In the Gloaming

By Dawn M. Nyberg

Disclaimer: The characters of Highlander belong to Rysher Entertainment and Davis/Panzer. I'm just borrowing the characters and no profit is being made.

Note to Readers: First, I'd like to thank every reader who has taken the time to email me comments and/or reviews of my fanfiction. I apologize that the stories in this series sometimes take a while to complete. There have been a lot of changes lately – an out of state move to attend graduate school and a new job. All of which have taken up a lot of my free writing time. I hope this latest story in the series meets your expectations. And, as always thanks for your patience!

This story is the sequel to "Fortune's Fool."

Reviews and/or Comments always welcome!

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Richie stood under the warm water of the shower. He surveyed today's damage. His chest bore new bruises and he noted the pale yellow bruises that were a few days old. He had started training almost two months ago and he still wasn't healing very quickly. He hadn't mentioned the bruises to Mac. "Man," he mumbled to himself in the shower. "I can't even get being an immortal right," he said as he continued to look at his various bruises, and scrapes. He had been happy he was able to hide his bruises under shirts and sweaters without ever letting Mac be the wiser. Richie got out of the shower and wrapped a towel around himself. He walked across his spacious room in search of some warm sweats and sweatshirt.

There was a knock on his door and it opened, "Rich?" Duncan walked into the room and Richie wasn't able to hide the bruises. The Highlander looked at Richie for a long moment. "Richie!" His voice rose in a combination of anger and concern.

"Mac . . . I can explain."

"What the hell are these, Richie?"

"Ah, bruises from today that's all. I'm just a slow healer."

"Slow healer? Richie, some of these are a few days old. Why didn't you tell me? How long has this been happening?"

"It's been like this since you started my training."

MacLeod rolled his eyes in exasperation. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Mac, it's embarrassing. I can't even get immortality right."

"Richie, you've done nothing wrong. Let me look at you." The Highlander approached Richie to look at him more closely. He observed numerous bruises over the young immortals chest and he turned him around by a shoulder and his eyes went wide at the sight of his back. "Damn," he muttered under his breath. Richie had a large bruise across his back. Duncan knew he had delivered that bruise personally with a quarterstaff just the other day. Duncan had called a friend in to teach Richie a two-sword technique and he noticed the scrapes and bruises from those sessions as well. "Does Ki know about these?"

"Nah. Mac, it's no big deal." Richie was trying to down play the situation.

"Richie, it is a big deal. You should have told me," the Highlander's tone was almost scolding.

*******************************

Anne looked Richie over and found nothing physically wrong. "I don't know, Duncan. Aside from the bruises I don't see anything physically wrong. Would I?"

"The bruising isn't right." Duncan was concerned. "He healed from his injury after the shooting in Seacouver and these bruises shouldn't still be visible."

"Mac, I am right here ya know . . ." Richie's speech broke off as he turned his head away and sneezed suddenly. "Excuse me."

"Bless you," Anne replied.

"Thanks."

"You just sneezed," Duncan looked perplexed.

"So? I've heard you sneeze Mac."

"Yes, but you look flushed. Do you have a fever?" Anne looked at Richie again. The young man did appear flushed. She reached a hand toward him. She placed it on his forehead.

"You are warm." She got into her medical bag and grabbed a digital thermometer. She promptly stuck it in his ear. "102."

"That thing is broke. You can't be telling me I have a fever. I feel fine."

"102? Are you sure, Anne?" MacLeod's concern was mounting.

"Yes." Anne looked at Richie. "Okay, we can figure this out. Duncan, you said that the injuries and scars that you have before you are an immortal -- stay with you, right?"

"Yes. What are you getting at, Anne?" Duncan looked from Anne to Richie and back to the doctor. Richie said nothing. "Richie, when was your last antibiotic?"

"My last antibiotic? I'm Immortal we don't need antibiotics, remember?"

"I mean your Cipro?"

"Oh, man, uh . . ." Richie paused. "The day of my birthday in the morning. Why?"

