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HFS
Fanfic page with pictures, music, previews, staff bios and episode listings, all you could want, and more, for Highlander fiction fans. HFS season one is finished, we have a total of 23 episodes, and they're all available if you follow the HFS link.

Lead You Home - by Angela Mull
Disclaimer: "Highlander" and its characters are the property of Rysher  Entertainment and are used without permission.
 

Part 2/5

Richie went back to Gary's with his mind swimming. Despite what he'd told MacLeod, he was a little afraid of him. The guy did have a very sharp sword, after all. And he knew how to use it.  

Gary let him in the house, and Richie felt immediately guilty. He'd only been with Gary's family for a few weeks, but he already felt like a mooch. Gary's parents weren't wealthy by any means, and Richie knew his presence was eating into the budget.  

He'd have to leave soon. Even if he couldn't scrape together enough cash to find his own place, he'd have to get out of there. At least he was old enough now that he was free of the social services circuit. But that thought brought both relief and terror with it. Since Richie hadn't found a permanent home with any of the foster families he'd stayed with, he would have to fend for himself when he moved out.  

Sitting down at the rickety dinner table, Richie told Gary about his new job. He didn' t tell him why he was taking it, however. He hadn't told anyone anything about MacLeod and his psycho friends.  

"So when do you start?" Gary asked.  

"Tomorrow. I get to clean up the place. Probably have to scrub the floors with a toothbrush or something," he said mournfully.

"Well, the important thing is it's a job," Gary said as his parents set down plates of macaroni and cheese in front of them.  

*No,* Richie said to himself. *The important thing is I'll finally get some answers.*

***

But Richie didn't get any answers. For the rest of September, he came in dutifully each day and cleaned up the store or moved boxes. Any time he tried to ask MacLeod about the swords and what happened that night on the bridge, the man silenced him with one dark look. So Richie waited, hoping something exciting would happen.  

Conversation with MacLeod was halting, at best. They didn't talk about anything other than work. Duncan didn't know how to converse with the teenager, and Richie certainly didn't know what to say to MacLeod.  

For his part, Duncan was trying to figure out the pre-Immortal. He was a hard worker, which was good, but Duncan wondered about his past. The only information social services provided was that Ryan had been in and out of foster homes for most of his life. Not that this surprised Duncan. Most Immortals were adopted, and none knew where they came from.  

Duncan was relieved that Tessa understood when he told her he'd given Ryan the job to insure that his secret stayed a secret. Duncan had detested lying to her, but he knew he could never tell Tessa the truth, at least not until after the boy became an Immortal.

Richie saw how uneasy the pretty blonde was around him. Although she would ask him how he was doing and offer sandwiches at lunch time, Richie knew she felt awkward with him. But he'd dealt with plenty of people in his past who found him unsettling, so it didn't really faze him.  ***

Things changed in October.  

One day, while Duncan ran some errands, Tessa set out ingredients for a casserole. She plucked a few green peppers  out of the refrigerator and started chopping them. Despite her efforts to be careful, the knife slipped, slicing her left index finger open. Crying out, she dropped the knife.  

Richie heard her cry and the clatter of the knife on the tiled floor and ran into the kitchen. He went to her immediately when he saw her white face and the way she was holding her left hand.  

"Whoa, what happened?" he asked, gently grasping her hand. As soon as he saw the blood snaking out of the wound, he grabbed a clean towel, wet it and wrapped it tightly around her finger.  

Tessa felt a wave of dizziness pass over her and started to lose her balance, but Richie grabbed her around the waist before she could fall.  

"Hey, hold on a minute," he said, laughing nervously. "If you pass out on me, who's going to explain to MacLeod that I didn't do this to you?"

Tessa managed a weak smile at Richie's joke and let him ease her down in a chair.

"Tessa, I'll have to drive you to the hospital," he said matter-of-factly. "You need stitches. Where are your keys?"

"In my purse," she said, motioning to the beige bag on the table. She watched him fish out the ring of keys and heard them jingling as if from a distance. "Richie, Duncan will be home soon. He'll worry if I'm not here."

"I've got it," Richie said and jotted down a quick note. He gently helped Tessa to her feet and got her into the car. They were at the hospital in a matter of minutes.

***

"Really, Duncan, I'm fine," Tessa said again as he looked at her bandaged finger.  

He'd rushed to the hospital as soon as he'd read the note: "Tessa cut her hand. Went to St. Timothy's." The doctor had tossed a few stitches into her finger and given her some painkillers that were making her drowsy, but she seemed OK.  

"Richie was wonderful," she told him, letting surprise creep into her voice. "He was so calm, Duncan."

Duncan didn't hide his own surprise from her as he met her gaze. "Where is he? I'd like to thank him."

"I don't know. I thought he was outside in the waiting room."

But Duncan hadn't seen Richie when he'd arrived. He filled out the discharge paperwork and they waited for five minutes, hoping the boy would show up. Finally, they headed for the elevator.  

Richie had disappeared.  

*Figures,* Duncan thought. *The one time I do want to see him, he's not around.*

***

Richie had left the hospital as quickly as he could after finding out Tessa would be OK. The very sight of the place made his stomach tie up in knots -- he couldn't face the memories associated with it.  

Life working for MacLeod was OK, but Richie hadn't by any means forgotten the pain of his experiences with various foster families. He'd had more than one trip to the hospital while living at different homes, but one trip in particular scraped at his heart now.  

