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Joe looked at his travelling companion for the hundredth time since
they'd started off, and Richie still wasn't talking to him. If sulking
was an art form, the young Immortal was at the top of his class. The
Watcher did have to admit that the starched white shirt, the
pinstriped trousers and the black blazer, were not Richie's usual
attire, but in a strange sort of way, they suited him. The school
uniform and the softer hairstyle he had adopted brought out all his
boyish features, and Joe couldn't help thinking his young friend would
be fighting off more than one young lady. The thought made the Watcher
smile, he could just imagine what Altea would do to Richie if he so
much as looked at another woman. The expression of amusement was
precisely the wrong thing to do at that moment, since the young
Immortal saw it.
"And what's so damn funny?" Richie asked shortly, he was almost
pouting. [I know I look like a penguin, but there's no need to
underline it. Just throw me some fish!]
"Nothing," Joe responded quickly, "I was just thinking about something
else, that's all. Since you won't talk to me I was trying to keep my
[Sure you were, like there's anything funnier than the way I look.
I'll just go find an iceberg somewhere and we can forget this whole
thing.] "Yeah well this is all your fault," his companion shot back
moodily, "if it wasn't for you, we wouldn't be playing happy families,
and you wouldn't be dropping me off at school, Dad!"
The sarcasm just oozed out of the last word. Joe had to admit that he
felt a little strange playing the father of one of his best friends,
but he thought it was rather funny, unlike Richie who seemed to think
it was the end of the world. Then again, Joe wasn't the one who was
going to be playing a 17 year old, and boarding in a school not known
for it's forward thinking. Woodford College was renown for it's
academic achievements, but nobody said it was the height of the
"Look, we use this school all the time for Watcher relocation," Joe
told his companion in an attempt to cheer him up, "and I've never
heard any complaints."
"Yeah well I don't suppose many of it's residents are Immortals who
could do without looking nineteen for their entire lives," Richie
snapped back, peevish didn't quite describe his attitude. [I could be
laying on a beach with Altea and I'm stuck playing at being a kid. My
heart hates me, my body hates me and my libido is just not worth
He was obviously not in a good mood, and nothing Joe was going to say
would change that. The Watcher was just about ready to give up, and if
he'd known what was going on in Richie's head he probably would have.
"How did Mac talk you into this?" he finally asked, this was one thing
Joe had thought even the Highlander couldn't make Richie take on.
[Ha, if you think I'm telling you that you're going senile. I'm young,
Joe received the blackest look in reply and then his companion went
back to sulking silently in the passenger seat. The Watcher made a
mental note to make sure he asked MacLeod that question as well: it
looked like it could have a very interesting answer. So much for that
line of enquiry in present company, however. The gates of the school
appeared along the road and Joe made one last ditch attempt.
"Well at least try and look as if you're not going to kill me, okay,"
he said and indicated for the turn.
There was dangerous, and then there was an Immortal in a bad mood.
"Don't worry, Dad," the Immortal told him with falsest smile he'd ever
seen, "I won't give away the family secrets." [At least not the ones
with the swords and the binoculars ... now I can think of a few that
involve embezzling, maybe a little insider dealing. We wouldn't want
anyone to think you weren't a normal father would we?]
[Okay four eyes, I'm not an exhibit in a zoo.]
Well the little introduction with the head master had gone about as
well as could be expected. What was the man supposed to say to what he
had been told was a hired bodyguard, when the man in question appeared
no older than most of his students. Standing in the car park saying
goodbye to Joe, the looks Richie was getting were not settling.
[I already promised not to break the rules, and I won't kill anyone
without asking first, honest.]
It felt so weird having his old friend pat him on the back and tell
him that he'd see him at the next vacation. Joe did a very good
impression of a doting father for the odd pupil walking across the
grounds. If he hadn't been so ticked off, Richie might actually have
had trouble keeping a straight face.
[Bye, Joe, I'm going to get you for this one day.] "See you around,
He picked up his bag and just turned his back on the headmaster as Joe
climbed into his car. He'd been given directions to the residences and
the teacher just didn't look at all comfortable with his presence.
[Okay, so this place is nice to look at,] he thought to himself as he
walked off in the right direction. [classy in an English sort of way.
Now get me outta here!]
