Indestructible

The Holyground Highlander Forum Midweek Challenge

Archivist’s Note: The stories and vignettes offered here from various Holyground Forumlanders have not been edited or changed other than having a spell-check performed and being reformatted for this website.

Contents

The Challenge by Leah CWPack
Clansman by Ysanne
Backpedaling by Wain
Left Field of Dreams by Leah CWPack
Hammer and Anvil by MacNairCDC
The Anniversary by underdog MacViking
What Matters Most by Daire
And Now, For Something Completely Different by Leah CWPack
Kell’s Demise by LA-LA Lander

MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: INDESTRUCTIBLE

Posted By: Leah CWPack <bizarro7@aol.com>
(IP: kcecfp02.sprint.com)
Date:
Wednesday, 14 March 2001, at 10:06 a.m.

Your assignment, should you decide to participate:

Write a SHORT surprise alternative ending to the movie HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME. The further your concept comes from out in left field, the better.

The only requirement: You MUST use at least 2 lines from the lyrics of the popular song below (they don't have to appear together within your narrative).

REMINDER: If you want your entry to be archived at the MWC website, remember to put the prefix "MWC:" on the subject line of your posting!

Good luck.

KRYPTONITE

I took a walk around the world to
ease my troubled mind
I left my body lying somewhere
in the sands of time
I watched the world float to the dark
side of the moon
I feel there is nothing I can do, yeah

I watched the world float to the
dark side of the moon
After all I knew it had to be something
to do with you
I don't really mind what happens now and then
As long as you'll be my friend at the end

If I go crazy then will you still
call me Superman
If I'm alive and well, will you be
there holding my hand
I'll keep you be my side with
my superhuman might
Kryptonite

You called my strong, you called my weak,
but still your secrets I will keep
You took for granted all the times I
never let you down
You stumbled in and bumped your head, if
not for me then you would be dead
I picked you up and put you back
on solid ground

If I go crazy then will you still
call me Superman
If I'm alive and well, will you be
there holding my hand
I'll keep you by my side with my
superhuman might
Kryptonite

If I go crazy then will you still
call me Superman
If I'm alive and well, will you be
there holding my hand
I'll keep you by my side with my
superhuman might
Kryptonite

Yeah!

If I go crazy then will you still
call me Superman
If I'm alive and well, will you be
there holding my hand
I'll keep you by my side with my
superhuman might
Kryptonite

If I go crazy then will you still
call me Superman
If I'm alive and well, will you be
there holding my hand
I'll keep you on my side with my
superhuman might
Kryptonite

(by Three Doors Down)

MWC -- Clansman

Posted By: Ysanne
(IP: dhcp065-024-105-229.columbus.rr.com)
Date:
Thursday, 15 March 2001, at 12:00 p.m.

"Mac, wake up. Wake up!"

MacLeod heard the words from a distance and swam toward them through a disorienting fog of dreams and visions. It was cold in this dream-world, and dark. Ragged wisps of thought drifted through his mind. Fleeting images of severed heads and explosions of power flashed behind his closed eyelids, and the heads wore the faces of friends: Bryan, Ingrid, Richie, Methos. I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon, he thought, shivering, and something evil waited for me in the shadows.

"Mac, you hear me? Are you awake?"

The voice was closer now, and familiar, though MacLeod could not match a face with the voice. No matter; the words held warm concern and he was very cold, so he struggled to reach their source. Vague fears brushed through him like ghostly visitations as he made his way back.

"Come on, Mac, wake up. You think he's okay?"

The question seemed to be directed at someone else, but MacLeod considered it. Was he okay? He did not seem to be anything near okay, now that he thought about it. His arms and back ached, his belly and chest felt as though he had gone several rounds too many with a heavyweight champ, and he just couldn't manage to open his eyes. Furthermore, his head was pounding fiercely. Immortals do not get headaches, he reminded himself, but the pain remained. He moved his limbs experimentally, and groaned as muscles protested.

"I think he's coming around! Mac, open your eyes," pleaded the voice, even nearer than before.

The concern in the voice warmed MacLeod like a blanket, and he turned toward it, away from the unsettling darkness. He battled with his heavy eyelids and won a minor skirmish, lifting them enough to let a sliver of gray light in. He tried asking a question, but his vocal cords seemed to be on strike, and it came out as a wordless moan. Who are you, he asked the voice silently; what happened to me?

"It's okay, you're okay. Just rest a little longer and we'll get you out of here."

Relief colored the voice, and MacLeod wondered anew who this kindly person was. He felt the touch of a hand on his cheek and his shoulder, and tried out a smile of thanks, squinting into the dimness that filtered through his slitted eyes.

"God, look at you," mourned the voice, "your clothes are cut to ribbons. Oh, Mac."

The hand petted his right shoulder and squeezed his upper arm, and MacLeod's dark, bloody visions retreated with every human touch. He felt safer now, and his body was feeling more like his own. He realized that he was lying on wet, freezing metal. There was the stench of spilt blood, and the tang of ozone in the air. A quickening? His breathing deepened and his expanding lungs stabbed pain through his chest. Chest wounds, he thought, but they're healing.

"Can you open your eyes, now, Mac? Come on, buddy, we've gotta get you out of here. Try sitting up; I'll help."

Strong, wiry arms surrounded him and heaved him to a slumped, half-sitting position, MacLeod cooperating as best he could. He tried again to force his eyes open, with more success. He coughed painfully and clutched his belly; wounded there, too, he realized, but also healing. He squinted at the person holding him up, wanting very much to understand just who this angel of mercy could be. He registered the shape of a man before his eyes rebelled and closed again.

"Good, that's good. You're doin' better now. Can you talk? Mac?"

He was shaken gently when he began to drift into the darkness again. MacLeod licked his lips, tasting salt, and cleared his throat.

"Who...?" he began hoarsely, but was interrupted by another bout of coughing.

"Who was it? Jacob Kell, remember? You did it, Mac. You won. We think that the quickening killed you and that's why you're taking so long to heal. I came as soon as I got Joe’s message, but the whole thing was almost over by then."