"I think that may be the problem. Richie, you had your spleen removed after the car accident. You have to stay on antibiotics for the rest of your life – you were going to have to before the shooting and I assume after as well. It would explain things."

"Can he just go back on them, Anne?" Duncan let some of the tension release in his shoulders.

"Forever Anne?" Richie wasn't thrilled, but she was right – had the shooting never happened he would still be taking them. He'd still be doing a lot of things if the shooting hadn't happened, but he tried not to dwell on the situation – it still hurt too much.

"I'm going to phone in a prescription for you and I want you to start taking it tomorrow morning." Anne had settled into her new position at the medical center in Glasgow. Duncan felt very blessed to have her in both of their lives.

"Rich, I'll go get it. I want you to take it easy."

"Mac, come on I'm not a baby."

"I know you're not."

"What about Ki, Mac?" Richie didn't know what to tell his second instructor.

"I'll walk down to the guest cottage and talk to him." Duncan had felt very lucky that Ki Miyamoto had agreed to teach Richie an effective two-sword technique. The Highlander knew he could have taught the youth the method, but he had learned once upon a time from Miyamoto and he trusted him with Richie. "Don't worry, Richie. He'll understand."

** Two Weeks Later **

"Richard, you must be precise. Your cut has to be clean."

"Sorry." Richie was a little frustrated with himself.

"Don't apologize," Ki was a patient teacher as was Duncan. "Now, again."

Richie did attempt the move and his two-sword cut was clean and fluid.

"Perfect, Richard."

"Thanks."

"I believe our training is almost complete, Richard."

"You're kidding right? You can still kick my butt."

Ki chuckled, "I said almost. All you need to do is give into the training. What have I told you is the most important lesson?"

"When my opponent contracts – I should expand and when he expands – I should contract."

"Yes, and what else?"

"Become like water."

"Why?"

"Because water takes on the form of whatever it is in, yet remains fluid."

"Yes, Richard. Let us begin again." Richie saw a look in Ki eyes this would not be an easy lesson.

The approached one another, bowed – never dropping each other's eyes. Richie and Ki each took a stance for battle, but something was different about this lesson. Ki attacked first. Ryan deflected the samurai sword away and brought it down. He didn't go for his second sword attached to his back. Richie let his concentration slip for a second and Ki used that moment – he drew the edge of his sword across Richie's sword arm. The blood flowed and Richie hissed in pain. Miyamoto had never drawn blood before and he didn't seem to be stopping.

Richie centered himself and fought back. He bound Ki's blade with his own and brought it down. He delivered a knee kick to Miyamoto's stomach and it caused the man to back up. Ryan thought for a second he saw satisfaction fleet across Miyamoto's face, but it quickly disappeared and was replaced with coldness. The sounds of metal on metal filled the air as the battle continued. Ki twisted and dropped low and brought his sword down into Richie's thigh. Richie faltered, but remained standing the pain was immense and a bloodstain quickly spread across his workout pants. He felt warm blood flow down his leg into his sock and shoe. He needed to get Miyamoto away from him – he had only a short distance and using his blade would not work. He quickly turned his sword around and jammed the hilt of it into Ki's groin – it worked; he backed up.

Anne looked out the window and saw Richie and Miyamoto enter into hard battle yet again. Richie was bloody and the fight did not look like a training session anymore. "Duncan!" She called out and ran for the stairs. MacLeod heard her scream and ran for the stairs. She met him at the bottom.

"What's wrong, Anne?"

"Richie! I think they're really fighting. He's a bloody mess." Duncan ran for the study and grabbed his sword. He couldn't believe Ki would take Richie's head, but he wasn't willing to bet his son's life on that. He ran for the practice area.

"Ki, stop!"

"Ah, Richard, there is no stopping. This is the way of the Game. Fight and kill or be killed."

"What? I can't kill you."

"Can't or won't?"

"Won't."

"Then fight or die. Your Quickening won't be that strong, but I'll take it."

