The Spirit Within

Disclaimer:The Highlander universe belongs to Panzer/Davis and I've only borrowed a few of their characters. I'm not making any money from their use and promise to return them when I'm done. This story takes place in the future and my future has Richie Ryan alive and well. I am among the many whom have discounted season six and refuse to believe in the untimely death of a character so well loved. As always Darius, Duncan MacLeod, Richie Ryan (Francis), Connor MacLeod and Joe Dawson do not belong to me, no matter how much I wish. Panzer/Davis has that honor. The characters of David Junot, Margie Moshier, Allen and Terry Mason do. I would like to thank Ann Snow for her expertise in both Darius' character and fencing info, and for beta reading, and also Dawn Cunningham for looking over the first draft and making some wonderful suggestions. I would also like to give a huge thanks to Lisa Hughes, beta reader extraordinaire. She has taught me so much about writing and I owe her a lot. Hope you enjoy. Comments welcome at lwright3@rochester.rr.com

The Spirit Within

By Lori Wright

Prologue-Nov 30, 1993

St. Julien Le Pauvre, stood unblinking in the face of the storm. Rain battered the stone, sending rivulets of water streaming down its sides. The beams from the street lamp reflected off the wet wrought iron fence causing it to glisten. Lightning, both natural and unnatural, brightened the sky, sending shadows running in its wake. The inhabitants on both sides of the river gave little thought to the storm. As long as the conveniences of the time remained, and their own little niches remained warm and dry, the weather was ignored.

Inside the sanctuary a mist formed, illuminated strangely by the lightning, zigzagging inside the church. The haze started to localize just above the floor. At first it was amorphous but soon a determinant form began to emerge. As the object became increasingly solid, the lightning lost its brilliancy. The unearthly glow inside the church dulled. Soon even the rain began to slow, and the world was left dripping and dark. The object didn't move, but remained still, waiting.

^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*

Across the globe, Duncan MacLeod was just finishing a late afternoon kata. The dojo didn't have any scheduled classes so he took advantage of the privacy. The number of students sometimes overwhelmed him, always demanding so much of both time and energy. Most days this wasn't a problem, but today he felt empty and even Charlie's company wasn't enough to dispel the hollowness. While the number of strangers he encountered made him claustrophobic, he really missed those whom he had considered family. Tessa was gone and that ache was ever present, feeling as much a part of himself as an arm or a leg. Lately the loneliness had intensified because he was now without Richie as well. The young immortal had taken his first head, and Duncan had had no choice but to cut the tether and let him make his own way in the world. But for some inexplicable reason, he felt particularly alone today.

Thanksgiving had been the week before and the holiday, while not one that he always celebrated, was spent with Charlie and his girlfriend. He laughed and joked with them, but was always conscious of his loneliness. Yet today, his aloneness had intensified. Darius' spirit, always hovering close, was suspiciously absent. He had never told anyone, but sometimes he felt the ancient immortal near him. That closeness comforted him in an almost tangible fashion.

When Tessa had died, his soul had shriveled up. He had felt nothing, blocked everything out, and yearned for something to numb the pain. As he stood in the old antique store, memories assailing him from every direction, Darius' calming influence slowly began to work it's magic. Very subtly he was reminded how much Richie needed him. Training his new student became an answer to his pain. Through endless katas and drills, Duncan and Richie worked through their grief together. He firmly believed that it was Darius who pulled him out of his numbness.

Darius had always had a way about him that could charm him out of any melancholy mood, with insightful words, or with something as simple as a cup of tea. With a ready smile and a patient manner, Darius had become a rock in his ever-changing world. When he died, Duncan hadn't thought he would ever recover. They say time heals all wounds, and the pain did decrease with time. Some of that he attributed to that ever-present spirit, which he believed belonged to Darius. But today, it was missing. A vital part of MacLeod seemed empty. His arms and legs went through the motions of his kata, but his soul remained untouched.

^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*

An old nun walked into St Julien, kneeled, and began her prayers. A rustling sound interrupted her thoughts. She at first thought she heard someone enter the church behind her, but when she turned to look, the door was still closed and the room was empty. She closed her eyes and began again. Darius was gone now, for half a year. The church stood vacant, because no parishioners were willing to enter through the doors. They considered the place unholy, for if evil could enter and murder a priest, what might it do to them? She laughed at their silly superstition, and absorbed her own solitary peace within these walls.

Another sound interrupted her reverie. This time she definitely heard it inside the church, off to the side, yet behind her. She slowly rose and made her way down the center aisle. A loud cry split the silence, and she turned towards a pillar and looked down upon a baby. He was lying on some robes, which had been on the floor for some time.

As the baby moved his arms, dust and dirt flew into the air.

"Mon petite chou," she crooned as she bent to pick the infant up.

He was so cold that she wrapped him up in the folds of her robe, hoping that her body's heat would seep into him. The baby looked up at her and smiled. What was she going to do? Some poor woman had given birth and left the baby here. Could the mother be found?

The nun hurried out of the church and ran to the convent. The baby needed clothes and some nourishment. They would keep him for a short time, but then he'd have to go into foster care. The nuns could not take responsibility for the raising of a child.

Three Months Later

Sister Joan saw the new parents carry off her baby. The nuns had christened him David and left it up to his future parents to give him a last name. He had first gone into foster care and the parents had immediately wanted to adopt him. The Sister saw that they would take good care of him, but the wrenching in her heart was painful all the same. She was the one who found the child. She was the one who stayed up nights with him until he had learned to sleep through to morning. He was a part of her, even though she had not given birth to him herself. The new parents glowed in their happiness and Sister Joan had to take comfort in that. Her boy would have a happy life. He would remain in her prayers and maybe she'd see him again one day.

Part I-2004

10 1/2 years later

Chapter 1

I

Richie walked down the Parisian street pushing his motorcycle in front of him. The wretched thing had stalled and he had to push it to the nearest garage. As he passed Rue de Rivoli he felt the distinct fluttery buzz of a pre-immortal. He stopped and tried to decide what to do. Children's voices could he heard above the din of traffic and bird song. Curiosity was always a problem with him, but, with a mental shrug, he turned and sought out the origin of the buzz.

A boy of about ten was standing in a doorway, while four other boys several years older were taunting him and pushing him around. No stranger to bullying tactics, Richie put the kickstand down and went to help the boy.

"Arrete!" he screamed as he came upon them. "Hey cut it out!" he reiterated, grabbing a hold of two shirts and tugging.

Richie separated the bigger boys from the smaller younger one. He turned to the boy who looked the oldest and started lecturing.

"Does it make you feel big beating up someone smaller than you? Makes you all look like cowards."

"But monsieur, he hasn't given us his lunch money yet. It is our right as the leaders of our school to claim some of everyone's allowance."

The small boy pulled out a few bills from his pocket and handed them quickly to the blond leader. The money was grabbed and the four youths took off at a run.

"Merci monsieur for your help, but this happens all the time. There is no way I can stop it."

Richie took a quick inventory of his injuries. Blood was dripping from his nose and one of his arms had a patch, which was turning a bright shade of blue. Otherwise he seemed unharmed.

"Why do they beat you up all the time?"

"For fun. It is better to take the money, than for me to give it to them."

"What about your parents? Can't they do something to help?"

"My mom is dead. My dad, he works all the time. I can't tell him that I lose the money he gives me for lunch. He'd punish me for sure."

"Can you stay out of their way?"

"No, if they don't catch me on the way to school, then they get me at my locker. The monitors look the other way."

Richie didn't know what to tell him. He was a charming little boy, dark hair, and fathomless blue eyes, which seemed to have knowledge beyond his years.

"Are you the only one they pick on?"

A blush stole across his face. "Yes. You see I'm adopted, and I'm, I'm different. They laugh at me all the time."

The boy's embarrassed confession struck a cord within Richie. "I'm adopted too. I don't remember if I had bullies take my money or not." Then he smiled. "But I did learn to fight early."

The boy smiled back, and his face took on a unique charm. "My name is David Junot."

"Richie Ryan, uh Francis. Pleased to meet ya."

They shook hands.

"You know I have this friend who eats all kinds of healthy food and usually makes me eat it too. But every once in awhile I like going out for a cheeseburger. You like those?"

His eyes grew round. "I love chips."

"Maybe we could grab one, one of these days. Sound good?"

"Yes."

"Here is my phone number. You call me if you need anything. Okay? Anything at all." He paused. "Do those bullies always take your money on a certain day of the week?"

"Mostly on Mondays. They spend all their money over the weekend."

Richie filed that away for future reference.

"Can you get to the McDonald's on Rue Royale?"

"Yes."

"Meet me there this afternoon at three."

The boy skipped off to school and Richie smiled all the way to his apartment, despite the fact he was pushing his stupid bike. It was in his best interests anyway to help the boy reach adulthood he rationalized to himself. The specter of Kenny loomed in the back of his mind. He didn't want this little boy to be trapped in such a young body. Plus it sounded like his father was too busy for him, he needed an older type brother.

After leaving his motorcycle in his parking slot, he took the stairs up to his sixth floor flat. He put his thumb on the pad and the door opened. Now he had to call Tyke and see if he had any more starters. His bike was an antique, and there weren't too many places that carried replacement parts for his model. Especially in France. He carried the phone to the balcony and while gazing on the Seine, he placed his call.

The sun was shining brightly and it reflected off the river almost blinding him. Richie likened the sensation to seeing Dave's eyes brighten when he mentioned the fast food place. He wasn't sure what made him to come to the boy's rescue. Maybe it was to feel needed? With Mac, he was the one who always needed help. After all these years, Mac still came flying to his rescue whenever there was a problem. Connor assured him that all teachers acted this way, but it didn't help. Richie had tried periodically helping mortals who were in trouble. But this time it was a pre-immortal that needed his help. There was no way he could turn his back and ignore the longing he saw in Dave's eyes.

He was very glad he intervened.

At two-thirty, Richie made his way into downtown Paris, to the prearranged McDonalds, in his car. David was by the front door half pacing, half jumping up and down in his eagerness. Richie looked at his watch. He was still five minutes early.

"Yo Dave, been waiting long?"

His eyes lit up as he saw Richie. "No. I wasn't sure if you were really going to come."

"I hate eating alone. Come on, let's go in."

As Richie opened the door, he saw the faint refection of his Watcher across the street. He'd had this one for almost half a year. Must be a record. He'd done his job, and stayed out of his way. That talent was a must in a watcher, in Richie's opinion.

They walked up to the counter and Richie ordered. Then he instructed David to ask for whatever he wanted. The concept was foreign to him and took several attempts before he would say anything.

"You mean I can ask for anything?"

"Sure. You want the chef salad?"

He screwed up his face and Richie laughed at the comedic expression.

"How about the Chicken McNuggets, or the Big Mac, or the Mega Cheese McBurger?"

When they finally got their food, Richie picked a table towards the front of the store. That way he could see what was happening outside and his Watcher would be able to keep track of him. No use causing trouble when he didn't need to. He did enough of it on purpose.

They attacked their burgers and fries, and David kept stuffing his mouth as fast as he could.

"Hey partner, slow down. Try and make this last. You in a hurry to get home?"

"But this is so good." It was hard to understand him with his mouth full of food.

"We'll come again. Don't worry. So how was school today?"

"Same as always," he frowned slightly. His eyes lost their sparkle.

"Why do the kids pick on you?"

"Because I'm adopted, and, and..."

Richie suspected that there was more. "And?"

"I used to have an imaginary friend, and he talked into my head."

This didn't sound like a reason for the kids to pick on him.

"What kinds of things did he say?"

"I don't know. They didn't make a lot of sense. I still get laughed at because sometimes I say things no one understands."

"Like what?"

"One time the teacher was describing a battle from the Revolution and I knew what she said was wrong. So I raised my hand and told her. She said that *I* was wrong so we went to the library and looked it up. I was right. She asked me how I knew, so I told her that I just knew."

"Did the voice tell you, or did you just know?"

Dave became agitated and dropped his chips. "I don't remember."

"That's okay. It's not important. But you know what the voice tells you might be important. You should keep track of them a journal, and keep the journal hidden from everyone. Then read it again when you're older, maybe then they'll make sense. You never know, you could be psychic."

"What's that?"

"Some people can predict the future or even see in the past. The others in your life don't understand what you're hearing, but it doesn't mean it's not real, or that you're crazy."

"It doesn't?" His eyes were big, and glowed with adoration.

"Just get a journal and keep track. Especially the things you don't understand."

It was very interesting that his imaginary friend was able to tell him historical facts. Ever since he had met that fortuneteller right before he had become immortal and Tessa's death, he had been fascinated with extrasensory perception. If only he had stayed with her and made her probe deeper, it might have given them an edge and prevented Tessa's death. It was possible that Dave too was psychic. With time, Dave might confide other things to him. The more plausible answer was that he just needed a friend. Richie laughed at his imagination as David finished his hamburger and fries. They dumped their garbage and Richie took the boy home.

"You remember Dave, you need anything, day or night, you call me."

"Thank you Richie. I promise."

The young immortal sped off towards home. He really liked Dave. He saw so much of himself in that little body, that he felt a compulsion to continue the contact. Since he wasn't sure how Mac would react, he decided to keep the friendship secret for now.

II

Three weeks later, Richie drove his newly fixed bike to Dave's school. He waited along the fence and he watched as the classes let out. Two big guys, who were at least twelve, were pushing his new friend around. It angered him, but he knew that Dave had to learn to defend himself. It was imperative for immortals to survive whatever the cost, and however superior the opponent was.

As the boys came closer, David saw Richie sitting on his bike. His eyes grew round and he skipped towards him, the bullies forgotten in the surprised excitement.

"Hi man, wanna go for a ride?" Richie called out to him.

"Sure."

Richie took out the new helmet he had bought for Dave and put it on him.

"I got this just for you. So whenever we go for a ride, I can keep you safe."

"Thanks Richie."

They drove around the northern section of Paris, down the Champs Elyses through the L' Arche de Triumphe, and then back towards home. They stopped briefly for a burger, and went to a park to eat it.

As Richie put the kickstand down, Dave happened to notice his sword. Richie tensed as the youngster looked at it, but Dave didn't say anything. They ate their burgers in silence. Richie could see the wheels turning in his head. At last the boy spoke his mind.

"Richie, do you really know how to use that?"

"I'm not great, but not too bad. Why, does your father have one?"

The boy looked horrified. "No way. He hates violence. My mom was shot." He said it like it explained everything.

"What happened? Can you talk about it?"

"On her way home from work she stopped to buy milk and the store was being robbed. Dad said she tried to be a hero and she died." His eyes filled with tears. "It was a long time ago."

What was a long time in boy years? Two or maybe four? Then Dave's features slowly relaxed and became thoughtful again.

"Do you think you could teach me how to use one? That voice I hear, well it keeps telling me that I need to learn how to use one. I don't understand, but as I'm getting older, I hear it oftener."

"You mean more often." The voice was telling him to learn how to use a sword?

"Yes, sometimes I dream at night and I'm really good with it. I cut down men and cut off their heads. One time in my dream, after I cut off the head, all this light came out and hit me. It hurt so bad that I woke up screaming. I told my dad and he got real mad."

Richie was stunned. He dreamt about a Quickening? It was too weird, it went beyond psychic.

"Let me think about it. Maybe I can find some foils for us to practice with."

"But I want real swords."

"Yes, but even beginners must start with foils and work up."

"You did?"

"You better believe it." Richie remembered the grueling hours spent with Charlie in the dojo.

This seemed to appease him and the subject was dropped. Richie took him home, and still the father hadn't returned.

"It's okay, I'll just do my homework and watch TV."

Richie hated leaving the boy alone, but there really wasn't much he could do. He made David recite his phone number again, in case of an emergency. Then he went back to his flat to get ready for dinner with Mac.

That night after they finished their dinner, Richie told Mac about meeting David.

"He's a cool kid, and I like him a lot."

"Richie you're going to be bringing him to the attention to other immortals who aren't as scrupulous as us. You should leave him alone."

"Like you left me alone?"

"You were almost eighteen, you said he's only ten."

"But I haven't told you everything." He proceeded to tell him about the dreams and the voice inside his head.

"This *is* interesting."

"He really wants to learn how to use a sword, Mac. Do you have any foils here I can borrow?"

Richie looked on his teacher with eyes filled with longing and then grinned inside when Mac capitulated.

"Okay. Where are you going to give him these lessons?"