Memories were aligning themselves in his mind, now, with Jacob Kell's leering face the clearest one. He jerked in the supporting arms, muscle memory reliving the satisfying beheading stroke, then he sagged in relief. Kell was dead. Kell had done something unspeakable, but he was dead. What had Kell done to cause such rage in him? MacLeod pushed himself away from the embracing arms as his strength slowly began to return. He rubbed his eyes awkwardly with his fists, then turned toward his companion, desperately wanting answers to questions he was afraid to ask.

"Let's get out of here, Mac, please. Methos is bringing the car, but you'll have to walk down to the street. I'll help you, come on."

Strong hands pulled him up to stand on shaky legs, and a hard arm wrapped around his waist. His own long arm was pulled around sturdy shoulders. Panic flared through MacLeod and he balked.

"No! My...my..." his words faltered, but his hand and arm shaped the hilt and swing of a sword.

"Joe has the katana, don't worry. He's waiting for us downstairs. We wouldn't leave your sword. Can you walk?"

MacLeod nodded, and they two men lurched toward the stairs.

"Feeling better?" his helpful friend asked, his voice a bit strained with the effort of supporting half of Mac's weight.

"Yeah," Mac answered, realizing it was true.

His chest and belly felt less painful, and he could breathe more deeply. The headache was fading, and his vision was clearing. His mental confusion was clearing, too. He glanced at the man pressed close to his side, and recognition flooded back.

"Richie!"

The red-haired Immortal flashed a wry grin up at him. "Didn't think you knew it was me for a while. God, Mac, you scared the sh*t out of us, you know? We couldn't even get near you -- that was one h*ll of a quickening. Then when we got there, you were totally gone. Took forever for you to come back."

"Feel like I've been dead and buried for a week," groaned MacLeod as they negotiated the last flight of stairs.

"Methos said you'd be okay, but Joe and I wondered, just a little. Should've known the old timer was right."

“Had a terrible dream, Rich. Thought I’d killed you. It was so real, with demons and swords, and…your head falling....Methos, too. We fought. Horrible.”

“No, Mac. It wasn’t me,” Rich said quietly, a disturbing note in his voice, “or Methos either. Don’t think about it right now.”

MacLeod was able to take some of his weight off the younger man's shoulders as they left the building. He watched the car pulling up outside, and recognized the two solemn-faced men in it. He felt a pang of love and gratitude, but as he got to the front fender, another memory crashed over him like an angry ocean wave. He stumbled, losing his mooring, and Richie was unable to catch him before he fell. He wrapped his arms around his chest, as if he could hold together the pieces of his broken heart. Words he had spoken long ago echoed in his memory: “As long as you’ll be my friend at the end,” he had said to his mentor, “then we can face the Gathering together.” How naďve he had been, how full of hubris, how sure of his own ability to make the world spin in the right direction.

"Mac! What is it?"

Rich leaned over him anxiously as Methos and Joe hurried out of the car to join them. In that dark, hollow place inside himself, MacLeod heard the murmur of their worried voices, and dragged himself from the edge of despair. He managed to look up at them, all good friends in their varied ways. They would know. No need to explain. He swallowed and mouthed the name.

“Connor. It was Connor I killed.”

He saw it in their faces: Rich’s eyes filling with unshed tears, Joe’s weathered face wearing a look of weary understanding, Methos’ empathy shining through his cool façade. They knew, each in their own way. No need to explain.

MacLeod let them help him to his feet and into the car; he wouldn’t push them away again. Was needing other people his fatal weakness? Perhaps, but he couldn’t find it in himself to resist the pull of friendship again. The raw emptiness in him that yearned for comfort also existed in some degree in each of these three men who loved him –- in all of his friends -- maybe he could ease their pain as they tried to ease his. Connor had been so isolated in his hopeless anger and guilt that he had given up on life, turned away even from the brother of his heart. Duncan would not make the same mistake. Your last lesson to me, Connor, he thought sadly, but one that you couldn’t learn yourself.

“I think I might need some help with the, with his....with Connor’s burial,” he admitted, offering up his fearful solitude on the altar of friendship as Methos began to drive through the black streets. He closed his eyes and leaned back wearily, savoring the solid bulk of Joe’s shoulder against his, and the familiar timbre of the three voices that answered.

*** several weeks later ***

The wake for Connor was still going strong, but Duncan had slipped away from the raucous, good-natured retelling of stories and making toasts to the elder Highlander’s memory. He stood on the balcony of his hotel suite and looked out over the lights of London, grateful for the coolness of the night. There had been a cool wind blowing through the mountains when they had laid Connor to rest with his beloved Heather. Duncan had bought a headstone, but there had been no funeral or graveside service. It didn’t seem necessary since Connor was not really there; what essence of the man remained now lived in Duncan.

Instead, he had planned this wake with the help of his friends, and the mortals and Immortals inside were honoring Connor’s memory in a way that the man would have found both amusing and touching, or so Duncan hoped.

He lifted his glass in a last, private toast to the clansman he had held so dear, picturing Connor in his many incarnations over the past centuries, ending with the intimate, affectionate smile when Duncan had finally said, “I love you, Connor,” before the fatal sword stroke.

“I hope you found peace, my friend,” he murmured, draining the glass.

MacLeod turned, opened the sliding glass door, and stepped back into the rich, warm welter of laughter and tears that defined life for him.

Ysanne (Honestly, Wain, I wrote this before reading yours!)

MWC: Backpedaling

Posted By: Wain, hoping you meant it when you said "out of left field"! <wamba@fast.net>
(IP: maxtnt02-134.abepa.fast.net)
Date:
Thursday, 15 March 2001, at 10:56 a.m.

Duncan MacLeod turned away from the small granite headstone and began to retrace his steps with leaden feet. He had wished Connor peace but knew that he himself would never find it.

"Kinslayer," he accused himself. The biting winter wind tore the word from his lips and carried it away. They had been a clan of two; now Duncan was alone. To whom would he pay the blood price for Connor’s death? His lungs labored in the thin Highland air; his legs slowed their pace. He had hardly slept since losing Connor. Exhaustion overwhelmed him and drove him to stop. Duncan sunk to the ground, fighting sleep; sleep was when the nightmares came.

Curled in the lee side of a boulder, with nothing but scrubby grass for his pillow, Duncan lost his battle and slipped into a fitful, haunted sleep. It was darkest night in his dream as he stood once again on a rooftop in New York City, Connor’s face lit garishly by billboard lights, the two of them locked in a deadly, steely embrace as Connor skillfully manipulated Duncan into the unstoppable move. Once again the teacher, Connor smiled encouragement even as his head came away from his shoulders. As Connor’s essence shook and tore at Duncan’s soul in the dreadful maelstrom that was his quickening, Duncan had tried to keen his teacher’s name to the heavens to mark his passing, but felt as if Connor himself stopped him from doing so.

