It was a slow night at Joe's, with only a few regulars there. Joe was beginning to wonder why he had even bothered to open that night. That is, until a group of college students came in. Several of these students wore jackets bearing an emblem that read "Seacouver University Fencing Club". There were about ten of them and they were in a celebrating mood. After all, they had just gotten back from a tournament where several of them had placed well.
"Great," thought Joe Dawson, "a bunch of college kids are gonna destroy my place."
Joe watched as two members went to the bar and ordered a couple of beers. He muttered to himself, "Kids!" and retreated over to his stool behind the bar. * Between the beer and their friends, they won't need my attention. After all, I have quite a bit of paperwork to catch up on. Mike can handle things for a couple of hours. *
A few moments later, Joe looked up to find that a unusually tall young woman walking over from the group. The young woman had reddish brown hair pulled back in a French Braid and hazel green eyes behind green plastic-rimmed glasses. She sat down across from Dawson, took off her glasses, and began playing with them.
"Can I get something for you?" Joe asked.
"Just a ginger ale," she replied.
Joe walked a few feet away to the refrigerator under the bar. As he returned, she folded her glasses and set them on the bar. Joe placed the can and a glass on the bar for her. The young lady poured the can's contents into the glass. Then Joe went back to his bookkeeping. The young lady turned to watch her companions, but found little to interest her in their antics. Turning away from them, she watched the band performing on stage.
Occasionally, Joe looked up to watch the band, musician that he was, wishing he were up there tonight, rather than doing the books. Every time that he looked up, he saw her still sitting there and watching. As the band took a break, she sipped her drink, which she had hardly touched up to this point. Joe's bartender instincts were kicking in, and he realized that she needed someone to talk to more than she needed the ginger ale.
"So, how'd you like the band?" Joe began.
"Huh? Oh, um, I like them. It's been a while since I've listened to any jazz or blues. Most of the time I, listen to classical stuff, occasionally a few rock groups, but not much else. These guys are pretty good. I'm surprised that there aren't more people here to listen... I wish that I had known about this place a little sooner," she sighed, swirling her drink around in the glass.
"I'm glad you like it. Not many people appreciate real music these days. Some nights, I play with the guys, but as luck would have it, I've got other things to do tonight. I suppose I am going to have to content myself with just listening. Before we go any further, what's you name? It's a little awkward carrying on conversations with people that I have to address as 'Hey You'," Joe laughed.
"I know what you mean, so if you tell me yours, I'll tell you mine," she said, grinning right back at him.
"Point taken, I'm Joe Dawson."
"Chris Balfour. Joe... ," she said, a look of recognition passing across her face, "As in the owner, right?"
"I am. I noticed that you were paying close attention to the band. Do you play or something?"
"I used to, but I don't have much time these days. Between classes, fencing practice, and homework I have hardly any free time. Still, I would probably make time if I could find some people to play with."
"How'd you get into fencing, if you're are a musician?"
"I watched too many episodes of Zorro when I was little. After I started college, I discovered the club and, as they say, the rest is history."
"Why are all of you guys here?"
"We just got back from a tournament, and we all did really well. I even earned a ranking in epée, which is pretty good seeing as how I have only been fencing it for a couple of weeks. Also, a bunch of the others placed pretty well, so we decided to celebrate."
Joe decided that since Chris was opening up, he decided to press a little further. "So Chris, what's on your mind? I would've thought that you would be over there with your friends celebrating."
"Well, I would, but I always feel like a fifth wheel. I just tag along with them so they don't think that I'm anti-social. Besides, talking to more than one person or having more than one conversation going on at once can drive you a little crazy, as though my life isn't crazy enough. My life has gotten a little topsy-turvy lately," she paused there, looking into her drink. Then, just as she was about to continue, an expression of sudden panic flashed across her face, and she looked up. * Oh no! Not again. I hope it's not what's his face again. I want to know what's going on, but I'm not that eager, * she thought, turning toward the entrance where a tall well dressed man with a ponytail had just walked in.
"Do you have a back door?" Chris asked Joe.
"Yeah, over there," Joe answered, pointing over to the far end of the room. Before he could ask what was going on ,she was darting toward the exit. Joe noticed the man who had just entered. It was his friend Duncan MacLeod. Then, Joe put two and two together. He thought, * That Chris is an Immortal! * Before he could finish that train of thought, Duncan was at the bar.
"Hey Joe, who was that you were talking to just then?"
Joe looked around to make sure no one was paying attention. Since the band was back on-stage, he figured he would take the direct approach. "That girl was an Immortal, wasn't she?"
"Yes, she is, so what's her name?"
"Chris Balfour is what she told me. Does that mean anything to you? When you came in, she got kind of spooked."
"I don't know her. She was probably spooked because she hasn't run into many others, either that or the ones that she has met were less than friendly."
Joe was about to reply when he noticed Chris's glasses still sitting on top of the bar. He picked them up and tried looking through them. Immortal or not, she needed her glasses if she was going to drive. Mac also noticed the glasses.
"I don't think those are quite your color, Joe," Duncan laughed.
"They aren't mine, they're Chris's."
At the same time, Chris was realizing that she left her glasses on the bar, so no matter how good her getaway was, she wasn't going anywhere soon. She thought that she'd better go back and get them, she turned back to the lion's den. * Maybe he won't notice me and I can sneak back to where I left them, I hope that I am still in range so I won't draw any more attention than I already have, * she thought. She approached the side door, and just as she reached for the handle, it opened. Already jumpy, Chris started to back towards a strawberry Neon. The person behind the door stepped out. It was Duncan. He walked slowly toward her, trying to keep her from being frightened. As he neared her, he extended his hand, holding her glasses out to her.
"I'm Duncan MacLeod, and I won't harm you. You can leave if you want, but there is no reason that you have to."
She reached out to get her glasses. Putting them on, she gave Duncan a once over. She thought, * At least he isn't whipping out a sword and trying to scare the hell out of me. Maybe he'll be different from the other one. Anyway, this is a public place. He wouldn't try anything here, would he? *
"Thanks for returning my glasses," she paused for a moment, looking Duncan in the eyes, "I guess I can stick around for a while," thinking that she could trust him at least for now.
"Come on, lets go back inside then. We can talk there, if you want, or you can talk to Joe if you want."
"OK. I just want to know what is going on, and I assume that you would be the person I would want to talk to."
The two returned to the bar. While she was gone, most of Chris's teammates had left. Only two remained, and they were at a table in the corner, nearly drunk. Joe was still sitting behind the bar, doing his bookkeeping, or at least trying to.
"Would you like any thing MacLeod?" Joe inquired.
"Yeah, I'd like a beer," he looked over at Chris's glass, still where she had left it, "Would you like another?"
"... and another of whatever she's having."
Joe stepped away for a few moments to get their drinks. Then, he returned carrying three drinks. He set them down and began his professional duty, Watching.
Duncan starts, "So how much of it do you know?"
She looks at Duncan like, 'What, in front of him?'. Duncan nodded his head slightly, "He knows," he stated.
"Not much, just bits and pieces, things I began to notice. For a while there I thought I was crazy, but then things started happening. The other didn't want to give any answers, just take my head. I know that I heal really fast now and I can tell when there are others around. I know that there has to be more, suppose you could tell me?"
She looked askance at Duncan, who leaned against the bar and let out a breath. He answered, "Well, you pretty much know most of it. There are only a few small things to add. We are Immortals. We can be killed temporarily, but the only way to kill one of us permanently is by beheading. We don't get any older than were when we died for the first time, we can't have children, and we can't fight on Holy ground. When one of us takes a head, we get what is called the Quickening, it is the knowledge and power of the other Immortal. Beheading is the only way for it to be released."
Chris bit her lip. She looked like she might cry, but she managed to control her emotions. She straightened up and shook her head a little, then downed the last of her ginger ale in one gulp.
Joe noticed her reaction. "Are you sure that you don't want anything stronger?"
"You wanna loose your license? I'm still a teenager," she looked at Joe, and saw his hurt expression, "I'm sorry to snap at you, It's just a lot to take in all at once."
Duncan would have liked to continue, but Chris seemed to be taking it really hard, but then it is a shock not to be taken lightly. He thought to himself, * She is actually taking it pretty well, she has a lot of spirit, and that's a good sign. She at least seems to have accepted the fact, and that is the first step. *
Chris realized that Duncan was studying her, so she looked at him squarely with her green eyes. Suddenly, the implications of all that he has said were hitting her. Immortality. Endless possibilities. She and Duncan made small talk for a little while, breaking off when Chris said that she has to get going because of a program that she wants to finish off before Thanksgiving break officially began.
Duncan spoke. "You know that you're going to have to do something a little more than fencing to survive. You have a good start, but you are going to need to learn to handle a real sword."
"Is that an offer?"
"I suppose it is." He dug in to his pocket and pulled out one of his business cards, "Why don't you give me a call sometime tomorrow and we'll work something out."
"Gee, thanks. When you came in, I thought today was going down the tubes, I guess I was wrong. I suppose I'll talk to you tomorrow... Bye."
She departed. Mac turned back to Dawson who had remained quiet throughout most of the conversation. Joe spoke, "MacLeod, I think that she is setting you up, she said some things before that make me think that she is older that she is letting on."
"That's a possibility Joe, but somehow I just don't think so."
"How can you be so sure? After all, remember Felicia Martins? She fooled you until she tried to take your head. I'll run a check on her, and then I'll be able to stop worrying."
"I can't really be sure. If you want to check her out Joe, fine, but I don't think that you'll find much," he thinks a moment, "I better be going myself, when you get to be my age, you need eight hours of sleep," he grinned.
"That's real funny MacLeod. I'll have to remember that. Watch yourself until I have a chance to run that check on her."
"O.K. Joe. I'll be seeing you around."
He left. Joe began to wonder, as he sometimes did, why he even bothered anymore. He just knew that he was going to be up all night working on the paperwork not to mention going through the Watcher files to see what he could come up with.
Chris got into the car, and drove to her apartment. As she drove, she mused over the events of the day. That morning, after she had been eliminated in the third round of direct eliminations, she had lent her only Leon Paul epée to a friend and the darn thing broke at the end of the bout. The friend had promised to replace the epée, but she wasn't about to hold her breath. After all, it was an FIE blade, the thing had cost over a hundred dollars. She still couldn't believe that her dad had told her to get the best equipment, and hadn't blinked when she told him how much it would cost. She also still couldn't believe that he let her join the fencing club, since she had the habit of letting her hobbies take over. He often told her that he was sending her to school to get an education, not to play.
In high school, band had always threatened to take over all of her free time. The band director was always scheduling sectionals after school and she had never gotten a break. If she hadn't enjoyed the trumpet so much, she would have quit in the ninth grade. During middle school, she had always gotten a hard time from the other trumpeters, being one of the few girls in the section. In the seventh grade, their taunts had finally started getting to her and she had switched to the French horn. She had loved the sound of the instrument, but had hated playing it. She had taken the trumpet up again during high school. It wasn't until her senior year that she had decided start playing the horn again, but this time as a sideline.
It almost made her laugh as she thought about how much she used to practice, since she'd hardly touched any of her instruments since the semester had begun. Now she was going to fencing practice three times a week, for three hours some nights. After taking up epée, she had abandoned foil. She was always toast whenever she fenced foil, because right of way never made any sense to her. The coach thought that epée would put her 74 inches to best use, not to mention no more right of way. Then all hell broke loose, the night it happened...
She had been at a friend's apartment for a Halloween party. The party had been going on for hours and was beginning to wind down, and she was just deciding that it would be a good idea to leave. After all, All Hallows Eve isn't exactly a school holiday, and she had class the next day. She had gone down to the street and gotten into her blue '67 Mustang. The rain made her miss the her old mini-van, which was equipped with a rear window wiper. Still, she had wanted something with more power than the four cylinders that poor thing had. Her "new" car had a very powerful eight cylinder engine that sometimes reacted just a little too quickly for her taste. She had only had the car since the beginning of August and had not driven it a whole lot since. She hadn't even driven it up from Alabama, she'd had everything shipped up to Seacouver, including the car. After tonight, she was going to wish that she had driven it up instead of shipping it.
She drove uneventfully for a few minutes, then she came to an intersection. The light changed and she was forced to stop. When the light changed, she began her turn. Because of the wet road, she had reduced traction. She accelerated more to compensate. She overdid it, going too far to the outside, so she jerked the wheel to the left and lost control of the car. As she quickly slammed her foot down on the pedal, she silently wished she had power brakes. The car went into a tail spin. * Oh Crap! * She should have geared down to two! She didn't get any more time to ponder this because, as the right side of the car hit the curb, her neck snapped, and she slumped over into the passenger seat.
After what seemed to her like a few minutes, she awoke to the sound of tapping on the car window. At first, she thought it was the rain, but it had ceased. It was her friend Grace, knocking on the glass. Chris sat up and shook her head to clear her mind. She then unlocked the door and got out. She found that she was a little unsteady on her feet, so she decided to lean against the car.
"So, how bad is it?" asked Chris.
"Looks like you did a real number on it, the right side tires are at odd angles, but at least there doesn't appear to be any body damage," Grace replied as Chris made her way around to the other side of the car.
"Oh great! My insurance is going to go through the roof!... Oh well, these things happen. I'm going to have to call my dad tomorrow so I can get it fixed. I just hope he understands," Chris sighed, massaging her sore neck. * Must be a little whiplash, she thought. * "Um Grace, think you could give me a ride back to my place?"
"Yeah, I think I can do that, but don't you think you ought to go have someone look you over first?"
"Nah, I feel fine, a little bit of a headache, but fine. If I don't show up for lab tomorrow afternoon, call anyone you want."
"O.K., but it's your neck, not mine."
"Thanks, let me get a few things and then off we go." Chris tilted the drivers seat forward to get at a discarded shopping bag from the back seat. She returned the seat to its normal position, grabbing her CDs and putting them into the bag, "No sense in leaving any temptations for thieves."
She took her bag and walked around to the passenger side of her friend's strawberry Neon. She opened the door, slid the seat as far back as it would go, and got in.
"Just what were you doing that would make you end up on the sidewalk?"
"I over-accelerated in the turn. The wet road finished the job."
"You know, you are really lucky that you didn't break your neck. I can see skid marks on the road."
Chris just nodded her head, because a strange thought was passing through her mind. The wheels in her head already turning, and the events just didn't add up. The way things had happened, she almost believed that her neck had broken, but that didn't make any sense, because she was feeling okay, just a little bit of a headache.
The rest of the ride was quiet. After about ten minutes, they reached the apartment village where they both lived. Grace lived in the next building over from Chris's. She dropped Chris off there and drove over to her building.
When Chris got back to her place, she decided that a bubble bath was in order. She drew the bath and dug out her night gown, a white cotton one that reached to just below her knees. It had puffed sleeves, and a wide square collar. It was by far her favorite because it was so roomy. She laid it on the back of the toilet as she ran the water for the bath. She soaked for almost an hour. She then got out, toweled off, and put the gown on. Before turning in, she took two Advil to help clear the headache that the incident had given her. She then crawled into bed and turned off her alarm clock.
By the time she woke up, only her memory spoke of the accident of the previous night. The headache was gone, and there weren't any bruises so far as she could tell. She looked and felt fine.
A few nights later, in the mostly deserted parking deck of a local mall, the almost dismissed events came flooding back. As she got out of the elevator, she felt a sensation, much like the headrushes that she remembered from marching band, but infinitely stronger. As she continued to walk to the car, she heard a car door slam. It made her almost jump out of her skin. A man began to approach her, carrying a large sword in one hand. She began to run toward the car, but, in her panic, tripped on her own feet. He came closer and stood over her.
"I am Robert Alexander, and now it's time for you to die. Tis a pity though to take the head of one so pretty as yourself," he grinned evilly at her
"What the * hell * are you talking about?!?!?!" Chris cried.
Robert didn't seem to want to give any answers and raised the sword to strike. As he was about to swing down, a mall security truck arrived. He stopped in mid-swing. He addressed Chris, "I will finish this some other time. In the meantime, I will give you something to remember me by."
He reached out and cut her cheek. As Chris reached up to feel the warm blood begin to flow down her cheek, Robert turned and walked away, concealing his sword inside of the long coat he was wearing. Chris got to her feet, wasting no time in getting to the car. The first thing she did when she was safely inside it was look at her hands. She was certain that she had scraped them when she had fallen, but the only evidence was a few flakes of dead skin and dried blood that clung to her palms. * This is really weird, * she thought. Suddenly some of the pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place. She lowered the vanity and looked at the cut on her face. It was still bleeding, though only a trickle. She reached into the back seat and grabbed a roll of paper towels. She tore one off and wiped her face off them. Then she could see the wound more clearly. It didn't look very bad and she judged that it probably wouldn't even leave a scar. Even as she watched, little sparks appeared along the wound, and within a few moments, the scratch was gone, leaving only a line of blood where the wound had been. * This is really getting weird. What is going on here? Why was he going to cut my head off? * With that last thought, she snapped back to the present. She now knew the answers to those questions, or at least she hoped she did.
She decided she would be safer if she stopped pondering things in the parking lot and returned to her apartment immediately. When she reached home, she parked the car in one of the spaces in front of her building. She sat in the car for a few minutes, again pondering the things that MacLeod had told her. If not for the experiences in her recent past, she would have thought that man was crazy, but she knew that the things that he had told her were true. There was no other explanation for all of this. For a moment, she wondered if she was the one who was crazy. If she wasn't already she might be soon. She finally decided that what she needed was a good night's sleep, something that she hadn't had since all of this had begun.
She got out of the car, took her fencing bag out of the trunk, and made her way up the stairs to her second floor apartment. She unlocked the door and went in. She walked over to where her computer was and switched it on. The impending program wasn't a line that she had used to get away. She really did want to get it done before her dad flew up to spend Thanksgiving break with her. He was coming up on Monday, and it was already Friday, so she had two days to get the program done. She figured that it shouldn't take more than two hours to write. After all, it was just a simple calculator stuck in a loop type of program. While the computer booted, she went into the bedroom and put on her nightgown. When she came back, it still wasn't finished, so she ran some water through the coffee maker for some hot cider. She wanted to relax a bit before getting down to business. She walked to the cabinet and drew out a cobalt glass mug, dumping a packet of cider mix into it. By now, there was enough hot water to make the cider, so she switched the coffee maker off.
While the cider cooled, she dumped the contents of her fencing bag onto the floor. She leaned the two foils and her one good epée in the corner. She took her jacket, plastron, and knickers, and laid them out in the other bedroom to dry. She came back and examined the broken epée. It had broken only a few inches from the tip. It really burned her up that it had gotten broken, but the people that were running the tournament had the bright idea of making it an FIE tournament. She really had no choice but to lend it out, because all of the FIE weapons that the club owned were in use, and the person asking to borrow it was her best friend. She set the broken epée on the kitchen counter. She would deal with it tomorrow. The cider was sufficiently cooled, so she took it with her and sat down in front of the computer.
An hour and a half later, the program was done. Now, she could actually relax and enjoy her vacation. She glanced at the clock on the wall, which read a quarter to twelve. * Not bad, I will actually get to bed at a decent hour for once, * she thought. About then, she noticed that her answering machine had two messages on it. She switched the computer off and played the messages.
"Hi Chris, I hope you did well at your tournament. If you get in early enough, you might give your old dad a ring. This is also to remind you that I will be flying in on Monday at two o'clock on Delta flight 76 to the Seattle airport"
"Hello Ms. Balfour, this is Steve at Ace Body Shop. Your car is ready to be picked up. You can come by between ten and four-thirty tomorrow."
She smiled a really big smile. * They finally finished the repairs. It took them long enough, I never would've thought that it would take two and a half weeks to track down a few parts and fix the car. * She wrote herself a note so that she would remember which flight her dad was coming in on, went into the bedroom, got into her bed, snuggled up to her giant teddy bear, and drifted off to sleep.
The bar had just closed. Joe went into the back room of the bar and booted up his computer. He took a few disks out of a box kept in a locked drawer. Joe loaded the first disk and began his search. Two hours later he found something interesting. While running a search for Balfour, he came across an Immortal named Andrew Balfour, who had an adopted daughter by the name of Christina.
Joe began to wonder if it was just dumb luck, or if there was a conscious effort on the part of Immortals to hook up with other Immortals beforehand. This explained a lot to Dawson. Since it appeared that Chris had been raised by an Immortal, it was logical that a little of her father's personality would rub off on her. It did seem strange that she didn't know anything about Immortals until MacLeod showed up. Surely, her father would have told her about himself, with all of the comings and goings that he would have had. But then who was he, Joe Dawson, to go and criticize an Immortal's personal decision. Anyway, it didn't matter any more, since she would know all of it soon enough. His goal reached, Joe switched off his computer, went out to his car, and drove home.
