By Pat

Taking a deep breath, MacLeod began his story.

“I was born in 1592, in the Highlands of Scotland, Glenfinnan on the shores of Loch Shiel, to be exact.” He began to explain.

“In 1592!” Luka interrupted, “That makes you”, he tried to do the math in his head and failed miserably, “really old.” He concluded.

“Yes,” Duncan smiled, “I'm over 400, give or take a few years. But whose counting. Now do you want to hear the rest or not?”

“Sorry,” Luka apologized, “but you don't look a day over 300. Please continue, this I gotta hear!”

“As I was saying,” MacLeod resumed his tale, “I was raised as a warrior. I died the first time in battle against a neighboring clan. Only I didn't stay dead. I came back, just as I did today. The man I thought of as my father, the clan chief, believed I was demon from hell and banished me from the clan. “ Duncan's voice became husky with his memories of that day and his Scottish accent became more pronounced as he told his story to Luka, “I dinna know what had happened, why I was nae dead. I wandered aimlessly until another immortal found me, a distant clansman, Connor MacLeod. He taught me the rules of the Game so I could survive.”

“What game?” Luka asked, “How can living forever be a game?”

“We refer to it as the Game, or the Time of the Gathering.” MacLeod explained. “The main rule of our existence is: There Can Be Only One.”

By now Luka's head was starting to spin. He wasn't sure if it was from the whiskey and lack of sleep, or from the strange story he was hearing from this Scot.

“When I told you I couldn't die, that wasn't quite accurate.” The Highlander stated, “I can be killed if someone take's my head. If its another immortal, they then take all the power/knowledge, whatever you want to call it, acccumulated during my lifetime; we call it The Quickening. If I take their head, I take their Quickening. That's the reason for the sword. The Gathering is the neverending struggle between immortals until there is only one of us left in the end. And that immortal will have the power of all the immortals.”

Luka was horrified. People going around chopping off each other's heads. He wasn't sure he wanted to hear any more. It was hard enough to believe in MacLeod, much less the idea that there was a whole bunch of headhunters on the loose.

“But that's insane,” Luka protested, “Why can't you just live and let live, why the killing, the bloodshed?”

MacLeod sighed; he had often pondered that question himself. “I don't know.” He told Luka, “It's been this way through the centuries, its part of being an immortal, the price we pay for that immortality.”

“So you're never safe from one of these others? They can hunt you down anywhere and try to kill you?

“I'm safe only on holy ground, no immortal can kill another immortal there. Thats rule number two.” Duncan answered.

Luka pondered for a moment, then commented, “So I could be riding the El one day, sitting next to one of you guys, and I'd never know it. Thats kind of spooky!”

MacLeod laughed, “Thats right, we don't go around wearing large 'I's” on our chests. No, you would not recognize an immortal. I, however, would. We can sense each other, sort of a feeling that surrounds you. We refer to it as the Immortal Buzz. Thats how we know another of our kind is near, in order to prepare for the challenge and the inevitable combat to the death. Oh, and by the way, we aren't all “guys,” there are female immortals as well.

“Okay,” Luka replied, “Let me see if I've got this straight - you people live forever, unless somebody chops off your head, you fight each other so there can be only one of you left, and in the meantime, you just keep going, and going...just like the Energizer Bunny!”

“Very funny.” Duncan responded, “I'm so thrilled to be compared to that annoying pink rabbit.” Then casting a rather evil look at Luka, he quipped, “Have you forgotten, Doctor, that I have a sword?” Luka was silent for a moment, until he noticed MacLeod was smiling, then he too laughed. “Here, have another Glenmorangie,” MacLeod offered, as he refilled their glasses once again.

“This Quickening, you called, it, I'm not sure I understand what you mean there.” Luka admitted. “Well,” answered Duncan with a laugh, “Richie refers it to it as the Light Show. Its like being surrounded by a giant electrical storm, and the lightening hits you, and you feel the essence of the immortal you killed becoming part of you. It's a little difficult to explain,” MacLeod admitted. “Kind of picture it as a giant orgasm.” MacLeod laughed. Luka wasn't sure he wanted that image in his head! “So you mean sometimes when I've seen lightening in the sky, it might not be a storm, it could be this Quickening thing?” MacLeod nodded affirmatively.

“But where do immortals come from?” Luka questioned. “No one knows,” MacLeod answered, “We never know our true parents, or the circumstances surrounding our birth. We don't even know we are immortal until we die the first time.”

“Anyway,” Duncan concluded, “that's sort of the basics. I've told you this, because I felt I owed you an explanation, and to thank you for your assistance. I'm sure I need not tell you this has to remain a secret. Very few people know about the existence of the immortals, and we need to keep it that way. Can you picture the chaos if it became public knowledge?”

“Don't worry, Duncan.” Luka assured the Highlander. “What you have told me today will go no farther than these walls. Besides,” Luka added, “who would believe me? If I told this story at work, I'd be strapped to a bed, drugged and locked up on the psych ward!”

