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To Live Again by Sophie
Soph's take on the resolution of the problem's caused by Macleod's Dark Quickening.


Part 2/6

Half an hour later, Adam ventured back into his comrade's `front room'. He'd prepared the tea, breathing sparingly as the smell was almost as bad as the taste. He entered, bearing a tray with a pot and two cups (just in case Richie had a very strange sense of taste). The door swung in easily as usual and he stepped smoothly into the room, quip ready on his lips. However, the old man clamped his mouth shut rapidly and he halted at the entrance as he took in the view before him. He smiled gratefully at his bent old companion who was still seated in exactly the same manner as before, and shook his head in disbelief. He'd seen Tomas' touch before, but a grown man fast asleep with his head in his lap, his face untouched by waking tribulations, was a miracle indeed. The ancient creature was softly stroking the inert figure's hair and cooing like a dove, his blind eyes gazing down with a care that was almost fatherly.

Tomas looked up as the sound of the entrance and smiled at the gesture he could not see.

"He is exhausted both in mind and body," he whispered, "and so I suggested he sleep."

Adam shook his head still harder, Tomas' `suggestions' could be very persuasive when he put his mind to it. As quietly as possible, the younger moved across with the refreshment, settled it in front of his little master and guided his hand to the pot. It was a familiar ritual, but still Methos watched carefully as the frail Immortal helped himself to the hot drink, ready for any slip. Tomas was well aware of the caring eyes on him, and this time he seemed to find it inappropriate.

"Don't fuss," he scolded, "I have been doing this longer than you can imagine. Go do something useful, go fetch our Warrior."

Adam sat back on his haunches a moment and stared at the old man and the youth. Tomas was very protective about this young one, he'd never seen him quite so close to such a new recruit before. Maybe it was age adding eccentricity to an already unusual creature, maybe not, the younger legend had given up trying to fathom his companion at about the time he had realised what it meant to be truly old. Now, he allowed the extraordinary Eternal his oddities, and hoped that people would humour him when he reached a similar age. He wasn't wanted, that was obvious, so he wouldn't push it, things were strained enough with their Savage as it was.

"Okay," he agreed, standing back up, "I'll go and announce us to MacLeod."

Duncan sat spread-eagled across his sofa, a book in one hand and a large mug of coffee in the other. It wasn't a difficult read, requiring a sparse knowledge of Plato and a little Greek, but nothing his four hundred years could not handle. Yet, the Highlander found himself reading the same paragraph for the umpteenth time that hour and he finally realised that his heart was definitely not in the pastime. Exasperatedly, he slammed the book down on the coffee table and sunk back into the puff beneath him. As he stared up at the ceiling, the Clansman considered that maybe it had all started with the weird mood in which he'd found Adam that morning at their brunch appointment. The old man had phased his companion considerably when he started talking about destiny and the web of fate. The man had been spouting myth and legend in ways that he'd never heard the practical creature use before, it had been like seeing yet another side to Methos. Still, the guy was five thousand, he was entitled to a few hidden nuances. The conversation had set his mind off on a tangent, and it hadn't returned to the level-headed Scot as yet.

The Immortal gave in and let in the thoughts he knew were waiting for him as soon as he let his attention go. They were the same ones he'd been considering as he fixed himself a light lunch an hour ago, they were those which had erased his appetite and left the salad sitting uneaten on the coffee table. They hurt to contemplate, but they would not leave him in peace. Duncan's attention wandered back to two very familiar faces and he closed his eyes as they sat in his mind's eye. Tessa, willowy, feminine, his beloved, killed for a few dollars. Methos had be murmuring on about coincidence and everything having its place in the scheme of things, he'd been working up to something, but the Highlander had put him down as his own ideas mingled with the discussion and made him wonder what the beauty's death had to do with the way of the world. A life destroyed in the heat of a drug-crazed moment. Once when his blood had been hotter with the fire of youth, he might have let his heart lead him, and ruined a life for a life, but it had been another who had tried to become Tessa's avenging angel, revealing the terrible deed to the oblivious perpetrator. Richie's smiling face settled firmly in the Clansman's mind, bright, energetic, missing. It had been a long road back from the abyss that the Dark Quickening had created, and MacLeod was still on his return. The young Immortal was one of the lose ends that made the path hazardous, a cord that played around his feet, trying to trip him into the melancholy that awaited him. Richie had been his pupil, his `son' and he had betrayed all he had taught him in those few terrible minutes at the dojo. The Scot remembered the anger, the confusion and his spirit rose in angst as he considered what that could be doing to the sometimes vulnerable young man. Trust had been a difficult thing for Richard Ryan, but he'd given it to his mentor only to have it shattered by the sword.

