In the Closet

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
Lost in the Closet by sinclair
Just in Time by Wain
The Invitation by bookmom
9-11 by Ghost Cat
For Your Own Good by Robin
Anomalous by Storie
The Birthday Surprise by SwingGirl MacSlow

MID-WEEK CHALLENGE: IN THE CLOSET

Posted By: Leah CWPack <bizarro7@aol.com>
Date:
Wednesday, 26 September 2001, at 5:48 p.m.

Blame Hayden & Sinclair for the return of the MWC.

Your challenge, should you decide to participate:

Write a short scene or story about one or more Immortals locked in a closet. Any mood or outcome (so to speak) may be utilized.

Remember: If you would like your entry to be archived with the rest of the MWC's, remember to put "MWC" in the subject line of your posting.

Good luck!

MWC Lost in the Closet...

Posted By: sinclair trying to catch Leah's attention <nfandrews@hotmail.com>
Date:
Thursday, 27 September 2001, at 1:32 a.m.

He drew in a deep breath. It surged into lungs that had been too long still. It burned and purged, white hot, burning cold. He felt it all the way down into his toes. His fingers trembled as they felt his face.

He was still here.

For some minutes he lay there in the dark, not thinking, simply breathing.

Then the thinking began again. This was the part he hated. He hated it when he began to know where he was again. He hated it when he realized what was to come. How long would he live this time, before he succumbed to the lack of water, the lack of food, the god awful lack of light?

Each time he tried, as a way of calming himself, to count off the seconds, to calculate the hours, and maybe the days but after the first few times he knew that he succumbed to madness and hallucinations long before the blessed release of Death, however temporary, folding him into her sweet scented arms.

He wished he had his sword, but it had been too bulky for the operation and so he had left it outside just for the few minutes he needed to accomplish his goal. Had it been with him, he would have taken his own head long since. He vowed then, as he did every time he revived, that next time he would never, ever be without it. Next time he would make that sword part of himself, an extension of his essential being. The vigor of his anger, directed at both himself and the world in general, had him on his feet.

He ran his fingers over the walls. He realized that he now knew every crevice, bump and corner of this damn closet, his tomb.

Next time, next time.

He realized that he was muttering to himself. Was the madness on him again so soon? That thought did disturb him. He knew that men went mad locked away in the darkness, forgotten.

But surely not he. No. Never. He would survive.

Yes! He would survive!

He went back to his searching just as he had done every single time before. Perhaps he had missed some crucial spot. He was sure of it, he just had to find it.

He had to find it. That was the only thing he had to keep him going. Just like every time before.
Just like every time before...

Suddenly he realized, like a flash of lightning, that was his problem.

He didn’t change his thinking! If he didn’t change, then nothing would. The only way to change his circumstances was to change himself.

It was as if a beam of sunlight had broken through the dark forest, lighting his way home. He felt blessed, anointed, like a saint in ecstasy. He found himself on his knees, hands clasped tightly in front of him. Tears, though where the moisture had come from for them, streamed down his cheeks.

He prayed then, not with words but with the deep yearning of his core, that part that had always survived. He knew then, that he was the one. It sent a great calmness through him. However he had to do it, whatever it took, he would survive. Now it mattered not if he took up his sword. It mattered not how strong his sword arm was. He no longer feared.

He was the One.

Hubert Chanon wandered along the moldering hall. The great house would soon fall down, its glory only a memory. He sighed as he kicked away the remnants of draperies.

Dust billowed. The mobs had carried away everything of value years ago, leaving nothing but the wan ghosts who seemed to hover just out of the line of his sight.

Hubert sighed. He had so many happy memories here.
Masques. Hunts. Giselle.

A vision of Giselle rose before his eyes. Ah, she, he had loved the best. She had been the one to teach him about love. He wiped a tear without even realizing it. She never knew how much he owed to her. How she had changed him.

Lost in his memories it took a few minutes for him take in the faint sound.
Gradually he realized. Down the hall there was a faint thudding. Ta dum, ta dum, like the beating of a heart. He walked towards it, wary but curious.

Then he felt it. The buzz. He drew his sword.

He entered the library. The empty shelves were an obscenity, but a small one after all the obscenities he had witnessed, especially in these revolutionary times.
He searched the room. Book cases leaned drunkenly, perfect hiding places for the foe. He proceeded cautiously, his ears and eyes honed by centuries of battle.

Finally, he located the source of the beat.

The priest hole. Necessary in past times but unused for at least a century before the house had been abandoned. He approached it. His hand and his sword out, as if he could not make up his mind which to use. The steady thump continued. Had the immortal inside gone mad? Or was this some trick to get him to let down his guard?

He thought for a moment. He knew that there was no latch on the inside of the hiding place so whoever had shut himself within would have had no way out. It was not the mark of a clever man to put himself at the mercy of whomever might find him. Or not.

Keeping his sword at the ready, he pressed the spot that unlocked the door and then stepped back quickly, ready for anything that might leap out. A body fell with the swinging of the door.