"I don't know, maybe at his house. I haven't met the father yet, and it's probably about time."

The foils and protective gear were found and Richie put them beside the door to gather up when he left. He couldn't wait to start teaching the little boy. When he did become immortal, he'd have a jump on everything. Especially if they spent any time together, he'd probably have to explain to Dave all about immortals and how he, Richie, was one.

He'd leave David's own pre-immortal status a secret, like Mac did with him.

The next day, Richie met Dave in front of his school, just like the day before. However this time he had his car. The foils and gear would never fit on his bike. Dave got into the front seat and could hardly fasten his seatbelt he was so excited.

"I think to start out with, we should practice at your house."

"Can't we go to your place?"

"Why?"

"My dad won't like it."

"Maybe if I told your father what good friends we are."

"Please don't." Dave interrupted. "This should be our secret. He won't understand and he'll make you go away."

"But why won't he understand?"

"He doesn't want me to be a hero. He wants me to be normal and I'm not. If he sees me with swords he'll get real mad, especially after my dreams."

Richie was torn. Every instinct was telling him to teach Dave. But it wasn't right doing it behind the father's back. Dave was special, why couldn't he see that? If the father wouldn't take the time to get to know his own kid, then someone was going to have to do it. Dave needed an adult to look up to, and he believed he was just the adult for the job. Richie smiled at the thought. They went through the drive-in teller and took the food to the park.

They sat at a picnic table and resumed the discussion. "We can't do it in my flat, there just isn't room. Mac's barge is even smaller."

Richie started thinking again. A park was out. A fencing club was out. Then he saw his Watcher sitting in his car, waiting for Richie to make up his mind where they were going next. An idea formed in his head. It was so outlandish, that it could work. Did the man live in a house or a flat? That was the crucial question.

"Dave, stay here. I want to go talk to that guy over there."

Richie got up from the bench and ran to his Watcher. He needed to be fast enough that the man wouldn't run off, but slow enough not to seem threatening. He purposely left his sword behind. If his Watcher didn't spaz, then he should realize this.

He got to the car's window and shoved his elbows in.

"Listen Watcher, I don't know your name, but I've got a real opportunity for you."

"It's Allen Mason." He sounded a bit nervous, but not scared. This was a huge relief for Richie.

"This has to be off the record for the time being, but I have no problem if you want to keep a journal. I just don't want this on some database now. That kid is a pre-immortal."

"I kinda figured that."

"You're American, aren't you?"

"Yes, I came over with you a year ago."

This was news to Richie, he had only recognized him for half that time. The statement only slowed his speech a second then he immediately went into his explanation about the voices in David's head and then the proposition.

"What is it exactly that you want me to do?" Allen asked.

"Let us use your house to practice in."

The Watcher choked. "My place? You want to train a kid to use a sword at my house?"

"Yeah, is that going to be a problem?"

Richie put on his most endearing look. It usually worked on Mac, and had even been known to sway Joe a time or two.

"Why me? I know you're friends with Dawson."

"Well, he's better friends with Mac. Come on, say yes. Think of the opportunity. I'll be training him and you'll be writing everything down. You'll have the jump on a new immortal when he has his first death, and what happens if the psychic thing is real? Think how famous you'll be among your group."

The man in the car sat back. Richie could see that he was considering it.

"Okay. I'll agree. But when I say it has to stop, no arguments."

"Fine. You run the show. Just keep it our secret for now."

With a nod the deal was struck. Richie and Dave followed Allen back to his house. Allen let the others precede him up the walkway.

"Remember Ryan, don't touch the computer, don't look at my notes. You're just here to practice."

"Chill, no problem."

Dave had looked from one adult to the other, with a quizzical expression on his face. Allen opened the front door to his house and Richie carried in the two foils. Dave lumbered in with the rest of the gear.

"I'm going to sit over here." Allen commented to the air.

Dave was focused totally on Richie as the foils were drawn out of the case. Masks and plastrons were also removed and Richie instructed Dave how to put them on. Then he picked up the foils and handed one to his new student.

"Wow, they're really long."

Richie started in showing David how to stand, how to hold the foils, and where to look as you were making the moves. The lesson only lasted about a half an hour. Richie didn't want to overwhelm the kid, and he wasn't sure what time the father got home.

Richie shook Allen's hand and he left with David to take him home. The foils were left at Allen's place, because Richie didn't want to cart them back and forth.

"Same time tomorrow?" David asked as he got out of the car.

"Yup. I'll met you outside the school and we'll go straight to Allen's."

Richie watched as Dave mounted his stairs to his house and then took off back to his apartment. He gave a little wave to his Watcher and roared down the street. He laughed as he saw Allen doing his best to catch up. He slowed down when it looked like traffic was getting too thick for Allen to keep him in sight.

For the next week, Richie was diligent about picking David up from school and bringing him to the house for his lessons. The first few days were spent in the living room, just learning basic moves. Then Allen took them down to his basement, which had been remodeled into a gym of sorts. Although the ceiling was a bit low for extended repartees, it worked well enough for their purposes. Allen spent most of the time behind his desk writing, trying to stay inconspicuous, and not intruding. After training they would have something to eat and drink and then Richie and Dave would leave.

As the weather became warmer, they moved to Allen's backyard. It wasn't very big, but, it *was* surrounded by trees. Richie could see his Watcher observing them from a window, and he had to fight the urge not to show off. This was going into his chronicles and he wanted to look good. Then he'd gaze into the eager eyes of his student and chide himself for the selfish thoughts.

David was learning fast. There were times when he'd make a move that surprised Richie. He didn't recognize it, and definitely hadn't taught it. Dave's face would light up in glee every time he got under Richie's guard. Did he realize he was using techniques that hadn't been part of the lessons?

One Friday, Allen had bought a gallon of ice cream. He took out some chocolate sauce and made them all hot fudge sundaes. Dave had never seen them before. He dug in and could barely shovel the spoon in fast enough.

"You know Dave you've made tremendous strides in the last month."

In between mouthfuls Dave thanked him.

Allen was just putting the spoon into his mouth, when his sleeve rode up, revealing his tattoo. David screamed and fell off his chair. He put his hands to the floor and scooted backwards, trying to get as far away as possible from Allen.

"He's going to kill me. Richie!"

Richie sank to the floor beside him, noticing the dazed expression on his face.

"You don't understand. I can see them coming for me. I can see a man with a sword, getting closer and closer. I'm in a church and it doesn't matter." Then he fell to crying. "It's holy ground," he said in shuddering gasps and then he totally lost control.

Richie and Allen exchanged looks. Then Richie shifted his attention back to Dave, and cradled him in his arms. "Listen, I promise you that Allen is not going to kill you. He's our friend," he said in a consoling voice.

"But," he hiccuped. "He's got that same mark on his wrist."

"Think back to the man from your dreams. Does he look like Allen?"

"No, he's older."

The boy shivered in Richie's arms and started to cry.

"Try and remember your dream. If you can talk about it, it won't seem so scary anymore."

"I can't." His crying was reduced to soft sobs.

"What do you feel as the man is coming towards you? Are you afraid of the man or the tattoo on his wrist?"

"I don't know what I'm, he's feeling. All I know is that a man with that tattoo is going to kill me. He does kill me." He started shaking all over again.

"Do you see Allen in your dream? In these memories?"

Allen stayed at the table, immobile. Dave looked up at him. "No, he's not there."

"So it's not Allen who's trying to kill you," Richie repeated firmly.

"No it's not." He sounded more sure now. "You're really my friend?"

Allen answered him directly. "Yes. I let you come into my home. I'm even helping Ryan here teach you how to use a sword. Would I do that if I meant you harm?"

"I guess not."

He got off the floor and sat back at the table. With his spoon in his hand he asked, "So why do I have these scary dreams. They seem so real."

"I don't know. But it's probably why you want to learn how to use a sword. You want to learn how defend yourself." Allen told him without condescension.

"Can you tell us about them now?" Richie asked.

"I can't remember them. Can I see your wrist up close?"

Richie was sorry he got his Watcher into this. But he was a good sport. Allen pulled up his sleeve, so Dave could get a better look. He ran his fingers over the mark.

"Yours is a little different than the one in my dream. The one in my dream is more smeared, yours is a nice dark line. I also see them as necklaces. But I don't think those people are trying to kill me. They are historians. Maybe it is just that one man."

Richie and Allen exchanged looks again.

He put his spoon down. "I don't think I want anymore. Richie can I go home?"

"Sure sport. Talk to you later Allen. Stop by if you have any free time tonight."

Richie took Dave home and stopped off at the garage. He was thinking of getting a job there. It was close to Dave's home and school, and he was bored at the computer place Mac had fixed him up at. He needed a change.

Later that night, Richie went over to the barge to talk to Mac. The older immortal had left on another of his infamous dates, but promised they would talk later. Richie sat up on deck with his feet dangling off the edges. As he sat there he realized that what he really wanted was not to talk with Mac, but to discuss this with Allen. He had a bottle of beer in his hand and stared in contemplation off to the eastern bank. Mac just wouldn't understand like Allen would. He hadn't been there; he didn't know Dave.

The boy was definitely a mystery. He just hoped he solved it before the father got involved. Allen had been so nice to open up his house and life and Richie hesitated asking him for information and abuse their new friendship. What was the nature of these premonitions? What was trapped in David's mind?

A body plopped down beside him. Allen.

"Hi Ryan. Got another?"

Richie went into the barge and brought back two new bottles.

"Here you go."

"I'm sure you're dying to ask me questions."

"You're right. I have so many. But I don't think you are the one who can answer them. I think only David can." Richie sat down. "I don't even know where to start."

Allen told him what he knew. "His father's not immortal, and neither was his mother." This got Richie's attention, but he didn't say anything, so Allen continued. "He was found by a nun, and was adopted shortly afterwards. Everything was fine until the mother died during a robbery attempt three years ago."

"Poor kid."

"I don't know what's going on now at home."

"From what he says, his father's working two jobs and is just never home. I wanted to teach him at his house but he was shocked at the idea. He said his father would say no and kick me out."

"You're getting very attached."

"You ever hear of an immortal named Kenny?"

"Of course."

"I don't want the same thing to happen to Dave."

"It didn't happen to you."

"When I first met Dave, he was getting beat up by a group of older boys. I just charged in. I felt the buzz and had to investigate."

They both drank from their bottles. It felt so good to Richie, just sitting back and discussing a problem with someone close to his own age. Mac was always judgmental, and Joe seemed to answer questions with more questions. Richie sighed and glanced over at Allen. The Watcher smiled and then took another swig from his own bottle. Even their silence was companionable.

"Do you think that he has ESP, or maybe had a bad experience as a, well, a younger boy?" Allen asked as he set his bottle down.

"I don't know. He's dreamt of beheadings and Quickenings. But it really shook me up to hear him talk about being killed in a church. Reminds me of Darius. A little too close to home, if you know what I mean."

"I checked. There aren't any other documented cases of Watchers killing immortals in a church. Just Horton and Darius."

Richie shivered. "You think maybe Darius' spirit is haunting Dave since no one was around to take the quickening?"

"I don't know."

There was more silence.

"Thank you Ryan for inviting me in."

Richie turned to look at him, puzzled. In?

"I mean, well, I feel like I'm always on the outside. I Watch what you do, but I'm, damn this is hard to say."

"That's okay. I'm glad you stopped by."

"You've always given me hell, but then you grin and I know you do it on purpose. Just to yank my chain. Then you go and do considerate stuff like sending the coffee out that one night when I had to Watch you at that black-tie function MacLeod dragged you to."

"I was jealous. I wanted to be out in that car, instead of inside that stupid party. When I looked out the window and saw you sitting there, I wanted to sneak out and crawl into the backseat."

"You did?"

"I was so bored that night. All the women were mostly plastic and implants. The men were trying to all outdo the other in all these different languages. I couldn't even understand the snide comments."

They both smiled at the memory.

"You know Ryan, this thing with the boy isn't going to last."

"Yeah, I know. The bomb is going to fall and I'm going to explode."

They each took another drink, finishing up the bottle.

"Let me get another."

Richie got up, and Allen followed.

Pulling two beers out, he handed one to his new friend.

"Allen, could you do me a big favor?"

The Watcher looked at him warily.

"If I get in big trouble, could you maybe stop Watching me and keep your eye on him?" He rushed on. "I mean, he is a pre-immortal, think about what it would be like to have records to go back that far. Then maybe if he gets in trouble you could somehow get word to me."

Allen was shocked. "You're really worried about him."

"There is something very strange going on. I just know it's important, but I don't know how. He must be saved, preserved until we can figure it out. If I go down because of my friendship with him, I want you to Watch him. I'll tell him a little, just enough to let him know that you're with him for me. We can still keep in touch. What do you say?"

"I have to think about it. You're not asking me to interfere in fights, are you?"

"I don't know. I would feel better if someone kept an eye on him that's all. He knows you, if another Watcher was assigned to him, he might freak, like he did this afternoon."

Richie knew enough to drop it. Allen would decide on his own. Who knew, maybe nothing would happen.

"Hey Ryan, you ever think about getting a job at the school teaching automotive classes or something? It would give you an excuse for being close to kids."

"Sounds good, but I can't. I've only been using the name Richard Francis for a few years. What if they did some checking into my past?"

"And found you didn't have one," Allen finished for him.

"Then there is my lack of education."

Allen gave him a commiserating look. They took their beers back up to the deck. About a half an hour later, Allen made moves to leave.

"Guess I better take off. Wouldn't want MacLeod to catch me here."

"I suppose I should go too. I was going to wait for Mac, but now that we've talked, I don't need, oh shit, you know what I mean."

Allen laughed. They shook hands and both got into their cars. Allen followed Richie to his apartment and then honked. Richie waved goodbye and went inside. It had been a nice evening. Nothing was resolved, but it made him feel better, almost like he had a partner. Allen was going to be a good friend, maybe like Mac and Joe.

III

The foil lessons lasted almost two months and then on Dave's eleventh birthday, they graduated to fencing saber. Richie could tell that the boy was anxious to try a real sword. They continued to meet at Allen's, with no one being the wiser. However, trying to find a real blunted light sword was not an easy task. While Mac was away, Richie went through his collection, but didn't find anything suitable. He went to a dojo in Paris, where Mac worked out, looking to see if they had one. They didn't. With a regretful look, he had to tell Dave that he couldn't find anything.

A week later, Allen produced one for them.

With a look, Allen forbade Richie to ask where it came from. Trying to include his Watcher, Richie gave instructions on how to care for the weapon. David was not allowed to take the sword home, it belonged to Allen, but it was up to the kid to take care of it. Then the lessons came. Diligently they worked, honing his muscles, his balance, and his mental concentration. The concentration was the hardest for the eleven-year old to maintain.

As they were leaving, Richie whispered to Allen to stop by that night. He wasn't sure if his Watcher would, but the invitation was issued. At around eight Richie's doorbell rang. He felt like a little kid with his first friend from school coming over to visit him. His

Watcher entered his flat and gave it quite a look.

"What?"

"I don't know. I've always imagined what it would look like, but the reality is, is..."

Richie looked around. It was a little cluttered with magazines and bike parts. "Hey Al, need a beer?"

"Thanks Ryan."

Handing him the beer, he had to ask, "Why don't you call me Richie, everyone else does?"

"Because Richie is a boy's name. I don't see you as a boy. I could call you Rich, but I just think of you as Ryan, always have I guess." He took a swig.

"Why don't we go on the balcony. It's got a cool view."

They sat in chairs and stared out over the river.

Richie sat back. "Well, what do you think of the lessons?"

"They're going well."

"I did get the job at the garage, oops, I guess you already know," Richie laughed at his unintentional blunder.

"I do."

"Since we don't really talk when I come over to your home, sometimes I forget that you follow me everywhere."

"Thank you Ryan, that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me."

Richie was taken aback. Was he being sarcastic? He had a placid look on his face, so he couldn't tell.

"So have you had any other heart to heart talks with him?"

"No. Each time I drop him off home, he scurries off the bike and runs into the house. His father has never been home, so I guess the lessons are safe so far. You going to tell me where you got the sword now that Dave isn't with us?"

"It's mine. The immortal I watched before you was a woman. When she lost her head, I took her sword. For me, it's a way of remembering her."

"How long were you with her?"

"Only a year. She was tiny and very young. Didn't think she'd make it very long and I was right. Still, I was sad to see her go."

