Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: these aren't my characters, I'm just borrowing them for, um, typing practice. That's it, typing practice. I'll return them to their actual owners (relatively) undamaged. This is an amateur work of fiction; no profit beyond pleasure was derived from the writing. Originally published in Our Favorite Things #23 from Elan Press. A FanQ nominee for Best Crossover.
Touched by an Angel/The Master
Susan M. M.
For Sheila Paulson, without whose encouragement this story would never have been completed.
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Saturday, June 16, 1984
The angels materialized near the front entrance of the Highland Games, watching the people enter. All three were dressed in glowing white.
"Before we let people see us, we'd better blend in a little better," Tess suggested.
A second later, Andrew was in the kilt. The tartan was the Black Watch's regimental tartan; he'd known many members of the "Gallant Forty-Twa" over the years. His black T-shirt had a picture of the ancient church on Iona. Monica now wore blue jeans and a green T-shirt with a Celtic cross embroidered on it. Tess wore a straw hat, a T-shirt with the lyrics to 'Amazing Grace' printed on it, and a denim skirt. They waited, and a few minutes later Max and McAllister bought their tickets.
McAllister turned his head. He scanned the area, seeing nothing out of place. His body tensed automatically, every nerve, every muscle ready for combat. His gaze lingered where Tess, Andrew, and Monica stood invisible.
"Can he see us?" Monica whispered.
Andrew shook his head. "Not us. Me. A man who lives as close to death for as many years as he has can often sense the presence of an Angel of Death."
"Something the matter, oldtimer?" Max asked.
McAllister shook his head. "Just a feeling. What was it my grandmother used to say? Like a goose walked over my grave."
Max glanced at the program. "What do you want to do first? Go to the Glen of the Clans, or hit the vendors' area, or listen to the music, or watch the athletics, or what?"
One white eyebrow rose. "One thing at a time. Remember, I'm not as young as I used to be."
"Huh," Max scoffed. "You're in better shape than I am. Why don't we start at the Glen of the Clans? We can see if there are any other McAllisters here, and I can check in with my clan tent."
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"Oh, how cute!" Teri stopped at a table with children's T-shirts. She picked up one with a picture of the Loch Ness Monster and the words 'I'm a wee monster.'
"You got kids, Teri?" Max asked.
"No, but it would be perfect for my nephew."
"How old?" Max picked up a shirt that said 'future bagpiper.'
"Two and a half." Her face fell. "I haven't seen him since his birthday. Th-that's why I've been on the run. I didn't want to risk Roger sending someone after my family."
McAllister realized with a pang that she must have half-brothers or –sisters. If he'd tried harder to find Laura after the Korean War, they might have been his kids.
Max set the shirt down and stepped away from the T-shirt table. He glanced pointedly at McAllister and Teri. They followed him. Max lowered his voice, "Not to be nosy, but who's Roger?"
Teri said nothing. McAllister looked at her, unwilling to explain without her permission.
"C'mon, we've been following you all over the country. I know you're in trouble. Don't I at least get to know what's going on?"
"By your standards, you've been remarkably patient," McAllister acknowledged. He turned to Teri, his blue eyes gazing down earnestly at her. "Do you mind if I tell him?"
She still said nothing.
"I think he'll be able to help," McAllister coaxed her. "You can trust him. I do."
Teri hesitated another second. "Roger has mob connections. He's been smuggling drugs. I found out about it."
"Have you gone to the police?" Max asked.
"Why not?" Her father's voice was gentle, not demanding, nor disapproving.
Teri blushed. "I told you we partied kind of wild. Sometimes there were important people at the parties. Sometimes Roger would ask us to 'be nice' to them." She took a deep breath. "Some of the people he asked us to be nice to, I think they were in the mob. And some were police. Pretty high ranking ones."
"Then you need to go to someone of equal or higher rank, but in a different division. Or better yet, in a different agency – county sheriff instead of city police, DA's office, state prosecutor, FBI. Bureaucracies breed rivalries," Max explained, "and those guys will be as eager to take down a rival as a crook. Give 'em a chance to do both at once, and they'll be bending over backwards to help you."