The rooftop twisted crazily and Duncan suddenly found himself struggling desperately with Jacob Kell. He felt the shape-shifting warp-spasm of ancient Celtic lore seize him and remake him. Connor fighting against him, Connor with him, Connor become him, Duncan’s frame pulled and strained and assumed a power and likeness that were more than he could be, and his katana shrieked through the night air and ended Kell’s life.

In the wake of Kell’s quickening, Connor was truly gone, and Duncan felt more alone than he had in his four centuries of life. He opened his mouth to sound Connor’s death wail, but lacked the strength even for that.

The pounding of ocean waves startled him to his feet; the sky was the pearly gray that comes before dawn.

Connor’s voice sounded behind Duncan and to the right. "Duncan, you’re drowning in a sea of sorrow. Before it swallows you, swallow it. Drink it down."

Duncan licked the salt spray from his lips. "It tastes like tears." He turned his head to one side and another. Connor was nowhere in sight.

Connor’s voice came from overhead. "Then gather it up inside you and wrap it in a thin skin of hope. Little by little, it will drain away. Let yourself grieve, Duncan."

Duncan turned to look for Connor. The sky lightened, and he stood in a desert in the golden pink light of dawn. The sand was soft and powdery under his feet and still cold from the night. He spared a thought for his shoes. Where had he lost them? Sandy peach and lavender ripples stretched to the impossibly tilted horizon, where a brighter aurora marked the place the sun would appear. Over the rise of a sand dune, Connor appeared. Duncan ran to him and embraced him, but Connor’s body vanished like a wraith, leaving a macabre sight—his disembodied head staring Duncan in the eyes.

"I left my body lying somewhere in the sands of time," Connor tried to explain. Duncan took two startled steps backward, then gathered the courage to accuse his teacher.

"You had no right, Connor. I never wanted this; you forced it on me," Duncan’s voice grated.

A dark red line welled up at the base of Connor’s throat and fell as a single drop of blood on the morning sands. "Would you have really understood? Forgive me, Duncan, and forgive yourself, too." Connor nodded a benediction, and then he was gone.

Duncan spun around, scanning the desolate landscape, and was blinded as a shaft of sunlight pushed its way over the horizon. The sound of rain assailed him. He fell to his knees, threw back his head, and released his grief over Connor’s death in a great keening wail.

Duncan jerked awake. He catalogued the sights around him: his own bed; another double bed nearby, obviously slept in; a metal towel rack near a bathroom door; a small refrigerator; a bureau; a door fitted with a security chain and a small framed notice—a hotel room. A flicker of light caught his eye. There was a television, turned on but with the volume lowered, in the corner of the room. He watched as the last few moments of an infomercial starring Victoria Principal wound to a close; a morning news show began, marked the hour as six o’clock. George W. Bush stood behind a podium, speaking and waving.

The sound of water in the shower drew Duncan’s attention back to the bathroom. He rolled over and reached just under the bed; he was relieved to find his katana there. The carvings on the ivory handle fitted precisely the palm of his hand. He arose from the bed and opened the bathroom door.

Steam billowed from behind the glass shower door. The faucets squeaked, and the water abruptly stopped. Duncan tightened the grip on his sword, which was hanging at his right thigh.

"Madainn mhath dhuibh, a Dhonnchaidh," Connor said as he slid back the shower door, grabbed a towel, and wrapped it around his waist. "I was wondering when you’d get up. Hurry up, or we’ll be late." Duncan froze.

"Are you looking for something," Connor eyed the katana, "or someone?"

Duncan’s mouth opened and closed before he could speak. "No. I thought I missed your funeral."

Connor laughed and spluttered, "What?"

Duncan’s Adam’s apple convulsed, and a deep, guttural sound started in his throat, but the Connor’s name died a-borning. Duncan embraced his kinsman, whose body was reassuringly substantial and with drops of water still clinging to his back. The katana clattered to the bathroom floor.

Connor put his hands on Duncan’s shoulders for a moment and looked at him with concern. He picked up the katana and a second towel, and began wiping the blade dry as he crossed the hotel room.

"You look like hell. Did you have a rough night?" Connor indicated the bed Duncan had slept in, one pillow and the comforter on the floor, the sheets a tangled heap. "I shouldn’t have left you two at the bar so late. I thought I heard something at around three. Let me guess: you stumbled in and bumped your head. You know, if not for me you would be dead. Richie would kill you if we missed his first race today."

Duncan stood mute, holding himself up against the bathroom doorframe.

Connor placed the katana carefully on a table and began to tousle his hair dry with the towel. He glanced at the alarm clock on the nightstand before continuing, "Listen, I talked to the night clerk, and the restaurant opens at six thirty. If we hurry, we can eat here before we go. And I got directions, too."

Connor picked up a map with a route highlighted in yellow. "We go left on the road by the parking lot and when the road divides, we take the south fork and then Route 35 into Dallas."

He stopped talking and put the map down. He picked up a ponytail holder from the table and sent it flying across the room to hit Duncan squarely in the chest.

Connor said impatiently, "Duncan, what’s the matter? Get in the shower."

Obediently, Duncan went into the bathroom and closed the door. He shed his briefs, stepped into the hot shower, and prepared to begin a new day.

MWC: Left Field of Dreams

Posted By: Leah CWPack <bizarro7@aol.com>
(IP: 208.24.179.208)
Date:
Friday, 16 March 2001, at 12:12 p.m.

Jacob Kell waited at the end of the sepulchral hallway, anticipation making his blood sing.

He felt the buzz, knew one of his own kind was approaching. He was simply curious to know which of the MacLeods would appear in the doorway. It didn't matter much. Either it would be the idealistic younger one, and Connor would lose yet another of the ones he loved, or it would be the original Highlander himself, and Kell would toy with him again, to leave him alive and in torment.

It was with some surprise that he realized that the slight figure that appeared in the doorway was neither.

"Jacob Kell," said the young woman, her long skirt making eddies in the mist as she strolled forward. Her footsteps were so light that he scarcely heard their echo.

