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Part 3

Scene 2 6

FLASHBACK : PARIS 1992

The sun was out, it was a gorgeous day in the park and he was in beautiful company--Richie was really enjoying himself. He slipped his arm around Mairi's waist and was glad when she responded warmly. Leaning into him, she observed, "It so peaceful here, you wouldn't know you were in the middle of Paris."

"I come here running with Mac sometimes," Richie laughed to himself, "funny, I was always more interested in keeping up than the scenery."

"He's a hard task master," the woman agreed, and then asked an unexpected question, "Does he teach you at all?"

"No," Ryan stopped, mildly surprised, "why should he?"

The Immortal smiled and looked into his face as she answered casually, "Oh, no reason, just Mortals need self-defense as well as Immortals."

Richie relaxed again and they continued to walk, hand in hand this time.

"Tell you the truth, I think he tries to keep that part of his life away from Tess and me as much as he can," the youth admitted as it occurred to him. "I've watched him from time to time though. All that kata- stuff, it's so graceful, it never looks dangerous."

"Oh, it's dea-," Mairi began emphatically, but stopped short with a start that Richie recognized.

"Mac?" he asked his companion and the world in general.

Mairi shrugged as her eyes scanned the immediate area with an alertness which made Richie nervous. 'Not Mac,' he thought as the dangerous pause lasted too long. 'Boy I hate this part.'

"Claire?" Mairi called with enough chill in her voice to cool her companion's bones.

Richie started as he heard a soft, almost amused laugh come from behind the nearest cover of an old oak tree. Despite his disquiet, the young man had to admit to himself that he was impressed with the figure who stepped out from behind it; tall, slender, poised and with a presence that reminded him of Amanda. Yet, as her gaze met his, he recognized only contempt from her and whatever attraction there might have been died instantly. He felt a little foolish as Mairi took a defensive step between him and the approaching woman, but common sense for once told him to just keep still and stay out of it.

"Mairi, Darling," the exotic woman drawled as she came closer, but her body language was anything but friendly, "here was I following up a lead on Duncan MacLeod in a hope of finding you, and you walk right onto his boat, how considerate of you. And who is this? Such a handsome boy."

"Leave him out of this," Mairi warned and Richie recognized a sharp edge to her tone. "It's time we finished it, Claire."

"Is it that easy?" the elegant woman hissed with a venom which underlined her obsession.

"I don't want to kill you, but you leave me no choice," Mairi continued, undaunted.

Claire laughed, cold and hard and observed, "Not here I take it."

"Tomorrow afternoon, you know Paris, where won't we be disturbed?"

It was such a matter-of-fact conversation, Richie could barely believe these two women were arranging to try and kill each other.

"I'll arrange a place and let you know," Claire smiled nastily. "I have Duncan MacLeod's mobile number. Why don't you bring the boy along, adequate spoils for the winner."

"Not in this lifetime," Richie spat, as the Immortal sliced through his pride.

"Tomorrow," Mairi finished loudly, stepping backwards into her companion to stop him doing anything that his hurt pride told him to do.

The Scot grabbed his hand and pulled the young man away, he glared at Claire over his shoulder as he was dragged off.


Scene 2 7

Claire was well out of sight before Richie had stopped fuming enough to speak, and then he halted their progress back to the barge.

"You're really going to do it, aren't you?" he challenged, confused and hurt by the mixture of cold organization and intense hatred he had just witnessed. "You're going to wait for her to organize something, like doing lunch, and then you're going to meet her and take her head."

Mairi's features had been set in a hard frown since they'd left Claire, now they softened into a vague apology and concern. She faced him and took his hands, looking down a moment at their fingers as she considered her words. Then she gazed across at him, and Richie recognized the look; he'd seen it in another MacLeod's eyes, and for reasons he could not fathom, he resented it.

"Yes, Richie," she told him plainly. "Claire has been hunting me for centuries, and for a long time, I thought running each time was the answer. I hurt her, and I didn't want to kill her, but every time I've run, she's hurt someone I cared about."

Ryan could see where this one was going, and he didn't like it one little bit. There was that look in her eyes, protective, but one that automatically shut him out, shut any mortal out.

"Oh no," he argued, shaking his head resolutely, "Mac does this. I am not a kid, I do not need packing away somewhere safe."

