Healing The Hurting Words.

"Can I ask you a question?" Ritchie Ryan said, sliding into the booth across from Methos at the
student union.

"As long as it's not a 'how long should I pout to make him forgive me' question." The old man put
down his paper. "What did you need to know?" He had long gotten used to having Duncan's
student coming to him for answers that the other Immortal wouldn't or didn't give him.

"Well, it isn't exactly one of those, but it's kinda similar." He looked around to make sure they
were mostly alone before leaning closer. "How do I appeal to his 'try new things' side?"

Methos quirked up an eyebrow, then smiled. "I wasn't aware he had one of those," he said dryly.
"I had assumed he was a 'me on top only' person and now you've confirmed I was right again."

Ritchie nodded, ignoring the sarcasm. "Exactly and I want to explore, experiment. I mean, I love
the guy, but this is literally my first experiences with a guy and I want to try new things and

"Figuring out the full breadth of your sexuality will take you *years* of searching and comfort,
and sometimes even discomfort." He patted the now blond man's arm. "He'll come around. I'm
sure of it."

"But I want it to be *soon*" He shook his head. "The man moves at geological speed."

Methos smiled. "I knew taking classes would be good for you." He looked around. "Just don't
mention it to him," he nodded toward the aging Watcher as Joe come over to them.

"Hey guys, how are classes?"

"I'll pass," Ritchie said. "And I may even convince the mean old guy here to help me in English."


"Her exact words were "No person should write that poorly and then turn it in to me"." He shook
his head. "Nothing I do in there is good enough."

"Sounds about right. She's broadening your horizons, but only toward her ways."

Ritchie smiled. "Exactly."

Joe shook his head. "You guys can have all the education you want, it kills me to sit there and
listen to lectures." He picked up his water to drink, but put it down suddenly. "That reminds me,
Mac went to pick up someone at the airport." He smirked as he drank, knowing the conclusion
they would draw. He loved to tease them.

Both immortals groaned, "Amanda," but the watcher shook his head.

"Then who?"

"Didn't say, just a friend." He shrugged and shifted so he could look at all the young women.
"Man, the only good thing about college."

Ritchie looked at Methos. "Oh, there are a few other things." He grinned before turning his
attention back to the room.

Unfortunately, the older mortal had caught him. "You two aren't..."

Methos started to choke, his face turning purple. His head shook frantically and he waved a hand
to his chants of, "No, no, not me, no..." repeated over and over. He kicked the younger man
under the table, telling him to explain it.

Ritchie shook his head. "Correct guess on the subject, wrong interest." He patted the calming
older man's hand. "I like the guy but I don't think it's like that."

Joe nodded and wiped his mouth. "I'm happy for you. It's a relief to know that you're not
throwing over Mac for the curmudgeon here." He smiled. "I didn't think you two were, but I had
to ask. Although I would have thought he was a bit steady for you."

The younger immortal smiled. "Yeah and that's been a topic of discussion lately."

Joe nodded wisely. "I read his file. That seems to be his commonality with lovers. Amanda..."
He was stopped by the older immortal's glare. "Sorry."

Methos shook his head. "I'd heard but never put it together."

Ritchie looked around before leaning in. "Trouble, by the doors," he said softly.

The older immortal shook his head. "She's not that bad." He smiled at her, earning a frown.
"You two should have many things in common." He almost purred the last word.

Ritchie shook his head. "Nah, she thinks it's another sign of male domination." He shuddered.
"Oh, no."

Joe looked over his shoulder at the approaching woman. "She can't be that bad. She's just an
English teacher."

"She's the thorn in his side," the woman said. She was mid-forties, dressed in a lime power suit in
some tacky rayon fabric which clashed with her dyed copper-red hair. The three men bravely held
in a shudder as she leaned over Ritchie's shoulder. "Are you going to meet *my* standards this
time?" she whispered in his ear. He nodded dumbly. "I'm glad you'll at least try." She patted his
head condescendingly before going to join her fellow female teachers.

Ritchie licked his lips, not wanting to look up. "Is she gone?" he mouthed. The older immortal
nodded, handing him his glass of water, making the younger man sigh and drink the cold liquid

"What ever you need to pass her, I'll help," Methos promised, touching the younger man's hand.
"I'll be over tonight."

Joe shook his head. "Mac had a bag packed as an in-case." He shrugged. "Don't ask, I was told
that he was in the terminal but not if he left."

Ritchie sighed. "I wish he would have told me." He looked around. "Of course, I was supposed
to cook tonight so you can still come over." He looked briefly at the older man. "I really don't
want to be in that loft alone, it creaks funny."

Methos nodded through his mouthful of sandwich. "Of course," he said finally.

"Well, you two old guys seem to have it so I'll leave. You know where I am if you need me." He
stood with a grunt and shuffled off. "Bye guys," he called over his shoulder.

Ritchie waited until the Watcher had left. "So, would you like me to pretend to cook or should
we order?" He grinned, knowing the answer, but he had to tease.

Methos shook his head. "Order. I've tasted your cooking." The younger man pouted in play but
he was relentless in his negation of the idea of Ritchie cooking.


Methos looked over the top of his *real* Chinese food's container. "I don't see a problem with it.
The language used could be a bit more professional, but otherwise it's as close to perfect as you've

Ritchie leaned down, looking at the small type. "Professional how?"

"You write like you talk. A run on sentence in each paragraph, many phrases that are basically
colloquialisms." Ritchie grimaced. "Not that that's a bad thing, but it won't meet up to her

Ritchie nodded. "So, how do I fix it?"

"Well, we need to pare this down a bit. If she only wants five pages but you have to lower your
font size to get that, it's too long." He picked up his pen and drew boxes around a few paragraphs
that had stood out to him. "These could be reworded and made shorter. This one," he struck a
big blue 'x' through it, "needs rewritten entirely."