The school was an old country house, it's outhouses and it's grounds,
with a few new buildings tastefully built to one side. Whoever had
converted it from a residence had done it very well.
[Must have cost a small fortune to decorate this place,] Richie noted
the expensive furnishings as he walked to the dorms. [Count yourselves
lucky Mac didn't ask Amanda to help with this one.]
It had all been arranged so that he would be sharing with James. The
sixthformers had rooms between two, which was a god send as far as
Richie was concerned. The thought of bunking with anymore than one
teenager made Richie shudder. When you lived alone you developed
idiosyncrasies, and hiding them from one person was going to be
difficult enough. Waking up in the middle of the night reaching for a
sword might be a doosey.
"Well kid," Richie commented to himself quietly as he approached where
he would be living for an indefinite period, "I hope you're ready for
He put on a huge smile and stuck his head round the door.
"Hi," he greeted brightly, a little too brightly, "you must be
The youth in question was reclined on his bed reading a motorcycle
[Okay, he has taste in vehicles, maybe we can work this out.]
James looked up and his expression was not pretty.
"You must be Richard," his tone was sarcastic, and he did not look at
all pleased to see his new roommate.
Now if there was one segment of the population who had sulking down
better than Immortals it was teenagers: they did it with such flair.
With a sinking feeling Richie moved into the room.
[Okay let's try this again shall we?]
"Richie, actually," he said, trying not to seem over eager.
He's been seventeen not so long ago and he knew that too friendly
would kill this relationship before it got going. [This will be so
much easier if we can just get on, kid. I'm going to be trailing you
like a blood hound, and someone's gonna start talking if you won't
even look at me.]
"I suppose they put us together because we're both new," Richie tried
a different tack. [Just one sentence, that's all I want.]
"Uh-huh," the teenager had gone back to his magazine, and was doing
his best to phase out his companion.
[No way you ignore me and get away with it.] "I'll take this bed
then," the Immortal started ... and he didn't stop. He talked, he
chatted idly, he elucidated on the merits of the fairer sex, and then
he talked some more. The only thing James could do was cave.
"Okay, okay," the youth said exasperatedly, "I'll hold a conversation,
just shut up for five minutes, please."
Richie beamed at him. [Bingo.]
Things weren't going so badly after all. It had taken two minutes on
superbike racing, a subject Richie had saved carefully, and James had
turned into a human being. He now knew lots of information officially
that he had only known secretly before. Like the fact that James
originated from Colorado, and had been living in Switzerland for the
last four years. Find a man's passion and he was at your mercy, and
the Immortal was quite proud of himself as the pair of them wandered
out of their room to find the refectory.
[Refectory equals canteen,] Richie said to himself as they headed in
the right direction, [gotta get a hold of these funny British terms.
Prep equals homework. Buerre equals a snack ... that has to be the
weirdest of the lot. Uh-oh, geeks equal trouble.]
There were three superior looking youths standing in the corridor, and
the Immortal knew trouble when he saw it.
"Well, well, Parsons," the tallest of the strangers said loudly,
"found yourself another Yank to play with?"
"Leave us alone, Smythe," James said half-heartedly, "we're going to
"But we want to meet your new friend," Smythe replied with an acid
[Make that son of a bitch.]
"Introduce us like a good little new boy," the youth continued,
totally unaware of the attack he was under from Richie's mind.
[I was wrong, it's definitely asshole.]
Smythe was wearing a small badge that proclaimed him as head boy, one
of the others had a similar ceramic piece saying head prefect and the
third's said just simply prefect. This was a clique from hell, well at
least it was if you were a normal pupil.
"Dawson, this is Smythe, Jephreys and Opal," James introduced
reluctantly, "guys this is Dawson."
It took Richie a moment to catch up.
[I'll never get used to this surname thing ... Dawson ... Richie
Dawson, secret agent. Oh god, I can't laugh.]
They took the grin on his face to mean that he hadn't quite gathered
"Well, Dawson," Smythe said and slipped into the most awful American
drawl, "we're the law 'round here, understand?"
Richie had to try extraordinarily hard not to crack up. [Yes sirrey,
Sheriff, ah understand!] "Really?" was what came out of his mouth, and
he just couldn't help it as he produced the most stereotypical English
accent, "Do tell."
