Okay guys, here's the ending. Hope you enjoy. Just to let you know I won't be able to write for awhile. But I'm going to be around reading etc. My email is on my profile if you have any questions you want answers to!
Richie jumped when a hand touched his arm.
"Sorry," Duncan apologized.
"I'm fine," Richie said. "Just didn't see you."
"Your eyes will adjust."
"Yeah." The room was so dark Richie periodically had checked for a blindfold. He couldn't see a thing and didn't understand how Duncan could.
"Are you okay?"
They sat quietly again. After years of being apart, no contact, they couldn't think of anything to say to fill the time. They had sat for hours side by side in complete silence to accompany the darkness.
"You're in school?" Duncan tried for conversation. He could almost hear Richie rolling his eyes.
"I saw some pictures. When do you finish?"
"What's your major?"
"History with a minor in education."
He could hear the pride in Duncan's voice. "Good for you."
"I didn't get much of a choice."
"Are you training?"
"I'm not useless."
. . . . . .
Connor read and reread every page of Richie's research. It seemed the boy had found everything except where Sladkie was hiding. He knew Joe was on the phone finding out everything he could. It seemed the Watchers had their favorites and now that two were missing because of the same man, they were willing to take some background action. Even the plant they had had working with Sladkie didn't have the crucial information. No one knew where he was hiding two capable immortals that he had somehow over powered. Well, one that had been overpowered and one that was too angry to be thinking clearly enough to stand a chance, Connor amended grimly. They had to be somewhere near the city, maybe even in the city. There were enough warehouses and abandoned building that with the right tools two people could be held right under every one's noses without anyone knowing.
Connor shook his head to clear his mind and focus. He took out the map Richie had been working with. The places Sladkie was known to go, along with contact points where all mapped out. Unfortunately, it was so easy to travel in the city there was no real zone of concentration to center in on. There was no real pattern. But there had to be something. Frowning, Connor started over. Richie must have missed something, and he was going to find it.
. . . . . .
The door flew open, letting in a flood of blinding light. Duncan and Richie instinctively turned their heads away, covering their eyes. Sladkie's boot falls were heavy on the bare concrete floor as he approached the pair. Richie tensed and jumped to his feet when he heard Sladkie stop in front of him.
"Stay away from me," he grumbled taking a few steps to the side. He still couldn't see well. His eyes and just started getting used to the complete blackness of the room, the light burned his dilated pupils.
Sladkie laughed. "You don't give the orders, boy." He reached out and grabbed Richie by the hair. Richie's hands flew up to push him away. "I do wish you would have left him tied up. I was hoping not to have to deal with this." Sladkie gripped one of Richie's wrists, and twisted, forcing his arm down and back pinning his hand between his shoulder blades.
"Let him go." Richie heard Duncan struggling to his feet.
"I got it, Mac." Richie still fought with his free hand, trying to make Sladkie at least let go of his hair. His eyes were getting used to the light.
He could see Duncan, or at least a skin covered skeleton with Duncan's voice, stand uneasily and position himself next to him. Distracted, Richie stopped fighting and just stood, staring. Duncan looked even worse than he had imagined. He could barely believe it was him. Even taking into account that Richie's memory may have exaggerated Duncan and his abilities, the man he knew and loved was not the man standing beside him. His hair was long and matted, his eyes and teeth yellowed. His skin hung from his body, pale, almost translucent. Despite his threat, Duncan swayed on his feet. It took most of his energy to stay upright. Richie blinked, bringing his focus back.
Sladkie laughed and pulled at Richie's hair, steering him toward the open door. "Useless old fool," he spat at Duncan. "I'll deal with you later." He pulled Richie again, turning him around, knocking him into Duncan. His balance already weak, Duncan fell. Sladkie laughed again.
Something in Richie snapped.
Richie's jaw clenched and his eyes grew dark. His free hand, that simply rested on top of the hand gripping his hair shot out and up. He felt his fingers push into Sladkie's eye sockets and began digging. Sladkie screamed and pulled away as Richie felt something soft give under his fingers. Now free, Richie turned for a real attack, fists clinched. There was no weapon in the room. Richie scanned twice just to be sure. Sladkie fell back with each kick and Richie pushed him further into the room and away from the door. Sladkie's hands covered his face and blood spilled out between his fingers. Richie had managed to gouge his eyes trying to get free.
"Mac, run!" Richie ordered, not looking away. He heard Duncan staggering for the door. He concentrated on Sladkie trying to think of the best way to temporarily kill him so they could find a sword to do it for real. He heard Duncan stumble in the doorway and opted for the easiest option. With a low kick he knocked Sladkie's feet out from under him. He jumped on top of the body and gripped Sladkie by the hair.
