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
"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
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
"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
"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
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
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
"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
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
"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