Universe: A virtual "6th" season wherein "Modern Prometheus" was the finale of season 5 and ignores all events in the "real" season 5 finale and all of season 6, as well as the last movie. This season takes place 1997-1998

Summary: Another interlude piece, this time during the second season and as always existing in the same universe as my other stories, that I can sum up in five words: Tessa's funeral, from Richie's perspective.

Disclaimer: If I owned them why would I waste my time posting to fanfic sites? I'd be off making lots and lots of money! But since I'm not, I therefore don't, nor do I pretend to.


It was unusually cold out for late October. The sky was dark and drearily overcast, the threat of rain ever-present, and it mirrored Richie's emotions perfectly.

He heard two voices, one from somewhere ahead of him, speaking French, and the other directly to his left and slightly behind him, translating that French into English. Richie's eyes were staring blankly down at the sight in front of him, however, his ears paying only passive attention to what was being said.

That sight was Tessa's casket.

From an artistic standpoint it was a work of art. Carved beautifully from cherry with ornate trimming the color of tarnished brass, Richie knew that Tessa's parents had spared no expense when it came to laying their daughter to rest. He also knew that they hadn't let Duncan play any part in the planning of the funeral even though he paid the expenses to send her back to Paris. How the Noels could continue to be so heartless, especially at a time like this, was a point lost on Richie. They had barely spoken to Duncan since he and Richie arrived in Paris two days ago. Richie they spoke to even less. In some corner of his mind Richie was thankful that he never had to refer to these people as grandparents in his heart the way Tessa would always be considered 'mom.'

Right now none of those thoughts mattered. Right now all that mattered was that as soon as that casket was lowered into the ground and covered with earth, he would never see Tessa in corporeal form again. He couldn't—wouldn't think of anything else, and he wasn't able to tare his eyes away.

The presence of other immortals washed over his senses every now and again, but he paid them no heed. He was standing on holy ground after all. However, those immortals weren't just walking in and out of perception range. Rather they were always there. The only thing that changed was Richie's random intervals of noticing them.

One was Duncan. He was standing a few paces ahead of Richie and off to the right, out of range of Richie's tunnel vision.

Standing next to Duncan, holding his arm as though without her support he would suddenly topple over, was Grace Chandal. She was in Belgium when she somehow received word of Tessa's death, and had arrived last night for the funeral, feeling like she owed it to Tessa to be there more than she feared the awkwardness that her presence would create. She was also able to emphasize with Duncan, her husband of forty years having also recently passed away. Richie was dimly aware of Tessa's family shooting Duncan and Grace dirty looks and was momentarily amused by the thought of mowing them all down with an Uzi. They didn't understand. They could never understand, never tried to understand, and never wanted to understand. Richie abandoned that thought for the futile wish that they would just all go away and leave the grieving to those who were able to bury their past grudges today for Tessa's sake.

Standing on Duncan's other side, shoulders width apart, was Hugh Fitzcairn. The same cosmic forces that alerted Grace from Brussels tipped off Fitz in Marseilles. He had arrived just before the burial ceremony had begun. They had been friends for nearly three hundred and fifty years, and each had seen the other bury friends and lovers on more than one occasion. Duncan accepted his presence the way a fevered forehead accepts a cool cloth.

The fourth immortal that Richie occasionally cared to notice was Connor MacLeod, Sir Lancelot from the night he broke into the antique store. He was standing a pace behind Richie on his immediate left, translating the funeral into English for him. Richie was grateful for this courtesy and therefore resolved to not mention that he really wasn't paying attention to the words. Besides, somehow he knew that Connor knew that anyway.

When Richie first learned of Duncan's immortality he was told that Connor had been his teacher. He remembered seeing them argue in the warehouse while sparing over which one of them would be the one to take on Slan Quince. Later on Richie realized that Connor felt the same protectiveness for Duncan that Duncan felt towards him, an almost paternal caring that shone through their close friendship. The fact that even Mac had someone there to watch his back was both an amusing and strangely comforting fact. He also knew that Connor's teacher Ramirez had been dead for four hundred years and he idly wondered who was looking out for the elder MacLeod.

All side musings would always end abruptly as the sight before him would reregister in his brain: Tessa's casket. Each time was just as jarring as the previous, the realization that she was dead and never coming back trying to force its way into his conscious thought as his resolve to cling to denial was steadily weakening.

Ten days. Richie could hardly believe it had been ten days.