Blue eyes gazed up into his. The livid contusion that covered the prisoner of the closet’s forehead started to clear. One part of Hubert’s mind wondered just how long he had banged to get it into such a state.

The eyes were blank and then gradually focused.
“I am saved,” he rasped and then collapsed.

Hubert chuckled as he went down the stairs. This house was old, crooked and small. Nothing like the Great House. But that was fine, things changed.

God, how things changed. He even laughed. Who would have expected that out of the ashes of his past, Giselle !, would come the reason to live again.

She had loved him and shown him the wonder that came with loving.

Giselle would be proud of him.

He would have a son at last.

The poor lad, orphaned by the Terror, scavenging in the ruins, set upon by ruffians and left for dead in the Priest hole. Left for God knows how many years.

He did not know what he was.

But he, Hubert, would teach him. Because of Giselle.

He laughed again as he placed the tray on the humble table in the main room.

Kenneth! What a name for the son of Hubert Chanon, Chevalier.

MWC: Just in Time

Posted By: Wain, a little slow this week <wamba@fast.net>
Date:
Friday, 28 September 2001, at 4:04 p.m.

The roof of his mouth itched and his nose was running. As quickly and quietly as he could, he raised his index finger to his twitching upper lip and pressed hard. He remembered reading somewhere that enough pressure applied directly under the nose would stop a sneeze. Justin pressed until his lip cracked.

As far as Justin Weaver, Class of 2001, remembered, it wasn’t at the Watcher Academy that he had read about the way to stop a sneeze; he didn’t think it was part of the curriculum, but that day and night’s experiences had proven that there were a few things that weren’t covered in seminars and textbooks.

Like how to sit in a coach seat on a flight from Vancouver to Philadelphia and then on to Rome without having your legs falling asleep or causing damage to the more delicate parts of one’s sitting apparatus. His instructors had mentioned that Watchers shouldn’t move around much on flights if their Immortal was also flying; it would attract too much attention. Justin supposed it was too much to hope that his temporary assignment, Duncan MacLeod, would decide to fly back to Vancouver by coach so the Watcher could enjoy first class.

The rest of the day had been easy, even enjoyable. An on-time landing, a quick trip through customs, an exhilarating taxi trip through Rome with the cabby tipped extra up front to keep up with MacLeod’s cab.

Justin had been glad of the Academy’s quick and dirty guide to survival Italian for Watchers; he wasn’t sure how long it would have taken to work out "follow that cab, and step on it" in his mind. He had been glad of his expense account, too, not only for paying the cab driver but also when he followed MacLeod into a very expensive hotel, both men hefting carry-on bags.

Justin had watched—that’s what he was supposed to do, after all—and followed MacLeod at the Watcher-prescribed distance up to a hotel room, and had noted that the door his assignment knocked at had been opened by another Immortal, Amanda.

Justin had followed her and MacLeod for the rest of that day, occupying himself during the boring times by trying remember what he could about her. Beautiful, yes, but he already knew that. A sometime thief--a heist could be exciting to watch. Amanda was the one that the other Watcher cadets said owned a piece of crystal that had been of tremendous importance to the higher-ups in the organization. Snagging that crystal might just garner him some recognition.

There had been plenty of boring times that afternoon, punctuated and enlivened by the sights and sounds of Rome. Despite trying to convince himself that he wasn’t really jetlagged, Justin had found it difficult to stay awake during the endless rounds of shopping. Justin wondered if Amanda hadn’t invited MacLeod to Rome just so he could carry the dozens of shopping bags she was acquiring. His own feet had begun to ache hours before, and he had looked at Amanda’s high heels and shaken his head.

It was with some relief that Justin had followed his quarry into a tiny and pricey restaurant. He had requested a table on the far side of the minuscule dining room and ordered freely from the menu—that’s what expense accounts were for, he had reasoned, and he had to order enough food to stay as long as Amanda and MacLeod. The food had been delicious. Justin had discovered too late that the wine was deceptively smooth and light, and he had drunk a good deal more than a cautious Watcher should. He had watched Amanda gaze at MacLeod with a seductive gleam I her eye, take out her hotel key, and wave it back and forth hypnotically. Justin had realized with a start that he was dizzy from the wine. He had thought of his father then, and did what he did in such a circumstance. Justin had ordered a second bottle of mineral water and consumed it, hoping that the hydration would stave off a hangover in the morning.

He had paid with a credit card, although it was not usual Watcher style to leave a paper trail, but his head had been a bit too fuzzy to work out all the zeros when converting lire to dollars. While MacLeod and Amanda were dawdling over after-dinner drinks, Justin had headed back to the hotel, picked the lock to Amanda’s hotel room, and begun rifling her belongings for the crystal.

The noises in the hallway had surprised him; he had expected that the two Immortals would have taken longer to finish their drinks, and Justin had killed the lights and dashed into the closet to hide.

