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When The Bough Breaks - by Monica T Jordan
Copyright, May 1996.

Timeline:  This story takes place after "Something Wicked."

 

Part 3

An hour later, Anne rested on the ottoman with Richie sleeping, his head resting in her lap.   He was physically and mentally exhausted.    Anne stared at the exposed part of his face and wiped away the tear stains on his cheek which were flushed and raw looking.   She ran her fingers through his damp hair absently, caressing him the way she did Mary whenever she woke up in the middle of the night and was too restless to go back to sleep.

Sometime during the night, Anne figured she must have dozed off, when sounds from Richie woke her.  Anne stared at Richie and figured he was having a bad dream.  She knew better than to wake him, but Richie awoke with a start from *the nightmare* when he heard the gun shots.  Richie stood abruptly startling Anne.   

Anne called for Richie to calm down but she became frightened when she saw Richie reach for his sword.  Anne stood paralyzed, a few feet from Richie, her hands held against her chest.  But she came closer to him, telling him everything was okay, that he was safe.  Richie stared at her dumbly and his eyes darted around the room quickly and he remembered where he was.   He lowered the sword, eventually putting it down.

Anne took a deep breath, the tension in the room palpable still.  "Want some warm milk and cookies?" Anne said attempting humor.

Richie smiled.  Anne's heart jumped with gladness that it had worked.  Richie became lost in thought as he remembered how Tessa liked to tease him with that.  Treating him like he was a baby.  Anne was surprised further when he nodded.   

"That sounds like a novel idea, Anne."

*****  

Richie and Anne sat at the small breakfast table, next to the bay windows overlooking into the backyard.  It was dark out and not much could be seen at this hour.  It was Anne's favorite place in the whole house and she couldn't thank Duncan enough for his kind gesture.  Oh, Duncan, she thought, sighing.  Anne gazed at Richie, who'd busied himself into devouring several cookies and a few glasses of warm milk, with a sad smile on her face.

"Why don't you tell me what happened, Richie.  I'd really like to help.  If you'd let me."

Richie sighed and considered her offer.  There was no one else he could turn to.  He didn't know where Amanda was.  And Dawson...   Well... after the way he treated him yesterday, Richie doubted Joe would want to see him.  Maria didn't know he was immortal and wouldn't understand even if he were to patiently explain it to her, and besides, she was very busy at the moment with her blooming modeling career.  Anne, on the other hand, knew about immortals.  He didn't have to explain it to her.  She would understand.  He hoped.

Richie stared into Anne's dark eyes and told her everything.  Coltec.   The dark quickening.  The fight at the Dojo.  Mac almost taking his head.  Dawson shooting Mac. Dawson almost taking Mac's head.  Mac's disappearance.  Everything.  As she listened to Richie, Anne's face grew more and more grave.  The thought of Duncan killing Richie and Dawson or Duncan hurting innocent people made her stomach lurch.   She felt the bile rumble in her stomach and she put down the cookie she held in her hand.   

