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

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

 

Part 7

Duncan knew from talking with Dawson that Richie didn't know he'd been trying to get in touch with him.  But that didn't matter now as Richie stared at him with cold eyes.  Duncan followed Richie's movement as his young student raised his sword to his neck.  Duncan didn't move as Richie pressed the sword against the tender flesh of his neck and drew blood.   Duncan winced from the incredible pain but still refused to move.  Their eyes locked on each other's once again.   

Richie removed his sword away and in a flash brought it back toward Duncan's neck again.  This time with more force but he stopped a hairs length away when Richie had a flash into his past.   

It was the first time Duncan had attacked him and tried to take his head.  Garrick had put images into Duncan's mind causing him to attack Richie.  Duncan had felt so guilty about it he'd ordered Richie to do whatever he had to to protect himself.  Richie had told Duncan he would never take his head.  He couldn't and wouldn't.   

Duncan saw hesitation and hurt pass through Richie's eyes.  Richie lowered his sword and walked away.  Duncan exhaled the breath he'd been holding and wanted to go after Richie, but when he moved to walk after him, he felt himself restrained and turned to find Methos holding him by the arm.   

"I don't think it's a good idea to go after him now, Duncan."

Duncan didn't respond but shrugged out of Methos hold and went after Richie.  He needed to talk to him.

"Richie," Duncan called after him.  Richie's pace was quick, but strong.  He didn't walk with his trademark swagger Duncan noticed.  "Richie!"

Richie whirled around, his sword at the ready.  "What, MacLeod!"

Duncan stopped, uncertainty on his face.  He had to get Richie to listen to him.  He had to explain.   As he stared into Richie's blazing blue eyes, Duncan was at a lost of how to proceed and tried some humor.

"Since when do you call me MacLeod," Duncan said with a crooked smile.

"Since you tried to take my head, MacLeod," Richie said coldly.

Duncan felt like he'd been hit in the stomach with a baseball bat.  "Richie..." Duncan sighed, deep regret in his voice.  "I... I'm sorry," Duncan said defeated.  What else could he say or do right now?

Richie stepped closer to Duncan, his sword still at the ready.  "You're sorry," Richie said calmly.  Too calmly, Duncan thought.  "And that's supposed to make it better?"

Duncan hung his head unable to continue to stare into Richie's eyes.  Duncan believed in the four years he'd known Richie he knew every expression the young man could wear on his face, but he'd never been the recipient of the cold and indifferent look Richie was giving him now and he felt his heart would burst.

"Please.  Let me explain,"  Duncan said, his voice breaking.  He still had his head bowed and missed it when Richie's shoulders sagged a bit and his sword lowered.   Richie had an incredible urge to hug Mac.   To tell him he forgave him but he held back.   The pain of betrayal was too much to override.

Duncan looked up and gazed pleadingly into Richie's eyes.  Reluctantly, Richie agreed to listen and they walked to the barge in silence.

 Richie sat in the barge staring blankly at it.  Upon first entering, he'd been surprised by the state of the barge and become talkative, like his old self.  He became very inquisitive.  Duncan informed him that an immortal had set fire to it weeks ago and he was in the process of fixing it up again.  Richie had began to kid him about his constant need to build something when he caught himself.  After an awkward moment of silence between them the hardness was back in Richie's eyes.

Now they sat.  Face to face.   Duncan gazing at Richie.  Although Richie would never age a day beyond his nineteenth birthday in looks, his eyes seemed much older.  More haunted.  Duncan would no longer see the innocent trusting boy he and Tessa had taken in four years ago.  Except for the moment he'd been caught off guard by the change in the barge, Richie hardly smiled.  Duncan sorely missed his protege's smile and cheery personality.

Once Duncan began to explain away the last few months after he recovered from the dark quickening, he talked non-stop, afraid if he stopped he wouldn't be able to finish.  He forced himself to keep his eyes on Richie's, who listened without much interruption.  There weren't any flippant comments or remarks or any of the funny jokes Richie was famous for and Duncan had become fond of.