So here he stood, nose running, finger pressed against his upper lip, hiding in a closet like a character in a second-rate movie. The light in Amanda’s room came on, marking a bright outline where the closet door stood ever so slightly ajar. He berated himself mentally for not closing the door firmly, used the discipline from the years at the Academy to stand stock still despite his racing heart and mind.

He heard MacLeod’s voice first. "Amanda, if you’re done inflicting damage on it for the time being, I’d like my credit card back."

Platinum blonde hair flashed across Justin’s narrow view. He heard a zipper, a snap, and a rustling sound. A few coins dropped onto the polished wood floor. Justin held his breath as one rolled against the closet door.

"You were so generous," she said. Justin could imagine her lips pursing in as she spoke to MacLeod as if he were a child who had bravely put up with a tetanus shot.

"And I get a reward?" MacLeod’s low voice rumbled.

Justin found he didn’t have to strain his ears at all to hear the sounds of rustling fabric and kissing that were coming from the room. His mouth dropped open as he considered for the first time how long it might be before he was able to get out of the tough spot he was in.

The noise of soft kisses continued as Amanda spoke. "Let me just hang up the black dress first."

Justin’s mouth snapped closed. He pressed back against the clothes in the closet, forgetting stealth until he heard two empty hangers chime together.

"Which black dress?" MacLeod asked. "You bought four."

"You know, the silk crêpe de chine. If I don’t hang it up, it’ll get wrinkled."

The crack at the door widened a fraction of an inch and then slammed all of the way shut.

"It can wait." MacLeod’s voice was only slightly muffled.

"It’ll get wrinkled," she protested.

"Let it."

The thin line of light at the foot of the closet door went out, and incoherent mumbles and sighs issued from the two Immortals on the other side of it.

Sighing himself, Justin moved behind Amanda’s clothing and pressed against the back wall of the closet. Her clothes were perfumed with a scent of flowers and peaches and the bright overtone of breezes coming off the ocean. He inhaled deeply, then shook himself and pulled his Palm Pilot out of his pocket. He depressed the on switch until the tiny screen lit up, withdrew the stylus, and began to make his Watcher’s report. A dozen tiny screens of letters later, Justin wondered again how much time he would spend listening to . . .

The squeak of mattress springs. And laughter. A few words spoken too softly for him to hear. And then more earnest noises. Justin stuck his head through the clothing, his mind rapidly supplying pictures to match the sounds that leaked through the doorframe. Surprised, he caught himself, tugged at the waistband and pocket of his slacks, turned back to the machine in his hand, and continued to write.

Subject and Amanda ordered antipasti, first and second courses, salad, dessert, coffee, and brandy; they then returned to Amanda’s hotel. Watching Amanda and MacLeod plow through their multi-course dinner, Justin had wondered if Immortals had superhuman metabolisms. Listening to the noises proceeding from the hotel room, he was beginning to think that Amanda and MacLeod had chosen a more traditional form of burning calories.

It was quiet now. Justin hoped that he would hear soft snoring in a few moments and be able to sneak out of the room. He took out his electronic organizer again and tapped at it, remembering the funny look that Joe Dawson had given him when he saw it. Justin thought that it was just as well that Dawson had sent him to Rome after MacLeod. An old guy like that couldn’t have kept up with the day’s shopping trip. He never would have been able to speak into his tape recorder from a hiding place in the closet, either. It was time to make room for a new generation.

"Stop tickling me!" Amanda squealed. Her squeals quickly turned to hungry, throaty noises. Justin dropped his head back against the closet wall. Having added as many details to his report as was possible for what was an essentially unimportant day in the life of Duncan MacLeod, Justin resorted to fiddling with the calculator on his electronic organizer, then proofreading all of the names in the address book, and finally doodling. He stopped in the middle of a long, tight curlicue and tilted his head. It was quiet in the hotel room.

It couldn’t be much longer until they fell asleep. MacLeod was operating on Vancouver time, like Justin was, and had to be suffering the same effects of jetlag. Justin closed his eyes and counted slowly to one thousand. A bit of velvet trim on one of Amanda’s collars brushed against his cheek. The smell of her perfume was intoxicating. His nose began to itch.

Eight hundred and twenty-seven, eight hundred and twenty-eight, eight hundred and the mattress springs began to squeak again. Justin’s eyes and mouth popped open simultaneously. This was shaping up to have as many courses as dinner had. Justin poked at the Palm Pilot again. The battery was dead. He tried to distract himself by recalling his own delicious dinner, but was alarmed to find that his mind dwelled on the many glasses of water and wine that he had consumed and the urgent messages his body was sending him on that account. He needed to get out of the closet. Please, God, haven’t they had enough?

Minutes, hours, days later, Justin heard the sound of feet padding across the floor and then of a door closing.

§ § §

Barefoot and shirtless, MacLeod pulled a cell phone from the pocket of his black pants. He put the lid on the toilet down and sat on it as he dialed a long string of numbers. After a few rings, a familiar voice sounded.