He remembered the violence of waking, disorientated like he'd been spat through the tail end of a nightmare. And he remembered lying in the street, the pain in his chest diminishing even as he wondered at it, even as the realization crept over him in a sense of dawning horror.

He remembered the confusion, the denial that tried to find another explanation for what happened unable to contend with the overwhelming evidence at hand. Confused and frightened he confronted Duncan about what happened. To this day and probably for the rest of his life Richie will wonder just how Duncan had managed to find the voice to tell him that he was immortal. He didn't know how long he was out for, but later on surmised that it was quite a while since it was his first death. When he realized the possible time lapse he knew that Duncan had spent that time on his knees with Tessa's head in his lap. He knew that Duncan had been crying, the quality of his voice as he spoke attesting to that. The fact that he was able to speak at all, in coherent sentences no less, was nothing short of a miracle as far as Richie was concerned.

Richie remembered the sight that he knows will forever haunt his dreams. Tessa, lying on her back in an unflattering position, her head cradled in Duncan's lap with eyes open and unseeing, a small bloodstain in the center of her chest. He was comforted slightly by the knowledge that she died almost instantly from the gunshot wound. Dead people don't bleed.

Richie remembered Mac telling him to go back in the house and call the police. His instructions were to place an anonymous tip that shots were heard fired at that address. He didn't remember the actual phone call, but he remembered leaving the house again. Duncan had eased himself out from beneath Tessa and was squatting over her. He stood when he felt Richie approach. That's when Richie felt the buzz for the first time.

"Mac?"
"You're sensing another immortal, Rich."
"Will it always—"
"It goes away once you've identified the other immortal nearby."

Richie remembered accepting this without question. It was just part of being immortal, and Mac should know, he's had lots of practice at it.

Richie also remembered why he wasn't able to remember the phone call. Another thought had burned itself into his mind. This thought would forever be the companion piece to his nightmare. He remembered asking Duncan at one point, though he couldn't recall if it was at the crime scene or after, about the truth about being pre-immortal.

"Mac, was I always like this? I mean… did you know?"
"Yeah, Rich. I knew. That's why I took you for an immortal when you first broke into my store. I confused your presence with Slan's."
"That how you always knew when I was around."
"Yeah."
"Then, Mac, why didn't you tell me? For God's sake Mac, I—"
"No Rich. How would you have acted had you known? You were too young to be in the game. You still are. I wanted to protect you from this. Give you a chance at a normal life… I'm sorry."

Richie knew that if had had know that he would one day be immortal he would have reacted more quickly and with less fear, stepping in to take that bullet for Tessa. He knew that he could have saved her had he known.

Somewhere in the back of his mind he also knew that Duncan was right. He had known off the bat that he was destined to be immortal that event would have already transpired and the point would be moot. He would have whipped out his sword and cut that bastard in two.

This is why he couldn't blame Duncan for not telling him, even though he knew that if he'd known then what he knows now he would have been able to save Tessa. Duncan had said that Richie was too young to enter the game, and that he wanted to spare him from the harsh reality and lifestyle of an immortal for as long as possible. He had also said that he wanted to give Richie a normal life (well, as normal a life as possible when your surrogate father is an immortal). Richie would forever be thankful for that. He had spent over a year with Mac and Tessa, nearly seven months of that time it was accepted and understood that they were a real family, for better or worse as Tessa had said. He just never figured that, after Mac had emerged victorious from the fight with Grayson, that the 'worse' would happen so soon.

Richie then let his mind wander. He thought of all that Duncan has had to go through since he learned of his immortality. He has buried many friends, both mortal, like Linda Plager, and immortal, like Michael Moore and Lucas Desiree. And then there was Darius. He had learnt of the existence of the watchers in painful fashion as they were indirectly responsible for the death of Tessa, who shouldn't have died so soon, and directly responsible for that of Darius, who shouldn't have died at all. It has been a rough year for the highlander, immortality and the gathering taking a heavy toll. Richie could not begrudge him for wanting to keep him innocently mortal for as long as possible when he realized what Duncan had always been aware of as the fate of all immortals: a long string of the funerals of friends and lovers, the knowledge that you must someday kill your friends, like he did Pitone last spring, and the lonely existence as you are forced to constantly live a life of lies, forever hounded by the looming presence of the gathering, taking heads in battles that seem so important until something happens and it all falls into perspective for you and you ask yourself did you have to kill them? Did they have to die? Does anyone have to die?