"What Claire said, it wasn't a joke," Mairi returned, and tried to squeeze his hands in emphasis.

Yet, Richie was already pulling away from her, the jibe from Claire and the all-too familiar routine making him irrationally angry. He cared about this woman and she was pushing him out already. Why did it always have to come down to the same old lines, Immortal and Mortal.

"If you want last night to be it, just say so," the youth lashed out, feeling inadequate and very, very mortal.

He charged off, not wanting to wait for a response.


Scene 2 8

When Claire got home, Jacques was waiting for her. "Jacques, I need you to get me all the information on Duncan MacLeod for me, O.K.?" She asked sweetly as she kissed him and he nodded his head yes. "His companions as well this time, especially a blond teenager. I want to know everything, where he goes, who his friends are, anything you can get from MacLeod's file on him."

"I'll check into it, but MacLeod's chro...file is mainly about him."

"Just get me all the information you can."

"All right, I'll drop it off tomorrow morning. I'll go research it now."

"See you in the morning. Bye." She gave him a long lingering kiss before he left.


Scene 2 9

PRESENT: A PARIS BAR

"I was so mad," Richie admitted and Duncan saw the remnants of that emotion in his face. "I wouldn't talk to Mairi, I didn't even want to talk to Mac or Tessa."

"You had Tessa up all night," Mac told him, also feeling the left-over emotions from that tense situation.

"I didn't go home," Ryan explained to Altea and he looked suitably sheepish.

"You put Mairi in an awkward situation as well," the Scot chastised him.


Scene 3 0

FLASHBACK : PARIS 1992

"You were challenged and then you let Richie run off on his own?!" Duncan demanded of the figure who stood silently in front of him.

"I'm sorry, Duncan," Mairi replied, and she meant it. "I tried to catch him up, but he got back here and jumped on his bike. I wasn't quick enough."

After a comfortable game of chess with Darius, the day was taking a very worrying turn for the Highlander. He knew Richie and he knew he shouldn't be blaming Mairi, but he couldn't help it as his concern for the young man came through.

"I've went looking for him," Mairi continued under his heavy glare, "but he knows Paris a lot better than I do."

"Damn, stupid, hot-headed kid," Duncan muttered to himself and turned to pick up his katana. "Mairi, stay here with Tessa, I'm going out to look for him. I'll meet you at the practice ground at 6:00am. We still have to work on your fighting if you're to face Claire tomorrow, and if I haven't found Rich by then, we'll have to hope he just stays out of the way."


Scene 3 1

The sun was out on another glorious morning, but Mairi was not feeling its touch as she waited in the secluded woodland for Duncan to arrive. She was worried about Richie, they'd had no word since the incident in the park, and she knew Claire all too well when it came to hurting her loved-ones. From a moment in control of the situation she'd gone right back to how she'd felt when she'd been running. Everything had been arrange, she was finally going to deal with her nemesis, and then Richie had taken the control out of her hands. She could do nothing but hope that Duncan found him.

However, as she felt the familiar approach of another, her hopes were disappointed. The look on Duncan's face as he walked into view told her everything she needed to know. He was gray around the eye and it was obvious he'd had no sleep.

"I'm sorry," she apologized again, sensing how inadequate that was for the worry they were both feeling.

"Shall we begin?" was all that her companion replied.


Scene 3 2

It had been a good instinct to follow the boy, and Claire congratulated herself as she stood a little way off, watching him leave the forth jewelers in a row. This time he put something in his pocket, and the woman decided it was time to move in. She'd put Jacques on his tail over night, sleeping rough in the backstreets of Paris had not been her idea of a good night, but now her lover was waiting for her signal. She had to admit she was more than a little jealous of the blond youth. He was good-looking in an immature way and Mairi's body language had said it all--they were most definitely sleeping together. Claire had always been able to tell, and this boy hadn't exactly been subtle. Still he'd make an interesting toy for a while after she killed Mairi and for now he was more than enough bait to give her the edge over her opponent; Claire always liked a little insurance.

Ryan had parked his bike down the alleyway next to the shop, and Claire followed him down the side-street. The young man was unfixing his helmet from his bike as she walked towards him, but his head shot up as he heard her footsteps. She smiled at the alarm in his eyes, and stopped a little way off, it was time to play a while.

"What do you want?" the boy was admirable in the way he hid his fear as he spoke.