"That bad?"

"Your introductory paragraph should state the purpose of your writing and a brief synopsis of
your methods." He glanced at the crestfallen expression. "Don't worry so much, I'll help you
write it again."

"Thanks," the younger man said, sitting back to rub his tired eyes. "This has been killer."

"When is it due?"

"Next week, Thursday." He shook his head. "I should drop it but Mac won't let me."

"Well, he is a tad on the busy side turning you into a younger him." The older immortal leaned
back, nudging the younger one with his shoulder. "You've changed quite a lot since you met

Ritchie was silent for a few minutes, thinking about that. "Yeah," he said finally, "I have. I'm not
me anymore." He picked up the textbook, throwing it across the room. "And I've not been me for
a while now."

Methos shook his head. "You're still you, just a different version of who you are." He sighed,
turning to face the much younger man. "This is supposed to be a time for you to explore, find
yourself. Mac is trying to help by introducing you to his world, wanting you to have a firm grasp
on the whole picture. Something that I do agree with, to a point. You shouldn't be miserable with
your future, you should find something that makes you happy enough to keep coming back to it in
the future. Your first degree should be special to you."

Ritchie nodded. "Yeah?" He thought about it for a minute. "Yeah, that makes sense." He
grinned. "I'm switching to Design in the morning."

Methos nodded. "If that makes you happy."

"Yeah, it will. I can choose to go graphics and do advertising and that stuff or I could choose
Engineering to work with machines."

"And those pesky maths?"

"Tutor, already took one of them. Got a 'C'."

"You really should do better in that. It's the foundation of many fields."

"Yeah, but the next class is specific to design. No more generalities that I couldn't understand."
He shrugged. "Too many physics and engineering examples in the first one that I couldn't
get." He leaned back, relaxed for the first time in weeks. Then he sat up straight, radiating
tension. "Can I come live with you when Mac hears?"

Methos snorted. "If he's that set on making you become him maybe you ought to think about
moving permanently."

Ritchie shook his head. "He's not like that. I just don't want to see him pout for days on end
about how I'm not going down the academic path like he had hoped for."

Methos shook his head, taking stock of the man's actions, body language, and words. "Did you
listen to what you just said? He's remaking you in *his* image, not letting you become an older,
wiser you." He touched Ritchie's hand, wanting to dissipate his tension. "You can come to me
anytime you need to get away from the pressure." He patted the smaller hand gently before
standing and stretching. "I'm worn out, we'll work on this tomorrow over lunch, all right?"
Ritchie nodded, caught up in his thoughts, so he left quietly.

He ended up at Joe's, pumping the Watcher for information. "So, he's never been so controlling

The older looking man finished tuning his guitar. "No and that doesn't sound like him. Did
Ritchie give you any other clues or hints?" Methos shook his head, drinking some more of his
beer. "I can do another search through the records of his students that have turned lovers but what
you need to know may not be there." He laid a hand over the one peeling the label off the beer
bottle. "Are you sure it's not a matter of a free-spirit running into the righteous wall? It took me a
while to even picture them together."

Methos shook his head. "That wouldn't explain the major debate."

Joe sighed. "True. I'll look into it." He stood, shuffling back to the bar.

Methos looked down at the little pile of torn labels. "And I'll protect him," he said quietly. He
finished the bottle and waved for another.


Ritchie looked up from his solo sword practice, he'd felt the quickening of another immortal
nearby and it never hurt to be careful. He smiled slightly at Methos before going back to his slow
and steady movements.

"Well, that's pretty but it's not very helpful in a fight," the older immortal said dryly after the
younger was finished. "Great balance is a necessary thing, but your actual fighting could use
some work." He picked up one of the Kendo sticks and brought it to bear on Ritchie. "Let's
spar," he purred, slight smile gracing his noble features.

Ritchie rolled to grab his, coming up a little clumsily. "Okay."

The fight was short and one sided. Fifteen times Methos put Ritchie on the ground, ten times with
only a few moves and a strike. By the end, the younger man's face was red with anger and
embarrassment. He knocked aside the helping hand, standing back up again, but he didn't say a

Methos walked around the younger man, clicking his tongue. "Not only do you need a better
lover but a better teacher as well it seems." He stopped, facing his opponent. "Would you like
me to show you how to do that?" Ritchie nodded, silent so he moved closer. "I don't take many
students but I'll gladly help you when I can." He didn't know what prompted his bout of honesty,
but he had, for once, spoken his true feelings. Ritchie bent to pick up his stick and Methos's
mischievous side, which he kept on a tight leash, came out. He pushed the younger man over,
running the end of his stick along the younger man's leg. He stood there, smiling, watching the
young immortal try to figure out how to respond. "Ready?"

Ritchie slowly got to his feet, keeping an eye out for more strange behavior. "For anything."
They faced off again, going slowly so they could see the blow coming and figure a counter out
for it. Eventually Ritchie called a halt, wiping his brow as he stepped back. "Thanks. I didn't
know that you *could* move like that." He wrapped his around his neck. "Beer?"

"You need to ask?"

They headed upstairs, the younger man opening the door and ushering them inside. "Let me go
get clean." He jogged into the bathroom, grabbing the clothes he had laid out earlier.

Methos smiled as he watched the younger man disappear. He grabbed a beer and sat down to
wait. Ritchie came out a few minutes later, pulling on his t-shirt as he walked out, tucking it in as
he buttoned his jeans. The older man grabbed the remote, pulling his gaze away from the
suddenly fascinating view he had of the young man bending over to look inside the fridge for
food. He gulped the cold liquid to cool the sudden flare of his desires.