"What was it that friend of yours said? 'There are two types of cops – the ones that'll give you the shirt off their backs and the rogues'," McAllister quoted. "And the good ones hate the rogues."
"I only know the rogues," Teri confessed.
"Then we'll help you find the honest ones," Max told her.
"And keep you safe," McAllister promised.
Teri nodded. "Mom said you could handle danger better than anyone she ever knew. That's why when this mess started, she said the time had come to contact you."
"I'm flattered by Laura's vote of confidence. I just wish she'd written me earlier." He thought of the lost years that could never be regained: first smile, first steps, first day of kindergarten. He tried to picture Teri in a Girl Scout uniform, or gussied up for her first date, and mourned what he'd lost. "But Roger's not here, so today, at least, let's just enjoy the Games and get better acquainted."
Teri nodded, feeling calmer than she had in months. She honestly didn't feel safer – she couldn't imagine that an old man and a drifter who got into barroom brawls could be much protection, but at least she wasn't in this alone anymore. That was some comfort.
The conversation returned to neutral, non-consequential topics as they continued through the vendors' area.
Okasa bent his head over a cookbook, pretending to be engrossed in a recipe for potato scones. He watched out of the corner of his eye as the trio walked past. He waited a moment before following them.
Teri stopped at a tent labeled Metalwyrks. She fingered the earrings. Max glanced at the miscellany of merchandise: model soldiers, brass and pewter crosses, belt buckles, whisky flasks, pewter pendants on leather cords, weaponry replicas. McAllister divided his attention between the historical recreations of the claymores and dirks, and the earrings that Teri was examining. And just outside the tent, Andrew stood nearby, watching the three of them.
Another angel appeared. He was tall and handsome, with blond hair and cruel blue eyes. His thin lips pursed into a malicious half-smile.
Andrew frowned at the appearance of his counterpart from Below.
The fallen angel noticed both Andrew and his expression of distaste. "Hello, Andrew."
"Philippe," Andrew returned curtly.
Cunningham saw Teri, and found a hiding place behind a tree. He gestured to Sarducci to circle around, so they could flank Teri.
McAllister took a pewter thistle pendent and handed it to Teri. "This matches those earrings you're looking at."
Okasa saw McAllister standing next to Teri. He pulled a shuriken from a hidden inner pocket and aimed at his former teacher.
Roger Cunningham drew his pistol and aimed at Teri. His bullet ricocheted on a brass Celtic cross and hit Okasa instead.
Instinctively, Okasa let his shuriken fly in the direction of this new threat. The throwing star pierced Cunningham's neck, severing his jugular vein. Cunningham collapsed.
"Hello, Roger. We've been waiting for you," Philippe announced quietly.
The drug dealer's spirit rose from his body. He stared at Philippe in shock.
McAllister rushed to Okasa's side. He immediately began applying pressure to the wound, trying to stop the bleeding.
"Your efforts merely delay the inevitable, Master," Okasa whispered in Japanese. "Release me; let me die without the humiliation of capture."
In the same language, McAllister said, "No, it's not your time." He turned toward Andrew and Philippe, sensing the presence he couldn't see. "It's not his time." Then switching back to English, he called out to the crowd, "Get an ambulance!"
Okasa whispered, "Few ninja die in bed of old age."
McAllister told him, "Maybe it's time to start a new trend. No more talking. Save your strength."
Teri stammered, "That's Roger – he's the one who –"
"The one who's been chasing you?" McAllister asked. She nodded. "Max, get Teri out of here. I'll take care of these two."
Frightened, Teri struggled for a semblance of normalcy, trying valiantly to contain her fear. "Where should we go?" She glanced down at the program in her hands. There was a map on the back. "Do you think it would be safe over by the athletics competitions?"
Max asked, "Is Roger likely to have accomplices?" Teri turned pale; Max saw the answer in her face. "In that case, let's go. The Ma- your dad can meet us at the motel."
Ignoring her half-hearted protests, he led her away.