"How old are you?"

"Thirty one."

"That old?"

"Yeah, older than you," he joked.

That sobered Richie.

"Does that piss you off that you get to Watch kids all the time? I mean most immortals are really old. Now for the second time you're assigned someone younger than you."

Allen looked directly at Richie, "You are not a kid. There's only two years separating us. I don't feel penalized because I was assigned you. In fact I requested it."

"You did? Why?"

"Because you are so interesting."

He didn't know what to say about that. "Well, thanks for letting Dave use it."

"If we can find a way, I'll let him keep it. Or at least let him know that it's his, even if he keeps it at my place."

"What about my request?"

Dark eyes looked at Richie.

"I have thought of nothing else. I understand why you want me to do this, but I can't help feeling like you're trying to get rid of me."

"Oh, nothing like that man. It's just that you're the only one I trust. What if I promise to call you all the time and always tell you what I'm doing? I mean, maybe you can still Watch both of us. I know that's what you're doing now."

"I am." Allen paused as if considering his next thought. "What if I told you that I have a friend at Dave's school." Allen looked at him as if this was a treat that he had just bestowed.

As Richie thought about it, he had to agree. It was damned lucky. "A Watcher friend?"

"Nope, just a friend. She knows nothing about Immortals or Watchers. But she knows the kids."

"How much have you told her?"

"Absolutely nothing. We've never talked specifically about David, or any other student, although occasionally she tells me about her day and mentions him."

"What does she say?"

"That he has knowledge of stuff, that mystifies them all."

Richie was intrigued. "What stuff?"

"Margie say he uses words they've never heard of. Once, he came up to two teachers playing chess outside during lunch and he sat down to join them. He started telling them what pieces to move and it pissed them off. One teacher told him to take over and David played the other teacher and beat him decisively. They were stunned. Later Marjorie asked him who taught him to play chess, and he told her nobody did."

"Wow, that's eerie."

"Yeah, he just played instinctively."

Richie sat back and took a long swallow of his beer.

"You know, if Dave does this a lot, no wonder the other kids make fun of him."

"That's what Margie says. I think Ryan, you're his only friend."

"That's so sad. A boy needs friends his own age. I may not have had parents, but I've always had friends."

"Maybe you should try and make him open up to you more."

"What do you mean?"

"Try and get him to tell you what is going on in his mind. He must be confused, and maybe even scared. How would you like it if you could play chess without being taught?"

"I see what you mean."

"Can I get you another beer?" Richie asked getting up to get himself another one.

"No, I think I better go. See you tomorrow."

"Bye Al."

The next day Richie started his campaign with his protege. They learned maneuvers, and then would rest.

"You know Dave, I think we need to do other things than just fence."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. But for almost five months we've been coming here and I think it's getting boring. Don't you want to learn something else? Pretty soon you're going to be as good as I am."

"But I need to learn to defend myself, fast."

"Why? Does your father hurt you? Does a neighbor, a teacher?"

"No, but my dreams tell me I must."

"Tell me about your dreams."

"I can't. You'll laugh."

"No I won't. I promise."

"I see myself as a grown-up, leading armies. I look at myself in water, but it doesn't look like me, but I know I'm inside. I look up from the stream and see tall grass. It just goes on forever. There are horses in the distance eating the grass, and some people walking around wearing funny clothes. I don't see any trees or roads or houses. I think we're going to have a big war and it's going to wipe out all of mankind."

Richie gasped. "You think you see the future?"

"I don't see guns, only swords and knives and bows."

"It seems kind of bleak."

"But it's beautiful. I love the land." Then he screwed up his face, as if expecting a blow. "I have this need to make it mine."

"In your dreams, do you?"

"No, I never dream that far."

"I think your dreams are interesting. I want you to always tell me them."

"You don't think I'm being silly."

"No, I really don't."

Dave couldn't sit still any longer. His natural exuberance, lifted him off the chair and back into the living room and to the sword.

Allen was still at his desk when David returned to the living room.

The boy picked up the sword and looked over at Allen.

"David, are you still afraid of me?" Allen asked.

"No. I don't think I was ever afraid, but when I saw that black thing on your wrist, I just well, I was afraid of dying again. All I saw was the man coming at me with a sword wearing that tattoo."

"I'm glad you realize that I won't hurt you. I want you to know that I consider you a friend of mine. That's why I open my house to you everyday."

"I thought you did it for Richie?"

"I did the first time. But after that, I did it for you."

"Thank you Allen," he said reverently.

"By the way, the sword that you are using?"

His eyes grew round with worry. "Yes?"

"I want you to keep it."

A smile of excitement lit up his face.

"Keep it?"

"I know you can't take it home yet. But the time will come when you might be able to, as of right now, the blade belongs to you. When you are older, it will be too light, then you'll have to find a bigger one. Either Ryan or I will help you do that. But for now, it's yours."

David ran over to Allen and gave him a huge hug. There were tears in his eyes, which spilled onto Allen's shirt. Watcher and Immortal exchanged looks over the boy's head. Their eyes were bright with unshed tears also.

IV

Several weeks later, Richie and Dave were sparring in Allen's back yard. The boy had gotten quite good and several times had nicked Richie and caused blood to ooze out of his arm. Richie was very careful not to let Dave see his healing and mostly Dave was too busy concentrating to really give Richie's injuries any thought. In two separate workouts

Richie had made a slice in Dave's clothes and he wondered how the cuts were being explained to the father. Dave also sported bruises from some of their extended repartees, but Richie didn't pay much attention to those because all boys ended up with these sooner or later.

They were in the middle of a lesson when the gate opened up and several armed officers of the law burst in and leveled their guns on him.

"Drop the swords!" they commanded.

Richie lowered his, reluctant to give it up. Dave dropped his in a flash.

"I said drop it now!"

Richie set the sword down. "We were only sparring. We're not fighting for real or anything." Richie said this very slowly wishing that this was just a misunderstanding, but expecting that it wasn't. He hoped that Allen got away. His Watcher could get in a lot of trouble if he became embroiled in this fiasco.

"Come here boy," an officer commanded. "We're taking you home." They leveled a glare at Richie until he relaxed his posture in submission.

With a lowered head, Dave walked to the officers and let them lead him out. This was the end of the road, and they both knew it. The boy turned to wave, but they prodded him forward.

A pounding at the door interrupted the movie the two immortals were watching.

"I'll get it." Richie went to answer his door.

"Richard Francis?"

"Yes," he said to the official looking man standing there.

"I have a restraining order for you."

He handed him the paper. "This states that Gerald Junot has forbidden you to be within a two kilometer radius of his son at all times. You are not to have any contact, either by phone or mail. If you do then charges will be filed and you will be imprisoned or deported. Is this understood?"

"Yeah, I understand."

He bowed his head sharply and then left.

Richie threw himself onto the chair and read the restraining order.

"Shit and double shit," he mumbled to himself. Wisely, Mac said nothing.

The next day Allen came to see him.

"Did you see?" Richie asked him.

"Yes. I was questioned but they didn't serve me with any papers."

"I guess we're lucky on that count."

Richie poured him a cup of coffee and they both sat at the table.

"I guess any future lessons are out," Richie sighed despondently.

"You could try talking with the father," suggested Allen.

"From what Dave says, he won't listen."

"But you don't know why. Maybe they just don't understand each other and as you are an adult, you may be able to get through to him."

Richie still had doubts, but later that night he went to Dave's house. Mr. Junot answered the door. Before he could speak, Richie started right in.

"I came to see you not Dave. It's why I came so late."

The man's face reddened in anger. "I thought I told you..."

"I just wanna talk this over."

"There is nothing to talk over. You perpetuate violence in my child and I will not have it. He is my son and I will not let you kill him."

"I would never..."

"You teach him how to use a weapon. He's only eleven years old. He has no business using a sword that is sharp enough to slice through his clothes." He yelled hoarsely in his anger. "Now leave before I call the police and have you arrested."

The man towered over Richie's head and he instinctively took a step backwards. Dave had been right, there was no reasoning with this man. The immortal returned to his bike and went back home. He remained on his bike's seat and sure enough not five minutes passed before Allen joined him.

"I guess that didn't go well." Allen patted him on the back.

"He is a close-minded son of a bitch."

"But you tried. That's all you can do."

Two days later, Richie came home late in the afternoon and found Dave with a suitcase, waiting for him.

"I ran away from home. He doesn't want me. He just doesn't want me to be happy."

"You can't stay here. Do you know what kind of trouble I can get into?"

"Let's run away from Paris."

"Listen Dave. I'll make this promise. When you get older, you can come live with me. But while you're a minor, it won't work. They'll put me in jail, or deport me, or something worse. I don't know."

"I want to live with you now!"

Richie dropped to his knees. "I know." He put his arms around the boy. He was only eleven years old. How could he be expected to understand this? "Please? Put up with your father for another seven years. Graduate from high school or what ever they have here in France and then call me."

His heart was breaking. Then he heard a car door slam. Richie glanced up expecting the worst, but thankfully it was only Allen.

"They know he's gone and the cops are on their way. Quick Dave, get into my car so I can take you back. You can't let your father know you're here."

Dave grabbed his suitcase and they went to the car. Richie could see the tears fall from his eyes. Allen threw his car in gear and took off in the opposite direction. The sound of sirens could just be heard. Richie went upstairs to the flat and grabbed a coke. He turned on the TV and sat on the couch. Only a few moments passed before the cops tried to break down his door.

Later that night Mac spent two hours lecturing him.

"That was entirely too close," Mac remonstrated. "The boy is too attached. As long as you're within the city of Paris, you're accessible."

"You saying I have to leave?"

"You've all ready died here once, let's not have it happen again. It's too much of a temptation for Dave to come and find you whenever things get rough."

"I can't just abandon him."

"You have to for your own survival. What if they do a background check and find out Richard Francis is an alias. Or they find out that you're Richard Ryan who's supposed to be dead. What then?"

Richie gulped, knowing that Mac was right. Mac was always right.

V

Richie sat in the seat at the airport, waiting for his flight back to the States. Mac sat beside him, at once commiserating with him and condemning him. How he was able to do both baffled Richie, but as Mac had been doing this for as long as he could remember, Richie just accepted it as part of their relationship. Knowing what he knew now, he still wouldn't change what he had done.

Allen had called him last night. He received clearance to stay in Paris, at least for awhile. A new Watcher would be given to Richie in the interim. This eased Richie's mind, but he longed to be there with Dave to keep an eye out and discover the mystery that surrounded him. Allen laughed and said that was how he felt about Watching immortals. The mystery was all-powerful and quite consuming.

Richie gave his one time teacher and best friend a hug, picked up his bags and boarded his plane. The trip gave him lots of time to think about what he wanted to do with his life. For ten years, he had gone his own way, but always returned to the safety of MacLeod's protection. And it wasn't just physical protection, but emotional as well. He would run the dojo, if Mac was in Paris, or the Parisian antique store, if Mac was in Seacouver. Richie needed a place of his own separate from Mac. After all, didn't Mac finally find his own way when Connor said it was time?

He landed at Kennedy and Connor was waiting for him. He was to stay in New York for the next week and then either go to Washington and run the dojo once more, or possibly do something else. What that something else was, he didn't know. He hoped that maybe Connor would be able to help think of something.

As soon as they got back to his place Connor informed him of plans to go antiquing. They would drive the large van and travel all over New England looking for furniture, or books, or other such things, in out of the way places. It was an adventure Connor assured him. Richie believed that Connor just needed muscle to help him load all the junk he purchased. They did have fun and not once did they run into a challenge. Traveling on the back roads, through glorious mountain scenery gave Richie the peace and serenity to think about his future. Connor did his part to help him reach a decision.

"Do you really want to go back and run Duncan's gym?"

"Dojo," Richie corrected. "No, I'm tired of it."

"So you should be. It isn't yours. You need to find something uniquely you. In a lot of ways you're lucky. All of us old timers either go into antiques or fighting."

"Like the dojo?"

"Not necessarily. I'm talking about mercenaries, police forces, and some of us even degenerate into assassins. Because that's all they know. But you're from this time. You can do anything."

"Like what?"

"What interests you most? Teaching? Business?" Then with a sly smile, "Owning your own motorcycle store?"

Richie thought about it. Having his very own store sounded awfully appealing.

"Don't you need a lot of start up capital to do that?"

"Isn't it lucky that you know two rich Highlanders who are willing to loan you money to get your feet wet."

Richie laughed. "I guess I am pretty lucky."

They didn't talk about it again, but it never left his mind. Driving through the Adirondack Mountains, they stopped in a small town called Speculator. Driving down the main street, they saw a motorcycle shop all boarded up. Connor didn't stop driving, but headed towards a motel.

"Might as well spend the night here. I know of at least two places which sell antiques in town."

Richie wasn't listening. He was thinking.

The next morning, accompanied by a real-estate agent, they took a look at the battered store.

Connor whispered in his ear, "Might be a nice place to start, but you won't be able to stay long. They'll definitely notice that you don't age."

Richie did a lot of soul searching, but decided against that particular store.

"You know Connor, I think a store is a great idea. But maybe a big city might be a better place to start out at. What do ya think about Albany?"

Connor nodded and immediately extended the journey to include New York's capitol. They contacted another agent, and she was able to find them an empty store, which could be converted into a front salesroom and a back service area. Connor co-signed the mortgage and helped him get things ready. They found an apartment not too far away from Richie's new store. The elder Highlander temporarily moved in with him until everything was settled. It took six months.

During that time, Richie was in constant contact with both Allen and Mac. Mac didn't tell him anything important, but Allen kept him abreast with what Dave was doing and how he was.

"I tell you Richie, the boy is disturbed. I can't get near him, but I can hear the father yelling at him and at school, the teachers are ready to suspend him. Remember how he was constantly getting picked on, well that has changed. Now he beats up anyone who comes near him. My friend Margie was telling me that he's refused to respond in class and the psychologist the father hired has tossed her hands up in defeat."

Richie felt sick. "He's mad at me for leaving him, and mad at his father for making me leave."

"You didn't have a choice. Mac was right." He paused a second. "Ryan, you mind if I tell Margie some of what was going on? I'm thinking that maybe we can use her to get a message to Dave that you really haven't abandoned him. And that I'm still here."

"Yeah go ahead."

Allen called back several days later.

"I saw Dave yesterday."

"You did? That's great."

"He wrote you a letter and I'm going to mail it. Margie said, she'd let him read any letter you sent, as long as she could read it first."

"Doesn't she believe you?"

"She does, but she is a teacher and her first responsibility is to the welfare of her students."

"Hey, let her read them if she wants."

"You can send the letters to me and I'll take them into school."

With everything settled, Dave and Richie started a correspondence with the two go-betweens. David relaxed his attitude, but never forgave his father. In every letter that Richie received, Dave talked about how he hated his old man and couldn't wait to grow up and get away from him. The sword had been put aside and resentment filled the boy. His worry about the future also dominated the letters, and sometimes he told about the voice in his head. It was eerily like a commando making preliminary plans for an assault.

The correspondence lasted for two years, and then Dave moved to a different school. Margie tried to also transfer, but was rejected. Allen started to meet David outside school and trade letters. It was only a matter of time before they were caught. One night, David and his father just up and disappeared. Allen spent a week looking though every channel open to him without any luck. They were gone. David was just thirteen.

Allen asked for reassignment back to Richie Ryan and it was granted. His coordinator didn't know about the friendship between the two men. Richie was standing behind the counter when Allen walked into the store. They exchanged looks and smiles and then Allen walked out again. Richie knew that when Allen was ready they would meet somewhere, away from other Watchers to discuss Dave and just things. A warm feeling came over him. He hadn't been sure that when Dave disappeared, he'd ever see Allen again. It had taken two months, but now he was here. He couldn't wait to talk to him, face to face.

Part II-2011

7 years later

Chapter 2

I

Dave sat up in bed, sweat pouring off his body, as yet another nightmare came to an end. Their frequency had increased in the last few months and it seemed that he had one every night. His silent scream remained locked in his head, as the visions of blood and death very slowly receded. The dreams were always of war. He killed with a sword and knife as if it were nothing. Not one ounce of remorse was present in his dream self. It disgusted and repelled the real him. He had to keep repeating that it was someone else that did the killing. It *had* to be someone else.