In fact, Richie barely cracked a smile as Duncan talked.  He just nodded and uttered some "A-ha's."  Duncan desperately wanted to hug him and ruffle his hair but he knew it was no longer appropriate and might add insult to injury.   

 Methos had remained outside the barge giving the two immortals time to talk.  To heal wounds that had been left festering for too long.  He hardly felt compassion for Richie.  All immortals needed to know that playing the Game was cold and hard and sometimes you would have to fight immortals who were once friends, lovers, and teachers.  Methos was more concerned with other important matters.  Mainly the great threat posed by the Watchers anger towards immortals knowing of their existence.  And with the recent killings of watcher directors in the new Paris headquarters, possibly by an angry immortal, would not make their lives any easier.

 Richie was standing near a porthole, looking out into the Seine.   He couldn't hate Mac, but things would never be the same with them again.  Maybe they should just part and go their separate ways.  It was time.  Even Duncan left his teacher when the time came, Richie thought.  Richie caught sight of the other immortal sitting outside the barge.  When he'd first met him he'd been introduced to him as Adam Pierson, but that wasn't what Mac had called him.

Without turning around Richie spoke.  "Who's Methos?"

Duncan's eyes flew wide.  He guessed in his surprise in seeing Richie he'd addressed Methos by his real name and not Adam.

Richie turned around and saw the shock on Duncan's face.  "Well?  Who is he?  I remember you telling me about this mythical oldest living immortal last year.  But you referred to Pierson as Methos.  Why?"

Duncan didn't want to lie to Richie.  It had been Methos' choice not to reveal that fact to Richie and Duncan had felt bound to respect that.   Now.  "Adam Pierson is Methos."

"The oldest living immortal, huh?  What did you say?  5,000 years old?" Richie inquired and stepped closer to Duncan.  Richie stared directly into Duncan's eyes.  "Maybe I should challenge him," Richie said, a crooked smile on his face.

Duncan felt his blood heat, "I won't allow it!"

Richie scoffed at Duncan's comment.  "You *won't* allow it," he said raising his eyebrows.  "And how do you plan on stopping me, MacLeod?"  

Duncan heard the unspoken challenge and backed off, feeling stung and trapped.  He couldn't fight Richie.  He wouldn't fight him.  Never.

Duncan stared at his young student.  Richie had clearly drawn a visible line in the sand creating a distance between them and he cursed immortality for creating a strain in their relationship.  The tension in the barge was thick and oppressive and it didn't help matters when Methos walked in.

Richie stared hard at Methos.  The oldest living immortal on earth.  Duncan had known it wasn't a myth and knew Methos' true identity and Richie argued that it made sense not to let any immortal know about it.  But he wasn't *any* immortal.  But obviously at some point he had become less in Mac's eyes.  The fact he didn't return to Seacover hinted at it.  *This* proved it.

Methos stood at the door, feeling awkward and stupid for having interrupted.  Duncan looked wounded and Methos assumed, correctly, that the reunion hadn't gone well.  He began to step out the barge again, but stopped.

"Please don't leave on my account," Richie said.  Methos froze at the door.  Duncan returned his attention to Richie and Richie returned the gaze.  "I guess there's a lot of things I don't know about," he said, the hurt evident in his voice.  "I guess in the last few months I've learned a lot about immortality.  About who you can trust and who you can't.  I guess I fall into the latter category with you, MacLeod."

"Richie," Duncan began, but a wave of Richie's hand stopped him.

Duncan's heart broke when he saw the hurt and pain in Richie's eyes.  A hint of vulnerability covering the young boys face.  Duncan wanted so badly to hug him and moved to do so but Richie brought his hand between them stopping Duncan from coming closer.

"Goodbye, MacLeod."  Richie picked up his jacket and made his way to the door.  He stopped briefly next to Methos then left, never looking back at Duncan.

Duncan slumped down in the couch and buried his face in his hands.  Richie's last words had been said with such finality Duncan felt he'd never see his student -- his son -- again.   

 The End

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