He hadn't had a male lover since Byron but his body and mind had found a new focus in the
young immortal. He knew that his attentions would be unwelcome, the young man in question
already having been claimed as another's, but he couldn't help it if he looked. Besides, he didn't
want to ruin either friendship, no matter how hot his libido got or how his mind begged by sending
him graphic pictures of what could happen if only he would offer. His youngest friend, who
hardly ever asked him for anything except for help in school, was not one he wanted to lose over
something as trivial as sex, which he could get anywhere, and he didn't want to ruin him by
showing him the ferocity that true desire could bring. Nothing he could fight would be as
important as keeping a friend this time.

Ritchie cleared his throat, bringing the old man from his thoughts. "Would you like some lunch?
There's not much but there's sandwich stuff and what's left of this morning's ham, green pepper,
and anchovy pizza."

Methos made a face. "That's disgusting." He shook his head, getting up to fix himself a

They sat in companionable silence, eating and watching some action show about cops on a beach -
mostly for the scenery of course. "What were you thinking when I asked you about lunch?" the
younger man asked during a commercial.

Methos lied like his life depended on it. "How far you've come since I met you. How the man
you've become isn't remotely like the angry youth I met a few years back that felt he had to prove
himself to the world."

Ritchie nodded. "Okay. I thought you were checking out my ass." He took a drink of beer,
watching Methos choke and sputter out of the corner of his eye. "So, what should we do

"Paper," Methos said hoarsely. He cleared his throat. "You've got to turn it in tomorrow."

Ritchie handed him over the latest copy, watching as the older man read it. "Well?"

"Much better, very nice actually. It should pass her standards easily." He laid the report down
and faced the man he was friends with. "So, how are your classes really?"

Ritchie wiggled his hand in the air. "Not bad. My advisor was pleased when I changed majors;
he's always thought I didn't belong to him." He took a slow drink. "Any word on Mac?"

Methos' grimace told the story but shook his head. "Not even his cousin Connor in New York
knows where he is and most everyone thought they would be together since that's who he was


"Whatever." Methos shifted. "Are you worried?"

"Not really. I know he can handle most anyone or anything but..."

"He's not even dropped a postcard," the older man finished for him. "So very unlike him." He
quickly finished his beer, taking the empty bottles in to toss them out and bringing back new ones.
He sat back down, putting his socked feet up on the coffee table, relaxing. "So, now what?"

"Do you ever feel unfulfilled during sex?" Ritchie blurted out suddenly, blushing heavily.

"Ah, more guy talk." He considered the question carefully. "Sometimes."

"It's like a rote lesson with him and it's not... not... not..." He looked down at the leather on the

"Good? Pleasurable? Dynamic?"

"Yeah," the younger man admitted, almost silently. The older man tipped the younger's up so
they were looking at each other. "I don't mean to lay this on you."

"Don't be sorry when you search for answers. Never be sorry that you thirst for knowledge." He
smiled slightly. "What do you need to know?"

"Why it's not a happy time? Why don't I want it like he does? How has he turned me off ever
touching somebody else?"

"Because not everything you need, want, and expect to be there is. Because he's a maniac and
you're normal. And I have not a single thought on the subject, but that's not a good sign. In that

Ritchie nodded. "I know." He started to look around the room, searching for a focal point
besides the bottomless green eyes. "It was good the first few times, but after that it...it's like he's
stuck in a single speed. Go long, soft, and gentle, for hours. But nothing else."

"In other words it's go now, go later, but at his speed and for his pleasure." Ritchie nodded,
shocked. "I never imagined him to hold a Master's ideas of slave's pleasure." He took a drink of
his beer.

"No...no I don't think that's it. He's concerned about..."

"Your pleasure, but..." Methos finished for him. "You're a pleasure slave. Face it." The younger
man shook his head emphatically. "Yes, you are. Your whole purpose is to please him. You
train to please him, you dress to please him, you eat to please him. Face facts Ritchie, he's your
Master now."

"He's not!" The younger man got up, slamming the bathroom door once he was inside.

Methos sighed and stood up, feeling every one of his five thousand years. He tossed their trash
before he left, closing the door softly.

Ritchie came back out. "Me..." He looked around, but the old guy was gone. "Damn."


Ritchie looked up and smiled as Duncan walked through the door a few days after that last night
he had spent with the older immortal. "You're okay," he sighed, putting down his book as his
teacher walked past to toss his bag on the bed.

Duncan frowned at the slim novel. "Polluting your mind again?" He moved it, distaste clearly
showing. "How are your classes?"

"Methos fixed my English problem. We worked on my last paper together." He shifted. "I've
preregistered for next semester in my new major." Duncan drew in a deep breath, but Ritchie ran
over it. "Everyone's decided that it was a good choice and I'll be happier there."

"I thought you were happy where you were." He almost looked pained.

"Not really. Most of it was going *well* over my head." The younger man shifted to face his
lover. "It just wasn't working for me. My grades were slipping, I was lost in most of the history
classes. It just wasn't me."

"So, you've went to Design?" His young lover/student nodded. "You do know that you'd have to
leave the field eventually?"

"Yeah, but I can go back after a lifetime or so. The old guy and I talked about it and..."

"Wait. *Methos* told you to do this?"

"No, he helped me figure out what *I* wanted." He frowned. "I know you wanted me to get a
history degree but I wasn't *happy* there." He took Duncan's hand in his, trying to make him see
the difference.

Duncan slowly withdrew his hand. "If this makes you happy," he said with a tired sigh, "I guess
you'd better do it." He stood, going into the kitchen. "Any food?"

"Two day old pizza and some leftover Korean from last night."

Duncan veered away from the refrigerator, grabbing a box of pasta and a pot. "So, what other
changes have you decided to make while I was gone?" he asked, a little sharply.

"None," Ritchie said, hurt by the anger he was hearing. "I sparred, went to class, ate, did
homework. The same routine."

"Okay." Duncan proceeded to cook, setting the full pot down hard.

Ritchie got tired quickly of the unreasonable anger being put on him so he grabbed his wallet and
jacket. "I'm going to the movies. I'll be back when you're normal and yourself." He slammed the
door on the way out.