He glanced at the clock, twenty-two minutes past five. He had at least another hour before he had to get up. Gently his head returned to his pillow, but when he closed his eyes, the running blood was all he could see. Once more he sat up and withdrew his journal from behind his pile of books. Writing his dreams down was a catharsis, and he was grateful to Richie for suggesting it. He described the battle in vivid detail, because all he needed was to close his eyes and there it was as if he were still there. When he finished writing, he got up and readied himself for school.

He entered the kitchen and sat at the table. His father was reading the paper, sipping his coffee. Dave did not speak to his father, and not once did the older man look up at his son. A plate of toast was sitting in the center of the table along with the pot of coffee and a pitcher of juice. Dave was not allowed to touch the coffee. After eating several pieces of the toast and drinking his juice, he brushed his teeth and grabbed his lunch from the fridge. His father still hadn't looked up from his paper, and Dave hadn't expected him to.

He didn't utter his first word until he sat in class and was called on by the teacher. By his third class, he had forgotten the dreams. Dave had learned a valuable lesson from his first school in Paris. He had become a pariah, someone to be ridiculed, because of the voices inside his head. At thirteen, he had been smart enough to hide his thoughts. From then on he carefully evaluated each move he made, and everything that came out of his mouth. Only in his journal did he express what was in his mind. As a result, he became a quiet, well-liked boy who had grown into a quiet, sometimes aloof teen.

His seventeenth birthday was just days away. No party was planned, and if his father remembered, he gave no indication of it. A few of his friends at school made him a card, and they all went to the arcade when school let out that Friday. His father still worked two jobs, and when Dave got home at midnight his father was still out. Sunday was his official birthday and he had plans of his own. A fencing club had opened in the city and he intended on going there to sign up for classes. He had saved every penny since Richie left, and he intended on spending some of his money on the practice swords and gear. All the paraphernalia he had used with Richie had been left behind with Allen. If his father tried to prevent his joining, he intended on disobeying and running away if it came to that. He had over a thousand francs saved, not enough to get to America, but enough to get to Paris and Marjorie Moshier. Allen had told him that he would always keep in touch with his old teacher and when he was free of his father she would help him. As much as he hated his father, he knew that his place was with him until he graduated from school, but then he would finally be able to leave.

Much to his surprise, there was no obvious objection to fencing from his father. He received strange looks as if he were wondering if maybe the voices hadn't really gone away.

There was three weeks left of school when he received word that his father had died on the job. He was working in an industrial plant and one of the machines locked and when his Dad went in to fix it, he was crushed. Dave did feel a sense of loss, but most of what he felt was relief. He was free! The government came in to see to the funeral arrangements and to place him in foster care once more. His distant behavior led them all to believe that he was grieving deeply, so when he disappeared one night, taking only a few things, it came as a great shock to them. Carrying only a backpack containing his journals, some official documents he'd stolen from his father's safe, and a change of clothes, he made his way to the train station.

II

Dave got off of the train in Paris and headed directly for a nice hotel. They would never think to look for him there. He paid cash for one night and after checking in, he went directly to his old school.

The school had shrunk, as he noticed how low the fences now were and how dilapidated the playground seemed. Had it always looked so seedy? Even the doors looked like they were ready to fall off of their hinges. The hallways were deserted, and he could hear teachers mumbling behind the closed classroom doors. His shoes made little noise as he walked down the hall.

"Can I help you?"

The unsuspected voice startled him.

"Yes, I am looking for Miss Moshier."

"Is she expecting you?"

"Yes, but I'm early." That sounded good he thought. A lie, but cushioned in truth.

The man gave him a penetrating look, but directed him to exactly the room he had been originally heading for.

"Thank you sir." Luckily this man hadn't been here when he had gone to this school.

Once he was outside her office, his stomach started churning. He took a deep breath as doubts assailed him. Would Richie still remember him? Would Allen? Would they want him enough to pay for his trip to the States? Sweat beaded on his forehead and he brushed it off with his hand. Taking another deep breath he knocked on the door, before he lost his nerve and ran away.

"Come in," a feminine voice entreated him.

He slowly opened the door and walked in. Miss Moshier was writing at her desk. He stood there still, waiting for her to look up. Her gaze left the papers and settled on his face. Her eyes were blank and she waited for him to speak.

"Hello Miss Moshier," he said softly.

A huge smile lit her eyes. "David Junot? My God, is it really you?" She jumped up from behind her desk and ran to him.

"Yes, it's really me." Tears choked him and the words were barely audible.

Wrapping her arms around his tall lithe frame, she hugged him hard. "Allen is going to be so happy. We e-mail each other about once a month and he never forgets to ask if I've heard anything from you. I've got to call him now, my god, I just can't believe it."

Her words kept coming out fast and furiously. His own emotional state made following her incoherence impossible.

"Where are you staying?"

She wouldn't hear of him staying there. She packed up her belongings, cancelled all her remaining appointments, and took him home with her. From there they called Allen.

Chapter 3

I

Richie stood in the airline terminal waiting impatiently for the plane to start unloading its passengers. When Mac and Joe had finally agreed to come visit his home he had started immediately to clean and reorganize everything. Allen laughed at his anal activities.

"You hoping to impress them or something?"

Richie wasn't sure. He just wanted everything perfect.

He could feel the slight buzz of an immortal inside, as he shifted from foot to foot with his nose pressed up against the cold glass window. His mind told him that because Joe was on the plane, they would be two of the last to disembark. But his heart was urging them to hurry up.

A door opened and a line of people entered. Richie left the window and its view of the tarmac and walked closer to the gate. Businessmen headed the line, carrying briefcases and umbrellas. Albany was slotted for rain for the next week and many of these travelers came prepared. They jostled each other, straining to be first on the walkways, first to the waiting line of taxis, first to just get out of the airport. Next came the tourists and vacationers. They too were in a hurry, not wanting to waste a single moment. Then the locals came, followed closely by the disabled and families with children. The buzz was getting closer and Richie's heartbeat increased in excitement. Soon.

Then the dark head became visible. Because of his height, Duncan MacLeod towered over those in front and it took several seconds before it registered in Richie's mind that Mac was pushing a stroller. A harried-looking woman walked at his side holding the hands of two little imps, struggling for their freedom. Joe followed closely behind with a wry grin. The Highlander could never resist helping a lady in distress. Richie felt the air move as a man standing to the right of him rushed up to the woman and gave her a huge hug and kiss, grabbing hold of the two preschoolers who were trying to make a break for it. With a few mumbled words, Mac relinquished the stroller to the mother and made his way towards Richie.

The two immortals hugged fiercely. It had been over two years since their last meeting, and both felt the separation keenly. The Watcher shoved Mac aside so he could claim his hug too. Richie was secretly appalled at how Joe had aged in the three years since their last meeting. His salt and pepper hair was now completely white and he moved much slower. But his eyes; they were the same, twinkling in merriment and joy.

"Richie you haven't changed a bit." Joe's first remark hit him raw, but he laughed anyway.

"You mean cause I still dress in jeans and a T-shirt even though I'm thirty-six?"

Joe took his free hand and clasped his shoulders. "Yeah, that's what I mean," making it obvious that his attire wasn't what he had been referring to.

"Can't help it. I just don't feel comfortable in those stupid suits that others wear," Richie remarked, not wanting to voice aloud that it was his youthful looks that had been the real subject of Joe's comment.

Mac grinned. "You were always just a little bit different."

"Thanks."

Richie was proud of what he had accomplished here. The other times he had met his friends had been in Europe or back in Seacouver when they had gone back to sell the dojo and bar. That had been a sad time for all three but it had been time to move on. This was their first visit to Richie's home. He couldn't wait to show it off.

He had moved out of his original apartment after only two years and bought a house. Allen had gotten married and the two men decided to find an area both would be comfortable in. Allen had met a pretty nurse named Terry, about a year and a half ago when Richie had brought him into the hospital for a broken leg. His Watcher had gotten a little too close to a quickening and when the floor gave way, both had fallen and hit a cement floor. Richie had done his best to cushion their tumble, but both still ended up with broken body parts. The immortal had healed within minutes, but the Watcher needed months and the tender loving care of his nurse.

The only draw back to his friends' visit, was that Allen insisted that he make himself scarce for the duration. He didn't want to advertise their friendship, and hanging out with two immortals and another Watcher seemed like he was laughing at his oath. This disappointed Richie, because he had big plans for the four of them, but he respected Allen's wishes and agreed to the separation. He just wondered what Terry was going to say about it.

He drove into the driveway and into the garage.

"You own this?" Joe didn't try to hide his amazement.

"Yep. Decided I needed a place of my own."

Richie proudly gave them a tour of the house and showed them their rooms. Richie had to smile at Mac's reaction to his basement. He had fixed it up with many of the remnants from the dojo that he had held onto when it had been put up for sale. The entire room was almost a carbon copy of the dojo's main room, right down to the pair of practice

katanas hanging on the far wall.

"This place is, is, I can't quite grasp," Mac began.

"It's home Mac. When I do my kata here I can almost imagine that I'm back there and you keep throwing me to the floor."

The Highlander nodded his head. They exchanged looks and suddenly Richie was eager to spar with his former teacher. He'd taken a few heads recently and he felt the power surge in his veins at the thought of a rough workout. There really wasn't anyone he could spar with. He hadn't met any immortals with whom friendship had been possible. Any meetings resulted in a fight or an amicable retreat. Trust was really a dying concept. A product of the times, he had no doubt, not just a result of the Game.

Several days passed, and Richie showed his guests the city and it's nightlife, although Mac seemed to enjoy the shop most of all. He was impressed with both the organization of the books and the quality of the service.

As Mac was looking over the computer screen he gave a chuckle. "You take classes or something Rich? It's hard to believe that all these columns add up when just a few short years ago, you had trouble balancing your checkbook."

"Ha, ha," he said sarcastically. Then he grinned. "Yeah, Connor said it might not be a bad idea to take some business management classes. So I did."

Joe was leaning on the doorframe checking out the pretty girls in the service bay working on a bike.

"Nice to see that you're an equal-opportunity employer."

"Hey if they can do the job, why not," answered Richie.

On the fifth day of the visit, Richie got a call from Allen. He excused himself, and said it was business and took the phone into his room for privacy.

"What's up Al?"

"I just got a call from my friend Margie in Paris. David just found her."

"I can't believe it."

"He's looking for me or rather you."

"I hope you gave her your address."

"She's given him my address and she's helping him get a passport to come over to the States."

"I can hardly wait. So where is his father?"

"Dead. Something happened at work and before the authorities knew it, Dave ran away."

"So when does he get here?"

"I'm thinking of flying over and bring him back with me."

"Jeez, I wish I could go."

"Ryan, you haven't aged since Dave saw you last. It's going to take a lot of explaining so he understands."

"So you're going to tell him all about immortals, and about me?"

"That's my intention. I think he should know before he leaves France, not after he's here and doesn't see a way out. Don't you agree?"

"Just don't tell him that he's pre-immortal."

"I'll try, but he's going to figure it out. Remember, he's been having those dreams. Once I give him the big picture, he's sure to connect the dots."

"Okay, then you go to France and tell him. I'll stay here with Mac and Joe. But call me. I want to know everything. And have Dave call me, I really wanna talk to him."

"I will."

Richie hung up the phone. Was this the reason he hadn't moved from Albany? It was the only place that Dave knew him to be. Was he subconsciously waiting for the boy to grow up and find him again?

He was so distracted that night that his friends insisted on knowing what was going on. He didn't have the heart to prevaricate, so he told them everything.

Both sat there with dazed expressions.

"This story just gets better. I think somehow he's linked to Darius."

He waited for them to absorb the revelation.

"The entire time I knew him, little things he did or said reminded me very much of the old priest. Later Al, uh, I found out that he had been abandoned in Darius' old church. I didn't know exactly what was going on, but he heard these voices in his head telling him that he needed to learn how to use a sword. I just had to help him."

"I wish you had told the Watchers about this, we could have kept track of him," Joe shook his head.

Richie paused for a second. "Actually Joe, I did. My Watcher, Allen, has been in on this the entire time. In fact he stayed in Paris after I left." He then proceeded to tell them the rest of it.

"And this same Allen is now on his way to Paris to bring David back? Do I have this right?"

"Yeah, Mac. I'm really glad you guys are here. I'm not sure what I'm going to find when Dave gets here. I just hope he's still *pre*-immortal."

Joe and Mac nodded their heads in agreement.

Two days later, David called. Richie answered the phone and as he heard the voice, a wide grin lit his face. He saw Joe and Mac drop everything to listen in.

"Jeez it's good to hear your voice. Where the hell have you been?"

"My dad took me away when he saw Allen one day. We moved around some, and then settled in a small town east of Bordeaux."

"Were you very unhappy?"

"I was miserable and all I could think about was you and Allen."

"So you waited until you were old enough, just like I told ya?"

"Exactly." There was a slight pause. "Allen says I can come to America and live with you."

The hesitation in the question flayed his heart. "Of course you can. I've been planning on this for a long time. I even have a room all ready for you. I just can't wait until you get here." His sentences all ran together in his excitement.

"Allen says that your friend Mac is there with you now. Would it be better if I waited until he leaves?"

"Hell no! It's almost like he's gaining a grandson."

Richie could practically hear the smile as Dave continued.

"Allen says we can get on a plane tomorrow and be there tomorrow night."

"It's going to seem like forever."

"It already has," the teen said quietly.

Richie hung up the phone. "Good thing I have a four bedroom house."

Joe laughed. "You must have already been planning on kids."

Richie agreed much to the other two men's astonishment. "I always knew he'd come back to me."

II

Allen called and said that they would make their own way to Richie's house. It wouldn't be smart for their first meeting to be in public. Richie called the airport several times during the day, checking the flight schedules. The plane landed in Kennedy ten minutes early. The small DC-53 made it on time and from then on Richie paced the floor. Mac couldn't take the nervous energy and went to exercise in the basement. Joe sat on the couch, strumming his guitar, hoping that music calmed not only savage beasts, but also anxious immortals.

A car door slammed and Richie flew out the front door.

Dave slid out of the car and stood looking at Richie.

The immortal stopped in his tracks just inches away.

"Allen was right, you don't look any different. The hair is longer, your body has more muscles, but you look exactly the same."

"We look almost the same age." Richie agreed with him. "Is all this bothering you?"

"I felt such kinship with you when I was just a kid."

Richie sighed. Dave didn't understand his question. He was wondering how Dave was dealing with the concept of immortality.

Dave continued, "How old are you really?"

"Thirty-six. But I had my first death just after my nineteenth birthday."

"Just two years older than what I am now."

"That's right. Come on in the house. I want you to meet my friends. You too Al."

"No, I should just get home. Terry's waiting for me."

"Please Al?"

He weakened. "Only for a minute."

Dave observed the interchange with interest.

Richie put his arm across their shoulders and led them into the house.

"Now Dave, I want you to meet two very good friends of mine. This is Duncan MacLeod. He's like me, and the one who loaned us the practice foils back then."

Mac stuck out his hand and the boy firmly shook it. Dave stared at Mac for a long time.

"Did I meet you in Paris?"

"I don't believe so. Why?"

"You look so familiar, like I should know you."

Suddenly the boy stopped. His eyes became glassy and his head bowed. Dave's hands clutched Mac's upper arms and started speaking, "I didn't want you to fight. It wasn't your war." He seemed to be looking all around him. "So many dead. So many lives wasted."

Slowly his hands dropped to their sides and he shook himself. As his eyes cleared he looked up at Mac. "It's gone. The memory is gone." He put his hands up to his head and grasped his hair. "It's so frustrating getting these half visions."

The pain was apparent.

Before Mac could question him further, Joe interrupted. "I'm Joe Dawson. Mac, Richie and I go way back. We're gonna to help you make sense of the things you remember."

Richie observed the way Dave shook his hand, but then turned the wrist over, as if knowing what he would find.

"This tattoo is more like the one from my dreams. Allen's has sharper lines but this one is more blurry and is only one color."

Dave looked deep into Joe's eyes. "But you weren't there. I don't recognize your face."

Dave dropped Joe's hand and his face lost its gravity.

"Come on, let me show you your room." Richie interceded trying to diffuse the tension.

Richie picked up the small suitcase and led Dave up the stairs towards the bedrooms. They could hear Joe and Mac talking quietly.

"I did what you said," he began. "I wrote everything down. I have so many memories. At least now I know I'm remembering the past, not a future that hasn't happened yet." He started to take them out of his backpack.