"Richie--isn't it?" she drooled casually, ignoring his question. "Buying something for your sweetheart?"

"That's none of your business," Ryan snapped back, defensive as he turned to face her directly.

'Good,' she thought, 'center on me.'

"Anything to do with Mairi is my business," Claire replied coolly.

"Why can't you just leave her alone?!" Richie demanded, his eyes flashing with anger. "Three hundred years is a long time."

"Not for us, Richie," the woman told him, "hasn't that other MacLeod taught you anything?"

The youth looked confused.

'He doesn't know,' Claire concluded and laughed as she realized there was yet more fun to be had.

Still, there were other things to be dealt with first, and now was not the time.

"What do you want?!" Ryan demanded again.

"You," Claire answered simply.

Jacques was behind the young man and it was too late by the time Richie noticed him. A kerchief went over his face and there was very little struggle as the chloroform reached him almost immediately. Her lover just stood and watched the body slump to the ground, an amused little grin on his face. Claire gave him a light peck on the nose, she loved the callousness of the man, and then knelt to check her captive's pulse. His heartbeat was strong, no problems with the chloroform, so she smiled up at Jacques and told him, "Go get the van."


Scene 3 3

Back at the woodland, Duncan and Mairi were taking a rest, using the time to talk. The Highlander was beginning to like this feisty Scot. He could see a lot of Connor's teaching in her and she reminded him a lot of the old days. It seemed the Clan MacLeod was destined to produce Immortals from their ranks, and it had not done a bad job of producing honest, honorable people.

"You don't like killing either, do you?" Duncan confessed.

"No. I only kill when I have to. Claire I have to kill, she's no more than pure evil. The woman I knew has all gone, and if I'm honest I don't think I was all to blame. She was always proud, I admired that in her, but I began to see that she wanted everything her way. I was incidental to it all, it's what I did to her pride that she wants to kill.

"Connor taught me the values I live by, same as you. I've never gone looking for a fight before, but Claire keeps on hurting everyone I've known, whether I've gone or not."

Duncan's cell phone rang. "Hello?"

Mairi tensed as her companion held the phone out to her; he didn't have to tell her who was on the other end.

"Claire," she began.

"Mairi, Darling," her opponent drawled, "3:00pm my place, I'm sure you know where that is, and I have added a little spice to our match."

The Scot heard a muffled, 'Go to hell', in the background and she recognized the voice.

"Richie!" she couldn't stop the concern from coming through her voice.

"I won't hurt him just yet," Claire answered her worry, "maybe let Jacques have a little fun, but nothing fatal. Remind MacLeod it's one on one, won't you."

"I'll have your head!" Mairi swore the oath of a Highlander.

The line went dead.

"I'm coming with you," Duncan met her gaze as she gave him back the phone.

"No, this is between Claire and myself, Duncan," she was ready for his offer of help. "Richie is insurance, she must know your reputation, if it was just for my sake, she'd have killed him by now. No, I have to face her alone and bring my husband's killer to justice!" Mairi finished without thinking.

"What?!" Duncan asked stunned, this was news.

Mairi realized what she had said and knew that an explanation was in order. So she took a deep breath and told him the truth, "Claire killed my last husband. She walked into a saloon and shot him in the back. She was with a group of men who killed four of my best friends at the time. Those four are now dead. Brought to justice by the law. Claire however, was Immortal so she could not be brought to justice. She had the nerve to show up at the funeral and she told me then that the reason the other men died was because of me.

"I have to do this alone, Duncan"

The woman turned and walked away. Duncan watched her go; he knew the rules, but this time Richie was involved. He was torn between having faith in Mairi and his concern for his young friend.


Scene 3 4

PRESENT: A PARIS BAR

"I wouldn't have understood that at the time, Mac," Richie admitted as his friend finished the admission of his quandary, "but now ..."

"Did you always get yourself into so much trouble?" Altea asked, and he saw the excitement in her eyes where the story had caught her imagination.

"Always," Mac responded with a wry laugh.

"Hey, it wasn't all my fault, it was hanging around with you," Ryan countered without any malice, "even when I became Immortal I wasn't immune. Kristov was surprised when he found out."

"Fatally surprised," Duncan agreed with a sure nod.

"Another 'old friend' of Mac's," Richie explained to Altea's questioning glance. "Had the same idea as Claire, only I was already Immortal and not happy when I got free."