"Dawson." MacLeod said. "About that new Watcher of yours."

Joe’s voice was tight. "Justin Weaver. He’s overdue checking in. Have you seen him?"

"He needs practice. Goes a little heavy on the wine. Don’t you guys have rules about that?"

"Is he okay?" Joe asked.

MacLeod said, "He’s in Amanda’s closet." He continued around the questioning noises on the other end of the phone. "He’s probably not very comfortable right now, but he’s okay. We’ll let him out before he embarrasses himself."

"He’s cocky," Joe said. "Probably serves him right."

The bathroom door opened. Amanda entered and closed it behind her. MacLeod didn’t bother to cover the mouthpiece before saying, "What are you doing in here? I thought we were going to give him another hour or so before we let him out."

Amanda stepped to the shower and turned the water on full tilt. Listening to the stream of water pound against the tub she said, "That should do it."

She pressed her ear against the bathroom door, smiled, and let out a little cry of victory. Then she walked to MacLeod and covered the telephone’s mouthpiece with a delicate finger. "I’m tired of rolling around half-dressed under the covers making noise for the edification of our visitor. Get off the line and come back to bed." She cocked her head in invitation and gave him a long kiss.

MacLeod removed her finger from the telephone, kissing it. "Dawson, I’ll talk to you later."

"I owe you one, Mac," Joe said.

MacLeod made a dismissive noise and said, "Just get him off the street before he gets hurt, and we’ll call it even."

MWC: The Invitation

Posted By: bookmom, whose muse finally cooperated... <slblack@idirect.com>
Date:
Saturday, 29 September 2001, at 11:44 p.m.

Amanda repeated the invitation over in her mind for the umpteenth time. “You are invited to a Hide and Go Seek party. I have hidden my 5,000 carat diamond necklace and you have been one of a dozen chosen to seek it out. Finders, keepers. Come out to 1313 Mockingbird Lane, Hallowe’en night to play. Love, the Countess.”

She had stumbled upon this secret room almost sure that the necklace would be hidden here. It was the perfect place. The wall looked like any other wall full of books, but knowing the Countess, Amanda suspected that it was fake. It didn’t take her long to find the trigger. A section opened quietly and Amanda had slipped inside, the bookcase closing seamlessly behind her. The office was ordinary looking, but looks could be deceiving, as she well knew. Rummaging around, Amanda searched for the safe her intuition told her was here. She pulled aside a heavily brocaded curtain, surmising correctly that this was an inside wall. Pay dirt! The adrenaline surged through her body as her fingers took up their task.

“Damn, damn, damn!” she cursed. How was she supposed to know the vault door was on a timer! Once she had gotten the door open she had walked into the tiny room and just stood and stared. The vault was full of the Countess’ jewels, and by the looks of it, the 5,000 carat diamond necklace everyone was hunting for as well. Someone was going to find paste and she was going to walk out with the original, nobody the wiser. Amanda chuckled to herself, “Oh she really is in for a surprise!”

But the surprise was all Amanda’s as the vault door closed soundlessly. She had been intent on disarming the alarms. Now she was locked inside. At least the room was lit she thought grimly.

She lifted the priceless necklace reverently from the black velvet cloth it was nestled in. A small sigh escaped Amanda’s lips as the light caught and reflected off the multifaceted work of art. Then she looked around and reality sunk in.

Combing every inch of the room, Amanda looked for something that would activate the door. “Nobody would design such a room without a safety switch”, she growled to herself. After an hour of intense searching she gave up. She sat down with her back to the door and gave herself a chance to think.

Either way she looked at it; she was going to lose. Wait it out until morning and the Countess was bound to come along and find her, no necklace. Phone MacLeod and get him to spring her, definitely no necklace. Unless…she could persuade him that the Countess had hidden the real necklace. Hopefully he wouldn’t search her, (though if he did that could be kind of fun, she thought wickedly,) and she could walk with the goods.

She got out her cell phone and dialed MacLeod. The party was in full swing. Dimly he heard his phone. Walking towards the hallway he flipped it open. “MacLeod.” He could barely hear her. “MacLeod, its Amanda.” “Where are you?” he hissed. “Everybody’s asking for you.” “I had some “business” to attend to. I thought I’d make Fitz’s party after.” Duncan’s voice took on a knowing timbre. “So why are you calling me?”
She told him.

“You were invited where? To do what? And you locked yourself in?” He paused listening carefully to each response to make sure he had heard her correctly. Duncan couldn’t contain himself. He laughed until the tears streamed down his cheeks. He rubbed his aching sides realizing there were people staring at him.

Finally he was able to speak, “And you want me to come and rescue you again? I don’t know Amanda. You got yourself into this, you can get yourself out.” “Please Duncan,” Amanda pleaded, “I don’t want to stay in this vault all night. I thought we were going to have some fun after the party.”

