Duncan picked up the package addressed to Richard Ryan. He was curious to know what the boy was getting, but he wasn't going to be able to find out until Monday. Richie had gone camping with some friends for the weekend. And Tessa was in Paris for a week doing a show leaving Duncan alone. He had thought about going up to the cabin for the weekend, but there was too much to do at the antique shop. He was still a week behind with the books because of the vacation the three of them had taken the week before.
Setting the package on his desk, Duncan sat down in his office and got to work. He had a huge pile to get through and the paperwork was scattered everywhere. Duncan was getting frustrated trying to find everything. Pushing papers and books around, he accidentally knocked the package off the edge. In what seemed to be slow motion, it tumbled to the ground, and as it hit the floor an explosion tore through the room sending Duncan and the desk hurling into the wall, crushing him on impact. Duncan could have been killed for good by the detonation, but luckily the desk had saved him from the worst of the damage. He came back to the sounds of sirens. He pushed the desk off of the top of him and managed to get out of the room to hear the police banging on the front door.
The police told Duncan that some people on the street had heard the explosion and had called 911.Duncan gave the police a statement and told them about the package, but he didn't tell them that it was addressed to Richie. Somehow, Duncan convinced them that he had been in another room when the explosion had happened, they wouldn't have believed him any ways if he had told them the truth. After the police left and Duncan called the insurance company he sat down to consider why someone would send a bomb to Richie. He was thankful the young pre-immortal was out of town. Duncan wasn't ready to have him in the game yet, but then he would never be ready for Richie to be an immortal.
Sunday afternoon Richie returned and Duncan handed him a plane ticket to Paris.
"What's this?" Richie had just come through the door and hadn't even had a chance to put his backpack in his room.
"I thought you could help Tessa out in Paris. Your plane leaves at six." Duncan wanted to get Richie out of town until he found out some more about the package that was sent to the boy and who had sent it. He planned on getting him out of the apartment before Richie saw the office so he wouldn't have to explain the mess to him.
"I've got the feeling you're trying to get rid of me."
"Now, what would make you think that?" Duncan put on his best smile to ease the boy's suspicions.
"Mac, I just got back and I haven't even packed for Paris."
"I did that for you." Duncan picked up a duffel bag and headed for the door.
"Whoa, Mac, what's going on?" Richie headed into the apartment. "Is they're someone here? An immortal?"
"Come on, Richie, we need to go." Duncan trailed behind the boy.
"Oh my God, what happened?" Richie stared at the devastation from the bomb. The remains of the blast could be seen from the kitchen.
"There was an explosion." Duncan said as calmly as he could.
"That doesn't matter, let's go." Duncan ushered Richie to the car.
"Mac," Richie said as they drove off for the airport. "Is it an immortal? Did you take his head in the shop?"
"No, I didn't take anyone's head, and I don't know if it's an immortal. It was a package and there was a bomb in it." Duncan kept out the part on who the package was delivered to. Right now, Duncan thought it was best for Richie to know as little as possible of what was going on. He had taken precautions to keep the boy safe, and had called Connor in Paris who was going to meet the boy and keep watch over him. He would have done it himself, but he thought Richie would be safer away from whoever did this, and Duncan was going to stay to see if he could find out any information. Whoever did this might still be around and Duncan was going to find him. He had called Tessa and told her that Richie was coming. He didn't tell her why.
Duncan turned off the freeway and at the light the immortal song hit him as a car pulled up beside him and Richie. A man wearing a ski mask pulled a gun shooting at Richie. Duncan reacted quickly shoving the boy into the floorboard. The bulled struck Duncan instead. The gunman, realizing he had missed his target, skidded off into the street. He had failed again, but this did nothing to discourage him. Next time he would be more careful, Richie Ryan was going to die.
Richie sat up and knew he had to do something. He didn't want anyone to see the highlander come back so he pushed Duncan into the passenger seat and put the car into gear. He pulled the car into a deserted parking lot and waited till Duncan took in a deep breath bringing him back into the world of the living. By that time it was too late for Richie to catch his plane, instead Duncan took him to a hotel where they got adjoining rooms under an alias.
Duncan called Tessa and told her that the boy wouldn't be coming. He lied to her, telling her that he needed Richie to help with a shipment that he had forgotten about. He did tell her about the explosion so she would know to reach him at the hotel, but he didn't tell her it was meant for Richie. Next he called up Connor and told him what was going on.
"I'm coming to Seacouver." Connor told Duncan.
"I can handle this, Connor." He argued, but it did no good, Connor would be on the next plane leaving Paris.
Duncan wanted to keep a low profile so he and Richie ordered dinner to the room.
"Mac, are you going to tell me what's going on? Do you know who that guy was that shot you?" "No, but he wasn't shooting at me, Rich."
"What do you mean he wasn't shooting at you." "He was aiming for you."
A look of fear and confusion was etched on Richie's face. "Why would anyone be shooting at me?"
"I don't know, but I'm gonna find out." Duncan told him about the package and that the man was an immortal. He knew he might as well tell him now because he would find out sooner or later, and knowing might help to keep him safe. He thought that maybe if the boy knew his life was threatened that Richie might listen to him for a change.
"So, what do we do?" Richie was scared to death, but he managed to hide it from Duncan. He didn't want the immortal to think he was as afraid as he felt.
"We don't do anything. I want you to stay in this room until I find out who it is and take care of it."
"Come on, Mac, I can't stay here. Who knows how long it could be till you find this guy."
"I'll find him." Duncan assured Richie.
The next morning a knock at the door brought Duncan out of his sleep.
"Hey, Duncan, did I wake you?" Connor stood in the door greeting his kinsman with a smile.
"Connor," Duncan pulled his old friend into a hug.
Duncan left Richie a note telling him not to leave the room, and that he was just downstairs in case there was any trouble. Then, he and Connor went down to the lobby and grabbed some breakfast.
"It's an immortal, isn't it?" Connor said as they sat in the corner of the restaurant
Duncan was keeping an eye on everyone that entered and left the hotel. He expected the unknown immortal to make an appearance sooner or later and he wanted to be prepared. "Yeah, but I don't know who. I haven't seen his face. The package was delivered by someone else and he had on a mask when he shot at Richie."
"Can you guess?" Connor figured Duncan might have an idea of who it could be.
"No, but whoever it is must know that he's pre-immortal."
"Why do you say that?" Connor had thought the same thing, but he had no idea of any suspects. There weren't too many immortals that could recognize pre-immortals and even fewer than that would ever mess with them.
"Why else would he want to kill Richie?"
"But that doesn't explain anything. Why would he want to make the boy immortal? Unless..."
"Nothing... well, maybe he's trying to get to you through Richie."
"Maybe, but I think there has to be something more." Duncan thought more on the idea, but could come up with nothing.
The conversation turned to a lighter topic and Duncan and Connor caught up on the past years going 's on. When they returned to the room Richie was up and eating a breakfast that he had ordered for himself.
"Some guy called for you while you were out." Richie said between bites of food.
"Well, what did he want?" Duncan was concerned that someone knew that they were there.
"He said he was an old friend of yours and that he owed you something."
"Did he say anything else?" Duncan was getting a bad feeling that Connor might be right about someone getting to Duncan through Richie.
"Yeah, he mentioned a name." Richie tried to remember the conversation. He knew he should have written it down, but he couldn't find anything to write with. "It started with an A , Alex Boliv... something like that. I think."
"Yeah, how'd you know, Mac?"
** New York 1921**
Duncan walked the deserted street home from the party. He was a little tipsy, but faired better than most tonight. He hummed a tune that the band had been playing as he walked, until the presence of another immortal diverted his attention. Across the street stood what Duncan thought to be nothing but a boy leaning against a lamp pole. In his hand he held his sword, twirling it confidently in the light.
"I'm Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod."
"And I am Alexander Bolivar." The young man said with confidence as he crossed the street.
"I do no' wish ta fight ya." Duncan's burr grew stronger when he drank, but he hadn't really felt drunk until now.