"Don't feel so good, does it?" he asked before slamming Sladkie's head into the floor. He felt Sladkie's body tense, then go completely limp in his hands, but he didn't stop. He kept pounding. Tears stung his eyes and all the anger and aggression of the past years came pouring out in a long string of expletives.
"Rich." He heard Duncan just over his right shoulder. Richie looked up. Duncan was standing beside him. "We'll deal with him later." Richie looked back down. The back of Sladkie's skull was flattened against the floor in a pool of blood and tissue debris.
"Sorry," he mumbled, getting up.
"Nothing I haven't wanted to do," Duncan admitted. "If I had gotten the chance..."
"What did he do to you? How did he keep you here?"
"We'll talk about it later. Right now I want you to get me out of here."
Richie stood and wiped his hands off on his jeans. "Okay, right..." He nodded. "I got 'cha."
Duncan leaned heavily on him as he helped him out. Outside the door was nothing but a short hallway leading to a long staircase. Richie closed the door behind them, turning the key that was still in the lock. They walked the few paces to the staircase and stood at the bottom, looking up.
"Maybe I should go first. In case there's someone up there," Richie hedged.
"You're right," Duncan nodded. "I'll just sit for a minute." Richie could tell Duncan was already tired. He sat down on the steps. When Richie started up, he stopped him. "Your shirt."
Richie looked down and saw the blood spatter across the front of his sweat shirt. He pulled it over his head and used the hood to wipe at his face and hands.
Duncan looked him over. In jeans, a white t-shirt advertising some clothing store, and a wool cap Richie looked like a strange grown-up version of the boy Duncan remembered. He knew Richie couldn't have changed that much. He was immortal, he didn't age anymore. But somehow, Duncan remembered him younger, softer, still a child.
"Mac, you okay?" Richie asked, concerned.
"I'll be right back."
Richie jogged lightly up the stairs and out the door at the top. Duncan leaned against the wall to his right and closed his eyes. It was a strange reversal of roles. How many times had he rushed out into the night looking for Richie? How many times had he had to support Richie as they escaped from some jury-rigged prison? How many times had he scouted ahead to make sure it was safe? How many times did Connor have to stand in his place? And now Richie had taken over the part of rescuer.
Duncan took a deep breath and tried to calm his nerves. Richie wasn't the helpless seventeen-year-old he had once been. He wasn't even the new immortal in training anymore. He was older, stronger, more capable. He could handle it.
When Richie came back down the stairs he gently shook Duncan awake.
"Hey, yeah, I'm still here," Richie said into the small phone at his ear. "I got him. We're heading up." He flipped the phone closed and slid it in his back pocket. "Connor's on his way," Richie explained, sliding his arm around Duncan's waist. "Told him we'd meet him out back."
"Where are we?" Duncan asked as Richie helped him up.
"Near my school. By the time we get up there you'll probably have some time to rest before he gets here."
"Thanks for not giving up on me."
Richie smiled slightly. "I'm just stubborn."
. . . . . .
Richie didn't need to jump around with a cell phone at his ear to find his family. Built-in radar did have its advantages. Connor, Rachel, Joe, and most importantly, Duncan were waiting for him at the edge of the park where graduation had been held. With a little understanding of his circumstances and a lot of coffee fueled all-nighters Richie had graduated on time.
"I'm so proud of you," Duncan told him, when Richie leaned down to hug him in his wheelchair.
Duncan had gained weight and strength over the last four months, but still tired out quickly. Using the wheelchair was still best for most outings. He had enough energy to pester Rachel about the way she ran Connor's store during the day and make sure Richie did his homework at night, but he still wasn't quite up to anything too physically draining. His face had filled out, he looked almost normal. For once, Richie wasn't being teased about his appetite because now, Duncan gave him a pretty good run for his money.
Everyone congratulated Richie in-between interruptions from classmates. Richie introduced his Uncle Russell, Uncle Joe, Aunt Rachel, and step-father Duncan. All his classmates were congratulated. As they walked down the street to his favorite Pizzeria, the one Rachel had taken him to years ago, Richie was glad that the small school didn't require caps and gowns, only suits and ties, for graduation.