Duncan stood there, mouth open.


It had been a double feature but Ritchie still didn't feel like going back to the dojo or the loft
upstairs from it. He wandered around the club district, not really wanting to go in but needing the
diversion of all the different people. He kept wandering, until he ended up at Joe's.

Looking up to see the familiar sign startled him, but he realized this was the best place for him to
be now. Joe would understand and if he still didn't feel like going home there was a semi-soft
couch in the office. He pushed the door open, looking around once he felt the buzz of another
immortal. Methos looked up from the end of the bar and nodded at the stool next to him. By the
time he made it over there was a shot and a beer waiting for him.

Joe wiped down the counter, waiting until the young man had taken a drink. "I heard, you all

"Yeah, just couldn't take the slamming dishes anymore." He looked at the older men. "I told him
I changed majors and then he fixed himself lunch with much slamming of the pot." He shrugged.
"I couldn't stay there."

"We both have couches," Joe reminded him, walking away to serve someone else.

Methos put down his bottle. "If you need us, we're here."

Ritchie grinned. "Yup and I think that pissed him off too." He drained his beer in one gulp. "He
looked hurt when I told him we had talked and you had helped me with that paper."

Methos grimaced. "That's not good." He looked around, checking for anyone close. "That man
is too controlling. You need to have a life of your own." He patted the younger man's arm.
"Maybe you need to move out."

Ritchie nodded. "I've been thinking about that. Maybe next semester when I get my financial
aid." He took a drink of the new beer Joe had just handed to him. "I'm going to apply for that

"You mean *he's* been paying for your schooling?" Joe asked. When the young immortal
nodded, he shook his head. "Not a great thing in this case."

Methos arched an eyebrow, not saying anything but telling the watcher they would be talking

Ritchie grunted not paying any attention to the byplay going on around him. "Maybe a nice
efficiency. One bill that way and I can pay it with my semester's money."

Methos nodded. "A sound plan. Just remember to look for someplace that fits your special

Ritchie smiled. "Two exits, bed, kitchen, cable. Not too much to ask."

"Not too near the college either, they're horribly overpriced."

"Didn't you used to live over that way?" Joe asked, coming back over.

"Yes and that's how I know that they're overpriced. A thousand dollars a month for two
bedrooms." He snorted. "Ridiculous."

"Well, that blows that idea." Ritchie sighed. "I've got to get a ride."

"Bikes aren't good in the snow and the college discriminates against them in matters of parking."

Joe grinned and leaned closer. "I'm selling my old sedan. Seven hundred." Ritchie winced.
"Easy financing terms. Work over your break, ten to fifteen hours a week, and you can use your
wages plus earn a little cash when it's paid off, plus tips, and I'll give you a break at seven an

Ritchie closed his eyes and thought about it. He's need a ride, and the cash, soon. He had worked
in the bar before, not a problem there. That left only one problem and he could deal with him
when the time came. "Okay."

"Great. I'll start you out slow right before finals and put you on during most of the Christmas
rush." Joe patted the bar and walked away.

Methos held out a hand. "Congratulations. The first step to freedom."

Ritchie shook the offered hand and smiled.


The young immortal walked into the loft, quietly closing the door behind him. Duncan was
downstairs working out so he had the place to himself for a while longer. He hung up his jacket
as he looked around the large room. Nothing in there said 'him'. None of the pictures were his,
none of the decorative items, not even in the choice of sheets did he have a say. He flopped down
on the couch, looking at his neatly piled textbooks, a silent reminder of their earlier fight. He
looked at their order, piled by size then alphabetically, and shook his head. He had never seen
Duncan that anal before.

His lover walked in, wiping the sweat from his face. "So," he asked, taking a deep pull of the
now beer scented air, "how was Joe's?"


Methos cornered the Watcher in his office. "So, who and when?"

Joe turned his desk chair some and handed over the folder. "It seems, not long after he had turned,
that young Duncan had a massive crush on this one woman named Andrea. He got to be
overbearing about it. He paid for everything, even though she had money and more of it than he
did. He taught her what he could when he could even though she was older and an all right
fighter in her own right. It also seems that she got tired of it and left him. According to the
Watcher at that time, she told him that it was like living in a prison and she hadn't committed a
crime. It got so bad that he even fired her maid when she didn't do the laundry the way he wanted
and started doing it himself."

"Tell me this has a happy ending." Methos sat down, flipping through the file for the details Joe
had left out. "Never mind, I found it. Disappeared for fifteen years, after she'd left him. Not a
good sign is it." He tossed the file back onto the desk. "Why do I think you're hiding something
from me?"

"Well, it seems that right after she left, she was hit by a runaway carriage. And we're talking
minutes after she left here." He shrugged. "It must have destroyed him."

"Hence, he went into hiding until he was better." The world's oldest man rubbed the tense spot on
his forehead. "So, how do we cure it?"

"Get him to leave and live," Joe said.

Methos's head came up and he looked out toward the bar. "Well, someone's here. Want a guess?"
He shook his head and walked out, followed by Joe. "So, MacLeod, how was wherever?" He
smiled, leaning against the bar. "You really should warn him next time, he was worried sick."

Duncan walked over and frowned mightily at the older immortal. "Leave him alone. He doesn't
need you." He turned and walked back out, not saying a word to anyone else.

"I think I'll have a talk with a certain young man tomorrow," Joe said. "This isn't a good thing."

"You're telling me." Methos sat down, after grabbing a beer over the counter. "Join me?"

Joe shook his head. "No, I don't think it would be a good idea for me to get drunk tonight. Help
yourself though. You look like you could use the strength to go against him." Joe looked at the
older man, seeing the pain in his eyes. "It's for the best."

"For which one?"

"Both." He patted the soft hand before wandering down to get the cash drawer so he could count
it and make his nightly deposit.