"But I wish to fight you."
"Go home boy. I d' no' fight children." Duncan continued on his way hoping that the young immortal would get the hint and go on his way, but he didn't.
Alex charged and Duncan pulled out his sword blocking the attack. Duncan could tell that the boy was not an experienced swordsman and decided to teach him a lesson. One that he thought might allow the young Alexander Bolivar to keep his head for a while longer. The fight edged its way behind a building and down an ally, out of sight of any onlookers. It didn't take long for Duncan to take down his opponent. He encompassed the young man's blade, sending it into the air and several feet from its owner. Alexander laid helpless on the ground with Duncan's blade on his neck.
"Do it." Alexander said the words, but his eyes said something else.
"Don't be so quick to give up your head." Duncan removed his blade and let the boy stand up.
And next time know who your challenging, it might save your life." Quickly, he put away his sword as a man came toward them from the other side of the ally. The man was obviously drunk and swayed when he walked.
"Is the fight over then?" Alexander said with a sarcastic grin.
"Our game is not for spectators." Duncan said in a whisper. The drunk man was now only a few feet from them.
"I can take care of that." Alexander pulled a knife, and before Duncan could stop him he grabbing the drunk man plunging the knife into his heart letting the dead man fall to the ground. Then he went to retrieve his sword, but before the young immortal could get hold of it, Duncan had his katana back in his hand, and in one swift motion of the blade ended Alexander Bolivar's life forever.
"Alexander Bolivar was a student of Harland Maxwell."
"And he's after me because you killed Alexander." Richie was now getting a grasp of the situation he was in and was becoming frightened now that he knew the threats on his life were to be taken seriously.
Duncan didn't answer Richie, but his face told him that what he said was true. "I don't want you leaving this room without Connor or I going with you. And one of us will stay with you at all times."
"I don't need a baby-sitter, Mac."
Connor spoke for the first time. "Richie, this isn't a game, it's your life."
"I know, I'm the one who he wants to kill, neither of you have to worry about it, you're both immortal." Richie was scared and it now showed.
"Richie," Duncan interrupted. "I do have to worry about dying, everyday." Duncan wanted Richie to understand that being immortal didn't make them invincible.
"It's not the same, Mac."
"Yes, Richie, it is. I could lose my head to another immortal at anytime."
That sent a shiver through Richie. He knew that Duncan could die forever, but he never thought about it. He always assumed Duncan would be there, and whenever he realized that he may not he became frightened. He knew that if he lost Duncan that he would have no one else and would again be alone in the world. There was Tessa, but Richie didn't think that she would keep him around if it wasn't for Duncan.
"Richie," Duncan could tell that Richie was thinking about what he had said. "I'll take care of Harland Maxwell." He assured the boy.
Richie excused himself and went back to his room to think about what was going on. He imagined the worst. Duncan and Connor losing their heads over him and then him having to tell Tessa about it. He didn't want anyone dying over him, not over some useless street kid.
Back in Duncan's room the two kinsmen talked.
"You know we can't keep him out of this." Connor said.
"I know, but I don't want him to get hurt." Duncan knew that the only way to get Harland to come was to use Richie as bait.
"Harland is after Richie, not you." Connor knew how Duncan felt about the boy. He could see the change in how the highlander looked at Richie from the last time he had seen the two of them together at the bridge. Connor knew that then Duncan had only wanted to keep him away from the game, but now he really cared about Richie. "He's after Richie because of me." "You can't change that now."
"If anything happens to him..." "We'll make sure nothing does."
The confidence Connor had made Duncan feel somewhat better. Now, he had the problem of figuring out how to get the advantage over Harland, but he knew if he waited long enough the immortal would show his face at the hotel. He knew where they were staying and even knew the room number. He decided it would be better if Richie were to stay across the hall in
Connor's room. He talked it over with his kinsmen and he agreed, of course, one of them would stay with Richie at all times.
Duncan knocked on the door joining the two rooms together, but when he got no answer he proceeded to enter the room to check on Richie. The room was empty, he assumed the boy must be in the bathroom, but when he found that room also empty he felt an alarm go off inside him. He shouldn't have let Richie out of his sight, even for a moment.
"Connor!" Duncan called.
"Yeah," Connor was at his side.
"Richie's not here." Duncan frantically looked around the room.
"What do you mean he's not here?" Connor made a quick search of the room. "Richie"
"He couldn't have gone far." Neither of them had felt the presence of an immortal. Duncan pushed Connor out the door and each went opposite ways down the hall.
Duncan was in a panic, but highly frustrated with the boy. Richie knew better than to leave his room. Why did he never listen?
"Whoa, Mac," Richie came out of the vending room to be standing in front of Duncan.
"Richie, what the hell are you doing!"
"I was getting a Coke, chill out."
"Chill out! Richie, I told you to stay in your room, and I meant it." Duncan pulled Richie by his collar, dragging him all the way back to the room.
"I see you found him," Connor said following them into the room.
Duncan pushed Richie into a chair and began yelling at him. "Richie, I don't want you sneaking out like that." He was scolding him like a child.
"Mac, I just went down the hall." Richie was irritated that Duncan was throwing such a fit over something so small.
Connor pulled Duncan off to the side. "Don't be so rough on the boy."
"Connor, I'm only trying to protect him."
"I know, but yelling at him won't make him listen."
Duncan hated it when he knew Connor was right. "Richie," Duncan continued. "I just want you to be safe."
Richie understood why Duncan was so angry. He knew that he was only worried about him, but sometimes he worried too much. "I'm sorry, Mac."
"Me too." Duncan gave Richie a forgiving smile.
After the two talked for a while, Duncan turned to Connor and realized he had slipped out of the room. "Come on," Duncan motioned for Richie to follow.
"You're gonna be staying in Connor's room."
"Stop asking questions." Duncan grabbed Richie from behind and playfully ruffled his hair.
"Quit it, Maaacc!" Richie complained, but he didn't pull away.
The rest of the day passed without incident. Duncan checked out the hotel throughout the day, if he was right, Harland would show his face soon. That night Duncan ordered a cot and stayed in Connor's room with Richie. He didn't sleep though, he was too concerned about Harland finding Richie.
It was two days later, and Richie was getting antsy. He couldn't stay in the hotel any longer and decided to sneak out while Duncan was sleeping. He quietly got dressed and tiptoed out the door. He didn't have anywhere to go, but he just wanted to get on his bike and ride around for a while.
Outside the hotel Harland waited and watched as Richie rode off down the street. The immortal pulled out and followed, he knew if he waited long enough an opportunity like this would come along. Duncan would suffer the same pain he had suffered when he had lost Alexander, who had been more than just his student, he had been like a son.
Richie thought about how pissed Duncan would be if he woke up and found him gone, but he planned on getting back before the immortal found anything out. Richie took a turn into the older section of town. There weren't too many people out at this time of the night, so Richie had the street to himself, until a car approached behind him closely, too closely, Richie thought. He sped up some hoping the car would back off, but it didn't, it came closer and followed him in and out as he changed lanes. As Richie came upon a side street he took a sharp turn, too sharp. The bike hit the wall sending Richie flying off and on to the cement ground. The pain echoed through his head as his helmet struck the street cracking. Richie took a quick glance down the ally and saw the car had stopped and someone was getting out. He made a hasty check of his injuries, but decided he was in good enough shape to ride, he only hoped his bike was too.
Harland stepped out of his car and into the ally. The boy was scrambling on to his bike and before Harland could stop him, Richie was almost to the other side. "Damn!" Harland cursed. He wouldn't have time to catch him before he got back to the hotel. He had to come up with something else. This was supposed to be simple, kill the boy so Duncan would suffer. He was tired of something, mainly Duncan, always keeping him from doing in with the boy.
