Walk Not Alone
The reason that I'm posting this is because people are whining (VBG) about the ending to Swordsmen and I thought I'd answer a few things about the outcome of various loose ends with the first chapter of Walk. Granted, this is also going to be a cliffhanger, and I absolutely cannot finish it for months, so you may wish to wait. Or not. Up to you.
You do want to read Swordsmen first. It is, of course, a crossover with RuroKen and Highlander, with the premise of, "What if Soujiro and Kenshin were Immortals?" Swordsmen was set early in the Highlander series -- immediately before the episode The Darkness. This story is set present day (actually, 2007, since I'm not expecting to finish it until late winter/early spring).
It's also set in an alternate universe where there was no demon, MacLeod never cut his ponytail off (SOB!) and Richie never died. Because Richie dying really pissed me off. At some point, the whole gang moved back to Seacouver because I'm lazy and I don't want to do the research to set this in Paris; a fictional town is so much easier to work with.
(Please also note that I will be posting some older stories under this handle. They're already written, just need cleaning up. So there will be some other stuff appearing here that I'm not actually writing right now. As of now, until I get back on track with a few things, I'm taking a hiatus from fanfic. Sorry guys. But after twenty years of writing fic -- it's a pretty safe bet that I WILL be back. LOL. And this is an incentive to get caught up on all my other obligations.)
"So kid," Amanda said, conversationally, as a very dirty Richie entered the dojo, "Is that a new fashion statement?"
"Hah, hah, very funny," Richie grumbled, limping across the dojo with Amanda trailing curiously after him. Fortunately, it was late and nobody was around to see him enter except Amanda.
"Seriously. Whose head did you take?"
Richie glanced down at himself, and realized it was probably pretty obvious that he'd been on the surviving end of a Quickening. His jeans were in tatters, he had blood on his shirt that wasn't entirely his, and he was leaving the aroma of sweat, ozone and smoke in his wake. "Some bastard on the way home. He hit me with his truck -- deliberately -- we took it to an alley nearby. No witnesses."
"You okay?" Amanda asked, sounding truly concerned.
Richie gave her a dark look. "I think I'll live. I'm going to need a new bike, mine's totaled. I had to walk home."
"Who was he?"
The far younger Immortal shrugged. "I didn't get a name. I didn't get a chance. Some blond guy with a bunch of tattoos. He wasn't very old; his sword skills were for crap and he wouldn't have survived very longer with that kind of an attitude. You know anyone around here with bunches of tats, blond hair and an old white pickup?"
"No, doesn't ring a bell."
Richie ran a hand over his close-cropped curly hair and added, "He just came at me swinging, you know? Fight lasted all of three seconds. I tripped him and took his head before he could get up. Real fucktard. He probably thought I would be an easy mark because I was half his size."
Amanda rolled her eyes at that. Richie had been an Immortal for all of thirteen years; with any luck, given his skills with a sword, he'd still be around in another thousand. She hoped he would be; she rather liked the kid.
He's had a good teacher for the sword skills, Amanda thought, as Richie limped past her and headed for the elevator. He paused, and asked, "Who's upstairs?"
"Mac, Joe, and Methos. Why?"
"Oh, good. Maybe one of them can tell me who'n the hell I just killed." He inserted his key in the elevator and the elevator car rumbled upwards and out of sight.
Amanda considered following him -- Joe, Methos, Richie, and Duncan all in the same room promised some fun -- but decided to take a shower first, given that the sweat from her workout was sticking her shirt to her back in a most uncomfortable way and she probably smelled like a horse. She padded to MacLeod's office, reached around the corner for her gym bag, and was just straightening up when a buzz from outside warned her that they had a visitor.
Red hair walked past the window, catching the light from inside. Short red hair. A woman?
The Immortal paused at outside for a good long moment, then entered with slow, cautious steps. Bells jingled, and she -- no, he -- turned the corner and stopped just inside the double doors leading into the dojo's main room.
He was a shrimp of a guy, making Richie's earlier griping about being on the small side seem downright ridiculous in comparison. If the man was five feet tall, Amanda would be surprised. And he was skinny, though it was a wiry-ropy-muscled-incredibly-fit sort of skinny, not a little-weakling skinny. And she noted, with appreciation, that he was drop-dead gorgeous. Also, to her relief, he was also holding his hands out in the open, pointedly, resting at his side.