Joe met Ritchie outside of his classroom, leaning against the wall when the younger man came
out. "Let's walk."

Ritchie checked his watch. "Um, ten minutes until the next class but I'll let you walk me to it."

Joe smiled and waved a hand, letting the young immortal lead the way, but Ritchie set a pace he
could walk beside him. "So, how did things go once you got home last night?" He was given a
sideways funny look. "I'm only asking because Duncan came into the bar, after closing and all, to
threaten the old guy," he looked around to make sure no one could listen in, "if he didn't leave you

Ritchie snorted. "He's still overreacting about my major change. He pouted all night and was
fuzzy and cranky and pissy." He scratched a sore spot on his arm. "Then we sparred this
morning before class."

Joe stopped him to look at the bruise. "How bad was it? That's got to have happened hours
before and you still have a nasty bruise."

"Um, four or five."


"This morning." Joe looked down at his watch in dismay so Ritchie tried to cover for it. "Neither
of us could sleep while he was tossing and turning so we went downstairs to wear him out." The
young man grimaced. "Not my idea of fun, but hey, it worked." He shrugged and started
walking again, slowly so Joe could keep up.

"So, are you coming over tonight?"

"Yeah, I want to make sure I still remember while you're not busy. I told Mac that I was working
for you over break, the other reason he couldn't get to sleep, and he okayed it."

Joe stopped Ritchie, a strong hand on his arm. "You didn't need permission."

The young immortal sighed. "I know, but I feel like I owe him so much and he's taken care of me
even when everyone else just kinda gave up. I feel like I should work through these rough spots
instead of giving up."

"Not if it's hurting you." He looked down at his watch. "Can you skip this class?" The young
man shook his head. "Okay, I expect you at the bar tonight, by nine at the latest since I know you
have a late class. Do you hear me?"

Ritchie smiled and nodded, patting Joe's restraining hand before he shook it off so he could run to

Joe watched him go, a sinking feeling starting to hit him very strongly. They had to do something
before the man running away from him died, permanently.


Methos and Joe paced the office of the bar, checking their watches each time they turned to start
the other way. Finally, the oldest immortal looked up and smiled. "They're here," he said. He sat
down, hiding as planned, and concentrated on dimming his quickening so he felt like the other
three immortals he had bought a round for.

Joe walked out into the bar and started to pour a beer. Duncan walked in, followed by Ritchie,
and they sat at a table to watch the band play. The Watcher brought them out their drinks,
winking at the young man before stepping away to watch the fireworks happen.

Duncan took a sip of his beer and started to cough. He got himself stopped, but he started to feel
dizzy, grabbing his head. By the end, he just fell over onto the table, head breaking the bowl of

Ritchie stepped back when it all started, sure that something was going to happen. He checked
his lover's pulse, smiling when he found one. "What did you do to him?"

"Sedated, nothing more. Come on, we need to talk." They headed for the office, Joe nodding for
the bartender to watch the unconscious man.

"There are many things that you learn in the span of my lifetime," Methos said, "including the
drugs that knock even one of us out." He waved at the chair. "Sit, we need to talk." Joe left them
alone, knowing that he wasn't wanted there at that minute. "So, explain to me about the bruise."
He handed over the file Joe had shown him.

"We were sparring and he got me good." Ritchie shrugged and opened the folder. "Who was

"The last person he obsessed over. Seems she thought she was living in a prison and tried to leave
him. Unfortunately she didn't see the carriage that hit her."

The younger man nodded and read the short report of their relationship. "He's done this
before?" Methos nodded. "Now what?"

"Now, we get you to leave him."

"I can't. I owe him."

"You have to or you'll end up dead."

"I owe him."

"Not your life you don't."

"Actually, yeah, I do." Ritchie shifted some in the hard chair, his rear sore from an earlier
workout. "Mac took me in and believed in me when no one else would. He kept bringing me
back until I got the point that I wasn't alone and was worth saving. He literally saved me."

"Ritchie," Methos said, then stopped to think. "You could do so much better than him. He may
be the one that saved you but now he's destroying you. That's not right, not for either of you. Let
us help you leave."

"And go where?"

"My place to start. I have a very nice garage apartment that needs a little work. You paint it and
fix the few holes and you can live there rent free. Joe's willing to let you have the car now as long
as you still work over the break." He got up to look out the door before putting his hands on the
younger man's shoulders. "The only way we can break him of this is to help you to leave him and
break the hold in his mind. He's got to face the facts of what he's done." Ritchie started to shake
his head, but soft fingers knocked him out, killing him gently. "I'm sorry, but it's the best for both
of you," he said right before that final squeeze. He walked out of the office, shutting and locking
the door. He nodded at Joe, who tapped Duncan on the shoulder.

The Scotsman looked around and scowled at the man standing in front of the office. "What have
you done now?" He looked around for his student. "And where's Ritchie?"

"He's gone," Joe said, sitting down at the table. "We took him someplace safe until you get over
whatever this is." He waved a hand at the immortal. "Have you looked at yourself recently?"

"There's nothing wrong," Duncan ground out and stood. He started toward the office, but Methos
came forward to stop him. "Get out of my way."

"He's not here, McCleod," the older man said gently. "We've taken him someplace where he can
feel safe until we can figure this out. Go home, he'll call later."

Duncan removed the hand on his chest, brushing it aside. "No, he's coming with me."

"No, he's not." Methos said. He pulled out his little handgun, the one that he always kept in his
jacket. "Leave. Think about Andrea and how you're recreating the situation."

Duncan started to shake, but he didn't move. Eventually the shakes became laughs. "Is that what
this is about? This isn't the same thing!" He tried to walk around the older immortal but he heard
the gun cock. "So, now you're going to shoot me?"