"Dave, we have all the time in the world to go over the journals. But we can't do everything in one day. First, you need to get settled. Then we'll need to get you a sword, one that's bigger this time." Richie laughed.

"You're going to continue to teach me?"

"Oh yes. Mac too if you want."

"I have to."

"The voice is still telling you?"

"The voice doesn't tell me anything. I only see pictures of people coming after me with swords. As a kid I knew that I needed to learn how to use it so I could defend myself against the ones from my dreams. I didn't understand why they wanted to kill me until Allen told me about immortals. Now I really understand. I must be immortal too."

"Whoa, what makes you think you're immortal?"

Dave looked at him as if he were crazy. "Of course I'm immortal. That's why I need to learn how to use a sword."

Richie was thrown for a second. What was he supposed to say to that? He just couldn't lie to him, yet he didn't want him to have to go through his pre-immortal years knowing he was a death away from immortality. Then he looked into Dave's eyes and saw the complete trust. The words came of their own accord.

"No, you are not immortal yet. You have to die first. After your first death, then you become immortal and you'll look like that forever."

"You died when you were nineteen."

"That's right. And let me tell you that it hasn't been a lot fun looking this young. People don't take me seriously. Only teenage girls want to go out with me. At twenty that was fine, at thirty it became a nuisance. Now I find I just can't stomach it."

"Did you take an interest in me because I was a pre-immortal?"

"Sort of. Mostly it was because you were both pre-immortal and getting picked on."

"If I learn how to fight, I'll become as powerful as the man I dream about. I won't be ridiculed again."

Richie heard a hint of bravado in his voice. "You really want to become a killer like the person from your dreams?"

Dave looked deep into Richie's eyes. "You want the truth?"

"Yes," he said emphatically.

"I'm afraid. I don't want to die, but I don't know if I can really do the things I see him do. They disgust me. Sometimes I wake up so nauseous that I can hardly stand it."

Richie felt the relief wash over him. "Just because you dream about these things, it doesn't mean you have to do them. You can make your own decisions."

"I hope so."

Richie could hear the despair. "I'll be here to help you. So will Allen, Mac and Joe. You're not in this alone. We're all in this together, like a real family."

There was such joy on the young man's face that Richie thought he would be blinded. He put his arm around the teen and they returned downstairs. Dave shrugged off the arm, with a red face and a nervous laugh.

As they came back into the living room, Richie noticed Allen standing uncomfortably off to the side.

"Listen Ryan, I have to go. Terry is sure to be home by now."

"I'll call you tomorrow."

Richie walked his Watcher out to his car.

After dinner, Mac told everyone that he was going to New York City the next day.

"I'm going to see Connor and hopefully get a sword that will fit David. Let's go down to Richie's basement I want to see what skills you already have."

Joe said he was going to stay in the living room. Mac handed Dave his katana and asked him to do a kata. Dave looked blankly at him.

"I don't know what that is."

"Okay, Richie get your sword and begin to teach him. I just want to see how he moves so I can judge what length and how heavy the sword should be."

Richie began teaching much as he had in Paris. They were now equal in height, but Richie had a few pounds on him. It was amazing how much he had retained. Then suddenly he executed a move that neither Richie nor Mac had ever seen. Richie found himself flat on the mat with the katana at his neck.

They looked into each other's eyes. Then the sword was withdrawn.

"Who taught you that?" Mac questioned, the strain evident in his voice.

"I don't know. I just saw an opening and instinct took over. I don't even think I could do it again."

Dave held out his hand and helped Richie to his feet. "It was quite a move." Richie said as he shook his head, trying to clear away the adrenaline coursing through his brain. His heart was pounding heavily and his hands were shaking.

"That's enough sparring. I've seen enough. Now I want to show you how to design your own kata. It's a form of meditation and exercise. It hones both the body and the mind."

For the next several hours they worked until all three were dripping wet. They rushed to the showers and then relaxed in the living room with Joe playing guitar in the background.

"So Richie what happened after my dad made us move away from Paris?"

The rest of the evening was spent with Richie telling them funny anecdotes about his trip to New England with Connor and his subsequent purchase of a store that sold motorcycles. He then progressed to tales about customers from his shop and some of the strange women Terry had fixed him up with. By the time they all went to bed, Dave had relaxed totally around Mac and Joe.

The next morning Mac was up and out by six, a taxi taking him to the airport for his flight to Kennedy and Connor's sword collection. He said he'd be home later that night.

Richie took Dave to his shop and showed him around. The teen acted interested, but he just wasn't infected by motorcycle fever. Richie had entertained hopes that Dave might want to work for him in some capacity. However it didn't look like this was on Dave's mind. It was still up in the air what Dave wanted to do with his life. He didn't have any hobbies and there was nothing he had learned in school that beckoned to him as a career.

After the excursion to the shop, they returned home for lunch. Joe had been busy all morning on his laptop. Richie made them all sandwiches and they sat down at the table.

"So, nothing struck your fancy?" Joe asked.

"I'm not really mechanical. My dad was, but I just don't have the interest. All I have ever wanted was to learn how to use a sword."

"But now you are learning it. You can't spar every minute of every day." Joe was pushing for something in Richie's estimation.

"I know," he said despondently.

"What about school? You haven't passed high school yet. Maybe you should take the GED exam."

So that was what Joe was going for.

"What's the GED?"

"It's the high school equivalency exam. There aren't many jobs you can get without at least that much education. At least none that pay enough to live on."

"And I'm going to be living a long life."

"Can I ask you something David?" Joe inquired, changing the subject.

He nodded.

"Last night, when you were talking about my tattoo, could you tell me more?"

Dave walked over to the older man. He turned the wrist over.

"This marking, is different from Allen's. The insignia is the same, but drawn differently. I had never seen the way Allen's is before, but in my dreams, I see yours."

"What do you see?"

Richie stiffened remembering Dave's first reaction to Allen's tattoo.

"I'm inside a church. It has a comfortable feeling about it, as if I'd been there a long time. There is a desk, which I always sit at and now I'm looking at a book that has this same symbol on the cover. As I flip through the pages, I know what the words mean, but if you ask me to translate it, I can't. Yet, the person who's looking at it can. There is a pot of tea brewing, and there is a fresh cup sitting on my desk. I can see a chess board sitting in the corner, with pieces scattered like a game is in progress."

Richie saw tears gather in Dave's eyes but then he blinked. "It's gone. I can't remember anything else. It was so real." He paused as if collecting his thoughts. "Actually this is a new one. I've never had that vision before."

"Do you still see that room," Joe prodded.

"I guess so. It's not as clear, and I can only see the things I noticed as I was describing it to you. The details vanish when the vision ends."

"Does it always happen like that?"

"Yeah, that's why I've been writing them down. Richie told me to keep track of all of them so when I get older I can read them and hopefully they'll make better sense."

Richie caught Joe's glance of gratitude.

"What if we could tell you the name of the man you see and whose body you are seeing things through?"

Dave's eyes flew up at Joe. "You know?"

"I think Richie guessed, but didn't have enough time back then to confirm or deny it."

"It's Darius, isn't it?"

Both men's eyes widened. "Yes, that's who we think it is."

"I had a dream about Duncan MacLeod last night and that's what he called me. That was the first time I had heard the name. Darius is dead isn't he?"

"A mortal killed Darius in a church, so his quickening was lost."

"Did he die in the same church that they found me in?"

Richie nodded.

"Before I left, I grabbed my adoption papers from my dad's safe. They recorded that I was abandoned at a church. When I went back to Paris to try and find Allen, I made Miss Moshier take me to the church. It's the same one as the one from my dreams. I went into the back office. My desk is gone and all my books, but the layout is the same. In fact it's the same one I just described. I can feel his spirit inside me. Sometimes it's so strong that I'm afraid of losing who I am."

"We won't let that happen Dave." Richie reassured him.

"Before I came to Paris, all my dreams were about war and killing and chopping people's heads off. I haven't had one of those since I got here. Now I'm seeing things totally different. It's like I'm two different men."

Richie, Joe and Allen exchanged looks. This was just so incredible. Darius' quickening wasn't lost after all.

Chapter 4

I

Dave went to bed that night with his mind full. Things were beginning to make sense, but the more information he got the more scared he became. The voice inside his head finally had a name, Darius. It just rolled on his tongue. He said it aloud listening to the way it sounded. When it was just a spirit, there were times when he could ignore it and just be Dave. Now he felt smothered. If he was Darius, where was Dave? Was *he* going to just disappear? It gave him chills. But Richie promised that he wouldn't let that happen.

Darius was such an evil man. He killed relentlessly. Whatever he wanted, he took. Deep inside he didn't feel evil. In fact he felt just the opposite. He hated killing and didn't think he could do it. Hate for this spirit of Darius almost overwhelmed him.

While David was wide-awake, a new memory surfaced. He saw himself standing next to a man in an old robe. He had his sword out, and he was threatening the figure. The words were unclear, but the meaning came through. Darius wanted to get passed the man and the man wouldn't let him. They argued back and forth with the priest standing his ground and trying to explain why he wouldn't move. With an impatient swing, Darius took his sword and cut off the man's head.

Instantly a quickening erupted. But this one was different. Wave upon wave of pain descended upon him. Every life that Darius had taken in the name of glory seemed to be yelling at him, all at the same time. The words became screams, as men, women and children fought to be heard. Then a parade of dead immortals flashed before his eyes blinding him to the world around him, so that all that was left was agony and pain. David couldn't make sense out of what he was feeling and seeing. Then it was over. Tears welled in his eyes, their eyes, and the only feeling that was left was an infinite sadness. So much wasted. David collapsed onto his bed while his tears ran freely. He had never felt such remorse, such guilt in his whole life. But the guilt wasn't his, it was Darius'.

He slept fitfully that night, waking up frequently and finding himself still crying. He didn't dream, but his mind was haunted by what he had experienced. A car backfiring woke him up a little past three. He got out of bed and pulled out his journal. Propping himself up against his pillow, he wrote down everything he could remember. Words fell off his pen with little effort. In fact his mind was going faster than he could write. Impressions were added as much as facts, and it was after five when he finished. He closed the book and put it back into his pack. Sliding under his covers, he finally drifted off into a light sleep, but he wasn't troubled anymore by what he had experienced.

The next morning Dave slept in and came down to breakfast after nine. Joe and Richie were sitting in the living room arguing over something to do with sports. Dave wasn't too knowledgeable on American teams, so he didn't understand what they were debating about.

"Jeez, Dave you look terrible. Have a bad night?" Joe asked him.

"Dreams and things."

Richie instantly looked concerned. "Did you write them down?"

"Yes," he answered.

"Good. I can see you're upset now, but after you calm down we can talk about it. Okay?"

Dave knew that Richie wouldn't pressure him to talk about it now. Joe looked anxious, but he didn't say a word. He was very lucky to have found such good friends. He went into the kitchen and made himself something to eat.

After eating he went back into the living room. Joe was sitting in a chair reading the paper making comments to Richie, who was reading another section. Dave entered and grabbed another section. The phone rang. Richie answered it, and after mumbling into the receiver he hung it up.

"Have to run into the shop. Do ya mind keeping each other company? They got something that needs my personal attention," he told them.

"A woman?" Dave asked puzzled.

Richie laughed. "Hardly, although sometimes I swear the machines are female considering all the trouble they give me."

"Ahh, your motorcycles," now he understood.

"Yeah, one has my chief mechanic stumped."

He looked over at Joe. "No problem with me."

After Richie left, Dave decided to pump Joe for information about Darius.

"Joe could you tell me some things about Darius?"

The older man jerked his head up from the paper and speared him with his eyes. "What kind of things?"

"I don't know. I see fragments but I just don't get the whole picture. For the longest time all I saw was killing. He was brutal and relentless. But now, I'm beginning to see more, and I don't understand."

"Darius was a warlord. As one of the greatest strategists that had ever been born, mortal or immortal alike, it was only natural that in those days he used his gifts to conquer land. Land meant wealth and power, and he coveted both. But I think, mind you it's my opinion only, that he just loved planning and seeing everything work out just as he had envisioned."

"So you don't think he was evil?"

"I don't know. I suppose it depends upon your definition of evil. I don't think he was inherently bad, but he did do evil things."

"He killed all the time."

"Just because everything you see in your dreams is war, doesn't mean that he didn't feel compassion or do good deeds. He was a warlord for four hundred or so years. Do you really think that you've seen every minute of that time?"

"I guess not."

"So you can't assume that everything he did was evil. Maybe you're seeing it now because it haunts him. After he took the good quickening..."

"What?!"

"He took the quickening of a good priest at the gates of Paris. They say it changed him into a man of peace. He gave up leading armies and devoted himself to the Catholic Church. At most, he killed for four hundred years, then for another fifteen hundred, he advocated only peace."

"He gave up the sword completely?"

"So they say. In my lifetime he certainly did. In Mac's lifetime too."

A good quickening. Was that what he experienced last night? It sure hadn't felt good. He shut his eyes overwhelmed at all the thoughts running through his head. He laid down on the couch and placed his arm over his eyes. He tried to remember what he had dreamed. What did he feel like afterwards? Darius felt remorse.

"I think I experienced that quickening last night. It was horrible."

He heard Joe's gasp, but the older man didn't say anything.

"I saw all the people that Darius had killed and felt such anguish."

"Was it theirs or Darius'?"

"I don't know. Maybe both."

"Darius deeply regretted what he had been. He had to have gone through hell in order to have found peace like he did."

"It was hell."

Joe stayed silent. Dave lost himself within the memories.

"I needed to make the priest move. I wanted my armies to get into Paris. It was the culmination of everything I had worked so long for. I hungered for victory, yet this old immortal stood in my way. He wouldn't move, he barred the gate with only his body, and he wouldn't raise a sword against me. I took his head in a fit of temper. I can't believe I did that."

"You didn't do it. Remember that Dave. Do you think the priest knew what was going to happen? Did you ever consider that the priest willingly gave up his life so that Darius would become pure?"

"I never thought about it. But why would he?"

"I don't know. But the priest was standing against the most powerful general of his day. He had to know he couldn't win. So why did he do it?"

Dave gave Joe's suggestion a lot of thought. Was it possible that the priest did know? He tried to remember the face of the priest. He could see the absolute calm. He was unyielding, and unshakable in his refusal to move. That was what made Darius lose his temper. The priest had no weapon, nothing to enforce his will. Yet that will was extremely strong. With a mighty stroke, Darius changed history. Dave tried to see the look on the priest's face as the sword struck, but all he could see was the brown of the robe the priest had been wearing.

Sacrifice. If the priest had sacrificed his life to change Darius from a warmonger to a man of peace, why did this spirit reside in *him*? What made him special? He didn't want these memories. But he knew from experience that they just wouldn't go away. There was no choice; he had to deal with them. Was it luck or destiny that brought Richie into his life that day? He didn't know, but he was sure that he would have gone mad if they had never met. Between Richie, Allen, Duncan and Joe, he had a chance to actually come to terms with what was inside him.

II

Duncan drove into the driveway just after nine that night. He had rented a car at the airport, saying that with four of them in the house they needed another vehicle to get around in. With pomp and ceremony Mac withdrew a sword, showing them all its perfection.

David's eyes rounded. "That's for me?"

With a gentle smile, he handed him the sword. "My gift to you."

He took it from the older immortal with reverence. "Thank you Duncan."

"You won't be thanking me tomorrow when we start your training. You'll be cursing me and wishing I would just go away."

"He's right you know," Richie added. "After the first hour, I was ready to hit the streets and never turn back."

"You're kidding?"

"He was relentless."

"But I won't be that strict with you," Duncan was quick to add. "Richie had just experienced his first death and all ready he had an immortal hunting him."

Dave's eyes grew round.

"She was after me because..."

"A woman? I can't believe it. Did you kill her?" It was beginning to sink in that all immortals were killers. Even Richie.

"No, I didn't. I had my sword to her neck, yet I couldn't take her head."

Relief swept over him. He just didn't know how to react. He knew he needed to learn how to use a sword to defend himself, but it was just sinking in that when you did this, it meant that you had to actually kill someone. He wasn't sure if he could do it. Every time he thought about it, visions of Darius brutally killing scores of men filled his brain. Yet Darius had been able to stop and he became a man of peace. Maybe that was why he didn't think he could kill. But he had to learn to wield a sword, didn't he?