Yes, Richie forgave Duncan for not telling him about his impending immortality to protect him from the harsh reality of the game in the same breath that he denied ever blaming Duncan for failing to do so. It was the same breath where Duncan told Richie that he didn't blame him for not protecting Tessa and that her death was no one's fault but the shooter's. Richie knew that he himself was surprised to discover the sincerity in his reassurances of the absence of blame and knew that Duncan felt the same way.

It didn't matter, however. Guilt was a funny thing. Richie would always blame himself for not saving Tessa, and Duncan would always blame himself for not protecting Richie from the game for a while longer, no matter what the other's feelings on the matter turned out to be.

Richie couldn't remember if these realizations came from actual conversations or if they were just transferred from some sense of mutual understanding of one another. He just knew that this was the way of things, and he knew that Duncan was also aware of those same things. The how's and why's didn't matter.

Nothing mattered. How could anything matter anymore? Tessa was dead. Look, they're lowering her casket into the ground now.

Richie was suddenly aware of the fact that it was now Latin Connor was translating: a traditional Catholic prayer. He idly wondered how many people understood what the priest was saying, apart from the immortals he rightfully assumed could speak the language, and if no one knew what the priest was saying, why it was so important that it be said in Latin in the first place? Some of Richie's foster families had been Catholic, but they would stop forcing Richie to attend services once he found creative ways to protest them. He never really understood the point to organized religion anyway. The knowledge of immortals, the gathering, and the supposed prize only further threw into question the popular religious dogma of the western world that he was supposed to ascribe to.

Richie continued to stare at the casket as the undertakers worked to replace the dirt over it. He briefly wondered about the logistics of that, how all that dirt would suddenly be able to fit in that hole with the casket in there taking up so much space. This thought was interrupted by the always-jarring realization that it was Tessa they were burying. Tessa they were covering with dirt. He opened his mouth to protest that they were going to get her all dirty, but no sound came out. He felt a hand on his shoulder and knew that it was Connor. No one was speaking now. It was eerily silent, not even the birds were chirping.

Richie remembered feeling dirty. He was covered in blood. The street was damp from earlier rains and he was covered in that, too. Not to mention the dirty feeling he would always get whenever he recovered from death. He would forever wonder if that was a natural reaction to death or if it was psychosomatic with roots in that first recovery.

He remembered waiting with Mac while the highlander was unable to leave Tessa's side. He remembered thinking how hard it must have been for Mac to then take charge, being the one to voice that they should leave before the cops arrived.

"Are you ok to ride?"
"Uh, yeah. I think so. Why?"
"Good. We'll take your bike. Leave the keys in the car door. It'll look like Tessa had taken car. That she was getting ready to go home when…"

Richie remembered getting on his bike and starting it, Duncan sitting behind him. He knew that Duncan knew how to ride a motorcycle since the original plan was for him to follow Richie and Tessa on the bike a while later. Now all thoughts of learning more of the watcher who had kidnapped Tessa seemed very far away. Richie remembered thinking that Mac had asked him to drive home because he himself was incapable of it. That thought was heartbreaking in and of itself. He remembered that he didn't put his helmet on, and that neither of them cared.

Richie remembered showering when they got back to the loft. Actually, both of them showered, Duncan using the 'special' one in the living room. Richie just stayed in the longest, until well after the water had run cold, long after all traces of blood and grime had been washed off, yet the unclean feeling still stubbornly remained. He remembered hearing he phone ring while he was in there, that sound registering in the forgotten part of his brain that still clung to the need for logical order and motivated him to finally turn the shower off. He remembered emerging from the shower wearing a towel to find Duncan already dressed, his long hair wet and combed yet loose instead of tied back. He remembered being told that that was the police asking them to go downtown to identify Tessa's body. Richie remembered insisting that Duncan wait for him to get dressed so that he could drive.

He remembered taking the Mercedes. Tessa's white Mercedes. It felt wrong, his not having to ask her for permission. He knew that he would never have to ask her for permission to take the car again. He remembered Duncan giving him the car, saying that Tessa would have wanted him to have it. He also remembered deciding that he would sell it when they got back from Paris and the funeral. The memories were just too strong, and the money would be of more use anyway.