“Oh all right ‘Manda, I’ll be there soon, but only if you promise to wear that dancing girl outfit from Turkey.” “MacLeod! I told you I was dressing up as a leopard this year.” “Sorry, no can do Amanda.” She was just about to blast him when a brilliant thought struck her. Seductively she whispered, “What if I promise to dance just for you, and …” He had been looking forward to their rendezvous, but now more than ever, and he would hold her to that promise.

MWC: "9-11"

Posted By: Ghost Cat--hoping she's not opening old wounds. <ghost_cat@hotmail.com>
Date:
Monday, 1 October 2001, at 1:18 a.m.


I was going to write an amusing little tale about getting lost in Amanda's infamous wade-in closet, but my Muse wouldn't let me. This story has been haunting me in one form or another for over a week, and Linda (Mr. Smiley Girl) encouraged me to set it down to paper. With greatest love and respect I present...


 

9-11

They say that curiosity killed the cat; but when the cat can't die, curiosity can lead to disaster. The whole thing started because of a young author's incurable fascination with a tall dark highlander. Deb wanted to learn more about the real Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod, but after 400+ years, he had gotten very good at not talking about himself. Especially when she inevitably, though unintentionally, phrased her questions in terms of the Series. After a while, she decided to take matters into her own hands. What better way to find out about a man than from his kin?

It took her a while to come to terms with the idea that Connor was still alive, but what was more shocking was the fact that he was still living in New York. She supposed it didn't really matter; the fans all thought he was dead and enemies... well, enemies will find you wherever you are. So she told a tale to Duncan about wanting to see her publisher face to face, promised to be back in a few days and left. Even her Watcher had troubles keeping up; he took a later plane and missed most of the excitement.

§ § §

New York City was a rather intimidating place for a prairie girl who didn't travel much. Toronto liked compare itself to New York, but she meager experience with that city could not prepare herself for Manhattan. She knew where she was going; her destination was hard to miss. No tiny shop on Hudson Street this time, this persona was a successful investment consultant, Specializing in long-term investments? she thought with a grin, with an office in the World Trade Center. She didn't have an appointment, which was the only reason why she was out and about at such an ungodly hour of the morning. If she were his first meeting of the day, surely he wouldn't refuse her?

Deb felt strangely tense on the endlessly long elevator ride, but she dismissed it as nothing more than jet lag. Getting off on the 100th floor (she shook her head in disbelief at the idea) she searched for the offices of Mr. Nash Russell- Cute, Connor, very cute. The secretary, an older woman who looked vaguely familiar, frowned protectively at the sight of the author. When Debra said that she was a friend of the family, though, the woman gave her an odd look and nodded. Rachael? she thought to herself, her curiosity piqued; she decided to wait inside, to avoid the temptation of asking foolish questions.

The secretary said that Russell was usually in by 9:00am. It wasn't even 8:45 yet, and Deb's body was still functioning two hours behind. She groaned, and decided to stand; in her condition she might just fall asleep where she sat. She walked over to the giant picture window, suitably impressed. "Nice view," she said to no one in particular. Resisting the urge to pace, she wondered if she had reset her watch correctly. She looked around for a clock, but all she could see was a perpetual calendar; Tuesday/9/11 she noted absently. Typical Immortal priorities she thought to herself, not bothering to hide a smile.

Her wandering thoughts were brought back to reality by a rumbling sound that rattled the windows; she could almost feel the vibrations through her feet. She spun around quickly, shocked by what she saw. A passenger plane was flying straight at the tower, coming in much too low and much too fast. She stood there frozen in morbid fascination, as it seemed to grow larger until it filled the entire window. A jet intake yawned open like a dragon's mouth, ready to swallow her whole and spit out bloody shreds of meat. That mental image broke her paralysis, and she ran for the door just as the world blossomed in red and orange flame.

The concussion wave picked her up like a child's toy; she flew through the waiting room and into the hall beyond. She landed, stunned, in an office supply room barely larger than a closet. She twisted around, hoping for a quick escape, but the door was warped in its frame and it bulged grotesquely. She tried the doorknob and snatched by her hand, gaping at the smoking black circle on her palm. Oh God, fire! Panic started to bubble up within her. While she cringed away from the heat, debris pounded the room from all sides like windswept hail. One shelf crashed almost on top of her, and the door acquired several new dents, but her refuge remained relatively whole.

Right on the heels of this attack came an eerie sound, an unsheathed blade magnified a thousand times. A jagged sheet of aircraft hull, razor sharp and glowing an angry red, scythed through the door like it was paper, imbedding itself in the opposite wall. All this took place in seconds, though she experienced it in agonizing slow motion. Still reeling from the chaos, it took her several seconds to recognize the stench of burnt hair. As she reached up to touch a self-cauterized scalp wound--Guillotine! --her knees started to buckle. Her last thought before mind and body lost hold of one another was a solemn oath that she would never again to wish that she were a little bit taller.