The next morning, Richie had to go into work again. The motorcycle still wasn't fixed. He promised to be home for lunch. That would be the first time that Dave would bring out his journals so they could go over his notes. The others were anxious to hear what had happened to him, yet he was shy and embarrassed to read a lot of what he had written. Maybe he'd just skip some sections. Richie called Allen and invited him over for lunch.

During the morning Duncan spent the time teaching him some more rudimentary skills in handling his new sword. Some things he remembered, but others were totally new. By eleven o'clock he was sweaty and exhausted. Duncan told him to go shower while he started on lunch. While it was cooking, he'd have his turn to bathe.

While Duncan was in the shower, Joe made a point to have a private word with him.

"Listen Dave, I haven't told anyone about our talk yesterday, about, well, you know. If you want to bring it up fine, but I just wanted you to know that I haven't mentioned it to anyone."

"I didn't tell you to keep it a secret."

"I know, but it was painful for you. You are in the process of learning about who you are. I want you to take it one step at a time. You're having to deal with two very painful issues. One is the fact that you're pre-immortal. Mac has always made it a policy never to divulge anything about immortality until after the first death. It confuses a person. They never had a chance to conceal anything with you because of your dreams. Second, you somehow have retained memories of a past life. Many cultures believe in reincarnation. With immortals, who can tell. Maybe you have underlying psychic abilities, which have enabled you to recall Darius' life. Maybe because of his tragic, immoral death, his memories imprinted themselves on the quickening, so when you were born, you became blessed with them as well."

"What about the good quickening? Could that have had anything to do with it?"

"Don't know. I do remember Mac telling me that Darius used to have prescient dreams. In fact, Darius told Mac that he had a dream of Thackeray's death before they were told of it. Mac believes that Darius may have known about his own death. That means that Darius had psychic ability too."

"I can't believe it."

"I don't know if we'll ever find out for sure. But is the reason *why* so important?"

Joe didn't wait for an answer.

Duncan joined them and soon the doorbell rang. Dave answered it. Allen was outside looking very uncomfortable.

"Come on in Allen."

"Thanks Dave.

The house filled with delicious aromas. Allen and Dave sat on the couch with Joe while Duncan remained in the kitchen giving the big lunch its final touches. Joe was telling them about Richie and his first year as an immortal. Dave was fascinated that Richie, who seemed so self-assured, could have once been as vulnerable as the way he felt now.

"Richie had just as difficult a life as you did," Allen was quick to defend his friend.

"But he had Duncan." He was confused.

Joe and Allen exchanged looks and then Allen explained what he knew about Richie's difficult childhood and his dramatic introduction to Duncan MacLeod. He then concluded with, "At least you had a father who kept you."

"But he didn't understand me!" he cried in remembered pain.

"Fathers never understand their children."

That sounded like an excuse to Dave. His father could have tried harder, hell he could have tried just *a little*. "So Richie then moved in with Duncan?"

"Mac gave him a stable home for the first time in his life," Joe added.

"MacLeod knew that Richie was a pre-immortal and wanted to be around when his first death occurred," Allen added.

So Duncan only took an interest in him because of being immortal. This saddened Dave. Didn't Duncan see something special in Richie that drew him? Something that *he* had sensed from the first moment they had met? "Just like Richie did with me," Dave whispered despondently.

Allen corrected him. "Richie was drawn to your buzz and then he helped you. He didn't have to see you again. Do you remember, he made the decision to be your friend *before* the whole business of Darius came to light, and against his better judgement."

Joe added, "You reminded him so much of himself. A young boy on the streets fighting to survive. He felt compelled to help you."

Allen continued, "Then he became very attached and drew me in too."

Dave thought back to that day. It was true. Richie invited him to lunch only knowing that he heard voices in his head and that he felt he was different. Allen seemed to know what to say to make him feel better.

Dave didn't quite understand the relationship between Allen and Richie, although he remembered that day when Richie begged Allen to let them use his house to practice in. He could see a lot of similarities between Joe and Duncan's relationship and Richie's and Allen's. It was not the same as his with Richie. Their relationship was more like

Richie's with Duncan. He knew it had something to do with the tattoo on Allen's and Joe's wrist, but exactly what it was eluded him. He tried to search through Darius' memories, but he couldn't access them. Only the ones that were spontaneous were available to him and even those were sometimes inaccessible.

The door swung open and Richie walked in, stopping their discussion. He had to remember to ask Richie about his childhood at another time. He also started to wonder about what Duncan had gone through. Was it hard for all immortals?

"It smells great in here." Richie walked past them and headed directly to the kitchen.

Duncan came out stopping Richie in his tracks. "Why don't you all sit down. Everything's ready."

Richie washed his hands in the sink and then plopped down on a chair. "This is the life. A hard morning's work followed by a great lunch." He grinned.

Dave sat next to him. "And then story time."

"Yeah, we're finally going to get a look at your journals. Can't wait for that."

Dave placed the three books conspicuously on the side of the table. Several times during the meal, he caught the other four looking at them. Dave couldn't help laughing to himself. Only Joe seemed to be relaxed, but that was because of their talks.

With his plate finally empty, "I can't take it any more. Let's start."

All of them jumped up and started clearing the table. Duncan poured them all some coffee and they went to sit in the living room. Dave sat in a recliner and picked up his book.

"I don't know whether to read my entries, or just bring up one event at a time and we can all discuss them."

"Just start reading, we'll tell you when to stop," Joe instructed.

Dave cleared his throat. "These are journal entries, which I wrote because Richie told me too. Remember, I started this when I was ten so some of its going to be rough."

He met their eyes and then began. He told them in his words what happened after the cops took him away from Allen's house. His father had punished him by sending him to his room and grounding him.

"...Which was stupid. I was never allowed to go anywhere so this punishment is stupid. That night I had a dream. It was my first since Richie told me to keep a record of them, so now that he's gone, I will write down everything the voices tell me.

"My dream started with a big army camped all around me. I can see hundreds of people, each occupied with a task. Some are sharpening blades. Women are grinding something in bowls. Horses wander around grazing. I'm standing, overseeing the activities, and looking fondly at some of them. Men walk past me, and while some nod, many don't see me. I back up when a really mean man comes up to me, but I back into a horse. He's big and brown and looks like he's going to bite the mean man coming up to me. The man says something, but suddenly I can't hear him. The wind is blowing in my ears and then the man backs away. No the man doesn't really back away, the ground gets long as if it's pushing me away. Then I wake up. I'm all sweaty and I can still smell the poop smell from the camp.

"I get up and go into the bathroom. It's dark out and I wonder if maybe I could leave the house and try to find Richie. I tiptoe downstairs to the phone. I pick it up and then I see my dad standing there. He yells at me, so I put the phone down and go back upstairs.

It's just not fair."

He looked up at them and then turned the page.

"I haven't written in here for awhile. I found out today that Richie left France. I want to scream and scream until I lose my voice. Dad looks happy. I hate him. I asked Dad why I couldn't have Richie as my friend and he said it wasn't natural. Richie was teaching me bad things and it was his job to protect me. It was his job to make sure I was safe. He wouldn't let anything happen to me, because I was his whole world, because mom died. If I was his whole world, why does he leave me alone all the time? But, even that had changed. Now I have a baby sitter. This really old lady picks me up from school and takes me home every day. Then she sits in the living room reading her books, making me do my homework.

"Today, I was sitting on my usual chair, and suddenly I wasn't in my home anymore. I was back in the camp, and the men were clustered all around me. They were standing waiting for me. I didn't know what they were waiting for. Then I knew. I had to give the order to go. I lifted my sword high in the air and screamed, *now*! Then I felt all these horses running over me. I looked up and found that the old lady was beating me over the head with her book.

"My brain was so fuzzy. I didn't know what to think. Was I there? Did I scream the word *now*, and that was why the lady was hitting me? I was so confused. I went to my room and lay down on my bed and cried. Then I wrote all this down so Richie can read it later."

David was turning red. "I'm sorry about all the mushy stuff. I was so confused and felt so alone. There was no one I could turn to. No one who would understand."

He flipped the pages again.

"I got a new baby sitter. The old lady told dad that I was crazy and wouldn't spend time with a crazy boy. My new jailer was another lady, but this one was younger. The second week she was with us, she had to pick me up from school early because I had one of my episodes. They are getting more frequent, and I know it makes Dad nervous. But I don't care. This time I was in gym playing football. I was running, kicking the ball, when suddenly I was fighting. I was slashing men with my sword, killing them, as I rode through a bunch of men. They were all wearing metal things on the bodies, kind of like armor but it wasn't. All around me were the sounds of pounding hooves and screams of death. Then my head started to pound and I felt like I was going to throw up. I turned my horse and rode instantly towards it. Another man appeared at my side, and we came up to a lone man, waiting for us. All three of us were talking but I don't understand what we're saying. Then I leaped off a horse. I swung my sword and started fighting this man.

I was relentless and then I cut off his head. I felt pain and I dropped to my knees. It hurt so bad, and I couldn't move. My arms were stuck and my legs were folded underneath me."

"You actually felt a Quickening?" Duncan was astonished.

Dave looked up from his book. "That was not the first one that I experienced, but I didn't understand what was happening. I mean me, Dave, didn't understand. The man in my dream knew what was coming and was prepared. I remember being scared and I hated it. My mind was filled with bright light, and I couldn't see anything. I remember squeezing my eyes shut. When I opened them, I was in the nurse's office, laying on a cot."

"Do you usually blank out when these visions come to you?"

"Most of the time. Sometimes I just know things."

"Keep reading," Duncan urged.

"My new sitter picked me up from school and brought me home. She didn't talk to me much, but it didn't seem like she was mad. I couldn't wait to write all this down. For the first time, it was almost like I was living inside a story. I only got to see parts, but the events were all part of something bigger. In each dream, I carried a sword. I wished there was some way to get the one I had at Allen's. I wished there was some way I could talk to him, but the phone is always guarded. I am never allowed to use it.

"I didn't realize anything was wrong, until my new sitter yelled at me. I looked up at her, and she said I was talking baby talk. I understood her, but she said I wasn't talking in French anymore. It wasn't English either. This happened two days before Mademoiselle

Moshier told me that she knew Allen.

"She called me into her office, and sat me in a chair. I thought I was in big trouble. When she started walking all over the office, nervous about what she was going to say, I thought she was kicking me out of school. Then she said she knew Allen and that if I wanted she would pass letters back and forth, I jumped up to hug her. I felt a huge lump in my mouth and couldn't talk.

"After I started writing, the episodes kind of went away. I still had dreams at night, but didn't have them during the day any more."

"But why did you have so many of them after I left?" Richie asked.

"Anxiety," Duncan answered. "He couldn't control his thoughts. Maybe he used them as a way to escape his present hell, as he saw it."

"I don't think so," Dave told them.

Joe put in his opinion. "Or maybe without Richie, Darius' spirit needed to have Dave learn things as quickly as possible. The only way was during dreams. He couldn't ask anyone, because no one was there that understood."

That sobered them.

"Sometimes I thought that everything I saw was chronological. I was living this man's life, one day, or one week at a time. I would stop one night and the next night it would almost take off where the last night's had ended."

"That's so weird. Do you think you've seen it all now?" Richie asked.

"Definitely not."

"Let's say that he's remembering Darius' life, what does that mean?" Joe asked.

Allen responded, saying what they were all thinking, but were afraid to say aloud.

"He has Darius' quickening. It was used to create him. James Horton killed Darius, on holy ground. There was no quickening transfer. There is a simple physics law about the conservation of energy. The immortal energy had to go somewhere. It would only make sense that if it didn't go into another immortal, then it had to go into the making of a new one. Where do immortals come from? Does anyone know?"

Having everyone's attention he continued. "They say that there can be only one, and that the last one will have the power of all the immortals that came before him. That can't happen if quickenings become lost. So, let's say that there was a finite number of immortal souls at the beginning of time. When the battles ensue this effectively begins the merging of the different quickenings. In the olden days, men carried swords and axes as part of their normal battle gear and for routine self-defense. It made sense that many immortals were killed by mortals in just the everyday skirmishes that occurred. When that happened, new immortals were born from the lost quickenings. When the gun was invented, immortals started surviving the altercations between themselves and mortals which resulted in less new ones being created."

"You've been giving this a lot of thought." Joe sounded impressed.

"You forget, I've had seven years."

"But the gathering is here," Mac emphasized.

"Maybe it was here, until Horton jumped on his, kill all the immortals, bandwagon. He may have halted or at least postponed the gathering, by introducing the mortal killing immortal scenario once more. With the influx of unbound quickenings circling the earth, new immortals started popping up again."

"Like me?" Dave asked.

"Like you and who knows how many others."

"So why do I remember things that happened in Darius' life. If I have his quickening does that mean I'm him? If I'm Darius, then who is Dave?" He was so frustrated.

"Who is Duncan MacLeod?" the Highlander began. "Who are any of us? We don't know. Each of us have to find our own answers. When I had my first death I didn't know anything about immortals. My people, *my father*, called me demon and cast me out of our village. I didn't believe I was a demon, but the father I loved, that I trusted said I was. I'm over four hundred years old now and I still don't know who Duncan MacLeod is. Are we defined by just our immortality? By the quickenings we carry? By our actions? We really don't share blood with anyone, yet maybe we do with all immortals. Who am I? Who is Richie Ryan? Who is David Junot? Maybe he contains the spirit of Darius. If he does he is very lucky, but it is still only the spirit. The spirit doesn't control the mind. *You* control your actions. Most of us take quickenings, experience the other immortal's feelings for a fraction of a second, then it's gone. Maybe for you, it's like you've taken Darius' quickening and have retained the essence of the man. Use this gift.

Accept it. Make it a part of Dave, not something Dave has to fight against."

They all fell silent. Dave closed the book.

Allen broke the silence. "I've got to go. Terry is going to be home in a few minutes. She gets irritated when I'm not there."

They were all unsettled by Duncan's speech, Dave most of all. Richie got up and walked Allen to the door. "Come by tomorrow."

"Will do."

Duncan told everyone that he was going to spar with Dave. The three immortals went downstairs, and Richie sat on a bench to watch. It took every ounce of Dave's concentration to keep up with Duncan. He was always just a step beyond what Dave felt comfortable with. For some reason all of a sudden Dave saw an opening. Without thinking, he executed a move, which flung the sword from the older immortals hand.

His mind warred with his body. His arm was itching to put his sword to Duncan's neck, but his mind was repelled and thus his rigid arm fell to his side. The other two knew of the internal struggle, because both jumped to his side to ask if he was okay.

"Yes, I just didn't expect that move. I don't think I could even repeat it."

"Maybe Darius knew that move," Richie suggested.

That had to be the answer. It was just so scary having his body move in ways that he felt he had no control over. If his control was less, could he have actually taken Duncan's head? Did Duncan recognize what he just done?

"Duncan, did you ever fight or spar with Darius?"

"No, he had become a man of peace by the time I met him. He didn't believe in violence of any kind. For many years he took students, mortal and immortal alike in order to teach them his philosophy."

Dave sighed wistfully. "Sometimes, I can feel the hunger for victory that he must have had. But it's all changing. Now I'm beginning to feel such peace, and serenity, that I can't believe I had ever wanted to fight. Mostly I feel repelled by killing. I don't know how I'm going to feel if I get challenged."

Duncan put his arm around him. "You aren't even immortal yet. Live your mortal life now. Enjoy yourself. Let your body and mind grow stronger and let the future take care of itself. You are not Darius; you are Dave. Don't forget that."

Again, Duncan was preaching to him that he wasn't Darius. The old immortal must see his confusion. Or was he saying it to convince himself?

"Even when I act in a way that's just not me?"

"You'll have to master the evil or bloodlust and not let it control you. But you must not become a pacifist either. Both extremes are wrong. Think of identical twins. They have the same DNA, but each is a separate person. You have to learn how to accept Darius, but be yourself. Remember, Richie and I will always be here to help you deal with the dichotomy in your mind."

"I don't want to be evil. I don't like hurting people and it makes me sick when I see some of the things that Darius did."

"But he was a great man too. Haven't you seen other things he did?"

Dave thought back to some of the dreams he had been having recently.

"I've seen him give his cloak to a beggar in the street. I saw him argue with someone about why didn't want to lead the armies anymore, and how he escaped to holy ground so his best friend wouldn't take his head.

