When I first saw Kenshin, the idea for a crossover with it and Highlander occurred to me almost immediately. Kenshin and MacLeod are a great deal alike and both shows exist in worlds with very similar rules and story sensibilities. There really was very little I needed to change from canon in either world to write this.
The general premise is that Kenshin is an Immortal from the Highlander universe; for the Kenshin fans who are not familiar with Highlander, this means that he doesn't age after his first death and he won't die until someone cuts off his head. When an Immortal beheads another Immortal there's a great big show of fireworks and the surviving Immortal gets the other Immortal's power and knowledge. Immortals call this "The Game."
You get one guess what Kenshin's opinion of the Game is.
For reference, for Highlander fans, this is set very early second season of Highlander -- about a week before the episode "The Darkness" -- October, 1993. For non-Highlander fans, be aware that Tessa dies during the second season, unexpectedly. (The actress wanted to quit the show.)
Warnings: This story isn't "R" but it does contain some strong content because there's an original character who's a bit screwed up. No graphic sex scenes (at all) but quite a few references to subject matter not appropriate for kiddies and some off-screen implied smut in the final chapter. There's nothing in here that wouldn't appear in an ep of Highlander; some content would be a little stronger than what you'd see on Kenshin.
Ah, there's some strong language here and there.
Richie hefted the cardboard box full of styrofoam peanuts up on to his shoulder and contemplated what could be done with them besides merely throwing them out. There was a good cubic yard's worth of packing peanuts in the box, just begging to be used for something.
Tessa had shoved the box at him and said, "Get rid of them."
But she hadn't exactly said how, though he knew she meant dump the box and the peanuts in the Dumpster like a good boy.
Outside, it was raining; he was still mulling over the potential fun to be had with that many packing peanuts -- you could practically swim in the box -- when he heard Mac's car start. The Thunderbird was rather unmistakable. It had a throaty growl to it, with a faint underlying ping of aged valves.
He heard the tires squeal as he turned around to wave at Mac. The engine revved, and the car shot forward, and he saw a large amount of red hair behind the wheel. Not much else; the driver wasn't very big. A woman, maybe ... and one short enough to need a phone book to sit on.
He dodged aside, dropping the box. The Thunderbird hit it, and packing peanuts exploded airborne in a styrofoam blizzard.
Mac had apparently also heard his car start; he burst out of the shop with sword in hand. Mac swore in French and sheathed the sword in a fluid gesture, and then bolted in the opposite direction from the disappearing taillights of the Thunderbird.
Richie ran after him, but Mac was both far more fit and far angrier than Richie. Richie realized why Mac had run the other way as they burst out onto one of the one-way streets that filled this industrial district; there was only one really good way out of the neighborhood via these narrow streets and the driver would have to double back and come this way to make her escape. Given the driver's size, and the volume of very red hair he'd seen, Richie was figuring 'woman' was a good bet, if not 'child.'
Sure enough, the Thunderbird appeared in the distance -- and pulled briefly over to the curb. The driver apparently didn't see them -- her head was barely visible over the dash. It was not really a parking space, but Richie realized what the issue was when the driver's head disappeared below the level of the dash briefly -- very short driver, car previously driven by Mac, so the woman was adjusting the seat.
Because her head was down, she didn't see Mac immediately as Mac charged towards the car with Richie in hot pursuit -- but suddenly, the woman sat upright, then, in an impossibly fluid movement, vaulted completely out of the car, over Mac's head and landed behind him.
Not a woman. A very short, and apparently extremely athletic man. Mac spun around, drawing his sword -- which surprised Richie, Mac didn't usually draw steel on mortals. He didn't need to.
"I am Duncan McLeod of the Clan McCleod ..." Mac said, assuming an aggressive stance, sword raised. "And you just stole the wrong car."
Oh. Apparently, this wasn't a mortal. It figured. The attempted theft of the car had likely been a ploy to piss Mac off and provoke him into a fight. It had, apparently, worked. Anxiously, Richie scanned the street for bystanders -- but they were alone; it was very early on a Saturday morning.
The red-haired man said something in a foreign language that sounded distinctly like an expletive, followed by a rather polite and understated -- if a bit stressed sounding, "This one has no time for this!"
Thick accent. Richie couldn't place it, though it sounded extremely familiar.
