*Charity Springs, Oklahoma*

"Cows," Richie repeated for the eighth time in forty minutes.

"Yes, Richie. Cows," Duncan groaned. It was dark outside and he could barely see ten feet ahead of him. The young immortal in the back seat had gotten bored two hours ago and was taking it out on the other passengers.

"Is that it?" Tessa asked pointing at a gap in the fence ahead.

"I think so..." Duncan slowed down and angled the car toward the sign above the entrance. "That's us. The triple D."

"What's the name mean?" Richie asked from the back seat.

"You'll have to ask Sean."

As the drove down the little winding road to the ranch house they began to notice a small mass moving in front of the door. As the got closer they saw that the 'mass' was several cars parked outside their house and the 'moving' was the people chatting around them. When the car headlights hit the group, they all squinted into the beams then started waving cheerily.

"What's going on?" Tessa asked.

"Who are they?" Richie added scooting down in his seat.

"Hello, neighbor!" a well built older man greeted Duncan as he got out of the car. "I'm Charlie Matthews. Live just to up the road to the east."

"Duncan MacLeod." The shook hands.

"We were just thinking that it was getting late and we should come by tomorrow when you pulled up," a woman added. "I'm Denise Matthews."

"Nice to meet you."

"This is Jeffery Baker, his wife Elli and their son, Tim. They lease some of your west property." She introduced another couple and their son who appeared the same age as Richie did. "And George and Marina Lewis and their daughter, Connie. They live across the road a few miles down."

"Um, nice to meet you all," Duncan said with a smile. "This is Tessa and Richie."

"We just came by to offer to help. George and Marina just moved back themselves so we've had lots of practice. Where should we start?"

Looking at the moving vans in front of the house, the MacLeods took their neighbors up on their offer. With everyone's help, all the furniture and boxes were placed into the house, not unpacked, but at least Duncan could return the moving van in the morning.

After thanking everyone for their help, the MacLeods prepared for bed using the clothes in the suitcase they had prepared for the first night when they knew it'd be hard to locate anything. Tessa talked Duncan into planning a 'thank you' cookout for the neighbors as soon as they moved in.

. . . . . .

Just as everyone had expected, Richie settled very nicely into the small town. Everyone had been curious about the new inhabitants and leasers of the Burns' land. At first, Richie was shy and hesitant, preferring to watch from the sidelines than join in on the mingling. Slowly, he started to join in and made friends with Tim from down the road. Richie used Tim as a model on how teenagers behaved and began to mold himself to fit in.

"You got a dog?" Tim asked as the two drove his beat-up truck around the property patching the fence where needed.

"No. We didn't have room for one in Washington."

"Well, Finker's mate," he jerked his thumb out the back window at Finker the sheepdog who was sitting in the truck bed. "Just had a whole litter. If your dad says you can, you get first pick."

Duncan gave him permission to get two...Richie came home with three. Copper, Tucker and Jenny. Tucker and Copper instinctively did what they were bred to do; they helped Duncan with the few head of cattle they had and when that was too boring, went to help Tim's dad. Jenny attached herself to the house, preferring to spend the days with Tessa as she worked on her art on the back porch that they had turned into a natural light studio. The only time Richie really spent with the dogs was at bedtime. They ignored him during the day but insisted on sleeping in his bed at night. Only when Richie started helping Duncan and Tim's father did Copper and Tucker realize he was more than a space heater.

"Looks like the pup finally found his master," Jeffery laughed as Copper trotted happily beside Richie's horse, Harley, as they road back to the barn.

"Took him long enough," Richie mumbled looking down at the dog. "You get any closer, you're gonna get trampled," he warned. When the pup got tired halfway back, Richie got off Harley and picked the dog up before mounting the gentle mare again. Copper rode on Richie's lap the rest of the way home.

After that, Copper became Richie's constant companion; staying by his side when he wasn't herding livestock. He would trot by his side as he did his daily chores, sit at his feet while he ate his meals, go over to Tim's house with him, ride into town in the back of the truck to run errands and wait for him loyally when Richie went somewhere he couldn't go.

Duncan began training Richie in the barn when there was bad weather and on the back corner of the property when the weather was nice. It took Richie a few sessions to understand new lessons, but once he learned them, he knew the moves by heart. He practiced diligently and improved quickly. If there was one good side effect from his years with Master, it was that Richie strove for perfection and approval.

"You're doing great, Rich," Duncan praised him one day after training. "You're a natural."

"Thanks," Richie grinned back.

"You know in a few years you'll be besting any immortal that crosses you."

"I doubt that."

"You'd be surprised. I've seen swordsman come and go... you're not going anytime soon."

Richie wrote in his journal once a week and showed no signs of regression. One day he got an e-mail from Sean with an update on what was happening at the Manor. He and his colleagues had begun deprogramming the children and were in the process of finding out names and where they were taken from. The older children were resisting the treatment and Sean speculated that these were immortals that had been on the island for hundreds of years and perhaps would never recover.


How did you like your present? I thought that you deserved a souvenir of your time on the island. Duncan tells me you have been doing well in your training and are quite the swordsman. He doesn't brag easily, you know.

I'm glad to hear you are adjusting well to your new life. And you finally got one of the dogs to pay attention to you, congratulations. Don't worry about your lack of inhibition. It is natural for you to still be comfortable naked in front of other people. You just have to remember that others are made uncomfortable by it. You have a good head on your shoulders (if you'll pardon the expression) and will be able to make yourself aware of this slight issue.

We are having some problems here, though, I'm afraid. As far as our findings tell us there are several children here who are older than Conner and some are even older than myself. I'm afraid I may not be able to keep my promise to you and not let anyone take their heads. These particular children may be beyond help. They have accepted that Master is dead, but have now decided that I am their master.

While ideally we would just leave them on the island, there are too many risks. If an immortal were to somehow come across the island, who would protect the children left behind? And if we left a guard for them, what would keep them from taking advantage of the situation?

Normally I wouldn't mention such things, but since I made you a promise, I feel that you have a right to know. Not all the children will make it off the island alive. I'm sorry. But there really is no other option.

On the plus side, we seem to be reaching many of the children and a good portion have made it to acceptance. Eric and Jordan have been helping and both have made substantial progress. We'll be sending them home soon. They are both very excited.


Richie replied.


I guess I understand. It's a hard position to be in and you can only do what's best. While I'm not too fond of the idea, who am I to tell you how to do your job? I know you'll do the right thing.

As far as the naked thing goes, I guess you missed the part where it was a dream. I do not like the idea of Tessa or Mac seeing me naked. It's bad enough I know what Tessa looks like under her jeans, I don't want to relive it!

I actually bought a new journal today. I filled up my old one. I'm in the habit now and it felt weird not having something to write in.

Tell Eric and Jordan congratulations for me. I know how they feel. And send my e-mail address with them. Or give it to them now; I'd love to talk to them again.

Oddly enough, I forgot about the 'gift' you gave me. I laughed when I opened it. Mac got kinda mad and Tessa just stared. I don't think they get it. But I have it on my dresser. I keep spare change in it so when Tim comes over it doesn't look so out of place. Plus it's like the old life merging with the new. LOL. Now you got me spouting that stuff off!

TTYL! Richie"

After he hit send Richie looked across his room at the sippy cup filled with coins on his dresser. It was just like he had told Sean. His old life had merged with the new. And he was making what he wanted out of it.