Duncan sighed, it was too late for all this, his first concern should be finding the elusive figure last seen by any Watcher leaving the city to go east. So many months, it was worse than death, at least he knew Tessa's fate, Richie's was a blank, furnished only with vague rumours and hearsay from his friends around the globe. A young man fitting the description was seen in Denver, but another was spotted at the same time heading into Canada, then again, there was always the message from New England that said a young blond Immortal had been seen with the Amish. It was all conflicting and frustrating, but the Highlander had vowed not to give up until he was certain of his comrade's location. He hadn't decided what he'd do when he found him, that was more difficult than the search itself. Would Richie even want to see him? Could he mend the ties which he'd sliced with the katana? The troubled Scot wasn't sure on either, and he couldn't conceive of his reaction if the answers were negative.

What did so much hurt have to do with `the scheme of things'?

Adam took a deep breath as he paused at the gangplank; his mood was thick with the extra sense as his instinct was buffeted from all sides. He'd never felt so much premonition before, he usually left that to Tomas, but today was certainly turning out to be more than just a little strange. The old man pushed aside the possibly over- powering edge to his world, there was the present and Duncan MacLeod with which to be dealt. He wasn't sure how he was going to reveal his information, but then he usually followed his nose in these sorts of things anyway.

Running over a few choice words, the ancient creature stepped onto the boat.

The Highlander's disposition soured a little further as he felt the shudder of recognition for his own kind. He was in no mood for visitors, especially Immortal ones, who could quite possibly be after his head. He sat up rapidly, swearing as he sent the coffee he'd forgotten sprawling all over a very expensive Persian rug. He was glowering bad-temperedly at the door, in easy reach of his sword, when a polite rap cut the testy silence.

"It's open," Duncan called, softened a little by the cordial disposition of his guest, but he was still feeling like a bear with a sore head.

The look on Methos' face told the Highlander just how black his mood seemed to another. As usual, the man smiled, but there was a cynical glint in his eye.

"You're the second person today who's given me a hard stare," the Watcher wagged his finger at the stationary Scot, "must be something in the air."

"What are you doing here, Adam?" the Clansman asked tersely, his mood none the better for the humour.

"Oh fine welcome I get, haven't you heard the one about not taking it out on the messenger," the old man's good temper was not going to be beaten.

Mac glared at his companion, but it was too late. Adam had piqued his curiosity with that little disclosure and it must have shown in his face, because there was a reaction.

"Lighten up, Duncan, I bring good news," the dark figure bowed with a flourish that bespoke his light humour and he was grinning widely as he straightened once more.

The Highlander made a face, he still wasn't in the mood for the eccentric Immortal's antics.

"Alright," Pierson waved dismissively at him, "I'll come clean. Richie's in Paris."

Duncan's reaction was swift and without thought, he grabbed his coat, spun his comrade on his heal and was headed out of the door before the other could open his mouth once more. Emotions mixed in his spirit, but whatever they were, they came out in an urgency.

"Where?" the man demanded of Adam as he herded him out on deck.

"He's with a friend of mine," came the reply, and the shorter man turned on his friend.

MacLeod stopped as the researcher became a surprisingly strong wall between him and the gangplank. He glared at his companion for a second time, all the worry in his being expressing itself in the angry stare. Yet, Methos was more in control of his thoughts and revealed his reason for halting the bustle.

"Slow down, Duncan," he spoke calmly and reasonably, "the kid is more than a little screwed up right now, and the last thing he needs is you charging around like you're possessed again. He's safe and he'll wait. I suggest we walk to my friend's place, and talk on the way, there are some things you need to know."