The head boy's face darkened at the totally intended slur, but Richie
just hadn't been able to stop himself. [You're about a scary as a
fangless vampire, kid] and he smiled innocently. [Just try me.]
Smythe seemed to be having trouble coming up with a reply to this
"upstart American", but Richie could tell he was working on it. The
Immortal was really looking forward to taking the goons down a peg.
Luckily for them another person entered the hallway.
"Good afternoon, boys," a very cheerful voice breezed.
[Argh, it's Barney,] a horrible tune joined the thought in Richie's
brain. He was almost relieved when he turned and saw a short, slightly
rotund man in his late fifties. If there was a stereotypical teacher,
the Immortal had just found him. The balding individual looked at
Richie over his glasses.
"I don't seem to recall your face," the man said brightly, "so you
must be Richard Dawson."
The Immortal nodded.
"I'm Dr Barnstable," the other continued, "I'm your house tutor."
[He's almost as annoying as the dinosaur.]
"I was hoping to meet you," Barnstable was totally oblivious to the
obvious tension in the air, "we should have a little chat. If you're
not busy, my room is this way."
The way James was looking at Richie told the Immortal everything he
needed to know. Declining the offer would be a bad idea.
"Well welcome to Woodford, Mr Dawson," Barnstable said cheerfully as
he took what had to be a very accustomed seat, by the look of the
furniture, "I hope you'll settle in soon."
[Here comes the lecture.] Richie just knew what was about to happen,
the other man had it written all over his face. There was that over-
friendly smile, the father-like expression. [Get on with it, Pop, we
don't have all day.]
"Of course, I'm not suggesting anything, but we expect certain
standards of behaviour from the young men and women at Woodford," the
teacher began his run in. "I'm sure you're a very responsible young
[Wouldn't you like to know.]
"... but we like to give all our new pupils a little pep talk when
they first arrive, to make sure everything's quite clear," he smiled
when Richie nodded on cue. "We consider our sixthformers old enough to
have certain liberties, and there is a bus into town which you are
allowed to utilise during any free time in daylight hours. Excursions
after dark must be prearranged with either me or the head, and lights
out is at ten on school nights...."
[I saw your town, Grandpa, there's no point in taking the bus. There's
more life in a nun's underwear.]
"... We will not tolerate drinking or smoking on school grounds and we
have a very good record of maintaining that rule...."
[In your dreams. Earth to Barnstable, are you living in this reality.]
"... Our pupils have a fine reputation in the area, and we would be
very upset to find out that anyone had sullied that..."
[I'm American, not a Neanderthal.]
"... I'm sure you'll fit right in to our little community, we're a
[When exactly did you loose touch with the world around you? Was it a
gentle thing or did you just wake up one day and find yourself away
with the fairies?]
"... Since you've met Mark Smythe, I'm sure you know this already. If
you have any problems at all you can always go to him and you can talk
to me whenever I'm in the vicinity ...."
[Not if I see you first.]
"... We have to all get along since we're living in each other's
For the first time since he began the older man paused as if he wasn't
quite sure how to phrase his next sentence.
"There are certain rules which have been in place since Woodford
became co-educational four years ago ...."
[Sex ... I knew we'd get there eventually.]
"... Of course your personal relationships are your own concern, but
no funny business will be tolerated on school property ...."
[Funny business! Next you'll mention the birds and the bees.]
"... No members of the opposite sex are allowed in the dorms, or the
sixthform rooms, not even during the day. We feel that it is not good
to put temptation in people's way, and so this is a strict policy
[Besides which we wouldn't want the teachers getting jealous.]
"... We have a fine system for alcohol and tobacco offences, but I
have to warn you that engaging in relations in your room is an
expulsion offence ...."
[There is nothing I'd like more than to get out of this prison, but
don't worry your pupils are a little young for my taste.]
"... Well I'm glad to get all the nasties over. Now we really should
get to know each other a bit better."
[Somebody save me!]
Barnstable began to talk, and he really didn't seem to mind that
Richie answered his questions with one word replies, and neglected to
ask any of his own. The thing was, the house tutor could talk, and he
didn't look as if he was about to stop.
He chatted about the subject he taught.
Then came his angle on the joys of gardening and the wonderful grounds
in which Woodford stood.