"What the... ?"
Chris sat up in bed, trying to figure out what had awakened her. Then a sensation that was almost becoming familiar washed over her again. * Damn, another Immortal, * glances at her clock 1:47 AM, * and at such an ungodly hour too. * Her thoughts were broken as the sound of her door creaking open met her ears. * Oh boy! *
She jumped out of bed and ran into the main room. The man previously identified as Robert Alexander stood inside the door frame. "Not you again!" exclaimed Chris.
"Yes it's me, and I am here to complete some unfinished business. Why don't you do this the easy way? We both know you don't stand a chance in combat against me."
Chris frantically glanced around the room, searching for some way to fight this guy off. Just as she was about to give up hope, she eyed her broken epée. It might be missing a few inches off of the blade, but it was heck of a lot more than she had a second ago.
Following her gaze, "You must be kidding! You really don't stand a chance."
Chris's voice deepened as she said darkly, "I never kid about life, especially not about my own."
She ran for the epée, but Alexander stepped into her path. All he got for his trouble was tackled. Two years of Powder Puff football and Chris's not inconsiderable weight knocked him on to his back. On impact his sword flew to the other side of the room. As he scrambled for his sword, Chris took the epée's Russian grip into her right hand and assumed en garde. * God, I hope this works, * went up her silent prayer.
Robert reached his sword and got up. Judging from the look on his face, he was very angry and even more surprised. He had not expected her to be this formidable an opponent. He swung the sword at her. She managed to block the blade, but only barely. She took her left hand and covered her right hand with it. With the next blow, she was glad that she did, because it came with a real vengeance.
For the next minute, he was mostly attacking and she parrying, no riposte. Chris realized that the only thing that was happening was that she was getting tired, and he was getting more angry. With the next blow, she used a move that she had learned while fencing foil. She parried with an Italian prime and then, while blocking the other blade, slid the her blade down, ramming it into his chest. His sword clattered to the ground and he looked at her with amazement. Chris took a few steps back, shocked that the move had worked and that she was capable of such violence. Robert sank to his knees, holding the blade, futilely trying to withdraw it. Chris realized that he wasn't just wounded, he was "dying". She saw his sword and wondered if she should finish it right then and there. She went over and picked up his sword, noticing that it was a Spanish rapier with the characteristic bowl shaped guard.
He whispered, "Finish it already!"
Chris recalled the words that MacLeod had told her earlier, that they killed each other by beheading, the only permanent way to kill an Immortal. * If I kill this guy now, I'll be done with him, forever. * Then something inside her reminded her of something that her anger had blinded her to. She decided that she was going to let the s.o.b. live, but she wasn't going to be there when he came to. By now, he had passed out. She felt for the carotid artery, his pulse was almost non-existent. Since she was new at this, she had no idea how much time she had before he was back in action.
She went into her room and pulled on the jeans that she had worn that evening, making sure that her wallet and keys were in the pockets. She opened a drawer and pulled out a large lavender sweatshirt. She hurriedly put the clothes on. She stepped into a pair of Birkenstock sandals and checked on Robert. He was dead now. She figured that she had a couple of minutes and then it was good-bye cruel world. She went over to the computer desk and took her book bag off of the chair. She took out her notebooks and laid them next to the monitor. She ran into her room and stuffed a few things into the bag. She grabbed her coat and got out of there. She carefully closed the door, * Maybe he'll take a hint, though I doubt it. * As she ran out of the building, she stopped off at the car she had used earlier. She halfway thought about using it to get away, but thought better of it. So she settled with just taking her CD's, and then ran off into the night.
"Ring... Ring... Ring... Ring... ," MacLeod woke up, but decided to let his answering machine do its job, "Hello this is Duncan MacLeod, I can't come to the phone right now so if you leave your name and a message at the beep I'll get back to you as soon as I can... BEEP."
"Duncan, this is Chris. A really big problem just came into my living room and I just barely got away with my life"
At those words MacLeod fumbled for the phone and picked it up. "Chris, calm down. Tell me what happened." He paused. "On second thought, come here. Do you think you can find your way over here or should I pick you up?"
"I think I can find my way O.K. I'm only a few blocks away. I really appreciate this; I didn't know anybody else to go to for help."
"Don't mention it. I'll meet you in the dojo below my loft."
"Thanks a lot Duncan!"
"Bye." As he hung up, Duncan wondered if he were doing the right thing; after all the last teenage girl that he had tried to help had come on to him. He finally decided that he would worry about it later.
Duncan pulled on some clothes and then went to the kitchen. From the distress of Chris's voice he knew that she would need something to calm her nerves. He had thought of giving her a stiff drink, but reconsidered it. They probably would need their wits about them and decided that an herbal tea might be better. He took his kettle out and filled it. When the water began to boil, he poured it into his teapot along with a tea that Darius had told him how to blend. Darius had told him that it was very good for those sleepless nights that seemed to go on for longer than life itself. He left the tea to steep while he went downstairs to wait for Chris. When he got down to the dojo he turned on the lights and sat down on one of the weight benches to wait. He didn't have to wait long. Ten minutes later the two of them were upstairs sipping on the tea.
"So who was it?" Duncan finally asked after Chris seemed somewhat calmer.
"Some jerk... called himself Robert Alexander."
"What happened? You said something about him barging into you apartment and nearly killing you."
"I was asleep. He broke in and tried to kill me. I guess he thought I was easy pickings, but I showed him."
"Just what did you do?" Duncan's curiosity got the better of him.
"I managed to get one of my epées and... ", she trailed off and looked down sheepishly.
"Well... I sort of impaled him on the blade and got the hell out of there."
"You didn't finish it... Take his head?"
"I... I couldn't, I have problems thinning out my plants. I just couldn't do it, I mean, this isn't some little plant, this is a human life!"
"Hey, it's O.K. You're safe now; we'll talk about this in the morning. But first, where am I going to put you?"
"The couch is fine."
"I was just thinking the same thing. I'll dig out a few things to make it more comfortable." Duncan went over to a chest in the corner, pulled out some bedclothes, and spread them over the couch. "That ought to do it."
"Yeah, thanks a bunch!"
MacLeod sat down on the edge of his bed and got ready to go to sleep. Chris stretched out on her side on the couch, pulling one of the lighter blankets over her.
The next morning Chris awoke to the smell of coffee brewing. For a few minutes she just lay there on the couch trying to remember and forget the events that had transpired earlier that morning. For a moment there it seemed like it had all been just a bad dream, but if that were true, how did she get here? No, she wasn't even going to try to answer that question. She looked over to the kitchen where Duncan was industriously making pancakes. Pancakes did seem like a good idea, now if she could just finish waking up, the coffee would certainly help with that. With that last thought she sat up and swung her feet around into a normal sitting position.
"Mmmm, something smells good!"
"You're up. I've got pancakes and coffee, if you don't like the choices, I'll see if I can find something that you'll like better."
"Pancakes are just fine."
With that she hopped up and sat down on one of the tall chairs next to the kitchen counter in eager anticipation of sampling MacLeod's culinary skill. MacLeod went and grabbed another mug off of the shelf for her. She took it and poured herself some coffee and added a little sugar, and took a sip. * That was the good stuff, some sort of gourmet blend. If his pancakes are half as good, I'll be spoilt. Pancakes would never be the same again. *
Right about then MacLeod took the big one he was working on and slid it onto a plate with another that had already been finished. Chris took a bottle of syrup and covered the pancakes. After one bite, she knew that she was spoilt. He hadn't gone and used Bisquick like most people, he had made the mix from scratch. To top it off, real maple syrup, not that cheep imitation stuff you can get at the grocery store. MacLeod saw the look on her face and beamed inside, he had been working on his culinary skill in the past few years and it looked like it was paying off. In the past, the women in his life did most of the cooking, now that he had "been on his own" for the last year, it had become a cook or die situation, after all he couldn't very well go out to eat every night.
"I take it that it meets with your approval."
"Oh yeah! , I haven't had pancakes like this since I was little. Every Saturday morning from since I can remember, till I was 16, my dad made homemade pancakes for us. He didn't cook a whole lot, but what he did was real good."
"Why did he stop?" MacLeod asked casually.
Chris got a sad look on her face like it was something that she didn't like talking about, but then decided that she might as well get it over with. "It's kind of a long story, you sure you want to hear it?" She asked slowly.
"Why not? It'll give me a chance to get to know you better."
"O.K., here goes," she began tentatively, as though still feeling some sort of sadness over the events she was to tell of. "When I was in tenth grade my mom was in a car accident. She was on her way to pick me up from band practice and her brakes failed. She slammed into a stopped truck and died about a week later... My dad was a wreck for months afterwards. He nearly lost his job, tenure or not. He didn't go anywhere or do anything, he would just sit at his desk looking at a picture of me and mom taken shortly before the accident. I was really upset about what happened, but the way Dad was acting, it was like both of them had died. I was lucky I had my license, getting around wasn't going to be a problem. Neither Mom or Dad had much family so we were alone in that big old house. After a month, I began to get really concerned, I think he had hardly changed his clothes or shaved since the funeral. Well anyway, a few nights later an old friend of dad's called. Some guy named Russell Nash called down from New York to talk to him. He talked to Dad for a while, then landed on our doorstep a few days later."
She saw Duncan grinning at her and couldn't understand why. "What are you smiling about?"
"Oh, I think I know the guy. Tall, blonde, unusual accent. Does that describe him?"
"Yeah, that is definitely a good description of him... When I asked how did somebody from New York City know somebody in Birmingham the answer I got was, 'I'm a friend from the old neighborhood'... Kinda strange," she dismissed the remark.
Duncan thought to himself, * Connor you devil! * The wheels began to turn in MacLeod's head, doing some simple arithmetic if you will. Connor called Chris's dad a friend from the old neighborhood, a term that Connor reserved for his Immortal friends. This little tidbit made MacLeod very suspect about Chris's dad, not to mention about how much Chris really knew. But if she did know more than she were telling, he highly doubted that she would be telling him all that she was. If her dad was who and what he suspected, Chris would be in good hands if his teaching her didn't work out.
"... He managed to talk dad into shaping up. He stayed for about a week, to make sure dad didn't relapse or something, then he left. Meanwhile Dad had begun to look after himself more, though instead of shaving off the beard he had grown, he trimmed it to a manageable length. He said that he thought that it made him look more distinguished. I don't know about distinguished, but it certainly made him look a few years older. After that he has never quite been the same... I don't suppose that he ever will." She looked down at her food and pushed a bite around in the puddles of syrup.
"I'm sorry to hear about your mother. It seems that you have been through a lot in the last few years."
"I was sad for a while there, but there was nothing that I could do about it so what's the point of getting down about it?"
MacLeod took a few minutes to ponder what she had said. He might have slipped into a similar funk after Tessa had been killed if it hadn't been for Richie's presence. He would have lost any reason to live. If it hadn't have been for the need to get Richie trained, he might have gone off to the island and just stayed there until someone came to drag him back to civilization. For a while he wanted to blame someone, Richie had been there so he blamed Richie even though he knew deep down inside that it wasn't his fault. He'd blamed himself until a few months ago, he had sent them out to the car, he had kept telling himself that he should have been there. He finally forgave himself when he realized that he had no way of knowing what was going to happen that night.
Meanwhile Chris finished off her pancakes and coffee. She wandered over to her bag and removed a brush and a squishy headband. She undid the braid in her hair, though most of it had come undone as she slept. She bent at the waist and brushed her hair out. It was still a little damp from the shower she had taken after the tournament. She had braided it because there had been no time to get her thick hair dry before going out. After she got her hair brushed out, she scrunched it to take a little of the frizz out, and put the headband into place. She righted herself and shook her head a little to settle her hair. She flopped onto the couch and stared up at the giant mobile that was hanging from the ceiling. Just as she was about to ask about its origins, the sound of the elevator motor distracted her. A few moments later something else distracted her even more: the feeling that another Immortal was near. With that she sat up, ready to get out if need be.
"Expecting someone?" she inquired hesitantly.
The elevator stopped and a young man with dark blonde hair got out.
"Hey Mac! Boy, something smells good!" He saw Chris seated on the couch. "Gee, sorry. I didn't know you had company. I'll be going now."
He returned to the elevator but just as he was about to reach for the door pull, MacLeod spoke. "You don't need to leave, Rich. Have you had breakfast yet?"
"Not since yesterday. Thanks Mac."
Richie went over to the fridge and poured himself a glass of juice and pulled up a chair. As he was hungry, he took several pancakes and covered them with syrup. After a few bites he asked in a hushed voice, "So what's the story Mac?"
"Somebody came after her last night. She came to me for help."
Richie looked over his shoulder and looked at her for a few moments. Since the two seemed to be doing a guy bonding thing, she was listening to her CD player. He turned back to Mac. "Is she an old friend?"
"No. As a matter of fact, I just met her last night." Mac saw that Richie wanted a little more information than that. "Her name is Chris Balfour. She's a student at Seacouver University. Somebody came after her in the middle of the night; she got away, and came here."
"Boy, that's a lot for anybody to go through. So what's the plan, Mac?"
"I really don't know... Do you suppose you could take her out for a while so I can think?"
"Sure, Mac. Who's gonna to mind the dojo?"
"Don't you worry about that." He walked over to his desk, picked up his keys, and handed them to Richie. "Take my car."
"Cool! But where should I take her?"
"Why don't you ask her?" His voice changed to an almost pleading tone, "Just not here."
Richie walked over to the couch. Chris saw him coming, so she stopped the CD and took off the headphones. He stopped in front of her.
"Hi, I'm Richie Ryan," he held out his hand.
"Chris Balfour," she said, taking it.
"Mac suggested that we leave and give him some breathing room. So where would you like to go?"
"Well, let's see. I need to clean up my apartment pretty soon; it had a real number done on it last night. And oh... before I forget, I need to pick my car up from the shop."
"Works for me. Let's pick your car up first."
"Sounds like we've got ourselves a plan."
"O.K. I'll get my coat from downstairs and then we'll go."
Richie took the elevator down to the dojo. MacLeod was beginning to clean up the breakfast mess. Curious as to what their plans were, he inquired, "So, what did the two of you decide to do?"
"We're going to pick my car up from the repair shop. Then we're going to go to my apartment and clean it up a bit."
"Sounds good. When you go to your apartment, pick up your fencing gear."
"O.K. Anything else?"
"Yeah. Be careful."
A few moments later Richie returned. Chris got up and followed him out the door. Relieved that he could call his home his own again, MacLeod sat down heavily in his chair and thought about what he was going to do this situation. He thought the best way might be to call Dawson later on and see what he had found.
Once outside Chris's jaw dropped. "Oh wow! A classic T-bird! And he's going to let you drive it?"
"Well, he did give me the keys. So I'd take that as a yes."
They got in. Richie tried to start the engine but he couldn't seem to get it to turn over.
"You're doing it wrong," she stated flatly.
"What's there to do wrong? You turn the key and it's supposed to start. That's all there is to it."
"Not on these older cars. They're meant to be started with the gas pedal partially depressed. Since you've already tried a couple of times, it's probably flooded. Try again, only this time floor it as you turn the key. When it starts let up, but not completely. Give it a chance to warm up or as soon as you put it in gear it'll die."
"Just how do you know that?"
Richie could tell from her expression that he wasn't going to get anything else on that topic out of her and gave up. He started the car as she had instructed, and it worked. * How the heck does a girl know about old cars. Stop, I don't even want to think that. If she's trying to set up Mac, rules or no rules, I'm going to try and stop her. * Of course he should have known about how to start the car. But he so rarely drove the car he had forgotten a few of its quirks. As he was putting the car into gear, he realized that he still didn't know which garage they were headed to. "Chris, exactly where are we headed."
"Oops, sorry 'bout that. Ace Body Shop, you know where it is?"
"Yeah, I know the place, Mac's taken this car there a few times. Come to think of it, they only service classic cars. Is that how you knew about how to start the car?"
She just grinned back at him, she was in a sugar induced 'I'm trying to be cute' kind of mood, and something about Richie made him an easy target for her witticisms.
"So, what kind of car is it?"
"It's a 1967 Mustang."
"Sweet! So is it a convertible or hard top?"
"It's a hard top."
"O.K. so what color is it?"
"It's a sort of electric blue with a black vinyl top."
"That sounds really nice... Hey, am I going to have to pry every little detail out of you?"
"I'm sorry, I'm not really good at carrying on conversations. Not to mention, I tend to get a little shy around guys I don't know very well."
"That's O.K., just sit back and enjoy the ride. I'll get to see the car soon enough."
They rode in silence with only the radio breaking the completeness of the silence. Ten minutes later, they arrived at the shop. Chris's car was parked in front. It appeared to have had a wash, making it look even better than it had when it had gone in. Now it was Richie's turn to let his jaw drop.
"You can stop drooling now. Now if you would be so kind as to pull up to that space next to the office."
Richie parks the car in the space. One of the guys in the office came out to admire the car. Chris got out of the car and stepped into the office. When she saw the bill she was glad that she had slipped her checkbook into her jacket pocket, her credit limit would never have covered it. Though none of the parts had cost over $150, little things add up, and in this case, to $967. She got the receipt, and went out to her car. Richie had gotten out of the T-bird and was admiring the Mustang. With the exception of Mac's car, he hadn't seen many older cars, and this one was a beauty. It had only a few dings and scratches that faded if you stood more than 6 feet away.
"The person who restored it did a beautiful job, don't you think?" Chris asked.
"Yeah, the interior looks good, no rips or tears, looks like those are new seats. Very authentically done, with the exception perhaps of the CD player."
"Well, that's my own personal touch. I don't have a lot of tapes and I don't normally listen to the radio, so I replaced the original AM / Cassette radio with the Sony. I made the face mounting myself since I couldn't find any sources for CD bezels."
"Looks like a real nice piece of work. How'd you do that?"
She shrugged, "I've always been good with my hands. I took a few measurements and just kept sawing and sanding until it would fit in the hole."
"Looks like your persistence paid off. So, you think we ought to get going?"
"Yeah, you're probably right. You go on ahead back and drop off the car, I'll catch up."
With that Richie said good-bye and left. Chris on the other hand, circled the car a few times to see just what damage had been done to the car. The only indication of the incident was a slight warping of the body above the right rear tire. Since it was only warped and not creased, there was no immediate need to get any body work done. She then opened the trunk and took out the two hubcaps that had popped off. She looked at each of them to figure out which one had gone where. She finally decided that it really didn't matter, and just popped them back on. With that last little piece of maintenance done, she got in the car and headed back to Mac's.
Due to a few traffic lights Richie hadn't gotten all that far ahead of her, so she decided to show off a little. Even though she had a slightly less powerful engine, her car was lighter, so the physics of it said that they each had an equal chance of it. She managed to catch enough green lights that she closed distance quickly. The light Saturday morning traffic had certainly helped. Within moments she pulled up alongside Richie, he stared back at her blankly, she grinned back at him like a Cheshire cat, and floored the gas. In only a matter of seconds she was several car lengths in front of the T-bird. She changed lanes to be directly in front of Richie. At the next intersection, she squeaked through, Richie didn't.
She knew that it was childish, but secretly, O.K., maybe not so secretly, she was proud of herself. From the things MacLeod had told her about what she was, somehow she didn't think that she would be in the mood to 'be a kid' for much longer. She had always been more mature than most of her classmates, and yes, technically she was still a kid and from the look of things she always would be. She did have one advantage, even though she was a few months short of her nineteenth birthday, people had sometimes mistaken her for 23 or 24, that would certainly give her a lot of flexibility. Of course she had a while yet before she would need to worry about any of that, or so she hoped.
A few minutes later she arrived back at the dojo. She parked her car a little further up the alley than Mac's car had been parked. She locked it up and went inside. As she approached the stairs, she knew somebody was in. Mac was in the office playing darts. He looked mildly amused that Richie wasn't back yet. After she entered the office, he motioned for her to close the door and she did so.
"So where's Richie?"
"Oh, he's a few miles back eating my dust."
"You must have a good car to have out run the T-bird."
"Well I think so. Wanna see?"
"Why not? What kind of car is it?"
"It's an old Mustang."
The two of them made their way outside and she showed him the car. He had been expecting something from the '80s, but he wasn't disappointed. He was very impressed in the choice of car that Chris had made. Ever since they had been made, he'd had a weak spot for the Ford cars from the mid-sixties. Chris just smiled. She was quite proud of her car, plus she could see that this was a treat for him.
