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Part 2

Scene 3

Joe sat at a table, Muddy Waters on the jukebox and a bottle of whiskey at his side. A grease fire earlier in the evening had forced him to close down early, so he was using the brief respite in business as an excuse to get caught up on his chronicles for the Watchers.

He looked up when he heard someone pounding on the front door. Duncan had said he might stop by later tonight , but the pounding was too frantic to be the Highlander. Curiosity getting the better of him, the Watcher went to unlock his door.

The barrier cleared from his way, Michael literally fell into the other man's arms. His face was ashen, he was drenched in sweat, and he was on the verge of hysterics. "Oh God, Joe. Oh God!"

"Mikey?" Joe pushed Michael away so he could look at the younger man. "Mikey, what the hell happened to you?"

Michael's shirt was ripped to shreds and soaked in blood. Blood had seeped into his jeans and leather jacket and was also clumping up his hair. "I don't know, I don't know," he stammered.

Joe led Michael over to the bar and forced him to sit on a stool. He retrieved his whiskey and then got a glass from beneath the bar. "Here, drink this."

Michael took the glass, but his hand was shaking so hard that the shot was empty by the time he got it to his lips. Joe poured him another one, but the same thing happened. It took him a total of five tries before he was finally able to drink one. "I'm not dead, Joe. Why? Why am I not dead?"

"Dead? Michael, what the hell are you talking about?" Joe asked, confused.

Michael shook his head in a combination of confusion and desperation. "I don't know what I'm talking about! I don't know anything anymore. I . . ." His head snapped up suddenly and he looked over at the door, his eyes growing wide in terror. "Oh God, oh God. My head, it. . . What the hell is that?!" He jumped off the stool so fast that he knocked it over, causing it to fall into the table behind him. It knocked the tabletop off balance, jolting it and the chairs on top of it to the floor. He spun at the sound and hit the whiskey bottle, sending it crashing to the floor. The bottle broke, whiskey and glass flying everywhere. He scrambled backwards until he hit the stage and collapsed on it. He buried his head in his arms and moaned. "Oh God, make it stop!"

Joe didn't know whether to go to Michael or the door. "Mikey, what's wrong?" he implored one more time. Then the door opened and he had his answer. "You son of a bitch! Why didn't you tell me?"

Duncan came into the bar, a confused look on the Scot's handsome face. "I don't know what you're talking about, Joe."

"Don't lie to me, MacLeod," Joe snapped. "Michael felt you come in!"

Duncan sighed. He'd been praying that the immortal he had felt as he approached had been Richie or Amanda or even Methos, anyone but Michael. But no such luck. "How'd it happen?" he asked.

"I don't know yet," Joe answered. "He's been hysterical since he got here and I haven't been able to calm him down enough to talk."

Duncan shook his head, looking around at the mayhem. "I was afraid of this." He sighed as he started walking towards the stage.

Michael jumped at the sound of footsteps and scrambled further back on the stage. "Stay away from me!"

"Mikey, it's okay," Joe said quietly. "Duncan's a friend, remember?"

Michael's eyes clouded in confusion. "Duncan?"

Duncan nodded, trying to make his body language as open and unthreatening as possible. "I can help, Michael," he said. "Tell me what happened."

Michael ran a hand through his hair. "I, I don't know. None of this makes any sense," he whispered, his voice shaking.

"Who hurt you, Mikey?" Joe asked.

"The Angel of Death, this, this psycho that's been stalking me," Michael answered. "But he didn't hurt me, he killed me. I know he killed me! But, but I'm here, aren't I? I mean, you guys aren't exactly what comes to mind when I picture angels. Although I always did think Heaven was a blues joint."

Duncan smiled. "No, Michael, I'm not an angel," he replied. "I'm an immortal, just like you."

Michael was even more confused. "Immortal?" he asked, disbelief clear in his voice. "Joe, is, is that true? Am I really immortal?"

Joe nodded. "It's true, Mikey," he answered. "You'll never get sick, you'll never get old, you'll never die." He wisely decided to leave out the part about other immortals coming for his head until he felt the poor kid could handle it.

Michael hung his head between his knees. "This can't be happening," he moaned. "It just can't!"