The ride back to the hotel seemed to take forever, at least that's what Richie thought. Almost every part of his body ached, and he couldn't wait to get back to bed, but then he remembered he would have to face Duncan. "Oh man he's gonna kill me." Richie limped down the hall toward Connor's room, but changed his mind. He remembered Duncan's room was empty and decided he might be able to get away with this little stunt if he could get cleaned up before Duncan woke up. He would just tell Mac that he had wanted to take a shower and that he didn't want to wake him up. When he got to the room he threw his helmet on the bed and stripped off his jacket. He took a better look at his injuries. There were scratches all over his arms. When he took off his boots he realized how sore his ankle was. He must have twisted it when he fell off his bike. It was swollen, but he didn't think it was broken. He didn't know how he was going to explain this to Duncan.
Connor heard someone going into the adjoining bedroom, it wasn't an immortal, but Connor was still cautious. The door connecting the two rooms was still locked, and Connor entered slowly. He heard someone in the shower and then saw the helmet on the bed. He recognized it as Richie's and as he picked it up he noticed the crack in its side. He decided not to wake Duncan, he knew that this would get him into a frenzy. Richie could tell Duncan in the morning.
"How was your ride?" Richie was now out of the shower.
Richie jumped at Connor's voice. "Connor, How'd..."
"I saw your helmet." Connor looked Richie over. "Are you all right?"
"Just a couple of scratches and bruises." Richie limped over to the bed. He was trying to hide the pain he was feeling, but every time he put any weight on his foot a sharp pain shot up his leg.
"It's nothing." Richie sat down hard on the bed, glad to be off his ankle.
"Well then, you won't mind me having a look at it."
Richie rolled his eyes, but let Connor check out his ankle. He almost cried out loud when Connor twisted it a way it didn't want to go, but he held it in.
"I don't think it's broken, but you're going to need to stay off of it for a couple of days."
"You're not going to tell Mac, are you?"
"No, you are."
"Oh, come on, Connor, he'll kill me."
"It's not him you should be worrying about." Richie sat there for a moment just looking at Connor. He knew he was right, it was stupid of him to go riding around the city when someone was trying to kill him, but it had been a couple of days since anything had happened. Richie thought maybe the guy had lost interest, but he knew he was probably wrong.
"Richie," Connor made a motion for the boy to go back to his room.
"Yes, now." Connor went over to Richie and helped him to his feet.
"I can walk across the hall."
Connor smiled to himself at how insistent the boy could be on doing things for himself.
Richie put some of his weight on the bad foot, it hurt, but he slowly managed to get to the other room. Richie was irritated that Connor insisted on helping him. He's as bad as Duncan, Richie thought.
Duncan woke as soon as he felt Connor coming in through the door. He was still groggy, this had been the first good night's sleep he had gotten since they had come to the hotel. He squinted his eyes to get used to the light. "Richie," When he saw the guilty look on Richie's face he raised his voice. "You're hurt. What happened?"
Richie looked to Connor for help and got a reassuring glance. "I'm sorry, Mac, it was stupid. I wrecked my bike."
"You weren't supposed to leave the hotel, Richie."
"I know, Mac, I saw the guy, at least I'm pretty sure it was him. He was following me and I tried to get away, that's when I wrecked." Richie gave Duncan an apologetic look.
Duncan listened as Richie told him what he had done and about the accident. He was angry, but didn't say a word.
"Mac," Richie saw how disappointed the highlander looked. "Say something."
"There's nothing to say." Duncan was frustrated with always having to keep a watch on the boy. He was obviously going to do what he wanted to do, no matter what the Highlander said or did.
"Duncan," Connor spoke. "I'll stay here if you want to sleep across the hall." Connor could tell his kinsmen needed some time before he was going to talk to Richie, and they all needed their sleep, it was still the middle of the night.
Without a word, Duncan left the room. He wondered how Richie could be so reckless, he just never seemed to learn, and Duncan was running out of answers on how to help the boy.
The next morning Duncan was in a better mood. He came over and joined Richie and Connor for breakfast, but no mention was made of the night before.
That night Duncan got some movies and they ordered a pizza.
"Pizza's here." Richie called to Duncan, who was reading out on the balcony.
"Richie, wait a minute." Duncan didn't want the boy opening the door.
"Oh, Mac." Richie pouted, after all it was only the pizza man.
Duncan paid the man and by the time he turned around Richie had grabbed the box from him and stolen a pepperoni off the top.
"Patience, Richie." Duncan took the box back from him. "Get Connor."
"Your gonna let me out of your sight," Richie said sarcastically.
"Just across the hall, and, Richie... leave the door open." Duncan listened as Richie knocked on Connor's door and then went inside the room. He knew they'd be over in a moment, Richie wouldn't stay away too long when food was involved. Duncan sat down and decided against waiting on the two and started eating.
Richie had gone into Connor's room to help him find his room key that he had misplaced, then it hit him. A stomach spasm and a wave of nausea took him over. He barely made it to the bathroom before emptying anything and everything from his stomach.
"Richie, what's wrong?" Connor was in a panic. The nausea had come too suddenly. Connor thought that the boy had injured himself worse than they had thought when he had crashed his bike. However, he had been all right all day. It had to be something else, but Connor had no idea what. He watched as Richie shook with each spasm, he had to get Duncan, but he didn't want to leave Richie alone. He called out, but got no response, and decided to run across the hall quickly to retrieve his kinsmen. He walked through the open door and saw Duncan lying on the floor. He ran back to his room to make sure Richie was still the only occupant, luckily he was.
The spasms had stopped leaving Richie worn out, and he laid down on the cold tile. Before he knew it he was fast asleep. His body needed time to regain its strength.
After Connor was certain that he and Richie were alone he scooped up the boy and carried him across the hall. Connor went to check on Duncan. He wanted to make sure that no one showed up unannounced while Duncan was unable to defend himself. Connor put Richie in bed and watched as
he curled up and pulled the blankets around him. He thought that no one would ever guess by how innocent the boy looked that he could be such a handful.
Air forced its way into Duncan's lungs and it took him a moment to catch his breath. He wasn't sure how long he'd been out, but he knew what happened, he had been poisoned. "Richie!" Duncan called.
"He's fine, or he will be after he gets some sleep." Connor didn't think the boy had eaten enough to do any real damage, although he planned on keeping a close eye on him to make sure.
"I know, it's on your shirt."
Duncan looked down to see the remains of the slice he'd been eating. If he wasn't so worried about Richie he would have had to laugh.
"How much did Richie eat?" Connor asked.
"He only took a pepperoni." Duncan was thankful that he had been the one who had been poisoned, else he would have had a young immortal on his hands now, and it would be more difficult protecting him from Harland. Duncan thought that Harland did not know that Richie was pre-immortal. And he hoped that he didn't find out.
"He was lucky."
"Yeah, we all were." Neither Duncan or Connor wanted to see Richie having to live and die by the sword, especially at so young an age. They both knew that he wouldn't have much of a chance.
Duncan kept an eye on Richie, while Connor tried to find out how Harland Maxwell could have poisoned their food.
Later that evening, Richie finally awoke, although he was still groggy. "Can I have some water, Mac?"
The highlander was sitting on the edge of the bed and had been for the last hour or so, but got up and returned with a large glass of water. "How are you feeling?"
"Tired," Richie said. "What happened? the last thing I remember is walking into Connor's room."
"We'll talk later." Duncan brushed the bangs off of Richie's forehead. The boy was pale and had a slight fever. "You need your rest."
Richie was about to argue, but he did want to sleep and laid back down.
This time Duncan didn't watch Richie as he slept. Instead he called Tessa. He was worried about her all alone in Paris, but she was safer there. Duncan was having enough trouble keeping Richie safe, there was no way he could keep an eye on them both.
The day had passed slowly and nothing happened. Richie had gotten up for a while, but had fallen back asleep again. Duncan tried to keep himself busy, but the confinement was getting to him and he knew how Richie must be feeling. They all needed for this to be over with, but Duncan had no idea how to stop it. He had to wait for Harland to come to him.
