Chapter twenty eight
They had stayed in France another week. After that Duncan had decided it was time to go. Rachel and Connor had already returned to New York. Duncan had given Connor's details to the police for them to contact him in case of any news in the case (either of them) as he didn't want them trying to contact him, not with Richie supposedly dead. He had explained to Powell he needed time alone after everything, but that Connor would be able to get in touch if needed. He hadn't told anyone from his life in Seacouver where he was going.
He had given Richie his new passport, the one he had travelled to Paris on was temporary, and Richie wanted to keep his real name. Duncan felt they were moving far enough away that this was doable. But his place of birth and his date of birth were changed. Richie had been unamused with the latter.
"Mac, why does this say I was born in 1975?" Richie demanded on close inspection of his new passport. "Because I didn't think you'd agree to 1976," Mac answered without pausing in his packing.
"I was born in '74 Mac. I'm nineteen."
"I know. But the younger we start you out the longer we can stay in places."
Duncan chuckled, taking in Richie's sulky expression, thinking he looked even younger when he did things like that. "It's just one year Richie, and it won't make a difference where we're going. Just try to remember you're eighteen again."
"Great," Richie groused. "I'm gonna be a teenager forever."
"Good job you can carry it off."
Duncan had started feeling nostalgic the moment the plane landed in Glasgow. It had been so long since he had been home, but that was still what it felt like – home. Glasgow was of course completely different to the last time he had been here, but the Highlands… He didn't expect them to be too different.
Richie had fallen asleep during the drive. He'd lasted from the plane to the rental car and then about twenty minutes of city roads before nodding off. He seemed to be sleeping peacefully now and Duncan was quite content with the radio on low for company as he slowly wound his way towards the land of his childhood.
The scenery started to improve vastly as soon as he reached Loch Lomond, the point where he felt the lowlands and the highlands met. It was the first glance, the first hint of what the highlands had in store for you. For a fleeting moment he thought about waking Richie up so he could see the change start to take shape in the landscape, but decided against it. Richie hadn't been sleeping well recently and some sleep was better than no sleep. And… constant 'are we nearly there yets?' would get old quickly. So he let Richie sleep on as he made his way through the Trossachs.
By the time he was getting used to the view of snow capped mountains on all sides Richie had started to fidget in his sleep. Within a few minutes Richie was blinking awake and surveying his surroundings.
"Guess I fell asleep," he stated unnecessarily as he yawned and stretched.
"Only for about an hour and a half," Duncan said.
"Really," Richie glanced at his watch. "Guess so. So where are," Richie didn't finish the sentence as he looked out the car window properly for the first time. "Hey, can we stop?"
"Sure," Duncan shrugged, pulling into a small gravel car park a little further down the road.
As soon as the car stooped Richie jumped out and went to the edge of the car park. There was a steep path going down the side of the mountain to the river at the bottom. From that vantage point the valley could be seen in its entirety.
"Wow." Richie breathed the word out, captivated by the view in front of him.
Duncan watched him, a small smile tugging at his lips. He had been a little worried at how Richie would react to the Highlands – being born and bred in a city and never knowing anything else. He had been a little concerned that the relative remoteness of where they were now would bother Richie. So he was feeling relieved that the first thing Richie had seen when waking up was this scene in front of him. And that he had immediately asked Duncan to pull over so he could look at it properly.
Now they stood at the edge of the road together, looking at the picture perfect view of the Great Glen. From Duncan's point of view it looked almost the same as the last time he had seen it nearly two hundred and fifty years ago. Of course this road hadn't been there then, but the valley, the river, the mountains all looked the same.
"You grew up here?" Richie asked, glancing at Duncan then back at the view.
"Not quite. Glenfinnan is about an hours drive further north. This was the MacDonald Clans land. This is Glencoe. Connor and Heather lived here together."
"It's beautiful. How did you stay away so long?"
"The time never seemed right to come home before." Duncan said.
"And it's right now?"
"Now I have someone I want to share it with. Scotland shaped me into the person I am. If I'm going to teach you to be a part of the game then I can't think of a better place for you to learn than where I did."
It was Richie's turn to nod, his face serious. Duncan realized how much Richie had grown up in the past few weeks. How much more responsible he seemed now. Part of Duncan was glad – he would need that if he was going to survive against Immortals hundreds of years older than him, but part of him was sad. Richie was after all still only nineteen, just nineteen at that, and Duncan still wanted him to have some of that care free spirit that he had when he'd first met him.
Worried some of these thoughts might be evident on his face Duncan tried to school his expression as he made eye contact with Richie.
