Disclaimer: Whitney belongs to Al Gough, Miles Millar, DC Comics, and the WB. Richie and the concept of Highlander belong to Gregory Widen, Davis/Panzer, and Rysher Entertainment. Lt. Johnson is mine.
Author's note: Written for Joanne for the Crossficathon
Shouting filled his ears, blocking out every other noise. His company was in trouble, and there was a man down. He couldn't leave him. Growing up in Smallville, Kansas, had taught him that. He retrieved the other man against his wishes and hefted him out of harm's way. His knees almost buckled under the other soldier's weight. Racing through the desert, he could almost smell the base. They were halfway there. Then came the blast, and everything went black.
"Private Fordman, can you hear me?"
Whitney could hear a far off voice calling him, pulling him out of the darkness. When he opened his eyes, all of his senses came alive. Wherever he was, it was cold and quiet. Darkness filled the room, and he couldn't make out his surroundings. He was lying on something soft. A hospital bed? He couldn't tell.
"We have to get you out of here now, Private," the voice said, more sternly.
Not knowing what was going on, he allowed a pair of strong arms to pull him into a sitting position. His muscles ached, and he groaned as he moved.
"Those will heal, kid. Trust me."
A small light came on, and Whitney could make out his surroundings. He was in a tan tent furnished with a bed and a chair. Glancing down at himself, he noticed he was wearing doctor's scrubs. He had no clue how he got them, but he didn't want to know. Looking over to see who owned the voice, he saw a man with dark hair and eyes looking him up and down.
"Lieutenant Johnson?" he asked.
"I knew this would happen the minute I laid eyes on you, kid. Sadly, I can't be the one to train you. Here, put these on." He tossed Whitney some civilian clothes.
"What's going on?"
"You'll find out soon enough once I get you to Seacouver, Washington. I've got a friend there who will explain everything."
Too tired to argue, Whitney did as he was told and then followed the man to a waiting car. Once they were inside and the car started, Johnson shoved a plane ticket into Whitney's hand. "When you get to Seacouver, Richie Ryan will find you at the airport. He'll explain what's going on. I would do it myself, but the company thinks you're dead, and we haven't got a whole lot of time."
Whitney's head shot up. "Dead?"
But Johnson didn't elaborate. He only continued to drive to the airport.
A strange tingly sensation hit him the minute he stepped into the baggage claim. It was all around him and inside of him, yet it was coming from somewhere in the large room. His eyes landed on a man with blond hair and blue eyes who didn't look that much older than Whitney himself. He waved when he saw him and jogged over to meet him.
"I'm guessing you're Whitney Fordman," he said, holding out his hand. "I'm Richie Ryan. Tally said you'd be coming."
"Oh, sorry, Lieutenant Johnson. We met a while back; he saved my head twice." Richie turned toward Carousel C. "Come on, let's grab your bags. We've got a lot to talk about."
The drive to Richie's house was quiet, but as soon as they were inside the living room, Whitney couldn't stand it anymore. He whirled on the other man.
"What the hell is going on?" he demanded. "Why does the rest of the army think I'm dead? Why did Lt. Johnson send me here? Who the hell are you?"
Richie pulled two beers out of the refrigerator and gestured at the living room. "Let's sit down; you're going to need to."
Once settled, Richie handed the younger man the other beer. Then he started to explain.
"Tally told me that you were killed on a mission. You stepped on a land mind and were dead as soon as they got you to the hospital. As soon as he heard, Tally pulled your body out before they could box it up to be sent home. And then you woke up." He stopped and let his story sink in.
Whitney stared at the coffee table. "If I died, then how come I'm still alive?"
Richie leaned forward and set his beer on the coffee table. "Like me and Lt. Johnson, you're Immortal. You can't die unless someone cuts off your head."
Whitney stared at him silently, letting a few seconds slip by. Then he laughed. "You're kidding, right?" Standing up, he looked behind the couch. Next, he crouched down and glanced under the coffee table.
"What are you doing?" Richie asked.
"I'm looking for the hidden camera," Whitney answered as he moved on to the TV. "This has to be some sort of joke. 'Hey, let's set up Smallville. He's used to that weird stuff anyway.'"
"This isn't a joke, Whitney. I'm telling the truth."
Whitney searched the curtains. "Oh, come on. Immortal? Can only be killed by beheading?"
Richie sighed and stood up. Crossing the room, he recovered a golden handled rapier from its place on the wall. Unsheathing it, he made his way over to Whitney. Without saying a word, he grabbed the younger man's hand and slashed his palm. Whitney jerked his hand back.
"Are you crazy?"
"Look at it," Richie instructed.
Whitney held out his hand and watched as small bits of energy closed the wound. Wiping away the blood, he realized that there was no scar, no trace that he had ever been cut. He looked at Richie, his mouth hanging open and his blue eyes wide.
"How?" he gaped.
"I told you, you're Immortal. And other Immortals will be coming for your head. Within a year, you'll be able to use one of these." Richie held up his sword.
"You mean I can live forever, but only if I fight other guys who can live forever with a sword?"
"Pretty much. 'There can be only one,' and a lot of other Immortals take that seriously. There are other rules, but that's the big one."
Whitney staggered to the couch, still holding his hand. He sank down on the cushions and stared at the blank TV screen. "And I thought the meteor freaks in Smallville were weird."
Richie sheathed his sword and replaced it back on the wall. "You've got a lot to learn, Whitney, and not a whole lot of time to do it. Your whole life has just changed, kid."