The presence of another immortal had Duncan on his feet. He knew it was probably Connor, but he wasn't taking any chances. He swung open the door with his katana in hand, but found no one there. Down the hall he saw who he was looking for. "Harland, this game is going to end now."
"It's not a game, Duncan, it's payback time." Harland ran down the hall and around a corner.
By the time Duncan was around the corner he had lost sight of the other immortal. "Quit running, Harland, it's over." He saw Harland slipping into a room and ran after him. When he entered the room Harland was standing there with a gun. "Put the gun down and fight me." Duncan demanded, although he knew he had made a mistake by following Harland, and now Richie was alone.
"Not this time, Duncan MacLeod. I'll say goodbye to Richie for you." Harland pulled the trigger and left Duncan dead in the room. The silencer insured that the highlander wouldn't be found. He then went to the room Richie was in. When he walked in he was faced with a surprise, which stopped him from killing the boy, at the moment. The pre-immortal buzz was faint, but Harland was certain what the young man was destined to be.
Richie jumped out of bed when he saw Harland standing over him. "What do you want?" Richie tried to sound fierce.
"Richie Ryan, I've been waiting for this chance for a long time."
Richie stood there in disbelief, He was sure he was facing his own death. He barely managed to lift his arm in defense as Harland struck him with the butt of his gun.
Scooping up the limp boy, Harland threw him over his shoulder. He knew he didn't have much time, but he already had an escape route planned and this little change of plans wouldn't effect it too much. He headed for the service elevator and was on his way out of the building before Duncan had even noticed his precious "son" was gone.
Harland had known all about Tessa and Richie for some time, but he wanted to make sure his plans would work out, so he had sat back and waited till what he thought was the perfect time.
When Duncan came to, he immediately ran back to his room. "Richie... Connor," He kept calling their names, but got no response from either of them. The worst possible things that could have happened to Richie crossed his mind, and when he got to the room he slammed the door open to find it empty. "Richie!" He called again, he hoped to God he was with Connor.
Connor had been downstairs in the lobby, and out the front he saw Harland throwing Richie into a car. He pursued, but couldn't catch them before they sped off, but he managed to get the license plate number.
Duncan was in shock by the time Connor got back upstairs. "Harland took Richie." Duncan's voice was a monotone. Where there should have been anger was nothing but defeat.
"I know." Connor was at a loss for words. He could see the pain Duncan was feeling, but there was nothing he could do to help him.
"What do we do now, Connor?" Duncan looked lost. Connor had never seen his kinsmen look so distraught in all the time he had known him. "We go after him."
The phone rang and Duncan picked it up. "MacLeod."
"Harland, if anything happ..."
"Oh, save the routine for someone else. I know what the boy is, or was going to be."
"This is between us, leave Richie out of it."
"This is your fault, MacLeod."
"What do you want?" Duncan was trying to stall Harland. He was giving time for Connor to use some of his connections to find out where the tag was registered to.
"I'll let the boy live for your head. Before you answer I'll give you some time to think about it.
Before Duncan could respond he was listening to a dial tone.
Connor returned to the room with no more information than he had left with. "Duncan?" Duncan's face had lost all its color and Connor knew that if anything happened to the boy that Duncan would never forgive himself.
Worry lines creased Duncan's forehead, he was at a loss over what to do. "He wants me to give up my head for Richie's life." Duncan looked to his kinsmen and mentor for advice. He would do anything to save Richie, but he didn't think Richie would get out alive, pre- immortal or mortal if he was to exchange himself for the boy.
"Did he give you a place to meet him?"
"No, but he'll call back."
"Duncan, we can't just sit around and wait."
"We don't have a choice."
"You wait. I'm going to see if I can come up with anything on Harland Maxwell." The license plate had been a dead end, but Connor knew someone he could probably get the information from.
"Connor," Duncan called, but it was too late, he was already out the door.
"Wake up!" Harland slapped Richie hard across the cheek.
Richie's eyes opened, and he tried to focus on the man in front of him. "Harland..." Richie's voice was weak and his throat was scratchy. He was tied to the arms and legs of a chair and he could feel the ropes cutting into him. He tried to move, but it was impossible.
Harland grabbed Richie by the hair yanking his head forward. "Don't give me any trouble. You're lucky I've let you live this long." He had his sword against Richie's neck, and was enjoying watching the boy cringing with fright.
Richie tried to pull his head away, but Harland only got a tighter grip. Richie's head ached and it seemed like hours before Harland let go of him. As soon as Harland let go Richie smarted off to the immortal. "He's gonna kill you, ya know"
"If you let me go now, Duncan might let you keep your head." Richie continued without thought to consequence.
"I said, shut up!" Harland was irritated with the boy, he struck him hard across the cheek in anger and Richie was again unconscious. He watched as the boy's head fell against his chest, he was beginning to notice a resemblance that Richie had to Alexander. It wasn't as much physical though as it was the attitude. Alexander had always had a smart mouth, and Richie had the same mouth on him, but that didn't matter now. All that mattered was that Richie was going to die the same way Alex had. That would be Harland's revenge on Duncan.
Back at the hotel, Connor remembered an old friend that was living around here, a man that always seemed to know where to find an immortal when he needed to. It took no time at all to track down the other immortal, and Connor went to his house as soon as he had his current address.
"Connor," Adam said as he opened the door. The two had met years ago in Paris when Connor had helped the older immortal out of a predicament he was in.
"Adam," Connor was glad to see his old friend, but it didn't show. His mind was on Richie. He wasn't sure that either he or Duncan were going to be able to get to the boy in time.
"What's going on? You look like you just lost your best friend."
"I need to find an immortal."
Adam hesitated for a moment, but he saw the fear in Connor's eyes and against watcher policy he agreed to help him. Connor didn't know about the watchers, Adam allowed the other immortal to believe he was just some kind of computer whiz. He didn't know this man, or any man well enough to give up his secret. Being the oldest living immortal was something he didn't share with people, and working on the Methos chronicles helped him to keep his secret.
Connor waited in the kitchen while Adam pulled up the info. He knew he shouldn't be surprised when Adam returned with what he wanted, but he couldn't help but to be amazed at how quickly an immortal could be found. It made him a little nervous that it was so easy.
Duncan paced back and forth. He had attempted a kata to calm himself down, but it hadn't worked. He couldn't focus on anything. All he could think about was Richie dying for good over something Duncan had done seventy years ago. The phone finally rang and Duncan grabbed it. "Harland," Duncan growled out his name.
"Duncan, it's me, Connor."
"Did you find Richie?" Duncan's voice was filled with hope. "No, but I found out Harland owns a warehouse not too far from here, on Wilshire Ave. Meet me there."
"Connor, we can't just show up there unexpected. We need a plan." Duncan didn't want to put Richie in any more danger than he was already in.
"He won't be expecting both of us."
"You don't know that." Duncan didn't know what Harland might have up his sleeve, and that made him nervous.
"It's the best chance we have of saving Richie."
Duncan knew Connor was right. The longer they waited the worse chance they had of saving Richie, and it needed to be done on their own terms. "I'm on my way."
Pulling out his cell phone, Harland called Duncan. He had made up his mind. He would kill Richie and take his head. He wanted Duncan to be witness to the entire thing, but that wouldn't be possible, but Harland was going to make sure that Duncan would remember this day for the rest of his life, no matter how short of a life it might be. Duncan MacLeod needed to die, and he would die knowing that he had lost the boy forever.
Richie's head felt like a bowling ball, but he lifted it with difficulty and watched Harland. He could see that the man was growing impatient, and he was about to say something, but he could still feel the swelling in the side of his face. A reminder of the last time he had opened his mouth.
"Looks like your friend has decided not to come for you." Harland stood over Richie. He was deciding if it was best to do in with Richie now, but decided against it. He was always one for dramatics and decided to do it in the shop that Duncan owned with his lover Tessa. He fantasized about Duncan walking in to find the boy dead in his own home. This brought an eerie smile to Harland's face.