The county sheriff's office was handling security at the Highland Games. It took only a moment for two deputies arrive. One took over first aid on Okasa whilst the other called for an ambulance on his walkie-talkie.
McAllister noticed Sarducci, his eye caught by the expression on his face. The rest of the crowd was shocked or openly curious. This stranger was frowning in disapproval. Then he noticed the bulge under Sarducci's jacket. McAllister slipped away from Okasa's side, moving more quietly and quickly than should have been possible for a man his age. A moment later, he was beside Sarducci.
"Excuse me," McAllister said softly.
Sarducci turned, startled. He hadn't heard anyone approach him.
"Maybe you can answer some questions about Roger Cunningham," the ninja suggested. He placed his hand on the mob enforcer's shoulder.
At the sound of Cunningham's name, Sarducci tried to pull away, and was shocked to discover he couldn't. He began to struggle.
"Hey, officer!" McAllister called out. "This man has a gun!"
The crowd gasped, and one of the deputies hurried over.
McAllister now had one hand on Sarducci's right shoulder, the other on his left arm. Twisting his arm half-off, he frog-marched Sarducci to the waiting deputy. McAllister glanced at the deputy's name tag. "Deputy Zermeno, I don't know if he's involved with all this mess or not," McAllister lied, "but it seemed pretty suspicious to me when I noticed his gun."
Juan Zermeno looked down at the bulge. "Carrying concealed weapons. You'd best come with me."
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Max and Teri sat on the bed, playing cards half-heartedly.
"Got any threes?" Max asked.
Teri shook her head. "Go fish." She looked at her own cards. "Got any –"
Max jumped off the bed, reacting to a sound outside the motel room she hadn't heard. He rushed to the door. One hand reached into his pocket for a shuriken.
"It's me," a familiar voice said as he knocked on the door.
Max breathed a sigh of relief. He unlocked the chain. "Everything okay?"
Teri looked up, fear in her brown eyes. "Roger?"
"He's dead. And his accomplice was arrested."
"Accomplice?" Teri asked. "Who?"
"When I left the sheriff's station, the computer was still going through an assortment of aliases. Seems he had a whole mess of outstanding warrants." McAllister glanced at the pizza box on the dresser. "I hope you saved some of that for me."
Max nodded. He went to the bathroom for a clean paper cup, then got what was left of the soda pop out of the mini-refrigerator. As he handed the drink to the Master, he whispered, "And Okasa?"
McAllister threw a shopping bag on the bed and gratefully accepted the drink. "The man Roger shot by accident is in the hospital. His condition is serious, but he should survive." Sapphire eyes gazed earnestly at Teri. "You're safe."
She closed her eyes, unable to believe it was finally over.
"We had to leave the Games early. I didn't know if you'd want to go back for the second day, or if what happened today would put you off Highland Games for the rest of your life." McAllister took another sip of Coca-Cola.
"I really hadn't thought about it," Teri confessed.
"I picked up something for you two, just in case we went back tomorrow." McAllister reached into the bag and took out two items. He handed a red tartan sash to Teri, then gave a tie in the same tartan to Max. "They tell me it's traditional at the Kirkin' of the Tartans to wear a bit of your family's pattern."
"Wrong tartan, old man. Mine's Campbell of Breadalbane."
McAllister touched his ivory pendent, the symbol of his identity as a ninja. Okasa's grandmother had given it to him the day Okasa's grandfather had declared him a true ninja. "You're a member of my clan. I think for one day you can get away with wearing my tartan."
Max knew what the medallion was, and what it meant. "Domo arigato."
"Thank you," Teri echoed Max's words, only in English. She rose from the bed and for the first time in her life, gave her father a hug.
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Sunday, June 17, 1984
McAllister sat in the dark, a brown paper bag in his lap. He watched Okasa breathe softly in and out.
"It's 3:00 AM," a woman's voice said behind him. "Visiting hours were over a long time ago."
McAllister turned his head to see an African-American nurse standing just inside the doorway. One white eyebrow rose; he hadn't heard the door open.
"What are you doing here at this hour? You ought to be in bed," Tess scolded.