"MacLeod, I don't want to do this any more than you do. You're going to keep hurting him the
way you did her until he's gone too. We're trying to fix this but you have to leave now. You
know I won't let anyone hurt him and that he'll be safe with me. Nobody ever comes looking for
me these days unless you're around."

Duncan looked around, and seeing that he didn't have a choice, left. He turned before walking out
the door. "I'll see you dead for this," he promised, hitting the door hard to open it. He left them
alone, the sound of his car's tires squealing a testament that he had gone.

Methos took a deep breath for the first time in the last few minutes and sat down. "I could use a
beer about now," he said. One magically appeared in front of him and he took a long drink. "So
we're going to my house, not someplace either has ever been. Just as soon as he wakes up."

Joe nodded and went back to tending the bar, leaving it in the more than capable hands of the
oldest immortal.


Methos smiled as he opened the door. "This is yours while you're here." He flipped on the light,
only to have the bulb blow. "Stupid appliances," he muttered, grabbing his flashlight. "I have
another in the house, don't worry." He led the way into the living room, flipping on that light and
smiling as it stayed on. "Home sweet home, for now."

Ritchie nodded. "I guess it's okay. How did you want it fixed up?"

"Tastefully. No black paint, no fluorescents. Other than that, have fun." He waved an arm
around then handed over the flashlight. "The TV works, I made sure of it today. The water's on
but it takes a few minutes to get warm. You have your own bathroom and bedroom. Kitchen's
just in the house, we'll go over there next so you can see the practice room I've set up." He smiled
and ruffled the blond hair. "It's not too bad."

"Nope, not at all." He looked over at his protector. "So, why am I here again?"

"Because we need to break McCleod of his problem, something we can't do with you there. He
has to realize he has a problem before we can do anything about it." He motioned toward the
corner. "Joe sent someone to get some of your things. You have clothes, I would imagine, and
your books. I'm not sure what they grabbed." He shrugged. "Come on, let me show you the
main house."

They left, Methos handing over the key after he had locked the door. The hopped down the stairs
and across the driveway. The older man opened the back door with a flourish, waving his friend

"This is great," Ritchie said, eyeing all the state of the art cooking equipment. "I didn't even know
you liked to cook." He turned to face his friend. "So, how good are you?"

"I was a chef on the Titanic," he said slowly. "Hence my distaste for water." He frowned and led
the younger man through the house, showing him where everything was and especially where the
practice room was. "This is my space," he said, opening what looked like a walk in closet. Inside
were many swords and some memorabilia from his past. "Most of us that are older than a century
have something like this. I don't mind if you look, just ask first."

Ritchie nodded, looking in interest at the still bloody hatchet. "Who's was that?"

"Old friend, better not discussed else he might show up again." He shuddered. "Let's leave that
one in the category of nightmare, shall we?" The younger man nodded and he closed the door.
"This," he said, pointing, "is the storage area. Inside are the Kendo sticks, the practice wooden
swords, the real practice swords, the dummy, and assorted other stuff to work out with. I'm
usually in here in the early mornings so you can come join me or avoid me as you wish." He
clapped his hands together. "How about some food?"

Ritchie smiled. "Great idea. You're going to show me how to use that stove right? 'Cause I've
never seen one like that before."

"Well, of course not, I brought it from England with me." He put his arm around the younger
man's shoulder and led him back to the kitchen.


Ritchie picked up the phone to dial home. Methos was standing by in case he needed him for
something, but it was his call to make. He dialed the loft's number, waiting for someone or the
machine to pick up. Finally a deep growl came over the line. "Hello?"


"No one here by that name and if you're calling to be forgiven for this little stunt then the answer is

"I didn't plan this. They knocked me out too." He sat down on the edge of the chair and twirled
the cord around his fingers. "Are you all right?"

"I have a headache." There was the sound of something rustling. "So, why did you call if not to
tell me that you're coming home?"

"To tell you I'm okay and that I'm being treated well. They're trying to set up a time and place for
us to talk about this too. You should hear some of the ideas..." The line went dead. Ritchie
looked at the phone, then at Methos. "Dead. He hung up on me."

The older man nodded, hanging it up. "Thankfully he has caller id so he'll probably call in the
middle of the night to torment you." He frowned down at the instrument in his hand. "What
would you like to do now?"

Ritchie looked at his pile of books. "Are you sure the teachers won't mind me being gone for a
few days? 'Cause I have a test tomorrow and one guy's got a policy of no make-ups unless you're
dead and you can prove it to him."

Methos smiled. "Ah, yes, but I had a talk with him. I told him that you were contagious now
with Chicken Pox and that you couldn't possibly get out of bed to come to class. He waved me
off and told me that if that's what it was then it was fine if you stayed home for a week or so.
Teaching assistants are allowed leeways that students aren't."

"I've already had them."

"But you see, they can come back as an adult. And you're not leaving the house or this apartment
anyway so it's basically true. You can't get out of bed to go to class." He shrugged and walked
out the door. "Good night."

Ritchie snorted. "Yeah, pleasant dreams," he called back. "Maybe I'll have some too." He
picked up his bags to bring them into the bedroom. In there, he found a gorgeous old four-poster
cherry wood bed, deep mattress and tons of pillows. He smiled at the care being taken with him
and tossed his stuff in the corner. It could wait, the bed was calling him. Maybe he would have
pleasant dreams tonight after all.


Methos watched until the light went out in the guest house before he picked up the phone to
dial Joe. "It's me," he said simply. "He's in for the night, he got some of his things. He's got the
Chicken Pox and knows it now." There was laughter from the other side. "It's not like they can
argue that he has to come in to take tests and things when he's like that." The old man sat down in
the comfy chair next to his bed and sighed. "I moved the huge four poster bed out there. I think
he'll sleep all right in it. He called Mac and got hung up on."

"So, he's not playing nice," Joe asked.

"No, he's not. Even I would treat the kid better than that."

"Have you given that any thought?"