"It's kinda remote up here, so I just gotta check. There are girls in the Highlands, right?
Duncan actually laughed. Maybe he didn't need to be worrying about that just yet…
"Yes, there are girls." Duncan turned and headed back to the car. "You'll just be too busy to meet any of them."
There was silence for a full three seconds before Duncan heard Richie following behind.
"You're kidding right? Right? Mac?"
Duncan turned, and had Richie nearly run into him. He laughed at the earnest expression.
"C'mon Rich, get in the car, we still have a way to go."
Richie eyed the cottage that was to be home for the next who knew how long. It was a white stone house at the end of a short steep driveway. It was surrounded by trees at the back and the front overlooked Loch Shiel. Mac informed him it also had a pond in the back garden. It was decidedly Scottish Richie decided. It felt like it was in the middle of nowhere, but he knew they were only a few minutes walk from the centre of Glenfinnan – though the size of it Richie wasn't sure one pub and one corner shop – that apparently sold everything - could be classed as the centre of anything.
They were a thirty minute drive from Fort William – the nearest largest 'dwelling' Mac had said. Town, Richie would have said. When he'd said that to Mac he'd just rolled his eyes and ignored the comment. But Richie was relieved not be too far from civilization. When Mac had said the nearest city was Inverness – two hours away – he'd been momentarily panicked. He was a city boy at heart. It was what he was used to. This was all new… It didn't mean it was bad it was just going to take a while to get used to the differences.
"You planning on standing outside all day?" Mac asked from the doorway. Apparently while Richie had been pondering outside Mac had let himself in.
Richie headed for the front door. The inside was in stark contrast to the Loft. He stepped into the hallway and saw three doorways heading in different directions, the stirs directly in front of him. The wallpaper was floral, and many different shades of yellow.
"Nice wallpaper." He stated.
"It probably was. In the seventies." Mac agreed.
"I doubt it was nice even then," Richie argued, peering around one of the doors into what was apparently the kitchen. The wallpaper in there was green.
"It needs redecorating," Mac said diplomatically.
"Look past the wallpaper Rich." Mac instructed.
Richie shot him a dirty look as he looked through the next doorway. This was obviously the lounge and one wall was taken up by a large fireplace. Boxes of their things were piled against the one wall. Their things had been delivered earlier in the week and just needed unpacking. Dutifully ignoring the horrendous brown (brown!) swirly walls Richie tried to imagine what the room could look like. It was spacious and cosy at the same time.
"I guess this rooms cool." He said.
"You guess?" Mac was smiling so Richie figured he hadn't offended his heritage yet.
Richie peeked through the final door. "Dining room?" he asked and looked again when Mac simply nodded. "Looks better than the other rooms." Richie said taking in the bare plaster walls.
"The point Rich, is we can do it up together. Make it into something beautiful."
"So let's see upstairs." Richie took the steps two at a time, noting the god awful yellow wallpaper was in the upstairs hallway too.
Four doors up here. Two led to double bedrooms with indescribably awful walls. A third door led into a smaller third bedroom and the fourth into the bathroom.
"So this is nice," Richie said returning now to the room that had boxes with his name all over it inside. The window overlooked the Loch and it was a stunning view.
"Finally something you approve of," Mac said from directly behind him. Richie had known he wouldn't be far away.
"Hey, I approve of the house, just not the walls." Richie grinned.
"Well that won't be a problem for long. We'll start stripping them tomorrow."
"Hard labour huh, this is how my training starts?"
"You're training starts in a couple of weeks," Mac said softly.
"I've already been dead weeks…"
"There's plenty of time to learn how to fight Richie. And I will teach you everything I know, I promise. But I think we both deserve a couple of weeks to just get settled in here."
"It's beautiful here Mac. Thanks for bringing me, and for not giving up on me."
Richie felt Mac's hand on his shoulders. "I happen to think you're worth the effort. Life will still be hard Rich. But have the chance to start fresh, to be whoever we want to be. That's the gift of Immortality. The best part about it."
Richie nodded. Staring out the window at the scene in front of him. A couple of weeks to get used to this, to living here, just the two of them. Time to acclimatize to the changes that had occurred in the last few weeks, before learning how to wield a sword and entering into The Game fully. A glimmer of hope. Maybe life could be good again. Just because it was different didn't mean it was bad. He missed Frankie more than he could say and he doubted he would ever truly be over losing Tessa like that… But maybe he could be happy again, up here in the Highlands of Scotland, learning from the Highlander.
To be continued.
A/N So… that's it for Rooftops… I know there are loose ends not tied up… But I have decided a sequel where eventually all questions will be answered is a better plan that making this story epic in length.