§ § §

Time ceased to exist; she lost track of the number of times she'd died, each time awakening to a little more smoke and a little less air. She wondered if there were limits even to the gift of the immortals--would she end up caught between life and death until she was unearthed from the rubble? What if no one found her? The falling shelf had crushed her legs and they healed in unnatural positions. When she tried to crawl a few inches toward what might have been sunlight, bones snapped audibly and a wave of pain threatened to submerge her consciousness.

She had always imagined that Hell would be louder somehow; besides an intermittent groan that threatened total structural collapse, the tower was eerily quiet. The silence was oppressive, a physical thing. She tried to close her eyes and shut out the world around her but that was worse, she could feel the screaming Buzz of newborn Immortality. How many new warriors had the Gathering gained from this disaster, and what would the experience do to them? Her mind shrank from the thought, sought sanctuary--

§ § §

The library, her Library, was warm and familiar. Her sanctuary had everything she needed; there was no reason to go anywhere else. She couldn't remember where she'd been a moment before, but it didn't matter. Two giant stacks of books, bound in black leather, stood waiting for her to read them. A paper airplane floated past, crashed into one of the towers, books began to topple in slow motion. Unwanted memories flooded in from reality; she spun around to glare angrily at the culprit. The Englishman leaned casually against a bookcase; "What a dry place for such an imaginative woman. The least you could do is imagine us a nice English pub?"

"Fitzcairn, get out!"

"That'll be a bit difficult Lass, I'm here for the duration. If you're going to hide in your own head, you've got to deal with me."

"You're dead!"

"If I'm dead, what does that make you? You can't stay here forever you know."

Deb trembled, whether from fear or anger she wasn't sure, but she could barely stand. She collapsed into an old leather chair, on the edge of tears. "I'm not going back out there! There's nothing there but pain and death; terror and evil."

Fitz tried awkwardly to comfort her; it was clear he hadn't done this often for women he wasn't trying to bed. "All it takes for evil to triumph is for a good man--err, person--to do nothing."

"Didn't you steal that quote from someone else?"

A wide, unapologetic smile; "That doesn't mean it isn't true. It isn't hopeless until you give up hope. You are not alone."

A door opened up; she didn't remember the library ever having a door before. Bright, blinding light flooded into the room, and in that light was the figure of a man. He spoke. "Take my hand Lass. For God's sake, take my hand!" She reached out, and the false safety of her sanctuary shattered. "Hang on Lass!"

"MacLeod? MacLeod!" Deb opened her eyes on a heart-stopping scene. She hung in mid-air; the strong arm of a former blacksmith the only thing that kept her from a freefall plunge. She twisted around to look up at her savior, saw a face. "Oh. Wrong MacLeod."

A familiar chuckle, the same deep rolling tones she knew so well; "I've never had a Lass turn her nose up at me before, but if the wee fishie doesn't want to be caught, I could always set you free...."

She twisted again in his grip, she shoulder protesting the abuse. Far below, her former prison was a tiny pile of rubble, the blade-like sheet of steel angled upward, glinting hungrily. She gulped and tried to hold back a wave of nausea. "You do, haggis-breath, and you'll have to explain to your brother how you lost me. Now pull me up before my arm falls off!"

§ § §

She was alive; she was a survivor. For all the good it did, so much senseless destruction. With all the airports shut down she had no choice but to stay in New York. The evidence of the attack--the discovery that it was an attack and not an accident had made her sick with anger and grief--was impossible to avoid. It was all around her; when she tried to hide, it came to her, through television, radio and newspapers. After a while she wouldn't leave the apartment; she wouldn't speak, she hardly ate. Connor tried to find a balance between providing comfort and giving her privacy, but he knew he was a poor substitute for his kinsman. She would have to find her own way to heal.

She stared blankly at the television screen, showing for the hundredth time the plane crashing into the north tower. "How many people died?" she asked, her voice dull and empty. Connor tried to keep his voice gentle; "They're not sure. Over 200 on the planes; hundreds, maybe thousands in the towers. And that's not including what happened in Washington."

She nodded slowly, paused in thought. She remembered the newborn Quickenings she had felt in the tower. "And how many do you think came back from the experience?" He shrugged, "A handful perhaps; there are some born in every tragedy."

She finally turned to look him in the eye, her face a mask of grief. "And how many survived; truly survived, the ones that only have one life to live?"

"Lass, dear lass. They pulled 2,000 wounded out of those ruins, and that's enough for hope." He offered her his strength and she took it gratefully; for the first time since that tragic day, real tears ran down her cheeks. She would grieve, but she could also hope.



Be well everyone, and hold on to hope...

The Ghost Cat

MWC: For your own good

Posted By: Robin <Catnature@yahoo.com>
Date:
Monday, 1 October 2001, at 5:33 p.m.

Carefully opening the door, he saw his quarry was sleeping soundly. The body was barely a mound in the bed.

Slowly he creep in the side of the sleeper, darkness was his ally. He had to be sure that all his moves were correct or someone would be hurt.

The sleeper moved and he stood stalk still waiting.