"What?" Methos asked, distracted by the shadow he could see moving around in the apartment.

"That you like him. A lot."

"Joe, you've been imbibing too much of your stock again."

Joe laughed. "No, not tonight, but I saw the way you were watching him the other night when he
came in all upset and all the other times you've checked him out. Admit it, you like the young

"I do not." He shook his head, watching the younger man strip down in the dark. "And even if I
did, it wouldn't matter. This is all about getting them back together and Ritchie safe. Not about
my wanton urges."

"Wanton?" Joe was silent for a few seconds. "Do you want to talk about it?" he asked seriously.

"I'm not going to lose his, their, friendship by indulging. Don't worry about it." He hung up,
shaking his head. He got up to put the phone back, pulling the shade down to block out the sight
he had dreamt about last night.


Ritchie walked into the practice room and stopped, watching the older immortal practice his
moves. He knew Methos didn't practice often anymore, he wasn't sure why but he knew he didn't.
It was a rare treat to see the man in action. All his muscles glistening with sweat. All the
muscles in his upper chest and arms standing out clearly now that he was out of those baggy
sweaters he liked. He cleared his throat, banishing the stunning picture that had just popped up.
"Hey, want help?"

Methos paused long enough to look over his shoulder. "Let me finish this series and I'll play with
you." He grinned and got back to his kata.

Ritchie sat on the floor and waited, his sword resting comfortably in his lap. The moves he saw
were incredible, nothing like the slow and steady stuff Mac did every morning. He watched in
awe as the man before him flowed through the motions, becoming smoother and smoother with
each second lost in the exercise.

When he was done, Methos bent over at the waist, touching the floor with his hands to stretch one
last time. He looked under his arm, watching Ritchie watch him. "Ready?" he asked,
straightening up. The younger man nodded and stood, toeing off his shoes and moving closer.
They faced off, Methos judging his opponent and his average awakening. "You're still tired," he
commented, swinging slowly so that Ritchie could get into it with him. "Long night?"

"That bed is heavenly man, but yeah," a rough swing and a duck when the unexpected happened,
"I had a few nightmares. I kept seeing myself as her."

"Her? Oh, *her*. I had forgotten I'd showed you that." He stood still, waiting for Ritchie to
attack again. "I suppose that was a bit gruesome."

"Was she one of us too?" He swung, a killing blow if Methos' guard hadn't been up.

"I think so, yes. The file mentioned that her Quickening went unclaimed. And that was a nice
blow but your chest is unguarded for far too long." Ritchie adjusted his arms and stance, trying it
again. "Much better." He swung a hard downward blow, knocking the sword out of the younger
man's hands. "We need to work on your grip apparently. How did he teach you?"

"Um, woods," a short stab, "following his movements basically. He said it was to learn the
basics." He lunged, falling over when the older man stepped out of the way. "Guess there are
other things I need to learn too, huh?" He stood back up, ready to start again, but Methos had
dropped his sword. "Tired?"

"No, just tired of watching you flail around. Stand there, let me adjust you." He walked around
the younger man, seeing how he was standing. "All right, move slowly, like you're going to give
an upper-cut blow, under a sword maybe." He watched as the younger man did it, and smiled.
"Your form stinks. Do it again and I'll help you correct it." He waited, then moved a limb and
unlocked a knee, physically moving him the way he wanted him to go. "Okay, and again."
Ritchie did it again, the way he had been moved. "Much better. Your balance is still lacking
though. Maybe some balance work later today." He walked in front of him. "Slow now, lunge at
my chest." He sidestepped the blade at the last minute and again had him repeat it so he could
adjust all the little tiny faults he saw in the otherwise perfect form. "Good." He looked at the
clock on the wall. "Breakfast or do you want to continue?"

Ritchie's stomach answered for him. "Food, please," he said, trying to appease the empty hole in
the middle of him.

"Food it is then." He led the way back out into the kitchen, pulling out various ingredients.
"Omelets all right?"

"Definitely." He sat down and watched the carefully choreographed movements the older man
made, every moment a symphony of skilled movement. He hummed as he took a bite,
encouraged that he was in the hands of a great cook. "Good," he said with his mouth full.

Methos handed over a napkin. "I would hope so." He smiled and shook his head. "So, after
you've chewed of course, what should we do today?"

Ritchie swallowed quickly. "Teach me how to make these?" he begged. Methos laughed, but he
was serious. "Please? You do this so well. Well, you do everything really well or at least better
than me."

Methos took the warm hand, pulling him up. "It's not that hard. It's a matter of mixing the
ingredients in the right strengths and getting the pan to the right temperature." He showed him,
letting him do all the work. Soon, there was another omelet made and they split it. "See, not a
hard task." He took a bite and smiled. "I still say that was too much cheese."

"Ah, but cheese is good for you." He pointed his fork at the older immortal. "After all, even we
need our calcium so we have strong bones."

"Very true," Methos said. "Eat before it gets cold." He watched in fascination as the younger
man tore into the meal like he hadn't eaten in days. He shook his head at the energy and life of
youth before going back to his meal.

They did the dishes together, washing and drying in unison like they had done this before many
times. Methos silently contemplated the compatibility they shared; even now as they cleaned up
their breakfast mess they were working like an old married couple. That thought shot happy
feelings down his entire body, making him groan in his head. Surely it couldn't mean that.


Methos corrected the same problem again on the younger man, but it just wasn't sticking. "Do
you have an aversion to stepping out on your other foot?" he asked pointedly when it happened
again. "If you do, I do need to know that." They had been working now for hours, Ritchie doing
the moves while he judged and corrected.

The younger man shook his head. "Sorry. I'm trying but it's not sinking in yet." He sat down on
the mat. "Break?"

"Leg or arm?" Methos said dryly, sitting down next to him. "You've done very well today, up
until this. Is this something he taught you?"