MacLeod reached under the hood, undid the latch, and raised the hood. He could see that there had been a lot of work done on this car; it had a new air compressor and a new radiator. He looked at the engine; since the paint hadn't been burnt off yet, he knew that it had been rebuilt recently. Either that or it didn't get run much.
His curiosity satisfied, he closed the hood. This car could definitely outrun the T-bird any day; they both had 8 cylinders, but on this car, though standard, it was overkill. He circled the car, checking out the body. As he bent to examine the most recent addition to the car's battle scars, he sensed someone's approach. He looked up to see his own car drive up with Richie in the driver's seat. Richie parked it in its normal space next to the stairs. He got out and brought the keys over to Mac.
"Boy that Mustang can go! I didn't think it had it in it, but man it did!"
"Yeah, I suppose it does. Now if you just hop in you'll get a ride in it."
The two of them got into the Mustang and drove off. Mac stood on the steps outside for a few moments and watched them drive off. After he saw them get onto the main road he smiled to himself and went back inside.
In the car Richie was literally being driven crazy by the CD of classical music that was being played on the car's stereo.
"What's the matter? I know Holst is an acquired taste, but is it really that bad?"
"No it's not. It's just that classical music isn't really my thing. I prefer something with electric guitar and drums."
"You know, you ought to expand your horizons and get a little culture."
"I know, Mac keeps telling me that. But have you got anything else?"
"Yeah, I've got a few other things. Check the glove compartment."
Richie opened the glove compartment and a whole lot of little goodies fell out onto the floor. Several CDs and a glasses case fell out. As he put the CDs back into the glove compartment, he looked over the CDs. Telemann, Beethoven, Respighi, and Meat Loaf. Out of these, only one looked promising. He popped Holst out and put it into it's case, and popped the new selection into the CD player. He skipped the tracks to "Everything Louder Than Everything Else". He finished putting the rest of the CDs back, just as he was about to put the glasses case back Chris motioned for him to hand it to her.
"I've been looking for those for the last three weeks. I forgot that I had put them in there."
* How did those end up in there? Oh... duh! I put them in there because when I picked them up I was wearing my contacts. I suppose I forgot because it was right before I went to the Halloween party. Wrecking the car must have created a memory block. Oh well, at least I can ditch these old green things. * With that last thought, she put on the new glasses. These were wire frames with brown accents, much better looking than the green spares that she had been wearing. She put the other pair in the case and handed them to Richie to put into the glove compartment. * Oh, it feel so good to have the new prescription, the old one was so different it's been giving me headaches. *
Ten minutes later the two pulled up in front of Chris's apartment building. She parked the car in a space near it. When Richie tried to lock the door, he ended up with another lesson about old cars. (You can't just shut the door, it unlocks. You have to hold the button down while closing the door or the button will just pop right back up.)
The two made their way up to the second floor where Chris's apartment was. Chris dug out her keys and opened the door. The two were astonished by the mess in the apartment. Chris didn't recall having left that much of a mess. * Robert must have been really pissed to have torn the place up that much. * The two went into the apartment and began straightening up.
"Boy, somebody really knows how to party!" Richie said, surveying the damage.
"I can't believe the guy went through all this trouble. All it's going to do is get me mad."
"Maybe that's the idea. He's probably hoping that you'll get careless; then he'll strike."
"Then he's out of luck. When I get mad, I get more focused and determined to come out on top. I also tend to loose some of my control. Next time, I won't hold back so much. If this guy is trying to hack me off, he's doing a pretty darn good jobbut man is he gonna have a problem!"
"Remind me not to get you mad," Richie said, taking a few steps away, to get out of striking range.
She shrugged it off, "Don't worry. It takes a lot to get me this mad. Something along the lines of breaking in here and waving a sword in my face."
Richie laughed to himself, remembering the night that he and Mac had first met. Back when he'd been a small time burglar. He'd broken in and taken a sword from a display case, and when he turned around, Mac was standing there sword in hand, ready to strike. After the night that he'd broken into the antique store, nothing had been the same.
"What's so funny?" Chris asked.
"Oh, what you said reminded me of how I first met Mac. I had broken into his shop and I ended up with something right out of the Knights of the Round Table. For a while I thought he took me in to keep me from telling the police what I had seen. But after the first time I woke up, everything came together, I had a good idea why Mac had kept me around, he knew."
"I wish I had been so lucky. The first time somebody came after me, I didn't know what was going on, I just knew something was very wrong."
With that, Chris went into the kitchen area and retrieved a garbage bag to put some broken items into. She was glad it wasn't much. Most of the broken items were ceramic pots that her African violets had been in. Robert had dumped the plant shelf over, breaking the pots. Most of the plants had been torn up to much to salvage so she sadly put them in the bag as well.
The rest of the mess was furniture that had been knocked over. She and Richie had righted the furniture, now it was time to vacuum up all the spilt dirt. She dug the suction vac out of the closet and sucked up the dirt. Once done, she put it up. She examined her computer to see if it had been damaged; the printer had been knocked to the floor, but otherwise it seemed fine. Richie saw that his services were not needed at the moment and proceeded to look around the place in his usual inquisitive manner.
He went into the other bedroom and opened the closet. He found Chris's instruments stacked inside. Chris got up from the computer, realizing that Richie had left the room. She followed him into the other room. "What have you got here?" asked Richie.
"I see you found my instrument stash. It's been a while since the last time I played. I'd almost forgotten that they were here." She took the cases out and laid them on the bed to be sure that they were O.K. She opened he cases one by one. The horn and trumpet were fine, as was the classical guitar. She played a few chords on the guitar to check the tuning.
"How long have you been playing?"
"Let's see, uh... a couple of years, off and on and off on all of these," she motioned to the array of instruments.
She suddenly felt like playing again; it was always a good way to relieve stress. She warmed up by outlining some chords, becoming oblivious to Richie's presence. Satisfied that she had gotten the feel of it, she played a simple arrangement of "Greensleeves", picking out the individual notes and occasionally adding a chord for harmony.
After she finished, she put it back in its case. She looked at the horn; it was still in mint condition. It was the replacement to the one she'd rebuilt the year before. She'd barely played it since she bought it, and she wasn't about to embarrass herself by attempting to play it right now. It would probably take an hour next to a piano to get the pitches centered again.
She looked to the trumpet, a silver plate Bach Strad. It really needed to be polished, something that she had been putting off since graduation. She picked up the polishing cloth and wiped down the bell and the leadpipe. It would have to do for now. She picked up one of the two mouthpieces; it had turned grey with tarnish, not a good sign. She wiped the rim off on her jeans. She checked the size to make sure that this was her usual mouthpiece. It read "Vincent Bach 1 1/2 C". She had grabbed the right one. She put it into the receiver and gave it a slight twist. She moistened her lips slightly, slid her left hand around the valves, and raised it to play.
At first, she played some long tones, beginning in the low register. Then she moved on to upper octave work, playing the upper C scale. She wasn't sure if she still had her range; she'd barely played over the summer. Sure enough, the high C came out, though slightly strained. She paused for a moment to remember some music. She couldn't really remember any whole piece so she quickly took out a book of old English trumpet tunes which was stuck in the bottom of the case. She flipped through the book until she found the one she wanted: Purcell's "Sonata in D". She managed to play it with a light, bright tone, an improvement over past attempts.
One good thing about Immortality that occurred to her was that her lips didn't split or get smushed too thin to play. All she needed for recovery was a few beats rest, and she could play on. This would certainly come in handy for playing on short notice. The only requirement was that she keep her lip strength up to utilize the upper register. Since most of her favorite pieces were classical or baroque, a strong upper register was a must.
She came out of her reverie to notice that yet again, classical music had put Richie off a little. She dug deep in her mind, trying to remember something he might appreciate. * Bingo! * She played what has come to be known as the Lone Ranger theme part of William Tell. When she finished, she put it away. that was enough for today.
"How did you remember that?"
"It took me about a week to get to where I could play that cleanly. I must've played it hundreds of times, trying to get it right. I learned it by repetition, I guess."
With that she packed up the instruments and placed them back into the closet where they came from. She chased Richie out of the room. Before leaving the room, she remembered that Mac had asked her to bring her fencing gear back later. She figured now would be as good a time as any to get it done.
As she came into the main room she happened to glance at the clock on the wall. A quarter to twelve. She was hungry. Finishing off some leftovers was not an appealing thought. Now that she had seen the way things were, she wanted to get out and go somewhere else.
"Are you hungry yet?" Richie asked, seeming to reading her mind.
"Yeah, I could use some grub. Any ideas?"
"I remember seeing some fast food places not far from here."
"Sounds good to me. Gimme a minute, and we'll go."
She retrieved her foils and remaining epée from the corner, and slid them in with the rest of her equipment. She slung the bag over her left shoulder and they left.
Mac was sitting in the office playing darts as he contemplated what to do with Chris. For a couple of days, this might work, but not a whole lot longer, with that thought he threw the last dart. He'd been putting it off all morning, but now he needed to find out what Dawson had dug up. Since Duncan had a limited knowledge of the situation, Dawson's information would help him to make a more informed decision about what to do. After the last person in the dojo left for lunch he placed a closed sign on the outside door and went upstairs to the loft to call Joe.
"Hey Joe, I was wondering if you would run a check for me on someone named Robert Alexander."
"Is this an old someone?"
"Could be, I really don't know."
"O.K. MacLeod, I'll see what I can dig up. If you are going to be home this afternoon I can drop by and fill you in."
"Yeah, I'll be in, see you then."
Mac hung up. He scrounged around in his fridge for his lunch. He ended up with a turkey and bacon sandwich. After he finished his meal, he realized that last night's adventure had taken its toll. He figured that right now might be the most opportune time to make up for it. With that he pulled off his shoes and stretched out on his bed. He lay there for several minutes until he drifted off to sleep.
He awoke to the sound of the elevator motor. He concentrated for a moment to make sure that that was the only reason. It was. He thought for a moment * Who could be coming up here * then remembering the conversation earlier with Joe, answered his own question. Within moments Duncan's hypothesis was proved true.
"What's this, naps too." Joe joked as he stepped out of the elevator.
"Yeah, not a normal occurrence, but I didn't get much sleep last night," Duncan replied wearily.
"Would that have anything to do with the check you had me run on Robert Alexander?"
"In a way, yes."
"Why is he bothering you, his MO is usually going after Immortals with families. Taking their family away to demoralize them and make them easy victims. You've got no family to speak of except Connor, and he's good at taking care of himself."
"It's not me he's after, it's Chris."
"The girl from last night?"
"The same. He tried to come after her last night, she got away and came here."
"That explains a lot, your not getting a lot of sleep and all."
"So, Joe, what could you find on Chris?"
"She's exactly who she says she is. One interesting thing though, when I went looking through the records last night, I found a very interesting piece of information. Her father is Andrew Balfour, an old friend of yours I believe."
"We go back a few years."
"Yeah, I'd say back the Napoleonic wars is quite a few."
Duncan remembered when he found Andrew. It was shortly after he'd met Darius. The two of them had been looking for injured men to take to the doctor when they found Andrew. They decided to carry him over to a small wood and wait for him to come out of it. He was just conscious when they found him so they had to all but carried him. They explained to Andrew about what he and they were. The next month when Andrew and Duncan's enlistment was up, they left with Darius. Duncan taught him swordmanship and Darius taught him philosophy. When Duncan left for the New World, Andrew stayed with Darius for a while. Even though Andrew had been a soldier, war and fighting were things that he didn't care for. He preferred to avoid it where possible, though he wouldn't do as Darius had done, leaving the world for refuge on Holy Ground. The last time Duncan had seen Andrew was shortly after World War II.
"Well he's still around, he's a history professor down at UAB. If he's really your friend you ought to let him know that that Alexander is after him. I talked to someone an hour ago that told me that he had a kidnapping planned for someone that almost turned into an Immortal battle. A mall security truck scared him off in the nick of time. From their description of the intended target, it seems that last night wasn't the first time he met Chris."
"I don't suppose you have Andrew's number?"
"As a matter of fact I do." Joe took out a small slip of paper with the number. Mac went over to the phone and placed a call to Andrew.
The phone was answered on the second ring by the answering machine. Duncan left his name, number and the short message, "I thought I'd let you know that your daughter's staying with me for a few days while we work out a few problems that have come her way." * Let him make of that what he will. * With that he hung up. "Well Joe, I've done about all I can for now."
Dawson glanced at his watch. He needed to get back to the bar soon because tonight he was performing with the band and he didn't want to be in a hurry when the time cam for him to go on. He made his excuses and left. Twenty minutes later MacLeod's phone rang.
"Hey Duncan, it's been a while. I got your rather cryptic message. I knew that this would happen sooner or later. I just hoped that it would be later. So who is it?" He asked, doing his best to keep a level tone.
"Robert Alexander. But from what I understand he was after you, but when he found Chris, he decided to make her his target."
"I'm coming up there as soon as I can get a flight."
"You don't need to do that, I can handle it."
"I was planning on flying up there on Monday, but after hearing about this, I'll move it up. With any luck, I'll be up there by tonight."
"Andrew, really, it isn't necessary... "
"She's my daughter, I have to be there. If for no other reason, I have to be there for her."
"O.K. I suppose there's no use in fighting it, you would come anyway. Call me when you get your reservations and I'll meet you at the airport."
"O.K., I'll talk to you later, bye."
Mac hung up the phone. He thought for a few minutes that it would be nice to see Andrew again, but just not under these circumstances. He thought to himself, * God, has it really been fifty years? I'm going to learn one of these days to not let half a century go by in between friendly social calls. * He looked around the room, he had company coming and the place was a mess. He did a little light cleaning, putting things away and straightening things up a bit. When he finished, he was pretty tired, but there was no way that he was going to get anymore rest in because the phone rang.
"Hello Duncan, I managed to get switched to a flight that leaves in a little less than two hours. I should be getting in between 10:30 and 11:15 PM your time. I won't really know until I pick up the ticket. If I have time, I'll call from the airport and fill you in."
"If you tell me the flight number, I can call the airport here to find out."
"I'm booked on Delta flight 76."
"O.K. I'll check. I'll see you this evening then."
Mac reset the phone and called the airport. He found out that the flight was expected in at 11:20 PM. * Damn, this is turning out to be a long day. I'm not going to be able to catch up on my sleep tonight. * He attempted another nap but it didn't work, he was too wound up with events from the previous evening and the those yet to come. He decided that the best thing would be to relax with a good book.
He went over to his bookcase and began to peruse the titles. One title jumped out at him, Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped. It did for two reasons, number one being that it was set in his beloved Highlands, and number two being that the main character's name was David Balfour. It seemed almost appropriate that he should read it at this time. He took the book and sat down at his desk and began to read.
Duncan had almost gotten to the place where David arrived at the House of Shaws. However he stopped when he sensed the presence of another Immortal. He hoped silently that it was only Richie and Chris. Within moments there was a knock at the door. It was only Richie and Chris, thankfully. He let them in, and closed the door. Chris set her equipment bag down next to the elevator.
"Did anyone try anything while you guys were out?" Mac inquired.
"Not so far as I could tell," answered Richie, "Are you sure that this guy is still out there?"
"When I talked to Joe a few hours ago he seemed to think so."
"Wait a sec, Joe as in the guy at the bar? What does he do, run surveillance operations out of that bar or something?" Chris asked.
"Close. Joe's a Watcher, which means that part of his job involves keeping track of Immortals. Most Immortals don't even know they exist, but a few of us have managed to find out. I've known Joe for a little over a year now, but he's been tracking me in particular for the last sixteen years or so." Mac said in answer to her question, paused then continued, "Joe told me that this particular Immortal likes to fight Immortals that have a family or something along those lines. He picks off the family members one by one so that by the it comes to actual fighting, there's no reason for them to go on."
"O.K., if that's the way this guy goes about business, what's he doing coming after me? I mean, doesn't he usually go after the family members first?"
"He was. He was going after your father through you. You could be considered a sort of bonus from Alexander's standpoint."
"My dad is an Immortal? For real?"
"Yeah, for real."
"Don't you think that this is just a little too damned convenient?"
"Well it's not the first time something like this has happened."
"Well, like the time a certain young thief broke into my shop." Mac said grinning in Richie's direction.
"Aw Mac, stop. You're making me look like an idiot." Richie complained.
Talking over Richie, Mac continued, "When I caught him lurking around the store a few days later, I gave him a job as a way of keeping him out of trouble and to keep an eye on him."
Richie jumped in, "And then I found out about Immortals. After some of the people that Mac ran into, I didn't want any part of it. I even got kidnapped by one of them. After last fall, well, I didn't have a choice anymore," Richie said, shrugging it off.
"You never did, Rich," Mac said somberly.
"You're lucky Richie, you knew from the moment it happened what was going on. Mac trusted you enough to tell you about himself. My own father didn't event trust me, ME, enough to tell me that he's an Immortal. Something like that's going be hard to overlook much longer. What did he think I was going to do, tell everybody at school so they could laugh at me?" She stopped her rant because she was getting upset, everything was just hitting her all at once.
Mac guided her over to the couch so she could sit. Richie left, he would just get in the way, he could never handle the delicate situations like Mac could. Mac sat down next to her on the couch, holding her close, trying to calm her. She just put her head on his shoulder and cried. She cried for the loss of her mortality, the fact that she would never really have a normal life, the fact that the world was going to change and she wasn't, for a hundred reasons that she couldn't name. All the while Mac was saying, "It's O.K. now, you're safe." After a few minutes she straightened up, pushing Mac away.
"Thanks," she said softly, "I don't usually get like this, but I've been through a lot in the last few weeks. I... I don't think I have cried like that since my mother... "
"It's O.K., finding out you're an Immortal can create a lot of confusion. Life goes on, you'll get through it, I do, Richie does, so does your dad."
"Hey, you can't do anything about it, so don't get yourself worked up about it. Why don't you go in the bathroom and wash your face and make those tears go away." He wiped at a tear as it rolled out the corner of her eye. He gave her one of his special sympathetic smiles.
She got up and went into the bathroom. A few moments later Mac heard the sound of water running. A few minutes later a much more composed Chris emerged.
"Tell you what, since you are going to be staying here for the next few days, make yourself at home. Right now, though I suggest that you do something that will relax you."
"Mind if I put something on the stereo?"
"No." Mac replied, hoping that she doesn't put on some heavy metal and start head banging. If she did, he would mind.
She fished around in her book bag for the right CD. She looked at various titles, Brandenburg Concertos, Music for the Royal Fireworks, Henry V soundtrack, Disney's Aladdin Soundtrack, Pachelbel Canon, Wynton Marsalis's Baroque Music For Trumpet. She decided on variety and went for the Pachelbel Canon CD, it had a number of other favorite pieces on it as well. She popped the CD into the tray and hit play. She adjusted the balance to favor the treble. Mac looked up from his book, pleasantly surprised at the musical selection. His mind drifted from the book and he leaned back in the chair to listen to the music.
At the end of the selection, she got up and changed tracks. This time the distinctive sound of trumpet greeted his ears, quite a change from the string ensemble that had been playing Canon. For a few minutes he carefully listened to the piece trying to place it, after realizing that it was two and not one trumpet as he had originally thought, he was able to place the piece, Vivaldi's Concerto in C For Two Trumpets.
With that minor mystery solved, his attention caught some motion out the corner of his eye. Chris was stretched out on the couch, with her eyes closed and was conducting the piece as if she were very familiar with it. When the piece finished, she got up and then changed CDs again. While she was putting the previous CD back into its case, he decided to find out.
"Have you played that piece much?"
"Only like the last three years. I've even managed to get a few medals at competition for it," she said, warming up to the subject.
"That's pretty good, I'll have to hear you play sometime."
"Sure, just not real soon, I'm kind of out of practice."
"Well I think you're going to have a lot of time in the future to brush up on it. If you like we can go downstairs now and buy you a little time."
"Sure, but um, I'm going to need to bum a T-shirt off you because I forgot to put one in my bag."
"Let's simplify matters, we're just going to use, glove, mask, and epée."
She began to fish her stuff out of the bag, but when Mac saw the pistol grip on her epée, he motioned for her to put it back in the bag. "Leave it, that won't do you much good. I've got something downstairs you can use."
He explained to her that she'd need a more traditional grip in order to be more adjusted to a real sword. She took her mask and glove and followed Mac to the elevator. They got off on one of the floors in between the dojo and the loft to get some of the other equipment. As they got off, Mac reached around the corner to turn on the lights.
"Wow, you certainly have enough stuff!"