The man wore designer jeans, a silk shirt in a lush shade of purple, and a knee length brown leather duster. He reached over his shoulder and under the duster, and whipped out a Japanese sword of a similar length to Mac's own katana. Mac's aggressive crouch grew more pronounced.
The man moved, impossibly fast, faster than the eye could follow. He leaped airborne, twisted as he moved, and before Mac could even turn around, swung that glittering length of steel at Mac's neck. Richie yelped a warning, but too late -- the blade connected and MacLeod flipped backwards behind a Dumpster
He expected to see fireworks. Oh, God, Mac had just been beheaded ... that had been a hell of a blow. The man had been moving with unbelievable speed.
The red-haired man vaulted back into the car, finished adjusting the seat in seconds, and roared away. He still could barely see over the dash. Richie dodged out of the way of the car, and with his heart in his throat, ran to Mac. No fireworks.
Well, yeah, dead. But not permanently so. Richie crouched beside him, noting Mac's neck had been broken by the force of that blow. It had creased his skin and raised a heck of a bruise, but it hadn't decapitated him. It wasn't Richie's heart in his throat anymore, now it was his breakfast. He swallowed hard, willed himself not to upchuck, and gently pushed Mac's head back in line with his neck. Wouldn't do for him to heal with his head on sideways or something.
Then he waited. Fortunately, it was early and the street remained mostly deserted. "Drunk." He explained, succinctly, to one person who pulled over to see if he needed help. He squatted on his heels against the building, wondering precisely how long he'd be waiting.
Minutes. Half an hour. Mac finally twitched, groaned, and put a hand to head.
"Welcome back to the land of the living," Richie said,
MacLeod sat up and then accepted Richie's offer of a hand up. Mac looked like hell. Being killed could do that to a guy.
"Why didn't he take my head off?" MacLeod said, sounding stunned.
"You're okay!" Richie assured him, grinning with relief. It was one thing to know Mac couldn't be killed by anything short of beheading; it was another to actually see it.
MacLeod said, after a moment of silence, "He took my car."
"He broke your neck with a backhanded blow and with both feet off the ground." Richie said, "Mac, I've never seen anyone move like that before. He was impossible."
"He was an Immortal." MacLeod said, as if that explained everything.
"You don't move like that." Richie pointed out.
Mac probed his neck, found the bruises and the now nearly-healed gash, and winced and said, "I think he hit me with the dull side of the blade. Hard."
"Do you know who that was?" Richie asked, a logical question given that Mac had been around for four hundred years.
"No. I've never seen him before." Mac paused, and considered the question. "He's not very old or very powerful -- he hasn't taken many lives." Another pause. "I don't think it was an accident that he hit me with the dull side of the blade."
Not very old in Immortal years, Richie guessed. God only knew what that meant to a man who was four centuries old. And Mac was probably right -- if he'd wanted Mac dead, he could have whacked off Mac's head while MacLeod was down, and stuck around for the Quickening. Richie said, slowly, "He's got an accent. He's probably from another country."
"Perhaps." Mac frowned. He looked more troubled than pissed now, but Richie figured surviving a swordfight only because the other guy had hit him with the wrong side of the sword might do that to a guy.
MacLeod's car didn't turn up, and they didn't hear anything from the redheaded warrior for nearly a week. Longer, in Richie's experience, than it would have taken the average Immortal-wanting-to-provoke-Mac to have done something unfortunately, like mail the Thunderbird back to Mac piece by piece. At least it wasn't anything really important -- like Tessa. Immortals had gone after her a few times, in much more successful bids to really and serious rouse Mac's temper.
Mac's opinion was that it might have been a genuine theft. At least, that's what he said.
"It's an old car, Richie. Easier to hotwire it." MacLeod had speculated, trying to explain the odds of one Immortal stealing another Immortal's car for any reason other than 'on purpose.'
Richie wasn't so sure. And he didn't think Mac was all that sure, either. He figured they'd find out sooner or later, if this was anything more than just an ordinary theft.
Still, he was surprised when the door opened on the shop early on the morning of the following Satuirday and the rather distinctive man stepped through the door. He was very short -- perhaps five feet tall in his soft leather boots. The top of his head was well below Richie's shoulders. Red hair that would have made a shampoo model cry in envy tumbled in rich waves down the man's back. Bangs nearly covered the man's eyes -- when he walked quietly up to Richie and looked up, Richie was surprised by the man's eye color. Violet, with tints of amber. Very unusual.