Richie knew better, Mac wouldn't leave him to die by this man's hands, but he wasn't sure that there was anything Duncan could do to stop him. He knew it was only a matter of time before Harland got sick of having him around, so Richie sat there quietly thinking of a way for him to get out of this.
"Well, Richie," Harland said with a deceitful smile. " I guess your life isn't worth anything to anyone." Harland was enjoying the boy's suffering. "You know what I'm going to do with you."
"Go to Hell!" Richie spat at Harland.
Harland twirled his sword as he circled around Richie. "A head for a head, Richie, and Duncan owes me one. Yours will do nicely." He said as he put the razor sharp edge of the sword on the boy's neck, just enough to draw a small drop of blood. He walked back in front of the boy and put down his sword. Then, he pulled out a syringe and went to inject the boy. Richie would be much easier transport if he was unconscious and Harland had had enough trouble with him the last few weeks. He had tried blowing up the boy, shooting him, and poisoning him, and Duncan had always been in the way, but he wasn't going to let anything else stop him.
Richie struggled in vain. He didn't want to die like this, not now. He knew Duncan would come, he had to. That was the last thought Richie had before he was out.
The sedative had worked quickly. Harland had enjoyed the look of terror on Richie's face knowing he was going to die. It showed him how much the boy wanted to live and that he had no idea what he was destined to become. Richie would find out soon enough though, but it wouldn't last for long. Harland checked the ropes again to make sure they were tight, and he place a blindfold on the boy, and gagged him. He didn't want to hear a word from him if he woke up, and those blue eyes following him around were beginning to bother him.
Outside the warehouse Connor watched and waited for his kinsmen, but decided to go in. He didn't know what was taking Duncan so long. Connor was far away enough not to be able to feel if Harland was inside, but he could see the same car parked outside that had sped away from the hotel earlier. Connor got out of his car and went into the warehouse. He knew Harland would know he was there, but with any luck he wouldn't be able to see him coming.
Connor's presence hit Harland, but he presumed it was Duncan, he called out to the man. He didn't know how Duncan had found him, but he had a few tricks up his sleeve and was ready for him. He circled the warehouse, not putting too much distance between the boy and himself. He listened for any sounds that would tell him where Duncan was at, but he heard nothing. Harland turned in every direction expecting to see the other immortal, "Are you here to give up your head, or should I take the boy's?" Then, a sound over his head made Harland look up in time to see Connor jumping down a few feet from him.
"I kinda thought I'd take yours," Connor said with a grin.
"Who are you?" Harland looked around for Duncan, expecting a set up, but found that there was no one else in the warehouse but the three of them.
"MacLeod, ah yes, was Duncan too afraid to come?"
"We tossed a coin, and I won."
"My fight is with Duncan," Harland told Connor.
"You'll have to get through me first." Connor looked over at Richie. "If you hurt him..." Connor got close enough to Richie to see that there was a slow rising and falling of his chest, and with his sword he cut through the ropes that tied Richie down. He felt a small relief that he had gotten here before Harland could kill him.
"He's fine...for now." Harland advanced on Connor, and the two engaged blades.
Connor was trying to get the fight as far away from Richie as he could. He took a slice out of Harland's arm, but it didn't slow the immortal at all. Harland feinted at Connor, and Connor blocked, leaving himself open for a split second.
Richie awoke in complete darkness, and to the sounds of swords clashing. He was still groggy, and he could feel the room spinning. He pictured at any moment one of those swords going into his flesh. Frantically, he began to tear at the ropes that bound him. Once he noticed that his arms were already free he pulled off the blindfold. For a few moments he watched as the two immortals went at it. Richie realized that he had to force himself to get out of the warehouse before Harland turned on him, but his brain couldn't make his body work. When he tried to stand up he fell to the ground in a wave of dizziness. He pulled himself up with the chair and staggered outside again falling to the ground, but his own fear brought him to his feet and he began running. His legs gave out on him several times, leaving his hands and knees covered with nicks and abrasions, but each time he managed to get back up.
Harland noticed Richie had managed, even with the drugs, to get outside. He took advantage of Connor's mistake and ran his blade through him leaving Connor helpless for the moment. Then took off after the boy.
Connor stood to follow Harland, but the wound made him slow, and he fell back to the ground in pain. He realized he had almost lost his head, and if Richie hadn't taken off he would probably be dead now. He got to his feet slowly and ran outside to the street, but saw nothing in either direction, then he felt an immortal. He turned around in a circle calling Harland's name.
"Connor," Duncan was standing in front of him. "Are they here?"
"They were." Connor could see the fear in Duncan. "Harland took off after Richie."
The fear in Duncan's eyes turned to anger. "Which way did they go?" Duncan could feel his heart racing. Harland always seemed to be one step ahead of him, and now Richie was somewhere on the streets alone and without any protection.
"Richie couldn't have gone far." Connor told Duncan how disorientated the boy was. It was amazing he had even made it this far, but adrenaline could do amazing things.
Each of them took a different direction as they searched the streets for any sign of Richie or Harland.
The cold Seacouver air struck Richie as he ran, it was keeping him somewhat able to think, but his head was spinning and he had to stop several times to straighten out the confusion in his head. At the entrance of an abandoned building Richie stopped to let out the contents of his stomach into a trash can. He used it to hold himself up while another wave of dizziness struck him. The building looked to Richie like a good place for him to hide out. He couldn't run any farther and crawled in through a broken window, snagging his sweater and getting a piece of glass jammed into his arm, but the pain didn't effect him, and he went as far as he could into the building until he could go no further.
Harland came around the corner and saw Richie slipping in through the window. He waited a few minutes, then followed. He guessed that Connor would not be too far behind, but wondered why Duncan had not shown his face yet.
The building was dark, and Richie could barely see where he was heading. He tripped over a box and fell to the ground with a loud noise.
"Richie, I know you're in here, it's useless to try and hide."
Richie's was trying to keep quiet, but his heart was pounding so hard that he was sure Harland could hear him. At the end of the hall were steps, which Richie took up to the next floor. He held on to the railing to keep his balance. Each step he took seemed to echo through he entire building, sending a new wave of fear through him with each sound. Richie was sure that Connor had lost his head, although he hadn't stayed to see Harland finish him off. He believed he was on his own with Connor dead, and Duncan wouldn't know where to find him. He had to get out of this on his own or die, and the latter was becoming the most likely outcome.
Harland followed Richie up the steps. He knew Richie was in one of the upstairs rooms, but he didn't know which one and there were many. He had his sword ready. It was best to kill Richie now, then he would deal with Duncan.
Duncan went in and out of every alley he could find, but found no sign of Richie. Connor had told him how the boy had been drugged, so Duncan knew Richie couldn't have gone far. Unless Duncan thought, Harland had him, but that just wasn't a possibility he was willing to think about. Harland knew Richie was pre-immortal and Duncan presumed that might be the only reason Richie was still alive. Duncan, of course, didn't think that would last long. Harland was full of revenge and wouldn't give up until he felt the score was even.
At the end of the hall Richie went to the fire escape. He was like a caged animal locked inside this building, and he knew it was only a matter of time before Harland would find him. He could still feel Harland's sword on his neck, and it sent shivers down his spine when he thought about what Harland would do to him if he caught him. Richie's struggled down the ladder, but his arms were weak and shaking and he lost his grip falling to the ground with a loud thud.
The presence of an immortal hit Harland as he stood by the fire escape watching Richie. "Damn," Harland thought Richie was more trouble than he was worth, but then he remembered Alexander and how he had taken him in off the streets, and how Duncan had took him away from him. Duncan had to pay, his life or the boy's, maybe both. At first he had wanted to kill Richie so Duncan would suffer the same fate Harland had years ago, but the boy being preimmortal had change everything. He couldn't just kill the boy if he wanted him to die he would have to take his head. That, Harland thought, would be the only way for Duncan to see the kind of pain he had gone through when he had lost Alexander.
