First Light

Part 2


Scene 5

At the hospital...

The usual medical activities were carried on with efficiency all around Duncan MacLeod. Experienced nurses walked to different rooms attending their patients, doctors were paged from overhead speakers, voices were kept low and corridors were kept clean.

Duncan barely noticed all of this.

First of all, he didn't like hospitals. Too many sad memories were evoked by the sounds and smells.

Second, in this moment he was divided between two very different feelings.

The Highlander was relieved and happy about the news the attending physician had just told him: Joe Dawson was safe. His wound wasn't as serious as it had seemed the day before. The Watcher had to undergo minor surgery, but now everything was under control. Joe would have to keep his arm in a cast for quite a long time and naturally be back regularly to be checked, but there weren't any other dramatic consequences.

The Highlander's other concern was the information he was receiving over the phone.

"Are you sure?" He asked, his knitted brow showing his intense concentration.

He put his right hand on the wall near the phone, as if to share with it the weight he felt on his shoulders, and get some relief from the tension and latest events. A pretty young nurse slowed down near him and shot a side-glance at the tall man, openly expressing her deep appreciation of his long legs and athletic body. The brunette hmpfed loudly at his evident lack of interest and went back to her duty.

Duncan MacLeod's attention was riveted on Methos's voice over the phone.

"Have I ever told you anything I was completely wrong about?"

The oldest Immortal didn't stop to wait for the answer. He strongly suspected it could be quite different from the one he expected. Lies or truth untold were an entirely different subject, but Adam Pierson didn't want to stir the Highlander's memory too much about it. The past was past.

"I am sure," he said again. "She isn't in the records, but I have ways to know things. I warn you: she is dangerous. If she is who I think, she's definitely dangerous."

"I'll call you back. Thanks."

"Tell Dawson he should be more picky about the people he associates with."

"I'll do that." Duncan hang up the phone, half smiling. The oldest Immortal would never change his cynically humorous attitude about life, he thought, or his way of going around things, either.

Dawson was waiting for him just outside the emergency area. Duncan's arrival interrupted his on-going conversation with a very fed-up nurse. Joe signed a couple of papers she was holding, then turned to Duncan.

"I finally convinced them to let me go!" He said, but his friendly smile couldn't hide from the Highlander the fatigue and pain the Watcher had experienced in the past hours.

Duncan started to say: "Look, I still think I should handle this and you should stay here--", but Dawson stopped him with annoyed gestures and hurried towards the exit. He was secretly happy he had avoided being escorted out in the regular wheelchair, and he didn't want to lose precious time either.

"I'm worried," he said as Duncan opened the doors for him. "I've heard bad news. There are rumors...factions. This whole incident could start something I want to avoid."

The Highlander helped him to the T-Bird. They faced each other silently. They knew each other so well, their gaze left no doubts to what their thoughts were. They'd been through this before.

"I've got a trail to follow. I went back to your bar last night and I found this in her coat." Duncan said, showing a crumpled piece of paper to his friend.

"We have to find her, MacLeod. Before someone else does. Before she finds me again. Before someone gets too impatient...or vindictive..."

The T-Bird started off, leaving a good chunk of its tires on the concrete.


Scene 6

At Richie's place...

"Looks good on you." Richie commented. He had lent Altea a sweater, one of his favorites, of course.

The night hadn't been a quiet one, with little sleeping on either side. Altea had her mind set on planning her next attack against the hideous killer. During the night, a tall, handsome dark-haired Immortal had been included in her plans. Richie had shifted uncomfortably on the couch, only half asleep. Trusting, yes, but not stupid. Now, with his arms crossed on his chest, he was trying to understand what was going on the young woman's mind.

He didn't have to wait for long. Altea had almost finished braiding her hair, then : "I'm going," she announced.

"Oh, really?"

"Yes, I am." She paused, uncertain, not looking at him, then added nervously, almost embarrassed. "Unless you want to claim property..."

The phone rang, interrupting the conversation. Richie eyed Altea with intensity, opened his mouth to speak, then changed his mind and answered the call. He casually put himself between the door and the Amazon.

"Rich?"

"Hi, Mac."

"You heard 'bout Joe?"

"No, what's happened?" Richie listened for a while, then frowned in concern. Unconsciously, as the Highlander explained to him what had happened, all Richie's muscles tightened.

"That's it...we may have located her shelter, a hotel downtown...she left an address...Rich, you there?"

"Oh, well...yes, Mac...sure."

"Is there someone with you?"

"Yeah, kind of." Richie leaned against the wall, a fake smile promptly appearing on his lips. He had left his sword in his room. {Stupid! You should know better!!!}, he kept thinking over and over. His hormones were acting for him again. {Don't you ever learn your lesson? You should know better, by now! Don't trust anyone, never trust anyone!}

Altea had her axe, hidden somewhere. Duncan's account of the recent events and his description of the stranger made Richie's heartbeat speed up. Everything seemed to fit. He had to think fast. He could be wrong, but what if he wasn't?

