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Returning by Tasha

A stand alone Highlander story.

 

It was a little hard to believe that it had been nearly two hundred years since Duncan had last seen his current companion. The way they fell into an easy conversation, and appeared so relaxed in each others company did not speak of two people who hadn't laid eyes on each other for nineteen decades. In this case it had more to do with the woman than the Highlander: she lounged in the chair with a half smile always in place and her words were free and easy. She was tall, almost Amazonian in build and her white blonde hair fell around a tanned, ageless face. The air about her was of calm resolve, this was a woman who knew exactly what she was doing and where she was going. At the moment she was enjoying the company of an old friend, but something about her spoke of a person who could change into a completely different woman. Her eyes were the palest blue, rimmed in black, giving her an almost magical gaze.

"So, Duncan," she said as he handed her a glass of red wine, "what have you been up to these last few years?"

"This and that," the Scotsman replied with a grin, "mainly that, I suppose."

She laughed at his lack of detail, it had always been that way between them. They'd known each other for three hundred years, since Duncan had pulled his companion out of a bar fight, and for a century or so they'd kept in close touch. Yet, they had always come together outside of their own lives, disconnected somehow from the people they were at that moment, and more in touch with what they truly were: Immortals. It was the woman's influence again, she was always slightly out of time. She drifted through the centuries, sampling life, but never really becoming part of it for more than a year or so at a time. Where Duncan always made the mortal world his own, this beauty from a forgotten race had only ever tried to do so once, with any attempt at permanence. This was a woman who was a gypsy through the ages, her own world was long gone and she chose not to make herself totally part of the new one.

"It's good to see you again, Dil," Mac said genuinely as he slid into the seat opposite her, "we should have kept in contact."

"Maybe," the blonde Immortal returned and sampled the drink in her glass, "but then again, maybe not. My life and yours, Duncan, never did mix, especially since James was killed, and I would hate to have put the dampers on your path through history."

"I doubt you could have done that," was the Highlander's response.

Her smile lit up the whole of her face, it was like watching the sunrise.

"Well maybe you were just too distracting," she suggested lightly and fixed him with her pale irises.

"I'm flattered," her companion returned.

There was an undertone to their conversation that neither of them chose to voice as idle chatter flowed over it, but eventually Duncan had to ask the question that was slowly growing in the back of his mind. There was a reason they had fallen out of touch, and there was a purpose that ruled Dil's life now, so the Highlander had to know.

"Why are you here?" he asked finally as they finished the bottle of red on the table.

"I would have though that would be obvious," the bewitching woman replied honestly, "I received news that Oliver is here. I came hunting him, and a little voice inside me said look up Duncan MacLeod: this could be your last chance."

"He's been running from you for two centuries," the Highlander shot back immediately, "what makes you think he'll turn and fight now?"

This time the expression on her face was sad even though she smiled.

"Just a feeling," she told him calmly. "It won't make any difference if he keeps hiding for a thousand years, one day I will find him."

The tone of her voice was calm, sure and even gentle as she spoke, but the look in her eyes was almost frightening. When she spoke about the man who had injured her more than she would ever tell, she had the gaze of a woman possessed.

"James has been dead a long time," Mac wanted to help her, to try and relieve some of her burden, "isn't it about time you let some of the hate go? Life can be good, you know. You can't hold yourself aloof forever."

"I've been around a long time, Highlander," she told him evenly, almost as if she were speaking to a child who could not possibly understand, "allow me my years of retribution. I swore vengeance by Gods I thought I had forgotten, and I will follow the path I have chosen until I find its end."

In some ways, Dil seemed older than Methos at that moment, although she had but two fifths of his age: she had gone back to her childhood where as Adam was very much a part of the current century. The peculiar woman that Duncan had known, who floated through life with a joyful detachment had become the ancient warrior with a mind for vengeance because of one act of murder. She had altered over a matter of days: Duncan had seen it when he answered the call for help of James' sister all that time ago. The Highlander had never met the man to whom Dil had given her heart, but after his death the only name his family had been able to get out of his bride was MacLeod and they'd sent for him. His presence had broken the distraught Immortal out of her temporary madness, but he had not been able to bring back the sweet woman all had known. Her terrible purpose had been born from an experience she would not even recount to Duncan, and even hundreds of years later it was still like stone within her.

"If you started looking for love instead of revenge, you might find another like James," the Scot said quietly, but he knew it would fall on deaf ears.

"You are a wonderful man, Duncan," Dil returned, equally as low, "but you cannot understand my point of view in this. I come from a people who's ways the world has forgotten and who's outlook you would not comprehend. I admit that once, I thought I could leave behind the life from which I originated, but then I found that it was those ideas I returned to when I needed something on which to rebuild my life. I make no excuses for what I intend to do, or the way I have chosen to live, which is why you cannot change me."

"I have no doubt you are right," the other Immortal said a little sadly, "but at least I can try."

"That may be why I came here today," she told him gently. "To have you try and dissuade me, just to see if I still believe now as I did then."

Now that it was out in the open they could discus what was going through both their minds and they talked for a long time before being interrupted by the approach of another Immortal. The elevator started shortly after they both looked at each other and then Duncan smiled a little sheepishly.

"That'll be Richie," he said and glanced at his watch. "With your arrival I forgot that I invited him to dinner this evening."

"And who's Richie?" Dil enquired with a quick smile.

"Richie's, well ... Richie's Richie, he's a friend and if he doesn't hit on you within the first five minutes after he sets eyes on you I'll be most surprised," the Highlander explained with a goofy grin.

"I stand, forewarned," the stunning blonde returned and waited for the wooden doors to be pushed up.

Mac's young friend was not usually particularly sensitive to what the buzz of another Immortal could tell him. As far as he was concerned, one noise in his ears and tingling on the inside of his skull was much like any other, but Dil's presence had made an impression. For once Richie had been very aware that Mac was not alone and he looked just slightly perturbed as he walked out of the elevator.

"Hi, Mac," he greeted cheerfully, hiding his nervousness well, "is dinner off?"