Any other time, the Highlander would have argued, but he'd been in the wrong the last time he'd encountered his pupil and it made him unsteady. He was excited by the news, worried by the description, guilty because of the knowledge that he had caused the trouble, and he wanted to deny the reason in his comrade's tone. After a moment's bristling pause, the man sagged a little at the shoulders, and his face showing some of what lay behind his haste; he nodded.

"Lead the way, Adam," he murmured more sanely.

Dreams can be a blessing and a curse. Man cannot function without them, but they can trouble the sleeper. Richie's subconscious was worse than his conscious; his sleep pattern was erratic and so were his dreams. He didn't like to give in to the nightmares, but he was so tired. This was where the battle was run again, moment by agonising moment, from the approach of another Immortal to the deafening shots from a Watcher's pistol. Yet this time, the desperate fight was not as he remembered it, even in sleep.

- The kata was intense, a way of concentrating his energies and thoughts away from the danger that Duncan was facing. All the talk of Dark Quickenings and good going bad was worrying, and however much he hated to admit it, he was scared for his ally. -

Ryan recalled the emotions in himself so completely, they were etched on his memory by the trauma that had followed.

- The touch on his spirit caused momentary angst, this was it, the time when he found out just how powerful the Hayoka had been. Duncan could walk through that door, or it could be the another with a taste for his Quickening; the youth stayed poised, his breath short, his gaze centred on the entrance. Relief flooded the young Immortal as he laid eyes on his comrade. -

In remembrance, that comfort was nothing more than a stick to beat the battered soul, it had been a false hope driven by trust and friendship, qualities that had been abandoned by the nightmare that walked into the dojo.

- Disbelief was his overwhelming emotion, coupled with horror as the sword came up at him. This was insane, there was something very wrong with the Highlander, his features were the same, but they could have belonged to a different person the way that they were used to convey such dispassion. -

Richie shifted in sleep, the first terrible images of the darkness in Duncan's soul being strong enough to impact on his physical as well as mental form. Yet they did not wake him. His mind still played through the horrible fight. There wasn't much coherence in the youth's dream after the initial decent into delirium, it was a mess of steel and pain as the tormentor had played with his victim, enjoying the game, laughing at the anger, triumphant in sure victory. It hadn't just been slices he'd taken out of his flesh, each dig had done its job to break through the trust that had been the founding stone of their relationship.

- He was on his knees and there was no fight left in him. His flesh stung, his soul ached and any belief that Richard Ryan had ever had in his mentor was utterly destroyed. He looked up at the victor, using the last ounce of strength he had to focus the anger which was all the emotion he had left. Why? The question burnt into his spirit as he seethed it through gritted teeth - his only reply was the sword's razor edge running ominously round his throat. The man he had called friend was laughing at him, an easy kill, there can only be one and it would not be Richard Ryan. The young man tensed and his world went black as he closed his eyes against the horror his teacher had become. -

Richie tensed as the dream intensified, this was where he woke screaming, yet there was no piercing sound of a pistol to wake him this time and he remained trapped in that dark moment where only his emotions were evident. All the anger, loss, bewilderment, loathing, disappointment, every cold thought which had driven him away from his home welled up inside the young man in that blackness. He had no control over it now, this wasn't even his memories, something else possessed his nightmare, something far worse than what had already passed. The youth moaned as even the slim hold he had over his thoughts slipped away.

- The blackness became vivid colour too rapidly to be comfortable even to the mind's eye; what was revealed was even more disagreeable. There was a creature on his knees, at the mercy of another, but this time the dreamer saw with the eyes of the dominator. His rapier glinted and there was a rush of adrenaline as he swung the blade towards Tomas' neck. -

Ryan screamed, his sound long and horrified, and he ripped himself from sleep. The wild creature was in effect once more as he pushed himself away from the old man, possessed by the nature of his thoughts. China broke under his feet as he scrabbled away from the message in his dream, and his companion fell away from him. Yet, a hand grabbed his jacket, surprisingly strong and caught him off balance. He fell back to the floor and came face to face with the blind eyed old man.

"What did you see?" the question was urgent and concerned.

Yet, the young man couldn't tell him, couldn't admit the destruction in his mind. Had he come that far down the road of desperation, that he could even contemplate taking a defenceless man's head? Only a sob escaped his mouth, and he tried to pull away. His limbs were weak, disoriented by the sudden flight from dreams, and Tomas maintained the intensity of his stare. The feral man shuddered at the question that remained, cold and shocked beyond his senses. He had been offered nothing but kindness from this unusual ancient and the sight of his own blade descending towards the undefended neck kept replaying over before his eyes, merging with reality and making it a dangerous place.