Utterly stunning man, and I look like an urchin. Amanda was suddenly acutely aware that she was in her work-out clothes, hair and t-shirt sweaty, no makeup, and smelling like a locker room. Great first impression. I would have much preferred to have been wearing something slinky and rowwwwr when meeting this guy for the first time. Because, really, how many guys are that handsome?
More seriously, she thought, Is he armed? Yes, I think so. Amanda noted he stood a little too straight, almost military in his posture, but one shoulder was subtly lower than the other. Sword on his back, under his coat. He'll draw with his right hand.
He had high, sharp cheekbones, startling violet eyes, and red hair that looked natural for all its improbable intensity. Yeah, he was really, really attractive, even if he did have a noticeable cross-shaped scar on one cheek. He moved with easy, athletic grace, like a gymnast. Or a very well trained and extremely fit fighter.
A handsome fighter, the gutter part of Amanda's mind chimed in helpfully.
And he carried himself with presence -- despite his lack of height, this was a man who could walk into a room and own it. Ki, Amanda thought, He's got a ki like I've never felt before. He must be very old.
He was cute enough to make her reconsider her current relationship with MacLeod, actually. It wouldn't be the first time she'd dumped Mac for someone else for a few decades. Mac would get over it, eventually ... hell, he probably expected it.
The stranger reached up, brushed long red bangs from his eyes, she realized to her disappointment that he was wearing a wedding ring.
"Good evening," the man said, and she blinked a bit at his accent. "My name is Kenshin Himura."
"Amanda -- ah, hello." She regarded him with curiosity. Kenshin Himura sounded Japanese, and so did the accent, though she wasn't sure where the hair and eyes came from if that was the case.
The man bowed his head gravely, clinching his origins. He asked somewhat hesitantly, "Is Duncan MacLeod here?"
"Yeah, upstairs. Umm, are you guys friends?"
"Aa. Maybe." Kenshin said. He paused, and asked, in what sounded like a hopeful tone of voice, "Is Tessa around? It may be best if I talk to her first, that it would. MacLeod was mad at me, last time we spoke, years ago. I'd like to avoid a fight if I could."
There was a twinkle of amusement in the man's eyes, but Amanda felt like she'd been gut punched. "Oh."
The humor vanished, instantly. Kenshin looked her over, then glanced at the elevator, then back at her. Very quietly, he said, "Did something happen?"
"Yeah. Tessa's been dead thirteen years."
Kenshin blinked, and said with honest sorrow, "I never knew. Last I saw her, she was talking about the wedding."
"Never happened." Amanda said, somewhat roughly. Not that she'd known Tessa, but she knew that Mac still mourned her. It was a sensitive subject. She also figured the guy ought to know, "Umm. I'm his girlfriend."
"I see." Those violet eyes regarded her levelly, measuringly. She couldn't tell what he was thinking; she realized the man made her a little nervous. He asked politely, "Have you known him long, then?"
"A few hundred years. Umm, take the stairs up." She waved at the door. "I'll be up in a bit, once I get cleaned up."
MacLeod felt the buzz, assumed Amanda for a second, then changed his mind when someone politely knocked on the door. Amanda wouldn't knock. Even if the door was locked Amanda didn't knock.
"Are you expecting anyone?" Joe said, apparently having correctly inferred by the alert looks of all three Immortals that there was a fourth Immortal at the door.
Richie stood up from the couch, where he'd been balancing an ice pack on his knee. The swelling was rapidly going down and he wasn't limping anymore. Methos had his sheathed broadsword in one hand, and was eying the elevator with interest. Wary old man, MacLeod thought, with amusement. Methos really did prefer to avoid other Immortals.
"Not expecting anyone, no," MacLeod said, opening the door. He was definitely not expecting the person on the other side -- he hadn't heard a thing from him for years. "Ken." MacLeod said, dumbfounded. "This is a surprise."
Kenshin Himura, improbably a hundred and fifty-eight year old samurai, raised one red eyebrow at MacLeod. "May I enter?"
"Oh. Yeah. Come on in." MacLeod stepped aside. He turned to his friends. Richie knew Kenshin -- though Kenshin was giving him an appraising look; Richie had changed quite a bit in the last thirteen years, starting with dying. "Joe, Adam, this is Kenshin. He's one of the good guys. Kenshin, this is Adam Pierson and Joe Dawson."
Kenshin's gaze was now focused on Methos. Methos had gone quite pale; Kenshin's eyes were enormous, widened in shock beneath the fiery fall of his bangs.
"You." Methos growled.
