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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 4/5

Duncan waited a few moments until the wound in his stomach closed, leaving bloody smears on his white dress shirt. Pulling himself to his feet, he went over to Richie, who lay inert on the floor. Duncan kneeled down by him and glanced at his left temple, which was starting to bruise.  

*At least there's no blood,* Duncan said to himself, silently cursing. What Richie had done was hotheaded and stupid. Worse yet, it was incredibly risky. He could have been killed, and then he would have become Immortal. Duncan was determined that the boy would not have his first death for many years to come. No one should reach full Immortality until they attained a healthy level of maturity. Richie had no doubt seen a lot during his hard life,  but he was by no means a man yet.  

Duncan grabbed Richie's shoulders and gently moved him so he was leaning back against the counter. Richie's head dropped forward onto his chest, a movement that startled him awake. Emitting a brief groan of pain, Richie lifted his head up and opened his eyes. He gingerly touched his aching temple as the memories of the other Immortal flashed through his mind. He looked at Duncan, relieved to see the Highlander hadn't turned into the Headless Horseman, and then looked around for the woman.  

"She's gone," Duncan said.  

"But not forgotten," Richie returned ruefully as he stood up with Duncan's assistance. "Oh man, what was that chic's problem?"

As Richie rubbed his head with his left hand, Duncan stepped closer to him.  

"Are you OK?" he asked.  

Richie stopped rubbing at the colorful mark on his head and stretched his neck side to side and back and forth a few times. He wasn't dizzy like he had been a minute ago. All things considered, in fact, he felt great until he looked Mac in the eyes. He saw the smoldering anger barely tucked away beneath concern.  

He figured Mac was angry because his actions could have put the man in even more danger than he'd already been in. What if by lunging at the psycho woman, Richie had accidentally sent her forward into Mac instead of to the side like he'd planned? What if that had given her the opportunity to take Mac's head?  

"I'm really sorry, man," Richie said hastily, afraid the Highlander was going to explode and tell him it was time for him to find someplace else to live. "I was just trying to help."

"I asked if you were OK," Duncan persisted in a tightly-controlled voice. He wanted to verify that fact before laying into the boy.  

Richie's face scrunched up in puzzlement. Why wasn't Mac yelling at him yet? Surely if he was going to throw Richie out, he would have been screaming by now. *Maybe he's not going to drop-kick me out of here after all.* Deciding to take things as they came, he shoved his hands into the tops of his jeans pocket and stood up as straight as he could.  

"Yeah, I'm fine. Doesn't hurt hardly at all."

Duncan narrowed his eyes and searched Richie's face for any signs of lying. He saw none. Still, he thought maybe he should play it safe.  

"You were only out for a minute, but it wouldn't hurt to take you to the hospital and get you checked out."

Richie took an agitated step back. He was not going to the hospital. No way. Not as a patient, and not even as a visitor if he could help it. The trip with Tessa had been hard enough as it was. Richie knew he would die a happy man if he never set foot in one of those sadistic buildings again.  

"No hospital, I'm fine, really, just fine, I swear," he said in a rush of words.  

Duncan sensed that Richie's reaction might be connected with his hasty exit from the hospital in October. He wanted to ask the boy what demons he was wrestling with, but  didn't. It had taken weeks to get to where the two were now.  

*Which is where?* Duncan asked himself, then realized their bond was more than just one between Immortals. He saw himself in Richie. The same stubborn streak ran through both of them, and Duncan once shared Richie's cocky courage, although he'd outgrown it hundreds of years ago.  

"No hospital, then," he relented. "But I want an explanation for what you did, Richie."

Richie saw it coming. Mac was going to scream and yell and, in a matter of moments, Richie would end up on the sidewalk with his meager possessions. But Richie didn't want to go back to the uncertainty of living day-to-day, trying to scrape up enough money to avoid ending up homeless on the streets.  

"I'm really sorry, Mac," he said. "I was just trying to help."

"Help?" Duncan spluttered. "Help? By getting yourself killed?"

Richie's mouth dropped open. "By getting myself killed? I thought you were mad because I could have gotten you wasted."

"No, Richie, I'm angry," he said, enunciating the last word, "because by trying to stop Krissa, you could have been killed."

"Oh," Richie said lamely, staring at the floor and not knowing what else to say.  

Duncan paused long enough to put together the pieces, then tugged gently at Richie's shirtsleeve to get his attention.  

"I know you were just trying to help, Richie. But you can't interfere with Immortals when they're fighting."

"Why not? What' s wrong with trying to help?"

Sighing, Duncan led Richie to the kitchen and motioned for him to sit down. He grabbed a clean dish towel and piled some ice cubes into it. Richie took it gratefully and held it up against the lump forming on his head. Wincing at the icy pressure, he waited for Duncan to continue.  

"It's too dangerous for mortals to get involved," Duncan said, although he knew full well Richie was not truly a mortal. "People have gotten killed in the past because they tried to help Immortals. They've been shot, stabbed, burned..."

His voice trailed off as he lost himself in the memories. He'd known men who'd tried to help him, not knowing what they were getting themselves into, and died for their trouble. Their faces would always be with him, paining his soul for eternity.  

Of course, Duncan's concern for Richie was different than it was for the others. They had not come back from their deaths; Richie would. But Duncan knew firsthand that the gift of Immortality had razor-sharp strings attached to it. Strings that sometimes got so knotted there was no way to unravel them without annihilating yourself.  

"You can't interfere," Duncan said. "Understand?"