"I took your head," he moaned quietly, all the repugnance the idea inspired coming through the terror in his tone.

That was it, Tomas blinked and freed the creature in front of him. There wasn't so much shock on his face as resignation, and in some ways, that was worse for the horrified Immortal. He tore away from the finger which touched him and ran; it was a natural instinct returning after such a short time of peace, and it took him over with cold ease. He had to leave, to separate himself from the mystic, he would not become what he so hated. Tears were hot in his eyes as he tumbled down the stairs and away from the comfort he had found.

They been walking for about an hour, and the short October day was beginning to turn cold as evening drew on. The pair strolled in easy conversation, the elder with his hands driven deep into his pockets in relaxed companionship. Duncan had found Methos' little tale somewhat hard to swallow at first, but he'd experienced enough in the past few months to start accepting things that weren't tangible. The old man had answered any questions he had, but to be honest, he hadn't been very interested in most of it, Richie was the subject that was playing on his mind. Adam's more detailed description of the state in which he had arrived at Tomas' house had chilled the experienced Immortal to the bone; he had expected anger, hostility, but the complete shambles of humanity had made his guilt all the stronger. There were times he had underestimated his pupil's passion, times when it had shocked him and now the effects of his own actions on the young man seemed staggering. Sometimes he forgot how much the young put into everything they did, in Richie's case it had been his all, and he'd almost lost it to the power of the Dark Quickening.

"Nearly there," Adam brought the Highlander out of the comfortable silence of friends that had fallen. "Now don't expect too much, underneath he may want to talk to you, but his mind's not in control all the time at the moment. If he snarls it'll probably be a sign of affection."

The researcher grinned, but Mac couldn't quite gel with his sense of humour today. In four hundred years, he'd made a lot of mistakes, but nothing which had such life-shattering consequences for another.

"Ease up, MacLeod, we don't need two emotional wrecks," the watcher patted his comrade's arm supportively. "Be strong, be the MacLeod he remembers, show him you're back, then you can deal with the apologies later."

"I'll try," Duncan returned, mildly annoyed at his unusual lack of self-possession.

Methos smiled again and then turned smartly to the steps leading up to the town house. Duncan saw his shoulders tense and glanced rapidly up to the door. The large black portal was wide open and the sudden alarm in his comrade told the Highlander that all was not well.

Adam's peace of mind evaporated as he took in the atrium, the door was always unlocked, but never so blatantly open. He was moving with speed created from dread in a heart beat. He flew up the stairs barely aware of the effort involved, his mind centred on terrible ideas that had occasionally plagued his psyche. Tomas was old, completely unable to protect himself, and he'd left him alone in the house with only a frenzied youth for company. Methos was swearing to himself in languages too old to be known to even the greatest scholar as he slammed through the half open door to find his ancient comrade. The man halted rapidly, feeling the closeness of MacLeod as he nearly crashed into him, as he took in the sight before. The floor was a mess, dark stains and broken crockery covered the area in front of the cushions, but what touched the old man's heart was his bent old friend. Tomas was rocking a mournful, quiet wail coming from his mouth, and he held his head in his hands. Methos had never seen the normally calm creature show such emotion. He skidded rapidly over to the frail form and took him by the shoulders.

"Tomas?" he asked, his voice subdued and worried, "what happened?"

There was so much age in those old features as they came up to stare blindly into his face.

"I made a mistake," the ancient mumbled in distress, "I let him dream."

"Where's Richie?" Duncan questioned, his voice tense as he approached the pair.

"He ran again," was the aggrieved reply.

Methos was torn between the woe in his old friend and the pot of heady emotions in the Highlander. Duncan was almost to the door by the time the watcher called out, "Duncan, wait."

"I have to find him," came the response as the figure disappeared out of the room.

Tomas was the dark man's immediate concern, MacLeod could look after himself. The Immortal turned back to his comrade and was perturbed by the look on the creased face.

"There are things you must know," the old man whispered, bowing his head once more.

End Of Part 2