The young Immortal wouldn't mind if his evening plans needed changing, when old friends dropped by Mac was allowed to be a little unpredictable. As soon as he'd walked in, Richie had read the situation perfectly: he was getting quite good at that sort of thing, and in this case he was guessing that the two Immortals in front of him went way back. He also noticed, of course, that the woman just across the room was exquisitely beautiful and that for some unfathomable reason, Mac was not interested in her like that at all. In most situations he would very much have doubted what his instincts were telling him, but just at that moment he knew he was spot on. That did not mean, however, that he had any intention of trying a line on her in just the way every hormone in his body was attempting to convince him of doing: there was something about this woman that spoke to a much more primitive level of his mind and told him to run away. The feeling that careered down his spine the moment he found her eyes was indescribable, and quite suddenly he felt very young and very inept. From the look the two Immortals gave each other, Duncan was beginning to wonder which one would take to their heels first.

"Don't change your plans because of me," Dil put in just when Mac was starting to feel an awkward silence coming on, "I have to be going anyway."

She rose to her feet in one smooth movement and hurriedly picked up the suede jacket she had left lying at her feet.

"I'll see you around, Highlander," she told the Scot as she dragged back her composure, and then she fled.

Richie just stood there in front of the elevator as she walked past towards the door, he didn't know how to react. For his part, Duncan wasn't sure either, he spent several seconds staring at the closing door: he'd never seen anything quite like the last few minutes.

"Have you two met before?" he asked eventually, trying to come up with a reason as to why Dil had just run from his home like a frightened squirrel.

"No," was the slightly lame reply, "she ... um ... I .... I mean ..."

Self expression was not usually one of Richie's weaker points, but this evening he seemed to be having some trouble.

"Who is she?" he finally asked.

"Her name's Dil," the Highlander told him, and decided that dwelling on the reaction two of his friends had had to each other would do him little good. "She and I go back about three hundred years, but we haven't met up in a couple of centuries. She's here hunting another Immortal so watch your neck, there's a nasty piece of work out there."

"I'll keep it in mind," the younger replied.

He was obviously distracted, her features refused to leave his mind, and his anxiety showed on his face.

"Care to explain why you're so spooked?" Duncan finally asked and at last managed to get his younger friend to move out of the statue like pose he had adopted.

The other Immortal just shrugged.

"I wish I could," he returned quietly, "I truly wish I could."

The next morning the exact nature of the meeting had almost been forgotten and Richie was quite happily riffling through some paper work, when he was most succinctly reminded of everything that had gone through his mind the previous evening. The feeling behind his eye was almost a scraping on his skull and he had to quell the urge to leap out the nearest window. When Dil walked through the entrance of the dojo he was not in the least surprised and he tried very hard to smile at her even when she fixed him with her haunted gaze.

"If you're looking for Duncan," he began a little too brightly, "he went out about ten minutes ago, and he won't be back for an hour or so."

He was sure he heard her mutter under his breath something like, "What am I doing here?", but he didn't react to it.

"Thank you," she said quietly and hovered by the door as he stepped out of the office, "but I'm not here to see Duncan."

"Oh," was all that Richie could think to say.

The only comfort the younger Immortal could find was that Dil appeared as disturbed by the whole situation as he was. Whatever level they were communicating on, neither of them seemed to understand it and it was causing them both some worry.

"Oh, god, I feel like a child," the stunning woman admonished herself loudly and finally took a forceful step into the room.

"That makes two of us," Richie mumbled to himself and tried to decide whether to run away, or find out exactly why this woman was messing up his normally semi-ordered brain.

"You look like a frightened jack rabbit," Dil observed with what should have been a bright smile.

"Speak for yourself," the younger Immortal returned and actually managed to produce a wry grin. "When I finally decide why you make me so nervous, I think I'll feel a hell of a lot better."

"Don't worry," she returned lightly, "I'm not after your head. Did Duncan tell you who I am and why I'm here?"

"He told me your name," Richie explained, "and warned me that there's another Immortal about, but no more than that."

She took in the information and nodded sagely.

"I'm hunting the man who murdered my husband," she felt a need to justify herself to him, "and I've been hunting him for the last two hundred years. Until last night nothing has come close to distracting me from my path, and then I saw you."

She was not yet ready to reveal her reasons, she needed something from him, something which would tell her she wasn't just making a fool of herself.

"What do you see when you look at me?" she asked pointedly. "I know we've barely met, but tell me the truth, the absolute truth."

This conversation went far beyond the trivial and Richie knew his next words could send her fleeing from the dojo or bring her that one step closer. The only problem was, he wasn't quite sure which he would prefer: there was something about this situation he couldn't control and it made him feel very helpless.

"I see a very beautiful woman," he began slowly, "who's haunted by something. You've been hunting so long you thought you'd forgotten what it was like to be free, but you look at me and you see something that reminds you of what you used to be."

He spoke from where his thoughts touched his soul and he told her exactly what he believed. She went very pale when she heard his words and her lips moved in a silent prayer.

"Richie, will you trust me?" Dil asked in little more than a whisper.

With most other people an affirmative would have been unthinkable, but before he could even consider it Richie said, "Yes."

She smiled at him, and this time he witnessed the sunrise for the first time.

"This is where I'm staying," she said, fumbling in her pocket for the piece of paper she'd prepared earlier, "when you finish here, come see me, I have something to show you."

She passed him the scribbled address, and then, as if the fact that they'd come so close scared her again she turned and left. Richie remained, standing in the middle of the dojo, a half lost look on his face.

When Duncan returned, he found his young friend staring at the pile of papers on the desk in front of him.

"What's up, Rich?" he asked brightly and patted his companion on the back.

The ready grin did not spread across the other Immortal's face as he had expected.

"Dil came back," he said quietly.

Duncan had hoped that this was one problem that had gone away yesterday, he was disappointed, but hid it well.

"Oh," he said and prayed he could snap Richie out of his daze, "what did she want?"

There was a moments silence as the younger man's thoughts caught up with the discourse and he formulated a reply.

