Richie realized during the first week
of December that the time to leave Gary's house had come.
Christmas was approaching, and he knew the family barely
had enough money for their own food and clothing, much less
any gifts. He packed up and reassured Gary's parents that
he had a place to stay, and left.
Of course, Richie didn't have a place
to stay. He'd been saving the money from working at the
antique shop, but it didn't amount to enough to get him
much more than a few nights at a hotel. Sighing, he went
to a run-down hotel near Mac's and paid. After dumping his
bags and taking a last look at the Bates Motel wanna-be,
he walked to the shop.
"Hey, Richie," Duncan greeted
him. "How's it going?"
"Not bad," he lied.
"Really? So living in a hotel agrees
with you?" the older man asked, keeping his eyes on
the invoices he was filing.
Richie winced. "How'd you know?"
"I called Gary's to ask you to
pick up a few hand-bound books on your way here, and he
told me you moved out." Duncan stopped stuffing
the invoices into the worn, bulging file and caught Richie's
embarrassed gaze. "How long can you afford to stay
"You don't need to worry about
me," Richie said and turned to get started on the day's
work, hoping Mac would drop the whole subject. The last
thing he wanted was for the man to feel sorry for him.
Duncan paused. He knew Richie couldn't
afford the hotel for very long, and figured the kid had
nowhere else to go after his cash ran out. He decided quickly
it would only make sense to have Richie live with him. It
would be even easier to watch over the teenager.
"Why don't you stay here?"
Duncan asked casually.
Richie spun around and looked at the
man. He was shocked Mac would make the offer, and slightly
angered at the same time. Mac had been great to him with
the job, and Richie definitely appreciated that he hadn't
been decapitated. But that didn't mean he needed any charity.
It had been different when he lived
with Frank Morales, who'd taken Richie in after a rough
time with a foster family. Richie had gotten room and board
at the basement space at Frank's house in return for doing
chores and staying in school. But he was already working
for Mac, making this offer nothing more than an act of charity.
"I've got it under control,"
Richie said sharply. "Look, Mac, I appreciate the offer,
but I don't need a handout."
Duncan knew the boy's pride was hurting,
and spoke quickly to assuage it, grabbing at the first thought
that ran through his mind.
"It's not a handout, Richie,"
he said. "I can't have you out wandering the streets
knowing what you know --"
"You think I'd tell someone?"
Richie interrupted, insulted.
"Not on purpose, but if you got
hurt, who knows what you might say if you're out of it,"
Duncan told him, knowing that it was a real possibility,
and not just something he was making up to get Richie to
Richie turned the thought over in his
mind. He knew Mac was asking him to stay more out of concern
than anything else, but he was uneasy about the whole thing.
He looked down at the sidewalk and kicked at a crack with
"I'm not staying unless I can help
pay bills," he told the Highlander.
"How about if you get some added
duties at the shop?" Duncan asked, knowing the boy
needed to feel useful.
Richie looked back up. "Like what?"
"Like maybe looking after the shop
sometimes when Tessa and I want to go out for a few hours."
Richie raised his eyebrows. "You'd
trust me alone with everything?"
Duncan's lips curved up in a smile.
"Of course I don't trust you," he said jokingly.
"I just want to keep an eye on you."
Richie grinned, catching the allusion
to their earlier conversation when Mac offered him the job.
"Yeah, well I don't trust you either. I think maybe
I will move in. To keep an eye on you, of course."
The two laughed as they went back inside
"You did what?" Tessa asked
in astonishment as Duncan shushed her.
Duncan had led her to their bedroom
to tell her about his decision to have Richie live with
them. He wasn't sure how she'd react, and hoped she would
understand his reasons, even if he couldn't tell her all
"He doesn't have enough money to
get his own place, and he'll end up living on the streets
if someone doesn't give him a break," he said.
Tessa paused. Richie had started to
grow on her, and the thought of him shivering in the cold
winter air didn't please her.
"Well, I suppose I can handle it,"
she said slowly. "But can you?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, can you handle living
with a teenager? You haven't been one for hundreds of years,"
she said, a playful smile curving up her lips.
Duncan returned her smile. "Are
you saying I'm old?"
Tessa slipped his shirt over his head
and started kneading his shoulders. "Of course not,"
she breathed in his ear.
"Don't worry, I'm sure about it,"
he said, grabbing her around the waist and pulling her down
He propped himself up on one elbow and
smiled down at her. She caught his long hair in her hands
and guided his head down to her lips, meshing her mouth
A blast of music from Richie's room
broke the mood, and Duncan grimaced. He'd told Richie to
make himself at home, but this was going a little too far.
Just because Richie's room had some amenities in it for
guests was no reason to abuse them, Duncan decided.
Before he could go out to tell Richie
to turn down the music, the volume level decreased. Either
Richie hadn't meant to turn the stereo on that loud, or
he'd thought better of it.
"Well," Tessa said, laughing.