Richie saw the intensely haunted look on the Scotsman's face and nodded his head. It wasn't just that he felt compelled to do what Mac requested, although he did. It was that he had seen Krissa's and Slan Quince's wrath and knew he'd have a better chance of adding to the population if he stayed out of the way of any rampaging Immortals.  

"I understand," he said, and paused. "So you're not going to, like, kick me out, are you?"

"What?" Duncan asked, confused. "Why would I do that?"

Richie remembered the times he'd been sent away from foster homes for making mistakes. But he didn't feel right telling Mac about them. He set down the towel on the table and fiddled with it.

"Oh, no reason," he said.  

"You're still welcome here," Duncan told him, then hesitated. He could see Richie was suppressing some painful memories from his past, and Duncan knew how much the past could hurt. "Are you sure you're OK?"

Richie grinned in spite of the weird events of the day and ducked his head down in an almost shy manner before looking at Mac. "Yeah, my head's fine. Just a little sore."

"I wasn't talking about your head," Duncan said somberly. "Richie, there's something going on you're not talking about. I understand you probably don't want to share it with me, but if you change your mind, I'll listen."

Richie sat there in the middle of the kitchen and wondered if he would ever feel comfortable telling Mac about anything in his past. Despite the fact that Mac was growing on him, he definitely didn't feel close enough to share his deepest pain with the man. And even if he did, Richie worried that he'd look like a wimp if he revealed anything to the hulking Highlander.

Still, he appreciated that Mac cared. It surprised him how much it meant to him.  

"Thanks, Mac," he said, and got up to go to his room.

Duncan sat there for a moment longer before going to check the inventory.  

Two words Richie had said to him. Two words, and that was all. But they conveyed something very valuable: Richie may not be ready to talk about his past or trust Duncan completely yet, but he wasn't going to bolt, either.  

And that could be the first step toward getting the boy to open up.  

***

When Tessa came home, Duncan told her what happened, knowing it would be futile to try hiding it from her. Futile and unfair. She was startled and full of questions, and Duncan decided it would be best to tell her and Richie about Krissa at the same time. He put it off as long as he could, getting the two to help him finish inventory. It was 9 p.m. when they sat down to eat.  

After Tessa laid out dinner plates and a bowl of Thai chicken salad that Richie eyed suspiciously, Duncan began.  

"Krissa Charter. She's 600 years old. I met her for the first time in the late 70s, although I'd heard about her from other Immortals."

"You mean the first time you met her was in this century?" Tessa asked him, surprised.  

"Yes, but I had heard of her...escapades, from some friends. She's killed more Immortals than anyone I know of."

"How many is that?" Richie asked, pushing away his plate of food. Thai food was too exotic for his tastes. Right now, he'd kill for a cheeseburger or a chili dog.

"Hundreds. I'm not sure exactly how many. I just know that she's never lost, except when some outside force has interrupted her fight."  

"That's what happened when you two fought?" Richie guessed.

Duncan nodded. "She doesn't like to lose."

"What an understatement," Richie said. "So she's gung-ho to win the Prize, huh?"

"No. She kills because she likes it."

"Sort of an Immortal serial killer?" Tessa interjected.

"That's one way to put it," Duncan said.

"Who's better?" Richie asked suddenly.  

Duncan paused for a moment, knowing Tessa would see if he lied with his answer. "She is. But sometimes luck outweighs skill."

"She'll kill you if you fight her, won't she?" Tessa asked, her face reflecting the panic that was unkindly squeezing her heart.

Duncan reached over and placed a hand over hers. "Not if I can help it."

The phone rang. Duncan was somewhat relieved at the interruption as he answered it.  

"MacLeod?" the female voice on the other end asked.  

"I didn't think it would take you long," he told Krissa.  

Tessa set her fork down on her plate, her appetite gone. She could tell from Duncan's tone that he was talking to an enemy. It had to be Krissa.  

Richie turned to watch Mac.  

"We have unfinished business, MacLeod," Krissa's voice purred in Duncan's ears. "Tonight. Meet me at the park your little tramp was at earlier today."

Duncan looked at Tessa, fear running through him when he realized Krissa had watched Tessa. "When?"

"One hour," Krissa said and hung up.  

Duncan hesitated before hanging up the phone. Richie and Tessa would know what he was leaving to do, and he knew Tessa would worry. Worse, he was afraid Richie would follow him.  

Tessa came to him.  

"You're going to fight her, aren't you?" she asked, her accent stronger than usual because of her agitation.  

"I have to," he said and kissed her forehead before looking at Richie. "Stay here. I mean it."

Before Richie could say anything, Tessa grabbed Duncan's arm to keep him from turning away.  

"You'll come back, won't you?"

Duncan watched the tears slip down her cheeks. He nodded at her, although they both knew he had no idea if they'd ever see each other again.

"I love you," she said in a choked voice as they embraced.  

"You know I love you," he returned and then released her.

Duncan watched Richie stand up and pointed at him. "Don't follow me."

Richie nodded his head. Part of him wanted to go after Mac, but part of him didn't because he was afraid of getting caught in the middle again. And looking at how upset Tessa was, Richie knew she would feel better if someone stayed with her. There was nothing Richie could do to help Mac anyway. He'd already tried once today, and the results had been pathetic.  

Richie stepped closer to Tessa as Duncan left the shop. She turned away from him, and he saw her shoulders shake. Unsure if he was doing the right thing, he turned her toward him, hands laid gently on her shoulders. The fear he saw on her face tore at him. He didn't want to lose Mac, either.  

"He'll be OK, Tessa," he said, pulling the older woman into a hug.  

Tessa let herself relax in his arms, grateful she could share her fear with someone else. If Richie wasn't here, she'd be alone. And that would have been more than she could bear.

End of Part 4

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