[I'm going to die of boredom!]
The boys he had known in the past who went on the great things.
[I'll just hold my breath and die of asphyxiation!]
The wonderful traditions of the school.
"Did you see Richie at breakfast this morning?" Methos asked MacLeod
with a broad grin on his face. "I think he wanted to kill us both."
The older Immortal seemed to think this was hilarious, and the smile
appeared to he stuck to his face. Duncan wasn't quite so relaxed about
the whole matter, since he knew an angry Richie could be an
unpredictable Richie. What they needed right now was calm clear
thinking, which his youngest friend was not particularly good at
during the best of times.
"Yeah, well he's a hot blooded male who's a long way from his hot
blooded female," Duncan said quite lightly, "and we're the cause. I
suspect he'll try and take a piece out of both of us once this is
over. How did you get that photograph anyway?"
Methos put on his best mysterious look.
"Connections," he said conspiratorially, "and a zoom lens."
Now Duncan couldn't help but smile, even though the back of his mind
was still considering the consequences of their actions.
"You have a class with him today, don't you," he decided to change the
subject, his companion seemed to be enjoying himself just a little too
"First thing this afternoon," the ex-Watcher replied lightly.
"Then try not to piss him off too much," the Highlander requested
insistently, "no matter how great the temptation."
"But it's just so easy to wind him up," Methos complained cheerfully.
Duncan gave him his best boy scout look, and semi-hard stare.
"I'll consider it," the ancient man replied with a look in his eyes
that said he probably wasn't going to for long.
This required another tack.
"Have you seen Richie fight recently?" Duncan asked trying to look as
if he was deadly serious. "He's improved some more, and he gets this
vaguely psychotic look in his eyes. He also gets that look whenever
you're in the room."
The sparkle was still in Methos' eye, it didn't look as if the bluff
would work, but then again, if the old man pushed Richie too far, it
might not be a bluff anymore. There was angry and then there was Rich
in a bad mood.
The day was going better than expected so far. Physics had been okay
as he kept his head down, took the notes from the board and realised
that fibre optics was actually a quite interesting subject. How he and
James had managed to avoid any confrontations with Smythe or his
lackeys during their two free periods was due mainly to the fact that
they as good as hid, but that was okay with Richie. He really didn't
need any of the snotty nosed mouthing off that he'd heard plenty of
the previous evening, and if that meant finding a quiet spot and
chatting for two hours he could handle it. Then there had been Art
history which although a little dicey at one point had turned out fine
when he'd spouted out a paragraph he'd read in one of the many books
Mac had lent him. Doing A-levels was not exactly what Richie had had
in mind for his near future, but he was far from stupid, and a little
private research meant he could hold his own. A highly retentive
memory didn't hurt either.
The thing was, now it was the first period after lunch and the two
young men were headed for Methos' maths class. It sounded like a bad
joke to Richie, and he was quietly dreading the lesson. He knew the
ancient Immortal well enough to realise that his friend would not be
able to resist victimising him at least a little. There was a very
large child inside Methos that just had to get out sometimes, and
there was a hundred percent certainty that there would be an
appearance today. Richie and James walked into the class room and took
seats near the back.
[He didn't look at me,] the blond Immortal had not taken his eyes off
his compatriot, [maybe he does have some self control after all.]
Methos looked up and their eyes met for a second.
There were ten people in the class and their new teacher smiled
brightly. Richie tried to disappear into the floor as events
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen," the substitute teacher began
buoyantly, "my name's Mr Pierson. Mrs Hackley had hurt her back and
she's going to be away for a good few weeks, so you're stuck with me
There was a polite giggle that went round the class, Richie did not
"I assure you I'm perfectly qualified to teach you all, and I'm not as
young as I look," Methos continued.
[That's an understatement.]
"I know just about every trick in the book because I've used them,"
the ancient Immortal grinned at his pupils and they smiled back, "so
if anyone has any ideas in that direction I suggest you scrap them. I
believe you've reached chapter three in the text book which means we
are here to discuss the merits of integration."
The class groaned on cue.
"It's really a fascinating subject," Methos told them brightly, and
quite suddenly launched into the concise history of calculus.