He remembered Duncan insisting that he wait in the car, and he remembered his staunch refusal to do so. Richie remembered the compromise that he would wait in the hall outside the door as Duncan went into the morgue. He remembered watching through the open slats of the Venetian blinds as the coroner opened the door to one of the person-sized refrigeration units and extended the slab. He saw the man remove the sheet to reveal Tessa's naked form, her skin an ashen blue from the cold, the formaldehyde, and rigger mortis. He remembered seeing Duncan fall to his knees, the coroner rushing to his side and grabbing his arm to prevent him from completing the fall, and Duncan nodding his head to say 'That's her. That's my Tessa.' Richie knew that Duncan's reaction wasn't an act any more than the discovery of Tessa on that slab wasn't a shock.

Richie remembered that Duncan hadn't wanted him to see him cry, not that the highlander would ever admit to that. Richie also remembered at some point understanding why (though the reason was lost on him right now) and that he had shut the blinds, resolving to never tell Duncan of what he'd seen.

Later on he found out that an autopsy was standard police procedure when investigating a homicide. He remembered sharing Duncan's outrage, and that they couldn't share that outrage with the world. After all, they weren't there that night. They weren't absolutely sure that the gunshot was what killed her. It was the final injustice, the final indignity. Tessa's violation was completed in triplicate; the authorities should be pleased.

Just before they left for the funeral, the police informed them that Tessa had been held prisoner by the owner of the house that she was investigating 'for artist's inspiration,' and that she had managed to escape when one of the owner's partner's in crime decided to kill him, probably in a power struggle. She didn't get far, however, because the surviving perpetrator gunned her down in the street just as she got to her car. The suspect then fled by alternate transportation knowing that the T-bird would be easily traced. He was still at large and no leads have turned up nor arrests made.

Richie was fairly certain that no arrests would ever be made. He couldn't give the bastard's description to the police without revealing that he was there that night, and that was out of the question. Their only chance of catching him was if he committed another crime with the same gun. It was a slim chance that Richie wasn't going to hold his breath for.

Richie remembered the painful silence as he drove them back to the loft. It was light out by then, and some mental calculation revealed it to be Thursday. There was no mention of opening the store. Duncan didn't say a word when Richie put a 'Closed Until Further Notice' sign in the window.

He remembered needing sleep. One of them told the other that they needed sleep, and they both agreed on it. Richie remembered trying to sleep, and even pretending to sleep when Mac appeared in the doorway. Not that he blamed him; he wouldn't have been able to return to that bed either. He remembered Duncan pulling over the chair at Richie's desk and trying to sleep in it, his hand supporting his head by the temple, needing the reassurance of Richie's immortal presence just as badly as he needed to not sleep in that bed. Richie also remembered that he was grateful for Duncan's presence as well.

Richie remembered waking up in the middle of the night (day?) and seeing that Mac had fallen asleep, his head curled in his arms on the pillow other side of the bed, his body half out of the chair half on the floor. Richie remembered Mac half waking up as he eased his body out of the chair and onto the bed, and that the highlander had already fallen back asleep by the time he had retrieved the extra blanket from his closet and had draped it over him. Richie remembered crawling back into bed, on the other side, his back to Duncan, and wishing for sleep to come without dreams this time.

He didn't remember if that wish came true.

The next few days were a blur. Richie remembered flashes but couldn't place a time stamp on them. He remembered Duncan placing the phone call to Tessa's family in Versailles. He had picked up enough French in Paris to understand the gist of Duncan's half of the conversation. He also remembered that it wasn't the last phone call Duncan had to make to France. Over the course of the week all the funeral arrangements had been arranged by phone. Then after the funeral arrangements the travel arrangements. Duncan was responsible for shipping Tessa's body back to France. He also had to arrange their plane tickets.

Richie did remember vividly the one phone call he was forced to make.

"Hello. This is Russell Nash. I am unable to answer the phone right now. Leave a message and I'll get back to you."
Beep.
"Hi. This is Richie Ryan. I'm told that I can reach Connor MacLeod at this number. Would you please tell him that Tessa Noel died two days ago and that the funeral is a week from tomorrow in Le Jardin cemetery in Paris? He'll know what I mean. Thanks."
Beep.

He had alerted Connor to Tessa's death, having promised himself in her presence that if anything ever happened he would be the one to let Connor know. Once that duty was fulfilled he paused to note the sad irony that he was informing the elder MacLeod of Tessa's death, not Duncan's.

He remembered Duncan making the arrangements for Tessa's body to be shipped in a refrigerated coffin by private jet home to France. Duncan sounded eerily detached while making those arrangements, like he was dealing with the shipment of some antique or other. Business as usual.