"I didn't want him to wake up alone in a strange place," McAllister confessed. He thought, trying to find a way to discreetly explain his fears. "He's had combat training. I didn't want him to maim you or one of the other nurses before he realized where he was."
"At the moment, he's not in condition to hurt anybody," Tess pointed out.
"You'd be surprised what he's capable of."
"At my age, in this job, very little surprises me any more, John."
McAllister looked up at her sharply. How had she known his name?
"I am curious, though," she confessed. "Why so much concern for a man who's tried to kill you more than once?"
It took all of McAllister's self-control to keep from staring up at her, wide-eyed and gaping. There was no way she could have known that. He tried to protest, to ask what she meant, and to his shock and dismay, he found he could not lie to her. He'd never had trouble lying to an attractive woman before. After a long pause, he said, "He's not doing it out of malice. He's not an evil man."
She snorted. "He kills for pay, and he's not an evil man? I'd like to hear your definition of evil, then."
"He's not trying to kill me because he's being paid to, or because he wants to," McAllister clarified, although he knew Okasa had killed others for pay. "It's a matter of honor. He thinks he's obliged to kill me, so he has to try, whether he wants to or not."
"Is he obliged to kill you?" Tess asked pointedly.
McAllister shook his head.
"You've killed yourself, and not just in wartime," Tess reminded him. "But let's get back to him. "It honestly doesn't bother you that he keeps trying to kill you?"
"Well, it is a trifle inconvenient," McAllister admitted wryly.
Tess chuckled, a rich, warm laugh. "But you don't hate him for trying?"
"How could I hate him? I changed his diapers when he was little. I taught him English, helped him with his times tables, practiced karate and judo with him." He looked up at her. "How can I hate somebody I read Treasure Island to?"
"Sharing Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver does create a bond," Tess admitted. "You know, there's Somebody Who loves you even more than you love Okasa, Somebody you haven't paid much attention to lately."
Her white uniform seemed to gleam even brighter. McAllister told himself it must be his old eyes, playing tricks on him.
"You read the Bible?"
"Not recently," McAllister admitted.
"Do you remember the story of the Prodigal Son?"
"Of course." McAllister hadn't been to church in years, except for the occasional wedding, but he'd been dragged to Sunday school and church as a child.
"His father loved him, despite everything he'd done. You have a Father, too, who loves you, and all He wants is for you to love Him back," Tess told him.
McAllister shook his head. "I'm not exactly the sort of person God takes an interest in."
"You're wrong, John. God takes an interest in everyone."
"I have things in my past, things that I'm not exactly proud of," he confessed softly.
"You were a ninja," Tess said bluntly. "You were a ninja, and you killed people. Maybe you were more particular about your targets than he is," she gestured at Okasa with her chin, "but you took it upon yourself to decide if they lived or died."
McAllister said nothing.
"But you don't do that anymore. Remember what you and Okasa said when you spared his life? 'Kill me, as you have always killed your enemies,' and you said, 'Never again.'" He stared up at her in disbelief, but she continued, "Do you know what the Talmud is?"
The change of subject startled McAllister. "Uh, it's a Jewish book. Some sort of scripture."
"Close enough," Tess acknowledged. It was actually a collection of Jewish law, both civil and religious, and scholarly comment on those laws. "The Talmud says, One must not say to a man who has repented (and changed his way of life), 'Remember your former deeds'." She looked him in the eye. "Since you retired from being a ninja, a lot of good things have happened to you, haven't they? You met Max. You found Teri."
"Yes, I've been very lucky," McAllister acknowledged.
"No, you've been blessed," the angel corrected him, "and it would be good manners to say thank You."
McAllister tried to think of some fit reply to that rebuke. He failed. Okasa stirred. He looked down at him. When he looked up again, Tess was gone.
McAllister sat and said nothing for several minutes. Then playing a hunch, he checked the drawer of the bedside table. Just as in a hotel, the Gideon Society had left a Bible there. Although he hadn't read the Good Book in years, he still remembered roughly what was where. It took him only a few minutes to find what he was looking for, and scribble it down.