They fought hard. They circled one another like animals. Both sweating. Injuries were healed, and Richie was ready. Ryan caught an advantage and was able to spin and draw his sword across Ki's stomach. The man yelled in pain, but remained standing and came for Richie again. Duncan came into view as swords clashed again.

"Ki! What are you doing?"

"You can't be that out of practice MacLeod. This is a fight."

"He is under my protection." He stepped forward to take Richie's spot.

"No! The battle is joined. You cannot interfere!"

"Mac! I don't want to do this!"

"Rich concentrate. I know you don't. Miyamoto it's not too late, please, don't do this!"

"Stay back MacLeod!"

The battle begun again.

Ki came forward in a fluid flurry of controlled movements toward Richie. Ryan stepped back and there was no choice – his free hand slid behind his neck and he released his second sword. He brought them down across his chest. He bound Ki's blade as it arched down toward his head. He countered the move and pushed the man's blade toward the ground. He slid one blade free with quick efficiency and slid the free sword across Miyamoto's wrists forcing him to drop his blade. Richie stepped back and kicked the man in the stomach. He kept watch of Miyamoto as he toed the man's sword out of reach and took position behind the man. Ryan raised both swords in a scissor type arch above the man. Ki was on his knees. "Make it clean, Richard."

Richie's hands shook. "No!" He rotated his grip on a single sword and drove it down toward Ki. He ran him through with his blade and walked away. Duncan stood amazed at what had just happened.

"He is ready MacLeod." Duncan could not believe what he was hearing.

"You bastard. How could you do that?"

"Now, I know he is ready. You need only fine tune him and teach him whatever you wish, but if he is challenged he will not lose easily. Your son has learned from me all I can teach him."

"He could have taken your head. Why?"

"Quite simple, really. There is something special in him. I was willing to take the chance that he might follow through and take my Quickening. If my Quickening had gone to him it would have been a good death for me, but as it is I'm glad he didn't." The Asian man chuckled. "I'm sorry for how I approached the final lesson, but he was doubting himself. Now, he knows he can survive and is not weak."

** One Week Later **

"Richie?" Duncan knocked on the young man's slightly ajar bedroom door. He heard a muffled reply from the closet.

"Yeah, in here."

"Hey, Rich."

"Hey."

"What are you doing?"

"Looking for something."

"Need any help?"

"No."

"I was wondering if you were up for a short trip tomorrow."

"Trip? Where?"

"I have to fly into Paris to attend an art auction. I thought you might like to go. I figured you might be getting stir crazy not being in class. And anyway with your training with Ki over you'd enjoy the break. "

"You think delaying my graduate studies is a mistake don't you?"

"No, I didn't say that. You've been through a lot in the past four months. I thought getting away for a short trip before Christmas would do you good. But, no pressure."

"Nah, Mac. Sounds good. Maybe I'll go to the Louvre, or something." MacLeod arched an eyebrow at that statement. Riche chuckled.

"Hey, I do have some culture you know."

"Tessa's influence. It was like pulling teeth for you to go anyplace like that with me."

"Well, Mac. Tess could be pretty persuasive." They both smiled. It was nice to be able to remember Tessa and their time with her without the pain anymore. Now, it was just warm memories they both cherished.

"We leave on the 8:00 am flight. We'll just be there for the day. We're catching the 9:00 pm back."

"Anne's not going?"

"No, she's scheduled to give some kind of trauma lecture for the third year medical students at the hospital."



** Paris – the next day **

Duncan attained his credit voucher for the auction and took a seat in the auction. He glanced at his watch – there was plenty of time before he was to meet Richie for a late lunch at three. The young man had gone off on his own in the city while the Highlander was at the auction.

Richie walked around the museum. He had arrived there after two hours of walking the streets and old haunts. He went by paintings that Tessa used to show him over and over again while the three of them lived in Paris. He was trying very hard these days to not let his mind drift toward London. His chest actually ached when he allowed himself to think of Catherine – his Cat. This Immortality was still so new to him. He still wasn't accustomed to the stowed swords. Although, the short Japanese swords could be hidden quite easily under his winter leather jacket,but they still felt foreign to him. He had opted for a jacket that hung only slightly below his hips unlike the Highlander's long coat.