"You didn't go for Claire's head did you?" Altea voiced her uncertainty at the inference in his disclosure.

"No," Richie laughed, "I left all that up to the MacLeod."


Scene 3 5

FLASHBACK : PARIS 1992

Claire had furnished her house for all eventualities, and that included her cellar. She had turned the room into a workout gym, which doubled nicely as a place of combat. This was one room Pierre did not clean for her, since the swords and other equipment lining the walls would have most definitely put pressure on his puritan loyalty. Hence only her and Jacques knew about this room, that was where she had decided to keep Richie. He was bound to a fitness machine and gagged. He was also trying to say something but his do-rag kept getting the way. Claire had sent Jacques away, wanting the time until Mairi arrived to be between just her and the bitch's latest conquest. It was time for a little mental torture. The kid was scared, she could see that, but he was also angry and his muffled complaints were his defense. It was vaguely annoying, so the woman chose her words to intimidate.

"Just as soon as I finish off your girlfriend, you'll be all mine," she told him casually, running a hand down his cheek.

He tensed and leant away; she smiled at the disgust in his eyes and his silence.

'Good,' she thought.

"You're not the first, but you'll be her last," Claire continued. "I don't think she was your first....are you good with women, Richie?"

The boy flushed, Claire's smile widened, this was going to be fun.


Scene 3 6

PRESENT: A PARIS BAR

MacLeod saw the frank hurt in Richie's face as he shared the moment with his closest companions. This conversation was going deeper than he'd expected it to, but Duncan didn't back down from it. It was a chance to explain himself to Richie, something he hadn't done at the time, and it was also a chance to show Altea that he was not only a warrior.

"That was a bad day for us all," he drew the attention back to himself as he continued, "I was stuck between a moral rock and a hard place. There are very few times when a dilemma like that comes up."

"Didn't take you long to resolve it though," Ryan grinned wickedly at his friend.


Scene 3 7

FLASHBACK : PARIS 1992

Claire had grown bored of teasing Richie by the time Jacques returned. The young man was sat staring at his feet, while she paced impatiently. Both faces turned to the door as it opened.

Claire felt another Immortal, and a smile broke across her features as the man led in her guest. Mairi's face was set in a frown and she drew her sword immediately.

"Good, she's angry,' the host thought with satisfaction.

"Thank you Jacques, wait for me upstairs," she dismissed her lover before turning to her guest, "Welcome to my home," Claire sneered, "you shan't be leaving."

The exotic woman picked up the blade which she had laid ready on a bench close by. Mairi, raised her sword in front of her and then sliced the air in salute. The formalities over she raised her blade more menacingly. Claire attacked. Mairi blocked. They were merely testing the waters, gauging strength and technique. A moment and the two bodies were feet apart once more, hovering on the edge of the confrontation. Claire was more than a little satisfied at the impact she made, she had honed her skills over the centuries, vengeance being a strong task master, and her almost leisurely stroke was far better than the strongest she had used on the last battle with her opponent. The red- head did not show any signs of being concerned, but then she had seen nothing yet. Claire smiled to herself and moved in again.

Mairi side-stepped a well-aimed blow for her left leg.

'Well, she can hop,' Claire shrugged off the light deflection and turned, prepared to keep her adversary on the defensive; that's how she liked her, running if not yet scared.

Teeth ground together as her rabbit decided it was time to become a wolf, and Claire had to provide her own defense. The clash was momentary, two contacts of steel up and to the right and then the fighters parted once more. Mairi backed away a little further than before, but still Claire could see no concern in her manner, she was merely being cautious. The vengeful woman wanted more, and quickly, revenge had been too long in coming and she was impatient to see this little tart suffer.

'Still, she's good,' Claire mused; the last few blows had shown her that, and she could not afford to underestimate her opponent.

The two women were still circling, neither willing to launch into a full blown sword battle until they were certain of their adversary. The exercise equipment stood close to the walls, leaving the center open, but still both fighters were being careful of the protruding obstacles. Mairi passed opposite where Richie had been tied, and her gaze strayed a moment to his pensive face. Claire saw the glance and wondered, 'Maybe a game.'