On the other end of the line, Duncan MaLeod noted the slight change in his friend's voice. Richie was another of his concerns, lately. It seemed that their relationship had reached a certain equilibrium, but recently the young man was behaving oddly. Now the Highlander was very uncertain about how to view this entire phone call.

"She's there?" He guessed.

"I'm sorry I forgot I invited you. I already have a special guest, so...I'm sure you understand..."

Duncan couldn't believe it. "Richie, she is there?" He repeated incredulously. He gestured the news to Joe.

"Ok, Mac. See you." Richie hung up the phone.

Duncan pushed on the accelerator, explaining to an astonished Dawson that his potential killer was a special guest of Richie's at the moment.

------------------------------

An awkward silence divided the two Immortals.

"I'm leaving now." Altea repeated, made suspicious by the phone call. She started to walk past Richie, heading for the door.

"No, you aren't, lady," he said quietly, slamming his right hand on the door to keep it closed. His move startled her only for a second. She turned her face towards his, only a few inches away, and grinned. Her fists clenched in her pockets.

"I thought you said you weren't going to fight me," she whispered to him.

His startling ice-blue eyes kept her still. Richie's whole attitude was definitely threatening now. He was still blocking her way with his arm.

"I'd like some answers before you go. Who killed you yesterday, for one. And why did you try to kill Joe Dawson, for another."

Richie thought this could have been a shot in the dark, but it wasn't. Her expression was too clear. He felt angry now, but still kept hold of himself. He waited for her answer, coldly preparing himself to grab her before she could attack him.

Altea had reached a conclusion.

"So you know about Watchers, don't you? Well, Dawson is in a peculiar position, don't you think? He helped Horton kill Darius. Dawson shares his family blood with the killer, the guilt of one is the guilt of the other."

Her tone was, again, gentle but cold. She was preparing to fight. One of her rules said: get them before they get you. She lived by her rules, the ones taught her such a long time ago, despite Darius's teachings.

"That's what you think? You have this all wrong, lady, all wrong!" Richie's tone was a mix of anger and relief. "Joe can be a sneaky, annoying spy sometimes, ok, but he had nothing to do with Horton, I tell you. I know it, I was there!"

"You were there? You were there?" Altea's voice rose, her loss turning into fury and overwhelming her self-control. "And yesterday you said Darius was a great man, you...bastard!"

The word exploded on her lips, as her right fist punched him hard in his stomach. But Richie was ready for the blow; he countered, twisting her left hand behind her back before she could grab her labrys. He held her like that for a while, then she struggled hard enough to free herself and kicked him wildly on his knees. Richie ducked to avoid a double-handed master stroke, caught her by the waist and pushed her hard against the wall, using his own body weight to keep her still.

A part of him was still very reluctant to hit women, even if they were as dangerous as this one in his arms. He tried to talk some sense into her as he struggled to maintain hold of her.

"I swear, my head on it, Joe's innocent." He was panting and realized she wasn't listening to him. Richie let her go abruptly.

"Joe is innocent." He repeated.

Altea was also breathless. They were both young, strong and well- trained. They could probably fight for hours.

"I don't believe you." She said.

The sensation of another Immortal approaching hit both of them. Richie knew it was Duncan coming, and instinct turned him to the door. The young woman took advantage of this diversion and darted across the room. Richie ran after her, just as Duncan banged on the door, calling him.

"Mac!" Richie called, but failed to reach Altea. She jumped right through the window, escaping once again.

Duncan broke into the apartment, joining Richie at the window.

"Joe's down in the car." He told him. "What--"

They followed helplessly as Altea put herself back on her feet after the jump and started to run away. She had just made it to the corner when a motorcycle reached her from behind and shot her twice in her back. She went tumbling down, but rolled over and got up again, disappearing around the block. The T-Bird reached and flanked the aggressors with a very clumsy maneuver, blocking their way.

"The address!" Richie asked the Highlander, flying to his room to get his sword and his keys. "Give me the damned address!" he yelled, heading to the stairs.

Duncan followed him closely down the steps, hoping in his heart Joe could handle the situation down in the street all by himself for a little longer. He shouted the address to Richie's back; the young Immortal was already on his bike. Then Duncan ran to the T- Bird, where a suffering but furious Joe was holding his ground with the help of a gun.

"You okay?" The Highlander asked his friend as soon as he was within reach.

Meantime, he picked up the .45 from the ground and searched the two strangers to be sure they were totally disarmed.

"I'm fine, thanks." Joe answered.

Duncan couldn't help turning to his friend and questioning him with his dark, concerned eyes, because weariness and sadness were evident in his friend's voice. Joe hesitated, then told him the truth: "These two...are Watchers."