In Japanese -- MacLeod was not surprised that Kenshin couldn't manage English, given the look on his face and the fact that he suspected Kenshin still thought in Japanese then translated to English -- Kenshin said, "Much is suddenly explained to this one."
"Uh, Adam? Do you know Kenshin?" Richie said, sounding somewhat alarmed. MacLeod had already come to that conclusion, and gone well past it -- they not only knew each other, they were not friends, and by the look on his face Methos was probably contemplating a challenge in the middle of MacLeod's flat.
Methos didn't, in MacLeod's experience, hold many grudges. And Kenshin was, while occasionally maddening in his naiveté and definitely a fool, not the sort who generally inspired the level of rage that had lit in Methos's eyes.
"I'm going to kill him." Methos took a step towards Kenshin.
Kenshin stood with great dignity in one place, expression closed off, utterly unmoving. He said nothing, did nothing, had no reaction. His eyes were closed, and he was so still that he didn't even seem to be breathing. Holding his breath, MacLeod realized.
Methos advanced, snicking sword from sheath. "Battousai."
Well, that one word explained a bit.
"Adam!" MacLeod said, with some alarm.
He was ignored -- Methos drew his sword back for a murderous blow. And Kenshin disappeared somehow, and then with a tangle of blows and a startled grunt from the older Immortal, Methos hit the ground next to the elevator. Hard. Kenshin stood over him, his sakabatou in one hand, the sharp side pressed against Adam's throat.
Now it was MacLeod's turn to hold his breath. Behind him, he heard Joe gasp, and Richie swear softly.
Kenshin's eyes were gleaming gold. "Dr. Piersen, I've killed you twice. Don't push me. The third time might be permanent."
That voice ... MacLeod felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. That was not Kenshin's voice, and those deadly killer's eyes were not Kenshin's either. Not the Kenshin he remembered from thirteen years before.
Kenshin was breathing hard, shoulders rising and falling. With cold efficiency, he stepped back and allowed Methos to get up.
Methos scrambled to his feet, clutching his throat. He clapped a hand over a thin stream of blood and stared, "Why didn't you kill me, Battousai?"
The samurai put his sword away, and said shortly, "I'm not the Battousai anymore."
"Ah," Methos swallowed and eyed Kenshin warily. Kenshin met his gaze with eyes that were still amber and gold with deadly focus.
"Adam, I take it you know Kenshin?" Joe said, carefully. He stepped forward, putting himself between the two -- something that MacLeod wouldn't have exactly recommended, but on the other hand, Methos wasn't going to hurt Joe and Kenshin wasn't likely to hurt anyone without a great deal of provocation. Not that Joe knew that about Kenshin's oath never to kill again. Or, considering this was Joe, maybe he did know.
"Yes." Methos growled, grabbed his sword back up off the floor, and headed out the door. MacLeod let him go; he judged getting an explanation for their behavior was going to be difficult with Kenshin and Methos in the room together. "Joe. Want to go after him?"
"Yeah, that's a good idea," Joe said. "He's probably going to go home and get drunk." He paused, and added to Kenshin, "Thank you, Mister Himura, for not killing him."
"I don't kill." Kenshin said, in clipped, angry tones, still in Japanese despite Joe's English. Joe didn't understand Japanese, and his expression was a bit confused.
"Go on. He won't kill anyone." MacLeod waived Joe out the door.
"Woah," Richie said, after the door had banged shut after Joe's exit. "Adam's ticked."
MacLeod regarded Kenshin with an intense frown. "So care to explain why one of my best friends wants to kill you and the feeling appears to be mutual?"
"I must apologize, Mister MacLeod," Kenshin said, looking up at him. The gold was slowly fading from Kenshin's eyes; he blinked twice and folded his arms and said. "Truly, I would not have come. If I had known Adam Pierson was here, I would never have come. And I do not wish him dead."
Kenshin sighed, and added with softer tones to his voice, "Until just now, I did not know he was even one of us, though it explains a great deal. I was certain I had killed him the first time. It is probably fortunate that I didn't behead him."
"What happened?" MacLeod said, with no small amount of curiosity.
Kenshin grimaced at old, painful memories that he'd obviously rather not be talking about. "It was a very long time ago. I killed his sons; he later murdered my commanding officer -- a man I respected. He tortured him to make him talk, to find me. Actually -- Dr. Pierson didn't kill him, I did. It was the only thing that could be done. He was in so much pain."
The red-haired man's eyes were suddenly very old and very weary. The amber rage was totally gone, replaced only by exhaustion.