His face twisted in chagrin. "Who the hell are you? Where is MacLeod?"

"I've beaten him here. I imagine he'll be along, eventually." She drew her sword from the folds of the skirt and stood her ground, silhouetted in the light of the doorway. "Of course, by then it will be all over."

Kell laughed uproariously. "You?! You're going to kill me, for MacLeod? Surely you are joking!"

She canted her head to one side. "No wonder the wallpaper here is in shreds. You've chewed all of it up."

Rage flared Kell's nostrils. He strode forward. "Quite all right. I could use a little 'snack' to raise my count to 667 while I wait for the Scotsma...."

Jacob Kell's blustering tirade was abruptly cut short as an enormous grand piano landed on top of him with a deafening crash. It smashed him to the stone floor, leaving only his head and shoulders visible.

As the dust and debris settled, the woman strolled over and stared down. Kell groaned. "Stumbled in and bumped your head?" she remarked casually. "I'd pick you up and put you back on solid ground, but I hear you have no conscience about whacking your opponents when they're pinned, so I won't hold you to a higher standard." She raised her sword and took aim.

"Who are you?" Kell gasped weakly.

"Claudia Jardine. Think of me as...part of the MacLeod 'posse'." She punctuated her shrug with a quick swing. Kell's head rolled away and the Quickening began.

When it was over, Claudia straightened amidst the ruins of the building and brushed off her clothing. "You learn to fight with the tools you know best," she murmured.

"Best lesson you ever taught me, Duncan. That, and learn to get by with a little help from your friends." Humming a little Lennon and McCartney, she returned her sword to its hiding place and strolled away.

MWC -- Hammer and Anvil

Posted By: MacNairCDC
(IP: pdx1-2-87.transport.com)
Date:
Friday, 16 March 2001, at 3:04 a.m.

He shouldn’t have felt the cold. The long sleeve shirt was silk and the nights lovemaking was fresh in his blood. So where did this chill that permeated his heart come from? The glimmer of Christmas tree lights winked in his peripheral vision and the JVC sign glared from behind him.

Connor MacLeod was on the roof, illuminated by orange neon and drawing his focus as if he stood in a tunnel. He looked terrible; hair awry, his eyes black-rimmed and weary.

I knew it had something to do with you, Duncan thought. All of the events of the week revolved around his elder clansman. Why is he waiting up here for me? There was a sinking feeling of dread coiling in the pit of his stomach before even a word had been spoken. He drew close, boots scraping and shifting on the rolled roofing of the building, until he could see his kinsman’s face. Exhaust mist drifted around them.

“We’ve lived many lives, you and I. We’ve seen things most people could never understand,” Connor said. His voice sounded hollow, devoid of emotion and brittle as bird’s wings. He was hunched, pinched in both expression and body language, as if cringing back from something terrible. “But now … what do you see?”

“I see someone who would never kill an unarmed man.” Duncan paused, knowing he needed to speak the truth plainly. Always the truth between Clan. “I also see someone who has lost hope.”

“Life brings hope and pain … but revenge never brings redemption.”

Duncan felt the first stir of alarm, sensed his own soul shrinking back from the unimaginable and knew he had not moved. The ivory handle of the katana felt as solid as ever … fraught with untold peril and unshed blood. Not this, his mind spoke. Not ever this.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

On another rooftop, leaning against the waist high perimeter wall, the Watcher shifted his position and adjusted the lenses over his eyes. Night vision scopes from 250 yards away were handy for fieldwork and even better when modified into a headset that left his hands free to write.

Yeah, so sometimes my penmanship is lacking. He could decipher his own scrawl and that was all that counted until he typed up the notes to be filed as a report. Besides, he didn’t want his notebook to fall into anyone else’s hands and be sifted for clues.

The Highlanders were squaring off? Unbelievable! This would be quite the sight to watch: the younger Scot with all of his martial arts skill against the street fighter in the elder man. And how would the older immortal fare when he had been drugged into oblivion for the last ten years?

The pose of the immortals, their different styles of Chinese and Japanese, were strong. A ying and yang balance. The Watcher felt a thrill run up his back as the clash of swords began.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This wasn’t happening.

“I won’t fight you! I’ll never fight you!”

Could not be happening.

“Are you out of your mind?!”

To slay his mentor and kinsman?

The sword hilt that dislocated his jaw and the cut of steel across his chest kept Duncan moving, pressing him unwillingly into the fray. And Connor kept coming, eyes burning, features closed to all but his goal. Duncan countered and parried and back-pedaled to no avail, scrambling away across the rooftop from a friend turned foe. This could not be happening. This was not the brother he knew.

Two days ago the older Scot could not lift a blade, but tonight he was powered by superhuman might. It was only Duncan’s lightning speed that finally brought him down, cut across flank and spine. The dark immortal spun for the killing blow and drew a breath before the act … and in the pause, he considered again this wretched course.

“I can’t.” A beat of his heart. “Our bonds are all that hold us in this world, Connor. Don’t break this one. Please -- don’t break this one.” Please, please, for the love of God, don’t break this one. He turned to leave the field of combat, heard the hoarse cry behind him and then, terrifyingly, the steel was around his neck, trapping his blade.

“No, Connor! Not like this! Stop! Connor, stop!  Not like this!” Pleading, shouting, whispering, begging, demanding -- all at once -- with all of his heart in his words.

“Duncan!” The elder man’s voice cut through his struggle and his pain, the voice of command, of solidity. A voice he had listened to for almost a decade in the Highlands. A voice on the phone in times of trouble. A voice he had missed the last ten years. Authority. The mentor. A friend. A clansman, beloved. It reached through all of Duncan’s confusion and struggle and stopped him, held him.

Lubb-dupp. The beat of his heart. They faced each other, inches away, in the trap of swords.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“My God, they’re deadlocked!” whispered the Watcher on the roof. He reached by habit of years and adjusted the focus on the headset, peering through the eerie green of night vision to examine the faces of the two immortals. “What the devil is that crisscross?”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Duncan.” His voice was gentle, leading, supporting, just as he had hundreds of years ago. The gray eyes were dark in the dimness, but Duncan could see the weight of nearly 500 years of living in them. Six lifetimes of life. “One of us has to die tonight…”

No, no, no, no, no—

“…And you know it.”