"I almost killed my father when I was fourteen. He was punishing me for skipping school again, and I took a knife from the kitchen and I was going to stab him. Then the voices came and quieted me down. I could hear my father yelling in the background, but mostly I heard soothing words, words in a different language, but who's message I understood. I never drew the knife, so my father never knew how close to death he was that day. But it changed me, that mental confrontation. From then on I accepted my life and just wanted to be older so I could leave. I saved every franc I could, to run away when I turned eighteen."

Duncan continued. "Can you control the inner hunger, or does Darius control all of you?"

"I don't know," he cried out. "I'm trying. I've known I needed help all along. I just didn't know who to go to for help."

"Until we me," Richie interrupted their conversation.

Dave looked at his oldest friend. "Yes. When you came up to me that day, trying to save me from those other boys, I knew."

Duncan redirected his attention back to himself. "It's going to take a lot of work. You'll have to work hard on meditation. Mind control is just as important as body control. Learning how to balance violence with compassion is essential for any immortal, but will be even more critical for you. Can you do it?"

"I have to." Dave's voice rang with conviction.

Chapter 5

I

They settled into a routine of Mac schooling David in the morning in both the sword and martial arts. Joe worked with him in the afternoons to try and get him to be able to pass the high school equivalence exam. He had left before graduation, but he had completed most of the required work. Richie went to the shop during the day, leaving his protege to his own mentors. Then in the evening, Richie would spar with Dave, and sometimes with Mac. Allen came over when Terry was working, to help with some of the studying sessions, and to watch the sparring in the evenings.

One afternoon Terry came into the shop to talk to Richie. They went into his office.

"Richie, I think Allen is having an affair."

"No way." He was shocked. Allen just didn't have the time. Logistically it was impossible.

"He's gone all the time and I can't find him. He'll tell me he's with you, but he really isn't."

"Does he tell you he's with me, or at my house?"

She stiffened as she thought about it.

"Terry," Richie continued. "He's been spending a lot of time at my house with David, the kid he brought back from France. I still have to work and he's been tutoring the kid for the GED exam."

"Really?" she sounded very relieved.

"Do you know where he is now?"

"No," her lip trembled.

Richie picked up the phone and called his house. Dave picked it up.

"Hey Dave, is Allen there?"

Richie turned to Terry. "He's there, Dave is getting him. What do you want me to say?"

"Oh please don't tell him I'm checking up on him. He'd be so upset."

"Fine." He directed his attention back to the phone. "Hey Al. I've been thinking. Yeah I know I shouldn't be doing that." Richie laughed into the phone. "As I was saying, you've been spending so much time at the house with us, that I think it's time we invited Terry to come for dinner. I haven't seen her in ages and she must be curious about Dave and what you're doing. What do ya think?"

Richie smiled at the woman as he listened to her husband.

"Great. No problem, I'll call her. It'll give me an excuse to talk to her. Tell Mac to fix something really tasty."

Richie laughed. "Tell Joe to ask him. See you tonight."

He hung up the phone and turned to Terry. "All set. Now all you have to do is show up."

"Thank you Richie. I can't tell you how long this has festered inside before I had the guts to ask you."

"Terry, he loves you. Don't ever doubt that again. There are things he can't tell you, you need to respect that, after all I'm sure there are things that happen at the hospital that you can't tell him. Right?"

"I suppose."

"Good, now go home or to work and we'll see you tonight."

They both stood up and he walked her to the door. She gave him a hug and he held her reassuringly. "Don't worry so much."

Richie headed back to his office; one difficulty dealt with. If only all of them could be solved so easily. The rest of the afternoon sped by and he left to go home just after four. There probably wouldn't be any sparring tonight with Terry there.

He drove in his driveway and went into his house. The dining room table was cluttered with books and a laptop was sitting there blinking. Dave was pouring over a book, typing something in. Joe was sitting on a chair observing both Dave and Mac. The Highlander was in the kitchen and wonderful smells were emanating from there.

Mac stuck his head out, "Welcome home dear," he said tongue in cheek. "I've been slaving all day since they told me a very important woman was coming over for dinner. I didn't want to disappoint you, or her."

Richie started laughing. Leave it to Mac. Poor Allen looked like he had swallowed a hot pepper. His face was red and he was trying hard not to choke. Richie couldn't tell if it was from embarrassment or amazement that the immortal would tease him. He went into the kitchen to check out the simmering pots. Mac slapped his hand a few times and told him to get lost. With a defeated shrug, he left to change out of his work clothes.

When the doorbell rang fifteen minutes later, Allen answered it.

"Come on in Terry. Let me introduce you to everyone."

He ushered her in rather fast, almost guiltily.

"This is Joe Dawson."

They shook hands.

"The guy sitting at the table studying hard is Dave."

Dave got up and walked around the table. With a flourish he kissed both cheeks, French style.

"Mademoiselle, you are even more beautiful than Allen described. He is a lucky man."

She laughed. "Ya sure you're not Irish with all that blarney?"

Dave smiled and returned to his seat.

"And lastly, that is Duncan MacLeod," his voice shook slightly. Richie sympathized. Allen was still a little uncomfortable around the older immortal.

Mac took her proffered hand and kissed the top.

"Jeez Allen, these guys have such good manners. You should learn from them."

They all laughed.

Richie motioned her to take a seat. "Dave is almost finished with his homework. Can I get you a drink?"

"Dinner will be ready in about thirty minutes," Mac called out.

Richie watched Terry all through dinner. She joined in on all the conversation and offered her services to Dave if he needed help with science. Since she was a nurse, she felt she was better qualified than Joe or Allen. Dave didn't know what to say. He floundered for a minute before Allen rescued her.

"That will be great honey. After he masters American history and political science, math and science can be next."

"History is coming before math and science? That's terrible. Maybe you need my help now."

The whole conversation reminded Richie of Tessa and the way she insisted he take art classes in Seacouver. If he was to be working in an antique store, he needed to know something about art. This made him think about maternal role models. Dave didn't have any. His mother had died when he was very young. There had been only teachers and councilors afterwards. Maybe he needed Terry more than anyone realized.

"You know Terry," Richie spoke out his thoughts. "I think you'd be an excellent teacher. Better than these stodgy old men. What do you say to coming over twice a week to tutor him?"

Richie smiled complacently at everyone, but kept his attention on Terry.

She looked pleased to be included. "What do you think Dave? Do you want me to instruct you?"

He agreed.

Allen didn't look pleased. Richie would have to explain things to him later.

Later came much too quickly. While the rest of them were watching the news, Allen insisted that he and Richie would do the dishes. Double punishment. He hated cleaning up after Mac when he cooked.

"Why did you do it Ryan? Jeez, Terry in a room full of Watchers and immortals...I just can't think about it, it makes me crazy."

"Calm down. She needs to be included. You can't leave her out of your whole life. Plus, I think Dave needs it too. I had Tessa there to teach me the little things, and that made me think that Dave could use someone like that too. Give'em a chance."

"I don't know."

"Trust me. I know what I'm doing."

Mac walked into the kitchen. "Famous last words. As soon as someone says trust me, it makes me do just the opposite." He grabbed a glass and poured himself some water. "But as far as Terry teaching Dave, it's a good idea." Then he set the empty glass down and walked back into the living room.

"The Highlander has spoken," Allen said wryly.

Richie laughed at his friend's insight.

With his motivation level on high, David progressed by leaps and bounds. He was the center of all of their attentions and the teen ate it up. His skill with a sword was phenomenal. He continued to surprise them with moves that were unknown to Mac, and occasionally his eyes would become glazed with aggression. Then he'd either come out of it on his own, or Mac would do a little prodding. He didn't zone out in waking dreams, although he continued to dream at night. Some of them dealt with Darius' warlord days, but an increasing number were memories of more recent times.

The day finally came when he was to take the GED exam. Richie insisted that he would be the only one to accompany Dave. The others acquiesced. The test was grueling and Dave staggered out totally exhausted. They ordered pizza for dinner, which Mac complained about. Richie didn't care about Mac's opinion; the pizza was for Dave. The teen loved fast food and it reminded both of them of their trips to McDonalds in Paris.

"I want to thank you Joe for all the help you've given me in the last four months." Dave lifted his glass in a toast. "I couldn't have passed the test if it hadn't been for you guys. I just wish that Dave and Terry could have joined us"

"It was a pleasure. You're a good student," Joe complimented him.

"I just can't believe I did it. But I sure am glad it's over."

"So what now? College?" Joe asked.

An expression of horror crossed Dave's face. "I don't think so."

He looked uncomfortable and asked to be excused. He got up and made for the bathroom.

Joe lifted his glass. "I sure know how to clear a room." He took a drink and then cleared his throat. "As for myself, I think it's time I left New York."

This was obviously news to Mac. He jerked to attention. "You're leaving?"

"Yeah, I still have to get to Chicago. I promised Lynn I'd visit her and her family. I've got a grandniece that I haven't seen in three years."

"What about me?"

"Mac, you've been taking care of yourself for centuries. I think you can handle a few months without me."

"I didn't know you were planning on staying in the States after we left Richie's."

"Yep, family business. You could just stay here with Richie until I leave Lynn's."

"Who's going to Watch me?"

"I don't know. Probably whoever Watches you now."

"You don't Watch me?"

"Nope, I officially retired when we left France. I'm getting too old to be following you around. My hips are giving me problems and I've been thinking about getting a hip replacement while in Chicago and letting Lynn take care of me."

"Why don't you get it done here in Albany and let us take care of you? No sense in going all the way to Chicago when you can get it done here."

"Because Mac, I want to visit Lynn and her family."

Richie couldn't believe that Mac was acting so possessive. Was he getting worried because Joe was getting old? Was he feeling the loss of time?

Dave returned to the table and sat down. "What did I miss?"

"Joe's leaving. He's decided to visit his niece in Chicago," Richie told him.

Dave acted the peacemaker. "We can always go to Chicago with him. I know I'd like to see the city."

Mac spoke without thinking. "I don't think Lynn would welcome her father's killer into her house."

Then everyone became silent. This had brought an unwelcome element into the conversation.

"You killed her father? Why?" Dave acted stunned.

Mac looked at Joe, who looked back at him. Richie grasped the table.

"Tell me." Dave implored.

"I killed James Horton, because he was the one who murdered Darius."

Dave paled and then turned to Joe. "The man who murdered Darius was part of your family?"

Joe took a deep breath. "Yep, he was married to my sister. It's what brought Mac to my doorstep."

Joe and Mac exchanged glances again and then Joe told Dave the entire story. Things were quiet after that. Richie felt bad that the party atmosphere had been destroyed, but there was nothing he could do. Joe told them that he would call for plane reservation the next day and probably leave at the end of the week. Mac offered to drive Joe to the airport. Everyone was sorry to see the old man go.

II

The young pre-immortal continued his emotional growth. He never became lost in a fury of blood lust and Richie believed it had to do with security. He was safe and happy, which then spilled over to his physical accomplishments. The fighting style improved, and during the evenings, Dave would sit down and read more from his journal of Darius' memories. Richie could tell that Mac was troubled by a lot of what Dave remembered, but often the dark recollections were interspersed with memories of good times. Darius had been a powerful general, but he also had compassion and a greatness of heart, which occasionally came out during Dave's stories. Then Mac would smile and Richie could see the tension melt away from his friend's face. Richie could see a softening also in Dave. His time with Terry was paying off.

Allen stopped by the shop one day to have a private talk with Richie. At the house, Mac or Dave were always around. They grabbed a sub, and sat in the park.

"So what plans does Dave have now, do you know?" Allen asked him.

"He wants to get a job. Mac's been making noises that he wants to leave. First Joe and now Mac."

"Is Mac going to Chicago to be near Joe?"

"I don't know. But since Joe left, he's been listless. He trains Dave and spars with me, but..."

"His heart isn't in it anymore."

"Yeah, that's probably it."

"I know I can't believe I'm going to say this, but, I'm going to miss him."

"He kind of grows on you."

"Like a fungus?"

Richie laughed. "Yeah, like the mold on your bathroom ceiling. Pretty soon you don't see it anymore." He sobered. "You just expect it to always be there."

They ate in silence.

A cab honked which broke into their inner thoughts.

"What about Dave's insecurities? Has he come to terms with himself yet?"

"I think so. He doesn't have the little lost boy look anymore. His eyes don't have fear in them as he relives things from Darius' life."

"But he's still asking himself what he wants to be when he grows up."

"Jeez Al, I was asking that myself until Connor helped me buy the shop. Dave's not even twenty yet."

"I always knew that I wanted to be a Watcher." He paused in contemplation. "I met my first immortal when I was fifteen. He was a teacher in my school."

Richie grew very quiet. Allen had never confided this story to him before.

Allen looked at Richie. "I worshipped him. I was floundering in science. I didn't understand the concepts and the more I couldn't do the homework the more frustrated I became. He took a real interest in me. We'd stay after school and he'd tutor me. All year he babysat me through that class. I was almost sad when the year ended."

"So what happened?"

"A year later, I was at a football game. Most of the teachers came to the games for both school spirit and to cheer for their students who were playing. Well anyway, I was sitting on the top of the bleachers and I saw this man wearing a long coat walk up to him. Mr. Hutchins argued a bit, then nodded sadly and the man left. I put my binoculars on him and I swear I saw tears running down his face. All I could think of was that he had received bad news. A couple of minutes later he walked into the school. I followed, without him knowing. He went to his office and exchanged coats. I didn't understand what was wrong with the coat he was already wearing. Then he left the school and walked to this storage shed where they fix trucks and broken school busses. I remember sneaking in the door at the opposite side and sliding along the wall. I could hear them talking and then all of a sudden I heard the swords. The fight didn't last very long, and then, and then," Allen took a deep breath, "He lost." He exhaled.

"So you saw the quickening and everything."

"All I remember was the head rolling on the ground and blood spurting everywhere. I was just a kid and I saw my favorite teacher murdered. You can imagine how I reacted."

"My God, you didn't call the police?"

"Didn't get the chance. I started to stand up to scream, when someone came from behind me and put their hand over my mouth. It was Mr. Grant, one of the gym teachers. He was Mr. Hutchins' Watcher."

"You got recruited that young?"

"He told me part of the story then, and after I graduated he told me the rest. From then on I knew I wanted to be a Watcher too."

Richie didn't know what to say. He was really glad that Allen was his Watcher and his friend. Allen was lost in his thoughts and didn't seem to expect Richie to say anything. The silence hung on until Allen spoke again. "I'm thinking I have to tell Terry."

"It's about time."

"You think I should?"

"Yep. Pretty soon she's going to catch me in a lie, like how long I've been friends with Mac, or even what year I was born."

"And you're not getting any older."

"True."

"I just felt it was your secret and not my place to say anything."

"This will take a lot of planning and, if we do it together it shouldn't be too difficult. I know, you just want to kill me," Richie joked.

"What?"

"To prove that I'm immortal I'm going to have to die."

Allen slowly smiled. "Ryan, it *would* be payback for all the hell you put me through all those years ago."

"I was a monster."

"That you were."

"I never put other Watchers through what I did to you. I don't know, maybe I was testing you."

"Testing me?"

"Your staying ability."

"I was so confused when you'd charge down the streets on your bike, almost daring me to catch up to you."

"I was."

"I thought you were trying to find out how good of a Watcher I was. After all, you are one of the few immortals who even know that Watchers exist."

"I wasn't doing that consciously. And you notice that when you couldn't keep up, I'd slow down."

"And you'd go to places and sit near a window so I could see you."

"And I'd send you coffee on those long stakeouts."

Both laughed at their antics.

"I remember the time when I first came to Albany, and my apartment was trashed."

"I came and stayed over night, and then we went and tracked down those punks."

"You kicked their asses. It was great."

"We didn't get your stuff back though."

"But we got revenge. Boy was it sweet." Allen smiled at the memory.

Richie glanced at his watch. "Look at the time. I have to get back."

"We haven't had a chance to talk like this in a long while."

"Yeah, it was nice."

Richie got up and walked back to the shop. He had some plans to make. He was really happy that Allen wanted Terry to know. There was the fact that Allen and Terry were both getting older and had been together now for almost four years. She was bound to notice eventually that he wasn't aging. It was better that they told her now, before she found out the hard way. After all, it might encourage Allen to stay with him and refuse reassignment. Allen was probably going to be the last friend he had who was the same age as he was. He had to make the most of what time they did have. He sat behind his chair, thinking not of inventory, or finding some more antiques motorcycles, but of friendships and how lucky he was.

