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

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


 Part 6

"Duncan, I'm sorry."  Anne offered, regret in her voice.  "I can't begin to imagine how you must feel.  It's just that..."  Anne sighed and a sob escaped her own lips.  "He's *so* vulnerable right now."

"Anne.  I'm so terribly sorry about all this.  About the mix up.   About not reaching Richie and not talking to him.  I..." Duncan paused, taking in a deep ragged breath.  "I was afraid to face him and I didn't put his feelings first.  I was selfish in not wanting to deal with what I had done and now I wished I could take it all back..."  Duncan said, trailing off.

"I believe you, Duncan."  Anne paused and took a deep breath.  Duncan felt a little at ease when she accepted his brief explanation.  "But he's out there.  Somewhere.   All alone with his pain and fear like a wounded animal."

"I'll come back to Seacouv..."

"NO!  Don't do that!"  Anne screeched into the phone.  Duncan was stung she didn't want him to come back.  "You are better off in Paris.  I just pray Richie is okay and comes back home to me and Mary.  If he were to see you right now Duncan..."

Anne didn't have to finish.  Duncan heard the fright in her voice and reconsidered.  They said their good byes and Duncan was left with his thoughts.  He caught the fact Anne called her house, Richie's home.  He'd wondered a lot about Richie in the last couple of months since his "recuperation" but he never thought of where Richie had been living.  He just assumed Richie would be at his apartment.  He had wondered also who Richie would've turned to in this time of crisis in his life.  Richie's only family was Duncan and he'd betrayed that when he almost took Richie's head.  Duncan heard Warren's words creep across his mind.  "What kind of a monster would kill his own student?"  Duncan shut his eyes tight, but the tears still came.

Duncan sensed the presence of an immortal and didn't reach for his katana.  At this very moment he would gladly give up his head to end the misery and the incredible guilt that consumed him whenever he thought of Richie.   Lately whenever he closed his eyes, Duncan would remember the look of terror in Richie's once trusting blue eyes.  Duncan was seated on the couch and saw Methos enter through the door.

Methos had long ceased to wonder about the tears he would see on the young immortal's face.   Worry creased through Methos's being, but he pretended not to notice.

"What am I?  Your maid?" Methos said as he tossed the mail at Duncan, who barely deflected them and they sprayed across his face and chest.  Duncan didn't protest or glare at Methos as he would whenever he did something to irritate the Highlander.   Instead Methos was rewarded with the saddest look he'd ever seen on the Highlander's face.

"It's about Richie," Methos said.  He didn't have to ask.  Duncan had been beating himself up about missing Richie.  "MacLeod, he's a big boy now and he probably needed a wake up call into the Game."   Duncan stared coldly at Methos.  "We're *all* in the Game Duncan.  Whether you want him to be or not."

Duncan didn't want to think of that aspect.  Richie meant everything to him.  He was the son he would never have.  He quickly rummaged through the mail to stop the haunting memories and a warm smile crossed his face and Methos was more than curious as to what it was.   

"What is it?" Methos asked eagerly.

Duncan glanced at Methos and smiled again.  "It's a wedding invitation.  Some old friends of mine, Robert and Gina DeValicourt, are celebrating their 300th wedding anniversary."


Three weeks later, Duncan sat outside Joe Dawson's hospital room.  Joe was in critical condition and no one besides the medical staff were allowed into the room.  Duncan had to content himself with looking through a glass partition.  As he stared at his mortal friend, battling for his life, Duncan felt helpless.   

Joe had put his life on the line to live up to an oath he made to the watchers.  An oath Joe broke many times to save my butt, Duncan thought.   And now Duncan wished he could return the favors.  Joe, along with other top watcher officials, had been shot by an unknown immortal in their own headquarters.   The situation between Immortals and Watchers had become volatile, but he couldn't worry about that.

He had to worry about Joe.  And Richie.    

No one had heard from Richie since he left Seacover.  Anne called him weekly, worried.  And while he and Joe had been held in the watchers headquarters, Joe had mentioned some beheadings that took place in the Pacific Northwest region.  The description of the victor always matched Richie's, but since Dawson had never assigned a watcher for Richie he couldn't be certain.  But the description was too close for it not to be him.  And just before getting the phone call about Duncan's supposed death, a close watcher friend of Joe's had confirmed it was Richie, through some photographs he'd taken.  Duncan sighed heavily when he thought about the rest of the conversation he had with Joe, nothing he'd learned was any good.  Joe had told Duncan from the watcher database reports he had read that some of the immortals Richie had challenged and defeated were several hundred years older than him and he'd defeated them without breaking a sweat.  Joe had also read that he seemed detached from the fight, showing no emotion.  Like he didn't care.  Killing them without a hint of remorse.   

