A shifting opalescent mist rose from the headless body... it writhed and seemed to Amanda's eyes to fold back on itself as if it were several quickenings... not one. For a moment she had the impression that it was like the ancient mythological hydra... a serpent with many heads... each snapping at the others... each attempting to swallow the others. The feel in the air was charged with both electricity and sick dread.
Amber whispered aloud, "Dear God in heaven... what is that thing?" Never in her two hundred years had she ever seen such a quickening.
The image rose in the air as if it were about to strike. Suddenly... and with deliberate aim... all four heads rushed at Duncan's kneeling form as if in a hurry to see which one would devour him first. In a great flash of released power... there was an outward surge of crackling energy.
Amanda felt as if even she was being violated somehow... as if some part of that horrendous quickening had chosen to rip through her... become part of her. She swung her sword violently about her... attempting to fend off the sick feeling of that cold hand that reached for her... attempting to caress her... enter her.
Beside her... Amber backed away... suddenly aware that standing too close to either Amanda or Duncan might not be too wise at the moment. Around the young immortal... quickening crackled and sparked... but rather than grasp her as it had done the others... it forced her away... as if it had no interest in her at all.
On his knees... Duncan MacLeod let the power rush over him and into him. A dark well seemed to open up about him and he descended into darkness. He felt the wail of thousands and the tortured cries of friends and lovers screaming in terror. But Duncan had known the utter descent into depravation of a dark quickening... and this was not dark... just sick and powerful... and it was not just Kenny.
"It is Kurgan! It is Kane! It is Kell!" came Connor's voice from deep within the younger Highlander. "Let me help you defeat them again! Let me take them on this time my brother! For this I am with you!
"Together!" roared Duncan. "It will take both of us!" Within his mind, the quickenings once more seemed to take physical form and slash away at his defenses... but this time... Connor stood beside him. Expertly... the Highlanders worked together... their united power, strength and knowledge... their years of practice... their unity of purpose to protect the clan... becoming an ever-growing force of power against which the divided and self-centered trio could not stand.
One by one they seemed to fall and be absorbed and transformed. First Kell... too slow and unwieldy against the Highlanders' speed and efficiency. Then Kane... whose skills paled once illusion could not be used... having no power over the Scotsmen's inner thoughts. Finally... as one the clansmen faced and overwhelmed even the mighty Kurgan whose remaining power was nothing compared to theirs.
To Amber's eyes... Duncan still knelt... his arms spread wide open as the hydra-like quickening struck at him again and again... losing first one head... and then another... At last the sparkling and electric quickening seemed to rush into him and then explode outward into the street lamps... into the Millennium Wheel revolving down river... into the auto alarms going off throughout London... into the transformers whose explosions left a sudden city-wide blackout.
Amber gasped at the power... In the sudden whoosh of air about her... she could hear her old teacher's laugh.
"Heh... heh... heh... We cannot do it alone! It takes us all!"
To Amber's left, Amanda had finally collapsed on the ground moaning. Some piece of this odd quickening still surrounded her... and she was losing her battle.
"What do I do Connor?" Amber whispered. "What can I do?"
"How?" But even as she asked... Amber knew. She knelt beside Amanda and pulled her struggling form close in her lap. She began to sing... a bit of an old Irish lullaby her mum had once sung to her. Connor had often asked to hear it when they'd been together. "It calms the mind," he'd said. So Amber sang and hummed... rocking Amanda's shivering form.
Duncan rose... oddly calm and complete. He reached down and picked up his katana... giving Kenny's headless form only a momentary glance to be certain it had truly been the troubled boy... then he knelt next to the women.
Amber's voice whispered to Amanda as she hugged her... as a mother might hug a child. It rose clear and pure on the air as she rocked the older woman back and forth.
Duncan placed one arm about Amber's shoulders and gently stroked the side of Amanda's face... slick with sweat. "Amanda..." he whispered. "Don't leave me now... come back to me." Duncan leaned down and kissed her slack lips... feeling a tear well up in his eye. "Don't leave me Amanda... I need you."
Within Amanda's mind she could feel Kenny slinking around... feeding on her guilt and insecurities about him... about all the pupils she'd failed. He whispered dark thoughts and spoke of endless pleasures. Kenny slid through her being like a snake.
Gradually Amanda sensed the boy's spirit was increasingly distracted by Amber's singing. As if it were something he needed and wanted. For all his years... he was still a child... still a little boy who needed a mother... Kenny desperately needed to be loved.
Amanda could feel Duncan's kiss... hear his words... but first she had to deal with Kenny's spirit... or he would haunt her forever.
She reached for him with her mind and like Amber... held his spirit as Amber held her body. She wrapped her arms about him and welcomed him into her. "Shh... my little one... I will never desert you again. Rest now... it's all right Kenny... You can stop running now. I'm here."
The boy's spirit gradually calmed and faded into hers. Amanda opened her eyes... smiling at the concern on Duncan's face. "How much do you need me Duncan?" she teased.
Duncan's face broke into a joyous grin as he pulled back and then pulled her up into his arms. "More than you can guess!" he asserted as he kissed her with all the focus of his heart and soul.
Beside them Amber grinned and nodded thoughtfully... "You were wrong Connor!" she said silently. "We should grasp love wherever we find it. We should meet it head on and take it in to us. For it is our love that makes us what we are... not our fears."
Around them... sirens began going off.
With a laugh Duncan looked around. "We better get out of here before someone sees us!" He slung one arm about Amanda, keeping her tightly within his embrace. Amber picked up Amanda's sword with a nod and followed the couple from the river-park and back into the darkened London streets.
Amanda rubbed her hands over the newly installed door and smiled to the joiner. "Very nice work indeed."
The workman tipped his cap and nodded as he gathered his tools and left. Amanda closed the door and shot the bolt... then turned to face her companions. "And this time I will be far more careful just who I let in here."
Duncan laughed and pulled her onto his lap. She kicked up her heels as she held his face in her hands playfully kissing him.
Beside them, Amber laughed, "I think this is my cue to move on."
Duncan, running his hands lightly over Amanda's legs, looked at Amber with a smile, "Whatever gave you that idea?"
"Oh I can read the signs on the wall," Amber winked, rose and donned her coat.
"Don't be a stranger... You have to come and visit us often!" Amanda said... though her attention was clearly on the man in whose lap she sat.
"Aye... and come see me too!" Amber tossed off as she straightened her coat and reached down to polish off the glass of whiskey she'd been drinking.
"Where will you be?" Duncan asked.
"Oh... I think I'll go back to me job in Paris. There's a man there I find rather interesting."
Amanda looked at them both curiously. "Am I missing something here?"
"Tell you later," Duncan said.
"Good friends are too precious to waste. Time is too short... even for us... to lose a single moment." Amber replied with a knowing nod. "And mortals... they have even less time than we do. We should cherish them all." She crossed the room, unbolted the door and left.
Amanda gazed deeply into Duncan's brown eyes... and felt she could remain there forever. She leaned in for a long kiss... feeling in that moment... that life was just perfect. She whispered into Duncan's ear, "So few of us left... so little time... We should focus on the time we have."
Duncan shifted her in his arms and stood, turning about as he smiled and carried her toward her bed, "I couldn't agree more!"