No, the barest whisper in his mind. Don’t ask me to do this. If you’ve ever loved me, ever cared for me, don’t ask this of me…

“Goodbye, Duncan, my true brother.”

Duncan sensed the strength shift in the hand that held the blade, recognized it somewhere deep in his bones where the training as an immortal rested. The decision had been made and there was nothing he could do. Without discussion, without debate, without preamble, Connor had chosen.

Only a second left before the action was set into motion. Barely enough time for Duncan to speak the only words he had left to give. A first gift and a last gift. The only one that counted at the threshold between life and death. “I love you, Connor.”

Connor smiled, the briefest quirk of his lips, and then the dragon swords were in motion…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The man on the rooftop did not have time for the expletive he would have used.

He shoved the headset off and threw the .308 rifle to his shoulder, mentally calculating the windage, trajectory, and bullet drop in an instant. The eyepiece had already been calibrated for a precise fast focus and the night vision sight caught his target in the crosshairs. He chose his point of impact and squeezed the trigger without altering the sight picture.

Pwifft! The rifle kicked, choked by the silencer. He didn’t even need to look to see if he had hit the mark.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The bullet took its target hard and high in the upper thoracic region, shattering through the ribs. True of most high caliber weaponry, the entrance wound was almost undetectable, but the exit wound tore a hole the size of a man’s hand. Connor coughed blood convulsively and with both lungs torn open, he was unable to draw the next breath. Dying on his feet, his hand reflexively opened on the sword hilt and he sank into the darkness reaching for him.

Duncan, fully in his sweeping turn, came around and felt the sword bite into flesh and bone, then skip into the clear. The body spun, broken, and went down in a heap at his feet. Duncan stared, horrified, at the crumpled Scot. He was still staring when the roof door slammed an instant later and the familiar odd gait of Joseph Dawson drew near.

“Cripes, Duncan!” the Watcher barked. “What were you going to do? Kill him?”

Yes, I was, his brain admitted, still seconds behind with the ability to think let alone speak.

“You clipped his skull!? You know how long those wounds take to heal?” Dawson turned to take in the shaken demeanor of his friend and changed tone. “It’s okay, Mac. We found out about the drugs and came right after him. I’m glad you got him cornered for us. He would have been hard to take down otherwise.”

“What?” Duncan said slowly.

“The medications they used on them in that Sanctuary campaign? Well, they’re nasty and that’s an understatement. We couldn’t figure out what the heck was going on until his watcher tipped us that he wasn’t using his usual MO. There’s nothing like using experimental drugs on people who can’t die of anything you shove in them. He needs some serious detox in a safe place.” He grumbled almost to himself: “geez, we’ll have to patch both the inside and the outside of his head now. Can you carry him?” Dawson was all business, bending over to examine the downed immortal. “He looks bad. We won’t even need to sedate him before we transport him.” The bearded man looked up at the stricken expression on Duncan’s face. “Mac? You okay?”

“I almost killed him.” His blood was draining straight to his feet.

“Yeah, well, we warned his Watcher to make sure he didn’t get whacked because of Lliam’s meddling. Pick him up -- we have to haul before he revives.” Dawson watched the younger Scot bend to grip his clansman, praising every God that existed that Connor’s Watcher had been swift enough to put him down in time. He led the way to the door, still talking. “We have an idea on how to deal with Kell since he’s gone awol from the rules. Adam has the plan, but wanted to run it by you first before revealing the whole thing. He said the Watchers will have to break a few rules, but, you know … what’s good for the goose and all that.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The Watcher on the rooftop sighed and put away the rifle, fitting it carefully into the padded case. Another successful job. He balanced the long package across his back as he made his way down the fire escape and jumped the last ten feet.

Dawson had both Highlanders in tow. For a man with no legs, the old Watcher sure managed to get where he was suppose to be and on time. The slender man in the dark clothing stretched, popping his shoulders and swinging his arms in circles to loosen up before scanning the empty street.

Midnight.

The hunting hour. He smiled, a fierce glint of teeth in an otherwise placid face. Kell was sequestered ten blocks away with a couple of girls and unaware of the near miss on the rooftop and what portent it held. Sightless of anything but his own injured ego, he had never learned to look beyond himself to something larger.

For all of his vengeance and bluster, it had never dawned on Kell that he had been allowed to be a plague for the last 400 years.

Oppression made immortals stronger or they died. Iron sharpened iron. For all the pounding upon an anvil, a solid piece did not swerve from its purpose. The game needed strong stubborn immortals to hold a protective line around the mortals and the MacLeods had a very specific placement in the grand game. Champions among their own kind.

Jacob Kell failed to see that he had been merely the hammer. A common tool, like a sharpening stone or uchiko ball, honing a blade for 400 years. His purpose was fulfilled. It was time he was retired.

Connor MacLeod had proven himself willing and capable of martyrdom in order to save all the rest. And Duncan, though tricked and badgered into it, was able to slay a kinsman and stand as the last line of defense against a presence that seemingly could not be stopped.

The Watcher walked the distance to compose himself and slipped catlike and silent into the building. It was fitting that the massive structure reminded him of a sepulcher. The women were awake and waiting in the foyer. He nodded to them in good humor as he passed off the bills with one hand.

“Jacob Kell,” he called as he entered the room, flipping open the long case and retrieving what he needed.

“You know me?” Kell demanded imperiously. “How do you know me?”

“Serendipitous for me,” the advancing man spoke congenially, “I knew of the Watchers long before you did.”

“You’re my Watcher?” he sneered, “now that is a pity! Who are you?” He drew his sword melodramatically and strode forward. “I should at least know your name before I kill you,” he called arrogantly.

The dark eyes changed to mere slits and the smile turned menacing. A persona, as if a body lying somewhere in the sands of time, awoke. “Oh, they call me lots of names. But for you,” he added with gentleness usually reserved for potent words, “I’m Death.”

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The report was sparse and typed as usual. Connor MacLeod had retreated to holy ground after an extensive period of drug rehabilitation including, and not limited to, a heavy regime of tranylcypromine to overturn ten years of medication abuse. The head priest held a doctorate in psychotherapy and thought nothing of the fact that several of his flock had ornate swords in their rooms. Headquarters sent Connor’s Watcher on an extended vacation until his immortal was ready to rejoin the game. They couldn’t predict when the elder Highlander would feel emotionally ready to leave his chosen refuge.