Mac walked over to a weapon rack that was mounted on the wall. He selected a French grip epée. He then squatted down in front of a chest, inside were a mask and glove on top of a folded fencing uniform. He took out the glove and mask and closed the lid. He gestured that she should select a weapon. She looked them over, all of them were French grip.
"I don't suppose that you have any Italian grip epées around here?"
"As a matter of fact," he raised the lid of the chest, "I do."
He moved the uniform aside and lifted out a long flannel bag, just the right shape to hold an epée. He untied the string that secured the bag. The top of the bag fell away, revealing an epée with a thick cardboard tube protecting the blade. He drew it out and handed it to her.
"Thanks. Coach makes us use the pistol grips for competition, I actually like the more traditional grips."
"Get used to it," he gave her a slight smile, "Come on, let's go."
"Lead the way."
They got back onto the elevator and rode down to the dojo.
To make her a little more comfortable, Mac talked her through a few basic drills, ones that she had probably seen before, but none the less, something to be practiced. "O.K. this is what you're going to do. Extend to attack, when I move to parry, disengage and move to hit. Now I'm probably going to take a step or two back, so you may have to lunge to hit. Did you get that?"
"O.K. then, let's try that then."
They saluted, donned their masks, and assumed en garde. They drilled for a few minutes, then Mac changed the drill. They drilled that one for a little while, with Chris as the attacker. For a slight change, Mac changed their roles. Chris switched to a defensive mode and Mac to an offensive one. They ran the drills over with the reversed roles. They stopped when Chris showed a tolerable proficiency with the sequence.
"O.K., Now I'm going to add something to the first drill. You're going to take the defensive position but this time you are going to pick up the blade and while closing distance, deflect my blade, and make the hit. Got it?"
They ran this drill a few times, then took a short break before actually bouting. They shared a bottle of water that Mac had left in the office earlier. After they rested a little, they went back out to the main room.
"Why don't you show me what you know?"
"Go easy on me."
"I'll give you no quarter."
"O.K., it was worth a shot though."
They saluted, put on their masks, and assumed en garde. Mac made the first attack. She swept it aside, closed distance, and hit him in the knee. The next time however, he disengaged the blade, and hit her in the arm. They exchanged attack for a few minutes before Chris noticed that he was leaving his hand exposed, definitely not a smart move in competitive epée.
She hit him a couple of times on the hand, after all why let a good target go to waste? Mac was grateful that he had retired his old glove for this new one which was padded on the back of the hand. After the next hand hit, he stopped the bout.
"Chris, I know that in competitive epée, the hand is a valid target, but in reality it doesn't help a whole lot."
"O.K., but why'd you stop then?"
To answer her, Mac had her switch weapons with him as the Italian grip was better suited for what he had in mind. When Chris again attacked his hand, he simply moved the weapon to his left hand and continued. It caught Chris a little off guard, leaving herself wide open for a hit, which Mac then made.
"O.K. I see your point."
They re-traded weapons and bouted for a short while longer, breaking off from fatigue. "You're pretty good, but you're going to have to stop being afraid to attack. If you would be a little more aggressive, and stop hesitating, you wouldn't get hit so much. There were a few places there where you almost got the touch, but you didn't because you hesitated."
"I know... My fencing coach tells me the same thing. Though I think part of the problem is that I have never fenced in my sandals."
She pointed her right foot in front of herself. On her foot was a hiking sock and a Birkenstock sandal, one with a heel strap fortunately. If it hadn't been for the strap, both of the shoes would have likely been kicked off over the course of the lesson.
"Yeah, that would do it. You have to be able to effectively fight in whatever you happen to be wearing if you want to get out of it alive. You never know when you might run into someone, which is another reason why I decided on our using the minimum gear."
"Well that's enough of that. Let's go upstairs and get cleaned up."
They got into the elevator and rode back upstairs, stopping off on the floor that they had gotten the epées from. Mac put their weapons away, this time putting both epées onto the weapon rack. He then moved over to a chest and opened it, resting inside were a number of swords.
He began off handedly, "I think it might be a good idea if got the real thing. You're big enough and probably strong enough to use a rapier, which from your epée work, your style seems to lean toward. However a two handed weapon will allow you to put more power into your moves, leveling the playing field a bit."
Mac looked over the swords, there were only three two handed weapons, all of which were katanas. Chris stood nervously a few steps away, not knowing just what to expect next. He lifted each katana, looking at the maker's mark to select the best one. He selected one with a carved ivory handle, one of the few he had run across made by the same smith as his own trusted katana. This one had carvings of goldfish swimming around the handle, the tsuba was a sort of flower shape, solid with blooming lotus engraved on it. He took it out and turned to where Chris was waiting.
"Here," he handed it to her, "live with it, make it part of you. It might be the only friend you'll have."
She looked at it, let her jaw drop, then swallowed. She thought it was interesting that there were goldfish on the handle. She had a pond full of them at home in her backyard. The katana truly was a work of art, she'd seen a few in museums, but not like this.
"Thank you... It's beautiful, it's a work of art!"
"You're welcome. But don't forget, that it's also a weapon, one that's meant to be used. Now let's go upstairs."
They got onto the elevator. Chris was carrying the katana as her friend Ben had shown her, concave down with her left hand a few inches behind the guard. Mac noticed, * I wonder where she picked that up from? * Within moments they were back to the loft. She went to the couch to sit down, setting the katana down carefully onto the coffee table.
"Where did you learn to carry a katana," Mac inquired.
"A friend of mine, Ben, was asked to do a fencing demo a few weeks back. He got someone to do some rapier and dagger and I played guinea pig for a little Japanese swordwork. He showed me a few moves, but there wasn't enough time to really get anything together, so we dropped it."
"Well that's going to make my job a little easier."
"Oh boy!... I seem to recall your saying that we were going to clean up. I feel like I could use a shower and a change of clothes."
"O.K. You know where the bathroom is, go to it."
"One teensy problem, I don't have a change of clothes. S'pose I could borrow something?"
"Yeah, I think you'll find everything you need in the drawers there." He said indicating the massive wardrobe behind his desk.
She poked through his drawers for a few minutes. She selected a cream and grey tunic style sweater and a cream colored turtleneck. From the sizes on the jeans, she thought it best if she stuck with the ones she had on, her hips would never fit in those. She was pleased that Mac had a few pairs of socks like the ones she had on, in her size even. She tucked the clothes under her arm and retrieved a small ditty bag from her fencing bag. She took her things into the bathroom and took a shower.
* Oh boy does this hot water feel good. * She had been a bit sore, but it melted away during the shower. She didn't know if it was the hot water or her now remarkable recuperative powers that was responsible. Frankly she didn't care. She took a nice fluffy towel out of a wall mounted cabinet to dry off. She threw the now soggy towel over the rod for the shower curtain so that it would dry.
She put the shampoo and conditioner back into the ditty bag and pulled out a brush. She pulled on the clothing, a pretty good fit, much like many of her sweaters which had come from the men's department. If it was a little baggy, fine, it would be more comfortable, not to mention hide her not so great waistline. She wasn't exactly fat, just never missed many meals.
She brushed out her hair, a real battle considering what trouble long, thick, and wet hair can do. She shook as much water out of it and then crunched it to put some of the curl back into it. She pulled out a large brown barrette to secure it. She pulled it back and pinned on top of her head. She quickly checked herself to make sure that she was presentable, satisfied she put all of her goodies back into her bag, and vacated the bathroom.
Mac was waiting at his desk for his turn. He picked up a few articles and took his shower. While he was in the bathroom she roamed around the room. Mac made her a little nervous, she hadn't really looked around a whole lot since she'd been there. She felt a little like a bug under a microscope. She checked out the bookcase, impressed with some of the titles. She recognized some of the bindings too.
They had a number of old books at home, rescued from her great grandmother's estate. She picked up a volume of Whittier's poetry, one that was published well before the turn of the century. Inside was an inscription, "Duncan MacLeod, 1889" * Oh my God!, I didn't realize he was that old! * She turned a few pages to Whittier's picture, * My God, I really do have an autographed copy. This one is the same edition, but there isn't an inscription under the picture. * I wonder how much an autographed copy is worth? * She put the book back onto the shelf.
She looked at a few other titles, some of them she had read, many of them not. Several of them were even in foreign languages. She picked up a copy of Don Quixote it was in old Spanish. She attempted reading a few paragraphs, she couldn't get the exact words, but the gist came through. At least she still remembered her Spanish after almost two years. She put it back on the shelf. She looked some more, then she saw a poor ragged little book. She knew it was very old just looking at the edges of the pages. She pulled it out, it was a play, MacBeth, she carefully opened it. What she saw amazed her, William Shakespeare's autograph! * My God! * that book was just too valuable to be sitting in somebody's home. She turned the page, another inscription, only partially readable due to some sort of damage that it had sustained in its long life, "To Duncan Mac... Fr... T... " * No it couldn't be, he can't be that old, gotta be an ancestor."
She almost jumped out of her skin when Mac spoke.
"So, what have you got there?"
"I think I have an autographed copy of MacBeth."
"And an inscription that looks almost as old, made out to you."
"So it does. That was a gift from the monk that taught me to read. That was one of the first things that I read, around 1658 I think."
"When were you born?"
"Oh my God! That means your just a little over 400."
"Boggles the mind doesn't it?" he said as he gave one of his goofy grins.
"Yeah, just a little. This is putting an entirely new meaning into the term old friend. Just how long have you known my dad then?"
"Since about 1815."
"I don't suppose you know how old he is?"
"Well let's see, I've known him since the beginning. He was about 39," Mac pauses for a moment to make the calculation, "that'd make him somewhere in the neighborhood of 218."
"Geez, that puts a real twist on the term 'my old man'. Talk about a generation gap!"
"Thinking of your dad, I talked to him while you were out, he's flying in tonight. He should be here around 11:20 this evening."
"Don't worry, It's going to be O.K." he said. "I think we'll both think a little straighter once we get some food in out stomachs. It's been a long day, and it's going to be a little longer. Grab your coat and let's go."
Mac put his wallet and keys into his pocket and they grabbed their coats. They got into the elevator and headed downstairs. As they neared the exit of the dojo, they sensed a presence, Mac motioned her back. He put his hand inside his coat, ready to draw if necessary. It wasn't. Within moments Richie walked in.
"Hey guys, Just thought I'd drop by and make sure that everything was O.K."
MacLeod relaxed. "Everything's fine Rich. We were just leaving for a little early supper."
"Yeah, sorry about my little display earlier, I guess I had a low blood sugar level or something."
"Hey it's O.K., I understand."
Seeing Richie's hopeful expression, Mac decided to bite the bullet and ask him to join them. Richie accepts the invitation. The three of them went outside and got into Mac's car and drove off.
Somewhere over the Midwest a plane with Andrew Balfour had just hit some turbulence. * Oh great! It's bad enough that flying makes me nervous, but this takes the cake. * He was impatient to get to Seacouver to be with his daughter and a long flight wasn't helping matters. He had been trying to take his mind off matters by grading papers, but it just wasn't working.
With a sigh of disgust he put the paper he was working on back into his satchel, his concentration was shot. The business with Robert Alexander had him tied in knots, it had been a very long time since anyone had come after him. It didn't help matters that Christina had become deeply involved. He had known since the day that Alice and he had brought her home that someday she would have to get involved in the Game, he just wished that it had waited a little longer. He was glad that his friend Duncan was up there to help Christina. He had a feeling that he was going to need a little of it himself as well.
Christina was a big girl but she had barely begun to live, it was just too soon. She should have been allowed to live a little more before being thrust into the world of the Immortals. * Oh hell, I was over 35 and I couldn't handle it in the beginning. I just hope she has a better time of it than I did. * Right now his main concern was she going to hold a grudge against him for not letting her in on his secret sooner. She had a real temper and could become very vocal in expressing her anger. He had mixed feelings about the reunion, happy to see her but and nervous because the playing field was totally different. He was going to have to figure out how to redefine their relationship. It could never go back to the family that they'd known for the last 18 years. Somehow or another this would work itself out, these things always had a way of working themselves out. He only hoped that this would too.
It was strange this time, he had been the target, but because of Christina, the target had changed. He'd had a number of Immortal friends that had been hunted, some won, others lost.. This time was very different, it was his daughter that someone was coming for. He wasn't going to be able to help her if it came down to that, * Damned rules *. He was going to have to be there for her as a father and as a friend, but he wouldn't or rather, couldn't fight her battles, no matter how much he might want to, he had a few promises to keep on that score.
The three of them, Duncan, Richie, and Chris, were in a family run Mexican restaurant having dinner. They were just finishing off the fajita platter that they had shared. Things had been quiet over dinner, Mac and Richie knew each other pretty well, but with Chris there, they all were a little awkward. After all who wouldn't be around a teenage girl neither knew really well or two guys that you had just met the day before.
Inside Chris was butterflies, she still didn't know what to make of the whole situation. She was an Immortal, her dad was an Immortal, and her two dinner companions were Immortals. The whole concept of immortality made her a little giddy, being able to see how the world was going to change, travel and see places that she had once thought that she would only read about. The other part of it was that with the whole battle to the death thing she might not even get to see graduation, or even the next semester.
The whole concept of kill or be killed she understood, but she didn't know if she would ever be able to come to terms with it. Sooner or later she would have to or she would end up dead. She wondered just how Duncan was able to deal with it all, he'd been around for quite a while, he'd have to have made some sort of sense of the whole thing by now. And then there was Richie, he wasn't much older than she was, on the surface he seemed to have come to terms with it, but she could tell from what she saw in his eyes that he still wondered, still couldn't believe it. She continued to wonder why things are the way they are , where was the master plan, the sense of it all? Somehow she knew that she would never know the answers, and that it would never really matter. All that mattered right now was dealing with the midnight visitor that she had had. She just sat there and stared out the window watching the people that were walking past. She jumped in her seat, startled by Duncan's voice.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"I was just wondering if we'd lost you there for a moment, but I see that you have something on your mind. Do you want to talk about it?"
"I was just thinking."
"About this whole Immortal business. Trying to make some sense out of it. Wondering why some people don't die and others do."
"Don't think about it too much, you'll make yourself crazy."
"I kind of figured that, but I just can't help but wonder about it. Have you managed to make any sense of it?"
"Not really. I know that somewhere in it is a plan, a purpose, I just don't know what it is. I don't think anyone really knows."
"I don't guess anyone would know. It's just that one needs purpose to one's life, you know?"
"I know, the best thing is to just take it one day at a time, and hope for the best."
"Hey guys, I'm sure that the two of you find philosophy interesting and all, but you're kind of loosing me here," Richie said since he couldn't really participate in the conversation. He turned to Chris and added, "How the heck do you understand him? I used to think that you had to be 400 to understand him, I guess I was wrong."
Chris responded, "I've always been a thinker, I never had a lot of friends. When I was growing up I was always a good head taller than the other kids. I got made fun of, they would make jokes about it, some of them were really cruel. Sometimes, they would ask me how many grades I had been held back since I was so much taller than everyone else. In high school, things were better, we had all grown up, but there were always a few that still acted like ten year olds. I never really felt like I could trust anyone. I had a lot of time left to myself, time that I took to think. I developed a reputation for being a little on the weird side, but at least I was finally left alone. When most of the other girls were reading the Sweet Valley books, I was reading some of the classics... ," She stopped, making a realization, "Geez, there I go again, babbling on about nothing. Well, to make a long story shorter, I just never really fit in I was just left to my own devices, I had plenty of time for thinking so I did."
"If it means something to you, it means something. You can't let what other people think rule your life, but you can't just ignore them either. You have to listen to what they say and weigh it against what your conscience tells you is right. You read some of the classics, was Hamlet in there?" Chris nodded, "in Hamlet, Polonius gives a very wise piece of advice, 'to thine own self be true'. You can't let others live you life, you've only got one and you better do the best you can with it, because you never know when its going to be over. In the end your opinion is the only one that really means anything."
"I realize that. Maybe with time I'll be able to do that, it's just going to take some time for adjustment."
"Well you're going to have plenty of time, hopefully."
The conversation quickly drifted as Richie began to take a more active role in the conversation. They were all getting to know each other better, feeling more relaxed. Chris was actually enjoying herself, she felt as if for the first time in her life she was accepted for who she was right then, and not being judged for some sort of baggage. Not only that but there was a link between the three of them, they were all in the same boat. She had a few friends now, but she still didn't like getting real personal with any of them. With these two it was kind of different they each had secrets, one of which they all shared, they were Immortal.
As they were leaving, they all froze in their tracks, they had all sensed the presence of another Immortal. Mac shoed Richie and Chris to the car while he went to investigate. He went down a nearby alley and the sensation grew stronger. He stopped.
"Who's there?" Mac asked, already guessing at who it was.
"Robert Alexander... I don't want you, whoever you are, where's the girl?" a low voice answered from the dark.
"I am Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod. It doesn't matter where she is, I'm here now."
A dark figure came out of the shadows. Mac could see the glimmer of a sword being drawn, he drew his own. The figure must have seen Mac's action for his advance quickened at that point. He took a swing at Mac which was promptly avoided. The aggressor made a few more swings, each being avoided or parried. Chris and Richie heard the sounds of swordplay and came to witness the fight. Chris watched with admiration for the skill Mac displayed. Richie watched with concern for his friend's life, no matter how good Mac was. The fight broke off however when the once distant sound of police sirens began to grow stronger. The two combatants parted going in opposite directions.
"I thought I told you two to get in the car?" Mac asked slightly angry.
"Well you know me Mac, I've never really been good at following orders." Richie promptly replied.
"I expected this from you Rich, but you Chris?"
"I wasn't going to be left by the car all by my lonesome," she said defensively, "Anyway, I wanted to see what would happen, sorry."
"I'm not really mad, just a little surprised I guess. Well that's the end of the show for tonight. We better get going before someone sees us."
They got into Mac's car and rode silently back to the dojo. When they got there they all went up to Mac's loft.
"So who was that guy Mac?" Richie asked.
"Robert Alexander, the guy that paid a visit to Chris the other night."
"So is he any good?" Chris and Richie asked together.
"He's fair, for him to have killed the number of people that Joe said he has, he must have some sort of trick up his sleeve. There is no way he could have taken some of the heads that he has without doing something else. Chris probably managed to get away simply because he didn't think he was going to need his ace, and so they met on equal ground. He obviously didn't expect her to know how to defend herself. He thought wrong."
"I thought you said you only just met Chris last night, how did she?"
Chris decided to take that question, "I happen to have been a serious competitive fencer for about three months. After my conversation with Mac last night, I was thanking my lucky stars that I was in fencing club and not marching band."
"Oh, that's right! I forgot about the bag that you brought back from your place earlier."
"Gee, you're even more forgetful than I am," she laughed. Richie looked as though he were going to use a comeback.
"O.K. you two, cut the clowning. After this evening, I think that the best thing we can do is go out to the island tomorrow, we'll figure something out from there and buy a little time."
"Island? He'll just follow us, that's not going to slow him down much." Chris remarked, thinking it just a little on the strange side.
"The island is Holy Ground. Even if he did show up, he wouldn't be able to do any harm." Duncan explained.
"So, where do we stay on this island?"
"Mac's got a cabin there, it's really nice, just a little on the rustic side." He shot a glance at Mac, he didn't like to let opportunities to poke fun at Mac slip by.
"Oh thanks Richie."
"So this is going to be like camping out?" she questioned.
"Yeah, I hope you don't mind, but it's the best I can do on short notice."
"Actually it sounds like it'll be fun. I haven't camped out since I went to Philmont a couple of years ago."
"Isn't that some sort of giant Boy Scout camp sort of a thing? What were you doing there?"
"Well yeah, it is. Were you in the Boy Scouts or something?"
"One of my foster fathers was a scout master. He liked to tell stories about his numerous trips there... But you still haven't explained how you managed to go."
"I went with my Explorer post. We did a thirty mile trek in ten days. I liked the camping part, but the hiking killed my knees. Every night we slept in tents except that last night. We were at Fish Camp, the fishing lodge. We got to sleep in one of the cabins, We were all nice, warm, and dry for the first time. We stayed up all night telling ghost stories and singing around the fire. The singing was really neat because one of our guides had brought a vagabond guitar."
The conversation drifted to what supplies they would need to pick up. Richie decided to join them, he felt like he needed a vacation, at least a break where he didn't have to worry about having his sword within reach at all times. He decided that he would go back to his place and get his gear together and come back later. Mac told him about the airport pick-up and to let himself in if they still weren't back by the time he returned. Richie left to get his stuff together. Mac and Chris began rounding up Mac's camping gear, sleeping bag and the like. They left it in a heap near the elevator, ready to be loaded the next day.