The casket that we being covered with earth at this moment wasn't the special refrigeration unit Duncan had made for the occasion. That was so that Tessa would be able to have an open-casket wake. This one was beautifully hand crafted, the Noels sparing no expense. By now the casket was covered, he would never see it again, but Richie was certain that he would never forget what it looked like. Through his peripheral vision he noticed the seemingly endless supply of chrysanthemums, the flower of the dead, and white roses, Tessa's favorite. She had told him a story about a white rose once, during the time he had pneumonia and was delirious with fever. He'd was damned if he could remember it now.

Richie had to admit that Tessa's parents loved their daughter very much, having spared no expense for her funeral. The design of the casket and the layout of the services also proved that they had exquisite taste in that 'I'm French and therefore superior' way of theirs. He just wished that they would accept that their sense of taste had rubbed off on their daughter. Maybe then they wouldn't be so cold towards Duncan, and towards himself by association, on the day where the laying aside of past grudges was the most important. They weren't even allowed to sit with the rest of the family members. Richie again pondered the sad irony that he knew that he and Duncan were the ones Tessa considered to be the closer family in her heart.

Richie remembered thinking these thoughts at the wake the afternoon before. He had tried to stick close to Duncan, but was soon isolated by the rapid French the other mourners were speaking in as they swarmed on them. Richie could have probably held some conversation, but he just didn't have the energy or inkling to put on the effort. He remembered Tessa's sisters expressing their sympathy and mutual grief to him in broken English before their husbands brought them back to the grieving parents. Richie assumed that there was an unspoken rule that they weren't to speak to either him or Duncan again. It was more like an evening of greeting people in a receiving line than a mutual sharing of the joys of a life and the pain of its loss. He didn't want to be any part of such an acrimonious affair, so he left early and sat on the marble stairs of the funeral parlor and waited for Duncan to be finished with Tessa's family and friends. Richie knew that Duncan wanted to leave as much as he did and pitied the highlander the forced interaction he was enduring for Tessa's sake.

As the undertakers were patting the dirt over the freshly filled grave, Richie wondered again why Tessa's family had been so cold, so unwilling to find forgiveness, or at the very least acceptance, for their daughter's sake. Richie blamed the Catholic dogma that repeatedly told Mr. and Mrs. Noel that their youngest daughter was living in sin with the man that convinced her to turn her back on her family and move half way round the world with him. Richie tried to recall what exactly one Sunday school teacher had said that Jesus said about the importance of forgiveness, especially in a family, but his efforts were hindered by the fact that he had repressed the whole experience all too well. The point of that particular lesson was to teach them not to tattle on their siblings, he remembered that part. With a sad smile Richie realized that he could have taken all those questions to Darius not long before. The man had studied Catholicism for centuries, on top of whatever other religions Richie only half-remembered hearing that the ancient had studied at one point or another in his long life.

So many people dead. Now we've buried Tessa too.

Richie remembered the flight to France. A private jet and a brief layover in New York City. Now he remembered that, during this flight, he remembered the last time he flew to France. He and Tessa had been worried about Duncan's fight with Grayson. Tessa had assured him then that no matter what happens that the three of them were family. He remembered remembering that it wasn't until then that he accepted all their assurances to that fact as concrete and unchanging truth. He remembered remembering that he had told Tessa that she was the best foster mother he had ever had even though he was a legal adult when he came to live with them, but that he had never referred to her as 'mom.' He knew that she would have loved to hear him say it, and that now it was too late.

This fact was made even more painfully clear at the funeral earlier today.

"We are gathered here to bid farewell to Tessa Marie Noel. Beloved daughter and sister…"

The priest left out 'fiancée and mother,' most likely at the insisting of Tessa's parents. It was at that point that he gave up following the service, instead letting the French and Latin wash over him like soothing gibberish. It was a sham; they weren't portraying Tessa for who she really was. The only form of civil disobedience Richie could offer was not bothering to mentally translate the French into English.

The greatest insult was that Duncan had been denied the right to eulogize her. Instead that honor was given to a sister who she hadn't even seen for eight years. It was a conspiracy, a sham, a mockery of what a funeral is supposed to represent. Richie knew that Tessa would be arriving at her grave already turned over.

The service was salvaged by the customary invite for friends and family members to speak their peace. Those who spoke remembered her fondly, and the emotions were honest. There was nothing contrived or pretentious about it, even from those who openly disapproved of Duncan's very presence. It proved that at least they were all united in grief, however begrudgingly.

