There were things he really didn’t want to tell Richie. Some of the things Richie didn’t remember were better left alone. He was relieved that Richie didn’t recall anything he said in the kitchen when he seemed to think he was a child and the elder Immortals were his foster parents. Fiona agreed that neither of them should talk about anything Richie didn’t mention himself.

MacLeod closed the office door and stood in front of it. He could see the younger man becoming increasingly angry. This wasn’t going to be easy. He hadn’t expected it to be.

“Get out of my way, Mac. I’m going after him. He’s a dead man.”

“Richie, you can’t kill him.”

He let the Richie vent his anger. Richie listed the beatings Sid Davis had subjected him to along with drugging him and dumping his body. It had been sheer luck that they had left him near Fiona’s house on Holy Ground. He’d been able to get there before he met another Immortal and lost his head. Then Richie launched into Davis’ plot against Joe Dawson’s bar and the dojo. MacLeod listened patiently until Richie finished.

“Richie, you can’t kill him because he’s one of us.”

Richie’s face curled in disgust at the thought.

“That jerk’s not Immortal. I would have sensed it.”

“Not yet. He’s like you when we first met.”

Richie frowned. He couldn’t believe what Mac was saying.

“I would have sensed it. You knew about me.”

“It’s not that easy. I met a pre-Immortal right after I became Immortal and didn’t know what it meant. Connor had to explain the sensation to me.”

“Connor?,” Richie said in a puzzled voice. A look of realization covered Richie’s face. “You knew about Fiona?”

Mac nodded. Fiona had come looking for him after his banishment. After Connor politely but firmly made her leave, he spelled out what was in store for Fiona. Duncan wanted to go after her and keep her with them. He didn’t want her abused and banished when she survived death. Connor stopped him. The two men argued over it until Connor punched his student into unconsciousness. The younger MacLeod found out much later that Connor had taken her from her ruined village and found mentors for her.

“Richie, maybe some day you’ll meet him in battle. For now, just leave it alone.”

Richie started to object again. Mac stopped him. Methos and Amanda were going to convince Sid that Sam Grinkov was still looking for him. Until then, Richie had to lay low.

Richie nodded, conceding to his friend’s plan. He looked forward to the day he would take Sid Davis’ head. He cheered himself with the thought that maybe he’d get the opportunity to torture the jerk first.

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