** An Hour Later **

Richie glanced at his watch. He was to meet Duncan in an hour. Suddenly, a laugh drifted around a corner he was standing near in one of the museums many rooms. His heart stopped. His mind raced … 'No, it can't be. No' he was paralyzed in place. He tried to convince himself he was just hearing things, but all of that was cast aside when he heard an unfamiliar voice speak.

"Come on, Catherine."

"I can't believe with all this around you that you're more focused on shopping." Richie closed his eyes as this other voice filled his ears. He knew this voice – he loved this voice.

"We've been here twice this weekend. Come on."

"Alright."

"You have to lighten up, Catherine. This is the first time we've even gotten to leave London and have some fun. You're too serious."

"I guess you're right. At least let's go around this way on the way out." Richie noticed the voice was drawing closer – they were coming his way. He was broken from his temporary state of paralysis. Part of him wanted to stay and allow her to see him, but what was he to her now, but a ghost, a boyfriend that died almost three months ago. There was a large tour group across the room he quickly went over there and tried to blend in as he stood along the wall – watching and waiting to see her and then it happened – she came around the corner. A slight smile crossed his mouth and his chest tightened at the site of her.

She looked beautiful. Her hair was shorter than when he had last seen her. It stopped just above her shoulders now. She smiled at her new friends and he thought he would die where he stood. He watched them walk toward the door, but Catherine stopped and looked back toward the room she and her friends were about to leave. Richie heard one speak, "What's wrong?"

Richie lowered his head slightly and stayed with the tour group, but continued to watch Catherine. "Catherine? What is it?" The girl asked.

"Huh? Nothing, It just felt like …"

"Like what?"

"Nothing. Let's go."

Had she felt his presence in a room of strangers? Damn it, he thought to himself he hated this life – he hated being immortal. He fought back hot tears that stung his eyes, but did not spill over. He was tempted to follow her, but didn't. He waited another few minutes to guarantee she was gone. He grabbed a taxi, but he didn't tell the driver to take him to the auction house – he needed to talk to someone.

** St. Luke's Cemetery **

"Hey, Tess," Richie's voice caught in his throat. "I need to talk to you." He sat down on top of the marble covering of her grave. He reached up and traced her name with his fingers. The tears that threatened to fall earlier spilled over and flowed down his cheeks. "I hate this Tess. I want my life back. I don't want to be immortal. I should be with Cat. I saw her today. I thought I was coming to Paris to get away and I run into her here. I …" He couldn't finish his sentence. He put his face in his hands and wept.

** The Auction House **

Duncan glanced at his watch as he finished finalizing his purchases. Richie wasn't here yet. He tried to shake the thoughts of an immortal challenge. "Here, Mr. MacLeod – sign here and we will have the paintings delivered to you via air freight by tomorrow at noon." The Highlander absently signed the papers as his mind was still on Richie. He looked at his watch again. Duncan walked out into the street and flagged down a taxi. His gut was telling him where to go and he hoped he was right.

** St. Luke's Cemetery **

A cold wind wept through the cemetery and a light snow was falling. Richie shivered, but hadn't moved from his original sitting position. He had tried to quell the tears, but they kept coming. The tears came from a deep part of himself that he had been denying since the shooting. He was mourning his mortal life, Catherine and so much more that the grief could not be named. Suddenly, he felt the presence of an immortal. His head jerked up from his hands and he looked around, but so no one. This was Holy Ground and he was safe. He didn't care and put his head back into his hands. He didn't even bother to wipe away the tears from his cheeks. A few moments later he felt a hand gently cup his shoulder. He jerked his head up and looked into the warm eyes of the Highlander. "Richie?"

"Hey, Mac." He didn't get out much more. His emotions were controlling him and he didn't want to try and get a grip on them he had been doing that for months. MacLeod merely sat down next to the young man and put an arm around his slight shoulders. Duncan pulled Richie into him and held him.

"Whatever it is … I'm here. Talk to me, Rich."