"She came to see me," he explained absently, "gave me her address."

He waved the piece of paper vaguely in the air. Duncan was more than a little stunned by the statement and several scenarios ran through his head as he considered what his young friend had told him.

"What did she say?" he asked tentatively, well aware that Richie was not acting like Richie at all.

His tone finally made an impression on the younger man and he snapped back to reality.

"Sorry," he said and shook his head to clear it, "I'm not being particularly helpful am I. Don't ask me to explain what's going on in my head at the moment, because I'm not quite sure. I can quite honestly say that your friend and I have a peculiar effect on each other, and I haven't a clue as to why. She asked me to go see her when I can get away from here: she has something to show me."

Several of the ideas going through Mac's head did not make for happy endings, but he was having difficulty deciding how to phrase his next disclosure.

"Richie," he said carefully, in such a way that the other Immortal immediately took notice, "you're not thinking of trying to start a relationship with her are you?"

It was the polite way of asking if the younger man was on a hormone trip on this one. Quite to the Highlander's surprise, his friend smiled at the suggestion.

"She is very beautiful, Mac," he said honestly, "and I would be lying if I said I didn't find her attractive, but to tell you the truth, sleeping with her had not yet occurred to me. Contrary to popular belief, I am not totally ruled by my libido, and quite frankly, what Dil does to me is more spooky than alluring."

It was Duncan's turn to be stuck for words.

"Good," he said finally, "that is, otherwise you may have been disappointed. Dil's probably one of the strangest women you'll ever meet. She's ruled by beliefs and customs that are a little different than ours, and for the last one hundred and ninety years at least, she's not been near a man. Even before that, she was very choosy and I don't want to see you hurt."

Richie sat back in the chair and grinned as he looked at the address in his hand.

"Well if you're not going anywhere," he said lightly, sweeping the darker feelings he had under the carpet, "I believe I'd like to find out exactly what your old friend wants of me."

There was no point in dodging the issue, he wouldn't be happy until he knew what was going on. The fact that the mere thought of the slim blonde Immortal made part of his soul tremble was not going to put him off.

"Just be careful, kid," was all his friend said as he stood up and walked towards the door.

Duncan had as little idea of what to expect from Dil as his companion: she had always been unpredictable by the standards of the day, she was a wild thing. All the Highlander could hope for was an end which left both of his friend's intact, mentally and physically.

The house was Tudor and it's entrance was set back against a beautiful garden: it did not seem the type of residence for someone who was just passing through. The door was already opening when he climbed onto the porch to ring the door bell.

"Thank you for coming," Dil greeted with half a smile, "I was a little unsure whether you would."

The clawing in his head began to fade slowly and Richie smiled back cautiously.

"Nice house," he went for the trivial compliment rather than anything complicated.

"It belongs to a friend of mine," the blue eyed beauty explained and gestured for him to enter. "She said if I was ever in town that I could stay here, and since she's living in Thailand at the moment, I have the place to myself."

She was staring at him now, the charade of public politeness was gone and she didn't seem to be able to take her eyes off him.

"Did Duncan tell you I paint?" she asked and Richie finally knew how she could look at him and appear to see everything all at the same time.

"No," he replied and gave up trying not to stare back, "I know little more about you now than I did the first time I saw you."

Her expression said she was not particularly bothered by this, either way.

"Well, painting is the one thing I take with me everywhere I go," she told him and led the way to the next room. "I have very few possessions, but my artist materials and portfolio are the exception to the rules: some of the work I carry with me is hundreds of years old."

"Were you an artist before you died the first time?" Richie enquired, a need to know about the Immortal, gratefully acknowledged.

There was a kind of wistfulness in her face as she considered that question.

"Sort of," she replied and at last seemed satisfied she knew every inch of him. "My people were much more aware of strangeness than most of those around today, they knew I was different from the moment I arrived. They made me into a sort of witch, I suppose, and our enchantments were always created with pictures. My race is long forgotten by this world, and I have never heard of anyone finding any traces of us, which is a shame, because our art was beautiful. We were really very civilised for a time when many peoples were still living in mud huts, but when our enemies conquered us, they wiped out all that we were. I was three hundred years old when that happened."

"It must have been terrible to see," the younger Immortal could not imagine watching his entire was of life being destroyed, it was unthinkable.

"In those times, things like that happened," Dil returned with little emotion in her voice, "the world could be very brutal. The violence in modern society is much better hidden and occasionally good triumphs over the strong. I do not regret history, there is no point."

This was one of the most bizarre conversations that Richie had ever had, and yet he would not have been anywhere else for love nor money.

"But that's not why I invited you here," the blonde woman said and smiled brightly, "we'll leave ancient civilisations for another day. Can I get you anything to drink: tea; coffee; or something stronger?"

"No, I'm fine," was the almost unconscious reply, "thank you."

There was something in the way Dil looked at him that nagged at the back of Richie's mind and he finally realised what it was.

"You keep glancing at me as if you know me," he ventured suddenly as his companion offered him a chair. "I'd remember if we'd met before."

"Straight to the point then," the peculiar woman said with a nod. "You were quite a shock to me yesterday, you know. I called in to see Duncan on a whim and you turning up rather upset my equilibrium."

"Why?" was the very simple question.

"This is the reason," she explained calmly and walked over to the side of the chase long where there were several canvases stacked together.

She pulled the first one out slightly and turned it with one hand, before picking it up properly so that her companion could see it. All the moisture in Richie's throat evaporated and the hairs rose on the back of his neck as he laid eyes on the painting. It was not finished, the top half of what was a portrait, had been lovingly completed, but the bottom was still no more than an oil sketch, and yet it was enough. It was old, that much was obvious: the paint was completely dry as could only be achieved by years in the air, and the clothes the man wore were unfamiliar in design. It wasn't the majority of the creation that held the younger Immortal's attention, however, it was the face.

"You can see why you caused me momentary alarm," Dil said evenly and placed the painting in view against the front of the couch.

"He looks exactly like me," was all Richie could find to say.