They left Mac's place to go to the airport even though it was just past nine. The reason was to swing past Chris's apartment. She had forgotten to pick up some clothes earlier but now needed to pick up what little gear that she had as well. She had a small tent, which she wouldn't be needing, two sleeping bags, one currently being used as a comforter, and a collapsible cot. They loaded the stuff into the trunk of Mac's car. She packed a small bag with a few changes of clothing. She also put in an old sweater, one that had a few un-fixable snags, a pair of jeans that had been messed up in chem lab, and remembering earlier, put in an old pair of high tops. Mac told her to pack something that she wouldn't mind getting torn up since in all likely hood, they were going be practicing while on the island.
"Do you have everything?"
"I think so, I'm just going to check my machine real quick." She looked at the display, one message. She played it back.
"Hey Chris, this is Grace. I'll be available this evening till eleven, so if you want the check, just come over."
"I probably ought to get that."
Since she lived in the next building, they walked over. When Grace answered the door she just stared blankly at Mac for a few moments before recovering her composure.
"Hey Grace, I got your message... You can stop staring, he's not a cradle robbing boyfriend, just a friend of my dad's," she said with a laugh.
"It's not that. Why don't you two come in."
"Why not?... Oh, Duncan MacLeod, Grace Dawson. Grace Duncan."
Mac had noticed her reaction when she opened the door, the name explained it.
He asked off hand, "Are you any relation to Joe Dawson?"
"Yeah, he's my uncle. How do you know him?" she asked with obvious care.
"It seems I am a sort of hobby of his."
"What's going on?" Chris asked.
"Do you remember what I said earlier about Joe?" Duncan asked.
"Well it seem that Grace here is either one of them or at least knows about them," he turned to Grace, "May we see your wrists?"
Seeing that Duncan obviously knew about the Watchers, she decided to just give in. She showed her tattoo.
"Yeah, I know who and what you are Duncan MacLeod, but how do you figure into this Chris? You're not one of them."
"Just how do you figure that?"
"I remember the burn that you got when you doing some soldering."
"That was over a month ago, things have changed. You might as well know, you would have likely found out anyway."
"Halloween, when I wrecked my car."
"Chris, I don't mean to be rude, but would you please go now?" Grace stated, instantly turning cold.
"Why, what have I done?"
"It's not your fault, it's because of some rules."
"Rules, what rules?"
"A Watcher and an Immortal can't be friends. End of story."
Mac saw the pained expression on each of their faces, friendship torn apart because of something that couldn't be helped. He decided to offer what little help he could.
"Grace, I have known your uncle for a year. In that time we have become friends. If you don't believe me, ask your uncle. I don't mean to belittle the Watchers, but that is a silly rule. Rules shouldn't determine who your friends are. If we let rules determine who our friends are, then we are no better than the Nazis or segregation."
Grace thought for a little while, and finally realized that MacLeod was right. Those rules were probably from an earlier time when there was a reason for it, a reason that was out of date. "Well I suppose that if Uncle Joe can have an Immortal friend, I can too. I suppose that things really do change, don't they?"
"Some things do, others don't," Mac stated simply.
"Hey Chris, with any luck I'll get assigned to you. What do you think of that?"
"Oh, it's fine with me just so long as any personal conversations stay off the record."
"Well if I put any in, I'd end up having to put my half in too, and I don't think it would look good."
"Nice to know that," Chris looked at her watch, "Uh, we kind of need to get going, my dad's flight is coming in shortly and we're going to pick him up."
"I'll see you around. Before you go, don't you want the check for the blade?"
"You don't need to do that. You lent me your car so I didn't have to get a rental."
"You drove it less that fifty miles, and filed the tank each time you used it, I think I owe you, now how much to replace that blade?"
"The blade is going to cost a hundred dollars, but since we're friends and you insist, you owe me fifty."
With that she wrote the check. Chris took the check and thanked her, secretly balling it up in her pocket, as she decided not to cash it. Chris and Mac went to the door to leave. Mac left first and headed down to the sidewalk, Chris was leaving slowly, thinking how weird this was getting. As she walked toward the street, she turned to look back at her friend. She was still standing at the door. She waved.
"Hey Chris, watch your head!" She called out.
"I'll do my best!" Chris replied, a wry smile crossing her face briefly
Chris walked faster to catch up with Mac, her long legs made quick work of the distance. Mac was almost to the car, walking at a normal pace, she arrived at the same time as he did. They got into the car and drove off. Chris looked out the window, watching the cars they passed and thinking. She laughed a little, almost drunkenly. All that had happened was just too unreal, like something out of a fairy tale. She thought of the story of Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, she wondered if the person who wrote that story knew something they weren't telling.
"What's with the laugh?" Mac asked with concern, he didn't like to think that his passenger was turning into some sort crazed Immortal.
"This is getting just a little on the weird side. It's kind of funny in a way. Don't worry about me, I get a little strange sometimes, even for me. Sometimes things just hit me, and I just can't help but go a little nuts. I guess you could call it stress relief. It usually happens when I've been under a lot of stress."
Mac accepted her answer. He was glad that she had a harmless way of dealing with stress. To many people, Immortals included, let stress fester and grow, changing them into a monster. He had known a few, those who couldn't cope and so made their own rules and played out their own agenda, taking innocent lives in the process. Chris seemed like a good person, not the type to get a superiority complex. She was very well grounded and a good head on her shoulders. Now if he could help her to keep it there a while longer, all would be well.
They got to the airport right at eleven, couldn't have timed it better. The parked the car in the parking deck. As they got out, Mac looked around carefully. Satisfied that no one who mattered was looking, he pulled out his katana and hid it in the back seat. He muttered something.
"What'd you say?"
"Nothing, just that I hate the damned airport security. Leaving my sword like this makes me nervous."
"Hey, everyone else is in the same boat."
"I know. Come on."
They walked to the building. They found a display screen which they used to find out what gate the flight would be coming in at. They went to that gate and waited for the flight to arrive.
Moments after passengers began to disembark, they both sensed someone. Mac tensed for a moment, then relaxed. He and Chris went over to the passenger exit and waited. Within moments a tall man with dark reddish hair and a beard appeared, Andrew Balfour.
He caught sight of them and rushed forward. His face betrayed the many emotions he was experiencing. The most obvious one was joy, for he was smiling broadly.
He gave Chris a big hug and asked, "How's my little girl?"
"I'm fine Daddy."
He released her and turned to Duncan. "It's been a long time, how are things?"
They began to walk to the baggage claim area to get Andrew's luggage.
"Things are pretty good, though they've been better."
"So is she keeping your hands full?"
"Just a little. It's the other fellow that's got me a little concerned."
"Do you mean to say he's made another attempt?"
"Yeah, a few hours ago, he tried to ambush us, but he got away," he paused, thought a moment, reached into his pocket, and pulled out his keys. "Chris, why don't you go get the car while we wait for them to unload the luggage." He handed her the keys.
"You sure you trust me to drive the car?"
"Yeah, I trust you."
"O.K., if you say so," she said with a sigh of resignment. She walked off to get the car.
"So, Duncan, how is she handling it?"
"She's holding up. She has her moments, I suppose we all do though."
"I assume you have already begun teaching her some, is she any good."
"What is this, 'Parent's Night?'" he laughed. "She shows some promise, that fact she's been fencing for a few months gave her a bit of a head start."
"Understandable. I'm glad I let her join that club, if it had been anything else, I might not have been so permissive." he paused trying to think of the best ask the question that was foremost in his mind. He decided that the best way would be directly. "Duncan, does she resent me for not telling her about this."
"She was mad for a little while, upset that you didn't trust her enough tell her about your Immortality. She cried some, and got over it. There's probably something still in there though."
The two old friends continued to talk, discussing plans. Mac told Andrew about his plan to go out to the island. Andrew thought that it was a good idea, it would give them a chance to figure out the best way to deal with the problem at hand.
Chris was making her way to the car. She didn't have any trouble finding it. A 1965 T-Bird isn't exactly inconspicuous. She unlocked the door and got in. She was glad that Mac was tall because she hated getting into cars and banging her knee on the steering column. As it was, it was perfect fit. She started the engine, revving it to warm it back up. Even though it had just been driven, cold weather had a tendency to make these older cars difficult to start. She reached instinctively for the floor, where the shift was in her car, then realized that it was on the column, some habits are just hard to break.
It had taken her a while to get used to driving the Mustang after years of driving the old mini-van, but old habits die hard. As she drove out of the parking deck she noted happily that the car had power brakes, one thing that she still hadn't gotten used to not having in her car. She drove around to the curb, and parked it near the exit closet to luggage pickup.
While she waited she played with the radio. This one was original, or at least close to it. It was nearly the same as the one that had been in her car, only this one was a plain AM/FM one. She pushed the program buttons, trying to find something worth listening to. She stopped when she found the NPR station doing their late night jazz segment. She recognized the piece almost immediately, Mangione's "Feels So Good". She'd played it in her high school jazz band a few years before, it was one of her favorites.
She sat back and listened to it, almost jumped when she felt the two of them approach. She took the keys out of the ignition so Mac could unlock the trunk for the luggage. She moved to get out to let Mac drive, but he just handed her the keys back.
"What do I look like? A chauffeur?"
"Not really, but you'll do." Mac joked.
"Ha, ha. Very funny. Get in then."
The two of them obediently got into the car, perpetuating the chauffeur line by both of them getting into the back seat. The ride back to the dojo was something along the lines of they talked, she drove. They had about half a century of catching up to do. Chris enjoyed driving this car, it was in a lot better condition that hers. * Mac must keep it very well tuned. *
When they got back to the dojo, the two guests got their bags, and followed Mac inside. Andrew noticed a motorcycle parked under the stairs and asked about it.
"Who's here this time of night?"
"That's Richie's bike, I guess he's back." Almost as if on cue, confirmation came as they all felt his presence. "He's back."
They piled into the elevator, and rode up to the loft. Sure enough, Richie was waiting there for them. When the door went up Richie switched off the late night program he had been watching.
Joe was in the bar, wiping off the counter, cleaning up after the evening's activities.
"Hey Uncle Joe!"
"Well, well, well. If it isn't Grace. You're just in time to help me clean up," Joe joked.
"I need to talk to you about a friend of mine," Grace said, her tone not at all the relaxed one that her uncle's comment would have normally gotten.
Joe stopped what he was doing, and looked at her. Grace didn't come around a whole lot, just the usual 'how are you doing' sort of a visit, the kind parents put their kids up to when there are relatives in town Her visit, especially at this late hour, had already set off a few alarms, the rest were about to go off.
"So why come to me, what's the problem?" Joe asked, offering a sympathetic ear. To make her more comfortable, he pulled a couple of sodas out and brought them over to a table. They sat down at a table next to the bar, Joe opened his can, and waited for her to begin.
"Do you remember Friday very well?"
"Yeah, I'd say pretty well." Joe replied, wondering just what she was getting at.
"Remember how I didn't come by and hear the guys because I had a date?"
"I suggested to the fencing club that this would be a good place to celebrate. One of my friends, I especially thought would enjoy it since she's a bit of an amateur musician. You couldn't have missed her, she's really tall."
"I think I know who you are talking about. I had an enlightening conversation with her the other night."
"Yeah, well, I just had a rather enlightening one with her a little while ago."
"She told you?" Joe asked concerned. He couldn't figure out why a girl that had just found out she was Immortal would tell a friend something like, 'Guess what I'm an Immortal!' He wondered what had happened to drive Chris to tell, * Alexander? *.
"Well, I don't think she really meant to. She came by with MacLeod... Well I reacted badly, she thought it was just shock at such a large age difference in a couple. After she introduced us, well, MacLeod put it together and asked just what I knew. That's the problem. She's my best friend... I... I just don't know what to do. You've been at this longer than I have. I'm just winging it right now. I don't know if I should stay her friend or if the rules mean anything. I've done a lot of research, but I've never done any field work, I don't really know where to start. I mean, well, neither of us knew this was going to happen."
"You're both the same people, just a very big secret shared between you. Besides, I'm friends with MacLeod, that's a little different, I knew before we met who and what he was. I know that it's against the rules, but maybe it doesn't matter, you can choose who your friends are but you can't choose your life. You can choose to be a Watcher, but your she can't choose to be anything other than what she is."
"MacLeod said about the same thing to me earlier."
"Wise man, MacLeod. So, anything in particular you want to talk about?"
"Well, I don't suppose anyone's been assigned to her yet," Grace asked, hoping not to sound too eager.
"Not yet, though I've been compiling a file for the Watchers to use when someone does get assigned."
"Do you suppose I could get a look at it sometime."
"You can look at it right now if you like."
"That's not really necessary right now. But I would like to know how MacLeod figures into this."
"If I understand correctly, he's going to teach her and help her with a problem."
"Does this problem have a name?"
"That name sounds vaguely familiar. Do you suppose I could get a look at his file?"
"Yeah. I pulled his file earlier. It's in the top drawer in my desk. Why don't you look it over while I finish up here, then I can answer any questions that you might have."
Grace thanked her uncle for his help and went into the office. Joe went back to cleaning up. She found the file exactly where Joe said it would be, in the drawer. She took it out and flipped through it. The first few pages were recent events from the last two weeks. It had the attempted kidnapping and the midnight break-in. * Gee, this guy's been busy. No wonder Chris is sticking close to MacLeod, this is one mean s.o.b. *
She moved on to the next few pages, the general history of this guy. He was somewhere around 240 years old. He exhibited a strong tendency to go after Immortals with families. He had a tendency to separate the family from the Immortal and then fight the Immortal on his terms. * Interesting. * She read the next passage, "... compensates for weak sword skills by disabling his intended victim with a gun or other such weapon, thus allowing Alexander to take the head of his opponent with little difficulty." * I think I may pass this little piece of information along to Chris, it might just help. * She closed the folder, surprised that Uncle Joe hadn't appeared.
She went out into the bar area, he was on the phone with someone. She sat on one of the stools near the phone, all the better to eavesdrop. From what she could hear, it seemed that MacLeod and company was going out to the island tomorrow morning. * They won't be the only ones. * She decided. Joe said his good-byes and hung up.
"Who was that Uncle Joe?"
"That was MacLeod. He was letting me know that he was going out of town for a few days so I wouldn't worry about something happening."
"That's nice of him... I've been thinking Uncle Joe, you haven't assigned anyone to Chris yet, and I have been helping out some for the last year or so. Don't you think it's about time that I got my own person to watch. Besides I'm already familiar with the subject."
"Well, you might be right about that, but don't you think that you might rushing it a little? Not to mention complicating matters."
"Maybe a little, but like I said, she's my friend."
"I still don't like it. This could turn out badly. Mac and I have had a quite a few rough spots because I'm a Watcher and he's an Immortal."
"I don't think it matters if you like it, just whether or not I'm ready to be assigned or not. If I'm not ready, then assign somebody else, but if I am ready, I think this would be the best time to start."
"O.K., I'll see what I can arrange. But for the first few weeks I'll have Mike or someone help you out if conflicts arise, personal or otherwise."
Sounds fair enough. Thanks for believing in me Uncle Joe."
With that Grace left, leaving Joe to finish cleaning up. When Joe finished, he went into the office. He pulled out a file that held Grace's work, the times she had helped out or had been asked to do research. It wasn't insubstantial, it was about time that she got here own subject. He thought for a long time about the possible implications that this might have, then finally decided that if she thought she could handle it, then put her to the test. This would be the fastest way to find out if this would work. He made an entry in the log sheet to that effect, to let her know it was arranged he called her number and left a message.
He opened the drawer and pulled out the file he had been putting together on Chris. It was very basic, where she was from, schooling, interests, and even a duplicate of her senior yearbook photo. Someone had gotten hold of one of her high school's yearbooks and faxed him the picture. Knowing his niece the shutter bug, he knew that there would likely be a few better additions to the file. Since there was such a strong connection between Chris and Andrew Balfour, there was a cross-reference to his file, which Joe pulled.
He looked through the file, to see what kind of person he was. According to the file he tried to stay out of the Game as much as possible, seldom encountering other Immortals. In the last twenty years, only a handful had crossed his path, and most of those were friends. The most recent was Connor MacLeod. It seemed that on one of Connor's occasional visits back to New York, he called Andrew up and paid him a visit. Other that that, information was pretty scarce, he managed to vanish out of sight periodically. He'd served in a few wars, gotten married a few times. Lately he was a professor at UAB, teaching history. * I'll bet he tells his students a few things they won't find in the books. * He nearly lost his job nearly three years ago following the death of his wife. He slipped into a deep depression for a while, he had one of his grad students take the class over. Interestingly enough, student that took over the class was also his Watcher. After he finished reading that file, Joe closed it up and put all of the ones he had been looking at into a drawer and locked it. He got up, turned off the light and left.
The weary Immortals put away their bags and prepared to go to bed. They had a long day ahead of them. Between the long drive and the canoeing they would have to do to get to the cabin, they would have their work cut out for them. They debated about where each of them should sleep. There was only the bed and the pull-out couch. Since it was Mac's bed, he got to sleep in it. Out of chivalrous deference, Chris did too. Richie and Andrew were stuck on the pull-out bed.
"Gee, I hope you don't have cold feet." Richie joked.
"Well if I do, you'll be the first to know." Andrew replied with a laugh.
Chris escaped the joking by slipping into the bathroom and took her time changing into her pajamas. This time however, it was a dark green T-shirt and a pair of flannel boxer shorts. She put on a pair of her socks, she had a tendency toward cold feet and didn't want to put MacLeod out any more than he already was. she emerged and made her way over to the bed. Things had quieted down in her absence, everyone was in bed except for her. She slipped under the covers and curled up. This was definitely better that the couch, she pitied her dad and Richie. They had a lumpy, small, pull out sofa to deal with and she was in a nice squishy bed. Her thoughts drifted, becoming fuzzy, then finally fell into a much needed sleep. She had been running off of pure adrenaline, she needed a rest, and for the first time since this caper had begun, she felt safe.
The next morning, Chris awoke to find her father sitting on the stairs, watching her. He had a look of amusement on his face. Chris couldn't think of why he would have that expression on his face, then it hit her. In their sleep, she and MacLeod had gotten quite close, and Mac had draped an arm around her. She extricated herself from him. * He must do a lot of "entertaining" to have done that in his sleep. * Her movement woke Mac. He did his best to just roll over and ignore what happened. Andrew wasn't going to let him. He had a grin on his face. "Well, well. I'm sure many fathers over the years have wanted to ask you this question. Just what are your intentions toward my daughter?"
Mac sat up, looked at Andrew, realized what had happened, and shrugged it off, "Oh, please Andrew."
Chris let out an exasperated, "Dad."
"I didn't mean anything by it, it just seemed funny to me. I just wanted to keep you on your toes."
Chris, upset by the inference pleaded, "Daddy, Why do you have to make jokes about things like that? I'm sick of them!" She got up and stormed into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.
Duncan shot Andrew a dark look, which told Andrew that it really was in poor taste. Andrew caught the hint. "Sorry Duncan, you know me. I always make jokes to relieve tension. I just don't always have the best judgment when it comes to going to far."
"Yeah, I know, I understand, but you shouldn't be telling me, you should be telling that to her."
Andrew went over to the door and knocked. He was greeted by the reply, "Go away." he continued to knock. She go sick of his persistent knocking and finally asked, "What do you want?"
"I want to tell you I'm sorry."
She opened the door and stepped out. She couldn't believe it, after years of his joke making, he was actually apologizing for it. It shocked her a little too. "Why?"
"Well for starters, it's kind of a dumb thing for us to become divided over, second of all, I don't fancy having two people after my head at once."
"O.K. I know I shouldn't take things so seriously too... Wait a sec, what do you mean two?"
"Well you and that Alexander guy."
"I thought he was after me."
"Well originally he was after me, but that may well have changed now. At this point though I think he'll take either one of us."
"It always gets back to that doesn't it?"
"Yes, it does." Duncan interjected. He continued, "I'll make breakfast, then we'll load up and go."
"Did I hear someone say food? What's on the menu?" inquired Richie, who was almost awake.
"I don't know yet. I'll have to check on what I have in stock." Mac poked around in the kitchen area, looking for something to fix. During the search, he puts some coffee on. By the time the coffee is ready, he had found something to fix. Between a few potatoes, eggs, bacon, and cheese, he had the makings of a Spanish omelet. the food disappeared as soon as it was cool enough to eat, and some of it just before.