Most of the sixthformers sat there with there mouths open as their
[Math is supposed to be about numbers. Two and two are four Methos,
just because you were there doesn't mean you have to share.]
"Right," the ancient man said, shifting topic back just as rapidly as
he had wandered off.
[Maybe his brain just doesn't work the same as it used to. With that
many memories it must be flashback hell.]
"Integration is all about the area under the graph."
The first twenty minutes of the forty minute period were fine. Methos
played the perfect teacher and explained everything to the class, but
the moment he reached the examples section Richie knew he was
completely out of luck.
"Time to see if you understood anything I've just said," the ancient
Immortal said calmly, "so I have to pick a victim."
He looked around the class slowly as if surveying the faces. Everyone
was predictably looking at the floor.
[Just get it over with!]
"Mr Dawson," he said slowly, "you'll do. Would you care to come to the
board and solve this little problem for us?"
[No I wouldn't care. I hate you. I'm going to drug you and tattoo a
dotted line round your neck with 'Cut Here' written on it.]
By the end of the class there was only a modicum of control keeping
Richie from killing Methos. As everyone else filed out he walked up to
the other Immortal very slowly.
"I will make you pay for every minute," Richie said very deliberately.
"One day you will regret every second of this class."
"Tut tut, talking to your teacher like that," Methos responded with
annoying predictability. "Hurry along now or you'll be late for your
His companion just growled under his breath and stalked out of the
He'd survived his first day, Richie was ecstatically happy with
himself. He hadn't cracked, not even under Methos' definition of
humour, and he was pretty sure he could keep this up.
[No sweat, Ryan, we are home free.]
"If you can't identify it, don't eat it," James offered the advice
sagely as they walked into the refectory. "I did that once last week
and I couldn't look at food for two meals."
"Gotcha," Richie returned and scanned the room for possible
[Well it doesn't smell too bad, and no sign of the Goon squad.]
The Immortal had a right to be pleased with himself, in the course of
a day he had managed to find out the feeling behind the facts he had
heard from his companion the night before. James had even apologised
for his behaviour when they first met, and explained that he hadn't
been having a very good month. First his mother had moved them from
Switzerland, his school and all his friends without so much as an
explanation, and then he'd run into Woodford's idea of the next
generation of leaders and lawmakers. It had been lonely for the
newcomer arriving in the middle of the year, and some of the powers
that be seemed to take his American roots as an insult.
The pair collected what the school claimed was nutritious food and
found seats well away from the main hubbub of the room. James was
facing the centre of the refectory and when Richie looked up from his
tray to continue the conversation which had petered out earlier he
found his friend peering over his shoulder.
"What," he asked and went to turn.
"Don't look," James said in a half strangled tone.
[That's either a we're being watched by a gunman reaction or there's a
girl looking this way.]
"A couple of the girls from our year are sizing us up," James said as
Richie's eyebrows rose in an unasked question.
"Oh no, whatever you are thinking count me out," Richie said firmly.
His companion looked at him as if he'd lost his mind.
"But it's Lucy Hampshere and Caroline Dunstan, they are the two
hottest babes within school grounds, and they are looking at us,"
James said, just in case Richie didn't have the full picture.
The Immortal just grinned.
"Be my guest, go and look back to your heart's content, but don't
involve me," he said and tried to figure out exactly what was on his
[Looks like a cross between radio active waste and Kermit the Frog]
"Do you have hormones?" James asked pointedly.
"Oh, plenty of them," Richie returned, he was quite enjoying his
friend's consternation, "and they're all directed at someone who is
not at this school. Someone who would remove parts of my anatomy with
an axe if I so much as look at another girl."
[A two thousand year old Amazon, with a labrys and an unforgiving
The thought of Altea brought a smile to his face, the thought of Altea
naked ... then he realised he was becoming distracted.
"Look," James said, a desperate look in his eyes, "no one has looked
at me twice since I got here. Though I hate to admit it they're
looking this way because of you. At least talk to them, give me a head
It was tempting, the begging look in James' eyes was quite
spectacular, but imagining exactly what Altea would do to him if she
found out kept him in check.
"I am not starting anything," Richie told him adamantly, "but I won't
discourage them, okay?"
It wasn't exactly what James had been hoping for, but it was better
than nothing. He nodded and looked down at his tray.