He had a scar on his cheek, a cross, deeply sunk into skin. He'd been young when he'd died the first time, too -- he looked to be twenty at the most.
The man wordlessly held up keys.
"Who are you?" Richie grabbed the keys, guessing they belonged to the Thunderbird.
"Kenshin." The man said. "Kenshin Himura. And I apologize -- for the car. I damaged it when starting it, so the keys are for the new ignition."
His accent was Japanese, Richie realized, matching the name but not his rather striking appearance. Clairol and contact lenses, maybe? Richie guessed. Or not. The hair looked natural. The eyes looked like a special effect.
"You ought to apologize to Mac. It's his car." Richie said, letting his anger touch his voice. "You nearly killed him."
"This one trusts he is well now, this I do." The man said, eyes searching Richie's face. "I did not wish him to pursue me, and so a stopping blow was necessary. Our kind is stubborn, this I know."
"Yeah." Richie raised his voice, "Hey! Mac! Got a visitor!"
MacLeod appeared too quickly for Richie's warning to have been his first alert to Kenshin's presence. Right, the whole Immortal buzz thing. MacLeod had his naked sword in one hand. He said quietly, "Richie, step away from him."
"Your friend has nothing to fear from this one," Kenshin said. "I merely came to return your car, I did."
Richie held up the keys, stepping away as he did. "He brought keys, anyway."
"Duncan McLeod of the Clan McLeod, this one offers grave apologies for stealing your car. It was necessary, it was, and I hope the loss of it was not too inconvenient. I have brought it back in better condition than it left, and I ask forgiveness."
The speech was delivered quietly, humbly. Kenshin's eyes remained down, and his hands by his sides.
"You could have killed me," McLeod said -- rather calmly, to Richie's surprise, given that Kenshin had both stolen his car and broken his neck. "Why didn't you?"
Those odd violet eyes glanced up. Richie was surprised to see the depths of emotion there. Quietly, Kenshin said, "This one does not kill." Kenshin's mouth curled up in an ironic smile. "For our kind, I have amended that oath to be, not permanently."
McLeod made a skeptical noise. "Nice ideals. What are you going to do when someone comes after you and won't stop until you're dead?"
"I stop them." Kenshin said. Richie noted the tense --- 'I stop them' rather than 'I will stop them.' He didn't think that was a difficulty with the language. Kenshin's accent was thick, and his phrasing rather strange -- but he seemed to have a decent grasp of the English language overall. It implied he had stopped other Immortals before. Given what Richie had seen of the man's fighting abilities, he suspected that was, indeed, a possibility.
McLeod regarded Kenshin for a moment, frowning, then said something in Japanese. The only word that Richie caught was, 'Samurai?'
Kenshin's eyes lit up. A smile touched his lips, and he responded in kind. A rapid conversation followed. Obviously, Kenshin was much happier speaking Japanese than he was English even if he was reasonably fluent in the latter language.
Duncan relaxed, and slid his katana back in its sheath, as they spoke. Then Kenshin said something that made McLeod's eyes widen.
"You were born in the 1840s ...?" McLeod said, in English. In his surprise, he'd evidently forgotten what language to speak in. "Never, in all that time?"
Kenshin said something in Japanese that Richie thought was a negative.
More rapid discussion in Japanese. Mac laughed at something the tiny man said -- Kenshin sounded disgusted when he said it. Clearly, Mac had decided to like the other Immortal, theft of his car notwithstanding.
Richie ventured, "So, I take it you two aren't going to try to kill each other?"
Kenshin glanced at him, and then asked, "You do not speak Japanese?"
"Not the last time I checked." Richie snorted amusement at the thought. The extent of his foreign language knowledge was a few French swear words he'd picked up from Tessa and Mac, and some Spanish ones he'd learned on the streets.
"My profound apologies. It has been a weeks since I have heard anyone speak my own language, this is true. I did not realize you were not likewise as fluent as Mister MacLeod. I will speak English, I will. It has been years since I conversed often in English; I apologize much for any errors I make."