Duncan had taught Richie to walk away from a fight if the opportunity ever presented it self.  Duncan himself would fight only when left no other choice and he'd only head hunted when an immortal had caused him tremendous pain.  And now to find out that Richie was out headhunting broke his heart.  Should he do anything about it?  Should he go out searching for Richie?  And then what?, he thought but the presence of an immortal stopped Duncan from falling further into the dark cloud that consumed him.

Methos entered the waiting area outside Joe's hospital room, a morose look on his face.   He stopped just behind Duncan and laid a hand on the Highlanders shoulder.  Duncan didn't move to acknowledge him.  Methos had become increasingly distressed when Duncan wouldn't acknowledge an immortal presence.  MacLeod had become somewhat careless from all the worrying he'd been doing lately.  "Even immortals need their rest, Duncan.  Your being here twenty four hours a day won't bring him back any sooner."

Duncan bowed his head and said nothing.  Joe had barely made it through the surgery a few weeks ago and Duncan blamed himself for his friend lying in a comma in a hospital bed near death.  He should've stayed with Joe and forced him to leave with him.

"And blaming yourself for this won't help you or Joe either," said Methos quietly.

Duncan smiled, even though he didn't feel like smiling.  Sometimes he hated the old immortal's ability to read through him.  Duncan turned around and gently grabbed Methos by his shoulders and stared into his brown eyes.  "Thanks, my friend."  Methos hadn't expected Duncan to concede so quickly and he was left dumbfounded for brief seconds.   Duncan smiled a little more and grabbed Methos by the elbow and began to walk.


Duncan and Methos walked along the Seine, making their way to the barge.  Methos had quietly listened to Duncan torture himself about the evils of his life and immortality.  Methos was getting tired of it, but said nothing.  Duncan seemed to enjoy torturing himself emotionally.

"I don't know Methos.  All the choices I've made in the past few months have some how come back to haunt me.  Richie deserved better than my trying to call him on the phone.   I didn't even try hard enough to find him because I didn't *want* to find him."   

"MacLeod, you're not the savior to the world you know."

"I know that Methos," Duncan said harshly.  "But I should take care of my mistakes.  Everything I did while under the influence of the dark quickening is my responsibility.  Richie.  Dom... Dominique.  Hell, I even tried to kill you on Holy Ground!"

"Yes you did MacLeod," Methos said.   

Duncan stopped and glared at Methos' flippancy and was about to unleash his fury when they both became distracted by the presence of an approaching immortal.  Methos and Duncan were below the overpass close to the barge.   It was late evening and the mist off the Seine was thick.

Duncan suddenly on guard, took out his sword and ordered Methos to stand back.  Methos rolled his eyes but didn't argue with Duncan.  They both saw a figure in the mist and Duncan walked up to meet the unknown immortal.

Duncan froze on the spot when Richie walked clear of the mist and the lump in his throat multiplied in size.  Richie had his rapier out and held it casually at his side.  His face devoid of emotion.  Methos stepped closer to Duncan and took out his own sword.

Richie and Duncan came face to face.  No words being said between them. They stared into each other's eyes, each remembering the last time they saw one another.  Richie glanced at Duncan's sword and stared again into brown eyes.  Duncan shivered looking into Richie's eyes.  He'd never seen that look before.  Was it fear?  Or anger?  Or... hate?

Duncan saw when Richie raised his sword to attack him but Duncan couldn't bring himself to defend himself.  Methos's blade stopped Richie's rapier and Duncan glowered at Methos and pushed him aside.

"You *know* you *can't* interfere Methos!"  Duncan warned Methos, and turned back to Richie not giving the old immortal a chance to answer.   "If you want my head, Richie.  It's yours," Duncan said, his voice gentle, shaky.  Duncan brought his hands down, his sword to his side.  Methos watched horrified realizing Duncan truly had no intention of defending himself.   

End of Part 6