When Richie came home that evening, Mac informed him that the three of them were going out to dinner. He just hoped it wasn't a farewell dinner. Mac had been restless since Joe left. Judging from the ensembles the other two were wearing, Mac had to have made a reservation at some classy place. Richie gave Allen a quick call to let him know his plans.

"I don't know which restaurant Mac picked, do I need to ask?"

"No. But I just found out that an immortal named Keith Holler is in town. He has a history with Mac. Terry is working tonight, so I may just do my job and follow you guys."

"You're kidding? And how long has it been that you've done any surveillance?"

"Okay, " he laughed, "It has been awhile, but I'm sure I remember how."

"Just be careful that Dave doesn't see you. I'd hate for any other Watchers floating around to notice that you're known to us."

"Yeah, me too. That would not be good."

"Well, better go. Hope *not* to see you tonight." Richie laughed as he hung up the phone.

All three carried their swords in their coats and Mac drove them to a Greek restaurant. Mac didn't really want Dave to carry his sword, but the teen made a big deal about getting used to it that Mac relented. This puzzled Richie, the way he kept giving in to Dave's requests. Was it because of Darius? Did Mac subconsciously give in because he thought it was Darius making the request? He hoped not. Dave would never come to grips with who he was if even Mac was treating him as if he were the old immortal.

As they pulled into the parking lot, Richie absently noticed how close it was to Albany Medical. As they went into the place, he saw many doctors having dinner, probably on call or something. Did Terry come in here? He prayed that she wouldn't be in there tonight. But it was an expensive place, not quite a hang out for nurses on duty.

They were halfway through dinner when they felt a buzz. Richie nearly dropped his fork. Mac looked carefully around, but he shook his head in a sign that he didn't see anything. Dave looked back and forth at their silent communication and Richie could see the reflected frustration that he couldn't feel the buzz himself. Without hurrying, the three men finished their dinners. Mac signaled to a waiter for the check.

"Shall we go," Mac asked as he picked up his credit card and slid it into his wallet.

They put their coats on and slowly walked out. The strange buzz was still there, but not as close as it had been.

"Rich, you stay here with Dave. I want to take a look around."

Mac unsheathed his katana and headed off.

Richie leaned on the car, watching Mac disappear into the night. His buzz remained for awhile, until it too was gone.

"So now what?" Dave asked him.

"I don't know. Wait I guess."

"Does he do this often?"

"He likes to know who's around."

There was a full moon and the night was very quiet. Mac had headed over towards the hospital, so both men looked over in that direction, while leaning on the car's hood. Suddenly the sound of swords hitting filled the night. With his eyes, he followed the sound towards the parking garage connected to the hospital. On the top level, he could just make out the reflection of light off the blades as they swung in the air. From their distance, Richie couldn't make out which figure was which. He glanced around looking for unwanted spectators. The dark hampered his search.

"Let's go over there," Richie whispered to his companion.

"Why."

"To make sure that Mac doesn't have an audience for the quickening." Yeah, that sounded good, Richie thought to himself.

"But Duncan told us to stay here."

Richie shrugged and started making his way across the parking lot to the hospital grounds.

Dave didn't look convinced, but he followed behind. They walked over towards the garage entrance. The parking attendant was manning the booth.

"Slow night?" Richie asked nonchalantly.

"Yep," he answered. "Although in another thirty minutes people will start arriving for the shift change."

That was exactly the information Richie was looking for. They took the stairs up to the second level and looked around there. Cutting to the opposite corner, they didn't see anyone in cars or walking around. The garage was eerie in its solitude. They took the next set of stairs up to the top level. Richie could feel the buzz now, which meant the other two could feel him as well. Mac would know who it was, but the other guy wouldn't. Although Richie knew the Watchers were good, he had expected to see at least one, yet he saw no people. Not even a glimpse of Allen.

As Richie opened the door to the roof level, the two combatants became visible. Neither looked their way, but Richie could see by their movements that both were indeed aware. Dave pushed up next to him so he too could watch.

Several times, he heard Dave take deep breaths as Mac would execute a good move or just barely move in time to avoid a slash to himself. They were hidden in shadow, so the two fighting immortals couldn't really see them. Dave moved closer so that their shoulders were touching. Through his sleeves, Richie could feel the tremors as they racked the teen's body. Slowly they progressed to violent shaking, and Richie grabbed a hold of his arm and drew them back into the stairwell.

"Hey, man, you okay?"

He didn't get an answer. Richie looked into Dave's eyes and could see that he wasn't there. Shaking his body he tried to bring him out of his trance-like state.

"Come on, look at me. Dave don't do this. Mac is going to win, don't be afraid. That guy isn't nearly as good. I know it's the first fight you've witnessed. I mean the first one not from a dream, but, come on." Nothing.

Then a window blew open and breaking glass could be heard. Dave pulled free from his hold and opened the door. The quickening was flying in full force, as Mac, sunk to his knees, and bowed his head. The tendrils of light hit parked cars sending glass flying in all directions. A particular bright line hit over the door and blew out the exit sign. Richie tried to drag Dave back inside, but the teen wouldn't budge. They were still in shadow, so Richie couldn't tell what Dave was thinking. He wasn't shaking, but his body was stiff and unyielding.

Then it was over. Mac raised his head and looked over towards them.

"I thought I told you two to stay by the car."

Richie nodded. "You did." He would not be cowed by his former teacher. "And if Connor told you to stay by the car, would you have?"

Mac rose to his feet. "Touché."

They walked down the stairwell to the first floor. Taking a back door, they went outside.

"Who was it?" Richie didn't want to say Holler's name and possibly get Allen in trouble.

"Keith Holler. He came looking for me."

"Guess he found you. Did he say why?"

Mac's eyes darkened some. "He didn't need to."

Richie recognized that look. It said shut up; I'm not talking any more. Mac was sullen and non-communicative. He wasn't sure if his mood was a result of the Quickening itself or because of something about the immortal he killed. Dave accompanied them, but didn't say anything either. Mac didn't notice anything out of the ordinary, being so wrapped up in his own thoughts. When they got back to the car, Richie took the opportunity to look into Dave's eyes. They were as distant as Mac's, but not vacant as before. Mac got into the back seat, leaving the front to Dave. Richie got in just as the cell phone rang.

With a quick look into the backseat, Richie picked up the phone. It was Allen.

"Ryan, I've got big trouble. Terry saw the fight."

"Oh shit. Where are you now?"

"We're still in the garage on the second level. I didn't see her until after the fight. I met with the another Watcher and then turned around to go back to my car. There she was, standing there in frozen shock."

"So you don't know exactly how much she saw?"

"Nope. She's in the car crying. I don't know what to do."

"Take her home. I'll meet you there."

"Hurry Ryan."

There was no need to tell them what had transpired. Richie drove to his house and dropped off the other two. Getting into his own car, he went directly to Allen's. He was nervous as he got out. Allen's whole life hinged on the next hour. Would she accept what he was? What she had seen? All he could think about was Anne Lindsey and how she couldn't accept Mac because he was a killer and her life was about saving lives. He prayed that Terry wouldn't be that dogmatic.

Knocking on the door, he noticed just how sweaty his hands were. Allen opened it and Richie followed him in.

"She's at the kitchen table drinking whiskey. Her hands are shaking so bad, that most of it is spilling onto the table."

"Have you told her anything?"

"No. She hasn't asked me anything either."

Richie walked in and sat down across from her. He waited for her to acknowledge his presence.

When she looked up, he spoke. "Hello Terry."

She gulped. "He's not human."

"Of course Mac's human. He's just a little different from other humans."

"I saw him kill that man."

"I know."

"They were talking, and then the other guy took out a sword and started waving it around. Mac just stood there talking to him. Then the guy lunged and I saw that Mac had a sword too."

"I know what you saw."

"Then he cut off the head and there was this light coming out of him, and all the blood. I still can't believe that the Duncan MacLeod I met at your house could kill like that."

Richie looked up at Allen. He looked so pale that Richie was afraid he'd pass out. Then he turned his attention back to Terry.

"Would you like for me to explain?"

She looked at him full in his eyes. "You can do that? You have an explanation for what I saw?"

"Yes, I do."

She blinked. Teardrops slipped own her face. She wiped them with her sleeve and took another drink. Her hands were steadier; the entire shot went down her throat. "I'm ready."

"You see Terry, Mac is an immortal. He was born over four hundred years ago in Scotland. He had his first death in a battle and since then he hasn't aged. He will live forever, or until someone cuts off his head. Then he dies. That's the only way to kill an immortal; cut off his or her head."

"There are a lot of immortals out there?"

Richie looked up at Allen, then back at Terry. "Yes, quite a few. Al give me a knife."

Dutifully, he handed Richie a paring knife. Richie looked at Terry. Luckily she didn't look afraid. Not once did she think that Richie might harm her. At least he wouldn't have to fight that too. Richie took the knife and sliced his wrist. Blood oozed out, dripping out onto the table.

"Look Terry. See how it heals."

He verbally forced her eyes onto his arm.

"You're immortal too?"

"Yep. But I'm not very old. In fact we were born in the same year. I died when I just turned nineteen."

"How did you die?"

"Gun shot."

"So why was Mac fighting that guy?"

"Mac said Holler came to Albany just to challenge him."

"But why?"

"I don't know. Mac wouldn't tell me. I figure they have a history and Holler did something to Mac or vice-versa and the fight was revenge. But the one thing you have to know about immortals is that we all fight, just like that. There are rules and we all abide by them."

"Rules?"

So Richie spent the rest of the night telling her everything. Around two, Allen joined in and told her about the Watchers and what their job and function was. Around five, Allen got up to make some breakfast and the three ate. At seven, all three passed out in exhausted sleep in the living room.

Chapter 6

I

Dave remembered walking into the house with Duncan and that the immortal went directly to the shower. There was a faint memory of walking to his room, but then it became blank. The next morning he woke up around noon to a quiet house. He savored the quiet, and the warmth of the bed. He rolled over and hugged his pillow closer to him.

A sharp pain accompanied the move and he saw blood ooze out of his arm onto his sheets. His sword was positioned in the bed as if it were another person. The hilt was under the covers and the blade was resting just to the side of his pillow.

He sat up in bed, wrapping the pillow around his hand hoping to stop the blood's flow. Then the events of the night before hit him. He saw Duncan fighting with the other immortal. Everything from his dreams became reality last night. All the sparring, all the lessons in hand to hand combat, didn't prepare him for what he experienced. Without a shadow of a doubt, he knew that he could never fight like that. Whether it was Darius' spirit telling him this or not, he knew that he could never cut off a man's head.

So why did he need to learn how to use a sword so badly, if he wasn't destined to join the game like any other immortal? The sword was still on the bed almost mocking him. Blood, his blood, stained the blade as if saying this was the only blood it would ever see.

Tears of frustration filled his eyes. The sword was a symbol of all immortals, yet he was going to toss it away. Echoes of his father's preaching returned to him.

"All weapons are a means of destruction. I want you to promise me never to touch any of them."

He had laughed at him. Weapons were not evil, just the people who used them. Yet now he found himself agreeing with him. He wiped his eyes, clearing the excess water from them. All these years he had misunderstood his father, and now it was too late to go back and say he was sorry. All of their problems were a result of neither listening to the other. If only he had tried harder. If only his father had been home more and not always working just to make ends meet. If only his father had let him continue his friendship with Richie, maybe they would have developed a better understanding of each other. There were just so many if onlys.

Who was Dave? That had tormented his for as long as he could remember. When he was nine and ten, Dave was a freak. He heard voices in his head. When he was fifteen, Dave was a quiet and shy boy, who only wanted to escape. Now at almost eighteen, he was a man. He wasn't immortal, yet. He didn't have to participate in the game. He just had to live and not experience a first death. Could he possibly grow old and then offer his head to Richie or Duncan? He didn't want to die, but he didn't want to kill either. Was everything he had experienced up to now just a lesson in why one shouldn't kill? Did he have to experience all the horror of warfare and bloodlust to fully understand the need for peace? Darius' spirit spoke of the glories of victory, of supremacy throughout his childhood. Now, knowing all that, he still felt repelled by death. He could never take a life, even in self-defense.

What was he going to tell Richie? He was so concerned last night. Something called him away, but he couldn't remember what it was. A door shut downstairs. Dave rose out of bed and made his way to the bathroom. His hand had stopped bleeding. Richie was coming up the steps.

"You okay Dave?"

He could see the concern in his eyes. "Yeah. I'm fine," he responded.

Richie's eyes were tired.

"What happened?"

"Terry saw the battle last night and we had to tell her about immortals. She was a mess."

"Poor Allen. Is everything settled?"

"I think so. She isn't threatening to leave him or anything, but they have some things to work out." He gave a big yawn. "I'm going back to bed."

Dave watched Richie go into his room. The world had changed in just one night. The confusion was gone. The dichotomy in his mind was gone. It was almost like he had experienced the good quickening for himself when he saw Duncan receive the one last night. He may not have felt the horror of past deaths, but he did personally feel the revulsion over death itself.

He continued into the bathroom and jumped into the shower. It was wonderful having the warm water running all over his body. The blood from his arm washed away, leaving just the small slice in his skin. Using an exorbitant amount of soap, he thoroughly scrubbed every inch of himself. He dressed in his jeans and a T-shirt and went downstairs. Duncan was sitting at the table drinking coffee.

"Hi Dave." He seemed hesitant.

"Good morning Duncan."

"You look like a man who's made some decisions."

"Is it that obvious?"

He nodded.

"I hated it. Deep inside, I couldn't handle what I saw. It kind of echoed the dreams but this time it was more vivid. I just can't describe it right."

"You're doing fine."

"I don't want to become immortal."

Duncan laughed an ironic laugh. "If any of us were honest, they would agree with you. Living forever is not easy. There are compensations, but..."

Dave interrupted him. "I can't kill. I just can't. I think I might just let them have my head."

"So now you're a complete pacifist. You're not going to last long."

"Then I won't."

"But you needed to learn how to use a sword so badly. Why?"

"I don't know. Maybe it was in order to understand what killing is all about. Or maybe to force a confrontation between the meaning of life and death in my own mind before I become immortal.

"You saw so many deaths due to decapitations by swords, including Darius', that you had the instinctive need when you were younger to protect yourself. There is nothing wrong with that."

"Killing is wrong."

Duncan shook his head.

Dave continued. "I don't know what I'm going to do with this life, but I promise that if I possibly can, I want either you or Richie to have my quickening."

Duncan's face turned an angry shade of red. "You're going to have to hide on holy ground, just like Darius. Do you have a religious calling? Can you become a priest?" Sarcasm dripped from each word.

"No," Dave responded remaining calm. "Let's wait until I die first. By then, maybe I'll know. I'm still floundering. All I know is that..."

"You can't kill. I heard you. Well if that's your final decision, I see no reason to continue to train you. I think it's time I moved on." Each word was clipped.

Dave felt saddened by Duncan's reaction. "I'm going to miss you. For some reason I feel like I've let you down. I'm sorry for that."

"You haven't let me down. It's your life and you have to live with yourself. It's just going to hurt to see you die. I don't know if I can be a part of your life and watch that happen." Duncan rose from the table, "But, with any luck, I'll be available if you change your mind in the future."

"You think this is just a whim?"

"No, not think, more like hope. After your first death, and you're faced with the realities of fight or die, you may change your mind." Then he went upstairs to pack.

Dave sat in the living room looking out over the street. His mind was at peace for the first time in his life. Richie was going to be a hard sell; he all ready knew this. Duncan let him off easy, without a real argument. Dave knew that Duncan and Darius had been very close. It must hurt the older immortal to think that he might be losing Darius twice. He could understand Duncan not wanting to be around when that happened. Richie would continue pestering him. That was okay, because he knew that Richie wouldn't desert him, no matter what.

Children rode their toy vehicles down the sidewalk and their cries and laughs could be heard from inside the house. He would miss not having kids, but it wasn't as if this was new knowledge. He had known all aspects of immortality since he began dreaming. Would the dreams stop now?

Darius was a very complex man. Maybe he would start his new life by actually writing a book about the old priest's adventures. He could label it fiction, but it wouldn't matter. As long as the man wasn't forgotten. For as long as *he* stayed alive, Darius would be too.

A murmuring caught his attention from upstairs. He smiled as he heard Richie's sleep-ladened voice. Then it rose to a shrill, "*He's what*?!"

The End