On either side of the room, Claire was closest to her captive, and she broke the circle to step right up to him. She stood with the right side of her body and therefore her sword arm out to her opponent and used her free hand to gently play with Richie's hair. His reaction was as she expected, he tried to move away, a muffled complaint coming through the gag. Instantly, her fingers entwined into the blond curls and Claire pulled his head back. She heard Mairi move towards her, but, sure she would not be challenged with a victim close at hand, Claire merely laughed at her opponent and raised her sword to the neck she exposed.

"Such a handsome boy," she observed as she stared into Mairi's enraged face; the red-head was frozen to the spot, claymore half-raised in the start of an attack, "a shame to end everything all at once."

"You have no right to involve Richie in this," Mairi remonstrated, her anger coming through her voice.

"This isn't about rights," Claire spat back, "you sound like a moody school-girl 'It's not fair!', well life's not fair. If you didn't want him involved, you should have been better at this game."

A wave of satisfaction ran through the woman as she saw the rage in Mairi skip a level. 'Better,' she thought. She smiled casually and let go of her captive. Claire was on a high, she had the edge now, she'd made her point about the boy, and that would be at the back of her adversary's mind. 'Just one more,' she could not resist another jibe.

"Ah well Richie, you'll wait until Miss 'It's Not Fair' isn't here to disturb us."

The cry of rage which came from Mairi as she attacked set the smile permanently on Claire's features.


Scene 3 8

MacLeod looked up at the large house; he'd seen many before and was sure he'd see many again, only now, he knew both Mairi and Richie were inside the vast expanse and it was no time to admire architecture. Still, the figure he became seemed inordinately casual as he got out of his car and strolled up to the impressive main doors. He rang the bell.

As he'd hoped, the Highlander was greeted by a servant; there were advantages to going up against the rich. He smiled widely and began his bluff.

"Hi," he launched, hands shoved into his coat pockets, "I'm an old friend of Vinni, sorry Miss Lavinia's--she told me to look her up when I was in town, so here I am. Is she in?"

He glanced more under the butler's arm than over it into a large empty hallway.

"Miss Lavinia is engaged at the moment," the reply came, polite but with a finality that could only come from a butler's training.

"Oh," Duncan feigned disappointment, "will she be long, it's just I'm only here for another day before I fly back home and I was hoping to at least say 'hi'."

"I'm afraid she isn't accepting visitors today, Mr-"

"Duncan, call me Duncan."

"Mr Duncan," the butler informed him.

"Just Duncan," MacLeod continued the casual air. "Look, could I just wait a while to see if she'll see me."

"I'm sorry, Sir," the large man began, the same finality in his tone.

The Immortal was about to start on another tack, when he heard a voice behind the effective door-jam.

"Pierre, who is it?" a man came up to the doorway and MacLeod just saw his eye-line appear above the black-clad arm.

The recognition which passed through those eyes, and the sudden alarm were unmistakable, and the ruse didn't matter anymore. Both men knew they'd given themselves away to the other, and the mortal chose to bolt. Pierre became less of an obstacle and more a swinging door as he hastily moved aside as MacLeod charged past him. Jacques was tall and agile, but no match for an angry Highlander; he made it a couple of meters into the hall and then two bodies were skidding across the beautifully polished wooden floor, scooping carpets and such in their wake. A moment of struggle, and MacLeod was in command, straddled across the man's legs with his hands firmly at his throat. The Immortal squeezed a little, just to make sure his captive knew he meant business and then he demanded, "Where are they?"

MacLeod released the pressure and his prisoner proved just how much courage he had as he choked immediately and pointed to a door behind the stair well, "Downstairs, the cellar."

"I advise you to leave this house and run," the Highlander finished with the interrogation, standing up and staring down at the crumpled figure. "Don't be here when I get back."

Then he turned and headed in the indicated direction.


Scene 3 9

Richie strained against his bonds, but they were tied expertly and he was pinned to the upright of the weights machine. He'd had to sit and watch the fight as it developed, and had already played piggy-in-the- middle several times when Claire had decided she needed more ground. The dark woman was hardly fighting fair, using him as a human shield when she felt like it, and the human shield himself was well pissed about it. Still, the ropes weren't getting any looser, and they were chaffing his wrists where he wriggled, so he gave up for a while to give his skin a chance to cool down. Helpless, he could only sit and watch, and pray.