Richie stood under the fire escape looking up at Harland for a moment before taking off again. He knew he couldn't keep running, but he was given no choice. He took off down the ally and around the corned he found himself facing the end of a sword, it took him a moment to realize it was Duncan's.
"Richie," Duncan felt relief. He had almost run the boy through thinking he was Harland. "Are you okay?"
Richie caught his breath. "Yeah, but Connor..."
"Connor's fine." Duncan was surprised that amongst everything the boy was going through that he was still concerned for Connor.
Richie was relieved. "I thought Harland had killed him."
Duncan assured Richie again that nothing had happened to Connor. He could see the boy was worn out, and he knew he had to get him out of here. "Can you walk?" Duncan asked, noticing how worn out Richie looked.
"I'm fine." But Richie was deceiving himself, the pain and drugs were catching up with him and he wavered slightly on his feet. Duncan wasn't going to leave him alone for a second, not until Harland was dead. He put his arm around the boy to steady him. "Let's go." Harland was still around, Duncan could feel it, but he wanted to get Richie out of any immediate danger, then he would find Harland.
"MacLeod," Harland stood several feet from the two of them. "You owe me a fight." Harland drew his sword and approached the other immortal. "And when I'm through with you..." He gazed at Richie, not needing to complete his sentence.
Anger welled up in Duncan as he realized the only way to ensure Richie's safety was for Harland Maxwell to die. Duncan turned to Richie. "I want you to get out of here, Richie."
"But..." Richie started to protest, but was cut off.
"Come on, MacLeod, it'll be a good lesson for the boy to see you loose your head."
Richie turned to Harland in disgust, but Duncan put a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"Go, Richie, I'll see you at home."
Duncan's confidence didn't make Richie feel any better about the fight that was about to happen, but he listened to his mentor and headed out of the ally, only then did Duncan approach Harland, but the two said nothing. They both knew that only one of them was going to walk away from this.
Just outside the alley, Richie ran into Connor and told him that Duncan was still there.
Connor had wanted to go to where Richie had said Harland and Duncan where, but he knew he needed to get Richie back home. The boy was pale and had even had to be carried part of the way back to the car.
Connor placed Richie on the couch. He was still asleep and had been for the entire ride back to the shop.
"Mac," Richie called out in his sleep.
"Shh, Richie," Connor comforted the boy.
"I'm glad your safe, Mac."
Connor got a blanket and covered Richie up. He notice Richie's knees and hands were badly cut up, and that he had a small gash on his arm, but they weren't bleeding so he decided to let Richie sleep, and he would clean him up later.
Hours passed, and Duncan hadn't returned. Richie was now awake and was blaming himself for everything that had happened.
"Richie, will you sit down, please." Richie's anxiety was only making Connor more worried himself. He believed Duncan was better than Harland, but if he did lose his head then Connor needed to be expecting a visit from Harland, and he needed to be ready for him. Connor began to wonder if this was the best place for him to have taken the boy, but he couldn't hide Richie out forever. He pushed those thoughts out of his mind, and told himself that Duncan would show up at any moment.
"Connor, do you think..." Richie didn't know how to put what he wanted to ask. "I mean, it's been over three hours."
"No, I don't think he's dead." He assured Richie and himself. Connor thought that Richie was beginning to understand that being immortal didn't necessarily mean living forever.
A few minutes later Richie saw Connor looking around the room. He knew that look, it was the same one Duncan got when there was another immortal around.
"Connor..." Richie was hopeful that it was Duncan, but he also was apprehensive.
"Stay here." Connor got up and headed toward the shop where he had heard the door open. He turned to Richie. "I mean it." Connor knew the boy's curiosity, even in the face of danger. Richie always acted before he thought.
Richie did as he was told, in fact he didn't think he could have followed Connor if he had wanted to. He was glued to his seat with fright. Connor crept through the apartment ready to defend his life and Richie's. He could see nothing in the dark, and when he came across the immortal he brought his sword down only to have it blocked.
"Connor!" Duncan yelled.
"Duncan, you're alive!"
"And you thought otherwise." Duncan was worn out from the fight, but rest could wait, Richie was foremost on his mind.
Richie had heard the commotion when Connor had attacked Duncan and went out the back door, assuming it was Harland that Connor had engaged blades with. He had seen Harland almost win a fight with Connor before and he was sure another fight would have the same outcome, only this time he didn't think Connor would get away.
"Where's Richie?" Duncan looked worried, but Connor reassured him that the boy was all right.
"He's in the kitchen."
When the two of them found the kitchen empty, neither realized that Richie had taken off thinking both Duncan and Connor were dead, and that Harland was still after him.
"Richie..." Duncan called as he searched every room of the apartment. "Connor, where is he? You were supposed to keep an eye on him."
"Duncan, calm down." Connor didn't think Richie had gone far. "He was here a minute ago, when..." Connor realized what must have been going through Richie's mind.
"When you came in we thought it might be Harland."
Duncan knew that if Richie thought he was dead that he wouldn't come back here. "Come on."
"He'll come back." Connor was sure that Richie was probably just outside of the shop, waiting.
"Not if he thinks we're both dead."
Richie took the first ride he could get and wound up in his old neighborhood. He didn't have much money, but thought of a few people that might let him stay a couple of days with them. Instead he wound up sleeping in an old building that he had slept in many times before when he was in between foster homes. He thought about calling Tessa to tell her about Duncan, but he couldn't bring himself to do it.
Duncan and Connor went to every place possible that Richie might be, but came up with nothing. It was a big city and Duncan knew that if Richie didn't want to be found he could hide himself pretty well.
"We'll find him, Duncan." Connor said the words, but inside he wasn't so sure.
Duncan was silent. Connor meant well, but Duncan knew that they were searching for a needle in a haystack. That night he called Tessa and asked her to come home.
The next morning Richie went back to the hotel to get his bike. He wanted to take it and get as far away from Seacouver as he could. If Harland was still around he knew it would only be a matter of time before he found Richie, and he didn't want to be a sitting duck.
Three days passed and neither Duncan nor Connor had heard or seen anything of Richie, but Duncan refused to give up. He spent all his time looking for him and was neglecting the shop, and even neglecting Tessa.
"Come to bed," Tessa said entering the kitchen. Duncan had made that his temporary office while his was being cleaned up from the mess of the explosion.
"I can't sleep." Which had been the story since Richie had left three days ago.
"Don't, Tessa." He knew what she was going to say. Between Connor and her, he had heard the same thing day after day, that they would find Richie. At first their confidence had been reassuring, but now he was finding it harder and harder to believe.
"I'm worried too."
"I know, Tessa." Duncan got up from the table and went to Tessa. "I'm sorry." He took her in his arms. "I don't know what else to do." Duncan let a tear flow down his cheek.
Tessa pulled Duncan closer to her. She knew there was nothing she could do or say to ease his pain, but she would be there to share in it. By the end of the week Richie finally got up the nerve to call Tessa. He wasn't sure if she was back from Paris or not, but decided to call the antique shop first. Tessa answered on the second ring.
When Richie had rehearsed what he was going to tell Tessa it had been so much easier. He almost hung up the phone when she answered, but stayed on, only he didn't say anything.
"Tessa," Richie felt a lump in his throat as he tried to tell her about Duncan and Connor.
"Richie, is that you?" Tessa couldn't hide how pleased she was to hear from Richie.
"I'm so sorry, Tess."
"Richie, there's nothing to be sorry for, come home."
"But Duncan..." Richie was confused by the way Tessa was acting. She had to know Duncan was dead.
"He has been looking everywhere for you." Richie listened in shock. Duncan was alive. "But Harland."
"Harland's dead, Richie."
"Dead, but I thought..."
"You think too much, Richie. We've been worried sick about you. Where are you?"
He told her where he had been staying before he thought that maybe Harland was alive and was holding Tessa against her will. "Can I talk to Duncan?" Richie needed to hear the Highlander's voice for him to believe that he was still alive.