When it came, Duncan's speech was short and simple.

"What is there to say about our beloved Tessa that hasn't already been said? I loved her more than anything else in this world. When she died, we were in the middle of planning our wedding." Shocked murmurs from the crowd.
"Here's the ring I was planning on giving her at dinner the night she died." He took the ring box from his pocked and removed the ring. "By American common law we were as husband and wife." He put the ring on her finger. "I want you all to know that I will forever consider Tessa my wife, if in spirit only, and with or without your approval." Then, turning to Tessa in the casket: "Good bye, Tess. I love you. Wait for me."

Duncan walked down the center aisle to the last possible row, where he and Richie were assigned to sit. Richie passed him on the way up to the podium, resolved to say everything that Duncan had been holding back. Richie steeled his nerve with the knowledge that he was about to do what he does best: be himself, and that Tessa wouldn't have wanted it any other way. He spoke in perfect French, with a sarcastic tone only an American could recognize.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, I just want you to know that I bare you no ill will for the way you've treated Tessa's husband. If he could find the words through his sorrow today I'm sure he'd tell you all the same. We forgive you that your own stubborn adherence to outdated religious dogma was more important to you than your daughter's happiness, and that you never included his name in any of your Christmas cards. We also understand how terribly hard it is for you to lay aside you hateful grudges for you daughter's sake as those who loved her gather to say their final goodbyes. I'd say pay their final respects, but how can I believe that you respected Tessa when you treat those she loved in such inconsiderate and disrespectful fashion? If you believe in everything else I'm sure you believe in heaven. I just know that Tessa is looking down on this with forgiveness and understanding of how those she loved most were unable to reconcile their differences to properly honor her memory. That being said I would just like to add: I love you, mom."

Richie remembered having to cut his speech short as his peripheral vision caught the two funeral parlor employees swiftly approaching the podium. He left the podium and walked back down the aisle, the goons at his heels, not pausing to grab his jacket but instead walking right on out the door. He remembered the stunned silence followed by loud clamor as he exited the building, and laughing like an idiot with Duncan on the front lawn as he brought him his jacket shortly thereafter. Knowing that the funeral was going to be another hour at least he and Duncan walked down the street to a café for sandwiches and coffee and to wait for the time to drive to the cemetery for the burial. Duncan never openly thanked him, but then he didn't need to. It was as much for Richie's own benefit as it was for the highlander's sake anyway.

As the lesser mourners began to depart Richie surmised that the events at the funeral were the reason the he, Duncan, and their friends were standing off to the left while everyone else was seated on the right. The guests departed in small groups until only the immediate family remained for those from the chairs. Tessa's sisters approached Duncan and Richie as they departed, pausing to offer a few brief words and a kiss on each cheek before the disapproving glares of their husbands bade them to move along. Tessa's parents left without so much as a passing glance in their direction.

Finally it was just Richie, Duncan, Connor, Grace, Fitzcairn, and the workers who would add the marble topping to the grave in rudimentary French style. Grace then turned to Duncan and spoke to him in French. Richie heard her say that she would be by the barge that night at eight to cook them dinner. She embraced him lovingly before departing, pausing only to give the same hug to Richie. He was grateful for her willingness to take care of them until their return flight tomorrow afternoon. He knew that if someone didn't cook then Duncan wouldn't eat until the flight home, and Richie didn't feel up to cooking.

Once Grace had released Duncan from the embrace Fitz approached him. Richie saw over Grace's shoulder Fitz placing a reassuring had on Duncan's arm. He spoke Italian, which confused Richie because Fitz was an Englishman. He surmised that it was to prevent the workers from overhearing. Whatever he said made Duncan laugh. Connor laughed too, but under his breath, not wanting to intrude on the moment. That must have been Fitz's goal, because he smiled briefly before giving Duncan's arm one last squeeze. He walked with Grace back through the cemetery.

Once Fitzcairn and Grace had departed, Duncan returned to staring blankly at Tessa's grave. It was then that Connor entered Richie's field of vision, his tunnel vision focused on Duncan staring unseeing at Tessa's grave. Richie blinked to force his eyes to refocus.