Mairi was the better swords-woman, or at least that's what his untrained eye hoped. He didn't want to think about the possibility of Claire winning. In fact, he had to admit, that at the moment, they were fairly even, having tired a little since the initial mad attack Mairi had made. A slice ran all the way up the red-head's shirt where she had paid for that moment of rage, but the wound had healed quickly, and she was again on the offensive. Richie watched both figures move, their fluid shifts coldly captivating. The calculation in both sets of features was frightening--the youth had no doubt of the deadly intent in both fighters.

Mairi swung at her opponent; Richie willed there to be space for it to reach flesh, but Claire blocked and forced the other to twist away. Richie gritted his teeth as the fight headed back in his direction. His lover tried to move away from his proximity, but Claire was reading her and pushed her ever backward, using her anxiety against her. The sword came up at him from nowhere, and despite any resolve he had, Richie cried out and tried to duck the blade. He couldn't move far, and he was left feeling sick and dizzy as Mairi's blade came up to stop the other's path inches from his face. Ryan closed his eyes, gasping in as much breath as he could through the damp rag in his mouth; he colored at the mocking laughter which came from Claire, but didn't dare look up at her.

"The boy fair pissed his pants there," Claire jibed acidly.

"You should try facing a blade unarmed and bound," a deep voice sent a new hope through Richie and he snapped his gaze to the door.

Mac stood there, katana held across his arm, ready to moved into combat if necessary. Claire did not look pleased, and to Richie's consternation, neither did Mairi.

"You can't interfere," Claire warned.

"On that we agree," Mairi returned, her tone colder than Richie had ever heard it.

"Oh, I'm not here to fight you, Claire," MacLeod intoned as icy as the other Immortals, "I'm here to see no innocents get hurt in the process. Richie isn't part of this battle, and you touch one hair on his head and I'll have both your heads."

At this, Mairi seemed more satisfied, and her smile was grim, but determined as she motioned to the open area of the room.

"Shall we," she offered.

Claire looked anything but happy, but she obviously knew where she stood; the threat from Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod had been very real. The two women stepped away from the bound youth. As the clash of steel began again, Richie turned deliberately to Mac as the man approached, he'd seen enough swordplay for one day. The katana slid through rope like it wasn't there and Richie slumped forward into a supporting arm as he realized just how much he had been straining against the ropes. He was still feeling nauseous, and was glad for the help Mac gave him in standing.

"Easy," the dark man reassured him, "give the blood time to reach your feet."

"Mairi," Richie protested as he was gently pulled towards the door.

"We can't interfere," Mac's tone was definite, "and there'll be a Quickening soon, it's safer for you outside."

"We have to help," Ryan argued, angry and hurt by Claire's usage of him.

Yet, as he turned, he heard a guttural grunt and the sickening slice of metal through tissue; he was in time to see Mairi swing her claymore in the final arc with a look of determination that ran his blood cold. Then hands grabbed him and shoved him down onto the ground. MacLeod held his body across Richie as a shield and the young man could see very little. He heard the cries which lay somewhere between ecstasy and anguish, and felt his skin prickle at the closeness of electricity-all seemed to go on for an age, confused, terrifying and amazing all at the same time. Then there was silence, empty, lost silence.

Slowly, Richie uncurled from the ball into which MacLeod had forced him and blinked across the now darkened room. The only illumination came from the stairwell, the Quickening having destroyed the main lighting. Lit eerily by the low glow, staring blankly at the floor on which she knelt, was Mairi MacLeod. Her hair was tousled, her skin damp and her stare shaken; Richie wasn't sure whether to be aroused or terrified.


Scene 4 0

MacLeod glanced anxiously at Richie as he led both him and Mairi back onto the barge; the Highlander was worried about the mental state of his young friend. The youth seemed okay to the casual observer, a little quiet, but after such an ordeal that wasn't surprising, but there was more to it than that. Richie had insisted on riding his bike back into Paris, so that had not given anyone much time for conversation; Mairi had been quiet in the car on the way back--no-one was talking. However, it was back at homebase that MacLeod had begun to notice there was more to Richie's subdued, slightly stooped walk than just shock. He hadn't spoken a word to Mairi either in Claire's chateau or since pulling off his helmet, and he wasn't even looking at her. Mairi didn't seem all that surprised, then again, Immortals had seen that type of shock before. Yet, Richie was not a newcomer to the ins and outs of Immortality, something made Mairi a special case. Duncan strode ahead, leaving the others space to begin a conversation, but he didn't hold out much hope.