They took the gear down to Mac's car, loading it up for their little expedition. As MacLeod closed the trunk, a strawberry Neon drove up. Chris, recognizing the car, clambered out of the back seat she was crammed into. Grace parked the car and got out. MacLeod leaned against the trunk of his car, crossing his arms.
"To what do we owe the pleasure?" He inquired.
"I heard about your trip, I wanna come along."
"Uh, Grace are you sure that's such a good idea?" Chris asked.
"Well a girl's gotta start somewhere, I figure that this is as good a place as any."
Andrew, not knowing what was going on, quietly asked Richie to fill him in. Richie leaned forward from the back seat to tell him. Richie explained what little he knew about the Watchers. Andrew appeared not to like the notion of a society of mortals that know of the existence of Immortals. Richie told him that yes, there had been a problem with a small faction of them, but they had been disbanded, or so he'd been led to believe. He told him about Joe and how he managed to help Mac out now and then. That seemed to make him less agitated, realizing that some of them try to help from the sidelines.
MacLeod was none to happy at Grace's request to tag along, she might get in the way or something unforeseen could happen. But he relented, seeing that she was determined to follow, regardless of permission. So Duncan observed an old piece of wisdom, 'Better the evil you know than the evil you don't', she was allowed to come along, provided that if her presence caused a problem, she would leave without causing a further one.
As there wasn't enough room for a fifth passenger in the T-bird, she volunteered to follow in her car. To keep her company on the long drive into the middle of nowhere, Chris rode along with her, keeping her other reason to herself. That she needed some space in order to think clearly, something that she wasn't able to do very well around the others. She had been surrounded by at least one other Immortal since the day before, and it was beginning to get to her, almost like a sort of claustrophobia.
"So what's MacLeod like?" asked Grace.
"He's not exactly easy to describe. He wants to help and he's doing a good job of it, but he's so damn protective!"
"And the others?"
"Well Richie wants to help, but whether from lack of experience or a little immaturity, maybe it's a little of both, he seems a little lost in this. He takes cues from Mac pretty well though... My dad is a little different though. Maybe it's because I've known him all my life that I can't quite figure him out, either that or I can't quite separate the father and the teacher in him. Maybe it's because he can't either. Anyway, we've got a bit of a rocky start. We're both going to have to adjust to the situation, something I am beginning to become very familiar with."
The conversation dropped off after this, Grace because of concentration on her driving, and Chris because she wanted to be alone with her thoughts. They drove on in silence, with not even the sound of the radio to interrupt their thoughts.
After quite a while of twisting back roads, they reached the clearing near a dam. This was the "parking lot" for the island. They pull a pair of canoes off of a rack and set them on the shore. They loaded the gear in the canoe that Mac and Andrew were to be in. Grace rode in the canoe with Richie and Chris. Since Richie knew the way, as soon as Mac's canoe was loaded, his launched. It took a few more minutes to situate Grace in the canoe. She ended up just riding in the middle.
They caught sight of Mac and Andrew fairly quickly, at that time a wild idea popped into Chris's head. Though she was lazy by habit, she was competitive by nature. Canoe race.
"Oh Richie." She said with just a hint of mischeviousness in her voice.
"How'd you like to show those guys up a little?"
"O.K. but how?"
"We race 'em."
"Sounds good to me, let's go!"
They took off, making good time. As Mac and Andrew were oblivious to the fact that there was a race, they kept their leisurely pace. As they drew nearer, they did take notice however. Grace smiled at them and waved, doing her best to assume a reclining and relaxed posture. The kind of thing that just screamed "eat dust!" Andrew and Mac weren't going to take that, so they began to take stronger strokes, keeping a few lengths behind them. There was no real time to make up the distance however, by the time that Chris's canoe had passed them, they were more than half way across the lake. In minute or two they landed on the shore of the island. Mac and Andrew followed close behind them.
When Mac's canoe neared shore, he called out to them where they were beaching the canoe. "If we had known you were going to race, we would've waited."
"It was sort of a last minute decision. Like it would have mattered, you had a head start," Chris responded.
"Well whatever. Now before you guys go off and have a victory party, come over here and get your stuff."
The three victors waited on the shore for the canoe. After it was brought up onto the beach, they retrieved their gear. They followed Mac up to the cabin, he unlocked the padlock on the door, admitting them to the simple interior. Inside was a simply furnished room, a few hand wrought chairs and a table in the main room. There were two other doors in the room, both closed. They put the gear on the floor in random heaps, each staking out a place to put their bedroll on, preferably close to the fireplace. Mac on the other hand, opened one of the doors and set his gear inside, it being the only bedroom he had first dibs as this was his cabin.
Richie seated himself at the table, Andrew circled the room, checking it out. Chris looked out a window with a good view of the lake, studying the landscape, Grace just stood near the door, watching and wondering if this had been such a good idea. She decided to go outside and check out the surrounding area after all, it wasn't likely that many mortals had ever been there, much less Watchers.
Mac returned to the main room to see if everyone was situated. He then went into the other room, a storage room. In there was the supplies, canned and dried food as well as the lanterns they would be needing that night. He set some of the supplies out ready for use. He returned to the main room to find that Chris has also left. She also wanted to check out what else was on the island. Mac went over to the mantle, retrieved a box of matches, and lit the logs that had been left there since his last visit. Within minutes the November chill in the air was replaced by the warmth of the fire.
Chris made her way around to the far side of the beach, still in sight of the cabin, but only just. She started to make her way up the hill when she noticed something she didn't see everyday. There was a deer stopped up ahead. She hadn't seen one up this close except in a state park. This was something rare so she went back to where she had last seen Grace so she could share it with her.
She found Grace near where she had first spotted her. Grace wanted to see the deer, so they ran back, in the hopes that they hadn't missed it. Halfway back to the deer, Chris heard a loud crunch, then a little swearing. It seemed that Grace's foot had found a rotted out tree stump the hard way. Chris went back to help her, thinking that there would be plenty of opportunities to watch deer in the future. Grace had sunk her left leg in up to the knee, messing her ankle up in the process. Since they were in an area that was thick with trees, not to mention logs and more holes, they decided that the best way to get her back would be piggy back, it would be more trouble than it was worth to just help her walk it off where they were.
When they returned to the cabin, Mac got up from the table and rushed over to help. The two of them helped her over to a chair at the table. He took off her shoe and sock to check her foot.
"How'd you manage to do this?"
"I was running to catch up to Chris and stepped into a hole," she paused and looked at Chris, smile wryly, "You know if your legs weren't so long, I wouldn't have had to run so fast to catch up."
"Hey, don't go blaming me, I wasn't the one who stepped in the hole," Chris defended.
"Both of you stop. Someone get the bucket out of there," he pointed to indicate the storage room, "and get some water out of the lake to soak the foot in," he looked back to Grace, "Your foot will be fine after a few days rest. It is only a bit strained." He set her foot in one off the other chairs, and stood up.
Richie had gone to get the water, the lake water being colder than the pump water, it was the next best thing to ice water. He returned a few minutes later. Grace slowly set her foot into the water, it was really cold and made her foot go numb. Within minutes, the pain had subsided and she stopped wincing.
Since it was nearly noon, Mac went hunting in the storage room for some food. He found some cans of beef stew, which he emptied into a cook pot then hooked it in the fireplace to cook it. When it was ready they ate. After they finished Mac and Richie got stuck with cleaning up.
Grace was already getting cabin fever from not being able to get around very well so Chris dug out a deck of cards so she could play solitaire or whatever else she wanted to play. She managed to get Andrew into a game of poker. Since everyone else was occupied, Mac had Chris change for practice. After she changed, Mac pulled out an old sweatshirt that looked like it wouldn't be the first time that it would be used for this purpose.
As they left, each with a sword in hand, Andrew looked up. He wasn't surprised that MacLeod had given her a katana. MacLeod seemed to favor that weapon, it made sense. Andrew himself still used a basket hilt Scots sword, it had been in his family for a few generations before it came down to him, it was one of the few things that he still had that reminded him of his father. Although the man he called father probably wasn't, as all the Immortals he'd ever met, never known their real parents, the man did raise him, that itself was enough for Andrew Balfour. Alan Balfour had given him a name, a family, and a history. He was lucky. So was Chris.
MacLeod was one of the best swordsmen that Andrew had ever known, if she learned half of what he had to teach, she would likely give anyone a real fight. As they closed the door, his attention returned to the game at hand, Grace had a really good poker face, he was loosing miserably, he was glad that they were only playing for points and not for real.
Outside, Mac and Chris were making their way to a clearing that was further inland, it just wouldn't do to have a hunter on a neighboring island see grown people having a sword fight. Mac's plans for this lesson were to let Chris get a feel for the weapon and to teach her some basic moves, tomorrow they would get into some of the more advanced techniques.
They arrived at the clearing. Mac stopped and had Chris stop a short distance away. He began by showing her some basic guards and defenses. At first she was a bit awkward, between the unfamiliarity of the strategy and the weight of the weapon, she had a double whammy. After a while though, she began to get the feel of the sword, she learned the way it balanced and the little nuances of how to time her moves so that it ended up in the right place at the right time. The weight stopped bothering her once she learned how to hold it in a relaxed ready position, one that could quickly move to defense as needed. The weight hadn't bothered her much to start with however. She was well over six feet tall, her height afforded her more strength than most other women. She also regularly carried a very heavy book-bag, filled with all sorts of junk.
After a while Mac noticed something. Chris moved with a natural grace. The way she moved it was smooth, not jerky, lots of conserved motion. He didn't know if it came from her years of ballet she'd mentioned or if it was truly natural. It didn't really matter though, it was there and that was all that really mattered. He took her through a few basic drills to get her to apply what she'd already learned. It gave her a chance to see how it all fit together, the whys and wherefores of this style of fighting. She watched and learned, quietly absorbing what Mac had to show her. Her quiet concentration pleasantly surprised Mac. After drilling for quite some time Mac decided that they should actually try a little combat.
They exchanged blows for a few minutes, each getting a fair number of wounds. Chris was learning just what kinds of things she could do and what she couldn't and Mac was trying new variations on tried and true moves. The first time she managed to cut him, she stopped dead, shocked that she had put a gash in his arm, forgetting momentarily that it would be fine in a few minutes. Mac told her not to stop and not to apologize. The fought on for a good ten minutes longer, stopping when Chris pleaded exhaustion. While they were resting, they sensed the approach of another Immortal. Mac merely looked around trying to get a first glimpse of whoever it was. A few moments later, Andrew emerged.
"I thought I'd make sure that the two of you hadn't managed to kill one another, you've been gone quite a while."
"Well, we're still breathing," Chris replied.
"Yeah, I can see that. Hey Duncan, after you've rested up a little more, what'd you say we show her how it's really done."
"O.K. Ready when you are."
Andrew grinned a little. He took off his coat, in the process drawing his sword. He handed the coat to Chris as he stepped forward to meet Duncan. Chris's jaw dropped as she recognized the sword. She'd seen it hanging in her father's study the few times she was allowed in. He kept his study at home locked and private, seldom letting anyone else in. Chris was beginning to understand why. He probably had things in there that would be difficult to explain if somebody didn't know about immortals.
Her attention turned to where her father and Mac were fighting. They were fascinating to watch. She sat on the trunk of a felled tree to rest her sore feet as she watched, she really hated any kind of tennis shoe. She could tell that MacLeod really knew what he was doing. When he had been fighting her, he didn't have to use a whole lot of his more advanced techniques, but now she could see that he was having to delve into a few. Chris watched with a practiced eye, one that had spent many hours strip side studying other fencers. Her father wasn't nearly the swordsman that MacLeod was which wasn't to say that he was bad, just less experienced than Mac, not to mention a bit rusty from successfully avoiding most other Immortals, or at least the less than friendly ones. They just went on and on, even ignoring Richie's approach because they were so intense with their little show. Richie sat down next to Chris and watched the two older Immortals practice.
"How long have they been at it?"
"I dunno. A while. Any particular reason you came up here?"
"Well, when Andrew didn't come back, I got to wondering were you guys went. Not to mention Grace was cleaning me out at poker. Does she count cards or something?"
"I'm not sure really, she's got to be doing something though. I learned that the hard way that you don't play her if you don't like to loose."
"This I gotta hear."
"Well a couple of weeks ago some of our friends got together to watch a movie on cable, but when the cable went out, rather than waste the candy and stuff we had gotten special, we decided to play for candy, and Grace won of course. She still hasn't finished off that bag of candy that she won. She won't let me help her 'cause I'm too willing."
They returned their attention to the two fighters, they were still at it. A few moments later, Mac gave Andrew a nasty cut on the right thigh. Chris winced, knowing that it must really hurt. He staggered a bit, his balance off, Mac was definitely gaining ground. Andrew started to get a little sloppy as desperation for defense grew. In a few short moves Mac had him on the ground, disarmed. Mac helped him up, as he dusted himself off, Mac retrieved the sword from where it had been cast.
" And you're worried about Chris. I think you might need to worry about yourself a little more. A hundred years ago, you wouldn't have fallen for that. I think you better start practicing again if you want to survive an encounter with Alexander."
"He's that good?"
Mac shrugged a little, "Not really, but it never hurts to be your best against an opponent."
"I'll see what I can do. But this is rather short notice, I haven't had to fight anyone in quite a while. I think I've only faced a handful of Immortals since Chris was born."
"A little work, and you'll be back up to speed. You still know how, you just have to bring it back to the surface again," he said as he clapped a friendly hand to Andrew's back.
"You're right. Now if I could just get Chris to unwind a little. She's really unsettled by this whole business about Alexander."
"She seems pretty normal to me. How can you tell?"
"I'm her father. Fathers know these things."
"You're probably right. We probably ought to be getting back now, Chris and Richie already have."
They made their way back to the cabin. Andrew went inside, Mac remained outside to replenish the supply of firewood. Inside everyone was passing the time however they could. Andrew was hitting those papers he hadn't been able to concentrate on the plane, he didn't know when the next time would be that he would be able to devote his full attention to them, here he was safe from anything, a great comfort to him. Grace had begun a game of solitaire, she couldn't coax anyone into a game of poker, she was just too good. Chris was catching up on her reading. She'd been trying to get through The Count of Monte Cristo since shortly before the semester began and never could seem to get more than a few pages in a week. She was only about halfway through it, which was about 600 pages. Richie was busily doing nothing, mainly wondering why he came along, reminding himself that the reason was that he didn't want to be around town if there was a nasty Immortal running around. After several minutes of wandering around the cabin, he remembered that Mac usually took his laptop everywhere, he rummaged through Mac's bag and found it. He figured that there must be a brain rotting video game on there somewhere, there was just no way that Mac kept it around for strictly business use. But this was Mac, of course he didn't use it for anything else. he tried some likely subdirectories, but when nothing came up, he muttered to himself with displeasure.
"You'd think that there would be some games on here, Mac can't be all work and no play!"
Chris heard him, and remembered that she had her bookbag with her, along with a stash of game disks. "I've got a few games in my bag, I'd be more than happy to lend them to you."
"What do you have ?"
She got out two disks and read the labels. "They're all DOS though, Scorched Earth, a cheesy chess game, a volleyball game, and Wheel of Fortune."
"Do you recommend any of them?"
"Scorched Earth is O.K.... so is Wheel of Fortune, the others are real dinky."
Richie went enee-menie-miney-mo and opted for Scorched Earth. When Richie saw that more than one player could play, he convinced Chris to play too, he didn't want to give the computer a lot of chances to beat him. Richie bought a lot of heavy artillery and no shields, Chris bought a few funky bombs and a shield. Richie ended up toast after the first round, one of the computer drones got him. Chris paid the offender back and won the round. The next round Richie did better, getting the hang of the game. They ended up only slightly different at the end of the game, Chris's score was slightly better due to longer experience with the game.
As they finished the game, they noticed that the sun was getting ready to set, it being the fall, sunset came early, especially in the north, which was where they were. While they were engrossed in their game Mac had slipped in, putting a load of logs next to the hearth. He put another few logs onto the fire. He then went and began dinner preparations. Andrew finally was able to concentrate on grading papers and proceeded with that. Since everyone had had a lot of excitement, they had an early supper and then settled in for the night. No one went to bed right away though, just sat back and relaxed and talked. Later when everyone had gotten sleepy, then they went to bed.
Sometime the next morning Chris woke up. She was anxious over all that had happened, it was just happening too fast for her to take in at once. She stared at the ceiling for a while, trying to get back to sleep, but when she couldn't, she decided to go outside and watch the sun come up. She pulled on an extra sweater so it wouldn't feel so cold, and left the cabin. As she closed the door, it swung too fast, making a loud 'thump' as it bounced in the frame. She froze, checking to see if it woke anyone, seeing that it didn't, she closed the door.
Shortly after she closed the door, Richie stirred. The noise had jarred since he was the closest to the door. He opened his eyes and looked around. He saw that Chris was gone, he grew concerned, if she had sleep walked out, she could get lost, or worse. He pulled on his coat and went out looking for her. He didn't have to go far however, he saw her seated near the shore. She was on her back, knees bent, looking up at the sky. He went down to the beach and sat next to her.
"Isn't this just a bit early?" he addressed her.
She was startled by his voice, she'd been so involved in her own thoughts she'd barely noticed his presence until he spoke. She turned around and looked at him. He was obviously cold, his hands were under his arms for added warmth, she almost felt sorry for him.
"Yeah, I know. I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep."
"What're you doing out here?"
"Waiting for the sun to come up... But thinking mostly."
"Lots of stuff. Until now I haven't really had the chance to really think. Everything has just been happening so fast. It makes me think of my senior band trip to Carnagie Hall. We went to a lot of places, but because of the tight schedule I barely remember any of the places we went."
"I can understand about things going too fast. A while back Mac cut me loose for a while. I did a lot of traveling, I can barely remember some of the places I went." Richie's expression began to take on a look that made him appear to be looking past Chris, and back into the past. "Everything that led up to it is kind of blurred, almost like it wasn't me. I know what I did, I remember Mac warning me, but I just never listened. All I know is that at the moment it seemed the right thing to do, now I'm not too sure about that. But like Mac said, it's done."
"What did you do?"
"I'd rather not talk about it."
"I know what you mean. There are just some things that you just can't talk about with other people."
"Are you sure you're only eighteen?" Richie looked quizzically at her.
"You understand people better than most of the people I knew when I was eighteen, excepting Mac of course."
She shrugged, "I always hung out with older people so I guess it rubbed off."
"Yeah, I guess it did... Look, the sun's coming up."
They stopped their conversation and watched as the sun's rosy glow began to reveal the wooded landscape that surrounded them. When they finished watching the sun come up, they returned to the cabin. There no one had yet begun to stir, not even MacLeod, who normally would have already been up. The two of them decided to warm themselves by putting some logs onto the remaining embers of last night's fire.
After the fire got rebuilt, the others began to stir. Whether it was because the room grew warm or because they were ready to get up, they didn't know. When Mac got up he fixed some breakfast and they ate. Shortly after breakfast Mac and Chris went out for training. The others stayed behind to permit them the concentration that they would need. They returned at noon to find that as a return for the hospitality, the others had prepared lunch. They ate and talked, Andrew and Mac talked amongst themselves catching up on lost time. Richie, Grace, and Chris ended up talking amongst themselves and found they were becoming fast friends.
As their conversations began to die, Mac volunteered Richie to go off with Chris for practice.
"Aw, Mac, really! I thought you were teaching her?"
"Yes I am, but I'm also teaching you too. It'll be good for the both of you. You hardly ever spar with anyone other than me, you'll get too comfortable one of these days. Besides, It would be good for her to get a little variety in her training."
Richie saw the wisdom in Mac's words and then quite cheerfully cooperated. He and Chris left the cabin, returning to the that same clearing where each of them had trained before. At first neither was really sure about what to do, each so used to having someone older or more experienced looking over their shoulder, telling them, testing them. Chris got into the swing of things a little faster that did Richie due to her experience of recreational fencing. At fencing practice you just went up to someone and asked them to fence, end of story. Richie's only experience with a sword came out of necessity, he was taught to fight for real, not for fun.
After a good while they had to break off. Chris had been at it for several days in a row, and just wasn't up to it, her muscles were beginning to get sore. Richie was also getting fatigued, he hadn't drilled this much at once since the day Duncan had brought him out here for his first lesson.
They sat down for a rest break. Richie sat and thought about the whole situation, An Immortal family, it seemed downright funny to him. On a more serious note however he thought that it simplified things that there would be at least one person that you knew who you could always count on, because family is family, after all. He'd seen that much when he lingered at the antique store and watched Connor and Duncan quibble over who was going to challenge Slan. Then later when Connor went off to fight Slan, Duncan came in as re-enforcement. They were family, or more specifically, kinsmen.