Long moments passed and finally Richie broke the silence. "Cat."

"Cat?"

"I saw her."

"What? Here in Paris?" Richie pulled away slightly from the Highlander to look him in the face and nodded.

"At the museum. I heard her laugh and I knew it was her."

"Did she see you?" Duncan's voice was urgent.

"No. I hid in a tour group. She and her friends walked right past me."

"You're sure."

"Yeah, Mac. She stopped for a second … kinda like she felt like someone was there, but she left." He shivered beside the Highlander.

"Come on, let's get you warm." Richie laughed slightly.

"Mac, I'm not gonna die from the cold. I'm immortal."

"Immortal does not me invincible. Come on."

"Where? We're not exactly near a popular taxi location."

"I have one waiting. I paid him good money to wait however long he had to. I wasn't sure you were here."

"Yeah," Richie said wiping at his face with the back of a hand. "How did you know I was here.'

"I didn't. When you didn't show for lunch – I got worried. I listened to my gut and I'm glad I did."

"Sorry about lunch."

"Don't be. Come on."

** Scotland **

Duncan and Richie arrived back home. They had the forty-mile drive from Glasgow after picking up the car at the airport, but the young immortal had little to say. The drive home took them by the silver waters of Loch Lomond to the edge of Helensburgh where Duncan had purchased an estate from Connor. His kinsmen had considered selling to a young couple for a bed and breakfast, but he had decided to keep it in the family – so to speak. The grounds were private and large. There was also the added benefit that the estate had been built on the grounds of a monastery long since gone. Holy Ground assured Duncan that Anne and Richie would be safe. The young mans lack of speaking made Duncan concerned about what was going on in his head. "Richie?"

"Hmm?" The young man continued to look out the window at the passing hills.

"You're quiet. Do you need to talk?"

"I all ready did that, Mac. There's nothing left to say."

Duncan looked over at Rich and reached a hand out and squeezed his shoulder. He didn't have the right words for this.

** Thirty Minutes Later **

Duncan opened up the trunk and handed Richie his bag. The young man said nothing. Anne had heard the car pull up and went to meet Duncan and Richie. She met Richie in the doorway. "Hi Richie."

"Hi," his voice was quiet and he didn't meet her eyes. He walked past her and straight up the stairs toward his room. Anne looked at Duncan as he approached the door.

"It's a long story," he said as his eyes drifted past her and up the stairs briefly.

"I think I know," Anne said her voice low. The Highlander looked at her oddly as he closed the door and put down his bag.

"What do you mean?"

"He saw Catherine didn't he?" Duncan's raised an eyebrow.

"How did you know?"

Anne raised a hand that held an envelope. "It arrived the day the two of you left. It's from Catherine. She was just saying hi and mentioned friends from school had finally talked her into a short trip to Paris. She mentioned seeing the sights. And, after seeing Richie I sort of guessed. Did she see him?"

"No, thank God. But, he wasn't ready to see her, not yet. I wanted this trip to take his mind of everything – even if jut for a little bit. It just made things worse."

"Oh, Duncan, you didn't know. You had good intentions." Duncan shook his head as he grunted.

"Well, you know what they say about good intentions …"

Anne reached a hand up and stroked his cheek. He brought a hand up to meet hers and he lifted it gently to his lips and kissed her hand. He pulled her to him, "I missed you."

Anne laughed quietly, "You were gone one day, Duncan."

"It felt like a lifetime."

"I'd like to talk to him, Duncan."

"Go ahead. But, don't take it personally if he doesn't want to talk."

Anne smiled and nodded and proceeded up the stairs toward Richie's room. She knocked lightly and called his name, "Richie? Can I come in?"

A muffled, "whatever," reached her ears. She entered the room and spotted Richie perched in the window seat looking out over the backside of the estate.

"Duncan told me what happened." He didn't respond. "I all ready had figured it out, though." That got his attention – he looked at her and spoke.

"How?"

"This," she held up the opened envelope.

"What is that?"

