By the time Duncan met Krissa at the
park, it was 10:30 p.m. He felt her presence before he saw
her. She approached him casually, her hair bobbing in its
ponytail, her right arm thrust underneath the long coat
As Duncan's breath plumed out of his
mouth, he shoved his own hand under his coat.
"The park is too public,"
It was empty at the moment, but Duncan
knew it was a favorite hangout for horny teenagers.
Krissa emitted a short laugh. "I'm
not stupid, MacLeod. I have someplace else in mind. You
know where Piederman's Warehouse is?"
He nodded. The warehouse was only a
few blocks away. Piederman had experienced his third heart
attack a month ago, and decided to sell the warehouse. It
was empty and shut down.
The pair of Immortals walked the short
distance in silence. Once they arrived at the warehouse,
Duncan watched as Krissa picked the cheap lock. She waited
for him to go inside. As Duncan stood in the darkness, the
lights flared on suddenly, nearly blinding the Highlander.
Once his eyes adjusted, he saw Krissa standing in front
She threw off her coat and readied her
katana, grinning at him. Duncan left his coat on, but drew
out his sword. He made the first lunge, hoping he would
get lucky. But Krissa parried his thrust, eyes glittering.
For the first few minutes, Duncan was
the only one trying to maim; Krissa was content to deflect
his endless thrusts. Duncan knew she was toying with him,
and he wondered if it was part of her strategy to tire out
her opponent before closing in for the kill.
After swatting aside another of his
attacks, Krissa slipped her sword into his right side and
dragged it down and out. Duncan resisted the urge to grab
at the gaping wound and barely deflected her next thrust.
The effort put him off balance, and her next thrust
easily sliced open his left side.
Duncan gasped in pain as he felt the
blood soak his linen shirt. He tried to gain the advantage,
but she began raining down blows on him. He felt her sword
penetrate his chest and stomach before his legs gave out
on him and he fell to his knees.
Laughing in exultation, Krissa disarmed
him. Duncan watched as his sword skittered across the floor.
When he looked up at her, he saw the uncontained joy in
her eyes as she anticipated the kill. Duncan tried to stand,
but instead fell back awkwardly so he was lying on his back,
his legs bent so his feet were under his buttocks.
As he saw Krissa raise her katana above
her head, he thought of Richie. Who would teach him how
to survive once he gained his Immortality? And then he saw
Tessa. Saw her that day on the boat when he first met her.
Saw her as she was when he left her earlier tonight.
He'd always assumed she would die first.
Duncan felt a longing to live such as he'd never felt before,
and then heard Krissa's voice above him.
"There can be only one," she
said, and thrust down.
Tessa paced in the kitchen, the fluorescent
light above making her face look washed out and pale. She
glanced at the clock. It was 11 p.m.
Richie sat at the table, feeling like
an idiot. He'd tried to keep Tessa's mind off of the fight,
talking nonstop about everything but Immortals and sword
fights. But it had been a monologue and had run out of steam
five minutes ago. He knew Tessa was afraid, and so was he.
"I'm sorry," he said.
Tessa stopped pacing and looked at him.
"I'm sorry all of this is happening,"
he said, picking at the table's edge. "I really wish
Tessa sat down next to Richie and looked
"Do you think he's dead?"
"I don't know, Tessa. "
She got back up and resumed her pacing,
and Richie saw she wasn't crying at his answer. He admired
her courage, but what if Mac died? How would she handle
As Krissa thrust down with her sword,
Duncan's adrenaline allowed him to roll out of the way just
in time. Krissa, who had put all of her power behind the
thrust, nearly fell forward.
Duncan felt his life running out with
his blood, but located his sword 10 feet away and started
pulling himself toward it anyway. He tried to reach it,
even though he knew Krissa would reach him first.
She didn't. Angry at herself for being
overconfident of her victory, she turned smartly on her
heels to follow him and slipped on his blood. She fell backward
and landed, hard, on her back. She'd been unwilling to let
go of her sword, and so could not stop her fall. The impact
drove the breath out of her lungs, and an incredible pain
slammed into her back. She lay there, stunned.
Duncan turned back at the noise and
saw that Krissa would not be going anywhere for a minute
or two. He kept up his progress to his sword.
Krissa's eyes burned with tears of pain.
She couldn't move, and wondered briefly if she was paralyzed.
Duncan reached his sword after what
seemed an eternity. His own pain was slowing him down, and
when he felt the katana in his grasp, he turned, fully expecting
Krissa to be behind him. But she was still lying on the
Duncan didn't know how much longer she
would stay down as he stood up. He knew it was adrenaline
carrying him now, and he staggered over to her. His vision
was darkening, and Duncan knew he was dying, but he kept
going. He could hardly believe he actually stayed on his
feet and reached her.