He stuck close to Duncan, pushing his wheelchair through the pedestrian traffic down the sidewalk. Everyone grew quiet as they passed the intersection that lead to the newly-acquired distribution warehouse. Sladkie was still locked in the cellar as Duncan had been. One of these days they would deal with him. No one was in too much of a hurry. Since everyone was feeling vindictive, no one was there to be the voice of reason. Even the Watchers stepped in to hide the truth as Russell Nash bought the cover company that had owned the building before him. As far as Richie was concerned Sladkie could stay there just so long as his body didn't leave a decomposing smell in the building. Joe was trying to think of a way to approach the idea of letting the Watchers have him. With their own immortal they could answer a few questions that even immortals themselves didn't have the answer to.
"So what's the big news?" Joe asked once they had ordered and settled at their table.
Richie glared knowingly at Duncan, then Connor. "There may not be any news. I don't know if I'm going to do it."
"You're doing it," Connor told him.
"Doing what?" Joe asked.
"I got offered a job," Richie explained reluctantly.
Joe smiled broadly. "Really?"
"The teacher I used to volunteer with heard about an open position at a school out near her. She got me to send in my resume and stuff."
"Integrated History and Geography. But I don't know if I'm going to take it. I can probably get a job in the city and stay here."
"He's going," Duncan said proudly. "He'll come home for holidays."
"Mac, I don't want to get into this discussion again," Richie said pointedly. "Can't we just have lunch?"
"He's going," Duncan said again quickly.
"I'm done." Duncan sat back with a satisfied smile.
"You should do it," Joe agreed after a brief silence.
Richie groaned and slumped back in his chair. "Not you too, Dawson."
"It's a great opportunity. How far away is it?"
"Just outside DC."
"You could even come for weekends," Rachel pointed out.
"Or I could get a job here and help Mac," Richie said. "Besides, it's my decision."
Their pizzas arrived, but the conversation didn't stop.
"Richie, I don't want to hold you back," Mac said, serving himself a slice. "I'll be fine. Besides, I not going to be like this forever; in a few months I'll be good as new."
"You have to go out on your own sometime," Connor added. "You're ready."
"I've been trying to get away since I got here," Richie shot back bitterly. "Now that I want to stay you're kicking me out?"
"Rich." Duncan put his hand on Richie's arm. "Take the job."
Richie sighed and picked up his slice. "Fine," he mumbled. There really was no arguing with MacLeods, anyway.
. . . . . .
Two months later Richie was packed up and ready to move. Duncan had settled into Richie's apartment above the loft.
"Got it all?" Rachel asked as they loaded the last of his boxes into the moving van.
"I think so..." Richie mentally went down his checklist for the twenty-ninth time.
"We can ship it," Connor assured him, closing the hatch on the back of the rental truck and locking it.
"Or take it down ourselves," Duncan added. He was leaning against the alley wall, tired after just watching everyone load the truck. "It's not too far."
"You're not going anywhere for a while," Rachel scolded him. "Immortal or not, you still need to build up your strength."
"You need to get going," Connor told Richie, handing him the keys to the truck. "If you want to get in at a decent hour."
"You have a lot of unpacking to do." Rachel stepped forward and gave Richie a hug and kiss on the cheek. "Drive safely."
"Bye, Auntie Rachel," Richie said with big grin and a child's voice.
It was strange saying goodbye to Connor. Their relationship had improved drastically once their only real dispute had been settled. Connor had continued training him through the summer, now with Duncan's careful eye watching and appraising the whole time. It was the first time since Richie was mortal that they truly got along.
"See you around, kid."
Richie turned to Duncan. Duncan looked almost back to normal. Maybe even a little heavier than before his ordeal. He still tired out more easily than before, but anyone who didn't know who he had been before couldn't tell anything was wrong. He would be ready to start training again before too long.
"Guess I'll be seeing ya," Richie said with a shrug.
"You're going to do great, kid," Duncan said fondly, pulling him into a tight hug. "I really am proud of you."
"Just don't go pissing anyone off for at least a while, okay?"
Richie laughed and pulled away. "I can't guarantee anything, but I'll try."
"Try hard," Duncan told him. "I'm serious, Rich. You have to learn to cut out the drama."
Richie rolled his eyes. "Mac. I don't do it on purpose."
Duncan smiled. "I know. I have to get onto you about something."
He fought it, but Richie smiled. "Great."
"Richie, you really do need to get moving," Connor reminded him.
"Yeah, I know."
There was another quick round of goodbyes, then Richie got in the truck. He waved before slowly merging into the busy New York City traffic and heading to I-95S. His cellphone rang not three blocks from the apartment.
"Call me when you get there," Duncan reminded him when he answered.
"Mac, it's barely a five hour drive."
"Just call me," Duncan repeated before hanging up.
Richie smiled to himself and tossed the phone back down on the seat next to him. Some things never changed.