"Thanks." Richie blinked, unaccustomed to such courtesy from anyone, much less one of MacLeod's kind. Immortals, he'd learned, tended to be rather arrogant.
"I was just telling your sensei that I am seeking a ... descendent ... of the only family I ever had." Kenshin's eyes glinted with more gold now than violet. His good mood vanished. The man had positively freaky eyes, Richie realized. Also, being an Immortal was explanation enough for how a redhead spoke Japanese as a first language. Immortals were found, not born. Apparently the stork that delivered little Immortal babies must have gotten lost and dropped Kenshin off with the wrong family. It was as good an explanation as any. Or maybe he'd just been adopted.
"She's a runaway." MacLeod put in, apparently having gleaned that a minute ago when they were talking in Japanese.
"She was attending college here, then left word that she did not want to return to Tokyo. We have heard nothing since." Kenshin didn't sound upset exactly, but he was obviously worried. His eyes were expressive -- Richie realized this man was likely neither a good liar nor a good poker player. "I saw her, in a car, which was why I took Mister MacLeod's automobile last week. They evaded me, however."
Mournfully, the man added, "I promised my friends and family I would look after their descendents. I never thought there would be so many of them, or that I would live so very long, this I did not."
"So the girl does not want to be found?" Richie said, not liking the implication.
Kenshin cut his hand through the air in a negative gesture. "She was not driving. I wish only to find her and speak to her, alone, without any of her ... friends ... around her. If she wishes to remain here, I will not take her home against her will. But I worry about her, yes I do."
"So why would a Japanese assassin from the Meiji era refuse to kill?" MacLeod asked, as he headed into the shop's small kitchen. "Coffee?"
"Please. I have had little sleep for days, I have not." Kenshin said, then added, "I killed many men, Mister MacLeod ..."
"Duncan. Or Mac." MacLeod interjected.
"Duncan. Killing ... it was ... necessary. I thought the Meiji revolution would lead to better things for my people. In many ways, it did. But once the fighting was over, I walked away from that life." He smiled. "My master said I was soft. Many people did. But not killing has served me well, I think. And I fear I shall lose myself to ... well, this one fears he shall be lost should he ever kill again."
MacLeod poured all three of them cups of coffee. "Sugar? Cream?"
"Black." Kenshin sipped his.
MacLeod regarded Kenshin over his coffee for a moment. Then, suddenly, his eyes widened. With something that sounded rather like profound respect to Richie's ears, he said, "You arethe Battousai the Manslayer, are you not?"
Kenshin calmly tasted his coffee again before responding. "Once. I am, and have been for a very long time, rorouni."
"Wanderer." McLeod translated, for Richie's benefit. "Battousi the Manslayer-- Kenshin is something of a historic figure, Richie."
MacLeod frowned, and muttered, "I thought the Battousi would be taller."
Kenshin laughed, easily. "You are quite knowledgeable about your history, in addition to speaking excellent Japanese, Mister MacLeod. I am pleased to have met you, this I am."
"Mac knows about history because Mac lived history." Richie said, snickering a bit.
Kenshin smiled at that, and then sobered and added in that mournful tone of voice, "And every generation, I seem to get shorter and people, taller. It was a problem, sometimes, in the time of my birth. In this day, the world is comprised of giants and I spend much of my time wishing for a ladder so I do not have to look up at the nose-hairs of my friends."
Kenshin's eyes were twinkling despite his serious voice tone. Richie laughed along with Mac, and Kenshin grinned.. The man's good humor was infectious. Richie didn't think he was bothering to conceal anything; for a century-plus year old Immortal, he had a certain unusual innocence.
"So," MacLeod said, "Kenshin. Will you accept our help to find your friend?"
"You would help this one?" Kenshin seemed floored by this. "But I stole your car!"
"Hey, stealing from Mac worked for ..." Richie ducked Mac's swat, "... me."
"Actually," MacLeod said, "Kenshin, I hope you won't be offended by this, but I'm a little reluctant to have a strange immortal running loose around my city, no matter what you say your intentions are. Particularly one that's as fast with a blade as you are. And if your girl's a runaway, Richie might be able to dig some information up on her -- he knows the streets around here."
Kenshin nodded politely. "I understand, Mister MacLeod. You cannot trust me. And, in truth, I cannot trust you, either. However -- I hope that we may become friends someday, this I do."