The older Immortal did not stop there, next came a smaller work: different pose, but the same smiling, blue eyes, curly hair and handsome features. By the time she had finished there were three paintings and a sketch book for Richie to see, and he was worryingly silent.

"His name was James," Duncan's old friend said quietly as her companion opened the volume of drawings with almost, awe struck carefulness, "and for ten years he was my husband. I believe in omens, Richie, and when I saw you my entire life flashed before my eyes. I have followed the man who murdered my one love across the world and back again, I am closer now than I have ever been, and then there is you. To tell the truth, I did not know what to think when I saw you. If it were only that you looked like him I would have taken the sign and continued down the path I tread, but you sound like him, you move like him, you even smile like him. I have never involved another soul in my revenge, but I could not stay away from you, not without at least talking to you."

Some of the pencil sketches showed exactly how Dil and James had felt about each other: several of them would have been considered unsuitable for public viewing by the society from which they came. The ancient woman was a very talented artist and her feelings for the man in the drawings was clear from the passion with which they were rendered. The life drawings often said exactly how she saw him and told of the emotions within her. It wasn't difficult to realise that these pictures had been created for her and her husband and no-one else, Richie knew what it must mean for her to show them to a complete stranger.

"He was quite a man," the younger Immortal said slowly, "and you loved him a great deal."

He was not comfortable with the ideas going through his head, and if it had just been Dil's obsession that drew him here, he would have left then, but it wasn't. Finding that she had loved and lost a man with his face was quite a shock, but it was what the beautiful woman did to Richie that kept him in the seat. He'd never met anyone like her: she was fascinating, alluring, frightening, and her presence cause such strange resonances in him that he could not explain.

"My mind tells me to leave now," he said honestly and closed the sketch book. "The rational side of my brain says this is just a coincidence, and I should have nothing to do with you or your vendetta. It's the instinctive part of me that says if I walk away I'll regret it for the rest of my life."

"You and me both," Dil returned, equally afraid that this was all some cosmic joke. "I don't touch this world, Richie, ask anyone I have ever known. I let it go past me and over me and through me, and the only time I ever tried to make a link with it I was hurt badly. You frighten me because you make me want to leave the safe haven I have made for myself, and you make me crave the connection. No-one has ever had this effect on me, no-one except James and now you."

She was revealing more to him than she could ever tell another person, and it was a terrifying prospect.

"I'm not him," the other Immortal protested, even though he knew it made no difference. Dil's eyes said she was aware he was not her lost love, she knew James was gone forever, but that man had been her soul mate and Richie was almost the same person.

This was all too confusing, things were moving way too fast, the younger man couldn't find any rocks to hang onto as his thoughts tumbled over each other.

"I know that," Dil told him, "but tell me you're only here because you were mildly curious about a two thousand year old woman, and I'll let you leave without another word."

He couldn't do that, there was no way he could ever lie to her. Even if his life depended on it he could never do that.

"I can't," he admitted after a taught silence. "Duncan warned me that you live by concepts we couldn't understand, that I'd only wind up with my tail between my legs if I came too close to you. I've never been able to tell one Immortal from another by the way they feel, but you, you I could pick out from a hundred of us. When I come anywhere near you it's like something inside me recognises you, and it won't let me pass you off as just someone else."

They were both unsure of what they were going through: it was nothing so simple as animal attraction, or passing fancy.

"Do you believe in destiny, Richie?" the blonde woman asked quietly and slowly sat down on the chair opposite her guest.

Yesterday he would have said no very quickly, an affirmation that every person made their own place in the world, but today, looking into her eyes, it wasn't as straight forward.

"Not really," he said eventually. "I always thought there were some things in life you couldn't change, like who you were, but everything else was down to yourself, as an individual. I've seen things I would never have believed until I met Mac. God, I've become something I didn't believe existed, but you are even more unfathomable."

Something in Dil's eyes changed at that moment, she'd come to a decision.

"Forget the philosophising for a second," she said quite bluntly, knowing that their conversation could go round in circles for hours.

She didn't understand why she was so drawn to a man who's life was measured in no more than a few years, whom she had only just met, but she knew when her heart wanted her to follow. For the first time in just under two hundred years she had actually stopped thinking about killing Oliver, and other possibilities had entered her mind.

"Do you want me?" her question was not meant to be subtle, but it was so obvious that it confused Richie.

"I don't understand," the young man shot back, "Duncan said you'd sworn off all men."

She smiled at the reply and there was a light at the back of her eyes that was almost fierce.

"Richard," she said slowly and calmly, "you are not all men. I need to know how you feel: whether you see someone you could care for, or if you are just fascinated, maybe, afraid of me. Do you see a powerful Immortal who's just a little crazy, or do you see a woman who is as confused as you are."

A small frown creased the skin between his eyebrows as he tried desperately to hang on to any sense of reality with which he had entered the house. Sitting right in front of him was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen, a vision out of a dream, and yet he didn't truly know what to say to her. Part of him wanted to reach out to her, find her pain and take it away, but another section of his being cowered in terror at what she did to him. All control seemed to be taken away from him when he looked at her, she touched part of his soul that wasn't supposed to come into contact with anything but his own self. This was not a normal female human, this was a dangerous woman, obsessed by a murder, that he did not know and could not ever hope to fully understand.

"Could you love me?" Dil asked loudly, frustrated by his bewildered silence.

Her pale eyes wanted to swallow him, the fire within her wanted to reach out, something that neither Mortal or Immortal would claim to understand, was happening. There was more in heaven and earth than humans were supposed to recognise and at that moment Richie felt a very small part of a hidden world. Dil wasn't just another woman, she wasn't even just another Immortal and as her will turned on him the buzz of her presence reasserted itself behind his eyes. His ears began to ring, his world turned fuzzy, and everything became very dim.

"Yes," he said very quietly, and ungracefully slid out of the chair in a dead faint.

"Richie!" Dil yelped as he fell, suddenly looking like the twenty something year old that her features suggested she was.

She knew she sometimes had an effect on people, an hypnotic gift her teachers had shown her long ago, but she hadn't meant for anything to happen to her companion. She hadn't exercised her mesmeric abilities in centuries and the results of her frustration appalled her.