The presence of another Immortal was a surprise, and after the last few hours, not a pleasant one. Duncan's pace quickened and he left his companions still walking up the gangplank as he headed below deck. The Highlander's concern muted, and he stopped a little way into the main cabin as he registered the two figures sitting on the couch. Tessa looked up at him, a smile of relief on her face, Connor MacLeod put down the whiskey he was nursing and nodded almost formally to his one-time pupil.

"Cousin," Connor spoke first, climbing casually to his feet.

"I told you not to come," were Duncan's first words; as soon as he'd said them he felt a little foolish, like a petulant child.

"Since when did I take orders from you?" the older man grinned and strode towards his Clansman, arms out, "It's good to see you, Duncan."

The dark man accepted the bear-hug still a little dazed at the unexpected visit. They broke apart. Connor walked back to the sofa, and Tessa took his place, wrapping an arm around her partner's waist.

"What are you doing here?" Duncan chose to be blunt and Connor regained his whiskey, but remained standing.

"Curiosity," Connor shrugged, but Duncan had known him too long to accept that fluff.

The younger MacLeod was about to voice his opinion in that vein when Connor's attention skipped from him to the door. The man's face went from a casual grin to something between guilt and disquiet. Both Tessa and Duncan turned; Mairi was stood just inside the door, Richie hovering behind her. Claire had not done much for Mairi's mood, but Connor's presence seemed to blacken it beyond compare.

"Hello, Mairi," Connor began quietly.

"Bastard," was all that slipped from the woman's lips, and it was unclear which MacLeod she intended to address; one glance accused Duncan of some kind of conspiracy and another told Connor he wasn't wanted.

For a moment, no-one moved. Then, Mairi turned on her heel and almost ran back the way she had entered. Richie's glare at Connor seemed to echo Mairi's last glance, and then he too was gone in pursuit of the fleeing woman.

Connor sighed and sat back down, staring almost mournfully at his drink.

"How is she?" he asked.

"Apart from having just faced her nemesis and won," Duncan was feeling venomous, he didn't like being part of a set up, however unwitting. "She's a good fighter, you taught her well."

"That's not what I mean," his cousin glared up at the younger MacLeod, more of his feelings evident.

"Well, she's never gotten over you," Duncan remained hostile, "and now I think she's about to hurt Richie."

"I shouldn't have come," Connor shook his head.

If he was expecting sympathy, there was precious little coming from his cousin, "No you shouldn't."

"Duncan," Tessa stepped in before a full-scale argument began; she looked from one man to the other and then decided, "I'll go for a walk, you two should talk."

There was silence, even after she had gone. Duncan's hostility slowly evaporated and he chided himself as he realized it was just left over frustration from earlier in the day. Still, he didn't feel like giving Connor an easy time; he'd been in these kinds of situations before, and he knew Richie was still playing piggy-in-the-middle.

"What's with the depression and the jumping on a plane?" Duncan asked, moving to pour himself a drink.

"I'm not depressed," Connor barked back, but then sighed and admitted, "I've been trying to catch up with her for three hundred years."

"To do what exactly?"

"To," he paused, searching for a word, "apologize, I suppose. I haven't seen her since..."

"Since you chased her away with your other women," Duncan took the opportunity to be direct.

"Hey!" Connor protested, standing, "we're Immortals, you know what it's like, she was young, I wasn't. I handled it badly."

Duncan's laugh was scornful.

"I'm not letting her run away again--I may be three hundred years late, but we have to talk it through," the man finished emphatically.


Scene 4 1

Richie managed to catch Mairi a few streets away and steer her into the nearest cafe. The anger in her seemed to have disappeared somewhere along their route, and she sat down at his guidance, a little lost. Ryan ordered a couple of hot chocolates and then leant across the table to his companion. She seemed surprised as he took her hand, which was clenched in a fist on the wooden surface, and rubbed the tension he felt there.

"Want to talk about it?" he asked, not really wanting to hear what he knew was there, but caring too much to avoid it.

"I can't believe that he has the gall to just turn up like that."

"Isn't that the way you guys usually do it?" Richie tried to lighten the mood, but his humor was received with a blank stare; without much other choice, Ryan took the bull by the horns, "You still love him, don't you?"