"Duncan will be disembarking the plane in New York," said Connor, once he was satisfied that he had Richie's undivided attention. "Fly on ahead to Seacouver. Start closing up the store. Arrange to ship the merchandise to this address." Connor handed Richie a post-it note with excessively neat handwriting scrawled on it. Richie didn't recognize the address. "You should start packing your belongings too, since Duncan will more than likely sell both the loft and the store. Don't touch anything in the loft that isn't yours though, Duncan will insist on packing the rest of it himself. Whatever you do, don't go outside the store or the loft once you've arrived. And keep this with you," he said, handing Richie a gun, "just in case."

Richie took the gun from him, staring at it with wide, disbelieving eyes. One just like it ended Tessa's life and triggered his immortality. After a moment he remembered Connor's presence and slipped the gun into his jacket pocket to appease the elder immortal. After all, he knew how to handle a gun.

"Whatever you do, don't go losing your head. It's bad enough having to deal with him dealing with Tessa's death." Connor's tone was light, almost joking, but Richie didn't miss the menacing seriousness in his eyes. "I'll have Duncan home to you in a couple of days, just bide your time doing what I've told you until then. Do you understand?"

Richie just nodded, momentarily unable to form words.

"Richard?" Connor asked again, not taking the non-committal nod for an answer.

"Go on to Seacouver, pack up the store, ship the stuff, pack up my things, don't leave the building, keep the gun for emergencies, and pray I don't lose my head before Mac gets back. Got it." The spirit of sarcasm was present in Richie's litany even though he lacked the ability to affect it in his voice.

Connor's expression softened. He placed a reassuring hand on Richie's shoulder for a moment before heading over to talk to his grieving kinsman.

Richie recognized the language they were speaking as being the same one that Duncan cursed in whenever he dropped something heavy on his foot. It sounded similar anyway, and Richie assumed it was Gaelic. Richie heard the pleasantries quickly dissolve into a disagreement and then an outright heated argument. Whatever Connor had said he proved no match for Duncan, who caved the same way that children do when they realize they can't get out of doing their chores in favor of some other activity. Richie laughed at the notion that Connor had probably just informed Duncan of their arrangement. Once he had Duncan's approval, or rather, his acceptance, Connor turned to leave them to their grief, stopping only to inform Richie,

"I'll be in touch."

Richie didn't doubt it.

With Connor gone it was only he and Duncan left at the grave. The workers had given up and vowed to return later so they could continue unbothered by straggling mourners. Richie walked over to Duncan and they stood side by side in companionable silence, each lost in their own thoughts for a time.

"It wasn't my idea," said Richie at last.

"I know," said Duncan, his tone expressionless. More silence. "That was a nice touch, at the funeral," he added finally.

"Yeah." Silence. Then: "You don't think she'd be mad?"

"Nah." Silence. "Well, she'd probably act all mad and try and lecture you about your behavior, but would crack up laughing towards the end."

"Nah. Half way." They both laughed at the thought before it turned against them and they felt the weight of their grief return. Then, after another extended pause: "It wasn't your fault you know. You couldn't have known that guy was out there."

"I should have protected her."

"Mac, you can't protect everybody all the time."

"Don't you think I know that!"

Richie recoiled from the heat of Duncan's outburst, he having turned to address the teenager for the first time since their conversation began. Richie shifted his weight on his feet, inching slightly farther away from the highlander, and hung his head even lower.

"I'm sorry," Duncan apologized after a pause.

"Me too." Silence again.

"Rich, it wasn't your fault either."

"I should have done something, I should have—"

"What? Taken the bullet for her?"

"If I'da known I was immortal I would have!"

More silence. Duncan's recoil at Richie's outburst was not unnoticed by the teenager.

"I'm sorry," Richie said at last.

"Me too." A shorter pause.

"Does this conversation sound like a Monty Python sketch to you?" Duncan's surprise comment took Richie completely off guard and he laughed in earnest.

"It does, at that," conceded Richie. They both returned to their own thoughts again. "Mac, I know why you didn't tell me," Richie said after considerable pause.

Duncan turned to regard the teenager. Richie just continued to address the ground.

"If this is what I have to look forward to, what immortality is like…" The thought went unfinished, but the anguish in Richie's voice made up for it. Duncan wasn't able to refute the statement, even though he knew that he should say something in defense of the good parts of immortality. Right now those parts seemed distant and unimportant. Instead he shuffled closer to Richie and put his arm around him.

"You're too young for this," was all he managed to say.

"So was she."

The silence returned momentarily. Then: "She knew how you felt, Rich."

"She did?"