He placed the Bible back on top of the table. The sound woke Okasa.
He blinked, wondering if he were dreaming. "Master?"
"You feeling up to visitors?" the old man asked in Japanese.
"No," Okasa replied in the same language, with more honesty than tact.
"I won't stay long," McAllister promised him. He held up a brown paper bag for his former student to see, then put it on the bedside table. "I brought you some clothes. I know you won't wait until the doctor is ready to discharge you, and I didn't think you'd want to sneak out wearing a hospital gown." He looked at Okasa. "Be careful when you leave. Give yourself time to heal."
"Before I come after you again, you mean," Okasa retorted. His voice was so weak it was hard to take the threat seriously.
Okasa looked up at him, surprised at the endearment.
"My son, I could never hurt you. I love you. And you don't want to hurt me."
Okasa opened his mouth to protest.
"If you did, I'd be dead already," McAllister pointed out.
Okasa had no answer for that. McAllister was the only target he'd ever gone after whom he had not killed.
"Where does your honor lie? In killing an old man to prevent him from betraying secrets I have no intention of betraying? Or in respecting the many years we have shared, and the affection – the love – we once knew?" McAllister took a deep breath. "Do you really want to deny that love?"
There was a long pause. Okasa was unable, or perhaps unwilling, to refute his master's question. Finally he asked, "What of Keller? You share our secrets with him."
"As your grandfather and father shared your secrets with me. I am a teacher; I must teach." McAllister thought of the Gaelic class he'd attended yesterday. In Gaelic, one did not say 'I am a teacher,' but 'It is a teacher in me.' The old man continued, "I have no intention of going on a talk show and revealing who we are and how we do what we do, or writing a tell-all book. But when I find a student, especially one with talent, I can no more refuse to teach him than a stableman can refuse to train an unbroken colt with the potential to become a champion race horse."
Okasa was too tired from his wound to argue, and his brain too befuddled by drugs, to think of a properly biting reply. At least, that was the reason he gave himself for not disputing McAllister.
"I also came to thank you," McAllister continued. "I am in your debt."
One black eyebrow rose.
"You killed the man who threatened my daughter. I swore never to kill again, but I was prepared to break that promise to protect Teri. You preserved my honor by preventing me from becoming an oathbreaker." He stood and bowed deeply. "You must do as you think best. But I will not harm you." He bowed again, less deeply, and slipped out of the hospital room.
Okasa waited a moment before reaching over for the bag McAllister had left. It contained a box of shortbread, a blue business suit, a white shirt, underwear, socks, and a red plaid tie. Okasa picked up the tie and examined it. The label read Clan McAlister. He ignored the snippet of clan information, that the alternate spellings were McAllister, MacAllester, etc., or that the clan was descended from Alasdair Mor, son of on the label, in McAllister's handwriting, was a cryptic inscription: Lk 3:22b
It took him a moment to place the abbreviation. He reached for the Bible that McAllister had left on the bedside table.
"Thou art My beloved son, in Thee I am well pleased," Okasa read aloud. Exhausted, he let the Bible slip from his fingers and fall to the floor. But he did not fall back asleep for quite some time.
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Max, Teri, and McAllister found seats on a bench near the front. Max and McAllister wore sports coats and tartan ties. Teri had on a blue sundress, with her tartan sash draped over her right shoulder.
"In all the time we've been hanging around together, old man, I think it's the first time we've been to church," Max said.
"Won't do us any harm," McAllister predicted. "Might even think of making it a habit." He thought of the nurse, and wondered who – or what – she was.
A lone piper stood at the edge of the amphitheatre. Softly at first, then with more volume, he began playing 'Amazing Grace.'
"Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me,
I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see."
Teri looked over where the soloist stood, on the opposite side of the amphitheatre from the piper. It sounded almost like her co-worker, Monica. However, the sun was in her eyes, and all she could see was that the singer was a woman in a long white gown.