The thing was, MacLeod wasn't exactly surprised by the revelation. And it didn't change how he felt about Methos, because, pretty much, nothing about Methos shocked him anymore. He swallowed, and said, "I'm sorry about your friend."
"We weren't friends." Kenshin's voice became clipped again with emotion. He was still speaking Japanese. "I had no friends. But we might have become friends after the Revolution. He was a good man."
"Why are you here, Kenshin?" MacLeod asked, finally, after a moment of silence between them. "I haven't seen or heard from you in thirteen years."
Kenshin finally switched back to English, with a glance at Richie that said he'd abruptly remembered that Mac spoke Japanese but Richie didn't. "I didn't exactly know where you were. I tried to track you down thirteen years ago, but you had left town."
MacLeod blinked. That's right, the last time I saw him was a couple days before Tessa ... He tried to remember for a moment why he'd been mad at Kenshin, and finally came up with, "Oh. About Soujiro."
"Look, Kenshin, you're a good guy. We'll just have to disagree with how to deal with bad guys ... I still think Soujiro's head needs to part ways with his shoulders. He's trouble." MacLeod said, sourly.
"Soujiro married Akane." Kenshin said, with a smile. He met MacLeod's gaze with a level gaze that made MacLeod want to squirm a bit. "About ten years ago. She's been sober for eleven years. They, umm, they're somewhat dysfunctional at times, as Atsuko would say, but they seem to work for each other. They adopted a child about eight years ago, and she's the reason why I'm here."
MacLeod blinked at that.
"I do not always agree with Soujiro-san, just as I do not agree with you MacLeod, but he is not an evil man. He has simply done evil things. As I have. And as you have." Kenshin looked up at MacLeod, his violet eyes gleaming. "He does less evil these days. That's Akane's doing, surprisingly. Soujiro feels a great responsibility to be a good example for her and for their daughter."
"So your niece actually turned out okay?" MacLeod was a little surprised at that.
"Soujiro eventually walked out on her," Kenshin said, with some amusement. He appeared to be relaxing a bit, and he smiled very briefly. "She pushed him too far and he left her. Soujiro has a very low tolerance for abusive behavior, and she was being ... verbally abusive whenever she got drunk or high." Kenshin shrugged, "A year later, she'd completely cleaned up her life -- which could not have been easy at all -- and they were engaged to be married. I am rather proud of her, that I am."
After a moment of silence, Kenshin said, "I'm proud of Soujiro, too. He does right by her, and by their daughter ..."
Kenshin's expression darkened. "MacLeod, that's why I'm here. Souji's and Akane's daughter is the reason."
"What is it, Ken?" MacLeod said, worried by the look on Kenshin's face.
"The daughter -- she's been kidnapped. She was simply seized off the street -- from her school bus stop. I've never met her, but Soujiro says Carrie's one of us and he's very worried. I was hoping you could help me track the man down. You've been around quite awhile, and you know people and have contacts in the western world that neither I nor Soujiro have."
"Isn't this really a job for the police?" MacLeod asked, somewhat uncomfortably. He didn't know what he could do to help with a child's kidnapping a thousand miles away in another country.
Kenshin shook his head. "Oh, the police have been called. But Mac, the kidnapper was one of us. And -- so is Miya. She won't be thirteen for another month, Mac, she's just a child who's been through hell already in her life, from what Souji says. Multiple foster homes by the time she was seven and Soujiro and Akane found her. I fear what another Immortal may do to her. I -- I thought I could trust you, given that you took on Richie as your apprentice when you could simply have slain him. You're an honorable man."
Most likely, the kidnapper simply killed her, waited a bit, and then took her head off for an easy Quickening, MacLeod thought, cynically. He said, with brutal honesty that he knew Kenshin could handle but which made Richie flinch, "Ken, she's most likely dead and probably within hours of being taken. With any luck, it was quick."
"She's alive," Kenshin said, his voice a hoarse, pained whisper. "I know that much. Soujiro got a call from her, last week. She's alive. The area code was from a cel phone in this region. And we have to get her back. That we do. Will you help me try to find her?"
"Sure. We'll help." That came from Richie, who gave MacLeod a dirty look because Mac was hesitating. "If that's okay with you, MacLeod."
MacLeod heard the chiding sarcasm in Richie's voice, and mentally sighed. Because, guaranteed, this was going to be a mess. He just had that sort of a feeling. "Yeah, sure, I'll help."