Kell’s Watcher reported that there had been a tremendous fight and explosion that brought down the entire building. No description of the immortal involved was available as he had not seen anyone enter the building. The report failed to mention the scantily clad women who had ‘helped’ him watch that evening. All they recovered of Kell were his head and shoes that were placed outside a collapsed wall as if a gift to prying eyes. The organization pulled their ranks a little tighter, launched some internal investigations and wondered how much the immortals really knew about the Watchers.

Dawson was cranky because he never got to hear the full of Methos’ plan to take out Jacob Kell … not that he was complaining too much. He just wanted to hear it.

Duncan spent extravagant hours of labor in NYC rebuilding a blasted hulk of a building so it would be ready when an old ghost reappeared to claim it. Adam Pierson assisted a little, but mostly told funny stories and critiqued the work. He chided Duncan about his worry for his kinsman.

“Your clansman would understand, MacLeod,” he twitted at the dirt begrimed Scot. “He was a blacksmith. Can you imagine that skinny boy was a smith? You trotted about being a Clanleader’s son, but he actually did some work.”

“Adam…” Duncan said warningly from the scaffolding. He swore as the pane of glass he was leveraging into place pinched his hand.

“The hammer is what gives out first in the working of iron, not the anvil. The anvil wears the hammers out, don’t you know? Your kinsman took a pounding over hundreds of years and never lost sight of the goal, his goal.”

“I almost killed him!”

“He would still tell you he was right. Even though he had lost himself, his cause was still right.”

“Shut up! Just shut up! I don’t want to hear any more about how I would be justified to have killed Connor! You just ran off to your grand digs and left us to deal with Kell!”

Adam eyed the stormy face of the Scot above him. You think so? You took for granted all the times I never let you down, he thought.

Duncan glared down from the height.  For a moment, they locked gazes: one very old and one only feeling that way. Duncan’s voice was weary when he finally spoke again. “I know.” He put the glass block down on the scaffold. “I know he would make the same choice again if it came down to the two of us. And I know where he would choose to have his quickening be held forever. I just want to get there intelligently. Not in desperation and trickery. In the end, it isn’t just to die … it’s to die well.”

There was no arguing that point. Methos hoisted his beer. “To dying well, although I prefer not dying at all.”

“So I’ve noticed,” came the chuckle from high above.

&&&&&&&&&&&&&&

MacNair

March 15, 2001

MWC..."The Anniversary"

Posted By: underdog MacViking
(IP: hutch-820.hutchtel.net)
Date:
Thursday, 15 March 2001, at 8:41 p.m.

The quickening was blinding. He had never seen one like it.
As the energy receded, he finally saw who the victor was.
NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!
---------------------------------------
He awoke with a start. The memories of the dream, nay the nightmare, were still fresh in his mind.
He looked at the clock. 6:00 am. Might as well get up and start the day.
It was a day he hated. It was the anniversary of his friends death.
The memory of that fateful day was still fresh in his mind, even though it had happened 5 years ago.
As he hopped in the shower, the lyrics to a popular song ran thru his brain.

" If I go crazy will you still call me Superman.

If I'm alive and well will you be there holding my hand."

If only that was true. He would give anything to have him back.
To be able to hug him. Talk to him.
If only.
He had to stop punishing himself. He knew the game. He knew the risks.
He would never get over losing a loved one.
He finished getting ready then left the hotel.
--------------------------------------
He stood before the tombstone and drank his surroundings.
He knew his friend, his clansman would have liked his final resting place.
He was home, on his clan land.
"It's been 5 years my friend and it still isn't easy. I still miss you so much. I know you are at peace. Goodbye my friend"
Then Connor turned and walked away.

MWC: What Matters Most

Posted By: Daire
(IP: cov-oh5a-188.rasserver.net)
Date:
Thursday, 15 March 2001, at 8:30 p.m.

~ This is based on the Theater Version, and the presumption that Kell killed Faith. And I'm sure my Gaelic is off. ~

What Matters Most

The Quickening coursed through Duncan's body, stronger than Connor's had been due to the sheer number of Quickenings Kell had taken.

Lightning struck his already battered body, sapping his strength further. He still bled from a number of cuts, which seemed on fire from the electricity shooting through him. It felt as though all the power of Kell's life force was pulling him in every direction and that he'd be pulled apart. He'd never been drawn and quartered, obviously, but he imagined this must be what if felt like.

When it was over, he lay there for a long time, hoping death or sleep would overtake him while his wounds healed. Finally, exhaustion overtook him and Duncan fell into a deep sleep.

~*~*~*~*~

His body was gone. Connor's body was gone. Duncan knew the Watchers worked quickly and had to have taken care of most of the headless bodies when they could, but he would have thought Dawson would have held them off. Joe knew the connection the MacLeod clansmen had and that Duncan would want to take care of Connor himself.

It enraged him that they would take away the one thing that mattered most in his life.

Before even thinking about going back to his hotel room to clean up and put on unshredded clothes, Duncan found a telephone and punched the number to Joe's cell phone.

"C'mon, pick up."

A sleep deprived voice answered. "Yeah? Dawson here."

"Where is he Joe?"

"Who?"

Who? "Who the hell do you think? Connor!"

"He's not where you left him? I told the New York Watchers to lay off this one. Honest, Mac."

"Well, he's not here now. Dammit, I can't lose him again." Duncan's voice had become almost a whisper.

"We'll find him Mac."

They hung up, and Duncan had nothing to do but get himself cleaned up. Wash off the dirty feeling he had from Kell's Quickening.

After showering, he sat on the couch waiting for Joe to show up. He was more tired than he thought, and closed his eyes for what he told himself would only be a few minutes.

When he opened his eyes, he saw Tessa standing in the middle of the room watching him. He had to be dreaming, he knew Tessa was gone, lost in the sands of time. He blinked a couple times, but she was still there. Kell's Quickening must have fried a few brain cells.

Duncan stared at her, unblinking. Waiting for her to either disappear or say something. He didn't have to wait long.

"You're not hallucinating, Duncan," the image said in Tessa's French accented voice.

"Tessa. What are you doing here?"

"They've let me come to tell you--"

"Tell me what?" he asked impatiently.