"I got a letter from Catherine the day you and Duncan flew out. It's not long. She was just touching base, but she mentioned some friends from school had finally convinced her to go on a trip to Paris and it was while you and Duncan were in town."

"Did she … I mean …" He couldn't get the question out.

"Did she mention you?" Anne inserted.

"Yeah." Richie dropped his eyes from Anne's.

"Yes." The doctor's words were soft. She knew he was hurting, but wanted and needed to know Catherine had not forgotten him so quickly. Richie looked up to meet her eyes once again. "Here …" She offered him the envelope. He took it. His heart felt like it had relocated to his throat and its pace had quickened. "I'll leave you alone." She turned to leave.

"Anne?"

"Yes," she said turning toward him.

"Thanks."

"None needed. I'll be down stairs with Duncan."

"Okay."

Richie pulled the lilac paper out of the envelope. He remembered this paper he had bought her this stationary. He smiled at that. He began to read the letter:

Dear Anne,

I've been thinking about you and Duncan a lot lately. I thought I would drop you a quick note to say "hi" and touch base. My graduate studies have been going well. Some friends I've met here have convinced me to go to Paris this week. We are on winter holiday and I caved in a said yes. They would have driven mad if I had said no. How is Duncan? I can't blame him for moving back to Scotland. I wouldn't be able to stay in the house either after … I worry about him. I hope he is doing all right. I haven't told anyone here about Richie, not yet. It still hurts so much to think about him. But, sometimes at the oddest moments I think of him and remember something he said or we did and it makes me smile. I can't believe it's been almost four months. In a couple of days it will be the four-month anniversary. It isn't that long in the scope of things, but feels like forever. How is the new hospital? I'm sure you're doing great. I told, my Mom I was going to write you and she said to say hello.

I guess I better get going. I wanted to say hi and wish you and Duncan a peaceful holiday and I hope a happy one. This Christmas will be so hard for all of us. I miss him, Anne. More than I thought I ever could miss anyone or anything.

Take care,

Catherine

Richie's hands trembled as he closed the letter. Silent tears cascaded down his cheeks. His heart ached for her. He wished so desperately that he could go to her. But, he couldn't and knowing and accepting that — killed a piece of his soul. A knock at the door brought his attention from the letter. "Yeah?"

"Rich? It's Mac." Richie wiped the tears from his cheek hastily with the back of his hand.

"Come in." Duncan eased into the room and walked over to Richie where he sat in the window seat.

"You okay, kiddo?"

"She misses me, Mac."

"Of course, she does. She loves you Richie."

"She won't always."

"Not true. You'll always be in her heart, Rich, but her life has to go on. And so does yours."

"It's harder than I thought it was going to be. I mean … I knew it was going to be hard, but … I'm sorry I don't know what I'm trying to say."

"I understand. You don't have to try and explain yourself to me Richie. It's always hard to say goodbye to the ones we love, but the pain does go away."

"I don't want to talk about it anymore," Richie stood up suddenly. He slid the letter back into the envelope. "Here, give it back to Anne. It's hers."

"She wouldn't mind if…" The Highlander was cut off.

"No, she wrote it to Anne. I don't want it. And, if she writes again I don't want to see them."

"Anne wasn't trying to hurt you Richie."

"I know. I just don't want to see anymore if she writes again."

"Okay, I'll tell her." Duncan paused, "Richie…"

"Don't Mac. I'm good. I'm okay. I think I'm going to go on a ride. I'll be back later." Ryan left without another word. Duncan called after him from the staircase.

"Be careful." Richie only raised a hand up in acknowledgement. Conner had bought Richie a motorcycle during a short visit to Scotland after they all first moved in. Duncan worried about him having a public accident, but the young man loved to ride and he couldn't take that away from him. And, they lived a good drive from town anyway, and Richie seemed to prefer country riding.

Richie had driven to his favorite spot. He stood on the edge of some old ruins that overlooked a large glen. His mind was tossing. Finally, as if coming to a decision about something he turned and got back on his bike and headed toward town.