Joe walked over to Michael and held out his hand. "C'mon, Mikey," he said. "You can crash in my back room tonight. We'll try this again in the morning."

Michael slowly crawled off the stage and then let Joe lead him away.

Scene 4

Duncan wasn't able to come back until the next afternoon. Joe had used the grease fire as an excuse to keep the place closed so Michael could hide out.

As he approached the bar, Duncan heard someone pouring their heart out in the most soulful blues guitar he had ever heard. He couldn't make out the voice that was singing along, but he could sense the emotion behind it, along with the immortal who was also in the bar. {Joe's in rare form,} he thought. {He must be giving Michael a few pointers}. But what he saw when he finally went inside stunned the hell out of him.

Michael was sitting on the edge of the stage, his eyes closed, as he coaxed the most amazing sounds out of Joe's guitar. His fingers flew across the strings in a blinding dance as he sang, his voice pure and rich. Finally, his song came to an end and looked at his visitor. "Hi, Mac. Joe said you'd be stopping by."

"You can still play," Duncan said, stunned.

Michael nodded. "Shouldn't I be able too?"

Duncan walked over to a table and sat down. "It's just that I know a classical pianist who lost her ability to really play after she became immortal," he explained. "The notes were there, but the feeling was gone." The thought of Claudia Jardin still hurt him. He had tried to help her, to protect her, and he still felt like he had failed somewhere. If only she had let him teach her to use a sword.

Michael reached behind him to put the guitar back on its stand. "Well, there's your answer," he said. "I'm a rock star, we already think we're immortal."

Duncan laughed. "I hadn't thought of it that way," he replied. "So, how much did Joe tell you?"

Michael shrugged. "Not much, really," he admitted. "He told me about the Watchers and about whatever it is I feel whenever you come by. But is it really true that some of you guys, or should I say some of us guys, will really becoming after my head?"

Duncan nodded. "It's true." He reached into his trench coat and pulled out his katana. "We live and die by the sword, Michael. Whether we like or not, the Game is the very center of our existence."

Michael eyed the katana warily. "I've, uh, I've taken a couple of martial arts classes, but I've never used a sword before."

"Don't worry, I'll teach you," Duncan replied. "But first we have to work on setting up your new identity."

"Whoa, wait a second," Michael said. "What do you mean, 'new identity'?"

Duncan sighed. He could all ready tell this wasn't going to be easy. "Your current life is too high-profile for an immortal," he answered. "I haven't lasted 400 years by advertising my existence to every immortal around."

"Are you out of your mind?!" Michael snapped. "I can't give up my life."

"You don't have a choice," Duncan shot back. {Great, just what I need, another Danny Cimoli.}

Michael kicked over the chair that was sitting in front of him. "Damn it!" he yelled. "I am not doing this! I have worked too hard to get where I am to give it up now. And not you or this lunatic Angel of Death or anyone else can make me."

Duncan wanted to scream. "You have no choice," he repeated. "You're in the Game now."

Michael's eyes narrowed. "Then take me out of it," he spat. "Because that is the only way I'll give up my life."

"Then find yourself a new teacher." Duncan got up and stormed out, seething.

Scene 5

Since Joe's band had an outside gig that night, Richie volunteered to "baby-sit" Michael. He headed over to the bar, his arms laden with dinner and a few other odds and ends.

"Hey, Michael, it's just me, Richie," he called as he entered. "I hope you like Chinese 'cause I got a little bit of everything. I brought you some clothes too so you could finally change. I think we're about the same size, although this stuff might be a little short on you since your taller than me. I couldn't believe you weren't all over the front page though. They had like one little mention of the cancelation of your show buried way back in the comics. But I guess your manager knows what he's doing." Michael still hadn't responded. "I know you're in here, wiseguy, I can feel you. Mac ain't the only immortal around here ya know."

Suddenly, a low moan came from the back of the room. "Would you please stop that vibrating, spinning, buzzing, whatever the hell it is?!" Michael asked.

Richie grinned as he headed in the direction the moan had come from. "Sorry, man, it don't work that way."