He draw the heavy coverlet and seized the sheet, pinning the now awake sleeper. A quick tug and roll and the sleeper was cocooned in the sheet. He lifted his bundle over his shoulder and carried it through the apartment and to the kitchen.

Leaning against the wall so that he would not drop his now struggling and noisy bundle he open the closet door. It was a small broom closet that he had clearer earlier for this purpose. He placed his bundle on the floor and quickly closed and locked the door. Then blocked the door handle with a chair just to be safe.

"It's for your own good Amanda." he said and he turned and left.

"Nick!!!"

MWC: Anomalous

Posted By: Storie, suffering from Muse Abuse <storie@meteorologica.net>
Date:
Wednesday, 3 October 2001, at 4:27 p.m.

Cole studied his quarry intently, aware that procrastination was going to cost him more in time and energy than he could afford to pay. He had foregone more than one opportunity to incarcerate his prey due to an unprecedented distraction by the human element.

The individual he followed was, like all earthly hosts of celestial malefactors, possessed of a prey whose capture was Cole's responsibility. Here was a man who did the things an ordinary man would do; yet he was different, Cole had observed, from the others.

They all hurt and cried, bled and died; he healed and lived again.

They all carried things: briefcases, purses, umbrellas, newspapers; he carried a sword.

They had a tendency toward fear and retreat in the face of conflict; he confronted his enemies and fought to the death.

They hid inside from inclement weather. He embraced lightning and thunder as though his very existence were somehow founded on the pervasion of his being by another's essence; this man had effected the release of a hundred souls with a single stroke of his sword and Cole had been mystified at the eagerness with which the revenants fled one mortal shell for the entrapment of another.

This, despite his possession by another being more deadly than himself in ways his human mind could not begin to fathom. The occupation was incomplete; there was an ongoing struggle. Cole had watched the two entities battle for dominance, had seen them come and go by turns in the man's desperate brown eyes. He did not know which planet in the Migar constellation had given origin to this particular invader, but creation had certainly failed to gift it with prudence and discernment. The villain had not employed wisdom in its selection of a human host, but the choice bowed to its favor nonetheless. The same traits that rendered the vehicle uncontrollable also granted it the strength and determination necessary for self-preservation and unparalleled defense. But for that, Cole's quarry would be an easy acquisition.

His hands automatically inspected the equipment he wore for retrieval of Migar's escaped prisoners from their human hosts. Everything was in order; he just needed to get close enough, one more time, to do his job. The man had noticed him at their last encounter, had met his eyes across the length of the bar and studied Cole's face with an intensity the tracker found difficult to match. The convict had seen Cole, too, and recognized him from within the same mind. Cole had emulated the human from that moment forward, aware even as he did so that this individual's characteristics lent more to setting him apart from his fellows than to blending him in with society.

They hurried along the wharf in the delusional gray of almost-night, and suddenly Cole found himself alone. He paced the quay slowly to the point at which he had last seen his target and stepped aboard the barge, all senses painfully aware of the slightest movement, noise, presence.

And still he was unprepared.

Before he could blink the man stood before him, his sword at Cole's throat.

"I am Duncan MacLeod of the Clan MacLeod," the man stated, as if that explained everything anyone would ever need to know. The words meant nothing to Cole and even as he stared into the man's eyes, he saw the stirring of the alien prisoner after whom he had come.

"Who are you," MacLeod demanded. His voice was low and even, graced with the timbre of an unspoken threat. The invader displaced MacLeod momentarily and gripped the weapon tighter as it reached out with the other hand to relieve Cole of his gear.

Cole reacted with the speed of a striking cobra (he had studied the creature on a transmission to Mel's television set), seizing MacLeod's sword arm in one hand while applying a stun gun to the side of the man's neck. MacLeod jerked twice before his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed at Cole's feet.

The alien raged forth then, attempting to attack, escape, distract, frighten and plead before it was finally drawn from MacLeod’s body and safely stored in Cole's retrieval unit. The burn mark left by Cole's stun gun - an interesting human device, that - had already healed from MacLeod’s neck. Unwilling to engage in the fight that would certainly ensue upon MacLeod’s return to consciousness, Cole dragged the man across the barge and down the steps to the interior - a nice living space, and quieter than Mel's - and shoved him into a tiny room filled with clothing and shoes - a closet? Yes, Cole smiled. He hesitated before closing the door.

MacLeod would have been a worthy opponent, should it have come to that. They were evenly matched on a physical level, and both possessed qualities no ordinary man could claim. Cole was curious about MacLeod and his kind, these mortals who were somehow more than mortal; about the battles they fought, about how the vanquished could die, yet live on in the victor, and about the somehow lesser humans who scurried around in the shadows, watching all that MacLeod and his contemporaries did in the course of any given day. It was a mystery, one of many that he had yet to interpret with any reasonable level of understanding.