"Because you defeated Kell - evil incarnate - you have received a reward. All the evil Kell has done to you and Connor has been reversed. Within a reasonable past time period anyway."

He looked at her, confused. How was Kell evil incarnate? Evil, definitely. Incarnate, definitely. But together, wouldn't you need something symbolic of the evil?

"Yes," Tessa answered.

"You can read my thoughts?"

She smiled. "Only when they are spoken so loudly. As for a symbol, think numbers, Duncan. You'll put two and two together."

Numbers. Heads. He recounted the conversation with Joe and Methos on the dark, rainy street after they had liberated him from the Watchers' new Sanctuary.

Kell had 661 total confirmed heads taken as of that past week. He had to have taken Faith's and the others of his posse. He wouldn't have taken Faith's and not the others. Duncan still had the locket with him, he could see it sitting on the dresser. That meant Kell had taken Jin Ke, Faith, Cracker Bob, and the other two who's names he hadn't gotten.

Plus five - 666.

"Now you understand."

"Yes, but what do you mean by 'reversed'?" He had an inkling, but didn't dare hope too much. It meant that he still wouldn't have Tessa or Richie back.

As Tessa explained, he closed his eyes, letting it sink in. "Everything Kell has done to you and Connor in the last fifteen years has been cleared. It never happened; though you'll remember."

"I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon when I took Connor's head, I have to remember that?" Aside from when he lost Tessa and Richie, killing Connor was one of his darkest days.

"Unfortunately, that can't be erased. Someone has to remember; but all who are involved will remember that you killed Kell. You overcame evil, Duncan. Good always triumphs over evil--"

A knock on the hotel door startled Duncan, his eyes popped open. The room was empty; no Tessa. Perhaps he had been dreaming. A more insistent knock sounded, followed by a worried Scot's voice.

Connor? But Connor was dead.

He made his way to the door, slowly, while his visitor continued to rap on the door. Opening it, Duncan indeed faced his older clansman, his brother. Alive.

"Connor," he breathed.

"You look like hell, Duncan. Kell put you through a rough workout? Heh heh."

Duncan could only splutter incomplete words, still unbelieving that this was happening. He had taken Connor's head. Had felt the wrenching pain of taking his brother's head. Felt the loss. Felt the life force envelop and course through him. He still held Connor's memories even though the man stood before him. Would they fade or stay with him?

"Mind if I come in?" Without waiting for an invitation, Connor slipped past Duncan, who stood with the door open and watched as Connor took in the surroundings. "What's the matter with you? Look like you've seen a ghost."

Connor waved a hand in front of Duncan's face. "Hello? C'mon, you ready? Rachel and Brenda are waiting downstairs. We have dinner plans, remember?"

Closing the door, Duncan walked over and pulled his kinsman into a bear hug. "Mo grŕdh agam ort, Conchobar. Mo brŕthair."

The one thing that mattered most in his life had been returned.

3/15/01

MWC: And Now, For Something Completely Different

Posted By: Leah CWPack <bizarro7@aol.com>
(IP: kcecfp01.sprint.com)
Date:
Friday, 16 March 2001, at 4:11 p.m.

You can run, MacLeod, but you can't hide.

When he had defeated the younger Highlander a month before and left him lying on the catwalk, Kell had expected MacLeod to hunt him down. Instead, Duncan MacLeod had disappeared. It only took Kell a week of relentless pursuit to realize that MacLeod was leading him away from his own loved ones, to thwart Kell's plan to carry on the legacy of hate and punishment against the late Connor.

//He took a walk around the world, to ease his troubled mind.//

Kell didn't care. He knew from long experience that no Immortal could live in a vacuum. In his very flight, Duncan would need to touch base with those he knew, and tip off his enemy as to exactly who they were. He would leave a trail of death and agony behind him, as his predecessor had.

Starting here.

Jacob Kell strode up the steps of the hotel, his dark trench coat whipping in the breeze from the nearby seashore. Crossing the threshold, he approached the front desk and rang the bell.

"Hang on, I'll be right there," a voice sang out from the office beyond.

A few moments passed, and Kell hit the bell again impatiently.

"Hold on a bloody minute! Keep your blasted--AARRCGGHH!" The buzz hit both Kell and the tall man who emerged from the office simultaneously. The hotelier, however, seemed to be more profoundly affected. He doubled over and clutched at his temples, a grimace plastered on his mustached face. "My Gawd, it's another one of your lot! That's just what I need today. It isn't as if I already had a splitting migraine, no...I needed a ten pound sledgehammer--"

Kell reached across the counter and grabbed the man by his lapels, dragging him close until he was inches from the man's twitching face. "You will tell me who else of 'our lot' is here."

The man was wide-eyed with terror. "This is holy ground!" He sputtered. "I paid a lot of money to have it consecrated! Don't hurt me! Don't hurt me!"

"Just give me the name." Kell pushed the other man away. He staggered and grabbed for the register. "Here! Here...you can have him. He's out, anyhow...went off to Torquay on a walk. Can't stand the blasted haggis-eater anyway. He's the one who got me into all of this Immortality mess..."

Kell's eyebrow rose and his lip quirked. Here was his first victim, in the name of Duncan. "You were his student?"

"Regrettably yes. The name's Fawlty. Basil Fawlty." He straightened his tie, his fingers fumbling nervously. "This *consecrated* establishment is mine, thank you. If you wish to carry out any vendettas or any other sort of mischief or mayhem, kindly take it off the premises."

"Oh, I intend to," Kell purred with a sneer. "Outside. Now."

Fawlty looked as if he had been freeze-framed during an electrocution. His moustache finally twitched. "....what?"

"Step outside, Mr. Fawlty. I'm issuing you a challenge."

"AH! A shallenge!" A heavily-accented voice sounded from the doorway to the kitchen. "I get your sword, Meester Fawltee?"

Kell turned to stare at the toad like little man in the white waiter's jacket. He was emitting a buzz, but it was almost too weak to detect. A pre-Immortal. "Yes. Please fetch Mr. Fawlty's sword."

"NO!! Manuel, no sword!!!" Fawlty shrieked, gesturing wildly. "No espadrilla!!"

"Que?" The waiter blinked, bewildered.

"Espada," Kell kindly corrected, grinning.

"Ah! Si, espada! I get right away, Meester Fawltee." He scurried off into the kitchen.