Reality came back quite gently compared to some of the awakenings Richie had been through in his time, but light hit him straight between the eyes. The first thing he saw was Dil, hovering a few feet away, and he quickly gathered that he was laying on the couch.

"That was quite an experience," he said, surprising himself with the calm he seemed to have found.

"I'm sorry," the other Immortal said quietly, a totally different side of her personality showing through, "I didn't mean for that to happen."

Richie's logical brain had given up trying to explain why he had passed out after the first few milliseconds of consciousness, so he didn't bother asking the obvious question.

"I think we both got a little worked up," he responded instead and tentatively sat up. "What a rush."

He shook his head and smiled, despite himself.

"You could market that," he said lightly, "make a fortune on the alternative medicine circuit."

It was as if he'd been through the fire and was no-longer afraid of the flames. He began to laugh, he couldn't help it. This whole situation was bizarre, even more so than Immortality in general, and he had no defence except laughter.

"Are you all right?" his companion asked at the first sounds.

"Oh, I'm fine," he replied between chuckles, "a little unhinged, but other wise perfectly fine."

She smiled slightly as he looked up at her and giggled.

"Unhinged," she said gently, "oh good, that makes two of us."

His laughter was infectious and gradually a joyous sound filled the room from two voices.

Even gentle hysteria had to come to an end, but by the time it did the awkwardness between them was gone and it was replaced by a healthy curiosity. The pair began to talk, not the heady conversation of before, but down to earth, getting to know each other kind of discourse. They discussed Dil's life through the centuries, and Richie's short stay on the earth. They commiserated, they moralised, they laughed some more, the only thing they didn't do was talk about James and Oliver. The afternoon vanished, Dil raided the kitchen when hunger finally interrupted them and then they talked some more. There was no hurry to their chatter, not even any underlying agenda until finally, coming up to nine in the evening, they ran out of words. They had discovered common ideas between them, and totally opposed ones as well, shared interests and pass times of which the other had no knowledge. These were not two people who were one hundred percent, socially suited to each other, but the fact was it didn't matter in the slightest.

"Would you care to take a walk up stairs?" Dil asked after a moments silence.

Richie smiled, for once totally at ease.

"Madam, I would be honoured," he replied quietly.

She took his hand gently, and with a coy little wink she led him through the large doors at the end of the room and into the hall. Maybe once he would have been bothered that this woman was so much older than him, that she had seen so much more than he, but not now. There was no way he could ever be as experienced as she, and quite frankly, he found the idea quite appealing.

"Now I'm about a hundred and ninety years out of practice," the female Immortal said sweetly, with a falsely shy expression, as they climbed the stairs, "but I think I can remember what to do."

"It's not something I would expect you forget," her companion returned and kissed her fingers.

"Let's see," were the next words out of Dil's mouth, "don't we take our clothes of next?"

She pushed open the first door on the landing and revealed a huge four poster bed with silk sheets and velvet curtains. It was a beautiful house, and if Richie hadn't been so busy he might have noticed the decorative antiques that lined several surfaces.

"Or not as your preferences go," he said and moved that bit closer to her.

"I think I like the idea of finding out what's under that shirt of yours," she returned and pulled him into the room by his belt.

"But you have to go first," Richie said playfully, "I'm shy."

"Really," Dil said with mock sincerity, "we can't have that."

Richie's buttons didn't stand a chance as quite suddenly his partner reached out and ripped open the front of his top. He laughed and pulled the bow that was keeping her long hair away from her face.

"I have these wild urges," she told him with a little smile.

"Sounds like fun," he responded and pulled her towards him so they were nose to nose.

Several items of clothing on both sides would never be the same again as two people set to disrobing each other with a passion that had to be seen to be believed. Tops flew one way, trousers another, and underclothes went in various directions until they collapsed in a giggling heap on the bed, minus every scrap of clothing they had been wearing. Dil was every bit as beautiful naked as she was dressed, in many ways more so: she was a woman who did not look in the least bit vulnerable without garments and her natural power shone around. She was not in the least bit disappointed by what she saw in her partner either. Richie was very much all man: years of training with a sword had hardened off muscles all over his upper body, and he had never been lacking in other areas. They lay next to each other for a moment, just watching their companion and taking in what they were. It was a seconds respite in a sea of activity, a time to appreciate what they were about to do. He ran his fingers through her long downy hair and stared into her eyes without the fear that had been there, what seemed like an age ago.

"You are exquisite," he said genuinely, "who could deny you anything?"

"Not all men appreciate beauty," she said and for a second, memory clouded her open gaze, "but now I have found another who does."

She moved towards him and with a gentle movement pushed him down onto the bed. The sheets were soft against his back and she looked down at him, her tanned face framed by almost white hair.

"What will you give me?" she asked quietly and moved to straddle him.

"Anything you ask," he returned without hesitation.

The words came from that deep place inside him again, drawn from his soul.

"And what must I give in return?" her second question was as gentle as the first.

"All that you are," he replied, perfectly sure of what he was saying.

"Then I am yours and you are mine," she told him and ran her fingers along his breast bone, "nothing can tear us apart."