**Two Hours Later**

Duncan paced back and forth in his office. "Duncan, he'll be home."

"I know. I just don't like the way he left. I know he's upset."

"Honey, you can't fix everything. You can't go through this for him."

"I know."

**Meanwhile**

Richie stepped out of the barbershop. His hair was now short and as he walked in front of a window he caught a glimpse of himself – he had seen the cut in the barbershop, but now he really saw himself. Minus the longer length and youthful wavy hair – he looked much older. "Time to grow up," he muttered to himself. On the thirty-minute ride back to the house he was sure of the decision he had made at the ruins. He needed to get away and find himself again. He would talk to Mac.

The Highlander heard Richie's motorcycle pull up to the house. He walked toward the front door. Anne had opened the door all ready to greet the young man. Duncan heard her say something, "Richie! Look at you!" Duncan didn't hear any urgency in her voice, but he hurried up to see what she meant. The young immortal stood in the large foyer. Duncan stopped and looked at him. He noticed right away his hair had been cut. Richie bowed his head a bit and ran a hand over his short hair. "Well?"

"It looks good." Richie offered a smile.

"Mac, I need to talk to you."

"Sure."

"I'll leave you two men to your business. I like the hair, Rich."

"Thanks Anne."

MacLeod showed Richie toward his office. There was an underlying tone to the young man's voice that worried the Highlander. He didn't think he was going to like what he was going to hear.

The Highlander sat across from Richie on the sofa in his office. "What's up, Rich?"

"Mac, I need to get away for a while. Sort things out." Duncan had a feeling this was coming. "I'm trained and I can hold my own. I'm not looking for a fight or anything. I just need …"

"I understand Richie."

"You do?"

"Of course. I'm not going to lie and say I wish you wouldn't go, but I know what you mean by trying to figure things out. I've been down that road a time or two myself. Any ideas where you're headed?" He hoped this wasn't going to an extended absence, but he had a feeling it would be.

"I think I may go to the states. Stop off in New York and see Connor."

"I'm sure he'd love to have you."

"Mac, I'd like to be able to use my life insurance money."

"It's yours Richie. You don't have to ask permission." The Highlander had taken out a large policy on Richie when he was still a teenager shortly after he started living with him and Tessa. He thought it would be a good nest egg for the boy when he met his mortal death and started his immortal one. He didn't want Richie to have to struggle for money – life was hard enough and the boy had a good work ethic anyway – it wasn't as if the kid wanted handouts or ever looked for them. The Highlander thought he had been through enough struggle in his young life – he didn't need it in his adult life.

"I don't want it all."

"Richie, it's okay. I can have the amount of money you want transferred to a state side account. It'll be easier for you. Plus, you can take some cash and traveler check's with you."

"Thanks."

"No problem. Will you be here for Christmas?" Duncan hoped so. "It's only four days away."

"Sure Mac."

"Do you know how long you'll be gone?"

"No." It wasn't really what Duncan wanted to hear, but if Richie felt he needed to find himself again he knew he had to understand.

**Christmas**

Richie sat on the stuffed leather couch inside the sitting room where the Christmas tree stood. He sat looking at the lights as his mind was elsewhere. He glanced outside and noticed it was his most favorite time. It was the gloaming. At least, that's what Mac had called it. That half-light between day and night when they meet, and the light takes on an almost misty glow. "Penny for your thoughts." Mac's voice pulled Richie from his revelry.

"Hey, Mac." The young man's voice was quiet. "What?" he asked with a smile as he noticed Duncan was still surveying him.

"I'm still getting used to the short hair. It does really make you look older." Richie ran a hand over his head and chuckled.

"I needed a change."

"I know." The young Immortal knew that MacLeod really did know and understand. "So, what is it? Thinking about the big wide world?"

"I've just got a lot on my mind, Mac."

"I'm here … you know that right?"

"Yeah." The corners of Richie's mouth curled ever so slightly as a sheepish grin crept over his face.

"I know this Christmas was especially hard on you Rich."