Chris was zoning, trying not to think about what might happen to her in the next few days because Alexander was definitely mad at her. He would either get her father or her or both, she didn't really like any of those options. She wanted to kick his ass and make him pay for disturbing her life, but killing she wasn't too sure about that, but there was no other way short of letting him kill her to keep him from coming back. She shuddered briefly at that last thought. Trying to forget it for the moment, she stared up at the sky, seeing that the sky was the typical overcast grey of November, as though it might rain any minute.
After their rest and quiet moment of thought, they went back to their practicing. It was at this time that Mac and Andrew decided to put in an appearance. Chris and Richie stopped briefly to see who it was, and then resumed. They each began to show off a little, Richie wanting to impress Mac, Chris wanting to impress them both. They each held their own, neither one gaining any real advantage. Chris had an instinct, that combined with a little training, made a somewhat formidable opponent. Richie had been training for a year, but most of his ability came from practice, he had not yet really developed an instinct for gauging an opponent, at least not to the degree that Chris had. However he had had swordwork drilled into him for the last year, counters to her moves came readily to him.
"Andrew, are you sure that she's only been at this for a couple of months? She acts like she's been at it for a while." Mac grinned as he said it, he knew better, but it was a compliment to Chris's abilities.
"Yeah, I'm sure." Andrew turned to his old friend, "Sometimes though she gets really involved and intense about something. The results can be quite astonishing when she really sets her mind to something. Sometimes though, she can't keep her mind on things, and results are disastrous, but when she gets determined about something she goes for it, and usually comes through."
"I thought it might be something like that. I hope that the next time that Alexander shows up, she can keep her cool. That's the only way she'll be able to beat him."
"Not if I get to him first." Andrew said under his breath.
"Nothing. I was just talking to myself."
Mac knew that he had said something, and important too, but because of Andrew's unwillingness to share his thoughts, the conversation came to a end. They each turned their full attention to the two fighting in the clearing in front of them.
The two of them were fairly evenly matched, only Chris was so used to normal fencing, that she didn't think about the fact that just about anything goes. She made a cut at Richie, he countered it, closing distance. His immediate response was to ram his shoulder into her, knocking her back a few steps. That action 'knocked a little sense' into her, reminding her that it was a free for all, and so returned the favor. However this time Richie ended up on his rear since she had a greater momentum.
She helped him up. They had each had enough and called it quits. They walked over to where the two older Immortals were watching from.
"Hi guys. What'd you think Dad?"
"I think that you have been spending too much time at fencing practice... That's not a bad thing though."
"You just keep thinking that," she grinned at him, with a hint of mischievousness.
Andrew replied with a raised eyebrow, looking quizzically at her, trying to figure out if maybe she had really been spending too much time at fencing. * I'll bet it did take over, just like all of her hobbies do. *
"Are you happy Mac? I just know you enjoyed that, seeing me get knocked around by a girl." Richie said since he hadn't really expected some of that from Chris. Chris was beginning to get an expression of exasperation, mostly at Richie's underestimation of her abilities because she was a girl.
"Did you learn something?"
"Yeah, don't ever get in a fight with someone bigger than I am and never underestimate a girl."
"Then I'm happy," Mac replied with a slight smile.
"Hey, I'm sorry Richie. I just repaid the favor," Chris said with a smile, and a little bit of a laugh.
"It's O.K., I just didn't expect it," he shrugged it off.
"Come on, let's get back. I think the two of you have had enough for today." Mac said eager to change the subject so the two of them didn't try to start a real fight. Nothing could happen just then as this was Holy Ground, but grudges could begin, and that wouldn't be good for any of them.
"I'm not quite ready to head back Duncan," Andrew said, "Why don't you and Richie head back... I'd need to talk to Chris out here for a while," his tone began to take on a bit of uncertainty.
Mac nodded to him, understanding, and signaled for Richie to follow him. While he watched them leave he tried to think of the best way to broach the subject that was on his mind. Chris just stood there, sword down in her right hand, with her left hand on her hip, waiting for him to start. Seeing Mac and Richie vanish into the woods, he tuned back to Chris.
"Are you mad at me Christina?" He asked, using her full name, something he only did when she was either in trouble or when he needed to discuss something serious with her.
"Only if you keep calling me Christina. You know I hate that."
"Sorry... Chris are you mad at me for not letting you in on my being an Immortal sooner?
"Not any more. I was at first, but it's not like we knew I was going to be an Immortal."
"I'm glad you understand... But there's something that you should know," he paused to think of the best way to tell her, "That's just it, I knew."
I knew from the day your mother brought you home. I'm sorry I didn't tell you something, but you have to understand this, it wouldn't have been right for you to know about it beforehand. I know, I probably should have told you about me sooner, but it just never seemed the right time, besides I knew eventually you would find out."
"I see." was all she said. She wondered how he knew, but decided that it must have something to do with how she knew when an Immortal was around. She wasn't mad anymore, he did have a point, if she'd known that she couldn't die like most people, this whole mess could have happened a lot sooner, and in her recklessness she could have gotten other people hurt. Something was still lurking in her mind, though it was somewhat milder now.
"Do you? I'm sorry I never told you anything. I know that it doesn't really matter now, since it's in the past, but I don't want to think that I'd alienated you over this. I'd have told you eventually, I just kept putting it off since I never thought it would happen so soon."
"Yes Dad, I understand. It would have been wrong to have the foreknowledge and I understand why you were going to wait, this just rushed it. Don't keep giving yourself such a guilt trip over it," she said with an unnatural eveness. She was doing her best to keep her composure.
"Forgive me then?"
"Yeah I forgive you," she said sympathetically, trying to help release the tension that they had between them.
With their conversation out of the way, they headed back to the cabin in lighter spirits.
They opened the cabin door to find not only their traveling companions but a visitor. It was the man that Chris had met three years before, known to her as Russell Nash. * I wonder what he's doing here. * Chris thought.
"Hello Andrew. How's it going?"
"I'm fine Connor, how's the antique business these days?
* Connor??? * Chris thought as she rose an eyebrow.
"It's fine. These days I only do consulting work, mostly for my old clients. I got out of the business for the most part a few years ago."
Chris grabbed her dad's arm, taking him aside for a moment. She wanted to know what the heck was going on, and she didn't want to wait around anymore. "What do you mean 'Connor'," she demanded quietly, "I thought his name was Russell."
"Well it is, at least legally," Andrew said.
Having overheard their conversation, Connor stepped forward to clarify the situation. "Permit me to introduce myself properly. I am Connor MacLeod."
Chris looked at Duncan, "Relative of yours?"
"Sort of, we're clansmen actually."
"I thought I'd drop by the dojo and pay a visit to Duncan this week, seeing how it's the holidays, which is just as good an excuse as any other. I met someone outside." Connor paused, "He said he was a friend of yours and told me I'd find you here."
Duncan thought for a moment, trying to think of who could have been hanging around the dojo. After a few seconds, he realized that it was probably Joe trying to catch him before they left. Duncan tried to think quickly of the best way to put off telling Connor about the Watchers, "That was Joe Dawson. I asked him to drop by while we were out here to make sure that the place was O.K. I told him that a relative of mine might be dropping by and that he should tell him where I was." * God I hope he buys this *
Connor didn't. "I don't think so, Duncan. There is no way you or he could've known that I'd be coming by."
"O.K., Connor. Here's the way it is; Joe's a Watcher, he's been watching me for the last 16 years and he knows all about Us. Grace here is his niece; she's one too. Are you happy now?"
"And you weren't going to tell me?"
"I'm sorry Connor. I didn't think you needed to know."
"Well maybe you should let me decide that?"
"O.K. guys, now that we've gotten this out in the open, can we move on?" Grace said, showing that she wasn't particularly thrilled with the fact that now everyone in the room was looking at her.
"Yeah guys, she's a friend, let's move on." seconded Chris.
"Why don't you, Grace, and Richie go outside for a while? I need to discuss a few things with Connor and Duncan... alone," Andrew told Chris.
"Fine." She shrugged, "Come on guys. They want us out of their hair right now. Let's see what there is to see on this island."
As the trio went out, Richie began to tell them about some of the sights on the island.
"Andrew, there was no need for you to get rid of them." Duncan said.
"Like I told them, we need to discuss a few things." Andrew responded. "I want a few promises from the two of you."
"Come on and sit down, then we'll talk." Duncan responded.
Andrew, Duncan, and Connor sat down at the table and began to discuss the game plan for Robert Alexander. In the course of their discussion, Andrew exacted the promise from Connor and Duncan that, should they encounter Alexander at the same time, that they wouldn't try to take him on themselves. There weren't any objections to Andrew's request. Neither Duncan or Connor sought a fight with any Immortal, and since Andrew had a reason, they were quite willing to leave it to him. The only thing he wanted them to do was for them to keep Chris safe while he dispatched Alexander, and if he wasn't able, then they were free to take what ever action they wanted. If Chris wanted to take Alexander on, he wanted them to make sure that she was ready.
"Andrew, that's fine that you want to protect you daughter, but it's not just about being her father. In case you haven't forgotten, she's an Immortal. If he comes after her, we can't interfere." Duncan reminded Andrew.
"Don't you think I know that Duncan?!" Andrew said barely keeping his temper in check. "I have been thinking about this since the day she came into my life... Ever since you called Duncan, I've been trying to think of how I'm going to handle this. Right about now, I honestly don't know. I always knew this would happen. I guess I'm too close to it all."
"You're right, Andrew. You are too close. You really should leave and let things take their course. Granted, she's your daughter, but if she's ever going to have a chance. you can't protect her any more than any other Immortal. I understand what you are thinking, remember Rachel... John, I can't really protect either of them from the world anymore than you can protect Chris from another Immortal." Connor added.
"OK. Connor. You've made your point. But it's going to be hard, for me and for Chris."
"The right choices usually are. Either Connor or I are perfectly willing to teach Chris if something should happen to you, we will protect her as long as she wants us too, but if he challenges her, there's not a whole lot that we can do," Duncan adding the last sentence softly.
"That's all I really wanted. She's my little girl, I just want her safe. that's all any parent wants."
"In case you haven't noticed, Andrew, she's pretty much grown up now."
"Well, I suppose all daughters remain 12 years old in their father's eyes, Connor. I suppose you know what I mean."
"I understand. Sometimes I'll talk to Rachel just like I would to my son John. She'll look at me in a certain way, and I'll know what I've done. There is a difference here though, you have to consider that in the not too distant future, you won't be able to treat her as a child, but as an equal."
"Thanks for the advice Connor. But I know that already, it's just knowing and doing are two different things."
"I don't think that this was such a good idea Andrew." Duncan stated.
"What wasn't such a good idea?"
"Your raising her. Sure, it might have seemed like a good idea at the time. She'd be able to have a teacher from the start, someone who knew what was going on, someone who knew the full story, someone looking out for her. But this also places you and her in an awkward situation. Sure, there's Connor and myself, but it's nothing near the father and daughter relationship that you and Chris have. I just hope that you have thought this thing through and have considered what you are going to do"
"I have often asked myself those same questions, and you aren't the first of my old friends to ask me these questions. The only thing I can come up with is that I couldn't turn her away. I think the two of you know what that's like." Andrew knew that bringing that part of the past up now might be a mistake, but he was trying to make a point. "She needed a home, and I could give her one. I decided that she was special, and I took that chance. It was my choice, I just hope that she'll understand."
"I think she will once you explain it to her. She seems to understand things pretty well. Give her a little credit, and she'll come through." He paused for a few moments, deciding to change the subject to one of a less serious tone. "Well now that we all know where each of us stand, what have you been up to these last few years, Andrew?" Duncan inquired.
Late that afternoon, when the young trio had judged that enough time had passed for those in the cabin to have finished their discussion, they returned. They returned to a much more relaxed group than they had left. Andrew had gotten a few of his concerns out of his system. Connor, Duncan, and Andrew had managed to do a little catching up with what each had been up to in the last few years. During the excursion over the island earlier, Grace regretted having not brought her camera. She was a bit of a shutterbug, and some of the views of the almost untouched nature had been spectacular. She hoped that she would one day have the opportunity to capture it on film. Chris promised her that when all this mess was over with, and if MacLeod permitted, they would return and go on a photographic expedition.
The evening passed uneventfully, and the next morning, Connor left. Everyone had their hands full, and his presence would just complicate matters, sooner or later he would be back though. No one really wanted for him to leave but it was probably for the best, his presence created the potential for further complication. The last thing any of them needed was another Immortal hanging around that would confuse them, and possibly getting someone killed. It was enough that there were four Immortals hanging around with each other, a fifth one wasn't helping matters. There were very good reasons that Immortals didn't normally hang out a lot with each other: so they knew when danger was around. When a lot of Immortals were coming and going, it was possible that they could become a more relaxed and off guard if they thought it was someone that they expected. An enemy might just slip thorough their defenses and the friendly Immortal was likely to end up dead.
The new day was rather like the previous one. There was training, with an almost tournament like feel to it. Before the afternoon arrived each Immortal fought against each other Immortal. Duncan was quite a bit better than everyone else, Andrew was better than Chris or Riche, but since he was rusty, it wasn't by as much a margin as he would have liked. Chris and Richie were about even. She had height as an advantage, and a little weight, enabling a little more power to her moves, Richie had the advantage of a full year of training, Chris had three months. But a natural sense of timing that Richie lacked, narrowed the gap in experience. By the early afternoon, Mac decided that it was time to leave.
They packed up their gear and were gone within an hour. Chris decided that she wanted to hang out with Grace rather than heading back to Duncan's loft. She just didn't feel like putting up with the constant presence of other Immortals right then. Mac and Richie seemed like nice guys to her, and then there was her dad. She had always had a little bit of a rocky relationship with him, a relationship that was beginning to smooth out, but she just didn't want to deal with it, at least not yet. When she was little, she always felt like he was over protective, and now she was beginning to understand why. Right now she'd rather relax with a friend that she wouldn't have to worry about a whole lot. Maybe later she'd hook back up with the guys, but right now she wanted to spend a little time with her friend.
The two of them managed to catch the last matinee showing of a movie that they had been wanting to see for the last few weeks, afterwards they went back to Grace's apartment and ordered a pizza for dinner. After the evening of fun, Chris finally decided that she should probably head back to Mac's place and find out just what the situation was. They, or at least her dad, were probably wondering where she was and if she was O.K. Grace drove her over to the dojo, but declined the invitation to come up. As Chris made her way up the stairs, she sensed the others, * I don't think I'm ever going to get used to this, I still can't quite believe it, but it's the only 'logical' explanation for what is going on. Ha! As if logic makes sense at this point. *
Richie was the one that admitted her. It seemed that since Duncan had an old friend to hold his attention, Richie had been left out a little. Andrew and Duncan were carrying on a chess game, and Richie was left to his own devices, basically just taking up space and watching their game. It had been a while since Mac had hit Richie really hard with training, he was tired but he didn't really mind, it gave him a better chance. When Chris had arrived, Duncan merely nodded his head at Richie and then returned his attention to the game. Several years with Darius had created quite a chess player out of Andrew Balfour. Duncan seldom lost to anyone in chess, and Andrew was coming just a little too close for Duncan's comfort.
Neither Chris or Richie really wanted to stick around and just watch two old guys play chess, so they thought of something to do instead. "Hey Mac, do you mind if I show Chris around the place?"
Mac looked up, "It's fine with me, how about you Andrew?"
"Just don't get any ideas, Rich." Andrew joked.
"Ha, ha, very funny Dad," Chris said as she crossed her arms and cocked her head at her father.
Richie and Chris rode the elevator down one level. Richie decided that a floor by floor tour was in order. This was the same floor that she and Duncan had gotten the fencing stuff from a few days earlier. Richie was pointing out a few items of interest, several pieces of antique furniture that had not been unloaded from when he had sold the store. As Richie was directing her attention to yet another antique wardrobe, something that Chris would normally have been paying close attention to as she genuinely liked antique pieces, then something caught her eye. The familiar shape made her take her breath in slightly. She hadn't expected to find one here, and since she had, she didn't want it to pass this opportunity up. She raised the quilt and dust cloth that covered it. She raised the key cover, this was quality, that was an antique was obvious and it's real ivory keys begged to be played.
She looked around for the bench, it was over to the side, under another dust cover. Even though she knew several pieces, she checked the hollow for some additional music, she found a few selections, each with the name 'Tessa Noel' written in a very beautiful feminine hand in the upper right corner of each page. "Was this Tessa's piano?"
"Yeah, She didn't play a lot, but when she did, even I, would listen. A couple of times she caught me, and would joke about it. She even tried to teach me a little, but I never got past "Chopsticks" it was a bit of a let down for her that I never got past that. She said I was smart enough that if I wanted, I could get real good, but since I never practiced, well, I never got much further. Mac doesn't play and didn't have the heart to sell it along with most of her things. The piano has a little bit of her in it, so did her art, so he kept what little art she hadn't sold and the piano, everything else went."
Glancing nervously upward, "Would he mind if I played it?"
Richie hesitated a moment, thinking that it would be good for someone to play it, Duncan himself had said that he'd mourned Tessa long enough, "I don't think so. It's been a year, and besides, I doubt he'll hear you from down here."
That was enough encouragement for Chris. She pulled up the bench and started out with a few simple minuetes, it had been awhile, and it was evident from the occasional missed keys. After several minutes, she began to launch into more ambitious pieces. She played through short version of "Fur Elise". After discovering some sheet music for "Moonlight Sonata" she began to play that. She was a bit rusty on it, she'd never memorized it so she played it haltingly, stopping every few measures to figure out just what chord changes were along the way. After about one page of frustration, she decided to play one of her improvisational types. Richie was just listening, glad that someone was playing Tess's piano and that it wasn't going to waste anymore.
Chris was playing a sweet melody, weaving in and out, it had a simple outlined chord structure for the bass, the right hand played a melody. Music held something special for Chris, it allowed her to get out a lot of things that had been getting pent-up inside. She didn't even notice when the elevator stopped and Mac and Andrew got out.
"Mac, I'm sorry, I didn't think you'd mind... ," Richie began apologizing.
Mac raised a hand to quiet him. "It's O.K. Rich. It's about time someone played it again."
"She's always been a bit on the musical side. She would borrow instruments from friends and within days, could play things quite recognizably on them. I half expected her to be a music major, regardless of how much time she spent on her computer, at least she didn't give the music up, that would have been almost criminal," Andrew added.
Chris played for a few minutes longer, then, just as quickly as the mood had come, it left. She didn't have anything more to play. She stood up and carefully re-covered the piano and bench. Because of all the boxes, she wouldn't have been able to see anyone but Richie even if she had looked up. She froze as she turned a corner and saw Mac and her dad standing next to Richie. "I hope you don't mind, I just couldn't let it just sit there."
"I don't mind, it was nice to hear someone play it again." Duncan smiled a little, "Sometimes I wish I knew how, it would help me to remember Tess. She loved that piano, sometimes I wonder if I should have put it down here or upstairs where it can be enjoyed."
"Why don't you then, Mac?" Richie asked.
"When I'm ready, I will," was all Duncan had to say on the subject.
The conversation died off after that. The four of them got into the elevator and went back upstairs. It was getting late and they were all tired. After a few showers everyone would be ready to turn in for the night.
While Richie was in the shower, Andrew patrolled the loft. He hadn't gotten much opportunity to check the place out before the went to the island, and was taking the opportunity. He noticed the book on the desk, and smiled. He picked up the volume and thumbed through it. The old story that had been passed through the family, the story of how his grandfather had gotten in trouble with the British army. Few people knew that it was a true story, it had been passed down in the family, growing just like the legend that it became. Along the way some of the facts had been tampered with, like the dates that were pointed out to the reader in the preface. By the time Robert Louis Stevenson got to it, it was just a fanciful adventure story, meant to entertain.
He set the book down, as he did he saw the framed picture on the desk. He picked it up and tilted it toward the kitchen light that was still on, so he could get a better look at the woman in it. "Who's this Duncan?"
"That's Tess," he said as he gently removed the framed picture from Andrew's hands.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to stir anything up. I do understand though" Andrew offered sympathy as an apology.
"I heard about that too, I'm sorry."
"Yeah, well, we'll both get through it. We've both been through a lot, this is just another price we pay."
Richie emerged from the bathroom, "O.K. who's next?"
Chris, grabbed her things and took her shower. After she got out, she realized just how tired she was. She finished getting ready for bed, left the bathroom and went straight to sleep, she didn't even notice when Duncan got into bed a short while later.