Duncan froze. His anger rose in him. He asked himself if there was ever to be an end to this continuous inference in Immortals' lives -- and deaths.


Scene 7

...the Clouds of Anger...

The place looked shabby and dirty.

Richie parked his bike, put away his helmet and took a deep breath. Too many events in so few hours. He didn't know how much more he could bear before he would explode. A quick glance around didn't tell him anything new. He shrugged.

Places like this, he knew too well. Only the desperate came to such places.

Entering was a matter of seconds, there were no questions here. By the time he had reached the rooms in the back, overlooking the deserted waterfront, he felt her presence. It wasn't difficult to locate the right room, force it open and enter it, sword in hand. The wretched room was dark. It took Richie a moment to adjust his eyes to the dim light. The only window was closed. Altea was sitting in the single chair, right in front of the door.

"I heal slowly," she said. "But I can still throw my axe at you. Maybe I should. How did you find me?"

Richie confronted her. "It doesn't matter. I wanted..." He hesitated, then said in a rush: "I wanted to see you. This whole thing's a mess, you're all wrong and I think you need my help!"

"You want to help me? Then help me kill that bastard out there! Help avenge Darius!"

"There's nothing good in revenge! There's nothing!" Richie shouted back at her. " I know! I've been there! Nothing will bring him back! Nothing! Nothing will change what you feel!"

The Amazon stepped in front of him, staggering.

"What do you know about me? About my feelings?.....Well?.....What do you know?....." She waited defiantly for an answer. Then she continued.

"One morning I was free, proud of myself, ready to show my value on the battle-field, to earn my clan's respect once and for all, to show them I was worthy to be a leader! A priestess! Then I was dead! Dead with no honor, 'cause I didn't even see my killer's face! And next? I found myself alive, walking in the daylight in a world I thought was my personal hell! I didn't understand anything, the chaos, the noise, voices coming from nowhere, all those machines, cars, bikes, planes, lights, clothes that to me seemed like evil bonds!"

Altea was shouting, her desperation flowing through her very skin, hitting Richie with devastating impact. He stepped back, until his shoulders were against the wall.

"What do you know about this?" She asked him. "Nothing! Darius was the first light I saw out of this, he was the one who told me I wasn't crazy, I wasn't a...a monster, living after death! What should I do? Forget him? Forget everything he did for me? I can't. I won't! I don't know if I'll ever fit in this world, I don't even know if I want to, but of one thing I'm sure: I won't forget what I am!"

She was poking Richie in the chest with her right hand, her eyes filled with tears, with fury, with all her memories crying to be let out.

"Right or wrong, for me Darius won't have any peace till I avenge him. Blood seeks blood, Ryan! I've been shot, remember? And who was there? Your friends, Ryan, Dawson and the other Immortal. Nice trap, was that, don't you think so? Maybe they're not exactly what you believe they are, maybe you shouldn't trust them so much, maybe you -"

"Enough!" That was too much for Richie. His inner anger almost pushed him to take his sword and fight her, but he stayed in control. The young woman's last words had hit a vulnerable spot in his soul. A wound, not yet healed, and, Richie knew now, one that wouldn't ever heal.

The red-headed Immortal closed his eyes to Altea's rage and grief, and it took only a second for him to be...

.....back there, in a dark street, near Tessa's dead body, too soon facing his own immortality. {The fear.}

.....in the dojo, twice, on his knees. With Mac's katana at his neck. { The disbelief.}

.....at Joe's, asking for help, he needed a sword, and hearing him say "No, I can't." {The sorrow.}

.....the horror he'd been through, with the Evil possessing him in order to defeat MacLeod, Richie being only a puppet. {Yes, the horror.}

...All of this was still hidden deep inside his soul. The ache for everything in his life that he had lost would always be there. His innocence, his hopes, everything that could have been, had been washed away instead.

Forever.

There was no reason he could accept. Yes, he could understand the Amazon. He really could.


Scene 8

In the meantime...

The Highlander was waiting outside the old building. He was nervously pacing back and forth, fretting at the waste of time.

He was worried and couldn't stand still. There was going to be another trial, he supposed, and this was calling back sad and angry memories. He couldn't wait any longer, he was a man of action and one used to doing it on his own.

Joe came out, interrupting his thoughts. Duncan was concerned about the stubborn mortal; he should have been resting, not going around facing killers, traitors, and even trying to drive. But he knew better than to say that.

"I'm going to look for them," Duncan announced to his friend.

"I'm coming with you," Joe said, approaching the passenger side of the car. His sharp tone made it clear he wasn't going to accept no for an answer. The Highlander got into the car.

"What about-" he asked, while turning on the engine, but Dawson's reply came quickly to interrupt him.

"Everything's under control, MacLeod. Everything's under control."

Duncan didn't bother answering that. Every time, everything was under control with the Watchers. Until next time. The Highlander bit his tongue and started to drive.


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