"Apparently you talk in your sleep."

"Excuse me?"

"At the barge, when you would oversleep for breakfast and she would try and wake you, in the midst of the grouchy unpleasantries that would leave your mouth you would call her mamen, French for mother. It's what Tessa would have wanted to be called."

"I did?" Richie asked, almost afraid to believe that it was true.

"You did," Duncan assured him.

That was enough. Richie couldn't take anymore. He started to cry, silently at first, then with growing power and feeling. Duncan wrapped both arms around him and Richie curled into the embrace. His knees gave out and he sank to the ground, Duncan supporting him in the descent. It wound up Richie kneeling, Duncan squatting, with Richie crying into Duncan's shirt, his hands clenching in the soft fabric and his tears creating wet spots on the shoulder. Richie was only passively aware of Duncan speaking to him, and he wasn't sure if it was in English, French, or Gaelic. Perhaps it was all three. Richie was also passively aware that Duncan was crying too, struggling to find the right words in the midst of his own tears.

At some point it had started to rain, the skies opening up in response to Richie's emotional release. The two immortals stayed like that, their tears obscured by the rain as it drenched their clothes and chilled them to the bone. They didn't care; they had each other for warmth right now. At some point they both realized that the inability to catch colds was one of the few blessings of immortality, and they felt no pressure from the raging weather to move from that spot and the comfort they found there.

When they eventually did, it was Richie who moved first.

"Tessa would laugh at how disheveled we look," said Richie. He hadn't moved yet.

"Yeah, she probably would, after she threw towels at us to keep us from dripping on the floor."

"Before."

"You're right. Before."

They both laughed slightly. Richie then removed himself from Duncan's protective embrace and forced himself into a standing position.

"I get dibs on the first shower." Richie said as he extended a hand to help Duncan to his feet. Duncan looked annoyed momentarily before saying,

"Whatever you say, tough guy." He reached up to take Richie's proffered hand, but instead of allowing himself to be helped up he pulled Richie back down to the ground with him, the teenager landing on his side with an indignant splash for having been pulled off balance before toppling over.

Duncan's laughter was short-lived as Richie quickly shoved him, sending him from his previous squatting position to an unflattering pose flat on his back. Now Richie's laughter was dominant.

"We should probably get out of here," said Richie once the laughter had died down. Duncan looked over at the teenager and noticed his shivering. That was enough for him to leave the fun and games behind. He took a deep, calming breath, saying,

"You're probably right, Rich," on the exhale. Then, with a grace that startled the younger immortal, Duncan, in all his drenched formalwear, rolled back onto his hands and launched himself to his feet in flawless form. He stood and offered his hand to Richie, who was still sitting on the ground. Richie gazed up at the highlander hesitantly for a moment, trying to gage if he was plotting in advance for Richie to try and drag him down to the ground. Seeing nothing telling on the highlander's face, Richie accepted the hand up.

"Where'd we park, Mac?" Richie asked once he was on his feet again.

Duncan fished in his pocket for the keys to the car. "We're probably the last car left in the lot," he said as he tossed the keys to Richie. "Go get in out of the rain. Warm the car up. I'll be along in a few minutes."

All of a sudden Richie felt the seriousness of the day came rushing back and threaten to overwhelm him. The weight of his grief, and that of Duncan's, almost made their earlier tomfoolery seem blasphemous.

Almost.

As Richie turned to walk back to the car he heard Duncan speaking to Tessa in French. He didn't bother to think about translating it, not wanting to intrude. As he neared the parking lot he noticed a man with a cane standing in the tree line holding an umbrella and looking thoroughly miserable. He knew that it had to be Duncan's watcher, Joe something-or-other. When he arrived at the car it occurred to him to shoo the watcher away, not knowing how Mac would have reacted to the man's presence here today.

Richie went to unlock the car only to realize that they had forgotten to lock it in the first place. Richie climbed in on the driver's side, the last time he would ever drive Mac's car without either of them saying a word about it. Richie knew that Duncan was grateful for that, and Duncan knew that he knew, and that was enough.

Richie turned on the headlights and the heater, but opted to leave the radio off. He actually preferred the company of his own thoughts right now, as they were his fonder memories of Tessa playing out as a montage in his head.

When Richie reached over to turn on the windshield wipers he noticed that it had stopped raining. In fact, the sun had already begun to peek through the clouds. Richie smiled at that, knowing that somewhere his mom was up there, smiling down on him.