"He's not here." Duncan had gone to take Connor to the airport. There was nothing more his kinsmen could do, so Connor was returning to Paris.
Richie had been about to agree to go home before he thought that there might be something might be up, and he reconsidered. He had heard the commotion in the shop the night he had left, and he thought it couldn't have possibly been Duncan that Connor had gone after. There was silence on the line for a moment, while Richie considered what Harland could be up to.
"Come home, Richie." Tessa said again.
"I can't." Richie couldn't bring himself to face Harland again if the man was alive.
"Richie, I want you to stay there, and I'll send Duncan."
Richie remembered that he had told Tessa where he had been staying and decided that he needed to get out of there, but if Harland was indeed with Tessa he couldn't let anything happen to her, not if he could do anything to help her. "Okay." He could do nothing for Duncan or Connor now, but he wouldn't let Tessa down.
When Duncan returned Tessa gave him the location of where Richie was. "He thinks you're dead."
"But you told him what happened?"
"I told him, but I don't think he believed me."
"Then why would he tell you where he was at?" Duncan guessed that he was protecting Tessa, but he wasn't sure what Richie could possibly be up to if he thought Harland was still alive and after him.
"He wanted to talk to you, and he seemed nervous when I told him you weren't here." Tessa had gotten the impression that Richie thought she was lying. "He still thinks Harland is trying to kill him.
After hanging up with Tessa, Richie came up with a plan to get rid of Harland. He blamed himself for the one person who had truly cared about him losing his life. He knew Tessa must also blame him. Even if Duncan was still alive, Richie didn't think he would ever let him live with them again, not after all the trouble he had caused.
Duncan left immediately, but there was no sign of the boy when he got to the shabby motel. The man at the front desk, with the help of some cash, told Duncan that Richie was still registered and gave him a room number. Inside his room, Richie was preparing to face Harland. He had managed to get his hand on a gun and a large knife. he hadn't been able to find a sword, but figured the knife would do the job. His stomach turned when he thought about what he was about to do, but he felt as if he had no other choice, it was Harland or him.
Duncan knocked on the door and called out to Richie.
"Mac?" Richie was standing in the middle of the room with the gun pointed shakily at the door, but he didn't make a move to open it.
Duncan knocked harder. Richie was in there, he could barely feel his pre-immortal buzz, but it was there.
Richie wanted to go to Duncan, but he couldn't get past his fear.
Afraid something had happened to Richie, Duncan broke down the door to come face to face with Richie and the gun. "Richie," Duncan could see the fear in Richie's eyes.
For a moment there was no recognition in Richie, and he made no move to put down his gun. He was now crying, the days of running were catching up to him, and his emotions overcame him. Slowly, Duncan approached Richie.
"It's over, Richie." Duncan was trying to soothe Richie, but the boy did not move. Duncan gently placed his hand on the gun taking it out of Richie's hands.
Without protest, Richie let Duncan take his gun, but he backed away from the immortal. Pulling himself away mentally from him before he could be rejected. After several minutes Richie finally spoke. "Harland, is he...?"
"Dead." Duncan saw Richie's tension ease some. "But I heard him at the shop."
"You heard me and Connor," Duncan assured the boy.
After Duncan told Richie of what had happened since he had last seen him Duncan put a comforting arm on Richie's shoulder, but Richie recoiled from the touch. "Richie, everything's going to be fine." Duncan didn't understand why the boy was being so distant.
"Fine... Mac, I almost got you and Connor killed!"
Now Duncan understood. Richie was blaming Harland's actions on himself. "Richie..." Duncan took a deep breath. "He was out to hurt me, and he knew how much I care about you."
"But you were protecting me, and you almost lost your head for that." Richie was speaking to the floor, afraid to make eye contact with the immortal.
"And I would do it again, Richie, I would do anything to protect you." Duncan knew he had brought Richie into this situation, and that it was his responsibility to watch out for the boy. Duncan noticed that Richie was now looking at him. "Let's go home."
Richie considered Duncan's words for a moment and decided that they were sincere. He had never had anyone in his entire life that had cared for him as much as Mac did. Someone, that despite all Richie's faults would take him in as part of their family.
The days passed and Duncan thought that Richie had gotten over being hunted and almost killed by Harland, but he hadn't notice the nightmares Richie had been having, but Tessa had. She had tried to talk to Richie about it, but he always seemed to have a reason to avoid the conversation. Her frustration with the boy was mounting, but decided to give him some time in hopes that he would open up when he was ready.
Tessa had stayed up late one night working on a sculpture she was trying to finish. As she walked down the hall to her and Duncan's bedroom she noticed Richie's light was still on. Wondering what the boy was doing up so late she stopped by and was about to knock on the door that was slightly ajar, but saw Richie was fast asleep. She watched him as he slept peacefully and thought that maybe his nightmares had ended. Quietly, she turned off the light and went to bed.
Richie's eyes shot open, but could see nothing in the dark room. His heart pounded, and he laid perfectly still. The shadows on the wall seemed to be hovering over him. He listened, expecting to hear Harland's voice, but knowing that he wouldn't. Harland was dead. He had told himself that over and over, but it never made him feel any better. The man was still in his dreams, chasing him down with his sword, but it wasn't always Harland, it was every immortal he had ever met wanting him dead.
The wind outside was blowing through the trees, and Richie thought he could hear someone outside his window. He jumped to his feet and reached for the lamp. His quick movement knocked it off the table by his bed, sending it shattering to the ground.
The noise woke Duncan. He grabbed his katana from beside him and went out into the hall. The sound had come from Richie's room, and that sent a shiver through Duncan. There was no immortal around, but that didn't help to ease his fears. Outside of the boy's room he listened for a moment, but heard nothing and slowly pushed the door open. The light from the hall fell on. Richie looked up to see Duncan with his sword raised standing in the doorway, and he shrunk back, his eyes still on the highlander's blade.
Before approaching the boy, Duncan placed his sword down in the hall. He had seen Richie's eyes fall onto the blade and they were filled with terror. "Richie," He said in the gentlest way he could, afraid to frighten the boy more than he already was. "I'm not going to hurt you." He had noticed how Richie had tensed up at the sight of his sword, and he knew that he had to do something to ease Richie's fears. He knew that Richie couldn't live with the fear he was feeling, someday, whether Duncan wanted him to or not, the boy would be a part of the game, and if he was afraid of everything associated with immortals he wouldn't last long. He knelt beside him expecting Richie to move away from any contact, but he didn't move.
Richie sat on the bed and a tear flowed down his cheek.
Sitting there, Duncan waited for Richie to relax some. When he didn't, Duncan sat down beside him and put his arm around him, hoping that Richie wouldn't pull away from his touch. He didn't, he allowed Duncan to hold him, and Richie felt his fears calm for the moment, feeling safe in the Highlander's arms.
Morning came and Richie awoke in his own bed. He didn't remember falling asleep, but it was the best sleep he had had in weeks. He wondered what Duncan must think of him being so afraid, and he wasn't sure he wanted to face Mac, but he didn't have a choice.
Duncan knocked on Richie's door, quietly. He didn't want to wake Richie if he was still asleep.
"Morning," Duncan was careful with his words. He didn't want to say anything that would upset the boy, and since he wasn't sure how Richie would react to him he didn't say much. Duncan had stayed up most of the night thinking about how he was going to help Richie get over his fears, and the only way he thought he was going to be able to do it was to have Richie deal with them head on. He had talked it over with Tessa and they had both decided that Duncan would take Richie to the cabin for a few days.
"Morning," Richie said sheepishly.
"Can we talk?" Duncan looked for any response that told him he wasn't wanted, but when he found none he sat down on the edge of the bed.
Richie wanted to come up with something to say to the Highlander that would explain his actions from the previous night. He didn't want Duncan to know the fear he was feeling, but everyday he thought that if Harland had come after him, what was stopping another immortal from doing the same thing. He knew Duncan would never hurt him, but the sight of him coming into his room with his sword draw had sent a fear through him that he had never felt before, a fear of his friend and only father figure he had ever had.