"Oh my gawd," Fawlty nearly wept. "I'm going to die a shorter man with the cheerful help of an imported imbecile. Look, Mister--?"

"Kell. Jacob Kell."

"Look Mister Kell, isn't there some way we can put this off? I mean, I have a full house just now, and my guests would be royally ticked off if I
were to just up and abandon them just now."

"They'll be just fine." Kell grabbed Fawlty by the arm of his jacket and started to haul him out from behind the counter. "You have a capable staff,
I'm sure."

"Capable?! HAH!" Fawlty cackled in mindless terror. "You haven't met my wife Sybil, have you? A true basilisk of a woman. No Kimmie could ever be her equal. I really must introduce you, I'm sure you'll find her charming. In fact, the two of you might hit it right off..."

"Perhaps. She'll be a free woman, shortly."

"You'll have to catch me, first!!" Fawlty tore loose at the doorway and dashed back, fleeing toward the kitchen. Just as he plunged through the portal, Manuel came out.

"Meester Fawlty, wait! You forget your sword...!!!"

The tableau hung in the air like a ballet. Propelled by Fawlty's fleeing form, the waiter stumbled forward, holding a broadsword at in both hands at shoulder height...and drove the blade right through the neck of the pursuing Immortal.

Jacob Kell's head, bearing an extremely startled expression, rolled across the lobby. It landed at the feet of a pair of suede boots, eyes staring up at Duncan MacLeod.

"Oops," uttered Manuel.

MacLeod stared back, stunned. "Someone lose something?"

"He stumble een an bomped hees haid--" the hapless Spaniard babbled. Then he screamed as a bolt of lightning struck the man in the door and the entire hotel was engulfed in a maelstrom.

(This is a sequel of sorts, to my unnamed MWC entry from the "Build A Kimmie" Challenge, awhile back.)

MWC - Kell's demise...

Posted By: LA-LA lander <lalalander@hotmail.com>
(IP: w114.z206111078.lax-ca.dsl.cnc.net)
Date:
Thursday, 29 March 2001, at 8:34 p.m.

This is way past due, and frankly, at this point I don't even remember what the specific requirements for this challenge were, but this has been percolating for awhile so I thought I'd post it just for fun.

The Invincible Kell

Kell cursed under his breath. Who was this blasted immortal? For weeks someone had been dogging his steps, just barely within sensing range. Until now, no challenge had been issued. The timing could not be worse. After centuries of planning, he had finally revealed to Connor MacLeod that it was he, Kell, who had been Connor's tormentor down through the centuries. Oh, the magnificent, defeated look on Connor's face as he had lain in the dirt outside the Connecticut cemetery--a tormented, broken soul. The sheer joy of it was more than Kell would have asked for.

As an added bonus, now there was Connor's protégé, Duncan MacLeod, who seemed to mean so very much to Connor. Kell was sure there were some wonderful ways he could use this Duncan to create greater agony for Connor. He wasn't sure yet whether he would just kill Duncan while Connor watched, or torment them both for the next hundred years or so first. It was all so delicious.

If only it weren't for this mystery immortal hovering around, life would be perfect. The bugger had almost caused Kell to reveal himself to Connor too soon, before his plan was all in place. That would have been *most* unfortunate. Well, no matter; the bugger had finally issued a challenge and Kell would soon take his quickening and be done with him. His posse was off taking care of other matters, so Kell would enjoy dispatching with this pest himself.

He pulled his car into a space alongside a deserted warehouse in a dilapidated area of town. A perfect spot this fellow had chosen. They would not be disturbed here; the job could be done without drawing any unwanted attention. Kell would be out of here in time to make Faith prepare him dinner--he smiled a reptilian smile--and perhaps dessert. He could feel the other immortal's buzz as he entered the unlocked side door, and his steely eyes glowed with anticipation.

"I'm here!" Kell called out when he saw no one inside. "Show yourself! Or are you a coward?"

He wandered through a maze of huge pipes and equipment, growing more alert and cautious as he continued with no sign of the other.

"What's the matter, my dear fellow? You aren't afraid of little old me are you?" Kell called out with a sneer. Then, after several more minutes, "This is growing rather tiresome! Show yourself!"

All at once a burst of scalding steam jetted out of one of the pipes into Kell's face. For a moment he was disoriented, then quickly gripped his sword and moved ahead warily, blinking his stinging eyes furiously. He heard a clicking noise, and before he could react, a large air conditioning unit fell from above, taking Kell to the ground with it and pinning his left side under its weight.

A young, blond-haired boy came sheepishly into view from behind a tangle of pipes nearby. He looked down at Kell, first sad, then amused. He produced a sword and waved it around with a flair.

"What is the meaning of this?" Kell gasped irritatedly, struggling to breathe. "Where is the bastard who issued the challenge?!"

"That would be me, Mr. Kell, sir," said Kenny, looking down and picking at his tennis shoe with the tip of his sword.

"But...You're just a child!" Kell sputtered. "I am the most powerful immortal alive!"

"All the more reason for *me* to have your quickening." Kenny smiled an empty smile, his eyes glowing a frigid blue.

"I cannot be beaten by a child!" Kell used the half of his body that was unpinned to swing his sword furiously, reaching for Kenny with a grimace that made the veins in his neck bulge.

Kenny moved swiftly to the other side, where Kell's sword was blocked by the air conditioner that pinned him, and his head and neck lay exposed.

"Sorry, Mr. Kell," said Kenny innocently. Then, his face turned hard and 800 years of deceit and mistrust looked out of his narrowed eyes. "There can be only ONE, and it might as well be ME!" he cried out. He swung his small sword with all his might, and Kell's astonished face rolled across the floor.

The power of the quickening slammed into Kenny's small body, tossing him several yards into the air against a wall. His face became distorted, and he cried out in pain and triumph.

When the violent display finally ended, Kenny fell to his hands and knees, panting in exhaustion. As he slowly regained his strength and stood shakily, he glanced over at Kell's lifeless form a few yards away.

"Good-bye, Mr. Kell. I got a real charge out of meeting you," sneered the 800-year-old immortal with icy blue eyes.

Kenny bent and picked up his sword, stashing it deftly in his coat. Then, a blond-haired, blue-eyed, ten-year-old boy walked lightly across the warehouse and peered warily outside before running off down the deserted street.

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