Rev. MacKay looked up, too, then glanced down at his program. No one had told him that a soloist had been arranged to accompany the traditional lone piper. A moment later the Los Angeles Police Pipe Band began playing 'Amazing Grace,' too. Amazingly, the soloist could still be heard over all the pipers and drummers.
The procession into the amphitheatre began. First a Scottish-American Military Society color guard, proudly carrying four flags. Then Rev. MacKay, followed by the LA Police Pipe Band, and then a representative from each of the clans present at the Games. The crowd stood up as the flag approached. The minister and the color guard mounted the stage. The six veterans, each wearing a khaki SAMS shirt, but kilts in their own family's tartans, posted the colors, inserting the United States flag, the Scottish flag, the California state flag, and the black POW/MIA flag into waiting flag stands. The two men on either end of the color guard solemnly saluted, presenting arms with military precision. Only then did the clan representatives place their tartan banners into the waiting flag stands in front of the stage.
"Please be seated," Rev. MacKay spoke into the microphone. "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I'd like to thank you for coming this morning, especially those of you who were up until the wee hours of the morning, at the ceildh or the whisky tasting."
The congregation laughed.
"My name is Alan MacKay, and I am the pastor of St. Margaret's Presbyterian Church here in San Miguel. I'm very flattered to have been asked to officiate at this year's Kirkin' of the Tartans. The Good Book says 'make a joyful noise unto the Lord. Come into His presence with singing and gladness.' Therefore, let us begin our worship service by singing 'Faith of our Fathers.' You'll find the words in your program."
"Faith of our fathers, living still, in spite of dungeon, fire, and sword." Neither Max nor McAllister were familiar with the hymn, but both had rich, strong singing voices. "O how our hearts beat high with the joy, whene'er we hear that glorious word. Faith of our fathers, holy faith, we will be true to Thee till death."
"Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God, for He is gracious, and a song of praise is seemly," Rev. MacKay quoted when the song had ended. "For our Old Testament reading, please turn to your pew Bibles - sorry, force of habit," he corrected himself. "For the Old Testament reading today, I will be reading Exodus, Chapter 20, verses 1 to 17." And he read aloud the Ten Commandments.
"Let me repeat Exodus 20:12: 'Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee'." MacKay looked out at the congregation. "Today is Father's Day, a day on which we honor our fathers, our grandfathers, and the men who have been like fathers to us – uncles, teachers, mentors. And this is the Kirkin' of the Tartans, when we honor the heritage of our forefathers …and our foremothers," he added. "I would like to honor all the fathers present today. Would all the fathers stand up, please?"
One by one, the majority of the men in the congregation stood. After a second's hesitation, McAllister stood, too. He smiled at Teri as she and Max joined in the applause to recognize and celebrate the fathers.
MacKay gestured for the fathers to sit down. "There are those who say that the Kirkin' of the Tartans is an ancient custom, going back to 1746, when the British government forbid the wearing of the kilt and the playing of the bagpipes. That when the pastor was saying prayers in the kirk, at a set signal the congregation would touch a hidden bit of tartan cloth, and the pastor would sneak a blessing past the English. And there are those who say that it is a modern custom, that it only began this century as a mark of ethnic pride. Whatever the truth, we honor now our clans, our ancestors, and our proud heritage."
Rev. MacKay nodded to the clan representatives sitting in the first row. They rose in unison, and approached the tartan banners. One after another, from Armstrong to Wallace, they announced their names, held the banners high and waved them, then set them back in the flag stands.
"Please do not think that if your clan is not represented here, then you are left out. Just as the song says 'wherever two or three are gathered in His name, there is love,' then wherever clansmen gather, that clan is there. You are included in these prayers." Rev. MacKay bowed his head. "Lord, we ask Your blessing on these tartans and on what they represent: our families, our pride in our heritage, and our hopes for our posterity. Help us to remember all that is good and noble in that heritage, to live up to the example of our forefathers, and help us to avoid that pride becoming overweening. 'Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance.'Amen." He looked at the congregation. "If there's one thing the Scots have in common with the Children of Israel, it's that we are 'a stiff-necked people.' Pride in our heritage is one thing, but excessive pride is a sin."