Ritchie thought about it. "No, not really. It's something I picked up from a movie and showed
him, making him snort in derision of course." He shook his head. "Good movie and it looked
good on screen so I tried it."

"Ah, then you're stuck on it to show that it does work but you don't have to do that around me. I
know it works. I know the person that invented it. He used to kick my ankle when I did it wrong
and make me do it again while my ankle mended." He smiled. "We'll come back to it later."

Ritchie nodded. "Thanks for helping me like this. I never knew I was doing everything so

"Not wrong, just a little off balance or off center. You do well enough for a novice, but to beat an
old pro like myself or your other teacher you need to be able to do better." He tapped Ritchie's
forehead. "In here is the most important tool of all. Your street upbringing gives you a special
outlook on fighting that's not easily duplicated by anyone else. Use it and you won't lose unless
you come up against someone much better with a similar background."

Ritchie sighed. "Yeah, it's worked well so far. There's been a few close calls though. I've seen
some hellacious fighters and got scared then mad then lost it. A few times I even ran."

"Leaving a fight is honorable, running away isn't. Know the difference and you'll do much better
and have a better reputation among our kind. And those with good reputations as good men and
good fighters aren't usually sought until they put themselves in the spotlight." He stood up and
held out a hand, waiting for Ritchie to take it. When he did, he pulled the younger man up and
spun him around so he was facing the mirrors. "In that large piece of glass is the one person you
can always count on. I and Mac may die but while you keep your head, you're all you ever need
to survive." The younger man nodded, blushing. Methos checked their positions, his hands on the
younger man's shoulder, his body not pressed too tightly. Nothing for him to blush about.
"What's wrong?" he asked finally.

"Nothing." He moved a step away and turned around. "So, back to making me better?"

Methos looked him over, seeing the cause of his embarrassment. "If you want. Or we could go
shower and eat and vegetate. Your choice." He would give him the chance to save face and take
care of the considerable growing bulge without needing to mention it.

Ritchie moved back into fighting position, the one he had just been in. "Just a few more minutes
then I'll go shower." He looked over his shoulder. "Please?"

"Definitely." Methos moved up behind him and adjusted the one foot that wasn't co-operating.
"Now then, don't make me break your ankle next time." He scowled semi-fiercely. Ritchie
laughed and did it right this time, only a little wobble from the unaccustomed footing. "Good,
very good. Now I stink and you don't smell much better so lets go take care of that, shall we?"
He walked out, watching Ritchie smile in the mirror at his back.


They were sitting on the couch, enjoying the primetime UPN lineup when the phone rang.
Methos reached across the back of the couch and grabbed it. "Hello?" The growl at the other end
made him turn it over. "For you."

"Hey Mac," Ritchie said. "Are you all right?"

"He's dead and gone, but you know that. What are you doing?"

"Polluting my mind with UPN stuff."

Methos snorted. "Are not. I've met one like him. An interesting person to say the least."

Ritchie shook his head. "We're watching TV. What're you doing?"

"Watching you." The line went dead.

"He's stalking us now," he said, hanging up.

"And his quickening didn't tell us that?" Methos smiled and turned slightly so Mac couldn't see
his face. "How do you want to play this?"

"I don't know. I don't even know how we're supposed to be breaking him of this."

"Easy, we break the obsession." He shrugged. "Not a hard concept really. We have to show him
that his delusion is a fantasy and that all the hype he's built around you in his mind isn't really

The younger man frowned. "Thanks a lot." He crossed his arms. "How?"

"It wasn't meant like that, you know that." He touched Ritchie's arm, thrilling at the small spark
of quickening flowing between them. "I leave it up to you on how to tarnish your image." He sat
back and watched some more of the program. "We should write in to them, there's no way he
could hide his gifts that well for so long. Those zones, as they call them, are difficult to hide and
he's always giving clues to Forensics, even when he can't justify finding them."

Ritchie shook his head. "You know, sometimes you're like a little kid with a toy and sometimes
you're this wise old guy." He grinned. "And the rest you're just a smart ass."

Methos laughed. "We're all entitled to our opinions." He patted the back of the younger man's
hand. "How do we show the demented one that you're not the man he thought you were?"

Ritchie thought up idea after idea, but discarded each quickly as it would require advanced
planning. He finally found one that would work well, right then, and implemented it.

Methos pulled back from the kiss, shock and joy flowing through his expressive eyes. "I guess
that's one way, but I'm not sure he saw." He smiled briefly then came back down slowly, giving
Ritchie the time to back away. Their lips met, their quickenings met, and it sounded to both of
them like the world was exploding.

Ritchie pulled back, small smile in place. "So that's what they mean by that." He looked around.
"Or maybe not. Didn't the door used to be up?"

Methos grabbed his sword and jumped up, using his quickening to find the intruder. He searched
all over the house, keeping the younger immortal's in the back of his mind at all time. When he
didn't find anyone or anything else broken, he came back to the living room. "He's not here. Must
have knocked the door down and ran." He sat back down on the couch but kept his sword in his
lap. "That was an interesting idea. Was it only that? Or was I the only one feeling anything?"

"Me? Nah. I'm not the ideas person in this grouping." He waved a hand between them. "I'm the
street tough punk that needs a firm guiding hand to grow up right." He winked.

Methos smiled, all the tension gone now that he had heard an affirmation that it wasn't just a one
time thing. "Good." He leaned back. "Guess I should go fix the door, the neighbors are very
picky about things like that."

Ritchie got up and set it back in place using the duct tape he found in a drawer. "There, solid
enough for tonight. I'll help you fix it in the morning." He came back to the couch and sat down,
just a little closer this time.

Methos noticed his hesitation and pulled him in closer, letting him rest his head on the firm
shoulder offered. "Get comfortable, I like the next show." He turned up the TV and settled down
to watch some major bad guys get their butts kicked.

The End.