"No!" Mairi protested immediately, but her face fell, and with it Richie's hopes as she glanced away from him and admitted, "I don't know. Bastard, bastard, bastard, why did he have to just turn up?"

Richie tried to remind himself that one night, especially to an Immortal, did not mean any kind of commitment, but it didn't make reality any easier to deal with. He was immensely attracted to this woman, not just her looks, but her heart as well. There was something about the MacLeod, something compelling, which Richie had to consider, Connor must have put it there, it was part of what had made him like and trust Mac, and it had also endeared him to the slender woman who sat opposite him. He didn't like owing Sir Lancelot anything, even a little bit of a personality, but he couldn't deny it was there.

The young man paused a moment, looking at the bowed head, but then he knew he had to just bare all and be done with it.

"I love you," he offered plainly.

Mairi seemed startled by that, but shortly, she smiled, a smile like that of a teacher dealing with a Junior High crush. She was about to tell him what he didn't want to hear, and Richie objected first.

"Don't tell me I'm too young, that I don't know what I feel," he beat her to the post. "Just because I don't have five hundred years behind me does not mean I can't feel. I grew up a long time ago, Mairi."

The look in her eyes told Richie that Mairi was reconsidering her tack, but that the end was going to be the same.

"Okay," he countered, again before a word had been uttered, "so you don't love me, is that it?"

The look he received was not quite patronizing, but it ranked up there with the 'understanding adult' stare.

"Richie," Mairi began, "I don't know you well enough to know if I love you. Maybe I am getting old, but things aren't as black and white for me as they are for you. There are so many things you don't know about me, about yourself."

"You're going to go with him aren't you?" Richie tried to stifle his anger, he didn't want an argument, but some of his hurt came through the accusation.

"I don't know," the woman answered honestly, taking the hand he had offered earlier into both her own. "Connor hurt me when I was young, we'd been together ten years, and that still means a lot to me. I must still feel something for him, because what he did still affects me, but I can't be certain of what that is yet. I'm not going to lead you on. If Connor hadn't turned up, then maybe this would have gone further, I like you a lot, but him being here has made me realize that it's not fair on you."

The youth stared at his hand in hers, his fingers stiff and resisting her soft touch. He'd begun this conversation in control, but now he was at the mercy of his feelings. He hated feeling so young, so naive, so mortal. There wasn't much more to say, Mairi had been candid about her position. He was angry and hurt, but he couldn't word his feelings anymore. Right then, he didn't even want to be near her, the rejection hurt too much.

"I'll go," Mairi decided for him, and immediately pushed back her seat.

Richie wanted to look up, to tell her not to leave, to ask her to stay with him forever, but he couldn't even lift his head. He'd never felt the divide between Mortal life and Immortality so acutely as he did then. When she was gone, he reached slowly into his pocket and pulled out the box which still sat there, almost forgotten during the last few hours. The small box snapped open and he stared at the small brooch sitting on the soft velvet interior. He brushed it carefully with his thumb, tracing out the pattern of the Celtic knot. Absently he wondered if she'd want a keepsake from a mere mortal.


Scene 4 2

PRESENT: A PARIS BAR

"Connor hung around a few weeks, and Mairi eventually forgave him," Richie told Altea, and she could hear the crack in his voice. "Last we heard they were living together, but with Immortals, who can tell how long that'll last."

The young man sounded bitter, that worried his lover a little. Her hand was rested on his leg, and she patted the denim. The action seemed to draw him out of the past where he had so obviously been stuck, and to Altea's relief, his face cleared, only the ghost of the old hurt hanging in his eyes.

"It was a long time ago," he cheered up, leaning forward and taking a swig of his beer.

Altea couldn't exactly say how she felt about Mairi now, a moment ago, she had wanted her head for the way she had hurt Richie, but that pique had passed into the fantasy it was. It was indeed a long time ago, not so much in years, but in experience; Richie had changed so much, that had been clear, and his experiences with Mairi were part of what had made him the man, the Immortal he was now. She had watched Duncan's reactions to the admissions that had come from Richie, and she had realized how young both she and he must seem to the Highlander. Her birth was a long way away in time, but she was young in knowledge, and the way she and Richie saw each other was through that youth. Would age part them like it had Connor and Mairi? Could Immortals stay together? Well, for now, that didn't matter, she was happy, Richie was happy, for the rest, only time would tell.

The End

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