"I think we're all going to have to adjust to Richie
"In what ways?" Duncan asked
as he began kissing the hollow of her throat. His intentions
were obvious; if there was one way to drive Tessa wild,
it was to kiss that particular spot. And Duncan knew it.
Tessa hesitated before answering, enjoying
Duncan's lips on her throat and reveling in what was to
"For one thing, " she said
breathlessly, "we'll have to lower our own volume."
Two weeks later, Richie was feeling
almost as settled in as he had at Frank's. Tessa fixed him
breakfast every morning, and he and Mac had a comfortable
joking routine going that felt almost second-nature. Christmas
was just around the corner, and Richie was going to be somewhere
nice for a change.
The only stumbling block was that he
worried something would happen to screw things up. Although
Mac was Immortal and therefore harder to kill than Frank
had been, there was always the chance that someone would
whack off his head. And if Mac died, would Tessa let him
stay? If she didn't, where would he go?
Although Richie tried not to think about
all of the what-ifs, he was forced to the Wednesday before
Christmas. Tessa was out walking in the park to get ideas
for her drawings. Richie had seen a lot of Tessa's work,
and although he wasn't savvy about art, he knew she was
Mac was helping him move a large statue
from one end of the room to another when he suddenly stopped
and got very still, his eyes flicking around the room and
then outside the shop window.
"Uh, Mac," Richie said, straining
with the effort to keep his end of the statue upright. "What's
Duncan didn't answer. He helped Richie
set down the statue and walked toward the door, as if drawn
by some invisible force. Richie guessed he must be feeling
*There's another Immortal around!* Richie
realized with giddy expectation. Sure, Mac had told him
all about Immortals, but Richie had yet to see one now that
he knew the truth about them. And now he was about to get
an up-close-and-personal look.
The Immortal who walked through the
door, however, wasn't what he expected. Richie pictured
all Immortals as hulking guys like the Terminator or Rambo.
But the Immortal who walked in was a woman. She entered
the shop and closed the door, leaning up against it and
looking at Duncan as though she was about to own his soul.
"MacLeod," she purred. "It's
Duncan merely nodded at her while Richie
looked her up and down. She was about 5 feet 6 inches with
long, auburn hair parted down the middle, hanging silkily
down her back. Her eyes glittered green out of her pallid
face. She wore a sleeveless cotton dress and flats. As she
watched Duncan watching her, she smacked on some chewing
gum, then suddenly pulled out a sword and brandished
it at the Highlander.
As Richie wondered where she'd hidden
it, Duncan stepped back from her. He was not surprised to
see that Krissa still possessed her katana. It was shorter
than Duncan's by several inches, but just as deadly.
"I'm not going to wait, MacLeod,"
she said in a deadly voice. "Let's go."
Duncan looked at her warily. He didn't
want to tangle with the woman. Not because he didn't want
to kill a female Immortal, but because she was the superior
fighter, and he was afraid he might lose. And if he did,
that would leave Richie standing there in his pre-Immortal
glory. Without Duncan's Buzz to mask Richie's, Richie would
be a dead man as soon as the Quickening was over.
"Let's not fight, Krissa, "
She clucked her tongue and shook her
head before lunging for Duncan. The two were soon spinning
around the room as Richie tried to stay out of the way.
Duncan tried to get on the offensive,
but Krissa's thrusts were too quick and calculated for him
to do much more than put up a defensive stance.
Richie watched the scene with a deepening
dread, suddenly not so hot to see another set of Immortals
fighting. The woman was good, and once she sent a thrust
home in Mac's stomach, Richie realized Mac might not win.
As Duncan went to his knees and clutched
his stomach, he waited for Krissa to close in. He still
had a trick or two in mind for her, but he didn't get to
try them because Richie decided to play hero.
"Hey," Richie shouted from
behind Krissa. "You kill him and the other Immortal
will finish you off when he gets back."
Krissa stopped mid-advance and studied
MacLeod. Correctly surmising that he was in no position
to do anything but lay there and bleed on the floor unless
she got too close to him, she turned to face Richie.
"Listen here, little one. I don't
have time for your games right now. MacLeod is the only
Immortal in the area. Nobody is going to come to his rescue.
Why don't you go burp yourself and take a nap."
She turned back to finish what she'd
started, and Richie realized his attempt to distract her
long enough for Mac to do his starfish-healing thing wasn't
going to work. He lunged for her, planning to push her out
of the way, but she heard his movement and turned back with
just enough time to crack the hilt of her sword on the left
side of his head.
Richie felt and heard the impact and
staggered, reaching for his head even as he gracelessly
fell to the floor, where he passed out.
Duncan watched the scene in horror.
*Is he as stupid as I think he is?*
Just as Krissa turned around to start
back in on him, Duncan heard voices outside of the shop.
Krissa stiffened, knowing she'd have to come back for Duncan
later or risk getting caught. She hid her sword and headed
to the front door just as two customers opened it.
"Shop's closed," she said,
blocking their view of the injured men inside. They left
grumpily, and she turned back to face Duncan, scowling at
him. "There will be another time for us, MacLeod."
End of Part