"I thought we might go to the cabin for a few days."
Richie's eyes shot in Duncan's direction, unsure of how to react, he made up an excuse not to go. "I have some things around here I need to do." It was a lame excuse, but he couldn't come up with something legitimate on such short notice.
Duncan saw the hesitation in the boy, but he wasn't giving him an option. "It can wait, Rich."
Knowing that he wasn't going to be able to get Duncan to give up, Richie finally agreed and they set out that afternoon.
Duncan was careful when he packed to make sure to keep his sword out of sight. he wasn't going to leave home without it, but he didn't want another incident like last night. He was still unsure of how he was going to help Richie get through this, but he had an idea, he just wasn't sure if it was going to work. Next to his sword in the trunk he place the two practice katanas, although he had always said he would never teach Richie to use a sword until he had his first death. Things had changed, and he thought the only way to get him through this was for Richie to trust Duncan enough, and for him to see that he could protect himself if he needed to.
That evening Richie gave no indication of the fear he felt. Duncan had started to bring up the subject, but quickly changed it when he saw how Richie began to withdraw from the conversation Duncan suggested that they play a game of chess but Richie claimed he was too tired and went to bed.
An hour later, Duncan went to bed himself, although he could still see the light was still on in Richie's room, he didn't say anything to him.
The next morning Duncan called out to Richie from the kitchen. There was no answer, so he went to his room and knocked on the door. He listened for a moment and heard nothing. Opening the door he found the room empty. For a moment he felt s twinge of panic, but figured that Richie must have gone out for a walk. He decided he would look for him if he hadn't returned by the time he was done with his breakfast.
Sitting on the porch, Richie had heard Duncan calling him, but he hadn't answered. He felt like being alone. Earlier he had taken a walk through the woods, but had come back after an hour when it had started to rain. He would have stayed away all day, but he knew he would hear it from Mac when he returned.
"How long have you been out here?" Duncan was standing by the door watching Richie.
Richie met the Highlander's gaze. He didn't like seeing Duncan look at him like he was. The concern he felt for Richie was evident in his face, and he knew what was coming next. He had tried avoiding any conversation. It always seemed to lead to the same topic, one he didn't care to discuss.
"Do you care if I join you?" Duncan asked cautiously, not expecting an answer.
"Whatever." Richie grunted, but changed his tune when he saw the hurt on the highlander's face. He scooted over and let Duncan sit next to him on the bench.
The rain was still coming down, although it was merely a sprinkle, it still hindered Duncan's plans to teach the boy some swordplay. "How'd you sleep?" Duncan was making small talk, making a conscious effort to avoid anything that involved immortals or swords.
"Good." Duncan knew this conversation was going nowhere, but at least Richie was talking to him, and that was a start. "I made some breakfast. There's a plate for you in the kitchen."
"Thanks," Richie said as he got up to go inside.
Duncan put a hand on his shoulder to stop the boy. "I thought we might do something together later." He looked out at the sky. "If it stops raining." He said with a smile, hoping to get a good response from the boy.
"Sure," Richie said pulling away from Duncan.
Duncan sat outside and listened to the soft pelting of rain on the roof. He was trying to figure out how to approach Richie. He had given the boy time to bring up the incident with Harland, but enough was enough. Richie just wouldn't talk to him, and Duncan knew that the two of them couldn't go on much longer like this.
By the time Richie had finished his breakfast the clouds had begun to break up, and Duncan decided now was as good a time as any to start teaching Richie. He went in and found him curled up on the couch with a book. Duncan pulled out the two practice katanas.
Richie watched out of the corner of his eye, until he saw what Mac was doing. He stood up from the couch and glared at the highlander. "What are those for?" He asked. A flash of Harland's blade against his throat sent a shiver down his back.
"I thought you might like to learn how to use these." Duncan was trying to ease Richie's tension, but it didn't work. "They have no blade." He added and gave a quick demonstration.
"A head for a head." Richie remembered those words. He wanted nothing to do with any swords, but he didn't know how to tell Duncan. Instead of saying anything he quickly left the cabin and headed outside.
"Richie..." Duncan was behind him. He cursed himself for thinking that this would be a good idea.
The ground was still wet from the rain, and Richie lost his footing sliding in the mud. He made no move to get up. He knew Duncan wouldn't leave this one alone so Richie waited to face the Highlander.
That was the way Duncan found him. Extending a hand to the boy, Duncan helped Richie to his feet.
Richie took hold of it and pulled himself up. "I'm sorry, Mac." Richie knew he had been acting cold to Duncan, but he had been too afraid to tell him why, but for the first time in weeks he felt safe again.
Thunder clashed in the sky and the rain came down again.
"Come on." Duncan led Richie into the cabin.
After managing to get Richie to change into some dry clothes, Duncan made some coffee for the two of them. He was going to bring it to him in his room, but decided it was better for Richie to come out where they could talk. Richie had let down his defenses outside, and he wasn't going to let him put up any more walls. Duncan was prepared to do whatever was necessary to draw Richie out.
To Duncan's surprise, Richie came out of the bedroom on his own, and taking the coffee from Duncan's hands, he sat down at the kitchen table. Duncan sat down across from him.
"Mac," Richie was looking at Duncan like a child looked to a father. "Why?"
It was only a single word, but the answer was complicated, and Duncan wasn't even sure he had one. He tried to read in Richie's face the answer that he thought he might be looking for, but he knew that there wouldn't be one that would completely satisfy the boy. "Sometimes, Richie..." Duncan took a deep breath. "Revenge seems to be the only answer."
"But why me?"
"He knew that by hurting you, he would hurt me." Richie was staring into his coffee. "There will be others." Duncan knew he couldn't lie to Richie. "There might be." He looked to Richie for a response.
"And you won't always be there to stop them."
"Maybe not, but you can't live your life in fear, Rich."
"He was going to cut off my head." Richie's eyes welled up with tears. "Why, Mac, I'm not one of you, but he was going to take my head anyway." Richie unconsciously rubbed his neck where Harland had held the sword to it.
"I can't tell you why. He was angry, and that was his way of getting back at me." Duncan knew why, but he couldn't tell Richie that someday he would be an immortal, and that this was the only way to kill Richie for good.
"I just can't stop thinking about it. When I saw you come into my room with your sword it was him I saw. The memories won't go away." Richie seemed embarrassed to be telling the highlander this. He was afraid Duncan would be angry with him for being so afraid.
"They won't just go away, Richie, but you can't ignore that it ever happened."
The two sat in silence for a while. Richie was beginning to feel that he wasn't to blame for Harland, and that maybe he would have a somewhat normal life, and something he had never had before, a family.
Sitting there, Duncan noticed Richie had a curious look on his face, as if he wanted to ask a question but was afraid. "Richie?"
"Hum?" Richie pulled himself away from his thoughts.
"Is something wrong?" Duncan was still extremely worried about the boy, and would be keeping a close eye on him for a while. He blamed himself for not noticing that Harland had still been bothering him. Tessa had noticed, but Duncan had dismissed it as normal teenage problems, that wouldn't happen again.
"I was just thinking."
"Do you want to talk about it?" Duncan didn't want to push Richie to quickly, but he wasn't going to let him withdrawal again either.
"Yeah, I was just curious. What were you doing with those katanas?"
"I thought you might like to learn a few moves."
"Really." Richie face lit up as he looked up to meet the highlander's eyes.
"It won't protect you from an immortal." Duncan added. He didn't want Richie getting any false sense of security, but he thought it would help Richie deal with the fears that Harland had instilled in the boy.
"I know." Richie was thrilled that Duncan was going to trust him with a sword. "When can we start?"
Duncan looked outside at the dreariness the storm had left behind. "Tomorrow." Duncan saw Richie smile for the first time since the hotel, and only then did he think he was making the right decision, but only time would tell.
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