He walked around aimlessly and pushed his curly red hair off of his forehead, as if to also push away the memories. After an hour, he took the bus back to Gary's. He no sooner opened the front door than Gary yelled at him that MacLeod had called 15 minutes ago. Richie remembered he'd given MacLeod the number at the man's insistence, and wondered if he was going to get yelled at. He dialed the number and leaned up against the wall, waiting for MacLeod to answer.

"Antiques," the accented voice said after two rings.

"Hi, it's Richie."

"Richie, I'm glad you called. Tessa told me how you helped her today," Duncan said slowly. He wasn't sure how to proceed; he never thought he'd be thanking this kid for anything. "I wanted to say thank you."

Richie nearly dropped the phone. MacLeod was thanking him? Not threatening him, but thanking him? He didn't know what to say.  

"Uh, that's OK. She wasn't cut that badly. I've seen worse," Richie said. *I've had worse,* he added to himself.  

"I know it wasn't a serious injury, but you were there for her when she needed someone to take control. Why don't you take tomorrow off? There's not much to do around here."

Richie and Duncan both realized what was happening. In spite of their initial mutual distrust and lingering hesitancy toward each other, they were making a connection, no matter how thin.  

"To be honest, I need the money," Richie said. "I think I'll come in anyway."

***

October flew by for Richie. He and Tessa talked easily now, even though he annoyed her sometimes with his non-stop chatter. And Richie and Duncan had moved from talking about work to talking about sports and music, although their tastes diverged. The couple even invited him to Thanksgiving dinner. He would have accepted, but Gary's family had already invited him over, and he felt wrong turning them down since they'd been so nice to him.  

Richie decided to test how far his relationship with MacLeod the day after Thanksgiving, and asked the man again about the night on the bridge.  

Grateful the store had closed up for the day and they would be undisturbed, Duncan decided to tell the boy everything he could. He knew Richie wouldn't tell anyone, although he wasn't sure how he knew. He just had a feeling that the boy wouldn't back out of their deal. Duncan told him about the Game, the Gathering, the Quickening, the Prize...but not about Richie's part in all of it. Not about Richie's impending Immortality.  

When he was done, Richie just stared. It was the strangest story he'd ever heard, and certainly not what he'd expected. Looking the man in the eyes, he could see the so-called Immortal believed what he was saying. But...it was all too weird to be true.  

Duncan could see Richie was having trouble digesting what he'd said, and motioned for the boy to follow him.  The two walked around the antique shop and Duncan's bedroom as Duncan pointed out various objects he'd picked up not from an antique store, but from the periods of history themselves.    

Richie's eyes popped open wider and wider until he felt a slight headache coming on from the strain. Once they were back in the kitchen sitting down at the table, Richie remembered what MacLeod had told him about Immortals not dying unless their heads were chopped off.  

"So the French dude wasn't really dead after he went over the bridge," Richie said, referring to the fall Connor MacLeod had taken.  

"He was dead, but he came back," Duncan told him, knowing how fantastic the whole story sounded. But it was important that Richie believe him. It would make things easier for both of them when Richie revived from death for the first time.

"So," Richie said, drawing the word out, "you guys regenerate like jellyfish?"

"Starfish," Duncan corrected him, laughing. "And that's a good way to put it, although I'd never thought of it before."

Richie still looked skeptical, so Duncan made his way over t o a drawer and pulled out a bread knife. As he cut deeply into his tanned arm,  

"Whoa, man! What are you doing?"  

"Just sit down and relax," Duncan said, pushing the boy down.  

Richie sat and watched as the cut sealed itself shut, then looked in awe at MacLeod. He didn't see any dishonesty in MacLeod's eyes, and he'd gotten good at knowing when people were lying to him. Richie knew MacLeod was telling the truth.  

Remembering how Tessa had cut herself in this very room just a few weeks ago and had needed stitches, Richie realized she couldn't be an Immortal.  

"Tessa's not..." he said, leaving the question unspoken but obvious.

"No," Duncan said, a part of his heart wishing she was.  

"Mac," he said, using the shortened version of Duncan's name he'd started applying a few days earlier," does Tessa know everything?"

 "And she's cool with this?"

Duncan laughed at Richie's choice of words. "She knows what she's gotten into, if that's what you mean."

"But she'll keep aging, and you won't. That doesn't bother her? Or you?"

"I love her, Richie, and that will never change, no matter how old she looks."

Richie nodded his head. He was a little surprised that Duncan was being so candid with him. And he was even more surprised at how at ease he felt with the Highlander. But that feeling didn't last for long. Richie almost jumped in shock at Mac's next question.

"Richie, what happened to you at the foster homes and the orphanage?" Duncan asked. "I won't force you to talk about it if you don't want to."

Duncan knew as soon as he'd asked that he'd asked too early, but the words were already spoken. His question was generated out of genuine concern for Richie. He'd seen shadows of remembered pain in Richie's blue eyes from time to time, and wondered what they reflected.

As he waited for Richie to speak, Duncan realized that somewhere along the line, Richie had grown on him. Richie's ministrations to Tessa had shown Duncan that the boy was more than a trouble making smart-aleck. And he and Richie were inextricably bound together by their Immortal natures.  

"I don't want to talk about it," Richie said and looked away. "There's nothing much to talk about, anyway. I went from home to home, and wound up here. End of story."

Duncan nodded, deciding Richie would talk about his childhood when, and if, he was ready.

End of Part 2

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