His hands found her slim waist and disappeared up under her soft locks. She purred appreciatively as his nails glided up her back and her eyes lit with a primeval fire. She leant down and kissed him passionately on the lips and found herself gathered in a powerful embrace. Skin brushed skin with tantalising briefness as she pulled up and away once more before moving down slightly and pushing herself onto his torso, laying her head on his chest. Flesh moulded to flesh and she caught his hands as she listened to his heart beat. The blood rushed through his body in powerful tides, but he was still as she took in his rhythm. Her heart raced slightly faster than his, but with a small smile she brought hers under careful control and slowly they came into time. Her fingers entwined with his in patient stillness until finally he felt what she was doing. One moment he was aware of his own body and only hers in that it was in such close proximity to his, but then he felt her. He truly understood the rhythms of her body as they tuned to his and it opened up a whole new avenue of experience. They rolled over as one and he pushed her arms down by the side of her head, a smile of pure satisfaction spreading across his face. His lips brushed her breasts and her legs touched his thighs as their sexual excitement rose in tandem. She freed her hands and ran one down the flat of his stomach, poised just above her, and his eyes closed in pure delight. They were exploring, finding out exactly where the other liked to be touched, how they liked to be coaxed to climax. Fingers found sensitive places and lips met erogenous zones as they drove each other on towards their ultimate goal. At last, she relaxed back onto the bed that one centimetre more and invited him in. Lover swayed towards lover, and their union was smooth and gentle, as need fulfilled need. They moved as one, their bodies gliding against each other, speeding up and slowing down, passionate and then gentle. Their world was pure sensation as they reached for the ultimate sharable experience. Dil's fingers dug into Richie's shoulders, causing small white marks and her legs entwined him: she wanted all of him, and soon. She pushed against the bed and her back arched, calling to him for the final meeting and he was more than happy to oblige. Body strained against body as, like one they moaned their completion and they surrendered to the passion of sexual zenith. Time stood still. They collapsed together, still perfectly in tune, even to the second, and he rested above her, leaning on his arms with a tired smile on his face. She didn't want to let him go, the moment was so perfect and she wanted to keep him, but eventually she let her legs relax and he pulled away gently. This particular peak was over, but as he lay down beside her their hearts still beat as one, the night was yet young.

At one in the morning, Dil was still awake and she smiled at her sleeping partner contentedly. Richie looked so young with his head resting on her stomach, body draped carelessly across the bed, snoring gently. He seemed so peaceful lying their and very quietly she began to cry. She wept for a man with the same face, for the pain she had suffered and for the happiness she now felt, as her lover slept on blissfully unaware.

Morning arrived to find Richie alone, sprawled across the silk sheets on his front, still sound asleep. It was as Dil padded back from the other end of the large house with a breakfast tray that the younger Immortal's face screwed up in a frown and he greeted the new day by opening his eyes. The scraping on the inside of his skull soon began to die away, however, and he smiled up at his lover as she walked into the room.

"Hi," he greeted in a sleepy voice, "something smells good."

"Toast and butter, with as much preserve as you can get on the knife," she informed him brightly and put her burden on the bedside table. "Nothing extravagant, but one of my favourites."

She sat down next to him on the mattress and stroked the side of his face wistfully as he rolled over and pulled the covers more around him.

"Thank you," she said impulsively and ruffled his hair.

"What for?" he asked and played with the corner of the shirt she had thrown on to make breakfast.

"For giving me back something I thought had been stolen a long time ago," was her reply, and she half smiled at him.

"Anything," he returned in all sincerity.

She didn't want to spoil the moment so they ate, showered and dressed before she broke the news to him.

"I still have to find Oliver," she said quietly as he carried the tray back to the kitchen for her.

But to her surprise, he understood her far better than she realised.

"I know," he replied calmly, "I'm not going to try and stop you. If you'd let me I'd like to help."

Her reaction was first shock and then trepidation.

"No, Richie," she said finally, "I couldn't bear it if I lost you to him as well. He's evil, and if he finds out about you, he will try and destroy you, just because I love you."

She was really afraid for him, and for once in his life, this Immortal decided to take someone's advice.

"Okay," he agreed slowly, "I'll stay away from your hunt. I maybe able to find some information for you though, if you can tell me all about him. I have some friends who probably know exactly where he is."

Reality was seeping back into their bubble of happiness and Dil didn't want that, not quite yet.

"Tomorrow," she said quickly, "lets forget about him until tomorrow. Stay with me today, Richie, and leave everything else until then."

He smiled at the thought and nodded willingly.

"Sounds good to me," he said with very little need for thought, "just let me call Duncan and cry off work, and I'm all yours."

It was a wonderful day: they went to the park, shopping, they ate lunch in one of the finest restaurants in town, and then they went back to the house, where Dil insisted on sketching Richie in a new pad she had bought. Nothing mattered except them, everything else was put aside as they indulged in each other's company and enjoyed themselves as if this was the last day of their lives. Even Immortals, however, didn't have endless stores of energy, and after a light evening meal they collapsed onto an over stuffed sofa in the back living room. Richie found he rather liked the feeling of holding Dil close as she lent back on him amongst the cushions.

"I could live like this forever," he whispered in her ear, and nuzzled her neck gently.

"But how long if forever, my love," the other Immortal returned quietly.

Silence descended for a while as they both became lost in their own thoughts.

"Will you tell me about James?" Richie asked finally and she patted him on the hand fondly.

"Maybe one day," she told him calmly, "when I've laid his ghost to rest."

She sat up then, and turned to look at him seriously.

"What I do think you need to know is how he died," the beautiful woman told him slowly, "and why I hate Oliver so much. There is always the possibility that I may not be the one coming back from this hunt and you need to know, at least what drove me to this place. If I die, you will go on, my sweet, of that I am sure, and I want you to promise me you will not go after Oliver if he kills me unless you absolutely have to."

"I can't," Richie protested, distressed even at the thought.

"Anything, remember," she threw the only thing back at him that could gain his word. "Now promise me, before I tell you my story."

He looked at her for a second, sullen in defeat, but finally nodded, he had to.

"I first met Oliver twelve years before I married James," Dil began her story as if it were a mythical tale, "and he made it very clear that he wanted me in more ways than one. I refused him and humiliated him in front of his friends, something I truly regret doing, so much suffering would have been avoided if I had just walked away. He vowed that one day he would come for me. That day turned out to be the fourteenth of May, 1806, and he came to James house whilst we were sleeping. He broke in and charged the bedroom, he knew exactly where to find us, and he shot James in the back before killing me as well. When I came back I was tied to the bed and Oliver was leering down at me with his sword in his hand. He told me that my day had not yet come, but in the future I would beg him to take my head. Then he raped me and stabbed me through the heart, leaving me for the others to find me. I think his intention was for them to believe I was dead, but I healed before James' people came and so I did not suffer the final humiliation of running from my grave. I had not thought of anything but revenge since, until I first saw you, and you gave me new hope."