MacLeod grimaced and his hand tightened on the hilt of the sword it had never released. Cole firmly latched the door and wedged a chair beneath the knob to keep it closed. As the man in the closet began to fumble around his prison, Cole sprinted up the steps and off the barge. He had barely achieved the quay when someone grabbed his arm and spun him in an abrupt about-face.

"Duncan? Where are you going in such a hurry? Oh…" the woman peered into his face. "I guess you can't answer that, can you? You're not Duncan," but she studied him with a puzzled gaze that Cole found most disconcerting.

"Well, whoever you are," she flashed a charming smile and offered a gloved hand, "it is a definite pleasure to meet you. I'm Amanda!"

"Amanda," Cole parroted, and lightly touched his fingertips to hers. She tilted her head with the same curiosity he felt about her and all her kind. He smiled the smile that brief experience had already taught him women liked, and left her standing beside MacLeod’s barge. He glanced back once he had achieved the shadows, in time to see her descending the steps; that was good. She could release MacLeod from the closet and perhaps distract him for the remainder of the night. By the time dawn broke across the city, Cole would have left Paris far behind and be well on his way back to Chicago.

He would be taking a lot of questions with him. The day before, he had telephoned Mel and asked her if there was a special breed of human that transmitted lightning to and from their dead. She had laughed at him, then referred him to a woman who had written about such things. The woman, Cole had discovered, was long since dead, but he had acquired a copy of her book.

A few hours later, as Cole settled into the upholstered seat and waited for his flight to take off, he opened the paperback to chapter five - wondering momentarily why humans always started with page one - and began reading.

"It was on a dreary night of November that I beheld the accomplishment of my toils…"

~finis~

* * * * *

Storie

MWC: The Birthday Surprise

Posted By: SwingGirl MacSlow <SwingGirl3@yahoo.com>
Date:
Monday, 8 October 2001, at 10:04 p.m.

"I can't believe this. I can't believe I let you talk me into hiding in the closet and I can't believe we got locked in." Duncan grabbed the doorknob and jiggled it, trying to get the door to open.

"Hey, how was I supposed to know it would get stuck," Richie replied defensively. "I just wanted to surprise Tessa for her birthday. We got the cake and put up all those decorations. I thought it would be fun to jump out of the closet, yell surprise. She'd never be expecting it."

"Well, Tessa won't be expecting this, that's for sure. And I bet she'll be surprised when she comes home and finds us in here together."

The next few minutes passed in tense silence. Without much hope, Duncan tried to open the door again, but as he expected it didn't budge. He began to mutter under his breath. Richie couldn't make it out for sure, but he was fairly certain that he heard something about a beheading and something else about hiding the body. Nervously, he shifted his position as much as he could in the small space and tried to calm the other man down. "Look, Tessa said she'd be home at 3:00, right? It was a quarter til when we got in here, so she should be home any minute. She can help us get out of here."

As if on cue, they heard the front door open. Richie sighed in relief. "See, there she is now."

Both men began to shout to get Tessa's attention. Tessa heard them and looked around, trying to figure out where the voices were coming from. "Duncan? Richie? Where are you?"

The shouting stopped as Duncan replied, "Tessa, honey, we're in the closet."

"The closet? What on earth are you doing in the closet?" Tessa shook her head, becoming more and more confused by the second.

"Well, we wanted to surprise you for your birthday."

"And so we got in here. We were going to jump out and shout surprise at you, but the door got stuck," Richie added helpfully.

"So, could you help us get out of here? You can pull on the doorknob from the outside, while we push from the inside."

Still confused, Tessa did as she was told. After several tries, the door finally opened. Duncan immediately glared at Richie who moved away from Duncan towards Tessa.

"So, are you surprised?" Richie asked.

"Oh, I'm definitely surprised. I love the cake and the decorations. There's just one problem."

Duncan quit glaring at Richie and looked at Tessa. "What's that?"

"It isn't my birthday. Today is June 16th. My birthday is July 16th."

"What?" Both men shouted in unison.

Now it was Richie’s turn to do the glaring. "Mac, I thought you said her birthday was today."

Duncan shrugged. "So, I made a mistake. I just wanted to take her out to dinner. You're the one who wanted to do all of this."

"What? You're acting like this is my fault."

"Well, it's certainly not my fault."

The two men proceeded to argue until Tessa began to giggle. "What's so funny," Richie asked suspiciously.

Between giggles, Tessa managed to answer. "Actually, it really is my birthday. I just wanted to see how you'd react and you fell for it. After getting locked in the closet, too."

As Tessa continued to giggle, Duncan looked at Richie. "Let's get her."

"Are you sure we should? It is her birthday, after all."

"Oh yeah," they answered in unison. They then chased her into the living room until she was backed up against the couch. Tessa tried to get away from them as they began to tickle her, but Duncan and Richie had her trapped where she was.

As she laughed uncontrollably, Tessa realized how lucky she was to have the two men in her life. "I don't need anything for my birthday, I already have the best gift of all," she thought to herself.

Ashton Press Home | Fan Fiction | ASJ Fiction | Highlander Mid-Week Challenges