Hope Springs Eternal

Paris Oct 1993:

Standing by the grave of Tessa Noel, his recently killed lover, partner, fiancee, soul mate… Duncan MacLeod felt that the world was ending. Oh… he'd always known he would bury Tessa. He'd always known he would face an eternity without her… but it was still a shock… a blow of enormous proportions. Once he'd made the decision to chance marriage… once he'd made the decision to embrace her and shower her with the knowledge that he was truly hers for the rest of her life… her life was snuffed out in the explosion of a gun. And Duncan MacLeod was alone again.

He glanced around the Paris cemetery and watched other mourners… mortal mourners… move about the graves of their loved ones… and he felt even more alone.

Tessa's family had been long dead. Her friends, for the most part, at least those in Paris, had moved on with their lives. He'd known no one to call… no one to contact about her death. He wasn't even certain why he'd made the journey to bury her here… in Paris.

"Paris is our city," she'd told him last winter when they'd come here. Perhaps that was why. He would always associate Paris with Tessa. It seemed fitting that she should lie here… and that he would always return to Paris… and think of her. But it did not assuage his loss… nor make the things he would have to do next… any easier.

"Tess… what do I do about Richie. He needs me… and I can't deal with him right now. He needs a teacher who can train him to kill and to survive. And right now… all I want is to lie next to you."

He was dead inside. As dead as the day Debra Campbell had fallen from that cliff. As dead as the night Kate Devaney… his wife of three hours… had run screaming from him in terror. As dead as the day he'd found Little Deer's body… or faced life on the frontier without Sarah Carter. As dead as the day he'd lost any of them… all the mortal women he'd truly loved over the years.

"What is it all for, then," Duncan asked the overhead clouds. "Why do we remain… while all we love passes from this world."

If Darius were alive, he'd have had him say the service over Tessa, and Duncan would have returned to the church with him, and poured out his grief to him. But Darius was dead.

Oh… he could look up Fitzcairn. Fitz had met Tessa… but Fitz didn't really know Tessa. Fitz would never understand. Duncan chuckled. He could look up Amanda… but that didn't seem right either. Not yet. His loss of Tessa was too new… a gaping wound across his soul. Connor? Connor had vanished a few months ago, and while Duncan was not yet concerned… it meant he'd likely not see Connor until the elder Highlander wished it. Thus it had always been. But Connor, at least, would have understood.

And meanwhile… there was still Richie. Every time he looked at Richie… he thought of Tessa. Every time Richie made some comment about the wonders of immortality and his excitement about becoming immortal… it hurt. It hurt because Tessa had not been immortal. Duncan would never have wished that on her. He'd learned his lesson in that regard centuries ago… but Richie's love of life only served to remind Duncan… that right now… his life was empty.

He knew it would get easier as the days turned into weeks… and the weeks into months… and the months into a year. Perhaps in a year he'd be ready to move on with his life… but not yet. Duncan had considered leaving Seacouver and returning to Paris full-time when he'd brought Tessa's body here. After all, he'd told Richie to sell the store. He had no real reason to ever return to Seacouver where everything would remind him of Tessa. But the same was true of Paris. And a Paris without even Darius saddened him even more.

"I have to go, Tessa, don't I?" he said to her grave. "I have to made arrangements for Richie. But it hurts me to see him. I see him… and think of you. But I need to teach Richie to survive. Maybe for the only reason that he knew you, too… really knew you. In years to come… he might be the only I can talk to about you that would really understand how much I love you. How much I will always love you. We were cheated of the life we might have had. I should have married you years ago. But I always wanted you to feel free to leave me if the game found me again. I should have known… you'd never leave me… except like this. I won't say good-bye… only… until we meet again."

Slowly he turned away and walked towards the main gate.

He was halfway there when he felt a slight pre-immortal hum from a woman standing near another grave. Duncan paused. He always like to know who was around… especially if they were immortal… or destined to be so if the fates dictated.

She had several long-stemmed red roses in her hands and was sobbing almost uncontrollably. Suddenly she fell to her knees and began wailing on the headstone. Duncan felt like a voyeur. This woman was crushed and despondent. She needed something… or she'd likely seek her own death before her time… and upon awakening… would be an easy target for the first immortal who found her.

He stepped up to her side and gently knelt beside her, saying softly. "I know how it is. Life doesn't seem fair right now."

"What would you know!" she snapped.

"I just buried my fiancee," Duncan replied solemnly. "Her name was Tessa. I loved her very much."

The woman sat back on her heels. Her brown hair was tangled and wind-blown about her face, her eyes red from her tears, her nose running. She wiped her dark coat sleeve across it. Duncan offered his handkerchief . Blowing her nose, she dabbed at her eyes and offered a thin smile. "His name was David. We were only married three months."

"I'm Duncan," he said. "Tessa and I had lived together for several years. I'd finally asked her to marry me. She'd said yes."

"I'm Hope. Silly name… my foster-mother's idea I guess. Anyway. David and I had known one another for three years. We worked together. I was so looking forward to our life… a real family… children. Lots of children. Now I don't think that will ever happen. At least not with David." She began once more to cry.

"Tessa and I couldn't have children. We'd talked about adopting."

"I was adopted. I always wondered what they were like… the parents I never knew. I like to think they were young lovers… separated like Romeo and Juliet in the play. I like to think I was the embodiment of their love." She shrugged. "Silly dreams, I suppose."

Duncan thought of his own foster parents… and the love they'd showered on him… and his father's banishment of him when Duncan had returned to life. He thought of his long journey to discover who he was… and where he came from… a journey he'd not yet finished. He chuckled. "Not so silly. We all want to believe that we were the children of people who loved. I was adopted as well."

Hope handed the handkerchief back with a shy smile. "Really? How bizarre… that we should have so much in common."

Duncan nodded, thinking to himself, "You have no idea."

"I feel better, now… as if I can go on… at least for today."

Duncan rose and pulled Hope to her feet. "As do I. I was so crushed only a few minutes ago… so unable to contemplate a future without Tessa. Now… somehow… just talking with you… just sharing my loss with you and you sharing yours with me… I feel better.

Hope nodded.

"Can I drop you somewhere?" Duncan asked.

"No… I don't live far." She held out one small hand. "Good-bye and I hope you find love again, Duncan."

He bowed and kissed her hand. "As I wish for you." He backed away, turned and had gone about twenty feet when he thought of something else to ask her. Turning… he did not see her.

Duncan returned to the gravesite looking around in the gathering fog. "Hope?" he called out.

There was no answer.

He shrugged and was turning to leave when he read the name on the headstone. David Moreau 1921-1943. Duncan stared, confused momentarily. Then he noted the next stone. Hope Springs Moreau Beloved Wife of David. There were no dates on her stone.

In the late afternoon chill and fog… Duncan MacLeod shivered… and yet felt strangely comforted. "I pray you found your peace, Hope. I pray you did."