"You know, Anne.  In the years I've known Mac, I never believed that anything could take Duncan MacLeod.  I mean, he's been around for four hundred years!  I believed he was invincible and that he could handle whatever came at him.  Now..."   Richie trailed off into his own private hell and heard MacLeod's words echo in his ears.   

~~~ That's a good a reason as any. ~~~

He shivered.  Everything he'd ever come to rely on, to believe in, to trust, had been wiped out in seconds.  "I never believed Mac would hurt me, Anne.  Never."  But he had and Richie felt an indescribable pain in his heart thinking about it.

"I should be dead for all intents and proposes, Anne.  I shouldn't even be here talking to you.  I wouldn't *be* here Anne," he said, tapping the breakfast table.  "Mac was going to kill me and if Dawson hadn't killed Mac first...  Ah, Anne.  I'd be dead!  Dead!!!"  Richie stood from the table, turned his back to Anne and stared out the bay windows into the darkness.

Anne stared at Richie unable to say anything.  He stood rigidly, his shoulders tensed, his arms to his side, his hands made into fists.    

"Oh, why do I even bother talking with you.  You mortals don't understand what it's like to be one of us.  Always looking over your shoulder wondering who's coming for your head.  Forced to live in secret, not bringing attention to yourself.  An immortal once told me, there were no true friends between immortals.  How could there be when the one rule we swear by is There Can Be Only One?  I should've seen that, Anne.  I should've know it also applied to Mac and myself."

"No, Richie.  I don't believe that!"  Anne could remain silent no longer.  She wouldn't allow him to beat himself up like that.  She walked over to Richie and stood behind him.  "You two have been through too much for you to even think that of Duncan.  He cares for you."

Richie swung around and glared at Anne.  His nostrils flared and his eyes became dark.  Anne stepped back from him apprehensively when she saw the wild look in his eyes.   "Well it's what I believe now, Anne.   All immortals are killers.  Period.  Mac said that to me a few months ago and now I see it's true.  We only live to kill each other and damned the friendships and damned the trusts.  I was dead before I even became immortal and living a few more years didn't prove a thing."  His voice had gotten louder during his outburst.   

Anne was stunned into silence.  What could she tell him?  That everything would work its way out?  That things would return to normal?  That everything would be fine?  How could she when she herself didn't know.  The hate and mistrust were back in Richie's eyes.  Gone was the fear and vulnerability he'd revealed a few hours ago.  Now, there was anger fueling him and nothing good could come of it.

"What if Duncan made it back to normal, Richie?  Would you forgive him?"

Richie remained still, contemplating Anne's question.  There was a moment of hesitancy and vulnerability in his posture but only for a second.  His jaw reset tight and he shook his head.  "I don't know."

Anne was about to say more, when Mary began to cry.  Anne immediately turned around and went to her daughter.

 Richie walked in to the nursery quietly and found Mary cradled in her mother's arms.  Anne was seated in the rocking chair Duncan had removed from storage and placed in the nursery for this very purpose.  He felt self-conscious and began to leave but he stopped when Anne called him and motioned for him to join her.  Richie entered and gazed at Mary who rustled in Anne's arm.  Anne began to sing Mary a lullaby and Richie grimaced when he heard which one.

"Rock-a-by baby on a tree top.  When the wind blows the cradle will rock.  When the bough breaks the cradle with fall.  And down will come baby, cradle and all."

After Anne laid Mary back in her crib, both exited the nursery and made their way to the living room.  Anne and Richie sat together in the couch in uneasy silence.   

Richie rested his head against the back of the couch and closed his eyes.  Anne tucked her legs under her and placed her hands under them, waiting.

"Why would you sing that song to Mary?  It's horrible."  

Anne felt insulted he would make such a comment, but remained quiet.

Richie didn't move or opened his eyes as he continued, "Why would anybody sing that song and not expect the child to be restless? Or for that matter, even grow up to be a useful member of society.  It's violent and singing that to a baby is just not right."

"It's a beautiful song, Richie," Anne said defensively.

"No it isn't Anne."  Richie opened his eyes and turned his body towards Anne.  "It may sound beautiful, but have you ever listened to the words of the song?"

"Of course I have, Richie," she said indignantly.

"No you haven't, Anne."  Richie tapped her knee briefly.  "Listen."   Richie repeated the words to her, very slowly and Anne was left speechless.  She'd never thought of the meaning of the words.

They eyed each other nervously.  Anne's lips twitched, unable to suppress the smile that spread across her face.  Richie returned one of his own and both erupted in laughter.

*****  

A few weeks had passed since the *incident* as Richie referred to it now.   He'd moved out of his apartment and into the Loft.  He hired a manager to to take care of the Dojo and would run into the regulars on occasion on his way out to Anne's.  Whenever anyone inquired as to Duncan's whereabouts, Richie would simply answer "he's traveling."  But the truth remained no one knew where Duncan was.  Through Anne, Richie had heard that Dawson had still been unable to track the Highlander down, which made Richie very nervous and anxious.   

Richie practiced his sword technique more than ever.  Day and Night.  Whenever the Dojo was closed to the public or he wasn't spending time with Anne and Mary.  If he ever had to fight Mac again, he would be ready.  That's a lie.  I could never fight, Mac, Richie thought.

Anne had been a God send and a savior for Richie during these difficult few weeks and she had invited him to stay with her at the house, insisting she would enjoy his company but he declined at first.  Richie made the fatal mistake of playing with Mary and found her irresistible and found himself spending most of his time with both.  He would even stay overnight and watch Mary whenever Anne worked late at the hospital.  On such nights, Richie would wonder about Donna and her baby Jeremy.  How he wished Jeremy had been his and he would have a family of his own.  Something he'd always dreamed of.  Being a father.

Mary hiccuped and peered out her tiny eyes at Richie and he smiled at her.  He held her in his lap on a blanket and her feet moved back and forth, kicking him at times on his stomach.  Richie tickled the sole of her feet and enjoyed the reward of the smile she'd give him.  He'd just finished giving her her bottle, as per Mom's orders, and now was the time to burp her.  He picked her up and laid her across his chest and began tapping her back lightly.

Anne, at first hesitant to leave Richie alone with Mary, thought that Richie would balk at the idea of feeding and changing a baby.  But Richie had enjoyed it tremendously.  And so had she.  Richie loved the fact that such a little defenseless creature needed him.  And he desperately wanted to feel needed.  Like he wasn't an insignificant thing on earth waiting for someone to take his head.

Richie shaked those dark thoughts out of his head and concentrated on Mary.  He'd experienced *the nightmare* less the more time he spent with Anne and Mary.  For the past few days, he would meet Anne at the hospital and have lunch with her whenever she had a break from the ER.  Usually after two in the afternoon.  Richie looked forward to his conversations with Anne.  He could tell her anything and everything.  He felt free with her since he didn't have to hide his immortality and found it eased the pressure he felt inside.  He'd confided in Anne about his fears of facing Duncan again.   

The phone rang and Richie eased out the chair, with Mary fast asleep on his shoulder.

"Hello, you've reached the Lindsey's!"

"Richie?"

Richie froze when he recognized the voice.  He hadn't talked with him since the incident.

"Dawson?"  Richie listened to the heavy sigh on the other end of the phone line.

"Yes.  It's Joe.  I... was calling for Anne.  Since you and I haven't..." Joe trailed off.  His heart beat was racing and pounded heavily in his ear.

There was a short silence.

"I've been meaning to call you, Joe."

End of Part 3
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