As the century begins …

A continuation of "To Secure A Century". This story will probably not make a lot of sense unless you have read the original. If you click on my username it will take you to a list of my stories and you should fine the first piece easily.

The original featured Methos, Duncan, Richie, Amanda, Claudia, Joe, Cassandra and an original character named Beth. Beth Parker was the assumed name of Leandra Harris Rawlston when she entered the Witness Protection program. That is the name I will continue to use except when she is interacting with old friends and family.

We pick up where the original left off.

CHAPTER 1

Christmas Eve 2002 – Ridgetop, Tennessee … a small rural town north of Nashville.

It was almost 8pm by the time the delayed flight carrying Adam, Beth and baby Cassie arrived at the Nashville airport. Their original plan had been to go directly to her parent's big farmhouse, knowing the family would have gathered there for a light meal before attending the community church's candlelight services. But by now they would have already left.

"Maybe I should have called." Beth worried as she showed Adam where to turn the rental car off of the main highway. It had been 16 months since the trial of Asher Devan and Beth had been forced by his threats to leave her family and go into the Witness Protection program. Her family knew she was alive, but had no idea where. As far as friends and neighbors knew, she had been killed by another patient at the state mental institution in Georgia three months ago. Beth still felt guilty about the poor woman Devan mistook for her …

"You're here now, and that is the important thing. But if you would rather wait back at the house, I'm sure we could find a way inside." He offered, a little nervous himself about simply appearing at the church.

Beth laughed. "I know where they hide the spare key … and besides … this isn't Seacouver or even Nashville. In this town most of the doors are unlocked."

"This is it." Beth told him, nodding toward a quaint, white wood frame church, illuminated by warm candlelight. Adam turned into the lot and found a place to park beside the building. Even through the closed windows they could hear the sound of singing and Beth's eyes filled with tears. "I've missed this so much, but now that I'm here … I can't move." she told him.

Adam reached across the seat and held her briefly. "They are going to be so happy to see you sweetheart … "

Beth felt silly. This was her family … her friends … people she'd known all her life. She didn't have any reason to feel nervous, but she was. Taking a look over the seat, she saw Cassie was still napping in her carrier. "I hate to wake her."

"Trust me … she won't miss a few moments sleep. Our little princess is quite the snoozer." He chuckled. "I'll get her … "

Beth started to wait by the car as Adam retrieved Cassie from her car seat, but the sound she heard coming from inside drew her toward the church steps. It was the sound of her sisters singing the carol traditionally sung each year by the three of them … Adam looked up as he pulled Cassie's blanket over her face to see Beth start up the stairs. He smiled as he watched her, realizing she was being drawn like a moth to flame.

A few people sitting near the back of the church turned when they felt the draft from the door, and a collective gasp began to slowly move toward the front, until the song paused in mid note.

"Leandra?" Chris was the first to find her voice as she bound from the platform to meet her sister in the middle of the church aisle with Rayna only a few steps behind. Some people cried, some laughed and others began to applaud the return of one they thought they had lost.

The three sisters hugged and cried until Beth felt the familiar pressure of a hand on the top of her head. Turning she looked up into the clear blue eyes of her father. "Daddy" she choked before being pulled into the large man's embrace. The older man gathered her against him like a lamb as he looked up and thanked God for her safe return.

He was about to let go of his daughter long enough for her brothers to greet her when his eyes caught site of the tall man standing near the back of the room, cradling a blanket covered bundle in his arms. Beth turned to see where her father's attention had been drawn and realized the two men were regarding each other directly. Giving her brothers a quick kiss on the cheek, Beth took her father's arm and began to lead him toward Adam, who in turn took a few steps in their direction.

"Daddy … this is Adam, Adam … my father, Peter Harris" She began, letting go of her father and moving to Adam's side. "And this is … our daughter Cassie." She finished, pulling the cover of the blanket away to reveal the small pink face of the tiny cherub.

The room grew very quiet as the older man seemed to be trying to size up the man his daughter was obviously in love with. He had been expecting her to come home someday, but had not considered that she wouldn't be doing so alone … or with a child. Being the protective type, he wasn't easily swayed merely by his daughter's whim.

It was her oldest brother Kyle who broke the awkward silence, stepping forward and extending his hand. "Thank you for bringing our sister home." He said. Adam moved Cassie to his other arm and clasped Kyle's hand firmly.

Kyle looked back at his father and then at his sister, who seemed to have the light back in her eyes that he hadn't seen during the months after Craig's death and the trial. He didn't care how or why … he was simply happy to have her back.

"Mama?" Beth looked past her sisters and toward the gathering of friends and neighbors, realizing that in all the welcoming, the soft and bright face of her mother had not been among them.

Adam saw the way everyone's expression changed and guessed what had happened. He quickly handed Cassie to Chris and had only just put his arm around Beth when her brother broke the news. "Mama's gone Lea … we lost her a few days after Thanksgiving."

Beth felt Adam's arms come around her just as the room began to spin and everything went black.