The next morning it was decided that Chris and Andrew would be 'moving out' and returning to Chris's apartment. It was sort of pointless for them to abuse Mac's hospitality. When it was just Chris, there had been a point, but now, Andrew was around and was quite capable taking care of any trouble.
The pair left at lunch, loading what they could fit, into the trunk of the Mustang, and the rest into the back seat. They managed to get back to Chris's apartment without incident.
While there, Grace phoned. "Hey Chris, are you having a nice visit with your dad?"
"Yeah, what's up?"
"Well I did some digging, if you get the chance, drop by my uncle Joe's place, I can give you some information while you're there."
"I'll see what I can do, but I'll make no promises."
"See you then."
Since there was still time to act on the plans that the two of them had originally made for this week, they went about their schedule as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening.
As evening rolled around, their schedule began to thin and they sought new things to do. Chris suggested that they visit Joe's. she thought her father would get a kick out of the live stage, and possibly a little out of shocking good old Joe. At first the reaction her father gave her was one of shock, he wondered just what his 18 year old daughter was doing in a bar. But when he found out about the live stage, it made a lot of sense, especially since her good friend Grace was recommending a family member's establishment, rather than a frequent watering hole.
The two of them, Chris and Andrew, entered Joe's. They were there for more than just a night on the town. Chris was always trying to see live performances, but this time there was a more pressing matter. Grace had requested that they that drop by so she could pass along some information she had found.
As they entered, Andrew looked around, noting the interior, impressed by its simplicity. He also noted that the bartender, a tall man with a beard, changed his pace when he realized someone was looking right at him. * That must be Joe, there's no other reason for him to recognize me. * With that, he strode over to the bar and sat down. Chris went over to a table where Grace was sitting.
"So, what have you got for me?" Chris asked.
"I have been doing some digging. That guy who is after you is a real bad dude. Remember how I told you about him shooting intended victims?"
"You got away the first time. He didn't think you would be so prepared. He won't give you a second chance."
"Well, I almost didn't get away."
"I want you to be careful. He'll probably take a special pleasure in putting you out of the way. He's the type that wants blood and revenge."
"I'll keep an eye out, but there's not a whole lot I can do if he shows up, now is there?"
"You can run. If he can't catch you, he can't kill you."
"I can't do that. I don't want to be running the rest of my life. Besides, what makes you so sure that the second time will come out any different than the first encounter I had with him?"
"Chris... ," Grace dragged her name out.
"Don't you think you're getting just a little cocky?"
"I'm not trying to be cocky, I'm just trying to think positively. If I let myself think I'll be defeated, I will be. You know, think positive."
"O.K., I see your point... Now do you want to see that information that I said I would get, or do you want to sit here and listen to the band?"
"I think what I want is beside the point. I need to take a look at those files so I can get a better idea of what I'm up against."
"Come on then, we better look at them now, before Uncle Joe changes his mind."
The two of them left the bar, and went into a back room where the files were set aside for them to view. Joe and Andrew's topic of conversation changed as they watched the two young women leave.
"So, Andrew, what's on your mind?" Joe asked, as he saw a sad expression pass over Andrew's face.
"What's on my mind? That's a good question... That I'm her father and if someone came for her, I can't help. Fathers are supposed to be there for their daughters, I won't be able to," Andrew said with a hint of bitterness. "I knew I should never have raised her, but I did anyway and that's the end of it."
Joe spoke, low enough that stray ears wouldn't pick up on the conversation, but loud enough that Andrew could hear him clearly. "You can help her. You understand what she's going through, the changes, what being an Immortal is about. She has an opportunity that not many Immortals get. You have one too Andrew, just as you know what she's going through, she knows what you're going through. You've known each other all her life, that's a lot of trust to build from. You might not be able to help in a fight, but you can be there as a father before and after. I think the both of you could use a little emotional support." It was almost amazing, the wisdom that Joe spoke, it was almost beyond his years, if one didn't know better, there could be confusion about who had lived longer.
"I think you've been hanging around MacLeod too much. That sounds almost like something he would say."
"Well he does tend to hang around here a bit."
Andrew and Joe began to talk about other things while Andrew waited on Chris. Andrew sat back, listened to the band, and enjoyed his drink.
In the back room, Chris and Grace were pouring over the records, looking for some lead on Alexander, where he was based, his weaknesses, anything to help Chris should she meet him.
"Ah-ha! I thought I remembered reading this, take a look, Chris."
"What have you got?"
"Look." Grace handed her a folder with a few printouts in it. It appeared to be a report that was made over the weekend. In it, she learned that his base was in an old warehouse a few miles out of town, and he was living in a penthouse of one of the better hotels in town. In the report it also stated that he appeared to be preparing his next move which, if things seemed to continue in their current direction, would be to call out one of the Balfours.
"Well, I think I've seen about enough. It's getting late, and I probably ought to get going."
"Take care, just remember that he has a few tricks up his sleeve."
"And who's to say I don't," Chris grinned impishly back at Grace.
"I don't know that I like the direction this is turning."
"Don't worry, I'm not going to try anything stupid, I'll just be well prepared. I know what to expect, so I can prepare for it."
"O.K. I'll let you know if I hear anything."
Chris left the small office and collected her father. They drove back to their place, only a few words were exchanged en route, most of which were to relay the information that Chris had gathered. They returned to the apartment, both ready to turn in. They'd each had a lot more exertion in the last few days than they were accustomed to, and seeing the sights all day hadn't helped either recover from the weekend.
As Andrew waited for Chris to clear the bathroom, he noticed the blinking light on the answering machine. From the blink rate he knew there to be only one message on there. He pressed the 'Play' button, figuring that Chris wouldn't mind his taking a message for her. He was unprepared for what he heard.
"Hello, remember me? Well, I remember you. I normally don't do this, but you've managed to snarl my plans too many times for me to do things in my usual fashion. If you want to finish what you've started, come out to the old warehouse district near the airport, building five. Otherwise, you might want to warn your friends, the Dawsons, since they'll be next. Either of you will do. But for now, I'm more interested in little Christy, but Andy, me lad, you'll do just fine... Ha, Ha, Ha!... <Click>."
Andrew was mad. He knew that Alexander was likely to try something again before he left, but this soon? Andrew wanted this to be over, and he didn't want to involve Chris. He decided right then that he was going to finish it before Chris found out that anything else had happened. Luckily, he remembered passing though that area of town, otherwise, he would have had no idea where he was heading. He grabbed his coat and Chris's keys, and left with out even saying good-bye.
When Chris emerged from the bathroom, she found Grace sitting on the couch, dressed and ready to go somewhere. It was then that she realized that her father was no longer in the apartment.
"How'd you get in?"
"I remembered where you kept the spare?"
"O.K., So what are you doing here?"
"Your dad's gone to fight Alexander, I thought you'd want to know."
"About ten minutes ago. I passed your car on my in. When I saw your light still on, I guessed the rest and made a few calls."
"Take me there." Chris was set on going after Alexander, either to fight him first, or to avenge her father should he fail in his task.
"I figured you'd want as much. Get dressed, and we'll go. My car's ready outside. I just hope that you've thought this through, I don't want to loose any friends tonight."
Chris looked at Grace and smiled, Grace was one of the few friends that she had, and it would hurt her if something happened. She thought to herself, * Grace, if there is a way out of this, trust me I'll find it, but I can't just leave this be.*
Chris went back into the room and pulled some clothes on. Since her hair was still damp from the shower, she just pulled it back with a pair of clips. She paused briefly as she picked up her sword. She had left on her desk when she'd gone out earlier, still not quite used to the whole idea of using swords in combat to the death. She partially drew the blade from the scabbard, taking a glimpse at the weapon that would either save or kill her. Before any realization could come to her, she slid the blade back in, and joined Grace.
Outside, Grace had already started the car, waiting for Chris. Chris got in and tried to do her best to prepare herself for whatever might happen. She rested the tip of the scabbard on the floor, with her hands clasped around the guard. She gazed out the window, watching the lights of other cars and buildings as they passed them, in their race with fate.
Grace noticed her friend's pensiveness. It was much out of character. even though Chris wasn't exactly social, she was talkative, and the silence concerned Grace. "Chris what are your thinking? I'm going to turn around unless you start to talk."
"I'm just trying not to think too hard about what might happen tonight. just trying to 'clean house' right now. I don't want to talk about it right now, what little thinking I have already done, is beginning to unnerve me." she moved her right hand off the guard, it was shaking slightly. Almost as if a realization hit her, she snatched it back, and placed it back with her other hand. Grace tried a little more to try and draw Chris out a little, but only half-heartedly. She decided that maybe Chris had a good idea, silence might be a good idea, let them each prepare them for that which was to come.
They arrived at the warehouse with no sign of anyone. The two of them got out of the car, and looked around, trying to form a game plan and gauge the surroundings. As they were poking around one of the entrances, they heard the distinctive sound of the Mustang, and shortly after, Chris felt it. The car pulled up, parking near Grace's Neon. Andrew hopped out, slightly mad that Chris had attempted to follow him and that she had preceded him. He walked over to the slightly guilty looking pair.
He cocked his head to the side, as if trying to get a better look at the situation, "What are the two of you doing here?"
"Well I wasn't going to let you just go off by your self with out a single word of explanation. Besides I thought you might like a little backup."
"Thanks for the offer, but I don't think I would be able to use it."
"Well just in case then."
"O.K., watch my back then." Andrew said as he opened the door. The two entered the looming warehouse, as they entered, they froze, not only had they heard the distinct sound of shoe heels on cement, but they had also sensed the presence of another Immortal. Grace was hanging back at the door, not wanting to get anymore involved than she already was. Andrew drew his sword, Chris made ready with hers, just in case somebody decided to play dirty. The lights came on and as a figure emerged from the shadows, a voice began, "This is more than I had hoped for, both the Balfours in one evening... I am twice blessed. So who is it to be; the father or the daughter?"
The pair looked at each other, trying to decide who would be first. each wanted to fight Alexander, he'd given each of them some trouble, and each wanted to make him pay. But since neither wanted to loose, they were each willing to let the other. There was a bit of an "after you" argument that broke out. Alexander grew impatient with their indecision. He drew his gun and sent a few wild shots in their direction.
Andrew jumped in front of Chris, to get both himself and Chris out of range. Unfortunately for Andrew, he took a few hits for his trouble.
Behind a few lone boxes, Chris was recovering from the stun of hitting the floor at high velocity. Andrew was leaning against the stack of boxes, nursing an arm and shoulder wound, it wasn't bad enough to 'kill' him, but it was enough to put him out of commission for a while. When Chris saw what had happened, she made her way over to where he was. "Dad, are you going to be O.K.?" She asked it even though she knew that he would be, but it couldn't hurt to ask, it was the only way she could think to begin the conversation.
"Yeah, give me a little time, I'll be fine. This wouldn't be the first time I took a few bullets... How are you though?"
"Thanks to you, not even a scratch. I'm a little stunned though, but it's passing."
"I'm glad to hear that. So, what are we going to do now?"
"What, you're asking me?"
"It's your call now, you can either take him on, or we can leave, it's up to you."
"I don't know Dad, but I'm getting pretty sick of looking over my shoulder wondering what trick he's going to pull next."
"So, that's your choice?"
"I suppose it is... One of isn't going to leave here alive tonight. I just hope that I'm not the unlucky one."
"Goes ditto for me... " Then his mood changed, "Well I suppose we're about to see if you learned something on the island now." He shifted his position, wincing slightly as his shoulder wound began to bleed again. "I've got faith in you, you'll come though."
"I'll try Dad, I... I... " she couldn't finish.
"I know, it's hard, but this time comes for all of us sooner or later. Just do your best, that's all any of us can do."
"O.K." Chris stood, a bit unsteadily, but the longer she stood the more control she managed to get. She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to gain some center to her thoughts, emptying herself so her temper wouldn't take control. She began to walk out in the open part of the building, she proceeded cautiously, taking in as much detail of her surroundings she could.
She held her sword in a ready position, while she and her dad were behind the boxes, Alexander had slipped into one of the many shadows in the building. As she neared the a far corner, she heard a shuffling just in time to turn and block Alexander's starting blow. She blocked it and added a stroke in return. He parried it and opened up the playing field, moving into the clear middle. "So your daddy's a coward, sending a girl to do a man's job." he grinned a malevolently at her, as he again pulled his gun. He shot at her, he didn't miss.
Chris looked down, no blood, though it hurt like hell. She imagined a big bruise forming under there. She was glad that she had planned ahead. Fencing jackets had more than one use. And this was one use she was glad that she'd remembered. Weeks before her coach made an offhand comment about the new FIE kevlar jackets; that they were almost good enough to be bullet proof jackets. In disgust that his plan was falling apart, Alexander finished of the remaining rounds then threw his gun away. He was going to have to fight this one on the up and up, his tricks weren't going to get him anywhere this time. He lashed out, more from anger than from strategy.
At first Chris wondered if this had been such a good idea, maybe she should have waited, but as the fight drew on, she realized that Alexander, though much older, was very much out of practice due to his years of hunting the easy way. Who knew the last time that he'd actually fought another Immortal without his toy. He clearly began to loose ground after Chris was lucky enough to give him a nasty cut to his upper arm. Within a few strokes, Alexander's career was over.
"Are you going to finish what you started this time, little girl?" Alexander sneered at her.
In a quiet voice, Chris replied, "I think you know the answer to that." With that, she brought the sword down for the death blow. With a sickening thud the head fell to the ground and rolled across the floor. In her shock, Chris dropped her sword, sure she had watched her share of horror films, but now that it was up-close and personal, and it was real, she'd seen more than enough. She turned away, about to be sick, and to wait for what was to come next. She sagged to the floor with exhaustion, it hadn't been a long fight, but the intense concentration had taken a lot out of her.
She looked over to where she'd left her dad, He was standing now, he looked a little drained, but otherwise, appeared fine. She noted a wry smile on his face. She'd finished off Alexander, but at what price? Her dad understood, she just hoped that one day she would too.
He turned and left to join Grace outside. "I want to get out of here before the fireworks begin," he told Grace, "The show's over, there's nothing left to see."
"What about... "
"She'll be fine, give her a little time though."
"I hope you're right."
As they drove off, the full effects of the Quickening were beginning to show from outside. They left Mustang unlocked with a set of keys under the floor mat. Grace took Andrew back to Chris's apartment where he proceeded with last minute flight arrangements. As much as he loved his daughter, they could never really go back to their old father daughter relationship, too much had happened between them, Chris's taking Alexander's head hadn't helped matters. She needed some time to adjust and so did he. Distance would be the best thing for them while they adjusted to the new circumstances. Besides, it was tradition and he felt sure that there would be time enough in the future for them.
These were the worst circumstances that people had for parting, being victims of circumstance. He wrote a short note to Chris, gave her his love and wished her luck. He changed out of the still bloodied shirt that Alexander had so obligingly adorned. He stuffed it into the very bottom of the garbage, where hopefully no one who mattered would find it. He took one last look around at his daughter's apartment, closed the door, and left.
As Grace and Andrew were driving off, Chris was in the midst of an ebbing Quickening. As it finished, she fell to the ground, hard onto her knees. She wondered how she ever came to be standing in the first place. She rolled over a bit, wondering why must it hurt so much, wondering if she would ever feel the same again, if things would ever be the same. She knew the answer deep down already, she wouldn't. After tonight's work, nothing would ever be the same. Even though she felt she was justified in killing Alexander, she almost couldn't conceive that she had actually done it herself. It would take her a long time to come to terms with that fact, she just hoped that she wouldn't have to be adding any more 'trophies' to her wall anytime soon.
She finally got up and slowly made her way outside where she saw that only her car remained. She stopped briefly in the doorway to steady herself, she still a bit out of sorts and a bit woozy to boot. She wondered if she would be able to drive anytime soon she certainly didn't want to hang around for any sightseers.
She got to the car and opened the door, for once, thankfully, it didn't give her a hard time. She sat in the seat for a few moments thinking about her next course of action. She figured that she would just take it one day at a time instead of trying to see into the future. She turned in the seat, pulling her feet into the car. She pumped the accelerator and started the car, after letting the engine warm, she put it into gear and hurriedly put as many miles as she could between herself and the gristly scene that she had just left.
After several minutes of driving, she began to recollect a sense of normality. She began to become more aware of her environment rather than mindlessly speeding down the interstate. It was just too quiet in the car, only the loud 289 broke the silence. She didn't really want to be alone with her thoughts right then. She pressed the play button on the CD player, her father not appreciating the music, had turned off the stereo. She put into intro. mode, trying to find something to soothe her torn spirit. The CD in the player was still the Meat Loaf of her Saturday ride with Richie, and she didn't feel like hunting around for another CD just then. She put it back on normal play when it reached track four, she had probably heard it more than twenty times, but it never hit her like it did that night. For the first time she understood what the song meant, it perfectly described the tumult that her spirit was going through. "... Is this a blessing? Or is it a curse? Does it get any better? Can it get any worse? Will it go on forever? Or is it over tonight?... " The chorus haunted her thoughts even as the next track began to play. Her life was nothing but questions now, and hopefully, someday she would be able to answer a few of them... if she lived long enough.
Before she realized she was back at her apartment, when she looked up to one of her windows and saw a light on, but didn't sense anyone, she wondered both who was there and where her father was. Those questions were soon answered. No one was there, just a desk lamp which illuminated the note from her father. She understood why, but that didn't mean that she had to like it. She wadded up the note and threw it into the garbage. Right then she didn't really care about anything, she just wanted to rest, something that she wasn't going to be able to do for a while.
The phone rang, though Chris felt like just letting the machine pick it up, she answered anyway. It was Grace, she was concerned and wanted to come over. Chris really wanted to be alone, but she acquiesced, thinking that maybe now would not be the time to be alone. She hoped though that Grace wasn't going to want to talk a lot because she just wasn't up to it, she had a lot of things to sort out in her head.
For the first time since it had finished, she realized that there was more in her mind than there was before, things that she knew that she had never done, or would ever want to do. She had been to tense and nervous about getting caught to really notice before, but now she did. She went over to her stereo, trying to find something to soothe her raw nerves. She looked at the titles, trying to figure out what to listen to. Music always helped, she hoped it would this time. She really wasn't in the mood for a lot of it, Pini di Roma, Amadeus soundtrack, or even good old Wynton and his magic piccolo trumpet. As she was about to give up the search, she noticed one of her classical albums was out of order. It was the one with some Verdi, La Forza Del Destino , it seemed so appropriate and it just fit her mood, she skipped over the tracks to it, letting it play the rest of the tracks in order.
She sat in her chair, stretching out, trying to relax, trying to cope. She knew that this night would never be forgotten no matter how long she lived, it had changed her, forever.
Grace arrived to find the door unlocked, let herself in. She could sense the mood that the music was creating, and could tell that Chris had probably picked it for those reasons. Even though she'd only known Chris a few months, she'd learned that the music selection was always based on a mood, and the dark and moody selection was a good indication of that she didn't really want to talk, just not to be alone.
"So are you holding up?"
"Yeah, I guess I'll manage. I suppose I'll have to. I just don't want to go through that again anytime soon."
"Me neither. It was really hard seeing that. I'm just glad that you came out of it in one piece."
"That makes two of us... I don't think I'm going to be able to get to sleep, even though I'm tired. You wanna stick around and watch a few movies?"
"Sure. Tonight's been a big night for me too. We're both going to have to make a lot of adjustments now."
They watched a few movies that Chris had filmed off cable over the summer, "Sleepless in Seattle" and "Far and Away". Both of them usually went in for action movies, but they needed to de-escalate the night. Around three, when the last of the credits had rolled, Grace got ready to leave.
"Oh, man, I finally feel like I can sleep."
"I feel like I could sleep all day tomorrow."
"You do that, just make sure you're on time for dinner tomorrow night." Grace grinned with a secret knowledge.
"Dinner???" she drifted off.
"Didn't I tell you," she her smile grew a little larger, "Uncle Joe and I would like you to come over for dinner tomorrow night. We don't have any family in town anymore and since your dad left, we thought that you might like to come over."
"Why not. I don't have any other plans."
"OK, I'll swing by a little before six tomorrow. It's going to be over at the club since it's closer to Uncle Joe's part of town."
"Well O.K., I'll see you tomorrow then."
"Sure, I'll see you tomorrow."
Grace left. Chris was finally feeling back like herself, she even felt like she could even sleep. She made her way to her bed, curled up with her teddy bear, and went into a deep sleep. Nothing was going to disturb her sleep tonight, especially not and haunting memories of Robert Alexander, he was in the past, she had the future.