He nodded to the clan representatives, and they resumed their seats.
"We are not here to remember the fights between Macdonald and Campbell, or between Murray and Hanna, or between MacGregor and anyone who had cattle." MacKay paused as the congregation chuckled. "We are here to celebrate our brotherhood as Scots, and our brotherhood as children of the Lord. Please rise and sing 'Children of the Heavenly Father.' Again, you'll find the words in your program."
"Children of the Heavenly Father, safely in His bosom gather …."
When the last notes of the hymn faded away, MacKay stepped up to the pulpit again. "I think most of you are familiar with the New Testament reading today. Please join in, in whatever version you are most familiar with. Matthew, Chapter 6, verses 9 through 13. 'Pray then like this: Our Father, Who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name."
Almost the entire congregation recited along with him. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever, amen." Some said debts instead of trespasses, some said Your instead of Thy, but nearly everyone recited the prayer…even McAllister, who hadn't said it in decades, and was surprised that he still remembered it.
MacKay took a deep breath and looked out at the congregation. "When I was in seminary, I was told that the wording that Christ used in that prayer shocked His followers. That what we translate today as 'our father' was closer to Daddy or Papa in Aramaic, and considered horribly disrespectful. But would we not all have happier, closer relationships with the Lord, if we looked upon Him not as a distant father-figure up in the clouds somewhere, but as a loving daddy? Someone close to us, close to our hearts? God loves us, just as all the fathers we honored here today love their children. And all He wants is for us to love Him, and to love our fellow man as our brother."
McAllister glanced up. That was almost word for word what the nurse had told him a few hours ago.
" 'Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people whom He hath chosen for His own inheritance.'We here have been truly blessed. Although summer doesn't officially start until Thursday, we have a beautiful sunny, summery day. We are in the United States of America, the freest country in the world, blessed with rights and privileges that citizens of some countries can't even begin to dream of." He sighed. "Second time I've ended a sentence with a preposition this morning. Mrs. MacKay is an English teacher; I'm going to catch it when I get home."
The congregation chuckled.
"We come from different churches: Presbyterian and Episcopalian, Methodist and Baptist, Roman Catholic and Lutheran, and many others. But we are gathered together here in this non-denominational service because the United States constitution grants us the freedom of worship, and that is a blessing for which we can thank the Founding Fathers. Both the Declaration of Independence and the constitution were influenced by the Declaration of Arbroath, written in 1320, so we can be thankful that the Founding Fathers knew their Scottish history. And we are lucky enough to have been born Scottish, or Scottish-Americans, to have a heritage that celebrates freedom, learning, and the love of the Lord. We have a lot to be thankful for." MacKay shook his head. "Three prepositions. Mrs. MacKay is really going to let me have it this afternoon."
McAllister glanced from Teri to Max, and realized he had much to be thankful for: the safe rescue of Teri, the companionship of Max, knowing that Okasa would live. His daughter, his heart-sons. "I've been blessed," he realized. He spread his arms out, enveloping his daughter and his student in a hug. "Truly blessed," he whispered.
On the hill overlooking the amphitheatre, three angels looked down at the ninja. "Our job here is done," Tess announced.
The angels disappeared. Three white doves settled in the tree, and listened to the rest of the sermon.
Author's Note: The (fictional) San Miguel Highland Games are based on six or seven Highland Games I've attended in three different states... except for the Ceilidh Corner. That's just a filksing with a brogue. Many thanks to the musicians whose albums I listened to whilst I was writing this story, some of whose songs are quoted here: Alex Beaton, the Boatrights, Ed Miller, Wild Oats, the Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh, Windbourne, Andy Stewart, Men of Worth, Golden Bough, Will Tell, Robin Laing, Cara-Anne and the Minstrels, the Border Collies, etc., etc., etc. Double thanks to Donnie Macdonald for the Gaelic translation of the Lord's Prayer and to Kim Victoria for the translation of 'live long and prosper.' And tapadh leibh to the readers who nominated this story for a FanQ Award, and cast their votes so I came in second. And tapadh leibh to you for reading this on-line.