Richie said nothing, what words were there to comfort such pain? Instead he wound his arms around her and held her tight, tonight was for love, not grief.

That evening, their passion was even greater than the previous, but not so urgent.

The first Richie felt was the normal, tingling presence of another Immortal that drew him from sleep and his mind flew to the thought of his sword, lying half under his jacket on the other side of the room. His body was just that much slower as he launched himself from the bed, saw Dil do the same, and caught sight of the shadowy figure that had just smashed through the door. The assassin was taking no chances and the angry sound of an automatic ripped through the darkness and slugs thudded into his body. The last thing he heard was Dil's dying scream of fury.

When she woke, the female Immortal was not surprised to find that she was strapped down to the four corners of the bed. She couldn't move, not even to express the rush of pure hatred she felt as she laid eyes on the man who had murdered her husband all those years ago.

"Imagine my surprise when I saw the two of you eating in my restaurant," the dark haired, ferret faced Immortal said triumphantly. "So you found another James, did you, little one. Well he's as dead as the last one."

If it hadn't been for the gag in her mouth, Dil would have screamed so hard that the walls would have remembered the sound for centuries. Then, however, the logical part of her brain kicked in and she realised there were no signs of a quickening in the room, she didn't understand. It was as Oliver stepped sideways that she was shown the answer. Richie was propped unceremoniously in a chair, right in her line of vision, like an exhibit, a very dead one. The bullet holes were a violent red and the one through the heart had probably killed him. He was unrestrained, Oliver had not tied him down, and it began to dawn on Dil that he didn't realise Richie would be coming back. Hope sprang in her heart, but what showed on her face was anger and pain, as if she believed that her lover was truly gone. She had to keep Oliver distracted, especially for the moment when Richie would wake. It was one thing for the presence of an ancient Immortal to mask that of a young one when they were found together, but coming back form the dead would be like leaving and walking back in. The evil man would realise his mistake the moment his captive opened his eyes and for Richie to have any chance at all he would have to be at the opposite end of the room. The gun was on the table on the other side of the bed, discarded when Oliver tied up Dil, which was a good thing, but Richie still needed to have time to reach his sword. The Immortal woman needn't have worried about her captor staying near what he thought was a corpse, however, he too much wanted to gloat over his female victim.

"Will you ask me to take your head now," the disgusting man asked and leaned over her semi naked form, "or later after a little persuasion."

He had pulled out the short sword he carried under his coat and he ran the tip down the inside of Dil's leg.

"How does it feel to fall for the same trick twice?" he asked coldly. "Does it hurt to loose the same man a second time?"

She struggled against the bonds then, and she did not need to act, she wanted to kill him more than she could ever explain. Her curses were stopped in her throat by the cloth muffling her voice, but Oliver did not need to hear them to understand.

"Persuasion it is then," he said maliciously and went to take off his coat.

He laughed as she pulled at her bonds and then he reached down to pull away the remains of her clothing. It was as his fingers connected with the cloth that he felt the other Immortal and as he spun on the spot he came face to face with Richie who made a lunge for his sword. It gave Oliver just enough time to reach for his blade where he had left it on the table and then two armed Immortals faced each other.

"Well, well," he said, recovering from his shock quickly, "we really must be small fry if our presence can be masked by darling Dil, here."

"You wish," Richie returned evenly and didn't take his eyes off his opponent for a second. "Richard Ryan, and your head belongs to me."

"It seems you shall get to watch you lover die all over again, Dil," Oliver said calmly. "I am Oliver Harincourt, child, and I am you death."

The way the Immortal held himself, he was not a bad swordsman, in fact he appeared quite skilful as he brushed off Richie's first attack, seemingly effortlessly. Dil watched them exchange a few testing blows, and she knew all too easily which of the two was the best in battle. Oliver was six hundred years old, he had had more practice and would cheat far more easily that his adversary. To win this one, Richie was going to need some severe luck, or a will to win second only to the Almighty's. The younger Immortal had the skill, he just didn't have the experience to give him the edge.

Dil could have tried to scream, attempted to distract Oliver, but instead she lay back on the bed and relaxed. Her thoughts went to her lover and gradually she found what she was looking for: his heart beat. It seemed like it took an age, but slowly she brought her own rhythm in tune with his and then she pushed everything she had at him. It was a technique designed to harmonise two people, it was not meant for battle, but suddenly Richie was moving that one little step faster and he began to fight his way out of the corner into which he was being blocked. Blow followed blow and the two men moved around the room like dancers in a ballet. They cut and parried, thrust and blocked, each trying to find the others weaknesses. There was surprise in the older Immortal's face as he realised that this pup was not going to be as easy to kill as he had first thought. Objects in the room were use as projectiles when the lack of space became a hindrance to normal sword work. Several ornaments were smashed and both men were sporting several small cuts and bruises very quickly, only to see them disappear in a few short seconds. It was Oliver, however, who drew first blood with his blade, and Richie drew back a nasty gash on his arm in payment for over reaching in one attack. His eyes flashed with pain and anger, at the wound, but he held back, stalling for any time he could, to give the injury a chance to heal. Blood dripped in a steady stream and the muscle complained, where it had been damaged, but it wasn't like an Immortal to let something so insignificant stop him. There was no chance for a petty pay back, however, because for once, luck was on Richie's side, as the opportunity to end the battle showed itself. Oliver threw a cushion at his opponent in an attempt to distract him and the young man had no qualms about throwing it back. To dodge the projectile and land a strike, the older Immortal tried the duck under the throw and move in closer to Richie. On the way he slipped, and it was all the younger needed. With an incoherent cry he launched himself at the flailing figure and by grazing himself along the edged of the others sword he came close enough for the killing stroke. Oliver had just enough time to see the blade come swinging down, and then his head went bouncing across the floor.