When he did, he nearly fell. Krissa
saw him standing there, and although her own body was full
of agony, she tried to raise her sword, but couldn't in
Duncan threw his force into the blow,
knowing that she wouldn't roll away from death as he had.
His katana easily lopped off her head, and as the Quickening
entered him, he remembered his words to Richie.
"Sometimes luck outweighs skill."
Duncan's screams of pain filled the
warehouse as it lit up. When the Quickening was over, he
collapsed on the floor and waited for the wounds to heal.
It was almost midnight when Duncan walked
into the shop. Tessa ran to him immediately and threw her
arms around him as she said his name. The sight of him released
her emotions, and she cried silently.
Richie hung back and watched the scene,
not wanting to intrude, but relieved Mac was alive. Mac
caught his eyes and smiled. Richie smiled back, and left
the couple alone.
The next days passed by quickly for
Richie. He spent his time helping Tessa finish decorate
for Christmas and eating the gingerbread man cookie dough
when she turned her back. Richie enjoyed feeling like a
part of a family during the holidays. He'd had a few good
Christmases over the years, but not many.
Christmas Eve dinner was beyond Richie's
expectations. Tessa spent all day cooking, and Richie shoveled
the food down his throat with great gusto. He told Tessa
how good it tasted as he stuffed yet another forkful of
mashed potatoes into his mouth. She laughed at his muffled
words, and Duncan joined her.
"You'd think we never fed you,"
Duncan told the teenager.
After dinner, Tessa turned on Christmas
music and relaxed near the tree as Duncan and Richie went
to clean up. Halfway through the dishes, with his arms covered
in soap bubbles, Richie paused.
Just a few months ago, he'd had nothing.
Then he broke into Mac's shop, and now he was living with
a beautiful woman and a man who could live forever. It was
weird, but it felt like home. For the first time since Frank
had died, Richie felt comfortable with his life.
Duncan saw the faraway look in Richie
eyes and knew the boy was in his own world. He was surprised
at Richie's next words.
"The foster homes were a major
drag, man," Richie said as he returned to scrubbing
the pan that was caked with stuffing. "Most of the
people I lived with could've cared less about what happened
Duncan waited for Richie to go on, but
he didn't. Richie had said all he was going to say about
the subject for now.
Duncan accepted the silence and they
continued washing and drying the large dishes, then put
the remaining ones into the dishwasher. After they finished,
they joined Tessa, who was asleep on the couch with her
right hand tucked underneath her cheek.
Duncan shook his head and covered her
with a soft blanket.
"She's usually the one who can't
sleep on Christmas Eve," he said softly. "Always
too excited about what she'll get come Christmas morning."
Richie laughed quietly as he and Duncan
sat on the floor, leaning against a couple of chairs opposite
Tessa. He looked underneath the tree at the presents. Richie
had stuck one under there for Duncan, and one for Tessa.
He'd been unsure at first what to get the Highlander, but
had settled on a linen shirt that would replace the one
Krissa had torn to shreds. Richie bought Tessa a set of
paintbrushes and some oils; she'd been complaining that
she needed them, but she'd been too busy finishing up a
drawing to buy them.
Richie was in the room yesterday when
Tessa laid a large, wrapped box underneath the tree with
the inscription, "To Richie, from Duncan and Tessa."
At first, he'd been dying to see what
the couple had bought him. But now, sitting in the soft
hue of the Christmas lights with "God Rest Ye Merry
Gentleman" issuing softly from the stereo, he realized
it didn't matter.
What mattered was that he had a home.
What mattered was that he trusted Duncan and Tessa enough
that he wasn't afraid of getting tossed out like defective
merchandise. The incident with Krissa had made Richie realize
that Duncan and Tessa were important to him, that he cared
about them. And Richie felt the feeling was mutual.
He let the food and atmosphere lull
him to sleep, a slight smile playing over his lips. Duncan
watched the boy's eyes slide shut and smiled to himself.
He'd pictured tonight differently. He'd thought Tessa would
be bursting to open gifts, and he'd have to do his usual
begging routine to convince her to wait until morning. He
expected Richie would be as bad as Tessa if not worse.
He got up carefully and grabbed another
blanket and draped it over Richie, then settled back down.
Duncan looked at the gift he and Tessa
had bought for Richie and smiled to himself. It wasn't much,
just a pair of jeans and a shirt. They didn't want to buy
anything too extravagant in case it would make Richie feel
awkward. The teenager was still getting used to being a
part of their home. He didn't need to be too overwhelmed
Duncan closed his eyes. Morning would arrive soon enough, and
a few days later, a new year would be here. What that year
would hold for him, or Tessa, or Richie, he didn't know.
But right now, in the soft, warm glow of colored Christmas
lights, life felt very right to Duncan MacLeod.
End of Part