MacLeod chuckled, “Yes, I can see where that would not be a good thing. We wouldn't want people to think you were a fruitcake!” Luka wasn't quite sure what MacLeod meant by that remark, sometimes American slang still confused him, but he was pretty sure it wasn't anything good.

Suddenly Duncan tensed, instantly on the alert. “What's wrong, MacLeod?” Luka asked. “Is it another immortal?” Duncan nodded. He stood up, sword flashing in his hand. “If this gets rough,” he told Luka, “You get out the back door there.” MacLeod said, pointing towards a door in the back of the apartment. As Duncan approached the front door, sword at the ready, a distinctly feminine voice called, “Duncan, are you decent? If not, open the door, it's Amanda.”

MacLeod relaxed, laughing; he let her in, “Welcome back, Amanda.” He greeted her. Luka watched as a tall, slender, extremely sexy woman with legs that went on forever, short dark hair and an even shorter skirt wrapped herself around the Scotsman, kissing him passionately. “Darling, we have company.” Luka heard MacLeod tell the woman.

Releasing MacLeod, Amanda sauntered over to Luka. Her dark eyes moved over him, appraising what she saw, laughing softly when she made him blush. “Introduce me to your friend, Duncan”, she demanded. “Amanda Deveraux, meet Dr. Luka Kovac.” MacLeod stated. Amanda offered her hand to Luka. “A pleasure to meet you.” She purred in a sultry voice. “The pleasure is all mine.” Luka responded, taking her hand. “So you're a doctor,” she commented, “I've been having this little problem right about here.” She teased, placing Luka's hand on her left breast. “Feels perfectly fine to me.” Luka grinned at her. Hell, I'm a man, he thought, if she wants to give me a free feel, I might as well enjoy it.

“Amanda, behave yourself.” Duncan warned. He knew her very well, and her taste for handsome young men. “She's held up pretty well, don't you think, Luka, for such an ancient hag.” He knew that would set her off. “I'm not that old,” Amanda protested, “Just because a girl's been around a few years, he calls her ancient! And just who are you calling a hag?”

“A few years?” Duncan laughed, “thats an understatement.” Glancing towards Luka, he added, “Try more like 1000 years!” Luka was speechless for a moment as he stared at the immortal woman. Finding his voice, he said, “Don't you know you never tell a lady's age, MacLeod.” Luka took Amanda's hand, kissing it, “You still are a very beautiful woman.” He assured her. “Why how kind, Luka, you are such a gentleman.” Amanda told him, glaring at Duncan who smirked back at her. “I'm European, we like to be gallant.” Luka answered. He realized at this point that he was just a little bit drunk, and it was now close to morning.

Both immortals once again turned towards the doorway as they felt the Buzz. “Hey Mac, its Richie.” They heard him call. “Come on, its open.” MacLeod answered back.

“Amanda, long time no see.” Richie said brightly as he spotted her. “Doc, you still here? That must have been some discussion you guys had last night!

Luka told MacLeod, “I really should be going. I've got to get some sleep before I go back on duty tonight. Thank you for the drinks, and the fantastic Halloween story.” He smiled at Amanda, “And it was certainly a pleasure meeting you.”

“I'm sure we will meet again, Luka.” Amanda told him. Although extremely fond of her longtime friend and lover, MacLeod, she was quite interested in this tall, dark and handsome man standing before her. With her years of experience, she thought, I bet I could teach him a thing or two, and I'm sure he'd be a very excellent pupil.

Noticing that Luka by now was looking a bit unsteady, a combination of no sleep and scotch, Duncan concluded, he asked “Richie, do me a favor. Please drive Dr. Kovac home, you can catch a cab back then.” Luka protested, but MacLeod was insistent. “Come on Doc, I don't mind.” Richie told him, “give me the keys. Besides, you can't argue with the big guy there once he's made up his mind on something!” Realizing the wisdom of their plan, and the fact that he really didn't want to end up on a gurney in his own ER, Luka handed Richie his keys.

“I'll see you around, Luka.” MacLeod told him. “I've enjoyed talking with you this evening, and would be happy to continue our discussion anytime.”

“Sure Duncan, that would be great. Give me a call.” He said. “I will.” MacLeod told Luka. He meant it. He intended to keep an eye on the young doctor.

As he walked towards his car, Luka kept telling himself, this has got to be a dream. I'm going home, going to bed, and when I wake up it will all have been a trick or treat joke. But deep down he knew that wouldn't be so.

Amanda and Duncan stood by the window watching Richie and Luka leave. “And will you be training him when the time comes?” Amanda softly inquired. MacLeod sighed. What he hadn't told Luka was that he had felt the Buzz of a pre-immortal when Luka opened the morgue door. Someday he would join their ranks. The Highlander hoped it would not be soon. “Yes, Amanda, I will.” Duncan replied. And he would, older immortals training young ones, preparing them for the Gathering, just as Connor MacLeod had trained him, as had been done since the dawn of time.


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