It happened so quickly, and for a moment Richie just stood there in slight disbelief. His eyes found Dil's and he reached towards her, at which point the start of Oliver's Quickening found him. The first cold fingers of power rippled down his spine and his heart skipped in expectancy and trepidation. The foremost spark leapt from the fallen body into his right arm and he let go of his sword with a painful grunt. Control was no-longer his and he surrendered completely to the Quickening. His face contorted with agony as lightening bolts careered into his body and sinews cracked as they were stretched by uncontrollable contortions. Oliver had taken many heads in his time and he had been very powerful, and that energy tried to push Richie off his feet. He tried so hard not to scream, he always did, but the sound was dragged from him as pain took away all thought and dissolved his world in a hell of sensation. Every cells felt about to explode, each seeming to absorb more power than it could take and burning with the Immortal fire. Then just as it seemed as if he would be utterly destroyed and consumed by the unstoppable forces, it ended and his muscles collapsed with unanimous exhaustion.

It took several moments before the real world finally managed to reassert itself in the young Immortal's mind, but when it finally did come sliding back, he found himself on his knees, with his head resting on the carpet. Every fibre of his body hurt, and physical contact with the ground was almost painful, but slowly he pushed himself to his feet. His fingers automatically sought out the hilt of his sword and it hung by his side as he leaned against the bed post. He felt exhilarated, totally wiped out and strangely empty at the same time and his eyes swung slowly to where Dil lay. He moved as soon as his thoughts caught up with what he saw, and his blade sliced through his lovers bonds like they weren't there.

"I'm sorry," he said quietly as he reached over to help her with the gag.

He was relieved that the fight was over, but he was guilty, somehow, that he had taken Oliver's head when Dil had hunted him so long. He couldn't meet her gaze and his line of vision kept slipping away from her to the wall behind or the bed below.

"Why so sad, Richie," her tone was gentle and kind amongst such destruction, "he's dead."

"But he was yours," the other returned in no more than a whisper, "I took the Quickening you should have had."

Her hand found his and wound around his slack fingers.

"I don't care who killed him," she said earnestly, "so long as he's gone. He was my nemesis, and I hated him, I wanted to see him die. That you took his head seems more right to me than you can ever know. You have avenged James, you have saved me and I cannot blame you for any of that."

His gaze ventured upwards slowly, across the slightly smiling mouth and the small straight nose, up to the pale, iridescent eyes. Richie had met others who were very protective about their kills, that a woman who had followed a man through two hundred years, was not worried when another stole her prize, was almost unbelievable.

"You are such a sweet child," Dil said quietly and ran her fingers down the side of his face. "Thank you, my love, thank you for everything."

Then she pulled him close and his arms squeezed her tightly, stillness in a room that was still smoking in places.

MacLeod was kicking the hell out of a punch bag when he felt the first signs of another Immortal, and he stopped instantly, suddenly glad there were several regulars in the gym around him. His momentary pang of anxiety was, however, soon countered as Dil breezed through the door with Richie close behind.

"Duncan," the blonde bombshell greeted cheerfully and quite to his surprise, threw her arms around him and kissed him on the nose.

His other friend just stood back, smiling to himself.

"Can we all go somewhere a little more private?" the ancient woman asked quietly and grinned cheekily.

It was difficult not to pick up on her mood and the Highlander nodded as soon as he was released.

"Of course," he replied. "Pete, make sure no-one steels the wall bars will you."

The subject of his enquiry waved and smiled his affirmative, there was no problem there.

"He's dead, Duncan," Dil said like a child discovering fairies, as the three Immortals climbed out of the elevator, "Oliver's gone for good."

The way Richie and the woman couldn't keep their hands off each other, rather gave away their relationship and confirmed the suspicions Mac had had since his young friend had cried off work. Dil's news was therefore the best of which the Scot could conceive.

"That's wonderful," he replied, totally sympathetic to the warrior's need to avenge her long dead love and wandered over to the fridge, "this calls for a celebration."

He was aware that in the next few days, Dil might have trouble coming to terms with the fact that her quest of two centuries was over, but for now it was definitely time to be happy. Where Richie fitted into the scheme of things he had no idea, but then again, he was used to not knowing everything. Most Immortals discovered early on that even they were not omnipotent.

"So where did you catch up with him?" he asked with a smile and reached for a handy bottle of champagne.

"Actually he came to us," Dil replied and let Richie find the glasses for the alcohol, "he had delusions of me letting him take my head. Unfortunately for him, he didn't realise Richie was Immortal and after shooting us both he tied me up but neglected to relieve my sweetie, here, of his. Your prot‚g‚ has a lethal sword arm, Duncan, your training should be recommended."

Her insinuation was clear and the Highlander's eyes widened with surprise.

"You killed him?" he asked, incredulously looking straight at Richie.

It wasn't that he didn't think his young friend was capable of taking care of himself, it was just, he couldn't believe that Dil would be in such a good mood if someone had beaten her to her quarry.

"Now I see where he gets it from," the blonde Amazon said with a beautiful smile. "Not that I wouldn't have liked to carve his head off with a bunt bowie knife whilst he was still breathing, but I am just glad Oliver's dead. I might have been a little upset if a complete stranger had waltzed in and pushed me aside to finish off the crazed bastard," she continued to explain eloquently, "but anyone who looks as good as Richie in their underwear deserves a decent Quickening from time to time."

The subject of her scrutiny went a gentle shade of pink. Now Duncan was very confused, he knew he was missing a part of the puzzle, his fellow Immortal was good looking, but he doubted that just that could have tempted Dil from her celibate life of violence. The ancient woman read the questions in his face and laughed with delighted abandon: this was the side of her, no-one had seen for a couple of hundred years.

"Richie will elucidate," she said lightly and relieved the Highlander of the bottle he had just managed to open.

He looked to his young friend and the Immortal sort of shrugged with a lopsided grin on his face.

"Well it's a bit of a long story," he said slowly and squirmed awkwardly under Duncan's penetrating gaze.

This was going to take a lot of explaining, and the mood Dil was in, he wasn't going to get any help from that direction. Sometimes life was complicated, sometimes exciting and sometimes just plain embarrassing: Richie couldn't decide under which category this moment fell.

The End