Michael was stretched out in a corner booth, a half-empty bottle of whiskey in one hand and the other arm draped over his eyes. A collection of empty bottles littered the floor and the table in front of him. "Figures."

Richie put his bags down on the table. "Geez, did you leave anything behind the bar?"

Michael belched loudly. "Hey, I can afford it," he hiccuped. "Assuming I can actually get to my money, that is. Oh perfect. Now I'm not just dead, I'm broke too."

Richie grabbed a chair, flipped it around, and straddled it. "You're also stone drunk," he pointed out.

"Well don't you just have a real grasp of the obvious?" Michael slurred. "I certainly hope I'm drunk, Ryan. I've been workin' at it since that pain in the ass MacLeod left here this afternoon."

"Well, that's one way to deal with Mac," Richie replied. "Not exactly one I would have tried though."

Michael pushed himself up into a sitting position and then grabbed the sides of the table to steady himself. "You ever have a dream, Richie?" he asked.

"Once or twice," Richie answered vaguely.

Michael took a swig from the bottle. "I had a dream," he said. "I've been dreaming about making music since I was five years old. And now that dream is my life! 'Cept now that jackass MacLeod wants to take it away from me."

Richie understood now. "Mac gave you the 'change of identity' speech, didn't he?"

Michael nodded. "Yup."

Richie sighed. "Michael, as much as I hate to admit it, Mac's got a point."

Michael stuck his tongue out at the other man. "Yeah, sure, take his side, ya pansy."

"Try to see this from Mac's side," Richie said. "He's just trying to fix it so that you get to live a nice, long life. And fame isn't exactly conducive to an immortal's existence. Trust me, I found that out the hard way." He still spent a lot of time kicking himself over that. He had loved racing motorcycles, it had been one of the few things he had been any good at. But one stupid mistake, like dying in front of half of Europe, had pretty much put an end to his racing career and any future travel plans he had.

Michael snorted. "I don't give a rat's ass about the fame."

That surprised Richie. "You don't?"

"Hell no," Michael answered. "Don't get me wrong, it's nice and everything, but it's not what I'm in this for. It's the music, man. It's always been the music."

"So, couldn't you just start over?" Richie asked, a sympathetic look on his face. "I know it would be a lot of hard work, but you made it once, I know you could do it again."

Michael shook his head. "I can cut and die my hair, use contacts to change my eye color, get a tan or something, even pull a Clark Kent and start wearing fake glasses, but I can't change my voice or my playing style. All it would take would be one fan with a really good ear and I'd be, like, totally screwed. I give up being Michael Anders now and I can't play anything anywhere for at least a couple of generations."

"I hadn't thought of that," Richie said in sympathy.

"Then you see my problem." Michael began to raise the bottle to his lips, but stopped as he turned green. "Oh God," he moaned. He stood up and raced towards the bathroom.

Scene 6

"Isn't there any other way, Mac?" Richie asked. As soon as Michael had passed out, the young immortal had headed straight to the loft. He had told Duncan the entire conversation they had had and he was hoping it would change the Highlander's mind.

Unfortunately, it didn't seem to be working. "Not a chance, Richie," Duncan answered. "It's pretty obvious that he's not willing to do what it takes to survive the Gathering."

"Did you ever ask him that?" Richie asked. "All he wants to do is keep his name, Mac. I think you of all people should be able to relate to that."

"But I never sold two million albums and had a number one hit," Duncan pointed out.

Richie leaned back in his chair and sighed. "Mac, Michael isn't Danny Cimoli or Claudia Jardin," he said. "Everything I know about Michael makes it seem like he's too into living to give up. I honestly think that if you give him a chance, he can pull this off."

"I don't know, Richie," Duncan replied. "I honestly don't know."

Richie was really getting fed up with his former teacher. "Will you quit being so damn pig-headed for once in your life and just talk to him?!" he snapped. "You're deciding his entire life for him and not giving him a say in any of it. I don't blame him for being pissed off at you. If someone were pulling the same crap on you, they'd have lost their head by now."

Duncan hated it when Richie was right. Even if it did take the Scot a long time to admit it when that happened. "All right, I'll talk to him," he said. "But I doubt it's going to change my mind."

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