"Hey, Mac … it was hard on all of us. You and Anne changed your whole lives to come to Scotland."

"Richie, there was never any other option for me. I wasn't going to leave you to figure things out once you became Immortal. And, Anne, she's a big girl. She made up her own mind to follow us. She likes working at the hospital here. I have no regrets in doing this. I love you and you're my family."

"Love you too, Mac."

"Well, I'm not going to make things harder on you by asking when you think your feet will carry you home again. But, I will say this and call me a mother hen if you have to, but, I'd like to hear from you at least once a month … by phone, mail, whatever. I just want to know you're okay. Of course, I'd love to hear from you more than that, but you're an adult and I know I have to cut the strings."

"You don't have to cut them, Mac," Richie offered. "Just loosen. But, yeah, I'll try to call or something at least once a month."

"Promise." Mac knew this request was a little dirty, but he knew Richie didn't break promises.

"I promise."

**New Year's Day, January 1, 1998**

Duncan pulled Richie's bag from the trunk and the sealed carrier for his swords. The young man slung a backpack over his shoulder from the backseat. Anne stood beside the car.

"Well," Duncan began tentatively. "I guess this is it Toughguy." Both men had decided a good-bye outside the airport was the best way to go. Neither thought they could handle it at the gate. Duncan went to hand off Richie's bag to be checked in.

"Have a safe trip Richie," Anne offered as she pulled him into a hug. "Don't forget about us, okay?" Richie smiled slightly.

"I won't Anne." He stepped closer to her and whispered; "Take care of him for me, okay?" She smiled.

"I will."

Duncan returned from the baggage check. "You're bag is checked, Rich."

"Thanks, Mac."

"Connor will get you when you land, okay?"

Richie nodded.

Duncan pulled Richie into a tight hug and held him close as he brought a hand up to cup the back of his head and gave it a light squeeze. "Never forget you have a home, Rich. I'm here for you always. If you ever need me or need to talk."

"I won't forget."

"Keep up on your sword practice and don't slack. I'm going to worry anyway, but if I know your working out still – maybe I won't worry that much."

Richie chuckled. "You not worry about me, Mac. That's like asking you not to breathe."

"You've got a point."

"I promise, Mac. I won't let my sword work slide."

"Good. Well, kiddo," Mac looked at his watch and knew Richie's flight would be boarding soon. "I guess it's that time." He pulled him into another quick hug. "I'm going to miss you." Duncan had something he needed to say. He paused and brought his hands up to either side of Richie's face, "I'm proud of you, Son. And, wherever you go… know that I love you and that I'm proud of you, okay?" Duncan fought the hot tears that stung his eyes, but didn't fall. Richie's eyes filled as well, but hadn't spilled over. He hugged Mac one last time and turned to walk away. He stopped at the door.

"Hey!" Duncan turned around toward Richie and looked at him. "I love you too, Dad." And with that, Richie turned and walked through the door and into the airport.

Anne pulled Duncan into an embrace. The hot tears that threatened moments before freely cascaded down the Highlanders cheeks now. "Well, how about that, Duncan. It's official – he called you Dad. I guess congratulation's are in order," she smiled and kissed him. "He'll be back soon."

Duncan shook his head. "I don't know about that Anne. I think he's got a lot of miles to go before his feet bring him home again and that scares me the most."

"You've raised the man he's become Duncan. He'll be okay."

"Its just going to be strange not having him around. He is my Son, Anne. And, it feels like a part of myself was just ripped away."

"He said he'd keep in touch and he will. He'll figure things out Duncan …trust in that."

"I know. I just want to be there for him. He's trying to figure out his place in life now and I know how he feels. I've been down the same road."

"Duncan you are here for him and he knows that."

Richie watched the ground get smaller and smaller as the plane lifted off. He brushed away a loose tear as it fell. He looked out the window and watched Scotland disappear.

There were things to figure out and things to see. He needed to calm the chaos inside his head and soul, but he knew where his home was and that he wasn't alone in this world.

He wondered where his journey would lead him, but he hoped that in the end it would lead him back home … someday.